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Chroma Squad photo
Chroma Squad

Run the Japanese superhero TV studio of your dreams in Chroma Squad


Out now for Windows, Mac, and Linux
Apr 30
// Jordan Devore
Chroma Squad, the game about running your own Japanese superhero television studio, is now available on Steam, GOG.com, and the Humble Store for $14.99. What a cool niche. This is part tactical role-playing title, part manage...
Fire Emblem If photo
Fire Emblem If

Fire Emblem If's third campaign is harder than White, easier than Black


Black Kingdom has additional victory requirements
Apr 29
// Steven Hansen
More lukewarm Fire Emblem If news (out June 25 in Japan, 2016 in North America). Remember, the game is being sold Pokemon style (or Oracle of Ages/Oracle of Seasons style) with separate Black and White releases with a third, ...

Review: Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart

Apr 28 // Kyle MacGregor
Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart (PlayStation Vita)Developer: Sting, Compile HeartPublisher: Idea Factory InternationalReleased: February 24, 2015 (NA) February 27, 2015 (EU)MSRP: $39.99  Why was I so hopeful for Hyperdimension Neptunia? Well, the concept of a game that parodies the console wars is almost too good to give up on. The series follows a group of anthropomorphized gaming consoles, each the ruler of her own kingdom, all vying for dominance in what's effectively a grand popularity contest. It's a cute idea, at the very least, with the potential for so much more. I hoped it would be a clever satire, something introspective and comedic that poked fun at the industry in an interesting or meaningful way. Instead, I discovered one jejune RPG after the next, a middling collection of games that lean all too heavily on fan service as crutch. What I wanted this series to be and what it is are two very different things. I probably should have realized that before now, but well, here we are. The latest entry in the franchise, Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart, may be a spin-off, but it hews closely to its source material -- albeit with one notable exception. This is a strategy role-playing game, rather than a more traditional one. However, aside from the difference in combat, those familiar with Compile Heart's previous efforts will know exactly what to expect out of this one. But let's talk about what makes this entry unique. The action takes place on grid-based battlefields. There, players act as the general of a small army, moving units to support allies and assault foes. In addition to the SP gauge, used for special attacks, there's an LP meter, which fuels even more powerful moves and allows the central protagonists to transform into their more powerful goddess forms. LP is an interesting resource, as it's gained by performing special attacks while flanked by friendly units. This will result in a kissing animation, which doubles as a power-up.  This system is a key component of a successful strategy on the battlefield, but it isn't without risk. As you might expect, clustering into tightly-packed ranks makes units more susceptible to area-of-effect attacks, meaning it could as easily pave the way to victory as it could to your undoing. The level design at work here is interesting and varied, constantly shaking things up with a range of traps, puzzles, and obstacles. The objectives are similarly diverse, though I'm not sure the assortment makes the combat terribly compelling. Despite minimal repetition, the pace of play here feels inordinately slow. Battles often feel overly long and drawn out, especially when a protracted series of turns are dedicated entirely to positioning. There are a lot of lulls in the action that mar an otherwise competent tactical experience. The story doesn't help in that regard, with a hackneyed plot and shallow, tropey characters that talk forever about nothing at all. There's some mild referential humor to be found, but it's mostly about the fan service. It has plenty of pantsu and giant, jiggling breasts, which is made all the more creepy by the new chibi art direction. The entire cast look like abominable hypersexualized infants. Speaking of said characters, most of the ones you'll be taking into battle over the course of the game are based on popular Japanese videogame franchises. This was actually one of my favorite parts of the experience, as taking personifications of the Street Fighter, Yakuza, and Dragon Quest (I could go on and on) series into the field was a real joy. Their special attacks (like the Metal Gear-inspired Lid's cardboard box stealth attack) are particularly charming, and serve as nice nods to players who are familiar with the source material. It's just a pity that these characters are often relegated to a support role, as the familiar faces are far more useful on the battlefield. Since Noire, Blanc, Neptune, and Vert can all transform into their extremely mighty goddess forms, it pays to deploy them over your favorites. While transformed, the goddesses are able to fly, making them immune to traps and elements of the landscape that limit conventional troopers. It's a lamentable design choice, impelling players to use the same, stale heroines rather than the revolving door of refreshing newcomers.  There are other questionable choices that hamper the experience, like: lengthy enemy turns, the constant influx of tutorial messages that are more busy than informative, a loading period at the beginning of each fight where the game makes you watch combatants materialize out of thin air, one-hit kills, and a bizarre movement mechanic that doesn't allow you to move units exactly where you'd like them to go -- even if that space is in range. There are just dozens of little annoyances peppered throughout the experience that require the player to be very patient and forgiving. It's unfortunate because there's a decent strategy RPG at Goddess Black Heart's core, but the game just can't seem to get out of its own way. Hyperdimension Neptunia fans may well enjoy this one, but I can't count myself among them. The series has an alluring premise, but it just doesn't push the idea far enough for me. The cloying characters and banal story are just so incredibly vapid, and the respectable strategic gameplay just isn't enough to compensate for the myriad of drawbacks and stumbling blocks. Sorry Noire, but it's time we go our separate ways. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Hyperdevotion Review photo
It's not you, it's me
Falling in love with potential can be dangerous. A mistake people make far too often when forging new relationships is placing undue expectations on others. People grow and change, but it's impossible to know how or when that...

We Are the Dwarves! photo
We Are the Dwarves!

We Are the Dwarves! searches for stars in the depths of the earth


I don't think that's how astronomy works
Apr 28
// Darren Nakamura
I kept coming back to the We Are the Dwarves! email that was sent in to Destructoid a few days ago. On the one hand, it isn't especially clear what kind of game it is or how it plays. The Steam Greenlight page lists action, ...

