It doesn’t take a lot to win a fight in Digimon: ReArise, the latest digital monster game for iOS and Android devices. As long as your party is properly leveled up, the auto-battle function breezes through the turn-based team battles. The real challenge in Digimon: ReArise is collecting, raising, and training an ever-expanding horde of colorful creatures, evolving them from cute little balls into humanoid figures with rocket launchers mounted on their shoulders.
Digimon: ReArise, out now in North America on iTunes and Google Play, begins when the player’s virtual pet, the hedgehog-like Herrissmon, manifests in the real world. The pair encounter “spirals,” aggressive echoes of normally friendly Digimon, and engage them in simplistic turn-based battles. They meet other trainers and begin to investigate the mystery of the spirals and the reason why the digital and human worlds are randomly mashing together.
Ignore this video thumb.
The story, unfolding in a series of alternating battles against repetitive groups of enemies and visual-novel-style cutscenes, is a fine reason for players to collect and raise Digimon, which is the main point of the game. Whether summoned through the game’s gacha mechanic using in-game currency or hatched from eggs, Digimon require a lot of maintenance.
Feeding, training, leveling, and eventually digivolving into more powerful forms requires materials earned through battle or other in-game events. Hatching eggs takes time, which can be sped up using a strictly in-game currency called Bits, which are also used to raise Digimon levels.
Bonding with Digimon takes food, and each digital monster has their food preference. Enhancing Digimon, which raises their level cap and enables evolution, requires special training items won through story missions. Check out the video below for a look at how it all comes together.
This is far from my favorite way to play with Digimon, but I do enjoy, you know, the Digimon, even if they are a bit low-rez and jaggy. If anything, Digimon: ReArise will give me something to do until I dive back into Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth when the complete edition releases next week on Switch and PC. I digitake what I can digiget.
Bandai Namco’s free-to-play PlayStation 4 mech combat game Mobile Suit Gundam Battle Operation 2 came out in North America yesterday. It features fast-paced multiplayer battles on land and in space that players will surely fail at unless they complete every optional tutorial and put in some time in the game’s practice area. I learned this the hard way.
There are dozens of Gundam video games, many of which I’ve played to great success. But none of them, from the Dynasty Warriors-style hack-and-slash spin-offs to the mobile toy-battling games to the thoughtful turn-based strategy titles, prepared me for the intense combat of Battle Operation 2. It’s a third-person competitive multiplayer game with a focus on collecting and upgrading various types of mechs. It’s a game that requires anyone with the patience to create the perfect weapon loadout and familiarize themselves with the machine they’ve chosen to pilot.
Battle Operation 2’s opening tutorial leads players through the most basic functions of piloting a Gundam in combat. It gets the fundamentals out of the way—shooting, switching weapons, jumping, thruster movement— and then it sets the player free to fail miserably. That is until they go back to the Information Center in home base and complete the rest of the tutorials, which again, are optional (but shouldn’t be). For example, I had no idea that I could cancel out the pause after swinging my Gundam’s melee weapon by using maneuvering jets to initiate fast movement. After losing my first four team matches miserably, I learned that helpful tip in the Intermediate tutorial menu.. The same tutorial taught me that my preferred Gundam, the G-Line Light Armor, had the ability to perform emergency evasion by pressing the X button twice.
There is a whole lot else going on in Mobile Suit Gundam Battle Operation 2 other than multiplayer battles. It’s also a gacha game, where players spend in-game currency on random rolls for Gundams and equipment. Since the game just launched in North America, new players are showered with gifts to get them hooked on the feeling, resulting in an inventory filled with shiny robot war toys. If it weren’t for the fact that I have to advance in rank to Lance Corporal (I’m currently only a Private 2nd Class) to unlock painting, I’d spend all day in my hanger, making my Gundams look pretty.
The shower of giant robots is also why it pays to play around in the game’s practice mode. Players can take any Gundam they own into any of the game’s nine battle maps, which provide an excellent opportunity to get used to the lay of the land without distractions. Stationary enemy drones give players an opportunity to see how their weapons fire, the damage they do, and their recharge rates—all things important to know in the heat of battle.
