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Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna is Toy Story 3 for anime fans

Fights like Star Wars vs. Star Trek or Marvel vs. DC have made it clear that it’s impossible for fandoms to agree about anything. But for a certain type of ’90s kid, there was no fight more important than the war between Digimon and Pokémon. Though the franchises have similar names, were both born as video games, and feature kids going on adventures with strange monsters that fight for them, their latest-feature film projects show the core difference between the two series.

Where Pokémon: Mewtwo Strikes Back – Evolution is a shot-for-shot remake of the first Pokémon movie, with updated CGI animation and without the original songs, the newly imported movie Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna is the conclusion of 20 years’ worth of stories, closing the book on a beloved franchise by looking back at what made it so special, then acknowledging that neither the characters nor the audience can remain kids forever.

In its opening scene, Last Evolution begins by taking us back to where it all began, to the streets of Tokyo, where a giant Parrotmon crosses over from the Digital World and starts wreaking havoc, while Maurice Ravel’s “Boléro” plays in the background. Viewers who find it off-putting to see the film blatantly wearing nostalgia on its sleeves by playing the original musical arrangement of the 1990s anime theme song should be warned: this movie probably isn’t for you. But if the mere sound of the late Kouji Wada’s “Butter-Fly” brings tears to your eyes, then you better bring a towel when you watch, because Last Evolution is like Toy Story 3 for anime fans.

Two DigiDestined ride atop their Digimon in a deep orange virtual field Image: Toei Animation

Though the opening scene directly reflects the opening of 2000’s Digimon: The Movie, it quickly lets the audience know that things have changed. This isn’t the ’90s anymore, and technology has grown along with the DigiDestined, who are now coordinating battle strategies in mid-fight like an anime version of The Avengers. Five years after the events of the 2015 film series Digimon Tri, and 10 years after the events of the original series, the DigiDestined have grown up just like the audience has. Izzy (Mutsumi Tamura) is now the CEO of a tech company. Joe (Junya Ikeda) is in medical school. Mimi (Hitomi Yoshida) is working as an influencer who says she’s “spreading kawaii” across the world. Sora (Suzuko Mimori) has apparently left the DigiDestined behind to focus on following her family’s business, as seen in the short film prequel “To Sora.” Even the kids from 2000’s Digimon Adventure 02 are back, after an egregious absence during Digimon Tri. After the nostalgia-filled opening credits, a new threat emerges and goes after all DigiDestined across the world. And Tai (Natsuki Hanae) discovers a timer in his Digivice, counting down to the moment his partnership with his Digimon Agumon will end forever.

Kizuna is fast-paced and features gorgeous fighting animation, including scenes that combine the art style of the original Mamoru Hosada-directed films with new digital animation techniques. But director Tomohisa Taguchi and the animation team at Yumeta Company clearly made this film for the millennials who grew up with the franchise and want a little more than constant battle scenes. The plot is a detective story with an intriguing central mystery, and the tone is much more melancholic than most modern anime movies, as the end of the partnership between the DigiDestined and their Digimon casts a large shadow over every scene they share. Thankfully, the film gives the characters enough moments to breathe, with mostly silent sequences where they contemplate their future and their past, without dialogue and with a minimalistic score.

The original Digimon Adventure portrayed some heavy themes for a kids’ show, including divorce, depression, and death. And as the characters grew up, the themes continued to mature. Tai goes out for drinks with Matt (Yoshimasa Hosoya), and he’s now working part-time at a gambling parlor, and has a porn stash in his apartment. He has no idea what he’ll do with his future. Though Joe, Izzy, Mimi, and Sora seem well-adjusted in their 20s, Tai and Matt struggle with deciding what to do with their lives and how to let go of their childhoods as they prepare for an uncertain adulthood.

The Digimon cast, humans and Digimon together, all gather around to stare into the camera Image: Toei Animation

The film begins with the text “the more that people accept the future chosen for them, the less they will age,” and viewers’ enjoyment of the film will depend on how they interpret that phrase. Though we know the film is counting down to the moment the DigiDestined grow up and leave their old adventures behind, there’s no clear idea about what the film considers “growing up.” It’s more specifically about the moment when people realize they can no longer juggle what their lives used to be like when they were kids, and the life they’re now entering.

