How many men were taught how to not appear awkward when speaking with girls? How many have gone on a limb only to be rejected, and still got up to try again? How many know what women regard as “creepy” or overly forceful?
There are only two ways to learn these skills: painful trial and error; or to find a guy willing to mentor you.
Lucky for us, that second option is now available, through a new “game” video game from seduction guru Richard La Ruina. His game, “Super Seducer,” is available on Steam, and takes players through a series of live action scenarios, and presents them with multiple dialogue choices; with many funny and interesting scenarios, followed with feedback from Ruina.
Now, we should start with a brief disclaimer: this is not some freaky anime girl game. There are no explicit scenes in “Super Seducer.” And this is smooth James Bond-esque game, not annoying club meathead game. Most of what Ruina shows are skills anyone could use, whether you’re trying to find a girlfriend, or just learning to more effectively interact with women.
The game is split into multiple levels, each of which is a different scenario with a different girl. One has you approaching a girl at a coffee shop. Another has you introducing yourself and starting a conversation with a girl on the street. Another scenario, which many guys could likely benefit from, is about getting out of the friendzone.
The acting in Super Seducer is surprisingly good, and Ruina is a blast to watch. Many of the dialogue choices are things that many men would likely do or say, and watching Ruina act these out is sometimes hilarious, and always informative.
Also, between each dialogue scene, the game shifts to a short video from Ruina who grades your choice, and gives feedback on your decision. This can be very helpful. Maybe you have a set way of approaching women they find odd or creepy, and for some reason you just haven’t been able to spot it. Super Seducer can help point those issues out. Even guys who have no problems with women could likely benefit from this.
While I would warn men away from using women, I think Super Seducer can bring something of value. It’s a good tutorial on how men can be more masculine, more confident, and more outgoing.
You could get through “Super Seducer” in around four hours, but it has surprisingly good replay value, mainly because you may want to watch how other dialogue choices play out. After you complete a scenario you can also go back and watch the feedback clips individually.
With all this said, I think the name of the game is a bit unfortunate. Maybe the concept of “seduction training” can draw in some users, but the guys who could likely use this the most—those who have been friendzoned, who lack confidence, or lack confidence to approach a girl they like—may unfortunately overlook it just for the name. But don’t be fooled. This isn’t some creep game. Super Seducer contains a surprisingly valuable set of videos, and many good lessons that I’d imagine men in the past would have taught their sons.]]>
The main issue is that most video websites, including YouTube, are designed to display horizontal videos; and the sites will merely compensate in their own ways if a vertical video is uploaded. This not only means that the videos lack a decent field of vision, but it also means that smaller details in the videos are going to be harder to see.
It doesn’t have to be this way, however. Among the easier methods of fixing this problem is to just use a video cropper to focus the on the scene you’re trying to highlight.
Using a cropping tool, you can delete unneeded parts of the video, and eliminate the black bars that would otherwise be there. Even if you crop the video a little bit, and maintain some of the black borders, your video will still come out better in the end.
Doing this is only as complicated as the software makes it. With Movavi Video Editor, for example, it’s as simple as adding the video clip you’d like to crop, designating the area you’d like to crop, then saving the edited file.
Here are a couple images that pretty much sum up the steps.
Pretty simple, right? You can also go a few extra steps with built-in tools to stabilize an image to remove hand-shake, to equalize the sound, and brighten the colors.
Even if you’re one of those gallant folks who turns your phone horizontally while recording video, you could probably still benefit from a bit of video editing. It’s not much more complicated to add in elements like transitions between clips, intro and outro text, or to add in some special effects for more zing.
With that said, here’s an important message on vertical vs. horizontal videos:]]>
Let’s be clear, there are pros and cons to loot boxes—some new issues and some that have been around for decades. But a few minor changes in games may be all we need to fix the issue, rather than the all or nothing policy that some are now pushing for.
Some news outlets are arguing that loot boxes should be regulated like gambling; and these sentiments have even been echoed by politicians in various countries.
The main concern, however, isn’t necessarily that random items that give players an advantage are bad; or even necessarily that some level of microtransactions are bad. The issue is that the system is being pushed too hard by some companies (cough,* EA, cough*).
Of course, there are some methods to level the playing field; such as tools that can calculate your odds of coming out well, like betulator, but I would also argue that overall loot boxes aren’t so bad.
It wasn’t long ago that loot boxes had little controversy attached. If we were playing Diablo II in 2000, finding a treasure chest was seen as a great thing, and players formed their own organic markets to trade their prizes.
Sure, some players found unique items, and those items gave them a clear advantage in PVP modes. Some players sold their items for a pretty penny. And some liked to walk around the maps in their ultra-rare getups as we common folk gawked.
Instead of complaining that random chests were giving an unfair advantage to the more aggressive players, the element of random and vast rewards was seen as a perk in the game.
This didn’t really even change with loot boxes in highly-competetive games like Team Fortress or Counterstrike Go, where players have also built full markets to barter their virtual fedoras or ultra-rare stabby sticks. I think many fans of these games would be rather unhappy if their loot boxes suddenly disappeared.
With this said, I don’t believe the issue is the loot boxes in and of themselves. The problem is with a small number of developers who go way overboad on microtransactions, and don’t give players enough in return; or when players are somehow forced to pay out extra money—in addition to buying the game—in order to compete.
Remember, the debate around loot boxes only started heating up when EA released Star Wars Battlefront 2, and proceeded to charge gamers extra for nearly every character and object they could possibly find. The problem wasn’t just loot boxes—it was also EA selling extremely overpowered characters.
The elements of unlockable elements, character advancement, and having a chance to find ultra rare items are things that add to the fun of competitive games. And going by how these elements were implemented in the past, I think it’s fair to say the problem isn’t the loot boxes. The problem is when developers sell players incomplete games. And these are two very different things.]]>
The FBI is now claiming that it lost 5 months of text messages between Strzok and Page. This may be serious in itself if we remember that Watergate was about 18 minutes of deleted tape recording.
Yet, as some experts are pointing out, the missing 5 months of texts may not be as difficult to find as the FBI is leading us to believe.
Imperator_Rex wrote on Twitter that the claims appear to be just an act, and he is proposing a theory that the Office of the Inspector General and the Department of Justice have already recovered the deleted texts.
1. This is some high level kabuki theater being played out here. My take? The OIG & DOJ have ALREADY recovered the texts Strzok & Page deleted. Why do I say that? https://t.co/1wonAEt5dF
— Imperator_Rex (@Imperator_Rex3) January 22, 2018
His theory is simple: it’s common for criminals to delete records of their crimes and for people to delete digital records when it appears they may be caught. With this in mind, law enforcement has well-developed tools to recover these records.
2. Because any IT forensics examiner will tell you that recovering deleted MSMs is quite straightforward. In fact, it happens all the time in legal cases. You dont even need the device to do it.
— Imperator_Rex (@Imperator_Rex3) January 23, 2018
3. Don't believe me? Read some articles on the subject, written by technical experts. Crooks always try to delete their SMS, it's not new. They forget that technically, you can't delete them.https://t.co/fzKL7jK7HWhttps://t.co/korrgqxxVl
— Imperator_Rex (@Imperator_Rex3) January 23, 2018
In addition to the tools law enforcement has at its disposal, Imperator_Rex also noted that the NSA has additional tools to monitor and store communications.
4. In addition, if what WL revealed is true, the USIC community can spy on you through your TV and laptop. The NSA has the most powerful tech on the planet to hoover up your data, as well as powerful facilities to do it:https://t.co/2BPACkVqZJhttps://t.co/n1C8wPbtcv
— Imperator_Rex (@Imperator_Rex3) January 23, 2018
5. So while Strzok & Page (or someone else) deleted the texts, I'm not buying the separate conclusion that they no longer exist. Here's what I think may be happening.
— Imperator_Rex (@Imperator_Rex3) January 23, 2018
After laying out the background, he went on to explain his theory that the Office of Inspector General may have found the texts were deleted while they were investigating, and already recovered the texts.
5. So while Strzok & Page (or someone else) deleted the texts, I'm not buying the separate conclusion that they no longer exist. Here's what I think may be happening.
— Imperator_Rex (@Imperator_Rex3) January 23, 2018
7. #2 – this is part of the lead up to the memo release & part of a well planned, calibrated campaign to educate the American public for that shock, as well as what follows. Remember,most Americans are only just waking up to what many of us have known for months.
— Imperator_Rex (@Imperator_Rex3) January 23, 2018
9. May be wrong, but one thing I have learned in the last 12 months is NEVER to accept what's happening on the surface at face value. ESPECIALLY leaks to the media. We learned this in the 'leaks are real, news is fake' campaign that started as soon as Trump was inaugurated.
— Imperator_Rex (@Imperator_Rex3) January 23, 2018
11. These are some of the most significant days in the Republic's history. The good guys are up against evil, bad actors who will stop at nothing to destroy Trump and escape their day of reckoning. Master spooks & team Trump are at work trying to bring them down – and they will.
— Imperator_Rex (@Imperator_Rex3) January 23, 2018
12. Our remote corner on Twitter HAS been able to dive below the surface to discover just a fraction of what's going on. But it's a deep, deep ocean.
Let's not get distracted by what's happening on the surface.#MAGA
— Imperator_Rex (@Imperator_Rex3) January 23, 2018
Prominence Poker is essentially a multiplayer poker game with RPG elements. These elements include the ability to purchase in-game cosmetic items for your avatar, as well as a leveling up system, which primarily rewards in-game cash, as well as unlocking new cosmetic items to purchase for your avatar.
For a game, which at its core is a simple Texas Hold’em simulator, the graphics and visuals surprisingly, go above and beyond what you would normally expect from the genre. This makes Prominence Poker much more engaging than most other poker games you can find on PC or console.
The game features a single-player campaign to start you off, which as explained earlier, pits you against four different factions of criminals before the final game against “The Mayor”. The single player campaign is a great way to get you introduced to the game and does a good job of teaching you the basics of poker if you’ve never played before. We recommend you check out the official poker hand rankings, as they are crucial to understanding the game.
Playing single player rewards you with cash and ‘rep’, the resource required to level up your character. Whilst single player is fun to begin with, the real fun begins when you jump into multiplayer games.
In a multiplayer game you can join up to 5 other players in real time. The game plays just like you would expect from Texas Hold’em Poker, with a number of ways to communicate with your opponents, including voice chat and various emotes. There are currently three different multiplayer game modes, these include:
Whilst the game is available on PC, Xbox One and PS4, cross-platform play isn’t available yet. However Microsoft has recently expressed interest in allowing cross-platform play between systems, so this may be something that you can look forward to in the future.
As with the majority of free-to-play games, Prominence Poker does include micro-transactions, which may put a lot of people off. However the game handles this well, with multiple options available for you to earn money to continue playing, including single player games and receiving a daily stipend that is based on your current level.
My only issue with the game is that the AI opponents in single player can be quite predictable. Once you are familiar with how the AI opponents tend to play, single player can become a bit of a breeze.
The games most recent update brings a new ‘Quick Play’ feature to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions, allowing players to jump into an un-ranked game immediately on starting the game.
At the top of the main menu is a new option, simply titled ‘Quick Play’. Selecting this option, Prominence Poker will add you into the first available game, minimizing your wait time. As a default, ‘Quick Play’ will search for tables with buy-ins that are 5% of your total bankroll. If you’re looking to play higher stakes games, you can change this default buy-in number between 5% and 80%.
You can let the Prominence Poker team know what you think of the latest update by visiting their forums.
Prominence Poker takes the Poker genre one step further than it’s free-to-play Poker competitors, offering a high level of customization and visuals that you won’t find in many other Poker games.
The ‘RPG’ elements to the game play such as leveling up by gaining rep are executed well and don’t take away from the gameplay in any way. Micro-transactions may put players off but the game handles this well, giving you multiple ways to earn more money to play.
Prominence Poker is updated regularly with new content, features and bug fixes. There are also regular events for player to take part in, keeping the game fresh and exciting. You can see the event calendar here.
Poker fans will enjoy Prominence Poker, and if you’ve never played poker before, we recommend giving Prominence Poker a try.
Prominence Poker is available on PC (Steam), Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and is free-to-play with micro-transactions.]]>
We are facing the final stretch, the last few days we have to figure out whether or not we want to buy a pre-order, get a EA Access subscription to have an early look at ME:A, and to make some calculations regarding just how fast the Nexus and the Arks had to go to reach Andromeda so fast without ripping apart any sense of causality and the fabric of space-time.
If you are still on the fence about this whole deal, read on, we’re listing some of the most important things anyone should know before making the final decision.
Nearly a decade before the events of Mass Effect 1 some definitely too rich people decided it is time to start exploring other galaxies for possible habitats, and their sights were set on the Andromeda galaxy. After nine years, five Arks and a Nexus later, the Andromeda Initiative was ready for launch, just before the Reaper invasion. Talk about good timing.
The aforementioned Arks are huge ships, each holding 20.000 of each participating species’ best and brightest. The members of the expedition are humans (obviously), turians, salarians, and the asari. Several other species like krogans are also present as the crew and passengers of the Nexus. This is why we could see all these peoples in early trailers, although let’s all hope that they’ll have only a scarce presence in the game, or the exploratory theme won’t hold much water.
After literal centuries spent in cryosleep (intergalactic travel takes some time), the explorers are ready to wake up. The Pathfinder of humanity is Alec Ryder, an N7 veteran, who participated in Earthlings’ first Mass Relay jump. It figures he’d volunteer for making history one more time. Due to some plot shenanigans Alec’s position is transferred to one of his children: Scott or Sarah Ryder, both of whom are a part of the Initiative despite being young, largely inexperienced, and generally not exactly your best choice. But who are we to judge?
New species to meet/kill, new worlds to explore, new stories to witness.
One of the things Mass Effect: Andromeda was determined to change from the original trilogy is how dynamic the gameplay is. One of the first things you’ll notice is jumping. Finally. While Shepard could only do so when prompted by the game, Ryders of the Tempest (the ship serving as a more exploration-focused Normandy) have a jump-jet, or, in other words: a jetpack. That allows them to jump around, jet-dodge, even hover for a bit for pretty sights and raining down bullets on your enemies.
Remember how Shepard and crew kept to the cover like their lives depended on it? In Andromeda we’ll be allowed to move around much more. Cover remains an essential gameplay element, but 1. it’s not limited to chest-high walls, and 2. it’s not a gravity well, so you can move in and out of cover easily. Which is good, because the fight zones aren’t going to be corridors anymore, but open arenas enabling a number of different tactics.
Dynamicity can also be found in how the skills are handled. Instead of a hefty taskbar you have access to four sets of three abilities. Each set can be customized to suit a different purpose, and you’ll be able to switch between them on the fly. This definitely reduces UI clutter, although it remains to be seen if it’s as convenient on PC as it presumably is on consoles.
Speaking of abilities, they tie into a new progression model of ME: Andromeda. In the previous games we could pick one of six classes for our Shepard, which defined the weapons he/she can use, as well as the assortment of abilities. MEA does away with all of that. True, you have “Profiles”, some of them even called like the classes of old, but they are more of passive bonuses than classes per se, and they level up automatically as you buy new abilities.
In place of old classes you’ll get three lists: Combat, Tech, and Biotics, each holding a decent number of abilities, each with its own tree. The best part? You can pick anything you like, mixing your portfolio the way you want. You can easily play as a biotic soldier with gadgets and the game will never attempt telling you it’s a bad idea. Each ability has some mutually exclusive choices, the way they had in previous installments, but otherwise nothing stops you from unlocking everything.
