Shacknews - Bryan Carr

Hey everyone. It’s me, Bryan, AKA Doctor Games. I’m writing the Big Topic this week. Where’s Steve, you ask? Don’t worry about it. Also don’t check the broom closet, no matter how much muffled yelling and clattering you hear. It’s just ghosts. Ghosts who won’t listen to insightful suggestions.

Anyway, since this week is the launch of Overwatch, a game I have turned a critical eye toward and found to be the single most important video game story of the year, I have declared editorial fiat in making this week’s Chattycast all about Blizzard’s first fully new IP in years. But rather than just spend the entire show talking about how great the game is – and I could certainly do that – I figured it’d be interesting to cast Overwatch in the larger context of the genre.

Could this be the hallmark of truly cooperative shooters? What does the popularity of a game that does not track the traditional K/D stats mean for improving the often toxic nature of online gaming communication? Are hero-based shooters in which you learn classes and characters like fighting game combatants the next big thing?

Come watch!

Shacknews - John Keefer

First it was Paris, then Sapienza. Now Hitman is sending Agent 47 to Marrakesh on May 31 for a mixture of voyeurism and infiltration (their words, not mine).

The mission is the third DLC episode for the assassination game from Io Interactive, and community manager Travis Barbour said the developer has plenty of content planned for the city, which includes a Swedish consulate and a bustling marketplace. The "Gilded Cage" mission will offer two targets: Private banker Claus Strandberg, holed up inside the consulate, and heavily guarded army General Reza Zaydan, located at a temporary HQ in the heart of the city. "Both will of course have some entertaining special moments attached to them that will allow players to dole out some poetic justice," he said.

"The team set out to build a location that was both teeming with life and with things to do," Barbour said, explaining the mission locale. "Marrakesh has been built with a maze of alleys, a range of souks that line the medina walls, and a fully fletched shisha café. Moving upwards, players can enjoy the shade on the signature rooftop terraces of Marrakesh."

As with the previous episodes, Marrakesh will get its own Contracts mode, Elusive Targets and Escalation Contracts, which will be detailed later.

Shacknews - Brittany Vincent

I Am Setsuna, the upcoming debut title from Tokyo RPG Factory, has been floating around above our heads for some time now since its announcement. Finally today we can feast our eyes on the very first official trailer for the upcoming role-playing game.

The trailer showcases the Chrono Trigger-esque battle system and English voice acting along with what looks to be an engaging narrative with familiar character designs. In short, it looks a lot like the RPGs of your childhood, if you grew up playing them like I did. Oh, and there's a whole lot of snow and an airship.

I Am Setsuna follows the journey of the titular Setsuna, a young woman who must end up sacrificing something great in order to save the people from her home land. You can bet things are going to get depressing, especially judging from composer Tomoki Miyoshi's score that punctuates the trailer itself.

I Am Setsuna is set to debut on July 19 for PlayStation 4 and PC via Steam for $39.99.

Shacknews - Cassidee Moser

Twenty-five years later, the Civilization games are a carefully crafted formula. Every part of a Civilization game—be it diplomacy, conquest, or development—has been woven together and tuned to make sure they all interact seamlessly for the player.

Civilization 6 is a continuation of this formula. It introduces new elements to enhance the already-existing systems, but retains the same appearance, flow, and design of the other standouts in the world-building franchise.

I’m given a 60-turn demo to tinker with new systems and venture out on my own without little instruction from the development team. It begins as most Civilization games do, with a group of settlers, a few warriors, one main city, and a handful of revealed tiles.

I send the warriors out in a quick exploratory mission, scouting the area to uncover new resources and get a feel for who might be around. They encounter and defeat several barbarians, ransack a friendly village for much-needed gold, and even pursue bigger targets.

The Settlers move their lengthy caravan down to the south, where they establish a brand-new city within my country. Once it is officially live, I begin to build farms and mimes, attempting to make sense of diplomacy and reason while also building an army on the side. Barbarians are bad enough; I don’t want to be caught defenseless if any of the other leaders decide to wage war.

While scouting about, I’m greeted by Teddy Roosevelt, whose stylized form welcomes me to America and tentatively promises to be friends, should I behave myself. Later, he’ll declare war simply because I accidentally attacked one of his roaming scouts.

More personality and emotion has been woven into each world leader the player will encounter, which also has an effect on one of the newer aspects of Civilization 6. Rather than being cartoon-y renderings, these world leaders are characters with their own motivations, interests, and plans. All of them have been designed to share some of the traits in common with the known world leaders of the past, Firaxis’ developers explain. Since Teddy Roosevelt was known for “Big stick diplomacy,” it’s not surprising he’d declare war on my country simply because of a light mishap with one of his scouts.

