Pillars Of Eternity II: Deadfire – Ultimate Edition Is Now Available For Xbox One

The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners Review

Imagine what would happen if you took a half-season of The Walking Dead TV show, mashed it together with a Deus Ex or System Shock style of exploration and decision-making, and then drizzled it with the best aspects of a modern VR game. What you might end up with is a survival horror game that’s oppressively tense and brutal, but also tugs on you relentlessly to explore every corner of its post-apocalyptic world for hidden loot and nuggets of lore. The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners is exactly that, and it absolutely nails the mix, delivering it with a level of detail and a depth of interactivity that feels like a genuine step forward for virtual reality.

You play as the Tourist, a storied survivor and living urban legend who seems to be immune to the fictional virus that makes everybody else a little bitier in The Walking Dead universe. You’ve rolled into the sunken remains of New Orleans following a rumor about a buried hotbed of limitless supplies called the Reserve, and the rest is up to you. It’s a simple setup, but one that’s perfect for the size and scope of Saints & Sinners because it doesn’t immediately saddle you with any presumptions about your character’s morality.

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You’re introduced to New Orleans by your old buddy Henri, but the moral choices you’ll make while navigating its several open-ended zones are yours alone. As an Obsidian fan, I was pleased to find that there were several major factions fighting for control of the Reserve, each with their own perspective on the bleak situation around you. One such moral choice involves a mission where a faction member will send you to rescue their brother in exchange for an important item, and it’s fantastic that you can then choose to upend the original mission and kill the brother, earning his captors as allies and instead taking the item by force – if that’s the path you prefer, of course. Saints & Sinners’ ending depends entirely on the decisions you make throughout the campaign too, few of which are decidedly ‘good’ or ‘evil’.

All that choice makes the Tourist primarily a shell for you to insert your own personality into, with decent voice acting that gives life to each dialogue option, much like Commander Shepard in the Mass Effect series. By comparison, Telltale’s The Walking Dead accomplished some truly great feats of cinematic storytelling and meaningful decision-making in its hostile and zombie-riddled world, but it never gave me free rein to do whatever I wanted. That’s something I had craved for years when I was a regular watcher of The Walking Dead TV series, and while Telltale’s take on The Walking Dead certainly made me care about Clementine, it never made me feel like I was in that world.

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Saints & Sinners scratches that itch with the grace and confidence of a well-lubricated bowie knife. The portrayal of killing zombies – or walkers – has never been as satisfying as it is here, and the abject terror of an unexpected walker swarm has never been as palpable. Zombie guts and brains are rendered with great detail, but what really grounds you in this world is the fact that weapons have appropriate weight and heft. Heavy weapons like axes and rifles require you to grip them with both hands for stability, while small weapons like shivs are much lighter and easier to land precise blows with. It’s not as nuanced as a game like Boneworks; you can’t wield just any item as a weapon, but this combat system is far more tactile and exciting than if you were doing it remotely with a gamepad or a keyboard.

Diseased walkers explode and unleash poisonous gases that lower your health pool when killed up close, meanwhile helmeted walkers are far tougher to kill, requiring a complete decapitation or extremely precise blows to exposed parts of their heads. This increased challenge only adds to the intensity of fighting an entire pack of walkers at once, a common occurrence later on, as you need to quickly pick and choose which walkers need to be killed in which way and in which order to preserve the durability of your best weapons. Rapidly juggling my inventory in real-time to acclimate to each fight forced me to be smarter and, as a result, Saints & Sinners never fell into that Action-RPG trap of becoming repetitive. I spent a little over 18 hours in the campaign – the story itself is a few hours shorter than that, but it was just loads of fun to complete scavenging runs and hunt for secret recipes on my own.

