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  1. Toy Fair is ramping up in New York, where tons of new figures and collectibles are being showcased for the first time. Among the exciting additions for game fans, Funko has highlighted an array of fun figures from the upcoming Crystal Dynamics Avengers video game. Whether you’re looking to help Hulk smash your bookcase, or Thor to call lightning and thunder down on your office desk, the set should offer plenty of superheroic fun. The new figures are expected to begin hitting shelves in early March. Click image thumbnails to view larger version View the full article
  2. Ready to party up with your friends across the great console servers? It's almost time! PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds patch 6.2 is expected to allow for players to group up across Xbox and PS4 to play matches together. Console Players: Update 6.2 is now available on the PTS! Drop in to test Cross Party Play, which allows Xbox and PS4 players to party up together! Team Deathmatch, grenade balance, Karakin loot changes, and more are also available for testing. https://t.co/uSxzFfDESD — PUBG Support (@PUBG_Support) February 20, 2020 Finally, Xbox Jim can team up with PlayStation Pete, take a car across Erangel, and have an epic shootout on a hill. Or just drop into a hotspot and go for the instant action. Whatever you're into, that option is coming to console "live" on March 3, but you can test it out right now on the test server if you're into that! Console Players: Update 6.2 live server patch has been delayed until March 3rd due to technical issues found during testing. — PUBG Support (@PUBG_Support) February 21, 2020 View the full article
  3. Ask anyone who plays a lot of cooperative board games (or designs them), and they’ll reveal one big problem that always seems to crop up. In a game where everyone is working together toward a common goal, it’s often far too easy for a single player to become the “alpha,” directing the action and extending his or her control over the game by dictating what everyone should do in each round. It’s not always malicious and selfish – after all, everybody wants to win, and maybe that one player really does know best – but it has the unfortunate side effect that everyone else starts to feel left out and without agency, and that’s no fun. Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons is a game I like for a lot of reasons. At its core, it’s all about taking on the role of Wonder Woman and her friends, and then ranging out across the island of Themyscira to cooperatively confront one of the familiar foes from the comic book fiction – Ares, Circe, or Cheetah. The board game features some beautiful components, a smart sense of pacing, and the multiple supervillains lend replayability. But without a doubt, the thing that most impresses me is the game’s approach to the alpha player problem. Adopting the role of the peerless Amazonian warrior women, the game bakes in a period of strategizing and planning into the start of each turn, which does indeed give outspoken players a chance to lay out their grand plans, based on available cards and actions that each player can see. But after that, as the battle begins, additional cards come into play for all the players. And at this point, all the group strategizing must end, and each player’s combat instincts must kick in. To reflect that idea, everyone gets to look at that broader array of available action cards that were not available during the strategy phase, and then make their own plan, even if that means going rogue from the original strategy. It’s an idea that provides tremendous agency to each player, and also results in awesome surprises as the battle moves in different directions than expected. It’s a brilliant solution to a stubborn dilemma. Action resolution is deterministic, with clear outcomes to actions. There’s very little randomness inserted since there are no dice for combat or other luck-based elements. Instead, you can have high confidence that your actions around the board will have the desired result. Every action’s outcome is resolved by having enough of a designated icon for traits like leadership and agility. Need to take out bad guys? You need a certain number of vigor icons on your cards. Is there a blockade preventing you from reaching a desired destination? Then hopefully you have enough agility. Because of this dynamic, the appeal of turn-to-turn gameplay is about relatively pure strategy and planning and trying to predict the flow of enemy forces. The only thing you can’t confidently plan on is the villain’s card draws, which deploy new problems onto the board. I really enjoy the distinct traits of each hero character. Diana’s take-charge nature gives her the chance to move a space during the strategize phase. Meanwhile, Nu’bia’s honed instincts for combat are reflected by two additional face-down cards in your battle plan, giving her increased flexibility to call audibles once the conflict begins. Artemis gets to start the game with one of the powerful relics of the island already in hand. In each case, it’s just enough