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The Weekender: Very Bare Edition

You know what I tried for the first time the other week? Fortnite. I know, right? Since I have a phone that can actually run it now, I thought I’d take it for a spin. It’s ok… I mean I’ve always known the format was quite interesting. I played the original PUBG game back when it was still a mod for ArmA 3.

Not wholly convinced about playing it on a phone… might just download it on PS4 or something and play it that way instead. Still, it’s a pretty interesting phenomenon and now that they’ve released a Stormtrooper skin for it I can completely understand why it’s earned so much money. Like, I want to buy that skin. If I end up playing the game more, I might just.

Meanwhile, thousands of miles away…

New App Releases

Minecraft Earth (iOS & Android)

Bit of a cheat this one as it’s only to say that the Early Access has now finally rolled out to people in the US. So if you’re American and you’ve been waiting to try out the Minecraft-meets-Pokemon GO hybrid, now you can!

Hearthstone Battlegrounds (iOS & Android)

I know, I know, another cheat. In case you didn’t spot this, Hearthstone Battlegrounds is now available for everyone to play via the Hearthstone client, not just those who pre-ordered the new Dragon card set for the main game. I’ve written some initial thoughts along with some tactics & tips here.

—————–

And… that’s it? Again? They’ll probably be more Apple Arcade games dropping today but we usually don’t find out what those are till quite late, so I’ll update the master list again on Monday. Lots of other free-to-play games have dropped that other sites have mentioned might be special, but I’ll leave those to you guys to decide.

Oh, there’s Star Titan, which is a side-scrolling run-and-gun game with mechs on both iOS and Android that costs $1.99. Not our usual fare, but there’s precious little else to talk about this week. Here’s a trailer:

It’s been a bit of a dire couple of weeks in terms of premium releases, all things considered.

App Updates & News

Pacific Fire

One of the only decent mobile wargames to come out this year, Pacific Fire has just been updated again with new scenarios that allow you to play from the Japanese perspective, including a mega-campaign that covers the entire war as the IJN. It’s also now available on the Amazon App Store, if that’s a game-changer for you.

I asked about an iOS version, and developer said they’re working on it. Potentially by the end of the year, but either way it’s definitely on its way.

Stardew Valley

Farming/Life Simulator Stardew Valley is getting a huge update soon in the form of the 1.4 update. It essentially tackles a wide range of issues and it’s main aim is to ‘Polish’ the experience and really improve the quality of life for all. Bug fixes, extra end-game content… you name it, it’s probably being done. PC Players will be getting the update on November 26th, but Mobile and Console players will be following soon afterwards, so we’ll let you know when it drops. You can read more details here.

stardew valley 1.4 update

Also if you’ve been looking forward to the mobile release of Black Desert Online, the global launch date has been set to December 11th, 2019. You can still pre-register at the official website

App Sales, Deals & Discounts

Just to sum up what’s been a bit of a lazy week in mobile-land, there aren’t even that many sales going around either. I imagine everyone’s saving up their Big Sale Energy for Black Friday at the end of the month.

  • Mystic Vale is on sale at $2.99 for only the second time since launch. It’s another deck-building port in digital format, and it’s interesting although not really stand-out.
  • Bridge Constructor Portal is down to $1.99 in celebration of its DLC launch. I think I got it wrong last week when I mentioned the new DLC, it might have released this week.
  • Dimension of Dreams was one of the many, many strategy/card game/rogue-lite releases we got earlier in the year. It was pretty good, and now that the base game is free you can see for yourself. It’s got a fair few pricey IAPs though.

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

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Fallout Shelter is getting its own physical board game

By Joe Robinson 13 Nov 2019

We haven’t really talked about Fallout Shelter in a while, even though it’s one of the more benign free-to-play experiences out there. As of E3 2019 it had surpassed 150 million downloads, making it a pretty popular and successful game as well. Success doesn’t always equate to coverage, mind – a game can be really popular but also just ticking away in the background.

I actually tried to get back into it recently – I say ‘tried’, I downloaded it and did the tutorial. Then for some reason I stopped and I haven’t gone back to it. I know.

Out of all the reasons to be writing about Fallout Shelter, today’s news post is certainly not one that would have been my first guess – thanks to Fantasy Flight Games, the Vault Management simulator is getting it’s own table-top board game.

fallout shelter board game layout

Fallout Shelter: The Board Game is a worker placement game for 2 – 4 players. Each player represents an ‘Officer’ of the vault who’s competing to become the new Overseer, as the old one died (because of course they did). Each ‘Officer’ controls two worker pieces (to start with), and they can be assigned to various tasks around the Vault. The main aim is to generate ‘Happiness’, and the Officer with the most at the end has won the Overseer election and the game.

