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Dominant Species in Review

This week’s Cracked LCD is a review of GMT’s Dominant Species, a game of Darwinian survival and adaptation circa 90,000 BC. It’s sort of a hybrid cross between a couple of heavyweight Eurogame styles but with some good old fashioned wargaming aggression and some brutal cardplay in the mix. I like it a lot, but it’s long and requires players to sort of dig in to really get the most out of it. It’s not very complex in terms of rules, but it is in terms of gameplay. And other players can royally screw up your animals’ ability to avoid extinction.

Check it out over at the Big House.

Three Moves Ahead: FFG vs. Puffin Software

Remember the story I posted back on Saturday, April 23rd about FFG battling Puffin Software over legal rights to game mechanics? Well, the Three Moves Ahead podcast read it and then built a show around it. Unlike me ramblin’ on Rob actually got the lawyers involved! Actually, it’s William Flachsbart, intellectual property expert.

So, not only is this an interesting discussion about IP rights and whether or not Puffin can do what it did but the most important point :

A post on No High Scores was turned into a podcast topic on Three Moves Ahead!

How to Play Child of Eden Video

I still think this looks more fun to watch than play.

Conduit 2 Review

No High Scores

My review of Conduit 2 went live yesterday at the mothership. You should go and read it, but in short, I didn’t like the game. Not at all.

I quite enjoyed the first one. Sure it was somewhat generic, but the controls were good, I liked the story and the enemies kept me on my toes. With the sequel, High Voltage took most of the things I liked about the game and threw them completely out of the window. The cool conspiracy story was replaced with what, I still don’t know, as you hopped around the globe trying to harvest the souls of dead aliens for your little globe, eye thingy. Meanwhile DC was destroyed and aliens were about, along with other faceless bad guys, why they don’t tell you, assuming you played the first game and remember every little detail. The game also had the tendency to swarm you with a lot of really annoying melee enemies, seemingly to get around having to program enemy AI.

Worse still, they took the serious tones of the first game and replaced it with an attempt at humor that fell completely flat with me. Humor is a tough thing in games and some of the reviews I’ve read praised HVS for going the B-movie route, as those reviewers really enjoyed the jokes. When I read those reviews, I wished I had played the game those people had played because what I played was filled with dumb one liners and plodding attempts at self-referential video game jokes. I don’t have a problem with B-movies, House of the Dead: Overkill was filled with B-movie aesthetics and that game was so brilliantly hilarious I still can’t believe it got made.

So yeah, I didn’t like Conduit 2′s single player story but the multiplayer was still solid, as were the controls, hence the C rating. Grading these games are hard at times because you have to take into consideration why people may be buying the game. I have no interest in multiplayer in the game, so for me the single player is more important, but if MP is done well, I can’t ignore it. If the game were only a single player game, the grade would probably be lower.

This was a game I really didn’t want to dislike and I was very disappointed with how it turned out. I like the people at High Voltage. They’re all incredibly nice and I have had nothing but good dealings with them. We recently had the game’s designer and producer on Jumping the Shark and other than them sounding like they needed a nap, they were stoked about the game and were great to talk to. Part of me, a very small part, feels bad about having them on the show and then rating the game badly, not just for them, but for our listeners. My hope is that no one listened to the show and then didn’t read any reviews before buying the game, thinking us having the HVS people on the show was an endorsement for a game none of us had been able to play yet. I don’t think we have that much pull. Besides, actors and actresses appear on talk shows all of the time, shilling movies that end up being crap and no one assumes that the host of the show is endorsing the movie. At least I hope not.

Still, though, there is some unease involved in having people on your show to talk about a game you don’t have first hand knowledge of. In those cases, we let the guests talk about the game, and then try to delve into the development and design process rather than have us gush about something we haven’t played. The flip side to that is had we waited to play and grade Conduit 2, would the people from HVS want to come on the show to talk about their game? Probably not. So it’s hard. We don’t have the same access to early builds like a bigger site would, but when a company like HVS asks us if they can come on our show, we want to have them on. I don’t know how HVS feels about the review, or if they feel like their coming on the show would result in a good score. I certainly have no reason to believe they did and we certainly gave no indication that we’d be anything than 100% honest about the game, so I feel like all of our bases are covered.

