Telltale’s The Walking Dead: The Final Season To Get Physical Release March 26th

Skybound Games has announced that the final season of the now defunct Telltale Game’s The Walking Dead will be seeing a physical release starting March 26th, 2019 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

In a blog post from the publishing arm of Skybound, the company announced that the physical release of the game would accompany the release of the game’s final episode, Take Us Back, to complete not only the season, but the entirety of Telltale’s vision of the story.

“We’re excited to announce that when Episode 4, Take Us Back, launches on March 26th, we’ll be releasing a physical boxed edition that includes the entire Final Season for Xbox One, PS4, and Switch” Sally Jack of Skybound stated. “This version will be available at all major retailers, including right here in the Skybound Shop. So, for fans looking for a great gift to give, or to actually hold the final chapters of Clem’s story in your hands, well, you’ll soon have that chance!”

Skybound Games officially took over development of the final season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead series, in October 2018, after the latter studio announced a major closure less than a month earlier. While it is unclear what the studio’s plans are with The Walking Dead IP once the final episode is released, there seems to be optimism surrounding the future of the series in some capacity within the new developer/publisher.

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Nintendo Adds Three New Titles To It’s Nintendo Selects Line On Nintendo 3DS

Starting February 4th, Nintendo will be adding three new titles to its popular and cost efficient Nintendo Selects line up for the Nintendo 3DS, including Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS, Star Fox 64 3DS, and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D.

Nintendo Selects, the successor to the company’s Player’s Choice branding, began in 2011 with select titles on the Nintendo Wii, and has been found on both the 3DS and Wii U since then. With the 3DS in particular, a wide variety of best selling games have donned the red labeling such as Super Mario 3D Land, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Kirby: Triple Deluxe, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, to name a few.

Super Mario Maker for 3DS, a port of the popular Wii U title, first built its way onto Nintendo’s vastly popular handheld in December 2016. Fans can build, play and share their own creative and challenging Super Mario Bros. levels right from the palm of your hand. The game also offers the Super Mario Challenge, which pits you against 100 pre-built courses.

Solve puzzles, defeat enemies, and uncover the evil behind the iconic spiked mask in this remastered and enhanced classic entry in The Legend of Zelda series, Majora’s Mask 3D. Join link as he travels across Termina and time, releasing spirits, gaining new abilities through unique masks, and stop the Moon from crashing into the world and ending humanity. First released in February 2015, the 3DS remastered version offers updated visuals, and quality of life changes.

Released in 2011, Star Fox 64 3D offers a remade experience of the 1997 classinc on Nintendo 64, now in the palm of your hand. Take control of Fox McCloud and the classic Arwing as you blast your way through the Lylat system. Fight off hordes of enemies, collect power ups, and defeat bosess on your way to a final confrontation against the notorious Dr. Andross.

Titles within the Nintendo Selects program retail at a suggested price of $19.99.

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New Details On The Wolf Among Us 2 Show Sad State Before Telltale Closure

The recent saga behind Telltale’s majority studio closure is one that is unfortunately on a multitude of layers. While the most unfortunate issue to come out the closure is the 225 employees who were let go from the studio, fans are sad to see many of their favorite series all but disappear into the dark abyss as well. One fan-favorite series that was set to make a second season return was The Wolf Among Us, the critically-acclaimed adaptation of Bill Willingham’s Fables series. The first season, which began it’s wave of episodic releases in October 2013, was praised for its strong narrative focus along with its unique setting and diverse cast of fairy tale characters.

Since its final episodic release in July 2014, fans had been clamoring to return to the town of Fabletown to continue Bigby Wolf’s story, and it looked like their wish might have been granted. In July 2017, the staff at Telltale Games released a announcement trailer stating that a second season to the cult-followed series has entered production, aiming for a 2018 release date, though that date would be bumped into 2019 due to ‘internal studio issue’. These issues then came to light when the studio closer began in September 2018, officially cancelling all projects Telltale currently had in production.

With the studio having over a year of production under their belt on the project, many fans possibly thought the series could see the same treatment The Walking Dead‘s final season saw with production being picked up by Skybound Games. Unfortunately, the status on season two was much bleaker than many expected it to be. In a recent deep-dive piece on Telltale Game’s final year by EuroGamer, it was discovered that not only had the project barely gotten underway, but the team tackling it was extremely small with a ‘shoe-string budget, even by Telltale standards’.

“Everyone knew Wolf 1 was a critical success, but not a commercial one”, an ex-staff member on the project’s development team told  EuroGamer. “I think people came into it realizing they were making a boutique product. At one point, the season was going to be three episode.” The site also discovered that proper development for the second season of the Fables-inspired series didn’t begin until the summer of 2017, not long before their July announcement trailer released. While many public figures within the company stood by their original 2018 release window and the affirmative attitude on the series’s return, much of the team internally doubted the project’s long-term legitimacy. A source told EuroGamer “Even when the marketing team recorded the Wolf 2 announcement trailer, many people within the studio doubted it would ever see the light of day.”