There’s an extra dimension in the sense that each player also has their own ‘level’ of the Vault that they can develop by constructing new rooms. The top level looks to be a more communal space usable by everyone, but then there are additional levels below that depending on how many players there are. As far as we can tell, a player can only build on their own level.

fallout shelter board game components

This is more of an FYI more than anything you can actually use. Being based on a mobile game to begin with, it’s not like Asmodee Digital (part of Asmodee, who own Fantasy Flight Games now) is going to suddenly announce Fallout Shelter: The Board Game Digital Edition or anything like that. Still, this seemed relevant to our interests here, so I thought I’d write it up.

You can read more about the new game on FFG’s announcement post. Fallout Shelter: The Board Game is due to release in Q1 2020.

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GWENT iOS – 13 Tips & Tricks to get you started

It’s already past its one-year anniversary on PC and has been through significant changes but Gwent is finally here on iOS. It is such a timely and refreshing CCG and, sure, it’s a beloved IP and has an incredible amount of visual effects and polish. It’s pretty and feature-rich upon launch, what with resounding audio effects, detailed orchestral scoring and flashy premium card animations.

Gwent is a powerhouse because in its innermost guts, the game’s structure is radically different from the competition. It isn’t a battle per se but rather a power struggle between two players to keep a higher total across three rounds. Card advantage is incredibly important, and the drawing and hand management mechanics almost minimize the RNG of top-decking entirely. It has a massive cardpool with tantalizing synergies across the various factions. In this guide we’ll be covering basic play, deckbuilding strategies, its currency system, and lastly some best practices to outmanoeuvre the game’s monetisation scheme.

  • How do I play Gwent?
  • What are the microtransactions like?
  • What are my progression rewards?
  • How do the different factions work?
  • What is a Gwentsday?
  • How does the Arena work, and why should I bother?
  • What are the optional cosmetics like?
  • Tell me about seasonal play and limited formats.
  • How should I spend my time in-game to maximise my rewards?
  • What makes Gwent different from the competition?
  • What’s the big fuss about Thronebreaker and where is it?
  • GWENT Android version?

How do I play GWENT?

A match of Gwent is a best-of-three rounds. The active player plays one card from their hand per turn and resolves its effect, then passes play to their opponent. Most cards are units which add their power to its owner’s total. To win a round, simply have the greatest power total when your opponent passes. To enliven things, Gwent’s draw structure is rather unique: 10 cards for each player to start, then three additional draws at the start of the second and third rounds. There are mulligans for each round, so decks are very consistent.

What are GWENT’s micro-transactions like?

Relatively tasteful and par for the course. There are introductory specials which are the absolute best bang for your buck, but beside the cash shop Ore is used to craft ‘kegs’ which are card packs. Scraps are for creating specific cards and are gained normally but also by ‘milling’ or converting unwanted cards. Lastly, meteorites are purely cosmetic and makes a given card ‘premium’ by adding an animation to it. Because kegs made through in-game currency are locked to a specific set, your best bet to get specific cards through crafting. The meta has been pretty unpredictable so far in this past year, so don’t spend too quickly.

GWENT progression rewards

Each match won gives ore. Each level gives reward keys, which are used in the reward book to unlock skins and oodles of in-game currency. In the beginning, the game treats you to a sweet honeymoon phase, showering you with keys which jump-start whichever dream deck you aim for. The biggest one is hitting level 60, thereafter barrels will always contain an extra rare. This is just one of many ways Gwent rewards experience over expense. (Time over cash). It has a rush of freebies which should be spent advisedly.

gwent ios tips progression

GWENT Factions

Each faction has an exclusive pool of cards and leader abilities, as well as a few key mechanics that cement their unique identity. The Northern Realms are all about a generalist approach, with about equal options for buffing friendlies and debuffing the opposition, with some utility thrown in. The Scoia’Tael are the non-human sentients, representing the mystical races like elves and dwarves along with some more exotic denizens.

They have special bonuses for diverse unit sub-types and a heavy reliance on their unique Trap cards, setting up giant reactions to enemy moves. The Skellige are the ghoulish and morbid faction, with plenty of self-sacrifice and graveyard interactions. Death is just another resource to them, and their decks tend to be strongest at the finish line. Monsters are dynamic, swelling their ranks and devouring each other. They have the biggest creatures and the largest swarms.

