Cyberpunk Tagged Articles RSS Feed | GameSkinny.com Cyberpunk RSS Feed on GameSkinny.com https://www.gameskinny.com/ en Launch Media Network GhostRunner Demo Impressions: Cyberpunk at Lightning Speed https://www.gameskinny.com/5brew/ghostrunner-demo-impressions-cyberpunk-at-lightning-speed https://www.gameskinny.com/5brew/ghostrunner-demo-impressions-cyberpunk-at-lightning-speed Wed, 13 May 2020 16:25:25 -0400 John Schutt

In GhostRunner, you are a cyborg. You have a katana. And you have a mountain of bodies to build while getting from point A to point B. 

It's a game in the vein of fast-paced hack-and-slash fair like Katana Zero, but instead of high-quality pixel art, players experience some of the highest-fidelity graphics possible on modern hardware, at framerates even most AAA games dream of.

But how does it play? Is it worth your time? Let's take a look.

GhostRunner: One-Hit Kill

Sure, you are a machine of death in GhostRunner, but it only takes one hit to kill you. Thankfully, your enemies are just as fragile.

Problem is, they have guns, and all you have is a razor-sharp blade and expensive cybernetics.

The game gets around this problem by combining two classic mechanics: bullet time and air dashing. Enemy projectiles have a travel time, but if your reactions are fast enough, you can enter bullet time to dodge them in mid-air.

When you exit bullet-time, you'll dash towards the enemy. Hopefully, it's without eating a bullet for your trouble.

Should you fail, though, GhostRunner has a robust set of checkpoints set up before each challenge arena, and you load into them instantly after dying. I was playing the game's Steam demo on an M.2 SSD, and there was no loading time between death and respawn. Slower hard drives might need a second or two.

That might be a blessing in disguise, as GhostRunner's pace will set your heart to overdrive.

Given that the demo is only about 10 minutes long, even with plenty of failures, difficulty ramps up quickly, and the introduction of new mechanics comes fast and furious. You'll learn how to climb, wall run, slide, and kill in a matter of moments. 

From there, you'll learn how to enable and work within bullet-time, and then you'll combine everything you've learned into a singular methodology to use in more and more demanding arenas. The last thing you'll learn is a grapple, which gets put to use immediately.

Chaining abilities is as satisfying as you might hope in a game such as this, and it should be. Failures can be frustrating, especially because the game's enemies are incredibly accurate, and your margin for error so small. 

Don't let that dissuade you from trying the demo out, though. GhostRunner is not a forgiving game, but it rewards successful kills and flawless parkour. It's well worth the price of admission. 

Wall-Running Like a Dream

GhostRunner, even in its demo state, shows the power of Unreal Engine 4, and it runs better than I would have ever hoped. Even with everything on maximum and RTX turned on, I was easily breaking 60fps at 1080p. The game's recommended specs aren't demanding either, so while a top of the line rig can push this game's limits, even mid-tier and budget-builds should be able to have a good time.

There are plenty of customizable settings too, and the developers have even gone so far as to push an update to the demo, adding more options, including an FOV slider and fully-unlockable FPS. It's clearly a game built for PC first and foremost.

While something like this is playable on a controller, the sheer speed of the gameplay on offer is probably best experienced with the freedom of movement a mouse and keyboard provide.

More importantly, the game looks amazing. I would go so far as to compare it to Cyberpunk 2077 at times, both in terms of fidelity and the quality of its art style. Everything looks and feels like a badass dystopian future, from the propaganda to the cybernetics, animations, and environments. 

Whispers in Your Head

The story of a game like GhostRunner only really exists to string together the various gameplay challenges, and we don't get much of it in the short Steam demo.

What we do have is pretty standard cyberpunk fair. Something about a prisoner with tech abilities that needs rescuing, the player character having messy cybernetics, and the usual corporate overlords in control of more than you'd ever realize.

All that doesn't mean the story will be bad, and the final scene has me itching to know more. There's definitely more underneath the surface, and nothing is ever as it seems, but if GhostRunner wants to capture audiences with its narrative, it needs to follow Katana Zero's example.

In other words, it needs to have interesting characters and story-gameplay integration. I see shades of that already in the demo, and the environments show directions a story could go. I'm excited either way.

I'm intrigued enough by GhostRunner to put it on my excited-for list, and you should keep it on your radar as well. Even if it's not your kind of game, it is one that shows what's possible on the latest tech. 

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2064: Read Only Memories Integral Review - Approaching Artificial Humanity https://www.gameskinny.com/948aj/2064-read-only-memories-integral-review-approaching-artificial-humanity https://www.gameskinny.com/948aj/2064-read-only-memories-integral-review-approaching-artificial-humanity Fri, 17 Aug 2018 12:14:59 -0400 Greyson Ditzler

2064: Read Only Memories Integral is an enhanced version of the original Read Only Memories that was released on various platforms back in 2015, with the new version including exclusive content for the Nintendo Switch in the form of the "Punks" side story.

Read Only Memories has been drifting between platforms through a series of incremental changes and updated editions and titles since it first released in 2015, but now it seems the game has finally reached its final form with all intended tweaks and content on the Switch. It's a narrative-focused cyberpunk adventure game very reminiscent of classic PC adventure games in the vein of Snatcher or the Gabriel Knight series. 

With the game seemingly finalizing its design with 2064: Read Only Memories Integral, has this quirky yet contemplative adventure game finally found its true home on the Switch? 

 Let's see if this game can pass the Turing Test.

What's So Integral About It?

Read Only Memories' story is a thriller mystery centered around the player character - a struggling part-time journalist in NEO-San Francisco who is suddenly visited in the night by a prototype sentient AI named Turing. Turing informs you that his creator, your friend Hayden, has suddenly been kidnapped by an unknown assailant. You vow to aid Turning in solving the mystery of Hayden's abduction, and in the process become embroiled in the underground world of hacking, sinister corporations, and the growing tensions between the population of hybrids and the so-called "human revolution" that threaten to overflow. 

The story is held up by a cast of diverse and interesting characters, who range from soft-spoken hackers from the deep south to catgirl civil rights attorneys - all of whom have well-defined personalities and plenty of memorable lines to help cement themselves in your mind. The story has a bit of a slow start compared to what comes after it, though it does do a good job of establishing the universe and the tone for the rest of the game. 

The scale of the world feels rather small through the eyes of your character, but you still manage to get a grip on how big the issues affecting the world are. All the characters feel like necessary components to the story rather than just incidental NPCs with no bearing on events.

This scene in particular really got to me.

Read Only Memories Or Just Read Only?

There's very little I can say about Read Only Memories without spoiling the mystery or any of the stronger character moments, but that may also be because there isn't much to talk about in terms of gameplay. 

Everything in the game involving presentation and writing is strong, so I cannot fault the game much for that. The pixelated graphics aren't the best I've seen, but they're still solid and represent the era of PC gaming that the game is replicating well, and they're as colorful and as expressive as they need to be for the world to feel alive and reactive.

The sound design is quirky and suits the often spontaneous tone of the game's writing well, and is used especially well when timed for comedic moments. The soundtrack is catchy as hell from the start, and the voice acting is genuinely fantastic, with every character delivering a strong performance.

The actual moment-to-moment gameplay, however, is where the game falters because there's just not much of it. Games like Ace Attorney, Gone Home, and VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action have stripped back or simplified gameplay in a game in order to promote a stronger emphasis on the story, but the gameplay segments are much more frequent.

The majority of the time I spent with ROM was spent listening to every single option in a veritable national park's worth of dialogue trees in order to progress, and more often than not all you're expected to do is continue listening.

This wouldn't be much of an issue if it weren't for the fact that a lot of the game's dialogue is rather heavy on explanation and exposition. Tech-talk and elaborate back-stories are expected in a cyberpunk setting, but the flow of the dialogue alternating between normal conversation and tech-jargon was rather clunky at times.

While this is a pretty cool way to explain the details of a dollar-store laser gun, text walls like this pop-up fairly often, and it can be a bit overwhelming.

At times it was difficult to pay attention to the story because my eyes would glaze over when the screen would fill up with components, people and places and it would just be too much to comfortably digest. It was by no means something that ruined the story for me at all, but it was a pace-breaker a lot of the time. The story was at its best when the characters were just talking like normal people (or ROMs), and whenever they would switch over to "important backstory" mode there was an occasional grinding of gears. 

Is it Worth $20.64? 

Overall, I enjoyed most of my time with 2064: Read Only Memories Integral, but I feel as though it could have done a bit more to actively engage me as a player rather than a viewer. The presentation is solid, and the voice acting and writing can both be pretty great, but my attention and interest in the story dipped more than once when it felt as though there wasn't much actively demanding my input.

The few mini-games included are nice little diversions - and the world does naturally unfold and expand into an interesting setting full of equally fascinating characters, but it just wasn't quite enough. The experience couldn't have been anything but improved by adding in more typical adventure game puzzles and interactions. 

Hunting around the screen to find this memory card wasn't super exciting, but it still engaged me in a different way than just sitting there listening.

If you're looking for a story based game that's more engaging than a visual novel, maybe look elsewhere. You get a complete campaign that'll last you around 9 hours on top of the "Punks" side-story and all the gallery materials for the cute entry fee of $20.64, so it's a safe investment if you're looking for value.

If you're mainly interested in the story or setting and don't care as much about the gameplay specifics, then, by all means, check it out. With some slight adjustments Read Only Memories could have been a great game, but as it stands, it's just good.

2064: Read Only Memories Integral is available now for Nintendo Switch.

[Note: The copy of 2064: Read Only Memories was provided by MidBoss for review.]

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8 Games With Alternative Timelines You Should Play https://www.gameskinny.com/y8lyr/8-games-with-alternative-timelines-you-should-play https://www.gameskinny.com/y8lyr/8-games-with-alternative-timelines-you-should-play Wed, 14 Feb 2018 15:32:50 -0500 Alberto C.

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Whether set in a nuclear wasteland or a cyberpunk megacity, alternative timeline games allows to us wonder and drift on about potential outcomes in history while still keeping one foot within reality.

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Know of any games that portray alternative timelines that we missed? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

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If there's only thing nuclear technology has given us besides cheap electricity, nuclear waste, and big bombs, it's games based on a post-apocalyptic era. But don't worry, this one isn't focused on the consequences of nuclear fallout.

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Fan of the 80's vision of what the future would be like? Also a fan of cheesy commentary, comedic narrative, running-n-gunning gameplay complemented by power moves, lasers, and power-bows? if so, you're in for a treat.

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What was thought to be an April Fool's joke ended up becoming one of the most unexpected and awesome expansions in recent gaming history. Ditching the more serious undertone of Far Cry 3, this stand-alone expansion used the same engine and gameplay mechanics while completely revamping the visuals and giving us a new story set in a dystopian world of 2007 by 1980s standards.

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Taking the role of cybernetic super-soldier Rex Power, your mission is to stop an elite agent-gone-rogue who plans to transform the world into a prehistoric version. To do so, you'll need the assistance of Dr. Darling as you save scientists, fight off the rogue agent's army, and kill dinosaurs that roam the environment -- all while collecting cybernetic hearts, performing power moves, and enhancing your skills through a leveling system.

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I mean if lasers, cheesy commentary, cybernetics, power moves, and dinosaurs doesn't convince to play this game, I'm not sure what else I could tell you.

