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PC Gaming

So I read about a “big issue” in the “e-sport world” of the Philippines from a phrase uttered by one of local e-Sport’s more prominent figures. The issue is apparently so big that it deserved coverage on some tech blogs; of course spouting the ever-so cliche feel-good ideas of “love of the game” and blatantly implying that the next generation of “cyber athletes” shouldn’t be “such money-grubbers”.

Excuse me while I laugh my ass off.

As offended I am at the sensibilities of the people who wrote that (blog post) garbage, I find it laughable that people still think that e-Sports is a thing in the Philippines or even in the world. Okay, maybe it is a thing with some local guys posing for MSI‘s gaming hardware, one of them being the subject of the other blog’s scrutiny. Or with the resurgence of Mineski and their brand of tournaments along with other emerging e-Sport promoters. More recently, there is a renewed interest in online games with Smart Telecom’s Game X platform for purchasing game credits for local game publishers. They also hosted a rather big tournament for Massive’s games with a more gratuitous prize pool in comparison with Assault Fire’s measly prize pool tournament which started this whole “debacle”. Mmm… maybe e-sports IS a thi—NOPE.

Are Filipino online gamers just that cheap, poor, or have they just moved on to other games?
Are Filipino online gamers just that cheap, poor, or have they just moved on to other games?

Still a big fat nope. E-sports is still not a thing in the Philippines, no matter how hard people try. It only appears to be a thing on the off-chance that people actually get with the program and make big money for e-sport promotions, game publishers, and sponsors. One of the key ingredients to making a successful e-Sport league is a big budget coming from a sustainable revenue stream. The lack of a sustainable revenue stream is something all online game publishers in the country have in common. I believe we have seen Level-Up, the country’s largest game publisher change hands more than three times in the past few years. It’s like passing a hot potato that nobody really wants.

If you actually follow e-sports, you will know that it goes with the game with the biggest player base and revenue stream. Back in the day it was Counter-Strike, and then Starcraft. There were many games they experimented in-between but it ultimately landed on massive online battle arenas (MOBAs), starting with that Warcraft III mod to League of Legends and then finally DotA 2. Most e-sport games in the spotlight are online games and there is no doubt as to why they are capable of having large prize pool tournaments continuously. That’s because they have a large base of players who buy their virtual items, merchandise and/or services regularly to the point that it has become the equivalent of printing money. It’s true, people go where the money goes both promoters and players and some people make it sound like a bad thing. As if these competitive e-sport types of games are the only games you can play “for-the-love-of-fucking-gaming.” By the way, I love how DotA 2 did their merchandise, that’s how I would have done League of Legends.

It really does print money.
It really does print money.

I’ve always told my colleagues that these e-sport events are necessary costs for the sole purpose of advertising your online game. They are glorious spectacles that cost a lot of money. You can hardly measure the results because there is a limited number of people you can accommodate in a day for a tournament so you won’t see a big spike in any measurable key performance indicators. But you know what, if you want to push your game into the mainstream, this is the road you have to take. You also need to keep your players interested in playing your game and spending money. Competitive games like first-person shooters and MOBAs thrive on competition so you need to conduct tournaments and the more newsworthy they are, the more advantageous it is to the game you are promoting.

Anybody remember this? It never materialized.
Anybody remember this? It never materialized.

The cost for logistics for a weekend tournament is already more than enough to make you shake your head in disbelief should you actually try to make money from these events; then there is the prize pool. What is the prize pool meant for? To reward players for their time and hard work? Hardly, it’s to make the tournament attractive enough to motivate people to take a crack at it and to make people talk about it. Then comes the hours of training, going through strategies, and even buying virtual items when needed. Preparation for these tournaments cost money too, if you’re serious about it. It’s an ersatz marketing tool, if anything.

Any spectator who comes into contact with staff or people in-the-know will scoff at a tournament with a small prize pool whereas their jaws will drop at disbelief at a fat prize pool. Big money tournaments are newsworthy, they can and will be talked about but that doesn’t equate an instant increase in your player base. A P1.5 million prize pool didn’t help Ragnarok Online keep it’s player base from bleeding to Ran Online. E-Game’s nationwide tournament for the now dead and buried Operation 7 which was also barking about a one million peso prize pool failed to garner enough interest and the tournament fizzled, never seeing the light of day.

I just contradicted myself. First they are a necessary spectacle and then they don’t really work. Why? I guess you’ll have to tune in tomorrow, as I dissect the requisite evils of these tournaments. Then, I will address the issue made by ignorant peanut gallery bloggers and the butt hurt of Assault Fire’s Community Manager. Also, it’s two parts because we are in dire need of hits before we “go red” and unlock the “In-debt knowledge of blogging” achievement. That sentence before this was sarcasm because I know it has to be pointed out.

Grand Theft Auto V is this week’s game.

That’s it. Thanks for coming!

Here are this week’s vidyas:

 

Hot Wheels Worlds Best Driver (Wii U/3DS Retail)

We Sing: 80s (Wii U Retail)

Cut the Rope (3DS eShop)

Rage of the Gladiators (3DS eShop)

Star Wars Pinball (3DS eShop)

AiRace Speed (3DS eShop)

 

Grand Theft Auto V (PS3 Retail/PSN)

Hot Wheels World’s Best Driver (PS3 Retail/PSN)

Capcom Fighting Evolution (PS2 Classic)

Saints Row 4 – GATV Pack (PS3 DLC)

Saints Row 4 – Wild West Pack Pack (PS3 DLC)

Real Boxing (PS Vita PSN)

 

Grand Theft Auto V (Retail)

Hot Wheels World’s Best Driver (Retail)

Saints Row 4 – GATV Pack (DLC)

Saints Row 4 – Wild West Pack (DLC)

 

Foul Play (PC Steam)

Borderlands 2 – Ultimate Vault Hunter Upgrade Pack 2 (PC Steam)

Ironclad Tactics (PC/Mac)

Takedown: Red Sabre (PC/Mac)

Urban Trial Freestyle (PC Steam)

Saints Row 4 – GATV Pack (PC Steam DLC)

Saints Row 4 – Wild West Pack (PC Steam DLC)

Though people are more familiar with Capcom’s Mickey Mouse platforming jaunts (the Magical Quest series which eventually made it to the GBA), Sega’s early takes on the franchise were nonetheless as excellent, if not underappreciated. Sega themselves seem to think so, as they made the puzzling decision to remake 1990’s Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse as a fully fleshed-out 2.5D platformer that takes the feel of the original game and modernizes it successfully, taking more liberties from the original than other recent efforts (such as Wayforward’s take on Ducktales).

