Game of the Week: World of Warcraft: Dragonflight

This week, we’ve chosen World of Warcraft: Dragonflight as our game of the week, even though it’s technically just an expansion (read: big update), but we’ve got a good reason for it!

Dragonflight is shaping up to be the best WoW expansion since Legion so far, and while we’re barely a week into the Dragon Isles, it’s fun enough right now to recommend it to anyone who suffered through Battle for Azeroth and Shadowlands.

The true mark of a good expansion will really be decided a month of two into it. You could call this the honeymoon period, where players are churning through all the new content at a rapid pace, but what happens once Primal Storms, world bosses, PvP and PvE seasons and the first raid have all been out for a while? We’ll have to wait and see, but for now, Dragonflight is quite a bit of fun and a welcome change from the grind-centred expansions that came before it.


First, Some Context

To understand why Dragonflight is a breath of fresh air we need to take a quick trip down memory lane and look at the past few expansions.

When Legion launched in 2016, it was also a breath of fresh air after the content drought of Warlords of Draenor, and with it came a pretty important overhaul to three systems: Dungeons, the reputation system and professions. There’s more, of course (like legendary items), but we’ll focus on these.

Dungeons got Mythic+, and system that scales difficulty and rewards from dungeons, ensuring they won’t become completely redundant as the expansion evolves. It was a success and is now a core ‘game mode’ of WoW.

The reputation system got changed with the addition of world quests, a borrowed feature from Diablo 3’s bounties, adapted to am MMO environment and made the reputation grind feel less stale with a varied, rotating set of daily activities to complete at your leisure.

Professions got a major overhaul, each receiving a long-winded questline to acquire more recipes, and most recipes now having three ranks, each rank either improving recipe yield or reducing the materials required to craft the item.

The point I’m trying to make here is that Legion took a hard look at some of the core systems in WoW and strived to improve them. Other expansions before it had some half-hearted attempts at the same result, but Legion is when success was found.

Battle For Azeroth

These same systems were further iterated on in the next two expansions. While Mythic+ was mostly fine, professions and reputation / world quests were not.

Professions in BFA had the same shtick going on: Most of them have ranks, and each rank grants a similar effect as it did in Legion. Here’s the kicker, though: There was no cool, immersive questline that took you through your profession anymore, aside from some minor quests for the gathering arts.

You sort of just plowed through your profession skill, got the recipes, then got the rank upgrades upon reaching Revered/Exalted with some of the new factions. For PvP gear recipes, you’d have to sink your precious Marks of Honor to buy the rank upgrades.

World Quests, while slightly less noticeable, did receive a nerf: They were less exciting, their rewards felt less impactful and were overall slightly more tedious than their Legion counterparts. At the time, I thought it interesting that these two systems were iterated into a downgrade from one expansion to the other, but I assumed the developers would course-correct in Shadowlands.

magni bronzebeard
Nothing about this glorified chess piece’s world quests was exciting.

Shadowlands

My god, it got worse. Profession ranks were no longer the norm for most recipes – they were relegated to the recipes that crafted armor pieces, which players could combine into crafted legendary items. Most everything else professions did (other than raid flasks, gems, enchants, the usual) was quickly pointless. This time around, there weren’t any profession-related quests, that was just an old memory.

World quests got the worst of it though. Right, something I forgot to mention was that, since Legion, completing four world quests for a faction would award you:

  • In Legion, a chest with some gold (~700), a bunch of resources & reagents and perhaps some follower equipment or currency.
  • In BFA, a pre-determined reward, usually an epic gear piece, 2000 gold or Azerite Power.

You’d just log in, do four world quests, and go to an NPC to get your chest. In Shadowlands, you first had to go and manually pick up the “do world quests to get chest” quest – that was the first red flag. Second red flag, world quests in the afterlife could sound something like this when you previewed them on the map: “Acquire 3 bear asses”. Sounds pretty quick, something you could do during your lunch break, right?

More often than not, by the time you were done with that one world quest, it’d look like this:

  • Acquire 3 bear asses.
  • Deliver them to Lady Moonberry.
  • Pick up the Bear Gland Bomb Box.
  • Mount the nearby Wilderling.
  • Kill 100 Forsworn with the Bear Gland Bomb.

This was very much commonplace in the world quest experience. To complicate matters even more, after you’d finally get your coveted box of random goodies, you wouldn’t open it to find an instant 700 gold, or know in advance it wouldn’t be a box but straight up 2000 gold. Among some miscellaneous items like seeds , you’d get roughly three stacks of gray-quality items that you’d then have to manually sell for somewhere between 1700 and 2200 gold. Why? We still don’t know.

ardenweald
Stay away from me, Lady Moonberry! Never again!