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The walkers and human NPCs themselves have their own agendas too, often interacting with one another in interesting and useful ways. While the AI isn’t always the most bright, causing enemies to sometimes get stuck in hilarious and vulnerable positions, an impressive amount of the unfurling drama that makes Saints & Sinners exciting is simulated in real-time rather than deliberately scripted. To my satisfaction, I found that many of the quests allowed me to choose my own path to a solution, and it was a delight to discover alternate routes and secrets, even if the map can feel a little nondescript or claustrophobic at times. Even when I was presented with straightforward options for moving through a group of wary human NPCs or solving a quest with diplomacy – or simply by attacking an NPC directly – I could just as easily avoid interacting with certain characters altogether, either by attracting a herd of walkers and sneaking past the ensuing carnage, or by climbing over the side of a wall or up the side of a house. That freedom to tackle a situation so many different ways is fantastic.

And though the bigger story about breaking into the Reserve can sometimes feel pretty thin between long periods of exploring, looting, killing, and crafting my way through the streets of New Orleans, it was refreshing for a VR game to let me define my character through my own decisions in a setting as meticulously detailed and open-ended as this. While Saints & Sinners isn’t exactly the first of its kind, this caliber of storytelling reaches a height that VR had otherwise yet to achieve.

Zombalaya

Central to the tension of Saints & Sinners is that you only get so much time each day to do things before the city’s bells are rung and the streets flood with ravenous corpses. Once you head back to safety you can go to sleep and skip to the next morning, but the number of undead you encounter the following day increases. This creates a compelling risk-reward choice between pushing your luck past dark or playing it safe at the cost of worse odds tomorrow, driving the tension of the entire game.

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That dilemma would be perfectly manageable if not for the fact that you only have a limited amount of inventory space, pushing you to think more carefully about what you grab. You also have to continue crafting or finding new weapons as your old ones tend to fall apart at a distressingly high rate. That forces you to make each attack count, which is easier said than done since you actually have to swing and aim with your real-world appendages. With a ticking clock looming behind all that, Saints & Sinners quickly becomes the perfect storm for adrenaline junkies.

Luckily, the inventory management is intuitive and feels great. Picking up items and placing them into your backpack is as simple as throwing them over your shoulder, and to access them again you simply grab the pack off of your back and pull items out of their neatly arranged slots. Meanwhile, weapons can be holstered in convenient slots on your waist and back while your journal and flashlight fit snugly on your chest. This style of physical inventory management has existed in VR games like Rec Room and Township Tale for some time, and it’s far more interactive and interesting than simply tapping on a menu screen with your fingers or pointing at some text with a laser pointer.

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Limited stamina is also a worry. Running out of stamina makes you slow and unable to swing, aim, or run away, meaning it’s all the more critical to land each and every blow with finesse. Likewise, having a strong weapon or beefed up stamina pool makes you feel satisfyingly powerful, but never so much that you can let your guard down, keeping combat engaging even as you get stronger.

If you do die to the shambling hordes, you’re forced to respawn at the start of the map while the day’s clock is still ticking, and you only get one chance to reclaim your inventory before it’s gone forever. As time wears on, high-quality supplies and weapons can become so difficult to find that scrounging up a broken bottleneck or screwdriver in the nick of time is sometimes the difference between life and death. This, mixed with the fact that your health and stamina pools are temporarily decreased when you die, is a perfect formula for some of the most terrifying moments I’ve had in a VR headset – but that terror was met with an equal amount of satisfaction if I could make it back to my loot and come out alive after.

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It is disappointing that character progression is fairly linear, with only a few tech trees to branch into – Gear, Guns, and Survival – and no mutual exclusivity between them. There’s nothing stopping you from unlocking every possible upgrade at the crafting stations in short order, just as long as you can find the right components from scrapping items you find in the world, similar to Fallout 4. It’s plenty of fun to use newfound upgrades like the Nail Bomb and the Grass Cutter, and there are some recipes that you first have to uncover the hidden nooks and crannies of New Orleans to find, but it’s too bad that there’s no real way to personalize your Tourist beyond the story choices you make.

Stone, the Aussie LGBT Stoner Noir, is Out Now on Xbox One

Summary

  • Stone is a single-player, third-person interactive story where a hungover koala detective wakes to find his lover Alex has been kidnapped.
  • Made by Convict Games, a new team of ex-AAA developers, filmmakers and musicians that have worked on games like Control and Quantum Break and films like “Gravity” and “Prometheus.”
  • A passion project, Stone was made to tell a new type of story.

