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Review: Octodad: Dadliest Catch photo
Review: Octodad: Dadliest Catch
by Darren Nakamura

An interesting exercise in game design is to identify assumptions about the genre or medium in general, then question those assumptions. One such assumption that most make is that control should feel natural and unobtrusive as the player's interface with the game. Octodad: Dadliest Catch challenges that idea, making awkward control central to the gameplay.

While the tasks in Octodad would be mundane in almost any other setting with a typical control scheme, they can be challenging or thought-provoking to an octopus dressed up as a human. By requiring a certain amount of care and effort, things like mowing the lawn or visiting the grocery store are made fun, though they can dip into the realm of frustration at times.

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You must watch this Elder Scrolls Online video right now photo
You must watch this Elder Scrolls Online video right now
by Hamza CTZ Aziz

Yes, it's a cinematic, but it's one hell of an impressive cinematic. Fan or not, you can't help but get excited for The Elder Scrolls Online after watching this eight minute long movie. Makes you really wish for an actual Elder Scrolls animated movie like this. At the very least, we may be getting more short movies like this based on how this one ends.

The Elder Scrolls Online will be out on April 4 for Windows and OS X, and in June for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

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Impressions: Starbound photo
Impressions: Starbound
by Darren Nakamura

Back in 2011, Re-Logic released Terraria, which gained massive popularity for its procedurally generated sandbox gameplay that had combat and objectives for those wanting more than just a place to go and dig.

It was a surprise hit for me, and I ended up spending hundreds of hours with it. Eventually, life happened and Terraria's creator Andrew "Redigit" Spinks announced that it would not be updated any more, but also that artist Finn "Tiy" Brice had moved on to form Chucklefish, whose first project would be what many consider to be a spiritual successor to Re-Logic's title, but set in space. Starbound was born.

Fans backed the project fervently, with its homegrown crowdfunding campaign topping a million dollars in under a month. Currently, they have sold over 180,000 pre-orders, taking in more than $3.7 million in support of the project. Starbound is an indie sensation, but while it does strive to be seen as its own entity, it will always be compared to its predecessor.

For the most part, comparisons between Terraria and Starbound are apt, and they provide a good starting point for discussion, but in the end Starbound is much more than just "Terraria in space."

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Review: Republique: Exordium photo
Review: Republique: Exordium
by Chris Carter

Republique was quite the ambitious Kickstarter project. With big names like Jennifer Hale and David Hayter attached, not to mention the million dollar budget, to say this stealth adventure promised quite a bit is an understatement.

Having played the first of five episodes, I can safely say that most of the lofty goals have been met, but there is a bit more that's yet to be seen.

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Review: Teslagrad photo
Review: Teslagrad
by Darren Nakamura

Ever since it was first revealed, I've been attracted to the basic conceit of Teslagrad. Perhaps due to the volume of available titles in the genre, indie puzzle platformers have become a bit polarizing, but that never repelled me. Indeed, when compared to great titles in the genre, Teslagrad is a(n) (invisible) force to be reckoned with.

Now that the magnet puns are out of my system, here's the review for this beautiful game.

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The Elder Scrolls Online hits PC/Mac first in April photo
The Elder Scrolls Online hits PC/Mac first in April
by Jordan Devore

ZeniMax Online Studios has come out with a suitably memorable release date for The Elder Scrolls Online: April 4, 2014 (aka 4.4.14). That's when the massively multiplayer online role-playing game will arrive on PC and Mac -- hopefully without too many launch-window issues. The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions are coming a bit later in June.

Glad to have this news out of the way, but it's the new trailer I'm more interested in. It features some PvP, which basically amounts to crowds of people wailing on one another and some occasional structural damage. A faction-based approach worked quite well in Guild Wars 2, and I'm keen to experience a similar system in TES Online.

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Defending earth against new threats in XCOM: Enemy Within photo
Defending earth against new threats in XCOM: Enemy Within
by Steven Hansen

If you haven’t played the eXcellent XCOM: Enemy Unknown, you should. However, now there is a caveat to that. You should play it, but you should probably wait until November 12 to do so because that’s when the Enemy Within eXpansion comes out

Those who own Enemy Unknown on PC or Mac will need to plunk $30 down on the expansion and start a new XCOM campaign to eXperience the content. Console owners can nab a bundle of Enemy Unknown, all its DLC, and Enemy Within for $40, which is a particularly lovely deal if you haven’t picked the game up yet.

While things like new enemy types and cybernetic/biological modifications for your soldiers are cool, I recently got to go hands-on with some meatier content that has me satisfied XCOM fans should enjoy this shadowy expansion.

