Unknown Pleasures: this week’s Steam new release highlights

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Welcome back to Unknown Pleasures, our weekly round-up of the best new but under-reported games released on Steam over the past seven days.

This week: SF startup simulation, nihilistic Tetris, toilet humour and fantasy RPG Tinder.
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Podcast: The Electronic Wireless Show talks Gamescom, The Long Dark and Plunkbat

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Toss another podcast episode upon the fire, stranger. The cold is closing in but the Electronic Wireless Show will keep us warm. Pip, Alice and Adam gather round the podfire this week to talk about the lies (Adam tells) at Gamescom, the icy reception to The Long Dark‘s story mode, the cleansing rain of Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, and the deadly climates of No Man’s Sky.

We then turn to you, listeners, to discuss your favourite in-game weather. And somewhere in the middle there’s also a long discussion about karaoke, for some reason. Read the rest of this entry »

Have You Played… Zuma Deluxe?

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Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.

The lesser loved of Popcap’s moreish games, lacking the bombast of Peggle, character of Plants vs. Zombies or the pure relaxation of Bejeweled. Still, I love Zuma, a game about a frog spitting balls at a big line of balls. Read the rest of this entry »

Campaigning with Total War: Warhammer 2’s Skaven

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When Great Warlord Queek Headtaker fell in battle, it wasn’t a particularly heroic end. Nor was it especially brave; he was fleeing from the battlefield when an enraged dinosaur trampled him. But the Skaven, Total War: Warhammer 2’s [official site] long-teased and recently revealed fourth race, don’t have much use for bravery or heroism. They’re sneaky, untrustworthy rodents, and for 30 turns of the campaign, I led them to several unchivalrous victories and one devastating defeat.

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LawBreakers is a zero-gravity FPS that nearly touches the sky

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It’s hard not to get excited about LawBreakers‘ [official site] simple hook: flying military grunts with rockets strapped to their feet zip around zero gravity arenas dodging grenades and pumping bullets into each other. I’m happy to report that it’s as fun as it sounds, and its ideas set it apart from other games in the genre. Yet what has impressed me more is how polished it is away from those aerial segments, which actually only make up part of the action. Far from a one-trick pony, LawBreakers is a rock solid shooter with game modes that necessitate team play, and although it’s not fully complete yet (there’s ranked play coming soon) it’s got enough variety to keep me coming back for more. Read the rest of this entry »

Bizarre bestiaries and weird relics: what fantasy can learn from history

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Swords. Castles. Peasants, knights, shieldmaidens, queens, kings, princes, bandits and men at arms. Games often draw on certain aspects of medieval history, whether they’re using it to add colour and flavour to a limb-lopping action game, swords ‘n’ sorcery platformer or fantasy RPG. But there’s more to the period than grim warriors, noble (and cruel) kings, and dank dungeons. A few games, including The Witcher 3 and Crusader Kings, dig beneath the surface to capture some of the mystery and wonder of a time thick with superstition and folklore, but the middle ages have many more tales to tell.

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Car Mechanic Simulator 2018 passes its MOT

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I spent a few pleasant but troubled days with Car Mechanic Simulator 2018 [official site] just after launch, reporting that it was a great game saddled with significant technical and interface issues. Since that time, the developers have released approximately eight million and twelve patches (not to mention a feverish mea culpa for the game’s launch woes), so it’s time to take it back to the shop and see if it’s safe to drive by now.
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Wot I Think: Nidhogg 2

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Abstract multiplayer fencing game Nidhogg didn’t need its minimalist style to be buried under a splatter of aggressively grotesque paint and gore. It didn’t need extra weapons to upset the perfect balance and precision of its two-button combat. It certainly didn’t need its titular wurms to chew the air with stumpy rotten teeth.

All a Nidhogg sequel really needs, to justify its existence entirely, is better netcode and maybe a couple of new modes to play with. By messing with the original formula, particularly with that divisive visual switch, Nidhogg 2 [official site] risks proving that more can sometimes be less. Here’s wot I think.

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Rez Infinite is the greatest VR game to date

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I’ll defer from any commentary on the health of the VR industry and speak only personally: until today, there was enough dust on my goggles to craft a life-size Jeff Fahey statue. With the shock release of ur-console musical shooter Rez Infinite [official site] on PC last week, that’s all changed. Whatever the future might hold for VR, the blissful lines, colours and rhythm of Rez writ wraparound and gigantic is a moment of redemption for the whole concept.
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Have You Played… Project Highrise?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.

If you’ve ever played XCOM and wished you could spend more time building your antfarm base and less time watching your operatives die, Project Highrise [official site] might be the game for you.

