Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls review in progress

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Leif Johnson at

I can’t recall a gaming villain who looks as imposing as Reaper of Souls’ Malthael but leaves so weak an impression. He pops in and out as the narrative unfolds, spouting a few threatening lines before evaporating in a mist of gloom, and thus he recalls Blizzard's similar treatment of Arthas Menethil during World of Warcraft's Wrath of the Lich King expansion. But at least Arthas had the benefit of years of accumulated lore to support his cameos. The star of but one act, Malthael is never around long enough to make us care about his grumbles.


Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India interview: new religions, tiger hunting, and war elephants

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T.J. Hafer at

Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India releases this Tuesday, expanding the map of Paradox's medieval strategy sandbox to central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Not one to venture into strange, new lands unprepared, I met with CK2 lead designer Henrik Fåhraeus to learn everything there was to know about what lies in wait with this expansion. We talked about historical accuracy, India's religions and castes, and more. If you promise not to plot my untimely death, you can share in my findings below.


Why Manveer Heir's attack on stereotypes in games was the most important moment of GDC 2014

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Tom Senior at

Bioware Montreal developer Manveer Heir received a standing ovation at GDC this week for his speech challenging the prevalence of lazy, reductive stereotypes in games. He implored the industry to "stop being so scared", and start making games with more diverse characters in an effort to "reject stereotypes as a social responsibility to mankind".

The speech formed one part of this year's advocacy series of presentations, which explored problematic issues in gamer culture and the industry at large. The clarity and passion of Heir's speech in particular proved a stand-out moment, not just because of the issues at stake, but because of his mature, reasoned approach to stimulating debate around the depiction of gender, race and sexuality in games.


4K Screenshot Showcase: Battlefield 3

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PC Gamer at

Every Monday, keen screen-grabber Ben Griffin brings you a sumptuous 4K resolution gallery to celebrate PC gaming's prettiest places.

For all their faults and successes, you can't say DICE make ugly games. The Frostbite engine, over its many iterations, has excelled at modelling the destruction and chaos of big-budget militaristic entertainment. It eschews pure realism for a cinematic set-up, and uses lighting and post-processing to cast the player as the game's action hero - even in multiplayer, where their lives can be measured in minutes. To fully appreciate what the engine can do, here are 20 super high-res shots that beautifully show every gun-metal glint and flare of the lens.

Diablo 3's lead producer talks patch 2.0, community feedback and balancing the game

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Chris Thursten at

Diablo 3 has occupied a substantial amount of my gaming time over the last couple of weeks. The loot 2.0 patch made all the difference, overhauling drop rates, item distribution and game difficulty in anticipation of the closure of the auction house. I liked the game on release but fell out of love with it due to well-documented problems with its endgame and economy. Now that they're gone, the game feels fresher than it has since launch.

Lead producer Alex Mayberry agrees. "It opens up the design for us, as well as the players" he says. "We have more options in our toolbox to design with. With Reaper of Souls, our designers are now looking towards the future and what more they can do with the game - having a new, open approach."


Wildstar trailer explains PvP arenas and battlegrounds

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Phil Savage at

Of the many Wildstar DevSpeak videos released, most have focused on the upcoming MMO's PvE game. Finally, though, Carbine are offering a proper look at the PvP modes - from the small-scale Arenas, to the objective focused Battlegrounds. The main focus of this video is how the AoE-based telegraph system creates a PvP mode with a focus on manually aimed attacks, and frantic and constant dodging. No wonder the characters are all so in shape.


Betrayer leaves Steam Early Access today, marks the occasion with a launch trailer

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Phil Savage at

As previously announced, Betrayer, Blackpowder Games' stealth exploration FPS, will today sets sail from the land of Steam Early Access. Created by a team founded by ex-Monolith devs, including key people from NOLF and FEAR, the game strands its players on an island filled with mystery, suspense and demonic Spaniards. A new launch trailer gives a sense of Betrayer's style, and of its menu colour options.


Dragon Age: Inquisition screenshots show monsters, magic and a bald elf

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Phil Savage at

The Dragon Age series has never romanticised its Elven population. Rather than the proud, immortal, luscious locked demi-gods of Tolkienesque fantasy, the pointy-eared citizens of Thedas are downtrodden, impoverished and - as seen in these new Dragon Age: Inquisition screenshots, published by All Games Beta - occasionally as bald as a coot. Even follically challenged, they can be capable of chucking a few fireballs. Well, it is still a fantasy game.


Echo of the Wilds is a survival game, but not in the Minecraft sense

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Tom Sykes at

Survival doesn't have to involve procedural generation, crafty mines or zig-zagging zombies - too few games concern themselves with the spiritual/philosophical/Call of the Wild side of living out in the wilderness, subsisting on berries and avoiding bears. Echo of the Wilds is one game that does. It's an adventure/survival game featuring a beautifully crisp art style, exploration and gathering and crafting out the wazoo, and a metaphysical story involving an incongruous TV screen and a semi-translucent girl. It's not another Minecraft clone is what I'm saying. Echo of the Wilds is out now, has a demo up for grabs, and can be witnessed in video form below.


