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‘Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth’ Everything You Need to Know

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Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth launches on August 14th, raising the level cap to 120 and launching the Horde and Alliance into a new conflict that will change the world as we know it. Introducing two new areas: Kul Tiras and Zandalar, as well as eight new allied races, Battle for Azeroth is set to shake up old allegiances and plunge Azeroth into a new arms race to decide who will shape its future.

With new armor systems, and gameplay in the form of Warfronts and Island Expeditions, as well as a reshaping of Warcraft’s PvP and leveling systems, we recap everything you need to know about the new content and changes coming to World of Warcraft.

Spoiler warning: This article contains spoilers for Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth content.

Kul Tiras: Tiragarde Sound, Drustvar, Stormsong Valley

One of Battle for Azeroth‘s two new areas, Kul Tiras is an old human nation with a strong naval tradition. Home of Jaina Proudmoore, the island withdrew from worldly politics after the Third War and the death of Jaina’s father, Daelin, at Theramore. Today it is led by Jaina’s mother, Grand Admiral Katherine Proudmoore, but its people have not forgiven Jaina’s betrayal.

The island is ruled by four noble houses: Waycrest, Stormsong, Ashvane, and Proudmoore, who are seen in Blizzard’s latest comic: Reunion, focusing on Jaina’s journey home. In game, Kul Tiras will be made up of three zones: Tiragarde Sound, Drustvar, and Stormsong Valley.

Stormsong Valley is home to one of Kul Tiras’ greatest naval ports, where ships are blessed by the priests of the sea. The land is dark, filled with misty forests, silent lakes, green fields and distant mountains. Like the haunted shores, Kul Tirans have their own style of strange magic, from Sea Priests and Tidesages to the darker druidic and witchy magics of the Drust: the old inhabitants of Drustvar.

In Drustvar today, the old race of the Drust wander the earth as spirits, but their magic has shaped the land and its people, and power lies hidden in ancient barrows and hallowed clearings. Wicker beasts stalk the woods, and the creatures of the forest are bewitched as though a curse lies over the land itself.

Elsewhere, in Tiragarde Sound, Kul Tiras lies besieged by pirates, including the capital city of Boralus. Strange beasts from the sea lurk in the waters of the merchant’s coves, and the pirates fill their hulls with gold and treasure. Much of Kul Tiras’ former glory has been lost to the beasts that prey on the land, but much stands to be regained with the aid of the Alliance.

Zandalar: Zuldazar, Nazmir, Vol’dun

The second new area is Zandalar, an island in the South Seas, and home to the Zandalari trolls. It is the cradle of troll civilization and the seat of the Zandalari Empire, but after being thrown into chaos by the effects of the Cataclysm the trolls now seek new alliances. The island is in a state of civil war between King Rastakhan and the Prophet Zul, and is under constant threat from the blood trolls who also call the island their home. Zandalar is divided into Zuldazar, Nasmir, and Vol’dun.

Zuldazar is the capital, ruled over by King Rastakhan and Princess Talanji, it is an ancient temple nestled in the heart of a great jungle, yet old magics stir within its walls and the dead have grown restless in their tombs.

WoW Battle for Azeroth

Beyond, in the land of Nazmir, the jungle gives way to salt marshes. Dinosaurs walk the earth and soar beneath a blood moon, for Nazmir is also the home of the blood trolls who have their own plans set in motion. Alongside the old gods, there are also the Loa, the living gods of the Zandalari who manifest themselves and hold sway over the land.

Last, Voldun is a land turned to dust long ago by the battles of the Old Gods. Today it is a desert, filled with criminals banished from Zandalar, and the strange creatures that live amongst the sand dunes. It is also home to two new races, the Vulpera, fox-like humanoids, and the Sethrak, snake-humanoids, both a people lost beyond the sands of time, and possible allies to the growing Horde.

Island Expeditions

Alongside the two new areas, Battle for Azeroth is also taking inspiration from Black Flag by letting players set sail for distant islands to hunt down azerite: a new resource vital to the Horde/Alliance arms race. These replayable expeditions involve sailing for new lands, searching for treasure, and battling rare monsters. Island systems are designed not to stay static, meaning the islands change with every visit, from different creatures spawning, to items, to new quest givers, as well as randomly occurring events.

