Shacknews - Asif Khan

UPDATE: Walmart's site is now displaying this error. Please understand. The SNES Mini was on sale for a whopping 25 minutes before this happened. We can assume that they are sold out or their site collapsed underneath the stampeding heard of Nintendo fans.

Super Nintendo Classic is available for pre-order at Walmart. This is not a drill. We repeat. This is not a drill.

Here is the link again. SNES Classic Pre-Order at Walmart.com.

Shacknews - Jason Venter

If you’ve played The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and its expansions, you already know the game’s world is one of the most expansive and beautiful you’ll find on the PC, even to this day. The more than two years that have passed since its debut have done little to diminish that, but there comes a time when every gorgeous game can look even better.

HalkHoganPL, a modder known for his work with multiple blockbuster titles, has been working to improve the visuals in The Witcher 3 almost since the game arrived. He calls that effort The Witcher 3 HD Reworked Project, and he recently updated it so the game looks more stunning than ever before.

The latest update brings a variety of welcome enhancements, including many textures that were created from scratch. They are more responsive to lighting sources, which produces a more vivid world, and the overall impact on your frame rate should be minimal. The edges of bricks protruding from stone walls now look more detailed, tiled roofs now seem more weathered, and even plant life has dramatically improved in some instances.

To play the modded version of the game, you will need the Nexus Mod Manager, if you don’t have it already. You also must make sure the mod itself is given priority, or other mods you previously installed may interfere and produce errors or performance issues.

Check out The Witcher 3 HD Reworked forum topic for more details and support, and happy witching!

Shacknews - Asif Khan

Best Buy has a sale going on right now and running through Saturday night. It is Black Friday in July! We took a good look at the sale and have highlighted some deals for PC gamers. Amazon is also price matching these deals, so we are including links to both stores when available. Please take a look.

Best Keyboard Deals

Best Mouse Deals

Best TV Deals

Best Mac Deals

Best Gaming Deals

Those are definitely deals worth looking at this weekend. Check out our guide for the Best 4K TVs For PC Gamers for more information.

Shacknews - Jason Venter

The Destiny 2 beta is one of the biggest things going, with players diving into the online experience and reporting back on their experience to Bungie. A lot of those comments were positive, at least when they didn’t involve server errors, but it’s also clear the game has some room for improvement ahead of its official launch later this year.

In a post to the official Destiny 2 website, Bungie describes the week’s excitement and shares some comments from key members of the development team.

“We had many updates to the original, but Destiny 2 is a brand new game using brand new technology in order to deliver an awesome experience,” notes Jared Berbach, Destiny 2 producer. “This new technology needs a lot of testing. This testing ultimately helps us validate that our new server model is working as we thought it would, and at the quality and scale we had hoped.”

The post assures fans Bungie is listening to the comments that have been flooding in. Most of the feedback apparently relates to the loot players have been gathering, and to moments of action that define the game. Naturally, players have a lot to say about the popular PvE mode, which the beta’s design lead has addressed in some detail.

“The PVE game tuning has changed pretty significantly since the Beta build was deployed,” said Rob Engeln. “The nature of a Beta of this scale requires that it’s based off a build of the game that is now months old. So, in many cases, your feedback is helping us validate changes that were previously made based on internal feedback and playtesting. For example, we too felt that ammo (especially power ammo) was too scarce in PvE. In addition to retuning the drop rates, we built a system that guarantees power ammo drops for you and your Fireteam from certain enemies, giving power weapons a more reliable and predictable role in your arsenal. Other areas where we’ve made significant tuning changes include grenade effectiveness in PvE, Boss vitality, and weapon damage against non-player combatants.”

Bungie isn’t yet ready to share its ultimate conclusions from the beta event, which remains ongoing (testing just opened on the additional PlayStation 4 and Xbox One platforms, for instance, and the team plans to open The Farm for an hour on Sunday so players have a chance to experience the new social hub). Still, there is reason to remain hopeful about the final project even if you feel some of the balancing isn’t quite right in the beta.

