I love CONs.
Prepping for them. Going to them. Recovering from them. I spent this past weekend at NYCC meandering the halls of vendors with other comic lovers and rubbing elbows with other gaymers.
During my stay I was invited to spend some time at Square-Enix's booth. While there I had an opportunity to play some of the company's coming titles for some of its hottest franchises and even got a chance to see an interresting new MMO.
Make the jump for the full scoop
Square has an ambitious year ahead of them and is kicking of the pre pre holiday season buzz with some heavy hitters.
Final Fantasy XIII-2
There has been a lot of buzz around the newest Final Fantasy sequel (Which takes place 3 years aft the events of XIII. Here I got a chance to play the opening mission.
The crystallized Cocoon still looms over Pulse (with Fang and Vanille still trapped inside). The past few years have been a time of peace and reconstruction but lately a number of anomalies have been occurring across the burgeoning new civilization. Strange gates have appeared all over Pulse and seem connected to different streams of time and alternate realities, including what would have happened if Fang and Vanile's quest for salvation had not seen fruition.
The gates have also summoned a towering beast (Atlus) that is wreaking some serious havoc. Lightning has also gone missing and Serah sets out to find her with a mysterious traveler from the future: Noel.
The mission begins with the two in a base camp under attack by Atlus. I watched a quick scene explaining the urgency of the situation and was immediately thrust into a story battle in typical Final Fantasy fashion.
The Paradigm system largely remains intact with some serious tweaks added that enhance battle immersion. Quick time events have been added to the frenetic excitement of the Paradigm deck, pulling you into what's happening on screen and reinforcing Square-Enix's action-oriented design.
On screen prompts allow you to link more powerful combo attacks between Serah, Noel and whatever monster is currently rounding out that particular Paradigm (more on this in a minute). Pressing the right series of inputs will create attacks otherwise impossible and can also land battle ending finishers that execute in spectacular fashion!
The particle and crystal clear lighting effects help create some memorable moments that surpass XIII if that is even possible. The level of detail engaged my senses. Rain fell from the sky throughout the demo, drenching Serah's hair and causing her pet moogle to bristle form the cold. While exploring the camp and panning the camera, light reflected off gathered pools while thunder roared in the distance, making me feel like I was in a true lighting storm. I could almost smell the rain in the air as I made my way through the camp.
Dozens of NPCs filled the site, providing info about my current mission and filling me in on back-story. What surprised me was the individuality of the NPCs. They may not have been fully fleshed out characters but they seemed very alive with an ample variety of personalities. Even the pallet swapped, run of the mill soldiers had some chutzpah! some actually offering protection from monsters when I was attacked and showing concern when hurt.
As I battled my way through the camp, I had the opportunity to recruit the monsters I defeated. Each monster will fill the third slot with a specific (and static) class role, and are pulled into battle from time "gates" as you swap Paradigms, further expanding on the time slip idea.
Each monster has a special move that is available when the monster takes enough damage. The move is executed as a quick time event that scales damage depending of your performance. Some are a sequence press; others require mashing and analogue rotation. The monsters will satisfy the completionist in you as you strive to round out the party possibilities and will no doubt to play a pivotal role in creating that elusive "ultimate team".
Towards the end of the mission I was asked to decide weather to attack the beast head on or find another means of staying his destruction. My attendant informed me that choices like this would play a big factor not only on the current mission but also on the outcome of the story, leading to multiple endings.
This felt oddly familiar as my mind flooded with memories of the mid nineties smash "Chrono Trigger" which is also a Square IP. The game was one of the first to offer multiple endings and pioneered the option of a "New game Plus" which allowed you to carry your end game data over for a new play through. I was informed that this would also be a feature in XIII-2.
Square-Enix impresses with Final Fantasy XIII-2, installing a thoroughly enjoyable evolution of the Paradigm Battle system, enhanced graphical flourish and an intriguing storyline that ties in some of the most celebrated endgame nuances of the series.
Look for it soon
Deus Ex Human Revolution DLC: The Missing Link
I was also introduced to the missing chapter of August's hit Action RPG Deus Ex Human Revolution. If you are in the dark about this genre bending tour de force you can check out my review here.
Those of you who spent the end of the North American summer with Adam Jensen, you will be filled in on the time Jensen was out of human contact, on a ship headed towards dark waters. This will bridge the gap between the final chapters of the game.
The first thing I noticed was the graphical upgrade. The textures, largely improved over the core game breathes new life into Jensen's world validating the urgent tones set by the conflicts at hand. I was instantly mesmerized and sucked right back into Deus Ex HRs all encompassing tension.
Part of the fun of Deus Ex: HR is how to go about playing it. In my demo I was thrown in mid campaign with a save that contained just enough weapons and health items to afford me a choice of execution.
For a lethal approach there was a shotgun and a 10 mm pistol. The stun gun and tranq rifle were both included for non-lethal adopters. I was told that you do not start with these weapons. They must be earned by looking around the ship.
Also, Jensen's Augments appear to have been reset. You get a total of 9 Praxis points to distribute as you see fit making efficient use of these points key to survival. The limitations afforded by the Missing Link make this dlc feel like a bonus level for advanced players who are thoroughly versed on the ins and outs of augments and level design.
Missing Links is available today across all platforms
This adorable MMO pops with colors vibrant and endless charm. It takes place on a grand world divided into territories. You can choose which territory of which to be a citizen. Your goal is to support your village within that territory and to provide resources for it. Each territory acts as an independent government and you can vote on a leader.
This is not your typical MMO as it is also a full-fledged tactical RPG. You engage in battle with the open world enemies in areas that are closed off to battle. You and your party (a possible roster of six) will have 30 seconds to position yourselves before the battle begins. Actions are split between move points and action points and you have a limited time to perform each. This is to avoid slow thinkers and to ensure the battle keeps moving.
There are total of 14 classes to choose from including a Time Mage type class and a Nature Healer type. The variety promises to keep things fresh.
The tactical battles offer a fresh take on the ever-evolving culture of MMOs. They are tight and compositionally sound with weapons and skills that are thoughtful and fun to use. The government system promises to provide months of fun and intrigue with a deep political system that has you creating laws, rating citizens and feels like a game all unto itself.
Available soon for MAC and PC
Square-Enix showed off its best and brightest at NYCC ensuring the coming year will be filled with some engaging titles.