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Dota 2 Update – December 7th, 2018

* Minor CPU performance improvements with certain types of art content
* Reworked the Global Item Loadout page to make shuffling items easier to work with.
* Fixed Last Hit Trainer bugs
* Various SFM improvements (material overrides, health bars, etc)
* Fountain damage now cancels effects similar to hero damage (e.g. salve, heart, blink), and now has 25% Accuracy (Note: This change was added in an update last week)

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The Weekender: Inc., Edition

We’re back with your weekly look at what’s been happening in mobile games. A lot, as it happens, although not so much on the releases front.

Reviews wise we decided to take a stab at two slightly controversial games – Command & Conquer: Rivals, which is a hot-F2P-mess that has a good game buried underneath the monetisation, and Kingdom Rush: Vengeance, which is an excellent Tower-Defence RTS marred by an overly persistent IAP. Our reviewers really liked both, but readers are dubious – let us know what you think!

I also had Nick talk about Artifact, and how it’s current state might be received on mobile, and we now know when Tropico for iPad is coming out (yay!).

We’ve got plenty of reviews in the pipeline, including Morels and Marching Order, as well as a few of the ones that were released this week.

Meanwhile, in mobile gaming…

Out Now

Rebel Inc. (iOS Universal)

The highlight of the week definitely has to be the Ndemic’s new game, Rebel Inc., which we spoke about last week. In this spiritual successor to the excellent Plague Inc., this is a political/military strategy-simulation game where you must use all of the resources at your disposal to try and keep the insurgents at bay, across five richly modelled regions.

Sadly, we weren’t able to secure code for gameplay impressions, or even review, yet, so we can’t comment on what it’s actually like. Chatter so far has been positive though. We’ll try and get you a full review as soon as we can. An Android version is planned, but it won’t be arriving till early 2019.

Rebel Inc 3 2

Twinfold (iOS Universal & Android)

Twinfold reminds me of this puzzle game my wife used to play where you had to merge blocks together to double -up and try and get higher and higher numbers. It wasn’t as diverse as this new release however, so Twinfold is definitely on the watch-list for the week.

The aim of the game is to merge the golden idols together to achieve higher and higher scores, whilst also taking care not to fall fowl of any of the 7 enemy types that could spawn. Every time you ‘level up’ an idol, a new one appears of the same number but the puzzle environment also shifts via procedural generation. Game Centre support allows for leaderboards and achievements, and if you’re using an iPhone 7 or later, you get haptic feedback. That’s nice.

Also caught our eye: Splotches (iOS Universal)

Now that I’m a parent, I’m always looking out for colour games I could introduce my daughter to that are simple, potentially educational and unlikely to expose her to anything inappropriate. Puzzle games seem to be safe bets at the moment, and Splotches looks very colourful indeed. If I get a chance to try it out for myself, I’ll report back.

Updates

Afghanistan ’11 (Review)

This is more of a PSA than an update – as you may have heard by now, Apple has removed Slitherine’s Afghanistan ’11 from sale on the app store. Their reason given was that the game featured “people from specific governments or other real entities as the enemies”. So they had issues with the fact that you were fighting the Taliban, who were identifiable as the Taliban, basically.

It’s not the first time this has happened, but it probably won’t be the last, but users who’ve already purchased and have the game on their device should still be able to play the game, at least. It’s still available to buy on PC.

Ticket to Earth (iOS Universal & Android) (Review)

Ticket to Earth was a very interesting and compelling turn-based strategy game that used coloured tiles as a unique mechanic. It’s only real flaw was that it was billed as an episodic game, and the episodes have been rather slow at coming out. The game was released in March last year and the second episode wasn’t put out until August. Now, over a year later, players can finally get their hands on Episode 3.

This free update adds more levels, powers and playable characters as you attempt to learn the secrets of the Refinery. The update also tweaks the rewards for Episode 2 missions – if you’ve already done those, the added rewards will already be added to your save.

Flipflop Solitaire (iOS Universal and Android) (Review)

Zach Gage will always get the time of day here at Pocket Tactics. His games are simple, yet wonderful twists on classic forms of entertainment, and the twists are usually bonkers.

Flipflop is the latest game to get an update, and the new content adds ‘Numbered Decks’ mode featuring over 1,000 deals to test your skills at. All these puzzles are meant to be 100% solvable.

Sales

Star Traders 4X Empires Elite (iOS Universal and Android) $1.99 on Android

The premium edition of the Trese Brother’s mobile 4X outing is down to just a couple of dollars on Android. There’s a free trial version with ads you can check out if you want to try the game for a bit first.