The deep-dive digs a bit deeper to confirm many beliefs within the industry since the fall of Telltale games: the game had truly never left early development. One artist on the project explained “It was so early on (in development) that we didn’t have much apart from some concept art and a bit of white boxing for gameplay prototyping.” While the dark development of the game left a scar on many who were associated, it does seem that an overview of the season, and the majority of the first episodes scripted were complete; stating the game wasn’t going to be a direct sequel, but it would follow the events of Bigby and Snow White chronologically after the first season’s events.

While it doesn’t look like we will be seeing Bigby Wolf return to our screens in a new entry to the series, it will be interesting to see what happens to many of the intellectual properties that Telltale owned as they begin liquidating many of their assets. If we are lucky, maybe we will see the abrasive Big Bad Wolf make his return one day. In the meantime, the first season of The Wolf Among Us is still available for purchase on all major platforms.

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Obsidian Releases 15 Minutes of ‘The Outer Worlds’ Gameplay

Obsidian Entertainment officially announced their newest project The Outer Worlds last night at the Game Awards 2018. Following the announcement, the newly owned Microsoft studio has released a new 15 minute gameplay video showcasing what fans can expect from the upcoming cosmic RPG.

In the demo released by Game Informer, Obsidian shows off the gameplay style, which gives off major Fallout vibes, which isn’t shocking given the close relationship with the IP from developing the spinoff title, Fallout: New Vegas. One aspect that sticks out is the dialog system. Giving you a multitude of options on how to approach situations, the player can focus on making dialog decisions that affect not only the story, but the world around you. You can also see the emphasis on pulpy humor, similar to that of the Fallout series at time.

While no concrete release date has been announced, The Outer Worlds is scheduled to release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC (Steam) in 2019.

Confirmed: The Last of Us Part II will not be at the Game Awards 2018

The Game Awards 2018 is shaping up to be quite the spectacle, with live music, performances and world premieres set to sprinkle the show dedicated to celebrating the games of the past year, while also getting a look at what’s to be on the horizon. One game in particular that fans were hoping to see more footage of is the highly anticipated sequel to Naughty Dog’s praised last generation experience, the Last of Us II. While the public was greeted to a lengthy gameplay demo this past June at Sony’s E3 press conference, it seems that will be the only footage fans will be seeing for little while longer.

In a tweet posted by the development studio’s Twitter account, the long-time PlayStation affiliate confirmed that they will not be bringing new footage to this year’s awards ceremony on December 6th. “We’re looking forward to celebrating a year of incredible games at the Game Awards this Thursday, however, we won’t have anything new to share from the Last of Us Part II” the developer stated. “We’re hard at work and looking forward to revealing more when the time is right!”

Just over two years ago, the Last of Us Part II was revealed at PlayStation Experience 2016 in Anaheim, California, after years of rumors and speculation. Since then, two additional trailers have been released: an additional cinematic-only trailer at Paris Games Week 2017, and the gameplay reveal trailer at E3 2018. Since the latter, rumors have been circulating about the game possibly being developed into a cross generational project, coinciding with the release of the heavily rumored PlayStation 5 in 2020, but neither Sony or Naughty Dog have confirmed any information surrounding this. All promotional media has stated the game is being developed for the PlayStation 4 family of systems.

The Game Awards 2018 is set to air this Thursday, December 6th, 2018 at 9 PM EST/6 PM PST. For more information, please visit their website.

For more updates surrounding the Game Awards 2018, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and keep it locked in at Bonus Accessory.

In Defense of (Game of the Year): Marvel’s Spider-Man

With the award season right around the corner, Bonus Accessory will be taking a look at some of the top games of the past year, and examine why each game deserves the title of Game of the Year at the Game Awards 2018. This is part four of our five part series entitled ‘In Defense of’, and in this edition we check on why our Spidey Sense tingles so much for Marvel’s Spider-Man.

Great gaming experiences surrounding super heroes and comic-inspired characters have been popping up over the better part of the last decade. With the flag bearer in this revitalization of the genre being Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham series, fans have been treated to worlds with deep lore, fluid combat and compelling storytelling that really started to be felt towards the end of last console generation. While those experiences left fans wanting to see more from the sect of pop culture, many of the characters faced uphill battles to find their return to form in the gaming landscape; one of which was the successful Spider-Man IP from Marvel. Marvel’s Spider-Man, from Insomniac Games for the PlayStation 4, rights the ship for the long time popular Marvel hero. Peter Parker and his wall crawling alter-ego have been portrayed in a multitude of media forms, ranging from his creation in 1962’s Amazing Fantasy #15 to his successful run of films including the upcoming animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse; and while the web head has had his fair share of video games, it’s the one form of media he has had the least consistency with. While various sects of his fanbase will argue otherwise for some titles, the overall consensus shows that Spidey has had a few rocky years in terms of his gaming representation.

