Battlefleet Gothic: Armada Review

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In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is a real-time strategy game based on the classic tabletop game from Games Workshop, no not the 40k one with the tanks, troops and multiple video game adaptions (Dawn of War, Dawn of War 2, and the bazillion expansion packs… ok maybe not that many but you get the idea).

No Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is based on the tabletop game in which space battles raged out across kitchen tables across the land until its discontinuation in 2013. Set around the Gothic sector of the Warhammer 40k universe which saw the Chaos Warmaster, Abaddon the Despoiler, invade the sector and unleash merry hell, and the Imperium’s attempt to restore order.

The big difference between this and the other strategy games based in the 40k universe is that instead of focusing on the Space Marine chapters (The Ultramarine’s, Blood Angels, Dark Angels etc.) the main focus of the single player campaign is on the Imperial Navy, the tech support/back up for the Space Marines (it’s been roughly 15 years since I last played 40k so things may have changed in the meantime, but this is how I viewed them back then).

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The single player campaign focuses on Captain Spire, who in the beginning is ordered to check out why an orbital array (a fancy name for a space station) has suddenly gone quiet, upon arrival he discovers that the traitorous forces of Chaos have taken control, and have turned the stations defense platform on them shortly before a rather imposing chaos fleet is seen arriving. Left with no other option but to flee and report his findings to fleet command. Of course being the Warhammer 40k universe there is a suspicion that Captain Spire just turned tail and ran at the first sign of trouble… Fleet command are not ones for simply believing anything reported to them and consequently have Captain Spire put on trial with an Inquisitor.. A process that looks uncomfortably painful. After the story has been verified under intense pain and torture.. Quite why they couldn’t just look at the security footage and go “oh yes… Chaos” is beyond me, as surely in the 41st millennium, there must be at least one video camera installed on a ship.

Promoted to Admiral and given the task of protecting Imperial worlds from rebellion, and both alien and Chaos invasions, this is where you take over properly.

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is a real-time strategy game, developed by Tindalos Interactive and published by Focus Home Interactive.
After you have played through the initial tutorial mission and informed Fleet Command about the incoming invasion,you are presented with the map screen. From here you can select the next mission or visit Port Maw Station.

At Port Maw, you can view the ships available to take into your next mission, and use the Renown you have amassed during your accomplished missions so far, to purchase new ships, new slots and pay for upgrades to your existing fleet.

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Renown is gathered by successfully completing mission objectives, you will also gain a small amount of Renown if you fail a mission, though obviously accomplishing the missions gets you much, much more than failing.

As long as you have the Renown you can customise your ships as you see fit, Upgrade your Engines for more speed and manoeuvrability, your Generators for improved shields, the Deck for sensors and special abilities, The Hull for increased armour and defense turrets and of course Weaponry for increased range and damage.

As well as ship upgrades there are special skills to buy and crew upgrades to choose.

The Commissar attempts to keep insubordination under control, as occasionally if your ship crews decide they have had enough they will try and warp the ship out of the mission.

On the Gothic sector map, you can see the available missions, the threat level of the sector, the turn number, and how many world properties are still available. For each world property still owned you will gain bonuses, some will earn you discount with the various Crew leaders whilst upgrading, some will earn more experience for your captains after missions, and some affect repair costs in between missions.

Selecting the next mission available gives you a brief overview of the mission ahead before taking you to the fleet selection screen, from here you can see the amount of ships available, and the fleet point value assigned to each one. Each mission will have its own Fleet point total and like the tabletop game you are limited to that point total when selecting your forces. Your forces range from the small quick Escort ships, all the way up to the hulking great Battleships.. essentially giant floating monasteries of death…
After you have worked out which ships you are taking in, hit the ready button and watch a small cut-scene of your fleet slowly approaching the battlefield.

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Being a space real-time strategy game you may expect that your ships will be ducking and weaving around asteroids and under minefields… this is not the case, despite being set in space, famous for being… well ‘spacey’ – for all intents and purpose that sprawling mass of stars and planets you see all around you may as well be solid earth. Think along the lines of the older Command & Conquer games and you get the idea, click where you want your ships to move to and watch as they approach in a straight line.

Placed around the maps are various hazards that you will need to avoid, or use for a strategic advantage, minefields will tear your ships to shreds in seconds, and asteroid belts will slowly sap your armour as you make your way through them. You do have the ability to make quick turns by ordering the engines to perform high energy turns, the giant starship equivalent to handbrake turns which when performed right look breathtaking… of course if your me and manage to essentially handbrake turn INTO the minefield you can watch in awe as your freshly bought cruiser disintegrates faster than wet toilet tissue…

Battlefleet’s combat boils down to who can keep the most guns firing the longest, certain weapons can only be fired from the sides of the ships, and torpedoes can only be launched from the front, so you are left with the options of trying to chase the enemy from behind or attempt to stay alongside them and hope your shields and armour outlast theirs. And while the ships armed with torpedoes have the opportunity to inflict heavy, heavy damage, the torpedo’s themselves have no guidance system so you will have to try and line up the shots yourself, this is made a little bit easier with the Tactical Cogitator system, hitting space bar will greatly slow down time to give you a few extra seconds to plan/wild guess where the enemy will be when you think the torpedoes will hit.

If you fail a mission, it is not an instant game over, nor a “replay mission” situation, the game carries on and your loss affects the moral of the sector, whereas if you succeed in a mission you can normally carry on to the next story based mission with no interference… but if you fail the chances of pirate attacks or chaos incursions increase slightly. Any ships lost in combat or the void are unavailable for a few turns until they are repaired, rearmed and re-crewed.

Your main enemy in the game are the forces of Chaos, but they are not the only force you will have to contend with in defending the Imperium, Ork pirate raiding parties, and Eldar Corsairs turn up to cause you trouble at various points.

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When you have had your fill of the single player campaign, you can set up some skirmish games against the AI or jump into multiplayer.

