Monday, January 31, 2022

Elden Ring Director Thinks George R.R. Martin Might Be 'Shocked' By What He's Done to His Characters

Elden Ring Hidetaka Miyazaki says that George R.R. Martin may be shocked with what he has done with a number of the characters that the Game of Thrones writer created for the game.

During a recent interview with Game Informer, Miyazaki spoke further about the mythological lore that Martin had created for Elden Ring, which sets up the world before its catastrophic Shattering event.

In explaining that the writer had conjured up a number of human characters for the game, Miyazaki then went on to state that the writer may be surprised to see what inhuman monsters From Software has created from the back of his initial concepts.

“When Martin wrote these characters, and when he provided that origin story, that mythos for the world of Elden Ring, these demigods were much closer to their original form, and maybe closer to human form back then, before the Shattering, before it all started," explains Miyazaki in the interview.

The Shattering is an event in Elden Ring's pre-game history. The game's location, The Lands Between, was once a kingdom blessed by the titular ring, and the Erdtree at its centre. However, a war known as The Shattering saw the ring broken, and the land's inhabitants transformed.

"So it was more up to us to interpret this and say, ‘how did they become such inhuman monsters," continued Miyazaki. "And how did the mad taint of the shattered shards of the Elden Ring and its power affect them?’ So that was our job to take these grand heroes and sort of misshape them and distort them into something they were not.”

“And I think if we get a chance to show Martin and if he gets a chance to see the game and see these characters, I think he might be a bit shocked. When he wrote them, he was really envisioning something a little bit more human, a little bit more traditional human drama and fantasy characters. So I hope he gets a kick out of that.”

Last week, From Software finally announced that Elden Ring has 'gone gold' prior to its upcoming February 25 release date. As part of a recent interview during the Taipei Game Show, Elden Ring producer Yasuhiro Kitao recently delved a little further into what fans can expect in terms of the game's length and replay value.

According to Kitao, fans should expect to be able to complete the game's main set of quests in around 30 hours. That being said, the producer did note that Elden Ring includes a New Game Plus option as well as dozens of additional hours of content that hardened players can sink their teeth into.

For more on Elden Ring, make sure to check out this article detailing how Hidetaka Miyazaki believes that more people will finish the game than other From Software titles, despite also stating that he doesn't necessarily think the game is any easier.

Jared Moore is a freelance writer for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter.


The Witcher: CD Projekt Red Reveals New Single-Player Gwent Game Coming This Year

CD Projekt Red is developing a single-player, standalone Gwent game and it’s coming this year. 

Revealed by IGN, this Gwent game, which is based on the popular card game of the same name in the studio’s Witcher titles, is codenamed Project Golden Nekker. CDPR says Golden Nekker will be different from previous iterations of its Gwent titles, instead aiming to provide a “captivating single-player experience,” according to IGN

Because it’s a standalone game, players will not need to own other versions of CDPR’s Gwent games to play it. Once you boot up Golden Nekker, you’re all set to play. 

“It’s not another Witcher Tales game, but something different,” Gwent communications head Pawel Burza told IGN. “We’re aiming to provide a captivating single-player experience for players who prefer it over competitive multiplayer Gwent.” 

If you’re a fan of CDPR’s competitive multiplayer Gwent game, though, don’t fret – development is set to continue on that title at least through 2022, as the studio has released a 2022 roadmap that features new card drops in April, July, October, and December. When Golden Nekker is released, it will be the first CDPR game since the release of Cyberpunk 2077 back in 2020.

Be sure to check out IGN’s full report about this new Gwent game to see art for some of the cards. After that, read Game Informer’s Gwent: The Witcher Card Game review and then check out this opinion piece about why Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s Orlog game is almost as good as Gwent

[Source: IGN]

Are you excited for a new Gwent game? Let us know in the comments below!

Witcher’s Gwent Getting a New Single-Player Standalone Game Later This Year - Exclusive

IGN can reveal that The Witcher's Gwent is becoming a new, single-player, standalone game, codenamed Project Golden Nekker and set to launch in 2022.

Project Golden Nekker is currently in development within CD Projekt Red’s Gwent team and aims to provide a “captivating single-player experience” different to previous versions of the digital card game.

Project Golden Nekker will be a completely standalone game, and won’t require players to own any other versions of Gwent to get the full experience.

Gwent was a fan-favourite minigame included in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, but evolved into a standalone multiplayer game in 201. In turn, Gwent got its own spin-off two years later with the excellent The Witcher Tales: Thronebreaker.

Project Golden Nekker will be something else entirely according to Gwent Comms Lead Paweł Burza: “It’s not another Witcher Tales [game] but something different,” he said. “We’re aiming to provide a captivating single-player for players who prefer it over competitive multiplayer Gwent.”

Although this is the first time we've learned that it's an entirely new game, CD Projekt Red has been quietly teasing the project for several months, dropping hints on Gwent streams and community podcasts.

In a developer update streamed during Gwent World Masters #3 in December – the game’s esports finals – Game Director Vladimir Tortsov said an official reveal for the game is coming soon.

He said: “We want to announce stuff that we’re working on when the time is right," continuing, “I’m really excited about this project coming together and I hope you like it as much as I do.”

Tortsov also revealed new concept art for the game to go alongside the handful of images already teased, all of which can be viewed in the gallery above, along with a new image of “The Barbarian” that IGN can reveal for the first time.

Four of the images – The Barbarian, The Golden Nekker, Living Fire, and Fire Elemental – are in the style of Gwent cards, meaning this could be a first look at some of the playable units in Project Golden Nekker. The other two appear to be environment art of some kind, featuring a library (with a lurking Golden Nekker), and a marketplace.

When The Witcher Tales: Thronebreaker released, new cards in the standalone game were also added to the multiplayer version of Gwent, meaning these new cards will likely be added to that game as well.

The 2022 Gwent roadmap has already revealed that new cards are due to be released in April, July, October, and December, and every Witcher game has been released in either May or October in the past.

This means that, assuming the cards appear in Gwent: The Witcher Card Game alongside the new standalone game, it’s very possible that Project Golden Nekker will release in October 2022.

Ryan Dinsdale is a freelance writer for IGN.


Gran Turismo 7 State Of Play Coming This Week, 30 Minutes Of PS5 Gameplay To Be Shown

Polyphony Digital Gran Turismo 7 PlayStation 5 PlayStation 4

PlayStation has announced that it will air a State of Play this week all about Gran Turismo 7. 

The first State of Play of 2022, this one promises more than 30 minutes of new PlayStation 5 footage of the upcoming Polyphony Digital simulation racing game. It will also feature new details about GT7, which is slated to arrive on PS5 and PlayStation 4 on March 4. 

“The first 2022 State of Play arrives later this week, and we’re all revved up for just over 30 minutes of new PS5 footage and gameplay details for Gran Turismo 7,” a PlayStation Blog post reads. “Watch live February 2 on Twitch or YouTube starting 2 p.m. Pacific/ 5 p.m. Eastern/ 11 p.m. CET.” 

And that’s all that PlayStation had to say about the State of Play. Usually, PlayStation will mention that viewers shouldn’t expect this or that, but because it’s being dubbed a GT7 State of Play, there’s probably no reason for the company to give any caution in that regard. Basically, we don’t recommend going in this expecting PlayStation to surprise reveal a game or talk about Horizon Forbidden West in the showcase’s final few minutes. 

This State of Play will be the first in-depth look at GT7 in a while. It’s been a sure bet that we’ll see a trailer in recent PlayStation first-party showcases but beyond that, not much about GT7 is known. 

