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League of Legends spin-off CCG Legends of Runeterra is just about ready to play its hand. After kicking off its open beta in January and testing its deck for the last three months, Riot are ready to play for keeps - bringing crate of new cards, a new region and a new competitive season to Runeterra when the MOBA-inspired card game launches proper on April 30th.

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Settlements of bugs and crashes burn behind them, but the campaign is not yet complete. This Friday, Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord developers TaleWords took the fight against the game's crashing to a new front. Patch e1.0.4 purged the game of 17 more crashes, with a scant few performance issues and balance oddities finding themselves caught in the crossfire.

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Thursday should've been the highlight of the EVE Online calendar. But even with EVE Fanfest's cancellation, the next few months are set to be big ones for New Eden with Eclipse, EVE's second quadrant of the year. An extragalactic invasion comes to a head with star-snuffing starships, interstellar easter egg hunts, and a charity drive to use all those spacebucks you've amassed for real-world good.

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Feature: Now Play THESE

Priceless Play – 4 April 2020

Now Play This, a festival for experimental game design, is one of the many games events either postponed or cancelled to stop the spread of COVID-19. The festival has been running for six years or so, celebrating the strange and unexpected in game design, and each year it brings together some truly spectacular art pieces and games. This year, the festival team has had to get creative with its lineup. The benefit, of course, being that now you can attend the festival wherever you are. From London to Dundee to Los Angeles, California.

I have never been able to go to Now Play This. For five years in a row I have tried to go, and then found myself unable to get all the pieces together. Year one, I was stuck in a library writing my master's thesis. Year two, I was visiting family in America and only just missed it. Years three and four, I was in America doing a PhD and teaching undergrads and thought it unwise to just pop back over. This brings us to year five; this year, now, this very weekend. I was meant to go! I'd secured funding which meant I didn't have to teach, I was looking forward to seeing my friends (former co-organisers and curators, Holly Gramazio and V Buckenham, as well as current curator, Marie Foulston). And then, well, you know.

Here are all the free games in and around the festival's 2020 exhibits.

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It's been on everyone's mind. As Britain steps deeper into lockdown and the world grapples with the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, we've all been asking: "But what about the horse-racing?". In lieu of watching fourty powerful equines tearing down a racetrack tonight, the nation's telly viewers will instead find themselves watching The Virtual Grand National - a simulated recreation that's safer for viewers, riders, and (let's face it) the horses themselves.

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I'm always here for a nice Stardew Valley mod, especially one that's easy to slip into an existing save file without the pressure to start a brand new farm. Modder "Gervig91" has been hard at work on a suite of new mods that make a bunch of items in town just a bit more lively and sparkly. They've made animated versions of many of Stardew's foods, furniture items, and enemy loot. Maybe I'll actually keep my golden pumpkins just to show them off now.

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Half-Life: Alyx is so densely packed with trinkets and goodies to fool around with that it seems it was inevitable folks would cook up some gags with the VR props. RPS have decided that it has some of the most satisfying physics in PC games and that's quite clear when you see all the shenanigans folks have been pulling off inside this sandbox masquerading as a linear game. Here's what everyone's been getting up to in City 17.

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Proper Formula One races are off for the time being due to Covid-19 coronavirus public health concerns. A couple weeks back, F1 organised the first Virtual Grand Prix race in F1 2019, vowing to continue hosting esports races so long as the live ones were cancelled. The first race featured a few current F1 drivers behind the controller along with a smattering of other celebrities, drivers, and esports race folks. This weekend brings five current vroom vroom racing folks to the grid.

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Feature: With a handful of Overwatch abilities

Riot’s first-person shooter Valorant aims to take Counter-Strike’s crown

I skulk through a bottleneck boulevard before pausing to launch my newly-charged sonar arrow at a wall. Its my signature ability, and reveals the locations of all enemies within a small radius. As the timer winds down, I decide it’s time for a last-ditch effort to plant the spike. I launch myself around the corner and ru-

Bang! I don’t see where it comes from, but one shot from the Vandal, aka AK-47, and I’m reacquainted with the dirt for the third round on the trot. I hear a cacophony of tuts from my disappointed teammates who knew exactly where the assailant was. This all feels vaguely familiar.

Valorant is Riot’s spin on the first-person team shooter, and is gearing up to compete in the big leagues alongside Overwatch and Counter-Strike. At the moment it boasts a roster of nine Agents, all of whom have their own unique abilities, and its core game mode involves either attacking or defending a bomb site by planting or defusing a mysterious object called the Spike. Like Counter-Strike's bomb defusal mode, you can also win rounds by eliminating the entire enemy team - although this only works if the Spike hasn’t been planted yet. You earn credits after each round, which you can then use to buy better guns and extra abilities at the start of the next one. Pretty standard stuff.

