Dreadnought (PS4) Review: It’s all about the Benjamins.

Dreadnought (PS4) Review: It's all about the Benjamins.

Dreadnought is a free-to-play 3rd person spaceship combat game that takes place in various space and ground maps that happen to have a lot of cover on them. If someone with a blender and YouTube channel tossed copies of Call of Duty 4, World of Tanks, and Star Trek Bridge Crew into their amalgamation machine, the resulting gooey compound would be among the best experiences at E3 2014: Dreadnought. That said, despite the constant comparisons to World of Tanks, I have always found Dreadnought to be a little more streamlined, faster paced, and far more action-packed.

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Dreadnought (PlayStation 4) – gameplay image provided by Grey Box.

Unlike most reviews, this time I was asked whether or not players should put real money into Dreadnought, since you can already play the game for free on PS4 and the PC (which is currently in beta). That game costs nothing because Dreadnought makes money on the free-to-play model, but I would understand if you did not know that since Dreadnought has shockingly little to sell you. For example, in World of Tanks you can purchase roughly 50 better tanks and crews to fight with online, but in Dreadnought you cannot buy a better ship. You can only buy three extremely ugly ships that I wouldn’t even take to the supermarket to pick up a loaf of bread. I am not sure why they decided to only sell three of the roughly 60 ships in the game, because that seems like the most obvious business choice ever; however, by abstaining they have created a very fair experience for both those who pay and those who just play.

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Dreadnought (PlayStation 4) – gameplay image provided by Grey Box.

So, what you can buy in Dreadnought’s store? The most useful thing by far is the temporary XP/Coin doubler. For a certain amount of real money, the game will offer you twice as much XP and (non-purchasable) currency than what you would normally get. This doubling effect can be purchased for a week, two weeks, a month, three months, and all the way up to a whole year. The reason this is the most useful purchase is because every ship needs to be fully upgraded to unlock the next—better—ship. Unlocking every upgrade requires two currencies, and while it is becoming hard to track what currencies I am talking about, the important point is that you cannot buy one of those two currencies. That unbuyable currency is what keeps Dreadnought fair. No matter how much money you put into the game you can never buy your way to the best ship. The best you can do is speed up the process with double XP and coins.

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Dreadnought (PlayStation 4) – gameplay image provided by Grey Box.

Beyond the coin doubler, I didn’t find much else to be worth buying. There are the three ugly ships I mentioned earlier. There are some visual customization options you can buy that will offer you paint options or decals that few in the game would have. You can buy your captain—an avatar you see for about ten seconds at the end of each round—and some clothing that would be considered rare. You can also change your real money into most of the currencies in the game, and while I don’t mean to bring this to an abrupt end, that’s the entirety of the Dreadnought holiday catalogue. I should probably mention that CGMagazine was given $66.99 CDN worth of in-game currency by the game’s developers to spend on Dreadnought and I never managed to spend it all.

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Dreadnought (PlayStation 4) – gameplay image provided by Grey Box.

So, depending on how much you might put into Dreadnought, it is now time for the $6.99 to $133.49 CDN dollar question. Should you put money into Dreadnought in the first place? If you are reading this without ever having downloaded the game I would say no, you should not put money into Dreadnought, because I don’t think you’ll ever get value out of it. That’s not to say that there is no value in a game I have loved since 2014, because there is a lot of value here. People should only spend money on Dreadnought when they like it as much as I like Rocket League, and I love Rocket League. I play at least one game almost every day. I bought it on the PS4, even though I would always have a free copy with PlayStation Plus. I have used roughly 50 keys to open 50 loot boxes. If you love the game that much then you’re the type of person who should spend a bunch of money on Dreadnought—but you are not that person. That person is not reading this review because that person is too busy playing Dreadnought right now, and to be honest you should go join them if the concept interests you. I can’t think of a free-to-play game that is better balanced in favour of the guy not spending money on it.

Dreadnought In-Game Purchases Review: It's all about the Benjamins.
Dreadnought (PlayStation 4) – gameplay image provided by Grey Box.

Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out more of Bryan Calhoun’s reviews such as Destiny 2, Dead By Daylight Special Edition, and Madden NFL 18!

