Simulation Games   Tagged Articles RSS Feed | Simulation Games   RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network Star Wars Squadrons: New Intel on Progression and Cosmetics Fri, 25 Sep 2020 17:31:41 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Star Wars Squadrons is almost ready for deployment, and EA has outlined how the game's progression systems will work. As we already knew, players will be able to unlock cosmetics and other rewards, such as ship components, by playing the game. There are no microtransaction in Star Wars Squadrons (thank the maker). 

As previously noted by EA, Glory is an in-game currency that will unlock "most cosmetics," which includes new paint jobs for ships and vanity items for cockpits, as well as new clothing for pilots and "different heads," ranging from human to alien. Requisition, another in-game currency, will be how players unlock components for their ships, including things like hulls, weapons, and shields. 

Glory and Requisition will be gained through Challenges, Operations, and overall player level. 

Challenges fall into two categories: daily challenges and operational challenges. These work similarly to Battlefront 2's Challenges, where players must perform specific tasks, such as "complete X number of dogfight matches," "destroy X number of enemies while piloting an X-Wing or Tie Fighter," or "complete X Challenges before the end of an Operation."

Daily challenges, of course, rotate every 24 hours. Operation challenges, however, rotate every eight weeks.

Aside from length, the primary differences are that Operation Challenges will reward players with unique, limited-time items and include what is being called Fleet Battles Rank. A player's Fleet Battles Rank, including Maverick, Hotshot, Hero, Valiant, Legend, and Galactic Ace, is tied directly to competitive play and resets every eight weeks. 

It also appears that each Fleet Battles Rank has sub-ranks, such as Maverick II and Maverick III. Players can be de-ranked and demoted within sub-ranks, but they cannot be de-ranked or demoted from a primary rank, such as from Hotshot to Maverick. 

Player level is pretty straightforward and represents overall level. EA says that Requisition will be gained through "the first [40] levels." 

We can't wait to check out Star Wars Squadrons, which releases on October 2 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One for $39.99. It will support HOTAS flight sticks on PC and console, as well as VR for PC and PS4, including Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index, Windows Mixed Reality, and PSVR. 

Stay tuned for our review, as well as a full slate of guides, when all wings report in. 

[Source: EA]

Aquanox: Deep Descent Hands-On Preview — Muddy Waters Thu, 24 Sep 2020 19:57:03 -0400 Jonathan Moore

It’s been a long time since games like Aquanox and Descent ruled the seas and the voids of space, and while we’re still awaiting the latter to make its triumphant return, the former will soon return to take fans of 6DOF vehicle shooters back to the crushing depth of the ocean. 

Aquanox: Deep Descent is a reimagining of the 2001 game of the same name. While I’ve played plenty of Descent and games like it, such as Sublevel Zero, I had never jumped into the Aquanox cockpit until recently, when I was invited to go hands-on with a roughly one-hour preview of Deep Descent

Things like movement and combat take a little getting used. Still, once you begin to understand how the game’s mechanics work and gain access to other ships and modules, Aquanox: Deep Descent starts to morph into a fun and somewhat addicting first-person combat sim.

To give myself greater context into the Aquanox games, I purchased the 2001 version of Aquanox on Steam after giving Deep Descent a whirl. 

Both games take place in an underwater world where humanity has escaped the dead and dying land above. Aqua, though, is full of warring factions and governments, and it plays host to mutated creatures hell-bent on your destruction. 

Deep Descent’s narrative isn’t as immediately gripping as the story in 2001’s Aquanox, which ebbs and flows in a dramatic X-Files like presentation, but it is seemingly more focused on a grander social commentary not found in the original — at least in its opening acts. 

Voice acting is currently hit or miss, with some characters nailing the appropriate tone of the world, while others are far less polished. Dialog remains lore heavy, but the pacing is still a bit off, something that I hope is addressed by the time the game releases in October. 

Unlike 2001’s Aquanox, which focused on a singular protagonist, Deep Descent introduces players to four characters with various backgrounds. They’re presented in a somewhat tone-deaf, hero-shootery way, and don’t seem to have much bearing on the overall story yet.

The game will feature drop-in co op and PvP at launch (though I wasn’t able to test multiplayer here), so it will be interesting to see how these characters play into that and if they bring their own skills to the table. 

Where the narrative seems to diverge from the original, movement and combat in Deep Descent remains virtually the same. Each ship has base values for stats ranging from speed to hull strength to agility. Ships can also be outfitted with a retinue of weapons from Gatlin cannons to missile launchers and shrapnel guns.

For some vessels, movement can be clunky and downright irritating, especially for those expecting something clippier like Descent. If the demo I played is indicative of how the final game will begin — which I believe it is based on the narrative and mission structure of the two missions available — I am a bit worried that some players may find it hard to forgive Deep Descent for dropping them into a ship that moves like oil through water. 

That’s not helped along by the nature of the game’s initial combat encounters, which can be unforgiving at best, especially if players skip the tutorial or gameplay tips because they want to jump straight into the action. Knowing to lock onto enemies is a complete game-changer, one that makes the game immensely more enjoyable. 

It is worth noting that there will be multiple ships in the final product, as well as modules that can be equipped to those ships. Different makes and models, as well as hull and engine attachments, can be swapped out at ports and will surely make significant differences for players looking to customize the game around their playstyle. 

One vexing bugbear I do hope receives attention before launch is the dodge mechanic. Since Deep Descent is a 6DOF shooter, you can move forward and back, left and right, and up and down. In combat, where enemy ships can quickly melt your shields and hull, dodging is a critical maneuver. 

Darting left and right is simple enough, but the vanilla controls for dodging up and down (double-tapping the spacebar/left CTRL) are also tied to the input for simply moving up and down (holding the spacebar/left CTRL).

Sometimes, the game registers a hold as a tap, sending you flying up or down though you didn’t want to. This can be an instant killer in combat, especially if you get caught in any part of the environment (which will also damage your ship). 

There’s sure to be a lot more to talk about when it comes to Aquanox: Deep Descent, including its beautifully rendered but sometimes drab environments, as well as its economy, trading systems, and side quests. But that will have to wait until our final review in the coming weeks. 

Overall, I’m hopeful for what Digital Arrow and THQ Nordic are building lives up to the legacy of the games that came before Deep Descent. I have my concerns, especially regarding the game’s initial stages and its difficulty, even on its easiest setting. But it’s hard to judge a game entirely by the first hour or so. 

For what it’s worth, I’ve played through the missions four times now, growing to enjoy the game more each time. Despite my initial reservations, that’s got to count for something. 

Stay tuned for more on Aquanox: Deep Descent, which will release on October 16 for PC and retail for $29.99. 

Oh Lawd, He Comin': Snorlax Heads to Pokemon Cafe Mix Thu, 24 Sep 2020 11:53:22 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

New visitors and events are coming to Pokemon Café Mix. Players can order up team challenges with new co-workers and, from September 24 through October 8, possibly entice a hungry Snorlax to their café.

The event running from September 24 until October 8, introduces Snorlax to the game. Players can work to get Snorlax on their good side in the hopes of convincing it to join the café staff. If it does join, Snorlax's special ability is clearing away icons and gimmicks beneath it.

If that's not enough Snorlax to sate the appetite, there's a Snorlax Maniac Pikachu available for purchase (using real money) in the shop.

Team challenges are a new feature in Pokemon Café Mix and aren't going anywhere after October 8. Players create teams of up to 30 people, but these teams don't have to be drawn from existing friend lists. They can include anyone who wants to work together — for a cost.

