PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Steam in-home streaming now available in open beta">steaminhomestreaming







In-home streaming for everyone! After three months of testing Steam in-home streaming in a closed beta community, Valve has added the feature to the Steam beta client accessible to all. Want to stream games from your office desktop to a living room PC while luxuriating on the couch? The power is yours. Just remember that this particular power is still a work-in-progress, which means it may be laggy or fail altogether with certain games on Steam.



Valve has steadily improved on Steam in-home streaming since we first used it in January. The update notes for the new beta client include a few noteworthy improvements for in-home streaming and features that make it more beginner-friendly.



Added an intro dialog the first time you start streaming a game

Show a dialog if the game needs cloud sync resolution before starting

Improved D3D asynchronous capture performance

Improved OpenGL asynchronous capture performance

Fixed slow system reporting for Fast and Balanced settings

Fixed several causes of infinite latency when client is too slow

Fixed client crash changing resolution with software decoding

Increased precision for refresh rate and capture framerate

Reduced latency when streaming at the client refresh rate



Could "infinite latency" sound any more horrifying? Good thing that's taken care of. Valve has actually been steadily improving on Steam in-home streaming since we first used it in January. The last two updates on the in-home streaming community, dated March 17 and March 31, listed a number of new features and improvements:



Revamped architecture to support many more games and improve responsiveness

Fixed black screen when encoding with Intel QuickSync on Intel HD 3000

Added mouse emulation mode for controllers, toggled with Guide+A

Added hardware accelerated encoding via Intel QuickSync

Added a speed vs quality preference setting

Unlimited bandwidth has been increased to 100 Mbit for those who want to live on the edge

OpenGL games are now scaled correctly during capture



Earlier updates also noted general improvements to streaming performance and architectural changes to reduce latency. More people using in-home streaming will, hopefully, give Valve more data on what works and what doesn't. In-home streaming works for the Windows and Mac Steam clients, but it could be a killer app for SteamOS.



Want to try out in-home streaming's open beta for yourself? Open Steam's settings menu. On the Account tab, click "Change" under Beta participation and change the drop-down box to Steam Beta Update. Download the beta client, and that's it you're in. You'll find in-home streaming in its own tab in the Steam settings menu.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Transformers Universe Founders program includes $450 Cybernite pack">transformers





Developer Jagex Games could have made Transformers Universe a MOBA, but instead it calls the game a MOTA (massively online tactical action game). Which, really, is a unique name for a third-person, class-based multiplayer action game. Maybe a little bit like Smite, but with a few Transformers-specific twists. If that sounds like something you're ready to pay for, the developer announced its Founder's program today.

The Founders packages for Transformers Universe start at a Bronze level for $45 and go all the way up to Cybernite for $450. All packs will get you immortalized in the Founders Honor Roll, an Avatar and title, some in-game currency, and varying amounts of times with the game s Season Pass. Beyond that, the more expensive packages will get you early access to more characters and other in-game items. The $450 Cybernite pack will also a limited run figurine for your desk, car, or anywhere one shows off a limited edition Transformer.

What these founders packs don't buy you is a spot in the game. For that, you can sign up for the game's beta, which is scheduled to launch later this year.

For more on Transformers Universe, our visit to Jagex s Cambridge HQ in 2012 is a great breakdown of how it feels to play the game.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to The Universim wants to make you a planet-managing god">The Universim







It s pretty rare to see a god game with the ambition displayed by The Universim, a new indie simulation from developer Crytivo Games. Spore famously tried to simulate the evolution of life itself to mixed success. In Universim, you benevolently (or wrathfully) guide your civilization from the stone age to the space age, with the final goal being the colonization of the entire universe. In your way stand mundane obstacles like fire, war, famine, alien invasion, and the human condition. With a feature list like that, no wonder Universim is currently looking for crowdfunding.







Even considering its massive scope, Universim looks great. Like, really great. The miniature scaling of the planets reminds me a lot of the much-anticipated Planetary Annihilation, but Universim s more laid-back, simulation-only approach means that you won t be directly controlling troops in battle. Instead, you ll decide what technologies they discover first or which planets they ll be most interested. Once you ve laid the groundwork, the AI will take over and do their thing. For being a deity, you re certainly one of the more hands-off gods in the videogaming pantheon.







Universim is a bit less than halfway to its goal as of this writing, but its still got three weeks left to bang some drums. If you d like a simulation approach to galaxy-spanning empires, head over to the crowdfunding page and check it out.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Dead Island dev’s Hellraid gets upgraded engine, Early Access plans">Chandelier





I m pretty excited for Hellraid for the same reason I m excited for Dying Light. Techland s mix of first-person melee combat and role-playing loot mongering in Dead Island was brilliant, and I ll take more of it any way I can. While Dying Light seems more like a natural evolution of Dead Island, Hellraid puts that same kind of gameplay into fantasy setting. It's also getting some upgraded visuals, as Techland today annoucned it was moving the game to the same engine powering Dying Light.

The transition to Chrome Engine 6 will allow Hellraid to benefit from a new physics-based lighting system, more detailed locations and character models, complex animations, advanced particle effects, and state-of-the-art AI systems.

Techland also announced that it s adding more features to the game. In addition to the story mode and an arcade-style mission mode, it will also have a new arena mode, where you ll fight waves of enemies with up to four other players. The trailer above gives you a pretty good overview of all of that, and more.

Hellraid is currently planned for Steam Early Access this fall.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Halo: Combat Evolved online multiplayer to use GameRanger after GameSpy shutdown">HaloCE







When we first got the news about GameSpy shutting down, the situation looked pretty bad. Once the online matchmaking client shuts down on May 31, the games that still rely on it will have to either transition to a new solution or go offline. Luckily, many developers are working on alternative solutions, and today we learned even Halo: Combat Evolved will still be playable online thanks to GameRanger.

GameRanger, a service that frequently provides a home for games without server support, is free to download, and as of yesterday supports Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo: Combat Evolved Demo, and Halo: Custom Edition. The Australian company previously saved GRID s online multiplayer, and Need For Speed: Most Wanted as well.

As we ve previously reported, Electronic Arts, 2K, Activision, Epic Games, and Bohemia Interactive all announced that some or all of their games will survive the GameSpy shutdown.

So far, the biggest casualties seem to be the online multiplayer modes for Crysis and Crysis 2. If you re really upset by that, there s even an online petition you can sign.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Serious Sam Classics: Revolution blasts onto Steam Early Access">Serious Sam







You can't keep a serious man down. You can try: firing out jokes at his ears, hoping he'll crease up in diaphragmatic agony. It won't work, as he's simply too serious. For Serious Sam, it's an understandable affectation likely cultivated from the mass culling of headless bomb-men. And so, rather than leave him to his own devices, a group of fans have gone about retooling his first two adventures. Serious Sam Classics: Revolution is the result, giving Sam advanced graphics shader support, 64-bit compatibility and full Steamworks integration. The game is now available on Steam Early Access, and is free to all owners of both classic games.







