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I was disappointed in last year’s Ascension offering, Rise of Vigil. The energy/treasure mechanic made the set too insular when applied to older releases, and getting the most treasures seemed to have a direct correlation to winning more often than not. When its expansion, Darkness Unleashed, was released, my local store had difficulty getting a copy in and yet I made no effort to pick it up elsewhere. I just didn’t care for more of that kind of gameplay, so I let it slide by.

This year’s new set, Realms Unraveled, feels more like the Ascension I’ve come to love, to the point where it almost feels as basic as the original release, Chronicle of the Godslayer. Of course it isn’t quite that simple, thanks to some new tricks I’ll get to in a minute, but a lot of the extra additions from previous sets are nowhere to be found. Unfortunately that includes Trophy Monsters and Events, two changes I enjoyed, but you can’t have everything. READ MORE

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The Oddworld series has returned to its roots with New ‘n’ Tasty. Original 1997 classic Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee has been fully remade for new platforms, and returns to Abe’s original adventure as he frees his fellow workers. Abe is a janitor at RuptureFarms, a meat processing plant that is responsible for driving the creatures providing the meat for its products into extinction. Having run out of animals to harvest, the company’s newest scheme is to turn Abe’s species into its next product. Abe overhears those plans, and realizes he must escape from RuptureFarms as the game begins. READ MORE

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Snackbar Games’ column carousel wraps up with Graham Russell taking a break from Multitap and Gaijin Guide to pen this edition of New Game+.

When faced with taking the baton from Andrew for a week and delving into the deeper sorts of topics in game design, I knew I had to write something about menus, because the topic is a very crucial one to everything I love. Set aside for a moment my graphic design day job, too: menu systems and general interface design can make or break local multiplayer experiences, as new players need to be able to dive in immediately, and they’re also crucial to playing import games, as if it’s done right, you know what each button and item does without having to understand any of the language. But even outside of those contexts, it’s a crucial thing, because the easiest way to keep people from enjoying a fundamentally good game is to frustrate them before they can learn the ropes. READ MORE

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Is a better digital replication of the physical Magic: the Gathering experience a better digital Magic: the Gathering experience? That’s the quandary facing the newest installment of Wizards of the Coast’s Duels of the Planeswalkers standalone game series, as it comes closer and closer to feeling like Magic Online under heavy competition and pressure from games like Hearthstone. READ MORE

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In From Pixels to Polygons, we examine classic game franchises that have survived the long transition from the 8- or 16-bit era to the current console generation. This time, Chris Dominowski and Jeff deSolla take on Namco’s long-running Tales series of JRPGs.

While the West prefers its action-RPGs to be open-world, narrative-light romps that emphasize freedom, Japan has another take, and no series embodies these goals quite like the Tales series. From its SNES debut to the most recent releases, the series has made many adjustments to try to find its footing in a shifting JRPG landscape. READ MORE

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As part of Snackbar Games’ July column shuffle, Gaming Unplugged‘s Chris Ingersoll uses his local multiplayer knowledge for something more digital in this Multitap entry.

When Graham discussed the best options for handheld local multiplayer experiences, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate was mentioned as being “by far the deepest.” Well, thanks to our little feature column shake-up experiment, I’m here to get into that deepness a little more. You can consider this my sixth Hunter’s Notes if you want, although I’ll be taking a more traditional approach to writing for this one. READ MORE

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We all have one (or more): a game that we know isn’t very good, but we love it anyway. Maybe it evokes memories of a happy summer with friends, maybe there’s one shining jewel that overshadows the surrounding desert, or maybe all of the bad comes together in an amazing, swirling maelstrom and manages to make something better than the sum of all its substandard parts. These are a few of our games that aren’t great, but we love them all the same.

Justin Last: The Bureau: XCOM Declassified

Why it’s not great: The story is all over the place, characters are only fleshed out immediately before a “powerful” moment and numerous things are left unexplained. Why is there not a push to get more people chunky power bracelets like Carter’s? How does everybody know to call the aliens by the species name upon first contact? Where do all of those turrets come from, and why is my engineer only smart enough to make them after I’ve unlocked the skill to yell “build a laser turret over there!” at him? READ MORE

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It’s a column shake-up! Andrew Passafiume steps away from New Game+ for a week to explore his emotions in Serotonin.

I’m a sucker for good mystery novels, especially pulpy noir stories. I grew up reading Joan Lowery Nixon and eventually graduated to the big leagues: Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain and many others. This is why I found myself eagerly anticipating the release of Murdered: Soul Suspect. I wasn’t optimistic about it, but it gave me the vibe of a cult classic in the making.

Playing through it made me realize why mysteries in games are even more satisfying than novels or films. Those stories are about the mystery, sure, but you are only a mere witness. Games, such as Murdered, make the act of solving these mysteries compelling in and of themselves. Sure, you want to know what’s really going on, but being tasked with figuring it out on your own is what makes the mystery truly shine.

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On this episode, Andrew and Henry join Graham and friends to check out the wacky puzzle mash-up madness that is Puyo Puyo Tetris! Plus: game impressions and news chat.

To watch the show and chat with us live, check out this page every other Thursday at 8 p.m. Eastern and follow us on Twitter for special streams.

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I want to like Abyss Odyssey. It’s chock-full of concepts that appeal to me, and if you asked me to review the design document instead of the finished product, it’d get top marks. In historical Chile, a warlock has descended into the abyss and taken a nap. That’s fine, as warlocks are weird guys, and they can sleep where they want. The unfortunate thing is that the warlock has a vivid imagination, and the abyss is causing his nightmares to come to life and terrorize the people on the surface. Your job: get to the bottom of the abyss, kill the warlock and save the people of Chile from being gored and eaten by horrible monsters.  READ MORE