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By Jessica Brown On 23 Sep, 2017 At 10:08 PM | Categorized As Featured, PC Games, PlayStation, Reviews | With 0 Comments

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  • TITLE: XING: The Land Beyond
  • DEVELOPER: White Lotus Interactive
  • PUBLISHER: White Lotus Interactive
  • GENRE: Adventure
  • PLATFORM: PC (Steam); Also on PS4
  • RELEASE DATE: September 21, 2017

XING: The Land Beyond is a first-person, VR-compatible adventure game from White Lotus Interactive available for the PC and PlayStation 4. It’s a non-combat, exploration-focused game that also features various puzzles that will need to be overcome.

XING (pronounced “Zing” according to the developer) puts players in the role of a character as they enter the afterlife. Entering a realm somewhere between life and death, the player will help the Guardian free the spirits of those souls who are trapped and unable to fully move on. Along the way, they will find clues about themselves, hopefully discover who they are and why they are here.

The journey begins with what seems to be your death, dropping you in a bright white space between realms. Venturing through the open door before you will take you to a hub area – a rocky, forested island floating high above the clouds. Here you’ll meet a guardian spirit who says it is the only true living entity in this realm and who sends you on your way. From here, you’ll venture to other realms that were once home to spirits who now need your help in setting them free. While you will be mostly on your own in these different areas, the spirits will guide you with cryptic clues and bits of wisdom and you’ll encounter their story told through pieces of scattered poetry.

In XING, the game is all about the journey, and it’s a journey that you can enjoy at your own pace. There are no entities that are out to destroy you and there isn’t anything that you’ll need to kill along the way. Also, since you are already dead, death is no longer an obstacle. Even if you miss a precise jump that you need to make, you’ll simply phase out and reappear near where you failed, free to try again as many times as you need. This doesn’t mean that the game is easy though, but what it does succeed in doing is taking away any sense of immediacy that might otherwise cause you stress. Rather than having to worry about reaching a certain goal within a set amount of time, you’ll instead be able to take your time seeing the sights, exploring every nook and cranny, and solving a few puzzles along the way. Exploration is certainly rewarded and is also highly enjoyable.

While I certainly do enjoy puzzle games, I do worry about games reaching a point where their puzzles become too cryptic and frustrating to solve. For me, it’s all about balance: I love having a solid level of difficulty when it comes to figuring things out, but I don’t want something to become so difficult as to be angering and off-putting. There’s always that “A-ha!” moment that should come with solving a particularly stumping situation and the hope is that that moment and feeling will pay off in the end. White Lotus Interactive seems to be very keen on my type of perspective because they ultimately have done a good job making the puzzles approachable while not holding your hand much along the way.

In the island realm, there’s a puzzle near the end of your journey that involves a deep canyon that will need to be crossed at various points that has a rotating mechanism at its center with clock hands serving as a metallic bridge. Various switch pedestals are at different spots around the canyon and the key lies in using them to rotate the hands to certain positions. By itself, this would take a little bit of doing, but XING adds a deeper mechanic into the mix: some switches only affect the clock hands during the day while others don’t take effect until nighttime. In order to get to certain locations, you’ll have to figure out which switches to activate for the day as well as the night and then make use of a special ability to change the time of day (which can only be done at certain locations). In short, you’ll have to mentally plan out your journey a couple steps ahead of time in order to take into account the positions the hands will be at during the day and the night as well as where you will be when you can toggle the time of day. The final problem the game will face you with in this area is that the door you’ll need to open at the end can only be opened during the night.

If you haven’t guessed it yet, the aforementioned realm has a theme to it: time. In this case, the theme is presented through an ability to change between day and night – an ability you’ll have to master in order to solve problems and make your way around the island. Some platforms or objects will only appear during the day or night and certain doors can also only be opened at certain times. The island’s final puzzle takes everything you’ve learned up until that point and combines it into a new challenge. Along the way, you learn the story of the spirit associated with the island and her journey through isolation and self-affirmation.

Each realm you visit contains a similar thematic approach. Along your journey you’ll come to master time, the elements, and much more. All of these things will have to be harnessed to solve a variety of unique puzzles and explore mysterious, breathtaking worlds.