"This early access version of the game will give you the game on the improved engine: The First Encounter, The Second Encounter, and a limited number of new versus and survival levels," write the developers on the Early Access page. It's a slightly odd situation given that both games were remastered in the Serious Sam HD releases, but seems like a nice version for fans of the original style.



But if both First and Second encounters are accounted for, why is the game on Early Access. Aside from the bug potential, the developers are also planning the following additional features:





A brand new campaign with new and exciting enemies, environments and a special ending boss!

The beloved Plasmagun and Minelayer from the Warped mod!

Even more new and refined gamemodes!

Even moooooore achievements, and icons for them!

A fully featured scripting engine for advanced mod creation!

More OpenGL shader integration like post processing and more!

More versus maps and fixes to the current ones based on user feedback!

For modders, we'll be adding a set of tutorial maps to showcase the new features we've added to the engine!

Steam Trading Cards!





Serious Sam Classics: Revolution is available now, and free to owners of Serious Sam Classic: The First Encounter and Serious Sam Classic: The Second Encounter.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Early Access Report: Infinite Space 3: Sea of Stars, Glitchspace and Tabletop Simulator">Tabletop Simulator







I'm in the strange position of absolutely loving two of the games in this round-up, but not recommending them. There's either not enough content or there's a few issues that I can see past into the game behind, but right now are in the way of the enjoyment. It helps that with one Infinite Space III: Sea of Stars I've played the previous games and know they're capable of incredible, delightful things. Glitchspace works very well, but couldn't be more empty. The surprise to me is how well Tabletop Simulator works.



There's nothing quite like the Infinite Space series. It revels in the paradox of being a space game that generates a galaxy, and sends you out for a jaunt between the stars that only takes the length of a lunchbreak in the real world. I adored the previous two games and couldn't wait to find out what state Infinite Space III: Sea of Stars was in.







Each time you set-off, you're given 9125 days to return with enough loot to make a profit. Some loot adds to your overall total, other loot can be slotted into your ship or swapped for goods and services. So you click and your little ship whirrs through space, following the glowing line on the star map to your chosen destination. The galaxy has several stars to explore, and while some easy to get to, while others will be wreathed in a cloying nebula that slows you down. There's also the chance of being attacked at each planet you visit.



Which all seems very dry, but Sea of Stars continues the theme of the infinite space series by being charming as hell. If the loot isn't a ship part, it'll be described like this: "Lookout Frogs: Always met in pairs, these intelligent amphibians were uplifted ages ago by Garthan scientists for use as sentries, scouts and food." That's what loot in Infinite Space is. It doesn't even have a worth attached to it until you pay out at the end. Exploration is a trip through the writer's imagination, and it works thanks to its absurdity.



There is game, though. Items you collect can really improve the ship, giving you defensive and offensive buffs, radar boosts, and engines that can push through the nebulae. With a more powerful ship, you can start fighting rather than fleeing. The combat is all automated according to your set-up, but you can direct where your ship flies and order hired mercs into battle.



I think there's loads of potential in Sea of Stars, but I don't think it's quite ready for a larger audience. I found my ship's position in the world difficult to track, which is unhelpful if you're trying to pick a route through the galaxy for maximum gains. It's also tough to figure out the boundaries of the nebula, so it's possible to be caught when you thought you were clear. The game also launches in a tiny window and the large UI makes it feel super-cramped. There's some work needed to make is palatable for everyone, though previous fans will probably enjoy it.



If only I could change things myself. There's something very Matrix-like about Glitchspace. It's a game where the gun you have doesn't fire bullets, but code that changes the properties of the world around you. The simple levels enable you to manipulate the blocks that make up the challenges, presenting you with diagrams of their properties and letting you change their very nature. The fact that I'm capable of understanding what's going on is the real triumph.







To begin with, you don't deal with the gun at all. Instead you're presented with a red block and told to right-click on it: up pops a terrifying diagram of the block's properties. Actually, I'll just show you.







There's a lot going on there, but it will all be explained as you play. All you really need to worry about is the Scaleobject unit and the Object tab to the right. Everything else is locked. Clicking 'Object' will open a menu and present you with a 'mainobject' unit to drop into the diagram. It has the properties of a 'cube', and plugging it into the Scaleobject unit will transform the real-world object into a cube shape for you to walk on.



The context of the puzzle will help. With a little bit of wandering and staring, you'll understand what needs to be done to the blocks to give you access, and then when you start poking around in the properties the solution will emerge. It's a small but satisfying intellectual treat.



Reshaping the red boxes in the level is the main thrust, but you'll also be transforming movement, stretching and twisting blocks, and then the gun gets brought into play and allows you to affect multiple objects per puzzle, occasionally asking you to reprogram it between blocks. Eventually you'll be given a blank slate and asked to completely change the properties without any prompting.



But I currently can't recommend it. It needs more content. A lot more. There's, at most, about half-an-hour of story, somewhat augmented by a sandbox mode. But really, this lives and dies on the puzzles it provides, and it needs a lot more. When I finished I was disappointed and wanted there to be more, so it has that going for it. I also think the movement controls need tightened up, as most of my fails have come from misjudging a leap with the game's weak jump button. It's got lots of potential, and it's only 5 / $7, but I'd still wait for more game, or at least Steam Workshop integration.



Tabletop Simulator is a game largely based on the honour system: it's a multiplayer table simulator where every object is physics-enabled, meaning cards, dice, coins, and RPG pieces are all pluckable and tossable. There's even a 'flip table' button, and if you can end a game without clicking it, you're a better person than I'll ever be.







I'll admit that I'm here for the carnage. I revel in the tension that comes from sitting across a chess table at an invisible opponent and waiting for the move to end neatly. Make no mistake, there's nothing stopping anyone from toppling pawns or twanging bishops, or reaching over to your side and creating havoc. It's all down to human decency. But there's also a really lovely system here. Find someone you trust and hop onto voip while you're playing some chess or poker (or backgammon, checkers, dice, dominoes, etc) and it's a very easy way to lose an hour. You can even use it to coach someone, and of course eight person battle chess is a real possibility.



Speaking of that, it's the custom games that offer the most potential. There's a kit that'll allow players to create their own online game nights, ranging from simple hand-drawn boards to more complex RPG games with animated figures, lovely weighty dice throws, and that ever-present tension



It runs really well, feels lovely, the multiplayer is working (and allows you to blacklist disruptive types), and there's more to come. I think this is worth the money at the moment.



Worth buying right now?

Infinite Space III: Sea of Stars: Not Yet

Glitchspace: Not Yet

Tabletop Simulator: Yes

PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to First look at Asus’ new Z97-A motherboard">Asus Z97-A







Asus have blinked first on the new 9-series motherboard launch, and their Z97-A is the first of the new boards to arrive in the labs. These new mobos are appearing in preparation for the launch of a slew of updated Intel processors, offering some key new features. The Asus Z97-A is one of their mid-range offerings, and should offer decent price/performance numbers.



It s not as garish as the previous generation of Haswell-compatible motherboards, with a more understated look than the shouty gold-coloured Asus boards. But this isn t a board designed for showing off through your Perspex side-panel, with fancy cold cathode lighting Asus have always got the pricey RoG mobos for that this board's all about functionality.



