Stellar Relic

Author - James Murff

Diablo 3 Patch 2.3 Review: Bringing Back The Cube

diablo 3

Diablo 3 has a pretty phenomenal patch record. Patch 2.0 brought a lot of much-needed changes to the overall structure of the game, with the most important being the introduction of Loot 2.0. While no patch will ever have that much influence on the scope of Diablo 3 again, Patch 2.3 comes awfully close, and the many changes improve Diablo 3 in ways that I was unaware needed improvement.

There are three big changes in 2.3: Kanai’s Cube, Bounty and Rift simplification, and Seasonal Journeys.

Kanai’s Cube

Once upon a time, Diablo 2 had the Horadric Cube. This artifact allowed you to transmute items into other items, and even open portals to secret levels, such as the infamous cow level (which doesn’t exist). Before patch 2.3, Diablo 3 had no such item. With the introduction of Sescheron as a region, however, Kanai’s Cube is now available to take the old Horadric Cube’s place. It’s certainly a worthy successor.

The most overpowered feature of Kanai’s Cube – and the reason why four new harder difficulties were added to the game – is legendary passives. By combining a few materials and a legendary, you destroy the legendary to extract its passive and add it to a “library.” From that library, you can pick three passives to use: one weapon, one armor, and one jewelry. These passives layer on top of your existing legendary passives, and can be switched out for free once acquired; all you have to do is visit the Kanai’s Cube artisan in town.

As you might expect, this breaks the game in so many ways. By using the Ring of Royal Grandeur, players can stack multiple set bonuses without having to lose a valuable jewelry slot to a relatively mediocre item. By equipping weapon passives that complement your current build (in my case, it was “Bombardment casts twice” on my Crusader), you can drastically increase your damage output. By equipping armor passives like Illusory Boots (move through enemies), you can drastically increase your survivability and utility in combat. It’s a massive buff to all players, especially people with an extensive legendary collection, and offers more build flexibility than Diablo 3 has ever had.

There are some other powers too, of course. One allows you to change the level requirement of an item to 1 by sacrificing a high-level legendary gem. Another converts a rare item into a legendary of the same type (chest, weapon, necklace, etc). Yet another allows you to convert spare set items into another set item of the same set, bypassing some issues with set drops. In short, it’s an incredible quality of life improvement for end-game players, and this patch would already be fantastic if this was the only change.

Bounties and Rifts

Kanai’s Cube isn’t the only change, though. Bounties and rifts (both normal and Greater) saw an overhaul as well, both for the better.

Bounties are now constrained to a single bonus act per game. However, the bonus act cycles every time you finish the current once, which means you’ll only have to leave the game once you’ve exhausted all 25 bounties. These bonus acts now also give an extra horadric cache rather than doubling the completion bonus for individual bounties. While this sounds insignificant, it’s actually not, as those caches contain act-specific crafting materials necessary for Kanai’s Cube. In order to do transmutation such as legendary passive extraction, you’ll need materials from every act, so multiple caches means more materials. They also drop legendary plans at an incredible rate – my first cache gave me almost 20 (!) plans – so if you want to flesh out your artisans, that’s the way.

Bounties are also just more fun to run in general. There are far more chests and shrines to loot/activate, treasure goblins seem to lurk around every corner, there’s a new shrine (Bandit) that summons a horde of treasure goblins, and killing story bosses now spawns a “Diabolic Chest”, which has a high chance to give you gems and gold, among the standard chest item drops. Rifts used to be the only way to play the endgame, but bounties now offer players an open-ended route to collecting the gear they need as well.

If you want to do rifts, though, they’re far easier to jump into. Normal Nephalem Rifts are now free to open the moment you step into adventure mode; no more keystones necessary. Simply walk up to the obelisk and start your rift. Greater Rifts are still bound by keystones, but trails are no more. Now, you simply select from a drop-down, with the maximum level choosable being one greater than your best completion. Unfortunately, you now also have to complete the rift on time in order to get the legendary gem upgrade prompt, so there is one downside. These are mostly minor changes compared to bounties, though, and mostly simplify the process of getting into Greater Rifts (the best place to farm for set pieces, at least if you are playing solo).

Seasonal Journeys

These two improvements are great for characters with long histories, like your normal characters, but what about seasonals?

