Monthly Archives: March 2015

Nintendo Direct Coming Tomorrow, Promises Wii U and 3DS "Updates"

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The next Nintendo Direct broadcast has been announced, and it’s happening soon.

Tomorrow, April 1, Nintendo will hold its next special broadcast, this one promising “updates” about upcoming Wii U and 3DS games. Nintendo is holding the presentation on April Fools’ Day, but promises that, “this Nintendo Direct is no joke!”

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In addition to the unspecified “updates” about Wii U and 3DS games, Nintendo will conclude the broadcast with a “short” presentation featuring one of the company’s spring 2015 games. The company didn’t say which game this will be.

The April 1 Nintendo Direct briefing will begin at 3 PM PDT / 6 PM EDT. GameSpot will bring you all the news from the event as it’s announced.

Nintendo has made major headlines of late. Earlier this month, the company announced plans to finally enter the smartphone market and even revealed its next platform, codenamed “NX.” And just last week, Nintendo delayed The Legend of Zelda for Wii U out of 2015.

What are you hoping to see during the Nintendo Direct tomorrow? Let us know in the comments below!

Dying Light Has a Special April Fools’ Day Surprise Waiting for You

Dying Light has a special surprise for anyone who plays the open-world zombie game tomorrow, April 1, which is April Fools’ Day. “Something unusual is going to happen in the world of Dying Light tomorrow that will radically change the game experience for one day only,” developer Techland said.

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A new batch of Antizin–the Dying Light in-game virus cure–has been “exposed to a foreign contaminant,” Techland said in a statement. As a result, all players who pick up a supply drop containing the non-toxic chemical will experience a range of side-effects.

According to the video above, these side-effects include super-human strength, among other things. The side-effects are listed below; check out the video above to see them in action.

  • Uncontrollable fits of physical violence
  • Excessive strength and agression
  • Persistent muscle tension
  • Severely altered motor skills
  • Obsessive compulsive need to kick stuff

“All undelivered Antizin crates have been destroyed, and we would like to assure the survivors that untainted drops will resume as of April 2nd,” Dying Light’s fictional Global Relief Effort spokesperson Hudson Jenkins said. “We urge all the survivors to use extreme care when exhibiting symptoms of the contaminated Antizin injections.”

Dying Light launched in January and is selling well, outpacing the mark of its predecessor, Dead Island. The game sold more than 3.2 million copies during its first 45 days on sale.

Following Dying Light’s debut, Techland has launched a variety of free content and more, including additional weapons and outfits, as well as a Hard Mode. Going forward, Techland plans to release mod tools for the PC edition of Dying Light. The studio also pledged to actively support all versions of the game with more maps, modes, skills, quests, and “other original content” in the future.

For more on Dying Light, check out GameSpot’s review.

Story of Seasons Review

Farm work often builds more calluses than character. Baling hay and operating heavy machinery under the sun’s stare isn’t what I’d call fun, as even my few high school summers spent helping a farmstead to flourish had me pining for the comfort of a cubicle. It’s wearisome work, but as Story of Seasons proves, it also has its grand rewards. Watching a field of seedlings transform to a sea of stalks—along with raising a calf to not only produce milk, but also show well in competition—can be worth the hours of tilling, watering, feeding, and grooming.

The fruit of your labor is yours to ripen, but it takes time and patience to see your farm in Story of Seasons—a Harvest Moon game in everything but name—progress beyond a small patch of unripe tomatoes. Tilling dirt, planting seeds, spreading fertilizer, keeping your animals happy and healthy—the list of chores is long (and yes, these are chores.) You won’t gleefully rush to brush your two rabbits and water your spinach crop before the day’s end, but you’ll still push through these menial tasks for the good of the farm. The products that come from the processes drive you to action, and while these procedures are often tedious, the payoff of your hard work is too rich a bounty to resist.

He’s just so happy!

