Game reviews

(CLICK HERE FOR A SORTABLE TABLE OF ALL OUR REVIEWS)

You can take a look at Tom Chick's Patreon page (the link is at the top of the page) for more than you'll ever want to know about this site's approach to reviews. But the overarching idea is that a review is an expression of someone's experience with a videogame. It is subjective. It is not advice. It is not a buyer's guide. It should be valuable to people who have and haven't played the game. Furthermore, our ratings using the full range of the 1-5 scale and they are simply shorthand for how much we liked a given game. You can find details here.

And we hope you'll participate in the discussion following any review! If you've taken the time to read our opinion, the least we can do is read yours as well.

Latest Game reviews

Alien Shooter TD lives up to every single word in its name

, | Game reviews

I don’t play tower defense games. They’re beneath me. They’re for people who want to turtle in an RTS, but they don’t want to actually play an RTS. They don’t even want an AI. At least MOBA players, who want to play an RTS without actually playing an RTS, are going up against other players. Tower defense players just want to shoot stuff that runs at them to get shot.

So I don’t play tower defense games. But when I do, they have to get four things right. Alien Shooter TD gets those four things right, plus a fifth thing. So if I played tower defense games, I would play Alien Shooter TD.

So for the sake of argument, let’s say that I do play tower defense games. Continue reading →

Is the Last Roman DLC for Total War: Attila too limited, too small, and too real?

, | Game reviews

Total War: Warhammer is the pinnacle of what Creative Assembly has been doing for over 17 years. But with orcs. That last bit is important. A lot of the appeal of this Total War is that you have monsters and wizards and spells and ogres and things that fly. You have stuff you never had in Total War. You do things with them that you never did in Total War. You capture elf strongholds and sneak through orc tunnels and stave off the taint of chaos corruption. You equip legendary magic items, level up various flavors of fireball spells, and build a reliquary so you can recruit ghost soldiers who ride on ghost horses. Queue up some waypoints for your dwarf gyrocopter to drop bombs on hapless minotaurs.

How can you go back to mere history after that? How can you go back to something as mundane as levies with nothing but a tunic, a spear, and a pair of sandals, whose most dramatic upgrade will be heavy armor and some sort of halberd?

Actually, the more pertinent question is “how can you not?” Continue reading →

Why it took 40 years to make Carmageddon: Max Damage

, | Game reviews

If you had told Charles B. Griffith he was responsible for one of the most perfect comedy videogames, he probably would have asked, “What’s a videogame?” Griffith was a prolific screenwriter from a bygone era. In the 50s and 60s, he was a go-to guy for producer Roger Corman when Corman needed a template for another crappy low-budget movie. I don’t know most of the movies based on Griffith’s scripts, but I can imagine what they’re like based on the titles: It Conquered the World, Attack of the Crab Monsters, Ski Troop Attack, Beast from Haunted Cave, A Bucket of Blood, Not of This Earth (apparently the last two aren’t as terrible as the others). Griffith is best known for Little Shop of Horrors, which was a crappy Roger Corman movie before it was a Steve Martin movie adapted to a hit musical. From this, you might guess better filmmakers could have made good movies from his scripts. We may never know.

But Griffith’s most enduring contribution is a videogame he had nothing to do with. Continue reading →

Shadow Warrior 2 is the best pure shooter since Painkiller

, | Game reviews

As you play Shadow Warrior 2, one of things you learn is that the absolute batshit over-the-top nonsense isn’t, in fact, nonsense. But who could blame you for thinking this is all just a glut of silly killing? The game seems to say as much. Here, have some guns, it says. Have some spells, have some gear. Oh, have these special melee moves. Now have some burning and freezing and poisoning. Have some more guns. Have even more special melee moves. Have more guns. Have a second kind of chainsaw. Now have some slo-mo fury. The more you play, the more of this stuff spills from the absurd gaping maw of the Shadow Warrior cornucopia. It’s overwhelming in the same sense that a Christmas morning would be overwhelming if you thought you’d opened all your gifts, but you kept finding another one behind the tree.