But it’s also about the danger of forcing yourself to grow up before you’re ready. It’s about those who think they have to leave their old friends and lives behind, and those fighting to embrace both the past and future as much as they can. Like Toy Story 3, Kizuna goes for a bittersweet conclusion that waves goodbye to childhood while suggesting that eventually, we all learn to find a balance between our responsibilities and our desires. Some audiences may not agree with the way the film handles this theme and its connection to the infamous epilogue from Digimon Adventure 02, which reunites both teams of DigiDestined, as well as their Digimon and their children, in the far future. But for those who are on board with the way the film handles the transition out of childhood, Last Evolution will be like saying goodbye to a childhood friend you don’t often speak to, but still hold close to your heart.

Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna manages to be the best addition to the Digimon franchise since Mamoru Hosoda was at the helm. Its references to previous franchise installments, its surprising cameos, and its emotional story all help put a bow on 20 years of adventures, while providing a nice returning point for fans who may have skipped the underwhelming Tri series of films. It’s a love letter not only to the entire franchise, but to those who have grown up watching these characters throughout the years. This is the conclusion fans have been waiting for.

Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna is available for digital rental or purchase on iTunes or Microsoft, and will arrive on Blu-ray and DVD on October 6.

Source: Polygon.com

New expansion for Elite Dangerous will add tens of thousands of locations to the game

Elite Dangerous is a comically large video game, with more than 400 billion star systems in all. It’s so big that players have only ever seen .042% of it with their own eyes. With Elite Dangerous: Odyssey, the game’s first paid expansion in more than five years, developers are adding even more to discover. The upgrade will allow players to traverse billions of worlds on foot for the first time, leaving the comfort of the game’s traditional vehicles behind entirely. But that’s not all.

The team at Frontier Developments is also adding entire new systems of gameplay. They will focus on first-person combat, solitary exploration, and even stealth in built-up areas. Supplementing that experience will be new social spaces — tens of thousands of them — plus entirely new settlements to discover.

Polygon spoke with lead designer Gareth Hughes to learn more about Elite Dangerous: Odyssey. To hear him tell it, a game long derided as being a mile wide and an inch deep is about to get a whole lot deeper.

Here’s everything we know about Odyssey, and how it will change the spacefaring game when it releases in early 2021.

New social hubs

Since Elite launched in 2014, players have only ever experienced the game from inside a vehicle. More often than not, that’s been one of the game’s 40-plus starships. The Horizons expansion, released in 2015, also added the Surface Recon Vehicle (SRV), which players can use to zip around on the surface of planets. With Odyssey, players will get their own Neil Armstrong moment, setting virtual foot on the surface of unexplored planets where no one has ever gone before.

For most players, that “one small step” will come a little later in their in-game journey. For many, the on-foot journey will begin inside one of the game’s new social spaces. That’s where they can come together with other players and get missions from non-player characters (NPCs) in person.

Hughes tells Polygon that there will be three types of social spaces: Planetports, Spaceports, and Outposts. These will be added to the game at pre-existing locations all around the Milky Way, depending on the types of structures already in place.

Small orbital stations — little mining outposts, perhaps, or trade depots with just a few landing pads — will get Outpost social hubs. Meanwhile, larger starbases — the game’s iconic 20-sided-die-shaped Coriolis starports and massive, spherical Orbis stations, each with a dozen or more landing pads — will get Spaceports. Finally, large surface installations — think Survey sights and Observatories, each with as much capacity as a large starbase — will get Planetports.

Based on information provided to Polygon by the player-run Elite Dangerous Star Map (EDSM), those additions alone will add more than 40,000 new interior spaces for players to hang out in. But don’t expect them to look and feel all that different from each other. While Hughes said that his team is working on adding variation through things like flags and banners, there will only be the three unique layouts at launch.

“They’ll certainly feel different between planet Planetports, Spaceports, and Outposts,” Hughes told Polygon. “It’s difficult for us to generate […] the vast amount of content that this could take to make them unique.”

Social hubs will primarily be built for efficiency, Hughes said, with quest givers and vendors positioned in roughly the same location from site to site. Players should expect more intimate interactions, including questlines with lots of dialogue. But the architecture will look very much the same from place to place.

“Time is money in Elite,” Hughes said, “so we didn’t really want people to have to find it laborious to engage with these [social hubs] when they’ve got stuff to do. So we’re trying to find that really fine balance between them feeling unique within the three kind of categories that I outlined, that they’re efficient to navigate through, and they have a real visual punch.”

