Sci-Fi MMO Population Zero Expected to Launch in May

Enplex Games announced today that its Sci-Fi MMO Population Zero will be available in May 2020 on Steam as a buy-to-play Early Access title. Population Zero combines exploration and survival mechanics with the seamless MMO world of Kepler.

Population Zero

The focus of Population Zero is on a narrative, survival experience that includes a deep main plot, side quests, and many non-player characters who are shrouded in mystery. As an added twist, Enplex will be adding a ‘win condition’ to the game. Every seven days, Kepler will become an unlivable wasteland and players will need to start over bringing the knowledge of their past lives. As this cycle repeats, players will unlock many different account-based rewards.

Initially, Population Zero was planned to be a free-to-play title, but the monetization model has shifted to buy-to-play. The game will be priced at $29.99 with a 10% discount during early access.

“The decision to change the monetization model from F2P to a one-time purchase has been made after a series of thorough discussions within the team and core community,” said Enplex Games Creative Director Denis Pozdnyakov. “The shift to B2P will allow the studio to continue the work on the game without fears of ‘pay to win’, as well as allowing us to release new game content that really enhances the gameplay.” 

 

Source: Press Release

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Phantasy Star Online 2 Beta Begins Today

The initial Phantasy Star Online 2 Xbox One Beta will begin on Friday, February 7, at 5pm PST and end on Saturday, February 8, at 11:59pm PST.

Phantas_star_online_2

Phantasy Star Online 2 is a free-to-play, action RPG developed and by Sega that was initially released in Japan in 2012 on PC. Eventually, it made its way to PlayStation 4, Vita, and the Nintendo Switch, but it never made its way out of Japan. However, there were a few tricks that allowed outsiders to play, but there has been a constant demand from Westerners for their own servers and access to the game.

Players outside of Japan will finally get that chance starting with the Closed Beta that begins this afternoon. Those granted access to the Beta by signing up through the Xbox Insider Hub will have the opportunity to complete Urgent Quests and receive special rewards.

Here is the Urgent Request schedule (PST) for February 7:

  • Cradle of Darkness – 8:00-8:30pm
  • Giant Automata: The Awakening – 10:00-10:30pm

February 8:

  • Cradle of Darkness – 7:00-7:30pm
  • Giant Automata: The Awakening – 1:00-1:30pm
  • Cradle of Darkness – 5:00-5:30pm
  • The Raging Obsidian Arm – 8:30-9:00pm
  • Elder of the Unfathomable Abyss – 9:00-9:30pm

Participating in these quests will grant special rewards, such as Photon Halo accessories and Triboost consumables.

 

Source: Official Site

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10 Best MMORPGs in 2020

You may have heard that the MMORPG genre is dying, and you know what, that may be true, but it isn’t dead yet! There are still a ton of amazing MMOs that you can play. That’s not even mentioning the ones that are coming out in the near future. What should you be playing if you want to play the best? Here’s our list of the 10 best MMORPGs in 2020.

 

10. Guild Wars 2

Despite recent displeasure from longtime fans of the game Guild Wars 2 is still one of the best AAA MMORPGs available on the market. ArenaNet is developing another game and many feel that is reflected by the smaller content patches. But, the game that already exists is fantastic. It has had two expansions which are still popular to this day. Just don’t rush through all the content expecting to get more frequently or you may end up disappointed.

 

9. ArcheAge

ArcheAge Unchained Review Glider

Last year ArcheAge got a huge boost to life with the release of ArcheAge Unchained. The new business model brought in new players and older ones who had previously left citing irritation with the monetization of the game. While reviews of the game on Steam are mixed closer inspection shows that the vast majority of complaints are about difficulties accessing the game and not problems with the game itself. The game is being praised as being enjoyable and fun to play. Quite a feat for a game that is going on 6 years old.

 

8. Phantasy Star Online 2

It may not be expected to launch until Q2 this year but we can already say without a doubt that Phantasy Star Online 2 is going to be one of the best MMORPGs you will play this year. The game has been running consistently in Japan since 2012. In that time it has expanded to be available on PC, PS Vita, PS4, and in 2018 Nintendo Switch. Here in the West, the release will be limited to North America and only be for PC and Xbox One but we’re sure that this much sought after MMORPG will be the talk of the gaming community once it releases.

 

7. Bless Unleashed

We don’t yet know when Bless Unleashed will be leaving beta, but the fact that it has been doing open beta testing suggests that it’s quite close. Bless Unleashed is the game that Bless Online should have been, something that I’ve seen repeated over and over by people who have played in the beta. It is a vast improvement to the game with completely new combat and a number of other big changes. Most notably, it isn’t even made by the same studio. Bless Unleashed is an amazing game, but, it has to get past the stigma and misunderstanding of what the game is. This isn’t just a repackaging of the same game but now it’s free or anything like.

 

6. City of Heroes

city of heroes - Publishers Wish to Block Emulators - MMOGames.com - Your source for MMOs & MMORPGs

It has almost been a year since City of Heroes made a comeback with a bunch of fan-run servers and we are expecting to start seeing new content from the largest of these servers sometime this year. But, that isn’t the reason City of Heroes makes our list. Despite the game being 15 years old and not having any new content for a number of years thanks to it having been offline, it is still one of the most playable MMORPGs on the market right now. This is thanks to the massive amount of content that already existed for the game and just how alt friendly it is. It is also a fantastic game for roleplayers, something of a rarity these days.

 

5. Runescape

This year Runescape is 19 years old but it is still going strong. In fact, 2019 was the best year the Runescape games have ever had! Jagex is also planning something big for the big 20th anniversary next January. So, if you want to try out the game that introduced a large chunk of the internet to MMOs, now might just be the best time to give Runescape a try. Throughout this year Jagex is also going to be hiring 100 new employees, which means that the new content is going to keep rolling in for a long time.