To make it even more of a challenge, these islands are also introducing Horde and Alliance ‘Advanced NPCs’ with buffed abilities and smarter AIs than your average trash mob, who should prove more formidable opponents in your quest for azerite.

The islands range from frozen wastes off the coast of Northrend, to shrouded forests hiding Gilnean castles, or even tropical archipelagos home to naga, elementals, and all manner of new monsters. Island expeditions will have four difficulty options: Normal, Heroic, Mythic, and a PvP mode where you race against three other players to get the azerite first.

Azerite and Armor Upgrades

Replacing the Artifact Weapon system, players will now be upgrading their armor using the Heart of Azeroth: a legendary necklace bestowed upon us by Magni Bronzebeard. The necklace feeds off of azerite, and the more of it you gather the more powerful your armor can become.

Different armor has different latent properties, and as you unlock each ring, or level, of upgrades you can customize your armor to your own playstyle with various improvements, buffs, and traits.

New PvE Mode ‘Warfronts’

Inspired by Warcraft’s Real-Time Strategy roots, Warfronts will send players to the frontlines of a 20-man co-op battle against enemy NPCs. Players lay claim to strategic outposts, collect resources, build up armies, and siege the enemy strongholds – like the olden days of Alterac Valley combined with the Garrison system into a cooperative PvE.

Each week one faction will claim victory in the warfront, and unlock special world bosses, quests, and gear. The first warfront will take place at Stromgarde Keep in the Arathi Highlands, and should prove to be an interesting new game mode outside of the usual raids and battlegrounds.

WoW Battle for Azeroth

A Scaling Leveling System

As of patch 7.3.5. released in January in preparation for the new expansion, mobs, quests, and dungeons across Azeroth now scale with your level, allowing you to travel and train in (almost) any zone right from the start. Most vanilla areas can scale from level 10-60, with end-game zones such as the Burning Steppes scaling from 40-60, so you have the freedom to train throughout the world, but without losing the world’s narrative logic (you can’t just show up and take on Molten Core from the get go), or the sense of challenge from fighting bigger, badder enemies.

The zones of each expansion generally scale to their original difficulties, with Outland and Northrend running from 60-80, Pandaria and Cataclysm zones building to 90, and Warlords of Draenor and Legion content from 100-110.

It’s a system designed to make the world feel less rigid in its progression, and give players leave to adventure in a way that lets them follow their curiosity, exploring and uncovering the world in a way that still makes sense to their own story. Of course, from the start of Battle for Azeroth you’ll be able to boost a character up to level 110 and play up to the new level cap of 120.

WoW Battle for Azeroth

A New Approach to PvP

PvP servers are no more. With Battle for Azeroth’s focus on Horde vs Alliance, Blizzard have updated Warcraft’s long-standing PvP system for a new, revamped model. Rules for PvP are now the same across all of Warcraft’s servers, acting as an opt-in system where you can flag yourself for PvP combat – but not quite like before.

Players can now only flag themselves for PvP when they are within a capital city, meaning before you venture out to quest you will have to decide how you want to play. Opting in means you will be instanced in with other players across Warcraft’s servers who have also flagged for PvP, and experience all the usual joys of ganking and corpse camping.

Battle for Azeroth will also see a new battleground: The Seething Shore off the coast of Silithus, where players will fight over sources of azerite, in addition to the Island Expedition PvP opportunities, and new Brawl PvP modes coming to the game.

WoW Battle for Azeroth

New Allied Races

Finally, Battle for Azeroth introduces eight new allied races, but to start playing you must first unlock them by doing quests and grinding reputation with the relevant sub-faction, and follow the story of how the new race fits into the Battle for Azeroth.

Each race has their own unique mounts, heirloom armor, and will from level 20. Four new allied races are already unlockable for players who own Battle for Azeroth, whilst the Dark Iron Dwarves and Mag’har Orcs require you to complete the 8.0 war campaign, and Kul Tiran Humans and Zandalari Trolls are planned for the future.

