Monthly Archives: May 2015
There's been a lot of fan concern in recent months over rumors that Marvel is downplaying the X-Men and Fantastic Four comics so that the company can place more emphasis on those franchises to which they own the movie rights -- like The Avengers, Inhumans, and Guardians of the Galaxy, plus the Sony-shared Spider-Man. While it's not clear how much truth these rumors hold, it is clear that Marvel is making every effort to downplay these franchises when it comes to merchandising. There's a distinct lack of X-Men and FF representation in video games, toys, clothing, and other licensed products. This is cause for concern, because ultimately the ones that suffer most are Marvel's fans.
This issue was highlighted this week when a Singapore-based collectible company called XM Studios revealed they've been “asked to put a hard stop to all X-Men characters” indefinitely. This forced the company to cancel several products in mid-development, including a statue of the cybernetic mutant soldier Cable and a massive diorama depicting the X-Men battling a Sentinel. XM also confirmed that the Fantastic Four are similarly off-limits. It's a disappointing turn of events, especially considering that XM already produced this work of art:
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A few weeks ago, in an unsettling, unfortunate situation that almost exactly mirrored events from last year, an injured Daniel Bryan stood before the crowd on WWE RAW, relinquished the Intercontinental Championship he won at WrestleMania, thanked the fans, bowed his head, and left to endure a lengthy road to rehabilitation. At least, we hope there's a road. The true nature of Daniel Bryan's neck injury has not been disclosed.
The WWE's remained frighteningly mum on the topic - either in an effort to keep us in the dark or as an indication that they themselves don't know the prognosis. Either way, it's caused us fans to fret and fidget and speculate about Bryan's in-ring career coming to, or already being at, an end.
The time-traveling Kang the Conqueror is a strange case. His first appearance was in a Fantastic Four comic, but that was as King Rama Tut. He wasn't the Kang we know today until a year later when he appeared in an Avengers comic, and then he went on to become a classic Avengers nemesis. His younger self even became Iron Lad, a member of the Young Avengers. But when you consider his debut and that he's a relative of Fantastic Four's Reed Richards named Nathaniel Richards, it makes sense that he would wind up under Fox's banner.
Put Magicka 2 next to its 2011 predecessor and you’ve got a before-and-after comparison straight out of a weight-loss advertising campaign. The new-and-improved version is leaner, meaner, and better looking, but just like in those ad photos, at the end of the day this is still the same guy with a few less pounds and a spray-on tan. As a fan of the cult franchise, I don’t consider this a disappointment. I’m happy with more of the same because this new demonstration of wizard-bursting carnage features the same skill-based magic system and catchy co-operative modes of play that made the original play like Dungeons and Dragons on crank in a slaughterhouse. Still, there isn’t much new here aside from expected refinements, like smoother controls and better visuals, and plenty of added frustration from bugs and the extreme difficulty for single players.
Anyone who played the first Magicka will see a lot that’s familiar here. This is pretty much the same magical combat experience, with colorful cowled wizards slinging spells at a veritable Monster Manual lineup of goblins, orcs, ents, gun-toting demons, and more. As before, the essence of the game can be summed up with its control mechanics. While this looks like the usual rip-off of an action RPG, there are no experience points, no inventory, no need to smash open chests to get at the enchanted goodies inside, or anything else that might be the provenance of Diablo and its successors. All that’s between you and the bad guys are eight magical elements (accessed via the QWER and ASDF banks of keys or via the buttons on a gamepad, if you swing that way) that are called up and thrown together into combos to create dozens of spell effects you can cast on yourself, enemies, or the area at large.
As a result, combat is almost entirely skill-based, depending on how swift you are with a keyboard. You can dumb things down and hammer on single elements for spells. Hit Arcane, and you launch a death beam. Fire activates a mystical flamethrower, Water calls up a spout of H2O, and so forth. But that won’t get you very far due to the sheer number of monsters. You need to do a lot of experimenting to make the most of your spellcasting.
