XCOM 2: War of the Chosen’s leaderboard may be the end of diplomacy

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The upcoming XCOM 2: War of the Chosen expansion features a scored Challenge Mode. In challenge mode missions, players will be tasked with conquering specific scenarios using the same pre-made squads of soldiers, with the results being posted to a global leaderboard. Firaxis will create new challenge missions on a regular basis. Who can save more civilians? You, or that guy in Portugal? Who can snipe more snakemen? You, or the jerk in Alabama? We’ll find out on August 29th when War of the Chosen goes live.

Let’s celebrate BioShock’s tenth birthday by engaging in a Randian trade

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BioShock turns ten years old this month, and if you feel you need a new way to separate yourself from your money, 2K Games has an exclusive deal for you. The BioShock 10th Anniversary Collector’s Edition bundles all three of the BioShock games with their DLC, a numbered certificate of authenticity to satisfy your moral superiority, and an 11-inch Big Daddy statue to show off your inherent worth. It’s $199, which is the objectively fairest price possible. The package won’t actually be available until November 14th, but if you give them your money now, 2K Games will reserve one for you at launch so the mindless masses don’t beat you to the “extremely limited” sale quantities.

Spirit Island unleashes your inner divine wrath. Take that, history!

, | Game reviews

Consider a wilderness, lightly populated by natives. They have pagan sites dedicated to local nature gods. They worship a river or mountain or clouds or nighttime or something. Some sort of quaint animism. Now here come European explorers from across the sea. They set up small towns. The towns coalesce into entrenched cities. Culture spreads. The holy sites are abandoned and the natives are assimilated. The wilderness is now tamed. Settled. European. Probably Christian.

Continue reading →

Worst thing you’ll see all week: Armed Response

, | Movie reviews

Aliens is one of the easiest templates for a low budget sci-fi thriller. Just gather some sci-fi props, secure a shooting location, and figure out what to do for your monster. In the case of Armed Response, these are, respectively, an RV, a warehouse and, uh, they’re invisible. The invisible monsters bit is a great way to save money. You can also just pretend something infects or haunts some of the characters. Now they can be your monsters. To its credit, Armed Response splurges on a couple of bad CG sequences late in the movie involving ghostly arms. Literally arms. Not weapons. But actual arms. That’s your reward for sticking with it. Continue reading →

Rise of Nations will gain at least a dozen more players thanks to the Windows Store

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Rise of Nations, the seminal 2003 real-time strategy game from Big Huge Games, is coming to the Microsoft Windows Store. It’s the Extended Edition that’s already available on Steam, but built as a Universal Windows Platform app. If you’re hesitant about being locked-in to a limited multiplayer community, the upcoming UWP version will feature cross-play with Steam players! In fact, the beta branch of the Steam version is already cross-play enabled.

Rise of Nations: Extended Edition is coming to Windows Store on September 14th.

The Wire, season 1, final episode: where don’t you wanna go?

, | TV reviews

I’m not sure what I expected, but it wasn’t this. I thought the first season would feel like a complete experience from A to B to Z. But just as I think it’s wrapping everything up, it instead resets everything. It goes from A to B to A-point-one. The situation has not changed substantially. Some of the characters’ lives have certainly changed, but the overall situation might as well be a reset to the beginning of the season. Continue reading →

Planet Coaster’s newest ride isn’t virtual reality, but it’s close

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Planet Coaster has partnered with the real-life amusement park Cedar Point to release a free addition for the game. The 1.3.6 update includes in-game assets and blueprints to build the Steel Vengeance roller coaster, which will join Cedar Point’s collection of rides in May 2018. The wood and steel hybrid design will be the tallest and fastest coaster of its kind when it opens, and will feature the most airtime of any currently existing coaster. You can check out a first-person rendition of the ride here, or you could just build the darn thing in Planet Coaster and “ride” it there.

This partnership is notable for bringing an officially licensed coaster to players. The genre is chock full of generic amusements and fan interpretations of rides, but where are all the sponsored El Toro, Goliath, or Apollo’s Chariot DLC? Will we see the various Six Flags or Busch Gardens parks in video game form? There are a ton of independent amusement parks throughout the world that could use this platform to advertise their rides. Plus, we can have the guilt-free thrill of derailing licensed coasters into crowds of virtual people.

