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Rock Paper Shotgun – PC Game Reviews, Previews, Subjectivity

Page 258

After years of growing beards and wearing plaid shirts as an independent studio, Hard Reset developers and Shadow Warrior rebooters Flying Wild Hog have got a shave, started wearing ties, and sided with The Suits. The Polish studio have been bought by Supernova Capital, an investment firm founded by a number of Splash Damage veterans including former CEO Paul Wedgwood. They all say this is good news for Flying Wild Hog, as the gang will get to focus on making games while The Suits provide financial security, sit in smoky rooms steepling their fingers, and cackle ominously when they don't realise conference calls are still going.

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Feature: The forever quest

EverQuest is 20 years old, and people are still playing

EverQuest came out in 1999. It invited thousands of adventurers to the fantasy realm of Norrath to kill monsters and loot dungeons. Twenty years later, it is still alive. To understand why thousands of people sill log in to this antiquated MMO every day after two decades, I spoke to some of its veteran developers and a longtime fan that's been playing since the turn of the millennium.

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BioWare have now officially and intentionally improved loot drop rates in certain Anthem activities, following weeks of griping from players that the looter-shooter is too stingy with the goodies. BioWare had previously unintentionally buffed loot rates twice, at which points players seemed a lot happier grinding for gear, then both times BioWare stepped in to say "Oh whoops that was a bug, sorry, we've fixed it now." Third time's a charm, though the weekend's changes didn't go far enough so BioWare do plan more improvements for the future.

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"Everything else is just a walking simulator" is just one example of the bug-eyed posturing with which Skybound Games announce Notmycar, their attempt to snaffle a piece of Fort-Legs pie with a free-to-play, automotive-based battle royale.

Notmycar takes the attitude that, if the car-wrecks don't bring all the boys to the yard, maybe being massively obnoxious will. "Are you tired of the same games day in and day out?", reads the YouTube blurb. Uh, the whole world says no? Still: I dig the concept.

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Feature: More like AriBEST!

Have You Played… Neverwinter Nights?

Neverwinter Nights is a Dungeons & Dragons RPG from the early 2000s and it very handily got an enhanced edition last year. What timing! There’s a sequel where you have prettier character models, but I still prefer the first one. This is party because I like complex RPGs, but mostly because of Aribeth.

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The Witcher’s spin-off card game Gwent will be bringing out a monster themed expansion called Crimson Curse at the end of this month. They’re teasing it now with a trailer full of blood: blood magic, blood moons, and a very enthusiastic looking vampire. Also, a prominent moth motif, because those winged wretches can be just as ominous as the teeth and claws everywhere else. You can check it out below.

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Strange monsters and more adult fears blend together in She Dreams Elsewhere, an upcoming “surreal adventure JRPG.” A young woman named Thalia must navigate her nightmares in an attempt to wake up from the subconscious maze she’s stuck in, facing all kinds of foes both supernatural and everyday. Here’s a trailer to get lost in.

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Feature: Read more

The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for living it large in San Francisco, on your one free day before GDC. Alice Bee tells me there are some good sea lions, but if you don't have any sea lions to see, that's OK. You can still read some of the best writing about videogames from the past week.

On Waypoint, Patrick Klepek spoke to KO_OP, a games company where everyone gets both an equal paycheck and a say in important decisions. I link to a lot of pieces here that explain, correctly and compellingly, what’s wrong with a company or a decision or a culture. I wish I could link to pieces that celebrate progressive company practices more often.

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Everyone’s favourite international Robin Hood-alike is back at her usual thieving-for-good antics, this time taking globe trotting literally in Where On Google Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? The answer to that question is London, at least at first, but after that it’ll be your job to track her down by talking to locals and picking up clues that will point you in the right direction while teaching you about cities and flags and landmarks.

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Hades’ updates reflect the shifting nature of mythology

The aptly named Murder Death Kill update had me descending back into Hades this week, checking out the new enemies like Thanatos, Alecto, and Tisiphone, and learning how to use Zagreus’s new Wrath Of Olympus power. (It’s basically an ultimate ability, charging as you fight until you can unleash a new divinely gifted attack.)

But it’s also got me thinking about the premise of releasing the game in early access, and how it seems especially thematically appropriate for a game rooted in mythology and a shifting underworld.

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Ooh and ahh at VirtuaVerse’s cyberpunk city

Upcoming cyberpunk point and click adventure game VirtuaVerse has exposed my moth-like attraction to pink and purple neon. I know that cyberpunk is more than this and I hope that the game will critically engage with the genre's roots beyond kanji street signs and something called “cryptoshamans.” And yet. Look how pretty this trailer is.

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One of the updates for Hearthstone’s Year Of The Dragon has hatched early, bringing a new and improved deck builder to Blizzard’s collectable card game. Previously, the auto-complete feature technically could slot cards into an incomplete deck, or even make one from scratch, but it seemed to take little into account besides mana cost, often making nonsensical or simply weak suggestions. Now, though, it uses fancy things like win rate data and machine learning. And it actually (mostly) works, bringing a helpful aid for players old and new.

