Author - GamingShogun

Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights Review 2016

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At this year’s Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights, the event’s creative team has wrangled some of the best IPs in the horror industry to make haunted houses from. Freddy Krueger, Jason Vorhees, Michael Myers, Leatherface, Krampus, and the monsters from American Horror Story are all represented in their own haunted houses, just waiting to scare park guests. With this many iconic characters and franchises to pull from, you would think they’d be hard-pressed to come up short. Does Halloween Horror Nights live up to its potential or does it come up wanting?

We started off our night at Halloween Horror Nights experience on the red carpet that Universal Studios rolled out for its celebrity guests. The red carpet is always a fun pre-show to experiencing the Horror Nights attractions, and this year was no exception. Celebrities ranged from Kerris Dorsey (Ray Donovan) and Michael Dougherty (Trick R Treat, Krampus) to Michael Rosenbaum (Impastor) and the Soska sisters (Hellevator). Unlike some past years, the park did not host the Eyegore Awards so celebrity guests were ushered into a VIP reception. At about 7:15pm, the carpet began to thin and we entered into the park looking for scary fun.

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The first thing we did was head down to the park’s lower lot where a mass of haunted houses are setup. The first on our kill list for the night: The Exorcist. Using the press passes issued to us, we were able to access the “Gate A” front of the line option and I highly recommend you purchase front of the line passes if you visit. They are a lot more expensive than the general admission but, with 1 to 2 hours per haunted house, getting in within 20 minutes (sometimes A LOT less) it is well worth the $150 dollar price – I digress. The Exorcist exterior featured a recreation of the iconic moment in the film where Father Merrin approaches the MacNeil house in which the young girl Regan, possessed by the demon Pazuzu, is waiting. This maze was awesome in how it portrayed various plot points from the exorcism portion of the film, culminating in a meeting with Pazuzu itself. Some of critiqued the maze by claiming there is a lot of “dead space” and I can see how some would think that. However, that “dead space” is just extraneous pathing to get you back into the main story rooms of the maze.

After that, we walked our happy selves over to the trio of haunted houses in the back lot. One of my biggest disappointments of the night came on this walk. I should preface this with the knowledge bomb that The Purge is the only theme for scare zones around the park. Horror Nights Orlando does this one theme for scare zones bit a lot and, especially with The Walking Dead, to great effect. Unfortunately, Horror Nights Hollywood does not pull this off as well – but more on that later. There is a long, concrete transportation tunnel that guests have to walk through to get to the back lot this year. This tunnel is all decked out in what the park considers The Purge theming: Blinking red and blue lights, metal music, and what appear to be stoners (the monsters kind of just ambled about). It is a loud, cacophonous walk that will leave you with a headache and not scared in the least. The area is also a choke point where a nice walkway gets squished into two three foot wide paths demarcated by stanchions with legs that can be easily tripped on – especially when the lights start pulsating. This whole tunnel was simply ill-conceived and should be removed ASAP. Turn  the lights up a bit so people are not tripping, widen the paths so people can be more comfortable, and get people to the back lot which is where they wanted to go initially – before the 0.37 Miles walk each way (wear good shoes).

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Once we arrived to the New York Street back lot area, we began the journey through the haunted houses in the area: Krampus, Freddy vs Jason, and American Horror Story. Without question, Krampus was the best haunted house in the entire park and my personal favorite. Krampus puts you inside a house being visited by the titular demonic anti-clause as they attack the family that lives there. Often times, maze designers at Horror Nights will rely on awful smell effects for sheer shock value – even when it might not be appropriate or do anything to actually help scare guests. With Krampus, you enter the home in disarray and you smell a sour pine scent which echoes a Christmas gone horrible wrong. The maze is beautifully-crafted and the home feels like a real house. Also, the creature design is incredible, and all the monsters look like they jumped right off the silver screen and into your personal space. I won’t spoil any particular gimmick in the maze for you – suffice it to say that Krampus was awesome and should not be missed.

Maybe it’s just the age of the characters at the point, but Freddy vs Jason didn’t really do much for me. It was a decent enough maze, set inside the fictional “Craven Industries” (RIP Wes) building, and you do see a lot of the titular characters in various stages of kicking the other one’s hide. It just sort of paled in comparison to Krampus. With the exception of one really awesome creature, it was an alright experience which was enjoyable with the front of the line pass. Had I waited in line for 2 hours for it without the front of the line pass, I would be irritated – especially after the previously mentioned The Purge tunnel of terribleness.

