Chivalry: Medieval Warfare Is Free On Steam Today

If you’ve been enjoying For Honor, you may want to check out this melee-focused combat title from 2012. If you act now, you can do so at no cost.

Until 10:00 AM Pacific Time on March 28, you can add Chivalry to your Steam library for free, and then it’s yours even once the deadline passes. Chivalry is a standalone title, though it started as a Half-Life 2 mod called Age of Chivalry. It has a community of dedicated fans, and focuses on online melee battles with a variety of medieval weapons.

If you want to wade into this particular war, you won’t find a better (or more economical) time.

[Source: Valve]

Beta Test Chivalry: Medieval Warfare Is Free On Steam Today

VR Horror Title Wilson's Heart Coming To Oculus Rift Next Month

When he wakes up in a 1940s hospital to find that his heart has been removed from his body, Robert Wilson knows something has gone horribly wrong.

Coming to the Oculus Rift on April 25, Wilson’s Heart draws on monster movies and horror elements for its psychological story. As shown in the teaser trailer below, players use the Oculus Touch controllers to explore the black-and-white hospital by solving puzzles, fighting through enemies, or interacting with the world around them.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Check out our review of the Oculus Rift and Touch controllers. Oculus also recently lowered the price of its Rift/Touch bundle, which you can read about here.

[Source: Oculus Blog]

Beta Test VR Horror Title Wilson’s Heart Coming To Oculus Rift Next Month

Five Games That Will Give You An Existential Crisis

Do you ever wonder why we’re here? Have you ever contemplated the meaning of life? Does dread ever overtake you for seemingly no reason? If so, you’re either experiencing an existential crisis… Or you’re playing a video game.

Equal parts identity crisis and dread, an existential crisis stems from the fear, confusion, and despair of losing a guiding principle or belief in life. Everyday causes such as moving homes or losing a job can trigger an existential crisis and make you call into question the very fabric of reality as we understand it. Easy to catch but difficult to shake, this unsettling, visceral experience has become a popular focus in video games.

We’ve assembled a list of five games tackling existence, consciousness, and the meaning of life that will leave you crushed by the weight of existential angst.

WARNING! This list contains spoilers for The Stanley Parable; Soma; Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors; The Talos Principle; and Night in the Woods (listed in order). If you want to experience a title’s existential crisis firsthand, skip that entry!


The Stanley Parable
What’s it about? Ostensibly, this PC adventure game tells the story of Stanley, a boring man working a boring job whose every action is observed by an omnipresent narrator. The narrator attempts to guide Stanley through a script he has written using verbal prompts, which players can then follow or ignore. Whether hints are obeyed or disobeyed opens new paths for Stanley to explore and prompts more dialogue from the narrator as he adapts the tale to players’ choices. 

What’s the crisis? Lurking below the seemingly straightforward surface of The Stanley Parable is a deviously profound take on choice and freedom, two important aspects of existentialism. As soon as the game begins, players are faced with choices that must be made. These decisions range from obvious questions like “Should I obey the narrator?” to the more subtle “Should I do anything at all?”

For example, if players close the door to Stanley’s office instead of leaving like the narrator asks, the narrator berates Stanley for his inability to make decisions for himself. Of course Stanley makes no decisions for himself – players decide for him. On the other hand, if players hide in a broom closet and refuse to participate in the story, the narrator will ridicule them specifically, not Stanley, and board up the closet door in future playthroughs, denying them access. 

In its own gleefully irreverent way, The Stanley Parable reminds us that choice is something we are faced with every moment of every day. Playing the game is a choice. Quitting the game is a choice. One cheeky achievement (“Go Outside”) even points out that buying the game and not playing it is a choice. That level of freedom can be terrifying, and the creepy turns Stanley’s tale can take will leave your heart pounding with existential dread without resorting to a single jump scare.

Soma
What’s it about? A survival horror game that focuses on narrative and atmosphere, Soma’s storyline can best be described as one existential crisis after another. The victim of a catastrophic car crash, protagonist Simon Jarett falls asleep during an experimental brain scan procedure to find a cure for his lethal brain hemorrhage. Later, he wakes up in an underwater research facility overrun by violent robots. Terrified and confused, Simon quickly realizes the world as he understood it is gone, replaced by an uncertain and unforgiving future he tries desperately to escape.

What’s the crisis? Soma dives deep into the core of the human experience: what is the self? Is it our bodies? Our brains? Our memories? Existentialism charges every individual with creating a personal identity, but also holds that our identity is tied to our past and our actions. So which one really matters?