The developers confirmed that with no level cap you can eventually buy every single thing on your character panel.
Although the main changes are all fine and good, there is a decent number of other things that can be mentioned in just a paragraph instead of a whole new section. Let’s take a look.
Mass Effect: Andromeda has three weapon types. One is familiar: Milky Way guns, using solid projectiles. Then there are Heleus cluster plasma weapons, with some heat-seeking ability. And finally: ancient Remnant beam weapons with outstanding accuracy. There will also be melee weapons, for those who prefer getting up close and personal.
You will be able to craft weapons and armor using discovered schematics and resources gather during exploration. These will include some unique pieces like N7 pathfinder armor or even a classic N7 armor, if you so choose.
One of the key antagonists in Mass Effect: Andromeda are the Kett. Outsiders like us, they are searching for Remnant technologies, which becomes a reason for their quarrel with Initiative. They are covered in bone armor they appears to grow naturally.
It wouldn’t be a BioWare game without a party. You have a couple humans (prominently Cora Harper and Liam Kosta), a 1600-year-old krogan, a rebellious asari. Many of them, in a true BioWare fashion, will be romanceable. There was (thankfully) no information whether the krogan, Drack, will be among the romantic interests. More companions are sure to come, Andromeda species among them.
Mass Effect: Andromeda is without a doubt one of the biggest games to launch this game, and one of the most anticipated, too. There are several important changes, but also there’s a familiar core, to make sure it feel right for long-standing fans. What’s been shown so far looks promising, and hopefully the promises will be fulfilled without any hiccups.
ME: Andromeda launches on March 21, so there is still *just* enough time to make some further research and make the final decision.
Will you, or will you not buy a pre order and join the pioneers on a journey to a new galaxy? There will be only one chance to make a first impression on locals.]]>
The game features two factions: the Ork Goff klan, and the Space Wolves chapter of the Space Marines, and it doesn’t stray from lore in terms of units, their uses, and the faction heroes. These include the High King Fenris and Ragnar Blackmane, as well as others, for the Space Wolves; and Ork Warbosses including Grukk FaceRippa and Mogrok da Mangla.
It features two campaigns, both of which deliver. The first, Stormclaw, missions and scrimishes; and the second, “Hour of the Wolf,” has over 25 missions and scrimishes.
The campaign plays out much like the original Dawn of War II campaign. You are shown a large map, with conflict zones marked throughout. You will need to gradually capture these zones by winning matches against the AI.
The rounds themselves also have a good feel of variety, with different types of missions and objectives, and the maps are well detailed with objects that can provide cover. Objectives vary, but they often revolve around capturing and holding critical points.
Staying true to the tabletop, at the beginning of each match you are given a limited number of requisition points, which are used to select units. More powerful units of course cost more, and so it’s up to you how to balance between the different strengths and roles you’ll need.
Your units will also level-up along the way, and each unit has its own unique name. While this doesn’t add an XCOM level of depth to characters, it does give a solid sense of progression, and it makes you want to keep your units alive.
The campaign only allows you to play as the Space Wolves, but you can play as the Orcs during the multiplayer modes or in a customizable scrimish if you choose.
The more recent Warhammer 40k games from Slitherine was Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon. It was a good game as well, with large maps and more units, but it doesn’t have the same fancy graphics and animations of Sanctus Reach.
If we take Armageddon as an example, however, it’s possible we could see some expansions for Sanctus Reach that could bring in other factions or additional campaigns. Yet, it’s just speculation at this point.
The multiplayer mode in Sanctus Reach plays much like the single player game, and if you host the match you can choose your faction as well as the game mode (such as deciding if one player will attack or defend, or if it’s a free-for-all to snag critical points).
The defining factor of multiplayer, however, is its play by mail feature. It’s not a game where you click “end turn,” and then watch as your opponent takes his move. Instead, when you end your turn, you’ll be returned to the multiplayer menu, and you’ll receive an email when your opponent has completed their turn.
For some players, the drawn-out nature of this system is pleasantly welcome. You can take your time thinking about each move, and you also don’t have to sit and watch your opponent mull over their options. On the other side, you also won’t be able to play directly through most matches. My recommendation is that player who want to continue playing should host multiple matches.
Warhammer 40,000: Sanctus Reach has the feeling of some of the original 40K games, and does a very good job at capturing the feel of the tabletop.
Each unit type has a purpose, and every choice from which you choose to deploy to how you position them across the map has a strategic element to it.
Fans of 40K should enjoy Sanctus Reach, as should gamers who enjoy grand strategies or a good game of chess.
Warhammer 40,000: Sanctus Reach is available on Steam for $29.99. It requires a 3rd-Party account with Slitherine for multiplayer, but I found it unintrusive.]]>
While Space Hulk: Deathwing captures the atmosphere and some of the lore, where it falls short is the strategy part, which is at the heart of the Space Hulk games. Of course, this isn’t to say it’s a bad game. It has its satisfying moments of laying fire down a corridor as a wave of genestealers runs into your stream of bullets, but hear me out.
The game had a rough start. When it was first released it was poorly optimized. Many complained they couldn’t get it to run, and many complained that even if they could run it fine, people they played with online would regularly drop off. People simply weren’t able to play it. Many of its negative ratings on Steam were from this.
The developers patched the game not too long after, and performance is now tolerable. But there are still some complaints.
For me, the fun of Space Hulk is the ability to strategically cover halls and passages, and strategically denying enemy spawn points, as the squad moves towards its goal. The biggest problem I had with Deathwing is that most combat goes to hand-to-hand battles, and the game’s close-quarters combat system isn’t that fun. Basically, you can equip a sword, claws, or a mace and just click your way through a horde of enemies.
One problem is that the bolters, the regular weapons, have clip sizes that are too small to get through a wave of enemies. If you have a squad equipped with these, combat is almost guaranteed to end in close-quarters combat.
The solution I found was to only use the heavy weapons, which have much more robust clip sizes. Using these, the game in my opinion is much better. You can blast through a full wave of enemies, keeping them at a distance while strategically moving towards your objective. In my experience, these weapons are the only ones that are fun to use (although I have seen players gleefully pounding genestealers with the mace, just the same).
In the single player mode, you’re assigned two squadmates, who you can assign to cover points, follow you, or perform a handful of other tasks. They can cover halls, but it always works with partial effectiveness. Most of the time I found myself keeping the squadmates on “Follow Me” mode, since it didn’t seem to make much difference either way.
The AI all around isn’t that great. Squadmates are only somewhat useful, and the enemy typically just rushes at you with little change.
Where the game really shines, however, is in multiplayer mode. The dangers of each enemy wave typically ensure that the squad sticks together, and typically ensure that anyone who doesn’t is quickly overran. Players need to work together to cover all vulnerable points, and it has a feeling similar to the Aliens (and note, Space Hulk was initially inspired by this) film where you can see enemies moving on your motion detector, and you’re relying on the players next to you to fill the gaps.
The problem with the multiplayer mode is the lack of story (which is pretty decent in the single player mode) and the lack of progression. Unlike the narrative single player mode, each map just feels like a map. Also, while you unlock different tiers of weapons as you progress, you’ll need to start over again for each match.
Altogether, Space Hulk: Deathwing is a decent game can be a blast to play with friends. Check your system requirements before picking it up, don’t expect the same same strategic depth as other Space Hulk games and you may enjoy it.
Space Hulk: Deathwing is available on PC, XBoxOne, and PS4 for $39.99.]]>
Battlefield Gothic: Armada is an interesting standout from the bunch, however, just as it was a standout from the tabletop games. It’s focus is solely on fleet combat. Games Workshop unfortunately discontinued it in March 2013, so it came as a pleasant surprise for fans when a full PC version was announced—and an even more pleasant surprise when they found it was a blast to play.
It features a campaign mode, focused only on the Imperial Navy, and an online scrimish mode that brings in the Orcs, Eldar, and Chaos. If you want to hand over some extra cash, you can also get the Tao and Space Marine DLCs (both of which have been well received by the community).
Battlefleet Gothic: Armada holds surprisingly true to its tabletop cousin—from the mechanics and feel, right down to the ship designs.
The game takes place during the 12th black crusade, and the campaign puts you in the shoes of an admiral of the Imperial Navy fighting off Abaddon’s chaos forces as they attack the gothic sector. Along the way you’ll also face off against the Eldar and Ork pirates. It features some great voice acting, and well-done cutscenes that draw you into the story.
As for the scrimish PVP mode, there are mixed results. The multiplayer combat is very fun, and it’s where I spent the bulk of my time. Unfortunately, it takes some time to find a match, and the mechanics make it fairly easy for players to cheese matches if they choose. For example, the orcs are slow yet well armored, and can devastate enemy fleets by ramming into them (all factions can do this, but Orcs have special armor for it), and the Eldar are fast with strong long-range weapons, yet weak armor. It’s not uncommon for Eldar players to stay on the edge of the playfield and hammer you with long-range weapons, zipping around, while the Orcs slowly and helplessly trudge through space towards them.
There are also the occasional poor loser players who will retreat with a single Eldar ship, cloak it, and force you to wait out the rest of the match—which can have you floating around in space doing nothing for 15 or 20 minutes, with little hope of locating them. It’s not too much different from Terran opponents in Starcraft floating a base off into the corner of the map and forcing you to fly out and destroy them, but the cloaking mechanics in Battlefleet Gothic: Armada can make this an even more difficult task.
Of course, the above cheese scenarios aren’t too common. Most players show good sportsmanship, and it’s still a blast to play regardless. There are 1v1 and 2v2 modes, and ranked matches.
Battlefleet Gothic: Armada plays like a naval combat game, and is easily one of the best in the genre. It’s available on Steam for $39.99 (since the player-base has gone down, we recommend waiting for a sale).]]>
Shuyan Saga looks a bit like a blend of everything we loved from Avatar: The Last Airbender, a Telltale-like game of choice and consequence, and a 90’s kung-fu film.
The developers are calling it an “action-graphic novel,” but it features a choice mechanic and a full 3-D combat system that tries to capture the unique “soft” style of traditional kung-fu.
Jason Loftus, CEO of Mark Media, the indie developer behind Shuyan Saga, explained this combat system in a press release, saying “In martial arts there’s the mastery of the superficial skills, like the techniques, but there’s also a very deep layer of character development that must happen along with the discipline.”
“We really tried to capture that entire experience, make the martial arts authentic, while allowing the players to dive into the profound depth of a true kung fu teaching,” he said.
Meg Jayanth isn’t the only big name behind the project. Its art director is Daxiong, who helped popularize comics in China, and who is aptly dubbed the “King of Chinese Comics.” He described the art direction of Shuyan Saga in a press release, saying “The world we designed borrowed ideas from the Han, Tang, Song, and Qing dynasties. Shuyan’s journey is that of discovering this world and one of its core tenants: Harmony between human and nature.”
Going by some of the screenshots and comic panels, Shuyan Saga shows Daxiong’s very unique art style that has the familiarity of modern comics, but that uses some of the artistic methods of traditional Chinese painting.
It also features writers from games including Mass Effect and Batman: Arkham Asylum.
Just as interesting, it seems Shuyan Saga‘s Greenlight campaign received a huge amount of attention from Chinese gamers. It apparently went viral on Chinese social media sites, and comments on the Greenlight page show Chinese gamers glad to see a game that seems to capture authentic Chinese culture.
Some of its Chinese fans have mused over the fact that a team of developers based in Toronto managed to create a successful Chinese-style game, while many Chinese developers are trying to make Western-style games. While noting that Shuyan Saga seems to get the art style, and even the traditional Chinese dress right, they also mentioned that most games (and films, apparently), are rarely accurate when trying to depict China, since they tend to blend Chinese and Japanese elements.
In a game market where most influence comes from Nordic or Medieval cultures, it will be interesting to see a game pull from China’s 5,000 years of history, and its own deep system of lore.
Shuyan Saga is set for release on PC with other platforms to be announced. It will be a three-part series, told in the form of an interactive graphic novel. The release date is TBA.]]>
They describe it as “the story of a homeless person who’s trying to get their life back together,” and will be a procedurally-generated survival game. It poses the question: “If you were home… what would you do?”
The developers will be launching a Kickstarter for CHANGE at the end of January, but have released a short gameplay trailer in the meantime.]]>
The finding was uncovered by TSSZ news on Jan. 5, and it appears the site was updated on soon after on Jan. 6.
Shemnue was a game far ahead of its time. The original on the Sega Dreamcast is regarded by many who played it as one of the greatest games every made, and with good reason. It had the feel of a living, breathing world; fantastic graphics, even by today’s standards; and a surprisingly deep combat system.
As a reminder, here’s the original cover art:
The 248-page book is set for release on April 4 (although some stores may carry it as early as March 24), and includes stories that long-time fans may be familiar with, but many aren’t likely to have come across. It also includes some updated quests that expand on some of these classics—such as the ability to fully explore the Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan and the Sunless Citidel.
The name of the new book is based on the Yawning Portal, the famous tavern in Waterdeep, where adventurers from across the Forgotten Realms come together to share stories of their travels, and rumors of hidden secrets. The cover of the new book fittingly depicts the Yawning Portal’s owner and barkeep.
full adventures include the following:
Comfort said in a press release that he was honored to have his documentary film in the festival, stating ““To be recognized for our scientific approach and proofs of what is normally dismissed as simple religion is humbling. In the argument of religion versus science, we hope to show people that it’s not either/or, but that science supports the existence of the Creator, and our creator is the very author of science.”
The film festival “honors films on science and technology worldwide.” It’s partners include the USC Institute for Creative Technologies, The Science & Entertainment Exchange, and The Exploratorium.
Comfort’s film, “The Atheist Delusion: Why Millions Deny the Obvious,” asks some hard questions and is available publicly on YouTube. According to its description, “It introduces you to a number of atheists who you will follow as they go where the evidence leads, find a roadblock, and enter into a place of honesty that is rarely seen on film.”]]>
The image showing Link sitting on a cliffside is a throwback to the opening manual for the original Zelda on the NES.
The nostalgic image also shares an art style reminiscent of the Zelda animated TV series from 1989, and may also remind some of the cover art from Zelda II.
Here’s the original NES image:
The official Twitter account for Zelda posted the image with a friendly “Happy New Year!” on Dec. 31.
Happy New Year ! pic.twitter.com/kQDKEzAt37
— ゼルダの伝説 (@ZeldaOfficialJP) January 1, 2017
The next Zelda game was originally set for release in 2016, but Nintendo pushed it back until an unspecified date in 2017.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will debut with versions available on both the Wii U and NX.]]>
Let’s get this dealt with right from the start: if the last time you’ve heard your gift recipient talk about his or hers new console or PC was five years ago, there is good chance* there was no new purchase made after that time. Which means a whole new world of gaming technology can open up should the recipient get new gaming hardware.
Of course, a new gaming-ready PC can cost a ton of money, but PCs have an open structure allowing for upgrades should they become outdated, so even a ready-made gaming PC can be good for years with only slight upgrades. A good place to start looking is MSI or ASUS websites, since they have some of the best gaming computers on the market.
On the other hand, a gaming console costs much less and doesn’t have the problem with upgrades. All games released for a given console work just fine, whether they were released right after the console’s release, or at the end of its relevance.
Long story short: if the gamer you want to buy a gift for has an outdated hardware, a gaming PC or a current generation console is a pretty great gift idea.
*Please don’t take it on our word and remember to check.
We know, it’s hardly helpful. There are so many games released each year we could just as well have said “a bag of chips” without specifying brand or flavor. They undoubtedly make for great Christmas gifts for gamers, but how to pick the right one?