Destiny 2 arrives on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 on September 6, 2017. Make sure that you get plenty of practice during the beta, so you’ll be ready to swarm the servers once the game reaches store shelves.

Shacknews - Kevin Tucker

Greetings, citizens. Friday has fallen, and as we wave goodbye to the work week now quietly disappearing behind us, we welcome the weekend as it crests above the nearing horizon. Today isn't just a day for celebrating another week slain, however; it's also a great chance to check in with Modojo and catch up on all of the latest stories in the mobile and portable gaming universe. Grab your polearms and steel yourself for victory as we rally the troops for this week's Modojo Rewind.

The Imminent Arrival Of The First-Ever Pokemon Go Fest

Arguably one of the biggest stories in the mobile gaming arena this week is the first-ever Pokemon Go Fest. Set to kick off tomorrow, July 22 around 10 a.m. local time, the event is promising loads of activities for players on-scene as well as around the world. There is one thing to mention, however, and it's that there's a chance that attendees will be caught in the rain. This coupled with the fact that attendees aren't allow to bring umbrellas makes for a potentially-awkward mobile gaming situation. Luckily, we've got all the information trainers need to prepare for inclement weather at this year's Pokemon Go Fest.

Since it's not a game to stay out of the headlines, Pokemon Go has also been making the news this week for a new problem that sees Raid Bosses running away after players have spent all of their available items trying to catch them. It seems that the game may be experiencing a glitch -- that, or there may be some type of time-based limitation on how many Raid Battles players are allowed to participate in. For anyone that might be affected by this problem, we've got ideas on why raid bosses run away and what players can do to combat the issue.

Lastly, a recent foray into the latest Pokemon Go APK has revealed the first clues as to how Legendary creatures will work in the game. A number of new modifiers have been introduced that appear to control the visibility of Legendary creatures as well as a condition that labels Raid Battles as Legendary or not. With these snippets of code in-game, players are likely to see Legendary creatures appearing very soon.

Splatoon 2 And Other Headline Stories

Nintendo Switch players have been waiting a long time to get their hands on Splatoon 2, but the game has finally arrived, and it seems fans are loving it. We've been seeing a lot of players of all skill levels jumping into the game, and for them, we've written up a number of guides and handy how-tos, including how to disable the game's motion controls, how to unlock Hero weapons in the game's multiplayer, and many others. For a full look at everything we've gotten up so far, feel free to check out Modojo's Splatoon 2 guide hub.

There have been a few other surprising stories this week, too. One of Tim Schafer's first games, the phenomenal PC adventure Full Throttle, has made its way onto iOS in the form of Full Throttle Remastered. It offers many of the same bonuses as players might find in the PlayStation and PC remaster, albeit with a conveniently-light $5 price tag.

We've also gotten our first looks at Nokia's new Nokia 8, a budget-oriented smartphone that comes with a number of flagship-level features, and have plumbed the depths of the internet to reveal all of the changes that Injustice 2 mobile players can expect from the game's latest patch version 1.5, including considerable overhauls to character abilities and overall balance.

As always, these stories and loads more can be found over on Modojo, your go-to resource for news, reviews, and guides in the mobile and portable gaming arena.

Shacknews - Bill Lavoy

Pokémon GO Fest is set to kick off at Grant Park in Chicago on July 22, 2017, but players around the globe will be joining the fun. Of course, this means that they must figure out when exactly Pokémon GO Fest begins in their time zone, which is what we’re here to help you with today.

What is Pokémon GO Fest?

Pokémon GO Fest is the one-year celebration for the release of Pokémon GO. The event will be held at Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois, and gives Trainers an opportunity to catch a wide variety of Pokémon, including some that have never been seen before.

The official Pokémon GO Fest website details what players can expect to fill their time without throughout the day, but emphasizes that this event will include thousands of Trainers in Grant Park, and millions from around the world. All of them will have to work together to unlock in-game rewards.