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Blizzard have added Hearthstone's first new playable class since the game launched six years ago, the scowling Demon Hunter. That's a whole new set of cards with whole new tricks, not to mention a whole lot of growling. Illidan Stormrage is the first Demon Hunter hero, and today you can unlock the class and its starter deck by playing through a short free story campaign telling his daft history. Having played through this free prologue, I'm impressed that Blizzard didn't paper over Illidan being a big idiot baby - but I maybe wish they would? Lads and germs, your new champ is here, and he's still hung on on a millennia-old crush.

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In Other Waters sounds quite beautiful. It looks nice as well, with that cyan and yellow scheme above, but the most beautiful parts about it you won't see at all. They're described to you, an exosuit AI, by the xenobiologist wearing you while exploring an ocean full of alien lifeforms. The manage-y, explore-y, narrative-y sci-fi game is out today so you're welcome to dive in. The water's fine.

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A new video developer diary for Humankind explains more about its single victory condition, the pursuit of Fame points. It's a system building victories from all facets of your cultural legacy, with points coming in everywhere from military victories to building wonders. Humankind is coming from the makers of Endless Space and Endless Legends, two cracking and fascinating 4X strategy games, so I'm mighty curious about their take on the big daddy of 4X: Civilization. Come watch the video to learn more about Fame and about switching cultures across eras.

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Feature: Cheap games, graphics cards, SSDs and more

Best PC gaming deals of the week – 3rd April 2020

Sound the foghorn, folks, the PC gaming deals tanker has just pulled into port with a veritable bevy of big, fat, tasty discounts to plunder. Whether you're after the best prices on this week's big releases, from 22% off Resident Evil 3 to 19% off Mount And Blade 2: Bannerlord, or want to stock up on sack loads of top indie deals, your deals herald has gathered them altogether into one handy location. So fill yer boots, deals hunters, as this week's bounty is a real good 'un.

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Sea Of Thieves is setting sail for Steam

After two years on Microsoft's janky Windows 10 Store, Sea Of Thieves is now officially headed to Steam. Rare last night announced that a Steam release for their multiplayer pirate sandbox is "coming soon", and yes Steamers will be able to play with pirates on the Microsoft Store as well as Xbox One. I know many grumbled about the gaping lack of things to do when Sea Of Thieves debuted in 2018 but Rare certainly have been busy, adding a whole lot of newness since then. It's a good time to get onboard.

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Feature: A round-up of the realistic

The Flare Path: A2Z

A is for Alphabetised wargame and sim news. Every four weeks or so I hang up a streamer of industrial strength fly paper in The Flare Path water closet and see what wargame and simulation news items stick to it. Below is this month’s bag – 25 stories involving virtual vehicles and surrogate slaughter. If you've visited a transport museum or heritage railway in the past twelve months, or can put these battles – Bunker Hill, Bataan, Borodino – in chronological order, you probably won't regret clicking where it says…

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Feature: Featuring: more gorilla chat

Stela review

I heard a lovely story from a primatologist once, about how different apes tend to respond when faced with tricky wooden puzzle boxes. Orangutans, apparently, will sit and think for a while when stumped, and then work carefully at a new angle on the problem. Chimps, meanwhile, will typically lose their tempers, smashing the offending puzzle to splinters with their hellish fists. But gorillas - my dear, sweet gorillas - will just get a little bit sad, before ambling off to find some celery to enjoy instead. It's not that they're incapable of finding a solution, or that they're incurious: they're just not that desperate to know what's inside the box.

This is one of the many reasons I respect and admire gorillas. It's also why I had gigantic mixed feelings about gorgeous platformer Stela. Because although it's as pretty as anything and dripping with atmosphere, it's opaque enough to make J.J. Abrams' Lost seem like a childrens' story about a pig looking at an egg. It's a beautiful puzzle box with nothing inside it, and spends its entire, wordless length asking questions whose answers never arrive. If I was of a chimpen nature, this post would be nothing but a bared-fangs screech, delivered from a squatting position atop my wardrobe, with shards of smashed PC in my hands. But luckily, I played Stela with a gorilla's heart*, and so had no urge to winkle the truth from inside it with my big, leathery fingers. Go in with the same mentality, and you'll find a lot to love here.