The multiplayer is a fun experience, instead of just the Imperial Navy you can choose from the four armies featured in the game each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

Imperial Navy, Whose fleet feature’s heavy forward armor, powerful weaponry and the most choice of ships armed with torpedoes, but are also slowest and are bad at long range combat.

Chaos Fleet, While the Chaos forces suffer from low damage, a lack of torpedo’s and hardly any heavy armor, they are the best at long range combat, have many launch bays for attack squadrons and bombers, and have high top speeds.

Orks, the football hooligans of space bring in some of the most resilient ships ever created, forever up for a fight they also have the strongest assault skills, and have the bonus of being the most customisable ships in the game.. on the downside they are the most disobedient, the least manoeuvrable and have the worst accuracy and range…

Eldar Corsairs, they have the fastest and most manoeuvrable ships, the best fighters and bombers and the most obedient captains.. But before you start thinking that these are the greatest fleet in the game, be warned that they are very vulnerable to boarding actions, the majority of the weapons are on the front of their ships and they have the weakest armour.

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is a great game, and the difficulty should prove challenging to even the most hardcore strategy gamer. There are only a few bits that could do with improvement, it would be nice if the camera pulled back a little bit more to give a better view of the battles, and more notification when your special skills were available to use, or if the ability to actually make groups worked (no matter how hard I tried.. ctrl +1-0 has not worked for me). But these are minor complaints.

Pros:

Looks beautiful
A solid strategy game
Decent story

Con’s

Some may find it difficult
Could have done with more races

Score: 8 out of 10

Stardew Valley Review

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Have you ever had the urge to just quit your stressful city job working as a faceless employee to a large corporation, and move to the farm your dear old grandpa left you?

No? oh… well that is the premise behind Stardew Valley.

Published by Chucklefish, who also published the excellent Terraria-like Starbound and the exceptionally addictive Risk of Rain. And developed by ConcernedApe, Stardew Valley is a farming/social simulator.

Before starting your new game you are shown a strangely comprehensive pixel art character creation screen, choose your sex, choose between a cat or a dog for your preferred pet, alter your skin colour (24 to choose from), hair style (32) and shirt (112) and even alter the colours with a handy set of sliders, select from 12 different accessories for your face (beards, glasses, earrings).

And finally, name your little farmer and his farm and list your favourite thing. With that done it is on to the game.

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At the start of the game we are shown a large grey room, full of office drones mindlessly tapping away on their computers, the camera focuses on one employee… you. A flashback shows your grandfather in his bed handing you a letter with instructions to only read it when life has completely gotten you down… Luckily for us, today is the day.

From the dingy grey office we take the bus to Stardew Valley to discover that dear old Grandpa has left us his farm, unfortunately, it is a bit run down and covered in weeds and rubble and in desperate need of some tender loving care.

If you are familiar with the classic Nintendo series Harvest Moon you will know what to expect, for those of you who are not, read on.

You start out on your crumbling farm, with nothing on it but a single room shack, some ruins, and a lot of greenery. It is your aim to turn this sad little plot of land into a successful farm and live in peace and harmony with the townsfolk, maybe find a wife or husband and raise a child.

As you stare at the screen it’s easy to feel a little daunted at the prospect of creating a fully operational farm, armed with nothing but a set of hand-me-down tools and a dream. You are given the freedom to progress however you want, there are no strict “go here, do this” instructions.

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There are quests that appear in your journal, the first few automatically pop up, but others are made available to you from your post box or from the information board in town. Starting out with introducing yourself to the townsfolk, make friends, and learn the basics to becoming a farmer, these are fairly easy to do but the text could be a bit more descriptive in telling you what the game is asking of you, the “To The Beach” quest simply states:

“Someone named Willy invited you to visit the beach south of town. He says he has something to give you.”

What the game does not tell you is that you need to visit the beach before 5 pm or Willy will be wandering around the town, yes each of the townsfolk has their own daily routine that alters slightly depending on the day of the week and what season you are in.

Each townsperson also has their own likes and dislikes, so becoming super best friends with everyone requires you to work out their favourite type of gifts, not essential but as your friendship with someone grows they will start sending you recipes in the mail, if they are one of the 10 singletons in the town they will start to grow fonder of you, potentially leading to a happy marriage and a child in the future.

Of course managing a farm with tools that are older than time itself is doable, but eventually, you will want to upgrade them to something a bit more productive. You can upgrade your tools with metal bars made with the metal ores you find in a seemingly bottomless mine found in the north of the map. Inside the mine, you will not only find stone, ores and precious gems (which can be sold for a tidy profit) but also creatures who’s sole motivation in life is to use your corpse as a throw rug. Luckily the adventurers’ guild is set up right outside, ready and willing to sell you weapons, magic rings and armour to protect yourself.

Tools are not the only items that can be upgraded, located just outside of town is the carpenter, for a modest sum and an ample supply of wood; your lowly shack can become a palace. Want some more farm buildings? A silo for hay? A coop for our feathered friends? A barn for the four legged one? The carpenter can do it all, and when the coops and barns are built, go and see Marnie in the farm to the south of yours to get some animals to inhabit them.

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The best way to look at Stardew Valley is as a time management game, 10 minutes of in-game time is equal to 10 seconds real time which in theory gives you 20 minutes for the day. 20 minutes sounds like a long time but as your farm grows in size, the time you have to spend on watering & harvesting crops, feeding the animals and checking the crab pots (yes there is fishing in Stardew Valley) slowly starts increasing. So you need to plan ahead for what you want to achieve.

