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Rock Paper Shotgun – PC Game Reviews, Previews, Subjectivity

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A sentient rubbish bin, a talking rat and a floating jacket walk into a bar - less a joke, more a setup for an adorably grimy SNES-styled RPG. Kingdoms Of The Dump hit Kickstarter today, where its devs, Roach Games (a pair of real-life janitors writing what they know, I suppose) are asking for funds to see it to stinky fruition. It looks a charmer, too - a high fantasy adventure set amongst the Dump Kingdoms of the Lands Of Fill. Someone's gone and taken out (and not returned) the king of Garbagia, so it's up to young Dustin Binsley and friends to clean up. See a lovely trailer below.

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Dim Bulb's quiet and contemplative story tell 'em up Where The Water Tastes Like Wine is still out there, trudging down America's dusty depression-era roads, collecting and telling stories. Today, it has a few new ones to tell. Today's Gold Mountain Update adds an official Chinese localisation, produced by a crew of dedicated Chinese-speaking fans led by one Ryan Zhang. More importantly for English-speakers, it adds a new set of stories to the game, focused on the lives of Chinese Americans and their alchemized folklore as they became woven into America's fabric.

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Google's DeepMind AI division will likely end up making the next generation of military killbots, but before then, at least they'll provide new challenges for the esports crowd. In January, their "AlphaStar" StarCraft II agent trounced a crew of pro players ten to one. To make sure it wasn't a fluke, they've unleashed AlphaStar on the European public. According to this official blog post, AlphaStar is limited to Europe for now. StarCraft II players can opt for a chance to have their next 1v1 partner partner swapped out for an unfeeling machine that's less likely to insult your mother.

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It got a little lost in last week's flurry of activity, but SolSeraph -- ACE Team's tribute to genre-blending SNES gem ActRaiser -- is out, though sadly not heralded by a celestial chorus. Staying close to its inspirations, it's half hack n' slash platformer, half real-time strategy about a god reclaiming their land from monsters and demons in the name of their human followers. I've not had a chance to play it for myself, but trusted ActRaiser fans and platformer aficionados alike haven't had much good to say. Perhaps it just wasn't weird enough for ACE Team? Below, a launch trailer.

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The makers of Devotion today said they might re-release their really-quite-nice horror game at some point, if the controversy dies down, but Red Candle Games have no plans for a re-release "in the near-term". Devotion was pulled from sale after some Chinese players were upset by it containing a forbidden meme comparing Chinese president Xi Jinping to fictional honeyguzzler Winnie the Pooh, which has since led to that government cancelling its Chinese publisher's business license. It is a good'un so fingers crossed we'll get another chance to play it. And fingers crossed for the government retribution to end, obvs.

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If you've been following our Nate's attempts to build a Dwarf Fortress zoo in the Basement of Curiosity, you might think it couldn't get much worse between the paved-over Bird Hole and the monstrous bristleworm. Oh it can. Two words: petting zoo. A future update will add the ability for folks to pet animals, y'see.

"Oh god," Basement of Curiosity head keeper Nate Crowley responded.

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Remember that thing you like from 10 years ago? It’s probably getting a sequel. Shenmue 3. Evil Genius 2. Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines 2. The calendar of upcoming games is packed with throwbacks that will revisit the worlds we left behind over a decade ago. Oddworld: Soulstorm is heading back to the strange homeland of Abe the skinny green freedom farter. Mechwarrior 5 is booting up a bipedal destruct-o-bot that was powered down in the year 2000. If your favourite childhood game is not getting a sequel, it's probably getting a glittering remake.

Reviving forgotten entertainment relics is nothing new (hi, George Lucas) but the recent glut of resurrections has made me wonder: why are developers and publishers so keen to go back to old ground? Why do they want to chase this sense of nostalgia? So, I asked them.

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Feature: Plop Ten

Steam Charts: Bubbling Trousers Edition

It's another dire old week in Chartland, with the last breaths of the Summer Sale ensuring, with the exception of spots #4 and #5, that all the usual suspects dominate. But we won't let that change us! We're better than this! We're going to have fun anyway!

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Good day to you, fellow deals hunters, this is your deals herald reporting live from the deals floors of Amazon Prime Day 2019, and man alive is it messy down here. We've got workers striking in one corner, deals flying out of warehouse doors at lighting fast speeds in the other, and a whole bunch of people in the middle sharpening their elbows and doing their best arm stretches to make sure they're first in line to grabs all those heaving great discounts as soon as they barrel forth from the great Amazon Prime factory machine.

Fortunately, your deals herald has the inside skinny on all the best Amazon Prime Day PC gaming deals, which I've collated below for your deals-viewing pleasure below. You may, of course, wish to not participate in the deals fray today (or tomorrow, for that matter) in order to support those aforementioned strike workers, and your deals herald fully respects that decision. There will always be more deals, after all, at companies that are mildly less evil. However, if you are an Amazon Prime member and wish to make the most of the deals available today, then read on, for here are all the best PC gaming deals available right now on Amazon Prime Day 2019.