To make things a little bit easier, we list several games per genre, so you know where to start looking.
This by no means exhausts all the games launched this year, nor even takes into consideration all the genres and subgenres. It can, however, give a good idea about what to look for this year, based on some of the more popular genres and/or games. We don’t promise you will certainly find the best Christmas gift on this list, but we are certain it will help you refine your search considerably, as long as you know what kind of games the gift recipient plays regularly.
Ok, so what if the recipient already has the hardware to run the games AND has the games to play? Gaming peripherals could be a great option and there’s a good reason for that.
For one, gaming keyboards and mice are usually optimized for the highest functionality and precision. They often feature a number of programmable buttons, customizable weight distribution, at times even configurable lighting, for added style. Gaming peripherals merge form and function and many players consider them indispensable.
Even console players have access to stylish gadgets thanks to many third-party producers of custom controllers (like pluscontrollers.com or controllerchaos.com), allowing you to pick and choose colors and sometimes even the style of individual parts like buttons.
If all else fails, try gadgets. We know it’s an idea even broader than “video games”, but we have some suggestions for that as well, albeit a bit fewer.
Narrowing down a perfect gift for a gamer is hard. When games are considered, there are so many genres, developers, franchises that providing a complete Christmas gift guide is nearly impossible.
Hardware, peripherals, and gadgets aren’t in much better situation, as they are very varied even within specific categories. The best thing to do at a short notice is find out what is available at your location or can be quickly delivered. Nobody ever said making Christmas presents is easy.
Whatever you ultimate choice, we hope we helped you make it and that the present made the recipient grateful and happy.
Have warm and merry holidays and remember to share joy with people important to you.]]>
It’s unclear exactly what the problem is, but several gamers suggested it’s a CPU issue, with all cores firing at 90-100%. Dropping graphics to their bare-bone settings also don’t seem to fix things.
The problem seems to have been around for a bit. Early access players mentioned a similar problem in November, where performance would drop to a crawl or even freeze at times, even for players who claim their PC specs meet the recommended requirements.
It’s likely the problem will be resolved with a future patch, and the developers may have released it before working out all the bugs, because they wanted to get it on the market ahead of Christmas.
We have a full review in store, but we’ll be holding off until it gets a performance patch. For now, it’s buy at your own risk.]]>
The game will put you in the shoes of Edward Prince, a private detective and war veteran. You’ve been hired to investigate the unusual death of of a woman named Sarah Hawkins, and her family on a place called Darkwater Island. This of course leads into a story of the paranormal and a journey to the boundaries of sanity that we’d expect from Lovecraft lore.
According to a press release, Call of Cthulhu will blend psychological and stealth mechanics, and will be a “RPG/investigation game.” As your investigation continues, it says, ” you will start to doubt everything you see. You will have to find balance between your own sanity, and your determination in finding out what lurks in the shadows—as they say that madness is the only way that can bring you to the truth.”
Check out the new images below:
Developer: Cyanide Studios
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Platforms: Consoles (unspecified) & PC
Release date: 2017
Wasteland 2 set out to rekindle the same feel as some of those original games, and it succeeded to a large extent. To me, it felt a lot like playing the first two Fallout games, with isometric maps, quirky encounters, moral choice, and deep dialogue.
Of course, this would also lead to some mild criticisms of the game—people saying it didn’t try enough that was new—but for a lot of old-school open world RPG fans, it was exactly what we wanted. The game retains a 9/10 rating on Steam and, in my opinion, it’s well deserved.
Among my few complaints was I would have enjoyed some larger cities. Wasteland 2 does have some very large maps, but most of the towns are relatively small. The big cities, filled with NPCs and odd side quests, were always among my favorite parts of the older games. They were the type of games where you never felt like you’d met every NPC or went into every building. It made the world feel bigger than your character—that sense of the unknown.
Of course, this isn’t a strong complaint. Wasteland 2 did a great job giving you choices between saving one area at the cost of another, or choosing to side with one side in a conflict that would inevitably lead to another’s destruction.
It also had a great combat system. It works almost identical to the turn-based system in the original Fallout games, but the developers took it a step further by adding a cover system reminiscent of the XCOM reboot. And since enemies will often use cover—and since the cover systems work so well—the game forces you to try to outflank your enemies, which adds another layer of strategy.
Wasteland 2 is a great RPG on its own, and its one of the few games that has managed to capture the feel of games like the original Wasteland and Fallout, while managing to not feel stale or outdated. Add to it an old-west undercurrent, good voice acting, entertaining dialogue, and a solid combat system, and you’re looking at a solid RPG.]]>
Fans were unhappy, and their cries for a true reboot led to the start of what would become Xenonauts. The developers at Goldhawk Interactive set out to make a game that held true to the original XCOM games, with the same basic mechanics, but with a few new features thrown in. Unlike the futuristic games of the original series, Xenonauts would be set in the Cold War, and many of its weapons would be based on those of the real-world.
Unfortunately for them, however, 2K Games also listened to fans for their 2013 releases. They switched the name of their reboot from XCOM, and turned it into The Bureau: XCOM Declassified.
Then, they went and built a true sequel to XCOM, which added a dynamic cover system, full-3D, and wound up creating what is now widely regarded as one of the best games ever made: XCOM: Enemy Within.
While this was happening, Xenonauts was still coming along, and when the full game was released in 2014, it was greatly overshadowed by the brand new XCOM, which revolutionized the turn-based genre.
XCOM: Enemy Within is a fantastic game, but Xenonauts is actually much closer to the feel of the originals—and its likely some fans looked past it for exactly this reason.
Xenonauts didn’t set out to create something entirely new. It set out to take something that was already great, and expand on it. For anyone feeling nostalgic for the feel of the 1994 classic, but doesn’t want the low resolution, pixelated graphics, and wonky menus, Xenonauts was created for just this reason.]]>
It’s a pity, really, since the game has great graphics, great environments, great character designs, and a deep system of lore that pulls from the related tabletop game.
Unfortunately, it also has a clunky interface, odd camera issues, confusing tooltips, and very optimization. These elements all work together to make the combat feel confusing and unpolished. And again, it’s really too bad. Warmachine Tactics has all the pieces of a great game, but they just didn’t come together very well.
Meanwhile, it also has a fairly poor AI system that eliminates any sense of strategy. Maps feel like shooting galleries until the enemies run close enough for you to melee attack.
While hardcore fans of the Warmachine tabletop may be able to soldier through these shortcomings, there are just too many great turn-based strategy games on the market for this one to hold up—and anyone coming from games like XCOM or Battle Brothers, is likely to be sorely disappointed.
The third-person game has no combat, and no dialogue. It relies on beauty and a sense of wonder to carry you through it—and it does a very good job on these points. This game is gorgeous, by all means, and while there isn’t much in terms of action or complex moves, the wonder of the environments and the beauty that fills them should be enough to carry most gamers through to the end.
I found Submerged vaguely reminiscent of Ico on the PS2—only without the combat. It tells a story without dialogue, and pulls you into its world by weaving a sense mystery and wonder.
This isn’t a long game. Expect to complete it in about six hours or so. And it also doesn’t have much in the ways of action, or even much variation in terms of gameplay. You sail through a submerged city, climb a generally direct path to the tops of specific buildings, and recover items to advance the story.
It’s not a game that everyone will like, but if you go in with the right expectations, it’s unlikely you’ll be disappointed. Submerged is a story, told solely through the feelings it evokes.
Verdun is a different case, however. Before Battlefield 1, it was among the few FPS games set in World War I. Yet unlike Battlefield 1 you can’t mount tanks on biplanes or shoot a flamethrower from the back of a camel.
Instead, Verdun is a game where you scramble to put a gas mask on as poisonous fumes pour from the sky, where tiny iron sights on your rifles have have you guessing targets on the horizon, where maze-like trenches lead to tense close-quarters fights, and where calls to charge force you out of your safety hole and into the hail of gunfire of the enemy lines.
And most of all, Verdun is a game of squad-based combat.
Verdun has a similar feel to Insurgency, only with more power given to the officer of each squad. If you play as an officer, you can set waypoints and give orders, and you become the spawn point as you charge across no-man’s-land.
The guns are deadly, and a single shot is typically all it takes for an encounter to end. Sniping is an option, but the game’s gun sight mechanics make long-distant shots a pleasant challenge. Battles are tense and oftentimes confusing. You’ll often find yourself getting caught without your mask on in clouds of deadly chemicals, find yourself tangled in barbed wire in a failed charge, and find yourself missing the first shot with a bolt action rifle as you and an opponent tensely reload and see who lands the next shot.
It manages in many ways to capture some of the feel of how books often present the First World War. Verdun doesn’t have cities or towns, deserts or forests. It’s a game of trench warfare, where bombs and gas have lain waste to the earth. It’s not a pretty game. But it has a charm of its own—one that allows it to find its own unique spot in a genre often filled with cookie-cutter copies of Modern Warfare 2.
If you’re looking for a single player game, narrative gameplay, or building-to-building combat, this isn’t the game for you. But if you like a decent degree of squad-based combat, iron sights, tense charges, and close-quarters gun battles, then look no further.]]>
When you speak to anyone about their games list the most important features are fun, games that are challenging and diversity. Of course downloading your favourite games or app is what makes your mobile phone so personal to you, and whether you are into travel, budgeting, fighting zombies or playing at bingosites.uk there is a great deal of choice out there.
So in no particular order here is few of the top games that range from the classics to exciting new adventure games and those that will appeal to the fans of rhythm games.
Developer: Joel McDonald Price £2.99
Simple to pick up PRUNE is actually a puzzle game with complexity, a brilliant soundtrack that matches your progress really well and is one of those games that is perfect for playing in short bursts. PRUNES structure is not typical of the normal video game as you have no score to beat or chase, there is no time limit or any other way of rating your performance, and you either fail or succeed, but then if you do fail one too many times PRUNE also allows you to skip a stage. This simple concept lets us remember than sometimes less is more. PRUNE tasks you to slice through a plant at it heads towards the light, making sure it keeps on the right track is one of those games that really does understand how mobile gamers want to play.
TALES FROM DEEP SPACE
Developer: Amazon Game Studios, Price £2.99
Tales from Deep Space is another ambitious mobile game from Amazon Game Studios and this is partly because it has been developed by UK Frontier Developments giving Tales from Deep Space that great feel of quality. As a travelling salesman you find yourself mixed up in revolution on the Big Moon Space Station. With sharp visual and quality design which includes your luggage being replaced with a talking briefcase, Tales From Deep Space combines touch-based gameplay that challenges you without being too taxing. One other thing that really made us smile was that travelling salesman E is far too cute.
PEWDIEPI: LEGEND OF THE BROFIST
Developer: Outerminds, Price £3.99
With its brilliant level design, a well thought out difficulty level, excellent soundtrack and retro style visuals combined with great humour and not dominated by its license, PewDiePie: Legend of the Brofist has become a major YouTube star alongside his adorable pugs, and this superbly crafted platformer is set to run for a long, long time.
Other Games to Check Out Include:
Developer: Laser Dog Games, Price £2.99.
A celebration of reaction-based arcade gameplay straight to your iPhone
Developer: Big Bucket, Price £2.49.
Landed on the app store back in 2014 and has become a classic that oozes retro charm boasting excellent visuals and a great soundtrack.
Developer: Acid Nerve, Price £2.29.
When paint brushes and buckets of paint meet there is sure to be a big splash and with obstructions to stop or puncture the paint buckets you must find a safe route to your goal. With goofy characters this colourful game is sure to bring a smile to your face.
CLASH ROYAL: ENTER THE ARENA
Developer: Supercell, Price Free + IAP.
Clash Royale has a way or worming its way into your heart with its unpredictability and excitement married with a need for strategy, it’s no wonder this game is proving so popular.]]>
Blood Bowl has its roots as an odd tabletop offshoot from the Warhammer universe (apparently still tied into the lore), and the video game version uses the same rules. At its core, rather than have high-fantasy medieval armies annihilating each other on a battlefield, you have high-fantasy medieval football teams beating each other to a pulp on a football field.
The game does surprisingly well melding the two genres of sports and turn-based strategy. It has the characters and combat of Warhammer, but with the team management and season-based progression of a football game.
The basic concept is what you’d find in a football match, where your task is to get the ball to the other side of the field, or stop your opponent from getting their ball to the other side. In Blood Bowl, however, there’s a key difference. You’ll need to strategically shove, punch, and knock-out the enemy players to strategically.
It’s basically football, if fouls were both allowed and encouraged (even the referee joins in from time-to-time).
When the game starts, the foul-based strategy doesn’t seem too deep, but as you progress you’ll find there’s a lot to it. You see, if a character wants to run in a square next to an opponent, that opponent will have a chance to knock-down your player. So, if you want to get your character through a line of enemies, you’ll need to strategically pick-off some of those players to make a path. And just the same, if the enemy has the ball, you’ll want to strategically eliminate their defenses while also forming a wall of your own players.
Just like a tabletop game, a lot of what happens is decided by chance. Want to catch a ball? Roll for it. Want to punch an enemy, dodge a player, or dash beyond your usual distance? Roll for it. These rolls will also change based on each character’s stats and abilities, and the result are many instances where you’ll choose between playing it safe, or taking risks.
You’ll also need to build your team, and the characters you’re offered will differ between the race you choose. The basic roles, however, are the runners, catchers, blitzers, linemen, and your special heavy-hitters. You’ll need to build your team yourself, using gold earned from matches, and you’ll also need to decide how to balance your team according to your playstyle.
The teams themselves also bring an element of a strategy, as each plays very different from the next. Play as the Dwarves and you’ll get slow-moving characters who pack a punch. Play as the Skaven (rat-folk) and you’ll have fast runners with glass jaws. Dark Elves get bounding gymnastic moves. Wood Elves are specialists at dodging attacks. Want something balanced, then go with the Humans.
And on top of all this, there are several ways to play the game. You can go with the campaign mode and bring a failing team up through the ranks, join a league and play in either a multiplayer or solo ranked league, or you can just play a friendly match with a friend.
What really makes Blood Bowl 2 shine, however, are its characters. Each match is narrated by two commentators—an Ogre and a Vampire—who have a fairly broad dialogue. The two help quite a bit with immersion, and make the world of Blood Bowl 2 come alive. Each of the players is just as lively—from the Dwarves with their beer steins hooked onto their belts, to the towering Minotaur who may or may not listen to your orders.
The game also has some drawbacks—namely when it comes to performance. Now, my computer can run Witcher 3 on high graphics, but for some reason I can only play Blood Bowl 2 on low. It’s not a frame-rate issue either. If I bring the graphics higher, the game starts overheating my machine, or crashes. Reading some player feedback, it seems these are common problems. And while the developers at Cyanide Studio have released a few patches, some problems still persist.
But with that aside, Blood Bowl 2 is a very enjoyable romp—especially if you’re a fan of the Warcraft universe. The league features give the game plenty of replay value, and there is enough variety between each faction to keep things interesting.
Blood Bowl 2 is available on Steam for $44.99, and is also available on PS4 and Xbox One.]]>
Here is a list of exclusive toys that has always been on every kid’s wish list.
1. Star Wars Episode 7 Remote Control BB-8
A little gift that will allow your child to launch into the action and adventure of the mighty Star Wars World. This remote control BB-8 makes expressive droid sounds and will lead your child in the world of Star Wars.
2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 24 Inch Leonardo Turtle Playset
Yes, 24 Inch! This is an oversized action figure of Leonardo, which is more than just an action figure. It is a 2-for-1 playset with nine different rooms and many other exciting features. The best part is that when it’s time to clean up, one can revert to the action figure configuration and make the room look neat and tidy.
