Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is the newest installment in the popular tactics game series. Whether you’re a fresh faced rookie or a war weary strategist, there’s a few things you should know if you want to conquer the battlefield.
Choose Your Difficulty Level Wisely
You can pick one of two difficulty levels as well as play with or without permadeath. I recommend hard mode, which ups the stakes a little bit. Fire Emblem Echoes is already a tricky game but the added difficulty makes for far more interesting battles.
It’s Okay To Play In Casual Mode
One of Fire Emblem’s big hooks is that allies that die on the battlefield stay dead. This is my preferred way to play and I highly recommend it. If that seems a bit daunting though, it’s perfectly fine to play in Casual Mode, where your units simply retreat. Choose what’s most fun for you and your personal tastes. The important thing is to enjoy yourself.
Don’t Forget About Mila’s Turnwheel
No matter what mode and difficulty you are playing on, you will have access to Mila’s Turnwheel. This magical item allows you to rewind your actions if you make a mistake. It has a limit amount of charges but you can upgrade that by finding cogs in the world.
It can be very tempting to rush things in Fire Emblem but a shrewd strategist knows the value of patience. Charging ahead could get people killed so try to take time to position troops exactly where you want. You can even wait to have the enemy come to you. Fight on your own terms.
Terrain Makes A Huge Difference
Positioning units in forests or ruins provides some bonuses to defense and evasion that can mean the difference between life and death. You’ll see terrain effect indicators in the upper left corner of the screen. Areas with supplies will heal your unit at the start of each turn. Snag these valuable positions before your enemy can to reap benefits and turn the tide of battle in your favor.
Mages Are Your Trump Card
While terrain is important, you can bypass its effects using magic. If you enemy is hunkered down in the forest, attack with a mage to ignore those benefits and easily dispose of your enemies.
Archers Work A Bit Differently Here
If you’re use to modern series titles like Awakening and Fates, you might be surprised how far archers can shoot. In those games, archers had a range of two squares and couldn’t shoot enemies directly adjacent to them. In Echoes, the range is one to three square and can increase further with special bows equipped. Keep this in mind as you progress into enemy territory
Look Out For The… Daaaanggger Zone!
Pressing the X button while on the map will reveal all squares where you’re open to enemy attack. If you’re going on the offensive, use this to shift units into positions where the enemy can’t hit you. Enter the danger zone when you’re ready to strike.
The Weapon Triangle Doesn’t Exist In This Game
Some Fire Emblem games have a system where certain weapons trump others in a Rock, Paper, Scissor fashion. For instance, in Awakening, swords had advantages against axes but were weak against lances and spears. Echoes doesn’t have this. All combat is based on character stats. When attacking, it’s important to compare unit statistics to get a sense of how things will play out no matter who is fighting.
Kill Cantors ASAP
Cantors are dangerous enemies who can summon a ton of minions. The good news is that if you kill the cantor, all of his summoned helpers die too. If you see a cantor, take him out quickly to avoid getting rushed.
Don’t Use Amiibo In Battle
Alm and Celica both have the ability to use amiibo to summon spectral warriors for a single turn. For certain amiibo like Lucina, it will summon that hero, but for everything else, it will spawn some random warriors. It can be tempting to use this to brute for through battles but I don’t advise it. You’ll deprive your troops of valuable experience and it robs a lot of the challenge.
A key part of Echoes is visiting villages for supplies. In villages, you can look around the landscape to pick up items and talk to various NPCs. Make sure to pick up everything you find and talk to whoever you can. You might find a new sword, receive a quest, or make a new ally.
Be Sure To Equip Items
You units can hold one item at a time, be it a consumable healing item or a brand new sword. Make sure you equip what you find. Having extra healing is nice and certain classes, like the Mercenary, benefit greatly from new weapons. Items like swords and shields will also unlock skills for your units to learn such as new attacks or different ways to navigate the map.
Plus, unlike some other games in the series, there’s no item durability so feel use them as much as you want.