What is a Gwentsday?

Every Wednesday is Gwentsday and has bonus experience for every match. The game is always doing timed promotions like this, either for different factions or else to promote a new set or season start. Basically just either follow them on social media or simply peruse the landing page in-game for a notice about any time-sensitive bonuses.

gwent ios tips gwentsday

How does the Arena work, and why should I bother?

The arena is Gwent’s draft format wherein you build a deck by selecting cards one at a time from a batch of offerings. The resulting deck, which is assembled without respect to provision costs, is used until you lose three matches or win nine. At the end of the run, you get a payout depending on how well you did. The cost of entry is a little higher than the price of a keg, but a keg is also part of the guaranteed reward bundle for participating, so the Arena is worthwhile if you like the creativity and flexibility required by the draft format.

It takes a lot of experience and familiarity with the entire card pool to draft quickly and confidently.

GWENT deckbuilding tips

First, consider your starting faction and leader ability. These should be selected based on the cards already unlocked and personal playstyle preferences. Each deck must have at least twenty-five cards, twenty-three units and be under the provision limit. Stronger or more distinctive cards have higher provision costs, as displayed in the bottom right. The deck editor has robust filters for sorting which cards you want. Use the search function to hone in on specific keywords and synergies you want, and craft a few clutch additions, and you’ll have a custom deck in no time.

Gwent ios tips deckbuilding

What are the optional cosmetics like?

There are leader skins, which alter your commander’s outfit and appearance. Premium card versions display a short looping animation, really makes the cards pop and come alive. Player avatar icons are unlocked either through the reward book or else exclusively through achievements. There are also avatar borders, card backs and battleground skins as well. Please note that most if not all of these are unlocked through consistent play and doled as rewards for highly specific achievements. Animated cards are premium and can be purchased at-will, but the more prestigious cosmetics simply depend on long-term investment, though a few glamorous ones are also sold directly for pure cash.

GWENT seasonal play and limited formats

Each month has its own special format with a unique twist on the default rules. The current season, for example, gives every unit Resilience and keeps it around from round-to-round unless destroyed. Simple to read and understand the change, but it has massive implications for deckbuilding. Each season has its own unique reward and title unlocks, so going deep into a given season is much better than splitting your time evenly throughout the year. The rule shifts in this optional formal create a side meta which is never the same twice.

gwent ios tips gameplay

How should I spend my time in-game to maximize my rewards?

Login and do your daily quests. Also, plot a direct course between your existing collection and the next card or two you want. This means researching deck archetypes and making a budget to streamline the path between your current setup and the next best thing. Have a decent deck for each of the factions, but be as specific and focused as possible.

For the most bang for your buck, simply imitate the leaders or a specific synergy. Invest in some high quality neutral cards, like the Witchers, who are all conditionally strong and can be slotted into a variety of decks.

GWENT vs. Hearthstone vs. everyone else

Theme, progression and gameplay. For any Reiner Knizia fans out there, Gwent owes a good bit of its heart to Blue Moon. Even though a single match of Gwent doesn’t take more turns than Hearthstone, it feels so much more tense because of the structure. Every single card matters immensely. Card advantage is king, and efficiency is the dominant paradigm. Deckbuilding is incredibly intense, and matches often come down to a single decision.

Progression is generous, with the game offering in-game currency for daily logins, for played matches, level-ups and achievements. It has more systems in place to unlock cards for free than almost any other game out there, except for perhaps Eternal. Lastly, for anyone with a bit of familiarity or fondness for the Witcher books or games, this game is full of flavor text and allusions. All of the major characters are cards and their characters have been well-translated into in game effects.

Gwetn ios screen

What’s the big fuss about Thronebreaker and where is it?

Thronebreaker is Gwent’s standalone single-player expansion. It has matches spanning a pretty long campaign with cel-shaded graphics and voice acting as well as an original storyline with some choose-your-own adventure flavor. It came out a little over a year ago and is a premium companion game to Gwent, though it serves as a robust introduction. It’s still worth recommending for PC users but has no sign of making the leap to mobile anytime soon.

GWENT Android version?

As of publication, it is slated for Q1 2020. The iOS version was a long time coming, with several updates and delays, but hopefully since one mobile version is done, the Android version will make its release window. The good news is that both account synchronisation and cross play are working smoothly, though a GoG account is required. Expect a limited beta and then release sooner rather than later.

Do you have any tips of your own, or further question about GWENT? Let us know in the comments!