To that end Asus have packaged it with a new EZ mode in their always-impressive BIOS. It packs a whole lot of information into one screen, allowing you to set up memory profiles, boot drives and fan profiles quickly and simply.



M.2 is really built for the Ultrabook or small form factor generations



The big news though is the inclusion of a pair of new storage interfaces. First is the M.2 interface, which is similar to mSATA in that it provide a slot on the board itself for small form factor PCIe-based SSDs. There is also a SATA Express slot on the side of the board too. Like M.2 it s an interface that incorporates both PCI Express and SATA into one, providing both the compatibility of SATA and the speed of PCIe. The difference is that SATA Express is designed to connect to external devices like the 2.5 SSDs we re using right now.



This means we ll actually start seeing drives pushing past the speed limits the current iteration of the SATA interface have in place right now. Once manufacturers start making SATA Express drives, anyway.



SATA Express will allow for some seriously fast SSDs later in the year



Asus have also updated their optimisation suite to help you get the most out of your machine without having to go elbow deep into the mire of the traditional BIOS. You can theoretically leave the board to dynamically manage fans, power and clockspeeds to get you an effective setup.



Aside from the new storage options the 9-series isn t going to convince any gamers to upgrade from their 8-series boards just yet. That might change when the new Devil s Canyon processors arrive with their promise of increased overclocking potential, but I ve yet to be convinced that they re going to really offer us that much.



The Z97 is meant to be compatible with the upcoming Broadwell CPU launch next year as well. Intel sticking with the same socket for more than 5 minutes? It's almost unheard of.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Hearthstone Help: The 46 best cards revealed">top



Trying to come up with a best cards list for Hearthstone might seem like a Sisyphean task. No sooner have you rolled your list of cards to the peak of Mount Objectively Awesome, a patch or an update or a change to the metagame sends you tumbling back into the valley of Start All Over Again. Did that metaphor work? Let's just say that it did and move on.



Whether you're constructing your own deck from scratch, or hoping to tweak a popular one you ve found online, we re here to help with a guide to the game s 46 coolest and most powerful cards. Why 46? Why not. (Also, that was the point our fingers started bleeding.) To create the list we used a team of hand-picked expert players from the Hearthstone community, plus input from our own in-house card sharps. Here s the team lineup.



Former Dota 2 professional turned Hearthstone hotshot, TidesOfTime (TOT)

Icy Veins resident decksmith and Warcraft expert Poyo (P)

Hearthstone podcast The Angry Chicken co-hosts Garrett Weinzierl, William 'Dills' Gregory and Jocelyn Moffett (GW, DG, JM)

PC Gamer s in-house Hearthstone addict seriously, it's probably about time for an intervention Tim Clark (TC)

Deck-building neophyte Philippa Warr (PW)

Resident Hearthstone Help columnist, Vincent Sarius (VS)



Note that there s obviously a degree of subjectivity when it comes to calling these cards the best, but as you re about to find out, we think these are the most effective (and fun!) cards to have in your hand. They re certainly not all expensive Legendaries, either there are plenty of options for the budget Hearthstoner too. Let us know what else you think we ought to have included, and why, in the comments.



 





Hex

Mana: 3

Crafting cost: NA

Class: Shaman

Rarity: Basic

Transform a minion into a 0/1 Frog with Taunt



GW: Imagine the scariest minion currently in Hearthstone. Now imagine that card becoming a 0/1 frog with Taunt, and for just 3 mana. Tirion loses Divine Shield, six attack, five health, and Ashbringer never triggers. Sylvanas never steals a minion. Baine never steps in for his fallen father, Cairne. Instead of dealing eight damage to you or your minions, Ragnaros literally croaks. Hex is the most well-costed, single-target removal in the game.



TOT: It's not situationally overpowered, it's just straight-up overpowered. Not to the point where it can win games on its own, but at 3 mana it s the strongest instant removal option in the game right now.





Faceless Manipulator

Mana: 5

Attack: 3

Health: 3

Class: Neutral

Rarity: Epic

Crafting cost: 400

Battlecry: Choose a minion and become a copy of it.



TC: Incredibly useful in any deck designed to make it through to the mid-game point.



This photocopier card is versatile, in that it can be deployed defensively, by cheaply mirroring the high mana minion which your opponent has just slapped down on the board, (note: to ensure you're getting true value, don t bother copying anything cheaper than 5 mana), or used offensively to double-down and copy of one of the best minions you've got in play.It s brilliance is proven by how annoyed it will make your opponent.





Big Game Hunter

Mana: 4

Attack: 4

Health: 2

Crafting cost: 400

Class: Neutral

Rarity: Epic

Battlecry: Destroy a minion with an Attack of 7 or more.



P: Based on the current metagame, I have two of these in my deck because all of the decks are playing several cards that are potential targets for Big Game Hunter. Played properly, Big Game Hunter always makes a two-for-one trade. You shoot something down and you're left with a 4/2 minion on the board for a really low mana cost.



TC: Does exactly what it says on the tin: Takes out big minions, and at a reasonable mana price. It s a handy inclusion in any deck which struggles with fat boy removal, but less so if you ve got Polymorph, Hex or Assassinate. That said, it never hurts to have an extra 4/2 minion. Best fielded in late-game decks where you re likely to face powerful minions.





Ragnaros the Firelord

Mana: 8

Attack: 8

Health: 8

Crafting cost: 1600

Class: Neutral

Rarity: Legendary

Can't Attack: At the end of your turn, deal 8 damage to a random enemy.



TC: Ragnaros is appearing regularly as a finisher in decks. Providing you can keep him alive, either by hiding him behind Taunt cards or buffing his health, his unconventional attack means he ll continue operating like a toasty removal turret, blazing a random enemy with 8 damage each turn without taking any in return. Note: If an enemy silences him, he can then attack normally.



P: It's a card you put on the board that has immediate impact and puts immense pressure on your opponent. They will always need to deal with it as a priority.





Summoning Portal

Mana: 4

Attack: 0

Health: 4

Crafting cost: 40

Class: Warlock

Rarity: Common

Your minions cost (2) less, but not less than (1).



TC: Best deployed behind a big minion with Taunt so it doesn t get blitzed too easily while active it slashes two mana off the cost of your minions, enabling you to rush the board. If you manage to get two portals out at once, you ll be able to play some absurdly powerful minions on much earlier turns. Timing is everything, though, so keep hold of the card until your troops are ready.









Polymorph

Mana: 4

Attack: N/A

Health: N/A

Crafting cost: N/A

Class: Mage

Rarity: Basic

Transform a minion into a 1/1 Sheep.



PW: An absolute godsend for beginners. It's not quite as good as the Shaman's Hex card, which is one mana cheaper, but it's still brilliant for dealing with beefy minions. Just don't forget that those sheep can still do 1 damage.



There's nothing more embarrassing than meeting a woolly end because you left your foe's flock unattended. Whenever playing against Mages, it's best to assume they're running two Polymorphs, because they almost always will be. Save your big minions until you've baited the Mage into using his removals on some more midrange threats.