Patch 2.3 brings Seasonal Journeys, a “new” way to progress through seasons. Rather than relying purely on achievement points as before, players now receive a list of tasks to complete, and once they complete enough of them they are given pets, banners, and other cosmetics.

While Kanai’s Cube and the bounty quality of life changes are definite boons, this one’s hit or miss. Having some more concrete goals besides “getting X amount of points” is nice, but the flexibility of being able to choose which achievements you want to tackle was good too. I personally lean more toward this being one of the patch’s missteps; I had a lot of fun in 2.2 figuring out how to optimally get 400 achievement points for my portrait frame, and it feels a little hollow to just make it a list of easily-completable tasks (complete 5 bounties, defeat a boss, etc).

Other Improvements

Much like any patch, this one also has a number of other miscellaneous improvements.

There’s the standard list of new legendaries, including a new gem. Gem qualities have been heavily condensed, with pre-60 gems only having roughly 5 rarities from 1-60. Materials saw the same thing, with all materials converting to their level 70 versions; the aforementioned legendary act-specific crafting materials now fill the void of endgame crafting materials. There was the requisite number of buffs and nerfs to elites and characters.

Even though Seasonal Journey falls a little flat, the changes and improvements to bounties and rifts, and the introduction of Kanai’s Cube, more than make up for it. If you haven’t played in a while, it’s definitely worth jumping into now. Just be sure to build the most ridiculously overpowered character you can via Kanai’s Cube. Share your favorite builds with us as well!

Screenshot Saturday: Blood and Glory


Videogames are confusing, beautiful, complicated messes, and the best way to convey that is through screenshots, whether they are beautiful, informative, or goofy. Each Saturday we bring you one screenshot each from a game we played. It’s Screenshot Saturday.


Dave: I’ve been falling down the World of Warcraft rabbit hole again this past week. It started with a trip down memory lane not too long ago; then, I moved on and experienced some vanilla WoW thanks to a couple of private servers, which I’ll talk more about later. Eventually, though, I found myself back with my own account once more, looking at UI options and gear options and so on. Here’s the UI I ended up with (at least for now – it still needs some tweaks). It’s called RealUI and is super minimalistic – this is with the UI shown, out of combat. Once in combat, action bars appear, but when you’re not busy killing stuff you can enjoy as much of WoW as your eyes can take in. Pretty sweet!


Thomas: Shadowrun: Hong Kong came out! I actually pre-ordered it, which is an insane thing to do, but I don’t regret it in this case. (Other pre-orders I have not regretted: X-Wing Alliance. End of list.) So far it seems very similar to Dragonfall in both mechanics and story. I love the gunplay and the XCOM-style cover system. The storyline is serviceable enough so far. And cyberpunk Hong Kong is pretty cool. This screenshot doesn’t have any action in it – I just really adore the environment art. Look at those lanterns, the lighting, the flowers, the little details! It’s lovely.


James: Planetary Annihilation’s expansion pack, Titans, released this week, and it was just the thing necessary to get me back into blowing apart planets and looking at colorful little bots. It’s not even the titans that drew me back, although they are definitely nice; it’s the changes and optimizations to the core game that pulled me in. From better performance to a smoother interface to terrain changes that allow for elevation differences, Titans brings many quality of life features that make Planetary Annihilation much more of a joy to play. All we need now are multiplayer Galactic War instances and flat map projections, and we’ll finally have the Total Annihilation successor we really deserved.

Rising Thunder Impressions: Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots

rising thunder

The biggest barrier in fighting games is execution. If you intend to enjoy fighting games at a level beyond mashing your hands on every button like a grubby spoiled infant, you have to learn complex maneuvers like quarter-circles, holds, full circles, and (rarely) random button combinations. This executional complexity isn’t even the point of fighting games; the intention is that you learn how to predict and outplay opponents, not who can press memorized buttons the best.

Seth Killian, who I’ll fondly call “the dad of the fighting game community,” knows this better than most. As a professional fighting game player, developer, and commentator, he’s directly exposed to all of the problems inherent to executional complexity in fighting games. Thus, he teamed up with a development studio to create a free fighting game that strips most of that complexity out. The result is Rising Thunder, the most accessible and mind-game focused fighting game I’ve ever played, and already one of my favorite fighting games period.