Item Abilities Are Tied To Their Respective Items
When you do learn a new skill from an item, you should be aware that your unit doesn’t keep that skill forever. Instead, they will have it as long as they have that item equipped.
Use Peddlers To Ship Items Between Parties
You control both Alm and Celica’s parties throughout the game. Sometimes, you might find an item with one party that’s perfect for someone in another. If you want to send items to your other army, look in towns for peddlers who will deliver a single item to the other group.
Backtrack To Old Locations
You don’t always have to press on to the next mission. Returning to old locations can reveal new quests or even characters to recruit. It’s worth doubling back from time to time to see what you might find.
Take Time To Watch Everyone’s Support Conversations
Echoes incorporates a throwback to the series’ older support system. While it doesn’t let you pair units, they can still gain affinity on the battlefield and engage in conversations. These provide a lot of insight into the world of Valentia, the day to day lives of your units, and each of them has clear, engaging narrative arc. Don’t skip out on them. You can also re-read any of the ones you’ve unlocked by accessing Mila’s turnwheel while on the overworld screen.
Explore Every Inch Of The Dungeons
Dungeons are a new real-time action addition to the series and exploring them is crucial. It’s not just about finding treasure chests either. Smash every crate you find and search dead ends for breakable walls to find even more loot and get the most out of your dungeon delving.
You Can Use Dungeons To Grind
If you want to push someone that little bit extra towards a new class or even just help characters gain affinity so you can see support scenes, you can always head back into dungeons for a few battles. You can’t quite power level to massive heights but it can still help you unlock a few things here and there.
Tactics games can get intense. It can be frustrating to fall into an enemy’s trap. Take a breath and relax. You’re going to do great. Get out there, kick butt, and enjoy your journey through Valentia.
As a compulsive fidgeter, I’ve tried both fidget cubes and fidget spinners, and there’s frankly no comparison; cubes are far superior. Why limit yourself to spinning when you can roll, click, press, flick, and rub, all on one device? There are two different colors available for $5, just note that they have different promo codes.
Hello all you pervert people of the intertubes, and welcome to Ask Dr. NerdLove, the time-jaunting dating advice column that helps you avoid mistakes before you make them.
This week, we’re going to be engaging with traumas past and present in hopes of a brilliant and happier future. How do you overcome a spectacular fail during sex and learn to get back on the metaphorical horse? And what do you do when your body is… imperfect, in a very noticeable way?
Time to fire up the pocket watch and jump back to the start of the day. Let’s do this thing.
This is the story of the one time I tried going down on a girl. Spoiler: lots of tears.
My first girlfriend and I had been dating for nearly a year when she first starting giving me head (we were both virgins and pretty timid about sexual activity in general). A few months later, I figured I should return the favor and try reciprocating. What neither of us knew at the time was that she had a yeast infection, and thus things did NOT smell or taste good down there. I involuntarily made a repulsed face in the act, according to her, and quickly gave up. Next thing I know, pants are back on, she’s sobbing because she feels disgusting, and I’m sobbing too because I feel like a monster for making her feel that way. The rest of the night and the next few days were kind of tense, as you might imagine.
We eventually moved past it, but for a long time I blamed myself for the incident, along with unrealistic expectations I may have picked up from porn stars who attack pussy like it’s full of gumdrops and ice cream. Our mutual high school friends just reconfirmed that I was foolish to expect things to taste good down there. That said, when my then-girlfriend found out about her infection, that eased some hurt feelings on both sides as we realized it wasn’t entirely my fault. Since the infection was long-term and she was somewhat prone to UTIs, we decided it was for the best that I not try again. We later lost our virginity to each other, and our sex life for the rest of the 3-year relationship was adequate for a couple of shy, high school sweethearts.