to give each character a distinct identity within the gameplay. If I have a complaint, it’s that the broader flavor text and components do a poor job of introducing and selling each of these powerful protagonists. Even some devoted comic fans will have trouble recalling characters like Mala and Philippus, and just a bit more description would have gone a long way to enriching the thematic immersion. The three “big bads” each offer amusingly divergent scenarios. Cheetah demands big coordinated attacks, as she slips away after each encounter to an entirely different place on the island. Circe circles Themyscira, transforms your fellow Amazons into animals, and sets up magical beacons that must be pulled down to drop her magical shielding. And the final blow against Ares can only be struck by a hero who has toured the island and charged up the Sword of Hephaestus at important monuments and temples. While I’d be more than happy to see even more enemy scenarios in this core box, the initial three are all fun and challenging in their own right, and should maintain your attention for lots of runs. While I don’t always feel compelled to highlight a game’s components, I was especially pleased with the clean presentation, stylish art, and cool miniatures that are included within Challenge of the Amazons. The cover art talents of Jenny Frison (who has an established history with envisioning the character for comic book covers) captures the stoic and heroic vibe of the Amazons. Internal cards and board components feature a soft white undertone that calls to mind marble columns. And the well-sculpted miniatures of the heroes are all painted in a deep bronze color, suggesting the classic statuary styles of Ancient Greece, and further accentuating the mythological vibe. Two to five players can enjoy a run at defending Wonder Woman’s home, and my playthroughs suggest a playtime of between one and two hours, at least after you grasp the basics, and depending on how long your gaming group likes to sit around and strategize each round. The game has only just been announced, and if you’re reading this at publication, you may have a few weeks to wait until it shows up to purchase. If your group likes cooperative challenges and mythological overtones, it’s well worth tracking down. It also features another potent distinction that might mean a lot to certain players – it’s one of the very few games I can think of with an all-female cast of playable characters, and does a great job of reflecting that branch of the DC comics fiction in a way that feels both empowering and appropriate to the setting. For many players, the cooperative experience can be a game-changer to being able to enjoy a night of gaming; if you haven’t yet tried that playstyle out, Wonder Woman offers an excellent foray into teamwork and personal moments of triumph that benefit everyone at the table. If you’re looking for other board games to fill your table on your next game night with friends or family, don’t forget to click into the Top of the Table hub from the banner below. You’ll find years of recommendations and suggestions for the best in the board, card, miniature, and role-playing game field, including round-ups of some of the best releases from any given year. If sifting through those articles is intimidating, you can also always reach out directly via email; I’m always happy to hear what you’re looking for, and hopefully pinpoint the next great game you can share with your group. View the full article
  4. Click here to watch embedded media Publisher: Monster Games Developer: Monster Games Release: February 14, 2020 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One), February 21, 2020 (PC) Reviewed on: Xbox One Also on: PlayStation 4, PC Dirt racing has value for developer Monster Games. Since it hasn’t always been included in the studio’s titles through the years, fans have demanded it. Dirt racing also has cred. Many famous drivers got their starts on dirt, tearing it up at local tracks throughout the country on a Friday night. So, it makes sense that Monster would partner with NASCAR star Tony Stewart – who has always supported dirt racing – for a sprint car racing game on dirt. Racing is naturally more slippery on dirt, but I’m glad this title has more gameplay nuance than just slopping through the corners. It’s more about finesse than aggression, and you must consider your car’s HP and the banking and arc of the turns. The fact that the tracks are ovals might seem boring, but the shortness of the straightaways relative to a NASCAR track creates a fun rhythm; it feels like you’re perpetually turning the wheel in preparation for the next corner. The flow feels different than a regular offroad or rally game. I was often on the gas the whole race, managing the car simply through careful and timely steering inputs, tearing around the track and scissoring between the other cars. Unfortunately, this is negated during online races, where lag can cause cars to visually appear to teleport around. Click here to watch embedded media Starting out in the career mode, I gained an appreciation for what it takes to even eke