Features

We don't really do those click-baity list posts, like Top Ten Nude Scenes in Videogames. But when we do, you'll find them here.

Latest Features

The top ten games of 2021 (so far)

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Oh, look, half of 2021 is gone already.  I hadn’t noticed that it was time to take stock of the best games of the year so far.  Note that anything that might have come out on or after July 1st, perhaps distracting me from other things, isn’t eligible.  So let’s take a look at the best game of 2021 that came out before midnight, June 30th.

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The top ten movies of 2020

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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.

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Mythgard is the Advanced Squad Leader of collectible card games

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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.

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And the winner of 2020’s final review request is…

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Here are the latest review requests from my Patreon supporters, followed by my counter-recommendations. Think of it as a broad overview of what my Patreon supporters are doing, along with a look at what I’ve been doing as well. Stay tuned for the drawing of the actual winner tomorrow, to be followed by the review within 30 days.

As you’ve gotten used to be told so often in 2020, buckle up!

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I want to tell you why Hades is so good

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Bruce Geryk doesn’t want to tell you why Hades is so good.  And he’s got the right idea, because discovery is a lot of the joy in Supergiant’s triumphant return to form (everything that made Bastion, their first game, a work of genius is represented here).  If Bruce were to detail too many specifics, he would deprive you of all the “ah-ha, that’s how that works!” or “ooh, that’s a cool way to do that!” or “hey, look what I just unlocked!” moments.  These progressive delights are a real accomplishment in a genre as crowded and familiar as action-RPGs and rogue-likes.

But unlike Bruce Geryk, I’m going to tell you what makes Hades so good.  I’m going to narrow it down to the one thing that elevates this otherwise very good action RPG rogue-like, the one thing that other designers would do well to learn, the one thing that still eludes so many developers of so many different types of games, the one thing that boosts this from a game I really like to a game I love.  That one thing is…

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Two years later, I played The Crew 2 again. I have questions.

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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.  

But first, I have some questions.

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The latest Patreon review requests are in! And the winner is…

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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!

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The Top Ten Games of 2020 (so far!)

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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.

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The Top Ten Solitaire Boardgames of All Time

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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.

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The 2nd best game of 2019: Control

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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.

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10th best game of 2019: Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3

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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.  

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‘Tis the season to watch A Christmas Carol. At least seven of them.

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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.

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The best games of 2019 (so far)

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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. 

So much for all that. On to the ten best!

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Top ten games of 2018

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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.

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