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Age_III_you_suck

(The following article is reprinted without the permission of the site where it orginally appeared, because they never paid me, so I can do whatever I want with it. The article is relevant now because I’ve been playing weekly Age of Empires III matches against my good friend, Jason McMaster, and I’m hoping this will help him out of his 4-to-1 losing streak.)

There are different levels of playing RTSs. Like chess. In chess, the first step is knowing how the pieces move. Once you reach that point, you can theoretically play a game just fine. But then there’s a deeper level where you know things likewell, likeokay, I’ve never gotten further than learning how the pieces move in chess, because I’m too busy playing RTSs. But I know there’s a deeper level where you use phrases like “Sicilian opening” and “Queen’s gambit” and other stuff referenced in the titles of spy novels.

So maybe that’s where you’re at with real time strategy games. In which case you’re probably not reading this article. So send the link to this article to all your friends who suck at RTSs. Because I’m going to give them ten tips to make them better. Note that some of this applies to MOBAs, which are just RTSs for people who can’t handle the challenge of actual RTSs.

After the jump, A.B.V. Continue reading →

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Sonic-Boom-Fire-Ice-2

The year of gaming 2015 gave us is undoubtedly good. We got epic, million-hour games like Fallout 4, Pillars of Eternity, and The Witcher 3 to quick multiplayer engagements like Rocket League, Battlefront, and Heroes of the Storm. You wanted a better Assassin’s Creed? You got it. You asked for more Call of Duty? There it is. Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls II not punishing enough? Get some Bloodborne and get slapped silly. More Batman! More StarCraft II! Looking for an ultra thoughtful indie game? Take your pick of Her Story, Undertale, or Everybody’s Gone to Rapture. Maybe a less navel-gazing indie is more your style? Look up Massive Chalice, Vietnam ’65, or Invisible Inc. Heck, one of the best horror movies of the year was in Until Dawn. Even Nintendo dropped some love on gamers with Splatoon and Mario Maker.

The mind-blower is that there’s more gaming goodness right around the corner in 2016. Beloved franchises will return. New properties will launch. Huge games will get even more content in the form of expansions. Will the gaming in 2016 equal the buffet of awesome that was 2015? Based on what we know already, there’s a good chance we could see a tidal wave of gaming coming our way.

After the jump, let’s check out the games you should be looking forward to playing in 2016! Continue reading →

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Rocket_League_you_probably_did_play_this

I don’t actually know what games you played in 2015, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you didn’t play more than two or three of these 12 games. Five, tops. I’ve only played 11 of them, and some of those for only an hour or so. So far, I’ve actually reviewed just one of them. And I’m the guy writing the list!

Now I’m sure you have your reasons: The Witcher 3, Metal Gear Solid 5, Fallout 4. But as those reasons wind down, as your backlog threatens to shrink, as you wait for the release of highly anticipated games like XCOM 2, No Man’s Sky, and Rise of the Tomb Raider, consider pulling some of these gems out from under the avalanche of 2015 releases.

After the jump, S&R Continue reading →

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Quarterlies_2015

Welcome to the sometime annual awards ceremony for the 2015 Quarterlies! Our panel of judge (not pictured, left) has carefully considered all the nominations and Steve Harvey is about to reveal the lucky winners (not pictured, right), each of whom will receive (not really) a trophy (not pictured). Please take your seats.

After the jump, we’ll skip past the opening musical number. Continue reading →

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Best_games_of_2015_do_not_include_this_one

For the first time since I’ve been doing these lists, which is probably ten years or more, over half of my choices are from independent developers. It’s an encouraging development. When you consider the movies chosen by critics on any given year, you won’t necessarily see the most popular, and you probably won’t see the most profitable, or the movies with the biggest budgets. Instead, you’ll see lists that include the best of independent cinema, arthouse releases, or at least the indie branding from the major studios. When the best of the year skew towards people who aren’t beholden to stockholders, it’s a sign that a medium is maturing creatively. Leave financial success, hollow fun, and the pursuit of pure entertainment to the corporations. Leave thoughtful design, innovation, storytelling, and creative impact to the hungry men and women with something to say.

Not that I didn’t enjoy my share of AAA releases this year! There are four in this list. Another five were in the running but didn’t make the final cut (Anno 2205, Mad Max, Total War: Attila, Xenoblade Chronicles X, Star Wars: Battlefront). Another half dozen or so I didn’t play or didn’t play enough. But on the whole, it was a year in which independent developers took the wheel and confidently steered us in exciting new directions.

After the jump, the top ten games of 2015. Continue reading →

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Edgar_Winters_IS_The_Witcher

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 2015. Continue reading →

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Star_Wars_Battlefront_surprising

So if the most disappointing category is a list of games that should have been better, 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 2015. Continue reading →

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Disappointments_2015

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 2015. Continue reading →

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FO4_vs_XCX

A lot of the Fallout 4 conversation is about how it compares to The Witcher 3. What an odd comparison. The Witcher 3 is high fantasy with a predetermined protagonist in a very specific story that focuses on character development and good writing. Fallout 4 is pretty much the opposite of all that.

The more appropriate comparison is to Xenoblade Chronicles X. They have a lot in common, including a blank slot where you plug in your own hero. They both have an open world, mechs, sidekicks, character customization, an unruly world for you to settle, carefully calculated landscapes, quest list gameplay, stranger-in-a-strange-land storylines that you can pursue at your leisure, crafting, stylized combat.

After the jump, which one is for you? Continue reading →

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BB_main

Tony: Today I’ll be playing Blood Bowl against my friend Brian Haskell, whom I’ve played multiple times before and never beaten. He’s like a Blood Bowl machine. On the other hand, I’ve only seen him play the Norsemen, who seem pretty OP. That’s a thing about Blood Bowl you’ll either love or you’ll hate; the races have a delightful pre-Eurogame asymmetry. One of our friends picked the defenseless halflings in our last league. After some hilariously one-sided matches, we started calling them “garlic knots.” Garlic knots might have been more challenging opponents.

In this league, I’ll be playing the fast, skilled anthropomorphic rats known as Skaven, and Brian will be playing, uh, Corn Demons? Ha ha. Brian’s the Corn Demons.

Brian: That’s KHORNE Daemons, as in Khorne the Blood God, Lord of Skulls, thank you very much. Although I did make their uniforms yellow and tried to work in a pun about HFCS into their team motto. (I failed.) Like you say, I’ve been stomping you into the dirt with the Norsemen since you joined the fracas, so to stop all the OP talk I’m going to stomp everyone into the dirt with a team that’s completely absent the Norse’s bread and butter, the Block skill, at least as a rookie team.

After the jump, wait, why are we playing Blood Bowl? Continue reading →

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Classic_CRPG_ads

My friend Gordon Cameron has assembled on his Flickr account an amazing assortment of ads for old-school CRPGs, from back in the days of these things we used to have called print magazines. Do you remember those? If you do, I bet you remember some of those ads. If you don’t, take a look at how we used to have to advertise games before the days of Game Informer articles, IGN exclusives, and YouTube let’s plays!

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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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