PC Gamer

In response to loud and long complaints about the new Essence currency in its free-to-play hero shooter Paladins, Hi-Rez Studios said today that it will modify the system by reducing the cost of Legendary cards from 18,000 to 12,000 Essence, increasing the amount of Essence granted by duplicate Common cards from 60 to 250, and upping the amount of Essence given to players for performing tasks in the game. 

Essence, as we covered yesterday, is now used instead of Gold to unlock Legendary and loadout cards. But the cost is tremendously high, and the rate at which Essence is doled out so low, that making any sort of real progress through the game without dropping cash on it is effectively impossible. Nor is dropping cash any guarantee of success, because all you can buy are temporary boosters or chests, which are subject to the vagaries of RNG. As one unhappy player put it, "spending money wont get you ahead, unless you spend a fortune."   

The changes are meant to alleviate the need to blow cash on the game to gain access to the good stuff, particularly for newcomers. Veteran players were allowed to keep any Legendaries they'd accumulated prior to the rollout of the Essence currency, but newbies are going into it completely empty-handed, which puts them at a serious disadvantage.   

"We are committed to ensuring new players can earn the cards they want at a very reasonable pace and get rewarded for the time they put into the game. As such, in a future patch we will begin granting 1000 Essence for each achievement earned, and will be retroactively granting Essence for achievements earned when that change goes live. We will also be adding new achievements in a future patch for new players that provide a boost in Essence—an example might be 'Build your first custom loadout' which will provide 12,000 Essence," Hi-Rez said. "Additionally, we will be increasing the First Win of the Day (FWOTD) reward Gold from 300g to 450g which can be obtained 3 times daily." 

The studio said that anyone who purchased Legendary cards at the old price will be given a refund for the difference. It also apologized for the delay in getting out Radiant Chest refunds for changes in the Mastery Rewards system in OB44, explaining that its servers are simply unable to cope with the strain of opening all those chests at once. Hi-Rez has thus decided to hand out Essence directly at a rate of 2250 per owed chest, a process it said should be completed by the end of today. 

"In the coming updates, we will be evaluating Legendary card balance and making adjustments to bring them all in line," Hi-Rez said. "We appreciate your continued feedback on this system as we move towards a further balanced state!" 

Patch notes for the next update, OB45, are expected to be ready for reveal next week. 

PC Gamer

You may have held off from picking up Call of Duty's latest annual instalment following Tyler's lukewarm review last year. After awarding Infinite Warfare a paltry score of 48, he labelled it "a beautiful action movie that punishes improvisation, with under-populated multiplayer that can’t compete with a nine-year-old game." But if you fancy giving it a go and arriving at your own conclusions, know that it's free to try this weekend. 

From right this minute through Sunday 1pm PT/9pm GMT, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is free on Steam, and, if you like what you see, is discounted thereafter. Until 10am PT/6pm GMT on March 2, the interstellar shooter is half price—meaning you can take to the wargrounds of space for £19.99/$29.99 during that time.  

A quick glance at the game's Steam reviews suggests players feel similar to Tyler (Mixed overall, and Mostly Negative recent), however it's still nice to trial something free-of-charge. Head in this direction if you fancy that. 

As noted in the strap line above, action fighter Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja STORM 4 is also in for similar free-to-download treatment this weekend—keeping the same now-through-Sunday schedule. 

Ultimate Ninja STORM 4 is also subject to a 50 percent reduction—going for £12.49/$14.99—however this one only lasts through Monday, February 27 at 10am PT/6pm GMT. The Naruto games are certainly an acquired taste, however overall Steam reviews are clocking in as 'Mostly Positive.' Again, free is free if you fancy giving it a whirl—head this way for more on that. 

PC Gamer

Four hours ago, I mugged a homeless old man for his battered DVD player. I didn’t even need to: he would’ve handed it over for a hot drink. But the only shop in town that sells proper, Turkish coffee—he’s fussy, apparently—is on the other side of town, and I needed the tech sharpish. 