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Feature: Leaving on a jet plane

Priceless Play – 16 March 2019

Greetings from Terminal 2 of the Los Angeles International Airport! I'm seated in one of the ubiquitous hybrid chair/benches which grace all airport terminals across our great planet gearing up for a ten-and-a-half hour flight. Hooray! Like many people, the thing I love most in the world is shuffling into a gigantic airborne tube with numerous strangers for an extended period of time. (Bonus: I hear they recycle the air. Eco-conscious!)

As much as I love Terror Tubes (airplanes) you gotta give it to 'em: there's something magical about sitting down in Los Angeles and getting back up and out again in London. The way that space has been utterly folded in upon by air travel has become mind-bogglingly routine, such as to be made mundane. I have dear friends across a continent and an ocean, so far away (a seven-to-eight-hour time difference -- please send lotto numbers) and YET. As the little singing cherubim of the Disneyland Resort and Park have told me numerous times: "It's a small world, after all." Take that, gravity!

Here are some games which explore this week's March Opposites, near and far, through the avenues of travel, home, and too-close love.

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Feature: WELL?

What are we all playing this weekend?

Yeah yeah it's not officially spring until Wednesday but there are enough buds on trees and enough sunny mornings that I'm calling it. Happy first weekend of spring, everyone. Let's all go outside. I've got a swimming road trip planned with pals this weekend, dipping into rivers and falls across Perth and Kinross. Glorious sunshine, thunderstorms, and hail are all forecast, so it'll surely be an adventure. And possibly a good story about how I lost my toes and/or nose.

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

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Globe-trotting pulp adventures, Nazis to shoot, cursed artifacts to claim and/or explode and elements of both XCom and FTL? Pathway is ticking a lot of exciting-sounding boxes already, and doesn't look half bad either. Developers Robotality cut their teeth with the purely tactical Halfway back in 2014, but their second game looks like it's no half measure, building on both the combat and RPG sides of the formula. Below, ten minutes of abridged adventuring, exploring and turn-based tactics, showing off one of the game's five semi-procedurally-generated campaigns.

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Dead Or Alive 6 is the latest fighting game to offer a cut-down free-to-play version on PC - a big demo, if you will. Koei Tecmo launched the full game two weeks ago, but today's Core Fighters edition of DOA6 gives players access to four characters - Kasumi, Hitomi, Diego and Bass - and several play modes, including the DOA Quest mode and the character-customising DOA Central. It's a respectable slice of free fighting, although the a-la-carte pricing for character and feature unlocks is brutal. Check out the launch trailer for the Core Fighters edition below.

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Valve have finally admitted that 'review bombing' on Steam (leaving swarms of negative reviews for questionable reasons) is a big enough problem to have a human clean things up from time to time. According to today's store blog post, when a large, anomalous cluster of score-demolishing reviews happens, Valve will have "a team of people" investigate. If they decide that the reasons stated during that period are spurious enough to be considered 'off topic', then that entire cluster of reviews will no longer factor into the overall score, and the developer will be informed, though no reviews will be removed. Of course, this all hinges on Valve's definition of 'off topic'.

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Every year, the 7 Day Roguelike Challenge spawns a few gems. One of the most consistently intriguing development jams around, it's exactly what it sounds like - seven days to develop a roguelike. This year's entries are in, and while voting on the winners is still ongoing, I'm throwing in a nomination for Pawnbarian by "j4nw", a stylish, clever little browser game that mashes Chess together with Slay The Spire. Set on a tiny 5 x 5 board, you've got to clear out monsters quickly and safely using a limited hand of Chess-style movement options. Give it a stab for yourself here on Itch.

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Feature: Foxes and rats and bees oh my

The animals of Washington DC are the finest detail in The Division 2

The Division 2 is as finely detailed as Clancyromps get. Hot steam pipes up from street grates. Footprints appear in the dust as you explore derelict office blocks. The Washington DC of this apocalypse shooter is littered with waist-high cover, sure. But it is also littered with actual litter. Uncountable piles of bin bags and trash piled up in the street, next to the body bags. You can almost smell the rot of this fallen city. But then, something emerges from the miasma in the street. Another bandit with a machete? No, it’s a deer. Because The Divison 2 is also teeming with wildlife. Crows, deer, raccoons, foxes. It’s basically a gritty reboot of The Animals of Farthing Wood. My review is still in progress, so for now, here are some of my new favourite friends.

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Some interesting new bits trickled into Destiny 2 as the new season of paid Annual Pass content really starts rolling, including a quest where we get to pick sides - a tiny hint of a possible future with branching stories. While the consequences are minor right now, Bungie do tease that it "may impact future content." I'm up for that. 'Invitations of the Nine' quests have arrived with a neat-o cutscene and a big (and massively choreographed) twist too. Oh, also, spacemen can now find another cursed weapon, returning Destiny 1 revolver Thorn.

