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Explore and conquer the galaxy in Stellaris

Nov 24 // Steven Hansen
Stellaris (PC)Developer: Paradox Development Studio Publisher: Paradox Interactive Release: TBA So, conquest in space, again, with Stellaris. The Beyond Earth comparison isn't just based on the sci-fi theme, as director Henrik Fåhraeus explained to me last week, Stellaris, "is a grand strategy game masquerading as a 4X game." In that sense it's a departure from past Paradox successes and the upcoming, WWII-set Hearts of Iron IV. He explained in a blog post earlier this year, "The early game is thus characterized by exploration and discovering the wonders of the galaxy," until reaching the mid-game wherein, "there is not much left to colonize and your easy expansion grinds to a halt. At this point, the map stabilizes into the Stellaris equivalent of the world map in Europa Universalis." You begin as one planet directed by a set of cultural guidelines (shown off to us last week was an Individualist Xenophobic empire, which made for a good first encounter with another large empire during which the only dialogue option was, "Alien scum!") that has just discovered faster than light travel. You'll choose between slower , free-moving warp travel; hyperspace across straight lines; and wormhole travels, which requires wormhole stations to be built. [embed]322210:61231:0[/embed] As opposed to pre-canned societies, there are over 100 alien portraits that can be aligned with a variety of traits, so "you will never meet the same aliens again;" or, at least, those bug-eyed purple asshole from your third game might be an inquisitive, pacifist sect next time you encounter that alien art. There are a few other parameters to set, like how many large empires will populate the galaxy you're exploring, but there are also quick start and preset options that reflect Paradox's attempt to widen its appeal, "without compromising our level of depth and complexity." There is an in-game adviser, for example, full voiced to help guide burgeoning emperors (or democratically-elected fish-faced idiots, whatever). In fact, Stellaris is Paradox's first project with a dedicated audio director. Coupled with all the space-faring in a full-figured galaxy and it could prove a little more inviting than playing on a giant map if the grand scope of spaaace isn't too alienating itself. Other simplifications include ditching tech trees for a system, "more like a collectible card game where you draw three cards and pick one." Research into Physics, Society, and Engineering is dictated by your scientists' traits and immediate options are weighted to be most convenient to you at any given time, though sometimes rare research opportunities pop up ("space amoeba weapons" were mentioned). Game progression goes something like this. Start on your home planet, represented by squares arranged 4x4 wherein you can place population unites (and strive for adjacency bonuses, like XCOM's base-builder). Send your science ship around to survey the galaxy, including addressing strange anomalies. In the demoed instance, we were drawn to a distress signal much like our own. There was a 10% failure rate, which just means missing out on the anomaly, though there is potential for catastrophic failure. In this case, the crew of the discovered ship was dead by brain parasite and a trait of our surveying scientist is the only thing that saved our crew from succumbing. Instances like these are neatly thrown into a Situation Log and you can research them from there. Then you'll want to send out ships for colonization and build construction ships to take advantage of resources (habitable planets are rare and meant to be cherished). There's a detailed ship builder, but you can auto-build for the best, too. "I don't want the flow in this game to be too micromanagey," Fåhraeus said. Other systems will start looping back around later. The population of a colonized planet or even your native planet can splinter off into factions of warring ideology, leaving you to choose if you want to say, quash the insurrection with force or give rein to a splintered, population-supported political spin off group. Eventually you will make it to the aforementioned mid-game, where it's "more like Europa Universalis" and you're butting up against large, rival empires. If one scouts you, it has the option to research you before you research it, and make first contact. There are other, smaller civilizations you'll discover, too, some pre-industrial, some post-technology.  To counter past Paradox games' anti-climactic endings when "you reach a point where you know you won," and are just trudging along to victory, late game crises are introduced, revolving around things like dangerous technological advancements or sentient robot worker uprisings -- things that threaten the whole galaxy. And there's maneuvering to do there, too, like letting the killbots off your biggest threat while allying elsewhere, bolstering yourself for the impending man-vs-bot slaughter. Also, you can "uplift" alien wildlife and, say, create a planet of space-faring, extremely loyal dolphins to go space crusade in your name, amen. Stellaris is "coming soon."
Stellaris preview photo
In space no one can hear you scheme
Earlier this year, Paradox offered an alternative for the many disappointed by EA's botched SimCity two years earlier by publishing Colossal Order's excellent city-building-simulator Cities: Skylines. Now Paradox's internal s...