"I won’t forget what you’ve done here today," he says, "and you shouldn’t either." A comment I’d pay no notice to in any other game. But in Shadowrun: Dragonfall, it’s the kind of thing that festers at the back of your mind. From that moment on, I’m constantly getting pangs of guilt thinking about Schrotty Buchman, the old man who lives in a junkyard in Berlin, cobbling together scrap just to get by.

In fact, my character, a sharp-talking elf, has turned into a bit of a monster. I’ve shipped a cyberzombie—a troll horribly mutated into a killing machine—to a morally shady organisation just to get a few extra Nuyen in my pocket, when I could’ve put the poor thing out of its misery. I’ve sold the names and addresses of members of a political organisation to anonymous bidders through a pay phone, and I’ve put a bullet in the head of an innocent, unarmed man just because the goons that hired me told me to. "That’s a little cold, boss," Dietrich, one of my companions, says.

Each time, I’ve felt genuine remorse. Other RPGs give you tough choices, but Dragonfall makes them tougher than any other I’ve played. It’s got more heart and more atmosphere than most AAA titles, thanks to its blunt, poetic writing.

That writing has made me feel a part of Dragonfall’s dystopian vision. I’ve been able to justify all the terrible things I’ve done by pointing to my ultimate goal: I need to raise money as quickly as possible to pay an information broker for details about Feuerschwinge, a human-dragon hybrid about to wreak havoc on war-torn Germany.

I’ve just finished one of the crucial missions, blowing up the HQ of the world’s second largest corporation, Aztechnology. If I’m bad, then they’re worse: they’re cloning humans, in vats, to conduct blood magic experiments. I’m feeling pretty good about myself, and I’ve now got enough money to mount my final assault. 

I head back to the safehouse and flick on the computer. One unread message. It’s from Maliit, a blue-haired dwarf who’s been rescuing corrupted DVDs to help piece together the story. "I’ve recovered one last DVD for you," it reads. "Actually, that’s a lie. I was forced to subcontract." 

And who could this mysterious subcontractor be? Who else? "Schrotty is very good with old things such as this. All credit where it’s due." 

I run back to the scrapyard to find the old man, to apologise, to help him find a new DVD player, to buy him a coffee—anything. He’s still there, but his back is turned, and I can’t talk to him. It’s too late. My chance has gone. A story in just two scenes has had more impact on me than other games’ entire plotlines. 

Well played, Dragonfall.

PC Gamer

Photo credit: Helena Kristiansson/ESL

As the snow melts in the north, Dota 2 fans’ eyes shift towards western Europe, anxious but excited for Valve’s upcoming Kiev Major—and more importantly for now, for the invites to the LAN that are yet to be sent.

This tournament is one of two events sponsored by Valve in the time between the annual International. These Majors offer $1 million to the winning team and a guaranteed spot at the next event so long as the team’s lineup remains locked in. The Kiev Major is also, notably, the first official event in the CIS region, which is known for its large population of players and fans. 

The invite process for the Major isn’t always clear, but Valve's commitment to including as much talent per region as possible is. The number of direct invites, or teams guaranteed to appear at the LAN event itself, has remained pretty inconsistent - even for their top-level events. For those that aren’t directly invited but worthy of consideration, there are also regional qualifier invites, where invited teams from several regions fight for a spot at the event. Within those are also the open invites in which any team - yes, even you and your recent MOBA converts - may participate for a chance at a spot in the regional qualifiers. Open qualifier teams have certainly gotten far: Peruvian team Unknown.Xiu was present at 2015’s fall Frankfurt Major, and some teams, suffering from shuffle deadlines, have had to fight back to the top - specifically for TI6.  

Much will be settled after StarSeries Season 3 this upcoming weekend, where many of these teams will fight it out.

In part one of this primer, we'll discuss about two of these regions: China and Southeast Asia. Each of these Eastern areas are hotspots for Dota 2 competition, with a large number of in-houses in the Chinese community and a fierce, dedicated circuit of Filipinos, Malaysians, Singaporeans, and more fighting across the isles.

