The E3 presentation last month was one of the most memorable ones in the show’s history. We found out that The Last Guardian project is still alive. Square Enix is recreating Final Fantasy VII HD for the young’uns (*grandpa voice* back in the day, Cloud had Popeye arms). AND of course, we will finally see the continuation of Shenmue after a 14-year hiatus. And this all happened in ONE show under the PlayStation presentation. Sony totally killed it, hands down.
But I digress. What I really want to talk about is how Shenmue 3 got successfully funded in Kickstarter, making it one of the fastest- and highest-funded games in the crowdfunding platform. In under a day, it was able to meet its asking funding of $2 million and ended at a nice figure of a little over $6.3 million with almost 70,000 backers. As a fan, I really wanted for it to go over $10 million to meet the stretch goals for additional game features, but $6 million isn’t something to scoff at either.
Literally me while watching the presentation
Thanks to the efforts of the fans on different social media platforms and fan sites, word got around to support Yu Suzuki’s (creator of Shenmue and other popular games such as Out Run, Virtua Fighter, and many more) project and see the dream realized. In the game’s next installation, we will continue Ryo’s quest in China to find out about his father who had been murdered. In his travels, he meets a girl named Shenhua and together they discover how his father’s death is connected to a cartel and its leader.
What makes Shenmue a well-loved classic is that it introduced a lot of fun game features that were way ahead of its time. Aside from looking really amazing, it had one of the best open world systems that’s still incomparable with newer games (note that this came out in 1999!), quick time events, tons of mini games (the arcade games!), and most importantly, the battle system was really fun and highly satisfying to play with.
Some of the people who worked on the previous Shenmue titles will be coming back to work on the third installment, such as Ryo Hazuki’s voice actors, Masaya Matsukaze and Corey Marshall, lead character designer Kenji Miyawaki, animation producer Hiroaki Takeuchi, and scriptwriter Masahiro Yoshimoto. They will be supplemented by new staff who will aid in the game’s marketing and social media promotions.
It’s refreshing to see the development team fully acknowledge its loyal fans’ support and their valuable help in getting the word out for its Kickstarter campaign. The fans were able to trend #SaveShenmue worldwide on Twitter and campaigned to convince Conan O’Brien to play the game on his talk show’s popular segment, Clueless Gamer. Yu Suzuki ran two sessions of #YouAskYu on Twitter, where he answered fans’ questions about the upcoming game, and hosted an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit. Yu’s team also ran a broadcast on Twitch during the project’s last few days which boosted the Kickstarter funds as well.
Since the project has raised $6.3 million, we can expect the core game with some additional features in its stretch goals such as:
Skill tree system
Fully expanded Baisha village with more mini games and quests
Character Perspective system
Advanced Free Battle
Localization to German, French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese
The game is expected to ship out in 2017 digitally on the PlayStation Network for the PS4 and the PC platform. Physical game discs are exclusive rewards to the campaign backers for now.
Disclosure: I backed the game at the $300 tier and will be expecting the rewards on December 2017.
The law of pop culture states that a hugely successful franchise must spawn, among other things: merchandise, a sequel (or sequels), and a game. Jurassic World already has the first, people are already taking bets on the second, and a few weeks ago, I stumbled on the third while browsing the App Store.
Jurassic World: The Game by Ludia is a theme park construction simulation game similar to SimCity, except that, well, the attractions in it are supposed to be extinct. It has its predecessor in Jurassic Park Builder by the same company. Both games feature infrastructure from the movies they’re based on, which you build your park around. Oh, and there’s no offline mode so you’ll need a good internet connection.
Beyond the usual “Buy structure. Raise structure. Collect money.” characteristic it shares with most construction sims, JW: TG’s economy revolves around 4 types of in-game currencies.
Coins – used to purchase structures and dino feed; time-based and earned from dinosaurs. Food – for beefing up your dino buddies; gained from the park’s pre-built Food Production facility. DNA – for evolving dinosaurs after every 10 levels, and for purchasing more dinos; acquired from “devolving” spare dinosaurs and as mission rewards. Cash – for speeding up processes, activating additional incubators, and park expansion; usually gained as mission rewards.
