Destiny 2: The Final Shape Review-in-Progress

It’s impossible to think about The Final Shape without the context of the last 10 years, seven other Destiny 2 expansions, and four original Destiny expansions, plus the campaigns that came with the releases of both games. This eighth Destiny 2 expansion is, to some degree, the culmination of the somewhat haphazard decade-long journey that the first game spawned. And while the story itself hasn’t always been consistently building toward a conclusion, there’s a clear, mostly positive evolution across all those steps that informs what The Final Shape is to Destiny as a whole.

I’ve noted in the past when expansions were high water marks for Destiny 2 as a game, but this is something else. The Final Shape isn’t just another step forward in a long march of progress, but a leap. At least so far, two days in, The Final Shape is as close as Destiny has ever gotten to the original promise of the game when Bungie first described a shared-world sci-fi fantasy shooter set in a strange and far-flung future. This isn’t just Destiny 2 as the best it’s ever been–this is Destiny 2 as it always should have been.

It all starts with a story campaign that tosses you into the Pale Heart of the Traveler in a bid to stop the Witness, Destiny 2’s long-gestating ultimate villain, from using the game’s convoluted physics-ignoring powers to rewrite reality. It’s immediately apparent that developer Bungie has taken a different tack from how it usually approaches these chapters, trading overcomplicated, jargony plots for a focus on Destiny 2’s main cast of characters as they head toward a potentially world-ending confrontation. The Final Shape is easily the best story Destiny has ever told in an expansion, clearly laying out what is at stake and, at least emotionally, how it’ll work, and setting players on a journey straight from point A to point B and a final confrontation with the Witness.

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Killer Klowns From Outer Space: The Game Review – Clownin’ Around

I don’t believe in “so bad, it’s good.” If a movie is especially bad, I’d sooner not waste my time since I don’t find especially bad movies interesting on any level. So I’ve not seen the cult budget horror movie Killer Klowns From Outer Space in probably 25 years, when I was a horror-loving kid who didn’t yet know he didn’t like “so bad, it’s good.” That means I initially wasn’t excited about a game based on this movie, despite my appreciation for the burgeoning asymmetrical horror multiplayer genre. As it turns out, Killer Klowns is a surprisingly nuanced PvP horror game with enough sugary silliness to not be taken too seriously. Rather than “so bad, it’s good,” it’s simply good.

Killer Klowns follows games like Dead By Daylight, Friday The 13th, and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, pitting players versus players in a familiar horror landscape. In the case of this game, players are split into lobbies of three murderous klowns versus seven survivors trying to outlast them and escape the map within a 15-minute time limit. Though each asymmetrical horror game has carved its own path, Killer Klowns actually looks and plays much like Illfonic’s Jason Voorhees game, which I find to be only a good thing. It’s not a clone, but where it’s similar, it’s welcome, and where it’s different, it usually works out, too.

Survivors will need to scrounge for tools like melee weapons and health kits while, more importantly, locating and activating one of several exits across one of multiple sprawling maps, each of them built with intricate shortcuts to discover and routes to learn so that a skilled survivor can get some distance between themself and the squeaky shoes of a klown on their heels. Meanwhile, the klowns are tasked with patrolling the map and killing all humans, either by directly attacking them or hanging them up as human-sized cotton-candy cocoons until they wither away.

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XDefiant Review – Modern Warfare

XDefiant’s practice zone offers a stark reminder that you are, in fact, playing a Ubisoft game. In one corner of this abandoned convention center, there are arcade machines for Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, Just Dance 2014, and Riders Republic. Near the front desk, a large screen displays various Assassin’s Creed protagonists striking a pose, while the short corridor leading to the assault course is adorned with a giant Rabbid statue, wide-eyed and mouth agape. All of this gives the impression that XDefiant is a celebration of Ubisoft’s history, but that’s only half true. Instead, it’s a celebration of Ubisoft games that predominantly revolve around shooting guns.

XDefiant feels like an homage, and as such, doesn’t offer anything we haven’t already seen in the competitive shooter space before. It’s a generic free-to-play shooter, mixing ingredients from games like Call of Duty and Overwatch to create an all-too-familiar broth. Being wildly unoriginal isn’t a bad thing if the formula works, and in this case, it does, for the most part. But some of its disparate ideas don’t quite mesh, and this approach isn’t enough to stand out in a crowded shooter market–especially when it delivers such a continuous sense of deja vu.

Each of XDefiant’s recognizable game types pits two teams of six players against one another. The action here is grounded, foregoing much of the fluid traversal present in many modern shooters by limiting your movement options and restricting where you can climb. Combat is fast-paced and twitchy, informed by a brief time-to-kill and rapid respawns; it’s solid in much the same way CoD was circa 2011, featuring a smaller toolset and tighter focus on distinct weapons.

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RKGK / Rakugaki Review – Paint This City

There’s initially something so tantalizing about RKGK / Rakugaki‘s bold usage of color in its anime-inspired art style. From the jump, the game’s story seems rambunctious and absurd in the best possible way, accompanied by gameplay where split-second decisions reward your well-timed jumps and dashes with brief explosions of color. As the game continues, however, the aesthetic of each level begins to run together and the underlying narrative loses steam, leaving only the platforming challenges to evolve in any meaningful way. So even though the story doesn’t leave a lasting impression, your acrobatic escapades through each level do, carrying the game to gratifying heights.

In RKGK, you play as street artist-turned-rebel Valah, who is set on taking her city back from Mr. Buff, a rotund megalomaniac set on enslaving the populace with hypnotizing billboard screens and an army of robots. With spray paint cans in hand, Valah does battle with Mr. Buff’s robotic minions in an assortment of third-person 3D platforming levels, returning to her home base between each mission to talk with her allies or switch outfits.

Each level of RKGK is a self-contained gauntlet of shifting platforms, explosive traps, twisting rails, and breakable containers that Valah must double-jump over, dash past, grind through, or smash. Enemies populate each level but are easily overcome with a quick spray of Valah’s paint–it’s not all that challenging or rewarding to take them down. Some provide an additional challenge by shielding themselves or releasing area-of-effect attacks, but nothing that comes close to stopping Valah, even on the harder difficulty where she has less health.

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Harvest Hunt Review – Running In Crop Circles

There’s something timelessly scary about cornfields. Their impenetrable depth and intimidating height can quickly disorient anyone who stumbles into one, leaving them desperate to find an exit path, and turning a simple field of grain into the setting of a horror story. Villainous Games leans into this universal truth as the centerpiece of its folk horror game, Harvest Hunt. Pitted against a ceaseless monster hellbent on corrupting and consuming a village, it’s the game’s interlocking systems that make it worthwhile, even when the creature leaves something to be desired.

In Harvest Hunt, you’re tasked with amassing enough ambrosia over five-night-long runs to secure your village’s immediate future. The deeper you get into a harvest season, the higher the requirements and tougher the tasks may become. The game leans into some light deck-building elements like so many similarly designed games have as of late, but these cards are varied enough–no matter if they’re beneficial or detrimental–that they remain interesting after several hours of play.

Played in first-person and presented with stylized visuals that borrow Rare’s no-straight-lines approach paired with a rustic but comic-booky layer on top of it all, the mood is strong. A foreboding night sky hangs over the randomly generated farmlands, combining with the plethora of cornstalks, creaky footbridges, and uninviting ponds to form an initially intriguing whole. It’s a world that makes you feel unwelcome and disoriented, adding a compelling creepiness to a game with a relatively simple gameplay loop.

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