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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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Guest Writer: James Pisano

Take a minute and commune with 8 year old you.  I’ll wait.

Ok, so remember all the commercials from the 80s for Matchbox race cars and track?  They promised that your cars would fly through the air, doing impossible stunts, all from the comfort of your living room, only to disappoint when you finally tried it.  Obviously… we are talking about plastic and die case metal toys here…

Enter Tiny Tracks… a VR game in development by (insert studio) and being published by (Sony?).  Through a 3rd person VR perspective and Dual Shock control scheme, you’re greeted by a kind of racing room where you will ultimately accumulate trophies and awards.  It’s there that you pick your track and car.  Keep in mind at this point in development, the cars are pretty generic.  No current plans as far as we know to license existing toy car lines, but that would add a certain flair to the game.

Once your car and track are selected, you’ll see one of several themed tracks, from tropical islands to a volcanic underworld.  The tracks are filled with twists, turns and dynamic props.  The more accurately you steer, the more boost you build up.  Hug the turns and slam the boost on the straightaways, and you’ll be a champ in no time.  So whether you’re a kid wanting to dive into VR and conquer the course, or a gamer parent wanting to realize the imaginations of your inner 8 year old, Tiny Tracks is a great choice for VR entertainment.

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I stood in line for the better part of three days, and played a lot of games at E3. Every one of them was fun, some more than others. I played every game knowing what to expect and was not disappointed, though some failed to impress. Except once when I strapped on a PlayStation VR headset and was blown away.

Instantly evoking a feeling of mystery and adventure reminiscent of classic bedtime tales. Moss brings an almost perfect balance of elements to create an experience greater than the sum of its parts.

Moss gives you the classic fairy tale type settings but in 3D. Each area beautifully rendered to enhance the overall ambiance and feel of the game. It is very easy in a virtual reality game to detract from the experience if the environment distracting, poorly laid out, unresponsive or just plain ugly.  Moss avoids the typical problems by using a fixed point of view for each area.  You will not need to jump, spin or otherwise potentially destroy your living room to adventure alongside Quill. It may sound silly, but the number one complaint about VR is motion sickness and headaches. I felt like this design will be an easy entry point that will minimize the potential for both.

Moss has easy to use and intuitive controls to guide Quill through her adventures and combat her enemies. Some games require a user manual and a cheat sheet for their controls, this is not one of them. The combat system is simple and easy to grasp, and no button mashing required. Unless Polyarc has something greater or more in-depth planned for the release. Personally I would enjoy more depth in the combat system, but Moss is not a fighting game and a non-complex system keeps it more family friendly.

Did I mention Moss has puzzles as well? The puzzles make excellent use of the 3D virtual reality environment. Solving these puzzles will require both you and Quill. You might be thinking, of course it requires me; I am using the controller to move Quill. While that is true Moss takes it a step further which is the part that really made it stand out from the other games. Quill navigates through and interacts with her environment as expected, but she can’t accomplish all the required tasks on her own. You must reach out into the game environment and manipulate it to aid Quill in overcoming these challenges. It may sound simple, but that division makes you feel more a part of the game.

On top of all of that I had the opportunity to meet the guys from Polyarc Games who were at E3. Every single person I talked to had an abundance of enthusiasm for creating family friendly games that are engaging and fun. Moss hits that mail solidly on the head. We here at EFG will be keeping in contact with them and hopefully hearing more from them in the future.

The unfortunate truth of game demos at conventions like E3; they are limited in time and scope. In that short period of interaction though Moss made itself stand out so much so that it was my choice for game of the show. Moss is scheduled to be released this holiday season. Make sure you have your PS5 and VR gear ready. I just ordered mine.

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Starlink: Battle for Atlus is a Sci-fi Flight Sim/Shooter that takes place in a fictional galaxy in the distant future. Starlink’s main feature is that the game comes with a dock for each controller style (for each platform).

Developer: Ubisoft Toronto

Platform: PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One

Release Date: Fall 2018

Players use the dock to build spaceships using Toys to Life spaceship components. Changing the parts of the spaceship on the dock changes the parts of the spaceship in the game, in real time. The game features play areas that take place on the surface of fantastical planets as well as outer space. This allows for full three dimensional flight.

The forces of the villainous “Legion” are built to require adaptive strategies on the part of the player. They will need to change parts on the fly during game play.