out a mid-place finish through disciplined racing and avoiding contact with other cars. The mode contains three tiers of cars of escalating HP corresponding to the three racing series (midgets, 305s, and 410s), as well as upgradeable parts within each which you buy with your winnings and sponsorship payouts. Progress through the mode is gradual, which I like. I didn’t win my first race until my second season in midgets, by which time I not only had better equipment, but I was also simply a better racer. Accordingly, I began to deal more with lapped traffic (on 50-percent race length) – another gameplay wrinkle that takes skill and patience to navigate. Eventually you can own more than one race car across each series and use your success in lower tiers to fuel your progress in the higher ones. Click image thumbnails to view larger version The game’s career mode is appropriately wedded to the experience on the track, but it’s locked in a linear inevitability that puts a cap on the mode’s ultimate payoff. Eventually you can get enough money to buy the parts you need to simply outmuscle opponents. This isn’t necessarily bad; it works, but it also makes your progress through the mode predictable and without consequence. It doesn’t match the tension and excitement occurring on the track itself. Dirt racing may be a sort of minor league to the big-time stock cars, but this game – while limited in some areas – taps into its own enjoyable racing rhythm and buzz. Score: 7 Summary: Monster Games' latest racer contains some elements similar to its NASCAR series, but the sprint cars have a gameplay feel all their own. Concept: NASCAR developer Monster Games takes you back to the roots of racing – sprint cars on dirt tracks, complete with real drivers and a multi-series career mode Graphics: Frame stutters occur every couple of laps Sound: The local track announcer is a nice touch, but he’s not used much Playability: Maintaining optimal control and speed is a subtle task, making the simple dirt tracks trickier than they might appear Entertainment: I enjoyed racing spring cars on dirt ovals more than I thought I would Replay: Moderate Click to Purchase View the full article
  5. Click here to watch embedded media In Halo: Combat Evolved, Bungie proved to the world that a console first-person shooter could not only work, but could elevate the medium past what many thought possible. In Halo 2, the team refined that formula and produced one of the greatest shooters of all-time. Join Andrew Reiner, Brian Shea, Matt Miller, and me as we revel in the swelling score from Marty O'Donnell and his amazing team, bask in the glow of the energy sword, and play one of the best multiplayer matches you'll ever lay eyes on at the end of the show. If you liked this week's show, be sure to tune in each Friday at 2 p.m. CT for a new episode of Replay. Remember to also subscribe on YouTube, Twitch, Mixer, Twitter, or Facebook to get notified when we go live each week! Thanks and enjoy the show! View the full article
  6. Click to watch embedded media As I discovered earlier this week, games with Twitch integration can be pretty fun. So much so that Leo Vader and Jeff Cork also wanted to get in on the action. What's a better way to do so than by playing one of Leo's favorite games of last year? By joining us in the Twitch chat, you get to choose what rewards we get, what foes we face, and more! We go live at 2 p.m. CT, so be sure to join us in the chat for your chance to mess with our game. Enjoying the streams? You can subscribe over on YouTube, Twitch, Mixer, Twitter, or Facebook to get notified when we go live in the future! Thanks for watching! View the full article
  7. PlayStation cancelled its PAX East presence completely a few days ago, and now other consequences of COVID-19, aka coronavirus, are rippling across the industry. Square Enix has announced that many of their developers are no longer making the journey to PAX, via a post on the Final Fantasy XIV lodestone website. Some of Capcom's developers have pulled out as well, with a tweet mentioning their Monster Hunter event planned for PAX East. An update on MH Festa: Boston 2020: Unfortunately, our guests from the MH dev team will no longer be able to attend the event. We will no longer have an autograph session but are still planning to share #Iceborne news. Our sincere apologies for inconvenience! pic.twitter.com/DVpQugYieS — Capcom USA (@CapcomUSA_) February 20, 2020 While both these companies are still expected to have a presence at or around the show, it looks like their staff from Japan won't be making the journey. In addition, per reporting via Gameindustry.biz, Playstation and Facebook/Oculus have canceled their plans to attend GDC, with the planned Oculus reveals moving to a digital format. Outside of conventions, UploadVR has reported that production of the Valve Index may also be impacted, with less unit availability than previously expected in the immediate future. View the full article