The American Horror Story haunted house takes the “Murder House”, “Freakshow”, and “Hotel” seasons of the show and gives guests an abbreviated look at each one. Overall, this was a great maze and the designers gave each season just enough space for guests to see highlighted monsters and characters represented. It moved quickly and I loved the use of the scent effects in this maze – especially the Hotel area, where the scent of used linen (not soiled, just worn) permeated the air. I have covered enough events and stayed in enough “historic” hotels for this site that I am all too familiar with that smell. Set decorators did a terrific job of placing props where they should be and there was a great sense of immersion in each of the maze’s areas.

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The Purge scare zones, as I previously wrote about, are fine save for the tunnel. The Purge characters are all working hard to get scares and the guests seem to be having a good time. There are not as many “sliders” (monsters that run and slide towards guests on pads) as in other parks, but what Horror Nights misses in sliding, it makes up for almost ad nauseam in chainsaw wielders. I love the chainsaw as a scare prop, but it was a bit too much this year. Between all the characters on the street wielding them as well as all the clown characters on the Terror Tram. Ease up on the chainsaws gang. They are more effective when used like hot pepper – a spice rather than a main ingredient.

Speaking of the Terror Tram, this year’s experience sees the tram occupied by disgruntled circus clowns. On the way to the Terror Tram walking paths, we were shown a cool video about how once good “Koodles the Clown” went bad and became a serial killer known as “Hollywood Harry”. He was last seen in the back lot somewhere…. And it was up to us to find him! The Terror Tram is often a spectacle and I thought this year’s theme, which was brought together with the help of Eli Roth and Crypt TV, should have been the opposite. I wanted to feel stalked by Hollywood Harry and his minions. I wanted to have space to look for Harry in the rubble, feel him getting closer as he zeroed in to attack. They basically just threw a bunch of clowns in the area previously occupied by zombies and all their past monsters. They did pour concrete in the previously dirt path up to the Psycho house, which was really nice but, aside from that, the Terror Tram was generic and disappointing. Given the theme and the viral video they put out to set it up, it should have been amazing and scary as hell. There is also a traffic problem in that experience now as there is a “maze within a maze” where people are jammed into a queue line and made to wait. It was annoying to say the least and I was glad to get back on the tram and head to the theme park proper.

Thankfully, my annoyance turned back to glee when we went through Universal Studios The Walking Dead walk-through attraction. The park has added more zombies inside for the Halloween event and this added oomph was awesome. The attraction features some meticulous set design where every object strewn about has its own story – right down to a capsized bio-hazard-only waste basket. It is also nicely air conditioned in the building which takes out the humidity and makes it a very comfortable scare experience. The effects are great, zombies are scary with great costumes and makeup, and the place looks incredible. What more could you possibly want from a maze based on The Walking Dead?!

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Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Blood Brothers is a take on Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, where guests visit a BBQ joint that serves the most dangerous game and is ran by a very special family which includes Leatherface! The maze hits all the right marks for a cannibal barbeque maze and, overall, is a fun trip. There is some great set design here, with the prop makers clearly getting inspiration from the film and its time frame. Halloween: Hell Comes to Haddonfield is, like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 inspired maze, a solid trip. Based on Halloween 2, the maze features a lot of sets and recreations from that film, starting right where the movie starts (and the original leaves off). There are a lot of Horror Nights jump scares here with lighting and music cues and they work. Some find them repetitious but I had no issue with them in this maze. Maybe the subject matter lends itself to those kinds of jump out scares surrounded by eerie quiet. I put these two mazes into the same paragraph as they are a kind of mid-tier position for the park’s line up of haunted houses. Not the best of the bunch yet not the worst, simply solid performers that help bolster the event as a whole.

Overall the 2016 incarnation of Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights is, despite a couple duds, a terrific haunted attraction with plenty of scares to go around. I would only recommend you go to the park if you get front of the line passes. If you stick to general admission, you will be lucky to get into 3 mazes in the whole night. So just shell out your dough already and get walking! Krampus, American Horror Story, and The Exorcist are incredible and not to be missed.

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HTC Vive Now Available on Amazon

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Seattle — September 15, 2016 – HTC VIVE virtual reality system can now be purchased from Amazon.com in the United States, bringing best in class virtual reality to a wider audience than ever before.

“VIVE offers consumers the most immersive virtual reality experience available today with the most complete hardware system and a robust portfolio of content. Our expansion to Amazon further underscores our commitment to our customers to deliver options across virtual reality,” said Dan O’Brien, VP of VR at HTC.