Enter Insomniac Games. The studio, known for such series as Ratchet & Clank, the original Spyro trilogy and Sunset Overdrive. When first approached by Sony to adapt a Marvel franchise to a game format, the staff made it seem the decision was all but unanimous for what property they wanted to tackle: Spider-Man. Using a modified version of the engine found in 2014’s Sunset Overdrive, Insomniac had a good foundation for how they wanted to handle the game. The fluidity of Sunset Overdrive‘s traversal, combat and acrobatics seem almost isometric at times to what Marvel’s Spider-Man became by release. The buttery smoothness of hitting a perfectly timed reversal while in combat is only rivaled by the ability to capture enemies with a multitude of different gadgets and equipment. But crafting a game around a licensed idea isn’t always as easy as one would think it would be. It’s already established? How hard could it be? And while there may be some truth to that, the team at Insomniac Games, lead by creative director Brian Intihar, didn’t want to retread old ground. The Spider-Man IP is one that’s had is stories told for over 50 years, giving the studio much to play with when dissecting how they wanted to handle the game; but ultimately, what they decided on was something that both ended up complimenting past Spidey stories while also adding new twists to the wall crawler.

What’s the first thing you think of when you think of Spider-Man? A guess would be him swinging through the streets of New York City. For years, this has been one of the toughest nuts to crack when developing a Spider-Man game: traversal. Many fans point to the Spider-Man 2 licensed game of Playstation 2, Xbox, GameCube and PC as being the best example in terms of nailing the way the players moves throughout the city. While for its time, it truly was a revolutionary take on how you would expect the genetically mutated teen to move throughout the city as his alter-ego, using a pendulum based system for momentum. Insomniac, coming hot off the heels of its successful new IP Sunset Overdrive in 2014, saw this as a chance to take the successes they found with traversal throughout their newly crafted world and combined it with the web swing action of Marvel’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. To no surprise, it has become my new favorite way to get around in a game this generation. Adopting the same pendulum-based momentum system for swinging, the team focused on how something as crazy as swing from buildings in real life would work. First and foremost, every web has to attach to something. Whether it be a building, ledge, tree branch or pole, every swing has to be attached to something. Doing so gave players the ability to gain momentum to then push themselves forward and in various directions based on the architecture of the buildings around them. Plain and simple, it’s just so fun and rewarding to travel Manhattan by web swinging. Fast travel is available, but why bother (even though you are given a cool cut scene with Spider-Man on the subway)? any game that provides you with a mode of transportation that is greater than the easier option is something that should be held in the highest regard in terms of gam design.

While playing as Spider-Man is the main pull to the game for many, what you find is a multifold story that not only sees you become heavily invested in the narrative of Spidey himself, but of the man behind the mask: Peter Parker. Now, I’ll be quite honest, like most games found in the super hero genre, I was expecting the moments that players control Peter Parker to become pacing issues for the overarching narrative; going from 100 to 0, as the kids say these days. Yet, I didn’t expect myself to find a bond with Parker the way I did. A big part of that goes to the superb voice acting of Yuri Lowenthal. The delivery of expression through his voice is so spot on, it leaves you baffled at how Insomniac could’ve at one point chose to go another route with voice acting for Peter’s character. Lowenthal’s performance helps the player connect with the everyday Peter Parker that is behind the mask. Like him, I am a early to mid 20s young adult, just blossoming into the fully grown person I eventually will become. He faces everyday issues; from finding balance between his family of Aunt May, to his job as a research assistant with Dr. Otto Octavius, to trying to fight to restore his loving relationship with ex-girlfriend Mary Jane Watson, it gives the players a way to relate with and care for the man behind the mask. As someone who has grown through the “cell phone and dating” revolution, there is a particular scene that almost any 15 to 30 year old male can relate to when pursuing a love interest via text messaging. I vividly remember reassuring Peter out loud when playing, saying “Ah, I know that feel.” Presenting Peter as a sort of an “every man’s man”, gives the player a deeper connection to him, that when playing through the story beats while at the F.E.A.S.T. homeless shelter or in Dr. Octavius’s lab are still engaging and fun.

In a large open world narrative game such as Marvel’s Spider-Man, support characters need to be given a greater emphasis during the crafting phase of the game, and I think Insomniac Games’s writing staff has done that better than any game this year and even in quite some time. The craftsmanship writers Jon Paquette, Benjamin Arfmann, Kelsey Beachum, Christos Gage, and Dan Slott penned during the development of the characters surrounding Peter is something most development teams should take notes on. Every character that plays a role in the story is engaging and has a level of depth to them, from their expressions, to the approach they take to interacting with the player; especially with the dynamic they have with Peter. Many a time have I found myself chuckling at a witty, smart aleck remark Spider-Man/Peter would make towards his police contact, Yuri Watanabe, including the now famous ‘Spider-Cop’ persona (don’t worry, the cringe is on purpose and it’s played up just the perfect amount). You would find remorse and compassion from Peter’s loving Aunt May, even as she struggles to support herself at times, putting your needs first. You meet a young man by the name of Miles Morales, who is struggling to find his way in life in some of his most impressionable years and turns to the heroic Spider-Man for guidance. Yet, what might be the best example of the care put into the character dynamics, is the one between Peter and Mary Jane. The way they interact with each other is so authentic and grounded that you feel you’re experiencing the emotional rollercoaster between them through their own eyes. Instantly you can feel the chemistry the two have, gaining the sense that you’ve known each other for years and that there’s an extra layer of care and love for each other. Chemistry like this is a perfect example of how close the gaming world is becoming almost completely intertwined to the level of theatrical quality.

