Is the Last Roman DLC for Total War: Attila too limited, too small, and too real?

, | Game reviews

Total War: Warhammer is the pinnacle of what Creative Assembly has been doing for over 17 years. But with orcs. That last bit is important. A lot of the appeal of this Total War is that you have monsters and wizards and spells and ogres and things that fly. You have stuff you never had in Total War. You do things with them that you never did in Total War. You capture elf strongholds and sneak through orc tunnels and stave off the taint of chaos corruption. You equip legendary magic items, level up various flavors of fireball spells, and build a reliquary so you can recruit ghost soldiers who ride on ghost horses. Queue up some waypoints for your dwarf gyrocopter to drop bombs on hapless minotaurs.

How can you go back to mere history after that? How can you go back to something as mundane as levies with nothing but a tunic, a spear, and a pair of sandals, whose most dramatic upgrade will be heavy armor and some sort of halberd?

Actually, the more pertinent question is “how can you not?” Continue reading →

Nintendo presents gun-fingers, cow-milking, and eating as the Switch’s killer launch game

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What unique games will the Nintendo Switch have available on its March 3rd launch? There’s Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but it’s still a cross-platform game that will also be available for the Wii U. The same goes with Just Dance 2017. Arms, the spring-fisted fighting game is slated for “Spring 2017” so it will likely miss launch day. Super Mario Odyssey isn’t coming out until the holiday season. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is slated for April 28th, and it’s a remake of the last Mario Kart anyway. No, the two completely Switch-only games confirmed to be available on March 3rd are Super Bomberman R and 1-2-Switch. Bomberman is Bomberman, but 1-2-Switch is something else entirely.

Remember Wii Sports and how everyone immediately grasped the concept of waggling a controller for bowling or boxing? Nintendo sure hopes you do, because they want you to have the same thought process for 1-2-Switch. Using the Switch’s Joy-Con controllers as pretend cow teats, pistol grips, tennis racket handles, and a bevy of similar phallic objects, players square off in minigame waggle contests the likes of which haven’t been seen since Lando Calrissian and Han Solo shimmied their hips in an epic dance battle. It’s Wii Sports again, but instead of being a pack-in to demonstrate the fun and versatility of the hardware, Nintendo wants $50 retail for the experience. Doubtless there will be buyers if only to have something other than the new Zelda game to play, but is this really the push for the Switch?

Worst thing you’ll see all week: The Monster

, | Movie reviews

The best horror movies have the quality of an allegory. But being an allegory doesn’t excuse you from the task of telling a good story. The Monster sets up its allegory and then morphs into exactly the horror movie you’re expecting. So far, so good. But it keeps going. And going. And going. Eventually, you’re watching a bog-standard creature feature that has lost its allegory. It’s as if writer/director Bryan Bertino forgot what he was doing. The Monster has the quality of someone wandering into the kitchen, forgetting what he was there for, downing a beer at the sink real quick, and then belching. Roll credits.

Before it starts shotgunning its horror movie trope beer, The Monster is fairly riveting. Partial credit to Bertino’s experience with slow creepy set-ups, as he demonstrated in The Stranger, a movie about how home invasions can really rekindle a romance. But most of the credit goes to the achingly effective performances from Zoe Kazan and especially the young Ella Ballentine. The actresses connect unflinchingly, spinning out the sort of relationship you almost never see in movies, and certainly not in horror movies: an abusive parent choking on her own shame and a terrified child who has no idea what to do. These aren’t the usual villain and precocious victim. This is a real horror movie.

But once The Monster forgets where it was going and literally careens into creature feature territory, it unravels under the weight of bad decision after bad decision. On the part of the filmmaker and the characters. It goes from suggesting to brightly lighting, almost never a good idea in a horror movie. It leans heavily on characters doing stupid things like, oh, not leaving when there’s a monster in the woods. And it creates a Cujo-like situation without understanding what made Cujo work. If a mother and child are trapped in a car by a rabid Saint Bernard, they’re just going to wait until they’re rescued. Boring. But if a mother and a diabetic child without his insulin are trapped in a car by a rabid Saint Bernard, you’ve got a real horror show. But The Monster forgets about the diabetic child without his insulin part, which means it’s ultimately about a couple of people who didn’t have the sense to wait in the car. But at least you get some good backstory about them, and at least you get to appreciate a child actor who hopefully has a long career ahead of her.

Another stage of responsibility has come to The Sims 4

, | News

Ever since its launch in 2014, there’s been something missing from The Sims 4. While previous installments of The Sims featured toddlers, that precocious time between infancy and childhood, The Sims 4 didn’t. That absence has been a sore point in the community, but Maxis is finally correcting the issue. Toddlers are now in the game thanks to a free update. According to the developers, it’s been on their to-do list for a while.

I’m not exaggerating when I say we’ve been talking about this particular update for years.

Toddlers in The Sims 4 come with hundreds of new animations, objects and Sim interactions. Just like real toddlers, Sim parents can get them addicted to videogames on their tablets, deal (or not) with their tantrums, and raise them to be ungrateful monsters. The Toddler update is available now on PC.

The drums of war haven’t started beating in Elite Dangerous, but the drummers are here

, | News

Is Elite Dangerous headed to war? Last week, players of Elite Dangerous were stunned when alien ships began showing up in the galaxy. Some pilots cruising in secluded sectors of space found their ships temporarily disabled while ominous alien ships scanned them before shooting into the void. It was a surprise to most fans because Frontier’s space sim MMO has featured only humans, with rare evidence of a long-gone alien presence. Longtime fans of the Elite games assumed the alien artifacts belonged to the Thargoids from previous games in the series, but up until last week’s encounters, the remnants were harmless Easter Eggs.

