Reader Nick just emailed saying that, for no reason, a Rayman Origins demo had suddenly appeared in his Steam games library. Not a store listing; it's sitting in his installed games section.
So I fired up Steam and what do you know, it's there for me as well.
There are no actual files installed on your hard drive upon first noticing it; clicking "PLAY" triggers a "content conversion" screen before it begins downloading the demo.
Making things annoying if you have OCD is that you can't remove the game. Clicking "uninstall" will remove the code if you've downloaded it, but the actual listing will remain in your library.
Either this is a strange little mistake, or it's a very unwelcome form of advertising on the part of both Ubisoft and Steam. We've contacted Valve to see which it is.
Greetings, Kotaku, and welcome to your mid-week open thread. I find myself thinking about Last of the Mohicans for some reason... I can't imagine why...
Here, as always, are some selections of randomness from around the internet.
And that's that! Have good chatting, y'all.
The first major DLC addition for Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is due in March, and it has pirates.
"The Legend of Dead Kel" himself is the core of the new content, but the DLC promises to add a rather significant expansion onto the base game, providing a whole new northern island area — Gallows End — with quests, characters, and dungeons galore. Also added will be new player housing, Gravehal Keep, featuring an entire estate with even more quest-givers and perks built in. All told, EA claims that the explorable world of Amaulr will grow by 15%.
The Kotaku review found favor with Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and if there was any complaint about the game's scope and size, it was that Amalur was too big, rather than too small. Still, it's hard to go wrong adding even more areas to an already expansive game's world. Especially when there are pirates involved.
"The Legend of Dead Kel" will be available for download on March 20, for 800 Microsoft Points or $9.99 on PSN, Origin, and Steam.
The Legend of Dead Kel [Kingdoms of Amalur: Reconing Official Site]
After nine years of operating in a quiet corner away from prying mainstream gaming eyes, the PlayStation 2-based EverQuest Online Adventures will cease to be come March 29, along with Cosmic Rift, Infantry and Star Chamber: The Harbinger Saga. Let us read up on these games on Wikipedia and then have a moment of silence in their memory.
Of course the game wouldn't have operated for nine years without a passionate, dedicated fan base, like reader Jason, who passed along the tip. He was just playing the game last night, and was shocked and disappointed by today's announcement.
"I was just raiding the Plane of Disease with my guild last night as well as the Plane of Sky and we had 25+ people at both raids, in addition to a sub group that split off late night to do some lvl 60 quests. I work full time, own a house, have a girlfriend etc..., so this isn't some crazy loner who lives at home and has nothing else to do. (well crazy maybe...) I had to attend work meetings at 7am and we were "tanking and spanking" hard hitting raid quality mobs past my adult bedtime and well into the "girlfriend aggro' zone. "
While I'm surprised to hear the game was still that active, I can certainly understand the sadness that comes with an MMO closure.
I bought a PlayStation 2 hard drive years ago in order to play EverQuest Online Adventures, but as a PC player of the original EverQuest I couldn't get used to not having a mouse and keyboard, and couldn't be bothered to search for a console-based solution to that problem.
So where do the last great PlayStation 2 MMO gamers go? SOE is granting them three months of Gold access to EverQuest and Everquest II, both games they probably would have been playing anyway had they wanted a non-console MMO. There's always Final Fantasy XI, but it's not quite the same thing. Perhaps they'll upgrade to the PlayStation 3 and hop on DC Universe Online, though with the bad taste left in their mouths by Sony Online's measly one month notice, I don't see that happening.
No, the EverQuest Online Adventures players will likely move on, disappearing back into the crowd they emerged from years ago when the game's commercial declared "It's time to slay the dragon!"
It's Time to Bid a Fond Farewell [EverQuest Online Adventures]
Things have settled down a bit at the PlayStation store after the Vita-Bonanza of the last few weeks. This week, we've got a few new demos for Vita games, along with full-game downloads of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Storm, and the new Move game Medieval Moves: Deadmund's Quest.
There's also a dynamic Leap Year theme! And a serious amount of Huey Lewis and the News for Rock Band3. I want a new drug too, Huey.
