Tag Archives: expansion

The Messenger’s New Island DLC Is A Perfect Substitute For A Day At The Beach

Image: Sabotage Studio

It’s already mid-July, and I still haven’t made it to the beach. Maybe you haven’t either. The Messenger’s free Picnic Panic expansion can fix that.

You won’t actually hear seafoam waves crashing along the shore or feel the grainy piles of hot sand beneath your feet, but Picnic Panic’s bright colors, catchy new chiptune-inspired melodies, and occasional ninja surfing offer a similarly chill and breezy seasonal escape. If you’ve already played and beaten The Messenger, then the new DLC, which is out today on PS4, Switch, and PC, will make it worth revisiting. If, on the other hand, you somehow missed out on one of 2018’s best retro-infused indie action platformers, there’s no better time dip your toe in the water.

Set after the events of the main game, Picnic Panic sees the titular Messenger journey to an entirely new island called Voodkin to deal with a new mess stirred up by the demon general Barma’thazël. Though the story underlying the new DLC is paper-thin, that doesn’t really matter. The ninja parkour, boss fights, and challenging collectibles are all back, and they’re as satisfying as ever. Time traveling portals return as well, and while the three levels that make up the new content aren’t as complex as their predecessors, there’s still enough backtracking and platforming puzzles to keep Picnic Panic feeling more on the Metroidvania-side of things (sorry, Josh) than just linear Ninja Gaiden-based side-scrolling.

Screenshot: Sabotage Studio (The Messenger)

In addition to providing new paths to unlock, the DLC also offers more of the game’s most dazzling visual transformations in the form of a swap from an 8-bit-inspired present to a 16-bit-looking future, which happens every time the Messenger time travels. Going from vibrant seascapes to apocalyptic thunderstorms also helps mix up the levels and keeps the extended sections of backtracking from feeling tedious. Like taking a dip in the ocean to cool off before retreating back under the beach umbrella, each time jump refreshes the experience, making up for when certain enemy types overstay their welcome or a familiar configuration of spikes emerges for the 10th time.

For veterans of the main campaign, it’s worth noting that there are no new abilities or upgrades to discover. Picnic Panic is meant to be tackled with the full arsenal of ninja tricks and gadgets, and in that respect, it’s more like new game plus territory. By that same token, anyone who hasn’t seen the credits roll yet will have to do so before they can get into the DLC. While that might be frustrating for some who are eager to dive into what Picnic Panic has to offer, which also includes a Battletoads-esque surfing level, it has allowed the developers at Sabotage Studio to throw fights and challenges at the player that creatively draw on all of the Messenger’s skills.

GIF: Devolver Digital (The Messenger)

In the first boss fight against a giant magical totem pole, each segment breaks apart to throw out fireballs, lightning blasts, and whirlwinds, all while you try to navigate bottomless pits and spikes. The pieces themselves also provide the stepping stones to get to the head, which is the only part of the boss that’s vulnerable. Getting up the steps requires you to cloudstep (a double-jump initiated by either striking an enemy or getting hit), use the grapple hook, and then wingsuit your way through danger to get into position. It’s an excellent reminder of what Sabotage does so well, and also why The Messenger doesn’t just feel like another visually charming retro homage.

Every puzzle and fight in the game builds on mini-lessons learned along the way, until the final obstacle requires all of them to be creatively synthesized into an elegant strategy that never fails. Unlike some NES and SNES games that can be brutal just for the hell of it, The Messenger telegraphs solutions to all of its challenges, giving you just enough information to figure out what you need to do next to beat a boss or cloudstep through a labyrinth of death to get that final collectible. That design principle is present and assiduously implemented in Picnic Panic as well.

At around five hours long with a few collectibles still to go after, it’s exactly the kind of expansion I needed right now: challenging enough to keep me on my toes, but not so difficult or long that it felt like I was going back to complete unfinished work. I now wish more of my favorite indie games would send their heroes on tropical vacations.

Source: Kotaku.com

Final Fantasy XIV Shadowbringers Log Three: All Pros, No Cons

It’s ridiculous. Every time I log in to work my way through Final Fantasy XIV’s latest expansion, I find more things to gush over. Rather than spam my Twitter followers with GIFs and references to Shadowbringers, I’m using the third leg of my journey towards a full review to get all the goodness thus far out of my system.

