Hearthstone’s upcoming card year, The Year of the Raven, kicks off with the release of the next expansion. 2018 brings some serious changes to the game, with in-game tournaments, some big cards rotating into the Hall of Fame to shake up the meta, and a cool new Druid hero that anyone can get fairly easily.

  • The Year of the Raven features three new expansions, each with single player activities/content
  • Players can earn the druid hero Lunara by winning 10 games in standard play. That’s pretty much a free new character for anyone who plays Hearthstone even at the most casual level.
  • Players are going to be able to create their own in-game tournaments this year. Casual with friends or competitive, this new mode will continue to be developed after a beta rollout.
  • Ice Block, Coldlight Oracle, and Molten Giant are headed to the Hall of Fame to join greats like Sylvanas and Ragnaros. Playing against Mages is going to be substantially different after they lose their neverending strings of Ice Blocks!
  • Whispers of the Old Gods, One Night in Karazhan, and Mean Streets of Gadgetzan are rotating out, making Standard a completely new environment. No more Jade Golems! 

 

Our Take
I can’t wait to see what the new expansion brings in terms of new metagame possibilities, and I’m beyond glad that Jade Druid is going to be a thing of the past. I’m partial to C’thun decks so it’s sad to see my big guy rotate out, but I’m sure more exciting fare is on the way. I’m glad we’re getting a new Druid hero, and that it’s very easy to obtain. Hopefully we get more details on the first expansion that kicks off the Year of the Raven soon!

Subset Games’ Into The Breach is more immediately understandable and accessible than the studio’s previous game, FTL, but dig deeper and there’s a lot to wrap your head around before achieving mastery. Luckily we’re here to help you fend off the ferocious kaiju assaults with some handy tips we’ve learned during our own battles.

1. Start on easy – get a feel for the game and start getting some unlocks on easy before moving up to normal.

2. Use the environment, including the enemies. If there’s any single tip that you should be thinking about all the time, this is it. Success in Into the Breach demands smart use of everything on the grid. Push enemies into each other or into mountains (and other obstacles) to damage them. Move them into positions where their line of fire won’t cause damage. Hide your artillery units behind obstacles to keep their health up. Push and pull bad guys into water, fire, smoke, and acid. And like in Chess, controlling the center of the board is often key to controlling the entire map.

3.Keep the grid (buildings) alive and protected all else. While more advanced strategies will sometimes allow for some grid damage along the way, the grid is the one thing that carries over between matches, and its depletion is an immediate game over effect. In the beginning, make it your goal that buildings should never take damage – even if that means one of your mechs needs to take the hit instead.

4. Understand what every enemy is doing in its turn before you take any actions. If you’re not clear on what an enemy will do, hover the mouse over that unit and hold CTRL on your keyboard for an in-depth look at the enemy’s powers and current telegraphed attack.

5. Target specific achievements on any given playthrough. By focusing on 2 to 4 specific tasks in your run, you can maximize your chance to be able to unlock additional mech squads, which in turn unlocks more achievements (the ones from that squad) which you can pursue.

6. When in doubt, move first. Once your mech attacks, its turn is over, but you can always move and then undo your most recent move. You can also move multiple units first, and then act with all or some of them. It’s often valuable to move one unit, attack with another, and then go back and attack with the first.

7. Synergize mech squad abilities. Most mech squads are in formation with each other for a reason. Take the time to consider how each mech in your group can help the other ones in your group. For instance, if one mech transforms smoke into a damage effect, make sure and utilize the other mechs that can place smoke in a meaningful way.

8. Balance your reactor core usage. We often find that mech-specific weapon upgrades can be powerful tools, but in some cases added health can also be a lifesaver. Consider your playstyle carefully with each new squad you try out, and see where your weaknesses are based on how you’re struggling – focus your upgrades on shoring up those weaknesses.

9. Focus on psions, but not at the expense of the grid or multi-kills. Having a psion (of any variety) remain on the board for very long is a bad idea. But some of the enemy AI setups clearly use the psions to bait you away from more important priorities, especially at the start of the battle. If killing the psion holds you back from other essential priorities, it’s okay to hold off for a turn and complete other tasks, like saving a building, or chaining a multi-kill.

10. Don’t freak out if you lose an optional objective. There will be plenty of opportunities to get those stars.

11. On more difficult missions your pilots and mechs are expendable. Your grid damage isn’t, Use corpses to form a barrier if you must.

12. If a bubble is around a building, that means that build can take a single hit before damage is dealt.

13. Early on, when you have a choice to get a new pilot from an end-of-island reward, take the pilot. Not only is there an achievement for getting several of the pilots into your team, but their unique abilities also offer increased flexibility to your squad as subsequent playthroughs begin.

