Gaming New Releases

16 Games Like ‘Dark Room’ You’re Going To Want To Play

Maneuvering through a decidedly unnerving environment while getting to the bottom of a mystery is scary enough in third-person. That scenario becomes even more of a nail-biter when you experience it from a first-person perspective.

Lexip Games’ Dark Room presents its amalgamation of classic adventure point & click mechanics and a horrifying atmosphere from that aforementioned camera setting. Solving a myriad of brainteasers while you learn about the big secret at the heart of your journey is what Dark Room is all about. Chances are you’re on the lookout for something along the lines of that game ever since you completed it. And that’s where we step in – the 16 titles on this list provide unforgettable scares, intriguing mysteries to solve, and an assortment of puzzling situations to work your way out of.

Whether it’s from a third- or first-person viewpoint, these recommended games will provide you with everything you enjoyed about Dark Room and more.

1. ‘Resident Evil 7 Biohazard’

Capcom’s lauded survival horror series switched things up in 2017 and largely succeeded in the process. As newcomer Ethan Winters, you set out to rescue your wife whilst exploring a creepy plantation. This mission sees you defending yourself against a crazed family and humanoid creatures that are referred to as the “Molded.” Resident Evil 7 Biohazard entails a whole lot of shooting, puzzle-solving, hide and seek sequences, and heart-thumping scares. And you’ll feel every part of the horror as you get to enjoy it all in first-person (this game absolutely rules in VR, by the way).

buy here, $29.40
2. ‘Alien: Isolation’

The main conundrum that Alien: Isolation presents players with is wholly terrifying. There’s a vicious Xenomorph on your trail, and you’ll need to utilize the best methods needed to avoid it. As the daughter of Ellen Ripley, you set out to uncover everything behind her disappearance. Reaching that goal isn’t going to be easy thanks to the presence of hostile humans, killer androids, and an Alien that wants you dead. You’ll get to play around with a whole host of weapons, but the name of the game here is stealth. Keep quiet, stay low, and try not to get eaten.

buy here, $40
3. ‘Outlast’ (series)

Outlast, and its successor are incredibly tense horror games that will keep you on your toes and sweating bullets more often than not. The first release in the series puts you in the role of an investigative journalist that’s out to uncover the truth behind a twisted psychiatric hospital. As for its sequel, Outlast 2 sets you up as another journalist that explores the Arizona desert in a bid to get more info on the murder of a pregnant woman. Both games force you into uneasy scenarios that see you constantly run, hide, and use your camcorder to maneuver through the darkness.

buy here, $19.75
4. ‘Amnesia’ (series)

The Amnesia games feature everything you’ve come to expect from survival horror games – a creepy environment to explore, tons of puzzles to solve, and the types of monsters that increase your heart rate at first sight. The Dark Descent, A Machine for Pigs, and Rebirth all manage to spark one’s interest due to their intriguing premises. They also have a penchant for scaring the hell out of anyone that tries them, so you should expect to turn a few lights on while you’re making your way through each fear-inducing entry.

Buy here, $56.23
5. ‘Condemned’ (series)

One of Sega’s more slept-on IPs has to be Condemned. Anyone who’s given it a chance knows just how nerve-wracking the original game and its sequel can be. If you’re not in the know, then let us bring you up to speed – both games have you take on the role of a crime scene investigation agent that’s looking for some sort of reasoning behind the madness occurring in his city. Criminal Origins and Bloodshot both focus on thorough crime scene investigations, brutal melee combat, and a whole lot of exploring within unfriendly locales.

buy here, $20
6. ‘SOMA’

It’s one thing to be above ground whilst getting confronted by all manner of mysterious horrors. It’s a whole other thing when you’re forced to deal with those same horrors while trapped within an underwater facility. SOMA’s the type of game that gives you that exact scenario to overcome. As a character named Simon Jarrett, you set out to make sense of your surroundings and come to grips with psychological horror elements. The clues you’ll discover during your journey will bring you ever so closer to the truth about your underwater prison.

buy here, $30
7. ‘Pacify’

As the newest member of Paranormal Activity Helpers Incorporated, you’re entrusted with exploring a dilapidated home that once doubled as a funeral parlor. On your own, with three of your friends or against other players, this supernatural thriller tasks you with pacifying a great evil. You’ll need to adjust your game plan as the little girl that hunts you progressively gets smarter and faster. Gather your clues, collect the items needed to aid your progression, and overcome one of the biggest paranormal threats you’ve ever faced.

Buy here, $5

DEVOUR is another one of those first-person survival horror games that pit you against a singular menace. You can choose to go it alone during this harrowing mission or make your playthrough a tad bit easier with three other players by your side. A maniacal cult leader that’s been possessed by a goat demon has it out for you and your fellow cult members. Everyone must work together to exorcise the woman with a demonic hold over her, which is quite a tall task. The essential items you need to make that happen are randomized during every session, plus the unpredictable AI attached to the crazed cult leader certainly complicates things.

buy here, $5
9. ‘The Medium’

Marianne doesn’t live a normal life. She has the ability to converge with the dead and navigate the realm they inhabit, which classifies her as a spirit medium. After receiving a mysterious phone call from an unknown individual, Marianne makes her way to an abandoned location in hopes of getting to the bottom of her paranormal dilemma. Besides offering an engrossing storyline, The Medium features an old-school approach to survival horror games. The inclusion of a third-person viewpoint, clever puzzle sequences, and a particularly rabid spirit that wants to consume you are the main hooks that’ll pull you into this game. The dual-reality sections that let you explore two realms at once should also pique your interest.

buy here, $50
10. ‘Layers of Fear’ (series)

The Layers of Fear series pushes the horror genre forward by mixing in elements of psychedelic and psychological horror. And what comes from that complex mixture are two games that will mess with your mind and make you question the very events that play out in front of you. The first entry in the series puts you in the role of a disturbed painter who must find a way to complete his magnum opus, while the sequel sets you up as an actor that’s been called upon to handle an important leadership role. Both games focus on heavy exploration, mind-bending sights, and haunting audio. The Layers of Fear games will certainly stick with you long after you’ve completed them.

buy here, $20
11. ‘Little Nightmares’ (series)

