, | News
Expeditions_Viking

Expeditions: Conquistador is a fantastic variation on the X-com theme, letting you play a team of conquistadors working their way through Central and South America. The overland layer is an intriguing survival challenge and the turn-based combat is brimming with detail and variety. At the heart of the game is an intricate character development system and a unique morale model based on individual characters’ personality traits. For instance, if one of your Spaniards is a racist, she will gain morale if the party consists entirely of Spaniards, but she will lose morale if you hire natives. A pacifist character will gain morale if you make decisions that avoided combat, but he’ll lose a little morale with every battle. As a role-playing game, Expeditions: Conquistador is about making the best decisions based on the idiosyncracies of your party. Can you keep the team together long enough to find El Dorado?

The developers are a small Danish team called Logic Artists. And they’ve just announced the follow-up game will be based on Vikings, both at home and away.

…the Expeditions Sequel will have an upgradable player village, which they must return to between expeditionary raids to build and protect. Over-land travel and combat will now exist as part of the same layer, transitioning from unrestricted, exploratory movement to turn-based combat smoothly. Additionally, players will see their character manifested in the game world, not just as a role-playing character for conversations and decision making (as was in the first of the Expeditions series), but also visibly represented in travel and combat as a custom character.

Expeditions: Viking has just started development and won’t be released anytime soon. In the meantime, Logic Artists are close to releasing Clandestine, a two-player asymmetrical co-op game in which one player controls a spy and the other player controls an off-site hacker. Clandestine is currently available on Steam as an early access title.

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, | Movie reviews
Good_Kill_review

The history of warfare is partly a history of being able to stand farther and farther away from the people you’re killing. From longbows to muskets to battleships to aircraft to missiles to drones in Afghanistan remotely piloted by airmen in Las Vegas. This latter distance is the subject of Good Kill, in which Ethan Hawke and Bruce Greenwood are mostly secure in the knowledge that their targets are always and only bad guys. If kids get in the way of their drone strikes, they’re suitably upset about it. So when the CIA tells them — over speakerphone, no less! — to just blow up innocent bystanders, and then some first responders for good measure, they get even more suitably upset. As the new girl on the job and bleeding-heart-on-her-sleeve liberal, Zoe Kravitz actually cries about it. She’s just that sensitive to what’s Right and what’s Wrong. Don’t worry, she’ll turn in her wings before the movie is over.

Good Kill is convenient pap with characters declaiming superficial political stances in lieu of dialogue and shots of the hero’s home from the same angle as shots of the drone targets because, uh, reasons. What a disappointment considering Good Kill was directed by Andrew Niccol, who previously directed the smart and intimate Gattaca. And then he went on to direct the not smart In Time and the even less smart The Host, each with ballooning budgets. With Good Kill, Niccol is obviously pining for smaller and more cerebral message movies, but the message here is obvious, facile, and ham-handed. In the end, Good Kill decides to find redemption by shooting a Hellfire missile at a serial rapist. Hurray for vigilante drone strikes!

Good Kill is in theaters now in limited release.

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, | News
Cities_Skylines_tunnel_update

Today’s update for Cities: Skylines finally adds tunnels, giving you yet another option to deal with traffic issues. If you can’t go around it or go over it, now you can try going under it! The update also adds a new European tileset, although the default tileset seemed pretty European to me. The new tileset only appears on specific maps, such as the three new maps included in the update.

Read more specifics here, including a word about how to avoid conflicts with any mods you may be using.

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, | Movie podcasts
Mad_Max_Fury_Road_podcast

George Miller returns to the Mad Max series and we couldn’t be happier with the results. In fact, we’re so thrilled that we don’t get around to this week’s 3×3 on tutorials until the 1:27 mark.

Next week: Tomorrowland

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, | Movie reviews
Run_All_Night_review

All you need to know about Run All Night is that at a certain point in the movie Liam Neeson as a washed up former hitman and Common as a hi-tech assassin fight each other with flaming sticks and it makes perfect sense.

When Jaume Collet-Serra directed Orphan, he took the “evil kid” genre and breathed life, character, and craft into it. Here he does the same thing with the Liam Neeson action genre. Granted, it took him three tries. Who can remember the dopey Unknown and Non-Stop? But unlike those earlier Neeson pieces, Run All Night has a clever character-based script with a great cast led by Neeson, Ed Harris, and Joel Kinnaman (it’s a shame Kinnaman is doing his best work in box office under-performers like this and the Robocop reboot). Also among the cast members is New York played by New York itself instead of Toronto or Vancouver, and Run All Night isn’t afraid to run amok in the streets to prove it.

The big surprise is that once you look past the absurdly high R-rated body count, you’ll find an unlikely story about fathers that spans four generations. It’s great to see Neeson expending huge amounts of ammo, racking up property damage, slugging bad guys, choking a henchman with the gross rotary hand towel in a New York public restroom, and fighting Common with a flaming stick. But who knew you’d get all that in a movie you can take your dad to on Father’s Day?

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, | Movie reviews
Wild_review

Resist the temptation to think of Wild as a chick movie. Given the press, that might be hard to do. Writer Cheryl Strayed, whose memoir of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada was adapted for the movie, and actor/producer Reese Witherspoon have used the movie’s publicity to advocate for women’s issues in Hollywood. Good for them. But this isn’t an issue movie. Instead, it’s a survival drama, minus the kind of catastrophe you get in 127 Hours or Into the Wild. That the lead character is a woman, and that she is largely defined by her relationship with another woman, shouldn’t even be an issue. It is, of course. But it shouldn’t be. And it shouldn’t be Wild’s identifying characteristic.

