PC Gamer

Blizzard is preparing to deploy the 2.0.4 patch for StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, the last major patch before Heart of the Swarm, which will implement many of the changes teased for the expansion. A new interface, the new training modes, and the new replay features will all become available. Basically, everything except the new campaign, the new XP system, and the actual HotS multiplayer units will be included. Read on for specifics.

The official list of changes specifies:

An all-new user interface with new menu screens.

The launch of in-game Clans and Groups.

New Replay features, such as Watch with Others and Take Command.

A multitude of Editor improvements.

New matchmaking options: Training Mode, Vs. AI Mode, and Unranked Play.

All-new AI Options, including AI Communication.

Players Near You, so you can find other StarCraft II players on your local network.

New customizable Observer UI.

The patch is set to go out "in a few days," which would mean sometime early next week. If you're still not sure what to expect, have a look at our previews of the new interface and the new matchmaking tools.

PC Gamer
Natural Selection 2 preview

Unknown World's Natural Selection 2 has kept its horned head low throughout Aliens: Colonial Marines' pasting from critics, but in a forum post, Unknown's PR head Hugh Jeremy now says the NS2 team feels only sadness in place of its initial awe and even fear of the bigger-budget competitor.

"The degree to which we feared Colonial Marines was, in hindsight, crazy," Jeremy writes. "Potential release dates for NS2 were discussed with reference to ACM's potential release date. Around the lunch table, we pondered the lambasting reviewers would give us if they were simultaneously reviewing a AAA mega-budget aliens vs. marines title.

"At shows like GamesCom, PAX East, and E3 I walked around the ACM super-booths in awe. I spoke to ACM PR reps, and they had no idea what NS was. I watched the demos (especially the E3 one) and thought, 'How can we possibly stand up to these guys on the aliens vs. marine stage?' I walked around the Power Loader in multiple countries and shook my head at the poor luck of having to face this Sega/Gearbox monster in our launch window."

Jeremy sympathizes with ACM's dismal performance, but he's also bummed over the fact that a game with "a launch trailer that probably cost more than 30 percent of the entire development budget of NS2" failed on delivering the Aliens experience sought after from fans.

"I'm filled with sadness," he states. "Sadness at being an Aliens fan and not being able to experience LV-426 like I had imagined I would. Sadness that we spent so much time being afraid of a game that we have beaten on Metacritic by 30 points. With that marketing machine, with that moneypot, with that kind of development time, with that kind of bullet-proof intellectual property, ACM should have been an absolute hit."

Responding to a suggestion from an NS2 player asking if Unknown Worlds would capitalize on the void left by ACM, Jeremy flatly put such an idea to rest, writing, "No, UWE won't be milking the poor reception of ACM. To do so would make us wankers, and it would be dishonorable. Remember when Medal of Honor: Warfighter exploded? Activision ran a targeted ad campaign hitting every single Warfighter keyword with Black Ops II pre-rolls and banners. I'm sure it got them sales. But it also said much about the kind of company they are."
PC Gamer
PlanetSide 2 review

Whenever something big happens in PlanetSide 2, you'll probably hear a dramatic score swelling beneath the bullets, bombs, and aaarghs of combat. That's thanks to SOE's audio team and its efforts to pack an aural punch into the super-scaled battles of Auraxis, as shown in this brief behind-the-scenes look at the game's soundtrack.

The music type for each of the three factions reflects their identities and the eternally raging war: listening to the Terran Republic's orchestral might tends to lift the hands of nearby listeners into a salute, the Vanu Sovereignty's digi-synth sounds like jogging music for a squad of cyborg assassins, and the New Conglomerate's crunchy guitars turn the shred knob to 11 before breaking it off.

I'd like to see more multiplayer shooters devote stronger attention to quality musical accompaniments. As PlanetSide 2 proves, non-stop action only turns even more epic when a perfectly timed victory tune keeps the momentum going.
PC Gamer

Maybe even more so than the players, casters are the public faces of eSports. Their engagement with the audience and the community has been a big part of growing and shaping the scene—even someone who couldn't name a single StarCraft II pro might recognize icons like Day and TotalBiscuit.

We recently had the chance to pose some questions to two of the veteran StarCraft II casters who will be bringing you the play-by-plays at MLG's Winter Championship next month: Alex "Axeltoss" Rodriguez and Nick "Axslav" Ranish. Read on to learn how they got into the scene, which players are the hardest to cast, and where they'd like to see eSports in the not-so-distant future.

