When you think of a first-class gaming experience, mobile gaming is not usually what comes to mind. There have been quite a few really fantastic mobile games, but most are just for a quick gaming session, with very few offerings for the serious gamer. If you’re into serious gaming or eSports, you’re probably going to be on a powerful PC or console. Vainglory looks to change the face of mobile gaming with a massively multiplayer experience and an up-and-coming eSport focus. Does it’s gameplay live up to its ambition? Let’s take a look.
Developer: Super Evil Megacorp
Cost: Free with in-app purchases
Download: Play Store, iOS
Vainglory is a MOBA, which stands for Multiplayer Online Battle Arena. The basic idea is there are two teams made up of three players each, and each team is trying to destroy the others base. To do this, they need to travel down a center lane and destroy giant turret guns protecting the enemy’s base. There is a constant stream of minions pouring out of each base that will do little more than distract the enemy. It takes teamwork, quick thinking, and powerful hero skills to win the battle.
Vainglory is a big game with lots of moving parts and many things to learn before you can just jump in. To help with the otherwise steep learning curve, the game walks you through several tutorial missions that cover everything from basic movements and maneuvers, several different special abilities, unlocking heroes, and some light strategy to help you win. All of this takes about an hour, but it’s worth your time to really understand all of the things going on in battle, as they can get quite fast-paced.
To really get the most out of the game, you need to create a profile to be able to access all the features and events. At the time of this writing, there’s a tournament coming up where you could win an iPhone 7, so we’re not just talking about in-game currency or a unique character, but actual real life prizes. There’s also an active community, friends list, and even an eSport league, so when it asks if you want to register, do it.
Some of the many, many characters available from the huge roster
The gameplay is solid and really easy once you’ve learned how to play. There are around 30 different heroes to choose from, each with multiple unique abilities, so playing around with all of them is key to discovering which characters skills fit your play style. I’m partial to Saw and his giant minigun, but there are quick run-and-gun characters, sword wielders who get up close and personal, and even little mage dragons who look like they came right out of Digimon. No matter your playstyle, there’s something for everyone. Each week there are new free-to-try heroes, which can be unlocked through collecting in-game objects or can be purchased through in-app purchases, so if there’s someone you really like, you can have them available, but for me personally, I enjoy playing with all of the different character types and trying them out for the week. If during that time there is a character that you especially like, you can purchase them for 10% off their regular price, which is a great system.
Depending on your match type, each round could take anywhere from 5 minutes up to 30+ minutes. At the start of each round, you have a small amount of money to buy one piece of equipment with, but as you mow down minions and enemy heroes, you’ll gradually gain both gold and experience. Gold can be use at your base or as item shops on the battlefield to purchase new equipment that will increase your attack, defense, speed, or grant new abilities, such as short speed bursts. Experience allows you to upgrade abilities and unlock new abilities for the round. Each round starts you off with little equipment and gold, allowing you to rebuild in different ways depending on what is needed for the round. If a certain enemy is resilient to your first ability but crumbles against your second, you can tailor your build during that game to boost the damage and level of your second ability. There’s also gameplay modes that will start your character at level 4 with a good sum of gold from the start so you can jump right into the action.
The biggest draw to Vainglory is the fact that the game is centered around multiplayer. There are some bot modes to play but they are just considered practice rounds, and your AI controlled allies can pretty much be forgotten about because they will be off lollygagging about and will not be much help. Connecting to other players and working together to overthrow the other team is the heart and soul of this game, and when you find players that you play well with, the game really shines. A strong team usually consists of characters that can cover each other weaknesses, but I’ve played matches where my teammates and I overwhelmed the other team through sheer force alone. The variety of character you’ll be playing with, both on your team and against, always keeps matches fresh and fun.
This game is beautiful. There are brilliant colors everywhere on the battlefield. All around you are lush bushes, pathways that have been trampled by war, and incredible masonry surrounding each base. Character animation is smooth and using abilities is fun with leaps and dives and uppercuts that all transition seamlessly into one another. All the characters have unique looks and multiple costumes.
