Gaming

The ASUS ROG Mothership: A mega review

Do you really need an overkill gaming machine?

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A 10-kilogram package arrived at my office one day, and at first I couldn’t believe it. I was expecting something big to come in, but a 10-kilo box that looks like a PUBG supply crate was out of the picture. Little did I know, I received ASUS ROG’s next big thing — and it’s quite literally big.

Announced back in CES 2019 (as of writing, how timely), the ASUS ROG Mothership GZ700 is the company’s next innovation in gaming laptops. I distinctly remember one famous YouTuber by the name of Linus Sebastian dubbing this the “Surface for gamers.” It comes in a form factor that I didn’t think was possible for a gaming laptop, with arguably the most powerful lineup of hardware included.

But should you be spending your hard-earned money on a monster like this? Let’s take one full tour of the ROG Mothership.

Let’s talk about the package first

Unboxing the entire package was relatively easy, except for the fact that it’s insanely heavy. Inside the one big box are two more boxes and the large ROG Backpack that almost looks (and feels) like a shield. Apart from the ROG Mothership box, you also get the ASUS ROG Cerberus V1 headset for free! I think ASUS ROG really wanted to deliver the full gaming experience, and adding a gaming headset was a nice touch.

Removing the backpack and the headset, the big ROG Mothership box has the device and another box inside of it. It’s no joke when I tell you that the ROG Mothership is close to five kilograms in weight, which is half the weight of the entire package. Of course, the other box contains the rest of what you need for the device: the two big charging bricks, documentation and stickers, and the ASUS ROG Gladius II.

If ASUS really wanted to give you one full gamer package, to me this sort of did it. It’s basically the equivalent of getting a full-fledged gaming PC complete with all the peripherals in one box. Although, ten kilograms is just a lot of heavy-lifting that it mirrors carrying weights in the gym. Nonetheless, once you open up the box, you’re definitely in for the gaming experience of your life.

One stacked spec sheet

Before we go any further, here’s a rundown of what the ROG Mothership offers.

The ROG Mothership comes with a 9th-generation Intel Core i9-9980HK processor coupled with an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 graphics card. To maximize the potential of a powerhouse combo, ASUS slaps in 64GB of RAM and three 512GB NVMe SSDs (in RAID 0) inside. What you get is the most powerful, quickest, and deepest gaming desktop setup, but for a laptop.

The laptop’s display comes in two options: a 4K one and a 1080p one. The unit for review was a 4K UHD 17.3-inch panel with thick bezels and a huge chin underneath. ASUS claims that the display emits rich and crisp color with a 100 percent Adobe sRGB color gamut. Also, the display supports NVIDIA’s G-Sync technology for a smoother gaming experience.

On paper, I can tell you that this machine is straight up overkill. On my first time using it, everything just seemed too quick, it’s unfair. Opening up applications, playing RAM-consuming games, hardcore video rendering — this device can handle all of those, and it hasn’t maximized all of its RAM yet.

Is it really a gaming laptop?

When I first saw images and videos of the ROG Mothership back in 2019, I couldn’t believe that ASUS was marketing it as a laptop. The build quality of the device matches that of any 2-in-1 desktop, while throwing in the hefty graphics card. The entire body is encased in CNC-machined aluminum, which is basically thick layers of metal preventing heat from spreading to other components.

Yet again, ASUS claims that it is a laptop for its portability and design. The RGB-chiclet keyboard detaches from the base of the display, and connects wirelessly upon detachment. If you like wires, the keyboard also connects via a USB Type-C cable and charges it in the process. The device itself has a kickstand at the back, almost similar to that of any Microsoft Surface.

To be quite honest, this kind of setup doesn’t feel like a laptop — and it’s not just because it’s five kilos. The metal kickstand feels a little uncomfortable, that after 30 to 40 minutes you will be looking for any flat surface. I also found it a little difficult to manage because the keyboard is in an awkward position when it’s on your lap.