While the supporting cast may be the lights that sprinkle the metaphoric Christmas tree, the star that shines brightest on top of the tree is the breathing metropolis of Manhattan. When comparing the two comic publishing titans, DC’s characters were set in fictitious environment (Gotham City, Metropolis, etc), whereas Marvel’s characters have always been rooted in realism, living in the world around us for the most part; so when crafting the project, Insomniac had the issue of crafting a world that is already established, but also finding ways to make it unique. While the city isn’t completely to scale, it sure as hell feels to be the case. As someone who has been to New York City once in his 25 years of life, swinging through what looked almost never ending streets of Manhattan felt surreal at times. The level of detail taken into account when exploring the world is a marvel in itself. Little touches, like being able to looking various windows of the thousands of buildings that lined the street and having each of them have a unique look and style to them, adds a level of photo-realism to the concrete jungle surrounding the player. Plus, all of the small easter egg touches made me love digging through each brick and beam to find any Marvel reference I could possibly screenshot. The best part is, they don’t stick out. Everything feels connected, and purposeful, as if it naturally meant to be there. I don’t want to ruin any of the fun surprises hidden throughout the city, but trust me when I say as a long time fan of Marvel’s IPs, the smile on my face when I found some of the bigger nods was astronomical.

With many open world games using similar formulas for the way they are presented, Marvel’s Spider-Man find a way  to completely stand head and shoulders above the crowd. Not many games drive me to completely tear apart every nook and cranny of its package, but the world that Insomniac Games developed is one that I can’t get enough of. Its the first game that made me want to go out of my way to get the platinum trophy. The best part? There’s more content available after launch, and it’s not just short filler DLC that you will find in most big budget games, it’s intriguing and narrative driven in a way I wasn’t expecting. Players will get to experience story beats that were presented at the end of the game that you may not have expected to see until the game’s inevitable sequel, which isn’t the norm for games of this budget and caliber; but everything about Marvel’s Spider-Man is felt as if it was made holding itself to a higher standard. The tagline for the project is ‘Be Greater’, and I’ll be quite honest, I don’t know how much greater you can get in terms of gaming experience this year. When it comes to the possibility of being names Game of the Year for 2018, there is no need to aim to ‘be greater’, when there is no greater experience available this year than the one Insomniac Games has crafted.

For more coverage on the Game Awards 2018, including who takes home the title of ‘Game of the Year’, follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and keep it locked in at Bonus Accessory.

In Defense of (Game of the Year) – Celeste

With the award season right around the corner, Bonus Accessory will be taking a look at some of the top games of the past year, and examine why each game deserves the title of Game of the Year at the Game Awards 2018. This is part three of our five part series entitled ‘In Defense of’, and this time we are jumping and climbing to Matt Makes Games’s Celeste.

Approaching metal health in any light can be a touchy subject, let alone in video games. Few games have successfully pulled off appropriately touching on the subject while still having great gameplay and a compelling story. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice from Ninja Theory, which released in August 2017, comes to mind on how approaching metal health issues appropriately through gaming can lead to some of the best experiences in the medium, and I would honestly say that game would be the flag-bearer for expressing that message; that is, until the release of Celeste.

Celeste, which released on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC in January this year from independent developer Matt Makes Games, is both simple and yet quite complex, in terms of how to describe the game. Let me explain.The Canadian developer brings one of the tightest and polished platforming experiences in years, with players jumping, climbing and using mystical powers to scale the perilous mountain. Levels are sprinkled with obstacles that require the player to make pinpoint movements to successfully navigate from checkpoint to checkpoint. While the difficulty is high, its presented in a way to players that isn’t a scare tactic, but one that is motivational. Director Matt Thorson and his staff designed the game to be approachable. Sure, there’s an ‘assist mode’ for players who truly don’t feel comfortable facing the uphill battle the fictional mountain provides, but Thorson clearly states when choosing the option that it is not the intend way to experience the game. Celeste is designed to push players, to make them feel uncomfortable and having them face frustration head on.

Plain and simple, you will die, and I mean a lot. By the time I rolled credits on my initial playthrough of Celeste‘s main story, I I tallied over 2,000 deaths. Yes, you read that correctly, there are three zeros in that number. Am I the best at platformers? Obviously not considering I perished over 2,000 times; but each time I died, I got a bit better. I began seeing the errors I was making. Mentally, I would find myself breaking down my game plan on how I would approach each portion of the level; remembering the mistakes I would make along the way and adjust said plan. The pacing of the game plays well into its difficulty/fun mixture, with respawns being almost instantaneously. Specifically with the Nintendo Switch version of the game, the style compliments the pickup and play mentality of the system. I’d find myself being able to pop through portions of the current level I was on my lunch break, or waiting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, and easily being able to get that full experience on a strict time schedule. Like many of the games nominated this year, no time is wasted in the game, which makes it an especially rewarding experience to those on a tight schedule.

