Throughout Barbie’s 59-year existence she’s been in all manner of inspirational careers. Barbie was an astronaut, a member of Congress, a McDonald’s worker, Supergirl, an airline pilot, a soldier, a CEO, riveter, welder, NASCAR driver and now, she can add raider of tombs to her resume. Tomb Raider Barbie is the latest variant of the popular doll from Mattel. She comes with a climbing pickaxe, adventure map, and one of the newer, less unrealistic body proportions that the toy company introduced in 2016. It’s less a tie-in to the game series and more about the March movie release of the Tomb Raider reboot starring Alicia Vikander in the title role. Vikander recently joked to BBC’s Graham Norton that “My breasts are not as pointy as the first Lara” referring to the original video game character.
Microsoft says the company has heard the complaints about Universal Windows Platform Apps, and will take steps to course-correct. At the Build 2016 conference, Xbox honcho Phil Spencer, revealed that some of the issues people (including Epic Games’ Tim Sweeney) noted with Windows 10 Store PC games like Rise of the Tomb Raider and Gears of War: Ultimate Edition would be fixed. The specific points noted hinged on the fact that due to the nature of the way UWP works, user mods, overlays like Steam, disabling vertical sync, and using some graphics processor software, are all currently not possible. Spencer promised that Microsoft is working with engineer partners to enable these features into UWP that PC gamers have enjoyed for years previously.
During the same conference, Microsoft announced that the Xbox Store and Windows 10 Store would merge to present a consistent experience across all Microsoft platforms.
Zombies are coming to Rise of the Tomb Raider. The Cold Darkness Awakened DLC features Lara Croft exploring a secret Siberian outpost full of infected soldiers. They’re more 28 Days Later than Night of the Living Dead, but we all know what it means when a disease turns people into “bloodthirsty killers who thrive on carnage.” They’re zombies. They may not be technically undead, but the death sequences when you screw up will probably be just as gruesome.
Cold Darkness Awakened will launch on March 29th. It is the third and final piece of DLC for the game’s season pass bundle. It will also be available separately for both Windows and Xbox One versions.
The fact that Rise of the Tomb Raider is getting a Season Pass isn’t much to get in a huff about. The contents of that offer is another thing entirely. Purchasers of the bundle will get access to an Endurance Mode, which sounds like an extra hard difficulty setting, another tomb to explore in Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch, and Cold Darkness Awakened, which is a horde mode style of gameplay. Season Pass holders will also get a “steady stream” of outfits, weapons, and Expedition Cards. This is where things get a little janky. Tomb Raider’s Creative Director Noah Hughes explained what these cards do.
In Rise of the Tomb Raider, you’ll earn credits by completing challenges and exploring the world. These credits can be used to purchase Expedition Card packs. When used, Expedition Cards become modifiers in game modes outside of the single player campaign. Some Cards are humorous, such as Big Head Mode, while others can increase the challenge or give you special advantages. Expedition Cards can also be purchased with real-world currency.
There are two types of Expedition Cards: Foil and Common. A Foil Card will give Lara the strongest or strangest variations and can be used as many times as you wish. A Common Card is only used once, and you’ll need to earn more credits to buy it back.
Expedition Cards offer hundreds of ways to customize your Rise of the Tomb Raider experience. You can also set up challenges for your friends to see if they can beat your scores with the same card setup. We’ll have about 300 cards available at launch, and more will be added in the weeks that follow.
The first big news out of Gamescom is from Microsoft, and it’s not good for PlayStation owners. Square Enix has partnered with Microsoft and is making Rise of the Tomb Raider an exclusive to Xbox One and Xbox 360. According to Xbox UK’s Dom Carey, this is not just a timed exclusive. Darrell Gallagher, head of Crystal Dynamics, posted an apologetic message to fans of the franchise shortly after the disappointing news broke. The developer explained that they chose to partner with Microsoft for the support they could give.