Gaming that’s just extreme overkill for a “laptop”

The ROG Mothership is one massive gaming machine, and I’m not exaggerating. ASUS made the bold yet proper choice to slap in the NVIDIA RTX 2080 inside if they wanted the full gaming experience. Gaming on the device felt buttery smooth and every intense moment felt too easy to handle. But that wasn’t after I had to tweak things a bit.

For starters, gaming on a 4K panel is great and all. But the flipside is that this display only clocks a 60Hz refresh rate, which to pro-gamer standards is slow. I understand that you grab high quality images and colors while playing some video games. For the most part, you have to deal with a 60FPS cap which isn’t bad, but an RTX 2080 wasn’t built for that.

Dialing the in-game resolution down was the best workaround I could find, and it worked wonders. Shadow of the Tomb Raider sneaked in above 60FPS at its highest possible settings, while battle royale games like Fortnite and Apex Legends poured in 140 FPS. In-game details remained accurate all throughout 30 to 40 minutes of gameplay, which is what you expect from a 4K panel.

If you do plan to get this monster, I highly recommend switching to the 1080p display option. The added benefit is the fact that the 1080p option comes with a 144Hz refresh rate, rendering images significantly faster. While you sacrifice a little bit of image quality, I think it’s a worthy trade off.

An overkill gaming PC needs an equally overkill cooling system

Cooling the ROG Mothership is one hefty task, and the way ASUS did it was ideal. Apart from separating each component through CNC-machined aluminum sheets, eight heat pipes push hot air to the top and sides of the device. Through careful calibration on the ROG Armoury Crate, the fans inside will pump out as much hot air as possible to keep major components cool.

Based on my experience, it did a fairly good job with that. The device didn’t seem to experience any drastically high temperatures during prolonged activity. Although, if you plan to maximize or even overclock your CPU and GPU, you will experience that. It happens to a point of near uncomfortability, in that you wouldn’t be able to store the device for 30 more minutes.

The fans also tend to get unbearably loud during gameplay that I’m glad they included the headset with the package. Even while idle, the fans tend to kick in and force a ton of air out which shouldn’t really happen. But again, if it’s meant to cool all the heavy components inside then it’s alright.

Expected short battery life

The ROG Mothership, as powerful as it is, doesn’t last very long. As with most gaming laptops, battery life isn’t necessarily their strongest feature and this device confirms it. On most productivity uses, I got an average of three hours before completely depleting the battery. To me, that doesn’t seem too appealing by any laptop standards.

When you’re gaming full time, it actually gets much lower than that. On average, I got around two hours before having to plug one of the two charging bricks. These show that this was clearly better off as a full-fledged desktop instead. If there’s any great takeaway, it’s that one full charge is relatively fast. Using just one brick fully charged the device in three hours, while using both bricks saves about 45 minutes. 

Finally, is this your GadgetMatch?

Here’s the thing: the ROG Mothership is a beast. It’s got every piece of gaming hardware anyone could ever ask for, in a form factor you wouldn’t expect it to be in. The package itself is just complete for anyone aspiring to take gaming seriously. For the most part, everything about it checks out.

But for US$ 6499.99/PhP 399,995, I feel like you would need to shell out a kidney to get this device — and it’s not worth it. Honestly, you could get every piece of hardware, or even just go for SATA SSDs and slap them into a gaming rig for way less. Heck, you could even get the same peripherals and I feel you would still be spending less than the Mothership.

All in all, the ASUS ROG Mothership is one heavy, beefy monster of a gaming laptop. The power it possesses truly fits those who want to dream of the best. But if you’re anyone who doesn’t earn one million a year, it’s best to invest in a gaming PC instead.

Gaming

Diablo II: Resurrected is now available on PC and consoles

Clearer, harder, more destructive and more available than ever before

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Back in the year 1997, Blizzard Entertainment had this rather unique idea for a hack-and-slash game for the PC in Diablo. In essence, it’s a medieval-themed action-RPG that puts the player face-to-face with the menacing Diablo himself. Three years later, they released the critically-acclaimed Diablo II, following the events of its prequel. 21 years later, this same critically-acclaimed title got a remaster in Diablo II: Resurrected.

