, | News
paper_assassin

Assassin’s Creed Unity will have a season pass that will include an entirely separate game set in 16th century China. Ubisoft announced that Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China will detail the adventures of the assassin Shao Jun, who was featured in the Assassin’s Creed Embers animated movie. A disciple of Ezio Auditore, Shao goes to Beijing and uses her skills to make friends and kill people. Unfortunately for franchise fans that have been asking for an Assassin’s Creed game set in Asia, this game is a little less than a full big-budget release.

Explore legendary landmarks like the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City and encounter famous historical figures in this new 2.5D digital download title.

Sad trombone. The Assassin’s Creed Unity Season Pass will be $29.99 and will also include two new missions for Arno in revolutionary France.

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No level grind. No iron sights. No weapon unlocks. No classes. No hat collecting. Toxikk by Reakktor Studios is an old-school arena shooter that hearkens back to a simpler time of rocket-jumping and map control. The newly released gameplay trailer shown above features all the dodging and circle-strafing action that hardcore tournament fans love to see. The game will launch with classic maps for team deathmatch, free-for-all, and one-vs-one modes. It will also have “massive” maps for vehicle use. Unlike the upcoming Unreal Tournament by Epic, Toxikk won’t be free-to-play. Reakktor is going with an early access model to fund development.

Has the sun set on arena shooters? They certainly don’t get the kinds of player numbers that Call of Duty style games get, but the recent release of Quake Live on Steam shows there is an audience that appreciates the high skill levels arena that shooters demand.

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not_fallout

Wasteland 2 has launched. Brian Fargo’s inXile Entertainment has made good on the 2012 Kickstarter by releasing the better-late-than-never Wasteland 2. For those of you that that played the original game, Wasteland 2 adds a shiny new coat of Unity graphics and a few lessons learned since 1988. For those of you that missed the first game, think of this as what Fallout 3 could have been if Bethesda had stuck to the old-school isometric turn-based way of doing things. Get out there and repair some toasters Ranger!

Wasteland 2 is available on Steam.

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, | Features

It’s been a hot week here in Los Angeles. Of course, I’m talking about the time I’ve spent at the Playboy Mansion. This shameless cash-in was developed by Cyberlore (!!), who also made Majesty. Unlike Majesty, Playboy: The Mansion combines America’s two favorite things: The Sims and titties. I guess that’s three favorite things? Anyway, let’s see if this game holds up. One thing’s for sure — it takes place on a 2D map, so it can’t be worse than Planetary Annihilation!

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endless

Fantasy turn-based strategy game Endless Legend has officially launched. Amplitude Studios, developers of 2012’s Endless Space, announced the release version of Endless Legend is now live. The distinctive looking game features city-building, capturing resources, quests, and tactical battles on the hex-based terrain maps. Basically, everything a fantasy TBS fan could want. Where Endless Legend adds a new wrinkle to the formula is a timer of sorts. The seasonal changes in the land of Auriga necessitate a certain amount of urgency because Winter is coming and it’s no joke. Winter – in this case the cataclysmic, all-consuming, near apocalyptic Winter – will slow production, unit movement, and basically wreak havoc with your empire’s plans. Think of it as a gentle nudge towards the end-game.

Endless Legend is available on Steam.

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tragic_df9

The good news is that Spacebase DF-9 is nearing final release. The bad news is that Spacebase DF-9 is nearing final release. In somewhat of a surprising announcement, Double Fine Productions informed fans that the 1.0 launch version of their indie space base management sim is scheduled for next month. Prior to launch, the developer plans to add a tutorial, a more refined goal system, and backer names will be embedded into the game for those that purchased early access at a higher tier. The studio also announced that the game’s source code will be released sometime after launch for fans to tinker with.

We’ll of course be sticking around a bit for bug fixing and support, but any new content for the game will now be in your hands. We’re eager to see what people do with this game!

The customer comments to the news reflect a less positive outlook. Although the current development plan page lists the modest goals noted in the launch announcement, an archive of the same page from October shows a much more ambitious set of features. Many of these have not been implemented, and it seems likely they will not be part of the release. While the archived page does state that “nothing on this list is carved in stone” it’s disheartening to see what may have been had things gone differently for this game.

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, | Games podcasts
Dead_of_Winter_podcast

So after starting with a terrible Great Gatsby joke that goes over like a lead balloon, I enjoy a great conversation with Dead of Winter creators Colby Dauch, Jon Gilmour, and Isaac Vega about their zombie boardgame that straddles the line between cooperation and competition. What does it have to do with Lost, what did it used to look like, what are the plans for the add-on? And, of course, who are our favorite characters and why?

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battle_disappointment

In the early 2000’s there were a bunch of mid-tier real-time strategy titles that crowded each other out of the market. Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns, Dark Reign, Empire Earth, and Battle Realms to name a few. These were good games that developed a following, but never got out from under the shadows cast by games with better production values like Age of Empires and StarCraft. Some had just enough sales to get a sequel, but Battle Realms was one of the games that never did. Ed Del Castillo, the president of Liquid Entertainment, has talked about making a Battle Realms 2: Lair of the Lotus, but the funding just didn’t happen.

In this age of crowd-funding, there’s no need to wait for a publishing deal. Liquid Entertainment is still around and now they finally want to make a follow-up to Battle Realms. Sort of. The proposed Battle Realms Legends is a free-to-play, collectible card game, real-time strategy fusion. The game is set shortly after the events of the single player campaign in the original game, but players will be doing all the normal F2P stuff like collecting, crafting, gathering resources, and purchasing items with real money. If Liquid gets to the $100,000 Kickstarter goal, they’ll make this F2P game, but there’s no word on the fate of the Lair of the Lotus.