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RICO kicks open the door and slides into stores

RICO is not a game that beats around the bush. It's a roguelike-ish shooter built for co-op that sells that 80s hollywood buddy cop fantasy of punting open doors and clearing out waves of expendable mooks as you work your way up to whatever generic drug kingpin is behind it all. Out now and developed by Ground Shatter, I've played a few rounds of the game, and while it feels surprisingly bare-bones in places, there's something to be said for its fast, two-player co-op focus. See the launch trailer below.

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Feature: Lukewarm coffee; pie optional

TrĂ¼berbrook review

I’ve mentioned before that I love miniatures. The best part of travelling on planes is buying the teeny tiny versions of shampoo bottles that are allowed through security. It’s like my shampoo at home, but smaller! So I was immediately drawn to the idea of ‘handmade’ adventure games like Trüberbrook (or the still to be released Harold Halibut).

You see Trüberbrook, a point ‘n’ click adventure game set in 1960s Germany, uses physical sets, in miniature, which are then magically put in your computer (using photogrammetry, but as we know any sufficiently advanced form of technology is indistinguishable from magic, so: they are magically put in your computer). They’re then populated with digital characters made to look like handmade miniatures, and away you go, solving a weird mystery.

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Feature: I'll take it

Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines accidentally gave me a power fantasy

Vampire: The Masquerade -- Bloodlines has been written about a lot on this site (far more than one would expect from a game with both a colon and a hyphen in the title, which should be made a crime). It’s a clunky, unfinished mess of an action RPG that runs better today than it did on release in 2005 only by the grace of a community made patch, but somehow it was formative for a lot of people who ended up at RPS. Past and present. What we formed into is a different matter, of course.

If you’re a straight man Bloodlines can be a liquid sex-and-power fantasy pumped, undiluted, into your veins (ahaha). If you’re something else it can be something else. And with all the rumours about Bloodlines 2 that are swirling around, I’ve begun to examine why I love Bloodlines so much, when it’s a buggy, unfinished, undercooked spongecake of an action RPG that collapses in its third act.

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Feature: And which one should you buy?

Nvidia GTX 1660 vs 1660 Ti: What’s the difference?

Nvidia finally lifted the lid on their new GTX 1660 graphics card yesterday, which is the baby sibling to their also recently-released (and newly-crowned graphics card champ) GTX 1660 Ti. But what difference does that 'Ti' moniker actually make, and is it worth spending the extra £60 / $60 on it? To find out, it's time to look at some tasty graphs.

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"The twenty-tensies truly were a golden age for games about optimising production lines," future generations will say under their infrared-heated geodesic domes.

"The way was paved by games like Infinifactory and Factorio, smoothing the way for a flood of followers," one elder recalls. "Why, one month saw the launch of not only Satisfactory and Production Line but Factory Town too."

"What's Factory Town?" asks one of the huddled younglings, their eyes quivering with reverence.

"Ah, yes, I'm afraid the tomes about that one were amongst those devoured for sustenance during The Hard Times," sighs the elder. They look upwards in reminiscence then quickly back down, trying to unsee the cracks in the dome growing as waves pound overhead.

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Sandbox spacetourism survival sim No Man's Sky will expand again with another honking great free update this summer, developers Hello Games announced today. No Man's Sky: Beyond, they call it. While details are still shrouded in the mists of marketing schedules, Hello do say they plan to expand the multiplayer with "a radical new social and multiplayer experience." The teaser trailer announcing all this shows the opposite, one single spaceman standing by one single spaceship, so what it actually involves is anyone's guess. It is a nice spaceship, mind.

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If you jacked into the world wide whisperhell at a certain time yesterday, you might have come away with the impression that the Epic Games Store software was spying on you for China. Gamingchair detectives prodding at the Epic Games Launcher recently discovered that the client scans your Steam account, investigates what other software is running on your PC, does something with Internet browser root certificates and cookies... which led to the surprising conclusion that Epic, at the behest of Chinese part-owner Tencent, are spying on us and sending our data to the Chinese government for dark purposes. Mmmmmnooo, Epic responded, that is not what's happening. Ah, the Internet!

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Feature: Crewed not crude

The Flare Path does Wolfpack impressions

Tiny Swedish studio Usurpator AB has taken a considerable risk with Wolfpack (Early Accessible in approximately two hours' time). Because the U-boat sim that started life as the history-shy HMS Marulken is a co-op multiplayer diversion and proud of it - because it shuns labour-saving shortcuts and data-blurting screen furniture the way a fangtooth shuns sunlight - it runs a serious risk of disappointing inattentive Silent Hunters expecting a de facto SH5 sequel.

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The best free updates are those that make me instantly go "yes, I'd like to do that". Yes, I would like to build a monument that summons friendly boars in every forest tile. Yes, I'd like to send giants on raiding parties, or spend food to conjure sheep.

My point is that the latest update for Viking RTS Northgard's goes beyond tinkering with damage numbers and resource costs (though it does that too). My point is that Northgard's latest update lets you befriend giant boars and then eat them.

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