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psychonauts 2

Xbox Game Studios announced during their E3 2019 media briefing that they had added the whimsical and downright weird Double Fine Studios under the Xbox Game Studios banner. They capped that announcement off with a gameplay trailer for the long awaited Psychonauts 2, which has big shoes to fill from its ancestor.

The original Psychonauts was a PS2 era cult classic which turned the story and game design of Banjoo-Kazooie, Super Mario 64, and Donkey Kong 64 on their head. With the retro homages to these games making their debut now with Yooka-Laylee and A Hat in Time, the market is primed for this one.

They didn’t give us a release date as part of the announcement, but we look forward to more information from this off beat, but family friendly title.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

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phantasy star online 2

What is Phantasy Star Online 2?  Probably one of the most anticipated MMO imports of all time (for a very specific set of gamers.)  It is on nearly every console in Japan, and is a sequel to the original Phantasy Star Online, which was out in the US on the Sega Dreamcast, back in 2000.   

Phantasy Star has a rich legacy, going back to December 20th 1987, when they they released the original Phantasy Star on the Sega Master System.  It had wonderful graphics and depth like no other console RPG at the time. It also had the first female protagonist in a console RPG.  (Voiced by the legendary Rieko Kodama). It was my first RPG video game, and I still hold extremely fond memories of it.

In the years to come, Phantasy Star 2, 3 and 4 would all release on the Sega Genesis to much acclaim from fans and critics alike, and its place in gamer history was cemented forever.  Then came the year 2000, and the Dreamcast brought us Phantasy Star again, but this time the game was online, a fairly new genre, and while gamers were unsure going in, they were quickly made believers in the platform, and their faith in the Phantasy Star universe was re-assured.  (IGN gave it a 9.1/10 at release), and then in 2012, Phantasy Star Online 2 released for Windows, but online in Japan. Ever since, western gamers have been craving a stateside release, and Microsoft delivered at E3 2019. It will release on Xbox One in Spring of 2020. And… it’s free to play.

For those of you who are not acquainted with Phantasy Star Online 2, players will embark on “Research expedition called ‘Arks,’ which belong to a fleet of interplanetary cruising ships, setting out to a research a variety of different planets,” according to Sega. “Visiting places for the mission (quest) always evolves into a fresh and surprising adventure, including auto-generated maps, sudden events, and a Multiplayer Party Area, where up to 12 players can play together simultaneously.”

I’m not usually one for Free To Play games, but I can see the allure.  And with all of the beautiful memories I have of playing through the Phantasy Star universe, I am certain I’ll be signing up on release day to try my hand at the newest installment. See you there!

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

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ori and the will of the wisps

The highly anticipated sequel to Ori and the Blind Forest has finally gotten its release date. Players will now be able to get a look at Ori’s world outside of Nibel. Fans will be treated to everything that they loved from the original, smooth gameplay, stunning visuals and wonderful story telling when it releases on February 11th, 2020.

Just like in the original, you will need to explore and navigate through various puzzles while traveling through the environment and competing against huge and quite frankly very gorgeously rendered bosses.  

The difference this time is that the worlds appear to be much more varied as the intent of the sequel is to expand outside the world we had been introduced to. The preview that premiered during the Xbox E3 2019 Media Briefing on 6/9 gave a glimpse of some of this with a giant spider battle, tentacle monster and what appears to be some sort of lava spitting sand worm.  All of it was gorgeous and the gameplay interaction looks as though it could be just as challenging as the original (tree fight anyone?). So prepare to have your heartstrings tugged, your mind blown and find a way to ice down your thumbs at the end of the day.

The current information that we have tells us that “Ori and the Will of the Wisps” will only be available on Xbox, Windows PC and Steam.  However, it would not be outside the realm of possibility that this could eventually make its way to the Switch at some point in the future as we see more and more cross play.