Creating a team costs 300 Golden Acorns, and whoever creates the team is that team's captain. However, for a limited time — The Pokemon Company didn't say how long — creating a new team earns players a bonus of 300 Golden Acorns per team member.

If you're new to adding Pokémon to your team, we've got a rundown of every available Pokemon in Café Mix so far to help. Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more Pokemon Café Mix news as it develops.

No Man's Sky Origins Update is Free, Out Today, and Huge Wed, 23 Sep 2020 14:00:48 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

The galaxy just got a lot more detailed thanks to the No Man's Sky Origins update. The free update introduces a solar system's worth of new features, ranging from new weather conditions and new planets to improved interfaces.

Almost every star system gets a bunch of additional planets in the Origins patch. These planets have more diverse topography as well, including huge mountain ranges, volcanoes, moist swampy regions, and more.

Some of the changes affect the terrain in other ways. Volcanic planets have patches that spontaneously combust, for example. Storms might spin up, spawning tornadoes or devastating lightning.

Whatever happens, players will see the atmosphere responding more dynamically.

Cloud cover varies more often and matches the surface conditions, and the amount — and color — of cloud coverage changes over time and with each planet.

Every planet has fresh fauna with a wider range of interactions, both with the environment and each other. There are more bugs (not glitches) now, for better or worse, plus massive sandworms lurking beneath the surface.

That's all just the start. No Man's Sky Origins adds more lore and secrets to uncover, ancient monuments, items, merchant NPCs, and a slew of improvements to textures and various parts of the game's interface.

That's not to mention the items and multi-tool upgrades added, as well as the tweaks made to photo mode and the game's economy. 

All this follows the Desolation and cross-platform multiplayer updates added earlier in 2020. If that's still not enough to satisfy the space craving, there are plenty of No Man's Sky mods to shake things up even more.

The update is out as of today on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more on NMS

[Source: Hello Games]

Rune Factory 5 is Ready for Harvest on Nintendo Switch in 2021 Thu, 17 Sep 2020 14:49:04 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

Marvelous showed off a first look at Rune Factory 5 during Nintendo's September Mini-Direct. The latest entry in the Rune Factory series is set for release on Nintendo Switch in Spring 2021 in Japan and sometime in 2021 in the West.

Rune Factory 5 follows the series' usual pattern of amnesiac heroes waking up in seemingly idyllic villages where things go awry. This time, the player character is in a "small town blessed by nature," where the residents recruit them into a ranger force.

These rangers are tasked with keeping the peace in the land. In Rune Factory fashion, that means getting into fisticuffs with the local monster population. Players can team up with NPCs to fight their foes and work together to unleash combo attacks, which is a first for the series.

Also a first is Rune Factory 5's graphics. The game retains the series' classic character art for conversations. But the perspective shifts from top-down to over the shoulder, and the world is billed as massive, with multiple environments ranging from snow-covered fields to coastline vistas.

Apart from that, players can expect the same Rune Factory gameplay. Time is divided between battling monsters, tending the farm, and cultivating friendships, and a wedding ceremony could be waiting at the end of the road.

Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more Rune Factory 5 news as it sprouts up.

HOTAS Support Coming to Console Versions of Star Wars Squadrons Sat, 12 Sep 2020 10:38:33 -0400 Jonathan Moore

We've known since July that HOTAS (hands on throttle-and-stick) support would be included in the PC version of Star Wars Squadrons when the game launches on October 2. However, the game's Creative Director, Ian S. Frazier, has clarified on Twitter that flight stick support will also come to PS4 and Xbox One. 

As an added treat, HOTAS support will be available on launch day for PS4 and Xbox One via a patch. As of this writing, it's unclear how large that patch will be. 

Star Wars Squadrons is an upcoming space combat sim that seems to be more closely related to the X-Wing and Tie Fighter games of the early- to mid-90s than the more recent Rogue Squadron titles or Battlefront 2's starfighter assault mode. 

Set to release on October 2 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One, Star Wars Squadrons will retail for $39.99 and feature a single-player campaign. Of course, there will also be a multiplayer component featuring crossplay between all platforms: PC and console. 

Virtual reality will be supported through PSVR, Oculus, HTC Vive, and Valve Index. The developers, though, have assured fans that Squadrons is not just a VR game and does not require a VR headset to play. 

Star Wars and flight-sim fans can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that Squadrons won't join the retinue of games delayed in 2020. Frazier also announced on Twitter recently that the game has gone gold. 

For more on Star Wars Squadrons, check out its intense gameplay trailer or how the game's deep ship customization system will help you control the odds. Keep GameSkinny on target for our review and a full set of guides early next month. 

Star Wars Squadrons Goes Gold, Staying on Target Fri, 11 Sep 2020 16:22:35 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

Star Wars Squadrons has gone gold, Ian Frazier, the game's Creative Director, announced on Twitter. That means the would-be X-Wing and TIE Fighter space simulation successor is moving into physical production and there likely won't be any delays from Star Wars Squadrons' release date on October 2.

The PC version of Star Wars Squadrons will support HOTAS (hands-on throttle-and-stick) controls from the start, and Frazier said a day-one patch will add HOTAS support for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions "the moment the game goes live."

Like Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order before it, Star Wars Squadrons is officially canon in the Star Wars universe. Its story fills the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, when the New Republic struggled to establish itself, and Imperial remnants continued the dead-but-not-dead Emperor Palpatine's mission.

In the midst of the turmoil, players take control of (and customize) both New Republic and Imperial fighters and pilots on a multitude of mission types. Some involve escorts, others focus on taking out enemy flagships, and all are multi-step processes involving several phases of combat.

Star Wars Squadrons takes flight for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 on October 2 for $39.99. It won't be upgraded for PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series family, though Frazier said it will work on next-gen consoles via backwards compatibility. Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more Star Wars Squadrons news as it develops.

Surgeon Simulator 2 Review: I Got a Fever In My Bones Wed, 02 Sep 2020 17:26:57 -0400 Daniel Hollis

I have an irrational fear of anything medical. A single ache in my body and I’m fast-tracking myself to the emergency room. Every time it’s nothing, and I’m sent on my way with what is more than likely placebos. 

With that in mind, the very idea of playing Surgeon Simulator 2 should chill me to my core; even watching a simple medical procedure in a movie is enough to have me diving behind the sofa.

Yet, despite my squeamish nature, I found myself hacking away at patients in Surgeon Simulator 2, laughing at the game's absurdity with each new cut of the knife.  

With co-op multiplayer and a new take on level design, Surgeon Simulator 2 is bigger, better, and more elaborate than the first installment. Its changes are more than skin deep, presenting completely new gameplay systems and dozens of new ways to engage in hilariously dark but cathartic antics. 

In a year where the medical world has turned into a veritable nightmare, Surgeon Simulator 2 lightens the mood for many that have spent the majority of the past few months sheltered away.

Surgeon Simulator 2 Review: I Got A Fever In My Bones

Surgeon Simulator 2's gameplay has greatly evolved from its predecessor. Gone are the restraints of performing operations in a single room. Instead, the game's entire environment is fully explorable, filled with physics-based challenges to overcome and operations to perform. 

Propelling that new open design is the inclusion of a narrative that moves players from one elaborate stage to the next. While Surgeon Simulator often felt like an episode of Scrubs on drugs, its sequel often feels like a game of Operation if devised by the team behind the Saw series. (Imagine a group of people locked in a room with no escape and forced to attempt surgery on an unconscious patient, then you're in the right ball park.)

Set across multiple stages, the Surgeon Simulator 2 campaign lets players cut and slice either solo or cooperatively. They can do so with up to three other players as they help a patient named Bob undergo multiple procedures.