Highmountain Tauren: An ancient tribe of Tauren descended from Huln are departing from their sacred mountain home to rejoin their Tauren brothers. The Highmountain Tauren honor the spirits of earth, river, and sky, and have unique druid forms and shaman totems.

Lightforged Draenei: With the return of the Army of Light from Argus, the Lightforged Draenei are joining the battle to defend Azeroth and relieve it from corruption. Imbued with the very essence of Holy Light, these Draenei are natural healers and slayers of demons.

Nightborne: Locked away since The War of the Ancients in Suramar: a city of unending night, these elves have been transformed into dark beings through the power of the Nightwell. Released after the events of Argus, the Nightborne now seek a place in the world alongside their Blood Elf sisters and the Horde.

Void Elves: Discovered by Alleria Windrunner, this sect of elves seek to use the dark powers of the Void to aid the Alliance and bring peace to Azeroth. Much is yet unknown about the Void, whispering in the elves’ minds and turning them to shadow, but under the guidance of Alleria the Void Elves may come to control their power.

Dark Iron Dwarves: Once servants to Ragnaros, the Dark Iron Dwarves found a foothold in Ironforge after Moira’s return and the forging of the Council of Three Hammers. However, many Dark Irons still exist beyond the reaches of the Dwarven city, and seeing their clan united on behalf of the Alliance could prove vital in the race for azerite.

Mag’har Orcs: The Mag’har, or ‘uncorrupted’, Orcs were those who rejected Gul’dan’s gift of power. Now returning from Draenor after the fall of Hellfire Citadel, these Orcs have pledged themselves to aid the Horde as Hunters, and stand ready to reclaim the glory of their shared ancestors.

WoW Battle for Azeroth

The final two allied races are not currently available to unlock, but as the story of Battle for Azeroth progresses we’re sure to learn more about the Humans of Kul Tiras, and the Trolls of Zandalar.

What we know so far is that the Kul Tirans are a hardy people with an affinity and religious wonder for the sea, but who also have a history with the people of the Drust: now spirits, druids, and witches wielding eldritch power, we’re sure to see a mix of warriors, cult-like priests, and ancient magics going into the creation of Kul Tirans as a playable race.

Meanwhile, the Zandalari Trolls are perhaps the oldest race of trolls on Azeroth, standing upright, they worship ancient gods known as the Loa and have an affinity for shamanistic and druidic magics.

While we don’t know much, both the Kul Tirans and Zandalari have some unique druid forms confirmed, with Kul Tiras druids transforming into fearsome wicker beasts, and Zandalari Trolls turning into dinosaurs.

A War with Everything at Stake

Beyond the tides of Kul Tiras and the jungles of Zandalar, forces are moving across Azeroth like never before. It’s clear that Battle for Azeroth will be tracing a war between the Horde and Alliance that will wreak destruction throughout the land.

With the Battle for Lordaeron and the Burning of Teldrassil, Warcraft’s main players are set to take the spotlight in this expansion, with consequences that will shape the world of every player. We’ll be recapping the lore behind Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth in a coming article, but until then you can enjoy the comics, books, and cinematics Blizzard have been releasing in anticipation of the coming war.

Helen Jones is a Ravenclaw graduate who likes to apparate between her homes in England and Denmark. She spends her time reading fantasy novels, climbing mountains, and loves to play story-focused and experimental indie games like The Stanley Parable or Night in the Woods. She also covers tabletop and board games over at Zatu Games, and you can follow her twitter @BarnacleDrive for updates, blogs, and pictures of mushrooms.

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Game Reviews

‘Life is Strange 2’ Episode 5 Review – “Wolves”: A Worthy Send-off

The final episode of Life is Strange 2 may take a while to get going but it does offer a solid conclusion to the Diaz brothers’ journey.

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Life is Strange 2

Life is Strange 2 hasn’t made any bones about being a political game over the course of the last year. The 5th, and final episode, “Wolves”, doesn’t just continue with this message, it doubles down, and in a big way.

Set near the Arizona-Mexico border, “Wolves” follows the Diaz brothers on the final leg of their journey. Having escaped from the cult that held Daniel up as a messianic figure in the previous episode, Sean and Daniel are camping out in a sort of pop-up town filled with outsiders like themselves.

