Shacknews - Blake Morse

Throughout the years Creative Assembly's Total War series has worn many masks. What initially started as a historically based strategy and battlefield sim has been around the world and beyond at this point. It has delivered nuanced gameplay for fans and delivered experiences from enacting diplomacy in ancient Roman empires to figuring out how to conquer an army of Warhammer Orcs. Now the series is getting back to its more history-based roots with the upcoming Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia

Thrones of Britannia is the first title in the new Saga series, which hopes to hone in on more specific turning points in history rather than the more broad eras that previous titles have involved. This first Saga title will focus in on Britain’s Dark Ages and starts right after the battle of Edington, where the Vikings attempt to conquer the country and surrounding regions finally failed. Players will take on the role of one of 10 factions that spring from 5 distinct cultures as they attempt to found and rule modern Britain.

As in past Total War games, the path to victory can take many forms and success can mean more than just simply crushing your enemies. While an all-encompassing conquest victory is a possibility, there are, of course, diplomatic means that can be used to attain goals as well as victories for fame, and even an extremely long-term ultimate victory.  

There will be plenty of faction goals as well that players can overcome on their way to winning the game. Each faction goal is based off historical events that they had to overcome in reality.  

While many of the Total War series’ functions and features are similar to past titles, there are a number of tweaks that have been made and a few new surprises. Recruiting new military units will no longer require fabricating certain buildings, instead, units will be purchased and will require food and money for upkeep. Units will now start at 25% strength and need to be mustered over turns to reach 100%, the logic being that paid militias would not start off completely loyal to anyone. New units will become available for purchase as players grow their skill tree.

Main capitals are now the only settlements that will have a wall and be allowed to have multiple buildings. All other villages will now focus on creating one resource, so one town may focus on mining or running a port, while another may have a religious structure to help maintain stability. Each settlement is visually unique now as well with its own personalized features.

A lot has been done to make individual characters matter more. Once a character dies, they’re done and won’t show back up later in the game now. The family tree feature is making a comeback and ensuring a king’s legacy will factor into maintaining control over a faction. As a player grows, their main character will gain traits that are positive or negative depending on how successful they’re being as a leader or commander. So a general who loses too many battles may not have the most loyal soldiers and one who rushes into battle may get some buffs for morale if fortune favors their boldness.

Kings will gain followers that players can put in charge of their various armies or settlements. Followers also provide new boosts or buff stats for a player’s king. General reliability of followers will be based on their AI traits. If issues in loyalty arise there are options to improve standing with followers like arranged weddings, or take a darker route and have them assassinated.

Visually, Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia is looking like the most stunning map yet. Everything from Ireland’s lush greens and infamously rainy weather to the highest peaks of British Isles are highly detailed in Total War’s largest map to date.

Cutscenes, reports, and just about all the imagery, including portraits of in-game characters have been done in the artistic style of the time. So cinematically everything has that flat ancient tapestry look of the Dark Ages.

Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia feels like it’s taking the series back to its roots while also ushering in a new era for the series with its concept of focusing in on more specific eras in history. It’s hard to say how fans will react to some of the new features, but lately, the series has seemed to hit a new stride. Players will be able to decide what they think for themselves when Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia launches on April 19th for PC.    

Shacknews - Blake Morse

“Is there life on Mars?” It’s a question that’s been asked by scholars and pop-culture icons alike. We know that the red planet at least appears to have water somewhere. But, when it comes to any real proof of life the scientific community has collectively shrugged up its shoulders while stating a collective, “Maybe?” Still, the fact that we don’t know if our neighboring planet could sustain life hasn’t stopped the conversation of how mankind may one day hypothetically prosper amongst the stars. Such theories are the basis for the core concept behind Surviving Mars.

I had a chance to play the upcoming space colonizing sim for an extended period of time and I found it surprisingly tranquil for a title about trying to sustain life on what appears to be a dead planet. Surviving Mars could be thought of as a hard Sci-Fi take on the SimCity series with a few twists thrown in. Unlike SimCity though, you can’t just lay down roads and buildings and expect people to show up ready to grow your small town into a metropolis. Getting to a point where you can even sustain a miniscual number of humans is a process.

Before even getting to Mars players will have to choose a faction to represent. Each faction has their own perks. I went with the one that gave me the biggest budget, but there are several ways to approach colonization strategy. So others may choose teams more focused on certain attributes like agriculture or scientific research.

Once a faction is chosen, players then have to load a spaceship up with drones, a few unmanned rovers, and enough supplies for the bots to build functioning facilities. After landing on Mars the initial objectives are to find a source of water, mine ores, and get a working biodome up and running for the first colonists. The various buildings require power sources, so players will have to build solar panels and wind turbines then connect them via powerlines along with pipelines that can carry water and oxygen to the biodomes.