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The best way to experience Steam's torrent of new releases is @microtrailers, a Twitter bot which indiscriminately tweets about (most) launches with cut-down six-second versions of their trailers. With no curation and no adaptive algorithm, it gives a raw look at the range of modern games, the big-budget alongside the no-budget, the flashy alongside the plain, the serious war game alongside the horny anime puzzle game. It's so great that Valve copied it for their Steam Labs experiments. Troublingly, when Valve launched their algorithmitated Micro Trailers last week, the original Twitter bot went down. Did they kill it to replace it with a worse version? Naw, relax! It was a technical hiccup and the Steamy treat is back, baby.

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Feature: Fortknight

Have You Played… Stronghold?

With Stronghold: Warlords recently announced at E3, now seems as good a moment as any to look back on the game that kicked off Firefly’s seemingly endless series of castle ’em ups back in 2001. In fact, I’m genuinely astonished to learn that Warlords will be the ninth game in the series, as despite loving the first instalment, I’ve managed to play precisely none of the rest. Stronghold was a very literal tower defence game, with some light-yet-satisfying citybuilding and management elements. It also had the vague feeling of being a 14th century take on Home Alone, as you would build up your castle, then surround it with concentric layers of horrid traps in order to thwart waves of pikemen, macelads, swordboys and horseblokes.

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Feature: A spiritual experience

How not to cut trees in Woodcutter Simulator 2011

I am not a religious person, but I must admit some phenomena can’t be explained in a rational way. Like the inconceivable vastness of space. Ghosts sightings. The Brexit. Or United Independent Entertainment’s decision to release Woodcutter Simulator 2011 on Steam in the year of our Lord 2019.

I discovered it by chance, a tweet by our dearly departed John Walker casually appearing on my timeline. And I realized that, as the former reviewer of Pure Farming 2018, it was my duty to play it. Destiny called. And now here I am, booting up the game, and readying myself to play… Holzfäller Simulator 2011?

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What you need when strip mining the landscape and turning it into a network of roads and railways and factory towns as far as the eye can see is for it to be set against a very beautiful backdrop showing exactly what kind of lovely nature you’re chewing through. At least, I assume that’s the thesis behind Voxel Tycoon, because I see all those tiny trees and cacti and the shining turquoise water and do feel as though it would be perversely satisfying to make a wonderfully efficient road grid over the top of it all. Take a look at the trailer, you'll see what I mean.

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You know how it is. Sometimes you’re just guarding the world with your boyfriend and then he tries to grasp at more power than is allowed and in doing so gets stuck between the worlds of the living and the dead. We’ve all been there. So, too, is Shaya, the protagonist of utterly gorgeous game Atma. Trace mantras onscreen to get past obstacles and enemies, reset all the spirits that your beau accidentally unleashed into the world, and mostly just luxuriate in how pretty the whole thing is, as you can see in this trailer.

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Screenshot Saturday! A day for developers to peel back the curtain for a little look at what they’ve been working on, and then for me to pick through the day after (because timezones) and ooh and ahh at it all. This week: mesmerising synchronised swimming, a very powerful tool, and some adorable mushrooms.

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The ocean depths are a pretty good Metroidvania setting, seeing as we know so little about them. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me that much if the bizarre glowing creatures of Outbuddies really were down there, just waiting for a lost explorer to stumble on them. Submerge yourself in the trailer’s neons and the skulls that are apparently littered all over the place on the ocean shelf. Again, not surprising.

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Feature: Read more

The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for hanging out in a field playing board games. Or for reading the best writing about videogames - although not much grabbed me on that front this week.

Here, have something about radically political board games instead. Did you know the suffragettes made a board game about feminism and police violence? Regardless, Renee Shelby's piece for ROMchip is worth checking out. The game involves a blend of politics, territory control and hostage negotiation. I'm sad that apparently only one copy still exists.

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Farm-o-gather (o-fight, o-fish, o-explore, etc. etc.) type games are good at devising ways to get your characters out into the wilds of nature, but I think getting shipwrecked on an island is a new one. Such is the predicament of our protagonists in Stranded Sails – Explorers Of The Cursed Islands, though. Luckily, this island doesn’t look very cursed at all, and is full of smiling pals and lovely plots of land to grow veggies and search out adventure. And sometimes find angry ghosts. But I’m sure that’s fine.

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A kaleidoscopic fall; a world jarred by spiked lights, rocks, and scan lines; and an inescapable mirage are among the “other moods” from Connor Sherlock’s latest volume of walking simulators, titled Peak Bleak Blues (and other moods). To experience them you’ll have to get inside and hike about, stumbling upon all kinds of wonderful or ominous or wonderfully ominous oddities or just feeling the wide-open expanse of place. But you can still get a sense of each of them, like flipping through a travel brochure, thanks to this handy trailer.

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Duncan Robson’s video game clock supercut Hours Played is intended to eventually become a functional timetelling device, streamed to sync up to wherever you are in the world, created entirely from clips of clocks from games. Robson crowdfunded last year to create a proof of concept of the first hour, but ended up with a little over two. I’m going to embed it right here so that you can rifle through it or leave it open to tick away in a side tab. If you’re wanting to use it to keep track of the minutes passing, you’ll have to start it at precisely 12:56pm.