We broke up about five years ago, and I haven’t had a girlfriend or been sexually active since (for different, confidence related reasons, but that’d be another email entirely). The more I learn about sexuality and women’s pleasure, though, I feel like I should be willing to try oral again. On some level I think I am, because I now know that our shitty night was probably an anomaly. Still, after how traumatic that night was, the thought of trying again is nerve wracking because I never want to hurt someone like that again. And occasionally hearing in podcasts or internet comments that some women consider lack of oral a deal-breaker doesn’t exactly help my anxiety on the matter. Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself since I’d need to put myself out there dating-wise first, but when the time comes, how should I address my fears with future partners/significant others?
Lickless in Larryville
Hoo damn, LiL that’s… one way of getting introduced to oral sex. But damn, there’s a lot to unpack here, and hopefully getting a little perspective and understanding will help get you ready to dive back in (er… as it were).
So this is going to be a tad harsh, but I want you to realize: the biggest problem is the state of sex-ed and the way we as a culture have been taught to believe about bodies, especially women’s bodies.
We’ll start with what you said about hearing that women consider a lack of oral sex to be a deal-breaker. This is true and there’s a reason for that. A study published in Articles of Sexual Behavior found that straight and bisexual women had the fewest orgasms in partnered sex, while lesbians had far more. The difference: dick. Specifically: how guys tend to make everything in sex about it.
Most women – upwards of 75% – can’t reach orgasm through penetrative sex alone. Women as a group tend to require clitoral stimulation – both directly and indirectly – to reach orgasm. However, women as a group almost always – 80% for straight women and 91% for bi and lesbian women – climax through a combination of oral sex and digital stimulation, even when cock is completely uninvolved in the scene.
Unfortunately, a lot of dudes tend to think sex looks like it does in porn: play with the nipples, get a blowjob and then it’s off to the races, where their partner climaxes almost instantly because of the magic of cock.Because everything in porn is for the benefit of the camera, rather than their partner, any foreplay tends to be perfunctory at best; it’s a way of getting to the jackhammering as quickly as possible.
But no matter what porn has taught you, if your magic wand doesn’t say “Hitachi” on the side, it’s almost certainly not going to get the job done on it’s own.
On top of this, men and women tend to have different arousal patterns. It takes men and women about the same amount of time to reach peak arousal – ten minutes on average – different arousal patterns mean that men start off earlier than women do. While men have “boner-from-the-clear-blue-sky” type of horniness, women often have a responsive form of arousal. That is, while guys get aroused and start touching and kissing their partner, women tend to be aroused by sensual contact. So, when it comes to a lot of heterosexual sex, guys are often halfway to the finish line before women have even gotten to the starting line.
This is why foreplay in general – and oral sex in particular – is key for having great, bed-rocking sex – it eases the differences in arousal levels and helps ensure that your partner is going to have the same mind-blowing orgasm you’re all but guaranteed to have.
Now, with that in mind, let’s get back to the curious case of the vaj at the wrong time and the immediate aftermath, because this is all going to play into how things are going to go for you in the future.
You’re worried about hurting another person the way you inadvertently hurt your girlfriend, which is great. The thing you have to recognize is why it hurt so much. What you didn’t realize at the time is that you basically poked your girlfriend in a cultural insecurity that women have dumped on them all the damn time.
Bodies are bodies – they’re going to have smells and scents and tastes. But there’s a metric fuckton of massively incorrect messaging out there about what bodies should and shouldn’t smell like – especially women’s bodies. Women get bombarded with the message that something totally normal is actually a crime against man and God and they should be ashamed of it. I can all but guarantee that your ex grew up hearing endless numbers of jokes about “rank pussy” and references to dead fish, tuna, etc. Hell, there’s a literal industry born out of telling women that their vaginas should smell like a field of flowers instead of the nasty sinfulness that they were born with.
You write, “Our mutual high school friends just reconfirmed that I was foolish to expect things to taste good down there.’ That’s a great example of what I’m talking about: oral sex isn’t going to taste like ice cream, no matter whether you’re talking penises or vaginas, because hey, skin ain’t gonna be flavored like Americone Dream. This doesn’t mean it tastes or smells bad (absent medical issues, like a yeast infection) but your crotch isn’t necessarily going to smell like lilacs and taste like strawberries, either. So when you, presumably the first person she ever let go down on her, come back up making a Mr. Yuck face, that’s hit her straight in a massive insecurity.
