Premature Evaluation: Survarium

By Marsh Davies on April 20th, 2015.

Survarium may be one of several games claiming to be a spiritual successor to STALKER, but it offers one substantial twist: the apocalypse that has swept the earth is not one instigated by nuclear catastrophe; instead, the Earth’s very own flora has rebelled, wreaking ecological revenge upon humanity for its many crimes against the natural world. It’s the latest intriguing shift in the deployment of Soviet-era sci-fi motifs that have come to parallel the resonances that Godzilla has in Japan. Both are emblematic of the nuclear catastrophes that each culture has suffered and the overweening pride that impels humankind to create such forces of devastation, believing it can control them.

Each week, Marsh Davies stalks through the reality-warping anomaly of Early Access and comes back with any stories he can find and/or gets turned inside out by a pocket of non-euclidean space. This week’s precious artifact is free-to-play online shooter Survarium, in which the remnants of humanity tussle over abandoned radar stations and chemical plants, long reclaimed by nature (and other, less natural phenomena).

It’s to Survarium’s credit that I want to play a lot more of it. Alas, after a handful of hours, the game data corrupts and subsequent attempts at reinstallation are consistently halted by a recursive nightmare of error messages which can only be broken by pouring a half-pint of lamb’s blood onto my keyboard and calling forth the hissing spirit of Task Manager to devour the process in question. Survarium is not a finished game, then. But, being supported by a somewhat unalluring muddle of microtransactable trousers and gasmasks, neither has it cost me a penny. All the same, after this brief encounter, I am left wondering: how much less unfinished is this since Jim looked at it a year ago?

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While We Wait: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

By Richard Cobbett on April 20th, 2015.

When is Deus Ex: Mankind Divided [official site] coming out? Not that soon. Not soon enough. But while we can’t magically give it to you to play now, now, now, we can give you a fun selection of things that will help keep the cravings at bay. From games to books and beyond, here are some recommendations for both getting into the cyberpunk, mechanical and freedom loving mood. Got any others to suggest? Let us know in the comments. For now though, grab your wallet and prepare to enter the future… even if you can probably do without something kinda like Adam Jensen’s coat. (Nobody asked for that*.)

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Wot I Think – Westerado: Double Barreled

By Alec Meer on April 20th, 2015.

Westerado: Double Barreled [Steam page] is an expanded and upgraded version of 2013’s free, Adult Swim-hosted, Western-themed RPGish revenge quest Westerado. It’s out now.

Right, this is brilliant. If you like Westerns, if you like Red Dead Redemption, if you like roleplaying games which are based around choosing your behaviour, if you like whodunnits, if you like oddball life-or-death shooters, go get this, have a great time, be happy. If you need more convincing than that, then dammit pardner, saddle up and let’s do this.

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The RPG Scrollbars Replay: Drakkhen

By Richard Cobbett on April 20th, 2015.

Hey, dude! What's up? You got my torrented Game of Thrones ready yet? What's with the altar? Your basement need tidying again? I told you man, it's cool. I'm a dragon. We're totally fine with a bit of mess.

Over the years, there have been many RPGs. Definitely more than five. Perhaps even ten. Every now and again we’re going to dig into the archives to take a look at one from when the ink was still dry on the Elder Scrolls. First up, Drakkhen [Wikipedia page], one of the more unusual games that I was never very successful at back in the 80s. But goodness, what a memorable half hour to fail at.

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The Sunday Papers

By Graham Smith on April 19th, 2015.

Sundays are for drawing polygons then rotating them in code, for no good reason. Best justify the time that’ll take by first gathering the week’s best writing about videogames.

  • Star Wars: Galaxies was a fascinating game at launch, one which treated the world of Star Wars as a real place and went to great pains to offer more than simply a power fantasy. That’s why people still remember it so fondly and also, I suspect, why it never found lasting commercial success. Raph Koster, one of the game’s designers, wrote this past week about how they dealt with the game’s Jedi problem. As in, how do you make a multiplayer game where everyone wants to be the game-breaking superhero class? I’m fond of one, unused solution, quoted below.
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The RPS Bargain Bucket: Bunny You Didn’t Guess That

By Cassandra Khaw on April 18th, 2015.

In case anyone was curious as to what I was squeaking about last week, this happened. Totally snoopydance material, don’t you think? But that’s plow on, and plough deep into the fields of interactive excess. This week, we cheat a little with the whole ‘bucket’ requirement of user-submitted plushie. Isn’t this midnight-black bunny from rgk worth the exception? Come on, guys. Tell me it isn’t.

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Swinging A Stick: How Landscape And Childhood Are Key To The Continued Popularity Of Fantasy Fiction

By Nathan Ditum on April 17th, 2015.