Check out the full list below:
Discounted PS3 Full Game
Killzone 3 Full Multiplayer (PS+ Price: $7.50)
Touchdown Fever Mini (PS+ Price: $2.39)
Free Exclusive Theme
Leap Year Dynamic Theme
Jak and Daxter Collection – Jak and Daxter Avatar 4
Jak and Daxter Collection – Dark Jak Avatar 2
ULTIMATE MARVEL VS CAPCOM 3 – COSTUME PACK (CROSS PLAY WITH PS3) ($4.99)
ULTIMATE MARVEL VS CAPCOM 3 – ADDITIONAL CHARACTER: JILL (CROSS PLAY W/ PS3) ($4.99)
ULTIMATE MARVEL VS CAPCOM 3 – ADDITIONAL CHARACTER: SHUMA-GORATH (CROSS PLAY W/ PS3) ($4.99)
Blazblue: CSE – System Voice Arrange Rachel Type-A, Type-B (Vita DLC) ($5.99)
Army Corps Of Hell – Pumpkin Equipment Set (Free)
Dynasty Warriors Next Demo
Modnation Racers: Road Trip Game Trial
Reality Fighters Game Trial
Touch My Katamari Demo
PS Vita Videos (Free)
Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack: Official Trailer
The Tester Season 3 Episode 4
Killzone 3 Multiplayer w/Trial ($14.99)
Medieval Moves: Deadmund's Quest Full Game ($39.99)
Deus Ex: Human Revolution ($39.99)
Killzone 3 Multiplayer Demo
Major League Baseball 2K12: Demo
Top Gun: Hardlock Demo
EA SPORTS FIFA Street Demo
The Simpsons Arcade Game Demo
FINAL FANTASY XIII-2 – Serah's Outfit: Beachwear ($2.99)
FINAL FANTASY XIII-2 – Noel's Outfit: Spacetime Guardian ($2.99)
FINAL FANTASY XIII-2 – Sazh: Heads or Tails? ($4.99)
Neverdead – Expansion Pack #2 ($3.99)
Saints Row The Third: Bloodsucker Pack ($1.99)
Blazblue: CSE – System Voice Arrange Rachel Type-A, Type-B (PS3 DLC) ($5.99)
Crazy Machines Elements – Brainfood Pack 2 ($2.99)
Soulcalibur V Additional Character: Dampierre (Storefront Release) ($4.99)
Soulcalibur V Customization Equipment 3 ($1.99)
Soulcalibur V Downloadable Music 21 – 26 ($0.99 each)
Soulcalibur V Downloadable Music Pack 5 ($2.99)
Disgaea 4 – Command Attack ($3.99)
Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2 DLC add ons (x10) (Free – $0.99 each)
Elevator Action Hd – Additional Stages -2 (free)
Apples To Apples: Fun To The Core ($2.99)
Assassin's Creed Revelations – The Lost Archive ($9.99)
Rocksmith – Metal Tone Customization Pack ($4.99)
Rock Band 3
Rock Band Network v2.0
Dead Space 2 Dlc Bundle (Price Change) (PS3) (now $19.99, original price $21.99)
Shift 2 Unleashed Dlc Bundle (Price Change) (PS3) (now $29.99, original price $34.99)
Call Of Duty: Black Ops (Price Change) (PS3) (now $49.99, original price $59.99)
Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Price Change) (PS3) (now $29.99, original price $39.99)
Hydrophobia: Prophecy (Sale) (PS3) (now $2.99, original price $9.99)
Assassin's Creed Brotherhood (Price Change) (PS3) (now $29.99, original price $39.99)
MotorStorm Arctic Edge (Price Change) (PSP) (now $9.99, original price $19.99)
Patapon (Price Change) (PSP) (now $9.99, original price $15.99)
UNCHARTED 3: Drake's Deception Avatar Pack #2 ($1.49)
UNCHARTED 3: Drake's Deception Avatar Pack #1 ($1.49)
Carnival Island Avatar Bundle 3 ($1.49)
The King Of Fighters XIII Avatars (x10) ($0.49 each)
The Tester Season 3 Episode 4
Mass Effect 3 "Take the earth Back" Trailer
PixelJunk SideScroller Dev Diary
Kingdoms Of Amalur: Reckoning Launch Trailer
Pulse 2/28 Edition
Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 – Elite Theme (free)
Dynamic Anime Theme 1 ($2.99)
Dynamic Anime Theme 2 ($2.99)
Dynamic Gangsters Theme 1 ($2.99)
Burnout Paradise DLC Bundle ($19.99)
Burnout Paradise Super Bundle ($29.99)
Twisted Metal – Original Soundtrack from the Video Game ($9.99)
UNCHARTED: Golden Abyss Original Soundtrack ($9.99)
ROBIN HOOD & Monochrome Racing Bundle ($5.99)
Game Videos (free)
The Tester Season 3 Episode 4
Pulse 2/28 Edition
PSP minis (also available from PS3 Storefront)
Ducati Challenge – Minis ($6.49)
Trailblazer (Minis) ($2.99)
Japanese RPGs used to be a lot more controversial. Or maybe it was just because I was a teenager during the genre's heyday – you know, when Final Fantasy games flew off shelves, when hours of CG cutscenes featuring teary-eyed androgynes were considered breathtaking rather than tiresome — and teenagers like to argue about things on the internet a lot more than people my age can stomach.