This brings us to the present and the question of: where do you go from here? And you have a couple options. There are a number of women for whom oral is no big deal or who actively don’t like it. If the memory of that first time is so powerful that you can’t get past it (and hey, memory-induced revulsion is a thing; I gag at Swiss rolls) then seeking them out is an option.
But what I would honestly suggest is taking a deep breath and getting into the habit of going down on your partners. While the smells and tastes may be disconcerting at first, that’s only because they’re not something you’re used to. You’ll get familiar with it soon enough and it won’t be an issue (again, outside health or serious hygiene issues). The other thing to keep in mind is that every woman is going to be different. Some require direct, intense stimulation, while others will need more indirect or gentler or faster contact. Having an open mind, a can-do attitude and a willingness to take direction will help you far more than any technique tricks.
So I’ve read your articles a bunch over the last few months and decided I’d finally see if I could get some sound advice on an issue I’ve had for quite a while.
To put it bluntly I’m terrified of being naked in front of someone. I’m 22, fine enough looking, but my issue comes down to the fact I have a deformity in my chest. The technical term is pectus carinatum, some people call it pigeon chest. Essentially the sternum sticks out irregularly, and I have it on one side which creates this really hideous unbalanced look that goes from the top of my chest all the way down about halfway into the abdominal area. It’s not as extreme as some cases, but regardless, I hate it, and when it developed when I was still at school I was made well aware by peers that I was “a freak”, and occasionally things became physical. I started working out two years ago in an effort to correct it but that hasn’t worked like I wanted it to, and while I look better and more muscular in some areas, my chest is still hideous to look at.
I never want to take my shirt off in front of people, which obviously can make intimacy very difficult. I haven’t slept with anyone in about two and a half years since writing this, and that was only after a month of trying to muster up the courage to explain the issue to her. The only reason I did in the end was because I was pretty much completely enamoured with her and she made it somewhat difficult to back out for the fourth or fifth time. Every previous encounter bar that one, I had sex with the shirt on which made things, well, weird.
I know the most obvious advice would be “get over yourself” but considering the way it was treated when I was at school I find it difficult to do that. Obviously things are different now I’m an adult, but I still get incredibly anxious and have, if you’ll excuse the choice of words, pulled out at the last second on multiple occasions because I’m afraid of the reaction of the person I’m with. Basically I don’t want to waste my youth. It’s not like I want to have sex with everything that moves but I only get one shot at this life thing and spending it being essentially afraid of sex is not ideal.
I’m hopeful you can give me some advice. If it is as simple as “get over it” so be it. But is there anything else you think I should do or try? Counseling, for example? I just feel like, if I ever do sleep with someone again, then doing it with a shirt on is not at all practical. Any advice you can give me is greatly appreciated.
Sex is Scary
Hey, SiS, I feel for you. It’s understandable that you’re going to feel insecure over issues like this. A physical abnormality can make you feel like it’s the only thing that people will ever see or know about you. It’s also not true.
The thing you have to recognize is that a lot of people have unusual or imperfect bodies to varying degrees. Some folks have issues like yours, with protruding chest cavities.. Others have sunken chests, with major indentations at the breastbone. Some people have an arm or leg that’s shorter than the other. Some women have a breast that’s a full cup-size smaller than the other. Some guys get gynecomastia and develop breasts. Some women end up with male-pattern hair growth, including full facial hair at times. Many people – including a number of well-known actors and actresses – have asymmetrical faces, with features that are visibly off-true. It’s part and parcel of being human: we’re going to have weird shit going on.
So while you may not be a perfect physical specimen SiS, your differences aren’t going to condemn you to a life of celibacy. Your biggest drawback, ultimately, is going to be the way you see yourself. That, more than anything else, is going to affect how others see you. People tend to take their lead about how to react to us from us. When you convey the message of “I’m hideous and deformed, don’t look at me,” they tend to respond accordingly. On the other hand, treating your uniqueness as no big deal – “hey, just FYI, my chest is built a bit differently” – then they will tend to follow your lead and realize that yeah, it’s just part of what makes you, you.
