Archives for category: Concept art

Tomorrow, the sequel to one of the 3DS’ most celebrated jRPGs hits European shores, as Square Enix’s Bravely Second: End Layer lands on store shelves. Like Bravely Default before it, the sequel is also getting a deluxe collector’s edition, and because I bought that, I also bought this. Because I’m a sucker for limited editions.

So, what’s in the box? Well, it’s a similar deal to the first game, containing a large art book (the main draw for me), a figurine and a mini soundtrack CD alongside the game – there’s no pack of cards this time, however. One of the things that surprised me with the original game’s limited edition was the size of the box, and there’s little change here; while the box is a different shape, it’s still huge. Where am I going to put this thing!?

Bravely Second Deluxe Collector's Edition

Opening the box, we’re greeted with a lovely piece of black and white art of new character Magnolia on the inside lid, as well as a look at the game box, the soundtrack CD, and the miniature figurine of Agnes in a small box, all sitting in a cardboard tray. Lifting out this tray, we find the art book hiding underneath.

Bravely Second open box

Below, you can get a look at the full contents of the box, before we take a closer look at a couple of the items.

Bravely Second full contents

Probably the only complaint levelled at Bravely Default‘s collector’s edition was the quality of the included Agnes statue. While quite large and weighty (I believe it’s made of polystone), the paintjob was pretty messy, and it just didn’t really look like Agnes at all. That’s been fixed for Bravely Second; while the figurine is much smaller and made of plastic, it actually looks like Agnes, and is a much greater representation of both her in-game look and Akihiko Yoshida’s artwork. In the gallery below, you can see a comparison of the two, but here’s a close look at the figure itself.

Bravely Second Agnes figurine

Last up, here’s a look at the art book, the headline item as far as I’m concerned. Unfortunately, it’s not hardback like the original game’s book, however, we’re getting a much thicker tome this time, and it’s not just an art book. Here we have a full design works book, collecting production sketches and artwork from right across the game’s development. Included are the original Japanese notations, complete with English translations. I haven’t looked too deep into it for fear of spoilers, but a quick flick through suggests this book will be an absolute must have for fans. Also, upon opening it, we’re treated to that same piece of artwork of Magnolia that I mentioned earlier, only this time in glorious colour. See more, including a couple of comparisons with the original book, in the gallery at the end.

Bravely Second Design Works

Overall, I’m very happy with my purchase. Coming in a little cheaper than the original Deluxe Collector’s Edition, with a couple of definite improvements over some of the included items, it’s a nice treat for fans. Now I just have to find the time to play the game! For now, enjoy the gallery, and the game if you’re getting it this week.

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In a post on Xbox Wire titled ‘The Halo Journey’, 343 General Manager Bonnie Ross has made Halo 5 official. For the first time since Combat Evolved, the game will carry a subtitle; Halo 5: Guardians is expected to be released in Autumn 2015 for Xbox One.

Calling the project “massive and exciting”, Ross outlined some of the core tenets that will shape Xbox One’s first Halo outing. “In the past, Halo games have pushed the Xbox forward, showcasing the console and its ecosystem in entertaining and innovative ways,” she said. “Making a Halo game that runs at 60 frames per second, on dedicated servers, with the scope, features and scale we’ve been dreaming of for more than a decade, is non-trivial. It’s a task that we, at 343 Industries, are taking very seriously to ensure we deliver the Halo game that fans deserve, and a game that is built from the ground up for Xbox One.”

Halo 5: Guardians is a bigger effort than Halo 4,” she continued, before announcing that the game will run on an all-new, more powerful engine. “Certainly there are some core elements carried over from prior games, but we’ve invested a huge effort in retooling our tech to take full advantage of the Xbox One’s hardware and ecosystem to create worlds and experiences worthy of next-gen.

“It’s a game that will hopefully demonstrate the talent, learnings and abilities of the 343 Industries team. A game that will incorporate the things we learned from Halo 4 about technology, aesthetics, performance and scale – and perhaps more importantly, understanding and embracing a community of gamers who love what lies at the heart of this game, and the limitless potential of the Halo universe.”

