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D&D: Daggerdale crashes onto PCs


Bill Abner is still up, up and away in his beautiful balloon but apparently he gets Wi-Fi up there. He sent me this press release a few minutes ago that starts with this line:

Hi William,

I wanted to share some great news with you!

OK, that sounds like the “great news” is that Bill has been selected to keep some Nigerian prince’s fortune in his personal back account. But it’s from Atari, not royalty. And the “great news” is that Dungeons and Dragons: Daggerdale is now available on PC. Our very own Brandon Cackowski-Schnell rated the game a dead zero and his pull quote resides at the rock bottom of the Metacritic listing. I played the demo and checked out early- and I love this kind of game. Press follows…take a look at the critics’ quotes they used. G4’s in particular is great. I hardly consider describing the gameplay to be “rallying around” the game. And “this is the way D&D was meant to be played”? Wow. Does making a statement like that get you an Atari paycheck?

The original standard for fantasy roleplaying is taking another step in its storied pop culture history as the Dalelands of the Forgotten Realms is brought to life for gamers and fantasy enthusiasts across the world. Atari, one of the worlds’s most recognized publishers and producers of interactive entertainment and Bedlam Games announced today the release of the highly anticipated Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale Windows PC Download.

Media have rallied around Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale’s console based hack and slash qualities in the RPG genre:

· “Daggerdale is a hack and slash loot fest…” – G4

· “At its heart, Daggerdale is all about dungeon crawling, baddie-bashing, and loot-scoring – and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way…” – RPGFan

· “Upon the lofty pedestal, you discover an ancient artifact known as the controller…” – GamesRevolution

· “…the way Dungeons & Dragons was always meant to be played.” – GamePro

Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale, a hack and slash action role playing game set in the deep mythology of the Forgotten Realms, is the first Dungeons & Dragons video game for connected consoles. Players are summoned by a mysterious mage and given the duty of defending their homeland as Rezlus, an evil Zhentarim Cleric looks to bring the power of the Black Lord Bane to Daggerdale. Restore order to the Dalelands by unlocking the secrets of the Mines of Tethyamar, defeating the evil within the treacherous Tower of the Void, leading to the final confrontation with Rezlus himself.

Players can take on the role of the melee expert Human Fighter, the quick and nimble Elven Rogue, the master of the arcane arts Halfling Wizard, and the powerful divine Dwarven Cleric. Gamers use intuitive pick-up-and-play combat combined with a wide assortment of weapons, feats and powers to defeat a wide range of deadly enemies. Players can level their character, unlocking three tiers of powers, and an extensive list of feats to create a truly unique character. As the player levels, they can add additional attribute points to their ability scores, further enhancing the performance of the character. The action-packed RPG gameplay allows for solo and co-op play for up to four players.

Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale carries a suggested Windows PC Download price of $14.99.

For more information, please log onto www.atari.com.

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Bit.Trip Complete coming to Wii

Right on, another good news item that isn’t some nonsense like “new Call of Duty game announced!” or “Here’s screenshots from a game you can’t play until next year”. Aksys sent out press today announcing that their already announced Bit.Trip Saga compilation of all of Commander Video’s long-running indie series for the 3DS will be accompanied by a retail collection of the games for the quickly fading Wii. I’m planning on the 3DS version myself because I’ve actually not played these games yet and I think they’re likely a better fit on a handheld platform. Plus, this stuff could look really cool in 3D. But still, if you want to take the Wiimote out for one last waggle, this will probably be a fun- and colorful- option. Aksys’ take on it follows.

Aksys Games, a publisher of interactive entertainment software, in collaboration with game developer Gaijin Games, is pleased to officially reveal that in addition to BIT.TRIP SAGA on the Nintendo 3DS™ system, BIT.TRIP COMPLETE will be released on Wii™ as a complete six-game retail compilation, packaged with a BIT.TRIP Soundtrack Sampler audio CD. BIT.TRIP SAGA (Nintendo 3DS) and BIT.TRIP COMPLETE (Wii) will be shipping to retailers September 13, 2011.