This is the question Simon must ask himself throughout his journey, since the Simon who wakes up in Pathos-II is not the same Simon who fell asleep in Toronto. He is Toronto Simon’s brain scan installed in a new, mechanical body. The original Simon woke up from the procedure and resumed his normal life before dying a few months later, meaning future Simon is not only missing a human body and brain, but also key memories. Yet he is still somehow distinctly Simon. 

What is this indescribable something that makes us who we are? Soma suggests that it boils down not to our bodies or our pasts, but to our actions. Simon goes through many transformations and crises, yet the one thing that remains constant are the effects of his choices. Did he value human life over robotic life? Did he leave his clone alive or shut it down? Our actions don’t just affect us, they define us, a frightening responsibility because we must always live with the consequences.

Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors
What’s it about? The last thing Junpei remembers is coming home to someone in a gas mask knocking him out with a cloud of white fog. When he wakes up, he’s trapped on a sinking ship with eight strangers, all of whom have been selected to participate in a game of life and death known as the Nonary Game. In this dark visual novel, players must solve puzzles, gather clues, and search not only for a way to escape, but also the truth behind the twisted origin of the Nonary Game.

What’s the crisis? What are our thoughts? Where do they come from? Are we truly individuals? Or is there some unseen force making our decisions for us? 

Junpei’s eight companions each present their own views on these questions, aided by supernatural theories that push the boundaries of reality as we understand it. Some of them believe in ghost-writing, some in superstition, and some in conspiracies. The most important of their reality-bending theories is called morphogenetic resonance, an invisible field that transmits information telepathically through space and time.

The stories the Nonary Game victims tell are existentially unsettling because they instill doubt in the reality and individuality we take for granted. If something like the morphogenetic field is real, it shakes the foundations upon which we have built our identities, calling into question everything we believe. We may not even be ourselves – we may just be a monitor displaying the machinations of one true computer, the ultimate form of existential despair.

The Talos Principle
What’s it about? Similar to games like Portal and The Turing Test, The Talos Principle casts players as a newly-activated android who must solve spatial puzzles under the guidance of a disembodied voice called Elohim, Hebrew for “god.” Elohim tells the android its purpose in life is to complete puzzles, gather sigils, and open new areas to prove its worth, after which Elohim will grant it eternal life.

What’s the crisis? Despite the apparent beauty of the world and benevolence of Elohim, the more players explore and discover, the more they realize a sense of wrongness pervades the world. What’s the point of the puzzles and sigils? Who is leaving messages for the android telling it to disobey Elohim? And why doesn’t Elohim want the android to enter the mysterious tower? 

In this future where humans are already extinct and all that’s left are robots, A.I.s, and other machines trapped in a virtual space, the search for meaning may seem moot. This makes it tempting to go along with Elohim’s expectations and follow the role he assigns the android, much like existentialists say it is tempting for individuals to go along with the role society gives them. Yet choosing our own path in life is an important practice, without which we fall into an existential crisis. 

By starting with a purpose they did not choose and do not understand, players are encouraged to defy that purpose and search for their own. They ask why they should collect the sigils. They wonder whether the enemy robots are actually dangerous. They question Elohim and go off the path he has set for them. Even though this way is much more difficult and intimidating, the android’s quest to find its own purpose is a powerful statement on the importance of choosing a path for ourselves.

Night in the Woods
What’s it about? Taking place in a world of anthropomorphic animals, this narrative-rich 2D adventure in the vein of games like Kentucky Route Zero stars recent college drop-out Mae Borowski. Like most 20-year-olds, Mae doesn’t really know what to do with her life. Aimless and lonely, she moves back to her small hometown, Possum Springs, where nothing ever changes. Yet much to her dismay, time has actually gone on in her absence: beloved local businesses have gone bankrupt, friends have moved on, and dark forces are at work behind the scenes.

What’s the crisis? Mae’s existential struggle to find her place in the world is easily identifiable to players because of how real her emotions are.  She stresses about parties, argues with her parents, and uses video games to escape from reality. Until one day, where Mae suddenly finds herself unable to relate to the world around her. The video game she loved is just code, and the people around her aren’t people, just meaningless shapes.

Ever since Mae lost the ability to identify with others, she has been trying to find meaning in a world she perceives as empty. Her existential angst eventually takes the form of a cold, uncaring being who hints that Mae’s death is forthcoming. This creature represents despair and is worshipped by a cult in town, each member of which stands for Mae’s own doubts. The cultists make sacrifices to the creature by throwing things into “the hole at the center of everything,” referencing the vicious cycle of Mae’s erratic attempts to fill the source of her feelings of emptiness.