Nick "Axslav" Ranish

Axslav is a pro-level Protoss player for team Infinity Seven. He acted as an analyst at the first MLG 2012 Spring Arena, and has since come to be known as one of the more knowledgeable and in-depth casters in StarCraft II. He hosts Rules of Engagement, a nightly advice and analysis show aimed at all skill levels of StarCraft II players.

PC Gamer: How did you get involved in the eSports scene?

Axslav: Growing up, I always had a passion for strategy games. As I strived to become a better player, I naturally gravitated toward learning from the best and discovered the eSports scene. I started out watching/practicing, then competing, and now casting.

Can you identify a particular most surreal moment in the growth of the eSports phenomenon?

My most surreal moment was in March 2006. I made the final four of the Warcraft 3 GGL Trans-Atlantic Finals and got a free trip to New York to compete. While I didn't win first place, I still won a couple thousand dollars. I was in University studying computer science at the time and that was when I first realized playing video games could potentially be a career.

What has been your favorite event to cast so far?

My favorite event to cast was the 2012 MLG Fall Championship in Dallas. Leading up to the event, I worked full-time for MLG so I had the privilege of seeing all of the event components come together in the upcoming months to the tournament. When it finally all fell into place, it was a great sense of accomplishment.

Which player would you say is the most fun to cast? Which one is the most difficult?

While casting any world-class player is a treat, Leenock is the player I have the most fun casting. His intelligence and creativity is amazing to bear witness to. While many players come up with creative and unique strategies, Leenock’s thought process in coming up with mid-game creative adaptations to the present situation is unparalleled. Flash is one of the more difficult players to cast because the casual observer won't notice his mind-blowing macro, and it can sometimes be difficult to convey just how amazing he is at the game.

Do you have a particular favorite player to follow?

I've been a fan of Stork for almost a decade, so while he's not currently one of the most dominant players, I still love to follow him. I also really enjoyed watching FanTaSy's play in SC1-Brood War and am hoping to see his multitasking harassment skill show in the upcoming release of SC2: Heart of the Swarm.

Where would you like to see eSports go in the next 5-10 years?

I find eSports to be extremely fun to watch. In the next 5-10 years, I would like everyone to at least be aware of eSports, and have the opportunity to enjoy watching as much as I do.

Where do you stand on the whole, "Is StarCraft technically a sport?" debate?

Whether StarCraft is technically a sport is not important to me. What is important, is that it is played professionally, and watching the professionals play is absolutely amazing and entertaining for the spectators.

Who do you see as the relatively unknown players right now who are going to be big in the future?

There are so many great players in the Proleague over in Korea that aren't yet known to most of the Western audiences. As they get more exposure I expect players like Soulkey, Hydra, Classic, Cure, and Effort to be really big.

What elements of eSports casting do you feel like aren't visible to viewers, but that they should be aware of?

I feel many viewers aren't up to speed with classic strategic concepts. Understanding these concepts makes a viewer able to be entertained not just by massive engagements, but also by watching the way the professionals tactically move their armies around the map.

Do you have a favorite new unit (or units) in Heart of the Swarm?

I really love the widow mines, and while Ravens aren't new to HotS, they've been changed so they're now super fun to play around with.

On the next page: Alex "Axeltoss" Rodriguez

Alex "Axeltoss" Rodriguez

Axeltoss is a protoss player for team ROOT Gaming, as well as a StarCraft II commentator and content producer for MLG. He will be casting alongside Axslav at the Winter Championships in March.

PC Gamer: How did you get involved in the eSports scene?

Axeltoss: I had no idea eSports existed when I first started playing StarCraft II a few months after the beta came out. After some light investment into the ladder, I wanted to improve to beat my friends, so I did some research on YouTube. From there, I realized StarCraft II as a spectator experience was a thing, and did more research to find out how I could get involved. A few months later, I discovered GosuCoaching.com had some writing internships, and that turned into a community relations role for NASL's (North American Star League) Season 1. I knew I wanted to get into casting eventually, and used my relationships locally, at my university and at the NASL, to advance myself to bigger and bigger casting stages.

Can you identify a particular most surreal moment in the growth of the phenomenon over the eSports phenomenon?

