Gaming

ASUS ROG Strix Hero II review

Not limited to MOBA gamers

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ASUS had a grand appearance at Computex two months ago, mainly because the ROG Phone stole the show. But that wasn’t the only hero product the Taiwanese brand had up its sleeve.

The ROG Strix Scar II and Hero II, which are successors to the popular Strix line of gaming laptops, shared the spotlight, as well. I had the privilege of going hands-on with the Scar II and was largely impressed by its aggressive design and balanced features. Missing, however, was the Hero II.

Although the Hero II is mostly identical to the Scar II, its primary difference is the audience it caters to: MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) gamers. Those who enjoy titles such as League of Legends and Dota 2 are more inclined to go for this variant over the Scar II, which is targeted more towards fans of Overwatch and Call of Duty.

Truth be told, there isn’t much to compare aside from a set of keyboard adjustments and certain specs (the Scar II can be equipped with a GTX 1070 while the Hero II settles for a GTX 1060), and if you’ve read my initial impressions of the Scar II, you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from the Hero II, which is finally in my hands.

It comes with a 15.6-inch 1080p IPS display

This panel has a 144Hz refresh rate and 100 percent sRGB color gamut

Bezels are kept to a minimum on the sides and top

This gives the display a more immersive feel

But that moves the webcam to the bottom bezel

It’s not even centered, so video calls are terribly awkward

The keyboard has good travel and RGB lighting

Four distinct buttons on top control volume, the mic, and the Gaming Center

And the QWER keys are more prominent for MOBA games

I like how each key has a slight curve to get a better feel of them

Even the bundled mouse has its own RGB lighting

Even though the trackpad is decent, you’re better off using the mouse full-time

There’s additional lighting below the trackpad

I never found this useful, but it certainly looks good

And the ROG logo’s color syncs with the rest of the laptop

This is yet another purely cosmetic yet appreciated feature

These are the ports on the left side

(L-R) Power, Ethernet, mini-DisplayPort, HDMI, 2x USB-A, USB-C, 3.5mm audio

And these are found on the right

(L-R) SD card slot, USB-A, Kensington lock

You’ll only find exhaust vents on the rear

The hinge is designed in a way that doesn’t block air flow

How well does it perform?

If there’s one thing you can rely on with this machine, it’s the hardware. From the 8th-generation Core i7-8750H processor with six cores and Hyper-Threading to the full-powered GeForce GTX 1060 graphics chip, the Hero II is equipped to compete.

And you shouldn’t expect anything less specs-wise, because you need all the power you can get to maximize the high-caliber 144Hz panel. The display, by the way, doesn’t come with NVIDIA’s proprietary G-Sync tech to prevent tearing and stutters at certain frame rates, so it’s all on the components to keep things running smoothly.

My setup also comes with 16GB of memory and a speedy 128GB SSD + 1TB SSHD, making this as complete as you’d expect out of a US$ 2,000 mobile rig.

It goes without saying that the Hero II can handle the latest AAA games on medium to high graphics settings, though hitting 144fps may be a struggle on some titles. Not that hovering between 80 to 100 frames per second is bad, but it’s a shame that you can’t make full use of the super-fast panel.

Here are a few benchmark numbers to give you a better idea:

  • Unigine Superposition (1080p Extreme, DirectX): 2097 points, 15.69fps (Average)
  • Cinebench R15: 1193 (CPU), 94.48fps (OpenGL)
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider (Very High settings, DirectX 12): 64.47fps (Average)
  • Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (Ultra settings, DirectX 12): 34.9fps (Average)

Can it stay cool?

ASUS made sure to equip both Strix II laptops with sufficient cooling to prevent the mobile components from melting on your desk. Its system is called HyperCool Pro, and it includes two 12V fans with the ability to boost them using built-in software.

As for actual temperatures, the CPU would hit 81 degrees Celsius under the heaviest of loads. At the same time, the GPU goes as high as 71 degrees Celsius in the same conditions. While these are fine for air cooling standards, the fans do get a bit loud when being pushed too hard.

You can choose between Silent, Balanced, and Overboost for the fans — the third one is obviously the loudest. And even though the system’s fans are relatively quiet while the system is idle, I don’t appreciate the placement of the rightmost fan, which hits my mouse-using hand. Laptops normally position this to the left where hot air shoots away from the user.

On the bright side, using it on your lap is pleasant. At 2.4kg in weight, it’s not that heavy and doesn’t get warm enough to cause discomfort underneath.

Does it last long enough away from a wall?