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High Hell (PC) Review: A Hell of a Ride

High Hell (PC) Review: A Hell of a Ride

Something that always catches my eye when I watch TV shows or movies is when people are shown playing video games that obviously don’t exist. Two people sitting together on a couch, playing an untitled first-person shooter and talking about getting the highest score. These always sounded cool to me as a kid but as I got older, I began to question why anybody would play these awful looking made up titles. High Hell is a game that instantly reminded me of those non-existent games, except it actually manages to work most of the time.

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High Hell (PC) – gameplay image via Devolver Digital

High Hell is an action shooter that has players fighting through the criminal underworld in a series of fast-paced missions. I would speak more on the game’s plot but there is none. Even that one line of information I just gave was something I had to find on Devolver Digital’s website because the game offers nothing, aside from the goals of individual missions. High Hell’s lack of a story works in its favour though when you’re taking on random missions like stealing artwork or rescuing chimps.

From a visual standpoint, High Hell uses a retro polygon look similar to something you’d find on the Sega Dreamcast. Alongside its almost entirely nonexistent HUD, these graphics add a lot of charm to High Hell’s old school gameplay. One problem with this style, however, is its overuse of the same colours, specifically grey. After a few missions, everything starts to look the same.

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High Hell (PC) – gameplay image via Devolver Digital

In the spirit of the games that High Hell is trying to emulate, it has extremely simple controls. You can move around, shoot, crouch and perform a kick or interact with certain objects. There’s no weapon cycling to think about or even reloading. High Hell’s simple controls makes it easy to pick up and play which works well with the game’s bite-sized missions, never taking more than about ten minutes.

The style infused into High Hell is one of its most obvious strong suits. Being able to do things like burn stacks of money or having to jump off the map and parachuting away at the end of every mission. Every action you can perform feels like it’s straight out of an 80’s action movie or an early 90’s video game. One of the actions that is most important to the gameplay is being able to bust doors down. Now, I get how important an action like this is to simulate being a badass but this action is where most of my problems stem from with High Hell. In each mission, you’re breaking into a criminal hideout with rooms full of enemies. The problem is that the second you open that door, there’s usually already at least two enemies already prepared to get their shot in. It can result in cheap deaths, forcing you to memorize the enemy layout just to get through certain areas. This problem led to me coming up with equally cheap and ultimately boring strategy of opening a door, standing next to it and shooting continuously while the enemies blindly walked out to look for me.

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High Hell (PC) – gameplay image via Devolver Digital

High Hell is a great game to play in short bursts. It’s quirky, fast-paced, and plays well aside from a few oversights. Though there’s a variety of different mission objectives, things always end with eliminating all the enemies on the map, resulting in the gameplay getting a bit stale after too long. You can easily load High Hell up, play a couple of missions and then return for more later.


Liked this article and want to read more like it? Find out why Remington thinks Fire Emblem Warriors exceeds all expectations, or why Sonic Mania earns its spot next to the titles released during Sonic’s golden era!

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Ruiner (PC) Review – In a Bloody Trance

Ruiner (PC) Review - In a Bloody Trance

The bloodshed in Ruiner is hypnotic in its franticness. Managing three or four foes who are shooting and lashing out at you, dashing from enemy to enemy as you grab whatever gun is lying around in order to fight back, all while throbbing club beats pound your ears makes Ruiner into a heady experience. However, the spell it weaves eventually wears thin, leaving players with an experience the feels a little too repetitive after a time.

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Ruiner (PC) – gameplay image credit: Devolver Digital and Reikon Games

The combat in Ruiner is gloriously chaotic. Enemies will come rushing in from all sides, some with melee weapons and others with guns, all aiming to end your life. Players will have to learn how to manage this within milliseconds, prioritizing targets while quickly using all of the abilities at their disposal in just the right way. Combat, by necessity, grabs the player’s attention and never lets go, keeping players firmly invested and interested in each fight.

