Games

Eat your heart out Gwent. The Elder Scrolls Online is getting a collectible card game.

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Bethesda Softworks has announced Tales of Tribute, a collectible card game that will be playable from within The Elder Scrolls Online. It’s coming with the High Isle expansion for the MMO, although it’s unclear if ownership of the expansion will be required to play the CCG. According to Bethesda, Tales of Tribute will feature leaderboards, tons of cards, a campaign story, and you’ll be able to challenge other live players and NPCs to a game while out and about in Tamriel. Rich Lambert, Creative Director for ESO, said Tales of Tribute is a deck-building game with the goal of out-producing your opponent as opposed to being focused on direct card combat. As if collecting pets, mounts, and furniture wasn’t enough.

High Isle’s first chapter, Ascending Tide, launches on March 14 for PC and March 29 for consoles.

Sovereign Edition of Sunless Skies still MIA

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Sunless Skies is a great game. Some are saying it’s literally the greatest game of 2019. Developer Failbetter Games has been working on an update, called the Sovereign Edition, which includes an overhaul of character progression, a reworking of some of the endgame areas, and a not inconsiderable amount of new content. The update was announced on October 19, 2019 and scheduled for an August or September 2020 release alongside the console port of the game.

After the announcement, there was no word until September 16, 2020, when Failbetter conceded that console ports are “more complex than they expected” so they didn’t have a release date anymore. Then on December 2nd, they said the Sovereign Edition had been submitted for certification (since it was also going to coincide with the console release). This tends to take a couple of weeks, tops.

Unless something goes wrong. Which we can infer from Failbetter’s silence for another two months. Today, Failbetter conceded the Sovereign Edition is “still seeing some challenging performance problems” and they still don’t have a release date to announce.

Raiders of Scythia overhauls the tired worker placement engine

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This isn’t really a review of Raiders of Scythia because there’s a pandemic going. That means I’m pretty much limited to solitaire gaming until vaccines are rolled out widely enough to cover “people who really want to get back to playing boardgames with their friends”. That’s a lower priority than, say, front-line health care workers, teachers, and grocery store employees. But it’s a higher priority than hermits, firewatchers, and seamen doing multi-year tours of duty on nuclear submarines. So, fingers crossed. Until then, there are a ton of games I can’t review, much less play.

But this is a short analysis of why I think Raiders of Scythia is so good, including why it’s better than worker placement games in general, and why it’s better than its predecessor, Raiders of the North Sea, in specific. I’ll spend about fifteen minutes explaining why I like it so much, and then run through a solitaire game so you can see how it plays. Also, there will be some Bible talk.

Who needs a blue shell when you can fling Wreckfest’s snowball?

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The latest update for Wreckfest adds a winter track with snow on the road. Which is slippery, sure. But in a racing game like Wreckfest, slippery isn’t enough. Slippery is just the means to the end, and the end is Wreckfest’s glorious damage model. What good is losing control of your car and banging into a wall if you can’t crumple fenders, smash radiators, and twist axels? Wreckfest loves how cars break.

Which is where the giant snowballs come into play. Now cars can be crushed by giant snowballs during the demotion derby events. It’s all part of today’s free Winter Fest update.

In case a Battleship movie wasn’t enough, how about an entire TV show of Risk?

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Hasbro will not be stopped after a Battleship movie. Now they’re announcing a Risk TV series. Which will probably last for about six insufferable hours and then collapse after an acrimonious argument among friends. From the Variety story:

[Beau] Willimon (“House of Cards,” “The First”), an Academy-award nominee and avid fan of Risk, will be writing and overseeing the production of the scripted series. 

Avid Risk fan Willimon’s Academy Award nomination is for the Ides of March script he did with George Clooney and Grant Heslov. Hopefully the script will emphasize that you should never, under any circumstance, let someone grab Australia while everyone else is fighting for the larger continents.

I don’t do vinyl, but if I did, it would be the Ape Out soundtrack

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I’m not hip/pretentious enough to own a record player, and even if I were, I would be too lazy to actually use it. Who has time to slide something out of a cover, put it on a turntable, and carefully swing a needle arm onto the rim?

I would make an exception, however, for the Ape Out soundtrack, available from iam8bit, a hip/pretentious online videogame paraphernalia outlet. They call it “one of the coolest pieces of wax you’ll treat your turntable to”. That must be how people who own turntables talk. When you play Ape Out, dynamically generated jazz accompanies your violent rampage. It’s a soothing contrapuntal to the screams as you escape from the ape holding facility and violently slaughter your captors. To record a soundtrack, they had the developer play through the game to create a kind of definitive dynamically generated soundtrack. Ape Out on vinyl is available for pre-order now to ship later this year.

Baldur’s Gate 3 is a real pushover in early access

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That’s a shot of my new favorite gaming activity. I’m shoving someone into a puddle of blood, hopefully to make them slip and fall. I’m being a jerk in a single player game. Baldur’s Gate 3, from Larian Studios, is in early access so I can’t say whether or not this will get tweaked or excised right out of the final game, but for now it’s a pusher’s delight.

