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Microsoft Weekly: Paint in the Microsoft Store, Age of Empires IV, and Surface updates
by Florin Bodnarescu
A number of Surface firmware updates, an overdue appearance of Paint in the Microsoft Store, and a celebration of the venerable RTS series that is Age of Empires were all in the news this week. You can find info about that, as well as much more below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of April 4 - 10.
Paint in the Microsoft Store
We’ll start with some Windows 10 and Paint news, as the Redmond giant has released yet another Insider build to testers.
Part of the co_release branch – and live in the Dev channel right now -, build 21354 has support for a number of new news and interests personalization options, some Display Settings improvements, the organization of admin and system tools under a new Windows Tools folder, and more. If you want to clean install this build, ISO images are also available.
Yet another somewhat interesting (and overdue) step is the availability of Snipping Tool and Paint in the Microsoft Store. The latter is especially surprising given that at one point Microsoft really wanted folks to transition to Paint 3D. That seems to no longer be the case.
For something that’s going to be here a little sooner than the above, feel free to check out our run-down of what’s coming in Windows 10 version 21H1.
Age of Empires IV
Arguably the biggest gaming news of the week was the long-awaited gameplay reveal for Age of Empires IV. As part of a bigger celebration of the venerable RTS series, Microsoft took the wraps off a couple new civilizations for the forthcoming game, as well as an extended gameplay look, new mechanics, and perhaps more importantly, a release window: fall 2021.
The good news didn’t stop there, as the firm also unveiled that Age of Empires II and III Definitive Editions are set to get new expansions – both free and paid -, including a new U.S. civilization for AoE III, and much more.
On the update front, Halo: MCC Season 6 is now available, Arkane’s Deathloop has been hit with another delay, moving its release date to September 14, and the ever-present Deals with Gold have now been enhanced thanks to the Spring Sale. Games on offer include Yakuza: Like a Dragon, Wreckfest, We Happy Few, and more.
Last but not least, there is Game Pass news to discuss too, as NHL 21, GTA V, Zombie Army 4, and more are headed for the subscription. Perhaps most surprising of all, MLB The Show 21, a PlayStation Studios-published title, is also coming to Game Pass on launch day, April 20.
It’s been a relatively busy week in terms of Surface news, with a number of models in the range getting firmware updates and other various quality of life improvements.
To start, there’s the Surface Book 2, the graphics performance of which has been enhanced by its latest set of updates, while the Surface Studio 2 has received more general enhancements targeting security and system stability.
Flipping over to the Pro range, the Surface Pro 6 also received some stability-improving updates, with the Pro 7 nabbing some camera experience tweaks thanks to its new updates. The latter was also featured in the company’s most recent ad, taking aim at the iPad Pro’s heavy keyboard.
Finally, the Surface Laptop 4 is set to debut April 27 as per a new leak, with the new models offering both Intel and AMD CPUs in the 13.5 and 15-inch form factors. Pricing starts at €1,499 for the Core i5, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD version of the 13.5-inch model and €1,149 for the entry-level Ryzen 5 version, which comes with half the storage space. On the 15-inch side, the Core i7, 16GB RAM, 512 GB SSD version will set you back €1,999, while the entry-level Ryzen 7 version comes in at €1,499.
The leak above does hold some water as drivers and firmware updates for the Surface Laptop 4 have already showed up on Microsoft’s website.
Defender for Endpoint is now GA for Windows 10 on ARM devices. A new sharing experience for Power BI will be launched soon. Switching to things already available, Power BI Premium and Pro now have object-level security capabilities. A new Cloud Services model is now available in Azure. Dynamics 365 and Power Platform 2021 release wave 1 is now live. SQL Server Big Data Clusters CU10 has brought a number of new capabilities. Microsoft has highlighted a number of new Microsoft 365 features for consumers. Edge Dev build 91.0.845.2 is now out, bringing minor improvements. LinkedIn has denied reports of a data breach affecting 500 million users. You will soon be able to earn Microsoft Rewards points by using Microsoft Search. OneDrive apps on Android and iOS have gotten a host of new features, with the Windows sync client gaining 64-bit support. Logging off
To end, we’ll take a look at Microsoft’s explanation for last week’s Azure outage.