I was casting a non-stage match at the MLG 2012 Winter Championships. It was a match between the final two foreigner players in the tournament; Huk and Naniwa. It was the closest game I've ever had the pleasure to cast, and the energy was palpable in the venue and extended back stage. It was championship Sunday and the loser would be out, the winner moving on and deeper into the money. As the game approached the more intense stages I could literally hear the crowd from across the entire venue and was later told how massive it was. For that many people to gather around a non-main stage match blew my mind, and the fact that I could hear them from so far away truly helped me understand the passion that exists within StarCraft II and eSports, and enhanced my confidence in its ability to grow and prosper.

What has been your favorite event to cast so far?

My favorite event to cast was the 2012 Battle.net World Championships in Shanghai. It was my first opportunity to travel across the world as a StarCraft II commentator, and I soaked up the experience. It was a very emotional experience for me as I considered how far I had come from a year prior, when I was casting in my bedroom to 50 or so people for hours on end, to being on the biggest stage among the best commentators in the world. I had made it.

Which player would you say is the most fun to cast? Which one is the most difficult?

Leenock is definitely up there as far as the most fun player to cast. You never know what crazy strategy he's going to pull out next. You never think it's going to work, but then you realize, it's Leenock... of course it will.

Do you have a particular favorite player to follow?

I have many personal relationships with a lot of the players, so it's hard to pick a favorite. I am a member of team ROOT gaming, so I'm always super excited to cast players like Vibe, TT1, Catz, Drewbie, Major, etc. I am tremendously good friends with all of them, so it's always fun rooting for them and hoping they succeed.

Where would you like to see eSports go in the next 5-10 years?

In the eSports world, 5-10 years is such a long time. It might be more important to think about where technology is that stage. Will typical packages with cable/dish companies be exclusively Internet with 100up/100down around the world? If so, is TV even necessary? In 5-10 years, I'd like to see video games as an acceptable pass-time for the world's majority, rather than some niche that only certain people participate in... rather than something unhealthy, reserved for individuals with no social life... I want to see worldwide acceptance of video games as a spectator sport. I want to see parents encourage their kids to try out video games. I want to see gaming as a Friday night activity, an acceptable relief from the typical, "party, party, drink, drink" weekend mentality. I want to see an MLG weekend eclipse the Super Bowl in numbers by a magnitude of 10.

Where do you stand on the whole, "Is StarCraft technically a sport?" debate?

I think it's all fairly silly. (I understand I used the word "sport" in my previous answer.) To me, it feels like, okay, do these players work hard? Do they deserve what they are given? Is it worth someone's time to sit down and watch these players do their thing? I feel like there are arguments to support a positive answer to each of those. These players do work hours and hours of a day to perfect their trade. They have coaches, they have regimens, they make similar sacrifices as players in any typical sport. No, StarCraft isn't technically a sport by my definition, but why does it matter? Watch it, research it, possibly enjoy it, then make your own claims.

Who do you see as the relatively unknown players right now who are going to be big in the future?

Look out for the players focusing completely on HotS. They have a fantastic chance to blow people away and truly make a statement in Heart of the Swarm. A lot of the highest level players right now have obligations in Wings of Liberty, so they can't dedicate most of their time to HotS. This leaves an amazing opportunity open for those players who were on the cusp of achieving great things in Wings of Liberty. Those players can get the most practice time possible in HotS, and set a bar that will be very difficult to surpass. This is a great opportunity for North Americans to get some respect back from the worldwide community. Let's see who takes advantage.

What elements of eSports casting do you feel like aren't visible to viewers, but that they should be aware of?

The amount of work and discipline is actually pretty staggering, especially considering the current state of the community. One wrong move and you could potentially be fed to the wolves. It's a dangerous yet thrilling occupation. I have to stay on my toes and watch my every move. I can do a thousand things right but one step in the wrong direction and that's all I'm remembered for. It's honestly slightly terrifying.

Do you have a favorite new unit or units in Heart of the Swarm?

Hellbat! Widow Mine! Having been a Protoss player in WoL, I've been playing pretty much exclusively Terran in HotS. The new units are so much fun to play with, and I felt I've only skimmed the surface of the potential of the race.

Thanks to Nick and Alex for taking the time to talk to us, and to MLG for the opportunity. You can check out the casters in MLG's ongoing Winter Showdowns, and at the upcoming Winter Championship in Dallas. Passes are on sale now for $35, and streams will be available in 720p free on MLG's Official site.
PC Gamer
Arma 2 Complete Collection

It speaks volumes of the staying power of DayZ when it gets top billing in Bohemia's new $40 Complete Collection pack for Arma 2. It's a more extensive (and slightly more expensive) way of nabbing the required content for the zombie survival mod beyond the $25 Combined Operations, but it's also the definitive accumulation of Bohemia's best.