Accompanying the post was a piece of artwork depicting series’ protagonist the Master Chief, along with a mystery character. Both of them seem to be set against a backdrop of the dusty, sandy planet the Chief was seen traversing in last year’s E3 reveal trailer. But who is this other character? Their armour seems to mark them out as a Spartan, so the immediate conclusion to jump to would be Sarah Palmer, who played a supporting role in 2012’s Halo 4 (and was thus a character introduced to the franchise by 343), but looking closely, one can pick out an ONI symbol on the armour’s chest piece. If it is Palmer, she’s been moved from Spartan branch to intelligence. Of course, it could also be someone else; it’s a long shot, but perhaps it’s Serin Osman, a Spartan II candidate that didn’t make it through the augmentation process and later went to work in ONI. Though, given that she did not undergo the bone strengthening enhancements necessary to wear MJOLNIR armour, this seems unlikely.

Either way, I can’t wait to find out. I’ve said before that I’m a massive Halo fan and I look forward to seeing what 343 can achieve with the Xbox One hardware, especially considering what they managed to squeeze out of the then-seven-year-old 360 with Halo 4. That game seemed to be 343 saying, “See! We can make a Halo game!”, and while I thought it was an excellent addition to the franchise, I’d like to see what they could come up with having now taken full ownership of the series.

Interestingly, Ross also took time to reiterate that we’ll be seeing something Halo-related this year, calling back to a previous announcement that insisted our Halo ‘journey’ would begin in 2014. There have long been rumours that this year will see a Halo 2: Anniversary release (the game is ten years old this year, after all), and announcing Halo 5: Guardians for 2015 almost seems to confirm this. Ross assured readers that we’ll find out more at next month’s E3 conference, adding the tantalising promise that our “journey definitely begins in 2014 with a giant leap, rather than one small step.”

Perhaps then, it’s something more than an HD remake for Halo 2? Maybe the rumours of a HaloWar Collection‘, comprising Xbox One versions of Halos 2, 3 and 4 is a reality after all? One thing’s for sure; it’s not the forthcoming TV series being made in collaboration with Steven Spielberg, as Ross clarifies: “We’ll have more to share on the Halo television series as we near its projected fall 2015 release.”

Meanwhile, over on Halo Waypoint, Franchise Development Director Frank “Frankie” O’Connor also chimed in, adding that 343 “have significantly more to say about that at E3 and beyond. Suffice it to say, another shoe has yet to drop.” He also shared a new piece of concept art, which you can see below.

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Whatever form the beginning of our Xbox One Halo journey takes, I for one am very excited to see it.

gravityrush2Sony have let the Kat out of the bag (sorry) and announced a sequel to my second favourite game of last year, Japan Studio’s excellent Gravity Rush. Revealed in a sizzle reel shown at Tokyo Game Show, a short trailer has since hit Youtube. It begins with a montage of beautiful concept art, before leaping straight into in-game footage showing Kat gracefully falling with style through a gorgeous cityscape. You can see the trailer below.

Also returning is Raven who, like Kat, also has gravity-defying powers and began the first game as something of an antagonist, before teaming up with our cheerful hero later in the game. There are still many mysteries surrounding the two and the world they inhabit and I can’t wait to get some answers.

This is probably the best gaming news I’ve heard all year, I loved Gravity Rush and have been hoping for a sequel ever since I hit the end credits. Until Ni No Kuni arrived, Gravity Rush was the closest thing to playing through a Ghibli film as I could have expected to find. It’s a beautifully drawn, lovingly-told journey of discovery and Kat is a fantastic protagonist; a super-powered amnesiac who, rather than being miserable about her missing memories and mysterious situation, approaches everything with an easy cheerfulness (balanced with a hint of cheekiness and the occasional bout of teenage petulance). Instead of moping, she genuinely enjoys her newfound abilities and just gets on with the business of saving the city of Hekseville.

If you haven’t yet played Gravity Rush, I urge you to do so in anticipation of the sequel. As far as I’m concerned it’s the Vita’s best game. For now, enjoy the trailer and have a listen to some of the excellent music from the first game.