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Capcom's shiny new remake of Resident Evil 3 launched this morning, inviting us back to Raccoon City to enjoy the outbreak of zombitis again - now with excellent high-fidelity brands. 1999's game saw the survival horror take on more of an explosion-y action movie vibe and that's amplified in 2020's remake, but it's still pretty trad and relatively rad.

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I'm a sucker for wizard schools, especially when they look this pretty. Witchbrook is an upcoming Stardew Valley meets Harry Potter life sim, and developers Chucklefish have released several new screens that show off its new look. They've transfigured nice but simple art into the lushness above.

Yes. This looks like a good place to pretend to be a magic teenager.

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Feature: A good place to die

Warzone’s map is great, and we should make a bigger deal about it

At first, I took the map in Call Of Duty: Warzone for granted. The blistering forward march of techno-wizadry had inured me to its impact, and I jumped out of the spawning plane with my eyes glazed over. Of course the latest COD's playground is bigger and more detailed than any other battle royale's, I thought. How could it be otherwise.

My eyes are open now, though. Verdansk is vast, and should be appreciated.

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Feature: One Off The List

The 11 nicest smiles in PC games

The human race evolved the facial expression known as the “smile” because we needed a way to silently communicate satisfaction to other members of our species. So we decided to bare our teeth at one another and squint. This stuck, and now even the characters of your favourite digital storyderby are doing it. It’s sort of disgusting, and yet… you know what, I like it. Here are the 11 best smiles in PC games.

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Forget dodging spikes or slaying foes - Rogue Legacy was a game about family. Specifically, training up your kids to be better dungeon-divers than you so they'd be ready to take up your mantle after an unfortunate spelunking accident. Fitting, then, that Rogue Legacy would establish its own legacy. Seven years after Rogue Legacy first picked up a sword, Rogue Legacy 2 is preparing to take up that rusted mantle and live up to its family name with yet another trip down the dungeons.

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The circus has come to Darkest Dungeon! Grab ye olde candy floss, ride ye olde wooden rollercoaster. Let's not bother with the clowns, there's bloodsport to be had. Upcoming DLC The Butcher's Circus is bringing grand old player-versus-player battles to Darkest Dungeon. After all, in a game about testing your luck against horrors in the dark, what could be more terrifying than taking on your fellow human being?

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Like a faint radio transmission, it's been a while since we last heard from Signalis. Two years since Dominic Tarason snatched its teaser trailer, with a brief stop in Screenshot Saturday Sundays under Jay's tenure last year. But this week, developers Rose-Engine boosted the signal, broadcasting a new trailer that plunges deeper into the beautiful, horrifying depths of their sci-fi survival-horror.

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Apex Legends has some neat characters, sure. But a masked, non-binary big game hunter who's crawled outta Old Norse mythology by way of Chernobyl backed by a pack of crows? I think Bloodhound might take the top spot. This month, Respawn are finally giving Blothhundr their due with The Old Ways, a two-week lore event that finally gives the hunter some worthy prey - and some cosmetics too, I guess.

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Space MMORTS Starborne is now in open beta

Not much to do for the next ten weeks? You might fancy a go on Starborne, a multiplayer real-time strategy game with thousands of players in each weeks-long match. After five years of alpha testing, today it launched into open beta and wants you to come have a poke. Our Sin had a go on a Starborne alpha last year and called it "a calmer kind of multiplayer space skulduggery." Yes, a gentler form of gathering resources, building bases, forming alliances, and zapping the heck out of thousands of spacerivals.

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Enough floating about in the clouds, Inkle are ready to get their knees muddy and hands bloody. After wrapping up dreamy translate 'em up Heaven's Vault, the story-driven studio today announced Pendragon - a sprawling strategic narrative adventure about traipsing across Dark Ages Britain to rally the (now table-less) Knights of the Round Table in a quest for vengeance.

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Feature: Who let the locust out?

Gears Tactics will appeal to XCOM fans and classic Gears Of War fans alike

Show me someone who says I'm not a fan of our excellent VidBud team, and I'll show you a liar. Recently, VidBud Matthew got an in-depth demo of Gears Tactics, a turn-based tactical entry into the Gears Of War series, and my admiration only grew.

Set 10 years before the events of the very first Gears Of War game, you'd be forgiven for thinking this'd have more in common with the alien-sniping fun of XCOM than the big, boot-stompin' FPS action of the Gears games. But in his excellent video, Matthew explains why Tactics will win hearts among both long term XCOM fans and die-hard Fenix stans alike.

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