Additionally, every leader will have a “Secret Agenda” the player will want to figure out before they can successfully implement their carefully laid plans. This could range from building Wonders to creating a large standing navy, and it will change at the start of each new game. To learn these secret agendas, players will have to engage in diplomacy and perhaps even test out some espionage tactics.

New advantages to interacting with other civilizations have also been introduced. Shortly after meeting with Teddy and having a successful conversation with him, my nation’s research on writing unlocks almost immediately, giving my civilization access to new technology and development. This is part of the Civics system, a completely separate progression system unlocking policies, buildings, wonders, additional policy slots, and—at its highest level—new types of government. It’s another way for players to develop their civilization through means other than conquest or building.

With one city founded and a so-so defense in place, I begin looking to add more to my city. To do so, I will need to queue up some Builders, one of the new units in Civ 6. Similar to Workers, a Builder’s primary function is to…well, build. But instead of structures taking multiple turns to construct, everything is built automatically and the number of builders in each unit is reduced with every new development. Whereas it starts with four able-bodied builders in one unit, by the time I’ve set up four different farms, it’s time to requisition another four builders from the city. This limiter on the number allows the player to have structures completed automatically, but it also forces one to make careful decisions about the things they build and how it might impact their civilization overall.

Another one of the new features in Civ 6 is the implementation of Districts, small sections contained within a city dedicated to producing specific resources. In a stage demo, the presenter had several districts linked up, each with their own specialty. One was a holy district producing Faith, while others were dedicated to science, production, and military garrisons.

The Districts in these cities serve several roles. Not only do they aid in boosting statistics and helping bolster the player’s progress, but they can also provide specific advantages when built near each other or a similar resource, whether it’s improved mining production or an increase in the population’s Faith. In order to maximize a city’s output, the player will have to make deliberate choices about placement within their nation’s borders.

Wonders also have a few new changes, including the fact that they must be built near a neighboring resource. During the stage demo, the presenter pointed to Stonehenge, explaining that it had to be built near a natural supply of stone in order to make sense, just like the Pyramids had to be built on a desert tile. Wonders take up a full tile within the city limits, and Wonder movies will once more allow the creator to watch their genius construct come to life in a time-lapse video.

I spent the better half of my demo tinkering with these features, impressed by both the familiarity of it and the multiple new options at my disposal. It may not be the most accessible entry—there are many layered systems overlapping one another, and the same impressive depth could prove challenging for people who aren’t already familiar with Civ’s firmly established formula—but this is business as usual for the Civilization franchise, and I’m excited to see more. 

This Civilization 6 preview was based on a pre-release PC demo of the game at an event where transportation and accommodations were provided by 2K Games.

Shacknews - Daniel Perez

Nintendo has announced it will once again bring E3 to the people as a select number of fans will be able to play The Legend of Zelda for Wii U at its flagship store in New York City.

Those who wish to get their hands on The Legend of Zelda for Wii U will need to sign up on Saturday, June 11, which Nintendo is calling its “Super-Fan Signup Day.” Fans can start lining up on this day at 7am ET, although you’ll need a photo ID and minors need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

A total of 500 fans will be selected on June 11, which will then need to be among the first 500 eligible people in line when the Nintendo NY store opens at 9am ET between June 14 through June 19. Those eligible to partake in the experience will be given a wristband that can be exchanged for a ticket, which will guarantee them a spot to play The Legend of Zelda for Wii U.

On June 14th, fans will be able to watch a livestream of gameplay of The Legend of Zelda at 12pm ET, which will be presented from Nintendo’s booth at E3. Then at 3pm ET, the first 500 fans will be able to play the game for themselves.

Nintendo is no stranger to offering samples of its E3 lineup of games to fans during the show as the company has allowed them to play games like Mario Kart 8, Super Mario Maker, and more. Given the fact Nintendo will mainly be focusing on The Legend of Zelda during this year’s E3, it isn’t surprising to see them offer a similar experience during this year’s show. Just be sure to line up early as we're sure there are going to be thousands trying to get their hands on the game.

Shacknews - Josh Hawkins

The Witcher series is one of my all-time favorite video game trilogies, and it was with great sadness that I went into Blood and Wine. I wasn’t sad because I thought the expansion would be terrible, quite the opposite in fact, but I was sad because this means we’ve come to the end of Geralt’s storyline. Though he may be a brutal, emotionless, monster slaying machine, he’s also one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing as in a video game. Thankfully, CD Projekt Red has not disappointed, and Geralt’s final adventure is one of his most intriguing and exciting yet.

I was also very fond of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and the expansion, Hearts of Stone. You can read my thoughts on both by visiting their respective reviews.