BIT.TRIP COMPLETE (Wii) Features:

All 6 games in the award-winning BIT.TRIP series in one complete package with 120 completely new BIT.TRIP challenges spanning all six games!
New audio gallery with fan remixes, original songs, and demo versions of existing BIT.TRIP themes!
An image gallery with exclusive production stills, concept art, and promo images!
A video gallery with more than 25 movies telling the story of CommanderVideo!
6 Letters to BIT.TRIP fans, written by the series’ director!
Original soundtrack CD packaged with BIT.TRIP COMPLETE featuring music from all six games in the series!
New difficulty modes in all games!
Online leaderboards!

BIT.TRIP COMPLETE includes: BIT.TRIP BEAT, BIT.TRIP CORE, BIT.TRIP VOID, BIT.TRIP RUNNER, BIT.TRIP FATE, and BIT.TRIP FLUX!

– BIT.TRIP BEAT marks the beginning of CommanderVideo’s epic journey of the soul with:

o Crazy boss battles!
o Ultra-precise controls!
o A Crazy Chiptune-inspired soundtrack!
o Special Chiptune guest star Bit Shifter!
o Classic gameplay with brain-melting visuals!
o Intriguing cut scenes!

– BIT.TRIP CORE is the second installment in CommanderVideo’s soul quest with:

o Beautiful boss battles!
o Classic NES-style controls!
o A thumpin’ Chiptune-inspired soundtrack!
o Special Chiptune Guest Star Bubblyfish!
o Mind-melting challenges!
o Revealing cut scenes!

– BIT.TRIP VOID continues CommanderVideo’s epic journey with:

o Mid-level checkpoints!
o Epic boss battles!
o A rockin’ Chiptune-inspired soundtrack!
o Special Chiptune guest star Nullsleep!
o Synaesthetic music/art/gameplay interaction!
o Hyper-realistic retro cut scenes!

– BIT.TRIP RUNNER marks the first fully character-based adventure for CommanderVideo with:

o Rhythm-based action platforming!
o Boss battles against robotic terrors!
o 50+ challenges!
o Classic NES-style controls!
o A pounding Chiptune-inspired soundtrack!
o Special Chiptune guest star Anamanaguchi!
o New friends for CommanderVideo!

– BIT.TRIP FATE is the penultimate chapter in the six-part BIT.TRIP series and will leave you wondering what’s next.

o Collect power-ups to call on CommanderVideo’s friends for powerful shot upgrades!
o A chiptune-inspired dubstep soundtrack helps bring the action to a whole new level!
o Video game worlds collide with appearances from Super Meat Boy and Mr. Robotube!
o Chipmusic artist Minusbaby helps set the tone with a special guest appearance!

– The BIT.TRIP series comes full-circle with BIT.TRIP FLUX: CommanderVideo’s final adventure.

o New power-ups including the full screen paddle!
o New beat types including Avoid Blobs!
o Mid-level checkpoints!
o Classic BIT.TRIP BEAT gameplay now with all the modes including the new Meta Mode!
o Bit Shifter returns as the Chiptune guest star!

BIT.TRIP COMPLETE and BIT.TRIP SAGA have been rated “E” for Everyone with Mild Fantasy Violence by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). More information about Aksys Games and the BIT.TRIP seriescan be found at www.aksysgames.com and www.gaijingames.com.

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Hey, Grognards- Panzer Corps is releasing July 11


The most recent newsletter from Slitherine (rival developer to Gryphondoor and Huphlepuph) states that Panzer Corps is releasing July 11. The game looks like a very close approximation of the classic Panzer General with some promised refinements to gameplay and balance. I loved SSI’s Five Star General games- all of ’em- and I love this kind of approachable, easy to dig into PC wargaming. Fingers crossed for low specs that won’t embarass my aging laptop!