The first Little Nightmares came out of nowhere to capture the imagination of horror fans everywhere back in 2017. Participating in the horrifying misadventures of Six as she looks to escape the grasp of hideous beings inside the Maw is a nail-biting blast. There’s a ton of fun to be had as you figure out the best routes and solutions that are crucial to Six’s survival. For 2021, Little Nightmares II arrived with everything that worked beforehand. Plus, it ratchets up the fun factor of it all by bringing back Six and debuting a completely new character (Mono) that’s onscreen at all times.

buy here, $60
12. ‘Phasmophobia’

If you always find yourself binge-watching ghost investigation shows on Travel Channel, then Phasmophobia should be right up your alley. This four-player ghost-hunting simulator gives you a spooky locale to explore and an assortment of essential equipment that’ll pick up on any paranormal activity. There are 10 different ghosts to keep an eye out for, so each investigation you embark on will be different from the last. The use of actual voice recognition when it comes time to communicate with your ghostly targets is one of the coolest parts of this spirit-filled adventure.

buy here, $14
13. ‘Blair Witch’

It took forever and a day, but we finally got a video game adaptation of the monumental Blair Witch film. Taking place two years after the events of the first movie, this playable sequel sees you searching for a missing boy in the Black Hills Forest as former police officer Ellis Lynch. During your unnerving search and rescue mission, you’ll regularly find yourself getting spooked by shadowy creatures. The mood is always tense in this one as you come upon cassette tapes full of curious footage and make your way through a forest that definitely has it out for you.

buy here, $30
14. ‘Stories Untold’

Stories Untold is kind of like a video game rendition of Tales from the Crypt. Players are treated to four episodes that focus on delivering everything you love about classic puzzle-laden horror adventure games. Each episode embraces a retro feel thanks to an 80s aesthetic and incorporates text-based, point-and-click gameplay. You can expect to get caught up in all of Stories Untold’s trippy narratives that deliver elements of sci-fi, psychological horror, and more.

buy here, $10
15. ‘Sylvio’ (series)

The Sylvio games center around a ghost recorder named Juliette Waters, who embarks upon the type of nerve-wracking adventures that will keep anyone up at night. Juliette’s first encounter with the deceased puts her on the path to learning about an evil curse and a ruthless cult, while her second run-in with the deceased has her exploring a decidedly creepy flooded setting. Hopping into these games means you’ll be analyzing clues, taking note of your uncomfortable surroundings, and listening in on the spirits that want to tell you their story.

buy here, $13
16. ‘Five Nights at Freddy’s’ (series)

If you don’t know about the Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise by now, then you’ve been living under a rock for far too long. The premise of the mainline games has you taking on the role of a night guard (one game even has you playing as a child!) that‘s tasked with keeping an eye on a building full of animatronic characters. Those bots may look friendly, but don’t let their innocent exterior fool you. They move around on their own and are looking to take you out of the equation. The series’ clever use of a security camera system, unmistakable horrors, and signature jump scares have made it a mainstream force since its inception.

buy here, $5
Gaming Interviews

Aaron “Don” Dukes Goes ‘Inside The Screen’ With KCP Kate

On this edition of Inside The Screen, presented by host Aaron aka ‘Don’ Dukes, Don welcomes special guest KCP Kate, a young phenom playing for the Kansas City Pioneers, who has been dominating Rocket League. While the 21-year-old is still a relatively new face in the esports and gaming scene, she is making quite a splash with not only her skillset but for her competitive and fiery spirit. Kate is truly a beast behind the controller, and she and Don talked about this next step in her career, being a young woman navigating the esports and gaming scene, and more. 

Don kicks off the conversation getting the scoop on Kate’s signing with Kansas City. “It’s been good—I love KCP! Obviously, with Covid, we can’t visit or anything, but that is definitely something that we want to do!” KCP Kate has been earning her stripes this year, being ranked in the top 100 for most of the season, which is something that is incredibly tough to do in just under a year—especially when you consider the tough mechanics required for a game like Rocket League. “At least for me, this was my first game on PC basically. I had played indie games before that, but when Rocket League came out, that was the first major game that I had actually ever played.”

Don and Kate go in-depth on a ton of topics during this 20-minute episode, with Don asking the rising streamer about her early interest in gaming. “I started off watching other streamers on YouTube, and when I got my PC, I was super big into speedrunning. One of my favorite people in the world, FullGrownGaming, streamed speed runs of Majora’s Mask, and I was there all the time watching it. I started speedrunning myself with Super Mario Sunshine, and I did that for a long time. Eventually, the group of YouTubers that I watched started playing Rocket League, and I played soccer all of my life so it seemed perfect!”

After a quick conversation about Kate’s parents and her support system, Don then gets Kate’s thoughts on being a woman in esports and how things have changed for the better. “I think that every single woman will have a different experience with it, but at least for me—when I was in the speedrunning community—everybody was so nice to me, and I never really experienced a lot of the things that I saw, but then when I came to Rocket League and played Overwatch at the same time, that obviously got pretty toxic. I think the same way it’s been really harsh to get used to; it has also made me a better person.”

We definitely don’t want to spoil this amazing conversation between Don and KCP Kate, so be sure to check out the full interview in the video above. You can continue to follow both Don and Kate on Instagram and Twitter.

Consoles Gaming

Xbox One X vs. Xbox Series X: How The Two Consoles Stack Up

The release of the Xbox Series X has felt a little bit like a soft launch because of how difficult it’s been to find stock of it worldwide. It’s one of the many effects of the pandemic, and it has made the release of both next-generation consoles feel like Sony and Microsoft wanted them to be exclusive, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

If you’re a very casual gamer who’s been inspired in the last few months to finally pick up a console and you want to know if it’s worth waiting to get the new one for your needs, it’s still worth making a note of how the new console stacks up with its older sibling, the Xbox One X. Even if you take gaming a little more seriously, you’re probably still trying to get your hands on an Xbox Series X or Series S so perhaps you want to know what the true differences are between the two consoles to figure out if it’s worth waiting to get one.

Either way, we’ve got you covered.

Xbox One X vs. Xbox Series X: Price

The new Xbox Series X will set you back $499, but as we mentioned at the start, that’s not really the main issue for most right now. Even those who are willing to spend the money will have a hard time getting their hands on one right now.

