Borderlands 3 Didn’t Originally Start On Pandora

Gearbox’s big gameplay reveal event for Borderlands 3 is now over, and it revealed a ton of new details about the upcoming loot shooter. One of the things we already knew about the game is that its story begins on Pandora, the planet that has served as the setting for all of the previous Borderlands titles, but it turns out that wasn’t always the case.

Gearbox managing producer of narrative Randy Varnell revealed to GameSpot that Borderlands 3 was initially set on a different planet. “In fact, the very, very early versions of the story did not start on Pandora. Initially, we started right in [Promethea] because, like, we’re going to other planets!” Varnell said. “We want to shock people. But in our early testing, what we found out was that it really was too much of a ‘I don’t know where I am,’ ‘I don’t know how to feel about this,’ ‘It doesn’t feel like Borderlands,’ ‘Stranger danger!’ You know, all that.

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“And so we went back and looked at it and said, you know what, the Calypso Twins have unified the bandit clans and created a Pandora state. Starting there and just starting on Pandora and with Claptrap, there’s something about that comfortable familiarity there that I think is really important in creating a franchise moment for [the game]. So we let you earn your shift off of Pandora and get to the other places. And so far it seems that experience has been very, very positive for our first play testers and focus groups. We definitely wanted to get, we wanted to get to the new brand new stuff sooner, but we found out that starting with a little familiarity and having you be the one that gets to play your way to the ship and have that take off moment [is] very special.”

As for how many different planets players will be able to go to in Borderlands 3, Gearbox isn’t ready to say just yet. “Uh, several, several,” Varnell teased. “We aren’t talking specific numbers today. We certainly talked about Pandora and Promethea today, and you’ve seen some very teasy screenshots and some other places that are on other planets [in trailers]. I won’t name them or enumerate them for you yet. But there are multiple planets that you can visit, multiple other locations that you can travel to and see. So you are in control of some galaxy hopping.”

Wednesday’s livestream event also gave us a look at the first live gameplay of Borderlands 3. Among other things, the developer showed off a few new traversal tools at players’ disposal, such as the ability to sprint-slide or climb up ledges. Gearbox also confirmed that, unlike previous installments, Borderlands 3 is being developed on Unreal Engine 4.

Borderlands 3 is launching for PS4, Xbox One, and PC on September 13. The PC version will initially be exclusive to the Epic Games Store until April 2020, after which point it’ll expand to other digital storefronts. However, the exclusivity period was met with backlash from fans, and users on Steam responded by review bombing previous Borderlands games. You can read more about the title in our Borderlands 3 pre-order guide.

We’ve played Borderlands 3 and you can read about what we think of the third mainline entry in the series here.


Borderlands 3: You Can Totally Play Solo, And It’s Pretty Great

Gearbox’s May 1 gameplay reveal of Borderlands 3 has come, providing us with our first good look at what to expect from the new entry in the loot shooter series. Below you’ll find our impressions of the game’s many changes, its new characters, and how you can effectively play on your own or with others. For more, check out our breakdown of the new gameplay features and an explanation of who its new villains, the Calypso twins, are.

Every one of the mainline Borderlands games can be played solo or with a team, but Borderlands 3 is the first to actually make the former playstyle worthwhile. The newest entry to the Borderlands franchise gives you more agency over how your Vault Hunter evolves than ever before, allowing you to better construct a character for a solo run through the campaign.

Like in Borderlands, Borderlands 2, and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, each playable Vault Hunter in Borderlands 3 has three skill trees, each of which contains distinct abilities and perks. That’s really where the similarities end, though. In the first three games, every Vault Hunter unlocked a unique ability first, and then all three skill trees built upon this ability. In Borderlands 2, for example, Maya the Siren unlocks Phase Lock which allows her to trap an enemy in place for several seconds. This skill can be used for defensive crowd control by unlocking her Motion skill tree, supportive healing by going for her Harmony tree, or offensive elemental damage with her Cataclysm tree.