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Freedom Fighters

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If you enjoyed the theme of Wolfenstein's reboot but got tired of shooting the same old Nazis and their augmentated soldiers, Freedom Fighters will be of interest.

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Much like in Wolfenstein, you play the role of a resistance fighter fighting for American independence, only this time you're fighting the Soviet troops occupying New York. And instead of being an agent for an intelligence organization of the U.S. government, you're a plumber. Yes, a plumber.

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In a world where the Soviet Union first acquired nuclear weapons and swiftly ended World War 2 by nuking Berlin, the United States found itself at a disadvantage and eventually was surrounded by communist nations that facilitated a full-out invasion of the country. As a simple plumber who was on his way to see a client, the player goes from wielding a wrench at one moment to full-time resistance, mowing down Soviet troops with AK's with the hope of liberating the city.

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Wolfenstein

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Nazis are bad. Nazis messing with experimental technology and supernatural powers can only be worse. If you ever wondered what it would be like if Nazi Germany had not lost World War 2, the Wolfenstein series is the franchise for you.

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However, the series has two plots you should take into account if are considering giving the franchise a shot. Up to and including Wolfenstein (2009), the stories take place during World War 2, and you play as famous agent of the Office of Secret Actions B.J. Blaskowicz, who is sent deep behind enemy lines to investigate experiments and paranormal activity conducted by the Paranormal Division of the SS.

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Since the series reboot in 2014, the plot revolves around a world in which Nazi Germany was victorious in successfully defeating the United States and its allies and is now acting as an occupying force in the continental United States. Still playing as Blaskowicz, you lead a resistance fight against the Nazi occupiers, who have augmented their forces with bizarre technology.

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S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl

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The incidents of Three Mile Island and the Chernobyl Disaster were significant enough to raise public skepticism towards nuclear power, but both were a cakewalk compared to S.T.A.L.K.E.R.'s setting.

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As you can guess, the game takes place in the Ukrainian area that was affected by the Chernobyl Disaster where humans, if present at all, live a hazardous life of survival fighting off other humans and mutants severely affected by the nuclear fallout of the power plant.

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Once again, game developers in the East delivered us a post-apocalyptic nuclear scenario FPS combined with survival and horror elements.

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Bioshock

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Another heavyweight franchise whose original title is now over 10 years old, Bioshock distinguished itself from so many other titles at the same for being a great combination of RPG and FPS gameplay mechanics that were supported by one of the most unique storylines and settings in gaming.

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The original game takes place in the 1960s and puts you in the shoes of a plane crash survivor who, by apparent sheer luck, finds a lighthouse and gains access to a secret underwater city known as Rapture. The city is the product of utopian visionary and businessman Andrew Ryan, who is also isolated from the surface. By the time you arrive, the whole city is anything but utopian, with the remaining survivors tearing each other apart.

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Bioshock's story is complemented by an art design and visual approach that resemble 1960s architecture, style, and technology in such a memorable way as to make its imagery easily recognizable even a decade later.

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Deus Ex

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Deus Ex might be set a few decades from now, but its backstory is one of conspiracies and power politics that go back hundreds of years. The Illuminati play a major role in this background as a mighty organization with power that supersedes that of nations themselves, including the US government.

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Set in a near future where human augmentation through cybernetics is a common sight, Deus Ex titles have you fulfilling roles ranging from ex-SWAT security managers working for corporations to rookie anti-terrorist agents of the United Nations Anti-Terrorist Coalition.

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Deus Ex's plots are blacklights for any conspiracy theorist enthusiast that will take you through twisted storylines and plot twists in a Blade Runner-esque universe where actors like the Illuminati, governments, international organizations, and multinational corporations are in a fight for survival with each another.

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Avoiding spoilers as much as possible in case any reader might just want to pick it up for the first time, we can tell you that the chronological storyline order of the games is not the same as their release dates. The latest titles of the series, Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided were published in 2011 and 2016 respectively, and both take place before the events of the original Deus Ex itself. So if the outdated graphics of the original seem too off-putting, perhaps the enticement of continuing the story after the latest games will convince you to try it out anyways.

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Metro 2033

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There are quite a few games out there that hypothesize the consequences if the Cold War had turned into a hot one. In the RTS genre notably, titles like Wargame and World in Conflict portrayed scenarios where Soviet and NATO forces faced each other head on. Metro parted from a similar idea.

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The backstory of Metro 2033 is one where Russia, presumably along with the rest of the planet, is now suffering the consequences of the aftermath of nuclear warfare that took place two decades earlier. You play the role of Artyom, one of the survivors of the initial onslaught who sought refuge in one of the subway stations of Moscow. As a member of the underground community, you venture beyond the safe zones to advance the storyline and battle both rival human factions and mutants alike.

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Metro's story is not just one you should play because of the interesting post-apocalyptic setting (the Fallout franchise fills in that checkbox pretty well too), but because the perspective of playing as a Russian is rare enough, and playing as a Russian survivor in a post-apocalyptic nuclear world is absolutely unique in itself. The story and gameplay developed by Eastern gaming enthusiasts 4A Games gives us a significantly different experience from the more Hollywood-ish franchises developed in the West. The game was such a success in both Russia and the Western market that the third title of the franchise is currently in development and set to be released later this year.

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Half-Life

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In addition to solid gameplay mechanics and making possible the development of mods that went on to become franchises of their own, the Half-Life series gave us a story that was identical in terms of historical development ... right until you started the campaign.

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Set in the shoes of a "simple" scientist working at a research facility, you start the game doing the mudane things every other working person does: talking to coworkers, putting on your work clothes, going through security checkpoints, etc. ... And then all hell breaks loose when you and your geek squad accidentally open a portal to another dimension that is dominated by a multidimensional empire bent on conquering everything they can.

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If this premise isn't interesting enough, the second installment is even more intriguing by informing you that the multidimensional empire, The Combine, managed to defeat the whole Earth in less than a day. You go from MIT-educated scientist running around a top-secret research facility in one game to fighting guerilla warfare and inflitrating Combine strongholds in the second.

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The Half-Life universe portrayed an alternate version of Earth that was subjugated by an alien force and at the same time showed an unlikely alliance between humans and another persecuted alien species with their common goal of liberation from the conqueror's fists.

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Not matter how many Call of Duty titles Activision makes about World War 2 or how many RPGs we play about slaying the ultimate demon-spawn-destroyer of all that is holy and sweet, they always boil down to two things: we either know how the story really ends, or it's so far out that the game world feels more like another dimension in a whole other universe.

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Here's a list of some of the top games and franchises, regardless of genre or age, that have had some of the most memorable storylines and plots based on alternative historical outcomes.

"}]]]>
Why Cyberpunk 2077 Can't Live Up to Its Own Hype https://www.gameskinny.com/3y50m/why-cyberpunk-2077-cant-live-up-to-its-own-hype https://www.gameskinny.com/3y50m/why-cyberpunk-2077-cant-live-up-to-its-own-hype Sun, 14 Jan 2018 21:17:46 -0500 Ty Arthur

It was somehow a whole year ago when we last asked -- just where the hell is Cyberpunk 2077 already? Another January has rolled around without any major developments (or release announcements) on CD Projekt Red's foray away from fantasy and into the dark future where corporations rule supreme. 

While we haven't hit Star Citizen -- or gods forbid, Final Fantasy XV -- levels quite yet, Cyberpunk 2077 is nonetheless starting to feel overdue at this point. Fans are hungry for a game that truly exudes the cyber punk style from a development team with a proven track record. 

The current cyber punk offerings are few and far between, and usually aren't of the AAA variety. Most notable are the Deus Ex franchise and the Harebrained Schemes' Shadowrun reboots, with last year's horror entry Observer also having more than a little cyber punk feel with its dystopian future.

If you really scour the depths of Steam's ludicrously oversized catalog, you can find a few others, but there's no question that on the whole, cyber punk is a genre that hasn't been tapped often enough.

 Not everyone digs the horror walking simulators either, so if you want an action cyber punk game, this doesn't fit the bill.

The Cyberpunk 2077 Hype Is Real

CD Projekt Red's lauded The Witcher 3 began development in 2011 and was released in 2015, nabbing plenty of "Best RPG" and even plain old "Best Game" of the year awards.

A year later, the Blood And Wine DLC would also snag "Best RPG of the Year" awards across the web -- and it wasn't even a full game! Clearly, there's a huge level of anticipation here as the development team shifts gears away from the perpetually aroused Geralt to a cyberpunk inspired future.

2077's game world is based around the tabletop RPG Cyberpunk 2020, which is a huge draw for a large segment of pen and paper fans. While not all of them have been smooth transitions (looking at you Daggerdale and Iron & Blood), some of the best RPGs in history made the leap from tabletop to electronic formats. Think of Baldur's Gate, Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines, or Shadowrun: Dragonfall.

Not a lot is known about what the finished 2077 product will look like, but the few tidbits that have arrived (and a whole lot of speculation) have increased the hype surrounding the game. Rumors have swirled of NPCs speaking in many different languages in Night City, forcing the main character to buy a language implant ... and if you get a cheap one, you might get a bad translation, resulting in radically different quests.

That kind of interactivity and branching story path is exactly what hardcore RPG fans want from something like Cyberpunk 2077 -- and why we've been going back to the classic RPG well through Infinity Engine-style games like Pillars Of Eternity

At this point, that remains rumor and hearsay, however, with actual, confirmed information regarding Cyberpunk 2077 essentially nonexistent and no game play videos of any kind to be found.

 The branching dialog of a hardcore RPG with the graphical polish of The Witcher 3 would be a wondrous thing to behold

What Are We Even Hyped About When It Comes to 2077?

A years-old statement indicates Cyberpunk 2077 will be an "open world, sandbox game set in a corrupt and tech-advanced setting.” That sounds interesting, but in practice, what does that really mean when the game actually releases?

Considering how games can change during active development, who knows if that statement still even holds true? We've got no communication of any kind coming in (except for one notable exception noted below).

Potentially, there will be a vertical element to the game, with a job opening for someone who could program flying vehicles listed by CD Projekt Red back in 2016 -- but we don't even know for sure that job was for Cyberpunk 2077.

Will 2077 essentially be the free-roaming, open-world gameplay of The Witcher set in a futuristic city instead of medieval countryside? Will it be much more constrained and stylized like Shadowrun: Dragonfall or Shadowrun: Hong Kong? Will it be somewhere more in the middle like Deus Ex or DIshonored and give us some action-platforming elements as well?

Nobody has the first friggin' clue, because all we have to go on is a cinematic trailer that was released half a decade too early. And did I already mention we don't even have a release window for this game? I think I might have ... 

The above video was posted on January 10, 2013, and still sits as the only major showcase of anything from Cyberpunk 2077. In case anyone missed it, that was over five years ago. Think of everything you've done in the last five years -- or the 1,825 days since that video was released. You know what CD Projekt Red hasn't done? Finished the game from that video.

The video ominously ends with the declaration "Coming: when it's ready." Honestly, that's an idea I can firmly get behind. Don't rush a game, make sure it's done, and release something high quality that doesn't need a ton of patches. There's nothing wrong with that philosophy.

At the same time, maybe don't release a hyper polished trailer that makes people think you've got something nearly done years before you even start serious development.

Did the game get pushed back since that trailer landed? Is it cancelled? Have there been big changes to the style or story? We don't know, because there haven't been any blogs, posts, or tweets ... until yesterday, with the *beep* heard round the world. 