These range from a heart transplant to literally swapping his head with a new one (which is dispensed from a machine like a can of Coke). If that sounds stupid, it’s because it is, and Surgeon Simulator 2 embraces that stupidity from its very first moments.

It’s not long before the plot detours and meanders down the path of dark comedy, very much in the vein of Portal. While it never reaches the dizzying heights of the games it’s inspired by, the story is well worth cutting through.

The journey to the game's ending is extended by its fully explorable environments, where players explore each escape-room-like level while figuring out the best ways by which to operate on Bob and move on to the next procedure.

Sometimes, operating utensils are hidden away, forcing you to search high and low for them before beginning an operation. Other times, an organ you need is locked behind a door, but that door is locked by a fuse, and that fuse is locked behind another door, forcing you to find an alternate path through and around. 

These challenges only grow in complexity as the narrative drives forward, infusing the fairly mundane procedures with vim and vigour because while performing procedures on Bob is fun early on, it’s not long before the repetition of each goal kicks in.

There’s only a handful of things Bob will need during each operation, and Surgeon Simulator will have you repeating the same procedures again and again and again.

Luckily, Surgeon Simulator 2's physics-based controls make the seemingly simple tasks a nightmare — in all the best ways.

Holding a saw with your pinkie finger as you hack off one of Bob’s limbs is a sight to behold, and even better to witness in co-op. Squirming your arm about to find the perfect angle is often hilarious, even if it does become a bit tedious after multiple operations.

Outside of the fairly short 3- to 4-hour campaign, Surgeon Simulator 2’s Creative Mode leverages user-created content to increase the game's replay value.

The sheer number of tools available is frankly staggering, and the imagination that's already been pumped into the mode will only expand over time. Even though some of the levels available are fairly barebones right now, there are levels such as mazes and even bowling alleys ready to dive into at launch. No doubt that as the months go on, the community will find interesting new ways to breathe new life into this mode.

That's because even building these levels is a joy, invoking the creative inspiration found in something like The Sims. Rooms are built through a handbook filled with items, and bringing friends along to coordinate ideas is a stroke of genius.

Surgeon Simulator 2 Review  The Final Score

  • Fun evolution of original concept
  • Co-op is a blast
  • Surprisingly engaging narrative
  • Operations can get repetitive
  • Short campaign
  • Cumbersome controls 

While some sequels fail to build upon the entries that came before them, turning into bloated, convoluted messes, Surgeon Simulator 2 reshapes the original idea into something entirely new. 

Not everything lands, the campaign is short, surgeries can get repetitive, and the physics-based controls can occasionally hamper the enjoyment. But it’s hard not to admire the creativity driving the evolution of this sequel.

For better or for worse, Surgeon Simulator 2 is something entirely different and a game that builds a solid foundation for a strong future.

[Note: Bossa Studios provided the copy of Surgeon Simulator 2 used for this review.]

Crusader Kings 3 Review: A Crown for a King Mon, 31 Aug 2020 10:10:28 -0400 Jordan Baranowski

Here's a typical scenario in Crusader Kings 3.

I take over as a 65-year-old Count in the Holy Roman Empire named Christian. My only son, Wichmann, is only four, but he's already addicted to gambling. I decide that making my realm a little less boring is what Wichmann needs to kick his gambling habit and eventually take over as a good ruler. So, of course, I start building farms. 

Unimpressed, Wichmann wanders about the castle, where a young woman named Agnes begins bullying him. I tell him to stand up for himself. He does, pushing Agnes down the next time she picks a fight. She gets up and beats the hell out of him, which causes Wichmann to carry the "wounded" trait alongside his "covetous gambler" trait. He now carries a scar across his face as a constant reminder.

It's these background roleplaying bits that make Crusader Kings 3 so much fun. The point of the game, as in Crusader Kings 2, is to lead your dynasty to glory by building up your kingdom over several generations, conquering vast swaths of Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

What sets it apart, though, are these bits of humanity. They create all sorts of roleplaying scenarios that only support an already excellent strategy game. It's a lot, but it's also really, really good. 

Who says we can't have quality and quantity? 

Crusader Kings 3 Review: A Crown for a King

If you're not familiar with the Crusader Kings series, it might at first strike you as a historical, 4X strategy game in the vein of Civilization. It has some similar concepts to the Sid Meier franchise, but Crusader Kings 3 is much more about the long con. Any longtime fan will know that rather than controlling an entire people through generations of war and technology, you focus on one dynasty through the ages.

In my game with Count Christian, I play until he dies. When he does, I take over as Wichmann, his heir. When Wichmann dies, I'll take over as his heir.

Each new character has different traits, hang-ups, stats, and more, and the ultimate goal is to scheme, conquer, and buy your dynasty into the history books. If that sounds a bit Game of Thrones to you, then you're right on the money. 

It all looks great, too. You can zoom all the way out of the enormous map in Crusader Kings 3 and apply a variety of filters to see all the kingdoms and the various alliances therein. You can also zoom incredibly far in, getting a sense of each little city in each small territory. Everyone brims with character, as the animated, 3D models have much more personality than the portraits of old.

Characters often show aspects of their personality in their models. A drunkard might have rosy cheeks, and I even encountered a nudist parading around the castle naked as a jaybird.

What's great about the RPG elements that weave through all of CK3 is that they can be a focus of gameplay or not. Sometimes, you'll just want to conquer territories and build up your realm. You don't have to pay attention to these additions if you don't want to. 

So Many Options

All of this glorious scheming and conquering is backed by tons of stuff to do. Crusader Kings 3 is great at reading any given situation and presenting you with little nudges in the right direction. If you have a small kingdom, it may suggest trying to drum up a claim on a neighboring area. Second in line for a particular title? Crusader Kings 3 may suggest a murder plot. You'll be next in line in no time!

It can be daunting at times, though; there are plenty of actions I've taken over and over but still have trouble locating in the menus. However, things are much more accessible in CK3 than they have been in past iterations. A big part of that is because many of the options that arrived with CK2's expansions are here from the get-go. 

It also helps that the game does a good job of teaching you its systems as much or as little as you like. You can hover over pretty much any message to open tips about it, then hover over those tips to open even more. You could spend hours just learning about how the different systems play off of one another, or you could rush in and seed some chaos.

Some of your actions are simple, such as organizing a feast or hiring a physician; a few simple clicks later, and you're watching the wheels turn. Some of your other actions are extremely complex and involve multiple schemes and plates spinning at once. Trying to start a new branch of Catholicism (and not get murdered because of it) takes a lot of effort. Setting yourself up to succeed a terrible liege requires a lot of wheeling and dealing.

Oh, and just when everything starts to come together, the Pope comes calling. Didn't you hear? We're going Crusading! Pack your bags and summon all your troops; it's time to march to the Middle East!

Ways to Play

All of these options help make Crusader Kings 3 a blast no matter how you decide to play. As long as you've got an heir lined up, anything goes, and it can be even more fun to kick the whole house of cards down than to actually build it up. It's a special kind of game that makes you literally pause to think about what to do in any given situation. 

There are lots of ways that Crusader Kings 3 works its roleplaying aspects into its strategy elements, as well. Though events are somewhat random, traits can be inherited through genetics or upbringing. Going against your traits also results in characters accumulating stress. If you are a cruel character, for example, you get stressed out by being nice to people.

There are a ton of systems in play at once, and the main thing that made it fun for me was seeing how those systems could change and evolve as my characters did. It welcomes full chaotic play, full strategic play, and anything in between.