Ysera

Mana: 9

Attack: 4

Health: 12

Crafting cost: 1600

Class: Neutral

Rarity: Legendary

At the end of your turn, draw a Dream Card.



TC: If you get this card drawn against you late game, the jig is often up. Unless you re holding a powerful removal card, Ysera s high health pool means it will keep generating random dream cards all of which are more effective than their mana cost imply. If the owner can keep Ysera alive, they re almost guaranteed card control in the closing stages of a match. Dreamy indeed.



P: Ysera is a bit worse than Ragnaros, but an outstanding card nonetheless. If Ysera stays on the board for two or three turns then your opponent has lost the game. Having 12 health it's usually quite hard to deal with it, especially because it has low attack. 4 attack is the most fucked up number in Hearthstone, particularly for a Priest, because it means neither Shadow Word: Pain or Shadow Word: Death can touch it, meaning the only counter Priests have to Ysera is using Mind Control or throwing away a lot of minions.





Dark Iron Dwarf

Mana: 4

Attack: 4

Health: 4

Crafting cost: 40

Class: Neutral

Rarity: Common

Battlecry: Give a minion +2 Attack this turn.



PW: Early on in your Hearthstone career you might just grow to love the Dark Iron Dwarf. His 4/4 stats make him a solid addition to the board but its his battlecry, the ability to bestow a +2 attack to a minion for that turn which can be crucial for finishing off an enemy minion unexpectedly.



Although it feels counter-intuitive you can also use that battlecry on enemy minions. Say you've got a card like Big Game Hunter which takes out minions with and attack of 7 or more, with Dark Iron Dwarf you can buff up an irritating minion like the 6/6 Stormwind Champion and then POW!





Azure Drake

Mana: 5

Attack: 4

Health: 4

Crafting Cost: 100

Class: Neutral

Rarity: Rare

Spell damage +1. Battlecry: Draw a card.



PW: This dragon has the same basic stats as the Dark Iron Dwarf, but costs one mana more. What do you get for your investment? Well, aside from being a solid mid-game minion with the magic 4 attack stat guaranteed to irk a Priest, you also get a spell damage increase and an all-important card draw.



This really is a great card regardless of deck, but the Azure Drake is especially strong in spell-centric decks and should be considered a must-pick in Arena mode.





Ancient of Lore

Mana: 7

Attack: 5

Health: 5

Crafting Cost: 400

Class: Druid

Rarity: Epic

Choose One - Draw 2 Cards or Restore 5 Health.



VS: As any card game aficionado can tell you, having card advantage , (i.e. more cards in your hand than your opponent), is hugely important. Ancient of Lore provides both cards and a respectable 5/5 minion.



This alone, if it were a Neutral card, would see it run in the vast majority of decks, but Ancient of Lore adds the flexibility of a sizeable heal, enabling Druids to outlast opponents in marathon matches, or buy that bit of time needed to fully stabilize against an aggressive opponent. A pair of this card should be in any respectable Druid deck.





Gadgetzan Auctioneer

Mana: 5

Attack: 4

Health: 4

Crafting cost: 100

Class: Neutral

Rarity: Rare

Whenever you cast a spell draw a card



GW: The Miracle Rogue deck wouldn t exist without this card. Any deck that runs spells is better for it. All spell cards become cantrips when the Auctioneer is out.



The five-mana cost allows a player to easily draw at least one card on the same turn their Auctioneer is played, while the 4/4 stats makes this minion hard to remove for most classes and, as with Ysera, a nightmare for Priests. The Auctioneer is even more effective if Rogues are able to use Conceal or Master of Disguise.





Unleash The Hounds

Mana: 2

Attack: 0

Health: 0

Crafting cost: 40

Class: Hunter

Rarity: Legendary

For each enemy minion, summon a 1/1 Hound with Charge.



TC: Timed right, this dog rush can be a game changer in Hunter decks because it synergises so well with so many other cards. Save it for when your opponent has board control, then combine with minions like Timber Wolf or Raid Leader to make the mutts more powerful. Also works superbly to draw cards in conjunction with Starving Buzzard, or can quickly buff a Scavenging Hyena as the hounds launch their kamikaze attack.



TOT: Combining this with Starving Buzzard, Hunter's Mark or Timber Wolf is brutal for two mana there's no other card in the game that can clear the entire board, or deal as much damage to the opponent. It's extremely versatile. The combo works because Buzzard lets you draw a card whenever you summon a beast, and each of the hounds counts. Opponents can't really play around Buzzard/Unleash either, because if they just sit around against Hunter right, they get killed quick. So you have to play your cards, which only makes for a stronger Buzzard/Unleash combo.





Leeroy Jenkins

Mana: 4

Attack: 6

Health: 2

Crafting cost: 1600

Class: Neutral

Rarity: Legendary

Charge. Battlecry: Summon two 1/1 Whelps for your opponent.



TC: Best used as a late-game closer, Leeroy is a cheap guided missile thanks to his low cost and high attack. Even more effective if you can buff his attack before using Charge, but bear in mind that if you don t kill the hero you ll want a cheap AoE card handy to clear out the two Whelps.



Truthfully, it s worth playing having just to hear him say: All right, time's up, let's do this..." Works well in a combo with Unleash The Hounds, too.









Chillwind Yeti

Mana: 4

Attack: 4

Health: 5

Crafting cost: N/A

Class: Neutral

Rarity: Basic



TC: Glamorous? No. Effective? Yes. There s a reason the 4/5 abominable snowman pops up in so many basic decks, and that s because at four mana you won t find many better footsoldiers amongst the neutral class of minions.



Remember: not every card in your deck needs to have a fancy effect, so long as the baseline stats are attractive enough, but players of control decks should consider swapping for Sen'jin Shieldmasta, while heavy spell users might take the Ogre Magi as an alternative.





Cairne Bloodhoof

Mana: 6

Attack: 4

Health: 5

Crafting cost: 1600

Class: Neutral

Rarity: Legendary

Deathrattle: Summon a 4/5 Baine Bloodhoof.



TC: As the crafting cost confirms, this is one of the best legendaries out there and has become a must-have in many decks. Because Cairne summons another 4/5 Bloodhoof when he croaks, playing him is akin to sticking two Chillwind Yetis down on the board. And hey, you know how much we love those Chillwind Yetis.



He s also a bit like a deluxe version of the also excellent Harvest Golem. Both cards are likely to become even more important as Deathrattles become more of a factor after the release of the Curse Of Naxxramas content in the summer.





Water Elemental

Mana: 4

Attack: 3

Health: 6

Crafting Cost: N/A

Class: Mage

Rarity: Basic

Freeze any character damaged by this minion.



VS: Chillwind Yeti is often cited as the best 4-mana Basic minion. That might be true when considering only Neutral cards, but the Mage class has access to an even better option.



Water Elemental is stupendously durable at 6 health, without being totally passive. It s 3 attack allows it to deal with any 1-3 health minion. Essentially, it s a more durable Chillwind Yeti with the added benefit of dictating board trades by using freeze to prevent an enemy minion from attacking.



