Staff WriterIndependent Swedish game developer Arrowhead Game Studios has already made something of a name for itself with its sorcery-based action-adventure game, Magicka, and intend to follow its success with the upcoming Helldivers: a new top-down shooter that relies more on heavy artillery than volatile magic spells. While Magicka went on to become a beloved title on Valve's digital gaming platform, Steam, after being released in January of 2011, the game has never translated well to consoles. Players do not rely on traditional fantasy-based video game tropes to conjure their spells, such as a “mana” bar or a character class system. Instead, players take control of faceless and voiceless wizards, all of whom are able to wield eight base elements that are assigned to specific keys. Depending on input, players may stack or combine elements to produce a number of destructive or beneficial effects (mostly destructive). Said abilities range from constructing personal shields made out of ice and rock, to firing concentrated beams of steam, electricity and arcane energy all in one. Helldivers seeks to do what its predecessor could not, and is set to be released for the Playstation 3, Playstation 4 and the handheld Playstation Vita. Game critic Phil Owen, reporting for Kotaku, was able to spend an hour playing Helldivers alongside Sony producer Mark Rogers as well as other gaming journalists, and reported that Magicka's trademark chaotic hilarity is alive and well in the new title, “There was no one thing quite as regularly hilarious as burning a friend to death with a stray fire spell—unless your friends are the sort to get really mad when you goof up during cooperative games, in which case "accidentally" shooting them will provide endless entertainment.” Owen goes on to laud what is likely to be the game's signature mechanic, known as “strategems”, which enable players to call down air-drops that contain special skills or items, such as pilotable mechs or placeable gun turrets. These do little to deter instances of friendly-fire, which were ubiquitous in Magicka and have returned in Helldivers as an integral part of its entertainment value (though this also depends on how easily-miffed your teammates might be): “Getting to ride a mech sounds as if it would be a hugely relieving move, but in the wrong hands it just ups the friendly fire chaos. We're used to a top-down shooter being responsive, but a mech does not turn on a dime. You can point your stick this way and start firing immediately if you want to—just be sure to have an apology ready for your ally who you exploded with one of your shells because it takes a couple seconds for a mech to turn around.” Helldivers also promises procedurally-generated maps, guaranteeing that no two experiences will ever be quite the same. Rounds are complete when players accomplish a series of objectives, all the while gunning down insectile alien baddies and calling in air-drops containing stratagems and ammunition, which players will inevitably deplete before the round's conclusion. Owen goes on to describe the havoc that can result from not completing objectives efficiently, which provides a level of stress that makes the game hard to anticipate and all the more fun to play: “But the best part? Fights can escalate to a silly degree in a matter of seconds. At one point three of us—one in a mech—were attempting to guard a train as it moved through a jungle map when the regular assortment of cannon fodder bugs came at us. They kept coming, and tougher, larger bugs began to enter the fray before an enormous armored thing finally took the chaos to its apex. "This king bug is akin to a boss, and you can only do damage to it by swinging around behind it. I, on foot, dutifully maneuvered around to its backside to "shoot it in the ass," as Sony's attached producer Mark Rogers instructed, but the monster quickly sprinted across the field of battle and destroyed everything in its path, our mech and my on-foot teammate included. Suffice to say that attempting to get behind a giant monster while it and a hundred of its closest friends are coming at me was not an option, so I ran away. Unfortunately, these creatures are surprisingly adept at leaping long distances, and I was eaten up pretty quickly. That, in short, is what happens when you don't kill efficiently. Shit gets out of hand real quick.” He also goes on to remark on the game's difficulty and reliance on cooperative play: “The level of stress is high, and that's exactly what makes the experience fun. It's off the chain, as the old folks say, and for me the enjoyment is all in the moment-to-moment madness of play, not necessarily in doing well. Helldivers is intended to be communal—it basically exists to be played in couch co-op, though solo and online play is of course supported.” Helldivers is currently slotted for release in 2014 as a digital download, with its exact date TBA. As of now, it has received praise not only from Owen and Kotaku, but from other gaming news outlets such as IGN and Game Informer, with IGN releasing their own video filled with gameplay footage and commentary.
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