Between fights, Mobile Suit Gundam Battle Operation 2 has players loitering about a military base. It’s pretty meta; giant screens advertise the latest Gundams in the gacha machine. There’s a man who players visit to receive in-game rewards, and a woman whose job it is to sell players Gundams, gear, and gadgets. This in-game store is reminiscent of the most obnoxious free-to-play mobile games, with large, colorful fonts and dazzling images advertising limited-time sales specials.
Fortunately, most of this tacky nonsense falls away once it’s time to fight. Teams of up to six players per side battle for territory on a series of sprawling maps. They’ll earn points for capturing control points, destroying enemy mechs, and blowing up the enemy base by ejecting from the cockpit and having their pilot plant a bomb. There are several good reasons to hop out of your ride during battle, like capturing points, hijacking enemy mechs, or doing repairs. I’m terrified every time I do it.
But I’m getting more confident. The more I play with my preferred mech, the more comfortable I feel ensconced in its protective metal shell. I’m learning when to engage with enemies and when to hang back. I’m getting to know my weapons. I live for and by my Pale Rider’s devastating hyper beam rifle with its charged shots, while keeping my gatling cannon ready for when the rifle recharges. I have almost, but not quite, gotten the hang of maneuvering in space, thanks to spending time with those advanced tutorials and in practice mode.
Earlier today I was on the winning team for the first time. I attribute that win to those tutorials, the practice sessions, and sheer luck. My space maneuvering isn’t perfect, and several of my deaths could have been avoided, but the taste of victory is intoxicating nonetheless.
I won’t stop practicing. Every time I get a new Gundam or new custom parts, when I increase in rank and unlock new facilities, I’ll practice. Even when I reach Lance Corporal and unlock the ability to paint my mech, I’ll pop into practice mode to make sure my machines look good before they make their big debut. After all, 75 percent of any Gundam game is staring at the pretty robots.
There are nearly 500 eyebrow options in Code Vein’s character creator.
There is a lot of every option in the robust character creation toolset of Bandai Namco’s post-apocalyptic vampire adventure. Players begin by choosing a gender, one of the creator’s simplest options. From there, they can choose between 32 different premade characters. These serve as a starting point for a much larger series of decisions. Each preset character is stunning in their own way.
Once a preset is selected, the best option is to skip down to entering a name and advancing directly to gameplay. Otherwise, moving on to “Advanced Settings” opens up a staggering amount of customization that kept me occupied for several hours when I was supposed to be playing the actual game.
There are 58 different hairstyles in Code Vein’s character creator. Each hairstyle has multiple color options, base color, and highlights. Once you’ve chosen and colored the perfect hairstyle you’ll discover the accessories menu. Along with glasses, hats, gloves, jewelry, and other random bits, the accessories menu has an entire section filled with hair extensions.
There are only a handful of outfits in Code Vein’s character creator, which is good, because each one can be customized with dozens of different colors and patterns. Flat colors. Glowing colors. Plaids. Animal patterns. Metallic sheens. Vertical stripes, horizontal stripes, and checkerboard.
Sweet Christ, there are 66 different options for eye highlights in Code Vein’s character creator. EYE HIGHLIGHTS.
This is why I spent an hour and a half creating my first character in Code Vein. Then I played through the opening section and realized I didn’t like the character I created. I made a new character and started the game over. Eventually, I found the in-game headquarters, where characters can be edited on the fly. I felt stupid for not checking this out sooner, but also pretty.
In the video up top I spend ten minutes showing off Code Vein’s character creator while gushing. It’s deep and complicated, as a character creator should be. It’s the game’s best feature.
Bandai Namco’s anime vampire apocalypse adventure Code Vein is clearly meant to be a Dark Souls-style joint. It’s got that signature slower, methodical combat and massive, challenging bosses. Hell, it’s even got a Souls-like currency that can be lost when a player meets their untimely end. But Code Vein also has hot anime AI partners, a homey headquarters with a fully stocked bar and working jukebox, and a relaxing hot springs to help drain what little tension the game manages to muster.