 

4. EVE Online

EVE Online is another one of those games that just keeps getting better with age. This year they’ll be celebrating their 17th birthday! Sure, if you ask the player base there might be some concerns about the game growing stale and yes, the population of the game has been declining. But behind all the current drama there is an incredibly solid game and there is nothing else on the market quite like it.

 

3. World of Warcraft

“Don’t ask what happened to the first one — Mechagon Technology is still Gnome technology!”

When it came to picking the top 3 MMORPGs in 2020 it wasn’t easy. The three games are all on pretty equal ground and it really just depends on personal taste which one you like more. For the sake of this list, however, we let the general hype levels of the game decide. World of Warcraft is still going strong and, while the hype may not be quite as strong anymore for WoW Classic, there are still oh so many who swear by it. 2019 may not have been an amazing year for WoW but it is on such a high pedestal that it can afford to have a bad year and still be one of the best.

 

2. ESO

If you think back to the launch of Elder Scrolls Online it might come as a complete surprise that ESO has come so far. Despite the rough launch, the game has jumped from strength to strength. It’s a solid game through and through that somehow gets forgotten fairly regularly. Right now is a great time to jump in as they’re starting a year-long story that will stretch over several DLCs released throughout 2020.

 

1. FFXIV

2019 was an amazing year for Final Fantasy XIV. Even if only one thing had happened in the game the entire year, the release of Shadowbringers, it still would be number one. Why? Shadowbringers has often been praised as the best MMO expansion of all time. The fact that six months on from the release of the expansion players are still singing its praises is also something of a wonder these days. There is no doubt that as of the time of writing it, in January 2020 Final Fantasy XIV is the best MMORPG, period.

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Temtem Impressions – Gotta Tame ’Em All

Do you know why they are called stress tests? Because they will stress you out, make you want to tear your hair apart. Well, perhaps the official reason behind these tests is something more elaborate, like getting the servers under severe pressure and to try and break them, like Crema is trying to do in a series of brief Temtem stress tests. Or, as I prefer to call them, Queue Simulator 2020 or Black Screen Reboot Saga. It was all worth it in the end to get these early Temtem impressions though, even if I lost a few strands of hair in the process.

After a successful Kickstarter campaign, Temtem is destined to become a gigantic hit, you can mark my words. It’s not because it oozes originality or showcases high production values – no, this is an educated guess based on the visible excitement surrounding the imminent release of a true Pokémon MMO game, minus the Pokémon. And no, Pokémon Go doesn’t entirely fit into the desired MMO pattern.

Let’s not sugarcoat it, Temtem is ostensibly inspired by Nintendo’s franchise and barely manages to play it safe as to avoid a cease and desist letter from the fine folks at Nintendo. Because you’re not catching Pokémon here; instead, you’re taming Temtem. You see, you’re not a trainer, you’re a tamer, which makes a whole world of difference, doesn’t it?

But that’s beyond the point, and the point in question here is that Temtem is the game that everyone wishes for a long time. It’s not just another Pokémon clone, it’s a Pokémon MMO and a labor of love by a group of developers who were clever enough to see the opportunity and grab it by the… Pokéballs.

Temtem Impressions Character Creation

Gotta Tame ’Em All | Temtem Preview

Your first step in Temtem is the creation of your in-game avatar, the tamer that you will control. You can choose between male or female, skin color, and one of four idle poses. Next up is the choice of face and hair, followed by top, bottom, and backpack. Don’t expect any sort of groundbreaking character creation system, as there is no option to tweak advanced features such as body parts or add tattoos, but all things considered, it’s a very decent and straight to the point creator. Besides, it gives you a first insight into the awfully cute graphics that power the world of Temtem. It’s a mix between Pokémon Sword and Shield and The Sims 4, albeit in a cleaner, less detailed yet very colorful art style.

Personally, I love it to bits. The interiors are exceptionally cozy and neatly designed, with your standard appliances livening up the place: the flat-screen TV, the comfy sofa, and the kitchen cabinets look very inviting. However, someone should tell aunt Aina not to leave that huge kitchen knife lying around, there are reckless kids running around everywhere, barging into other people’s homes without warning.

Thankfully, the house equipment isn’t there just to look pretty; Temtem comes with a full housing system, allowing you to buy your house at Atoll Row and give it the makeover that you wish for. Although I haven’t progressed enough to try this feature – I was far busier rebooting the game and crossing my fingers –, I can see this aspect becoming extremely popular among tamers everywhere. You can purchase furniture and place it wherever you want to, decorate your walls, and invite your friends over.

Outside, the lovely island of Deniz awaits us, one of the six floating isles that Temtem has for us to explore. Embrace this lush Mediterranean paradise with its sunny beaches, grass, and trees. It’s an idyllic place where water and wind Temtem proliferate, usually hiding deep within the tall grass, waiting for you to come by.

Temtem Impressions Battle Technique

The main character design and animation is as cute as can be, and the Temtem themselves are nothing to be ashamed of either. Early on, you’ll only find small and somewhat cute Temtem, but these will evolve into sophisticated creatures that demand respect, while remaining as your faithful companions in the journey to defeat the evil Team Roc… I mean, Clan Belsoto, who is trying to rule over the Archipelago.

While there is nothing sizable to complain in terms of visuals, I can’t say the same thing about the map design. I’m not very fond of the way that the game funnels you along a mostly linear path, destroying any genuine feeling of exploration that you might be looking for. As an MMO, it should offer more freedom and encourage you and your friends to go out exploring, discovering new and wondrous places at your own pace. Instead, you’re often asked to follow this road and dance to the tune of its makers, in an old-fashioned and arguable design. Besides, it dearly lacks a jump button.

To make myself perfectly clear, you do have the ability to drop off ledges to explore some otherwise inaccessible areas. However, the outcome is that you’re forced to run the same path again to return to your previous location, because you are unable to climb even the smallest ledge. This way, the world becomes narrow and constricted, a feeling that is heightened by the number of players that are traveling around almost in a single file fashion. Hopefully, the other islands offer more and vaster open areas to lessen this odd claustrophobic feel.