With the help of her friends, who stand for friendship, love, and other meaningful aspects of life, Mae confronts the cult. Her injuries from the fight symbolize all the emotional and psychological damage she’s endured at the hands of her own doubts, but she pushes on despite the pain. Mae overcomes her depression by refusing to die and give up on life. Her injuries then miraculously heal, the final indication that Mae has let go of her angst and chosen to live on thanks to the meaning of life she has discovered through friends, family, and home.

With androids, office workers, and combinations of the two, video games will continue to find new ways to challenge and surprise us with creative storytelling approaches. Existentialism’s emphasis on choice relates well to the interactivity of video games, blending gaming and philosophy in powerful new ways. An existential crisis can make a game more meaningful and memorable for players – just don’t blame us if the tingle never quite leaves your spine.

Tell us about your favorite philosophically-inspired video game musings in the comments below – once your existential crisis is over, that is.

Beta Test Five Games That Will Give You An Existential Crisis

The Sports Desk – Playing Old Time Hockey With An NHL Pro

For many, old-school video game hockey is the pinnacle of sports video games. Pick-up-and-play gameplay mixed with the sports’ aggression is a hallmark of those titles, making them resonate with gamers of all stripes. Old Time Hockey by V7 Entertainment harks back to the days of Blades of Steel and NHL ’94, and dips back even further by recalling the ’70s era of rough and tumble hockey captured by the classic sports movie Slapshot. No helmets, few teeth, beautiful flow, and a wicked two-handed chop: this was video game hockey before video games.

Old Time Hockey is out on March 28 for PS4 and PC (later on Switch and Xbox One), and with a final copy of the game in our hands, we thought it would be cool to play it with someone who’s actually played in the NHL and lived the life. Former Minnesota Wild and New York Islanders forward Mark Parrish stopped by with Cities 97 DJ/fellow Parrish & Fletcher podcaster Paul Fletcher and friends to play the game with Game Informer’s Matt Bertz, putting the title’s local four-player multiplayer to the test.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Multiplayer is the game’s best facet as the video above demonstrates, but equally apparent is that the A.I. – the goalies in particular – don’t do anyone any favors. From weak shot stopping to the inability to handle the puck except to dump it into the corner (you can’t control the goalie) your goalie hangs you out to dry rather than the other way around. Elsewhere in the gameplay department, the two-button fighting lacks depth, players don’t seem to have a backhand, and players feel stiff to control. In short, Old Time Hockey puts up various annoyances in your way, obscuring what I was hoping would be the kind of primal experience that matches our best memories of the video game sport’s fabled past.

Even though multiplayer is the game’s sole prospect, it’s not for a lack of trying. It’s evident that V7 put a lot of thought and work into all aspects of the game, from the presentation to the single-player. From the menu songs to the team names (and even backstories), the developer’s love of the sport and this era comes through loud and clear. The single-player puts you on the struggling Schuylkill Hinto Brews, where the town’s river gives the local beer its distinctive cloudy look. The prospects for the Hinto Brews is no clearer, as the team has been forced to put rookies on the ice in a desperate attempt to save the season. This first year is basically a tutorial gating progress via objectives that unlock more advanced controls such as dekes, slashes, puck dumps, and more. It’s a curious choice that handcuffs you as you try and win games to stay afloat.

As it currently stands, Old Time Hockey isn’t the immediate hit that I hoped it would be, but whenever you can take the ice with a competitive group of friends to hammer the puck and throw some elbows, that’s always a good time.

Missed some of the previous Sports Desk entries? Take a look at the past installments via our Hub page by clicking on the banner below.

Have a suggestion or comment? Put it in the comments section below, send me an email, or reach me on twitter at @mattkato.

 

THE TICKER
A quick rundown of some of the sports news from the week.

NBA Live 18 Will Be Playable at EA Play Event 

More On Dirt 4’s Team Management 

Out of the Park Baseball 18 Is Now Out, Check Out The Launch Trailer 

Big Ant Announces Fourth Patch for Don Bradman Cricket 17 

Beta Test The Sports Desk – Playing Old Time Hockey With An NHL Pro

Final Fantasy XV's Chapter 13 Update Is Out Today

Not long after the release of Final Fantasy XV, director Hajime Tabata responded to fan feedback by announcing plans to revamp some story content – specifically chapter 13. Now that update is live, and players can experience the story changes and pacing tweaks for themselves.

The alterations (dubbed Chapter 13, Verse 2) include the ability to take Gladio and Ignis through Zegnautus Keep, modifications to Noctis’ ring magic, and some story scenes that apparently provide more details on the fate of Ravus and Iedolas.