As you may remember, there was a pretty serious Azure outage on April 1, which affected services ranging from Xbox Live to Office 365.
While the company initially released a brief explanation as to why this had happened, pointing to DNS issues, it has now provided a more detailed explanation.
As per the company, there was an unusual surge in Azure DNS queries from all over the world, which should have been mitigated via “layers of caches and traffic shaping”. However, due to an error in the Azure DNS service code, this entire operation was made less efficient.
Though the issues started at 9:21PM UTC, by 10PM Microsoft’s cloud services had been fixed. As a result of this, the company has fixed the aforementioned DNS code bug and has updated the logic on its mitigation systems to prevent future excessive DNS retries, which were the cause of this massive outage.
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Age of Empires II and III Definitive Editions are getting more expansions
by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe
Microsoft and the development teams behind Age of Empires today held a Fan Preview event showcasing what's next for the franchise. In addition to revealing the release window and new footage of the upcoming Age of Empires IV, the event also revealed information regarding the future of Age of Empires II and III Definitive Editions.
Starting with Age of Empires II, the popular entry is gaining another expansion as part of the Definitive Edition's development by World’s Edge. The behemoth real-time strategy game is receiving the eastern Europe-focused Dawn of the Dukes expansion this summer, which will deliver new campaigns and other elements that will be revealed later.
The developer is also working on a new cooperative mode for the game's historical battles that will arrive via a free update later this year. Handpicked campaign missions and historical battles will be delivered for players to tackle with their friends for the first time.
Meanwhile, Age of Empires III is slated to receive its first major content update, with The United States civilization being delivered. This new civilization will feature "a new home city, nine new units, a new age-up mechanic, and more." Moreover, for a limited time, players will be able to claim this U.S. civilization for free by completing an in-game community challenge. Otherwise, the content will cost $4.99 to purchase.
The Definitive Edition development team is working on a new expansion for Age of Empires III as well. While details are scarce, the expansion will feature African civilizations and is slated to release later this year.
All content announced today is heading to Age of Empires II and III Definitive Edition players across Steam, Microsoft Store, and Xbox Game Pass for PC.
Age of Empires IV launches fall 2021, new gameplay and civilizations shown off
by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe
The upcoming fourth entry to the Age of Empires real-time strategy series was shown off today at the Fan Preview event, as promised. The highly-anticipated title also received a launch window for the first time, with Relic Entertainment announcing a Fall 2021 release plan for Windows.
As for the gameplay, this is the first time that footage from a player perspective has been released, and today's reveal covered new gameplay, campaigns, and more. Catch the extended look above.
Many elements from the series' most popular entry, Age of Empires II, seem to be present in Age of Empires IV, at least in the early look given today. Aside from glimpses at the unique looks of each civilization, material gathering, and combat (with a sneak peek at naval elements), some new features like hiding troops in trees for ambushing were revealed here as well.
Age of Empires IV will include eight civilizations at launch, and today's preview unveiled Delhi Sultanate and Chinese as two new civilizations heading in, which join the Mongols and the English that were announced previously. Four historical campaigns and asymmetrical civilization designs were also confirmed today.
There is good news for those looking to get into the game before the official launch this fall, as Relic is looking to kick off an Age of Empires IV closed beta soon. The developer urged interested players to sign up as an Age Insider on its official website for a chance to gain access. Age of Empires IV is releasing on Steam and Microsoft Store for Windows and as part of the Xbox Game Pass for PC subscription on day one.
Weekend PC Game Deals: A VR bundle, Xbox specials, and more choices
by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe
Weekend PC Game Deals is where the hottest gaming deals from all over the internet are gathered into one place, every week, for your consumption. So kick back, relax, and hold on to your wallets.
The latest Humble offerings come in the form of a new Choice selection and a gaming bundle.