At the end of the day, they made a game that wasn’t as good as it could have been and I graded it accordingly. That’s what I get paid for and who does or doesn’t come on the show has no bearing on that. Admittedly I would have felt better about giving them a good grade, but the game didn’t warrant it, and doing the easy thing would do my readers and listeners a disservice. Ultimately, my credibility as a reviewer, along with the credibility of the site and the podcast, is more important than taking the easy way out.

Notes from the EA Conference Czll

I love these things.

Basically all of these conference calls or “investor” calls are a company’s way of talking to the press, and its investors, without anyone saying anything in return.

At the plate today is EA.

So here’s what we gather from EA’s recent call activity:

1) Star Wars: The Old Republic “could slip into 2012″ which I think surprises no one.

EA’s Frank Gibeau said: While we fully anticipate launching Star Wars: The Old Republic in Q2 or Q3, the low end of our guidance range assumes the outside possibility of a January launch,” So…it may come out when they plan or it may… not. Got it.

2) Battlefield 3 is Bad Ass and is so much better than Call of Duty.

Ahh big company, multimillion dollar franchise selling catfights. More from Frank — drop some knowledge on them brother:

We know we had a big competitor, but head-to-head with Call of Duty in Q3, we have the superior game engine, superior development studio and a flat out superior game… Come and see for yourself. We’ll be showing brand new code and features at E3, I encourage everyone to make time for Battlefield 3.

I love the smell of pom poms in the morning.

Assassins Creed: Revelations Has Three Times the Stabby Goodness

No High Scores

Assassins Creed is one of those series that I have enjoyed more and more with every entry. I played the hell out of the first one, too much really, as the mundane side missions and excruciatingly infuriating “kill ten guys across the map in three minutes” missions made me want to assassinate the game’s designers. I held off on AC2, despite everyone telling me how awesome it was until shortly before Brotherhood came out. Then I played it and loved it. I waited on Brotherhood, fearing I would be worn out on the series, but finally played it early this year and loved it as well.

What this has taught me is a) don’t wait to play AC when the next one comes out and b) stabbing a dude through the neck after hurtling off a building to the sounds of an eagle’s cry never gets old. This month’s Game Informer breaks the details about the upcoming Assassins Creed: Revelations, a game which features all three assassins: Altair, Ezio and Desmond as well as new weapons, new locales, a customizable multiplayer game and some explanation on just what in the hell happened at the end of Brotherhood. The game comes out in November, adding to an already crowded buffet of potential gaming greatness.

The PR is below:

Today, Ubisoft announced the development of Assassin’s Creed Revelations, the fourth installment in the critically acclaimed and immensely popular video game franchise. Developed and led by Ubisoft Montreal with the support and expertise of Ubisoft studios Annecy, Massive Entertainment, Quebec, Singapore and Bucharest, Assassin’s Creed Revelations presents the most immersive experience available in the series to date and the culmination of Ezio’s adventure. The game is set to release on the Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, the PlayStation 3 computer entertainment system and Windows PC this November.

In Assassin’s Creed Revelations, master assassin Ezio Auditore walks in the footsteps of his legendary mentor, Altaïr, on a journey of discovery and revelation. It is a perilous path – one that will take Ezio to Constantinople, the heart of the Ottoman Empire, where a growing army of Templars threatens to destabilize the region.

In addition to Ezio’s award-winning story, the acclaimed online multiplayer experience returns, refined and expanded, with more modes, more maps and more characters that allow players to test their assassin skills against others from around the world. The latest chapter in the Assassin’s Creed saga also includes revolutionary gameplay, allowing players to manipulate the construct of Desmond’s memories and the Animus to decipher the mysteries of his past and gain insight into the future.

“Delivering the final chapter of the Ezio trilogy is an important milestone in the Assassin’s Creed franchise for us and for our fans,” said Alexandre Amancio, Creative Director at Ubisoft Montreal. “Assassin’s Creed Revelations includes lots of new features and some significant surprises. We can’t wait to show our fans what we have in store at E3 this year.”