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Turmoil Games releases horror-adventure Alpha Polaris for PC


Now this sounds pretty cool. For those of you who may not be aware, I’m a horror fanatic. And by horror I don’t mean all that post-Fangoria torture porn garbage and I’m not much of a fan of the incredibly inane J-horror movement aside from a couple of exemplary examples. I like classic horror richer in atmosphere than in schlock. And after playing through the screaming disappointment that was Shadows of the Damned, I’m primed for a good, spooky game that doesn’t fall back on dick jokes to provide entertainment. Finnish company Turmoil Games sent us a press release for Alpha Polaris an interesting-looking point-and-click game that sounds like it’s taking a couple of pages from Lovecraft as well as John Carpenter’s version of The Thing. This might be worth checking out. They’ve got a demo, it’s just a question if my antique laptop can run it or not. Press follows.

Turmoil Games, in partnership with Berlin-based Just A Game, is proud to
announce the launch of Alpha Polaris, a point & click horror adventure
game for Windows PC.

The game is available now as a digital download from www.turmoilgames.com.
A localized German retail version is available from Greenwood
Entertainment. Other localizations are soon to follow.

In the midst of the snowfields of Greenland lies Alpha Polaris, an
American oil research station. High above, the ion storm of the century is
gathering, bringing about a strange intermixing of reality and night
terrors. It is up to Rune Knudsen, a Norwegian biologist, to take on a
desperate struggle against fear and death, and to face the primordial
force lurking beyond the veiled sky.

Main features:
* Mature, character-driven storyline
* Streamlined point & click interface
* Puzzles are an integral part of the story
* 3D characters in beautiful, pre-rendered scenes
* 1280 x 800 widescreen resolution
* Expressive, hand-drawn dialogue portraits
* Atmospheric soundscape including original soundtrack

Platform: Windows PC
Genre: Point & Click Adventure
Developer: Turmoil Games
Publisher: Just A Game

Turmoil Games is an independent Finnish game studio founded in 2008 by a
diverse group of media professionals. The team strives to combine years of
experience in academic game studies, graphic design and dramatic arts in
pushing the envelope in gaming and interactive storytelling.

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Team Fortress 2 Goes Free-to-Play


If you’re the one gamer in 10,000 that is interested in playing Team Fortress 2, but not enough so that you’ve actually been willing to spend money on it, then you’ll be glad to know it has officially gone free-to-play. Going forward Valve intends for the game to support itself purely through micro transactions.

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Conquest of Nerath in Review


The new Dungeons and Dragons board game is Conquest of Nerath and my favorable review of it is up at Gameshark.com.

Wizards of the Coast has kind of been on a roll lately with very good and highly accessible board game explorations of the D&D brand. I liked both Castle Ravenloft and Wrath of Ashardalon a lot, and I found that they were cleaner and more direct than other popular dungeoncrawl-themed board games out there. Some folks didn’t care for their simplicity or their streamlined qualities, but the games were clearly intended to be approachable and easy to play. Conquest of Nerath is like this too. It’s a fairly basic Axis and Allies-style “dudes on a map” game with some added detail in unit differentiation and faction-specific event cards. There’s also a small but effective questing mechanic.

It’s not innovative, groundbreaking, or incredibly original. But it totally works, succeeding as a traditional example of this kind of game that eschews the newfangled mechanical bells and whistles of its peers. This is a game where you should be chucking the dice into the boxlid, not clucking over how clever the resource management scheme is. It knows what it wants to do, and if you want to do the same thing it wants to then you’re going to have some fun with this title.

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Columbia Games finally reprints Slapshot

After announcing it something like five or six years ago Columbia Games, venerable publisher of great block wargames like Hammer of the Scots, is finally reprinting Slapshot, a light n’ nasty hockey card game that’s been out of print forever. I’ve never actually played it because I’ve never so much as seen a copy of it, and aftermarket prices kept me away from it. I’m looking forward to checking it out, I’m not much of a sports fan but I do like a good sports-themed board game and this looks fun. $24.95 retail, which is very reasonable for this kind of game.

Slapshot is a wheeling, dealing game for hockey fans. Each player assumes the role of team manager. The object is to skillfully manage your team into the playoffs and then win the championship. During the regular season you can improve your team with drafts and trades, but injuries can upset the best of plans. Ultimately, your skill as manager determines if your team wins or loses.

Slapshot includes 54 zany hockey players like Slash Gordon, Puck Rogers, Ian Jury, Cheap Shot, Le Goon, and Jack the Tripper.