The Torment: Tides of Numenera Kickstarter ends tonight. It has currently amassed a huge 3.9+ million dollars in pledges, over 400% of its stated goal.

Started by InXile Entertainment, a studio formed by two ‘exiles’ from Interplay, Torment: Tides of Numenera is a spiritual successor to Black Isle’s cult hit Planescape: Torment. Though it is not set in the D&D campaign setting of Planescape (InXile were unable to obtain a license from Wizards of the Coast), the new game takes its setting from game designer Monte Cook’s Numenera tabletop RPG, which was itself funded on Kickstarter last year. The setting takes place in the distant future, after a number of civilizations have risen and then fallen again, leaving remnants of their technology, relics known as numenera, scattered across the world. The current age is referred to as ‘The Ninth World’, as its scholars believe eight great civilizations have passed.

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In Torment: Tides of Numenera, the player character is called The Last Castoff – a vessel previously used by an ancient human who found a way to transfer his consciousness from one host to the next, casting off the shell when he moved on. However, without this ancient’s knowledge, each host awakens with a new consciousness of its own when he moves on, with no memories of what has transpired. The ancient’s actions have awoken an age-old guardian intent on destroying him and his creations – including The Last Castoff. And so, the player sets off to find their creator and learn the mysteries of their creation and the meaning behind their existence.

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Kickstarter members have been throwing pledges at this title in droves. It currently holds the record for quickest project to hit one million dollars (which it accomplished in a mere seven hours, after achieving its $900,000 funding goal in six, beating the previous million dollar record, Ouya, by an hour), and it’s closing in on becoming the biggest Kickstarter success so far – at time of writing, with eight hours remaining, $3,901,337 has been pledged. This is likely down to the cult status enjoyed by Planescape: Torment, which many fans hold up as the greatest RPG ever made. Numenera is being helmed by a number of the people that worked on Planescape at Black Isle back in the late 90s, and the $3.5m stretch goal was the inclusion of Obsidian’s Chris Avellone, lead designer of the revered 1999 philosophical role-player. Hopefully Numenera can live up to the legacy of the game that inspired it.

Over the last couple of days, InXile have released a couple of in-engine images from the game, which you can see above, as well as lighting and effects test videos that you can view on the Kickstarter project page. As you can see, the game uses pre-rendered backdrops, similar to Planescape: Torment, and the environments look very nicely detailed. The team has been showing quite a lot of concept art over the course of the Kickstarter period, and much of it has been absolutely beautiful; it really makes me want to explore these areas and discover what mysteries lie within these strange environments. Have a look at this piece of art, for instance:

tormentcaNow there’s a place I can’t wait to look around!

I’ve been considering for the last few days whether or not I would make this my first ever Kickstarter pledge. I suppose I’d best make up my mind soon. Everything I’ve read sounds very interesting, and the concept art intrigues me and draws me into The Ninth World. Planescape: Torment was, until recently, one of those games that I’d always heard about but never played, but after finishing The Witcher a couple of weeks back, I decided to start playing it, and so far I’m really enjoying it – especially the more narrative-focused, talky nature of it. It’s been a bit of a challenge trying to figure everything out, but it’s also a nice change of pace as I am able to dive headfirst into the world and work things out for myself, rather than have everything pointed out to me as many games these days are wont to do. If Torment: Tides of Numenera is going to offer a similar (yet different) experience, then I guess I’m going to have to throw my money at my screen.

It’s going to be a bit of a wait for the finished game, however; the enormous amount of contributions have allowed InXile to blow past the majority of their stretch goals (most of which were to add more content, areas, dialogue choices and extra staff). This obviously means that the team will need a bit more time to complete everything, so the estimated end date for the project has been pushed back a few months from December 2014 into early 2015. Let’s hope it’s worth the wait.

Follow the links at the bottom to find out more about the game – visit the project page, InXile’s tumblr site, watch some videos, read some interviews and view some concept art. Then go and throw a bit of money at the InXile guys. I think I’m going to do just that right now; let’s help Torment: Tides of Numenera break another record and blow past $4 million!