Having converted to the new Dancer job, which I love, and changing my character from a cat person to a bunny-like Viera, the new player race that’s slowly growing on me, I’ve spent the past week diving deep into the continuing story of Final Fantasy XIV. Shadowbringers takes the player’s level 70 hero and transports them to a whole new world where they’ve got ten more levels of heroism to do. I’m currently at level 77 out of 80, having performed many heroic feats such as defeating massive beasts and finding a nice pair of goggles for my character to wear.

While I will do my best to avoid spoiling major plot points, there will be images and events in this log that could spoil elements of Shadowbringers’ story. Here is a warning so I don’t feel too bad about it.

Spoiler warning received? Excellent. Here are the good things so far.

The Story

Final Fantasy XIV is very good at storytelling. Maybe not the first 20 levels or so, while the player is being introduced to basic information like Eorzean geography and who the bad guys are. It takes time for the full story to unfurl, for lovable characters to be loved and hateable characters to be despised. But once a player starts approaching level 50, the game’s original level cap, they’re fully committed to their role as the game world’s greatest hero, the Warrior of Light. By the time they’ve caught up to where Shadowbringers begins, the level 70 hero has saved the world multiple times and freed two countries from the grip of the evil Garlean Empire.

Then, just as players are beginning to learn of the connections between the Garleans and an ancient race of chaos bringers called Ascians, who’ve been plaguing characters since the game’s 2013 launch, the Warrior of Light is transported to a different world with a whole new set of problems. Called The First, it’s a planet that’s on the brink of being engulfed by the power of light. With all but a few landmasses wiped out of existence by a surging flood of light, the regions that remain haven’t seen the night sky in over a century. Mindless creatures called sin eaters roam the land, driven by a ravenous hunger for the ether within living bodies. This is what happens when the balance between light and dark tips dangerously in light’s favor.

It’s an outstanding stage for a Final Fantasy adventure. Players travel The First’s different regions to restore the balance by taking out massive boss Sin Eaters called Lightwardens. Were a normal person to kill a Lightwarden, they would take on the light and become one themselves, but the player’s character possesses the ability to absorb and contain the light. When a player kills a Lightwarden, it stays dead, and the day/night cycle is restored. Hooray!

As awesome as those massive battles are, they aren’t the best part of the story. There are plenty of dramatic story beats, narrative twists and turns that will certainly catch seasoned players off-guard, but it’s not those either. It’s learning about the little people living in The First’s remote towns and villages. How they’ve dealt with never-ending light. Where they find comfort and succor in the face of their world’s impending doom. How they react when the light goes off and, for the first time in their lives, they gaze upon the sunless sea of the night sky.

I’m getting goosebumps thinking about it. Best move on, so I can go back to finishing up the story.

The Horror And Sadness

How do I explain the moments of heart-breaking sorrow and stomach-dropping feelings of terror and disgust evoked by Shadowbringers’ story without mentioning specific events? This expansion does not shy away from endearing players to a person, place or thing and then stripping it away in the blink of an eye. Nor does it flinch at taking an already dystopian society and dialing the suffering and injustice up to “oh god, I think I’m going to be sick.”

(Hello from Final Fantasy XIV’s version of Rapture/Columbia)

Hrm, I think I just did.

Old Friends, New Looks

Over the past six years of Final Fantasy XIV, players have made many non-player character friends. Particularly members of the Scions of the Seventh Dawn, a group of powerful heroes to which the player has belonged since very early in the game’s initial story. Fortunately for players, the entity responsible for their being transported to The First was a lousy shot and managed to bring over a good number of Scions before bagging the Warrior of Light. And since time conveniently runs differently between the player’s homeworld and The First, the Scions have been wandering about the new world for upwards of three years. The most important implication here is that each of the NPCs gets a makeover.

It’s nice to see old characters in new clothes. Sometimes very nice. For example, here is the quixotic elven sage Urangier before Shadowbriingers.

And here is Urangier as he appears in Shadowbringers, having switch job class to Astrologer and become everyone’s elven daddy.

This entire section was mainly an excuse to drool over Urangier’s makeover. It’s a very good thing.

The Visuals

Final Fantasy XIV looks good. It’s always looked good, and it continues to look good. But there’s something about the art direction in Shadowbringers that feels a step above older content. Take the GIF that tops this post, for example.