Players have access to a lot of powers. They can hack enemies to make them work for the player, drop temporary shields on the field, create a bullet-deflecting barrier, heal, call for backup guns to be dropped in for them, and several other powers. Players can choose which of these to equip or power up on the fly, too, as the game allows players to spend or remove upgrade nodes any time they like, trying out different abilities should one character build not be working out, or if they suddenly need to use a specific power to survive one particular fight.

This is all on top of an emphasis on working with whatever’s lying around. Enemies always drop their weapons as you kill them, and most guns have only a few shots before the ammo expended, leaving players with the default guns. It’s always a good idea to pick up someone else’s gun over the default, so players will always be using new firearms, and always adapting to them. It makes combat feel even more shifting and surprising in each moment, turning players into ever-adapting killers.

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Ruiner (PC) – gameplay image credit: Devolver Digital and Reikon Games

This constant pressure in combat—to deal with enemies on all sides, to choose what powers you need that second, to pick up the right tools to fight back—keeps each fight exhilarating. Slapping enemies around in this world rarely gets old, as the game’s tough, prolonged battles and endless need for player adaptation means never just idly attacking without paying attention. Combat demands full focus, and that focus feels well-rewarded when the game’s foes finally back off.

However, the combat in Ruiner isn’t quite as appealing as it could be. For a game so focused on clobbering enemies, weapons lack any sort of appreciable, visible impact. Hitting or shooting foes just makes them twitch slightly or not react at all; a small detail that robs combat of a sense of weight or power. Likewise, the weapon sound effects have little sense of impact as well (likely taking a back seat to the excellent soundtrack). There’s little sense of power to firing a gun or hitting someone, which makes it feel like you’re hitting airy punching bags. It steals a bit away from what is otherwise an excellent combat scheme.

The soundtrack is a solid trade, though. The game throbs and pulses with club tracks, pushing the player along with driving beats. There’s a sense in the music that the whole game is a sort of dance, with players moving along in a bloody trance to the song. It encourages players to lose themselves in the violence and chaos and music, just giving in and flowing along with it.

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Ruiner (PC) – gameplay image credit: Devolver Digital and Reikon Games

It all works for some time, too, but eventually, rough edges start to poke through Ruiner. While combat draws the player in with its frantic nature, it all feels a little bit the same after a while. The game will have melee classes striking at you as gunners hang back, and while the sci-fi weapons constantly change, this is basically how each attack goes. Managing the nuances of each arena and some of the special powers enemy have adds some variety, and the game tosses so many foes at the player over time that pure challenge keeps the fights interesting, but it really feels like the same fight, over and over, after you play for an extended period.

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Ruiner (PC) – gameplay image credit: Devolver Digital and Reikon Games

Likewise, locations all feel very same-y. Despite some eerie graffiti in a few areas or hints of interesting environments, it all feels like stark, overly-similar futuristic places. Mechanical factories give way to the mechanical plants, and all of it is made up of meandering corridors that are only there to serve as obvious locations to fight in. It’s all very dull to look at, which only heightens that sense that you’re fighting the same battle repeatedly, and not even in different locations.

The game does have some bits of visual design brilliance. The game features a hub city players return to between stages that is filled with neon signs for filthy nightclubs and glimmering adds shimmering in the polluted haze. Gangs, crooked cops, and futuristic chop shops line the streets, giving the city a visual appeal while also helping ground Ruiner in a living reality.

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Ruiner (PC) – gameplay image credit: Devolver Digital and Reikon Games

This loses some of its appeal when it becomes clear it’s just a hub for busywork. Players will meander around this area for a few minutes to get their next mission, which typically involves going to the same guy to get another bit of story that could have been told in a quick cutscene. Otherwise, players can pick up side tasks here that give them extra rewards for doing stuff they would normally do in each stage anyway, like kill bosses or collect hidden items. It helps build a world for Ruiner, but from a play perspective, it feels like a bit of a pointless deviation.

Ruiner is a dizzying affair when in combat, offering tons of things for players to weigh and consider as music pounds their senses. It’s not something that lasts, though, as the game’s reliance on similar-looking mechanical plants and only a handful of enemy attack types takes away from its appeal. It’s fun for a time, and while its challenge may keep the game interesting throughout, for some, its lack of variety may make it overly repetitive.


Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out Joel’s review of Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, or his review of Tokyo Dark!

Want to see the game in action? Check out our First 15 of Ruiner!

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Want to see more videos? Subscribe to our YouTube channel and check out the First 15 – Dishonored: Death of the Outsider and Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony!

Don’t forget to tune in every Friday the Pixels & Ink Podcast to hear the latest news, previews, and in-depth game discussions!

CGMagazine is Canada’s premiere comics and gaming magazine. Subscribe today to get the best of CGM delivered right to your door! Never miss when a new issue goes live by subscribing to our newsletter! Signing up gives you exclusive entry into our contest pool. Sign up once, you’ll have a chance to win! Sign up today!

First 15: Ruiner – First Stage

First 15: Ruiner - First Stage

CGM Takes you through the first 15 minutes of the new, punishing, top-down, action shooter from Reikon Games and Devolver Digital, Ruiner. As an added bonus, we take you through the end-stage boss.

Set in the year 2091 in the cyber metropolis, Rengkok, Ruiner tells the story of a “wired sociopath” who fights against a corrupt establishment to save his kidnapped brother. With the help of a mysterious hacker, players explore the beautifully animated, cyberpunk world, collect a wide array of weapons to build their arsenal, and gain abilities to help them take down their enemies.

Ruiner, the debut title from Warsaw-based developer ReikonGames, is available, today, on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC through Steam and GOG.


Want to see more videos? Subscribe to our YouTube channel and check out the First 15 – Dishonored: Death of the Outsider and Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony!

Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out Joel Couture’s review of Ruiner! You should also check out Jesse Cabral’s review of the latest fighter to come out of Devolver Digital, Absolver!

Never miss when new CGM articles go out by following us on Twitter and Facebook!

Don’t forget to tune in every Friday the Pixels & Ink Podcast to hear the latest news, previews, and in-depth game discussions!

CGMagazine is Canada’s premiere comics and gaming magazine. Subscribe today to get the best of CGM delivered right to your door! Never miss when a new issue goes live by subscribing to our newsletter! Signing up gives you exclusive entry into our contest pool. Sign up once, you’ll have a chance to win! Sign up today!

Matterfall (PlayStation 4) Review: Fluid, Frenetic, Explosive

Matterfall (PlayStation 4) Review: Fluid, Frenetic, Explosive

Matterfall is the latest from Housemarque, the studio famous for games like Resogun and Super Stardust. Following the trend set by the earlier games, Matterfall is part side-scroller, and part bullet-hell twin-stick shooter. There’s not a hell of a lot of story to speak of, and the game can be completed fairly quickly. However, anyone who has played a similar game before knows that a long campaign and engrossing story aren’t the draws here. What is important is the game features fluid, frenetic combat, bright colours, a bumping soundtrack, and the ever-endless search for a higher score. In these respects, Matterfall does a fantastic job of delivering great entertainment.

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Matterfall gameplay images via Sony Interactive Enteratinment

Players take control of a futuristic, power-armoured space mercenary named Darrow, who bears more than a slight resemblance to Samus Aran of Metroid fame. From the reds and yellows of her suit to the beam gun on one hand, the intrepid hero of Matterfall is clearly aping Nintendo’s famous heroine. Despite this wholesale aesthetic rip-off, the rest of the environments and creatures in the game—not to mention the gameplay—are entirely distinct from anything Metroid.

Speed and quick reflexes are the name of the game in Matterfall. Players will guide Darrow with the left stick, and aim/fire her beam gun with the right stick. The shoulder buttons are used for jumping, dashing, secondary weapons, and the platform-solidifying, civilian-rescuing, score-multiplier-shooting matter ray. Levels consist of platforming sections that get increasingly more ridiculous spread amongst combat portions with enemies so numerous and infinitely (not really) re-spawning that there is rarely a break in the chaos. Her dash feature allows her to both stun enemies and temporarily avoid damage, as well as to pass through the blue coloured platforms (that can also become solid if you shoot them with your matter ray). Jumping around and dashing through platforms while also creating new temporary platforms AND attacking/dodging enemies requires some getting used to from a control perspective. The controls are tight as hell, but it did take a while to become comfortable with using all four shoulder buttons while keeping my thumb on the right stick. Old habits die hard, but when the control scheme finally clicked, it became incredibly intuitive and responsive.

