Calendar Man – Week of 11/4

This week brings the release of Call of Duty: Ghosts, the last big release before Microsoft and Sony trot our their consoles and start massaging numbers to declare who “won” the holiday season. I like the above CoD commercial however for it to be realistic, one of them has to be a twelve year old racist, one has to be doing nothing but tea bagging a dead soldier, two of them have to aggressively sexually harass Megan Fox and none of them are work together.

If soldiering isn’t your thing, see if you can drop a few pounds before the busy Holiday Eating season with Zumba Fitness World Party. Or, and here’s an idea, you can stay seated and play The Guided Fate Paradox or Castlevania Lords of Shadow Collection. You know, whatever works. If bugs are more your thing, Daedilic’s Journey of a Roach unlocks on Monday. If bashing monsters is more your speed, Final Exam releases this week. I’d be more interested in reunions if I could bash in a zombie’s skull at one.

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Jumping the Shark Episode #194

No High Scores Podcast Logo

Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This week’s Jumping the Shark brings the exciting return of the musical interlude! But not in the way you think I mean. Also, I do a little night-walking in Neverwinter, as I reach back into my gaming library for a taste of Neverwinter Nights 2′s D&D 3.5 ruleset goodness. Find out what makes this still a game worth getting into despite some frustrating pieces that’ll never work quite right. Seriously, little NPC dudes, stop running headlong into traps! Brandon, meanwhile, has created a scourge of Echo soldiers in the recently released iOS game, Echo Prime. He comes away mightily impressed. Not so impressive was his journey into the streets of Gotham in Batman: Arkham Origins. Did no one at Splash Damage notice that they have Batman standing blithely around while a dude gets straight-up murdered and think to say, “Hey, this is kinda out of character?” Finally, we get to the real issue of the day, in which I explain to Brandon what made Pacific Rim a far better movie of metal monstrosities punching things than Transformers.

Enjoy!

Production Note: We’ve brought this up in the show a couple times, but just to make sure you’ll all fully aware, we’ve officially gone to the every other week model for JtS releases. Our apologies to those of you who liked getting your weekly dose, we love you all, but with just two to three of us available (and sometimes not even that) in any given week, there are too many “real life” commitments going on to keep it going weekly. Hopefully, however, you’ll find that the extra week gives us more to play and more to talk about, resulting in better shows!

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Musical interlude, “Gentle Autumn Breeze,” by Garret Dwyer.

Cracked LCD- Warmachine/Hordes High Command in Review

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There’s a lot to like about Privateer Press’ High Command card game, available in Warmachine and Hordes flavors (or Warmachine-Hordes swirl if you own both). The production design is outstanding, with great illustrations. As a lapsed Warmachine player, I’m happy  to see Privateer Press leveraging its fertile, proprietary settings to create games outside of their usual tabletop miniatures domain. And overall, it is a good card game with a couple of impressive ideas, despite some fairly routine gameplay processes. It’s billed as a deckbuilder and that may illicit some groans from the audience since that particular genre is quickly becoming as exploitative and cash-grabby as themed versions of Monopoly are, but it really isn’t anything like other games in its class. It’s more of a Battle Line-descended contested location card game with an interesting way of gradually increasing a player’s options over the course of a game by drafting cards into a play deck from a personal reserve. Continue Reading…

Brakketology Is Out of Its Element

Big Lebowski Reunion

This is from my buddy’s annual best of its breed Halloween party last weekend. Call it an unofficial and wholly fictional Big Lebowski reunion tour. On one hand, being asked to be Donny is both A) uninspiring – I mean how do you replicate Steve Buscemi’s look in that movie? Guy wears bowling shirts and Dockers. Done. And B) debilitating to one’s soul, because you know you’ll spend the entire evening being told, “Shut the fuck up, Donny.”

On the other hand, this collection is incomplete without Donny and these dear friends of mine did an unbelievable job replicating Jesus, Walter, and The Dude. Walter in particular is just an eerie likeness. Also, given A and B, there may be no one else in the world, and certainly not in my social circle, better-suited to manning the role. That may be a dubious distinction, but if you’ve got it, own it, right? Plus, as a collection this is completely awesome.

On to business. In this week’s Brakketology rock lives, Mythic’s free-to-play designers ruin beloved franchises, Enemy Within gets some hands-on time, there’s more Xbox One/PS4 comparing and contrasting, and Star Citizen is the game that refuses to take “no” for an answer.

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Calendar Man – Week of 10/28

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As October winds down, games continue to get out of the way of console launches and Call of Duty leaving not much more in the year than, well, console launches and Call of Duty. So far, I have found this holiday season to be pretty damn boring. GTA V continues to impress, but that game came out a month ago. Arkham Origins is exactly what you would expect , so take that for what it’s worth. I still have my PS4 preorder and I have a Swap Force Skylander already purchased for the PS4 version of that game, but one game does not an exciting console launch make. That’s not to say that the other launch games can’t be good, I’m just not interested in buying them at the moment. I guess it’s a statement to GTA V’s staying power that I’ve played it for a month straight, single player and online, and not only am I not finished with it, but I want to keep playing it.

Oh, right, new releases. Battlefield 4 is a shooter with dogs, but I think you’re punching them, not leading them into battle. I could give a rat’s ass about Battlefield so…yeah. If soldiering isn’t your thing, how about pirating? Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag releases this week in all of its swashbuckling glory. I’m sure I’ll play it. I’ve played all of them. Whether or not I enjoy it is another thing entirely. It can’t be worse than ACIII can it?