Despite these three differences, though, it doesn’t fundamentally change how Maya plays. Because she always has to unlock Phase Lock first, and since all her skills build on this one ability, Maya is mostly a support character. Her Phase Lock can be used as a powerful damage dealer, but it doesn’t change that Maya’s purpose on the battlefield is to always disrupt the movements of the most powerful enemy so that she and her teammates can focus on the small fry or more easily pool their resources into taking down one central threat. Mordecai, Zer0, Lilith, and all the other Vault Hunters from every Borderlands game we’ve gotten so far fall into this same trap. With all of their trees focused on one particular ability, they all end up in one class and always carry the strengths and weaknesses that such a class entails. This is great for when you’re playing as part of a team where everyone needs a role and squadmates can account for any weaknesses you might have, but it also makes certain Vault Hunters much harder to play with if you’re going it alone.

Borderlands 3 abandons this format, and it’s for the better. Instead of having one unique ability that all three skill trees build upon, Borderlands 3’s Vault Hunters have three distinct abilities–one for each of their three trees–and then one unique trait that separates them from the other characters. So the three skill trees of each Vault Hunter in Borderlands 3 are built around different abilities, allowing each one to have three distinct playstyles.

“I’m really proud [of] the four [Vault Hunters’] trees–the way you configure them and what you do–are very, very different than what we were able to do in Borderlands 2, which was even a big leap on what we did in Borderlands 1,” Gearbox managing producer of narrative Randy Varnell said. “[Before] it was mostly one action skill with just some numerical changes.”

Amara, the playable Siren in Borderlands 3, for example, can unlock Phasegrasp as her action skill in the Fist of the Elemental skill tree, which allows her to lock enemies in place like Borderlands 2’s Maya. The tree is also filled with many of the supportive powers that Maya has. However, Amara can unlock Phaseslam in her Brawler skill tree if you prefer, which sends her careening down on enemies with deadly force and leads her down a path of close-quarters combat. Finally, Amara can unlock Phasecast in her Mystical Assassin skill tree, which transforms her into a long-range fighter that can fire immense elemental blasts from a distance.

Because each of Borderlands 3’s Vault Hunter’s skill trees are so distinct, it’s actually beneficial to unlock passive abilities in each one. Borderlands 3 allows you to create custom loadouts and switch between which active skill you have equipped on the fly. So if you’re playing with Amara and you have Phasegrasp equipped, but you’re about to enter an enclosed enemy base, you can switch over to Phaseslam if you have both skills unlocked. Having multiple active skills unlocked also motivates you to earn the abilities in their respective trees, which encourages you to create your very own Vault Hunter. For example, you might want the destructive powers of Amara’s Phasecast, but you don’t want to be a glass cannon so you can unlock some of the supportive and close-combat passives in her other two trees. And since you can create your Vault Hunter to fill whatever role you want, choosing a character does not lock you into one specific playstyle, which in turn makes it much easier to play by yourself if you want to.

“[Skill trees are] a little bit more tweaky than Borderlands 2 wise–you can do more with it,” Varnell said. “I would say that Amara is a great example of the fairly straight forward, I mean she’s a Siren. She likes to get close to the fight… So she’s a really great one to start with.”

Which isn’t to say that your choice of Vault Hunter is arbitrary. Far from it. Each characters’ unique trait means you get very different experiences with each one. “If you look at Amara, Amara has an extra skill for her elements,” Borderlands 3 game director Paul Sage said. “And so [with her] you can decide what elements are going to be modified. So each character kind of has that, that very special, unique thing. So Amara has her action skills she can equip, she has augments she can put in them, and then she has an elemental change she [can apply]. But, [the others] like Zane are very different.

“For Zane, you can [equip] a second action skill but you actually give up your grenade to do that,” Varnell said. “So you have to think about how your action skills can work together and how you augment them and how you spec them out and really to get the most of that if you’re going to give up grenade play. What we found in our playtesting is that Zane really, really, really appeals to the min-max type of people who want to get that advanced game play…. [He’s] really a numbers play at the end while Amara, she’s just about energy and fun.”

When I was playing with Zane, for example, I equipped both his Digi-Clone (a holographic decoy that shoots enemies and that Zane can switch places with) and SNTNL (an automated drone that tracks down and kills enemies) to make a character that survived by constantly teleporting around the battlefield and bamboozling his targets by hitting them from multiple directions at once.

