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Our 35 Most Anticipated Games of 2018 (Part 1)

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2017 was such an incredible year for video games that chances are, most gamers will be playing catch up with all the great titles they didn’t have a chance to play well into 2018. And if you are one of those gamers and you have a large backlog of games, you best get started soon because 2018 looks to be another banner year for the industry.

We here at Goomba Stomp have gone ahead with our yearly tradition of providing you with a list of our most anticipated games. Last year, almost every game we chose wound up somewhere in our list of the best games of the year. Hopefully, the majority of these picks will equally impress us, if not, exceed our expectations.

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Anthem 

Microsoft debuted the first gameplay footage of Anthem at E3 2017, showing off BioWare’s brand new title from Drew Karpyshyn, a BioWare veteran who has worked as a designer and writer on multiple projects including Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2. The game looks set to be a large scale world shooter in the vein of Destiny (albeit from a third-person perspective) and takes place in a futuristic, hostile alien world where humanity resides in a city guarded by a giant wall to help protect themselves from outside threats. Players take the role of a Freelancer; a heroic group that act as humanity’s guardians and scouts beyond the wall in suits of armour, known as Javelins. In other words, it seems like a cross between Attack on Titan, Destiny and Star Wars rolled into one. A non-RPG is certainly a departure from BioWare’s usual development territory but given Karpyshyn’s track record, I’m assuming the game will still have a decent narrative. It’ll be interesting to see what the developer can bring to this genre given their background in storytelling, but one thing is for sure, Anthem is an important game both for EA and BioWare and an opportunity to restore its faltering reputation after a disappointing 2017. (Ricky D)

Arena of Valor

The Switch already has a library teeming with quality content that spans all sorts of genres. However, they haven’t really experimented with free-to-play games, especially MOBAs. Arena of Valor looks to change all of this, as it arrives on the Switch sometime this year. The game has already exploded in China, becoming one of the most popular games in that region. It’s normally played on a phone or tablet, however, the Switch will mark its console debut. The transitions make sense, as the portable nature of the system makes it seem fairly close to its mobile counterparts.

As far as the game itself goes, it’s a fairly run of the mill MOBA. Players select a hero from a varied roster of archetypes likes ranged carries and tanks. The standard 5v5 mode is bound to be one of the most popular among the list, however, there are also 1v1 and 3v3 game types. It plays very similarly to games like League of Legends and Dota 2, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The game currently uses touch controls on mobile, so it will be interesting to see how the game plays on the Switch. Will it use the physical buttons or only the touchscreen? Will it be playable in TV mode?

If you’re interested in the game, it’s already out on mobile devices in the states. The game has a surprising amount of depth to it, and it’s clear the developers are trying to make this the next big MOBA. Hopefully, Switch players will be just as excited. (Zack Rezak)

A Way Out

A Way Out quickly shot up to my list of most anticipated games for one simple reason: This narrative-driven adventure from the team behind the acclaimed Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, is a co-op-only experience. That is, you can’t play it unless you have a partner for the entire journey and as someone who loves playing video games with other people, it’s a no brainer that I pick it up. Even more, Electronic Arts — which is publishing A Way Out under its EA Originals program — will offer a free “friends pass” trial for the game. In other words, only one of you will have to buy the game. (Ricky D)

Call of Cthulhu

Call of Cthulhu’s release date vanished somewhere below the murky waters of 2017, but the promise of a new Lovecraftian RPG based on the famous pen and paper game by Chaosium makes the wait feel worthwhile. Cyanide Studio’s Call of Cthulhu will be hurling us into the dark and dripping mysteries of Lovecraft’s work as a detective: grappling with investigative mechanics to uncover the truths and horrors that surround us, stealthing past enemies, and wrestling with our own dwindling sanity. As you unravel the circumstances of Sarah Hawkin’s death, your own perception of reality will be tested with mind-bending sequences, intriguing puzzles, and the presence of monsters beyond your comprehension. Images of the game show a world that captures the atmosphere of Lovecraft perfectly, and with a narrative team strong enough to back it up Call of Cthulhu will be competing as one of the best psychological horrors of the year. (Helen Jones)

Concrete Genie

One of the more pleasant surprises during a disappointing Sony conference at last year’s Paris Games Week was the reveal of Concrete Genie – a puzzler/action-platformer that gently explores themes of bullying and childhood through gorgeous hand-drawn art that stands out in contrast to its depressing urban environment. According to PixelOpus (a Sony-owned studio that works out of San Mateo, California), Concrete Genie follows a bullied teenager named Ash, who escapes his troubles by painting spectacular living landscapes and mischievous creatures throughout his abandoned hometown of Denska. As he masters this magical paint, he discovers it can purify Denska’s polluted walls. Using the DualShock 4’s motion sensor, players can create stunning landscapes and strange creatures on the walls of the city which then turns into living artwork helping Ash overcome the heartaches of adolescence and paint his hometown back to life. (Ricky D)