Celeste‘s narrative is where the complexity begins to set in, in one of the most rewarding ways possible. Players take control of a young girl named Madeline who intends to scale the mystical Celeste Mountain, located in the snowcapped Canadian wilderness. Along her way, she meets a cast of characters who range from support systems, such as Theo, to the wise cracking Granny, who simply doesn’t feel as though Madeline has the wherewithal to complete her journey to the mountain’s peak; yet, the biggest critic Madeline faces is herself. During the trek to Celeste‘s summit, Madeline experiences what is best described as an ‘out of body’ event, where she encounters an embodiment of her anxiety and self-doubts. While she continues to run from the self-doubt she keeps stowed away, she begins to face more and more instances that force her to confront the fears she keeps within her mind. For what appears to be a pretty cut and dry platformer on the surface, Celeste uses the its gameplay to translate a bigger message on facing our fears and anxiety. The mountain is truly a metaphor in its simplest form; an obstacle that one must learn to adapt to and eventually overcome. As I stated before, messaging on mental health is often something that is difficult to properly contextualize through media. Many forms of entertainment will encourage those who are struggling with aspects of their mental health to speak up, and that is absolutely a great message and starting point; but many don’t offer ways to combat these emotions due to its complexity. Celeste, on the other hand, finds a way to encourage those suffering to find the will and remove the self-doubt in a way that doesn’t take away from the excellent gameplay.

One of the most underrated aspects of Celeste is its artwork. With a blend of pixelated in-game assets along with hand-drawn ‘cinematic’ pieces, artists Amora Bettany, Pedro Medeiros, and Gabby DaRienzo craft a world of sheer wonder and beauty while basing the game in simplicity. Vibrant colors pop off the screen, while the sharp pixel-based environmental objects fit perfectly, as if they were apart of an elaborate puzzle. Growing up, I never found myself overly attracted to the 16 bit generation of gaming. My first main console was the Nintendo 64, which I got in 1998 at five years old, and while I did also have an NES in my home at that time, I was neck deep in the 64-bit CPU generation of gaming with the likes of the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Super Mario 64. It wasn’t until I got a bit older that I began to bolster my artistic palette and truly start to appreciate the beauty of the 8 and 16 bit generations of game. Moving to the era of high definition, and now 4K, no art style has seen more of a revitalization as the retro-style that games such as Celeste dons, and I truly see Celeste as the new standard for how games of this style should aim to be. Even the animation is so fluent and smooth, with the way the sharpness and definition remain with the excessive amount of movement going on during the more intricate platforming portions of the experience.

At the end of the day, no matter who takes home the title of ‘Game of the Year’, what Celeste has done for independent game development is something that will be felt for years to come. While independent games have continued to receive more and more attention, including with the likes of Playdead’s Inside receiving a Game of the Year nomination at the 2016 show and Studio MDHR’s Cuphead winning Best Art Direction last year, you get the sense that the scale may finally be tipping this year. Seeing what the team at Matt Makes Games accomplished with the staff size they have is the true embodiment of the phrase “quality over quantity”. Game development as a skill has become so easily accessible over the past decade that anyone with an interest in gaming can easily have the information readily available to learn at almost any point, and having a game with the budget and size of Celeste win ‘Game of the Year’ could be a jumping point for many small development studios in the future. While many independent experiences only last a few hours, Celeste‘s package oozes with replay-ability depth, not to mention a plethora of post-game content with the B-Side variations of levels, giving players the feeling to that similar of a AAA developed experience in a sense. For the first time since Geoff Keighley’s inception of the event, I truly feel this is the year a true independent project can potentially claim the crown of ‘Game of the Year’, and deservedly so. From a touching and moving narrative, to the master-class polish of platforming gameplay, Celeste may easily reach the top of the mountain to be crowned at 2018’s ‘Game of the Year’.

For updates surrounding the Game Awards 2018, including who takes home the prized Game of the Year award, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and keep it locked in at Bonus Accessory.

In Defense of (Game of the Year): Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey

With the award season right around the corner, Bonus Accessory will be taking a look at some of the top games of the past year, and examine why each game deserves the title of Game of the Year. This is part two of our five part series entitled ‘In Defense of’, and this time we are detailing Ubisoft Montreal’s Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey.

The Assassin’s Creed franchise has truly been one that has been fascinating to watch change over the years. From its hot start out of the gate with the first entry’s release in 2007 and its initial peak with its sequel two years later, to its steady decline in both popularity and quality over the next decade; it’s been a wild ride for one of Ubisoft’s most recognized IPs.

When Ubisoft first announced they would be taking a year off from their annual Assassin’s Creed installments after 2015’s Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate released, fans collectively took a sigh of relief. Long-time fans of the series couldn’t deny the state the franchise was in. Experience-ruining bugs, glitches and issues were scattered through the files of Syndicate, but it many of these were found in their infancy through previous entries, growing year after year. Fans felt the story was becoming more convoluted and over-complicated, and most importantly, they began to feel a staleness in gameplay, as if it were a potato chip bag left open for days. Needless to say, the series needed a nap, or a Snickers (sorry for the poor pun/analogy…).

