, | News
Trials_Fusion_saw_train

The very first course in Fire in the Deep, the new set of challenges for Trails Fusion, is a train. In case you thought there weren’t any new mechanics in a Trials game, the train hurtles past overhanging signal lights, so you have to time certain sections so you don’t smack into them, Wile E. Coyote style. Of course, the train is carrying a spinning sawblade the size of a Volkswagen that you have to ramp over. Ten tries later and I finally make it, only to be unable to jump far enough to clear the car carrying loose bombs. I call this train the pain train.

Fire in the Deep is the fourth of six add-ons, available for $5 each, or as part of the $20 season pass.

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Offworld_Trading_Company

Offworld Trading Company is the economic real-time strategy game from Civ IV designer Soren Johnson and his new company, Mohawk Games. It has been shrouded for a while now. Not that no one’s been able to play it or talk about it. On the contrary. Early builds have been circulating and the people who’ve played them have been very vocal describing the experience. But no one has posted videos or screenshots. Why? Because they were asked not to. It was easy to imagine some sort of hideous Frankenstein monster placeholder graphics that developer Mohawk Games didn’t want us to see.

But now the shroud has been lifted, with screenshots and even a video on the official site. And I’m delighted to say that — surprise! — it’s an absolutely lovely game, clean and simple, with a shiny but quaint hard sci-fi vibe. Well played, Mohawk Games.

Offworld Trading Company will be available for early access in two weeks. Furthermore, Soren Johnson will be on the Quarter to Three Games Podcast in the near future.

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, | Game reviews
Grey_Goo_review

Grey Goo is something worse than bad; it is mundane. Not so much a throwback as a bland crust, the heel of a loaf of bread left on a cutting board. It is a competent husk missing any vital organs. You can practically smell the Westwood coming off the feature list, which is hardly surprising given that developer Petroglyph includes a bunch of former Westwooders. Grey Goo has a lot of the trappings of those Westwood classics: simplicity, speed, streamlining, individual soldiers and tanks jostling each other as they swarm around in a big blob. But what you can’t smell is any sense of personality or joy. In their prime, Westwood games reeked of giddy pleasure. Even when the games weren’t good, they were overflowing with an ebullient affection for the act of throwing armies into each other and watching them blow up. Polish? Pah. Watch these bazooka dudes break up this tank rush!

After the jump, we’ll always have Command and Conquer. Continue reading →

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, | News
GW2_revenant

ArenaNet announced the Heart of Thorns expansion for Guild Wars 2 today. I suppose I’m as excited as the next person about some of the new features, but I’m also disappointed. The new features are exactly what you’d expect in an expansion, but I can’t help but feel a bit of an “is that all there is?” sensation. I blame Guild Wars 2 itself. It can’t be easy to expand a game this generous, expansive, and varied. There are already so many ways to play, and the classes feel so different, and there are so many options for what would normally be considered endgame grind: dungeons, fractals, exploration, legendary weapons, completing skills, pet collecting, achievements. Furthermore, with the living world storyline, ArenaNet has done such a great job adding new content and new places. And I say that having barely played any of season two. So what’s left for an expansion to do?

After the jump, what specifically is being added in Heart of Thorns? Continue reading →

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El_Dorado

Paradox announces the next add-on for Europa Universalis IV will be called El Dorado.

This expansion’s historical focus on the Central American and South American theaters of exploration will challenge you with new decisions worthy of a king or conqueror. As the Aztecs, subject the Mexican plain to your rule but make sure you have enough vassal kings to sacrifice to your angry gods. As the Europeans, push deeper into the jungles of the Amazon, following rumors of lost cities and magical fountains.

I don’t recommend that latter course of action. You’ll just end up in charge of a raft full of monkeys. Also included in El Dorado will be the option to design your own custom nation and monarch. Because for some people, history isn’t enough.

El Dorado will be out in February.

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Borderlands_splitscreen

It’s no surprise that 2K is bringing a Borderlands bundle to the Playstation 4 and Xbox One, consisting of Borderlands 2, the Pre-Sequel, and all the downloadable content released for each game to date. But what is a surprise is that the collection will have four-player splitscreen support! Move over, Diablo 3? You’ll even be able to import your characters and badass rank from your PS3 or Xbox 360.

Borderlands: The Handsome Collection comes out on March 24th.