Much will be settled after StarSeries Season 3 this upcoming weekend, where many of these teams will fight it out. The Dota Asian Championships’ recently-finished qualifying rounds may be an indicator for who’s strong at the moment, as only four teams were actually invited, and the rest needed to fight in similar regional qualifiers. Valve is surely keeping their eyes on these results as open and regional qualifiers draw near.

In this first part of two previews, we’ll peek at who in the East to look out for during the Kiev Major’s invite process.  

Photo credit: Adela Sznajder/ESL

China

As always, the Chinese Dota 2 scene remains highly competitive. The most recent international showing was at ESL Genting, where Newbee took out TI6 champions Wings. The latter was also knocked out fairly early in the Boston Major, and so Valve may not be keen to give them a direct invite. Meanwhile, Newbee has been giving a strong showing in the scene, and so they may be under consideration. If not Newbee, then perhaps IG.Vitality will have a shot: the team qualified for SL and will show their chops this weekend. 

Also strong in the running at SL is the VG.J team, endorsed by honorary captain Jeremy Lin, which also qualified for DAC and is participating in Starladder this weekend.

Valve likely has at least once source keeping their eye on the in-house and Chinese circuits

IG’s primary team may certainly be under consideration as well, as they won the second Chinese spot in the DAC. While their tournament results aren’t spectacular, their appearances are fairly consistent, and it would only be fair to hand an invite.

Many other teams in the Chinese scene have faced roster swaps and mild performances, including Boston Major teams LGD.Fy and their main LGD squad, and haven’t shown up in international settings. Still, Valve likely has at least once source keeping their eye on the in-house and Chinese circuits, and so the slots will certainly be filled with a tightly-packed open qualifier round.

Photo credit: Adela Sznajder/ESL

Southeast Asia

A label of “underdog” isn’t quite fitting for teams of SEA, but they’re often treated as such. With a bad reputation from public game behavior and connectivity issues, much of the community underestimates the power of this region, despite regularly consistent performances in official and/or major international tournaments.

For instance, Malaysian Warriors Gaming Unity took a 5th-8th place finish in Boston and have showed consistent top results in a number of tier 2 tournaments. However, their local rivals Faceless have been a constant presence in major tournaments, placing among the top international teams, especially impressive for their short existence. The two teams will likely be top contestants for a direct invite, and the other will certainly put up a fight in regionals.

After two major fall shuffles, Execration, hailing from fan-packed Philippines, seems to be doing well after recently curing three out of their five TI squad members. Showing consistent strength, TNC most recently won WESG and qualified for the upcoming SL tournament, and so they’ll more likely than not fight for a Kiev spot too.

Normally, at least one iteration of Korean org MVP is given an invite, considering the respect shown for the country s esports history and the consistent showing of the org at Valve events.

Execration had been a regional powerhouse and received a direct invite to Boston, though they were tragically unable to participate due to visa issues. However, they won’t be appearing in Starladder nor DAC, and thus they won’t be able to show their strength. There’s a good chance Valve will give them another chance through the regional qualifiers, given their stellar reputation and massive Filipino fan base. 

Also from the Philippines is esports organization Mineski, which has two squads, GG and X. Mineski.GG has had consistent top results in regional tournaments, and the latter has certainly been training. If Valve had to choose between the two, GG would certainly make the cut, though there may be room for both. 

Normally, at least one iteration of Korean org MVP is given an invite, considering the respect shown for the country’s esports history and the consistent showing of the org at Valve events. However, their more renown Dota 2 team, MVP.Phoenix, split after Boston, and MVP.Hot6 hasn’t been given a chance to shine yet. Depending on whether Valve has their eye on other regional teams, they may have to fight through open qualifiers, but there’s no doubt that there’s potential in this team, given the mix of experience present.

If nothing else, these open qualifiers will certainly be entertaining.

The region’s most famous team, Fnatic, has had some rocky times lately. After failing to qualify for Boston, which was captured in Valve’s True Sight documentary, captain Mushi left, as did many of their other members. It’s unknown if the org will pick up another group before at least the open qualifiers, but it leaves fans both local and international shaken for now. 