“I think we’re gonna see a lot of cool builds and build comparisons and play styles,” Varnell continued. “I think [Borderlands 3] is the coolest Borderlands we’ve done so far in regards to what you can do with the build and what you can do to find a different type of play style. And once you start interweaving that with co-op play, it gets crazy.”

Once you do decide to pick up co-op play, Borderlands 3 doesn’t punish you and your friends for being vastly different levels like previous Borderlands games do. Both enemies and loot scale when you are playing in a party, so you no longer have to wait for your friends to catch up to your level or grind to keep up with them. You’ll each find loot appropriate to your respective levels and both damage received and dealt will scale. High-level players don’t dominate and low-level players don’t get squashed.

All in all, from what we’ve seen, Borderlands 3 feels like the first in its franchise to truly give solo players a chance at enjoying the game how they want to and at whatever pace they desire. You’re not punished for playing by yourself and possibly out-leveling your friends, and you have greater control over how your chosen Vault Hunter’s abilities evolve. We still have to wait and see the skill trees for Moze the Gunner and FL4K the Beastmaster before signing off on all of Borderlands 3’s Vault Hunters, but the first two have already confirmed that Gearbox’s upcoming game changes the series’ skill tree feature for the better.

Borderlands 3 is scheduled to release for Xbox One, PS4, and PC on September 13.


Final Fantasy XII Is Great On Switch

The Final Fantasy XII remake came to Switch this week, and the good news is that it runs pretty well in handheld mode. The even better news is that it’s got some killer features that should probably have been in the game from the start, which sure sucks for anyone who bought it two years ago.

Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, a revised version of the fantastic 12th mainline entry in Square’s seminal role-playing game series, launched for PlayStation 4 in 2017, PC in 2018, and now, as of Tuesday, it’s out on Switch and Xbox One. The Switch version marks the game’s first appearance on a handheld console, and it’s a good one. It runs at a stable 30 frames-per-second in portable mode, and looks solid if a little blurry. (It’s also a beast at draining battery, like some sort of weird medieval energy vampire.)

The Switch and Xbox One versions of Final Fantasy XII also come with two key new features: License board resets, allowing you to swap your characters’ classes (in previous iterations of the game they were permanent), and Gambit sets, allowing you to set up three different scripts for each character, rotating between them whenever you want.

That last one is especially pivotal. Gambits, rudimentary if-then statements you can equip to your party (like “if one character is at below 50% health, use a Cure spell”), are the pulsing heart of Final Fantasy XII’s combat. Experimenting with different Gambit combos is the best way to take down some of the game’s more interesting and powerful bosses, but there had always been a layer of tedium to the process. If you were fighting a weird boss that kept turning invisible and you wanted to swap in new Gambits to beat him, you’d have to remember to go back to your basic setup afterwards. Now, you can just swap between sets you’ve created.

What all this means is that the Switch and Xbox One now have the superior versions of Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age. Again, though, that does suck for anyone who bought it on PS4 or PC in the past year or two. I asked a Square Enix representative yesterday if these new features are coming to PS4 and PC, but they didn’t respond. Given Square’s long and storied history of fucking up Final Fantasy ports, I’m not optimistic.

But hey, at least you can now play Final Fantasy XII on the subway, and it’s pretty damn good.


Borderlands 3 goes beyond Pandora with new planets, new bad guys, and a big spaceship

It may have only been a month since Gearbox Software president Randy Pitchford announced Borderlands 3 at PAX East, but the game itself has been a long time coming.

It’s been five years since the spinoff Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, and even longer since the series saw a proper numbered sequel. There’s been a lot of content — remastered versions and collections of older games, a Telltale Games adventure, enough DLC to shake a rocket launcher at — but fans have longed clamored for Borderlands 3.

In tech years, a lifetime has passed since Borderlands 2. It was released an entire console generation ago in 2012. What was then considered high-end and cutting-edge has become outdated — practically antiquated. Ultra HD graphics, instant access to streaming content, and “games as a service” have been some of the industry’s defining forces of the last few years, so how will Borderlands 3 fit in?