Temtem Impressions Tamers Get in Line

Apart from the scripted combats that make the storyline progress, Temtem has a fair share of random encounters. You’re peacefully traversing some tall grass when, suddenly, a hotheaded wild creature decides that it is a beautiful day for a brawl. If you think that it could make a nice addition to your squad, go ahead and use a TemCard to try and capture it.

Tamers can have up to six Temtem in your squad, but you can only use two at a time in battle. Your first tricky decision arrives early on, when you are invited to pick your Temtem among a selection of three: Crystle (Crystal type), Smazee (Melee type), and Houchic (Mental type). At a certain level, your Temtem evolves into a much more fearful creature. The TemPedia available in the game currently displays 141 Temtem, a very reasonable number for a new franchise.

Battles in Temtem may seem as straightforward as they come, with a natural order to creature types and how they affect one another, but there are some underlying tricks that give the upper hand to the best strategists. Combat is turn-based and mostly 2v2, with each Temtem having a set of four techniques to use against their opponents. You can attack or apply various other effects, with every technique costing a certain number of stamina points. While it may look shallow to the inattentive player, there are features such as technique holds and synergies that provide the battles with enough depth to hopefully keep them engrossing for a long time, especially in the competitive scene.

Temtem Impressions Tucan Play That Game

By the end of the four hours of the first stress test, Temtem was finally stable, and I was enjoying my time capturing wild creatures and exploring new parts of the map. Suddenly, the fun came to a halt as the servers were abrutply closed and every tamer was sent packing. It was fun while it lasted, and the substantial amount of stress and frustration was entirely worth it.

With the Temtem Early Access release date set for January 21, 2020, the excitement for this game is peaking. After so many years, we may finally get a real Pokémon MMO; it may be coming under a different guise, but it brings the same amount of charm and crazy creatures as you would expect from such a game.

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Exosuit MMO Plan 8 Details Have Been Revealed

We first heard about Plan 8 just before GStar earlier this year and now we are finally getting some details about the game as well as some much sought after images.

It is the first shooter that Pearl Abyss has worked on and it uses Pearl Abyss’ brand-new proprietary engine. The Lead Producer for the game is Seungki Lee, the former Environment Art Director for Black Desert Online while Minh Le, the co-creator of the original Counter-Strike is serving as Technical Advisor.

While it is being called a shooter it will in fact incorporate elements from a number of genres, including MMOs. One of the key features of Plan 8 is finding and equipping different Gears to the player’s exosuit which will open up gameplay experiences they say have never been seen before in a game. Each suit has its own special abilities and grants wearers superhuman power, strength, and abilities.

Enhancement of firearms also plays an important role in Plan 8. Unlike in other shooters, there is no standard format for modifications so you will be able to truly customize your weapons.

Plan 8 is being developed for PC and console, though which consoles haven’t yet been stated. The official website for the game is now live and you can subscribe to their official newsletter to get the most up to date news on Plan 8. As of yet, there is no official word on when there will be a beta for the game but as soon as any new information is released we’ll be sure to share it.

 

 

Source: Press Release

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Registration for the Phantasy Star Online 2 Beta Now Open

The time has finally come, after 7 years of waiting you can finally sign up for the Phantasy Star Online 2 beta. But, before we go any further you need to know a few things. First, the beta will be on Xbox One exclusively, so if you’re a PC gamer you’re SOL. Second, this beta is only going to be open to those in the United States and Canada.

To register your interest in the Closed Beta all you have to do is go to the Xbox Insider Hub on your Xbox One or Windows 10 device. There you’ll be able to register for a chance to take part by following these steps:

Navigate to the Store tab on your Xbox One console, or the Microsoft Store app on your Windows 10 device.

Select Search and look for “Xbox Insider Hub.”

Select the Xbox Insider Hub and choose “get” or “install.”

Once the app is installed, make sure to register for early sign-up for the game!

 

Launch the Xbox Insider Hub on your Xbox One or Windows 10 device.

If this is your first time launching the app, accept the Xbox Insider Program Terms of Use.

From the main dashboard, select Insider Content.

Under “Games,” select “Phantasy Star Online 2.”

Select “Join” to register for early sign-up.

 

Notifications will be sent out via Xbox Live when the beta begins. Right now, there hasn’t been a start date confirmed for the event. Additional details will be given on Xbox Insider’s Twitter account. The game is expected to launch in Spring 2020, so this is likely one of the few opportunities you’ll have to try out the game before it is released.

 

Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn’t seem to have any plans at the moment to release the game in Europe, the Middle East, or Africa. We can only hope that with the success of PSO2 in North America that we will see it extended to include other regions of the world.

 

Source: Xbox Official Site

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Canceled MMOs of 2019

The end of the year is here and that means it is time to look at the games we lost this year. It wasn’t as bad this year as it was last year but there are still quite a few games to get through. Here are the canceled MMOs of 2019.

 

February

Blacklight Retribution

At the end of 2017 Perfect World gave Blacklight Retribution back to its developer Hardsuit Labs and for a brief moment it looked like the game would have another chance at life. Sadly it wasn’t to be and after a couple of years on Steam the game finally shut down.

 

ROSE Online

Though ROSE Online had been in Maintenance Mode since 2016 it still came as a bit of a surprise when ROSE Online shut down. The game had been live since 2005 and 14 years is a great run for an MMORPG. There was news of a mobile spin-off late last year but sadly there hasn’t been any news about it coming West.

 

April

Orcs Must Die! Unchained

After the success of Orcs Must Die! 2 it only made sense that Robot Entertainment would start working on a new game in the series. It was initially released in beta in 2014 and stayed there until April 2017 when it officially launched. In April 2019 the game was sadly shut down and, for those doing the math, it spent more time in beta than it did live. At the time of its shutdown the game had been running at a financial loss for several months.