Changes beyond chapter 13, like the ability to tread previously inaccessible ground on chocobos, are also part of this update. See the full trailer here:

(Please visit the site to view this media)

This is just the first update this week; tomorrow marks the release of Episode Gladiolus, the first story-based DLC pack for the game. 

 

Our Take
While I definitely appreciate the team’s willingness to listen to players and make changes, I’m not sure I’ll go back to see the new content. Final Fantasy XV was my personal game of the year in 2016 (I even got the platinum trophy), but I feel like my time with it might be done. Are you going to load up the game to check out the changes? 

Beta Test Final Fantasy XV’s Chapter 13 Update Is Out Today

Here's What Alicia Vikander Looks Like As Lara Croft In The Upcoming Tomb Raider Movie

Lara Croft underwent the reboot treatment for the Tomb Raider video game series back in 2013, and now it’s time for the iconic heroine to make her way back to the big screen as well.

The last Tomb Raider film, released in 2003, starred Angelina Jolie as the globe-trotting treasure hunter. Alicia Vikander, an Oscar-winning actress known for her roles as Gerda Wegener in The Danish Girl and Ava in Ex Machina, steps into the adventurer’s shoes in these new photos from the movie reboot that Vanity Fair managed to snag. You can check out the rest of the photos in Vanity Fair‘s piece here.

The upcoming Tomb Raider takes its cues from the video game reboot of the same title, following the first adventures of a younger, more vulnerable Lara Croft who hasn’t yet earned the title of tomb raider. 

This Lara Croft may be new to the treasure-hunting scene, but as the photo above shows, she is still as tenacious as ever. Bearing a bow, bandages, and the signature tank top, Vikander told Vanity Fair that Croft “has a fantastic mix of traits – tough, smart, vulnerable, plus she’s kick ass!”

Tomb Raider is set to release on March 16, 2018. Check out more movie news with the latest Justice League trailer, Alien: Covenant poster, and Star Wars Episode VIII updates.

[Source: Vanity Fair]

Beta Test Here’s What Alicia Vikander Looks Like As Lara Croft In The Upcoming Tomb Raider Movie

Why Uncharted: The Lost Legacy Became A Stand-Alone Expansion

When Uncharted: The Lost Legacy was unveiled at PSX late last year, fans immediately began to wonder the nature of the project. Was this supposed to be DLC content related to Uncharted 4, or was it its own stand-alone title that would release separately? Naughty Dog soon confirmed that it was the latter, with The Lost Legacy being its own entity tied to a beloved series. 

When the Naughty Dog team shot around ideas early on, creating a stand-alone experience wasn’t an obvious approach from the start. At first, the team contemplated an Uncharted 5, but with much of the team focused on The Last of Us Part II’s development, the idea was scrapped in favor of something more condensed that could release in a year’s time. The team also wanted to start something fresh; with Nathan Drake’s story cleanly reaching its conclusion in Uncharted 4, Naughty Dog knew this new entry would need a fresh start.

Before settling on Chloe and Nadine as protagonists, the team considered other possibilities. Sully was a serious contender, but the team realized for him to be agile enough, it would mean having to rewind to a young Sully. Sully’s history as a Marine, however, didn’t neatly fit into what Naughty Dog wanted to explore in an Uncharted game. Cassie was also considered, but soon enough, Naughty Dog happily fell onto the idea of reintroducing Chloe, but this time as a playable protagonist.

“We had the unique opportunity to do something that was truly stand-alone, unlike Left Behind which was like the missing chunk of the story in The Last of Us,” writer Josh Scherr says. “This is something we can do completely independently while still in the same universe with the same characters, and exploring new relationships with them.”

Originally, the team envisioned The Lost Legacy to have the same scope and length as Left Behind, but as the team began to work on it, they realized that it was becoming larger than expected. For it to feel like Uncharted, Naughty Dog knew it would need to be bigger.

“We tried to keep it small,” game director Kurt Margenau says. “As we started coming up with story ideas, it just became clear that with new characters and in this genre of Uncharted, it has to be big. With the gameplay stuff we wanted to explore, it felt like it needed more room to breathe.”

For more on Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, click the banner below or click here to be transported to our hub of exclusive content, which will continue to be updated through the month.

Beta Test Why Uncharted: The Lost Legacy Became A Stand-Alone Expansion

Valkyria Revolution Gets Release Date And New Trailer

Following the success of Valkyria Chronicles Remastered last year, Sega is bringing the latest entry in the cult tactical action-RPG series to the West.

