Tag Archives: pc

The Division 2’s Big New Update Is As Promising As It Confusing

Ubisoft’s sprawling loot shooter The Division 2 just received its biggest free update since its March launch…except most of it isn’t really free until next week, except for two parts that won’t even be free then, but some of the free stuff won’t be out until the week after next, and one promised part is on ice and…Shall we start this over?

On Tuesday, The Division 2’s Title Update 5, which happens to also be considered the game’s first episodic expansion, was added to the game.

There’s a chart for what’s in it:


The update includes two new missions that extend the game’s story, one of which I played last night and liked a lot. That mission, called Manning National Zoo, involves hunting down the leader of the enemy Outcast faction while fighting enemies throughout dilapidated wildlife exhibits. If it seemed like Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed artists were showing off with their downloadable content last week, well, check out what their Division 2 artists can do with a mission set in a zoo:



The mission took me about 90 minutes to solo, with a few tricky skirmishes and some time spent just soaking in the sights. It’s a very fun mission with a lot of eye candy as you fight your way through habitats set up for lions, crocodiles, birds and more. There isn’t that much wildlife around, but there are a few neat creature cameos.


Like much of Episode One, the zoo mission is available in The Division 2 now for people who bought the $40 year-one pass. It’ll be available for free for all players on July 30. The idea is that The Division 2’s downloadable content will be available for free, unlike that of its predecessor. The paid approach to DLC backfired in the first Division when Ubisoft tried to charge for new Underground and Survival modes while the base game was essentially on fire with problems and player complaints. By the end of The Division’s second year, Ubisoft was releasing a huge map-expanding expansion for free, a sign of things to come.


Aside from the story missions, the other major new content in the update is the Expedition, a new set of missions being offered in three parts. The first, accessible this week, is fine so far but not great. It’s set in Kenly College’s library and kicks off an overall investigation into the fate of a convoy that went missing nearby. It’s best to think of each part as a medium-sized mission with some goals to complete.

The game’s developers have pitched the Expeditions as more puzzle-based content that will ask players to think through what they’re doing. This first installment in the library isn’t that much of a puzzle. It starts with the discovery of an “echo” hologram that depicts members of the Outcast carting around some improvised explosive devices. The player can activate parts of the hologram to trigger what’s described as investigation. The investigations amount to going to different parts of the library, getting into shootouts with Outcasts, solving some basic puzzles such as activating four power nodes in the correct order, and picking up some audio logs along the way. The gunfights are slightly more intricate than most of the standard story missions, asking players to, say, stay in a specific area while a hack occurs, but they’re not complex. The audio logs are scant but good, as they’re more in the style of the ones from the first Division, telling stories of people in the college from before the societal collapse rather than after.


Missing from the Expedition is something called a Mastery System, which the developers said would incentivize replaying the investigations. Last week, the developers said it was not coming together well enough to release yet. A second Expedition area opens next week for all players (as well as the first one for those who don’t have the year-one pass), with a third to follow presumably a week later. It’s not clear if this three-parter is the only Expedition or if there will be more.


The new update also includes an easier difficulty for the game’s raid. It supports matchmaking and is intended to enable more players to experience its sequence of events, but the new “discovery” difficulty level also limits loot payouts: This version of the raid won’t drop the elite gear that’s obtainable by completing the default version.

Ubisoft’s developers have shown that the update includes a new flashlight pistol mod, answering player complaints that some areas of the game were too dark. It also appears to add a batch of audio logs that provide more information about major characters. It’s accompanied by a timed “apparel event” that rewards players who complete various in-game activities with silly, gaudy summer vacation wear.


Perhaps more important than any of this, though, is that the update is overhauling the game’s gadget-based skill system. While the game’s new content isn’t available to all players yet, these balance changes are. They ratchet up the power of players’ skills, be they shields, drones, turrets, seeker mines, or whatever, while also greatly reducing the cooldown on them. This follows months of frustration from players who said that skills were too weak to build a character around.


I’ve played most of the game solo and from day one have relied on skills such as the assault drone to help me through tough encounters. From the start, I had to manage my approach to in-game combat around long waits while my drone would cool down. I’d activate it, get it to attack some enemies while I focused on others, then wait more than a minute while it stopped working before I could use it again. After the patch, my drone is a near-constant companion. Its cooldown dropped to about 38 seconds, and with some gadget upgrades, I’ve shortened that further. It’s also clearly more powerful and has been effectively perforating enemies. This feels different and, so far, much more satisfying.