Basically what we got was tantamount to a Cyberpunk 2077 vertical slice, which isn't saying much considering how many vertical slices have ultimately failed to represent the end product in the past. 

Dystopian Video Game Marketing

After four years of utter silence, the Cyberpunk 2077 Twitter feed sputtered to life to utter a single, solitary word:

Beep? As in the sound a computer makes when it turns on? Or beep as in "ohaiiiiiii, we're still alive?" Who knows, because there's been no clarification yet from anybody.

I rolled my eyes so hard I nearly fell over when reading the breathless headlines around the web from other game sites: "MAJOR News Arrives About Cyberpunk 2077" or "Cyberpunk 2077 Shows Big Signs Of Life!"

More than just the tweet itself, all you need to do to see the runaway hype train for 2077 is to look at the response from the fans. Read that Twitter thread or take a look at the comments section on any of the above-mentioned articles. People are losing their minds over the possibility of any tiny crumb of information. 

The thing is -- the developers literally said nothing about the actual game. Beep could mean anything, so it essentially doesn't mean anything at all.

That tweet could just as easily have been a cat walking across an open laptop as something sent on purpose because legitimate news regarding 2077 is arriving soon. If someone reveals a rogue employee sent it just to vex their bosses over how they aren't saying anything about the game, I wouldn't be surprised.

The fact that the developer couldn't even do the fans the minor courtesy of typing a sentence like "Hey, sorry we haven't said anything in four years, there will be an announcement next week" is kind of a slap in the face. All I can really think of to say in response to that tweet is "beep you."

 Seriously.

All Aboard The 2077 Hype Train

If Cyberpunk 2077 were more of an indie affair -- or even worse, a crowd-funded offering -- this annoying lack of communication would be the kiss of death.

But when you combine the praise for Witcher 3 with the high quality of the Cyberpunk 2077 teaser trailer, what you have is a hype train that keeps picking up speed -- and is now reaching dangerous levels.

When the word "beep" causes a chain reaction explosion across the Internet, we're officially going too fast on that train. The result is going to be an epic crash.

While I don't think CD Projekt Red will drop the ball so badly that we get a No Man's Sky-level letdown, there's just no way Cyberpunk 2077 can hold up under the weight of its own massive expectations.

Oh, did I mention we still don't have a release date for 2077 yet? 

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Coatsink Announces Augmented Empire With an Impressive Vocal Talent https://www.gameskinny.com/7d3s3/coatsink-announces-augmented-empire-with-an-impressive-vocal-talent https://www.gameskinny.com/7d3s3/coatsink-announces-augmented-empire-with-an-impressive-vocal-talent Fri, 30 Jun 2017 17:04:19 -0400 Angelica Dimson

Coatsink has published a lot of different games -- from the goofy physics fighting game that is Gang Beasts to a 1st-person Oculus Rift/ Samsung VR puzzle game called Esper.

On July 13, Coatsink will be launching a tactical cyperpunk RPG exclusively on Samsung Gear VR (powered by Oculus) with Gear VR controller support, called Augmented Reality. It looks like it will be the developer's largest game yet with 10+ hours of gameplay, 6 upgradable characters, and 60 environments.

Let's take a look at what we know about this upcoming VR game so far. 

Story and Setting

The game will take place in an isolated neo-noir city on the island of New Savannah. This cyberpunk dystopian city is divided into three tiers by the Citizen Grade System. People who are deemed to be highly valued by society stay on top and live in luxury, while outliers and criminals must live in squalor.

All-Star Vocal Cast

Coatsink has also revealed the voice talent roster for Augmented Empire -- and it looks like there will be a lot of fan favorites, including:

  • Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek Voyager) as Jules
  • Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) as Chris
  • Doug Cockle (The Witcher series) as Mund
  • Garrick Hagon (Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, Horizon: Zero Dawn) as Hartman.

However, it is unclear what type of role their characters will play in Augmented Empire's universe -- whether they will be heroes or villains. Either way, it sounds like it'll be a mash up of different genre actors merging together for Coatsink's world.

Gameplay

Almost like a criminal mastermind in a secluded hideout, the player will instruct a team of 6 augmented misfits in an augmented world diorama. While instructing the team, players can interact with the office around them and affect the world of the augmented misfits. The player can discover new developments, make some calls, and develop the skills of their teams.

It's a revolution! Players will battle law-makers and lawbreakers from the comforts of their mastermind office chair to take control of the Augmented Empire. Hopefully, some of the vocally talented characters above will be on your side to help you conquer this dystopia.

What do you guys think a VR story-driven RPG? Have you played any RPGs like this before? Which of these revealed characters are you excited to meet in game? Let us know in the comments below.

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Tokyo 42 Review: A Syndicate of Ideas With Flawed Execution https://www.gameskinny.com/cdsi3/tokyo-42-review-a-syndicate-of-ideas-with-flawed-execution https://www.gameskinny.com/cdsi3/tokyo-42-review-a-syndicate-of-ideas-with-flawed-execution Fri, 02 Jun 2017 14:09:13 -0400 Kris Cornelisse (Delfeir)

Imagine a near-future world where the very first murder of the year is a newsworthy event, because people now have medicine and nanomachines to revive them if they die.

Imagine that you are an ordinary person living in this world that is framed for the murder, and you learn about it right as the police are coming for you. Imagine then that in order to clear your name and survive, you hide out and work as an assassin, which is now a legal and lucrative business; after all, your targets won’t truly die.

Welcome to the beginning of Tokyo 42. True to its name, the game is set in a cyberpunk view of Tokyo in the year 2042, loaded down with trappings borrowed from Blade Runner and Shadowrun, alongside other classics.

This version of Tokyo is fully realized in a good-sized open world map, tackled from an isometric perspective that allows you to view the strange and colorful splendor that the future city has embraced. Full of missions to complete, collectibles to find, and secrets to uncover, there’s quite a bit on offer at first glance. But how does Tokyo 42 hold up under scrutiny? Let’s dive in.

Get Rich or Die Trying

Tokyo 42 cites itself as a love letter to the original Syndicate and the top-down Grand Theft Auto games, and this is immediately apparent upon loading in. After the initial chase and escape in the intro sequence, you’ll be presented with the open world map and allowed free reign within it. With the objective of clearing your name, you immediately thrust yourself into the heart of the seedy criminal underbelly of Tokyo with the goal of building your reputation.

To do so, you’ll be largely roaming the map between mission locations and then completing the missions themselves. There’s a handful of characters as colorful as the city itself that will guide you and set you up with contracts, as well as automated terminals where you can pick up side missions. It’s largely a matter of picking your mission and then proceeding with it.

Missions themselves all take place within this large open world, usually cordoning off an area and filling it with hostile guards and goons. Your objectives are often diverse in terms of means and approach, but the end result is usually simple: kill the target.

You’re given an inventory wheel that quickly fills up with tools and weapons to select from, ranging from the relatively weak but fast-firing and infinite-ammo pistol, to assault or sniper rifles, to grenades and high explosive weapons. You also have the melee option of using a katana or other bludgeoning weapon. This gear will either be picked up as mission rewards or purchased from shops with your hard-earned cash, though replenishing ammo is often up to you. Should you run out of fancy powerful stuff, however, you’ll still have basic options to resort back to.

Tokyo 42 styles itself as a stealth game, and this usually an option (frequently the preferred option) presented to you. For example, an early mission has you climb to the top of a temple and assassinate the target with a blade. You thus have the option of going in all guns blazing and fighting to the top before executing the guy, or else sneaking around at a precise pace, taking out guards one by one with your katana until you can finish off the target and escape.

Gunfights in the game are usually quite frantic affairs, with bullets flying everywhere from all directions. Not only are they frantic, but they’re quite lethal, as a single hit will kill most targets in the game -- the player included. Taking cover is advised, and your frailty means that stealth and picking your fights carefully is strongly encouraged. One single stray bullet can end an otherwise successful run and force you to start the mission over. There’s little other penalty besides this, but it can be a nuisance all the same.

The game is largely balanced between tackling these missions (whether simple shootouts or elaborate infiltrations) and giving you the freedom to roam around the world map and choose your next contract. While there aren’t too many main story missions, there are a whole slew of side missions for you to take on, as well as optional challenges within them to further spice up the game.

Cat and Mouse (But Mostly Cat)

Tokyo 42’s multiplayer mode is worth discussing. I unfortunately didn’t have a chance to test this myself, but many of its elements are presented quite clearly even in single player mode.

Often times in the campaign, completing a mission or shooting up a gang will cause a “Nemesis” to be deployed. You’ll be warned about this -- it means that another assassin is attempting to hunt you down, and you’d best keep an eye out for them. Often, there will be no enemy warning or marker to identify them; you just have to keep an eye out and be ready for when that one NPC starts advancing on you with a katana.

The multiplayer plays a lot like this feature of the game. Players are deposited in an area full of NPCs and have to mingle while trying to identify one another and kill the enemy first. It plays a lot like the Assassin’s Creed multiplayer modes, and the concept is quite interesting.

One of the key means you have of identifying a Nemesis, be it NPC or player, is the tracking cat item. Deploying your cat will have it sniffing out your target, but of course instantly reveals you as an assassin to anyone watching -- so it can be a double edged sword. The cat itself is customizable with collectible skins found in game, too. As such, Tokyo 42 truly can become a literal game of cat and mouse.

While I’m quite curious to see how how the multiplayer shakes out, I imagine that for a niche title such as this, it might be hard to build up more than a very small community of players. The game simply doesn’t have the play-by-play strategic applications of Frozen Synapse, a game released by Mode 7 (the publisher of Tokyo 42).

The Future is Stylish

The obvious thing to note from the screenshots I've included -- and the detail that originally drew me into the game -- is that Tokyo 42 is gorgeous, bringing to mind the recent title Monument Valley

Individual character models are small and low detail -- but with the camera zoomed all the way back, the city of Tokyo is the real star. You get to see a wide view of a stylish city that feels incredibly cyberpunk; a little too clean, a little too spotless, with strange advertising and eye-catching monuments or structures everywhere.

Exploring the city for a while is as much a cornerstone of gameplay as the missions are. There’s a lot of secrets to find -- whether they’re little easter eggs that you can check off by observing them through your binoculars, or collectibles that include different weapon skins or cash drops.

In addition to the super stylized visuals, the music is really well handled. There’s an upbeat jazzy tune greeting you at the main menu, which quickly segues into a number of somewhat ambient tunes that feel right at home in the artificial cyberpunk world on display.

The game’s inspiration is worn on its sleeve, as with a simple key press you can don a brown cloak straight out of Blade Runner. This can be customized with different colors and styles as you progress and find various collectibles. Also a factor of both plot and customization is the ability to change your “Skin” with a single button press, which turns your character model into a random one. This is often crucial for stealth or for quietly leaving the scene of a gunfight.

Whatever your stance on the actual gameplay, it’s hard to deny that Tokyo 42 feels really well done in the style department, and it’s certainly a treat to behold and experience.

Things Get Messy

Unfortunately, that feeling of being awestruck by the game’s design doesn’t hold for too long, because once you delve a little into it the cracks begin to show. The biggest problem that Tokyo 42 has is the isometric viewpoint. You have the ability to tilt the camera in increments of 45 degrees with a single button press, but the city of Tokyo is so sprawling and filled with a network of towers, monuments and buildings that it becomes very hard to visually manage.