Vainglory is all the fun of the MOBA games on PC only in a pocket format. The characters are varied and unique, and with a heavy focus on multiplayer and events, there’s always new content to discover. In-app purchases are available but hardly necessary, which is great for those who want things right away and don’t mind paying, but it’s also great too for those on a budget. If you are a fan of MOBAs, action games, or enjoy serious gaming on the go, download this now.
It’s not iMessage, but it’s close enough.
After launching with Sprint last month, Google has announced that plans to bring RCS — Rich Communications Services — to Rogers customers starting today, December 13.
Working with Google, Rogers says that all future Android devices it sells will come preloaded with Messenger, the company’s first-party SMS app, as its default texting utility, through which it will communicate with Google’s Jibe Cloud to facilitate rich texting.
Like Sprint, Rogers customers will be able to see the following improvements:
- Real group chat
- Read receipts
- Typing indicators
- The ability to share photos, files and location
Google is working with a number of carriers around the world to launch Jibe-based RCS — which has the potential to be a true iMessage competitor on Android — including T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T in the States and a number of European carriers. It’s unclear whether more Canadian operators will launch RCS in the coming months, but users running compatible phones on compatible networks — say, Spring and Rogers — should be able to send rich messages to one another.
The news also applies to Fido customers. The rollout may be slow, so if you’re not seeing the capabilities once you download Google Messenger, hang tight.
Where can I try VR before buying?
Purchasing a VR headset can be a huge investment, both in money and space. The decision to buy is definitely more difficult if you’ve never tried VR, as many questions hang in the air: Will I get sick? Is the headset comfortable? Is it worth taking up a room in my house?
These questions are best answered through practice. Here’s where you can try out the leading VR headsets before investing in one for yourself.
Read more at VR Heads!
Not like this, Google.
I had been intrigued by Google’s “Live Case” design since it was unveiled earlier in 2016 for the latest Nexus phones, so when I got my Pixel XL I finally decided to pickup the expensive, yet awesome-looking, case from the Google Store. After 15 minutes on the store, picking out the perfect map view of my beloved Seattle for the design, I placed my order on October 21.
The long and winding road to disappointment
I was already perturbed by the fact that my expected delivery date was some three weeks later; a window of November 11 to 15 was quoted. It took over a week after ordering just to get a tracking number, and it showed my case was being shipped directly from China … not a great sign. Sadly the saga didn’t stop there (and my experience isn’t an isolated one): after watching my Places Live Case jump around Asia and eventually land in Kentucky, it sat in Louisville for six days before going back to China, then back to Kentucky … only to sit there for another two days before heading out toward Seattle.
Three days later — after a false “notice left” delivery exception from the trusty USPS — my Places Live Case finally arrived. A full 29 days after I placed my order on the Google Store and almost a week later than the latest estimated delivery date.
I put it on my Pixel XL, relished in its custom glory, and then realized that it doesn’t even work properly.
The idea of the “Live Case” series is that you install the My live Case app to pair up with your case. For the Places Live Case, it enables an exclusive wallpaper that changes as you move around, and can be customized to your liking. The case also includes a button on the back that interfaces with NFC on your phone to perform various actions.
The case’s button is finicky at best and demonstrably broken at worst.
My issue is that the case’s button is finicky at best and demonstrably broken at worst. For the first few days of using the Live Case, the button would activate every single time I unlocked the phone — by default launching the “places near me” interface of Google Maps. Being frustrated but hoping to mitigate the problem, I turned the shortcut button off … but unfortunately all that does is stop the app from starting an action; it still triggers a confirmatory beep and vibration that the button had been “pressed” when it hadn’t.
Coming back from a week of vacation, I tried to give the case another try. Someone upstairs was looking down on me favorably, it seems, as now the case doesn’t accidentally trigger the button every time I unlock the phone. But instead, it’s near-impossible to activate. I can press and hold the button as hard as I can and activate it about half the time — not a great success rate. Unfortunately it also still has the limitation of only working while the screen is on and the phone is unlocked, meaning some of the suggested actions — like toggling Wi-Fi or the flashlight — are dramatically less useful.
