Edge 367 (Sampler)

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THE HIDETAK A MIYAZAKI INTERVIEW

#367 FEBRUARY 2022

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games Hype 30 Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course

PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One

34 We Are OFK

PC, PS4, PS5

36 The Past Within

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Android, iOS, PC, Switch

Play

98 Halo Infinite

PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series

102 Solar Ash

PC, PS4, PS5

106 Battlefield 2042

PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series

110 The Gunk

PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series

38 Mini Maker: Make A Thing

112 Fights In Tight Spaces

40 Inua: A Story In Ice And Time

114 Heavenly Bodies

42 Call Me Cera

115 Space Warlord Organ Trading Simulator

44 Hype roundup

116 Clockwork Aquario

PC

PC PC

PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series PC, PS4, PS5

PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series PS4, Switch

117 Dungeon Encounters

PC, PS4, Switch

118 The Eternal Cylinder

PC, PS4, Xbox One

119 Sherlock Holmes Chapter One

Explore the iPad edition of Edge for additional content

PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series

120 Unsighted

PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One

121 Cruis’n Blast Switch

122 Dap Follow these links throughout the magazine for more content online

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PC

123 Toem

PC, PS5, Switch

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sections

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#367

F EB R UA RY 2022

Knowledge

8 Year of reckoning

From surprise hits to lawsuits: the highs and the lows of a difficult 12 months in games

12 Pocket universe

Analogue Pocket goes beyond Nintendo’s Game Boy on its mission to host handheld history

20 This Month On Edge

Dispatches

The things that caught our eye during the production of E367

22 Dialogue

24 Trigger Happy

Why Frame Gride, the oftenforgotten FromSoftware mecha game, deserves a second chance

26 Unreliable Narrator

Valheim’s Viking fantasy is proving harder than ever for us to resist

14 A little knight music

16 Dope fiends

A containment anomaly frees Steven Poole to discuss the history of dinosaurs in videogames

Selling banned magical products? You’re more Stringer Bell than Gandalf in The Price Of Magic

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18 Soundbytes

Game commentary in snack-sized mouthfuls, featuring Ubi’s Baptiste Chardon and EA’s Laura Miele

92 Studio Profile

How Studio Fizbin grew from a student project into one of Germany’s premier indie studios

The place to come for prizewinning views about videogames. Well, one set of them, anyway

How an orchestral Kirby remix earned a Grammy nomination for Charlie Rosen and Jake Silverman

88 The Making Of...

Three decades of friendship led to Oxenfree, a tale that helped game narratives come of age

As he sifts through the games of the year, Sam Barlow observes Unpacking’s Seinfeld routine

124 Time Extend

129 The Long Game

Features

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48 Boss Encounter

A meeting with FromSoftware president Hidetaka Miyazaki to discuss the creation of Elden Ring

66 The Edge Awards

The best visuals, audio and games of 2021, plus insight from our overall GOTY winner

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It’s not all running and gunning. The flying levels return, too. In this case, you’re tackling a cowgirl who is quite literally a cow

H Y P

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CUPHEAD: THE DELICIOUS LAST COURSE This mouthwatering dessert looks worth the long wait Developer/publisher Format Origin Release

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Studio MDHR Entertainment PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One Canada June 30


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#367

VIDEOGAME CULTURE, DEVELOPMENT, PEOPLE AND TECHNOLOGY

66 124

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48 Boss Encounter 66 The Edge Awards 88 The Making Of… Oxenfree 92 Studio Profile: Studio Fizbin 124 Time Extend: Frame Gride

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BOSS ENCOUNTER

“We wanted to prepare lots of these mysterious situations that players would hear about and want to go looking for” With Elden Ring benefitting from the lessons taken from all the games you’ve made over the past decade, do you feel it’s FromSoftware’s best game to date? That’s a difficult question. We are always trying to top ourselves and make the best game we can, and make our best game to date. It’s not just limited to Elden Ring, of course – it applies to all of our titles. And I said it before but Elden Ring would not have been possible without that culmination of experience, the know-how from development of previous titles, and of course our talented team that has grown throughout the development of those projects. It’s safe to say that we could have only made Elden Ring now, after all of that. So in that sense, yes, I believe it will be our best to date.