Moving through some areas will involve minor platforming elements such as jumping from rooftop to rooftop or climbing up elevators. The problem is that, even with a marker appearing on the ground beneath you to represent your position in mid-air, it can still be extremely hard to gauge perspective.

Here's an example. One set of side missions has you racing against the clock to collect all the pickups in a line before the timer runs out. In attempting to do this, I tried multiple times to follow the path, but frequently had to slow myself in order to shift the camera to grab a mid-air pickup… only to completely miss the mark and overshoot the tight time limit, forcing a restart.

This camera perspective can also be a massive detriment in gunfights. Once a fight breaks out, you’ll often be swarmed by multiple enemies from all directions with a range of incoming weapons fire. With all sorts of cover, raised terrain, different viewpoints and so on, it often was hard to judge what the biggest threat was or how to go about dealing with it.

Multiple times I would set up on what looked like a good vantage point to snipe someone, only to find I was three levels above them while somebody I thought wasn’t a big issue blasted me with a shotgun from below. Given that a single shot takes you out, there can be a lot of trial and error before you make it through a firefight unscathed.

This really encourages stealth gameplay quite a bit, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing… it’s just a style of play that effectively removes over half your arsenal from consideration. Almost every weapon I found had enough loudness that firing it anywhere near an enemy would instantly put them on alert. Which leads into the next major issue: psychic guards.

Once you’re discovered by a guard, everyone in the area knows who and where you are and starts closing in on you, starting one of these frenzied firefights -- assuming you aren’t taken out instantly by an errant shotgun blast or high powered sniper rifle.

Whether they just happened to spot you or you fired a shot with a relatively quiet weapon that killed its target, it doesn’t matter; the fight is on, and you either need to bail and restart your approach with a new skin or else fight it to the death.

While the stealth approach can be fun, having to limit myself to the katana and methodically moving through at a crouch for every mission felt like it was doing a disservice to the rest of the game. At the same time, the firefights are so chaotic and quick to kill you (often because, again, the camera perspective made it difficult to judge angles of incoming bullets) that I felt inclined to resort back to stealth in order to make headway.

Ultimately, there were multiple times where I just got frustrated and had to put the game for a while, even though I really wanted to continue exploring it. For a game that I really wanted to like, it ended up being far too disheartening more often than not -- and even looking for an alternate mission or going secret hunting often lead to the same issues.

It’s also worth mentioning that the plot of the game is largely just window dressing for missions. There are a number of characters that you’ll interact with in the game and usually take on missions from, but they’re largely bland and forgettable aside from their pixel art portraits.

There are a few concepts on offer that could have been interesting, such as the existence of several gangs that you’ll encounter repeatedly. There’s also the science of the NanoMeds that allows people to “respawn”, live forever, and change their skins, which is pivotal to the entire plot. Again, however, it’s largely just window dressing and not overly explored well. The writing for the game is basic, hastily executed, and full of errors (at least in the review version I played, which may have been adjusted for release).

It could have been more, but it largely relies on its visuals and setting to make the statement for it. While that works, it’s a minor disappointment all the same.

Like Tears in the Rain

I went into Tokyo 42 eager to explore it and was immediately impressed with its appearance and the world it was presenting to me. The early missions got my attention, and the level of freedom and variety on offer seemed quite immense. Hunting down secrets was enjoyable, and some gunfights were genuinely fun affairs.

Ultimately, however, the veneer was pretty quick to wear off as Tokyo 42 continued. There’s a lot to do, but there were multiple missions that proved frustrating purely because of camera issues or psychic guards. Even with multiple attempts and few penalties for death, it still proved problematic time and again.

There’s a genuinely enjoyable experience here that is simply marred by questionable execution and small yet frequent issues. Tokyo 42 was a game I truly wanted to like and one I really, truly, honestly wanted to score higher. Even now I’m considering going back to dabble in it some more -- but each time I’ve gotten that urge, I was quickly shot down quite in a literal hail of bullets.

But for all that I complain, I really did want to like the game. While I won’t openly recommend Tokyo 42 to everyone, I’d still suggest giving it a shot or keeping an eye on it. It’s not going to have the legacy of the classic Syndicate, but it is a respectful attempt at building something in its image.

Note: The developer supplied a copy of this game for the purposes of this review.

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Why It's Perfectly Fine That CD Projekt Red Trademarked "Cyberpunk" https://www.gameskinny.com/8ebk1/why-its-perfectly-fine-that-cd-projekt-red-trademarked-cyberpunk https://www.gameskinny.com/8ebk1/why-its-perfectly-fine-that-cd-projekt-red-trademarked-cyberpunk Mon, 17 Apr 2017 12:00:02 -0400 tofuslayer

Earlier this month, CD Projekt Red caused controversy in the gaming world after trademarking the term "Cyberpunk." The Polish developer filed papers in preparation for its upcoming action role-playing game, Cyberpunk 2077. While some gamers felt that the company's actions were ironically reminiscent of the type of villainous corporation one might see in a cyberpunk storyline, my personal take is that the company's actions are not as dubious as some might think. From a creative perspective as well as from the business side of things, I understand why CD Projekt Red felt it necessary to trademark "Cyberpunk."

In response to backlash, the company produced a statement on Twitter to explain its stance on the trademark:

Since this tweet has made its way around the internet, I've seen some coverage that seemed skeptical of this statement. While you may not agree with it, it's a logical business move that protects their current project as well as future sequels. While it can be difficult to grapple with the ethics of protecting creative content, CD Projekt Red did everything by the book in this situation and I think they're being very reasonable about it.

“It’s a self-defense measure only”

"We want to protect our hard work and we don't plan on using the trademark offensively."

This quote from the company's tweet has been at the top of every article on the company's response. The developer assured the gaming community that they will not be going after anyone who makes games in a cyberpunk setting, nor will they be barring all game developers from using the term "Cyberpunk" in their titles.

Seeing as the game is called Cyberpunk 2077, you can see why it wants to protect the biggest part of its name. For those who expressed concerns that future developments such as VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action would have to debut under a different name, be assured that CD Projekt Red will not pursue legal action unless the name would confuse consumers. And in the case of VA-11 Hall-A, I don't believe having cyberpunk in the subtitle is a violation of the trademark because it looks like cyberpunk is a descriptive term here.

This isn't really news

CD Projekt Red has had a trademark for "Cyberpunk" in Europe since 2011. Maybe this is news in America because they had only recently filed here, but it's not exactly new here either. R. Talsorian Games previously held the trademark for the term for their game Cyberpunk 2020, which Cyberpunk 2077 is actually a sequel of sorts to. Since the term had been previously trademarked, all the arguments for why the game developer shouldn't be allowed to have it technically have been in effect for years.

People have had a lot of time to get upset over an American game developer trademarking the term, I'm not exactly sure why this has suddenly become an issue now. It seems like everyone was okay with R. Talsorian Games owning the trademark, but suddenly when CD Projekt Red acquires it from them, now everyone is in an uproar? The trademark has never been an issue in the past, and I don't really see it becoming one now.

But what about the whole subgenre of cyberpunk?

Perhaps it's not fair, but this is how the legal system in America (and apparently Europe) works. Maybe it would have been different if someone tried to copyright the term instead of trademark it, but this is what happened. Yes, cyberpunk existed long before the concept of Cyberpunk 2077, but no one owns the idea of cyberpunk (yet, and hopefully never). Whether or not you like it, it's a normal practice for businesses to trademark names and words in order to protect their business interests. This is exactly what CD Projekt Red did, and in pledging not to abuse the trademark and promising to consider other titles to feature their trademarked term, they have already gone farther to accommodate others than a lot of other companies would.

In the midst of all the hubbub, I've seen that the author of the short story "Cyberpunk," Bruce Bethke -- credited with coining the term -- has recently spoken out against CD Projekt Red. No one is disputing the fact that his short story published in 1980 far preceded the upcoming RPG, but what I want to know is why no one was upset about it before? And if they were, why is no one referencing an ongoing battle against R. Talsorian Games owning the trademark and connecting it to the current narrative? If people really cared as much as they claim to care right now, this would have been a struggle dating back to at least 2011.

Let's see what CD Projekt Red does

It's pretty obvious here that I think that this won't affect anything too much, because it hasn't in the past. If the game developer wasn't going to take its promises not to abuse the trademark to heart before, they definitely should now. There isn't much that detractors can do about it now, save for create a petition in hopes that the company will relinquish rights to the term. Chances are, after taking $7 million in grant money from the Polish government, I'm almost positive that they will do everything they can to protect the budding franchise.

Perhaps you feel CD Projekt Red has breached a sort of unspoken ethical contract that creatives enter into when starting a project, and maybe that's true, but we will only be able to see how this plays out given time. It's better to hold out hope that the company will honor other companies who hope to make cyberpunk-themed games.

But do remember, the trademark is in regards to naming games, and not talking about the term cyberpunk within a game, or the cyberpunk genre as a whole -- so don't worry, you will get other cyberpunk games, they just won't be named ONLY cyberpunk.

Do you think that CD Projekt Red shouldn't have been allowed to trademark the term "Cyberpunk?" Give us your take in the comments below!

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Where the Hell is Cyberpunk 2077 https://www.gameskinny.com/1kv9j/where-the-hell-is-cyberpunk-2077 https://www.gameskinny.com/1kv9j/where-the-hell-is-cyberpunk-2077 Sat, 28 Jan 2017 11:28:29 -0500 Will Dowell

Announced in 2012, Cyberpunk 2077 was meant to bring tabletop RPG Cyberpunk 2020 to life on the small screen. Developed by CD Projekt RED, Cyberpunk 2077 wowed gamers with its fantastic teaser trailer but has been quiet ever since. While CD Projekt RED satisfied gamers with the stellar Witcher 3, cyberpunk fans continue to wonder what's to come with Cyberpunk 2077.

Known to be an open-world RPG set in the dangerous Night City, Cyberpunk 2077 is a game full of crime and danger. CD Projekt RED have also promised a nonlinear story meant for "mature players." With The Witcher 3 being a shining example in designing a story for mature storytelling, expectations are high for what Cyberpunk 2077 has to offer.

The latest information we know is that the majority of The Witcher 3 team has moved on to Cyberpunk 2077 and that future development announcements should be released this year. 

CD Projekt RED has also released requests for a multitude of development jobs for Cyberpunk 2077. These include requests for animators, designers, and programmers, all focused on the production Cyberpunk 2077. For more information on these positions, check out their job listings on their official site.

Hopefully, these new announcements show the true potential Cyberpunk 2077 has. With CD Projekt RED riding high with The Witcher 3's success, Cyberpunk 2077 shows great promise. Let's see what CD Projekt RED has to offer.

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Release Date Announced For Deus Ex: Mankind Divided DLC: A Criminal Past https://www.gameskinny.com/q3ktn/release-date-announced-for-deus-ex-mankind-divided-dlc-a-criminal-past https://www.gameskinny.com/q3ktn/release-date-announced-for-deus-ex-mankind-divided-dlc-a-criminal-past Wed, 25 Jan 2017 10:31:23 -0500 Michael Llewellyn

Coming via an announcement from the official Deus Ex Mankind Divided website the second story based DLC for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided titled A Criminal Past has just been announced for February 23 2017.