Crackdown 3

Crackdown 3 had all but been wiped from my memory until the end of last year. Announced almost three years ago at Microsoft’s E3 press conference, Crackdown 3 came as a welcome surprise given how poorly the second entry in the series was received. However, after this announcement, and a trickle of information out of Gamescom the following year, Crackdown all but dropped off the face of the earth. While this didn’t bode well for the title, developer Reagent Games promised us a 2017 release, now all we have to do is wait with bated breath. From the look of things, Crackdown 3 is bringing the series back to what made it great in the first place. The complicated zombie nonsense of the second game has been done away with, and once again the player is back to a cleaning of the gang-ridden streets of a futuristic, unnamed city. By far the most exciting part about a Crackdown game is its level of destruction. With the use of Microsoft’s new Azure engine, Crackdown 3 will feature fully destructible environments and a wide array of vibrant weapons and devastating powers unleashed by the player’s character. If all goes according to plan, Crackdown 3 will be one game you won’t want to sleep on in 2017. (Carston Carasella)

Dandara

Dandara has potentially some of the most interesting lore of any upcoming indie. Named after and featuring a character loosely based on the historical Afro-Brazilian warrior, Dandara is said to incorporate numerous references to her life as well as life in Brazil in general. The game’s surrealist art design, fluid animations, and ethereal OST succeed in creating a distinctly foreboding atmosphere that I personally can’t wait to experience. In terms of presentation, there really aren’t too many games that feel like Dandara.

There’ve been a wealth of quality Metroidvanias in recent years, and Dandara looks to continue that trend. Instead of the typical platforming that’s usually built into Metroidvania exploration, however, Dandara has a unique twist: she can only move by jumping from floor to ceiling on surfaces covered in salt. Though the reasoning for the salt has yet to be explained, this gameplay mechanic allows for surprisingly fast traversal and combat in skilled hands. In the brief snippets of gameplay shown so far we’ve already seen electrified platforms, spear-toting enemies, and massive bosses. If you’re a fan of Metroidvanias or want to try something different, you might want to keep an eye out for Dandara in February. (Brent Middleton)

Days Gone

Days Gone appeared as somewhat of an anomaly at Sony’s E3 press conference last year. The open-world action game will be the first I.P. created by Sony Bend since Syphon Filter in 1999 and seemed to come completely out of left field for most of us watching. While little is known about the story of Days Gone, the gameplay seems to be akin to the likes of The Last of Us, with the player utilizing much of the environment to accomplish their objectives. The world of Days Gone appears to be one of deadly tranquility, as nature has taken back much of the world, and humanity struggles to survive. The main enemy of the game appears to be a variety of zombie-like creatures called Freakers. Days Gone will feature a day/night cycle that has a direct effect on these creatures. During the day the Freakers are slow and weak but at night their movement and strength increase. The most intriguing aspect of the game for me is how vehicles will play into the narrative. While a variety of transportation has been confirmed, the most prominent is the use of motorcycles. This looks to play heavily into the story, as the main character Deacon St. John, a one-time bounty hunter, appears to have once been part of a biker gang. While the post-apocalyptic genre is beginning to get a bit overused in almost all forms of media, I’m still excited to see what Sony Bend has up their sleeve, and how consumers will take to a second PlayStation exclusive, post-pandemic based action game. (Carston Carasella)

Detroit: Become Human

From the minds behind two of the most character-driven video games and QTE heavy comes the next video game that will keep you up at night because you’ll be thinking about what could have been, Detroit: Become Human. Detroit is the next great game from Quantic Dreams and it’s been on my radar since the release of the Tech Demo six years ago that would be the origin of one of the main characters. As we get more information and new gameplay of the three protagonists and their radically different storylines that involve androids, humans, and figuring it all out…Quantic Dreams might have another hit on their hands as the missions become more dangerous and real. Another futuristic science fiction noir game never hurt anyone either. Detroit: Become Human not only looks fantastic, hopefully it’s another story and character-driven drama that puts us in impossible scenarios that’ll haunt us once we put the game down and long after. (Terrence Sage)

Dragon Ball FighterZ

Dragon Ball Z is one of, if not the, quintessential shounen anime. It’s a beloved franchise all around the world, and its fans range anywhere from 5 to 75. Video game spin-offs are nothing new for Dragon Ball, but there nothing quite like Dragon Ball FighterZ. Bandai Namco has is joint-developing the game with Arc System Works, the undisputed kings of stylish fighting games. This is the company behind games Guilty Gear and BlazBlue, and FighterZ has shaped up to be on par, if not beyond, those two.

The cast of characters in the Dragon Ball universe is huge, and ASW have boiled their roster down to a select few. Plenty of popular characters obviously made the cut: Goku, Gohan, all the major villains, but plenty of goofy side characters have also made the cut such as Nappa and Captain Ginyu. The more I see about the game, the more I can’t wait to play it. The soundtrack, the visuals, and gameplay are flashy and hectic, and a perfect match for same explosive combat the series has in its manga and anime.