Life is Strange 2

The location provides Life is Strange 2 with its final breath of relaxation before the story enters its high tension endgame, and it’s a much needed reprieve. Unfortunately, it does seem to go on a bit longer than the player might like, and that makes things drag a smidge.

To give you some idea of how long you’ll be spending in the village, 4 of the 6 collectibles are found here. So, yes, this starting area is the main place you’ll be spending “Wolves” in. To be clear, the area isn’t bad per se. There’s a lot to see, a scavenger hunt to go on, and a few interesting characters to speak with, including a surprise cameo from the original game. The bummer of it all is that players will be feeling the time here more laboriously simply because there isn’t much of anything happening.

Life is Strange 2

In the 2nd or 3rd episode of this story it’s perfectly fine for an extended bit of down time. Episode 3, in particular, benefited greatly from allowing you to settle into the setting and get to know a diverse and likable new group of characters. However, by the 5th episode, players will be so eager to see how things are gonna settle up, they won’t be able to get out of this area fast enough.

On the upswing, once Sean and Daniel leave the village, the story moves at a pretty solid clip to the credits. As the key art and trailer for “Wolves” might suggest, the Diaz brothers do indeed challenge the border wall in the final leg of Life is Strange 2. Where things go from there, I won’t spoil, but rest assured that Daniel will absolutely go through the crisis as you’ve trained him to do.

By this I mean, you will see the final results of your choices throughout the game, and they’re pretty impressive. With 4 possible endings, and 3 possible variations on those endings, Life is Strange 2 can ultimately play out in a variety of ways. How yours plays out will, of course, depend on the choices you’ve made and how you’ve influenced your brother throughout your journey.

Either way, though, Life is Strange 2 closes off “Wolves” with an emotionally satisfying and generally fulfilling conclusion to your journey. It might be a necessary evil that the events can’t be intense the whole way through, being that this is not an action or combat-focused game, but the fact that things take so long to get going in the final episode is a bit of a problem.

Still, fans worried that Life is Strange 2 might fail to stick the landing can rest easy. “Wolves” might not be the best, or most satisfying, episode of the series but it does what it needs to do and it does it well, particularly in the back half.

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Game Reviews

‘Yaga’ Review: A Bittersweet Fairy Tale

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Yaga Game Review

Some games feel perfectly suited to their genres, as if they fulfill every ambition that their genre could promise. On paper, Yaga from the developer Breadcrumbs Interactive, should be one of those games. This roguelike RPG is meant to bring traditional Slavic folktales to life, and its procedurally generated structure allows the game to change in every playthrough, just like how the ancient fairy tales it’s based on can change in every telling. Yaga immediately shines on a conceptual level, but as a game, the most important question remains: will this fairy tale be enjoyable to play?

From start to finish, Yaga uses the rich source material of Eastern European history and folklore to create a vibrant, fantastical world. The entire game is framed as three elderly women telling the story of Ivan, a heroic blacksmith who has been stricken with the curse of bad luck. These women spin a fanciful yarn, one in which Ivan is constantly plagued by horrors from traditional fairy tales such as the hideous One-Eyed Likho, along with more realistic foes, such as a corrupt, overbearing Tsar. The game thrives on this balance between history and fantasy. Its world is filled with peasants who face daily, universal struggles with war and agriculture, while massive ogres and goblin-like Vodyanoys haunt the surrounding wilderness. This mixture creates a strong setting that finally gives Slavic history and mythology its long-overdue representation in games.

Yaga Game Review

“Take the presentation and story together, and Yaga becomes a playable portrait of the lives and superstitions of Eastern European peasants.”

The frame story always remains the same: Ivan will always have to serve his Tsar while avoiding bad luck in every playthrough. However, beyond these core details, the old women are extremely flexible storytellers, often switching events around or changing story beats entirely. In some playthroughs, you may discover a woman raising an enormous chicken; in others, you may instead encounter a band of thieves waiting to rob you. You will frequently face important decisions to make that will dramatically impact the outcome of your quest. yes, you can always break into monster hideouts with hammers blazing to slay every creature before you; but more often than not, you are also given the opportunity to peacefully talk your way out of these toxic situations. Even more dramatically, oftentimes the game will zoom out to the old women storytellers and allow you to choose how they tell the rest of Ivan’s story. Yaga is at its best when it doubles down on this player freedom. It makes every moment engaging and allows its stories to truly come alive.

