Firaxis unveils the Nico vs. Chthon showdown Marvel fans have been waiting for!

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If you’d asked me 20 years ago to name a bunch of Marvel superheroes, I would have done well enough. But if you ask me today? Now that Marvel is as culturally relevant as even the most famous Disney princess, I can probably name dozens. Literally. I bet I could manage the names of at least 24 superheroes without even having to boot up my copy of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 to remember there are superheroes named Crystal and Elsie Bloodstone.

But with today’s announcement of Firaxis’ Marvel game, Midnight Suns, I can raise that number to at least 29:

Through a twisted marriage of magic and science, the nefarious force known as Hydra has revived Lilith, Mother of Demons, after centuries of slumber. Lilith will stop at nothing to complete an ancient prophecy and summon her evil master, Chthon. Pushed to the brink, the Avengers desperately look to fight fire with Hellfire by enlisting the help of the Midnight Suns – Nico Minoru, Blade, Magik, and Ghost Rider – young heroes with powers deeply rooted in the supernatural, formed to prevent the very prophecy Lilith aims to fulfill. Together, they resurrect an ancient warrior – the Hunter, Lilith’s forsaken child and the only hero known to have ever defeated her.

On one hand, I’m glad to see Disney exploring the, uh, overlooked elements of their shiny new IP. But on the other hand, they couldn’t spare something a little more mainstream for the folks at Firaxis who brought us XCOM? I have heard of exactly two of the characters in that premise, one famous because he was played by Nicolas Cage, and the other famous for an aphorism about obstreperous individuals unwilling to accept the gravitational dynamics of ice skating.

Firaxis will be showing off Midnight Suns gameplay next week. Until then, I’m imagining the superhero X-com we’ve all been dreaming about since Simtex’s Guardians: Agents of Justice was canceled.

After 275 updates, Star Traders: Frontiers is finally ready to break some copyright laws

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The 275th update — not an exaggeration! — to Star Traders: Frontiers has finally added mod support to the Trese Brothers’ sprawling and lovingly intricate space opera. With the release of this update, they’ve announced five mods currently available. Most of them are the usual cruft. Little more than cheats, really. Hack your crew to max level! Insanely powerful ships to run roughshod over the official content! New classes that are really just remixes of existing classes! I can be dismissive because I haven’t actually tried any of them.

However, one of the mods I haven’t tried reminds me of a Firefly-inspired challenge to play Star Traders: Frontiers with fewer crew members, each of whom matter more. In its current state, Star Traders: Frontiers is about managing a few dozen crew members. If one or two mutiny or get killed, eh, no big deal, you’ve got plenty more. But what if they weren’t so disposable? What if none of them wore red shirts? Two years ago, that was the premise behind a Firefly community challenge. Today, it’s the premise behind the Merchant Marine: Fly Casual mod.

Of course, there are sure to be scads of Star Wars, Star Trek, Babylon 5, Battlestar Galactica, Expanse, Defiance, and Dr. Who mods. I’m not sure if Steam hosts these anymore or if you’ll have to go to someplace like to get them. But I am sure they’ll be out there. I’ll be holding out for a Dune total conversion.

You won’t have to shell out for Mortal Shell’s expansion if you act fast

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Mortal Shell, Cold Symmetry’s debut fantasy action combat game is getting a roguelike expansion. The Virtuous Cycle adds procedurally mixed levels, scatters enemies around randomly, and comes with a new player avatar, Hadern. There’s also a nifty “axatana” weapon (pictured above) that honestly looks more dangerous for the wielder than the target. The expansion launches on August 18th and the price of The Virtuous Cycle is zero if you own the game by August 22nd. The timing coincides with the game’s launch on Steam, after it’s exclusivity on Epic ends for PC, which is also on the 18th. If you miss the free offer, The Virtuous Cycle will be $7.99.

Not even Wreckfest can resist the allure of zombies

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Wreckfest is having a Carmegeddon event. The latest update to Wreckfest adds the Bleak City and Devil’s Canyon tracks from Carmegaddeon, complete with pixelated zombies to run over. Participate in the time-limited tournament mode and you could grab the infamous “Eagle-R” car in-game to keep in your garage. Both new tracks offer free roam versions made for deathmatches, and Bleak City also has a reverse race layout.

The scourge of roleplaying games is coming to Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

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Ubisoft is adding level-scaling to Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. The next planned update for the Viking action roleplaying game will include five options for letting your game’s enemies grow in power with your Eivor. The “Default” setting will play like the current vanilla game where bad guys’ power levels will be generally set by the area of the map they’re in, with a bit of padding for areas you have out-leveled. The “Off” setting will be similar, but there will be no assistance given to lower-level goons. “Constant” will have your enemies level with you. Your guess is as good as mine on the “Nightmarish” or “Hard” options, but I’ll wager that they involve making the game a bit like ice-skating uphill.