The blog post on the website states the new downloadable content will see you going back in time to one of Adam Jensen's earlier missions for TF29 that is set before the events of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. The mission is to go undercover and infiltrate a high security prison to track down a fellow undercover agent -- who has gone dark -- to retrieve some sensitive information. The new content will introduce new characters along with already established characters from the main game such as Delara Auzenne. 

The blog post promises that Adam Jensen will need to confront a darker side before the mission is done.

The game will be released on Xbox Live, PlayStation Network and other online stores it will also be available as part of the season pass.

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The Evils of Free Will -- Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness Review https://www.gameskinny.com/hyycv/the-evils-of-free-will-psycho-pass-mandatory-happiness-review https://www.gameskinny.com/hyycv/the-evils-of-free-will-psycho-pass-mandatory-happiness-review Sun, 18 Sep 2016 20:35:54 -0400 Evangelio Arencibia

Is our free will ultimately what leads to our downfall? Is it really possible to save anyone in a world where civilians are always monitored and one particularly stressful day can lead to someone being arrested and having his/her life ruined? These questions, and more are brought up in Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness,  a visual novel side story to the Psycho-Pass anime developed by 5pb and published by NIS America.

The game is set at some point near the beginning in the first season of the show, and it follows two new characters written for the game: Enforcer Takuma Tsurugi, who is searching for a lost childhood friend, and Inspector Nadeshiko Kugatachi, an emotionless woman with amnesia. These are the two newest members of the Division 1 police team in the Public Safety Bureau's Criminal Investigation Division. With the ability to choose between either character at the beginning of the game, players are given the opportunity to experience the story in two radically different ways. The two protagonists have polar opposite view points in many categories, and cannot act anymore different. With that, and many twists and turns that the story can take, the biggest thing going for the game is the high replayability it offers.

Another big plus is that along with two interesting leads, the main cast from the show appears as the game's supporting cast. While they are still as lively and likable as ever (mostly due to being voiced by the actors from the show), none of the characters have had their respective arcs yet due to the game being set at the beginning of the show. So, due to the time frame in which the game takes place, the cast is unfortunately rather flat and don't go through any major changes.

This forces the game's story to  focus on the two new leads, and the villain Alpha. While the focus on these three characters works out great for the most part, bits of the story are also the game's biggest downfall. 

The game's most notable failing is the handling of the big twist when playing from the female lead's perspective. Less than halfway through the game, it became so apparent what was going to happen that I found myself just waiting for it to reveal itself so that the game can continue focusing on the actual plot. Now, this is a problem that only exists should the player choose to play as the female lead (Kugatachi) first. It's still somewhat obvious when playing from the male lead's (Tsurugi's) point of view, but it's not nearly as bad. Because of how poorly the twist was handled from Kugatachi's story, I recommend the first playthrough be done from Tsurugi's perspective. 

Other complaints I have about Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness are the bad tropes that visual novels tend to follow from a production standpoint. For instance, due to budget limitations most likely, the characters will only be given a basic blinking animation and some lip movement as they stand in front of a completely static background. The action sequences are somehow worse with some being a static image at best and some slashes at the screen in front of a black background at the very worse. And boy, does the game have quite a few of them due to being based on a sci-fi action show. That being said, it does look very nice and clean, and the art style represents the show extremely well. 

Can I recommend Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness to someone looking for an action-heavy game with high production values? Absolutely not, as the most riveting action the game offers is pointing a cursor at an option, and pressing the X button to select that option. Can I recommend this game to a fan of Psycho-Pass or a good cyberpunk noir story? Yes, as the story is almost as strong as the first season's story, with the only thing holding it back from being brilliant being the incredibly obvious twist.

Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness can be purchased through the NISA Store or Amazon for Playstation 4 and Playstation Vita for $49.99 and $39.99 respectively.

(Images taken from amazon.com, wegotthiscovered.com, and gematsu.com)

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VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action Review -- Pour Me Another https://www.gameskinny.com/mcwdr/va-11-hall-a-cyberpunk-bartender-action-review-pour-me-another https://www.gameskinny.com/mcwdr/va-11-hall-a-cyberpunk-bartender-action-review-pour-me-another Fri, 02 Sep 2016 06:00:02 -0400 Kris Cornelisse (Delfeir)

Whenever a great evil rises in a world, a hero usually rises to stop them. In times of disaster or despair, some salvation will be brought forth, providing salvation and happiness to all involved. For every alien invasion, dragon attack, evil wizard, conniving terrorist organisation or corrupt corporation, there will be a solution. Such is the way of most stories -- those of video games include -- and it’s often up to the player to fill the role of that solution.

VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action (pronounced “Valhalla”) is not one of those stories.

For every hero that rises, they will interact with the beings of their world on their way to the conclusion of their plot. Every evil corporation will have subjects under their thumb. Every tyrant will have people living in fear beneath their reign. In theory, all of these people have their own lives, stories, and history that could easily be as interesting or expansive as that of the main character, were they given time to shine.

That is the ultimate aim of VA-11 Hall-A: to present a story about those other characters, focusing on their lives and their day-to-day existence in a world that is bizarre, different, and ultimately interesting compared to the world we players inhabit (Earth). And that is a goal that VA-11 Hall-A succeeds in wonderfully.

You take on the role of Jill, a woman living in a near-future cyberpunk dystopia called Glitch City, where she works as a bartender at VA-11 Hall-A -- or Valhalla as the locals call it. Resources in the city are scarce, shortages are common, corrupt corporations call the shots, and crime is everywhere. But all of this is beyond the scope of Jill’s existence; while some of it may concern her and cause her inconvenience, she’s just one regular citizen of the city trying to survive. There are no world saving goals or ambitions for her, she’s just trying to get the bills paid and make it through her life one day at a time.

The game plays primarily as a visual novel that focuses on Jill as she goes about her daily work at Valhalla. Whereas the typical visual novel will offer branching dialogue trees and allow the player to pick conversation options, however, the gameplay here instead comes from your drink selection. You mix the drinks from the ingredients on offer to suit the customer’s needs or requests, and depending on the drink you serve, the dialogue may end up changing drastically.

It’s a simple concept, but it’s strengthened by the characters that Jill will encounter on a day to day basis. Each one would be a big player or background character in other games, but here they are all fully fleshed out and detailed. The characters have their own histories, careers, personalities and quirks. They’ll interact with Jill -- or the other customers and characters they meet -- in their own way, and this may shift over time as the events of the story unfold. Some may just have small and infrequent appearances, but others will quickly become regulars and you’ll find yourself pouring their favourite drinks without even being prompted.

The level of writing on display is really quite masterful. While some characters can be abrasive or irritating, I found almost all of them to be enjoyable, and I was happy to listen and observe as they conversed with the rest of the cast. I quickly grew attached to many and was eager to learn more of them, and recurring characters often brought a smile when they popped in for a drink and a chat.

Most importantly, even the characters I started out hating the most turned out to have fascinating stories themselves, and I was caught off guard by how much my attitudes shifted towards liking them as their true selves came out. It encourages the player to take note of what’s being said, because even little details from idle comments can end up being quite important or lead to astounding revelations of character interconnectedness later.

Tones and moods shift very well at the whim of the writing, too. It’s not all just doom and gloom in Glitch City -- there are genuinely funny moments that had me laughing, and some incredibly heartwarming conversations and relationships on display too. The game never allows itself to become too heavy, with the occasional tongue-in-cheek reference to classic cyberpunk media or tropes, as well as self-deprecating jabs at VA-11 Hall-A's developers or sly nods to the player to keep things grounded.

This is just as well, because there are definitely some heavy themes and mature stories to be told here. Like all good characters, the ones Jill encounters all have some kind of trouble going on, ranging from issues with work and relationships, all the way to huge philosophical questions plaguing their existence. Some of these are unique to the setting, such as the woes of a surprisingly delightful and cheery robot sex worker, or the struggles of a private investigator chasing down a notable gun for hire.

Just as often, however, these can be the very real problems of our world too. People struggling with sexuality, or suffering from work related anxiety, or running from mistakes of the past, are given just as much weight and attention as the bigger issues.

To its immense credit, VA-11 Hall-A is not afraid to tackle any and all of these issues head on, often giving remarkably fair and unbiased views on the whole situation and making for a fascinating reading experience when it does. Many times it leaves both the characters and the player themselves noting just how simple and petty our problems can be at their core.

Jill herself is far from a blank slate for the player to project onto, either. She’s as much a real and interesting character as the customers, with her own traits, quirks, and history that will gradually come out as the story unfolds. As much as she plays the wise bartender role well, there is so much more to her. Just as the characters she encounters develop and grow, she develops and grows too, and watching her friendships blossom and her life progress is amazingly satisfying to behold.

And that’s the true triumph of Valhalla’s narrative. In a world full of cyborgs and AI, a world living in the wake of disaster and facing disasters to come, a world struggling under any and all problems a cyberpunk dystopia has to offer… the story feels human. The characters feel real.

Often, the characters we remember and tell stories about are the biggest heroes or the most dastardly villains. Yet here, Valhalla's characters are the ones who are often in the backdrop of these epic stories. Despite all that, their stories are just as meaningful and impactful as those of the most notable video game leads... perhaps more so!

Combine all of this excellent writing with a fantastic soundtrack that the player can arrange in the bar’s jukebox at their discretion, some gorgeously retro-inspired graphics and character images, and a very cozy and comfortable feeling atmosphere, and you have a real winner of a visual novel. I frequently found myself smiling or even tearing up at the events unfolding, and once I started playing I was so invested that I couldn’t stop. Once I finished playing, it was all I could think about until my next session. When the story was over, I was both satisfied and yet left wanting to replay it to find out more.

VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action will not be for everyone. Admittedly, there are times when the actual serving of drinks can grow repetitive or tedious, and any gameplay beyond those sections is mostly limited to reading through dialogue boxes, and using Jill's pay to furnish her apartment in between shifts at the bar. But there is a truly sensational story to behold and some deeply endearing characters to meet here if you’re willing to pull up a stool, have a drink, and listen to the tales of Valhalla.

I hadn’t saved the world. I didn’t fix the problems of the corrupt city, but I carved out a cozy niche for the characters to live comfortably in, and made their lives that much brighter. That’s all I truly wanted out of my time with it.

The game is available now for PC at most digital retailers, with releases for the PS Vita and iPad coming soon. You can visit the game’s website here. See you in the afterlife.

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6 Cyberpunk Games to Play before Deus Ex: Mankind Divided https://www.gameskinny.com/1as0p/6-cyberpunk-games-to-play-before-deus-ex-mankind-divided https://www.gameskinny.com/1as0p/6-cyberpunk-games-to-play-before-deus-ex-mankind-divided Sun, 21 Aug 2016 06:08:09 -0400 Richard Sherry

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Any and all of these games should get you right back into the swing of cyberpunk gaming, just in time for Mankind Divided, which you can pick up on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Windows this Tuesday 23rd!

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What are your favorite cyberpunk games? Let us know what we missed in the comments below!

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Image Sources:

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Shadowrun Returns: https://lh5.ggpht.com/3L-tgJFjoskBjpYoNMUFNcAtkmzU9PkRxciixiXMeuLvwMCJu_5lieMV85S1Tdb-sA=h900

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System Shock 2: http://media.moddb.com/images/downloads/1/54/53677/System-Shock-2.jpg 

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System Shock 2
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The precursors to BioShock, System Shock and System Shock 2 took to outer space to deliver an intriguing story involving malicious AIs, corrupt oligarchic rulers and corporations covering up illegal activities.