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Matterfall gameplay images via Sony Interactive Enteratinment

There is also some minor exploration involved in finding extra power-ups by way of captured civilians, score multipliers, etc… Every time you rescue a civilian you unlock an “augment” which can range from a new secondary weapon (like a shotgun or grenade launcher) to passive boosts that strengthen you in other ways. For the most part, the levels run quite linearly from left to right in a simple and intuitive direction. You won’t find yourself replaying these levels over and over to discover hidden pathways and secrets. The replay value comes in chasing a higher-score on subsequent attempts.

Getting through the level as quickly as you can and killing as many enemies as you can increase your score, but the real fun comes in the multiplier feature. The more enemies Darrow kills without taking damage, the higher her multiplier becomes, increasing the score exponentially as long as you remain untouched by enemy projectiles. Taking cues from some of Housemarque’s earlier games, Matterfall makes this pretty damn difficult on higher difficulties and later stages.  The thrill comes in executing everything with precision timing: dodging, dashing, firing, and snagging health or score multipliers. Bullet-hell-esque indeed. While not as outrageously challenging as other games in the genre, Matterfall holds enough here for even genre-vets to sink their teeth into.

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Matterfall gameplay images via Sony Interactive Enteratinment

The company says that the game runs 1080p/60fps on a PlayStation 4 Pro, and 900p/60fps on a standard PlayStation 4. This review was done on a standard PlayStation 4, and the game ran super smooth and looked gorgeous. I can only imagine what HDR will add to a game with this amount of deep and vibrant colour. During intense combat, the screen fills entirely with bright, neon explosions as enemies die, projectiles flood the area, and Darrow’s dashes and score keep popping up. It becomes a tad hard to track at points, but my goodness does it look good. I never experienced any major slowdown or framerate skips, but often I was too busy worrying about staying alive and timing my jumps perfectly to catch any minor graphical glitches anyway.

Matterfall is a certain type of game for a certain type of gamer. Harkening back to the olden days of high-score lists and arcade gameplay, yet with a thoroughly modern and wonderfully slick coat of paint, Matterfall made me want to try over and over for a better score. Accompanying the buttery smooth, chaotic gameplay and beautiful aesthetic is a groovy, synth heavy techno soundtrack. The game is fast, fluid, and tons of fun. It also has tremendous replay value for those who always want to hit just a few more ranks on the leaderboards, though it can also be picked up easily enough by busy types looking for a quick and exciting gaming session.

Fortnite Preview: No Zombies Allowed

Fortnite Preview: No Zombies Allowed

It’s hard to believe that Fortnite was revealed in 2011.

Epic Games has changed a lot since then. A studio that was once synonymous with “FPS” is now branching out into competitive MOBAs, but they still have plenty of shooter DNA left. With Fortnite, the problem was that I was constantly forgetting that it existed. For many years it was kind of a distant thought, while other survival games popped up around it en masse. At one time it was poised to be a game-changer, but based on my Early Access tests it has some more work to do. For now, it’s mostly just plain fun to play—even if I’m not running out to tell anyone about it.

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Fortnite gameplay images courtesy of Epic Games (facebook.com/FortniteGame)

Fortnite‘s theme is a bit at odds with itself, but it somehow works when everything is Frankensteined together. 98% of the Earth’s population is gone in a bleak but silly world now festering with millions of goofy looking zombies. At some points, I’m okay with it all, but the garish art style really turns me off—it looks like Team Fortress 2 ran through a blender, with a weird purple filter. Cutscene transitions help make the whole setup a lot more likeable though, and it’s growing on me over time.

The entire idea is to build a fort and fend off enemies while you do it. It’s a common survival mechanic that was popularized by Minecraft‘s zombie hordes, but with a shooter twist. Pretty much everything in Fortnite goes big, including the HUD and the crafting system. Being able to craft ammo on the fly is great, as is the streamlined idea of putting up floors and ceilings. It’s not so esoteric that you can’t just pick it up on the fly, as you’ll be pickaxe-ing resources while cartoony bars of silver and gold pop out. Really, I don’t mind how the game looks and feels outside of the human character models.