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The Weekender: 100 Games Edition

There hasn’t been anything really worth reviewing this week, hence a lot more news bits and our usual run of features. Michael’s submitted a tips guide for GWENT, which we’ll run next week – I didn’t really feel like it was something worth rushing to review. I’ll also be trying out the new Hearthstone mode properly next week when the global beta starts. Had to re-download the game as I haven’t played in forever, but should be interesting to see Blizzard’s interpretation of an Auto Chess mode, even if it does look like a lazy man’s game of Hearthstone.

Also, make sure you grab Bastion while it’s free, if you haven’t already!

Meanwhile, in the world of mobile games…

Out Now

Honestly, there wasn’t much this week that really caught our eye or seemed worth shouting about. If you’ve spotted anything we missed, do let us know and I can update the column.

One thing that did catch my eye was an iOS-only game called Boolitaire (there is a game on android with the same name, but I don’t think it’s the same game). It’s a spooky-themed twist on Solitaire that seems to combine resource management with tactical card play. We’ve always had a soft-spot here on PT for games that do interesting twists on established concepts, and at $1.99 there are much worse ways to spend your money. We haven’t been able to try it out ourselves though, so here’s a gamepaly video from App Unwrapper:

New Apple Arcade Games

We don’t normally run dedicated updates for Apple Arcade but we just happened to get a press release through for these new additions. What’s more, Apple Arcade is now officially up to 100 games! Huzzah!

We’re not going to go into detail on all of them, but the first five of the six new additions include:

  • Takesahi & Hiroshi – An Adventure about… making a game? I think?
  • Guildings – A story-driven narrative adventure about going on a quest.
  • Marble it Up: Mayhem! – An Action/Platformer about playing with Marbles.
  • Sociable Soccer™ – A Sports management game that uses card mechanics, and has multiplayer.
  • Discolored – A first-person exploration/adventure game.
  • BattleSky Brigade: Harpooner – a scolling shoot’em-up game in the BattleSky Brigade series.

And without further ado, the official 100th game to land on Apple Arcade is…..

UFO on Tape: First Contact

Genre: Action

What would you do if a real UFO descended from the clouds? Run screaming? Or grab your iPhone and start recording?! The highly anticipated sequel to the award-winning iOS 2010 release, UFO on Tape puts you in the hot seat as you speed through the countryside in hot pursuit of visitors from outer space.

App Updates

Bridge Constructor Portal

Bridge Constructor Portal has received its first piece of DLC, nearly two years after it released onto mobile. Called Portal Proficiency, this add-on adds 30 new levels, and lets you construct bridges and choose where to place the portals.

Star Traders Frontiers

Another huge update for Star Traders – this one adds the 7th Story Era, which comes with new simulation rules, Rumors, Conflicts, and Contact actions/mutations. Enemy AI Captains also now finally use the new Carrier ship type introduced earlier in the year. There’s plenty more changes and additions as well, so make sure you check out the full update (taken from the Steam entry) to find out more.

Other games to receive updates this week:

  • Pokemon Masters has received an update that adds in new story story chapters, and the ability to swap Pikachu out for a Torchic.
  • Hearthstone received its new Auto Chess mode this week – it’ll be available for everyone to play on Monday.
  • DOTA Underlords had a pretty hefty balance update yesterday.

App Sales, Deals & Discounts

Only a few sales we felt worth highlighting this week:

  • Star Traders: Frontiers is currently at its best price this year to date at $3.99 on both iOS and Android. This is an excellent sci-fi sandbox RPG, and well worth checking out, especially with the new update!
  • Night of the Full Moon, which has never been that expensive anyway at $0.99 is currently free on iOS and Android. It’s got several DLCs/IAPs, but it’s still a pretty good solitaire card game.
  • The excellent strategy card game Age of Rivals is down to $1.99 again, but only on iOS.

Space Grunts is also discounted (since Space Grunts 2 is imminent), but it’s not the best price it’s been, so beware of that.

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

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Minecraft Earth Early Access Available in Nine Countries, now includes the UK

By Joe Robinson 06 Nov 2019

People of the UK, your time has come! The Early Access for Minecraft Earth has finally landed upon the beaches of the British Isles. It is the ninth country to get access to the open beta, joining South Korea, Canada, the Philippines, Australia, Mexico, Sweden, New Zealand and Iceland. No word yet on when the US is going to be given the green-light, but it shouldn’t be too much longer.