Along with the core Arma 2 game, the bundle includes expansion Operation Arrowhead and DLC packs British Armed Forces, Private Military Company, and Army of the Czech Republic. Each DLC adds extra vehicles, weapons, factions, and maps, so you're essentially getting tinier Arma campaigns with the same degree of hyper-realism. More importantly, you'll have everything you need to jump into The Science Bear, PC Gamer's very own Arma 2 server.

Though DayZ helped propel Bohemia's games into newfound popularity, Arma 2 also thrives among dedicated communities seeking both PvP and co-op mil-sim experiences through custom missions and scenarios. For examples, check out the truly spectacular-looking videos recorded by Shack Tactical's Dslyecxi for choice glimpses into what hardcore Arma 2 looks like.
PC Gamer

We learned recently that the creators of Total War, The Creative Assembly, have scooped Games Workshop's Warhammer fantasy license. This is tip-top news. Warhammer is all about massive battles, Creative Assembly are really, really good at massive battles. It's a great match.

CA have set up a new develop team to produce games for the "multi-title" deal, but what would such a series look like? We're rather fond of Games Workshop's game of little fantasy men doing dice-war on tabletops, so we've rounded up a few features we'd love to see from an proper, epic Warhammer fantasy videogame.

Massive armies

When it comes to depicting clashes between thousands of men, the Total War series has few rivals. The Creative Assembly have steadily increased the detail and fidelity of Total War's skirmishes, and for Rome 2 they've built a massive mo-cap studio to make soldiers' movements more realistic. This makes them a perfect fit for Warhammer, which has always been about massive battles with massive units massively killing each other without remorse or restraint. They've got the tech to push well beyond Mark of Chaos' scraps, let's see it happen.

Powerful heroes

Warhammer generals wade into battle wielding weapons that have slain demigods, clad in armour that can turn aside cannon fire. Why would an ordinary soldier turn up to fight such a being? Extreme drunkenness, probably. Whatever the scale of the battle, it wouldn't be a Warhammer barney without some absurdly powerful power dressers taking out entire units single-handedly. The Creative Assembly worked some hero units onto Shogun 2's tech trees to mixed reaction from fans. An extension of the loadout functions on show in Shogun 2's profile avatars could be a good way to work in hero customisation. Relic's Dawn of War 2 heroes are a good model for gear systems that keep champions interesting and powerful over a long campaign.

Unit customisation and champions

Painting Warhammer's tiny models takes bloody ages. Tabletop armies are commonly fielded half-daubed in undercoat, shedding flock from poorly layered bases. Putting the time in to field an army that you're invested in really pays off in the long run, though, so let's have some of that. Virtual paint jobs can be applied with the click of a button in a game, and there should be room for players to design their own banners and name units.

I'd like to see Total War's the unit veterancy system leveling up unit champions, picking out heroic individuals from squads as a campaign progresses. If they become accomplished enough, you should have the option to promote them to General, giving players a way to foster new leaders in the heat of battle instead of a tepid menu screen.

Mega units

This is a greater daemon called the Bloodthirster. He's like a giant cow with wings, an axe and a flair for the dramatic. According to Games Workshop, "the skies turn the colour of blood" when he appears and "the ground erupts with skulls and fountains of gore around it." He's the angry, fighty embodiment of a heavy metal album cover, and he's pretty much the reason you play as the corrupted race of Chaos.

Warhammer stretches familiar fantasy cliches to absurd extremes. That's a big part of the appeal. These monolithic juggernauts of mass destruction aren't just show pieces, though. They embody the personality of the race they represent. The Bloodthirster is a living avatar of the the bestial rage of his kin. The Wood Elves deploy a ten foot tall green hobo because they have spent years consuming Athel Loren's kaleidoscopic selection of mushrooms and don't know what's real anymore. Lizardmen fill a box full of dinosaurs and then bolt it to the back of a giant Triceratops. Creative Assembly strapped cannons to the backs of elephants in Medieval 2, so they're almost there already.