Minecraft screenshots photo
Minecraft screenshots

Minecraft: Story Mode Episode 3 screenshots, we got 'em

Look at last
Nov 24
// Darren Nakamura
The third episode for Minecraft: Story Mode is out today, and it's actually not half bad. I think I took more screenshots this time around than in the first two episodes as a result. Going through these after the fact, it's o...

Review: Minecraft: Story Mode: The Last Place You Look

Nov 24 // Darren Nakamura
Minecraft: Story Mode: The Last Place You Look (iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: November 24, 2015 (Mac, PC)MSRP: $4.99, $24.99 (Season Pass)Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit After having found Ellegaard the redstone engineer and Magnus the griefer in the previous episode, the gang needed only to locate Soren the architect for the full original Order of the Stone to be accounted for. The journey to find Soren takes the party to some peculiar locations, most located in The End. However, since Soren is a master builder, the areas highlighted are more diverse than the typical darkness of The End. Between Soren's feats of engineering in the overworld and colorful constructions in The End, it's a nice nod to Minecraft proper players who are known to build some of the craziest things. Soren himself is a much more likable character than some of the other members of the Order of the Stone. Where Ellegaard and Magnus were basically insufferable (especially after they were brought together), Soren is quirky and at times genuinely funny. Voiced by John Hodgman, he's neurotic and paranoid, but still fun to be around. [embed]321869:61211:0[/embed] Overall, the quality of the writing has taken a half-step up from the previous two episodes. None of the jokes elicited any sustained belly laughs, but I did let out a few snorts and chuckles along the way. The Last Place You Look started up a running gag where Axel falls on top of Lukas repeatedly, which happens just enough to be comical without getting tired. Some of the seeds of drama sown in previous episodes have begun to sprout, and while it still maintains the kid-friendly narrative, it's finally beginning to feel like the events happening matter and Jesse has an important role to play. The greatest success of The Last Place You Look is that it allows the player to feel accomplished while still moving the narrative along. This is, after all, only the third episode in a five-episode season, so anybody who knows Telltale knows everything won't be resolved here. But even so, the climax of this episode feels like a high point for the team. Sure, they're not done with their mission, but they did something, at least. There's never really any downtime during this episode either. Though there are a few sections of walking around and talking or searching for clues, they all serve a purpose and generally lead to action sequences. The first action sequence in particular is probably the best so far in the series, melding the fantastic environments, a sense of danger, and the classic Telltale decision-making into a tight opening credit roll. One thing that might turn some off is the quiet lowering of the bar for success during the action sequences. Some of the quick-time events seem more demanding here than usual, but I noticed after I flubbed a button press or two, the resulting animation didn't seem to react accordingly. Perhaps it takes multiple failures in a single section to make a difference. More experimentation is necessary. As much as I may praise The Last Place You Look, it is with respect to the first two episodes of Minecraft: Story Mode. It definitely is an improvement, but an improvement from mediocrity is just okay. The comedy is slightly improved, but still doesn't hold a candle to that of Tales from the Borderlands. The characters are becoming easier to sympathize with, but they aren't are interesting as those from The Wolf Among Us. The drama is beginning to heat up, but it doesn't come close to what we saw in The Walking Dead. Perhaps it's unfair to compare Minecraft: Story Mode to Telltale's more adult-oriented series. This is built for a particular demographic, and it seems like it's really hitting with that audience. The Last Place You Look is more of the same -- and slightly better, if anything -- so those who have enjoyed the series thus will be pleased to just keep on trucking. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Minecraft review photo
Looking up
Minecraft: Story Mode didn't impress me with its first two episodes. Aimed at young players and Minecraft super fans, its writing didn't have a whole lot going for it past its Saturday morning cartoon plot and series in-jokes...