Aliens in a previously human-only galaxy would be scary enough by themselves, but the latest update for Elite Dangerous features a rather distressing (or exciting) increase in the galaxy’s military power. Some trading ships have had their hull strength doubled. Attack craft have been given additional component slots. The Viper, the ubiquitous fighting ship, now has increased maneuverability. Although aliens aren’t mentioned in the patch notes, it seems obvious that humanity is gearing up for something.

Here’s what happened to The Banner Saga 2

, | News

The Banner Saga, Stoic’s Kickstarter success story, made a big splash when it launched in 2014. The stylish Viking journey game combined roleplaying with turn-based combat. As part of a planned trilogy, the tale of Rook’s caravan proved emotionally compelling and gamers eagerly awaited the continuation. But did you know there’s already a sequel? The Banner Saga 2 launched in April of 2016, but sales have been notoriously low compared to the first game. John Watson, co-founder of Stoic, partially blames their decision to not run a Kickstarter or engage the community for the sequel. Because sales from the first game were good enough to fill the coffers at the studio, Stoic decided to forego the crowd-funding and finance development themselves. Unfortunately, this disconnected them from the core fan supporters.

“I think we dropped the ball there,” Watson admits. “We thought that audience would still just be there. We really neglected our community during the development of Banner Saga 2, because we were focusing on our work. I think that was a mistake. We all agree that was a mistake.”

Stoic insists the tale will continue in The Banner Saga 3, and Watson says the lessons learned from the first two games will benefit its development. Whether or not the third game will be crowd-funded is something the studio is still considering.

This is the Halo Mega Bloks game you’ll never play

, | News

At some point in 2013, n-Space, the journeyman game developers responsible for a ton of licensed Nintendo ports of third-party titles, was secretly hard at work on an Xbox 360 game based on the Halo Mega Bloks property. This video from Andrew Borman of PtoPOnline shows how far along the project was before it was cancelled. Codenamed “Haggar” while in development, the Halo Mega Bloks game would’ve been a knock-off of the popular Lego games from Traveller’s Tales, but with the addition of Halo’s campaign structure and a cooperative multiplayer horde mode. Unfortunately for fans of Master Chief and low-budget brick building, the game would never make it past the final hurdle. Development ended when Microsoft’s focus shifted from the Xbox 360 to the Xbox One.

In March 2016, n-Space was shuttered after 21 years in the industry.

If it wasn’t tough enough for you, XCOM 2 is getting longer and better

, | News

The Long War 2 mod is coming for XCOM 2. According to Firaxis, the popular mod, originally made by Long War Studios for XCOM: Enemy Unkown, is coming to the PC version of XCOM 2. Welcome news for fans of making the fight for humanity tougher. In related news, Long War Studios will henceforth be known as Pavonis Interactive. Check out their snazzy new site here.

When it was still Long War Studios, Pavonis partnered with Firaxis to make official mods for XCOM 2 like the Long War Alien Pack, and Long War Toolbox.

Your next Mass Effect multiple choice could happen as early as March

, | News

Mass Effect Andromeda is launching on March 21st in North America, and March 23rd in Europe. BioWare’s announcement dropped the official release dates and pimped the ambitious nature of the science fiction dating sim. No need to worry about quality. BioWare’s own team says it’s great.

Over this holiday break, developers at BioWare took home a version of the game in what we call the “holiday build”. This is a longstanding studio tradition that goes back to the early days of the original Mass Effect. Many load up a PC or console and go home to play as much as possible at their leisure. Coming back from holiday, the feedback has been great. Getting the endorsement from members of our studio, many of whom played key roles on the original trilogy, was definitely a key factor in helping us lock in on the date.

You can read the Quarter to Three review of Mass Effect 3 here.

It’s Planet Coaster versus RollerCoaster Tycoon in more ways than one

, | News

When Atari and Nvizzio Creations launched RollerCoaster Tycoon World on November 16th, one day before Planet Coaster’s release date, everyone knew it would be a lopsided battle. RollerCoaster Tycoon World’s development had multiple development studios and at least one full project reboot. Planet Coaster had Frontier Development’s pedigree and a solid early access record. Once both games launched, it was clear that the critical winner was Planet Coaster. Now that the dust has settled, Frontier is on the attack again. This time, it’s going for a legal win. TMZ reports that Frontier Developments is suing Atari for $2.2 million in unpaid royalties from RollerCoaster Tycoon 3. Eurogamer confirmed the report with Frontier’s David Walsh.

“We can confirm Frontier is currently pursuing a complaint against Atari. We have attempted to resolve this issue without legal action since April 2016. We have so far been denied our contractual right to audit by Atari, and we are unfortunately left with no other way to resolve our concerns. We are unable to offer any further comment while the matter is subject to due legal process.”

Chris Sawyer, the owner of the RollerCoaster Tycoon property, sued Atari in 2005 for a similar monetary grievance. The suit was settled out of court in 2008.

As if you didn’t have enough reason to stay away from Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius

, | News

The free-to-play Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius for mobile platforms will guest star real world singer Ariana Grande. The pop star revealed her rabbit-eared videogame incarnation to her fans, even including some work-in-progress animation. For those unfamiliar with Ariana Grande’s work, you can watch a video of her singing in her bunny outfit here.

Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius is available on Google Play and Apple iTunes. There’s no word on when Ariana Grande will invade the game.