One thing to keep in mind is that what is obvious to you isn’t necessarily going to stand out to everyone else the same way. To you, it’s a massive abnormality, something that can’t possibly be ignored – driven home by the bullying you experienced as a kid. However, we all see our flaws because we know them intimately. We zoom in on them when we look in the mirror. Other people, on the other hand may not notice or, for that matter, may not care.
It’s easy to get caught up in feeling like nobody could possibly find you attractive because of your chest. But attraction is a holistic issue. We’re attracted to the total being, not just one thing. This is doubly true when sex enters the equation. Once you’re at the point where clothes are coming off, it’s usually fait accompli and even a little strangeness isn’t going to kill the moment. Getting comfortable with being naked and accepting yourself can go a long way to making you feel more comfortable with a partner, especially someone who may be a potential long-term relationship.
To be fair: there are assholes out there who’re going to talk shit, no matter what. You can do a google search for “toe thumbs” and find a horde of asshats talking shit about Megan Fox. Assholes are gonna ass. But this is one of those times when they’re doing you a favor. If they react badly to one part of you, they’re telling you everything about them – and in doing so, filtering themselves out of your dating pool.
With that all having been said: this one of those times when you may want to talk to an actual doctor, not a fake doctor like me. Pectus carinatum can be corrected medically. While it’s easier to treat children, doctors can reshape and adjust the breastbone surgically. The procedure is minimally invasive, has excellent results and few side-effects. This could be something to discuss with a surgeon, especially if your condition is having physical effects on your health.
Do you or your partner have an unusual body type? Did you have an awkward or embarassing moment with your first time Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments. And meanwhile, we’ll be back with more of your questions in two weeks.
Ask Dr. Nerdlove is Kotaku’s bi-weekly dating column, hosted by the one and only Harris O’Malley, AKA Dr. NerdLove. Got a question you’d like answered? Write firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Kotaku” in the subject line.
Harris O’Malley is a writer and dating coach who provides geek dating advice at his blog Paging Dr. NerdLove and the Dr. NerdLove podcast. His new dating guide New Game+: The Geek’s Guide to Love, Sex and Dating is out now from Amazon, iTunes and everywhere fine books are sold He is also a regular guest at One Of Us.
The announcement of the NBA 2K league was huge—17 NBA teams will be investing in esports teams which will be contracted to compete in a regular season running concurrent with the NBA season. It was enough to pique many people’s curiosity, including our own, but when we went looking for references to any existing 2K esports scene, we came up with more questions than answers.
Sports games have had their own share of the esports scene for a while. FIFA has a fair share of followers, as does the Madden series, to say nothing of Rocket League’s success in the competitive realm. But cursory searches for any mention of an NBA 2K competitive scene continuously come up with little to nothing outside mentions of the upcoming 2K eLeague itself.
This isn’t to say that 2K has no community whatsoever, of course. Tons of people play it, and plenty of YouTube channels thrive on 2K content, whether comedic or high-level gameplay. But the league is promising a 17-team landscape in which players create their own avatars to fill out five-player squads. That’s 85 players total, and there doesn’t appear to be supply to meet that demand.
What tournaments we did find were small, community-hosted events, and those tend to be the most promising. Though view counts vary from the low hundreds to a few thousand, the video creators on YouTube seem to be the ones most prominent in the scene, propping up tournaments like the 2K17 Pro-Am Championship, so it’s disappointing to see little to no mention of them in the league announcement.
Where competition for NBA 2K seems to thrives is at the grassroots level, where local tournaments form followings among both casual and semi-pro players. Though 2K lacks in formal tournaments, it’s not hard to find a local group willing to play. It’s a scene that could, given time and attention, thrive, and develop players more interesting than the actual, say, Knicks.