The only gripes I have with CK3 are that it's a bit easy to bounce off of, and sometimes things become a little too random. I can handle missing an "85% chance to hit" shot in XCOM, but it can be frustrating to bite on an "85% chance of success" scheme in Crusader Kings 3, where failure can wreck your family for generations to come.

I know that's the way the world works, but it's the one aspect about CK3 that feels too gamified.

The Bottom Line  Crusader Kings 3 Review

  • Tons of ways to play
  • The most accessible Crusader Kings has ever been
  • Looks great
  • Roleplaying aspects are frequently hilarious and make you think
  • Easy to dive into the rules for specific aspects
  • Some systems are still a bit obtuse
  • Some elements can be a bit overpowered

If you've always been intrigued by the idea of Crusader Kings but bounced off of it, Crusader Kings 3 is the best way to get started. It looks and feels great, and it already has a ton of available content at launch. DLC will indeed run thick, but it doesn't feel like the base game is missing aspects out of the gate.

At the same time, CK3 is great for veterans. A lot of fan-favorite elements that were added to CK2 over a decade of DLC are already here, and most of the systems are close enough to the same family tree that you shouldn't have trouble taking kingdoms over.

Just watch out for those childhood traumas and what you do to "fix" them. They may just leave a mark on your face... and your heart.

[Note: Paradox Interactive provided the copy of Crusader Kings 3 used for this review.]

Control the Odds with Star Wars Squadrons' Extensive Customization Options Fri, 14 Aug 2020 19:06:24 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

Ship customization is an integral part of Star Wars Squadrons, as we've been told from the beginning. But EA recently opened up about just how extensive Star Wars Squadrons customization is, with the various ship component types and how they will play into your strategies.

Most ships have seven component slots, four active and three passive:

  • Primary Weapon
  • Auxiliary (two slots for these)
  • Countermeasures
  • Hull
  • Shields
  • Engines

Ships without shields only have six component slots. Active components alter how your ship performs, while passive ones help keep you alive longer.

Each component type has multiple varieties, and all unlock through normal gameplay. For example, the primary weapons come in short burst and long-range types, among others. The auxiliary slots let you add things like repair droids and bombs, while countermeasures help you make a quick escape or at least let you go out with a big bang.

The three passive components are a bit more self-explanatory, though there are still plenty of varieties to customize your ship with. Some hulls resist cannon fire, while certain shield types work better, but recharge more slowly.

In short, there's a lot to take into consideration when creating your ideal ship. Or not, if you so choose. You can use the base ships without doing a single thing to them if you want, though lead gameplay designer James Clement encourages players to experiment with different components:

...the combat piloting experience has significant depth. You can learn the ropes quickly, yet you can look forward to discovering new techniques and tactics for months to come.

You're free to customize your pilots and cockpit interiors if you so wish, with decorations pulled from throughout the Star Wars universe, like Stormtrooper dongles and crystals from Crait's mines. All these and your ship builds can be saved into one of five loadout slots to make for faster switching when you need or want to change out your current build.

Star Wars Squadrons is set for release on October 2 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more Squadrons news, and be sure to check out the Star Wars Squadrons gameplay trailer if you haven't already.

[Source: EA]

10 Best Cities: Skylines Mods for PC in 2020 Fri, 31 Jul 2020 10:01:13 -0400 Gabriel Moss


Mod Compatibility Checker


Download it here


Sometimes you'll download mods that just don't cooperate well with one another, causing your game to crash or mods to stop working properly  or stop working altogether.


The Mod Compatibility Checker is a piece of software that checks if there are any conflicts between mods in your load order, and then it generates a report of which ones aren't working well with others. Unfortunately, it doesn't fix incompatibilities for you, but at least you won't have to go poking around to figure out what's causing your game to stop working.

That's our list of the 10 best Cities: Skylines mods to check out on PC. For more future Cities: Skylines content, stay tuned with GameSkinny!


Traffic Manager: President Edition


Download it here


By default, Cims don't exactly know how to handle themselves in heavy traffic. The basic AI isn't particularly smart, which can lead to inefficient use of city infrastructure that causes congestion on major thoroughfares.


Traffic Manager: President Edition is a mod that gives you far more tools with which to direct traffic, but it's highly customizable as well, giving you more control over how your Cims behave in traffic in the first place. It comes with an Advanced AI framework as well, which helps each Cim make better choices without you needing to lift a finger.




Download it here


If you're curious about where each Cim in your Cities: Skylines city is coming from, going to, where they work, where they live, and even what socioeconomic class they belong to, then Snooper is the mod for you.


This mod does all of the above (and more), delivering a dossier of information on any Cim you click on. This also ties property to Cims, meaning that you can quickly figure out who owns certain vehicles or buildings throughout your city.


Real Time


Download it here


Time lapses quite strangely in Cities: Skylines by default. The mod Real Time fixes all of that, placing your entire city, and its denizens, into a much more realistic time schedule.


But that's not all it does. You can customize the time schedule in the menu, and you can even change the likelihood that specific types of commuters will visit locations (such as home, work, school, or 'out' destinations like shopping centers and tourist traps) at different points throughout the week.


Move It


Download it here


If you've wanted to control the exact angles and positions of each prop and building in your city, then Move It is just the mod for you.


This mod allows you to control the positioning and placement of pretty much every single visual aspect of your Cities: Skylines city, even allowing you to drag and drop groups of multiple objects at once.


Network Extensions 2


Download it here


Network Extensions 2 vastly expands the plethora of transportation infrastructure options you can use to build out your city's transportation network.


It adds everything from tight alleyways to suburban backstreets and massive 6-lane highways and busways. If your city is lacking in pedestrian spaces, you can even use this mod to build zonable pedestrian promenades, boardwalks, pathways, parks, and more.


Precision Engineering


Download it here


If you're having issues setting up intersections and precise streets, you may certainly want to check out Precision Engineering, a mod that allows you to measure exact angles and distances between each street you lay down.


Even better, the mod works with other types of infrastructure; pipes, power lines, and other types of transportation infrastructure (like train lines) are measurable with the Precision Engineering mod.


Mod Achievement Enabler


Download it here


Steam has a pesky habit of failing to register those hard-earned trophies you've busted your pump to earn in Cities: Skylines when you have any mods activated.


The Mod Achievement Enabler solves this issue, bypassing Steam's mod authentication system and giving more freedom to players.


81 Tiles


Download it here


We have the technology. We can make them bigger, better, faster... even potentially smarter.


Well, there are plenty of ways to make your Cities: Skyline metropolis smarter, and this is not it. With the 81 Tiles mod, you now have the ability to expand your city out to 81 city tiles rather than the basic 25. Bring extra RAM and get ready to build. 


Automatic Bulldoze V2


Download it here


Are you sick of manually bulldozing burned down or condemned buildings? Do you wish the city would just take care of its own problems for once? This mod may be just the thing for you.


Automatic Bulldoze V2 does exactly what it says on the tin; when a building's former occupants can no longer live or work there, that building is returned to the vacant zone from which it came — automatically. 




Cities: Skylines certainly wins the day for most up-to-date city-building simulator in 2020, boasting one of the most in-depth and fun to play city-building experiences since Sim City 3000.


There is a plethora of Cities: Skylines DLC to check out, too, if you have the extra funds to shell out for it. If you have the Industries DLC, for instance, you can more thoroughly flesh out your city's supply chain and micromanage the types of products it exports. Likewise, the Sunset Harbor DLC includes new transport and fishing industry options.


That said, the Cities: Skylines PC community has vastly expanded the game's initial offerings with a ton of mods that are available directly from Steam Workshop and Nexus Mods. These are the 10 mods you should download and install in 2020. 