When you’re first planted into town, there’s actually very little to do. As a new farmer looking to sell your goods and attract fresh business, your customizable character (who can be either male or female) has very few tools and tokens to work with. You’re given a ramshackle dwelling stationed on an unkempt plot of land, as well as an assortment of equipment with rugged grips and dull edges. It’s from this unremarkable cocoon you must emerge, and while the compulsion to create proper plots for crops and to tidy up this agricultural mess is strong, making any real progress takes time. Your first few weeks feel empty, and at times even aimless, since you don’t have the means to accomplish much.

It’s not just your budding flowers, fruits, and grains that determine the pace. It’s your character’s insufficient stamina that drives activity, and while cooking the various purchasable recipes and ordering an entrée at the local restaurant gives you a healthy boost of energy, the consistent burden of running out of juice is wearisome. Every swing of the axe, thrust of the hammer, or flick of the wrist as you water crops affects your stamina, and that’s a nagging, momentum-killing issue early on. Without the proper funds or food (or if it’s a Wednesday and the restaurant’s closed), you can easily wind up with depleted strength before noon. After that, you’re left to either socialize with your neighbors or sleep the day away to fully restore your energy. Story of Seasons’ biggest flaw is its insistence on too literally conveying the world-weary axiom, “There just aren’t enough hours in the day.”

The fruit of your labor is yours to ripen, but it takes time and patience to see your farm in Story of Seasons progress beyond a small patch of unripe tomatoes.

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You learn to work within these tight boundaries. After watering your crops and tending to your livestock Monday morning, maybe you’ll spend the next three hours fishing—an activity easy on your stamina—with the hopes of nabbing a rare catch. If it rains on Tuesday and you don’t need to manually water plants (an occurrence you’ll cherish), you can spend the morning selling crops to the merchant visiting the market. From there, you can allot your waning hours of sunlight to chopping down trees to free up additional space for barns, or working the land for all those sweet potato seeds taking up space in your inventory. Once you discover valuable minerals like copper and purchase enough blueprints for new tools, though, the stamina restrictions loosen. By the time I crafted a gold brush and watering can, I was able to attend to almost every errand in a given day without depleting my food bank or splurging at the restaurant.

Unfortunately, digging up dirt and picking up stray branches isn’t fun. In fact, gathering materials and making sure everything on your farm is in tip-top shape before you hit the hay can be an lifeless grind. But even after spending three in-game days doing little more than watering plants and milking cows whilst waiting for a merchant to come to town, the compulsion to continue expanding my empire was strong. After playing a marathon session and with every intention of putting the 3DS down, simply waking up to the pitter-patter of rain against my roof was enough to get me out of my virtual bed and back into the fields. Story of Seasons intelligently doles out new tasks and items that build upon its basic farming mechanics, so it’s easy to just barrel through weeks at a time in anticipation for bigger and better results.

Time doesn’t grow on trees, Elise!

The deliberately paced farm work coupled with the time between planting crops and seeing results only makes cashing in your trove of goods sweeter. A calendar tells which days of the week merchants come into town, and the more you sell, the more unique buyers visit the market. Different items are also in-demand during certain weeks and with particular buyers, so while you might have moaned and groaned as you slaved over dozens of different plants, selling an entire crop of chili peppers at above-market value can turn the whole game around. This sudden influx of cash allows you to lease new land, buy more cows, or even expand your house.

That’s when Story of Seasons is at its best. After spending weeks digging through your couch cushions for enough loose change to simply feed your cows, finally selling your goods and using this influx of money to upgrade each aspect of your agricultural business is wonderfully satisfying. The subsidiary activities, such as fishing, decorating, and (eventually) mining for rare minerals can be entertaining on their own, but they all feed into Story of Seasons’ primary goal—to build the biggest, best farm possible.

Every swing of the axe, thrust of the hammer, or flick of the wrist as you water crops affects your stamina.

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Because of how single-minded you can become, it’s difficult to find entertainment outside of the farm. Poking the townsfolk to hear repetitive dialogue is dull, and the planned events that range from cooking competitions to fashion shows feel more like roadblocks during your daily routine than novel ways to interact with your neighbors. Different events through each of the four seasons do well to break up the pace, but every moment you’re not farming can feel like a waste of effort.

