Zen Studios’ Pinball titles are gaming mainstays for me. I have their various pinball applications downloaded on my iPad, PS4, PS3, Vita, Switch, you name it. Further, I never delete them, no matter how dire my data storage situation becomes. When I have a thirty-minute window before work, or I’m sitting on the sofa waiting for the wife to get ready to go somewhere, I can always dip into my reliable pinball collection for some quick thrills.
Zen’s licensing team must work overtime, because the only other game series that can even come close to landing so many giant franchises is the Lego series, and I feel like Zen has the upper hand at this point. Star Wars, Marvel Heroes, South Park, The Walking Dead, Back to the Future, Fallout, Aliens, the list just goes on and on.
Roaring into the fold this week (I’m sorry, but I had to use “roaring” somewhere) is the new Jurassic World Pinball pack. Consisting of three tables (Jurassic World, Jurassic Park, and Jurassic Park Mayhem), this new set of tables is playable through Zen’s freely downloadable Pinball FX3 platform on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Steam and Windows 10 (also available on iOS, Google Play and Mac through the Zen Pinball app, because Zen likes to cover all their bases).
With the steady stream of tables released by Zen, Pinball FX3 is one of the best platforms in gaming. I come back to it, over and over again. If you haven’t tried it, I would encourage you to give it a shot. The FX3 app is free to download, and comes with one table. Additional tables are usually around five bucks, and three-packs are in the ten-twelve dollar range (though you can sometimes catch older sets on sale). I haven’t tried Jurassic World Pinball yet, but you can bet I’m gonna. Setting aside the mediocre Jurassic World, the JP franchise is one of my all time favorites. Zen's tables all feel unique, with different look and feel for each, so there is a lot of play packed into each set they release. Ten bucks for hours and hours of fun is my kind of deal.
Northgard, which quietly became one of my favorite strategy games from last year, launches out of Early Access on March 7. That's a couple weeks away. A new single-player campaign is the biggest proclamation coming out of this launch. The vanilla Civilization-style rando game sessions are 100 percent solid in their construction. But it will be cool to follow this new protagonist, Rig, on a tale of revenge through the crafted continent of Northgard in an 11-chapter campaign.
Now, I understand, looking at screenshots and videos of Northgard may not be the most convincing argument. The game isn't over the top. It's not pushing graphical limitations or wowing people with bombastic cinematics. What the trailers aren't showing, though, is the white-knuckled panic that pairs up with the deceptively sedate landscapes and animations. The trailers also don't convey the well-paced and board gamey nature of its gameplay. You'll win some and you'll lose some, but I'm most impressed with how every uncovered tile of land presents interesting but tough choices for you and your Viking clan.
Northgard launches March 7 on PC.
A few days ago I reported on the $100 discounts across the board for PSVR bundles. Well what's a fancy new piece of hardware with a library of games to go with it? Fret not, Sony has you covered. To partner with the hardware sale, the PSN has a number of top titles at deep discounts. You will need a PS Plus subscription to take advantage, but really, you should have that already. If you're doing any decent amount of gaming on PS4, PS Plus is a great value. It unlocks certain multiplayer contents, gives better discounts on just about every sale, and while the free monthly games don't knock it out of the park every time*, there is a ton of value to be had there over the course of the year.
There are some big names in this sale at moderate discounts, but there are a few real gems there at fantastic prices. My personal highlights:
|Game||PS Plus Price||Discount|
|100ft Robot Golf||$4.99||75%|
|Star Trek Bridge Crew||$24.99||50%|
|PlayStation VR Worlds||$5.99||70%|
|Until Dawn: Rush of Blood*||$5.99||70%|
* Until Dawn: Rush of Blood was even a free PS Plus game a month or two ago.
There's more to check out on the PSN store.
If you want to get wrecked—or do some wrecking—by/with some 3rd century North African and Middle Eastern nations, Total War: Rome II – Desert Kingdoms is here to oblige. There's Nabatea west of Egypt, Kush south of Egypt, and Saba at the southern end of the Red Sea, which fall under the African and Arabian subculture. Masaesyli (sail south from Spain, France, or Italy and you can't miss 'em) is of Numidian origin. These are four new playable factions. They're bringing plenty of elephants, camels, spears, and bow-and-arrow support into the fray.
