It leaked Friday afternoon, but the official trailer for Game of Thrones‘ fifth season was properly released on their Facebook page just a few hours later
How many shows on TV can get away with a ten second mish-mash of essentially still photos and get away with calling it a teaser trailer? HBO has released the latest promo for season five of Game of Thrones, and chances are it will take you longer to load the video than to watch it.
Slipped in between news of a second delay and the cacophony of internet complaints about apparent graphical downgrades, one of the more recent stories about The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt that may have fallen through the cracks is the fact that Geralt of Rivia is not the only playable character in the upcoming open-world RPG. At The Game Awards just a few months ago, CD Projekt’s Senior Games Designer Damien Monnier teased the reveal by saying someone showcased in the Elder Blood trailer he was about to show off will be playable when the game hits store shelves, though he didn’t go so far as to come right out and say who it was.
If you’re unfamiliar with the podcast medium you’re missing out on a subsection of entertainment that is quickly becoming one of my favorite ways to consume information.
Telltale released the first footage of their upcoming game based on the license of HBO’s Game of Thrones series, and while short, there is enough information to glean from its 51 second span to look ahead at what’s to come.
Just before its release earlier this week, a rumor that Far Cry 4‘s main campaign could be completed in just 15 minutes generated a murmur of contempt from a small group of fans who were irked with the notion that Ubisoft might be short-changing their customers. Considering a typical game in this genre features on average a 10 hour story, surely this is hurting the game and it’s worse for the customer…Right? Well, maybe not.
A 15 minute story does not mean the game itself runs out of content in 15 minutes – the Far Cry games are open-world titles that not only allow players to explore the environment outside the mandatory story missions, they actually incentivize it. There are dozens of smaller missions, hunting expeditions and collectibles to find all over their maps, and quite frankly, they’re far more entertaining than the majority of their narratives. The idea that gamers would be up in arms over the length of the main story arc is interesting because, in my experience, the stories in these types of games often end up feeling like expositional set-dressing, or unavoidable obstacles that get in the way of my entertainment, and to be honest, a 15 minute story in a 20 hour game sounds like a fantastic idea to me. Games are interactive, after all, and few of them have manipulative physics and emergent gameplay moments that are as gratifying to experiment with as the Far Cry series.
Take Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, for example. The game’s story is bare and utterly conventional, but players create their own tiny stories by interacting with enemies using the game’s Nemesis system, which allows enemy orcs to remember past run-ins with the player. The effects can be startling. You can kill an enemy only to see him later, sporting a nasty scar or burn from your last encounter. If you’re lucky, he’ll be scared of you this time, and run the second he sees you coming. Or you can fail to kill a captain, and he’ll mock your corpse and earn a nifty promotion for putting you down. When you meet up later for a rematch he’ll remember that you’re supposed to be dead, and he might relish the opportunity to murder you again. Getting revenge on an Uruk that killed you days before is far more rewarding than actually avenging your family at the end of Mordor‘s story, and is actually relevant to your own experience, but the game’s dialogue and cinematics will constantly urge to you to remember how much more you should care about the wife and son that Sauron took from you, despite having only met and lost them in the span of seconds in the game’s opening scene. The emotional gap between what you experience and what the game tells you you’ve experienced is in major conflict, but worse, the game undermines the stories you do create by forcing their own into the forefront.
The largest offender of this is Skyrim, a game that offers an obscene amount of freedom to the player with regard to the stories they craft for themselves, but never allows you to create your own identities with that freedom. Interspersed throughout the game’s staggeringly large map, you will find opportunities to join and rise the ranks of a number of guilds and factions that each feature their own storyline, culture and relevance to the larger world of Tamriel. You can lead an organization of werewolves, join a legendary band of assassins and run a prestigious college, to name just a few. The problem is that all of these stories are forced to play second fiddle to the game’s “main” story, which focuses on your player being the legendary savior of the province of Skyrim, and any one of them felt more rewarding to me than the campaign because I discovered those factions and chose to be a part of them. Being forced to play the role of the Dovahkiin was the developer constantly reminding me that all those interesting, discoverable moments I decided were important to my character were sideline distractions to the main event. It broke the illusion from both ends: Not only was I pulled away from building the story I wanted for the character I created, the final Skyrim ‘canon’ of my game featured a Viking hero of prophesy, who took up smithing for a week, and put saving the world on hold to see if he could own every style of clothing in the province, just for fun.
