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Indie Spotlight: Forgotten Anne

Tell us about your game: Valdemar Schultz Andreasen (Lead Game Designer):

Forgotton Anne is an untraditional 2D platforming adventure, with a heavy focus on the narrative and an interest in telling a very human story. We’ve done what we can to make it feel as if you’re playing inside an anime-movie, with a cinematography that swoops and zooms around.

The story centers around Anne, one of two human beings trapped in the world of lost and forgotten things – the Forgotten Lands. The inhabitants are socks, scarfs and other objects that people forget, animated into life as citizens of this world.

Anne and her Master Bonku are trying to get back to the human world, but as the story begins, an explosion occurs – somebody is trying to destroy their plans of returning home.

Since Anne has the role of Enforcer of these lands, she is sent out to locate and find the cause of the rebellion.

You play the game as you would a platformer: Anne can walk, run, jump – and then she has two tools in her belt: Her wings give her a boosted jump. Her Arca-glove on her hand can draw and transfer energy – called Anima – between cylinders and power up machines. It can even draw the Anima out of Forgotlings.

Through the story told, Anne interacts with a lot of Forgotlings, not just drawing life, in fact, mostly speaking to them. Anne encounters a lot of different situations that ask something of her situation as the Enforcer, but also moral situations for the player to contemplate.

The decisions Anne and the player makes impact aspects of the story, and it is not always clear what action leads to what reaction or consequence, which might just make it worthwhile to go through the game for a second run.

Situations of identity, loyalty and choice weave in and out of a beautifully aesthetic and engaging experience, that has a constant drive forward with new areas and situations.

The human story emerges as the story becomes an investigation of Anne – not just of her past, but also of who she is as a human being. We have done what we can to avoid turning her into a caricature or a superhero, rather trying for a naturalistic description of a complicated person full of contradictions and emotions, like any of us. While Anne is athletic and cool, she is also sometimes slightly clumsy. Our lead animator, Debbie Ekberg, was really great in portraying Anne’s movements with 2D animation. The game contains more than 5000 individual drawings, frames, of Anne. She would add these subtle touches of animation that showed Anne from a more vulnerable and naturalistic side that really rounded off her character.

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What was your inspiration to create the game

Alfred Nguyen (Creative Director): It came about after a soul-searching period after I quit my job as a creative lead at a mobile games company. I was reaching a point in my life where I wanted to make use of all the skills I had accumulated throughout the years as an animation film director and artist to express something meaningful. I think there is a space for fun addictive mobile games in our lives, but it did not allow me to go deep with crafting imaginary worlds of wonder and tell stories that affected people in a meaningful way. The same way certain games, books and movies had a lingering effect on me growing up. So the first thing I did was to reflect on themes I kept returning to as an artist and topics that kept being there on the back of my mind throughout my life. My parents were refugees from the Vietnam war and I grew up in Denmark, and so had two very different cultures vying for my identity growing up. So the search for an identity, the feeling of being lost, ‘forgotten’ I could see was a recurring theme in my life. Making a game can be a sisyphean task and so I knew it had to have a personal core that guided the project through tough times, and so this world of the forgotten began to form in my mind. From there it’s just been an incredible journey, starting a company, assembling my great and loving team who is responsible for making Forgotton Anne into what it is, and bet that years of work will feel worth it, as long as we focused on a meaningful creative process instead of calculating what will be ‘hot’ in the future to play or current trends.

Forgotten Anne is availble on Steam, Xbox and PS4 May 15th

 

Games to Get Excited About – January 2017

Happy New Year and welcome to the first installment of Games to Get Excited About for 2017! Later in the article we’ll take a look at some of the exciting games coming out in January (including last month’s featured title Gravity Rush 2) but first we’re going to look a little further out for our spotlight title.

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Fallen Legion

Fallen Legion is an upcoming action RPG from developer Mintsphere. At first glance Fallen Legion calls to mind the works of Vanillaware with its rich color palette and hand drawn art style. In practice, however, the game has more in common with the classic Valkyrie Profile series while adding new wrinkles of its own. Fallen Legion puts players in the role of a Princess who has recently assumed the throne of an empire on the verge of collapse.

In each level, the Princess will be joined by three other party members and each character is mapped to a face button. The party will proceed through levels automatically, stopping to enter battle as they encounter enemies. Once in combat, players will queue up attacks for each character to build combos and exploit openings in their enemies’ defenses while managing their actions to block and counter the enemies’ own attacks. Players will also have access to spells and special moves to add variety and strategy to the battles as they make their way through the game’s levels.

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Why We’re Excited

The battles are only half of what makes Fallen Legion interesting. During levels, players will be asked to make decisions that will affect both the story and the play of the current level. The choices will ask players to balance short term buffs with the long term health of their Empire and can affect available characters, faction allegiances, and even the loyalty of their characters. Each decision only gives the players 10 seconds to decide and the results are permanent.

