Category Archives: Universal

A couple of days ago, we talked about how Ben Brode, Hearthstone's [Free] Game Director, went on reddit to describe the steps being taken to enable the team to maintain a better communication with players in the near future. Today, Brode decided to wade into a reddit discussion about the problems of the new player experience. The discussion was specifically about how the biggest problem with the new player experience is that there's not enough separation between those just starting out and people who've been playing the game forever. Brode first talked about how they're aware of the work needed to improve the new player experience and how they've been tweaking it for years and have seen significant increases in new player retention. The team has worked a lot on improving the Casual matchmaker, which resulted in new player winrates increasing by around 15%...

'Mega Man 1-6' Now Available on iOS and Android

[UPDATE: It only took mere moments of playing one of these ports to see that they are shockingly bad, so even though we'll have an official review coming soon we wanted to give people this extra head's up to avoid these at all costs.] Mega Man is one of the most difficult game series even with a physical controller, and as we've seen a couple of different times over the years the experience doesn't translate super well to the touchscreen. Well, Capcom Mobile is taking another stab at it as they announced last month that the six 8-bit Mega Man games would be hitting mobile, and as of just a few moments ago they've arrived in the iOS App Store as well as on Android's Google Play Store. These ports have been adjusted for mobile play, but I'll have to actually dive into these before we really know what that's supposed to mean. One thing I do know though is that the trailers don't give me a lot of confidence in these ports, as the frame rates look pretty poor. ..




The Iranian Revolution isn't exactly an era gamers get to visit often, so when 1979 Revolution: A Cinematic Adventure Game [$4.99] released, it caught the eye of all those who enjoy historical fiction. Now that the game has gone free for the first time, you have no reason not to put yourself in the shoes of Reza Shirazi, a photojournalist caught in the flames of the Iranian Revolution. The game is narrative-heavy in the style of Telltale games and will have you making critical choices that alter the narrative's course. I haven't played the game yet to know how much your choices affect the narrative, but I don't think that will matter too much in this case because most players will play 1979 Revolution mostly to experience those momentous events...

This War of Mine [$14.99] is a bleak game that offers players an unflinching simulation of war's effect on civilian populations, and its DLC The Little Ones - which lets you experience war through the eyes of a child - definitely didn't make the game any lighter. The DLC is now 30% off, so here's your chance to experience a very different aspect of war for cheap. The Little Ones is more than just different characters for you to play as; it's also all about how children in war-torn cities are still children, and children still want to play with toys, make friends, and enjoy life despite the troubles around them...

Solforge [Free] was one of my favorite CCGs on mobile for quite some time even though it had a pretty bad UI and other issues as well. Despite all that, this lane-based CCG was doing the all-digital card game even before Hearthstone popped up on the scene (though the two were pretty close to each other), and for a time doing it well. Alas, it was not to last because as Justin Gary, the game's creator and lead designer, has just announced, Solforge is pulling the plug on the servers on January 31st. While I know many of you won't care about one of the many mobile CCGs biting the dust, Solforge was really fun, with some really cool design ideas and some crazy - in a good way - cards...

We knew from last week that Blizzard was going to celebrate Diablo's 20th anniversary in all its games, and today the Dark Wanderer has made his appearance as this week's Hearthstone [Free] Tavern Brawl.. First of all, this Brawl feels more like an Adventure since it's a one player affair. You get to create a deck and then take on the hooded stranger holding a grim deck in his hands. The Dark Wanderer starts the game with 3 secrets already played and the Hero Power Diabolical Powers that summons a random Imp. The secrets aren't your usual fare, so expect to see all kinds of weirdness happening (you can check out all the secrets here). And since he gets to summon Imps, the Dark Wanderer also brings many Warlock buffing cards to the table, so don't let those Imps survive for too many turns or you'll get nasty surprises...

