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JtS/Brakketology Taking the Week Off


Sad Kitten

Unfortunately, no new JtS this week, as we all had commitments that kept us from getting together to do the show. Brandon and Bill will be back with a show next week. My status will depend on the how the rest of the big move goes. Since those acursed boxes won’t pack themselves, Brakketology is also taking the week off… pray for me.

Android: Netrunner – Creation and Control Review


Android: Netrunner is a Living Card Game and that means lots of little expansion packs. Quite an alarming number of little expansion packs if you’re a relatively casual player of the game like I am. But this latest pack isn’t little: it’s big. It comes in a proper box and contains 165 cards: 3 copies each of 55 different ones. As a casual player I approve mightily.

Like all the expansion before it, the focus is squarely on one faction each for the corporation and runner players, in this case Haas-Bioroid and the Shapers respectively. That’s a bit more odd considering you get a lot more cards in this deck but there you go. The Shapers probably needed it as, despite their name, they’re probably the most shapeless, ill-defined faction so far. And I like Haas because I’m a former genetic engineer myself. So, again, I approve mightily.

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Calendar Man – Week of 9/23

scribblenauts unmasked shot one

GTA V left a pretty big hole in the release calendar, unless you like soccer and Scribblenauts, so there’s not a whole heck of a lot coming out this week. Those interested in picking up the HD remake of Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker need only pick up a fancy Wii U bundle to do so. If you already have a Wii U, you can either download it already or wait until October to buy a physical copy.

If you like soccer, football, whatever, this is your week. You get to choose between PES 14 (PS3, 360) and FIFA 14 (360, PC, PS3). Decisions, decisions. For those who love superheroes and adjectives, Scribblenauts Unmasked (3DS, Wii U) gives you the opportunity to make your very own mopey Batman, zombie Superman or puce Green Lantern. I have no idea if any of those things are possible so don’t get mad at me if you can’t although “mopey Batman” is redundant.  In remake news, Shadow Warrior gets a release if you’ve been itching to return to that particular IP. Kalypso lets you rise as a Venetian in Rise of Venice, Garry has an incident in Day One: Garry’s Incident and aliens rage in Alien Rage.

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Hell’s Gate Review


If you’re in the habit of picking through lists of board and video games about World War 2, you’ll see a lot of names you recognise from deeply-buried folk memories and history classes. Normandy and the Bulge, El Alamein and Monte Cassino, Stalingrad and Kursk. But there’s one battle which seems to attract considerably more interest from game designers than it does the general public: the Korsun Pocket. And that’s what Hell’s Gate is all about.

It has an interesting pedigree, this game. Originally designed by an university lecturer as a means of demonstrating the dynamics of encirclement operations in-class, it found its way into the academic literature and from there to Victory Point Games who’ve produced this lovely print. The soot-besmirched counters that result from their laser cutting process might bother some people, but there’s no doubting the durability of the thick card or the evocatively polar board art. You can almost hear the icy winds sweeping across the steppe as you play.

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Calendar Man – Week of 9/16

mechwarrior online shot 1

This will be a good week if you’re looking forward to playing GTA V (PS3, 360) as it drops on Tuesday but it will be a bad week if you’re into intelligent discussion about GTA V as I’m sure it will be near impossible to find, drowned out in a sea of complaints that scores are too high, scores are too low, this person got paid, it’s not on PC and so on and so forth. I like Rockstar games, warts and all, so I’m happy to get back into the swing of things, even if not being able to rocket through the streets and leap tall buildings will make getting around more difficult and less fun.

In other news, Nintendo continues to show a complete and utter lack of respect of the Tuesday release date by dropping The Wonderful 101 on Sunday. MechWarrior Online goes “live” on Tuesday despite having been around for a year so strap in and unleash all your hellfire missiles in celebration. Infinity Blade III also releases this week but after having played the first two, I think I’ve swiped and dodged as many enemies as I can. The Infinity Blade games are very good looking but the repetitive nature just doesn’t do it for me. I wish they hadn’t canceled the ARPG they were building as that would have held my interest. I’m sure they’ll do just fine without my purchase.