Some of that visual punch will come from massive windows. For instance, in Spaceport social hubs, players will be treated to full, 360-degree views of the inside the drum of a busy space station. When NPCs and other players come in to dock, those sitting inside the social hub will be able to watch them fly around in real time. For a game where some players spend years on lengthy expeditions, explorers can now look forward to the potential for a warm welcome upon their return. All they need to do is let their friends know they’re on the way back, and the local cantina can easily be filled with well-wishers.

In addition, the NPCs inside these new social hubs in Elite will differ based on what factions are in control of them. That will bring to the forefront an often overlooked part of the game that has been present since launch — the complex system of political and economic conflicts that make the game’s populated area (known as “the Bubble”) such an interesting place to hang out in.

Fans and developers alike call it the Background Simulation, or BGS for short, and it will play a new and important role in Odyssey.

The BGS

Two characters stand with drinks at a high top table. Outside is an industrial scene rising up in the shape of a barrel around them.
A Spaceport social hub, situated inside the spinning drum of an existing Coriolis space station in the world of Elite Dangerous.
Image: Frontier Developments via YouTube

A lot has been written about the so-called Stellar Forge that was used to create Elite’s version of the Milky Way. In the past I’ve called it a galactic rock tumbler, which used all the real-world scientific information that it could find to place the stars and their accompanying planets into the game world. But, running alongside the Stellar Forge was another system that procedurally generated the in-fiction groups, alliances, and little wars that dot the Bubble.

Take, for instance, my home star system of Ross 263. There are seven different NPC factions present in the system right now, including groups such as the Ross 263 Independents, Ross 263 Transport Company, and Silver Galactic Incorporated. To date, those factions have only ever been represented by an entry on a list and a still image of a random character. In Odyssey, those characters will finally come to life.

Visiting the massive Doi City starbase today, I can take missions from all of these minor factions. And, just like other complex massively multiplayer games, I will earn cash as well as faction credit depending on who I work with. Faction credit is already a major gameplay component in Elite, which players use to unlock permits that allow them to visit high-security star systems as well as top tier starships. But, what many players in Elite don’t realize is that taking on missions actually changes the fate of these minor factions within the Background Simulation.

As players take on missions for a faction, they can actually increase that faction’s control over a given star system. This in turn allows those factions to take control of the built-up areas within it. Factions can go to war against each other, driving out competitors from neighboring star systems or indulging in internecine battles against their closest neighbors. Systems can boom, raising the rewards for any player taking missions in that area. They can also bust, resulting in missions focused on ferrying food and shelter to the system’s impoverished residents and refugees.

“It’s not just that the Background Sim changes the game for everybody,” Hughes said. “It’s that everybody can change the Background Sim.”

Hughes told Polygon that the BGS and the factions that maneuver within it will play a huge role in the tone and timbre of the gameplay options available in a given star system. In fact, groups of players can actively push the BGS one way or another through concerted effort, creating the kinds of on-foot, first-person missions that they prefer to experience.

That player-directed influence will play out most clearly in Odyssey’s newest, largest, and most dynamic new planetary locations. They’re called Settlements, and Hughes says they will provide entirely new ways to experience the game.

Settlements

Two players walk amongst crates and boxes on a dusty planet. The sky is a pale blue, and they are wearing spacesuits.
Two players travel through a Settlement. The red portal is the airlock on a habitation building. In the distance is a production building, themed here as an industrial space with smokestacks.
Image: Frontier Developments via YouTube

When Odyssey launches in early 2021, “thousands” of new Settlements will be added to the game. They will show up on the surface of existing planets, but also on newly accessible planets with thin atmospheres. And each of them will have one or more factions vying for control.

Settlements will be larger than social hubs, Hughes said. Each one will comprise multiple buildings, with each themed to match the nature of the Settlement itself.

“We have production buildings,” Hughes said, “which is where they’ll be processing ore in an extraction settlement, or dealing with the agricultural output of an agricultural settlement, or dealing with the industrial output of an industrial process. So they’re almost like factories, right, but themed factories for that settlement type.

“We have power buildings, which is kind of like a reactor, which is the source of power for the entire entire settlement,” he continued. “We have other buildings, which are habitat buildings, which is where the guys in the settlement actually stay and live — although we don’t always have habitats, because sometimes we like to infer that the workers are kind of flying in and then fly back out.”