As a fan of the Valkyrie Profile games, I am very excited to see a new iteration on the style of RPG, and I also love games that ask me to make hard choices and live with the consequences. Hopefully this game will strike the balance between exciting, challenging combat and tense strategic decision making. I’m also a huge fan of the art style and I’m always happy to see new games with hand drawn art. Hopefully this game will be worth the wait when it launches later this year.

A note on versions:

Fallen Legion is currently slated for release on the PS4 and PS Vita. Mistsphere has confirmed that the Vita version will not be a simple port but will instead tell a unique story from the perspective of another character fighting for control of the Empire and will feature its own story scenarios and encounters. Both versions are slated for digital release sometime in 2017. Limited Run Games has confirmed that they will be offering a physical version of both the PS4 and PS Vita versions.

Notable January Releases

Normally January is pretty dead in the water as far as releases go, but a number of high profile Japanese games will be coming out this month in the US.

Resident Evil 7 –  Capcom’s venerable survival horror franchise returns this month with Resident Evil 7. For the past few years the franchise has become overloaded with spin-offs, ports, and and inconsistent main-line entries that have leaned more and more on action mechanics instead of horror. Resident Evil 7 aims to return the series to its roots by focusing on more atmospheric dread and claustrophobic environments.

Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star – The Fate/ series began over a decade ago as a visual novel and now encompasses over a half-dozen anime series and movies as well as visual novel sequels, prequels, and spin-off stories. It has also been spun into a number of RPGs and other games. Fate/Extella is a spin off in the Fate/Extra series and will be the first action game in the meta-series. Extella will allow players to choose from 16 characters including series favorites and new faces in the next iteration of the Holy Grail War. The new game will feature gameplay inspired by the long running Dynasty Warriors series and its many spin offs.

Tales of Berseria – The next installment of the Tales of series comes to America this January. Tales of Berseria switches things up by removing the multiple party members of the previous games to focus on a single heroine in intense action-RPG battles. The Tales of series is well known for its anime inspired visuals and deep game play. Hopefully this next installment will prove worthy of its lineage.

Are Consoles Chasing Gamers Back to PC?

Are Consoles Chasing Gamers Back to PC?

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Right off the bat I’ll admit I’m a PC gamer. The time came with my Xbox 360, where I realized I hadn’t touched it in 6 months. It sat there beneath my TV gathering dust and cat fur. Eventually, I handed it down to my son. He has a PS4 now, so the old Xbox is again a corpse in the shadows of our basement. I caved in again and now an Xbox One sits beside my PC. It came with 6 games; one of which I gave away to charity, two I’ve actually played (briefly), and the last two have not been touched.

So why am I faithful only to my PC? What has the Xbox One done to earn my ire when I accidentally bump the power button and it turns on? I use a controller with my PC, so I’m not strictly a mouse and keyboard guy. I use headphones for both, they share my monitor, my desk, my computer chair, and my mini-fridge (yes, be jealous). The PC does not have a better location or peripherals.

As society evolves technologically I believe we’re going to become more dependent on the internet and PCs. They have utility. I can write on my PC, the words flowing with ease from fingers to keyboard. I can listen to music, jumping from one streaming service to another all from my browser; all without adding another app. I can practice being socially awkward along with the rest of the web. I can access my email, pay my bills, and shop. Maybe there are apps for all of that on the Xbox, but I wouldn’t know. I’m too busy surfing the web.

Then there is the library. When I’ve upgraded or changed consoles, the games went with them. Even though my PC has changed over the years, I can still play the games I had on the last machine. There’s no need for backwards compatibility. Windows being what it is, I can keep my library and just reinstall the games I love playing when I get new hardware. Perhaps Steam is the culprit then, for that is where much of my time and money has gone in the four years that I’ve owned my current rig. Yes, it’s due for an upgrade soon, but it’s still humming along.

Consoles however…well, there’s no real money to be made in making old titles work with the new system. No remaster, no reboot, no sales growth. There’s quite a few 360 titles available to play on the Xbox One, but it is limited. Mass Effect: Andromeda is coming so you want to relive the original trilogy? Fine, but you better still have your 360 because Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 won’t work on the Xbox One, and that’s just one example. There are approximately 1174 titles in the Xbox 360 catalog and only 204 of them are backwards compatible. Now we both know no one owns every title, so that matters little, but chances are the one you want to play on your shiny new system isn’t ready yet. You’ll just have to wait until they feel like handing it to you.

Sure, consoles are more stable than PCs. It’s easier for publishers to put out games for consoles because each generation is pretty standard. There’s never any major snafus with console games, and they don’t suffer hardware malfunctions like PCs.

{/sarcasm} Nope. Never. {/sarcasm}

Consoles are the family cars of gaming, they’re safe and they can entertain the kids. PCs are the sports cars, fun to drive, but dangerous to someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. I don’t think consoles are driving the gamers away; PCs are just naturally more attractive.

Games to Get Excited About: Horizon: Zero Dawn

Games to Get Excited About: Horizon: Zero Dawn

Developers: Guerrilla Games
Publishers: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platform: PS4
Release Date: 2016

horizon zero dawn

Horizon: Zero Dawn is an action RPG set to be released for PlayStation later this year. Not only is it the first RPG created by Guerrilla Games, this game will also be their first new release since the Killzone series started in 2004.