HTC VIVE, priced at $799, was designed from the ground up for room-scale VR, allowing true-to-life interactions and experiences thanks to an adjustable headset displaying stunning graphics, two wireless controllers with HD haptic feedback and 360° motion tracking. For a convenient and safe experience, HTC VIVE incorporates essential functionality from your phone and features a front-facing camera that blends physical elements into the virtual world. Working in concert, this system immerses you visually, physically and emotionally in the virtual world.

With more than more than 500 VR experiences now available on Steam, VIVE owners have a massive selection of virtual reality content to choose from that will yield hour after hour of fun in VR.

In addition to Amazon, HTC VIVE is available in North America to purchase direct from HTC at www.vive.com, at select Microsoft Stores, GameStop and Micro Center locations and online at Microsoft, GameStop, Micro Center and Newegg.

VIVE demonstrations are currently open to the public throughout North America, providing consumers with a chance to experience first-hand the world’s only room-scale VR system. For more information about VIVE, to find a demonstration location or learn where to buy VIVE, please visit www.vive.com.

Stars in Shadow Now in Early Access

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Haarlem, The Netherlands – September 15, 2016 –  4x strategy fans will look to the stars today as publisher Iceberg Interactive releases turn-based 4x strategy title ‘Stars in Shadow’ into Steam’s Early Access Program. Developed by Canadian outfit Ashdar Games, Stars in Shadow features unique comic style graphics, streamlined empire management, sophisticated turn-based tactical combat, and detailed world building. The current Early Access build is an advanced beta, ready to be shipped before the end of 2016, pending final polish and user feedback.

Sven Olsen, lead developer of Ashdar Games says: “Our goal is to make a game that really plays well, rather than one that is just a long list of features.  4X games benefit from intensive polish, and while we do still have more to do, I think EA players will be pleasantly surprised by how much depth is already there.”

Stars in Shadow is now available in Steam’s Early Access program at $24.99 with a 20% discount during the week of launch on Steam. http://store.steampowered.com/app/464880.

Features:

  • Epic Scope:

Starting at the dawn of interstellar travel, progress through four eras of technological advancement. Discover the science of planetary terraforming, upgrade your infantry battalions to battle mechs, and grow your fleet from a squadron of destroyers to an armada of planet-destroying Dread Stars

  • Varied Factions:

7 Playable factions comprising six alien races. Each faction has different research strengths and technology options. Forming alliances, conquering neighboring species, or discovering ancient artifacts may open up additional avenues of research. Choose your race wisely as it impacts which worlds will suit you, what trades or alliances may be offered, and whether or not your neighbors are inclined to trust you

  • Stylized Setting:

A distinctive comic-book art style and an original, detailed universe backstory draw you into an immersive game world. Interact with a unique cast of alien characters, make friends and influence people, or crush your enemies and see them driven before you

  • Focused High-Level Strategy:

Build a vast and varied empire, taking advantage of the unique traits offered by different alien populations and the worlds they inhabit. A streamlined resource and planetary improvement model keeps the game moving even when your empire grows large

  • Deep Turn-Based Tactical Combat:

Face off against your opponents in complex 2D turn-based tactical battles. Counter your enemy’s missile barrage using point defense or interceptors, then close to energy weapon range! Stars in Shadow’s tactical engine includes several features rarely seen in turn based games. Multi-ship commands keep even large fleet battles fast-paced, and smart unit behaviors allow tight control with minimal micromanagement. Auto-resolve battles that are a foregone conclusion, while retaining the ability to replay any engagement to see exactly what happened

 

For more information on Stars in Shadow, please visit the official website at http://stars-in-shadow.com  and the official Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/sis4x.

13 Minutes of Gameplay from Horror Game Syndrome

September 14, 2016/ Camel 101 and BIGMOON Entertainment today announced that Syndrome, their claustrophobic survival horror title, releases October 6, 2016 on PC (Windows, Mac, Linux) and early 2017 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and VR platforms.

A member of the ship’s crew, you awaken from cryosleep to find it’s not at all the way you remember. Your friends and coworkers are gone. In their place, transformed monstrosities that kill without mercy. With the ship courseless and adrift in space, you’ll have to uncover the events that took place during your sleep if you have any hope of surviving this waking nightmare.