For a game about vampiric revenants battling over dwindling blood supplies at the end of the world, Code Vein is surprisingly laid back. During the game’s early moments, following my apocalpytic bloodsucker’s awakening from an incredibly robust character creator, things look pretty grim. My character, with no memory of her life, finds herself enslaved by a group of revenants who plan on using her to harvest blood bulbs from blood trees. Fortunately, however, her first mission ends with her encountering Louis, a friendly vampire determined to find a away for humans and revenants to live in peace and harmony.
Louis is researching the strange blood bulb-producing plants that have been popping up, hoping that by discovering their source he can tap into an endless, cruelty-free food supply. How fortunate! In a world filled with scavengers desperate to survive and infested with The Lost, twisted, feral creatures who were once human before surrendering to their endless thirst, we run into the one guy trying to make things right. We’re the luckiest revenants ever.
Louis and his cadre of like-minded vampire pals are a big part of why Code Vein feels so safe to me. Almost immediately, the game lets me know that I don’t have to go it alone. Whenever I’m out exploring the deep caves or ruined cityscapes, Louis or one of his friends tags along. They fight by my side. Hell, sometimes they fight for me.
Take one of the game’s earlier bosses, the Butterfly of Delirium. She’s a scantily clad anime woman in the front, a weird lizard thing in the back, and she was giving me a hell of a time. I’d fight her, die, and respawn a few enemies away at the “Mistle,” Code Vein’s version of a campfire. Then I’d hop into the game’s menu, fiddling with my character’s weapon and skill loadout. Maybe change the “Blood Code” or character job I was using. I’d head back to Madame Butterfly, run out of healing items in mid-battle, miss a dodge and get poisoned and die.
I repeated this process several times. Sometimes I’d farm “Haze” (read: Souls) to upgrade my weapons or unlock new abilities. Mistle comes in incredibly handy, as every time the player rests all the nearby monsters respawn. There’s a Mistle located in an abandoned parking garage just down the ramp from a large enemy that drops valuable items. I like to pop over there and do some farming. It also helps that I can teleport back to home base at any point, sell some gear, buy some power-ups, and maybe listen to a little music before charging back into the fray.
After several painful deaths at the wings and poison clouds of the Butterfly of Delirium, here’s the strategy that finally worked: I dodged. I spent the entire battle dodging her attacks, resisting the urge to charge in and get a few whacks with my broadsword or perform a special ichor-draining attack to reload my ichor-powered rifle. Instead, I just let my AI-controlled companion kill the damn boss. Louis wasn’t quite cutting it, so I switched to Yakumo, Louis’s hotter, red-headed friend. His massive sword did all the work. I didn’t even both casting any shared buffs. Didn’t want to make the boss mad.
Kotaku’s Heather Alexandra participated in Code Vein’s network test earlier this year and complained that calling additional players into battle trivializes boss battle. I’m playing pre-release—the game launches for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One tomorrow—so I’ve not been able to find other real people to play with, but so far the AI companions are doing a fine job of trivializing combat without human help. Outside of the Butterfly battle, the only real challenge I’ve faced are Trials of Blood, special in-game events where hordes of The Lost swarm the player and their partner, attempting to overwhelm them with sheer numbers.
Code Vein isn’t a very challenging game, and I don’t mind at all. It’s all about unlocking that next Mistle and regularly spending Haze on leveling up your character and unlocking skills. Initially I was worried it would be another dark and dreary Souls-like game, dulling its anime vampire edge with plodding, brutish combat. Instead, it’s this weird sort of Souls-like playground, where players are free to experiment with new weapon combinations and Blood Code builds without worrying too much about losing progress or getting overly frustrated or being challenged in any meaningful way.
Hell, I spent an hour grinding to gather enough Haze to unlock and master some abilities from the Hunter and Ranger Blood Codes to help me find items and make enemies show up on radar. I had no plan. They just sounded like cool skills, and this is the sort of game where I can spend hours acquiring cool skills and then more hours creating loadouts of said skills and figuring out which combination of blades, guns, and magic spells are best at making an easy job even easier.
It’s those sorts of game mechanics that will keep me coming back once Code Vein goes live. I’m not particularly interested in the game’s story, as I’ve already gotten my fill of “hot anime people at the end of the world” from Astral Chain on the Nintendo Switch. The post-apocalyptic world is pretty in many places but plain in many others.