Slapshot is fast, furious, fun, and simple to play. Lace up your skates and checkout the game celebrated as the closing game each year at the World Boardgame Championships.

Slapshot was originally published in 1975 under the name Team by Gamma Two Games. The game was designed by Tom Dalgliesh, Lance Gutteridge, Ron Gibson, John Gordon. Slapshot has been printed under license several times since.

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Dungeon Siege 3 Impressions


No High Scores

So I promised to have Dungeon Siege 3 impressions posted yesterday. Those plans change when you’re offered to join your buddy for $2 pints. Me saying “no” to Bell’s Two-Hearted IPA is just not gonna happen. Last night, though, I did put a walloping two hours into Dungeon Siege 3. It is very decidedly average, so far. It’s not bad. It’s not particularly great. It’s very, very playable. It’s the kind of game you buy and enjoy for a bit, not really regretting the purchase, but barely remembering it a year later. I could change that tune, given how little I’ve played so far, but I feel like I’ve got the game’s number already and am not expecting much in the way of surprises. Here’s some stuff that stuck out to me during my first sit-down…

Because it’s an Obsidian game, and given their history, I should point out that this is the single most polished game I’ve seen them release. We’ll see how it goes, but as of right now: Bravo! PC controls aside, the game works.

The PC controls are close to not being awful. That’s not a backhanded compliment. When you’re just walking around the environment, getting into combat with groups of two or three guys, they seem very usable. This is a trick. They’re not and it’s because of the wonky camera and the bizzare decision to have you control how the camera turns from left to right using the A and D keys, while using the right-mouse button and on-screen pointer to determine movement. Guys, the WASD combo has lasted for like two decades now because it’s a very useful way to control forward, back, left and right. The mouse has been used for nearly as long as a means to control the camera. This is how it’s meant to be and when you try to reinvent the wheel by reversing it bad things happen. And they happen at the worst possible time.

My character is Katarina (I think). She’s a ranged character who uses a rifle at long range and pistols to fend off enemies close in. She’s got a neat accent and an ample bosom. She is your prototypical video game heroine. (I’ll leave it to to decide if that’s a good thing.) Being a ranged character means actually being able to keep your distance from your adversaries. Obisidian very nicely included a block/dodge control (spacebar for block, spacebar plus movement for dodge) that is effective at letting you escape melee and create that distance. The problem is the camera. Typically when you execute this roll back manuever the camera, ever so sure that you want it pointing at your back, flips around to match your facing. So when you come out of the roll you have zero visibility of the space behind you; you know, where all the guys trying to kill you are. So you need to flip the camera around to see, but you can’t just do a quick wrist flick with the mouse (technically you can hold down the Control key and spin the camera with the mouse, but this is a pain too), so you have to hold down A or D to rotate the camera, which happens all too slowly. By the time you come around and can see and shoot an enemy he’s right back on top of you. This is manageable when there’s only a couple dudes chasing after you, but if you get in a bigger battle it’s a nightmare. I aim to switch to my 360 gamepad when I get back to the game tomorrow (tonight is the podcast), and it sounds like that’ll mostly mitigate the issue. I’m glad the controller options is there, but that’s still not acceptable. You release on the PC, you need a passable way to control the game with mouse and keyboard. This is not negotiable. Not everyone has a 360 controller at the ready.

Even taking that factor away, the camera could still use some work. You have only two view options, one that’s relatively over-the-shoulder and one that’s pulled back away. I like the pulled back view, but it’s bit too top-down. You can’t see nearly far enough ahead. Again, not a big problem for melee characters who want to close the distance, but playing the ranged characters can be frustrating because you feel like you should be able to see further down the road and you can’t.