Syndrome takes survival horror back to its roots with weapons that are few and far between, and ammunition too limited to take out all the bloodthirsty creatures roaming about the dark confines of the ship. Fast and deadly, your enemies are not always better dealt with head-on―sometimes staying out of sight is a wiser decision.

Find out more about Syndrome at http://syndromegame.com/ and follow the developers on Facebook or Twitter.

Apple Watch Series 2 Announced

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SAN FRANCISCO — September 7, 2016 — Today, Apple® introduced Apple Watch® Series 2, the next generation of the world’s most popular smartwatch. Apple Watch Series 2 is packed with incredible fitness and health capabilities including a water resistance 50 meter rating for swimming,*  and built-in GPS so users can now run without an iPhone®. Apple Watch Series 2 also features a dramatically brighter display and a powerful dual-core processor. Combined with the performance enhancements of watchOS® 3, Apple Watch Series 2 makes it even easier to access third-party apps, receive and respond to notifications and conveniently use Apple Pay®. Apple Watch Series 2 will be available in more than 25 countries beginning Friday, September 16.

“We’re thrilled with the response to Apple Watch and how it’s changed people’s lives. We are committed to fitness and health and think our customers will love the new capabilities of Apple Watch Series 2,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer. “With a powerful new dual-core processor, water resistance 50 meters and built-in GPS, Apple Watch Series 2 is packed with features to help our customers live a healthy life.”

Fitness & Health 

Apple Watch Series 2 is rated water resistant 50 meters for swimming, surfing or just playing in the pool. For swimmers, Apple developed all-new algorithms after hundreds of hours of research for two new workout options, pool and open water. Apple Watch Series 2 can count laps, track average lap pace and auto-detect stroke type to accurately measure active calorie burn.

With built-in GPS, Apple Watch Series 2 records precise distance, pace and speed for outdoor workouts such as walking, running or cycling, without needing to take an iPhone. Users can begin an outdoor workout immediately as Apple Watch Series 2 uses Wi-Fi, GPS and locally stored satellite data to quickly identify their location. On completion of an outdoor workout, view a route map that shows variations in speed in the Activity app on iPhone. Whether running, going for a swim or walking between meetings, the Activity app on Apple Watch Series 2 counts all daily activity towards the Stand, Move and Exercise rings.

Advanced Technology
Apple pioneered the custom designed System in Package (SiP) for Apple Watch, and continues to develop this breakthrough technology with the second generation S2 chip. With a dual-core processor, the S2 chip takes performance to a new level, making Apple Watch up to 50 percent faster. In addition, a new GPU has been added, which delivers up to two-times-greater graphics performance. Apple Watch Series 2 also features a dramatically brighter display — at 1,000 nits, it’s more than two times brighter— making this the brightest display Apple has ever shipped, so it’s even easier to see important information at a glance when outside on a sunny day.

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watchOS 3 features significantly improved performance that makes it even simpler to launch favorite apps instantly, either from the watch face or with the new Dock, which displays the latest information already updated in the background. New fitness and health capabilities include the breakthrough Breathe app, designed to encourage users to take a moment in their day to do deep breathing exercises for relaxation and stress reduction. The Activity app now includes the ability to share, compare and compete, keeping friends and family motivated. There is also a customized experience for wheelchair users to close their Activity rings, in addition to dedicated workouts.

Apple Watch is even more personal with new watch faces including Minnie Mouse, Activity and Numerals. Simply swipe edge-to-edge to swap out a new watch face and with the new Face Gallery in the Apple Watch app on iPhone, it’s even easier to customize watch faces and discover third-party apps.

Apple Watch Lineup
Apple Watch Series 2 is available with all the new fitness and health capabilities in lightweight aluminum or stainless steel cases, paired with a wide variety of gorgeous new band colors.

Apple Watch Series 1 is available in lightweight aluminum and combines the new powerful dual-core processor and GPU with all the incredible features of the original Apple Watch, making it up to 50 percent faster and available to even more customers, starting at just $269 (US).

Apple Watch Edition™ now comes in a beautiful ceramic, that embodies craftsmanship with a lustrous white case and all the incredible features of Apple Watch Series 2. Ceramic is one of the hardest materials in the world — more than four times harder than stainless steel — with a beautiful, white, pearl-like finish, making Apple Watch Edition extremely scratch-resistant.

