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In Outer Wilds, you must solve the mystery of a solar system that’s trapped in a time loop. You can get to it later this month, on either PC or Xbox One.
Outer Wilds has some really adorable-looking planets. They look like marbles that you can fly around or even fly through, as the case may be. These varied planets are all trapped in a time loop, and your job is to find out why. Don’t start packing your spacesuit just yet, though, the game is only coming out next week.
According to a newly-released trailer for the game, Outer Wilds will release on 30th May for PC (exclusively via Epic Games Store) and Xbox One.
No other platforms have been announced, but as for PC launchers, the game will also launch on Steam at some point. Or maybe we’ll all be stuck in a time loop before that happens, and the game will keep perpetually releasing on Epic Games Store? Anything’s possible.
Right, here’s the trailer in question:
OUTER WILDS | Launch Trailer - YouTube
Outer Wilds is being developed by California, USA-based outfit Mobius Digital and it is being published by Annapurna Interactive. You might be familiar with the latter for their impressive publishing line-up, which includes the likes of Donut County, Sayonara Wild Hearts, and Ashen.
By the way, if you have the distinct feeling that you’ve heard of this game before, but it looked nothing like what it does—you might be thinking of Obsidian Entertainment’s The Outer Worlds. You’re welcome.
To solve mysteries that are more terrestrial (or are they?), have a look at Draugen, which comes from the Dreamfall Chapters developers. If widespread exploration is your thing, have a look at Vane.
The grim adventure Pathologic 2 is coming out next week, and tinyBuild has released a new trailer showing off its gameplay chops. Have a look here.
Pathologic 2 is creeping towards its 23rd May release date, but publisher tinyBuild wants to make sure you know what you’re getting into first. There’s a new ‘gameplay overview’ trailer for the game that’s out now, and it shows off all the stuff that you actually do in the game.
Pathologic 2 is being developed by veteran Russian studio Ice-Pick Lodge, who are probably best known for making the experimental classic The Void a decade ago. They also developed the original Pathologic back in 2005.
Although this game is presented as a sequel to the older Pathologic, there is no story continuity between the two games. In fact, Pathologic 2 is a ‘reimagining’ of the original game’s concept.
Here’s what it’s about:
Pathologic 2 is a narrative-driven dramatic thriller about fighting a deadly outbreak in a secluded rural town. The town is dying. Face the realities of a collapsing society as you make difficult choices in seemingly lose-lose situations. The plague isn’t just a disease. You can’t save everyone.
The plague is devouring the town. The chief local healer is dead, and you are now to take his place. You’ll have to look for unexpected allies. The local kids are hiding something. Try playing by their rules.
The first-person, grid-based dungeon crawler Conglomerate 451 will bring its dark, cyberpunk world to Steam Early Access within a week. It’ll be on PC only.
1C Entertainment has announced that it is publishing Conglomerate 451 onto Steam Early Access next week. The launch will be on 23rd May, exclusively for Windows PCs.
Conglomerate 451 hearkens back to first-person, grid-based dungeon crawlers of yore, but swaps out the more common fantasy theme for a cyberpunk sci-fi world full of technological wizardry. There’s also some roguelike and procedural generation elements thrown in. All in all, it should be a welcome change for fans of games like Legend of Grimrock or Vaporum.
Check out the game’s plot:
You are the CEO of a Special Agency, instructed by the Senate of Conglomerate city to restore the order in sector 451, where corrupted corporations have established their turfs. Thanks to the last constitutional decree, you are allowed to create human clones. Build your own team, manipulate DNA, train your agents, equip them with high-end weapons, choose what cyberlimbs to implant, and send the squad to the field with only one goal: eradicate crime and restore order at any cost.
Necrobarista has come a long way since its 2017 announcement, but it is now scheduled to release in a matter of months. It’ll be coming to Steam first.
Route 59 has finally announced a release date for its adventure visual novel Necrobarista. The game will be out on 8th August, but only on PC and via Steam. Pricing will be set to $14.99, and the game will be available in English, (Simplified) Chinese, and Japanese languages.
Route 59 has also released a brand new gameplay trailer:
Necrobarista - Gameplay Trailer - YouTube
Here’s what the game’s about:
Stop in for a cup of coffee at The Terminal, a magical café in Melbourne, Australia frequented by living and dead customers. Staffed by a necromancer, this back-alley java house allows the deceased to return to the world of the living for one final day before shuffling off this mortal coil.