Stella's Horizons Widen Ever Further in New Spiritfarer Trailer Thu, 30 Jul 2020 13:00:56 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

Spiritfarer, Thunder Lotus' game where coziness and death hold hands, is still slated for a 2020 launch date. While we still don't have a solid Spiritfarer release date, we do have another trailer showing how far along the game has progressed, which also introduces some new passengers too.

After Alice the hedgehog requests help from Stella, we see the scene shift to Stella charting a new course for Mount Toroyama. There, she learns the secrets of meditation from Summer the snake — the same Summer we first met last year in the game's initial demo.

The trailer shows us a number of glimpses into Stella's expanded world, from sun-kissed villas to sumptuous townhouses, plus a new weather condition on the boat.

Stella herself shows off a couple of new abilities as well, like riding updrafts with her hat and using her belt as both electrical conduit and handy zipline.

And there are two new passengers making their debut: Giovanni the lion and Stan the mushroom.

Thanks to the Spiritfarer demos, we knew Stella completing quests for her passengers features prominently. But the new Spiritfarer trailer shows there's even more: mini-games with each passenger. We see Summer teaching Stella how to help speed up crop growth time by playing music, but Thunder Lotus' Rodrigue Duperron confirmed each animal has a mini-game unique to them.

So there's even more reason to get attached to Stella's passengers, making that final farewell all the more difficult.

In a different bit of news, Thunder Lotus also announced Spiritfarer will release on the Epic Games Store and Google Stadia when it does launch. Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more Spiritfarer news as it develops.

Spiritfarer made out most anticipated indie games of 2020; see what other indie titles we're looking forward to over here!

Ooblets Early Access Review: The Greatest Non-Violent Game of the Generation Wed, 15 Jul 2020 14:29:02 -0400 Mark Delaney

Where do I begin with Ooblets? How about here: it's amazing. Its colorful world imbued with saccharine creatures quickly reveals a sarcastic, slightly subversive sense of humor. 

The daily to-do list is better organized than just about any of those seen in genre peers, teasing players to play forever on a day/night cycle that isn't dependent on the real-world calendar.

Townsfolk are interesting, and the turn-based battle system is approachable yet revolutionary. This is an early access review, so don't expect a score at the bottom, but understand this: Ooblets is nonetheless a Game of the Year contender.

Ooblets Early Access Review: The Greatest Non-Violent Game of the Generation

In Ooblets, the everpresent trope of a boat ride into a dazzling new town gets players into Badgetown, a rather bustling village in the land of Oob. While you'll soon get to explore neighboring areas, Badgetown is where your custom character plants their flag. 

Unlike the year's other big farm sim, Animal Crossing New Horizons, the land you settle on is not up to you. Instead, you are gifted a fixer-upper farmhouse and asked by the mayor (Mayor Tinstle, a rainbowish girl with a welcoming demeanor and a reward system of badges for you to chase) to introduce yourself to everyone.

Badgetown seems to have about 20 or so permanent residents, and they each have set personalities, allowing you to get to know each of them. A friendship system even incentivizes chatting with them and giving them gifts regularly.

For the first few days of your new life, you'll work to revitalize the neighborhood. This means learning how to craft, cook, garden, and shop. You'll also need to repair places around town like the dance barn, the hot air balloon, and a mission board that constantly offers fetch quests for big payouts in the town's currency, gummies. 

For veterans of the genre, this likely all sounds very familiar, and pleasantly, it is. It helps you hit the ground running. But, as I said, Ooblets is a Game of the Year contender, and for that, the small team at Glumberland would need to raise the bar somehow. 

How they do that, in my view, is threefold. 

First, the titular creatures themselves bring a major second point of emphasis alongside Ooblets' typical farm life mechanics. By collecting these adorable creatures, which alternatively appear like sentient plants or robots (but are always grown out of the ground like the former), Ooblets brings an element of Pokemon to the genre in a way nothing before it has.

A turn-based battle system allows players to collect more of them as they progress, and in turn, unlock new moves to use in battle. This is no small wrinkle for Ooblets. The battles are one of the game's best elements, and though they're currently without any difficulty settings, they haven't been difficult to handle thanks to a familiar, somewhat simplified system of action points and damage.

The battles also reveal another of Ooblets' strongest features: its universal commitment to non-violence. While many wholesome games smuggle in the casual violence of fishing, crafting with animal parts, or direct creature battles (sorry, but Pokemon is dog-fighting, folks), in Ooblets, every single aspect has been reimagined in a pacifistic context.

How? They're dance battles, which the Ooblets, according to the game's lore, take part in enthusiastically. The "fishing" you do involves no hooks through the faces of animals. Instead, you "sea-dangle" for non-sentient objects, like crafting supplies or food. Even the food itself is entirely vegan. You won't have to worry about the moral implications of eating some Ooblets and caring for others.

While the creatures themselves are sentient plants, there are unconscious crops with which to make food, each of them with names as silly as anything from Adventure Time, such as a carrot hot dog called a hop dob or sugar called froobtose. 

Ooblets invents its own silly language, and while it's adorable on its own, it's made much more charming to see how it's used by Glumberland to carefully avoid any instance of harm to the game's conscious creatures. As an animal rights activist, Ooblets fills my heart with intense glee.

Even if you're unphased by this avoidance of the genre's casual violence, Ooblets is, quite simply, one of the best-made games in the genre regardless. With a tantalizing XP system, virtually all actions big and small, from chatting with neighbors to completing quests to even something as common as picking or planting crops, earns you XP.

As you level up, you can spend Wishies to improve your character by giving them more energy in the day, or expanding their farmhouse, or even introducing new types of Ooblets to town, among a growing list of other features.

Farming is much more engaging and speedier than many games like it too. With the hold of a button, you transfer into gardening mode, and your crop space becomes a grid for you to work on. This system seamlessly allows you to clean up the backyard, plant, and harvest in no time, all the while making it so it feels decisively yours. Everything goes just the way you want it, and the UI helps you know exactly what your plants need, be it time or water or the clearing of some encroaching weeds.

While initial customization options are purposely sparse, you'll soon unlock a wealth of options for your hair, clothes, and farmhouse, meaning the sim-like aspect of living the life you want is present as well. I haven't grappled with those elements too much yet in my 10 or so hours, but a look at the stores tells me they run quite deep. I'm eager to turn my brown shack into a party pad for dancing Ooblets in due time.

As this is early access, I expected bugs  the game even reminds you of this when you load it up  and yet, I didn't find anything too problematic. The worst case I saw was when one of my crops disappeared. That happened once. Other than that, the UI does trip on itself at times, with descriptions of items overwriting some other icons in a way that feels unpolished.

The quick-access inventory is a key feature, but it needs to be brushed up a bit too, as moving things into it can get clunky in the full inventory menu thanks to that aforementioned issue with your item descriptions. I've seen somewhat regular clipping too, usually when you enter a store or a home. My wife witnessed one character running on the walls of their home, but I only heard this one secondhand.

Ooblets Early Access Review — The Bottom Line (So Far)

  • Unprecedented respect for its creatures
  • Engaging XP system keeps you chasing great rewards and upgrades
  • Adorable, funny world full of color
  • Smart gardening system keeps those mechanics fun, never dull
  • Ample secrets to discover, friends to make
  • Dance battles bring rewarding turn-based combat without the casual violence
  • Unclear today what the endgame may look like
  • Bugs are along for the ride in early access, as expected

In addition to bugs, I'm wondering what the pull may look like after many more hours. Some farm life games have a clear endpoint, while others go on forever. With so much scripted content, Ooblets seems to fall in the first category, so I wonder how long its tail will be at launch, but the journey so far has been awesome. I wouldn't mind a finite amount of story and exploring to do, so long as the rest is as fun as it has been so far.

