There’s foul seasonal weather ahead for Sea of Thieves

, | News

Sea of Thieves is getting “seasonal” battle passes. Just like in Fortnite, Apex, Call of Duty, and every other multiplayer game on the market. If there’s anything pirates love, it’s climbing a timed progression ladder to unlock rewards. Scallywags were all about engagement and monthly user metrics.

Each season will last about 90 days in Sea of Thieves and progression will be based on a new Renown mechanic that is based on actions other than just turning in treasures. The first season kicks off on January 28 and will include a new Merchant Alliance Voyage that will be added to the game permanently.

There will, of course, be a premium pass available called the Plunder Pass that will give players greater rewards than the ones the hobo freeloaders get. It will cost 999 in-game coins which comes out to around a bajillion real world dollars according to pirate math.

What does Project Cars 3 have that other racing games don’t?

, | Game reviews

Racing isn’t just about speed.  Speed is the goal, sure.  But the important part is knowing when to relinquish speed.  The important part is figuring out when and how much to slow down.  It’s hardly surprising most racing videogames downplay this part.  In most videogames, you mash down the accelerator, feel the exhilaration, and have a win!  But what’s distinct about Project Cars 3 — at least among consumer-friendly racing games — is that it downplays speed.  It emphasizes precision, consistency, calculation, practice.  Project Cars 3 has plenty of speed, but that’s not what it’s about.  Instead, it’s a game based on driving well.  And it’s about more than that.  It’s ultimately about something too few racing games know how to express.

Continue reading →

Resident Evil Re:Verse looks like the inverse of what fans want

, | News

Some great stuff came out of Capcom’s showcase stream for Resident Evil fans. Folks looking forward to getting dominated by a giant busty vampire woman in Resident Evil Village had their hearts set on fire by the newest trailer. (Lady Dimitrescu can step on me anytime!) And just like that, a million memes and fanart creations launched. If being manhandled by undead Gwendoline Christie isn’t your thing, the first-person exploration and shooting look good too, as long as you’re into the signature Resident Evil clumsy, frantic, backpedal gunplay. PlayStation 5 owners can download and play the standalone Maiden demo right now.

The above trailer for the multiplayer mode, called Re:Verse because Capcom is determined to ruin the good feelings some of us have for 2021, is not looking as polished. It’s free with Resident Evil Village, so it’s tough to really get too mad about it, but right from the first few seconds its easy to see that this is not the A team. The six person deathmatch looks dreadful, but at least the matches are limited to five minutes. Your agony won’t last long. Brave souls can sign up for the beta here.

The top ten movies of 2020

, | Features

When we were doing the Qt3 Movie Podcast, we would normally see about fifty movies a year in the theater, because we had a podcast once a week for new releases. This year was different because we’re not doing the podcast any longer and because theaters were closed. This year was also different because, well, it was 2020. It should be no surprise that horror movies make up a disproportionate number of our picks.

Following are our top ten movies, our biggest surprise, our biggest disappointment, and our “favorite miscellaneous thingie”, a phrase coined by our friend Christien Murawski, who we miss something fierce and without whom these lists are only 2/3rds what they should be.

Continue reading →

Worst thing you’ll see since the Kavanaugh hearings: Promising Young Woman

, | Movie reviews

The premise of Emerald Fennell’s #MeToo era power fantasy is that all men are rapers.  Hardly a provocative statement these days, and certainly one women have earned the right to indulge.  But Promising Young Woman isn’t done yet.  It further supposes that they can be shamed into comeuppance.  And if that doesn’t work, by golly, things might have to get drastic!

There’s indisputable value in these reversed power fantasies, especially as they break free of their exploitative roots.  Coraline Fargeat’s lurid lovely Revenge and Jennifer Kent’s achingly poignant The Nightingale are recent examples of how women have wrested control of rapesploitation from the vulgar filmmakers who used to cash in on it.  Enter Promising Young Woman with its bubbly “I want to play, too!” approach.  But it’s facile premise that men just need to be shamed isn’t exactly thrilling, and more to the point, it’s egregiously out of touch with reality.  Brett Kavanaugh sits on the Supreme Court for the rest of his life, and regardless of what did or didn’t happen with Christine Blasey Ford, he outed himself as an entitled frat boy who doesn’t have the disposition to be a Supreme Court justice.  But Promising Young Woman supposes a world where his tantrums would have ended his judicial career, and if that didn’t do it, then by golly, it just takes the martyrdom of some promising young woman.  Roll the title card, which will read “The End” in a curlicue font.