While waiting to learn more on Wednesday, read about GT7’s original announcement back in 2020 and then check out this GT7 trailer that shows off the game’s detailed customization and photo mode. Watch the latest GT7 trailer, which features a race around Daytona, after that. 

Are you excited for Gran Turismo 7? Let us know in the comments below!

Daily Deals: Horizon Forbidden West PS5 Preorders Are Already Down to £52

If you're going to preorder Horizon Forbidden West on PS5, I've found an incredible deal you won't want to miss out on. It's been confirmed that those who purchase Forbidden West on PS4 will be entitled to a free PS5 upgrade, which means you can preorder a PS4 copy for £51.95 (see here) - £18 cheaper than the current PS5 list price (physical and digital).

This is the best deal for Amazon Prime members (or for those who have leftover Amazon vouchers), but if you want to get the game from Currys, it's also available for £51 with code ALOY15 (see here). Sometimes Currys codes can be a bit buggy, so if it doesn't work, you can always contact their customer service team who will immediately refund the difference for you.

TL;DR - Our Favourite Deals Right Now

Get £18 Off Horizon Forbidden West PS5 Preorders

Both Currys and Amazon have discounted Horizon Forbidden West on PS4. We thought we'd give you the option to choose which you would prefer. Both will include the free PS5 upgrade, saving you almost £20 compared to buying the PS5 game outright.

Special and Collector's Edition Preorders

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Use code LOVE20OFF at checkout to save £40.80 on the Series X/S 1TB expansion card.

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Just enter LG10 at checkout, and you'll bring the TVs down to the lowest price they've ever been online. The sale at LG is on for just one week, and will expire after February 1, 2022. This is a very limited time frame, so make sure you get your order in as soon as possible.

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Robert Anderson is a deals expert and Commerce Editor for IGN. You can follow him @robertliam21 on Twitter.


Multiplayer Monday Stream: Solving Puzzles In Escape Simulator

escape simulator

Happy Monday, folks! It's January 31st, so you're likely still working towards those resolutions from earlier in the month, searching for the perfect restaurant for Valentine's Day (you're welcome), or just clocking in to start the workweek. Regardless, we're here to keep you company, so strap in for some puzzle-solving shenanigans as the crew plays Escape Simulator on today's Multiplayer Monday stream!

Hosts Alex Van Aken and Alex Stadnik will be trapped in a virtual room with returning guest Jesse Vitelli when the party starts at 9:00 a.m. Central. Tune in to to watch our Escape Simulator multiplayer session or bookmark this page if you'd prefer to watch the livestream in the video player below!

Click here to watch embedded media

As you watch, we encourage you to join the excellent Game Informer community in the chat. Ask any questions you have about Escape Simulator or video games in general, and we'll answer them when we have a break in the action. Subscribing to our Twitch channel also nets you access to the official Game Informer Discord channel, where you can engage with the editors and community in a myriad of fun discussions. Thanks for watching!

Gran Turismo 7 State of Play Broadcast Coming This Week

PlayStation has announced that it will broadcast a Gran Turismo 7 State of Play on Wednesday, February 2.

The event will be shown on Twitch and YouTube, starting at 2pm Pacific / 5pm Eastern / 10pm UK (that's February 3 at 9am AEDT).

Sony says the broadcast will include "30 minutes of new PS5 footage and gameplay details," and adds that it will be cover modes and features in the upcoming driving simulator.



Sunday, January 30, 2022

Halo The Series Trailer Reveals March Premiere Date, First Look At Cortana And Covenant

As previously announced, a new trailer for Paramount’s Halo TV series premiered today, giving us an even better look at the much-anticipated adaptation and a premier date. 

The show starts from the beginning, with Dr. Halsey (played by Natascha McElhon) selling the UNSC on Master Chief’s exceptional combat prowess but, most importantly, his ability to be controlled. But when Chief encounters an ancient artifact, he uncovers a plot that may require him to act independently in a manner that may rub his superiors the wrong way. 

The new trailer provides the first looks at the Covenant, specifically Elites, who look pretty accurate in the brief clips of them battling Master Chief. We also get a glimpse of the show’s more human-toned (and slightly unsettling) Cortana, who is still voiced by Jen Taylor. The biggest adjustment will be getting used to Chief’s new voice, with actor Pablo Schreiber bringing him to life. Lastly, we found out that Halo premieres exclusively on Paramount + on March 24.

Click here to watch embedded media

What do you think of this new look at Halo? Will you be tuning in on March 24? Let us know in the comments!

Civilization's Past and Future, As Told By Its Lead Designers

Sid Meier's Civilization turned 30 years old in 2021, which might make your bones hurt (it sure hurt mine). Every main entry in the series has had a new designer at the helm, starting with Sid himself all the way back in 1991, and we were fortunate enough to talk to four of them: Soren Johnson, who worked on Civilization 3 and headed up Civilization 4, Jon Shafer, who took the lead on Civilization 5, Ed Beach, the lead designer on Civilization 6, and Anton Strenger, who was in the driver's seat for Civ 6's Rise and Fall and New Frontier DLCs – and while we couldn't get a word out of him about it, seems like the heir apparent to take over for Civilization 7, whenever that might happen.

With its first-ever very direct competitor – Amplitude's Humankind – released last year, Civilization is in a position it's never been in before. Johnson and Shafer have each made their own, independent games recently that shake up the Civ formula with Old World and At the Gates. Games that take a more simulationist, less board game-like approach to history such as Crusader Kings and Europa Universalis from Paradox Interactive have stolen away hundreds of hours I would have spent playing Civ a decade ago. So what is Civ's place in modern strategy gaming, and how should it evolve to keep its throne?

Humble Beginnings

Before any of these guys were Civilization designers, though, they were Civilization players like us. Their journeys with the series began at different points and they took different things from it, but all of them remembered their first experience leading a nation from the stone age to the space age.

Johnson: "It was my very first week of college. I went to the college bookstore and they had a very small game section… I probably only played through Civ 1 maybe two or three times, but I do remember one game where the space race actually worked. I happened to be neck-and-neck with the AI and that was a great finish. I don't think I realized at the time how rare that can be, so it was nice to have that experience."

Shafer: "I hadn't heard of Civ until a math teacher introduced it to me in 10th grade. He had a pirated copy of Civ 2 which he shared with his students. [laughs] A bit dubious, but that was my first experience and I fell in love with it from there. Because I'd always loved history and I love maps. So the fact that there was a game where you could just play an infinite number of worlds, it wasn't just one, fixed map that you solved like a puzzle, it was something that could keep you playing forever."

Beach: "I did not play until Civ 3, and then I became mega involved because I was working for a game studio down the street from Firaxis, Breakaway Games, and they were a subcontractor that took the lead on doing the Civ 3: Conquests expansion pack. And I was the scenario designer for three of the scenarios. One thing I really remember about Civ 3 is you had to be really, really careful about grabbing up all the space near you because the AI was just relentless in sending out settlers and finding all the little gaps you left between your cities."

Strenger: "[I started with] Civ 3 as well. It was late middle school/early high school. So sometimes my parents would go on week-long vacations and I would stay at a friend's house. And one of the things we really liked to do was play hot seat Civ 3 [where multiple players take turns playing the same civilization]. And we never finished a game because it was a school night, it'd be 2 a.m. and we'd be like, 'Oh God, we gotta go to bed. We have band practice in the morning.'"