Links:
Kickstarter project page:
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/inxile/torment-tides-of-numenera
Torment Tumblr:
http://tormentrpg.tumblr.com/

destinytravBungie have officially torn the veil from their secret project Destiny. Actually, they did yesterday, and I was busy. But enough about me.

Destiny is the first result of Bungie’s current deal with massive publisher Activision, a project they hope to expand across the next decade and the coming console generational divide. It seems to take the form of some kind of Massively Multiplayer FPS, as had been rumoured for some time. This, despite Activision publishing chap Eric Hirschberg saying that it’s definitely not an MMO. Well, that’s that settled then.

Bungie invited press to their offices earlier this week to unveil their new universe, so it’s worth scouring those articles for more detail.
Here I’ll just touch on a few things gleaned from them.

Destiny is Bungie’s big plan for the next ten years of their existence, and it’s described (by that same Activision fellow) as the “world’s first shared-world shooter”. What this appears to mean is that the game takes place in a persistent world (like an MMO), with your avatar being one of many player-characters in that world (like an MMO), and these characters can tackle missions together (like an MMO…). To be honest, I’m intrigued by a sci-fi shooter where I can team up with friends whenever I want to take on missions, as long as I can also enjoy any content I want as a single player, and Bungie suggests that Destiny will be perfectly playable in isolation… though you will need to be connected at all times while playing, meaning other player-characters will at least be visible to you in the world.

What really draws me toward Destiny is the opportunity to explore a new Bungie-created universe. I am an enormous Halo fan (you could quite accurately call me a total Halo fanboy), and part of that is down to the expansive universe that the series is set in and the depth of lore and history that can be found in the extended universe content. With a wide-open persistent world that’s begging to be explored, Bungie have an opportunity to bake a lot of that background into the world itself with Destiny, allowing players to stumble upon the secrets of the universe through their own rangings, and the concept art we’ve seen so far has me salivating. To accompany yesterday’s various press pieces, a ViDoc was posted to YouTube showing off various pieces of that concept art (and a few glimpses of in-game footage too), and I just can’t wait to explore these spaces, with or without friends. (And also, +1 internets to whichever Bungie guy named the ViDoc as an homage to their 1993 release Pathways into Darkness).

I like the premise behind the story, too; that a golden age of humankind was shattered by some unknown enemy, only for an equally mysterious saviour to come to our rescue. I want to know more about the enormous sphere that floats above humanity’s last city and learn who this cryptic benefactor is and what their motives were. I want to discover why these antagonistic aliens decimated our solar system and left our worlds in ruin. I want to journey to Mars and run through ancient human structures ravaged by battle. And I want to bound across the surface of the moon and look down on the besieged Earth below.
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Here’s hoping that Destiny offers all that and more, and that I can also drag a couple of friends along for the ride. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye or three on this in the coming months as Destiny nears release on Xbox 360 and PS3. A PC release is apparently under consideration.

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Game Informer magazine have shown off their March cover, and with it revealed a big new title in the works. That game is the third in Polish studio CD Projekt RED’s monster slaying, politically-minded fantasy RPG series The Witcher.

The third game in the series sounds as if it will be just as impressive as the previous two titles, but in different ways; The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt will be an open world game in the vein of the Elder Scrolls series, and its world is said to be 30 times larger (!) than that of the previous game, 2011’s Assassins of Kings, and also larger than the realm of Skyrim from TESV.

There is also a short video introducing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt from developers at CDPR, which I have embedded below. In it, we can see some of the motion capture sessions for Geralt’s swordwork, and we hear that the story this time around will be more personal, less political, and that Geralt will have a “personal nemesis” who will be a threat to the Witcher and those he holds dear.

