Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.
A few weeks ago, I was cursing former Kotaku jerk Kirk Hamilton for forcing me to play through all of Bloodborne. Now, I’m fearing the old blood just like the rest of you.
First, a bit of background: I bought From Software’s PlayStation 4-exclusive action game when it first came out back in March 2015. It was my first Souls-type game, and I don’t know if I was mentally prepared for it. After slashing my way through Central Yharnam, slaying the Cleric Beast, and finally defeating Father Gascoigne, I arrived at the outskirts of Old Yharnam and just kinda gave up. I didn’t feel like memorizing more level layouts or slamming my head against more bosses. There were too many other games to play.
Now… well, now there are still too many other games to play, but after losing a Splitscreen predictions bet to Kirk earlier this month, I am contractually obligated to play through all of Bloodborne. (Thanks to a little-known constitutional clause, everything said on Kotaku Splitscreen is legally binding.)
So I started a new game of Bloodborne and braced myself for misery. I had enjoyed the dozen hours of Dark Souls I played last year, but I never felt a burning desire to finish it. I just figured these types of games weren’t for me. I appreciated them—the intricate level design, the embrace of difficulty as an expressive tool—but I never really loved them. I generally prefer games with more narrative structure, and so I didn’t expect to find much to love in Bloodborne today.
During my first session, I started re-learning the streets of Central Yharnam and re-making the same mistakes I had made four years ago. (Somehow, like a dummy, I missed the first lamp until I unlocked the shortcut leading back to it.) I defeated mobs of angry citizens, knocked on the doors of creepy laughing women, and beat the Cleric Beast pretty quickly, on my second or third try.
My second session, last week, was far more frustrating. The game’s second boss, Father Gascoigne, is seen by experienced Bloodborne players as something of a test to make sure you know how to play. “If you can beat him,” the game is saying, “you can beat anyone.”
I could not beat him.
Dear reader, I spent hours and hours battling Gascoigne, hiding behind graves to dodge his shots and learning how to parry just at the right time. I used the special music box I got from his wayward daughter to stun him temporarily and get some free shots off, but it wasn’t enough. Really, he wasn’t the problem. The problem was that every time he got to 1/4 health, he’d transform into a giant beast, pin me against some gravestones, and crush me almost instantly.
Finally, I decided to try something new. Instead of fighting him in the graveyard, I ran up the stairs above his house and led him to a more open area, where I could circle around his beastly form and dodge without running into any graves.
Using that tactic, I defeated him on the first try.
Then came my third session, yesterday. I ran through the Cathedral Ward and entered Old Yharnam, where I was greeted by a hunter with a machine gun. This was… alarming.
Suddenly, something in my brain clicked. As I descended the depths of Old Yharnam’s abandoned buildings, fighting poisonous nightmare monsters and dodging machine gun fire along the way, I started to see what all the fuss was about. When I unlocked a few shortcuts and made my way back to the Cathedral Ward, hunting and exploring and seeing how the game’s brilliant maze-like levels connected to one another, I really started to see what all the fuss was about. Bloodborne is a game full of satisfactions both big and small. Finding a secret area, unlocking a new passage back to the latest lantern, mastering an enemy’s attack patterns… it all adds up, and when you get it, you really get it.
Then I met Vicar Amelia.
I started fighting Vicar Amelia yesterday afternoon at around 4pm. She didn’t seem so tough. Big, slow brute—just gotta roll around her and take out her legs. After trying a few times, I had gotten her down to half health, but something wasn’t working. I’d get sloppy and dodge the wrong way, or I’d get pinned by a couple of attacks and die almost immediately. By 5:30pm, my eyes were hurting. By 6:30pm, my throat was dry and my fingers had started to cramp. I never thought I could hate a dog, but here we were.
I took a break to make dinner and watch a documentary with my wife, then got back to it. Getting to the Vicar became second nature—killing the first couple of Church Guards to farm for healing potions, then climbing a few stairways, dodging a giant, learning how to roll just at the right time so that tall dude with the giant wooden cross couldn’t spike me on my way to the boss, and so on.
I’m traveling later this week and won’t have my PlayStation 4 from Wednesday night through Sunday, so I knew that if I didn’t get her last night, I would be waiting for a long time. I went to Reddit and looked at a few posts before I found one particularly interesting tip: Turn off target locking. It seemed weird. Unintuitive. Without locking on to Amelia, how would I keep track of her and watch her moves so I could dodge the right way? Wouldn’t I get lost in a swirl of claws and fluff?
Yet… unorthodox strategy had worked for Papa G, so hey, why not just try it?
Capcom hasn’t always understood what makes Resident Evil great. Maybe it has never consistently, fully grasped the thing that it has on its hands.
That’s been evident since the original Resident Evil 2, which was famously scrapped and restarted well into its development, ultimately becoming a beloved follow-up to a genre-defining game. After that 1998 PlayStation game, however, Capcom’s zombie series has wavered. Resident Evil 4 was a revelation. Its immediate successors, not so much. But the outstanding Resident Evil 7 showed that Capcom had the thoughtfulness to reflect on what made the franchise so beloved in the first place.