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Wot I Think: Agents Of Mayhem

Agents Of Mayhem [official site] should not be judged for not being a Saints Row game. Volition are under no obligation to keep making that series, even after they struck on such extraordinary gold with SR III and IV. Agents Of Mayhem loosely shares the same universe, albeit mostly via the presence of the colour purple and fleurs-de-lis. There are also a few half-familiar character names, and a DLC that lets you add Johnny Gat into the mix, but beyond this AoM and SR are separate games. Different types of games. You can’t measure Agents Of Mayhem against Saints Row in a sensible way. Still, it doesn’t stop them trying, and, well, you know, it’s nowhere near as good as the recent Saints Row games. Here’s wot I think. Read the rest of this entry »

How to play Dragon’s Dogma Online wherever you are

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Update: This article has been updated on 22/08/17 in light of the release of the Season 3 update, and to include new instructions on how to install the translation patch for it.

Ah, Dragon’s Dogma [official site], gem of Capcom’s slightly weird early 201X lineup. The familiar alliteration in the title wasn’t coincidence; Dragon’s Dogma was Capcom’s take on classic D&D, circa 1990. A fully player-designed party, a threadbare plot, a semi-open world full of dungeons, loot, levelling and a few dragons, too, and all tied together with a physics’y, tactile action combat engine fresh out of the Capcom forges, allowing for the kind of dramatic combat that would drive a DM to despair as they consult the arcane rules behind grappling.

In 2015 Dragon’s Dogma Online took the series online in a sequel of sorts, but as the third season of that game approaches, there’s still no sign of an English language release. Fear not though because with a little bit of tinkering, you can jump in right now, and there’s a fan translation in progress that you can enjoy the early parts of already. Here’s how to play and why you should.

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State of the Art: The Long Dark’s aurora

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The coloured lights flaring across the night sky in the frozen Canadian wilderness were one of the most anticipated elements of Hinterland’s survival game, The Long Dark [official site]. Since the Kickstarter we’ve known they would do more than brighten the night, playing a key part in the game’s episodic story mode, but now they’re in the game I find myself braving the uptick in danger they bring or setting aside a necessary survival task to stand outside and stare up at the skies in delight. So how did the design of the aurora develop. how did the team balance beauty and hostility and DID YOU KNOW that the Aurora Borealis makes a noise in real life that Hinterland incorporated into the game?? Here’s creative director Raphael van Lierop to explain more in our latest State of the Art feature! Read the rest of this entry »

The Joy Of cruising in Burnout Paradise

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In most cases, driving, and this is true of both real life and games, is about the act of getting from point A to point B with your car. It’s about doing it efficiently, safely, and in as little time as possible. In games, your vehicle of choice might be a car with a jet engine under the hood and even a drive from place to place might be somewhat risky, but the point remains – just get from here to there, usually before your rivals.

One of Burnout Paradise’s greatest achievements is allowing you to do something else entirely. You can, and are encouraged to, just get behind the wheel and drive, without enemies, timers, or competition.

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Steam Charts: Top 10 Games Edition

The Steam Charts is the only place on the internet to find out the most up-to-date information about the games you care about the most, the latest rumours of upcoming changes to early access hits, and secrets that can see your way to coming top of the gaming high score tables! Read the rest of this entry »

The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for settling into a new life, one not surrounded by packed boxes. Now we live in a house surrounded by unpacked boxes! Who wants to build the world’s biggest cardboard fort? Who wants to first read some of the past week’s finest games writing?

One year after release (and before the launch of Friday’s update), Oli Welsh at Eurogamer revisited No Man’s Sky to consider its legacy and how the game has changed. I broadly agree with Oli’s summary of the whole thing, though I’m still glad that RPS addressed the hype throughout, from the fantasies projected upon the very first vague trailer to the runaway hype train prior to release. Read the rest of this entry »

The International 2017: Three teams standing, two new heroes, and one TERRIFYING AI

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The final day of The International 2017 looms, with only Newbee, LGD.Forever Young (LFY) and Team Liquid still in the running to win pro Dota 2’s highest accolade – yesterday saw both Invictus Gaming and LGD Gaming eliminated in surprisingly one-sided lower bracket matches.

But first… new heroes! Read the rest of this entry »

Wot I Think – Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

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The voices won’t stop. They’re whispering in my ear, gnawing at my skull from all angles. “Turn back”, one says. “They’re watching you”. “She falls for their tricks every time,” says another, cackling while Senua screams. More than once during Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice [official site] I had to fight the urge to rip the headphones from my ears. As a portrayal of how harrowing it is to live with psychosis it undoubtedly succeeds, and it uses Senua’s illness as a route into an excellent eight-hour story about love and loss. But, sometimes, especially in its combat segments, it’s also difficult to play for the wrong reasons. Read the rest of this entry »