Other RPGs succeed where Skyrim fails. Fallout 3 allows you to almost completely forget why you’re out in the wasteland to begin with at times, and it’s more of an asset than a flaw. The premise of Fallout 3 is that you leave your home – a claustrophobic fallout shelter – to find your father, who suddenly disappears from the Vault one day. It’s a simple conceit that provides the player with a clearly defined ‘endgame’ goal. You can find out where your father has gone almost immediately, and the game will put a big fat map marker right on your Pip Boy for you too. The thing is that there’s a whole lot of unexplored Washington D.C. between you and that location, and you’ll spend most of your time just surviving and learning about the world before you can reach the next story thread. What happens is you quickly learn through trial and error that the best way to gain access to your father is by scavenging for supplies (and xp) to make you tough enough to travel all the way to his location. Survival begets narrative in Fallout, and while you’re looking for better weapons and armor to keep yourself alive, you’ll catch yourself interacting with the locals and investigating little mysteries at each point of interest, uncovering the new culture of the post-nuclear United States. It makes sense within the context of the game too, because your character has spent his entire life up until this point living within the oppressive, narrow walls of Vault 101; you and your avatar share the same sense of awe and curiosity about the world around you, but in addition to that, your father’s disappearance is entirely connected to the state of the world you find yourself in. All of your experiences in the wasteland up to that point feel complimentary to the arc of the guiding storyline, rather than interfering or opposing it. It adds context and depth to both the smaller events you uncover while roaming the open world and they in turn reinforce the importance of the main story’s consequences. The story beautifully lends itself to player exploration, and if you were to isolate the specific ‘main narrative’ missions you might be surprised at how short Fallout 3′s skeletal narrative actually is.
The point is, a main quest is only as important as the world around it deems it has to be. In Far Cry 3, the predecessor to the game that spawned this whole article, there isn’t really any secondary story option that moves away from the central plot line, but there are dozens of hours of small diversions and emergent gameplay opportunities. Players can avoid the next narrative beat for days collecting hidden items and taking over outposts without undermining the integrity of the main plot, or straying from the game’s underlying theme: No matter how far you stray from the critical path, all your actions in Far Cry 3 will always fit the context of Jason Brody finding himself on foreign land, struggling with the conflict between his own bloodlust and the need to escape the Rook Islands. That is what makes the game such a unified experience, and it’s why it doesn’t face some of the same conflicts that arise when a game forces its story upon a player in an open world.
Considering one of the most common – and justified – critiques about Far Cry 4 is how similar it feels to Far Cry 3, even if the game’s campaign was able to be completed in fifteen minutes, here’s enough reason to hold back your internet rage. By the way, that fifteen minute-long campaign rumor is only half true, and unless you follow a particular method, you’ll have a more traditional RPG storyline at your disposal. It’s almost too bad though, because the 15 minute story is absolutely brilliant (beware, major spoilers).
Images: Ubisoft, Warner Bros., Bethesda
Arguably Sony’s biggest exclusive IP slated to hit the PS4 in 2015, Bloodborne has been raking in excitement and anticipation the last few months, but Wednesday, developer From Software announced that the upcoming action RPG will be pushed over a month from its original February 6, 2015 release date to March 24.
From Software will use the additional seven weeks to push the game even harder, and producer Masaaki Yamagiwa promises that the final product will benefit from the feedback of their alpha gameplay experiment that took place in October:
It is with regret that I must inform you that Bloodborne will be slightly delayed.
While development continues unabated, we would like our team to deliver the best possible final experience. We were gratified by the feedback and data we received from those who participated in our limited Alpha test. The extra production time will also allow us to better integrate these learnings.
Bloodborne is now set to launch in North America exclusively on PS4 on March 24th, 2015.
Please look forward to some exciting Bloodborne news in early December. Thank you very much for your continued support.