Last week I forgot to mention that Card Hunter released. That was my bad. You should play it. It’s rad.

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Dear Esther: Down in the Deep


Last week I found myself in a twitter conversation about Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs which lead on to the previous game from its developers, Dear Esther. I offered two statements about Dear Esther, first that it was full of faux-intellectualism and second that it wasn’t particularly “deep”, both of which my conversant challenged. I couldn’t really answer properly in 140 character bites, but I think there are some interesting enough questions around this to merit wider discussion.

First, let’s talk about Dear Esther. If you haven’t played it, it’s a first-person experience in which you wander around a small island, triggering a selection of different voice snippets that hang together into a maddeningly incomplete narrative. There’s no enemies, no puzzles and you’re largely on rails, although there are occasional opportunities for exploration. So that narrative, which draws from a very large selection of passages and is different on each play through, makes up much the game’s value.

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Descent: Labyrinth of Ruin Review

descent labyrinth of ruin box shot

The original Descent was probably as famous for its seemingly endless expansions as its astronomical play time. Some gamers made almost an entire hobby out of trying to collect them all. Arguably, the new edition with its focus on campaign play is even more suited to expansionism that its predecessor. So, after small box addition Lair of the Wyrm we now have the first big box expansion, Labyrinth of Ruin.

And it is a big box, with more of everything. And I mean everything. Pretty much every deck in the base game now has some extra cards, there are new rules (though nothing terribly demanding), new heroes, monsters, tiles and archetypes and, of course, a brand new campaign. There’s so much it’s hard to know where to start.

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Card Hunter First Impressions

card hunter

I don’t like grinding. Okay, so when it’s combined with epic detail and rich narrative, like in Skyrim, or with ball-breaking skill, like in Dark Souls, it can add a fantastically fun and addictive element to a game. What I hate are games based around grinding for it’s own sake, the endless repetition of kill monster, upgrade gear, kill tougher monster in the service of nothing more than pressing psychological buttons. The Diablo series is probably the worst offender, but so are endless cheap and free-to-play role playing games.

Card Hunter falls into that category. A free-to-play browser based flash game, with inevitable in-app purchases, it challenges you to assemble a team of three characters from the classic warrior, wizard, cleric archetype and send them into various brief encounters with enemies in search of loot. So I should hate it. I want to hate it. But I can’t. In fact it’s one of the most horribly addictive games I’ve played in ages.

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Calendar Man – Week of 9/9

puppetteer shot 1

A few interesting releases this week before the GTA V juggernaut comes crashing on gaming’s shores, invalidating any need for a shiny, new console. First up is Puppeteer on the PS3. I’m looking forward to playing this one, if only for the visual style. Platformers aren’t my thing, but if something looks interesting enough, I’ll try it. Also coming out on Sony hardware this week is Killzone Mercenary. I have a theory that the Killzone games are not meant to be the action heavy shooters they are, but a grand farce centering on the most incompetent military squad in the galaxy. I don’t see Mercenary topping the genocidal incompetence of Killzone 3, but I’m all in regardless. Rounding out the console releases are Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix for the PS3 and NHL ’14 (360, PS3).

On the PC side, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs releases this week. Our own Matt Thrower reviewed it, so by all means, read his scintillating words. For eighty bucks you can get every Elder Scrolls game ever made in the The Elder Scrolls Anthology. If military sandboxes are your thing, ARMA 3 has got you covered. Cyanide drops Aarklash Legacy, and Robot Loves Kitty releases Legend of Dungeon. Looks like that last one is already out, so have at it.

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Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs Review


The first Amnesia title, The Dark Descent, was acclaimed by many as the scariest game ever made, an assessment with which I concur. Its success was down to getting simple things right: atmosphere, cunning set-pieces and depriving the player of the ability to fight back, making every monster encounter a wellspring of terror.

That immediately creates two problems for this sequel. First, the bar is already set incredibly high: to outdo the most horrifying game ever created. Second, to make it interesting and new without adding too much and spoiling the stripped down formula responsible for the original’s success.

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