Returning Borderlands players already know what they want: a 30-to-40-hour shooting spree with lots of interstellar locations prime for looting. (“Loot” can be a dirty word in gaming, at least when it comes before “boxes,” but during a gameplay reveal presentation, Pitchford promised that Borderlands 3 would not have microtransactions. Sage later clarified that skins and DLC “may be available as auxiliary content,” but small in-game purchases aren’t the crux of its revenue structure. “I think people just want value for the money they spend,” Sage said, “and I love the fact that we’re dedicated to that.”)

Gearbox Software/2K Games

It’s true that if you’re already a Borderlands fan, you know what you’re getting into. Gearbox’s lengthy hands-on demo showcased a new city and new playable characters, but there were also old friends and familiar mechanics. There’s a new threat present throughout: an evil set of twins has unified bandits around the galaxy into a cult-like apparatus called Children of the Vault. Broadcasting propaganda messages such as “Like, follow, and obey,” the Children of the Vault are, as Pitchford described them, “the douchiest livestreamers of the future you can possibly imagine.” As for general gameplay, there are noticeable improvements, but there’s also just a lot of good, old-fashioned shooting every enemy in sight with an increasing arsenal of weapons and picking up every bit of treasure you can find along the way. In other words, it’s Borderlands.

One criticism about Borderlands 3’s initial trailer was that it looked, well, too Borderlands. Polygon’s Ben Kuchera wrote that it looked like another expansion, not a true sequel. What that first footage didn’t show was perhaps the threequel’s biggest addition: the ability to travel beyond Pandora to other planets and systems, as foreshadowed at the end of Borderlands 2. Your new home base is a giant spaceship called Sanctuary 3, following in the tradition of Borderlands 2’s Sanctuary. “We don’t talk about Sanctuary 2,” managing producer of narrative Randy Varnell joked in an interview. Regardless of what happened there, Sanctuary 3 is a place where you can gear up, see old friends, and go to whole new worlds.

Borderlands 3’s hands-on demo took place in one of these worlds, Promethea, dropping into the corporate-run metropolis of Meridian. Only two of the four new characters were playable on Tuesday: Amara, the badass Siren who’s confident but grounded; and Zane, the gadget-obsessed Operative that Varnell described as “the guy at the bar you really want to have a drink with.” Varnell was tight-lipped on the other two characters (FL4K and Moze), though he did tell Polygon, “I love all four. I wanna talk about all four, we’re gonna get to that later.”

I played the demo twice, once with each character, to get a feel for their differences and abilities. Amara is aggressive, with elemental abilities and action skills like a giant ethereal arm that requires close-quarters combat.

“Amara is… kind of the Luke Cage of the franchise,” Varnell said. “She loves to fight. She loves to test herself against other people… but she loves to take care of people, she has that side of her.”

Gearbox Software/2K Games

Zane is the kind of guy who’s seen it all before, a James Bond type who can equip two action skills (at the cost of not being able to use grenades). With abilities like creating a ghostly double to draw enemy fire and a drone that drops some grenades of its own, it’s a fair trade-off. Because of the characters’ different demeanors, I did notice some variations in how they interacted with NPCs during the same scenes. Sage told Polygon that the playable characters have a lot more dialogue this time around, so you’ll get to experience more of their personalities and what makes them different.

Speaking of differences, Borderlands 3 has more than just a big spaceship going for it. Updated graphics are a given, especially when being played on beefy AMD PC hardware. The series’ overall aesthetic is still dripping with style; the comic book-inspired, cel-shaded blend of sandy deserts, gritty cities, and neon lights, remains the same, as it should — it’s not easy finding a AAA shooter not aiming for photorealism. But everything in Borderlands 3 is more crisp and vibrant. There’s a greater sense of depth. Aiming and moving through the world are smoother. And with thousands of bullets flying around, the environment reacts to it all; you’ll see damage and markings on your surroundings.

Things have changed in-game as well. It’s been years since the events of Borderlands 2, and many former playable characters have moved on. That’s not to say you won’t see any familiar faces in Borderlands 3; Claptrap greets you almost immediately upon starting with his usual brand of sass, and Borderlands 2’s Zer0 played a prominent role in the demo. Returning characters may no longer be the heroes, but as NPCs they have their own roles to play in the grand scheme of taking down the Calypso Twins for good.