It’s-a-Me, Mickey!

Castle of Illusion HD (2)Mickey Mouse is, by default, the most recognizable face in all of videogaming. Eclipsing even Mario’s popularity, there have been licensed (and unlicensed!) Mickey Mouse games for systems since the Atari 2600. Unfortunately, as Disney’s properties became more diluted as time went on, so did Mickey’s own videogame appearances. This is why games like Castle of Illusion are important: it reminds license holders that quality games serve to bolster their representative brands, and that quality need not be an expensive venture (as this game unquestionably shames Mickey’s last adventure, Epic Mickey 2).

Remakes are a dicey affair, however: there’s a fine balance between simply upscaling assets to please the fanbase, and adding enough of your own twist to justify them spending another $15-60 on what is essentially rehashed content. Castle of Illusion should be the poster child of HD remakes in the sense that it presents a completely new experience that has enough call backs to the original source, yet stands alone as a completely new adventure befitting its modern platform homes.

Most of the game is presented in a 2.5D perspective, with lush backgrounds that are rife with animation, almost to the point of being distracting. If this was a sprite game, I’d laud it for having well-animated parallax backgrounds, but I can’t quite articulate what this translates to when the entire game is built with polygons. There are also sections where Mickey walks in to the background and competes in another plane, a shout-out to Sega’s own Bug!, perhaps.

Castle of Illusion HD (1)

This planar addition improves on other sequences from the original game: take for instance, the Indiana Jones-type chase scene where Mickey runs from an apple barreling down his direction from the original. The remake interprets it as a Crash Bandicoot-style chase towards the players direction. It’s little touches like this that make me appreciate the work put into this remake. Another example: one thing that peeved me off in the original game was the game’s wonky jumping physics (which you simply cannot screw up if you want your platforming game to be successful); which I’m happy to report that Sega’s Australian team successfully alleviated. Even the original’s almost-iconic boss fights have been kept mostly the same, but contain little 3D cues and patterns that freshen up the experience a bit.

Castle of Illusion HD (3)It’s not immediately evident, but you go through the same exact worlds as the original game, with very similar thematic experiences throughout. Even though you have a little castle hub as a level selector, this area simply masks the fact that you are taking a very familiar route to the original game. It’s genius, really: even the most jaded Sega veterans won’t immediately recognize that most of the original’s structure was reused, even with the inspiration being very clear. I really like the added touch of an in-game narrator, making this feel less like a game and more like an old Mickey Mouse hardcover storybook.

For Pistol Packin’ Pete’s Sake

Being a budget game, there are some presentation problems that I found particularly annoying. As I am a stickler for framerates, I found the game’s low FPS count (which dipped to the sub-15s in some areas of the game) to be jarring and unacceptable, given that I’m of the impression that even with the complex backgrounds the developers brought to the table, there isn’t much going on to make the engine crawl. This is exactly why I couldn’t get into the Spanish-developed Castlevania games no matter how hard I tried; though granted, I was playing the PS3 version (shame on me). No word yet on how it plays on the PC, but I’m hoping its a little more optimized.

Castle of Illusion HD (4)

Another issue I had which may or may not correlate to the fact that it’s a downloadable game (I’m blaming modern game design ethos myself) is that at around four hours, the game is too short and offers little incentive to play through it again. The game is simply far too easy for platforming savants to even consider a challenge, and while the levels themselves take a bit of time to complete (and collect the collectibles within), the boss fights don’t offer enough of a deterrent to progress, as they all have easily-defeatable patterns.

With those two minor issues set aside, I really enjoyed my time with this new Castle of Illusion. I was pleasantly surprised that Sega’s new Australian studio put so much care and effort into what could merely have been a quick cash-in game to appeal to both nostalgic gamers and Mickey’s built-in fanbase. While it fails to touch the cream of the downloadable platformer crop, Sega’s marvelous redux is well worth your time and investment, a rare example of a game that you can play with the entire family. A Sunday morning kind of game, if you will.

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Much like a dopey Facebook quiz, Alpha Protocol presents to the player one simple question: what kind of secret agent are you? Do you slither into the shadows like Splinter Cell’s Sam Fisher, leaving a trail of broken necks in your wake? Maybe you’re a Jason Bourne, running deep into enemy territory, kicking ass and taking names. Or do you prefer the more indirect approach, systematically dismantling the enemy’s defenses like wily vet Solid Snake? Any way you slice it, Alpha Protocol’s got you covered.  And hey, even the spineless beta-male gadget fetishists can get their James Bond on in this game. All good.

The game takes the standard superspy tropes and shoehorns them into an action-RPG: duck and cover, meet stats and loot. Main dude Michael Thorton thus becomes quite a pliable superspy as the character decisions you’ll be making from the onset of the game will shape his “class,” as it were. The player can customize every stat, every piece of weaponry, and even Thorton’s appearance to a pretty good degree, as you would with any modern WRPG. The only difference is that you’re adding suppressors, scopes, and incendiary rounds to your weapons instead of buffing magic or equipping a +10 cloak of defense.

Alpha Protocol (1)

Protocol’s dialogue tree also differs from any of its contemporaries’ as responses are timed and flow in real-time. They call it the “DSS,” short for Dialogue Stance System, and instead of your usual “good” or “evil” choice, you get three different “stances” or approaches to moving the conversation. The player can be all cold and professional like Jason Bourne, suave and sophisticated like Mr. Bond, or even aggressive like 24’s Jack Bauer.

