All posts by jdc2r

The Culling to launch on Xbox One

The massive release of Battlegrounds may have pushed The Culling somewhat to the background on its original platform, although how long for is yet to be established. However it is also set to launch on Xbox One’s Game Preview program on June 2nd, ahead of a full launch later in the year. The idea behind the game, and most of the emerging ‘Battle Royale’ genre of which it is a part, is based off the cult classic Japanese film for which it is named. In it a collection of teenagers are left on an island with a random collection of items and forced to kill each other to survive. The idea was taken and watered down severely for The Hunger Games and as such became far more famous in the past few years.

In The Culling, 20 players are placed into a PvP scenario and, under a short 25 minute time-frame, are simply tasked with surviving to be the last remaining character. Starting off with no weapons at all, players are able to either pick-up fully fledged weapons or create them using the survival-esque crafting mechanics. There are no respawns at all, a given considering the nature of the game, and the borders of the arena continually shrink to ensure that games are completed in a timely fashion. It can be played solo or as part of a duo, and is available on Xbox One Game preview Program from June 2nd.

Xaviant CEO and founder Michael McMain had the following to say about the announcement:

“We are thrilled to bring battle royale to Xbox One with The Culling. Our team has put a tremendous amount of effort into controls, optimization to make sure the Xbox experience is top-notch. We couldn’t be more excited to use feedback from Game Preview players to take The Culling to the next level.”

Release date announced for Divinity: Original Sin 2

Larian Studios have announced a release date for the hotly anticipated sequel to their overwhelmingly well received fantasy RPG Divinity: Original Sin. The sequel is already available with Early Access on Steam, and the full release is set to follow on September 14th. Widely celebrated for it’s attempts to modernise the traditional isometric RPG, the original  became’s Larian’s best selling game and the Early Access version of the sequel seems to be just as popular.

Many of the features of the original game have been maintained for the sequel, especially the highly regarded Game Master and PvP modes, which allowed people to create their own dungeons and adventures, and then share them online. This toolbox blended the line between tabletop RPGs and video game RPGs, and was heralded as a new approach for the genre. In time with the announcement Larian also released a new patch, featuring 2 new areas, a new companion relationship system, and introduction to new character Beast, the pirate dwarf.

Game engine Unity valued at $2.6 billion

Unity, the game engine powering massive numbers of mobile games, has raised an additional $400 million of investment according to a statement made to Bloomberg LP. John Riccitiello, CEO of Unity Technologies, revealed the investment was from private equity firm Silver Lake, and valued Unity at over $2.6 billion, a massive increase on its $1.5 billion valuation last July.

This shift is reportedly due to the continued dominance of the engine the development of mobile games. The mobile game market, including both paid for apps and F2P games, was worth a record $41 billion in 2016, up 18% from the year before, so it makes sense the investors are wanting to get involved in the technology backing much of this significant volume. Games and apps using the Unity engine are expected to reach 2.4 billion devices worldwide. Top mobile games built using Unity include Pokemon Go, Hearthstone and recent release King of Glory, which made over $400 million in one month.

Smite roster grows even larger with the addition of Da Ji

Smite already has an impressively large roster of gods and goddesses for you to battle with to MOBA glory, but just in case you felt you were still lacking, developers Hi-Rez Studios have added in yet another character. Da Ji is a new addition to the roster, and is a character from Chinese mythological history. Traditionally known as a malevolent fox spirit in the legends, this, along with many of her accoutrements, have, as usual, been adapted into the game.

Da Ji is an assassin class God addition to Smite, and plays very quickly. A number of her abilities are linked to her claws and her historical association with torture, and can do a wide variety of damage including bleed and burn, as well as teleport across the map to targets, and stunning enemies using the Paolao device. Da Ji has been released as part of patch 4.9 alongside a number of bug fixes and gameplay balances. The patch also includes new skins for Camazotz, Ganesha, Jing Wei, Kuzenbo and Medusa. Full notes are available on the official site.

Netflix’s Castlevania series has a new trailer

Hot on the heels of last week’s announcement that The Witcher had entered production, Netflix is nearing release on another of its anticipated video game adaptations. The show is set to launch in the US on July 7th, and Netflix have a released its first trailer to accompany the announcement.

There’s a lot of quality attached to the production, which has apparently already been guaranteed a second series for 2018. Renowned graphic novelist Warren Ellis has penned the script for both seasons already, production is being handled by Adi Shankar, and the studio behind it is Frederator Networks; famous for their involvement in the production of Adventure Time. All of this gives Castlevania a real pedigree. According to the trailer the show see “the last surviving member of a disgraced clan fight to save Eastern Europe from Dracula” and is “inspired by the classic NES game.” Although US release date has been confirmed, other regions are still unknown. However, Netflix is usually a proponent of close release scheduling so the global wait shouldn’t be too long.