A typical game day for me goes like this:

Wake at 6 am

Finish watering crops, feeding chickens and collecting eggs

Run to town and stock up on seeds before closing time

Collect upgraded tools from the Blacksmith

Hand over collected artefacts to the museum

Check crab pots

Spot of fishing on the beach

Quick trip to the Spa to replenish energy levels

Dash into the mine to collect ores

Lose track of time and run back to the shack for bed

Collapse 2 feet from my bed as the clock hits 2 am

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If your unlucky enough to be caught out of bed at 2am you literally drop to the floor in exhaustion, and will wake up the next day to find your energy levels greatly reduced, a note from a townsperson with a short story about how you were found and potentially with some money missing (this is from either a medical bill, or you were mugged while you were laying on the floor…)

Getting knocked out in the mine by a monster is similar; if you take too much damage you will slump to the floor and wake up at the entrance, with Linus the homeless mountain man standing over you. Instead of losing energy the penalty is a bit more severe, every 5 levels in the mine has a checkpoint with a lift so you can quickly resume your exploring the next day, getting knocked out results in you forgetting some of the levels as well as losing gold and random items from your inventory.

I absolutely adore Stardew Valley, it is fantastically addictive, one of those games that suck you in and before you know it, your clock is telling you its 4 am and you need to sleep.

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Empire TV Tycoon Review

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Empire TV Tycoon, Developed by Dreamsite Games, a small Indie studio based in Madrid, has recently been released on Steam for £9.99.

In Empire TV Tycoon, it is your job to make your television channel the most popular and successful channel for the failing Empire TV Station. You will create the schedules, select the adverts that play in between each show, and the marketing campaign to advertise your channel.

You will have 30 days to make your channel the best one at the station. This is done by accumulating 300 fame points, with each successful show and awards ceremony win you are awarded points.

At the start of each game, you will select your channel colour (Red, Blue, Green) and name your character. This has no effect on any choices you make in the game, other than the colour of your channel floors and clothing your character wears.

The Empire TV building has 13 floors.

Each channel has 3 floors for them to work with:

The Players Office: Here you will plan your schedule, decide what adverts to play at which times, and work out your marketing schedules.

The Workers Office: Here is where the staff you hire will work from, these include Marketing Managers to organise your marketing campaigns, Production Assistants to assist with the movies that you make, Scriptwriters to write the scripts for your movies and TV shows, Public Relations to help hire bigger stars for your movies & Hackers to help cover your illegal movie broadcasts.

The Players Studio: Here you will produce your own shows and movies. A successful show will need a good script and the best stars you can hire to perform in it, after selecting your actors you will need to distribute points into various sections, want the production to have great special effects? Pump the points into post production. Want better costume design? Put more points in there, and so on.

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As your television show or movie is being made you will be notified of various situations affecting the production. A company may offer some products to use in the shooting, an actor may develop a substance problem and need therapy, your actors may have a falling out and its up to you to fix the problem, or even a group of mafia reviewers who will want a bribe to not give your film a bad review. Your choices in resolving each issue boil down to saying yes or no to a response and the result will have a small effect on the production.

There is also the Technology area where you can purchase your channel upgrades, these include expanding your workers area so you can hire more staff, upgrading your satellite to increase your audience reach, upgrading your studio to have higher production costs and many more. Of course to access the upgrades you will need money and enough fame points.

The Advertising area is where you can take new adverts, each set of adverts has their own viewing requirements before paying out, if you meet the viewing figure requirement you are rewarded. If you do not you will be penalized so you won’t want to take on high paying adverts until you are certain you can meet the requirements.

The Movie library is where you will buy and sell your TV shows and movies. You will want to keep your library fresh as your audience will only tolerate repeats for so long.

At the top of the building is the restaurant, here you will find the loan sharks. If you ever find yourself short of money, these are the guys to visit. Although if you can’t pay them back you better not be too fond of your kneecaps!

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Another slightly shady character hangs out behind the building, the illegal movie seller. You can visit this fellow to “acquire” some of the biggest movies not yet released, the downside being that if you are caught playing an illegal movie you will be fined for it.

The station day runs from 2 pm till 3 am, with the schedule divided into blocks. You will have early morning and late night slots, these are the low audience slots for the day, and your prime time slots between 20:00 – 22:00 this is where you want to place your biggest and best shows.

Half the fun is trying to work out what will appeal to your audience, they consist of men, women, children, the elderly, couples, athletes and geeks.

While kids may love the comedy show you’re planning to schedule, the elderly will probably hate it, and the Westerns they love will put off the women and athletes.. you have to work out what will appeal to the masses at that particular time slot.

Occasionally you will find one of your reporters waiting for you in the building entrance. Sending them out to cover special events, festivals, alien invasion or hostage rescues will produce a special one-off television event show. You have access to this show for a limited time, so again you need to work out the best slot for it to go into.

With its catchy soundtrack and lovely simple graphics, Empire TV Tycoon is a fun little game to play, it is surprisingly in depth for a casual simulation game, and has a habit of kicking your ass if you let yourself get complacent with your schedules.

It is also full of little Easter eggs ranging from the movie seller who looks like Breaking Bad’s Heisenberg, the illegal movie seller who bears a passing resemblance to Clerks Silent Bob.

If you are fond of management simulation games, you will enjoy Empire TV Tycoon.

Score: 7/10

Pros:

Entertaining

Easy to learn

Scratches that management game itch

Cons:

Can get repetitive

Can get confusing at times

Distraint – Review – Sell your morals?

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Distraint is a 2D psychological horror adventure game for the PC, from developer Jesse Makkonen creator of “Silence of the Sleep”

You step into the shoes of an ambitious young man named Price, he works for a law firm and has his eyes set on the “big promotion” at McDade, Burton & Moore

The big bosses send young Price out to the property of Mrs. Goodwin in order to repossess it, kick her out and show them that he is capable of being a ruthless bastard and worthy of climbing that corporate ladder.

Distraint is the story of Price’s inner battle with his conscience and morals, he wants the money and the power… but can he live with the choices and decisions he will have to make it get it?

After Mrs. Goodwin’s property is seized, the big bosses give him a list with 2 more names and properties to claim for the company. It is at this point Price starts to descend into madness.

