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

, | News

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.

The top ten games of 2021 (so far)

, | Features

Oh, look, half of 2021 is gone already.  I hadn’t noticed that it was time to take stock of the best games of the year so far.  Note that anything that might have come out on or after July 1st, perhaps distracting me from other things, isn’t eligible.  So let’s take a look at the best game of 2021 that came out before midnight, June 30th.

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

, | News

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.

Old World: Family isn’t a word. It’s a sentence.

, | Game diaries

Families aren’t a discrete system in Old World.  They’re also not something you can easily relate to other games you’ve played.  They’re not like combat, or income, or technology, or culture, or religion.  Instead, they’re all of those things and more.  They’re Old World’s middle layer, interacting with the smaller scale of individual characters and the larger scale of strategic gameplay, influencing and influenced on both sides.  Think of them as the glue that holds the Civilization IV to the Crusader Kings.  

Part of Old World’s brilliance as a design is how it combines its three distinct scales: personal, social, and geopolitical.  Imagine a wargame that you play at a tactical, operational, and strategic level.  You assign resources to train troops, then you arrange those troops into armies and move them around a map, and then you control individual soldiers as they fight a battle. Crazy, right?  It can’t be done!  Now imagine you play all three levels simultaneously.  Even crazier!

As videogamers, we’re used to designs like Creative Assembly’s Total War series or the X-com model, in which a tactical layer is wrapped in a strategic shell.  And we’re even used to games like Civilization V trying to combine a strategy game with a tactical layer of moving units around terrain, shooting arrows over lakes, and taking cover in hills.  But Old World combines three separate scales, all woven into the gameplay at the same time, all affecting and affected by each other constantly.  Nearly every moment of everything you do in Old World will percolate through its personal, social, and geopolitical gameplay.  Families are the social level and today I’d like to break down how they affect the larger scale of developing your cities.

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Slipgates to other Doom Eternal players’ worlds have closed

, | News

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.

Bringing new eyes to Old World

, | Game diaries

Mohawk Games’ Old World is finally out of early access today. And if you’re like me and you’ve been waiting for the full release, I should warn you that it might be a bumpy ride. Brace yourself. Is that godawful clattering sound everything falling apart, or is it the rollercoaster being pulled to the top of an impending thrill ride?

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The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: when you’re wrong, you’re wrong

, | Movie reviews

I’ve spent decades denigrating the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre as artless trash.  I’m not sure when I first saw it.  Probably in college, sometime around 1990.  That was also the last time I saw it.  Since then, I’ve seen Tobe Hooper’s other movies.  I’ve rewatched Invaders from Mars, Lifeforce, Eaten Alive, Funhouse, and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequel in the last few years, and they’re all varying degrees of horrible (the conventional wisdom about Poltergeist, which is still great, is that Spielberg actually directed it).  It’s been my assertion all along that Tobe Hooper is a terrible director, and although there might be something raw and effective in his first movie, it’s artless trash.  

I was wrong.  So egregiously wrong.

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

, | News

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

, | News

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

, | News

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!

With big guns & a bionic dog, Necromunda web-slings through the world of Warhammer

, | Game reviews

Necromunda: Hired Gun is the best Spider-Man game since Spider-Man.  My magic web-shooter/grappling hook can get me anywhere I can see.  A quick thwip and I’m standing on a ledge high overhead!  The double-jump assist is just gravy.  But unlike Sony’s 2018 love letter to Silver Age superheroics, Hired Gun lives in a grim Warhammer world where I didn’t jump up to this ledge for thrills; I jumped up here to snipe a bunch of crazy dudes sporting plasma rifles, blue Mohawks, and skull flair.  Also, I’ve got a dog tagging along and I’m toting serious firepower of my own.  Frankly, the dog isn’t much of a dog anymore.  When I upgrade him, I swap out his dog parts for robot parts.  A paw here, a leg there, one side of his face, a jaw, another leg.  He may not be as furry as he used to be, but he’s still a good boy.  I summon him with a squeaky toy (Warhammer needs more humorous touches like this).  As for the guns, they’re not foolin’ around.  This is the Warhammer universe, so they’re absurdly large heavy hitters, even when they’re just pistols.  They have names like Deathbringer, Funeral Ball, Burning Sun, and Scars Machina.  They take up a lot of screen real estate.

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Stay awhile and listen to Dying Light’s Hellraid DLC

, | News

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.

Worst thing you’ll see all week: Those Who Wish Me Dead

, | Movie reviews

We can’t be letting city-slicker criminals murder kids out in the woods.  It’s just not right.  Fortunately, there are salt-of-the-earth outdoorsman types doing their part, some of whom are even ladies!  I consider this a subgenre in thrillers.  Movie about criminals in tracts of wilderness going up against people who are better than them at camping and whatnot.

For instance, Those Who Wish Me Dead, a thriller directed by Taylor Sheridan, a square-jawed TV actor who apparently had a drawer full of scripts.  

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Biomutant tells a cautionary tale about cleaning up your own mess

, | Game reviews

A colorful post-apocalyptic open world populated by intelligent mutated animals.  Tthe usual Ubisoft style open-world with a touch of Gamma World and a Secret of NIMH vibe.  Over-the-top brawler gameplay, intricate stat-based character development, and a hearty crafting system.  Mounts, vehicles, loot, exploration, puzzles, choice-and-consequence.  A robot cricket sidekick!  If games were bullet points, Biomutant would have a lot going for it.  But since games are games, Biomutant is only as good as the realization of these bullet points.

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