Nah, I’m here for teams of players gathering online and completely fucking this shit up. My NPC friends and I can do an awful lot of damage to the dark denizens of Code Vein’s crumbling society. I can’t wait to see the sort of carnage real players can summon. I am here for that.
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Between 2002 and 2012, Bandai Namco released a mainline Tales game almost every year, save for 2006 and 2010. After 2012, there was a two-year gap before Tales of Zestiria. The following year, Namco Bandai released Tales of Berseria. But since then, there hasn’t been another Tales game. The next one, Tales of Arise, won’t be out until 2020.
So why has there been such a long gap? During a studio visit last week, I asked producer Yusuke Tomizawa that question. “It’s been several years since Tales of Berseria,” he said.
“We’ve switched to Unreal Engine 4. We want to bring in new players. That’s where we are starting from and that’s why it’s taken so long.” Plus, the goal is to release the game simultaneously worldwide next year. That, the producer adds, has also taken time.
“In the past, there was a period in which we put out lots of Tales games,” Tomizawa admitted. “But I’m not saying we are only going to do a new Tales game every four or five years.”
Tales of Arise appears to be a transitional game from the consecutive run of games in the 2000s but also a rethink of what a contemporary Tales game can be. From what Namco Bandai has shown, that looks promising.
Building Gundam models is an exciting hobby, but if you’re on the go or don’t have a shelf for all your giant robots, you’re in a rough spot. Gundam Battle: Gunpla Warfare is a new mobile game looking to make it easy to build and battle robots on the go. There’s some mobile game jankiness, but so far it’s been a fun mixture of model cobbling and mech fighting.
Gunpla Warfare, which released this week for iOS and Android, doesn’t have much of a plot besides a pretty basic story about students trying to keep their struggling Gundam model building club afloat. What really matters is how everything plays. Gunpla Warfare alternates between chill downtime and explosive action, letting you both assemble models and fight against other mechs in fast-paced battles.
Model building is the real meat here, with countless parts to combine into your dream robot. You can, if you want, simply hit a button that builds the statistically strongest mech out of your collected stash of parts. But you’re also free to kit-bash and improvise with what you have. The only downside to the process is what you might expect from a mobile game: many of the parts come from random gacha draws on which you must spend either in-game currency or real money.
Thus far, in my experience, Gunpla Warfare’s been generous with the rewards, but there’s always going to be temptations to spend. It’s disappointing, but if you can get over the hump or simply embrace the fun of working with what you have, there’s a lot of fun to be had from mixing and matching parts. Nothing says badass like a sleek Gundam whose mismatched parts give it the chunky legs of one robot and the tiny head of another. You can build for stats, for looks, or for laughs. Since Gunpla Warfare doles out more parts for completing missions, the early experience is all about working within your limits and junk-scrapping your way to victory.
Battles follow the mold of games like Gundam Versus, giving players control over their mechs in a 3D arena where they invariably need to blow up other robots. Moving is easy, with quick button taps allowing for fast dodges or rocket boosts towards enemies. Considering that combat is handled mostly through swipes, taps, and holding the screen, it’s really easy to move your mech around. Fights are fast and last no more than a minute, which is good if you’re playing while on the go and just want a quick snack-sized battle.
The early portions of the game are a little mindless—it’s easy to hack and slash or simply let AI companions do the hard work—but the addition of tougher boss units slowly ups the difficulty. It’s hard to picture what the end game will look like—large raid fights like Dragalia Lost, or more difficult survival modes—but for now, Gunpla Warfare focuses a bit more on flash than substance. That might haunt the experience as time goes on, but for now it’s compelling enough.
Gunpla Warfare isn’t an intense wargame or even the most complicated robot fighting game. This isn’t something you play for a compelling story or intricate world. Instead, it captures the joyous feel of playing with toys. What if these two robots smashed into each other? Wouldn’t it be cool to mix and match Wing Gundam with ‘Iron Blood Orphans’ iconic Barbatos Gundam? It’s light and flashy, and while there’s always that hovering specter of microtransactions it’s easy to ignore and press forward with some silly mech action on the go.