The framing, the textures—it’s such a wonderful moment, I had to grab it and save it. In the game, it’s just a few seconds of incidental animation during a much longer cutscene, but it stole my breath.

Here are a few more of my favorite images, presented without context.

So good.

This Song

Imagine riding along in your favorite online game, grooving to the orchestral soundtrack. You cross the line into a brand new area, and hear this.

via Mekkah Dee  

The song is called “Civilizations,” and it is everything. The chanting, the vocalizing, the woodwinds, and the beat come together into something magical. The expansion’s soundtrack is filled with music that stops me in my tracks whenever I hear it. “Civilizations” is just one example.

And This Other Song

This is another example. It’s the new battle music. This plays when players fight random creatures wandering the lands of The First.

via The Foodie Geek

That’s metal guitar and some operatic singing. That’s music to kill by.

The Strip Club

This one’s for the role-players in the audience. Atop the tower town of Eulmore, there is an establishment called the Beehive, where the upper crust go to enjoy the fine art of pole dancing.

It’s not as classy as some of the game’s player-run brothels, perhaps, but it has a certain purple charm. It’s sure to be a go-to location for roleplay of a more risque nature. Or maybe that’s just me.

Things I’ve Already Covered

Some things about the Shadowbringers expansion are so good they got their own posts. These include:

I’ve not found a lot to complain about in Final Fantasy XIV’s Shadowbringers expansion. The new races, rabbity Viera and lion-like Hrothgar, feel a bit tacked on, which I’ve covered. Login queues are in effect, but not particularly obnoxious. On my home server of Goblin I’ve normally got between 20 and 40 players waiting to log in ahead of me, and the wait is only a couple minutes. Oh, the new Gunbreaker job class has led to a lot of people dressing up as Squall from Final Fantasy VIII, standing around and trying to look cool with their fancy gunblades. That’s bad, right?

Look, I still have three levels and a chunk of story to work through before I reach the end of the expansion’s initial content. Surely I’ll find more to not like by then. Wish me luck.

Source: Kotaku.com

Ship-To-Ship Combat And Everything Else Shown At Warframe’s Fan Conference

Changes to quest structure and enemy behavior, ship-to-ship space combat, and a new, sprawling open-world area are just a few of the things coming to Warframe later this year and beyond.

Digital Extremes shared some new information and a bunch of trailers for the updates they’re working on at this year’s TennoCon held over the weekend in London. At the top of the list is the Empyrean expansion, first teased at last year’s conference, which will let players team up to control combat spaceships in a new type of mission. The studio went into detail about what Empyrean will entail with a new 44-minute demo.

The video shows three players in a customizable battleship called a Railjack setting off to explore the solar system in search of aliens to kill and loot to grab. While onboard, each player can help manage the ship’s shields, weapon systems, and special tools like EMP blasts. They can also disembark and get inside their Archwings, exosuits for flying through space that have traditionally been confined to a particular set of missions, to head out and board enemy ships. In the trailer, it’s reminiscent of Assassin’s Creed’s naval combat, but if the enemy ships housed mini-dungeons.

Digital Extremes says Empyrean will also have a new type of quest built around a feature called Squad Link. According to the studio, Squad Link will coordinate missions between different squads of players in different parts of the map. One group of players might pursue an enemy Railjack that’s protected by a powerful shield, while another group on the surface of a nearby planet then gets a distress call with the location of a limited-time objective to destroy the power generator for that ship’s shields. The expansion is also supposed to have overhauled graphics and updated enemy AI to make battles more dynamic.

There’s also a batch of smaller updates headed to game:

  • A new introductory quest that ties into the game’s new opening cinematic.
  • Duviri Paradox, Warframe’s third open-world area. Based on the trailer, it may be more sinister and surreal than the current ones.
  • The New War, the next chapter in the game’s cinematic narrative quest line. Information is scant, but the trailer is pretty.
  • “Nightwave Series 2: The Emissary,” the game’s next season of weekly challenges and rewards that’s based around a mysterious child who can cure the infested (currently live on all platforms).
  • Wukong Prime, the enhanced version of the original Wukong suit. It comes complete with a crossbow, nunchaku, and looks that can kill (also currently live on all platforms).

While the studio’s announcements were light on release dates, Warframe’s future continues to look bright despite the game originally coming out six years ago.

