Albion Online Dev Talk – Merlyn Roadmap –

The next major content update for Albion Online, Merlyn, is coming soon. In this Dev Talk, Robin Henkys, Game Director of Albion Online, describes some of the features coming with this update.

No time to watch the video? Read on for a written description of his talk:

The Key Idea: Strengthening the Royal Cities

The primary goal of the Merlyn update is to increase the importance of the various cities on the Royal Continent. Each of the continent's cities has its own visual identity and biome, but economically they play a secondary role to Caerleon. With the Merlyn update, we're looking to change this.


The first step toward strengthening these cities will be to introduce two types of economic bonuses: refining bonuses and crafting bonuses.

Refining Bonuses

Each Royal city will be particularly good at refining a particular resource – and to encourage cross-continent transport, it will always be a resource that is not common to the region. If you refine this particular resource in this particular city, you will get a lot more refined resources out of your raw materials.

From a narrative perspective this is due to the city having mastered the effective use of a scarce resource. After all, even in the real world, we only ever become efficient at using resources when they become scarce and expensive. 

Crafting Bonuses

In addition, each city will be particularly good at crafting particular sets of items. We're aiming for a good balance between items that make sense in the local biomes (such as bows in Lymhurst) and items that are less typical for the area to make each city valuable.

Note that while Caerleon itself will not receive any of these bonuses, home territories in the Outlands will remain strong. Crafting in these territories will always be at least as effective as crafting your items in the city with the highest bonus, so players who are already doing their crafting in black zones can continue to do so.

Resource Distribution Changes

To make the various Royal cities more attractive for gatherers as well, the Merlyn update will see a rebalancing of resource distribution. Enchanted lower-tier resources will be far more common near each biome city, while the amount of lower-tier resources in the Outlands and around Caerleon will decrease.

With these economic changes, we're confident we will see the economic standing of the outlying Royal cities increase significantly.

Improved Marketplace UI

To support this increased economic activity, we're also finally bringing the updated UI to the Marketplace. This will significantly improve the ability of players to track trade volumes and average prices, and will greatly streamline the trading process throughout the world of Albion. 

Faction Warfare

But what about players who want to participate in PvP, and currently have Caerleon as their only home option? For these players, we'll be introducing a new feature with the Merlyn update: faction warfare!

The outlying cities have discovered powerful new magical resources within their territorial borders, and have used them to buy their freedom from the king. These "free cities" immediately began fighting among themselves, vying for control of these resources, with each city trying to establish itself as Albion's greatest.

To gain the upper hand in this conflict, the cities' leaders have begun hiring mercenaries to fight for them. When players sign up with a faction, they gain the ability to kill and loot members of opposing factions wherever they encounter them.

They will also be handsomely rewarded for any PvE and faction PvP activities they engage in while signed up. Each faction has access to a unique set of rewards, which include new baby animals (which can be grown into powerful faction mounts), as well as new crafting patterns which can be used to create a wide variety of different capes, opening the cape slot as a new tactical option for Albion players.

In addition, faction warfare will introduce two new activities to the world of Albion: outpost capturing and trade caravans.

In outpost capturing, faction-flagged players can attempt to claim outposts belonging to opposing factions by killing the faction champion guarding the outpost.

And with trade caravans, players can transport valuable faction goods to smuggling posts in order to exchange them for larger amounts of different faction goods, all while running the risk of getting attacked by an opposing faction's members.

All in all, these faction warfare features should really breathe life into PvP on the Royal Continent, and we're very excited to bring them to life.

That's all for today – we'll be sharing more details on these and other features of the Merlyn update in upcoming Dev Talks, so stay tuned!

gamesread | Swashbuckling action-roguelike City of Brass is out now

gamesread | Swashbuckling action-roguelike City of Brass is out now

We must be living in a golden age of videogames, because in no other era would I have let something as immediately enticing as City of Brass escape my grasp. While I’ve been aware of the Arabian-themed first-person Spelunky-like’s presence since its debut in early access, I’ve just not found the time to give it a try. Perhaps the time is finally right, as the game just left early access today.