Enter Ubisoft Montreal with 2017’s Assassin’s Creed: Origins; a fresh take on a familiar face. Gone were the days of linear, closed world experience, and in their place was bright and vibrant Egyptian sandbox, in which every crack and iota was explorable. RPG-based mechanics were introduced, along with a fun lite looting system that fans of games such as Destiny and Diablo would find interesting. Met with critical and consumer acclaim, Origins gave what fans of the series want: freedom. Most importantly, what Assassin’s Creed: Origins did was lay the foundation for what the series could become; 2018’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey built the estate with that potential.

Everything that fans loved about Origins, remained in Odyssey; and everything thy didn’t was improved on. Sure, that sounds like a given, but you’d be surprised at how often that doesn’t happen when a new entry in a game series is created. Yet, I don’t see Odyssey as a sequel to Origins. There is a narrative that connects the outside world of Layla Hassan and the Animus, but in all honesty, that could’ve been foregone. The meat and potatoes of this game is with our hero/heroine, the sibling mercenaries Alexios & Kassandra, and their story to unravel the mystery surround their family and connect to King Leonidas; just as Origin‘s story surrounded Bayek and his tale.

Giving the player an option to choose their gender in 2018 isn’t a crazy concept, but the way that Odyssey integrates it into its narrative feels so natural. Personally, I chose Alexios during my playthrough, but know how the story is affected by using each character, it makes me want to go back and experience Kassandra’s tale. Getting an open world to gel correctly with a narrative that very little studios end up finding success with, due to the overwhelming size and undertaking that is required to pull it off; but Ubisoft Montreal found a way to let players feel as though the world around them is a living and breathing experience. Players will find their typical NPCs (non-playable characters) scattered throughout each of the islands on the map, providing you with your typical side quests, but the interaction with those characters makes the quests feel unique and different comparative to many open world games. Say your character wants to emotionally pursue a character you are interacting with for a quest, you have the ability to do that; not in the Mass Effect-simplistic style, but actually have the ability to frame your specific dialog to NPCs and have it truly affect your overall experience. Side quests don’t feel like simple side quests; they have true depth and narrative detail. The characters who wander the various islands in Greece all feel connected and unique to the world around you, in ways not many other games provide you with.

Origins offered players the ability to sail the rivers and wetlands of Egypt, a feature that was present in 2013’s Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag; and that experience is continues into Odyssey. Ship customization provides players a level of depth many simulation-based experiences rarely do. Upgradable aspects range from various arrow types, to the implementation of fire and javelins, giving players the ability to tweak each portion of their primary mode of traveling from island to island. One of the best features with this aspect of the game is the ability to recruit new members of the crew, such as lieutenants. During side quests, and even raids of enemy encampments, you can use dialog options to convince NPCs to join your crew, which will improve various statistical elements of your ship.

One of the best additions to Odyssey is the implementation of bounty hunters and mercenary quest lines. Taking a page out of Bethesda and Rockstar’s book, Ubisoft added the ability to take on contracted hits throughout each of the various areas Alexios or Kassandra will visit. I always found it a fun way to grind for various loot and experience when I would need to increase my level to continue the journey. Personally, at this point in my gaming career, I need to find progression. Between life, writing, and working, my gaming, like many, isn’t as often as I wish it could be, so I normally don’t have the time or patience to waste on grinding levels just reach a certain portion of the map or have the ability to use a certain weapon. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey changes that. Similar to Sony Santa Monica’s God of War, every moment I’m doing something in game doesn’t feel like its wasting my time, specifically the grinding. I enjoy it, and dare I say, look forward to it; and the combat plays a heavy hand in doing that. Fluidity is the name of the game. With every swing of a sword, stab of a knife, and every perfectly timed parry or dodge, the reward of defeating an enemy continues to get greater with each one you defeat. The RPG elements that Odyssey evolves upon add such a level of ownership in how the player develops his character, but is just enough to not make that same player feel overwhelmed. You continuously feel like it all works in perfect fluidity. Everything I do feels like I’m progressing towards something. As I mentioned before, the Destiny/Diablo-style looting system scratches that itch of continuously getting better and better gear, which then drives me to grind more. Players feel compelled to venture off the beaten path to get stronger and upgrade your abilities.

The real treasure of this game is its world. Towns are filled with a plethora of inhabitants who have detailed backgrounds and personalities. Terrains are painted with picturesque mountain ranges, that players can traverse in smooth and fluid fashion. With aquatic traversal having such a heavy emphasis on this entry, the detail provided in the water is so jaw-droppingly beautiful, it makes you do a double take at times. Normally, I don’t find myself to be overly compelled by how visually stunning a game is, but Odyssey is an exception. If you have the ability to play this game in 4K on either an Xbox One X, PS4 Pro, or PC, do it. My Sony Bravia X900E 4K television, specially with the HDR enabled, gets pushed to its full potential with this game. Being a third party AAA game, Odyssey was designed to run on various levels of hardware. Normally with games in this situation, some edges are cut to make the game perform as close to identical as possible across multiple platforms; but the level of detail provided out of the box with this game is something to marvel at.