Getting right into it, the replacement for the March Choice games landed this week, with the April selection bringing in a platter of new titles for you to pick from. Find the 12 new games and links to their Steam store pages below:
Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts F1 2020 Shenmue 3 Main Assembly Rock of Ages 3 Popup Dungeon In Other Waters Aven Colony Simulacra 1 + 2 Colt Canyon Skully Remothered: Broken Porcelain Opting to pick up three of the above titles will set you back $14.99 as part of the Basic tier, while nine games will cost $19.99. In addition, those still with active legacy Humble Monthly subscriptions from back in the day can grab 10 games for $12.99 instead.
This selection of games will be available on Humble Choice until May 4. While being subscribed to Choice, members also get access to the Humble Trove of DRM-free games as well as a bonus 20% discount on what's available on the Humble Store.
Also, if you're a virtual reality gaming fan, another bundle filled with a swath of interesting VR games was introduced this week to the Humble store.
The Humble Spring into VR Bundle offers Detached as the sole item in the $1 tier. While the second and third tiers are currently almost equally priced due to the average price section, if you do decide to go for the second tier you get copies of Star Trek: Bridge Crew, Surgeon Simulator, Espire 1, and Swords of Gurrah.
Lastly, the third tier comes touting copies of Borderlands 2 VR, Job Simulator, and Sairento, with all of it coming in for $15. Almost all of these games require a VR headset to play, so keep that in mind before picking up the bundle.
The Epic Games Store this week delivered a brand new release as a freebie, with 3 out of 10: Season Two coming in to replace Tales of the Neon Sea from last week.
3 out of 10: Season Two continues the humorous storyline of Shovelworks Studios, a video game development company that is trying to create a game that scores better than '3 out of 10'. The storyline is provided through five episodes featuring various mini-games, and this freebie provides access to all of them. Also, if you missed it, the first season is available for free on the Epic Games Store as well.
As for next week's giveaway, it will be a triple drop. Epic is bringing in Deponia: The Complete Journey, Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth, and The First Tree as freebies starting April 15.
The Elder Scrolls Online free week that you may remember kicking off last week is still running strong, and it seems to be the only free event available this weekend. The ZeniMax Online Studios-developed MMORPG is offering access to the base game and Morrowind expansion content for free, with the event slated to end on April 13.
The specials space is once again dominated by Xbox PC games this weekend, as Microsoft sprung a Steam sale for its games to match its own store. Including those sales and much more, check out our big deals list of highlights below:
Forza Horizon 4 – $38.99 on Steam Football Manager 2021 – $37.49 on Steam Wasteland 3 – $29.99 on Steam Horizon Zero Dawn Complete Edition – $29.99 on Steam Gears Tactics – $23.99 on Steam VTOL VR – $23.99 on Humble Store State of Decay 2: Juggernaut Edition – $22.49 on Steam Detroit: Become Human – $21.99 on IndieGala DARK SOULS III Deluxe Edition – $21.24 on Steam Sea of Thieves – $19.99 on Steam Halo: The Master Chief Collection – $19.99 on Steam ASTRONEER – $19.49 on Steam PGA TOUR 2K21 – $17.19 on IndieGala Edge Of Eternity - Early Access – $16.74 on Steam SpellForce 3: Fallen God – $16.49 on Steam Spyro Reignited Trilogy – $15.99 on Steam Gears 5 – $15.99 on Steam Halo Wars 2 – $15.99 on Microsoft Store Spyro Reignited Trilogy – $15.99 on Steam Nebuchadnezzar – $15.99 on Steam Ori and the Will of the Wisps – $14.99 on Steam Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition – $14.99 on Steam Red Matter VR – $14.99 on Humble Store Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition – $13.39 on Steam CARRION – $13.39 on Humble Store Fallout 76 – $11.49 on IndieGala Tell Me Why – $9.99 on Steam Quantum Break – $9.99 on Steam Killer Instinct – $9.99 on Steam DARK SOULS II: Scholar of the First Sin – $9.99 on Steam Command & Conquer Remastered Collection – $9.99 on Origin HELLDIVERS Dive Harder Edition – $9.19 on Fanatical Fable Anniversary – $8.74 on Steam Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice – $7.49 on Steam Age of Mythology: Extended Edition – $7.49 on Steam Halo Wars: Definitive Edition – $6.99 on Steam GRIS – $6.79 on Humble Store Another Brick in the Mall – $6.79 on Steam Broken Reality – $5.09 on Steam The Bard's Tale Trilogy – $5.09 on Steam Battletoads – $4.99 on Steam Psychonauts – $4.99 on Steam Sunset Overdrive – $4.99 on Steam Rise of Nations: Extended Edition – $4.99 on Steam SPORE – $4.99 on Steam The Sims 4 – $4.79 on Steam Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain – $4.59 on Fanatical Blood Bowl 2 – $2.79 on Fanatical Mirror's Edge – $1.99 on Origin 3 out of 10: Season Two – $0 on Epic Store DRM-free Goodness
A special weekend mix of challenging and indie games are populating this weekend's DRM-free deals from the GOG store:
XCOM 2 - $14.99 on GOG Prey - $11.99 on GOG XCOM: Enemy Unknown Complete Pack - $9.99 on GOG Kerbal Space Program - $9.99 on GOG The Messenger - $9.99 on GOG Katana ZERO - $8.99 on GOG Star Trek: 25th Anniversary - $7.99 on GOG MDK 2 - $7.99 on GOG Redneck Rampage Collection - $7.99 on GOG SPORE Collection - $7.49 on GOG GRIS - $6.79 on GOG Advent Rising - $6.69 on GOG BioShock Remastered - $6.59 on GOG Xenonauts - $6.24 on GOG Crysis Warhead - $4.99 on GOG Dead Space - $4.99 on GOG Mirror's Edge - $4.99 on GOG The Bureau: XCOM Declassified - $3.99 on GOG Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath HD - $3.39 on GOG Master of Orion 1+2 - $2.99 on GOG Hocus Pocus - $2.99 on GOG Magrunner: Dark Pulse - $2.49 on GOG Escape Goat - $2.49 on GOG Jazz Jackrabbit 2 Collection - $2.49 on GOG VVVVVV - $2.49 on GOG Oddworld: Abe's Exoddus - $2.03 on GOG Tomb Raider 1+2+3 - $1.99 on GOG X-COM: Terror from the Deep - $1.49 on GOG X-Com: UFO Defense - $1.49 on GOG Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2 - $0.97 on GOG UFO: Aftershock - $0.79 on GOG Keep in mind that availability and pricing for some deals could vary depending on the region.
That's it for our pick of this weekend's PC game deals, and hopefully, some of you have enough self-restraint not to keep adding to your ever-growing backlogs. As always, there's an enormous amount of other deals ready and waiting all over the interwebs as well as in services you may already subscribe to if you comb through them, so keep your eyes open for those, and have a great weekend.
Arkane's Deathloop hit with another delay, now releasing in September
by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe
Deathloop, Arkane Studios' upcoming action game with time loop antics, has once again suffered a launch setback. In an announcement via Twitter, the studio revealed that the game's release has been pushed back to September 14, 2021, a significant delay from the planned May 21 launch.
"We’re committed to quality and preserving our team’s ambitions for Deathloop while ensuring the health and safety of everyone at Arkane," said game director Dinga Bakaba and art director Sebastien Mitton in a joint statement. "We’ll be using this extra time to accomplish our goal: create a fun, stylish, and mind-bending player experience."
This is the second major delay to hit the Arkane title, the studio that has previously been responsible for hits such as the Dishonored franchise and the rebooted Prey. Also, while the developer is now under the Xbox Game Studios umbrella, Deathloop is coming in as a PlayStation 5 timed console exclusive due to prior commitments.
Deathloop puts players into the role of an assassin stuck in a time loop as he tries to take out all his targets in a single night, which means spending loops trying to find the perfect opportunities. There is a multiplayer element as well, where players can invade other sessions as an opposing assassin.
As previously mentioned, Deathloop is now releasing on September 14 across PlayStation 5 and PC.