The $499 price point is fair, considering this will likely be the generation of gaming we’re in for the best part of a decade. Of course, as new games come out, they’ll set you back anywhere from $60 to $80, which adds up over the years. But as far as the console goes, $499 is generally considered acceptable.

Nearly four years after its release, the Xbox One X is a little harder to pinpoint one price point for. That’s because you won’t find it on Xbox’s site after they discontinued it last summer. However, the Xbox One S is still available and will currently set you back $299. With that in mind, going to a second-hand seller or a Walmart or Best Buy, you don’t want to spend more than $349 on the Xbox One X at this point.

Xbox One X vs. Xbox Series X: Specs, Storage and Speed

This is where the next-generation consoles really set themselves apart and what people get excited for when they come out, even if they don’t know all the language behind it.

The new Xbox Series X supports resolution up to 8k and frame rates of up to 120 fps. Both of these are double what the Xbox One X supports: up to 4k resolution and 60 fps. If you’re not familiar with what this means, 4k resolution means that there are 4,000 pixels on the screen. 60 fps means that every second, you’ll see 60 frames. Think of frames like still images that, when they’re put together, show the video you’re seeing. So, while 4k and 60 fps is incredible and currently means that the Xbox One X can support all games to their full extent, as the years go by, it will slowly become the norm, and the Xbox Series X’s abilities will still be special.

Resolution and frame rate aren’t the only areas where the Xbox Series X doubles what the Xbox One X can do. The Xbox Series X’s GPU is 12 teraflops. A GPU is a graphics processing unit, and FLOP stands for floating operation point. How many teraflops any computer has is how many trillion calculations it can do per second. The Xbox Series X can do 12 trillion of these, which is the most we’ve seen on any console thus far. The Xbox One X’s GPU is 6 teraflops, and even the PlayStation 5 only does 10.8 teraflops.

In terms of CPU, the Xbox Series X proves to be a massive upgrade from the Xbox One X’s eight-core 2.3GHz custom AMD. For $499, you’ll get an eight-core 3.8GHz. A CPU is a central processing unit, and GHz (which stands for gigahertz) measures a CPU’s clock speed, the clock speed being how quickly the CPU can retrieve and interpret instructions. Of course, the higher the number, the better. There’s enough of a difference in the two consoles’ CPUs that you’ll be able to feel a difference in speed.

When it comes to storage, the Xbox Series X introduces the 1TB NVMe SSD. It’s another giant improvement on the Xbox One X’s 1TB HDD. Anyone that knows even the basics about storage knows that an SSD (a solid-state drive) reads and writes much faster than an HDD. The Xbox One X’s HDD is good enough for general use, but the utilization of the new NVMe SSD means that peak performance will be a priority and the speed of doing anything, whether that be loading a game up or opening various applications on the console, will be unbelievably fast.

Where the Xbox One X had 12GB of RAM, the Xbox Series X boasts 16GB. Think of RAM like short-term memory and the more you have, the more your device can handle at any given time without slowing down. 12GB is already respectable, but as with most things when it comes to hardware, the more the better.

One thing that remains the same in both consoles is the fact that they both contain an HD Blu-Ray disk drive.

Xbox One X vs. Xbox Series X: Video And Audio

In terms of video, most things were covered above in relation to specs. The new console supports 8k resolution at 120 fps, and these specs will be high enough to keep you covered for ten years of gaming and general visuals. However, what also deserves to be touched on is ray tracing support.

Ray tracing is a rendering technique and algorithm which emulates the path of light, how it reflects on objects and casts shadows. If you think the lighting in games is well done even without ray tracing, you’ve seen nothing yet. It’s worth checking out a version of Grand Theft Auto: V with a ray-tracing mod being used on YouTube. The difference is night and day. Once ray-tracing comes into play on a larger scale and becomes the standard many years down the line, we’ll look back on games from the Xbox One X era like ‘how did we ever think they looked realistic?’

In terms of audio, Microsoft went out of its way to enhance things with the Xbox Series X. In the console is custom hardware that handles audio itself, giving the CPU one less job to do and improving its performance. Spatial sound is embraced. Of course, a big factor when it comes to sound is the headset that comes with the console.

Xbox One X vs. Xbox Series X: Games And Accessories

The new Xbox Wireless Headset delivers the best audio to date, boasting low latency and lossless audio. Windows Sonic, Dolby Atmos, and DTS Headphone: X are some of the technologies used to give you the best audio experience from an Xbox headset yet. Microsoft is set on the fact that even a modest, affordable pair of headphones will be able to reflect the improvements in sound.

As well as its sound, the Xbox Wireless Headset’s microphone capabilities set a new bar. Dual beamforming microphone elements, as well as voice isolation, differentiate speech from other sounds, and in addition to a standard mute button is a new auto-mute feature.

In terms of other accessories, the controller is probably the main piece of hardware that people are interested in. From the Bluetooth-enabled Xbox One X controller to now, not too much has changed, but there have been a few worthwhile differences to note. Cosmetically, the Xbox button is all black giving the controller a sleek look. Also helping with this is the new matte bumpers and triggers. Other than that, both consoles’ controllers are virtually identical. The new one is a measly 8 grams heavier and 6 x 4 x 2.47 inches as opposed to the Xbox One X’s 6 x 4 2.56 inches.

There is a new share button in the center of the console, which allows you to take screenshots and screen record more effectively when it comes to functionality. The d-pad is also a little more responsive, clicking loudly when you press it. It’s also far clearer when you’re going diagonally on the pad. Lastly, the new Xbox controller features textured grips on its side handles and triggers. When it comes to games, Microsoft promises that there won’t be any Xbox Series X exclusives for a few years, as not to alienate gamers who don’t want to upgrade just yet.

Xbox One X vs. Xbox Series X: Which One Should You Choose?

If you’re debating the jump yourself, hopefully, this has helped. In conclusion, if some of the above details matter to you and you feel as though you’ll notice differences with a lot of use and the $499 price point isn’t too much for you, it’s probably worth the upgrade.

However, if you don’t already feel like your Xbox One X is slugging behind and needs an improvement, it’s probably worth waiting a while to go to next-gen gaming. It’s worth noting that if you’re waiting until later this year with the hopes of getting a discount, it’s unlikely there’ll be a price cut of any real value for a while. At best, you’ll get a decent bundle when offers come around later in 2021.

