2014 May

May 21, 2014

New Arkham Knight Gameplay Trailer Ignites!

 

The gloves are off as Rocksteady takes one last knockout punch to the Batman franchise before moving on, and the new gameplay trailers made my inner fanboy scream with glee. The game is scheduled to be released this fall on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. This will not be a cross generation game and the visuals show, the visuals are gorgeous. The batmobile makes a huge presence in the trailer, as I stated in my first preview, it will play a major roll in the game, both for combat and traversing the environment. The trailer does hint at the villains that will take center stage; Two-face, the Penguin, Scarecrow, and the mysterious Arkham Knight. Also shown in the trailer is Oracle, a.k.a. Barbara Gordon. She was in the previous two titles but only in voice, and I am glad we are seeing her character even more fleshed out in Knight. I am still trying to figure out who’s behind the Arkham Knight mask. At the ending of Arkham City we had several villains fall, and for the sake of repetition, I hope they stay that way. They did hint at a Talia al Ghul, Bruce Wayne relationship in Arkham City. Could Damian Wayne make an appearance? We also have Hush and Azrael (Michael Lane) that are unaccounted for after City. I hope you enjoy the trailer as much as I did, and it is very nice to have Kevin Conroy back as the Dark Knight.

 

May 19, 2014

Diablo III Patch 2.0.5

Full patch notes are available here: Blizzard Patch Notes 2.0.5

Patch 2.0.5 was released on the 13th May 2014 and there is a lot of stuff in this latest release. Of particular interest was the issue of class balance, although the patch wasn’t intended to focus too much on class balance when it first was scheduled. The Crusader ended up with quite a lot of changes, not only because it is the newest class in Diablo III, but because Blizzard also felt that it needed some fine tuning. If you are playing a crusader it’s definitely worth taking a look at these patch notes to see how this affects you.

There are also some undocumented patch 2.0.5 changes that came out in the community following the release which are listed below. However, all these items are based on community observations and are not official Blizzard patch notes:

  • Stash doesn’t close when a rift closes.
  • Female Barbarian Leap animation slowed to match male animation.
  • Significantly reduced hitch when opening inventory.
  • Witch Doctors are now limited to 15 fetishes. New ones replace older ones.
  • Items that cannot be salvaged are greyed out.
  • Spiderling egg sacks and a pack of spiders are between Wortham Chapel and Caverns of Araneae
  • Illusory Boots now allow you to pass through wallers’ walls.
  • Bul-Kathos’s Whirlwind can now crit.
  • Rift guardians can now drop more than one pile of Blood Shards.
  • Horadric Hamburger transmute now works.
  • Wizards can now only have 1 Slow Time bubble out at a time
  • Shields and Crusader shields have 3000-5000 more block amount.
  • Piranhas: Wave of Mutilation now knocks up enemies it hits.
  • Monsters with the Knock-back effect seem to knock you back significantly further.

May 19, 2014

Reaper of Souls is coming to a console near you

On the 19th August 2014 Diablo III’s Ultimate Evil Edition will be available to play on your console, that’s PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. You will be able to battle the Angel of Death either solo or with a team of four players ia PlayStation Network or Xbox Live and it includes all the content from the latest expansion ‘Reaper of Souls’ as well as Acts I to IV from the original Diablo III. This is a great release for console players, the price comes in at 69.99 EUR/59.99 USD for the PS4 or Xbox One and 39.99 EUR/39.99 USD for the PS3 or Xbox 360.

Additionally, if you pre-order you also get the ‘Infernal Pauldrons’, this piece of shoulder armour provides vitality, life per second and cooldown reduction bonuses and can also be transmogged.

The good news for those who played the original PS3 or Xbox 360 versions of Diablo III is that they will be able to continue their journey without starting again. PS3 characters from the original game can be transferred to either the PS3 or PS4 Ultimate Evil Edition, and Xbox 360 characters can be transferred to the Xbox 360 or Xbox One version.