3. Barbie Dream House
We are not saying that girls should play with Barbie dolls only, but this exciting gift will keep your child occupied for hours because the dream house has three floors, a working elevator, and seven rooms. Here, your child will discover some interactive tech features that will give them the liberty to dream up all kinds of stories.
4. LEGO Minecraft Creative Adventures Crafting Box 21116
One of the most creative and interesting gifts to give your child is the LEGO Minecraft Creative Adventures Crafting Box 21116. In fact, you can give it even to adults who love to make something creative. With a number of instructions, children above the prescribed age of 8 should be able to spend their playtime creatively.
5. Razor A Scooter – Red
Smooth rides, sturdy aluminum and steel frame, urethane wheels, and adjustable handlebars will help your child enjoy a comfortable ride. At the same time, rear fender brake ensures easy stopping. You can even fold it easily and store it in your child’s wardrobe.
6. Guitar Hero Live (Xbox One)
If your kid is old enough to know how to play guitar and wants to become a rock legend, this is one of the best gifts you can give them. This is not an ordinary gift because it has been playing live in concerts too. So, you can understand how effective this gift can be! While playing this guitar video games, your child will unlock different levels to achieve the ultimate legendary Hero status.
7. Fisher-Price Bright Beats Smart Touch Play Space
One of the best toys for your toddler is this! Music, learning and much more can be done with this little item.
8. LEGO Friends Pop Star Tour Bus
If your kids are 8 and up, you can think of buying this awesome LEGO set that will keep your children entertained for hours. With over 650 blocks and pieces, let your kids jump aboard on the LEGO Friends Pop Star Tour Bus.
You can buy these gift items at Target.com. Target.com even has some of the best deals flashing on their website. Grab the deals and gift it to your kids.
Psstt… You can even use coupon codes for Target.com to save on online purchases at Target.com.]]>
If we journeyed back to the early 90s, back when the first episode of “The X-Files” first aired and when “Jurassic Park” was still in the theaters, we’d probably find Ash at one of his friends houses playing Super Nintendo, and trying to remember every detail about the Super Mario.
After going home, he said, he would draw the sprites on paper, cut these out, and try to arrange them just as they appeared in the game. He would then make paper cut-outs of Mario, and use his newly-created character to navigate his newly-created world.
“To me, this was just as much fun as the video game, because my Mario paper game had its very own level editor (25 years before Super Mario Maker),” Ash said, in an email interview.
Ash said he grew up with a love for both video games and drawing, yet couldn’t afford a Super Nintendo as a kid. Art thus became his way of playing these games, and this connection is something he shares in his upcoming book, “Draw Like a Boss.”
The book has detailed, step-by-step lessons to teach people to draw, and being a creation of Ash, he does this by making it into a game. It has inspirations from the Zelda series, as well as early adventure games, and sets aspiring artists along the journey to develop their real-world skills.
There are a few glaring flaws in most art lessons, and Ash hopes to repair these elements through his book.
First off, he said, it’s hard to find someone to teach you how to draw. Ash said this was true even while he was learning Fine Arts at a university. He said, “the lecturers made fun of students who hoped we’d be taught to paint and draw, ‘you want to learn to paint? Join a paint course, this is fine art’ they would say.”
There are also countless books to teach people how to draw, and while Ash said he did learn a lot from them, many “tend to be very ‘left-brained,’” Many books out there he said, have “lots of words and an old-fashioned attitude.”
“I’m mildly dyslexic, so this was always a problem for me,” he said. “Still, if we’re involved in picture-making, shouldn’t we be able to come up with a visual way of teaching that?”
Facing all these problems, and without having any formal training himself, Ash said he was forced to find his own way. This meant making mistakes, doing things wrong, and then having to spend an unnecessary amount of time unlearning the bad habits.
Yet, Ash is now a noticeably skilled artist, and noting his own experience that “a little guidance would have gone a long way,” he decided to create the type of drawing course he wished he could have had: “One that taught drawing through visual metaphors and symbolism—methods that help us stay in the right brain as much as possible. I also wanted the course to have some awesome visuals for learners to engage with, because drawing is about fun and wonder and beauty, and if we’re going to get anywhere, learning has to be like that too.”
It was only natural that video games join his project, he said, noting that ” games get us to focus and try again and again to overcome challenges; they reward us for learning, and they teach us resilience and determination. All kinds of things are being gamified now, from meditation to mental health.”
Thus, the original “Draw Like a Boss” drawing tutorials came to be, and now that some time has passed, he plans to bring those tutorials into print form in his upcoming book.
The art found in the book pulls from characters and worlds that inspired Ash and many others. He said, “Monkey Island blew me away when I was a kid, and I can still get totally lost in it. That series was born from Jon Gilbert’s captivation with the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland. Then there’s Zelda, which was another big influence on me. I see this book as paying homage to Ocarina of Time, just as I’m sure Miyamoto’s creation of Link and Navi is a nod to Peter Pan and Tinkerbell.”
“There’s nothing more pure than that: excitement and inspiration being channelled into new creation,” he said. “Art is a long chain of creativity drawing on inspiration, and there’s no shame in that—one of the best ways of learning to draw, which I cover in Draw Like a Boss, is to spend lots of time copying great works of art.”
Ash said that with “Draw Like a Boss,” he also wanted to create a guide for aspiring artists that doesn’t leave people feeling hopeless, or like their dealing with some elite craft that’s beyond their reach.
He said that elitism “prevents people from seeing that some of the most wonderful figurative art happening today is through game design. Games artists are taking landscape art, figure drawing and portraiture in really exciting new directions.”
To guide people from the beginning, he borrows a lesson from video games. “We start at Level 0,” he said. “This makes such a difference: rather than saying everything’s hopeless and there’s no point, we accept that there’s work to be done, and by doing that work, we can ‘level up.’ Progressing through games is so intuitive and rewarding, and I want to harness that.”
He also takes the intimidating elements of learning to draw and casts these in the same light as the bosses a player needs to fight and the challenges as player needs to overcome while playing video games.
As an example, he said, the ever-intimidating empty page becomes “The Void,” portrayed as “a snowy white wasteland where we have to search for landmarks and start to orient ourselves, just as when we start blocking in a drawing.”
“Using the metaphors of worlds and journeys is really useful for teaching: learners often want to be given shortcuts so they can skip the journey, but not only is that impossible, it defeats the whole point of the journey! Instead of shortcuts, we give you a series of challenges to overcome, which will give you the skills and tools you need to advance through this world,” he said.
Just as in games, there are many difficulties to overcome in becoming an artist—yet unlike in games, most of us will all-too-often forget to have fun while undergoing these challenges.
With “Draw Like a Boss,” Ash hopes to fix this.
“One thing that games teach us is that there’s nothing more satisfying than the feeling of overcoming difficulties,” he said. “It’s a wonderful feeling to reach the top of your Death Mountain of Drawing and look down on the amazing view that you yourself have generated.”]]>
As many a project will, “Once Our Land” remained little more than a half-finished dream—that is until nine years later when Ricq was approached by a Montreal publishing company about releasing it. They asked him to write and draw another 40 pages to finish the story.
The problem, Ricq said in an email interview, was “their deal was pretty awful.” Yet, that awful deal carried with it a gleam of inspiration. He said, “If that big company was interested, then it meant my little book could possibly be a success, so that motivated me.”
He decided to take up the project on his own, publish it, and keep the rights to his work.
“Once Our Land” is an apocalypse story that veers a slightly different path than the ever-popular zombie apocalypse. Ricq’s world isn’t one populated by shambling, dumb, re-animated corpses, but rather by the strange manifestations of insanity itself that arise from the ever-looming doom of Lovecraft lore.
The 110-page graphic novel recently went live on Kickstarter, and is already well on its way to reaching its funding goal.
Ricq said he chose a different setting than often comes to mind with the word “apocalypse.” He said, “I love post-Apocalyptic stories like most people do but it had never been done with a storyline that takes place in history. I thought it would be interesting to see that, a zombie story that takes place in the 1830’s and replace the Zombies with HP. Lovecraft type of monsters.”
The story, however, also isn’t purely about horror. It’s an action-adventure with “mild horror,” and it’s not a meant to be some depressing romp through a withering world, either. “Once Our Land” is a story, as Ricq explains, about characters who don’t lose faith and about the fight for the well-being of friends.
In his story, these friends are a burly German dude with a massive club-spear, and a young girl armed with a slingshot. Ricq said the two characters, Fritz and Ingrid, live in a world where “it’s important to surround yourself with the right people, individuals who you can trust.” Both are brave, and both were loners until they met each other.
He said, “It’s a nice dynamic too to see a friendship and not a daughter/father relationship between an ol’man and a kid.”
The nature of the story changes along the way. Ricq said the first chapter begins as more of a horror story, while the second leans more towards action. He said, “Think of the first chapter as ‘ALIEN’ and the second as ‘ALIENS.'”
The art style also leans more towards a cartoony look than the gritty appearance we’ve come to associate with the monster-filled post-apocalypse. With the visual style, he said, “I wanted everything to be clear, I want the viewer to not question what he’s seeing on each page, but clearly understand the story and get into the narrative fast so they can flip through the pages and see what happens next.”
He noted that one of his favorite books is “PREACHER,” which as he said, “wasn’t drawn in a creepy way but was very clear with a lot of colours.” This lends to his direction. Ricq said, “I prefer reading a book with good story telling as opposed to something confusing and weird.”
“Once Our Land” is expected to release in May 2016, and if all goes well, Ricq said “I will be doing more.” He said just like the “WALKING DEAD” books are still coming along, “I think ‘Once Our Land’ can be somewhat similar in that way. Each book will be a little more mature as the characters themselves get older.”]]>
Kyn goes a great distance to change this model. You control a small team of heroes, and the focus is on party-based combat. It’s reminiscent of Baldur’s Gate, where victory requires pausing and strategizing, only in Kyn, instead of just pausing you’re able to slow down time.
The game isn’t particularly complicated. The dialogue is mediocre, the graphics are somewhat cartoony, and there story is just decent.
Yet, despite its flaws, Kyn is surprisingly entertaining. It manages something that unfortunately can’t be said often: the combat is really fun.
If you’re not thinking ahead in Kyn, just about every battle could be your last.
Enemies in Kyn aren’t just damage sponges. Your hits affect them. They’ll suffer injuries. Kill enough of their allies and they’ll turn and run. Cut down a skeleton warrior and its top half might come crawling after you.
The dynamic of enemies suffering injuries can change the course of combat when facing groups that would otherwise be unbeatable. My strategy was to charge into combat, put all my focus on one of their strongest units until wounding it, then taking off running. When the group went chasing after me, the wounded foe would go limping behind trying to catch up—removing a key fighter from their ranks, and making their key fighter an easy target for an archer.
For me, the ability to wound and frighten enemies was an interesting factor. It made running away a strategic option that I usually avoid. I found myself aiming to main rather than kill, and only stood my ground to finish them off when my victory was assured.
Magic is also an important part of combat in Kyn. You can selectively cast fear on your enemies to divide their numbers. I worked out a similar strategy with this skill. I’d make all enemies flee, except the powerful one I wanted to eliminate. When its buddies took off, my team bumrushed it and took it down.
Healing is also deeply integrated into combat. As usual, you can heal individual allies or heal allies in a set radius, but more importantly you can revive and heal friendly NPCs—and this brings a whole other element of strategy.
On one occasion, I was trying to take on a pack of wolves with just two characters (which is harder than it sounds in Kyn). I charged in, only to have the wolves pin them to the ground and eat them, while I watched helplessly. For the second attempt, I revived two friendly guards who had died nearby, left my swordsman with them, then used my archer to lure the wolves to my newly-formed ambush party. We cut them down, like dogs (*viking laugh*).
The game has a story, but as I mentioned before, it’s nothing fantastic. You start with a party of two, an archer and a warrior (or whatever you want them to be, given you can re-distribute their skills), both of whom just completed some viking quest that gave them magical powers. A larger quest gradually unfolds, as a new enemy begins rising, which is just interesting enough to keep things moving.
The dialogue is also somewhat lame, and while the graphics are good, the cartoony look doesn’t quite match the feel of the combat.
Despite all this, Kyn still manages to feel like a living world. Your characters talk to each other. Villages and their inhabitants feel alive, and you still get that nice fuzzy feeling when you help a peasant out.
Don’t expect the epic sidequests, deep characters, or entertaining dialogue from Kyn. But you can expect unforgiving combat that requires plenty of thinking, in a game that gives room for you to build your own strategies—and that’s what makes Kyn glow.]]>
The reason that none of these games actually goes so far as to be called true casino games is, of course, that real money online gambling is illegal in all but three of the 50 American states. Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey all allow for at least some extent of real money online gaming, but in the rest of the country the very concept is either strictly outlawed or at the center of legislative battles. But should online gambling ever become fully legal in the U.S., just how big could apps in the genre become?
For starters, let’s look at some of the popular apps in the pseudo genre that already exists. In the iOS app store, there is actually a “Casino” category to hold all the games that utilize casino themes and practices even without the use of actual cash transactions. According to Programmer Interview, there’s no concrete way to determine how many downloads an app has. Given that neither Apple nor the majority of developers chooses to make the information public, the best we can do is guess. But considering that a number of the highest rated apps in this category—Solitaire, DoubleDown Casino, Whale Of Cash Casino Slot Game, and others— have been rated by over 2,000 users, we can safely say these games are very popular. Think of everyone you know who plays app games, and ask yourself how many of them write reviews; in all likelihood, or at least if your friends are like mine, it’s a small percentage. More than two-thousand reviews implies an extremely large player base.
Next, let’s consider the popularity of existing online and mobile gaming sites around the world that do use real money transactions, where legal. Betfair Casino is an appropriate model for this conversation given that it’s one international operator that has already eased into the U.S. market through a small presence in connection to New Jersey casinos. And according to the International Business Times, the company reported a growing customer base and 21% sales increase just this past summer. That report reflects specifically on the sports betting side of the company, but nevertheless indicates that the whole company is still on the rise. In fact, even the sports betting numbers could be significant to the U.S. market in years to come, given the enormous popularity of fringe sports gambling game sites like FanDuel and Draft Kings, and the wishes of many Americans to safely engage in online sports betting.
So we know that a fake casino genre already hosts some extremely popular apps, as well as that the international thirst for real money online gambling options is evidently still increasing. Now let’s consider what a successful app can make in a given day or year. Huffington Post did a study on this, specifically in an aim to examine the usefulness of a freemium or in-app purchase design model. In the process, they revealed that of the top-50 apps, $500 per day in earnings is on the low end. Several of the most popular apps at the time the article was written were bringing in something more like $5,000-$10,000 per day, adding up to millions in sales each year. Some companies designing viral hit app games are now worth billions.
It would appear that this all amounts to a perfect storm for the real money gambling genre if and when it finally fully migrates to U.S. markets. This is a genre that’s thriving internationally, holds enough interest among Americans to inspire dozens of popular mimic apps, and has set gaming models already in place. It is perhaps inevitable that should the genre be brought to America, its accompanying apps would quickly vault to the higher end of the earnings potential just discussed. We could see a whole new batch of the biggest and most active app games out there.
Feature image by Antoine Taveneaux (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.]]>
For a start, there are fantastical games such as Shadowrun: Dragonfall, which is a cyberpunk fantasy mobile RPG game in which you can play against elf-machine hybrids whilst you take the role of what is called a Shadowrunner; a freelance black ops specialist working for some of the largest corporations in this sinister world, full of conspiracies. Dragonfall is the latest in the Shadowrun series and aims to be even bigger and better than its predecessors.