Previously, you could only have played Minecraft Earth if you lived in or around London and had signed up for the Closed Beta, which only had limited functionality. If you were playing around with the CBT you can still log into the game – the client will just need to download some additional files and you’ll be good to go. As far as we can tell your progress will also be saved, so there’s been no reset this time.

minecraft earth early access uk

The Early Access has more and is closer to what the final game will look like, with the new features such as:

  • Adventures – small slices of procedurally generated, limited-time Minecraft worlds that you play in augmented reality in life size and are just one of the experiences that are optimized for social multiplayer
  • New mob variants, smelting and crafting – like the *adorable* Muddy Pig, Moobloom, Jumbo Rabbit and Cluckshroom, we’ll have new friendly and hostile mobs for you to meet. Through smelting, you’ll be able to work ores into ingots and with crafting you’ll get to create items you need (if you have the right materials of course), instead of having to collect the items outright.

There’s an official blog post from MineCon the end of September that goes into more details regarding the Early Access build, otherwise go to either the iOS or the Google Play store to get started.

Original Story: The Minecraft Earth Closed Beta Test has been trundling along now for a couple of months now, finally releasing on Android at the start of September. It’s only been available in a few cities… although I wonder how loose they’ve been with the geography restrictions. I live about an hour outside of London, for example, yet I was given access not long after it hit Android.

Still, the main question on everyone’s mind is – when is it going to be out for realsies? The answer is soon! Sort of! At this year’s Minecon event that was held in Nashville, Mojang revealed that the Pokemon GO-like augmented reality game would be rolling out in October… into Early Access.

That’s not quite what ‘released’ means, and since Early Access is practically a Beta still, I guess you could say Minecraft Earth is transitioning from a Closed Beta to an Open Beta this October. Yay? The Early Access build is supposed to have more features than the current beta version, but we don’t know the specifics yet. A final release date of Spring 2020 has been bandied about, but I expect that to change as the game gets into the hands of more players.

What we do know is that this Early Access program is going to be a global roll-out, eventually. Smaller markets will get the game first to act as testing grounds (as is traditional), and Mojang will reportedly be adding in new territories every week or so. The entire world should have access to the game by the end of the year.

MC Earth Sample2

We’re not sure what this will mean to users already in the CBT in the ‘Famous Five’ cities currently with access – we’ll have to get back to you on that.

As before, iOS and Android users can re-register now via the official website, or via the app stores, if you haven’t already.

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Bastion returns and is currently Free on iOS for a Limited Time

By Joe Robinson 05 Nov 2019

You may remember back in September we gave you the heads-up regarding Bastion, Supergiant Games’ popular action-RPG and one of 2012’s best mobile games. Due to the transfer of publishing rights from Warner Bros to Supergiant themselves, the original iOS version needed to be delisted. If you had it on your device at the time you can still play it, but if you don’t you won’t be able to access that version of the game or your save-game data anymore.

Fear not though, it’s already returned in a new version.

That nu Bastion is free-to-download where you get to play the beginning for free. A one-time unlock IAP is needed for the full game, but that is currently also free for a limited time – it will be $4.99 at full price. This new version comes with iCloud save support, Game Center achievements and new game plus, amongst other improvements.

The only downside from switching over to this new version is that you can’t keep your save-game data. Supergiant published a full FAQ back when the news first broke about Bastion, if you still have questions, otherwise as mentioned the new listing is available to download at your leisure.

When was the last time you played Bastion? Do you plan on giving it another go? Answers on a postcard!

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Hearthstone’s new Battlegrounds ‘Auto Chess’ mode looks like a lazy version of Hearthstone

By Joe Robinson 04 Nov 2019

Blizzcon this year may have been all about Diablo 4 and Overwatch 2, but there were some mobile-orientated news items to pay attention to. As we already reported at the weekend, Diablo: Immortals got a brief update, and they announced a new Hearthstone set as well called Descent of Dragons.

Blizzard ALSO announced their own take on the Auto Chess phenomenon: Hearthstone: Battlegrounds. Taking the Valve route by making it an extra mode within Hearthstone (a la Teamfight Tactics > League of Legends) as opposed to making it a stand-alone experience (a la DOTA Underlords), this new variant will pit eight players against each other in the familiar Auto Chess format. There’s 24 heroes, god knows how many ‘minion’ characters to recruit. Here’s a trailer to highlight what we know so far (which isn’t much):

Depending on how charitable you’re feeling, this is either a very creative way to both capitalise on a current trend AND provide new content for your existing playerbase, or it’s incredibly lazy. I mean watching the trailer gives off the impression that it’s essentially a regular game of Hearthstone that just plays itself, sans spell or other non-minion type cards. I imagine there might be some more tactical nuance to it (like in other Auto Chess games) but we won’t know until we get our hands on it.