Those creators and players are the ones who can get a community interested in the game in question. On the other hand, stats like NBA 2K17’s Twitch average viewership paint the NBA 2K seriesas the distant third in the sports-esports pantheon behind FIFA and Madden, garnering 3000 viewers at the most compared to tens of thousands for the others. Though individual YouTube channels thrive, the Twitch audience is often a good metric for esports followings, and right now 2K lacks in that department.
The most publisher 2K can point to is their own NBA 2K17 All-Star Tournament Championship, a showmatch put on by the company and featuring two teams, Still Trill and Throwdown. Put on the same week as the NBA All-Star match, it was a highly produced presentation, but still a showmatch only featuring two teams.
It’s entirely possible that 17 NBA teams just formed a league for a scene that might not be prepared to meet the demand. There doesn’t seem to be 85 professional or even semi-professional players ready to take up for the game. Lack of a prominent tournament scene means there’s been little incentive for teams to form or stay together, and most of the community seems more interested in personalities than the hardline-competitive angle of an esports league.
All of this also, though, has to do with hype—with corporations worth billions of dollars trying to direct the spotlight onto something they can control and own. From the outside looking in, the NBA and 2K are taking the scene from zero to 100, without ensuring there’s enough genuine support among fans or even players to meet their demand. Why? Go back to that point about controlling and owning.
It’s perfectly possible that I’ll be sitting here a year from now eating copious amounts of crow as NBA 2K’s league flourishes. But that it takes a ton of digging to find any competitive scene, tape, or teams doesn’t bode well for one of the largest esports investments yet.
The Surge is a futuristic action game in the vein of Dark Souls that pits players against a host of robots and power-suit-wearing goons. It’s fun to bash on zombies but even better to cut their limbs off to steal their loot.
Item acquisition in Souls-like titles tends to be abstract. You wail on a zombie or demon for a bit and if you’re lucky, they drop a shiny pick-up that could be any number of things. It’s a dice roll whether get a new weapon or not. In Dark Souls, the small, ethereal bag of loot that falls to the ground is mysterious. In the Souls-ish Nioh, the colorful burst of multicolored drops feels in tone with the game’s energy. But The Surge takes another route that might be the best attempt yet at making loot feel meaningful.
(Side Note: If you’re interested how boss fights go, I show that off in this video.)
In The Surge, you have the ability to focus attacks on certain body parts. Continue to attack a specific limb and you can trigger a powerful finishing move to slice them off your foes. It’s more than an exciting bit of blood and mayhem; it’s also how you get new items and equipment. Do you want that enemy’s nifty chainsaw arm or powerful hammer? Cut it off and get the schematic to craft for yourself.
Dark Souls would occasionally allow players to cut off enemy limbs to get unique weapons, but The Surge takes that idea even further, allowing you to dismember pretty much any enemy in the game. Thanks to this little piece of design, the world feels solid and real. You can break and smash it for your benefit.
The Surge has a speedy approach to combat that can move a little too fast from time to time but the way it handles loot is incredible. Slicing and bashing new gear from enemies is a distinctive touch that keep combat exciting and makes the world a little more extant.
Last weekend saw Capcom open up a special beta for Street Fighter V which, in addition to giving the community a chance to try the game’s improved online modes, provided a preview for the next downloadable character. Ed, a rapidly aging M. Bison clone saved by Balrog during the story of Street Fighter IV, shocked fans due to his rather simplistic attack inputs, and players were eager to get their hands on the newcomer during the brief beta window.
Ed’s gameplay combines the boxing skills taught to him by Balrog and the Psycho Power that forms the crux of M. Bison’s strength. As such, his toolset is a mixed bag; he’s capable of taking the fight to opponents with a strong ground game, but can also keep them airborne with copious juggles. From what we’ve seen thus far, Ed is an incredibly mobile fighter that doesn’t impose any intense execution requirements. His inputs are simpler than those of other fighters in the game’s roster and consist of numerous one- and two-button specials.