Fortunately for Valve and regional fans, SEA has no shortage of teams aiming for the win. In other words, even if any of the above teams don’t make it, there are squads such as Geek Fam, Clutch Gamers and HappyFeet with extremely limited experience but solid potential to keep an eye on. If nothing else, these open qualifiers will certainly be entertaining. 

PC Gamer

Between Tim's thoughts on Resident Evil 7's first portion of paid DLC, and James' impressions of its second—Banned Footage Vol.1 and Vol. 2—it seems the survival horror venture's extra curricular material has been pretty superficial thus far. Not A Hero is due this spring free-of-charge and, if you hung around after the credits upon completing the base game, you'll know features someone called 'Redfield'. 

Capcom has now confirmed that, yes, this Redfield is in fact on/off series protagonist Chris Redfield. 

As tweeted by the official Resident Evil Twitter account, the co-star of Resident Evil, RE 5 and RE 6 will return in Not A Hero, however it's unclear at this stage "who or what" he's in pursuit of. 

Warning: Resident Evil 7 ending spoilers afoot.

Prior to this confirmation, players had already begun speculating (wrongly, it now seems) over Redfield's status within the latest game. After besting Eveline's mutated final form, protagonist Ethan Winters is rescued by an agent mercenary named Redfield who, at first glance, was assumed to be the familiar Chris. But as the camera pulls away, we notice the helicopter that you, Chris and a number of other soldiers occupy is emblazoned with the Umbrella logo—Chris Redfield's fiercest adversaries. 

How does this tie-in with the overarching Resi world, then? I don't know, but I guess we're sure to find out this spring when Not A Hero arrives.

PC Gamer

Civilization 6 is about to get much, much weirder. A post on the Civilization blog on Thursday announced the "Australian Summer 2017 update," available now, includes support for Steam Workshop and modding tools for anyone who wants to give Dr. Eggman his own Civilization. The update also includes team support for multiplayer, premium DLC for the Australia civilization, and the usual balance changes and bugfixes.

The mod tools include the following, as detailed on the blog

  • Added Sid Meier’s Civilization VI Development Tools, which includes ModBuddy, Tools, FireTuner, and the Steam Workshop Uploader.
  • ModBuddy: A packaging and development tool.
  • Art/Asset Tools: Import FBX files into a format usable by the game, as well as customize existing art.
  • FireTuner: In-game debugging and editing tool.
  • Added Sid Meier’s Civiliation VI Development Assets, which includes the game art assets. This is a large download (approximately 7GB compressed download and 27GB on disk) which contains game assets, including models, textures, and interface elements.

The post also adds that ModBuddy will be updated in the future as part of a modding SDK update, and that "these tools do not include DLL source for Civilization VI at this time." 

The Australia DLC marks the first time an Australian civilization has appeared in the series. We got a first look at it on Tuesday, and it turned out "coming soon" really meant soon. The Civ blog says Australia has been a "consistent top pick by our fans," which finally earned it a seat at the table. The Australia civilization and scenario pack costs $5 and includes the 'Outback Tycoon' scenario, which the blog describes like so:

"In this 60 turn non-combat scenario, you race to explore Australia, find its natural resources, and use them to enrich your colony. This competitive economic scenario has no combat. It emphasizes exploration and territorial expansion to increase your Gold per Turn net income, which is your score."

Modding/Steam Workshop support, and the rest of the changes in this patch, are free.

PC Gamer

Players of Hi-Rez Studios' free-to-play hero shooter Paladins are venting their anger on Reddit and elsewhere over a recent change to the game that's widely seen as a blatant change to a "pay-to-win" system. The complaints are rooted in a new in-game currency called Essence, introduced in the open beta patch 44 that was rolled out last week.   

It sounds innocuous enough in the patch notes: Radiant chests are now purchasable for 3000 Gold, an in-game currency earned playing the game, and so instead of awarding gold for any duplicate items they contain, players now get Essence, which is used to unlock high-end cards. Under the previous system, gold did the trick, so players willing to do a little grinding could advance at a reasonable rate without having to spend any money.