For those late to the party, City of Thieves is the debut from Uppercut Games, a team that largely cut their teeth working on the Bioshock series. The polish and sheen even in early builds of the game makes the family resemblance clear. It’s a fast-paced first-person action roguelike, with you playing as a sword-swinging, whip-cracking adventurer after treasure and glory in a cursed city full of scimitar-swinging skellingtons, hard-bargaining Djinn and other such creatures of middle-eastern myth.

After a relatively short trip through early access (less than a year, which is practically a blink of an eye when it comes to modern game development), Uppercut Games reckon that the time is right to sand off the sharp edges and buff up the game to a mirror sheen. John took a look at the game during its first few months in public testing and was initially caught off-guard by how fast and arcadey it was. Thief Of Persia this is not, but rather a hell-for-leather dash through the undead, grabbing treasure as you go. Still, reviews from those who played it over early access are very positive on the whole.

The release version of the game includes a few new features and some extra content over the early access build. Most importantly, the final boss fight is now in the game. This key little extension to the campaign necessitates a complete wipe of the leaderboards, although that was only to be expected with the game coming out of early access.

Less vitally (although still amusing) is Twitch/Mixer integration, introduced in this final update. As with a few other games such as Clustertruck, this lets Twitch audiences vote on tweaks to be made to the game when played and broadcast live, either to torment or support their streamer of choice. I’ve even seen mods for The Binding Of Isaac to do similar things, so it’s a nice feature to have, especially in a game as inherently random as this.

City of Brass is out now via Steam for £15.49/16.79€/$20. Those who picked it up in early access get the soundtrack free, as well as a unique sword skin.

FUT Champions Weekend League Update –

Posted January 24th at 2:30pm.

Hey FUT Players,

Quick intro, my name is Tyler Blair and I’m a Senior Game Designer on FIFA Ultimate Team. I started at EA in 2004 and have worked on FUT since it was just a concept in 2008. As a Designer, I’m part of the team that shapes and decides the direction of FUT features through production, and partners with the rest of the development team to bring features and modes to life when the game launches.

Today I wanted to tell you about a change we are making to the Weekend League, starting in February, and also give you a bit more context on changes already made in the January FIFA 18 Title Update.   

Silver 2 Qualification from February

When we added qualification to the prizes at Gold 3 and above, we did so with the intent of making continued participation in the Weekend League easier. We looked at the effects of this change and found that it encouraged some players to play more games per weekend, which was not our intent.


To reach Gold 3, it takes 18 wins and data shows that a big group of players stop playing when they get there. It also shows that it takes most players approximately 31 games to achieve this rank. We understand the rewards are a big driver as to why people try to get as many wins as possible, but the disproportionate population of players who stop at this line signals an opportunity for improvement. So, with that in mind we’re making a change at the start of February.

FUT Champions rewards of Silver 2 and above will now grant access to the next Weekend League. The new number of wins required to gain the qualification reward will be 11 wins and above. By moving the benchmark to Silver 2, we will grow the overall size of the weekend league slightly and enable an earlier stop-point for players wanting to earn requalification. The stats show that a high percentage of players will find themselves qualified to the next Weekend League after 20-23 games and many much faster than that.

This change retains the structure we have in place to find the best FUT players in the world, while keeping competitive play available and accessible for all FUT players.

Review of Pre-Match Information

In this Title Update, we improved the pre-game experience and game setup flow.

  • In the team select screen we changed the way Home and Away are displayed – you will now see ‘My Squad’ and ‘Opponent Squad’. 

  • We also removed the option of playing in specific stadiums with varied camera angles or shadow patterns. To provide a consistent experience for everyone, all FUT Champions matches will take place in the FeWC Stadium, Time of Day will always be set to Night and Weather always be set to Clear.
  • We have changed the way that kit selection works. You will now control which kits you see for both your own team, and your opponent’s team. You will choose whether to assign your Home or Away kit to your team, while your opponent’s team will be assigned the other. In gameplay, each player will see only the kits they selected, and will not see the kits that their opponent selected. With this in mind, we suggest that you review your Active kits.

I hope that this gives you better insight into the changes we made. Thank you for playing and see you in the Weekend League!

Tyler Blair and the FUT Development Team


FIFA 18 is Available Now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.  Conditions and restrictions apply.  See for details. 