Capcom took Resident Evil 7’s design decisions to heart in its remake of Resident Evil 2, which has not been simply polished with slick graphics for modern consoles and computers, but has been completely remade inside and out. It’s no mean feat; the developers of the new Resident Evil 2 have carefully threaded a needle with their new version of a very old thing. Capcom has woven modern mechanics into its groundbreaking sequel, never abandoning what is truly great about the first Resident Evil 2. The result is a fresh, expensive-looking game that evokes the best memories of the PlayStation original, while also being something altogether new.
The new Resident Evil 2 begins just like its now-primitive ancestor: Rookie cop Leon Kennedy and college student Claire Redfield trek to the town of Raccoon City in search of answers. The two are united by a chance encounter but quickly separated by a terrible accident. What follows is a fight for survival as both Claire and Leon try to escape the city alive, then find themselves caught up in something much bigger.
Resident Evil 2’s main setting, a police station, should be a safe haven for its heroes. It should be stockpiled with weapons, ammunition, and survival gear, the perfect place to wait out a zombie apocalypse. But Claire and Leon arrive weeks into Raccoon City’s ordeal. The entirety of the city’s police force is either dead, zombified, or on the brink of death. Supplies have been expended. The halls run slick with blood. Corpses — it’s unclear if they’re truly dead or reanimated — lay piled around every corner. It is immediately terrifying.
The walking dead stalk me through the station — during my first playthrough as Leon — from room to room. They break through windows and doors, upending my expectations about how Resident Evil’s zombies are supposed to behave. I shoot them in the head, missing every third shot because of their unpredictable bobbleheaded movements, but they don’t stay down for long. I’m wasting ammo, constantly. I curse the zombies. I curse my aim. Leon curses too, annoyed or frightened that headshots aren’t working. Rooms I think are clear of threats are somehow inhabited by new zombies when I return to search for something I missed.
Resident Evil 2 quickly forces me to get back to behaviors I learned in 1998. Conserve ammo. Run away when I can. Hack at a zombie with a knife until I’m 100 percent sure that thing isn’t getting back up again.
The game’s bizarre puzzles likewise take me back to that time. I sprint from room to room in search of a diamond-shaped key for a diamond-shaped lock. I develop rolls of film that reveal a single picture of a padlock combination. A half-eaten police officer dies with a notebook in his hand. The book contains the solution to an elaborate, station-spanning puzzle that requires three medallions culled from three marble statues — and, ludicrously, it’s my only hope of getting out of this place.
How does Resident Evil 2 justify all this? Raccoon City’s police department is actually a renovated art museum, and its architect — either a certified genius or an authentic wacko — has devised this series of convoluted puzzles that stand between me and survival. Resident Evil’s puzzles have felt natural in games where the settings were dark-and-stormy-night haunted houses, but set against the background of a municipal police station, they are absurd. I enjoy completing them immensely.
While the game’s many puzzles root Resident Evil 2 to its past, virtually everything else is gloriously modernized. Claire and Leon no longer move like tanks, but like modern video game action heroes in third-person view. The police station is beautifully, gruesomely realized. Some rooms are dark as night, lit only by the blaze of Claire’s or Leon’s flashlight. Emergency lighting reflects off the water in flooded hallways. There is trash and rot in the attics, piled-up office furniture blocking pathways, and it’s all very realistic-looking.
Claire and Leon themselves look like real human beings, slickly rendered. They become sweaty, dirty, and bloody. They shoot like regular human beings, though, with imperfect aim. On Resident Evil 2’s standard difficulty, there is no aim assistance, a very modern video game convenience that I miss terribly every time I waste precious ammo shooting wildly at zombies. In my second playthrough, as Claire, I play on “assisted” mode, which adds generous aim assistance and automatically regenerating health. Resident Evil 2 is almost too easy, but very enjoyable, on this lower difficulty setting. A “hardcore” mode is available too. It brings with it the requirement that you save the game using ink ribbons — a finite resource — at typewriters, and other punishments I can’t bring myself to endure yet. To play Resident Evil 2 requires a throbbing, constant stress, and to return to ink ribbons at this stage, without having memorized the placement of every item scattered throughout the game, is too much.
But Resident Evil 2 begs to be played multiple times over. As with the original version of the game, Capcom has created distinct scenarios for both Claire and Leon. They meet different people on their journey, battle monsters unique to them, and see the story play out in very different ways. I was pleasantly surprised at just how much had changed, and how fresh each side of Resident Evil 2’s story felt from their different perspectives. They each get a “second run” scenario too, so if you complete the game with Leon, you’ll be able to see what Claire was busying herself with during his adventure, and vice versa. Those second runs play out as more condensed horror stories, and each contains its own surprises. Each scenario was worth the time I spent with it.
Where Resident Evil 2 falters is when the game gives you control of people that aren’t Claire or Leon. A pair of interludes starring supporting characters Ada Wong and Sherry Birkin offer ostensibly new perspectives, but both are bogged down by dull, trial-and-error tasks. While both characters are essential to the plot, their playable scenarios are unfortunate speed bumps on an otherwise thrumming horror story.
Outside of those interruptions, Resident Evil 2 is everything a video game remake should be. It’s faithful in tone and story to its source material, while updating a classic in meaningful ways. It’s exciting in the ways that Resident Evil used to be, when the games were driven not by explosive set-pieces, but a constant sensation of high tension.