If you ask long-term, hardcore Assassin’s Creed fans, they will say “this isn’t Assassin’s Creed anymore”, or some variation to insinuate that the series has drifted too far from its roots; but if you ask this writer, I think it only brings it closer to its roots. The series has always been about creativity in completing an objective, and in most cases that usually results in assassinating someone or multiple people (shocker, right?). Odyssey doesn’t only provide players with an even greater ability to do this, but encourages uniqueness in completing these objectives. Numerous times have I been in a situation where I will look at an enemy base and see the easiest way to eliminate soldiers, but only to have the game then hint at other various ways to complete that objective; especially if you complete all the sub-objectives in the base to get great loot. Nothing screams “Assassin’s Creed” more than uniqueness, and Odyssey provides it by the barrel load.

Not many open world games can pull off checking boxes for almost any type of gamer, but Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey does. From looting, to assassinations, to the buttery-smoothness of the combat, to the depth of dialog and role playing options, what Ubisoft has done to the franchise is something most AAA publishers/developers should focus on doing: evolving a franchise. Ubisoft has already confirmed that fans won’t be seeing another entry in the franchise next year, and that’s a great thing. Continued support for this game is what players want, and if the extra year of development time for the next entry is any indication what could be next for the franchise, it looks as if the series could be a front runner for Game of the Year for even more years to come.

For more coverage on Game of the Year heading in the Game Awards 2018, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and keep it locked in on Bonus Accessory.

In Defense of (Game of the Year): God of War

With the award season right around the corner, Bonus Accessory will be taking a look at some of the top games of the past year, and examine why each game deserves the title of Game of the Year. This is part one of our five part series entitled ‘In Defense of’, and we are starting off with Sony Santa Monica’s God of War.

Sony Santa Monica Studio’s God of War is what every narrative driven game should aim to be; thought-provoking, emotional, light-hearted when appropriate, atmospheric, cinematic, and the list goes on and on. What Cory Barlog and his incredibly talented team did with a franchise that in most instances was (metaphorically) more icing than cake at times, in terms of narrative depth, should be considered an achievement in modern storytelling in general, and is only a portion of what made this game the critical and commercial success it is.

The mainline God of War series has never suffered from gameplay issues. Every entry in the series has been mechanically tight, responsive and most importantly, fun; but in the current era of gaming, where games are slowly becoming viewed more as experiences, gameplay does have a finite end. Now, that’s not saying that a game doesn’t need to have responsive controls, but when games such as Uncharted 4, the Last of Us, Horizon: Zero Dawn and Red Dead Redemption 2 are finding huge critical and commercial success, it’s easy to see how important narrative depth is to gamers this generation. Take Red Dead Redemption 2 for example; for all of the accolades it has received since its launch, every major criticism the game receives revolves around its controls. Clunky, out-dated, unresponsive at time; all adjectives that could be applied to Rockstar’s tragic tale depicting the deterioration of the wild west in the late 19th century. Yet, ask anyone who has either played the game and more time than not, they will shower the game with unanimous praise, with some even go as far to say it is a genre defining experience. By no means am I saying their assessment of the game is wrong, but how can a game that seems so abrasive in the way it plays, be regarded so highly by so many? Simple: it’s narrative is too compelling to make you care about how the game plays.

In terms of God of War though, the best part is, there is no compromising either end. What you get out of the box is something that blends a complex, beautiful and at time poignant narrative with addictive gameplay that is rewarding, deep but very approachable. From the moment you begin your quest of closure with Kratos to the moment the credits begin to roll, you are completely incapsulated by the story Richard Zangrande Gaubert, Matt Sophos, and Cory Barlog have penned for the player. With so much emphasis put on player immersion in gaming, Sony Santa Monica molded an experience that never truly broke that immersion. The player is shown everything that Kratos and his son Atreus experience from the moment you begin their emotional journey, by never breaking a single camera shot. Everything you experience in God of War is one continuous camera shot. Rarely in film is this feat achievable, let alone done in a way that audiences usually find positive. Finding a way to make the narrative of Kratos’s adventure flow comfortably for the player and feel natural always seemed to be the biggest hurdle the game had against it, when word started spreading that Sony Santa Monica chose to go this route; but without a doubt, they were able to completely knock it out of the park. Loading screen are invisible to the naked eye, and never break the plot or gameplay up for the player.

Optimization of the game provides players on all generations of PlayStation 4 hardware to experience the beauty of the game, without compromising anything for those with older variations of the system. PlayStation 4 Pro owners are presented with an even greater amount of performance options, including the ability to favor resolution for 4K gaming and greater detail at 30 fps (frames per second), along with a performance mode that focuses on giving the player a buttery-smooth 60 fps experience. No corner ever feels cut when playing through God of War. Every detail, ever nook and cranny, every iota of this game feels like it has been personally attended to and given exclusive attention.