  8. Borderlands is coming to a movie theater near you, and it has some big names attached to it. The upcoming film, which Lionsgate teased five years ago, will be directed by Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Hostel). It's based on a script from Craig Mazin, the writer behind The Hangover Part II and HBO's Chernobyl miniseries. Gearbox president Randy Pitchford, who is also an executive producer on the project, revealed Roth's involvement in a tweet, in which he also said more info was coming in a week at PAX. https://twitter.com/DuvalMagic/status/1230567293324795904 “I’m so excited to dive into the world of Borderlands and I could not be doing it with a better script, producing team, and studio,” Roth said in a statement. “I have a long, successful history with Lionsgate — I feel like we have grown up together and that everything in my directing career has led to a project of this scale and ambition. I look forward to bringing my own energy, ideas, and vision to the wild, fun, and endlessly creative world of the game. Randy Pitchford and everyone at Gearbox have been incredibly supportive of my ideas — it really feels like a perfect storm of creators coming together. We are out to make a new classic, one which the fans of the game will love, but also one which will find new audiences globally." View the full article
  9. Click here to watch embedded media On this week's episode of The Game Informer Show, I am joined by Joe Juba, Matt Miller, and Alex Stadnik to discuss what we want from next-generation hardware. After we handle some hot topics, we jump into the always entertaining and enlightening community emails, including a new game experiment that we hope you all enjoy. Thanks for listening! Please make sure to leave feedback below, share the episode if you enjoyed it, and follow me @therealandymc to let me know what you think. You can watch the video above, subscribe and listen to the audio on iTunes or Google Play, listen on SoundCloud, stream it on Spotify, or download the MP3 at the bottom of the page. Also, be sure to send your questions to [email protected] for a chance to have them answered on the show. Our thanks to the talented Super Marcato Bros. for The Game Informer Show's intro song. You can hear more of their original tunes and awesome video game music podcast at their website. To jump to a particular point in the discussion, check out the time stamps below. What We Want From Next-Gen: 2:18 Coronavirus Hurting The Game Industry: 43:09 What We're Playing: 46:43 THQ Nordic Buying Saber Interactive: 59:18 Community Question 1: Ever Got Hacked?: 1:09:42 Community Question 2: AAA Games We Like But Others Don't: 1:20:45 Community Question 3: GI Town Army: 1:34:16 New Mystery Game: 1:50:27 View the full article
  10. Click here to watch embedded media A loot game is only as good as its loot, so for today's exclusive Outriders video we're showing off three of the game's unique legendaries. Warped by The Anomaly, these almost organic-looking weapons are as fun to look at as they are to play with. Watch the video above for an up close view of three of them, as well as a showcase of the weapons in action. Click the banner below for more exclusive coverage of Outriders, including our rapid-fire interview and the full cover story available for free! View the full article
  11. Click here to watch embedded media The latest chapter of Fortnite season 2 has started, and the spy-themed Top Secret backdrop for battle royale includes ways to change the island permanently. Players choose sides and complete missions as part of the Ghost or Shadow sides. The Battle Pass contains agents such as Meowscles, skin-changing Maya, Marvel's Deadpool, and others, and you'll complete weekly missions for each character for variant skins. Click here to watch embedded media View the full article
  12. Animal Crossing is one of those series without much middle ground; people are either really into it, or they struggle to see the appeal. I’ve been a fan of the weird little village simulators since the GameCube days, and have been looking forward to a fully realized new entry for years. New Horizons is almost here, and I got about 40 minutes of hands-on time with it, from the opening until the moment the Nintendo reps wrenched the controller from my hands. Here’s a small slice of what you can expect to see for yourself in about a month. Animal Crossing: New Horizons starts off as you’re preparing to book your trip via Tom Nook’s Island getaway service. Timmy and Tommy Nook ask you for your name and birthday, and then have you pose for your passport photo. In a departure from past games, I’m then dropped into a simple character creator, where I’m able to pick my hair style and color, skin tone, and eye shape and color. The options are limited, but it’s nice to be able to choose exactly what I want instead of being surprised with how I look after answering a series of questions, as has been the case in the past. Then I’m asked if I want to visit an island in North America or elsewhere. If you’re new to the series, Animal Crossing games are tied directly to your console’s date and time, with seasons that change according to the time of year. If you live in Australia, for example, your in-game island’s seasons will match what you’re