The least you can do is make your overpriced case arrive on time and work as advertised.
Reading through the Google Play Store reviews (totaling a 3.2 rating) of the My Live Case app unfortunately confirmed my frustrations: these cases are hardly working as intended, and people aren’t happy about it.
I actually think the physical quality of the case is nice, I enjoy my custom design and want the live wallpaper … so what do I do? Well, if it keeps acting up and accidentally activating its button, I’ll have to peel out the NFC coil — leaving me with a $40 case (that I waited for an absurd month to arrive) that looks nice but lacks all functionality that helped justify its price.
So really, Google, is it that hard to just make a case that works as intended? And at the same time, deliver the case in a timely manner when people are paying top dollar for it? Maybe those things should be figured out as you continue to make new deals for even more designs of the same flawed design.
Google Pixel + Pixel XL
- Google Pixel and Pixel XL review
- Google Pixel XL review: A U.S. perspective
- Google Pixel FAQ: Should you upgrade?
- Pixel + Pixel XL specs
- Understanding Android 7.1 Nougat
- Join the discussion in the forums!
More great stuff from Action Launcher.
Action Launcher, our favorite Android launcher replacement, has received its monthly update, and while December’s isn’t quite as noteworthy as some in the past, it’s still got a bunch of great additions.
Specifically, developer Chris Lacy has added, in alpha, badge counts for certain apps, allowing users to check how many unread texts, emails or missed calls they have. According to Lacy, the feature was one often requested over the years, especially since competitors like Apex and Nova included it, but he wanted to make sure it was implemented right. The feature is in alpha, and is not complete; it currently “displays the number of unread SMS messages, missed calls, unread Gmail/Inbox messages and upcoming calendar appointments,” he says.
In a Google+ post, he notes that he “long resisted” adding badges in Action Launcher 3, despite trialling and removing them in Action Launcher 2 Pro, because badges require permissions many Android users are reluctant to concede, and because there is no system-wide badge API like there is in iOS.
As of late 2016, I’m very pleased to report my permissions concerns are largely no longer relevant given Marshmallow’s runtime permission system (which the vast majority of Action Launcher’s users are running).
I maintain my reservations about the lack of proper, system wide Android APIs for fetching an app’s unread count that works with all apps. However, the endless stream of requests and negative reviews over the last two years due to no unread badge support have proven too much for me to ignore any longer. As of the December 2016 update, Action Launcher will begin supporting unread badges, as best it can.
Another fantastic feature is the ability to remove the white “plates” around circular icons that have been redesigned for Nougat. Specifically, should you choose the Pixel style of icons, Action Launcher looks for the version that isn’t entrenched in a circular shield.
Other notables? Quickpage, the always-accessible slide-in home screen, is no longer a premium feature. More of this, please! There’s also a new scrollable dock and the requisite bug fixes and performance improvements.
Android Things brings IoT into the development environment so many already know.
The attempt at a grand unification of “internet of things” devices is mostly a dream, but that isn’t stopping big companies like Google from making an honest go of it. The latest initiative from Google to create and unify the internet of things takes its current Brillo and Weave standards and adds more parts to create one platform: Android Things.
Google describes Android Things as “a comprehensive way to build IoT products with the power of Android,” and of course that sounds very familiar to its stance on letting manufacturers use Android to build phones, tablets, TV boxes and more. Android Things is effectively a rebranding and expansion of its previous Brillo platform, which itself was a stripped-down version of Android designed for IoT device.
You can now develop IoT devices right where you already develop apps.
So what’s the change? Well, the biggest difference is that hardware and software developers can now create IoT devices using the same Android APIs and Google Services they already know. Android Things is now available to work with inside of Android Studio with the Android SDK, Google Play Services and Google Cloud Platform. Google will also start releasing updates to Android Things similarly to how it handles other Android releases, with patches and security fixes. In many ways this turns IoT development into a first-class citizen right next to creating apps for Android phones and tablets.