Making History

Of course, the four eventually became game developers themselves, and once they made the jump, were able to work on the franchise that made such an impact on them in their youth. The four made a lasting impact on the Civ franchise. Johnson introduced the idea that culture spreads your borders. Shafer was responsible for the divisive switch to one military unit per tile, making combat more of a tactics game. Working on Civ 6, Beach and Strenger worked on "unpacking cities" with the district system. But it’s game development, and things are bound to go wrong; sometimes you regret decisions you made, and sometimes you regret things you weren’t able to try at all. What would the Civ veterans have done differently if they had another shot?

Johnson: "It sounds kinda bad to say I'm pretty happy with Civ 4. Looking back now, I don't think I could have done much differently or better in the situation. But there are a lot of things I would do differently [now], otherwise, I wouldn't have made Old World. There needed to be some serious attempt to prevent the explosion of units and things to do that these games have, and also a way to try to make the game a reasonable length. I think that Civ is generally too long. And I don't think there's a good way to solve that problem. If you start jumping too fast through history, it doesn't feel like Civ, right?

"So the orders system [in Old World, which limits how many units you can move per turn] was my way of trying to fix the problem of too many units to move. In Civ, your attention is constantly being moved from place to place since you've got to move every unit every turn. You're kind of being led around the map by your nose. I also really soured on the bargaining table. I don't really think that's the best way to do diplomacy since it's super, super transactional. Where I think diplomacy should be very event-based."

Shafer: "With Civ 5, we made the big jump from stack combat to one unit per tile. And there are pluses and minuses with that approach, of course. I think it's a more fun system than stack combat, but it's certainly been more difficult for the AI to contemplate what to do with it to give the player a challenge. It also affects the pacing and the economic side of the game. I don't think it's clearly a net negative, I think it's a net positive, but it definitely has certain aspects to it that make the design more challenging."

Beach: "[In Civilization 6] we felt like the adjacency bonuses probably got a little over-complicated several expansions in, and some civilizations had lists of what their bonuses could be that got too long. So I don't think we've perfected that formula. Some things lead to a little bit too much micromanagement, too many clicks are required. So trade routes, you have to renew them quite often. So we've looked really hard at Civ 6 and poked at it… and we're trying to do that sort of self-assessment pretty often around here. So there are things from Civ 6 we're really going to want to look at as we go down the road."

Strenger: "I'd say trade routes…. there were some nuances that I either tried and didn't get in, or they did get in and didn't land. For the former, I was enamored with the idea of trade routes carrying resources. So you'd have a trade route going from London to Paris and you would put iron or horses on it. So it was a way to use an extra luxury – you could throw it onto a trade route and it would get you some income. The tricky part became, that was an extra layer of micromanagement on top of the trade routes, which already had a lot.

"Something that did get in was the idea of trade ranges and trading posts. So I originally thought about the trade route game as kind of a second layer of expansion. Religion is a great example of this. Even when you've filled in the continent, you can still expand with your missionaries and flip cities to your side. And trade routes were meant to be the same thing, where each trade route gives you a trading post, and that acts as a repeater node to extend your range. But really, by the end of the game, it just became that giant list where [you only care about] what's going to get me the most gold?"

Golden Age

Despite all the challenges of game development, sometimes a plan just comes together beautifully. Maybe even better than you expected. So, on the flip side, we gave each designer an opportunity to brag. Looking back at the footprints they had left in Civilization as a series, what were they most proud of?

"I kind of came up with the idea that culture and borders should be synonymous. That they're a reflection of the sphere of influence and cultural power of your nation. One other thing I'd point out is the transparency we adopted in Civ 4. The way you go into diplomacy and see, they're angry with me. Why are they angry with me? You mouse over and it tells you a full breakdown of all the different factors. Games like Crusader Kings kind of descend from being able to look at something like that."

Shafer: "One of the things I'm really proud of with [the one unit per tile] change is how much we put more of the gameplay on the map. You spend a lot of time thinking about the individual tiles and the relationships between them. And this is something they carried further in Civ 6 with how city development works."
Beach: "I really feel good about the way Civ 6 emphasized playing the map and how almost every single tile out there has some significance to you. It's either a great choke point to hold off your enemies, or it's a great place to nestle your campus or your holy site up against mountains, or a cluster of districts with great adjacency bonuses, or the perfect spot with all the right conditions to build a world wonder."

Strenger: "It's kind of a minor feature, but Rise and Fall for Civilization 6 was the first expansion I was a lead on and one of my pet features for that was the historic moment system. You know, when you build your first boat or make your first airplane, we have this illustrated moment that goes on this timeline… it's a really cool feel for feeding that player narrative without being intrusive. And it's really cool to finish a game and look back at it and see all of the things that happened in what year, and the order they happened in."

A Lasting Legacy

Perhaps the most relevant question of all might be, what is Civ in 2022? Where does it stand in the strategy world? Is it still the king? Is it a stagnant empire facing decline? Johnson and Shafer, having moved on from the series, each had some thoughts.

Johnson: "I feel like Civilization is the Saturday Night Live of strategy games. If that analogy makes sense? Because it's not going anywhere. SNL has its ups and its downs, but it's an institution. And people don't even necessarily go out of their way to praise it because it's just such a presence, right? And it's a nursery for talent. A lot of people have gone through the Civilization series and then gone on to do other things. And I'm sure that will continue to happen. It's something people count on. It's always going to be pretty good. It's hard to imagine the strategy space without Civ."

"I feel like Civilization is the Saturday Night Live of strategy games."

Shafer: "Civ is the history strategy game. There are certainly other games that could claim that. But given that Civ is 30 years old, and for many players it's the first historical strategy game they've ever played, and many never get deeper than that… I think the turn-based format makes it very approachable. Almost everybody has played chess, so it's very easy to wrap your head around. And then it grows in complexity. And I think that's a very unique selling point compared to other strategy games. You start from a very simple situation. It's very easy to jump into.

"It definitely has its rough edges. It's getting to be kind of an older design. It straddles this line between being a history simulation, giving you the experience of playing through history, but it's also a board game. It sits somewhere in-between. And I think that is both a challenge to overcome, but also it's part of what makes the game appeal to so many players. Especially people who don't play other strategy games. So I think its place now is what it's always been: the default history strategy game."

Dawn of a New Era

Whether you think Civilization is still the best historical strategy series out there or its golden age is long past, it's clear that it will need to evolve, as all long-standing series do, if it's going to last another 30 years. Where do the four designers think the tried-and-true formula has the most space to grow?

Johnson: "[Paradox games, such as Crusader Kings and Europa Universalis] are kind of the most interesting challengers to Civ in a lot of ways. You'll hear a lot of Paradox players feel like they aged out of Civ. And I find that interesting because even though they look similar, I can't really connect with Paradox games the way I would with a Civ game. Because in a lot of ways [Paradox games] are not really games. They're simulations. And I think the people working on Civ now are going to have to make a decision on how they're going to approach the people who are being sucked out of Civ toward those types of games."

Shafer: "It's definitely in terms of characters. I think this is something a lot of strategy games have moved toward in the last five or ten years. I think it will be a bit challenging to provide specific numbers and personality traits and those sorts of things to historical figures. It's something that you can't get right. History is such a nuanced topic that is changing all the time – our understanding of history. And the way games intersect with that has evolved dramatically even since I worked on Civ 5. I think exploring characters and their relationships, and the political factors behind societies and civilizations… that's probably the next frontier."

Beach: "One challenge we have right now is that our audience has diversified and broadened. We now reach large player bases in countries where Civ 2 and 3 didn't have a lot of representation like Asia and South America. So in the last five or ten years, we've been trying to broaden our awareness of as many different cultures and different leaders as we can get into the game. I think that's a good touchstone for where we need to evolve. So putting Gran Colombia in for the New Frontier Pass and having the Venezuelan community respond positively to that, and we had a similar situation in Civ 5 when we first put Poland into the game. If we're going to continue to be a worldwide product that has great support with all these different communities and cultures, that's something we need to do really, really well."