After four years of clearly hard work, Ooblets feels like it's hardly an "early access" game at all. I've seen plenty of games launch in worse states than this pre-release title has done today, and that makes for an exciting starting place. When Ooblets exits early access, I'll offer my final verdict including a score and some renewed thoughts as needed, but for today, even as it's not officially out, it's absolutely my new frontrunner for Game of the Year.

We'll see how the year shakes out, but one distinction I'm quite comfortable awarding it even today is perhaps a more important one; for so many reasons, Ooblets is the greatest non-violent game of the generation.

[Note: An early access copy of Ooblets was provided by Glumberland for the purpose of this early access review.]

A Definitive Ranking of Animal Crossing New Horizons' Visitors Thu, 02 Jul 2020 14:41:07 -0400 Kyle Wizner

One of the biggest draws of Animal Crossing New Horizons is logging in every morning to perform your daily chores. It’s essential to boot up the game each day to check the shops, water your flowers, talk to your neighbors, and smack some rocks until free money shoots out (this has to be the Number One ACNH feature I would implement in real life if possible.)

But in addition to your everyday tasks, ACNH has another feature that keeps you checking in every day — the slew of visiting characters that randomly stop by your island every Monday through Friday.

These characters range from extremely mundane (I’m going to absolutely ignore this visitor and not even glance in their direction.) to unexpected and exhilarating (Wow, I haven’t seen this guy in ages, I’m planning my entire day around him now and nothing else matters. Sorry, neighbors.).

While certain people might have different preferences, what follows is my personal ranking of those visitors from worst to best. I’ve excluded Daisy Mae and K.K. Slider as they appear at the same time every week, and it’s actually impossible to dislike either one.

10. Saharah

SaharahSaharah is undoubtedly the worst visitor by a wide margin, and one of the few Animal Crossing characters I actively despise. Why do I dislike Saharah so much?

For starters, her wallpaper and flooring are not particularly exciting. Are they unique? Yes. But it’s also very difficult to fit them into any practical housing theme, and some of them are downright hideous.

You also have to sit through seemingly endless amounts of strange, non-charming dialogue just to obtain all of her wares for the day, to the point where it never seems worth it. Further fuelling my disdain, she seems to be the most common visitor to my island by far. You think she would take the hint and stop coming on a regular basis since I’ve been completely ignoring her for weeks. 

9. Gulliver

GulliverGulliver is definitely a better visitor than Saharah, but still not one I’m excited to see wash up on my island's shore. While Gulliver still forces you to button mash through unfortunate amounts of dialogue to get to any reward, I find most of what he has to say entertaining and actually pretty humorous (even though I felt it grew repetitious like by his third or fourth visit).

It’s also relatively painless to perform the chores he requests of you, and while the rewards he gives are a mixed bag, many of the items he sends are pretty neat. If only the poor seagull could find himself a new crew who watched out for him a bit more.

8. Flick

FlickFlick is a visitor who I used to like a lot more than I do now. When I first saw him roaming my island, I thought he was one of the coolest looking AC characters I’d ever seen. Finding out that he paid a premium for bugs was a cool addition that made a lot of sense.

However, it’s much less appealing now that I’ve become a Stalk Market guru and have essentially become the Bill Gates of Animal Crossing. As cool as Flick looks, I typically give him the Saharah treatment when I see him.

7. Kicks

KicksGetting into the visitors who I at least interact with every time I see them — Kicks is one of the cooler AC characters, with a great design and a laid back attitude. However, I constantly find his selection of wares disappointing.

I suppose it’s tough to have an exciting assortment when he’s relegated to just shoes, socks, and backpacks, but more often than not, I leave my interactions with him disappointed. At least he looks cool.

6. Label

LabelLabel and Kicks could easily be swapped here, as I find them both to be decent visitors, but nothing to write home about. Label will sometimes provide you with a cool article of clothing you don’t own, but once you’ve logged a couple hundred hours in the game like I have, she’s usually just giving you duplicates.

Fortunately, interactions with her are usually quick and painless, so it never hurts to check in.

5. C.J.

C.J.The fish-buying variant of Flick, C.J. fittingly suffers from the same problem as his partner. I have him ranked higher simply because fishing always tends to be more profitable than bug catching, but when I have more money than I know what to do with, he’s not that useful of a character.

He’s definitely a very exciting early game visitor, though, as he provides a great way to pad that bank account when you’re just starting out.

4. Wisp

WispWisp is one of the more unique AC characters in the series’ history, as he’s an actual ghost. In addition to getting points for his uniqueness, Wisp is also exciting in the sense that when you fulfill his task, you’re guaranteed at least one piece of furniture you haven’t owned yet. No duplicates!

Label needs to take a page out of Wisp’s book here. The only downside to this visitor is that I’ve occasionally had a ridiculously hard time finding the last piece of his spirit. Is that just me?

3. Leif

LeifLeif was one of the characters added in the latest patch for the game, and he was much needed. While Leif doesn’t blow you away (get it?) with anything too exciting, the ability to buy flowers that your shop doesn’t carry, and more importantly, bushes, is an essential step to building your dream town.

If only he would show up a little more frequently… I’ve needed more Azalea bushes to finish a project for what seems like weeks now.

2. Celeste

CelestePerhaps it’s because she seems somewhat rare, but Celeste is easily one of the visitors I get most excited to see. Showing up on random nights throughout the week, it’s always pleasant to see her because you know that not only will you have shooting stars that night, but you’ll also get an awesome new DIY recipe from her.

She hands over the recipe with very little dialogue (something that her brother Blathers desperately needs to take note of) and oftentimes, it’s for some of the coolest decorations in the game. We all need a little more Celeste in our lives.

1. Redd

ReddAdded in the same patch as Leif, Redd has always been one of the best characters in the AC universe. If you absolutely had to pick a villain for the AC experience, I suppose Redd would be your only option. As much as you might want to hunt the devious fox down after you find out he sold you a counterfeit piece of art, there’s no doubt that your interactions with him are some of the funniest in the game.

He also has unique pieces of furniture, many of which make for fantastic decorations for your home or island. Unfortunately, ever since the update that added Redd, he’s visited my island a whopping two times. Perhaps this rarity is part of the reason I have him ranked as my top visitor — absence makes the heart grow fonder.

But still, I would pay a large number of bells to replace one of my weekly Saharah visits for an appearance by everyone’s favorite villainous fox.

Related Content

And there you have it: each Animal Crossing New Horizons visitor ranked worst to best. For more on ACNH, be sure to check out the links above. Let us know what you think over on Twitter

Editor's Note: This is an article from the GameSkinny community. 

Inside the Box Update to Bring PSVR Support to Dreams Thu, 02 Jul 2020 13:03:32 -0400 GS_Staff

Media Molecule's Dreams will be receiving PSVR support on July 22, alongside a number of other updates meant to make the game creation tool more accessible and comfortable for creators. 

Called Inside the Box, the primary component of the free update is the inclusion of PSVR support. It will include new tutorials for both creators and players, teaching them the ins and outs of experiencing the game's new virtual reality content. 

The news comes straight from the PlayStation Blog. 

Though players will need a PSVR headset to experience this new content, those hoping to create new worlds and experiences can create VR content without one. Though the blog post doesn't outright clarify, it seems that dreamscapes and games will be playable and creatable(?) using either a DualShock 4 or a set of PlayStation Move controllers. 