CONQUEST An Elden Ring social-media post from earlier this year stated, “Like the Erdtree itself, a Tarnished’s path reaches up to the branches of the heavens and twists down into the roots of the earth.” Dark Souls’ game world had a surprising vertical span, from lava pits deep underground to the clifftop city of Anor Londo – will Elden Ring be similar in that regard? We’ve noticed item descriptions tease us with the prospect of an ‘Eternal City’ underground as well as a ‘Temple in the Sky’. Yes, those places referred to in terms of the depths and the heights of the world will be places you can actually explore. We wanted to create this world that was full of the joy of exploration of the unknown. So we wanted to create lots of enticing things for the budding adventurer. And we wanted to prepare lots of these mysterious situations that players would read about or hear about and want to go looking for and want to go exploring. Variety is something we strived for when creating this game, and something I believe we’ve managed to achieve. On the topic of the Erdtree, literal and symbolic trees figure prominently in many of your games. Why does the concept of the tree have such a strong grip on your imagination? In Dark Souls, the tree motif was present, but fire was the most distinctive visual element of that

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game. And for Elden Ring, the tree is obviously more apparent in that respect – the Erdtree. I don’t want to go into too many details for fear of spoilers, but it does get nice and complicated. There’s a lot to explore here, I feel, and people who are that way inclined are really going to get something out of the game. First of all, just as something that’s visually striking and enticing on the screen, in the world itself, something that draws your attention, something that stands out, this tree with golden glowing leaves is something that fits my ideal for something that represents the world physically. It’s something that burns that image into your mind, but it also stands as something that represents those rules and an order of the world that we talked about earlier. What can represent these rules and order but also not be absolute? That was the question that ran through my mind when I created this image. And the tree really fits the bill nicely for that because the tree is something that’s alive, it’s something that grew, it’s something that will eventually wither and die. And this really fits the role of something that can then bestow this order, control these rules and enforce these rules on the world. Because these too are things that will grow and will change and will wither and die as well. So I feel that the tree this time is something that fits those elements both visually and thematically. But saying any more than that would definitely go into spoiler territory. Considering the title of the game, it’s a surprise that rings aren’t wearable items, especially given that historically they’ve been quite important in the Dark Souls games. There are a couple of reasons for this choice. The first is that, yes, we explored rings as equippable items a lot in our previous games – Dark Souls, particularly – and so talismans this time allowed us to approach those ideas in a different way, with a greater variety of designs. And the second reason is that, of course, rings do exist as physical ‘finger rings’ in this game, but more as unique items that are involved in the story and unique character events. So we wanted them to have a special positioning within the world of Elden Ring and also to be something different from a design standpoint in relation to the talismans.

Treasure everywhere Though Breath Of The Wild inspired awe with its bristling grassy plains and beckoning faraway peaks, the existence (and necessity) of its paraglider testified to how much of the game’s sprawl was content to remain flyover country. And the emptiness of Fallout 3’s Wasteland was at least thematically appropriate given its post-nuclear predicament. The density of Elden Ring’s world furnishing, by contrast, boggles the mind. The Lands Between pulse with life, the drama of a world teeming with motion prior to your arrival. You join in medias res. The fine-tuned pacing of Elden Ring’s exploration, discovery and conflict cause the hours we spend with it to evaporate as if minutes. It’s not just that engaging moments are packed tightly together; it’s the wider spectrum of variety and duration. Groveside Cave consists of a glorified antechamber, a small pack of wolves and a boss arena. If action RPGs can have minibosses, then why shouldn’t they have mini-dungeons as well?

TOP Torrent isn’t essential for outdoor combat, but it helps even the odds during a tough fight. CENTRE LEFT Exploration is aided by a gorgeous stylised map, which also shows fast-travel locations. CENTRE RIGHT The inventory UI retains the general feel of previous From games, but importantly it encapsulates crafting items. BOTTOM Special Ashes summon spirit creatures to tank for you in battle




BOSS ENCOUNTER

Evolve or die Two of the biggest names in the Soulsborne fan community share their observations on how Elden Ring builds upon the design template of FromSoftware’s previous games After a few weeks digging into the average game, we’re accustomed to the tip of our shovel clattering against bedrock. Yet there is so much complexity to metabolise in the Soulsborne games that it’s possible for enthusiasts to devote years of their lives to mining them for raw material and not exhaust them – or the curiosity of their audiences. Elden Ring appears set to offer a motherlode even more abundant than its predecessors. If FromSoftware, historically gun-shy about spoilers and keen on preserving the mystique of its games, felt perfectly comfortable stuffing more than ten boss fights into Elden Ring’s closed beta, how many climactic fights await in the final release? As a few players noted, Elden Ring’s network test felt as though it had more to offer than some full games. But it’s not just about the game’s breadth, in the volume of activities or raw surface area to explore. The sensation of depth hinges on the variety of moment-to-moment gameplay experience. Michael Samuels, better known by his YouTube channel name VaatiVidya, has released countless videos about the lore of FromSoftware games, but the highlight of his experience with the network test was the way that Elden Ring builds upon Dark Souls’ combat formula, incentivising players to break out of mindless button-mashing habits. The introduction of an invisible posture meter means that guard-breaking enemies in Elden Ring to open them up for critical hits – a central feature of Sekiro’s combat – offers a more reliable path to victory. In Dark Souls it was generally a better strategy to just spam faster R1 attacks to maximise damage dealt, but a jumping slam to break an enemy’s guard and open it up for a critical blow might be the shrewder option with the new game. “You will find yourself deviating away from just R1 and realising, ‘Oh my god, R2s

