Brandon Cackowski-Schnell

Qt3 Games Podcast: Tolkien it up

This week Brandon is joined by Polygon.com reporter and Senior Mordor Correspondent Alexa Ray Corriea (@AlexaRayC) to talk about Middle of Earth: Shadow of Mordor and its place among Tolkien’s works. Along the way they talk about The Hobbit movies, why Marvel’s cinematic universe ain’t all that for all folks, and the joy of breakfast with Troy Baker.

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Counterspy fails to launch

I’ve spent the better part of an hour trying to come up with a spy movie analogy to Counterspy’s style over substance but so far I have nothing. This is why Tom should write this review. Best I could come up with was Mission Impossible 2 where Coppola’s tense moodiness was traded in for John Woo’s stylish hyperviolence. But then I remember Tom Cruise climbing that mountain with nothing but chalk and grit and the fact that if it wasn’t for that movie, Dougray Scott would have been cast as Wolverine thereby plunging us into a dystopian future worse than anything Days of Future Past could come up with.

See, Tom really should write this. So yeah, Counterspy. It’s flashy, but then what?

After the jump, the spy who bugged me… Continue reading →

Squint at the devil with Diablo III’s remote play on the Playstation Vita

, | Games

Sony’s 2013 E3 press conference was the exact moment I knew I’d be buying a Playstation 4. It was also the exact moment I knew I’d be buying a Vita for the second time.

I had abandoned my first Vita the previous year due to a lack of compelling games. But the PS4 itself promised good indie support and none of Microsoft’s then draconian policies. I also preferred Sony’s exclusives over Microsoft’s first party stable. But what really pushed me over the edge and back into the waiting arms of the Vita was remote play.

After the jump, is that a devil in your pocket? Continue reading →

Work smarter, not harder with Bravely Default

73 hours into Bravely Default and I have more questions than I have answers. Not about the battle system, it’s an elegant affair with plenty of flexibility to let you either prevail or hang yourself. Not about the story, something about crystals and renewing them many, many times. No, my questions all revolve around one thing and one thing only: what job goes best with what job.

After the jump, I’ve been lookin’ real hard and I’m tryin’ to find a job. Continue reading →

The bright lights and small city of Infamous: Second Son

A new generation of hardware should usher in a new generation of not just better looking worlds, but more expansive ones. Infamous: Second Son certainly fits the bill in terms of looking pretty. But it’s a disappointing step backwards in terms of building giant, immersive worlds. The fact that this is an open world game makes this shortcoming all the more stinging. To quote the Talking Heads, “Lights on, nobody home.”

After the jump, it’s a small world after all. Continue reading →

The long con of Square Enix’s Thief reboot

For all its big heist ambitions, Thief is all about the long con. It looks good from the start, with just enough shiny bits and nods to the original series to draw you in. But stick with it until the end and you’ll have nothing to show for your time but dreams gone bust.

After the jump, someone switched briefcases and now all I have is a bunch of cut up telephone books! Continue reading →

The Room Two gets foreboding right

, | Games

As a child of 1980’s horror, Clive Barker’s Hellraiser has a huge place in my heart. Barker’s writing was weird and gross and sexual and served as a counterweight to all of the Stephen King I read. Where King’s writing scared me, Barker’s unsettled me. I didn’t always understand Barker’s stuff but I always got wigged out by it. Hellraiser, both the book and the movie, fit that mold perfectly. And for all of the body modification demonology going on in that movie, that damn puzzle box was the most unsettling thing in the whole thing. There was something about an innocent puzzle box serving as the gateway to a dimension of unspeakable terror that scared the crap out of me. What if I found a similar box in an antique store? What if I opened it? I was fifteen! What did I know about demons?

The Room Two, the sequel to Fireproof’s iOS puzzle/adventure mash-up, doesn’t have anyone trying to peel the flesh off of your face. But the amount of malice infused in every room and every puzzle is palpable. Unlike the previous game, where the puzzles were more or less benign, these puzzles have the same malicious vibe as the story. Whether it’s a ship tracking another ship through an unnatural fog, a violent seance, or an unseemly attempt at reanimation, the puzzles add to the feeling that something ain’t right in these rooms. And this journey may be satisfying to piece together, but it isn’t going to end anywhere good.

Thankfully the puzzles are ambitious enough that you aren’t going to end up as some demon’s plaything anytime soon. The previous game limited each room to a single puzzle. In The Room Two, you move among multiple objects within a room. The bouncing around lends itself to more confusion than the last game, but the increased complexity makes for puzzles that are as engrossing as they are admirable. The hint system can be turned off but I would have preferred a system that let me come to it rather than pinging me based on idle time. Juggling between all of the nooks and crannies of several installations in a room takes time. Repeatedly pinging me takes away more than it helps.

Because each puzzle is so well constructed, I would have liked more than six chapters, especially given that one chapter isn’t much of a chapter at all. The ending undercuts the moodiness of the story, but the journey’s the thing here. With every turn of a key or twist of an idol, The Room Two crafts one worth taking.

The best character in Assassin’s Creed IV is not Kenway

, | Games

I love the sailing in Assassin’s Creed IV. My fleet is fully stocked with the ships I’ve captured. I have fully upgraded the Jackdaw into a sailing fortress. You’d think that would mean I don’t need to take down random ships any more. But I can’t stop. I see a ship and I take it. I pick a spot on the map to investigate but then I see ships. So many ships! I have to have them. All of them! And why bother going on land for more uninteresting parkouring when I can’t hear sea shanties. I love the sea shanties so much that learned to play “The Drunken Sailor” on my ukulele.

After the jump, meet my favorite crew member Continue reading →

Batman: Arkham Origins is the widening gyre of Batman games

There’s a point at the end of Batman: Arkham Origins where I thought the game was trying to tell me not to give The Joker what he wanted. He wanted a beating, that much was obvious, and as Batman stood at the ready and Joker pranced around, I was reminded of the boss battle at the end of the Mysteries of the Sith expansion for Star Wars Jedi Knight. In it, Mara Jade sets off to find Kyle Katarn who had become corrupted by the Dark Side of the Force. I tried like hell to beat Katarn but no matter what I did, he was too good. Looking at the stone panels in the hall we were in, panels that depicted one Jedi kneeling in front of another, I realized what I had to do. The point was to not fight, to not submit to the violence of the Dark Side. I switched off my lightsaber and the fight was over.

I hoped that Arkham Origins, a game that had been relentlessly raising the stakes on stupid up until this point, was making that kind of move, making the player deny what The Joker wanted, letting Batman realize that the only way to beat this madman was to not beat him.

After the jump, yeah, not so much. Continue reading →

Pokemon X and Y brings it all home

I’m pretty enamored by Pokemon Y. Don’t get me wrong, this is the same basic Pokemon game we’ve been playing for fifteen years now. You get a starter Pokemon and then use that starter to amass a collection of magical creatures. Along the way you can take down gym leaders, fight the enemy team of the day, breed some new Pokemon, explore caves, swim in oceans, hunt legendary beasts and engage in dozens and dozens of trainer battles. The details of those actions may change, but the basics have stayed the same, even through Pokemon Y.

After the jump, so what’s the big deal? Continue reading →

Pokemon Y: beauty in motion

I wouldn’t classify myself as the type of person who feels graphics make or break games, but one of the best things about Pokemon X/Y is how the upgraded visuals and changes to visual style make the game feel so much more alive. Don’t get me wrong, past Pokemon games always had their own cute touches, but for all of those touches, lately they were still DS games shoved on to the 3DS’s screen. There’s only so much you can work with there, even with the expanded real estate of the 3DS XL.

After the jump, switching systems and switching styles. Continue reading →

Pokemon Y: new creatures, new training

Every generation of Pokemon games adds new creatures to the mix to the point where the total number of Pokemon is over seven hundred. Take a moment and think about that. Seven hundred different character designs, many of which have been updated with new animations and new visual touches as the years have gone on. Can you think of any other game franchise that sports over 700 character models? I can’t. Heck, I’m happy if I get maybe two dozen different enemy types in a game. Sure, not all of them are going to be winners, but even if only half of them were good, that would still be over three hundred winners. That’s a heck of a lot of pocket monsters.

After the jump, what good are new creatures if you can’t train them? Continue reading →

Pokemon Y: elemental monkeys and electric hamsters

The early sections of past Pokemon games all followed a similar path. You met a professor of Pokemonology, he gave you a starter and then tasked you with going out in the world to fill the Pokedex. Once you found a nice patch of tall grass you would start hunting beasts. You’d find a rat or gopher or prairie dog looking thing and capture it. You’d find a caterpillar and capture it. Usually a pigeon of some sort would come along for the ride. Eventually you would stumble across some fighting type and so it would go until your first team was fielded. Your starter would have an elemental attack but the rest of your misfit crew of vermin would feature a commonplace collection of boring, normal moves. Lots of leers, tackles, scratches and growls. Hardly the stuff of a championship team.

After the jump, Chespin, I choose you! Continue reading →

Pokemon Y: all the experience

I hadn’t planned on playing Pokemon Y. I started Pokemon Black with gusto but only got about about 13 hours into it before the sameness got to me. I was smart enough to rent Pokemon Black 2 and putter around with it before realizing that the same thing that I didn’t like about Black was also in play here. Along the way to the release of X and Y, I read about small changes made to the formula to streamline things. Nothing that would send the series off into a radical new direction but some things to modernize a game that has been in desperate need of modernization for some time. Take running. In Pokemon Y you can run from the outset, no special shoes require. Also, now your Pokemon get experience from capturing other Pokemon, so no more epic battles that end in nothing but a a new creature you probably won’t use due to how under-leveled it is. As exciting as these things sound, though, what finally pushed me over the edge was the experience share.

After the jump, what the heck is an experience share? Continue reading →

Wing Commander Privateer and the semester of spacefaring

, | Features

When I was in college, I lived in a fraternity house and one of the rules for living in the house was that you had to have your class schedule posted on your door should an emergency arise. This was before the time of cell phones and social networks. No there were not dinosaurs roaming the Earth at the time, as difficult as that may be to believe.

The first semester of my senior year I was student teaching, so my schedule had large blocks of open time in the evenings, time that was usually spent on my friend Ron’s computer playing games. I played so many games that someone in the house took to writing “DOOM” in every block of free time on my schedule. I would have been pissed if it weren’t so accurate. However, had they really wanted to nail down my activities, every block would have been filled with “Wing Commander: Privateer”.

Privateer was the first space sim I ever played. Hell, it was the first real space game I played, period. When I was a kid, I played my fair share of Defender, Star Wars and Space Invaders in the arcade as well as hours and hours of Space Quest. But Privateer was a whole new world. For a kid raised on Star Wars in the theater and Buck Rogers on TV, being able to pilot my own ship and look out of the cockpit, juking and diving as I tried to keep a pirate in my sights and blow him to space dust was like nothing I had ever played. Unfortunately, my inexperience with the genre translated into some dicey situations, namely when the alien probe chased me through multiple meteoroid laden systems after I stole their cool ass green gun. I’m not proud of this fact, but when I fled the aliens, I had to enlist the aid of a fraternity brother to toggle the afterburner as I worked on not smashing into asteroids. Thanks Micah, you were a real life saver.

It certainly didn’t hurt that Privateer let me get a taste of the Han Solo life. Winging into a space station, picking up materials, both legal and illegal, and making my way to another system to unload my wares was just as exciting to me as fighting off pirates or shooting Kilrathi. I may not have understood how the game tied into the Wing Commander universe and it would be a few more years before I played another space sim (Wing Commander IV, for the record) but Privateer got its hooks into me good, making me a bona fide fan of the genre.