One nagging distraction is the frame rate, which noticeably dips as you travel from screen to screen. Story of Seasons isn’t a visual powerhouse, even if the cartoony characters and vibrant colors of the different seasons are nice to look at. But as soon as you step into a patch of land littered with seeds and budding plants, the presentation stutters. It doesn’t prevent you from completing any specific tasks, but the frame rate remains a consistent nuisance.

Even so, Story of Seasons is a wildly addictive, bizarrely rewarding adventure constrained by tight restrictions that only loosen after a significant time investment. The early pacing problems do well to bolster the sense of progression later in the game, and while the restrictive stamina system tempers the fun early on, the eventual payoff for all your hard work is enhanced by the early days spent toiling in the fields. There are blatant issues—some of which might keep you from advancing beyond the first season—but once Story of Seasons has its hooks in you, it’s difficult to walk away from the farm.

Metal Gear Solid Movie Gets A Writer

Despite reported power struggles between Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima and publisher Konami, the long-in-development Metal Gear Solid movie is indeed moving forward.

Hollywood news site Deadline reports that British writer Jay Basu has inked a deal with Sony Pictures to write the upcoming film adaptation of Konami’s stealth-action series.

Basu was on the writing team for 2014’s Monsters: Dark Continent and 2012’s Fast Girls. Deadline also reports that Basu, a “hot British writer,” has been tapped by Universal Pictures to help re-launch some of the company’s monster movie franchises, including Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Mummy.

As was previously announced, The Kings of Summer director Jordan Vogt-Roberts is on-board to direct the upcoming Metal Gear Solid movie.

There’s no word yet on plot or who will play Solid Snake. Kojima said he was previously eyeing X-Men star Hugh Jackman for the role, but it was later decided to cast a unspecified newcomer instead. Kojima himself was at one time working on the Metal Gear Solid movie in a supervisory role, though it’s unclear if recent developments have affected that arrangement.

The Metal Gear Solid movie is not the only movie based on a video game in the works. Ubisoft is currently working on a total of six movies, including features based on Assassin’s Creed, Splinter Cell, and Watch Dogs. In addition, movies based on Warcraft, The Last of Us, Temple Run, Minecraft, and Angry Birds are on the way. The most recent video game movie was last year’s Need for Speed, which starred Breaking Bad‘s Aaron Paul. The movie did not win over critics, but it was a commercial success.

The next Metal Gear Solid game is the upcoming open-world title Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain, a sequel to March 2014’s Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes. The game is due out worldwide for consoles on September 1, while the PC edition is coming two weeks later.

WWE 2K15’s Next DLC Out Now, Honors Ultimate Warrior

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2K Sports on Tuesday released the latest expansion for professional wrestling game WWE 2K15. The content, the third expansion for the game’s story-driven Showcase mode, is called Path of the Warrior. It honors the late WWE Hall of Famer fighter Ultimate Warrior.

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Path of the Warrior starts off with his victory over Honky Tonk Man in 1988’s SummerSlam. Other bouts featured in the content including faceoffs with Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Sgt. Slaughter, Randy “Macho Man” Savage, Colonel Mustafa, and others.

The content is available today on Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 3. A full roundup of everything included with Path of the Warrior, courtesy of 2K Sports, is below.

  • Story focused on the career of WWE Hall of Famer Ultimate Warrior;
  • Playable WWE Hall of Famers: Ultimate Warrior (1989-1996), Hulk Hogan (1990), Andre the Giant (1988), and Sgt. Slaughter (1991);
  • Playable WWE Legends: Honky Tonk Man (1988), Rick Rude (1990), Randy “Macho Man” Savage (1991), and Colonel Mustafa (1991);
  • Playable WWE Superstars: Undertaker (1991) and Hunter Hearst Helmsley (1996);
  • Access to WWE Hall of Fame ring announcer Howard Finkel and WWE managers Jimmy Hart, Bobby Heenan, Paul Bearer, Sherri, Sid Justice, and General Adnan;
  • Playable arenas: WrestleManiaVI, VII and XII; SummerSlam (1988, 1990 and 1991); Saturday Night’s Main Event XXIV, and Madison Square Garden;

Ultimate Warrior, born James Hellwig, died in April 2014.

