Wild West Online secures full investor funding

Originally announced in PC Gamer a mere 11 days ago, Wild West Online immediately got people talking about it’s potential AAA quality and ability to stand out in a very crowded genre.  So high was the quality that the leaks were even thought to be from Red Dead Redemption 2! Its Kickstarter was proving very popular, ratcheting up pledges extremely quickly. Almost too quickly in fact, as the initial response to the game proved so popular that WWO’s  initial investors have been convinced to stump up all the cash they needed up front, negating the need for Kickstarter at all.

The studio issued a press statement saying that the “overwhelming response” to the official release prompted the game’s initial investors to commit fully to the game and completely bypass the need for crowdfunding at all. 612 Games CCO Stephan Bugaj made the following statement:

“We’ve been fortunate enough to have our initial investors step up and provide additional funding to make the game we wanted, without having to raise money via crowdfunding. Westerns are lacking on PC so we can’t wait to release the game to the public.”

The even better news is that 612 have now committed to including all the original stretch goals from the Kickstarter campaign so Wild West Online looks set to be a real player in the MMO world. The official website has a tonne of new information if you’re interested in learning more and keep up to date throughout the development. There will be an alpha and closed beta over the summer which you can sign up for over the front page.

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Overwatch Anniversary Event Launches 23/05

Overwatch has been a massive success for Blizzard Entertainment, and given the pedigree of their games that’s saying something. It’s come to dominate the online FPS world almost to the same extent that WoW and Hearthstone dominate their respective genres, and all of that’s happened within just one year! And starting tomorrow there will be a massive in-game anniversary event to celebrate.

We don’t know exactly what will be involved in the event but one thing we know for certain is that there’ll be three new arena maps for us to play in. It looks like each one is based on an existing map, and going off of the video below, they seem to be Dorado, Eichenwalde and Anubis.

In addition to the new event, Overwatch will also be free to play across PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4 over the weekend of 26th-29th May. Anybody will be able to download the game for free this weekend and play it for the entirety. All progress will be saved should they decide to purchase the game afterwards There will also be a Game of the Year edition of Overwatch available to mark the occasion, featuring all the content from the original Collector’s Edition, 10 extra loot boxes and some additional themed content for other Blizzard games such as Heroes of the Storm, World of Warcraft and Diablo 3.

Drakensang Online – A Re-Review

Overall Rating: B+

Pros: Excellent presentation, intuitive UI, classic combat

Cons: Visuals starting to look dated, limited long-term value

On it’s release in 2012 Drakensang was widely hailed as a breakthrough in quality for browser based games, RPGS especially. High quality graphics, an intuitive UI and a fine polish on many genre classics pushed it to the forefront of many players minds and it has, to a large extent, retained it’s popularity over the past 5 years. According to reports from developer BigPoint, there are over 35 million registered accounts, although numbers for live users weren’t available… How does it hold up today then, in the face of the F2P explosion across desktop and mobile, and the regeneration of indie gaming on the back of Kickstart and Indiegogo?

Anyone who’s played Diablo knows how this kinda of game play. An isometric camera oversees progression across a number of fairly linear dungeons, populated with numerous monsters to be felled, quests to be completed and loot to be collected.  Arguably it is games like Diablo and their consistent ping of a loot drop that started us on the road to micro-transactions and loot boxes in massive games like DotA, LoL and Overwatch so there’s a certain sense of poetry in freemium model on show. In my experience of the game so far however, I’ve rarely had to dip into my actual wallet, getting a long way with resources gifted out at the start. Indeed, anyone who is fairly well experienced with this type of game is unlikely to struggle with Drakensang, as the combat and strategy is more simplistic than the typical game, although no more satisfying to click through.

The UI is very clear and easy to navigate, and there’s a good choice of customisation options available early on. Graphics are good but not spectacular for a Freemium game in 2017, and fans of Guild Wars will find everything satisfyingly familiar. Quests are easily navigable, and the initial dungeon which serves as an extended tutorial of sorts touches on practically everything you’ll need for the rest of the game. Greater complexity does rear it’s welcome head after a while, but it doesn’t ever really kick on into something more substantial, and longevity is actually one of the most disappointing areas of the fame. You can return to pre-visited dungeons later with levelled up enemies, chase the final end boss, and engage in PvP escapades with your companions. However, none of them feel quite as engaging or enjoyable as your opening hours in the game, and the gameplay does start to become over-familiar before the end.

The recent resurgence of AAA-esque indie titles does put Drakensang out in the cold a little bit. It doesn’t compare well against recent heavy hitters like Divinity: Original Sin or Wasteland II, but these are full price games, backed with Kickstarter money and lots of community goodwill. Although the actual gameplay is remarkably similar, the nature of the game changes greatly. The more relaxed and casual player will still find a lot to enjoy in Drakensang, and the fact that it can be played entirely within a browser is a great boon for a game with such high-production values. There are deeper and more extensive diversions available to people in the way of the Diablo clone, but none of the Freemium ones match the accessibility, depth and polish of Drakensang.