Gaming New Releases

For All The ‘Player Unknown Battlegrounds’ Fans, Here Are 13 Games Like ‘PUBG’

Although past its prime, Player Unknown Battlegrounds, or PUBG for short, remains the standard-bearer for the battle royale genre. For a time, it seemed that battle royale games were the primary bread-and-butter of the gaming industry with companies wanting to cash in on the popularity these games seemed to inspire. While some were successful so many others were not. This list represents those games that either did or should have become huge successes, largely because of their similarities to PUBG.

13. ‘SOS’

SOS is no longer available for purchase so consider yourself lucky if you managed to get your hands on a copy. SOS combines elements of survival and battle royale games into a single fun, if not frustrating, package. Like other games on this list, SOS owes some of its popularity to streamers and YouTubers who played the game when it was first available. The game puts you and other players on an island that would have been deserted if not for the monstrous inhabitants lurking around every corner. Players have the option to cooperate or antagonize each other as they search for relics that allow them to leave the island. While this isn’t the first multiplayer to utilize NPC enemies, the enemies in this game are so well-balanced, at times, it’s difficult to determine who is the bigger threat, human or monster. Although the game is no longer available, it still deserves a place on this list. Think of it as an honorable mention. 

12. ‘H1Z1’

The game that started the trend, maybe. Initially released in 2015, H1Z1 managed to build up an audience thanks to its extended beta trials. The game has gone through more iterations than just about anything on this list. What started as a zombie-survival game slowly but surely allowed itself to be molded by market demands. The game has since split into two modes that act as standalone games. The first is a straight survival game, while the other is a Battle Royale. 

Again, while it’s debatable whether H1Z1 was the first of the battle royales, it was the one that immediately came before and spawned PUBG, earning it a place on this list. 

Free to play
11. ‘Fortnite’

A 2017 release that followed a similar trajectory to H1Z1. Fortnite started as a zombie-survival game, much like H1Z1, and slowly morphed into a battle royale when developers at Epic realized they had a behemoth on their hands. 

And they were right. It’s almost five years into the game’s lifecycle and it still boasts one of the largest player bases on this list. However, during its heyday, the game was an absolute juggernaut and broke just about every record you could imagine. While its popularity has waned a bit, Epic developers continue to churn out content that attracts one-time players, at least for a time.

free to play
10. ‘Call of Duty: Warzone’

While the Call of Duty franchise has been around for quite some time, it wasn’t until Warzone, did the title delve into battle royale gameplay. Warzone came in at a time when the genre was starting to lose steam, and the market share was almost entirely Fortnite. However, what was odd about Warzone’s release was that it was largely compared to PUBG instead of Fortnite.

That could have had something to do with the fact Warzone had a less cartoony aesthetic to Fortnite. Or, perhaps, people were simply starting to grow tired of Fortnite and all of the so-called Fortnite killers.

free to play
9. ‘Ring of Elysium’

Another latecomer. Released in 2018, Ring of Elysium wears its PUBG inspiration on its sleeve. At first blush, the game looks like a mod for PUBG, but once you dive in, it becomes clear this is a gaming trying hard to step out of PUBG’s shadow. 

And, for the most part, it accomplishes just that. Instead of mindless running and gunning, Ring of Elysium encourages players to engage in a bit of strategy. Ambushes and traps are not out of the ordinary, and the winter environment adds an extra element to the game. While the game may not have had as many updates as PUBG, it’s still worth a pick-up.

free to play
8. ‘Realm Royale’

Another 2018 latecomer, Realm Royale, owes its flash-in-the-pan popularity to its willingness not to take itself seriously. As other battle royales became more and more competitive, Realm Royale brought the genre back to a more whimsical time. Everything from the art to outgunned players’ transformation into a chicken became synonymous with the Realm Royale style. 

The game also boasted several features not commonly found in battle royales. For example, Realm Royale heavily featured classes as opposed to limiting a player’s ability to what gun they happened to have picked up. The game also allows players to ride on horseback, something you don’t see much in these games.

Free to Play
7. ‘Spellbreak’

Last year’s Spellbreak was compared to Realm Royale mostly because of its middle ages aesthetic. The game, however, manages to stand on its own for a number of reasons. It is amongst the most fast-paced and frenzied games on this list. It’s easy to be blown away and not know exactly how it happened, particularly in a large cluster of adversaries. As its title implies, the game is more heavily dependent on spells than traditional firearms in your standard battle royale titles. 

While the game may not have enjoyed the same success as others on this list, it is definitely worth a look.

free to play
6. ‘Darwin Project’

Released in 2020, Darwin Project managed to garner a healthy following while maintaining relative obscurity. This was due largely to a number of streamers and video game Youtubers who flocked to the Sci-Fi survival game during its beta and after its release. The game pits players against each other by giving them tools to hunt one another. Players must also survive the harsh maps which swing wildly from frigid cold to lakes of magma.

The game takes into account the spectator element by allowing an overseer to give their favorite certain buffs. Successful players use all their tools while leading enemy players into ambushes or advantageous areas. Don’t let the cartoonish art style fool you. Darwin Project is one of the most hardcore titles on this list.

5. ‘The Culling’

A 2017 release, The Culling’s rise in popularity was as sudden and unexpected as its fall. Developers have tried to recapture their brief moment of popularity with an official sequel that was panned by reviewers and players alike. However, its dwindling popularity doesn’t take away from the fact that the game is one of the most interesting battle royals on the market. Instead of heavily featuring guns, most players will have to make do with melee weapons, although guns are still present in the game. But the game is balanced in such a way that having a gun doesn’t necessarily mean you are at an advantage. A player with a metal pipe or some other non-projectile weapon can just as likely win a contest.

free to play
4. ‘Islands of Nyne Battle Royale’

A game in which the massive multiplayer map is the star. Islands of Nyne was released last year to little fanfare. But that is hardly a reflection on the game itself, which features some of the best sci-fi shooting. Many have compared it to the Crysis series, and it’s a well-deserved comparison. The graphics are superb, and the gameplay’s style and speed are as if someone created a battle royale mod for Crysis. The game may not be a household name, but it still deserves your attention.