For anyone who hasn’t played the PC version of Diablo III this is a must have for the console, it really is full of fast-paced action, awesome heroes (crusader, barbarian, witch doctor, demon hunter, monk, or wizard) and legendary drops and unlike the PC version, you get all this from the comfort of your couch.

For more information about the world of Diablo III visit the Blizzard website: http://www.battle.net/d3.

May 16, 2014

343 Industries Announces Halo 5: Guardians

 

While sifting though emails and press releases this morning, I came across one from Microsoft and almost spit my coffee at my monitor. The Halo game that was teased last year at E3 finally has a name and release window. The game is titled Halo 5: Guardians and will be released fall of 2015 on the Xbox One. The game will feature a brand new engine running at 60 FPS (whether it is native 1080p was not stated). Halo 4 showed off a fantastic tweak to the art style showing a natural evolution to the Spartans and their program. The announced box art (shown above) shows off the venerable Master Chief, but down played to who ever is standing right side up. It will be interesting to see if this is a new protagonist, the end of Master Chief, and what became of the UNSC Infinity. The Steven Spielberg collaborated Halo live action series will also debut next year, presumably to lead up to the release of Guardians. 343 Industries is calling this the “Halo Journey” and that the journey will start this year, possibly with a Halo title launching this year, a Halo 2 anniversary edition maybe (Please, yes!)? Details surrounding this “Halo Journey” will be announced during Microsoft’s E3 briefing on June 9th. As a rather rabid Halo fan I am quite excited by this announcement. I am hesitant on the multiplayer side of things to be honest. While Halo 4’s multiplayer was fun, it felt like they were trying to copy the Call of Duty mold and offer loadouts and slightly faster game play. Halo has never been about that, it was about map memorization, weapon hierarchy, and fun vehicle combat. I hope 343 take the multiplayer to the series roots while continuing to evolve the campaign. Halo 4 was a video and audio splendor, while bringing out lore from the books and encompassing the universe as a whole. I am excited to see what 343 will show off at E3 and if we will get our first glimpse of Halo 5: Guardians in real time.

May 15, 2014

Gaming in Stereo: Snack Size Edition

 

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Normally I only post a Gaming in Stereo once a week but this track from OverClocked Remix has been on repeat since yesterday and I can’t get enough of it. “TornadosaurusRex” by PrototypeRaptor is a remix of Mega Man 9’s Tornado Man’s theme. It features a take on the theme from K-wix “Thunder Tornado” and mashes it with a drum and bass beat similar to one of my favorite bands Pendulum. Funny how things come full circle, I only found out about Pendulum via a video game (Motorstorm) and now a video game remix is harking back to Pendulum. PrototypeRaptor did an excellent job of just making a fun track to jam to. It was a real surprise to hear lyrics near the end of the track, but I think was a very good fit. Enjoy the track and if you are interested in downloading it, it is free over at OverClocked Remix.

May 12, 2014

Gaming in Stereo: The Lineage of an Assassin

 

Assassin’s Creed is one series I never tire of. Some may argue that the yearly titles are starting to set in franchise fatigue, and to a point, I agree. But unlike other yearly releases, they are given ample development time, they are always trying new ideas and mechanics (some that stick and others that only appear once), and the sheer amount of content you get can be staggering. To me, they are like taking a walk through a history book, but with fun action doodles in the margins. I am currently working through Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, since I play these on the consoles I waited till I was able to play the PlayStation 4 version of the title to jump in. For a cross-generation title it is quite stunning. Black Flag has been a dream come true since I finished Assassin’s Creed 3. One of the standout elements from AC III was the naval battles, which in Black Flag, take the forefront. As a bonus we received one of the best pirate themed games of all time, something Disney (Pirates of the Caribbean) could never deliver. Jesper Kyd has helmed most of the series as composer. Kyd composed the scores for Assassin’s Creed, II, Brotherhood, and shared duties on Revelations with Lorne Balfe. Balfe scored parts of revelations and Assassin’s Creed III. I have shared Balfe’s work on AC III on a previous Gaming in Stereo. Assassin’s Creed: Liberation, a spin off of AC III that landed on the PS Vita (later consoles and PC) was scored By Winifred Phillips. Black Flag was scored by Brian Tyler, known for the excellent Far Cry 3 soundtrack. Though some people, myself included, were a little disappointed when Kyd didn’t return for Assassin’s Creed III, but I feel it was for the better. Kyd did a great job differentiating the sound of AC and AC II, and I feel fresh composers did the same for the following titles. Today we are going to look at those different sounds with some tracks from Black Flag and Assassin’s Creed II.