Once players arrive at a Settlement, they will be able to transition smoothly between exterior spaces — the dusty surfaces of distant planets — and these themed interior spaces through airlocks. Once inside, they’ll be able to breathe without the help of their spacesuits. Missions might require them to visit a given location, to retrieve a specific item, or to kill a certain NPC.

Alternately, players can just roll in on a Settlement uninvited and do whatever they want. Options include looting the place stealthily, or killing every NPC they can find and making off with everything that’s not nailed down. If there’s combat, Hughes also said it can be of the combined arms variety. That means players on foot can be supported by other players inside wheeled SRVs and even starships, all working toward the same goal.

Whatever players do inside these Settlements, of course, will have a direct outcome on the factions that control it, and the BGS that dictates who is in control of which parts of a star system.

“The BGS can also start to infer difficulty of settlement, through which faction’s controlling it,” Hughes said, “including what the quality of their combat guys are. So, again, it’s an indirect way of allowing players to increase their power in the game and still have challenges, because what we didn’t want to find is that you go to a settlement and it feels exactly the same as every other settlement — especially if combat kicks off.”

A rising tide

A player stands at a ticket counter, baggage strewn about.
Concept art showing a new in-game vendor, called Apex Interstellar Transport, that will serve as a king of taxi service.
Image: Frontier Developments via YouTube

Of course, Elite Dangerous isn’t the only spacefaring game out in the wild right now. Eve Online has been running its complex economic and political systems for the better part of 15 years. Meanwhile, No Man’s Sky has captured the attention of players around the world with its own brand of galaxy-spanning procedural generation and esoteric world building. But the Odyssey update, on the surface at least, appears to bring Elite ever closer to its main competitor — the lavish, sprawling, multi-genre games in the Star Citizen universe.

We asked Hughes how he has been inspired by the other, hugely popular games in the spacefaring genre.

“I’m really pleased that there’s other competitive games in the space,” he said. “I think it maybe just builds interest for all of us. If our player base is looking at other games and being excited by them, and then with Odyssey, if we kind of start to come into their on-foot space as well, I think it’s just good for everybody.”

“I think Elite’s always been fairly unique in its execution,” he continued. “It’s found its own kind of identity. […] I think if we look too hard at what others are doing, then really, we’re just starting to create a facsimile. And I’m not particularly interested in that. I like to be inspired by other people. That’s as far as it goes for me, I think. I like the fact that Elite has a unique identity, and I’m not really that interested in moving it closer to other games.”

We’ll learn more in the months leading up to the launch of Elite Dangerous: Odyssey in early 2021, which is expected to arrive simultaneously for PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One.

Source: Polygon.com

Pokémon Go’s pandemic gameplay tweaks will stay (mostly)

Since March, Pokémon Go developer Niantic has made a series of tweaks to the gotta-catch-’em-all mobile game to adapt to the global coronavirus pandemic. Pokémon Go has become much more playable from home, without the need to venture out of doors or go on long walks. Changes have included the ability to join Raids from far away, free daily gifts, and shorter distance requirements to hatch in-game eggs.

Some of the changes to Pokémon Go will become become permanent fixtures of the game (for the foreseeable future, anyway), Niantic said in a blog post on Tuesday, while some gameplay adjustments will revert to their pre-pandemic ways.

The following bonuses will remain in Pokémon Go, Niantic said:

  • The maximum number of Gifts you can carry in your Item Bag at a time will remain at 20.
  • You will continue to receive three times the Stardust and XP for your first Pokémon catch of the day.
  • Incense duration will remain at 60 minutes.

The following changes (or reversions) will come to Pokémon Go on Thursday, Oct. 1 at 1 p.m. PDT:

  • Hatch Distance will return to normal for Eggs.
  • The increased effectiveness of Incense will now apply only while walking.
  • Your Buddy Pokémon will now bring you Gifts only when you have nearly run out. This will happen only once per day.
  • You will still have a higher chance of getting a Gift when you spin a PokéStop. However, you won’t be guaranteed to get a Gift.

As for events like Pokémon Go Fest and Safari Zones, all of which were canceled this year, Niantic says it’s “continuously monitoring the ever-evolving global situation and are working hard to reschedule previously planned live events to 2021.”

Source: Polygon.com

Fall Guys fans are heartbroken over the game’s elusive crowns

Fall Guys is all about that race to get a giant, golden crown in the final level. Most of us know by now that you can’t win them all, and there’s no sense in being a sore loser. But some players wish they could just win one, especially with the first season of the game coming to a close.