It seems to us that reception to the alpha was generally positive, with Demon’s/Dark Souls vets praising the new setting of Yarnham and some of the IP’s newest refinements to the combat system. We were not able to take part in the alpha, but the footage we’ve seen of the demo shows a very polished-looking game – Even in this early stage, the game looks like it performs better than all three Souls games, which, despite glowing reviews, are burdened with frame rate issues of varying proportions.
Our guess is that From Software is focusing this extra time on Bloodborne‘s online gameplay, which is still relatively under wraps. Alpha testers got to test out co-op, which operates seemingly exactly the same as it does in the Dark Souls series, but player-vs-player combat was noticeably absent from the demo. The online aspect of Bloodborne‘s sister titles is one of their most unique elements, and veterans of the previous games will certainly want to dive headlong into PVP once the game hits store shelves. Network issues and online balancing is a nefarious thing to calibrate, and usually doesn’t get tweaked and perfected until launch (and these days, frequently not until after then), so it would make sense that From Software’s looking at user data from the alpha to tighten their infrastructure before launch.
All signs point to Bloodborne being a major success for the PS4, and both Sony and From Software are going to do everything in their power to make sure the game is as good as possible. If that takes seven extra weeks of development, so be it – Yarnham is still one of the most enticing new worlds to explore (and die in) in the coming year.
Bloodborne launches March 24, 2015 on PS4.
Images: From Software
With Grizzly Bomb just getting back into the swing of things, we thought it best to kickstart the gaming section with some of the most exciting things to look forward to in video games for the coming year. With the majority of 2014’s biggest titles being pushed to 2015, and new announcements leaving our mouths watering, there’s a lot to look forward to in January and beyond.
In order of release date: Grizzly Bomb’s Most Anticipated Games of 2015!
Even before it had an official title, Bloodborne was raising excitement under the leaked codename Project Beast. The prospect of Demon’s Souls creator Hidetaka Miyazaki returning to his loosely connected fantasy universe with a new Souls-adjacent game was something to celebrate, but fans had no idea what they were in for with the game’s official announcement.
Bloodborne is looking to be the most unique of all From Software’s punishing action-RPGs, doubling down on gothic environments, horror elements and an even more severe risk/reward system that abandons shields and encourages aggressive, nimble combat. The cryptic and eerie environmental storytelling looks to have returned, and this time are taking more of the spotlight. But what keeps us coming back to Miyazaki’s games again and again are the hellish creatures that inhabit his worlds, and the inhabitants of Bloodborne are even more freakish and intimidating than those we’ve seen before. In addition to a building-sized spider-crab thing, glowy-eyed werewolves and a weird snake-like Cerberus creature, the latest TGS trailer showcased a stretched-out, bony, almost-human….thing, with two flowing, bloody swaths of skin hanging from where the top of its head should be. Gross.
Releases: February 6, 2015
The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt
Almost every time a book is adapted into film it ends up being a truncated, jumbled mess that barely retains the tone of its source material. Movies just can’t condense 1000+ pages of context and world-building into a two and a half hour experience. Translate that to 50 hour interactive story, on the other hand, and apparently you can do it just fine.
Based on Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski’s (incredible) Witcher Saga, The Witcher is a cross between Pan’s Labyrinth and Skyrim, with a dollop of Game of Thrones for good measure. Juxtaposing international folklore with mature themes and medieval politics, Sapkowski imagined a high fantasy setting with a sense of history and life to it that very few others can match. The universe lends itself perfectly to video games, which already focus heavily on combat and traditionally gravitate to monsters and fantastical worlds.
The Witcher 1 & 2 are immense games that feature deep combat systems, reward exploration, and offer arguably the best choices in any video game series; Rather than display a morality meter on your screen that points to angelic kitten-snuggler or demonic satan spawn according to your every interaction (Fallout), or a story that stops and offers you black and white choices with obvious consequences (Mass Effect) The Witcher games allow you to make pivotal decisions, both in dialogue or gameplay, that can have far-reaching, story-changing consequences that aren’t always clear. In The Witcher 2, for example, entire locations, characters, endings and quests are changed or skipped entirely based on your actions. When that is built into a living breathing universe of humor, scandal, magic and Guillermo del Toro-esque creatures and monsters, the prospect is absolutely undeniable.
