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Qt3_CGC_TRON_20

The latest pick for the Quarter to Three Classic Game Club, chosen by WarpRattler, is Monolith’s cult classic TRON 2.0. Developer Monolith was at the top of their game when they released it in 2003. This was the Monolith that gave us No One Lives Forever, putting that same level of world-building, charm, and personality into the TRON universe.

WarpRattler explains why he picked it:

my dad found a copy at TJ Max (???) on clearance and bought it for me, but it wouldn’t work on my computer. I would’ve been…fourteen or fifteen at the time, I think? The game had been out for at least a couple of years. I later ended up giving it away to a friend without ever getting to play it, and my current copy came from a thrift store earlier this year.

Oddly enough, I did play the Gameboy Advance spinoff when I was younger. From what I’ve heard, it turns out some of the promo materials I got for TRON 2.0 from Comic-Con waaaaaaaay back when I went in, I think, 2003 ended up involving concepts that weren’t in the final Monolith game, but did end up in the GBA game.

TRON 2.0 is available for $9.99 on Steam. You’ll want to download the Killer App mod, which requires the unofficial 1.042 patch, and works on either the Steam or retail versions. The mod combines a couple of popular visual mods, adds in content (all for multiplayer, I think), and visual upgrades from the Xbox port, and offers widescreen support and a few other tweaks.

If you want to play TRON 2.0 and participate in the conversation, join the discussion thread here. Click here to see the earlier picks for the Qt3 Classic Game Club.

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Offworld_Trading_Company_beta

I’m not in the habit of recommending, much less playing, early access games. I’d just as soon wait until a game is finished before playing it. It makes no sense to me that I’d jump into some form of entertainment while it’s still being made, any more than I’d eat lasagne before it’s been baked or move into a house before the roof was in place. “Hey Tom,” Joss Whedon might ask, “do you want to watch Avengers 2 now? I haven’t shot all the scenes, and the ending isn’t in yet, and there’s no CG yet for The Hulk. But here, you can watch what I’ve got so far!” What kind of deal is that? Why wouldn’t I wait until the movie comes out? Besides, I have plenty of finished movies I could watch.

It’s no different with games. So why would I play Offworld Trading Company, which enters public beta today and is available for $40 on Steam?

After the jump, it just takes one moment of weakness. Continue reading →

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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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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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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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Disappointing_2014

Calling a game disappointing arguably has more to do with me than the game itself. Disappointment isn’t an inherent quality. It can’t exist without some sort of expectation in the first place. In many cases, these games are sequels, or the creations of developers with proven track records, or entries in established genres, or games with promising beginnings. But for various reasons, the central fact about these games is that I had personally hoped they would be better.

After the jump, the ten most disappointing games of 2014. Continue reading →

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This week the Qt3 Podcast team takes a break from podcasting to do some streamcasting Twitchcasting…uh casting. Whatever. I’m old. I’m not hip to your crazy jive talk.

Bottom line is that instead of a podcast I streamed some Dragon Age: Inquisition so go watch it and marvel at what a crappy mage I am. I promise to get better at talking and playing at the same time so forgive me if I sound more incoherent than usual.

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top_ten_2014

I don’t normally keep playing games after I’ve written about them. That’s just the nature of writing about games as a job. You experience them, you process them, you mostly move on. But as I look back over the games I played in 2014, I realize I spent an inordinate amount of time with games from 2013 and 2012. Guild Wars 2, Grand Theft Auto V, Diablo III, and Marvel Heroes were significant parts of 2014 for me. If they weren’t so obviously games from other years, they would most likely be on this list. In fact, one of them is, but I think it earned its place.

I spent a lot of 2014 with boardgames. I’m tempted to extend my fanatical platform agnosticism to include boardgames. But ultimately, I can’t reconcile the fact that boardgames are such a different type of experience, with unique advantages and disadvantages. I still intend to write about boardgames, but I’ve decided it’s proper to hang a curtain — not too thick a curtain, but a curtain nonetheless — between videogames and boardgames.