If you want to play on an 8-bit style RPG then Doom and Destiny are pretty high on our list of recommendations for this category. With a total of 40 hours gameplay, you definitely get plenty of bang for your buck, alongside loads of extra features and special powers for you to pick up and learn.
What more, the game is quite cheap, particularly in comparison to other mobile games, and you also don’t need to make any in app purchases either. With all these advantages, it’s no wonder that this game comes recommended on several mobile RPG write ups.
Bard’s tale is a pretty classic RPG game which offers some fantastic gameplay alongside some the best dialogue of cynicism and intelligent humour. You can choose to buy two versions of the game; a high definition one which takes up to 3GB of space or else a smaller game. Either way, you’ll be able to enjoy an exciting story with engaging and likeable characters.
Battleheart Legacy is a slightly different game which doesn’t follow the typical setup of a tapping menu or using virtual joysticks. The design of the game is interesting because it was designed specifically for mobile devices. There is also a wider range of the types of skills which you can choose and develop throughout the game, allowing for greater customisation of your character – which is really exactly what you want from an RPG.
Of course, it’s not just RPG games which you can play on your mobile. You can also play and win cash on online mobile casino sites, allowing you to rack up some massive wins, even when you’re on the move. Be sure to check out casino games featured on sites casinojuggler.com for the highest quality and highest value games available on mobile.]]>
Now, the interesting thing about the FOBs multiplayer mode in MGS:V is that after you attack another player, they find out where your base is, and can launch counterattacks. The second player did this when I wasn’t around, killing half my crew and stealing the other half.
My first reaction was a thirst for revenge. And it was in that moment when I realized the genius of MGS:V. I experienced what I think Hideo Kojima wanted players to experience—the phantom pain, when the feeling of being wronged drives you into a want for vengeance.
What’s interesting about Phantom Pain is that every character by your side is a former enemy—either in the Metal Gear series, or during your encounters in MGS:V. Even the soldiers who constitute your team are the former enemies you decided to fulton back to your base.
It then raises the question: what is an enemy and what is a foe? To explore this (and without giving spoilers), MGS:V makes you experience betrayal, forgiveness, and mercy. It also shows in your rivals (and states clearly) that a thirst for vengeance can make a man into a demon. In the game, the enemies that pursue you are phantoms from your past—those who either feed off the hatred of others, or who are driven and controlled by a want for vengeance over the wrongs you’ve committed against them.
This effects you in-game as well. The theme that your actions can transform you into a monster is something that can actually play out—with Snake’s horn growing larger, or even with Snake covered in unremovable blood if you decide to head down that dark road.
On the surface, the game’s story plays with two key themes: language and race, which along with ideology are the key elements in our world that seem to unite people, or drive them apart.
It goes into the idea of what happens if we lose our ability to speak with one-another, or what happens when we set aside our differences to unite ourselves behind a common cause?
It plays with the idea that the same people you’re fighting with today over your differences, could just as easily be your close friends had you met on different terms. And it shows the terrible form of vengeance, and its never-ending spiral.
Even in your two main comrades, these themes are shown in how they deal with the past. Ocelot (your enemy in other MGS games) is on the good side of this. He’s the voice of reason, and a man who took past defeats as the foundation to build a better future. Then there’s Miller, your old friend tortured by the past and forever in want of revenge against those who wronged him.
Both of these characters went through something similar, and both took a different path. They stand by your side throughout the game, as a reminder of your own choice of how you regard past wrongs against yourself.
Then (without giving spoilers), there are other main characters who reflect these two paths. One of them is a phantom of wrongdoing against you, who is hated, and the other is a phantom of your own wrongdoing, who turns this to love.
I won’t detail an of the story itself, but in every juncture of the game, these elements are explored, and even in the gameplay—such as how do you react when another player kills or steals your men—you as a player are also led by the crossroads of forgiveness and vengeance.
It’s not just Dragon’s Dogma, either. This is Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen, which includes the complete original game, plus content from its sequel, including the Bitterblack Isle area, new enemies and quests, and new high-level weapons and armor sets.
The game is like a cross between Shadow of the Colossus and The Witcher. You’ll face massive enemies, which at times require some climbing to take down. You also get to travel with three AI companions who help in the fight. PC users will be able to share these AI buddies online, and Capcom says this may be necessary when you need a companion with a certain skill to take down an enemy.
Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen will be available on Steam, with high-resolution graphics and increased fidelity. It will include achievements, the ability to use an Xbox controller, as well as support for mouse and keyboard controls. It will cost $29.99.]]>
Hausman has caused plenty of excitement for herself, fans, and viewers with her prolific activities over the last year. She’s been filming for Dirt Old Superstition, in which she plays the leading role, Tawna Gerter, and she’s also starred as Abigail in the action-packed, sword-swinging webseries Swords of Insurgency. She’s been involved in several theater productions in the DC area, to include playing Tilly in the fantasy production “She Kills Monsters.” If that wasn’t enough to keep most people busy, Hausman has also modeled for the Sucker Punched 2.0 project.
While recently being a mover has involved swinging swords, crawling through storm drain pipes, wielding crossbows, and fighting bad guys, Hausman’s earliest movements had been for classical ballet training. While she enjoyed dancing, she realized that acting gave her a far greater ability to tell stories, and she switched disciplines while at the North Carolina School of the Arts. She became involved in theater productions, and starred in the 2011 horror short Cougars, but it was really in the last year that things have taken off for Rebecca Hausman.
“It’s been an exciting year,” she says. “I’ve been really lucky with the filming schedule of Swords of Insurgency as it left room for me to work on other projects. I’m truly happy with the pace of work right now; it’s what I love to do so I feel very lucky to be busy. We are in the process of getting funding for Swords of Insurgency and I hope to start working on episode two shortly after funding comes in, and Dirt Old Superstition is filming as we speak. Of course, I always want to be working on more, but I am happy with the way things are shaping up.”
Swords of Insurgency is an important project for Hausman, not only because she has the lead role in an exciting series, but also because of the valuable fight training she received working with the DC Stunt Coalition during the production.
“While I had weapons training through the SAFD and martial arts training through various teachers, I had never had the opportunity to work on fight choreography for film,” Hausman says, referring to her Society of American Fight Directors certifications for dagger and rapier, as well as other hand-to-hand combat proficiencies. “Swords of Insurgency gave me a platform to further my combat skills and learn more about on-screen fighting. It also gave me the opportunity to learn some new fighting styles that are appropriate to my character Abi and to the film genre.”
Though today Hausman plays Abi as the lead in Swords of Insurgency, this was a role she wasn’t really intended to have. “Originally the lead role for Swords of Insurgency was a male named Ulick,” says Swords of Insurgency director and producer Michael Neal. “While looking for a male actor to play Ulick, I received a submission from Rebecca Hausman. After looking at her resume, head shot and reel I was really impressed and offered her a role on the spot.”
Neal was looking for a mover, and he loved what he found in Hausman.
“Rebecca’s experience with stage combat, sword certifications, stage and film acting, and especially her dance/movement background convinced me she was the most qualified person to apply for the project,” Neal remembers. “It also convinced me that the lead role needed to be changed to female due to this. I was not disappointed when Rebecca started training and practicing with us, it was clear she was the right person… She did not complain when crawling through the gross muck of storm drain pipes, muddy creek beds and a prison cell floor which appeared like it had never been cleaned since the facility was closed down years ago.”
While Hausman enjoys exciting and action-packed roles like Abi, she’s well rounded enough to play a range of roles. “I look forward to the opportunity to work on more dramatic work and dig into the psychology of a character that isn’t necessarily a bad-ass action role,” she says.
Hausman’s latest project, Dirt Old Superstition, may see a departure from her sword-swinging ways for a different type of role. “Dirt Old Superstition is a fantasy webseries that focuses on a small bewitched town called Oasis,” Hausman reveals. “Tawnya is a mischievous witch in Oasis who enjoys playing with the residents, causing harmless accidents that make the small town more interesting for her. She eventually teams up with a Paranormal Investigator to uncover more sinister forces at work.”
As lead characters, Tawnya and Abi have been great roles for Hausman’s career, but perhaps one of her most enjoyable characters has been Jade, the fierce, crossbow-wielding ranger for Sucker Punched, a project by Fight Guy Photography that celebrates strong women and raises funds for the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network.
“I always enjoy working with Fight Guy Photo’s Craig Lawrence and look forward to future modeling projects with him,” Hausman says. “Sucker Punched was great because Craig really gave us the opportunity to create our own characters. When I first signed on to do Sucker Punched the only thing I asked for was a crossbow. Once I had that Jade really grew into what she is today. Having the forum to create my own super hero character for print was a new experience and a really wonderful opportunity. “
With so many strong, hardcore roles on her resume, Hausman had a little trouble deciding which of her characters would emerge victorious if all of them were placed together and had to fight it out. “Tough question,” she concedes. “Both Abi and Jade are incredibly intense and somewhat solitary. They have something pushing them to win and survive that the others don’t necessarily have. Tawyna does have powers, but she doesn’t have the fire in her gut that Abi and Jade have. Tilly is really just a child and in life couldn’t stand up for herself, it was in her imagination that she was the heroine. It would really end in a showdown between Abi and Jade, and I’m not sure who would walk out alive. I would probably be cheering for Jade. I feel a strong connection to her as I created her fully, rather than being cast as a character and finding her.”
While Hausman has been quite busy with her various roles this last year, she still has plenty of movement to keep her busy in the near future. “Dirt Old Superstition is still in production, and we should have the first three episodes out sometime next year,” she says. “Swords of Insurgency is up on Kickstarter now. With a donation of $10 you can watch the first episode! I have a theater project this fall with the Women’s Voices Festival that I start working on shortly, and another this Winter that I am very excited about with Next Stop Theater in Herndon.”
Rebecca Hausman has certainly been a mover this past year, much to the delight of her fans, but there is still one big move left for her as she follows her dreams to bigger and better things. “The dream would be sustaining a full life with acting alone. I would like to be able to have a family one day and financially support myself through acting. I’ll be heading out to LA within the next year and from there who knows. I plan to continue working and growing in the industry and I don’t plan to stop anytime soon.”
I sometimes wonder whether any action-RPG could replace the mythical spot held by Diablo 2. There were only a couple that came close (in my opinion Bastion, Torchlight 2, and Path of Exile), and I’d say the rest were just fillers.
But a new game is has joined these ranks, and while I can’t say it manages to out-do Diablo 2, it certainly comes close.
I nearly wrote off Victor Vran before trying it. It looked too much like a copy of Van Helsing (which is decent), but after giving it a shot, I was surprised to find a game that takes the monster-slaying mayhem of Diablo 2, combines it with the narration of Bastion, and brings in some of the skill-based combat of The Witcher series.
The developers at Haemimont Games seem to take many lessons from The Witcher 3. First and foremost, the main character (Victor Vran) sounds exactly like Geralt from The Witcher games. In Victor Vran, you’re a monster slayer, and you get called into a city that has been overrun with more horrible creatures than you could shake a boom-stick at. Your character comments on what he finds, comments on the smell and feeling of the places you take him. And he reminds you here and there of his role in this world, and the brother-like bond that exists between him and his fellow hunters (who you may come across alive or dead in this fallen city).
Also like in The Witcher, the combat makes you consider which tools would be best for a given area. Fighting spiders? Maybe the scythe would be best. Skeletons? Grab a warhammer or shotgun. Taking on a vampire? My choice is the rapier.
The combat is also built in a way that allows you to basically not get hit, if you’re good enough. You can roll out of danger, you can jump over enemies or projectiles, there are only a handful of skills and buffs you can use at once, and potions can only be used sparingly.
Taking a few lessons from Bastion, you have a mysterious narrator who comments on your actions. And also like in Bastion, every weapon type in Victor Vran brings a significantly different combat experience. Playing with the warhammer feels slow and powerful. The sword feels devestating and puts you in harms way. The rapier is fast and agile. The shotgun makes you feel like an old-West gunslinger with a special attack that instantly recharges if you manage to kill the enemy.
You can choose between the Diablo-style controls, where the mouse controls your attacks and movement. Or you can go with the default action controls (which I chose), which lets you control movement with the keyboard, and attack with the mouse. The action control makes it feel a lot more like a skill-based combat game than it does a random click-fest.
The voice acting is very well done. Characters are convincing, and the actual dialogue is just as good. You don’t roll your eyes when an NPC speaks, and I found myself taking time to listen to the characters even if I could finish reading the dialogue before they could finish saying it.
There are a few features that some gamers might not like, but that seeem to be done intentionally by the developers. Victor Vran is simple. You only get a few spells. There isn’t a skill tree or a sheet of attributes you level up. And it basically doesn’t have any character classes.
There is only one hero in Victor Vran, with a choice of three different looks that give different buffs. Every time you level up, you’re given a new feature (like being able to wield two weapons, or being able to carry a new skill) and you’re given a choice between three items (typically cards that give you buffs, a spell, a weapon, or a mystery chest).
Instead of having classes, it adapts to your playstyle. As you pick your perks, you slowly build the type of character you want to play. And you’re not locked into these choices. If you chose a card that gives more health for melee combat and you want to play ranged, you can just switch it out for another.
It seems the developers also expect you to swap weapons depending on what you’re up against. You could probably use the same weapon the whole game, but you’ll quickly see that some weapons work better against different enemies. This makes the combat feel more varied. If combat is starting to feel monotonous, you can just switch it up.
What really makes Victor Vran shien, however, is that it’s deeply immersive. This is a culmination of everything it does well.
You feel like a monster slayer, Victor Vran describes his feeling or sensing, the narrator teases and comments on your actions, characters have personalities, the combat makes you stop and consider the best approach for each situation, and the story makes sense of why you’re basically one-manning a city overrun with monsters.
Victor Vran is available available on Steam Early Access for $19.99.]]>
Blitzkrieg 3 is a fantastic strategy game, with features I haven’t seen elsewhere. The key thing to remember is that it’s not Company of Heroes. It isn’t about moving your troops cover-to-cover. It’s about blitzkrieg—lightning war. It’s Patton’s no “holding ground” strategy, and the strategy that allowed the then-evil Germans to steamroll half of Europe.
It also doesn’t feel like a WWII game. You can play as Americans and still fight against Americans, and the same goes for the Soviets and Germans. It feels more like a post-apocalyptic war-game with WWII weapons, where you build your defenses and raid the camps of neighboring tribes.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get to the point: these factors are what makes Blitzkrieg 3 fun. While one side needs to try and plow through the enemy, the other side needs to build a base to defend against the attack, and this means finding all kinds of creative ways to ambush them.
The game starts with you at your base. You get a set number of fuel and supplies to spend on upgrading building and units, or on your defenses. The base building is a game in itself, because your base is technically a full map that other players can attack at any moment.
Think of it like Home Alone, only with tanks and guns.
For my base, I have all kinds of traps set up. The enemy can easily spot landmines, for example, so I put mine in trees and bushes. I also put barbed wire fences in the trees so the troops automatically path-find right over my minefields if the commander is careless.
Trees hide behind buildings, infantry lay hidden behind their garrisons, artillery is carefully situated behind buildings. It’s a game that makes you start thinking strategically, and my defense strategy is to let the enemy send a scout to check things out, assume it’s safe, then get hit from every angle possible.
The problem with base building, however, is that eventually you run out of fuel and supplies to build your defenses, and to get more you’ll also need to attack another player’s base.
Each map has set supply points, one of which is your main base. The attacker needs to capture these supply points in order to win.