But I was reminded of that kind of controversy lately; Kirk Hamilton asked me to kick in some thoughts on the music of Chrono Cross for one of his recent programming blocks, and I heard a lot of feedback from Twitter and by email about how "controversial" Chrono Cross was in its time, how "angry" it made fans. I don't really remember that; to my mind, it's a widely underrated JRPG, sort of dismissed and swept beneath the rug in the shadow of its lauded predecessor, Chrono Trigger.
Chrono Trigger would have been quite a tough act to follow. I know tons of people who think it's high on the list of the best RPGs of all time, if not the best. Its story of the world through ages, tasking players with time traveling in order to repair rifts in the continuum – and ultimately to save the world from Lavos, an alien threat that sleeps deep within the planet – was unique for its time, and the fact Chrono Trigger's rich world offered players so many complex and intuitive choices gave it a permanent place in many players' memories.
Chrono Cross is only tied to the world of Trigger loosely; the references that connect some of the game's story and places to Chrono Trigger's are generally subtle and kind of hard to parse. Even today, fans want sequels to the games they love and not "spiritual successors"; gamers find it hard to stomach the continuation of a franchise when key recognizable elements are considerably changed. That's understandable.
But replaying Chrono Cross lately, I become increasingly convinced that fan adoration of Chrono Trigger led to the unfair dismissal of a work of worthy beauty. Perhaps the story and the gameplay of Cross aren't as strong – or, more specifically, they aren't strong in the same ways that Trigger is – but what's most special about Chrono Cross is that it tells its story through tone and aesthetics, through a vast sense of quietude, loneliness and alienation that it stages against an impeccably beautiful oceanic landscape.
While Chrono Trigger dealt with the pleasurable brain puzzle of imagining how the world can change with the passage of time, Chrono Cross explores the identity of the individual: What would your world look like if you were the only variable that changed? What would it be like without you in it, what would your house look like if you had died when you were young? Or if you'd never been born at all? If you wore someone else's face, the face of your enemy?
At the game's opening, silent protagonist Serge stumbles into an astral rift on the seashore of his home village. In town, subtle things are just a bit different: The town has a different chief. A coffee shop girl committed to a career in poetry has abandoned her dream. And in your house, you don't find your mom waiting for you, but a bristly stranger who's never heard of you.
Your childhood friend, Leena, is still waiting on the dock where you left her just a little while ago to go and gather scales to make her a bracelet. Except she doesn't recognize you – and she doesn't understand how you'd be mean enough to pretend to be someone she sort of knew who died as a child. Later, at the zenith of a cliff that overhangs the quiet, dispassionate sea, you find your own grave.
Of course, the game very quickly opens into a story that's bigger than you and your identity crisis. But that sense of profound disorientation with which the game opens never leaves, even as the player rapidly learns to traverse between the "Home World" and "Another World." Not even the definitive "Other World", but another, as if this slight variation on the place you've always known is just one of many possibilities.
As I told Kirk, the reason I love the game's music so much is that it so often captures the sound of being adrift, of feeling lost, of beautiful grief. It also re-uses motifs to great effect – for example, the theme song for your home village is different in Another World than it is in the Home World; it's a slower arrangement, but the melody is nearly the same. Loyal fans of Chrono Trigger can even pick up some of that game's musical motifs sprinkled around the world of Chrono Cross.