When it comes to Create Mode in VR, sculpting is truly unique, allowing you to bring your Dreams to life around you. If you have PlayStation Move Controllers, you’ll find sculpting in VR is a very one-to-one experience and lets you fully immerse in the creation process. 

The Inside the Box update will also introduce new accessibility options, such as comfort mode, vignette strength, and static sky to be as inclusive and useable as possible. Naughty Dog's The Last of Us 2 recently set a new benchmark for accessibility options in games, so it will be nice to see what's available through this expansion.  

Of course, the rating system already baked into Dreams will allow users to pick out the best experiences and share them with others. Per the blog post, "UGC content in Dreams will ask for a comfort rating from players, so you’ll be able to see what games are the best experience in VR."

If any game is ripe for VR content, it's certainly Dreams. Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more on Dreams, and while you're here, be sure to check out our review of the game

Hit the Beach with Animal Crossing New Horizons' Summer Update Thu, 25 Jun 2020 13:00:41 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

With June and wedding season wrapping up in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, you might be wondering what's next for Nintendo's smash-hit island sim. The answer is a big new Animal Crossing summer update that sees the return of features like swimming, as well as a few familiar faces.

The Animal Crossing summer update is actually split into two parts. Part one of the summer update goes live on July 3. As with all other previous Animal Crossing updates, this one's completely free.

The big new feature is swimming. Just like in New Leaf, you'll don a wet-suit and head out into the ocean whenever you please, then dive down to nab new deep-sea creatures for the museum.

You might run across Pascal the philosophizing otter as well. If you find a scallop for him — another item you'll dive for — he'll reward you with a DIY recipe for furniture in the Mermaid furniture set.

There's also a second new encounter with the Animal Crossing summer update — sort of. Gulliver finds his way back to your island's shores, but this time, he's wearing some rather distinct, pirate-like apparel.

Part two of the summer update is planned for early August. And while we don't know exactly what it might bring, the big fireworks background behind the announcement and the fact that Animal Crossing always has a summer fireworks show is probably a hint.

Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more Animal Crossing: New Horizons news as it develops.

Summer in Mara Review: Summertime Sadness Mon, 15 Jun 2020 15:13:46 -0400 Mark Delaney

Launching a farm sim on Nintendo Switch in 2020 must be a daunting task. It's tough to follow the indomitable act that is Animal Crossing, but if you're going to try, it helps to do something your way. That's the promise of Summer in Mara.

It's a cutesy farm sim on the surface, but it does things decidedly different than its best-selling counterpart, such as focusing on a scripted story.

What makes the game unique is what could eventually make it worth playing, even for the most committed islanders of Animal Crossing. But in its current form, Summer in Mara doesn't justify the vacation time for several reasons.

Summer in Mara Review: Summertime Sadness

Summer in Mara may be categorized as a farming sim, but it's not as intensive as some others in the genre. You'll spend much more time running around on quests for other villagers than you will tilling soil and planting crops. Those are a part of Mara, but after the tutorial, they fade into the background. 

As Koa, players learn the staples of the genre. Things like crafting recipes, planting seeds, and mining ore are all on the to-do list, and though completing these tasks is straightforward, the UI is often clunky and unintuitive, leading to frequently faulty button presses. This takes some getting used to and may likely slow you down for a while, even when making something simple, like the early recipe for orange juice. 

Once Koa and the player have these mechanics down, the world opens up beyond her small starting island. Soon you'll meet many more fantasy characters, most of them appearing as alien-sea-creature hybrids who lend the game a sense of welcome unfamiliarity.

Sadly, these characters hardly elicit any feelings beyond the reaction to their outward design. It's strange too that characters never move from their spots. Everyone but Koa stands in place, waiting for you to talk to them. It's eerie, perpetuated by an overall lack of sound design that leaves Mara feeling ghostly.

The game squanders what could've been an atmospheric quality, instead making me feel alone, despite the characters otherwise trying to seem so friendly.

Some dialog simply doesn't compute, either. The lack of voice acting doesn't bother me, but the game's dialogue often seems off. Early on, your grandmother instructs you how their world is one of symbiosis. If Koa is to take from the land, she must give back. Cut down a tree, plant a new one. 

Now, that math doesn't really make the world a better place. It more so just fills a hole you've dug yourself, but I was on board with the eco-friendly attempt anyway. But within the next hour of the tutorial, I was instructed to defy that message regularly.

Before you can get off the beginning island, you'll need to chop down many trees, planting crops only to keep yourself fed. The game also never says anything about the fishing you do.

Of course, virtually all farm sims decline to inspect the inherent problems with fishing (like over-fishing, or simply stabbing animals in the face), but Summer in Mara told me it would be different, that it was going to care about that. But then it just... doesn't.

Even if I forgave it for the mixed messaging and lifeless world, the issues don't end there. One of Summer in Mara's best attributes appears right away. With full-motion Ghibli-like cutscenes, the world of Mara is hopeful and gorgeous, but when the cutscenes end, the world doesn't look nearly as lovely. As can often be the case with Switch games, some of what's missing in visual fidelity hides in portable mode, but even there, a haze leaves blemishes on its colorful world.

Questing is regularly annoying because there is no guide arrow. Many times, a quest directs you to visit a place you've never heard of or meet characters it doesn't lead you toward. This results in some frantic exploration until you find the small marker above the right person, or approach the proper landmark to finally find the interact option you need.

There's also a light survival system that feels almost randomly implemented. If Koa does not eat, she passes out and wakes up in her home with some stamina back — but not much. However, it's quite easy to stay fed, so there's really no reason for this mechanic at all. It just becomes a lifebar you must engage with every few minutes or her place in the world is briefly reset.

The more linear focus on story is a welcome side-step from the genre's typically loose structure, but Summer in Mara never capitalizes on any of it for these reasons. It's regularly a chore to advance the plot.

Sadly, even if it did deliver a story more enjoyably, it's hampered by bugs too. In my time with the game, I got stuck on geometry often, UI options failed to disappear, requiring me to restart the game. Though I thankfully avoided the same fate, I heard from another journalist that they had to get the studio to reset their entire saved game data.

This was because the game failed to let the player improvise how they tackled the quest log. Having done things in a slightly different order, they hit a game-breaking bug, and the game doesn't allow you to create a new save, apparently. That's the sort of thing that would be inexcusable with an otherwise great game, but Summer in Mara is far from great.

Summer in Mara Review — The Bottom Line

  • Ghibli-like cutscenes are beautiful
  • Music is soft and befitting of the island life
  • Bugs are quite common
  • Story is full of mixed messaging
  • Locales are lifeless due to a lack of sound design and NPCs that hardly move an inch
  • UI is clunky
  • Survival elements feel out of place

Some patchwork could resolve several of Summer in Mara's issues. Not just the bugs, but things like poor UI design could be addressed, too, making Summer in Mara a better, but still flawed game. I hope it receives that attention. Beyond the Studio Ghibli-style cutscenes and some peaceful music fitting of the genre, there are no redeeming qualities today.

This genre is the security blanket of video games. Fans return to it for their soothing progress bars, friendly neighbors, and accessible mechanics. It shouldn't be that a game like this causes frustration first and foremost, but that's how I spent my summer in Mara.

[Note: A copy of Summer in Mara was provided by Chibig for the purpose of this review.]

No Man's Sky Will be Landing on Xbox Game Pass Tue, 26 May 2020 12:36:55 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

Hello Games' No Man Sky is coming to Xbox Game Pass in June, according to a new Xbox Wire post by Sean Murray. Murray also confirmed the procedurally generated space exploration game will be available for PC  through the Windows Store "very soon."