The game’s changes to skills were trialed on a PC-only public test server earlier this month. Strangely, all of the aforementioned content was as well, meaning that year-one pass owners are actually not the first members of The Division 2 player base to go through Episode One’s new missions. That’s provoked some discussion about what value the year-one pass has. Currently, the pass gives owners a chance to play stuff early while earning loot they can retain in the game.


The year-one pass also gives owners access to a slew of small but enjoyable missions called Classified Assignments, which actually weren’t on the PTS. The two that came out in May were polished and fun, with little audio log narratives threaded throughout. Two more are part of this update for year-one pass owners, with no announcement about when they’ll be available to others. I’ve played one of the two new ones set in an aquarium. It involves rescuing some civilians while fighting Outcast enemies and learning how the people and fish coped during the societal disaster afflicting The Division’s world. I liked it.


There’s no single thing for players to sink their teeth into with this Title Update 5 / Episode One addition to The Division 2, and there’s nothing about it, cool Classified Assignments aside, that makes it easy to recommend the game’s year-one pass. There are, however, myriad interesting things being added to the game via this update, and at least a short burst of fresh adventures to experience. Of course, it’ll take weeks to see how all that’s been added and tweaked shakes out. As a sign of the heft of the game’s free updates, it’s encouraging. As a marker of the developers’ progress with improving the game, it shows the team moving in a good direction.



Source: Kotaku.com

The Week In Games: Once Again, It’s Time To Kill Some Nazis

It feels like only yesterday that I played through the last Wolfenstein game and now a new one is almost here. Wolfenstein: Youngblood is a smaller spin-off starring BJ’s two daughters. I can’t wait to kill some Nazis during the 80s.

I’m still impressed that this game, like the last Wolfenstein title, is coming to Switch. I’ll never play those games on Switch, the performance is just too rocky for me, but it is still incredible those games run at all on what is basically a tablet.


Beyond Wolfenstein, a few big ports and new games are dropping this week. A new Fire Emblem is coming to Switch, Beyond: Two Souls is hitting the PC and Tetris Effect jumps from the PS4 to your computer. And for folks wanting to play Wargroove on their PS4, this is a good week for you. Sadly, no crossplay though. Come on, Sony. Quit being dumb.

Other stuff is coming out this week! Check out the list below:

Monday, July 22

  • Rise: Race The Future | Switch
  • Flutter Bombs | PC
  • Life ed | PC
  • Elsinore | PC, Mac
  • Beyond: Two Souls | PC

Tuesday, July 23

  • Must Dash Amigos | PC
  • Wargroove | PS4
  • Automachef | Switch, PC
  • Date A Live: Rio Reincarnation | PS4, PC
  • Tetris Effect | PC
  • Vane | PC
  • Run The Fan | Switch
  • High Noon Revolver | Switch
  • Flaky Bakery | PC, Mac
  • Gravity Ball | PC
  • Poly Soldiers | PC
  • Super Demon Boy | PC
  • Rising Kingdoms | PC

Wednesday, July 24

  • Pawarumi | Xbox One, Switch
  • Battleship | Switch
  • Rise: The Vieneo Province | PC
  • Champions | PC
  • Dark Data | PC, Mac
  • Ancient Battle: Alexander | PC, Mac
  • Break My Body | PC, Mac

Thursday, July 25

  • Mighty Switch Force! Collection | PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
  • Fantasy Strike | PS4, Switch, PC, Mac
  • Furwind | Xbox One
  • Zombie Driver Ultimate Edition | Switch
  • Elea – Episode 1 | PS4
  • Raiden V | Switch
  • Songbird Symphony | PS4, Switch, PC
  • Monster Boy And The Cursed Kingdom | PC
  • Caged Garden Cock Robin | Switch
  • Picross Lord Of The Nazarick | Switch
  • Collide-a-Ball 2 | Switch
  • Super Mega Baseball 2: Ultimate Edition | Switch
  • Gunpowder On The Teeth: Arcade | Switch
  • Smoots Summer Games | Switch
  • 60 Seconds: Reatomized | PC, Mac

Friday, July 26

  • Kill la Kill The Game | PS4, Switch, PC
  • Decay | Xbox One
  • Remothered: Tormented Fathers | Switch
  • Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot | PSVR, PC (VR)
  • Wolfenstein: Youngblood | PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses | Switch
  • Tetsumo Party | PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
  • Titans Pinball | Switch
  • Garage Mechanic Simulator | Switch
  • Sheep In Hell | Switch
  • Seeders Puzzle Reboot | Switch
  • Dark Bestiary | PC, Mac
  • Storm Tale | PC, Mac
  • Post Soviet Zombies | PC
  • Bandits | PC
  • Knightin’ + | PC

Source: Kotaku.com

Sea Of Thieves Gets Monthly Updates And The First One Is Pretty…Explosive

Sea of Thieves, Rare’s chill pirate hangout game, has been on the upswing lately. After an expansive (and excellent) Anniversary Update that brought story quests and cooking to its cartoony high seas in May, Sea of Thieves is upping the ante yet again with monthly updates. Log into the game now on Xbox One or PC and you’ll be greeted by the very first one, the Black Powder Stashes.