Attacking is a whole different game. You bring along a set number of troops or vehicles—which you can purchase, upgrade, and level up—and then try to figure out what types of elaborate defenses your opponent has put together.
It’s one of those games where just when you think you’ve seen everything, your opponent does something completely new.
I had one opponent, for example, who decided to place half his assets at the starting area so that I got barraged as soon as the game began… I survived the initial attack, but his mortars killed some of the infantry I needed to dismantle tank traps and disarm mines. I eventually won, but did it with only two units left.
There is also a lot of room in Blitzkrieg 3 for bluffs. One time the enemy attacked my main base, which I was totally unprepared for. You see, I thought they’d go for the closer supply point first, rather than drive across the map and attack my main right away. So, I moved my tanks from the smaller outpost and hit him from behind. The enemy eventually wiped out everything at my main. I had almost nothing left, but since I had moved my army they must have believed there was still a full outpost to take, and they surrendered.
When I reached the stage where I believed no enemy could possibly make it through my defenses, I was attacked and I got stomped rather quickly. The enemy used a trick I hadn’t factored in: he used a spy to view my base, which revealed all I was hiding.
But live and learn. Losing in Blitzkrieg 3 isn’t that bad. After my swift and unforgiving defeat, I moved some of my artillery and tanks around to better prepare for such a scenario.
Every unit in Blitzkrieg 3 has a purpose, and each has something that’s good at destroying it. Tanks are great at destroying emplacements (except anti-tank guns), infantry are good for killing garrisoned infantry (except machine gun crews),
There are anti-tank tanks, anti-infantry vehicles, heavy armor, light armor, and scout cars. There are regular infantry, assault infantry, machine gunners, snipers, and anti-tank squads. There are mortars, artillery, spies, and smoke screens.
I was also surprised at how many units this game has. By merging the multiplayer and campaign modes, the devs created an online game where unit upgrades make sense. As you upgrade construction buildings, you also unlock new units, new defenses, and new defensive structures.
One of the best parts in any online match for a real-time strategy game is when you launch that final push. It’s the moment when you finally muster up the courage to roll your full force into the enemy’s base and hope you have enough firepower to break through. Blitzkrieg 3 is built around that, and I enjoyed every minute.
Blitzkrieg 3 is available in early access on Steam for $29.99.]]>
While the appeal of the HoloLens cannot be denied, it draws attention to the vague and often misunderstood distinction between augmented and virtual reality. While these concepts are undoubtedly interconnected, there are subtle and genuine differences that exist between the two in the current market.
Augmented vs. Virtual Reality: The Differences and Potential Applications
In basic terms, the term virtual reality (which has dominated the technology market for decades as a concept) refers to the creation of virtual realm in which alternative users can interact with one another. In contrast, augmented reality describes the fusion of virtual reality and real life, creating a unique realm where unique images and applications can be melded with contents from the physical world. In this respect, augmented reality may be considered as stepping stone to a fully accessible VR world, although there are instances where it offers an enhanced and more authentic experience.
To understand this further, let’s take a look at the gaming sector. While virtual reality is often touted as the technology that will elevate gaming onto an entirely new level, for example, it is most suited to complex or fantasy-based episodic titles that are set in fictional realms. This is because players can use VR headsets or googles to interact in an individually created virtual world, where they enjoy multi-player experience and immerse themselves in a fantasy realm.
The Last Word in Augmented and Virtual Reality
For those of you who enjoy playing polo bingo on bingosites.net and similar games, however, augmented reality is far more suitable. This is because it can be used to effectively replicate an authentic and three-dimensional gaming experience, and one that is based on real world bingo halls and casino establishments.
As games such as online bingo are relatively simplistic in their nature and based on activities hosted in the real world, augmented reality offers the best possible replication. This will be an important distinction to draw in this market as a whole, as while augmented reality can create enhanced replications of real world experiences VR has the potential to develop entirely new gaming realms for players.]]>
Centauri Sector takes place in the far future where humanity has expanded into space and engaged in galactic civil war. One faction, fearing annihilation, flees to the far end of space to settle in the Centauri sector. After decades of peace, unknown pirates appear in the Centauri sector, disrupting trade and attacking planets. Your job is to defeat the pirate threat and save the day.
Every turn, or in-game day, the player can move his or her fleet a certain distance around the sector. As friendly fleets come under attack from pirates, the player can move to that area to engage, provided the player arrives within a certain number of turns. Players who aren’t careful about positioning themselves either in the center of the sector or near vulnerable transports will find they can’t always make it to the battle in time.
Space battles are the heart of the game, and they are the classic top down two-dimensional shooters. The player’s flag ship can be moved using the W-A-S-D keys, and the mouse moves and fires the main turret. I found the turret movement and tracking speed to be a little slow, and because many of the pirate ships are fast and agile, I found it a little frustrating to be constantly leading shots.
An interesting facet of the space combat is that players must pay attention from which side they are taking damage. Each ship has four shields (fore, aft, port, and starboard,) and each shield is depleted independently of the others. Once any area on the ship has no shields left, hits to that part of the ship will quickly damage the armor and hull, leading to a destroyed ship.
Also interesting is the game’s use of a capacitor system. Each ship type has a different base capacitor, though this can be raised through skills and modules, and each weapon has a different capacitor usage value. Every time a weapon is fired the capacitor is drained a little, and if it empties completely, the ship’s weapons systems are disabled while the capacitor recharges. This system helps to ensure the appropriate weapon types go on the proper ships, and it also makes it so players must actually aim their shots. Continually firing the weapons will result in a drained capacitor.
During a battle, the player can choose to reroute power to the various systems on the ship. If the player needs to get to the action quickly, the engines can be boosted at the expense of weapon damage and shield power. Weapons and shields can also each be given priority, and there are several options available for how high one system is boosted. This adds a tactical element to the game, and combat can be quite interesting depending on how the player chooses to route the ship’s power.
At the end of each battle, the player receives two rewards: XP and prestige. XP allows the player to gain ranks, and at each rank the player can choose one of three skills to learn that will help in space combat. Higher ranks also allow the player to buy more escort ships in the fleet (for a whopping maximum of two escorts), which can be given tactical orders during battle, but not controlled directly. Prestige can be spent at any planet to buy better weapons, escort ships, a bigger flag ship, or enhancement modules.
There are only four ships: ceptor, corvette, frigate, and destroyer. The ceptor is extremely fast and agile, but its shields are like paper. The destroyer has plenty of protection, a large capacitor, and multiple gun ports and module slots. The destroyer is also so ridiculously slow it can’t always be involved in the battle as it tries to catch up to the other ships.
Centauri Sector would be a decent game if it was just the space combat, but to change things up a little, pirates will also launch ground attacks that open up a new type of gameplay. The ground defense missions are part tower defense, part real-time strategy. The player builds various types of turrets around the base and tries to keep them repaired as the enemy forces continually assail the base in several waves. Players will need to properly place turrets, but they will also have minefields and airstrikes available during some missions. I liked the base defense missions as a break from the space battles kept things fresh and interesting.
Every time a mission (ground or space) is failed, or a friendly ship is destroyed by pirates, the morale of the system degrades, but completing missions, particularly important ones, will raise it back up. If morale ever reaches 0, the game is over. As the game goes on, the missions get harder with more and stronger pirates and more demanding ground defense missions. Hopefully, the player will eventually complete all of the base defense missions and gain enough XP to gain the highest rank.
I wish I could end the review here and give Centauri Sector a great rating, but the game lacks basic save and load functions. This makes the game exceptionally frustrating. While the game can be saved to end your gaming session, it is for resuming after quitting, and it can’t be loaded once into the game. If you do lose a space battle, you lose your ship, all of its equipment, and all of your escort ships. You then respawn with the same type of flag ship you had, but with just the basic weapon on it. Because the pirates scale in difficulty as the game goes on, it is nearly impossible to come back from losing your fleet, weapons, and modules. Unless you happen to have a large stash of prestige when you lose a mission, a lost mission generally means you’ve lost the entire game and need to restart. Restarting means going through the basic early missions and grinding out battles with the frustrating starter weapon. It also means a lot of time lost to get back to where you were.
Because the game scales in difficulty, the missions at the end of the game are pretty tough, and a single mistake can sometimes result in disaster. I found it very irritating to play the game for 185 turns, make a mistake, lose everything, and then have to restart the game to grind out those 180+ turns again. A save and load function could easily fix this, and I can’t figure out why LW Games didn’t put this into the game.
Players should also be aware that some aspects of the game take some time to get used to. The backgrounds in the space battles don’t move as the ship moves, which can be confusing at first as you can’t always tell if your ship is moving. The player’s ship doesn’t always spawn in the middle of the radar map, though other friendly ships can, causing more confusion. Weapons in the store don’t have great descriptions for what they actually do, and nothing in the store tells you if a weapon will fit a turret slot, gun slot, or both. These aren’t huge issues, but players should be prepared for a few games where they adjust to the rough edges. Once acclimated to these nuances, players shouldn’t really be bothered by them.
Overall, Centauri Sector has a really nice concept. There are many layers to the tactical depth of the space battle game play, and the addition of the ground defense missions makes the game a little more fun to play through. Not being able to load a saved game is pretty unforgivable, though, as the game itself is pretty unforgiving. For players who enjoy a tactical space shooter, this game is fairly spot on, especially if you enjoy the added challenge of a hardcore campaign where a single mistake can mean having to start all over again.]]>
Swords of Insurgency takes place somewhere in the not-so-distant future following apocalyptic events that have shattered society as we know it. Governments have collapsed and have been replaced with warlords and tyrants. The cataclysmic events that destroyed civilization seem to have also destroyed most of the firearms as well. Now, in a world where the strong rule, swords and fists are the weapons of choice.
In the pilot episode, “Escape from Ferulvad,” the audience is introduced to Emperor Taneg and his son Droll, tyrants who control a significant swathe of territory in the former United States capital region. They operate a hellish prison, Ferulvad, where political prisoners and dissenters are held, tortured, and executed. One such prisoner is Abigail, a traitor to Taneg and the daughter of Talos, the leader of the insurgency against Taneg. Droll has taken a particular interest in Abigail, and while she is able to escape from the prison during the episode, more dangers wait for her on the outside.
While a post-apocalyptic future with swords instead of guns isn’t exactly new, Swords of Insurgency is still an interesting addition to the genre. The show is a bit darker and heavier than many others with its violence, displaying scenes that depict or suggest executions, torture, rape, and death. There is plenty of action in the pilot, and the DC Stunt Coalition has done a commendable job putting together the choreographed fights, chase scenes, and stunts for this series.
While there is plenty of fighting to enjoy in Swords of Insurgency, the pilot episode is more than just a simple action short. There are several scenes where the pace is slowed down considerably, providing a nice balance to the faster-paced chase and fight scenes. As the action slows and the beautiful background music plays, one realizes that Swords of Insurgency is not just a hack-and-slash film; it’s a work of art. Even the special effects for blood have an artistic feel to them as the blood splatters, lingers just briefly in the air, and then fades away. Neal’s artistic vision for the show is apparent, and audiences should appreciate that Swords of Insurgency is much more than just a bunch of stunt men sword-fighting in the woods.
Unfortunately, the pilot does have some weak points, particularly the character Drool, played by Jarod Kearney. I can’t figure out yet if the character is written as too over-the-top, or if Kearney is overacting the part, but I found every scene with this character present to be slightly cringe-worthy. The character is clearly a psychopath, but he’s either beyond Kearney’s ability to pull off convincingly or just written to be too much in terms of a character and needs to be toned down some.
While Drool may have been my least favorite part of the pilot, not all the villains in Swords of Insurgency fell short of expectations. Erik Bernard Johnsen played Emperor Taneg quite convincingly, and I hope we see more of him in future episodes. Unfortunately, the end of the pilot suggests we might not see as much of Johnsen as I hope for.
The main character and hero of the show is Abigail, played by Rebecca Hausman. Hausman is intense and fierce throughout the pilot as she makes her escape, fights off bad guys nearly twice her size, and even eats a rodent. Abigail is a demanding role both in her physical and emotional requirements, but Hausman seems more than up to the task.
Many filmmakers these days come up with a concept, put together a trailer, and then seek crowd sourcing, all before a pilot is made. Backers don’t always know exactly what they’re going to get, and there is a delay until that first episode is complete. Michael Neal, however, has taken a different approach, as he has already completed the full pilot for Swords of Insurgency. He now seeks funding to create more episodes. Once his Kickstarter campaign is launched, Neal intends for backers to be able to view the pilot right away, and then they can decide if they want to increase their pledge to ensure future episodes can be made. With the concept in place, equipment already purchased, and production already in progress, I feel like backers are getting more for their money with Swords of Insurgency and can feel more confident in their investment.
I hope the public does decide this is a project worth backing, as I’d like to see where these series continues to go. Overall, Swords of Insurgency is an exciting adventure with a combination of impressive martial arts and artistic vision that makes this show worth watching and supporting.
Swords of Insurgency Trailer from Omar juarez on Vimeo.]]>
As student council president at St. Claudine’s, Elsa commands the rest of the council members, known in the game as minions. These five girls each have their own unique personalities and set of skills with which to complete student council missions. Unfortunately, one of your minions (randomly determined at the start of a game) is a mole and traitor. The mole will purposely fail assignments and set you back, and one of your first tasks is to discover which of your minions is working against you. How you then deal with the mole will affect the story line for the rest of the game.
I’ll admit I was a little skeptical that I would enjoy a game where I controlled a group of queen bee, spoiled rich girl types as they rule over their boarding school domain and awkwardly work out their romantic interests towards each other. However, I was pleasantly surprised with how fun and addictive Black Closet can. Hanako has always created games with strong female characters that defy traditional archetypes, but the company insists their games are not just for girls. You certainly don’t need to be a girl to enjoy Black Closet, and anyone who likes a good strategy game that makes you think will enjoy this one.
The meat of the game is played out as you are given cases to solve and assign your minions various jobs. Cases could be anything that might cause a scandal or hurt the school’s reputation such as widespread cheating, theft, pranks, harassment, drug-dealing, or plotting to intentionally lose the school’s big basketball game. Each day you can assign your minions to a different task to help solve a case. Your girls might simply talk to a suspect or search an area, or they might try stalking or harassing someone. Each case is different, and there are often multiple ways to go about resolving an issue.
Each of your minions has four attributes: social, intimidation, observation, and stealth, and various tasks use different attributes. Part of being a successful president is learning which tasks should take priority, and which minions should be assigned to each task. In some cases, you may have already used your minions with high social skills to question girls in your case, but you still have suspects from which to get information. Do you risk failing the task with your less social minions, wait another day to use your high social minions again, or try a different approach, like harassing a suspect into giving up information?
When you do successfully solve a case, you will be rewarded with stat points that can be used to permanently increase a minion’s attributes. Each case will be scored based on how long it took you to solve it and if you lost any karma or reputation during the course of your investigations. Stat increases are precious, and good players will learn how to raise their minions’ attributes effectively.
There will be some tasks in Black Closet that have requirements too high for your minions to normally complete. In these cases, you might consider sending your minions off to the supply closet to bring back a single-use item that will boost an attribute significantly. A minion might not be able to find clues when searching a scene on her own, but armed with a magnifying lens she might have a better shot. Item use in the game can be a lot of fun as the developers have put some entertaining tools in the supply closet. I can only imagine the reaction of a school girl when two members of the student council show up at her room with a riding crop, a pair of high heels, some candy, and a small animal decoy.
