Evan Lahti: Rats! I mean… hooray!
Vermintide was our favorite game at PAX, but we weren’t expecting it until 2016. When I visited Fatshark in Sweden in January, it was still in pre-alpha. But development has been swift, and as we learned during our livestream of Vermintide this week, it’ll be out in less than a month. It’s rare that we’re surprised about a release date this close to launch, but the addition of Vermintide to our holiday schedule should ease the sore feelings over the delays of XCOM 2, Hitman, and The Division.
Andy Kelly: Heart of gold
This week else Heart.Break() was quietly released. Created by a group of Swedish developers and artists, including Niklas ‘El Huervo’ Åkerblad, it’s a gorgeous open-world adventure game set in a world where bits have replaced atoms. I’m currently working on the review, but can say now that it’s one of the most intriguing games I’ve played this year.
I’m totally in love with the art style, which marries Åkerblad’s colourful, psychedelic artwork (see his Hotline Miami 2 poster for an example) with wonderfully stylish 3D dioramas. I’ve played it for a couple of hours today, but I still haven’t really figured it out. The setting, a city called
Dorisburg, is packed with detail—and I feel like I’ve only explored a tiny corner of it.
One thing I really like is finding floppy disks littered around the world that you can plug into computer terminals and read. The contents range from cocktail recipes and lists of ‘the best songs in the world’ to website links and cryptic poems. They add colour to the game, and I wonder if they’ll factor into any puzzles later. My review will be up on the site next week.
Chris Livingston: I love the nightlife
I was pleasantly surprised by a couple things this week. First, the After Dark expansion for Cities: Skylines. I've complained on several occasions how I don't find that nighttime in most games adds much besides the frustration of stumbling around in the dark, but Colossal Order has handled it well. Drawing utilities like pipes or power lines gives the screen a bright overlay, same as it does during daytime, so you can see just fine even when the sun goes down. And while drawing roads and tracks is a problem in the dark, you can easily toggle off the night mode in the menu until you're done. Their new nighttime mode, in other words, adds something without taking anything away.
I also stepped out of my comfort zone with Armello, a turn-based strategy (which I tend to avoid) with cards (apart from poker, I don't play card games). Thanks to its meaty tutorial, I grasped the basics, and while the basics aren't nearly enough to succeed it's still an enjoyable game to play while you're learning the ropes. Armello's art, animation, and overall style is great, plus you can play as a rabbit, rat, bear, or wolf, all bent on taking the crown from a dying and dangerous lion king, which gives it a real storybook quality.
Samuel Roberts: Weekend of War
Where I am, the sun is beginning to vanish at about 2PM, meaning that there’s nothing to do except drink through the winter and play computer games. Steam-free weekends are the perfect companion in such dire times, and as someone who owns all the Dawn of War games it’s my duty to direct you to the fact the entire series is being generously handed out for free this week, before being taken away forever like the end of a sci-fi short story.
I marginally prefer the first Dawn of War, honestly, and both are a little different in terms of scale—but each offers excellent Warhammer 40,000 fan service, particularly for those who don’t have the time or money to paint and collect miniatures anymore. They’re so reasonably priced this weekend that you can pick them up for cheap if you enjoy them—one of my favourite strategy series and the perfect pace of game for a free weekend.
James Davenport: Puppy love
I’m sick and tired of dating. Playing Undertale was the final straw. There was this skeleton, see? And he was really sweet and funny and tried to kill me once or twice, but the way he laid out his puzzles and the way his brother talked about him… I thought there was something there, you know? And we went on this date, chit-chatted for a bit, he showed me his coolest t-shirt, and I just blurted out all this stuff about how I loved him. Ugh, god. I thought he felt the same. Nah. Got the whole ‘stay friends’ spiel.
But I’m moving on. Finding new ways to love myself in this strange dimension where evil flowers want my head and butterflies with externalized insecurities cry in public. It’s a strange place, but most monsters I’ve met are fairly charming in their own right. They just need someone with a bit of patience and try to understand them. Or kill them, but that’s not my M.O. I may have lost out on skeletal love, but today I managed to pacify a Greater Dog with some nice belly rubs and some fetch. It felt nice, and sometimes that’s all we can ask for.
Undertale is a really, really special game. I think you should play it.
Phil Savage: Hitman on hold
There's a temptation to take any delay as bad news. Maybe it's because, for all our great achievements as a species—space travel, mapping the human genome, Zombo.com—we still don't hold mastery over linear time. On balance, Hitman's delay is probably good news. I think it looks great, and have hope that it'll take all the bits of Hitman Absolution that weren't toilet and integrate them into a game that has greater size and scope than the peerless Blood Money.
The one thing that worried me was that, had it released in December, the weird semi-episodic structure would leave day-one players with too little to do. Io is holding Hitman back specifically to address this problem. The new March 2016 date has been set specifically with the intention of having more game available at the point of release. The release structure is still a bit weird, and it would be nice to have specifics on how much will be available at launch. Still, given that this year already promises an absurd amount of great stuff, I'll happily wait to play a fuller, more complete game.