Card game autobattler Storybook Brawl released in Early Access on Steam yesterday, giving you the opportunity to draft "your favourite characters from story and myth", such as the trademark-neutral "Snow Wight", or "Princess Peep and her battle-hardened sheep". Each fairytale character has unique abilities.
With its theming and big, bright UI, Storybook Brawl comes off as the sort of game that's easy to learn, but difficult to master. "The goal was to create a game that anyone can get into and have fun," says designer Matt Place, who was a Magic Pro Tour champion before he turned his hand to game design. "Fairytales give us a huge array of characters with different personalities and attributes to explore, and it allows us to make a very accessible game that is not too complex but has deep strategy for those who want it."
The studio, Good Luck Games, is led by three former professional card game players who have since transitioned to game design, working on projects including Hearthstone and Elder Scrolls: Legends before coming together to work on Storybook Brawl. Having played at such a high level, it's interesting that they would choose explicitly to make such an approachable game. Most reviewers on Steam are already fans of the genre. (There are 33 reviews for Storybook Brawl at the time of writing, with a "positive" average.)
Storybook Brawl is expected to be in Early Access until "late 2021 to early 2022". The core systems and many of the final game objects are already in place (including "1 Ultra Cute Puff Puff"), but players can expect to see features added such as group lobbies, friend chat, and fully-voiced characters.
Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin’s concept is based on Final Fantasy 1, but is a story all its own.
Speaking in an interview with Weekly Famitsu, Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin’s creative producer Tetsuya Nomura, producer Jin Hujiwara, and director Daisuke Inoue spoke about the game, and how it’s using the original Final Fantasy as a motif.
According to Nomura, the game is based on Final Fantasy 1, where at the end of which, you learn who the Warriors of Light really are and where they came from.
In Stranger of Paradise, Jack and his friends are under the impression they may be Warriors of Light, yet they have doubts sometimes as to whether or not they are – as a prophecy has foretold.
Nomura also states the trio are “strangers” which is central to the plot as the trio has gathered in Paradise, which according to Inoue, means “exactly as what it says.”
“Strangers of Paradise means exactly what it says that these strangers are in the land of Paradise,” added Inoue. “At the same time, it could mean people who shouldn’t be in Paradise. I think it is a title that represents the story of the game perfectly.”
In the game, Jack and his allies are on a mission to defeat Chaos, and some folks may recall there were four Warriors of Light in the original Final Fantasy. According to Nomura, there will be more characters than just Jack, Jed, and Ash, but when it comes to fighting, battles will be limited to three party members.
As far as more information on the characters is concerned, the developers are keeping most of the story and gameplay elements close to their chests.
“In the full game, there will be even more characters, the game will be a lot broader, and I think the story is quite compelling,” said Nomura. “It might be a bit confusing to see these characters come out of nowhere, completely unlike anything you were expecting, but I hope you’ll keep an eye on upcoming information.”
So if you want any sort of idea of what to expect, you will need to play the PS5 demo, because for now, the team is only revealing information from the trial version, which only covers the beginning of the game.
The team really wants you to provide some feedback once you finish with it too.
“It’s a game trying something a little bit different, so I fully expect to receive a wide range of feedback,” said Inoue. “I’m sure that everyone’s thoughts on the trial version will help us to dramatically improve the quality of the final game, so please do give us your feedback.”
“The story is only touched on very briefly in the trial version, but once it unfolds, it’s a very impactful story that will really hit you emotionally,” added Fujiwara. “Please look forward to the game and keep an eye out for further news.”
According to Fujiwara, there was an unexpected issue on the first day the trial version was released, making it unplayable. Because of the issue, the trial period has been extended by another two days, meaning you have until June 26 to give it a try.
Unless you want to play the Early Access version, it’s going to be a while before you get your hands on Baldur’s Gate 3.
Speaking in an interview with Gamespot, Larian Studios founder Swen Vincke said not to expect Baldur’s Gate 3 to leave early access this year.
Instead, the team at Larian is aiming to release the game in 2022, but there are still “no guarantees,” (thanks, Blue).
“We are really trying to get the game done by next year,” said Vincke. “It’s not gonna release this year for sure.”
That said, the team is currently busy developing content for the game, which is why there has been radio silence since the Druids arrived with Update 4. But the next update is “around the corner,” according to Vincke, and it will be focused on feedback from players. This means it will be more focused on features rather than content.
From 2010 to 2014 Richard Cobbett wrote Crapshoot, a column about rolling the dice to bring random obscure games back into the light. And you know what this week is? It's the long awaited 100th Crapshoot! (Fires cheap party streamer in air, eats single celebratory biscuit.)
