Fanta$y Flight announces "The Horned Rat" expansion for Chaos in the Old World

Oh, Fantasy Flight Games, will ya ever stop? I mean, at this point you’re releasing not only expansions for expansions (Miskatonic Horror) but you’re also putting out second editions of expansions (the newly announced 2nd edition of the “Curse of the Dark Pharaoh add-on for Arkham Horror). You’re even putting out games with material obviously cut out of them so that it can be put into expansions. It’s like DLC for the tabletop, except that you’re dinging your customers for anywhere from $20-$60 a pop!

Smartassery aside, this is a good news post because FFG has finally announced an expansion for Gameshark’s 2009 board game of the year, Chaos in the Old World. According to the newly launched “The Horned Rat” Web site, the expansion is bringing a fifth player into the game via the Skaven. I’m down with that. There are also some other additions including all-new cards and Chaos powers and a set of “expert level” Old World cards. It sounds pretty good, as long as they’re not trying to scam $39.95 out of what is about $20 worth of components. Come on guys, we’ve got to have enough change left over to buy those size 1 and 3 Fantasy Flight Supply card sleeves that you advertise right next to the list of components!

Definitely a must-consider for CitOW and Warhammer fans. It’ll be interesting to see if either having a fifth player fixes the “Nurgle wins by default” problem or if the new cards rebalance the game.

Rock of Ages Website a Go

The last I heard of this game Danielle was gushing after seeing it at E3. Well, now Atlus has a fully featured website ready to go so you should give it a look because Danielle promised that this would be the best game ever.* You can visit the new website here:

The game is set for a Spring 2011 release on XBLA, PSN, and PC.

Here’s some PR info on what the game is all about:

A rock-solid combination of deep strategy, rock-rolling action, captivating art and music from throughout history! Two castles stand opposed, bridged by an uneven, narrow pathway. One is yours, and you’re quite fond of it. The other is your enemy’s; they’re a jerk**, and their crappy** crenelations are driving down your property values.

Also, their castle sucks**, justification enough to try crush it using an enormous rolling stone. Unfortunately, they’ll have a chance to plan and build up some security, doing everything they can to derail your rock. Get through their defenses and you’re one step closer to crushing their unsightly tower (see also: their hopes and dreams). Once your turn is over, your opponent’s begins…

*She didn’t really say that but she did like it a lot at the show.

**Normally this is good strikethrough material but you have to give credit for creative press releases with excellent use of the words jerk, crappy, and sucks. Good on you, Atlus pr writer.

Nintendogs, Augmented Reality and You

Kotaku has a pretty cool video up showing you how the augmented reality cards that ship with the 3DS work with Nitendogs+cats. It’s nothing earth shattering, basically you can make your virtual pup appear on real life objects wearing a fine selection of Nintendo themed headwear. Nothing earth shattering that is, unless you mean earth shatteringly adorable. Seriously, those puppies are damn cute. Sadly, this is one of the features of the system and the game I’m looking forward to most. I can’t wait to get a picture of my two real dogs sitting next to my fake dog through the magic of augmented reality trickery. Even better, my fake dog can look like Kirby is pooping on his head. I was nicely surprised to see that the system’s pedometer will allow me to take my fake dog on a walk as I go about my daily travels although I’m a little wary of that feature given the short battery life of the system. Between the 3DS and the PokeWalker, my every step will be cataloged by Nintendo. Twice even!

The Sims Get Medieval; Available Now

My daughter flipped out when EA sent a copy of this today. We’re about to head out for school and UPS man drops off a package with The Sims Medieval inside and the entire car ride was a discussion on which type of sim she was going to make and what “monarch” meant. If she’s this pumped I know you guys are, too. Right?

Actually, this sounds really interesting with a lot of new twists on the basic Sims gameplay.

PR ahead…

Electronic Arts Inc. announced today that The Sims Medieval is on store shelves worldwide. The brand new standalone game for the PC/Mac gives players the tools to create heroes, take them on quests, build up their kingdom and tell epic stories. full of drama, romance, and comedy.