The first two are easy enough to acquire after you’ve put in enough dinosaur pens. (The triceratops, the first species you get from the tutorial, earns coins every 5 minutes.) And it’s possible to go through a nice, reliable, and boring rotation of coin-feed-coin-feed-coin-feed after a few levels. DNA and Cash are a bit trickier to get and, although you can survive on not having much of the latter, DNA is important for evolution.
Fortunately, the game gives you a Mystery Pack every 6 hours, randomly bestowing you with a combination of any of the currencies, a dinosaur, or a mission.
Leveling is accomplished by getting XP from adding assets to the park, as well as by finishing Missions handed out to you by the movie’s characters. You get to interact with flat representations of mogul Masrani, badass high-heeled film heroine Claire, dorky Lowery, level-headed trainer Barry, and yes, hunky lead star Owen Grady. The missions follow a storyline that precedes the film’s, so curious fans, especially of the raptors, should find it interesting.
If you were annoyed with the main antagonist, Vic Hoskins, during the movie, he will be a special pain-in-the-ass when you play the game as he solely hands out the Arena Missions. The Arena is the game’s dedicated battleground, where you pit your raised dinosaurs against Hoskins’. Opponents are understandably tougher as you increase in levels. Gaining XP can be a bit of a grind after Level 15 when you’re forced to spend DNA to buy better dinosaurs OR wait until the Mystery Pack somehow miraculously grants you a rare species that can down the Head of Security’s 3-starred behemoths.
The Arena also features periodic showcase battles, which are a set of three match-ups that reward you with a rare dino pack. Then there’s the Live Dino Arena where you battle other players.
I decided to install Jurassic World: The Game out of a sense of curiosity. I had tried Jurassic Park Builder previously—though it bored me—and I had just watched the movie. I guess I wanted to compare? My line of thought went: Okay, I’ll play it. Once I start to stagnate on a certain level, it gets deleted.
I found gameplay engaging for the first few runs, especially because of the familiarity of the story and the characters that are woven through the game. (Why hello, CGI Chris Pratt. Rawr.) Plus, DINOSAURS! Each animal is nicely rendered and quite realistic…until they’re evolved, that is.
Which reminds me, some things that made me raise my eyebrows:
The dinos become more…elaborate…as they increase in levels. I’m not sure if I should suspend my sense of realism because, after all, they ARE supposed to be EXTINCT. (I have to remind myself this every time.) But, colors? And spikes? Then again, maybe it’s meant to reflect how armor gets fancier the better it is, like in RPGs.
The Arena. Owen Grady, let’s talk. Why are we suddenly using these dinosaurs as fighting machines? I thought we were supposed to be against all that. They’re “your animals,” you said. No killing, you said. But now you’re helping me with the Arena tutorial? Why are we playing into Hoskins’ hands??? (Said the girl that wished for a Grimlock to help her out.)
Despite my initial hesitation about making dinosaurs battle, I do get a kick out of winning. But only against Hoskins. I don’t even want to touch the Live Arena; I heard the fights can be very unbalanced. You guys can have that one.
At the moment, I am stuck on Level 16-17 trying to get past Hoskins’ Quetzalcoatlus with the 400+ behind. It’s lame, I know. I mean, only 400+? Haha. But then again, I was never patient with these things. So maybe this is the part where I start to stagnate. Or Hoskins gives me a challenge because I’m taking things seriously. Hah! Let me just rally my “animals…”
On an end note, I would like to mention that I know, after the movie, Owen Grady’s famed Raptor Pack gained tons of fans, wanting them as “pets.” (And if you’re one of them, note that I’m SMH-ing at you.) Hooray for you! Jurassic World: The Game gives you the opportunity to roleplay Alpha Raptor, but without the obvious danger that comes with associating oneself with potentially man-eating, prehistoric fauna. Alas! You are only guaranteed a Velociraptor—labeled Super Rare—after completing Stage 23 in the Arena, or being lucky with either the 6-hour Mystery Packs or the Super Rare packs gained as prizes for winning an Arena Showcase. Otherwise, prepare to spend real money.
SPLENDOR is a game by Space Cowboys where you take the roles of gem merchants expanding your businesses and gaining prestige as you go. You try to build your business engine by collecting gems and using those gems to buy developments like mines, artisans and trade routes. Along the way you can also impress nobles which also add to your prestige.