I fell out of love with the iOS as a gaming platform this year. Not to say it doesn’t have some exceptional offerings and a unique niche. But as I sampled various iOS games in 2014, time and again I felt that it’s not a gaming platform any more, but a business model. And I’m not interested in the business model it’s pushing.

Conversely, something really clicked with the Wii U this year, even alongside the sexy shiny newness of my new Playstation 4 and Xbox One. Three of my ten favorite games of 2014 are Wii U exclusives. On top of that, I was delighted with Star Wars Pinball (a standalone spin-off of Pinball FX) and Hyrule Warriors (a Zelda-fied Dynasty Warriors). Try as I might, I can’t resist that Nintendo magic.

Finally, I wish I had gotten the chance to play Thief, Wolfenstein: New Order, Infamous: Second Son, Batman: Arkham Origins, Elder Scrolls Online, The Evil Within, Hitman Go, Valiant Hearts, Tropico 5, Costume Quest 2, Lords of the Fallen, Little Big Planet 3, and Lego Batman 3. But onward to the games I did play!

After the jump, the top ten games of 2014. Continue reading →

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For your Let’s Plays, you don’t have to settle for hipsters who are no good at the game cutting wise for an hour. Or some cynical YouTube personality with an accent and an absurd pseudonym. Because Double Fine has launched a new series called Devs Play, which features someone good at a game sitting down to play with someone with unique insight into the game. In the first episode, Double Fine brand manager Greg Rice sits down with Westwood co-founder Louis Castle to play through the godawful infernally difficult 1994 Lion King game for the Genesis. It’s like director’s commentary for a movie, with an informed movie critic and the movie’s director!

Stick around for a cameo shortly before the one-hour mark. “My god, this looks hard,” he offers from his back seat. Indeed. Among the many things I learned from this excellent episode is that The Lion King is way outside the threshold of what I’ll tolerate in a game these days. 1994 was a long time ago. As Greg Rice notes, “It was a period when you’d buy one game and play it all summer and figure it out.”

The series continues with five more episodes to be posted weekly.

Check out the schedule after the jump. Continue reading →

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SMAC_classic_game_club

[Editor’s note: Every two weeks, we’ll pick a classic game to play and discuss. Then the choice of the next game will be made by a randomly selected participant from the current discussion. It’s like a book club, but with videogames. We’d love to have you join us. Register for the forums and hop into the discussion! This week’s choice, by MrPinguin, is Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri.]

When the Classic Game Club started, this title wasn’t on my short list. That’s not to say I wasn’t interested in seeing it come up, but it happens to be one of those oh-so-famous classic games that I’d never played. So I was inclined to leave this choice to someone more familiar with the game. But the recent release of a supposed spiritual successor, Civilization: Beyond Earth, seems to make this a perfect time to revisit the original.

Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri and its expansion, Alien Crossfire, were both released in 1999. Like many of our Classic Game Club selections, it appears that it won critical acclaim but may have suffered from lackluster sales. I’m not even sure if I was aware of it in 1999, which I suspect I was busy with Ultima Online and Starcraft, but I’ve always been surprised that I missed it since I was a huge fan of Civilization II.

Thus far I’ve only played about 60 minutes of the vanilla version of Alpha Centauri, which was just long enough to read through the tutorial popups, scout out some nearby fungus, discover a forerunner-alien ‘borehole’, experience an earthquake that raised a mountain below my first expansion city, and lose a ‘colony pod’ to roving worms. My initial foray into the game was impressively varied, and I can already see how much Alpha Centauri diverges from its Civilization II roots with the sci-fi setting, integrated narrative, and an emphasis on terraforming a hostile planet. I’m still not sure how well it holds up, and I can’t offer much advice on how new players should begin, but I’m hoping others with more experience can fill us all in.