Gearbox Software/2K Games

I didn’t get to jump from planet to planet in my demo; instead, I stayed on Meridian, moving from the outskirts to the heart of the city and the tunnels beneath. I teamed up with a woman named Lorelei, who was in turn helping her own boss: Rhys, CEO of Atlas. Unfortunately, Atlas was in the midst of an aggressively hostile takeover by competing business Maliwan, so I had to deal with bandits and Maliwan workers throughout the city. I found myself fanatically switching through weapons, playing around with their different ammo types and abilities to find the right one for each situation. Some weapons even have dual uses, so you can switch forms without taking out another gun.

Eventually, Zer0 led me to the area’s boss fight, Gigamind — literally an encased giant brain, or “Maliwan AI.” Taking down that oversized encephalon was satisfying, I must admit. Pitchford also had a couple of bosses on display during his presentation, promising that the fights would be bigger and more frequent. They’re also fairly humorous, like in the case of Shiv, the giant-armed foe whose title card says he “brought a knife to a gun fight.”

There’s clearly a lot of fan service in Borderlands 3, but Varnell said a lot of narrative effort was devoted to making it accessible for new players, from intense playtesting to in-game reinforcement of familiar characters, systems, and themes. My demo started with the characters at level 10, but the intro, shown during the presentation, eases players in. Every major character and enemy has a stylish title card with pertinent information, so it’s entirely possible to jump in without knowing all of the series’ lore. And there’s a lot of lore.

“One of my writers is literally a lorekeeper,” Varnell said. “He has a massive repository of everything… he has a big massive database” of characters, locations, plot points, and anything else the writing team might need to reference for coherence and continuity.

Like previous games in the series, Borderlands 3 supports single-player, local co-op, and online co-op. It’s due to launch Sept. 13 on PlayStation 4, Windows PC (exclusively via the Epic Games Store, initially) and Xbox One. It’s not the deepest, most challenging game you’ll ever play, but there’s something so satisfying about gunning your way through the universe in search of justice and epic loot. Does it push the series forward enough to justify a new $60 game, as opposed to another expansion or spinoff? On paper it appears so, but we’ll find out for sure when it comes out later this year.


As esports advances, teams look past the trophies and competition

The growth and prestige of esports has often been measured by competition: record viewership records, sold out arenas cheering a team as they heft a trophy, or a team making a run through the gauntlet to finally claim the regional crown. While esports is focused on competition, and many of the field’s top organizations keep aiming for the top, team G2 Esports is taking another approach, aiming to entertain fans and build a media brand.

“I always had entertainment as the reason as why I was relevant at my job,” says Carlos “ocelote” Rodríguez Santiago, who played League of Legends and World of Warcraft professionally for close to a decade before founding G2 Esports, where he’s now owner and CEO. “You don’t always have competitive success. You have off-months, and sometimes off-years. What keeps a fanbase happy and willing to follow you and willing to die for you is the goosebumps you generate with your content.”

So, how do you keep people engaged if you’re losing? That’s the bind with esports — there can only be a limited pool of winners. The Overwatch League has 20 teams, but only one champion at the end. Making matters more complicated, players only have a limited time in which they can compete at the highest levels.

Players in esports often have short career spans; there are few players in their 30s, and repetitive stress injuries and burnout become a risk for high level players. While some players grow older and look toward security and family, there are always younger players who will be eager to take their spot.

It leads to a churn, where older players fade out and younger players take their place. That works for the overall ecosystem, but it leaves players in a rough position unless they’re able to transfer to another job within esports like casting, hosting, or coaching.

G2 Esports on stage at League of Legends Worlds in 2018 Riot Games Flickr

It’s also potentially damaging to the team, who can lose the player’s fanbase along with the player themselves. When a team is focused solely on winning, and a star player steps away, that can cause a period of upheaval and uncertainty among fans.

