I didn’t like The Crew 2. At all. But that was two years ago, when it was initially released, minus all the cool stuff that comes with seasons passes, paid DLC, and free updates. Presumably, Ubisoft has been hard at work on their flagship driving game. So let’s see what Ubisoft can do with two years of post-release support.
This used to be a video. I would ask my $10 or more Patreon supporters to request reviews. Then I would sit in front of a video camera, read the requests, offer a counter-recommendation for each of them, and draw a winner. But my ability to do video is limited these days, so as you can see, this is not a video.
On one hand, that’s a shame, because I liked to think of these as informal conversations. “Hey, you should check this out and write about it,” you would say, and I would reply, “You know, that makes me think you might be interested in this other thing.” I guess they’re still informal conversations, but written. On the other hand, perhaps written is better. Perhaps written is more accessible to people who wouldn’t watch a half hour of some dude holding forth in front of a camera. Perhaps written means the reader can just skim along until something catches his eye.
At any rate, here are the review requests from my $10 and up Patreon supporters in July. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do. I like to think of them as lists of the cool things Quarter to Three’s supporters are into. As you’ll see, we’re an eclectic bunch. I learn a lot from these.
In case it’s not clear from the formatting, everything after the Patreon supporter’s name is what he or she has written, and then everything after the word “counter-recommendation” is my reply. There will be a video drawing of the winner posted tomorrow, followed by a review posted within 30 days. And shortly thereafter, we’ll do it all over again!
Now that we’re officially in the second half of 2020, it’s time to look back at the first half of 2020 and consider which of the games released so far are the best. Because that’s what calendars are for. They exist to arbitrarily group newly released videogames into time periods in which they’re pitted against each other on top ten lists for people to argue about on the internet. It’s the whole reason the Romans or Mayans or whoever invented calendars. Shame they couldn’t stick around long enough for videogames to get invented and fulfill the purpose of their calendars.
So you’re sitting at your dining room table and there’s no one else there to play boardgames. What do you do? Glad you asked, because I have ten suggestions.
Some of the usual suspects will be conspicuously missing. You won’t find Mage Knight here. You certainly won’t find Gloomhaven. You won’t find a lot of dungeon crawlers, although if you did, they would be curios like Deep Madness and Space Cadets: Away Missions. You won’t find a lot of Euros. You won’t find a lot of regular multiplayer games with bots or automatas or whatever scant claim to solitaire play someone dumped into the box. What you will find are games that were designed from the ground up for solitaire play. Or cooperative play, which is what you call it when you force your friends to play parts of a solitaire game for you.
I considered arranging them from one to ten, but then decided to just arrange them alphabetically, but then decided that defeats the whole point of a list, so what was I thinking? So I hurriedly ranked them one to ten. Please don’t challenge me on the ranking, because it’s a frail edifice that will collapse with the slightest push.
Also, a brief confession: I almost tried to get away with a top eleven by including Kingdom Death Monster. However, I’m in the middle of a crisis of faith with that game because of the miniatures. I love the basic gameplay loop of fighting a brutal monster, crafting stuff from its remains, and then resolving a settlement phase, in which terrible and wonderful things can happen. The monster fights are a masterclass in how to transcend the usual “punching each other’s hit points away”. But having to assemble the miniatures is such an obstacle to playing that I’m currently considering a mini-ectomy, in which I chuck all the miniatures and just use meeples for my characters and Skylanders for the monsters (what else am I going to do with all these Skylanders?). So my relationship with Kingdom Death Monster is in a bit of a strange place. I’m not ready to put it on any lists at this point. Well, not ready enough to turn a top ten list into a top eleven list, at any rate.
After I finished playing Control, I wrote one of those snooty reviews that talks a lot about subtext and themes and the designer’s possible motivations. Basically, stuff that doesn’t include potentially helpful consumer information like a description of the plot, how many hours it takes to beat the game, and whether the graphics are visually stunning. But as I’ve gone back to Control to finish up some loose ends, I’ve noticed that some of my favorite things are things I might not even have realized at the time because I was too busy mulling over national character and whatnot. So here are a few addendums to the review. Some things I really appreciate about Control as I go back as a completionist instead of a tourist.
Boy, do I feel silly about this. A Marvel boondoggle taking up a slot on my 2019 top ten list? I don’t even really like superheroes. They’ve been foisted on to me. They’re shrapnel in a cultural explosion whose blast radius I can’t escape. I’m at the nexus of three different infection vectors: movies, boardgames, and videogames. I suppose I haven’t put up much of a fight. Come to think of it, I’ve been a pretty willing participant. I might grouse about Spider-Man Goes to Europe and Marvel Endgame Self-Congratulatory Three-Hour Fan Service Session. But last night, I watched Captain Marvel for a second time. I’ll hold forth to anyone who will listen about Fantasy Flight’s abusive business model, but I just ordered the Captain America deck for Marvel Champions. Instead of talking about Uncut Gems or Little Women, I had a lengthy conversation with a friend’s mom about how Logan was an Important Movie. Of course a Marvel boondoggle would find its way onto my 2019 top ten list.
Since I was a wee tot, I’ve been enthralled by Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, his 1843 five-chapter novella, and particularly its filmed adaptations. I’ve seen them all. “Canonical” versions true to the short story, loose adaptations, short cartoon versions, versions with Mickey Mouse, versions with Muppets, versions with Mr. Magoo, and even alternate settings that kind of work. An American Christmas Carol with Henry Winkler is almost good. 1989’s Scrooged, on the other hand, is a noisy, soulless mess. But over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be writing up the seven major filmed/animated versions that try to hew closely to the original story.
But first, let’s discuss the points that should be in any version of A Christmas Carol, as well as some important bits that are usually left out.
Look, you and I both know calling something “the best” is really just a way of jumping up and down and shouting to get your attention. It’s shameless, I know. But now that you’re here, let’s dispense with the semantic bait. Let’s just say these ten games from the first half of 2019 have most effectively captured my attention, my imagination, and my time. Which, to be fair, is pretty much my definition of “best”.
But first, the disclaimer. I haven’t yet played Total War: Three Kingdoms, inkle’s Heaven’s Vault, or Zen Studio’s Oprencia. I petered out before making much progress in Far Cry: New Dawn, Metro: Exodus, and Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2, all of which I was mildly enjoying in the hopes they might get better. I may never know. Also, I understand there’s a Crackdown 3, but you either have to hook up a useless Xbox One in your living room or wade into the hip-deep torturous inconvenience of the Microsoft Store to play it. I love Crackdown as much as the next guy, but I have my limits.
I was enjoying Anno 1800 and World War Z immensely — immensely! — but both of them managed a critical failure that cancelled all my progress, and therefore all my enthusiasm. In the case of Anno 1800, I hit a scripting bug in the campaign that brought everything to a screeching halt, but without me realizing it until a few hours of citybuilding later. The bug was eventually fixed, but not for people who had already run into it. So many hours down the drain. In the case of World War Z, I couldn’t change the game’s resolution. In the course of troubleshooting the issue, I Googled solutions, edited .ini files, rolled back graphics drivers, and waited on Focus Home Interactive’s non-existent technical support. Eventually, I resorted to the nuclear option: a full uninstall and reinstall. That’s how I discovered the Epic Games Store doesn’t have cloud saves, and furthermore Focus Home Interactive’s online servers can’t be bothered to store a 4kb user_progression.dat file that tracks all your progress, but only exists on your hard drive. Without that file, the server thinks I’ve never even played. I guess Focus Home Interactive expected me to back it up on a 5 1/4 floppy.
First the usual disclaimer. Here are the the notable games I didn’t get to play: Vermintide 2, Return of the Obra Dinn, Pathfinder: Kingmaker, Forza 4, God of War: Dad Edition, Battlefield V, Pillars of Eternity II, Sea of Thieves, Dragon Quest XI, Bard’s Tale IV, The Long Dark, and whatever Yakuza game most recently came out. There are a couple of games that might have been contenders if I’d spent more time with them. I really liked what I saw of Subnautica and Battletech, but for various reasons didn’t explore them as much as I would have liked.
Which is why I’ve enlisted the help of Nick Diamon and Jason McMaster for this year’s list.
This is never a fun list to make, because these are all games I wanted to like. Without exception, they are games I was looking forward to playing. What went wrong? My expectations, the games themselves, or — most likely — some combination of the two? This year’s list actually goes up to twelve because it includes two games I never even played.
These are games that I briefly tried, often during a livestream, and then made a mental note that, hey, that might be worth spending more time with! At which point, they tumbled into the backlog never to be seen again. Until today. I have unearthed them for this list, which is, uh, games that are…uh, the ten games of 2018 that, well, uh…
Okay, I’m going to be completely honest with you. I’m making this list in the hopes that you guys will check out these games and let me know if I was right. Are they worth spending more time with? Based on my limited time, the answer could be yes. But it could also be no because I’ve only spent limited time with them. Look, I’ve done the work for the other three lists this year, so this one is on you.
Why is it doing this? It’s not stopping. Sure, a couple clacks would make sense because something mechanical has happened and that’s a sound mechanical happenings make. Clack. But why is it continuing to happen? Why is it an ongoing thing?
This is utterly insufferable. It’s drowning out everything else. Why won’t it shut up?
Red Dead Redemption 2 will talk you through most of what you need to know. For the most part, it’s not a challenging game and it’s not trying to be. It just wants you to spend time with it while it tells you a story. But sometimes, you’ll find yourself wrestling with the controls or not quite understanding how something is supposed to work. You might accidentally shoot someone because you mixed up your L2 and your R2. You might then find a town full of folks shooting at you. You might then hitch your horse when you meant to get up on it. You might then die and now you’ve lost your favorite Appaloosa. All this is theoretical, of course. I’m not saying it happened to me. But I’m not saying it didn’t.
So here are a few helpful things that I had to figure them out on my own. And since none of them are spoilers, I pass them on for you to use as you start playing.
Founders Breakfast Stout won a drawing for my Patreon review requests. Since I wouldn’t have any idea how to write about beer or what to even write — it’s bubbly, it tastes like beer, there’s words and hopefully a picture on the bottle, three stars! — I cheated and enlisted the help of actual beer connoisseur and Qt3 Movie Podcast co-host Christien Murawski. Together we review the beer in video form while we drink it! It’s a Let’s Drink, complete with a rating at the end.