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Fortnite images courtesy of Epic Games

I also dig that you can easily manipulate said structures with an easy click or button press. You can build doors, craft awnings and ceilings to put traps on, pickaxe random vehicles standing in your way, create your own guns, and so on. Once the trap element comes into play it becomes a hybrid of many other survival games and morphs into its own thing. I got lost in elaborate custom forts, and there are a decent amount of possibilities even in the early game.

Having primarily played its public build on PS4, keyboard support out of the gate deserves credit where credit is due. Visually though, there’s work to be done, because while the framerate is consistent, the animations take a massive hit (especially when enemies at range), and revert into almost pixelated monstrosities when there’s too much action on screen. This is on a PS4 Pro, but again, there’s room to grow.

Fortnite Preview: No Zombies Allowed
Fortnite gameplay images courtesy of Epic Games (facebook.com/FortniteGame)

The endgame seems to be like every other shooter these days, themed around lootbox chasing along with the conventional online trappings like dailies and bonuses to keep you playing. I’m not entirely sure how invested I’ll be when the final version rolls around because the concept of creating a perfect kill-machine building is much more enticing than a +5 strength roll or a slightly different shotgun blueprint.

In some ways I’m just as unsure coming out of Fortnite as I was going in. It’s a little late, but it’s already fairly polished and the framework for blasting away droves of creatures in style is there—in that sense, it’s Epic at work. That said, it’s weird seeing Epic Games with their hands in so many free-to-play titles when they were the king of premium, and I’m still getting used to it. Paragon is fine, and so is Fortnite.

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Fortnite images courtesy of Epic Games

While the early access model is very off-putting (especially since it’s becoming increasingly harder to convince friends to jump into it), I do see a lot of potential. Let’s just hope Fortnite adapts and doesn’t stay in that “early” limbo forever.

Boss Key Productions’s ‘Lawbreakers’ coming to Playstation 4

Boss Key Productions's 'Lawbreakers' coming to Playstation 4

Objective-based shooters like Overwatch and Battleborn will have a new competitor entering the ring as the long-awaited and gravity-defying Lawbreakers will finally be coming out later this year and not just to PC.

Read moreBoss Key Productions’s ‘Lawbreakers’ coming to Playstation 4

Bethesda Announces Prey Launch Date

Bethesda Announces Prey Launch Date

Bethesda Softworks, the publisher behind the Dishonored series, Fallout series and The Elder Scrolls series, announced that their newest game, Prey, has a launch date.

Prey releases worldwide on Friday, May 5, 2017 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. This means fans will not have to wait too much longer for the highly anticipated new game.

Prey is Bethesda’s new sci-fi first-person shooter. The player plays Morgan Yu, a human aboard a space station called Talos I which orbits the moon in the year 2032. Yu is a key test subject in an experiment that will change humanity forever-but things go terribly haywire. As the space station becomes overrun with hostile aliens, Yu has no choice but to fight for their life and find a way to stop the alien threat. Yu must uncover the dark secrets of the Talos I and their own past, all while trying to survive by using the stations tools, weapons, their own wits and new-found abilities.

Prey was actually supposed to be a sequel to Human Head Studios’ 2006 hit, Prey (2006) but after years of being in development hell, Bethesda scrapped the game and instead rebooted the series into a new re-imagining.

Much likes Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls games, Prey will be partially customizable. The player will be able to make modifications to Yu including gender, and players will also be able to adjust the story depending on the decisions they make throughout the game.

Fans wanting to pre-order Prey will get the exclusive Cosmonaut Shotgun Pack. Prey’s pre-order bonus includes Morgan Yu’s family heirloom Margrave shotgun and tools, three Neuromods for players to spend on new abilities, two med kits, a fabrication plan to create the shotgun and ammo, a starter kit for building tools and weapons, and a unique upgrade to help players preserve their resources.