At first, there’s only a small number of drones controlled by a command rover with a limited range, but pre-fabricated radar towers can expand the control radius. Once the drones have built a small, but sustainable, resource operation it’s time to build up the biodome and invite the first colonists to Mars. Players will be able to filter out character traits and flaws that they wish the first colonists to have in order to assure that at least the initial humans are more scientifically inclined and can help build a better colony.

Players will need to provide the basics for humans to prosper at first like a place to live and farms to make food. As the population expands more quality of life buildings will need to be built in order to keep a growing number of Martians content, like bars, gyms, and grocery stores. As this is all happening, players will also be doing research in various fields that will do things like unlock new buildings, lower the costs of creating new structures or create more efficient drones and rovers.

There doesn’t appear to be an end game per se or any real way to lose beyond everything breaking down and running out of funding. There are milestones for players to strive towards, like getting to the point where a human is born on Mars or reaching certain population goals. But not everything is going to be smooth sailing along the way. Natural disasters such as meteor showers that can crack open biodomes and leak out oxygen will occur.

While most of Surviving Mars’ concepts are built around near-future or real-world tech, there are some sci-fi aspects in the form of mysteries that can randomly happen during a session. During my hands-on time, strange black cubes began appearing just outside of my colonies and caused quite the stir among my colonists. Even after several years of research, no one was quite sure what they were and some colonists started to look upon them in a religious manner. I started experimenting with the cubes by building statues with them in a few new biodomes to see if and how they would affect colonists. Unfortunately, I did not get to see how things played out fully as mysteries like this will take several more hours to finish than I had game time allotted.

Unlike other sim titles I’ve played I never really felt the pressure of micromanagement that has always kept me away from such games. Figuring out how I wanted to approach everything with no set rules for right or wrong and no clock ticking away really took a lot of the anxiety off. It may have been a bit of a slow go for me compared to some of the other folks at the event, but I felt good about figuring out how to get at least that first ship of colonists to Mars without any major hiccups.

I can’t say if others will enjoy such an accomplishment, but folks can decide for themselves if they want to take to the stars when Surviving Mars launches on March 15th for PC, Xbox One, and PS4. Fans will be able to pre-order Surviving Mars starting on February 13th.  


Shacknews - Sam Chandler

There are a lot of mechanics in Monster Hunter World that aren’t taught to you right away, and one of the more puzzling features is the Research Point system. If you want to improve your skills at hunting monsters, you’re going to need to know what Research points are and how to use them.

What Are Research Points

Research Points are another form of currency in Monster Hunter World, and can be found in the pause menu at the top-right of the screen. They’re tracked right alongside your Zenny for easy comparison. Research Points are earned whenever you do anything while on a hunt, from capturing pets for your room to tracking a monster, and trapping a monster. As you amass points, you’re going to want to spend them on items and mechanics that will make your life as a hunter easier.

Research Points are used to purchase:

  • Palico equipment
  • Canteen food
  • Botanical Research Center fertilizer
  • Tailraider Safari missions

Palico Equipment

If you want to make your Palico a powerful combatant on the field, you’ll need to purchase your furry friend new weapons and armor, which requires Research Points. This can be accomplished at the Smithy.

Canteen Food

Though you can use Zenny for Canteen food, it can sometimes be a good idea to use Research Points, especially if you’re saving for a particularly expensive weapon or armor upgrade. The food is typically fairly cheap, only costing 100 Research Points.

Botanical Research Center

The Botanical Research Center is unlocked later in the game and allows you to cultivate your own herbs and bugs, so you don’t have to worry about constantly searching for herbs while out on a hunt. It will cost you a few hundred Research Points if you want to fertilize the harvest in order to grow more at a quicker rate.

Tailraider Safari

Out of the above uses for Research Points, the most expensive are the Tailraider Safari missions. These missions are unlocked later in the game, and allow you to send out a party of Palicoes that hunt monsters and collect items for you. However, these can cost anywhere up to and beyond 600 Research Points, depending on the difficulty of the mission.

How to Get Research Points

Research Points can be earned through doing just about everything in Monster Hunter World. Completing quests (Assignments, Investigations, Optional etc), finishing Bounties, tracking monsters and capturing monsters, even attacking a monster will earn you Research Points.

However, as you progress through Monster Hunter World, you’ll find that items become more expensive, so you will want to take every opportunity you can to collect as many Research Points wherever possible. For instance, even if you can see the monster you’re trying to hunt, continue to interact with its tracks, as these will help you earn points and will level up your Ecological Research, making it easier to track monsters in future hunts.