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Whilst System Shock is an award-winning classic in its own right, it’s System Shock 2 that epitomizes cyberpunk themes and solidified SHODAN as a cult favorite villain to this day. It has one of the better narratives in the medium and nails the atmosphere and immersion of a creepy infested spaceship.

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A first-person action-RPG with intelligent use of horror, System Shock 2 is often praised for having been ahead of its time and having huge influence over the FPS genre. Combining RPG-like classes, abilities and skill upgrades with tight first-person gunplay, System Shock 2 still holds up as a great game today.

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The game was first released in 1999 but is still available today via Steam on PC.

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Invisible Inc.
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Invisible Inc. (we see what you did there, and we like it) is a turn-based, tactical stealth game that follows a clandestine spy agency as it works to take down mega-corporations through covert missions.

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The player must guide their agents through hostile territory, remaining hidden from guards and cameras and collecting resources and intel with which to complete their overarching goals. Beware, though: if an agent dies whilst on assignment, they’re lost for good unless an ally can rescue them.

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You can expect a single playthrough of the campaign to last around 6 hours, but with its randomly generated maps and insane difficulty levels there’s plenty of replayability and continuous fun to be had. As you progress, you’ll unlock new agents and face new challenges that can drastically change the way you need to approach levels.

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Invisible Inc. boasts a colorful cartoonish art style and provides a suitably tough challenge for even the greatest tacticians.

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The game is available to download on PC and PlayStation 4.

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Rez (HD)
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The original Rez came to PlayStation 2 and Dreamcast in 2001. Rez HD is a remaster of the original -- and is much easier and cheaper to pick up today.

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Rez is not your standard cyberpunk fare. Perhaps one of the first ‘games as art’ and also one of the first music games, Rez has a one-of-a-kind style that has been emulated but not equalled since. It’s an on-rails shooter that creates sound effects and manipulates the music based on the player’s actions; it really has to be experienced rather than explained.

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So what, I hear you cry, is cyberpunk about any of that?

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Apart from some of its weird and wonderful psychedelic designs, it’s Rez’s story that makes it a cyberpunk game. Playing as an avatar of a hacker, the player’s goal is to revive an advanced AI system called Eden which controls a huge computer network of information named Project-K. Under the pressure of too much information and knowledge, Eden has tried to shut itself down after having something of an AI identity crisis.

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Whilst the narrative often takes a backseat to the distinctive mix of gameplay and sound, this is a remarkably noteworthy game and a welcome innovation to more generic cyberpunk ideas.

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The game also spawned a sequel, Child of Eden, which came to Xbox Kinect in 2011, and Rez Infinite is expected to come to PlayStation VR this October.

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Remember Me
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Remember Me was the first game from Dontnod Entertainment; the company that would go on to create Life Is Strange. Released on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC in 2013, this futuristic romp through "Neo-Paris" has an engaging and unsettling story involving memory wiping and corporate domination through the controlling of peoples’ memories.

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Playing as Nilin, a “memory hunter”, gamers ally themselves with an underground resistance fighting against the corrupt stranglehold of a huge corporation named Memorize. It’s a quintessential cyberpunk story of sci-fi technology and oppressed society, and whilst it is far from perfect it’s an ambitious and entertaining experience.

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Unfortunately the general gameplay is a little lackluster. Made up of light platforming and Arkham-style combat, it is generally quite clunky and repetitive, balanced somewhat by innovative “memory remix” segments whereby Nilin can actively change a person’s memories to her advantage.

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Remember Me isn’t the most innovative nor the most polished game on this list, but it earns its place for weaving an interesting cyberpunk tale.

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Transistor
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Transistor is a stunningly beautiful isometric action-RPG from Supergiant Games, the guys behind the equally awesome Bastion. The game follows a singer named Red as she ventures to reclaim her stolen voice with the help of a giant spirit-infused sword -- the titular Transistor.

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Featuring an evil robotic army called the Process and shady figures pulling strings for nefarious gains, Transistor is full of cyberpunk themes. This is combined with atmospheric architecture, cavernous concert halls, entrancing music and sublime hand-drawn artwork.

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It’s a relatively short game, but that time is unforgettable for its balance of deep gameplay and intriguing cyberpunk story.

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You can pick up Transistor on PC, PlayStation 4 and iOS!

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Shadowrun Returns
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Shadowrun Returns is an isometric, turn-based tactical RPG. Based on the popular tabletop game published by Harebrained Schemes. It takes place in a cyberpunk re-imagining of Seattle in a near-but-troubled future. The setup is something of a sci-fi murder mystery but the story soon becomes embroiled in conspiracy, cultism and cyber warfare (there’s even a Matrix).

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Like many games on this list, Shadowrun Returns puts a twist on the standard cyberpunk tropes. In this case, this comes through an ingenious merging of fantasy and sci-fi, bringing elves, orcs and trolls into a futuristic but run-down ghetto version of Seattle.

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This is all realized through massively detailed backdrops that, whilst limited to linear paths, are a joy to traverse.

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You can expect to spend a lot of time in turn-based combat, expending Action Points to move characters, and to perform attacks and an impressive variety of skills.

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An excellent expansion pack titled Shadowrun: Dragonfall is also worth playing if you enjoy the main game, and it’s all available on PC, Android and iOS.

"},{"image":"http://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,e_sharpen:150,f_auto,fl_lossy,h_360,q_80,w_640/v1/gameskinnyc/r/s/z/rsz-mankind-c1076.jpg","thumb":"http://res.cloudinary.com/lmn/image/upload/c_limit,e_sharpen:150,f_auto,fl_lossy,h_85,q_80,w_97/v1/gameskinnyc/r/s/z/rsz-mankind-c1076.jpg","type":"slide","id":"130903","description":"

The cyberpunk genre works extremely well as a premise for video games. Setting up interesting worlds with great technological advancements and societal volatility, cyberpunk games can deliver sci-fi gameplay variety and deep, intricate narratives.

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The Deus Ex series is one of the greats when it comes to cyberpunk video games. With the hugely anticipated Deus Ex: Mankind Divided coming on Tuesday, we’ve compiled a list of 6 suggestions of cyberpunk games to get you in the mood over the weekend.

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Note that this list will NOT include other Deus Ex games, but it’s highly recommended that you play both the original Deus Ex and 2011’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution; two highlights of not just cyberpunk but the whole wonderful medium that is video gaming.

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With that said, read on for lots of cyberpunk goodness!

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5 Sci-Fi RPGs You've Never Heard of But Should Play https://www.gameskinny.com/kf9mp/5-sci-fi-rpgs-youve-never-heard-of-but-should-play https://www.gameskinny.com/kf9mp/5-sci-fi-rpgs-youve-never-heard-of-but-should-play Fri, 15 Jul 2016 07:11:43 -0400 Janiece Sebris

First things first: this listicle is not trying to insult your intelligence. While you may have heard of all these sci-fi RPGs already, let this list be a reminder to you about how great experiencing role-playing games in a science fiction universe can be.

1. Mars: War Logs

As the game suggests, this Sci-Fi RPG is set on the planet Mars. However, it is also set nearly a century after the colonies on the planet were plunged into chaos when a catastrophe occurred. Water is a highly sought after commodity on the planet, obviously. While the corporations in the game try to control the water, you play as Roy Temperance, an adventurer.

Before we jump to conclusions, let's all agree that the small RPG Mars: War Logs sounds an awful lot like The Technomancer. Well, it makes sense as both games were developed by Spiders and published by Focus Home Interactive. While Mars: War Logs wasn't as well received as The Technomancer, one cannot deny which is the chicken and the egg in this scenario, making the need to play Mars all the more necessary.

Get it on Steam for $14.99.

2. Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines

How could the vacant eyes of the meandering undead and 21st century Los Angeles possibly have more in common than they already do? Vampire: The Masquerade--Bloodlines is the answer to that question. In this RPG, the player can choose to progress as either a male or female character who has been killed and then revived as a vampire. Players also must choose a vampire clan for their character based on points in different areas. While Vampire did not do well initially, it has since garnered a cult following.

Get it on Steam for $19.99

3. Transistor

Unlike the games above, Transistor sold well upon release in early 2014. Developed and published by Supergiant Games, Transistor uses an isometric point of view as the lead character, Red, goes from point A to point B. Red is a famous singer in the fictional city of Cloudbank. After escaping assassination by the enemies known as The Process, Red comes to possess a huge weapon called the Transistor. Fans of the game noted its stunning graphics as one of its greatest features. In 2014, Transistor won Best Graphics in IGN's Best of 2014.

Get it on Steam for $19.99.

4. Deus Ex: Invisible War

A sequel to critically acclaimed Deus Ex, Deus Ex: Invisible War takes place 20 years after its predecessor, set in 2072. In the game, the world is recovering from what is referred to as The Collapse. Players see the game's world through the eyes of character Alex D, a trainee of Taurus Academy. Like the game before it, Invisible War received favorable reviews, except for comments on the game's tendency toward an over-simplified gameplay. Overt RPG elements within the game include the use of Biomods or nanotechnological implants that grant different abilities to players.

Get it on Steam for $6.99.

5. Omikron: The Nomad Soul

If there were no reason to play this game except for the soundtrack, that would be enough. The late-great David Bowie co-wrote the soundtrack to the game. Also, his likeness appears twice within the game. Omikron is set in the fiction city of the same name. Early in the game, the fourth wall is demolished as one of the city's police officers ask the player to join him. In the game, players investigate different serial killings within the city. Although released in 1999, versions scheduled for PlayStation and PlayStation were ultimately dropped after the Dreamcast version failed to sell.

Get it on Steam for $9.99.

What are your favorite sci-fi RPGs? Let me know in the comments!

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The Technomancer Review: Telling a compelling story, giving stylish combat https://www.gameskinny.com/lslbu/the-technomancer-review-telling-a-compelling-story-giving-stylish-combat https://www.gameskinny.com/lslbu/the-technomancer-review-telling-a-compelling-story-giving-stylish-combat Tue, 28 Jun 2016 04:04:13 -0400 Pierre Fouquet

While playing The Technomancer, developed by Spiders, I was worried about what to write. It has very good combat, if a bit repetitive at times, very smooth animations that sometimes run a bit long, and interesting story and decent writing. Yet it has long awkward pauses, an extensive upgrade tree, and sometimes feels like there is just too much.

Despite all of the caveats, which are mostly due to a limited budget, I would recommend The Technomancer to anyone who likes action RPGs -- similar to, but not, The Witcher and Mass Effect.

The Technomancer, mars, zacharia

The Witcher meets Mass Effect, but isn't them

Set on Mars, The Technomancer follows the revolutionary exploits of Zachariah Mancer -- Mancer being the name given to all Technomancers. You start out as an initiate, but you very quickly become a Technomancer. By doing so you learn a secret, one which plays a pivotal role in a few decisions you must make. Along the way you make friends, enemies, and neutrally solve differences -- bribes. 

I found myself disliking one specific character, not because the game told me so, but because I didn't like the methods he was taking to keep his city safe -- but I understood why he had to be a harsh sometimes. In fact, while helping him out, to gain his trust. There is a moment in the The Technomancer where you ask for help from various people, when I asked this character for help he refused, saying he did not trust me enough. This was after routing out several spying factions from his home, you could say I was upset, and angry.