The next update for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is planned for July 27th.

C.W. McCall knew the best way to travel in American Truck Simulator

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The long-awaited co-op multiplayer features are now live in American Truck Simulator. SCS Software has released the 1.41 update which includes Convoy Multiplayer. The feature allows players to set up their own multiplayer sessions with up to eight players and experience highball trucking the way “Rubber Duck” Martin or Cledus “Snowman” Snow intended. With good buddies in your lane! Mash your motor crackerheads, because in-game weather and traffic can be synchronized by the host. There’s even in-game “CB radio broadcasts” to keep it shiny side up.

Slipgates to other Doom Eternal players’ worlds have closed

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Bethesda and id Software have abandoned their plans to allow Dark Souls-style player invasions in Doom Eternal. The now-dead feature would’ve had players taking control of monsters in other players’ campaign games and doing their best to mess each other up. In a message from id Software’s Marty Stratton, the studio cites remote work issues due to the pandemic for the initial delay, and explains that they will instead focus on a single player PvE horde mode addition.

“We’re confident this horde mode will offer you more of the diversity and challenge you’re looking for in the game.”

Presumably, an additional factor in their decision was that the developers released the second campaign expansion, The Ancient Gods: Part 2, in March rendering the invasion concept a bit toothless by now. The studio also plans to revamp the asymmetrical multiplayer Battlemode with more thoughtful ranking system, a new map, and balance changes.

Resident Evil Village scares the guy that made The Haunting of Hill House

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Mike Flanagan, director and writer of The Haunting of Hill House, The Haunting of Bly Manor, Hush, and Oculus sat down with Rahul Kohli, actor and self-described avid gamer, for some conversation while the latter played some Resident Evil Village. If you watch for the gaming, it’s probably not going to do much for you, but if you want some insight into Mike Flanagan’s creative decisions like his feelings about jump scares, then the Netflix video is a neat little gift. Plus, there’s a bonus conversation about one of the best movies ever made!

You only have a few months to finish up GTA Online if you’re on the previous consoles

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Rockstar Games is ending support for GTA Online on the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. You didn’t forget that Grand Theft Auto V originally launched in 2013 on those systems, did you? How embarrassing! Well, Rockstar didn’t forget and they’ve likely been looking forward to making this announcement as the online portion of GTAV has gotten bigger and more complicated through the years.

On December 16th, players still on the older consoles will no longer be able to access the online modes of the game. Stat tracking through the Rockstar Social Club feature will end a bit earlier on September 16th. Story mode will still continue to work as it does now, but it’s goodbye to trolling your buddies while roleplaying in Los Santos.

Halo Infinite’s multiplayer will not satisfy players that love a time pressure grind

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With the official confirmation that Halo Infinite’s mutiplayer modes will be free-to-play for anyone that wants it, the pool of potential players just got a lot bigger. Unfortunately for grind-happy big ballers, the way the battle passes will work may be upsetting to people used to the way other games do it. Halo Infinite’s battle passes will have no time limit. In most other games, a big part of the battle pass experience is FOMO (the fear of missing out) due to the time limited nature of the deal. You have to play almost every day if you want to get everything in the typical 100-level pass. If you don’t hit max level, then you don’t get everything the pass offered for your purchase. That guy with the flaming crown and the gold sparkly sniper rifle? He was able to grind his way to the top, while you’re stuck with the bacon skin for your pistol since you only got to level 46.

At around 7:40 of this deep dive video, the developers talk about their philosophy around the battle pass. Not only will passes not expire, but 343 Industries vows to not sell tier skips, and if you want to buy an old battle pass, they’re going to allow that too. It’s probably the most friendly battle pass scheme since Halo: Master Chief Collection offered free passes. It’s bad news for players that want to show off their dedication every few weeks!

Stay awhile and listen to Dying Light’s Hellraid DLC

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When the Hellraid expansion for Dying Light launched last year, the reception was decidedly negative. The limited scope of the gameplay that the DLC presented was harshly judged by most as little more than copy-paste assets with repeatable rooms of enemies. The only thing it had going for it was the medieval setting, but players were stung by how little of the original standalone concept remained. Instead of a first-person Diablo with loot and monsters, Techland made a small arena mode trifle.