In the original Dragon Ball Z anime, fights are not balanced. Goku and his pals often end up in situations where they are outmatched by a far stronger and more experienced opponent. The series has had frequent fighting game adaptations, most recently Dragon Ball FighterZ, in which all of the characters must be balanced for the sake of fairness, even though that’s not true to the story. In Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, Bandai Namco’s upcoming single-player role-playing game, Goku will be outmatched. He’ll start from the bottom and work his way up the Saiyan food chain, just like he does in the anime.
“A lot of the recent Dragon Ball games have put the focus really heavily on the player-vs.-player aspect, where both characters are somewhat on equal footing,” explained Kakarot director Hara Ryosuke in an interview with Kotaku at Bandai Namo’s E3 booth, via a translator. In this game, he said, “the footing won’t be equal” for Goku and the player.
The demo that I played ended with Goku facing off against Raditz, a mysterious Saiyan warrior whose defeat in the anime also results in Goku’s death (Goku does come back to life after that, but it’s still a setback). The Kakarot demo that I played faded to black right after Goku appeared to defeat Raditz, but in the upcoming full game, I don’t think this particular face-off is going to end so neatly.
“The boss fights are intentionally unbalanced just to depict that difference in strength between where Goku is and where these bosses are. The idea is to immerse the player into what Goku is feeling in those different moments,” said Ryosuke. That will include some dramatic visual set pieces, too, just like the anime: “There are going to be a lot of battles where the enemy will throw a barrage of ki blasts that just fill the screen. Nappa has this massive explosion attack that also blows up an entire area.”
Although Goku has a long way to go, he was no slouch in the demo I played. When he comes in for a landing after flying around, he creates a mini-crater in the ground. In combat, he can shoot long-distance energy blasts or swoop in for a flurry of punches that can be chained into a basic combo. These two basic attacks can be used to easily dispatch the demo’s low-level Red Ribbon Army baddies, but I was glad I boned up on dodging and blocking before I reached Raditz. Also, an option will sometimes appear for Goku to perform a dual attack with his ally in battle. In the demo, his frenemy Piccolo accompanies him, which makes sense since this demo loosely follows the plot of the first arc of the DBZ anime.
Goku also has some special attacks that players can throw into the mix, like the Kamehameha. Meanwhile, he has two meters that charge up during battle, “tension” and “ki.” When both are full, Goku can perform a “surge,” which boosts his stats and allows him to cancel combos into other attacks. This slows down the tempo of the fight briefly; enemies sit back to allow Goku a dramatic beat to charge up, again like the anime.
Dragon Ball Z’s unusual pacing during fights—characters frequently pause to charge up or trade insults with one another—played a role in how the fights in this game were designed, said Ryosuke. “There are a few fights that come to mind where the conversation is interrupted by this very heavy clash, and then we go back to an emotional scene. Trying to fuse all of this together is something that we paid close attention to.”
Because Goku starts out in the DBZ anime as a strong character who still has a ton of martial arts left ahead of him to learn, he fits the mold for an ideal hero of a single-player action game. Over the course of Kakarot, Goku will of course go on to learn more and more complicated attacks. “Whether it’s the Spirit Bomb or the Kaoi-ken or Super Saiyan, he will as a character unlock those moments and those abilities as the story progresses,” said Ryosuke.
Ryosuke believes that Kakarot will appeal both to newcomers and lifelong Dragon Ball fans. For the newcomers, he says, “I equate this game to watching the anime from episode 1.” But there will be plenty of meat for longtime fans to chew on throughout the journey as well.
“I think a lot of fans are going to respond, ‘Oh, we already know the Dragon Ball Z saga and all the stories,’ but upon closer examination—we did a lot of research for this—we discovered, ‘Oh, wow, we forgot about these scenes,’” said Ryosuke. “There are a lot of moments in there that I think were very beautiful that haven’t really been fully explored and represented. We all remember the epic battles and the very famous memorable scenes. But there were a lot of day-to-day activities and character developments, a lot of jokes and some banter that were forgotten by time, I think. We thought the best way to capture all of these elements and package them was in an action RPG, which is the origin of this game.”