Please be sure to check out all our E3 coverage as we will update you if and when we find out anything new.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

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Project scarlett

By: James Pisano

So it finally happened.  Microsoft announced their next console during the Xbox E3 2019 Media Briefing.  For now, however, we only know it as Project Scarlett.  Phil Spencer did let us know what we can expect from the upcoming Xbox hardware on a technical level though.

Under the Hood

It’ll have an AMD chipset, with their new Navi graphics architecture and a Zen 2 CPU.  They promised to reduce or eliminate(?) load times, and it will contain a new generation of solid state hard drive, also acting as virtual ram, so this actually is possible.  Microsoft says will lead to a 40x improvement in load times over previous consoles, but that remains to be seen.

Overall, they said Project Scarlett would perform 4x faster than their most powerful current console, the Xbox One X.  They said we would see resolutions and framerates we have never seen before on consoles.

8k resolution, 120 frames per second were quoted, and those are certainly the best we’ve seen in the console market to date.  And we got a quick mention that it will be backwards compatibile across all current xbox consoles.

What Does it Mean Though?

It’s a lot of tech speak, and enough to make most parents’ heads spin. That’s why we’re here to explain what this all means to you. (We also have a list of tech definitions here.)

With a more powerful graphics chip and processor will allow the console to display the beautiful visuals that were promised.  That said, most of our current televisions will look beautiful. But, it sounds like this new console will be and to display resolutions up to 8k. That would be stunning… but impossible on our current televisions. As of the time of this writing, the cheapest 8k television is approximately $4,000. That price will almost certainly come way down by the time the console releases however.  

The solid state hard drive is going to be used to facilitate shorter load times which more engagement, and happier players.

They also shared that Project Scarlett would have total backwards compatability. That means that all the Xbox games you’ve bought so far will not be obsolete as they will play on the new console.

We’re excited for Project Scarlett, and we think you should be too.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

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E3 2019 – Battletoads

They’re BAAAACK! After years of teasers, hints and very little detail, Xbox finally released the first gameplay for the Battletoads remake since they showed us only the logo last year at E3.  That’s right, everyone’s favorite Ninja Turtle knock offs, Pimple, Rash and Zitz are back after 25 years. The EFG team could not be more hyped. Based on the trailer that was released at the Xbox E3 2019 Media Briefing.

The animation and gameplay appears to have plenty of callbacks to the originals. It also has a hand drawn style that reminds us a lot of Earthworm Jim (1994). This will be the three player couch co-op, side scroller that the world needed. There will be plenty of crazy physical comedy and smashing of enemies into a gooey pulp with giant fists, laser eyes and tongue gags.

The trailer also revealed that there will also feature the dreaded jet-ski level… (pause to allow the shaking to stop).  We’re hoping that they will tone down the difficulty so that the average gamer can complete it. Xbox did confirm that one boss from the original, Porkshank, will be front and center and it appears they will most likely bring back other familiar faces.

Quite frankly, the only thing missing from this trailer was a release date in either hard copy or on Xbox Game Pass.  Unfortunately, we are left more excited than ever but ultimately still waiting to find out when we will actually get our hands on it, which is the same place we were last year at this time.

Please be sure to check out all our E3 coverage as we will update you if and when we find out anything new.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

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5 Things Parents Need to Know from the Xbox E3 2019 Media Briefing!
Check out their media briefing on our YouTube Channel!!

Microsoft held their annual Xbox E3 Media Briefing on Sunday June 9th, 2019. The event was an hour and a half long and was widely expected to be a showcase for the next generation of Xbox consoles and to build excited for the brand going into 2020. It fell a little flat in those regards, but there was still plenty of news for parents.

New Xbox is Coming!

Xbox closed their show by sharing some high level details of the next generation Xbox, codenamed Project Scarlett. They stopped short of revealing the official name, the final release date, or the price, but they did share some information about the technical specifications.

Their main focus appeared to be explaining their design philosophies. They explained that they expect the new system to be a significant leap in power over the Xbox One X. They also explained that they will be using a custom SSD (Solid State Drive) that will greatly reduce loading times.