Rising Thunder is very simple. You have eight buttons: three are your normal attacks (light, medium, heavy), three are your special moves (which vary per character, and which can be switched out between games), one is a throw, and one is your super. The most complex input you will ever perform in Rising Thunder is holding in a single direction and pressing a single button. While combos are present, they are very lenient and dependent upon understanding how your special moves use screen space, rather than on intricate timing or complex motions. The end result is a game that requires only the most basic of hand-eye coordination to play.

There are two relatively advanced concepts, but they are extremely easy to grasp. First, you can cancel most normal moves into specials, and most specials into your super. This canceling is extremely forgiving, which means you’ll start to pick up the basics of combos and juggling right away. Second, you can cancel any move except a super into any other move by using “Kinetic Advance”, a gauge that builds up as you fight and which is used by holding up or dashing at the end of a move. Much like normal combos, the timing is extremely forgiving, which is unlike Street Fighter 4’s irritatingly rigorous dash cancels. You can hammer away at the appropriate direction to dash cancel, and it’ll always come out; no practiced finesse required.

The first time I played Rising Thunder, I fiddled around with my special moves (I play Dauntless, a robot with explosive punchfists piloted by a teenage girl) to learn how they affected my opponent. Within about 15 minutes, I was pulling off combos I’ve never managed in a Street Fighter game. Granted, I also understand what combos are and how to perform them in general, even if my execution is off, so brand new fighting game players will probably have a slightly steeper learning curve; maybe thirty minutes to an hour, if they focus on the game and look at some combo videos. Still, this is exponentially better than the dozens or hundreds of hours required to master the execution of games like Street Fighter, and allows players to focus on what really matters: predicting opponents and playing mindgames.

Rising Thunder is only in alpha, so there isn’t a wide selection of characters to pick from. Despite this, it represents each character archetype fairly well, and each robot is definitely reminiscent of other robots and fighters. Dauntless, for example, is clearly inspired by Rival Schools’ Batsu, and Crow looks very similar to an EVA unit from Evangelion. Rising Thunder is a game that wears its influences on its sleeve, and that’s not a bad thing.

You can sign up for Rising Thunder on the official site, as it’s now in open alpha.

The Genius of War Thunder’s X-Ray System

war thunder

War Thunder and World of Tanks are fairly close in terms of playerbase. While World of Tanks has a lead – and thus more players – War Thunder is expanding extremely quickly, buoyed by constant updates and Steam integration. However, between the two, War Thunder has the better tank mode by a long shot.

Why? The X-Ray system.

The Basics

The X-Ray system in War Thunder is extremely simple. Whenever you shoot somebody, a picture-in-picture window pops up and shows you how your round hit the tank, how it deflected or spalled, and how that affected the tank internals. Whenever you die, it does the same thing, but in reverse; you are shown how the shot that killed you blew apart your ammo reserves or ripped your crew to shreds. This system appears independent of player input, so all you have to do is glance at the side of the screen to see it.

Each of your tank’s internal components is modeled, from the ammo dumps to the tread motors to the gun loader to the entire crew, and is represented by semi-transparent texture-less grey models. It’s a very easy system to understand and get used to, and is really quite pretty; seeing the destruction of an enemy tank both in the main screen and through the play-by-play side window is an exhilarating feeling.

The only downside? It’s not in plane mode, probably because planes are more about continuous MG fire and less cannon shells exploding inside enemies.

Get To Know Your Tank And Crew

Besides being fun to look at, the X-Ray system offers something that you can only intuit or read a guide on in World of Tanks: where to hit an enemy to cause maximum damage and how to angle your tank to take the least amount of damage.

A big part of playing any multiplayer game is the feeling that you’re getting better as you play, either by understanding mechanics better or by improving your reaction times, decision-making skills, or other personal points of interest. World of Tanks has a problem – the problem that made me stop playing it, in fact – in communicating just what you’re doing wrong in a match. You can stick with your team, outflank the enemy, and shoot shells into their side all day, but if you don’t understand the principles of armor deflection and weak spots, you’ll get nowhere. While World of Tanks does explain this in the tutorial, it’s woefully silent on how to spot weak points and how to learn from your misfires.