Hey Xbox Wire, nice to meet you all. I’m Greg Louden from Convict Games and I’m here to talk about our debut, Stone. It’s an Aussie LGBT stoner noir interactive story that follows our koala private investigator Stone who wakes to find his lover has been kidnapped. You need to find out what happened.

As I
wrote, we’re an interactive story, so super, super story driven. While playing,
there’s constant reference-filled dialogue like a great hip-hop track and an
eclectic soundtrack. So mechanically in the game you walk, talk, interact,
dance, smoke, and drink. Some call it a Walking Sim; we like to call it an Interactive
Story. We have one ending in Stone, so you don’t change the story with
these choices, but rather you adapt it and make it your own.

Stone

To
bring noir to 2019 and Xbox, it had to be hip hop, that to me is also about
wordplay and Stone is filled with references and throwbacks. It’s also a
genre with a set use in games, however we wanted to present it in a different
way and bring my passion for the genre to storytelling in interactive stories.

The
whole koala, anthropomorphic concept came from the fact that it’s a great
metaphor; and in games we need to build everything. So why do we recreate the
real world when we can create something new and something only games or CGI can
do.

Stone

Stone is filled with licensed
tracks and public domain cinema. I’m stoked with the selection and I think
people will really enjoy the music and cinema we have available. We have Ryan
Little providing our central hip hop vibe with Ilkka S providing our techno. On
the Aussie side we have Luchii involved along with Grand Oyster Palace, Joseph
Banks and Golden Grove on the Aussie rock front. In terms of cinema some
players will watch some cinema like “Night of the Living Dead” and will be
blown away, because all of these films are masterpieces that are now free for
use.

Convict
Games is a new Aussie remote story game company telling high impact and
alternative stories. We’ve got talent from Moscow, Helsinki, Los Angeles,
Sydney and Melbourne that have worked on our debut Stone. Convict was
founded by my Co-Founder Sarah and I on July 5, 2017 and our motto is “Breaking
free since 2017.” Which means we’re trying to do something fresh with our
stories rather than follow others.

Stone

All
of us who have worked on Stone like telling alternative stories. In
games, those types of stories are very rarely played and usually you evade,
attack and shield as mechanics. We wanted to push interactive storytelling
further. Usually there’s the same sort of music too; we wanted to challenge
that as well.

This is Stone and we’re Convict Games.

Related:
Xbox Insider Release Notes -Delta Ring (2002.200123-2000)
Xbox Insider Release Notes – Alpha Skip Ahead (2004.200124-1750)
Phantasy Star Online 2: Closed Beta Test Starts February 7th

Metro Exodus’ second expansion is coming in February

The Russian post-apocalypse game Metro Exodus has announced a date for its second DLC coming in February. Like the first DLC, Sam’s Story ditches the main game’s protagonist in favor of a new set of eyes. It will follow the story of a US Marine trying to make his way back to the states from the Moscow embassy where he was stationed before the nukes started a’flying.

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Torchlight Frontiers Is Now Torchlight 3, Can Be Played Offline

The previously announced Torchlight Frontiers, which was previously announced as an action MMORPG, will be scaled back into a more traditional ARPG. As such, Perfect World Entertainment and developer Echtra Games announced that Torchlight Frontiers is being renamed as Torchlight 3.

“During development, you often discover what type of product a game was meant to be and we found Torchlight Frontiers was meant to be a true successor to Torchlight 1 & 2,” said Echtra Games CEO Max Schaefer.

“Based on this and extensive feedback from our Alpha testers, we decided it was time to take the game back to its roots and model it after the classic Torchlight games that ARPG fans have come to love.”

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Torchlight Frontiers was announced back in 2018 as a shared-world action-RPG where players can crawl through dungeons together. IGN came away with a positive impression of the shared world when we previewed Torchlight Frontiers in 2018.