Stay in the conversation on all things FIFA by liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter and Instagram.

Sign-up to receive emails about EA SPORTS FIFA and EA products, news, events and promotions.

gamesread | Overwatch director discusses toxicity & balance changes

gamesread | Overwatch director discusses toxicity & balance changes

There are certain games that breed toxicity like a cowpat breeds flies. That’s not to say Overwatch isn’t a fantastic shooter, it’s just that placing strangers in a competitive environment where one person’s (often very visible) mistake can result in a loss for the whole team is a recipe for unpleasant behaviour. That said, the blame still lies with the offending individuals: the game brings out the worst IN people, but it’s the worst OF people that are the real problem.

Fortunately, it’s a problem that the Overwatch devs have become keenly aware of, and game director Jeff Kaplan’s latest update video highlights some of the ways they’re improving the situation. My main takeaway is that they’ve managed to reduce instances of toxic communication by 17% in competitive games, but you might also be interested in Kaplan’s discussion of upcoming balance changes. I’ve got bad news, Mercy mains.

It genuinely sounds like the devs are taking a pro-active, multi-faceted approach to dealing with the toxicity problem. One part of that is encouraging players to engage with the report system by informing them when action has been taken against someone they’ve reported, which has seen a 20 percent increase in reported players. Another key change has been to warn reported players that action will be taken against them if they continue behaving inappropriately.

I know Dota 2 has been doing both of those things for years, and so Overwatch really should have had those systems in place from the get-go – but I’m inclined to be lenient towards the devs. This is an example of a studio not get something right, listening to their community and then actively trying to fix it.

I wouldn’t be saying that if not for the other example Kaplan gives of a measure they’re taking, which involves searching YouTube for toxic behaviour in Overwatch games and taking action even if the offending player hadn’t been reported. Kaplan says he’s reluctant to give other examples because the more he reveals the easier it’ll be for players to get away with being shitty to each other, which is fair enough.

On the balance changes front, the devs have got Mercy in their sights. As Kaplan explains, “we tried to move Resurrection to a secondary ability, and the ability right now…it’s playing like another ultimate in combination with Valkryie, which is extremely powerful, so Mercy needs to be toned down.” He goes on to state that they’re not going to remove the Resurrection ability entirely, and that they’ll be paying a close eye on the character to make sure she doesn’t end up under-powered.

He also mentions planned changes for Junkrat, Hanzo, Mei, and Symmetra.

Towards the end of the video, Kaplan highlights how their intention isn’t to balance every hero to the point where they’re viable in every situation. On the contrary, a major part of Overwatch figuring out which hero will work best when considering the composition of both teams as well as the relevant objective. His advice that every player should have at least a small roster of heroes they can play effectively is spot on, and something I really should think about more before plumping for Genji 90% of the time. I know, I’m one of those people, sorry.

gamesread – FIFA 18 Goals of the Month November 2017 – EA SPORTS – Official Site

Posted December 8th at 12:00am.

FIFA players around the world submit their best goals hoping to be selected for the EA SPORTS FIFA 18 Goals of the Week compilation. Even though there are thousands of excellent submissions every week, only ten of the very best make the cut. 

Now we’re kicking off a new series, Goals of the Month, that highlights the most impressive selections from the previous month’s goals. Instead of a ranked top ten list, we will award the best videos in a variety of categories, like best assist, best header, most creative, etc.

This month’s goals featured some brilliant efforts, including a handful of stunning uses of El Tornado that made picking the top ones rather difficult. But here they are, the best goals of November 2017, with the name of the players who made them, the professionals they used, and where to find each in the video above. 


El Tornado Master: Rico-Boy-1997, Cristiano Ronaldo

Like I said above, there were many excellent uses of El Tornado this month, but the best of the best has to be this performance from FIFA 18 cover star Cristiano Ronaldo. After dominating multiple defenders to burst into the penalty box, Ronaldo uses FIFA’s newest skill move to bamboozle the final defender before scissor-kicking the ball into the upper corner of the goal. 

