, | Game reviews
Who_did_this

“Mound Builders?” my friends ask, picking up the half-sized box. “What this?”

“It’s a solitaire game from Victory Point, the folks who published Nemo’s War, Dawn of the Zeds, and Ottoman Sunset,” I start to explain.

“What do you do in it? Build mounds?” My friends assume a mock heroic voice. “Hey, what should we build? A cathedral? A castle? No, I’ve got it! Let’s build a mound!”

They think that’s pretty funny. I guess it is, especially if the phrase “mound builders” doesn’t have any historical connotation for you. Mound builders were basically the native Americans more native than the Native Americans; the Indians before the Indians; the equivalent of the Precursors in a dopey sci-fi story. They made huge earthenwork structures in North America a thousand years before any pharaoh in Egypt had the bright idea to tell his slaves to stack a bunch of stones in the shape of a d4. When Europeans swept across North American, conquering tribes with now familiar names, they asked them, “So who built these enormous mounds? Was it you?”

The tribes with now familiar names just shrugged. “They were already here when we got here,” they said. Some of the Europeans concluded they must have been made by the giants briefly mentioned in the Bible. Other Europeans did some archaeology and eventually gave the earlier tribes the name Mound Builders. Great. Nice work, archaeologists. That’s the best you could come up with? My friends wouldn’t think it was so funny if you’d given them a cooler name. People of the Earthenwork Edifices? Tumulists? Was Barrow Lords taken?

“Is the game any good?” my friends ask after they’ve stopped laughing about mounds.

After the jump, I have some bad news. Continue reading →

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, | Games podcasts
PAX_East_podcast

Jay Gittings joins us this week with a report from PAX East! Find out what caught his eye at the show and what was far too popular to see. He also reveals the exact wrong way to enjoy certain games. Then join us for a conversation about Sentinels of the Multiverse, which we’re playing as part of our ongoing weekly series.

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, | Movie podcasts
Oculus_podcast

Oculus is perhaps the scariest movie about mirrors since Mirrors. Whatever the case, it’s no Absentia, which was director Mike Flanagan’s previous movie. At the 59-minute mark, we mount a discussion of our favorite framing devices in movies.

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, | Movie reviews
The_Machine_01

Caity Lotz had nearly enough gravitas to make the silly horror movie The Pact work. She was able to sell being panicked and straddling an old school motorcycle without it being simple cheesecake. Because, oh yeah, she was totally in her underwear for that scene. But she takes the movie seriously enough that it’s worth watching, even though it cast Casper Van Dien as a pudding eating cop.

So it’s a nice surprise to see her show up opposite proper actor Toby Stephens in The Machine. It’s not clear early on where The Machine is going, thanks to a merciful lack of exposition and very little techno-babble. So when Lotz arrives as the typical movie scientist — too young, too pretty, too effervescent — The Machine nearly falls apart. But it’s quite the accomplishment that she’s the one to bring it back together, to breathe life into it while Toby Stephens emotes sullenly, to shoulder what this movie is trying to deliver in the space between Robocop and Her. And oh my, what shoulders Lotz has got!

The other real star of The Machine is the production design and cinematography. I don’t recall seeing a credit for “colourist” in other movies, or even “colorist”, but it’s appropriate here. The Machine looks like Beyond The Black Rainbow, the 2010 incomprehensible love letter to the 80s, but with a budget. This is what Richard Stanley intended with all that garish color in Hardware. This is where Cameron would have ended up without CG and 3D and Titanic. This is the supersexy hard sci-fi movie Michael Mann never made, featuring wetly growling cyborgs, mostly sensible touchscreen computers, and a synth pulse soundtrack that would make Tangerine Dream proud. The Machine glows and throbs with the heart and sound of the 80s, but the production values of the 21st century.

The Machine is available on VOD now. Watch it on Amazon.com to support Qt3.