The combat itself I rather like. It’s unremarkable, but it looks like it’ll get the job done and it’s pretty to look at. The character skill system looks like it’ll allow for a lot of variation in how you approach combat. There’s no character building to be done outside of combat, but you don’t really expect that from an action RPG. Character building is divided into the distribution of three types of skill points:

– Ability points: These are core character actions/skills. There are nine total abilities and you don’t get a point to put into them at every level, so you have to be choosy. (I’m not sure of the exact distribution.)
– Proficiency points: These you do get at every level and are used to upgrade and customize your Abilities. There are two proficiencies for each Ability and you can put up to five Proficiency points into each one.
– Talent points: These are general character improvements. There are three tiers of Talents, with only the first tier unlocked to start. Like Proficiencies, you can upgrade each Talent up to five ranks.

The fact that each character has unique options across Abilities, Proficiencies, and Talents, ought to give the game a fair bit of replay value, assuming they really do force you to adjust your play style.

No High Scores

The story… There’s a bunch of stuff about the 10th Legion, some kind of mega army that was laid to waste by the game’s antagonist. My character is a descendant of the commandant or something, raised in hiding from Glenda The Bad Witch. (I really am bad with names.) Some guy named Odo (probably familiar to fans of the first two games?) has called back the offspring of the Legion to wreck Evil’s ugly face. I’m not clear on why the descendants of the Legion are better equipped for this goal than anybody else. I mean my dad could be Eisenhower and that doesn’t make me suited to be Supreme Commander NATO Allied Forces. Perhaps there’s some legacy traits passed down or something special about the 10th I’m not aware of? I’ve got some review guide stuff I need to look at it and see. DS fans, do feel free to school me in the comments on the finer points of the story, while I get my lay of the land. Anyway, you show up at the big meeting and the house is on fire and everyone’s dead, and thus begins your hero’s journey.

I’ll wrap this up with a quick comment on the co-op. I haven’t touched it yet, but I’ve seen some complaints about the fact that the “guest” in a co-op session can’t take their co-op character back to their own game. (There was a pretty damn funny Penny Arcade strip about it this week.) That is going to annoy some people, but having seen how the game plays I can understand it. The co-op and single-player games work in the same environment. Characters created for a game are tied to that game. It’s not that the host has all the power and the guest gets squat. The host’s character (I’m pretty sure) is just as tied to that game, but being the host, they can continue their game whenever they want and the guest can’t. It’s unfair, but the game isn’t built to let two people start a game, go off and play those characters by themselves, and then bring those two characters back together again. It doesn’t work. Now, if Obsidian had wanted to throw players a bone, I think they should let you take your “guest” character and copy them into a duplicate game and continue, losing only the ability to use that character in the original game. That way, if your host buddy quits on the game half way through and you want to continue alone, you have that option. Either way, it is understandable why they designed the game this way. That is, assuming I’m not missing something; again, I haven’t actually played this mode yet.

More to come on this one next week.

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Dragon Age 2 DLC and Playable Mass Effect 3 at Comic Con


No High Scores

Planning to hit the San Diego Comic Con? Yeah? You lucky dog, that means you’ll be on-hand when Bioware unveils new DLC for Dragon Age 2. Oh, and you’ll be able to play some Mass Effect 3. (Spoiler: It’ll be like playing Mass Effect 2.) Oh! And you can dress up for their “first annual” costume contest. I’m sure that’ll be a site to see. Here’s the official word from Chris Priestly on the Bioware forums:

BioWare is once again returning to the San Diego Comic Con and this year, we are bringing Mass Effect 3 and a never before seen, Dragon Age II DLC with us. Comic Con begins Thursday July 21 and runs through Sunday July 24 and we will have all sorts of awesome BioWare coolness at our base in the Hilton Gaslamp hotel. This will be the first opportunity for fans to play Mass Effect 3 as well as the next Dragon Age II DLC. In addition, we will be hosting the first annual BioWare Costume Contest on Friday, July 22 for the best BioWare inspired costumes. We’ll be giving away awesome convention swag, opportunities to meet members of the BioWare staff, and we’ll have a special designated area for cos-play character photo opportunities and much more.

Make sure you come and visit us at the Hilton Gaslamp (401 K Street) to experience everything live (remember, you do not need a comic con badge to take part). If you can’t visit us in San Diego, make sure you stay tuned to the BioWare Pulse TV broadcasts where we will be keeping everyone up to date with live broadcasts all day, each day.

Spotted at Joystiq

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