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Interview: We chat with the new head of Nival's US operations

Long time PC gamers may be familiar with the publisher Nival Interactive. The Russia-based game developer and publisher is best know for its turn-based and real-time strategy titles. In the early 2000s it released a number of acclaimed games in this genre including the Etherlords series, the Blitzkreg series and the Silent Storm series. In 2006 Nival released Heroes of Might and Magic V for publisher Ubisoft to great acclaim and followed it up with two expansion packs.

In 2005 an American company called Ener1 Group announced that it had acquired Nival Interactive with hopes to expand its operations. However, for still murky reasons, things didn't work out and the previous owner of the company, Sergey Orlovskiy, took control again in 2007.

Now Nival is expanding its reach into the US market once again. Later next week Nival plans to officially announce that it will open up a new US-based office. In an exclusive interview with Big Download, we got Nival's North America's general manager David D Christensen to give us a little more info about the company's plans.

Review: Dragon Gaming Speech Pack

Although there have been a number of attempts to simplify the controls for PC games (some more successful than others), there are still a number that have a complicated series of commands and menus to memorize and flip through. Role-playing, strategy, and a handful of action shooters can usually fall into this category, but players with control difficulty now have an alternative. Dragon NaturallySpeaking, the well-known and very accurate voice dictation software, now offers an add-on called Dragon Gaming Pack. Using it, players can use their voices to control actions in some of their favorite games. Unfortunately, ease of use is a relative term in this case, not to mention the low practicality of using this kind of software in fast paced shooter games.

Review: Anomaly Warzone Earth

Anomaly Warzone Earth has been described as a reverse tower defense, and while this is marginally true, it misses something essential: rather than simply trudging endless waves of units towards a generic goal, you are actively dismantling the opposition. It's not so much reverse tower defense as tower attacking. It's also absolutely fantastic, and an extremely strong first showing from indie studio 11 Bit. Excellent production values, clean and concise game mechanics, and excellent replay value make it a steal at its asking price. It is probably the most highly polished $10 game you will ever play.

Download the Anomaly Warzone Earth demo right here on Big Download!

Review: Portal 2

Few games resonate with players as much as the original Portal, released in 2007. The sequel takes what started as a short and relatively experimental concept and kicks it up several notches to a fully fleshed out game that tops its predecessor. Portal 2 expands the gameplay in just about every respect with more characters, a longer storyline, and additional new experimental technologies added to the large scale portal themed puzzles. The puzzles are much bigger and have more moving parts, but they're generally as easy to figure out as those from the first game, although one or two have some pretty tricky solutions.

Check out all Portal 2 downloads

Review: Hoard

There's not many games that let you play as a dragon. Not a cute, almost human-like dragon such as Spyro, or a human that turns into a dragon like Divinity 2. Normal, fire-breathing, princess-stealing, loot-gathering, town-torching dragons are fairly absent from the rosters of gaming protagonists. Their actions are a bit hard to justify in a story-focused game, after all. Hoard aims to change that. Not the story bit, as the game is almost entirely arcade-like, but rather the playing as a mostly evil dragon part. Flying around and torching everything from towns to ogres has never been this satisfying, and Hoard has quickly become one of our favorite short-session games. Pop in, play for a few minutes, pop out. It's brilliantly designed, fairly cheap, and visually stunning. We found it difficult not to immediately love Hoard straight from the get-go.

Age of Empires Online beta keys giveaway at Big Download

Age of Empires Online is the upcoming reboot of the classic PC RTS series. The game from developer Gas Powered Games and publisher Microsoft will officially launch later this year as a persistent free-to-play RTS game with a cartoony art style.

The game is currently in closed beta testing and now Big Download has 500 beta keys to give out to fans. Simply email us at contests@bigdownload.com with the subject line "Age of Empires Online". We will send players beta keys until they are all given out on our end. Our thanks to Microsoft for providing the beta keys. Good luck.

Reviews: AI War Expansions

The stoic and thoroughly difficult AI War has received three expansion packs to date: Zenith Remnant, Children of Neinzul, and Light of the Spire. Each one offers new units, scenarios, and AI types to bring to bear For this multi-part review, we'll be examining each expansion pack individually and giving them individual verdicts. After all, each expansion is independent of the others and brings new ships and Ai types unique to that particular expansion. The one thing they have in common, however, is how much the increase the difficulty compared to the original game. These expansions are for the hardest of the hardcore.

Interview: We chat with Lesta Studio about Elements of War

Nature cannot be ordered around. Rain, wind, earthquakes and other weather and natural disasters are out of man's control. At least that's the way it is in the real world. In the just released RTS game Elements of War, it is quite different. In the near future, mankind has figured out ways to create tornadoes, earthquakes and other forces of nature which can then be used as weapons.

The game from developer Lesta Studio has made it to the US via publisher Kalypso Media. Big Download chatted with Lesta to find out more about Elements of War's unique gameplay feature.

Review: Fate of the World

Going against what may be common sense, there is indeed such a thing as a single-player board game. One where the player competes more against the system and their own honesty than the machinations of other players. They are certainly not as common as competitive board games, but they can be just as fun. They also make for fairly excellent videogames as well, as letting a computer handle all the grunt number work lets the player focus on playing rather than managing the game. Fate of the World is a game like this. It would not feel out of place on somebody's kitchen table, cards spread out around the place and little tokens organized into convenient plastic baggies. Red Redemption has crafted a title that is educational and entertaining while providing us with plenty of nostalgic reminders of board gaming, and it's easily the most compelling of any remotely educational game that we have played.

Review: Mass Effect 2: Arrival DLC

With the "Arrival" DLC expansion, the high-action Mass Effect 2 comes to its conclusion and the way is open for Mass Effect 3 to release in the fall. Admiral Hackett gives Shepherd some face time this time around, as opposed to being a disembodied voice, and asks him to embark on a special covert mission. It involves tracking down a spy captured in Batarian space who has information on a massive Reaper invasion coming to wipe out all life in the galaxy. The evidence not only proves definitively that the Reapers are coming, but details the launching point from where all life in the galaxy will be exterminated.

Download the Mass Effect 2 Demo (1.87 GB)
Check out all Mass Effect 2 downloads

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