Getting to the Point

Finally, enter Dragonflight. Gone are the recipe ranks and unhealthy legendary crafting system. Gone are the several long-term grinds associated with player power. Gone are the tedious world quests, the especially bad lore, the monochrome environments and the lack of variety in the kind of daily content you can engage with. Dragonflight has a little bit of everything.

Factions, World Quests & The Grind

First, let’s talk factions. There’s four major factions, with one of them having four sub-divisions that are grinded separately (but they’re alt-friendly!):

  • The Dragonscale Expedition can be grinded all the way to the end if you want to spend days looting dirt clumps and lost expeditioner packs. Much like the Kirin Tor in Legion, they’re the ones with the fun world quests (rock climbing, nature photography…)
  • The Maruuk Centaur do Grand Hunts, which rotate throughout the entire content and constitute six tasks, ending in a bag of goodies. Grand Hunts are events open to all – they are not quests – and you can even AFK the whole time and still receive the reward.
  • The Iskaara Tuskarr are all about the good things in life: Cooking and Fishing. The main activities they provide are setting up Fishing Holes for players, which last a few days and provide bonus chances of getting shiny fishing loot, and Community Feasts. The latter are another type of event open to all and basically runs like a proper restaurant kitchen. Every player gets a task and at the end, a delicious soup is made!
  • The Valdrakken Accord represents the combined might of all the main flavors of dragons, and they’re in charge of making up race courses for you to practice your Dragonriding on. They’ve got four sub-factions:

  • Cobalt Assembly, which is an old-school open-world mob grind that unlocks some profession recipes and item appearances.
  • Wrathion & Sabellian, two dragons, one of which you can swear allegiance to each week and work towards that particular reputation for your usual loot, as well as a fancy, powerful cloak.
  • Artisan’s Consortium, which is directly related to professions and offers recipes and useful crafting shenanigans.

As you can see, each faction offers a wide variety of activities, each with their unique quirk. Gone are the days of taking a continental tour and doing 25 world quests every day. In fact, if you’ve done all world quests, you’ll notice you only have 2 or 3 new ones popping up each day. The lesson here is that Dragonflight is not here to keep you logging in every day to grind. You’ve got time to do some of the events, pop a dungeon, fish and watch the sunset and you can do it all in your own time.

Professions: Refining the Craft

If world quests were tuned down in favor of a cycle of events (Grant Hunts, Feasts, Races) to make Azeroth feel like a living, breathing world again, professions have received a facelift that strives to make the community a living, breathing… not sure how to end that phrase, but you get the gist of it.

If you haven’t looked into Dragonflight professions, you’ll be surprised to find out they’ve now become one of the most complex systems in Warcraft. Aside from a sprawling talent tree of their own, which lets players specialize in their own niche and hopefully make a killing on the auction house, they promise to remain relevant throughout the expansion’s entire two-year lifespan.

Each recipe now has a difficulty rating. Your skill determines what quality your craft will end up being, depending on the difference between the two numbers. Things get even more interesting when you account for secondary stats:

  • Inspiration gives you a chance to craft something with a bonus amount of skill rating, meaning it’ll end up higher quality.
  • Resourcefulness gives you a chance to craft something using fewer resources than the recipe demands.
  • Multicraft gives you a chance to create multiple pieces of the same item and usually only applies for reagents.
  • Crafting speed, well, increases your crafting speed. Useful if you’re on a lunch break.

All these stats can be increased through leveling up your profession, equipping fancy profession gear and, most importantly, choosing your profession talents carefully. There’s enough variety to ensure players will be divided into different niches, each able to provide something at a greater quality than others can produce. Crafters may also be able to find the reagents necessary to craft heroic/mythic raid item level gear, so you can be sure professions will remain relevant for quite a while.

Now, The Point

Dragonflight has taken a page out of Legion’s book and worked to refine some of the game’s core systems, this time putting a lot of extra effort into it. If you ask me, so far it seems to have succeeded. The game feels more fun, relaxing and light-hearted than it did the past two expansions, or perhaps even since Wrath of the Lich King. While we’ve yet to truly see how it holds up in the long run, it’s definitely worth going in and giving it a try now, while there’s still so much more to discover.

dragon isles aqueduct
Like why do the Dragon Isles have so many aqueducts? Do dragons drink water like pigeons from a fountain?

Are you already in the Dragon Isles? What has your impression been so far? Let us know in the comments below!