It can even stall weapons by hitting the enemy hero. In general, weapons are incredibly efficient in terms of tempo, so being able to stop them from removing your minions can often seal the game.





Harvest Golem

Mana: 3

Attack: 2

Health: 3

Crafting cost: 1600

Class: Neutral

Rarity: Common

Deathrattle: Summon a 2/1 Damaged Golem.



TC: A deceptively solid minion, thanks to its Deathrattle ability, which summons another weaker Golem. Add the two together and you re looking at 4/4 minion for 3 mana.



That also means it can t be taken out by a single attack, other than a removal card, and helps insulate it from area of effect spells. The Harvest Golem is cheap to craft too, so consider swapping a couple into your deck in exchange for footsoldier cards like Acidic Swamp Ooze or Faerie Dragon.





Lord Jaraxxus

Mana: 9

Attack: 3

Health: 15

Crafting cost: 1600

Class: Warlock

Rarity: Legendary

Battlecry: Destroy your hero and replace him with Lord Jaraxxus



GW: Jaraxxus completely changes how a Warlock is played. Knowing that you can reset your hero s life total to 15, equip one of the most absurd weapons in the game , and play a 6/6 minion for 2 mana on every turn gives Handlock players the safety net to use the Life Tap ability as much as necessary.



TC: I mean, be serious, why wouldn't you want to become Lord Jaraxxus?





Onyxia

Mana: 9

Attack: 8

Health: 8

Crafting cost: 1600

Class: Neutral

Rarity: Legendary

Battlecry: Summon 1/1 Whelps until your side of the battlefield is full.



PW: I do not have this card. I would like this card. What Onyxia does is make sure your side of the board has 7 minions on it, so if you play her after a boardwipe you're essentially bringing 14/14 to the table.



It's this ability to capitalise on a later game board disadvantage that makes her strong. You can also use her minion-flood in conjunction with cards like Knife Juggler which spits out random damage at the enemy according to how many minions you summon.





Gurubashi Berserker

Mana: 5

Attack: 2

Health: 7

Crafting cost: NA

Class: Neutral

Rarity: Basic

Whenever this minion takes damage, gain +3 Attack.



TC: The bashi Beserker s low attack is offset by high health and a potent reaction to being hurt, which results in a +3 attack boost each time.



It's particularly effective in Warrior decks, where cards like Rampage, Charge and Inner Rage can make that attack stat rocket (the latter instantly turns him into a 7/6 minion), but any hero can use low damage attacks and/or healing to juice him up. As ever, beware your opponent's removal cards.





Murloc Warleader

Mana: 3

Attack: 3

Health: 3

Crafting cost: 40

Class: Neutral

Rarity: Epic

ALL other Murlocs have +2/+1



TC: For a while Murloc rush decks, which overwhelm the opponent with low cost amphibians, were all the rage and cards like this are why.



Having slapped down a load of cheap Murlocs, (use Murloc Tidehunter), playing this in conjunction with a Coldlight Seer or a Grimscale Oracle, which offer yet more buffs, will create a froggy army. One note of caution: it will also buff any enemy Murlocs.









Defender of Argus

Mana: 4

Attack: 2

Health: 3

Crafting cost: 100

Class: Neutral

Rarity: Rare

Battlecry: Give adjacent minions +1/+1 and Taunt.



TC: If you tend to use a lot Shattered Sun Clerics to buff your minions, this is a great cheap upgrade to consider crafting.



Used judiciously, it s a powerful support card which can change the entire context of the board by creating two buffed minions on either side of it, which your enemy has to remove thanks to the Taunt.



Also consider the Sunfury Protector as a weaker alternative it s two mana cheaper, but loses the +1/+1 buff.





Harrison Jones

Mana: 5

Attack: 5

Health: 4

Crafting cost: 1600

Class: Neutral

Rarity: Legendary

Battlecry: Destroy your opponent's weapon and draw cards equal to its Durability



DG: This card changed the metagame all by itself. Suddenly you couldn't risk playing weapons like Doomhammers or Sword of Justice.



Hunters were giving me two cards with Eaglehorn Bows instead of 10 damage after I proc their secret for them. This card may well be partly responsible for the new weaponless hunters.





Pyroblast

Mana: 10

Crafting cost: 400

Class: Mage

Rarity: Epic

Deal 10 damage.



TC: Little explanation required for this: It s a brute force finisher for Mages. Once you ve drawn Pyroblast, the name of the game is reducing your opponent to 10 health in time for you the first turn on which you receive ten mana crystals. You ll be surprised how focused having this clear goal makes you.



The fact you can hit the hero regardless of taunt cards makes it almost impossible to defend against, other than with secrets. Obviously it can also be used as an (admittedly very expensive) removal card against OP minions.

Mind Control





Mana: 10

Crafting cost: N/A

Class: Priest

Rarity: Common

Take control of an enemy minion



PW: This is a pricey late game card, but what it does is offer the ability to both remove an awesomely powerful enemy minion and then play it yourself. It's an Assassinate plus a killer minion on the board for you.



It's reasonable to expect a Priest deck to have at least one Mind Control knocking about, so when playing against a Priest deck your foe will have to be very careful about slapping high powered minions down in case you bring them over to your own hand. It's less mind-bogglingly ridiculous now than when it cost 8 mana, but still a potent threat to worry about.





Leper Gnome

Mana: 1

Attack: 2

Health: 1

Crafting cost: 40

Class: Neutral

Rarity: Common

Deathrattle: Deal 2 damage to the enemy hero.



TC: Every deck needs some low cost pawns to play in the early turns, and the Leper Gnome is one of the best cheap cards.



Its Deathrattle means that pretty much however your opponent chooses to kill it, short of wasting a removal card in which case, fine! You re still getting great mana value they ll be taking a two-damage hit. The more defensive Argent Squire, and the versatile Elven Archer, are also strong one-mana options.





Ironbeak Owl

Mana: 2

Attack: 2

Health: 1

Crafting cost: 40

Class: Neutral

Rarity: Common

Battlecry: Silence a minion.



TC: Definitely does not look badass, but hugely useful nonetheless. It s silence ability will remove all abilities and buffs from a single minion which is particularly effective against large late game minions with Taunt, or ramped-up minions using Stealth. Being a beast, it also synergises well with Hunter decks. Druids have a more expensive option when it comes to silencing minions in the form of the versatile Keeper of the Grove card, which can alternatively opt to deal two damage as its battlecry.



PW: Don't forget that silence can also be applied to your own minions, meaning you can use it to remove unwanted attributes like the 'Can't attack' condition on your 4/5 Ancient Watcher. Sneaky owls!





Acidic Swamp Ooze

Mana: 2

Attack: 3

Health: 2

Crafting cost: N/A

Class: Neutral

Rarity: Basic

Battlecry: Destroy your opponent's weapon.



PW: One of the first things I learned in Hearthstone was the value of the Acidic Swamp Ooze. Some of enemy heroes have nasty weapons and this card gets rid of those cheaply.



Keep it in your hand to deal with weapon-wielding classes like Warriors, Rogues and Paladins but remember that Shaman and Hunter decks can also pack weapons. Even if you're sure you're up against a weaponless deck the Ooze is still a decent low cost 3/2 minion for you to play as required.