This means that combat quickly grows complex. You can use up to five elements at once. Some are good matches, while others are opposites (oddly enough, Water and Lightning don’t mix well). Add Cold to Shield, and you get a frozen barrier. Use Earth and Fire to launch flaming boulders at foes. But you’ve really got to play around with the spells (or do some online searching) to get a grip on the powerful spell effects generated by using more than two elements. And you’ve gotta dance on the keys like you’re a latter-day Mavis Beacon or you won’t be able to keep up with the enemy hordes.
As with the first game, Magicka 2 also features superpowered “magicks” that take incantations to the next level. The one big difference here is that these spells can be accessed via hotkeys rather than having to type in a challenging combination of three or more keys. This removes some of the skill from the game in that you don’t have to splay your fingers all over the keyboard to cast Haste or Thunderbolt. It also takes away some of the fun, especially for the overly dextrous. Before, you were only limited by the speed of your fingers. Now, each of these magicks is subject to a cooldown period.
Still, these instant-access magicks seem to make a positive change overall. Anything that eases the steep learning curve for the average player can only be a good thing, especially given the challenge of the core spell-casting system. You can still use the key combos if you want (although the cooldown period is still in effect, so there’s little point in doing things the hard way).
Speaking of a challenge, Magicka 2 is even harder than its predecessor, which is really saying something. Both the adventure campaign and the one-off Challenge scenarios against waves of monsters are brutally tough when you’re going solo. I found it unplayable after the fourth chapter, where I encountered swarms of creatures that wiped me out again and again. Casual players and those who want to go it alone desperately need an easier difficulty setting.
Aspects of the campaign are sadistically punitive. Levels have been designed as killing floors where retreat is routinely blocked off. Every battle plays out the same way. You walk over a trigger point. This kicks off a huge monster onslaught. Overwhelming enemy numbers force you to retreat. Then the game refuses to let you go any farther, even though there is no visible reason why you can’t go back down a cave tunnel or forest path that you just traversed seconds before. Seconds later, you’re dead.
I can’t understand why the developers chose to cut off escape routes like this and make battles so cramped. It is totally unnecessary and does nothing but push the game beyond any sort of reasonable difficulty level. In addition, closing down the ability to freewheel really affects the gameplay, turning battles into mindless drudgery where you constantly run away, pausing only to lay down bombs and shields in your wake or heal up.
Thank Odin for co-op. The only way to really enjoy (and survive) Magicka 2 is by joining up to three other mages either online or locally and tackling the campaign or challenges together. This doesn’t turn levels into a cakewalk, but adding even one buddy turns unwinnable scraps against giant orcs and their pals into tough but manageable battle royales that are a blast to play. It’s easy to log in and play with two or three strangers in seconds.
Every match is a chaotic free-for-all that moves swiftly, with zero to very little slowdown even in the most insane battles with mobs of monsters. The one drawback is that everything is so nuts with explosions and death beams and gibbed mages that you can easily lose track of where you are on the screen. It’s clear that the developers intended players to experience Magicka 2 in co-op, although it’s a shame that they didn’t scale the difficulty better so solo players could get the most out of the game. Incidentally, there is no versus mode here, likely because of the team-based multiplayer focus of sister game Magicka: Wizard Wars.
Magicka 2 is even harder than its predecessor, which is really saying something.
Other changes are fairly minor. Movement is now smoother, and you can cast spells and run at the same time. You can pick a location, click to run to it, and then blast away at trailing enemies as you shuffle backwards. I found this incredibly helpful when retreating from crowds of monsters (well, at least until the game decided not to let me back up any farther). The old checkpoint save system has been automated with regular save locations that prevent a fair bit of backtracking (although there are some aggravating moments, and you are always set too far back if you get killed during boss battles). You can use unlockable artifacts to tweak gameplay, offering the ability to adjust everything from your health to enemy attacks and introducing goofy frills, like adding sitcom laughter to deaths. It’s an interesting concept, although I didn’t experiment much here. Artifacts seem to hold promise in boosting replayability, though.
