Game reviews

, | Game reviews
Arkham_Knight_review_1

As a videogame power fantasy, Arkham Knight is a heady brew. It makes me feel powerful, it makes me feel smart, and it adoringly invokes a pop culture icon and multi-billion dollar franchise that even the stuffiest of non-comic book readers can groove to. We live in a post-Dark Knight world where the Nolan brothers — who, for all I know, are drawing from some Frank Miller or Neil Gaiman thing I’ve never read — have represented the Batman/Joker dynamic as a dialectic straight out of Greek tragedy. Never mind this silly “have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight” nonsense, plucked from a vat of colorful acid. This is Apollo and Dionysus. It is order and entropy, superego and id, lawful neutral and chaotic neutral. Forget mere good and evil. That stuff is easy. This is what D&D nerds in junior high school parsed when it took everyone else until they were gathered together in college dorms. Take it where you can get it. Gary Gygax, Jim Morrison, Nietzsche, Bob Kane.

After the jump, a videogame that goes beyond good and evil. Continue reading →

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Homeland

“Tom’s the terrorist,” Tony declares loudly, slapping the table and leaning back in his chair as if he’s just issued a legally binding decree and there’s nothing more to be said. “He’s totally the fucking terrorist,” he says anyway.

“Why would you say that? I’m suggesting something that’s perfectly reasonable because you can’t possibly know the intel cards that have been played. Maybe you’re the terrorist.”

I mean, he’s right. I am the terrorist. But there’s no way he could know that, is there?

After the jump, a royal playboy and an affluent politico can’t get me out of this mess. Continue reading →

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witcher3_1_0

This image is the essence of The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt. It’s all about giving sad people news they really didn’t want to hear. CD Projekt RED’s open-world RPG includes monster hunting, murder investigations, gang warfare, sailing, a collectible card game tournament, horse racing, and a search for a missing daughter, but this is what’s going to stick with you. The sometimes heartbreaking, almost always less-than-positive news you give people and the moments right afterwards. Someone has to do it, and it’s fallen on your shoulders to be the bearer of dark tidings.

After the jump, you’ll have to make the best of a bad situation. Continue reading →

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Massive_Chalice_03

I suspect a common complaint about Massive Chalice is that your heroes die too quickly, and you therefore can’t get attached to them in the same way you get attached to your heroes in X-com, XCOM, the XCOM add-on, and other such games. It’s a complaint I shared when I first started playing Massive Chalice. But as I played, I realized it’s the single most important element of this subversive take on the X-com formula.

After the jump, mortality rates. Continue reading →

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Swords_and_Soldiers_II_2

Sadly, I agree that conventional real time strategy games are dead, if by dead you mean there aren’t many of them being made anymore. But how dead can they be? I still play them. Company of Heroes, Rise of Nations, Age of Empires III, Sins of a Solar Empire, and even the venerable Age of Mythology (just last night I beat my buddy with a cheesy Promethean/Murmillo rush) hold up beautifully. Splendidly. Immaculately. Did we appreciate how great they were when they came out? I sure do now. How can conventional real time strategy games be dead when these games are still so good and I’m still playing them?

But there are precious few latter day equivalents to those games. Instead, we have a deluge of me-too MOBAs. These are RTSs for people who are so bad at multitasking they can only play one character at a time. They furthermore need a map that shows them where to go with wide obvious lanes leading to the enemy base. But it doesn’t have to be that way! An RTS doesn’t require a commitment to multitasking, or a map on which you can get lost. Because one of the great RTSs, which only takes five minutes to play and is accessible to even the most hapless MOBA player, just got a sequel.

After the jump, Swords & Soldiers, too! Continue reading →

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Carmageddon_Reincarnation_review

The banner ads for Carmageddon: Reincarnation read “Max is back!”. It’s awfully magnanimous of developer Stainless Games to buy ad space to congratulate George Miller for the amazing spectacle of Mad Max: Fury Road. Oh, wait. The dude in Carmageddon is named Max, isn’t he? Max Damage, I see now from the character select screen. I always chose the chick, so can you blame me for getting confused? Besides, Fury Road is a stunning example of a moribund franchise kicked back into high gear with fully upgraded modern sensibilities. Too bad the same can’t be said for the totally adequate Carmageddon: Reincarnation.