Yub nub! Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game strikes back!

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Fantasy Flight Games is publishing Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game 30th Anniversary Edition later this year. Before 1987, we didn’t know that Sienar Fleet Systems manufactured the ubiquitous TIE Fighter. We didn’t know where Boba Fett came from or who the Mandalorians were. We didn’t know that the little things that looked like pens on Imperial officers’ uniforms were code cylinders. Basically, our knowledge of the Star Wars universe was woefully incomplete until Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game from West End Games came out and codified the lore into something worthy of nerd nitpicking. It’s thanks to these early gaming books that Star Wars dorks could stand toe-to-toe with Trekkies in comparing minutia. West End eventually went bankrupt and the license passed to others, but the 1987 rules and sourcebook permanently influenced the franchise canon, much of it surviving through the Disney acquisition of Lucasfilm.

The $60 bundle will include reproductions of the basic rule book and The Star Wars Sourcebook.

A lot more brave space marines died in StarCraft than we ever knew

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Thanks to the release of StarCraft: Remastered we can now zoom in and see all the fine detail we lost in the original game’s pixelated resolution. The game’s high-definition 2D graphics were made with the guidance of the original artists, who revealed the horrifying truth behind the 1998 designs. Look closely at the center of the anti-air missile turret. Every time you built a wall of missile turrets to protect your Terran outpost from a rampaging horde of Zerg Mutalisks, you were ordering brave men to their deaths. There was a little guy manning each tower, ready to give his life for your base.

12 reasons Agents of Mayhem isn’t just another open-world playground

, | Game reviews

When writing about Agents of Mayhem, it’s tempting to call out the obvious similarities and influences. The amped up cartoon charm of Overwatch. The infinitely customizable character classes of Diablo III. The gratifying doo-dad hunting of Crackdown. The intricate combat and character interaction of League of Legends nee Defense of the Ancients. The cheery superhero team spirit of The Avengers. The breezy vulgarity of Archer. The purple hues of Saints Row.

But none of that tells the whole story. None of that gets at why Agents of Mayhem stands mightily on its own. This is not just an open-world Overwatch. This is not just Saints Row with superheroes. This is a masterpiece that’s been waiting for 30 years to bust out from the collection of talent at Volition. For a number of reasons, it demands a place among the best of the best. Twelve reasons, to be precise. Continue reading →

Blizzard’s Battle.net service is now Blizzard Battle.net

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In September, Blizzard announced that they would stop referring to Battle.net in favor of generically branding each part of the system with the company name. We’d get Blizzard Voice or the Blizzard App to call out various components of the client. The studio cited “occasional confusion and inefficiencies” when it came to everyone writing or speaking about their products. At the time, people grumbled that it seemed like a change for change’s sake and they were disappointed that Blizzard was giving up the Battle.net name which they’d come to associate with titles like Diablo, StarCraft, and World of Warcraft.

Almost a year later, Blizzard is admitting defeat. Battle.net will stick around. The compromise is that the company will officially refer to their systems as “Blizzard Battle.net” which will hopefully cut down on any confusion and inefficiencies.

You can finally see each other in the latest version of No Man’s Sky

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Atlas Rises, the coming update for Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky, finally adds a step towards real-time elbow-rubbing multiplayer. The joint exploration feature lets up to 16 players see and communicate with one another – as glowing orbs. Think of them as the ghostly shadows of players in parallel dimensions for now.

“While interaction with others is currently very limited, this is an important first step into the world of synchronous co-op in No Man’s Sky.”

The Atlas Rising update adds a bunch of improvements that may satisfy the many detractors of the game. There’s thirty more hours of story to uncover, portals that can beam you around the galaxy, a new mission system, terrain editing tools, improved space combat, low altitude planetary flight, and new ships and items to purchase and trade. Will the game finally rise above Spore? Spore didn’t have the glowing player orbs from Fable 2, so score one for space orbs!