They also revealed that they will be launching the new Xbox alongside HALO Infinite. This will mark the first time that an Xbox has launched with a HALO game since the original Xbox in November 15, 2001.

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate

Xbox Game Pass has been a wild success since it was announced last year. There are now over 250 games available on the service. It was only a matter of time, however, before Microsoft expanded on the service. That expansion is now underway.

First, they announced Xbox Game pass for PC. It’s similar to its counterpart on consoles, but it is focused on PC games. It is in Beta now with a special price of $4.99 (The price will increase to $9.99 when the beta ends).

Second, they announced Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, subscription that combines Xbox Game Pass, Xbox Game Pass for PC, and Xbox Games with Gold for $14.99 per month.

Minecraft Dungeons

Minecraft is one of the biggest games on the planet. It is also, largely, impossible to follow up with a sequel.

Microsoft did, however, announce a spin-off title called Minecraft Dungeons last year. It was fully unveiled at this year’s E3 media briefing. Dungeons is a kid friendly take on a Diablo-esque dungeon crawling action game. It will be coming to Xbox (among other consoles and PC) in Spring 2020.

LEGO in Full Force (Or Full For..za?)

LEGO games were well represented during this year’s briefing. They announced LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga and a LEGO Speed Champions expansion to Forza Horizon’s 4.

RPG Time – The Legend of Wright

Xbox spent one minute and thirteen seconds showing us that Nintendo did not have an iron grip on the arts and crafts art style they used on Yoshi and Kirby. The Legend of Wright uses the same console that makes cars in Forza: Horizon 4 come to life, and uses it to animate the pencil sketches of every kid who grew up in the 90’s. We will be keeping an eye on more information as this game gets closer to its 2020 release.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

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Apex Legends Season 2 – EA Play Announcements

Apex Legends was at EA Play 2019 this year. Specifically, Respawn was there to discuss their second season of content for the battle royale shooter.

Legendary Hunt


The last event of Apex Legends first season is The Legendary Hunt. From now until June 18th, players are eligible to receive event specific weapon and character skins through challenges that are tracked through various game modes. As it is with all games in this genre, the in game store will have a rotating stock of cosmetic items in addition to the ones available by achievement.

The Legendary Hunt itself is available as an “elite queue” event, where availability opens only to someone who makes a top 5 finish in any game mode. While the elite queue is not something that is readily accessible to the family and/or casual gamer, the circulation of experienced players through this elite queue will create matches elsewhere that have less experienced players overall, and create a better experience for the family gamer.

In addition to the weekend of E3 providing double XP for base and battle pass experience, this event gives any player who top 5’s a match in any game mode an immediate level on their battle pass.

Several Character and Weapon Skins are achieved with the following Milestones:

  • Logging in with a battle pass during the event
  • 2 wins in any game mode
  • Top 5’ing any one game
  • Getting to level 15 on your battle pass before the event ends

Season 2: Battle Charged Announced

July 2nd will be the release date for the second season of Apex Legends. While all the details for the upcoming season were not announced, they were pretty comfortable with some baseline announcements:

  • New Legend (Which we go over in the next announcement)
  • New Weapon: The L Star: A fully automatic weapon that shreds through enemies and terrain that can only be found in precious care package drops. Its weapons speed is balanced by the nasty habit of over heating.
  • New Map Events
  • New Game Modes
  • A New Ranked Play Mode, with cosmetic rewards based on performance
  • Weapon and Legend Rebalancing based on community feedback
  • Possible colossal monsters in the maps

The biggest announcement relevant to Battle Charged and the family gamer is a significant change to the daily and weekly challenges and to materials granted through the battle pass and core level progression.

Daily and Weekly challenges will stack so that multiple challenges can be active at the same time. No word yet as to how many of these challenges can stack at once. Because challenges now accumulate as opposed to one overwriting the other, this creates an environment where players who can only play a limited amount of time in the week/month can get the full benefits of the challenges and their rewards. The maximum rate of leveling has become faster, allowing level 100 to be reached much faster, and crafting materials has been increased so that players can create at least one legendary skin for free with the crafting materials they acquire through regular play.