Oh, look, here’s another one! Continue reading →

13 Days packs brinksmanship in a box

, | Game reviews

I was having dinner with some people a few years ago when a friend of mine, who is actually a well-known role-playing game designer, started making fun of euro games. “It’s just a bunch of abstract concepts wrapped up in gameplay mechanics,” he said, “except that the red cube represents Catholicism.” I bristled at that, because sure you can make a lot of very historical mechanics about Catholicism when you’re playing a role-playing game about being the pope, but how are you going to get enough people to represent all of Europe? Answer me that, smart guy. I went away thinking I was pretty smart, myself.

Turns out he was right. And not just about the Reformation. Continue reading →

The grinding gears of Clockwork Empires

, | Game reviews

If I was to make a game that I didn’t want anyone to actually play, it would look a lot like Clockwork Empires. A torturous interface with lots of busy little buttons and information spilled across various mutually exclusive screens. Basic tasks that require about two too many steps. Lots of waiting among the various stages of any process, so when you went off to do something else, you might forget the first thing you were doing. One way doors into unrecoverable economic death spirals that you don’t know you’re in until it’s far too late.

Also, it would crash a lot.

After the jump, steamedpunk Continue reading →

The path to glory begins and ends at Battlefield 1

, | Game reviews

There’s a new multiplayer mode in Battlefield 1 that revolves around the safeguarding of messenger birds. It’s called War Pigeons. Unfortunately, it’s not about armored pigeons with guns strapped to their backs. In this mode, two teams fight to the death, while attempting to claim and safely release an homing pigeon into the sky. It’s escort duty and flag capturing combined, and it’s supremely silly. Close combat, ragdoll explosions, mud, poison gas, and the violence of one of the bloodiest conflicts in history mix with pigeon babysitting. War Pigeons is a good summary of Battlefield 1 in general.

After the break, stop that pigeon! Continue reading →

Civilization VI tries to make the best of Civilization V

, | Game reviews

I just spent thousands of years of accumulated faith to claim Edgar Allen Poe, one of the earliest great writers in Civilization VI. He’ll write The Raven and The Tell-Tale Heart, which are considered great works. They add tourism and culture to a civilization. But great works need to be housed in a “slot”. Basically, a civilization has an inventory for these things. Thousands of years ago, I found The Grass Cutting Sword in a remote village. It’s been sitting in my palace ever since, generating tourism and faith. Because of my close relationship with the city-state of Kandy, I was supposed to get free relics for discovering natural wonders. But, alas, without a place to slot them, they were wasted. Yosemite, Mount Kilimanjaro, and the Great Barrier Reef flashed before my scouts’ eyes and no relics were forthcoming.

To increase great works inventory space, a civilization needs museums, temples, and certain Wonders of the World. Lucky for me, I’ve got the Great Library of Rome, which has room for two writings. It’s been empty for thousands of years. It’s been waiting for Edgar Allen Poe. Now he’s here. At last, it gets two books!

After the jump, or does it? Continue reading →

I agree with one of the three words in Fantasy Epic PvP

, | Game reviews

It’s unfortunate that I’ve lost interest in the “wait for someone else to do math” dynamic of Small World, because Small World is a brilliant concept: take two things and jam them together to make a third thing. In this case, an adjective and a fantasy race. Berserk elves. Wealthy giants. Heroic trolls. Dragon master skeletons. Okay, dragon master isn’t really an adjective, but mastering dragons is so cool it doesn’t matter. The combinatorial possibilities make Small World an unlimited game. All that lurking synergy.

After the jump, smaller than small world Continue reading →

Mafia III’s raisin in the sun sags like a heavy load

, | Game reviews

Lincoln Clay is wanted by the Italian mafia, his adopted family has been massacred, and he’s a black man in the southern United States during the late 1960’s. In his hometown of New Bordeaux there are businesses that proudly display “no colored allowed” signs in their windows. There are whole neighborhoods that Lincoln Clay cannot be in without getting the side-eye from white citizens while walking by. The police will always watch him, call him “boy” and will open fire on Clay if he commits any crimes in their vicinity. To everyone else, he is defined by the color of his skin; a man barely qualified to supply menial labor for his supposed betters. Despite all this, Lincoln Clay will shortly own everything in New Bordeaux because he is the star of Mafia III and whatever social commentary the game has will be lost in an open-world grind.