Randomised campaign twists

Rome: Total War worked a game-changing twist into its campaign that kept its twilight turns interesting. CA have experimented with similar ideas in Fall of the Samurai, which required factions to settle down and declare allegiance for nationalist or renegade forces for a final all-out territory scrap. This is good stuff, but it funnels the campaign into a prescribed final scenario. This is useful if you're trying to maintain a degree of historical authenticity, but a fantasy license should allow for boundless outcomes. The Wood Elves should be able to break out of their wood and occupy Brettonia. The Skaven should have the opportunity to consume and spread disease across the entire map, as is their wont. My favourite Total War stories are the ones I made myself in the vast, glorious sandbox that is Empire: Total War (much improved since launch thanks to CA updates and work from the terrific TW modding community). It'd be a treat to have similar opportunities on the Warhammer world map.

Those game-changing campaign twists may still have a part to play, mind. Terrible things can happen quite suddenly in the Warhammer universe. An unnoticed Orc WAAAAGH (an unstoppable angry green mob that grows bigger then more it loots and pillages) could roll in from the mountains and start washing through territories. A necromancer could get his hands on a long-lost item of power and start raising the dead in your homesteads. The incidental social events and scenarios that popped up in FotS could be expanded to deliver exotic challenges with more tangible rewards (claim territory X to gain a heart-seeking sword for your general), introduce new antagonists, and convey more of the exuberant character of the Warhammer universe.

A sense of humour

What has two legs, two tails and a thousand teeth? A LIZARD ON A DINOSAUR. Look, it has a MACE. And the dinosaur is WEARING A HAT. Warhammer is famous for its grimdark portrayals of eternal war, but it's often hilarious. Orcs and Goblins are considered to be the race of choice for generals who enjoy ridiculous, unpredictable battles, but the sense of humour that gives us units like Squigs and the Doom Diver Catapult can be found throughout the Warhammer universe. It's tough to work in wisecracks when you're presenting the brutal historical meat grinders of Rome and Shogun, but the Warhammer license gives Creative Assembly good opportunity to cut loose a little. Lizards riding dinosaurs. LIZARDS RIDING DINOSAURS.


I'm all in favour of a complex meta-game playing out on a strategic world map, but much of what makes Total War's infrastructure management interesting just doesn't fit into the Warhammer setting. If I'm in control of the Empire, I don't care about taxation rates, or ideological niceties like education and wellfare, I want to build the biggest damn steam tank my engineers can think of.

Many of Warhammer's races are just too weird to conform to the economic norms of a historical strategy game. Does an Orc Warboss tax his Goblin workforce? Of course not. If someone asks him for a pay rise, he'll probably just eat them. Do Dark Elves build schools for little Dark Elves? How efficient are they at mining ore? Nobody cares.

The only infrastructure we should be concerned with is the infrastructure of WAR. I want to build better spies to figure out where I should do war next. I want to research new tech to do war better. I want to find out how to breed demonic steeds so that I can do war faster. I want to build sacrificial pits and pledge souls to Nurgle to do war dirtier. Even when you're not waging war, you should be preparing for war, which is why you also need...

Fragile alliances

Everyone hates everyone else. This is a central tenant of Warhammer fantasy and GW's futuristic edition, Warhammer 40,000. Nobody has any real friends, but uneasy alliances can be wrought, and should. Some races, like Chaos and The Empire, are mortal foes who just can't be in the same room together without someone smiting someone in the name of Sigmar/The Mighty Khorne, but you should be able to tag along with a roughly aligned group to put down threats, and it'd be especially nice if they fought alongside you in battle from time to time.

The alliances should feel painfully fragile. If a spell goes awry and wipes out an allied unit, there's a chance they could turn on you there and then. Imagine if the process of cementing treaties had your generals marching out in front of opposing armies to seal the deal, giving both armies present the opportunity to betray their would-be friends and get in a surprise attack. That'd move those diplomacy screens back into the battlefield, letting you hash out terms in the fraught atmosphere of a military standoff.

Magic that backfires

Magic is extremely powerful in Warhammer. Mages can move scenery around to crush their enemies, speed up entire armies with a word and tear chunks out of the earth with great lashes of elemental energy. There's a twist: Warhammer's spell casters are incompetent.

According to the lore, magic is a wild force that can be directed, but not tamed. A pompous High Elf mage can miss a syllable and send that hill crashing into his own knights. Goblins shamans can get carried away and physically explode, taking out friends and foes nearby. Chaos sorcerers who misjudge a demonic pact can melt into a fleshy puddle or become warped beyond recognition by a possessing spirit. A streak of luck can decimate the battlefield, or gift your foe a great advantage.