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, | Games podcasts
Bravely_Default_podcast_main

And we’re back after a Diablo-inflicted hiatus to discuss what we look for in an RPG, using Bravely Default, Diablo III, and Elder Scrolls Online to make our case. Brandon Cackowski-Schnell, Tom Chick, and Jason McMaster level up in the course of the discussion. Listen to find out who wins!

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, | Game reviews
AOW3_review

Age of Wonders III is almost great. This fantasy strategy game has nearly everything a fantasy strategy game needs, including some things other fantasy strategy games don’t have. Clever combos of races and classes that make you want to keep starting new games. A broad tree of skills and spells that makes you want to keep starting new games again. Distinct and detailed armies that make battles a joy. Superb tactical combat that makes battles even more of a joy. A wonderfully competent AI. Let me repeat that one because it bears repeating: A wonderfully competent AI. Invaluable heroes who develop unique roles as a game progresses. A fantastic terrain model that provides beautiful evocative worlds with meaningful gameplay effects. A welcome flexibility in terms of how you can play. It’s nearly a complete package that rivals Warlock, Dominions 4, Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes, and Eador for the superlative ways you can get your elf on.

But it’s missing one important thing.

After the jump, the ultimate feature. Continue reading →

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, | Movie reviews
Patrick_review

This remake of an obscure Australian horror movie from the 70s is basically Carrie, but where the lead character is comatose instead of a high school girl. Interesting choice. The best thing going for it is its cast, which includes Sharni Vinson from You’re Next, Rachel Griffiths from Six Feet Under, and Charles Dance from everything Charles Dance has been in.

Unfortunately, the movie is a bit too taken with Sharni Vinson. As am I, to be sure. But you’re not going to pay $6.99 for a video-on-demand glimpse into my head. So Patrick’s greatest failing is not appreciating what it has with Griffiths and Dance, who lurk around in the background for far too long in favor of a couple of “belles among the brain dead”, including the lovely lively Peta Sergeant as Vinson’s sidekick nurse, toiling away in a creepy experimental institute for the braindead. But I’ll trade all the scenes of Vinson Googling “moving things with mind”, stumbling around in the dark, and having two too many relationships for one more shot of Dance sticking his head into a door and saying “Remember to tell me when he has a bowel movement, yes?” Is there anyone else channeling Peter Cushing half this well?

The old mansion, the traditional nursing uniforms, and the sometimes ponderous pace set Patrick apart from most modern horror movies. Although it leans too heavily on bad CG backdrops and effects, it offers an intriguing combination of Victorian horror and latter day technology. There are a few fascinating early fake-outs. An old timey phone rings. The camera cuts to a shot of Vinson’s iPhone. It’s her ringtone. Pretty sneaky. But despite occasional sly touches, Patrick goes from intriguing to borderline camp to downright risible, until it quite literally defenestrates itself.

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, | Movie podcasts
CATWS_podcast

It’s an epic 2 vs. 1 battle over Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Smartly directed Avengers follow-up or soggy comic book pulp? For this week’s 3×3, we propose a discussion of marriage proposals, starting at the 1:14 mark.

Next week: Oculus

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, | News
GW2_megaservers

If you can’t have one big server where all the players play, there are ways to have the next best thing. Funcom’s Secret World, for instance, was really good about letting players bop around among servers to play with each other. You could even chat freely with anyone anywhere, regardless of which server you were on. It was the best kind of MMO spread across multiple servers: one where the server boundaries are invisible.

Guild Wars 2 will do its part to tear down server walls with what they’re calling a “megaserver system”.

With the megaserver system, players won’t be separated into different copies of the same map based on the world they selected on character creation. Instead, you will simply arrive in a map and be assigned to the version of that map that makes the most sense for you as selected by the megaserver system we’ve developed. This new system takes your party, guild, language, home world, and other factors into account to match you to a version of the map you’re entering. This will increase the odds that you’ll see the same people more often and play with people of similar interests.