Game of the Week: Dead Space (2008)

Fourteen years ago, the first Dead Space came out and redefined the horror shooter genre. Its mix of sluggish movement, a fully in-world UI and a carefully polished atmosphere set the bar for future horror titles. Its success spawned two more entries in the franchise and, recently, a from-the-bottom remake that promises to be more than just a facelift.

With two months to go until the remake, we’ve chosen the original Dead Space as our game of the week for a few reasons:

  • Everyone should get to experience the original before delving into the remake when it releases in late January.
  • Even though it’s a game older than some of our readers, it stills hold up very well.
  • Really, we just love dismembering aliens.

Combat, Movement, UI

Back in 2008, Dead Space managed to capture lightning in a bottle with their combat system. To set things off, we must first mention that Isaac (the player character) is an engineer – he’s not trained to slaughter hordes of aliens. Your starting weapon (interestingly enough, the best weapon in the game) is a Plasma Cutter, a futuristic run-of-the-mill engineer tool that only ends up being used two ways: To kill aliens, and to damage electrical machinery. Seriously, we can’t remember a single moment where the Plasma Cutter was used for its intended purpose!

Plasma Cutter digression aside, you’re basically pretty slow for someone expected to commit alien genocide, and half the weapons you find in the game are tools. Do not let this information convince you the game is handing you sticks and stones, though! To compensate for the fact that you’re slower than most enemies, your advantage lies in using the tools at your disposal before the xenomorphs close the gap, and none is more fun than the Kinesis Module.

Kinesis Module: Why Doesn’t Every Game Have One?

The Kinesis Module is a fancy term of the awesome power of telekinesis and is one of the best examples of why Dead Space is an awesome game. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of what you can do with kinesis:

  • Move huge machinery around to solve puzzles and progress through the game.
  • Pick up and smash green crates to loot their contents.
  • Pick up items that are inaccessible due to being too far away.
  • Throw objects (crates, needles, fire extinguishers) at enemies.
  • Dismember alien corpses by picking up their claws, then shooting them at still-alive enemies.
  • Shoot a basketball through several hoops.

This all sounds pretty good, right? You’re not fast, but you’ve got all the tools necessary to keep yourself safe as long as you become proficient at using them. Don’t think you get any breaks in this game, however, because the only way to pause is going to the game menu!

The UI in Dead Space is fully integrated into your suit, meaning that when you’re looking through your inventory or browsing your local shop, you’re not safe. The game doesn’t pause. This is but one piece of the immersion puzzle that Visceral Games expertly crafted.

dead space plasma cutter upgrade tree
Seriously, you’re gonna’ want to upgrade this weapon all the way.

Immersion, Atmosphere

In a recent video, Glen Schofield, the creator of Dead Space whose next Dead Space horror game, The Callisto Protocol is coming out very soon, attributed sound design & art as being 50% of what makes a horror game effective at its main selling point, the horror. Nowhere is this more true than Dead Space.

Sound Design

Sound design has, overall, seen an increase in visibility in terms of people acknowledging its existence and its impact in recent years. This has not always been the case. The most important aspect of good sound design is making sure the entire soundtrack flows so well together and is crafted so expertly that you don’t notice it. Full immersion is the goal. If a sound effect sounds off, or a scream is too loud, or you’re hearing a conversation through a wall as if the wall wasn’t there, it means the sound design failed in that instance.

Take a stroll through any corridor in Dead Space and pay attention to what you hear. Nothing sounds out of place, ‘off’, underwhelming or overwhelming. Then, after you’ve played through the entire game, check out this playlist from the Dead Space remake. After playing through the original, you’ve probably formed the opinion that the sound design was good. The playlist shows you both how the field has evolved in the past decade as well as how, even though the original’s sound design is good, it can always be better. This is why it’s important to play the original Dead Space before delving into the remake – the original has so much to be proud of, and so will the remake. Playing the remake after the original will make you appreciate both games so much more.

Visual Art

Now, let’s briefly touch upon the visual art. The game came out in 2008, but it doesn’t necessarily look like 2008. Had I not told a random bystander the year of release, I reckon their best guess could go as far as 2012. It still holds up.

I’d like to have the art speak for itself, so here’s a selection of three pictures to illustrate how the game still looks good enough to immerse anyone willing to give it a shot.


If you’re looking for a game that can still deliver big spooks after the first couple of hours, look no further and start playing Dead Space 1 now. Did I mention it’s one of the few games out there that give you something new to do every level? You won’t just be shooting your way through an armada of xenomorphs from start to end, there’s more to it, I swear!

Did you play any of the Dead Spaces? How did you find each? Let us know in the comments below!