Umbrella, the sinister corporation at the heart of the horrors in the Resident Evil games, has never exhibited total control over its creations. That’s a lesson at the heart of Resident Evil 2, in which a virus runs amok, culminating in the destruction of Umbrella’s own underground lair — where those zombie-making viruses were conceived.
Capcom, on a far less dangerous scale, has not always known how to handle its own creation. After mutating from quaint horror to buffoonish action to back again, the Resident Evil series has been wildly inconsistent. But back-to-back Resident Evil games that showcase the very best of survival horror is evidence that Capcom may have its monster under control.
Resident Evil 2 is available Jan. 25 for PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One. The game was reviewed using a final “retail” Xbox One download code provided by Capcom. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.
There’s a lot to love about the new Resident Evil 2, from its brash bloodiness to the wide variety of experiences packed into the game. Looking over the wreckage of my playthroughs, my own feelings are complicated. It is an exciting and astounding experience, but it feels compromised. Pushes towards modernization through changes to the camera and controls lessen the sense of dread of the original, and the presentation suffers without returning actors to tie it into the larger franchise. It has many good parts, but it struggles to cohere into a satisfying whole.
When the original Resident Evil debuted in 1996, it helped codify a new genre of games. Combining cinematic camera cuts and resilient enemies, it wove a masterful tapestry of isolation and alienation. Its sequel, Resident Evil 2, increased the level of action. As director Hideki Kamiya took charge over Shinji Mikami, an increased emphasis on combat altered how the series approached horror. Resident Evil 2 was not a game of isolation. It was about being overwhelmed. Rushing around a corner could leave the player face to face with numerous zombies. It was a game of deliberate decision-making, of knowing when to commit to combat and when to avoid it.
That 1998 PlayStation sequel has been remade by Kazunori Kadoi and a team of Capcom veterans for a new modern Resident Evil 2 that changes its camera angles and expands parts of the original. These changes give players more control but that sometimes erodes the original version’s tension.
Resident Evil 2 takes place in the zombie-infested Raccoon City. The story follows rookie cop Leon Kennedy and college student Claire Redfield, who is looking for her brother, Resident Evil protagonist Chris Redfield. Leon is drawn into the path of a mysterious femme fatale. Claire takes charge and tries to protect a child. Their stories intersect—players experience one story, then play the other character’s perspective—creating a tapestry of one night’s events in Raccoon City.
The remake keeps this narrative frame, but its most radical change presents all of the action in a new camera angle. The early Resident Evil games presented their scenes from fixed camera angles with pre-rendered backgrounds, pulling the camera out to make the player feel smaller or even moving outside of locations to emulate the monster’s perspective. Turning a corner could mean a smash cut to a new angle showing half a dozen zombies. These movements helped create a sense of space and mounting tension.The remake loses a lot of this by moving the camera behind the characters’ shoulders in a perspective that resembles the revolutionary Resident Evil 4 and many modern third-person action games. When this first occurred in RE4, it opened the series to a creative renaissance. Here, it helps evoke the original game’s move towards action but in giving players more control over their characters and centering those characters prominently in the camera frame at all times, the game loses some of the 1998 version’s unease. It is easy—too easy—to feel powerful in Resident Evil 2, as both the cameras and controls encourage a confident push forward that the original did not always compel. While the Racoon Police Department is dark and foreboding it never feels as harrowing as it did in the original.
The remake instead adds tension by making its zombie hordes a resilience and menace unlike anything seen in the series before. Even when playing at the easiest setting, the player needs up to three shots to a zombie’s skull to dispatch of them. Once fallen, zombies can quickly rise again. You might use several bullets to clear a tight pathway only to find your foes have risen again by the time you come around for a return trip. The tougher enemies are initially interesting to fight, but I missed the tension that came from the larger crowds of enemies that swarmed players in the original.
This Resident Evil 2 remake, like the original, is generous with ammo. Players will find themselves able to dispatch most of their enemies to the point of a final death, but their propensity for soaking up bullets also means there will be rooms players avoid because they are too constricted and there are too few bullets remaining.
The core aesthetic behind this remake is a push toward high-fidelity gore and violence. This is not a game for the squeamish, as zombies enthusiastically rip off pieces of flesh, characters have their skulls caved in, and shotguns blast bodies apart. The richness of Resident Evil 2’s viscera helps propel combat. Assaulting a zombie’s flank with knife slashes might result in a sliced off arm while a Licker’s slash could leave a long-lasting gash on your character until they heal. The wounds you are inflicting or that are inflicted upon you give Resident Evil 2’s familiar gameplay a raw tangibility. That helps ground the player in a space and makes threats feel real, but the graphical fidelity is undermined by the game’s controls and the enemies’ lack of intelligence. The player will find that they’re just too capable for these zombies to deal with.
Claire and Leon can run at a fair speed, snap their guns up quickly for firing, and even have the ability to quickly turn around with a simple button press. Enemies might be bullet sponges but they are easy to avoid or else sneak around. It might be unsettling the first few times a zombie shrieks and identifies your position, but after the fiftieth time running around them, the luster long wears off. The early Resident Evils, including the first version of this game, had so-called “tank controls” that reduced characters’ mobility and enhanced the players’ terror. The new camera angle in the remake increases the agility and decreases the horror. Even when the game introduces Lickers, highly mutated albeit blind monsters, it never quite manages to truly instill horror thanks to how much control the player has over their characters.
Alongside plentiful ammo and a lack of isolating camera angles, the early portions of the game are simply not as scary as they could be. Instead of watching confused characters adapt to a terrifying situation, it’s all too easy to feel like a familiar third-person action protagonist. Though this remake is initially less scary than the source material, the original game’s best twist returns and is more frightening than ever.
About a third into the game, Mr. X arrives and the entire dynamic changes. (Skip the next three paragraphs if you don’t want to know what that entails.) Mr. X is a Tyrant, a special bioweapon meant to wreak havoc and withstand the toughest conditions. He is dropped into Raccoon City to find a sample of the virus causing the zombie outbreak and he decides that you have it. His arrival into the police station radically alters Resident Evil 2. He will follow you everywhere, chasing you from room to room until he can grab you by the neck and snap your bones. If you elude him, the chase is merely postponed as he wanders the area searching for you. He cannot be killed, although he can be stunned with enough damage. I’ve watched him shrug off high powered handgun rounds and continue to march after being doused with flamethrower fluid. The only time he staggered quickly was when I smashed two acid grenades against his face. That might buy you time to escape but it does you little good when you’re still desperately searching for that last key item.
Mr. X breaks the rules, and that rule breaking is Resident Evil 2’s greatest trick. Until this point, zombies are not able to enter safe rooms or breach into the main hall of the police department. Mr. X does whatever he wants, and the moment I learned that is forever burned into my gaming memory. I was waiting in the main hall’s second floor, outside of the library. I needed to enter in order to solve a puzzle where I pushed bookshelves to make a bridge over a broken balcony. Wherever Mr. X walks, he stomps his feet with a tremendous weight. He doesn’t have footsteps. He leaves mini-earthquakes. Behind the library door, I heard him stomp as he looked for me. So I decided to wait until he left. For a moment, the steps died down and then the door opened. Mr. X marched into the main hall, into the space that Resident Evil 2 had stressed was safe, and began to chase me.
It was brilliant and horrifying all at once. Like getting chased by Jack Baker in Resident Evil 7 or enduring the ever-possible ambushes of Resident Evil 3’s titular Nemesis, there’s a great sense of disempowerment that comes from being plagued with an implacable foe. Resident Evil 2 almost uniformly empowers the player elsewhere, but that changes whenever Mr. X is around. Knowing that there is no safe spot, knowing that he will find you and you will need to deal with is panic-inducing. While he sometimes can feel more like nuisance than menace—especially when you simply want to finish a puzzle—his inclusion and the execution therein helps elevate Resident Evil 2 to a genuinely terrifying experience.
Resident Evil 2 works best when it is taking risks and altering how players engage with it. It breathes new life into the gameplay by switching character perspectives. A segment as corporate spy Ada Wong turns Leon’s story into a sort of puzzle game, where Ada uses her spy tech to manufacture escape routes from a variety of different deadly situations. More impactfully, Claire’s story leaps perspective to the child Sherry Birkin. Her sequence is part room-escape and part horrifying hide-and-seek as she attempts to escape from the evil police chief, Brian Irons. These moments continue the trend set by Mr. X—they disempower the player and help Resident Evil 2 break away from its more standard action to something more cerebral. These sequences were present in the original game but are given more focus here, creating an ensemble feel that allows the game to explore different modes of interaction.
Resident Evil 2 does a far better job of incorporating puzzles into the mix than contemporaries like Resident Evil 7. Much of this is due to just how dense the police station and adjoining areas are. These locations are packed with keys to find, generators to power up, serums to concoct, and safes to unlock. Often, this is simply a matter of finding the right widget to plug into the correct sprocket but there’s just enough variety here that you’ll find yourself examining items for clues, mentally marking down where initially inaccessible items are, and sitting down to work through genuine brain teasers. None of it is particularly novel but it is masterfully woven into the larger experience and more interesting than just a set of locks and keys. The puzzles help slow the pace into something a bit more introspective. It never quite reaches the sublime mixture of navigation and brain teasing of the original Resident Evil nor its subsequent remake, but these moments help modulate a game whose shift toward traditional combat isn’t sufficient enough to carry the experience.
Resident Evil 2’s variety is commendable, but leaves the game feeling inconsistent as it never seems to settle on a theme. Its jumbled experiences don’t combine into as intelligent a whole as Resident Evil’s remake. That game took a core experience of isolation and added a gothic richness. This Resident Evil 2 remake applies modern sensibilities and experiments and the result is less coherent. That’s not to say that it is a bad experience. In fact, it’s easy to see how many of the design decisions are motivated by a desire to capture the original’s action tone. But Resident Evil 2 mixes its modes to such a degree that while each individual piece is appreciated, it is hard to say if they point towards a purposeful experience. Much of this comes from how generic the proceedings feel in comparison to other games in the franchise. Resident Evil evoked Romero horror and Gothic classics like Frankenstein, Resident Evil 7 leaned into the grindhouse world of The Devil’s Rejects and found footage films. It’s harder to define what Resident Evil 2’s identity is. It might simply be that Resident Evil 2’s identity is Resident Evil 2 itself. That’s fine, but I wish this game had a clearer ethos other than to exist for its own sake.