Review: Shadowrun Chronicles - Boston Lockdown

Apr 27 // Chris Carter
Shadowrun Chronicles - Boston Lockdown (PC) Developer: Cliffhanger ProductionsPublisher: Nordic GamesReleased: April 28, 2015MSRP: $39.99 As a quick crash course on the story, "Shadowrun" literally refers to the act of carrying out plans which are "illegal or quasi-legal." You'll have plenty of chances to engage in said debauchery, as the world has gone through an "Awakening" 65 years before Lockdown, which takes place in 2076. Magic has returned to the world, dwarves, elves, orcs, and trolls are a thing -- oh, and dragons too. Returns took place in Seattle, Dragonfall was in Germany, and this is in Boston. Got it? Action will take place in an isometric strategic format very similar to the XCOM series. Using a classic mouse and keyboard setup, you'll have two maximum movement grids, the second layer of which will allow you to "sprint," and immediately end your turn. The first threshold will still allow you to attack, use a skill, or interact with the environment accordingly. Gameplay is all about positioning and outflanking your opponent, as well as placing emphasis on a risk-reward melee mechanic. For the most part you'll want to conservatively duck into various bits of cover, but since hand-to-hand attacks always result in a higher damage output, there's the chance to get up close and personal. It's all very functional, but to be frank, that's about as technical as the game gets. [embed]290948:58338:0[/embed] As you progress and earn more skills, you'll have the opportunity to delve into various trees and specialize in something that's more your style. Beyond your typical passive bonuses (Mind, Body) there's weapon-centric trees (blades, blunt, pistols, shotguns, automatics), summoning, spellcasting, hacking, and rigging -- the latter of which is more like a "gearhead" conceit. You don't need to hole-up into just one role (although you likely will at first), as you're free to distribute your skills as you see fit. Personally, I went with the automatic rifle route combined with a touch of summoning. Your basic summon includes a spirit bear, which can maul or stun enemies as its own autonomous unit -- it's really cool, but later skills are often less memorable or endearing as more progress is made. With 11 trees that feature anywhere from 13 to 20 skills each, there's a decent amount of options available, but since a lot of those double-up as "advanced" versions, there's not as much variation as I would have hoped. This is by design, as Cliffhanger Productions has stated that it wanted a more streamlined approach with Lockdown. I'd say that with some sacrifices the studio has achieved that goal (for instance, actual statistical changes for different backgrounds and races are marginal at best), but missions often lack that spark often found in other genre staples. Most runs are predicated on simplistic kill orders, which often result in a simple flank with a series of firefights. There's very little room for nuance when most of the weaponry effectively feels the same. The script also doesn't feel as poignant as Hairbrained Schemes' titles, and although there aren't a lot of glaring problems with it, it's tough to truly resonate with Lockdown's world beyond the occasional Red Sox reference. Your gameplay loop precedes as follows: a hub world visit to grab a mission, running said mission, returning to the hub to upgrade, and so on. There's no looming open overworld, no MMO-like exploration -- the hub is one small Boston neighborhood, with a taxi that takes you to each stage, an instance across the city. Along the way you'll earn cash to buy new weapons, armor, and augmentations, and karma nets you more skills -- that's all you need to know. It's a rather confining means of play, but it works, as the almighty call of upgrades and loot is just as powerful as it is anywhere else. So about that former "Online" moniker -- the first thing I noticed as soon as I booted up Boston Lockdown was the chat function. Nearly every avatar looks different due to the heavy amount of cosmetic options, which range from tattoos to visors that would make Geordi La Forge jealous. Even in the tutorial you're privy to a gathering of players, some of which are looking to help out new players, and others advertising their HP and gear to find a more professional-oriented group. The entire interface has been vastly improved from its former Early Access state, as players can simply click on someone's name or their avatar in the hub world to form a group. Friending people is also as easy as sending a request, and the UI itself is very clean, completely devoid of clutter. Players who enjoy a breadth of options are likely going to be disappointed, as Boston Lockdown only allows you to tweak your resolution (up to 1920x1080), fullscreen (with no full-windowed option), a few mouse scrolling variations, and volume control. That's about it. Dedicated Shadowrun fans will likely be disappointed at the lack of depth, and your mileage may vary in terms of the appeal of the multiplayer function, which seemingly took over some of the other more endearing aspects of the series. If you haven't played a game in the series since the SNES however, Boston Lockdown is a decent starting point, and a perfect way to re-acclimate yourself to the genre with friends. If you prefer to fly solo, just go with Shadowrun Returns instead. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Shadowrun Boston review photo
Not featuring Boston's Favorite Son
In case you haven't noticed, Shadowrun has been making a comeback lately. With Harebrained Schemes' Shadowrun Returns in 2013 and the subsequent Dragonfall follow-up, the series has enjoyed triumphant return to...

Chroma Squad  photo
Chroma Squad

Power Ranger sim Chroma Squad gets dated, trailered


Teenagers with Attitude!
Apr 24
// Josh Tolentino
Ever since I, as a grown man, got back into watching Japanese television shows targeted at seven-year-olds, I've wanted to see a proper, well-done videogame inspired by Super Sentai, Power Rangers, Kamen Rider and other...
Strategy RPG on PC photo
Strategy RPG on PC

Telepath Tactics is out now on PC and it's hard as dongs


Oh good, everyone is dead...again
Apr 22
// Patrick Hancock
Telepath Tactics, a PC strategy RPG, has released today for $14.99. It's created from the ground up by a huge tactics fan, Craig Stern, and it shows. The game is brutally difficult and is intended for "Fire Emblem v...
Fire Emblem If photo
Fire Emblem If

Fire Emblem If special edition sold out in Japan, second shipment coming


Fire Emblem goes from its final fantasy to power selling franchise
Apr 20
// Steven Hansen
The sequel to the 3DS's Fire Emblem: Awakening, Fire Emblem If, comes out June 25 in Japan (next year for us). As we've noted, it comes in two different versions with alternate storylines each the size of Awakening, while a t...
Awww heck yeah! photo
Awww heck yeah!