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, | Games
Vidar

Death isn’t death in fantasy games because it’s never permanent. Just make sure at least one of your party members survives the battle! Barring that, just reload. It’s particularly a non-issue in fantasy games because you can just cast a resurrection spell. You could never have a murder mystery in a fantasy game, because any ol’ cleric of sufficient level would be able to solve the crime by casting resurrection and going, “So, hey, who killed you?” And what’s the big deal with Aeris dying in Final Fantasy? Didn’t anyone have one of those Phoenix down things? Death in fantasy games isn’t death; it’s a nap.

So I’m glad to see what looks like a retro 2D RPG being built entirely around the concept of death. Vidar — yet more evidence that all the good names for videogames have been taken — is based on the concept that the NPCs who are typically unkillable will die, moving the plot along an intricate web of if/then forks based on who’s alive and who’s dead. Each night in the town of Vidar, a beast comes out of a cave and kills one of the 24 townsfolk. You get a limited amount of time every night to work your way into the beast’s cave. Will you find and slay the beast before the last person dies on the 24th night? And how will the survivors who populate the town and offer you quests affect the storyline, not to mention your progress? Which of the various town events will you trigger?

It reminds me a bit of Guild Wars 2, where the dynamic events can result in all the NPCs in a town being wiped out and the town being lost. But that’s a bad example, since Guild Wars 2 is an MMO. The town is just going to be recovered and the townsfolk resurrected, easy peasy. A better example is the action RPG Din’s Curse, where the monsters in the dungeon can rise up and attack the town, killing vital NPCs and messing up your quests. It also reminds me of Westwood’s Blade Runner game from 1997, where a different suspects were replicants in any given playthrough.

Vidar creator Dean Razavi explains his game’s conceit in his Kickstarer video (note that the Kickstarter funds will go almost entirely to artwork). Power through the relatively generic trailer to hear Razavi explain how Vidar handles death and why it matters. You can also vote for Vidar on Steam Greenlight.

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, | Game reviews
Trails_Fusion

Trials Fusion, like the Trials games before it, is 100% accessible up to a certain point. Using its extremely simple “vocabulary” of only four verbs — lean forward or backward, accelerate or brake — you drive a motorcycle along 2D trails, trying to set the best time with the fewest wipeouts. Along the way, you can bail as many times as you want and you can take as long as you need to reach the end. But eventually, you’ll reach the end and you’ll finish the level and you’ll be free to move along to the next bit. You can try again to improve your performance and maybe beat your friends’ times. That, after all, is a big part of the Trials series. But these games aren’t going to throw any impassible trials or brick walls in your way.

Up to a certain point.

After the jump, reaching the end of the trial. Continue reading →

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, | Features
Overlooked_2014

Okay, this category might be a bit of a stretch, but I like to end the yearly lists on a positive note. So this is a list of smaller games that deserve more recognition. But I’m not sure there’s a good metric for sufficient recognition, so consider this me just going, ‘Hey, have you heard of these games? If not, check them out because they’re really good!’

Plus, I didn’t get around to writing up full reviews for most of them, so this will have to do instead.

After the jump, ten games you probably overlooked in 2014. Continue reading →

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, | Features
diablo-iii-console

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 2014. Continue reading →

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, | Features
Elite_Dangerous_2014

So if the most disappointing category is a list of games that should have been better than they were, 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 2014. Continue reading →

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, | Movie reviews
Preservation_review

The worst thing about Preservation, the second horror movie from actor Christopher Denham, isn’t that it’s bad. This is a no-budget movie shot quick and cheap in parks around Los Angeles that are supposed to pass for the deep dark woods. The worst thing isn’t even that it’s insultingly implausible, with people doing typical stupid horror movie things and contrived set-ups for supposedly scary moments.

The worst thing about Preservation is that it is so shamelessly derivative. The set-up is that a troubled married couple and the husband’s troubled war veteran brother are all going hunting for the weekend. But as they’re unpacking their baggage — and I don’t mean their camping gear — something happens and the hunters become the hunted. You probably saw that coming. But what you didn’t see coming, the supposedly clever twist, is a blatant rip-off of a handful of actually clever movies: Eden Lake, El Rey de la Montana, and Ils, respectively English, Spanish, and French, all superlative horror movies. It’s as if Denham decided, hey, I’ll do an American version of those! And then proceeded to confuse “American” with “dumb”.

Preservation is available now for video on demand.

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