As Ryosuke noticed in revisiting the source material, Goku’s life is about so much more than fighting. He’s also a husband, father, and friend who likes to eat food, fly around on his cloud, and shoot the shit with the people he meets. Kakarot appears to have just as much shooting the shit as it has fighting, if not more. I spent a hefty chunk of my demo playtime on mundane activities like going fishing, accepting side quests from Dragon Ball sidecharacters like Launch and Eighter, and trading quips with Piccolo while flying around the handful of areas available.
Kakarot isn’t an open-world game; it’s a series of specific areas and boss fights that have to be visited and completed in a certain order, presumably the same order that Goku comes across each of them in the source material. The game does encourage exploration of those limited areas and appears to include plenty of side quests.
By including cameos from side characters and introducing small plotlines for them that were never in the anime, Ryosuke hopes to answer a question he expects many fans have had: “What are these characters doing now? If you like Dragon Ball, I think you’ll have the same question. We worked really closely with of course Shueisha and Toei Animation to figure out how these substories are going to unfold.”
In the lead-up to E3, I’ve been rewatching all of the Dragon Ball Z anime, and although it prepared me for Kakarot, it also put me into such a nostalgic headspace that I found it very easy to ignore the cracks that I spotted in the demo of this game. There are some problems, though. The fights against the waves of Red Ribbon mechs got repetitive fast, for example, perhaps because Goku hasn’t learned that many different attacks yet. Flying from place to place, either with the Nimbus or not, looked cool but didn’t feel good control-wise. Also, as Goku flies around, he’s supposed to collect spheres in the sky that help him recharge his ki, which is a weird Mario-esque mechanic that, as far as I know, is not based on anything in the source material. I didn’t have a sense of how important it was to collect these spheres, and it wasn’t fun either, due to the unintuitive controls for Goku’s flying.
I could ignore those rough edges with ease, though, because of the surge of warm nostalgic feelings I experienced whenever Bulma called Goku on the comms, or when Raditz sneered at me that I wasn’t worthy. Ryosuke told me that the creative team had endeavored to get back as many voice actors from the original series as possible, both in English and in Japanese. The characters look right, sound right, and talk right. In battle, Goku may not have all of his flashiest moves yet, but even without them, chaining combos already has its moments of feeling freewheeling and powerful. There’s plenty of room for that to get even better with a wider variety of attacks and combos later in the game. And of course, there’s the basic storyline at the core of this game, one that already worked great in manga and anime form. Kakarot has the same heart as the original series, the same sense of humor, and the same corny melodrama. I don’t know if a Dragon Ball novice would enjoy this game or not, but I feel sure that I will.
E3 2019It’s time for the biggest gaming show of the year. We’ve got articles, videos, podcasts and maybe even a GIF or two.
A security flaw on publisher Bandai Namco’s website has led to a major new E3 leak that reveals three new games: the rumored From Software-George R.R. Martin collaboration, a new Tales game, and Ni no Kuni remastered.
The leak came through a publicly available link on Bandai Namco’s website, per the website Gematsu (which has full descriptions of each game). Via various posters on ResetEra, the leaks are:
Elden Ring, for PS4, Xbox One, and PC, a new game from the makers of Dark Souls and Sekiro in collaboration with Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin. Turns out all those rumors were indeed true.
This weekend, the anime-nonsense action role-playing game Code Vein held a closed network test. The results were both everything I expected and more fun than I imagined. Beat-for-beat Dark Souls gameplay and edgy anime designs might seem groan-worthy, but teaming up with other players to defeat difficult bosses was incredibly badass, if a little simplistic at times. Code Vein is, as they say, a land of contrasts.
Code Vein is a first-party game by Bandai Namco that many players on the internet have been calling “anime-souls” ever since it was announced in 2017. That jokey assessment is pretty close to fact. Code Vein is set in some type of postapocalypse teeming with “Lost,” blood-crazed creatures threatening human survivors. The whole affair is hyper-stylized with cel-shaded graphics and designs that look like modern-day animation, and the gameplay is 200 percent modeled on Dark Souls. There’s a progression system where you level up by spending currency acquired by killing enemies. In this case it’s “haze,” a vaguely defined magical energy. And like the currencies in Dark Souls or Bloodborne, you lose it when you die. Code Vein doesn’t shake up this format much at all. There are caverns and ruined cityscapes full of monsters and bosses; go out there and beat them up. The result isn’t as engaging as the games that inspired it, but it can be fun if you embrace the trashy absurdity of it all.
