Expert Opinion on Apple’s Upcoming New iPhone X

Expert Opinion on Apple’s Upcoming New iPhone X

On September 12, 2017 Apple is holding a special event. The company is expected to unveil latest and most mysterious phone in Apple’s iPhone family: the iPhone X. Spoiled earlier in a leak of the upcoming iOS 11, the iPhone X seems to bring some changes to Apple’s highly successful line of phones. While rumours and speculation abound, one expert has weighed in with his opinion on the upcoming release.

Professor Loizos Heracleous is a professor with Warwick Business School and has researched Apple and its quantum strategy. With speculation that the iPhone X will cost approximately $1000 USD Professor Heracleous had the following to say:

“Apple’s introduction of a $1,000 iPhone is consistent with its business strategy of differentiation and exclusivity, targeting the higher end of the market rather than just aiming for a larger base of users. Given that the iPhone accounts for the majority of the company’s revenues and profits and its demand curve is relatively inelastic—i.e. a price change has less effect on sales—this pricing strategy makes sense in terms of revenue and profit growth.”

The new iPhone is aiming to change what defines a premium smartphone. With an expected 3GB of RAM, a new 6-core Apple A11 processor, at least a single 12-megapixel camera on the back with possibility for two and a single 7-megapixel camera on the front, the new iPhone X is shaping up to lead smartphones into a new era.

Alongside impressive technical specs, the iPhone X is also expected to ditch the home button that has been a mainstay of the product line since its initial release. The removal of the home button has lead some users to wonder what will happen to Apple’s fingerprint scanner.

“Apart from removing the home button enabled by a new type of screen on the highest end model, Apple is also continuing to focus on its intense levels of efficiency in production and more broadly at the operational level by using a largely consistent design, operating system, and functions across its different iPhone models,” Heracleous said.

Apple’s special event is expected to start streaming at 1 p.m. on September 12, and can be watched here. A note to anyone wanting to watch, Safari and Edge are the only supported browsers that can be used to view the stream.

Heracleous summed up his final thoughts on the phone by saying, “No move is risk-free, but as things stand, this seems like a courageous move that should turn out positively for the company in terms of performance, and create some distance from competing brands in terms of exclusivity.”

Genesis Alpha One Preview – A Hopeful Liftoff

Genesis Alpha One Preview - A Hopeful Liftoff

Any first-person survival game with a procedurally generated setting that involves space travel is bound to get a suspicious side-eye after the disastrous launch of No Man’s Sky last year. The fanfare and explosive hype behind that game got so out of hand that it led to hardcore players pre-emptively calling it “the last game they’ll ever need”, which only turned what could have been an average—if flawed—space sim into a lightning rod for one of the biggest PR disasters in recent gaming memory. Fortunately, developer Radiation Blue and publisher Team17 seemingly have a much better understanding of how to handle their upcoming title, Genesis Alpha One, pitching it as a combination of roguelike, FPS and base-building in the vein of FTL or the recent XCOM titles.

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Total War: Warhammer 2 Hands On E3 Preview – Lizardmen Vs. High Elves

Total War: Warhammer 2 Hands On E3 Preview - Lizardmen Vs. High Elves

If I were to choose a single game that impressed me the most during my time at E3 2017, it would have to go to Creative Assembly’s second entry into their growing trilogy, Total War: Warhammer 2. The moment the appointment was booked I knew I was in for a treat, and it didn’t disappoint.

The Total War: Warhammer 2 demo started off by showcasing the new map and all four of its distinctive continents, which will be inhabited by all of the new races at launch. At the core of this map lies The Vortex, which is an ancient powerful force that keeps the forces of Chaos at bay. If you were one of the lucky readers to make it all the way through the PC Gaming Show, congratulations on a job well done, then you should already know that this force is destabilizing. This leaves the races of this New World map with quite a conflict. Races like the High Elves want to stabilize The Vortex by performing a ritual to maintain its strength and prolong its effects, while the scaly forces of the Lizardmen want to harness it for their own uses and manipulate the powers of chaos that dwell within.

Total War: Warhammer 2 Hands On E3 Preview - Lizardmen Vs. High Elves

In this demo of Total War: Warhammer 2 players took control of Kroq-gar, a Lizardmen chieftain mounted atop a T-rex like creature known as a Carnosaur. While the map overview displayed other Lizardmen heroes with their own sets of traits and lore, Kroq-gar appealed to me the most with his Jurassic design, tyrant esque aura, and his brutish abilities. Fielded alongside this mighty chieftain were a mix of his loyal saurus and skink followers armed with an assortment of swords and axes. To each side of the ground force was a monstrous beast, one of them being an ancient Stegadon and the other a heavily armored Bastiladon. These monstrous beasts are exactly why the Lizardmen are my favourite race in Warhammer Fantasy. The eclectic mix of massive dinosaurs and flying wyverns makes such an intimidating, but stunning force to behold and control.

The scenario is simple, the High Elves are in control of a Vortex related settlement and are fighting to protect its power. Kroq-gar couldn’t care less for the solemn ideals of these elves and aims to claim the settlement for his clan’s purpose. The odds are immediately stacked in the High Elves favour, with their plentiful forces of blonde pretty boys planted steady on the high ground and their bows aimed directly at my despicably cute lizards.

My first battle of Total War: Warhammer 2 begins with the ground troops rushing to make contact with the Elves warriors, taking the brunt end of the arrow volleys. Next to rush up were the monstrous creatures and Kroq-gar himself. I aimed them towards the archers because their ranks would immediately break off the moment their large armored bodies charged in. While my Lizardmen were tearing through hundreds of Elves I knew that I was taking too many casualties, thankfully reinforcements conveniently arrive in the form of more ground troops and two units of flying Terradons to turn the tide of the battle. Unfortunately, the High Elves also have a monstrous creature of their own to deal with, a Sun Dragon.

This Dragon, let me tell you, it wrecked so many of my troops with its scorching fire breath and long spiky tail. Only with the help of Kroq-gar’s Carnosaur and a charging Stegadon were the Lizardmen finally triumphant in putting this dragon down for good. With morale at an all-time low for the High Elves, the pretty boys quickly scatter off into the jungle while the Lizardmen enjoy the spoils of war with a close victory.

Total War: Warhammer 2 Hands On E3 Preview - Lizardmen Vs. High Elves 2

I loved every moment of my short demo with Total War: Warhammer 2, the graphics have taken a step up, the units have more battle animations to breath more life into each battle and my favourite race makes its grand appearance as one of the key four races to play as. Thankfully I won’t have to wait too long to conquer this new world with legions of monstrous lizards because Total War: Warhammer 2 releases September 28 for PC. Here’s to hoping that the Skaven are the last race to be revealed.

House of Cards Meets Civilization in Urban Empire Preview

House of Cards Meets Civilization in Urban Empire Preview

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City builders are gigantic time vampires, but in a good way. It’s like every time I pop in SimCity or Sid Meier’s Civilization, that’s my entire day. While they are some of the most intricate games on the planet that require the player to think 15 steps ahead at any point during a playthrough, the idea that a city ruler has no one to answer to and is the sole ruler of a city-state always felt disingenuous. Of course my city turned out great, I didn’t have anyone opposing me. I’m not here to start a debate on whether municipal politics is interesting or not, but unless you’re playing the role of dictator, there are a lot of politics involved in the smallest details of everyday life when it comes to running a city. That’s why Kalypso Media’s Urban Empire is so interesting to me. It takes all the backdoor dealings and behind the scenes political alliances of typical government doings, and mixes them with a traditional city builder. At Kalypso Media’s 10 Year Anniversary Event in San Francisco, they showed a hands off preview for the title, and it’s a game changer.

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ABZU Combines Journey and Ecco

ABZU Combines Journey and Ecco

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming,” I happily sang to myself, making my way through seaweed and surrounded by 10,000 fish in the beautiful Abzu.

The graphical stylings of Abzu may seem familiar to anyone who played the critically acclaimed PlayStation exclusive Journey, as the art director of that game, Matt Nava, is the lead of this project. Both games also share a composer in Austin Wintory, and a genre, as both are linear story-driven exploration game. However, this is single-player only, underwater, and coming to PC as well as PS4.

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Getting Extreme with Steep

Getting Extreme with Steep

There was a time, not too long ago, when everyone was extreme. People liked punk rock, Tony Hawk, and videogames like SSX. But that fad died by the time the 2010’s rolled in.  Now Ubisoft is trying to bring that feeling back with Steep, an open world winter themed extreme sports title.  As a kid of the early 2000’s with many memories of games like Tony Hawk Pro Skater, and Shaun White Snowboarding, while extreme sport personalities dominated MTV, Steep hit me in the feels box on a nostalgic level.  It managed to bring that rush of adrenaline those classic titles provided, but pushed the genre forward with new additions, and an interesting open world. After getting my hands on this ambitious title, I wouldn’t be shocked if it catches on.

While my time with Steep was short, I experienced quite a bit. I only got to play around with the snowboard and wing-suit, but there are also skis and a parachute.  Regardless of what you pick though, the game is actually a little tricky to figure out, but it’s a welcome challenge. For the wing suit, you can spot your demise from pretty far away.  You start on top of a metal edge; tilting the thumb stick forward you jump off and start gliding like a flying squirrel. You use your momentum to get closer to the ground, then higher in the air while the triggers let you tilt in either direction.

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The two trials I played were races, one where I had to stay as close to the ground without crashing, and the other was a test of my special awareness. I was not great at either. I feel that part of the game is something that takes a little more time to get used to, and shouldn’t have been in the demo. There are a lot of subtleties to take into account when gliding through the air that, in a short block of time, you can’t really perfect.

Snowboarding was a little easier to jump in and play, but still took a bit of getting used to. The controls are pretty simple; tilt the left thumb stick forward to pick up speed, and use the trigger to jump. If you go off the ramp, tapping the stick in whatever direction lets you do a trick, but holding it for too long will make you eat a face full of snow.  If you’re feeling really risky, tapping a trigger lets you grab your board mid air. Then, when you think you’re really radical you can mix them both for a variety of flippy grabby moves.  I had a lot of fun with this part once I found my footing.

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That might be the thing to hold it back however. The game is gorgeous and sprawling, but its initial difficulty spike might turn many gamers off.  While I didn’t have a lot of time with the game, I got the snowboard mechanics down pretty easily, but the glide suit was kind of annoying. It was eerily similar to how Just Cause 3 handled the glide suit, except you got a grappling hook to help you out.

Regardless, my short time with the game managed to capture the rush that comes with extreme sports. If people stick with it, there’s a good chance it can be the next memorable extreme sports title. And as a fan of the genre, I hope that’s the case.

Torment Revisited: A Preview of Tides of Numenera

Torment Revisited: A Preview of Tides of Numenera

Early Access is a fantastic thing for both players and independent or small developers—it keeps players invested (quite literally in the case of crowdfunding) in the game’s development, and gives them direct input into the game’s direction. In reality, it’s pretty much free QA testing for the company, but we love it anyway.

Torment: Tides of Numenera has a strong set of reputations behind it. It’s the spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment, considered one of the best RPGs in videogames, made by a company composed of those who worked on the original. It’s set in the Numenera universe, made by pen-and-paper legend Monte Cook, an extremely-far-future Earth where people live in the remnants of dozens of nigh-magical technological empires. It’s a tremendously successful Kickstarter for that reason (as Numenera itself was).

circus_1920x1080Personally, I adore Planescape: Torment and consider it a testament to the importance of writing in videogames. I’m also a fan of Numenera, so this game baits my excitement as well. It also sets an incredibly high bar—Planescape: Torment still stands up today, thanks to its superb writing, and I can’t help but expect a game that seeks to recreate that will live up to that hype.

The game is, of course, unfinished, and laden with bugs and errors that disrupt gameplay. Early Access games get a pass for this, as we’re playing an unfinished game. What is there, however, is a solid RPG that focuses more on narrative and problem-solving than on combat and grinding.

Tides of Numenera begins with your protagonist awaking in free-fall high above the Earth, plummeting downward towards a crystal structure. Voiced narration reads out the text below, as a blur shoots by on the screen—starting things off high-stress. Immediately, you have options as to how you access your surrounds, despite the sheer helplessness of your situation—arrest your fall, speed your descent to face the inevitable, or try to remember what led you to this point. It certainly sets the tone for this adventure, and is a promising start.

It captures the Numenera universe well. Advanced technology litters the landscape around the crystal dome you (too) quickly descend to, ranging from ancient computer systems to laughing cones orbiting each other. Old, shattered platforms linked by bridges of light, and ancient, alien monsters trapped in cages dot the landscape of the beach and town you start nearby. It skirts that line with the Other—technology is recognizable as such, and then does something bizarre like smugly ignore your attempts to puzzle out its command line (making very clear it’s messing with you), with bio-mechanical monsters whose purpose is inscrutable (like the Vorlon analogy that comments inscrutably on your presence). There’s a line between understanding and confusion that the esoteric phenomena show. The 2D backgrounds have a painted, washed look that’s appealing, and actually mixes well with the 3D models.

What’s striking, though, is how much fidelity they’ve exhibited for the Numenera roleplaying system. Your characters classes—the warrior Glaive, the thief Jack, and the mage Nano, as well as the descriptive prefixes (chosen through the game’s prologue). Your three core stats—Might, Speed, and Intelligence—serve as both a resource to assist in actions and as health. Combat (or ‘Crises’, as situations always have other solutions), restored by brief rests. They even have the cyphers, ancient bits of technology that amount to one-shot magical items. On paper, the Numenera system works quite well, and my experiences with it in video game form were promising, if slow. Combat felt somewhat sluggish, even by turn-based standards, and I would like to see that refined and sped up to get to the best part, the written story.

The dialogue system is promising—options reference your character backstory and knowledge, giving you new options and allow you to solve problems different ways. Different solutions influence your Tides, ethical systems that respond to your actions and have a tangible presence in the game. The writing’s as expected—top-notch, introspective, and digestible. The Last Castoff’s companions, both of the starting ones, are intriguing, unique beings, such as an educated scientist overlayed with ghostly images of her alternate reality selves. I look forward to seeing further companions on the level of Daakon and Fall-from-Grace of Planescape: Torment fame.

Early access can’t be treated as a final game, and this is not a final review. It can only be promising or disappointing, and I think that Tides is the former—it hits all the notes it was hyped up to be. I am looking forward to exploring it further and to seeing the finished product.

Far Cry Primal Preview: Modern Stoneage FPS

Far Cry Primal Preview: Modern Stoneage FPS

I never got into the Far Cry franchise. Just never got into it, probably because it released in 2004 and I had a Gamecube and was much more interested in stuff like Killer7 and Metroid Prime 2; also I didn’t have a computer that could run anything more complicated than Minesweeper. I always meant to get into Far Cry 3 when it was a phenomenon, being touted as “Skyrim but with guns.” I thought, I like Skyrim, I prefer swords and magic, but guns are OK! But I never did.

What better place to start my entry into the franchise than the dawn of man itself. Far Cry Primal strips all the guns and psychopaths telling you the meaning of insanity, and replaces it with spears and cavemen telling you the meaning of insanity…I mean survival.

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In the brief demo I was given a vast world to explore, although not enough time to explore it, teeming with woolly mammoths, saber-toothed cats, dire wolves and a host of prehistoric humans to slaughter and loot. The game looks incredibly gorgeous but in today’s gaming industry that’s basically to be expected.

But exploring and survival aren’t the only goals in Far Cry Primal; within the demo players were tasked with raiding a small tribal camp in order to take it over. This will play a large role in the main game as players take control of Takkar and seek to conquer the land and rebuild his destroyed tribe. There may be a lot more to the final game, but for now we’ll have to wait and see.

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The big new selling feature of Far Cry Primal is the “beast master” mode, wherein certain animals can be fed a piece of meat, which will trigger a prompt to tame them and have them become your sidekicks. Different animals have varying skills ranging between strength, speed and stealth. While on the surface this seems like a pretty good idea, it never felt incredibly necessary when taking out a camp of Neanderthals is just as easy when you have a bow and stealth.

It was suggested that the animals would feel like partners to your mission rather then just items, but I couldn’t disagree more. So many times I sent my wolf to attack bears and when it died as I was running for my life I just thought, “Well I guess I’ve got to tame a new wolf.” From what I can tell there doesn’t seem to be a leveling or skill system for animals, so it really does come down to: if your animal dies, just go get a new one. And this is an opportunity that was seriously missed. It’s just as easy to tame a saber-toothed cat as it is a bear, or wolf and never did it seem like I needed to create a degree of trust with these animals. You give it a piece of meat, and suddenly it’ll do whatever you want.

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One other major feature of Far Cry primal is the crafting system in the game, that has you build all items you will need for your play-though. Really what more can I say about that other than Far Cry Primal felt as if it was trying to jump on the Minecraft bandwagon a few years too late. Fallout 4 tried that too and it wasn’t very good; shoehorning crafting into you game just because Minecraft is popular with the kids just kind of comes off desperate. Although, I guess it makes sense, since this is set in the Stone-Age and you can’t exactly just pick up ammo off dead bodies. At some point, we need to see man make fire.

Combat is pretty rough and tumble, although not so limited that you can’t just stealth kill everyone with your bow. Given the time period, weapons take the form of spears, clubs and a mixture of natural ingredients that can be used as bombs. I’m inclined to rate this favorably since it does give you the ability to throw bees at people, and that always makes a great game to me. Also, since your weapons are mostly made of wood, almost every weapon can be ignited for fire damage and given the lush green setting, fire can spread like crazy giving you a tactical advantage in combat.

You can also ride a mammoth. And while it’s unfortunate that you can’t tame mammoths, you can just ride any wild mammoth, and storming into enemy camps on the back of a mammoth is pretty amazing.

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Although I have to gripe about one thing, it’s extremely tedious how almost every action in this game requires you to hold down whatever button you need to do it (mainly square on the PS4 version). It’s an extremely poor gameplay mechanic that adds nothing that just pressing a button to do something couldn’t. In fact, it constantly broke the immersion for me as every time I tried to press a button to search in a bag, nothing happened and I was consciously reminded that I was playing a video game.

Overall, I can’t say much more about Far Cry Primal, given only the alpha version vertical slice I experienced. It seemed like an interesting experience and with a proper single-player narrative, it could be exciting and there really aren’t many games that deliver a proper prehistoric setting, that look as nice as this one.