By focusing on entertainment, G2 Esports, which competes in League of Legends, Hearthstone, Counter-Strike, and other games, aims to extend the lifespan of any individual player. Instead of worrying about a player’s ability to compete at the highest tiers, they are able to transition into tracks like streaming. As G2 Esports experiments with formats like talent scouting reality shows and personality-focused battle royale teams, these opportunities expand.

Rodríguez Santiago notes that the team will still focus on these initiatives, even now, when G2 Esports is on the rise. The organization claimed the LEC Spring Split championship, and earned a top four finish at the League of Legends Worlds Championship in 2018. Despite that, there have been long stretches where G2 Esports would dominate regionally and then crumble on the international stage. It bred resentment and mockery. This is where the promise of entertainment comes in — G2 Esports pivoted into a brand that you loved to hate, and that gave it legs to eventually redeem itself. It’s a commitment that requires players to balance their training schedule with the demands of branding, a burden Rodríguez Santiago is aware of.

“Every time we pick a player, they automatically understand what they’re getting into,” he said. “We brief them really deeply into what we expect of them.”

Carlos “ocelote” Rodríguez Santiago on stage at the LEC spring finals in 2019.
Carlos “ocelote” Rodríguez Santiago
Riot Games Flickr

As esports continues to grow, brands seek to build strong parasocial relationships with fans. With a fanbase of millions, it’s impossible for an organization to acknowledge or be aware of every fan — but they want each fan to feel like they are a part of the team and the family. That requires broader strategies.

Through this lens, Rodríguez Santiago is far less interested in comparison to traditional sports. Instead, he looks to comedians, musicians, and media.

“Every time I hear a company getting interested in or investment from sports, I think they’re misunderstanding their company as a sports brand or a sports team instead of what it actually is, which is a media company,” Rodríguez Santiago says. “My company’s closer to Disney or Netflix than it is to the LA Lakers.”

The organization is currently working on ways to get fans closer to the organization via exclusive content and “behind the scenes” peeks. It’s a dynamic and strategy closer to reality television than traditional esports, which is an approach laden with risks. Organizations have drawn criticism in the past for shining too much light on players, who can be in a vulnerable position, with behind the scenes features and attempts at transparency via on-camera conversations.

Fortnite - dropping in Epic Games

It’s a balancing act that goes beyond just player and fan. Esports is not confined to any one game or even genre. World of Warcraft, the former king of online gaming, only has a modest esports scene with the Mythic Dungeon Invitational, arena battles, and world-first raiding. Multiplayer online battle arenas, like League of Legends and Dota 2, filled the void and helped lay much of the groundwork for today’s esports scene. Shooters have consistently been popular and sustainable, from the titan Counter-Strike: Global Offensive to smaller up and comers like Rainbow Six Siege. Now, battle royale games are taking a swing at providing an alternative experience.

In short, a team must be able to exist outside any one individual game. This is further complicated by ventures like the Overwatch League, which asked organizations to come up with unique brands that differ from their parent organizations. How do you keep fans engaged and intrigued on shifting ground?

For G2 Esports, the next big opportunity is the battle royale genre. G2 Esports has a presence in Apex Legends, Fortnite, and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. These games are dramatically different from more traditional titles — more players, more fights around the map, and more perspectives to handle. Part of G2’s talent seeking process was done via a The Voice-style reality TV show, and the organization went with compelling personalities and showmen over skilled shooters and builders.

“Publishers are trying to find out what the best system around this competition is. I don’t think anybody has gotten it right yet,” says Rodríguez Santiago, who says that G2 Esports entered these game as the potential “ultimate entertainment experience.” The larger pool of players, for instance, has potential for more storytelling and personality. “It’s about understanding what is the best way to entertain people with these games. And no one has gotten it right. They’re taking the mega serious, mega try-hard route.”

“The way players should see themselves, and hopefully how a lot in G2 see themselves, is as gladiators,” says Rodríguez Santiago. “If you lose, the last thing you want is the Caesar who personifies the feedback from the crowd and the arena. You don’t want him to put the thumbs down.”