The creation of this world and those who inhabit it, is that of a master craft gift to the medium. Lead by Rafael Grassetti, the art department at Sony Santa Monica grasped the feel of a mythological world, using a diverse mixture of colors and styles to give players the feeling of traveling across a vast universe. From beautifully painted pastel skies, to the deepest hues of blue and grey while deep within the world’s crust, every inch of the game aesthetically screams beauty. Musically, the game wraps your in melodies that metaphorically range from a heroic conquest against evil, to the downfall of all hope in the world. Bear McCreary, who composed the game’s soundtrack, takes the player on an epic journey filled with emotional highs and lows told through the largely orchestral track list with choir chanting and ominous drums. Normally, I don’t find myself going out of my way to listen to soundtracks to most movies, shows or games; but God of War‘s is so impactful, that I have it saved on my Spotify account and play it in a pretty regular fashion. So many artistic aspects of this game provide players a blueprint of the narrative without actually telling them, which even with the emphasis set on narrative strength in single player experiences today, is rare.

But what I think is the most rewarding for players is the complete transformation of Kratos’s character from the original trilogy of God of War titles to 2018’s entry. Kratos was a character that I rarely connected with in previous titles; he was brash, bullheaded and to be quite honest, not overly complex in terms of his ideology. Sometimes, simplicity in storytelling is great (look at 2018’s A Quiet Place). There’s no need to overcomplicate a character or plot if it is not a valid reason to, but Kratos didn’t fall into that spectrum. He was, for all intents and purposes, bland (to me, at least). Fast forward to 2018, and the Kratos that first emerges from his secluded lifestyle is one that carries a burden on his back; not of his current life, but of his past. Since relocating to the heard of ancient Norway, in the realm of Midgard, he has grown as a character. He remarried to a ‘Norse’ woman names Faye, and donned the cowl of fatherhood again, by providing life to a son named Atreus. He tries to become a man that no longer needs regret and anger to control his being, but as he tries to escape his past, he begins to be pulled back into the very pits of rage he has tried to leave. Sure, he still dons his familiar tattoos and ‘ash grey’ completion, but beneath the flesh and bone lays a soul that yearns for closure and acceptance. The narrative may surrounds Kratos and Atreus’s journey to spread his since deceased wife’s ashes at the highest peak in all the realms, but it truly cuts deeper than what’s at the surface; it’s the story of Kratos truly shedding his past demons, and evolving into the man he wants to be for his son. Depth, is truly the greatest reward the player will find in terms of the characters who inhabit this game, and specifically with its main protagonist.

God of War has cemented its place as one of, if not the, premiere titles in the PlayStation 4’s expansive library of games. No other games offers a package as complete as the epic tale Sony Santa Monica produced in 2018. From story, to gameplay, to the fluidity of presentation, God of War is a game that not only will stand tall during award season in 2018, but will continue to be the standard-bearer for narratively driven experience for years to come.

For more upcoming entries into the ‘In Defense of’ series, along with updates on the gaming industry’s award seas, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and keep it locked in on Bonus Accessory.

Obsidian Entertainment & Take Two Set to Premiere New Game at the Game Awards

The fifth annual Game Awards is set to go live next Thursday, December 6th, and creator Geoff Keighley promises that fans are set to see the most new game announcements at the show to date; and now we know one of the games that are set to strut their stuff for the first time to the public eye.

In a tweet released by Keighley, Obsidian Entertainment and Private Division are set to announce their upcoming RPG for the first time to the public. Obsidian, who is best known for development on Fallout: New Vegas and Star Wars: Knight of the Old Republic II, was recently acquired by Microsoft, began a viral marketing campaign on its website recently, showing various ‘countdowns to a special message’, that coincidentally lined up with the upcoming awards show. Private Division, Take Two’s independent publishing label based out of New York City whose most recent success has been the wacky but accurate space simulator Kerbal Space Program, also joined in on the fun by quote tweeting Obsidian’s original tweet, leading fans to begin to connect the dots.

From what little the public has been made aware of in regards to the game, we do have confirmation that the game will be 3rd person RPG, will not include microtransactions, and is believed to be one that space themed. The game, which has confirmed to be published by Take-Two’s Private Division, sees Fallout creators Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky return to helm the project. In an interview conducted by Game Informer in December 2017, Cain spoke briefly on the upcoming RPG saying “If people have liked our previous RPGs, they’re going to like this one in terms of how we make reactive worlds, and especially our style of humor”. In the same interview, Boyarsky also touched on the upcoming title, by saying “It was the opportunity to work with Tim on a new IP that we were creating from scratch again, because we did it on Fallout and Arcanum and those were great experiences and I just missed doing that.I missed working on single-player, in-depth RPGs with a lot of choice, consequence, and reactivity. I like making other types of games, but there is something special about the kind of games we started with Fallout that really appeals to us and speaks to us creatively.”

While neither developer nor publisher have confirmed so, it is believed to be a multi-platform experience, due to the large progress made before the developer being acquired by Microsoft, along with the publication being handled by Take-Two’s Private Division subsidiary.

For more updates on upcoming title announcements at the Game Awards 2018, including Obsidian Entertainment’s newest IP, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and keep it right here on Bonus Accessory.