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title="Permanent Link to Dota 2 trading cards and figures spotted at Valve HQ">Dota 2 trading cards







The picture above was snapped by master patch eviscerator Matt "Cyborgmatt" Bailey at Valve HQ. As PCGamesN report, Valve flew him out to Seattle for The International, but failed to confiscate his camera and erase his memories. The images on his Twitpic account show a few Dota 2 trading cards and a sign inviting readers to "spend $40 to get a pack of cards guaranteed to contain 1 courier." A trading card game that can unlock in-game Dota 2 rewards? This could be the end of Owen.



A prototype Axe figure was also spotted with a plaque suggesting that we'll be able to buy it "summer 2013." Dota heroes would work perfectly as a collectible series of figures/cards, but which one would you want to own? I'd be interested in a six foot tall remote controlled Roshan myself. Pictures follow.







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title="Permanent Link to Assassin’s Creed 3 trailer shows new crunchy, choppy combat moves">Assassin's Creed 3 connor







Assassin's Creed 3 isn't all about the new setting and locations, it also contains many new ways to hit people. Hatchets, bayonets and rope darts are a few of the more brutal tools at Connor's disposal. Capturing those kill moves takes a lot of time, effort, and serious stuntmen men in ball suits. The latest Assassin's Creed 3 gives us a look at the processes that go into realising all that on-screen violence, and contains a few tips for British troops from historians.



'Don't walk down open roads in bright red suits' being the soundest pearl of wisdom of the lot. Watch Connor break people in ways you couldn't imagine in the trailer below.



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title="Permanent Link to Planetary Annihilation shatters Kickstarter target, sails on towards stretch goals">Planetary Annihilation KABOOM







Planetary Annihilation has sailed past its Kickstarter target with the speed and grace of an asteroid sliding into impact trajectory. The $900,000 goal has been met but there are 15 days left on the clock. Now the team are asking for more donations to meet their stretch goals, which will give them the money to add naval units and water planets at $1.1m, and gas giants at $1.3m.



Uber have released a video update to express their delight. A coffee cup is thrown, shades are removed dramatically, a bright red hat is donned. They seem genuinely chuffed. Here, have a look.







And here they are programming their party robot:







Planetary Annihilation is being built by a seasoned team of former Supreme Commander and Total Annihilation developers. It warms my robot heart to see echoes of SupCom's commander units in Planetary Annihilation's cheery robots. Battles take place across a series of nearby planets. Local asteroids can be colonised, mined and turned into huge kinetic weapons with a few well placed thruster units. The announcement video provides a "visualisation" of what such an attack would look like in-game.







You can still help Uber out with a donation. There's a $1 minimum, but if you pay $20 you'll get a copy when the game comes out sometime next year. For more on Uber's plans for their epic RTS, check out our Planetary Annihilation interview.
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title="Permanent Link to Crusader Kings 2: Legacy of Rome expansion lets you flex your Byzantium Maximus">Crusader Kings 2: Legacy of Rome







The real Byzantine Empire lasted for over a millennium and stretched across the Mediterranean nations as a powerful autocracy, but that's only because it didn't spend a devilishly long time figuring out Crusader Kings 2's multiplicative complexity. Of course, Paradox's excellent dynasty simulator luckily exists today, and it's getting a visit from Constantinople itself in the Legacy of Rome expansion releasing later this year for $10.



Besides bestowing greater control on levies, taxes, and opening up a bigger slice of the world to manage, Legacy of Rome introduces royal factions for disgruntled and proponent vassals to participate in either uplifting your cause or clamoring for your head. Factional revolts can also break out if too many vassal feathers get ruffled, and just for another chance to say "vassal" (because it's a funny word), vassals also aid in appointing new standing armies within your realm.



Here's a brief rundown of the expansion's features:



New Faction System: Join a royal faction and use your allies in the party to enhance your strength and tear down rivals





Raise Standing Armies: You will now be able to use retinues to have standing armies in your domain: the size of which is determined by technology





Experience Factional Revolts: No more easily defeated rebellions. Disgruntled vassals will now band together in revolt against your rule through their faction





Appoint Orthodox Patriarchs: Orthodox kingdoms and empires can now control their own heads of religion and their powers, instead of being dependent on the patriarch of Constantinople





Streamlined Mobilization: You will always raise a single, larger levy from your direct vassal; no need to worry about the opinions of the lower vassals





Leader Focus on Combat: Appoint your generals wisely, their traits and skills are now of vital importance on the field of battle. More commander traits are now added to increase the importance of your choice of military leaders





Byzantium Comes Alive: New sets of decisions and events specifically designed with the Byzantine Empire in mind





Improve your ruler: You can now actively strive to improve your skills or traits through the new Self-Improvement Ambitions

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title="Permanent Link to Far Cry 3 trailer features deadpan tour guide, murderous archipelago">Far Cry 3 screenshots 02







Man, those guided tours always manage to transform a magically exotic getaway into a snooze-fest beyond endurance. You've got the carefully supervised orientation, the carefully supervised safari, the carefully supervised buffet line, and the carefully supervised oh, look, my arm disappeared down a tiger's gullet. While the latter normally won't appear on a travel brochure's "memorable experiences" bullet list, running away from really big jungle cats accompanies the crypt-defiling, hang-gliding, and tribal-tattooing activities you'll partake in Far Cry 3's psychotic Rook Islands. See glimpses of all of them in the trailer below, and check out our latest hands-on preview for more info.