Dragon Ball FighterZ drops at the end of January, and I can’t think of a better way to start off the year than with a solid and fun fighter. (Taylor Smith)

Dreams

The long-awaited next game from Media Molecule titled Dreams, allows players to customize and control characters that are used to solve puzzles by manipulating items and objects across the game’s segmented levels. It’s somewhat hard to explain but for the unfamiliar, Media Molecule is best known for LittleBigPlanet, and Dreams is likewise, a game about creating. It’s a wildly ambitious project full of imagination and featuring a narrator in a coffin and a bear armed with a hammer. What else could you want? Check out the trailer below to get a better sense of how ingenious this game looks. (Ricky D)

Dynasty Warriors 9

I am an unapologetic fan of the Warriors games. They are what I consider to be the simplest and purest form a game can take. There’s substance and story to them, but their main appeal is the sense of joy coming from mashing buttons and seeing KO and combo counts increase, watching characters use flashy moves, and having an oversized roster of various fighters to choose from. Koei Tecmo has continually found minor ways to change up the series formula with each game, but Dynasty Warriors 9’s large-scale maps have to be one of my favorite changes in a while. There’s depth and height to every stage, with the development team saying its closer to an open-world experience than past titles. Warriors games are experiences where I can turn my brain off for a bit, where I can sit back and just enjoy the escape that a game is supposed to provide without having to dig much past the surface. If Dynasty Warriors 9 is going to give me more to toy with, then I cannot wait till it comes out in February. (Taylor Smith)

Eitr

The past few years have given a rise to the popularity of dungeon-crawling Roguelikes and Soulslikes, all attempting to capture a sort of atmosphere of death, despair and insurmountable odds, set to tough-as-nails gameplay.

Eneme Entertainment’s Eitr is one such game (with a seemingly long-ish development history, now confirmed to be set for a 2018 release by Devolver Digital). Yet, Eitr set itself apart with its focus on nuanced, yet streamlined, combat and a Norse-inspired fantasy setting that invoke the best of both of its major inspiration: the infernal hellscape of Diablo and the diseased dark medieval fantasy of Demon’s Souls/Dark Souls 1.

Visually, what is striking about Eitr are the satisfyingly evil looking crypts full of both RPG/tabletop gaming tropes and plagues, and the Nordic, cold eeriness to it all is not something we have seen properly explored in this genre, or in gaming in general.
The genre Eitr will find itself in upon release is full of comparisons and not-so-subtle attempts at re-creating elements of existing games. Here’s hoping that Eitr can elevate itself beyond just that. (Maxwell N)

FE

A year ago, Electronic Arts announced: Fe, an action-adventure game in which the player controls Fe, a fox-like creature within a dusky forest that is highly responsive to the songs of the creatures and plants within it. It was presented as the first of “EA Originals”, a new segment of EA’s publishing aimed to help indie developers with financing and publishing and the first trailer made a strong impression, with many critics drawing comparisons to Microsoft’s Ori and the Blind Forest for its story, characters and setting as well as Journey and Shadow of the Colossus for its “hands-off” approach to gameplay. Those comparisons aside, what interests me most about Fe is that the Swedish-based studio, Zoink Games said they tried to capture the exploration mechanics of games in the Metroid and Zelda series, my personal two favorite video game franchise of all time. (Ricky D)

God of War
By the time the God of War series had racked up three prequels to sit alongside the main trilogy, protagonist Kratos still hadn’t managed to develop much of a personality beyond being an angry dude in desperate need of a spray tan. Imagine our surprise, then, when God of War for PS4 was announced, seemingly less focused on the perennially pissed off Spartan solving all of his problems via mayhem and dismemberment in comically over the top fashion, and more leaning towards a Last of Us style journey with a young companion – albeit one with lots of mayhem and dismemberment for old time’s sake. An older, bearded Kratos, now transported into Norse mythology, has to escort a kid who may or may not be his son through all manner of hell on Earth, hopefully giving the aging antihero some room to do more as a character than shout and kill things. And for those of you with a thirst for blood, the action still looks brutal. We haven’t been this excited for a God of War game since, well, ever. (John Cal McCormick)

Kingdom Come: Deliverance

Warhorse Studios’ debut open-world, RPG title is not a cookie-cutter fantasy as a first glance might suggest. In fact, it falls neatly into the historical fiction realm. Sans magics, elves, and dragons, Kingdom Come: Deliverance authentically captures early 1400s Bohemia and what it would have been like to live during the Dark Ages—one period of turmoil of the Holy Roman Empire era. The story is set some time after Emperor Charles IV dies. His son, Wenceslas IV, a naive, self-indulgent, and unambitious man (as the developer describe him) inherits the throne and falls into a power struggle with his half-brother and King of Hungary, Sigismund the Red Fox.

Players will assume the role of Henry, the son of a blacksmith. His simple life comes to an end when a raid ordered by Sigismund destroys his entire village. From there, he finds himself fighting against Sigismund’s invasion, hoping to restore power to Wenceslas and peace to Bohemia.