“Our community has wanted to be able to place their Sims in a different time period for years and now they can with The Sims Medieval,” said Scott Evans, General Manager of The Sims Studio. “The Sims Medieval is a new standalone game that keeps the core values of The Sims at its heart, but gives fans new gameplay elements to explore and allows them to tell Medieval tales.”

Set in the Middle Ages, players will find themselves faced with new ways to play with life like never before. As they build up their kingdom, players create Hero Sims in a range of professions including knight, bard, wizard, priest, blacksmith and spy. Playing each Hero Sim is different, as players control the Sim’s professional life as well as take on the varied adventures of the quests. Other new gameplay elements include diplomacy with neighboring territories, and of course medieval punishments.

The gameplay is framed by quests– each quest presents a new situation and a fresh opportunity to pick which Hero Sims to control during that adventure. After choosing a quest, players will pick their approach for solving it and choose which Hero Sim will lead the quest. For example, in the quest The Witch is Back, players could choose to have their monarch marry the witch who is visiting the kingdom. If they want to kill the witch, they would choose the wizard, spy or knight. And if they just want to debilitate the witch, they would choose to play a priest, physician, or wizard. With dozens of quests and with multiple approaches for completing them, players will find new ways to tell their favorite medieval legends and make them their own.

Everything in The Sims Medieval is crafted to create an immersive medieval world, from the quest-based gameplay, to the medieval objects such as swords and stocks and thrones, right down to the warm look of the characters and the painterly approach to the world itself. Players can choose to customize every new Hero Sim that comes to the kingdom, including selecting their traits and their fatal flaw. Players get close to their characters, not only sending them on epic quests, but also making sure they carry out their daily responsibilities such as healing the sick, trading for exotic goods, or forging armor.

The Sims Medieval is rated T for Teen by the ESRB. To download artwork, please visit For more information about The Sims Medieval please visit, or the official website at

PureSim Baseball 4 Available Now

Time to show just how sports game geeky I truly am. Text based sports games, in my view, provide more depth and entertainment value than most “hands on” games simply because I enjoy long term franchise gameplay over pressing a button to swing a bat or throw a bomb or take a jumper. There’s simply more strategy involved in playing a really good text based game. Not that I dislike today’s arcade games, I do, but this is right in my wheelhouse. I am a big Out of the Park Baseball player and run a league that has been rolling along for five seasons now — PureSim is OOTP’s direct competition and Wolverine Studious released version 4 today and I can’t wait to take it for a spin.

PR ahead…

Wolverine Studios, a leader in (publisher of) sports simulation PC gaming, is proud to announce the release of PureSim Baseball 4. Developer Shaun Sullivan has taken his critically acclaimed baseball game to new heights this season with (added) over 230 new features and tweaks making PureSim Baseball 4 the most realistic and accurate simulation of both historical and present day baseball on the market today. (better than PureSim 3).

PureSim 4 allows players to replay any season in history right up to and including playing out the 2011 season. No other baseball game can match the statistical accuracy or amazing historical features such as (has) “Tru-Life Transactions Mode” which allows you to play seasons from 1920-2010 with transactions happening exactly as they occurred in that season! (.) And best of all you don’t need to purchase a single season disk – every season is included with the full version of the game and an extensive online and desktop manual makes learning the game a breeze for anyone new to the franchise. (easier than PureSim 3).

PureSim Baseball 4 can be purchased exclusively from for only $29.95 and a full feature list detailing all of the new features and tweaks is available at the official PureSim Baseball 4 webite at

for danielle

The Future of the 3DS Does Not Require 3D

No High Scores

When you open up your shiny, new 3DS on Sunday you’ll have a bunch of cool features to play with however what you won’t have is a web browser or an online store. Both have been pushed back to May and will be available via a downloadable firmware update. Wired’s Chris Kohler spoke to 3DS producer Hideki Konno at GDC to get a feel for what may be in store for the 3DS and the ideas are interesting. While I can understand why they wouldn’t want to force developers to use 3D due to some folks not being able to see objects in 3D, it seems odd that one of the biggest selling points of the system is optional. As for the lack of a web browser or a software store, I’m personally not all that upset. Yes the ability to pause the game and switch to the browser will increase the utility but traditionally the browsers on Nintendo products have been pretty terrible. Plus, I use my DSi outside of the home a lot and without a WiFi spot, anything requiring an internet connection, be it a browser or a software store or a text chat client is pretty useless. Course that’s just me. You may live in a wonderland of free WiFi, otherwise known as the McDonalds play-land.

