Games

Do you ever dream of an escape, a quick getaway from the everyday grind to just let loose and play a little Call of Duty? Well you’re in luck. Because you’re about to get CODnapped.

The CODnapper and his team of associates rescue unsuspecting fans from their ‘to do’ lists and everyday chores and deliver them to an oasis known as ONSLAUGHT, the first downloadable content pack available for Call of Duty: Ghosts. With four new multiplayer maps, the Maverick – an all-new dual purpose Assault Rifle & Sniper Rifle, and the next installment of Extinction, you’re going to want all the time you can get.

ONSLAUGHT arrives first on Xbox Live on January 28th, with other platforms to follow.

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After it’s unnecessarily successful Kickstarter campaign The Banner Saga is here. It’s nice to see that there are still a mass of gamers who appreciate, and want, turn based strategy titles. There’s definitely not as many of them around anymore but that’s what crowd funding is for. Long live Kickstarter!

As soon as the game is loaded you will be lavished with Banner Saga’s truly beautiful hand drawn style. Every aspect of The Banner Saga is draped in Norse mythology. From the music to every aspect of the visuals, from the smallest menu detail to the characters’ beards, is convincingly Viking. It’s a joy to be so immediately and deeply immersed into a game’s style and Banner Saga isn’t afraid to embrace what it is. If you can find a game with more horns, beards and axes I’d be amazed.

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There’s an intentional slow pace to the plot sections outside of combat that lend Banner Saga a sense of weight and poignancy. True to their word, Stoic don’t patronise and Banner Saga delivers a mature story driven by characters and the decisions you make. And all of that is done through text and the gorgeous artwork. The artwork alone is enough to keep you coming back but even so there is more to Banner Saga than just undoubted good looks.

The decision trees that make up your interaction with written texts are almost MUD (for those who aren’t geeky enough, Multi-User Dungeon) like in their approach. There’s a definite Dungeons and Dragons feel to things. With the game acting as Dungeon Master proceedings are described mainly in the text with the artwork and music backing things up. There’s no expensive motion capture or flashy graphics. Instead Banner Saga relies on pretty graphics and solid gameplay.

And decisions actually matter too. At one point there’s a choice weather to bring along a certain character or not. And if you do they fight with you in the combat, making it easier. But after the combat one of them is threatened and only if you make the correct choices can you save their lives. The fact that you are making a choice is a little more transparent due to the text based nature of things but they are equally, if not more, important than they are in games like Mass Effect. Characters can die. If they die you no longer get to interact with them or use them in battle. Other decisions might come back to haunt you later on. And occasionally you might even get the outcome you wanted.

Travel

To keep things tactical as events unfold your characters will be part of a travelling caravan. Choices you make as well as success rates in combat will effect the amount of people in that caravan. The more people you have the more they will eat. But certain things, such as large battles, will be easier. To sustain them you will need supplies that can be bought from markets. But you never know when you might be able to stop at a market so even just moving the quest on has inherent risks beyond combat and world events that you cannot prevent. The list of options and choices combined with their effects is more than enough to keep your attention and ensures that there is always at least a little strategy to consider.

Strangely, Banner Saga can play quite similar to a Total War title with two separated gameplay elements that still effect each other. Once you’re done buying items and levelling up your heroes eventually some combat will present itself. When a game relies on separate elements in this way it really comes down to pacing. Provided both are good, the only thing left is to make sure you want a bit of the other thing by the time your done with your current tasks. Making sure one aspect doesn’t become the chore isn’t easy but I found Banner Saga struck a good balance and as such I always looked forward to a good fight.

Stoic have resurrected a forgotten art when it comes to the combat in Banner Saga. There’s no 179,262.002 damage numbers. There’s no need. In fact it’ll take quite a while until any of your stats reach 20. Most of the strategy comes from the way damage is calculated. Strength – armour = damage. Simple. Except your strength is both your health and the damage you will deal. Don’t fix what isn’t broken.

This system regularly creates classic strategy dilemma moments that see you racking your brain figuring out what order to do things in or performing seemingly countless simple calculations. I might not do much damage but it might reduce the enemy’s strength enough that I take less damage and live to fight on. Plus if he damages me, I will do less next turn. Or I could hit the armour and then deal more damage. Or what if that guy with no armour gets in quick and reduces his health to save someone. It’s genius. It’s simple. It creates clever, chess-like moments and I love it. Pure strategy with all the showy stuff taken out.

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Simply put The Banner Saga is the best new strategy game I’ve been on since Xcom: Enemy Unknown. The turn based combat is a joy and the decisions you make on your quest are difficult. There’s nothing like picking between two (or five) impossible choices. And then being presented with 3 more. There’s enough depth to everything you do to give it a sense of consequence. It never patronizes and is confident enough with itself to treat you like an adult.

So confident in fact that the almost still images are enough to carry the whole thing without making you ever once feel like you need anything else. Admittedly that is in no small way due to the stunning artwork. But joining the beautiful images there is also a top-notch musical performance, yet again steeped in Viking goodness. If you like strategy games this is absolutely not something you can miss. An A-grade effort from Stoic and hopefully the first of many. The Banner Saga really doesn’t put a foot wrong.

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Reviewed on PC.

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Apple is continuing it’s annual 12 Days of Christmas, and for day 12 its The Rolling Stones Sweet Summer Sun Live.

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You and your friends can download a fantastic selection of songs, music videos, apps and books for free. Each download will only be available for 24 hours. Get the special 12 Days of Christmas app to make it even easier to access your gifts while you’re on the go.

To access these gifts, the Region Format setting on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch needs to match your iTunes Store account.

You need to download the app and then each day for 12 days there will be something free.

Day 12 The Rolling Stones Sweet Summer Sun Live

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That’s it for this year! What has been your favourite?

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Apple is continuing it’s annual 12 Days of Christmas, and for day 11 its Mr Crab Illusion Labs.

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You and your friends can download a fantastic selection of songs, music videos, apps and books for free. Each download will only be available for 24 hours. Get the special 12 Days of Christmas app to make it even easier to access your gifts while you’re on the go.

To access these gifts, the Region Format setting on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch needs to match your iTunes Store account.

You need to download the app and then each day for 12 days there will be something free.

Day 11 Mr Crab Illusion Labs

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I wonder what it will be tomorrow?

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Apple is continuing it’s annual 12 Days of Christmas, and for day 10 its Despicable Me Minion Madness.

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You and your friends can download a fantastic selection of songs, music videos, apps and books for free. Each download will only be available for 24 hours. Get the special 12 Days of Christmas app to make it even easier to access your gifts while you’re on the go.

To access these gifts, the Region Format setting on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch needs to match your iTunes Store account.

You need to download the app and then each day for 12 days there will be something free.

Day 10 Despicable Me Minion Madness

IMG_0724   IMG_0725

I wonder what it will be tomorrow?

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Apple is continuing it’s annual 12 Days of Christmas, and for day 9 its Tom Odell Live.

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You and your friends can download a fantastic selection of songs, music videos, apps and books for free. Each download will only be available for 24 hours. Get the special 12 Days of Christmas app to make it even easier to access your gifts while you’re on the go.

To access these gifts, the Region Format setting on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch needs to match your iTunes Store account.

You need to download the app and then each day for 12 days there will be something free.

Day 9 Tom Odell Live

IMG_0722   IMG_0723

I wonder what it will be tomorrow?

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Apple is continuing it’s annual 12 Days of Christmas, and for day 8 its Pictures of Lily by Paige Toon.

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You and your friends can download a fantastic selection of songs, music videos, apps and books for free. Each download will only be available for 24 hours. Get the special 12 Days of Christmas app to make it even easier to access your gifts while you’re on the go.

To access these gifts, the Region Format setting on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch needs to match your iTunes Store account.

You need to download the app and then each day for 12 days there will be something free.

Day 8 Pictures of Lily by Paige Toon

IMG_0720   IMG_0721

I wonder what it will be tomorrow?

Apple is continuing it’s annual 12 Days of Christmas, and for day 7 its Rayman Jungle Run, and frankly this is the best day yet!

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You and your friends can download a fantastic selection of songs, music videos, apps and books for free. Each download will only be available for 24 hours. Get the special 12 Days of Christmas app to make it even easier to access your gifts while you’re on the go.

To access these gifts, the Region Format setting on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch needs to match your iTunes Store account.

You need to download the app and then each day for 12 days there will be something free.

Day 7 Rayman Jungle Run

IMG_0718  IMG_0719

I wonder what it will be tomorrow?

Activision have released the Official Call of Duty: Ghosts Season Pass Trailer.

With the Season Pass, players will get four downloadable content packs: ONSLAUGHT, DEVASTATION, INVASION, AND NEMESIS – each containing new multiplayer maps, bonus weapons, and a four-part episodic Extinction experience.  Upon purchasing the Season Pass, players now get instant access to the downloadable multiplayer map, FREE FALL, as well as the Team Leader Digital pack, complete with a unique MP character head, weapon camo, reticle, player patch, player card and player background.

Are you buying the season pass? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Here is a three minute montage of future games that are coming to Xbox One.

This three minute video showcases the upcoming games that will soon be released for the new console. The video highlights  games like Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare, Watch Dogs and The Division.

It also shows the forthcoming exclusives such as a new Halo instalment, Kinect Sports Rivals, Quantum Break and Sunset Overdrive.

What do you think of the new games coming out for the Xbox One, please comment below.

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To celebrate the launch of the highly-anticipated PS4, PlayStation is giving gamers the chance to ‘Play The Players’ by going head-to-head with famous faces at the PS4 Lounge #4ThePlayers in London’s Covent Garden.

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Last night saw the first name in the all-star line-up – Arsenal and Wales football star Aaron Ramsey – draw in a huge crowd of keen gamers ready to take him on in a game of FIFA 14 on the new console. The skilled midfielder has already proved himself among Europe’s elite on the pitch, but last night also proved that he had the video gaming skills to match his football talent as he was put through his paces by PlayStation fans.

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“I am a massive gaming fan and regularly play with my teammates on away trips, so I was really up for a bit of a challenge against the public on the PS4” Aaron Ramsey said. “I must admit I was a little nervous at the thought of going up against so many gamers, but I soon got into the swing of it and had great fun!”

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Over the next few days, PlayStation will be announcing some other celebrity names in the ‘Play The Players’ line-up. For more information on the PS4 Lounge, including announcements on the line up for Play The Players and other exclusive events head to: https://www.facebook.com/playstation4lounge or follow @PSAccess on Twitter.

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The latest patch for ROME II hits today and will automatically download for players via Steam. This is the most significant gameplay-enhancing patch yet, bringing framerate improvements to high-end systems, and substantial gameplay, AI and behavioural improvements, particularly in settlement and siege battles.

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Among other AI improvements, players will now find  the attacking siege AI more active, more likely to employ battering rams against gates, and more conservative in how it commits its generals in gate and wall assaults. It will also use a wider range of units when attempting to burn down gates.

This patch also brings the first in a series of targeted unit rebalances. Among other units, infantry small-arms ranged units and the barbarian Naked Warrior unit have been readdressed. Disciplined units (such as Legionaries and Hoplites) now have a Formed Attack ability, which keeps them ordered in melee, and all units now hold formation much better.

Here are the patch notes for Total War: ROME II – Patch 7 (as of 21/11/2013):
Known Issues

  • Dog handlers will try to melee attack whenever their dogs enter melee, resulting in the handlers running towards the enemy unit that the dog is attacking, and often being killed.

Global

  • Performance – Unit rendering performance on high spec gpu’s has been optimised, resulting in higher frame rates on EXTREME settings in most scenarios.
  • Extensive Frontend-UI tweaks and optimisations.
  • Fixed a crash in the terrain system which occurred on crossfire machines.
  • Players are no longer restricted from selecting graphics options, based on the games evaluation of their system. This means that players can now set any graphics options they want.

Battle AI improvements

  • Attacking siege AI now uses battering rams more frequently.
  • Attacking siege AI can now use all units to burn gates, and should not become inactive if it has only non-infantry units remaining.
  • Attacking AI is now more conservative with the use of its general when assaulting walls and gates, but can still use the general unit as a last resort.
  • Added safeguards against some rare issues which could cause the attacking settlement AI to become idle.
  • Fixed an issue in settlement AI which could result in units losing their attack orders, causing units to sometimes run past enemy units they were trying to attack, as well as causing defending missile units on walls to halt their firing orders.
  • Improved AI’s use of Use The Whip and Rapid Advance.
  • AI now targets war-dogs rather than their handlers after dogs have been released.
  • Eliminated unnecessary reforms in AI’s defence-line tactics.
  • Improved AI scouting behaviour.

Unit rebalancing

  • Increased damage for club weapons.
  • Increased melee defence for pike units.
  • Rebalance of all small-arm projectile damage:
  • Javelins have received a boost to their armour penetration damage.
  • All horse archers (incl. Royal Horse Archers) now have Heavy Shot.
  • Some elite foot archers now also have access to Heavy Shot.
  • Different types of bows now have different ranges.
  • All bows now have some armour penetration.
  • Rebalanced the following units:

Naked warriors
Ambushers
Berserkers
Painted ones
Naked swords

  • Some missile infantry shields have had their missile block chance increased.
  • Tower projectile incendiary damage has been reduced.
  • Burning oil incendiary damage has been reduced.
  • Improved arrow tower damage has been reduced, and is now mostly normal damage instead of armour penetration.
  • Scorpion tower projectiles now have a smaller cone of effect.
  • Reduced incendiary hit points on all siege vehicles apart from burning rams which have both incendiary and normal hit points increased.
  • Removed shield wall ability from Falxmen, Thracian Warriors and Thracian Nobles.

General battle improvements

  • Increased battle-side hit points of all generals and officers.
  • Fixed issue in battle combat rules which failed to give the commanding general additional saving throws, making generals unusually vulnerable in harder difficulty modes. These saving throws have also been extended to non-commanding generals, making all general characters harder to kill in battles.
  • Fixed issue which caused artillery units to sometimes move forwards instead of firing when targeting a ground position.
  • Formed Attack button added for key disciplined units (eg Legionaries, Hoplites, Pikemen). Disciplined units are now better at keeping formation when fighting.
  • Improved existing unit formations.
  • Reduced “blobbing”, where units converge into a disorganised brawl
    *Adjusted spacing of some infantry units to prevent units being too cramped.
  • Added blood effects on animals, for players who own the Blood & Gore DLC.
  • Fixed an issue where pikemen would ignore orders.
  • Fixed rank & file shortcuts which were not working correctly; and only ever resulted in wider units.
  • Telestration (drawing on the map) now works for spectators in MP battles.
  • Fixed issue where throwing torches at gates failed due to projectile simulation causing torches to bounce off the roof of the gatehouse instead of hitting the gate itself.
  • New guard mode mechanic: units will be in guard mode behaviour by default and hold their line unless they have a direct attack order.
  • Several improvements to how formed attackers adjust to one or more targets, encompassing different target widths.
  • New hiding mechanic: running will no longer reveal hidden units.
  • Behaviour improvements for disengaging units: Units pulling out of melee will now try harder to avoid combat and run to the ordered location.
  • New mechanic for knocked-down soldiers: Heavier units will take longer to get up after being knocked down.
  • Fixes and improvements to bracing:

- Formation depth and defensive formations now have the correct impact on bracing bonus.
- No bracing bonus when using loose spacing.

  • Elephant and chariot collisions are now less lethal.
  • Boiling oil no longer triggers when enemies are on top of a gatehouse.
  • Entities no longer warp in combat when two infantry units charge each other.
  • Avoidance-jittering eliminated when multiple units in formed attack overlap.
  • Prevented ships and drowning men from floating above the waterline in very rough seas.
  • Improved the framerate when multiple units pass under boiling oil.
  • Added option to disable left-click dragging move-orders.
  • Locked formation unit groups now correctly track moving targets when given attack orders.
  • Locked formation unit groups should now move at the correct speed in all circumstances.
  • Units now interweave less when moving a locked formation backwards.
  • Artillery units no longer move forwards to attack a building when their target is already in range.
  • Firing whilst moving now always fires at the target unit.
  • Reduced instances of ranged-unit stop/start movements when chasing a moving target.
  • Units no longer automatically attack their previous melee target after routing then rallying.
  • When gate capture points are neutralised, gates are now locked to all alliances and boiling oil stops pouring.
  • Units firing from walls can now be consistently halted.
  • Units firing from walls now fire with all ranks.
  • Rebalancing of entity/projectile/effect audio volumes.
  • Added new preset city and port maps to the custom battle/multiplayer map lists.
  • Removed situations where defenders could partially deploy units outside the city walls in siege battles.
  • Siege maps now have towers or gates linked to the correct capture points.
  • Changed capture point timer from 20 seconds to 30 seconds. Gates and towers now take 1 minute rather than 40 seconds to change from one alliance to another.
  • Added new minor settlements: 1x Persian port and city, 2x Egyptian cities, 1x Greek city.
  • Improved docking and landing points in several maps.
  • Added spectator icon for battle to make it clearer when people are spectating.
  • Cinematic camera now works correctly for units on buildings.
  • General technical/usability fixes across many battle maps (docking points, deployment zones, scenery placement, tower bridging-points etc).
  • Extensive battle-UI tweaks and optimisations.
  • Fixed several rare crash instances.
  • Aide de camp advisor has been enabled for multiplayer now.
  • Modified right click drag-outs, so when moving the mouse to the minimum drag threshold, and then back under the minimum drag threshold, the drag-out visualisation will no longer be hidden.
  • Men on walls above gates no longer die when gate is destroyed in battles.

Campaign

  • Fixed a crash when loading into a Roman Port battle map from the Campaign.
  • Multiplayer campaign legendary mode saves now work correctly.
  • Campaign AI is now more focused on recruiting better units and constructing buildings that allow the recruitment of better units.
  • Increased number of Imperium thresholds from 4 to 7, rebalancing progression of military, agent and edict cap increases to match.
  • Campaign diplomacy: It’s now harder to sign trade & alliance treaties with AI factions, gifts now give a bigger boost to relations.
  • Added warning when the player is about to break treaty in Diplomacy which will result in player being treacherous.
  • Enemy/ally armies/agents are now shown on the Campaign Tactical map and not just players.
  • Fixed user interface animation issues in campaign, where in Multiplayer Campaign mode, animations would sometimes be in slow motion.
  • Added resource icons to the city info bar.
  • Added a small delay to update of the Settlement info panel, when moving the mouse off building icons to make easier to compare two buildings, without info panel flickering to province info in between.
  • Fixed setting for whether Unit info panel is shown in battle, which was being set incorrectly in campaign modes, leading to unit info panel being hidden in battle, without player ever minimising it.
  • Fixed campaign cycle buttons (which cycle between settlements) going in opposite direction, and fixed both buttons going in the same direction.
  • Fixed issue where if a unit was gifted in a group, the player could still control that unit via group they were previously in.
  • Fixed issue where current army emblem wasn’t shown in list of emblems meaning once changed couldn’t set it back.
  • When the player is defending in ambush, the attackers units are hidden because if they were ambushed they wouldn’t know the details of the force they were up against.
  • Telestration (drawing) now works on the campaign tactical map for Multiplayer Campaign mode.
  • Added a vote-timer to the autoresolve panel buttons in Multiplayer Campaign mode pre-battle, so players know how much time is left to make a decision once the panel is opened.
  • Join Confederation option now appears as a diplomatic option when countering an AI’s diplomatic offer.
  • Added experience indicators on queued recruitment unit cards.
  • Multiple units can now be upgraded with better equipment, or retrained into better units, simultaneously.
  • When retraining units, UI now shows the unit a current unit will be retrained into, along with the cost for doing so.
  • Finance panel tax-slider now snaps to values, to make it easier to use, and to clarify that there are a finite number of levels.
  • Added notifications for when the other player saves in multiplayer campaign, so you know why the game is pausing.
  • Added filter-specific info to tooltips in the campaign tactical map (such as regional wealth values when on the region wealth filter).
  • Unit info UI now takes into account bonus HP for unit health stat, to fix incorrect values being shown
  • Unit info now shows the breakdown for melee defence and shield armour values on the tooltip.
  • Added vote timer to the pre-battle screen in Multiplayer Campaign mode, so players know how much time left to make decision once open this panel.
  • Unit info missile-damage display now working correctly (damage modifier was being applied to armour penetration damage, and breakdown wasn’t taking into account the missile damage modifier).
  • Campaign radar map now follows the camera to improve navigation.
  • Client states and satrapies are now shown as allied on settlement panel. Also added an icon to show relationship of the factions owning the regions.
  • Fixed several rare crash instances.
  • Fixed a crash which happened when merging units together several times, with the [CTRL] + [M] key shortcut in the same army in Campaign modes.
  • Garrisons are no longer displayed with dignitary icons on the Campaign Tactical Map.

And don’t forget to check out our Total War: ROME II review here.

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Microsoft recently unveiled the latest in its line of Wireless Mouse hardware, the Wireless Mouse 1850 – and here is our review.