Necrobarista takes visual novels in a bold new direction with 3D visuals that provide a distinct cinematic aesthetic and supply the narrative’s branching scenarios with depth and nuance. This also gives players the opportunity to explore the coffee shop and investigate its environments as they mingle with patrons and help them resolve unfinished business.
Another revelation that’s been made is that Kevin Penkin will be handling the game’s music. The 26-year-old Australian-origin composer is best known for scoring the Made in Abyss anime series, but he also worked on last year’s indie darling Florence.
Need more wordy adventures to tide you over until then? Have a look at our review of Heaven’s Vault. For some more traditional pointing and clicking (and a complete absence of words), have a look at Luna The Shadow Dust.
After it’s debut on the Nintendo Switch, SteamWorld Quest is headed to PC, Mac, and Linux. No, you won’t have to wait months for it—just a couple of weeks.
Back in March, developer Image & Form said that SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech will stay exclusive to the Nintendo Switch for the ‘foreseeable future’. It seems the future they foresee is very limited indeed, because the game will soon be arriving on PC, Mac, and Linux this very month.
According to the game’s new Steam page, it will launch on 31st May across PC, Mac, and Linux.
Have a look at the game’s Steam trailer below:
SteamWorld Quest Hits Steam on May 31! - YouTube
Although the game bears the SteamWorld name, it is not connected in story or gameplay to the previous SteamWorld games. While Dig and Dig 2 are platformers and Heist is a tactics game, SteamWorld Quest is a card-based role-playing game.
Here’s how it’s described by publisher Thunderful (which is the parent company of the developer, Image & Form):
Lead a party of aspiring heroes through a beautifully hand-drawn world and intense battles using only your wits and a handful of cards. Take on whatever threat comes your way by crafting your own deck choosing from over 100 unique punch-cards!
SteamWorld Quest originally launched on Switch last month, and garnered a score of 81 on its OpenCritic page, with 88 percent of critics recommending the game.
You’ll find more on SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech over at the game’s page on Image & Form’s website. The web design team doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo about the Steam release, though.
For more breezy and colourful role-playing, have a look at Swag and Sorcery, which comes from the makers of Punch Club and Graveyard Keeper. Also have a look at the grimmer world of Vambrace: Cold Soul.
In Executioner, you step into the role of a medieval torturer and executioner and see how long you last. The game’s first chapter will be out in July.
It takes a lot more than just physical fortitude to step into the role of the Royal Executioner, you have to be willing to sacrifice your mental health, too. You can test your mettle at the job when you play The Executioner, the first chapter of which is releasing on 17th July. It’ll be out on Steam, across PC, Mac, and Linux.
The grim, mainly text-based RPG was up on Kickstarter when we last covered it. Set in the Middle Ages, it has you torturing people to get signed confessions out of them. And then, well, you get them well-acquainted with the sharp end of your axe. Apart from the rigours of your job, you’ll also dabble in occultism and a market of dead flesh. All this comes at the price of your sanity.
The Executioner April 2019 Teaser - YouTube
Here’s lead writer Elena Sivakova explaining how the game came to be:
“We were inspired to create this game by a thought: ‘How people, whose work is inflicting pain and killing other humans, actually live?'”
Another inspiration of the game was the famed psychological experiment known as the Milgram experiment. The gist of it is that we’re capable of doing pretty horrible things to people if we’re ordered to.
The Executioner is being developed by Moscow-based studio Lesser Evil Games. There’s no official dates on when the subsequent episodes will release, but the game’s Steam page suggests a new episode will come out every 2 months.
For more dark and horrific goings-on, have a look at the horror adventure Pamali: Indonesian Folklore Horror. If you’d rather explore past mysteries without having to worry about your state of sanity, have a look at our review of Heaven’s Vault.
One Finger Death Punch 2 will challenge your kung fu by throwing thousands of stickmen at you. Did we become the last action heroes? Here’s what we think.
When you spectate a game of One Finger Death Punch 2, it can be a little overwhelming to assess what’s going on. Bodies fly, blood shoots like out of a waterhose, props are lowered into place for the sole purpose of being broken. Weapons materialise and disappear, as do massive images of mystical warriors. And sometimes, there’s even a chicken having its breakfast while you stylishly execute your foe. All this can happen in a span of seconds.
When you actually play it though, everything comes together and fuses together into a stream of binary impulses: left and right.
One Finger Death Punch 2 features some of the simplest controls in a modern video game. You press one button to attack your left side, and one button to attack your right. Enemies come rushing at you from both sides, and your job is to clear them all out.