 

Jesper Kyd – Ezio’s Family – Assassin’s Creed II

This track is simply beautiful. With the piano, stings, and vocals it feels very fitting for renaissance time period. Since the Assassin’s Creed series is a tale of two time periods, one modern and the other a historical point in time, the track adds an electric guitar element at the (2:44) mark. Easily one of my favorite tunes from this series, enjoy!

 

Brian Tyler – Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag Main Theme

Brian Tyler captured the escapades of Edward Kenway perfectly with this theme. The drums and violins give a sea shanty feel, breathing a sense of playfulness in to the tune. The frantic drums at the (1:29) are the highlight, but like the game, this feels fun. You can feel in the music that Kenway likes his “privateer” lifestyle, though the game does have its more serious moments as well.

 

Bonus Track: Brian Tyler – On the Horizon

I am going to let the bonus track speak for itself. There are epic drum sections later in the piece, so listen for those. This does show a more serious side to Black Flag, enjoy!

May 7, 2014

Eve online – the future

 

I’ve always been a fan of EVE Online and as such I’ve played it off and on over the past decade and being a fan of space battles, space itself and huge starships why wouldn’t I be? In my opinion it’s thee best space sim on the market today. It has amazing looking starships, amazing galaxy vistas, a huge and thriving economy, huge political conflicts a galaxy and that just scratches the surface of what EVE online has to offer.

The newest trailer though brought me consider something that I hadn’t really thought of prior to it. All new games generally have cool trailers but in reality the game rarely ever looks anything like or plays like the trailers that represent them I.E Warhammer, Mass Effect, The Witcher, etc. The trailers are designed to look awesome and make people want to play the game and in truth this trailer does just that but it also does something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before in a trailer and that is to show off what the developers want EVE to look like in the future not what it looks like now. Having said that the prophecy trailer is made almost entirely from the in game engine which is impressive for how stunning it looks. I’ve seen less spectacular space battles on popular TV shows.

Is this trailer meant to do what every other trailer is meant to do and draw you in? Yes… But more than that it’s there to show what the developers at CCP envision the game to be like in the near future and if that is the future they see I want to be a part of it. Many of the complaints I’ve had about the game and ideas I’ve had were pretty much showcased or improved in that trailer as things they want to improve upon such as localized damage to starships, improved warp in’s, larger scale battles, expanded galaxies, boarding parties, planet battles, etc.

The vision CCP has for EVE online is incredibly ambitious but they are, slowly but surely, pulling it off with the help of over 500k subscribers. I’m incredibly impressed with what they’ve been able to pull off over the last decade and I plan to keep playing EVE throughout the years. What do you guys think?

May 7, 2014

Nintendo Post Loss, Wii U needs help

 