Source: Kotaku.com

Upcoming Hearthstone Expansion Will Bring Fresh Mechanics And Resurrect Some Classics

New expansion season has rolled around yet again for Hearthstone. With the “Saviors of Uldum” set, coming August 6, Blizzard’s digital card game is bringing game-changing area-of-effect spells, minions that resummon after dying, and powerful Quest cards that offer a new Hero Power once certain requirements are met.

The “Saviors of Uldum” set calls back to Hearthstone’s “League of Explorers,” which launched in 2015 and included a wide range of fan-favorite cards like Reno Jackson, Elise Starseeker, and Sir Finley Mrrgglton. As of now, those characters don’t have new cards of their own, but they’re being used to frame the expansion’s story, which sees the League of Explorers facing off against the League of E.V.I.L., the same group of villains that starred in Hearthstone’s most recent “Rise of Shadows” expansion.

The cards themselves are looking pretty powerful from a mechanics standpoint, with Blizzard introducing three key features that will define a good chunk of the new set:

  • Reborn is a new mechanic that behaves similar to Hearthstone’s classic Deathrattle mechanic, but instead of triggering a specific effect upon death, Reborn minions will resurrect with 1 remaining Health after they’re destroyed the first time. So far, Blizzard has introduced a 4-Mana Warrior minion with 3 Health and 2 Attack called Restless Mummy, which has Rush and Reborn. When summoned, the card can attack a minion, resurrect, and attack again, allowing for 6 board damage in a single turn—a solid tempo swing. Compared with a minion like Militia Commander, a 4-Mana Rush minion that’s super-popular even though it can only deal 5 damage to a single minion on the turn it’s played, Restless Mummy looks to have a lot of potential.
  • Plagues are powerful AoE spells that can be used by Priest, Shaman, Warrior, Warlock, and Rogue. Similar to cards like Hellfire, Psychic Scream, and Twisting Nether, these spells affect every minion on the board, so they’ll typically work best when one player has a distinct advantage. The Priest card “Plague of Death” is a 9-mana AoE spell that may be one of the most powerful ones ever printed, as it silences and kills all minions on the board.
  • Quest cards, which provide powerful effects when the player meets certain criteria in a game, were introduced with 2017’s “Journey to Un’goro” set and will return in “Saviors of Uldum.” Unlike those quests, however, the new ones offer new Hero Powers upon quest completion. So far, the Druid Quest that has been revealed doesn’t seem to have a massive effect with the cards that are currently in the game, as it doubles up the effects of Druid “Choose One” cards, which players don’t currently tend to run regularly.

Source: Kotaku.com

Greed Is Good In Gwent’s New Novigrad Expansion

Image: CD Projekt Red (Gwent)

Gwent’s latest expansion, Novigrad, launched on Friday, and I’ve been playing almost nonstop since. After months away from the Witcher 3-inspired card game, I’ve fallen for Gwent all over again. The Novigrad expansion adds a new theme and mechanics that draw on what I love about the source material, and it also helps the game grow in important ways.

In The Witcher 3, the free city of Novigrad is a seaside metropolis ruled by a loose confederation of shady merchants and cutthroats. The Gwent expansion draws on similar elements by introducing the game’s first ever new faction: Syndicate. Made up of smugglers, pirates, witch hunters, and various gang leaders, much of the set revolves around earning gold and spending it to assassinate your rivals. While simple in theory, this dynamic opens up exciting new possibilities.

Take the card Witch Hunter Executioner, for example. It has Profit 2, which means players earn two coins when they play it. It also has “Fee 1: Gives Bleeding to a unit for one turn,” which means once the card is on the board players can spend one coin to activate the ability. When a card suffers from Bleed, a mechanic introduced in the previous Crimson Curse expansion, it takes one damage at the end of its owner’s turn. With Witch Hunter Executioner a nice thing to be able to use bleed whenever you want.

If a card targeted by Witch Hunter Executioner’s ability has a Bounty on it, the bleed damage is done immediately, which is even better. In addition, when a card with a Bounty on it is killed, the player who killed it gets coins equal to its base power. Enter Witch Hunter, a Syndicate card that places a Bounty on another card when it’s played. Together, the two cards offer up a vicious cycle, with each Bounty paying for the next kill.