By implementing the X-Ray system, War Thunder gave players a path to learn from experience, rather than from a tutorial. You can see in real-time the mistake you made – maybe it deflected off the front armor, or the spalling didn’t connect with any vital parts – and adjust accordingly. Of course, you’re usually dead by then, but hey, next life, right?

These are important tank warfare concepts that are not particularly intuitive to grasp. Telling someone sloped front armor has an actual thickness of 90mm and an effective thickness of 120mm (this is a hypothetical, don’t yell at me!) means nothing to the average person. While you can tell them why this is the case, only experience – the skills and knowledge gained in battle – will properly teach a player what exactly that means for the game.

As for the other way around, it teaches you how to better use basic defensive tank concepts such as presenting the proper side (or “sidescraping”) and using defilade. After all, you can see exactly the carnage your crew goes through whenever you take a SABOT round to the side. Also, let’s be honest; it humanizes the crew a little bit, even if it’s just as weak points in your tank. You learn which crewman goes where, which crewmen are expendable, and how you can minimize injury to essential personnel. It’s not the warm fuzzy emotional personalization of a Pixar film, but it definitely makes you understand your tank and crew more.

Nothing Is Perfect

War Thunder has plenty of problems. The arcade mode feels super restrictive on spawns, maps are way too large in many cases, and matchmaking feels off – getting one-shot by a tank two tiers higher than you, when you’re at tier 1 or 2, is not entirely uncommon. Still, the X-Ray system is not one of them. It’s an absolutely genius method to communicate mechanics, and more games need to incorporate such a system.

Screenshot Saturday: Pikes and Pillocks


Videogames are confusing, beautiful, complicated messes, and the best way to convey that is through screenshots, whether they are beautiful, informative, or goofy. Each Saturday we bring you one screenshot each from a game we played. It’s Screenshot Saturday.

screenshot saturday besiege

James: Besiege is one of my favorite games to act like a complete dunce in. You are tasked with building complicated machines out of medieval parts, and then taking those machines out to annihilate camps of enemies, castles and anything that gets in your way. It’s great fun because you end up, more often than not, ripping your machine apart in some miscalculated use of springs. Or an enemy soldier gets jammed in your wheel and rips it out of its housing. Or the bomb you tried to throw didn’t go very far and exploded in your face. It’s a game of delightful chaos and destruction, even when you’re floundering, and that’s something special. Oh, and it has workshop support, and the creations which range from “totally serious medieval catapults” to “Metal Gear RAY”.


Dave: I already have over a thousand hours in Crusader Kings 2, the majority of which went towards unmodded CK2. However, thanks to Thomas, I may have found the only way I’ll ever play Crusader Kings 2 again: the ‘After the End’ mod. I played it ages ago, back when it only consisted of the eastern seaboard, and found it an interesting but not very compelling mod. Now, though, the whole North American continent is up for grabs – and I, the King of Socal, shall be the master of it all. Or at least Barstow. The fidelity to current day America (the existence of La Mesa, El Cajon, Camp Pendleton, and more locations from my local area) and the easter eggs laced throughout (Humphrey Bogart is current Lord Mayor of Los Angeles) compel me to play on a level that Europeans must feel towards the base game. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that there is also a significant element of comedy.

Pike and Shot: Campaigns screenshot saturday


Thomas: I’ve been putting some time into Pike and Shot Campaigns, and I’m pretty pleased with it. The initial Pike and Shot release was fine enough – I really loved the setting and the well-represented weirdness of early gunpowder warfare, but the battles just weren’t engaging enough on their own. The addition of a Total War-style strategic layer has really turned my opinion around. Here, my Parliamentary army engages a Royalist force in the English Midlands. My musketeers and pikemen are doing pretty well – we’ve successfully seized the little hamlet in the center of the battlefield and Fragmented and Disrupted two Royalist foot units. Less promising: off to the right, my horse are getting mauled by Royalist Cavaliers. It’s messy, obtuse, and fun, and now it has consequences. If I lose this battle, Charles could march on London…


Drifter Wars Turns EVE Online Into A Side-Scroller

eve online drifter wars

Update: CCP Games has asked Rixx to pull Drifter Wars down, in accordance with their intellectual property rights. The game can no longer be played, but the original article has been preserved below for historical purposes.