Yaga

Yaga’s writing and presentation only serve to make this world even more striking. It features a distinctly dark sense of humor – for instance, a man may ask you to push a boulder into a well behind his house, but he will neglect to tell you that he has also thrown his wife into the bottom of that well ahead of time. Much of this dialogue is even written in rhyme, enhancing the otherworldly, fairy tale atmosphere. On top of that, nearly all dialogue is fully voice acted, with most voice actors delivering some eccentrically charming performances that make the game feel as if it’s a playable Disney film. The visuals look like they’re taken straight out of a Russian children’s book of fairy tales, while the music incorporates traditional instruments and language into an electronic, hip-hop fusion soundtrack that captures the cultural heritage that Yaga focuses on while connecting it to modern culture. Take the presentation and story together, and Yaga becomes a playable portrait of the lives and superstitions of Eastern European peasants.

However, this leads to the gameplay. Quests may be randomized each time you play, but nearly every one of them takes the same general format. One character will request help, and then Ivan will have to venture out into the world to fight some demons or recover an item. Worse yet, the levels are just as randomized in their procedurally generated design, and not in a particularly clever way, either: most of them likewise follow the same formula, being little more than arenas full of enemies connected by copy-and-paste environments. Many paths in each environment lead to nothing more than pointless dead ends. The combat has a satisfyingly simple basis, with basic moves like long- and close-range attacks, roll dodging, items to use, and a variety of different weapons to equip, although his trusty old hammer is generally the best choice. However, while this simplicity makes the combat enjoyable on its own, there is very little depth to it, and the inherently repetitive design of the mission only serves to highlight how paper-thin combat can be. Most battles involve little more than hacking away at enemies until they die, which becomes increasingly repetitive by the end of the roughly ten-hour campaign.

Yaga

At the very least, the robust customization system helps add a little intrigue to the combat. As a blacksmith, Ivan is naturally gifted with the ability to craft weapons for himself to use. By scavenging parts and items from fallen enemies and treasure chests around the world, Ivan is able to create the most powerful weapons. Crafting is simple to use yet extremely ripe for experimentation, requiring only one base item and a handful of accessories to create unique new items. With dozens of components to discover and use in your forging, there are plentiful opportunities to create the best possible weapons.

“All told, Yaga achieves a bittersweet ending: it’s bitter as a game but sweet as a fairy tale.”

The crafting system would be the standout aspect of the moment-to-moment gameplay if it weren’t foiled by another one of the game’s systems: Bad Luck. Ivan has been cursed with perpetual Bad Luck, which grows constantly throughout the game – whenever something good happens, Bad Luck is sure to increase. Whenever the Bad Luck meter fills all the way, Likho will appear and strike Ivan, generally breaking one of his weapons or stealing his money.

Yaga Game Review

On paper, this mechanic makes sense, since it prohibits the player from becoming too overpowered and also fits into the folklore style off the story. In practice, however, it is an infuriating limitation on player progression and invention. It effectively punishes players for putting thought and care into their weapon crafting and character-building – at any moment it can all be washed away in bad luck, so what’s the point? Considering how enjoyable the crafting and combat systems are, it’s a shame that Bad Luck seems to exist solely to diminish the very best parts of the gameplay, leaving the game feeling like it cripples itself.

Your enjoyment of Yaga depends heavily on what experience you want out of it. If you’re looking for a deep and satisfying RPG, then it likely won’t deliver. Although it features satisfying combat and customization systems, the frustrating randomization of its level design and Bad Luck system only serve to foil these good qualities. If you are instead looking for a faithful, fleshed-out image of Slavic cultural heritage, portraying both the harsh realities of peasant life along with its fanciful folklore, then Yaga is a clear triumph thanks to its emphasis on player choice, its excellent writing, and its beautiful hand-drawn visuals and inventive soundtrack. All told, Yaga achieves a bittersweet ending: it’s bitter as a game but sweet as a fairy tale.