There’s a split here between the eye-rolling anime plot and the actual experience of playing. On the one hand, there’s a vague story where your character is an amnesiac, blood-absorbing chosen one with a scantily clad magical companion. For the record, her boobs are big, and the slightest breeze sways them like a pile of coconuts in a hammock. It was more than a little distracting. If you can’t get over the cheese and sleaze, I wouldn’t blame you. If you can climb over that, there’s plenty of quality dungeon crawling and boss slaying to be had.
Boss designs are dope as all gosh, but multiplayer can make them a bit too easy.
What makes Code Vein’s particular brand of action work is how much you’re able to really define your character. There’s a host of weapons ranging from huge greatswords and axes to rifles and bayonets. They incorporate the sort of future-punk grime you see in games like Let It Die. These weapons pair with a variety of “blood codes,” character-build templates that you can switch out whenever you want. Each grants different passive traits and special abilities. One blood code might grant you the ability to teleport and toss freezing icicles. Another might offer a variety of shield abilities and attack buffs that you can toss on yourself and other players. There’s a lot of potential to customize your character. Wanna use a huge sword and have spells that sacrifice defense for massive attack gains? Go for it. Wanna sit back with a rifle and toss magical fire at demons? Have a blast. Literally.
Code Vein breaks down somewhat in multiplayer. Calling for help is a simple menu option away, but having multiple players (plus AI companions) severely trivialized boss encounters. This was a network test, so I figured I might as well play with other people. It was good for making progress in one of the trickier dungeons, but it also meant boss fights sometimes devolved into slash fests. The battles were still dire, but I definitely get the sense that Code Vein is a game best played alone if players want to really feel challenged. Teaming up with other players really sucks the magic out of cool boss fights.
Still, there was quality exploration and combat. Movement is fast, and the range of abilities made it fun to play around with new character builds. Code Vein’s biggest problems heading into the future will be ensuring that players remained challenged if they team up, and maybe toning down some of the thirsty character designs. Code Vein will presumably release sometime in 2019, and it could provide a good waste of time until Nioh 2 arrives. Just try not to cut yourselves on all of this edge, okay?
It feels like only yesterday that the fighting game community watched surprise South Korean competitor Hyeon-ho “Rangchu” Jeong crowned global Tekken 7 champion in Amsterdam. It wasn’t, obviously, but it was only three months ago, and the folks behind the Tekken World Tour already have new details to share about what competitors can expect from the circuit in 2019, the full breadth of which were announced this afternoon. Those details include a way bigger prize pool, more love for grassroots tournaments, and a big first for the World Tour event schedule: the inclusion of an African event in the lineup.
Let’s break it down. The Tekken World Tour is the official destination for Tekken 7 competition, hosted by developer Bandai Namco Entertainment and the competitive gaming wing of live-streaming platform Twitch. In 2017, it evolved into its current state from its predecessor, the King of The Iron Fist Tournament series; its changes were similar to the ones made to Capcom’s Street Fighter V circuit, the Capcom Pro Tour, in 2014. By visiting a list of partnered, grassroots events throughout the year and performing well, Tekken players earn points towards qualifying for the finals, which in 2019 will take place in Bangkok, Thailand.
This year, the Tekken World Tour will establish two more levels of competition in terms of how it classifies its events: Master+ and Dojo. The former is occupied solely by the Evolution Championship Series, which is regarded by many as the most prestigious fighting game tournament of the year and will thus provide the most points for qualification purposes, while the latter should, on paper, help extend the circuit’s reach into more regional and local events. Competitions that are not already part of the Tekken World Tour will be able to apply for official Dojo recognition, giving them the ability to award varying amounts of points depending on how many players are in attendance. At best, Dojo events will sit just below the existing Challenger tier with regard to the points they can offer high-placing competitors, but even at the lowest level, these events should act as a way for players unable to travel year-round to earn a smattering of complementary points.