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You are tasked with repossessing Mrs. Goodwin’s property, Mr. Tailor’s log cabin and Mr. Jones party pad, Mrs. Goodwin’s is fairly straight forward and serves as the tutorial for the game, but Mr. Tailor and Jones.. They get increasingly trickier to get them to sign the paperwork. Ranging from working out ways into rooms, hunting down missing dogs and persuading a band to play a party. As the difficulty increases as does the descent into madness, visits from Price’s deceased parents, blood slowly oozing out of the walls, washing machines that spring to life full of gore, to the slightly bizarre undead elephant that chases you at various points.

Distraint looks gorgeous, the 2D art style and audio manages to capture the haunting atmosphere, there is no voice acting in the game, but this does not take away from the experience.

The game plays like a point-n-click adventure, except instead of using your mouse to click and interact with the environment and items; you use the keyboard or a control pad. Similar to Lone Survivor.

The puzzles are never overly simple, nor are they head-scratchingly difficult, although I did miss something at one point and spent far longer than I should have to try to work out one particular puzzle…

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Distraint is the product of one man, and created in only 3 months, part of me really wants to see what Jesse Makkonen could do if he had a Triple-A game budget and a full sized team behind him, Distraint impressed me that much, and I eagerly wait to see the progress being made on his other game “The Human Gallery”

If I had to find fault with Distraint, it would be the length. From start to finish it took me 2 hours of play time to finish the story. For most games, this would be a major downside for me, but priced at £3.99 on Steam, this is an enjoyable evening’s entertainment.

Score: 8/10

Pro’s:

Entertaining

Creepy atmosphere

Con’s:

Short

Limited Replayability

Transformers: Devastation Review

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When I was younger you were guaranteed to find 3 things in my bedroom, computer games, books and Transformers figures.

As I have gotten older not much has changed, you can still find Transformers figures, in fact as I write this review I am under the watchful gaze of two Masterpiece Optimus Prime figures and a small army of characters from various series and continuities.

So it was with great pleasure that I received the newest entry into the Transformers game series to review- Transformers: Devastation. Will this live up to the high expectations that old school Transformers fans will have?

Transformers: Devastation is developed by Platinum Games, the development team behind MadWorld, Bayonetta 1 & 2, Vanquish, The Wonderful 101, and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, and Published by Activision. Released on PC, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360 & Xbox One. Today I am looking at the PC release.

Transformers: Devastation is a third-person, action game, similar in style to Vanquish and even the Bayonetta series, if there is one thing that Platinum Games can do well; it is the third person brawler. And Transformers: Devastation is no exception.

The story of Transformers: Devastation is a fairly simple yet enjoyable one, Megatron (the leader of the Decepticons, the bad guys for those not in the know) has discovered an ancient Cybertronian ship beneath the city, and with it plans to terraform, or Cyberform the planet, to create the new Cybertron (the Transformers homeworld). It is up to Optimus Prime (leader of the Autobots, the good guys) to stop this from happening.

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You are given the choice of 5 Autobot warriors to play through during the story.

Optimus Prime- Leader of the Autobots, high stats all round and can use all weapons. He transforms into the cab of a truck.

Bumblebee- Scout, smallest of the Autobots, also the weakest. He transforms into a little yellow sports car.

Sideswipe- Warrior, low defence, high speed. Can jump the furthest. He transforms into a red Lamborghini-style sports car

Wheeljack- Engineer, Low HP but has an energy shield. He transforms into a Lancia-like sports car

Grimlock- Commander, high strength, high defence, but bad with most weapons. The odd one out of the group, he transforms into a T-Rex

You can change your character at any of the Ark access points, green Autobot symbols, found in the game and after each death so if you are finding a section a bit difficult with your chosen Autobot, you can attempt it again with a different character and weapons load out.

If you have played any of Platinum Games previous games you should have a good idea of how Transformers: Devastation plays out, at the start of each chapter you will select your character, after which you will enter the game.

Your objective will tell you what needs to be done: Kill X, Locate X, Get X, Stop X from getting away… you get the idea.

Combat is simple; you have your light, heavy and ranged attacks. Each attack depends on the items you have equipped, and equipment drops pretty regularly from most fights.

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Of course having all this equipment dropping quickly adds up to lots of low-level gear. Handily back at the Ark you can synthesize the equipment you don’t want to use, this is done by selecting the weapon you wish to use as the base, this will be the weapon you want to upgrade, then select the items you wish to synthesize into it, doing this will level up the base weapon making it stronger, faster, and just all round improved in general.

Weapons are not the only things that can be customized, the credits you bring back to the Ark in between each mission can be used to buy new moves for your characters, and can be spent on creating T.E.C.H, these are little upgrades to that can be used to increase health regeneration, item collection, guard strength, ultimate attack damage… and so on.

It is not all third person action though, there are the occasional jumping puzzles, a section involving your chosen hero racing along a road in Alt mode (they are Transformers after all) shooting down enemies and jumping holes, and a spot where the camera switches to an overhead view where you have to find red Energon (explosives).

The cell shaded graphics suit the game perfectly. The characters look stunning, and the semi-open world looks brilliant, and for critics of the Michael Bay movies who said the films focused too much on the humans, good news! There is not a single human to be found in the game, only abandoned vehicles which can be picked up and thrown around.

The soundtrack for Transformers: Devastation has tracks contributed by Transformers stalwart Vince DiCola, and features the vocal talents of Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime), Frank Welker (Megatron/Soundwave), Gregg Berger (Grimlock), Dan Gilvezan (Bumblebee) & Michael Bell (Sideswipe) Who all reprise their original 1984 cartoon voice roles.

Transformers: Devastation is a fantastic nostalgia trip while the Fall of/War For Cybertron games helped bring the series to newer fans, Devastation wears its old school heart on its sleeve, from the Spike & Sparkplug shop signs to the Kreemzeek collectibles, Devastation knows who its target audience is.

So yes, the game is good, damn good. But it is not without its flaws.