Ghost Recon Shadow Wars Gameplay Video

Did you know that Julian Gollop of X-Com fame designed Ghost Recon Shadow Wars? Well he did. With the 3DS launch imminent, the marketing push for the launch games is in full swing as evidenced by this Ghost Recon Shadow Wars trailer. In this video, Julian shows you how you can kill drones and commandos with various guns, missiles and super powers. I can’t say that it shows much you haven’t seen in other turn based strategy games, but with Gollop’s name on it, I have high hopes.

Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One Story Trailer

Ratchet and Clank is one of my favorite game series and my all time favorite platforming series, hands down. The next entry is heavy on the co-op, which would normally be a good thing for me, but the majority of my gaming friends have 360′s, not PS3′s, so I’m not sure how much use I’d get out of this game. Still, as the trailer shows, it still has some of the trademark R&C humor which is always worth the price of admission. I just wish they hadn’t ditched the crude, locker room subtext they always add to their titles. All 4 One? That’s positively sanitary!

Dragon Age II in Review, Part I

During the first few hours of Bioware’s controversial and divisive Dragon Age II, it is extremely easy to slip into a way of thinking about it that could blind you from the things that emerge from it that make it great. The central city of Kirkwall is strangely uninhabited despite a refugee crisis. Combat is almost too fast and feels terribly button-mashy at first. The much-loved origin stories from the first game are gone, and the player is locked into playing a specific character. Minor features are stripped away, and the fact that the game had a much shorter development period is all too obvious in a number of places, like those oft-mentioned repeating dungeons. When it comes down to it, it really should not have been called “Dragon Age II” at all, because it is not a continuation of the story of the Warden, although its narrative begins during the first game’s Blight and there are clear connections to that story. Casting it as a sequel created certain expectations that were not met, particularly since what Bioware has delivered is in some ways a very radical, unexpected kind of sequel. I came close to confusing “unexpected” with “disappointed” myself.

I found myself losing faith in the game after a honeymoon period. My issue was that it felt like I wasn’t really doing anything to move the story along, which I began to view as weak and entropic. My version of Garrett Hawke had fled to Kirkwall with his family to escape the Blight and wound up working for crooks to get into the overburdened city. It was an interesting and compelling setup, but ten hours into the game I was completing quests, meeting people, and exploring without a clear adversary or overarching “save the world” goal. I felt sort of lost, as if I didn’t really have a purpose. But then, I realized how completely different that felt from other roleplaying games.

Even in Mass Effect 2, the shadow of the Omega Relay hangs over the entire game. You know that the Reapers are the Big Bad. Lines are drawn. In Dragon Age II, there is no sign- even thirty hours into the game- that there even will be a Big Bad. The story reflects this, because as it progresses the narrative actually evolves around you. Choices made earlier in the game are like story seeds that bear fruit later on. Political struggle, ideological conflict, and personal vendettas are woven together to form a much richer, much more sophisticated story-web than anything I think I’ve ever seen attempted in a video roleplaying game. The game’s stories feel organic, emerging and unfolding rather than being told or directed. It is also a story that takes place over years of time, meaning that although it is not a continent-spanning epic of distance and scope, it is an epic of a specific place and of a specific era.

It’s not a save the world game. At least not yet, and I don’t think it will be. Events seem to be building to a head, and I sense that difficult decisions about where Hawke will cast his loyalty are to come.

Despite the smaller scope- it really is just about Kirkwall and its immediate environs- it is still also a story of specific characters, all with ambiguities, complexities, and intricate relationships both with Hawke and the various factions and events in the city. The writing is much sharper, tighter, and more is said with much less than in the first game. Although there’s no character as monumental as Shale, I’ve found that the companions as well as many of the NPCs (the Qunari Arishok in particular) have me completely riveted and interested in seeing how their stories intertwine with the other threads in the game. And man, am I glad that the silly gifting mechanic has been thrown out in favor of a better-integrated system of currying favor with your party members.

