Archive for January, 2013

, | Games

not_the_good_ending

Do you ever have videogame dreams? Like when you’ve been playing a game so much that it burbles up from your subconscious while you sleep? For me, these are often interface dreams. I dream I’m trying to drag select a bunch of units or spend points on a skill tree. I don’t mean to get all tedious by holding forth about my dreams, but I had one last night about Virtue’s Last Reward. And it was unlike any other videogame dream I’ve had.

After the jump, I promise this will be brief Continue reading →

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, | Games

It's_no_Guernica

In cooperation with the developers at Shenendoah Studios, we’re pleased to announce a tournament for Battle of the Bulge on the iOS with $500 of prize money at stake. Some of which will go to people who aren’t even necessarily good at the game! Basically, if you play through one match, your name goes into the drawing for one of three randomly drawn $50 prizes. And these aren’t spacebucks or Qt3dollars or Microsoft points. These are bona fide US dollars.

Read the details in this thread. To enter, post in the thread or email [email protected] if you’d rather not register for the forum. The deadline is February 15th. Good luck, soldier!

Disclaimer: Battle of the Bulge may result in rethinking your perspective on wargames. No bulges were harmed in the making of this game. Do not taunt Patton. I’m pretty sure that painting up there, Battle of the Bulge by Robert Blair, is terrible, but I don’t want to be rude and maybe he was going for a state of mind rather than an actual representation of something. No states are exempt from this tournament, including CA, CO, DE, HI, GO, and WE. Employees of Quarter to Three and their families not eligible. Sorry, Mom.
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, | Games podcasts

Pacific_Ocean_or_bust

Joshua DeBonis joins us to talk about Meriwether, his Lewis and Clark expedition RPG, fresh from its successful Kickstarter campaign and on its way to a hard drive near you this fall. We also talk about theme-based gaming, a 50 year old (50!) videogame that DeBonis claims is still fun, the fate of Darksiders developer Vigil, the Netrunner card game, and Path of Exile.

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, | Games

before

That’s a witch in Path of Exile. As you can see, she’s pretty drably outfitted. I suppose the face mask looks suitably evil. But she’s way higher level than you’d expect based on the fact that she’s wearing colorless tatters and weilding a stick in her right hand and a dried vine wreath in her left hand. But that’s about to change.

After the jump, the makeover Continue reading →

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, | Movie reviews

it_happened_one_night

For a guy with three boring names, each more boring than the last, writer/director Paul Andrew Williams is utterly fascinating. If you’ve seen London to Brighton and The Cottage, you know what I mean. If you haven’t seen them, you should. Both of them. In any order. You pick. But see both of them. Because you can’t really get a sense for this British director’s talent without seeing both movies. And then, for good measure, see a weird arthouse horror movie he co-wrote called The Children.

All caught up? Good. Because now it’s time to see Cherry Tree Lane, Paul Andrew Williams’ grim horror thriller that you previously had to import from the UK to watch on a region-free DVD player. It was worth it. But lucky for you, it’s available today in the US where fine DVDs are sold and rented.

As you’re watching Cherry Tree Lane, you might think it’s a mean-spirited thriller preying uncomfortably on issues of race and class and how small the houses are in modern day London. You’d be partly right. But the point of Cherry Tree Lane — and I’m going to take pains not to spoil it beyond acknowledging it — is the last scene. Or, rather, the moment the last scene ends. The way the last scene ends. The musical cue on which the last scene ends, wanting only a thick red curtain dropped by a stagehand in the wings. All the building tension and pressure, from the very opening scene of water boiling on a stove to that last moment in the same kitchen, is entirely about how you as a viewer feel at that instant. I bet you didn’t know you had it in you? But Paul Andrew Williams did.

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, | Features

Vermithrax_I_presume

It was immediately clear when I sat down to play Sins of a Dark Age, the upcoming real time strategy game from Sins of a Solar Empire developer Ironclad, that I was playing a game like League of Legends and Defense of the Ancients. Or, as they’re known by the unfortunate acronym for multiplayer online battle arena, a MOBA.

I chose a hero, I was killing AI controlled minions and other players’ heroes to earn xp and gold, I was choosing among my hero’s four skills when I leveled up, I was buying equipment towards a specific character build, and I was pushing down lanes or jungling or some combination thereof. It was all pretty familiar.

But then a banner popped up along the top of the screen announcing something that never happens in MOBAs.

After the jump, what that banner said Continue reading →

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, | Games

Christmas_44_in_the_Ardennes

With so much die rolling in Battle of the Bulge, you’re bound to hear a number of complaints when things don’t go someone’s way. It’s the case with any game where you roll dice, and you can make an argument that the complaining is just as much a part of the game as the act of rolling. “You sank my battleship!” “Pretty sneaky, sis.” Et cetera. But there are a couple of places in Bulge where the customer service seems to be particularly bad.