The Witcher 3 is taking every single aspect of its predecessors and stretching the possibilities further. The world is massive but seemingly even more detailed, with no invisible walls or gameplay hinderances to block your path. Combat is both more varied and streamlined. Quests are less repetitive and more centred on player choices, with 100+ hours of side quests, story quests, monster hunts, points of interest and more to explore. The game has 36 distinct endings. This is a game with so much content you’ll never see it all in one play through, but one journey through the game will take far longer to complete than most other action-RPGs ever have. The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, appropriately enough, is a beast.
Releases: February 24, 2015
Platform: PC, Xbox One, PS4
Batman: Arkham Knight
So many different versions of Batman have nailed the character of The Caped Crusader, but only one has made you feel like The Batman himself. Rocksteady not only made the best Batman in games, they innovated a combat system so revolutionary that its timing-based group fighting has been lifted countless times since Arkham Asylum released in 2009. Never content to sit on their laurels, Rocksteady continued to expand with Arkham Knight a few years later.
Now, with Arkham Knight, the studio has rebuilt Gotham City to accommodate the new Batmobile, raised the stakes since killing off the Joker in games past, and even created a new villain for the most iconic rogues gallery in comic books. In short, Arkham Knight is going to be a blast of a game. At Sony’s E3 PlayStation event the game astounded fans with breathtaking shots of the new Gotham skyline. It was one of the very first demos of a ‘next-gen’ game that isn’t held back by cross-generation development, and boy does it show. Raindrops skitter down Batman’s cape in glorious detail, fire crackles out of the Batmobile’s exhaust pipe, and the hand-to-hand combat is even more bone-crunchingly visceral than we remember.
Releases: June 2, 2015
Platform: PC, Xbox One, PS4
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
There aren’t many video game franchises that carry as much weight as Metal Gear Solid. Unlike almost every other entry on this list, MGS is not a relatively new IP, nor did it originate outside the medium. Metal Gear was born in this industry, and has evolved along with video games since the ’80s. Which makes it even more impressive that The Phantom Pain looks like one of the most ambitious video games we’ve ever seen.
Take, for starters, the broad elements of The Phantom Pain’s gameplay; Those of us who have played Ground Zeroes have seen how much freedom there is to explore the environment stealthily or with guns blazing, and how naturally the mechanics embrace both options. No other stealth game comes to mind that handles Rambo-style action with as much flexibility as the silent approach.
It turns out, and more and more with every new Phantom Pain demo that releases, that Ground Zeroes‘s many different strategies and tools don’t even come close to the number of gadgets and options at the player’s disposal in the final package of Metal Gear Solid V. Over the last two major demos Kojima has shown Snake using a ton of new tools, and each of them appear to have a whole range of uses. His iconic cardboard box, for example, can be used in the conventional sense (as a moving hiding place) but, among other uses, the box can also be used as a distraction tool in itself, with the ability to plaster images onto it to mislead guards to react in different specific ways. A similar effect can be had with inflatable distraction devices, which Snake can toss into the environment to take attention off of himself.
In another demo Kojima debuted a new mechanic in which Snake can call his ally Quiet into the field to cover him with a sniper rifle. Quiet will, in real-time, find a perch to scout ahead and her laser sight will trace the environment in front of your eyes. Snake can mark enemies for Quiet to draw her attention and co-ordinate attacks – in one instance Quiet shot the helmet off a guard with pinpoint precision, letting Snake pop him in the head less than a second afterward. And even later, Snake tossed a grenade in the air next to an enemy chopper, which Quiet promptly shot, causing a mid-air explosion destroying the helicopter. What makes all of this so mind-boggling is none of it was scripted or even necessarily part of this mission. The player simply decided to call Quiet in for this particular section. He could have done it on his own, waited until night-time, shot up the entire jungle or picked half a dozen other ways to tackle the objective. The possibilities are endless and the world is massive. For the first time, Metal Gear has completely removed the training wheels. You take full control of Mother Base and call the shots for one last time as Big Boss.