14. Sometimes a time pod will fall onto the battlefield. Be sure to send one of your units to grab it before a monster destroys it. They contain useful upgrades and items. Where possible try to combine your pick-up with a useful action that unit can complete on the pod’s space.

15. There’s benefits to getting energy even if you have a full grid – this will allow you to go “above cap” and raise your percent chance to resist losing energy on a hit. However, those small percentage bonuses are icing on the cake, and accrue very slowly. Don’t sacrifice a shot at other meaningful upgrades to push your percentage just a single point higher.

16. Aim for the perfect turn. Frequently, if you examine all the potential routes, there are ways to complete a perfect turn, in which no grid damage is taken or bonus objectives lost and even no mechs take damage. Watch for these opportunities, and take the time to examine all the potential moves in front of you before acting. Think laterally to understand the board not as it is, but rather how it will be after certain moves take place. Take advantage of the attack order tooltip to understand when things will happen in what order. Note that environmental damage will often occur first before enemies act, so don’t waste time on a kill that fire, earthquake, or other effect will do for you. Use your mech for other needs on the board instead, with the knowledge that the enemy may be killed with or without your help by environmental effects.

17. Remember that battles are won not by killing everything, but by keeping everything at bay until the countdown ends. That should always factor into your approach to a fight; killing everything is often impossible, but keeping everything safe often is possible.

18. Once you complete an island once, you can start on that island in your next playthrough. Keep that in mind if you find yourself faring better in certain environments.

19. It’s easy to forget that you can heal your mechs during battle instead of attacking or using a special ability. Be sure to click that wrench and then the mech if you need to heal up.

20. Don’t focus too much on damage. Placement disruption is the name of the game in Into The Breach. It’s often better to pay attention to where your foes are and then push them away from buildings and other vital structures.

21. You can often trick enemies into attacking one another or sitting on top of a spawn spot.

22. You get one chance to reset a turn per battle if you mess up big time. Don’t waste it.

23.In the second phase of the final battle, you must protect a bomb from damage. Note that if your bomb is destroyed, another one will be supplied, but that means more turns that you need to survive. As such, try to keep your first bomb alive if possible, but don’t hit a different game over state (like grid depletion or all your mechs being destroyed) in the name of preserving the bomb.

The ESRB has announced that it will soon affix a new label on physical games that feature a variety of paid in-game purchases, including loot boxes, season passes, and DLC. In addition, the game-ratings organization has launched a new site designed to inform parents about in-game purchases and how to enable parental tools to prevent their kids from racking up in-game charges without their permission.

The announcement follows high-profile blowbacks on loot crates, which have included calls from politicians for the organization to more closely monitor those kinds of in-game purchases.

The ESRB isn’t flagging loot crates in particular, but they’re included in a blanket label, which includes “bonus levels, skins, surprise items (such as item packs, loot boxes, mystery awards), music, virtual coins and other forms of in-game currency, subscriptions, season passes, upgrades (e.g., to disable ads) and more.”

 

Our Take
Considering that virtually every contemporary game features at least one of these types of in-game purchases, it seems like a way for the group to seemingly address parental and political concerns without diving headfirst into the loot-crate controversy.

Materia Collective (which has previously released soundtrack remixes for titles like Final Fantasy VII) has a new EP out today. Arranged by the artist Ferdk, this new release takes the music of Nier: Automata and gives it a symphonic metal spin.

The EP, entitled “Glory to Metal,” has four tracks: “Bipolar Nightmare,” “Alien Manifestation,” “Forest Kingdom,” and “Grandma (Destruction).”

To hear samples of the album or buy it for yourself, you can check it out on Bandcamp, Spotify, and iTunes

Moss represents an experiment inside the already-experimental world of virtual reality. It’s a third-person platformer, but it’s played from the perspective of a second character inhabited by the player. I have played games like this before – essentially an action game with an isometric camera, but Moss feels different because it is played in virtual reality.

You are the reader in Moss, literally sitting in a library reading the game’s story, guiding Quill the adorable mouse on a journey to save her uncle. She acknowledges you, and where reflective surfaces appear, you even see yourself as a masked spiritual figure. Seeing myself in the world for the first time was exciting. It made me feel involved in an interesting way, and demonstrates what VR (even when unevenly executed) can add to this genre.

The moment-to-moment gameplay has you controlling Quill as she platforms and climbs through the environment and occasionally unsheathes her sword to battle with enemies. The movement and jumping feel great thanks to Quill’s fantastic animation. She moves with amazing fluidity both in gameplay and in the custom cutscene animation.