AD2460 Review

Overall Rating: B

Pros: Massively in-depth and feature rich, strong social element, no pay to win

Cons: Initially overwhelming, visuals are somewhat dated and very busy

AD 2460 is a fascinating, independently developed online browser based 4X strategy game, that has actually been around for quite a while whilst still remaining under the mainstream radar to a large extent. Developed by Fifth Season, a small Norwegian studio not really known for anything, it’s clear a lot of thought and time has gone into this surprisingly deep F2P game, and continues to go into it to this day, with regular updates happening every few months to keep the game fresh and the community engaged. Whilst it’s a million miles away from the 4X heavyweights Paradox Interactive and Firaxis Games, there’s undoubtedly a lot on offer here, and worth a look for devotees of the genre.

First off, the amount of depth to this game is truly astonishing when you compare it to traditional F2P fare. Whilst most games in this genre are content to be simple city builders, with extremely limited PvP raid elements, AD2460 has gone adopted the 4X approach whole hog, with seemingly endless bars, sections, upgrades and menus. Right from the very beginning, the main menu features 6 different options, with 9 graphical buttons, and within each of them sits a whole bevy of options, trees and number boxes. The sheer scale here is impressive, and the game feels more like an amalgam of Stellaris and EVE, rather than more basic F2P and mobile options. This is a real credit for such a small developer working within this model. There are a whole host of ways to play the game and build up your empire, and the mid and late game is far more diverse. Explore, expand, exploit and exterminate are all present and accounted for, in a manner that is really central to the game and its progression, and this really really reflects well on AD2460.

Another refreshing change the AD2460 offers is in its implementation of micro-transactions. Absolutely none of the resources locked behind a pay wall make an impact on gameplay and progression. All upgrades, building and resources are developed within the F2P environment, and cannot be rushed or enhanced with the use of real world money. Instead Fifth Season have chosen to use the system to provide visual flourishes and creative touches that don’t actually impact gameplay. This is not a new idea, it’s everywhere in the MOBA world, and in titles like Overwatch. What Fifth Season lacks in comparison here though is the mass appeal of games like DotA and LoL, or the upfront purchase cost of Overwatch. That they’re happy to use the same model is a real credit to the developers, and the fact that they remain profitable is a credit to the game. The social element of AD 2460 is also significant, with a number of alliances available to the player and a permanent chat bar.

Sadly AD2460 becomes a bit too much of a halfway house to really satisfy either party. The depth that is on offer is great, but far too overwhelming for the average casual F2P MMO player. The relatively barebones approach to tutorials and introduction compounds this, and it is all too easy to get lost in the opening moments for anyone who’s new to the format. Similarly veterans of games like Europa Universalis and Civilisation will be underwhelmed by the long-term scale of the game. The nature of the game just means there are far less options for progression, which gives the game diminishing returns to a much larger extent.

It is also somewhat dated in appearance, looking like a much more limited version of Stellaris. Given that the running of the game, like many 4X entries, is essentially akin to a full running spreadsheet simulation, it’s not too impactful when you’re in the main interface. When it comes to the battle screens (fully automated, with no player interaction and limited tactical input) this becomes incredibly evident, and really impacts the enjoyment and the suspension of disbelief necessary for this kind of game. If 4X games are your thing, and you’ve either already burned through your steam library or are a bit cash-strapped, there’s a lot of potential enjoyment in AD2460, If this isn’t you however, be aware that there are some high entry bars to get past, although these don’t include the classic financial bar which the developer should be praised for.

Pox Nora Launches on PS4

In a big day for card related news, popular card-based strategy game Pox Nora launched today on Playstation 4 having developed a significant cult following after its PC release. The console version includes all existing content and cross-platform support, as well as some additional PS4 unique items. These include the Ironfist Inquisition and eight character skins, with a further set of eight skins available to PS+ subscribers for the game’s Angel cards.

Developer Desert Owl Games had the following to say about the announcement:

“Pox Nora’s massive vault of content offers incredible value to fans of card games and strategy games alike. We’re thrilled to welcome Playstation Nation to our world and see new players join the fray.”

PS4 users who fancy giving the game a go can download it from the Playstation Store,  and a Playstation Vita version is also in development for future release.

Intriguing new F2P FPS Keystone announced

Digital Extremes, a studio best known for developing The Darkness II and Warframe, as well as online elements of AAA games like Bioshock 2 and Homefront, have announced a brand new F2P FPS called Keystone. Not much information has been released so far, other than a brief description of it by the developer as a “competitive first-person shooter with a distinct blend of first-person action and deck-building strategies.” It’s the second element here that is particularly intriguing and appears to be trying to capitalise on the popularity of games like Hearthstone and Gwent to bring a new twist to this established genre.