TennoCon: A Trip to the Future of Games Development and Marketing

TennoCon: A Trip to the Future of Games Development and Marketing

“At the very least it will be a very good corporate event for Digital Extremes,” joked Meridith Braun, VP of Publishing at Digital Extremes, when she told me about their backup plans for the party they were throwing. “We … our fans … really excited and loyal … the game. We just weren’t sure if they were willing to come far and wide to London, Ontario. We debated if we should do Toronto or something in the states with a denser population. Now seeing that they really are willing to come this far, I think that we’ll only make it bigger next year.”

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She’s talking about TennoCon 2016, a celebration of Digital Extremes’ free-to-play cooperative third-person shooter Warframe. For those not familiar with their work, Digital Extremes, a London, Ontario based developer, is still remembered for collaborating with Epic Games (the Gears of War developers) to make the Unreal franchise in the late 90s/early 2000s. More recently, they have developed, or been involved in developing, several well-known titles, including Darksector, The Darkness 2, Bioshock (the PS3 version), Bioshock 2 (its multiplayer aspect), and the 2013 Star Trek game based on the rebooted movie franchise.   TennoCon: A Trip to the Future of Games Development and Marketing 11

In 2013 they also released Warframe to mildly critical reviews, but three years later the in-game financial transactions are still funding monthly updates from the studio. It’s been so successful that the game now boasts 22 million registered accounts, and during this year’s TennoCon roughly 1,200 excited Tenno (Warframe community members, in the game’s parlance) descended on the London Convention Center to celebrate that success. Some of the Tenno weren’t even sporting Ontario identification cards, according to Meridith Braun: “I met somebody from the Netherlands, and he came just for the weekend. Someone else told me that there are people here from Korea and Japan.”

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In terms of content, the convention itself wasn’t anything to really write home about. There was a large stage and seating for a schedule of Q&A panels, a table in the middle to meet famous YouTubers, a merchandise booth full of Warframe swag, and plenty of consoles to play the game on. Actually, the really impressive part of this pop-culture event was the speed with which the attendees bonded. Complete strangers who ordinarily might flip each other off on the highway or avoid each other’s gaze on the subway were instantly starting conversations amongst themselves, secure in the knowledge that they had something in common. It’s true that this attitude is very common at something like the Penny Arcade Expo, but don’t forget that PAX started in August of 2004, whereas this was the first ever TennoCon. Clearly the community is already a tight one.

Steve Sinclair, the Creative Director of Warframe, attributes the success of the game, the community, and TennoCon 2016 to the dialogue Digital Extremes has fostered with the Tenno, “We don’t have a big marketing budget. It’s people who love the game spreading the game, and when I talked to them today and asked ‘why are you still playing?’, the answers were ‘the game is still alive, you keep updating it, it is constantly evolving, you guys are open to us, and you guys tell us what you are doing. And it becomes sort of like a relationship.’”

As an impartial observer, I found  it a surreal relationship to behold. Men and women from all areas of Digital Extremes were pressed to answer questions or give comments on a wide variety of subjects. Some of these conversations were so esoteric that I didn’t have the background to follow along. Requests for autographs and pictures flooded in like a raging river after a major storm. Anyone identified as a person working on the game was treated with such a rock star reverence that it must have been hard for them to return to relative anonymity the next day. That said, it became very clear in London that the admiration expressed at TennoCon was never one sided.

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“Looking around at the faces here, I recognize writers, level designers, artists, sound designers who want to come and talk to players,” explained Steve. “And that was never the thing before. They read and at all levels of the company, hey Steve we did this and it was a big mistake. That never happened before.   they just did their job, they put their energy in, they didn’t phone in, but now they want to be part of that community and affect change like players do.”

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In that sense, TennoCon is more than just a celebration of Warframe. It is also a step into the future of developing, marketing, and selling games. “The industry changed so much to focus so much on retail,” Meridith Braun told me. “The publisher put that middle man between us and our gamers, and the barrier to those gamers got bigger and bigger over the years because games became more expensive. And deliver to the customer  because there was only retail at that time, so now with that advent of digital distribution we finally realized we can take that all back again.”