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title="Permanent Link to Grand Theft Auto 4 mod requires 1.21 gigawatts for fully functional Back to the Future DeLorean">Grand Theft Auto 4 DeLorean







Just when it seems the mod scene for Grand Theft Auto 4 lets off the gas from implausibly gorgeous visual upgrades and gravity-mocking hijinks, it surges back with an amazingly dedicated homage to Back to the Future's time-traveling DeLorean.



Crafted by YouTuber "seedyrom34," the mod mixes a custom cocktail ("There is no single download link," seedy states) of heavily altered files, sounds, and tweaks cobbled together to form the onslaught of awesome in the video below. Sure, other DeLorean mods existed long before this one, but seedy's extra dose of functionality and polish -- particularly with the spot-on fire trails and inventive randomization of street traffic and time-of-day after hitting that 88mph sweet spot -- definitely presents an exciting future for Grand Theft Auto 4 and 5's skilled mod community.



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title="Permanent Link to Borderlands 2 video blast: tantalizing tech demo and hour-long gameplay">Borderlands 2 - NightStalkers







We've already gazed at Borderlands 2 trailers blaring arena-style beast combat, Handsome Jack's hilariously long face, and South African doo-wop, but today's reels highlight Nvidia's impressive PhysX technology powering in-game dust mote trajectories and a whopping hour-long play session with Gearbox founder Randy Pitchford and the GameSpot team. Take a look at both colorful videos below bursting with explosive combat, a good study of Maya and Axton's skill trees, and the numbingly terrible spelling of bandits naming their weapons "shooty mashine gun" and "boosh a durp."







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title="Permanent Link to Black Mesa: Source has new screenshots, is “pretty close to completion”">Yeah, that's... not good







The fan-made remake of the original Half-Life in the Source engine, Black Mesa: Source, has now been in development for about 8 years. And, it seems, the end may finally be in sight. The team of volunteer Xenophiles has released a batch of new screenshots, and project lead Carlos Montero told Polygon he would "characterize our first release as being pretty close to completion."



For those of you just now joining us, Black Mesa: Source was a fan-created initiative that arose in direct response to the poor reception of Half-Life: Source. While Valve ported the same game we know and love into its now-legendary engine, it still had the same 1998 low-polygon, low-res visuals of the original game, when many gamers had expected a Half-Life remake with Half-Life 2's improved graphics. That is, essentially, what the Black Mesa team has been plugging away at for the better part of a decade.



According to Montero, the project will be released to the public in stages. The first of those stages, he told Polygon, is nearing completion. We've included the whole, fresh batch of screenshots below. Bonus points if you can identify where in Half-Life's interdimensional debacle each of them was taken.



















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title="Permanent Link to Editorial: Did patch 1.04 fix Diablo 3′s endgame?">Diablo 3 - Diablo looks worried







As someone who has sunk a lot of hours and energy cursing elite mobs and their entire lineages in Diablo 3, I've had a lot of time to contemplate the game taken as a whole. Despite being the fastest-selling PC game of all time, backlash about the game's design has seemed to persist. The community's core criticism was that Diablo's endgame wore out like old gum—it wasn't as fun or sustainable as Diablo II's. For the most part, I agreed with that. Patch 1.04 launched last week: Blizzard's medicine for addressing some of these ongoing concerns. I've spent some time with 1.04 to try and evaluate how it's changed Diablo III.



Before I can really answer, "Did this patch fix the game?" I have to ask, "What's actually broken about it?" I felt like I got my money's worth out of the 80-odd hours I played prior to 1.04. I wasn't one of those people that sunk hundreds of hours into Diablo II, and I didn't go in expecting to sink hundreds into Diablo 3. 80 hours of mostly memorable, polished fun for $60... you can do a lot worse in the games industry. But this article isn't for people like me. It's for players who were hoping to rack up the same ungodly playtime that D3's predecessor offered. Is 1.04 an elixir for these complaints?



The Paragon System

The Paragon system is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: 100 new levels, slapped on top of the 60 the game launched with. In terms of the time it will take you to hit paragon 100, it computes out to be over double the time it takes to go 1-60, though I obviously have not yet had time to cap it out. But does it add enough incentive to keep playing if you were out of steam before 1.04? When you pair it with the stacking magic find, it just might. Even just the fact that the new numerical goal is out there inspired me to hop back in.



The verdict: It's a welcome addition, and I find very little about it that doesn't go in the "positive" column. But stacking magic find doesn't really mean much if they haven't fixed the issues with...







