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Secret of Mana is being Remade with Modern Visuals and Sound!
Square Enix has announced a complete remake of the Secret of Mana. It is scheduled to be released on February 15, 2018 for the PlayStation 4, the PSVita, and PC. They aren’t kidding when they say it is a complete remake either. Square is giving the game an overhaul with 3D graphics, bright colors, and voice acting!
 
Secret of Mana is one of the most beloved RPGs of all time. Its claim to fame, at least in my heart, is being the first action RPG to include two player, simultaneous, cooperative play. It was one of the first opportunities my brother and I had to play a game like this together. It actually supported three players, but we were never able to make that happen. We will get that chance again when the remake comes out. 
 
Square Enix is giving Secret of Mana a full makeover. They are using a bright and colorful art style that will be a sight to behold. It’s interesting that Square Enix waited this long to remake this one, but I am hoping that this will become a trend. They have a huge catalog of games that are worthy of remakes like this.
I know that we’re picking this one up the minute it comes out. What about your family? Sound off in the comments!
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Fe is the Next EA Originals Game and its Stunning

Fe was first announced back at E3 2016 and has been silent since. EA revealed more about the game during their GamesCom press event. It is being developed by Zoink Games and follows the story of a fox cub as learns to use his voice to help heal the forest of light.

We haven’t been able to get our hands on the game yet, but everything we have been shown so far is looking great! Fe appears to be a 3D platformer (like Super Mario 64, Yooka-Laylee, and other similar titles). Players will control a magical fox cub as he or she explores a forest and learns to use various songs to help befriend different animals. These animals will help unlock new areas for further exploration. The gameplay itself doesn’t really strike me as particularly new or interesting, but I am captivated by the sound design and the visuals. The heavy use of black in the background and the foreground really make everything stand out. It is tough to tell whether or not the art style will get confusing during combat or platforming sections, but we’ll obviously know more about that we get closer to launch.

EA will be publishing Fe in early 2018 on the PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch. The trailer is linked below. Take a look and let us know what you think in the comments.

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Hearthstone: Knights of the Frozen Throne Has Released!

Developer: Blizzard

Platform: PC/Mobile/Tablet

Release Date: 8/10/17

Teaser Trailer:

Website

What is Hearthstone?

Hearthstone is one the first and most popular digital collectible card games. It was created as a spin-off of the popular Warcraft and World of Warcraft game series but has since taken on a life of its own. Hearthstone has set the tone for game design in online games the same way Magic the Gathering has influenced all other physical collectable card games.

Hearthstone is primarily a player against player game, where each player takes turns as they slowly collect mana crystals to play cards in their hand. These cards represent iconic Warcraft monsters, spells, items, and events that can be used to reduce the health of your opponent from 30 to 0. The art style and design is meant to bring out a very casual and relaxed feel. The vary name “Hearthstone” refers to the World of Warcraft item that let you return to the safety of an inn.

Where Magic: the Gathering distinguishes their cards using color to represent various themes and mechanics. Hearthstone cards are primarily divided into groups based on iconic Warcraft heroes and their classes. Players build a deck by selecting a hero and using cards based on that heroes’ class as well as a collection of neutral cards. Each hero also has a unique “hero power” that can be used once a turn to support their style of play. It is this combination of hero based deck building and the steady build up of resources to play cards that makes Hearthstone a lot easier of a game to play than Magic: the Gathering for some family gamers.

What also sets apart Hearthstone and other digital card games from their physical brethren is their free-to-play model of game expansion. Playing games as various heroes initially unlocks cards from that class and completing quests, tasks that require specific actions during a game, reward you with coins that can be used to purchase more packs of cards. While you can use money to purchase additional packs, daily quests and a weekly casual event known as a “Tavern Brawl” provide a steady stream of resources. There is also process for taking extra cards and turning them into a flexible resource for crafting specific cards. There is something satisfying to someone who has played for years with paper card games, to be able to turn a pile of extra cards into that elusive card.

What is Knights of the Frozen Throne?

Knights of the Frozen Throne is the 5th large expansion for Hearthstone. With this expansion comes cards that feature iconic characters and themes from World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King. Arthas the Lich King and his lieutenants of the Icecrown Citadel are available as creatures to summon along with legions of monsters and spells inspired by the treacherous Northrend.