Splendor is a race between 2-4 players to 15 prestige points. The game usually takes around 20-30 minutes, and only takes a minute to set up.
Each turn a player can take one of four actions.
Take three different colored gems from the pool.
Take two of the same colored gems from the pool if that stack still has at least 4 gems at the start of your turn.
Purchase a development card using the gems you have accumulated.
Reserve a development and take a gold “wildcard” gem, which can be used as any colored gem for purposes of purchasing developments.
Prestige can be gained in the game through two ways. Some developments have prestige points printed on them and add to your total. The other way is by attracting nobles based on the number of types of developments you have that is needed to impress that noble.
I’ve played this game countless times, and often more than once per session, as the game is so easy to set up and playgroups usually end up asking to play again and again after their first one.
The rules are so simple and elegant and so easy to teach. It literally takes less than five minutes to introduce to even non-gamer friends. However, after spending a few rounds playing you immediately start to realize the depth of the game despite the relatively easy game rules.
after spending a few rounds playing you immediately start to realize the depth of the game despite the relatively easy game rules.
The game’s theme, however, leaves something to be desired, as at the core of it is really an abstract economy engine building mechanic, and the gem theme only very thinly veils that elegant game system. Once you get to playing, the theme gets easily forgotten in the background as you solve the puzzle that unfolds before you while trying to accumulate 15 prestige points before everyone else.
Tabletop gaming currently is still predominantly male-dominated, but such is not true for this particular game. Personally, I’ve found that both my wife and daughter really has taken to it like ducks to water, and they are as good if not better than me at it! The last Splendor tournament held at Neutral Grounds Centris Walk also had three women in the top 4 table! How’s that for gender equality?
I think the appeal of the game to women is its puzzle-like quality and set-collecting nature, similar to, maybe Candy Crush? The fact that it’s colorful and has a jewelry theme might also add to the draw.
Splendor is truly a GEM of a game that deserves your attention. It is surely going to be one of the classics, much like Catan, Ticket to Ride, and 7 Wonders.
Only a few board games have had such an impact on me as the War of the Ring, which remains to be one of the best tactical miniatures board game experiences I’ve ever had. Despite the heavy ruleset (one that has matured well across the two editions the title has released) and a rather lengthy time commitment required to play, it never fails to pull me into the epic narrative that is Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.
As the Shadow Armies player, I bombard my endless hordes of orcs and trolls at the last remaining bastions of goodness on Middle Earth while searching feverously for the One Ring.
As the Free Peoples player, I hold my ground with the few brave warriors who dare stand against the expanding darkness, in an attempt to buy enough time for the Fellowship to fulfill their stealth mission and destroy the One Ring once and for all. The decisions at every stage of the game are tense, challenging and satisfying.
This experience is about to get another deluxe treatment. Earlier this week, Ares Games has announced the Anniversary Release of the War of the Ring Second Edition, coinciding with the 60th anniversary of the publication of The Return of The King and the 5th year anniversary of the game’s current edition. This release comes with 206 expertly-painted miniatures, a larger 3′ x 4′ gameboard, new colors for the action dice and combat dice unique to this release, updated rules and cards, and a hardbound supplementary strategy guide filled with the same fantastic art of the current edition, from the hand of John Howe. I had the opportunity to play with a friend’s copy of the monstrous Collector’s Edition (CE), released by Fantasy Flight Games back in 2010, and that edition is an absolute beauty to behold. I, along with many others who were not lucky enough to nab a copy of the CE (and not willing to shell out the more than US $1,500 eBay price it currently sits on), am ecstatic with the new offering. The Anniversary Release won’t be as ambitious as the Collector’s Edition (that lovely engraved wooden box remains a collector’s item), but it will offer potential owners an even more immersive experience when Middle Earth goes to war one last time.
The limited production Anniversary Release will set you back a hefty US $ 369.00 plus shipping when it goes on pre-order this 20 July 2015. You won’t get it though until Spring 2016. Note that you’ll only be able to preorder within a 48-hour period. There’s a countdown timer on the Ares’ FAQ page to let you know when pre-order begins. Here I thought I’ve finally outgrown my days of salivating over cardboard and cardstock. Suddenly this comes back to haunt me. We must have it…the preciouuuuus…