Path of the Warrior is included with the $25 WWE 2K15 DLC pass or can be purchased by itself for $10. For a closer look at the content, check out the image gallery below.

In other recent WWE 2K news, 2K Sports has announced a brand-new WWE 2K mobile game due out this spring. Read all about that game here.

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Evolve – The Hunt Evolves Trailer

The Hunt evolves as 4 new hunters and one new monster enter the mix in Evolve.

All 11 Cars from Forza Horizon 2 Presents Fast & Furious

Check out all of the cars from the standalone game Forza Horizon 2 Presents Fast & Furious.

GS News – $250 Star Citizen Ship; Halo 5 Release Date Announced!

Halo 5 details drop including two new trailers, Star Citizen funding hits $77m, and violent threats result in a Mortal Kombat dev leaving Twitter.

Sid Meier’s Starships Review

“This would be good as a mobile game” was, historically, some pretty faint praise. A sort of euphemism for alleging that a game was baser somehow, that in exchange for a shallow, compulsive high it asked little of a player save the odd microtransaction. Drag a distracted finger across a screen a few times, and kill, conquer, level up…all between stops on the train. I don’t cotton to those implications, not anymore: Mobile games have achieved too much, broken too many molds. But in some circles you can still hear the old backhanded compliment being leveled at games like Sid Meier’s Starships.

Starships happens to actually be a mobile game–the kind that harks to those days of yore, when “mobile” equated to “simplistic.” It released simultaneously on PC, Mac, and iPad, and in more-or-less the same form to boot. And the first things you notice about it are the various ways it seems visually bottlenecked by its tablet version. On PC, it unfurls in a tablet’s compacted, low resolution window, and there are no graphical settings to massage. Its sci-fi galaxy is mostly abstracted, and its unit models are simple and blocky. It’s not those issues that really put me off of Starships, but rather the way it seems to aspire to that narrow, dated idea of what makes a “good” mobile game. I can turn aside the quick and obvious assaults on PC sensibilities–the rough graphics, the lack of options–but it’s the cynical design that guts me, in the end.

The abstracted galaxy doesn’t try very hard to sell the sci-fi setting.

The titular starships form a single roving fleet on the game’s galactic map, and act as the lone controllable unit. From your home base, the fleet can be moved over to any adjacent planet with the press of a button, which triggers combat missions that award points towards bringing the planet into the fold of your empire. Planets under your control confer resources each turn (food, industrial production, science, and energy) that can be spent on upgrades for your starships, or used towards buildings and world wonders that improve your production or military capabilities. The salient goal is to have a majority of the galaxy under your thumb–51%, and no less.

Where Meier’s Civilization series accommodates pacifism, there isn’t much to do with your Starships fleet on the galactic map except pick fights. There are victory conditions outside of conquering your opponents, sure–controlling X amount of world wonders or researching Y amount of technologies–but these goals take resources to complete, and the only way to fill your storehouses is to perform combat missions and claim planets. The different victories have different names, but they all boil down to exercising military might, which in turn requires trudging through watered down and grossly exploitable battles.

Combat missions set your ships down on a honeycomb game space surrounding a planet. You might be asked to escort a unit (that, mercifully, you also control), or hunt down an escorted one yourself. Or you navigate a maze of asteroids to reach an escape gate, or defeat an enemy boss. The asteroids strewn about the playing field block fire, and black holes teleport ships to other black holes on the map. It’s simplistic board game strategy propped up by only the barest of fiction, and eminently exploitable. Every one of your ships can be upgraded to deploy zippy, surprisingly powerful fighters, meaning that in a single turn it’s possible to effectively double the size of your fleet. The fighters are fragile, but they’re so strong and can quickly cover so much distance that they throw the balance of any fight. Even forgoing them, I found I was able to comfortably win almost every engagement on any difficulty level by committing to longer range lasers and picking off enemies as they tried to approach, one at a time. It’s a strategy game without strategy, enabling you to sleepwalk your way to triumph.