"So in the last five or ten years, we've been trying to broaden our awareness of as many different cultures and different leaders as we can get into the game."

Strenger: "I think diplomacy and the other leaders are, to me, it's my white whale for design. I'm like, there has to be a better way to do this. Because I kind of get frustrated when I'm playing single player. I feel like we've added rich personalities and abilities to counter against, but the other leaders still always feel like obstacles. I'm going to have to conquer you. So I feel like there's a richness to player-leader dynamics [playing against the AI] that could be explored. In multiplayer games, you have these text only non-aggression pacts and all the social richness like that. And how do we tap into some of that, like, sitting around the table with a board game dynamic, and put that into the [AI leaders] a bit more formally? That's something that's always been fascinating to me."

Alternate Worlds

Beach and Strenger are both still at Firaxis and still attached to the franchise, so there's an almost sure shot that they'll both shape the future of the series in some way. But we wanted to know, hypothetically, what Soren Johnson's Civilization 7 or Jon Shafer's Civilization 7 might look like. No holds barred: if they were given complete creative freedom and didn't have to answer to anyone, what kind of game would they make?

"So I probably would be a pretty bad choice for that because I don't think I would be maximizing shareholder value. [laughs] Because I would want to do something really different. I would maybe try to get away from tiles and go to a region system. And find a way to let the game play a lot faster. So it's less about fiddling with tiles, more about playing with diplomacy and the resource system and doing interesting things with technology."

Shafer: "We would definitely do a lot with characters. Like I said, I think that's where there's a lot of fertile ground to explore. I would love to just chop off the second half of the game. That would be so amazing. It's always so hard to make that second half challenging and dynamic. 4X games are so much about momentum. But nailing that pacing where you're strong enough to succeed but not too strong to make the game too easy and boring for yourself, it's just so difficult. So if I had complete control and didn't have to worry about what anybody thought, I would just remove the second half… but at that point, is it really Civ anymore? Maybe not. So maybe the right answer is to step back and try to do things in a simpler way, and focus on the [player] decisions that matter the most."

Finally, we asked all the designers why they think Civ still is so popular after all these years. It has plenty of competition now, both in terms of historical themes and approachability. Humankind has recently made a bid for the throne, 4X is a vibrant and diverse genre, and history lovers have more to sink their teeth into than ever thanks to studios like Paradox. Yet Civ still seems unassailable.

Johnson: "The theme is just fantastic. Leading a civilization from the Stone Age to the Space Age, people love that. And that's always going to be its biggest strength. And it's a game that's big enough where that theme doesn't feel like a joke, like in Empire Earth where all of human history passes in 30 minutes. And the development teams have never really blown it. Civ is very fortunate that it's had some very talented people work on it."

Shafer: "There are a lot of other games that are trying to appeal to certain elements that Civ brings, but can anyone put the full package together? I don't know."

Beach: "Part of why it's important to me is that it has encouraged me to grow as a person and a world citizen, and somebody who understands the course of history… it's very powerful how the game represents all the different cultures and histories of the world. And on the other hand, I'm very much a strategy gamer. So I love it as a game as well, in terms of the tactical puzzles it creates – military campaigns and laying out your cities as well."

"There are a lot of other games that are trying to appeal to certain elements that Civ brings, but can anyone put the full package together? I don't know."

Strenger: "The common thread in games I've always been really inspired by and wanted to work on are the stories that emerge in players' minds. And I think a lot of games do this very well with scripted events, but Civilization, for me, is this really interesting counterpoint where you have these systems that will spit out this story through a sequence of events that is uniquely yours. And the player's imagination fills in the gaps in really interesting ways. So the things I've done with Rise and Fall and the New Frontier Pass are trying to add more puzzle pieces without telling the story myself… And that's not something that's unique to Civ, but we've honed it over the years.

"And I feel like Civ is a game that straddles a lot of different lines. We're a game about history, but we're also kind of not. We're a game that's about hardcore mechanics, but we're also welcoming to newcomers. We're a game that's been around for a long time and has some systems that have remained untouched, but we also try a lot of new things. So in our audience, and our mechanics, and our approach, we're at the confluence of a lot of these different boundaries which lets us tap into a lot of interesting things as designers."

Not even the Oracle of Delphi could tell us if we'll be here in another 10 years talking about the 40th Anniversary of Civ. But if our own civilization continues, it seems like Sid Meier's Civilization will along with it. Perhaps with more focus on characters and diplomacy? There has never been more competition or innovation in the genre, and we look forward to seeing what challenges and wonders Civilization 7 – and its rivals – might bring.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got plenty more worlds to conquer.

Leana Hafer is a freelance writer for IGN.


Saturday, January 29, 2022

Xbox Games with Gold for February 2022 Revealed

Microsoft has announced that February 2022's Xbox Games with Gold are Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse, Aerial_Knight's Never Yield, Hydrophobia, and Band of Bugs.

As detailed by Xbox Wire, all of these Games with Gold will be available to those with Xbox Live Gold or Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, and the first two - Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse and Hydrophobia - arrive on February 1.

Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse, which will be available from February 1-28, puts players in the shoes of American George Stobbart and "sassy French journalist Nico Collard" as they follow the trail of a stolen painting and a "murderous conspiracy" that has "roots older than the written word."

The Broken Sword series began in 1996 with Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars and the games are point-and-click adventures that have followed the stories of Stobbart and Collard for years now.

Aerial_Knight's Never Yield will be available from February 16 to March 15 and puts players in the shoes of Wally, a "mysterious character always in motion as you run, jump, slide, or dash to the soundtrack of Danime-sama." The game also boasts a "runtime of an action movie," meaning it's perfect for those looking to find a new game that won't take hundreds of hours or those who may want to find their next speedrunning challenge.

Hydrophobia, which will be part of Games with Gold from February 1-15, was, in 2010, setting out to deliver an unprecedented horror game with "next-gen water rendering and other advanced technology." It follows Kate, who must use her engineering skills to "fight back against terrorists who have taken control of her floating city."

In our Hydrophobia review, we said that it "relies on its impressive water simulation to hold up an otherwise standard action game. It's definitely worth playing, though, and using the environment to creatively put down your enemies is quite satisfying."

Band of Bugs, which will be available from February 16-28, was first released in 2007 and has you fighting against spiders, bugs, and "even your friends in Spider Hunter Mode." It is billed as a "fast playing, accessible game for fans of the tactics-strategy genre, that puts you into the game."

In our Band of Bugs review, we said, "Band of Bugs is a success in just about every category, except the most important one. The feature set, most notably the level editor, visuals, sounds, and wit all work and work well. Unfortunately for fans of turn-based strategy games, the gameplay won't hold up to the standards we're all used to."

As you wait for these games to arrive, be sure to redeem January 2022's Xbox Games with Gold before they leave the service, including NeuroVoider, Aground, and Space Invaders Infinity Gene.

Have a tip for us? Want to discuss a possible story? Please send an email to

Adam Bankhurst is a news writer for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamBankhurst and on Twitch.


Examining The Full History Of Halo 5: Guardians | Video Gameography

After tackling Metroid in Season 1, the second season of Game Informer's Video Gameography podcast moves on to one of the biggest shooter franchises in existence: Halo. This week, we’re taking a look at the controversial Halo 5: Guardians, widely considered to be the most polarizing entry in the series. 