Post-Mortem

The action plays out… well, a bit too much like Mass Effect for my liking. Though not as stifled and lifeless as Bioware’s take on the space shooter opera, there are stark similarities between the two games; mostly relating to how they ape the cover system and other tropes from established FPS games and meld them with their own RPG conventions. Spells are called “abilities” in the game, and range from your usual buffs (Fury which briefly increases physical strength and Focus Fire which gives the player auto-aim) to neat powers like slowing down the action to scope out a group of enemies. And perks don’t work the same way as in Fallout. Instead of selecting from a pool of perks and building your character around them, the game actually awards you perks based on the way you play, which I thought was pretty clever as it forces the player to do missions a certain way instead of double-dipping with various half-classes.

Why didn’t Obsidian just steal the radial interface from Mass Effect? This is Alpha Protocol’s biggest downfall. This isn’t 1997 guys; I don’t need to wade through fifteen static menus just to change my skills. Thank God I didn’t subject myself to the console version of this game, where I’d imagine switching abilities would take fifteen button presses instead of holding down the left trigger and flicking the analog stick somewhere.

Alpha Protocol (2)

And it’s not as if missions are that linear in the first place; you’ll need to do multiple playthroughs to explore all the content Obsidian’s prepared for this game. There aren’t any particularly evil options, though; as is standard with most WRPGs, “evil” is relative: your real choices are limited to good, neutral, and douchebag. Spoiler alert—unlike other games that use the “good/neutral/bad” mechanic, the choices you make during the game are fairly reversible to a point anyways.

Play It!

With the game’s numerous shortcomings in mind, Alpha Protocol is actually a pretty compelling little game. There’s a lot of good exploration opportunities on the dialog/pathing side of things; and the overarching narrative, though pap and hackneyed, does have its moments. It’s regularly $5 or less on Steam, so there’s lotsa chances for you guys to try it out. I’m a little sad that our coverage has to end here, as there aren’t a lot of mods that extend the game’s lifespan. AP was panned critically, I think for the wrong reasons: in my opinion, reviewers didn’t approach the game correctly; as it’s a one-of-a-kind throwback to the janky B-rated PC games of decades past. It really is a blast once you get past those tedious first two hours and get the hang of what you can and can’t do.

I’m kicking off the weekend by plowing through this game again, but I’d like to hear your thoughts on this underappreciated sci-fi jaunt.

Let’s Play is a new column we’re introducing where we spend a weekend and challenge the readers to hopefully tag along with us and play something on our collective backlogs.

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Micro-Star International (MSI), an established manufacturer of PC hardware (motherboards, video cards, etc) and notebooks is inviting all gamers and pc enthusiasts to their celebration of all things gaming and more: “MSI Beat It! 2013: Overdrive Reloaded“. This event will be held at the 4th floor annex event area in SM City North EDSA. This event will feature highly competitive tournaments, exclusive hands on previews of their latest gaming hardware, and a lot more activities listed below:

Feature Tournaments:

  • Counter Strike: Global Offensive will  be featured in a qualifying tournament brought to you by MSI and it’s pro-team partner: Fnatic where the winning team will be flown to Shanghai, China to compete in the global grand final where USD 10,000 will be awarded to the grand champion.
  • Mercenary Online (Massive Gaming) will culminate it’s Third Person Shooter League (TPSL) at MSI Beat It 2013 where the champion will walk away with PHP 50,000.
  • Dragon Nest (Cherry Credits) will feature its first King of the Arena PVP tournament where the last player standing will take home PHP 30,000.
  • Assault Fire (Level Up) will host a Pro Tour qualifying tournament c/o Mineski.

Official Tournaments:

  • Defense of the Ancients 2
  • Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm
  • Avatar Star (Cherry Credits)

Other Events:

There will be a Dragon Nest/Avatar Star cosplay competition in MSI Beat It 2013 where the best cosplayer will be awarded PHP 10,000. Other cosplayers are still welcome to join in the festivities but you get no prizes.

MSI will also be showcasing exclusive hands on previews of their upcoming gaming notebook, the MSI GS70 Stealth. What is being claimed as the world’s thinnest and lightest gaming notebook. Looks like the big boys are starting to give the Razer Blade a run for its money.

Aside from lean and mean gaming machines, MSI will be colaborating with Simulation Racing Pilipinas and Techsim in a time-attack challenge featuring the MSI GX60, the only gaming notebook capable of handling Eyefinity (triple screen). Having said that, you’re going to experience simulation racing with an Eyefinity set-up.

MSI in celebration of this event will be selling gaming series motherboard and video card bundles that will be available in authorized MSI hardware retailers up to September 15, 2013 only.

Last but not the least, what is a PC gaming event without a LAN Party? On top of a rig modding competition, the participants will be making functional use of their pimped out computers for one big LAN party.

“MSI Beat It! 2013: Overdrive Reloaded” is presented by MSI in partnership with Intel, SteelSeries, Aerocool, Plextor, Massive Gaming, Cherry Credits, myDSL and SM North EDSA.

About MSI

Founded in 1986, MSI designs, manufactures and markets technology solutions and products, including Tablets, Notebook PCs, All-in-One PCs, and PC components including IPCs, Servers, Motherboards and Video Cards. Committed to innovation and style, MSI products are available in more than 120 countries and employ more than 14,000 people worldwide. To learn more about MSI’s complete line of products, visit: www.msi.com; or follow them at www.facebook.com/MSI.Philippines.

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So let’s get this straight: the first two Ys games have been chopped up, ported, remade (or re-remade, in this case) more times than I’d care to count over its twenty-four years of existence. What has Chronicles going for it, then? Absolutely nothing, to be blunt. Chronicles won’t impress the uninitiated, quell the fears of people who’ve dabbled with and hated the series, nor give hardened vets anything substantial to chew on. Taken at face value, however, it is a wonderful package: a well-done re-issue of one of the first and greatest action-RPGs.