New Legend: Wattson

Scientist, Engineer, and Smartest Women on the Frontier

Wattson is the character for Apex Legends with a familiar style of play if you prefer defensive or construction based classes in your first person games. Her active ability builds electrified barriers that your allies can freely pass through. Her ultimate creates a permanent structure on the map which deflects incoming missiles, grenades and other havoc while also speeding up the cool down on her active skill (so she can put up more barriers). As a support class in Apex Legends, she has access to a consumable which lets her charge the ultimate abilities of her allies. Between the structures and the power to fuel your allies best abilities, this character is built with the strategist in mind, unless you just want to electrify all of the things. Science!

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

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Madden NFL 20

The newest edition of Madden NFL is set to drop on 8/2 with all the bells and whistles that Madden fans have come to expect.  Everything is beautifully rendered, consistent game play, player accurate celebrations etc. As always EA has worked to move the needle with their tweaks to the game and new features.

The newest twist to the Madden Franchise is the introduction of the Superstar and Zone abilities, basically football superpowers, to the best of the best players in the game.  The top 50 players in the game will have access to special Zone abilities that give them the status of actual game changers on the field. A few examples that we saw at EA Play were:

  • Tier-1 Superstar Abilities
    • Escape Artist– Increases speed and agility when scrambling
    • Red Zone Deadeye– Perfect passing accuracy in the red zone
  • Tier-2 Zone Abilities
    • Bazooka– Increased passing distance up to 80 yards
    • Fearmonger– Increase pass rush pressure

The list of players will change with updates and with franchise mode but will not exceed the 50 player cap limit.  

This new feature also has the side effect of creating two new player rankings “Superstar” and “Superstar X-Factor”.  The former having access to the more mundane superpowers while the latter are the 50 player tier that has access to the Zone abilities.  It appears that they will also be changing how draft evaluation will work as you will be able to see that a draft pick has Superstar and Superstar X-Factor rating but will not know what that particular football superpower will be until the middle of the first season.

Madden has also taken steps to update its playbook to more accurately reflect the current state of the NFL with the introduction of the RPO  and trick plays (220 new ones in fact). There is also the promise of midseason playbook updates as the actual NFL changes and adjusts to the game.

Finally, EA also appears to be leveraging their “Face of The Franchise: QB1” mode to bring back more of its NCAA connection by allowing you to drop directly into the College Football Playoff, similar to how they did with Longshot, by taking over as QB1 one of the following schools:

  • Texas
  • Oregon
  • Florida
  • LSU
  • Clemson
  • Miami
  • USCS
  • Oklahoma
  • Florida State
  • Texas Tech

Your performance in the playoff will impact your draft stock and ultimately your career as you level to try and win Superbowls.

All in all this appears to be yet another solid installment in the Madden franchise and will undoubtedly be scooped up Madden loyalists and really anyone that wants to play NFL or really any kind of football game as Madden has cornered the market.

Please be sure to check out all our E3 coverage as we will update you if and when we find out anything new.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

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FIFA 20 – EA Play 2019 Announcements

EA Play is here and rolled out the latest edition of FIFA 20 to PS4 and Xbox 1, unfortunately the rollout was long on description but very very short on actual gameplay.  However, the headline and really for soccer fans is the introduction of Volta Football. In essence this is backyard and pickup soccer where the pitch is anywhere and everywhere, from a cage in downtown London to a rooftop in Tokyo.

From a gameplay perspective Volta appears to be in addition to the year over year standard league modes that we have come to expect with this series.  This will allow you to play 3v3, 4v4, or 5v5 games with various other options, such a with or without goalies or co-ed. That last detail was one of the highlights from the release.  You will now be able to create male and female characters and outfit them as you see fit.