Nintendo had a rough fiscal year to say the least. The company reported today that they have ended their fiscal year with a net loss of $230 million (23.22 billion yen). Both the 3DS and Wii U had smaller figures than the previous year as well, thought the 3DS performed better than its console brethren. The 3DS sold 12.24 million units, selling 13.95 million the year before. The Wii U on the other hand sold, 2.72 million systems, that number is world wide. The Wii U sold 3.45 million units the previous year. Wii U software did produce a few million seller titles; typically in the industry, for a AAA title, a million units units is the goal. That number though, shrinks and increases depending on a lot of factors such as development cost, marketing cost, if it is a worldwide release localization takes money as well. GameSpot has the top selling Wii U games to date and they include New Super Mario Bros. U, Nintendoland, Super Mario 3D World, New Super Luigi U, Wii Party U, and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, all of those titles have sold a million plus units.  The 3DS software had incredible numbers with Pokemon X and Y selling a monstrous 12.26 million copies. Other top selling games include Animal Crossing: New Leaf hitting 3.8 million units sold; 2 million unit sellers include Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, and Mario and Luigi Dream Team. The success of the 3DS does excite me for the future of handheld gaming. The numbers may slip a little but there is still life in it despite the mobile market.  The Wii U on the other had has a host of issues and there are ways of rectifying the situation without dumping the hardware in favor of something new.

The Wii U is a unique case. It came off the “selling like hotcakes” Wii and follow up numbers typically falter,but not like this. The Wii U was never going to sell the same as Wii. I worked games retail during the life cycle of the Wii and judging from the people I sold units to, they were happy with their singular purchase and would not be back for the next gen. Nintendo didn’t bank on the casual audience and that was a positive for the Wii U. When coming out of E3 2011, Nintendo wanted the “hardcore” gamers back that they had possibly pushed off with the Wii. One problem with the console is the name. The title “Wii” still seems to carry a stigma with gamers as something casual, and for the casual Wii U was confusing. Was the Wii U a peripheral that you bought for your Wii? Would the Wii U games work on the Wii? Why is it a new system, but most of the games still use the Wii Remote? The Wii U, like the 3DS initially, needed to be branded something different. With Sony, you know the PlayStation brand, but know that the larger number on the end of the console name is the newest console. The Wii U needed to be named anything other than what it is, that was problem number one.

Number two is with the controller set up. The gamepad has shown some brilliance. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD shows some massive potential, as well as titles like ZombiU and The Wonderful 101. On the other hand, a lot of Nintendo’s own titles don’t take full advantage of the gamepad. Any of the Mario titles for example, only use the second screen as a way to play the title without the TV and it feels like a wasted opportunity. Bringing the Wii remote back for anything outside of backward compatibility was another mistake. Motion gaming was a fad, much like rhythm games, they had their time in the sun and now are done. Even the power of Microsoft’s Kinect 2.0 for the Xbox One is trying to find relevancy outside of being a microphone to shout commands at the console. Nintendo brought out a 360 styled controller dubbed, the Wii U Pro Controller. The Pro Controller should have been the only other option outside of the gamepad. One, maybe two controllers per console life cycle; more than that you are just going to confuse consumers.