Skiller Award: Adnan McMahon, Raheem Sterling

Comparing technique-heavy highlights can be a tough ask. What should have more weight: the quantity of tricks and moves performed or their quality? Sometimes the simplest tricks produce brilliant combos, but it’s hard to discount when a player pulls off one of the more complex and difficult FIFA skill moves. In this month’s pick, Sterling uses his endless bag of tricks to beat four defenders before spinning into a cheeky backwards flick to finish past the hapless goalkeeper.

Cheekiest Finish Award: Winkeydonker, Steven N’Zonzi

FIFA 18 reflects the beautiful game’s endless creativity by giving players so many ways to score goals. Between the different tricks, flicks, and shot types, the possibilities for interesting and cheeky finishes are many. For this month’s most creatively cheeky goal, N’Zonzi fools just about everybody on a corner kick with his flying backheel finish that zipped across the goal and into the top of the net. 

Teamwork Award: Kyle Weber, Marco Asensio

The best team goal this month had an assist nearly as good as the goal itself. Deulofeu takes the ball towards the six-yard box after latching onto a through ball on the left, and rather than take the shot himself or make a simple cross into the middle, he executes a flawless rabona cross towards the penalty spot. Asensio, not to be one-upped, whips the ball into the corner with an audacious scorpion kick. 

Using Your Head Award: Bizarreretribution, Paulo Dybala

Another excellent team goal, the most impressive thing about this one is the mind-boggling finish. An imitation of Robin van Persie’s stunning header against Spain at the 2014 World Cup, this goal is more incredible with every re-watch. Some buildup play set up a lobbed through ball for Dybala, who could have done a variety of things with the ball when it got to him. But instead of settling it with his feet and dribbling or heading it down for a teammate, Dybala does the virtually unthinkable by leaping towards the ball from outside the box with an acrobatic diving header. His finish looped perfectly into the upper right corner as the frozen goalkeeper looked on in awe. 


FIFA 18 is Available Now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.  Conditions and restrictions apply.  See for details. 

Stay in the conversation on all things FIFA by liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter and Instagram.

Sign-up to receive emails about EA SPORTS FIFA and EA products, news, events and promotions.

gamesread – Samsung 850 EVO review: A great SSD, but only just

gamesread - Samsung 850 EVO review: A great SSD, but only just

If your PC’s been feeling a bit sluggish lately, you could probably do with upgrading your main disk drive to an SSD. They’re a heck of a lot faster than traditional hard disk drives (HDDs), and they also take up much less room inside your case, allowing them to sit snugly inside smaller builds with ease. But when so many say they’re lightning fast this and super, extra quick that, it can be difficult to cut through the marketing jargon. We’ve covered the basics of what you need to look out for in our SSD buying guide, but today I thought we’d start by looking at one of the most popular 2.5in SSDs around, the Samsung 850 Evo.

More affordable than its closely related sibling, the Samsung 850 Pro, the 850 Evo regularly tops most SSD recommendations lists – and with good reason. It not only has a lovely five year warranty for extra peace of mind, but Samsung’s VNAND tech is pretty damn fast for the money, with Samsung claiming sequential read and write speeds of up to 540MB/s and 520MB/s respectively.

Admittedly, those figures require a bit of fiddling around with Samsung’s additional features, but even with its TurboWrite tech and Rapid mode left off, I recorded a sequential read speed of 497.9MB/s and sequential write speed of 452.64MB/s in the AS SSD benchmark. [Small disclaimer here: I tested the 850 Evo on my rather ancient desktop (2.8GHz quad-core AMD Athon II X4 360, 8GB RAM, Windows 10), so results might not be quite as fast as a more up to date system. I’ll be upgrading my PC over Christmas, though, so I’ll re-run these tests in the New Year to give you a more up to date picture of how it runs on a modern machine. Small disclaimer over.]

That said, sequential read and write speeds aren’t really the best indicator of real-world performance. This is because, as the name implies, sequential tests read and write files in a neat little line one after the other in adjacent locations. Most of the time, though, SSDs function a bit like a messy bedroom, with files thrown haphazardly into any available nook and cranny with no rhyme or reason to their overall placement. As a result, random tests are a much better gauge of how fast an SSD’s actually going to be in everyday use. The catch is that these results are quite a bit slower than sequential speeds, and Samsung helpfully doesn’t provide these sorts of figures because they’re not the equivalent of an SSD show home.