While it typically takes months of competition for the community to figure out a new character, early impressions can sometimes build a foundation for future progression and even help the developers make changes before an official release. Street Fighter V’s servers were inundated with players looking to learn what makes Ed tick, and we’ve collected some of the more pertinent information from the competitors who studied him over the weekend.
As is often the case, opinions on Ed’s skillset varied widely. Some, like longtime competitor Ryan “fubarduck” Harvey, weren’t impressed. “I think he’s a contender for worst character in the game if they release him as-is. Hope I’m wrong!” he shared on Twitter, compiling a list of details that he believes makes the young fighter weak.
Issues did arise during the beta test that may be fixed for Ed’s final release. Some players, including Eduardo “PR Balrog” Perez, Javits Arias, and Spab Rog, had trouble connecting some of the boxer’s combos at specific ranges. They also had a hard time “pianoing” (an input method that involves rolling your fingers across the arcade buttons like a piano to make attacks like Chun-Li’s lightning legs much more reliable) his Psycho Flicker special due to input overlap with other moves.
Although he may appear to be an up-close fighter on the surface, Ed can hold his own in the long-range game. As noted by Patrick “DaFeetLee” Lee, the upcoming character might actually excel more at zoning than rushdown.
One thing that’s for sure is that Ed is rather stylish. Spab Rog posted a number of quick clips showing off some of the crazier techniques the upcoming character is capable of. These include mid-combo dashes, using Ed’s specials to pull the other player into his large V-Trigger fireball, and the ability to push opponents from one side of the screen to the other.
Overall, it’s pretty hard to pin down where Ed sits, both in Street Fighter V and the community’s esteem. It typically takes weeks or even months of competition before players begin to figure out a new character, and the lack of a training mode during the recent beta made learning Ed on a foundational level difficult. Opinions will likely normalize as more time is spent with him, but at the moment, all players can do is wait until Ed’s arrival, which has yet to be nailed down with an official release date.
Did you get some time with Ed this weekend? Let us know what you think of him in the comments!
Last night, Blizzard teased a new skin for the beloved Overwatch hero Pharah, an Egyptian soldier who, along with her mother, served in the Egyptian military. The new skin, though, sends some mixed cultural signals: Pharah is wearing a white, Egyptian-style headscarf, but also bears distinctly Native American patterns across her armor. Earlier this week, we asked Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan about Pharah’s controversial background, which yesterday’s teased skin may help explain.
Since Overwatch’s release, Pharah’s heritage has been a point of contention. Two of her legendary skins drew ire for their explicitly Native American look. Named “Thunderbird” and “Raindancer,” they paint her face in red and white and remove her Eye of Horus tattoo. Her hair is separated into two braids and her armor bears distinct “tribal” patterns. Her helmet is a falcon decorated with grass. Dozens of forum posts questioned, Did Blizzard just assume Pharah could switch races because she’s brown? Through last year, fans argued that the skinswere “racist” and culturally appropriative. One particularly strong-worded Reddit post read, “If Blizzard wanted to make a skin like this, why not create a Native American character that could wear it proudly and appropriately? That way, we see the connection between what she wears and who she is. . . They should not make the same mistake of treating Native Americans like their culture is meaningless and no more than a costume.”
Months later, it’s looking like Blizzard is doubling down on Pharah’s depiction as a woman of mixed race. Pharah’s new skin basically confirms it. Pharah, it seems, is half Native-American. It’s a piece of lore that’s been teased and, if true, helps dispel the year-long controversy that’s plagued Overwatch’s Egyptian hero.
Last July, Kotaku reporter and Pharah fanboy Nathan Grayson askedOverwatch game director Jeff Kaplan about the Pharah skin controversy. Kaplan said, “Specifically when you talk about that Pharah skin, it’s really interesting because the first time that we had seen the concept art of it, we were all blown away. . . We wrestled with like, ‘OK, so Pharah is clearly Egyptian and that’s her heritage. That’s her nationality and we want to respect that and we also want to be respectful of Native American culture.’ We sort of had this moment of asking ourselves, ‘Are we being disrespectful in any way?’ The Native American parts of it feel awesome and feel like an homage and like, ‘Hey, isn’t this cool?’”