Invisible, Inc launching May 12, PS4 version in development


Awww heck yeah!
Apr 15
// Steven Hansen
I love Invisible, Inc. I gave it a game of the year award despite it being in Early Access. Well that's all done with. The excellent stealth-strategy game -- yes, you read that right, read the preview here -- will officially...
Fire Emblem DLC photo
Fire Emblem DLC

New Fire Emblem 3DS has Marth and Lucina as DLC characters


Available through a Japanese trading card game
Apr 15
// Steven Hansen
Fire Emblem: Awakening's success saved it from being the last in the series and Nintendo seems to be trying real hard to capitalize on it. The upcoming 3DS turn-based strategy -- Fire Emblem If in Japan, where it releases in ...
Age of Empires photo
Age of Empires

A new Age of Empires II HD expansion in 2015


What a time to be alive
Apr 09
// Jordan Devore
Two years later, Age of Empires II HD is still going strong. So strong that, according to producer Ryan Chaply, more people have spent 50+ hours with the game than there are actual humans living in Little Rock, Arkansas (~200...
Code Name photo
Code Name

You can now fast-forward through slow Code Name S.T.E.A.M. turns


27 blocks of heaven
Apr 08
// Jordan Devore
Intelligent Systems has addressed one of the biggest complaints about its turn-based strategy title Code Name S.T.E.A.M. with a time-saving update available now on the 3DS eShop. Now that there's a fast-forward button to spee...
Swords & Soldiers II photo
Swords & Soldiers II

Dibs on demons! Swords & Soldiers II hits Wii U on May 21


All out of hard drive space, though
Apr 03
// Jordan Devore
I've got a soft spot for sidescrolling strategy games like Swords & Soldiers. Maybe you do too. While they typically aren't as deep as their 3D contemporaries, they scratch a certain itch and can be hard to put down once ...
Divide and conquer? photo
Divide and conquer?

Fire Emblem 3DS pulling a Pokémon with separate Black and White versions


Including an additional third storyling DLC
Apr 01
// Steven Hansen
While we were all getting too excited by the trailer for the upcoming Fire Emblem in the UK and North America Nintendo Direct, further details are breaking on the Japan side of things, courtesy of the Japanese website. There ...
FIre Emblem 3DS photo
FIre Emblem 3DS

Your player character is the main hero in the new Fire Emblem, coming 2016


Move over Chrom-likes
Apr 01
// Steven Hansen
[Update: Watch the trailer!] The new Fire Emblem trailer is just as amazing as the announcement trailer. There's also deep talk of fate and choosing a path (some stark black and white dichotomy) between siding with the peace...
SteamWorld Heist Combat photo
SteamWorld Heist Combat

SteamWorld Heist gameplay video highlights turn-based combat


Also, you're totally not ready for minute 3:03 in this video...
Mar 31
// Rob Morrow
One of my biggest regrets from PAX East this year was missing the chance to get some hands-on time with Image & Form Games' new turn-based space adventure title SteamWorld Heist. Even though the appointment unf...

Review: Grey Goo

Mar 29 // Patrick Hancock
Grey Goo (PC)Developer: PetroglyphPublisher: Grey BoxRelease Date: January 23, 2015MSRP: $49.99  First of all, the cutscenes in this game are gorgeous. Right from the beginning the game hooks the player with its visuals. The opening cutscene is guaranteed to bring most players right in to the plot, however whether or not they care to stay is another issue. Grey Goo's plot revolves around the three factions, Beta, Humans, and Goo, fighting for control of the planet Ecosystem 9. And so they fight. The campaign would be rather lackluster if not for the cutscenes to keep the player interested. The difficulty can be adjusted for each mission, so if a mission is too difficult, players can drop the difficulty down a level when needed. Mission types can be varied, but tend to not stray far from destroying the enemy or defending an area. The campaign does give a relatively stress-free environment to play with the units and experiment, at least. Missions generally last between 30-60 minutes, depending on playstyle and the difficulty selected. Some missions are incredibly repetitive, which is why I recommend playing on Easy or Normal difficulty and just getting through to the cutscenes and messing around with the units. There are fifteen missions total, with five dedicated to each race. While the cutscenes are absolutely stunning, the campaign unfortunately ends with a cliffhanger, perfectly setting the game up for a sequel or an expansion (my guess would be on the latter). It is disappointing to say the least, especially since the cliffhanger it uses is so clichéd in nature. [embed]289484:57958:0[/embed] The inherent problem is that logically, everyone will want to play as the Goo. They are by far the most mechanically interesting race in the game, the most aesthetically pleasing, and the game is named after them. However, while the player can jump straight into the Goo in any skirmish, the Goo campaign, which helps teach players about the mechanics and strategies, is locked behind two other campaigns. Luckily there is an in-game encyclopedia to help players understand what units do and how each race works. Matches focus around gathering resources, building armies, and then destroying the opponents. There is only one resource, called "catalyst." Catalyst exists in certain areas around the map and needs to have a structure on top of it to harvest. The Beta and Human races place Refineries down with Extractors over resource areas, while the Goo has their Mother Goo unit hunkered down on top of them. There are no "worker units," so resource harvesting is more of a "set it and forget it" situation. Just don't leave your Refineries/Mother Goos unprotected! The Beta, the race first used in the campaign, focuses on base building through "Hubs." Hubs are small square buildings that can be placed anywhere with vision that connects to the production buildings on the sides. There are small, medium, and large hubs, each possessing the ability to connect to more and more buildings. Research buildings can also be connected and will impact any unit producing buildings on the same Hub. For example, if a Factory and a Tank Attachment are both on a Small Hub, the Factory can produce new unit types. The attachments are also used to research upgrades. While it is interesting to have a base broken up into small bits, the general strategy is still to protect the resource areas, generally leaving Beta players to clump everything together. Beta can also build walls and have units be stationed on top of said walls. This again promotes a base-clumping gameplay style and also promotes highly defensive strategies. Overall, the Beta don't feel much different in terms of playstyle compared to most of what the genre has to offer. The Human race is even more defensive, since they rely on low-health power grids for their structures. This means that bases must be in close proximity to one another. Humans are incredibly good at a turtling-style of play, but that doesn't necessarily mean that's the only viable strategy. Humans also have access to walls, which allow their units to travel and shoot through while preventing enemies from doing the same. The humans are pretty standard RTS fare, with the exception being the necessary power grid. The Goo are by far the most interesting race. I mean, there's a reason the game is named after them. The Mother Goo is the main building, and she is completely mobile. The Mother Goo acts as the resource gatherer; if you plop her on top of resources, she will collect them. The Mother Goo then creates Proteans, large or small, that can turn into units on the fly. This allows Goo players to bring some Proteans with them, and decide in the moment what those Proteans should turn into. It's an incredibly unique approach to an RTS faction, and it's no wonder that most players stick with the Goo when playing, from my experience.  The Proteans, including the Mother Goo, also do damage to units when they come in contact with them. Since the Mother Goo is pretty resilient, this strategy has some serious merit to it, especially when defending from an attack. It also creates an interesting dilemma at times: do I approach with my Mother Goo who is gathering resources, or leave her be to help my economy? I will say though, watching the Mother Goo slowly blob its way over to an enemy army to devour it is really something worth watching. Unless you're the other army. One of the most interesting things about Grey Goo is the upgrade or "tech" system in place. While playing as any race, players can use certain buildings to upgrade specific units in ways that better fit their playstyle. These are more than simple stat upgrades, but can drastically effect a way a unit is used. For example, the Bastion unit for the Goo can be upgraded to go into rampage mode when almost dead, increasing damage and then exploding. The pace of Grey Goo is slower than the APM-spamming click-fest of other games in the genre. It is also not as micromanagement heavy. It's a much more macro-focused game; players need to manage their resource input and output while simultaneously being aware of their opponents'. Grey Goo matches move along at a steady, but very manageable pace that should welcome newcomers to the genre without scaring them away with fast-paced skirmishes. It's been some time since the initial release, and the player base has dwindled to almost nothing. It's near impossible to find a match online unless it's planned out between opponents. This leaves the campaign and AI skirmishes as the only viable ways to play, which is unfortunate for an RTS. Petroglyph is paying attention, at least, since it recently put out a balance patch for Grey Goo - its first yet. Replays, a common feature among RTS games, are completely absent from Grey Goo. In the most recent balance patch, developer Petroglyph mentions that it is working towards the feature, but the fact that the game released without a replay function boggles the mind. Replays are crucial to help players get better as a community and to help move the metagame forward. Likewise, an "observer" function allowing other players to watch matches is also absent. There is a Map Editor, which is a great addition, but hardly as crucial as the aforementioned features. With a hefty asking price, Grey Goo has a handful of wonderful ideas while also treading similar ground, but the community dropoff rate has absolutely killed the online aspect of it. It's a solid real-time strategy that will likely please fans of the genre, but most may want to wait for the resurgence of players with the inevitable sequel or expansion, which will hopefully come with more features. The titular Goo race is one of the freshest aspects of the genre in a long time, and I hope that Petroglyph has some more great ideas up its sleeves for the future.
Grey Goo Review photo
A sequel to World of Goo! Wait...
Like a ball of goo, I have watched the life of Grey Goo, a new real-time strategy game from developer Petroglyph, expand with enthusiasm, begin rolling, and slowly but surely lose mass as it turns into a tiny goo-ball that no...