During the course of an investigation you might find enough evidence to outright solve a case, or you might get lucky and have a suspect confess and promise to behave. Sometimes, however, you have to assign disciplinary actions in order to get a student back in line. As student council president you have the authority to put students in detention, hand out suspensions, or even expel students. Some strong-willed troublemakers will sulk through detention and go back to their villainous ways, but students will also take notice if the council is too heavy-handed in its actions. Harsh punishments from the council will result in a loss of karma, and if your karma ever drops to zero, the game is over. Alternatively, if you don’t solve enough cases or take appropriate disciplinary actions, the school’s reputation will be lowered. If reputation drops to zero, the game is also over.
During a normal play through of Black Closet it is nearly impossible to keep both karma and reputation high. There are simply too many cases for the council to handle at times, and part of succeeding as student council president is effective damage control. Learning when to take a reputation hit to preserve karma, and vice versa, is vital to winning this game. Another dynamic in the game is minion stress, generated after performing most tasks. If you don’t give your minions a day off to recover, they will burn out and call in sick. Good players must also recognize when a case will require too many resources to solve and back off, especially if multiple other cases could be solved instead.
Fortunately, the student council doesn’t work on the weekends, and that is a time for everyone to reduce their stress. It’s also a time for you, as Elsa, to have some sort of social life. During the weekend the cases are put aside, and the player can pursue a romantic storyline with one of the minions. This plays out much like a VN, and is somewhat independent of the case-solving tactical play of the week. While I have never been a big fan of VNs on their own, I didn’t mind it so much here as an addition to the normal game play. I also thought the writing for Black Closet was really good, and the developers have done a nice job of creating unique characters that aren’t complete stereotypes. I also appreciated that players have the option to skip some VN scenes if they have been through them in previous plays of the game.
Players of Black Closet will definitely have to go through the game several times. Yes, the replay factor of seeing the story for each possible romance is compelling, but there is a simpler reason for playing this game many times: you won’t be able to beat it the first time through. Actually, most players won’t be able to beat Black Closet the first few times they play the game, but losing is not so terrible. Part of this game’s appeal is trying to master the techniques and learn how to solve cases in the most effective manner. The game is challenging but also a lot of fun. Hanako has found a great balance with Black Closet, really improving from past releases. Some older games have been fun to play but have been too easy. Others, like Long Live the Queen, have required such precision that there was no enjoyment to be found at all in the game.
Overall, Black Closet is a really solid game that successfully joins tactical, roleplaying, and visual novel elements. Hanako has been making games for a long time and continues to improve its releases. Black Closet is definitely one of their finest games, and once you do get in to this game, it’s hard to walk away from the computer. Too many times I found myself awake far too late promising to quit after just one more case, one more week, or just…one…more…turn.]]>
At its base, Heroes of the Storm follows the same pattern as other MOBAs. Teams of five players, with each player controlling a hero with unique abilities and attributes, battle over a three-lane map, destroying opposing minions, structures, and enemy heroes on their way to annihilating the enemy core. As the game progresses, heroes gain experience and level up, increasing their stats and gaining new skills.
When it comes to neutral camps on the map, Heroes of the Storm has taken a new approach. Instead of the camp granting a buff or gold, a defeated camp will join the side that beat it and enter the nearest lane. Depending on the map there could be siege minions that can attack enemy towers from outside the turret range, brawlers that push the lane, or a boss type monster that is strong enough to change the course of a battle.
While those neutral camps can be important to winning a game, each of the seven different maps (randomly chosen at the start of each battle) has a unique set of objectives that unlocks game-changing rewards for the team that completes them. On one map, the Dragon Shire, teams must control two shrines, one each at the top and bottom of the map. Once both shrines have been capped, one player can transform their hero into a dragon for a few minutes. The dragon has enhanced health, stats, and abilities, and can make a huge push into the enemies’ defenses. On another map, Blackheart’s Bay, players collect gold doubloons from treasure chests, neutral camps, and defeated enemy heroes. Once a team has collected enough doubloons, the pirate ship will unleash several powerful cannon shots that ravage the enemy structures.
The objectives and subsequent rewards on each map should be contested if a team hopes to win the game. On most maps, players must leave their lane for a time to meet the objective requirements, which can cause some temporary strategic imbalances. Perhaps more importantly, though, it creates a game where there is no boring lane phase. Players in Heroes of the Storm don’t sit in a lane hitting minions for 5 minutes waiting for the game to get going.
Unlike other MOBA games, in Heroes of the Storm, there are no individual levels; all heroes on a team level together. This means that while players of higher skill can still make more of a positive influence on a game, no one hero will really end up carrying the game. There is no last hitting, and you don’t have to worry about a particular enemy hero being fed and unmanageable. On the flip side, however, you might end up in a situation where the entire enemy team is fed. Heroes of the Storm is very much a team game, and the side that is better coordinated will come out with an advantage. Once one team gets ahead, comebacks become very difficult, though not impossible.
Another difference from other MOBAs is the distinct lack of items, gold, or purchasable upgrades in game. At the start of the game and at every few levels, players have options on how to advance their hero, and this goes beyond simply picking which skill to upgrade. Maybe you want one of your abilities to do more damage, or have a lower cooldown, or apply a slow if it hits. Maybe you want your character to periodically block attacks, have basic attacks do more damage to enemy heroes, or have basic attacks heal you. Each hero has a set of options, and there are many ways to create different, yet viable versions, of the same hero.
The playable heroes themselves come from the various Blizzard games: Diablo III, World of Warcraft, and Starcraft II. Players can battle as their favorite Blizzard characters including Thrall, Jaina Proudmoore, Kerrigan, Raynor, Tyreal, or even the Lord of Terror, himself. After each game a player will receive experience for their account and for the hero used in the game. As hero levels increase, new abilities are unlocked, and each hero has two epic powers (ultimates) to choose from in-game upon reaching level 4. Further leveling a hero will grant more skin colors, mount options, and various other cosmetic perks.
New heroes can either be purchased outright, with prices ranging from $2.99 to $9.99, or through gold, which is earned by completing games, unlocking rewards, and completing Blizzard’s signature daily quests. A typical daily, worth 200-300 gold, might be “play three games as a Starcraft hero” or “play three games as a support hero.” When a player levels a hero to 5, he or she earns another 500 gold. At the end of each game, a player can expect to earn between 10 and 40 gold, depending on whether the game was won or lost and if it was against humans or AI bots. Heroes cost between 2,000 and 10,000 gold, which is not too unreasonable. As each player has access to a free rotation of heroes each week (the pool gets larger as player level increases), a week of bringing the free heroes to level 5 and completing the dailies will yield around 4,000 gold, not including the rewards a player gets for reaching milestone player levels.
A typical Heroes of the Storm game is fast-paced from the start, and most games last only between 15 and 25 minutes. There is no two minute wait for the game to start once the game loads, and shorter lanes on the maps means battles aren’t quite so drawn out. Quick games also mean players can complete more battles in a gaming session, granting time to experience more heroes and different maps. Shorter games also mean a steadier supply of experience and gold, reducing the grind of character leveling or gold farming. I found the quicker games to be more exciting and enjoyable, and when I got stuck on teams with a feeder, troll, or leaver, at least the game ended mercifully more quickly.
AFKers and leavers are a problem in any MOBA, and Blizzard has taken a new approach to mitigating the pain felt by a team with one less active player. Once the game has discovered a player to be AFK or inactive and warns the offending account in game, that player is booted from the game server. Control of the abandoned hero is then transferred to an AI bot. Of course, AI bots aren’t normally as good as another human player, but it is nice to not have your team down a complete hero. Additionally, AI bots will respond to pings issued by players to help with neutral camps or defend certain areas, something many human players can’t seem to do.
Overall, my experience with the player base has been a positive one. Maybe because the game is new, players are willing to be more forgiving of mistakes, or maybe it’s much easier to accept losing when you’re only spending 15 minutes instead of 35 in a bad game. Perhaps the player base is just friendlier and less belligerent than that of other MOBAs, but I have really enjoyed a distinct lack of negativity in my Heroes of the Storm games. Of course, in the time I’ve spent playing to do this review, I have not quite made it to level 30 to engage in the ranked play, and I cannot comment of the player attitudes in the most competitive form of Heroes of the Storm play, which is a tiered ranked system similar to the one in Hearthstone.
While my overall review of the game is positive, Heroes of the Storm does have some weak points, with the matchmaking system topping that list. In order to help players spend more time playing and less time queuing or drafting, the standard play mode is Quick Match, where players select any hero they have access to and hit the ready button. The system then finds other players and loads a game when ready. Wait times are low, and you don’t have to worry about anyone queue dodging after waiting five minutes in a champion select. Unfortunately, Blizzard’s criteria for making a Quick Match are a little sketchy. While the system does check to ensure heroes aren’t duplicated within a team, there seems to be no regard for finding players of similar account or hero level. There is a check to make sure that there aren’t more than two of each hero type (warrior, assassin, support, specialist) on a team, but that does not seem to be the best solution. A team with two supports, two specialists, and an assassin can be a pretty terrible team, but players have no way of knowing what the other heroes on their team are going to be when they queue up. This can make for some frustrating games, or string of games if you’re particularly unlucky.
Perhaps the most refreshing thing I encountered with Heroes of the Storm was Blizzard’s customer service department. After experiences with other MOBAs’ customer service, where I had to wait days for an email response, I was very impressed that Blizzard has a live help feature. I was able to chat directly with a customer service specialist within one minute of filing my ticket. My tech, the orc Game Master Thrynaine, was very friendly, very patient, and very gracious considering the problem embarrassingly ended up being operator stupidity on my part.
After a few weeks of playing Heroes of the Storm, I can say I’ve finally found a MOBA that can seriously challenges League of Legends. In fact, after playing Heroes of the Storm for a while, I now have trouble enjoying a League of Legends game. The maps are more interesting, the pace is quicker, the players are more positive, and I really get a kick out of watching Nova shoot Diablo in the face. Ultimately, Heroes of the Storm is just as polished, clean, and professional as League of Legends, and it’s also just more fun to play.]]>
This represents just a small sample size of the capabilities of a smart home; the only thing we know for sure is that these capabilities will gradually increase over time as our homes become more embedded with technology. And for those of you concerned about the security of smart homes, just know that these worries are largely exaggerated. Now is the perfect time to invest in the future of your home, and doing that with smart home technology will allow you to leverage what Apple and Android continue to invest in while also letting you raise the value of property, in case you plan to sell house fast in the future and relocate.
If iOS 9 is successful, it will change the way we think of our smart homes, not just the way we interact with them. Our homes become an extension of that which resides in our pocket, a button’s press away from manipulating to your liking. Only the future – and Apple – knows what lies in store for the future of this technology, but it seems like possibilities are limitless. With Siri, Apple could allow the user to control disparate smart home products while also having the ability to target users with ads for smart home products and devices.
If all a dedicated Home app does is simply serve to help set up the disparate devices that connect to HomeKit, it would benefit Apple owners, and potentially be another reason to own an Apple device. Likely, it will set the standard for the competition to come; expect to see Android make moves to match this kind of basic integration with the future standard of technology in the domicile.
After suffering a bit of the ominous paranoia that often follows any long-conversation about ghosts and ghouls—the kind that makes you check behind the shower curtain and take a peek into the closet—you finally get to bed, yet soon wake from a terrifying dream.
It’s then that you get a sense that you’re not alone. You’re certain that someone, or something, has found its way into your apartment.
This is the synopsis for the new indie horror film, “The Visitor.” It’s the debut film from director Ian Kane, author of the “Fading Empires” sci-fi series. It stars emerging Swedish actress and model Sara Hedgren.
Kane says “The Visitor” is a “return to real horror,” as opposed to the “murder porn” that has become too common in the horror genre. It’s the kind of horror, Kane says, “that creeps up on you psychologically, and where things may seem a little off but you just can’t quite put your finger on it.”
“The Visitor” is a homage to the classic horror films of the 70s, he says, but with more of a psychological edge and a Lovecraftian twist.
The short film clocks in at just less than 10 minutes, but Kane uses the time well to present a tale of terror that honestly upstages most of what you’ll find the theaters these days showing with the “horror” label.
“The Visitor” ties into a feature length film that Kane has planned, called “The Black Sigil.” He plans to turn it into a film trilogy that brings that old-fashioned creeping horror found in the works of H.P. Lovecraft and M.R. James.
The trailer doesn’t give too much away, and Kane says this is intentional. Some of the best horror films and novels, after all, play on the fear of the unknown. Kane says, “what you don’t see is much scarier than what you do,” noting that by taking this approach, “when you finally do see who or what the malevolent force is in the film, it has much more impact.”
“The Visitor” will be showing at film festivals in Los Angeles and abroad. You can check its site for screenings.
Right now there are three main contenders for the title of “best virtual reality system”: Google’s Cardboard, Facebook’s Oculus Rift, and Sony’s Project Morpheus. Google’s product, Cardboard, unveiled at the company’s I/O developers conference last year, and improved upon at this year’s conference, is a cardboard apparatus costing a mere $4 that allows anyone to use their smartphone as a fully 3D virtual reality device. Oculus and Morpheus are more technological products, screens that should, when released, be able to be plugged in to video consoles and PCs, affording users an utterly high definition, gaming-focused experience.
As one might imagine, many in the tech industry are looking at these new products hungrily, but why? What sorts of experiences will these headsets offer to users?
The most obvious use of the devices will be gaming. Oculus has already been showcased in tandem with the space exploration adventure title Elite: Dangerous, but the future possibilities of Oculus and others are limitless. We could be able to play casino games of the ilk currently afforded by sites such as Euro Palace, but in a fully rendered, fully explore-able digital casino. Why would you travel to Vegas if you had a near-exact experience sitting in your living room?
But it’s not just gaming that is going to be turned on its head by VR. 360-degree, 3D-camera-equipped drones could give us amazing views of the world around us that currently only those with a helicopter could easily experience. In schools, pupils could be transported to the subjects of their studies, or even back in time, providing a completely engaging teaching experience that would surely enthral any child, bringing the school experience away from boring, bookish teaching and in to the twenty first century. Google’s Cardboard, with its scandalously low price point, combined with the fact that most children and teenagers already own smartphones, means this probably won’t be a development measured in terms of decades, but years.
Virtual reality looks set to change the way in which we learn, relax and entertain ourselves, but what do you think? Is VR the future? Or does the idea of putting on a headset and retreating away from the real world conjure up dystopian images? Tell us your thoughts, below.]]>
Crypt of the Necrodancer has accomplished both. It’s a roguelike with all the permadeth, procedural maps, and unforgiving difficulty you’d expect. But it’s also a game about dance fighting.
The whole game moves to the soundtrack’s beat. Enemies dance around the map, each with their own patterns of movement and attack. You’ll also have to move to the beat, which gives it pace and strategy unlike any roguelike I’ve played.
For comparison, if most roguelikes were like a game chess, Crypt of the Necrodancer would be a game of speed chess. The defined movements of the enemies means that each has a specific strategy needed to defeat them. And by making you to also move to a beat, the game forces you to keep moving, keep making decisions, and often make a stupid move that you wouldn’t have made if you had time to think and strategize.
Now, just being fair, it’s not the first game to pull the “move to the beat of a song” mechanic. The fabled Earthbound 2 used a similar music-based temp for its combat. But by linking enemy and character movement to the beat, the game becomes something of a mix between turn-based and real-time that makes it feel like a very unique strategy game.
Aside from just being unique, Crypt of the Necrodancer is also a very good roguelike. It does everything right.