However, Echtra seems to believe that a more traditional approach is in order. Instead of going free-to-play, Torchlight 3 will be a purchasable game title with full access to all the playable content. So basically a traditional game release.

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Furthermore, Torchlight 3 will be playable online or off and feature a more linear structure similar to the first two Torchlight games. Torchlight 3 still has online multiplayer and character classes:
The Dusk Mage, Forged, and Railmaster.

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Matt Kim is a reporter for IGN. You can reach him on Twitter.

Pokemon: Rookie Mom Dominates Tournament, Becomes Social Media Sensation

A tweet about a Pokemon TCG tournament has gone viral thanks to the surprising performance of a mom named Pam (via ComicBook.com).

The tweet thread from @CarolineDirectr tells the story of how she invited her mother Pam to join in on her weekend Pokemon tournament at Core TCG in Pasadena, CA — a pre-release for the new Sword and Shield set. Pam sheepishly asked her daughter if it was okay for her to watch the Pokemon tournament, but Caroline went one further and taught her how to play so she could be a part of the competition.

What Caroline likely didn’t expect was for her mother to not only beat her when they were pitted against each other in the third round of the tournament but to continue doing well enough to finish in the Top 8. The tournament had upwards of 40 competitors. The final photo shows Pam alongside the other top finishers gleefully holding up her prizes.

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The story is incredibly sweet in how it shows Pam as just a mom who wants to have fun joining in on her daughter’s game but isn’t too familiar with Pokemon — “She was calling Raichu ‘Rikkuhchu’ and Salandit ‘Sizzle’ all while owning her opponents,” Caroline tweeted — yet that didn’t stop her from stomping the competition and coming away from the tournament with a handful of booster packs. Clearly, Pam is a natural.

The tweets caught on with Pokemon fans and earned Pam a heap of praise and admiration. Much was made of Pam’s smiling competitive game-face, the last thing her opponent’s saw before their ultimate defeat.

pam 1

The new Sword and Shield expansion is ushering in some big rules changes for the TCG, including the removal of Fairy typing from the game. The Sword and Shield video games are expanding with two DLC packs, which will bring numerous Pokemon to the Galar region.

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Joshua is Senior Features Editor at IGN. If Pokemon, Green Lantern, or Game of Thrones are frequently used words in your vocabulary, you’ll want to follow him on Twitter @JoshuaYehl and IGN.

Xbox Insider Release Notes -Delta Ring (2002.200123-2000)

Hey Delta ring users! Today’s Xbox Insider Release Notes highlight the latest fixes, known issues, and features coming to your console. Starting at 2:00 p.m. PT today, users will receive the latest 2002 Xbox One system update (build: 19H1_RELEASE_XBOX_DEV_200218363.9115.200120-2000). Keep reading for more details.

System Update Details:

  • OS version released: 19H1_RELEASE_XBOX_DEV_200218363.9115.200120-2000
  • Available: 2:00 p.m. PT – January 23, 2020
  • Mandatory: 3:00 a.m. PT – January 24, 2019

System Update

New Features for Delta

With today’s update, we’re bringing you more ways to keep My Games & Apps organized! Users will now find:

  • Content grouping for easier navigation and access to your games and apps
  • Streamlined settings inside the app to simplify how you interact with your Collection
  • Labels for trials and demos

Keep your eye out for a full survey about the changes coming later this month! In the meantime we can’t wait to hear what you think.

Messaging

  • With 2002, we’re enabling the ability for you to view images in messaging conversations with your Xbox Live friends on console. Now, images sent from the Xbox mobile app on iOS or Android or the new Xbox (Beta) App on Windows 10 PC will also display on your console, with the added ability to view the content in full-screen on Xbox One.

Notifications

  • Whether you just prefer them somewhere else or often find your in-game subtitles getting covered up, you can now set your default notification popup location. You can find this by going to Settings -> Preferences -> Notifications -> Default notification position.
    • Note: Games can still override this location while they are active, as they could before. Please give it a try and let us know what you think!