All I know is, back when I was deep into the first Rome: Total War, if I was playing an Italian house, it was often bad news by the time I reached Africa and Arabia. I've come late to the Total War: Rome II party. Only snagged it during the Steam Winter Sale after years of threatening myself to get it. But it's one I'm enjoying now. Well, outside of real game-breaking bugs I've run into—game-breaking bugs that somehow still exist nearly five years after launch.
The Total War: Rome II – Desert Kingdoms Culture Pack launches March 8 and retails for $8.99. This brings Rome II's total DLC (there are 12 other DLCs) to $111.88, not including the $59.95 base game, which you'll need in order to play Desert Kingdoms.
If you've been playing Portal Knights on PC or a mobile device, you might have noticed that a new update recently dropped. For those who haven't, the update includes a new warrior guild, new dedicated servers (PC only), improvements to dungeons, treasure and adventure porting, improvements to combat with more than twenty new weapons, cloud saving, and controller support (mobile only). There's also an in-game Spring Festival event going on celebrating the Chinese New Year and will run until March 5th. The event tasks the players with helping the Emperor solve mysterious troubles plaguing his island. Completing quests in the event will give players exclusive Spring Festival themed items and pets such as pandas and dragons. Come on, who doesn't want a dragon as a pet?
The full list of Patch Notes for Rainbow Six Siege's Operation Chimera have been released and there is a ton of great stuff here. First up are the two new Operators, Finka and Lion, both of which are attackers from Russia and France respectively.
Twice per match, Finka can buff the entire team by giving them health, can revive them from a downed but not out position, and can pretty much eliminate their recoil. This ability also reduces the effects of enemy gadgets like concussion grenades and flash grenades. The ability can also overcharge an allies health over the 100HP threshold like Doc can with his Stim pistol. This sounds pretty over powered but there are a ton of counters to this. Stepping on a Lesion mine or getting hit by the Echo Drone will completely wipe out the buff. Since your heart is beating faster while utilizing the buff, you will make more damage and will take damage faster from Smoke's gas grenades and you will be detected by Pulse's heartbeat sensor from further away.
The second attacker Lion has a recon drone that can't be destroyed by defenders and can be used three times per match. Upon activation a three second countdown will be seen by both the attackers and defenders. At the end of the three seconds, any defenders that are moving completely visible to the attackers. Basically, it's a wall hack. There are ways to avoid being seen such as standing next to a mute jammer when the drone activates or by standing completely still. You can still crouch, turn, aim down sights and fire your weapon and you won't be seen, but the second you move you will be detected.
These new Operators are going to completely change the meta of the game as these are abilities that we have never seen before and I cannot wait to see how the game will change once they are available to everyone.
Next up is the big new limited game mode, Outbreak, which is a Left 4 Dead type game mode where you will need to complete objectives and take down hoards of Alien invaders with two other teammates. So I guess it's Left 3 Dead... with aliens. Anyways, there are three maps you can play and ten Operators will be available to use including Finka and Lion. The game mode will only be available from March 6th - April 3rd.
There are a number of other changes as well including a major nerf to Ela including her damage output and a recoil increase. Now for the best part of the patch notes. Possibly the greatest thing that has ever happened to the game. The casual map pool is being changed. Yacht is being added back again and the god awful map which everyone hates, Bartlett U is being removed. The main problem with Bartlett U is that it was extremely difficult to enter seeing as there is only one door on the entire building. To enter building near a majority of the objectives, you either needed to repel into a window or enter a window on the bottom floor. This is difficult because it makes tons of noise, gives away your location and there are tons of places for Defenders to hide and pick you off as soon as you enter.
Be sure to check out the trailers for the new Operators and Operation Outbreak to see them all in action.
For a full list of the patch notes, be sure to check out Rainbow Six Siege's official website.
In a very brief news release today, Polyarc announced that their adorable mouse adventure game Moss would release next Tuesday, February 27, 2018. I checked out the demo on the PS VR Demo Disc 2 late last year, and found it to be engaging and fun. The little mouse (who goes by the name Quill, and not "Moss", by the way) is beyond cute when you see him in action in VR, lending a real sense of life to the game. And of course, VR gives the entire game a feeling of scale that you just can't get in standard gaming.
This new trailer gives us a slightly wider look at her world than we've had so far. I love all of the statues of mouse heroes lurking in the backgrounds. It would seem that the little mouse comes from a long line of adventurers, and I'm excited to accompany Quill on her adventure (yes, Quill is a girl). More details on Moss are available here, at the PlayStation Blog.
After a flurry of communication from Bungie over the dire state of Destiny 2, things have settled back into the normal cadence of the developers communicating mostly through the This Week at Bungie (TWaB) blog updates. The latest TWaB mostly serves to announce the ongoing activities in the game's universe, namely the return of the Crimson Days event (a one-off Valentine's 2v2 PvP themed action on now) and next week's faction rally return (an ongoing game wide event where players pledge a faction for loot).
But in addition to those announcements, the latest update on the ongoing gameplay shifts do also appear. the Sandbox team is now taking a long look at making exotics more, well exotic. But in a powerful way. It's worth walking through the Graviton Lance example in the TWaB post, but essentially there are far too many exotic weapons that are grossly underwhelming and have no utility. Considering that you can only equip one exotic weapon at a time, the slot becomes to valuable to ever spend on these duds. Well, the Sandbox team claims to be on it and change is in the air. The more popular exotics will stay as is, working as intended, but those duds are scheduled for a welcome face-lift.
My biggest problem with Destiny 2 is that it stripped the power fantasy from Destiny 1. Making exotics great again is a good place to start to bring it back. The problems with the game, and even with the fantasy run much deeper, but it's a step in the right direction.
Classic Nintendo DS RPG Radiant Historia got a new coat of paint and was re-released last week as Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology on the 3DS. The new version has a slew of cool new features (see my release post here), but the very best thing about Perfect Chronology is its shiny new “Friendly” mode.
I have a mixed history with “Easy” modes on games. While I sometimes start a game on “Easy” if I know I have to finish it in a hurry, I still feel a pang of guilt. I worry that I am doing things “wrong” and will somehow miss out on some secret sauce that “Normal” players will get to taste. As much as I try to fight it, I still consider “Normal” mode to be the “real” way to play a game, with the balance and tuning the way the developers intended it. As the result of my pent-up prejudices, I was eyeing “Friendly” mode in Radiant Historia with suspicion and distrust. However, after starting the game on Normal and playing through a few hours, I decided to switch over to Friendly mode, just to check it out for a few minutes.
Thank goodness I did, because I am never going back. Friendly mode is a godsend to a busy old man like me, and it has completely changed the way I play the game. Basically, Friendly mode allows all trash mob battles in the game to be optional. Not “Oh, I can just dodge around this guy and not fight him” optional. Rather, its “I can decide whether to go through the whole battle as normal or I can just kill this clown with a swipe of my sword, skipping the hassle and still getting all the XP and goodies” optional.
You can literally just whack at baddies in the field with your sword and watch your XP and cash go up as though you had fought the entire battle. Its the best. The cool thing about it is that you still have the option to engage with the awesome battle system as normal, if you wish. And you’ll want to, because you still have to fight boss battles and you will need to keep in touch with what new skills and powers your dudes gain as you level up. I’m still going through battles about 40% of the time, which is perfect for keeping my chops up while still cutting the grind time by 60%. It takes the prospect of engaging with a giant game from intimidating down to something much more manageable.
I think about all the times I’ve restarted older RPGs, never to finish them because I got bogged down in the grind. Atlus has made all of that hassle go away with the wave of a magic “Friendly mode” wand. Rather than feeling guilty about playing on an easy mode, I’m a total convert. Friendly mode for life, y’all!
If you have never played it, or if you have played it and want to relive the great memories, Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology is out now. If you can, I would grab the physical edition, as it comes with some fun stickers and a cool artbook for the same price as the digital edition. Bonus!
As a person who has over 200 hours in Elite Dangerous, I'm always searching for a good HOTAS setup. I spent many hours using the Saitek X52 Pro and recently bought a Thrustmaster Warthog setup. During my search, I looked at Logitech's X56 Rhino, but many of the reviews turned me off from picking that up.
Well good news for those that are thinking of getting the X56. Logitech recently announced they have revamped the HOTAS to fix the problems that it was plagued with. Details on what's been changed can be found here in the reddit post that an official Logitech account posted on. From the sounds of it and if it's true the issues have been resolved, the X56 could be a very, very nice pickup for those looking for a good HOTAS.
You can tell if the version of the X56 is the updated one by the color scheme. The old one has blue in it, while the updated version replaces the blue with grey.
The new version is available now through Logitech's website and will be hitting stores soon. At $249.99, the Logitech X56 H.O.T.A.S. might fit the bill as being a great all-around HOTAS for games like Elite Dangerous.