After the jump, all colors allowed. Continue reading →

Star Wars: Rebellion never gets tired of asking where is the Rebel base

, | Game reviews

I hate hidden movement games. Me and a friend stranded on a desert island with nothing but a copy of Scotland Yard? My worst nightmare. Plaid Hat’s Specter Ops sprinkles a bit more gameplay and a splash of theme into its Scotland Yardness, but hidden movement is hidden movement. You’re still playing a fluid (i.e. drawn-out) version of Battleship. B4? Miss. C4? Miss. B3? Hit! You caught my specter op! Not even Fury of Dracula, spattered with its ropey entrails of viscous gameplay substitute — it’s offal, really — can obscure the fact that it’s just Scotland Yard stretched into an insufferable too-many-hour guessing game, pencil and paper not included.

So it came as a bit of shock when I realized Star Wars: Rebellion, a game I really like, is also a hidden movement game.

After the jump, movement: hidden and loving it Continue reading →

No Man’s Sky vividly realizes the meaningless emptiness of space

, | Game reviews

Elite was amazing back in the day. I mean the original wireframe one. The one out now is pretty good, too, I guess. But it hasn’t been back in the day for, oh, I don’t know, at least ten years? Maybe twenty? Vast, open, and mostly empty universes aren’t so amazing anymore. Open universes need stuff in them. They need content. They need gameplay. They need interlocking gameplay systems. They probably need to compress time and distance with some hoo-ha about hyperlight warp subspace drives. They also probably need trading, combat, faction rep, upgrades, and a story. And, these days, a game can’t very well be a game without crafting.

After the jump, hey, it’s No Man’s Sky! Continue reading →

Abzu’s majestic Journey takes you a couple of leagues under the sea

, | Game reviews

I shouldn’t expect Aquanaut’s Holiday, but I can’t help myself. Drop me into a virtual ocean and I’m going to remember that game’s open-world wonder from a time before open-world was even a thing. It was 1995. It was a Playstation. And not a Playstation One, because there was no such thing. The Playstation 2, 3, and 4 didn’t exist yet. Just a Playstation. It was Japanese, which might explain why it didn’t feel the need to be an actual game. It was instead a virtual ocean released at a time when you couldn’t go online and Google search a forum to start a thread called “uh, what am i supposed to be doing in here anyway?” So I spent most of my time in Aquanaut’s Holiday wondering what was going to happen, if anything, and not particularly minding that nothing was happening because it was so weirdly hypnotic. Relaxing. Sometimes eerie. Years later I would discover you could build a reef to attract fish or something. I suppose that’s gameplay, but it’s nothing I ever figured out.

After the jump, what game are we talking about again? Continue reading →

Stay outside this Inside review until you’ve played Inside

, | Game reviews

Sometimes you pay a price when you write reviews for people who’ve already played a game. That price is people who look to reviews to decide what they’re going to play. Where will they spend their time or money? But if I’m going to critique Inside based on what I know after I’ve played it, and if the majority of Inside’s appeal is discovery, I can’t tell you much without compromising your experience with the game.

In other words, there will be spoilers.

But first, I have three things I want to tell people who haven’t played Inside.

After the jump, don’t worry, it’s safe to keep reading! Continue reading →

The brilliant Quadrilateral Cowboy finishes what Gravity Bone started

, | Game reviews

There’s a bit of The Witness in Quadrilateral Cowboy. Just a tiny bit. The Witness is a game about teaching you how to play The Witness. Period. Full stop. Quadrilateral Cowboy is, at times, a game about teaching you how to play Quadrilateral Cowboy. Dot, dot, dot.

After the jump, I promise you won’t read the word “heuristics” because this isn’t that kind of review. Continue reading →