LawBreakers

LawBreakers is a very fun FPS. A very fun FPS that is, unfortunately, struggling uphill to establish a big playerbase. Boss Key Studios is working hard to support the game, both with a recent major update and now, a free weekend supported by a substantial discount.

The free weekend will run September 28 until October 2, and starting from now you can get the game for 25 percent cheaper: for US$22.49 to be precise. The trailer above has been released to coincide, and basically gives a rundown of what you're doing in the game: using guns to shoot at enemies until they die, while also floating around in zero-g areas sometimes.

I highly recommend you give this game a go: even though a lot of people complain about small playcounts, I can generally get a game no problem (and I live in bloody Australia). And resident FPS expert Evan loved it too, describing it as "nimble, graceful, and original".

Divinity: Original Sin 2

Divinity: Original Sin 2 doesn't include 'classes,' per se. When you make a character, you can choose a customizable class preset that gives you points in a couple combat abilities, and this determines the spells and special attacks you can start the game with. As you level up, you can continue putting points into those starting abilities, or branch out into any area of magic or fighting you like. 

Before you've found some skill books, it can be hard to know where you want to put points. What if you discover a great skill that requires a point in Huntsman, but you've put all your ability juice into Necromancer? Not knowing what's ahead can stifle early progress with indecision, so this guide will help you plan for multiclass builds that make for a synergistic party. 

Rather than breaking down your decisions by class preset, we've focused on the abilities themselves (leaving out weapon abilities, which are self-explanatory) as they can be mixed and matched however you want to build your own class. For each, we've given a brief preview of the sorts of skills you'll find, and suggestions for what to pair them with in the same character or others in your party.

Warfare

Effect: Increases all physical damage you deal.Class presets it's included in: Battlemage, Fighter, Inquisitor, KnightPrimary attribute: StrengthPrimary damage type: Physical

A point or two in Warfare will help out anyone who deals physical damage, which mostly happens through weaponry. The related skills center around melee combat and shields, though, so while it's useful for archers, high Warfare levels are best for tanky brawlers. You'll get skills such as Battle Stomp, which knocks down opponents, and Phoenix Dive, which lets you leap into battle and create a fire surface beneath you. High level abilities such as Guardian Angel, which reflects 50% of nearby allied damage to you, expect you to be heavily armored.

Pairs well with: Hydrosophist, Necromancer, Polymorph, weapon abilities

If you want to whack things in the head, but also use magic, Warfare pairs fine with any other ability—hence why it's included in four class presets. 

For a warrior-healer Paladin type, Hydrosophist is a good pairing. With Warfare and Hydrosophist, you can focus on equipping physical armor, and use water spells to buff your magic armor when needed. You'll also be able to heal vitality, and freeze enemies for crowd control. The abilities Cleanse Wounds and Mass Cleanse Wounds, which restore vitality and remove many negative statuses, require points in both Warfare and Hydrosophist.

The Inquisitor preset pairs Warfare with Necromancer. Necromancer abilities deal physical damage, making Warfare immediately useful. The morbid arts also include healing abilities and a physical armor buff. Plus, tanky Necromancers can use Shackles of Pain to deal all damage they take to a target, and Last Rites to sacrifice themselves by taking damage to resurrect a target character. Buff Necromancers get the job done.

Another good pairing, Polymorph, includes several abilities that require you to get in close, as well as one that regenerates physical armor, so it works well with strong sword and shield characters. Its skills also deal physical damage, which Warfare boosts, and some rely on Strength, so it'll become more powerful at the same time as your strength-based weapons. And who doesn't want to be a fighter who can turn their hair into snakes?

Huntsman

Effect: Increases the damage bonus when attacking from high ground.Class presets it's included in: Ranger, WayfarerPrimary attribute: FinessePrimary damage type: Physical

This is your classic ranger archetype, with skills that center around bow and arrow trick shots and staying the hell away from melee enemies. It includes one close-range healing ability, First Aid, arrow attacks such as Pin Down, a crippling shot, and Reactive Shot, which works like overwatch in XCOM, letting you take shots at moving enemies between turns. Two points in Huntsman is the prerequisite for a skill that's useful for any ranged character, Tactical Retreat, which applies haste and teleports you out of harm's way.

Pairs well with: Geomancer, Pyrokinetic, Aeurotheurge, Summoning, Ranged

If you're dropping points into Huntsman, you must be an archer, so you'll benefit from other ranged abilities. The two existing preset classes make for good combos. Wayfarer pairs Huntsman with Geomancer, giving you abilities such as Fossil Strike, which creates an oil puddle that slows enemies and can be lit with fire arrows. If you have points in both Huntsman and Geomancer, you can also learn Throw Dust, which blinds enemies. The Ranger class preset instead pairs Huntsman with Pyrokinetic for some ranged fire spells, as well as the ability to toss out explosive traps if you've put points into both.

If someone else in your party has Aeurotheurge, they can learn Teleportation (there's also a certain set of gloves that grants this ability) which is useful for getting ranged characters to high ground (unlike Tactical Retreat, it can't be used on yourself which is why it's best to equip a non-archer with it).

Scoundrel

Effect: Increases movement speed and boosts your Critical Modifier. Class presets it's included in: Rogue, Shadowblade, WitchPrimary attribute: FinessePrimary damage type: Physical

These are your roguish skills. Backlash leaps over enemies to backstab, Cloak and Dagger teleports you while sneaking, and various knife throwing abilities give you ranged attacks. If you're primarily using Scoundrel, you're using a dagger (as you'll want weapons that can backstab) and sneaking to avoid too much damage from warrior-types.

Pairs well with: Polymorph, Necromancer, Aerotheurge, Dual Wielding

The Rogue class preset pairs Scoundrel with Sneaking and Dual Wielding, forgoing a second combat ability for a weapon ability. It's a fine choice if you want to start out as a classic rogue, though eventually you may want to invest points into a complementary set of abilities.  

The other two presets, Shadowblade and Witch, pair the Scoundrel skillset with Polymorph and Necromancer respectively. Both are good choices. Polymorph gives you close-quarters transformation magic that keeps you moving around the battlefield (plus you can turn people into chickens) and Necromancer keeps your health topped off while dealing physical damage, which compliments the physical damage from your daggers. You don't have to, but focusing on one type of damage helps you get through one type of armor, rather than distributing your damage between physical and magic armor, which will clear the way for status effects more quickly.

For a non-default combo, you might try snagging a point or two of Aerotheurge. It includes abilities such as Evasive Aura, which increases your dodging chance and movement speed, and having points in both Scoundrel and Aerotheurge will allow you to learn Smoke Cover to help you hide from ranged attackers.

Pyrokinetic

Effect: Increases all fire damage you deal.Class presets it's included in: Ranger, WizardPrimary attribute: IntelligencePrimary damage type: Magic (fire)

Unless you don't mind setting yourself on fire, you'll want to use most of these skills at range. Pyrokinetic abilities include Searing Daggers, which fires three flaming daggers (you can choose where each one goes) at range, dealing fire damage and creating fire surfaces. Later on, you'll get stuff like Corpse Explosion, which does what it says it does, Laser Ray, a beam of heat, and some close-quarters attacks such as Supernova, which causes you to explode (but not take damage).

Pairs well with: Huntsman, Geomancer, Polymorph

The Wayfarer default pairs Pyrokinetic with Huntsman, which works well as mentioned in the Huntsman entry. Wizard pairs it with Geomancer, which is also a good choice, and many Geomancer abilities leave oil surfaces behind, ripe for exploding.

Polymorph is an interesting choice, if not perfectly complementary since it relies on Strength and deals physical damage instead of Intelligence and Magic damage. But with two points in both Pyrokinetic and Polymorph, you'll be able to learn Flaming Skin, which gives you immunity to fire, meaning you can go nuts without worrying about standing in your own flames (the equivalent exists for ice, poison, and electricity, so it's not unique). Abilities such as Summon Oily Blob and Terrain Transmutation could help you create the surfaces you need to burn, however.

Hydrosophist

Effect: Increases all water damage you deal, and any vitality healing or magic armor restoration you cause.Class presets it's included in: Cleric, EnchanterPrimary attribute: IntelligencePrimary damage type: Magic (water), healing

Water, ice, and healing are the Hydrosophist's tools. Use it to remove status effects, heal vitality, restore magic armor, freeze enemies, and negate fire attacks. Later on, you'll unlock abilities like Global Cooling, which chills all enemies around you while dealing water damage.

Pairs well with: Aerotheurge, Huntsman, Warfare, Necromancer, Summoning

The obvious pairing, which is the default pairing in the Enchanter class, is Aerotheurge, which deals in air and lightning attacks. Focus on both, and your Rain spell can both freeze chilled characters or stun electrified characters. That obvious synergy aside, putting points into Hydrosophist will increase any vitality healing skill, including the Huntsman's First Aid, so consider dropping a point or two in if you're healing a lot (or using healing abilities to target the undead). And if you're going to be blasting enemies with ice from a distance, gaining the high ground damage bonus from Huntsman isn't a bad deal, either.

As I mention under Warfare, Hydrosophist can be used in a fighter-healer combo who strikes a balance between physical and magic damage. For a more complicated combo, if your Hydrosophist or another character in your party has one point in both Geomancer and Polymorph, they can learn Turn to Oil, which turns water surfaces into oil. Combined with Rain, you can have all the oil you want for your pyro character to play with. 

Alternatively, or at the same time, a point in Hydrosophist and Necromancer will let you learn Raining Blood—roughly the same as rain, but with blood, which Turn to Oil also affects. Blood can be absorbed for vitality with the Necromancer's Blood Sucker ability, too, and can be frozen. So if you want to make the ultimate healer, with magic and physical damage—this is the default Cleric class—consider a bit of a contradiction with Hydrosophist's gentle healing and Necromancer's gory life stealing.

Aerotheurge

Effect: Increases all air damage you deal.Class presets it's included in: Battlemage, EnchanterPrimary attribute: IntelligencePrimary damage type: Magic (air)

Aerotheurge is about all things air, including lightning. Your basic Electric Discharge attack fires a bolt of lightning which deals air damage and shocks characters—do it to a wet character and you may stun them. Later on, you'll find skills such as Vacuum Touch, which can suffocate and silence enemies, Nether Swap which causes two characters to switch places, and the RPG classic, Chain Lightning. One of our favorite skills, Teleportation, is also an Aerotheurge skill.

Pairs well with: Hydrosophist, Scoundrel, Necromancer, Huntsman

As previously mentioned, Scoundrel makes for a good pairing because of Aerothurge's evasion, movement speed, teleportation, and hiding abilities. And, of course, it works well with Hydrosophist if you want to be an elemental master, electrifying water puddles, or Necromancer if you want to do the same with blood. Huntsman isn't a bad choice either if you plan to attack from above, and a point in both Aerothurge and Huntsman will let you learn one of Original Sin 2's weirder abilities, Erratic Wisp, which will teleport a target character in a random direction every time they're attacked. In short, it's a pretty good bet that you aren't going wrong by dropping a point in Aerothurge, though it won't help you deal physical damage.

Geomancer

Effect: Increases all earth and poison damage you deal, and any physical armor restoration you cause.Class presets it's included in: Fighter, Wayfarer, WizardPrimary attribute: IntelligencePrimary damage type: Magic (earth, poison)

Rocks, oil, and poison are the Geomancer's tools. Contamination poisons surrounding enemies (while healing undead allies) and turns water, blood, and clouds toxic. Fossil Strike drops a big rock on your enemies and leaves an oil puddle. More advanced skills like Worm Tremor and Earthquake deal area damage.

Pairs well with: Warfare, Pyrokinetic, Scoundrel, Huntsman, Necromancer

Geomancers are the healers of the undead world, so if you've got Fane in your party or are undead yourself, it's good to have someone around who can poison you at will. There's not much Geomancer doesn't work well with. Since it's good for forming oil puddles, Pyrokinetic abilities are useful for lighting them. Huntsman-using archers will also appreciate the slowing effect of the oil, Scoundrel pairs thematically with poison attacks, and because it doesn't include any healing (except for undead), Necromancer abilities can fill that gap.

Necromancer

Effect: Heals you whenever you deal damage directly to vitality.Class presets it's included in: Cleric, Inquisitor, WitchPrimary attribute: IntelligencePrimary damage type: Physical

A favorite among Original Sin 2 players, Necromancers are powerful healers, summoners, and physical damage dealers. Early on, Mosquito Swarm deals damage while healing you, Blood Sucker heals anyone its cast on so long as there's blood nearby for them to soak up, and Raise Bloated Corpse turns a body into a gruesome ally. A couple of the advanced abilities are great for combos: Shackles of Pain causes a target to receive the damage you receive, and Living on the Edge prevents a target's vitality from dropping below 1 for two turns. You can see the potential.

Pairs well with: Polymorph, Warfare, Aerothurge, Geomancer, Scoundrel, Hydrosophist, Summoning

The dead just go with everything, don't they? Because Necromancer provides some healing abilities as well as reliable physical damage, it's not unwise to grab a point. The focus on causing bleeding means it can pair nicely with any ability that deals with elements: Aerothurge can electrify blood, Hydrosophist can freeze it, and Geomancer (combined with Polymorph) can turn it into oil. The Cleric preset combines Necromancer and Hydrosophist, which makes for a good dedicated healer who can do serious damage to the undead.

Summoning allows you to use Soul Mate, which heals a target character for half of what you receive, which makes it a good pair for any healing skill (within the party, but not necessarily in the same character). 

Scoundrel and Warfare both benefit from the healing magic, and because Necromancer attacks deal physical damage, you can pair them to focus in on depleting physical armor rather than splitting your damage between physical and magic.

Summoning

Effect: Increases vitality, damage, physical and magic armor of your summons and totems.Class presets it's included in: ConjurerPrimary attribute: Ability points in Summoning increase the power of summonsPrimary damage type: Depends on summon abilities

You'll start by summoning elementals and totems to fight for you, and you'll want to put lots of points into Summoning to make them stronger. Later on, many Summoning abilities deal with giving these familiars skills from other disciplines, so that they can attack with water, fire, and other spells, heal and use invisibility. A well-kitted Summoner has an answer for everything, then.

Pairs well with: Aerothurge, Necromancer, Hydrosophist, Huntsman

If you're investing a lot of points in Summoning to buff your elementals, you probably aren't focusing too much on a weapon ability, though it's certainly possible to be a summoner and a fighter. Most Summoning skills rely on your Summoning level, not Intelligence, so you're free to focus on Strength and Constitution to make yourself hearty. That said, points you invest in increasing your physical damage won't affect your summons, which have their own stats, so the disciplines aren't quite complimentary.

If you're a slightly weaker summoner who likes to stay in the back while your creatures do all the work, you'll want a party member who has Aerothurge, as they can teleport you out of danger, or two points in Huntsman so you can use the Tactical Retreat ability. 

As for Necromancer and Hydrosophist, they both include healing abilities which pair with summoners' Soul Mate ability, which gives half the healing you receive to another character. Though, again, the summoner doesn't necessarily need to focus on these abilities, as they'll eventually be able to summon creatures with the abilities the moment calls for.

Polymorph

Effect: Provides one free attribute point per point invested.Class presets it's included in: Metamorph, ShadowbladePrimary attribute: StrengthPrimary damage type: Physical

This is the weirdest skillset, and my personal favorite. Starting abilities include a mid-range tentacle attack, the ability to grow bull horns and charge at enemies, and the power to turn your foes into chickens. Later, you can learn to fly, grow snakes out of your head, turn invisible, and gain immunities to elements. At high levels, you'll get momentum shifting powers like Forced Exchange, which swaps vitality percentages with a target character. 

Pairs well with: Warfare, Scoundrel, Necromancer

Most Polymorph abilities require getting in close, and attacks like Tentacle Lash deal physical damage and get bonuses from Strength, so Warfare is a strong complimentary choice. Scoundrel also helps you get face to face (or face to back) with enemies so that you can turn them into chickens, though its reliance on Finesse means it's not as synergistic. Necromancer also deals physical damage, and offers some healing skills to help make for a well-rounded character who can eat through physical armor and then apply status effects.

Summary and reference

There's a lot here to process, but it can all be reduced to some short pieces of advice. For instance, decide if you want your character to deal one type of damage to take down one kind of armor, or if you'd prefer a balanced fighter who can handle fighters and mages alike.

Physical Damage: Warfare, Necromancer, Huntsman, Scoundrel, Polymorph, and weapon abilitiesMagic Damage: Geomancer, Aerothurge, Hydrosophist, Pyrokinetic, and magical weapons

You also want to consider what attributes these abilities rely on. If you focus on abilities that are boosted by the same stat, you can improve both at the expense of losing balance between physical and magic damage.

Intelligence: Geomancer, Aerothurge, Hydrosophist, Pyrokinetic, staves, wandsStrength: Warfare, Polymorph, swords, maces, spears, clubsFinesse: Warfare (as it increases all physical damage), Huntsman, Scoundrel, daggers, bows

And then there's the odd one out: Summoning. Because Summoning mostly relies on your Summoning ability level, you can focus your attribute points wherever you like, so long as you keep plugging ability points into Summoning.

Finally, you want to consider how your abilities interact with elements. Geomancers deal with oil and poison, which Pyrokinetic abilities can ignite. Water and blood can be frozen or electrified. Also, don't forget that healing abilities harm the undead: your cleric build isn't just a healer, but can cause serious damage to bony enemies.

It takes some experimentation to get builds you like, and if you're playing alone, you have four characters to worry about—so don't feel bad if you spend some ability points you regret. There'll be plenty of time to build and rebuild the characters you want. 

After restarting a couple times because I'm indecisive, my main character is a Warfare, Necromancer, Polymorph hybrid who fights with an axe and shield, and I have few complaints. The synergies pointed out here aren't the only interesting combos, so let us know in the comments how you're dividing up your attribute and ability points.

Call of Duty®: WWII

The Call of Duty: WWII multiplayer open beta gets underway this weekend—September 29, to be precise—and those of you who want to avoid wasting time when ye olden shooting begins can start preloading it now on Steam

The open beta client is separate from COD:WWII on Steam, and is roughly 14GB in size. "Beta participants will experience the all-new War Mode where players compete against each other in objective-based, team gameplay," the standalone Steam listing says.

"As a critical stress test of our systems, the Beta will also enlist players in fast-paced, grounded Call of Duty action on maps set in World War II locations such as Pointe du Hoc and the Ardennes Forest. Team up with your friends to compete in fan-favorite modes such as TDM, Domination, Hardpoint, and more." 

The open beta runs until October 2, and everyone who takes part will get given a "Beta Combat Pack" of a helmet, calling card, and emblem when the game launches on November 3.   

Call of Duty®: Infinite Warfare

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare hasn't proved the most popular installment in the long-running shooter series of shooters, but over this past weekend it introduced what may be the best CoD featured mode of all time. It's called "Gesture Warfare," and no, it doesn't mean you get to flip people off when they kill you. It's even better

Basically, instead of killing people with your guns, you kill them with your fingers. You can crush their heads, Kids in the Hall-style, you can pop them, you can flick them, you can wave them away, and of course you can just plug them with the ol' finger gun, too. There were nine different gestures to choose from, each with its own unique (and uniquely ridiculous) name and infliction of death.

  • Head Crush
  • Bang Bang
  • Boom
  • You’re Dead
  • Crush
  • Jackal Toy
  • R-C8 Toy
  • Light It Up
  • Flick

Gestures cycle automatically when a kill is scored, and conventional weapons remain available for use as well. "We want you to play how you want, but with the option of using gestures and the normal combat you’re used to," Infinity Ward explained on Reddit. "Also, different gestures have different times to kill, so you’ll still be able to be effective when you get caught in surprise combat situations."

It's obviously not something that most people would want to play all the time, but absurd modes like this can be a blast in small doses (I had a riotous week with Catch the Chicken back in the day) and they really help keep online games fresh, too: The more there is to do, the more people are likely to keep paying attention. The Gesture Warfare featured mode was only available over the weekend, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to see it return someday.

Pro Motion NG

Art by Weston Tracy, from game Into the Rift

As pixel art has expanded into a popular art form, rather than just the evidence of technical limitation, so too have the tools that developers use to create it. Some stick with old favorites, others use freeware, and some opt for higher-end software. If you’re dabbling in pixel art, or looking for new software to up your game, the choices can be daunting.

Most artists will tell you that a tool is a tool, and you can create good art with any tool you set your mind to learning. But if you want help finding the tool that best fits your grip, here are a few that come highly recommended. And for inspiration, check out the great archive of art at PixelJoint and this great collection of pixel art tutorials.

Aseprite

Price: $15 USD or free if self-compiledAvailable on: Windows / OS X / Linux 

Aseprite is purpose-made for pixel art. It isn’t free, but $15 isn’t a bad asking price if you’re looking for a long-term solution. However, you can get Aseprite for free if you’re willing to compile the source-code yourself.

It’s one of the most commonly recommended programs for pixel art, and for good reason. Aseprite has all the standard features you need for creating pixel art wrapped up in a friendly interface. Onion-skinning, the ability to see the frames in an animation following and preceding the one you’re working on, is a given for animating. Aseprite can also export whole sprite sheets and gifs, also expected features for pixel-specific work.

Aseprite has a lot of fans, but to some it’s an acquired taste. The program itself is low resolution. For some, a pixelated interface for pixel editing may be like putting on the right music to help get in the mindset for creating. For others, it’s an unnecessary distraction.

Jay Tholen, creator and artist for point-and-click adventure game Dropsy, switched to Aseprite from Microsoft Paint and hasn’t budged since. “I was more likely to stick to a 'safe' palette back then. If I did a piece and then decided that a color wasn't working, I'd either brute force paint-bucket it, or just leave it to bug me for all eternity. For Hypnospace Outlaw, I've been employing the color reduction features in Aseprite to give 3D art an old-school 'web safe' dithered look.”

Check out Aseprite's Twitter page for examples of art made using the tool.

Pyxel Edit

Price: $9 USD (Or free Beta build)Available on: Windows / OS X

Pyxel Edit is another reliable, cheap option. You can pick up the release copy for $9, or the beta build can be downloaded for free. Be warned, the free build no longer receives updates or support. For that, you’ll have to buy in. Even the paid version, though, is slow to update and isn’t the primary focus of its sole developer. If you’re a freak for features, be prepared to remain satisfied with Pyxel Edit as it exists now.

Pyxel Edit works just fine for static pixel art and for animating sprites, but a few of its features give it a heavy lean towards creating tilesets. You can import an existing tileset or mockup and Pyxel Edit will automatically turn it into useable tiles. One particularly good workflow feature is tile references that allow you to edit a tile and have each instance of that tile update. No need to go back through and painstakingly replace tiles manually after an edit. If you plan to create tilesets for your environments or levels, a good tile editor can make a big difference in your workflow when it comes to iterating level design. You can see examples of art done with Pyxel Edit on its Twitter page here.

GraphicsGale

Price: FreeAvailable on: Windows

GraphicsGale is another solid program made specifically with pixel art in mind. It has the same main features you’d expect for drawing and animating: onion-skinning, layer control, and color palette management. GraphicsGale’s biggest drawback is that it’s only available on Windows.

Aside from being the right price, GraphicsGale has two big features for consolidating your workflow. You are able to import images from scanners and digital cameras if you prefer to sketch by hand before you lay down pixels. It uses TWAIN imaging supported devices, which fortunately means most scanners and cameras these days. Probably its most notable feature is the ability to preview an animation while you edit. No need to stop working to export a gif or even to pause your preview window. Getting immediate feedback as you’re working can help you feel more confident in experimenting while you animate.

One noteworthy professional game made with GraphicsGale: the gorgeous Duelyst.

Pro Motion NG

Price: $40 or feature-limited free versionAvailable on: Windows 

Where GIMP and Photoshop are repurposed tools, Pro Motion is the high-end choice made specifically for pixel art, with some impressive professional games to its name like Shovel Knight. Pro Motion has strong features for both sprite animating and tileset editing. Like Pyxel Edit, Pro Motion allows you to edit all of the same tile from one instance. It also has automatic dithering for shading large sections of a drawing.

Pro Motion is only available natively for Windows but specifically mentions running the program on Linux and OSX via Wine. The free version of Pro Motion offers a lot of pixel art necessities: support for tile pattern drawing, a tile map editor, color palette editing, and layer effects. If you try it and decide to commit, the paid version adds a lot of power-user features like the ability to modify keyboard shortcuts, automatic backups, and opening multiple projects at once. Pro Motion may be the best compromise between price and power made specifically for pixel work.

You can also buy it through Steam.

Photoshop

Price: $20-30/monthAvailable on: Windows / OS X

Adobe Photoshop needs no introduction, but I’ll give it one anyway. As the leading software for high resolution image editing, Photoshop will cost you $20 per month depending on the subscription rate you choose (annual is cheaper than monthly). Students can get it cheaper, at $10 per month. If you’re fortunate enough to already own a copy thanks to an educational license, or own a copy prior to its subscription model, using it to create art on a budget becomes instantly more feasible. The benefit to using an Adobe product is the sheer volume of resources available. If there’s a feature you need to learn, you can bet there is official documentation, and endless text and video guides are a Google search away.

As for features, Photoshop should have everything you need and more. Like free alternative GIMP, it isn’t made specifically for pixel art, but there are plenty of tutorials for setting Photoshop up to work on pixel art and getting the most out of Photoshop’s power. Sometimes it gets a bad rap for working at low resolutions, but it can be extremely effective in the hands of someone comfortable with it. The ability to manage layers, layer styles, custom brushes, palettes, and your editing history can lend a lot to your workflow.

Len Stuart, the lead artist for Pixel Noir, uses Photoshop not only for its versatility, but because it’s familiar. “Personally I've been using Photoshop since I was in high school so it's just been the program I felt comfortable using naturally.”

Image via blueshenron1's Recolor Sprites Sheets With Gimp tutorial.

GIMP

Price: FreeAvailable on: Windows / OS X / Linux

GIMP is a well-known high resolution image editor but that doesn’t make it any less popular for low-resolution work. Although GIMP’s best known quality is "free Photoshop," it has other strong features that get less talking time. Specifically, it is customizable with several programming languages. There are quite a number of plugins available created by the community, meaning you can make GIMP’s featureset your own with some effort.

If for any reason you’ll be switching between pixel work and high resolution graphics, GIMP is a good way to make sure you aren’t spreading your efforts around too many different programs.

Divinity: Original Sin 2

Divinity: Original Sin is a game known for it's extremely flexible (and ridiculous) combat. After all, speedrunners routinely beat the final boss by filling a box with barrels until it's so heavy that simply dropping it on the beast instantly kills it. Fortunately, Original Sin 2 players are already finding equally absurd ways to kill enemies thanks to its much more refined combat. Sure, you could approach Original Sin 2's tough-as-nails fights in a serious manner, or you could turn your enemies into chickens and watch them murder themselves.

Right now, two popular methods involve a skill called Rupture Tendons. It's a Scoundrel skill purchased from Hilde in Fort Joy once you reach level four. Once an enemy is hit with Rupture Tendons, every step they take causes additional piercing damage. Normally you'd use it on an enemy and hope they'll take a step or two after, but some clever players have found a way to make Rupture Tendons deal incredible amounts of damage.

The first method is called the Chicken Combo. While you have to wait until level four to get Rupture Tendons, characters who specialize in Polymorph skills can pick up Chicken Claw from Doctor Leste in Fort Joy at any time (Shadowblade and Metamorph classes start with Chicken Claw, and can pick up Rupture Tendons later with two points in Scoundrel). This spell turns foes into squabbling chickens that run around aimlessly for two turns. Get the idea?

Reduce any physical armor an enemy has to zero, hit them with Rupture Tendons, follow up by turning them into a chicken, and let natural selection do its job. As the chicken flees (feel free to cast Haste to give your chicken foe a boost), it'll accrue massive amounts of piercing damage that will kill weaker characters almost instantly. The best part is that Rupture Tendons scales with your basic attack and Finesse values, so the higher level you are the more damage the chicken takes with each step.

This video shows exactly how it works (potential spoilers):

The Chicken Combo has quickly become a community favorite, but redditor Ulminati has taken the idea in a bizarre direction: What if you cast Rupture Tendons on yourself?

You'll need a character with Necromancer skills Shackles of Pain (sold by Mona in Fort Joy Ghetto at level four) and Living on the Edge (drops randomly around level 11 or is a starter skill for Witch mercenaries hired in act two). Shackles of Pain forges a link between the caster and a target enemy so that any damage the caster receives is transferred to the victim. Living on the Edge prevents a character's health from dropping below 1 HP for two rounds.

See where this is going?

Reduce the boss's armor points and have one character cast Shackles of Pain on it, then have your Scoundrel attack that character with Rupture Tendons and your Necromancer cast Living on the Edge so that they'll stay alive. Now, every step that character takes will do damage that is channeled directly to the boss.

It'll transfer an absolutely hideous amount of damage through Shackles of Pain, and probably kill the boss.

Ulminati

When it's your turn again, have your character with Shackles of Pain run around like a headless chicken (preferably through fire and poison to transfer even more damage). If you can run them past other enemies, that'll provoke opportunity attacks that, again, will transfer to the boss. As Ulminati explains, "Your guy won't die, but it'll transfer an absolutely hideous amount of damage through Shackles of Pain, and probably kill the boss."

Again, you can cast Haste (sold by Stingtail in Fort Joy Ghetto) to give your shackled character some extra space to run around. The only thing is this combo will leave your character with just 1 HP, so be sure to have some healing ready to go once Shackles of Pain and Living on the Edge wears off.

It's a trickier combo to pull off, but Ulminati promises you can fell bosses in just a turn if done properly. And, better yet, this doesn't appear to be an exploit like the previous combo we wrote about that Larian is already planning on patching out.

Divinity: Original Sin 2 has only been out for a week, so I can't wait to see what other kooky ideas people come up with. If you've discovered your own deadly combos (bonus points if they're as ridiculous as these ones) let us know in the comments. And be sure to check out our beginner's guide if you're having a little trouble getting started.

WWE 2K18

2K Games has announced that the upcoming pro rasslin' game WWE 2K18 will be released for the PC on October 17, the same day as the PS4 and Xbox One editions of the game. That makes it the first game in the series to come out for the PC on the same day as the console releases. 

Previous WWE 2K games have made their way onto the PC, but it's always been after a delay. 2K15 came to the PC in April 2015 after the October 2014 console release, 2K16 arrived on PC in March 2016 after debuting on consoles in October 2015, and 2K17 kept up the pattern by coming to PC in February 2017, after first showing on consoles in October 2016.  

It's still possible for the console crowd to get a bit of a head start on PC players, as the four-day early access "perk" that comes with preorders of the Deluxe Edition isn't being offered on the PC. The Deluxe Edition includes the season pass (details of which will be announced "soon"), playable John Cena characters from ECW One Night Stand (2006) and Wrestlemania 26 (2010), and playable "John Cena rivals" Batista and Rob Van Dam. Preordering either edition will also net you two playable Kurt Angle personas: WWE "American Hero," and ECW "Wrestling Machine."

Oddly enough, the announcement didn't come with any images of Angle, so here's Samoa Joe and some other guys.  

PLAYERUNKNOWN'S BATTLEGROUNDS

In early August, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds surpassed 500,000 concurrent players on Steam, which led me to wonder if long-time chart champ Dota 2 might be facing an actual threat to its position at the top of the heap. Not long after, the answer came back a resounding "yes," as PUBG very convincingly seized the crown, and then less than a week later stomped out Dota 2's all-time record of 1.29 million players.  

In case you were wondering, it's not slowing down. PUBG broke 1.4 million concurrents on September 22, and then hit a new all-time peak of 1,523,179 concurrent players one day later, according to Steam Charts. It's also still selling like gangbusters: SteamSpy estimates that it's moved another two million copies, give or take, since it broke the ten million sales mark on September 5.   

And consider this: Around the same time that PUBG passed 500,000 concurrents, Valve announced that Steam was rocking about 14 million concurrent users every day, a number that recently pushed past 15 million. PUBG at one point accounted for ten percent of that figure all by itself.

Developer Bluehole recently became embroiled in a beef with Epic Games over Epic's release of a PUBG-like Battle Royale mode for its base-building shooter Fortnite. The studio clarified over the weekend that its concern isn't with the mode itself, but with the way Epic used the PUBG name to promote the game, which it believes could lead to confusion: "There were players like, 'Oh it's cool, now we get to play PUBG in Fortnite'," marketing and events manager Sammie Kang said. For right now, at least, I'd say it doesn't look like they have too much to worry about. 

Road Redemption

My memories of the Road Rash games are vague but what I do remember is this: I played them with friends. Even with the PlayStation-exclusive Road Rash 3D, which didn't have split-screen, we'd just pass the controller around and take turns. Whipping people off motorbikes with chains was an after-school group activity.

A couple of decades later Road Redemption, a spiritual successor to Road Rash funded via Kickstarter, finds its audience in a very different place. Throughout Early Access it's been adapting to suit modern players. This is still a racing game about pulling up alongside another biker, wailing on them with a pipe, and then being taken out by an oncoming truck because you weren't paying attention, but it's also being called a "rogue-lite" by developers Pixel Dash. The tracks are randomly generated and after crashing too many times you have to start over, an arcade version of permadeath.

I don't play Road Redemption like Road Rash. It's easier to think of in terms of runs, like Binding of Isaac or Spelunky. I choose a bike and rider, skip the intro, and dive right into the first race. There are multiple randomly assigned formats, from a straight "place third or better" race to a time trial to a rampage where I have to kill a certain number of members of a gang before they escape. The last one I lose at the most, because somebody always gets away—but rather than being failed back to the menu I just lose a portion of my max health and keep going with my run. 

To perdition, and beyond 

What you really want to hear about is the violence though, yeah? Each rider starts with a weapon or two so there's none of that weedy punching the early Road Rash games were full of. Blunt weapons like pipes and wrenches are great for knocking helmets off, and blades are useful for follow-up decapitations, but I'm all about the kick. Honestly, it might be a little overpowered—it's faster than the swing, and you can kick bikes right off bridges or into traffic. I like to attach an explosive to someone, then boot them sideways into another vehicle so the blast takes out both.

There are guns too, but aiming at speed is a skill that's beyond me. Fortunately the roads are usually full of cars and trucks as well as bikes, and a spray of SMG fire is bound to clip something. Enemies sometimes shoot back, though they tend to stick to melee. Mostly I die by going off the road or colliding with a car.

Each of the three acts is set in a different area and made up of multiple races. The first is all highways, dominated by a gang of Mad Max metalheads called the Reapers whose leader sounds like an orc. At the end of the act there's a boss fight with him, then presumably other opponents in later acts though I'll let you know if I ever make it past this jerk.

Dying over and over again would be a bummer, but there's an upgrade system that lets you spend experience points on permanent stuff like slight boosts to health or nitro or unlocking new bikes. A lot of the upgrades are pretty slight and I've never had enough XP to buy more than two at the end of a run, but that feeling of progress takes the sting out of death.

There's a decent amount of variety in Road Redemption. Randomized tracks make it impossible to learn layouts in advance and instead I just react to them, staying alert to sudden turns or detours full of power-ups rather than building up muscle memory, even though the tracks are obviously assembled from recognizable pieces like slot car tracks. And sometimes you get a weird one, like the time I got a warning about psychedelics being used in the area and then cars started falling from the sky, smashing into the bitumen as I swerved through a storm of shattering metal. 

There's an odd stickiness to Road Redemption, with other racers suddenly matching speed to pull alongside you making for clumps that have to be fought through (or boosted past if you've earned a bunch of nitro with Burnout-style recklessness). Although there's four-player splitscreen in Road Redemption it never feels lonely to play by myself, surviving longer each time, pushing further into this wasteland America. It's got a rhythm to it that makes it fit in between other things but also worth concentrating on when I've got time, a ridiculous dream of smashing and crashing that's easy to slot into an adult life in spite of how gleefully juvenile it is.

Road Redemption rides out of Early Access on October 4. 

H1Z1: King of the Kill

Daybreak Game Company continues to tweak, change, and enhance its multiplayer battle royale shooter H1Z1: King of the Kill. Following the recent combat update, PC Gamer has been given a look at three new weapons coming to the game in a future update, and during a chat with Anthony Castoro, KotK's general manager, and David Mendelsohn, creative director, they also talked about Daybreak's plans for some sizable changes they hope will lead to more intense matches, as well as shorter ones.

First, the three new guns. Above you can see the KH43, intended as a mid-range alternative to the AK-47, which doesn't hit as hard but has a higher rate of fire and is easier to manage. "The fully automatic KH43 is a counterpart to the AK47, and it trades damage for accuracy," says Daybreak. "While it takes more shots to kill, it is slightly easier to control and gives the user an additional choice when going into battle."

Next, there's the new combat shotgun. With an adjusted choke and spread it requires more precision from players, but it's also more forgiving thanks to a higher rate of fire and a bigger mag.

"The semi-automatic Combat Shotgun is designed to give the player a close range alternative to the Pump Action Shotgun. With a higher fire rate and tighter spread, it will provide a new play style option for close-range combat."

And finally (below) is the .30 caliber ranch rifle, which has a higher skill ceiling but packs a bigger punch:

"The Ranch Rifle is a DMR, or Designated Marksman Rifle. With a significantly slower fire rate than the AR, it rewards the player who takes their time to place a shot because it delivers increased damage and it is equipped with a scope."

The new guns aren't meant as replacement for the existing weapons, but as alternatives to give players with different styles additional options.

"We want to have contenders for [the existing] guns so that if you're taking an AK out in the field, your only gameplay choice right now for dominant mid-range combat is that AK," said David Mendelsohn. "We wanted to offer another rifle that has a similar role in the battlefield, in the play space, but lets players with a sort of different gameplay style, so that you have more player choice as you fight other players."

Daybreak is also looking for ways to generate more action and intensity in matches, as well as making those matches shorter on average.

"We have in the last three months moved the average session time down from almost 40 minutes to under 30, I think it's like 26, 25 minutes now," says  Anthony Castoro. "And our goal is to get it right at about 20 minutes on average."

This will come in a few different forms: more airdrops at "designed intervals" intended to create more points of contention among players and thus more gunplay, as well as tiered weapons that arrive with upgrades already attached to them.

"We have an understanding of what makes the battle royale game work," said Mendelsohn, "and we want to move it into a place with better pacing, better growth and progression, both inside the game itself and within the overall player experience. So, to give players a sense of actual power growth throughout a match, we intend on offering weapons that are upgraded. They already come pre-configured and pre-upgraded so it's not like you're running around trying to find different pieces and hoping the pieces you communally collect actually work with the weapons you happen to have on you."

"As the game progresses you'll find even further improvements on these weapons which come prepackaged with all the gear you need to be able to take down somebody or get the competitive edge over somebody who's using just the basic version of the weapons."

And, the three new weapons above may just be the start of a new era of carnage for KotK, as there are more powerful ones on the way.

"As the game progresses we intend on offering unique power weapons that you're never going to find in the map, like grenade launchers, rocket launchers, heavy machine guns, stuff like that," said Mendelsohn, though it should be noted these more powerful weapons won't be arriving at the same time as the new guns shown above, but at some point further down the road.

"We expect the last minute or thirty seconds of a match to be way higher in intensity both visually and from what we're expecting the players to process in any given moment," Mendelsohn said.

"I like to call it a spectacle of mayhem," said Castoro.

...

Search news
Archive
2017
Sep   Aug   Jul   Jun   May   Apr  
Mar   Feb   Jan  
Archives By Year
2017   2016   2015   2014   2013  
2012   2011   2010   2009   2008  
2007   2006   2005   2004   2003  
2002