There will be a temptation to tone down magic in the name of balance, which is probably wise, but part of me wants to experience the full, chaotic representation of Warhammer's magic system. The wonderful, crunching impacts of Fall of the Samurai's off-map bombardments could be incorporated into some delightful spells.

Alternatively, just make Mordheim

Perhaps there is no grand Total War-esque RTS on the way. Maybe The Creative Assembly are working on something smaller and more manageable with the Warhammer fantasy license. That's okay. It'd be great to see a proper High Elf force dice up the Empire en masse, but Warhammer presents good alternatives for smaller scale conflicts.

I've been a nerd for quite a while, and I reckon that Mordheim is the best thing Games Workshop have ever done. You control a small squad of about a dozen characters as they scour the ruins of a cursed city in search of precious Wyrdstone. Your warriors gain personality traits and terrible injuries as they level up between battles. If your general takes a terrible beating he can become horribly scarred and cause fear among is foes in future fights. Your men can lose arms and legs, or perform courageously enough to be promoted. As you amass a bit of coin, you can start hiring freelance mercenaries with their own strange back stories.

Imagine XCOM, but with much more emergent character development between missions, set in a dark, ruined city full of giant rat men, devout witch hunters and battle-hardened glory hunters wielding flintlock pistols. It was a bit of a pain as a tabletop game, as you needed a ton of scenery to represent the city. A game would do a much better job of representing Mordheim's warped, sinister cityscape and the evolving state of the treasure hunters camped within.

Those are our thoughts. What would you like to see from Total Warhammer?
PC Gamer
Black Mesa Insecurity thumb

Now Black Mesa has fallen through a Source engine resonance cascade and out into the world, modders are piggy-backing off its upgraded assets to fill in the extended family of Gordon Freeman's original adventure. Black Mesa: Insecurity hopes to remake Gearbox's second expansion, Half-Life: Blue Shift, starring everybody's favourite beer-owing security guard Barney Rubble Calhoun.

"Overall what I hope to achieve is an experience similar to Black Mesa's in that the essence of what Blue Shift was remains intact while adding a major facelift and re-imagining to the rest," writes the mod's creator. He admits that this is a small project, being worked on during study breaks, but the team have already created a number of new models to go along with the repurposed Black Mesa files.

More screenshots below. The project's release is still "TBD," but yo can keep up to date with the latest work over at Insecurity's ModDB page.

PC Gamer
Total War Rome 2 Suebi

Creative Assembly continue to announce Rome 2's playable factions. Today's reveal heralds the Suebi as the sixth of the game's eight factions, meaning we're only a few weeks away from the full roster. "The Suebi are an indomitable Germanic culture dwelling to the north east of Gaul. Not a single people, but rather numerous tribes sharing a common language and similar religious beliefs," says the wiki page. From the look of the above screenshot, they also make passing wolves rather nervous.

"Heavily reliant on infantry and ambush tactics, raiding is their predominant form of conflict. Lightly equipped, most Suebi warriors make use of the framea, a javelin-like spear, as swords are a rarity. Often unarmoured they carried their rounded, oval or long, hexagonal shields into battle and wore little more than simple cloaks or other garments at times."

From the sounds of things, their Berserker units will prove powerful fighters, and the Night Hunters will camouflage well in forests. "Like other Germanic factions, the Suebi are masters of forest warfare and plunder. Stemming from a confederation of smaller Germanic tribes, they have a diplomatic edge when dealing with other barbarians and excel at fighting lesser tribes who dare to stand in their way." Despite this, their isolationist stance will likely hamper trade with outside factions.

The Suebi join Arverni, Iceni, Macedon, Carthage, and, of course, Rome. But which civilisations will make up the final two factions? Place you bets... Now!

Rome II is out in October.
PC Gamer
roundup image

It's Friday, which means it's time for your weekly dose of webgames, this time's batch consisting of an interdimensional platformer, a game about depression, a game about depressing the Spacebar and watching as the seasons change around you, a 2.5D take on classic Metal Gear Solid, and of course a very messy alien gore game. Combined, these amount to just one of your five-a-day, so you may also want to drink some OJ or something. Enjoy!

Prism Panic by Noel Berry, Connor Ullmann Play it online here.