 

Survived By

Survived By town

A permadeath bullet hell survival game kind of sounds like you just vomited some words but this is exactly what Survived By was. Sadly the development team decided to stop working on the game after it became clear that they wouldn’t be able to meet their original vision. This was the second Digital Extremes game that has been shutdown after Amazing Eternals in 2017.

 

Kritika Online

En Masse shut down the Western version of Kritika Online earlier this year and then just a few months later announced they were bringing it back! Yes, you can actually play Kritika Online right now on Steam where it is called Kritika: REBOOT.

 

Breach

QC Games closed its doors, putting an end to their 4v1 game Breach. The game had been inspired by Shadow Realms, a game that had been in development at Bioware and was canned before the public ever saw it. Though we did get a chance to play it. No reason for Breach’s shutdown was given but considering the studio disbanded entirely it isn’t a stretch at all to assume money was an issue.

 

May

The Culling

The Culling

Times have been rough for The Culling ever since they decided to immediately start working on a sequel to the game. That sequel was a Battle Royale game, a completely different genre to the first game. To say it was an unpopular move would be an understatement. Just a couple of weeks after the sequel launched they closed it and went back to work on The Culling. They even went so far as to make the game free to play. But by then the damage had been done and their players had left.

 

Dragon Nest Europe

Dragon Nest Europe

Action MMORPG Dragon Nest shut down in May this year, but the game isn’t gone entirely. It can still be played in most regions of the world, including North America. Unfortunately IPS from outside of North America are blocked so that is little consolation for European players. This isn’t the first time a region of Dragon Nest has shut down though so there may be hope in the future.

 

June

ELOA aka Warlords Awakening

eloa

ELOA has the rare misfortune of being one of the few games that has been shutdown three times. The first time it was an illegal beta version of the game that was stolen from Webzen who had released it in the east. Webzen contested the game and it was shut down. Then Webzen launched their own version of the game which ran for just a year and was sunsetted due to low population. Then it was brought back again, this time not by Webzen under the name Warlords Awakening. Sadly it only lasted a year too.

 

Atlas Reactor

Atlas Reactor was Trion’s answer to X-COM and sadly it flew under the radar of most gamers. After Gamigo bought Trion they promised to release content for all their games, including Atlas Reactor but it seems that after consideration they decided to shut the game down instead.

 

July

Worlds Adrift

Worlds Adrift

Bossa took a break from their usual games like Pigeon Simulator and I Am Bread to make an MMORPG that had a lot of promise. Sadly, the game didn’t gain enough traction to be commercially viable so the studio decided to shut the game down.

 

Mavericks

Mavericks: Proving Grounds

Mavericks was one of those games that never actually got released but it had so much hype and potential that people were talking about it like it was going to be one of the great games in the genre. Sadly, the company behind it suffered from financial woes and the project came to an end as the company closed down.

 

August

Lazarus

Lazarus the mmo alpha and beta list

Indie MMO Lazarus never made it out of Early Access but it had an amazingly unique premise and those who played it loved it. After 3 years in Early Access the studio decided to sunset the game as they were facing the financial strain of keeping it going.

 

September

Bless Online

bless online dragon

Bless Online was once hyped to be the next big thing in MMORPGs but after waiting years and having more than a few issues the game’s release wasn’t quite what anyone expected. Bless Online has shut down but it isn’t the end quite yet. Neowiz is hard at work on a re-imagining of the game called Bless Unleashed.

 

October

Fallen Earth

Just a short time after celebrating the 10th anniversary of Fallen Earth the game was shut down. This may not be the end. There’s hope for a reboot in the future and the studio is hard at work on that already. There is no date for this reboot though so for now we have to do without.

 

December

Durango Wild Lands

Durango Wild Lands Review Zebraceratops

Nexon’s survival mobile game Durango Wild Lands shut down after just 6 months. Though it should be said that it was in beta testing for 2 years. The fact that the developers released one final patch for the game before it closed made it all the more depressing. It’s likely that Nexon’s ongoing financial issues had a role to play.

 

DEATHGARDEN

Behaviour Interactive announced that DEATHGARDEN, their survival shooter/battle royale game had a decreasing player base and for that reason the game would be shutting down. This is another title that technically never made it out of Early Access, but these days Early Access is more of a soft launch than a beta.

 

Dragon’s Dogma Online

Dragon’s Dogma Online was one of those games that never actually made it to the West, but that didn’t stop a lot of Westerners from playing it anyway. It was actually a follow-up to the 2012 action RPG Dragon’s Dogma and it was Capcom’s first MMORPG. Dragon’s Dogma ran for 4 years before it was shut down, a pretty good run for a game that was a studio’s first MMORPG and never got a global release.

 

Maintenance Mode

These games haven’t been shut down yet but for most games once they go into Maintenance Mode their days are numbered. These are the games that were put into Maintenance Mode in 2019.

 

Ragnarok Online 2

Ragnarok Online 2

Gravity moved the development team that was working on Ragnarok Online 2 onto other projects and ended development on the game, but it is still playable for the time being.

 

Tree of Life

Tree of Life

Oddone Games developer Young-chae Kim said that Tree of Life had been a project he had dreamed of making his entire life. Ultimately he couldn’t make Tree of Life a better game due to inexperience. So they ended development of the game and started working on other projects.

 

Battleborn

Battleborn gameplay

Battleborn had the misfortune of being released at the same time as Overwatch while competing for the same audience. Since then the game just hasn’t had the population necessary to keep going. 2K announced that Battleborn is now in Maintenance Mode and they’ve been kind enough to let players know that it will only be around until 2021.

 

Elder Scrolls: Legends

The Elder Scrolls: Legends

Players of the Elder Scrolls card game Elder Scrolls: Legends had been patiently waiting to hear about new content for their game when it was announced on Reddit that none would be coming. Elder Scrolls: Legends hasn’t shut down just yet, though who knows how much time it has left?