She looks great swinging a sword, too, but the combat gets tedious fighting wave after wave of familiar enemies. I like the feel of battle, pulling off simple combos and quickly dodging attacks, but once you find your baseline tactic (slash, slash, dodge, repeat), Moss never gives you a reason to leave that comfort zone.

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As the reader, you also interact with the world directly, moving the controller to rotate platforms and move blocks. You also take control of enemies by hovering over them. This element is inconsistent, and I elbowed my chair frequently to get my hands into place. Every time the in-game icon would bounce around or not work properly, it would take me right out of the experience.

Quill’s story is a simple one. She finds a magical artifact that sends her on a journey to save her uncle and with its anthropomorphic animals in a medieval setting, it reminded me of Brian Jacques’ Redwall book series, which I loved when I was young. Quill’s journey is your focus, but the environments are littered with clues about the past, teasing that humans and advanced technology may have existed at one time. The final boss fight is satisfying, but it stumbles right at the end with a tease for a sequel. Wanting more from a story is usually a good thing, but in this case, the game held too much back and left me disappointed.

Moss struggles with some aspects of its VR implementation. Playing a video game with your neck isn’t particularly fun and the motion controls cause more trouble than they’re worth, but many moments are aided by wearing the headset. Seeing myself for the first time was a fun surprise, and directly interacting with Quill, like giving her a high-five after completing a puzzle, wouldn’t feel the same in a standard game. Despite its shortcomings, Moss is one of my favorite virtual-reality experiences, and I look forward to seeing where the story goes next.

Developer HB Studios has announced the next iteration in its successful golf series – The Golf Club 2019 – due out this fall on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

The title expands the series’ customization foundation to include a robust set of options for your characters (as well as course-creation stuff), expanded career events and variety, online wager matches, and much more.

A pre-alpha build of the title is already up and running, and you can see it in action (as well as get more details on the game’s features) in the debut video below.

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[Source: HB Studios] 

Microsoft has announced an Xbox One S Sea of Thieves bundle for the game’s launch on March 20.

The bundle is going for $299.99 and includes a 1TB Xbox One S, a download of the game, and one-month trial passes for Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass.

Furthermore, the company has already released a Sea of Thieves controller for $74.99.

For more on the game, check out our recent playthrough below.

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[Source: Microsoft] 

 

Our Take 
It’s a shame that the system doesn’t support any custom artwork on its face. 

Simplicity and elegance go hand in hand in many mediums, and Into the Breach demonstrates that the same can apply for game design. After the remarkable success of FTL, Subset Games has crafted a follow-up that maintains the same structural progression and addictive replayability, but tacks away toward a fascinating hybrid of turn-based tactics and puzzle gameplay. The result is a cleaner and tighter game than FTL, and one that is more fun, strategically complex, and consistently rewarding. 

Kaiju-like giant monsters have devastated the world, but the distant and ruined future has given rise to technology that might have made the difference: vast mechs with the power to end the threat before it shatters humanity. In one threatened timeline after another, you travel back in time and save what you can. Into the Breach’s slick sci-fi hook feeds the endless loop of rogue-lite playthroughs that players confront. Each play session is filled with new weapons to acquire, like boulder flingers and lightning-tinged smoke. You receive new battle objectives to surmount, from saving a passing train to terraforming the land. Whether charging into a battle with a squad of flaming behemoths that singe the towering creatures to a crisp, or using positional powers that maneuver each beast into its ally’s line of fire, the flexibility of tactical options is continually impressive.

Across a series of distinctly tiled islands, players tackle one grid-based tactical battle after the next, each with semi-random events and procedurally generated layouts. The small 8×8 grid, countdown-to-victory turns on a given stage, low hit points, and limited weapon options on any given unit all combine to keep battles brief and constrained. But that constraint makes every action and unit on the board essential and powerful. Nothing is wasted, and almost every single turn can be a dramatic victory, or the end of your whole playthrough. 

In these turn-based encounters, enemies telegraph everything about their forthcoming actions, so each time your mechs can act, you’re faced with a devilish tactical dilemma facilitated by often-diabolical enemies. Frequently, the solution lies in finding that one narrow window by which you can avoid disaster for just one more round, like pushing a scenario-ending boss into the water in the last turn before he destroys an essential objective. While playing your turns at a lightning pace is possible, I had more fun examining each turn like an intricate puzzle. Sometimes, only after minutes of staring did I suddenly have that “aha” moment that would completely thwart the enemy and set up a perfect counterattack.