No Man's Sky has been around for a while. But as Murray reflects, it's better now than it ever has been. And that means it's the perfect time to bring it to Game Pass, Murray says.

Following some problematic launch issues with a perceived lack of content, Hello Games has gradually brought new, substantial updates to No Man's Sky. These include a hefty multiplayer expansion in No Man's Sky Beyond, plus a number of other content updates like new critters, plants, and living ships.

Having a living game like No Man's Sky come to Game Pass is also a perfect fit for how Microsoft wants to continue using the service: providing long-term content for a wide variety of players up through and after the Xbox Series X launch.

You can check out Murray's original post on Xbox Wire. Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more No Man's Sky news as it develops.

Embr Early Access Review: Fight Fire with Fun Wed, 20 May 2020 10:50:10 -0400 Mark Delaney

These days you can get pretty much anything through an app. Need a ride? Call Uber. Hungry? Postmates will be there in 30 minutes. Looking to get your face made into a cartoon? There are like 10,000 people willing to do that online right now.

It makes me wonder, "Where does it end?" Which jobs will we not outsource to a market of independent contractors? 

Built deliberately without unions or benefits, we've traded worker's rights for consumer convenience, and it's all starting to get a bit dystopian. In comes Embr to offer a sarcastic, darkly humorous future where even firefighting runs through an app. If only that possible future could ever be as fun as Embr is.

Embr Early Access Review: Fight Fire with Fun

Embr is a new game hitting Early Access for Steam and Stadia on May 21, making it the first-ever Stadia Early Access title. In it, up to four players can strap on their helmets and ride off in first-person co-op to the next home or business engulfed in flames. The cartoonish colors and bouncy soundtrack tell players right away that Embr is meant to be silly, and that's one of its best qualities.

Answering an app as an Embr Respondr, your task is to get people out of these burning buildings before they die, only instead of valor and community service, you're in it for the tips and the ever-desirable five-star rating.

Typically, there are two types of survivors inside any burning building: the apathetic phone-scroller, who doesn't even bother to look up as you pull them to safety, or the panicked survivor, who is running around the place like they're already on fire themselves. 

In both cases, your task is to get them outside to a safety zone. Sometimes there is more than one of these areas, and once the rescuees are in one, they're safe for good. No need to worry, the game even encourages you to chuck them across the threshold, provided they're at a safe distance from the ground.

It's getting them there that makes up this puzzle platformer disguised as a chaotic co-op experience. Using customizable loadouts of ladders, water hoses, trampolines, axes, and much more, players are expected to bring the right tools for the job and work efficiently.

There's a great sense of player choice in this aspect of Embr. Earning cash and unlocking and upgrading my gear has been one of my favorite parts of the game so far. It reminds me a bit of Sea of Thieves in that the game hardly suggests what to do with any of its items. It gives them to you and lets you use them how you'd like  "tools, not rules" as Rare calls it. Given there are always countless ways to solve each level, this sense of freedom is exciting.

Do you bash down the front door and spray your way up the stairs, or do you prop a ladder against the house and climb through the second-story window? Either way, there's never a level where you can totally put out the fire and you shouldn't bother doing so. You're here to rescue customers so they can tip you, not save a home from burning down.

You can merely quell the flames momentarily while you get people to safety, even if they're too busy tweeting to thank you. Electrical fires cause additional problems, while other obstacles like classic red barrels can make things worse too. Each level gives players a new mix of layout, objectives, and funny, frenzy-inducing obstacles.

Then there's the moral quandary of deciding how many people to save. Each level tends to have you rescue only some of the total number of humans left in the fire. For example, you might only need to save four of the would-be victims, or you can stick around for all eight. Hidden stacks of cash can sometimes be more enticing than the humans too, which only furthers the game's comically cynical view of late capitalism.

Billboards seen throughout the game do well to establish that cynicism too, like a takedown of Deadspin's recent fall from grace through an ad for "SportsShow: Just Sport. No Politics," or a beverage called H2Oh! with the tagline "It's almost water!" It's clear who Muse Games sides with in the ongoing struggle for consumer and worker advocacy, and it's not the bigwigs at the top.  

Scurrying around each level makes replaying for better scores and more cash enticing, especially as you unlock better gear and can clear prior areas much faster. If only I was able to enjoy it all with others. In my time with the game ahead of its Early Access launch, I wasn't able to find any co-op partners.

It seems the game doesn't yet offer crossplay — hopefully, that's planned for later  so I was left fending for myself during the review period. I expect that problem will be solved quickly, but it does mean I'm missing an important portion of the Embr experience.

Speaking of what's missing, given that the game is in Early Access, there are currently several areas that need improving. Though the core gameplay is a joy, the controls can sometimes feel a bit too loose. Some of this is deliberate, like a ladder that can easily topple over if you don't prop it up well, but just climbing the ladder feels off too, and not in the same broken-for-laughs way.

I love the physics-driven gameplay of Embr. Being able to move the contents of any room around to solve platforming problems and complete objectives is inventive and rewarding, making me feel like I'm thinking outside the box often. But controls need to be tightened up. There's a fine line to walk between floaty and unwieldy, and currently, Embr is stumbling to the wrong side.

In the menus, the ability to rename loadouts is apparently not working at all. This isn't a huge concern as at launch, you start with two loadouts and one of them is the default loadout that you'll quickly outgrow, but it does remind me that this game isn't done yet. There are also too few levels right now, so hopefully those keep getting added over time.

Embr Early Access Review  The Bottom Line

  • Inventive and chaotic gameplay
  • Fluid level design lets players choose their playstyle and change it on the go
  • Cynically comical world-building
  • Enticing upgrade tree
  • Welcome accessibility options
  • Wrinkles to iron out such as unresponsive menus and a dearth of levels
  • Controls are a bit too floaty at the moment

I noticed the game has several smart accessibility options right away, including a fine-tuned difficulty slider, reduced gravity (I assume to make trampolines less deadly), and even a profanity filter. With that last one, Embr is a game my son and I can enjoy together, and I wish more games offered such a feature.

I know to expect growing pains in an Early Access game, so today, I don't consider them dealbreakers for what is otherwise another great game in a string of titles that take stressful jobs and turn them into colorful romps with friends.

If you've enjoyed games such as OvercookedTools UpMoving Out, and Get Packed, there's every reason to expect you'll also enjoy Embr. Grab a seat in the firetruck, because Embr is just getting warmed up.

[Note: A copy of Embr was provided by Muse Games for the purpose of this Early Access review.]

Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town Brings the Cows Home Soon Fri, 15 May 2020 17:16:18 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

We knew Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town was sprouting up sometime this summer, but XSEED Games today announced a firm release date. Friends of Mineral Town on Nintendo Switch will launch July 14.

There's a lovely new trailer accompanying the announcement, showing off what's changed and what stays the same.

Mineral Town itself is back with all its residents (and that gloriously nostalgic soundtrack) intact. But there are some new, marriageable faces around town as well, including Jennifer and Brandon. You'll even be able to marry any of the town's eligible folk regardless of what playable character you choose.

The goal in Friends of Mineral Town remains the same: bring your family farm back to life, and dig a place for yourself in the town by making friends and taking part in events. However, it's a remake more than a remaster, and XSEED says we can expect new content and gameplay changes alongside returning favorites like the horse race event and multi-floor mining.

All retail pre-orders for Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town include a Strawberry Hanako plush based on the game's strawberry cow, while digital pre-purchases unlock a cow costume. In the game, of course.

It's been far too long since we last visited Mineral Town, and we can't wait to get back there. Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more Friends of Mineral Town Switch news as it develops.