, | Games

Look at that Russian ship. Stately, majestic, deadly. If Wargame: European Escalation can do such an awesome job adding planes (read the review of Wargame: Airland Battle here), imagine what they can do with ships? Only you don’t have to. You just have to play Wargame: Red Dragon.

Developer Eugen has gone this route from land to air to sea before. Their debut RTS, Act of War, was Command & Conquer with a new take on airpower. Rather than including airplanes on the map, taking off from the airports you build and then flitting a few screens over to bomb something, Eugen modeled airpower as an offmap asset controlled on a separate panel. It was one of the many ways Act of War was better than Command & Conquer for tuning Westwood’s trademark loosey-goosey gameplay. When Eugen added ships with an expansion, things got loosey-goosey all over again. The engine couldn’t quite handle the expanse of sea alongside the intimacy of a land-based tactical RTS. The ships did that standard RTSs thing where they swiveled and banged into each other and jostled each other like a mob instead of a fleet, generally making a mess of a finely tuned game. Like the aliens in Signs, RTSs rarely survive contact with water. Naval combat tends to compromise an RTS, so don’t even think about hosting the game on a water map. In fact, I can think of only two games that did a good job of integrating ships into the overall game: Rise of Nations and Age of Empires III both had a really smart approach to what happens when an RTS goes to sea. And now that Wargame: Red Dragon is out, I can still think of only two games that did a good job of integrating ships into the overall game.

After the jump, sailing takes me away. Continue reading →

, | News

Victory Point Games’ blog details a few of the changes they’re making for the upcoming “gold banner” re-release of one my favorite games, Nemo’s War, which is a solitaire narrative shuffling of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues under the Sea.

…the ship counters are larger (with more story detail and the occasional special ability); the Nautilus upgrades are more numerous (there are ten included), but only four are available at the start of each game. Nemo’s four motives (War!, Anti-Imperialism, Science, and Explore) have had their scoring functions streamlined considerably; the Uprisings, Rest, Refit, and Repair Actions all function smoothly now in the same manner as other “tests” in the game; there are many new cards with more adventures from the pages of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea; there is no more weekly calendar to measure time — the deck is built during set up with three “Acts” and a “Finale” and you draw a card each game turn to measure time…

Nemo’s War is currently in playtesting. It’s also pending a visual upgrade from artist Ian O’Toole, whose work (pictured) looks like this.

To get a sense for how Nemo’s War played even before it got gold bannered, me and Bruce Geryk burbled fondly in this head-to-head competition that I’m convinced he won because he wasn’t playing right.

, | News

Big Band, the first male fighter in Skullgirls Encore is now available as DLC. Big Band is the second of five characters funded through developer Lab Zero’s crowd-sourcing efforts in 2013. Per Lab Zero’s commitment to fans during the funding drive, Big Band is free for a limited time to current owners of Skullgirls Encore.

Once a cop known as Ben Birdland, he fell flat when he got on the wrong side of New Meridian’s corrupt police force. Birdland was broken and bent out of shape by his former colleagues, but was tuned up by Dr. Avian and ASG Lab 8. Now he is armed with a full ensemble of pneumatic weaponry, making him the full fortissimo instrument of justice: “Big Band.”

Big Band is available on Steam for the PC version of Skullgirls. He will be available on the PlayStation Network pending a compatibility update.

, | News

Wizards of the Coast announced that Magic the Gathering 2015 Edition will include cards designed by personalities from the world of video games. The guest contribution idea was suggested by George Fan, a designer on Plants vs. Zombies, who is also a fan of the card game. These cards will include a “designed by” credit printed in the text.

- George Fan: designer of Plants vs Zombies
- Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins: Gabe and Tycho, creators of Penny Arcade
- Markus Persson: “Notch,” creator of Minecraft and founder of Mojang
- Richard Garriot: “Lord British,” creator of the Ultima series
- David Sirlin: designer on Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, Yomi
- Rob Pardo: chief creative officer at Blizzard, lead designer of World of Warcraft
- Isaiah Cartwright: lead game designer for Guild Wars 2
- Justin Gary: designer of Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer and Solforge
- Stone Librande: lead designer at Riot Games, designer of Diablo 3, creative director of SimCity
- Brian Fargo: founder and CEO of inXile Entertainment, director of Wasteland, executive producer of Fallout
- Mike Neumann: Gearbox Software, creative director on Borderlands
- James Ernest: owner and lead designer for Cheapass Games, designer of Kill Doctor Lucky
- Edmund McMillen: indie designer of Super Meat Boy, featured in Indie Game: The Movie
- Brad Muir: game designer at Double Fine Productions leading Massive Chalice, project lead on Iron Brigade

Magic the Gathering 2015 Edition will launch on July 18th of this year. It is unknown if these special cards will appear in the Magic the Gathering 2015: Duels of the Planeswalkers video game.

, | News

One of the most engaging aspects of the zombie apocalypse in books and movies is the breakdown of society and the destruction of civilization. Unfortunately, we rarely get to see that slide into havoc in zombie-themed video games. The digital version of the undead end of the world usually starts in media res so players can get to “the good stuff” of crafting weapons and shooting zeds right away. You wake up from a coma, or you just spawn in on a desolate shore… Even Undead Labs’ State of Decay skipped the beginning of the story. Players started in a campground and experience the zombie invasion after it’s already gotten hot. The upcoming Lifeline DLC offers a different beginning to the story we saw in the regular game. Polygon got to play a preview build of Lifeline at PAX East and they’ve brought back some exciting details.