Combat plays by bland, tired, grid-based formulas.

Starships ostensibly picks things up where Civilization: Beyond Earth left off, but practically speaking, all that means is that the preceding game’s cardboard cutout leaders have been stood in front of Starship’s backgrounds. Each has a unique stat bonus in place of an actual personality, and their speech is characteristically mechanistic. “Our computer calculations indicate that you have but a 19% chance of dominating this galaxy” is what passes for a greeting in the game’s stripped-down version of diplomacy. If you’re thinking about declaring war after that (and I wouldn’t blame you if you were), it’s trivially easy to gauge your odds. Your opponents themselves provide an itemized list of their military assets on request–Starships is wanting for any other, more suitable screen to house the information. There are no ceremonial trappings, here. Two deadpan leaders simply meet, compare spreadsheets, and arrange peace or war accordingly.

You’re presented with a similar rundown at the end of missions, tabulating all the ships destroyed and lost, and divvying out bonuses multiplied by various modifiers. Starships throws these figures and calculations at you, but there’s nothing useful to be done with the information, as though the game just wants to make sure you know that it did the work. Numbers are always going up a thousand at a time in the game–you get lost in all that effortless forward momentum, and it becomes impossible to care about a few lost hundred here or there.

Beyond Earth’s Affinities also make the jump, representing a choice between one of three broad societal values: Purity, Supremacy, or Harmony. But like everything in Starships, they’ve come unmoored from any cultural tie-downs, and now simply denote which of three arbitrary stat bonuses you feel like beginning the game with. Constructing a wonder means pressing a button when you’ve got enough of the requisite resource. There’s no actual sense of building–a variable has simply shifted somewhere behind the scenes. It’s an issue exacerbated by the fact that your ships are functionally immortal–though they appear to blow apart when destroyed in battle, you can still simply repair them afterward for a nominal cost. Even the loss of an entire fleet in a mission simply means being sent back to the planet you arrived from, down a few of the action points you expend to move around on the map on a turn. The stakes of this intragalactic war are at mechanical remove–any one defeat amounts only to an obscure amount of wasted man-hours.

Just buy fighter upgrades. Guaranteed win on every difficulty.

As mobile games find new heights, Starships takes its sci-fi premise and uses it to trawl the primordial pools they ascended from. Its planets are suspended in a two dimensional plane, and when your turn is up, enemy fleets dart back and forth among them in seemingly random directions. They look less like interstellar armadas, and more like single celled organisms responding to simple stimuli. They flit about from planet to planet, hex cell to cell, as though guided by the basest biological compulsions, consuming and growing. And you’re right alongside them–with a few disinterested clicks or swipes across the screen, killing, conquering, and leveling up.

Dreamfall Chapters Book Two: Rebels Review

Coming off the heels of a rather sedentary first installment, Dreamfall Chapters Book Two: Rebels changes pace and propels the story into action. The first episode focused on finding your bearings and plotting your path; The second is all about setting that journey into motion. Book One did an admirable job of reacquainting its audience with the Dreamfall universe while providing a solid framework to build on in the chapters to follow. However, honing in that closely on the setup provided little room for follow through, and the lack of forward momentum left me less than satiated. Fortunately, the fruits of these labors are more than apparent in Book Two, which plucks off just enough to ramp up the action while leaving plenty to ripen on the vine in anticipation of what’s to come.

Dreamfall is and has always been a story about duality–the yin & yang of Stark and Arcadia, magic and science, occupation and rebellion. These themes run deep in Book Two and offer a strong lens through which to view the bond between the journeys of two disparate leads: Zoe Castillo and Kian Alvane. Where Book One told a tale of parallel jailbreaks with Kian’s escape from Azadi prison and Zoe’s liberation from a Dreamtime-induced coma, Book Two continues this trend with a tale of two spies and a pair of fact-finding missions. With Kian embroiled in the Azadi conflict in Marcuria and Zoe finding herself at odds with the ever-increasing presence of EYE forces in Propast, the heroes launch headfirst into breaking down the mysteries and conspiracies within. And boy, do they have their work cut out for them.

