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Downwell Review – A Long Drop Down A Shallow Hole

Every dedicated gamer knows what it feels like to get absorbed in an experience. Whether it’s another battle, race, or mission, practically every genre has the power to hook us and keep us coming back for “just one more try.” Exactly what creates the irresistible urge to keep playing is hard to pinpoint, but Downwell attempts to tap into it. This retro-styled hybrid provides short and replayable bursts of action, but the well isn’t deep enough to swallow you up.

Though it borrows elements from platformers, top-down shooters, and roguelikes, Downwell has its own unique feel. You fall down vertical stages in a procedurally generated well, using multi-purpose gunboots to slow your descent and take out enemies. Even though you can fire bullets, your best offensive move is stomping on foes, since you get gem (i.e. score) and health bonuses for chaining kills together without touching the ground. The controls are simple and responsive, and striking a balance between speed and safety is entertaining. You plummet, weave, stomp, and shoot while collecting gems and avoiding hazards on your way to the bottom of each level.

My favorite part of Downwell is the early discovery phase. The game isn’t complicated, but it also doesn’t explain its intricacies. That’s okay, since I loved learning the mechanics and finding tricks (like the wall-jump) on my own. When does your ammo refill? Which gun types are the best? You find these answers over the course of your first few runs. When you die, you just start over at the beginning, but the trial-and-error does not feel punishing. Your attempts – especially the early ones – are brief, so bad runs can be over in moments, while good ones last 20 minutes or more. That makes it easy to play in short bursts, but it doesn’t hold up over the long haul.

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The more time you sink into the experience, the less rewarding it becomes. Completing a stage presents you with a random selection of upgrades, which initially had me excited for all of the possible builds and combinations. However, the pool of options is ultimately disappointing. You are never deciding between several power-ups that you want; you’re crossing your fingers that one of the good ones shows up. The drone and gem attractor are great, but how many balloons and hot shell casings do you need to grab before they show up?

No matter what power-ups you gather, you lose them when you die. I expect to start fresh in games with roguelike elements, but Downwell doesn’t have enough persistence and progression in other areas to keep me excited about diving back in. The most common item you unlock is new color schemes, which usually make the game worse. The default visuals have a clear “red is bad, white is good” setup, but many of the additional palettes make that distinction much harder to read, muddying the action.

You also have access to different styles, which are the only permanent unlockables worth exploring. Selected at the beginning of a run, styles have different properties that impact your approach. For instance, boulder style has more health and a rapid descent, but gives you fewer upgrade options at the end of a stage. Your choice of style changes how aggressive you can be, how fast you fall, how many shops appear on your way down, and more. This lets you fine-tune your approach, but once you earn good ones (like levitation), the urge to experiment diminishes.

Downwell is at its best when you’re bounding from one enemy to the next, blasting through obstacles, and frantically scanning for a safe path through the chaos. This moment-to-moment challenge is fun, and the later levels (and final boss) put your skills to the test. Unfortunately, the journey to that level of proficiency feels like a grind. Though each run is technically different, they all start to feel the same. – The Feed

King’s revenues and users drop — but it’s doing better than expected

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Loot Crate, BioWare Team Up For N7 Supply Drop

Is your Shepard running low on supplies? Loot Crate might be able to help. The company is working with BioWare to produce a special limited-edition version of its surprise boxes tailored to Mass Effect fans.

The Mass Effect N7 Specialty Crate is coming soon, but Loot Crate isn't providing further details. If you're interested, you can sign up here to get notified when more information is available.

Loot Crate has been on a bit of a tear lately, partnering up with Bethesda for a special Fallout 4 box and last year's Amiibo promotion. The surprise element has been one of the compelling reasons people look forward to their monthly Loot Crates, but there's certainly something to be said about zeroing in on a theme that's particularly interesting.


[Source: Mass Effect on Twitter] – The Feed

Star Wars: Battlefront’s Drop Zone Mode Pits Teams Of Eight In A Race To Capture Objectives

Star Wars: Battlefront is shaping up to have all the modes you’d expect from a shooter (like the recently revealed Blast deathmatch mode). The latest to be revealed is “Drop Zone,” which pits two teams of eight against each other in a race for capture points.

Players won’t know where they’ll be needed, though. Pods fall from the sky, marking the next point of interest. Once captured, the pods slowly open delivering a power up to the team in control.