One of the most frequent complaints against Hearthstone's [Free] developer team is the lack of communication with the game's player base, which rightly or wrongly makes players feel ignored. Ben Brode, Hearthstone's Game Director, has been responsible for the majority of dev-player communication through his Designer Insight videos. Today, he took to reddit to provide more context on the production of those videos as well as talk future plans with the community. Brode makes those videos at night after his son goes to bed, and in order to do so, he first has to move his computer to avoid having his bed as the background, set up the studio lights, and then do several takes. Then he sends it to the rest of the team for feedback - which occasionally leads to more takes...

Mario's first foray into mobile gaming has been an interesting one, with Super Mario Run [Free] briefly becoming number one top grossing game in the US before slipping down the charts. Many players and analysts were surprised by Nintendo's decision to go with a paid rather than free-to-play model because that would translate into much less revenue. Indeed, according to market research firm Newzoo, Super Mario Run has generated more than $30 million in gross revenue, which translates to about 3 million players buying the full game. When compared to the estimated 90 million total downloads of the game, the number of paying players comes to a little over 3%...

While we didn't care that much about Final Fantasy Brave Exvius [Free] in our review (Shaun gave it 3.5 and talked about how it felt out-of-date compared to other games of the genre), it's still a Final Fantasy game, and those usually have quite a following. The reason the game made the news again is one you wouldn't associate with the franchise: Ariana Grande. Apparently, the developers have decided to court the young ones by featuring a character called DW (Dangerous Woman), which is based on Ariana Grande's persona in the album with the same name. I don't think Final Fantasy has ever featured a character like this one, so it's interesting to see how social RPGs are moving further into blending fictional and real worlds...

'Reigns 2' Announced, with a Free Expansion Pack for the Original 'Reigns' Launching in February

Reigns [$2.99] was undoubtedly one of the standout iOS releases of 2016, and was well represented on our round-up of the best games of the year, as well as my own personal list of titles I enjoyed the most over the last twelve months. I certainly was not alone in holding Reigns in such high regard - Nerial's flagship adventure app received critical acclaim on its release in August, as its unique Tinder-esque mechanics, abundant charm and interesting concept of continuing your dynasty after the previous ruler's death proved to be a novel and engrossing essential mobile experience. Today, Nerial have announced that, as well as a free DLC expansion for the original game that is set to launch this Februrary, they are working on an entirely new sequel that is tentatively titled Reigns 2. However, instead of playing from the very traditional perspective of irrefutable power that the king possessed, the developers have put you in the shoes of the queen...

Best of 2016 Videos, Meta Issues, and More 'Hearthstone' Weekly News in 'Touchstone' #79

Happy 2017 to one and all! I hope you've had a great little break - for those fortunate enough to have one - and are ready to face 2017. And welcome to another Touchstone Tavern, our weekly roundup of Hearthstone [Free] news and videos. This issue is coming to you one day later than usual, but even we have to pause for the New Year. And now that 2017 is officially here - though I'm sure I'll still be writing 2016 for the next few weeks - we are back in business. As you would expect, not much happened in the world of Hearthstone this past week, but there were still some interesting stories published. And, of course, we got some "best of 2016" videos as well. Without further ado, let's jump in...

Pixeljam has revived their Flash game Snowball! [$1.99] for Steam and mobile, and the world is better off with this charming pinball game. The whole game is just one table, but it's an entertaining table, and a game that's absolutely gorgeous for pixel art aficionados, especially on a big enough screen. The table is intended to take place on the side of a mountain, with the pinball being a Snowball!, the flippers being wooden contraptions operated by people, and the area where your ball falls into being a campfire that melts the ball. It's charming...

The gravity gun from Half-Life 2 is a dramatically underutilized tool in games. What felt so cool and revolutionary in 2004 has since been stuck to just one game. Kind of like how there were rumblings that the portal gun would show up in a future Half-Life 2 episode, and other games with portals like Portal have popped up. Thanks to Island Delta [$2.99], it has reminded me of how clever an idea the gravity gun. But also, it serves as a reminder of how a tool that requires good physics also requires good design to be used effectively...