Once at primary school I tried to convince my teacher that we needed a new word – or at least that we needed one that might exist already, but that we’d somehow forgotten. This is going to be a piece partly about words, and “fantasy” was one that I was never totally happy with. It lacked, as I saw it, the generic precision of “science-fiction,” and I wanted a more specific description for that strand of fantasy storytelling and world-building that (I did not really know at the time, but would have pretended to if asked) has flowed from Tolkien’s consolidation of elves and dragons, dwarves and orcs. I wanted to be able to pin, with a single word, that mixture of magic and folklore, that particular set of imaginative boundaries with which I was so often engaged and so thoroughly obsessed. The best I could come up with was “fantamystical”, which, if you’ve been paying attention for the last twenty years, did not catch on.

Luckily it’s been a very kind twenty years for this area of fiction, to the point where we hardly need the word fantamystical at all (although I am willing to give it one last push if you guys are). A combination of, among other things, Harry Potter, His Dark Materials, and screen retellings of The Lord Of The Rings and A Song Of Ice And Fire have made my adolescent anxieties about the ambiguous categorizations of fiction redundant, leaving me with merely dozens of other anxieties, and us with Tolkien-fenced fantasy imprinted on our culture, and our games (this is being written in the gap between the arrival of Pillars Of Eternity and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, with Dragon Age: Inquisition still questing, exploring and adventuring in the background).

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MOBA Inspirations: We Meet EVE Valkyrie’s Lead Designer

By Philippa Warr on April 17th, 2015.

So many of the Valkyrie team were at FanFest, helping out interested players and getting feedback on the playable mode

EVE Valkyrie [official site] has a modest aspiration: to be the best competitive multiplayer game in virtual reality. It’s a great statement in terms of grabbing headlines, but how are the development team at CCP’s Newcastle studio translating that aspiration into a working reality? I asked that exact question of lead producer Owen O’Brien at the recent EVE FanFest event. His answer: “by talking to the best competitive multiplayer players in the world and letting them help us design it.”

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Wot I Belatedly Think: Surface Pro 3

By Alec Meer on April 17th, 2015.

bigger on the outside

Older readers may recall not a lot, what with being old and all. Only slightly older readers may recall my talking about replacing my laptop with a Surface Pro 2 around 18 months ago. Microsoft’s tablet/laptop hybrid has served me reasonably well for work and play, but the one aspect of it I increasingly struggled with was the size.
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Grand Theft Auto 5 PC Review

By Graham Smith on April 17th, 2015.

Michael and Trevor. I like Michael, I loathe Trevor.

In the audio commentary for the movie Bad Day at Black Rock, director John Sturges quoted Alfred Hitchcock, who had told him a rule for making movies called “Meanwhile, back at the ranch.” He explains, “You want to have two things going. You reach the peak of one, you go to the other. You pick the other up just where you want it. When it loses interest, drop it. Meanwhile, back at the ranch.”

After its opening act, Grand Theft Auto V [official site] lets you switch at any moment between its three criminal characters: retired thief Michael, young hopeful Franklin, and the psychotic Trevor. You’ll perform some missions as one and, as you grow weary or their plot begins to lose interest, you can switch to either of the others. When you arrive, their story is already in motion, and you’ll find them at home, having a fight in a car park, or perhaps drunk among some farm animals. Meanwhile, back at the ranch.

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The Flare Path: On Bloody Point

By Tim Stone on April 17th, 2015.

You are, are you not, Brother Against Brother: The Drawing of the Sword, the new turn-based American Civil War wargame from Western Civilization Software and Matrix Games? You’re priced at, let me see… £36 and, unlike many recent Slitherine Group releases you are not available on Steam? Good, now that’s established, I’ll explain my terms. As I’m sure you are aware, I’m a Very Busy Chap. My time, like platinum, good flapjack recipes, and airworthy de Havilland Mosquitos, is extremely precious. I am prepared to give you an audience, but that audience must end tonight at beddy-byes time. In other words, you have approximately ten hours to knock my socks off, and that ten hours starts… now.

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The Quests That Got Cancelled

By Richard Cobbett on April 16th, 2015.

It’s a great time for RPGs at the moment, with just about every name, flavour and celebrity from the old days finding a new lease of life through Kickstarter and a freshly hungry audience. Most series and creators though have had at least one game fall prey to development hell – sometimes with their ideas resurfacing in later titles, sometimes with everything simply lost to time. Their levels of completion vary dramatically, but here are some of the games we never got to play…

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How I Lost My Soul In AdVenture Capitalist

By Alec Meer on April 16th, 2015.

AdVenture Capitalist is a free game, in theory. AdVenture Capitalist is an idle game – i.e. one which plays itself – in theory. AdVenture Capitalist is a satire of everything that is wrong with Skinner Box games and free-to-play games. In theory.

In practice, I have dishonored myself.

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