Shut down photo
Shut down

Sony shutting down Vita RPG Destiny of Spirits


Just over a year, in-game currency 'expiring'
Mar 27
// Steven Hansen
Sony's gotta-catch-'em-all Vita card game Destiny of Spirits will be shut down June 30. Apparently the "over one million downloads" were not enough to sustain the free-to-play Vita title and so Sony will be "ending service." ...

StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void seeks to conclude the trilogy with an exciting finale

Mar 18 // Alessandro Fillari
StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void (Mac, PC [previewed])Developer: Blizzard EntertainmentPublisher: Blizzard EntertainmentRelease date: TBA 2015 "Not only is this the conclusion of the StarCraft II trilogy, but also the conclusion to the StarCraft story," said lead game producer Tim Morten. "It really ties together the storylines we've had over the years, and this particular installation will focus on the Protoss." With the previous campaigns focusing on the exploits of the Jim Raynor and Sarah Kerrigan of the Terran and Zerg factions, Legacy of the Void shifts the point of view to the Protoss and its leader Artanis. With the looming threat of the fallen one, Amon, the Protoss and the other factions must ready for battle as the malevolent being seeks to corrupt the galaxy with its powers. As the conclusion to the StarCraft II trilogy, everything has come to this moment, and the upcoming battles will decide the fate of the entire universe. Much like the previous installments, Legacy of the Void is a standalone release that won't require the other entries to play. Though players who've invested time in everything that is StarCraft II thus far will surely have a greater experience, Legacy is a title the developers at Blizzard hope will be accessible for newcomers as well. Though rest assured, Legacy of the Void has every intention of maintaining the high-level play and nuance the series is known for. However, the developers wish to offer newcomers a way to ease into the experience rather than take the trial-by-fire approach. With the new expansion, there's a larger focus on team and cooperative play this time around. Debuting in the expansion are two new gameplay modes called Archon and Allied Commander. For the former, two players will work together to build a base and defend it against enemies. This is essentially co-op mode for the standard competitive mode. While it's exciting for high-level play -- there's twice the efficiency and output -- the developers also hope it'll prove to be an effective learning tool for new players. With an experienced player working as a helping hand alongside a newcomer, they'll be able to learn the ropes much faster. In Allied Commander, players will be able to control the various heroes of the StarCraft universe including Jim Raynor to Sarah Kerrigan. The mode, which lets you take them on a unique campaign as they level up and boost their forces, seems to pull in the best parts of the story mode with the hectic action found in multiplayer battles. Of course, with the new expansion Blizzard has added a whole slew of tweaks and additions. Given such a sizable time between releases, the team was able to gather a lot of player data and make necessary changes. For instance, each faction has new units and upgrades to existing stats and attributes. As the community manages to push the game to its limits, the developers have to try and experiment with new upgrades and tweaks to gameplay. The in-game economy has been altered to encourage expansion and movement, for example, which will yield greater rewards for your base. Moreover, attack damage and range have been tweaked a bit to allow players to use existing and new units in different ways. And speaking of the new units, the folks at Blizzard went all out with upgrades for the factions. The Terran now have access to the Cyclone tank, which can link up with other like units to deal bonus damage. The Zerg has a long-range unit called the Ravager that can deal poisonous area-of-effect damage and disable Protoss shields. And finally, the Protoss can now call forth the Adept, which focuses on close-range combat. The unique thing about the Adept is its shade ability, as it allows the unit to summon a player-controlled ghost of itself to move around the battlefield. After a set amount of time, the Adept will teleport to the position that the shade was in previously. There's impressive potential for these units, and it'll be interesting to see how players experiment with new strategies. Admittedly, I'm a novice when it comes to StarCraft, but I've been an admirer of the series for a long time. I've found a lot to like with this brief taste of the expansion, which will have some of the biggest additions the series has seen in a long time. The changes I've mentioned only scratch the surface for what's been added, such as movable Siege Tanks, new abilities for the existing units, and tweaks to movement and attack damage to name a few. With the upcoming beta, Blizzard hopes to test the waters with these new changes in order to get player feedback on what they would like to see happen in the expansion. Obviously, the series owes much to its fanbase, so it's great as always to see the developers open up with invites to the beta on March 31 to give them a deep and thorough look. Although the official release date is still unknown at this point, it'll be exciting to see how the game evolves from here.
StarCraft II finale photo
Invites for beta on March 31
Where were you when that debut trailer for StarCraft II popped up online? It made its announcement all the way back in 2007 at the Blizzard Worldwide Invitational in South Korea. Much has changed since then. With the release ...