Since this is a game that takes place in a real period of history, Warhorse Studios made a commitment to accuracy. From visiting real locations and buildings still standing from the time period, to their mocap work on cutscenes, the developers took full advantage of their location in Prague and dug deep into all the little details of the Czech Republic’s history. Many of the structures in the game are real, and other things like the armor are period correct. They even worked with experienced swordsmen to capture real, historical European sword fighting.

And if all that isn’t enough, the RPG elements allow players to dig into the game according to their play style, all while building a reputation for themselves that affects how NPCs react to them. Become strong in battle, and word will get around that you are someone to be feared. Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a unique and incredible departure from medieval fantasy into realism—and a much needed one, at that. The game will release on February 13, 2018, for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. (Joanna Nelius)

Kingdom Hearts 3

It’s been a long road to the release of Kingdom Hearts III. With Kingdom Hearts II dropping all the way back in March of 2006, it’s been over a decade since players have been greeted with a full-on game in the series. While there has been no shortage of spin-offs or side stories in the interim, fans could be forgiven for being a little impatient after 12 years.

The good news is that there does seem to have been some sizable work put in on the title, even if Square-Enix’s announcement last year that we will see the game “before 2020” isn’t exactly encouraging.

Still, with a highly enhanced battle system, several confirmed worlds, and the promise of being the final leg of Sora’s story in the KH universe, fans have plenty to be excited for in regard to the latest game in the series. Will 2018 finally be the year? Here’s hoping. (Mike Worby)

Kirby Star Allies

Many of Nintendo’s franchises fade in and out of the limelight, but Kirby is as much a mainstay as Mario or Zelda. Kirby Star Allies is the thirty-first game in the long-running franchise and its ninth release since 2014. While experimental handheld titles of recent years varied in quality, the core side-scrolling entries like Kirby: Triple Deluxe surprised players with their refinement and reinvention of the standard Kirby formula. This bodes well for Kirby Star Allies, the first proper side-scrolling Kirby since 2016’s superb Kirby: Planet Robobot.

Nintendo hasn’t shown much footage of Kirby Star Allies since its announcement at E3 2017, but the trailer from last September’s Nintendo Direct depicts the most traditional console Kirby game in over fifteen years. But that’s not to say the jovial blowhard doesn’t have any tricks up his proverbial sleeve. As the first Kirby game on Switch, Star Allies leverages the platform’s built-in multiplayer capability by resurrecting Kirby Super Star’s AI/co-op ally system. On top of this focus on cooperative play, the power combination system from The Crystal Shards and Squeak Squad hint at an especially malleable play experience that could boost replayability. The new puzzly stages and gym rat King Dedede are further icing on this rosy cake. (Kyle Rentschler)

PART TWO

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Turtturt

    January 8, 2018 at 11:21 am

    “Last year, almost every game we chose wound up somewhere on our list of the best games of the year.”

    30% of the games you listed last year didn’t even come out, and another fairly sizeable chunk ended up being huge disappointments. Please do some fact checking on your own articles, lol.

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Game Reviews

‘Woven’ Review: Comfortably Soft and Lumpy

Despite those blurry visuals and stilted gameplay, there’s something endearing about this innocent elephant’s adventure.

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With a sincere warmth and fuzziness that conjures up dreamy recollections of 3D games gone by, Alterego Games’Woven mostly overcomes its blurry visuals and technical jankery to somehow create a pleasant, old-fashioned experience. Those excited by modern gaming probably won’t give this lovable hand-me-down a second look, and perhaps they shouldn’t; extremely simple actions and soothing narration support a fairy tale quality that’s probably best suited to younger players. However, anyone willing to look past the well-worn exterior in search of a relaxing break from stressful button pushing may squeeze more fun out of this familiar stuffed toy than they might originally expect.

Woven tasks players with taking control of a meandering patchwork elephant named Stuffy, and guiding him through a sparsely populated knitted world that seems to have met an untimely demise. Because Stuffy has cotton for brains, he is assisted on this journey by a much smarter metal firefly named Glitch (a reference to his role in this story?), who floats alongside the curious-but-clumsy plush toy and provides hints as to how he can use his various abilities. Together, this odd couple will traverse open plains blanketed with colorful yarn grass, maneuver around impassable felt trees and plants, and hopefully discover the secret of where Stuffy’s clueless kin have all gone.

Along the way, the duo will walk great distances (often without much event), solve the occasional environmental puzzle, and generally just keep on keepin’ on.Woven is mostly straightforward in its campaign, merely about getting from point A to B by whatever means the path requires. Most often this involves finding new blueprints that allow players to change Stuffy’s design from an elephant into a wide variety of other animal shapes, each with a set of abilities that come with a new set of arms, legs, and a head. For instance, while the stocky (and adorable) bear can push plush boulders and perform a mighty stomp, the goat and frog can both use their legs to hop, while the kitty cat is able to push buttons on rusted consoles that activate dormant machinery.

However, these abilities are usually only able to activate when context-sensitive prompts from Glitch appear, so don’t expect some sort of platforming freedom. Woven handles a bit clumsily in that regard and others; strolling is definitely the order of the day, as long as Stuffy doesn’t get hung up on the geometry.