Clearly, this is a very special occasion for fans of both decimals and arbitrary milestones. But how to mark it? How else? Let's dive into one of the PC's most infamous duds, the sucking abyss that is… Hellboy! Hmm. That might have been more dramatic if you hadn't already seen the title.
The legend of Hellboy begins long before its release, and the Guillermo del Toro movie that brought Hellboy to a wider audience back in 2004. In case you don't know, the gist is that he's a demon who was summoned from Hell as a child by Nazi occultists, before being brought up by a nice professor who found an odd parenting middle-ground by raising him as a regular child but still calling him "Hellboy". I haven't read any of the comics, so I may be wrong here, but I'm assuming that this was primarily to stop any awkwardness in the event of another demon having to refer to him by his full title as "World Destroyer, Great Beast, Right Hand of Doom, Son of the Fallen One, and Brian."
Fully grown, Hellboy currently works for the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, which I'm fairly sure is a hastily thrown together backronym created when the Professor accidentally said BPRD in a meeting and had to quickly cover for it. There he fights alongside other friendly freaks, saves the world a lot, and is no doubt proud to be played on screen by Ron Perlman.
You'd think all this would be perfect for a game. In the right hands, it could be. Unfortunately, the Hellboy licence fell into the hands of a company called Cryo Interactive, which mostly seemed to exist to torture adventure game reviewers. Their eventual demise was attributed to business reasons, but I maintain had to have involved some kind of stake to the heart. A silver one. Forged from the 30 cursed pieces paid to Judas, urinated upon by a virgin unicorn under a full moon and carved into serrated spirals.
What I'm basically saying is I didn't like their games very much. They were not good.
I could try to describe the many ways Hellboy entered PC gaming legend, but I don't have to. Showing the kind of misplaced confidence that normally has people leaping off Niagara Falls while flapping their wings really really hard, Cryo produced a demo that was known to have experienced games editors collapsing into laughter. It was made for a stand at a show called ECTS, but the damned code also made it onto coverdiscs and is still floating around like a twisted lump of especially nutty poo.
The demo showed off four bits of the game, and this is the second. The only things I added were the title screen and fade-out. Everything from the voice quality to the vanishing subtitles to the… rest… is exactly as happened on the screen. If you feel any sympathy on the grounds that a lot of games are in a bad state before release, remember while that's true, this was a demo intended to promote Hellboy, and there's a reason companies don't let people see games like this. The reason is "Duh!"
That was two minutes! Two minutes!
Instantly the kind of joke that would take Duke Nukem the best part of a decade to live down to, at this point the game simply vanished. Everyone involved seemed to have awoken in a cold sweat after a night drinking absinthe and raw chicken grease, glanced over to see Hellboy on the next pillow, and screamed and screamed and screamed and screamed. Like nuclear waste being buried deep underground, the game was quietly shelved in the nearest bin, never to be seen or spoken of again.
Well, at least until the movie came out, when someone presumably from Hellboy's homeland decided that it would be a waste of a good asshole to not to plop it onto shelves. Even so, it wasn't exactly a big release, with the name altered from the original "Dogs of the Night" to "Asylum Seeker" and copies—to the best of my recollection—getting pride of place absolutely nowhere.
I remember PC Gamer only got a review copy because an alert reader spotted it on a shelf, on holiday I believe, and alerted the editor to its existence. It walked away from its review scourging with a faintly generous 14%.
The sad thing is that the finished game is nowhere near as funny as the demo. Oh, it's bad. It's shamefully bad, and while I'll cut the people who actually worked on it some slack on the grounds that it's mean to blame the slaves when the galley sinks, anyone responsible for actually releasing it should take five minutes a day to simply stare in a mirror and weep for their childhood dreams.
It's dark, it's dull, it's utterly lacking in fun or character. It is everything a game should avoid, with its only saving grace being that the CD probably won't snap in your hands and blind you out of spite.
But there's a difference between comedy bad and just plain worthless, and Hellboy sits with the dregs rather than the clowns. It's the most uninspired, could-not-give-a-crap kind of game, from an early puzzle where you have to work out which of four rocks should go on three pillars with no apparent clues save trying everything until you finally get it, to voiceover work from a cast who aren't simply phoning it in but burbling lines in their sleep. Not into a microphone, mind. What do you think this is, Daikatana?
The plot is that a couple of BPRD officers have gone missing while exploring a graveyard for some reason, and Hellboy and his partner, Sara Notworthcaringabout are sent to investigate. His voice is slightly less awful. She doesn't simply walk with an exaggerated hip-swing, but an apparently deliberate attempt to use her breasts as siege weapons against any invisible elves who might be around.