Valkyria Revolution isn’t a sequel to the main Valkyria Chronicles storyline; though Sega is describing the title as a spinoff, with a new timeline and setting, though the series mythology, of ragnite ore and all-powerful Valkyria, remains in the new title. Bits of the story, as well as the new, faster-paced battle system, are on full display in a new trailer:

(Please visit the site to view this media)

The new Valkyria title is getting physical and digital releases on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, while the Vita version is only receiving a digital release.

Valkyria Revolution comes out on June 27. For more on the game, check out an earlier trailer. If you haven’t played the original Valkyria Chronicles yet, perhaps this bizarre hour-long unboxing video of the 2016 remaster will convince you… Or check out Joe Juba’s passion over the original PS3 release.

Beta Test Valkyria Revolution Gets Release Date And New Trailer

Bungie Officially Unveils Destiny 2 Logo

We know that Destiny 2 is coming this year, and last week we what appeared to be a promo poster for the game. Today, Bungie and Activision gave fans a look at the official logo.

The image was tweeted out by the official Destiny account:

There are certainly things in that image for Destiny fans to dissect and speculate about. Is that the Traveler? Is the Last City burning? Hopefully we don’t have to wait too long to learn where Bungie is taking the story in Destiny 2.

Our Take
Though Destiny 2’s existence hasn’t been a secret, it’s nice to get something official that makes the project feel real – not just an upcoming item in a financial report.

Beta Test Bungie Officially Unveils Destiny 2 Logo

The Elder Scrolls: Legends Review – Success Is In The Cards

The Elder Scrolls: Legends takes the legendary faces, races, and places of The Elder Scrolls series and transports them into a card-game format, where Dragon Priests battle Khajiit thieves and Wabbajacks can add an unpredictable element to any encounter. With five distinct attributes to explore and some features that prevent the game from being another Hearthstone or Magic: The Gathering clone, Legends is a polished, enjoyable experience.

The game board of ES:L is arranged into two lanes, the normal and the shadow. Everything happens normally on the standard lane, but units deployed to the shadow lane operate under the cloak of darkness for a turn, and can’t be attacked by enemy units. Lanes allow you to play units that are more fragile or need time to set up with some safety, and add an element of strategy to things instead of just dumping all your critters in one giant pool. 

A more interesting mechanic is called prophecy, found on a variety of cards. Each time you’re attacked and lose health at increments of five, you’ll draw the top card of your deck. The additional card resource is nice, but if it turns out that top card has the prophecy ability, you can play it instantly for free, allowing you to potentially turn the tide of battle. Prophecy cards often cost a little bit more magicka to play normally, but can give you a huge advantage when played for free, and this mechanic is especially useful to take on aggressive decks that attempt to destroy you in just a few turns. 

Cards are divided into five attributes like Strength, Intelligence, and Willpower, and you can use cards from any two attributes in a given deck. Each attribute feels unique and flavorful – Agility sports plenty of pilfering Khajiit that get stronger each time they attack an opponent, Endurance seeks to win the long game with resource dominance, Strength commands brute force and a focus on weaponry, and so on.

Players select an avatar and then venture through a variety of game modes. You can change your avatar at any time, and it’s more than just a visual – your “random” card rewards will be influenced by your race. Card-game veterans will gravitate toward ladder-climbing through the ranks of each ranked season and the arena, ES:L’s form of limited/draft play. 

The arena mode is the most interesting and enjoyable part of ES:L; picking an attribute combination to form a class, like assassin or battle mage, and then trying to build the perfect deck from a random selection of cards is challenging and engaging. The arena ruleset can even change during events, such as the Sheogorath-sponsored Chaos Arena, which adds amusing quirks and shifting rules.

ES:L is welcoming to genre newcomers, offering a substantial single-player campaign that comes with many rewards. Though the solo experience won’t win any awards for storytelling, it functions as an adept tutorial that gives players all the tools they will need to succeed in multiplayer encounters. In addition to the campaign, those looking for more tutelage can participate in a single-player arena experience, which functions as a great way to start gauging card values and combinations before putting your hard-earned gold on the line against live opponents.

Perhaps ES:L’s biggest weakness is that it plays things just a little bit too safe with many familiar features and mechanics alongside its own contributions, and may have a hard time carving out its own identity in a sea of competitive digital card games.

Elder Scrolls: Legends is a solid addition to the CCG lineup, and an excellent choice for those looking for something a little different. While the cards don’t really call out the feeling of exploring Morrowind or shouting at dragons, the game itself is solid enough to stand on its own.

This review pertains to the PC version of The Elder Scrolls: Legends. ES:L is also available on iOS and will be headed to Android tablets and phones later this year.

Beta Test The Elder Scrolls: Legends Review – Success Is In The Cards