Like the name suggests, the update brings quests that send players off in search of gunpowder barrels. As you complete voyages and score the extremely expensive booty, you’ll be able to earn new titles and exclusive cosmetics for your ship.

As far as updates go, it seems a little light—the most interesting thing here is the way gunpowder adds some more tension to the Sea of Thieves loop. Ferrying loot back and forth becomes a lot more intense when that loot can blow up your entire ship with one lucky shot from a foe.

The prospect of monthly updates, however, is exciting. While it lacked variety in much of its first year, Sea of Thieves has only gotten better with time, and its developers remain vocal about their plan to continue that momentum. Giving players a reason to log in and see something new on their voyages every month is an excellent move. It brings Sea of Thieves closer in line with other live service games like Destiny 2, with one important distinction: You can’t play sea shanties in Destiny 2

Source: Kotaku.com

Okay, Seriously, Maybe VR Gaming Is About To Have Its Big Moment

I keep thinking about a video game I played in Los Angeles a month ago that’s what you’d get if the renowned covert ops Splinter Cell series required your character to always be in a kayak.

The game is called Phantom: Covert Ops, and it’s pretty cool. The catch is that it’s all in VR.

Please, don’t go away. Keep reading! I’ve even got an interview to share with you involving the guy overseeing games at Oculus.

Talking about VR gaming piques some people’s curiosity. Unfortunately, many others tend to tune out. VR gaming is conceptually cool, but it’s expensive, inconvenient and, to some, nauseating. It’s also something that’s hard to appreciate in trailers, and harder still in the written word. I’ve been writing about understandable gamer disinterest in VR since 2016, when I first heard the snores while covering pretty cool VR games.


Here I go again, because some of the coolest games I saw at the E3 gaming show in L.A. were in fact in VR. Yes, it’s taken me a month to tell our readers about these games, but such is the backhanded praise I’m afraid I always deliver to this scene within a scene.

First, there’s this Phantom game. You sit down, put on an Oculus headset and hold two Oculus touch controllers in your hand. You’re on a river. It’s dark. You paddle toward some bad guy lair that can’t be accessed by air or land, hence the kayak.


A boat is coming. Quick! Paddle over to the reads and wait for it and its bright lights to pass you by.

Paddle some more. There’s a bad guy guard over yonder. Reach down to your side and pick up your virtual sniper rifle. Move it toward your eye. There he is in your crosshairs. Take the shot.


Reach a blockade. Paddle up and toss some C4 on it. Paddle back and blow it up.

Totally wacky premise. Totally fun game. Feels great in VR and is extremely comfortable to play, since you’re sitting down in real life and in the game and you’re moving at the speed of a paddled boat.


Then there’s Stormland, an open-world first-person action-adventure from the great Insomniac Games. That’s the mostly PlayStation-centric studio behind Ratchet & Clank and Spider-Man that has made a bunch of VR games not for PlayStation VR but for the Facebook-owned Oculus. In Stormland, you’re a robot. Shortly after I started playing, the game encouraged me to rip off one of my arms, which felt very weird to do in VR. Then I plugged in a new robot arm and started exploring an archipelago of islands. As I played, I upgraded my arm so I could shoot lasers, climb walls and even skate across the clouds. It all felt great.

I capped some footage of Stormland, but you know how it is with VR, right? You’re going to see some graphics that look way less impressive on your flat monitor or phone than they did in an Oculus headset, where they felt as if they wrapped all around my head.


There’s Lone Echo II, a game in which you’re a robot floating around in an abandoned space station while communicating with a captain named Olivia who is also floating around in there with you. This one didn’t grab me as much as the other two, but it still was neat to be floating around with another character, while also trying to figure out how to move through zero gravity.


Some VR games are gimmicky. Some are fun. There’s a wide range in a young field. I’m partial to PSVR’s Astrobot Rescue Mission on PS4 and the multiplatform Cosmic Trip. People love Beat Saber, others go on about the VR version of Resident Evil 7. I recently had a very good time playing a pre-release Iron Man VR game and a VR mode in No Man’s Sky. There’s good stuff out there, but it’s been relatively hard to access due to the expense of VR headsets. Plus, a good amount of it is still spread across various platforms.