Indeed, the 850 Evo’s 4K test results, where it reads and writes 1GB of randomly selected 4KB files across the SSD, don’t make for great reading, coming in at just 35.44MB/s read and 63.58MB/s write. Goodbye dreams of seconds-long copy times for large game files. However, while the figures themselves don’t look great on paper, the 850 Evo’s 4K read and write speed is still 14% and 3% faster than the results I got for one of its main 2.5in competitors, WD’s Blue 3D NAND SSD.

gamesread - Samsung 850 EVO review: A great SSD, but only just

Behold, a bar graph with numbers and results described in word form above.

The 850 Evo also proved to be the better drive in AS SSD’s Access Time test as well, which measures the speed between a read or write request being made and it actually taking place. This is meant to give you an idea of how responsive the OS will be. On both counts, the Samsung 850 Evo scored 0.055ms, equalling the WD Blue 3D NAND on read time (0.052ms) but beating it by 96% when it came to write time (0.108ms).

The Samsung 850 Evo also edged ahead in AS SSD’s copying benchmark. Here, it copies three folders (an ISO folder with two large files, a program folder with lots of small files, and a game folder with a mix of large and small files), aiming to show how the SSD performs with lots of read and write operations going on at the same time. The 850 Evo copied the ISO folder at 401.99MB/s, the program folder at 191.27MB/s and the Game folder at 400.80MB/s. Much better, you might think. The WD Blue 3D NAND, for comparison’s sake, came in at 288.1MB/s for the ISO, 193.67MB/s for programs and 389.67MB/s for the game.

Even this comes with a bit of a caveat, though, as there really isn’t much between them in terms of actual practical benefit. Duration times, for instance, differed by just over a second in the ISO test and mere milliseconds in the program and game tests.

gamesread - Samsung 850 EVO review: A great SSD, but only just

As a result, you’d probably be perfectly happy choosing either SSD for your PC, as I think you’d be hard-pushed to tell the difference in overall speed or OS responsiveness. Instead, it really comes down cold hard cash, as there’s no point paying over the odds for fast SSD when a potentially cheaper one can do the same job just as well.

Unfortunately, current prices don’t make this particular buying decision much easier, as at time of writing the WD Blue 3D NAND costs £82 for 250GB (32.8p/GB), while the 250GB Samsung 850 Evo costs £84 (33.6p/GB). At that price, you might as well pay the extra – although it is worth noting that while the WD Blue 3D NAND only comes with a three-year warranty, its overall endurance rating is higher than the 850 Evo across all its various capacities. Samsung makes things a bit easier at 500GB, coming in at £6 less than the WD at £135, but even then it’s not much of an immediate saving. In the US, it’s a bit more straightforward, as you’re looking at $90 for the 250GB 850 Evo, $158 for the 500GB version. The WD Blue 3D NAND, however, is just $80 for 250GB and $140 for 500GB.

I realise this probably sounds a bit negative, but when all’s said and done, the Samsung 850 Evo is still a great SSD. It’s just that all SSDs are pretty good these days, so unless one’s significantly cheaper than the other, it doesn’t really make a huge amount of difference which one you go for unless you’re regularly moving mad quantities of video files or you’re the most monstrous power user the world’s ever seen (in which case, you’d probably want an NVMe M.2 SSD like Samsung’s 960 Pro and not a 2.5in model, but more on that another time).

In the meantime, though, the Samsung 850 Evo is still an excellent choice in the 2.5in category, but if you can find the WD Blue 3D NAND for a bit less, then you’ll almost certainly be just as happy with that instead.

gamesread | MMO Update: Guild Wars 2, ESO And More

This week we put together a special exclusive primer detailing some of the big stories that took place in Q3 2017 in online gaming. It’s been a year of big franchises becoming free-to-play, and gamers being sold prizes in digital crates. The industry has made a heavy pivot yet again, and gaming is good.