The EVE Online community creates all sorts of external tools and software for players to use, from Aura to Eve-Central. However, there are surprisingly few fangames, especially given the general tech-minded playerbase CCP has cultivated.

Drifter Wars is one of those precious and rare non-CCP EVE games. Created in a collaboration between Rixx Javix and Igor Puschner, Drifter Wars is a side-scrolling shooter in the vein of Gradius. You can pick from a few different ships, travel from left to right, and shoot incoming enemies. That’s about all there is to it.

While Drifter Wars isn’t a particularly good side-scrolling shooter, it’s such an interesting concept that it’s worth playing through at least once. There are, however, many flaws for the discerning shooter player. There is no wiggle animation on the player ship when going up and down, there’s extremely bad slowdown when the attack cooldown is charging up, bullets have no impact when they hit an enemy, the controls are a little too rigid, and there’s very little visual or audio feedback when you actually do something cool.

What if the EVE Online ships were rendered in side-scroller fashion? How does the universe of EVE translate to an arcade game? Where are all the EVE fangames, for fuck’s sake? These are the questions Drifter Wars asks, and while the answer isn’t a great game, it’s certainly a great project. We need more fangames, and hopefully the hard work of Rixx and Igor will inspire others to take up the mantle. I may not be a fan of this game, but if they improve on it and release a sequel, it’s quite likely that it’ll be a genuinely good experience. Keep an eye on it.

Warframe Update Brings Smoother Parkour


Digital Extremes certainly has a hit on their hand with Warframe. One of the most consistently played games on Steam – it currently sits in 11th place on the concurrency list – Warframe continues to get great releases that not only improve existing systems, but also add new ones. The latest patch, Echoes of the Sentient, touts a parkour revamp as its major feature, but it’s much more than that. New mods, new enemies, underwater archwing sections, a new duality-based warframe, a whole new utility mods system, and a reworked boss fight are all present in Echoes of the Sentient.

Bullet Slides and Wall Latches

That said, Parkour 2.0 is definitely the biggest improvement in this patch.

Parkour in Warframe before now was decent, but suffered from a few issues. The biggest was that the speed of movement heavily favored something called “zorencoptering,” where players would slide jump into the air and melee attack to zoom along super fast, at the cost of looking incredibly silly. Other issues included a restrictive stamina system that was never used to good effect – its only purpose seemed to be to slow you down – and a weird pause whenever you did movement that interacted with wall collisions.

No longer! Parkour is now much smoother, zorencoptering has gone the way of the dinosaur, and you can use as many movement abilities as you like without being constrained by that annoying stamina. While certain actions take a little longer to get used to, like wall-running. overall the parkour system’s revamp is a much-needed, much-appreciated improvement. A lot of Warframe’s appeal is in the fantasy of being a cool technofuture space ninja, and the old parkour system felt a little too rigid for the sort of ridiculousness that often played out in big firefights.

As a side-effect of this change, all stamina-related mods are now gone from Warframe. In its place, you will have a suitable number of fusion cores, depending on how many stamina-related mods you had and what their levels were. Free levels for your other mods and the removal of a mediocre system is a great way to start a patch.

Exilus Mods

For those players that wanted to have certain utility features like loot radar, but didn’t want to give up a whole mod slot, there’s good news: all warframes now come with an Exilus slot, which has been explicitly designated for utility mods such as Thief’s Wit.

This requires a special upgrade to unlock. Once it is unlocked on a particular frame, it will stay unlocked, even if you use a Forma to reset the frame’s level. Indeed, you can use forma to change the slot’s polarity, which allows you to tweak your builds more handily.

This may not seem like a big deal, and it really isn’t that major of a change, but it’s a really nice quality of life improvement. Most of the mods that were redesigned to use the Exilus system were rarely used, as they ate up valuable space that could be used on mods like Flow or Vitality. With this update we’ll see more and more players with interesting utility effects, and some of those unused mods will finally see play.

Equinox, or: Day/Night Cycles in Space

The latest frame is Equinox, and it’s certainly the most unique frame so far. Two frames in one, Equinox shifts between day and night forms in order to use different abilities.

