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. We’re back from a Superstorm Sandy-induced one week hiatus; best wishes to you and any friends or loved one who might have been affected by the recent natural disaster.
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.
* The word on the virtual street is that Microsoft is working on a Surface-like 7-inch Xbox tablet. The device would reportedly run on a modified version of Windows 8 and come equipped with enough internal horsepower to support the sort of gaming experience that you’d usually expect to see on your TV. The rumor also suggests that development is underway now at Microsoft’s Silicon Valley labs, with several Xbox-related buildings there having recently been locked down to keep prying eyes away. Nothing’s confirmed of course, but it would certainly make sense given Microsoft’s recent first foray into mobile tech development.
* Skyrim fans have reason to rejoice this week. The next DLC pack for Bethesda’s 2011 RPG is officially titled and dated: Dragonborn arrives on December 4, 2012, returning longtime fans to the island of Solstheim, last seen as an expansion pack for Morrowind. That’s not the best news though. You ready? Dragonborn allows players to hop on the back of a dragon and ride it like a horse. Just soak that in for a bit. Then check out the new trailer. It’s badass.
* In other Skyrim news, fans who play the game on PlayStation 3 or PC have reason to rejoice. All Skyrim DLC enjoys 30-day Xbox 360 exclusivity, and while the PC version has gotten the Dawnguard DLC, the PS3 release lags behind with no Skyrim DLC whatsoever. Bethesda has apparently run into technical difficulties in the process of porting the content to the Sony platform, but a tweet this week from the developer promises that the team is “close” to additional platform releases. There’s no further clarification yet, but Skyrim fans will certainly want to keep watch for updates.
* In one of the more bizarre developments of the week, an accidental outing of a new Uncharted game, called Uncharted: Fight for Fortune, represents a little bit of a detour for the franchise. The unannounced game is apparently a PlayStation Vita-exclusive casino/card game, according to a translated ratings classification for the title from Brazil. There’s also a rating assigned to the game in Australia that lists it as a multi-platform release, so it seems that Fight for Fortune could be a cross-buy/cross-play title. Reports of these ratings did prompt Sony boss Shuhei Yoshida to tweet about it; you can take that as pretty official unofficial confirmation.
* Skyrim fans aren’t the only ones who can rejoice this week. Lovers of Blizzard’s StarCraft 2 and Diablo 3 have an exciting development to crow about as well. The latest Activision Blizzard earnings call revealed some news about both games concerning additional content. On the StarCraft side, Blizzard boss Mike Morhaime confirmed that the long-in-development Heart of the Swarm expansion will be heading to PCs sometime in the first half of 2013. It’s an uncharacteristic move for Blizzard, which typically subscribes to the “when it’s done” mentality of addressing release timeframe questions. Morhaime also confirmed that work is underway on a Diablo 3 expansion, though he offered no details on what it would be or when we might see it. That’s more like it, Blizzard!
Top buys for the week…
Regular readers of this column know that I have a big soft spot for adventure games, and Chaos on Deponia happens to be a beautiful adventure game. The cartoon-style animation and stellar writing will keep you riveted throughout. You don’t need to have played through the previous game, Deponia, to enjoy Chaos. That said, you should absolutely play through Deponia too if you haven’t already.
Jordan Mechner’s pre-Prince of Persia classic Karateka springs to Xbox Live this week as a full-fledged 3D remake. The unusual fighting game is really just a rhythm game disguised behind chop-socky action. Remakes like this one are always hit-or-miss, but this one happens to hit, and hard. It was unconventional when it was first released in 1984 and it remains unconventional now.
I could describe the Sony platform-straddling When Vikings Attack, but I think Eurogamer did a bang-up job of doing so in its own review: “It’s a slapstick game about groups of drunken idiots that’s designed to be played by groups of drunken idiots.” This is a simple yet ridiculously chaotic party game built around the idea of controlling a mob as a singular unit, using it to attack other mobs by throwing random objects their way. The last mob standing is the winner. Simple. Fun. Do it.
It’s quality over quantity for the lineup today, but my hands-down pick of the week is, without a doubt, Rovio’s Angry Birds Star Wars. I’ll admit up front that there’s a bit of fanboy fanaticism fueling my decision, but ABSW also happens to be an excellent game by Angry Birds standards and an all-around superior mobile game in general. The song remains largely the same, so you should be immediately familiar with the concept of slingshotting a variety of birds at rickety structures with the aim of killing the pigs inside. The difference here is that both sides are dressed as Star Wars characters — Original Trilogy too! — and you’ve got a whole new set of Star Wars-y birdy abilities to draw from. The Force is most definitely strong with this one.