But my favorite thing about Chrono Cross is the ocean. The visual direction for the game is very strong, very considered; the adventure is distributed across a raw, wild land dug into a massive ocean. There are jewel-green forests hung with eerie phosphorescence, and magma-veined mountains that smolder with a glowing heat you can nearly feel, but the sea is everywhere in this game. From some vantages it's royal and endless, and in others it's glittering shallows, marine green, resting docile around the villages that have built themselves into it, that coexist with it. Exploring the world of Chrono Cross is a delight of bright corals, of mysterious foliage that arches high over swamplands like the spine of a fish, and of quiet white sands where you can buy some silence, alone with the sighing of the waves.
The ocean is such a multifaceted character; it has the capacity for incredible gravity and massive destruction just as it has for beauty and stillness, for teeming life. The ocean is inevitable, and it's the perfect thematic partner for a story about loss of self, loss of identity. As the player you're trying to sort out the game world, accomplish its quest, and collect its manifold recruitable party members (a calling card of Chrono Cross is that there are many-many-many of them, some more interesting than others). But all the while, the sea doesn't let you forget that you're a young, silent boy who has lost himself in the face of forces much more overwhelming and inexorable than he knows how to address.
Because JRPGs are games about gaining levels and better equipment and about gaining progressive control over where you can travel in a massive world, the "growing up" narrative arc is pretty standard; they end up being stories about children who leave home and find their inner strength as they face a great evil. Final Fantasy games usually employ political adversaries that then open up into larger, spiritual or god-like ones. You could even read into it the archetypal story of finding your value system in the context of your community, and later your faith in things greater, as you form bonds with others and learn more about the world.
But Chrono Cross is special. That it contains so many disparate and seemingly-random recruitable party members – though a few are key to the story – seems to be considered by gamers to be a weakness of the game, but narratively it's effective, enhancing the player's empathy for Serge's isolation. Each person has his or her own goals; the game contains no grand messages on love and friendship and unity. It isn't particularly directed, either, with rewards sometimes to be found for simply exploring areas on one's own. It's easy to forget one's objective, to feel lost. The result is the game feels like an essay on self-discovery, a process that is inherently lonely and often sad.
Remembering back to that JRPG heyday, when people were too loyal to their favorite titles to give Chrono Cross much of a sporting chance, I feel a little nostalgic. And I think about why JRPGs seem to have lost some of their luster, and one of the bigger reasons I can come up with is that we got fatigued of the formula.
It's funny, then, that one of the least formulaic JRPGs I can think of – and truly, one of my very favorites – went so overlooked. Lucky thing it's on PSOne classics for you guys to check out if you missed it.
This Wednesday edition of Kotaku's The Moneysaver catches all the offers, promotions and bargains that can't wait until the weekend. The Midweek Moneysaver is brought to you by Dealzon.
• Mar. 13 release Tales of Grace F (PS3) is $47.99 through Thursday, free ship from NewEgg. Next best is $57. [Dealzon]
• Apr. 17 release The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (360) is $44.99, free ship from ToysRus. Next best is $59.99. The "digital premium edition" PC download is still $14.99 at Amazon, elsewhere $30. [Dealzon]
• Tuesday's release SSX (360, PS3) for $59.99 comes with a $10 bonus credit from Amazon. Next best is $57, no bonus from Buy.com. [Dealzon]
• Final Fantasy XIII-2: Collector's Edition (360) is $59.99, free ship from Amazon. Next best is $80. [Dealzon]
• Rocksmith (360, PS3) is $49.99, free ship from Best Buy. Next best is $60. [Dealzon]
• UFC Undisputed 3 (360) is $39.54, free ship from Amazon. Next best is $57. [Dealzon]
• Soul Calibur V (360, PS3) is $39.99, free ship from Amazon, matching Best Buy's price. Elsewhere $57. [Dealzon]