It’s apparent that White Lotus Interactive has taken a good deal of inspiration from the much-loved Myst series, and XING: The Land Beyond feels like a carefully-crafted love letter to the franchise. However, XING may take some inspirations from Myst, but it most certainly is a worthy title in its own right. The story is extremely unique, yet equally as mysterious. The settings are breathtaking and beg to be explored. And the journey itself is one that will draw you in and keep you wanting more.

The game is aesthetically beautiful and yet it performs quite well. There are a variety of settings that you can toy with in the PC version to tailor the experience to your system’s specific capabilities. For me, playing the game at 4K, everything was beautiful and handled well. Yet, for a game of this nature, I find that ambiance and sound-quality are just as important as visuals, and thankfully this game delivers not just in the quality of its environmental sounds but also in its voice-acting (narrated by the various spirits you’re trying to free) as well as its exceptional soundtrack. I sincerely hope the game’s OST is made available as a separate, reasonable purchase sometime in the near future.

My copy of XING is for the PC, yet I have no doubt that the game will be a very positive experience on the PlayStation 4 as well. With the game also being VR-compatible, it should also make for a fun, immersive journey for those that wish to play it that way.

In the end, XING: The Land Beyond is an exceptional, beautiful adventure game that will draw you in and stay with you for quite some time.

ADDITIONAL SCREENS (Click for 4K):

By Jessica Brown On 14 Sep, 2017 At 08:06 PM | Categorized As Featured, PC Games, Reviews, ROG News | With 0 Comments

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  • Title:  “Ancient Frontier”
  • Developer: Fair Weather Studios, LLC
  • Publisher: Fair Weather Studios, LLC
  • Genre: Sci-Fi Turn-Based Strategy
  • Platform: PC (Steam)
  • Release Date: September 21, 2017

I’m going to be very honest: turn-based strategy games, while enjoyable, are not my main area of expertise. While I certainly enjoy strategy games from time to time, they just aren’t games that I often gravitate towards and so it’s been a fair bit of time since I’ve delved deeply into one. Perhaps that’s a good thing, though, because in the case of this game it allows me to offer a pretty objective review.

At first, I wasn’t sure what to think of Ancient Frontier. I knew absolutely nothing about it and at first, when hearing the title, I thought this was going to be some sort of medieval fantasy strategy title. Well, it turns out I was quite wrong, though I think this was a very pleasant surprise.

Ancient Frontier is a science-fiction turn-based strategy title from indie developer Fair Weather Studios and is a sequel to their 2016 arcade shooter Bladestar. The game is set sometime in the distant future, long after humans managed to colonize Mars and Earth has since been lost to a catastrophic destruction (the nature of which I’ve yet to discover so far). Humans have colonized many different worlds and star systems by the time the game takes place, though the events focus on a distant region of space known primarily as “the Frontier.” This region lacks any inhabitable planets or moons but is sustained by many different starbases and mining colonies that have come out there to mine its rich mineral and energy deposits. At the offset of their campaign, players will have to choose whether they want to play as an officer in the Federation Navy or as a member of the Alliance with the story and available ships varying considerably.

The core game consists of a cinematic story (with enjoyable voice acting) presented a series of missions that the player will need to complete. Missions are divided into three types: Story, Bounty, and Simulator Missions. Story missions are, of course, the way to progress through the main events of the game. However, between each of the major story missions, you’ll have the opportunity to participate in either Bounties or Simulator runs. Bounties are essentially side-stories where you’ll participate in one of a variety of scenarios with the ability to gain experience and various resources that you’ll need to purchase or upgrade existing ships as well as research new utilities or abilities. Simulator runs will only gain your units (crew) experience points but won’t yield any resources. On the other hand, though, simulator missions don’t present any true risk (units lost during these runs will return during normal play). Bounties, though, will result in permanent loss of any units that get destroyed during them (depending on your chosen difficulty setting).

Each mission will have a different goal in mind but ultimately is presented in a uniform fashion. Players will have their units placed on a large grid that consists of hexagonal spaces. Your movement does, of course, depend on unit type. Some units will only get one move (though they may be able to traverse several spaces at once) while others may get several. The “fog of war” prevents you from seeing too far into the distance at first as well, but this is remedied through mapping out each area. The “fog” is explained as being the limit of your current long-range sensors, so you’re forced to press into an area to map it, reveal hidden resources or anomalies, and discover enemy units. The sensor range, like most other stats of a unit, can be improved with utilities you can research and purchase with resources (or salvage from destroyed enemies).

Overall, success will heavily depend on pacing as in most turn-based titles. Since each unit will get a certain number of turns as well as a certain number of actions (attack or skills), careful planning needs to go into whether you’ll want to go on an all-out assault against an enemy unit or do a hit-and-run type of maneuver (keeping in mind that debris fields and other similar things provide cover during combat). Obstacles also exist that can turn a battle very quickly, such as minefields on some maps that will cause incredible damage to any unit that ends their turn on an adjacent hex space. Optional objectives are present on each map too that will yield additional rewards if they are completed before the main objective.

The game has a fairly high level of difficulty, even if played on the Normal setting. Under normal conditions, units that are destroyed during a mission will be permanently lost, which adds to the immediacy of using effective strategies. Since resources are finite (you only have a certain number of optional deployments you can embark on), suffering too many lost units will eventually leave you with a fleet that won’t be sufficient for advancing the story. Thankfully, if that level of hardcore realism isn’t quite your thing, you can play on an easier setting that will keep the mission difficulty intact while allowing defeated units to return after completion (though any unit defeated in combat won’t gain any experience). This will allow more casual players to be able to enjoy the game without having to feel like they won’t be able to enjoy the story progression due to failed mission attempts.

Visually, the game looks quite nice. Although it typically is viewed from a rather zoomed-out perspective, you can easily rotate the camera and zoom in a decent amount to see the details in the environment and on your (and enemy) ships. As mentioned earlier, the voice-acting in the game is actually quite enjoyable, though I did find that the written dialogue could have used a little more polish (which may be addressed by the time of release). However, one thing I was really impressed with was the game’s soundtrack. There are several memorable tunes (I particularly liked the song that plays in between missions) and I really hope the developer makes the OST available as an optional purchase on Steam.

Overall, if you’re a fan of turn-based strategy titles or if you enjoy a good sci-fi narrative, Ancient Frontier is certainly worth giving a good, hard look. While it may not initially appeal to everyone (especially if you’re not generally into strategy games), I found the game to be very approachable. Once I gave it a chance I easily found myself spending two solid hours in a sitting digging deep into the game, wanting to shore up my fleet and press on in the main campaign to see where the story was going. That, I think, is a solid indicator that a game is a worthwhile investment.

ADDITIONAL SCREENSHOTS (Click for 4K):

 

A review key was provided by the developer.

By Sean Jacobs On 16 Mar, 2014 At 05:37 AM | Categorized As International News, Movie News, ROG News, ROG Tech | With 0 Comments

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sony archival_disc

AD Blu-Ray Part Deux

On March 10th Sony released their newest product for personal and professional use:  the  “Archival Disc.” Sony collaborated with Panasonic to create the newest Blu-Ray, expanding the digital data storage, going into the not too distant future. Sony explained that:

“Both Sony and Panasonic aim to launch systems with a recording capacity of 300 GB per disc from summer 2015, onwards. In addition, both companies plan to leverage their respective technologies to further expand the recording capacity per disc to 500 GB and 1 TB.” 

Whoa 1TB this must be meant for the influx of 4k Televisions soon to rush into our living rooms. We all see the writings on the wall and its great to see that Sony, while going through a lot of company wide restructuring, are keeping a eye on future markets.

Here are some specs and charts provided by Sony via their website for all our Tech Heads:

Key Archival Disc specifications

Disc size (type) 300 GB (write-once)
Optical parameter Wavelength ?=405 nm (nanometers), Numerical Aperture NA=0.85
Disc structure Double-sided Disc (3 layers/side), Land and Groove Format
Track pitch 0.225?m (micrometers)
Data bit length 79.5nm (nanometers)
Error correction method Reed-Solomon Code

AD storage graph