, | Game reviews

In a typical tableau game, each player builds up a tableau at his end of the table. These games are often dismissively called “multiplayer solitaire”, which conveniently ignores that there’s usually some sort of interaction going on, even if it’s just competing for limited resources or racing to hit a score threshold. But one of the best ways to force interaction — in any kind of game — is to throw players together on a map. This is the approach Deus takes, where you build a tableau at your end of the table, but you also represent each card in the tableau with a little building on a map. Eventually, like it or not, you’ll rub elbows with the other players.

After the jump, this land is your land, this land is my land. Continue reading →

, | News

Ubisoft is finally showing a little confidence in The Crew, my favorite game from last year! They’re hoping that the first two hours will wet your whistle sufficiently that you’ll want to buy it.

…a free trial of the action-driving MMO The Crew is available today on PlayStation 4 computer entertainment system, and will be available March 25 on Xbox One… New players will be able to hit the road in this free two-hour trial and keep all of their progress should they decide they want to continue by purchasing the game.

Unfortunately, as with any open-world game and especially MMO, the first two hours are basically a tutorial. In fact, until you get to your first underground hideout in Chicago, you’re in a gimped version of the game world. My advice is to download The Crew, dash as fast as you can through the handful of story mission that open your first hideout, and then just strike out in one direction to see how much you can see before your two hours are up. My advice is to forget New York. Instead, head southwest to New Orleans and then hang a right out into the Southwest and then California. You should be hitting the Pacific just as your two hours are up.

, | Games

In the ongoing saga of Driveclub being a five-star racing game that was released two stars too early, it has finally gotten a replay feature. Now you can enjoy the truly gorgeous graphics without having to keep your eyes on the road. The replay mode lets you watch a race from a variety of camera views, with the option to enter a ridiculously detailed photo mode if you want to grab stills. It’s also a new way of looking at the tracks to learn how to drive them better.

The latest update also claims to make drift events less annoying. I’m not sure that’s possible, as I’ve yet to meet a drift mode in a videogame that wasn’t annoying. But with relaxed requirements for scoring drifts, at least it’s easier to get the stars you need to progress in the single-player tours.

, | News

Infested Planet developer Alex Vostrov posted the following update to the game’s Steam page:

The game is about to get a new mini-expansion: “The Trickster’s Arsenal”. The details of what’s inside are still being worked on, but I can announce some new combat abilities.

The DLC is going to add 7 new powers, kind of like the chopper strike, but with different effects. For example, one ability is STASIS FIELD – you can fire it at a hive and freeze everything in the area. The hive can’t take damage, but it also can’t do anything to you. Good for splitting up enemies. Another one is OVERDOSE – you lose some health, but your marines go into a frenzy.

The abilities allow you to fight in new ways, like teleporting across the map to deal with an emergency.

At least some parts of the DLC will be free to everyone who owns the game. For example, I didn’t want to split the leaderboards between DLC and non-DLC, so the new abilities are unlocked for everyone if you’re playing a leaderboard map.

The Trickster’s Arsenal is coming out on April 24th.

Thanks, Gigglemoo!

, | Game reviews

For the most part, Cities: Skyline is a familiar — almost too familiar — take on the citybuilder genre. It’s generically contemporary, without any meaningful structure outside the sandbox, and it wears its debt of gratitude to Maxis’ games proudly. It plays out like a piping hot bowl of gameplay comfort food for those of us hip to RCI indicators.

It’s taken a while to realize what sets it apart. At a population of 10,000 or so, you’ll realize the root of many of your problems is buses tangling with trucks and cars and bottlenecked offramps and clustered intersections. As your city grows to the point that these become issues, to the point that you’ll want public transportation to take some pressure off the streets, to the point that adding more garbage trucks might not make it easier to reach the accumulating garbage and, in fact, will just clogs the streets with even more traffic, you’ll appreciate that it all comes down to your road network. Traffic is the foundation for your city. The roads are veins and arteries, the vehicles are its lifeblood.

This is hardly a surprise given that Cities: Skylines was developed by Colossal Order, the folks who made Cities in Motion, a game that looked like a citybuilder but was actually a traffic management sim. Now Colossal Order’s traffic management is spun out into a full game, built from the road network up. Everything in Cities: Skylines comes down to traffic, much like the Impressions citybuilders were premised on walkers roaming a city to deliver goods and services.

After the jump, the three rules of real estate are roads, roads, roads. Continue reading →

, | Games

Citybuilders are among the most information dense games you can play. Any citybuilder worth its salt is all about the whys and wherefores. Why is traffic bad here but fine there? Why did I suddenly run out of power? Why is the garbage not getting collected? Why is raw sewage backing up into houses? Why are people leaving? Why am I in an economic death spiral? Why don’t I just start over?