Free to Play
3. ‘Totally Accurate Battlegrounds’

A spoof on the battle royale genre, Totally Accurate Battlegrounds was released in 2018 and, for a time, was at the top of the battle royale heap. Using the engine popularized by sister-game Totally Accurate Battle Simulator, Totally Accurate Battlegrounds intentionally boasted ridiculous controls and even more ridiculous gameplay. Players could empty entire clips at each other, at point-blank range, and still not hit their mark. The game isn’t so much about winning as it is experiencing the hilarity of the journey.

buy now, $4.99
2. ‘Apex Legends’

Apex Legends is what you get when you take elements from the top battle royale games and polish them. Released in 2020, Apex Legends is the only game on this list that ever came close to actually being a Fortnite killer. The game was massively popular when first released and it has managed to hold on to much of that popularity overtime. Developers continue to churn out new content and characters that only add to the game’s complexity. While guns obviously play a major role, each of the champions has its own strengths and weaknesses that impact the game in profound ways. Apex Legends is how battle royale games are supposed to be done. 

buy now, $39.99
1. ‘Hunt Showdown’

Hunt Showdown is aggressively underrated despite being moderately popular. Of all the battle royale games on this list, Hunt Showdown is perhaps the only one that truly isn’t derivative in any sense of the word. Released in 2019 by a team at Crytek, you can see the meticulous detail developers put into the game. Everything from the monsters to the ornate weaponry looks like it belongs in this demon-infested world. 

Players have to worry about said demons as they traverse day and nighttime maps. More dangerous than the demons are the other players who are on the hunt for the same prize you are. What ensues is thrilling cowboy action with a bit of horror and incredible sound quality mixed in for good measure. Although the game deserves to be a bigger deal than it currently is, the developers don’t seem deterred as they continue to churn out content.

buy now, $39.99
Gaming New Releases

Here’s Why You Should Be Playing ‘Valheim’

One of the most addicting games of 2021, Valheim is the newest game that is beginning to capture attention but still remains relatively underrated. Recently passing two million sales, the game is challenging, thrilling, and sometimes frustrating, providing an adventure like no other in recent memory. Playing Valheim is a similar experience to games like Minecraft and Ark and even has the aesthetics of Outward, making it visually captivating. 

Released on February 2nd, Valheim already has two million active users in just two short weeks, making it one of the fastest-growing games on the market. Via Stream Charts, Valheim has ranked twelfth globally in the last seven days on Twitch alone with over ten million views total and a peak of 137,464 concurrent viewers.

Valheim is a testament to why Survival Multiplayers are going to be the next genre of gaming to blow up. When the Battle Royale game mode exploded, it exploited the strong desire for an open-world MMO, which is something that many gamers want to see more of. The reason I’m saying this is because right now, we are seeing the stage set of how we may actually get a new, strong MMO in the future. We started off with Battle Royales, and now we are witnessing a lot of people getting super interested in other popular SMPs like Terraria, The Forest, and Rust.  

Valheim is a great game! I love how you don’t fully know the map until you discover and explore it. The further you travel from ‘Spawn’ (the origin point), the harder the game gets—which is cool because it forces you to actually use your skills and play in order to learn the essentials and mechanics necessary for survival. In other games, you can see a crafting table, and it shows you everything that you can build—which can be a spoiler in a way. In my opinion, not knowing everything ahead of time makes it more exciting and the game more rewarding. Why? Well, because in real-time survival, there are two things: you only know what you know, and what you don’t know is what you don’t know.

I don’t know yet if Valheim will be trending in the sense that you will see big-time streamers playing it, but I do think people will enjoy playing it. In a world where we see a lot of free games become among the best, Valheim is worth paying. If I could pay $20 again, I would. 

Gaming Interviews

Corsair, the Gaming Gear and Streaming Equipment Leader, Acquires VBI

Visuals By Impulse (VBI) is undergoing a major shakeup in this first quarter of 2021. Last week Corsair, the leader in gaming gear and streaming equipment, came to a groundbreaking deal to acquire VBI from founder Caleb Leigh for an undisclosed amount, as the company continues to move deeper into the streaming scene. VBI is a leading design platform for creators on Twitch, YouTube and Facebook Gaming, and among the most respected for streamers in the esports and gaming community with their graphics being used in some capacity by over 400,000 streamers. VBI has done working with some of esports’ finest including; 100 Thieves, Valkyrae, Myth, Lachlan, CouRage, Scump and more.

The deal follows Corsair’s 2018 acquisition of Elgato and their 2020 purchase of EpocCam, marking it as the third major move for the organization in the past three years. Corsair’s VBI buyout makes them the first major tech player to heavily invest in a creative platform and design team, and the company plans to add a new product line to VBI while also offering branding and digital design resources for creators.

As live-streaming services continue to soar to unseen sights during the midst of this pandemic, the VBI acquisition will open up the doors to new collaborations with other Corsair brands such as SCUF Gaming and Gamer Sensei. Streamers and content creators will also have access to more free and paid designs than ever before, giving them the opportunity to elevate their brand while experiencing world-class technology.

VBI, who has experienced enormous growth since March, will now operate as a separate brand and product line underneath Elgato, where fans will have access to top-of-the-line visuals alongside their favorite Elgato products. 

ONE37pm’s Aaron ‘Don’ Dukes spoke with VBI Founder Caleb Leigh ahead of this announcement.

When I spoke with you on your podcast—I had already been working on this since around September 2019. This has been happening for a very long time, and it’s finally done. I’m stupid excited about this!

For me I am no longer the CEO of VBI, I am not the founder. All of the media releases will be going out on Tuesday, but those are all going to be mostly investor related, and we realized we wanted to make a bigger deal out of this than just investor relations because this is the first time we have a digital product in our product line. We are going to pour gasoline all over it!

No staff reductions were made as a result of this agreement, and this move continues to highlight just how bright the gaming landscape is for live streaming.

You can keep with all of the latest announcements for both Corsair and VBI/Elgato via their official websites.

Gaming Interviews

Inside the Screen | WestR: A Story of Underdogs

On this week’s episode of Inside the Screen, ONE37pm’s Aaron aka “Don” and co-host Dalton Floyd spoke with members of the WestR Call of Duty team—coach Sam “KingFenix” Spencer, Tom “GRVTY” Malin, and Carlos “Venom” Hernandez. WestR is one of the most dominant teams in the game right now in the Challengers League, and they have ambitions of nailing a spot in the pro league—something which is absolutely in their grasp.