LEFT Early on, Merchant Kalé can be found in the ruins of a church. He may dress like Saint Nick but don’t expect to get his Crafting Kit without paying

are insane’,” Samuels observes. “I fought a boss with R1 and I didn’t stagger it at all, but then I fought it weaving in some R2s and staggered it multiple times and I could do multiple crits. Traditionally, it was never wise in Dark Souls to use R2 in combat – it was more of a niche button. After many hours with Elden Ring, I was happy to see that combat has deepened.” Some players with early access to Elden Ring have criticised FromSoftware for leaning on gameplay assets and animations introduced in previous works, but modder Zullie The Witch, who has vast experience of combing through the innards of From’s games, views this decision through the lens of opportunity cost. “I don’t see a problem with reusing skeleton models and animations, if they’re still conveying the character and actions they’re meant to convey,” Zullie says. “A common complaint is that reusing assets is ‘lazy’, but I think that’s extremely reductive. It carries the implication that the developers could have just redone all these animations without compromising the scope of the game if they’d just tried harder, which is a flawed argument. Any time they would have spent going back over all those animations would have been time spent away from adding something new to the game instead.” Instead of looking at what’s been recycled, Zullie believes it’s more consequential to appreciate the ways that FromSoftware has capitalised on the chance Elden Ring offers to explore new design territory. “From can be very mired in tradition,” she says. “They have a tendency to refer back to their previous games to decide how to do certain things. So some of the biggest surprises playing Elden Ring have been in seeing how they weren’t defaulting to their usual playbooks and how they had innovated on existing designs instead of following them to the letter.”

Mounted combat on horseback is obviously a big new feature. Are there any enemy encounters beyond what we saw in the network test that have been designed specifically around the addition of Torrent? At no point do we want to enforce horse riding or mounted combat on the player. Rather, we want to build situations that may ask for mounted traversal or may suggest that mounted combat is a viable strategy, and it’s up to the player whether they want to pursue those strategies. They should never feel as though something is being forced upon them. In terms of map design and encounter design itself, due to the scale and the structure of the world, it’s something that should encourage traversal using Torrent. And also the mounted combat will hopefully play into the players’ variety of choices and how they approach these various situations, with that level of freedom, as well. So in that sense, yes, we’ve designed the world with that in mind. The open-world action RPG genre features some of the most notable games of recent years, including Breath Of The Wild, The Witcher III and Skyrim. Stepping into that design space with Elden Ring, where did you feel there was the most opportunity to leave your own mark on the genre? I don’t want to put it in such grand terms as “This is the mark I wanted to leave on the industry”. Rather, if I was in the mood to play a game, or if I had an ideal game world, Elden Ring gets pretty close to that. I create the games that are my type: tight combat, fantasy medieval settings, with dungeons to explore and things like that. It’s just what I’m into. And so Elden Ring is really hitting all the right notes there. You know, I probably won’t end up playing Elden Ring because it’s a game I’ve made myself. This is sort of my personal policy. You wouldn’t get any of the unknowns that the fresh player is going to experience. Like I said before, it wouldn’t feel like playing. But if I did, then this would be close to the ideal game I’d want. I don’t approach it in terms of “This is the kind of open world game I want to make”, it’s just that the open world enriches this ideal experience I’m trying to achieve. To give some very simple examples, if I was to explore this world, I’d want a map – a proper map. Or, you know, if I saw something over there, I’d want to actually be able to go over and explore it. And I’d want to fight with a dragon in an epic arena. Things like this. It’s very simple stuff, but Elden Ring allows a lot of these things to become a reality for me, creating something that’s very close to my ideal game.

