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Skylanders Trap Team review: Broccoli Guy's unjust desert

Skylanders' success is borne of equal parts solid game design and marketing savvy. Its central conceit – buy small plastic figurines in order to summon in-game characters – is instantly appealing for kids, and its Gauntlet-styled action-RPG gameplay makes it a guilty pleasure for adults.

The franchise's "toys to life" mantra, despite its potential for audience exploitation, rewards dedicated fans with bonus content and unlockables that mirror the size of their toy collections. There are now hundreds of Skylanders toys to collect, but to date, the series has maintained a delicate balance that ensures a fun experience both for hardcore collectors and for casual fans.

Skylanders Trap Team, the fourth major entry in the series, is the first Skylanders game to upset this balance. Trap Team still offers a fun journey at its core, but longtime fans will be disappointed to find out that they need to purchase several new figures in addition to an expensive starter set in order to explore the game to its fullest.

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Civilization: Beyond Earth before planetfall 10-minute trailer

Image Civilization: Beyond Earth is all set to begin colonizing retail and digital distribution channels on October 24. Here's a deeper look at many of the strategy game's initial features. Key tactic: Don't attack the aliens (at least, not at first)!... Continue Reading

Minecraft: Xbox One Edition blocks shelves in November

A boxed, retail version of Minecraft for Xbox One is slated to hit shelves on November 18 in the US, Microsoft announced today. In-store, Minecraft: Xbox One Edition is $20.

The digital edition of Minecraft hit Xbox One early in September. Those who own Minecraft on Xbox 360 are able to upgrade to the digital Xbox One version for $5 – to be clear, that trade-up system doesn't apply to the retail version.

Microsoft purchased Minecraft studio Mojang for $2.5 billion earlier this month, and Minecraft creator Markus "Notch" Persson announced he'd step away from the company to return to his experimental, Ludum Dare roots.
[Image: Microsoft]

PSN Tuesday: Shadow of Mordor, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax

Today's PlayStation Store update rolls out with a large selection of featured games, marking the digital debuts of Monolith's stealthy action-RPG Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and Atlus' 2D fighter sequel Persona 4 Arena Ultimax.

The PlayStation 4 and PS3 share a number of premiering titles this week, including NIS America's tactical RPG Natural Doctrine, Koei Tecmo's large-scale brawler Warriors Orochi 3, and Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments. Notable Cross-Buy releases include the retro-styled RPG Pier Solar ($14.99) and vibrantly colorful rail shooter Futuridium EP Deluxe ($12.49).

This week also brings a handful of retro arcade compilations to Sony platforms, marking the PSN debuts of featured classics like Pole Position, Mappy, Gaplus, and The Tower of Druaga. Today's five Namco Museum releases are priced at $5.99 apiece.

[Image: Warner Bros]

Hearthstone's first expansion will add more than 100 cards

A forthcoming expansion for Blizzard's mobile and PC CCG Hearthstone will add more than 100 new cards for players to collect, Polygon reports.

Hearthstone's first fully fledged expansion follows up on the recent launch of Curse of Naxxramas, a single-player add-on that introduced new bosses and a handful of exclusive cards. Production director Jason Chayes told Polygon that the expansion's new content will roll out in waves, to preserve the game's pacing and to ensure accessibility for newcomers.

"One of the things that we spend a lot of time talking about is pacing," Chayes said. "Not just the pacing of the game as it is, but pacing of the rollout of new content. We really want to make sure the pacing is great not just for seasoned Hearthstone players but for new players coming into the game too."

Chayes notes that further details regarding Hearthstone's expansion will be announced "very soon."

[Image: Blizzard]

Hackers charged with Xbox One, Valve, Call of Duty data theft

The United States has charged four members of an international hacking ring with stealing up to $200 million in intellectual property and other data from Microsoft, Epic Games, Valve, Zombie Studios and the US Army. The hackers are charged with stealing software related to Xbox Live, Xbox One, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Gears of War 3.

"Specifically, the data cyber-theft allegedly included source code, technical specifications and related information for Microsoft's then-unreleased Xbox One gaming console; intellectual property and proprietary data related to Xbox Live, Microsoft's online multi-player gaming and media-delivery system; Apache helicopter simulator software developed by Zombie Studios for the US Army; a pre-release version of Epic's video game, Gears of War 3; and a pre-release version of Activision's video game, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. The defendants also allegedly conspired to use, share and sell the stolen information," the US Department of Justice says in a press release.

The hacking group used SQL injection and stolen usernames and passwords to break into the targeted companies' networks. The men charged are Nathan Leroux, 20, of Bowie, Maryland; Sanadodeh Nesheiwat, 28, of Washington, New Jersey; David Pokora, 22, of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada; and Austin Alcala, 18, of McCordsville, Indiana. Pokora and Nesheiwat have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit computer fraud and copyright infringement, both scheduled for sentencing in January.

"Pokora's plea is believed to be the first conviction of a foreign-based individual for hacking into US businesses to steal trade secret information," the Department of Justice says. Authorities in Australia have charged an Australian citizen in relation to this conspiracy.
[Image: Microsoft]

SOE devs on EverQuest Next's 'life of consequence'

We've known for a while that SOE is cooking up some sort of emergent AI concoction for EverQuest Next. The company famously partnered with Storybricks last year to bring its fantasy NPCs to life, and a newly released video sheds a bit more light on what exactly that means.

The clip stems from a panel that was originally conducted at this year's SOE Live, which has now been distilled to a more manageable five-minute running time. Click past the cut to find out about EQN's lack of traditional quest hubs and how to make NPCs bow before your mighty axe of authority.

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Tetris feature film will be a 'sci-fi epic'

Feature film production company Threshold Entertainment announced today that it has partnered with The Tetris Company to produce a movie adaptation of the seminal puzzler Tetris.

If you're thinking about how perfectly film could capture the global drama surrounding Tetris' initial licensing, you can stop dreaming right now. The film version of Tetris will instead be a "sci-fi epic," presumably about a heroic L-shaped Tetromino taking on waves of evil T-Polyominos, or something. Little is known about the film at this point, but the concept makes about as much sense as the canned Asteroids project from several years back.

Threshold Entertainment's previous game-to-movie efforts include 1995's Mortal Kombat film and follow-up Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. A release window for Tetris: The Movie has not been set.

[Image: Nintendo / The Cutting Room Floor]

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Pre-order Alien: Isolation digitally, watch it download in terror

Digital pre-orders for Creative Assembly's frightful first-person game Alien: Isolation are now available. Players can put money down in advance of the game's impending launch in one week on Steam, PSN and Xbox Live to pre-download the game and pick up its season pass.

Xbox One players can pre-purchase the game's Nostromo Edition on Microsoft's store, which includes the full game as well as the "Crew Expendable" bonus content. PS4 and PS3 players can scoot over to PSN to pre-order either the Nostromo Edition or the Season Pass bundle, with individual passes available on launch day, October 7. Likewise, the Nostromo Edition as well as the Digital Deluxe Edition are available to pre-purchase on Steam, the latter of which also includes the game's season pass. The $30 season pass give players access to Alien: Isolation's survivor mode map packs.

Destiny State of Service: Week Three

This is State of Service, an ongoing review of the online service of a recently launched game. You can read our scored review of Destiny here.
Tuesday, September 30 | T-minus 9 days until final verdict
Current State of Service:
Good
Summary: Destiny servers have been largely stable, with a couple of hiccups. Bungie closed the "Loot Cave" exploit, though players have already flocked to a new one. An upcoming patch aims to improve the loot system.

Destiny's third week was mostly a smooth one, with only a few isolated server problems. Bungie noted sign-in issues across all platforms on Thursday, September 25, which were resolved quickly. Xbox 360 players ran into similar trouble on Monday, September 29, but these too were quickly rectified. The Joystiq staff encountered no outstanding complications at all last week. Meanwhile, Bungie states that it is still addressing outlying networking issues, reporting that "Bee," "Lion," or "Fly" error codes have been reduced by 50 percent over the last week.

Elsewhere in the galaxy, Bungie put an end to Destiny's infamous "Loot Cave." Undaunted, players immediately latched onto a different Loot Cave. Perhaps in response to the design problems that the Loot Cave represents, Bungie announced that patch 1.0.2 will significantly change the loot system. Namely, Purple Engrams will guarantee Legendary quality items, while Blue Engrams will guarantee Rare or better quality items.

If you encounter any connection problems while playing Destiny, let us know in the comments, or on the Joystiq Twitter or Facebook accounts. Use the hashtag "#sos" and specify your platform, please.

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They sent a poet: Elegy for a Dead World due in early 2015

Elegy for a Dead World, a game that transforms players into British Romantic poets traversing a sci-fi landscape, is due out in early 2015 for PC, Mac and Linux via Steam, developers Dejobaan Games and Popcannibal announced on their Kickstarter page. Beta keys are due out for eligible backers in October (yep, the October that starts tomorrow).

Elegy for a Dead World imagines the cracked, desolate planets of classic Romantic poets Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron and John Keats, and then asks players to explore the worlds' ruins and write about the symbols and archaeology they find. Players can then share the stories they've written with other people on Steam, or upload screenshots of their own tales to make personalized books via print-on-demand sites.

"We created Elegy so that everyone can write," Dejobaan writes. "As you explore, the game helps you create the narrative .... Each world offers multiple sets of prompts, each intended to inspire you to write a different story about it. Elegy might ask you to write a short story about an individual's final days, a song about resignation or a poem about war. In the more advanced levels, you'll sometimes get new information halfway through your story which casts a new light on things and forces you to take your story in a different direction. We like to think of those as puzzles – writing yourself out of a corner, so to speak."
[Images: Warner Bros, Dejobaan/Popcannibal]

Think tank taps Black Ops 2 director for future war insight

To prepare for the wars of the future, political think tank The Atlantic Council has asked Dave Anthony, writer and director of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, to lend his creative abilities.

According to Anthony, he'll be contributing to the "Art of Future Warfare" project, a mass brainstorming session where talented creative types come up with new, never-before-seen ways that America's enemies might attack. As a game developer, Anthony's been doing exactly that for years on the Call of Duty franchise, so it just makes sense that the government would seek his talents in imagining even vaguely plausible attacks.

"Writers, directors and producers and other artists bring to bear observations derived from wholly different experiences in the creative world," the Atlantic Council said in a statement to the Associated Press. "They can ask different kinds of questions that will challenge assumptions and status quo ways of tackling some of today's toughest national security problems."

Get a push, win the belt in WWE 2K15's 'My Career' mode

2K Sports offered details today on WWE 2K15's other career mode, My Career. Much like the mode of the same name in Visual Concepts' NBA 2K series, in My Career, players take a custom wrestler through the career path of a WWE superstar. The mode begins by having players learn the ropes at the Orlando-based WWE Performance Center, eventually headlining WrestleMania and winning the top championship titles in the company.

The mode features seasoned trainer Bill DeMott and general manager Vickie Guerrero, the latter setting matches and giving wrestlers goals to advance their career. As the journey unfolds, wrestlers improve their attributes and unlock new abilities and moves while developing alliances and rivalries with others on the WWE roster. With each decision a player makes in My Career, the crowd's reaction will change and "multiple branching storylines, surprises, twists and turns" will manifest, complimenting the game's other, historical career mode, 2K Showcase. WWE 2K15 will launch October 28 for Xbox 360 and PS3, arriving later on November 18 for PS4 and Xbox One.
[Image: 2K Sports]

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Roller coaster builder Screamride revels in destruction

Image Screamride is aimed at giving players a blank canvas upon which they might construct and ride their ideal rollercoaster, but as this footage shows, the game's most interesting, bombastic moments come when a coaster goes off the rails and smashes through pieces of the background... Continue Reading

Joystiq Streams: Casting a fiery eye on Shadow of Mordor



JOY-STIQ! JOY-STIQ! JOY-STIQ! STREEEEAAAAAMMMMMMMMS! One day, when we're all War Chiefs in Sauron's army of Uruks, that's what they'll chant. From high and low, they'll call our names out, afraid of our endless wrath and prowess in battle!

Then again, it seems like being an Uruk is hard work. You're outside literally all the time, giant pig-wolf things are always trying to eat you, and there is almost always a bearded dude carrying half a sword skulking in the shadows waiting to stab you. Forget it. Joystiq Streams may not be ready for war chiefdom, but we're certainly ready to play Shadow of Mordor for your viewing pleasure.

Starting at 4:00PM EST on Joystiq.com/Twitch, Richard Mitchell (@TheRichardM) will be playing through Mordor's early missions. Alexander Sliwinski (@Sliwinski) and Anthony John Agnello (@ajohnagnello) will be around to talk about the game's subtleties and hang in the chat. Show up early for the pre-show tomfoolery.

Joystiq Streams airs every Tuesday and Thursday at 4:00PM on Joystiq.com/Twitch, but if you want to catch all our streams make sure to follow us on Twitch.

[Images: WBIE]

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The Joystiq Podcast

The Joystiq Podcast

Super Joystiq Podcast 114: Super Smash Bros. 3DS, Shadow of Mordor, Destiny

Latest episode: Friday, September 26th, 2014

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