Game of the Week: Axiom Verge (Randomizer Beta)

Another week, another game… of… the week! This… week we’ve got a community-created, officially-supported alternative version of 2015’s hit 2D pixel metroidvania, Axiom Verge.

Axiom Verge has you playing as Trace, a scientist who wakes up in an ancient, sci-fi world after suffering a crippling injury. Without further spoiling anything, you’ve basically got a huge map divided into nine big regions, all littered with powerups, weapons and secrets. To play the Randomizer version, you simply must own the normal Axiom Verge. It’s also very recommended to play through the normal version first!

axiom verge egg between two tubes

What Does Randomizer Mean?

Basically, when you start a ‘randomizer’ run of Axiom Verge, it shuffles all the weapons, power-ups, health boosts and whatnot, meaning that where you once may have found a weapon, you now might find a +1 maximum HP boost.

The amount of items, as well that their spawn points, remains unchanged. Only the items themselves trade spots. What makes the Randomizer fancy, however, is that you’ll always have access to what you need to progress further.

If, say, you need to shoot a door with a specific weapon in order to unlock the next zone, you can be sure you’ll find that specific weapon in an already-accessible area, and within reach of your current platforming powers.

There’s three ‘difficulties’ of randomization you can choose, and they are dependent on your skill as a speedrunner (more on that in the next section):

  • Beginner: This is the option for most people. You should be able to complete the game without any shenanigans.
  • Advanced: For speedrunners familiar with exploits and glitches that let you skip through areas in unintended ways.
  • Masochist: This mode assumes the player will be doing a low % speedrun (getting to the end of the game having barely picked up anything). As of early 2021, only four people in the world were qualified for this difficulty.
axiom verge randomizer settings

Random(izer) Deets

The Randomizer version of Axiom verge was in fact developed by the game’s speedrunning community! It represents years of passion-project-tier work that was to thorough Thomas Happ, the creator of Axiom Verge, worked to incorporate it into the game as an official mode.

The Randomizer can be accessed either on Steam (right-click on the game and go to Betas) or the Epic Games Store, where it appears as a separate game alongside your copy of Axiom Verge.


Have you played Axiom Verge in any capacity? Did you ever try the Randomizer? Let us know in the comments below!

Game of the Week: The Witness

The weather turns colder as we approach the coldest of seasons and getting cozy is becoming a bigger priority to all of us. As such, we think it’s time to choose a cozy puzzle game as our game of the week: The Witness!

Grab your chai latte, get a blanket and prepare yourself for an entire gauntlet of puzzles that go from easy to extremely complicated; let’s see what The Witness has in store for us.


I Must Witness How Many Puzzles?!

Well, the consensus is often split, but the most common numbers we have are:

  • 523 regular puzzles
  • 135 environmental puzzles
  • 6 obelisks (find out what this means on your own!)

That puts us at a whopping 665 puzzles, some of which require some expert out-of-the-box thinking to even find. Let’s go through what your usual journey through the island is going to look like:

The island in The Witness is divided up into 18 ‘zones’, if you will, each of them boasting their own set of puzzles. Completing the main zones will have you turn on a laser projector that points to the peak of the mountain and you can probably guess something happens once you activate all the projectors.

What you’ll generally find is that each zone has its own unique type of puzzle – although some zones do become easier with prior knowledge of how other puzzles work. Each zone usually has you follow an increasingly complex set of puzzles that introduce more variables and tools into the mix the deeper you find yourself (and the closer you get to the projector).

The island is not huge – you can walk from one zone to another in a reasonable amount of time, or take the boat across the coast – nor is it linear. If you get stuck on a particular puzzle, you can go for a walk, bump into another series of puzzles, do those, then come back!

the witness island map
Much like the total number of puzzles, the division of zones is also a disputed topic in the fanbase.

Witnessing Environmental Puzzles

At the cost of slightly spoiling a less obvious mechanic of the game, there’s a plethora of environmental puzzles for you to complete. These puzzles aren’t constrained for a metal slab, like the majority of them. They are for the keen pattern-recognizers to discover. If you ever look at a structure or a tree and you think it may vaguely look like a traceable puzzle, find the right angle that lets you see most of the ‘path’ the puzzle would take, and try to activate and complete it!

One theme you’ll notice while playing is that the game doesn’t outright explain anything to you; the ‘trick’ to how each type of puzzle works has to be discovered by the player in the few initial introductory puzzles in each zone. While environmental puzzles are less complex than regular ones and don’t tend to require any special mechanics to be understood, their difficulty comes from how hard it can be to simply notice them.