Deals photo
Deals

Civilization V Complete drops to $10 in series sale


We meet again, Gandhi
Mar 17
// Dealzon
Though the game has been out since 2010, Civilization V is still selling strong through the years. If you're a turn-based strategy fan and you somehow, magically, inexplicably don't have it in your library, consider the ...

Review: Bladestorm: Nightmare

Mar 17 // Josh Tolentino
Bladestorm: Nightmare (Xbox One, PS4, PC, PS3 [reviewed])Developer: Omega ForcePublisher: Koei TecmoReleased: March 17, 2015MSRP: $59.99 (PS4/Xbox One), $49.99 (PS3) [Note: Screenshots used in this review are taken from the PS4 version of the game.] As an aside: this game, based on 2007's Bladestorm: The Hundred Years' War, is one of the weirdest choices anyone could've made when deciding on which games to add to the growing number of "remastered" titles popping up on current-generation consoles and PC. Despite initially generating excitement among the Dynasty Warriors-loving crowd as a long-desired European-themed entry to the franchise, the original game came and went without much comment. That was thanks to its odd-duck design, which even led Jim Sterling, a much bigger Warriors fan than yours truly, to call it a real-time strategy game in his review. I'm not quite as inclined towards that drastic recategorization, but ol' Jim does have a point: Bladestorm is, for good or ill, of a more thoughtful mind than most of Omega Force's  offerings. Indeed, whereas typical Warriors games take history's leaders and convert them into armies unto themselves, Bladestorm takes the player and molds him (or her) into a leader of their own squad of troops. If Dynasty Warriors is about being a human Cuisinart, Bladestorm attempts a wartime version of Katamari Damacy. More on that in a bit. [embed]289070:57824:0[/embed] Bladestorm: Nightmare comes with two main modes. "The Hundred Years' War" mode is essentially identical to the original 2007 release, aside from graphical/mechanical tweaks, and drops player-created mercenaries -- or "merthenaries" to hear the comically bad European-accented voice-acting say it -- on the battlefields of medieval France. There players can work for the French or English factions, supporting one or the other as pay and scruples dictate. They'll interact with luminaries of the era like Edward, the Black Prince, Philippe the Good, and Gilles de Rais, and participate in key engagements like the Battle of Crécy and the Siege of Calais.   The second mode, "Nightmare," is a more linear, scripted campaign set when a monster invasion interrupts the Hundred Years' War, forcing France, England, and the merthenaries they employ to ally against hordes of hellbeasts commanded by none other than Joan of Arc herself. Interestingly, though Nightmare mode is clearly designed to be played after finishing off The Hundred Years' war, players can switch between the two freely, with progression data like levels, money, equipped gear, and distributed skill points carrying over with virtually no restriction.  Graphically, Bladestorm works best on newer hardware. Aside from the added special effects and improved draw distance and environments, the frame-rate drops that I experienced on the PS3 are absent on the PS4 version. Additionally, the Nightmare campaign on PS3 is prone to drastic loss of frames as well, likely due to the much larger squad sizes and the hordes of monsters.  Both modes essentially boil down to an expansive form of territory control. Each of the battlefields is divided into numerous forts, towns, and castles defended by allied or enemy troops. Most missions ("contracts" in merthenary lingo), particularly in the more open-ended base campaign, will task players with conquering one or more settlements by killing off their defenders and beating their commanding officer. The bigger the settlement, the tougher the commanders, and some particularly large castles are basically defended by mini-boss enemies with distinct attack patterns. In Nightmare mode, those defenders can even include dragons, cyclopes, or grim reapers. Doing the killing involves taking command of a squad of troops. Though broken down roughly by weapon type, each soldier type is unique, with strengths, weaknesses, and a set of special attacks mapped to the face buttons. Players can pick up or drop squads they find in the field, or summon reinforcements directly. New to Bladestorm: Nightmare is the ability to create multiple squad leaders, commanding them separately via the battle map or attaching them to a personal unit as a bodyguard, ultimately allowing for up to 200 troops to move and act as a single unit, rolling everyone in the way (hence the Katamari analogy). This type of of structure provides Bladestorm with the same kind of dynamic as the typically more action-oriented Warriors games. Like in those titles, players in this game are often "fire-fighting," moving as quickly as possible between crisis zones, keeping scores and rewards up by plowing through everything along the way. Though ultimately shallow, Bladestorm's battle mechanics do lend the game an impressive sense of scale, particularly when playing as a cavalry leader. I must have done it hundreds of times in my hours with the game, but it never gets old to trigger a charge and flatten dozens of enemies under the hooves and lances of your soldiers. It also never gets old to watch horses slide across the ground like they are hovercrafts, a testament to how rough-hewn the game can be at times. Balance issues are also a concern, as properly leveled cavalry units basically trivialize the whole game except at the highest difficulty levels. I'd actually be more mad that cavalry are so overpowered if they weren't already the most fun class to play, but that's neither here nor there. Bladestorm: Nightmare isn't a Dynasty Warriors game, but it doesn't aim to be, and still ends up being good time when taken on its own merits. In fact, it's a little ironic that its unusual qualities doomed the original release commercially, but help this new release feel much more fresh and engaging than even the latest "core" franchise entries. [This review is based on a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher.]
Bladestorm review photo
Merthenary Lyfe
Bladestorm: Nightmare is not a Dynasty Warriors game. That bit of information might be good or bad news, depending which side of the fence one falls on with regard to Tecmo Koei's long-running brawler series. At the same...