This is probably the biggest fault of this Strix generation. For the thickness the Hero II brings to my lap, I would’ve expected much better battery endurance on a full charge.

Even without touching a single game and using the Hero II purely for surfing the web and watching a few videos on Netflix and YouTube, it rarely lasts over three hours. This is after bringing the laptop’s battery to 100 percent and lowering the screen’s brightness to 50 percent.

That’s disappointing by any laptop standard (unless you count the monsters we used in the past), although the Hero II obviously isn’t meant for non-gaming use on the go in the first place. Keep it plugged in and find another laptop to take on work trips — problem solved.

What else is there to know?

Battery life aside, the Hero II is a surprisingly good multimedia device because of the loud and clear stereo speakers. They’re positioned to the sides unlike the usual bottom-firing speakers, and have strong bass even though they output only 3.5 watts of power. Coupled with the thin bezels and color-accurate panel, watching movies on this laptop is a great alternative to just gaming on it.

This Strix also features multi-antenna Wi-Fi for better wireless internet connectivity. I tried this out in different locations with varying degrees of distance from routers, and I’ve been impressed with the range. The Hero II picks up signals flawlessly, so I don’t have to rely so heavily on the Ethernet port.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The Hero II wins for two reasons alone: its super-slim bezels around the fast display and well-rounded specs. I can’t get enough of the color-accurate panel and the lack of distractions around it, while the 8th-generation processor and desktop-grade graphics provide all the power needed for competitive gaming.

There are only a few drawbacks here, namely the overbearing thickness for a midrange setup and horrible webcam placement. I also wish the fans were positioned better, but at least they keep the system well cooled.

My other critique is about the way ASUS treats this Strix generation. I honestly would’ve preferred ASUS keeping the Strix II branding sans the Hero and Scar variants. MOBA gamers play FPS (first-person shooter) games too, and vice versa.

The Hero II configuration I got to review retails for around US$ 2,000, but that can easily change with some component tweaks, such as going for a slower Core i5 processor and taking in less RAM. No matter what, however, the solid physique and sleek design come along for the ride.

Gaming

Bravely Default II preorder final demo now available

A must-play!

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Bravely Default II is a Japanese fantasy RPG with lovely art styles reminiscent of a refined version to early Final Fantasy releases. The series gameplay uses the usual turn-based battle system and job system. But, the series is more notable for integrating options to combine and customize job abilities, battle speed, and enemy encounter rates.

Bravely Default II is the newest addition to the Bravely series. So, what’s new? Bravely Default II lets you step into a brand-new world with four new heroes, new stories, and new job roles.

This iteration features a young sailor, Seth, who washes up the shores of one of the five mighty kingdoms of the continent. He encounters an escaped princess, Gloria of Musa, and they both venture out to meet more travellers seeking the truth to their world.

If you’re into RPGs or a fan of the Bravely series, this is the game release to look forward to. The game keeps its charming mechanics while piling on new features so if you want or need a taste of the game, the final demo is out now. Although, you won’t be waiting much longer for the game’s full release because it looking to be released on February 26 exclusively for the Nintendo Switch.

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Gaming

Immortals Fenyx Rising: Action, puzzles, and some good humor

For the kids and kids at heart

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Immortals Fenyx Rising is a fresh game with an action and puzzle filled open world that has humor and Greek mythology enclosed into it. You might say it can be a mix of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Zelda: Breath of wild.

Backstory

The game starts with Zeus, the God of Thunder visiting his old companion Prometheus, the God of Fire, whom he has actually punished and chained to a rock for giving mortals fire. Zeus was asking Prometheus for advice on what to do with Typhon who just escaped from Tartarus and has caused destruction.

Typhon has already stolen Zeus’ thunder and the other gods are missing, giving Zeus no choice but to follow Prometheus’ advice to have faith in a mere mortal with a true identity that has yet to be unfolded.

Fenyx’s journey

This is where our protagonist Fenyx comes into picture. Fenyx’s adventures will be narrated by Prometheus for the whole game.

Fenyx, a Greek Soldier will be set on a journey to find the cause of all this destruction, after losing her companions and brother. She would learn to strengthen her skills, acquire wings and collect all the necessary weapons and armors to beat Typhon. Along the way, she would be battling bosses and corrupted heroes like Achilles, Odysseus and Herakles.

Art Style

I think this kind of art style has more appeal to younger audiences. Its like watching animated films from Pixar.

You’ll be able to the distinguish the gods through their trademarks. The armors and weapons that you collect through out the game was also very detailed.