Set 1,000 years in the future, Horizon: Zero Dawn takes place on Earth, which humans have since abandoned. Overrun with robots, only a few humans remain.

The player takes control of a character named Aloy. Aloy is a hunter and an archer, who utilizes both ranged and melee attacks (my favorite!). While I still do not know what the overall goal is, Aloy travels through her Earth, completing missions while fighting all sorts of mechanized creatures along the way.

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The production of Horizon: Zero Dawn began in 2011. The studio brought in John Gonzalez, who was the head writer for Fallout: New Vegas, to create the story for the game. The concept explores the conflict between the beauty and danger of the world around Aloy. The game also analyzes the idea of humans no longer holding their place at the top of the food chain.

It is an open world game and has been said to be a cross between Assassin’s Creed and Skyrim. When not completing missions, the world can be explored to your heart’s content. In order to encourage explanation, there will be a quest system as well as materials throughout the world that players can use to craft new items.

The fighting style varies by player. You can shoot your enemies with arrows or engage in melee combat, as I’ve mentioned above, but you can also set traps and use explosives to get the job done. For the rogue-loving players, you’ll even be able to perform silent take downs. How cool is that?

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The elements that I find most appealing about this game are that the main character is a badass female, the world looks absolutely gorgeous, there won’t be loading screens and the gameplay looks smooth and challenging. I only wish there was a more set release date than “sometime this year.”

What upcoming games are you excited about? Let us know in the comments below!

Free Game Spotlight: Grim Fandango

Dev: Double Fine Productions
Platform: PS4, PC, Mobile
Release Date: Jan. 27, 2015

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Much like Xbox Gold, The Playstation Network gives free games each month to its subscribers. Currently, one of these games is Grim Fandango Remastered. This game is an RPG adventure game originally released by LucasArts in 1998. Sony announced that the game would be remastered and re-released during E3 2014. It was finally available for public consumption on January 27, 2015.

In the game, you play as Manny Calavera, who must repay his debt to the Underworld by collecting souls.

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The story is divided into four parts, each taking place on Nov. 2, four years in a row. In the beginning, Manny is a travel agent for the Department of Death, working off his debt to the Underworld. He grows more and more frustrated by the fact that he is always assigned low-class clients who cannot afford the Number Nine Luxury Express to their final destination, which puts his job in jeopardy.

Upon learning that his system has been rigged by his boss, Manny teams up with his driver – Glottis – and rushes to rescue his latest client, Meche Colomar, who was pure of heart during her life and should have been on the Number Nine train.

2860770-trailer_grimfandango_launch_20150505Grim Fandango received universal acclaim and was praised by many critics. The artistic design and overall direction of the game allowed for it to be selected for several gaming awards in the late ’90s. Unfortunately, the game was a commercial failure, which ultimately lead to LucasArts to discontinue their adventure game development.

The remastered version was able to be released after Disney acquired LucasArts. Double Fine Productions improved the character graphics, added an orchestrated score and included director’s commentary. The game is currently available for free on the PS4 for those subscribed to The Playstation Network. It is also available on Steam and on your mobile device.

Review: Until Dawn (2015)

Review: Until Dawn (2015)

Developer: Supermassive Games
Platform: Playstation 4
Genre: Horror

Okay, okay. I’ll admit it. I didn’t play this game because I don’t have a PS4. BUT! I watched a ton of gameplay on YouTube. Now, I will admit that watching someone play a horror game and actually playing it are two completely different things. That being said, please note that all of my comments are based on watching gameplay from YouTubers such as JackSepticEye and Markiplier.

What’s it about?
A group of friends go to a ski lodge owned by their friend Josh Washington exactly 1 year after the death of his sisters, Beth and Hannah. These friends are subjected to horror after horror almost immediately upon arrival. It is your goal, as the gamer, to keep all friends alive until the end of the game.

What did I think?
This game plays out like a horror movie. A group of friends go to a secluded cabin in the woods to drink and take part in all sorts of debauchery. Everything in this game is a horror cliche, but it’s fairly self-aware and actually scary in a lot of parts.

I really enjoy the graphics and the motion capture. I like that the characters look like their actors and it’s not just voice acting. I’m very impressed by how realistic it all looked.

Until Dawn is the kind of game with multiple endings, which I always love. You make decisions throughout the game that determine the outcome. Different decisions can kill off characters, cause you to overlook items or make you miss huge chunks of the story.

Watching the game being played felt a lot like watching a horror movie with commentary. It made me laugh, but, best of all, it made me jump. And cringe. Until Dawn is actually quite scary and incredibly fascinating. I tell you, if I had a PS4, I’d definitely buy this game.

Would I recommend it?
I can’t say much about what it’s like to actually play the game. According to JackSepticEye, it’s really fun and challenging to play. All I know is that it was fun to watch, so I’m going to say yes. I would recommend at least watching gameplay on YouTube. And if I ever get a PS4, I’ll buy the game and update you all if I change my mind.

-Vanri the Rogue