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T H E E D G E A W A R D S

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If you ever need proof that critics are optimists, look no further than E354. Thirteen issues ago, we described 2020 as “a year unlike any we’ve experienced – and hopefully will ever experience again”, only for 2021 to effectively say “hold my beer”. The pandemic’s ongoing impact on the game industry has been evident throughout the past 12 months. Once again, it wasn’t a vintage year for triple-A, with indies and smaller studios continuing to pick up the slack. Still, a few blockbusters did break cover, and into our top ten – including no fewer than four sequels. That’s just one sign of what an odd year it’s been. There was no indie breakthrough on the level of Hades. And where was 2021’s equivalent to Animal Crossing: New Horizons? For some, that game continued to provide an escape, but we wonder if that would have been the case had Nintendo not been quite so quiet. This is the first year since 2016 that no Nintendo-published game has made it into our top ten. Still, if our list reflects the reality of a largely transitional 12 months, it also highlights the wide range of experiences that videogames offer. And while there were disagreements as we picked the individual categories, there was ultimately little debate about the big prize. We have an exclusive interview with the director of our number-one game, as well as celebrating the great, good, and downright strange of 2021. It may not have been a vintage year for the industry itself, but turn the page and you’ll see plenty of cause for optimism.

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REVIEWS. PERSPECTIVES. INTERVIEWS. AND SOME NUMBERS NEAR MISSES Big Brain Academy: Brain Vs Brain Switch Clearing that pile of shame sometimes means neglecting newer, shinier games, and there were several for which we didn’t quite have the room (or time) this issue. While few would have bet on Nintendo’s other brain-training series matching Dr Kawashima for longevity, Brain Vs Brain makes a reasonably convincing case for its existence via its online Ghost Clash mode. Here you compete against the ghost data of other players in a series of mental races: sure, it was probably a kid of primary-school age we just trounced, but we take these wins where we can get them. Nix Umbra PC This brisk, intense firstperson occult horror sees you stumbling through a pitch-dark forest, seeking refuge from barely glimpsed terrors. Trees suddenly burst into flame as you brush past them, while strange shapes dart in and out of sight as you advance. Raising your sword unleashes a dazzling flash to keep these creatures at bay, but leaves you desperately short of the light you need to avoid being swallowed up by the void. Death comes quickly, then, but progress is tangible – and despite its trialand-error mechanics, Nix Umbra keeps finding new, awful ways to freak you out. One Hand Clapping Switch We’ve had a game you control by blinking this year; now here’s one you play with your voice. The intent, it seems, is to encourage vocal confidence: a noble intention, but it’s simply too easy, that central gimmick barely evolving from start to finish. Walk, jump, croon, walk some more… the biggest challenge, as with Before Your Eyes, turns out to be keeping your peepers open.

Explore the iPad edition of Edge for extra Play content

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White Shadows PC Did you play Limbo, Inside and Little Nightmares? If so, then you’ve already seen better versions of this derivative puzzleplatformer, although it deserves acclaim for its beautiful black-and-white presentation.

REVIEWED THIS ISSUE

98 Halo Infinite

PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series

102 Solar Ash

PC, PS4, PS5

106 Battlefield 2042

PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series

110 The Gunk

PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series

112 Fights In Tight Spaces

PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series

114 Heavenly Bodies

PC, PS4, PS5

115 Space Warlord Organ Trading Simulator

PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series

116 Clockwork Aquario

PS4, Switch

117 Dungeon Encounters

PC, PS4, Switch

118 The Eternal Cylinder

PC, PS4, Xbox One

119 Sherlock Holmes Chapter One

PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series

120 Unsighted

PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One

121 Cruis’n Blast Switch

122 Dap PC

123 Toem

PC, PS5, Switch


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Snapshot It’s early December as we write this, which means alongside our regular helping of reviews, it’s also time for an annual catch-up. We’ve spent a few delightful hours lately with charming photography game Toem, framing our subjects with great care to get the perfect picture. It’s had us thinking about where videogames place their focus – this month we’ve got examples that pull back to offer a broader scope, and others that zoom right in, paying closer attention to the fine details. This issue’s blockbusters are inevitably thinking about the bigger picture, though Battlefield 2042 can be too much of a sprawl. Doubling the player numbers has meant expanding the warzone – and when there are no vehicles in the vicinity, it can be a long old walk to where the action is. Halo Infinite, in contrast, sees 343 Industries finally nail down the core loop that has eluded it since Bungie handed over the keys: there are ‘30 seconds of fun’ scattered all over its beautiful sandbox. Even if it doesn’t get the balance right every time, there’s always that glorious grappling hook. Talking of hooks, Space Warlord Organ Trading Simulator has a doozy. Rather than making you schlep between dodgy starports to buy and sell dubious goods, as a space-age spiv you spend your time competing with other traders to profit from body parts scooped up from the frontlines of an ongoing war. Fights In Tight Spaces, as the title suggests, also keeps things compact, resulting in a flawed but absorbing turn-based brawler that’s more John Wick than, well, John Wick Hex. The grid-based labyrinth of Dungeon Encounters is even more claustrophobic still: here is an RPG that makes a virtue of its limitations to deliver an adventure that feels lean and epic all at once. Looking for a game to occupy you until the February deluge? This one’s well worth snapping up. 97