You can listen to an interview with designer Brian Reynolds on Three Moves Ahead here. You can read Tom Chick’s ode to Sister Marian here.

Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri is currently on sale at Good Old Games. It’s a 500MB download.

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Dungeons_of_Xandor_screenshot

When the game starts, create a ranger character — it’s the most versatile class. Then proceed to the general store to stock up on supplies. Get plenty of healing potions and as many +1 arrows as you can carry.

It’s okay that you’re doing this.

In stage one of the pirate dungeon, the skeletons have a standard attack pattern. If you memorize it, you can time your attacks so that you hit them when they’re most vulnerable. You’ve already applied to a job today, so this is totally, totally, fine. Really. Once you reach level 2, it’s important to add points to agility because that’s going to make your attacks hit more often.

Only buy equipment from Nylar the Elf — he has the lowest prices. Look, you have to allow yourself to relax and have fun once in a while.

After the jump, it’s fine to read gaming websites too. Continue reading →

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trick1

Chris: For the last month we’ve covered almost every horror movie genre, from creature features to werewolves to zombies and back again. The one that we’ve left out–until today–is still one of my favorites: the portmanteau (or anthology, if you like.) Making interconnected short story horror films has been part of the genre for as long as I can remember. Any horror fan of a certain age had their childhood terrorized by the Trilogy of Terror and poor Karen Black and that evil Zuni doll. I’m just as fond of Creepshow, which seemed to be on a constant loop on cable back in my teenage years. For today’s final entry in our survey of the golden age of horror films, we’re finally doing one of these movies, an underrated and gloriously enjoyable entry from 2007. (Yes we moved it out of order to save it just for today. What harm is there in messing up the order of things?)

After the jump, be careful, there are rules Continue reading →

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banshee1

Chris:The Banshee Chapter is about mind-control, MKULTRA-like drug experiments. It’s a movie about numbers radio stations. It’s has Lovecraftian overtones. There’s found footage and briefly a documentary style narrative. It presents conspiracy theories and secret histories from crackpots, and then says they might not be so crazy after all. This is a big, wonderful shaggy mutt of a movie. It makes mistakes here and there that require a sympathetic viewer, but when it works–which is most of the time–it is enormously satisfying.

After the jump, when you’re innocent, you can get away with anything Continue reading →

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next1

Bill: Adam Wingard, Ti West, and Eli Roth are just a few of the names that are often lumped together and pointed to as the new wave of horror directors on review sites, and quite often in tones that infer they’re more savior than simple auteur. And to be honest, I somewhat agree with those who say such things. This fresh crop of directors have helped to usher in a new era in horror films. An era in which formulaic studio endeavors are losing box office receipts to smaller films with much better writing. A trend I hope continues to grow.

If I had to choose one of them as the standout for me, it would probably be Wingard. He doesn’t create anything revolutionary or genre defining, but he does create interesting characters which he then puts into situations that benefit from the amount of thought that goes into them. You’re Next is a perfect example of that skill. It’s not particularly original, nor is it particularly inventive with its mayhem (although there is a fantastic blender death). It is full of sly humor and populated with characters we don’t eventually come to view as just nameless victims.

After the Jump: piano wire: the chainsaw of the 21st Century Continue reading →

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ros1

Chris: Often in the last month, we’ve thrown out the term “slow burn” to describe a movie that works deliberately towards its scariest moments. It’s an effective technique, and one that informs some of the best pictures we’ve watched over the last few weeks. Unfortunately, often the slow burn ends up being a slow flash in the pan, or worse, a slow fizzle. All the work building to a great scare happens and then either we jump and move on and a movie’s given us all it’s got, or the scare doesn’t particularly pay off, and all that work goes for naught. The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh is more like a slow forest fire. It sets things up slowly and beautifully, with a craftsman’s precision. Then it pays off those bets, delivering scare after scare throughout a tremendous final section of the film.

After the jump, the soul lives on, long after death Continue reading →

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