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last

TIME’s conflict photographer, Ashley Gilbertson, used The Last of Us Remastered’s photo mode to capture still images from the game. The resulting experiment is interesting because it allows us to see how a person surrounded by real-life violence handles the situations in a world terrorized by zombie fungus.

I initially played the game at home. But after a short time playing it, I noticed I was having very strong reactions in regards to my role as the protagonist: I hated it. When I covered real war, I did so with a camera, not a gun. At home, I’d play for 30 minutes before noticing I had knots in my stomach, that my vision blurred, and then eventually, that I had simply crashed out. I felt like this could well be my last assignment for TIME.

Gilbertson was awarded the prestigious Robert Capa Gold Medal in 2005, and the ASME National Magazine Award in 2011.

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, | Game reviews
DOW_gentlemen_zombie_killers

In Sarah Northway’s zombie apocalypse strategy game, Rebuild, you manage a colony of survivors through hunger, bandits, zombies, despair, and strife. On the way to the end of the game, you might uncover story beats. Many of these give you choices with important gameplay implications.

One of the most memorable was the option to abandon the colony. To basically betray the characters you were controlling, the very game you were playing, in an attempt to secure a solitary victory. You had to lie about going on foraging missions when you were instead looking for a rumored cabin the woods. Then you had to secretly hoard food for yourself. Sometimes you even had to kill characters who figured out what you were doing. If you pulled it off, the colony fell to the zombies but you, the main character, lived happily ever after. You might have even gotten a high score.

After the jump, why can’t they make a boardgame like that? Continue reading →

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bear_n_burgler

The bear! The bear! The bear and the burglar so fair! Nope. That’s not how it goes. The Bear and the Burglar is the new free add-on for Divinity: Original Sin. The DLC adds two companions to the game to round out players’ four-person adventuring party. Bairdotr is a powerful ranger, and Wolgraff is the silent but deadly rogue. Rock, paper, scissors will be truly exciting now!

The Bear and the Burglar DLC is part of patch 1.0.169 that the developers claim adds a “big layer of polish” to various spell and environmental effects. With all the swoosh-boom that the game already had, the new effects must turn it into a Michael Bay movie.

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money_money_money

Microsoft has purchased Mojang AB, and all of its game properties. Scrolls is now a Microsoft product, as is a little indie project known as Minecraft. According to the studio statement, co-founders Markus Persson, Carl Manneh, and Jakob Porser will be leaving to pursue other interests. Persson said in his notice to fans that his primary reason for selling Mojang to Microsoft was to get away from what his life had become and to go back to what he loved doing – namely coding and making small hobby games. Although Mojang states that they don’t have any plans for Scrolls, they do say they will continue planned development of their other property, so your Mojang account won’t be a total waste. Until it becomes an Xbox Live account.

You can read the official press release here.

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, | Movie podcasts
Honeymoon_podcast

There’s a two-to-one split this week on Honeymoon, which may or may not be what you think it is. At least one of us thinks it’s right up his alley. Another one of us is all, like, pfft. At the 1:08, we waste a 3×3 discussing feces in movies.

Next week: The Guest

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, | Features
Fallout_1

[Editor's note: Every two weeks, we'll pick a classic game to play and discuss. Then the choice of the next game will be made by a randomly selected participant from the current discussion. It's like a book club, but with videogames. We'd love to have you join us. Register for the forums and hop into the discussion! This week's choice, by Stefan "Desslock" Janicki, is Fallout.]

As a lover of classic games, choosing just one to inflict upon you was extremely difficult. I narrowed down my choices to two games which I think everyone should have the experience of playing — they’re among the best games ever created and were influential, and yet neither was a significant commercial success at the time of release and they’ve proven surprisingly difficult to replicate well. They are also surprisingly similar games, despite being from different genres.

My choice is the original Fallout, developed and published by Interplay Productions in 1997. Several of the principal developers would leave Interplay to form Troika Games, while other members of the team who remained at Interplay would go on to release Fallout 2, Icewind Dale and Planescape Torment under the “Black Isle” Division that was formed shortly after the release of Fallout. Fallout was a spiritual successor to Wasteland, an earlier game published by EA and developed by Interplay founder Brian Fargo – Interplay couldn’t get the IP rights to produce a Wasteland sequel, so it instead choose to develop its own post-apocalyptic setting. Fallout was also originally supposed to use Steve Jackson Games’ GURPS rules system – a popular and versatile pen and paper RPG system at the time – but disagreements during development ultimately resulted in Interplay creating its own system, which it called SPECIAL, which turned out to be one of best RPG development systems ever created.

After the jump, the game not chosen. Continue reading →

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, | Game reviews
PA_WWC

Remember what it used to be like in the days of the big publishers who forced developers to release games before they were ready? They did this because they didn’t care about games, about fans, about the industry as a whole, about me, about you. They only cared about profits. They took breaks from counting their money to hold meetings in conference rooms where they showed charts that explained how much money they would make if a game came out on a certain date, usually just before a fiscal quarter ended or in time for the holiday shopping seasons. The people in the meetings didn’t actually play games because they were too busy counting money, plus they were above such frivolity. They might as well have been selling shoes or plumbing fixtures or alt rock albums they didn’t even listen to. And then crowdfunding came along and game developers who loved videogames got to do what was best for the games, for the fans, for the industry as a whole, for me, for you. And we all lived happily ever after.

After the jump, I ruin the fairy tale. Continue reading →

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