The team speaks to Don fresh off their victory at the Challenger’s Cup, but they’re already looking to what’s next. “It feels good definitely, seeing all the hard work pay off. But it’s always about the next one when it comes to us,” says GRVTY, one of the team’s key players. They take very little time off, diving back into scrimmages shortly after a victory. GRVTY speaks a bit on their practice strategy: “It’s a combination of the way we practice and how we’re focusing on the way we want to play each situation. Each day we’re trying to focus on one map at a time. Just trying to get better at one map.”

Part of the team’s success is owed to their incredible rotation of scrimmage opponents. They frequently play against professional teams. On the benefit that this has for their performance, Coach Fenix says, “They don’t get the same structured practice that we get on a daily basis. We’re scrimming Faze, 100Thieves, even Dallas sometimes, OpTic. Like we’re scrimming the top teams.” They practice at such an immensely high level, which makes their competition in the challenger’s cup pale in comparison. “Against teams like that you can’t afford to make mistakes,” Fenix says.

This episode is 50 minutes long, and they cover a whole slew of topics, from the best trash talkers on the team to the implementation of presets. On the possibility of presets for league play, Fenix says: “It makes it easier for the average, casual viewer to understand and to let them feel like they’re part of the game.” 

Aside from technical, game-focused topics, the team also discusses the importance of overall health in maintaining high performance. “Physical health equals good mental health and Call of Duty is like 95% mental. The rest is just mechanical, which is physical. If your physical health is good, your mental health’s gonna be even better,” says Fenix. This has been a recoruring theme throughout a lot of episodes of ITS, as it’s becoming more and more central to a lot of esports’ players’ ethos surrounding the game.

Fenix also addresses the genesis of the team and their path to success. “I’m a firm believer that luck is when hard work and opportunity meet. And I think that’s what happened for us is our luck finally met. All of our hard work and opportunity led us to each other. I mean a lot of people won’t believe this when I say it, but we were the people that no one wanted. Everyone else had formed their teams already and we were like what was left,” he says. They truly have a special chemistry as a team. “What we have is really, really rare,” says Fenix. Speaking on the bond they have as a team and how it allows them to take very little rest without getting burnt out, Fenix says, “It makes the job easy.”

WestR, Don and Dalton spend the rest of the episode taking questions from the chat, talking about team dynamics and the future for the team. The sky’s the limit. In the words of Coach Fenix, “If you hate on success, then success is gonna hate on you.”

Don got a chance to catch up with the Coach again this week to recap some of the more recent developments involving the team. Take a listen to their catch up below.

Consoles Gaming

Xbox Series X Storage: Everything You Need To Know

In any article about either of the next-generation consoles, the fact that getting your hands on one has been like trying to get the newest exclusive sneaker drop must be mentioned. The shortage in stock has been frustrating and isn’t how any gaming experience should be, but hopefully, we can all get our hands on a console at some point this year. If you’ve already been playing one for a while, congratulations. We’re jealous.

No matter which console you go with, you might have some questions about storage, something which remains essential and worth considering but continues to become more and more confusing with each passing year, especially in the gaming industry. If you’ve got questions about how much storage you’ll get with the Xbox Series X and the Series S, whether that will be enough and how you can expand storage, we’ve got you covered here.

How much storage does the Xbox Series X/S have?

The Xbox Series X boasts a 1TB NVMe SSD. NVMe stands for non-volatile memory express, and they’re the replacement for the Xbox One’s SATA drive, now a thing of the past. NVMe SSDs are an improvement because they communicate directly with a system’s CPU, making them considerably faster, which is largely how you see rapid loading screens. Astonishingly, they can send up to 25x more data than the old SATA.

1TB is the same amount of storage that the Xbox One X had, and the general overview is that it’s not enough for the full lifetime of a console. As a reference point, the latest Call of Duty offering, Black Ops Cold War, is a whopping 136GB on the Series X and Series S. To make matters a little less convenient, that 1TB of storage on the Xbox Series X is really only 802GB when you account for system files and the Xbox operating system, which takes up 198GB.

The Xbox Series S has a 512GB NVMe SSD, which is really only 364GB of usable storage, and while that seems insanely inferior to the Series X, you do have to consider the factor that games on the Series S take up 30% less space because they don’t require 4k textures. But either way, there’s a good chance that at some point down the line, deleting games to install updates for other games will become far too much of an inconvenience, and you’ll want to get yourself some more storage. How do you go about it?

How to expand Xbox Series X/S storage

Along with the launch of the Xbox Series X and Series S consoles came the release of Microsoft’s 1TB Storage Expansion Card, designed by Seagate. It’s a card that slots into the port at the back of the console, essentially functioning as a memory card. Jason Ronald is Xbox’s Director of Program Management, and in September of last year, before the launch, he did a Q&A on the consoles’ storage options. He notes that with the expansion card, the exact performance of the Series X and Series S’s internal storage is matched. This is made possible through the Xbox Velocity Architecture API.

More good news about this is that the Seagate card will allow for backward compatible games to be played on it while also benefitting from the speed and performance level of the new generation console. For all of this convenience, you’ll have to shell out $220. If that’s a little pricey for you, especially after already spending $499 for the Series X or $299 for the Series S, not to worry, because other third party manufactured storage solutions are available and are certainly more forgiving on our pockets. If you want a list of options with prices, pros and cons for each detail, then scroll to the bottom of this article for some advice.

Does the Xbox Series X/S support USB external hard drives?

As mentioned above, there are a variety of options to solve storage issues, one of which is indeed a USB external hard drive. However, there are some key things to note about this. For one, an SSD drive is still faster than an HDD drive, so we recommend going with the former over the latter. But if speed and general performance is something you’re especially concerned with, the following is key.

While backward compatible games from the Xbox One, Xbox 360, and Xbox will all be perfectly fine to both store and play on any kind of external hard drive, games that are specifically optimized for the new consoles do need high-speed storage. This means that they can be stored on any kind of USB external hard drive, but to actually be played on the Series X or Series S, they’ll need to be transferred to the NVMe SSD.