By using this shift, players can go between the more damage-heavy Day to the more support-focused Night. Day’s abilities are all about power by either dealing damage or making players more effective at dealing damage. Conversely, Night’s abilities make enemies fall asleep, allow players to heal from kills, and reduce damage taken from nearby enemies.

This frame is a pain in the ass to craft, though, as you have to collect and craft the parts for both the Day and Night frames and then combine them into a single frame. It’s a bit of ridiculous grind in a game that already has plenty, but most veterans are so rich that it shouldn’t matter too much. Still, if you buy any single frame with platinum, this might be your best choice, purely because of the frustration it’ll take to craft.

Odds and Ends

Of course, there’s also the standard patch miscellany. Weapons can now be hid while holstered, which allows you to build more perfect-looking frames that are unmarred by rifles and swords cluttering up their appearance. New enemies, mods, and environments abound, with underwater Archwing levels being a big feature. Tyl Regor, the boss of Uranus, saw a rework that made him both harder and more satisfying to fight, as you must kill him in a rapidly flooding room.

Finally, PvP saw a pretty extensive rework of modes, and with the new parkour system it actually feels sort of fun. If third-person shooter PvP is your sort of thing, but you’re not fond of the slow pace of Gears of War competitive play, Warframe might be what you are looking for. They even added a PvP-specific progression, in case you want to minimize your fights against NPCs.

An excellent update all-around, both for its new additions and much-needed reworks. Somehow Digital Extremes keeps making my favorite free-to-play game even better.

Submission Sunday: Writing for Stellar Relic


The response so far to Stellar Relic’s launch has been staggering – thank you to everyone reading, tweeting, and posting about the site! Your excitement helped accelerate some of our plans, including starting up our submissions program.

Before we get to the nitty gritty, though, we wanted to explain some things.

First and foremost, the site isn’t making any money and neither are we. In fact, we’re in the negative right now. As such, we’re unable to pay for any submitted work. This sucks, but we want to be up front. We do intend to pay for freelance work as soon as we’re able to – now is just not that time.

Second, we really care about what goes up on the site and as such we won’t be posting anything and everything. We hope to be able to post up 1 submission piece every Sunday, but we won’t be compromising our editorial standards to meet that goal. If we don’t have anything of sufficient quality on a given Sunday, we won’t publish anything. Conversely, if we are inundated with quality pieces, more than 1 piece will go up on Sundays.

Third, we really love to read about things from perspectives other than our own. We want to stand as a great place for new writers and writers from a variety of backgrounds, social communities, and viewpoints to have their work featured. The quickest way to our hearts (and by virtue of our hearts, the frontpage) is to present us with a compelling, evocative, fresh angle.

Finally, we have some guidelines for anyone wishing to submit their work to us:

How To Submit

  1. Send your piece to, with the subject “[SUBMISSION] Name of Piece
  2. Please send us a pitch, which is a basic outline of what you’d like to write, whether you’ve already written the piece or not. We won’t have the time to read full submissions and pitches are a good test of your ability to hook us. (Here’s some information on writing pitches.)
  3. There is no pay. This, much like Stellar Relic in general, is volunteer-based. Submit if you want to work with good editors and writers.
  4. We will usually only run one submission per week, although this can change based on extenuating circumstances.
  5. Your piece will be pored over by the Stellar Relic staff, which means you’ll get plenty of critique and editing. If you want your piece to run as-is, this isn’t the place.
  6. We will not accept a piece you have already posted elsewhere.

What We’re Looking For

While you can submit a piece on anything, we are more likely to accept pieces on certain topics. Right now, we’re looking for pieces on:

  • EVE Online, especially anything related to the current state of the game, its politics, or its economy. Really, any EVE piece will do, as long as it has context, history, and great analysis.
  • Tabletop games, especially the new rework to Warhammer Fantasy Battle – titled, appropriately, Age of Sigmar. We want to hear about how Age of Sigmar has impacted existing Warhammer players, the general state of Games Workshop’s treasured tabletop IP, and what this means for the long-term health of Warhammer.

These two topics will catch our eye, as they are things we want to cover but have neither the time nor knowledge to do so well. However, we’re always open to new angles and niches that we have previously left uncovered – feel free to surprise us! Just keep it to games, though.

Happy writing!