Let Ashes of the Singularity change your notion of large-scale RTS

Mar 13 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]288981:57764:0[/embed] While the demo we were shown wasn't playable, it was a real-time simulation of a game. The developer could pull the camera out until the various troops were nothing more than barely-visible dots. The size of everything was simply enormous. I was told that it was one of the smaller maps. If controlling 10,000 of anything sounds unwieldy to you, you're probably right. Each unit can be controlled directly, but Ashes of the Singularity gives the player to group various troops into meta-units. Meta-units are made up of any arrangement of troops the player desires. They function as a cohesive whole that are much more manageable in theory. The example given to me was that of a meta-unit consisting of tanks and artillery mortars. Without player input, that make-up will automatically put the tanks in front to provide defense, allowing the mortars to lob artillery shells from the safe cover. The player can tinker with that on an individual basis, which offers a nice sense of customization. However, it wouldn't make much sense to, given that a single unit out of thousands is the equivalent to a proverbial drop of water in a bucket. In all honesty, the demo seemed more like a boasting session for Nitrous than it did a glimpse at Ashes. Maybe, given that it's the first title on the engine, they'll become synonymous in a sense. But, it's impossible to not be impressed by the infrastructure. Thousands of units individually tracked, and creating unique shots and explosions is a solid framework for any game. However, that doesn't mean Ashes of the Singularity will necessarily be good. We have to wait a bit longer to find that out. Oxide Games and Stardock are going the Early Access route with this one, taking feedback into consideration to mold a better final product. Ashes of the Singularity will hit Early Access in the summer, and it's shooting for a proper retail release later this year. Even if we don't know how it'll ultimately turn out, we know for certain that its strength lies in its numbers.
Ashes of the Singularity photo
Strength in numbers
Real-time strategy titles often feel large-scale by design. There are a whole bunch of units on the battlefield, and the player's tasked with directing them all simultaneously. Even if there aren't that many actual parts in t...

Fire Emblem amiibo support for Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. doesn't add much

Mar 12 // Chris Carter
Marth and Ike can both be used as soon as the character select screen is available. All you have to do is tap them down after hitting the "amiibo" button, and have a New 3DS available (the release date for the adapter for old 3DS units is still unknown). From there, they'll be available until they die in battle, where they can't be revived -- to bring them back to life, you just tap the amiibo again after the mission is over. Depending on your view this is either a cute nod to the Fire Emblem series or literal DRM to make sure you don't borrow your friend's figures. Personally, I'm far more impressed by Marth's abilities. His main power, "Destiny," allows him to completely avoid Overwatch counter-attacks from enemies, which sounds overpowered but is actually balanced out by his main statline. You can use him to draw out some Overwatch attacks for other characters which adds quite a bit of tactical value to his deployment.  His loadout includes his falchion, which is his core melee weapon, in addition to a less steam-costly rapier, which is his less powerful, precision-based weapon. The rapier has the added benefit of bringing an Overwatch counterattack to the table, and it can hit weak points for a bigger steam-to-damage ratio. As you can probably tell Marth is entirely melee based, and like Ike, he cannot use sub-weapons. He also has a low defense rating and a lower HP pool, so you definitely have to be more careful in terms of his positioning. He in turns mixes up your style because his survival is dependent on his teammates. Oh, and his area-of-effect (AOE) heal super can be a life saver. He's pretty much useful in every situation if you use him correctly, even if he never really grows as a unit over the course of the game. While I'm a fan of Ike's design, his prowess in Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. is a lot less impressive. With nearly 50% more health than Marth he's basically a tank, in addition to having a larger steam pool and a better steam recharge rate. That's basically Ike in a nutshell, as there's nothing really fun or exciting about him. His special ability feels throwaway -- "Push" lets you move crates or enemies. Lame. Ragnell is his main blade, which does have a ranged ability, but it's extremely weak. Urvan functions as his secondary weapon, an axe weapon that can hit multiple enemies right in front of him. With no subweapons to mix up his style or no Overwatch capabilities of any kind, he has even less tactical value. Ike's frontal AOE super is also yawn-inducing, since it feels like over half the characters in the game have the exact same offensive AOE power. While I'm not all that impressed by Code Name: S.T.E.A.M.'s amiibo functionality yet, I'm much more excited at the prospect of getting the whole four-unit crew together at once -- something that isn't possible right now because Robin and Lucina aren't even up for pre-order yet. We'll provide updates for those two figures shortly after their product launch. For now though, it's best to think of Code Name's amiibo support as a nice little extra, nothing more.
S.T.E.A.M amiibo support photo
So far, at least
Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. is out, and you can read the full verdict here on the core game. Of course, where there is amiibo functionality to be covered, I'll be there. Right now, Code Name supports four total figures -- Mart...

Review: Code Name: S.T.E.A.M.