A Whole New World

The story begins like any, it’s another day in the war-torn Northern Realms, and Geralt’s out looking for work. The notice boards have never let him down before, so we ride into a village and check out the notice pinned to the board. One happens to catch his eye, so he scoops it up, and heads to meet up with the men who left it behind. What follows is a quick reminder of just how brutal the Northern Realms can be. It’s a good way to introduce the upcoming story, because it helps to remind players of where they’re coming from, which makes Toussaint’s reveal that much more intriguing. It isn’t long before Geralt and his old friends are headed off to the land of love and wine.

Toussaint is more than just another addition to the base game’s world. The people there, the land surrounding their cities, and even the dialogue used is vastly different from the rough and broken dialogue of the Northern Realms. Honor, valor, compassion, and virtue are important in this new land, and that’s painfully clear from Geralt’s first encounter in the land. After a brief fight with a monster, Geralt gets straight to work. A beast has been killing in the land, and its newest victim has just been found on the bank of a nearby river.

It doesn’t take long to get back into the swing of things. Geralt’s Witcher Sense is still an essential tool that you’ll be making use of quite a lot, and it works as well as could be expected. Alongside the main questline, there are plenty of optional quests to complete, including several new Scavenger Hunts which feature some new Witcher armor pieces. Many of the quests are interesting, and intriguing, spilling out their own little stories as they did in the base game and Hearts of Stone expansion.

I was once tasked with exploring an old mansion, which was said to be haunted. During my investigation of the area, I learned that a rare Spotted Wight had taken up residence within the old house. My goal, to acquire some of the Wight's spittle, was clear, however, I was also given a chance to break the curse that afflicted the poor creature. Decided to follow my heart, I tried to cure the beast. I failed the first time around, but after a brief bout with a bug that somehow kept my choices from displaying, I was finally able to cure the creature, proving to myself that all Witcher aren't just heartless monster killers. It was a huge win for my vision of Geralt, and I felt like it really helped to prove how deep the meaning of your choices affect the world around you.

A Daring New Enemy

One of Blood and Wine’s biggest draw ins is the addition of over twenty new enemies to face off against. Many of these enemies are just new types of old enemies, however, they offer new challenges for the Witcher to face. Their designs are interesting, and while I often found myself struggling to take on some of the new enemies, it wasn’t that hard to take them down after a few tries. The main questline’s enemy is also very intriguing, and all throughout the experience I found myself wishing I could learn more about the beast that I had been sent to destroy.

Of course, like any good Witcher tale, choice is a vital part of the story, and your own choices can often determine who and what become your enemies. This is still the case in Blood and Wine, and I often found myself having to think for several moments before coming to a decision on some of the things that I was faced with. It’s a feeling that I haven’t experienced with many other games, and I believe it’s a vital part of what makes the Witcher series feel so alive.

The Witcher Redesigned

Another big part of this expansion is the newly designed user interface. CD Projekt Red have completely redesigned the game’s inventory system, making it much easier to use and explore. Items are now broken up by categories, and the equipment section is more clearly defined than it was in previous versions of the game. It’s something that many felt the game sorely needed, I was one such person, and it’s great to see so much love put into the game’s systems so long after release.

Armor dyes have also made their way into this new world, as colorful attire is a big component of the Toussaint lifestyle. These dyes can only be used on Witcher gear, however, which means those of you who enjoy wearing the frillier attire used by NPCs, might find yourselves a bit disappointed in the system. Like anything, dyes can be purchased or crafted, but you’re going to need to find the diagrams and recipes before you can create them yourself. It’s a nice new addition that really helps you personalize the Witcher gear that you find throughout the world, and it works easily enough without being overly complicated.

Another important addition to the game is the expanded New Game+ level, which now has a maximum level of 100. This gives players plenty of room to continue improving their character, as they're sure to want to do with the additional Mutations which have been added to Geralt's Mutagens. There are twelve new Mutations in all, which can be fully explored through the game's New Game+ mode. They aren't mandatory to complete the main questline, however they do add game-changing abilities that can help you turn the tide of battle with a simple sign cast.

For those who enjoy spending hours upon hours wandering through the land's Inns and playing others in Gwent, a new special Skellige deck has been added. It's a nice addition to an already massive time sink, and it was pretty cool having some new cards to search for, even if I don't play the card game that often myself.

A Fitting Finale

One of my favorite things about Blood and Wine is the main storyline’s ending. After you’ve completed the story, CD Project Red brings everything to a close. This means your decisions throughout the base game’s main storyline is important, and it plays into one of the moments you come across as you finish up the final bit of the expansion’s main quest. It’s a nice touch to really help things feel connected, and to further hit home the impact that your choices have on the game world as a whole.

Overall Blood and Wine is an excellent addition to the Witcher 3 universe. The new enemies, redesigned UI, and exceptionally well-crafted new land to explore are all pluses in my book. The main questline introduced for the expansion is intriguing, and gives much more insight into the world that Geralt has spent his life adventuring through. In the final moments CDPR brings everything together to really help the player’s impact on the world feel more real, and it’s something that very few developers have ever managed to really accomplish.