Releases: Unknown, 2015
Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PS3, Xbox One, PS4
The Legend of Zelda Wii-U
The call of a new Zelda game is so powerful that even with little-to-no information, its announcement can sell consoles. Nintendo debuted barely a snippet of in-engine footage from a brand new Zelda for the Wii U, and while we don’t even have a title yet, we know the game is supposed to release in 2015 and that it looks gorgeous. Skyward Sword was by no means a bad game, but many felt it didn’t quite live up to the franchise’s pedigree, so demand for a great new adventure game from one of the best game studios ever could not be higher.
Attention for Nintendo has been slowly waning in recent months, but with a new Smash Bros. on the horizon and the potential of a return to form for The Legend of Zelda, the old king may rise again.
Releases: Unknown, 2015
Platform: Wii U
Naughty Dog certainly made a name for themselves with The Last of Us, which skyrocketed their studio’s status from ‘Those Guys Who Make The Uncharted Games’ to one of the most celebrated developers in the industry today. But The Last of Us was built on the foundation of the Uncharted series, and while TLoU is worlds apart from Nathan Drake’s globetrotting adventures, Naughty Dog must have picked up a lot of ideas and refinements from its development which they can apply to Uncharted 4.
Indeed, the short teaser shown at E3 in June depicted an older, battered Drake than the one we left in Drake’s Deception. Naughty Dog promises the next Uncharted will still be a light-hearted romp, but hopefully there will be some emotional weight to balance the levity. After Joel and Ellie’s journey to the Fireflies it will be very difficult to accept Nate’s gleeful attitude toward mowing down waves of human enemies.
Releases: Unknown, 2015
These games are just six out of dozens of games coming in 2015 that indicate that video games are still expanding and building bigger and more exciting sandboxes to play in. Honorable mentions include The Division, Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell and No Man’s Sky.
How many of these games are on your watch list for 2015? What games did we miss? Sound off in the comments below or on the Grizzly Bomb Facebook page.
Images: From Software, CD Projekt Red, Rocksteady, Kojima Productions, Nintendo, Naughty Dog
This past Sunday, an eagle-eyed Twitter user named Jeser Piedra snapped the following photo of a promo banner for The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which depicts a much broader threat than Jamie Foxx‘s villain Electro:
Intriguingly, Foxx’s character, who has been touted about as the sequel’s primary villain, is pushed to the far right of the poster to share space with Rhino (Left) and an heretofore unmentioned Goblin villain (Center). As far as I can tell, this is the first official promo showing Rhino and the new Goblin in full view.
As expected, Rhino has been kept in line with the Ultimate Spider-Man series, opting for a man inside a mechanical suit rather than a giant grey Pachyderm with a human face. It’s a much better fit for the grounded movies and the design actually does look somewhat interesting.
The juicy part, however, is this new Goblin who hadn’t been officially confirmed as appearing in the second movie. While we’ve known Chris Cooper and Dane Dehaan would be playing Norman and Harry Osborn respectively, we’ve heard no mention of a Goblin transformation taking place so early in the new franchise. On top of that, a second Twitter user going by the handle Tupacca zoomed in and unveiled a closer look at the villain:
..And it’s pretty clearly not Chris Cooper on the glider. This would seem to indicate that Amazing Spider-Man 2 will do away with Norman’s role in the Goblin story and make Harry the Green Goblin from the beginning. It’s not much of a blasphemous change in my book, although it will be interesting to see how, if this is the case, they handle Harry’s evil motivations.
On another note it’s hard to tell from the grainy photo if this version of the Goblin succumbs to any real physical mutations, or, like the original film trilogy, it’ll just be a guy in a suit. Personally I thought Willem Dafoe’s Gobby was as good as you can do with the character in live-action, though I much prefer the flesh Goblin (New nickname for my junk!) from Spider-Man of yore. The image above also bears a striking resemblance to James Franco’s Harry Osborn in Spider-Man 3, but again, I can’t think of how else you could handle the translation without it looking goofy. Although…
Finally, let’s go back to the character placement in the banner. Screen Crush makes a good point in directing attention to the tagline, “His Greatest Battle Begins”. The poster seems to be a pretty strong push toward the eventual Sinister Six, and with the success of Marvel’s team-ups and criss-crossing story lines we now know it can be done. However director Marc Webb’s biggest challenge will be continuing to attempt a believable interpretation of some of the most cheesy villains in all of comics. Spider-Man is a great character but for the most part, his villains are incredibly dumb — There’s a wonderful opportunity with Mysterio for some mind-bending, hallucinogenic inward-facing madness, but good luck to anyone trying to convince me to fear Kraven the Hunter.