Pricing & Availability 

  • Apple Watch is available in two different case sizes, 38 mm and 42 mm. Apple Watch Series 1 will be available in gold, rose gold, silver or space gray aluminum cases paired with a Sport Band and starts at just $269 (US); Apple Watch Series 2 will be available in gold, rose gold, silver or space gray aluminum, or silver or space black stainless steel cases paired with a wide variety of bands starting at $369 (US); and the new ceramic Apple Watch Edition starts at $1249 (US) from Apple.com, Apple Stores and select Apple Authorized Resellers and carriers. For local availability, visit locate.apple.com. Apple Watch Nike+ starts at $369 (US) and Apple Watch Hermès starts at $1149 (US).
  • All-new Apple Watch Band Kits in gorgeous new colors are available, beginning today.
  • Customers will be able to order Apple Watch Series 1, Apple Watch Series 2 and Apple Watch Edition beginning Friday, September 9, with availability beginning Friday, September 16, in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, UAE, the UK and the US.
  • Apple Watch Nike+ will be available to order on Apple.com beginning Friday, September 9, with availability in late October, in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, UAE, the UK and the US.
  • Apple Watch Hermès will be available beginning Friday, September 23 in Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Macau, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, UAE, the UK and the US.
  • Apple Watch Series 1, Apple Watch Series 2 and Apple Watch Edition will be available beginning Friday, September 23 in Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Cayman Islands, Croatia, Czech Republic, El Salvador, Greece, Guam, Hungary, Jersey, Kuwait, Macau, Monaco, Poland, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia and the US Virgin Islands.
  • Apple Watch Series 1, Apple Watch Series 2 and Apple Watch Edition will be available beginning Friday, October 7 in India and Mexico.
  • Apple Watch Series 2 requires iPhone 5 or later running iOS 10 or later. watchOS 3 and iOS 10 will be available beginning Tuesday, September 13 as a free software update. Some features are not available in all regions or all languages.
  • Every customer who buys Apple Watch from Apple will be offered free Personal Setup, in-store or online,** to help set up and personalize their new Apple Watch with calendars, notifications, apps and more.
  • Anyone who wants to learn more about Apple Watch or watchOS 3 can register for the free workshops offered at every Apple Store®.

Master of Orion Review (2016)

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In 1993, MicroProse and Simtex shoved the turn-based strategy genre on its ear with the release of Master of Orion. Putting players in control of a massive galactic empire, the game had an extremely high replayability factor and fun gameplay. As a testament to this, the original Master of Orion is still enjoyed by many gamers to this day thanks to DOS emulators. In 1996, MicroProse and Simtex released Master of Orion II: Battle at Antares, once again raising the bar for strategy games. While Master of Orion III met with a controversial release, the Master of Orion IP looked to be forgotten by MicroProse (and all the issues that company had) until it was purchased by Wargaming.net. Wargaming, known for their online multiplayer tank game, World of Tanks, seemed an odd choice for this IP. Then I saw the game in a very early stage several Electronic Entertainment Expos (E3) ago and knew it was in good hands. Today, a new chapter in the Master of Orion saga has been released and once again it is time to eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate!

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Master of Orion 2016 begins by allowing players several options in setting up their game. Options taken from recent strategy titles as well as the original Master of Orion. You can select available victory types, galaxy and race options, and a whole lot more. Whatever kind of strategy gamer you are – whether you prefer slow and plodding games that span thousands of turns or quick skirmish style races to power, Master of Orion 2016 will have some options that work for you.

Playing Master of Orion 2016 features a user interface that is super easy to navigate and, if you have played ANY space strategy games like this since the original Master of Orion in 1993, you will figure it out even without the help of instructions or tutorials. For those of you who cannot figure the UI out for some reason, there are in-game tutorials available for the newbie Emperors out there.

Designing your warships has been streamlined in a very intuitive manner. Each race starts with a basic set of ships and, based on your research choices, you will gain access to others. When a new technology is discovered, windows will pop up allowing you to auto-upgrade your existing ship blueprints as well as upgrade any ships around your colonies (for a price). The AI is fairly good at integrating this new tech into the existing designs and, in the early game, I relied on the basic ship upgrade system a lot. It helps the flow of the game greatly. Once I gained some technological power, I began my hobby of building custom ship types. The ship designer is very similar to the ones found in Master of Orion and Master of Orion II: Battle at Antares. Again, Wargaming has done a lot to help both veterans and newbies to the series figure things out and they deserve much praise for this. A lot of this praise could be directed to the developer Wargaming put in-charge of development: NGD Studios, which employed some of the series’ initial development team from 1993!