Now, I’m still only about halfway through the first game, but I’m not entirely sure how I feel about The Witcher as an open world game; it’s one of the main things I love about Skyrim (160 hours and still going strong!), but The Witcher is a rather more focused experience, and while the environments are quite large, I wonder how transposing the gameplay of a Witcher title to a full, expansive, streaming open world will affect the narrative flow. I’m hopeful that CDPR won’t really have to sacrifice too much (going by how much back-tracking I’ve had to do so far in the first game anyway), but I usually find myself returning to the main quest sooner rather than later, whereas in Skyrim I abandoned the main quest halfway through and eventually returned to it after about a hundred hours. What facilitates this is the ability to explore for hours and always come upon something new, something that catches your attention and leads to you crawling through a dark cave for half an hour to see what lurks inside.

I’m really interested to see how The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt handles similar instances, even with my handful of doubts – put me down as cautiously optimistic. I think it’s great to see that CD Projekt RED are willing to take risks in order to build up the scope of their already-impressive games, and I have faith that they will be able to do so while retaining the unique flavour expected from their work. That they are currently working on both this and Cyberpunk 2077 shows how far they have come since the days when they were all about localising games like Baldur’s Gate for the Polish market.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is due to launch in 2014 on PC and “all high-end platforms available”, so I think it’s safe to say that the expansive RPG will be a next-gen console title at this point. While we know very little of the new machines from Microsoft and Sony (and even less of what games we can look forward to), it’s comforting to know that we have a massive, involving RPG to get stuck into, hopefully fairly early in the new console cycle. Follow the link to see the full cover image at Game Informer.

Image and video courtesy of Game Informer:
http://www.gameinformer.com/b/news/archive/2013/02/04/march-cover-reveal-witcher-3-wild-hunt.aspx


Bungie have posted a piece of concept art from their in-development multi-platform ‘new universe’, currently known as Destiny, on their website Bungie.net.

The post came as a response to a story posted on IGN last night that gave early plot details and more concept art, said to have been passed to them by a reader, which Bungie then confirmed to be material from an advertising agency document.

The game is described as “fun and accessible to all,” and that the development aim is “to create a universe as deep, tangible and relatable as that of the Star Wars franchise.” Coupled with a quote from Bungie co-founder Jason Jones that reads, “Destiny is designed for your inner seven year old. We want to make it feel like a mythic adventure.”, it now seems as if Bungie are crafting something for all ages in Destiny.

The document also calls the game “social at its core,” and says it will offer “a world to explore with friends, both old and new.” These comments seem to back-up assumptions many have made that the new series will be an MMOG in some way (assumptions not helped by anonymous claims that Destiny would be World of Warcraft in space – comments later refuted by Bungie’s David Aldridge).

IGN’s materials also detail the basic premise of the plot: “Our story begins seven hundred years from now in the Last City on Earth, in a Solar System littered with the ruins of man’s Golden Age. A massive, mysterious alien ship hangs overhead like a second Moon. No one knows where it came from or what it’s here for, but only that it’s our protector. Meanwhile, strange, alien monsters creep in from the edge of the universe, determined to take Earth and the Last City. We are young ‘knights’ tasked with defending the remains of humanity, discovering the source of these monsters and – eventually – overcoming it.”

The Traveler – image courtesy of IGN.

Elsewhere, the document names the satellite-like ship ‘The Traveler’, and I must say the image above reminds me somewhat of the Didact’s cryptum in Halo 4. Another of IGN’s procured images shows a PS3 logo, which seems odd, given the details that emerged from the West/Zampella vs Activision case. The released documents revealed that the first title would be exclusive to the Xbox 360 and its next-gen successor, while a later port to the PS3 was at the time only under consideration – perhaps this serves as confirmation that the first game will indeed come to Sony’s current machine.

I am very interested to see what comes of this, and perhaps we’ll be hearing more about it come E3 next summer -perhaps it’ll even be part of a next-gen reveal? I’m still not sure how I’ll feel if Destiny does indeed turn out to be an MMO, but I’m hopeful that Bungie will create a new universe that can keep me enthralled for a decade – just like they did with Halo back in 2001.

Head over to IGN to see the images handed to them:
http://uk.ign.com/articles/2012/11/28/destiny-story-details-concept-art-leaked