With The Prisoner update, Techland hopes to change some of the DLC’s reputation. It adds a story mode to the DLC, and the developer says more quest updates will be coming. Techland has also created a new enemy type, tweaked some loot, and added a new area to encounter. It’s not Dying Light 2, but Techland seems to be doing what it can to not lose any fans until the next game launches.

Will stealth finally work in Phoenix Point? Find out May 25th!

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One of my complaints about Phoenix Point is that the stealth is poorly integrated into the game. From my otherwise enthusiastic review:

Combat is very gamey and deterministic, but stealth is all under-the-hood voodoo.  You never know whether an alien will see you or not. You can see a stealth number and a perception number, and you can affect these numbers in different ways.  You know the interaction of these numbers determines whether someone is visible. But there’s no indication of how the numbers interact. It’s the worst kind of information: presented without any of the context you need to make decisions.  There’s no way to make sure your sneaky assassin stays out of sight as he creeps around the map while everyone else is shooting. Stealth is obviously supposed to be a gameplay system in Phoenix Point, which has cloaking suits and noiseless weapons and varying levels of light to affect visibility.  But in its current state, it is no such thing. It’s a locked black box, good for stubbing your toe and not much else.

Yet stealth is part of how gear is tuned, which in turn is part of how characters are developed and factions are balanced, both a fundamental element of gameplay progression. Will that change next week? From developer Snapshot Games’ latest blog entry about the May 25th update:

…understanding enemy awareness was important for players trying stealthy maneuvers, and we wanted to help players know when they might be in jeopardy. Enemy perception range is now visualized when hovering over a selected enemy, so you can see which of your soldiers may be at risk.

At least, my infiltrators might actually be able to infiltrate! The new Festering Skies DLC will also be available on May 25th. It adds more stuff for your interceptors to do and a giant alien ship that flies around terrorizing the globe.

Welcome to the Warzone party, pal

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John McClane and John Rambo are coming to Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War’s Warzone mode and they’re bringing special additions to the map. Yes, that’s Nakatomi Plaza in the screenshot above. According to Activision, while all 35 floors of the building’s interior may not be modeled, it will have a few floors accessible to players that they may recognize from Die Hard. In this video, you can clearly spot the lobby, office fountain area, and the rotating vault. Of course, the all-important helicopter landing pad rooftop will come into play. For my money, it’s just not Nakatomi without Argyle bopping in the limo.

The 80’s Action Heroes additions for Warzone begins on May 20th.

Xbox free-to-play games are actually free-to-play now

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Microsoft has dropped the requirement for a service subscription to access online features of free-to-play games today. You can now fire up Fortnite or Korgan (pictured above) on an Xbox and only spend money on cosmetics, XP boosters, episodes, or loot boxes the way the publishers intended, rather than wasting your hard-earned cash on the basic ability to get the Xbox console online in the first place. (You’ll still have to pay someone for home internet access unless you’re sneaking onto your neighbor’s Wi-Fi, but that’s on you.) The full list of truly free-to-play games is here.

The announcement was first made in January when the company reversed a decision to increase the price of an annual Xbox Live Gold membership. Since then, Microsoft has de-emphasized the Xbox Live Gold plan in favor of the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate service that includes access to premium games like Outriders and MLB The Show 21.

Age of Empires III ratifies the United States despite the proof that we’ve got a ways to go

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The United States is officially a real civilization in Age of Empire 3: Definitive Edition. Microsoft, Tantalus Media, and Forgotten Empires just added the new faction to the game. Unlike some fan mods that tried to bring the USA into the game as a playable faction, this DLC doesn’t just port the single player campaign version over. In fact, the United States works quite differently from the other factions. As you level up through the ages during a game, the United States adds federal states that bring unique cards to a player’s deck, instead of choosing politicians and generals with explicit supply or unit bonuses. For example, choosing Virginia when you progress to the Commerce Age adds these two cards to your deck:

– Virginia General Assembly: Ships 1 State Capitol Wagon and makes the next upgrade researched at the State Capitol FREE (excluding Spies and Blockade).

– Culpeper Minutemen: Arrives fast! All existing Town Centers spawn 6 Minutemen. Minutemen retain their hit points 75% longer.

Since each state addition adds two more cards to the deck, the Home City of Washington D.C. starts with a smaller initial deck than other factions.

It’s a decent stab at solving the meta-game progression issue a lot of folks felt the Definitive Edition version had at launch. Because the original game’s requirement of unlocking cards via XP felt unfair for new players, the DE revamp just unlocked all the cards and only left cosmetic Home City bits as XP rewards. Unfortunately, this made the Home City progression about as exciting as watching a C-SPAN broadcast. The United States faction moves the card unlocking mechanic into the main gameplay.