But these actions do help provide variety; a tropical bird of some sort (toucan, maybe?) can sing certain notes, while a pelican-thing can fly (sort of) over land and shallow water with great speed. And so, it often becomes necessary in Woven to alter Stuffy’s look with a total reweave. These designs can be applied at various sewing machine-like stations scattered about, which go a step further than just swapping Stuffy the deer for Stuffy the ape. Each blueprint is comprised of five parts, allowing for players to create a Frankenstein Stuffy made up of all the best abilities the player has on hand (or cushioned paw). By mixing certain sets, Stuffy will soon be able to scale mountainside crags, cross piranha-filled rivers, and pick up industrial cogs without the need to make a pit stop and bust out new needle and thread.

Some truly hilarious (or horrifying, depending on your sensibilities) aberrations can be created; seeing Stuffy hobble on hooves as he flaps a wing on one side and swings a muscular gorilla arm on the other, all with the head of a squirrel, is freakishly entertaining. In addition, for those who like to wander off the beaten path, there are a plethora of knitting patterns to discover, tucked away in both obvious and devious locations (and denizens). These cosmetic enhancements can also be applied at the sewing stations, essentially giving players seemingly endless amounts of customization. And these aesthetic changes even get in on the puzzle act every once in a while, especially when a pesky cobra shows up.

But outside the odd ‘connect the power line’ or ‘raise and lower platforms’ objectives, Woven doesn’t throw much at players that even young children shouldn’t be able to handle — and that seems to be the aim. Stuffy’s adventure lives or dies on its wholesome and serene vibe, which players either buy into or they don’t. There’s no combat here, very little to actually do outside hunting down those patterns, illuminating some painted caves, and activating some of Glitch’s ‘memories’ contained by machines hidden in the soft folds. Ongoing narration is pleasant to the ears, often conveying old-fashioned morals and cutesy jokes, but there’s no more story than in a classic fable.

And make no mistake — though the world is certainly bright and cheerful, it’s also quite fuzzy around the edges. The tactile nature of the cloth textures is lessened greatly by the low definition (at least on the Switch version), eliciting memories of the Wii-era. An increased crispness would have really made the world of Woven pop off the screen, perhaps luring in a larger audience who have become accustomed to such. There is still plenty of charm, but it feels like a missed chance at that true magical feeling the game seems to be shooting for.

Other stumbles come when certain worlds try to open up a bit more, which might lead a younger audience to get frustrated by the lack of direction (especially when they keep getting hung up on that geometry!); Woven definitely works better when it’s casually guiding players along, letting gamers of all ages envelop themselves in the easygoing atmosphere instead of requiring tedious backtracking. There’s just something nice about sitting back and relaxing to hummable music, watching the roly-poly amble of a stuffed kangaroo.

Woven will not be for everyone; those who play for challenge or eye candy won’t find either here. And yet, despite those blurry visuals and stilted gameplay, there’s something endearing about this innocent elephant’s adventure. Woven certainly has its share of lumpiness, but somehow remains cozy regardless.

‘Woven’ is available on PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Switch (Reviewed on Switch).

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Game Reviews

‘Destiny 2: Shadowkeep’ Review: Moon’s Haunted but Still Shines

‘Destiny 2: Shadowkeep’ returns to a familiar destination but Bungie is reworking Destiny with each expansion and Shadowkeep is no exception.

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Destiny 2 Shadowkeep Review

Destiny 2: Shadowkeep may be a return to a familiar destination, the Moon, but Bungie continues the trend of reworking Destiny with each new expansion, and Shadowkeep is no exception. Replete with a reworked season pass system, progression systems, customization options, sandbox re-tuning and quest interface, Shadowkeep is both a welcome iteration and extension of the existing Destiny 2 experience offering more RPG-esque player agency than Destiny has ever seen before. While the game is still haunted by some overly familiar issues, Shadowkeep is a welcome expansion and a promising start to the third year of Destiny 2.

Old Haunting Grounds

The Moon isn’t the only familiar face in Shadowkeep. Keeping with tradition, Eris Morn has returned from a long absence for another dark, lunar expansion (the first being D1′s The Dark Below when the character was first introduced) as she investigates a disturbance deep within the Moon. Quite literally haunted by the past, Eris has called upon the Guardians to assist her in finding the source of the phantoms plaguing the Moon and vanquishing “Nightmare” versions of familiar visages from the past.

All is not entirely as old players might remember. An immense hive structure, the Scarlet Keep, now overshadows previously unexplored territory on the Lunar surface. New Lost Sectors hide in the depths of the Moon, and new secrets a la the Dreadnaught or the Dreaming City lie waiting to be discovered by inquisitive players. And at the very center of the expansion an ancient, unknown threat lies in wait, an ominous foreshadowing of the trials ahead.

While the expansion does a decent job ensuring the familiar haunts don’t feel overly recycled, it’s hard to say Shadowkeep makes the most of the Moon. The campaign opens on such a high note as players storm the moon in an unexpectedly matchmade sequence before individual Fireteams independently uncover an unanticipated twist that absolutely shatters expectation. Unfortunately, the narrative quickly devolves into uninteresting fetch quests that fail to live up to the intrigue of the initial mission nor live up to the narrative heights of some of the most memorable missions the Moon previously housed including fan favorites The Sword of Crota and Lost to Light to name a few. That’s tough company to keep, and Shadowkeep fails to measure up.