Halo 5: Guardians launched on the Xbox One on October 27, 2015, and was the tale of two Spartans. The campaign told a dual narrative centered on Master Chief and Jameson Locke, a soldier tasked with apprehending Chief after he goes AWOL to recover a rampant Cortana. Speaking of everyone’s favorite AI, her mission to subjugate the galaxy positions her as the main antagonist. Halo 5’s narrative didn’t universally land with fans and the game overall served as an unintentional poster child of the Xbox One’s flawed philosophy during its early years. How, you might ask? You’ll have to listen to find out.  

Join hosts Ben Reeves (@BenjaminReeves) and Marcus Stewart (@MarcusStewart7) along with Wirecutter lead editor Arthur Gies (@aegies) as we unpack the history, impact, and lasting legacy of Halo 5: Guardians. 

Check out the rest of our podcast on the Video Gameography hub. If you'd like to get in touch with the Video Gameography podcast, you can email us at You can also join our official Game Informer Discord server by linking your Discord account to your Twitch account and subscribing to the Game Informer Twitch channel. From there, find the Video Gameography channel under "Community Spaces."

Friday, January 28, 2022

Sega Is Officially Ending Its Arcade Center Business

Sega Arcades Genda Japan

If you’ve been paying attention to Sega for the last couple of years, then you likely know that it has been slowly shuttering its massive Japan-based arcade centers. Now, Sega has announced that it is leaving the business of arcades entirely, ending a 50-year era defined by claw machines, fighters, and more. 

This news comes by way of Destructoid, which translated a statement released by Sega this morning. In it, the company reveals that it intends to sell the remaining 14.9% of shares it holds within its arcade division to another company named Genda Inc., which Destructoid reports is the same company that Sega has been selling its arcade centers to over the last few years. 

“Sega stores across the country will be switching their store names to GiGO, to express our gratitude for Sega’s 56 years of history and our desire to be an oasis that quenches people’s thirst for real entertainment,” Genda chairman Hisashi Kataoka said in regards to the news, according to Video Games Chronicle. “We will start with Ikebukuro, Akihabara, and Shinjuku. Then to the whole country.” 

The Sega branding on standing arcade centers will begin to be replaced by GiGO Entertainment branding. While Sega is leaving the business of owning and running arcade centers, don’t expect to see Sega arcade machines disappear. Destructoid reports that Sega still intends to produce arcade machines for worldwide distribution – you just won’t see them inside a large building with a massive Sega sign on it anymore. 

Of course, Sega is still in the business of making games, too, and this year, we’re expecting a new game starring everyone’s favorite blue blur in Sonic Frontiers. Check out the latest Sonic Frontiers trailer for a look at its open world and then read about how Sonic Frontiers was originally going to release in 2021 for the series’ 30th anniversary

[Source: Destructoid]

Do you have a favorite Sega arcade game? Let us know what it is in the comments below!

Pokémon Legends: Arceus Pays off a Neat Easter Egg From Brilliant Diamond And Shining Pearl

Pokémon Legends: Arceus, which launches today, takes place in a past version of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl's Sinnoh region, called Hisui. So naturally, it's packed with tons of little easter eggs and nods to Diamond and Pearl locations and characters. But one reference specifically, tied to a legendary Pokémon encounter, is a puzzle solvable only if you know about an easter egg in Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl.

Warning: Spoilers for Pokemon Legends: Arceus' new Pokemon, legendary Pokemon, and sidequests follow. Read at your own risk!

In Pokémon Legends: Arceus' second act, you'll receive a sidequest from Professor Laventon entitled "The Sea's Legend". He mentions a mysterious Pokémon he saw on the ocean, and suggests you might find it in the Cobalt Coastlands. But beyond that, there are absolutely no details on how to encounter it or what Pokémon it even is, and just wandering around the Cobalt Coastlands will get you nowhere. But if you played Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl and remember a specific text in the Canalave Library, you might be able to solve this puzzle.

You see, "The Sea's Legend" is also the name of a book you can read in said library, which goes a little something like this:

Once upon a time in the East Sea, there was a Pokémon known as the prince. A brave human asked Pokémon living in the sea to let them see the prince. Mantyke, Buizel, and a Quilfish with huge spikes acknowledged the human's bravery and joined them. Together, they set off in a boat over the sunset-streaked sea, sailing through the ocean gate stretched over the waves. News of this reached the ears of the prince, who went to meet the brave little party at the Seaside Hollow.

If you follow these instructions, then, you can find the princely Pokémon. You'll need a party with Mantyke and Buizel, as well as Quilfish's brand new evolution, Overquill. With them on your team, wait until evening and then set sail on Basculegion from the camp on the coast through the huge pillars sticking up out of the water in the ocean. You should get a message saying that a rock moved. If you do, you can then sail to Seaside Hollow, a cave located in the ocean on the other side of the cape, to find Manaphy accompanied by two Phiones. If it's not working out, check out our full guide to this sidequest including how to acquire Overquill.

Though small, this whole quest chain is an interesting tie-in between the two games, especially as the information Laventon gives you doesn't tell the full story of what you need to do to find Manaphy. There are other benefits to having played Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, too, as having the save data on your system will trigger a quest for one other legendary. Pokémon Sword and Shield save data will trigger a similar, yet different legendary quest too.

We reviewed Pokémon Legends: Arceus and found its revamped systems to be utterly revolutionary to the Pokémon franchise, but were disappointed in the empty semi-open world it was set in. With its launch, we've got tons of guides to help you on your Pokémon journey, and you can find them all here.

Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.


Pokémon Legends: Arceus | GI Live

The day Pokémon fans have been anxiously awaiting is finally here. Pokémon Legends: Arceus is out on the Nintendo Switch, and we're celebrating by playing it live on stream starting at 12 p.m. CT only on Twitch! Join John Carson and Alex Stadnik as they traverse the realm of Hisui and show off all the new additions to the iconic series.

Click here to watch embedded media

With Legends, Game Freak has taken the most significant series leap in quite some time, but did the risk pay off? Our own Brian Shea seems to think so. In his review, he said:

Catching as many Pokémon as you can, learning more about them, and training them to be stronger in battle are the very foundations of Game Freak's iconic RPG series, but few titles exemplify those core concepts as powerfully as this latest outing. Pokémon Legends: Arceus tasks you with exploring a bygone era of the Sinnoh region, then known as Hisui, and gives you more ways than ever to complete your Pokédex. While some elements don't feel like their final forms, I love where this new direction takes the Pokémon series.

We will be hopping into Alex's current save during today's stream and focusing on catching Pokémon and exploring the different biomes that make up Hisui. We will try to avoid story quests since he's pretty far into the game unless you want to see a mission or two, of course. To let us know what you want to see, be sure to join us in the Twitch chat, kick your feet up, and send the week off with a bang.

For more on Pokémon Legends: Arceus, be sure to check out our latest episode of The GI Show for a full breakdown of Shea's review, the video version over on YouTube, and a list of every confirmed creature in the game so far!

Xbox Reportedly Working on a Monster Hunter-Like Exclusive With Halo Infinite Co-Developer

Xbox is reportedly working on a Monster Hunter-like exclusive, codenamed Project Suerte, with Halo Infinite co-developer Certain Affinity.

Reported first by journalist Jeff Grubb and backed up by Windows Central, the new game has apparently been in development since 2020 and is slated for release in 2023 or 2024. According to Grubb, Microsoft actively courted developers for a game like Monster Hunter after deciding the Capcom series would be too expensive to add to Game Pass. Other details remain under wraps.

Certain Affinity has worked previously as a support studio on the Halo and Call of Duty series, and has a particular speciality for multiplayer projects. Given that Monster Hunter is built somewhat around co-op boss battles, it seems a neat fit.