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Last year, Ubisoft announced a partnership with HitRecord, a collaborative website that allows creators to upload work, and remix others’, in order to get art and assets for Beyond Good And Evil 2 from fans. It caused many to speak out against the idea of sourcing labour from invested outsiders rather than salaried employees, as well as the concept of “spec work.” Ubisoft was asking people to put in time and effort with no guarantee that they would be paid, pointed out creators using the #nospec hashtag. Still, the system is returning for Watch Dogs Legion, with Ubisoft inviting musicians to submit work that could become one of ten tracks that will be used in the game – or might result in absolutely no reward for their labour.

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Feature: The NES carts of tomorrow, today

Priceless Play – 13 July 2019

The Famicase game jam, or A Game By Its Cover, has officially begun and will be accepting submissions for the month of July. This annual jam draws inspiration from the My Famicase Exhibition and usually shakes out to be one of my favourite jams of the year (it's co-run by my friend Dominic Johann, but what's that got to do with it!)

Games run on imagination. The game we think we'll play hardly ever coincides with the game we end up playing. The meaning we take from a game can differ wildly from its developers' intentions. We imagine that we are progressing toward something. We pretend, even if just for a minute, that the world we're playing in is real. The following games aren't real yet, but the power of imagination is strong. Suspend your disbelief with me, and check out my top Famicase games.

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Feature: WELL!?

What are we all playing this weekend?

We are waist-deep in the liquid of July and things are starting to coagulate. The air is still, the waves are quiet. There are no colossal games on the charred blockbuster horizon, so this is a bounteous time for the thriving shoals of smaller games. Nipping at our thighs like sea lice. Demanding attention before the winter tsunami eventually comes to kill them all. Give some time to the little ones, yeah?

What are you playing this weekend? Here's what we're clicking on!

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Double Kick Heroes is still in early access (and has been for over a year), but I reckon it should be on any rhythm or metal fan's radar. This week, developers Headbang Club rolled out an important-feeling patch. Surprising nobody, the Going Rogue update adds a roguelike-esque survival mode to the game called Fury Road, letting you play around with its fiddly mix of evasion and frenetic drumming with some interesting modifiers. Alternatively, the Chill Mode removes the monsters chasing you, letting you shred to your heart's content. See how it's shaping up below.

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Whatever your feelings on The Bard's Tale IV: Barrow's Deep (and opinions were all over the place), you can't deny that InXile's puzzle-heavy RPG could have used a couple more months in the oven. Probably for the best, then, that they're relaunching it next month. Due on August 27th (and as a free upgrade to anyone with the original release), the Director's Cut was once known as the v2.0 update, an overhaul that they've been teasing for a while, but seems to have grown beyond their original plans. Below, a trailer showing off the more polished (but still offbeat) puzzle RPG.

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After nearly three years of early access evolution (and the occasional wild mutation), Streets Of Rogue is out now. A real passion project by Matt Dabrowski, it's a roguelite immersive sim -- think Deus Ex demade for SNES, or Mega Drive Shadowrun -- for up to four players, local or online. There's a corrupt mayor to be overthrown (by stealing his hat) in a randomly generated multi-level city. Whether the prized chapeau is claimed through guerilla warfare, bribery, gorilla warfare or just zombifying the town is up to you. Below, a sassy but informational launch trailer.

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Give people mod tools, and they'll do wonderful things, unless the game has an experience system, then they'll break it over their knees. Predictably, that was one of the first things players did with Assassin's Creed Odyssey's new Story Creator Mode, a browser-based quest editor. Yesterday, Ubisoft put their foot down on players making self-completing XP farming quests, officially stating that their prevalence leads to "less visibility for the creative, interesting and frankly fantastic community stories that have been published". Worth noting that Ubisoft still sell XP boosters of their own.

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I'll admit that I'm almost impressed that Infinity Ward is showing restraint with the new Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. I figured that it would try and gobble up the ever-increasing player numbers that have been spurred on by the battle royale craze and announce the world's first 7.53 billion multiplayer mode, set on a 1:1 recreation of the Earth. But my cynicism was shown to be wrong last night when they let everyone see the new Gunfight mode, which is stripped so far back as to be almost naked. Call of Nudey, if you will. It's 2v2 and on tiny maps. We have some streamers screaming below.

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The thing about living things is that they eventually die. That’s what A Place for the Unwilling, a narrative adventure game from Alpixel Games, is about. The city is dying, and you have 21 days to live through the final days of the Living City. Stories happen all across the world, and time moves on, so you have to decide what to see and do while trying to balance what’s left of your life.

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Feature: Alien ant harm

Earth Defense Force 5 review

2356. That’s how many van-sized ants Earth Defense Force 5 tells me I’ve shot, electrocuted, carpet-bombed, mortared and hammered into chitinous shards and umber mulch. All this since a bad day at work saw my security guard character roped into an increasingly absurd arms-race against gigantic invading alien frogs and their legion of insectoid thralls.

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