 

Honorable Mention

Foundry System in Neverwinter and Star Trek Online

Foundry STO

The Foundry System, which allowed gamers in Neverwinter and Star Trek Online to create their own missions, was sadly shut down earlier this year. While this is just one feature in a larger game, it was a beloved feature that meant a lot to players of those games. For that reason we wanted to give the Foundry System an honorable mention.

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Diablo IV – What We Know So Far

You all have phones, right? Thankfully, unless you’re reading this on one, you can set it down. To uproarious applause, Blizzard-Activision released a darker, grittier, more visceral update to the franchise in it’s long awaited fourth entry. Diablo IV was announced earlier this month at Blizzcon, with steady streams of information trickling out as the days have rolled on. With three panels to summon from, and a trove of information released through tertiary interviews, we can finally and safely talk about what to expect out of the darker return to Sanctuary.

The announcement kicked off famously at the company’s trade show in a BIG way. Featuring a ten-minute cinematic of some of the darkest, most gore-drenched detail Blizzard has ever displayed. Invoking an ancient rite in the pursuit of wealth and knowledge, three treasure hunters manage to birth Lilith, the demonic child of Mephisto and Daughter of Hatred, into the world. Unleashed upon a bleak world lost after the fall of Sanctuary, everything is ripe for a new age of hell to rise up from the dark depths.

It cannot be understated how much people have been looking forward to Diablo IV. Since an announcement during Diablo III’s season 14 production, alluding to multiple Diablo projects under work in, “Blizzard’s forges,” speculation has been rampant. This wasn’t teased well with the announcement of Diablo Immortal last year, as well as the PR mismanagement both during and long after Blizzcon 2018. It would later be discussed in a report by Jason Schreier of Kotaku that Blizzard had cancelled a Diablo IV announcement at the last possible moment, and further internal reports on it had been quashed company-wide. To say that applause at Blizzcon was deafening might be a mild understatement.


Diablo IV returns to it’s isometric routes as it has with previous installments in the RPG franchise. Instead of linear, chapter-based progression like previous installments, the team behind the dark dungeon despoiler instead promised an ‘open world.’ Following along the progression patterns of World of Warcraft: Legion, the game’s storylines can reportedly be completed in any order potential players desire. As seen in trailers, the open world can be traversed on foot, on horseback, and with friends.

While five classes are promised to ship with the base game, similar to the series’ previous entry. The barbarian returns from their rampage to save a defenseless Sanctuary in Diablo III, focusing on brutallistic melee combat. Relying on swirling steel and devastating power, his powers were showcased as ones returning fans will recognize; waves of damage from powerful blasts of his weapons. Roars of fury that increase his power and speed, even blazing runic armor to smite his foes.

Fresh from her adventures in Immortal, the Sorceress was the second announced class. With similar demoed playstyle to III’s Wizard, the Sorceress focuses on range and control to devastating effect. More tactical than her brutal brother, the Sorceress excels away from combat using elemental magic to deter and tactically destroy her opponents. From homing bolts of lightning to freezing icicle arrows and detonating fireballs.


Returning to the franchise with much fervor and cheers from Blizzcon attendees, the Druid was the final class to be announced at Blizzcon 2019. While sporting a more feral, ancient nordic design, his spell repertoire has been massively altered to fit the motif. Unlike his Diablo 2 counterpart, this Druid relies more on the feral and fearful aspects of nature. Doing away with elemental attacks, he instead relies on powerful shapeshifting magic. Showcased in the trailer with both a werewolf and werebear form, it’s more than likely this shapeshifting will become the central design point of the revamped class.

Together, these three will explore a far more open Sanctuary than ever before. Leaning heavier into its predecessors MMO-lite elements, Diablo IV will feature an always online persistent world. A constant internet connection will be required for it, though no solutions for a single-player or couch co-op experience have been detailed yet by Blizzard. While details are still vague, the company is intending to have the world littered with random player encounters, more in the vein of Dark Souls than World of Warcraft. As such, Blizzard has also confirmed Player vs. Player content for this new title after it being sorely missing from the previous entry. While details are still vague on the concept as a whole, the team confessed to restricting it to particular zones for players to slug it out.

What isn’t vague in Diablo IV is the confirmation of microtransactions. With each flagship Blizzard-Activision title currently including them in some form or another, it’s not surprising. In an interview with Quin69 lead game designer Joe Shely confirmed their inclusion. Initially trying to pass them off as additional expansions, he then confirmed, “you will also be able to acquire cosmetics in the game… It’s very early, but yes.”


But that really seems to be the theme to Diablo IV’s presentation at Blizzcon. It’s very early yet. Despite promises of cross-platform play between PS4, Xbox One and PC, Blizzard recanted to say that while it’s a goal its still VERY early yet. When questioned about a release date, the company promised quarterly updates in February 2020 but it was still too early yet to confirm anything solid. When asked about other features and classes the mantra became, “It’s very early yet.”

So what can we see for a projected launch window for Diablo IV? The answer, confusingly, is both ‘sooner,’ and ‘later.’

As most industry enthusiasts know: the next console generation IS coming. The Xbox Scorpio is well into its development cycle and leaks from Sony-America have cited a potential Holiday 2020 release window. In talking with indie developers at the Enthusiast Gaming Live Expo I was able to confirm that PS5 development kits are already being widely distributed to prop up the console’s launch. As we saw with Diablo III, however, Blizzard managed to launch their title for the Playstation 3, and later touched up a ‘Battlechest’ version for the PS4. It’s likely they could do the same again.

The best projection we have, currently, is an early 2021 launch. With rumors of Diablo IV having only been in moderate prototype status during its blockade of Blizzcon 2018, and now a limited announcement for 2019, an additional year-and-a-half window would be the optimal bare-minimum for the company. More than likely we’ll see Lilith return in March 2021, the start of the fiscal year and the year of Hatred in Sanctuary.

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Team Go Rocket And Shadow Pokemon Invade Pokemon Go!