Other cards like Caleb Menge, which allows you to spend three coins to place a Bounty, push this chemistry even further when combined with Ewald Borsodi, whose ability deals two damage in exchange for two coins. There aren’t any free lunches, even in Novigrad, and the money does run out eventually, but crime cards like Swindle, which adds between four and six extra coins to your coffer, and leader cards like The King of Beggars, which grants you up to six extra coins during a match, can greatly extend the life of the party.

One of the most popular deck archetypes at the moment is based around precisely this strategy, with The King of Beggars bankrolling the removal of just about whatever an opponent can throw at you. I’ve been playing with a version put together by professional Gwent player FreddyBabes, and it’s taken me on a dozen game winning streak. The synergies are so strong at the moment that CD Projeckt Red has already announced a hotfix to address balance issues coming later this week. Ten Syndicate cards will be affected, though the studio hasn’t yet revealed which ones will take the hit.

Even if their potency is reduced, the underlying strategies at play are still fun to navigate. When Gwent’s open beta began in early 2017, it felt like a fantasy version of a traditional playing card game, with lots of bluffing and passive watching as effects resolved automatically based on the order you put your cards down in. When Gwent left beta last fall, it dramatically changed, simplifying the game board and adding animated characters while also introducing new card mechanics. It wasn’t the game I’d grown to love anymore, and as a result I fell off it for a while.

Several months later, it feels like Gwent has finally grown into its new identity as a more interactive card game like Hearthstone or Magic: The Gathering. Though its rules and layout still distinguish it from those games, the Novigrad expansion adds a new layer of strategy that lives up to all of the other business going on on screen. Individual cards feel more like their source material namesakes rather than just tokens passively representing them, while the interplay between the game’s new mechanics offers as much lively complexity as the fictional city they draw from. 

Source: Kotaku.com

Final Fantasy XIV Shadowbringers Log One: There’s A Dancer In My Bunny

Final Fantasy XIV Shadowbringers launched in early access this morning, and as it is with every FFXIV expansion, players are of two minds. Half are flooding into the expansion’s new area, The First, eager to begin their journey as the Warrior of Darkness. I’m with the other half, a rolling horde of Gunblades and Dancers, rapidly levelling the expansion’s two new job roles before tackling the new lands.

After a couple of years as a Miqo’te (kitty person) Red Mage, my character, Clan Destine, is reborn once more. My first stop after launching Final Fantasy XIV this expansion morning was the city of Limsa Lominsa, the starting point for the quest to become a Dancer. Unable to handle the pressure and responsibility of tanking as a Gunblade, I opted to stick with my specialty—causing damage from afar. The Dancer is a job that mixes buffing party members with ranged combat using circular, Xena-esque throwing blades. Becoming a Dancer is as simple as watching a cutscene and saying yes to a revealing gold and maroon dress.

Along with two new jobs, Shadowbringers adds two new playable races to Final Fantasy XIV, the rabbit-like Viera and the powerful lion-like Hrothgar. Both races are gender-locked, meaning Viera can only be female and Hrothgar can only be male. This bothers me, but I spent the $10 in the Square Enix online store for a potion to change my race, and it would be a pity for it to go to waste.

Behold, my new bunny Dancer. Note the she isn’t wearing the hat she was before I changed her race. That’s because the two new races don’t have headgear modeled for them yet. Every other race in the game can wear whatever on their head, but it was too complicated to do all that for a pair of rabbit ears. That’s ridiculous. I mean, they could have at least made the hat for the new job fit, right? Bah.

Rather than starting over at level one, like some of the other classes, Dancer and Gunblades start at level 60. Unlocking a whole new job at such a high level is daunting. When playing a job from level one, players slowly unlock new abilities. New skills unlock gradually, giving players a much greater sense of how everything comes together than, say, dumping more than 20 fresh skills into a group of hotbars and letting them have at it.

From what I have figured out through playing a couple hours and running through a short tutorial battle, Dancer combat has two phases. First there’s the actual dancing. That starts by hitting the “Standard Step” skill. There are (initially) four additional dance skills that activate at random once the Standard Step is pressed. This mid-steps amplify the effects of the dance. The “Standard Finish” ability ends the dance, doing damage to the player’s enemies and a 60-second damage-increasing buff to the player and their chosen partner. A partner is a party member designated as the recipient of the Dancer’s buffs using a skill called “Closed Position.”