Guild Wars 2 News

The sweet folks over at ArenaNet have come up with a way to make our MMO lives much simpler. With a new update that rolled out in September, players can now buy waypoints for cash. You can pay 2000 gems for ALL the waypoints in the five regions of the main game (will not include Heart Of Thorns or Path of Fire locations) and 600 gems for one region. For those wondering what the exchange rate is, 2000 gems works out to about $25 USD, and 600 gems runs you about $8. It’s a price that you will certainly feel in your pocketbook. Just make sure you really hate auto-walking before you confirm the transaction.

The expansion, Path of Fire, has been out since September 22nd and has been met with moderate acclaim. It feels rushed in some areas, like the story. But it makes up for that in other areas, like with the beautiful catalog of mounts that’ve been added, a revamped loot system, and new elite specialization options. Suffice it to say, the hardcore base is satisfied.

Destiny 2

If you’re the one person still taking on Oryx and his Taken Army in Destiny 1 on Xbox One, there is a special prize waiting for you.

A player recently discovered that he was able to access content that was originally only available for Playstation 3 and 4 users. Someone at Bungie must have thought it was time for their Xbox fanbase to collect their due. This update was not announced in any patch notes from the developers. Hopefully this doesn’t in in a lawsuit, because players gained access to a fair amount of fresh content.

The package includes:

One co-op Strike mission named “Echo Chamber”

“The Vex have laid siege to time itself. Attempting to unravel your once-decisive victory against Sekrion, the Vex are constructing a time bridge to call the Nexus Mind from the past in order to execute a terrible future.”

With up to 2 other players, you can attempt to hold off a Vex onslaught while also disabling the bridges machinery to prevent the return of Sekrion.

One new multiplayer map compatible with any mode named “SECTOR 618”

A map that, I can personally attest, will leave you with ptsd. With narrow corridors connected by only two exposed bridges. There are tons of sniping points, you will constantly be on your toes fighting in these yards.That is…if anyone is still there. *Sigh* Thankfully you have all this “exclusive” gear [that you’ve probably outleveled] to take into the fray.

Three new gear sets and one adorable-ass rifle

Each class gets a full armor set that they can complete, which gives a bonus specific to that class. They look pretty good, but if you’ve been playing Destiny 1 this whole time… you have WAY cooler stuff than this already. One thing you may not have though…

Is the Jade Rabbit. It’s a long range 13-shot rifle…with a bunny on it.

“The moon-dwelling Jade Rabbit of yore is made manifest in this adorably deadly exotic scout rifle. Sporting a 13-shot magazine and a sniper-like scope, the Jade Rabbit is a lethal combination of kinetic power and long-range accuracy.”

It may not be much, but it is a respectful gesture to the Xbox loyalists. As well all know the Xbox-loyal been through a lot the past couple of years.

Elders Scrolls Online

ESO tecently hit 10 million unique players! They are honoring the achievement with the campaign hashtag, #10millionstories, where you can email in your tales of combat and adventure and they will share them on social media as well as

A week ago, they showcased their new zone, Sotha Sil’s steampunk lair “filled with mysterious automatons, fantastic sights, and hidden dangers.”

Be sure to check back with the latest in MMO news on Attack Gaming.

Deepu G.

gamesread – 5 Games to Unleash Your Inner Cersei Lannister

Another season of Game of Thrones has come and gone but please don’t tell me what happened–I’m waiting for the books. And yes, no need to say it, I am an idiot. But just like the end of every Game of Thrones season (I assume) someone or something has left a path of carnage in their wake, and now all that’s left to do is count the bodies. Did…anyone I may know get “Red Weddinged?” Wait, nope, forget I asked.

When it comes to stacking bodies no one does it quite as well or with as much flair as Cersei Lannister. That’s why at the start of season 7 we decided to put together a list of games that give you the opportunity to really let your inner Queen Regent shine through. She is still Queen Regent, right? No, no, don’t tell me.

Queen Regent or not, Cersei would approve of how these games encourage you to murder, pillage and just generally be kind of a bummer to be around. And while it’s not necessary to sinisterly cradle a goblet of wine while you play these games, I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt.

And hey, what do you guys think George R.R. Martin is doing right now? Think he’s writing? Sigh. No, neither do I.

gamesread – Unknown Pleasures: our favourite new Steam releases

gamesread - Unknown Pleasures: our favourite new Steam releases

Welcome back to Unknown Pleasures, our weekly round-up of the most excellent hidden gems we dug up from the past week of new releases on Steam.