Will Zoe bite The Hand That Feeds?

For starters, Book Two is massive and takes over twice as long to complete as Book One. This is due both in part to the ample story progression and the introduction of a whole new, if familiar, environment in which to explore. While bigger isn’t always better (and this is certainly true in some respects here), there is something satisfying about how the episode digs in, offering plenty of time to get lost in the world. There’s a lot of meat on those bones, and this is excellent news for those of us who spent their time with the first book waiting for the story to go full-on Longest Journey. Book Two finally hits that stride and wastes no time getting there.

Book Two opens with Kian convalescing at Resistance headquarters, the underground ring of Arcadian rebels formerly led by the Captain to combat the growing Azadi threat. It is as if Robin Hood is being introduced to the band of Merry Magicals: Kian is ordered to prove his loyalty to the cause, and before long, finds himself roaming the streets of Marcuria. While wandering through the city in the game’s third-person perspective, it was difficult not to get excited to be back on these old stomping grounds, and I had forgotten just how great a contrast the fantasy vibe of Marcuria provides when juxtaposed against the futuristic, Blade Runner-meets-Beyond Good & Evil aesthetic of Stark.

Like revisiting the house you grew up in many years later, Marcuria is simultaneously familiar and strange. The landmarks are still here (The Magic Market! The Journeyman Inn! The Rooster and Kitty!… wait, didn’t that tavern go by a different name before?), but many areas are tweaked, askew, or entirely new. While several popular haunts have been abandoned since the occupation, there are plenty of new nooks and crannies to explore, leaving Marcuria feeling cautiously lively, like a party in a prison cell.

Where Book One told a tale of parallel jailbreaks with Kian’s escape from Azadi prison and Zoe’s liberation from a Dreamtime-induced coma, Book Two continues this trend with a tale of two spies and a pair of fact-finding missions.

This is not necessarily all for the best, however. As Kian ticks his way down the Resistance’s to-do list, he must do so donning an Irhadian Veil so as not to be recognized by his fellow Azadi patrolling the streets. Narratively, this makes perfect sense. Since Kian was initially imprisoned for treason, anonymity should be a high priority. In practice, however, Kian’s pace slows to a crawl anytime he passes a guarded gate or entryway, which yields a lot of tedious slow-walking as he makes the transition. As it is, navigating the town is sludgy enough, and you will find yourself holding down the run button constantly just to feel like you’re moving at a reasonable pace. These belligerently slow zones, while not terribly prevalent, are enough to frustrate when moving between areas.

Unfortunately, the same goes for Zoe’s trek through Propast as well. While Kian works to dig up dirt on the Azadi in Marcuria, Zoe investigates a possible source of corruption within the political campaign she works for and what, if any, connection there is to the EYE and WATICorp. As Zoe gets closer to the answer, Propast’s faux-pen world layout becomes less accessible to her. Roadblocks are increased, security is beefed up, and carving a path through the city becomes a puzzle all on its own. It’s an effective way of communicating the EYE’s growing threat through environmental storytelling, but as someone who often found himself disoriented on the streets of Propast, I did not appreciate the constant detouring required of Zoe in order to reach many of her destinations.

Perhaps the most baffling detour of Book Two occurs back in Arcadia when Kian is tasked with sneaking into Marcuria Harbor to sabotage a weapons shipment. Apparently, his magical veil loses some of its mojo in this area as the guards here are able to detect Kian’s presence if he gets too close, initiating a fail-state. Not only is it an incredibly awkward slog to complete, but my attempts were riddled with bugs, robbing me of success the first couple times I managed to satisfy all passing requirements. It’s aggravating and flies in the face of the more cerebral types of quests presented in the series so far. To add insult to burglary, when I finally managed to reach the cut-scene, I was awarded with the Steam achievement, “I Thought There Wouldn’t Be Stealth!” Its description reads, “So you thought there wouldn’t be stealth and also you suck at it,” as if the lack of a proper toolset to engage in stealth–such as sneaking, or crouching, or any sort of visual feedback–had anything to do with the player’s input. No, Dreamfall Chapters, it is you who sucks at it.