The Item Game

I'm not going to comment on whether or not I think D3's drop mechanics are balanced to force you to use the auction house. Speculation abounds, but I don't think there's enough concrete data to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt one way or another. That said, as a player who never uses the auction house, I have absolutely experienced the frustrations with the rest of you: I don't get upgrades enough, and when I do, they aren't that good (or force me to give up a moderate amount of one stat for a moderate amount of another, rather than being a linear improvement).



From what I have been able to play of 1.04 so far, this doesn't seem to have changed significantly. Looking at the updates made to legendary items, I'm pretty impressed. But that assumes you can actually find a legendary, which I have only twice been able to, across five characters and 95 hours. I suppose it's fair to say that I wasn't expecting a legendary to just drop the moment I got in--the patch has only been out a week. So I'll withhold judgement on that particular angle for now.



The issue with rare items (which I brought up in our interview with Jay Wilson and Andrew Chambers) seems to still exist, however. Maybe the random number generator just hates me, but anecdotally, most of the rares I've seen drop since 1.04 look very much like the rares pre-1.04: they often are only marginally better than a blue I already have slotted, or contain a large bonus to a stat I frankly don't care about in exchange for making me give up something like a gem slot. Now that legendaries have had a tuning pass, I think rares definitely need some more love. That aside, drop rates on higher item-level stuff (even without a bunch of paragon levels) does seem to have improved slightly.



Verdict: I wouldn't call it "fixed," but they are making steps in the right direction. Rare items still feel relatively underpowered.







Class Balance

My Barbarian is my endgame character. For me, the big question for 1.04 was whether I would, as Jay Wilson mentioned in our interview, be able to play a more offensive-focused build in the later acts.



The short answer, so far, is no. The minute I rearranged my hotbar back to the DPS-oriented build I was using up through the earlier acts of Hell difficulty, Diablo's minions ground my face into meat patties for a cookout being held in celebration of my stolen dignity. Some of my spells, like Hammer of the Ancients, certainly are much more destructive... but it still isn't enough. If you have any experience with the other classes going through endgame content after the patch, and have discovered previously-doomed builds that are now viable, let us know.



Verdict: The stated goals for build diversity haven't been accomplished yet. In terms of the Barbarian, specifically, you still need a very defensively-focused load-out to survive in the endgame. Granted this could have less to do with class balance, and more to do with the fact that certain elite packs are still way harder than the act bosses.







Putting it all together

Did patch 1.04 "fix" Diablo 3? Not really. But it also didn't hurt it. Things are, on the whole, moving in a positive direction. There are still issues with the item game that need a lot more attention to hit what I would consider the "sweet spot," and at least the class I play primarily still seems very pigeon-holed in terms of viable Inferno builds (unless maybe you're way over-geared already). The biggest improvement, from my perspective, is the Paragon system. By giving players something new and quantifiable to strive for that is both separate from gear, and will help you get better gear faster as you progress through it, Diablo 3's endgame has become considerably more compelling than it was before the patch.



No need to take my word for it, though. Jump back in for yourselves and let us know in the comments what you think of how far the game has come, and how much further it needs to go.
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title="Permanent Link to Spec Ops: The Line dev lashes out at “cancerous” multiplayer mode pushed by 2K">Spec Ops The Line







The lead designer of Spec Ops: The Line, Cory Davis has been talking to Polygon about the game's multiplayer mode. He claims that it was an unwanted, uncared for, tacked on addition that undermined the gravity of the single player experience, and attacks 2k for consistently pushing for multiplayer against the developers' judgement. After reading his comments, it's hard to see how he could put his disagreement with 2K more adamantly. Here goes.



"The multiplayer mode of Spec Ops: The Line was never a focus of the development," Davis told Polygon, "but the publisher was determined to have it anyway. It was literally a check box that the financial predictions said we needed, and 2K was relentless in making sure that it happened — even at the detriment of the overall project and the perception of the game."



Davis labelled the multiplayer mode a "low-quality Call of Duty clone in third-person" that "sheds a negative light on all of the meaningful things we did in the single-player experience."



Spec Ops: The Line was a fairly decent shooter with an interesting knack for putting players on the spot. Its deliberatly ugly methods of documenting its protagonist's Heart of Darkness style descent into madness were refreshing, especially when contrasted with the lack of imagination shown by most military shooters. Davis labasted the multiplayer for betraying Yager's original mission statement.



"The multiplayer game's tone is entirely different," he said. "The game mechanics were raped to make it happen, and it was a waste of money. No one is playing it, and I don't even feel like it's part of the overall package — it's another game rammed onto the disk like a cancerous growth, threatening to destroy the best things about the experience that the team at Yager put their heart and souls into creating."



Blimey. For many publishers, multiplayer modes are an absolute must, even in games where they don't entirely fit. Take Bioshock 2's weird arena mode, for example. But do you think that a shoddy multiplayer mode actually undermines and diminishes the efforts of the single player campaign?
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