Bloodmage Thalnos

Mana: 2

Attack: 2

Health: 1

Crafting cost: 1600

Class: Neutral

Rarity: Legendary

Spell Damage +1. Deathrattle: Draw a card.



TC: Aside from looking absolutely badass, Thalnos is as good as inexpensive legendaries get. (Well, he s cheap in terms of Mana, not Dust if you want to craft him.)



Two mana for even a single turn of +1 spell damage and then drawing a card when he, inevitably, dies is well worth the cost. Make sure you play him once you can afford to also immediately cast a spell for maximum value.









Questing Adventurer

Mana: 3

Attack: 2

Health: 2

Crafting cost: 40

Class: Neutral

Rarity: Rare

Whenever you play a card, gain +1/+1.



TC: The power of the Questing Adventurer s ability will become obvious from how quickly your opponent always seeks to kill him.



Left unchecked, his stats will ramp as quickly as you re able to play cards meaning this card works best with Zoo and rush -type decks that favour lots of low cost minions. Playing the coin and cheap spells also works too. In short: a very effective annoyance to have in your hand.





Savannah Highmane

Mana: 6

Attack: 6

Health: 5

Crafting cost: 100

Class: Hunter

Rarity: Rare

Deathrattle: Summon two 2/2 Hyenas.



VS: This card is absolutely insane. Cairne Bloodhoof is considered a high value minion for his respectable 8/10 in combined stats, but Savannah Highmane gives you a surreal 10/9 spread out over three targets, which makes it even harder to deal with, requiring both single-target removal and a separate AoE spell to fully clear it from the board.



In addition, Highmane is a Beast, giving it increased synergy with Houndmaster, Starving Buzzard, and Tundra Rhino, to name a few of the scarier combos. When you re holding a Rare which trades favorably with every minion in the game except the 4/12 Dragons, Deathwing, or an Ancient of War, you know you have one of the best cards in the game.



JM: The most legendary non-legendary! At 6 mana, this 6/5 beast is fairly well costed already when you consider how well Beasts synergize in hunter decks. Add in the fact that you get another 4 health and 4 attack spread over two other Beast minions when your Highmane dies which will trigger any other Beast related effects like the +1 attack from your Timber Wolf or the card draw off your Buzzard and you're laughing all the way to the bank! Not to mention this card is only a RARE, which means you can run with two!





Swipe

Mana: 4

Crafting cost: 40

Class: Druid

Rarity: Basic

Deal 4 damage to an enemy and 1 damage to all other enemies.



TC: One of the main reasons why Druid control decks proved effective against the wave of minions coming from Shaman and Hunter rush decks.



It s one of the game s most versatile spells, because the 4 points of damage against its primary target can be applied to the enemy hero or a minion, removing many mid-range minions entirely.



The splash effect on other minions, particularly if you can also buff your spell damage first, also make it a brilliant board clearance card.





Knife Juggler

Mana: 2

Attack: 3

Health: 2

Crafting cost: 100

Class: Neutral

Rarity: Rare

Deal 4 damage to an enemy and 1 damage to all other enemies.



TC: An absolute bastard of a card for just 2 mana. The Juggler will have to be protected behind Taunt cards, or buffed effectively, in order to make the most of his ability, but played in a deck with a lot of cheap minions Paladin, Warlock and Shaman in particular this card can help take and maintain board control. Worst case scenario your opponent blows a removal card on him. A great trade at this price.



DG: I call him the Knife Juggalo cuz he stabs people. For some reason I got two gold Juggalos early on in the beta so they went in every deck, even before I realized how good they were. Lately I've added them to my midrange Hunter deck, and when I unleash the doggies I also unleash a flurry of throwing knives. It's amazing.





Soulfire

Mana: 0

Crafting cost: N/A

Class: Warlock

Rarity: Basic

Deal 4 damage. Discard a random card.



TOT: Four damage for zero mana. You discard a card, yeah, but Wow. That's a ridiculous tempo card. The Warlock's hero power is to draw a card, so discarding a card is more often than not irrelevant and, if Soulfire is the only card in your hand, you get to inflict the damage for free.



TC: For nada Mana, it's just a ridiculously versatile card which you can use to remove minions, or increase pressure on the opposing hero's health pool, while also still playing other cards. I can't think of a single reason why any self-respecting Warlock wouldn't carry a brace of these.





Youthful Brewmaster

Mana: 2

Attack: 3

Health: 2

Crafting cost: 40

Class: Neutral

Rarity: Common

Battlecry: Return a friendly minion from the battlefield to your hand.



PW: Given how helpful battlecries can be, why wouldn't you want the card which lets you get double their usage? Now Nightblade can do 6 damage to the enemy's hero and Novice Engineers and Gnomish Inventors get two card draws instead of one.



Youthful Brewmaster also allows you to reset any damage to the card. What you do is carry out whatever attacks you like with the minion, then return it to your hand damaged (but not dead, obviously). When you play it back onto the board, possibly in the same turn, it'll be back to its original attack and health, plus other effects like silence will have been removed. As will buffs. So it s not all gravy.





Equality

Mana: 2

Crafting cost: 100

Class: Paladin

Rarity: Rare

Change the Health of ALL minions to 1



VS: Equality is easily one of the best cards in the game. It's incredibly cheap in terms of mana, which allows it to be synergised with a host of other cards easily especially Wild Pyromancer and Consecration. Used in combo with Consecration, Equality allows for a complete board clear, regardless of the toughness of the enemy minions. Only creatures with Divine Shield will survive the sweep.



If we look at similar cards, Flamestrike costs 7 mana for a sorta-clear, but won t kill creatures with 5 or more Health. Another similar card is Twisting Nether, which clears both sides of the board for 8 mana. Equality enables a total board clear too, but for 4 mana less when played in conjunction with Wild Pyromancer. This card is arguably what keeps the Paladin from being entirely irrelevant and, in my opinion, is the best AoE attack in the game.





Doomguard

Mana: 5

Attack: 5

Health: 7

Crafting cost: 100

Class: Warlock

Rarity: Rare

Charge. Battlecry: Discard two random cards.



TOT: Even if you have to discard two cards, a 5/7 Charge? I don't think there's any card that comes close to the tempo boost of playing Doomguard. (Tempo being the pacing of the game as determined by how efficiently you use your mana.)



The Doomguard's 5/7 stats mean it can pretty much kill any 3, 4, or 5-mana drop in the game. And of course can also use it to hit the hero's face too.









Power Word: Shield

Mana: 1

Crafting cost: N/A

Class: Priest

Rarity: Basic

Give a minion +2 Health. Draw a card.



VS: So, I love cantrips. Always have. Being able to draw an extra card is very important in many card games, since it essentially 'thins' your deck from the regular size. A smaller deck-size effectively means fewer cards waiting to be drawn, so there s less chance of getting bogged down by cards which are ineffective in the current match. Power Word: Shield is probably the best cantrip in Hearthstone because it s cheap and also has a respectable primary effect.