Cities: Skylines gives you pretty much all the stats, map overlays, and information displays you could want. Let me show you one in particular.

After the jump, bring da noize. Continue reading →

, | Movie reviews

Everly begins in the moments immediately following a rape, which might lead you to think you’re in for a revengesploitation movie. Not quite. Partly, but not quite. It’s certainly superviolent, and there’s a lot of lovely grindhouse in the proceedings. But this is no simple chicks vs. dicks polemic. It’s an almost-comedy of cartoon violence proportion, in which other women are also bad guys and victims, in which Salma Hayek’s cleavage should get equal billing, in which there will be “a lotta dead whores”. It’s not female empowerment. It’s victim empowerment, in which the victim happens to be a woman, a mother, and a daughter, all significant factors, none more central than the other. Writer Yale Hannon, whose credits include the TV shows Parenthood, Big Love, and In Treatment, deserves a lot of credit for elevating what could have been a forgettable action movie or a facile rape revengesploitation session.

Director Joe Lynch swatted clumsily at low-hanging fruit in the putative comedy, Knights of Badassdom. But in Everly, he’s on surer footing with what is essentially a parlor room drama in which the parlor room is going to get trashed. By unfolding in real time, in one location, with a rogues’ gallery of visitors, Everly is like Quentin Tarantino’s take on Rope. But it’s a crazily multinational melange, filmed in Serbia, with a largely Japanese cast, set in an indeterminate American city, and with Hayek’s accent unchecked. Everly is everywhere and nowhere.

It’s been 20 years since Hayek writhed into American cinema in From Dusk till Dawn. She wears those years proudly in Everly, a movie uninterested in immaculate youth. Older action heroes are normally the domain of men (one of my favorite exceptions is Janet McTeer in the otherwise unremarkable Cat Run), but Everly doesn’t need its heroine to be young, or to have superhero fighting abilities, or slick gun skills, or snappy one-liners. Everly is about someone who’s been rode hard and hung up wet within reach of a shotgun she doesn’t know how to use, but she’s desperate enough to give it a try. In fact, a lot of the charm in Everly is its almost videogame conceit whereby the more dead bodies populate an area, the bigger the available arsenal. And the boss monsters in this movie! Hoo, boy!

Everly is available on video on demand. Support Qt3 and watch it on Amazon.com.

, | News

I’m mainly telling you this so I can use that headline up there, but Marvel Heroes’ latest playable superhero is Iceman. From Gazillion’s press release, it seems Iceman was one of the original fab five X-Men:

Making his debut in THE X-MEN #1, Iceman was one of the first five mutants to sign on as a student at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, alongside Cyclops, Marvel Girl (Jean Grey’s codename at the time), Beast and Angel.

Wait, Marvel Girl and Jean Grey are the same person? Man, comic books are confusing.

And speaking of icemen, another recent Marvel Heroes addition is the Winter Soldier, Captain America’s nemesis from the last movie. He was also probably in some comic book or another.

You can buy a deluxe Iceman pack with costumes and a few other gee-gaws for $18 here or you can get him in-game for the usual rate of 900 Marvelbucks for a new character. Marvel Heroes — which is free-to-play, but not in a dirty way — remains the finest Diablo clone that isn’t actually Diablo 3.

, | Games

Failbetter’s Alexis Kennedy has a great post-mortem of Sunless Sea here. I particularly appreciate how he explains that some of his design decisions might not have resonated with a wider range of people, because he was staying true to a specific creative focus:

Ship speed is a good example. Sunless Sea is a stately game. You could reasonably call it a slow game. But we’ve resisted speeding up the ship, because it would reduce the tension, the sense of space and distance, and the menace of the dark. I think it’s quite possible that if the ship was 50% faster, the game would be more fun and less grindy – but I also think there’s an invisible line we’d cross, somewhere before that 50%, where the atmosphere was diminished without anyone quite knowing why. If we hadn’t had that iron creative focus from the beginning, I don’t think we’d have held our nerve, and Sunless Sea would have ended up a zippier, slighter experience.

Amen, brother. Some people have edited files to make the ship faster, which would be like fast-forwarding through the slow parts of a Stanley Kubrick movie. Sure, you could do it, but then you’re a philistine. I love how Kennedy tacitly concedes that game design doesn’t always have to worship at the altar of “fun”. If I want to have fun, I’d go outside and play tetherball. If I want a uniquely moving experience of exploring the unknown, I’ll play Sunless Sea.

Read the rest of the post-mortem for Kennedy’s confession that Sunless Sea is confused about it’s identity as a CRPG or a roguelike, how veteran players nearly ruined the early parts of the game, how early access saved us all from a terrible combat system (seriously, their first iteration at combat sounds godawful!), and how many bat skeletons Failbetter keeps in the office.

(You can read my review here.)