At E3, after seeing these games, I chatted with Jason Rubin, who runs first-party gaming at Oculus. He co-founded Naughty Dog and famously looks the part of Uncharted’s Nathan Drake. We talked frankly about Oculus, or at least as frank as a person charged with selling Oculus is going to get. “We feel great,” he told me when I asked him how things were going. Then he declined to tell me if Oculus has sold a million of their main Oculus Rift headsets yet.

“You know there are people that are interested in purchasing [VR], but these things always move slowly,” he said.


Naughty Dog co-founder Jason Rubin now runs gaming at Oculus.

The issue for Oculus and for other companies pushing VR is that VR gaming just hasn’t been broadly appealing, though Rubin made a strong case in L.A. that Oculus may have finally figured it all out. The solution and the push is for a device called the Oculus Quest, which launched in the spring to rave reviews, including from us: “The Oculus Quest Is How Virtual Reality Should Work.” It’s a VR headset without wires, without sensors, without the need to be plugged into a PC or console, yet it can still run some impressive games. “Quest is mass market,” Rubin said, telling me it radically changes the VR landscape and has the potential to make VR gaming hot this holiday.


The catch? Well, for one, Quest costs at least $400, so VR gaming still isn’t cheap even if it no longer requires sensors or wires. The other? Two of the three games that wowed me at E3 don’t run on it. The kayak game does run on the Quest, but Stormland and Lone Echo II require the higher-end Oculus Rift. Rubin said that’s because those games were planned before the Quest was a thing. The newest Rift, which also costs $400 and doesn’t require sensors, needs to be plugged into a pretty good PC.

As I chatted with Rubin, he portrayed VR gaming as an inevitability, as well as a tech that wasn’t going away, and one that would work better and reach more people bit by bit. One reason why it’s not going away soon is that it’s backed by big money. Oculus is owned by Facebook, and, as Rubin told me, “Mark is a patient individual.”


The continued frenzy of indie developers to make VR games is another argument for the scene’s longevity. While Facebook funds a lot of VR game development, like Sony does for the PlayStation VR platform, indie developers also just seem genuinely interested in making this stuff. They’re more into it than corporate publishers, in fact, as we’ve seen EA, Activision and others make just token attempts. Even the more experimental Ubisoft, which has produced a slew of VR games in recent years, has shown signs of backing off, including by adding a non-VR mode to their ambitious Star Trek VR game.

Around VR, there are signs of stress. During that E3 week, some indie developers complained about being blocked from selling their games on the Quest’s curated store, something Rubin tried to address and clean up during an end-of-week twitter thread.


While talking to me, Rubin entertained a surprising crossover: the idea of Oculus games on Sony’s PlayStation 4-based PSVR platform, which has its own roster of exclusive games. “We’ve thought about it,” he said. “I would love to make a trade with Sony. You know they have great stuff that they funded, and we have great stuff we’ve funded.” Nothing’s confirmed yet, but it’s still a sign of where things are at that Oculus would even consider putting their games on another VR platform.

It struck me as I talked to Rubin that he’s got a checklist of formidable problems. Better headsets and better games will help, and he’s got to figure out how to get more people playing VR games. Oculus and VR developers overall also could use a breakthrough in how to show VR games off, which Rubin says Oculus is working on. VR games have looked best to spectators when they are shown in a so-called mixed reality format, which integrates a video feed of the person playing the game into the VR game they’re playing. It caught my eye when it was used three years ago to show off the VR construction game Fantastic Contraption.

“We’re pushing to try as best we can to enable mixed reality so that streamers and developers can share that video with people online,” Rubin told me, saying some upcoming changes that he didn’t want to detail yet would make it easier. An external camera will be required, but a green screen would not.


Then there’s sickness, which is still a thing. Numerous staffers at Kotaku can’t even play a VR game when I want to show it to them, because they quickly feel ill. They’re not alone. Rubin says that better lenses in VR headsets, the addition of wider fields of view and drops in latency thanks to more powerful gear will help ameliorate the problem, but he still likened VR gaming to riding a rollercoaster or setting sail. “Ultimately it’s still going to be a boat and there will be some people in some situations that are a little uncomfortable,” he said. (Ah, but what if the game was all about you being in a boat? And sniping bad guys. Right?)