If you’re going for 100% completion (which I believe only 1% of players have achieved), keep your eyes wide open; some of these puzzles require a lot of creative thinking to find, like the one below:

the witness environmental puzzle using the water's reflection
Nonsense? Awesome!

If you’ve ever looked for a game to brand as ‘over-designed’, The Witness is probably a prime example. This does not mean, however, that it is a bad game – quite the contrary, actually. The Witness leans into its over-designed puzzles to deliver a unique experience and challenges players to flex parts of their intellect seldom used in video games – critical thinking, cold hard logic, and pattern recognition taken to a new level.

P.S. If the article wasn’t clear enough, the chai latte and the blanket are usable during gameplay due to the non-linear, non-scripted nature of the game. Only a handful of puzzles are timed, so you can take however long you need (and however many chai lattes it takes) to get through the game!

Have you played The Witness already? How’d you find it? Let us know in the comments below!

Game of the Week: Halo Infinite

Eleven months ago, Halo Infinite released with an ambitious goal: Become a platform for Halo stories for the next ten years while succeeding in delivering what its two predecessors failed to (depending on who you ask): Have both a great campaign and a great multiplayer.

Halo 4’s campaign was praised, while its multiplayer was largely seen as a downgrade from the original trilogy’s design. Halo 5: Guardians received the opposite treatment – bad campaign, good multiplayer.

The launch went decently well for a game that was unable to deliver on all its promised launch-ready features. The campaign is solid, if a little too afraid to take risks with the story, and the multiplayer felt like a return to form. Plagued by a storm of both pandemic-related workflow issues and in-studio management problems, however, Halo Infinite stumbled when it came to delivering the amount of content a live-service game demanded.

We picked Halo Infinite as our game of the week because tomorrow is the day the Winter Update releases! This update marks what is hopefully the beginning of the ‘true plan’ Infinite was meant to follow, with postponed launch-ready features finally making it into the game as well as several more really cool stuff that you can check more in-depth here.

The music should be enough to hype you all the way to 100%.

First Floor: The Basics

For those who may be out of the loop, here’s what you can expect from Halo Infinite without all the Winter Update things we’ll get into later down the line.

Halo Infinite is the sixth mainline game in the series (meaning, with Master Chief as the protagonist) and the eighth first-person shooter title. It is quite different compared to previous entries:

  • For the first time, the campaign is open-world, with a few classic “campaign levels” scattered around. One could argue Halo 3: ODST was open-world as well, but the scale of Infinite’s world is much larger.
  • For the first time, the multiplayer is free-to-play and follows the usual battle pass + cosmetics shop monetization strategy. Battle passes you buy are kept forever and you can work through them at your own pace.
  • Multiplayer also receives regular timed events that comes with their own free battle pass, rewarding more exotic gear pieces and various accoutrements.
  • If you’ve never played a Halo game, Infinite is a decent starting point, but I strongly suggest grabbing The Master Chief Collection on Steam and playing through all the other campaigns (sans Halo 5) if you want to get the full story experience from Infinite’s campaign.
halo infinite dusk
The world is your oyster.

Second Floor: Winter Update – Multiplayer

Multiplayer is receiving a fully free, 30-tier battle pass with a bunch of sweet Halo: Reach skins that serves as a relaxing little treat to keep you playing over the cold months. Additionally, there’s two new maps entering the fray:

  • Argyle, a beautiful, confined, cappuccino-colored map made in Forge (more on Forge later!).
  • Detachment, a more open map that contains the first man cannon in Halo Infinite (the thing that shoots you far into the distance). Detachment is also made in Forge.

There’s also a new game mode joining the fray: Covert One-Flag! COF is a turn-based CTF. The attacking team has unlimited active camouflage. The defending team has unlimited threat sensors, which can detect invisible units. Halo is known for its clever custom maps and seeing a fun, weird game mode such as this be supported as an official way to play is a big step in the right direction.

Finally, we’re getting match XP. Until now, players would gain XP (used to progress the battle pass) by completing daily and weekly quests. With match XP, players will get some XP for every match they play, increased depending on whether they win and on how they perform.

halo infinite argyle
All I’m saying is this looks like a chill place to like, hang out, or, live in.

Third Floor: Winter Update – Campaign Network Co-op

While rumors indicate local co-op has been cancelled, we are finally getting co-op for campaign (initially supposed to be available on release day), as long as each one of your friends has a PC or console to play it on.

Campaign co-op supports up to four players, adds a bunch more achievements to the game and, compared to previous games, when you die, you respawn with the same weapons you had before (which is awesome).

Bonus: Mission replay is being added, allowing you to replay a few of the previously mentioned campaign levels that weren’t accessible after passing through them once.

halo infinite campaign co-op
The twist is there were four Master Chiefs all along.