This doesn’t mean that we’re walking away from our fans who only play on PlayStation or on PC. Those are great systems, with great partners, and amazing communities. We have Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris coming to those platforms this December, and Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition is available on PS4.
Rise of the Tomb Raider will launch for the holiday season in 2015.
Update: Microsoft’s Phil Spencer has admitted to Eurogamer that the Xbox exclusivity is for an unspecified duration.
I’ve already played Tomb Raider twice, even though it’s clearly not a game designed to be played more than once. As a once-and-done narrative-driven AAA release, it’s one of a dying breed. But since it was released on the cusp of a new generation of console systems, publisher Square Enix has tempted me with a third playthrough by showing off the tech upgrades in the “Definitive Edition” re-release for the Xbox One and Playstation 4. If you’re looking for an excuse to re-experience one of the best games of 2013, how about new tress technology? How about new mud, blood, and sweat? How about new equipment physics? How about new, uh, drip maps? Yeah, drip maps. Frankly, I don’t really need an excuse for another playthrough, but this upgrade helps.
How would you follow up the critically acclaimed Tomb Raider reboot? If your answer is “with a free-to-play iOS card game” then you’d be doing exactly what Square Enix is doing with Lara Croft: Reflections. The game features Lara collecting cards and fighting enemies with upgradeable weapons. Players can purchase upgrades through in-app offers. If the image above is accurate, Lara can fight herself which likely explains the “reflections” part of the title.
Lara Croft: Reflections just launched in Australia and New Zealand and will presumably be available in other territories at a later date if Square Enix follows the same publishing strategy that was used for Plants vs Zombies 2. EA and PopCap launched Plants vs Zombies 2 in the Australia and New Zealand iOS markets to test pricing and balance before launching in more populous regions.
This year, instead of just singling out games I like, I’m going to single out games that do best what I like most. Namely, games that tell a story through gameplay. A relevant story, unique to the way videogames tell stories. Games that really get the unique strength of the medium over and above books and movies. Games that are particularly great at being games and not just puzzles or tests of skill or dazzling virtual wonderlands.
This is partly a shame, because it’s going to exclude some of my favorite games this year. It’s going to exclude games I liked mostly for mechanical reasons. Don’t Starve is the game that finally got me hooked on procedurally generated survival-a-thons, partly because it’s got so much personality and mystery. Desktop Dungeons is the most amazingly intricate cerebral puzzle rogue-like I’ve ever played, neatly arrayed under a superlative meta-game of building up and unlocking. Tales of Maj’Eyal is a rogue-like with addictively intricate character development, honed over a decade of development. I never really cared for the goofy sloppiness of kart racers, but this year’s best driving game is a kart racing game called Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. Monaco is a glorious playground full of interactive bits, lovingly realized in that often too-precious retro fat-pixel way, and some of the best multiplayer co-op you can play. Splinter Cell Blacklist takes stealth as far as I can imagine it will ever go by giving it varying levels of importance in a generous set of sandboxes, all interconnected by the economy of buying cool weapons and gadgets. Which brings me to Dead Space 3, which drank up far more time than a Dead Space should with its funky cool spaceweapon crafting. Assassin’s Creed IV’s gorgeous pirate ship shenanigans were just the breath of salty fresh air the Assassin’s Creed series needed. If there’s a platformer as good as Rayman Legends at the art of running, jumping, and variations thereof, I haven’t played it. I haven’t gotten very far into Wonderful 101, but I love the fighting system I’ve seen so far and I’m eager to explore the rest of it.
All those games would vie for a spot on a conventional top ten list. But none of those games really had an effective narrative hook, and that’s what my list is going to single out this year. As videogames grow up and increasingly earn their rightful place alongside movies and books and TV, these are the ten games I’m proudest of, the games I enjoyed the most, the games I’ll remember for reasons other than mere gameplay. These are the games that spoke the loudest, the clearest, the most poignantly, the most memorably. These are the games with voices that most deserve to be heard.
After the jump, the best games of 2013 Continue reading →