Mar 11 // Kyle MacGregor
Code Name S.T.E.A.M. (Nintendo 3DS)Developer: Intelligent SystemsPublisher: NintendoReleased: March 13, 2015MSRP: $39.99  The tale begins in an alternate version of 19th century London, where everything runs on -- yes, you guessed it -- steam. Suddenly, aliens attack the city and it's up to Henry Fleming, a character based on the protagonist from American Civil War novel The Red Badge of Courage, to save the day. Soon enough our hero joins forces with S.T.E.A.M., a group helmed by Abraham Lincoln as a Strike Team tasked with Eliminating the Alien Menace. Hence the catchy acronym. Throughout the story, various literary characters, historical figures, and tall tales (such as Tom Sawyer, Queen Victoria, and John Henry) will join the team, creating an interesting ensemble cast -- at least in concept. The portrayals are shallow and kitschy, as one might expect of an experience striving to style itself after old school comics, rather than create some sort of sophisticated rendering of these personalities. Despite some flat performances, there is some humor to be found in a narrative that never takes itself too seriously. The characters frequently seem to acknowledge the absurdity of their coexistence, something typified by the title's amiibo functionality, which allows players to summon Fire Emblem characters (Marth, Ike, Lucina, and Robin) onto the battlefield. The combat at play in Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. has often been compared to Valkyria Chronicles, though the juxtaposition doesn't do Intelligent System's latest effort many favors. Both games hybridize third-person shooting with turn-based strategy, but the similarities don't extend much further. I would caution anyone hoping this game will carry the torch for Sega's modern classics to temper those expectations. In both single and multiplayer missions, players can take up to four characters onto the grid-based battlefields at any given time. There, each unit is given a set amount of "steam," a resource shared for both movement and weapons fire. Steam regenerates between turns and a limited supply of unused steam can be carried over between turns as well. Since the systems are linked, players must constantly weigh the importance of mobility against offensive firepower and defense when deciding how and when to best utilize this important resource. Defense comes into play with the "overwatch" system. Overwatch attacks are counter maneuvers which can be employed during the enemy's turn. However, they require foresight. Players will need to leave enough steam in reserve at the end of their turn to fire a weapon. Any unit that wanders into the line of sight of a character performing overwatch will be frozen dead in the tracks and riddled full of bullets. There's another catch, though. Only certain types of arms can be used to perform an overwatch attack, so players have to remember to switch to the appropriate weapon before handing over the reigns to their opponent. It's an exceedingly useful ability, but it requires some thought and comes with an opportunity cost. You could always be moving or shooting in your own turn. [embed]288507:57723:0[/embed] Movement is a critical element of battle, as well. Each square on the grid is large enough to field multiple units, meaning your squad can be positioned in various formations. It's possible to heal multiple characters if they're bunched up. Similarly, you can attack enemies who crowd together with radial ordnance fire or spread out characters in adjacent squares in opposite directions to prevent your foe from doing the same. There's also an element of stealth beyond just hugging cover for dear life. Some opponents rely on sight, whereas others are blind and pinpoint targets based on sound. Moving slowly and quietly really can make a huge difference in some battles. Slipping past a sightless opponent and concentrating attention elsewhere can sometimes be the key to victory. While I'm not the biggest fan of the art style or story, the gameplay here is reasonably solid, if unspectacular, with one minor exception. The enemy movement phase is hellaciously long. A turn can easily last for well over a minute, and you don't always have a view of what's going on. Boy, does staring at the same ugly walls sure get old fast. Your foes will oftentimes just shuffle around in the background or totter around in slow, awkward patterns, getting hung up on terrain and having nice long thinks about what it wants to do. I often found myself setting down my 3DS during enemy turns, only to have one of my idle characters break the fourth wall with a snarky comment like "I'm tired of waiting." Me too, dude. Me fucking too. Truth be told, I feel incredibly conflicted about Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. The idea of a Nintendo studio authoring a western comicbook-inspired steampunk tale about American folk heroes is just so off the wall it's enthralling. However in practice, it really underdelivers. Meanwhile, the gameplay is a heady, engrossing experience. But it's also one that is frequently undermined by the tedious and protracted nature of enemy turns. Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. is a decent, respectable game with some truly euphoric highs amid equitably frustrating lows. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Code Name STEAM photo
Half-steam ahead
Nintendo has created some of the most bizarre intellectual properties in the medium, but the latest strategy game from Intelligent Systems (the studio behind Fire Emblem and Advance Wars) may be among the strangest. The adven...

The War of Mine photo
The War of Mine

This War of Mine DLC exists solely to help the kids


Doing good through games
Mar 10
// Brett Makedonski
This War of Mine takes a look at a part of conflict that videogames rarely explore: that of those who aren't fighting for a side, but just fighting to survive. It's a harrowing experience, one of the heaviest of 2014 to...
XCOM-like strategy photo
XCOM-like strategy

Sentai studio sim Chroma Squad coming April 30


Chroma chroma chroma chroma chroma chameleon
Mar 10
// Steven Hansen
Finally! Last we heard, Power Rangers' Saban was all bent out of shape about Chroma Squad and trying to either claim royalties on it or keep it from releasing. What a bummer that was for the XCOM-y mix of strategy game and m...

I nuked the God of Lightning in Mayan Death Robots

Mar 08 // Patrick Hancock
Each player chooses one god, each with their own special attacks. The design of these gods is absolutely fantastic, and I found it hard to choose one to stick with based on design alone. Eventually I chose the Sun God, who was basically a nuke with a face who could also launch nukes and regular missiles. In retrospect, I guess that was the only answer. A nuke with a face! My opponent chose the Lightning God, who could also reign down attacks from the heavens. The object of the game isn't to kill each other -- though that certainly helps -- but to destroy the opponent's power source. Each god has four options: two unique attacks, jump, or build. The two attacks vary by god; the Sun God could either launch a Flare, which fired a tracer and then a rocket that came in at an angle. His other attack launched a different tracer, and then the next turn reigned down a massive nuke on top of wherever the tracer landed. Firing these takes some calculations. Aiming uses a power and angle line, similar to the classic Tanks game but without a meter for power. Jumping works in the same way, and is used to maneuver the god into a better position, whether it be to get a better shot or to get out of the way of the opponent's shot. Building allows the player to create terrain within a certain radius of the controlled god. These terrain pieces are placed in Tetris-esque shapes and help to protect the power source or possibly even imprison the enemy god! There's only a certain amount of terrain that can be placed, so it's not like you could just cover the screen in terrain. The most interesting part is the fact that turns happen simultaneously. Each player has a few seconds to choose which option they will perform, and then has a few more seconds to either move the angle and power of the attacks/jump, or to build the terrain. This not only keeps things moving, but also keeps things intense as you watch both sides' actions happen at once.  Every so often, a giant wheel comes up that grants each god a new single-use attack. Though it may seem pertinent to use it immediately, the situation may not call for a Cluster Grenade at that particular moment. Plus, it can be a little predictable to always use the new attack after acquiring it. Never be predictable! There are also Mayan statues and civilians running around and worshiping each god. Killing the opponent's statues and Mayans will grant buffs and can help give the player more options as to what kind of battle plan they execute. Should you go straight for the power source? Or will you go for a slower burn and start to aim for the statues? The whole match moves at a steady pace and there were event times where I was too busy watching the action unfold and totally missed choosing an action (it defaults to the last used action). Players need to be attentive, think quickly, and be unpredictable to be victorious. Mayan Death Robots is a fantastic strategy game that doesn't drag on and keeps up the intensity. The game has already been Greenlit and it is just a matter of time until we see it on Steam.
Mayan Death Robots  photo
Fast paced Worms-like
There's been a lot of games that try to copy the success of titles like Worms or Tanks, but often come off feeling too derivative. "Yeah, it's like Worms, but not quite as good" has definitely left my lips a handful of ...

