Allegedly this feature has been asked of Ubisoft around their Assassin's Creed series for a while, but it wasn't until the series found its founding feet in Ancient Egypt that it seemed reasonable to pull off.
So overnight The Discovery Tour by Assassin's Creed: Ancient Egypt came to life and for any history nuts out there (like me), it's a truly glorious way to take a peek back in time, using modern day gaming.
In many ways, ACO is the perfect vehicle for this endeavour -- if only because the technology to recreate Ancient Egypt lends itself to now being able to take interactive, player-driven tours through said recreation. And all while learning about the city of Alexandria, the importance of Siwa -- Bayek's home, or to go as in-depth as you can here on the Pyramids.
Ubisoft’s Discovery Tour by Assassin’s Creed: Ancient Egypt is a new educational and entertaining tool which lets anyone explore the entire interactive 3D recreation of Ancient Egypt in Assassin’s Creed Origins free of conflict, time pressure or gameplay constraints. The Discovery Tour by Assassin’s Creed: Ancient Egypt releases from tomorrow on PS4, Xbox and PC at no cost for all owners of the Assassin’s Creed Origins game. It will also be available independently from the game on PC via the Uplay and Steam platforms.
From Alexandria to Memphis, the Nile Delta to the Sand Sea, the Giza plateau to the Faiyum Oasis, the Discovery Tour by Assassin’s Creed: Ancient Egypt lets visitors either explore the rich world of Ancient Egypt at their will or follow the 75 themed tours devised by Ubisoft’s creative teams in collaboration with History experts and Egyptologists. “With the Discovery Tour by Assassin’s Creed: Ancient Egypt, we give the chance to everyone interested in Ancient Egypt to enjoy the beauty of it and realize that video games can be a source of inspiring knowledge” explains Jean Guesdon, Creative Director of Assassin’s Creed Origins and the Discovery Tour by Assassin’s Creed: Ancient Egypt.
Discovery Tour by Assassin’s Creed: Ancient Egypt is a unique experience at the intersection of entertainment and learning. Interactivity, specific to the world of videogames, is at the heart of the experience, creating strong engagement with the content. This makes the Discovery Tour by Assassin’s Creed: Ancient Egypt a completely new type of edutainment tool. “We’ve been in touch with teachers from the very first instalment of Assassin’s Creed games about ten years back. Many of them already used the games during their History classes but soon came to realize that what they needed was an easily accessible educative tool based in our historical reconstructions,” explains Maxime Durand, in-house Historian at Ubisoft Montreal. “With the Discovery Tour by Assassin’s Creed: Ancient Egypt you can visualize and understand thousands of things from Egyptian history in their actual context. As both a game and a learning tool, it is quite a unique asset for teachers to integrate as part of their history classes.”
I spent roughly two hours in this thing last night and it's honestly the way forward for any game's of historical nature, or even games where technology, modernity or the like, feature heavily from the real-world.
And it's free. So, you know, get on it! (And check out the trailer embedded below.)
Cast your mind back to 1998. A time when we were all groovin' to the sweet sounds of Savage Garden, got jiggy with it without ever finding out what 'it' was, and marveled at the ways in which a giant monster called Godzilla terrorised a city. A city where an old Ferris Bueller changed his name to Dr. Niko "Nick" Tatopoulos. Anyway, around this time a new style of RTS broke out onto the scene. One that would capture the feel of both Civilization and Warcraft.
Age of Empires baby! And here were are twenty years later with a new remastered Definitive Edition. One that redoes all the sprites and music, and presents the classic RTS just as we remember it.
Back in 1998 though, visually speaking, Age of Empires was a non-widescreen (let alone ultrawide) low-res collection of pixelated barbarians and axe-men crudely walking through lush green locales in search of unfriendly villages to destroy. Fine for the time, cutting edge even. In 2018 a release like Age of Empires: Definitive Edition makes perfect sense. Not only does it bring the game into the modern era with new visuals and presentation, but it does so without messing with the original game and retaining the same overall look and feel.
The first EA Original to hit the scene, that being an indie title published and distributed by the giant publisher, was the charming Unravel. A game that kind of crept up on us and reminded us why we love indies. Today we bring you our review of the latest game released under the EA Originals banner - Fe. A meditative exploration of life, balance, and singing to other animals.
So then, how does it fare? Not that great.
Perhaps the main reason why Fe falls short of its ambition comes with the somewhat bland 3D platforming elements throughout. Reaching a higher platform usually happens one way only, with experimentation on the player’s part resulting in some nice visual motifs but not much else. On the flip side to that where Fe excels and feels like its own thing, comes with the use of sound to bond and interact with other animals and creatures. You get the feeling that Fe doesn’t want to hold your hand and instead let you absorb the game in full. But having the helpful navigation bird tied to singing without aiming at an animal or object, is strange.
US Republican Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, in the wake of the latest senseless tragedy that has hit the US where gun violence is concerned, has hit out at videogames, TV and film as culprits.