experiencing outside. Regardless of your hemisphere, the next step is picking what island you’ll be visiting from four randomized selections. You can see the layouts of the rivers as well as where Tom Nook’s HQ will be. If you don’t like the selections, you can keep cycling through new ones until something strikes your fancy. I choose one with a winding river that doesn’t seem especially intrusive. As a quick aside, the Direct showed off some of New Horizons’ terraforming elements. Don’t like the flow of a river? Put on your hard hat and change it. That ability, coupled with the option of building bridges and staircases, will let you transform your routes if you decide the layout isn’t to your liking anymore. You can also build a vaulting pole and ladder to cross gaps and scurry up cliffs if you don’t want to make any permanent changes to your layout. All right, back to my game. There are a few more jokey bits of dialogue to go through, and then I’m off. The screen goes black, and I hear then whirring of a propeller and some in-flight announcements. In a nice little touch, the warbly little animal sounds have an added layer of static to better emulate the kind of audio you hear on a plane’s overhead speaker system. The charter company, Dodo Airlines, is run by a pair of bird brothers (Orville and Wilbur, naturally), and their offices later serve as a place to access multiplayer and send letters. You can also depart on mini adventures to random islands to find and collect items. After landing, I watch a brief orientation video with clips of villagers and animals going about their day doing typical Animal Crossing things. The level of detail is phenomenal, and everything looks great. Characters have the same general art design and style, but they’re brimming with little visual flourishes. My animal companions (chosen randomly from a large roster of critters) are Mac the dog and a bunny named Mira. They’re not exactly furry, but they have a pseudo-flocked texture on them, giving them the appearance of looking like living toys. Bugs like cicadas and bees have iridescent wings, though they’re not likely to stick around long enough for you to admire them. Since we’re on a deserted island, the first order of business is to claim our site. Tom Nook has already staked his claim for his Resident Services tent, but everything else is fair game. I start wandering around, looking for the perfect place to pitch my tent. I find a great spot a bit north, between a pair of orange trees and overlooking a waterfall. What could be better than falling asleep with nature’s own white-noise generator? I try to plop my tent down, and I’m told it’s a little too close to the water. After backing up a few steps, I’m able to set down what will be my new home. Don’t worry; if you regret where you’ve set up camp, you can move it later. As with a lot of things in New Horizons, Nintendo is aiming to eliminate the pain points from past games. Before heading back to Nook, I decide to do a little exploration. There’s not a lot to see in these early days, but since it’s winter I’m able to shake trees without having to worry about getting stung by bees. As I run, arms stretched behind me, the sounds of my footsteps are muted in the snow. I see a few snowballs – perfect for rolling into snowmen. In the rivers, I spy a few shadowy fishy figures. They disappear in a flash as I zoom past to report my success to Mr. Nook. Tom is impressed with how quickly I’ve set up, so he tells me to help my fellow campers. I find Mira a ways south, and she’s struggling to find the perfect spot. She says that she threw a stick and was determined to set up wherever it landed, but now she’s not so sure. I tell her it’s a perfect location, and she feels better about the situation. A few moments later, she’s got a place to call home. Mac is similarly stuck. I tell him I’ve got the perfect place, and he enthusiastically goes along with my plan. I run back to my tent, and try to put his tent as close to mine as possible. Hey, I like having neighbors, and Mac is a cool guy. Unfortunately, I’m told that our tents must have a little more real estate between them. So much for that plan. I manage to have him fairly close, but it’s not the tent-to-tent setup I was hoping for. The island seems to have ample room for growth, which is key. In addition to serving as home to all the various animals and services that will move in over time, it must sustain multiple players. Up to eight players can live on an island, with one character (and home) for each registered user. Online, eight players can inhabit an island simultaneously. If you want to play locally, up to four can play together, with one player serving as leader and determining where the screen scrolls. I didn’t get to play that mode, but looking at the Direct it seemed like a serviceable (if cramped) way to play together. Items that the followers find will be deposited in the recycle bin for the host to collect later. I have to run a few more errands for Tom Nook, including gathering wood for a bonfire and fruit for a party. I can’t spoil what happens at the party, but it’s funny and heartwarming