'Colt Express' Makes Robbing Trains Fun and a Treat for the Eyes

Board game ports are a popular genre on the App Store, and while some are fun, not all of them strike a good balance between retaining the feel of a board game and taking advantage of all the digital realm can offer. I'm glad to say Colt Express [$4.99], the port of the award-winning board game, manages to bring the board game to life on digital by adding enough animation and sounds to make it pleasing to the eye while keeping the spirit of the board game intact. In fact, the developers have done something unusual in this port; they've transformed the 3D trains of the board game into 2D ones that look made of cardboard...

I often find myself into a bit of a bind when I review a game that's well done in terms of design but also has major technical issues. How do you separate the plot and design ideas in the first episode of BATMAN - The Telltale Series [$4.99] from the engine's obvious shortcomings that make the game almost unplayable on all but the latest iOS devices? I've been playing the game on my iPhone 7 and even though I got some relatively long load times here and there, overall the experience was relatively fine (minus some typos, blurry text in the Codex, and graphical glitches). However, when I tried playing it on my iPad Air, I couldn't enjoy the game because the minutes-long load times really messed with the flow of the story (it's like watching a movie with long commercial breaks)...

Card games like Clash Royale [Free] always face the challenge of providing a kind of satisfactory end game beyond the never-ending grind of leveling up or, in the case of Clash Royale, making it to yet another Arena. Well, according to this reddit post by a member of the developer team, the team has been thinking of ways to solve the "end game" of Clash Royale that goes beyond just adding another Arena in a never-ending ladder. After all, it doesn't take much for that kind of ladder to feel like a hamster wheel. He doesn't offer any hints on how that end game might look like, and, to be honest, it's hard to imagine how it could be. Still, I think most players will be glad to know the developers are trying to figure out how the game should "end."..

Mini Metro [$4.99] is a wonderful game, with our very own Mr. Shaun Musgrave giving it a full five stars in his review earlier today. When I first saw it, I thought I was looking at a real metro map (I've had to use trains for many years, so those kinds of diagrams are seared in my memory). That's no accident, apparently, because according to Jarrett Walker, a public transit consultant, Mini Metro is more than just an entertaining game with a metro theme; it's actually a great tool that teaches sound principles of network design that can come in handy to anyone professionally involved in designing city networks. His blog covers how accurate the game is - even though it wasn't designed to really be accurate - and the steps needed to make it more accurate if one was inclined to do so...

Return of the Zombie King [$2.99] is a clever little platformer, and it even managed to make its way into Eli's Top 10 of 2016. Now it's on sale for the first time ever, and you should pick it up if you've been looking for a fun platformer to play. The conceit behind Return of the Zombie King is that you start the game as the recently-deceased King, and throughout your runs you try to get back to your old virility and humanity by upgrading yourself with legs, eyes, ears, and so on. There are also additional upgrades to unlock as you go along until you once again become the once and future King...

Shoot 'em ups are quite popular on iOS, though not all of them bring new ideas to the table. High Space [$0.99], which is one of the first games to emerge out of the iTunes freeze, is hoping the ability to bend space and time will help it stand out from the crowd, and it might just do that. As you can see in the video below, this side-scrolling shooter lets you slow down time and create wormholes as you try to survive the hordes of space alien coming your way. The constant slowdowns break up the usual frantic pace of shoot 'em ups and should please those players whose reflexes are as slow as mine...

Clash Royale [Free] is getting ready to welcome another unit to the game just before 2016 finally says goodbye to us all, and that unit is the Legendary Electro Wizard. This 4 Elixir card enters the Arena with a zap that takes out units below and clears some space for the Electro Wizard to land safely. At Level 1, he has 550 HP, 200 Damage, 117 DPS, 169 Spawn Damage, and 0.5 sec Stun Duration. He can hit both Ground and Air targets, and the most interesting part of his attack is that he can zap two targets at the same time, which you can see in the video below. His two-handed zap ability makes him harder to distract because he can still attack a tower while also taking out a Tesla or Inferno Tower. Add to that his ability to stun what he hits, and you can see why some are worried this new unit might be too overpowered...

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