The parts are greater than their sum, and the remake’s lack of visual identity or narrative goals becomes an issue as things progress. Resident Evil 7 leveraged its schlock-film influences to tell a story about the nature of families. It used the severing of limbs and increasing levels of mold as visual metaphors for separation anxiety and wrath. The Resident Evil remake mixed gothic images and hard-cutting camera angles to create a sort of modern day horror. It mixed high luxury with isolation, and even expanded on the series mythos with new terrors like the face-wearing Lisa Trevor. The Resident Evil 2 remake never manages to really explore its themes or build out its world. Claire’s story takes steps in that direction, but falls short of telling the Aliens-esque story of motherhood that it could. None of this prevents the remake from being fun. It’s some of the best zombie blasting you’ll find. But this is an adaptation more than it is a franchise redefining expansion.
It doesn’t help that the narrative is marred by a lack of returning actors. Resident Evil’s charm as a series rests both in the original camp presentation of the originals and the growing earnestness with which later games presented its pulp-action. Resident Evil 2 suffers from a lack of two figures: voice actors Matthew Mercer and Alyson Court, who portrayed Leon and Claire previously in the series . For reasons unclear, Resident Evil 2 opts for a new cast led by non-union actors and the result is that the narrative lacks charm. It doesn’t have the campiness of the original or even the self-serious earnestness of later games. Scenes move at a rapid pace, actors plowing through lines that might have been given far more weight and richness.
The decision to go with a new cast harms Resident Evil 2’s presentation. Scenes feel rushed and line delivery is too sedate. That understated nature sometimes translates to a budget-television feel that doesn’t even achieve the comfortable camp that initially defined the franchise. Instead, the new acting feels off-brand, like a college student’s reimagining of Resident Evil 2.
Resident Evil 2 provides some of the best moments in the franchise. That can mean turning to flee as an unstoppable tyrant stomps closer and closer to you, using a flamethrower to dispose of a plant-infested zombie, or puzzling out where to place the Queen piece in a puzzle. The raw experience of playing Resident Evil 2 is visceral, bloody, and often incredibly rewarding. It’s only in retrospect, after Raccoon City is in the rearview mirror, that questions begin to form. What was the game doing? What new things were built upon a familiar foundation? Did all the changes really work?
For many fans, the answer to that last question will be an unequivocal yes, but the game is uneven, moreso thanks to the changes made to modernize it. The new game certainly charges ahead more, but it’s lost something. The remake forces a somewhat ill-fitting gameplay frame onto environments and atmosphere that doesn’t accommodate it well. It exhibits some inspiring confidence as it presses forward without fear. But it’s that last part that gives me pause: without fear. It’s a fine game but an inconsistent one. As a remake that stumbles at times, it is neither a reinvention or a completely coherent celebration. It’s something sloppier, if captivating. It is pulse-pounding and a must play for horror fans, sometimes experimental but also superficial and rough.
Season three of The Expanse will begin streaming free for Amazon Prime members starting Feb. 8, Variety reports. The announcement has been confirmed on Twitter by the program’s writers. Fans can expect season four to premiere later this year, also on Amazon Prime.
Polygon caught up with the creators of The Expanse, Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham, who both write under the pen name S. A. Corey, at last year’s Gen Con tabletop gaming convention. They were on hand to promote the series’ new role-playing game from Green Ronin Publishing, which raised more than $400,000 on Kickstarter last August.
The pair had nothing but good things to say about working with Amazon. They claim the company has given more freedom than ever before. In fact, fans should expect some episodes to run slightly longer than they normally would have on cable.
“Some of the rules change when you go from a network to a streaming service,” Abraham told Polygon. “We’re not locked into an exact time the way that they were. If an episode runs a couple of minutes long, that’s not a deal breaker.”
“We had to deliver a 42-and-a-half minute episode every week irrespective of what the story was,” Franck said. “Whereas like you’re saying with Amazon, if we deliver a 50 minute episode, Amazon’s like ‘Great!’ […] And we don’t have to bleep out Avasarala, which is really nice.”
Fans of The Expanse are partial to Avasarala, played by actor Shohreh Aghdashloo, whose smokey epithets are a highlight of every episode. Fans of Destiny 2 might also recognize her as the voice of Lakshmi-2.
“It is a beautiful thing, when she unleashed on somebody,” Franck said. “It makes me happy every time.”
“Change Your Mind” is, to put it lightly, a big episode of Steven Universe, to the point where talking about it any detail at all feels like a spoiler. So if you haven’t caught the four-part conclusion to Battle of Heart and Mind…
[Ed. note: the rest of this story contains spoilers for Steven Universe, through the most recent episodes.]
In the fifth season finale, Steven wins over Yellow and Blue Diamond, then, after a grueling battle, convinces White Diamond to come over to his side, suggesting the potential for a lasting peace after thousands of years of warfare.