Health, in general, is better than attack, because a durable card will enable you to attack several times for greater combined damage than a single high-damage attack. Being able to score advantageous trades at the start can also often snowball the match in your favor. Even when drawn late this card still enables advantageous trades, or speeds up you drawing the key finisher card that you need. As with Ancient of Lore, if this were a Neutral card, it would be run in a large amount of decks.





SI:7 Agent

Mana: 3

Attack: 3

Health: 3

Crafting cost: 100

Class: Rogue

Rarity: Rare

Combo: Deal 2 damage



VS: This card is insane, and a huge part of what makes the Rogue class so good in terms of Tempo . Being able to kill almost any 1 or 2 drop card, and leave behind a decent 3/3 minion is crazy value. When we look at similar Neutral cards, the Ironforge Rifleman only deals 1 damage and loses out on 1 health and 1 attack. The Stormpike Commando costs 5 mana for the same damage, but has 1 less health, though it does have slightly more attack.



Now, of course SI:7 does have to played after another card in order to create the combo effect and deal its damage, which can occasionally be a problem, particularly when going first. However, with the plethora of cheap minions or spells that Rogue decks run, it s less of a worry. Oh, and Coin, Backstab, SI:7, SI:7, Backstab is the best possible starting hand of any class in Hearthstone. Being able to drop an SI:7 on the second turn is absolutely huge.





Defias Ringleader

Mana: 2

Attack: 2

Health: 2

Crafting cost: 40

Class: Rogue

Rarity: Common

Combo: Summon a 2/1 Defias Bandit.



TC: Here s another really fun early-game combo for Rogues to experiment with. Play the Ringleader after any other card and he ll summon a 2/1 Bandit. Next, use Shadowstep to return the Ringleader to your hand, where because he now costs 2 mana less, meaning you can play him again for free, and because the combo is still in effect you ll summon another Bandit.



So that s three minions on the board, and a total of 6/4 in terms of attack/health points. And if you use the coin and luckily draw the cards in your starting hand, you can actually play it on your first turn!





Fiery War Axe

Mana: 2

Attack: 3

Durability: 2

Crafting Cost: N/A

Class: Warrior

Rarity: Basic



VS: This card is the ol' reliable of the Warrior class. It's certainly not very flashy, all it does is kill 2 minions for 2 mana. Wait, excuse me? That's right, Fiery War Axe, like many weapons, is a machine which you can use to convert health into minion removal.



Early-game advantage is very important, so being able to remove even a couple of low cost creatures, like a River Crocolisk and a Stonetusk Boar, already gives you not only a card advantage (because one Fiery War Axe destroys two Cards), but also a trading advantage (because it takes 2 mana to remove 3 mana s worth of minions).



Much like Ancient of Lore for Druids, every single Warrior deck I have ever seen runs two of this card, and for understandable reasons: Reliability and Efficiency.





Spellbreaker

Mana: 4

Attack: 4

Health: 3

Crafting cost: 40

Class: Neutral

Rarity: Common

Battlecry: Silence a minion



JM: The Spellbreaker is like a beefier Ironbeak Owl, The Owl gives you a 2/1 minion for 2 mana, whereas the Spellbreaker is a 4/3 for 4... It's like one bonus point of health! Silence will be huge in the metagame likely to result from the cards released as part of the upcoming Curse Of Naxxramas adventure mode, because you can remove anything really tricky effects, like Baron Rivendare causing deathrattles to trigger twice, completely disrupting a player's strategy.



When the initial silencing battlecry is complete, you still have a pretty threatening minion on board, especially if he is hidden behind a taunt minion. On top of that, like the Owl, he's a common card, so he doesn't cost a lot to craft.





Siphon Soul

Mana: 6

Crafting cost: 100

Class: Warlock

Rarity: Rare

Destroy a minion. Restore 3 Health to your hero.



VS: I really like Siphon Soul. For only 1 mana more than Assassinate, you gain 3 health. Which is a fair price (3 points of healing ought to cost 1 mana, judging by Holy Light), but it s also a crucial card for Warlocks . The Life Tap ability means Warlocks can always convert health into Card Advantage, so Siphon Soul is a very flexible form of removal. 6 mana is also a relatively flexible price.



In the late game you can drop a 4 mana minion in the same turn, and there is generally a large surge in power between 3-mana and 4-mana cards. So, would Siphon Soul be a better card if it cost 7 mana and let you destroy a minion and regain 6 health? Well, it would certainly be run in Control Warlock decks, but its best combo play would be with Earthen Ring Farseer. Now, a 9 health swing is certainly handy, but imagine dropping a 0 mana Molten Giant, using Siphon Soul to kill an enemy minion, and then using Taunt on the Molten Giant with Defender of Argus. Boom!





The Black Knight

Mana: 6

Attack: 4

Health: 5

Crafting cost: 1600

Class: Neutral

Rarity: Legendary

Battlecry: Destroy an enemy minion with Taunt



It's easy to see why players are regularly including this Legendary in all sorts of decks. The base stats are the same as our beloved Chillwind Yeti, but the extra 2 mana cost buys you instant death for a minion with taunt, regardless of how much health it has.



So, you get a very decent minion and an outstanding removal card rolled into one. Perfect for knocking a hole in your opponent's late-game defence "Sayonara, Ironbark Protector!" and leaving them open for the kill.





Lightning Storm

Mana: 3

Crafting cost: 100

Class: Shaman

Rarity: Rare

Deal 2-3 damage to all enemy minions. Overload: (2)



VS: The best standalone AoE spell in the game. At worst, this is like Consecrate for 1 more mana but playable a turn earlier. At best, it can be combined with +1 Spellpower for a 3-mana Flamestrike. Useable so early in the match, the Shaman can often insta-win against aggressive rush decks like Murloc or even Zoo. There are a lot of differing opinions on Overload as a mechanic, personally I think of it as 'borrowing' mana from the next turn, so you can play a 5-mana card like Lightning Storm on the third turn, but you can only play 2-mana s worth of cards on the next turn.



Often the problem with Overload is that it leads to a very damaging tempo hit if your opponent can play 4 mana s worth of cards whilst you only play 2, your advantage slips away. However, AoE spells like Lightning Storm by their nature lead to a tempo gain since you can potentially kill 6 mana s worth of minions on turn 3, and possibly far more in later turns. In short: The spell s power cancels out any disadvantage.





Northshire Cleric

Mana: 1

Attack: 1

Health: 3

Crafting cost: N/A

Class: Priest

Rarity: Basic

Whenever a minion is healed, draw a card



PW: This is an entirely selfish pick for this list because it was the card which caused my favourite Hearthstone victory of all time. Don't get me wrong, it's a good card anyway. It gives the Priest great draw power and synergises well with cards like Holy Nova and Circle of Healing. Perhaps a little too well sometimes.