Screenshot Saturday: Flights of Fancy

Rocket League_20150802223434

Videogames are confusing, beautiful, complicated messes, and the best way to convey that is through screenshots, whether they are beautiful, informative, or goofy. Each Saturday we bring you one screenshot each from a game we played. It’s Screenshot Saturday.

War Thunder

Thomas: As I wrote yesterday, I’ve been dipping my toes into the War Thunder pond. I’m still figuring things out. Biplanes can pick up quite a bit of speed in a swooping dive, you know! I was pretty proud of myself for the maneuver, coming down right on this Ki-10’s ass, before I realized I didn’t have any brakes to pump. About a millisecond after this screenshot, the two of us were tumbling towards the ground in burning chunks. War Thunder Is Good.

Elite: Dangerous

James: Despite all of my frustrations with it (which I hope Horizons will help with), the exploration profession in Elite: Dangerous is still my favorite. Once you get good at it, you can skip across the galaxy extremely quickly, picking up some great screenshots while making a buck on the side. It may not be the best-paying way to play Elite: Dangerous, but it’s certainly the prettiest. I recently found that you can disconnect your camera from the ship as well, which led to screenshots like this one.

Rocket League_20150802223434

Twisted Metal anyone?

Dave: I now officially own every car there is in Rocket League. Turns out that if you win a match with each of the standard unlockable cars, you get a bonus vehicle: Sweet Tooth from the Twisted Metal series. I’m not sure if this is a nod specifically to Rocket League’s genesis (which you can read about in this great Kotaku article) or what – but it looks pretty sweet. Unfortunately, it lacks full customization options (for somewhat understandable reasons) and I ended up not using it a bunch: but still pretty cool. Now all I need is to drive 18 million miles or whatever it is to get the Platinum for Rocket League!

Frontier Announces Elite Dangerous: Horizons

Elite Dangerous Horizons

When Frontier kickstarted Elite: Dangerous, they promised continued development that would greatly expand the universe with planetary exploration, walking in ships and stations, and other such niceties. Now that the multiplayer combat variant (as opposed to the existing open world) of Elite, titled CQC, is just around the corner, they’ve decided to unveil another component to the growing space sim: Horizons.

In the Horizons expansion, players will be able to land on planets, drive a Surface Recon Vehicle (SRV), and explore new lands. Frontier is promising activities such as mining ore deposits, discovering hidden signal sources, and attacking fortresses protecting valuable goods. It all sounds very similar to the Mako sections of Mass Effect, which were – depending on who you ask – either incredibly awful or a mixture of terrible and okay. I lean more toward the latter myself; the physics of the Mako were always comedic and I like to coast across alien surfaces. 

This announcement is a welcome one for explorers, as there’s a severe sense of boredom when it comes to charting new systems. Most of the galaxy is comprised of balls of inert ice and rock, which give very little payout when scanned. This means you can go hours without finding anything of significant worth and limits your payout to (on your average expedition) a few million credits, tops. With the addition of planetary exploration, scanning, and combat, there’s going to be a lot more for explorers to do than mindlessly jump from star to star until they hit the jackpot.

This announcement didn’t come without its own bit of drama, however. Horizons is currently priced at £40, which is £20 less than Elite: Dangerous at launch. Furthermore, it also comes with the core game. This pissed off a significant number of people, ranging from veterans who expected the expansions to be piecemeal to newcomers that feel cheated for buying the core game at retail price. Some are also complaining that Frontier is charging for a half-finished game, saying that there is not enough content in the game as is to justify purchase. The associated reddit thread is unsurprisingly large and filled with salt.

It’s a similar problem faced by other developers in recent memory, most notably Bungie with The Taken King (the recently announced Destiny expansion). It’s a difficult problem to solve – how do you please both existing consumers and potential consumers with the same release? – but it’s one that should definitely be considered from both sides. After all, game developers need money to live, but consumers should be rewarded for their loyalty in the early era of a game’s lifespan.

Elite Dangerous: Horizons launches Holiday 2015. For those players that already own Elite: Dangerous, you get a £10 discount on the expansion and a free Cobra Mk. IV, a variant of the popular multirole Cobra Mk. III. Frontier recently reopened their lifetime expansion subscription as well, at a whopping £130 for all future expansion content.