Clannad releases photo
Clannad releases

Clannad visual novel on Steam, briefly outsells Call of Duty

Cheap this week, too
Nov 24
// Steven Hansen
Visual novel Clannad released on PC in Japan back in 2004 and since spawned various adaptations, including an anime series. Publisher Sekai Project ran a Kickstarter last year for an official English release that was funded ...
Star Wars photo
Star Wars

A Stormtrooper smacking his head is one of Star Wars Battlefront's best easter eggs

So that's what the helmet's for
Nov 23
// Brett Makedonski
Stormtroopers are kind of a clumsy lot. For supposedly elite soldiers, they sure do miss often with their blasters. Oh yeah, a bunch of Ewoks outsmarted and defeated them, too. It seems like if Darth Vader wants something do...
Fallout update notes photo
Fallout update notes

You can nab the first Fallout 4 update on Steam

I thought you'd be bigger
Nov 23
// Jordan Devore
Bethesda has released a beta version of the first Fallout 4 update on PC, and if you were expecting a bunch of sweeping changes and bug fixes, well, give it some time. New Features Number pad keys can now be used for remappi...
Steam Machines photo
Steam Machines

One of the Steam Machines is already 40 percent off

Uhhh, that was quick
Nov 23
// Brett Makedonski
Less than two weeks after it hit the market, Syber is already discounting one of its Steam Machines by 40 percent. As part of a "one day only!" event, the Steam Machine I has a reduced price of $299 from $499. Syber has also ...
Plants vs. Zombies photo
Plants vs. Zombies

EA is handing out free Garden Warfare coins

Just log in for 80,000 coins
Nov 23
// Jordan Devore
Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare was one of my most-played games last year. What a fun shooter! I won't get back into it, but I don't see the harm in opening a few card packs. As a celebration for passing the eight-million-...
Just Cause 3 photo
Just Cause 3

Just Cause 3's PC specs are a little high because Rico has a lot to blow up

Explosions in the sky
Nov 23
// Brett Makedonski
With just little more than a week remaining before Just Cause 3's release, the required and recommended PC specs come parachuting in. Right on time too, as some players may find themselves needing to take advantage of some Bl...
Street Fighter V Years photo
Street Fighter V Years

Street Fighter V is operating on a 'five year plan'

The groundhog said, 'five years of DLC'
Nov 23
// Chris Carter
We've always known that Capcom has a clear, unified approach to Street Fighter V. The game, according to the publisher so far, will not be constantly updated with "Super" and "Ultra" editions -- instead, there will be one bas...
Fallout 4 photo
Fallout 4

Bethesda: Fallout 4 console commands 'not supported or recommended' on PC

'Can very easily mess up save files'
Nov 23
// Chris Carter
In a very Bethesda-like fashion, messing around with console commands on the PC version of Fallout 4 might completely bug out your game more than it's already bugged out to begin with. Warning folks not to use the system...
Fallout 4 photo
Fallout 4

What hellish humans have you crafted with Fallout 4's character creator

Haha, these are amazing
Nov 23
// Chris Carter
Haha, man, I can't get over how good some of these Fallout 4 character creation templates are. Beavis and Butthead is probably my absolute favorite, but I've seen so many great garish creations over the past few weeks. A...