Skyworld takes unique advantage of Valve's new virtual reality tech

Mar 06 // Alessandro Fillari
For our demo, the developers led me into a closed-off room which housed Valve's virtual reality hardware. Around the room were two cameras that tracked movement and set the boundaries of the VR environment by scanning the dimensions of the room. They then handed me the headset, which still looked as if it was in the prototype phase. Wires to the headset were numerous, which required a belt around my waist to hold all of them down. Honestly, it felt like I was wearing something from '90s cyberpunk like Ghost in the Shell or Johnny Mnemonic. It was weighty, but had a number of devices working at once. I actually almost tripped over one of the wires before our demo even started. But any apprehension I had for the device soon faded once I tried out the interface and witnessed it in action. With the headset on, I was in a home menu showing a number of games and applications. The controllers they gave me, which were also connected with wires, were two wand-like devices that were somewhat like a mix between the Sony Move and Wii Remote. Similar to the headset, they were in early form. Using trackpads on the controllers allowed me to cycle through options. And just for fun, pressing down the trackpad caused a balloon to inflate from the controller in the digital space, which was amusing. It felt intuitive, and surprisingly accurate. I could look around to see the menu system with its grey, almost minimalistic background, but the Valve engineer instructed me to look towards the floor. On the floor was a box, which represented the center of the space. Once I started walking forward outside the box, I made it a few steps before a grid popped up in front of me. This grid represented the physical wall that I was about to walk into, which the camera picked up and visualized within the VR space. It was pretty cool stuff, and I felt that I could've spent plenty of time exploring the home menu, but of course, they had a game to show. [embed]288675:57632:0[/embed] Last year, the developers of World of Diving showed off an impressive demonstration for their underwater-exploration sim. The use of the Oculus Rift was well designed and featured impressive depth and range. With the success and buzz they generated with that title, they attracted the attention of Valve, leading to a partnership. But the new VR technology they were presented meant having to design something a bit different. "When they asked to work together with us to make a demo for the GDC announcement, the first thing that came to mind was that we should do something like World of Diving," said creative director Richard Stitselaar. "But that title was designed around the first Oculus, and then the DK2 came along, we had to ramp it up to seventy-five frames per second, then Valve came along and said 'guys, it needs 90 frames per second.' So we had to do a lot of optimization on the game, and we figured we should use our knowledge with VR and apply it to a new game instead." Skyworld is totally different from World of Diving. Set on a floating island that houses a small civilization, you play as an omnipotent ruler that must wage war on the opposing side. As a quasi tabletop turn-based strategy title, players use both Steam controllers as wands in game to conjure up creatures and interact with the world. Over time, you'll build your defenses and expand your resources, which will allow you to send infantry and even dragons to attack your enemies. With the left controller, I was able to pull up a magic book, which housed unit info and spells to cast. Using the right controller allowed me to interact with the elements on the table. Whether picking up units to reposition them or interacting with blacksmiths or dragons, each controller had its own separate uses that complemented the other. "First we had this interaction model where you would look at something as this dot in the middle and then select it," said Stitselaar. "It feels natural to have something in your hand that could enhance the world itself." When you think of VR, you're probably thinking of something that's a bit action-y or fast-paced, and likely not a turn-based strategy title. But Skyworld definitely makes great use of the technology. I was able to view all aspects of the environment with clarity, as zooming simply meant stepping closer. Of course, I had to let go of some very basic certainties when playing with the demo. For instance, we all know that if there's an object in front of you, then you'll likely have to move if you want to get around it. I spent much of the demo walking around the 'table,' never thinking to actually walk up to whatever object I wanted. Eventually, the engineers from Valve and Vertigo Games instructed me that it was okay to walk through the table -- it wasn't real. After attacking enemy installations and moving my infantry around, my time with the demo ended. It was fairly brief, and I felt I only scratched the surface of what I could do. Valve's technology was easily the most impressive use of virtual reality I've seen in a long time, though. Moreover, Vertigo Games' work impressed. I was pleasantly surprised to experience a title that used VR in an original way. While the technology has a ways to go before it will get in the hands of consumers, I'm excited about what the future of VR holds.
Valve VR photo
Vertigo Games talks the future of VR
We got a big shock at the beginning of the week when Valve announced its partnership with HTC to produce a new virtual reality headset. We all knew the company had ambitions to enter the console market with Steam Machines, bu...

Freebies photo
Freebies

Tactical cyberpunk game Syndicate free on Origin


RIP Bullfrog
Mar 06
// Jordan Devore
Remember that time Starbreeze and EA brought Syndicate back as a first-person shooter? Wait, no, forget I ever mentioned it. I'm sorry. Instead, nab the original Bullfrog Productions-developed Syndicate for free through Origin's On the House. Once the game is in your library, it'll stay there, and this is a good one to have. [Thanks, Luna Sy]






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