Amir is a fan who has been playing Fall Guys since beta, and while he has noticed an improvement, he still has yet to win. “I have more fun in the early rounds,” Alan told Polygon over Discord. “And then as soon as we hit Hexagone or Fall Mountain, I either get really intense because I want to win once so bad, or I just check out.”

Losing is a common experience in battle royale games, and Fall Guys is technically a battle royale. But unlike Apex Legends or PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, you can’t get carried by a teammate. (In fact, the team games can sink an otherwise great player if they go badly.) There’s a luck element to the game, and a rogue banana or unfortunate game of Slime Climb means anyone can advance… but it doesn’t feel like the underdog has a good shot of winning.

It’s not purely about winning, of course. Crowns mean having the ability to purchase skins. Fall Guys often rotates its premium skins; some can be bought with Kudos, which come free with every game, while others can be purchased with cash. The most visually distinctive and desired skins come from winning crowns.

Fall Guys - promotional art for the Fall Guys Gris skin.
For example, this Fall Guys skin inspired by Gris.

“[Losing] wouldn’t bother me if it wasn’t for the cosmetics,” said Lauren, another player who spoke to Polygon. “When I see a guy dressed as a Portal turret or a robot cat on the middle slippery tube in Slimb Climb, my blood boils. You have 10 crowns at least. Why are you trying to stop me from getting one? I know that’s not the point of the game; the point of the game is to win. But the winners are so obvious and I admit, I get really jealous. I want a jellyfish butt too.”

Some players want Fall Guys to iron out the randomized parts of its gameplay to become more of an esport, albeit an unusually pastel and soft-textured version of one. Other players love the random elements, whether they come in the form of Big Yeetus or a slew of strawberries being tossed down the playing field. These players are fundamentally at odds, and the crowns (and the skins they reward) become a way for those differences to become clear and calcify into resentment.

Many players have been suggesting changes. On Reddit, the user heyitsm4tty suggested a “silver crown”, which would work as a consolation prize for people who make it to the finals, but don’t win. That post received over 10,000 upvotes, and has since been shared in Fall Guys fan Discords and communities. “Damm [sic] if this was a thing, I would have at least one 10 crown costume by now,” said the top comment. Another top commenter shared in the frustration. “[It’s unrewarding] when you do so well, only to come up against fall fucking mountain.”

Image: /u/heyitsm4tty via reddit

Not everyone agrees with the sentiment. A follow-up post by the user RocketCarPlayer said that silver crowns would “Ruin the point of Fall Guys.” Lead game designer Joe Walsh replied to the thread, and acknowledged that while the game needs to reward skilled players for their achievements, it also needs to find a way “for more casual players to feel rewarded and progress towards the more exclusive rewards without having to win a full 60 player free for all.”

While there were no specific promises, Walsh noted that finding that balance was something the development team had plans to address soon. For now, it looks like season one will end with some players not winning a single crown, even if they put in the effort.

“I love Fall Guys so much,” Lauren said. “It’s not like I want to be salty. But I worry that when games are all about skill, even if they’re fun, eventually I get left behind because I’m not watching YouTube tutorials or practicing all day. I feel like I fell out of Overwatch because that game slowly became more about pleasing the best players. I worry the same thing will happen to Fall Guys.”

Source: Polygon.com

Torchlight 3 launches in mid-October

Torchlight 3 launches Oct. 13 on PlayStation 4, Windows PC via Steam, and Xbox One, Echtra Games announced on Tuesday. A version for Nintendo Switch will follow later in 2020.

The announcement caps a two-year period in which the sequel to 2012’s Torchlight 2 began as Torchlight Frontiers, with ambitions of a free-to-play massively multiplayer online game set in a “shared, persistent [and] dynamically generated world.”

But at the beginning of 2020, Max Schaefer, a co-founder of the Torchlight franchise and the chief executive of Echtra Games, said “we found Torchlight Frontiers was meant to be a true successor to Torchlight I & II.”

Schaefer, one of the development leads for Diablo 2, founded Echtra Games in 2016. Echtra took over development of the Torchlight series following the 2017 closure of original studio Runic Games. Echtra, like Runic, is owned by Perfect World Entertainment.

Torchlight 3 is $39.99. Those who have the Steam Early Access version will automatically get the full version on PC free.