The trouble, as Ten Ton Hammer breaks down, is that the ratio is entirely out of whack. The cost to do anything meaningful with Essence is tremendously high, exacerbated by a new "rarity" ranking for loadout cards. The site states that even after unlocking every card for every Champion, 36,000 Essence per Champion is required to access all their Legendary cards, an astounding 756,000 Essence in total. The amount of Essence awarded for a duplicate Common card? 60. 

The net result, according to multiple complaints in the Paladins subreddit, is that gold has been made effectively useless, and Paladins is now a pure pay-to-win proposition: You either fork over money for Crystals (the real-money currency), or you live without the bonuses and advantages that are granted to those who do. The new system is especially hard on new players, because veterans will keep the cards they've acquired under the old system, while newbies will have to start off with nothing.

Ironically, a post on Blizzard's Overwatch forums provided one of the most concise explanations of the core problem: Under this system, players are going to have to spend a ton if they want to get ahead. 

"The previous system was a winner, you could choose whichever card you wanted, for 1200 gold, and it didn't take long to grind that much by playing, usually 3-4 matches, not counting win of the day bonuses etc. Now they have a system where you have to spend gold on chests for RNG cards, and the only way to buy a card is with a new currency, which is only given when you get duplicate cards in the chests," author Zalamael wrote. 

"They allowed us to keep our cards, so long time players have every card available, with the exception of the new ones, but new players are screwed if they want a good deck. They can't even spend real money to level the playing field, because all they can do with real money is buy chests (so still suffer RNG) or buy boosters, which leads to the same problem. This isn't even a P2W system, because spending money wont get you ahead, unless you spend a fortune." 

So it's not pay-to-win in the absolute strictest sense—you can't straight up buy the powerful Legendary cards you want—but players will likely have to put in a good deal of cash just for a chance to obtain them.

Youtuber Joshino spent a few minutes at the start of this stream showing of how quickly even veteran players with more than 100,000 Essence can burn through the resource crafting Legendary cards, and explains why the system will be especially punishing for new players.

Most of the complaints on Reddit are calling for a return to the previous system, although at least one argues that the new system could be made to work by dramatically increasing the rate of Essence rewards, reducing the cost of Legendary cards, and doing away with the rarity system entirely. So far, Hi-Rez hasn't indicated which way it will go, or if it will simply stay the course, and that hasn't made players any happier. I've emailed Hi-Rez to find out more about the situation, and will update if and when I receive a reply.

PC Gamer

Following last year's System Rift—which Andy described as "a decent, but not essential, two-hour expansion that’s ultimately more of the same"—Deus Ex: Mankind Divided now has its second slice of story DLC, named A Criminal Past. As you might expect, it's got a launch trailer. 

Look, see:

As we reported last month, and as you might've gleaned from the above, A Criminal Past tracks brooding protagonist Adam Jensen's first mission for the anti-terrorist intelligence Task Force 29. He's embedded himself as a convicted criminal within a high-security augs-only prison, and as if that doesn't sound dangerous enough, he's tasked with retrieving sensitive information from a fellow undercover operator who's gone dark. 

"Success will help the fight against terror around the world," so says publisher Square Enix, "but Jensen will need to confront a darker side to his role before the day is done." Classic Jensen, then. 

Fancy any of that? If so, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided's A Criminal Past DLC is out now for £9.49/$11.99. If you're already in possession of the game's Digital Deluxe edition or Season Pass then you'll have access to the latest DLC at no extra cost. 

Some online stores give us a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Read our affiliate policy for more info. 

PC Gamer

The DreamHack Masters CS:GO tournament in Las Vegas came to an exciting conclusion last weekend, which saw Virtus.pro defeat SK Gaming 2-1 in a nail-biting final. League of Legends’ LCS continues to dominate the headlines, but there’s plenty of action to be had elsewhere. There’s drama from the Dota 2: StarLadder i-League to the Hearthstone: Asia-Pacific Winter Playoffs. We even have the Smite SPL to look forward to. All the details on this weekend’s events can be found below.