There wasn't much I didn't like about this new land, and while I did experience a few issues -- I once crashed several times during a major cutscene, which forced me to watch the first half of the scene multiple times-- overall the experience was fairly bug free. The world of Toussaint is a pleasure to explore, and it’s plenty big enough to keep you coming back for more of the Witcher series for days to come. All in all, it is the best ending we could have hoped for a character as interesting and well-crafted as Geralt of Rivia.


This review is based on a product code provided by the developers. The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine will release on May 31, and can be purchased online for $19.99. The game is rated M.

Shacknews - Asif Khan

Hey Shackers!

Our very own Adam Bromell, eonix, will be streaming some development of Astroneer live on System Era Softworks' Twitch channel tonight at 9 PM EST. Please support eonix as he continues to do it for Shacknews!

Watch live video from SES_dev on www.twitch.tv

You can find out more about Astroneer at their website here.

Feel free to check out our interview with Adam at GDC 2016:

Adam also chatted with Shacknews at PAX East 2016:

For more, be sure to subscribe to Shacknews on YouTube.

Shacknews - David Craddock

A Reddit user with a source "in the know" claims Respawn will deploy Titanfall 2 in October, and will add new abilities and items such as a grappling hook to the original game's foundation of cool maneuvers.

"I've been sitting on some Titanfall 2 information that was shared with me, and I've finally got the go ahead to post," wrote user ILoveGoogleGlass. "Titanfall 2 will release in October and the Mountain dew leak is indeed legitimate. They've added a ton of new pilot abilities including the addition of a grappling hook."

He goes on to claim that the hook will be used extensively, good for situations such as swinging up into your Titan, Batman style, and for giving yourself a boost while free-running, and yanking foes out of midair.

"The pre-order bonus will be a handgun called the Violator. Multiplayer maps are bigger which I can assume they upped the player count to go along with them."

This mysterious stranger, who so loves Google Glass, claims the following image will be used in the game's official box art.

He vanished as quickly as he appeared, claiming only that his source is knowledgeable about all things Titanfall. We do know the game will launch this year, and E3's just a few weeks away, so questions surrounding a release date should be answered definitively soon enough.

Shacknews - David Craddock

Alleging that Valve created a hostile work environment following her reassignment surgery, a former employee is suing the Steam platform creator for $3.1 million in damages.

The report comes from editors at Polygon, who got their hands on paperwork concerning the lawsuit. The litigant, identified only by her initials, worked on-site at Valve as a translator until sometime in 2012, when she informed Valve of her intention to go through with gender reassignment surgery, and that she would need to relocate to Los Angeles to be close to her doctors after surgery. Valve approved her request and allowed her to work from home while recovering.

Valve's consent came with a condition: since the now-former employee would no longer be on-site, she had to be reclassified internally as a contractor rather than a salaried worker.

Everything proceeded normally from there, until the translator accused Valve of—in her view—exploiting other translators who, per the lawsuit, were unpaid due to "false promises" by the company. She filed a written complaint, and was fired days later, in early 2016.

Here's where things get complicated. Valve and the litigant tell conflicting versions of events surrounding her firing: Valve says she was not terminated, but rather, her job was being relocated to Washington State where she worked before moving to Los Angeles for her surgery and recovery period. "However, when the Plaintiff [former employee] offered to relocate back to Washington, Defendant [Valve] refused," per the lawsuit paperwork. (This paragraph was revised for clarity.)

The former employee maintains that she was fired for filing her official complaint regarding unpaid translators, and because her supervisor was uncomfortable with her following her reassignment, allegedly referring to her as "it" on more than one occasion.

On April 12, she filed a lawsuit for $3.1 million in damages: $1 million for general damages, $1 million for special damages, $1 million for loss of earnings, and $150,000 for penalties and unpaid wages.

Valve issued a written response on May 20 and denied every allegation, asking for the complaint to be tossed.

Source: Polygon

Shacknews - David Craddock

Humble Bundle's big on encores.Capcom and friends of Nintendo partnered with the digital games platform to supplement previous packages of great games, and now Ubisoft's getting in on the action with Humble Ubisoft Bundle Encore, eight games for $15 or less.

As usual, this Humble Bundle lets you pay what you want for certain tiers of games. A buck gets you Rayman Origins, Grow Home, and Call of Juarez: Gunslinger. Pay more than the going average ($5.93 as of this writing) and you'll add Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China, Splinter Cell Blacklist, and Far Cry 3 to the mix, with more games to be added soon.

If you're willing to pony up $15 or more, The Crew and Assassin's Creed Rogue round out this excellent bundle. Ah, but there's a fourth tier, and this one's not so humble, financially speaking: pay $75 to add The Division and an exclusive Division-branded t-shirt.

...

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