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Valve details its high-end Steam Machine prototype photo
Valve details its high-end Steam Machine prototype
by Jordan Devore

Later this year, Valve will ship out 300 prototype Steam Machines for beta testers. If you thought you wanted in on this action, just wait until you see the official system specs. "The prototype machine is a high-end, high-performance box, built out of off-the-shelf PC parts," says Valve. "It is also fully upgradable, allowing any user to swap out the GPU, hard drive, CPU, even the motherboard if you really want to."

  • GPU: some units with Nvidia Titan, some GTX 780, some GTX 760, and some GTX 660
  • CPU: some boxes with Intel : i7-4770, some i5-4570, and some i3
  • RAM: 16GB DDR3-1600 (CPU), 3GB DDR5 (GPU)
  • Storage: 1TB/8GB Hybrid SSHD
  • Power Supply: Internal 450w 80Plus Gold
  • Dimensions: approx. 12 x 12.4 x 2.9 in high

For reference, the current slim Xbox 360 4GB console's dimensions are 12.4 x 11.9 x 7.4.

As we know, multiple manufacturers will be introducing their own SteamOS-powered systems next year. "Some of those companies will be capable of meeting the demands of lots of Steam users very quickly, some will be more specialized and lower volume. The hardware specs of each of those machines will differ, in many cases substantially, from our prototype."

Steam Machines - Prototype Details [Steam]

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BetaDwarf's Forced: From classroom to Steam Early Access photo
BetaDwarf's Forced: From classroom to Steam Early Access
by Fraser Brown

Garages are passé now, it seems. Where once indie game developers would steal precious space from cars, lawnmowers, and bikes, they can now be found living up in a tree or, in the case of Danish developer BetaDwarf, squatting in a classroom. 

"Fuck it, we're going to skip [our] apartments and literally live at university," Steffen Kabbelgaard and his team decided during development of their colorful co-op arena game, Forced. Risk, sacrifice, and no small amount of good fortune characterize the story of Forced's birth, a story that's nearing its end as the team gears up for an October 24 launch.  

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Valve announces free operating system SteamOS photo
Valve announces free operating system SteamOS
by Jordan Devore

In its first of three Steam-releated announcements, Valve has announced a full-blown operating system called SteamOS. Based on Linux and centered around the company's digital distribution platform, this will be available soon for free and is intended for living-room PCs.

"With SteamOS, 'openness' means that the hardware industry can iterate in the living room at a much faster pace than they’ve been able to," writes Valve. "Content creators can connect directly to their customers. Users can alter or replace any part of the software or hardware they want. Gamers are empowered to join in the creation of the games they love. SteamOS will continue to evolve, but will remain an environment designed to foster these kinds of innovation."

There are said to be hundreds of games running natively on SteamOS, with more -- including AAA titles -- set to arrive next year. The full library of (PC and Mac) games and desktop software on Steam will be available via in-home streaming. Both Steam and SteamOS are getting Family Sharing, more parental control options, and music and video content.

Exciting news knowing that there are two more announcements on the way. We're ready for you, Steam Box.

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GOG: Indies, nostalgia, and the evils of DRM photo
GOG: Indies, nostalgia, and the evils of DRM
by Fraser Brown

It took a long time for me to be comfortable with digital distribution. I held onto my dusty boxes and physical media with grim determination, seeing no reason for me to move with the times. It was Space Quest that changed all that. I'd lost my discs filled with the adventures of space janitor Roger Wilco years before, but when I realized that I could simply download every single one of them and start playing them mere minutes later, I started to become a convert. 

That was many years ago, and now -- between plaforms like Steam and GOG -- I have almost 400 digital titles, and the last time I purchased a physical PC game, it was for an article I was writing about the experience of going back to a brick-and-mortar store. I want to emphasize this: I only bought the game for an experiment. 

GOG.com, once Good Old Games, started out by appealing to folk like myself. Those who wanted to dive into the classics and bygone titans of PC gaming, but it's transformed into something much larger: a huge digital platform promoting and selling bounties decades old next to modern indie titles, and all the time sticking to its anti-DRM principles. A year after its rebranding, I caught up with managing director Guillaume Rambourg, and some of the developers whose games feature on the site.

[Image source]

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How I became obsessed with Steam Trading Cards photo
How I became obsessed with Steam Trading Cards
by Jordan Devore

Only a few short weeks ago, I spent approximately four seconds looking at this whole Steam Trading Card scheme and decided that it was dumb. Oh, what a fool I was! The system isn't exactly new -- it's been out of beta since the end of June -- but now that Valve has tied it in with the Steam summer sale and more developers are on board every day, it's finally clicked with me. I'm hooked.