Visuals and sound are in the same ballpark as the original game, although the graphics are more colorful and better detailed and the sound is a little more amped up and cartoony. As with the first game, there is a pleasant atmosphere to everything, with a bright color palette, NPCs speaking gibberish, and constant self-lampooning jokes--right up until the moment the first wizard explodes into shreds of red goo. Nothing here is funny in a laugh-out-loud way, although the combination of good cheer and bloody murder is twisted enough to raise a few smiles.
Bugs are something of a concern. The game is stable enough that I didn’t experience any crashes, but I did run into a couple of glitches playing solo. Every so often, getting killed by the exit to a level’s section during the campaign would throw me into the next section as if I’d slain the bad guys. Given the spectacular difficulty of many of these fights, I wasn’t complaining. Still, there’s obviously a bug here.
Respawning is messed up in solo play. Almost without fail, getting killed once in the midst of a mob of enemies results in getting killed twice in the midst of a mob of enemies because you always respawn within inches of where you were murdered in the first place. To make matters even worse, you can sustain damage almost from the moment you appear, and magicks (including Haste, which is spectacularly useful in these situations), are greyed out for what seems like a thousand years after you pop back into existence. Because getting taken out twice sends you back to a save point, this automatic second strike is incredibly annoying.
A lot of the discussion above sounds pretty negative. That’s with good reason--I have to admit that at many times, solo Magicka 2 almost made me throw my mouse through my office window. But the terrific magic system, joyous carnage, and the ability to ditch single-player for the vastly more enjoyable co-op rescued the game and made it almost as compelling as the typical “after” model featured in a late-night infomercial. If you’re a social type, this is a must-play. But loners might want to give this one a pass, at least until the developers scale the difficulty better for single mages.
Having played notable supporting roles for several years now in projects like The Hangover trilogy and Community, Ken Jeong is turning leading man with his upcoming sitcom, Dr. Ken. Created by and co-executive produced by Jeong, the series is based on Jeong’s own real life experiences working as a physician before his second career in Hollywood took off.
During the recent network Upfront week, just after ABC ordered Dr. Ken to series, I spoke with Jeong about Dr. Ken and how he’s approaching the multi-cam comedy. We also discussed the uncertain future of Community, which is airing its Season 6 finale on Yahoo next week. Community has been a remarkably resilient series, even surviving NBC canceling it last year. But with several of the cast, Jeong included, joining other TV series, should we assume this is the actual final season for the show? Jeong weighed in on why it may not be the end for Greendale just yet…
A fix for an experience points glitch affecting a number of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt players will be deployed Monday on PC. The glitch will then be addressed on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in the following days as part of Patch 1.04.
According to a post made by a CD Projekt Red gameplay designer on the official Witcher 3 forums, players encountering the problem aren't being rewarded XP after completing certain quests that are six or more levels below their own. The developer is looking into retroactively rewarding players the XP they should have earned, according to the studio's community lead, Marcin Momot. However, he's careful to note he can't make any promises.
An anonymous source has reportedly told Rooster Teeth that Microsoft is in talks with Konami to purchase and release Silent Hills as an Xbox One exclusive.
We reached out for clarification and were told "Microsoft does not comment on rumor or speculation." We have also reached out to Konami and will update you when we know more.
According to Rooster Teeth's source, Silent Hills is 80% complete, and Microsoft is trying to purchase the property for "billions" of dollars by E3 this year – where it will officially reveal the game as an Xbox One exclusive. It could reportedly be released as soon as March 2016.
This year's E3 in Los Angeles will see the premiere of not just countless games, but also public access to the industry's biggest event.
According to a report on Polygon, between 4,000 and 5,000 fans will be granted invite-only access to the show floor. Full-access passes will be passed out by Entertainment Software Association member companies.
The report says that the number of passes given out is based on the size of a company's booth, so companies with a larger show presence, and therefore those with the largest monetary investment in the show, will have the most passes.