Most enemies can be killed with a single hit, but many others will take extra punishment. There’s also flying daggers, bullets, and arrows, as well as special types of enemies that you duel with, and weapons you can pick up and use. It’s a medley of action movie tropes, boiled down to two controls.
As you progress through the game’s lengthy campaign, you may also pick up skill points. These can be invested in skills that allow you to summon earthquakes, firestorms, extra bullets, and so on. The skills here are activated automatically once charged. The more points you put in, the sooner they will show up.
The game can probably beaten without using any of the given skills, but it sure as hell won’t make it easy for you. I have yet to beat the game’s gargantuan final level, and that’s probably because I missed a whole bunch of skill points I could have picked up.
It’s silly, really. I could just go back and finish the maps I didn’t go through, or go to the levels I missed. Rationally speaking, I know that the skills will greatly improve my odds. But One Finger Death Punch 2 has a way of making you feel like you don’t really need the extra skills, just your own raw kung fu ability. Just one more go, you tell yourself, and this time your timing will be perfect.
It’s tempting to put labels on the gameplay. It’s definitely action. Is it a brawler or a beat-em-up? Is it a rhythm game?
In trying to describe how it plays, I’d rather gravitate towards Terry Cavanagh’s classic Super Hexagon. It’s something of a trance game then, one in which you surrender control to your reflexes. One finger for left attack, one finger for right attack, and the rest of your body might as well not exist.
The action is so blazingly fast that there’s no time whatsoever for conscious strategy. And yet, it’s a game of precision and timing. As you are repeatedly told, button mashing will only get you killed, because missing an attack leaves you briefly vulnerable.
The developers spent a long time refining the pitch-perfect gameplay and it shows. Each level feels like a sheet of music that you play with your stickman’s arms and legs. The resulting melody would be the satisfying crunch of bone, the thunk of a club, the crack of a sniper rifle.
One Finger Death Punch 2 doesn’t just not have a story, it specifically asks you not to expect one. Don’t even expect a setting. One Finger Death Punch 2 exists in a realm of its own, where action movie imagery exists without the promise of any underlying sense.
There’s kung fu at the core, of course, but you’ll also be driving chainsaws into torsos, beheading stickmen with lightsabers (sorry, “power swords”), shooting them down like you’re John Wick, kicking them into torturous death devices, and summoning a very wide range of unnamed, and enigmatic spirit warriors to assist you in superhuman ways.
The sheer incohesion of the game’s presentation is something to behold. You’re not supposed to give it much thought, but that, ironically, only sparked more curiosity for me. Who are the threatening zombie monks in the background of the Horror Show levels? Who is the serial killer bunny with the chainsaw? The lady on the fire-breathing lion? What about the cyborg with long, flowing hair? What is the mystery of the demonic train? What’s with the random dance parties?
Nothing. Like the art you’d find on knock-off backpacks and firecrackers sold in Asia, the art of One Finger Death Punch 2 means nothing, even in implication or inference. It’s purely there because it looks cool, because it suggests an awesome spectacle, because it ignites and invigorates the fighting spirit. Even the music is in the vein of generic ‘epic’ fight music you’d find on YouTube, mixed in with East Asian influences.
The resulting aesthetic is ludicrous, garish, unmistakable, and thoroughly postmodern. I love it.
A word of caution for fans of the original One Finger Death Punch: the sequel isn’t terribly different. I was struck with a spot of disappointment when I started playing it, as I really couldn’t tell what was different about it. Eventually, the rhythm and the madness did catch up with me, and I enjoyed the many new types of levels. Still, this is strictly a ‘more of the same’ kind of sequel.
As long as you don’t mind how similar it is to the original game, One Finger Death Punch 2 offers up a furious and spectacular pastiche of action that bypasses your brain and interfaces directly with your reflexes.
Developer: Silver Dollar Games Country of Origin: Canada Publisher: Silver Dollar Games Release Date: 15 April 2019 (PC)
In Pathway, you brave the desert and its mysteries to put an end to Nazis and cultists. Does this belong in a museum? Here’s what we think.
In my first game of Pathway, a Brazilian sailor and an Arab prince bonded over killing Nazis and travelling the Moroccan desert. Battered by conflict, they approached their goal—a Nazi outpost where they may rescue their captured friend. And then their jeep ran out of fuel.
I decided they will walk the rest of the way. However, the sailor died, succumbing to his poor health. The prince found himself a new companion in a dog named Donut, and the two took on the Nazis at their base. In the final battle, with emotions charged, the bloodied prince and his faithful mutt put up a valiant fight, but were soundly defeated.