Occasionally the camera suffers the same fate as most Third Person Action games… losing track of what’s happening and getting stuck facing the wrong way at the worst possible moment; for me it was the fight against the Constructicons Gestalt (combined) form Devastator and the Stunticons Gestalt Menasor, these giants filled the screen and after one particularly brutal attack, all I could see were explosions and the camera got stuck… I died pretty quickly after this.

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The campaign length is another disappointment, clocking in at 5 hours 40 minutes on normal difficulty to complete a casual play through, and no searching for pickups or collectibles, just focusing on the story.

If you are a completionist and make it your goal to hunt down all the collectibles I would guess at another 1-2 hours.

If you get a bit frustrated with the campaign there is also the challenge mode, this allows you to play through the side mission challenges you can find in each chapter straight from the main menu. These range from clearing the area of enemies, racing to checkpoints while collecting Energon, and finding all the hidden loot caches within an allotted time.

Fan’s of the original 1984 cartoon will more than likely play this and fondly reminisce about the times they were sat on the floor watching the TV show, and while it is primarily based at the Generation One fans, there are some very nice nods to the current toy line, The Combiner Wars… (If the name didn’t give it away, there are a lot of Gestalts in the toyline)

Pro’s:

A fun filled nostalgia trip

Solid controls

Probably the best use of Cell Shading in a game

Con’s:

A little short

Limited replayability

Score: 7/10

Subterrain: Underground Base Apocalypse – Early Access

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5 days, 5 hours, 9 minutes… (On Hardcore mode) that is how long it took for me to die… it was not a painless ‘in your sleep’ death, it was a fist through the face, shattering my skull style death, from a creature that could only be described as the Incredible Hulk, on steroids.. 5 days, 5 hours, 9 minutes of life… and I enjoyed every moment of it…

Subterrain: Underground Base Apocalypse is an Early Access, Sci-Fi survival game from the South Korean developer Pixellore.

It is played from a top-down perspective, and controlled with a keyboard and mouse; currently there is limited control pad support.

In Subterrain, you play as Dr. Albert West, a scientist residing in the first permanent colony on Mars in 2050. As the story begins, you have been locked in a containment cell for just over a year- for murder. You recollect the events of the last few weeks, a guard throwing you your last meal, a tin of beans, before telling you of an imminent transfer. Minutes after being told this your door starts to slide open, a power failure leaves you stuck in a room with no obvious way out. From your cell, you can hear chaos outside… and then silence.

A week later you are still in your cell, your meagre tin of bins now empty. Now is the time to find out what has happened. Working your way out of your cell and to the train system you witness horrifying scenes, dismembered bodies, and strange mutated creatures litter the corridors.

Unlike most survival games, where you are given all the time in the world to gather resources, construct bases and weaponry and generally explore your surroundings, Subterrain slightly breaks the mold.ss_018e9588e55f3c3f8577f506882ffde4f6fc04b2

The longer you play, the more the “Minerva” virus mutates, making the mutants faster, stronger, and generally more of a pain in your backside. The variety of creatures in the game at the moment is on the relatively small side, spiders, giant spiders that shoot green snot at you, floating eyeballs, zombies, super zombies, super incredible hulk zombies, and spitting zombies, but the developers are constantly tweaking and adding bits and pieces, so this may improve at a later date.

At the heart of the game is Central Control, the only safe area (well… mostly safe) from here you have access to various rooms including:

The Research lab, where you can analyse and improve equipment and weaponry found in the world

The Engineering Lab, where you can find the 3D & Bio printers, with which you can create useful items (such as Co2 tanks, med kits, bandages, weaponry and armor’s)

The Mine, where you will find the mining equipment needed to gather ores from beneath Mar’s surface.

And the Biosphere, where you can grow food.

In contrast to Central Control, these labs are not safe, and will need to be cleared out, or carefully navigated to get to the equipment each section holds.ss_223fdcb914a4f0d0aa8030646d25e40166138ac3

As well as the Mutants you will be fighting against the atmosphere, in many of the areas the temperature and oxygen generators are broken and will need to be repaired before you can safely (well.. relatively safely) explore.

Central Control also houses the power plant for the colony, this will degrade over time so again, time is not on your side as you try to escape the colony before the power goes out and you are overrun.

Outside of the labs you will need to divert power to the other areas you wish to explore, courtesy of the train system. As you work your way through Subterrain, you will find data pads with small details of what has happened on the colony. And occasional hints as to where you can find items of importance.

In this fight for survival you will also have to keep an eye on your hunger, thirst, sleep and even toilet needs – yes Dr. West quite happily tells you/thinks out loud to himself that he needs a “dump or a piss”. Food will need to be eaten, drinks will need to be drunk, bleeding will need bandaging, and broken bones will need setting.

As you get into fights you raise the risk of getting infected with the Minerva virus, at which point you will need to find pills to fight the infection, if the rate of infection gets too high you will start losing health and will eventually die.

The art style is lovely to look at, and the games audio manages to capture a feeling of isolation, your vision is obscured by the dark, with only a flashlight (or glow stick) to light your way, creatures loom out of the dark, bodies slowly exposed as you get closer. An eerie silence apart from the occasional groan from a mutant leaves a feeling of unease

Eden Star: Destroy, Build, Protect | Preview

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Eden Star, from developers Flix Interactive, is a Sci-Fi survival game currently in Early Access on Steam.

Dumped on an alien world with nothing more than a pistol and limited ammunition for defence, and a Hi-Tech multi-purpose space glove, the MATA-Tool, for resource gathering and construction. Your only goal is to create a base and survive.

Eden Star is a survival game, but not a procedurally generated one, no – in Eden Star your world is the same as everyone else’s, the only difference will be how you construct your base and position your defences. Personally I like this approach, while procedurally generated maps can add to the longevity of a game; a handcrafted map will always look and feel more natural.