The Technomancer, mars, technomancer

Companions

The ones who follow you are not your ordinary bunch of followers. You have an eccentric father figure scientist -- not crazy, just different -- a very forward female rover explorer, a giant intelligent mutant, a plucky rogue named Lucky, and a slightly away with the fairies but complicated character who you first meet as a princess. Each one has their own backstory, and quests.

Most of these quests revolve around finding, and beating up people they hate. The most interesting of these centers around the rover driver, Amelia Reacher, whose father disappeared. You can choose -- and of course I did -- to help her or not, by doing so you discover her father's disappearance is linked to another in your crew. It's a rather interesting twist, which I didn't expect.

The Technomancer, mars, dome

Locations

You start in the first city of Mars, Ophir. A pristine city, with a hidden dark side of corruption, slavery, and abusing the down trodden in the slums. Through circumstances out of your control you are forced to flee Ophir, from here you explore new cities, and ancient domes. While uncovering the secrets of Mars, and of your own order, the Technomancers. Each city looks very different from the last, but I found the domes all look rather similar. Even the final 'most impressive dome', looks and feels the same as the previous ones, it is just bigger. But, this all could just be because they were built at similar times by early Mars settlers.

One specific location, in Ophir, called The Underworld is particularly annoying. It's a twisting maze that you are forced to navigate many times to get to different places in Ophir. Each time you pass through it every enemy respawns, which leads to traveling around taking a very long time. The same applies to each location in Ophir, only The Underworld doesn't allow you to run away from combat due to ladders, and ledges you have to climb -- which you can't when in combat.

The Technomancer, mars, sun, lighting

Upgrade trees, and combat

There are 4 main upgrade trees:

  • Warrior, which applies to staff combat for crowd control and area attack.
  • Rogue, which enables the use of a knife and gun for fast intelligent combat.
  • Guardian, which effects the use of club/hammer and shield wielding for a more defence orientated setup. The only stance which allows you block.
  • Technomancer, which is reserved to grant you the most powerful of your lighting abilities, some for attack, some for defence.

This is where everything gets a little more complicated, as there are 2 more upgrade paths. One's ability focused, allowing you to be better at lockpicking, stealth, crafting, or in conversation, among other things. The other is stat based, granting you more health and carry room, or gain better critical hit chances and damage, and many other things. These upgrade trees feel a little superfluous, as points for it are not gained every level. If they were merged, and you gained a point for it every other level, I think it could work better than it does.

The Technomancer, mars, sneak

Combat stances can be changes at will, each of the 3 stances offers a very different combat experience. Warrior, rogue, or guardian, which ever you pick Spiders have done a very good job at making each one feel very fluid, and fun. That's one thing I never thought I would say, The Technomancer has very good combat. While it won't win any awards, it is very fluid. The best part is when you get a critical hit, the game goes slow motion, which not only shows off some very surprisingly impressive animations, but also just makes the combat feel good. You know you have a critical hit because of an awesome slow motion scene, not because some numbers told you so.

This can all get a little repetitive, as each combat stance offers 3 different attacks -- in the case of the guardian style a block -- but you really only find yourself playing around with one of them. I played mostly as a rogue, with dagger and pistol, I would roll around backstabbing enemies and shooting from a far. The warrior style feels like what the game wants you to use, as you are a Technomancer and all Technomancers use staffs, but it doesn't penalise you for your choice of combat style. Fight with a long stick, large blunt object, knife and shooty bang bang, or spark your enemies unconscious, each one feels great. A feat which I am still amazed by, considering the comparatively small budget I imagine The Technomancer had.

The Technomancer, mars

The Technomancer won't be winning any awards, but it kinda stole my heart

The only real issues this game has boils down to the fact it didn't have a AAA budget, something which makes me very happy; that a game can be made to this level of polish with so many restrictions imposed by budget. The major issues boil down to awkward silences, when someone should be interrupted mid sentence they simply stop for a while, and appear to wait to be interrupted -- very polite of them. Then when lockpicking, the door/box/locker doesn't automatically get opened, meaning you have another button press to access the sweat loot or area -- I think we have just been too spoilt. Lastly, when you have climbed up or down a ladder or ledge an animation plays out of your walking for a while, it's just a little bit too long and it becomes annoying.

Other than all of that, and some serviceable delivery of lines, The Technomancer is an excellent example of, not only what can be done on such a comparatively small budget, but of action RPGs in general. It gives players the ability to swiftly switch strategy on the fly, while making each equally as valid as the previous one -- and just as fun. The Technomancer also follows a rather interesting plot, and even has multiple endings based on your decisions throughout the game. It starts as one man's journey to contact earth, and turns into a fight to free the people of Mars. It has interesting characters, who are not perfect, with some doing morally horrible things for the protection of the larger group. Some characters start out appearing selfish, but turn out to just be a little lost in what they were doing.

If you are a fan of action RPGs, and can stomach some flat line deliveries and awkward pauses, The Technomancer is definitely a game you should pick up.

[Note: Copy provided by publisher, Focus Home Interactive, avaliable on PS4, Xbox One, and Windows - Steam]

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A Sirring Look At This Cyber-Dystopia: A VA-11 HALL-A Review https://www.gameskinny.com/ne7w1/a-sirring-look-at-this-cyber-dystopia-a-va-11-hall-a-review https://www.gameskinny.com/ne7w1/a-sirring-look-at-this-cyber-dystopia-a-va-11-hall-a-review Fri, 24 Jun 2016 05:18:32 -0400 Evangelio Arencibia

Take a moment and imagine that it's the near future, and you are a broke bartender working in lowly hole-in-the-wall bar named VA-11 HALL-11 (affectionately called Valhalla) trying to make ends meet. You feel as if your life has reached a dead end, and that there isn't much to do other than work or read articles from tabloid sites on the internet.

Your regulars consist mostly of a blonde hacker who can't hold a relationship to save her life, a kind assassin who comes to the bar to set his mind at ease, and a robot sex worker who takes pride in her job -- and they, along with your co-workers, are your only friends. This is the life of a woman named Jill, the protagonist of VA-11 HALL-A, a cyberpunk bartending simulator developed by Venezuelan studio Sukekan Games, and published by Ysbyrd Studios.

Right off the bat, VA-11 HALL-A feels reminiscent of old-school '80s and '90s sci-fi anime, with it's jazzy and catchy soundtrack, cyberpunk aesthetic, and wonderfully detailed character designs. Even with the limited setting of the bar and Jill's apartment, the game feels very much like an older adventure game, though it doesn't play like one. 

In truth, there isn't much gameplay in VA-11 HALL-A at all. It's a bartending simulator that's focused less on the serving drinks part, and more listening (or in this case, reading, as there are no voice-overs) to your customers' woes. There are two parts to the core gameplay: serving drinks to customers, and hanging out in Jill's apartment. When making drinks, a majority of the time, a customer asks for a specific drink, and Jill (the player) puts the ingredients in the blender and mixes it.

The drink mixing mechanic is interesting.

Not because the drinks themselves are hard to make (it's actually rather easy mixing the drinks), but Jill is at the risk of becoming distracted at work if she doesn't pay off her bills or buy an item she wants. There are also times when the customer isn't aware of what he/she wants, and will give vague instructions, or will even intentionally throw the player in a loop with oddly phrased orders. At certain points, Jill can mix drinks to have more or less alcohol (if any at all), thus changing the outcome of the conversation, the situation a costumer gets in after drinking, or even the game's ending. The player doesn't decide what Jill can say, as she has her own defined personality, but entire situations and even characters Jill meets can change depending on the drinks she mixes.

The segments of the game in between Jill's shifts at Valhalla are set in her apartment, where she lives alone with her cat named Fore. In her apartment, Jill can read articles from the tabloid news site Augmented Eye, read threads on the blog site Danger/u/, keep up with pop star and Hatsune Miku parody *Kira* Miki's blog, customize her room, pay bills, or go shopping for decorations.

It is very important to keep note that if you aren't a particularly good bartender, Jill will be strapped for cash, and the player will have to decide whether they want to save funds to pay bills, or to go out and purchase whatever Jill wants so that she doesn't distracted.

What truly makes the game shine are Jill's interactions with the other characters.

None of them, including Jill herself, are anybody special, and are simply trying to get by to the next day without getting mugged or murdered. Along with the regulars who visit Valhalla, there will also be less frequent visitors -- such as Donovan, an editor at the tabloid site Jill reads, and Sei, a rescue worker for a police force of sorts named the White Knights. There are also Jill's two co-workers, Dana and Gillian, who are both mysterious for differing reasons, with Dana seemingly having an absurd life and Gillian being a complete mystery. 

All of these characters are incredibly expressive in both dialogue and animations, bringing them to life. The writing is compelling enough to balance comedy and drama nicely -- even if the comedy does fall flat sometimes, as much of it relies on references to other media that the player may not be familiar with. 

If there is one thing that gets in the way of the drama, especially in the bar segments, it's the soundtrack.

While I think most of the soundtrack is well-composed and memorable, in the bar during Jill's shift, the song playing is from a jukebox where all of the songs are player-chosen. It's an idea that sounds great in theory, considering the player is managing a bar after all, but a happy and upbeat song can come on when someone is having an emotional breakdown. It doesn't ruin the scene, but it can take the player out of the moment. 

When everything comes together, there are genuinely moving moments in the VA-11 HALL-A's story. When a piece of Jill's past catches up with her, she becomes an incredibly compelling protagonist faced with issues that many people in real life have faced, in one way or another. And as a result, her actions are realistic for what she is going through. It shows that, even in the future, people are still people, and no matter what happens, the world keeps spinning, as it always does. 

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Hard Reset Redux Is A Lost Classic Reborn https://www.gameskinny.com/p1b4k/hard-reset-redux-is-a-lost-classic-reborn https://www.gameskinny.com/p1b4k/hard-reset-redux-is-a-lost-classic-reborn Tue, 21 Jun 2016 05:25:40 -0400 Stan Rezaee

Hard Reset Redux is a special kind of shooter that takes the simplicity of the genre and blends it with a cyberpunk setting.

Shooter games are always fun to play but it’s a genre that has been over saturated by poor titles and lazy knock-offs. As a result, many great titles are often overlooked upon release, and never earn the success they deserve.

The original Hard Reset is an example of such a shooter, an amazing title that was overlooked at launch. It didn’t have an unforgettable story, or pretended to be a blockbuster movie, it was a simple shooter set in a cyberpunk world.

Playing It Old School

Hard Reset Redux is an upgraded version that features a few minor improvements, while preserving the experience of the original game.

The game is set in a dystopian world where humanity is waging a war against machines that want to control Sanctuary, a network that holds billions of digitized human minds. Players take on the role of Maj. Fletcher, a soldier of CLN tasked with defending the last closed city of Bezoar.

Hard Reset Redux takes players to a cyberpunk world that is inspired by the works of great writers like Philip K. Dick and Neal Stephenson. The story is told through a series of comic panels while the game is loading, these give players the details they need of whats going on.

Playing It Simple

When it comes to the gameplay, if one has played a title like Serious Sam then they will feel right at home with Hard Reset Redux.

Players are armed with two weapons and the objective is to battle through the levels while completing an objective. Both weapons can be upgraded with new features (like a built in shotgun) using points earned through combat and finding hidden secrets.