Batman: Arkham Origins comes out this week, and with a new developer behind it, there’s no real way to know how the third installment will compare to the previous two. Sure, we’ve seen some Arkham Origins trailers and have heard some of the core details about the Dark Knight’s next foray into video game Gotham, but there’s so much we can’t know about the game until we get our hands on it on October 25th. Here are five dos and don’ts we hope to see when we tag along for Bats’ second Christmas Eve later this week:
Don’t: Mess With the Combat.
Of course, the shining heart of the Arkham series is the free-flowing combat system that forever changed the standard of the 3D brawler. A large part of what allows us to feel like the Caped Crusader in these games is being able to take down an entire mob of gangsters with one fluid dance of fists and justice. We know that Warner Bros. Montreal has made some tweaks and changes to the existing combat from Arkham City, but they seem to have been very conscientious about taking things too far away from their roots. Let’s keep things fairly grounded, here: Not too many elaborate gadgets or rooftop gymnastics, but make us capable of handling every situation with the right combo or a well-placed batarang.
Do: Mess With The Rest of Gameplay.
If there’s one thing that Arkham City faltered at, it was variety – Fly around, find a Riddler puzzle, give a football team’s worth of gangsters a close-up view of the pavement – We were rarely faced with a new mission type or challenge. Don’t get me wrong, I had a blast completing every single piece of the singleplayer campaign, but most of the enjoyment came from Rocksteady’s deft hand at weaving Batman lore into the world, and the sheer joy of the mechanics that I had already become used to. However there’s more to being Batman than aggressive criminal dentistry, and it looks like in Origins we’ll get to explore the side of Bats that earned him the title of World’s Greatest Detective. WB Montreal has shown off a bit of the detective gameplay wherein the player will have to piece together a crime scene in order to make progress in a mission. I really want this to be a fairly major component of the story and not just a handful of neat moments sprinkled into the game, and if the developers have even more fun ways to round out the gameplay I’ll be ecstatic.
Don’t: Sacrifice Substance for Size.
Batman: Arkham Origins is going to be the largest of the three games to date, expanding to incorporate all of Gotham City rather than the titular Arkham City and Asylum settings from the previous two titles. As good as Arkham City is, it lost the intimacy of Asylum‘s closed walls and Metroidvania style backtracking which made the iconic prison grounds feel oppressing and teeming with activity. Origins risks doubling down on that loss by adding a lot of square footage to the map. Hopefully the promises of a more varied cityscape, due in part to featuring more than desolate slums full of escaped prisoners, will liven up the environment and feature more details to discover.
Do: Play with Gotham City.
A lot can happen in a large metropolis and there’s enough history in Batman canon to fill that space. Not all of Bruce Wayne’s world is depressingly dark and filled with villains. Arkham City was so depressing and grey that certain moments looked like a black and white movie. This is appropriate a lot of the time, but it can’t be all there is to Gotham City or no one outside the poor, the morally questionable or the colorblind could live there and keep their sanity. I want Arkham Origins to show some of the livelier side to Gotham – Give us families, car dealerships, people snapping photos of Batman on the move. I want to feel that there’s more to Batman’s world than a dank cave and a parade of creepy men to fight. Remind us of what he fights to protect.
Do: Tell Us a Story.
I’m breaking pattern here, but the truth is I have way more positives than negatives to look forward to in this game. That’s because, with whatever flaws great or small that can be found in Arkham Asylum and City, what both of them achieved was a story on par with some of the better source material. Asylum, specifically, tells a much better story for some of the characters than I’d ever seen in the past. Arkham Origins actually looks like it might be far more focused on delivering a satisfying Batman story than City, with a younger, more brutish Batman, still regarded as a vigilante by the police force and a new threat by the criminal underworld. The fact that it all takes place over one night on Christmas Eve makes even more epic. If it can manage to keep a strong pace and treat the characters with as deft a hand as Rocksteady did twice in the past, this will unquestionably a wonderful way to usher in the new console generation.