One little bit of character writing in particular really sort of blew me away, although it was very subtle. Aveline, among the earliest party members that joins up with Hawke, eventually rises to a position of power in Kirkwall. Through choices and dialogues I cultivated a long-term platonic friendship with her. She was kind of my right-hand woman, but I never had any romantic designs on her because Merrill, the klutzy elf girl caught my Garrett’s eye instead. I stopped in to visit Aveline, and she more or less asked me to help her get close to a City Guardsman she fancied. I actually felt the same “what about me” pang of jealousy that I probably would have felt in real life.

What followed was a quest wherein her inability to confess her love for this guy drew me in as a pawn and eventually I just laid it out to him, inadvertently embarrassing her. She was angry, he appeared to be professionally aggrieved, and I actually felt bad for trying to force the issue. It all ended well though, but later on she chastised me for selling her shield earlier in the game. Um, sorry about that!

That I’m writing so much about a minor romantic subplot in the game indicates how much the story and characters are the focus- not fiddly, nerd-pleasing mechanics and numbers tweaking. Call it “dumbing down” and blame the console gamers if you want, but the fact is that this is a game that is much closer to actual role playing than even the vaunted Baldur’s Gate games were. That being said, the mechanics present are essentially the same as in the first game, but with some much-needed polish and a lot of fat cut away. The result is that combat is fast, almost (but not quite) action-oriented, and skill trees are simpler and more direct in their content and effect. Tactical pausing and adjusting situational character tactics individually is still critical to winning key battles and although friendly fire is gone on the lower difficulty levels, I can’t say that I’ve missed it. I’ve found the combat more exciting and engaging, and the faster pace and slicker interface has not resulted in a loss of strategic depth.

Effectively, Bioware is asking a lot of tough questions about the RPG genre in this game, particularly in regard to what defines it and what it needs to cut loose in order to evolve into something more story-driven and less focused on dated, gamey mechanics. Most of the time, I think they’ve succeeded and looking at the game objectively I’ve not been disappointed or offended by anything that they’ve stripped away. If anything, I’ve enjoyed the game more than the first because it feels fresher, newer, and progressive instead of wallowing in the late 1990s glory days of Western CRPGs. It might bother some that every item doesn’t have a florid, purple prose name and I know many will be upset that companions have limited and character-specific upgrades to their armor. But in the latter’s case, it’s almost exactly the same limitation that any number of JRPGs have featured, including celebrated titles like Chrono Trigger and the Final Fantasy games.

Where the company’s daring proposition gets a little dicier is in the parts of the game where a shortened development schedule has apparently foreclosed on content and variety. Yes, some of the minor dungeons and even a couple of the major ones are exactly the same. What they’ve done is to reuse maps, sometimes sealing off areas that may be open in another map. The scenery, textures, and environments are exactly the same. At first, this is grating and it’s too obvious and it definitely feels like a lazy shortcut. But I found myself asking if it really mattered if I could turn left instead of right or if the walls looked different, or if I would rather that the game be fifteen hours long and not feature such a rich, textured narrative in favor of dungeon variety.

It’s a tough call, but I will say that being thirty hours in I haven’t really cared all that much when the dungeons have repeated. It is jarring because it’s too apparent that you’re in a familiar location. But the outcomes and events that transpire are so much more significant and interesting than worrying about a design element that is almost certainly borne out of logistical and economical shortage. They’re really no worse than any of the dungeons in an Elder Scrolls game once you look past the repetition.

This is what Dragon Age II is really up against- folks that are looking strictly at the surface mechanics or presentation and not digging into the things that really matter. Those who are playing the demo or even the first ten or fifteen hours and passing off their zero-score Metacritic user reviews will never even get to see the places where Bioware has done the most work in terms of pushing the CRPG envelope. For a lot of people, it obviously hasn’t worked but for those who understand that experimentation, streamlining, and evolution often precipitates mixed results, I think there is an amazing game here to discover, one that is better than the first game on almost all counts as long as you don’t expect it to carry forward its design principles and foci, which were already largely dated and antiquarian in 2009.

The next time I report in, I’ll be finished with the game and I’ll share some final thoughts as a post-mortem on it. At halftime, I’d list it among the best console RPGs I’ve ever played. Without reservation.