Anyway, it takes about five seconds before she's captured, leading Hellboy to a spooky asylum ("Asylum Seeker", geddit?) for pretty much no reason except that it's probably evil. My favourite bit is a section early on where Hellboy faces the most terrifying threat of all… a dark corridor! Try to go down it and he's attacked by what you can quite clearly see is absolutely nothing , making it feel like he's clumsily stubbing his toe and risking death by doing so. Hail Hellboy, the Great Red Wuss.
What really stands out though are the monsters. For starters, they include this guy:
For some reason, Hellboy seems to keep running into them while they're on coffee break, because they absolutely do not give a crap about doing their jobs. In the first two chapters, you bump into several mini-boss level monsters (and a few zombies, but they can be excused being dumb), and in all but one case you can simply walk past them.
That one exception? The silly guy in the last shot, who appears and runs off in the same cut-scene. It's meant to be a preview of horror to come, but no. More a premature ejaculation followed by, "Sorry. Pass my pants and I'll get out of your hair."
Even when you get to the scene from the video above, it's depressing. Everything is essentially the same, though the nurse's face doesn't animate like a crazy nightmare any more and the nonsensical dialogue has at least been slightly cleaned up since being run through Google Translate. Everything else though, that's as standard.
And after that, I gave up playing. This is however roughly 30 minutes more than I suspect any of the testers gave it, or from the looks of it, anyone on the internet short of one guy who wrote a walkthrough, one guy in Poland who endured it for a Let's Play, and—
So there it is. One of the PC's greatest failures, in all of its terrible, terrible glory. Is it really as bad as everyone's always said it is? Hell, yes. Is it so-bad-it's-good though? Not in its wildest dreams, even if it does have some unintentionally hilarious moments, and the kind of script that made me genuinely shocked to see that the development team was American rather than European.
I apologise for that Google Translate quip earlier. To Google Translate.
And there we go. One hundred Crapshoots. If you've been reading them from the start—thanks! If not, there's up to 99 more of them to read, and you might even like a few. If you have any favourites, or games you particularly want to see in the next hundred, post 'em in the comments.
Finally, as a special pseudo-treat, here's a second Crapshoot for the week, of a game that gets brought up a lot, but I've always disqualified for being too well-known. Today though, on this most rounded of ultimately meaningless days, it seems only fair to bend the rules for not just the adventure you've been demanding I cover from the start, but one of the best-selling games in PC history.
A competition between 3D artists to create a short scene centered around the same animation has drawn over 2,400 entries, and the top 100 of them have been compiled into a nearly 9 minute long montage of animation talent. The Alternate Realities CG challenge, run by 3D artist pwnisher via YouTube, provided nothing but an animation to work from. The results are pretty fascinating, running the gamut from hilarious to serious, from pop culture to wildly original worlds and historical vistas.
Every rendered scene revolves around the same walking animation, someone clearly pulling a heavy load or hauling it on their back. The range, from there, is incredible: Sci-fi vistas, gods, and monsters. Otters in Napoleonic uniform with a cannon. A dad hauling a huge teddy bear on his back for his daughter. There's poignancy too, like a gruesome scene at a World War 2 concentration camp. It's all set to mesmerizing music from Spotify creator Feverkin.
The top 5 competitors received prizes from major producers of hardware related to 3D art, and the top 100 were honored in this video. A later compilation, three and a half hours long according to pwnisher, will include all 2,400 of the entries.
For at least a short time, Electronic Arts will let players in FIFA Ultimate Team look inside a loot box before they buy it. The new Preview Packs can be "opened" before they're bought, allowing players to see the opening animation and check out the contents before proceeding to purchase the pack with either freely-earned FUT Coins or real-money-purchased FIFA Points.
It increasingly seemed like EA would be the last big company to move away from the loot box model, which has come under increasing scrutiny in the past few years for its addictive nature and similarity to gambling. FIFA Ultimate Team loot boxes are a huge part of EA's revenue stream, as was shown in a set of leaked documents earlier this year.
The new Preview Packs can be bought once opened, or ignored. After a timer expires the pack will disappear and a new one will take its place (the example in EA's posting shows a timer of 20 hours and 35 minutes, so an educated guess might be a 24 hour timer between pack previews). Opened "time limited" and "limited quantity" packs will also become unavailable if the time limit, or the quantity of limited packs, runs out before your preview timer is up.
The Preview Packs will be the only ones available to purchase for a while, until the Festival of FUTball event ends on July 16, 2021. Other kinds of packs, those not obtained from the FUT store including Objective, SBC, or Division Rivals reward packs, will not change. You can read more about the time-limited Preview Packs on the FIFA Ultimate Team website.