VR gaming will crawl forward. The games I saw are still in development and will hopefully still dazzle in longer play sessions. Oculus is gearing up for a September showcase that will include the debut of a VR game from red-hot Respawn Entertainment (Apex Legends, Titanfall). Rubin thinks the Quest will have a big Christmas, too. It might. It could. VR gaming’s got a lot going for it, but I also won’t be surprised if, a few years from now, it’s still a struggle for gaming’s most awkward platform to catch on.

Source: Kotaku.com

Final Fantasy XIV Shadowbringers Log Four: Everything And Everyone Else

There are many ways to play through Final Fantasy XIV’s Shadowbringers expansion. I am playing as a goggle-wearing Viera Dancer, dancing and damaging my way toward the finish line. I can’t cover all of the job class changes, role-based questlines, and side content before my review drops. But other FFXIV players can certainly tell me all about them.

Viera Dancer Clan Destine is in the home stretch, barreling toward the grand finale of Shadowbringers that Heather Alexandra praised highly last week. I’ve taken to utilizing the game’s glamor system to reset my appearance after every new piece of visible equipment I collect, so Clan looks the same in every cutscene. That’s how wrapped up I am in the tale of the First and the battle against the light.

I would like to shout out the group that ran me through the game’s level 79 Trial last night. As I mentioned in my post about the game’s Trust System, which allows players to run dungeons with NPCs, I get nervous grouping with humans for new content. I worry I will screw up, or tempers will flare and everyone will be tense. Last night’s party, which formed on Goblin 50 minutes before the servers went down, was filled with nothing but pleasant folks encouraging each other to do their best. No one had been through the Trial, an intense two-stage battle against one of the expansion’s most sinister figures. We wiped twice on the second half of the long battle. Each time we discussed what we’d done wrong, sharing words of encouragement. Each time we got a little further. When we finally killed the boss, I wanted to hug everyone in our party. The community that’s flocked around Final Fantasy XIV remains the top of the MMO-playing crop.


With each new story beat comes a surge of anticipation, mixed with dread that the tale will be told and I’ll have to wait for content updates for more. The end of Clan the Dancer’s journey won’t be the end of my Shadowbringers journey, however. I have plans for the moment when the credits roll.


For one, I need to check out the Machinist. I spent most of my time using the ranged damage class when it came out in Final Fantasy XIV’s first expansion, Heavensward. My original character, Back Clawtooth, is still sitting in Ishgard with a rifle on his back, waiting for me to return and take control. He’s going to be waiting for a while, possibly forever, as in order to fully experience the sweeping changes to the Machinist job that were made in Shadowbringers, I’m just going to have Clan grab the quest and start from level 30. Sorry, Back.


I want to play with crafting and gathering a little bit, see how those are going. There are a lot of things to gather and build, so I’ll probably just focus on one of each. Suggestions are welcome.

Other than all of that playing, I’ll also be talking to other players. I am interested to see how healing and tanking jobs look after the changes to those mechanics. I’ve heard from a few Bards that their job has lost much of its utility, with a lot of it going to the Dancer class instead. I’ve got a 60 Bard that I could level up, but time is not on my side, so I’d love to hear from players.


Ultimately, my review is going to be based on my experience, but Final Fantasy XIV is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, and other players are part of that experience. If I have to play with a bunch of unhappy Bards (as opposed to the Spoony ones), that’s part of the experience.

So feel free to share your Shadowbringers woes with me in the comments. Tag your FFXIV-playing friends. Sit down and have a chat with your parents about how to heal or mitigate damage, and return here with your findings.

Source: Kotaku.com

The Week In Games: Avengers And Everyone Else, Assemble!

The Avengers, their friends and some of their foes are hitting the Switch this week with the release of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3. Pick your favorite hero and argue with your friends who is getting stuck playing with the right Joycon.

I really loved that first Ultimate Alliance game. Played a lot of it back in the day on 360. Never really got into the second game as much, for whatever reason. But that first game was great. Do you remember that section where you play classic Activision games, like Pitfall? And all the different endings and Easter eggs. Hope this new game is as fun as that first one.

For fans of European truck racing, lucky you. FIA European Truck Racing Championship is coming out later next week for multiple platforms.