When I grew up we only had the two dimensions, X and Q, but we made do.

Well this is clever. Flash wizards Noel Berry (Broken Robot Love) and Connor Ullmann (Seedling) have teamed up to make a 2D platformer with an extra dimension – and by that I don't mean it's in 3D. Prism Panic is essentially the best parts of Fringe, its levels boasting roving pockets of interdimensionality that (for example) replace a peaceful critter with a horrible monster, or make spikes appear out of thin air. Wonderful, challenging stuff, with a great soundtrack too.

Depression Quest by Zoe Quinn, Patrick Lindsey, Isaac Schankler Play it online here.

These Dragon Quest spin-offs are starting to get really weird.

A wonderfully written game, and one of the most helpful and powerful pieces of Interactive Fiction I've played. Depression Quest puts you in the shoes of someone suffering from, well, depression; it's not an easy ride, but there is hope here. On a slightly unrelated note, the game's social interaction choices remind me of my favourite parts of the last two Shin Megami Tensei: Persona games, which sandwiched visual novel elements in-between all the demon-slaying.

If you've never entirely understood the illness, or you suspect you may be suffering from it, I'm certain Depression Quest will help. It's been released on a Pay What You Want model, so while there is a free version, you may want to consider thanking the developers with a sum of your choosing, a portion of which will go to the charity iFred.

CJR by nitram_cero Play it online here.

It turns out all you need to defeat an alien infestation is a Nerf assault rifle and a tank-top.

In CJR, you are a guy with biceps bigger than all the other biceps, and with a gun that fires in all sorts of crazy directions – up, diagonally, sideways... the lot. When your bullets connect with the weird purple alien things, the weird purple alien things explode in a shower of goop, which then stays on any surface it splatters upon, Super Meat Boy-Style. (The game also features “mucho checkpoints”, which is just bueno.) Sometimes biceps, a big gun, and alien gore are all you need – and CJR definitely has you covered on that front.

(Via Free Indie Games)

400 Years by scriptwelder Play it online here.

You're the stone idol thing. Rather sadly, you tend to inspire fear in humans.

400 years should be enough time to stop an unspecified calamity and save the world, but in this enchanting time-travelling sidescroller, those years go by in the blink of an eye. The game's masterstroke is your ability to pass time by holding the Spacebar, which causes seasons to change (Winter, for example, turning water into ice, allowing you walk over a frozen stream), and trees to grow. Beautiful stuff, in no small part due to the vaguely Thomas Was Alone-esque narration, and the lovely soundtrack.

(Via IndieGames)

Linear Gear by Sophie Houlden Play it online here.

Chunky 2D pixels in a 3D space is the new black.

Developer Sophie Houlden made her arcade-puzzle game Swift ☆ Stitch available for free earlier in the week and, on Twitter shortly afterwards, shelved her Metal Gear Solid-inspired Linear Gear, which takes the super-spy and robs him of (half of) the third dimension. Both games are available to play online (Swift ☆ Stitch is also downloadable), but I wanted to draw particular attention to the sadly unfinished Linear Gear, which does a fantastic job of recreating the feel of the original and best MGS, while shifting it to 2.5D. The music's great, and the pixels are delicious – it's just a shame the full game will never be.
PC Gamer
Dreamfall Chapters

Dreamfall Chapters' Kickstarter campaign is sailing towards completion, with over $787,000 of its $850,000 goal raised and 22 days still to go. With success all but assured, Red Thread have announced the first stretch goals for the adventure sequel. The team have also released early prototype footage of the game, showing an explorable location and their hybrid UI system.

Three stretch goals have been unveiled so far. The first, at $900,000, will guarantee support for Mac and Linux. At $950,000, the game will receive the Loremaster extras, which include: "the Great Library of Marcuria (rebuilt in secrecy, of course), a fully-voiced librarian character, and tons of books, documents, ancient parchments and tomes of lore in-game for players to read, explore and dig into!"

The $1,000,000 milestone is titled A Longer Journey, and looks like a large expansion to the game, introducing new characters, locations, side-stories and dialogue. The rest of the long list of potential additions is being kept secret, but Red Thread have released the title of the final one. It's called "The Longest Journey Home" and will unlock at the £2 million mark. Sounds intriguing.

To be fair, they've missed a trick here. They could have called one of the stretch goals "No goddamn rubber duck puzzles" and watched the money flood in.