If you’ve acquired the Descent of Dragons pre-purchase bundle, or are a BlizzCon or BlizzCon Virtual Ticket holder, you’ll be able to try out the new mode from tomorrow in an exclusive week-long early access period. The rest of us mere mortals will have to wait until November 12th, when the ‘Global’ beta period officially rolls out.

Since the Hearthstone client is available on PC, iOS and Android (Google Play + Amazon), the new Battlegrounds mode will be as well. However, since the beta isn’t going to be fully optimised only devices with more than 2GB of RAM will be able to try it out. As the mode is fleshed out, further optimisation work will try and bring older devices on board.

There is definitely room for experimentation in this space – a lot of Auto Chess games are kind of similar to each other right now. Again, whether this is ingenious or a “quick win” remains to be seen.

Will you be trying out Battlegrounds when it launches? Got any initial thoughts of your own? Let us know in the comments!

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Blizzcon 2019 Diablo: Immortal Update tells us more about the game, but not a release date

By Joe Robinson 02 Nov 2019

Hey, remember that time when Blizzard announced Diablo: Immortal and everyone got super mad? Man, those were fun times. Although, given that it’s been a whole year since the game was revealed and even playable, you’d have thought we’d have heard something else by now.

Turns out Blizzard was just waiting for this year’s BlizzCon, although the mobile Diablo spin-off was not given centre stage. Instead, a development update video and blog post was pushed out later in the day, almost under-the-radar. The video shows off a couple of new areas, new legendary items and ‘Ultimate’ moves, amongst other things:

The development blog post is more of the same, although it also provides some initial answers on things like micro-transactions and release windows. That is to say – there isn’t a release window, and they are aware of the existence of micro-transactions. To be honest, this bit is a classic ‘nothing’ answer which typically means they probably will be micro-transactions, they just haven’t decided how far they want to go and want to avoid pissing off fans in the mean-time.

Nick had some thoughts about what Diablo: Immortal needs to get right, and from our perspective nothing’s changed, although we’re not too worried about most of things on that list. The ARPG side of things already looks pretty fluid and satisfying, and everyone who’s actually gone hands on says it’s still fun to play, so it really comes down to the business model.

I think we’re at the stage now where Blizzard need to get this game out into the wider world – given that’s been playable at two successive BlizzCons means it’s most of the way there, and if they dally much longer what interest exists is quickly going to disappear. Mobile gamers are drowning in games competing for their time, and just because your Blizzard doesn’t mean you’re automatically going to rise to the top of pile.

We’ll keep you updated on more Diablo: Immortal news as we get it.

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The Weekender: Spooky Sales Edition

I’m not really a huge fan of Halloween, mainly because in the evenings I don’t like to be bothered. After a long day my priorities are to eat dinner and relax on the couch, and not be answering the door every few minutes to give out sweets. We put out some anyway just in case anyone did come knocking, but it was a quiet year on our street so most of the box is still there.

In terms of the site this week we finally caught up on a review I’ve been meaning to have done (Xenowerkand had what will probably be the penultimate look at games are still due out this year. We also reviewed Bad Northwhich is excellent, if only really suitable for short bursts.

Meanwhile, in the world of mobile gaming…

New Mobile Games

GWENT: The Witcher Card Game (iOS)

There was a lot of buzz around GWENT when it first turned up. A hit mini-game within the very popular RPG The Witcher 3, it had all the hallmarks of an excellent stand-alone experience and, lo and behold, it appeared on PC and consoles in 2018. Not much has really been heard about it since then – it’s still going, and people still seem to enjoy it, and we’ve known a mobile version was on the horizon at some point.

After a recent beta period, that ‘some point’ is finally here, although only on iOS. GWENT is a very different game from the likes of Hearthstone and other challengers, although it’s still at its core a vaguely CCG looking card game. Michael is hard at work playing through the game for us now, and we’ll bring you our thoughts on it over the coming weeks. No word on an Android version yet I’m afraid, but we’ll keep you posted.

The Quest – Basilisk’s Eye (iOS & Android)

The Quest is a bit of a PT staple so it’s good to see it’s still going. This is a new stand-alone expansion to the beautifully hand-drawn Adventure/RPG with new areas, new quests and new challenges. As with past expansions, you can purchase this as a stand-alone experience if you don’t own the base game, or enable the new content within your existing save.

If you’re doing it within the base game, go to Mithria harbor and talk to captain Hanty, then select “Basilisk’s Eye” as your travel destination. The devs recommend you be at least level 75 before taking on the new content.

The Quest expansion

Last but not least, A Case of Distrust caught our eye as something that might be worth looking at. It’s a narrative-based murder mystery experience, so not our usual fare, but it won a bunch of indie awards in 2017 and has developed a good reputation on PC and other platforms. It’s now finally on iOS.

App Updates, News & Pre-Orders

Tropico

Feral Interactive released a free update for their mobile adaptation of banana republic simulator Tropico this week. The ‘Absolute Power’ expansion has been made available at no extra cost, which consists of 10 new missions, each taking place on its own island. Don’t forget to check out our review.

Runescape Mobile

While ‘Oldschool Runescape’ is already available on mobile, that’s the old 2007 version of the game. If you wanted to play the currently running modern version. You’d have to play on a PC… until today! An Early Access build has released on Android, although despite being free-to-download, you can’t actually play it unless you’re a subscriber of the game on PC.

No word on an iOS version yet, or if the Early Access will open up to anyone else. I’ve dabbled in Runescape myself on PC, but because I’m a free-to-play user I’m not able to access the Android build.

Mario Kart Tour Multiplayer

Mario Kart Tour has been out nearly a couple of months now, long enough to get a good measure of it. It’s a pretty good way of idling away some time if you’ve got nothing better to do, and the Mario Kart aesthetics make for some good nostalgia, but a true Mario Kart game it is not. One of the main reasons for this is the lack of true multiplayer.

We just heard today that a beta trial of a multiplayer mode will be rolling out in December. Unfortunately, it’s only going to roll out for the Gold Pass subscribers first. The Gold Pass costs $4.99 and unlocks the game’s 200cc mode and then various cosmetic goodies. That’s the same price as Apple Arcade, just so you know.

Minecraft

The iOS and Android versions of Minecraft were updated to Version 1.13 earlier this week, the first major patch since July. It’s another technical focuses one looking at fixing bugs and the like, but it also adds Foxes as a new animal, and the Character Creator, which allows you to further customise your avatar in lots of different ways (with even more ways available to purchase). There are few other little content drops as well.

Halloween App Sales

Fuuu- there are a lot of sales to process this week, so you may have to settle for a more general bulletin rather than our usual more specific alerts:

  • Necrodancer: AMPLIFIED is down to $2.99 (not cheapest price), and the original game is also discounted.
  • XCOM: Enemy Within is down it its cheapest price of $1.99 again on iOS and Android, as are a couple of other 2K games.
  • King of Dragon Pass is half price, making it its cheapest price in recent memory. Six Ages is still full price.
  • Handelabra’s One Deck Dungeon is down to $4.99 on iOS and Android. It was slightly cheaper in June.
  • All of Acram Digital’s games are discounted on iOS and Android.
  • Stardew Valley is down to $4.99. It was $3.99 in Dec ‘18 so it might go that cheap again this year, but it’s still a decent price.
  • A lot of Ironhide’s (Kingdom Rush, Iron Marines) games are going cheap this week on iOS and Android.
  • Asmodee Digital’s Mysterium, Potion Explosion and Zombicide: Tactics and Shotguns have all been discounted to a couple of dollars.
  • All of the Holy Potatoes! Games are discounted on iOS.
  • All of Clarus Victoria’s games (Egypt: Old Kingdom) are discounted on iOS and Android.
  • And quite a few more! Including Balur’s Gate II and the like.

If this is what it’s like for Halloween, the Black Friday and Christmas sales are going to be off-the-chain.

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

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Xenowerk Tactics Review

Swedish developers Pixelbite Games have a long and enviable history of producing high-quality premium games. Alongside a convoy of Reckless Racing games sit the impressive Space Marshals top-down tactical shooters and the original Xenowerk dual-stick blaster. Their latest release is an amalgamation of the latter two, with a pinch of XCOM thrown in for good measure.

In a plot that seems heavily inspired by John Carpenter’s The Thing, you take on the role of commander of an emergency response team that has been sent to the Arctic to investigate troubling reports from a secret lab that is owned by the Xenowerk Corporation. It soon becomes clear that mutated lifeforms are running amok, killing anyone unfortunate enough to cross their slimy path. In true disaster film-style, conflicting interests soon bubble to the surface.

The world may need saving, but Xenowerk is more intent on maximising profits and minimising bad publicity.