Research Points are a valuable resource in Monster Hunter World, so always try to have a good supply of them and do everything you can to earn more while on a hunt. Head over to our Monster Hunter World Guide for more information on game mechanics and features.

Shacknews - Sam Chandler

There are dozens, if not hundreds of collectible items in Monster Hunter World. From materials required to upgrade your gear to items needed for making potions, you’re constantly picking up new things. Then there’s the Silver Wyverian Print, which will no doubt leave you asking, what is this for and how do I use it?

What Is Silver Wyverian Print For?

Silver Wyverian Print in Monster Hunter World can be used at the Melding Pot in Astera in order to create a new item. The Melding Pot is a vendor that allows you to choose an item you wish to make, and then requires you to break down an item you own into points, which are then used to craft your selected item.

Silver Wyverian Print can only be used to create two specific, and extremely rare, items: the Rathian Plate and Anjanath Plate, two items used in forging stronger weapons – much like Coral Cystal. Each of these require 200 points in order to meld, and the Silver Wyverian Print is valued at 100 points, you you’ll need two if you want a single piece of this material.

If you want to get your hands on more Silver Wyverian Print, you will need to complete the Limited Bounties you receive from the Resource Center in Astera. These are, as the name suggests, timed bounties that expire at the end of the week. Make sure you complete these bounties every week, else you’ll be missing out on this extremely precious resource.

Now that you know what Silver Wyverian Print is used for, be sure to swing by our Monster Hunter World Guide for more answers to your questions!

Shacknews - Brittany Vincent

We just got Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, and now Nintendo is blessing us with another mobile game. This time, it's focusing solely on Mario Kart, as well it should. It's the other major franchise that made the most sense for mobile devices, and now Nintendo has made it official with a tweet announcing its next project: Mario Kart Tour. 

Of course, it's going to be a while until we see the game in its full glory. It's still in development, as the tweet says. But at least we have a name and a vague release date to look forward to, so we know when to start taking days off from the daily grind and start counting down to racing with Mario and his cavalcade of friends. We can expect to see Mario Kart Tour in the fiscal year ending in March 2019. 

It's a bit too early to say what the game may feature, though if it follows in the footsteps of the mobile titles before it, some sort of gashapon system and premium currency will no doubt be involved, though hopefully it won't hinder racing too much. Either way, it's great to have confirmation that we are indeed going to see more Nintendo-centric mobile games going forward, just like we were promised. 

What racers and tracks would you like to see in Mario Kart Tour? 

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

Once upon a time, Nintendo released a Super Mario Bros. movie. It was terrible. The end.

Or is it?

It looks like over 25 years later, Nintendo is going to try again with a Mario movie. Only this time, the company is going to go the animated route. And it's going to do so with one of the most acclaimed animation studios in Hollywood.

Yes, Nintendo is tapping Illumination, the studio behind hit movies like Despicable Me, Sing!, and The Secret Life of Pets. Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto will serve as co-producer, alongside Chris Meledandri, who has served as the producer of the Despicable Me franchise.

There is no further word on this movie at this time, but Shacknews will definitely keep an eye on this development.

Shacknews - Blake Morse

Nintendo has spilled the beans on when their paid online service, Nintendo Online will be going into effect. Starting in September, fans will have to pay an annual fee in order to play games over the internet with friends. According to the Nintendo Switch website:

"After the free-trial period, most games will require a paid online service subscription from Nintendo in order to play online. Currently, the free-trial, the paid service, and online play (for applicable modes in compatible games) is available for customers in the select countries."

Nintendo will also be launching an app to accompany the new service that will have features for certain titles in the Switch catalog:

"The Nintendo Switch Online smart device app is designed to enhance your online experience for compatible games on the Nintendo Switch console"

"This app will initially be compatible with the Splatoon 2 game. It will give you access to SplatNet 2, where you can see your online battle stats, your gear, and much more."

The app will serve as a social hub for friends to connect on to set up chats and gameplay sessions: 

"With the app, you can send online play invitations to players on your Nintendo Switch system's friend list. The app also lets you quickly send invites via social networks and messaging services. When you're invited to a game, you'll get notified right away via a push notification on your smart device."

"Once players are connected, you can use voice chat openly with friends while in the online lobby and during online play (depending on the game)."

Nintendo Online is just for Switch consoles and won't have any effect on online play for Wii U fo the 3DS. No word on price point just yet or if there's a specific date in September for Nintendo Online or if it just goes into effect on September 1st. 

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

This year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas proved to be a strong one for MSI, who brought some of their top PCs and laptops to the show.