Of course there’s a hardware angle to all of this, and Google is quick to point out the handful of turnkey solutions available for you to buy and start developing on, including Intel’s Edison kit and the Raspberry Pi 3. Qualcomm also announced today that it intends to work with Google to make sure Android Things works properly with Snapdragon processors.
Considering how weakly Brillo has been received since its introduction in 2015, it’s not surprising that Google made a big effort to make developing for IoT devices more like developing for other types of Android. By bringing Android Things into the core Android development experience, many barriers have been dropped and more hardware developers can experiment with using Google’s platform first. Google already has a Developer Preview of Android Things available, if you want to take a look.
We switch phones a lot. Here are the ones we’re using right now.
Part of our jobs as editors here at AC is using all sorts of different Android phones. Big ones, small ones, red ones and blue ones — we try them all. And while you’ll usually find more than one phone in our pockets or bags, we always have one that we use a little more than the rest and do our personal stuff like posting on Instagram or texting our friends with it. We tend to think of that one as our phone.
When we’re talking about phones, which is like all the time, we get the same question over and over — which phone do you use? The answer will change as often as the weather, but this is what we’re using right now.
Here are the phones the AC editors using in December 2016.
Alex Dobie — Galaxy S7 edge
After a brief stint on a 32GB Pixel XL, I’m back on the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, and using it with the current Nougat beta. The Pixel is the quicker of the two phones, sure, but I’m enjoying being able to use wireless charging again, as well as having a 128GB microSD installed, which basically ensures I’ll never run out of space for photos or music. There’s no question that the GS7 edge is one of the better looking Android phones, too, compared to the relatively bland “Quite Black” Pixel. Battery life is top-notch too, and I can safely use it without any explosive mishaps.
Andrew Martonik — Google Pixel XL
After some time using the smaller Pixel and enjoying its size, I’ve landed back on the Pixel XL and it all comes down to one thing: battery life. Traveling this past week and using roaming data, it just showed how much I appreciate the extra battery the XL offers. I’m still loving the software and am completely enthralled by what the camera can do, but moving to the XL means not ever worrying about the phone lasting a full heavy day of use.
Daniel Bader — LG V20
I used the Google Pixel (the smaller one) for almost the entire month of November, and loved it. From its clean-as-a-whistle software (that expression makes no sense) to its excellent software, there probably isn’t a better Android experience right now.
But for December, I decided to go big, transitioning to the LG V20, a 5.7-inch phone (in)famous for its Second Screen and removable battery. I have to say that despite dropping a decimal in terms of Android versions, the V20 holds up nicely, especially after a recent performance-improving update, and the software has no jarring deviations from Google’s own — just a number of questionably-useful gimmicks that can easily be disabled or ignored. The hardware is solid, certainly more so than the G5, and I am a big fan of the V20’s manual camera features that, combined with its second sensor, offer some unique and truly fun experiences.
Florence Ion — Really Blue Google Pixel XL
I had a seance for the Nexus 6P, but I’m hoping to revive it with Android 7.1 over the holiday to see how it fares. I’ve got sage at the ready if that backfires.
Until then, the Really Blue Pixel XL is my trusty steed and I don’t think that will change even after next year’s flagships come a-callin’. This phone is simply everything and I love it even more now that there’s a Google Home and Daydream VR to accompany it. The camera on this thing is still blowing my mind, too. Just look at the way it captured the Fiords in New Zealand.
Jerry Hildenbrand — Google Pixel
Specifically, the smaller and more superior Pixel. The phone I carry out of the house is a thing I need to depend on. I need it to be able to contact the people I need to contact in the ways I need to contact them without any extras getting in my way. Sometimes I can do more fun things, and I do have a game or two from Google Play installed, but mostly my phone is a phone — it’s for making and taking calls, sending messages and getting my email. A few phones do all this the way I like it done, but I think Google does it the best.
The Pixel gives me the no-nonsense software I want that’s always up to date. I’ll use it until another phone can do the same thing.
Russell Holly — Google Pixel XL
Because Daydream is awesome, the camera is amazing, and the battery gets me through the day.