Turns out, this was just the first of the many stories I would end up building in the game.
Pathway sets up a simple scaffolding for its lovably pulpy narrative. It’s the 1930s and the deserts of the Arab world are being terrorised by Nazis and necromantic cultists. Only a band of international adventurers (and their trusty jeep) can save everyone from catastrophe.
You start by picking your starting pair of heroes and loading them up with the equipment they’ll need in the desert, such as fuel and bandages (and you know, a prototype disintegrator gun). After that, you’re placed on a board game-esque map, where your adventure is procedurally generated.
Take a trip down to the next encounter area, and you might uncover a mysterious obelisk, or a Nazi excavation party, or an oasis to rest in, or a horde of murderous zombies, or a helpful trader, amongst many other possibilities.
In translating Indiana Jones to a mash-up of XCOM and The Binding of Isaac, developer Robotality has captured the essence of what Spielberg’s pulp adventure films were really all about. It’s risk.
The Nazis and cultists are risking playing with powers beyond their understanding, while the heroes are risking their lives trying to stop them. But in Pathway, it goes deeper. The game’s moment-to-moment gameplay is filled with constant risk.
Should you explore the forbidding pyramid, or leave it well off alone? Should you engage a group of Nazis rounding up villagers for execution, or would it be more prudent to make off while they’re distracted? Should you make a quick run for your goal, or should you take the long way around to find a trader or a helpful comrade?
And I haven’t even mentioned the risky turn-based battles. There, every action you take, be it taking cover behind a wall, or knifing an attack dog, or choosing who to spend your precious bullet on; risk abounds.
Pathway being a roguelike game, you stand to lose your progress if you fail. The game’s five adventures each last about a couple hours (except the first, which is shorter), so you don’t lose a lot of time. Just enough to make you regret it.
It’s not all in vain, though—the items and loot you picked up stay in your jeep, ready to use for the next band of heroes. Characters also retain their gained experience and upgrades, so you’re always making progress even if your adventure fails. You can also unlock new characters in The Binding of Isaac style, by completing specific achievements over the course of the game.
It’s the nature of a roguelike to dish out good runs and bad runs, but Pathway ensures that even when a good run turns sour, you’ll always have something to show for it.
This mix of constantly having both tangible gains and losses made Pathway an alluring play that kept me coming back for more. Not unlike Civilization, I couldn’t resist the ‘one more turn’ appeal of progressing from one area to the next, just to find out what’s in store. No matter whether you’ve just started a session or have been playing for hours, your goal always feels tantalisingly close.
Even the battles are designed to be played in one go, and they’re so brief that even the exceptionally lengthy encounters don’t last more than 10 minutes.
The tightly designed combat of Pathway will be intuitive to veterans of games like XCOM. You place your adventurers behind various levels of cover, and you make use of movement and attack ranges to outmanoeuvre and outflank your enemies.
It’s simple enough that the game doesn’t need to spell out things with a tutorial, and yet the game offers a balanced sense of challenge that favours thought-out positioning. Even if the enemies of Pathway may not stand a chance against you in a duel, they intelligently flank around you and retreat when prudent.
Convincingly enough for a game that’s trying to emulate pulp adventures, you must balance your cocky, impulse-driven decisions with more nuanced strategy. The game succeeds in making you feel so powerful that even when vastly outnumbered, you would chalk up your defeats to poor strategy, rather than poor odds.
Furthermore, your characters have special abilities that they gain based on the equipment they have on (and not, interestingly, on their character upgrades).
These special abilities are crucial to making the game what it is, seeing as they’re the element responsible for turning your pawns into heroes. My personal favourite? The Russian doctor Natalya, who started out as a weak healer, but with steady upgrades and a powerful weapon, became my default protagonist, so to speak.
Revelling in the emergent storytelling of a turn-based battle is one of my favourite things in video games, and Pathway does not disappoint in that respect. Even though the characters have barely any dialogue (and most of it is functional anyway), I quickly attributed traits and personalities to them based on how I’d used them in battle.
Natalya became my cool-headed protagonist, the ‘big sister’ of the team who used her Double Shot ability to pick off strong enemies in an instant. American scientist Bellamy started off as a bumbling professor, but by the end of the game, he was a madly powerful and seasoned sniper. Arab prince Omar was my gregarious jack-of-all-trades, lobbing grenades, blasting away with his shotgun, and making risky attacks that others wouldn’t.
Pathway’s difficulty is unpredictable, which is a by-product of its roguelike design. A couple of campaigns were easy enough that I beat them in one go each. On the other hand, two other campaigns required me to try several times over.