Keystone will look to build on the table-top theme further by starting players in game experience on “an intriguing, mystical board game.” The deck building element seems essential to gameplay, with “personally customised decks” being usable alongside those finely honed FPS skills, both individually and as part of a team. The developers are embracing a classic 1970s retro-pulp aesthetic, including aliens, robots and astronauts, which adds a level of charm to make Keystone stand out a bit. There’s a sign-up sheet available for the closed Beta this coming weekend from Friday through Monday if you fancy giving this one a try.

Elvenar Review

Overall Rating: B-

Pros: Combat is available via gameplay, charming hand-drawn art style

Cons: Rather simplistic and one-dimensional gameplay, lots of grind only negated by spending actual money

Elvenar is a classic example of the evergreen 2D city-building strategy game. One of the most popular genres around at the minute, across browser and F2P mobile games, Elvenar shares a lot of similarities with many of them. The instinctive clicking to collect resources is present and accounted for, as well as gradual build up of cities and grind for resources that this usually entails. Inno Games has made a number of successful entries into this genre before, with well loved games like Grepolis, and Forge of Empires, and a lot of the identity of Elvenar as a unique game comes from the colourful humans-vs-elves fantasy element of the world.

This visual and thematic identity really works in the game’s favour. By playing in this particular sand-box the art direction has really been allowed to embrace the fantastical elements of the setting, and the graphics and aesthetics of the both the game itself and the world inside it are a real joy to experience. The visuals have a hand-drawn element to them that is really charming and a nice distinction from some of the more gritty fantasy games that have clearly been taking their inspiration from Game of Thrones and the like. It makes unlocking new buildings and units more enjoyable as you can delve more into what the creative team put together, and thus negates the grindy nature of these kind of games somewhat. This is the case regardless of which race you choose and continues on to all elements of the game, and is definitely an area in which the developers are to be praised.

An additional bonus is the ability to actually get involved in the combat elements of the game. Typically these are auto-simulated by the system in many city-builders but Elvenar offers the player a direct hand in how these play out. These battles aren’t particular complex or difficult, with a simple turn-based battle system propping up a small variety of troops. Their actual presence though is refreshing and offers a nice bit of variety to the main elements of the game.

This variety is sorely needed however, as the game itself is very slow paced, and it takes a long time to make any significant progress. The initial tutorial speeds you through the set-up with a decent but fairly perfunctory overview of the inherent systems, but getting particularly far beyond this will require either a lot of time, a lot of patience, or a lot of money. Maybe even a combination of them all. This is the main problem with Elvenar: there’s just not enough to do. Those who want to avoid the paywall are able to, but getting the resources to do so will take a lot of time, very little of which can actively be spent in the game. Elvenar feels like it was developed with the mobile generation in mind, and dropping in and out of this game improves the experience a lot.

Those who are happy to pay will obviously progress much faster, but the financial outlay is quite high, and the actual interaction with the game doesn’t change massively. There is an extremely large and deep technology tree, and whilst visually many of the developments are engaging and interesting, in terms of gameplay the impact is minimal. This is to be expected to a large extent in this kind of game, but the diversity feels much more negligible here than it does in many others. The lack of PvP will also be a big downer to many people, although this is very much down to personal taste. All in all if you’re prepared to really commit to the grind, and take a lot of joy in the style and aesthetic that Elvenar offers, then you will definitely be able to progress and enjoy what the game has to offer. If not, then the paywall is more obstructive than some others and the pace will likely be far too slow for you to enjoy.

Early Access begins for The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind

The Elder Scrolls Online may not quite have become the all conquering juggernaut fans (and most likely the developers) were hoping for since it’s initial release in 2014, as evidenced by the move to a subscription free model a year later. However, the game has recently garnered a lot of attention and traction as a result of the upcoming expansion based in Morrowind. Fans of the Elder Scrolls series will instantly recognise Morrowind as the setting of the well loved and highly successful third game in the main series, and as such anticipation for our long awaited return has been rampant.

The good news is that the day for the return to Vvardenfell has finally come, as PC players of ESO now have access to an exclusive Early Access event. This is only available to those who have pre-ordered the expansion already. For those of you who are interested but haven’t yet taken the plunge you can pre-order it for yourself here.

Morrowind brings a whole host of new gameplay features most notably a new PvP mode, known as Battlegrounds where three teams of four battle in a variety of gametypes including Capture the Flag, Deathmatch and Domination. Even more excitingly, Morrowind brings the first new class since the game’s launch, in the Warden. Billed as a mix between the classic druid and ranger archetypes, there is a wide array of new skill lines to follow, but the best is undoubtedly the Animal Companion ability, allowing you to summon a swarm of bees or even a bear to aid you in combat. The full release of Morrowind is due out on June 6th.