Fighting Fantasy Legends (iOS Universal and Android): $1.99
Fighting Fantasy Legends: Portal (Review) (iOS Universal and Android): $1.99

Both of Nomad’s revivals of the iconic ‘Choose your own adventure’ narrative adventure games are on sale once again, on both platforms to boot. Both games have been this cheap before, as recent as the end of October this year.

Ticket to Earth (iOS Universal & Android): $3.99

To coincide with the release of Episode 3, Ticket to Earth is now a dollar off on both stores. Fair warning, it was being sold for $1.99 back in July 2017 for a while, but it hasn’t been that cheap since then.

Seen anything else you like? Played any of the above? Let us know in the comments!

Ready to fight! Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is now available

Ready to fight! Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is now available

The wait is over! Fans both new and pro can now clash in the ultimate brawl between gaming legends. Get ready to play the biggest game in the Super Smash Bros.™ series ever—anytime, anywhere.

In the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate game, newcomers like Inkling, Simon Belmont, King K. Rool, Ridley, Incineroar, and Isabelle join every fighter from past Super Smash Bros. games. A total of 74 fighters from over 30 games series are here to battle it out.

Features:

  • All past Super Smash Bros. fighters have joined the battle. Everyone is here!
  • More than 100 stages. The new Stage Morph option even transforms one stage into another while battling.
  • Play in a variety of ways. Go 1-on-1 with a friend, hold a 4-player* free-for-all, kick it up to 8-player* battles and more. Whether you’re throwing a party or a tournament, a wide range of modes and options await you.
  • New items, Assist Trophies, and Pokémon spice up battles with special abilities and unpredictable results.
  • Unleash the power of Spirits. Collect characters from a wide range of video game worlds to power up your fighters in different ways. Test out tons of combinations!
  • Explore the single-player Adventure Mode, World of Light. Fighters and spirits will have to team up to stop the mysterious fiend known as Galeem.
  • More than 800 music tracks can be listened to with the in-game music player (even when the system’s screen is off!).
  • Play with a wide variety of control options, including GameCube™ Controllers.

Buy early, get Piranha Plant for free!

And finally, here’s one more thing to chomp on. Register the game by Jan. 31 and Piranha Plant will join the battle! There are two ways to get this toothy fighter:

1) Buy the digital version of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate before 11:59 PM PT on Jan. 31, 2019. (The game will automatically be registered to your account.)

OR

2) Buy the retail version and register the game card with My Nintendo before 11:59 PM PT on Jan. 31, 2019.

A download code for the Piranha Plant character will be sent by email to the email address associated with your Nintendo Account. You’ll receive the new fighter when it becomes available in early 2019. **

If you would like to purchase the game please visit https://www.smashbros.com/.

* Additional accessories may be required for multiplayer mode; sold separately.

** A software update may be required to receive the downloadable content. Download code expires 6/30/2019 at 11:59 p.m. PT. Full version of game required to use DLC.


Cartoon Violence
Comic Mischief
Suggestive Themes

Katamari Damacy REROLL is ready to roll. Also, try before you buy with a demo!

Katamari Damacy REROLL is ready to roll. Also, try before you buy with a demo!

Don’t worry, do your best…

The stop-at-nothing pushing prince is back and ready to reroll! When the King of All Cosmos accidentally destroys all the stars in the sky, he orders you, his pint-sized princely son, to put the twinkle back in the heavens above. Join the King and Prince of Cosmos on their wacky adventure to restore the stars at home or on the go – now in full HD!

The beloved roll-em-up game returns with fully updated graphics, completely recreated cutscenes, and controls exclusive for the Nintendo Switch!

Players can use the Joy-Con™ controllers to control the katamari using gyro controls. Also, play with a friend by using one pair of Joy-Con controllers on the same Nintendo Switch!

If you would like to purchase the game or try the free demo please visit https://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/katamari-damacy-reroll-switch.


Alcohol and Tobacco Reference
Mild Fantasy Violence

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Review: Kingdom Rush: Vengeance

Playing the bad guys is always a treat, what with all the contemptuous monologizing and the ‘I’ll show them what true power is!’ Plus, evil creatures are always way more interesting to command than boring noble goodies. That’s why Ironhide giving players the chance to captain the armies of the evil wizard Vez’nan is the best feature in this otherwise routinely excellent tower defense game. However, it may be more than just the player that turned to the Dark Side in this entry, since Ironhide has also walled-off a chunk of this premium game’s content behind a paywall.

Vengeance is the fourth entry in the mega-popular Kingdom Rush tower defense series and is the entry that makes the most changes to the gameplay, though still keeping it solidly within TD tropes. (It’s a little weird that you still play on the defense the entire game, given that your army is supposedly the invading force, but that’s the genre, so we’ll just have to roll with it.) The biggest gameplay update is in the way you choose and upgrade your towers.