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‘Resident Evil 3: Nemesis’ — A New Height to Survival-Horror

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Resident Evil 3 Nemesis

If we can forget that Nemesis was a poorly designed rubber goof in the Resident Evil: Apocalypse movie, we can easily state that he is the apex predator of the series. The follow-up to Resident Evil 2 had quite a few expectations to fill and, for the most part, Resident Evil 3 delivered. While not so much a fan-favorite as RE2, there was a lot to like about RE3. The return of RE‘s Jill Valentine, some new intuitive controls, and, of course, theNemesis.

RE3 marks the first time in the series where you are limited to one character – Jill. Through this, the story is slightly more focused and straightforward – despite the plot being all about Jill trying to leave Raccoon City. RE3 director Kazuhiro Aoyama cleverly sets in pieces of RE2 to make this work as both a prequel and a sequel. If you’ve never played RE2 – shame on you – you would not be able to scout notable tie-ins such as the police station. With a large majority of the building still locked up, Marvin Branagh, the wounded police officer who helps you in the second game, is still unconscious and has yet to give anyone the keycard which unlocks the emergency security system.

resident_evil_3_psx_marvin_branagh_by_danytatu-d812bgk-768x480

Where RE3 really shines is in its latest entry of Umbrella Corps. bio-engineered tyrants called Nemesis. The hulking tank brought a new dimension to the series, invoking more cringe-inducing terror and stress than ever. As if zombies and critters jumping through windows weren’t bad enough, now you have to worry about an RPG-wielding maniac busting through a wall and chasing you around the entirety of the immediate environment – and chase is certainly brought to a whole new level indeed. It became a running joke when you would encounter a handful of zombies, but could escape unscathed by simply running into another room. Nemesis, on the other hand, will continue his pursuit no matter what room you run into. At the time, this brought a whole new level of detail in the genre. Knowing that at any given moment he will just appear and will certainly derail whatever key or plot item you’re quested to look for made Nemesis a very intense experience.

Resident Evil 3 is the pinnacle of the series and the last of old-school survival-horror.

The gameplay also takes a few different approaches in this game. There will be moments when you encounter Nemesis, or certain plot occasions where you will be prompted to make a decision. It was a great alteration to the series, as it added new layers and weight for the player. Another addition to the gameplay came in the form of control although as minute as it sounds, is having the ability to turn a full 180 degrees – yes you read that correctly. Resident Evil quintessentially coined the term survival-horror, and survival certainly predicates the genre. There will be times – if not numerous times, you will run out of ammo. When those moments used to occur, you would have to make your character turn in the slowest fashion imaginable to make a run for the door and to safety. It was those moments back then that would pull the player away from the action. With the addition of the quick-turn ability- which was actually first introduced in Capcom’ Dino Crisis game – it gave the player the chance to just cap a few zombies and dash creating more seamless and dynamic gameplay.

resident-evil-Nemesis-768x402

The level design of Resident Evil 3 is grand, if not grander than RE2. A lot of the setting and scenery take place in the open air of the city and a few other places around the vicinity. RE and RE2 mostly took place indoors, and those settings helped create unique moods especially when it is all about tight corridors adding a more claustrophobic feel. Aoyama definitely went with a bigger setting and atmosphere in the follow-up. The game takes you through a police station, a hospital, a local newspaper office, a clock tower and a factory. More often than not, though, people tend to forget the scope and grandeur of RE3. Not to mention you can only… spoiler… kill Nemesis with a Rail-Gun at the end.

Resident Evil 3 is the pinnacle of the series and the last of old-school survival-horror. It took everything that it did so well in the previous titles and made it bigger and better. Nemesis encapsulated fear and dread in ways rarely experienced at the time. The scene where he popped through a window and chased players through the police station has always remained a nostalgic moment, much like anything that comes through a window in the RE series. In fact, a bit of advice for anyone playing the first-gen of RE titles: beware of windows.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on May 16, 2016.

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