Fixes for Delta

We’ve heard your feedback, and we’re happy to announce the following fixes have been implemented for this 2002 build:

Home

  • Fixed an issue where the incorrect Gamerpic would be displayed on the dashboard after being edited.

 My Games & Apps

  • Fixed an issue where My Games & Apps would crash while browsing collection.
  • Users should no longer lost focus when navigating their collection.
  • Filters for backwards compatible titles have been restored when browsing.
  • Users should now be able to navigate to Manage Contents correctly via collection.
  • Fixed an issue where DLC content would not install from the Manage Game menu.
  • Tile size and filtering choices in collection should no longer reset when leaving some sections.
  • Installed games should no longer appear in Ready to Install sections of collection.
  • Search button should now be working correctly.

System

  • Various updates to properly reflect local languages across the console.

Xbox Insider Release Notes

Known Issues for Delta

We understand some issues have been listed in previous Xbox Insider Release Notes. These issues aren’t being ignored, but it will take Xbox engineers more time to find a solution. We appreciate your patience at this time!

Audio

  • We’re aware of an issue where users who enable Dolby Atmos formats (Home theater or headphones) on their console may experience Netflix playback errors with Atmos enabled shows and movies.
    • Workaround: Disable Dolby Atmos in Settings while we fully diagnose and rectify the issue.
  • Users who have Dolby Atmos enabled and console display settings set to 120hz with 36 bits per pixel (12-bit) are experiencing loss of Dolby Atmos audio in some situations.
    • Workaround: Disable 120hz or set Video Fidelity to 30 bits per pixel (10-bit) or lower.

Game DVR

  • Some users have reported that saved game clips are not playing at the proper resolution/framerate. We are aware of the issue and working on a fix.

Home

  • Some users are reporting that the dashboard is failing to load or crashing when booting up the console.
    • Note: Please make sure you are submitting feedback from the console when this occurs.

Messaging

  • Users are unable to send a voice message while in Parties.
    • Workaround: Send the message while not currently in party chat.

My Games & Apps

  • When using “Group by letter” filter, using the “Jump to Letter” menu will have UI issues.
  • Attempting to Hide/Unhide games/apps in collection via button combination not working.
  • Some users have reported not seeing all available content in their collection
    • Note: Please make sure to include any specific missing titles in your feedback description.
  • Some users may experience problems moving pinned icons within Groups.
  • Some titles in collection may appear with a “trial” tag incorrectly in collection.
  • Users have reported that artwork isn’t loading in the download queue while installing.

Profile Color

  • Sometimes users may encounter the incorrect Profile color when powering on the console.

Are you not seeing your issue listed above? Make sure to use Report a problem to keep us informed of your issue. We may not be able to respond to everyone, but the data we’ll gather is crucial to finding a resolution.

Learn more about feedback and how each ring is differentiated in the following links:

For more information regarding the Xbox Insider Program follow us on Twitter and join the community subreddit for support and updates. Keep an eye on future Xbox Insider Release Notes for more information regarding your Xbox One Update Preview ring!

Related:
Xbox Insider Release Notes – Alpha Skip Ahead (2004.200124-1750)
Phantasy Star Online 2: Closed Beta Test Starts February 7th
Xbox Insider Release Notes – Alpha Ring (2002.200123-2000)

Respawn just bait and switched the next Apex Legends character

For each new season of of Apex Legends, it seems like players always come to the party with leaks and datamines in hand, already having unearthed half the details about whatever Respawn are about to announce. So far this season is different, sort of. Despite a red herring, it looks like the leakers may have been right after all, based on the animated in-world video released by Respawn today.

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Monster Hunter: World Iceborne patch addresses CPU use and crashes

At launch, the big, snowy expansion to giant creature game Monster Hunter: World had more than its fair share of problems. Some players had their MHW save files deleted. Others experienced drastic performance problems. Save some issues for the rest of the class, Iceborne. Two weeks ago, Capcom notified players of a planned patch to fix these problems. That patch is out now, they say.

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