Although it’s not clear if this applies to players around the globe or just in Grant Park, those participating in Pokémon GO Fest can expect to unlock a unique in-game medal to be displayed on their profile page.

Grant Park is also going to feature a walking course with PokéStops that award special 2km Eggs that can only be obtained in the park. This, besides the experience, is likely to be one of the most sought-after rewards for Trainers that are planning to spend the day in the park.

What Time is Pokémon GO Fest?

Pokémon GO Fest takes place from 10 a.m. CDT on Saturday, July 22, 2017, and concludes the same day at 7 p.m. CDT. For those on the West Coast, that is 8 a.m. PDT until 5 p.m. PDT. If you’re on the East Coast, Pokémon GO Fest runs from 11 a.m. EDT until 8 p.m. EDT.

Of course, Trainers from all over the world are going to look to take part and earn special rewards, so if we missed your time zone above, you can use a time zone converter to do the math yourself.

To keep up to date on all things related to Pokémon GO, besides when the event begins in Chicago, visit the Shacknews Pokémon GO hub.

Shacknews - Bill Lavoy

Pokemon GO Fest is set to kick off at Grant Park in Chicago on July 22, 2017, but players around the globe will be joining the fun. Of course, this means that they must figure out when exactly Pokemon GO Fest begins in their time zone, which is what we’re here to help you with today.

What is Pokemon GO Fest?

Pokemon GO Fest is the one-year celebration for the release of Pokemon GO. The event will be held at Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois, and gives Trainers an opportunity to catch a wide variety of Pokemon, including some that have never been seen before.

The official Pokemon GO Fest website details what players can expect to fill their time without throughout the day, but emphasizes that this event will include thousands of Trainers in Grant Park, and millions from around the world. All of them will have to work together to unlock in-game rewards.

Although it’s not clear if this applies to players around the globe or just in Grant Park, those participating in Pokemon GO Fest can expect to unlock a unique in-game medal to be displayed on their profile page.

Grant Park is also going to feature a walking course with PokéStops that award special 2km Eggs that can only be obtained in the park. This, besides the experience, is likely to be one of the most sought-after rewards for Trainers that are planning to spend the day in the park.

What Time is Pokemon GO Fest?

Pokemon GO Fest takes place from 10 a.m. CDT on Saturday, July 22, 2017, and concludes the same day at 7 p.m. CDT. For those on the West Coast, that is 8 a.m. PDT until 5 p.m. PDT. If you’re on the East Coast, Pokemon GO Fest runs from 11 a.m. EDT until 8 p.m. EDT.

Of course, Trainers from all over the world are going to look to take part and earn special rewards, so if we missed your time zone above, you can use a time zone converter to do the math yourself.

To keep up to date on all things related to Pokemon GO, besides when the event begins in Chicago, visit the Shacknews Pokemon GO hub.

Shacknews - John Keefer

In his ongoing effort to create more space in his home in Ireland, John Romero has put up some new auctions on eBay, as promised. This time, he is offering a mint condition version of Daikatana and several other rare items from his time at developers id Software and Ion Storm Austin.

The pristine unopened version of Daikatana went up earlier today with a starting price of $10. It has already hit $222.50. "This is a mint box straight from the manufacturer with the seal intact. Never shrink-wrapped," Romero said in the description. Bidding will end Monday around noon ET.

If you remember, and few will forget, Romero uttered a rather famous phase for Daikatana marketing that still follows him. The controversy and the condition of the box, especially if Romero signs it as he always volunteers to do, could run this auction into the thousands before it is finally over.

A couple other are items are also up for bid. One is a mint-condition 1992 PC shareware version of Wolfenstein 3-D from Aptos Software that is still shrink wrapped. Bidding has already hit $122.50 after a starting bid of $10. This is another item that could really attract a significant bid given the history behind the original Wolfenstein. Bidding will end Monday at around 3 p.m. ET.

