There are too many princes in Total War: Three Kingdoms

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How many princes are too many in Jin dynasty China? Eight. Despite the old TV show saying it’s enough, eight is too much in the world of Total War: Three Kingdoms. The Eight Princes expansion is set 100 years after the base game’s time and the country is once again beset with would-be rulers fighting for control. Princes don’t care about public order or winning over the peons, instead they need to gather the support of the nobles by fulfilling their rarified needs.

The Eight Princes launches on August 8th. Now, it’s too many eights!

There will be no cigar-chomping or vaping in Gears 5

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Gears 5 is tobacco-free. Thanks to a partnership between Xbox Game Studios developer The Coalition, non-profit anti-tobacco organization Truth Initiative, and Turner Sports ELeague division, the upcoming Gears of War game will have no smoking, vaping, or any other tobacco references that “glorify” smoking. Gears 5 will still have chaingun beheadings and point-blank shotgun kills, so it still won’t be family-friendly. It will just not tempt teens into smoking while tearing enemies into puddles of eviscera.

Gears 5 will launch on Xbox One and Windows 10 on September 10th. The first public multiplayer “tech test” begins this Friday and will run until July 22nd.

Sea of Solitude carries a copy of The Bell Jar wherever it goes

, | Game reviews

It’s probably not a good sign that some girl is reading from her diary about how her boyfriend is all moody and stuff, but I’m distracted by the fact that her footprints aren’t lining up with her feet.  Whenever she puts a foot down, the footprint appears about two inches to the outside side and a full foot-length behind her. Is she phase-shifted? Is this a metaphor for being out of sorts with yourself?  Or is this just what you get with indie games like Sea of Solitude? A heap of emotional poetry spackled over some half-baked attempt at a game, where lining up footprints doesn’t really matter because the real reason we’re all here is to hear someone hold forth about the life lessons she learned when she was in high school.

I’m guessing the latter.

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Ubisoft pleads with players to stop cheating in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

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Ubisoft wants you all of you filthy cheaters to knock it off. You’re using the recently released Story Creator for Assassin’s Creed Odyssey to circumvent the character leveling system they made to entertain you, and it’s just got to cease. The nerve! Using a creative mode to make easy boosts to XP in a single player game with 99+ character levels. Who do you think you are anyway? You think you know better than the designers what’s fun? You’re wrong, and they’re going to make sure you comply.

“We will be sanctioning those who continue to willingly and intentionally misuse the tool.”

First, Ubisoft is going to push these so-called farming missions off the automatic recommendation system. You can’t play what you can’t find. Second, the publisher is updating the terms of use so they can bind you in +2 chains of legality. Sue them! You’ll be playing the next four Assassin’s Creed games before you see a courtroom. Finally, a vaguely intimidating threat of sanctions should scare away any stragglers. Boo! Go cheat in a game where it won’t impact anyone else, like Battlefield V or something.

Relax and chill in Monster Hunter World’s Iceborne expansion

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You can have a spa day In Monster Hunter World: Iceborne. The expansion, set to launch in September for consoles and later for PC, offers more than additional beasts to hunt and goodies to craft. In the first developer diary, Capcom revealed some of the cool stuff coming for their best-selling game. Beyond the new hub of Seliana, the team announced player squads and the hierarchy within, more customization options in the personal rooms, and quick access to facilities via a streamlined menu so hunters can get to hunting faster. Capcom also promised a post-launch update that will allow players to invite their friends into their personal rooms to socialize. Will my friends be able to pet my palico? Just kidding. My palico hates that.

There’s finally a new Splinter Cell game coming, but it’s for Facebook’s Oculus VR

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Facebook is creating exclusive deals for Oculus VR versions of popular Ubisoft games. According to the report from The Information, Facebook has already signed agreements to get Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell on its VR platform. If there’s any game personality that’s a perfect mascot for VR, it’s the guy that’s been wearing a ridiculous glowing headset for his whole career.

The deals are reportedly part of a larger strategy of securing more exclusives for Facebook’s gaming divisions. Jason Rubin, formerly the Oculus VP of content, was promoted to the VP of “special gaming initiatives” in May.

The circle will soon be complete for Cuphead

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Cuphead is getting an animated show. The insidiously difficult Cuphead, based on a 1930’s cartoon that never existed, is going to be the basis for a real cartoon from Netflix Animation and King Features Syndicate. Studio MDHR broke the news today, and told IGN that The Cuphead Show! would feature hand-drawn animation, like their game, married to digital technology.

The Cuphead Show! will be executive produced by Dave Wasson, who’s been responsible for the throwback Mickey Mouse shorts Disney has recently released.

Teach kids to fear Shenzen I/O as much as you do for free

, | News

Zachtronics is giving away its games to schools and educators. Studio founder, Zach Barth, has announced that teachers and learning institutions can apply for free licenses of Opus Magnum, Infinifactory, Exapunks, Shenzen I/O, and TIS-100 for their classrooms. If you want to teach kids logic, puzzle-solving, patience, and a crushing sense of frustration, there’s probably no better way to do it than making them sit in front of a Zachtronics game to face their inadequacies.