Vengeance 1

Rather than leveling up your basic towers into more specialized variations in the middle of the level, you’ll have to do a little more planning. Between levels you get to choose five towers to take with you that have very different purposes: your basic towers give you ranged magical/non-magical damage, grunts to slow down the oncoming horde, or long-distance artillery. You gradually gain more towers by completing levels, so customizing your ‘hand’ of five towers becomes the metagame. You may end up with a few favorites that you always lean on, or you can customize your loadout each level for maximum efficacy against the given target. This makes for great replay value as you try to score the highest rating on each level.

Levels themselves are fairly long for a mobile title, taking about thirty minutes to complete, so there’s a lot of gameplay here even if you’re not a completionist. Each map is highly individualized (within a few themes) with few reused assets, so they never get dull. They often have amusing themes or cute details that let you play goofball fantasy Where’s Waldo in-between waves. The dwarf king will occasionally swim around in his gold like Scrooge McDuck, and there’s a smirkable Terminator reference in the smelting furnace level (you know what I’m talking about).

Special events will also frequently occur that change the landscape and open up new avenues of attack for your enemies, like Viking ships landing. It’s important not to get tunnel-vision on a few lanes or become complacent, because you never know when the tide will suddenly shift. This makes it tough to get a perfect score your first time through a level, but it also makes the game much more active than your average TD game.

Vengeance 2

Adding to the dynamism are the hero units that you can order about the battlefield. They all have a bevy of special abilities that you don’t have direct control of but do make them majorly useful for crowd control or taking down bosses. Each offers a slightly different playstyle. Your basic orc boss is a great tank, but you’ll soon get a rogue character that is good for debuffs and crowd control, and a mage that will do more damage-per-second. Finally, you can cast spells and summon instant minions to take care of any unexpected difficulties. In between missions, an upgrade tree lets you buff your hero, towers, minions and spells, giving you fun new abilities to play with beyond purely higher stats. There’s a lot going on inside and outside the levels, is basically what I’m saying.

You start with four towers and earn seven more by playing the game, and you quickly score two additional heroes beyond your starter. Eleven towers and three distinct heroes sounds pretty good … but there are another five towers and six more heroes locked behind *shudder* relatively expensive paywalls.

Vengeance 3

Is it too much monetization for an already-premium game? Fans of the series are divided. I think it’s important to remember that the base price, like just about any mobile game, is already absurdly low so the title can compete in the ridiculously cut-rate mobile market controlled by greedy gatekeepers. Yes, the IAP exist, but as long as you can ignore a persistent alert badge on one menu item, there’s little to no reminder that the developers want more of your money. It’s there, but it’s not obnoxious, and in this day and age maybe that’s all we can ask for.

The content included in the game is absolutely worth the purchase price, and I didn’t feel like I missed out on much by not spending more. The game is intensely engaging with a light-hearted tone that makes it a real pleasure to jump in to. Tweaks to the Kingdom Rush formula should please long-time fans and jaded TD players who have seen everything. If you’re new to this kind of game, Vengeance is a great, entertaining jumping off point.

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Now Free To Play on Steam – Counter-Strike: Global Offensive!

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is Now Free To Play on Steam!

Introducing Danger Zone — a fast-paced battle royale game mode built on CS:GO’s tactical gameplay where players use their wits, skill, and resources to fight to the finish. Play solo, or work together as a squad of two or three!

CS:GO is now FREE TO PLAY
So there’s never been a better time to bring in your friends.

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Opinion: What will Artifact on mobile look like? If it’s anything like PC, it’ll have a fight on its hands

By Nick Vigdahl 06 Dec 2018

Valve Corporation has a long history of developing popular and successful video games, although lately they’ve been relying on the veritable money-printing machine that is Steam. They’ve finally released a new game, Artifact, and it’s a big bet in the crowded collectable-card game (CCG) genre.

Artifact is based on one of Valve’s most-successful games of all time, DOTA 2, and takes a crack at differentiating its gameplay from Hearthstone and other options in this space. While interesting, those differences aren’t getting nearly as much attention as the way Valve is monetizing Artifact. With the game coming to iOS and Android in 2019 it’s worth looking at what Valve is doing with Artifact‘s pricing, and how it might manifest on mobile.

Artifact Mobile 1

Gold Standard

The standard CCG take on monetization is to sell randomized packs of cards, but to also offer the ‘grinders path’ by allowing ‘free’ players to earn in-game currency with which they can pick up packs without spending money. The main reason to do this is to pump up the active-player count so players willing to spend money don’t have to wait in long queues for an opponent, the surest way to kill a CCG. Valve has eschewed the grinders path entirely and at present the only way to acquire new cards is to buy them with real money or win them playing ‘expert’ constructed or draft events, which costs money to enter in the form of event tickets. 

Valve has set up Artifact to be very profitable starting with a $20 purchase price on Steam which is another departure from the usual model: CCGs are usually free to download. Your initial investment gets you ten of Artifact‘s twelve-card packs and five event tickets. It’s effectively a starter kit and naturally you’ll want more cards. Packs cost two bucks and additional event tickets run five for $4.99. You can also purchase individual cards from other players through the Steam marketplace, from which Valve also takes a cut.

Artifact Mobile 3

The reaction from many players and games media has been negative. Artifact has nearly ten-thousand “mixed” reviews on Steam. A great many of these can be broken down to, “pay to own, pay to play, pay to win,” with a primary gripe being the inability to grind out packs without spending money. It’s a predictable response, given the genre norms, and Valve has made some minor concessions to the complaints so far in the beta. They recently added a card “recycling” feature that lets you convert 20 unwanted cards into an event ticket where previously the only way to unload cards you didn’t want was to sell them to others.

There could be more changes coming, but I’m betting we won’t see anything as extreme as the addition of an in-game currency and a way to grind for packs. Valve seems to be making a play for gamers willing to treat Artifact like a hobby and invest accordingly. Their bet is that they can attract enough players to not have to rely on free-to-play grinders to fill their queues. It’s not a crazy idea by any means and has worked for twenty-five years for the original and most-successful CCG of all time: Magic: The Gathering (MTG).

Artifact Mobile 2

There’s no way to grind free physical packs of MTG cards, after all, and you can’t “dust” the cards you don’t want to craft ones you do. Paper MTG and digital Magic: The Gathering Online (MTGO) cards have been resold by third parties as singles since the game was born (though Wizards of the Coasts can only dream of a cut). There’s a big benefit to this kind of a system for paying players as you can buy just the cards you want instead of packs which is often cheaper when building constructed decks. The ability to resell cards also opens up a lot of options to reinvest in the game or spend that money elsewhere in Steam. Valve seems to be going for the same players that made MTG the behemoth it is today.

Artifact on Mobile

Agree with it or not, this is Valve’s monetization plan for Artifact and the game’s coming to mobile next year. We can only speculate on what a mobile version of Artifact will look like, though a $20 price tag will be a much tougher sell on the App Story and especially the Google Play store than it is on Steam. They could drop the price and provide fewer initial packs and event tickets. Either way however, Steam players may balk at having to buy into mobile in exchange for cards they probably already have. The other option, and one that would assuage existing players, would be to make the game free to download but push a ‘starter IAP’ on new players. This is the likeliest option.

Artifact Mobile 4

The bigger hang-up will be the secondary card marketplace. It’s difficult to conceive of how Valve could implement anything similar on iOS or Android. They can, and likely will, direct mobile players to Steam for the full functionality of card resale and purchase. This would put mobile-only players at a distinct disadvantage, with no ability to sell cards they don’t want and fully reliant on packs and expert events to get any new cards. A partial solution would be for Valve to directly sell popular cards or bundles of cards via in-app-purchase though this could be tough to balance with the player-driven marketplace on Steam.  

How will mobile gamers react to Artifact? Well, it’s going to get pummeled in the user reviews. Premium isn’t popular on mobile. Neither are games listed as free that end up requiring a purchase to continue (just ask Nintendo). Free-only players will stay away. There are mobile players that don’t mind paying money for a good game, however, this site exists because of them. There are certainly CCG players who don’t mind paying to try new cards, new decks, and to keep up with a metagame. They probably don’t write many grammatically disastrous user reviews on Apple or Google’s stores, but they are out there. Valve’s betting they can find them and time will tell if they’re right.

At the time of writing, there was no official information on the mobile version of Artifact, but it’s still still being worked on as far as we know. In the mean time, you can play on Steam.

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Now Available on Steam Early Access – Survived By

In celebration of Killing Floor 2’s Twisted Christmas update, play Killing Floor 2 for FREE starting now through Monday at 10AM Pacific Time. You can also pickup Killing Floor 2 at 67% off the regular price!*

The update includes new maps, 4 new weapons, play as Badass Santa and much more!

If you already have Steam installed, click here to install or play Killing Floor 2. If you don’t have Steam, you can download it here.

*Offer ends Monday at 10AM Pacific Time

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Free Weekend – Killing Floor 2, 67% off!

In celebration of Killing Floor 2’s Twisted Christmas update, play Killing Floor 2 for FREE starting now through Monday at 10AM Pacific Time. You can also pickup Killing Floor 2 at 67% off the regular price!*

The update includes new maps, 4 new weapons, play as Badass Santa and much more!

If you already have Steam installed, click here to install or play Killing Floor 2. If you don’t have Steam, you can download it here.

*Offer ends Monday at 10AM Pacific Time