Source: Polygon.com

Borat 2 will hit Amazon right before Election Day

In 2006, the movie Borat immortalized a certain pronunciation of the phrase “my wife,” and made waves for the way its star Sacha Baron Cohen, who played a fictional Kazakh journalist named Borat and filmed his interactions with figures ranging from random people on the street to Pamela Anderson without letting them in on the fact that Borat wasn’t real.

The sequel, Borat 2, or Borat: Gift of Pornographic Monkey to Vice Premiere Mikhael Pence to Make Benefit Recently Diminished Nation of Kazakhstan, has been acquired by Amazon after being secretly filmed and completed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the character of Borat has made a few appearances since 2006, he hasn’t been seen in long-form format since his film debut.

As per the announcement of the sequel’s acquisition, the film took Cohen all over America and to different countries, and at a few points required Cohen to wear a bulletproof vest to try to ensure his safety.

No firm date has yet been set for the film’s premiere, but it is expected to hit streaming before the end of October.

Source: Polygon.com

I was taken hostage in a cunning Sea of Thieves heist

Sea of Thieves allows you to make alliances with other players, spreading a fleet across the high seas in search of mutual profit. But players can still betray each other, and often do, in search of even greater gains.

One fall evening, I found myself as part of a full five-ship alliance, which meant the entire server was united under the same flag. This is an ideal version of the alliance; everyone makes a cut of the other ships’ profits, and there’s zero risk of player attacks.

There was just one problem: There was a traitor in the Alliance’s midst the entire time, and he had taken me hostage aboard my own ship. He had a plan, and I had become his unwitting pawn.

Setting the scene

I first met this bold pirate near Ancient Spire Outpost. I had plans to start an Athena’s Fortune voyage and sail the day away as a solo sloop. I saw a rare grouping of ships: two galleons, a brigantine, and a sloop. It’s not often you see the entire server together, so I approached cautiously, and when they said they wanted to talk, I decided to listen.

They informed me that I could join their server-wide alliance, or I could leave the server. It was a classic shakedown. I could either play by their terms, or they’d work together and sink me. I joined the alliance immediately. In Sea of Thieves, players have to join an Alliance by raising a specific flag near another member of the group. Every Captain keeps their profits from selling stuff, and an additional 50% trickles down to everyone else in the alliance.

The gentleman who welcomed me into the alliance got on his megaphone and sent orders to the rest of the ships. The two galleons and the brigantine would stick together, hitting the big server events that had the biggest hauls involved. The other sloop captain and I were charged with doing our own solo voyages for Athena’s Fortune. As long as everyone cooperated, no one would get hurt.

This seemed like a pretty good deal to me. I certainly wasn’t going to rise up against the man who had brought the rest of the server aboard with his plan. But what I didn’t know is that dissent was already festering in his ranks, and a member of the brigantine crew had climbed aboard my sloop.

Sea of Thieves - a player using first person perspective pilots a sloop. Image: Rare / Microsoft Game Studios

A brewing rebellion

As I started preparing for my voyage, I heard someone equip the Eye of Reach, a long-ranged scoped rifle, and they were right behind me. Players in Alliances can hurt each other; there’s still friendly fire, unless you’re part of the same ship. Was this a griefer?

But he didn’t fire. “This is a hijacking,” the pirate said, revealing his voice. He sounded maybe sixteen. “I need your sloop.”

His plan was simple. This teenager decided he didn’t like having someone control an entire server, and he wanted to set things up to ensure he got the biggest slice of the pie. So, the brigantine’s crew conspired, and sent one of their own off to take a sloop and use it to stage a coup. He just needed that sloop captain to be aboard with his plan.

Even though he had a gun pointed at my face, at this point, we both knew I had all of the power. I could simply log off; I would lose nothing but a little bit of time. I could scuttle my ship or dodge his shot and murder him so he’d respawn on his brigantine.

Or I could take part in his plot, and trade guaranteed profit for petty spite.

I chose the latter.

Sea of Thieves - a player holds a looking glass up to their eye to survey the horizon.
You gotta keep an eye on the long game.
Image: Rare / Microsoft Game Studios

Betrayal (or bullying?)

We spent the next two hours sailing around and gathering supplies. At first, he kept the rifle trained on me, but I think that eventually got a little dull. We chatted to pass the time as we loaded up the sloop with explosive barrels, cursed cannonballs, fire bombs. We fished so we would have plenty of health-restoring food for the eventual showdown.