Another rare piece is an official press kit for the original Deus Ex from 2000. While the game is not included in the box, you get the press pack shipping box from Ion Storm Dallas, a collection of pre-release reviews for the game from various computer magazines in 2000, an advertising flyer, and a prototype of the Deus Ex box that never saw the light of day. Bidding started at $10 and is now at $51.99, with a 2:30 p.m. ET Monday close date on the auction. 

Also up for auction from Romero's private collection:

  • IDKFA Doom cheat code shirt: Created in the style of the Ikea logo, with the caption of "solutions for better killing," The medium-sized shirt started with a $5 bid and is already at $41. Bidding ends Monday at 2:30 p.m. ET.
  • Apple II 2015 reunion shirt: Romero hosted an Apple II reunion in 2015 and created the short with a 1980 Apple Computer Apple II 16-sector disk label and the AppleSOFT Basic program on it. The extra-large short started bidding at $5 and is now at $30. Bidding ends Monday at 2:30 p.m.

Romero will continue to clean out his stash of stuff, so more auctions will be ibound in the coming weeks. We'll keep tabs on these until Monday afternoon to see exactly how much they rake in.

Shacknews - David Craddock

Over three years since the release of the "vanilla" game, two years following its Scholar of the First Sin repackaging, and over 500 hours of play, Dark Souls 2 keeps pulling me back for more. It's my favorite of the "SoulsBorne" franchise, warts and all, thanks to a vast supply of items and gear that lead to nearly limitless character builds.

The difficulty of the SoulsBorne series has been blown way out of proportion. Patience and caution, rather than a big sword and a magic wand, are one needs to succeed. Those with true skill like to think outside the hit box and spec characters in unconventional ways. A year or so ago, I ran an archer build that relied solely on arrows to deal damage. Many guides recommend keeping a melee weapon handy for when enemies invade your archer's personal space. Not I. The appeal of the run lay in choosing a weapon class and sticking with it.

The Handmaid's Ladle poses an even greater challenge. Don't let its florid name fool you. The Handmaid's Ladle is exactly what you would expect: a spoon. A spoon with abysmally low base damage, but a spoon that, when honed in a certain way, can be as effective as (almost) any ordinary blade.

Venturing through bleak fantasy worlds armed only with a kitchen utensil—and not one of the sharp ones—is a lonely affair, so I thought I'd chronicle my adventures in written and video diaries so others with more sense can live vicariously through my expedition. However, I am by no means an elite player. Rather than stream my run from beginning to end and give the Internet masses ample and well-deserved reason to ridicule me, I opted to play the game on PS4 and curate highlights from my experience. I've peppered this and future chapters with video links. You can check video descriptions for the highlights of what I was trying to accomplish at that stage, while these written articles will go into more detail.

I'm about six hours into my character so far. In that relatively short span of time, I've experienced the lowest lows and highest highs of my 1200+ hours playing SoulsBorne games so far. You don't know true excitement until you've chopped down a giant, angry tree boss using a broken spoon. Any SoulsBorne fan can relate to the rush you get when you finally defeat a boss or mob of enemies that have stood in your path for hours you could have spent doing more productive things in real life.

More than the rush, though, I've come to appreciate the insight into Dark Souls 2's game systems that playing such a pitiful character has afforded me. Without further ado, here's your first spoonful of my Dark Souls 2 playthrough.

Stones

A ladle-only run is a soup made up of a select few ingredients. Two of the most essential are the Handmaid's Ladle itself, and an Old Mundane Stone.

Let's talk about the Old Mundane Stone first. Unlike other damage types such as magic and lightning, which are more straightforward, mundane scales with your lowest stat. To wring every last drop of scaling out of mundane, it behooves you to keep your stats more or less even, with one trailing just behind the others. The tradeoff is that you won't be able to specialize in any one stat, so your health, endurance, adaptability, and other key attributes will be dangerously low, especially during the early- and mid-game stages.