New Free PS4 Games Announced For May PS Plus (US, UK)

A new month means new PS4 freebies for PlayStation Plus, and while Sony’s premium subscription service has had some rough patches recently–the free monthly giveaways stopped including PS3 and Vita titles in March, and April’s two PS4 offerings weren’t particularly exciting–May is bringing some great games to the table. May’s free PS Plus games are Overcooked and What Remains of Edith Finch, and if you don’t already own these titles, you’ll definitely want to grab them when they become available May 7.

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Overcooked is a co-op party game where you and up to three friends work together in a kitchen to prepare meals–sounds simple and wholesome, right? Now throw in kitchen fires, shifting floors, mischievous mice that steal your food, and an accelerating warning beep that signals you have only seconds to grab your food before it burns. Overcooked is a stressful ride that may or may not ruin your friendships, but it’s also thrilling and makes you feel truly accomplished when you clear a level with high stars. The game earned an 8/10 in GameSpot’s Overcooked review:

“Overcooked contains all the necessary ingredients for a truly excellent co-op game,” wrote critic Scott Butterworth. “Stress is always balanced out by feelings of accomplishment and progression, and its gameplay requires a mix of smart planning, consistent communication, and some level of dexterity to execute plans effectively.”

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Fans of story-driven games will be pleased to see What Remains of Edith Finch in May’s PS Plus lineup. The visually stunning game is rooted in exploration and story, and it’s suspenseful without stretching into horror, like indie classic Gone Home. The story follows Edith as she returns to her family home where three generations of relatives have perished in various tragic accidents. The game made our top 10 list back in 2017 and earned a 9/10 in GameSpot’s What Remains of Edith Finch review.

“Developer Giant Sparrow managed to strike the delicate balance between joy and sorrow in 2012’s The Unfinished Swan, but What Remains of Edith Finch transcends even the latent sadness of that game, finding the beauty–even sometimes the fun–in what’s always fundamentally a tragedy. It’s not often that a game’s plot slips past the bitterness of grief to finally get to the acceptance, but that’s the triumph in What Remains of Edith Finch,” wrote critic Justin Clark.

Because May starts on a Wednesday this year (and PS Plus games always become available on the first Tuesday of the month), April’s free games are still available for one more week, so be sure to grab The Surge and Conan Exiles before May 7 if you’re interested in owning those games.

April 2019 free PS Plus games (available May 7)

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Days Gone Has Gotten A New Patch Nearly Every Day Since Launch

Days Gone, the Playstation-exclusive zombie (okay, “freaker”) survival game, has received nearly daily tweaks since launch, including a new patch today that corrects an issue introduced in yesterday’s patch.

The game launched with bugs that included things like audio that dropped in and out, texture pop-in, and frequent frame rate drops. It’s received seven patches in its brief life, three coming pre-release, with four more in the five days following launch.

Today’s 1.07 patch replaces Tuesday’s 1.06 release, which was meant to fix an audio bug that caused the in-game motorcycle audio to cut out and drop at random, and address a problem with the autosave function that wouldn’t sync the right number of saves to users’ cloud save accounts.

Trouble was, some users reported that patch 1.06 was causing their consoles to crash, and 1.07 addresses this by removing the autosave fix, with a note from the developers apologizing for any inconvenience the patch may have caused and urging players to report bugs on the Days Gone subreddit, where Sony Bend monitors a bug report thread.

As frequent as the patches have been, Sony hasn’t yet approached the extremely patchy first two weeks of last year’s God of War, a game that launched on April 20 and, in its first 11 days, received eight patches. There’s still time, and more bugs to squash.


Straight Outta Compton, Fate of the Furious director developing Saints Row movie

A movie based on the Saints Row franchise is in the works, and high-profile director F. Gary Gray is involved in the development, according to a report by Deadline. Fans of the video game might not recognize his name, but they’ll no doubt be familiar with his filmography. He directed Straight Outta Compton and The Fate of the Furious.

The original Saints Row was first released in 2006 by Illinois-based Volition (now Deep Silver Volition, part of THQ Nordic). Its Grand Theft Auto-inspired gameplay and over-the-top humor have garnered it both critical and commercial success over the years. The last title in the series, the standalone expansion to Saints Row 4, titled Saints Row: Gat out of Hell, came out in 2015.