The game is based on the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition rules and shoving is a thing in there. It’s not easy to abuse when you have a human dungeon master and players ready to side-eye you for being a schmuck, but the computer has no such issues. Shove away! You can elbow people into lava. You can push them off cliffs. You can bump them into your teammates line of fire. I haven’t trolled this many in-game characters since I went around Skyrim putting buckets on people’s heads.

In defense of the Batmobile. A look back at one of Arkham Knight’s best features.

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It’s been five years since Rocksteady wrapped up the Batman series that began in Arkham Asylum, continued into Arkham City, took a brief pre-tour with another developer for Arkham Origins, and then crescendoed in Arkham Knight.  One of the finale’s most prominent features was also its most divisive: the Batmobile.  If you ask someone their opinion of Arkham Knight, you’re likely to also get their opinion of the Batmobile.  “Great game, but the Batmobile stuff sucked,” will be a common refrain.

As an observer of game design, driving game aficionado, and professional contrarian, I take issue with this conclusion.  It fails to appreciate one of Rocksteady’s best design decisions in an all-around excellent game.  So I am here in defense of one of Batman’s greatest toys and how well it was expressed in Rocksteady’s greatest game (although you’ll note my enthusiasm for the Batmobile hadn’t fully developed when I reviewed the game).

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Football Manager’s new goooooaaalll is less waste

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Sega and Sports Interactive are using a new eco-friendly package for retail versions of Football Manager 2020. The reinforced cardboard sleeve and recyclable polyethylene shrink wrap replaces the standard hard plastic case that you see now. The new packaging costs about 30% more than the current boxes, but that difference is partially offset with a reduced cost for shipping and destruction on excess manufacturing. Studio director Miles Jacobson estimates a 20-ton plastic savings over a print run, which would equal a gigantic difference if adopted by the gaming industry.

Going digital reduces a lot more plastic waste, of course, but pundits continue to debate the cost and energy of server farms against the distribution and manufacturing of media. Hit the pitch with your vuvuzela and make yourself heard!

Divinity Original Sin 2 just whalloped Pillars of Eternity

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The other day I decided it would be pretty awesome to play Rebel Galaxy Outlaw on the big screen, with surround sound, leaning back on the couch. Since it’s built to be played with a gamepad, it’s one of those PC games that transitions seamlessly into the living room, thanks to Steam’s Big Picture mode and a Steam Link. So I booted up the Steam Link, set up a controller, opened Steam’s Big Picture, and started scrolling through my installed games. This was gonna be good.

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These are our predictions for the reactions to the Cyberpunk 2077 stream

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CD Projekt RED will be streaming a 15-minute edited version of the gameplay they’ve been showing to selected folks at Gamescom. You’ll be able to catch the broadcast on August 30th here or here. According to the announcement, the stream will include an interview with the team, footage of the Pacifica area in the game’s Night City, and a demonstration of the way different play styles work in Cyberpunk 2077. Nvidia posted a tiny taste from Gamescom to whip up interest.

As you might expect, some people, rather than being excited at the idea of seeing more Cyberpunk 2077, are angry that CD Projekt RED is only showing an edited chunk of the full Gamescom demo. With fans like that, it’s more fun to predict people’s reactions to the video, then what we might actually see in the stream.

  • More debate about how the first-person view was the wrong or right decision, followed by heated discussion of how balls the combat was in The Witcher 3, and how everyone must’ve been bought off to heap praise on such an obviously over-hyped game.
  • Lady Gaga still won’t know why people keep tweeting #CyberPokerFace at her.
  • Look at this stair-stepping! I’m calling “bullshot” on the video. It’s obviously a work.
  • Someone will zoom in on incomprehensibly small detail and use it to back up their pet theory of the company culture in CD Projekt RED.
  • Countless YouTube videos will be made purporting to show you “Easter eggs you totally missed” with thumbnail images featuring a giant red arrow pointing at nothing.
  • Keanu Reeves will be forced to act like the “you’re breathtaking” meme hasn’t crossed into annoyance for him.
  • See here? That’s some obviously poor HBAO effect. Looks like CDPR is taking the lazy route.
  • Cyberpunk pen and paper game creator Mike Pondsmith will remain a true gentleman, but his smile will slip ever so slightly when people accuse him of copying Shadowrun.
  • Is that transhuman mercenary street samurai racist? Let’s dig in!
  • Collective wailing and gnashing of teeth as gamers realize there are still over 200 days until the April 2020 launch.

Her Story gets an upgrade in Telling Lies

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Telling Lies, the sequel to Sam Barlow’s critically-acclaimed Her Story, looks like it had a much bigger budget than the original game from 2015. Instead of one full-motion video character, there’s four main ones in this game, played by Logan-Marshall Green, Alexandra Shipp, Kerry Bishé and Angela Sarafyan. Instead of Viva Seifert staring into a camera while being interrogated, Telling Lies features anything a secret cache of surveillance footage might have recorded. Barlow jokes that the “game engine” can now handle exteriors.

Telling Lies launches later this year from Annapurna Interactive.