Fourth Floor: Forge Open Beta

Forge is the name of the in-game level editor that’s been a staple of the franchise ever since Halo 3. Halo Infinite’s Forge is a very powerful tool compared to its previous iterations, allowing you to add up to 7000 objects in your custom map, scale them however large or tiny you wish, change their materials to hone your interior design skills and so, much, more.

This time around, there’s also a visual scripting language (similar to Blueprints in Unreal Engine), allowing you to essentially code even more complex game modes, interactions and whatnot into whatever awesome map you’re making.

Forge has been in closed beta for a while, but everyone will be able to test it out starting tomorrow, with 6 canvasses (empty maps in different biomes) available from the get-go. Navmesh support is also being added, allowing your map to be used by bots.

halo infinite eternity map
Why? Why not?

If you’ve forsaken Halo Infinite due to its large swath of issues, now is the time to give it another shot. The development team seems to be catching up with their gigantic backlog of work, and the Winter Update marks a fresh start to the game – a Halo Infinite 2.0, if you will.

What are your thoughts on the Winter Update? Have you played Halo Infinite before? Let us know in the comments below!

Game of the Week: Amnesia: The Dark Descent

Roughly 12 years ago, Amnesia: The Dark Descent released and accomplished three major things: It brought the whole sub-genre of “hide from spooky things you can’t fight back against” to the forefront, it sky-rocketed Pewdiepie to record-breaking subscriber numbers and, most importantly, it gave us all a righteous spook.

To celebrate Halloween we have chosen Amnesia as our game of the week. Whether you claimed the Amnesia Collection (featuring The Dark Descent and A Machine For Pigs) for free on Steam in 2018 or on the Epic Games Store in 2020, there’s several stores you can play it (or also buy it) on. We’ll include a list at the bottom of the article.


Premise

You wake up in an eerie corridor with no memory of who you are, aside from a note from your past self. The rest of the game has you slowly remembering who you were (through flashbacks and letters scattered throughout Brennenburg Castle) before the game started and, more importantly, what you did. Your objective is to stop another man from achieving his sinister goals, no matter the cost.

That’s all you’re getting in terms of story, as we’d like to keep this article spoiler-free for those of you who somehow managed to dodge playing this game for twelve years. Having played through the game four times, however, we’ve got a few (again, mostly spoiler-free) tips to share with you as you undertake this spookiest of journeys:

  • Always watch your physical and mental health status (by pressing TAB). Being wounded slows you down, while having your head pound and your hands shake can trigger some… unfortunate events.
  • Aside from puzzle-related items (more on that later), there’s two indispensable resources you should always be on the lookout for: Tinderboxes and Lamp Oil.
  • Tinderboxes are used to light up candles and torches littered throughout the castle. They’re great for rooms you might spend additional time in.
  • Lamp Oil powers up your lamp and is indispensable in some of the darker corners of the castle. Conserving your oil and only using it when absolutely necessary can save you enough oil to complete the entire game without using a single Tinderbox!
  • Not all enemies function the same.
  • Make full use of your ears and listen!
amnesia wine cellar
Watch your step; you only get one pair of shoes.

The Environment

Possibly the most important aspect of any horror game, especially those where all you can do is hide from monsters, is the atmosphere. What separated Amnesia from other titles in 2010 wasn’t just the “can’t fight back” gimmick, but also the care that went into designing Brennenburg Castle. The visuals are permanently eerie, with only the few ‘hub’ areas sending you hopeful, tranquil vibes. The sound design is exquisitely balanced (and even so, much improved upon in later installments!) and serves as both a mood-setting system and a fully-fledged game mechanic. Remember to always be listening.

amnesia library
This looks like an ordinary room, but that’s no guarantee you won’t get hunted as soon as you pick up a book!

Something else that also deserves a paragraph of its own are the puzzles. They range from fairly simple, to fairly complex, but do not be disheartened. The Dark Descent isn’t the kind of game that has you searching for solutions every five minutes. Carefully reading instructions (found in letters near the puzzle area) goes a long way to quickly crafting whatever item is required of you and also saves up on lamp oil.

The game does a great job of sending you on ‘reagent runs’ for whatever thing you need to create in order to advance. Need some chemical compound? Why, just take a quick trip to the storage room, which contains an unnatural darkness. Surely there’s nothing there, waiting to pounce on your from the shadows? Expect to be sent to lots of rooms with uncanny names.

amnesia spooky fountain
The owner of this castle has an… exotic taste when it comes to interior design.