Similarly, a bit of that intrigue is reintroduced in Shadowkeep‘s final mission, but, like the campaign as a whole, it’s over before the player knows it and fails to live up to the precedent set by previous, lengthier campaign conclusions. More mileage is gotten out of the narrative and destination in the post-game in the way of a new weapon farming system, a new activity known as Nightmare hunts that play like mini Strikes, and a Strike proper, but that does little to alleviate the disappointment of an overly terse campaign that reads like a teaser for what’s to come over a distinct, fleshed-out story.

A New Era, a New Season

Part of that is presumably courtesy of a shift in Bungie’s approach to content releases. While the previous expansion, Forsaken, similarly opted for procedurally released content over the course of the season, Bungie has doubled down on that strategy with Shadowkeep ensuring there’s something new to be experienced each week that players sign in. While certain activities have alway arrived post-launch including raids, dungeons, and exotic weapon pursuits, Shadowkeep and its “Season of the Undying” has seen new PvE and PvP activities launched after the expansion’s initial drop, adding to an already lengthy list of Destiny to-dos.

Central to the season is the new PvE, matchmade activity, the Vex Offensive, which pits six players against waves of Vex combatants paired and features some minor puzzle elements, all for the sake of earning a series of weapons exclusive to the mode. While the Black Garden locale of the mode is certainly eye-catching, the Offensive, with its recycled mechanics and familiar enemies, doesn’t leave much of an impression beyond that. It might pale in comparison to activities introduced in past seasons (like Warmind‘s Escalation Protocol, or last season’s Menagerie), but is intentionally terse, intended to match this new seasonal philosophy, and will be removed from the game after Season of the Undying (though the exclusive arsenal will still be available in the loot pool obtainable through undisclosed means). Like the Vex themselves, the Vex Offensive might not seem like much independently, but collectively is a piece of a greater whole challenging and rewarding players for participating within the specific season.

Bungie is further defining each season with the inclusion of a seasonal artifact and a season pass system. The artifact, again only available for the season, offers players an avenue for additional, limitless Power gains while also offering unlockable gameplay mods encouraging players to utilize specific classes and builds. The Oppressive Darkness mod, for example, debuffs enemies hit by void grenades, encouraging players to construct discipline-oriented, void builds. Another mod, Thunder Coil, increases the power of arc melee attacks by fifty percent, giving all new life to the Hunter’s Arcstrider subclass. Meanwhile, the season pass operates similar to that of Fortnite or any number of games and replaces the previous cosmetic only level up system of Destiny 2‘s past. From the season’s outset, any and all experience goes toward unlocking rewards from the pass including new armor, armor ornaments, exclusive weapons and exotics, and engrams. The experience requirement for each level is static, meaning progress is fair and steady throughout and never feels throttled. Both seasonal systems are fantastic new additions that reward players for playing the game while making experience gains more purposeful than any other time in Destiny‘s endgame.

New Duds to Boot

Shadowkeep also marks the debut of Armor 2.0, a new system that allows players more agency in character customization than ever before. Whereas armor previously rolled with random perks and a roll of only three stats (Mobility, Recovery, and Resilience), Armor 2.0 comes with no perks and six stats as Destiny 1‘s Intellect, Discipline, and Strength (determining the charge rates of player’s super, grenade, and melee abilities) make their triumphant return. Instead, Armor 2.0 has slots for modifiers so players can pick and choose whatever perks they want just as long as they’ve unlocked those mods. Mods are acquired from most activities, while enhanced mods (better versions of certain traditional mods) are exclusive to some of the game’s more challenging content. While the grind for mods seems excessive in the face of the rest of the game’s grind, it’s a one-time affair, some of the best mods are unlocked via the seasonal artifact, and the payoff is astounding, providing customization like never before.

Convoluting the process, unfortunately, is a messy elemental affinity system where certain mods can only be slotted into armor of a matching elemental type. Mods relating to pulse rifles, for example, are exclusive to Arc armor, so a piece perfectly rolled to a pulse-rifle-inclined player’s preference with a solar affinity won’t do them any good if they were hoping for pulse rifle perks. It was undoubtedly an intentional design decision to generate an arbitrary grind since players won’t need to chase armor with perfect perks any longer but is ultimately a mar on the face of an otherwise pretty great new system.

Convoluting the process, unfortunately, is a messy elemental affinity system where certain mods can only be slotted into armor of a matching elemental type. Mods relating to pulse rifles, for example, are exclusive to Arc armor, so a piece perfectly rolled to a pulse-rifle-inclined player’s preference with a solar affinity won’t do them any good if they were hoping for pulse rifle perks. It was undoubtedly an intentional design decision to generate an arbitrary grind since players won’t need to chase armor with perfect perks any longer but is ultimately a mar on the face of an otherwise pretty great new system.