Additional details on Assassin’s Creed Revelations can be found in an exclusive feature in the June issue of Game Informer Magazine, available this month.

For more information on Assassin’s Creed, visit: www.assassinscreed.com and www.facebook.com/assassinscreed.

Lord of the Rings War in the North Gameplay Trailer

This new trailer shows more gameplay footage from the upcoming co-op hack fest from Warner Bros. We’ll likely get a better look at this one at E3. Right now the game is tentatively scheduled for an August release.

Get Access to Age of Empires Online Beta

Still want to get in the AoE Online beta? Microsoft is opening the doors this weekend.

Details below:

The team at Microsoft Game Studios wants to make sure everyone who wanted to get into the beta for “Age of Empires Online” gets their chance before they close it to the public, so they’re opening up access to get fast-tracked into the beta for 48 hours only this Thursday-Saturday.

If your readers didn’t get a code last week (I can assure you, they did not) here’s their chance! Simply visit http://gamesforwindows.com/ageofempiresonlinebeta between 9:01am on Thursday, 5 May and 9:01am on Saturday, 7 May.

During this time, the Games for Windows Marketplace will prompt you to sign up for a Windows Live ID and download the beta immediately – no waiting.

For more information about Age of Empires Online, visit ageofempiresonline.com

GOG Spring Update = Free Game and More

You know, or should know, that we’re all huge fans of Good Old Games. In fact we’re going to be talking to some GoG-Folk on an upcoming JTS podcast. (That’s called a teaser in the “biz”.)

The website has received an update and with that — you get a free game. The game is Dragonsphere, which I admit I never played. But hey — free game. It’s a Microprose point and click adventure made in 1994. I assume it contains dragons and quite possibly various spheres.

PR below:

GOG.com (http://www.gog.com) is entering the Spring season with another site update, introducing new features, and a surprise for all GOG.com users: a totally free classic from Atari – Dragonsphere.

As announced during the presentation on CD Projekt Days Spring Conference, the update adds two highly requested by users improvements: a new downloader application and personal messages. The new downloader has been made from scratch by GOG.com developers and features multithreaded downloads for performance, automatic error checking and runs only when the user is downloading something from GOG.com. The downloader is not a client application and is optional to use, although recommended for downloading big games, like The Witcher 2, for example.

Personal Messages, the second biggest feature of the Spring Update, is a combination of instant and private messaging. The system will have fully configurable privacy settings and just like the downloader is completely optional. Aside of those two changes, the team has introduced many various improvements to make the user experience even better – those include improved checkout system, update to work flawlessly on newest browsers and easier to use coupon system.


It’s time to lobby the GoG people to get Kohan on that service. All of this talk of Section 8 and Timegate has me hankering for some real time Kohan action. Get it done guys!

Sega Announces Guardian Heroes for XBLA

This is more in Barnes’ wheelhouse but Sega is re-releasing the 1996 Saturn hit for XBLA this fall. (The above image is from the old game.)

PR Ahead:

SEGA of America, Inc. and SEGA Europe Ltd. today announced the upcoming re-release of Guardian Heroes, a classic Action-RPG Brawler by developers Treasure. Originally released for the SEGA Saturn in 1996, Guardian Heroes has been re-mastered with enhanced graphics, online co-op and battle modes, all-new modes of play, and more. The game will be available via Xbox LIVE Arcade for the Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system from Microsoft this fall.

Guardian Heroes brings the Saturn favorite to life with new HD graphics, presenting Treasure’s iconic fast-paced gameplay on a new generation of hardware, with all of the convenience of purchase via instant download. The game also features:

* Action-RPG Brawling: Choose one of five heroes to level up and guide along a branching storyline with five different endings
* Friends, Foes, and Fighters: Play the game’s Story Mode alone or with a second player, or challenge Versus Mode with up to 12 players at once
* Extended Gameplay: Time Attack Mode, Arcade Mode, Arrange Mode and more allow players to explore every nuance of 45 different fighters
* Fully Re-Mastered: All-new graphics and visual effects bring the classic to life in a completely high-definition, widescreen presentation

For more information on Guardian Heroes, please visit http://www.sega.com