Ys Chronicles

The plot remains the same: strapping young lad Adol Christin ventures forth in the land of Esteria to discover the books of Ys, containing the history of a vanished kingdom called Ys, which (spoilers!) he actually gets to explore in the second game. What makes Ys special is its brisk, simplistic, yet elegant combat model. Run into enemies, rinse and repeat: the “bump system” doesn’t get any simpler than that.

Ys Chronicles (1)Another thing that defines Ys is its wonderful soundtrack, composed by industry legend Yuzo Koshiro. As expected, Chronicles’ OST is nothing short of incredible. Falcom has thoughtfully included the option to play through the game with either the original PC-88 chiptunes, fully-redone tracks from the (original) 2001 Windows version this game is based off, or wonderfully-arranged tracks first found on Chronicles’ PSP release (which, um, was a remake of an older PC version of the same remake. Confused yet?).

The spritework in Ys is crisp, colorful, and—most importantly—faithful to the source material. I’m really impressed by the spritework—everyone from tiny NPCs down to the humungous bosses is detailed intricately, and everything scales up pretty well even blown up full-screen on my 24″ monitor. The hand-painted backdrops look marvelous as well, and for once the faint polygonal and particle effects enhance rather than detract from the experience (see: Ducktales Remastered, which I’ll have a review on later this week).

Again, I realize this series isn’t for everyone, and anyone who remotely enjoys Ys has already played one of the billion I&II ports out there. But hell, anything Ys-related is worth a look (or two) in my book, and this new Steam version seems to be the easiest entry point for anyone interested in looking into the long-running series.

Ys Chronicles (1)

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Thank you Based God. Though nothing else can touch Barkley: Shut Up and Jam Gaiden’s complete and utter mastery of the RPG Maker format, Kanye Quest 3000 at least exists as an entertaining challenger to the throne that unfortunately falls short. Though we’ve played mere minutes of the game, KQ3K contains enough hilarious pop-culture references to keep you busy for a long, hard while. I’ll let the game’s synopsis explain itself:

In January 2010, as rapper and producer Kanye West is taking the garbage out one day, he suddenly travels through a wormhole. Emerging on the other side, Kanye finds himself in the year 3030. In a dystopian city filled with clones of hip-hop musicians and under the control of a god-like dictator, can Kanye get back home?

Kanye Quest 3000 can be downloaded here. PC only; console, Mac and mobile poors will not be allowed to finish. Go forth, multiply, and spread the gospel of the Yeezus. :babylawd :rejoice :troll

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Fire up yer PCs, fellow distinguished members of the master race — it’s time to partake in our semi-annual tradition of dumping hundreds of dollars on games we’ll probably never end up playing! Yes indeed, Gaben and company have opened the floodgates, and from today ’till the 22nd you too can obtain hours upon hours of quality PC video gaming products for modest prices.

Today’s helpings include BioShock Infinite for $29.99 (don’t buy this), Endless Space for $10.19, Defiance for $13.59, Left 4 Dead 2 for $4.99, Mars for $13.39, Scribblenauts Unlimited for $4.99, Hotline Miami for $2.49, Call of Juarez Gunslinger for $10.04, Toki Tori 2 for $9.89 and Don’t Starve for $11.99. Shorter, eight-hour long are also in as part of the sale, and if you’re lucky you may just make it in time to snag Dragon Age Ultimate Edition, Grid 2, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Legendary Edition, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

And if that wan’t bad enough Valve’s also throwing in Steam Trading Cards into the mix for this year’s summer sale, allowing OCD players to craft a Summer Sale badge after collecting all the new cards unique to the sale. That’s just pure evil.

Anyway, what are ye all waiting for? Let’s cop some games, brehs*!

* – Only applies to PC gamers. Console dirtpersons can sit this one out.

Coffee Stain Studio’s tower defense FPS hybrid: Sanctum 2 just released its first expansion pack: Road to Elysion. This first of four planned DLC expansions introduces a new playable character who is deeply tied up with the game’s story line. If you haven’t read my review of the game, delving more into the story line probably means more comic panels. I’m still disappointed about that approach but hey, new playable character, new weapons, and new perks which include a pet robot? There are more reasons to be excited than disappointed with Road to Elysion. I’ll certainly give some impressions as soon as I’ve gone through the expansion.Santcum2RTE_TSYGAN01 Oh yeah, check out their promo video above too, it’s hilarious.

Road to Elysion Features:

• New Playable Character and Weapons – Tsygan, the “Rogue Insurgent”, who also introduces the Gatling Laser and handheld Ballista to the game.
Four New Maps – These maps will introduce new tactics to make things more refreshing for those who played the hell out of Sanctum 2 already.
• Two New Towers – The Range Spire dramatically increases the reach of nearby offensive towers and the Slow Field Dispenser dramatically hinders the speed of enemies to make choke points more effective.
Enchanced Enemies – New support monsters can heal or mutate attacking creep to give you all sorts of new problems and if that isn’t enough, you’ll have to deal with an aerial boss monster this time around.
• Additional Perks – Customize your character even more with six new perks, including one that gives you an in-game pet robot that will fight for you.

The Sanctum 2: Road to Elysion DLC is now available on Steam for $3.99 and on Xbox Live Marketplace for 1200 MS Points. You will need the full version of Sanctum 2 to play the DLC which goes for $14.99 on said platforms. But if you really like Sanctum 2 like me, you’re better off getting the season pass for all four (4) planned DLC at only $11.99.

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VanHelsingII_BoxArt
Van Hellsing 2 Box Art

Esteemed indie developer NeocoreGames announced today The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II for PC, bringing players the follow-up to the popular gothic-noir steampunk action-RPG influenced by Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Returning fans will be able to import their characters from the first adventure, while new hunters will have the opportunity to create their own legendary monster-hunter.