Diablo II: Resurrected takes elements from the 2000 classic and gives it a completely modern touch. Apart from keeping the same gameplay mechanics, Blizzard improves on the overall visual and audio quality. For example, they re-shot all 27 minutes of the original cinematics in high fidelity color and surround sound. Also, the game stays true to the original in terms of game logic and game engine calculations.

Much like the original, players can choose between seven iconic character classes, including the two classes in the Druid and Assassin from Diablo II: Lord of Destruction. Of course, this remaster also comes with some quality-of-life improvements — including controller support, colorblind modes, and extensive keybind options.

Diablo II: Resurrected is now available on PC (Battle.net), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and the Nintendo Switch.

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Nintendo announces huge list of games for holidays

Titles like Kirby, Bayonetta, and a Nintendo Switch Online expansion

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The holiday season is here. Every year, the gaming industry gets a speed boost coming from annual holiday discounts, new games, and newly gifted consoles. Keeping with that trend, Nintendo has hosted a new Nintendo Direct in anticipation for the coming holiday season. Here are the biggest announcements from the event:

Nintendo 64, meet the Switch

Since the launch of the first wave of classic games, Nintendo Switch Online held the most promise for Switch owners. The subscription service offered games from decades past for free. Naturally, the growing catalog is working its way forwards, starting off with the NES and SNES generations.

In late October, the clock is moving even further. Nintendo is launching a massive booster pack, infusing the service with classic Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis games. The launch lineup will include favorites like Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Mario Kart 64, and many others. Further along, it will also add games like Pokémon Snap and Majora’s Mask.

Kirby is coming

After years of smaller games, Kirby is finally getting a major platformer release for the Switch. Kirby and the Forgotten Land takes the eponymous blob to a new post-apocalyptic world. As always, the hero can swallow different characters and enemies to claim their powers. It even features familiar characters like Link – at least according to the trailer.

Kirby and the Forgotten Land will launch sometime in Spring 2022.

More Animal Crossing

It’s a trailer of a trailer, but it’s worth mentioning. The popular island simulator Animal Crossing: New Horizons is getting a major update this November. Though the announcement was scant with details, it looks like the game is finally getting a café inside the museum. Nintendo will announce more in October.

Final Fantasy but Mario Kart

What would a famous franchise be without its own racing game spinoff? The long-running Final Fantasy franchise is getting its own racing game called Chocobo GP. Though the title features the iconic creature, the game will also have familiar characters from the series. It will launch sometime next year.

And a host of others

Aside from the main announcements, Nintendo also previewed some new titles, upcoming expansions, and remakes for the console. Headlining this crew is Bayonetta 3 which is due to come out next year.

Monster Hunter Rise, the Switch-exclusive entry to the series, is getting an expansion pack called Sunbreak is coming summertime next year.

Creators of the quirky franchise Nier are making a new spinoff to their series. Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars is card game coming to the Switch on October 28.

Finally, the classic Star Wars game Knights of the Old Republic is now on the Switch. It’s not a remake, too. It’s the original game, and it’s out already.

SEE ALSO: Nintendo Switch gets Bluetooth audio compatibility

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Gaming

Death Stranding Director’s Cut: Best game I don’t enjoy

Brilliant but tough to power through

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Death Stranding Director's Cut

Maybe it was already my mindset heading into this review. But I’d like to think I really gave it a chance. Despite that, every time I launched Death Stranding Director’s Cut on PS5, I felt burdened instead of excited.

That said, I don’t think this is a bad game by any stretch of the imagination. Full disclosure, due to the burdensome feeling I only managed to get to about 30-40 percent of the game. That, on top of other responsibilities for this publication.

So yeah, I think it’s a combination of things. The generally slow pace of the game, the premise of avoiding enemies you can’t see, and just the grind work of having to lug around packages — these all contributed to an experience that I cannot describe as fun.