The final campaign proved to be a particular pain, as by this point, I’d juiced out most of what the game had to offer. Ultimately, I settled on changing the difficulty to favour me (and it still took me a couple of tries).
Losing in Pathway is never devastating or frustrating, though. There is rarely a single reason why your run will be trashed—it could be poor tactical choices, or poor luck on the story decisions, or maybe you ran out of fuel or ammo. Because there was no one thing to blame, I found myself convinced that I was going to clinch it in the next run.
Before closing this review, I’ll concede that Pathway can get dull if you play it as a ‘main course’ game. What I mean is, it doesn’t strike me as the sort of game you should start and then stick to until it wraps up. Instead, it’s more of a delightfully crispy snack that’s best played with liberal breaks.
Whether it’s the allure of recruiting a new teammate or uncovering lost treasures in ancient tombs, there’s always something to expect when you play Pathway. It’s this irresistible allure that makes the game quite akin to the exotic treasures it revolves around. Whether it ends celebration or disappointment, you’re in for a heck of an adventure.
Developer: Robotality Country of Origin: Germany Publisher: Chucklefish Release Date: 11 April 2019 (PC, Mac, Linux)
This review of Pathwayis based on a copy provided by the publisher.
Norwegian developer Red Thread Games has announced that Draugen will release in May, exclusively on PC (with console versions coming later).
After announcing a May release window last month, Red Thread Games has locked in a date for its next game, Draugen. The mysterious “fjord noir” adventure will release on 29th May. The game will debut exclusively on PC, but versions for PS4 and Xbox One are also being worked on.
Draugen is a first-person, narrative-heavy adventure game, so story is everything. Here’s what the game’s story is about:
The year is 1923. You play Edward Charles Harden, an American traveller who’s come to Norway to find his missing sister. But you’re not alone: at every step of the way, Edward’s accompanied by his ward, Lissie; a gregarious, independent and enigmatic young woman. Together, you must explore this scenic coastal community — nestled amongst the fjords and mountains of rural Norway — in your search for Edward’s sister, and unearth the darkness that lies beneath the picturesque surface.
The story trailer for the game that was released last month has also been updated to feature new (and some improved) shots, along with the game’s fancy new release date. Check it out below:
Draugen story trailer - Vimeo
Red Thread Games was founded in 2012, with its founders consisting mainly of ex-employees of Funcom, the studio that developed The Longest Journey and its sequel, Dreamfall: The Longest Journey. Red Thread Games would then develop Dreamfall Chapters, the third and final game in the series.
Draugen is the first original IP from the studio, and it was originally announced back in 2013. Red Thread Games is self-publishing the title, at least on PC.
Another adventure releasing this month is the Hollywood-y horror title Layers of Fear 2. You might also be interested in what we think of archaeology adventure Heaven’s Vault, which came out last month.
John Wick is getting a video game at long last, and it’s an indie! Mike Bithell of Volume and Thomas Was Alone fame will be writing and directing it.
Just like John Wick himself, I don’t think anyone saw this one coming. John Wick Hex is the first video game starring the assassin protagonist of the self-titled movie series, and surprisingly enough, it’s an indie game that’s being made by Bithell Games. Yes, that Bithell Games, the one that made Thomas Was Alone, Volume, and Subsurface Circular.
The game has no release date at the moment, but it will release on PC and Mac exclusively via Epic Games Store. The game is also in development for consoles, but no specific ones have been announced.
Here’s a look at the game:
John Wick Hex - Announcement Trailer - YouTube
John Wick Hex is being published by Good Shepherd Entertainment, who we know for publishing the likes of Milanoir, and Where The Water Tastes Like Wine. Lionsgate has lent its blessings to the title, and Bithell Games is also working with the creative and stunt teams behind the films.
Here’s how the publisher describes the gameplay:
Players must choose every action and attack they make, while considering their immediate cost and consequences. Every move in John Wick Hex feels like a scene from the movies, and every fight contributes to your progress on the job and requires precise strategic thinking.
Perform well and progress in the main story mode (which features an original story created for the game) to unlock new weapons, suit options and locations. Each weapon changes up the tactics you’ll use and the manner in which you’ll play. Ammo is finite and realistically simulated, so time your reloads and make the most of weapons you scavenge on the job.
For more dark and noir indies, but with substantially less action, have a look at the interactive graphic novel Liberated. If you’d rather stick to shooting, check out Zombotron, in which you are stuck on an alien planet and must fight your way out (I usually just check Maps).