The combat requires players to just shoot the wave of enemies while using the environment to their advantage. The levels have a plethora of explosive barrels waiting to be used, while electrical generators offer a tactical advantage of crippling the enemy.

Looking Back

It may not seem like much, but sometimes all it takes for a title to stand out is to be a basic return to the simplicity of the genre. To a generation that is use to blockbuster titles like Call of Duty, or a sophisticated gameplay setup as seen in titles like Fallout 4, it's hard to understand what makes a simple shooter so enjoyable.

For old school gamers, the nostalgia of those simple times make Hard Reset a very enjoyable title. Classics like Quake, Serious Sam, along with Painkiller are remembered for the same reasons Hard Reset is so good.

For younger gamers, it's all about getting straight to the action without thinking. No solid story or reason to care about what's happening, just shoot everything and have fun.

Hard Reset Redux is a simple shooter and a second chance to experience a cult classic. Old school gamers will appreciate it, while younger gamers will also enjoy it when they want a break from more complex titles.

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Cyberpunk RPG Dex On Kickstarter https://www.gameskinny.com/jmz1d/cyberpunk-rpg-dex-on-kickstarter https://www.gameskinny.com/jmz1d/cyberpunk-rpg-dex-on-kickstarter Thu, 14 Nov 2013 15:13:14 -0500 Dreadlocks_2792

We are proud to introduce our exciting new game, Dex – a 2D side-scrolling action/stealth RPG in a cyberpunk setting.

The most innovative aspect of Dex, both from a story and a gameplay perspective, is that it takes place in two planes: physical reality and cyberspace (which is presented as a sort of augmented reality). Cyberspace is omnipresent – you can go there anytime for an alternate take on things – and it is up to you to choose how to overcome all obstacles and enemies. More than one solution can work – pure action, stealth, or cutting through intrusion countermeasures in cyberspace.

 

 

Dex will be distributed DRM-Free. Confirmed platforms are PC (WindowsLinux), Mac, and OUYA.

Please note that we have also launched our Kickstarter campaign, with more information and materials to check out. Release is scheduled for June 2014, with early access available for Kickstarter backers.

 


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Classic Reviews: Deus Ex https://www.gameskinny.com/5kjl9/classic-reviews-deus-ex https://www.gameskinny.com/5kjl9/classic-reviews-deus-ex Fri, 02 Aug 2013 10:34:13 -0400 Dillon Chaney

When Deus Ex: Human Revolution came out in 2011, the game won me over with its strong storytelling and unique atmosphere. I then learned that Revolution was a prequel  to the original Deus Ex, and I had heard from many people that the original game was their personal favorite game of all time. As much as I loved Human Revolution, I had to get my hands on Deus Ex, so I picked it up on steam for only $3, and I'll be damned if that wasn't the best three dollars I ever spent.

STORY

In Deus Ex, players take on the role of nano-augmented super agent JC Denton. A mysterious plague called the Gray Death has swept the globe, and the agency you work for, UNATCO, controls the distribution of the ambrosia vaccine. Thinking it more important to sustain the important government officials and companies, the limited supply is generally kept from the under class citizens. As a result, a terrorist group steals a supply of ambrosia, and it is your mission to track down the shipment--but it quickly becomes much more than that.

Along the way you will discover a massive conspiracy while chasing leads around the globe. Characters will betray you, enemies will become your allies, and huge curveballs are constantly thrown at the player. This keeps you on your toes, as you can't trust any of the characters and you are left to discover for yourself who is behind this conspiracy.

The thing Deus Ex does so well with its plot is how it ties it into gameplay. With no scripted events, the plot revolves entirely around your actions. These choices are not those of Bioware, where you have a clearly defined black and white decision that involves you picking a dialogue option.

No, instead they have you make major decisions through the way you play the game, adding significant replay value. For example, there is a moment when you are ordered to assassinate a terrorist leader. After getting to him, he tells you some dirty secrets about the company you work for. He then surrenders, pointing out that it is against UNATCO policy to kill unarmed prisoners. Your partner then orders you to kill him anyway.

You have a decision to make, but the game doesn't tell you to choose one or the other--instead it returns you to the game. You can then shoot the prisoner, capture him, or outright betray the agency by killing your partner. But the game never tells you that you can do that, it merely allows you to. 

In most games this would result in an inevitable game-over, but not in Deus Ex. Instead, if you choose to betray the agency, you cover your tracks and deal with the consequences of your actions. This type of freedom in plot has never been done quite to this scale, and that is probably why this game is still so famous, even though it was released 13 years ago.

GAMEPLAY

Another reason this game stands the test of time is its outstanding gameplay. The game gives absolute freedom to the player, and there are always multiple ways to reach objectives, some of which even alter the plot.

On the surface, the game appears to be a first person stealth shooter, but it is also an RPG. When you create your character, you are given 5000 skill points to spend. The skills you choose will drastically alter the way you play the game. Skills include weapons training, lock picking, hacking, electronics and much more. No matter what skills you choose, there will always be a way for you to complete your objective.

For example, you may need to shut down some security bots. If you are a gun-toting badass, you can go balls to the wall with your rocket launcher and EMP grenades and blast the bots to pieces, as well as deal with the soldiers with your other weapons.

If you are a stealthy player, you may use your lock picking skill to get into the security room, or if you haven't trained your lock picking, you can steal the key off an enemy soldier, hopefully without getting detected. Once inside the security room, you can either use your hacking skill to get into the computer and disable the bots and cameras, or you can find the log in and password and turn the security systems against your enemies. This type of freedom is in every objective of every level. If you can think of a solution, it exists.

The choices you make while out in the field can also have an effect on how certain characters respond to you. If you go for a nonlethal approach, some of the more ideological characters may reward you with information and equipment. If you decide to murder everyone in your path, these characters will like you a lot less, but some others will respect that you aren't afraid to get the job done, and give you more firearms. 

No matter what you decide to do, there is no right or wrong way to play this game. Whether you are a stealthy computer hacker or a super soldier, you will always be rewarded and have a great time playing the game. No matter how many times you play through the game, you will never have the same experience twice, and that is a significant achievement has not been done since.

PRESENTATION

It's a good thing that the gameplay and story have stood the test of time, because the graphics certainly haven't. The game is nearly 15 years old now, and you can tell. The textures are very blocky and the lighting effects aren't the best, and the character models are absolutely horrible. Fortunately, there are some mods available that improve the visual appeal (I'd recommend New Vision), but still, you should not buy this game expecting to be wowed by its incredible technology. Even if the graphics aren't very good, the game still does an excellent job of immersing you in its world with its unique cyberpunk atmosphere and gameplay.

The sound effects are fairly average, but the voice acting leaves something to be desired. The ones with accents sound extremely forced and out-of-place. The one piece of the game's presentation that is worthy of praise however, is its unique techno soundtrack. It fits the atmosphere like a glove, setting the perfect tone for every mission. Whether it's the creepy music you hear as you explore ancient french catacombs, the gorgeous UNATCO theme, or the wonderful cyberpunk sound of the main theme, the soundtrack is always excellent.

THE VERDICT

The game may not have aged well in terms of graphics, but the nonlinear gameplay and plot are something truly special. I have yet to see a game that gives you such freedom of choice in both design and narrative, and that is why this game is still played over a decade since its release and regarded by many, including me, as the best game of all time.

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Shadowrun Returns: Doing Diversity Right https://www.gameskinny.com/83w9w/shadowrun-returns-doing-diversity-right https://www.gameskinny.com/83w9w/shadowrun-returns-doing-diversity-right Thu, 01 Aug 2013 02:50:09 -0400 Catrana

A friend instructed me to pickup Shadowrun Returns on the weekend, and that was the best gaming decision I've made in the last few months. 

Elves, Orcs - oh, sorry - Orks, humans and trolls, all co-existing in a cyberpunk inspired sci-fi/fantasy universe where racial diversity is made into a non-issue and the whole thing looks like a beautifully illustrated painting? Sold.

This game seems to have been constructed to ping on every single one of my great loves. It's an RPG, I can use anything from a baseball bat to an AK-97 to mow my way through enemies, and the obvious homages to William Gibson throughout the gritty investigative narrative make my inner literature student shiver with delight. 

Let's take a look at the character creation screen for Shadowrun Returns, shall we?

 

What's the first thing I noticed, upon toggling between male and female? There's very little in the way of gender dimorphism. A female troll doesn't look like she'd be snapped in half, should she attempt to get jiggy with her male counterpart. 

A+ right there. 

But wait, there's more! Observe the outfits - they aren't sexualized. They're practical, badass, and fit perfectly with the setting. I was already in love, but then I started to explore the portraits.

 

How many times have I played a game only to lament the lack of diversity in the character portraits or facial models? Too many to count. This is not an issue that Shadowrun suffers from. You can be as conventionally - or unconventionally - pretty as you like, whether you're male or female, and several models of each face are on offer to select from. Here's a small selection of some of my favourites. 

Oh my gaming gods, it's time for me to head out and buy the ring, because by this point I didn't care about the game's narrative, the art had completely sold me on it. 

That was until I entered the actual game and the opening scene took my breath away. Shadowrun Returns perfectly captures the hardboiled detective vibe in its descriptions, and some downright beautiful phrasing had me swooning more than once. It was like taking a bite of a tempting looking chocolate and finding out it had a delectable fondant centre. 

Someone you used to trust has died, and they've put you in charge of tracking down their killer. What follows is an intriguing trip into a dystopian murder mystery that gets deeper with every moment. I have my theories on the plot, but I'll keep them to myself for now.

Shadowrun Returns lets you be who you want to be.

Are you a jaded drug addict looking to hire your fists out to get your next fix? Sure, go for it. Or perhaps you're the last ray of hope in a world where the smog has clouded all the lamps. Whatever you are, you'll get the chance to roll with it. 

Combat is fluid and entertaining, and reminds me more than a little of XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Attribute customisation is intriguingly deep, and there's the potential to build your character in any way you see fit. I'm a human Decker who's weapon of choice, my beloved baseball bat, is completely incompatible with my class, but I'm gradually building her into a kind-hearted thug who loves getting her hands dirty, with a knife-sharp intellect and a passion for hacking the matrix. 

I'm giving this game a tentative nine out of ten, with a single point caveat in case the narrative takes a turn to the cheesy in later chapters. Expect an updated review once I've finished slinking my way through the shadows!

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Shadowrun Returns: Return of the Trailer! https://www.gameskinny.com/49rp8/shadowrun-returns-return-of-the-trailer https://www.gameskinny.com/49rp8/shadowrun-returns-return-of-the-trailer Fri, 19 Jul 2013 13:08:10 -0400 Corey Kirk

The new Shadowrun game, Shadowrun Returns, is almost upon us and I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for some awesome new cyberpunk adventuring.  So I think it’s time for one last look at this exciting new entry in the long-running RPG franchise.

Click on the video above to view the trailer!

I have to admit though, Shadowrun is one of those things that I never got into that much.  Out in the country of good ol’ US of A, things like RPGs and Ouija boards were looked at with a big frown, or downright banned in some homes during my childhood.  It wasn’t until I started playing Magic: the Gathering in the late 90’s that I even heard of it, but by that time, I had my sights on other things.  With what I have seen of Shadowrun Returns though, with its old school Fallout feel, it has gotten my attention and I plan on thoroughly enjoying it when it releases on Steam July 25th.

Are you a fan of Shadowrun and are you excited for this new entry? Comment below!

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