“In the first game it all seemed so simple,” said Viktor Juhász, narrative designer at NeocoreGames, “defeat the mad scientist, free the land and ride into the sunset, but sometimes the fall of a villain only opens the way to more sinister foes.”

The incredible adventures continue, and Van Helsing, the famous monster-hunter returns to save the day again with the help of his charming, ghostly companion, Lady Katarina. The gothic metropolis of weird science is on the brink of destruction as chaos rules the streets and a new enemy plots revenge. It’s time to enter the dark side of Borgova and the forbidden wilderness, but beware: you are not the only one behind a mask.

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing, currently available worldwide for $14.99 via Steam on Windows® PC, is a one-of-a-kind action-RPG that pits players in fierce battles against familiar supernatural foes and enables players to partake in a tower-defense mini-game within Van Helsing’s upgradable lair to ward off evil that attempt to overrun the base by way of force.

Our resident weeaboo (who actually speaks pretty good Japanese for real), Daba Myroad made a review for the first game here. But to cut to the chase, he gives it a good rating of 4.5/5. From the looks of it, the first game seems wildly successful to warrant an immediate development of a sequel.

Author’s Note: This is a press release from the Neocore Game’s PR agency. Everything in this post except the last paragraph is a direct copy of their press release.

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The cutscenes cheat a little bit — Flashback was released in the ’90s!

In Ignorance, Milan Kundera said that “Nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return.” Nostalgia is a very harmful quality of human nature; one that certainly can be attributed towards the fall of many civilizations. Nostalgia preys on the weakest of wills; especially of those who have never been part of these wistful experiences in the first place. Look at your Facebook feed, for instance: how many of these Marcos apologists you see clamoring for the return of that era’s dictatorship were born after 1987?

Outside of the Internet and its greater idiosyncrasies, we’re seeing the return of Zubaz pants, denim jackets, neon sunglasses and shorts that go up to your FUPA. The ’80s is back in full swing (again), and this time it just ain’t a hipster thang. A day shy from Throwback Thursday comes my review of this decidedly retro shooter. Blood Dragon is a $15 stand-alone adventure using the infinitely scalable Far Cry 3 engine, featuring a pastiche of decidedly ’80s themes and imagery. The game stars Sgt. Rex Power Colt, a cyborg commando sent to destroy a secret doomsday weapon engineered by his former mentor. Or something like that; honestly this is one game where the dialogue far overcomes the narrative, as Rex and his cohorts blurt out cheesy one-liners and fourth wall-breaking quips at a rapid-fire pace.

Good Points

far-cry-3-blood-dragon-pc-1365150225-003The game captures the ’80s feel appropriately. The developers did an amazing job of making this feel like a lost Michael Crichton movie, down to the VHS overscanning and gratuitous use of neon and lasers. Everything in this game basks in a purple or orange haze, so it feels a little harsh on the eyes at times, but it also gives the game a sense of urgency that few other games capture. Sneaking around in a permanently night-shaded environment feels just right, and for some reason that only whatever neurons happened to be firing at the time can explain, continually reminded me of Dinosaucers. Nostalgia is a bad thing.

Much to my delight, Blood Dragon strokes your bro gland like no other game this year will as its over-the-top hyperviolence, excessive explosions and delightfully cheesy character design completely annihilates the sometimes-homoerotic theatrics that a modern “bro” shooter like Gears of War or Call of Duty calls for. Power Colt—voiced by action film mainstay Michael Biehn—makes no attempts of trying to be endearing to the player, yet his never-ending dry humor and straight-faced narration of what’s currently progressing on-screen will have you in stitches, guaranteed. There are quite a few epic points where you get to feel like a total badass, like the arena-type stages and the jarring conclusion of the game, so once you’re “in character,” so to speak, you’ll feel absolutely untouchable.

Synth-rockers Powerglove provide the game’s musical background, and provide an awesome backing score for the entire game. As a synth head, I loved the game’s wonderful atmospheric tunes. Heavy, distorted guitars and bellowing synthesizers would not fit any other game, and the game’s soundscape feels spot-on for Blood Dragon.

Bad Points

far-cry-3-blood-dragon-pc-1365150225-005The game forced me to install the malicious tumor that is Ubisoft’s Uplay. What the hell, Ubisoft? I bought the Steam version of the game to get away from your garbage publisher-induced overlay, yet you still forced me to install your DRM-infused bloatware? I was finally ready to give your company a chance for releasing a game as shallowly awesome as this, but you go ahead and prove—yet again—that you are the most deceitfully disingenuous and cynical company in the industry.

In spite of the fascinating gimmick, the actual gameplay feels fairly rote and pedestrian once you get down to it. There’s nothing particularly innovative or special about the game’s overall mechanics despite having an immensely endearing atmosphere. Your mileage may vary depending on your tolerance to the genre, but for me Blood Dragon felt like just another shooter.

Things that can swing both ways

As I alluded to above, the game does not have any compelling story to follow whatsoever. I had no issues with this, as the game still felt like a stronger choice than, say, more Far Cry 3 DLC as—spoilers—Ubisoft Montreal had already topped off Brody’s story pretty satisfactorily. The fact that this is set in alternative universe is also another cop-out to cover up the fact that a lot of assets were reused from FC3; again something I had no issues with.

far-cry-3-blood-dragon-pc-1366908921-020Blood Dragon is the perfect $15 game. I’d like to see more bite-sized experiences such as these from the bigger developers. Six to eight hours is absolutely perfect for these noveau console experiences; certainly a far cry (get it) from something like Assassin’s Creed where Ubisoft tries to cram in five hours of actual meaningful gameplay in a forty-hour boredom tour de force. I honestly thought that the $15 game would take off after Battlefield 1943 made the rounds and was fairly successful at riding on another game’s engine to create a unique, bite-sized experience that doesn’t quite wear its welcome out. Here’s hoping that games such as this and Call of Juarez: Gunslinger start a trend.