The irony of mundane damage is there's very little "mundane" about it. Far from being commonplace, as one might think, mundane stones are rare. Unlike most upgrade materials, you find mundane ore lying around the game world, and enemies that drop them give up the goods infrequently at best. Only one vendor sells them, but not until late in the game. If I was to play a character predicated on using a ladle, I needed to find one sooner rather than later.

There's one way to get mundane stone early, if the random number generation (RNG) gods see fit to smile upon you. At the crow's nest in Things Betwixt, the starting zone, you can drop items in a crow's nest to trade for better items in return. Where previous Souls games offered fixed rewards—trading X always gets you Y—Dark Souls 2's trades are randomly determined based on the type of item you offer. Trading a small smooth and silky stone might get you a single life gem, or you might luck out and get a titanite slab.

According to the Dark Souls 2 Wiki, the crows exchange upgrade ore for regular-sized smooth and silky stones. There are three such stones in Things Betwixt, but only on New Game Plus (NG+) or higher. The quickest way to get them is to roll a new and choose a Bonfire Ascetic as your starting gift. Burning a Bonfire Ascetic advances an area by one difficulty level. After naming my avatar and selecting a class—Deprived, which starts at level 1—I burned my Bonfire Ascetic in Things Betwixt and crawled through a small cave near the waterfall outside the firekeepers' cavern, where the three stones are found. From there, I went to the crow's nest and crossed my fingers as I put down my offerings one at a time.

Dark Souls 2's random number generation wasn't content to let me start off on the right foot so easily. None of my three stones yielded a mundane stone. At this point, the character was worthless. I could have continued playing, looking for one as I went, but the ladle's abysmal damage would have made progress tedious at best. It was quicker and easier to scrap the character and try again.

And again. My second character struck out, too. The third character had better luck, receiving a mundane rock upon exchanging the second of his three silky stones. Between creating and deleting characters, this step took less than 15 minutes. Not bad.

It was at this point that Dark Souls 2 reminded me that optimism in these games is a weakness.

Spooning

Let's talk about the Handmaid's Ladle. It's given to you by Millibeth, a handmaid (obviously) who watches over the elderly firekeepers. Of course, Millibeth won't just hand over her ladle, apparently the only spoon in the world. This is Dark Souls. Every inch of ground is earned, not given.

Millibeth will part with her spoon on one condition: Kill the two ogres haunting the shore of Things Betwixt. That shore is walled off behind a petrified zombie, which can only be unfrozen using a Fragrant Branch of Yore. The first branch most players come across in their playthrough is sold by an old crone in the Forest of Fallen Giants for 12,000 souls. Having just started the game, I was about 11,800 souls short.

The quickest way to earn souls in Dark Souls 2 is to kill bosses. Easier said than done. Remember, my goal is to beat the game using only a ladle. Most speedrunners permit the use of fists, but the hands of a level-1 character aren't exactly lethal weapons.

Here's where Dark Souls 2's incredible flexibility comes into play. Heide's Tower of Flame is one of two early areas players can access after leaving Things Betwixt. Dragonrider, one of the area's bosses, can be killed without laying so much as a finger on him. You fight him in a ring-shaped arena raised high above the sea, kind of like the rings in old 3D fighting games like Virtua Fighter. On the way to Dragonrider, there are two levers you can pull to enclose his arena, making it more difficult for you or the boss to accidentally fall to your deaths mid-battle.

Killing Dragonrider without touching him entails ignoring those levers and acting as bait. He lumbers toward you as soon as you step through his fog gate. When he gets close, he rears back and thrusts his lance as his opening salvo. The trick is to wait until he cocks his arm back to thrust. As he does this, you sidle around him so that he automatically rotates, tracking your movement. When he thrusts, you roll out of the way and he lunges off the platform and plummets to the rocks below.

Ideally. Speedrunners use this exploit all the time, but I'd never tried it before. Three was the magic number once again. I didn't mind, though. Learning the intricacies of exploits is a side of gaming I've never indulged in. Pulling off this admittedly simple trick made me feel cunning and smug, and deepened my appreciation for Dark Souls 2's open-endedness.