 

Why is the Awesome?

A single player story mode featuring The Lich King himself will be available for all players. The challenge is a series of matches versus computer opponents with special hero cards and decks based on iconic villains of the Icecrown Citadel. Players who conquer this gauntlet of challenges are rewarded with a free legendary card that is a card type unique to this set…

Death Knight Hero Cards

This set features a new set of legendary cards that represent the nine iconic heroes falling under the sway of the Lich King. These cards have an immediate effect when they are played and replace each character’s hero power with an evil, and significantly more powerful, effect. Personally I am excited for the corrupted

Priest hero: Shadow Reaper Anduin

Rarity adjustments geared towards newer players

While announced several weeks ago, this set marks the starting of new features that are geared towards newer players. A legendary card is guaranteed to be opened in the first ten packs of any set purchased, and duplicate legends will never be opened. If a player would open a legendary that a player already has, the game replaces it with a different legendary that the player does not own. These changes were made in response to player feedback on the frustration of opening duplicate legends or very few epic or legendary cards at all.

Lifesteal, a familiar mechanic comes to Hearthstone

Players of Magic: The Gathering and other card games will know this by names like Lifelink and Drain. Cards with Lifesteal heal your hero for as much damage as they deal. This ability is put on creatures and spells, and some death knight hero cards give lifestealing weapons or hero powers. While life gain by itself is not a strong ability, pairing it with a creature or a removal spell can never be a bad thing.

 

Divine Shield and Deathrattle

Two mechanics that are at the core of Hearthstone are getting a large infusion of cards from this set.

Divine Shield is an ability on a minion that prevents all damage from the first time it is attacked or hit by a spell. Not only are there a lot of divine shield minions that have been added, but several paladin cards benefit from divine shield minions going into the fray.

 

 

Deathrattle is an ability that happens when that minion dies, and Knights of the Frozen throne has a lot of creatures that care about when they die. New to the theme are creatures that care when they die and punish opponents who aggressively destroy your creatures.

 

Why should you pick up this game?

Hearthstone, and its recent expansion Knights of the Frozen throne, is a game that is easy to learn and play for computers, tablets and mobile devices. It offers one of the best free to play experiences around and its short games are perfect for gaming opportunities when time is short or physical space is limited. With it being an online only game, it is important to note that chat and social interactions are opt in, which is important for younger family gamers.

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Destiny 2 is Coming and We are Very Excited!

By: Uncle Badger

Destiny fans, rejoice!

Destiny 2, the sequel to Bungie’s wildly popular shared world shooter, is finally launching this fall (September 6). If you’re like me, a massive fan of Destiny 1, you’re most likely losing your mind. But, if you’ve somehow missed out on the original Destiny, here’s a quick primer:

Destiny is an online multiplayer first person shooting game. While it shares many similarities to MMOs (for example, players inhabit a shared world and are required to be online at all times), developers describe it as a “shared world shooter”. It’s a distinction that, at first blush, seems not to describe something entirely different, but after a couple hours in the Destiny universe, it becomes clear that the game has really carved out a unique space that warrants the distinction.

In the world of Destiny set far into the future, an extraterrestrial traveler has empowered human beings with extraordinary powers which we then use to defend ourselves and this traveler against “the darkness” aka evil aliens. Players can select one of three character classes; Hunter, Titan, or Warlock – and employ a vast array of weapons and armors in various quests and adventures to keep the planets safe from various enemy hordes. Destiny made a name for itself not only with fantastic gunplay upon which the game is centered, but also with a deep and expansive lore. Additionally, the game is highly social, particularly when it comes to endgame content like raids or special in-game events.

Still with me? Great.

The original Destiny didn’t quite feel like an MMO but didn’t exactly feel like a pure FPS either and, overtime, “Shared World Shooter” became less of an in-house descriptor and more of a legitimate genre. By all accounts, Destiny 2 is looking to build on that new genre with improved gunplay, more expansive shared play spaces, and, of course, TONS OF LOOT!

