Archive for May 3rd, 2012

How much would you pay for multiplayer Skyrim? Stay tuned!

, | Games

MMOs are fundamentally broken. Like the free-to-play model, they all too often put commercial demands in front of game design. Which is great if you’re a publisher. It’s not so great for those of us who play games. The good guys in the MMO sphere are few and far between: Guild Wars, Eve Online, and, uh, am I forgetting anyone?

So, anyway, Bethesda is finally making Elder Scrolls the MMO it hasn’t been for so long. Imagine Skyrim with a dozen players running in the opposite direction, another dozen players racing towards that dragon you’re trying to kill, instanced housing, everyone sporting his own Lydia, and a faction grinding bar where your title Thane of Whiterun would have been. And probably a subscription fee. Bethesda strikes me as arrogant enough to figure they could charge $15 a month.

After spending 120 gratifying hours in Xenoblade Chronicles, which offers almost everything you might want from an MMO without being an MMO, this is about as exciting a prospect as using Kinect to play Skyrim.

Toy Soldiers: Cold War gets ten dollars worth of new heat

, | Games

It’s a good time to be a fan of action-oriented tower defense games! While PC gamers finally get to enjoy the original Toy Soldiers on Steam, those of us playing the deliriously wonderful console-only sequel, Toy Soldiers: Cold War, get $10 of new DLC. For some odd reason, it’s broken into two separate $5 packages. Napalm and Evil Empire each include a three-mission campaign, a new mode for the survival missions on the old maps, a new versus map, and a new barrage attack that might come up when you kill one of the bonus targets and get a randomly determined special attack.

The new minigames are as disappointing as most of the old minigames. I can’t see playing either of them more than once to set a basic score. I mean, seriously, whack-a-mole, but with capitalist pigs? Similarly, the new survival modes are puzzling. Trauma mode just means that every time you place a turret, your base loses some health. It’s a pretty minor tweak. It’s more the sort of thing you’d see on an options screen than in a DLC package. Then there’s the commando mode, which means you’re just running around the map using a permanent supersoldier. These are the same guys you get as occasional power-ups. America gets the goofy Rambo and the Soviets get the goofy Dolph Lundgren. There’s no harm in having all of the action and none of the strategy, but it’s a bit like taking a great joke and drawing it out for too long. I can get that for free on Saturday Night Live.

The DLC campaigns each have three new missions, and there’s enough variety in the map layouts and included vehicles to set them apart from the main game’s missions. Since many of the Soviet defenses have their own unique tweaks that you could previously only enjoy in versus games, it’s nice to get more time with them in the Evil Empire campaign. However, Napalm’s Vietnam oriented maps are much livelier than the dreary Eastern block maps in Evil Empire. The new barrage attacks are probably the best thing in the DLC. The Soviet orbital beam is especially gratifying.

The biggest drawback for this $10 of DLC is that Toy Soldiers: Cold War was already such a full-featured package. Without folding any new units or defenses into the mix — this aspect of Toy Soldiers has been pretty much frozen since the original World War I setting — it just feels like new ways to play the same old game. But at least this same old game is one of the best action oriented tower defense games you can play.

Say goodbye to the Bayonetta sequel we didn’t need

, | Games

According to this unsourced rumor, a Bayonetta sequel that was never announced was cancelled. Which can mean anything from someone throwing away a piece of concept art to an entire project scrapped and internal schedule reworked.

My initial reaction is the expected, “Aww, now I won’t get to play Bayonetta 2!” But it occurs to me that I’m pretty sure I don’t want Bayonetta 2. Some games are fine as self-contained entities, with no further elaboration needed, and no real need for improvements. Remember when God of War, Devil May Cry, and Mortal Kombat were fresh? That’s the same thrill I got discovering Bayonetta that I eventually lost with those other games as they trundled down their path of sequels and remakes and reboots. If any game deserves to transcend the usual franchise treatment, it’s Bayonetta. What’s wrong with a really good one-off from time to time?

Of course, time was I would have said the same thing about Bioshock. Then along came Bioshock 2 and now I’m giddy with anticipation for Bioshock Infinite.

The brutal Pandemic 2.5 is your pocket apocalypse now

, | Game reviews

As the old saying goes, one death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic, and a billion is a serviceable opening move in Pandemic 2.5.

In this iPhone port of a webgame, you create a disease to infect people, which earns evolution points. You spend these points to add new features to your disease. Your goal is the infection and eventual annihilation of humanity, starting with patient zero. One down, about seven billion to go. This is a horror game as brutally dispassionate and coolly catastrophic as Defcon.

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