You can grab Amnesia: The Dark Descent for PC on the following stores:

The Dark Descent also spawned the following sequels (which follow different characters in the same universe):

  • Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, a highly philosophical horror show that takes place at the turn of the 19th century.
  • Amnesia: Rebirth, the ‘official’ Amnesia 2, which digs deeper into the mystery of certain… things I can’t spoil from The Dark Descent.

I’d also like to give a special shout-out to SOMA, a game developed by the same studio but set in a futuristic ocean-floor station, where everything goes wrong as well. You can read more about it here.

Have you played Amnesia: The Dark Descent? Are you ready to give it a shot on the night when the veil between the world of the living, and that of the dead, is at its thinnest? Let us know in the comments below!

Game of the Week: 20XX

Every week the Out of Games staff gets together to choose a game; a game to recommend to you, in case you might be out of games to play! From gameplay showcases, story outlines and stores that sell it, we’ve got you covered.

Taking a trip down memory lane, you may remember the first six Megaman X titles (X1, X2…) as great action-packed 2D platformers with lots of awesome boss fights and satisfying powers. Everyone’s got their favorite installment (X5 is the best and you can’t change my mind) and, were it easy to play (or even find them) these days, we’d probably write an article about them too. Alas, a weird port of them does exist on Steam but it’s riddled with problems and looks kind of weird.

Enter 20XX! 20XX is, basically, a love letter to the Megaman X games before they transitioned into 3D with X7. The game plays quite similarly to its inspirational roots, with an initial choice of either a ranged blue character or a red melee one. Powerups, boss fights, spikes, lava, well-telegraphed attacks, it’s all in there. Let’s take a closer look!

20xx turret attack

The Power

20XX plays like Megaman, but in terms of gaining power, it’s more akin to Dead Cells or Hearthstone’s Dungeon Runs. Power-ups are randomly found in chests, hidden around the map, or as rewards for killing bosses or clearing “Glory Zones” (a level-within-a-level mini-challenge). Now, I don’t want to do a disservice to the variety of things you can pick up by just calling all of them ‘powers’, so here’s a breakdown of the huge variety of ways you can customize each run:

  • Powers – active abilities that can be acquired from defeating bosses.
  • Augments – (mostly) passive bonuses that can be acquired from chests or shops. Most grant exclusively positive effects, but some require a trade-off (ex. more attack damage at the cost of power damage). These are the bread and butter of your build!
  • Core Augments – These are essentially set items (head, chest, hands, feet). Each item grants its own power, with a set bonus for having all four pieces equipped. There are four core augment sets available, each with their own unique theme.
  • Prototypes – Acquired from rare “Very Safe Labs” sub-zones, these pick-ups can grant you massive power, at the cost of massive drawbacks. A good example is the “Hysteria” prototype, which doubles the effect of all future augments you pick up, but triples your damage taken. Activate at your own risk!
20xx boss fight
If you defeat the boss before the “purple gift box” timer on the left expires, you get bonus loot!

Replayability

20XX has procedurally-generated levels, which means the layout (and how many juicy chests, or how many sub-zones spawn) will differ every time you start a run. How many runs will you start, you ask? Well, aside from the easiest difficulty, the game has permadeath, which means once you die, your run is over!

A run consists of defeating all eight bosses, followed by a ninth level (the finale!). Your first level is randomly picked. After defeating the first level’s boss, you may pick your next level out of three choices. As the boss encounters become harder the further you go (gaining new abilities and increased health), a good strategy is to take down the bosses you struggle most against first!

Cross-run progress also enables you to start out with some passive bonuses from the get-go, so make sure to collect every bolt (that’s the currency) you can find since it could greatly enhance the start of your next run!

For those of you who become really good at the game, the highest difficulty also lets you enable some Skulls which further increase the difficulty of your run, similar to how it works in Halo.

Additionally, there’s daily and weekly challenges you can complete, where the map is the same and you’re pitted against other player’s scores.

20xx lava pit
Platformers and lava, name a more iconic duo.

What you’ve read so far is a good introduction to the game, but there’s lots more to discover once you go a little bit deeper. While it may miss some of the more pre-defined epic moments you can find in the Megaman Xs (like X5’s Dinorex Stage lava wall), 20XX makes up for it in the highly increased replayability it offers with its well-balanced build variety.

It may also please you to know that its sequel, 30XX, is currently available in Early Access on Steam and looks to be an improvement over its predecessor on all fronts!

If you’ve got a friend that’s itching to platform it up, 20XX also supports Steam’s ‘Remote Play Together’ feature. If you’re going to give the game a shot, let us know in the comments below!