In terms of story, Destiny 2 couldn’t be more compelling. Set one year after the events of Destiny: Rise of Iron, the Red Legion faction of the Cabal, led by their emperor, Dominus Ghaul, attack The Last City. Ghaul, believing that he deserves the power of the Light, succeeds in stripping the Guardians of their powers and destroying the Tower. Scattered and powerless, the Guardians must acquire new powers to face Ghaul and the Red Legion.

Unlike the original game which had its lore hidden apart from the game in online ”Grimoire Cards” players had to access through a separate website (yikes), Destiny 2 promises much needed story improvements. At launch, the game will be boasting over 50 cut scenes which is slightly more than Destiny 1 even including all its expansions. Additionally, Bungie has confirmed that those loathsome Grimoire Cards are no more – 100% of the story will be told in the game itself. Huzzah!
Destiny 2 brings back all three characters classes from the original game, but with new skills and abilities. Specifically, each of the subclasses for the Titan, Warlock, and Hunter classes have been overhauled.

The Titan

The Titan’s defender subclass known primarily for its defensive bubble has been reworked considerably. The “bubble” is still an option, but now alongside that is the option to run a defender with a throwable, slammable void shield – think Captain America. The Striker subclass super ability has been changed as well from a single powerful slam to a roaming series of slams, each leaving behind a damaging field of arc energy.

The nova bomb from the warlock’s subclass has been enlarged considerably and now splits into smaller projectiles upon impact. The much beloved Sunsinger subclass has ditched the self-resurrection ability in favor of a new super called Dawn Blade. It functions very much like the Titan’s Hammers from Destiny 1.

Lastly, the hunter’s Golden Gun has been nerfed a bit, no longer guaranteeing a kill with each shot. To balance this, the length of the super has been extended, offering more shots per super. And the hunter arc subclass has an entirely new super – Arc Strider – think Blade Dancer from Destiny one but a bit more agile and with a polearm instead of daggers.

Each of the character classes will launch with two subclass instead of the three you might be used to from Destiny 1. And while Bungie has played coy when asked if all three classes will be returning, it’s safe to say that they’ll all be making a comeback at some point after launch.

Overall, gunplay seems relatively unchanged from Destiny 1, and that’s a good thing. Nevertheless, the small improvements are noticeable as the gunplay feels as if it’s grown up a bit. The way Destiny 2 is setting up weapons is somewhat confusing. There are still three slots, but the first two are now “Kinetic” and “Energy.” Gone are the primary, secondary, and heavy weapon designations. This means that weapons like sidearms are now primaries and can be either elemental (energy) or non-elemental (kinetic), and old favorites like snipers, shotguns, and fusion rifles are now classed with rocket launchers.
Like I said, it’s a little confusing. I’m sure we’ll get used to it.

Overall, Destiny 2 is looking to build on the success of its predecessor by doubling down on excellent gameplay and expanding the already rich mythos of the Destiny universe. And, of course, there will be a ton of loot!

Destiny 2 launches worldwide on September 6, 2017, for the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One. The PC version is set to launch later on October 24.

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lost sphear

Tokyo RPG Factory has announced the release date for Lost Sphear, the follow-up to I Am Setsuna. It was only announced a handful of months ago, but it appears that development on the game  progressed very quickly.

Lost Sphear will be released on PS4, Switch, and PC on January 23, 2018.

Tokyo RPG Factory’s first game, I Am Setsuna, was given a luke-warm reception last year. Though it was highly anticipated, it ended up being a disappointment to many because it was too heavily focused on nostalgia.

Lost Sphear is a game that, by all appearances, looks like it is being made in the same mold as its older sibling. It is being developed in a deliberately retro way hoping to evoke fond memories of the golden age of RPGs.

With all that said, I can’t help but be optimistic when I look at the trailers for the game. Take a look for yourself!

The story revolves around a boy whose village disappears right around him. He then embarks on a quest to help restore the missing pieces of the world. Even if Lost Sphear struggles the same way I am Setsuna did, I think it offers many interesting gameplay possibilities. Fortunately, I don’t have to wait long to find out as the game comes out less than 6 months from now!

What do you think? Sound off in the comments!

 

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Minecraft

Microsoft announced the Better Together update at E3 2017. This update is intended to allow players multiple platforms to play together. In essence, it is intended to unite all of the platforms where Minecraft is available into a single game. This means cross-platform support that allows console, windows 10 PC, and mobile Minecrafters to play together!