He told me he was Finnish, living in the States, and putting off doing online school homework. I showed him my array of pets, including my hideous purple monkey that I named Fortnite. I gave him advice on his outfits. I’d hear him checking in with his team over Discord, and eventually the time came.

The teen and I rolled up on the three ships. The two galleons were working on fighting an Ashen Lord on the shores; they never saw it coming. An Ashen Lord is a big skeleton who spawns on an item, marked by a fiery tornado, and it takes quite an investment to kill them. They have a whole arsenal of special boss abilities, many of which involve throwing flame around.

Sea of Thieves - the Ashen Lords, fire imbued skeletons, pose for a dramatic group shot Image: Rare / Microsoft Game Studios

Frankly, we had over-prepared. While the other eight players from the two galleons focused on murdering the fiery skeleton boss, it was incredibly simple to line up explosive barrels in both galleons’ hulls.

The galleons were absolutely loaded with treasure, while the brigantine merely had a few chests and skulls aboard. We took a few pieces of treasure before the galleon crews noticed us. From there, everything immediately went to hell. The eight galleon players ran back towards us, yelling. The Ashen Lord followed, still going through his boss fight protocols. He opened up a portal to the sky, and fiery meteors rained down … onto the galleons, loaded with explosive barrels.

With their ships gone, it was easy for the brigantine crew and I to mop up the survivors, and then load their valuable cargo aboard our ship. We left the alliance and sailed to an outpost, but I wondered… what would have happened if I could have spoken to the galleon crews for a few hours? Would we have found a shared humanity? Would we have needed to turn on them?

But then I went to the store and bought like, six really cute dresses, so all in all? I consider being taken hostage a rousing success.

Source: Polygon.com

Demon’s Souls remake will include new items not seen in the PS3 game

Bluepoint Games’ remake of Demon’s Souls looks to be a mostly faithful recreation of the PlayStation 3 original, based on recently released gameplay footage. But Demon’s Souls for PlayStation 5 won’t be a strict one-to-one remake, based on new details from the game’s digital deluxe version — it will have new items, armor, and weapons that weren’t previously available in the game.

We’ve known about one of those weapons, the Reaper Scythe, which is available as an exclusive pre-order bonus. While that scythe was in the original game — the Reaper in the Shrine of Storms wields it — players couldn’t earn it for themselves. On the PlayStation Blog, Sony Interactive Entertainment creative director Gavin Moore explains that the Reaper Scythe is “a pole weapon with a curved blade on one end that is so sharp that they say it can sever your soul from your body. It can mow down many targets in a single blow, but is difficult to handle and requires both strength and dexterity to use.”

Demon’s Souls’ new additions go beyond that new weapon, however, based on the PS5 game’s listing on PlayStation.com.

Included as part of the Demon’s Souls digital deluxe edition are the following new items:

  • Red-Eye Knight Armor
  • Boletarian Royalty Armor
  • Ritual Blade
  • Hoplite Shield
  • Ring of Longevity
  • Preservation Grains
  • Phosphorescent Grains
  • Bearbug Grains

Some of those new items appear to be new drops from existing enemies, including the Red-Eye Knight’s armor and what appears to be clothing based on Old King Allant’s garb. The Ritual Blade appears to be the giant cleaver used by the Gold Skeleton, while the Hoplite Shield would conceivably drop from Hoplites.

An item called the Ring of Longevity does not exist in the original Demon’s Souls, and it’s unclear what role it will serve in the remake. The three grains are something of a mystery too, but the latter two appear tied to the Phosphorescent Slugs and Bearbugs found in Demon’s Souls.

Demon’s Souls will launch day and date with the PlayStation 5 on Nov. 12.

Correction: The original version of this story neglected to mention the Ronin’s Ring, an item that slowed weapon degradation in Demon’s Souls, so the description of the Ring of Longevity has been updated.

Source: Polygon.com

Pedro Almodóvar’s English-language debut is a bold summation of his career

Polygon is reporting from the remote edition of the annual New York Film Festival, bringing you first looks at the upcoming movies headed to theaters, streaming services, and awards season. This review came from a New York Film Festival screening.

Anyone familiar with the work of Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar should easily recognize The Human Voice as his latest film. The 30-minute film is packed full of his directorial trademarks: bold colors, a focus on passion, and a tone that veers between hilarious and heartbreaking, in this case carried off by Tilda Swinton. For those unfamiliar with Almodóvar, it’s a perfect crash-course introduction.

