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Jumping the Shark Podcast #148

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

With Bill spending a few days getting back to nature, it’s the Brandon and Todd show once more and we spend it talking about the things of largest concern to gamers everywhere: The Tigers in the World Series and my nightmares of demonic possession. There’s some game talk thrown in for good flavor, I guess. Brandon goes back to Borderlands 2 and it’s initial go-round of DLC: Captain Scarlett’s Pirate Booty. I get in deeper with XCOM, including an ill-fated experiment with the game’s Classic difficulty. We also talk a bit about game modding and DLC in general. (I was wrong, by the way, that the modding scene hasn’t broken out yet for XCOM. There’s already some interesting options out in the field. You can find and read all about them at XCOM Nexus.)

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Jumping the Shark Podcast #147

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Jumping the Shark #147 features that rarest of occurrences: A week in which we all have a shiny new toy to play with. Bill starts his journey into the world of Dishonored and is excited by what he sees. I talk about the little moments that make XCOM: Enemy Unknown such a wonderful re-imagining of the original and the elements that make it a fair compromise of old and new. And Brandon looks reluctantly at his old Pokemon hat, but decides to put it on anyway when he comes to terms with the fact that even though Pokemon White 2 makes him jump through a lot of the same hoops, he just can’t not love little animals that fight each other. (That’s sorta what happens in these games, right?) Enjoy the show!

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XCOM Battleground

X-COM: Enemy Unknown – Not a Review

I have X-COM and it’s glorious. (As a reminder, yes, I do use the hyphen as twas intended by God itself.) That screenshot up there? The one where you can’t hardly make out any detail because it’s zoomed so far out? That is beauty. Dear Bioware, when you release the next Dragon Age, if I can’t pull back on the camera like I can do here, then you have utterly failed. I don’t care if the story is the second coming of… uh… something really good, but not as cliche to list here as Lord of the Rings. Just say’n.

Oh, right. X-COM. Ahem. It’s going to be awhile before I’m comfortable reviewing the game, so in lieu of that, I’m going to offer this quick impressions post and then, in forthcoming posts, document my progress, diary style, as my crafty crew of squaddies face off against gruesome death and dismemberment at the hands of an alien menace bent on world domination. Woo!

To set a baseline here, I think there are generally two kinds of X-COM players: Those who like the light strategy and emergent storytelling that the series hangs its hat on and the deep strategy folks who like wide open spaces they must navigate, moving carefully forward, spending hours micromanaging every facet of their squad. The original X-COM had a way of sating both these crowds and there’s nothing wrong with either track, but this game was built to appeal to the former much more than the latter.

Like any good alien-smashing squad, let’s take this point-by-point, starting with the stuff that will likely bother some folks…

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Jumping the Shark Podcast #146

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Straw manages to fit us back into his busy schedule for episode #147 of Jumping the Shark. After we remind ourselves, you know, who he is, we launch into a lengthy discussion of blessed freedom from the tyranny of gatekeeper PR practices involving free games. Brandon takes on a journey through the Testament of Sherlock Holmes and then he and Bill compare notes on Borderlands 2. Finally we set the stage for this week’s big releases in X-COM and Dishonored. The countdown to 150 episodes begins here!

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Jumping the Shark Podcast #145

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Jumping the Shark #145 begins on a ponderous note as we come up with scenarios to explain why Bill is, once again, absent. Brandon was closest with, “Desperately wants to be here, but is trapped under something heavy.” And what a time to miss, as we discuss our thoughts on the PC demo for Firaxis’s upcoming take on X-COM. What we can take away from it? Where does it look good? Where are the yellow flags? Etc. We all know I’m in on this one, but is Brandon prepared to take the leap into unknown waters? The less than surprising answer is within. After that Brandon digs deeper into Borderlands 2 and I spend some more time with Guild Wars 2 and the iPad version of Bastion. Enjoy!

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Quick Take on the X-COM: Enemy Unknown Demo

To dismiss with this point first, I know Firaxis calls the game XCOM and not X-COM. Screw that noise. We all know better. As for the demo, there’s not a whole lot that can be said about it. It’s very, very brief, taking you through two largely scripted missions and then depositing you at the menu. This isn’t a demo so much as it is a guided tour, so there’s a lot we don’t know (at least those of us, like me, not on the golden ticket list for preview code), including just how much freedom of play the actual game will offer. This was extremely restrictive, but it hints at a world of promise. Here’s what I can tell you based on the 50 or so minutes it took to go from beginning to end on the PC…

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Jumping the Shark Podcast #144

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Straw is absent for Jumping the Shark #144, but we threw a rock out a window and happened to hit Tom Chick, who came in to join us for the show and punk me over Guild Wars 2 in the process. By all mean, enjoy yourselves… Oh yeah, and before that Tom and Brandon talk in considerable depth about Borderlands 2 and before all is said and done Tom lets us know what separate Torchlight 2 from Diablo 3.

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Dragon Age III: Inquisition Officially Official

The worst kept secret at Bioware is that Dragon Age III is in production. Today, franchise Executive Producer Mark Darrah makes that all official-like with an open letter. Given the lack of any detail to speak of whatsoever, there’s not much to report here. Here’s the most relevant bits from the letter.

So here’s what I can confirm for now:

  • The next game will be called Dragon Age III: Inquisition.
  • We won’t be talking about the story of the game today. Though you can make some guesses from the title.
  • This game is being made by a lot of the same team that has been working on Dragon Age since Dragon Age: Origins. It’s composed of both experienced BioWare veterans and talented new developers.
  • We are working on a new engine which we believe will allow us to deliver a more expansive world, better visuals, more reactivity to player choices, and more customization. At PAX East, we talked about armor and followers… Yeah, that kind of customization. We’ve started with Frostbite 2 from DICE as a foundation to accomplish this.

You check out the rest here, if you’re so inclined.

After the break, however, I can offer you an NHS-exclusive look at the main Foozle in DA3! (Yes, this is an excuse to make you click through to see something that is decidedly not the main Foozle in DA3. It’s worth it.)

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Jumping the Shark Podcast #143

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Jumping the Shark 143 can be safely thought of as the show before Borderlands 2. Consequently, Brandon and Bill wax poetic about playing the game and Brandon scolds Bill about not having a build already planned ahead. Binky is such a boy scout. Sort of. Then they bicker for awhile over who’s fault it is that we don’t play more together online, with the consensus being the blame probably lies with me. Funny how that seems to happen. We also set aside some time to talk about the Wii U release strategy, which includes charging extra for a game, and a steeper than expected price point ($300). Sorry, Nintendo, but I don’t think you made a sale to the JTS gang. Hang your collective heads in shame. Finally, we talk some more FTL, Inquisitor, and Dark Souls. As I wrote last week, FTL is really frigg’n good. And it’s $290 cheaper than a Wii U. You know what to do.

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FTL Boss battle

Wish Fulfilled: A Week with FTL

Saavik: So you’ve never faced that situation? Faced death?
Kirk: I don’t believe in the no-win scenario.
—Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn

Is there any sci-fi geek of my generation (anyone born in the 70s) who hasn’t wanted a video game to bring the infamous Kobayahsi Maru scenario to video games? Various games have tried. There have been actual Star Trek games that have tried. None that I’ve played have ever quite captured that spirit of crewing and powering and surviving aboard a starship like FTL: Faster Than Light. This rogue-like in space that stumbled into $200,543 in Kickstarter funding, while petitioning for a mere $10,000, is the game I’ve been looking for ever since I first heard Kirk tell Sulu to lock phasers on Reliant and “await my command.”

It’s been a long wait…

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