The update is coming soon, but first Microsoft will be running a beta for Windows 10 PC and Mobile players. The beta started on July 31 and will be followed shortly by a similar beta including the Xbox One.

The update itself will come later this summer and will include the biggest collection of new features to ever come to bedrock platforms (mobile and Windows 10 PC). The list of new features will include:

  • Stained Glass
  • Fireworks
  • Parrots that dance
  • Customizable banners
  • Armor stands
  • Jukebox and music discs
  • Recipe books
  • Ravines

The update also includes new multiplayer features, like the ability for hosts to set player permissions and host options, and other tools. Lastly, the update includes the ability for players to share their custom creations in 3D by uploading the 3D models directly to Remix3d.com.

This is a pretty big deal for Minecraft. We’ll be keeping you all updated as we get closer to the update going live.

 

 

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Guest Writer: James Pisano
Battle Chasers: Nightwar, a beautiful single player RPG that started out as a very successful Kickstarter project and developed by Airship Syndicate and Published by Nordic Games, is based on one of the most popular American Comic Series in the 90s, by Joe Madureira.  Joe Madureira is the Creative and Animation Director on the game, so the “flavor” of that world remains intact.  The beautiful artwork, the rich and immersive environments, and the strategic depth are all high points that I know will have me coming back for more and more this October when the world will be able to enter the arcane punk wonderland of Battle Chasers: Nightwar.
In the time I had my hands on this game at E32017, it was clear to me that the developers thought through things like deep party synergy without falling prey to trite conventions.  The party they had setup for the demo was made up of Calibretto – and Ancient War Golem, Gully – A young girl on a quest to find her father, and Knolan, a sage-like Wizard who packs much more power than one might think.  Calibretto looks like he -should- be the tank, but he’s really a healer who can also deal some AOE damage in a pinch.  Gully has the look of an elfish rogue, but is actual rather tanky and handy with crowd control abilities and taunts.  And Knowlen is mostly arcane DPS with a sprinkling of heals available for support.  Each party member can be cycled to be the party’s representative on the overworld, and is able to use their unique abilities to damage enemies before actually entering the encounter screen, which adds another layer of strategy and engagement that makes this game all the more appealing for me.
As far as the level design, we were told by the company’s PR rep that the dungeons are procedurally generated, which adds a TON of re-playability and depth.  The environments looked complex and cohesive enough that I was surprised to hear that they were constructed this way, especially given the beautiful art style.  And if you’re one for deep lore from a team that really cares, this is your kind of game.  So come October 3rd, gather the family around and fall in love with this sure-to-be-epic RPG on your platform of choice.  Yes, it’s being released on PC (Steam & GOG), Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch.
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Further Game Play Details for Sea of Thieves Announced

Sea of Thieves is a multiplayer open world game where you gather players to create a crew and go on adventures.  This game has been on the gaming radar for two years and has a projected release of early 2018. Microsoft revealed new gameplay details during a lengthy video demo during their E3 2017 press event.

Developer:  Rare

System:  Xbox One, Windows 10

Release Date:  Early 2018

The beginning of the video explains the world and hints at some of the adventures to be has over the sea, on land, or even underground. The most interesting feature that Rare showed off during the demo was the map system. Players have to use thematically appropriate treasure maps to find their adventures.

The gameplay shown in the demo shows a wide range of what one might encounter in the game.  One of the first things that was shown were the skeleton enemies that can rise out of the ground to attack.  These creatures explode when they are shot by your pistol.  The demo showed a quest where players need to retrieve a chest and bring it back to their ship.  The person holding the chest can’t fight without putting the chest down. This makes teamwork mandatory. Players need to protect their friends’ backs.

Combat isn’t all skeletons though. You can also fight other players in naval battles! This looks like one of the primary sources of player vs player action. We don’t know exactly how it will work yet, but it sure looks exciting!

ESRB Rating Concerns

Its worth noting that we don’t know how the game will be rated by the ESRB yet.  There was a small spray of blood when pirates were injured. It was no worse that the battles with the characters in Horizon Zero Dawn though. Sea of Thieves is worth monitoring for more information as the release approaches.  The fact that the game is an open world multiplayer almost automatically disqualifies it for young gamers.  This may be one for older children (tweens and teens) with support from a parent to monitor the content other players may present.  It is even possible that an M rating will be assigned (although it looks like that is unlikely based on what we’ve seen).   We’ll obviously be providing more information as the game gets closer to release.