League of Legends: 2017 EU LCS Spring Split

In week five of the EU LCS we saw the leaders of both group A and B, G2 Esports and Unicorns of Love face off against each other. G2 took both games after they starved UoL of objectives and gold in the first game, while the second game was won thanks to Zven’s quadra kill in the mid-lane. Meanwhile, Splyce has improved tremendously and Kobbe’s Jhin managed to secure the team’s victory against Fnatic going 8/1/9. The competition is heating up and Misfits are still looking to rival G2 for first place. This week’s schedule and stream can be found over on LoL Esports.

League of Legends: 2017 NA LCS Spring Split

Team SoloMid have had another great week and their early game has improved considerably since the start of the LCS. In the third game in their series against Cloud9, Bjergsen’s Zed and Hauntzer’s Shen showed excellent control and synergy, which gave TSM an early advantage that allowed them to apply pressure all over the map. FlyQuest suffered an unexpected defeat against Dignitas when Hai picked Jarvan mid, while Team Liquid followed their same pattern of winning one game and losing the next two. Team Liquid may have been defeated by Counter Logic gaming, but they still have a chance to show improvements as we head into week six. The full schedule and stream can be found over on LoL Esports.

Dota 2: StarLadder i-League Season 3

The Dota 2 StarLadder i-League is kicking off this weekend and only the best teams will advance to the playoffs. The finals of the upper part of group А's bracket, OG faced off against Team Secret. In the first game both teams were extremely close but, OG began to snowball a lead and won more team fights. The second round of the series followed a similar pattern and OG took complete control once again. You can check out the full schedule here, while the stream can be watched over on Twitch.

Hearthstone: 2017 HCT Asia-Pacific Winter Playoffs

Last weekend the Americas branch of the Hearthstone Championship determined which four players (DrJikininki, DocPwn, Tarei and Fr0zen) will be competing at the Hearthstone Winter Championship in the Bahamas. This weekend we’ll see which players have what it takes to represent Asia and be crowned the HCT Asia-Pacific Winter Champion. The matches kick off today at 18:00 PST / 03:00 CET, and continue the same time Sunday. You can find the weekend’s schedule and official stream here.

Smite: SPL 2017

The second week of the SPL will continue this Saturday where Elevate and NRG eSports will clash. Obey Alliance delivered a shocking blow to NRG when they beat them 2-0, but NRG will be hoping to put this loss behind them and beat Elevate this weekend. The last time NRG lost a set was to Paradigm at the Super Regionals in 2015, so the upcoming clash will certainly be interesting and could go either way. Make sure you tune into action at 10:00 PST / 19:00 CET. You can find the weekend’s schedule and official stream here.

PC Gamer

As you might've spotted in mainstream news today, astronomers recently discovered seven worlds similar in size to Earth revolving around a star within the Aquarius constellation. In light of the exoplanet find, EVE Online plans to launch its second variation of its crowdsourced Project Discovery with the aim of tracking real-life exoplanets in-game. 

Similar to its first Project Discovery campaign—whereby players submitted over 25 million classifications of human cells to the Human Protein Atlas—the latest venture marks a collaboration between the game's developer CCP Games, Massively Multiplayer Online Science, the University of Reykjavik, and the University of Geneva—including the latter's 2017 Wolf Prize for Physics, and discoverer of the first exoplanet, Professor Michel Mayor. 

"We were thrilled to see the successes of our first foray into citizen science, in which EVE players have been voracious contributors to the database of the Human Protein Atlas," says EVE’s executive producer Andie Nordgren. "In searching for the next dataset for our massive player community to tackle, the stars aligned for players to have the opportunity to directly contribute to the search for new planets with a world-renowned scientific team. 

"Real people around the world collaborating in a virtual universe to explore the real universe is the stuff science fiction, and soon science fact, is made of."

More information on how this Project Discovery mini-game will unfold will be announced via a Michel Mayor-hosted presentation at this year's EVE Fanfest, April 6-8 in Iceland. Until then, check out Andy's overview of last year's campaign.

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