If pirates and soldiers aren’t your thing, how about wrestlers? WWE 2K14 has those, and lots of ‘em from the looks of it. Sonic Lost World 3DS has hedgehogs, because why wouldn’t it? Angry Birds Star Wars has angry Star Wars birds or maybe birds that are angry at Star Wars? I don’t know. Blood of the Werewolf has blood, werewolves and platforming. I guess I should know what this whole Slender Man thing is, but I don’t because I’m old. Slender: The Arrival is the game of the uh, whatever Slender Man is. Master Reboot is a first person sci-fi horror adventure shooter with memories and what have you. Deadly Premonition, a game I couldn’t play for more than twenty minutes before quitting out of boredom hits the PC as does Football Manager 2014. Finally, Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army 2 releases on Halloween because of course it does.

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Knock-Knock Review

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Knock-Knock is the latest game from Russian developer Ice Pick Lodge. That may mean nothing to you: it meant nothing to me when I first downloaded the game. Some of their previous titles did chime a little as names I’d heard now and again – Pathologic or The Void. However I soon came to understand that for those more familiar with this studio and its titles, the name presages a unique combination of inventive gameplay and jarring oddness.

Almost everything you need to know about Knock-Knock can be gleaned from one brief anecdote. About halfway through the game I spent one level wandering aimlessly around a darkened house, turning on lights and began to grow pretty bored. Then I opened a door, walked through and found myself in a dank corridor which I had to wander up and down through a series of more doors before discovering I was back at the start of the tedious level again. Infuriated, I wanted to stop. But I kept on playing.

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Cracked LCD- Why Waterdeep?

Lords of Waterdeep board in play

I was going to write up a review of Scoundrels of Skullport, the recent expansion for last year’s surprise hit Lords of Waterdeep, but at the risk of miffing the press handlers at Wizards of the Coast that sent me a review copy, I’m not going to do that. There are lots of reviews out there already.  The thing about it is, if you like Waterdeep, you probably already own this outstanding add-on. If you didn’t like Waterdeep, the addition of some new gameplay areas and new oh-so-tempting corruption mechanic that greases wheels and makes some quests easier to complete isn’t going to change your mind. For my part, I’ve found both elements of the expansion to be very welcome and I’d rather not play without them- especially since the game now supports a sixth player and still stays under two hours.

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Brakketology Thinks Horizontally

Grimrock 2 Skill Tree

This week’s Brakketology (admit it, like a sufferer of Stockholm Syndrome, you’re starting to like the name) checks in on the Grimrock 2 team and comes out forever changed. Sorta. Also Stardock teases, the Arkham games get a much-needed Steam update, 2k wants you to give them a fiver, Sega just won’t quit Aliens, and Sid Meier learns an important lesson about why the free-to-play model is teh suxorz.

Grimrock 2 Gets It. One of my big bug-a-boos in RPGs is the degree to which the entire genre has marginalized leveling up characters. There was a time, and this is going way back, when gaining a level in an RPG was exciting. More hit points! A new skill! Maybe even an attribute bump! These are all things you still get, of course, but somewhere along the way the excitement got lost. I attribute this to the fact that designers decided leveling was so awesome for gamers that they should be hearing the little ding every 23.589 seconds. A funny thing happens, though, when you make a special occurrence a routine one — it stops being exciting. I blame Diablo for starting the trend, but regardless, once you realize there’s little in the way of rewards that mean anything it becomes a long slow exercise in diminishing returns. Hey, look, another skill I’m not going to use! Alright! I now get a 23% bonus to fire damage instead of a 22%! Woo?

Enter the recent dev diary from the Legend of Grimrock 2 team:

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Jumping the Shark Podcast #193

We’re all in the house for this week’s JtS to talk about The Wolf Among Us. Does the first installment in TellTale’s latest choice-and-consequence adventure game measure up to expectations? Will it tickle you to hear Toad from Wind in the Willows curse a lot? How about Snow White working in (I think) the mayor’s office. And, hey, there’s always your protagonist, Bigby Wolf, doing his best Wolverine impersonation. It could work, right? Also this week, Brandon gets his Pokemon pants on and discovers they fit better than ever. And we talk some more Agents of Shield, Walking Dead, and a little Sons of Anarchy.

Enjoy!

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Calendar Man – Week of 10/21

Finley

This is our new dog Finley. He’s a nine week old Corgi mix. Mom is purebred Corgi, dad is a terrier of some sort. I wanted to name him Chuck Finley, the name of Bruce Campbell’s undercover persona on Burn Notice but the family wouldn’t go for it. Finley was a nice compromise as I can call him Chuck Finley and everyone else can call him Finn if they so desired. He is very tiny and very adorable and very scared of Ruby, his 68 lb sister who thinks that it is the best thing in the world that she has a playmate, even if said playmate is smaller than her admittedly huge, cinder block head.

On the gaming side, this week is superhero heavy which is just fine by me even if I won’t get to either of the week’s big new releases in some time. First up is LEGO: Marvel. I quite enjoyed LEGO Batman 2, but I”m not sure if I want to play another LEGO game at the moment. They all tend to blur into one another so it’s important that I keep them separated by a significant amount of time. On the other side of the superhero universe, Batman: Arkham Origins comes out on Friday. If Arkham Origins ends up being 75% of the game that Arkham Asylum or Arkham City is, I’ll be happy. Again, I can’t say I’ll play it immediately, but if it’s good, I’ll play it. I understand that they have to have continuity with the voices and all that, and Troy Baker does a really impressive Joker but I do wish they could have let him go in whatever direction he wanted. John DiMaggio’s take on the voice in Batman: Under the Red Hood was great precisely because it wasn’t a take I would have expected.

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