Also, Steven has seemingly taken a huge step toward resolving his identity crisis with Pink Diamond — which only happens after White rips the Gem out of his body.
Beyond those, “Change Your Mind” is full of the best kind of fan service, delivering conclusions to long-running arcs, careful twists, and answers to questions that had been part of Steven Universe since the beginning. Here are a few of the biggest payoffs:
One of Chekhov’s many unfired guns in Steven Universe has been the identities of the various fusion permutations of the Crystal Gems. We’d seen Pearl and Amethyst (Opal), Pearl and Garnet (Sardonyx), Amethyst and Garnet (Sugilite), Pearl, Amethyst, and Garnet (Alexandrite), and Steven and Amethyst (Smoky Quartz).
In just this one hour, Steven fuses with Pearl to create a new form of Rainbow Quartz, the Pearl-Rose Quartz fusion briefly glimpsed back in the flashback episode “We Need To Talk;” Garnet, to create the fast-talking, meta-fictionally-aware Sunstone; and Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl, to create Obsidian, an enormous titan who still only comes to the foot of White Diamond’s robot. Obsidian, fans may note, is the enormous Gem whose form makes up the backbone of the Gem Temple back on Earth.
The Gems deal in advanced technology, much of which is devoted to enhancing limbs or adding limbs or making bigger versions of limbs. In “Back To The Barn,” Pearl and Peridot each built robots and forced them to compete in a decathlon of sorts. And the introduction of the arm-shaped ships used by Yellow and Blue Diamond, as well as the leg-shaped ship used by Pink Diamond, suggested the existence of a sort of Gem Voltron.
Lo and behold, White Diamond’s massive robot head, which turns out to be its own ship, takes control of Steven’s legs in order to take on the Crystal Gems and the other two Diamonds. Eventually, Yellow and Blue’s ships arrive from Earth as reinforcements, leading to a classic “Why are you hitting yourself?” moment.
Steven loses his gem
Since the beginning of Steven Universe, fans have asked: What would happen if someone tore Steven’s Gem out of his body? (Steven has even wondered aloud about this at one point.) The answer, it turns out, is that he would need to reform: Once White Diamond pulls out his Gem in an effort to revive Pink Diamond, Steven is left deadly ill, while the Gem goes through the stages of its own evolution from Pink to Rose Quartz to Steven.
The Gem form is and isn’t Steven, sort of in the way that Sapphire both is and isn’t Garnet. Though it’s highly unlikely Steven will ever unfuse this way again — or at least, let’s hope not — it’s still interesting to know that he is, in fact, a kind of fusion.
Lars and Sadie
Finally! An entire season after Lars was kidnapped by Homeworld Gems and killed, then revived as a sort of human Lion all the way back in “Lars’ Head,” he’s reunited with Sadie —perhaps the most anticipated moment of the series in the non-Steven category. Steven and the Diamonds land on Earth as Sadie Killer and The Suspects play their second big show at Beach City, and Lars lands the Sun Incinerator just a few moments later. Both Lars and Sadie have evolved into their final forms, so to speak, as a space pirate and killer rock star, and though they’re both pretty awkward, it seems like they’re going to get along just fine. (Also, the Off Colors meet the Diamonds.)
The corrupted Gems
Steven gathers the Diamonds around his mother’s healing pool and tosses in all of the corrupted, bubbled Gems, who are then healed back to their normal selves. Centipeetle becomes Nephrite again, the Crystal Gems are reunited with previously lost team members like Biggs, and even Jasper makes a brief appearance; ready to go to war before realizing what’s happened. It’s a classic “everybody lives” ending.
In “Legs From Here To Homeworld,” Steven Universe introduced White Diamond’s unsettling Pearl, who happened to speak with Christine Ebersole’s voice. Once White let go of her hold on the other Gems, it becomes clear that the Pearl was under her control as well — and, in fact, had originally been a Pink Pearl. (Presumably, the wound to her eye came either at the hands of White Diamond or at some point during the Gem War.) We don’t know if that was Pink Diamond’s original Pearl before the Pearl we’ve come to know and love, but that might be a topic for a future episode.
Peridot and Lapis are back
The “Diamond Days”arc has been a little disappointing for anyone who wanted more of Peridot and Lapis in the mix — the two additions to the Crystal Gems were poofed by the Diamonds during the fight at Garnet’s wedding, and remained in hibernation when Steven, Garnet, Amethyst, Pearl, and Connie took off to Homeworld. Bismuth, meanwhile, remained behind, preferring not to engage in Diamond politics. But after Steven’s comical distress cry from “Escapism,” she shows up with Lapis and Peridot in Yellow and Blue Diamond’s ships, leading to a stimulating, visual sequence in which Peridot whizzes around on her garbage can lid platform while carrying Connie.
Oh, Bismuth made Connie a new sword
Rose’s sword was one of the many casualties of “Reunited,” and it was almost easy to forget that Connie wouldn’t have a sword going into the big battle this episode. But when Bismuth arrives with Peridot and Lapis, she comes bearing a new sword, forged especially for Connie. No longer will the young girl need to fight using leftover weapons from Steven’s family — she has her own tools now.