Last year, Certain Affinity announced that it was working on an 'ambitious' new game. "Today we’re excited to reveal that we’re leading development on a new original IP," read a statement at the time. "Are we excited to take on a genre and style of game that we’ve always loved? Thrilled beyond words!"

Aside from the ones we already know about, multiple rumours have sprung up regarding unannounced Xbox exclusives in the last year. We've previously heard about a Southern Gothic adventure from We Happy Few developer Compulsion, a narrative RPG from Obsidian, and a fantasy game from Hitman developer Io Interactive.

That's to say nothing of the huge slate Xbox has coming up, including Starfield, Avowed, and Redfall – not to mention possible Activision Blizzard exclusives down the line.

Joe Skrebels is IGN's Executive Editor of News. Follow him on Twitter. Have a tip for us? Want to discuss a possible story? Please send an email to


Hyper Scape, Ubisoft’s Free-To-Play Battle Royale, To Shut Down This April

Hyper Scape Ubisoft Free-to-play Battle Royale

Ubisoft is shutting Hyper Scape down this year less than two years after its release. 

First revealed in the summer of 2020, and released shortly after its reveal as a free-to-play battle royale, Hyper Scape put players in a futuristic city to fight against 100 players in squads of three. To differentiate itself from just another battle royale, Hyper Scape attempted to do things a little differently. It kept loadouts small, traversal extremely fast-paced, and it even gave viewers on streaming platforms the ability to vote on in-game events that changed the ongoing match. 

Click here to watch embedded media

However, it wasn’t enough to keep the battle royale afloat and now, Ubisoft has announced that Hyper Space will be shutting down in a couple of months. 

“Contenders, we have made the difficult decision to end development of Hyper Scape and shut the game down as of April 28,” Ubisoft’s blog post reads. “We set out to create a vertical, close-quarters, and fast-paced shooter experience and we are extremely grateful to our community for joining us on our journey. We will be taking key learnings from this game into future products. To the Hyper Scape community, thank you for your passion and dedication to the world of Neo Arcadia both inside and outside the game. Your devotion to the game we built will always be cherished.” 

If you haven’t yet checked out Hyper Scape, maybe consider giving it a go before April 28. Regardless of how you might feel about the game, after April 28, it will be gone forever and an unplayable part of history. 

For more about Hyper Scape, check out Game Informer’s Hyper Scape review.

Did you give Hyper Scape a go? Let us know what you thought of it in the comments below!

Pokemon Legends: Arceus Is Revolutionary, but it Deserved Better - NVC 596

Welcooome to Nintendo Voice Chat, Pokemon fans! This week, join Seth Macy, Peer Schneider, Kat Bailey, and Rebekah Valentine as they discuss IGN's thoughts on Pokemon Legends: Arceus. Hear everything you need to know about the next evolution for the Pokemon series, including why we're torn on the game. Plus, an update to IGN's top 25 Switch games, why Shigeru Miyamoto hates Ocarina of Time's Navi, and more.


  • 00:00:00 - Welcome!
  • 00:00:50 - Pokemon Legends Arceus
  • 00:26:06 - Top 25 Nintendo Switch Game List Update
  • 00:35:50 - Shigeru Miyamoto Hated Navi
  • 00:41:55 - Kat Take
  • 00:47:58 - News Rundown
  • 00:54:15 -What We've Been Playing
  • 01:01:30 - Question Block!


For an easy way to find NVC on your favorite platform, check out our NVC Linktree!

You can also Download NVC 596 Directly Here

You can listen to NVC on your preferred platform every Thursday at 3pm PT/6pm ET. Have a question for Question Block? Write to us at and we may pick your question! Also, make sure to join the Nintendo Voice Chat Podcast Forums on Facebook. We're all pretty active there and often pull Question Block questions and comments straight from the community.

Logan Plant is the Production Assistant for NVC. You can find him on Twitter at @LoganJPlant.


Pokémon Legends: Arceus Review

Up until now, the "main series" Pokémon games have been strictly turn-based RPGs following a young protagonist on a quest to become a powerful Pokémon trainer. Each successive game has layered on a slate of new Pokémon to wrangle and, more recently, increasingly absurd and bloated mechanics to try and spice up a system that fundamentally remained unchanged. So at last, we have Legends: Arceus: the reinvention we asked for. Developer Game Freak has scrapped nearly everything I’ve come to expect from a typical Pokémon game — Gyms, random encounters, an Elite Four, trainer battles on the overworld, an evil team bent on world domination — and started over, rethinking even its most basic systems like Pokémon encounters and evolution from the ground up. A lot of this impressive transformation pays off, in that we get to interact with creatures that have never felt more alive in more dynamic ways, but Pokemon’s evolution is not yet complete, because the semi-open world around all of that feels like an unimpressive afterthought due to its bland emptiness.

There are many and varied reasons why people come clamoring back to Pokemon year after year, but at the heart of it perhaps is the enjoyment derived from collecting a veritable army of interesting monsters, customizing and bonding with a specific team of powerful ones, and overcoming increasingly difficult challenges alongside them. In that regard, Legends: Arceus is still the Pokémon we know and love. But everything surrounding it — how you encounter these creatures and learn about them, how you fight against and alongside them, and the challenges you face together — has been flipped on its head.

The way Legends: Arceus completely reimagines how you go about capturing and battling Pokémon is exemplary. Pokémon wander the overworld as they did in Let's Go and Sword and Shield's Wild Area, but instead of touching them to start every fight, here you have a buffet of options for how to approach each encounter. You could, for instance, toss a PokeBall right away for a capture attempt, or send out one of your Pokémon for a battle, or play it safer and use items like berries to distract them or mud balls to stun them. Some Pokémon will flee the second they see you, requiring you to stealthily hide in tall grass to get a good shot in. Others might attack you directly – your actual character, not your Pokémon – and you’ll have to dodge-roll or take a hit to your limited health bar. Granted, this doesn’t sound like a radical idea if you’ve ever played an action game, but for Pokemon RPGs this level of real-time action and peril is a new and welcome change that properly casts Pokemon as the actual, dangerous critters they are.

The way Legends: Arceus completely reimagines how you go about capturing and battling Pokémon is exemplary.

Tied in with this are many of Legends: Arceus' more impressive touches, specifically in how wild Pokémon react to you or simply exist in the world as actual creatures with distinctive behavioral quirks. For instance, Nosepass will always fall asleep facing north, Sudowoodo freeze in a tree pose when they think you've spotted them, and Magikarp will stupidly flop right up to you because they have no idea you're packing a team of level-80 behemoths that could eat 10 of them in a single bite. Not every Pokémon has this level of personality, but the many that do feel real in a way Pokémon haven't in any other main series game, if not quite at the levels of liveliness we saw in Pokémon Snap.

Even more thrilling are the occasional "space-time distortions" that appear across Legends: Arceus' five separate, self-contained biomes, bringing with them a bevy of rare and powerful Pokémon rapidly spawning in and out to create a scene of delightful chaos. And then there's the pure, delicious terror of running across a massive, red-eyed "alpha" Pokémon in the wild and having it chase you halfway across the map. Listen, you haven't really experienced Pokémon until a Chansey has blasted you straight into the ocean with a well-placed Hyper Beam. All of this makes the creatures of Hisui feel much more lively and dynamic than any previous game, though naturally it doesn’t approach the level of detail we see in something like Breath of the Wild.

You haven't really experienced Pokémon until a Chansey has blasted you straight into the ocean with a well-placed Hyper Beam.