Surviving the harsh landscape of Pharus 7 will require your Eden Kit, this remarkable piece of kit will form the foundation of your base, this will also provide a shielded area to start building a home and act as a power supply for your initial defences. During the day, it is relatively safe to wander the landscapes looking for resources to expand your base with. At night, however, the area outside your shielded base becomes flooded with radiation, attempting to navigate the lands will lead to a slow but inevitable death.

So what do you do at night if you cannot leave your base without the fear of dying? You stay and defend your base of course, night time in Eden Star acts more like a tower defence game, you construct a mixture of auto turrets, missile launchers, energy turrets and laser fences to defend your base and Eden Kit. The more days you survive, the more the native life takes an interest in the Eden Kit, which adds a nice touch.

Resource gathering is a fairly simple affair, as you wander around the floating islands of Pharus 7 you will find tree’s, rocks, and mineral deposits, which can be harvested by looking at the aforementioned resources and pressing the right mouse button. As you run around the landscape your HUD will tell you what can be harvested from the area, by pointing your cursor at that strange looking rock formation in the distance you can tell instantly what can be collected.

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Your MATA tool is a very versatile piece of equipment, as well as resource gathering it can be used to create a kinetic blast to push away enemies and to pick up and smash the creatures around like rag dolls before launching them over cliffs (I spent a lot of time doing this…). The MATA – Tool can be upgraded, provided you have the resources, to make it collect resources more effectively, to deal more damage with the slam attack, to repair the damage your base has sustained over the night, and even add a Gauss Cannon for a little more offensive capability.

Around the map you will stumble across Hives, these Hives are important as they contain Teslinium, this is needed for upgrading the MATA-Tool, and powering your Eden Kit to allow you to respawn after death. Protecting the hives are Splinter Mites, relatively weak opponents on their own, but quickly become a handful if they manage to gang up on you. There is also the Ika, a flying creature, they have a habit of appearing above you and generally startling you into falling off a cliff face… maybe that’s just me…

Not all of the creatures wandering around the world want to pick your flesh from their teeth though, in fact most are easily spooked and run away the moment you get too close, well except for Swamp walkers.. They will stand their ground, eyeing you up until you get too close and give you a gentle tap with their whip-like tongue.

Eden Star is a gorgeous looking game, built on the Unreal 4 Engine, it also has a very impressive physics engine, trees topple, and rocks explode and crumble in a reasonably realistic way.

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I like Eden Star, but I have a few gripes and niggles.

At this stage of development, the game feels empty. After you have constructed a base with defences good enough to withstand a night of assault from the native wildlife…. there is not much else to do except gather resources, or find another Eden Kit and build another base.

The Hives… difficult to take out, vital to continue playing. Pistols do not do a lot of damage; assault rifles do a tiny bit more, and the Gauss Cannons a bit more than the assault rifles.

The best way I found to take them out was to wait for the creatures to spawn, and then slamming them repeatedly into the Hive.. but this took a long time, too long for me to find enjoyable.

I would say that this is an Early Access game to keep an eye on, a few balance fixes, the addition of Multiplayer, and a bit more content will make this a superb survival game.

Lee Rand Writes

I play what could be construed as a disturbing amount of this genre of game and my gosh, there are many on the market these days. Why am I telling you this and more importantly, why on Earth am I crashing in on Gary’s cracking little preview here and talking about myself (again)?

Well, I bought the game because I cautiously felt that this game looked like it stuck out from that pack of roving sneaking survival games crowding the current Early Access market. Thankfully in many respects it does.

As Gary has stated above, all that is lacking is the next step, more tasks to do, more missions or objectives. As it stands, this is a really refined game in terms of not just graphics, but physics and action as well. Eden is slick, fast-paced, and great to look at and play. The polish is actually already there, now all it needs is the world to be expanded upon.

The combat is fast and frantic and adds a refreshing arcade feel that I haven’t experienced before in this genre. There’s no spit and bit fat gob full of polish, not just in terms of the engine being employed here, but the skill with which the engine is being utilized.

Painters Guild Review

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Painters Guild, by Lucas Molina (a Brazilian Indie Game Developer and History teacher), is a historical simulation game.

Set in Italy during the Renaissance period (1465 – 1620) it is up to you to guide your art workshop from its humble beginnings as a hovel with just a single room to the highest levels of prestige as a multi-story home of art, all before the end of the Renaissance period.

Behind its charming pixilated graphics lies a beautifully addictive game. You start off by naming your guild and then choosing the city your workshop will be based in, each one provides a different bonus:

Florence grants a bonus of 10% extra gold on each painting completed.

Venice grants a bonus to the beauty of each completed painting.

Rome grants a 25% gold bonus for great works completed.

After choosing your city you will need to create your first artist; which is a simple process.

Select your age, hat & hair styles, the clothing, eye colour, gender, sexual preference and finally a name.

Happy with your choices? Then hit play.

When you start the game you will find your artist resting in bed. Keeping your artists energy levels high is essential to producing works of art quickly, you don’t want your painter to fall asleep in the middle of an urgent commission…

After a few moments your first customer will approach your shack. Customers will come in several guises, each one wanting to task you for works of art of varying difficulty, the higher the difficulty the less time you will have to finish the job.

The commissions can range from paintings of numerous sizes to decorating whole buildings.

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The difficulty levels for the paintings are rated from 1 to 5 stars and certain customers may want art of a particular style. During the early game you may find you do not have an artist that can paint to the style the customer requires. You can select anyone to attempt any job you receive, but if the artist is proficient of the style required they receive a bonus and will finish the job quicker.

As you complete more and more commissions your artist’s skill levels will increase. And as the skill levels increase the more difficult jobs can be taken and finished quicker, meaning more money can be earned. Eventually, you will want to expand your guild and start hiring apprentices to continue to produce works of art after your first artist dies.

As well as expanding the guild, you can decorate the workshop with furniture, ranging from fancy beds and chairs, which help your artists regain energy, desks, life models and dead bodies, they will help your artists raise their skills and there are also items to improve the prestige of the guild and items that can help change the artist’s styles.

