Tom Chick

Alien Shooter TD lives up to every single word in its name

, | Game reviews

I don’t play tower defense games. They’re beneath me. They’re for people who want to turtle in an RTS, but they don’t want to actually play an RTS. They don’t even want an AI. At least MOBA players, who want to play an RTS without actually playing an RTS, are going up against other players. Tower defense players just want to shoot stuff that runs at them to get shot.

So I don’t play tower defense games. But when I do, they have to get four things right. Alien Shooter TD gets those four things right, plus a fifth thing. So if I played tower defense games, I would play Alien Shooter TD.

So for the sake of argument, let’s say that I do play tower defense games. Continue reading →

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 →

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.

Top ten games of 2016

, | Features

I can think of at least nine reasons this list might be lacking: Gears of War 4, Uncharted 4, Titanfall 2, Salt and Sanctuary, Kathy Rain, Virginia, Forza Down Under, Dead Rising 4, and The Last Guardian. All games I didn’t get to play this year. I’ll throw in Just Dance 2017 to make it an even ten.

But from among the games I did play this year, let me tell you about my ten favorites.

After the jump, okay, maybe I did play Just Dance 2017, but I’d like to keep that between us. Continue reading →

Most overrated games of 2016

, | Features

Overrated is a loaded term. It looks good in a headline. It’s often used for no purpose other than to goad a reaction. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t useful. When I call a game overrated, I don’t mean it’s bad, that the reviews were wrong, that the people who liked it were dopes, or even that I didn’t like it. It just means I’m surprised more people weren’t more critical, that the conversation wasn’t more often about ways the game could have been better.

After the jump, the ten most overrated games of 2016. Continue reading →

American Truck Simulator more accurately simulates America

, | News

I’m not really good at math, but here are the raw numbers. American Truck Simulator used to be at a scale of 1:35. With today’s update, it’s at a scale of 1:20. According to the developers at SCS Software, this means the maps are 1.75 times larger. I think they need to check their work. By my math, 1:35 minus 1:20 means the maps are :15 larger. Maybe it’s a metric thing. They’re European.

Math errors aside, this is a Big Deal. A fundamental part of level design, and especially open-world design, is the density of stuff. Which is directly related to the size of the maps. On one end of the scale, you have Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, which squeezed the Caribbean Sea into a tightly packed pond of concentrated naval action. On the other end of the scale, you have the original Battlezone in 1980, which didn’t have a single thing in it no matter how many quarters you spent looking for something. So when a developer releases a game and later says, “Uh, we’re going to rework the world to make it this much bigger, it’s going to have an effect on the gameplay experience.

And in the case of a laidback truck driving simulation like American Truck Simulator, more open space is appropriate. In Europe, everything is close together. That’s why they have so many wars. So Europe should have a high map density. You drive a half hour out of Paris and you’re practically in Warsaw. But going from Los Angeles to Las Vegas? It’s like playing Battlezone.

Mostly I’m just glad to have more room to drag that big-ass trailer around without constantly scraping other cars. In the words of Moe Howard, “Spread out!”

The most surprising games of 2016

, | Features

So if the most disappointing category is a list of games that should have been better, the most surprising category is the opposite. These are games that were better than they should have been. Just as disappointing is about falling short of expectations, these surprising games exceeded expectations and, in some cases, were among the best games of the year.

After the jump, the ten most surprising games of 2016. Continue reading →