Even games that you can play from any external hard drive will not give you the next-gen graphical enhancements. For many, that will mean that the official Seagate Storage Expansion Card is the only option for now, but of course, this is an irrelevant factor for some. Maybe keeping games on a USB hard drive for storage and transferring them to the SSD to play is worth avoiding the $220 price tag of Seagate’s card. If so, at the bottom of this article are some options for which external hard drives you could go with for the Xbox Series X or Series S. But before that, it’s worth knowing your way around the console.

What ports does the Xbox Series X feature?

Along with the SSD expansion port, there are 7 other ports on the Xbox Series X. Here’s a quick outline of what they are and what they’re for:

Power: No awards for guessing what this one is for. It’s an 8-figure power socket and of course, the console has an internal power supply too.

USB-A ports: There are 3 of these on the console; two at the back and one at the front. One of these is where your USB external hard drives will go, but of course, you can also charge your controller or phone through this with the wire, or you can plug in a keyboard and mouse.

HDMI 2.1: Of course, this is where the HDMI wire goes with the other end connected to your TV. The benefit of the 2.1 interfaces is that it incorporates ALLM, which stands for Auto Low Latency Mode. This means that your TV switches to its lowest latency possible when you’re gaming.

Low Latency Mode: This means that your TV switches to its lowest latency possible when you’re gaming.

Ethernet: A wired connection is always better than a wireless connection and the ethernet Cat5 cable goes here.Kensington lock: So that you can tie the console down to whatever it rests on.

Kensington lock: So that you can tie the console down to whatever it rests on.

Which external hard drive should you get?
1. Seagate Storage Expansion Card

If you’re willing to spend an extra $220 on top of getting your console, then this is certainly the way to go. It’s 1TB (with a very respectable 920GB of that being usable) and is the only way to retain the full performance level of either of the new Xbox consoles 100% of the time. We doubt there’ll be a price drop anytime soon, but perhaps even if this is your primary choice, it’s at least worth waiting until you absolutely need it. You should be able to manage for a while with the storage that the Series X or Series S offer initially.

Buy now, $220
2. Samsung T5 SSD

You can get the Samsung T5 in a few different storage options. It’s unlikely that you’ll want anything less than another terabyte, which will cost you around $140. It’s a significant saving on the official expansion card and still gets you nearly all the benefit, although of course it won’t run optimised titles.

It’s worth noting that there is, in fact, a T7 that Samsung offers that has a speed increase, but that costs around $170, so perhaps you’re better off paying an extra $50 to get the benefits of the official Seagate expansion card.

Buy now, $140
3. Seagate Expansion Portable Hard Drive

Made by the same company that makes Xbox’s official card, you still won’t be able to play games optimized for the Series X or Series S, but they do offer incredible value for money when it comes to storage. Their 1TB hard drive costs around $50, and if you want to quadruple that amount of space and be more than set for the entire lifespan of the console, you can still do that for under $100.

There isn’t too much of a hit on speed either, so this is an ideal option for those wanting a cheaper, albeit secure long-term option.

Buy now, $50
4. Toshiba Canvio Basics 1TB External Hard Drive

You can double the space of your 1TB Xbox Series X or Series S with a 2.5” Toshiba hard drive that will cost you just $45. The read speed is 540MB per second, which is great, especially considering it’s an HDD and not an SSD.

Buy now, $45
5. WD My Passport Portable Hard Drive
Currys PC World

The unique selling point of this Western Digital hard drive is that you can set password protection and hardware encryption to protect your files completely. Perhaps this isn’t something you need to worry about so much if you’re just using the hard drive to store some games on, but some extra security can never hurt and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

As with a few of the options on this list, there are numerous options for size in terms of storage. Even with the extra protection it offers, you won’t have to empty out the bank account to get one of these. WD’s 2TB option will cost you just $80.

Buy now, $80
Gaming New Releases

For All The ‘Star Wars’ Fans Out There, Here Are 10 Games Like ‘KOTOR’

There are a handful of games that elicit positive memories when mentioned around those who grew up playing them. Even decades after their retail shelf lives, these are the games that remain relevant through the force of nostalgia alone. In 2021 people are still playing Goldeneye through carefully crafted mods. Large communities of people still gather to catch up with old friends on Runescape servers, while two of the most recent blockbusters were overhauls of Resident Evil 2 and 3

Developers are learning that tapping into childhood memories is an easy path to commercial success, but not all developers are willing to take the proverbial plunge. Both Sony and Nintendo, for example, have barely scratched the surface when it comes to making their massive catalogs of games available to consumers.

Their hesitation is understandable. Not all games from decades ago will perform well on the market. But at least one company, Bioware, has a game that, if remade, would almost certainly activate legions of built-in fans. Knights of the Old Republic’s fandom has only grown in the years since its initial release, and the title is ready for an overhaul. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the success of games that take a page out of KOTOR’s book.

1. Mass Effect

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

That was probably the mantra when developers were working on the 2007 sci-fi epic Mass Effect. That’s probably why the game takes so many cues from the Knights of the Old Republic, from the combat to the dialogue decisions. Mass Effect, for all intents and purposes, is a more refined KOTOR with many of the bugs ironed out. 

Mass Effect has gone on to become a massive hit with each subsequent title, even outpacing Knights of the Old Republic at the height of its popularity. The company that owns the property is preparing to release a definitive version of the trilogy, 14 years after the original game’s release.

Buy now, $19.99
2. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

While not exactly a science fiction title, the Elder Scrolls Series has always taken cues from Knights of the Old Republic. The combat in Elder Scrolls, when played in third-person, can, at times, be identical to the combat in Knights of the Old Republic, particularly when lightsabers are involved. The way the game handles dialogue is another KOTOR callback.

Players are able to establish their character’s personalities by how they interact with NPCs. While the decision to be good or evil may not be as pronounced in The Elder Scrolls as it is in Knights of the Old Republic, with its Jedi versus Sith mechanic, there are options the player can choose to illustrate their evil intent. It’s one of the factors that makes Elder Scrolls such a good substitute for Knights of the Old Republic. It’s the freedom to do whatever you want. 