Google Pixel + Pixel XL
- Google Pixel and Pixel XL review
- Google Pixel XL review: A U.S. perspective
- Google Pixel FAQ: Should you upgrade?
- Pixel + Pixel XL specs
- Understanding Android 7.1 Nougat
- Join the discussion in the forums!
Google is forming a new company for its self-driving car division, which will operate independently inside Alphabet.
While Google’s official blog and Self-Driving Car Project page have yet to be updated, Tech Crunch has the news that Google is spinning out its self-driving car project to a standalone company. The new company is called Waymo, and it will operate on its own under the Alphabet umbrella, rather than as a division of Google. Jon Krafcik is the new company’s CEO.
As a standalone company Waymo will have the additional freedom to work in a way that benefits its own causes and potentially grow faster than when it was part of Google. The choice for it to spin out means Waymo can be focused on products, rather than purely on research. But concurrently, as we’ve seen many times before, it will also now have additional pressure to make it on its own without the constant flow of money from its former parent company.
Waymo CEO Krafcik made the point that the company is primarily focused on the technology of self-driving cars rather than the actual cars themselves:
“We are a self-driving technology company. We’ve been really clear that we’re not a car co. although there’s sometimes some confusion on that point. We’re not in the business of making better cars. We’re in the business of making better drivers.”
Google has routinely spun out divisions into their own companies to effectively see if they can sink or swim, while also not dragging down Google’s bottom line. With Waymo, this points to the fact that the self-driving car project is on the cusp of either breaking into the mainstream, or potentially dying if it can’t work out the business model on its own.
Swipe to dismiss also makes a comeback in penultimate Wear 2.0 developer preview build.
The Android Wear 2.0 development train keeps on rolling with the release today of a new developer preview build. The biggest change in the new build is the addition of new APIs for authenticating on your phone for a watch-based app. As Google explains in today’s blog post:
To make authentication a seamless experience for both Android phone and iPhone users, we have created new APIs for OAuth and added support for one-click Google Sign-in. With the OAuth API for Android Wear, users can tap a button on the watch that opens an authentication screen on the phone. Your watch app can then authenticate with your server side APIs directly. With Google Sign-In, it’s even easier. All the user needs to do is select which account they want to authenticate with and they are done.
Other changes include support for on-watch billing for in-app purchases, through a four-digit Google account PIN. There are also new cross-device promotion APIs for allowing developers to push users to a relevant phone app on the Play Store. And the swipe-to-dismiss gesture, removed in the earlier previews, is back in today’s builds. Support for “legacy apps” using the older Wear 1.0 app delivery mechanism has also been added. And it’s now possible to peek to actions at the bottom of items without scrolling through the entire list.
The fact that major user-facing changes are still being made shows that Wear 2.0 remains in flux even at this late stage in its development. The new builds are available for the Huawei Watch and LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE. We’re still due a fifth Android Wear 2.0 developer preview build before the new version is finalized early in 2017.
Looking to pick up a PlayStation 4 for yourself or as a gift but don’t want to pay full price for it? Here are some of the best bundles available right now!
Consoles are always going on sale, and there are always different deals that include games, controllers, and other accessories, but hunting them down isn’t always the easiest thing. Whether you are looking for an original PlayStation 4, the refined PlayStation Slim, or the newest PlayStation Pro, we’ve got you covered on the best deals available.
If you aren’t quite sure which console to be looking for deals on, be sure to check out our amazing comparison which breaks it all down for you.
- Amazon offers the PS4 with Call of Duty Black Ops III for $249
PlayStation 4 Slim
- Amazon offers the PS4 Slim with Uncharted 4 for $249
- GameStop is offering bundle with Uncharted 4 and $25 store gift card for $249
PlayStation 4 Pro
There are no current bundle deals for the PS4 Pro, but you can pick the standard 1TB package for $399.
- Amazon sells the PS4 Pro with a 1TB hard drive and a single controller for $399
Your favorite deals?
Have you found a great deal that isn’t listed here? If so, be sure to drop a link in the comments along with a line about what makes it such an awesome deal!