Everyone gets new outfits
The poofing of the other Gems at the ball in “Together Alone” gave the Steven Universe team an opportunity to give everyone cool new outfits. Pearl now has a jacket with shoulder pads, Amethyst has something of a wrestling uniform, Garnet has a flashy new visor. Peridot and Lapis also have new looks after being poofed back at Garnet’s wedding, which means a new angular visor for Peridot and an almost athleisure-like look for Lapis, who is presumably going to become a yoga instructor. (OK, aqua aerobics.)
Eric Thurm is the founder, host, and overall doofus behind Drunk Education, which started as a party at his house that several people had to be tricked into attending. He is also a writer whose work has appeared in GQ, Esquire, Rolling Stone, The A.V. Club, and other publications, and the author of a book on board games forthcoming from NYU Press in 2019.
Far Cry New Dawn takes place 17 years after the events of Far Cry 5, andUbisoft is updating the game’s core mechanics by adding a few “light RPG elements.”
“We pushed what we call the light RPG approach in the game to create more depth, so you’ll be able to craft guns that have ranks, and these ranks they will be useful to fight against enemies that also have ranks,” creative director Jean-Sebastien Decant explained in a recent promotional tweet.
The team also added a new system for your home base, allowing you to invest resources and rally your characters to earn more upgrades for yourself.
Outposts have also been given a sort of leveling system, allowing you to increase the difficulty, and reward, of capturing and re-capturing outposts.
“We have what we call the escalation system for the outposts,” Decant said. “Now, with an outpost, you can take it and take the resources that are in it, but you can also decide to squeeze it, and if you squeeze it you’re going to abandon it. And now that it’s vacant, the enemy is going to come back, put more resources in it, and also more defense, and create a new challenge.”
It almost sounds like Far Cry New Dawn will be more of a treadmill than previous Far Cry games, with outposts that can be taken and retaken and ranked enemies that need to be tackled with guns of an appropriate power.
Fortnite’s newest patch offers players a few balance changes but, more importantly, asks if they wanna build a snowman. Yep, patch v7.20’s content update is bringing snowmen to Fortniteas both decoys and disguises.
The snowmen will show up in the game as an item that players can pick up off the ground, from chests or out of llamas. The item will allow players to shoot out decoy snowmen, or dress up as one themselves. When a player is disguised as a snowman they won’t be able to use any other items or even build, but they can run and jump just like normal.
As for other changes coming this most recent content update, Epic is attempting to fix some of the FPS issues that have been plaguing players for the last several weeks. The Sniper Shootout limited time mode is also returning along with a new creation heading to The Block that appears to be a giant pyramid full of mysteries.
For a full look at everything that’s coming in Fortnite’s patch v7.20 content update you can find the full change list below.
Weapons and Items
Use Primary Fire to throw a projectile that creates a destructible snowman.
Use Secondary Fire to wear the Sneaky Snowman.
Sneaky Snowman has 100 Health and acts as a shield when worn by a player.
Sneaky Snowman is destroyed when its Health reaches zero or when the player wearing the snowman swaps to a different item or building mode.
This means that a player wearing a Sneaky Snowman cannot build or use other items. Movement of all types is allowed.
Available in Common variant.
Can be found from Floor Loot, Chests, and Supply Llamas.
Drops in stacks of 5.
Max stack size of 10.
Swapped the drop chance of Shield Potions and Small Shield Potions
Reduced drop chance from Floor Loot from 16.53% to 13.22%.
Reduced drop chance from Chests from 14.26% to 9.51%.
Small Shield Potion
Increased drop chance from Floor Loot from 13.22% to 16.53%.
Increased drop chance from Chests from 9.51% to 14.26%.
Vaulted the following items
Quad Rocket Launcher
Reduced the Drop chance of Gliders
Reduced drop chance from Chests from 11.89% to 4.43%.
Reduced the drop chance of Balloons.
Reduced drop chance from Chests from 7.58% to 3.24%.
Reduced the spawn chance of Quad Crashers from 100% to 50%.
Reduced the spawn chance of X-4 Stormwings from 80% to 50%.
Limited Time Mode: Sniper Shootout
Suppressed Sniper Rifles have been added.
Legendary Scoped Pistols have been added to Supply Drops.
Floor Loot spawners reduced by 50%
Reviving “Down But Not Out” teammates in Duos & Squads is deactivated – be careful peeking!
Profile Stats (K/D & Wins) are tracked in this mode
Fixed an issue where building would cause a major drop in FPS.
Added addition dates for the Explorer Pop-Up Cup.
Updated additional materials gained on elimination to now drop with the eliminated player, rather than being granted immediately.
Partitioning your hard drive sounds like a technically involved task that most people don’t need to bother with—but it’s actually relatively simple to do, doesn’t have to cost you any money, and can make your computing life easier and more productive. Here are the advantages of a partitioned hard drive, and why you might want to do it.
Partitioning splits your hard drive into multiple drives: You don’t actually take a saw to your internal disk, but you do split it up into chunks at the lowest level of the operating system. The end result is that as far as Windows or macOS is concerned, you’ve got two drives installed rather than one.
If you’re using a desktop computer you can, of course, physically install a second hard drive instead. It’s a tidier option than partitioning, though it means opening up your computer case and spending more on an additional drive. As long as you’ve got the storage space to spare, partitioning makes the most sense for most people.
