, | Game reviews
Stellaris_map

The central concept in Stellaris — that a galactic emperor isn’t a god — doesn’t work. It’s a concept Paradox has explored to great effect, especially with Crusader Kings and Victoria (minus the galactic part, of course). Some things are outside the control of a ruler. He does not get to tell each point of population which tile to harvest. He does not get to gobble up territory indiscriminately. He does not get to move sliders willy-nilly. History, Paradox’s favorite subject, is not a strategy game. It is an exercise in limitations. It is about people trying to hold power against the demands of social unrest, religious freedom, petty rivalries, Popes, capitalists, natives making a fuss about self-determination, evolving political philosophies, progress, entropy. To their immense credit, Paradox’s strategy games are the same thing. They are among my favorite historical essays.

After the jump, what does this have to do with sci-fi? Continue reading →

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, | News
Marvel_Heroes_reinstall

On the off chance that you ever actually uninstalled Marvel Heroes, Gazillion announced they’re about to do that thing where you can start playing as soon as you start downloading. This will make it convenient to jump back in whenever you have the inclination to drive around a Marvel hero. And given the frequency of new movies and TV shows, that’s probably pretty frequent. For instance, I can’t be the only one who thinks this would be the ideal weekend to level up Jean Grey. In the near future, I’ll be able to do that without waiting for a 20GB download.

By the way, what level is my Jean Grey again? I’ll let you know in about 14GBs.

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, | News
NL_Apache

Wargame: Red Dragon, a supersexy for-serious modern military RTS that adds naval stuff to a game that really doesn’t need naval stuff, is still getting content from developer Eugen two years after its release. They’ve been adding armies, units, and maps all along. But today they announced upcoming Nation Packs for countries that still aren’t in the game. For instance, the Netherlands. The first Nation Pack will add their hardware, such as the Apache helicopter in the picture. Okay, so the Apache isn’t technically a Dutch helicopter. But since they bought some from us, a Dutch faction wouldn’t be complete without one. Eugene promises the Dutch have their own unique hardware as well, which will be included.

What sets the Nation Packs apart from the other add content for Red Dragon is that you have to buy them. As you know, going Dutch isn’t free.

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, | News

Warcraft, the live-action cartoon based on Blizzard’s long-running MMO, begins on June 10th. If you’re one of the dozen or so people on Earth that have never tried World of Warcraft, then you can snag a free copy of the game by consenting to watch approximately two hours of computer graphics over-emote and punch each other. Theaters will give away promotional keys for the game that can be redeemed here starting on the 26th of May when you buy a ticket to see the movie. Duncan Jones, the director, gave us Moon and Source Code so how bad can Warcraft be? It certainly can’t be worse than an Assassin’s Creed movie that mostly takes place in the present-day Abstergo setting.

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, | News
forza_nascar

NASCAR has come to Forza. Turn 10 Studios and Microsoft have announced the NASCAR Expansion for Forza Motorsport 6. The DLC adds Homestead-Miami Speedway, twenty-four of the 2016 season cars, and an all-new NASCAR World Tour career. Get your NASCAR on with Joe Gibbs Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, and Team Penske. It’s available now on Xbox One for $20.

Besides the NASCAR Expansion, Forza Motorsport 6 is getting an update that adds “significant” features to the game. Proximity arrows for your HUD, rolling start options, and multiplayer being enabled for the Le Mans race route are some of the big changes that are free to all owners of the game.

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, | News
tag_youre_it

Listen up gamers! Microsoft is going to release close to a million defunct gamertags and make them available for Xbox Live members’ use. That means you’ll be able to get away from the horrid nickname you chose in a fit of annoyance while trying to blast through the account creation process back when you got your first Xbox. I’m looking at you JoosyFroot911. You too, xXxPWN_DOGxXx. You’re not kids now. It’s time to grow up and grab one of these gamertags recycled from the original Xbox era. Hang it up, KirbyLuvsMario. No one’s buying what you’re selling. Although Microsoft won’t release a list ahead of the May 18th release date, the names come from categories like “Types of Food” and “Some of the greatest inventions of all time.” Time to see if LordSpeculum or Corndog_Millionaire are up for grabs.

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, | Tom vs Bruce

twilight start

After a hiatus, Tom and Bruce are back with this round of Twilight Struggle, Playdek’s PC adaptation of the classic boardgame. The article will go live for everyone in a week, but in the meantime, we hope you, our backers, enjoy. We’ve got more games and videos in the works, and if you’ve got any requests, feel free to leave them in the comments below, or to hit us up on Twitter. Tom is @qt3 and Bruce is @spacerumsfeld.

On with the show!

After the jump, some actual history before the Twilight Struggle.

Continue reading →

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, | Movie podcasts
The_Lobster_podcast

A comedy starring Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz that you might not think is funny. We’re in textbook “not for everyone” territory here. At the 1:06 point, this week’s 3×3 considers the incendiary topic of people walking away from explosions. And be sure to check out the latest movie posters by listener sinnick!

Next week: The Nice Guys. Oops, we mean, They Look Like People.

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, | Game reviews
Uncharted_1_review

There’s no reason to expect much from Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. The developer, Naughty Dog, is commercially successful but creatively middling (their Jak titles have ranged from pretty decent to pretty bad). The game seems to be an unabashed rip-off of Tomb Raider, with the difference being that the main character is a dude, which out-Tomb-Raiders Tomb Raider for unabashedly ripping off Raiders of the Lost Ark. The prospects are not good.

After the jump, then you actually play Uncharted Continue reading →

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, | Game reviews
Uncharted_2_review

Late in Uncharted 2, all the gunplay and Tomb Raidering and calculated snappy banter about Chloe’s ass suddenly stop. The hero strolls through a serene village. Along the way, he can pet the livestock, play with children, and watch the women go about their work. They don’t speak English and he doesn’t speak their language. There is no direct communication, and the game knows better than to provide subtitles. It’s pure character. A village, its people, and this newcomer, all bemused at each other. It’s an example of how expressive Uncharted can be when it trusts its characters.

After the jump, the rest of Uncharted 2 Continue reading →

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, | Game reviews
Uncharted_3_review

As a shooter, Uncharted 3 is solid, if not mostly the same as its ever been. I can do without the fisticuff QTEs, which play like a bargain bin version of the fighting from Batman: Arkham City. It’s especially silly how you have to keep fighting the same big guy over and over, as if Uncharted 3 needs to keep saying, “Hey, remember how cool this bit was in Raider of the Lost Ark?” Uncharted 3 says that a lot. But the gunplay is good, and it provides a solid foundation for the mostly typical multiplayer support. You get lots of options for leveling up, customizing your characters, and playing various types of cooperative and competitive games. There’s even a competitive/cooperative mode in which two teams of two players take turns playing the heroes and playing special thugs amid all the AI thugs.

After the jump, so what’s the bad news? Continue reading →

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, | News

Star Trek Online is coming to consoles. The six year old PC free-to-play MMO is being ported to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One this year. Perfect World Entertainment and Cryptic Studios are reworking the user interface and interactions to work better with controllers, adjusting player progression and episodic story flow, and implementing a new lighting engine for the console platforms. The game will remain free-to-play.

Over our storied history we’ve seen a new faction, two level cap increases, more episodes than any 5 seasons of any Star Trek series, the creation of over 100,000 player generated missions, and celebrity voice work from every era of Star Trek.

That’s a lot of red shirts getting killed. The console version of Star Trek Online will launch simultaneously on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in the fall.

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, | News
city_sprawl

Firaxis and 2K Games have announced Civilization VI. It’s coming out for PCs on October 21st. One of the issues with Civilization V that the game never overcame was that the AI didn’t know how to play the game. Throughout all the patching and expansions, the computer players never got any better at actually using the units it made against you. It routinely got hung up on shuffling units into ineffective positions because it just couldn’t figure out the one unit per hex tactical gameplay. It appears that Civilization VI may have a partial solution.

Expanding on the “one unit per tile” design, support units can now be embedded with other units, like anti-tank support with infantry, or a warrior with settlers. Similar units can also be combined to form powerful “Corps” units.

As long as the AI knows how to combine units effectively, this should cut the impact of choke points and ranges on individual units. It’s not the full unit stacking from previous Civilization games, but it’s a half-step back. Of course, the human player will also be able to use this feature to great effect. If there’s one thing people seem really good at is figuring out ways to break rules.

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, | News
Act_of_Aggression_Reboot

If your game doesn’t do well, that’s obviously because you made it wrong. So just make it correctly. Then people will like it and therefore buy it. That seems to be the thinking behind drastic gameplay overhauls in titles like Skyshine’s Bedlam, an egregious multi-staged effort at a do-over that fastidiously wrings out the Bedlam in favor of more XCOM. If people on forums complain loudly enough, they’re obviously better at making games than people who actually make games. Hence, Skyshine’s Bedlam Redux. And now Act of Aggression Reboot. Act of Aggression, a Command & Conquer General clone that never quite caught on, has had the Eugen wrung so it can be fortified with 100% more Command & Conquer: Generals. Here are the bullet points.

* Streamlined Economy: Manage only one resource as oil is automatically converted to cash, allowing you to focus on the action. Unit expenditure is up-front, meaning no more micromanaging production lines.

* New Base Building System: Like a traditional RTS, base building units are selectable. Build directly from the builder (or destroy your opponent’s builder!)

* New Airstrikes: You no longer control the planes mid-flight. They go directly to their target and strike, much faster than previously.

* Huge balancing update and unit model improvements as well as UI tweaks and changes: for example, all units now accelerate and decelerate faster, guaranteeing more streamlined and action-packed RTS gameplay.

The problem with Act of Aggression wasn’t any of the stuff changed in this update. The problem was a lack of personality. It had all the character of unpainted furniture. This is the kiss of death for any RTS, a genre where one of the prime design directives is to make players care about the little dudes on the map. Although Eugen cut their teeth making a better Command & Conquer: Generals, their latest work has been supersexy realworld military hardware porn. Big surprise that fan base isn’t interested in a Command & Conquers: General clone, rebooted or otherwise.

Age of Aggression: The Reboot Edition (their name) is available now as a free update for Age of Aggression.

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, | News
infinity_no_more

The Walt Disney Company is ending Disney Infinity. During an investor relations update for the second quarter of 2016, Disney slipped this terse note into the statement ending the toy-to-video game franchise.

Items affecting comparability during the quarter ended April 2, 2016 included a $147 million charge in connection with the discontinuation of our self-published console games business, principally Infinity

Utah-based Avalanche Software (not the Avalanche Studios that created Just Cause) will also be shut down as a result of Disney’s decision to leave behind self-published games. Infinity manager John Blackburn thanked the fans for their support and assured them that three new characters from Alice Through the Looking Glass and a Finding Dory Play Set will still be released as planned.

Disney Infinity 3.0 was released on August 30th, 2015. You can check out Tom’s review of the game here.

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