A guided tour of Life is Feudal: Your Own's many, many loading points

Nov 23 // Joe Parlock
Our utterly fascinating journey begins when entering a multiplayer server. I chose a heavily populated one (around 60 out of 64 potential players), and was treated to a nice, incredibly lengthy loading screen. But that's alright, the loading screen taking the better part of five damn minutes isn't a problem! Just take a look at those suave jet blacks and those imposing yellows as they come together beautifully in a visual feast slap bang in the middle of the screen. Isn't it just delightful? Note how the relevant information. such as how close the loading is to being complete, is relegated to being dark grey text on the black background. It’s a bold move that screams “I’m absolutely taking form over function, but when your form is as sweet as mine who really cares, eh?” Now I know what you might be thinking: this piece isn’t technically a true loading screen. But don't you worry, we're accepting of all hangups, slowdowns, waiting periods and roadblocks here! Look at this abstract art dancing around the screen. Look at how those blues and whites gently give way to a more rustic and earthy brown. You may have mistaken this for a delicious artisinal blueberry muffin, or maybe a painting by Johan Sebastian Mozart himself. In reality, this is  actually the world popping in incredibly slowly all around you! Unable to move, all you can do is stand and absorb the waves of colour as they cascade over you. You may have already sat through the initial loading screen, but Life is Feudal loves to just spoil you with how much waiting you're allowed to do before having to play the game! With time, those lighter areas might’ve gradually become a tree or a patch of grass, but in those few minutes it was something so much more: it was a discussion of the nature of reality, and the futility of seeking perfection. All I can describe it as is ‘inspiring’. And now we come to the main event, the one I've been most eager to show you. To do literally anything within Life is Feudal, you are rewarded with this low-key progress bar, slowly scrolling from left to right. Want to chop a tree, make an axe, or even just pick up some grass? Don’t be silly, nobody wants to do that, we all just want to gaze longingly at the progress bar in all of its sluggish, beige splendor. Some critics might argue that this bar is a metaphor for the unyielding capitalist society we find ourselves in, where even the smallest and most insignificant of actions requires hard toil. Life may be feudal, but does it really need to be this difficult? Alas, the beige progress bar seems to suggest so. And so here we are at last, the very end of our tour, and the thing that I believe might well be the most exciting statement Life is Feudal's makes. Should you ever find yourself tiring of the artistic genius that is the game’s many loading screens, and should you ever want to to stumble wearily away from the deep philosophical questioning of its progress bars, Life is Feudal will leave you with one parting message: life is nothing but waiting. Our fascinating journey begins when entering a server. I chose a heavily populated one (around 60 out of 64 potential players), and so got to sit through a nice, minutes-long loading screen. Look at those suave jet blacks and imposing yellows coming together beautifully in an absolute visual feast slap bang in the middle of the screen. And look at how the actually relevant information is relegated to being dark grey text on the black background. It’s a bold move that screams “I’m absolutely taking form over function, but when your form is as sweet as mine who really cares, eh?” Now this one isn’t technically a true loading screen. However it will become clear in time why I’ve included this in our tour. Just look at this abstract art dancing around the screen, merging blues, whites and browns. You may have mistaken this for a delicious artisanal muffin, but it’s actually the world popping in incredibly slowly. Over time, those lighter areas might’ve become a tree or a patch of grass, but in those few minutes it was something so much more. A discussion of the nature of reality itself. All I can describe it as is ‘inspiring’. And then we come to the main event. To do anything within Life is Feudal, you are treated to a low-key progress bar, slowly scrolling from left to right. Want to chop a tree, plow a field, or even just pick up some grass? Don’t be silly, nobody wants to do that on this tour, we all just want to gaze longingly at the progress bar in all of its beige splendour. Some critics argue that this bar is a metaphor for the unyielding capitalist society we find ourselves in, where even the smallest and most insignificant of actions requires hard toil. Life may be feudal, but does it really need to be this difficult? Alas, the beige progress bar seems to suggest so. And so here we are at last, the very end of our tour, and the thing that I believe might well be the most exciting statement Life is Feudal makes. Should you ever find yourself tiring of the artistic genius that is the game’s loading screens and wanting to stumble wearily away from the deep philosophical questioning of its progress bars, Life is Feudal will leave you with one parting message. That is right, my most esteemed guests. Even closing the game and ending your presence in their world will give you another wonderful loading screen. Hauntingly similar to the first, yet instead of the welcoming bearded gentlemen bringing you into his world, you are given a dragon-headed longboat to guide you far, far away. I hope you enjoyed your tour of what might be the most poignant, emotive piece of digital art created this decade. Truly, Life is Feudal is an artistic cornerstone, a piece to be held up for generations to come who seek to learn how to most effectively waste a player's time.
Life is Feudal: Your Own photo
This game has to be performance art
Life is Feudal: Your Own finally released on Steam last week after a hefty period in early access. The idea is great: take survival sims like Rust and The Forest, and add a pinch of Mount & Blade to make the ambitious med...

League of Legends photo
League of Legends

League of Legends promotes new Champion with a browser game

Trial of the Kraken Priestess
Nov 23
// Chris Carter
Illaoi, the Kraken Priestess, is the newest Champion on the block for League of Legends. Riot Games is allowing players to get acquainted with her tough love personality by way of a minigame, which is playable in your browser...
Slain photo
I've been keeping an eye on Slain!, a PC project (and PS4 + Xbox One, eventually, with a possible Vita edition) that's going to be released soon on Steam. Well, it was going to be released soon, as developer Wolf Brew Games h...