Arma 3's Win DLC out now, launch trailer isn't kind to helicopters

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Tom Sykes at

The majestic helicopter gets a bit of a raw deal in the following trailer for Win, Arma 3's third and final piece of campaign DLC. Also on Bohemia's hitlist: buildings, and people in a rival army to the one you're fighting in. Those guys are just the worst. Win continues the story of soldier Ben Kerry, asking players to "deploy all the skills and experience they've gathered to bring the flashpoint to a resolution". They could have almost called it 'Operation Flashpoint', but I have a feeling that name might be already taken. If you own the game on Steam it should have automagically been updated by now, bringing with it a bunch of sandbox content which I'll list after the break.


Mod of the Week: Metroid Mod, for Spelunky

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Christopher Livingston at

It was teased a couple months ago, but it's now been released! The Metroid Mod for Spelunky slickly brings the sci-fi world of spacefaring Samus Aran to the subterranean perma-death platformer. It's the best of both worlds: monsters, items, pick-ups, character skins, music, background art, and even the title and menu screens have all been Metroid-ified. The core game, however, is still pure, unfiltered Spelunky. Fans of either game -- or both -- will love it.


The Best Free Games of the Week

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Tom Sykes at

It's been a good week for free games, what with Cart Life going gratis (and, indeed, open source), and the Hero's Quest inspired Heroine's Quest – which I've written about previously – unexpectedly appearing on Steam. When you're done playing those, prepare yourself for a ghost ship, a train song, space worms, a goldfishlike, and a game that recreates a famous movie hedge maze. (BUT WHICH ONE?) Enjoy!


Double Fine's Hack 'n' Slash lets you reprogram with a USB sword

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Tom Sykes at

Novelty USB drives seem like a fun idea, that is until you can't fit the bally things into a single USB port. I hope the USB-powered debug sword in Double Fine's Hack 'n' Slash is a little more accommodating, otherwise it's going to be a fairly short game. So yes: this was one of the ideas whipped up in Double Fine's 2012 Amnesia Fortnight, along with Spacebase DF-9. It was revealed in December that Hack 'n' Slash was on track for a release in the first half of 2014, and now that we're in the first half of 2014, more details of the punny hacking game have come to light.


Murdered: Soul Suspect trailer reminds you that Murdered: Soul Suspect exists

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Tom Sykes at

Airtight's Murdered: Soul Suspect is the one that's a bit like the Blackwell games, a bit like haunted pottery film Ghost, and a lot like Ghost Trick. You're a cop trying to solve his own murder, and while you don't have Whoopi Goldberg around to help you out, you do have a young girl who appears to be next on your killer's People To Off list. How can you help the living when you can't touch, talk or change into a less bullet-riddled set of clothes? Possession, my friend, which may or may not be shown off in this new, incredibly fast-paced trailer.


Saturday Crapshoot: Detective Barbie

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Richard Cobbett at

Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week, justice is coming, Barbie style. So, presumably in several shades of pink, with lots of accessories... to murder. Kidnapping, anyway.

Life in plastic. They say it's fantastic, but what would they know? Even in a world of glitter and glamour, the dark soul of humanity is always with us, waiting to strike. That's where I come in. When life in the Dreamhouse turns into a nightmare, they call me. I look up in my office and see a dame whose face says trouble and spells out many things, and I know I'm just looking at my full-length mirror. The name's Barbie. And this doll's only yours for 200 dollars a day. Plus expenses, naturally.

Men of War: Assault Squad 2 available through Steam Early Access

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Emanuel Maiberg at

Last month, DigitalMindSoft made Men of War: Assault Squad 2 available to those who pre-purchased the game. Now you can get into the beta with Steam Early Access. The game usually costs $35, but it’s currently being offered for $28, a 20 percent discount.


Invisible, Inc. alpha update detailed in new video

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Patrick Carlson at

Invisible, Inc. has a new alpha update along with a sharp video outlining some of the latest changes to the turn-based, espionage game. It's the ninth update for developer Klei Entertainment's alpha, with the new build giving players greater infiltration options but also tougher guards to try and deal with.

Surreal psychodrama Ether One lands next week

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Ian Birnbaum at

Ether One has been teasing us for quite some time, but next week the Oculus Rift–capable exploration game is finally free to mess with our minds. To celebrate, we’ve got a spanking-new release trailer to check out the weird world of the memory repair technician, also known as a Restorer.

Latest Humble Weekly Sale is all rhythm games

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Ian Birnbaum at

This week’s new Humble Weekly Sale features a bundle devoted to rhythm games. The funkiest of gamers—by which I mean, anyone who can actually bob their head in time and carry a tune—will appreciate the sick beats on sale in the form of Symphone, Sequence, and Bit Trip Runner. I’ve now used up all of the music-related slang I know, so we can all move on.


Battle Chess: Game of Kings out on Steam Early Access

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Emanuel Maiberg at

Battle Chess: Game of Kings, a remake for the 1988 classic, is out now on Steam Early Access. You can buy into what developer Olde Sküül is calling a “late alpha” now for $10, or wait for the full version to go live and pay $20.