What makes Wild stand out is how it recreates the state of mind of someone alone in the wilderness. The visuals are gorgeous as the geography progresses from the barren desert through the cold and into the lush greenery of the Pacific Northwest. It’s no accident this progression reflects Strayed’s state of mind. The muted soundtrack is music remembered from a radio playing in a car or heard from another room. Director Jean-Marc Vallee’s deftly edited flashbacks are sometimes a split second or sometimes drawn out sequences, all presented in the style of someone left alone with her thoughts and recollections, all telling us a bit more about this woman.

And this is a woman worth meeting. Another thing that sets Wild apart from stereotypical chick movies is that Wild isn’t about someone who was failed by her parents or betrayed by her spouse. She isn’t rising above a perceived victimization, finding her strength. She’s an already strong character taking stock of the decisions she has made. Reese Witherspoon shows no trace of Tracy Flick, a role that’s hounded her ever since Election. Grimly bearing the burden of that colossal backpack, she shows grit, weariness, self-awareness, and complexity. This is how you work your way out from under a career of romantic comedies. Once again, Laura Dern reveals herself as an actor who deserves far more recognition than she gets. Who else consistently channels raw emotional intensity like Dern? It’s exhausting, in a good way.

As a procedural about an absolutely ass-kicking hike, Wild considers simple issues like having the right shoes and stove fuel. It also deals with the maddening loneliness, offset by bursts of camaraderie among fellow hikers. Wild is a warmly humanistic movie, full of good people. But it’s scary for a woman to be alone in the wilderness in a different way than it is for a man. The isolation when you see that lone hiker in the distance has very different implications for a woman. Wild acknowledges this, but doesn’t cheaply exploit it.

Wild is currently available on Blu-ray, DVD, and video on demand. Support Qt3 and watch it on Amazon.com.

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, | Game reviews
Interplanetary_review

The bright spot in the disappointing RTS Planetary Annihilation was planets reaching out into the solar system and attacking each other. Actual interplanetary warfare, slinging nuclear missiles through space, firing massive Deathstar lasers, and turning moons into sledgehammers. The solar system was your battleground. But to get to this good stuff, you had to wade through a lot of middling RTSing. So imagine my delight to discover Interplanetary, a turn-based game that dispenses entirely with the middling RTSing.

After the jump, may the best planet win. Continue reading →

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, | Movie reviews
Maggie_review

Maggie isn’t a zombie movie so much as an elegy about terminally ill children. Who will turn into zombies. It takes place in the rural malaise following an averted zombie apocalypse. Arnold Scharzeneggar has brought home his infected daughter and now he has only to wait until she turns. Will he take her to a quarantine center? Will he put her out of her misery himself? Will his accent be explained? These are the questions the viewer must ponder.

The script calls for quiet grieving. Schwarzenegger is clearly out of his depth. But so too is the haggard farmer he affects. What parent is prepared to watch his child wither and die? What could have been the weakest part of the movie — an action star trying his hand at quiet emoting — kind of works. Kind of.

But then there’s the rest of the movie. First time director Henry Hobson has a nice eye for prosaic detail and dying light (the movie could have been called Twilight of the Living Dead and not just for its tween lead and tween romantic subplot (it could also have been called Foxcatcher, although you have to see the movie to understand that one)). But Hobson takes too long going nowhere in particular. The slow burn fizzles out and trails off. He furthermore displays a singular ability to undercut every scene by serving it with either rolling thunder underneath or syrupy music drizzled on top.

The supporting cast has the kind eyes and severe faces you’d expect in a rural malaise. And then there’s poor sporting Abigail Breslyn, who made her mark in movies by being humiliated in Little Miss Sunshine. Since then, she has been run down by zombies in Zombieland, thrown into a trunk and rudely beaten in The Call, and trapped in a ghost jar in Haunters. At this rate, I’d lay good odds that she’ll be one of the first to go in this fall’s Scream Queens, a Fox TV series from the creators of American Horror Story in which one major cast member is killed every episode. She’s left to do the heavy lifting in Maggie, despairing as the zombie make-up on her baby round face gets thicker and the contact lenses in her wide eyes get more opaque. If Maggie had trusted her more than its stunt Teutonic casting and the artsy indulgence of its freshman director, it might have shown more signs of life.

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, | Game reviews
Quartermaster_General_review

No matter how many ways we game World War II and watch it in movies and dissect its possible outcomes, the central fact of World War II is that it actually happened. The fall of France, appeasement, Pearl Harbor, Stalingrad, Tom Hanks landing on Normandy, Johnson stealing doilies, Brad Pitt in a crippled tank fending off an SS division, BJ Blascowicz traveling through time to fix the timestream, or whatever happened in the last Wolfenstein game. I didn’t play it. Who has time to play a Wolfenstein game when you’re replaying Grand Theft Auto V on a third platform?

World War II isn’t just the most significant endeavor in all of human history, it’s also one of our favorite playgrounds. One follows from the other. Because it’s the most significant endeavor in all of human history, it’s therefore a popular sandbox. Boys love to move chits on a board or hear the pinging pin in a depleted M1 Garand magazine or thrill to the four roaring Wright engines on a B-17 or roll for research in Axis and Allies. And one of the best World War II playgrounds is the utterly brilliant, sexily sleek, and slightly subversive boardgame Quartermaster General.

After the jump, WWII for dummies, geniuses, and everyone in between. Continue reading →

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