Propast may be a pain to navigate, but it sure is gorgeous.

Mechanical flaws aside, Dreamfall Chapters soars when its quests provide the connective tissue between narrative mystery, tension, and resolution, and Book Two offers some excellent entries in this department. On their own, most missions offer little more than the deduction-based adventure-game fare familiar to Dreamfall vets. But string them together and a bigger picture comes into focus–one that leverages incremental progress with gratifying bursts of dramatic revelation. Without giving too much away, Dreamfall Chapters understands that what makes solving a key puzzle interesting isn’t the act of opening the door, but discovering who’s behind it and the intense conversations that arise as a result.

On this note, including dialogue choices is a natural progression for the series. As we have been told, Zoe’s destination is predetermined, but her path along the way is not. This jives with the way the game’s Bioware-style branching conversations work. The details change, but the big finish usually remains consistent. So while there may be less expectation for player choices to have a drastic impact on the final outcome of the plot, they do have a measurable impact on the smaller, more idiosyncratic moments (Reza’s lunch will have repercussions!), and I found myself enjoying the smattering of incremental payoffs rather than anticipating a much larger one that may or may not come later. Again, it has a layered effect that, when added up, amount to an effective and intricate feat of storytelling.

It all comes back to the trilogy’s bread & butter–its cast of characters. Book Two enjoys more colorful dialogue from the likes of Mira, the abusively foul-mouthed cybernetic chop-shopper; Baruti, the Botswanian campaign manager; and the nefarious Commander Vamon leading the Azadi occupation. If Kian is the Robin Hood of the story, Vamon is undoubtedly the Sheriff of Nottingham.

Dreamfall Chapters soars when its quests provide the connective tissue between narrative mystery, tension, and resolution.

To keep things fresh, there is also an influx of new and notable characters gracing the second act. For instance, in Arcadia there is Lihko, a wounded Dolmari warrior outspoken against Kian’s presence who begrudges him for his Azadi heritage and the sacrifice made by the Resistance to save him. He’s a complex and conflicted character whose intimidating presence is amplified by his booming voice.

At his side, there is Enu, a sassy feline Zhid with a curious mind and zero filter. In contrast to Lihko, her flirty frankness and positive attitude help to make Kian feel as welcome as possible given the circumstance. Without a doubt she is one of the more interesting and entertaining characters to be introduced so far. Her snarky dialogue and too-much-information attitude, especially regarding sex, inject much-needed comic relief within a group that is otherwise all business.

In addition, there’s the mysterious Anna, a cunning rogue who appears to have a history with Kian despite his lapse in memory of any such relationship. Also crawling out of the woodwork is The Mole, Bip the thief, Hanna the punk rock runaway, and even a familiar face or two from Zoe’s past. Other than an underwhelming showing by Reza, who’s the most consistently mediocre brat of the pack, this episode walks the Dreamfall walk with plenty of meaningful roles to fulfill and subvert the archetypes within. With unique and diverse characters such as these, the series continues its tradition of utilizing a fantastic ensemble cast–an aspect that cannot be understated but was lacking by the end of Book One.

Enu, probably telling a sex joke, and Lihko, unamused as usual.

The Longest Journey series is a collection of inhabitable moments and by the end of this act, I appreciated what each moment had amounted to. This is emphasized by the radically tense cliffhanger the episode goes out on, which had me questioning every step that led up to it. As these pivotal moments pass, they offer new opportunities to reflect on the events that have come before them. They have a cumulative effect that changes the way in which you see the big picture. What happens in Stark can inform your understanding of what is happening in Arcadia and vice-versa, for their fates are interconnected. And as Kian and Zoe’s worlds parallel each other, Dreamfall’s world parallels our own, offering social and political commentary via the themes of its stories and the lives of its inhabitants. Book Two succeeds in reminding us that our destination may be predetermined, but our path is not. It’s how we choose to travel, and who we keep by our side, that makes the journey worthwhile.