According to Deadline, the film is a co-production of Fenix Studios, Koch Media (which is owned by THQ Nordic), and Occupant Entertainment. The note that Gray is “developing to direct” indicates that he’s working with the film’s writer on the early stages of the development process. The director and producer has a lot of projects ongoing at the moment, including Men In Black: International, starring Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson.

Gray also has another video game project in development. He’s set to produce a film based on the obscure science fiction title Echo. Derek Kolstad, the creator and writer of John Wick, is signed on to adapt the screenplay.


Borderlands 3 gameplay reveal: Watch it here

Gearbox Software is giving Borderlands fans a look at the next game in the franchise, Borderlands 3, during a livestream reveal event on Twitch. The gameplay reveal kicks off at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET.

Gearbox promises first hands-on for Borderlands 3, presumably showing off the four new Vault Hunters — Moze, FL4K, Amara, and Zane — and the new places that players will explore beyond Pandora. Players will battle the evil Calypso Twins in Gearbox’s new loot-powered first-person shooter using “bazillions of guns,” including firearms with self-propelling bullet shields, rifles that spawn volcanoes, and guns that grow legs, hunt down targets, and verbally insult them.

Borderlands 3 is coming to PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One on Sept. 13. The PC version of Borderlands 3 will be exclusive to the Epic Games Store until April 2020.


Ronda Rousey Being In Mortal Kombat 11 Is Bullshit

Ronda Rousey: Trailblazer, UFC Hall of Famer, and WWE star. Ah, I forgot a couple of her accomplishments: She shared an inflammatory conspiracy video about the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre to her millions of Twitter followers and made transmisogynistic and outright asinine comments about transgender MMA fighter Fallon Fox. And as of Mortal Kombat 11, she’s the voice of iconic character Sonya Blade. Let’s take a moment to consider how messed up that is.

In 2013, Rousey shared a conspiracy video regarding the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that claimed 26 lives, including 20 children. The video suggested the massacre was a hoax carried out by the government. When called out about it, Rousey started by doubling down.

“I just figure asking questions and doing research is more patriotic than blindly accepting what you’re told,” she said in a reply on Twitter. The following day, she made another tweet saying that she “never meant to insult or hurt anyone” and that she was “sorry if anyone was offended.”

But it doesn’t stop at her sounding like a corporate bullshit apology bot. Take her comments regarding Fallon Fox. Fox is the first openly transgender MMA fighter in the sport’s history. She had undergone sex reassignment surgery in 2006 but received pushback against the idea that she could fight against other women. UFC president Dana White stated that he didn’t believe Fox should be allowed to fight other women. Former NFL defensive tackle and MMA fighter Matt Mitrione called Fox a “lying, sick, sociopathic, disgusting freak,” and was later suspended for his comments. Through all this, Rousey declined to fight Fox, insisting that her fellow fighter would have a physical advantage in the ring.

“She can try hormones, chop her pecker off, but it’s still the same bone structure a man has,” Rousey told The New York Post. “It’s an advantage. I don’t think it’s fair.” She also commented that she was glad the UFC didn’t “straight cut” Mitrione for his comments.

Thank the stars that Ronda got the pronouns right, I guess.

Amanda Nunes, right, connects with Ronda Rousey in the first round of their women’s bantamweight championship mixed martial arts bout at UFC 207, in Las Vegas.
Photo: John Locher (Associated Press

I didn’t write anything sooner because I thought that maybe I wouldn’t have to be the one writing this. As this piece was in the middle of being edited (I’ve been writing this over the course of two days) my peer Danielle Riendeau at Waypoint published an article about Rousey’s involvement, which is heartening. Still, I wish it didn’t have to be queer folks speaking up. Where are our allies on this?

You know what I want to do? Play Mortal Kombat 11. But I would have to be wild to consider it. I’m not obligated to let bygones be bygones, and I’m just not going to. Rousey’s presence in Mortal Kombat 11 is unacceptable. Sonya could have been played by any number of capable actresses, but instead, NetherRealm stunt casted someone whose very presence makes many of my friends feel completely uncomfortable playing Mortal Kombat 11.

Tl;DR, this sucks.