One final word about this game: if you have a fairly recent rig with a decent enough video card, it will most likely work. Far Cry 3 runs using high settings on my little brother’s garbage econo-box with a GTX 650 installed on it, so I have no doubts that even a mid-range laptop from 2010 will run Blood Dragon, despite the high number of lasers flying at you at any given moment.

30lives—being the benevolent bastards and guardians of good taste we are—are giving away one free copy of Far Cry: Blood Dragon! Simply head on to Facebook, like and share this post. It’s that simple! We’ll pick a winner at 6pm tomorrow.

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Double Fine Studio’s new project, Massive Chalice, reaches its funding goal of $725,000 five (5) days into the Kickstarter campagin. While it doesn’t come as a surprise to us, the big question now is what comes next? The campaign for Massive Chalice does not have any specific stretch goals but in a video update on their campaign, Brian Muir (project lead) tells us that the game is in a pre-production stage and while there is an abundance of ideas both from their team and the supporters so they feel that stretch goals will come after they narrow down the best ideas for the core product.

Also, they added new tiers to the Massive Chalice Kickstarter campaign, a low tier which grants an in-game item to boost 1st generation characters and another tier which includes a physical copy (due to public demand). With twenty-two (22) days left for the campaign, we can expect more updates and previews on what we can expect this game to play and look like and perhaps concrete stretch goals.

I am inviting everyone to check out Double Fine Studio’s Massive Chalice here.

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snapviewmultitaskingSo the embargo has lifted on Windows 8.1 previews and all of the big tech sites have previews up on their respective outlets today. Now, I know a lot of you come to 30lives to read about the down n’ dirty side of tech news, so we’ll cut through the BS and give you the real skinny on Microsoft’s next big step for the fledgling operating system.

From what we’ve seen so far, it looks like Windows 8.1 will be a good bridge between the holdouts that still have Windows 7 on their systems (myself included) and Microsoft’s new cloud-based M.O. Contrary to what rumors have suggested, the Start Menu won’t make a comeback, but the Start Screen will act as more of an “overlay,” to make the transition between the desktop and start menu less jarring. I suppose if that’s still an annoyance, one can pony up the $4.99 and install Start8, a piece of software that unobtrusively adds a more traditional Windows 7-style Start Menu among other tweaks, including booting direct to the desktop (something Windows 8.1 actually fixes).

More welcome tweaks to the Start Screen include making “All Apps” the default view instead of the live tiles, which is a good compromise for power users. Other welcome tweaks for power users include disabling “hot corners,” which was a personal annoyance as I would always overshoot the corner window to hit the “close” button on apps. Users with multi-monitor setups can also elect to keep the start screen open on one screen while doing work on the other, which is a feature exactly zero people asked for, according to recent surveys.

skydriveMore importantly, it looks like Microsoft is going for Dropbox’ jugular by including 100GB of SkyDrive support out of the box, fully integrated with the OS, with full thumbnail search capabilities. From what Microsoft has shown off so far, it’s pretty seamless: files on the cloud can be used by local applications as it “streams” direct to your machine per use. Of course, with the pathetic internet speeds we all have in the Philippines, this usefulness does come into question, but it’s still a neat feature for those with fat broadband pipes.

Windows 8.1 will debut at the BUILD conference next month. As the first in a series of incremental, OS X-style yearly updates, lots of speculation has been posited about how Microsoft will price this update. Could be free, could also be a low-cost, $30 update for existing users. We’ll have to see this June!

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Admittedly I haven’t funded any games on Kickstarer but all that changed this morning. I am a big fan of turn-based strategy games so I was pretty much sold after Double Fine’s promo video (which was pretty hilarious) and Kickstarter page included the following names:

from the guy(s) who brought you

  • Psychonauts
  • Brutal Legend
  • Iron Brigade

and then drawing inspiration from some of my all time favorite strategy games like:

  • XCOM
  • Final Fantasy Tactics
  • Fire Emblem

The MASSIVE CHALICE team comprises artists, designers, and engineers who recently worked on Double Fine projects like The Cave, Brütal Legend PC, Dropchord, Middle Manager of Justice, and various prototypes. The crew is ready to work on something big. Something MASSIVE.

They also mentioned that the game would span across generations so there are mechanics in the game that would require you to preserve the bloodline of your heroes which pretty much is reminiscent of the Record of Agarest War but chose to name drop “Game of Thrones” instead (hee hee, I wonder why?).

Shut up and take my money.

The development of Massive Chalice is helmed by Brad Muir who is known for being a programmer on Psychonauts, a designer on Brutal Legend, and creator of Iron Brigade. I really am not one to follow names in the gaming industry but the Kickstarter page says he’s a fan of turn-based strategy games so I’m sold on the guy.

muir
Thumbs up to you sir.

Massive Chalice is set to be released late 2014 based on the scheduled delivery estimates but this Kickstarer campaign will last only until June 27, 2013. I already pledged some money to the project and if you are a fan of the genre, I invite you to do the same. Head on down to their Kickstarter page and check it out!

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Yes, you are looking at a tower defense game.

Sanctum 2 is a  hybrid first-person shooter and tower defense game for the PC. The first game (Sanctum) was released back in April 2011 which had generally mixed reviews. Personally, I liked the game a lot. I actually scored a copy of it during one of those Steam sales (because this game was under my radar like almost all non-triple A games) and recently pre-ordered Sanctum 2 (which was released on May 15, 2013) without doing much research on the contents of the sequel. Little did I know that they practically revamped the entire game which made the game feel different and took me some time to digest the changes. But don’t get me wrong, it’s not an entirely new game, the core mechanics are intact but Sanctum 2’s development seems to have certain inclinations towards FPS mechanics and multiplayer.

The game features sixteen (16) maps of increasing difficulty where you battle to protect your core or base if you will against waves of creep that grow bigger every turn. You can choose between four (4) characters, seven (7) distinct side arms, eleven (11) tower types, and eleven (11) character perks to form an iron clad defense  that will blow anything that tries to cross it to smithereens.