This week: botany simulation, electro-tanks, skeletal Wolverine and automatic Starship Troopers.

The Red Front


File under ‘games I feel kinda guilty about including here’ because, y’know, it’s about as smart as a Twitter execs’ boardmeeting. I can’t help but like The Red Front nonetheless. It’s a twin stick shooter of sorts, in which you play as a Russian tank, trying to survive against waves of Axis soldiers, armoured cars, tanks and what not. Some of ’em will drop weapon upgrades, and before long you have yourself a tank firing deathclouds and electric rays and all sorts. That’s it: that’s literally it. But it involves unblinking top-down carnage, has pleasantly ponderous tank movement, you can get stuck in trees and it finds a fairly sweet spot between raining hell and having to constantly manoeuvre your way out of trouble.

Very, very stupid, but the Russian marching band music helps a lot.

The Botanist


A lovely concept (one we posted about back in its Greenlight days) that’s both a very pleasant timesink and a slightly missed opportunity. You, in your apartment, don the mantle of a botanist – growing and cataloguing an effectively infinite array of new plants, procedurally-generated when you type in a name of your choice – ‘New Coke’, ‘Dale Cooper’, ‘Megatron’ or whatever. You can obtain upgrades – fancier pots and more space and the like – by meeting plant enthusiasts’ requests, e.g. by growing a purple flower or an orange grass – and these low-pressure, chummy challenges create a suitably gentle sense of compulsion. The highlight is always finding out what kind of plant you’re going to get from a new seed, although I think The Botanist’s biggest mistake is to have seeds grow instantly into full-size flora. Even having to wait just one in-game day would create a stronger sense of anticipation.

The weird interface, all from a first person perspective but with you fixed in place throughout, is a bit of a shame too – how much nicer it would be to physically wander over to a plant to gaze at it, rather than simply click on it and have it magically teleported across the room to you. Still, tranquil, pleasant and filled with tiny moments of joy.

Alien Hallway 2


It’s bit of a week for stupid, and ain’t nothing wrong with that. This is the sequel to a very stupid top-down shooter-cum-inverse tower defence jobbie from seven years ago (I am so old), which is essentially Starship Troopers – i.e. a few good men and women versus squillions and squillions of insectoid aliens. Your dudes auto-fire in the main, but you can direct them to focus on specific targets, such as gigantic bosses or exploding cannisters full of resources off to the side of the screen.

The key ‘strategy’ if you can call it that, is spending said resources on reinforcements, which is where the inverse tower defence element comes in – hoping your lads survive long enough for you to afford new chums for them to fight with. Yeah, it’s a hamster wheel of unlocks and loot-gathering, but the scale of the enemy swarms it chucks you is a bit of a treat, and it’s very, very difficult to stop watching ’em pop.

After Death


Pretty solid-seeming Metroidvania, with some lovely gothic 2D art and a particularly agreeable Vangelis-y soundtrack. As is always the case with an Unknown Pleasure, I’ve only played a bit of it so can’t attest for how well it holds together as levels sprawl further, powers grow and bosses get all bossy, but certainly it feels like one I’d like to stick with. The audio-visual aesthetic’s great, and it’s dark’n’demony without getting all Deviant Art about it.

Also, you basically play as Skeletal Wolverine.



This week, our weekly Minimalist Puzzle Game Of The Week in this, the week of October 6, 40th week of the 52 weeks of the year, is… well, it fits the mould with worrying precision. Skeletal piano soundtrack, monochrome art, and interactions that don’t go beyond rotating things. But it’s tranquil and pretty and has its own take on a broadly familiar theme, which is Pipemania-style parts-rotation to get a ball from one end to another. The twist here is that, as well as the pipe-pieces themselves, you can also rotate the whole construction at once, in order to make gravity do its thing and usher your ball to the exit. So it’s all about figuring out twin combinations – starts easy, grows more challenging, but pretty much stays relaxing. Most pleasant.

Pick of the week iiiiiiiissssss: well, with the very strong proviso that I’ve only seen a bit of it, I’m going to go for After Death. I just really dig its vibe, man.