The appearance of each room is fully customisable and can also improve the prestige of the guild.

Hiring new painters is a simple affair, when you feel the time is right or when you have expanded the guild and have the space for another artist, you go to the Hire Painter menu, and from here you are presented with 3 options.

Each option is an area of the city you are based in, each area has an associated cost and potential talent level attached to it, each one costs money and has a timer:

District, this area will cost 100 Florin’s and the results are instantly shown to you, but the skill levels of artists found here are very low.

City, the city will cost 300 Florin’s and will take 50 days to search, the average talent levels are 3 stars which will present more capable artists.

Country, the country costs 500 Florins, and takes 100 days to search. You will find some of the best artists with this option though this will remove one of your existing artists from the workshop as he or she will personally go out to find the next Da Vinci.

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Speaking of Da Vinci, as the game progresses you will be alerted to famous artists being available to hire, these will be highly skilled and as such, expensive to bring to the guild.

As your apprentices gain levels they will have certain requests to help them improve. To progress from a novice to a journeyman painter they may ask that you fund a trip around Europe, this will take them away from the guild for 2 years. Progressing from a Journeyman to Master painter will require them to paint a masterpiece, this is a one-time only chance, so you will need to make sure they are well rested and that the paint supplies are fully mixed.

In Painters Guild, death and taxes are as certain as in real life, at the end of each year you are presented with your yearly expenses. If you do not have enough money saved you will find your artists leaving the guild as you could not afford to pay them, if you lose all your artists it is game over.

Over time your artists may become ill, if you wish to, you can pay for a doctor to treat them however, this does not guarantee that they will survive.

Similarly at times you may find your artists jailed for offences ranging from not paying a gambling debt, getting into a brawl, fraud or being accused of homosexuality (punishable by death at that time). The majority of the crimes come with a 200 Florin fine, if you can’t pay the fines you will lose the artist for 200 days, if you are accused of homosexuality and cannot pay what is asked, you lose the artist.

Occasionally you will see a messenger appear who will tell you the news from around Italy. These can be anything from the deaths of great artists, popes or book publishing’s.

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At the end of the Renaissance age the campaign ends, but this does not end the game. If you wish to continue the game, you will be informed that there will be no new random events.

I really like Painters Guild, though it is a bit short, depending on which speed you play the game at you can finish the campaign in under 3 hours. The controls are simple, all you need to do is drag the painter onto a blank canvas and they will begin, I get the feeling that this would be a great game to play on a mobile device.

Available on steam for under £7, Painters Guild is a fun game to play and if you get sucked in as I was you will get your money’s worth out of it.

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Crookz: The Big Heist Review

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Grab your flares and comb that afro, we have a job to do! Far out!

Crookz: The Big Heist, Developed by Skilltree Studios and published by Kalypso Media is a tactical strategy game.

Set in the 1970’s, your goal is to plan and pull off a series of heists and get revenge on your former teammate, who betrays you and your team after the tutorial mission.

The game is played from an isometric viewpoint, with a fully controllable camera allowing you to zoom in, out, around and view near enough every section of each map in the game at any point.

Graphically it looks solid, but reminds me of the games released in the early 2000’s, which is perfectly fine, as some of the best games I have ever played did not have big flash fancy graphics.

The Tutorial opens with your team planning to steal “The Luna Stone”, a big sparkly green rock that came from space, and runs through the simple to learn controls and mechanics.

You guide your team through the level, right clicking to issue move orders or interact with switches, doors and security cameras. Slowly (or quickly depending on your play style) work your way to the level objectives and then onwards to the levels exit.

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Sounds simple enough, but along the way you will encounter and have to overcome security cameras. Whilst being seen on a camera is not an instant game over, you will build up heat and once the heat level has maxed out, then it is the end of the job. On the other hand being seen by one of the games different types of guards will result in a chase, if the guard catches you then the mission is failed and you will have to restart.

Avoiding the gaze of the guards is simple enough, as all the guards move or scan the area the game projects a cone of sight and if you are caught standing or moving about in it you will alert them. There are a couple of ways to deal with the guards, but there is only one character that can effectively keep them under control (we will get on to the characters soon). Some guards will patrol a predetermined route, which is handily displayed as a red line if you hover the mouse over a guard, so you then must work how to avoid not only their gaze, but also put enough distance between yourself and the patrol pattern to avoid being caught.

There are also light barriers, laser barriers, and electrified floors to contend with.

Each member of your team has a selection of abilities that will assist in each heist, and as the game progresses new abilities will be unlocked.

Cleopatra, the leader, can move quicker, and walk closer to the guards before being detected than any other member of the team, later on she will be given the ability to carry more tools into the levels.

Bishop is the team’s locksmith, he can open most locked doors and strong boxes found in the maps, he will get upgrades that will allow him to open bigger and more secure doors as the game progresses.

Lobkowitz is your engineer, rewiring circuits to deactivate the various security measures and obstacles in between you and your objective is his speciality, and his mind contains a lot of stories from the team’s history… a lot…

Rufus, the team’s muscle, what he lacks in finesse, athleticism and thinking he makes up for in pure strength. Rufus is the only member of the team who can subdue a guard without the use of any tools. He can also break down cracked walls with his bare hands and activate heavy levers.

Rocket is a contortionist, she can get into places the rest of the team can’t, by squeezing through air vents, and is flexible enough to dodge between the laser barriers without setting them off.

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Rob-O-Matic is a robot, and is limited by only having enough room for one tool. He can however pass by security cameras thanks to his “cloaking” device (I did not say this game took itself seriously) and can pass over electrified floors which will knock out any other member of the team easily.

At the start of each mission you are given an overview of the heist you are about to pull off, these can take place over some pretty big maps, often spanning multiple levels, with several ways to reach your objectives.