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Diplomacy is back and, once again, a big path to glory for those more diplomatic races out there. Just be warned, if negotiations turn sour, you could end up talking your empire into war! The shadowy side of the diplomacy coin is also back: Spying! While the Darloks are the games best race at performing espionage, most species can engage in it in some for or another. At the very least, you should assign your agents to counter-espionage duties! This time around, you assign one agent per colony world (friendly or other). Once that agent has arrived, you can assign them a mission to perform. Such missions range from the previously-mentioned counter-espionage all the way to inciting a revolution on an enemy world!

The one aspect of the game I wish could be different was the tactical combat. In Master of Orion and Master of Orion II: Battle at Antares, the combat was played out in turn-based fashion. Each ship had an initiative rating which would determine the order it got to act. This turn-based gameplay lent itself to some seriously-cool tactical possibilities. In Master of Orion 2016, the combat takes place in real-time with the option to pause and assign orders. This streamlining of the combat system doesn’t give the player as much micromanaging potential to command his or her fleets into the fray. It is still fun and the pretty visuals give you some nice stuff to look at, but that core turn-based mechanic is missing and I am feeling that loss.

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The thing that I missed second-most in Master of Orion 2016 was the lack of a galactic senate. That gameplay mechanic was something that Master of Orion II: Battle at Antares had and it could be expanded to add a lot to the universe at large. Maybe if Wargaming creates a sequel, that mechanic will be added to the mix?

Overall, Master of Orion 2016 is a really fun 4X strategy game worthy of the Master of Orion name. While it does suffer some issues from time to time, at the end of your term as Emperor you will not feel letdown at all. Personally, I am enjoying playing game sessions ad nauseam, trying out the various galaxy and race options. Wargaming and NGD Studios have done a great job!

Master of Orion 2016 Review Score
Overall Score (out of 5)www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com

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HTC VIVE Review

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Recently, we got the chance to take a look at the HTC Vive virtual reality headset for a three week test run. With quite a few virtual reality headset options out on the market right now, we were interested in finding out what exactly sets the HTC Vive apart from the rest. Does the HTC Vive pull ahead of the competition or is it just one of the crowd? Read on and find out!

Housed in very thorough packaging, we removed all of the components of the HTC Vive VR system. Upon seeing the small USB pass-through box, two sensors, and all the cabling, we were worried as it looked quite complicated. Thankfully, setting up the HTC Vive is anything BUT complicated thanks to its setup software, which literally walks you, step-by-step, through what to connect where and when to do it.

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The two sensors, or “lighthouses”, get mounted above the play area in opposite corners of the space (wall screws and drywall anchors are included). They only need to be plugged into a wall outlet via two included adapters. They do not need a wired connection to your computer to function, which is great! They do include an optional sync cable which allows to you connect the sensors together in spaces where line of sight is an issue (they need LoS with each other to sync up their sensor data), but we didn’t need to go this route.

One VERY smart thing that HTC has included in the HTC Vive system is a nifty pass-through box. Unlike other VR systems on the market, which requires the user to plug everything into the USB 3.0 ports on the back of the PC, this pass-through acts as a middle man of sorts. It plugs into the appropriate ports on the back of your PC then your HTC Vive plugs into the pass-through box. It’s a small thing, but also VERY important for increased ease of use.

Finishing setup, we powered everything up and Steam VR started automatically (I LOVE the integration with Steam). There is a separate HTC Vive environment but the integration with Steam is where it’s at for this gamer. Steam will run a first-time room setup application that allows you to setup your play area and style. In this, the HTC Vive can be configured for sitting/standing or room scale modes.

Sitting/standing is what most VR headsets do these days – but they Vive leaps ahead of the pack with room scale mode. In this mode, you are able to walk around a play area and more immersively interact with your virtual environment. The play area can be pretty large, and my 6ft x 6ft room was actually about the minimum size for the setup process.

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After setup, I decided to start up some VR titles that I had previously downloaded via Steam. The first was Trials on Tatooine, a Star Wars themed VR demo. In the demo, you have to do some maintenance on the Millennium Falcon and even get to use a lightsaber to deflect blaster bolts. Using the two motion controllers to manipulate objects in VR space is simply outstanding. The feedback built into the controllers do a great job of syncing up with your virtual input to give your brain the impression of “hitting” a VR object.