Modes move quickly, lasting no more than 10 minutes. They can be ended faster if one team manages to control five pods.

Turrets and droids are available to create some variety as players scramble to clear out enemy forces and take control of the points. No video is available of the mode yet, but Star Wars: Battlefront is due out on November 17 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

[Source: EA] – The Feed

Destiny’s Latest Patch Increases Treasure Key Drop Rate And Fixes Inventory Problem

Destiny is currently offline for a bit, as Bungie rolls out a patch that fixes a number of little problems with House of Wolves. It also increases the drop rate for treasure keys, which should make your Prison of Elders farming runs far more fruitful.

In addition, the first bounty you complete each week nets you a guaranteed key. You'll also get more of them from ether chests.

The patch also tweaks some issues with bounties, Trials of Osiris emblems not going to the Postmaster properly, and a fusion rifle fix that now properly reflects rebalancing. For those with ammo consumables flooding the inventory, those stacks are now 100 high, so you should be able to free up some space.

Finally, if you don't have House of Wolves (and therefore cannot take missions from Petra), you won't be taunted by the mission icon over her head. You can read the entire patch notes on the Destiny website. You can also read our impressions of the latest expansion.

[Source: Bungie]


Our Take
I've yet to dive back into Destiny for House of Wolves, but I've been watching friends tweet about a couple of issues this fixes. Editor-in-chief Andy McNamara was lamenting both a dearth of treasure keys and an overabundance of ammo consumables, which can't be discarded. Hopefully this helps him and others get back on track. – The Feed

Save Some Green – Garden Warfare Gets A Price Drop

Have you been wondering if Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare was worth playing, but you didn't want to plunk down $ 30 on it? You're in luck! EA has dropped the game game's price down to $ 19.99, providing fence-sitters with 10 additional reasons to check out the oddball shooter.

The news came via the game's official Twitter account, which got right to the point:

The game has gone on sale several times since it was released over a year ago, but this marks a permanent price cut. We didn't lose our minds on the game when it was released, but it's worth checking it out. EA CEO Andrew Wilson apparently agrees, saying in a recent earnings call that more Garden Warfare is in the works for 2016, and that further details would be coming at this year's E3. In other words, think of this price drop as a seed to grow the fanbase.


Our Take
Twenty dollars isn't half bad, but it's tough to compete with free. Still, this is a good way to grab the game if you missed out on the PlayStation Experience promotion last December. Full disclosure: We had a bumper crop of equally groan-worthy headlines ready, too, but we try and keep to a one-pun limit. – The Feed

Capcom Increases Full Fiscal Year 2015 Profit Despite 37 Percent Drop In Sales

Capcom has closed out its fiscal year ending March 31, 2015. The company marked increased operating income and net income, with the latter closing up nearly 100 percent.

Net income for fiscal year 2015 was ¥6.6 billion ($ 55.1 million) compared to the previous year of ¥3.4 billion ($ 28.4 million). Sales dropped from ¥102.2 billion ($ 853.7 million) to ¥64.3 billion ($ 537.1 million), largely on the collapse of the company’s amusement business (pachinko). Sales dropped 67.4 percent and operating income for the segment decreased by 61.6 percent.

The digital business (video games) also saw decrease in sales, but an increase in operating income. Sales dropped by 31.1 percent from ¥65.8 billion ($ 549.7 million) to ¥45.4 billion ($ 379.3 million). Operating income rose from ¥4.9 billion ($ 40.9 million) to ¥10.2 billion ($ 85.2 million).

Capcom announced earlier this week that it had shipped over 1 million copies of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate in the west. The title continues to perform well worldwide.

Ultra Street Fighter IV continues to sell well, especially in the west. The company hasn’t specified sales for Resident Evil Revelations 2, which it says was released “in an ingenious manner” (read: episodically over four weeks) is off to a strong start.

Capcom expects improved sales in the new fiscal year of ¥76 billion ($ 634.9 million), with net income of ¥7.7 billion ($ 64.3 million). The company says it will reach these targets by improving efficiencies and launching more major titles.

[Source: Capcom]


Our Take
With impressive sales of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate in the west, Capcom continues to build a worldwide fan base. The publisher hasn’t spoken much about its upcoming titles though. We’re eager to see what Capcom is bringing to E3. – The Feed

Gummy Drop: Rethinking the Saga map

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