Our own Greg Burke had a chance to take a look at some of the top gaming machines that MSI will be bringing out. This includes an updated version of the GE63 Raider that features an RGB-lit keyboard and back panel that can be tied to various functions. There's also the GT75VR, which MSI is touting as a potential gaming PC replacement.

And of course, there are the various curved monitors that MSI brought to the show, including the MPG27CQ that features customizable RGB lighting and full support for SteelSeries GameSense.

For a full demonstration of these and other products, check out the full video below.

Shacknews - Brittany Vincent

If you grew up on Pokemon Red and Blue, rising through the ranks with Yellow and then Gold and Silver, you inevitably spent time with Pokemon Crystal. The amalgam of everything excellent about Pokemon Gold and Silver, with a glittery teal cartridge and a new Pokemon in the form of Suicune on the front, it was the Cadillac of the Pokemon series and the last that the handheld would see. It let the Pokemon era on the Game Boy Color end with a bang, naturally, and now it’s back to rediscover on your 3DS through the Virtual Console and Nintendo eShop. If you missed out on it when it made its original debut back in 2001, it’s a great time to dig in right now, whether you’re reminiscing about the old days or just looking to start your Pokemon journey from an earlier point in the series.

A Classic Gem

Pokemon Crystal took the established conventions of games like Pokemon Gold and Silver and augmented them further with additional features, new game content, and other options. Obviously all those are still here for you to check out as you step into the classic era with your 3DS, and it all feels just as fresh as it did when the game first debuted.

It’s still rocking its own set of firsts, which were important for the series. You could choose to be a female trainer for once, which marked the first time you were able to do this in the Pokemon games. It also added special quirks like new animations for each individual Pokemon as well as a massively tweaked user interface that simply felt way better than what you might have been used to with the older games. Even encountering Pokemon in the overworld was improved with newer sprites and cooler-looking, more individualized character models. If you cut your teeth on Red and Blue to begin with, you'll appreciate all the subtle (and not-so-subtle) changes. 

The game finds you encountering the Legendary Pokemon Suicune on your journey as you follow it through several different plot threads as you head out to track it down. The other two Legendary Pokemon Entei and Raikou make appearances as well, but Suicune is the main focus and as such a more interesting Pokemon to trail throughout the game. You can even nab a Celebi from an additional quest, which previously wasn’t even an option unless you had access to a special event or item. It’s all here, as you remember it, too, or it’s all there for you to discover. There’s just plenty of new stuff, too.

All That Glitters

Pokemon Crystal’s swath of different content includes several new subplots, Pokemon, activities, and plenty of other goodies beyond the fact that it got a new shiny cartridge and Legendary Pokemon. For instance, the creepy Ruins of Alph return with a more significant storyline to explore, and the NPCs you may have disregarded previously have more unique and engaging personalities.

You can also head to the Move Tutor to switch up the moves your Pokemon know and head to the Battle Tower to test your might against other trainers. Both have appeared in several newer Pokemon titles over the years, and you can see where they got their humble beginnings here. There are some very important changes to Pokemon locations, as well as the fact that you can now get more than one of several evolution stones needed to power up your Pokemon, very important when it comes to building and completing your Pokedex.

For this particular release, you can use the Time Capsule at Pokemon Centers to trade your Pokemon with games you have at your disposal from the modern “revival” of the Pokemon franchise.

A Crystal Clear Future

Pokemon Crystal’s eShop debut is everything you wanted it to be and more. It’s a staple of the Pokemon franchise overall and should certainly have been in the running for remakes like Heart Gold and Soul Silver ended up getting. It’s a fantastic, engaging nostalgia rush that’s just begging you to jump right in. What are you waiting for? You should already have it by now. 

This review is based on a 3DS download code provided by the publisher. Pokemon Crystal is available on the Nintendo eShop now. 

Shacknews - Greg Burke

This week on Shack's Arcade Corner, we are taking a look back at Hogan's Alley. The game hit arcades in 1985 and was developed by Intelligent Systems and Nintendo. Hogan's Alley was named after a shooting range and the gameplay was built around shooting only bad guys. One key difference between the game and other light gun shooters of the time was that Hogan's Alley featured more difficult scrolling levels. There was also a mini-game based on keeping cans in the air as long as possible. The cabinet was a bit larger than the typical Nintendo arcade game, most likely due to the light gun. Check out the video to find out more about Hogan's Alley.

For more great videos, including interviews and gameplay, check out the Shacknews and YouTube channels. 

If you have a suggestion for a future episode of Shack's Arcade Corner, please let us know in the comments section or tweet @shacknews & @GregBurke85 with #ArcadeCorner. 

In case you missed any of the over 100 episodes, check out our Shack's Arcade Corner YouTube Playlist.


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