Digital Blend is back on track. After an extended hiatus and a format-shattering D.I.C.E. round-up last week, it’s all systems normal once again. This is your one-stop-shop every week for the latest news and releases in the realm of all things in under-$20 gaming. We’re a catch-all, covering everything from indies to mobile to virtual storefronts on consoles. Read on for the latest in the week ending March 2, 2013.
* Team Meat returns! The next game from the warped brains of the people behind Super Meat Boy is, for all intents and purposes, a crazy cat lady sim. You will raise and genetically modify a horde of mewling, hungry, soul-stealing felines. AND YOU WILL LOVE IT.
* Bad news for Final Fantasy fans. Square Enix confirmed this week that Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn will not be following the lead set by other recent MMORPGs with a free-to-play model. If you want to play FF14, then you’ll need to subscribe. Until someone at Square Enix realizes that subscription-only pricing for MMOs is a rapidly dying business, unless (and, really, even if) you’re called World of Warcraft.
* Dishonored DLC alert! A newly revealed set of PlayStation 3 Trophies points to one of two announced upcoming campaign DLC expansions for Arkane Studios’ Dishonored. There aren’t a ton of details to be gleaned from the list, though its very existence suggests that Bethesda will be revealing more soon.
* We sit down for a lengthy chat with Gearbox Software founder Randy Pitchford about the studio’s ethos and development approach. Some fascinating insights here into the amount of work that goes into keeping a ship like Borderlands 2 afloat behind the scenes.
* We’ve known for awhile that Angry Birds was getting a tie-in cartoon series, and now we know when it’s coming. The series launches on Rovio’s website on March 16, 2013, answering important questions of the day about the residents of Piggy Island. Things like “Why is Bomb Bird so angry?” and “Why is the King Pig the King Pig?” The kids apparently love this stuff.
* The Walking Dead – Season One came and went last year, and there was much rejoicing. Now Telltales Games begins the long journey of delivering a second season for fans who are dying to no more. The bad news: it’s going to take a minute. The good news: Telltale has some kind of bridge content planned. So said script supervisor Gary Whitta in a recent interview.
* Ouya ships to backers on March 28, 2013. Awesome news, that. The company also confirmed a few other exciting tidbits, such as the fact that Portal creator Kim Swift is working on a console exclusive. Ouya also grew by 1 earlier this week when thatgamecompany co-founder Kellee Santiago came in to head up developer relations. The next-gen hardware from Sony and Microsoft will steal a lot of attention this year, but don’t you dare count Ouya out.
* Remember Commander Keen? id Software co-founder Tom Hall sure does. He spoke about the series at length with Digital Trends and discussed his plans for bringing the heart of the Apogee classics back even though the “Commander Keen” brand remains off-limits.
Top buys of the week…
The full title of this one is actually Bit.Trip Presents Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien which, as you’ve probably guessed, is from the makers of the Bit.Trip games. The rhythm-fueled endless is packed with 100+ levels in the familiar, visually distinctive universe that these games all occupy. We didn’t get to spend any time with this one, but reviews are positive and developer Gaijin Games understands quality. Definitely worth a look.
Capcom wraps 1943: The Battle of Midway, Avengers, and Black together into a single retro package. It’s the first of five planned three-packs that will be released between now and mid-April 2013. The collection is hardly definitive, but that’s all right. So many of these old-school games have been released in other forms previously, it’s nice to see deep-cut stuff like Avengers trotted out.
The Banner Saga: Faction is technically an unfinished game. The PC/Mac release this week on Steam is absolutely gorgeous, but it’s restricted to the multiplayer portion of the game. It’s also completely free to play, so factor that in. Banner Saga comes from a team made up of BioWare vets, and their talents show in the level of craft that is immediately evident in this tactical strategy game. Strategy games tend to be favored by a niche, but that niche will definitely agree with this one being singled out as pick of the week.
Let’s start with the good news. Real Racing 3 is gorgeous. Firemonkeys delivered a racing game that could give any number of current-gen console games some stiff competition in the graphics department. Especially if you’re looking at it on a Retina Display. Unfortunately, the newly free-to-play Real Racing 3 stumbles badly in the execution. The nickel-and-diming and the time constraints placed on free players could easily be characterized as “reprehensible.” A new asynchronous multiplayer mode is cool, but the game overall is not nearly as free as it seems to be.
There’s a very simple formula at work here: the wonderful third-person shooting multiplayer in Uncharted 3 is now free-to-play. You have 15 levels of progression, with the option of buying unlocks that let you go even higher. Even if you max out at 15 and never pay a center, you can keep playing. To summarize: Uncharted 3 multiplayer is now a standalone free-to-play game. Get get it.