Xenowerk Tactics Main Map

Commencement of the game will see Joyce Grendel, your chief of staff, introducing you to base camp. Your new home may only be a cluster of grey, non-descript temporary structures, but it is essential to familiarise yourself with their various functions. You could drop off at the recruitment vehicle to enlist some new fodd- er, ‘heroes’. Your recruits will usually be billeted at the nearby barracks, excluding those unfortunate enough to be injured, who can be sent to the field hospital to recover. Those lucky souls who earn enough experience to be promoted can pop along to the spa for some extra-curricular activities.

The armoury is the place to go to equip your team with the latest gadgets. At the command centre, you can check your messages, which will include news updates, requests for assistance and new missions. Initially, there will not be many updates, but as the game progresses various individuals and organisations will be clamouring for your attention. You may consider going against your employers’ back to make some quick cash on the black market, or even leak some valuable data to more socially aware organisations.

After accepting a mission, you will need to load your squad and equipment into the awaiting helicopter. There are three basic classes of recruit; rangers, marines and scientists. Each character will have decks of cards, representing their skills, traits and equipment. A ranger can use his recon skill to pinpoint enemies, whilst scientists can scan for the locations of mission objectives. Marines tend to take a more direct approach, using frag grenades to cut through the enemy ranks. Before take-off, you have one last opportunity to purchase some extra equipment such as explosives, ropes and machetes, which may be needed to reach some mission objectives.

Xenowerk Tactics Equipment Cards

Your helicopter will land in a previously secured safe zone, from where you will have to continue on foot. On your way to your target, random encounters pop up, these could involve being ambushed by mutants or suffering a drop in morale as one of your operatives tells a really bad joke. Luckily, some characters will have traits that can negate a detrimental event, for instance, a natural leader can rally the party even after a particularly awful pun. Encounters are not always bad, you may unearth some vital data, or come across a short cut. The map is divided into regions with different threat levels, and all of the available missions will be displayed, alongside any essential equipment.

Mission locations are varied, ranging from jungles and swamps to laboratories and factories. Upon reaching your destination the view switches to a forced overhead 3D perspective, with the surroundings gradually revealing as you explore. Controls are really simple; you can select and drag an individual character to a location, or tap the screen to rally your squad to a particular point. As soon as the enemy comes within range your operatives will immediately open fire. Ammunition is unlimited, so combat is largely a case of finding a position from which you can take down the enemy before your squad gets overwhelmed. If the action becomes too manic you can invoke a tactical pause that will freeze the action, giving you time to gather your wits.

Xenowerk Tactics Mission Objective

Missions present an opportunity to earn cash, biological samples, research data and new prototype technology. All of which can be used to complete further missions and to update your base. Developing your base is, unfortunately, the most disappointing aspect of Xenowerks. Building development is rather straightforward and linear. Some buildings cannot be developed until others have reached a specified level, so you are never really able to branch out and experiment. The buildings themselves are visually unexciting and do not feel meaningful.

Thankfully, the rest of the graphics are much more atmospheric. They have a 1990’s sensibility, with an army of suitably H.R Giger-style slimy mutants stalking murky corridors, lit by the eerie glow of your team’s torches. You will encounter passageways decorated with trails of blood and dismembered bodies and rooms furnished with grotesquely organic mutant-spewing generators. Weapons are enjoyably powerful, with enemies exploding in a gooey mess of appendages. The music is also excellent, again paying homage to John Carpenter’s work. The tension is palpable and is further exacerbated by the fact that if you do not have the extra equipment required to give immediate medical care or evacuation, seriously injured squad members have to be left behind.

Xenowerk Tactics Encounter Event

Overall, Xenowerks Tactics is excellent, if battery guzzling fun. A single very reasonable upfront payment gets you the whole game, with no constant internet connection required. Battles are hectic and satisfying, although the almost arcade-like action may put off those who appreciate a more considered approach. The bleakness is lifted by some nice humorous moments, like when your squad begin arguing over pizza toppings. It may at times feel like a shoot-em-up, but there is still plenty to consider. Your chief strategy will involve securing strategic safe zones before venturing deeper into the infected area. This involves carefully managing your squad and time.

Knowing how far to push your guys and when to swap them out for weaker but healthier alternatives is key. Equipment is strictly limited by carrying capacity, so planning is necessary and may mean that you will not always be returning to HQ with all of your squad members present. Your operatives have a diverse range of individual traits, which certainly gives them character and makes losing a favourite operative a sad affair. The base building feels undeveloped and tacked on, but when the rest of the game is so entertaining, it is an issue that can be forgiven.