In between dances, which each have a 30-second cooldown, the Dancer uses combat skills to do damage from afar. There is a chain of combat skills for single opponents and one for groups of mobs. It seems pretty clear cut, but I might be missing some nuance. There are some utility skills I’ve not used yet, like a group shield and group buff, and there’s a nifty dash the Dancer can do to maneuver out of danger quickly. I need to get some more dungeon time in, but for now I’m cautiously pleased with my leaping lapin.

As I said, Dancers start at 60. The new story content for the expansion starts at level 70, leading players to the new level cap of 80. That means in order to enjoy the new content as one of the two new jobs, players have to grind 10 levels. The best way to do that looks like this.

Some of the fastest experience point gain in Final Fantasy XIV, outside of running random dungeons, is participating in FATEs (Full Active Time Events). These are special events that pop up across adventuring zones at regular intervals, requiring large groups of players to complete and rewarding large amounts of experience points. Players can form parties and travel from one FATE to the next.

In situations when a substantial fraction of the game’s player base finds themselves at level 60 needing to make to level 70 as fast as possible, the organized chaos is gorgeous. Enemies spawn in massive waves only to be rapidly wiped out in a hail of special effects. Pulling the camera back a bit reveals it’s not quite as hectic as it seems.

But where is the fun in that? Look how beautiful this mess gets.

That’s where I am as I embark on my Shadowbringers adventure. Or that’s where I was before I disconnected and tried to get back on and started getting lobby connection errors. I managed to make it halfway to level 62 in my rolling mob of Dancers and Gunblades. I’m sure it’ll still be there when I get back on.

Source: Kotaku.com

The Division 2 Is Going Back To New York City

E3 2019It’s time for the biggest gaming show of the year. We’ve got articles, videos, podcasts and maybe even a GIF or two.  

Just when we thought we were done scouring the streets of NYC, The Division 2 drags us back in. While the first and second episode updates for The Division 2 take players to the National Zoo and the Pentagon, the third episode brings players back to the big apple.

Due out in early 2020, The Division 2‘s episode three sends players on a manhunt that will take them back to the setting of the first game. The cinematic trailer below shows characters traipsing towards the main city from Coney Island.

Other The Division 2 news announced during Ubisoft’s E3 2019 press conference includes the game’s second raid, due out this fall. Sounds like there’s a whole lot of world saving left to do. 

Source: Kotaku.com

Hearthstone’s Latest Single-Player Addition Isn’t Free, But It Might Be The Best

With every new Hearthstone expansion, Blizzard makes a habit of releasing free single-player content, mostly as an added draw to bring players back to the fold. In the past, this took the form of grindy deck-building roguelikes and interesting puzzle packs, but the latest expansion, Rise of Shadows, has switched the routine up a bit. The newest Solo Adventure, dubbed The Dalaran Heist, is the first to carry a price tag since 2016’s One Night in Karazhan. It’s also the game’s most robust package of single-player content to date.

Having spent a handful of hours with The Dalaran Heist since its release yesterday, there’s a lot about the expansion that feels familiar compared to past roguelike Hearthstone content like Dungeon Runs and Monster Hunts. You pick a class, then fight a series of bosses and try to survive all eight of them while amassing as broken and versatile a deck as you possibly can.

A few differences really stand out. For starters, there’s just a lot more content in The Dalaran Heist. While the first run will feel almost eerily familiar to anyone who’s played one of these expansions in the past, you gradually unlock new hero powers and starting decks that give every heist run a totally new feeling. After beating all eight bosses with the game’s Hunter class using the default hero power and deck, the second run felt like a revelation. I used a more spell-heavy deck and a hero power that added a 1-cost minion to my hand after every use. During the run, in addition to choosing three-card packages and powerful Treasure cards to add to your deck, you get the chance to visit an in-game shop that lets you tweak and upgrade your deck.

With the amount of combinations here—of hero powers and starting decks, upgrades and alterations—as well as optional “anomaly” effects that can give each run even more flavor, there seem to be an infinite amount of ways a particular run can go. The depth of this experience is the most we’ve seen from a solo Hearthstone expansion, and while it’s still not quite as compelling as a game like Slay the Spire, it comes pretty damn close.