Other stuff is coming out this week! Check out the list below:

Monday, July 15

  • Break The Game | PC
  • Kim Shooter | PC
  • Aura | PC
  • C64 & AMIGA Classix Remakes Sixpack 3 | PC

Tuesday, July 16

  • Must Dash Amigos | Xbox One
  • LOST ORBIT: Terminal Velocity | Xbox One, PC
  • Distrust | Switch
  • Let’s Sing 2019 | Switch, PC
  • Forklift – The Simulation | Switch
  • Defend The Keep | PC
  • Shrine Of The God-Ape | PC
  • ATRIUM | PC, Mac
  • Killsquad | PC
  • The Last Aura | PC, Mac
  • Moi Mei | PC
  • Nightmare Reaper | PC
  • Summer Catchers | PC

Wednesday, July 17

  • Initial2: New Stage | Xbox One
  • Night Call | PC, Mac
  • Let’s Go Nuts | Switch
  • 8bit Pigeon Hunter | PC
  • Grizzland | PC

Thursday, July 18

  • Growtopia | Xbox One
  • Gabbuchi | PS4, Switch, PC
  • Etherborn | PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
  • Warlocks 2: God Slayers | PC
  • FIA European Truck Racing Championship | PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
  • Caladrius Blaze | Switch
  • Royal Roads | Switch
  • World Cruise Story | Switch
  • Battle & Crash | Switch
  • Tarot Readings Premium | Switch
  • Archlion Saga | Switch
  • Golf Defied | PC

Friday, July 19

  • Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order | Switch
  • Redeemer: Enhanced Edition | PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
  • Lost Ember | PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
  • Welcome To Hanwell | Xbox One
  • Astro Bears | Switch
  • Jim Is Moving Out! | Switch, PC
  • Mini Trains | Switch
  • Colloc | PC
  • Hack.88 | PC
  • Gorytale | PC, Mac
  • Subs | PC

Saturday, July 20

  • Moon Tycoon | PC
  • Chibi Volleyball | PC, Mac

Source: Kotaku.com

I Wish I Could Play More Wacky Builds In Dota Underlords, But I Like Winning

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A couple weeks ago, I came across a Dota Underlords video that changed everything for me. In it, a player managed to buff one unit, the self-cloning Arc Warden, such that he was able to spawn nearly limitless copies of himself. The board was a sea of crackling wizards with fishbowls on their heads. I imagined an old man, years later, gesturing into the dark alley where all of Underlords’ battles take place and saying, “I remember when this was all Arc Wardens, far as the eye could see.” In that moment, I decided I wanted to pull off this overwrought strategy. Problem: It’s not exactly a practical way to win.

Don’t get me wrong: The Arc Warden murder swamp combo is hilariously powerful if you manage to assemble the needed components. This involves picking up another unit, Crystal Maiden, whose ability regularly grants additional mana to all friendly units, allowing them to use their abilities more frequently. You’ll want at least a couple Crystal Maidens and a couple Arc Wardens on the field, ideally. Then you need to pick up an item called Refresher Orb, which refreshes all ability cooldowns and restores mana. All of these things in conjunction will cause your Arc Wardens to start cloning themselves at a pace so rapid that it’s like they suddenly realized they were approaching their late 30s and only had so much time to make a family, so they decided to do it all right then and there—through mitosis. The best part? Damage to opponents is based on how many units you have left on the field when you’ve defeated an enemy army, so you put somebody down for the count in a turn or two with this strategy. It is, in the strictest, most serious sense of the term, a ludicrous hootenanny of a time.

It does, however, take time to build up. Arc Wardens rarely appear as a purchasable unit until mid-game, and Crystal Maidens frequently get snapped up by other players because they’re just generally good. This means your early game can be gnarly, and you might still have trouble leveling up your units enough for them to survive and pull off the clone bonanza later on. As for items, you get to pick from a random selection of them only at the end of certain turns, so your chances of nabbing a Refresher Orb aren’t great. I haven’t seen one at all in several matches, come to think of it. This strategy, in other words, is not a reliable way to win. It’s fun as heck when it works, but it frequently fizzles out and leads to an endgame in which my Orb-less Wardens and Maidens do all right but ultimately get rolled by combos that scale better in the damage and defense departments.


Most of the time, then, I start matches intending to pursue this fun strat or a number of other off-kilter ideas, only to settle into a familiar, meta-friendly groove. This makes me a little sad. Personally, I believe that discovery and experimentation are the most enjoyable elements of games like these—that you should approach each match with the mindset of a mad scientist who doesn’t care which bubbling chemical mixtures blow up in their face. But also, I want to win. The best way to do this is to read about strategies that work and enact them with cold, mechanical rigor. Right now, that’s knights and trolls, or trolls and warlocks, or knights, trolls, and warlocks. Before a recent balance patch, it was warriors and hunters.