Pokemon has been one of my favorite fandoms for well over two-thirds of my life. I was only ten when the original Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue were released and it was unlike anything I had ever played before. I was instantly hooked to the adventure, the mechanics, and the phenomenon that came from it. I vividly remember facing off against the horrible Team Rocket for the very first time at Mt. Moon. Eventually, I took them on at the Silph Co. building and their own hideout, then one last epic battle against their boss to take away the Earth Badge and head toward Victory Road. That’s why Team GO Rocket in the smash-hit mobile game, Pokemon Go, is such a fantastic entry for longtime fans of the franchise. 

 

Prepare For Trouble, Make It Double!

For the uninitiated, Team Rocket, in the mainline games, is an evil organization hellbent on stealing Pokemon and causing havoc. Led by the devious gangster Giovanni, they cause trouble all in the name of more power and money. Giovanni, himself, is (during the events of the original games) the leader of the Viridian City Gym, making him the final Gym Leader before hitting up the Elite Four. It’s even alluded to that they had something to do with the creation of the genetic powerhouse, Mewtwo, which was confirmed in the anime and other media. Team Rocket became an iconic part of the Pokemon franchise and even my mom knows who they are, partially due to ten-year-old me playing the games all those years ago.

team go rocket jessie james

Pictured: Not Twerps, clearly.
(Source: Pokemon Let’s Go! Pikachu and Eevee trailer, TPCi)

Unlike some of the evil organizations across Pokemon games, Rocket shows their ugly face more than once in the series. In the direct sequel games to the first generation, Pokemon Gold and Pokemon Silver featured them as the primary threat. There, they caused mass evolution of Magikarp, cut off Slowpoke tails to sell as a delicacy, and generally caused trouble on their path to find their missing leader. By the 7th Generation, Giovanni had figured out how to travel through the multiverse, where he collected alternate versions of other “Team” leaders that had defeated the protagonist in each of their respective dimensions. At that point, Team Rainbow Rocket was the post-game threat, which ended in Giovanni threatening to return yet again. 

That’s where it left off and may have hinted at what came next, with Giovanni’s final words in Pokemon Ultra Sun and Pokemon Ultra Moon, “Now…what new world shall I unleash my evil schemes upon…?”

 

Team Rocket Comes To Pokemon Go!

Let’s cut to the real world and the incredibly successful Pokemon Go mobile game. Catching Pokemon while traveling around the real world, battling, trading, and completing research quests is just usual fare. After three years of constant events, the very loose lore of the game sometimes throws the players a bone. This time, it all started at the “Pokemon GO Fest” in Dortmund, Germany. An ominous familiar black hot air balloon sporting a giant red “R” was seen during the event. Players and fans knew something bigger was coming.

Sure enough, they did. Lasting for a day initially, some Pokestops were discolored. Upon approaching them, they’d turn black instead of the usual blue and have that classic red “R” up top. Spinning it would do something new, however. Instead of just gaining a few new items and moving on, a Rocket Grunt would attack you, starting an actual battle. After the tough battle, the first Pokemon they’d have used was available to catch using premier balls, not unlike catching a raid Pokemon. But, something was off about these Pokemon. They emit a dark aura around them because they’re Shadow Pokemon!

 

Old School Fans Would Know Shadow Pokemon

Delving back a bit into the history of old Pokemon games, you’ll find Pokemon Colosseum and Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness. During those games, the evil Team Cipher created a process that removes emotion from Pokemon to harness their fighting spirit. Players can catch Shadow Pokemon and “purify” them. Aside from a Shadow Mewtwo appearing in the Nintendo Wii U and Switch game, Pokken Tournament, this type of mechanic hasn’t really appeared outside the third generation era. 

dratini-pokemon-go-shadow-purify

From the shadows, Dratini!
(Source: Pokemon GO)

Of note, the Japanese version of Shadow Pokemon in prior entries is referred to as “Dark Pokemon.” Meanwhile, the Japanese version for Pokemon Go still refers to them as “Shadow” in the prefix. Anyone old enough to remember the original Team Rocket expansion of the Pokemon Trading Card Game will remember cards like “Dark Gyarados” and “Dark Raichu,” which can back up the thought process that “Dark” and “Shadow” are considered one in the same.

 

Team GO Rocket Blasts Off!

So, that event lasted all of a single day, going away in a flash. Within a few days, the dastardly Team Rocket was showing up in New York City for a big take over of Pokestops. After several hours, they were “defeated,” only to drop more hints at a more widespread take over set for two days later. They’re relentless! All of Pokemon Go’s Twitter and social media went into black out and Team Rocket took “control.” Giovanni stepped forward with a new team name: Team GO Rocket! He even alluded to his final line in Pokemon Ultra Sun and Pokemon Ultra Moon. They took control of all Pokestops for an hour on a set day. As quickly as they came, they were defeated yet again, with threats of a potential return. But, are they gone for good? Unlikely.

pokemon-go-team-go-rocket-pokestop-grunt

Pokestop right there!
(Source: Pokemon Go)

Where Will This Lead?

Team GO Rocket Pokestops now have the in-game “Hero” medal tied to defeating them. It’s clear that Pokemon Go players now have a force to take head on. With the ability to purchase both Team Rocket and Team Rainbow Rocket’s attire for your avatar to wear, I wonder if we’ll have the ability to join them one day. 

I recall the end of Nugget Bridge during the original Pokemon games, where the final opponent turned out to be a Rocket Grunt. He asks if you want to JOIN them! Maybe this is our chance! Probably not. But, in this world, who knows? Could we see the infamous Jessie and James hop to Pokemon Go? Will we get Slowpoke without tails as an event? Could we see Team GO Rainbow Rocket emerge eventually and have us face off against other notorious Team leaders? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what Team GO Rocket and the Pokemon Go team has up their sleeves next. 