You can say, that isn’t the point of the game. After all, it’s set in a post-apocalyptic America and you make your way around the open world wary of enemies you can’t see. But isn’t that something we’re already kind of going through. I guess I could just never wrap my head around my form of escape mirroring bleak real world situations a little too much.

Early game additions

Hard to see here, but the Support Skeleton is equipped

Death Stranding Director’s Cut goes out of its way to make sure players feel less strained. About five to seven hours into the game and you’ll gain access to two key additions: the Maser Gun and the Support Skeleton.

The Maser Gun is essentially a high-powered stun gun. It electrocutes MULEs (human enemies) you’ll encounter in deliveries. And immediately after acquiring it, you’ll also gain access to another addition in the Director’s Cut — the shooting range.

Death Stranding Director's Cut

At the shooting range, you’ll be faced with various challenges in taking down MULEs. Most importantly, you’ll be able to practice your aim while dealing with multiple MULEs.

Meanwhile, the Support Skeleton is as straightforward as it sounds. It’s equipped on your lower body to help with traversal. It’s an especially helpful tool early in the game when you don’t have access yet to vehicles and other support items.

Death Stranding Director's Cut

Oh and no more Monster Energy drink in this version

Overall good game design

Death Stranding pulls off many interesting ideas and presents them in ways that undeniably gives it the feel of a AAA (Triple-A) game. The character models and environments, as you may have seen on trailers, are brilliant and blockbuster-worthy.

In terms of gameplay, I was particularly impressed by how you can traverse every single element in the open world. Whether that’s a dirt road, grassy fields, and rocky terrain, the game doesn’t make any completely inaccessible.

Of course, sometimes you have to get creative. Crossing waterways and rock formations may require that you use ladders. You’ll also sometimes find yourself looking down on a cliff. Thankfully, you can also carry items that will let you rappel.

Social Strand System

But perhaps the most unique game mechanic is the Social Strand System. If you play online, this means you’ll gain access to ladders and other structures that other players have built. If any of these structures were particularly helpful for you, you can smash likes to show the other player your appreciation.

It’s such a creative way to include some form of community building in a single player game. It’s a fantastic idea and one I hope we see some iteration of in other games in the future.

In-game interface

If I had a bone to pick with the visual presentation, it would probably be the mail. The text is incredibly tiny, even if you choose the large option. It’s no fun having to read blocks of text and the game encourages you to read the emails as part of the story. I mean, I already read tons of emails daily. I don’t need that in games I play. I think this is another part of the game that really lowered the fun meter for me.

Other improvements

Death Stranding Director's Cut

Buddy Bot!

Death Stranding Director’s Cut also comes with plenty of the usual next-gen improvements on PS5 games. You get the usual upgrades in haptic feedback and adaptive triggers on the DualSense controller. Although, I would argue that they could’ve been utilized better especially for sensing BTs (the ghost-life figures you have to avoid) nearby.

I’ve already gushed about the visuals but playing this in 4K 60fps was really a treat for the eyes. I personally am not a fan of the graphics setting that prioritizes refresh rate. I’m always after a more cinematic feel which I think is what this game suits best. So my recommendation is to play the game prioritizing resolution.

Other in-game additions include the Cargo Catapult and Buddy Bot. Both will help you complete deliveries and quests faster. They are helpful tools that improve the pace of the game.

Should you play Death Stranding Director’s Cut?

Firing up this game felt like work after I’ve already done my work for the day. That just isn’t the experience I long for in games. But maybe, that’s just me.

I think most gamers know exactly what they want to play. But if you’re only now dipping your toes into Death Stranding Director’s Cut because you missed the first launch and you’re a Hideo Kojima fan, it’s definitely worth picking up. But my recommendation is to get the physical copy so you can flip it for cash as soon as you find that it’s not for you.

Death Stranding Director’s Cut is brilliant. However, it’s not for everybody.

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