These combos are fun, but what they all have in common is that they’re relatively straightforward. When clumped together on the field, knights provide huge defense bonuses while trolls provide big attack bonuses. With their blind spots mutually covered, they trudge out and melt the enemy army like it’s their job—by which I mean, a job they’re perfectly effective at but haven’t been passionate about in years. They don’t have much in the way of flashy abilities. There’s no storyline or surprise to their victory. They just carve up enemy armies and win. (Warlocks make this a little more interesting, but only a little.) Dota Underlords is still very new, and Valve doesn’t quite have the balance down yet, so when a build is overpowered, it’s WAY overpowered. This means you can do everything right only to come up against a solidly constructed knight/troll build and realize it’s just better.


Meta-friendly units are not hard to come by, nor is there much complicated assembly required. You can enact a variation on this strategy in pretty much any match. It’s fun to do so, as well. The whole point of auto battlers like Dota Underlords is to assert control over RNG chaos. Slowly but surely, over the course of a match, you go from being powerless in the face of random unit selection to having all the power by way of clever unit purchases and economy management. You never know for sure that other players aren’t going to luck their way into a come-from-behind victory, but there’s an undeniable high to reaching that point where you’re reasonably certain you’re going to win a match. You did it. You put all the pieces together better than seven other players.

Still, I wish I was better at resisting the meta’s siren song and just going after whatever bizarro build the RNG gods present me with. The other day, I was backseat driving a match a friend was playing, and he got a two-stack of items that buff “brawny” units early in a match. We decided to just go with the flow and assemble the beefiest army of brawny beef boys this world has ever seen. Did we win? No. But we did all right, and we cracked a lot of dumb jokes, up to and including renaming a unit called Beastmaster “Beefmaster.” I want more moments like that.


But I also like winning. I’m in a constant struggle with my own nature—a beef, if you will, with myself. Perhaps, then, the greatest Beefmaster of all… is me.

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

Assassin’s Creed’s Original Director Is Back With A Weird Game About Human Evolution

I was sitting in an interview room asking the ever-cheerful Patrice Désilets about the controls in his first new game since 2010’s Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood and he lit up.

He imagined an Xbox controller and rattled through the button assignments.

“‘A’ is all about the reflexes,” he said. “‘B’ is about the communication, ‘X’ is about the senses—the smell and the hearing—and ‘Y’ is about analyzing with your intelligence. The bumpers are your two hands and eventually the trigger is about your emotions.”

This is pure Patrice Désilets, best known as the director of the first three Assassin’s Creed games, and it’s much of the reason why anyone might be excited about the fact that he’s finally, nearly ready to release a new game again. The new one from his studio of three dozen developers is called Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey and is slated for a PC release on the Epic Games Store on August 27, and then for Xbox One and PS4 in December. It’s strange, which is the norm for Désilets. And he’s not positive you’ll like it, which is the norm for him, too. He doesn’t make the stuff you’d expect.

“I would not be able to do a normal game,” he said. “If people are like, ‘I like your game. I understand it.’ That I would be stressed about.”


He’d be stressed if people heard about Ancestors and immediately said they liked his game and understood it?

“Yeah,” Désilets said. “That would mean I didn’t do my job.”


Ancestors is a third-person action-adventure game that spans eight million years, starting its players off in 10,000,000 BC. You control generations of prehistoric primates, starting as a baby, trying to reach the age of 15, spawning and skipping ahead to control the next generation. They’ll learn to survive, learn to hunt and will slowly evolve. Some babies will turn out to have unique traits, Désilets said. “Maybe the ability to digest meat. And if that baby survives long enough to mate and pass it to another generation, then suddenly your species is capable of eating meat. If the player’s character dies, they take control of another member of their primate clan, hoping to bring the evolutionary advances to their offspring.

He says there’s no shortage of material for the game and offers Kotaku an exclusive: “You won’t be able to make fire” because that comes after the eight million years the game is covering. That could go in a sequel, perhaps.


He keeps himself from explaining much more about this one. “I don’t want to say a lot,” he said. “Because the real pleasure is set in the discovery of it all.”

The idea of Ancestors is that you’re following the path of evolution, learning new skills and experiencing the gradual transformation from ape to human with bonus points if you make any advances faster than they supposedly happened in reality.


“I’m asking the question to every player: ‘Hey homo sapiens, do you think you’re intelligent enough to survive like our ancestors did?’”

Désilets used that line on me when we chatted at this year’s E3 in Los Angeles last month and also during a showcase with my friend Geoff Keighley, for whom Désilets brought several minutes of a pre-recorded playthrough of the game. In it, you can see the continuity of game design interests from the same person who was the visionary behind Prince of Persia Sands of Time and Assassin’s Creed, as the player-character does a lot of climbing in a beautiful and old place (in this case the trees of a prehistoric African jungle) with nary a standard video game hero nor gunshot to be seen.