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Star Citizen – Flight of Fancy

Star Citizen is the undisputed king of crowdfunded games, an enterprise of galactic proportions that has everything to go horribly wrong. Cloud Imperium Games’ ambitious project boasts an epic scale that makes other far-reaching games look like a tiny speck of dust in comparison. It’s an endless feature creep that still lacks a release date, despite being in development since 2011 and having raised nearly $300 million so far.

Chris Roberts has the creation of the Wing Commander series to his credit, giving him an authority that very few video game designers can brag about. He is clearly passionate about Star Citizen and has an unwavering vision and a grand scope that plays in his advantage, as much as it is encumbering the game’s progress with stories of endless micro-management. Star Citizen is the greatest game that may never see the light of day.

But we are getting closer to… well, something, and the proof of that is the Free Fly event where anyone could try the Star Citizen Alpha 3.5 and see for themselves how this space epic is shaping up. Spoilers: it’s buggy, the system requirements are sky high and clearly there is an irrational amount of work yet to be done, but I’ll be damned if Star Citizen doesn’t make you feel like a space cowboy in the greatest sci-fi universe ever designed for a video game.

If it will ever be finished – as much as any online game can be –, that is another subject entirely.

Star Citizen Preview Ship Exterior

In Space No One Can Hear You Blow Up

Star Citizen stands out from the crowd as soon as you click the shortcut; this is an absolute resource hog that will make Crysis and Doom 3 feel like the most optimized games ever at launch. After several minutes of loading to reach the main menu and several minutes more to deploy at the space station, you suddenly come to the realization that backing this game wasn’t enough – maybe the time has come to upgrade your computer. However, that isn’t enough to hide the fact that Star Citizen needs some serious optimization, or it will be roasted by a community that isn’t solely comprised of players with high spec computers.

The Free Fly Alpha 3.5 offers three different ventures into Star Citizen, and that goes without mentioning the stand-alone star-studded single-player adventure Squadron 42, which is slated to launch in 2020. You can go for the full Universe experience or taste some more immediate action-oriented tidbits via the Star Marine and the Arena Commander modules, with the former for first-person shooter gameplay and the latter for epic space dogfights or races.

Star Marine is the module to go if competitive shooters are your thing. It’s intense and visually impressive, with little touches like your heart rate playing an important part – let’s call it stamina –, but you’ve played many shooters before that feel similar. It’s a solid effort that for now offers a scant selection of game modes, Elimination (free-for-all where the player with the highest kill count wins) and Last Stand (battle for control points). Up to 24 players may enter the arena and you can customize your loadout with weapons, armor and utility items such as MedPens and grenades.

Star Citizen Preview Star Marine Last Stand

Arena Commander offers a similar approach to Star Marine but takes the fight to deep space. This is more uncommon, as there aren’t many games with the looks and sheer maneuverability of Star Citizen’s ships. You will not only be impressed by the amazing views, but the exhilarating dogfighting also comes out strongly commended, shooting other ships while carefully dodging asteroids. It takes a deep knowledge of each ship’s strengths and failings to make the best of every situation, but this obviously is a task that takes a fair length of time.

There is more to Arena Commander than dogfighting, as you take the seat of your ship and race other players through the gigantic rings of a space station, with a beautiful forest on the surface of the planet. Or you can relish on the delights of leisure flight, going to space stations and purely enjoying your time. But if you are of the truly competitive kind and prefer a Battle Royale mode of sorts, Star Citizen has got you covered. Squadron Battle is team deathmatch at its heart, while Vanduul Swarm and Pirate Swarm are both about holding off enemy onslaughts.

While Star Citizen has this everything-for-everyone approach right off the bat, this is a game that is more than the sum of its parts, at least in theory. The mere thought of a game that mixes elements from its modules with a persistent universe where you can be whoever you want, go where you feel like and act as you want is mouth-watering, thrilling and, quite honestly, hard to believe. Seeing is believing won’t cut it in this case; what Star Citizen has to offer right now may feel ambitious and grand, but promises were made about a magnificent scope that is light years away from its current state.

Star Citizen Preview Character Customization

Lost in Stanton

Star Citizen recently saw the addition of female characters, with the visual quality being sky-high – human eyes are universally acknowledged as one of the most difficult features to faithfully reproduce in video games, but the result here is mind-blowing. I can’t say the same for hair, though, which still seems to be a work-in-progress and is particularly lacking on proper female styles. The DNA system is another new feature and raises the level of a character customization system that is trying something new. Instead of using the classic sliders to adjust every facial feature of your avatar, you choose up to three source heads to combine and slightly adjust their traits in a way that should never return a freaking abomination as an option. No offense, Fallout 4.

And now you ask: why should I bother spending two or three hours creating a stunning face for my space hero if it will be covered by a helmet? Well, because you can remove it in space stations, and your lovely face is visible in some helmets anyway, so your work won’t go to waste. The current iteration of Star Citizen’s character customization doesn’t offer any body customization options, but this is on the to-do list. Just don’t ask us when it will make it into the game, because… well, it’s Star Citizen.

My Free Fly adventure begins as soon as I get up from my bed in Port Olisar, a space station in the Stanton Star System. This place is just a tiny dot in a vast universe, as Cloud Imperium Games promised that 100 unique star systems would make it into the game, and there is a star map to prove it. However, Chris Roberts himself said that players should expect between five to ten star systems with the core mechanics in place, something that sounds more reasonable considering the scope of each one and the amount of time and resources that this endeavor demands from the team.

Star Citizen Preview Shiny Armor

Moving through the space station, I can try on and purchase new Undersuits using the UEC currency. I can’t get anything too fancy, but it’s always nice to change from your base costume. After that I ran to the ship retrieval terminal where I spawn my spacecraft – the Free Fly demo had five on offer, some more suited to combat, others for delivery or racing: Anvil Arrow, MISC Prospector, Drake Cutlass Black, Aegis Avenger Titan and Drake Dragonfly. As soon as your ship reaches the landing pad, make sure to hurry up as you may be occupying valuable space for other players’ ships.