The Human Voice — Almodóvar’s English-language debut, based on Jean Cocteau’s play of the same name — begins with Swinton’s nameless character purchasing an axe at a hardware store, but it’s otherwise a monologue. While at home, Swinton receives a call. She picks it up through her AirPods and paces around her apartment as she converses with an inaudible voice on the other end of the line. The caller, it turns out, is her ex-lover, who has yet to come collect his things from their apartment, even though they split up several days ago.

tilda swinton stands in front of a large painting
Tilda Swinton in The Human Voice.
Photo: Sony Pictures Classics

As the conversation continues, Swinton goes through every emotion imaginable, but with a sense of desperation underlying them all. She’s clearly struggling to let go and accept the end of their relationship, or to properly parse how she feels toward her ex, now that he refuses to say goodbye to her in person. Swinton calculates her character’s ups and downs so perfectly that it doesn’t matter that she’s delivering her lines to thin air. The other end of the conversation is easy to imagine, based on how she reacts to it, whether it’s with a forced laugh or a rush of annoyance.

Her emotions are amplified by the film’s design. Swinton’s character is seen rummaging through Blu-rays of movies including Phantom Thread and Kill Bill, both of which intertwine love and death. The colorful lavishness of the apartment she prowls through — bright greens and reds, swaths of mustard-yellow — make everything feel more melodramatic. Even when the camera moves far enough to reveal that the apartment is a set built in the middle of a giant studio, Swinton’s performance is so sharp, and every aspect of what Almodóvar puts on screen is so carefully thought-out and deliberate, that the artifice doesn’t detract from the emotions at play.

As per its source material, The Human Voice is a very theatrical work, but this isn’t the first time Almodóvar has drawn from this Cocteau play. One of the characters in his 1987 film Law of Desire was written as starring in the play, and his 1988 film Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, while not an adaptation, took Cocteau’s text as a starting point. The Human Voice is the most straightforward adaptation, and in its unmistakable Almodóvar-esque execution, it feels like a distillation of the director’s four decades of work thus far.

tilda swinton looking disheveled
Tilda Swinton in The Human Voice.
Image: Sony Pictures Classics

The short is also a feat of pandemic filmmaking — Almodóvar and his team shot the film over two weeks in July. Perhaps that accounts for some of the sense of filmic trickery, specifically with regards to the set, but the choice to reveal the apartment as fake only plays into how striking The Human Voice is. Even separated from the context of current affairs, the separation Swinton’s character feels from the rest of the world is cutting, given how trapped she feels in her apartment.

An extended monologue might not sound like a sustainable concept for a film, but The Human Voice is no longer or shorter than it needs to be. Just as it seems like the film’s gimmick might be overstaying its welcome, Almodóvar introduces a last dramatic flourish before bringing the proceedings to a close. It’s a delight no matter how you slice it; for fans, it’s a reminder of what makes Almodóvar such a great director, and for neophytes, it’s an unforgettable introduction.

The Human Voice does not yet have a release date.

Source: Polygon.com

The Assassin’s Creed Valhalla story trailer features the male Eivor

Though we’ve gotten to see a little of the gameplay in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Ubisoft’s new story trailer includes the most significant amount of plot details yet.

The trailer, which only features the male version of the protagonist Eivor, introduces the lead character’s brother Sigurd, as well as members of the Assassin’s Order. It’s Sigurd who prompts Eivor and the rest of the clan to expand into Britain, facing many enemies along the way. A new character also mentions “a darkness unseen, an unknowable threat” that is bound to England’s destiny, hinting at the more science fiction-y aspects of the Assassin’s Creed games.

The new look at the game follows several controversies at Ubisoft, including the firing of Ashraf Ismail, the former creative director of the game, after allegations of sexual misconduct, as well as broader allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct within the company. Notably, the Bloomberg investigation into the company also included reports from employees about how female characters were consistently minimized in Assassin’s Creed games, a trend that was “illustrative of the sexism ingrained within the company.” Bloomberg also cited Polygon’s 2014 reporting on the lack of female assassins in Assassin’s Creed Unity’s four-player co-op mode, with former Ubisoft creative director Alex Amancio saying it would be “really a lot of extra production work” to include them. At the time, Amancio faced pushback from other animators who disagreed with his claim.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is set to launch on Nov. 10.

Source: Polygon.com