Axe to Grind

Speaking to the grind, Destiny has often struggled and failed to find the perfect balance of meaningful power climb and tedious grinds recycling the same old activities. Luckily, at the outset of the climb towards max power, Shadowkeep strikes a much better balance centered on beloved ritual and new and or seasonal activities. Power drops now operate on a clearly labeled, tiered system, incentivizing players to prioritize new or challenging activities for maximum gains. Ritual activities (Strikes, Crucible, and Gambit), though tier one, retain their relevance by offering multiple weekly powerful drops for match completions, vendor bounties completed, and rank progression. Previous, otherwise irrelevant avenues towards power have been retired, but this is a welcome reduction and there is no shortage of powerful drops in the climb to max power. That isn’t to say that the grind couldn’t be shorter ensuring more players can participate in endgame activities when they first arrive, but progression generally feels smoother than any time in Destiny‘s past.

Conversely, content flow might overwhelm casual and even dedicated players as there’s simply too much to do and grind for players tight on time. Bungie now considers Destiny and MMO with proper RPG mechanics, and, in terms of time commitment, that really shows with Shadowkeep. On a certain week, a player might have an accomplished week in-game after sinking only three to five hours into the game. Other weeks the game seems to demand closer to the ten to twenty-hour range. One week, for example, saw the release of the new dungeon, a new Crucible game mode, an exotic quest, a new public event, and the start of the Festival of the Lost, a limited time, Halloween event. That’s simply too much, feels like poor pacing, and favors streamers, Destiny content creators, and hardcore players for whom Destiny is their exclusive hobby, a burgeoning theme with Season of the Undying. While it’s certainly exciting that there’s always something to do in D2, it doesn’t seem true to the game’s roots as a hybrid, a shooter with MMO elements, that could be taken at a more casual pace but still offered an engaging endgame for the dedicated audience. Now, there’s only an endgame with no end in sight.

A Better Destiny Awaits

That’s not necessarily a bad thing for players who want to pay a minimal price for seemingly unending content, and in that regard, Shadowkeep is a steal. A sensational new raid (minus some finicky new mechanics), a foreboding dungeon, an immense new arsenal to grind for, and a better tuned PvP and PvE sandbox in which to enjoy them mean Shadowkeep will keep Guardians’ attention the whole season long and is an excellent proof of concept for the seasonal structure going forward. If Bungie can keep this pace up, year three of Destiny 2 could easily be the best year in franchise history. As a general caution though, Destiny 2 now clearly caters to the hardcore, requires MMO levels of commitment, and is best enjoyed with a regular group; casual, time-restricted, and solo players beware. It might not be the best single expansion release in franchise history (that’s still a toss-up between The Taken King and Forsaken), but, beginning with Destiny 2: Shadowkeep, the third year of D2 is the closest the tumultuous title has ever come to Bungie’s ambitious vision for the shared-world shooter and the game fans have been waiting for these past five years.

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What Are Some of the Switch’s Best Indie Devs Making?

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The Nintendo Switch has quickly become the preferred platform for some of the most talented indie studios in the industry. Its pick-up-and-play form factor and Nintendo’s concerted effort to court smaller developers this generation (complete with indie-specific Directs) has resulted in a library that’s positively flourished.

Despite the eShop falling victim to some of the discoverability and shovelware issues that long plagued Steam, there have been some real standouts over the years. Since video games take quite a while to produce, there’s often speculation as to what some of the premier developers have been working on. Let’s take a look at four of the most recognized indie studios on the platform and have some fun trying to figure out what they might be up to.


Sidebar Games

It’s hard to believe that 2017’s Golf Story was Sidebar Games’ first project as a studio. The two-man team from down under balanced a delightful dose of Australian-tinged humor with clear callbacks to the Mario sports games of old to deliver one of the best Switch exclusives in 2017, bar none.

Unlike the other studios on this list, Sidebar has been extremely silent on development progress; we can only glean bits and pieces from the few interviews they’ve done. We know the game has been in development for roughly two years and that Sidebar was still in active development as of March 2019 when they put out the call for a pixel artist for their next project. There’s also a fair chance that the new game will either be Switch-exclusive or target Switch first, seeing as how Golf Story is still one of the Switch’s top 10 best-selling indie games to date as of Spring 2019. If exclusivity worked so well the first time, why not try it again?

What Can We Expect?

Whatever Sidebar is working on, it’s almost guaranteed to be single-player and story-focused. One half of the dev team, Andrew, has gone on record multiple times saying that he’s “very partial to story modes.” This also players into one of their strengths; though there was a great time to be had with Golf Story’s golf, it was all elevated by the game’s ridiculous-yet-lovable characters and wacky situational humor.

Since the team has already deconfirmed a sequel as their next project, there’s really not much to go on. While I’d personally love them to tackle something Mario Tennis-inspired next, there’s a good chance they’ll avoid sports altogether. As long as the wit found in Golf Story is alive and well, though, their core audience is sure to be interested.