Once again, the third time was the charm. Several thousand souls richer courtesy of Dragonrider's bumbling, I traveled to the Forest of Fallen Giants and reached the second bonfire where the old crone makes camp. Twelve thousand bucks seems steep for a gnarled old twig, but I paid it and returned to Things Betwixt.

Normally, the area beyond the petrified zombie doesn't pose a problem. My case was different. I'd burned a Bonfire Ascetic, advancing the zone to NG+ and making the enemies much tougher. On the bright side, I didn't plan to do much fighting. As with Dragonrider, my plan was to lure the beasts up a tight, winding path and bait them into rolling off a fallen tree that serves as a narrow bridge spanning a pit.

This was the most tedious and frustrating part of the run so far. The ogres weren't so bad. They're big, slow, and easy to lure. The problem was a zombified soldier who hung out on the path near the makeshift bridge. He crowded us, standing between me and the ogres, who weren't able to get close enough to begin the attack sequence that ended with them rolling to one side and tumbling off the tree.

I tried beating up the soldier. No good. Punching him with my fists did about as much damage as a leaf throwing itself against a mountain. Elite players such as Lobos—my favorite SoulsBorne streamer—have little trouble with this part, but the gulf of skill separating me from Lobos is about as wide and deep as the gulf separating Dark Souls 2's No-Man's Wharf and Lost Bastille zones, which I presume is nontrivial seeing as you have to take a ship to get from one to the other. I resorted to luring the zombie onto the bridge first, baiting him into taking a swing, then dancing around him and punching him until he staggered off the bridge.

Bear in mind that I had to go through this rigmarole with my zombie pal every time I slipped up and respawned at the bonfire to try again. How many times? The video proof of my success stemmed from my Nth attempt. On the bright side, these two ogres stay dead after you've killed them, unlike the majority of Dark Souls beasties. Rather than get greedy and try to lure both off at once—although I wouldn't have objected had it happened—I took it slow, getting one to roll off and then working on the second.

 At long, long last, the ogres had taken dives. Accompanied by great fanfare—the cheers of my wife, who to my amazement was still present and invested in the run after over an hour of watching me pathetically bait two tubby giants into rolling off a tree—I entered the cabin and accepted the Handmaid's Ladle, the Excalibur to my decrepit, rotting-husk of an Arthur.

Looking Ahead

Although parts of this process were monotonous, I found myself more engaged than bored or frustrated. I went into my bow-only character with a firm game plan. Scrimp and save souls to buy arrows. Run past enemies, saving arrows for bosses. Upgrade my starting equipment, the Short Bow, no higher than +6 in order to save rarer ore for better bows found later on.

 That was challenging, but at least I had my chosen weapon right from the get go. Alternating on the fly between improvisation and putting exploits I'd never tried into effect was exhilarating. This is yet another reason why I carry a torch for Dark Souls 2. Its systems are tough yet flexible, encouraging players to tackle its formidable challenges in their way.

The real ladle-only run starts here. Er. Well. In part two.

Header image courtesy of "SharpTone" on DeviantArt.

Shacknews - John Keefer

Free is always good, but it's even better when it's a great game with some added perks. That's why you need to run and grab Shadow Warrior: Special Edition from the Humble Store right now.

This is Flying Wild Hog's remastered version of the original game from 3DRealms. The special edition comes with some extras, but a few of them will be of little interest unless you have the older games. Here's what else you get:

  • Shadow Warrior Digital Art Book
  • Shadow Warrior Official Soundtrack
  • A Sledgehammer for Serious Sam 3
  • A Katana for Hotline Miami

The sale runs for only 24 hours and will end at 10 a.m. PT / 1 p.m. ET tomorrow. 

After internal debate here at Shack, we have agreed that this classic and its Kill Bill-style vibe shouldn't be passed up. It has the Lola seal of approval.

...

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