Kaplan didn’t confirm or deny that Pharah is Native American. But late in December, Blizzard published a holiday comic in which Pharah, who is usually based in Egypt, is in Canada. She’s dining with an older man. A Canadian hockey game plays on the television behind them. Outside, it is snowing. The community started theorizing: What if that’s Pharah’s dad? What if he’s Canadian? In April, Blizzard added a new spray for Pharah’s mother Ana that displayed her, baby Pharah and a man who looks just like that older man in the comic. His features are dark and his hair is long and black. Some fans believed he looked Native American:
In the intervening time, several forum posts have pointed out that Pharah’s “Thunderbird” and “Raindancer” skins were likely inspired by Pacific Northwest indigenous cultures like the Eyak, Haida and Tlingit people. Here’s what some Haida art looks like:
So, on Wednesday, I attempted to confirm Pharah’s Native American heritage with Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan. He said, “That’s what we’re driving towards. All the hints are there, so we’ll see.” That seems like a yes.
Was Pharah’s lore added to quell players’ accusations of cultural appropriation? It’s hard to say. One strongly-worded Medium post by a Native American woman questioned whether Pharah’s father is the “Convenient Indian.” She wrote, “corporate interests and fandom demands aligned so they can make those skins “acceptable” while getting bonus points for finally having a Native in Overwatch’s lore.”
Pharah’s backstory and skins seem to scan. But a few other Overwatch skins faced similar accusations of cultural appropriation. Fans spoke out when Roadhog’s “Toa” and “Islander” skins apparently redesigned the big, fat “Australian” as a Hawaiian Luau dancer. Roadhog was believed to be Australian because of his association with Junkrat, who is certainly Aussie. But Roadhog, whose real name is Mako, is probably a New Zealander. His name means “Shark” in New Zealand’s Maori language, which indigenous Polynesians speak. Roadhog’s voice line, “If I wanted to go to the wop wops, I could have stayed at home” basically confirms this—“wop wops” is distinctly New Zealand slang. A quick Google image search for “Maori” confirms that Roadhog’s “Islander” and “Toa” skins are the spitting image of Maori fashion.
Symmetra’s “Devi” skin, which envisions her as a sexier version of the eponymous Hindu goddess, also sparked a minor controversy. Last July, Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, who’s made a habit of speaking out against religious Hindi representations in games, asked Blizzard “to withdraw the Devi skin in the video game, as it trivialised Hinduism’s highly revered goddesses.” It doesn’t appear that there’s a justification for the “Devi” design.
These conversations are important and help generate pressure against bad or shallow representations of people. And anyway, who can tell whether Blizzard inserted these bits of lore after the skins sparked outrage? That said, Pharah’s mixed race is a very cool addition to her backstory, which, unfortunately, we got to know a bit late.
This weekend, Second Life bunnies will starve and die. Ozimals, a popular virtual pet creator, got hit with a cease-and-desist order, meaning no more support for existing products. As a result, many of their bunnies won’t be able to eat. They’ll die on Saturday. Check out the full story on Waypoint.
The coolest new feature in Injustice 2 is the ability to play dress-up with DC Comics’ iconic heroes and villains. And though they can’t possibly be as awesome as my Grape Flash here, we want to see your best custom creations.
For those of you not playing the best DC Comics fighting game ever, Injustice 2 allows players to use gear unlocked via in-game loot boxes and mission rewards to augment and transform their characters from this:
Into this beauty right here:
Since gear features level requirements, it’s likely your custom characters will morph as they rise from level 1 to 20, but I think I’ve found the sweet spot with Barry Allen here. Not only is the color combination quite striking, the Speed Force Legacy helm covers his smug face.
God. Go away, Barry.
Now it’s your turn. Bring us your Scarecrows, your Cheetahs, your poor huddled Supermen yearning to breathe free while repressing an entire planet. Grape Flash will be standing by to toss some tempests if the need arises.