Fabraz

Despite being incredibly simple from a visual standpoint, the deceivingly charming Slime-San is still one of the best platformers to come out in recent memory. The game’s striking three-color art style isn’t just unique, but it’s also ingrained into the platforming mechanics in inventive ways. Beyond having a look all its own and a stiff challenge for players who wanted it, however, Fabraz went the extra mile to build a fun cast of characters and even a hub world to explore outside of the main game. It was a pleasant surprise from a relatively unknown developer at the time.

Fabraz has been anything but complacent since Slime-san’s launch. The studio released two free content expansions, ported the game to other consoles, and even got into the publishing business. No matter their other ventures, however, the team has made sure to tease their next project every so often since the start of 2019.

What Can We Expect?

Fabraz speculated that their new game was already roughly 60% complete at the start of October. Since it only began production in December of 2018, it’s safe to assume that the next game will be relatively small in scope. It’s also likely that Fabraz’s next outing won’t be “Slime-san 2,” since the original game received such heavy content additions months after release (including an expansion literally titled “Sheeple’s Sequel.” The team certainly knows how to make magic from very limited resources, so it’ll be interesting to see what they can do with a bit more of a budget, a new art style, and tons more experience.


Game Atelier/FDG Entertainment

It feels like Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom came out of nowhere. The team at FDG Entertainment had published indie darling Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King just the year prior and the console port of Oceanhorn before that, but there wasn’t much talk about FDG’s capabilities as a developer. As it turns out, however, Game Atelier’s choice to bring them on as a co-developer was the best thing that could’ve possibly happened to Monster Boy. Five long years of development later and fans were treated to one of the best platformers in recent memory.

Though it launched on all consoles, Monster Boy famously sold eight times more on Switch than PS4 and Xbox One combined, reminiscent of the sales of Blossom Tales on Switch. Needless to say, FDG’s next title will be targeted squarely as the Nintendo community. But what could that next project be?

What Can We Expect?

A Monster Boy sequel. FDG recently celebrated their collaboration with Game Atelier on Twitter and announced that they’re collaborating once more. The commercial and critical success of Monster Boy can only lead one to believe they’re hard at work on a follow-up together. Thankfully, with such a solid base to work off of now, this one shouldn’t take nearly as long to release.


Chucklefish

Chucklefish has garnered a great deal of respect in the indie community as both a developer (Starbound, WarGroove) and frequent publisher (Stardew Valley, Timespinner, the upcoming Eastward, and others). Their eagerness to bring so many of their top-notch titles to Switch has made them one of–if not the–most lauded indie studios on the platform. If it’s coming from Chucklefish, there’s a good chance it’ll be of the highest quality.

What Can We Expect?

Witchbrook! Chucklefish announced the game way back in 2017 and instantly had both Harry Potter and Little Witch Academia fans foaming at the mouth. It’s a magical school simulation/RPG where players will attend class, learn spells, make friends, date, and work towards graduation. The company’s CEO and lead designer, Finn, has been incredibly open about the game’s development from the beginning. In fact, he made the ever-changing Witchbrook design document public in August of 2019 to give some insight into the game design and planning process.

Since there’s already so much we know about where the game’s going, this is going to be used as more of a “Hopes for Witchbrook” section. To keep it short, let’s focus on two of the game’s most make-or-break elements: dating and world-building.

Dating

One of the things many RPGs struggle with is making dating feel meaningful after the relationship starts. People love romancing in Stardew Valley, but the experience itself is really rather shallow; bring characters their favorite items, talk to them daily, experience a few touching cutscenes and voila! All that’s left is to put a ring on it and have a baby.

My hope is that in Witchbrook, the real fun starts after the relationship begins. Being able to have lunch together, go to festivals, celebrate anniversaries, plan outings, and even introduce them to the player’s in-game friends would go a long way in making the relationship feel more than a ribbon to be crossed.

World-Building

When someone asks the seminal question “What fictional world would you love to live in?” the world of Harry Potter almost always tops to list (right next to Pokémon, that is). It isn’t just because of magic itself or the emotional ties people have to the cast, but more so because of the immense amounts of personality and lore J.K. Rowling infused into the world. From the dark history of Hogwarts to the vast array of magical beasts to the establishment of Quidditch, there is a whole movie and video game series that has been created based on mere slices of the Harry Potter universe.

Naturally, it’d be silly to expect Chucklefish to achieve as much depth in an indie project as one of the most successful authors of all time did over the course of seven books, but there’s still plenty of potential. Since the game will primarily take place at the school, exploring why the school was created and how it’s changed over the years could be quite interesting. Then there’s how different populations of the world at large feel about magic, how various magical species play a part, the favorite magic-imbued pastimes of students in the world of Witchbrook, and so on. The key will be to infuse magic into every element of the world (and gameplay) as naturally as possible. And after reading through the extensive design doc, I’ve no doubt Chucklefish will be able to pull it off.


The indie scene on the Switch is thriving more than ever. New talented developers are making the platform their home every day, and those who’ve already proved themselves are hard at work on their next premium experience. The next wave of releases from these studios can’t come soon enough.

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