One thing that was actually bothered me was the way the character walked — it felt heavy and bulgy. I expected this part to be smoother.

Gameplay

There are five difficulty levels to make sure the whole family can enjoy the game. Character creation is also pretty straight forward and not much options for customization.

For the controls and UI, Potions will be found on the left side and weapons and skills on the right. You would need to climb mountains, swim, run and fly around the Golden Isle to be able to finish tasks.

Fenyx will have access to a mix of weapons during combat like swords, axes and bows. Animals like horses can also be tamed into mounts.

I’ve always enjoyed a good adventure and solving some puzzles but what I like most about Immortal Fenyx is that I can switch weapons during a battle. From using an axe for heavy damage to quick attacks with a sword then a bow for range attacks. You’ll be able to create your own play style while battling bosses.

If you wanted to take a break from your usual games or still waiting for a good AAA game release, then Immortals Fenyx Rising is a good game to spend time on. You’ve got some good action, puzzles, stories and some humor from Zeus and Prometheus.

Immortals Fenyx Rising is available on multiple platforms.

PlayStation 4/5
Xbox One, Series X/S
Nintendo Switch
Google Stadia
PC(Steam, Ubisoft, Epic Games)

PC requirements
Very Low Settings – 720p/30FPS
Processor: Intel Core i5-2400 / AMD FX-6300
Video Card: GeForce GTX 660 / AMD R9 280X
VRAM: 2GB NVIDIA / 3GB AMD
RAM: 8GB (Dual-channel mode)
Storage: 28GB HDD
OS: Windows 7 (64-bit only)

High Settings – 1080p/30FPS
Processor: Intel Core i7-3770 / AMD FX-8350
Video Card: GeForce GTX 970 / AMD R9 290
VRAM: 4GB
RAM: 8GB (Dual-channel mode)
Storage: 28GB SSD
OS: Windows 10 (64-bit only)

High Settings – 1080p/60FPS
Processor: Intel Core i7-6700 / AMD Ryzen 7 1700
Video Card: GeForce GTX 1070 / AMD RX Vega 56
VRAM: 8GB
RAM: 16GB (Dual-channel mode)
Storage: 28GB SSD
OS: Windows 10 (64-bit only)
Very High Settings – 1440p/60FPS
Processor: Intel Core i7-8700K / AMD Ryzen 5 3600X
Video Card: GeForce RTX 2070 Super / AMD RX 5700
VRAM: 8GB
RAM: 16GB (Dual-channel mode)
Storage: 28GB SSD
OS: Windows 10 (64-bit only)

Very High Settings – 4K/30FPS
Processor: Intel Core i7-8700K / AMD Ryzen 7 3700X
Video Card: GeForce RTX 2070 / AMD RX Vega 56
VRAM: 8GB
RAM: 16GB (Dual-channel mode)
Storage: 28GB SSD
OS: Windows 10 (64-bit only)


This gameplay feature was written by Jan Ariz Joy Franco or Rizuher in-game name. She’s a full-time software developer and plays games to de stress. She just started streaming few months ago to help cope with the pandemic and wants to promote a toxic-free gaming environment. She’s a big fan of Super Mario. If you want to support her just drop a follow: http://facebook.com/rizuph.

 

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Gaming

We’re getting a Star Wars game from Ubisoft

It’s a story-driven open-world adventure

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Star Wars Ubisoft
Photo by Brian McGowan on Unsplash

May The Force be with Ubisoft! The company just announced that it is collaborating with Lucasfilm Games on a new story-driven open-world video game set in the beloved Star Wars galaxy.

The game will be developed using next gen tech including the Snowdrop engine. There aren’t any specific details yet as to what the game will be about exactly. The companies involved — Ubisoft and Lucasfilm Games — have expressed excitement over the project.

“The vast Star Wars lore is an incredible source of inspiration for our teams,” said Yves Guillemot, co-founder and CEO of Ubisoft. “This is the beginning of a long-term collaboration with Disney and Lucasfilm Games, and we are pleased to be working hand-in-hand to build upon the incredible legacy of Lucasfilm to create a game that we know Star Wars fans will love.”

“We are inspired by the passion and talent of the team at Massive, and together we share a vision for the type of original stories we want to tell with our players in this expansive galaxy. They have the creativity, experience, and community understanding to bring awe-inspiring authenticity, depth and innovation to this new Star Wars game,” said Douglas Reilly, VP, Lucasfilm Games.

More information about the game and the release date will be shared at a later stage.

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