Battling, too, has received an overhaul that adds a new strategic layer to encounters, most noticeably with the addition of Strong and Agile attacks. If you've played any of the Bravely Default games, this will feel a bit familiar: aside from normal attacks, you can also opt to either sacrifice attack power to bring your turn back sooner with an Agile move, or give up future turns for an extra-powerful hit now. The system does fail in a couple ways, however: for one, most wild encounters are over so quickly that much of this isn't always worth bothering with. For another, the strategic element of sacrificing power for turns or turns for power doesn't work as well when either you or your opponent is switching Pokémon in and out constantly, forcing the turn order to shift and reset again and again. That makes it harder to strategize when you're getting your butt kicked by a powerful monster, and nigh impossible in trainer battles when you're both just one-shotting each other's Pokémon back and forth. On the whole it's a good idea, but the fights Legends: Arceus usually provides don't always allow it to shine.

What works far better are the subtler changes to how different moves and status effects are used in battles. I won't go into all the details here, but if you've been a Pokémon fan for years, you'll immediately notice that moves like Rollout don't work the way you remember them, or that status effects like Sleep seem different from usual. The vast, vast majority of these changes are for the better, serving to tighten up battles and working well within the faster-paced, damage-heavy framework. Other major changes are noticeable outside of battle, too, with both evolving Pokémon and changing up their movesets now conveniently available directly from the menu as soon as certain requirements are met. No longer do you have to trek out to a Move Tutor and pay them in rare items to relearn older moves – every attack a Pokémon has ever learned is always available to swap in at any time outside of battle.

Every attack a Pokémon has ever learned is always available.

Legends: Arceus also does away with series staples such as held items, breeding, eggs, and abilities, and doesn't have an equivalent to Mega Evolution Z-Moves, Gigantamaxing, or any of that other nonsense; it doesn't need it. It's not that Legends: Arceus isn't a complex game – far from it, in fact – but that complexity has been shifted into strategic approaches to encounters, capturing, and team building rather than an increasingly tall tower of systems layered atop one another.

It doesn't hurt that Legends: Arceus is much more difficult than any Pokémon game in recent memory, especially when you combine the turn-based battle mechanics with the more action-oriented movement required to set them up in the first place. Wild Pokémon overall just seem to do more damage across the board, and even early on you can run across massively powerful Pokémon that will wreck your entire team and your character if you're not careful. In the first area, for instance, wandering down a particular path will put you right in the sights of a massive, red-eyed Rapidash at an unreasonably high level. You can run if you like, or try to catch it and risk losing, but there's no denying it's a sobering early moment for those who are used to Pokémon games being a cakewalk. This is a welcome removal of Pokemon's historical training wheels, especially for fans like me who have been craving more challenge from Pokémon for years. But it does lose a lot of the series' past accessibility as a result (and there’s no easy mode), which is worth keeping in mind given its wide-ranging, all-ages fanbase.

There are plenty of good real-world reasons why Game Freak thought an overhaul was in order, but in the world of Legends: Arceus, battling and catching Pokémon is the way it is because you are, by and large, actively inventing both as you go. Rather than the usual plucky young pre-teen setting out on a gym challenge, you play as a modern-day teenager flung through time and space to a past version of the Sinnoh region from Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, known in its own time as Hisui. You're instructed by a mysterious voice to meet every Pokemon, and then dropped near a settlement called Jubilife Village, where Pokemon are known as terrifying creatures that humans must fear and avoid. This pleasantly surprising twist allows for a completely new perspective on the, frankly, quite frightening monsters we've been collecting for the last two decades, as you join an expedition team instructed to investigate the 242 different Pokémon that live in the region in an effort to help humans learn to live safely and peacefully alongside them.

Legends: Arceus is much more difficult than any Pokémon game in recent memory.

And what better way to do that than by compiling a PokeDex? Except this, too, is not the PokeDex we're familiar with. Beyond just catching every Pokémon once to complete the encyclopedia, you can only fully fill out an entry by completing a number of bonus tasks unique to each monster. Catching at least one is required, but other research tasks include things like battling a certain number, witnessing them using certain moves, encountering them in specific ways or at certain times, and more. For example, a Bidoof will be one of the first Pokemon you catch, but to fully research it you might catch multiple, evolve one into Bibarel, defeat several in battle, or finish a sidequest in Jubilife Village where a bunch of Bidoof are causing an annoyance. Such sidequests are available aplenty, and help the citizens of Jubilife work through their fears of the monsters they live alongside… and even learn to love them.

Filling out the PokeDex improves your rank in the expedition team, which is required for certain progression milestones and rewards, but it's also a wonderfully fulfilling task on its own because it's so open-ended. I often found myself wandering off from the main story path into forests, caves, mountains, and rivers looking for new monsters to catalog, watching them move, and spending time getting to know them so I could discern how best to tackle each new research task. When combined with the new capturing and battling systems, Pokémon Legends: Arceus' main loop of visiting a new area, working on the PokeDex, turning in progress, and repeating proved fun and enticing for hours on end.

But fun as it was to catch and catch and catch Pokémon, Legends: Arceus' brilliant new systems come with a major downside: they all exist within an ugly, empty world.

Filling out the PokeDex is a wonderfully fulfilling task on its own.

Now that the Switch has multiple lovely, stylized open-world games with big grassy fields and roaming monsters, this particular world comes off as especially disappointing. With the singular exception of its pleasant skies, it's just not nice to look at, ever. Its five areas, which include the Obsidian Fieldlands, the Crimson Mirelands, and the Cobalt Coastlands often look depressingly similar to one another. Textures are ugly and repetitive, grass and trees are excessively simple and obvious, and the water effects are utterly bizarre, especially when Pokémon are swimming. Objects pop in and out at close range, and large wild Pokémon spotted in the distance run at an agonizingly slow framerate that makes them look like stop-motion animations. And to be very clear, none of this is a rarity – it looks like this constantly, in both docked and handheld mode (though handheld is a bit better), and often kills the immersion of running around what should be an exciting natural world stuffed with Pokémon.

If anything, it looks worse the further you get: when you begin to unlock Pokémon that enable you to gallop, surf, and fly over the world rapidly, the visual disappointments – and the awkwardly placed, artificial barriers at the world's edges – become even more obvious and difficult to look past.

What's more, while Arceus' overworld is massive in size, so much of it is functionally empty. Sure, the lore explains that the Hisui region is still largely uninhabited by humans, so it makes sense not to have tons of massive, bustling cities. But when I say empty, I mean empty, even of interesting natural phenomena or roadside curiosities. I cannot emphasize enough how much of this world is just long stretches of grass patches or bare, empty mountains covered in Geodudes, especially in the later areas. It's just all Pokémon, all the way down. There are a number of map-named places referencing towns or landmarks in Diamond and Pearl that are clearly intended to be their precursors but, aside from maybe having a few extra flowers or trees or slightly differently colored grass, there's little reason to really explore or appreciate them. Just catch your Pokémon and be on your way, nothing to see here.

While Arceus' overworld is massive in size, so much of it is functionally empty.

The handful of landmarks Hisui does have are frequently disappointing, too. So, so often in Legends: Arceus I saw what I thought might be a cool mountain cave or interesting ravine or island, only to find it inhabited by more of the same Combee and Buizels I'd been bumping into since I got to Hisui. A couple of small settlements parked around the region have absolutely nothing to offer beyond a sidequest or two – you can't even use them as camps to heal your team. Even the music that backs up your adventure is lackluster and oddly inconsistent, fading in and out at odd times and featuring a mix of calming Breath of the Wild-style piano melodies and energetic remixes of Diamond and Pearl route themes. Essentially, exploring and getting to know Hisui is entirely about cataloging its Pokémon – the region, world, music, and landscape itself is an underdressed, inelegant afterthought.