Ubisoft has avoided painting itself into a Toys to Life corner though. Starlink will feature digital representations of all of the physical parts that can be swapped out. Ubisoft hinted in its press conference that these digital parts can be purchased separately and/or instead of physical products. This is a great way to keep the game going even if the toy sales don’t take off.

Why is this awesome?

This game is essentially a grown up version of the “Toys to Life” model of gaming made popular by the Skylanders, Disney Infinity, and Lego Dimensions games. Starlink: Battle for Atlus appears to be hand tailored to an audience who grew up with the Toys to Life model of games and are now young adults who would be interested in more complex gameplay and story content.

Clearly, Starlink also leans heavily on the nostalgia of the science fiction boom of the 80’s and 90’s. This gives adults access to a game style that was previously marketed to children. This game represents the logical next step in a gaming genre that has been around for the several years and is looking to grow up with its target audience.

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Release Date: 8/15/17

Developer: Housemarque

Platform: Playstation 4

Matterfall is a side-scrolling action shooter that a first blush reminded me so much of Metroid that if not for the name on the banner I would have thought that Sony somehow got the rights to it.  The demo that we played featured an early level and had players learn the movement and combat basics for the game.  Players battle their way through flame-throwing robots and spider robots, interacting with your environment by charging through barriers, powering up elevators, and sapping power from force fields.  

However, the attack controls were less than intuitive with the use of the right joystick to fire your primary weapon in 360 degrees regardless of the way that you are moving.  I would anticipate that as with all these types of games the controls would eventually become intuitive and allow you to flow through the game easily but with the limited time that was available to test this game the odd configuration really took away from the gaming experience.  This would clearly make the game a better experience and I hope that I will have the chance to pick this up again to give it a more thorough view.

This appears based on what we have been able to see that this has potential to be a pretty family friendly entry into the action shooter genre as there was not any blood, gore or language in any of the content that we have been able to view.  Please keep in mind that there has yet to be a rating released but I would expect that this ends up being a T rating for fantasy violence but EFG will keep you posted as we find out more about this over the summer.


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Release Date: 8/29/17

Price: $39.99

Everybody’s Golf is a lighthearted arcade style golf game that is the latest in update to the widely popular Hot Shots Golf. Just like its predecessors, this game is not intended for those individuals looking for a “pure” golf experience. Instead,  it is intended to be a zany experience allowing for a single player or multiplayer online experience. The difficulty can be adjusted to be a better fit for beginning players or the very experienced so it is accessible to a majority of age groups.

I had the opportunity to play a few holes of the the 18 hole E3 demo using a character modeled after the president of Sony Worldwide Studios Shuhei Yoshida and was very pleased.  Graphically the game is what you expect from games in the series, which is made more interesting by the level of customization in your character avatar.  The game play itself was simple, and the course structure is very basic. 

One thing I noticed immediately during my time with the game was the multitude of other avatars running willy-nilly across the course, teeing off next to you and driving golf carts everywhere.  One of the selling points to this game is that your avatar is not locked to the tee box at the beginning of each hole, instead  you can at any time choose to run or drive around the course and interact with the players and even go fishing. This makes the experience feel more interesting than 

Unfortunately, the demo was somewhat limited so that I did not get to see exactly how you level your characters and clubs which is large part of the game itself.  I also was not able to get an answer on what if any parental controls are available to limit player interaction in the online multiplayer mode.  Ultimately though I believe this will be great fit for those that like the originals with updates to keep it fresh and fun.

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Electronic Arts held their EA Play event as part of the E3 2017 festivities on June 10, 2017. They made a lot of great announcements over the course of the event. But, none of them got me as excited as the addition of a story mode to Madden 2018.

Last year, EA Sports added a single player Story mode to FIFA 2017 called The Journey where players took on the role of Alex Hunter as he progresses through his career. This was fascinating and I enjoyed it, but I don’t really have much of a connection with soccer.

Longshot appears to be the answer to my Madden prayers. That is the title of the single player story mode of Madden 2018. The details are slim (we only have a short trailer to go by), but it looks like players will take on the role of a Texas high school football player as he progresses through his career in college and into the NFL. This is a story that we have seen play out in its various parts in various movies and television shows in the last few decades, but it is rare to see a story take a player from their humble beginnings all the way to the pros.