The moment I ignited the lightsaber was one I shall never forget. Ever since I saw the original Star Wars film, I wondered what it would be like to wield one of the fabled weapons of the Jedi. Holding the saber in my hand and rotating it in front of my face, it felt like I was holding it for real. The sense of scale and presence are perfect. I also discovered that I apparently have NO Force Sensitivity whatsoever! I can’t deflect blaster bolts to save my life. I was more like Finn in The Force Awakens. But, I digress…

Now, a lot of the motion controller functionality has to do with how well the application or game has applied it but, for a developer worth their salt, these motion controllers are awesome and are truly a revolution in gaming.

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One thing that should be noted is that the HTC Vive does not come with an integrated headset for audio. However, it does have an audio jack on the Vive unit itself that you can plug your headphones into. The nice part of this is that you can choose whatever headphones you like. HTC does include some simple earbuds in the box that you can use if you like, but they blocked out a lot of the ambient noise and I personally like hearing what’s going on around me while I am in the VR space.

Due to the increased comfort padding around the HTC Vive, there appears to be a slightly narrower field of view when compared to the Oculus Rift. Despite this, I actually found the visual clarity of the HTC Vive to be better than that of the Rift’s. Adjusting the width of the lenses that the wearer looks through is done by a digital rotary knob. This adjustment system is very easy to use and extremely precise (with an onscreen indicator) – as opposed to the Rift’s slider control which, while functional, gives no on-screen indication of current position.

While my experience with the HTC Vive was amazing, there were a couple issues that are worth noting which you might encounter when you use it. The first was the occasional “jittering” of my point of view when I skirted around the outskirts of my play area. It was as though one of the sensors was losing sight of me, causing the issue. Gamers with larger play areas shouldn’t experience this as much.

The second issue to be aware of is one of cable management. The cables coming from the HTC Vive are thick and rugged, but you will undoubtedly end up stepping on them and having to scoot them out of the way with your feet while walking around your room. There are some third part cable rigs that you can buy, but I haven’t had the chance to check them out yet.

The HTC Vive is the only choice you should consider if you are in the market for a good virtual reality headset right now.  It has an extremely high immersion factor thanks to its room scale play and excellent motion controllers while also boasting great visual clarity. The HTC Vive retails for $799, which is very economical when compared to the Oculus Rift (which does NOT include motion controllers and only has one sensor). The HTC Vive gaming experience has to be seen to be believed, and I can’t wait for more AAA developers to start putting out games for it. Fallout 4 and Skyrim for HTC Vive can’t get here fast enough! We give the HTC Vive a 5 out of 5 and our “Seal of Excellence”.

Order an HTC Vive Here

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The Bunker Experience Escape Room Review

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We have been to a number of escape rooms, but The Bunker Experience in Pasadena, CA has the coolest setting of any of them we’ve been to thus far. Set in a 100 year old bank building basement, The Bunker Experience tasks its guests with getting out of the titular bunker and to a safe center somewhere in the post-apocalyptic wasteland. This old basement makes the perfect bunker and everything feels authentic to the world it is supposed to exist in. Guests may enter The Bunker Experience in groups of 2 to 12 people, with tickets costing $30 dollars each.

Story is essential to The Bunker Experience, but you may not be aware of it on your first go-through. The creator of The Bunker Experience originally intended the IP to take the form of a web series before it became an escape room, and this episodic mentality will persist much to the benefit of guests. They are planning to add new “chapters” or “episodes” as time goes on, allowing guests to continue the story of their survivor group throughout the wasteland. A lot of credit must be given to the actors populating The Bunker Experience. They are all in-character, complete with makeup applications and full costumes.

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One of the coolest things about The Bunker Experience is that it also features a short walk-through dark maze similar to a haunted house. What’s more, they are even adding a special Halloween event to the experience for the Fall season! We are not quite sure what this Halloween event will entail, but we were told it would be very scary and feature lots of monsters.

Despite its awesome location, story, and committed actors, The Bunker Experience is not the most challenging escape room we have encountered. You are given 45 minutes (instead of the usual hour) to escape from the bunker and make it to the safe zone and our group made it out with time to spare. The challenge isn’t easy by any means, but it also isn’t too hard. It makes for a great first escape room for someone who has never been to one before but can also offer enough challenge and ambiance for veteran escape room challengers. Also, the end of the experience wasn’t very well-defined. It took us a few seconds to realize what happened when we finished it. I hope they can denote “the end” a little more clearly in the future of this chapter of The Bunker Experience saga.

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Overall, The Bunker Experience is a lot of fun, and features a terrific environment for an escape room and maze. Even though the larger story was a bit lost on us because we were only looking at the very first part of the saga, the idea of adding more “chapters” to survive is pretty revolutionary in the escape room marketplace.