The Dalaran Heist also feels easier than past solo content has been. I haven’t lost a single run yet, which is much different from my experience with past expansions that felt much more unforgiving; previously, I’d only beat the final boss on one out of maybe ten runs. Chalk this up to the powerful cards and passive abilities you’re given in the course of a run, but it’s actually kind of nice: instead of slamming your head against the late-game bosses just trying to beat them, you feel like you’re messing around in a playground of new strategies and combos. And if you’re looking for a challenge, you can face the bosses on the more intense Heroic mode.

The whole experience can be purchased for $19.99, and comes with 16 card packs as well as a bundled-in Legendary card called Zayle, Shadow Cloak that acts as a full-deck-in-a-card similar to Whizbang The Wonderful. Free players can play the first wing for free and unlock the others for 700 gold a pop. Two of the mode’s five stages, each featuring eight bosses, are currently playable. The rest are set to unlock in the coming weeks.

Source: Kotaku.com

The New Magic: The Gathering Expansion Makes Every Match More Spectacular

Screenshot: Wizards of the Coast (YouTube)

War Of The Spark, Magic: The Gathering’s latest expansion, is available one week early in Magic: The Gathering Arena, the card game’s digital version. It’s already shaping up to be one of the more memorable climaxes in the game’s recent history.

Narratively, War Of The Spark couldn’t have arrived at a more opportune cultural moment. As the current chapters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Game of Thrones come to a close, Magic’s latest expansion plays with ideas from both. A team of powerful heroes called the Gatewatch battle Nicol Bolas, a powerful Elder Dragon who threatens the multiverse and has raised an undead army to assist him in his quest to become its most powerful being.

While other Magic expansions are themed around a particular magical plane of existence, War of the Spark focuses on the confrontation between the Gatewatch and Bolas, and as a result is full of powerful creatures, big spells, and climactic games that tend to go late. This showdown mentality also factors into the two major mechanics at play in the new set.

The first is called Amass, a spell effect that allows a player to summon a 1/1 zombie army token and then stack on more and more +1/+1 counters every additional time a card with Amass is used. This is Bolas’ army of the undead, and it synergizes with existing mechanics like Proliferate, which adds one to all sets of counters someone currently has in play. And because the zombie armies don’t cost black mana to play, they’re available to every deck type, even though Amass is most prevalent in blue, red, and black cards.

Efficiency, getting as much done with as little as possible, is a big virtue in Magic, and Amass leans into that by helping you create an army of creatures while also playing spells that provide other benefits. Aven Eternal is a 3-mana blue card that’s 2/2 with flying and has Amass 1. So in addition to getting you two creatures for the price of one, the second also has the potential to continue growing in power over the course of the game.

Another card, Contentious Plan, is a 2-mana blue card that proliferates and lets you draw a card. This gives it a lot of utility for such a cheap card once you’ve got a few different zombie armies in play.

War Of The Spark’s other focus is planeswalkers, the powerful characters who stand separate from the rest of the battlefield and provide more complex and often extremely powerful benefits. Traditionally, planeswalkers have been a rarified Magic mechanic, incentivizing players to build entire decks around one specific, very powerful planeswalker card. War of the Spark lowers the barrier to entry by adding weaker planeswalkers at lower rarities. Every booster pack in this set comes with at least one planeswalker, which results in decks where it’s not uncommon to be playing with two or three different planeswalkers at the same time.

Blue Illusionist Jace, founding member of the Gatewatch, is back, this time with a mechanic where the player who uses him automatically wins if it’s their turn and they have no cards left to draw. But there are other planeswalkers like Narset, Parter of Veils, a blue uncommon that prevents opponents from drawing more than one card per turn. Or Ral, Storm Conduit, a blue-red rare who lets you play duplicates of spells and deals damage to the opponent every time you do.

Since there are multiple planeswalkers for every occasion, it means every deck needs a Plan B, C, or even D. There aren’t a ton of cards that facilitate quick, aggressive rush play in War Of The Spark, which means games have time to develop. There’s a big emphasis on being able to close out with big showstoppers like Finale of Devastation, a green sorcery that lets players search their deck for their strongest creature and buff it by a huge amount if they have enough extra mana to spare. And with green planeswalker Nissa, who doubles the mana you get from tapping forests, that’s often the case.