Problem 3 comes with multiple parts and it all focuses on software. Software pushes hardware, it is as simple as that. Nintendo, since the N64 days, have a had a problem with 3rd party developers. Whether problem being the hardware difficult to develop for, no post kit support, bad relationships, or just not going after 3rd party developers, they have a serious problem. Sony and Microsoft have good first party support, but with out the support of publisher and developers like EA, Activision, Ubisoft, Sega, Capcom, and the like; their boxes would have no traction as well. Nintendo has some of the best, if not the best, first party games on the market, but as we see, with out those third party titles, your ship can sink rather fast. During a PlayStation 4 press event, the lead architect, Mark Cerny, was telling a story about the PlayStation 3 and how hard it was for developers to makes games for it because the dev kits came with huge manuals, written in Japanese, and their tech support was horrid. Nintendo needs to see that they fit into a global gaming market. They need to cater not only to Japanese developers, but European and North Americans alike. Software droughts are common in the industry. Typically July through August is the lull the industry takes as it comes off spring releases and heads towards the fall and winter extravaganza. The drought for the Wii U, though has seemed longer than most. We had the launch titles, then a few titles in March, and then had to wait until August for Pikmin, October for Zelda, and December for Mario. There have been virtual consoles releases and some downloadable titles such as NES Remix and Toki Tori to fill gaps, but there is too much time in between releases for people to loose interest. The 3DS had banner titles from start to finish last year, Nintendo needs to treat the Wii U just the same. The final problem to the software puzzle is IP’s (intellectual properties), though they have some of the most beloved IP’s in gaming, they need to bring fresh ones to the table. Nintendo is capable of creating fantastic games in design and art style, but fail to bring anything new to the table in terms of new properties. Pikmin was incredible on the GameCube. F-Zero and StarFox showed what the SNES could do as well as showing Nintendo is more than Mario. Metroid and Zelda have grown into adult staples that provide deep game play, darker visuals, and content. Where has this creativity gone? The Wonderful 101, Eternal Darkness, Bayonetta 2, and XenoBlade Chronicles are excellent examples of 2nd party gaming that Nintendo has help flourished. Nintendo is in need of a renaissance. It needs to keep making its core titles, bring back franchises that haven’t seen the light of day in over a decade (F-Zero, StarFox, and the like), work directly with some developers to make strong 2nd party titles. The original PlayStation, during its console cycle, was the the new kid on the block, was less powerful than its competition, used a new physical format (to gaming anyways), and flourished because of the software. Software is the key to making a console successful no matter the odds. Nintendo have two heavy hitters and fan favorites still to come that could put the Wii U back on track. The impressive Mario Kart 8 hits stores at then end of the month, and Super Smash Bros. is coming this winter. Nintendo needs to complement these titles with some surprises at E3, and those titles need to be out this year.

I write this article as someone that cares for Nintendo and wants to see their home console business flourish. I have always been a fan of Nintendo, choosing to get Nintendo consoles first over the competition, and supporting them when everyone else is spelling doom. I bought a Wii U and a 3DS at launch, and love them equally. I don’t think Satoru Iwata needs to resign; I don’t think they need to give up and become 3rd party developers; and I don’t think making mobile titles is going to help in any way, shape, or form. They need to focus on software for the ailing console first and foremost. For the Wii U’s successor, they need to evaluate their business plan, the development, and their relationships with third party developers. Nintendo isn’t going anywhere. The 3DS is raking in cash and the company has enough cash reserve and equity that one failure will not sink the gaming giant. They do need to pull in more talent and exclusives. Shigeru Miyamoto is one of the best designers of all time, but is also 61 years-old. Buying a studio with fresh talent such as Monolith soft, Platinum Games, or even a larger company like Sega or Capcom could be beneficiary. You would have that talent under your banner, plus their IP’s would be exclusives. The industry needs Nintendo, just like it needs Microsoft and Sony. The big three all have their strengths and their weaknesses. They all bounce off each other and it drives creativity, innovation, and competition. I can not foresee a gaming industry without Nintendo, Nintendo just needs to either find a power-up for the Wii U, or grab a 1-up and start fresh; either way, the big N is here to stay.

May 5, 2014

Buy Mario Kart 8, Receive Free Game via Club Nintendo

 

One of the titles the Wii U desperately needs is almost upon us, and Nintendo is spicing up the deal! If you buy Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U and register the title with Club Nintendo between May 30th and July 31st, 2014 you will receive a download code for one of the following for titles; New Super Mario Bros. U, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, Wii Party U, Pikmin 3.

 

 

All three version of Mario Kart 8, the standalone retail, digital download, or console bundle is eligible for this promotion. This is a great offer, you get the best looks (maybe the best yet) Mario Kart and one of the better Nintendo published titles for the Wii U as well. I am excited to get Pikmin 3 as my free title. Pikmin 3 was the reason I bought a Wii U at launch, though I never got around to purchasing it. I am happy I held off a bit, though I would rather have a physical copy, the price is right. My brother who has Pikmin 3 is grabbing up The Wind Waker HD. Hopefully anyone purchasing Mario Kart 8, has held off on one of these titles so you can partake in the promotion. Again, this runs from May 30th (the release date for Mario Kart 8) until July 31st, 2014. Mario Kart 8 will be out on the Wii U in a few short weeks on May 30th, 2014.

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