EA also spoke glowingly about the changes that they have made to the actual gameplay system to pull the focus from more automated and team based play to a focus on one on one interactions, offense to defense.  In essence they appear to be moving even more toward making FIFA a true simulation.

While all this sounds like it is great news for all the FIFA fans out there, I am concerned that the additional complications they are adding to the interface may put the game out of reach for the casual fan.  However, I do have hope, as outside of the EA Play presentation, it was announced that there will be a version of FIFA 20 available on the Switch. There currently aren’t not any details out there on what this means, but I am hopeful that it is a paired down version of the game that may keep it simple. Ultimately though we really need more visuals and gameplay information in order to make a real determination on what FIFA 20 is all about.

Please be sure to check out all our E3 coverage as we will update you if and when we find out anything new.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

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star wars jedi fallen order

By: Colin Babcock

At long last, during EA Play 2019, Respawn Entertainment’s new single-player, action adventure game has been given a release date of November 15 and a full fifteen minute gameplay reveal. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order will tell the story of a young Jedi hiding from the Galactic Empire in the wake of Order 66, which called for the extermination of all Jedi.

Vince Zampella, the CEO of Respawn, and Stig Asmussen, the game’s director presented the gameplay reveal personally. The fifteen minute segment started with the protagonist, Cal, on the planet Kashyyyk. He works with local Rebellion forces to free imprisoned Wookies from an Imperial fortress. The combat against the Imperial troopers featured a solid blend of clever force usage, proper timing for lightsaber blocks, and smoothly animated attacks and finishers.

Right off the bat, the graphics and animations looked superb. The footage did say that it was part of the alpha build, so many more improvements are bound to happen before release. The voice acting and facial capture were solid in the scenes shown. Of special note was an exploratory moment where Cal snuck through a darkened, sewer-like section and used his lightsaber as a lantern. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order seems like it will encourage every tool at Cal’s disposal to be used in clever ways to survive.

The period of time Respawn is exploring, after Episode III and before Episode IV, has been more popular in the last handful of years. The films Rogue One and Solo give a small look into that period, but not from a Jedi point of view. Star Wars Rebels, an animated TV show, is far closer to the same theme, if more cartoonish in its presentation. Before Disney purchased the Star Wars franchise there was the Force Unleashed video game series. Though it wasn’t considered canon to the main Star Wars series, it was one of the most fun video game experiences in its universe.

Similarities between Fallen Order and 2008’s Force Unleashed are clear: exhilarating lightsaber combat, force powers with bone-crunching weight, and a thoughtfully written story to glue the gameplay together. However, Fallen Order appears to take those similarities and build upon them. The lightsaber combat relies less on rapid button pushing and more on careful timing and understanding enemy patterns. The force powers now branch out into puzzle-solving tools with new modes like “Slow.” The story blends canonical characters like Saw Guerrera into a brand new narrative, which seemingly would make it also canon.

Some highlights:

  • Cal fights three stormtroopers in a tight hallway. He reflects two blaster bolts into their shooters. He Slows a blaster bolt mid-air and force Pulls the remaining stormtrooper into it, ending the fight.
  • Cal oversees flamethrower troopers fending off an infestation of horse-sized spiders. He waits a bit to let the two sides thin each other out before joining the brawl.
  • Cal stands before a wide open pit with a quickly rotating fan. He Slows the fan and walks across it.
  • Cal walks into a chamber with a large, black-armored trooper. The trooper carries an electrified staff. Cal struggles against an opponent that resists force powers, blocks lightsaber attacks, and outmatches his strength. Cal prevails through careful blocks, sidestepping, and attacks.

Will Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order be worth your time? If you enjoyed video game offerings like Force Unleashed, then certainly. If you have enjoyed Respawn Entertainment’s previous titles like Titanfall and Titanfall 2, the chances are very good. Even if you are just a casual fan of Star Wars, but prefer immersive single-player experiences then you’ll still very likely enjoy what Fallen Order brings to the galactic stage.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order releases on November 15, 2019 on PC, Xbox One, and Playstation 4.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

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