“Community is at the core of competitive gaming and the Tekken 7 fandom,” Twitch esports product manager and longtime fighting game community tournament organizer Richard Thiher told Kotaku via email. “For 2019, Bandai Namco and Twitch wanted a sound way to integrate and recognize both the world’s largest fighting game tournament and the many smaller grassroots tournaments found in cities across the globe, thus the inclusion of Evo and creation of Dojo events. We would like as many top performing Tekken players as possible to have the opportunity to qualify for the Tekken World Tour Finals.”
Tekken World Tour 2019 will also restrict the number of tournaments that will count towards a player’s global ranking. A competitor’s 10 best placings (including three Master, three Challenger, and four Dojo events) will comprise their overall score, a deliberate measure by the organizers to help reduce “travel fatigue,” as players will no longer have to continue attending events throughout the year in order to maintain their spot on the official leaderboard after achieving an adequate ranking. This also means that qualifying for the finals won’t just be a matter of how many tournaments a player can afford to visit, opening the door to the championship just a smidge wider for folks of lesser means or from more remote regions who may not have the privilege of traveling on a sponsor’s dime.
The total prize pool for this year’s Tekken World Tour will amount to $185,000, with $100,000 of that going to finals payouts, and $30,000 of that set aside for the overall champion. This is a huge increase from the 2018 finals, which paid Rangchu a relatively low $7,500 (half of the 2017 champion’s payout, by the way) for winning the most important Tekken 7 event of the year. This has been a sticking point for many competitors in the Tekken scene, and after watching Rangchu earn a sum they felt was inadequate for someone who had just become world champion, some even said they didn’t see a future in pursuing Tekken competition as a career if payouts remained at the level they were in 2018.
“The ability for Tekken 7 to inspire world-class competition without significant monetary incentives says a lot about the game’s quality and the community’s hunger to compete,” Thiher told Kotaku. “With that acknowledged, it is great to see the Tekken World Tour adjust prizing with the growing fandom. I hope the prizing continues to scale over time.”
While many developers have established official circuits within the last few years, they often don’t do much to earn the “world tour” distinction they promote. They rarely provide the same support for regions like South America, Europe, or the Middle East as they do for the United States and Japan, and some regions are routinely shafted despite the success of their local players on the global stage. The Tekken World Tour still isn’t perfect in that regard, but the organizers plan to greatly expand its reach in 2019 by adding events in Peru, Greece, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates, and South Africa, the last of which marks the first and only time an official fighting game competition has acknowledged the continent of Africa in its event lineup. Just under half of the 27 tournaments on the 2019 Tekken World Tour are newcomers.
“Moving into less traveled spaces required a willingness to trust new organizers and the clear communication of our and our fans’ expectations surrounding Tekken World Tour tournaments,” Thiher explained. “We believe it is an important step in continuing support for the worldwide Tekken fandom to provide these opportunities. In the long-term, Tekken’s community will benefit from Bandai Namco and Twitch supporting the game’s global competitive player-base. Dojo tournaments help local events (their players, organizers, and fans) cultivate awareness aimed at developing new competition hubs. With Pakistan’s Arslan crowned champion at 2019’s first Tekken world tournament at Evo Japan, we believe it is a perfect year to be increasing the visibility of emerging regional hubs.”
Official fighting game circuits have the unenviable responsibility of providing widespread and equal opportunity to the global competitive community, a task that seems to be easier said than done, even with massive corporations like Capcom, Bandai Namco, and Twitch at the helm. That said, 2019’s Tekken World Tour directly addresses some of the most important concerns from years past, offering more favorable circumstances to a larger swath of competitors. By relaxing the qualification process, expanding to regions that have gone ignored for far too long, and upping the rewards players can expect to earn, the Tekken World Tour organizers have made drastic improvements. My only hope is that these kinds of thoughtful decisions become the norm for corporate-run fighting game circuits in the future.
Tekken World Tour 2019 will kick off at The Mixup in Lyon, France on April 20, running through to the finals in Bangkok, Thailand, the official date of which has yet to be finalized.
Ian Walker loves fighting games and loves writing about them even more. You can find him on Twitter at @iantothemax.