"There are video games that, yes, are listed for mature audiences, but kids play them and everybody knows it, and there's nothing to prevent the child from playing them," Bevin said during an interview, as highlighted by ArsTechnica. "They celebrate the slaughtering of people...
... There are games that literally replicate and give people the ability to score points for doing the very same thing that these students are doing inside of schools, where you get extra points for finishing someone off who's lying there begging for their life."
This isn't the first time games or various other forms of media have come under scrutiny for gun violence, specifically in the US, with gun laws remaining largely unchanged.
To highlight that last factoid, in 2013 after the horrific massacre of young children at the Newtown, Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, we looked in-depth at gun violence, videogames and causal links.
Alarmingly, and our reason for re-posting this piece, this is still as relevant as ever and points to just how little change, from a legislative perspective, has occurred, while games and more remain as convenient scapegoats for a larger, endemic problem.
Here's a snippet from our in-depth report, which is almost five years old:
To put things in perspective people once said that reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest had a tendency to corrupt juveniles with its glorification of violence and descriptions of bestiality, a tenuous thread of association that is mostly laughed at in retrospect. In a similar vein, it’s ridiculous to think that if you read lots of fantasy books you want to uproot your existence to make like Don Quixote. So why then is it assumed by so many groups and individuals to be fait accompli for a person who likes games that are violent to they themselves be violent? It is a flawed and erroneous assumption countered well by this report by Forbes, from April 2012, showing that even though videogame sales have incrased rapidly, the rate of violent crime has fallen.
Such a view is covered in more detail by Forbes in another article using 2011 sales statistics showing the five biggest videogame markets in the world compared with firearm deaths. The biggest market is the United States ($13.6B) followed by Japan ($7B), China ($6.8B), South Korea ($5B) and the United Kingdom ($3B). This is compared with firearm deaths of 10.2 per 100,000 in the United States, 0.07 in Japan, 0.19 in China, 0.13 in South Korea and 0.25 in the UK. It should be noted with the high figure of the United States it is not clear if that reflects firearm deaths by suicide, a rate that in this article is given as more than 50%.
There’s a lot that needs to be taken with a grain of salt in the above statistics given that it tracks overall videogame sales and not the specific sale of violent videogames. A pertinent distinction as games most often blamed for violent crimes such as Call of Duty with Anders Breivik and Doom and Wolfenstein 3D with the Columbine High School massacre of 1999, are not big sellers in Japan. A quick look at vgchartz.com (beginning of March in this case) shows that while Black Ops II is No. 3 in Europe and the US, it only just breaks the top 10 in Japan, which is dominated by handheld sales. Yet the overall figure shows an interesting disparity between the United States and the other countries, a disparity large enough to exclude videogames as the soulless trainer of killers they are made out to be.
If you're a weirdo like me, Farming Simulator excites you. I mean, I couldn't ever afford a farm on my own, and to be honest, it looks like too much hard work what with waking up early and all.
And that's why meta-farming appeals to me. I'm lazy, and I like videogames. A lot. So Farming Simulator is my jam.
So it's a bit disappointing I'll be waiting until the end of the year to dust my crops, but all good things are worth the wait, right?
Farm like never before with Farming Simulator 19! The multimillion-selling franchise takes a giant leap forward for 2018, with the ultimate farming simulation returning this year with a complete overhaul of its graphics engine, offering the most striking and immersive visuals and effects, along with the deepest and most complete farming experience ever on consoles and PC.
Farming Simulator 19 will feature, at launch, three distinct open-worlds in which to develop and expand your farm, in solo or with friends: two entirely new environments to be unveiled soon, as well as an all-improved version of the South American environment which has been overhauled to take advantage of the new engine's capabilities.
Farming Simulator 19 takes the biggest step forward yet for the franchise, and will bring great improvements to nearly every aspect of the game, not just greatly enhanced graphics. Its content will be richer than ever: with the addition of new big brands, Farming Simulator 19's garage will be the franchise's most extensive vehicles roster ever. Farming Simulator 19 will also introduce new farming activities, new animals with horses, brand new mechanics as well as new crops, all of which we will be revealed in great detail over the coming months and future events.
One look at the launch trailer for Crossing Souls and you should definitely get it. The VHS artifacts, crude retro animation, bright neon colours, and setting that is all kids going on an adventure. But beneath the look and the wonderful pixel-art filled with seemingly countless references lies a pretty good story. And a heartfelt one too.
So much so that our review is spoiler-free.
There's a classic cinematic feel to the pacing that similarly nostalgia-based games often miss entirely. Even if you’re only passingly familiar with the many works that Crossing Souls references, there’s a sense of familiarity and comfort to be found with the opening parts of the story. The stakes are low, with the emphasis instead placed on exploring the neighbourhood, venturing into town, and catching up with friends. From the kid scientist whose parents are also scientists, to the trailer-dwelling girl with an alcoholic father, and the son of a hard-working retailer. Each character has their own personality and traits which become apparent during the many moments you can swap them out depending on the obstacle.