Personally, this looks like a great opportunity to attract players to the Madden franchise. They already have a diehard crew that will buy the game every year no matter what. But, most of those players are dedicated to the multiplayer game. This, if it is built similarly to The Journey, will turn Madden into an RPG that will have installments every year! That’s my kind of party!

Madden 18 will release for on August 25th for PS4 and Xbox One.

What do you think? Are you and your family any more likely to play a Madden game this year because it has a single player story mode? Sound off in the comments and let us know!

This is only the beginning of a whole week of E3 2017 coverage. Make sure to keep your eye on Engaged Family Gaming all week for all of the family gaming news and our discoveries on the E3 show floor!

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Need for Speed is a franchise that has had to made some significant changes. The racing game genre is crowded with giants like Gran Turismo, Project Cars, The Crew, and two different Forza titles. That means that EA couldn’t just release a new iteration of the game and have it limp out from the starting line and give it any real chance of success.

Need for Speed: Payback looks like it just might be the evolution that the franchise needs. The biggest change is a new focus on story.  The game’s story revolves around a group of street racers who are doing high speed heists to steal cars (and likely other things) from a criminal organization called “The House.”

If that sounds like  the plot for a Fast and Furious movie to you, then you aren’t alone. Payback is a game that is heavily influenced by that genre and it shows in everything from the presentation to the game play. One of the highlights that keeps the focus on the action is a slow motion crash cam that zooms in and slows down the video on the games biggest crashes. Its a cool touch that almost gives the game a car combat feel. The game is clearly designed to be more accessible to inexperienced racers than more simulation based games like Forza.

The One Thing Parents Need to Know

Need for Speed: Payback is not a typical racing game. This is an action game that happens to take place in cars. The newest trailer does show some foul language and the characters are committing violent crimes in their cars. We’ll find out more as the game gets closer to release and is rated by the ESRB, but I would have my concerns about having my kids play the game at this stage.

What do you think? Will you and your family be playing this one later this year? Sound off in the comments!

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One of the biggest surprises in gaming for me last year was how much I loved playing the single player story mode in FIFA 2017. The Journey was a story of Alex Hunter, a young man who is trying to  make his way through his career in professional soccer. I may not be the biggest soccer fan in the world, but Alex Hunter was my guy. I was fully invested in his story throughout the mode. I was actually pretty bummed when I was finished with it all.

Players like me from around the world are going to be able to spend more time with Mr. Hunter this fall when FIFA 18 comes out. It will include “The Journey: Hunter Returns.” The story picks up with Alex Hunter well established in his career in the English Premier league. The new story is built around Alex being forced to make the choice to either remain in England or to move to the US. This is an interesting story because, apparently, it is something that a lot of players in the UK struggle with.

The fact that The Journey is getting a sequel is incredibly telling. EA would not have continued to spend the cash to develop a well written and acted single player mode for a sports game if it wasn’t successful. We don’t have numbers regarding have many people bought the game and played through a bunch of the story, but I’m sure that EA does and that they were pleased with the results.

Sports games these days are all slowly turning into RPGs. Many people think of RPGs as hundred hour long fantasy epics, but if you strip out the genre and leave the various systems sports games aren’t too far off. This is a trend I hope continues.

What about you all? Will you and your family be picking up FIFA 18 this fall? Let us know in the comments!

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One of the biggest surprises during the EA Play event at E3 2017 was the return of NBA Live 18. EA has had very poor luck with the franchise in the past so it was possible that they would hang up their sneakers and stop making the games. I don’t think anyone would blame them in the face of NBA 2k which has been dominant for the last several years.

In spite of all that, NBA Live 18 is on the way. EA made a brief game play demo that showed the high level of control they will have over their players. It was very impressive, even if it might make the game a bit more difficult for newcomers.

Another key feature of NBA Live 18 is called “The One.” This is a career mode that gives players the chance to complete challenges in “The League” or on “The Streets.” What this means is that players will be able to play traditional NBA games as well as five on five games of “street” basketball on famous courts like Venice Beach and Rucker Park. This is interesting because the actual game rules will be different in the two game formats.

NBA Live 18 will have a beta last this summer, so we’ll learn more about the game and how it plays then. Until that time we can only wonder whether or not EA will be able to compete with NBA 2k18.

What do you think? Are you and your family going to play this game? Let us know in the comments!

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