After the jump, what a day. Continue reading →

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Interplanetary_review

The bright spot in the disappointing RTS Planetary Annihilation was planets reaching out into the solar system and attacking each other. Actual interplanetary warfare, slinging nuclear missiles through space, firing massive Deathstar lasers, and turning moons into sledgehammers. The solar system was your battleground. But to get to this good stuff, you had to wade through a lot of middling RTSing. So imagine my delight to discover Interplanetary, a turn-based game that dispenses entirely with the middling RTSing.

After the jump, may the best planet win. Continue reading →

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Quartermaster_General_review

No matter how many ways we game World War II and watch it in movies and dissect its possible outcomes, the central fact of World War II is that it actually happened. The fall of France, appeasement, Pearl Harbor, Stalingrad, Tom Hanks landing on Normandy, Johnson stealing doilies, Brad Pitt in a crippled tank fending off an SS division, BJ Blascowicz traveling through time to fix the timestream, or whatever happened in the last Wolfenstein game. I didn’t play it. Who has time to play a Wolfenstein game when you’re replaying Grand Theft Auto V on a third platform?

World War II isn’t just the most significant endeavor in all of human history, it’s also one of our favorite playgrounds. One follows from the other. Because it’s the most significant endeavor in all of human history, it’s therefore a popular sandbox. Boys love to move chits on a board or hear the pinging pin in a depleted M1 Garand magazine or thrill to the four roaring Wright engines on a B-17 or roll for research in Axis and Allies. And one of the best World War II playgrounds is the utterly brilliant, sexily sleek, and slightly subversive boardgame Quartermaster General.

After the jump, WWII for dummies, geniuses, and everyone in between. Continue reading →

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Ironcast_review

I’m at the farmer’s market on a date with Kyanna, a busty single mother with creepily childlike features. She’s most interested in talent and least interested in romance. That means I want to focus on matching blue gems instead of orange gems. And because I’ve put a point of skill into my sexuality and flirtation, I get extra affection when I match red gems and green gems. I have a teddy bear I can give her to turn all the purple gems into pink gems, which build passion that makes my matches more efficient. But until I match enough green gems, I won’t have the sentiment to use the teddy bear.

After the jump, what does this have to do with Ironcast’s steampunk mechs? Continue reading →

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Tiny_Epic_Kingdoms_review_02

Tiny Epic Kingdoms occupies an all-too-small niche of games that are short, but not dumb, not utterly random, or not thinly themed. It’s modest and ultimately lite, a palate-cleanser ideal before the main game of the evening, while you’re waiting for that guy who’s always late, or after the main game of the evening, to unwind after a brain burner. It’s portable enough and modest enough for lunch hour gaming that doesn’t sprawl across too much of the table or too much of the lunch hour. Calling it tiny is a slightly precious exaggeration, but it’s certainly small.

After the jump, how small is it? Continue reading →

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Hand_of_Fate_review

A card exists. It cannot be denied. It will flip up by the time you’ve gone through the deck and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. It’s a matter of when, not if.

This is different from a die roll. A die roll, which is always an if, doesn’t exist until it happens. It is only a possibility. A six is no more inevitable than a lottery win or a lucky guess. You could theoretically roll a six-sided die all day and never conjure a six into existence.

Computer games, conjured forth from the stored possibilities of 1s and 0s, are usually die rolls. The very 1s and 0s are coin flips, which is really just a two-sided die. So when a videogame like Hand of Fate comes along and really gets the point of cards, I can’t help but notice.

After the jump, no card sleeves allowed. Continue reading →

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Battlelore_review

Battlelore, the charming Days of Wonder fantasy take on Memoir ’44 that was transferred to Fantasy Flight and reissued as a second edition, is now digital. And boy does it look great. Lively graphics and animation, smooth execution of the boardgame rules, and a breezy but thorough interface. It’s even got multiplayer support. This looks like exactly what you’d want in a boardgame port!

After the jump, not so fast. Continue reading →

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, | Game reviews
Etherium_review_01

The really frustrating games are the ones like Etherium that show promise and then squander that promise. If Etherium was simply bad, I couldn’t care less about its foibles. But because it’s a smart take on real time strategy games, the problems that undermine it are all the more frustrating. This could have been a contender. This should have been a contender! Instead, it’s a tantaziling glimpse at a good game we could have played.

After the jump, when is an AI too good? Continue reading →

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