One of those places is Eupen.

After the jump, how do you say that, again? Continue reading →

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, | Movie podcasts

who_writes_these_mean_reviews

With the release of Hansel and Gretel, another month of January releases is behind us. If you want to avoid Hansel and Gretel spoilers and listen to our 3×3 of least scary monsters, jump to the 38-minute mark.

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, | Games podcasts

While Tom is away on a secret mission (THUNDER DOME), Josh Bycer from Game Wisdom and Kenneth Oum from Smug Bee Games join Jason this week. The conversation jumps from THQ to how Super Monday Night Combat kind of sucks but also kind of doesn’t – and beyond! Don’t tell anyone, but this show was done totally nude.

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, | Game reviews

DMC Devil May Cry is a best-case scenario for what happens when you take an established series and hand it over to a new developer to let them have a turn. The Devils May Cry up to now have been so very Capcom. But now developer Ninja Theory leaves behind the series’ trademark “you’ll play this battle over and over again until you learn the combos and you’ll like it” approach. They unpack this brawler neatly, carefully, gradually, patiently, giving you ample time to get comfortable, introducing new gameplay over the duration of the story, and fitting it all into a consistent framework. Every weapon is introduced with an easy “here’s how this works” battle. You can try a move before you decide to unlock it. The vocabulary of Devil May Cry — that’s a fancy way of saying the buttons you have to press — is intuitive and easy to remember.

Capcom has at last let someone make a Devil May Cry for the rest of us.

After the jump, God of War may cry Continue reading →

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, | Features

The Cave is the first game from Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island creator Ron Gilbert since he hooked up with the folks at Double Fine. It’s out this week.

Shootmania, the shooter from the folks who made Trackmania, is intended to be a flexible construction kit for players to make a variety of different game types. But if I know online shooters, it will be a bunch of dudes free-for-all deathmatching, first to fifty frags wins.

The PS3 exclusive JRPG Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is a collaborative effort from Studio Ghibli and Level-5. I would have played it by now if the Playstation 3 that I got to replace my dead Playstation 3 hadn’t died within days of getting it. If this happens eight more times, it’ll rival my failure rate with Xbox 360s.

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, | Movie podcasts

Mama is exactly the kind of movie you expect to see in January. If you want to avoid spoilers, fast forward to the 52-minute mark for this week’s 3×3 of stupidest cops.

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, | Features

The hex is dead. That’s the conclusion I’ve come to while playing territory-based games like Eador: Genesis on the PC and Battle of the Bulge on the iOS, where you fight over maps built from discrete chunks, each a package of unique personality that you won’t get on a screenful of hexes or tiles.

This is particularly true in Shenandoah Studios’ carefully crafted swathe of the Ardennes where Battle of the Bulge takes place. As an example of level design, it is on par with Facing Worlds in Unreal Tournament, the Shire in Lord of the Rings Online, the last level of Painkiller, Siren Alley in Bioshock 2, and the Glendale track in Need for Speed: Shift 2. So I started writing about each of the territories. I got about half way down the right edge of the map before I was sick of listening to myself write. I’d much rather listen to other people write about this place.

So I opened the mic to various people who either made the game or who have been playing it with me. I asked them to choose a favorite territory and tell me why it was their favorite. The variety of approaches they took is a testament to what a great game this is.

After the jump, the Battle of the Bulge favorite territory poetry/prose slam Continue reading →

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, | Games

Things besides “fuck you” that Dante says in a boss battle against a succubus (pictured):

1) “You’re dumped.” (upon dropping her into a pool of lava)
2) “You’re all mixed up.” (upon pushing her into spinning blades)
3) “Suck on this, succubus.”

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, | Games

You know that moment in a mystery when the guy who has all the answers promises to explain everything and then doesn’t? Usually this is because the phone lines are cut or he suddenly dies or it’s time for a commercial. It’s cheap, but effective. It’s a vital part of pacing. It drives episodic TV. Hopefully your show won’t get canceled before it sputters to something resembling a finale.

One of the things I’m enjoying about Virtue’s Last Reward is its approach to “I’ll explain everything later” teases. This is a mystery that begins with the intimacy of Saw — two people who don’t know each other wake up in the same room with no idea why they’re there — and quickly expands to encompass, well, a whole lot more than I expected. In most mysteries, it’s predetermined when I get to know which reveal. But Virtue’s Last Reward lets me freely work my way down the various branches of a storyline that splits apart like a narrative vascular system. I won’t get the full story until I’ve traveled the length of each of these branches. In whatever order I choose.

So that guy who promises to reveal something will reveal it, but I control when. Unwittingly, perhaps. But it was I who made the decisions that shunted the story down this particular path when I learned this particular detail, which may very well color what I hear down another path. It’s lends the mystery a gratifying sense of self-determination.

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