Good points:

Improved upgrading system. The the first game, you could upgrade towers or your own weapons and it came off as a tower vs FPS player where you could see specific stats of how much DPS towers made compared to your avatar as well as how many kills they made respectively but I always felt that it kind of crippled the game’s core mechanics which is using both towers and your own skill to beat the game. Sanctum 2 made pretty big changes here spreading out all available main weapons across four (4) characters. This means you can’t pair up two imbalanced weapons and max them out then own almost everything in sight. As a matter of fact, character weapons cannot be upgraded in this game, meaning there is only so much you can do with your character alone and all your resources really go into making the perfect tower defense. Weapons are also balanced out in a way that each character have distinguished styles of FPS game play.

Where you equip the gear.
There is a lot more going down when setting up in Sanctum 2

While each character has their own inert abilities such as increased damage to weak spots (on creep) every time you hit them to setting creep on fire when they get hit by your weapons, you can equip additional perks that will assist you or your towers in dealing with the different waves of creep in various stages. You might find yourself tinkering with these a lot when you’re going against higher difficulty settings. You will also notice that each character is suited to different paying styles in some way. My favorite is SiMo, the sniper touting robot.

Towers can be upgraded two (2) times instead of five (5) times in the previous game. It makes a lot more sense granted that both games gave you limited resources and the fact that max level upgrades in the original game were tricked out so much that those positions basically turn into your choke points by default (due to how much money they costed).

Additional tower type slots and perk slots can be unlocked when you advance in levels (gaining XP), you also unlock additional sidearms along the way. Sidearms are actually quite important in this game more than they were in the first Sanctum game. They important for many situations, damage over time on heavily armored creep, crowd control, and even in situations where creep needs to take a lot of hits for their defense to loosen up (in case your primary weapon has a low rate of fire… like a sniper).

Screenshot 5
Creeps and bosses will go after you when you get their attention.

Improved AI and game mechanics. While creep in the original Sanctum just ignored your character and literally shove you away when you get close, these mobs aren’t as mindless in Sanctum 2. As a matter of fact, they go after your character when you are in proximity because your avatar plays a bigger roles in the defenses now. You can actually get fragged by creep and you lose 10 seconds of damage dealing time in the process so there is a lot more going on when you play this game. Also, the mere fact that creep target your character brings into play a new paradigm of strategy. You can bait and delay enemies to set up choke points where all your tower defenses are focused on to deal maximum damage.

One of the core mechanics of Sanctum is crafting out your own maze to funnel creep to their death and to make them take the longest possible route to your core or main base(s) if you will. The previous game requires you to spend money to make create the blocks to direct traffic which inevitably becomes a pain when you’re distributing that with new towers and upgrading them so they decided to give you a fixed amount of blocks to start and replenish per wave. You don’t have to worry about buying blocks so you can dedicate all your funds to towers and their upgrades which makes a lot more sense to me.

Varying degree of difficulty. Outside the typical survival mode of endless waves, you can actually set handicaps up to five (5) handicaps in any stage. You can make them stronger, faster, tougher, regenerate health, or even set a one death handicap per death (meaning once you die during a wave, you respawn only during the next wave assuming your defenses hold up. The mere addition of these “feats of strength” as they call it, just extended the game’s replay value. It also helps that accomplishing each feat of strength gives you a bonus of 20% XP so in a stage where you accomplish all five (5) gives you 100% more XP, allowing you to unlock items faster. There is also an easy mode for people who find the default game mode a little too difficult so that kind of lowers the barriers to enjoy the game.

Bad points:

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These comics pretty much sums up how they tell the story of the game.

Loss of creep database. In the original sanctum, you could preview what kind of creep (or mobs if you will) will appear in the next wave. This basically gives you enough information on how to arrange your tower defenses and how you will fight the waves in FPS mode. Also it also helped in the previous game that they not only named the mobs, and had a picture of them, they also described what they could do, now I’m stuck with images in Sanctum 2 so I frequently get caught off guard with the emergence of a boss because I wasn’t able to recognize the blasted creep icon. This makes me do a lot of needless trial and error (not to mention losing, some people might not mind losing a problem but I sure as hell do /rage).

Half-assed story. I’ve always been a believer of making the most out of any feature you put into a product so I have to call this one out. Granted that Sanctum never had a story to begin with, you may see the addition to some plot negligible in Sanctum 2. But for me, the mere fact that the studio decided to put in some semblance of a story, they could have at least touched the game up with even just some game rendered animations to tell the story or have voice over interaction between characters in the middle of creep waves. I’m not asking for a sci-fi novel put into Sanctum 2, but a little more immersion would really have brought up the game’s value in my book.

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10 seconds lost is a lot.

Getting stuck in objects. I’ve experienced it a few times in this game and that is a big problem in Sanctum 2. In the original Sanctum, getting stuck is remedied by the teleporters (you can construct fixtures you can automatically teleport to in the map) providing instant travel or escape. The teleporter does not exist in Sanctum 2 and dying (there is a suicide option) is the only way to resolve getting stuck. Dying in Sanctum 2 means losing 10 seconds of damage dealing and that’s a big deal. It kind of sucks that they couldn’t fix these glitches and opted to grant you a suicide option to get out of situations made by their inability to resolve these issues. Thankfully, it doesn’t happen that often.

Things that can swing either way:

Normal campaign games can be multiplayer. This is really something that swings both ways. On one hand, you can have anybody jump in and help you out on a stage that you are having trouble with but on the other hand, it seems like the game is really making you dependent on playing with other people to advance in a seemingly good pace without having to grind up your character to unlock new tower or perk slots, new weapons, or even new towers. I seriously don’t doubt that each stage is impossible to finish alone but just by how I see the game designed your limited resources make it really harder to play alone unlike the first game. Some games are much more fun if you can play them at your own pace. You can play with up to three (3) other people online and random strangers can join you when you set your game to public.

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You’ve got to get down and dirty.