Skip ahead to about the 9:30 mark to see a playthrough of Ancestors’ opening minutes.

The game is unusual. It has characters who don’t speak, though they can communicate in some ways. Désilets says there are a variation of the kind of squad commands you might find in a covert ops game. The characters wear no clothes (there’s a “lot of fur” which helps them achieve an acceptable game rating). There’s no single lead character, no individual hero’s tale.


Even the aforementioned controls sound distinct, not just because he’s doing another experimental button scheme, but because he’s decided to trigger actions at the moment a button is released rather than when it is pressed. “That’s how we do it in real life,” he said. We think, then we act. Well, sometimes.

Désilets did not bring a playable build of the game with him to E3, saying it would have been too taxing for his small team to create a demo for the show as they race to finish the game for a late August PC release (it’s not slated for consoles until December). This was both understandable and worrisome, for anyone, myself included, eager to know if Désilets still has it.


Back in 2003, Sand of Time was a revelation, mixing exhilarating running and jumping with a game-long dialogue-driven love story and spicing it up with the ability to rewind failed jumps and try them again.

When Désilets was tasked with cooking up a Sand of Time sequel for the dawn of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 generation, he concocted Assassin’s Creed, a game about a man in modern times using a device to relive the lives of his assassin ancestors, first as a 12th century Syrian during the Crusades and then as an Italian during the Renaissance. The controls for those early Assassin’s Creed games were based on the idea of puppetry: top button for the head, middle buttons for the arms, lowest button for the legs.


He says he got tired of making Assassin’s Creed games and left publisher Ubisoft after the third one, Brotherhood. That concluded a decade of productivity and hits, followed by a decade of no released games. He tried making a new one at THQ before the studio collapsed and Ubisoft brought him back, only for him to leave again. At E3 in 2015 he started talking to me about his small new studio, Panache, and his idea for Ancestors: “Assassin’s Creed meets the Civilization tech tree.” The game would be episodic (it no longer is) and surely out sooner than 2019.

Désilets did not bring his team’s game to his E3 interviews, but he did bring a picture of the three dozen people making the game at his studio, Panache. That’s unusual. Why’d he do it? “I’m fucking proud of those people,” he said. “Have you seen what they’re doing? They’re 35. Not 800. Thirty-five dedicated people to making something unique.”


Tossed a softball about whether the game is really going to be fun enough, he snarks: “No it’s really boring.”

He swears he’s never made a game he’s had this much fun playing and promises that, no, he’s not just saying that because he is currently making this one: “It’s the game I play the most in all my career. You like the Prince, you like Assassin’s. Me, I was fucking bored at the end of playing that game.” He tells the story of playing it recently, of being an elder protecting two babies during a rainstorm, trying to keep them alive to make humanity possible. He gets dreamy about it, wistful that he’s not playing as we speak. “I need my fix. It’s been a week now. I need to go back home and eventually get myself lost in the savannah with my crew and go kill a fucking leopard.”

Source: Kotaku.com

There’s A New Turok Game Coming Out This Month, And It’s Super Cute

Coming to Steam on July 25, Turok: Escape From Lost Valley looks very different from the first-person dinosaur-hunting games of old, but the idea is the same. Turok and his brother Andar are trapped in a valley full of dinosaurs. Hunting ensues. Adorable hunting.

While it seems to have come out of nowhere, Turok: Escape From Lost Valley was one of six finalists in last year’s Universal GameDev Challenge. The contest, launched during the 2018 Game Developers Conference, challenged small teams of Unity developers to create games based on iconic Universal-owned properties. The contest’s $150,000 grand prize went to developer Gbanga for one-on-one strategy game Voltron: Cubes of Olkarion, also coming to Steam on July 25. Despite not winning the big prize, Pillow Pig Games’ chibi take on Turok is getting a Universal Studios Interactive Entertainment release as well.

Trailer uploaded to Youtube via Eurogamer.

While earlier games in the Turok series were based on the character’s appearance in the 1998 Acclaim Comics series, Escape From Lost Valley takes the character back to his 1954 roots. In his earliest comics, published by Western Publishing, Dell, and Gold Key, Turok and his brother, Andar, were a pair of pre-Columbian Native American youths who found themselves trapped in a mysterious valley with prehistoric life. The series chronicles the pair’s attempt to escape this lost valley, just like this new game.

Poor honker.

No laser rifles, no cerebral bore, just a couple of brothers doing the best they can in a dinosaur-infested world gone mad. We’ll see if Turok: Escape From Lost Valley is as charming as it looks when it hits Steam on July 25.

Source: Kotaku.com