“Students may acquire an increased sense of the ridiculousness of modern capitalist society.”

Zachtronics has included some educator warnings about the games, such as Exapunks having some swear words and Infinifactory’s dead astronauts. Most worryingly, Zachtronics has rated each game 1 to 5 for its difficulty, and none of the games got a max rating. Please Zach, be merciful.

Choosing a game subscription is like choosing a lover

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With EA Access, PlayStation Now, Xbox Game Pass, Ubisoft’s Uplay Plus, and Google Stadia, it’s obvious that the next big thing in gaming is the idea of getting people to subscribe to a Netflix-style service. For $10 to $20 a month, you can play any game on their plan, for as much as you want. What’s not to like? If you’re a developer thinking about putting one of your titles on a service, there can be a few things to think about.

“Choose your development partner as carefully as you choose your love partner.”

Eurogamer rounded up the opinions of a few developers regarding their take on this industry trend during a discussion panel. While first-party publisher services aren’t far from traditional MMO subscriptions, the ones offering games from partners, like Paradox Interactive’s Imperator: Rome on Xbox Game Pass, are a paradigm shift. Concerns like how the developer will get paid, what it may do to the game’s perceived value, and where this could all end up weigh heavy on developers’ minds.

As an example, Paradox Interactive’s ex-CEO and current executive chairman, Fredrik Wester offered his opinion that for his company’s titles, a flat fee from the service owner is less desirable than a payment calculated on the player’s time spent in his game. To put it simply, he believes his games should make more money as hundred-hour grand strategy experiences compared to a typical eight-hour first-person shooter campaign.

Microsoft, at least for now, sees game subscriptions as another option to outright buying games. They believe the future offers both choices as a path to gaming.

Shenmue III’s launch is going to be a mess

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Shenmue III, the long-awaited finale to Yu Suzuki’s forklift operator, delivery service, karaoke, faff-about simulator, is launching on November 19th and the whole thing has turned into quite the drama. First, there was a Kickstarter in 2015 that raised over $6.3 million. Then, Deep Silver swooped in right after the crowdfunding campaign ended and snatched up the publishing rights, causing a ruckus with fans that feared developer Ys Net was giving up their independence. Last month, Ys Net announced the PC version of the game would launch as an Epic Store exclusive for a year, greatly angering fans that had expected a Steam key for their pledge on the release date. Today, the developers, Epic Games, and Deep Silver confirmed that refund requests would be honored – in most cases. Unfortunately for folks that pledged to tiers that included physical rewards, they won’t be getting full refunds since those tchotchkes are in production. PlayStation players remain unaffected by the commotion.

Although the original Kickstarter reached many stretch goals, Ys Net also clarified that some promised features were cut, while other goals that were never reached will be implemented. The biggest miss is an “Expanded Character Perspective” system, but players will get a much larger open-world structure for key areas of the game.

All the news has resulted in the usual griping and Steam discussion flurry with some players vowing to never trust Deep Silver or Ys Net again, others opining on Epic’s business practices, and everyone proclaiming support for their favorite flavor of digital store. It’s a microcosm of the Epic Games Store debate. It’s a gloriously divisive and emotional mess that Shenmue fans should appreciate.

The best games of 2019 (so far)

, | Features

Look, you and I both know calling something “the best” is really just a way of jumping up and down and shouting to get your attention.  It’s shameless, I know. But now that you’re here, let’s dispense with the semantic bait. Let’s just say these ten games from the first half of 2019 have most effectively captured my attention, my imagination, and my time.  Which, to be fair, is pretty much my definition of “best”.  

But first, the disclaimer.  I haven’t yet played Total War: Three Kingdoms, inkle’s Heaven’s Vault, or Zen Studio’s Oprencia.  I petered out before making much progress in Far Cry: New Dawn, Metro: Exodus, and Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2, all of which I was mildly enjoying in the hopes they might get better.  I may never know. Also, I understand there’s a Crackdown 3, but you either have to hook up a useless Xbox One in your living room or wade into the hip-deep torturous inconvenience of the Microsoft Store to play it.  I love Crackdown as much as the next guy, but I have my limits.

I was enjoying Anno 1800 and World War Z immensely — immensely! — but both of them managed a critical failure that cancelled all my progress, and therefore all my enthusiasm.  In the case of Anno 1800, I hit a scripting bug in the campaign that brought everything to a screeching halt, but without me realizing it until a few hours of citybuilding later. The bug was eventually fixed, but not for people who had already run into it.  So many hours down the drain. In the case of World War Z, I couldn’t change the game’s resolution. In the course of troubleshooting the issue, I Googled solutions, edited .ini files, rolled back graphics drivers, and waited on Focus Home Interactive’s non-existent technical support.  Eventually, I resorted to the nuclear option: a full uninstall and reinstall. That’s how I discovered the Epic Games Store doesn’t have cloud saves, and furthermore Focus Home Interactive’s online servers can’t be bothered to store a 4kb user_progression.dat file that tracks all your progress, but only exists on your hard drive. Without that file, the server thinks I’ve never even played.  I guess Focus Home Interactive expected me to back it up on a 5 1/4 floppy. 

So much for all that. On to the ten best!

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