Review: Mayan Death Robots

Nov 21 // Patrick Hancock
Mayan Death Robots (PC)Developer: Sileni StudiosPublisher: SOEDESCO PublishingReleased: November 20, 2015MSRP: $14.99  Mayan Death Robots pits two giant robots against each other as a television sport for other robots, I suppose, to watch. Each season of this television show chooses a new planet, and it just so happens that this season is on Earth around the 1500s. The premise is loose and really only serves to usher the player from one mission to the next, but it's definitely cute. Mayan Death Robots is a 1v1 match that plays out similar to the classic Worms games. Players pick one of the eight unique robots and are then plopped into a battlefield. The objective of each game is to destroy the opponent's Core, which is a small box somewhere behind them. In the way, however, is plenty of terrain as well as the enemy robot. Each robot has two types of attacks, the ability to jump, and the ability to create new terrain. That last bit is interesting; each player can create terrain in the form of Tetris blocks anywhere within a certain radius of their robot, as long as it's not floating mid-air. This allows some interesting defensive play in a game that would otherwise be entirely offensive. There's a limit to the amount of blocks, and using it consecutively yields less and less blocks. [embed]321771:61215:0[/embed] Turns happen simultaneously and publicly. There's a short time period to choose an action, then another time period to aim said action, then both players' actions happen at once. However, knowing what an opponent is going to do doesn't mean it can be stopped. If a player sees their opponent shooting straight at the core, that shot will go off. Shooting the ground beneath them or the robot itself won't affect anything since both shots are fired at once. Tiny pixelated Mayans roam about on each player's side, worshiping the giant robot from the sky. Killing the enemy's Mayans will grant a bonus to the explosion size of the player, but it's rarely worth it to fire specifically at Mayans; it is usually just an added benefit of firing at something else. Mayans will also attack the enemy robot if they stand nearby. This is legitimately useful, since they are constantly doing damage while the turn timer is ticking down, and it prevents the opponent from jumping right next to the Core and blowing it to bits. Every so often, an item wheel will spin and award both players randomly selected items. These items are one-time use, but provide some variety to the gameplay that can start to feel tedious after long play sessions. The game incentivizes the player to use the item quickly, since they are lost upon death. If a player is dead when the wheel spins, they do not receive the item. The core gameplay is great. Playing against another human can lead to intense back-and-forth matches. Multiplayer supports two players locally (no online) with either gamepads or the keyboard. It's a nice feature that both players can use the keyboard, since not everyone has controllers for their PC. An odd omission is the total lack of mouse support, even in menus. In a game that focuses on aiming precise shots, it would have been a boon to be able to use the mouse. Perhaps the most unfortunate aspect is that players are forced to unlock the playable robots and the more interesting items. Of the ten robots available, six are unlocked from the start and the rest are acquired through the campaign. While I understand the necessity to give the player a feeling of progression, those who buy the game and just want to play with a friend will be disappointed. Luckily, the campaign can be played through with a buddy. All of the robots feel different from each other, despite the only difference being their two attacks. Some of them have special properties, like having their attacks become more powerful the longer they are in the air, or being able to shoot through certain terrain. While they feel unique, all robots play very similarly: get into a position that your attacks benefit from, and shoot away. Each match has the potential to be an intense back-and-forth or a complete slog; it all depends on the players (or AI) involved. The campaign is set up as a series of over 30 "episodes." There is no tutorial, but players will likely pick up the mechanics quickly. Occasionally, these episodes will modify the standard gameplay by adding stage hazards. These hazards tend to be either incredibly annoying or completely useless. Only rarely do they affect gameplay in a unique, interesting way. There is also an occasional stage boss, which removes the cores from the map and asks both players to destroy the monster. This is great, if you're playing with another human. Cooperating with the AI is downright awful. You see, the boss has to be "summoned" by performing certain actions on the map, but the AI doesn't give a shit. The AI is more concerned with destroying the player's core, making it a huge pain to even get the boss to appear most of the time. If the match ends before the boss is summoned, the player must restart the level. The bosses each have their own mechanics, which are very hit or miss. Some bosses, like the map modifiers, are more annoying than they are worth. Plus, after defeating a boss, the cores come back and the match continues like normal. It's a strange cooperative-to-competitive swing that just feels random. Other than the boss levels, there is no way to lose a level while playing the campaign. Sure, the AI can win, but it doesn't matter, the player progresses to the next stage anyway. This makes sense if two humans are playing each other, since one will always win, but not when playing solo. There's no incentive for a single player to all. There are no rankings, stars, or scores to do better in, there's no leaderboards, nothing. A solo player could go through each level and lose, as long as they summon the boss in the boss levels, and progress through the entire campaign and unlock everything.  There's also a Versus mode which is as straightforward as they come. Players can only compete on the modified maps by going through the campaign and selecting that specific episode to play on, but it would have been great to be able to choose these modifiers from a list in Versus mode, potentially mixing and matching some to create some zany situations. Unfortunately, nothing of the sort exists. Versus is as vanilla as it gets. Despite my enjoyment of the game mechanically, I cannot recommend Mayan Death Robots to anyone looking for a worthwhile single-player experience. For those wanting another entertaining local multiplayer game, however, it provides some unique strategic gameplay. It likely won't keep players enthralled for hours on end, but serves as a great addition to any local-multiplayer library.
Mayan Death Robots review photo
Maybe they're friendly death robots...
I really enjoyed my time with Mayan Death Robots at PAX East this year. My buddy and I played a few matches and left anticipating its eventual release. Now that it is released, I was excited to jump in and see the final ...