There's no real question that these packs are a test brought about due to widespread concerns, especially among European regulators, that loot boxes are gambling. EA was facing fines of up to €10 million in the Netherlands last year for violating local gambling laws. A lawsuit in Canada against EA alleges that it ran an "unlicensed, illegal gaming system." Finally, last year, the UK House of Lords recommended that loot boxes be classified and regulated as gambling. Researchers into addiction have said in the past that there is a clear connection between loot boxes and gambling addiction, calling it a matter of "life or death" for problem gamblers.
Your gaming setup is ready for an upgrade. And, whether you have a lot of space or just a little, Gigabyte’s latest fleet of high-performance gaming monitors are built to fit while delivering the latest 4K visuals paired with the 144Hz refresh rates you need for competitive gaming.
Gigabyte has four new gaming monitors ranging in size from 28 inches all the way up to 48 inches, and each delivers 4K at 144Hz and even brings HDR onto the scene, giving you fantastically sharp, wonderfully colorful, and silky smooth gameplay visuals. They’re also ideal for multi-device setups thanks to built-in USB hubs with a KVM switch to let you use the same keyboard and mouse with multiple devices connected to the monitor. With dual HDMI 2.1 ports, a DisplayPort 1.4, and a USB-C connection on each monitor, they’re ready for the latest gaming consoles and PCs.
The Gigabyte M28U kicks things off with a small-desk-friendly 28-inch display. That 4K/144Hz display uses a Super Speed IPS panel that can achieve 1ms GTG response times for a clear picture. And, with the vibrant colors of IPS, it’s able to cover 94% of the DCI-P3 color space, letting you make the most of your cinematic viewing and gaming experiences alike.
For a little more screen and a bit more color, the Gigabyte AORUS FI32U is ready. Its 32-inch display also uses a Super Speed IPS panel for that fast, 1ms response time. And, by using Frame Rate Control, the display is capable of supporting a 10-bit color depth for even more vibrant HDR. Audiophiles will get a boost from the AORUS FI32U as well, as it features a built-in ESS Sabre HiFi chip to power your headphones.
If 28 inches and 32 inches sound a little small to you for enjoying an extremely sharp 4K image, then Gigabyte’s next two gaming monitors have something in store.
The Gigabyte AORUS FV43U dials everything up to another level. You’re still getting the 4K/144Hz, but in this case, it comes with a true 10-bit color depth from a 43-inch Quantum Dot display that can achieve 1000-nits of brightness. This brings another level of HDR visuals to your games. As this monitor is breaking into TV-size territory, it’s also got a beefier pair of speakers to match, so you don’t always have to rely on headphones when you want a more relaxed gaming session.
The AORUS FO48U brings even more screen, and it’s a special one indeed. This 48-inch gaming display features an OLED panel. That technology delivers extremely rich contrast for stunning HDR visuals while still maintaining that sharp 4K and smooth 144Hz experience alongside a fast response time.
If you’re after a home gaming setup that you can really flex, having the M28U or FI32U at your desk and the FV43U or FO48U on your media center will let you enjoy 4K/144Hz HDR gaming wherever you choose to play.
For more info, you can check out the M28U here and the Aorus 4K monitors here. And for a limited time, if you pick up one of Gigabyte’s Aorus monitors, you can get free digital code for Outriders to redeem here.
Co-op ghost hunting/found footage horror/cheesy documentary simulator Phasmophobia has rolled out a fat new content update today, alongside the announcement that the solo developer behind Kinetic Games has hired on two new hands to help manage the runaway success Phasmophobia has found. The early access release was a hit last year, consistently sitting in Steam's top-sellers list and enjoying big Twitch viewership for several months.
The new update adds a map, the cramped and closet-less Willow Street House, and two new ghosts. The Yokai is a grumpy ghost that dislikes when players talk, which can cause it to go hunting much earlier in the mission than other ghosts. The Hantu is an upredictable thing that moves faster in cold rooms, but slower in warm ones, so keeping the power on is vital to preserving your chances of escape. The spawn rate on these new ghosts will be tripled until the next update so it's easier to jump back in and see them.
Additionally, the game's dreaded Dirty Water objective is back—well, kind of. The objective is a Phasmophobia in-joke because it was so hard to complete, not because photographing a nasty-looking sink is hard, but because the ghost so rarely did its job and filled a sink with muck. Dirty Water was removed as an objective in March, and has now been added back in as a daily challenge rather than a proper objective.
The new additions at Kinetic Games are a programmer and an artist, each now working on the game alongside the original developer. Last year, Phasmophobia's solo developer said he was reconsidering his Early Access timeline in the face of the game's success.