In addition to being a lot of fun so far, especially for people like me who enjoy more chess-like matches that don’t turn completely on someone just happening to get the right card early on, War Of The Spark also highlights some of the major benefits of Arena being digital. While I still prefer to play face-to-face with other people and hear the sound of cards snapping as they’re played from a human hand, there’s a lot of complicated stuff going on in War Of The Spark.

In addition to keeping track of multiple zombie armies with multiple plus-one counters, there are often lots of planeswalkers to manage in addition to the normal minutiae of creature and land management. Many times while playing over the weekend, I was relieved to be able to rely on the game to automatically be doing my upkeep for me rather than have to keep track of it all by myself, or negotiate mental lapses out loud with someone sitting across from me.

I’ve played Magic off and on for decades, but always mostly for fun. War Of The Spark offers a ton of tools for crafting high-stakes plays, exactly the kind I’m looking for as a chronically lapsed player. Even though Arena hasn’t fully launched yet, it already helps a lot by helping keep so much of the busy work involved in the game from upstaging the grand strategies and high spectacle.

Source: Kotaku.com

Fallout 76 Players Won’t Find What They’re Looking For In Its Newest Dungeon


Fallout 76 received its first new dungeon yesterday: the Burrows. It takes players into a maze of underground sewers, but unlike Bethesda’s other recent additions to the game, it’s short-lived and underwhelming.

The dungeon is part of the ongoing Wild Appalachia expansion, whose updates began trickling out in March. While Bethesda has added new items, quests, and seasonal events, this is the first new player-vs.-environment space. Players thirsty for more endgame content that doesn’t revolve around shooting one another on the Survival servers have been looking forward to it. It’s not quite what some people expected, though. It can be completed in well under half an hour playing solo—even less if you’re playing with a high-powered group—and is light on interesting secrets or tense fights.

The new dungeon is located underneath the town of Harper’s Ferry on the eastern side of the map. It’s accessible via two separate manhole covers in the streets above, each leading to a different part of the underground waterway. Inside is a holotape to be looted off a dead man’s body that explains how a Brotherhood sortie was sent to investigate reports of military robotics in the sewers but never returned. As you make your way deeper into the tunnels, you eventually find your way into the pump station. It only takes a little bit of exploring to see what all the fuss is about, and while I won’t spoil it, I will say that it’s cool for the few moments it lasts. It just doesn’t do enough to elevate the rest of the ordeal.

That’s partly because the Burrows as a location doesn’t feel fully integrated as a natural part of the world it now exists in. Unlike the Nukashine Speakeasy that kicked the Wild Appalachia off expansion off, which was full of personality and helped build out the pre-bombing backstory of Morgantown, the Burrows is drab and doesn’t offer up many nuggets of new lore. “The reasoning’s pretty simple: The mean guys always win, Maude,” someone says on one of the discoverable holotapes. That’s basically the extent of it.

The Burrows isn’t much of a challenge, either. “The Burrows is balanced to be a challenge for 2+ level 50+ Vault Dwellers, but truly brave (and well geared) souls may be able to tackle it alone,” Bethesda wrote in a preview of the new content from last week. In reality, any party of two or more people in the level-40-to-50 range are likely to cruise through it. It’s more challenging solo, especially if you’re under level 50 or lacking in strong weapons and armor, but even then it’s short on thrills. Most of the enemies I encountered were some variation of ghoul—Feral Ghoul, Charred Feral Ghoul, Legendary Diseased Feral Ghoul—and were fairly easy to deal with.

Rather than feeling like a new endgame activity to tackle with friends, the Burrows feels like a low-key dungeon for newer players to grind for experience points and mid-tier loot. In that regard, it’s a perfectly fine addition to the game. It pales in comparison to some of the game’s other new events, though. March’s Fasnacht Parade, Fallout 76’s post-launch high point so far, offered interesting collectibles, a fun backstory built into the history of the real West Virginia, and a reason to team up with other players. Even the recent Lying Lowe quest, while disappointing in its conclusion, took players out into the wilderness and cast the locale in a somewhat different light. By comparison, the Burrows just feels like another checkpoint to blast through.

Fallout 76 is supposed to be getting longer group raids this summer in the Nuclear Winter expansion. That’s when Vaults 96 and 94 will be opening for players to explore in groups of up to four. For players who have been waiting since last November for a new, exciting dungeon, that still feels a ways off.

Source: Kotaku.com