Buy now, $39.99
3. Jedi Fallen Order

This was, without a doubt, 2019’s sleeper hit. Jedi Fallen Order told the story of one of the last remaining Jedis after the infamous Order 66. It’s a game that doesn’t skimp on the combat while managing to focus on an interesting cast of characters, both on the light and dark side of the force. That’s one of the things that makes this game so interesting. While it’s easy to fall into the trap of characters who are evil just for the sake of being evil, Fallen Order gives its characters a measure of depth, which results in a multi-layered story. Like its KOTOR predecessor, Jedi Fallen Order is the gold standard in Star Wars storytelling.

Buy here, $19.99
4. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

Another hit, though not as popular as some other titles on this list, The Force Unleashed was a 2008 title that managed to put an interesting spin on the Star Wars universe. While most other stories have the theme of the good guys being corrupted by evil, The Force Unleashed is a redemption story about how evil, dark Sith becomes good. It’s an interesting sight, watching this overpowered main character come to terms with his abilities and his sense of morality. The game is fun, and the story is relatable, which is always a good thing

buy now, $19.99
5. Dragon Age Origins

Often referred to as the fantasy Mass Effect, Dragon Age, much like its science fiction counterpart, shares a lot of DNA with Knights of the Old Republic. You can see KOTOR’s inspiration in everything from the dialogue, combat to how decisions affect the game’s narrative. Critics might find the similarities between these Bioware games a bit formulaic, but there are far more who don’t mind if their success is any indication. 

In the case of Dragon Age Origins, the 2009 fantasy game, its success rivals that of Mass Effect. It’s one of the games that built up the goodwill Bioware shared with the gaming community.

buy now, $7.49
6. Star Wars Battlefront

Critics accused Star Wars Battlefront of being an incomplete game, particularly when compared to its eventual sequel. While one can make that argument, there is no denying the allure of the original Battlefront game. Stunning visuals coupled with modernized shooter mechanics drew in droves of players. What kept them playing was the opportunity to mow down scores of enemies playing as a Jedi, or Sith, in the game’s multiplayer. Not since KOTOR has the simple act of using a lightsaber to take down enemies felt so cathartic and visceral. Even playing as a non-force wielding character had its joys, again, much like KOTOR. Although the two titles are separated by a little over a decade, their similarities show just how difficult it is for a Star Wars game to come out from under KOTOR’s shadow.

buy now, $19.99
7. The Witcher 3

Another fantasy game, sure, but one that expounds on the concept of consequences derived from a player’s decisions. This was one of the most alluring features of Knights of the Old Republic and The Witcher makes judicious use of it. In both games, the players are forced to make choices, the consequences of which are, at times, immediately apparent, while others aren’t so much. It’s possible to play a completely different game from your original playthrough which only adds to the allure of both titles. And don’t worry about Witcher 3 being released in 2015. Like KOTOR it manages to stand the test of time.

buy now, $49.99
8. Jade Empire

Another Bioware title, that isn’t as popular as others. Jade Empire, like KOTOR, is a role playing game that features very similar gameplay elements to KOTOR. Released in 2005, the game features upgraded graphics and slightly less tankish controls than KOTOR, which isn’t saying much since Jade Empire’s controls aren’t that good overall. While the game was never able to garner as massive a cult following as KOTOR, it is still fondly remembered by many, thanks in large part to it’s epic story and clever magic system.

buy now, $2.99
9. Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast

Another game that blends Star Wars with roleplaying elements. Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Outcast, released in 2002, is one of the few tames that predates Knights of the Old Republic. It tells a more linear story about the titular outcast and his travels. While this formula was popularized by The Mandalorian, Jedi Outcast was the first to do this kind of storytelling, and it did so without a Baby Yoda.

buy now, $9.99
10. Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

Released in 2003, Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy has always been a bit of a rival to Knights of the Old Republic. Both games were released during a time when developers hadn’t really captured the essence of playing as a Jedi in video games. Knights of the Old Republic and Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy was perhaps players’ first taste of truly wielding the power of Jedis. Visually, Jedi Academy isn’t as impressive as Knights of the Old Republic but it does give you free rein to do what you want. The game rewards exploration in a way that is very satisfying, particularly if you are a lifelong Star Wars fan.

buy now, $9.99
Gaming Interviews

Brian Saintt on the Importance of Player Health and the Minnesota RØKKR’s Future

On this week’s episode of Inside the Screen, Aaron and co-host Dalton Floyd speak with Minnesota RØKKR coach/general manager Brian Saintt fresh off his team’s victory at the CDL Kickoff. Saintt is an immensely successful CDL coach, and his conversation with the ITS crew provides incredible insight into his practice strategy, the importance of maintaining physical and mental health, and the future of the team. 

Aaron and Dalton begin this pod by gassing up Saintt, as he deserves, for his numerous accolades as a coach. They spend a bit of time discussing the current roster’s formation, with members coming over from FaZe clan and the NY Subliners. “It was pretty natural,” Brian says of the creation of the new RØKKR team. 

He’s worked with a wide range of players, so naturally, Aaron has to ask about that process. “Every year, I learn more and more. And I learn how to work with different groups of players. And I think all my experiences leading up have given me a really good perspective on different groups of players and how certain players work,” Brian replies. They also spend a bit of time discussing how Brian balances being both a coach and a general manager for the team. 

Mental and physical health is a ubiquitous topic throughout the episode.  “I think as esports develops more, getting personal trainers and therapists is going to be a lot more frequent,” Brian tells Aaron and Dalton, adding, “Now as it becomes a more legitimate career, a lot of these players have to actually treat it as if they’re athletes.” The Minnesota RØKKR team certainly subscribes to this ethos. “We do team workouts on Zoom with a trainer every Monday and Thursday,” Saintt tells Aaron. It’s in the name; esports is a sport. Players have got to treat it like one. Brian has been focusing on maintaining his personal physical and mental health, saying: “You gotta lead by example.”

They cover a wide range of topics during the rest of the episode. The trio talks anime, strategy surrounding different maps, and numerous specific COD-related topics—from dynasties to the future of classes. Saintt is so knowledgeable about the game, and so all of his answers provide an interesting insight into the future of COD and esports generally.

What’s next for Saintt and the team? “My goal this year is definitely to win one of the majors, but especially Champs,” he tells the ITS crew. Saintt has numerous second place finishes as a coach in the majors, but he’s got his sights set on a gold medal this year. With his determination, extremely talented roster, and commitment to player’s well-being, the goal is well within his grasp. We’ve just got to wait and see.