Welcome back to Digital Blend, our weekly look at the world of downloadable video gaming that exists at the fringes of the mainstream. That means we look at the hottest new mobile game releases, downloadable content drops on consoles and PCs, indie darlings that deserve your love and attention, and the best gaming values under $20.
Keep your comments and feedback coming. We want to hear from you! Did you try something you read about here and enjoy it? Is there a particular game you think we’ve overlooked or news you want to share? Any questions you are dying to ask? Let us know! Your thoughts, feedback, suggestions and (constructive!) criticism are welcome, either in the comments section below or directed at yours truly on Twitter, @geminibros.
* Wargaming.net revealed its next free-to-play “World of [insert military vehicle here]” PC action game at E3 2012, World of Warplanes. The World War II-set air combat simulator might be cut from a familiar setting, but Wargaming has done an excellent job of keeping its game fresh despite the return of one of gaming’s favorite action settings. Our own Ryan Fleming got to spend some hands-on time with the closed beta for the sweet-looking flight combat sim, and he liked what he saw. It’s a bit more arcade-style play than simulation junkies might have hoped for, but free-to-play needs to cast a wide net and having easily accessible gameplay is important. Check out the preview to find out more.
* Let’s just make one thing clear first: it’s still 2012. You might be confused though with the news that PC shareware titan Apogee Software is making a comeback, with a planned remake of the company’s classic shooter, Rise of the Triad, planned for later this year. The Interceptor Entertainment-developed game is coming to Steam with a sweet, new look and all of the killer, over-the-top gameplay that made the original Triad such a classic. Yes, Dog Mode is coming back too. Call of Duty might have introduced the notion of attack dogs as a killstreak reward, but Rise of the Triad actually puts you in control of a four-legged beast as you tear other players’ throats out. Sweet.
* Ouya continues to seem like a more attractive proposition with each bit of news that emerges on it. We already know that the Android-powered console will ship with support for OnLive, and that it’ll serve as the exclusive launch platform for the episodic prequel to Human Element, from Robert Bowling’s studio, Robotiki. It’s also confirmed that the console will include a VEVO app, in a move designed to put music videos on your TV screen once again (take that, MTV). The latest: the Ouya team is now officially partnered with Square Enix, and the first offering from the publisher for the console will be an HD remake of Final Fantasy 3. It appears that this remake will differ from the updated version released for Nintendo DS and mobile platforms some years ago, though it hasn’t yet been confirmed.
* Up until this week, BioWare’s Star Wars: The Old Republic was off-limits territory for Digital Blend due to its status as a full-priced, subscription-based MMO. That all changes later this year, however, with Electronic Arts confirming that the Star Wars MMORPG will embrace a free-to-play pricing model this fall. What that means in practical terms is that anyone with a powerful enough computer will be able to play through the full story for any of the game’s eight character classes. Subscriptions will still be available for those who want to enjoy the full range of features — particularly endgame content — but the core experience that’s earned so much press since the game launched in December 2011 will be entirely free-to-play.
* Yesterday Bethesda Softworks released the previously Xbox 360-exclusive Dawnguard DLC pack from Skyrim for PC platforms, but there was still no sign of the PlayStation 3 release. Now we know why. A new post on the Bethesda Blog explains the delay in a brief statement, the thrust of which is… needs more polish. Bethesda doesn’t want to release something that plays like crap, so PS3 users will have to wait a bit longer to play the vampire-focused questline that was first released for Microsoft’s console at the end of June. How long remains to be seen, but with all of the actual content finished and just some polish left to be applied, it hopefully won’t be too long.
Top buys for the week…
I didn’t love Tequila Works’ Deadlight, a puzzle/platformer with a few light survival horror elements, all set against the backdrop of a 1980s zombie apocalypse in Seattle. I found the controls to be rather clunky and I’m still beating back the headaches that the writing left me with. Why, then, am I recommending it? Consider this a partial recommendation. Frankly, the game is beautiful and it’s almost worth playing for that alone. It feels a little overpriced at 1,200 MS Points given the two-hour length and minimal replay value, but snatch this one up as soon as you see a sale on it.
I’ll have a full review of The Expendables 2: The Video Game for you early next week, but the lack of a full-blown rundown shouldn’t stop you from picking up this mindlessly entertaining little gem. If you like big explosions, simple action, and tough-guy one-liners — in other words, if you’re the target audience for the movie The Expendables 2 — then this game, an over-the-top twin-stick shooter, is made entirely for you. Go get it.
War of the Monsters might not be the best PS2-era title, or the most well-known one, but it’s an awesome fighting game that mixes the simple approach to combat that you see in titles like Smash Bros. Brawl, with a fully destructible 3D environment. It’s essentially a Godzilla fighting game, though there are no licensed giant monsters here. Instead you’ll find what is essentially Rampage for today’s crowd, with behomoths modeled after Godzilla, King Kong, Ultraman, and others — plus a giant, walking eyeball — duking it out as city blocks are torn apart beneath their rage. If you played and loved this gem in the previous generation, you already know what I’m talking about and probably downloaded War of the Monsters already. If you haven’t, now’s your chance.
Alien Breed might not be the first twin-stick shooter, but it is a much-loved one. Released in the early ’90s by Team17, the game sends players into a sci-fi setting that’s been overrun with aliens. You play from a top-down perspective, blasting extra-terrestrials apart with a variety of weapons. It quickly becomes clear as you play that there’s a heavy Alien influence going on. The downside, of course, is that since it is an iOS version of the game, that means that you’re using virtual analog controls. This is a PC classic though, and you can’t go wrong snatching up a version that is small enough to fit into your pocket.
Justice League: Earth’s Final Defense is essentially an iOS take on the PlayStation Portable favorite, Justice League Heroes. It’s an action-RPG in the vein of console games like Marvel Ultimate Alliance, with players stepping into the capes and tights of various DC super heroes as they fight to protect the Earth from nefarious super-villains. You’ll level up as you progress and use newly unlocked powers to more effectively kick the crap out of whatever stands in your way.
If action-RPG makes your ears perk up but you’re not interested in Justice League‘s DC super heroes roster, Chillingo’s Orc: Vengeance might be more your thing. The hack-and-slash action-RPG lootfest is just the sort of Diablo-style game that mobile device users with a love for AAA gaming would like to see more of. While we all still wait for Chair Entertainment to blow us away with its own Diablo clone in Infinity Blade: Dungeons, Orc: Vengeance provides a nice diversion.
I’ll make this very simple: Bullet Run is a first-person shooter built around the idea that players are participating in a combat-focused TV series. It’s from Sony Online Entertainment and it’s entirely free to play. Many have described it as a first-person take on the coin-op classic, SmashTV. Download this sucker on Steam and try it out. You can’t beat that price.