Before we get any further, yes, virtual cards are a bit silly. I'll be among the last to argue in their favor from that standpoint. What's not so silly -- actually, it totally is, but in a good way -- is the ability to essentially earn free money that can then be reinvested in game purchases or, if you're like me, in the acquisition of further cards because you've lost control of your life.

After spending my weekend downloading a bunch of games I already owned just to run them, minimized, for a chance at earning virtual cards that could then be sold for less than a quarter each, I have some tips to share. But before that, it's come to my attention that some of you have no idea what Steam Trading Cards are all about. Let's get you up to speed.

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Blizzard talks about World of Warcraft microtransactions photo
Blizzard talks about World of Warcraft microtransactions
by Jordan Devore

When Blizzard said it was exploring potentially adding microtransactions to World of Warcraft in "certain regions," speculation quickly pointed to that being code for "Asia." Good job, everyone who suggested that! After admitting that "we're still pretty early in the exploration process," the company has given more context for the in-game store.

"We think everyone would appreciate the convenience of being able to make such purchases without having to leave the game, and ultimately that's our long-term goal for the system, though there's quite a bit of work involved in retrofitting those existing items into the new system," wrote a Blizzard community manager.

"First, we'll be testing the in-game store with some new kinds of items we're looking into introducing (in Asian regions, at the outset) based on player feedback: specifically, an experience buff to assist with the leveling process, as well as an alternate way to acquire Lesser Charms of Good Fortune. We've had a lot of requests from players in different regions for convenience-oriented items such as these, and as with other new ideas we've introduced as WoW has evolved -- including Pet Store pets, mounts, and more -- your feedback plays a hugely important part in determining what we add to the game."

Experience? Doesn't bother me. Those Lesser Charms of Good Fortune, however, could be an issue for some players who fear the in-game store will lead to an eventual pay-to-win scenario. "Ultimately it's still too early in the process to make any final determinations about our plans," Blizzard continued, "but in the meantime, we hope you'll check out the in-game store once it's implemented on the PTR and let us know what you think."

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Hero worship gone wrong in Hotline Miami 2 photo
Hero worship gone wrong in Hotline Miami 2
by Hamza CTZ Aziz

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number picks up after the events of the original game and focuses on two different groups of people you'll be playing as. While both groups are very different from one another, they both happen to be dealing with the same subject matter: Hero worship. The "hero" in this case being Jacket from the Hotline Miami, who has made waves after going on his killing spree against the Russian mob.

A new story, but that original brutal satisfying gameplay is very much intact. You'll be smashing, slashing, shooting, and slamming people's bodies into bloody pulps all to the cool tunes of the '80s-inspired music once again, and that's a good thing.

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Diablo III auction houses taken offline due to gold bug photo
Diablo III auction houses taken offline due to gold bug
by Jordan Devore

Following the release of patch 1.0.8 for Diablo III, a bug that allowed players to duplicate gold through the auction house was discovered. And, naturally, some folks ran with the exploit. The auction houses were taken offline while Blizzard worked on a fix, which has since been implemented. Curiously, the company will not be rolling back servers.

"We feel that this is the best course of action given the nature of the dupe, how relatively few players used it, and the fact that its effects were fairly limited within the region," wrote community manager Lylirra. "We've been able to successfully identify players who duplicated gold by using this specific bug, and are focusing on these accounts to make corrections.

"While this is a time-consuming and very detailed process, we believe it's the most appropriate choice given the circumstances. We know that some of you may disagree, but we feel that performing a full roll back would impact the community in an even greater way, as it would require significant downtime as well as revert the progress legitimate players have made since patch 1.0.8 was released this morning."

What will come of players who used the exploit is not entirely clear. "We're currently in the process of reviewing the accounts involved and taking appropriate actions, including temporary locks, suspensions, and/or bans," said the community manager.

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Maxis announces The Sims 4 for 2014 photo
Maxis announces The Sims 4 for 2014
by Jordan Devore

In a short, rather bland announcement, Maxis has announced its next project: The Sims 4. It's due out on Windows and Mac next year, and that's about all we know at this time. I mean, it is The Sims -- not like folks need much of anything to go on at this point. You will simulate your friends, let them die in cruel ways, and then Maxis will put out a bunch of expansions for years to come. We know the drill by now.

"The Sims 4 encourages players to personalize their world with new and intuitive tools while offering them the ability to effortlessly share their creativity with friends and fans," reads a line from the announcement. To date, the franchise has sold more than 150 million copies worldwide.

Before you even finished reading the headline, you were probably wondering to yourself "Will this be another SimCity situation?" Terrible as it is that we have to now ask such questions immediately, it would seem that a constant Internet connection is not required. The Sims Hub received a longer version of the announcement which explicitly calls the game a "single-player offline experience." Lesson learned?

EA Officially confirms The Sims 4 [The Sims Hub]

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