Game of the Week: Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Every week the Out of Games staff gets together to choose a game; a game to recommend to you, in case you might be out of games to play! From gameplay showcases, story outlines and stores that sell it, we’ve got you covered.

With the recent-ish news that Eidos-Montréal is being acquired by Embracer Group, our hopes for a third installment in Adam Jensen’s Deux Ex trilogy have been renewed. As such, we feel this is a great time to go down memory lane and once again play Deus Ex: Human Revolution.


A Short History of the Deux Ex Franchise

Deus Ex: Human Revolution serves as the first game in a [possibly forever unfinished] trilogy of prequels to Deus Ex (2000). If you’ve heard of Deus Ex, you are probably aware of the huge cult following the game still has to this day.

The game that spawned what is possibly the most used avatar in the world.

After the sequel to Deus ExDeus Ex: Invisible War (2003), came out with four endings so intense it’d be almost impossible to produce a sequel, Eidos Montréal settled on creating a prequel, set 25 years before the first game. While to hardcore fans of the original, Human Revolution might feel simplified and lacking in freedom of choice compared to its originator, it still manages to be enjoyable and is a good entry point into the franchise for players looking for a more streamlined immersive sim experience.

Human Revolution managed to spawn a sequel, Mankind Divided, however sales fell short of Square Enix’s financial demands and the series was put on ice. With Square Enix now selling Eidos Montréal and the Deus Ex IP, there is a chance we might get the final chapter of the prequel story!

Enjoy this terrible edit I made of all of the games’ key art. Don’t look too close.

Premise

Deus Ex: Human Revolution takes place in 2027, 25 years before the events of the original game. You do not need to play these two games to understand what is taking place in Human Revolution, but if you did play them, you will stumble upon a good bunch of references that link to what happens in the original games’ timeline.

In a future that is, at this point, a mere five years away, humanity is at a crossroads. Technological advancements have allowed a significant amount of the global population to become augmented (are you even modded, bro?) with prosthetics, neural enhancers and even military-grade weaponry.

You play as Adam Jensen, the most hard-boiled private security contractor in Detroit and, perhaps, the rest of the world. This game is a conspiracy nut’s wet dream. Sneaking around, probing NPCs for information, uncovering global conspiracies all while listening to Adam’s intense, gravelly voice.


Gameplay

Human Revolution, as any good immersive sim does, allows you to tackle situations in several different ways depending on your playstyle. The game is [mostly] balanced to a T, to the point that the developers had whiteboards with every item you could find, in every area, to make sure you were never showered with too much ammo and whatnot.

Choice-making system

Choices you make in this game can come back and haunt you in the long run. Action (and sometimes inaction!) always leads to reaction. This system is cleverly intertwined through the narrative in both big and small ways. Not talking to an NPC that lies off the beaten road could lock you out of a side-quest later in the game. Having a conversation go badly tends to make things harder for you, while a good resolution can even provide you with hidden achievements (alongside bonus XP).

There are four possible endings to the game, and their availability depends on the choices you make throughout the entire game. Conversations play a big part in determining the endings, but so does the way you play (example: killing versus merely incapacitating).

Stealth vs. Combat

The game gives you the tools necessary to play whichever way you find most suitable. Deciding to kill everyone is more dangerous and the weapon system is intentionally kind of janky (Adam has shaky hands). Going full stealth might mean you need to take things slower – memorizing patrol routes, taking detours to avoid cameras – but awards more XP for successful infiltrations (and even for sparing enemies, knocking them out instead of killing them).

Environmental Puzzles

Human Revolution is flush with complex set pieces that can be navigated in a variety of different ways. Whenever you enter a room, there are at least three ways you can approach passing it in order to reach your objective. Vents, hackable cameras and turrets, destructible walls, gas valves, lasers; all of these components come together to create a varied environment that is both engaging and fun to decode.

A word of warning: You will be seeing these hacking mini-games a lot throughout the game. There’s probably a solid few hundred hackable objects in the game.

Get acquainted with this interface, you’ll be staring at it for hours!

If you’d like to see how the game plays out in the flesh, check out one of its original gameplay trailers:


If you’re looking for an immersive sim that forces you to make choices at every step; a game that can still surprise on subsequent playthroughs; a game that stood the test of time and still looks great today (props to the art design), then Deus Ex: Human Revolution might be for you!

Have you already played Human Revolution or would this be your first time? Let us know in the comments below!


Where Can I Find It?

The links are for the Director’s Cut edition of the game, which includes a DLC story that takes place in the back half of the game.

Click on any of the hyperlinks to see the game’s page on that particular store: