Something is afoot in the RNG-heavy realm of Hearthstone, where the arrival of a "mysterious patron" has launched speculation that an alternate hero for the Warrior class is about to be unveiled.
"An imposing, broad-shouldered figure lingered at the door. Patrons squinted, their eyes adjusting to the light as they tried to make out the newcomer. Hesitation brought with it a mild tension as for a brief moment, no one moved or spoke," Blizzard told the tale. "The innkeeper s warm, hearty laugh echoed throughout the common room as he gestured the newcomer inside, breaking the sudden silence. The patrons laughed along with his infectious guffaw. Mugs were hefted high, and cries of challenge were shouted, clamoring to be heard."
That in itself doesn't tell us much, but the outline surrounding the silhouette in the central image is the same shape as the one used in Hearthstone hero portraits; and, checking the image properties, its alternate text is revealed as "HeroTeaser01_HS_FB_CK_500x500.jpg." And since Blizzard has said in the past that it doesn't want to introduce any new classes, it would seem most likely that we're about to get an alternate Warrior hero.
As you'd expect, there's all sorts of speculation going on on the Hearthstone Reddit, where one user has made a pretty good argument that the silhouette appears most likely to be Magni Bronzebeard: short, thick, and, most tellingly, with a lanyard hanging from the weapon in his left hand. But others are putting their money on his brother, Muradin. As ever, there's also some more wishful thinking that this might refer to an entirely new Death Knight class. (Our money says: nope.)
If this is the start of purely cosmetic alt portraits for the heroes, with no new attendant mechanics, it'll be both a bit disappointing (but still kinda exciting). We'll no doubt find out who, and what, the mysterious figure is soon enough, but all put together, it does seem very likely that an alternate Warrior hero is on the way. I'm open to other theories, though. Got any?
Holidays are a good catch-up time for finally knuckling down and finishing the games guiltily lurking in the back of your collection, the ones you didn t hate but didn t love enough to complete before something shiny and new came along and distracted you. I spent my last holiday in South Korea, visiting Seoul as well as the smaller cities Jeonju and Suncheon, but at the same time I was replaying Dragon Age II and exploring its city of Kirkwall. That game made me feel as much like a tourist as I did taking photos of Korean palaces and temples and food (so much food), but not in a good way.
In Dragon Age II you play a refugee from a fantasy village (that has burnt to the ground like they re designed to do) who has come to Kirkwall for safety. At first it doesn t seem like a huge improvement: a grimy, impoverished place where pig oat mash is a significant part of the local diet, but over the course of several years you work your way from an untrusted outsider to an essential part of the community, The Champion of Kirkwall. It s a clever concept. So many fantasy games promise a massive scope but then deliver something thin, geographically large but superficial, and the idea of focusing on one area in depth, watching it change over time, would be a wonderful remedy to that.
Unfortunately, that s not what Dragon Age II turned out to be. Even with the whole thing taking place in a relatively small area, a lot of locations are recycled, and while the wonderful narration of Varric the hairy chested love-dwarf informs you that years are passing, it never feels like it. Unchanging shopkeepers eternally repeat the same patter from the same stalls, and when a district is closed after a riot, this massive alteration to the fabric of the city is marked by a few waist-high planks blocking the entrance.
But what made me feel like a tourist in Kirkwall was how limited my actions were. I was playing as a rogue who couldn t pick pockets or climb walls, and who more significantly couldn t talk to people who weren t important to the plot. It s the same feeling when you re in a foreign country and only speak enough of the language to order food off a menu and ask how much things cost or where the bathroom is. Everybody else may as well be non-interactive. It s frustrating, as if shopkeepers, bartenders, and taxi drivers have exclamation marks over their head and you can t click on anyone else.
Dragon Age II isn t the only game to give me this odd sensation. L.A. Noire s meticulously reconstructed 1950s Los Angeles stops feeling like the place you live and worked the moment you leave each crime scene for a pointless drive to the next one. Famous landmarks like Grauman s Chinese Theatre pop up on the map as you pass them in case you want to stop and gawp, but you re not allowed to be a detective instead of a sightseer until you find the next witness to harass or dead woman to investigate. Like in Assassin s Creed games the only thing I did between objective markers was take screenshots and occasionally bump into people who repeated a bark in response.
Kirkwall s guards occasionally mutter a sentence of chit-chat as you jog past on your way to the next quest, but they never feel like they re guarding anything. By comparison, the costumed guards I saw in Seoul s palaces really just actors in fake moustaches seemed like they were actually doing a job. They march around with polearms, swords, and bows and in the royal palace of Gyeongbokgung perform an elaborate changing-of-the-guard ceremony that involves a huge drum being beaten while two captains withdraw scrolls and recite the day s password before swapping position. At the smaller palace of Deoksugung they have a similar ritual, but the retiring guards will sometimes cross the street, waiting at traffic lights in full Joseon Dynasty regalia, before marching to City Hall. I saw a small detachment wander off down a side street, past Dunkin Donuts and a waffle shop, and didn t see them again.
Watching a tableau like this does some of the work of making a place feel like it has a function beyond being there for you to take photos or screenshots of. When you arrive at Columbia in BioShock: Infinite and see the barbershop quartet on the zeppelin sing God Only Knows to a small crowd it s the first step in giving the sense this is a living place, but step two happens when you arrive at the carnival and can play a game of Cast Out The Devil, have a go at the shooting gallery, or use your new possession vigor to loot a Dollar Bill machine. None of these things advance the plot, they re really just tutorials, but they let you do something other than fighting or talking without turning into a passive observer.
In Suncheon there s a place called Film Village that recreates parts of Seoul from former decades, from a 1950s slum through to a 1980s entertainment precinct where the cinema has posters for Bruce Lee in Fists of Fury and Ali MacGraw in Love Story. Audio samples are triggered in certain locations, just like in a video game: as you pass the bar sailors start drunkenly singing, and near the top of the hill dogs bark and children chant kai bai bo! as they play Rock Paper Scissors (the only game more popular in Korea than League of Legends). It s been used as a set for K-dramas like Winter Sonata and A Werewolf Boy, but in spite of being a film set it feels alive. There are metal hoops you can roll down the road with a stick like a proper old-timey street urchin, a disco you can dance in, and a classroom with authentic textbooks on the desks and a piano you can play. It s built as a literal backdrop but it doesn t feel like one.
By comparison, many of the buildings in Kirkwall are places you can look at but not enter, digital wallpaper that provides a background for the next street-gang ambush but otherwise may as well not be there. The loading screens warn you about getting ripped off in card games, but you can never join one. There are no children playing and there s nowhere to dance. There s a distance between you and the place you re living in, and all it would take to reduce that is having more ways to interact with it. But what would really make the city feel alive is if occasionally some of the guards left their post in Lowtown and went down the road for donuts even if they were made out of pig oats.
Deep Silver and Comcept have released the first official Mighty No. 9 gameplay trailer, showing the game's hero, Beck, in action against several of his fellow Mighty Numbers.
"Beck" seems like kind of a dull name when compared to those of the other Mighty Numbers, doesn't it? Pyrogen, Cryosphere, Dynatron, Seismic, Battalion, Aviator, Brandish, Countershade... and Beck. He sounds like the Avengers' butler or something.
But he is, in fact, the hero of the game, and so it is that Deep Silver also announced today an "extremely limited" collector's edition that will include individually-numbered Beck statues that stand 6.5 inches in height, with 14 points of articulation and three swappable faceplates. The Mighty No. 9 CE will come in a special package emblazoned with a foil signature from creator Keiji Inafune, and will sell for $60.
Mighty No. 9 comes out in the Americas on September 15, and the rest of the world on September 18. More information is up at MightyNo9.com.
The team behind the Dimension Drive Kickstarter suffered a miserable kind of "prank" last month when a last-minute pledge that put the campaign over its goal turned out to be fraudulent. The experience left them "speechless [and] demoralized," as they told us shortly after it happened. But they quickly pulled together to re-launch the campaign, and this time around, it's going a lot better.
There are 14 days remaining in the Kickstarter, but Dimension Drive has already surpassed its 30,000/$34,000 goal. "We could not have done this without your help and never will thank you enough for all your support!" the developers wrote in an update. "In a twisted succession of events, a fraudulent pledge made by someone called 'Jonathan' ruined our last campaign (as you probably already know) ... and tonight while we were sleeping another Jonathan, 13 year old developer of Galagan's Island and his recently created studio, Skinny Jean Death Studios, is making us reach the funding goal!"
Next up, naturally, are stretch goals, which the team has also announced: a Boss Mode at 31,000 [which has already been surpassed], Horde Mode at 33,000, and two-player co-op and PvP modes at 36,000.
I'm loathe to say that being cheated out of success on their initial Kickstarter ultimately proved to be a good thing, but it's impossible to overlook the fact that it was facing a shortfall of several thousand dollars prior to the fraudulent pledge; the current campaign, meanwhile, has pulled in nearly 10,000 more than its predecessor's final total, in half the time. Regardless of the reason, it's nice to see a sad story get a happy ending. And it hasn't ended yet: The new, successful Dimension Drive Kickstarter runs until June 17.
Maybe a 128GB kit of DDR4 memory isn't in the cards (or your budget). Hey, that's okay. With new Broadwell-H chips having just been announced along with plenty of existing CPU options out there, building a system with DDR3 RAM is far from egregious. Need a nudge? Then check out today's top deal for a 16GB kit of PNY XLR8 DDR3-1866 RAM for $90 with free shipping (normally $100 - use coupon code: [EMCATAN35]). This kit is timed at 10-11-11-28 and sports a pretty sleek look.
LG 27MP33HQ Black 27-inch 5ms HDMI Widescreen LED Backlight LCD Monitor for $170 with $1 shipping (normally $200 - use coupon code: [EMCATAN43])
Acer G7 Series G247HL Black 24-inch LCD Monitor for $120 with $1 shipping (normally $140 - use coupon code: [EMCATAN42])
Mushkin Enhanced Atom 16GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive for $8 with $1 shipping (normally $9 - use coupon code: [EMCATAN53])
Seagate Backup Plus Slim 2TB Red Portable External Hard Drive for $80 with free shipping (normally $90 - use coupon code: [EMCATAN49])
Gear aimed at quiet computing
Be Quiet isn't one of the bigger brands in the U.S., though if you've ever attempted to build a silent or low noise PC, you might have come across the company's products. Formed 15 years ago, Be Quiet answered the call in Germany for quiet gear, and that's been a focus ever since.
While visiting with Be Quiet, we saw the company's upcoming Silent Base 600 case, a smaller and less expensive version of the Silent Base 800 that was introduced about a year and a half ago. It will have two side panel options -- one with a side fan and one with an extra thick window to help reduce noise.
Look for the Silent Base 600 to be available in about three months for $99.
Be Quiet also showed us a new fan design that it sort of stumbled upon while playing around. After discovering that it offers more air pressure than its previous design, Be Quiet decided to run with the product as the Silent Wing 3. Over time, Be Quiet will incorporate the new fan design into its other products, like cases and power supplies.
Cases and keyboards and headsets, oh my!
Rosewill has been Newegg's house brand for over a decade now, though for the past couple of years, the company's been focusing on making a name for itself as a budget friendly manufacturer of gaming products. Sometimes that strategy can equate to boring products, though Rosewill has some interesting gear on tap for 2015.
The company has a new line of gaming headsets it plans to release later this year. They're called the Mark Series and will consist of high (Mark 54), mid (Mark 48), and low (Mid 44) level tier options. The high end Mark 54 will sport 3D surround sound with two drivers in each earcup.
On the power supply front, Rosewill has upgraded its gaming line of PSUs and is getting ready to release the Tokamak series, its first line of 80 Plus Titanium PSU. They'll range between 1200W to 1500W and will be fully modular.
We also took at a look at several cases, including the Gungnir, which is meant to resemble the weapon Thor's father used.
It's been awhile since Square Enix announced that Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy XIII-2, and Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII would be released for the PC. But while XIII and XIII-2 are now on Steam, and have been since last year, Lightning Returns is nowhere to be seen. Fear not! Though there's still no release date, Square Enix says there's nothing to worry about either.
"A lot of people have been asking about Lightning Returns on PC & while we can't confirm a release date, don't worry, it is still coming," the official Final Fantasy Twitter account tweeted earlier today.
That's the whole of it, and no, it's not much to go on, but confirmation that development is continuing is a lot better than being left hanging. If we're lucky, the extended wait means Square Enix is putting some extra effort into making the game better than its predecessors; our October review declared that the PC version of Final Fantasy XIII was "a big letdown," and the XIII-2 follow-up didn't fare much better.
The name may be different, but the add-on support is still the same
XBMC has a new name: Kodi. The official change happened last fall, but it's more of an attempt to get away from XBMC's former name-Xbox Media Center-than a reinvention of what's undoubtedly one of the most beloved open-source media players. To celebrate the final release of Kodi 14.2 Helix, we've scoured the official add-on repository to bring you a list of the best Kodi add-ons.
As a bit of a disclaimer: Be careful with any apps that ask you to sign into your various media-YouTube, Twitch, etc.-accounts directly. Most of the add-ons we've listed below let you authenticate your account through established methods, but some only accept a username and password. Add-ons aren't guaranteed by Kodi-even if they're on the official Kodi repository-so be wary of anything that looks at all questionable.
There's no easier way to kick back on your couch and watch the No BS podcast.
We'd be remiss if we didn't kick off our list with an add-on that connects Kodi to YouTube and bromix's YouTube add-on does just that, and it's available in Kodi's main add-on repository. It's not the easiest way to find and browse videos, but the add-on does give you couch-side access to all of your subscriptions, playlists, and the usual-Popular Right Now, Live, etc.-YouTube categories.
Sometimes a Let's Play and a cold drink is all you need to relax on a Saturday night.
Another one of our favorite video add-ons is StateOfTheArt and ccaspers' TwitchTV add-on, which, much like the YouTube app, lets you watch Twitch streams from the comfort of your couch. It's a surprisingly usable way of watching streams and seemed to run perfectly fine on our test setup. Look no further if you're a gamer, eSports fan, or just someone who likes to kill time watching other people play games.
Get access to all of your Dropbox media files.
Dropbox users rejoice! Thanks to the work of Joost Kop, all of the media files you upload to Dropbox are accessible through the Dbmc (Dropbox add-on). Start up the app and you'll have instant access to your Dropbox folder with all of the music, photos, and videos contained within. This is a great way to get access to your networked content for family get-togethers, parties, or any event where you're trying to share content.
The SoundCloud add-on even incorporates a visualizer.
SoundCloud isn't our first destination for music, but the Kodi add-on by bromix is one of our favorite add-ons because it's so perfectly suited for Kodi. The app is supremely usable and features a visualizer that incorporates the SoundCloud logo for something to look at while listening to indie jams and remixes.
Aside from the gaudy gloss, it's a functional Pandora client.
There's really not all that much to say about the Pandora add-on by rivy. If anything, access to Pandora just makes us wish that there was a Spotify client that worked for us. Then again, Pandora is one of the most popular music-streaming solutions and for good reason: It works. The app gives you quick access to all of your stations, the thumb up and thumb down function, as well as the usual playback controls. The UI is a bit dated, but it displays the album artwork along with all the pertinent information about the currently playing song.
Did we miss any essential add-ons? Let us know in the comments below!