Drakensang was nothing new on release, and if anything the genre has become more diluted over the past five years, but it’s hard to fault a game that’s so endearingly polished, and has survived with various upgrades so well after the past few years. If you’re after a deeper and more complex experience then Drakensang may not be for you, but at the cost of waiting for a download/log-in there’s still not a lot to lose in giving it a try.

Ashes of Creation smashes it’s Kickstarter goal with 15 days left

The ambitious and fascinating MMORPG Ashes of Creation has smashed through it’s original target on Kickstarter, and already gone through several of it’s stretch goals. As of the the date of this article the game has raised more than $2.1 million, promising a whole host of additional features. The game is developed by Intrepid Studios, an independent studio based in San Diego, and featuring developers with a high pedigree, having worked on classics like Everquest II and XCOM: Enemy Within. It describes itself an an “open-world, non-faction based, no P2W, high fantasy MMORPG” and is eschewing the popular F2P model for a more traditional subscription model.

AoC features many classic MMO features, across PvP and PvE, including group and solo quests. Where it attempts to set it itself apart is in the flexibility and ever changing nature of the game world. Through a system known as ‘Nodes’ players within a certain Zone of Influence can effect those nodes and level them up alongside themselves, turning a hamlet into a village into a town into a city and onwards! By tying in player development to world development Intrepid are trying to create an immersive persistent world, that changes to suit the needs and experiences of the players.

Worlds develop in massively different ways on different servers: whilst a volcano might remain dormant on one, it could erupt on another destroying large swathes of developed territory and characters, and this is entirely down to player agency. As a result of this, consequence is also very important. If that volcano erupts those towns aren’t going to magically re-appear. Such a level of player agency is impressive and surely a massive part of the draw for backers.

Ashes of Creation is due out for PC only in December 2018, and there will be an Alpha test in the next few months to help push things along. Anyone who’s interested can register here.

 

Netflix’s Witcher series enters production

Production has begun on Netflix’s new adaption of Andrzej Sapkowski’s seminal series revolving around Geralt of Rivia. Made famous by CD Projekt Red’s fantastic trilogy of RPGs, the new series will instead be an adaptation of the original novels, featuring Sapkowski as a creative consultant. The author had the following to say in the press release:

“I’m thrilled that Netflix will be doing an adaptation of my stories, staying true to the source material and themes that I have spent over 30 years writing. I’m excited about our efforts together as well as the team assembled to shepherd these characters to life.”

This stands in stark contract to his position on the Witcher game series, which he has abandoned totally to the developers, having no interest in video games as a medium.

The series is being developed by Platige, a Polish studio, in partnership with Netflix, who will work with producers Sean Daniel (The Mummy, Ben-Hur, The Expanse) and Jason Brown (The Expanse). One of the directors, Tomek Baginski, has previous experience with the brand, having directed all 3 Witcher game into cinematics. A release date is not yet known.

Vikings: War of Clans Review

Overall Rating: A-

Pros: Strong aesthetic, classic gameplay, surprisingly deep

Cons: Similar to older Plarium games, some early grind

Plarium games certainly have their formula down. Having developed genre classics like Sparta: War of Empires and Stormfall: Age of War, they have perfected the art of F2P strategic MMOs. Building on lessons learned from previous efforts, with a seemingly larger budget and more reliable game engine, Vikings: War of Clans represents the play for the golden crown of the genre.

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Medieval/fantasy is a really prime subject area at the minute, with the popularity of TV shows like Game of Thrones and Vikings continuing to rise, making this is a great choice of aesthetic for War of Clans. The weaponry, armour and style of the characters is an obvious but perfect fit for gameplay based principally around raiding and city-building: two things that the historical Vikings excelled at. The game makes you a Jarl, in charge of your own village, tasked with raising it and yourself to the heights of glory and greatness. Getting there is the fun part!

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Fundamentally Vikings is a real-time strategy game of old, streamlined to fit into the new style of F2P game that is so popular at the minute. Base management and warfare occurs in real-time like Age of Empires and other genre classics, but the diplomacy and planning elements sit well within the MMO nature of mobile gaming and allow the game to be slower and more considered. In essence you build your city up either as a fast paced warrior and builder, smashing into PvP fights and levelling up quickly, or alternatively you can play the long, slow game, building yourself up over time. This flexibility is what makes Vikings so easy to  become lost in.

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Micro-transactions are obviously a part of a game like this and you get yourself a good push at the beginning with some help like this, and maybe even the necessary final push at higher levels as well. They are far from essential however, and even if you go about things the natural way you’ll soon find yourself progressing nicely. Playing the game solo is also perfectly fine, but the best experience is definitely as part of a clan. From practical benefits, increased game modes, to the camaraderie, Vikings is definitely an MMO that is best whilst embracing the social side of the games.

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Whilst not re-inventing the mobile gaming wheel, Vikings is a great example of the genre, with a fantastic aesthetic and some truly robust gameplay it’s definitely worth a look for the casual strategy fan looking for their mobile fix.

For when you want to play more