Lifeline casts the player as a member of Greyhound One, a small platoon that’s attempting to maintain order in the overrun city of Danforth. Unlike in State of Decay, you start out with plenty of rations and support from the larger military. But all of it dwindles over time in the face of the zombie outbreak: Your supplies gradually deteriorate, and resupplies from your group’s commanders become more rare. That forces you and your comrades to head out of your base into town, in an attempt to rescue civilians and gather resources to fortify your defenses.

The shift from a secure, plentifully stocked military base, to a desperate group of scavengers flips the script of most zombie apocalypse video games. The normal progression is to build up to the point that zombies are an annoyance instead of a credible threat. If Undead Labs can pull Lifeline off correctly, it will be a nice change of pace from video games that skip the start of the zombie story.

, | Movie podcasts

This week we see something that Johnny Depp got paid $20 million to show up for. Then, at the 45-minute mark, we present our favorite presentations in movies for this week’s 3×3.

Next week: The Other Woman

, | Game reviews

“Mound Builders?” my friends ask, picking up the half-sized box. “What this?”

“It’s a solitaire game from Victory Point, the folks who published Nemo’s War, Dawn of the Zeds, and Ottoman Sunset,” I start to explain.

“What do you do in it? Build mounds?” My friends assume a mock heroic voice. “Hey, what should we build? A cathedral? A castle? No, I’ve got it! Let’s build a mound!”

They think that’s pretty funny. I guess it is, especially if the phrase “mound builders” doesn’t have any historical connotation for you. Mound builders were basically the native Americans more native than the Native Americans; the Indians before the Indians; the equivalent of the Precursors in a dopey sci-fi story. They made huge earthenwork structures in North America a thousand years before any pharaoh in Egypt had the bright idea to tell his slaves to stack a bunch of stones in the shape of a d4. When Europeans swept across North American, conquering tribes with now familiar names, they asked them, “So who built these enormous mounds? Was it you?”

The tribes with now familiar names just shrugged. “They were already here when we got here,” they said. Some of the Europeans concluded they must have been made by the giants briefly mentioned in the Bible. Other Europeans did some archaeology and eventually gave the earlier tribes the name Mound Builders. Great. Nice work, archaeologists. That’s the best you could come up with? My friends wouldn’t think it was so funny if you’d given them a cooler name. People of the Earthenwork Edifices? Tumulists? Was Barrow Lords taken?

“Is the game any good?” my friends ask after they’ve stopped laughing about mounds.

After the jump, I have some bad news. Continue reading →

, | News

Spring is here. In the eternal war for your gaming budget, this is a tense time. Hardware manufacturers deployed their latest and greatest machines during the Winter offensive, but campaigns have settled into static sales and preparations for the E3 counterattack. Systems square off with their specs. 1080p! Streaming! Second screen use! Propaganda efforts have paused to gather intelligence. Officers gather in their respective headquarters to plan new strategies. How do the weary armies fare this Spring?

After the break, let’s see if you spent your console money wisely. Continue reading →

, | Games podcasts

Jay Gittings joins us this week with a report from PAX East! Find out what caught his eye at the show and what was far too popular to see. He also reveals the exact wrong way to enjoy certain games. Then join us for a conversation about Sentinels of the Multiverse, which we’re playing as part of our ongoing weekly series.

, | News

Meridian: New World, the old-school real-time strategy title from Elder Games, is now available on Steam early access. Previews of the game in July of last year made a splash mostly because Elder Games is largely a studio of one. As hard as it is to believe, Ede Tarsoly wrote the story, programmed the game, and supplied most of the art for this old-school celebration of tiny space marines fighting over a resource-rich alien planet. It’s a throwback to the gather, build, and attack RTS formula, updated with modern graphics. There’s even dialog options when you talk to the crew and wander the command ship!

Multiplayer may be coming, but the work-in-progress is strictly single player at this time. An alpha version of the scenario and map editor has been released to buyers of the “Contributor” version of the game, and user-made maps have already been uploaded to the Steam Workshop.

, | News

Following the mysterious removal of the Xbox One edition of Amazing Spider-Man 2 from marketing materials and retailer web pages, Activision has acknowledged that the game no longer has a scheduled launch on Microsoft’s next-gen console.

We are working with Microsoft in an effort to release The Amazing Spider-Man 2 video game on Xbox One. Currently, the game will be available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii U, Nintendo 3DS and the PC on April 29, 2014 as previously announced.

No official reason was given for the Xbox One version of the game being on hold, but the “working with Microsoft” statement could mean there are technical difficulties with the development. In a statement to MCV, an Activision representative said a possible Xbox One release is yet to be determined.


Tom: This week’s villain is The Matriach, who rules over a bunch of crows. This week’s random die roll situates us in the Wagner Mars Base. Here we are, fighting birds on Mars. You can’t make this stuff up.

Jay: I’m glad we don’t have to, as Sentinels of the Multiverse provides so many wonderful, quirky interactions. I’ll let the readers in on a little secret as we begin. This is the game that made me fall in love with Sentinels all over again. The ebb and flow, tragedies and triumphs, made for a story worthy of a Hollywood production.

After the jump, birdocalypse. Continue reading →