At least it isn’t as embarrassingly bad as Sophia Takal’s Black Christmas, which takes a similarly facile approach to its indictment of rape culture (the rapers in Black Christmas don’t even need their positions of power and privilege, because they have magical black goo).  Fennell shoots Promising Young Woman with a candy-colored enthusiasm and a lively cast.  Carey Mulligan has a grand time playing a self-assured vigilante of shame with literally no fucks to give.  It’s nice to see her flexing confidence when she so often plays frail characters pulled along by the plot.  She and Bo Burnham, towering above her at 6’5″, make quite the couple.  Burnham’s effusive charm is a real joy to watch, and it’s easy to see how he fosters the kind of trust it took to make Eighth Grade with Elise Fisher.  Otherwise, Fennell squanders several talented actors in thankless roles.  That’s how you’re going to use the wonderful Sam Richardson?

The big finale, which will be spoiled if you watch trailers, is especially ridiculous for its attempted last-minute twist, which feels like a cheat instead of a twist.  Fennell would have you believe that Carey Mulligan’s character — called Cassie, but listed in the credits as Cassandra in case you didn’t get it — was one step ahead of everyone else all along.  Which might make for a fun grrl power fantasy, but it’s not much of a contribution to any conversation about rape culture, the #MeToo movement, or even revenge thrillers.

Under Falling Skies unfortunately lives up to its name

, | Game reviews

One of my favorite boardgame designs is Troyes.  Although it relies on dice, it’s not about chasing sixes.  Normally, dice games are all about seeing how many high numbers you can roll.  Over the course of the game, you have to work through the peaks and valleys of sixes and ones, which feels more like following the course of a river than actually planning anything.  Luck pulls the game, but your strategy is an oar you can use to splash around in the water.  Troyes is different for how it’s never about seeing how many high numbers you can roll.  In Troyes, a one can be just as welcome as a six.

Under Falling Skies works on this same principle.

Continue reading →

The apology for Cyberpunk 2077 is the most un-cyberpunk thing you’ll see this week

, | News

Apologies from publicly held companies are weird things. The person making the mea culpa has to straddle the line between transparency to the aggrieved party (in this case, the customers) and not disclosing anything that puts liability on the company. They have to navigate the treacherous waters of addressing their mistakes while not admitting fault for specific issues.

Here, CD Projekt Red’s co-founder Marcin Iwinski explains why the game shipped in the sorry state it did. According to him, issues that many players have experienced just weren’t seen in testing due to the size of the project. An odd excuse that doesn’t hold much water if you’ve spent a few minutes in Night City and watched cars sink into the ground or enemies lock into T-poses during battles.

As for the review situation, Iwinski maintains that reviewers not being given access to older-gen console versions of the game was not intentional. It’s another bit that may be true, but does seem odd to anyone that noticed the lack of PS4 and Xbox One reviews while they turned out to be the most troubled versions of the game.

The good news is that the company pledges to fix the game and have released a roadmap for updates. Chip in choomba!

Who needs a blue shell when you can fling Wreckfest’s snowball?

, | Games

The latest update for Wreckfest adds a winter track with snow on the road. Which is slippery, sure. But in a racing game like Wreckfest, slippery isn’t enough. Slippery is just the means to the end, and the end is Wreckfest’s glorious damage model. What good is losing control of your car and banging into a wall if you can’t crumple fenders, smash radiators, and twist axels? Wreckfest loves how cars break.

Which is where the giant snowballs come into play. Now cars can be crushed by giant snowballs during the demotion derby events. It’s all part of today’s free Winter Fest update.

In case a Battleship movie wasn’t enough, how about an entire TV show of Risk?

, | Games

Hasbro will not be stopped after a Battleship movie. Now they’re announcing a Risk TV series. Which will probably last for about six insufferable hours and then collapse after an acrimonious argument among friends. From the Variety story:

[Beau] Willimon (“House of Cards,” “The First”), an Academy-award nominee and avid fan of Risk, will be writing and overseeing the production of the scripted series. 

Avid Risk fan Willimon’s Academy Award nomination is for the Ides of March script he did with George Clooney and Grant Heslov. Hopefully the script will emphasize that you should never, under any circumstance, let someone grab Australia while everyone else is fighting for the larger continents.

Ahoy! It’s the VR version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

, | News

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage was a ride at the Walt Disney World theme park from 1971 through 1994. It was replaced with a Little Mermaid themed ride until 2004. The spot hosted a Winnie the Pooh area later, and now houses the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. If you want a ride based on the old Disney movie from Jules Verne’s book, you’ll have to look elsewhere. During its operation it was criticized by ride aficionados for having a queue that took far too long due to its 20-minute ride time, and it was loved for the same long ride that offered guests a 20-minute reprieve from the baking Florida sun. It replicated an undersea adventure with mermaids, a giant squid attack, and plenty of faux life aquatic.

Now, thanks to Kevin Perjurer and Defunctland, a site dedicated to the history of long-dead amusement park rides and the history behind them, we have a VR recreation of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. There’s even a 360 degree YouTube version available here if you can’t go the full VR route. The VR experience comes complete with the audio track from the ride so you can marvel at the scratchy, tinny, mono speaker saga from the safety and comfort of your home. Take a ride on your Oculus or Steam VR before the mouse hunts this down.

Mythgard is the Advanced Squad Leader of collectible card games

, | Features

Collectible card game design has come a long way since the days of Magic’s blue denial decks.You can almost see the edicts that must have come down from the high halls of design theory: don’t prevent players from doing something they have already legally done. Don’t interrupt their play. Minimize the role of luck in draw order. Who wants to be told that the card they just played has to go back to their hand? Not to mention the sequencing nightmares that could happen with multiple chained effects. This happened, which caused that, which caused that, but that was then canceled.  What actually happened, and what didn’t?

Getting rid of interrupts also eliminated the need to have online games give an opponent time to counter a cardplay before it actually went into effect. Things that were annoying to some people in person became simply untenable online, and anathema to good pacing.  And thus we got Hearthstone, the ultimate CCG reduced to its most sugary elements, the Coca-Cola syrup without the seltzer water. Hey, I like sugar, too.

The way to do this, obviously, was to concentrate on creatures, or “minions” as I guess the CCG taxonomists have now labeled them. Direct damage took a hit because there isn’t much that’s fun about “take two damage” unless you can somehow block it.  Hearthstone did some neat things with the idea of the player’s “personal weapons,” but it was very clear what the implication of no interrupts was: a menagerie of monsters that got played to the board and then fought each other, like the game that Chewbacca and Luke Skywalker played against each other in the rec room of the USS Enterprise.

None of this is new, and I sure wasn’t the first one to notice. You’d have to go back Card Science magazine, or maybe to the Journal of Collectible Card Gaming, to get the details.  But the records are all there for the scholars to examine.  Which is why we got Mythgard.

Continue reading →

This Dota 2 champion club will no longer be allowed to play

, | News

Valve and Perfect World have permanently banned former champion Dota 2 players Lipeng Wen, Han Xu, Rui Yin, Chao Yan and Hongda Zeng. All five banned players make up the membership of gaming clan Newbee which won Valve’s The International in 2014. Additionally, Hongda Zeng was a member of the Invictus team that won The International in 2012. The decision to ban these players from all official Dota 2 events came from their participation in a match-fixing scheme in May 2020. The match can be viewed in its entirety here.

When the allegations of Newbee throwing the match first surfaced, the club denied all wrongdoing and vowed to appeal. Valve and Perfect World’s decision would indicate that whatever defense Newbee submitted wasn’t convincing enough to sway the judges.

Immortals Fenyx Rising is what happens when everything comes together perfectly

, | Game reviews

I kept waiting.  At some point, it was going to do something to disappoint me.  There was going to be some misstep or oversight or shortcut, something that wasn’t fully developed or that should have been cut.  Something that didn’t seem to fit.  Something weak or wrong.  But Immortals Fenyx Rising is one of those rare games that never let me down.  Not once.  Every time I played, I ended up smiling at its insight, confidence, charm, and humor.

Continue reading →

If Werner Herzog made a driving game, it would be Snowrunner

, | Game reviews

Speed is a cheap vulgar thrill.  It has none of the tension or innate drama of torque.  You cannot savor speed the way you can savor the interaction of traction and mass.  Speed wants nothing to do with the earth.  It wants to leave it.  But torque wants to defeat it, to prevail over it, to wrestle with it and throw it down and then tear loose from it to declare the victory of forward motion.  Torque is determined to triumph.  Torque is a battle.  Torque grapples and struggles.  Speed was barely even here.

That’s the premise of Snowrunner, and Mudrunner before it, and Spintires before that, all games about trucks wrestling with bad roads.  Videogames have been letting us go fast for as long as they’ve been around.  But the unique contribution of the Spintires line, which has its fullest expression in Snowrunner, is its intimacy with the ground.  If you’ve ever driven a manual transmission, you know what I’m talking about.  

Continue reading →