Doujin bundle photo
Doujin bundle

Humble Weekly brings back the Japanese indies

Good variety
Nov 21
// Jordan Devore
The doujin scene isn't my usual beat, but Astebreed is cool as hell and I like sharing deals whenever possible. As such, hey, you may want to take a look at this Japan-centric Humble Weekly Bundle. No rush! You've got several...
XCOM 2 gallery photo
XCOM 2 gallery

XCOM 2 looks quite nice outdoors

Can't take my eyes off of you
Nov 20
// Jordan Devore
Sometimes, I just want to look at the world of XCOM free of distraction. It's quite pleasant, in fact, when you aren't obsessively worrying about the many ways in which your squad can and likely will perish. Or how your never...
Steam sales photo
Steam sales

The next big Steam sales will have more stable discounts

So long, daily and flash deals
Nov 20
// Jordan Devore
Valve is tweaking the way it handles major sales on Steam -- at least the next pair. The upcoming autumn sale (November 25 - December 1) and winter sale (December 22 - January 4) will not feature the limited-time daily deals ...
Anchors in the Drift photo
Anchors in the Drift

Second Fig crowdfunding campaign Anchors in the Drift failed to meet its goal

Only made about 21 percent
Nov 20
// Darren Nakamura
I was ready to eat crow at the very beginning of the Anchors in the Drift crowdfunding campaign. After wondering aloud if the general public would get behind paying sizable chunks of money for a free-to-play game, it opened s...
Undertale who? photo
Undertale who?

Hollow Knight could be the next surprise indie hit

Such style. Much metroidvania. Wow.
Nov 20
// Jed Whitaker
The metroidvania-esque Hollow Knight took the Internet by storm yesterday, making it to the front page of reddit at least twice, and it could potentially be the next surprise indie hit following Undertale's recent succe...
The Binding of Isaac photo
The Binding of Isaac

The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth coming to PS4, but other platforms unlikely

'Outlook NOT good'
Nov 20
// Ben Davis
Afterbirth, the expansion to The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, was released last month for PC users. Owners of Rebirth on other platforms have since been left waiting, but according to a tweet yesterday from Edmund McMillen, the...
Big HotS sale photo
Big HotS sale

Heroes of the Storm is throwing a 50% off sale next week

That includes heroes, skins, and mounts
Nov 20
// Jordan Devore
Hey, big spender. You may want to hold off on making any purchases in Heroes of the Storm over the next few days. Blizzard is about to throw a fairly substantial Black Friday sale. From November 24 to December 8, the game's s...
Fallout 4 cut weapon photo
Fallout 4 cut weapon

Cut Fallout 4 weapon resurrected by modder

Harpoons thrust into the sky
Nov 20
// Nic Rowen
From the murky brine of cut content and dummied out items, modder xxdeathknight72xx has returned to the surface with a most intriguing treasure. A curious harpoon gun that never made it into the game proper. The harpoon gun ...
Bombshell photo

Bombshell, that female Duke Nukem riff, is coming in January on PC

And consoles later
Nov 20
// Chris Carter
We haven't heard a whole lot out of 3D Realms and Interceptor Entertainment in regards to Bombshell, but now we know when it's expected to drop -- January 29, 2016. That's what the date is for PC at least, as the console iter...