The game is first and foremost a first person shooter. Creep have weak spots you MUST abuse or you will fail miserably so a guy with great aptitude for tower defense games might find him/herself overwhelmed by this requirement. Granted that your accuracy isn’t put to the test as much as the original Sanctum did (with those damned bobble heads) you actually need to be quick on your foot and get down and dirty engaging creep in close quarters even when you are a sniper (at least in my case). Again, this is a big plus for me but not everyone will be able to appreciate it.

One addition to the game are boss monsters who pretty much walk over your tower defenses, setting you into a full FPS mode frenzy. You gotta waste the boss and all the creep that floods through the holes of your carefully constructed maze of death before they reach your base and break it. There are some minor planning in your tower defenses that can stall the boss but they are primarily beaten with twitch skills and field awareness over intricate tower defense positioning.

The visuals have been improved significantly, but they aren’t exactly breathtaking nor did I take too much notice to them at all. While visibly superior to its predecessor, I barely noticed it between aiming at weak spots and dodging aggro creep coming my way. This game isn’t really about top-notch graphics, so if you expect some sort of mind-blowing HD whatever, you’re barking up the wrong tree.

In Conclusion:

Sanctum 2 delivers a very engaging FPS/tower defense experience by improving on a lot of core mechanics. However, the push for more multiplayer interaction seems a little forced and was not exactly what I would call a feature I enjoyed with the original Sanctum. Then again, this game is an FPS game at its core so purist tower defense fans might not exactly like this game. However, it provides a great deal of entertainment mixing action and strategy with varying levels of difficulty. You will be  replaying each stage over and over again without feeling any grind and at the price of $14.99 and the replay value you get from this game, you can’t go wrong. You can get it on Steam right now.

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Recommended System Requirements:

  • CPU: Quad Core 2.00 Ghz +
  • Memory: 2 GB DDR 2
  • Video Card: Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS or better
  • HDD Space: 4 GB
  • Operating System: Windows 7 or 8

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Joystiq has revealed two new civilizations for the second expansion for Civilization 5 namely Indonesia and Morocco. How most of the news on Civilization 5’s next expansion: Brave New World was left under the radar here in 30 lives was my deliberate avoidance of the game for it is a notorious time sink and I don’t really have the luxury of enjoying the marathon pace of the game these days without feeling tremendously guilty of wasting my youth (or whats left of it). However, with a recent sale on steam for the first expansion among other add ons, I kind of got back into the game, unsuccessfully I might add as I have yet to actually finish a  complete game (yey me!) So here we are, I’m writing about the next expansion for Civilization 5.

The game will feature nine (9) new leaders and civilizations, more ways to win the game, new cultural policies, world wonders, and even new scenarios. This is probably relevant to Civilization fans but a complete bore to people who cannot stand the game’s core mechanics. You can read more about the new features on the official Civilization 5 website.

Civilization 5: Brave New World will be released on July 9, 2013 in North America and July 12, 2013 to the rest of the world and I will eagerly wait for it to waste another 100+ hours of my life in shame.

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An exclusive on gamesindustry.biz says that the number of “developers switching solely to mobile is alarming”. This is following a series of disappointing game sales on consoles, PCs, and even PC hardware sales are reported to be dropping. The culprit is apparently tablets and mobile phones according to the media regarding that issue. With successful titles like Angry Brids, and the more recent Candy Crush Saga, I wouldn’t blame developers for trying to get a slice of that pie. This trend is also very apparent in Korea and Japan where I have been told that industry veterans are gradually shifting to mobile game divisions or companies.

One point the article brings up which I completely agree with is the fact that core gamers such as myself are more than willing to pay for interactive entertainment; more than the bulk of mobile gamers and definitely spend much more than them as well. It’s all about having a passion for developing good content for an audience you recognize and respect. Chasing the latest trend just because another company made without considering the entire market is just a recipe for disaster especially for independent developers.

 

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Nobody makes FPS games like they used to. Gone are the halcyon days of Quake 3 and the first Unreal Tournament, where speed and twitch gaming ruled over everything, and copious amounts of Mountain Dew needed to be ingested to even hang with the best. If you haven’t heard, a new Rise of the Triad game is coming out, courtesy of none other than the masters of shareware, Apogee Software.

More details from the comments section:

  • The game will be priced at $14.99, which will give you a fully fleshed-out single player mode as well as multiplayer.
  • Fully moddable and supports Steam Workshop
  • You can change the FOV and scale the HUD (remember being able to do this?)

 

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The short, demo version of Papers, Please was probably the best Cold War immigration control simulation I’ve had the pleasure of playing this year. Wait, what? If that genre description just intrigued the heck out of you, read on. Set in a dystopian, fictionalized version of 1982-era Soviet Union, you take control of an immigration inspector in charge of controlling the flow of people entering the state of Arstotzka from neighboring Kolechia, a state that your government just finished waging a six-year war with.

If that doesn’t sound exciting enough for you, you have terrorists, spies, smugglers, and common riff-raff to detain and/or send away to (what I’m assuming are) slave labor camps. To put it simply, you play spot-the-difference and figure out if each immigrant’s documentation is real or sufficient based on a primitive computer dispatch system and your own two eyes.  It’s actually a lot more harrowing than it sounds. You have a strict time-table and are penalized for mistakes and for not meeting a certain quota of processed immigrants. So there’s a risk and reward system in place here, because you can either just say “screw this,” and let everybody through just to make your quota (aka the Pinoy option), or waste time questioning each and every immigrant to sift through the bad guys and keep them out of your country.

Then at the end of each period, the game takes a turn for the bizarre and asks you to allocate resources for your cold/sick/hungry family. Or, you can choose not to send money over and let them die! It’s a social experiment, you see. And the crazy thing is, what I’ve explained is just part of a beta! Papers, Please is now up on Steam Greenlight and you can vote for the game’s inclusion in Gaben’s massive war chest of independent games here. So yes, please support this game so we can see more off-the-wall stuff from the excellent Lucas Pope.

Download the beta version of Papers, Please here. Mac version here. (lol, gaming on a Mac)