• Madden NFL 12 Hall of Fame Edition (360) is $39.96 + $1.97 shipping from Walmart. Next best is $50. [Dealzon]
• LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 (360) is $19.99, free ship from Best Buy. Next best is $38. [Dealzon]
• Rise of Nightmares - Kinect (360) is $19.99, free ship from NewEgg. Next best is $28. [Dealzon]
• House of the Dead OVERKILL - Extended Cut (PS3) is $19.99, free ship from NewEgg. Next best is $25. [Dealzon]
• Halo: Reach (360) is $19.99, free ship from NewEgg. Next best is $27. [Dealzon]
• Puss in Boots (PS3) is $19.34 from Amazon. Next best is $38. [Dealzon]
• Lego Pirates of the Caribbean (Nintendo DS) is $14.99 from Amazon. Next best is $22. [Dealzon]
• Stronghold 3 (PC Download) is $14.99 from Amazon. Next best is $40. [Dealzon]
• Atari Classics Pack (PC Download) is $9.99 from Amazon. The 9 titles include Blade Kitten, Desperados 2: Cooper's Revenge, Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime, Tactical Ops, Test Drive Unlimited 2. Separately $105. [Dealzon]
• ArcaniA: Gothic 4 (PC) is $5.46 from Amazon. Next best is $44. [Dealzon]
• Xbox 360 Live 3 Month Gold Subscription Card is $17.49, free ship from Buy.com. Next best is $19. [Dealzon]
• Xbox 360 4GB Console for $179.99 comes with a $25 bonus credit from Amazon. Ends 11:59pm Pacific tonight. Best deal since Black Friday doorbusters at Target and Gamestop that quickly sold out. [Dealzon]
• Xbox 360 320GB Media Hard Drive plus free LEGO Star Wars 3:The Clone Wars PC download is $94.99, free ship from Buy.com. Next best is $120. [Dealzon]
• Xbox 360 Wireless Controller is $29.99, free ship from NewEgg. Next best is $35. [Dealzon]
• Xbox 360 Quick Charge Kit is $19.99, free ship from Amazon. Normally $25. [Dealzon]
• PlayStation Move LittleBigPlanet 2 Special Edition Bundle is $79.99, free ship from Amazon. Next best is $123. [Dealzon]
• I-Inc 28-inch IH283HPB 1080p 3ms LCD Monitor is $249.99, free ship from CircuitCity. Next best is $260. [Dealzon]
• Asus 27-inch VE276Q 1080p 2ms LCD Monitor is $249.99, free ship from Buy.com. Lowest price ever by $20. Next best is $260. [Dealzon]
• Asus 24-inch VE248Q 1080p 2ms LED Monitor is $189.99, free ship from NewEgg. Next best is $203. [Dealzon]
• Samsung 23-inch C23A750X 1080p 2ms LED Monitor (Refurbished) with Wireless Docking Station is $199, free ship from eBay Deals. Lowest price ever by $20. Next best is $219. [Dealzon]
• Asus N53SV-XV1 15.6-inch laptop with Quad Core i7-2630QM, GeForce GT 540M is $799.97 with $9.16 shipping from TigerDirect. Next best is $1,000. [Dealzon]
• Acer Predator AG3610 Desktop with Quad Core i7-2600, 8GB RAM, GeForce GT 530 is $899.99 with $14.80 shipping from TigerDirect. Normally $1,000. [Dealzon]
As always, smart gamers can find values any day of the week, so if you've run across a deal, share it with us in the comments.
Yesterday, a grip of alleged Doom 4 screenshots surfaced on the internet, depicting earth being torn apart by the forces of Hell.
Today, more images turned up over at allgamesbeta.com. The images are unconfirmed, but show some of the character models from the game, as well as a building that's been eaten and something labeled as a "nest" growing in an underpass. (It's not clear who labeled the file "nest," so it could well be something else.)
There are 170 images in all, including the ones we ran yesterday.
Doom 4 more Leaked Images [Allgamesbeta.com]
Well, this is interesting. A Best Buy worker just emailed us two images snapped from their employee news section. One shows that Ubisoft will be unveiling Assassin's Creed III on March 5, and that there'll be pre-order bonuses to be had. Whatever.
The other is a shot of what they say is the game's promotional art. Featuring what may well be Assassin's Creed III's star.
If this is legitimate, and remember, this is completely unconfirmed, it appears that the chatter placing the third game in the series in the American Revolution is spot-on. In the background is the original Continental flag, the Assassin is wearing an 18th-century military jacket and from his weaponry, jewellery and resemblance to actor Wes Studi he appears to be Native American. Or at the very least half-Native American.
Especially when you consider that our source tells us that, out of shot, the Assassin is also carrying a tomahawk.
UPDATE - OK, we now have a bigger, better shot of the character below. Click to embiggen!