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At first, unit action options seem uncomplicated. Pull an enemy one space. Strike a distant target over obstacles, but only in a straight line. Punch something to move it back one square. But those easy-to-grasp fundamentals only get you so far; you never seem to have enough firepower to hold the line. Instead, the fascinating interplay between both your allied units and enemy actions save the day. Punch the giant bug into the line of fire with one mech, so your artillery can hit it again, and in so doing pull another baddie into a space where it inadvertently blasts another foe into corrosive acid. Nailing these intricate combos feels amazing. And because even a keen eye sometimes misses a crucial element, you’re given the chance to rewind time and restart your turn once every battle, helping encourage experimentation. 

Whether your playthrough ends in success or failure, each attempt leads to new achievements, mechs, and unique time travelers, which in turn opens the door to additional achievements the next time around that are attainable only with your newly acquired units. New options unlock at a steady and satisfying pace, demanding attention to objectives, but without long periods of stalling out. More importantly, new mechs dramatically change the way you play, helping every playthrough feel fresh and surprising. One squad might be built around damage-over-time, while another team is all about repositioning foes so they hurt each other.

As you make your way through one timeline to another, the other great triumph of Into the Breach becomes apparent – accessible, challenging play for virtually any skill level. Each difficulty setting is thoughtfully balanced and fun. Plus, you can make progress in your unlocks at whatever challenge level you choose. Once unlocked, you can confront any island in any order on subsequent playthroughs. After two completed islands, you can jump ahead to the final battle, or extend your timeline (and score) by confronting the remaining two islands; I love how this feature lets me curate my own session duration. That final island (in contrast to the inexplicable difficulty spike of FTL’s final boss) offers a tough-but-reasonable confrontation that scales to how many islands you’ve completed. 

Into the Breach demands concentration and lateral thinking, and some players may balk at the painful sacrifices that become necessary at higher difficulties, and how they arise from random factors of unit placement. Others may struggle at the necessity of such deliberate planning on each turn. But those are less faults of the game, and more variations in player taste. Subset Games has put together a carefully curated playground of tactical puzzles which hide behind a façade of simplicity. 

In this age of living games, everyone is used to servers sunsetting on video games eventually, but the first FROM Software Souls title to be hit by shutdowns is finally closing the coffin lid on the PlayStation 3 game tomorrow.

Sony, Atlus, and Bandai Namco, the game’s Japanese, American, and European publishers respectively, announced in November that the servers for the game were shutting off on February 28. This is after seven years of Atlus trying to shut down the servers on their own and several successors in the form of FROM’s own Dark Souls and Bloodborne games, as well as launching a genre that has hosted games like Nioh, Lords of the Fallen, and more.

If you want to play multiplayer in Demon’s Souls one last time, or make one last stab at adjusting the game’s controversial World Tendency mechanic, you have one more day to do so. On one hand, with the servers gone, you can never be invaded again. On the other hand, you can no longer call for help or to get items from helpful spirits, making it so you have to engage with Demon’s Souls incredibly restrictive materials system.

What are your favorite memories of Demon’s Souls?

Fighting EX Layer, Arika’s 3D fighting game, was shown off in a livestream last night where the studio announced a new character and confirmed a digital release before the end of June.

The game has been a bit of a curiosity since its initial reveal. After numerous attempts to get a successor to Street Fighter EX or Fighting Layer off the ground, Arika familiarized themselves with Unreal Engine and released test footage of what they had been experiment with on the odd date of April 1 last year. After fan response to the possible joke was so positive, Arika decided to move forward with the game, and has been steadily revealing characters like fan favorite Skullomania over the last year.

During a livestream last night, Arika introduced Shadowgeist, a returning character from the Street Fighter EX series. That makes ten of the twelve character roster, with the rest listed below.

  • Allen Snider
  • Blair Dame
  • Darun Mister
  • Skullomania
  • Garuda
  • Shirase
  • Jack
  • Kairi
  • Doctrine Dark 

The game will be released in two different versions – a $59.99 full version with all the characters and fifteen “Gougi” decks; and a $39.99 version with ten characters and five “Gougi” decks, which are used for customizing power-ups for characters. The game will not have a story mode, won’t support PS3 arcade sticks upon release, and will only have Japanese voices. Arika has said that if the game is successful, however, a physical release is possible, as is a PC version.

The game, as of now, is launching only as a PlayStation 4 exclusive.

 

Our Take
I played the game a bit at PSX and during the beta and it seemed fine, but I’m real confused by that pricing scheme. That said, Fighting Layer had a midboss that was just fighting a shark so I’m hoping they bring that back.