Before heading off to the designed landing pad, it’s important to check your MobiGlas, Star Citizen’s version of Fallout’s Pip-Boy. This device includes vital information for all the needs of a regular space hero, bounty hunter or galaxy courier, whoever you want to be. You can use it to track all your details such as current balance, vitals, atmosphere, suit, vehicle and mission status. But there is much more to it, including managing your equipment, chat with other players, set travel routes or accept contracts. This last one is what makes any Star Citizen adventurer tick, ultimately defining where you need to travel and what type of missions you get to tackle. You can pick some simple delivery jobs, which can go awry at any moment, or you can opt for maintenance, bounty hunter or mercenary contracts.

I didn’t have much luck with my first contract, which consisted in picking up a package from an outpost on Cellin and delivering it to an aid shelter on the same planet. But it wasn’t a matter of space pirates, fuel usage miscalculation or poor piloting skills; no, it was a bug of interplanetary proportions that reared its ugly face in the shape of a non-existing package. How am I expected to deliver something that isn’t available in the precise place where I was told to pick it up?

As it turns out, this is a bug that was previously reported and still needs fixing. Star Citizen has bugs, who would have thought? But it gets worse, with planet surfaces or space stations that fail to render, ships that explode out of nowhere, landings that will give you severe headaches, random crashes… the galaxy is dark and full of bugs.

Star Citizen Preview ArcCorp Arrival

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Boarding Your Ship

Much has been said before about Star Citizen’s ships, not all of it praiseworthy. Before jumping into the controversial details I’ll take a quick ride through some of the details and highpoints of these ambitious spacecrafts.

Ships come in all shapes and sizes, often turning a simple task such as entering and getting to the pilot seat into an adventure. You must discover where the ship door is, if there is a ladder to activate, whatever possible means are there to get on board. It’s not an obvious task at first but you’ll soon get the hang of it as you become acquainted with each ship. Once inside, you have a few accommodations at your disposal, usually including a bed which is said to serve as a safe log off/log in feature, but this mechanic seems to be broken at the moment.

Larger ships have one-man turrets, vast cargo space, co-pilot seats and more. When you’re finally seated at the cockpit, your jaw may eventually drop as you look at several fully-functioning displays and feel flabbergasted at what you’re experiencing. It’s a mix of awe and concern, but far from the complex, unintelligible design that the first impression may let on. You only need to find the switches for the basic functions such as powering up the ship, turning the engine on and you should be clear for takeoff.

Star Citizen is a hot topic when it comes to its spacecraft and the asking prices for some of them, with many ships costing over $100 and a few select spacecraft retailing for more than $1,000. While this may sound bonkers and a huge leap of faith for some backers, I absolutely respect the amount of work and character that goes into each ship. It’s a colossal endeavor in some cases, and it feels acceptable if you have some extra cash burning a hole in your pocket and absolute faith in the vision driving Star Citizen. It’s a trophy for backers to proudly display and it’s far from your traditional overpriced piece of armor, or perhaps your useless set of horse armor. It’s a matter of how much you’re willing to spend on Star Citizen and your confidence in the future of the project.

Star Citizen Preview Drake Cutlass Black Ship

Ship insurance is another controversial subject, as you must pay an in-game fee in order to avoid losing your ship for good – that surely won’t be fun if you’ve spent hundreds of dollars on it. While a few initial backers were rewarded with lifetime insurance, the most likely scenario is that you’ll have to pay a regular fee to get a replacement ship in case it is destroyed – and believe me, it will, either by mistake, space pirates, planetary storms, unfriendly players, fuel loss and other hazards. During the alpha there was no insurance fee, but when it comes into play it will surely make quite some noise, and probably not the good kind.

It’s impossible to go places in a single star system such as Stanton without resorting to Quantum Travel. This is how you navigate the vast space between each planet or outpost, and even a Quantum Jump may take several minutes, as you’ll realize when you decide to travel to ArcCorp, an impressive new planet mostly covered by man-made structures. Quantum Travel is a simple matter of finding your destination on your MobiGlas, setting up the route (and checking if you have enough fuel for the entire ride) and align your markers with the jump location. After spooling you should see your ship bending space and time as it travels to the destination. It’s a simple process that you’ll have to resort very often.

Star Citizen looks stunning and is brimming with details, a lot of them not entirely obvious at first glance. A simple task such as landing on ArcCorp becomes a challenge when you failed to realize that you need to access your MobiGlas and request landing permission to the ArcCorp Landing Services. You’ll then be assigned a landing pad which you may or may not have a hard time finding, carefully avoiding the deluge of invisible walls on this planet. After a tricky landing you are finally able to explore the area, travel to other regions using the tram and fulfill some of your contracts. ArcCorp surely is a wonderful sight from the skies, but it is also a clear indication of the unmeasured ambition that fuels Star Citizen – most of the buildings will surely be just for show, and it couldn’t be otherwise, as there are dozens of other star systems waiting to be created.

Star Citizen Preview ArcCorp Third Person

I have mixed feelings about Star Citizen. It clearly isn’t a hoax, vaporware or whatever wicked words have been uttered about it. On the other hand, despite a feeling of grandeur, it’s far from the game that it wants to be, even after all these years of development and all those millions in crowdfunding. In a perfect world, Star Citizen would turn out to be the ultimate space epic game, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. What this alpha showed us was that it is a jaw-dropping, feature-rich game that is equally frustrating and buggy.

I have no doubts that Star Citizen is trying to reach for the skies and will probably fall on its face when it launches. Because it will never be “officially released”, it will be stuck in a perpetual state of continuous development, a “game as a service” that will require huge amounts of money and a skilled development team to rise to the inevitable challenges. Star Citizen is No Man’s Sky turned up to eleven, boasting a much larger scope and a lot more controversy stemming from Chris Roberts’ unwavering vision – hopefully with the same happy ending as Hello Games’ once disappointing science-fiction epic.

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