With megaserver technology, there are as many copies of a map as are needed to comfortably hold the population of players in that map at a given time. Rather than having a separate map copy for each home world and artificially limiting the amount of fellow adventurers you see, the megaserver system brings players together and dynamically opens up new map copies as necessary.

While I’m excited that this will allow me to easily play with friends, I think I’m more excited at what this means for player population. Guild Wars 2 is a rare game that gets better as you’re playing with more people (ironically, Secret World’s downbeat horror setting fares best with fewer people around). There is never any penalty to having other people running around doing what you’re doing. In fact, there are group quests and roaming bosses that feel like content you can’t enjoy if you’re not on a crowded server. The new megaserver system will let Guild Wars 2 be exactly as crowded as it needs to be.

Megaservers go live on April 15. Read more here.

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, | Game reviews
Music_of_Diablo

When you watch someone play Diablo III, you see visual noise. Flailing around, colors, effects, little numbers flying out of everything. But playing Diablo III — actually being in that visual noise and making it all happen — is a whole other matter. The little blue smudges are my mana generating locust swarms. The slightly bigger blue smudges are my mana generating toads. The red blobs are zombie dogs, and they’re red because they’re healing me with their bites. The green pools are acid I’m vomiting onto the bad guys. The yellow circles are incoming mortar fire and I need to be sure not to stand there. The blue sparky patterns are electricity. Duh. That large yellow blob is my target, but first I have to clear out the non-yellow blobs. My friend’s barbarian is in there somewhere and I know it’s relatively safe to stand behind him. I can see him mainly when he does his spinning whirlwind. Barbarians love their whirlwind. Show me a barbarian not using whirlwind and I’ll slow you a clown without big shoes.

After the jump, a funny thing happened on the way to Malthael. Continue reading →

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, | Movie podcasts
Noah

This week we see Noah, in which God calls a mulligan for everything except Russell Crowe. The 3×3 about our favorite messages in movies starts at the 51-minute mark.

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, | News
Doc

I’m not much of a comic book guy, so I have a hard time keeping up with the heroes in Marvel Heroes, which includes someone who summons squirrels, a member of the Black Panther movement, and an actual raccoon. Today, Marvel Heroes adds Doc Strange (pictured, foreground) to the roster. Frankly, I don’t know Doc Strange from Doc Severinsen, so I had to check the Marvel Heroes site for this helpful information:

When the injuries he sustained in a horrific accident ruined Stephen Strange’s career as a surgeon, he searched the world for a cure. In the mountains of Tibet, he found a mystic named the Ancient One. But instead of being healed, Stephen ended up as the old man’s apprentice and learned the secrets of sorcery while gaining humility and wisdom. Eventually, Stephen became the Sorcerer Supreme, dedicating his life to protecting the world from extra-dimensional enemies.

You have to admire a man who can switch careers like that late in life.

Doc Strange is available today for the low price of however many spacebucks he costs. And while you’re spending, Marvel Heroes has a “buy one, get one free” deal on all heroes this weekend. Well, all heroes except Doc Strange.

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, | News
COH2_Western_Armies

To the surprise of no one who’s played a World War II game because Saving Private Ryan, Sega will add America to Company of Heroes 2, which had previously languished on the Eastern Front where you couldn’t be America.

Company of Heroes 2: The Western Front Armies brings players back to the Western Front first introduced in the original award-winning Company of Heroes. The Western Front Armies introduces two unique collections of new content — the US Forces and the German Oberkommando West. Each army has distinctive tactical gameplay options, new infantry, team weapons, vehicles, abilities and upgrades on a total of eight seasonal multiplayer maps set on the Western Front. The Western Front Armies also includes a new progression system that introduces other unique content into the game and enables players to dive deeper into the tactical and strategic aspects of the game than ever before.

America isn’t free, of course. America will cost $13. Germany will also cost $13 but whatever. America. The country that won World War II and therefore history. Brought to you by Sega this June.

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