Even worse, without interesting landmarks, Hisui is also entirely devoid of anything resembling dungeons, or even puzzles, really. There's one sort-of dungeon about 20 hours in with a couple of extremely basic shape-memorization puzzles, but then you never see anything like it again. Part of this is likely due to the fact that riding on Pokémon has entirely replaced the old system of "Hidden Machine" moves usable for both traveling and puzzle solving on the overworld. While I welcome not having to carry a Bidoof with me at all times to break rocks, Legends: Arceus feels like it lost a little too much of itself without cool ruins puzzles to solve or interesting spelunking trips. With no suitable replacement for the traditional gyms, Rocket hideouts, and the like, there's no meaningful build-up to major encounters and no moments of satisfaction that come from surviving a long excursion into a dangerous place with a powerful enemy at the end. I didn't realize how much adrenaline conquering something like a Victory Road really gave me until it was suddenly missing.

What all this means is that what you're doing for almost the entirety of Legends: Arceus' first act is catching and battling, over and over again. And that system is strong enough that it does manage to keep things interesting most of the way, though admittedly after the first 20 or so hours of repetition I was starting to flag. Interspersed boss fights with powerful lord and lady Pokémon that actively mix up the action game mechanics of their battles help freshen things up, though I could have done with a few more actually challenging trainer battles than the story threw at me. But then I reached Legends: Arceus' ending…or should I say endings?

When you see credits roll about 30 hours in, the “ending” you’ve seen is really more of an act one finale, leading directly into a robust second half with 20 or 30 additional hours of sidequests, battles, legendaries, and more. That on its own is great, and a lot of that extra content is pretty fun, too, including a seriously tough boss battle and some excellent legendary Pokémon hunts and fights that really make use of Legends: Arceus' overworld creature-catching and item-use mechanics for interesting, strategic encounters. In fact, they made me wish more of the earlier Pokémon encounters had forced me to make better use of my toolset for stealth and stunning – those felt like missed opportunities in hindsight.

But one massive piece of Legends: Arceus' second half sucks: finishing it. The actual, for-real ending is gated behind two absolutely massive and frustrating collect-a-thons. One of the tasks is to collect 107 of an item scattered across all six zones, with absolutely no guide as to where any of them are beyond the number remaining in each area. The other task is, unsurprisingly, capturing every Pokémon available – a job made agonizing by the fact that many are extremely rare. At one point, I spent several hours doing the following: leaving Jubilife Village for a certain area, flying to the very specific spawn point of a Pokémon I needed, seeing it was not there, warping back to camp, going back to the village to reset the spawns, and repeating until I found what I needed. I similarly spent hours sitting on a mountaintop, waiting for a space-time-distortion to appear in hopes that it might, maybe, have the Pokémon I needed. And if I accidentally made any of these Pokémon faint or flee, too bad. Do it all over again.

I spent several hours repeating the cycle until I found what I needed.

This is so, so far removed from the Pokémon fantasy I wanted to see the series evolve into. I understand that Pokémon has always had these kinds of obtuse, repetitive challenges for its rarest monsters (remember Feebas in Ruby and Sapphire?), but never have they been required to achieve a main story ending – not even back in the good ol' days where catching 'em all was still the slogan. And given the modern reinvention of the series we see here, this sort of tedious mandatory activity should’ve been the first thing to be discarded.

If Legends: Arceus had hidden more of these rarer monsters behind puzzles or interesting sidequests or actual overworld mysteries, that would have been one thing. Instead, it's just a lot of waiting, repetition, and luck (and, for everyone else playing it post-launch, presumably online guides) that I found immensely discouraging despite the enticing proposition of, you know, actually getting some form of resolution to the plot established in the first five minutes. On the bright side, online and local trading will be available at launch, which may speed up this process for some, but that doesn’t change the annoying nature of being told to go out and find something that’s just not there to be found the vast majority of the time.

So what awaits at the end of all this? I won't spoil it, but suffice to say it involves one admittedly fantastic, memorable boss battle, and then nothing. The story never really resolves. Multiple characters repeatedly hinted to have suspicious and interesting motives never explain who they are or what they're really up to. One particularly tragic character never even gets an acknowledgment that his unresolved story is actually pretty messed up for a Pokemon game, much less a happy ending (or any ending, really). Questions raised early on in Legends: Arceus are never answered sufficiently, and even when you get back to town, no one remarks on the feat you've just accomplished. Maybe it was my own fault for being led to believe that there was some greater story being told here beyond "catch 'em all." But after 64 hours, it was a wildly disappointing payoff for the work of finishing the longest main story a Pokemon game has ever had, even if the journey to get there was a lot of fun.


Thursday, January 27, 2022

Pokemon Legends: Arceus Is Out Soon, and $5 Off

Pokemon Legends: Arceus is set to release exclusively for Nintendo Switch on January 28. It's been getting high praise from critics (our review will be up very soon). It's an open-world take on the franchise that's set long ago in the Sinnoh region. You can preorder the game now (it's even $5 off at Amazon. Also available at Amazon UK).

Developed by Game Freak, Pokemon Legends: Arceus brings players back in time before the Sinnoh region was built out into what it is in the Diamond and Pearl games. Your job is to explore a vast open world while researching wild Pokemon in order to complete the first Pokedex of the area.

Preorder Pokemon Legends: Arceus

Unlike oh so many games these days, there's only one edition of Pokemon Legends: Arceus, and this is it. It's worth noting that you can get a li'l preorder bonus for buying it from Amazon. See below for the details.

Preorder Bonus

While there are no universal preorder bonuses, if you preorder from Amazon, you'll get an exclusive in-game Garchomp Kimono Set.

Pokemon Legends: Arceus Trailers

What is Pokemon Legends: Arceus?

It's an open-world Pokemon. As you explore, you can try to sneak up on Pokemon and throw a Poke Ball to try to catch them. If you need to weaken them before they'll be catchable, you can toss a Poke Ball containing one of your Pokemon at them and a standard turn-based battle will begin. And because this game takes place in the past, the Poke Balls you use are made of wood, and steam shoots out when you successfully ensnare a creature.

The starter Pokemon for the game are Rowlet, Cyndaquil, and Oshawott, whom you receive from a professor who's picked them up while traveling through various regions. On your adventure, you'll uncover the truth behind a storied Pokemon called Arceus, who supposedly "shaped all there is in this world." Sounds heavy.

Other Preorder Guides

Chris Reed is a commerce editor and deals expert at IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @_chrislreed.


Two Point Campus Opens Its Doors In May

Fans of Two Point Hospital, rejoice! Its college-themed cousin Two Point Campus begins enrollment on May 17. 

Two Point Campus lets players build and run their own college campus from scratch. The success of your school depends on the performance of your students, which you influence by providing your personalized blend of courses and extracurricular activities. But since this is a Two Point game, everything has a humorous slant. Whether it’s offering robotics classes, hosting strange rat-themed sporting events, or designing unorthodox dormitories, Two Point Campus lets you build the silliest for-profit institution of your dreams. You can find inspiration on what to make by watching a brand-new trailer below. 

Click here to watch embedded media

You can find Two Point Campus on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. The game will also be available on Xbox Game Pass for console and PC. Pre-ordering rewards additional items such as a U-shaped Topiary and a literal Fountain of Knowledge/Pearl of Wisdom. Two Point Hospital owners who pre-order receive a varsity jacket and suit of armor to use in the Hospital. Nabbing a physical copy gets you the Enrollment Edition that includes a fold-out Campus map and University Prospectus. 

To learn more, check out our extended preview from last year here