 

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E3 Hands on Preview: Riverbond

Developer:  Cococumber

System:  Xbone, PC

Release Date:  TBA

We first saw Riverbond during the Microsoft press conference and honestly did not give it much of a thought as it appeared at first glance to be just another attempt at an overly simple voxel game.  Our impression did not change much either when we randomly stumbled onto the single demo screen that it took up in the entire Microsoft exhibition area.  That all changed though as soon as we picked up the controllers and started playing.  I am not sure what exactly changed but within just minute or two of play the three of us were laughing and yelling enough to make the developer with us concerned for our sanity.  

This is four player drop in/drop out cooperative game that is a cross between Gauntlet and Minecraft with very simple controls that consisted of attack, ranged attack, special attack, pick up/throw, block and jump.  The game appears to be light-hearted adventure through various maps with both indoor dungeons and outdoor environments. You and you friends slash your way through more than 100 levels, interacting and destroying everything in your path.  In our case this included, trees, grass, stone pillars, chickens, ghost spiders, bookcases and the occasional giant flaming pillar.  Weapon upgrades are obtained throughout the game and we were told that eventually there will be up to 50 weapons.

The combat was easy to pick up and learn while at the same time being complex enough that I think that veteran gamers will be able to stay engaged and happy for quite a long time. I think it was the simplicity of the combat as a whole that is what made this game so great.  There was no need to get used to the controls, we just picked up and played and were able to focus on the game without getting lost in the mechanics of this. This is why I chose this game as my “Game Of The Show” for E3 2017.  It hit all the marks for me.  Family friendly, easily accessible and endlessly playable in any environment.

One additional note on this, the developer indicated when asked what platform this would be available indicated that this would only be on Xbox and when pressed on the possibility of other consoles in the future he replied no comment. Myself and the EFG staff look forward to seeing more of this game as it becomes available to the public.

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Minecraft Super Duper Graphics Pack and Better Together Update

Release Date: Graphics Pack Fall 2017, Better Together Update Summer 2017

Developer: Mojang

Platform:  Xbox, Xbox X, Switch, Mobile (iOs and Android), Windows 10, and VR
Minecraft had two big announcements in their video revealed for E3.  First, they are putting out a “Better Together” update.  This was revealed in the first portion of their trailer which opens with one of the Minecraft landscapes with the words “Coming this Summer” in pixelated letters.  The camera zooms forward and the next landscape has the words “Community Marketplace”.  What Minecraft is revealing with this trailer is that this summer Minecraft will be available for Crossplay as the game is being unified.  Now gamers can play across several consoles and platforms.  These include;  Xbox, Xbox X, Switch, Mobile (iOs and Android), Windows 10, and VR. Unfortunately, it appears the PlayStation 4 is not a console that will be included in the crossplay program.

The second announcement is revealed in the trailer as the camera zooms into a tunnel and the screen goes dark.  A moment later the camera emerges in the Minecraft world, with a vastly different look.  Coming this fall there will be DLC called the Minecraft Super Duper Graphics Pack which will be available on Xbox One, and Windows 10.  This DLC brings Minecraft into 4k, and while the pixelated aesthetic of Minecraft remain, the visual elements of the game are significantly upgraded.  The way they are incorporating the quintessential Minecraft look while integrating 4K is accomplished with lighting and shadowing.  The sky alone in the first look at the Super Duper Graphics Pack demonstrates the change.  Sunlight is streaming through a light fog over the ground while clouds above maintain their pixelated shape.  The trees below still look pixelated, but they are much smaller squares and have a more refined look.  As the camera and the characters move there is a significant amount of shadowing that go along also giving the game a vastly different and richer look.  With the level of detail, to get the most out of the Minecraft Super Duper Graphics Pack, you would need to have an Xbox One or a higher quality computer that is equipped for this level of graphics.  For those gamers who are ready to change up the Minecraft aesthetic, and have the 4K level computer or Xbox One, this is the perfect DLC.

 

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