Also, I can’t wait to see how they amp up the terror with a haunted house/scare zone during the Halloween season! By the way, tickets for the Halloween event are also on sale now!

You can book your party’s escape at The Bunker Experience’s official website.

Watch Dogs 2 Online Experience Trailer

COLOGNE, GERMANY — August 17, 2016 Today at Gamescom, Ubisoft® unveiled the new Bounty Hunter mode for WATCH_DOGS® 2, the upcoming installment in the blockbuster WATCH_DOGS franchise. Bounty Hunter enriches the online component of WATCH_DOGS 2 which is seamlessly integrated with the single player experience.

A new approach to online play in WATCH_DOGS 2, the Bounty Hunter mode is tied to the police heat system and playable by two to four players. When a player creates too much chaos in the single player open world experience and is pursued by the police, the conflict may trigger a Bounty Hunter PVP event pitting the target against up to three rival hunter players who seamlessly join the pursuit and try to neutralize the target. Additionally, players can manually trigger a bounty on themselves using the Contacts app on Marcus’ in-game phone.

Another online mode players can experience is Hacking Invasion, a fan-favorite from the original WATCH_DOGS, the objective of this PVP mode is to download data from a target player while remaining undetected. Finally, Online Co-op allows two players to team up seamlessly and lets them explore the San Francisco Bay Area or participate in cooperative missions. Also in co-op, players can also participate in Hacking Invasion and Bounty Hunter activities, adding even more depth and excitement to their seamless online experience.

In WATCH_DOGS 2, hacking is the ultimate weapon, and players can not only hack into the city’s infrastructure, but also every person and any connected device they possess, to trigger unpredictable chains of events. With the ability to take control of drones, cars, cranes, security robots and much more at their disposal, players can choose whether to use stealth hacking to complete missions without killing a single enemy or go guns blazing for a more ferocious approach.

WATCH_DOGS 2 will release on November 15, 2016 for the PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system, Xbox One and Windows PC. All PlayStation®4 players will be granted a 30-day exclusive access to all the post launch downloadable content.

For more information on WATCH_DOGS 2, please visit watchdogs.com.

To learn more about other Ubisoft games, please visit ubiblog.com.

Master of Orion Gets Official Release Date

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August 11, 2016WG Labs is honored to announce that Master of Orion is set for global launch and cosmic domination on August 25, 2016. The legendary game of interstellar conquest is reborn and ready for both new gamers and hard-core players of the original series. After a successful Early Access period, where player feedback was integral in shaping the game, WG Labs releases this anticipated 4X title (eXplore, eXpand, eXterminate, eXploit), prompting all to answer the call and “Conquer the Stars”.

“The journey for Master of Orion’s reboot has been an amazing one, and now we’ve approached our destination,” said Jacob Beucler, Publishing Product Director, Master of Orion. “Along for the ride was the Master of Orion community, sharing their thoughts and guiding us toward an amazing Master of Orion experience for the new age!”

As an additional bonus, all who purchase Master of Orion will receive a free copy of the 1997 RTS classic, Total Annihilation. To get this classic title, created by Chris Taylor and Ron Gilbert, just link the game to a new (or existing) Wargaming account: click “Options” in the Master of Orion Main Menu and follow the prompts from the “Wargaming.net Account” button. With just a few clicks, the epic RTS classic is ready to play.

The Master of Orion series made its debut in the mid-1990s, defining the 4X video game genre and setting the standard for all future strategy games. Now, WG Labs’ Master of Orion will deliver the best elements of the original series while bringing a new level of gameplay experience for the modern gamer. Battle the ten classic races of aliens from the original series, voiced by legendary talents from sci-fi and video games such as Mark Hamill (Star Wars), Michael Dorn (Star Trek: The Next Generation) and Alan Tudyk (Firefly). Engage in real-time tactical battles fully realized with AAA graphics. Explore numerous paths to victory as you work your way across the galaxy to conquer Orion.

As of August 25, the Master of Orion standard edition will be available for $29.99, delivering all of the tactics and strategy of the original series. The Master of Orion Collector’s Edition is also available for $49.99, featuring a detailed digital art book, a full orchestral soundtrack by the original Master of Orion composer, retro pixel ships skins, and an exclusive new race for Collector’s Edition holders: the Terran Khanate.

Both versions of Master of Orion are available for immediate purchase here:

For more information on Master of Orion visit: