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PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds developer Bluehole recently sat down with IGN and shared some of the mind-numbing numbers behind what players have accomplished in the game since it hit Early Access on March 23rd. All the data compiled and shared only goes to July 19th, but if anything that only makes the epic magnitude of these statistics all the more impressive, and shows off how popular the game has quickly become.

Many of the numbers revolve around the game’s guns, and they are nothing to shake a boomstick at. The game’s gun class of choice seemed to be the assault rifles, which combined for just short of 400 million kills, with the AKM being the top death-dealer in the group at 114 million kills. Shotguns accounted for 109.4 million kills in the game, but not to be outdone, the SMG group came in at 96.77 million kills. The difficult to master sniper rifles were up next with 56.33 million kills. Pistols sat at 36.34 million kills, while all the other guns, with a combined 3.6 million kills, brought up the rear guard.

Guns accounted for 72.7 percent of the 965.83 million deaths tabulated over the given time period. Vehicles were the next biggest death dealer, with 138 million people being run over, and another 9.33 million coming from vehicle explosions. Speaking of explosions, frag grenades kill at a rate of 3 to 1 when compared to Molotov cocktails, with 70.7 million compared to 23.3 million.

The game’s longest kill was measured at 6,766 meters. Meanwhile, players have traveled over 2.3 trillion meters in the game, or the distance equivalent of traveling to Saturn from Earth and back again. Surprisingly, the distance between foot and vehicle travel is almost dead even, with foot traveling accounting for 52 percent of that total distance.

These stats were compiled across over 10 million games. Only 1 in 6,000 players win chicken dinners on their first game played. All told, players have accumulated 25,815 years worth of game time.

If you want to join the phenomenon, PlayerUnknown’s Battleground is available now on Steam Early Access, and is coming to Xbox One by the end of the calendar year, and PlayStation 4 sometime after that.

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It’s been a while now since Pokémon Go developer Niantic began working with corporate sponsors like Starbucks and McDonald’s to help cross-promote each respective brand. Players are happy because it means more PokéStops and Gyms, brands are happy because they are now more prominently seen in the past year’s biggest mobile phenomenon, and I’m sure Niantic is happy because of the extra cash revenue this all surely brings in. In fact, Niantic’s relationship with one of these sponsors is even going a step further now.

Sprint was one of the first corporations to have sponsored content in Pokémon Go, with free promo codes and its trainer rewards program, which awarded points for doing Pokémon Go activities in and around Sprint stores that could then be exchanged for exclusive prizes like wallpapers. Those initiatives have been very well-received by the Pokémon Go fanbase, which may explain why Sprint is doubling down on the success it’s seen thus far. The carrier recently announced that it’s rolling out the Sprint Super Pack.

The Sprint Super Pack, which is valued at $50 worth of in-game goodies, is a reward for trainers who make the move from their current cell carrier and change over to Sprint. The pack includes Ultra Balls, Lucky Eggs, Incense, Lure Modules, and more. Sprint is also offering Moto E4s as part of the deal, if you need a new phone.

It might not be enough to get people to drop their current cell carrier outright, but if you were already in the market for a change, this could be a little extra incentive that leads you to your local Sprint store over another cellular provider. Or maybe you’re looking to get your child their first cell phone. Then that Moto E4 offer might come in handy, too.

The deal will run for the next month, ending on September 14th, and also comes at an opportune time if you’re interested in maximizing your experience with Niantic’s recent update on legendary Pokémon.

I look down, and I can’t see my legs. There’s nothing but an empty seat with what feels like my consciousness floating above it. It’s an unnerving and uncomfortable feeling, because from the second I become cognizant of it, I know this isn’t real. I’m not talking about a nightmare, however—I’m talking about far too many VR games that don’t bother creating an avatar for you in their virtual reality. You fail to see anything, and you’re immediately disconnected from the experience, even while NPCs talk and interact with you. And, as irritating as this is, it’s the least of the many problems that plagued Archangel, the first VR offering from studio Skydance Interactive.

Archangel is set towards the end of the 21st century. The world we know is gone as many of the Earth’s countries—including the US and most of Europe, although the game makes a point of letting us know Canada did not fall for some reason—are united under the totalitarian rule of one faction bent on maintaining their own version of order. A resistance force hiding in the American Midwest, however, is trying to even the odds with a secret weapon, working toward finally overthrowing the dictatorship that has left most of the world in ruins. You play as the pilot of that secret weapon: a 60-foot tall mechsuit with an adaptable AI program that gives you every edge you could ever want in battle. It’s your job to get this prototype mechsuit from the research installation it was built in to resistance homebase to be mass-produced, but there’s just the little issue of an entire army standing in your way.

In my mind, it’s games like this that are holding virtual reality back. Archangel is built around a great idea which the team then took absolutely no chances whatsoever with, resulting in what comes off as nothing more than a glorified tech demo. I loved the idea of piloting a giant mech suit and blowing up everything around me, but by the time I was done, I couldn’t wait to delete Archangel from my harddrive. There are really only seven levels in the game (nine if you count the opening and end scenes where you just sit there and are talked at for five minutes each), and I beat the entire experience in less than four hours—yet I was never more relieved to take my VR headset off then after playing Archangel due to how it drags on.

All of the gameplay takes place on rails, and your mech lumbers along like a six-story tortoise instead of a feared killing machine. Despite being the “pilot,” the only aspects of your mech that you really control are the left and right arms, each outfitted with a pair of weapons and shields. With these tools at your disposal, you can shred the enemy army apart like paper blowing into a hurricane. Tanks, planes, turrets, and even giant robo-dogs are no match for you, even when the screen becomes filled with foes.

While using PS Move controllers, you can set one up for each arm, and get the feel of at least directly controlling that aspect of the mech with satisfying accuracy. If you’re like most people, however, you’ll probably end up using a PS4 controller instead. Under that control scheme, the firing mechanisms are predictably set for each appropriate trigger button, but you need to swing the controller around—far more wildly and more inaccurately than when using Move controllers—in order to switch from arm to arm and have each arm independently do what you need them to do, especially when on the defensive. It can quickly turn a competent rail-shooter experience into an extremely frustrating one.

Archangel is also an ugly game. Many VR games haven’t really wowed in the visuals department yet, especially as there are some limitations with the tech still, but Archangel is a pretty low bar in terms of animation and graphics. Most of the buildings in the ruined cities you walk through look like geometry from two generations ago, with no reflection and minimal complexity. Enemy tanks and planes also look far too simplistic compared to what we expect from this generation of consoles. As well, the character models look so cartoonish that I couldn’t figure out if this game was even trying to convey realism—not to mention that half the time when you talk to your three squadmates, their lips don’t match up with the words they’re saying. (Or worse, many times, I’d be hearing characters talk, but their lips weren’t even moving.)

Of course, these are the few times you actually see other characters at all. There are no cutscenes in Archangel, which could be construed as someone at Skydance wanting to make an effort at immersion. Instead, however, you can talk to your squadmates, or the mech AI, between levels to try to flesh out the world. Unfortunately, all you get is a computer screen that pops up in your cockpit, and some of the most long-winded and horribly overacted banter that I’ve heard in a video game in a long time. It’s the obviously poor fix for someone who wants desperately to flesh out this world they’ve created, but have no real idea how to do it in a video game. By the end of the game, I wanted every character to fall off a cliff (including my own). Archangel’s world could’ve been an interesting one, and there are hints of it if you look closely enough. Overall, though, it’s just full of sad, ham-fisted attempts at character development and world building, which utterly fail at trying to cover up the monotony of shooting the same enemies with the same weapons at the same slow pace for four hours.

Looking at Archangel, there is no doubt there was an intriguing idea here. But with every passing moment, every enemy shot down, and after every terrible delivery of a new line of dialogue, I lost hope that the game would ever reach its potential until I finally got to the credits and my suffering ended. There are great VR games and experiences out there, but Archangel does not come even close to sniffing them and should be avoided at all costs.

Publisher: Skydance Interactive • Developer: Skydance Interactive • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 07.18.17
3.0
While there’s really nothing broken in Archangel, the game suffers from a clear lack of follow-through on any of the interesting ideas it tries to bring to the table. Its slow, plodding pace stands out even more against the backdrop of mediocre gameplay and one-note characters that made me thankful when the game came to its abrupt end.
The Good The idea of piloting a six-story mech is an exciting one, even when not pulled off properly.
The Bad Ugly visuals, slow pace, an overall lack of control, and a story that fails to captivate until the very end.
The Ugly The feeling of being trapped inside my PS VR headset and being forced to continue playing this game.
Archangel is available on PS4 for PS VR, and PC for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Primary version reviewed was for PS4/PS VR. Review code was provided by Skydance Interactive for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

Supergiant Games is starting to develop a reputation for delivering quality RPGs highlighted by quality stories and unconventional gameplay mechanics for the genre. Its third effort, Pyre, continues this trend by blending yet another compelling experience with the unexpected point of conflict boiling down to what translates as an otherworldly take on three-on-three basketball. Just like with Transistor and Bastion, however, Pyre will surprise you with how well everything comes together in an unforgettable game full of twists and turns.

Pyre begins with your character being cast into the Downside, a wasteland of sorts where all exiles are sent for breaking the law in the Commonwealth, civilization’s shining city on a hill. There, starving and injured from the perilous journey from the Commonwealth, you are found by three fellow exiles. It seems you are just the person these exiles have been looking for, as you are one known as a “Reader.” Literacy is banned in the Commonwealth, but those who break this rule are held in high regard in the Downside, as they can interpret ancient texts that can lead exiles back to the Commonwealth—and freedom—in a ceremony called The Rites. With no other choice but to join your would-be saviors, you agree to work together in order to reclaim what you’ve lost. Unfortunately, it won’t be long before you realize that freedom always comes at a price.

What’s interesting about Pyre is that while the player character’s Reader fills an integral role to the entire story, you never actually see your character, and customization ends at choosing whether to be male, female, or neither (for the sake of conversational pronouns). The entire game plays out from a first-person perspective, with your roster of exiles speaking directly to you the entire game. Over the course of these conversations, you’ll have to make integral decisions on how you and your team will progress towards your freedom, directly influencing what path you take, and which other exiles you will fight in The Rites. When combined with a world map that consists of you just telling your wagon where to go next, this gave Pyre a distinct point-and-click adventure feel when it comes to how its story actually plays out. However, it also offered welcome nuance to how I could shape my own individual tale, and made sure my adventure was unlikely to be exactly the same as anyone else’s.

Your decisions can also affect who ends up joining or leaving your party over the course of the game, growing your stable of exiles to over half-a-dozen capable beings if you so choose. I say “beings” because the world of Pyre is a rich one full of more than just humans. There are the dog-like Curs, the living tree Saps, the monstrous Demons, and more. Each race can participate in The Rites, and each one offers unique skills to be taken advantage of. For example, the Wyrms (aptly named worm-like creatures) may be small in stature, but their slime trail lets them move lightning quick on the field. Leveling up exiles after each battle—or, as the game puts it, “moving closer to enlightenment”—will open up new abilities that further enhance each race’s specific strengths.

Pyre also has an astonishing amount of lore to it. Each race has its own history, and each exile their own tale to tell if you can befriend them enough during your down time in the wagon. As the Reader, you can also look at holy books that fill in the background of the universe you find yourself in; from how The Rites were started to those who participated in them before you, it’s all at your fingertips should you allow yourself to fall down Pyre’s extremely deep rabbit hole.

Once The Rites commence, however, the real fun begins. The Reader almost takes on the role of a coach, watching from the sidelines, but in reality as the player, assuming control of your three-exile team.  As your party expands, you’ll be able to choose what three exiles will comprise your team to go against others in the Downside, as well as analyze opposing teams for weaknesses to better stack your lineup in your favor. Once teams are chosen and talisman bought from nearby shops to boost your stats assigned, a celestial orb is placed in the middle of the field. From there, players will attempt to pass, shoot, or even carry the orb into an opposing team’s burning pyre. By doing so, you’ll remove a numbers of points from the pyre (different characters can do more or less damage to the pyre), and whittling down the enemy pyre to zero before the computer does the same to yours ensures victory.

I was pleasantly surprised by how deep the strategy element of The Rites is in Pyre. Sometimes speed is the way to go, and taking small chunks away from your enemy’s pyre at a time is the key. Other times, it’s best to hang back and play defensively, using your aura—a mythical barrier that protects all players—to knock back or even remove foes from the field for a time. Balancing your team up with a variety of light and heavy characters, or leaning more heavily on a particular statistic, will be up to you and your analysis of each situation.

As you progress in the game, you’ll come to find that your band of exiles—known as the Nightwings amongst those in the Downside—are in an unusual position for a game of this nature: they’re the best team at conducting The Rites, at least historically. As the stakes continue to climb, and a leaderboard with standings unlocks to show off your position at the top, every other team of exiles in the Downside is looking to take you down. In fact, sometimes they’re even ready to bend the rules a little to try to take away whatever edge you may think you have. It’s one of several clever twists Pyre’s story will throw at you in order to help distract from what can sometimes become repetitive gameplay.

This didn’t stop me, however, from marching to a 26-0 record and the game’s best ending. There were only a few times (on normal difficulty mind you) that I felt challenged, and once I reached a certain level with my characters, even that fell by the wayside. If you should fail, however, the game merely continues pressing on, like any sports game would. Faltering in key, story-heavy match-ups could affect your ending, however, and that helps increase the pressure you might put on yourself, serving as a driving factor to keep going while staying on your toes.

Even if the gameplay starts to feel a little grind-y, one thing that Pyre takes away from its Supergiant predecessors is some slick art direction. Visually, the game’s color burst off the screen like a stained glass window, with vibrant shades used for every climate the Downside offers—from freezing snow capped peaks or blistering white hot deserts, to the turbulent seas off its coasts or lush jungles of its interior. Every climate also features a fallen Titan, a massive creature from Downside lore that sticks out of the expanse more than any crag or outcropping and provides far more character to the world.

The audio also doesn’t disappoint. While your exiles don’t really talk (they only make gibberish sounds when their words appear on screen as text), the conductor of The Rites—the one being higher than you in the Downside—speaks with a voice. His spoken word helps fill in the gaps of the narrative, while also taunting you like the most malicious of fans, hurling insults from the safety of a ballpark’s bleachers as The Rites take place. The music is simply top-notch as well, with Darren Korb again knowing exactly what strings to pluck (or chords to play) in order to add that extra bit of emotional gravitas to the game’s heavier scenes, or to get your blood pumping as the action begins to pick up.

Although the bulk of Pyre is the 10-hour or so campaign—easily the longest single-player experience Supergiant has made to date—considering the nature of its team versus team gameplay, it would’ve been surprising had the game not featured a multiplayer. Pyre does tout a local versus option that allows you and a friend to choose from any of the game’s 10 color schemes and over 20 of its most important characters, both from the Nightwings and your enemies’ sidelines. You can customize the hit points your pyres have, items you can use, and what field you can play on as well. My only knock against it is that there is no online option; it’s understandable given Supergiant’s small size as an indie developer that online multiplayer wasn’t likely doable simply from a logistics standpoint, but it would’ve been nice, and could’ve added some extra replayability.

Pyre is yet another surprise from the folks at Supergiant Games. Its story is full of twists and turns, yet still finds a way to be accommodating and customizable to every player who picks it up. It also features gameplay you would never otherwise find in an RPG or adventure game of this ilk, and uses it to create a lush, vibrant world with depth and beauty. It can get a tad repetitive at times, and replayability might be an issue if you’re like me and get the best ending right off the bat, but it’s still an adventure well worth having at least once—and shows once again how mixing up a formula can provide fantastic results.

Publisher: Supergiant Games • Developer: Supergiant Games • ESRB: E10+ – Everyone 10 and up • Release Date: 07.25.17
9.0
Pyre mashes up point-and-click adventures, RPGs, and sports games—and comes out the other end with one of the more memorable stories we’ve seen in some time. It’s a tale of freedom, sacrifice, and rising against the odds, even when they seem to be in your favor. While it can be a bit repetitive gameplay-wise, the colorful world and even more colorful characters should be more than enough to motivate you to fight for the exiles of the Downside.
The Good A larger than life cast of characters and unique gameplay that stems from an unusual mash-up of genres.
The Bad No online multiplayer.
The Ugly How much I paced in my living room while contemplating the game’s biggest decisions,
Pyre is available on PS4 and PC. Primary version reviewed was for PS4. Review code was provided by Supergiant Games for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

I spoke with CGTN America about the trends at E3 2017.

I speak with CGTN America as E3 2017 kicks off.

I talk about how DLC has changed the nature of buying games in a modern world for this news piece.

The WWE 2K series has been trending in the wrong direction in recent years. Visual Concepts and Yuke’s have tried adding new features to the franchise to help enhance its simulation feel, but often there has been an overall lack of polish that has held them back, or just a general disinterest in how these ideas were being presented. So, the development team turned to their audience and asked for help. Thousands of posts came in with suggestions—some more helpful than others—on what future iterations of WWE 2K needed, and it appears, at least at this early point, 2K listened. I had an opportunity last week to go and visit 2K’s headquarters up in Novato, California, and sit in on a presentation from WWE 2K executive producer Mark Little on what he and his team were bringing to WWE 2K18 this year to put the series back on track.

One of the most important things Mark said right off the bat was that they are finally abandoning last-gen consoles. Working on the Xbox 360 and PS3 was holding the team back as they were concentrating on virtually two different games at the same time. Now, being able to focus on just Xbox One and PS4, the team really honed in on their presentation. Visually, their graphics engine has been completely re-written. Mark showed a short comparison video of Randy Orton’s entrance between this year and last year, and I can attest there is already a marked improvement. New lighting, and how it reacts with different materials, already gave everything a more realistic look compared to years past, trying to emulate the visual product seen over on the NBA 2K side of things. Unfortunately, the team working on WWE 2K wasn’t quite ready to show much more of the game yet beyond this, and definitely wasn’t ready to let us go hands-on. But there were other promises made that at least has me hopeful for when it does come time to step back into the squared circle.

Continuing with presentation, there is new commentary. I nearly did a backflip when Mark said that a suite of dialogue from Michael Cole, now alongside Byron Saxton and Corey Graves, was being recorded as we spoke. There were also efforts being made to try to get all the men in the same room together so that they don’t repeat last year’s effect of it sounding like JBL was off in the distance somewhere. Jojo was also confirmed to be the new ring announcer for WWE 2K18 and new crowd chants are also being added to the game.

In terms of customization, there are more base models in create-a-wrestler and better logo mapping. Create-a-video was also highlighted, as now when you want to cut your match highlight to use in your entrance video, you can use a free camera to change angles in the post-production process. Custom creations are getting improved search functionality online, and a new “create-a-match” feature is also being added where you can save stipulations on your favorite matches for easy access in local versus or Universe mode.

Gameplay was also talked about in a variety of ways. New 8-man (and woman) ladder and tag matches are being added, while the backstage areas from last year’s game are now three times larger, with more interactivity and different objects. You can now even do one-on-one backstage brawls against friends online. There’s also a new carry and drag system being implemented, so you’re not just always grabbing someone by the back of the neck when you want to steer them towards a big spot. If strong enough, you can carry someone in a variety of positions now, even holding them in a powerbomb position on top of your shoulders before walking them over to a turnbuckle for example.

In terms of game modes, a new mode called Road to Glory was announced, but no details on that were given. Returning options like Universe mode will see some tweaks, with stories now being able to carry across and past pay-per-views before concluding at a natural point, rather than just at the end of a big show. Plus, Career mode is also being revamped to offer a shorter, more serious story-driven experience.

Finally, there’s the roster. As was announced last week, Kurt Angle is the pre-order bonus for WWE 2K18 and he was the only one confirmed in the game outside of cover athlete Seth Rollins. The team is looking to continue its tradition of increasing the roster every year, however, and is aiming for more than 170 wrestlers this year—an increase of about 20 roster choices from last year’s release.

As tremendous as all this sounds, this is also a lot to add to a game year-over-year, and beyond a little bit of the new graphics engine, I must re-iterate that we weren’t able to see or play any of these things. However, the fact that Visual Concepts and Yuke’s are listening to the community, and acting on many of their suggestions, is a great sign that at the very least WWE 2K18 should make strides forward from last year’s game. Whether or not they can follow through and deliver on all these promises, we’ll have to wait for when WWE 2K18 drops on October 17 for Xbox One and PS4 to find out.

It was announced tonight at the 2017 NHL Awards that NHL 18’s cover athlete this year is none other than Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid. And much like how the two-year pro from Richmond Hill, Ontario, has breathed life back into one of hockey’s premiere Canadian franchises, NHL 18 has looked to McDavid for inspiration in all the right ways. I was recently able to go hands-on with the game, and there were several major takeaways from my brief time with it that give a spark to the series’ style of play.

The first has to do with the gameplay itself. In an attempt to mimic McDavid, Auston Matthews, and the other tremendous young talents that have permeated hockey, pulling off stylish shots on net has never been easier. The fancy stickwork from previous games returns, but is now easier to do with more simplistic joystick movement which can be learned through a new series of tutorials. More importantly, however, is the increased repertoire for more skillful players. Kicking the puck off your skate to feed a backhand, turning the puck on edge and flipping it over the shoulder of a goalie, and the kind of no-look passes and shots that will leave defensemen and goalies alike befuddled are now represented here beautifully. As well, new reactions from every player on the ice will let you know just how impressive some of these moves are.

Of course, a feature many have long waited for is something to even the ice with all those offensive skill-stick superstars, and for the first time ever, the series is touting a defensive skill stick as well. That means when you’re skating backwards as the lone hope on a 2-on-1 back the other way, you can swing your stick back and forth and try to take away both the shot and the passing lane if you’re good enough. Or maybe just on the power play, by swinging your stick back and forth, you can kill off a few extra seconds as the defenseman on the point has to hesitate before he tries to pass it down low. This is a huge game changer for defensive players, and shows NHL 18 is making huge strides with stick play in the series.

Another major new element is a brand new game mode that feels like a throwback to the Wayne Gretzky or NHL Hitz days of arcade hockey. The brand new NHL Threes combines bone-crunching hits and crazy shots with the three-on-three play of the NHL’s relatively new overtime rules. To amp up the pace of play, the rink is smaller than a normal hockey rink, most penalties are turned off (and the few that are called always lead to a penalty shot), and there are never any faceoffs. If someone scores a goal, the other team automatically gets the puck when the action resumes. Some pucks are special, being worth two or three goals, or can even remove goals from your opposition. You know this mode is different from the second you start it up, with different announcers and a presentation package that resembles a carnival more than a hockey rink.

The 3-on-3 gameplay of the NHL’s overtime hockey rules aren’t just inspiring a new mode, though, as old modes are taking a cue from this faster style of play as well. The long time fan-favorite mode EASHL is now also going to tout a 3-on-3 mode to help accommodate the fans out there who have trouble finding a full squad of players on a nightly basis. This means not only will you have more games full entirely of human players now, but also the fast-paced action of the NHL overtime period will carry over into the entire EASHL experience from the start. If you’re fortunate enough to have a whole squad, don’t worry, the normal EASHL 6-on-6 action is still there—but for those of us with only a couple buddies ever around at the same time, this is exactly what we’ve been waiting for.

If none of these modes appeal to you, and you prefer to go for Franchise still instead, don’t worry, you’ve also got some new tweaks there. You can choose to play right from the get-go as the new Las Vegas Golden Knights and hold a fantasy draft that allows you to build your team out of the 30 pre-existing NHL franchises. Maybe you’ll help even things out by kicking off the 32nd NHL franchise and bring balance finally to the conferences. Or, be like me, and try to create a dynasty out of an original six team (let’s go Rangers). The choice is yours.

Hockey is undergoing a revolution right now in terms of playstyle and the talent that is flooding into the sport. After my brief hands-on time with NHL 18, it is my belief that this series is following suit with the fast, fun, frantic new NHL Threes mode, the new moves available to the game’s most skilled players, and even three-on-three gameplay making it’s way to EASHL. When hockey has a revolution, the NHL series has a renaissance, and it looks like this year is shaping up to be the perfect time for yet another one.

NHL 18 will release on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 sometime this fall.

I imagine when the folks from Wargaming met with Creative Assembly it went something like this:

Wargaming: “I love strategy and war.”

Creative Assembly: “I love strategy and war, too!”

Wargaming: “Did we just become best friends?!”

And thus the partnership that’s led to Total War: Arena started. (Okay, not really.)

The Total War series isn’t known really for its multiplayer options. It’s single-player has always shined, of course, with players reliving the campaigns of history’s greatest conflicts against the computer. On the multiplayer front, though, all you had were two human players standing at the heads of their respective armies in a one-on-one setting, or more recent iterations maxed out with a four-on-four offering.

Total War: Arena changes this by offering a full, 10-on-10, free-to-play showdown, with each player allowed to select their own legendary general from the annals of history, like Rome’s Julius Caesar or the English barbarian queen Boudica. Players can then bring into battle three different unit squads appropriate to their general, like foot soldiers, cavalry, siege weapons, or even war dogs. Each general also features a bevy of passive buffs and abilities you can activate in order to better assist your army.

Those three units are all that is available to players, though. Your three units and general will need to coordinate with the units other players on your team is bringing into battle in order to hopefully rout your opponents, or capture their base and ensure victory. It can lead to glorious multi-front chaos only available in a large player setting like this, but still relies heavily on the classic tenants of real-time strategy games in terms of how your units move and attack. It even touts the classic Total War morale system, where if you break an opponent unit’s spirit, they may just start a hasty retreat and give you the victory.

With any free-to-play offering, the question always comes up about how a game will monetize itself. There are some limited customization options you can pick up for each of your generals, but Total War: Arena leans more heavily on the highly successful World of Tanks model. This allows players to spend real world money to expedite levels, which in turn unlocks new and more powerful units for each of your respective generals.

Even though you’re in control of a legendary general, you’re really just one piece of a much larger army in each match you play, and in that regard Total War: Arena looks to capitalize on the greatest strategic endeavor there is: working as a team. If players can successfully come together, not only will you have a variety of legendary generals working together for a common goal, but also the strategic possibilities are endless. From blitzkriegs to pincer maneuvers, the 10-on-10 scenario feels like it is bringing true war to Total War, and is shaping up to be an excellent alternative for people looking for competitive multiplayer without the need for twitch reflexes.

Total War: Arena is currently in closed alpha on PC and is moving to closed beta later this year.