Very early on I was playing against a Priest who decided not to end the game but do a spot of showboating. Instead of just going for the GG he decided to heal every one of his seven minions and drew seven cards. Except the draw power of having two Clerics had left the Priest's deck with only one card to draw. That meant thirteen hits of fatigue from drawing non-existent cards which works out at 91 damage to the Priest. A cautionary tale, to be sure, but one which left me DELIGHTED and victorious.
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title="Permanent Link to Tropico 5 first-look: become a dictator and build a despotic dynasty in this reformist sequel">Tropico 5







They say that power corrupts, but I suspect it also ages. A once freshfaced candidate, swept into office on an upswell of hope and enthusiasm, will inevitably leave as a wearied, greying husk. In that sense, Tropico 4 was the outgoing incumbent.



The last game in the politically parodic city-building series didn t introduce new ideas, it merely provided additions to existing features. It brought more buildings, more edicts and more superpowers for El Presidente to deal with, but the telltale tiredness was starting to show. To rejuvenate the franchise its developers, Haemimont Games, were in need of a systemic revolution.



Tropico 5 feels like that revolution. It s still built on the same foundation, but massively expands and develops the infrastructure of the game. Throughout the demonstration I was given of the preview build, producer Bisser Dyankov showed off the variety of situations and problems that players might face.



It s a sign that the team recognise one of the limitations of their previous games. While sandbox construction is usually thought of as the heart of city-building sims, earlier Tropicos were designed around scripted missions. When left to their own devices, players could all too easily settle into a comfortable routine, regularly deploying the same handful of tricks to ensure the smooth running of their island. While Tropico 5 will still feature a campaign, the real focus is on that sandbox. Haemimont want to unsettle dictatorial rulers through dynamic events designed to prevent them falling back on tried and tested solutions.







The most obvious example is in the challenges thrown up by the game s four eras. The series is no longer trapped in an indefinite Cold War. Instead, players progress in stages through to the 21st century. Each time period has not only a different architectural sensibility, but a distinct set of goals to meet. In the colonial era Tropico 5 s starting point you re not the island s glorious leader, but a governor appointed by the crown. Here you extend your stay in power through shows of loyalty to the motherland, rather than through elections (or election fraud).



That loyalty is feigned. You leave the colonial period by declaring your nation s independence, which means your real goal is to prepare for that separation from your imperialist masters. The challenge is to balance outward obedience with internal rebellion, reaping the benefits from the tropical commission while laying the groundwork for solo rule. Naturally, your colonial overseers will be unhappy about this act of secession when it comes. Survival depends on the readiness of an island s military, and the stability of its economy.



As an example of the choices players must make, Dyankov showed me an early event completion screen. Throughout the game, factions and rulers will ask you to perform certain actions. In this instance, a specific building was requested to help boost the island s ability to harvest raw materials, thus increasing its economic growth. As a reward for following orders, the governor s mandate his ticking clock of time in power was extended, and an extra boon offered. The issue became whether to choose an additional number of immigrants, a deposit in the island s treasury, a further mandate extension, or to make a donation to the governor s Swiss bank account. All are desirable: the player s choice will serve to determine which shortfalls will need correcting further down the line.







Even here, there are further considerations in the long term. Immigration will be a key factor during the early game, as new workers for your industries are in short supply. But while the promise of growing your population is appealing, any new citizens will be of the royalist faction loyal to the crown, and thus damaging to your attempt at independence.



While each era has a distinct set of goals and considerations, they combine to form a continuous timeline for your city. By the time you get to the modern era, an island s history is written into everything from its layout to its architectural variety. A stately colonial mansion might border a block of mid-20th-century concrete tenements, both in the shadow of looming modern skyscrapers. It s not simply an aesthetic touch, but also a question of efficiency, cost, infrastructure and resources.



Many buildings can be upgraded over time, provided players unlock the relevant technology through the new research system. Improve a farm, and the large fields requiring manual labour are replaced with a more efficient and more compact greenhouse. As always, there s a downside to the reduced real-estate. High-tech buildings require both electricity and skilled workers, which means the effort to get them running may outweigh the benefits.











Some buildings can be repurposed in later years. A military fort can be both the bulwark of a colonial city, and the tourist centrepiece of a modern one.



In this way Haemimont hope to enable players to experience the development of their city, and to imbue their choices with far-reaching consequences. The effects of one era can be felt in the next, as the political and societal landscapes shift. Based on the dilemmas I was shown, it seems unlikely that careless play will completely sabotage the late-game stages, but the number of possibilities suggest that sound planning will be rewarded, and that small variations can lead to a diverse set of problems to solve as the game unfolds.



An island s constitution provides another way for players to define their rule. After leaving the colonial era, you enter the World Wars phase, where your tiny banana republic must thrive amid the turmoil of warring superpowers. It s at this point that the game starts to more closely resemble previous Tropicos, as the island s ruler takes the familiar title of El Presidente. It s also here that players set the founding tenets that will come to shape their future civilisation.



The constitution is designed to be a lasting and slowly evolving document alterations to it are only possible after a ten-year period. Once again, your choices will have a lasting effect of positives and negatives. Male-only voting rights might ensure easier election victories and a stronger military, but increase the chance of a revolution from the disenfranchised population. The changing eras have an influence here too. The religious faction will initially be thrilled and further bolstered by a declaration of theocracy, but even they will become unhappy if it persists through to the modern age.







Certain game systems will ask you to make difficult decisions within individual eras. Trade offers enable players to take advantage of timelimited offers of increased value for goods and resources. In the World Wars era, steel is a key resource that will be in higher demand during periods of international conflict. The dilemma lies in whether you want to gear your industrial production to take advantage of the economic potential, only to be lumbered with a less efficient industry when the demand lowers. Trade can bring further unintended consequences. Bootleg liquor is another valuable commodity during this early era, one that can be smuggled to the USA as it struggles to enforce prohibition. It sounds profitable, but comes at the cost of an influx in organised crime.



If this is all starting to sound distinctly un-Tropican, it s more a case that these new features are designed to build neatly onto the series familiar elements. The returning systems have been fleshed out to provide an added purpose to their role in the game. A case in point is the Swiss bank account, which in previous Tropicos served only as the player s score. Here, the money that you embezzle can be used to level up El Presidente s dynasty.



Rather than a single ruler, in Tropico 5 you re responsible for an entire family. Not only will they walk and work around the island, they can also be selected to trigger an election and take over the presidential role. Each member of your dynasty will have different, upgradeable attributes that can be beneficial at certain times throughout the life of a city. Maybe you ll want an economic leader to make the most of a particular trade deal, or a diplomatic one to cool tempers and hold off a foreign invasion.







During one such election, Dyankov was trailing heavily in the polls. The resulting workaround was a promising example of how the new systems will enhance the old. On course to lose the election, his only solution was to enact the martial law edict. To do this, a city needs three barracks something time and economy wouldn t allow. Dyankov was able to raise the necessary funds by borrowing bonds from international capital markets. With the barracks ordered, he could speed their construction through new, expanded options for building management. Increasing funding for the construction office ensured quicker build times on the barracks enabling a declaration of martial law before the election results were called.



It was a classic Tropico move. The economy was in ruins, the people were incensed, but, most importantly, El Presidente was still in power. Tropico 5 may be the energetic young reformist with fresh ideas and smart innovations, but it seems set to be as delightfully corrupt as ever.
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