in the familiar Animal Crossing ways. Reality sets in when I wake up. Tom swings by my tent and gives me a NookPhone, which is a fancy new piece of tech. He says it’s easy to use, because he removed most of the features. He also brings up the matter of payment, which is something I’d been waiting for. All told, I’m indebted to him to the tune of 49,800 bells. Things are different in New Horizons, thanks in no small part to the NookPhone. Rather than pay solely in cash, I’ll be able to work off my debt using a new mileage program he’s cooked up. The scheme is actually pretty cool: You earn “Nook Miles” by completing in-game tasks you’d likely be doing naturally. Things like picking up shells, talking to neighbors, snapping photos, catching fish and bugs, and planting flowers all earn you miles. In addition to paying off your debt, you can use those miles to pick up cosmetic items for your character. These tasks have different tiers, too, and I scrolled past tons of empty slots. It looks like there’s going to be plenty to do, and now you’ll actually get rewarded for doing it. In the Direct, we saw permanent structures such as the museum and the Able Sisters moving to the island, as well as an actual player home that replaces the tent. Though the first debt can be paid off with miles, that doesn’t necessarily make bells an obsolete currency; further upgrades down the road might require bells, but I didn’t play long enough to test that theory. Either way, the mileage program seems designed as a way to acclimate players to the various activities and steer them toward the big beats. My first mileage-earning opportunity comes when I use the new DIY workshop for the first time. Crafting appears to be a big part of the game now. Before, you could design patterns for use as flags and clothing. Now, you’re making things like furniture and tools. As you get new recipe cards, you can make more sophisticated items and even further customize things you already know how to make. Nook gives me the recipe for a flimsy fishing pole and tells me to gather the materials to craft it. In this case, it’s several sticks. It’s flimsy, after all. After clicking into the workshop, I’ve got my own fishing pole. Not too bad! Well, sort of. In what’s bound to be a controversial move, New Horizons’ tools break over time – and not just the ax, as has been the case in previous entries. I don’t have a sense of how long they last, but the “flimsy” part doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence. This is a case where it could be much ado about nothing for some players and a real issue with others, the way the weapons in Breath of the Wild polarized Zelda players. Will larger fish wear out poles faster? Do failed attempts carry an additional ding to the pole’s overall durability? Again, it’s too early to know from this short demo, but I’m definitely curious, and more than a little apprehensive about how it all works. All I know is my fishing pole was strong enough to let me catch a horse mackerel from the ocean, which I proudly displayed in my tent next to my lantern, radio, and camo-patterned cot. And with that, my demo ended. Animal Crossing is a tough game to appreciate in such a short session, but I can already feel myself getting drawn into its laid-back loops. These games are meant to be savored over long periods of time, when you’re able to get to know the animal residents and make your own place in the world. Mac and Mira were very kind (Mac gave me a nice denim cap, and Mira passed along a recipe for turning weeds into an umbrella), but it was a brief introduction. Hopefully, I’ll see them again someday. Maybe I’ll run into them on Bunny Day in April, which is the game’s first post-launch festival? Animal Crossing: New Horizons is coming to the Nintendo Switch on March 20. View the full article
  13. Click here to watch embedded media While there have been other entries in the series since its 2005 release, Devil May Cry 3 remains a fan favorite and thus has received a plethora of different ports throughout the console generations. Now it's the Nintendo Switch's turn and we have (mostly) good news for fans of the long-running franchise. Join Joe Juba, Leo Vader, Matt Miller, and me as we explore all the newest additions to Devil May Cry 3 Special Edition, including its co-op mode, made exclusively for the Switch. If you're watching this and feel the urge to jump back into the Capcom classic, you're in luck as the game is out now on Nintendo Switch. Happy demon-hunting! View the full article
  14. If you're like me, you probably go back and play Shovel Knight all the time. It's pretty fun! But hey, we like new stuff too, so Yacht Club Games is potentially revealing some shiny, fun things next Wednesday at 12 PM EST. The new info is going to be livestreamed on both YouTube and Twitch, so you can watch for new info on Shovel Knight, Cyber Shadow, and "some surprises we promise you've never seen!" If you missed our review of Shovel Knight, you can check it out here Click here to watch embedded media View the full article
  15. Fire Emblem: Three Houses went big by providing three different perspectives to see its larger story unfold. Now we have one more in the Ashen Wolves, but it comes with its own self-contained story. Cindered Shadows is the final piece of the Fire Emblem: Three Houses expansion pass, providing the most substantial piece of content (previously, we got smaller scale updates, such as new attire, items, and adding everyone’s favorite secret shopkeeper, Anna, as a recruitable character). The new DLC provides an interesting story and characters, but holds the most allure in the new missions and classes. New Cast Members Keep Things Interesting Cindered Shadows introduces you to a new secret house called the Ashen Wolves, who live in an underground city called the Abyss. Its inhabitants mostly keep to themselves, but a recent spike in attacks has its members concerned and questioning the cause. After another threat, they come face-to-face with professor Byleth and house leaders Edelgard, Claude, and Dmitri, asking for help to get to the bottom of things. The story takes a while to get going and can be a bit predictable, but I still enjoyed it as it sheds more light on Byleth’s background and connects the new faces to the three other houses in interesting ways. I also like that the expansion brings back fan-favorite characters, such as Hilda and Ashe, in addition to the main house leaders. As for the Ashen Wolves, they all are interesting in their own right. Hapi, for instance, can bring forth monsters by sighing, and Constance’s personality changes drastically depending on if she’s in the sun. My favorite is Balthus, “the king of grappling,” not only is he a powerhouse on the battlefield, but he’s also extremely likable due to his big heart. Just don’t expect this side story to dig too deep into the new members’ personalities; you get the basic gist of each character, but they’re not expanded upon until you bring them into the main game and engage in support conversations. Click image thumbnails to view larger version A Great Challenge Cindered Shadows’ main attraction is the battlefield. The missions are difficult and chock-full of surprises. This DLC isn’t for beginners, and for those playing with permadeath on, keeping your entire alive is quite the feat. If you thought the base game was too easy, this DLC is what you’ve been waiting for. I was constantly on my toes and my head was always spinning due to unexpected reinforcements, turn-limited objectives, and a daunting amount of enemies on the battlefield at all times. Some missions made me face off against giant, deadly golems; others had foes so nasty that they would damage all my characters with a single attack. In one, I had to ensure all my team got past doors by a certain turn, which meant factoring in movement radius, when to engage enemies, and who to send to pull far-off levers. This is the most I’ve ever used healing magic or items to get through stages in Three Houses. The final boss has its own annoying attacks, spawning clones that can regenerate its health and a move that changes the boss' position and all your characters, potentially putting them in precarious situations. At times, it felt like the game was doing everything in its power to make me lose a combatant; usually just when I felt like I was safe, new foes or objectives came at me. Cindered Shadows constantly raises the stakes. This does come with some frustrations, but getting through these battles is so rewarding and such an adrenaline rush that I didn’t mind the challenge. You can still turn back time to fix a mistake, which is great, considering most missions are laborious affairs. Thankfully, you also have some new classes to help you through the increased difficulty. The Trickster, War Monk, Dark Flier, and Valkyrie all add extremely valuable skills. Having a War Monk like Balthus meant I could be aggressive when need be, but also double down as a healer to keep my team in top form. I also loved using Dark Flier, which has powerful magic and great moveability, providing plenty of options for targets. The best part is that both the characters and the classes make their way into the main game. Final Thoughts… If you enjoyed Three Houses, pined for a greater challenge, or wanted some new content to carry into the base game, Cindered Shadows is worth your time. I am hesitant to recommend it to beginners or those who aren’t die-hard fans, though. Only the most devoted are bound to get the most value out of it and appreciate its smaller additions to the base game. I was pretty meticulous and it took me around eight hours to complete Cindered Shadows, which felt like a solid offering. I admire how this DLC doesn’t just give you one new arc (which is entertaining in its own right) and brings new things into the larger Three Houses’ story. My time with the Ashen Wolves was well spent and now I’m exploring more of their role in the main game. It made me want to go back to Three Houses, which I already invested a great deal of time in, and that says something. Cindered Shadows is out now. You can access it by purchasing the Three Houses' expansion pass. View the full article

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