Including Flash Deals for some pretty cool games with discounts lasting but a few hours. Games like S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Far Cry, and more up to 77% off. Head to GOG.com to peruse the 500 or so sale items. Plus, nab your free copy of SNK's The King of Fighters 2002.
Then there's the more perma-deals, like the excellent Tyranny - Commander Edition from Obsidian Entertainment available for $17.69 AU at 66% off. It's really good. That's our pick of the bunch as it's an amazing game that we've gone back to after our recent taste of Pillars of Eternity II.
Check out GOG.com for all the Year of the Dog deals.
Assassin's Creed Origins stands as arguably the best Assassin's Creed game yet released, and now that we're pushing into 2018, Ubisoft hasn't given up on their epic origins opus yet. Or on its main character, Bayek, as we explore in this review of the first major DLC drop for the base game, The Hidden Ones.
Here's a snippet from our review:
The playspace we have here is Sinai, a (real-life) peninsula of the Red Sea that sets itself apart from greater Egypt in Origins thanks to its mountainous, craggy makeup. From a set piece design perspective, it’s gorgeous and helps continue painting a larger-than-life picture of Ancient Egypt. Half-finished (demolished) pyramids and temples riddle the land, while we get another glimpse at active and abandoned quarries in equal measure. You’ll even see quarry workers moving stone. Take that Giorgio A. Tsoukalos.
As a slice of content, you get four more Senu synchronisation points, a few like-for-like Phylakes (now called Shadow of the Scarab), two new stone circles and the usual mix of hidden treasures, papyrus puzzles, Roman and bandit fortification points to clear and so on. Largely, The Hidden Ones is just a small (heh) slice of Origins. A few of the game’s quests go out of their way to engage the player in different ways (the Gertha questline is fantastic) and perhaps more refreshingly, the challenge ante is upped with some of the bigger forts featuring massive numbers of soldiers and less player-friendly stealth gameplay options. Verticality messes with line-of-sight and less symmetrical design makes it harder to remain essentially undetected, forcing the player to think even more creatively about how to tackle these new strongholds.
For some reason I didn't quite get into Civilization VI, which was good but not quite as engaging as that cinematic trailer narrated by Sean Bean. Well, that's changed thanks to the excellent new expansion Rise and Fall. Which not only makes a bunch of improvements to core elements, but introduces new mechanics and features that now feel essential to the Civilization VI experience.
Whilst living up to that initial promise.
It’s a testament to the sheer cohesiveness of the new features and systems that Rise and Fall introduces that make this one of the most fun Civilization games in a while. An experience that you’ll want to return to and try for a different type of victory - or form of governing. Perhaps resisting the allure and power of religion. Or, to just make use of all the wonderful little touches and strategies that become apparent throughout a playthrough. Prior to the release of the Rise and Fall expansion, Civilization VI was somewhat of a mixed bag. Offering some great ideas for the series but an experience hampered by a somewhat unengaging first 50 or so turns, and erratic AI behaviour that turned the late game into a fight for your life against the world.
Rise and Fall, the expansion to the base 2016 release, does a lot more than add a bunch of new Civilizations to control. It adds numerous features that not only elevate the overall experience but make Civilization VI well worth your time.
Kicking off the year in style comes Capcom's classic Monster Hunter series, this time rebuilt from the ground up for modern console hardware. How does it fare? Well, we sent Adrian Haas deep into the Ancient Forest with nothing but his wits and the sounds of giant creatures to keep him company. Several hours later and he's dispatched of several high profile monsters. And cooked up a mean feast to boot.
Monster Hunter World is the latest title in the up until now Super Popular Happy Fun Time in Japan Monster Hunter series. The core gameplay of looting monster parts and then using them for crafting new gear after a successful hunt remains intact. But, certain aspects such as tracking and even the aforementioned crafting have been revamped and somewhat simplified. To be more accessible to a wider (read: Western) audience. The separate and isolated maps of old are also gone, replaced by considerably larger interconnected areas. Entirely appropriate and deserving of the title World. A massive improvement that results in zero loading times as you roam the forests and deserts seeking your prey.
And so here we are, with the final part in our countdown of the greatest videogame soundtracks of all time. Perhaps something you were hoping to see made it into the list. Finally! Or missed out. Screw you Kosta! Which is to say that this list is subjective, and as a life-long fan of music in general why not chime in with your alternate top five. I'd love to read about/hear them.
Platform: PlayStation 3
Composer(s): Austin Wintory
The first videogame soundtrack to be nominated for a Grammy, and it’s not hard to see why. Or more precisely, hear why. Like the title itself, listening to the music created by Austin Wintory for Thatgamecompany’s Journey feels like embarking on a very personal musical journey. Now, music that can transplant the listener to a specific time, place, or even feeling is as old as the art form itself, but what makes the music to indie hit Journey so special is that the instrumentation, solos, and themes reflect the introspective nature of the visuals. Take away the music, or by that token the visuals, and you’re left with one half of a truly transcendent interactive experience.