The benefits of partitioning
Partitioning is usually done with a specific purpose in mind, rather than on a whim. One of those purposes that we’ve written about before is dual-booting operating systems—with two partitions available, you can, for example, run macOS on one of them and Windows on another (Apple has an official tool for this, as we’ll explain).
As long as both partitions are visible to your computer as it boots up, you can choose which OS you want to make use of. All of your applications and files are typically kept separate from one another, though in some situations you can set up a dual-boot system so that files on one drive can be seen and accessed from the other.
Even if you’ve got no interest in setting up a dual-boot configuration on your computer, you can still benefit from a separate partition for your key files and folders—all those photos, videos, documents, music, and other crucial files that you rely on day to day.
Why have them on a separate partition? Quite simply because it isolates them from whatever operating system you’re running—you can reset and refresh Windows without worrying what’s happening to your data, or even switch to a different operating system altogether without affecting the files stored on the data partition. It also makes data recovery easier if your OS partition is damaged or corrupted in some way.
In fact many computers now come with an emergency partition all set up instead of the old recovery disc that used to be supplied—if you can’t boot up your laptop or desktop normally, you can boot from this recovery partition instead and get back your data.
Having a separate data partition also makes sense from a backup or encryption point of view: You can focus on this one particular drive without having OS files and applications get in the way. It’s easier to point a backup program to a whole (partitioned) drive than picking out files and folders individually.
How to partition a hard drive
Both macOS and Windows have built-in partitioning tools that do the basics, and third-party alternatives are available for both OSes if you need something that’s more advanced or professional.
In the case of macOS, the tool you want is Disk Utility (find it in Applications or search for it in Spotlight). You’ll see your main internal drive appear, then your options are to either click the Partition button or the Plus button above the Volume label.
Modern-day Macs make use of a new file storage system called APFS (Apple File System), and it has its own alternative to partitions in the form of volumes (the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, which can get confusing). You still get the choice of either creating a new partition or a new volume in Disk Utility, but Apple is pushing users towards volumes as the faster and simpler option.
A lot of the differences are behind the scenes: Volumes can change size dynamically, for instance, while partitions have a fixed size. For most purposes you can go ahead and use a volume, though partitions are still useful for maintaining compatibility with non-APFS systems (if you want to install Windows, for instance).
Creating a volume or partition only takes a couple of clicks in Disk Utility. You’ll need to name the new disk space, and specify its size if it’s a partition (you can set a minimum and maximum size for a volume too, but it’s easier just to let macOS manage everything itself).
If you want to create a partition specifically to install Windows alongside macOS, use Apple’s Boot Camp utility—launched from Utilities inside Applications, or the Spotlight search. The setup wizard takes you through the process of creating a new partition and installing Windows on it.
Over on Windows systems, the built-in tool you need is Disk Management—just search for it from the search box on the taskbar (it may well appear as Create and format hard disk partitions, which gives away its primary purpose).
This integrated Windows tool isn’t quite as slick or intuitive as its macOS counterpart. First you need to reduce the size of your existing hard drive partition by whatever size you want the new partition to be: Right-click on it and choose Shrink Volume to do this. Once some space has been cleared, you can right-click on that and pick New Simple Volume to get the new partition formatted and ready to access.
If you’re installing a different operating system on the newly created partition, you can usually skip that last step: The OS installer will do the job for you and get everything set up so the partition is accessible.
When it comes to choosing how much space to leave for your new partition, it’s not an exact science. Obviously it depends on how much room you have available in total, and what you want to do with your newly partitioned space: A whole separate operating system is going to take up more room than a few documents.
In the case of Apple’s Boot Camp, 64GB is the minimum you need to run a copy of Windows alongside macOS, and 128GB is recommended for the best experience (you wouldn’t really want to buy a Windows PC with 64GB of storage). You can use that as a guide to how big your new partitions should be.
Third-party partitioning programs offer a few advanced features on top of that, like easier partition management, partition merging and resizing, and built-in data recovery tools. They can be worth the outlay, if you’re going to be doing a lot of partitioning and need something more user-friendly.
EaseUS Partition Manager is one of the best options for Windows: There’s a free edition that’s easier to use than Windows’ own Disk Management, and the Pro version (with cloning, converting, migrating and other advanced features) will set you back $40 (a free trial is available).
Also high up on our list is MiniTool Partition Wizard—as with the EaseUS application, you’ve got a basic free edition and a more advanced Pro version ($40 with a free trial). It’s got perhaps the friendliest interface of all the programs we’ve mentioned here, and includes just about everything you’ll need.
Paragon Hard Disk Manager is a good bet for Mac and Windows and also costs $40 (and also offers a free trial). While the macOS Disk Utility and the Windows Disk Management tool will do the job well enough, Paragon Hard Disk Manager throws in extras like partition recovery, easy disk copying, and easier partition resizing.
Also worth a look is Stellar Partition Manager, $40 for macOS, again with a free trial available—it can work with Boot Camp partitions too, if you’ve created them with Apple’s official tool. It offers a very similar feature set to the Paragon software for macOS, so you might want to check for specific functionality if you know you’re going to be needing it.