Review: Renowned Explorers: International Society

Nov 20 // Darren Nakamura
Renowned Explorers: International Society (Linux, Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: Abbey GamesPublisher: Abbey GamesReleased: September 2, 2015MSRP: $19.99Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit In Renowned Explorers, the goal is to become a particularly renowned explorer among the group known as the Renowned Explorers. This is achieved by going on expeditions, recovering valuable treasures, making scientific discoveries, and navigating combat situations. Basically, an expedition is separated into two parts: resolving text-based events while traveling between nodes on a map and tactical combat on a modified hex grid. Both sections have elements of procedural generation, so there's always a sense of exploring the semi-unknown, even on an expedition to the same location as a previous run. Area maps are covered in fog of war, with only the nearest nodes visible. Combat arenas will vary the layout of obstacles, choke points, and healing zones. [embed]321138:61123:0[/embed] Indeed, Renowned Explorers is a "roguelite," meant to be played multiple times in order to truly master it. Herein lies one of the biggest hurdles I had to get over in order to enjoy it. For a game meant to be played again and again, it just takes way too long. A single run consists of five expeditions, and each expedition can take 30 to 45 minutes depending on how many encounters there are. It took me days to get through my first run because of the time commitment. This does speed up with experience, because combat becomes much faster after learning the ins and outs of it. Even so, expeditions easily last 20 minutes or more, so it's not the kind of "just one more" experience a roguelite needs to really grab somebody. This is exacerbated by the planning phase that occurs in between expeditions. Here, players spend the resources gathered during the previous expedition to purchase improved gear, recruit followers, and perform research. This is easily the densest part of Renowned Explorers for a new player. Every resource is connected to another in some way, and the game takes a laissez-faire approach; it presents a bevy of options and lets the player sort out what to do with them. Navigating the nooks and crannies of the planning phase can be exhausting at first, which makes the thought of taking on a new expedition right away seem that much more unreasonable. By far, my biggest disappointment starting off was with the combat system. It advertises multiple ways to resolve encounters; an explorer can be aggressive with physical attacks, be devious with insults and threats, or be friendly with encouragement. The three styles have a rock-paper-scissors relationship, so an aggressive approach is advantageous against a friendly enemy for instance. The problem with it is that each form of "attack" draws from the same "hit point" meter, which represents a foe's willingness to keep fighting. You could punch an enemy until he has only a sliver of health remaining, then finish him off by encouraging him to believe in your cause. Fighting and talking don't feel like they function differently. The battle system is hardly different than a simple three-element magic system at first. Only after really digging in did I spot the nuance. Some encounters will provide different rewards depending on how they are resolved. More importantly, it's the asymmetry in the rock-paper-scissors system that makes it interesting. Aggressive attack damage is a function of physical power, where devious and friendly attack damage comes from speech power, so an orator might have a stronger pair of scissors than he has a rock, so to speak. Within the speech powers, there is asymmetry as well. In general, devious skills cause debuffs while friendly skills cause buffs -- on friends and enemies alike. So while the current mood might call for a friendly attack, it is still necessary to weigh the risk of increasing the enemy's attack power in return. The point is: the combat system is deeper than it initially lets on, but it takes some effort for a player to really understand that. That basically describes Renowned Explorers: International Society on the whole. It features a set of deep systems with complex mechanics and relationships, but it places most of the burden on the player to discover it. I'll admit, I disliked it until it all fell into place and revealed itself for what it is. I'm not chomping at the bit to keep playing, but I am curious to delve deeper. Different combinations of explorers can beget different tactics both in and out of battle. That thought alone is enough to keep me from uninstalling it.
Renowned Explorers review photo
A lot to dig into
I'm glad I stuck Renowned Explorers out. For the first couple hours it was kind of a slog. Not exactly bad, but dense, unwieldy, and unexciting. I would finish an expedition and quit, not wanting to get back to it until days ...

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