Deciding who to bring with you on the missions will affect how you approach the job at hand. While your crew is skilled, the missions put restrictions on how many people you can take with you, so whilst you could select Rufus, Lobkowitz and Rocket, you may find yourself needing a locksmith, or someone to sneak very, very close to a guard to hit a switch. Luckily you can buy additional tools such as sneaky soles, or a crowbar to make up for the shortfall in your skill selection.

Each heist has bonus objectives, find a certain amount of extra loot which can be seen on the map with a sparkling golden glow around them, grabbing these will add to your score at the end of the level.

You quickly get used to pausing the game to work out your plan of attack for each section. Whilst the game is paused you can issue commands to your crew, setting waypoints to get them to move to the exact spots needed, issuing wait commands to get them to pause along the waypoints until you give them the go ahead to move again, once the gameplay resumes they will follow those orders.

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There is nothing as satisfying as seeing your plan being carried out without a problem, but on the other hand watching your plan fall apart because someone moved to a spot ever so slightly into a guard’s line of sight is mildly infuriating, but it gives you the drive needed to tweak, and adjust your hopefully well-oiled plan.

Being set in the 1970’s the soundtrack is full of the most brilliantly stereotypical funk and smooth jazz music, It’s just like you were watching a 70’s Blaxploitation movie, which comes along perfectly in the dialogue as the crew chats amongst itself between missions.

As well as the story there is also a challenge mode which gives you a selection of maps (with more unlocked as you progress through the story) and your goal is to simply complete each map with the highest score, there is a leader board to keep track of the high scores between you and your friends.

Is Crookz: The Big Heist a good game? Yes

Is it a perfect game? No

There are times when the game looks daunting, it is a difficult game to play and at times I found myself getting angry while trying to work out exactly what I should be trying to do, and after failing a level for the seventeenth time in a row, I had to walk away, though there is a handy autosave that saves your progress every 30 seconds… so your mistakes are not too costly, just a mild annoyance

With a relatively steep learning curve, and after the third mission the curve turned into a sheer cliff face, Crookz: The Big Heist is a challenging but fun tactical strategy game, similar to the old Commando series.

It may not be for everyone as the difficulty may put some people off, but if you wanted to try before buying, Steam does have a 4 level demo available to download.

Score: 7/10

Pros:

Very 70’s

Fun to Play

Absorbing Gameplay

Con’s:

Can be difficult

Graphically a little bland

Early Access – Signs Of Life

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Signs of Life is an Early Access game in development by Sweet Dog Studios, It is a sci-fi survival sandbox platformer, similar in style and play to Terraria and Starbound.

Stranded on an Alien world, after some currently unmentioned accident or disaster on your ship. You start off in your escape pod, and after finding an area where it is safe to land, you start the game properly.

As is standard survival game fare, you will have to construct the various tools and weapons to endure this visually pleasing yet strangely dangerous place.

You are not totally alone in this strange Earth-like world, joining you on your mission for survival is AGIS, your AI “Friend”, imagine Marvin from The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy.. but a tad more chipper. He serves as a reluctant guide and source of information on the equipment and resources you find. Letting you know what new equipment can be constructed when you have found the relevant materials.

Other than survival your goal is to discover the fate of the inhabitants of the research station “Pioneer 1”. Something happened that caused the station to release a distress signal that summoned your ship… along your journey of discovery you will find data pad’s containing snippets of what happened and hints at locations of importance. It’s here you will find terminals to upgrade your key cards and various blueprints to obtain special weapons and tools.

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The creature designs are varied, ranging from sheep (though why are there are sheep on an alien planet?), flying creatures, chickens (same question as the sheep) & boars, to giant ants, moving sulphur plants, and things that look quite happy to remove your head via your backside. There also a few mech’s thrown in for good measure.

Pretty much everything drops items that can be used in the creation of your tools for survival, at times this can feel like a grind, especially when you are trying to find that last bit of rose quartz you need to upgrade your MEG.

The MEG is your wrist mounted computer, with this you can mine for minerals and resources, gather fallen items, scan the area to create and update your map. It can even be used as a small flashlight. Of course, this runs on battery power and if your energy levels drop too low nothing will work, leaving you alone and in the dark whilst you wait for the energy to recharge. This is where the various tools come into play, for every action your MEG can perform, there is a tool. Want to dig deep into the earth? Create a pick or use the MEG. Light up the area? Get some Sap Torches or use the MEG.

The only thing your MEG can’t do is be used for defence or attacking the local wildlife. Luckily Signs of Life has a large variety of weapons, from the trusty 9mm Pistol all the way up to the mighty Rocket Launcher. From the faithful Bow to the awesome Energy Shotgun.

The game world is a decent size, whilst running in one direction it is possible to completely travel around the world and end up back where you started in around 5 minutes. For a procedurally generated game is a good amount of time and, of course, running along the surface is a lot easier than trying to survive whilst mining deep underground.

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Signs of Life is a combination of procedurally generated worlds and a very entertaining story told in data pad form. To say this is shaping up to be Terraria with a proper story is a mild understatement. And as it is in early access there are more things to come, including the tutorial back story which explains just how you ended up in the escape pod. The latest update (0.50) introduced multiplayer, so now you can team up with friends to make the ultimate base and survive the alien wildlife.

If you are familiar with Minecraft,Terraria or Starbound you know what to expect, but those unfamiliar with these games may find Signs of Life too much of a grind. The constant search for materials, the frustration of that one misstep that sends you plummeting to the bottom of a mineshaft leaving you to respawn in your base with nothing more than your underwear. Not really knowing what you’re supposed to be doing with all the copper you have mined on your journey can lead to frustration and confusion.

But for those of you familiar with the genre (if we are being honest.. who hasn’t played any of these great games?) will find Signs of Life an entertaining waste of your evening, that “just one trip into the mine” turns into an hour of your life disappearing as you try to outrun something that wants to eat your face whilst trying to mine the hard to find Anthracite

With more bosses, items and story content planned, Signs of Life is one to keep an eye on, and one I am more than happy to revisit after the next update.