The combat feels balanced. When you get killed by an enemy, it’s not because the game was unfair. It was because you miscalculated its movement. There are also a large number of enemies, which change both in appearance and dance moves as you advance deeper into the dungeon.
There are a large number of items and weapons, which can significantly change how you approach things. A rapier will let you strike enemies two blocks away, while a broadsword lets you strike horizontally. Other weapons similarly change your attacks. Special boots will let you move uninhibited over obstacles. Different armors change not only your armor rating, but can also change the number of enemies and their health.
And to top it all off, it fixes one of the key shortcomings you’ll find in most roguelikes where the whole “if you die, you start over again” mechanic quickly leads to you doing the same thing over and over again.
In Crypt of the Necrodancer, there’s a hubworld. Here you can unlock new items, new weapons, and new spells. You can pay some of your scavenged jewels to make it so lower-level gear stops appearing. You can train against enemies, skip past levels you’ve already beaten, and so on. You can even unlock new shops in this hubworld by rescuing NPCs in the dungeon.
And last but not least, there are plenty of playable characters you can unlock. And these just aren’t different skins. Each character you unlock brings along a whole new playstyle. Without too many spoliers, one of the first unlocks is a Bomberman-like dude who can only use bombs as weapons.
At its heart Crypt of the Necrodancer is a unique take on a well-loved genre. It’s a fanstastic roguelike in and of itself, but its beat system takes this even further by making it a great strategy game as well.
Crypt of the Necrodancer is available now for $14.99.]]>
Anticipation is at fever pitch thanks to a mountain of incredible source material and a stellar track record, but what evolutions in gameplay can we look forward to in Wild Hunt’s final form?
What To Expect…
Geralt of Rivia, the series’ titular hero, has certainly seen dynamic change between the first two installments of the series. Most apparent was an already beautifully realized universe in The Witcher made even more luscious thanks to three and a half years of graphical development and the introduction of a wholly proprietary engine the developer used in The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. The luster of the game engine shone, receiving numerous awards for best use of technology in a game that year, as well as best graphics in a game. While the gameplay in the first Witcher game was panned by some critics as being clunky, Assassins of Kings added a more fluid combat, spell, and trap system. The system of choices that drove the narrative in the sequel also stood as an improvement, with vast-reaching consequences that impact the endgame and add a huge amount of replay value. Overall, The Witcher 2 stood as a larger, more polished, fine-tuned role-playing world that was an absolute stunner of a video game to look at.
The narrative arc follows the titular Witcher, a specially trained and genetically-enhanced human with unique powers, as one of the last of his kind. The story in Witcher 1 sees Geralt choosing to fight with three different sides: the Scoia’tael, or the Squirrels, consist of freedom-fighters of who are also Elves that engage in guerrilla tactics; the Order of the Flaming Rose, a group of knights who are tasked with protecting the country of Temeria; or choosing the middle path and allying with neither group, a path that is considered to be maintaining Witcher neutrality. Throughout the course of his journey, he encounters other Witchers, evil mages, and even plays a crucial role in deciding the fate of a civil war.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings continued its immersive thread set in the dark, medieval fantastical land of Temeria, with as much emphasis placed on decision-making and allying with groups as its predecessor. In fact, the decisions feel more impactful and far-reaching than the first by the time the climax of the narrative is reached, which is a major accomplishment in its own rite. Many moral paths does he encounter that are not black and white by nature, and mature themes emerge where more impactful decision-making is visited upon by the player. In the third iteration, players can expect to adventure through a main story with no shortage of sidequests in a setting that is supposedly 30 times larger than other Witcher games. With a world rumored to be 20% larger than those set in Skyrim’s own massive landscape, travel throughout the continent of the Northern Kingdoms is assisted by things like sailboat, horseback and fast travel.
A Bigger Landscape, A Bigger Community
And that’s contributing to a much wider community. We’re seeing huge communities growing online right now everywhere from Witcher, to World of Warcraft, to even online poker which has grown rapidly over the past decade. And they’re becoming more important and part of the gaming experience than ever before.
For the likes of Witcher, a bigger landscape will bring more and more gamers into the community. In fact, you only have to look at Twitch.tv and the vast amounts of players streaming the game on there to see how popular it is already.
We’re seeing major communities in gaming spaces like Twitch.tv. As mentioned, the likes of World of Warcraft have tons of people streaming their game, whilst even in the online poker realms, which Witcher 3 is getting involved with in their minigames, has really seen a huge take off thanks to Twitch, so much so that it’s actually making celebrities out of players. Jaime Staples a Twitch streaming poker player has just become a ‘Friend of PokerStars’, and the same could happen with The Witcher should the new, enlarged universe really get players excited, transforming some of the best players into industry celebrities.
It’s our way of connecting with people right across the globe, and in particular when it comes to role-playing games, it’s a market which will continue to skyrocket.
Tens and tens of thousands of players already love the game, with it growing quite the cult following, and we can expect that to perhaps even challenge the levels of WoW, should CD Projekt RED follow through on it being 30 times larger than previous games.
Which will be added further with The Witcher 3 continuing this trend of improved gameplay mechanics and convincing story while it adds another four years of ever-evolving graphical enhancements to this luscious digital world. Seriously, you have to feast your eyes to believe the mapping and lighting effects going on. There is so much graphical love crammed into every nook and cranny in this game: the stunning conceptual design and artwork is truly brought to life. The fact that it is a seamless, open-world game puts this on a very short list as far as being a technological masterpiece, on par with the recently-debuted, jaw-dropping PC version of Grand Theft Auto 5. Expect to invest some 100 hours into the game if you want to explore all the content it has on offer, a good 50% of which is sidequests.
More Minigames To Come…
The last installment in the series featured several minigames like arm-wrestling, arena matches where you can fight waves of enemies, fist-fighting and even a gambling game called dice-poker.
Reflecting the trend of gambling minigames within games and gambling online with the rise in popularity of online casinos, CD Project Red has instituted a far more robust version of dice-poker in The Witcher 3. It’s called Gwent, and it draws from the likes of Magic: The Gathering and more recently from Blizzard’s now iconic card game, Hearthstone. This digital version of table-top card-dueling features 150 cards with four different classes. With such a robust system that expands on what some players panned as a somewhat pedestrian form of gambling in the last game, can we expect to see some form of online, head-to-head gambling system with players’ customized decks sparring for in-game riches and glory?
Thus far, the developer has remained rather mum on this issue, but one expects there to be a community for this kind of thing. Regardless, there’s a ton of potential here for what figures to be an initially simple game with lots of complexity to be an addictive game within the game.
Geralt’s New Skills
Geralt gains new abilities, too, following the trend of the series: in addition to the aforementioned horseplay and sailing (including fighting in both of these scenarios), expect him to engage in combat fluidly switching between melee (using an interchangeable set of steel swords for natural and silver swords for unnatural enemies, respectively), spell, and trap mechanics. This time, more movement options are granted thanks to the revamped engine, which harkens to the satisfying open-world freedom of interaction with the environment a la the Assassin’s Creed and Unchartered series. Expect there to be an emphasis placed on various aspects of stealth gameplay as well as hunting and pursuing enemies through the dynamic day and night system, even going underwater with a new swimming ability.
Additionally, players now have even more weapons at their disposal with abilities like the use of a crossbow, the original crafting system still intact for brewing up goods, and all new spells (called signs in the universe) to tinker with. For the first time, a second playable character will be available this time around, another melee master with supernatural powers named Ciri. Players can expect to slay a multitude of enemies in human, non-human and monster form, each dynamically affected by the day/night system: one example the developer offers is how fighting a werewolf will change the enemies depending on the time of day.
Witcher On The Way
No doubt about it, The Witcher 3 is poised to be one of the year’s biggest releases and a near lock for a game of the year candidate. The Polish developer has even garnered praise from the likes of their Prime Minister and President Obama, who gave it to the POTUS as a diplomatic gift. If that doesn’t merit some head-turning press for the company’s next outing, nothing will. Look forward to being immersed in many, many hours in the life of a Witcheronce the game ships in T-minus four weeks.]]>
Snake was one of those cheap games that was often included on your computer right alongside Minesweep and Solitaire. As its name suggests, in Snake you played as a snake. But this snake had problems… serious problems. This snake had to continually eat any pixel that appeared on-screen, and every time it ate a pixel, it grew in length by another pixel.
The whole instant growth thing may have been easy to deal with if it wasn’t for the fact that any time the snake encountered its body, well, it just had to start eating itself. If you collided with your body, it was game over (man).
Pix the Cat delightfully picks up this concept. Only, instead of being a snake that creepily grows and eventually kills itself, you play as a cat that just feels like hatching chickens and leading them to safety.
Here’s a video of someone playing Snake:
And here’s a video of Pix the Cat with its newfangled soundtrack and fancy graphics:
In Pix the Cat, there are two basic elements on each map: eggs and targets. If you run over the eggs, they hatch into chicks which then follow you in however long of a trail you create through your addiction to egg-hatching. You’ll then need to run over the targets, which will evacuate the chicks from the freaky techno-party-land you’re in.
The game is based on speed. As you liberate chicks, the cat you play as will move faster. If you rescue a ton of chicks, you’ll start to get speed bonuses, the color of everything changes, and the game will get progressively more difficult. And there are a few things that will break this rhythm, with one of the biggest being that as your trail of chicks grows longer, you’ll have a harder time not crashing into them, and that will eliminate the whole line. The beat dies down, and you’ll need to shamefully walk to the next area.
Pix the Cat also has a great puzzle element to it. As you enter each level, you’re presented with a challenge to find the quickest route to hatching all the eggs, and making it to all the targets without crashing into the trail of chicks you’ll form. If you hit a target before you have all the eggs, then the remaining eggs will crack and you’ll get fewer points.
One cool factor in the game is that levels are built inside each-other. When you clear a map, a portal to the next area opens up, and you’ll get sucked into a miniaturized world-within-a-world. Sometimes multiple portals open to the next world, and you’ll at times need to strategically move in and out of these dimensional vortexes to find the quickest route possible.
All around, Pix the Cat is a casual game that’s nice for a quick run. A full run can be completed in just a few minutes, and if you get enough points in the allotted time, you’ll be rewarded with new maps, new game modes, and new features which differ enough to keep you coming back.
Pix the Cat isn’t something you’d want to sit around and play for hours at a time, but it’s nice if you have a 10-minute break. The game has enough strategy to keep itself interesting, enough challenge to keep you wanting to go back and beat your previous scores, and enough unlocks to keep you trying out its new features.
Pix the Cat is available for PC, Apple, and and Linux. It’s on Steam for $9.99.
If nothing else, the mere fact that The Witcher Adventure Game is set in The Witcher universe should be enough to draw in plenty of players—and despite its very different presentation from other Witcher games, it manages to capture the same feel.
What caught me about The Witcher Adventure Game is that every round plays out like a story being written. At the beginning of each round, each player is presented with a choice of main quests. These can range from quests to travel to a certain town and kill a certain monster, to finding a wounded NPC on the road and guiding them safety to a set location. In addition to the Main Quest, however, each player has sub-quests, and as you go about completing these quests, the stories and actions of each player will alter the game world and affect all players.
As the game goes on, powerful monsters will rise. Plagues may begin their spread. Some players may become injured and need to rest. In other words, as you play, the world of The Witcher comes to life, and it grows in depth as each round ends.
The game can be played offline against the computer, or online against other players. You can also choose about how long you’d like to play for (which is a great feature). You can choose between a 10-20 minute game, a 40-70 minute game, or a 90-120 minute game.
At the start of each match, you’ll also select your character. You can play as either Geralt the Witcher, Dandelion the bard, Triss Merigold the sorceress, or Yarpen Zigrin the dwarven warrior.
Each of the four characters plays differently and has their own unique abilities and deck of cards, and even with each character you can use different approaches within their niche. Geralt, for example, is more combat oriented and players can choose to take his path with either his use of elixers (which can help in combat) or with his Witcher signs (basically magic abilities).
Dandelion’s path is one around charm, which means bribing people or calling on friends for help. Triss uses magic and diplomacy. Yarpen has a fellowship of dwarves behind him.
The game will have you hunting monsters, taking on and completing quests, earning gold, and interacting with different characters in the world. And actions don’t just work within the cards and NPCs either. Players can also help each other along the way.
The game has a surprising amount of depth, but does this with surprising simplicity and with a pleasantly clean interface. It also has 10 tutorial videos built in, each of reasonable length (from around 30 seconds to 3 minutes), that explain the gameplay well and thoroughly.
Every playthrough feels different. Every character you play as brings along their own unique style of gameplay. And all around, these give The Witcher Adventure Game both a great deal of replay value and a sense that you’re actually roleplaying your character.
In more technical terms, the game is also wonderfully presented. It has a hand-drawn look, combined with 3D enemies and player pieces. Animated clouds hang over mountains in the snowy north, cities pop up when you zoom in, and the dice and game pieces do well to emulate the sense you’re playing a boardgame with friends.
The music is also done very well—on par with the atmosphere and quality in The Witcher 2.
I highly recommend The Witcher Adventure Game, and you’ll have plenty of options when it comes to platforms. I did find it took a long time for the game to locate other players for multiplayer, but I had a blast with single player. The game is available for PC, Mac, iOS, Android, and Windows tablets. It goes for $9.99.
The DLC gives players control over units of Dark Angel Deathwings. It includes over 25 hours of new content, with 20 story missions, 20 flash missions, a new Space Hulk, and a full story-based campaign written by Graeme Lyon from Black Library. It focuses on a Tyranid attack on the planet Corinthe.
It also b rings Plasma Cannons, which shoot huge fireballs with splash damage, and a new Apothecary class that supports defensive play styles by bolstering the resolve of nearby Terminators.
“Dark Angels have been at the top of the community’s most wanted list since we launched Ascension, so we wanted to do something really special for their Space Hulk debut,” said Thomas Hentschel Lund, CEO of Full Control, in a press release. “The Dark Angels introduce two awesome unique traits – the Plasma Cannon and an all new Apothecary class.”]]>
During the study, researchers at the University of Oxford watched how playing video games for different amounts of time affected the social and academic behaviors of children. Their findings are published in the Psychology of Popular Media Culture journal.
Apparently playing video games for more than three hours a day made the kids more likely to be hyperactive, get into fights, and become less interested in school.
Interestingly, they said these factors didn’t seem to change much with the types of video games the kids were playing. So kids who played violent games didn’t seem to be any more violent or less attentive than the kids playing non-violent games.
They also found that playing video games for less than an hour a day may actually have some benefits.
The lead author of the study, Dr. Andy Przybylski, from Oxford University’s Oxford Internet Institute, acknowledged the findings aren’t definite.
He said in a press release, “A range of other factors in a child’s life will influence their behavior more as this research suggests that playing electronic games may be a statistically significant but minor factor in how children progress academically or in their emotional wellbeing.”
But the study does have some key takeaways. Some parents might think strategy or puzzzle games will help kids boost their grades. If the study is correct, the kids may actually be better off playing more competitive games (although co-op seems the way to go).
“Children who played video games with a cooperative and competitive element had significantly fewer emotional problems or problems with peers,” the press release says. “Children who chose to play solitary games were found to do well academically and displayed fewer emotional problems or get involved in fights.”
The study was conducted on individual students, aged 12 to 13, at a school in southeast England. The kids told the researchers how often and how long they play games, as well as the types of games. Assessments of each student’s behavior came from the teachers.
Co-author of the report, Allison Mishkin, said in the release, “these results highlight that playing video games may just be another style of play that children engage with in the digital age, with the benefits felt from the act of playing rather than the medium itself being the significant factor.”]]>