Jumping the Shark Podcast #149

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I am a terrible person, this cannot be denied. And it’s because I’m terrible that I flat out forgot to post yesterday about our 149th episode. I blame Windows 8 and the fact that what free time I had was devoted to installing it (along with the prep work that required). I’m hoping, in the days ahead, to write up some thoughts about Microsoft’s latest, but in the meantime you’ll have the full gang back together for JTS149, which features Bill’s thoughts on Dishonored, Brandon’s dive into The Walking Dead Episode #4, and my “final” thoughts on XCOM. (I’m sure it’ll come up again.) Bill also gives us an update into his activities with Conquistador Games, so boardgame fans shouldn’t miss that. Tomorrow, the project they have in the hopper, sounds promising!

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Telling Tales on Telltale

Walking Dead from Telltale iTunes Page

A couple of weeks ago, after all the great reviews here on No High Scores and a heartfelt recommendation from Lucy James, I bit the bullet and bought Telltale Games’ Walking Dead: Episode 1 for my original iPad. I figured it might put a bit of a strain on the hardware so before buying I looked at the iTunes page, which you can see reproduced above. It said nothing about iPad 1 compatibility issues in the bottom left where the requirements are, or the description, so I went ahead and bought it.

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Calendar Man – Week of 10/29

This week, games continue to get out of the way of the Halo 4/ Black Ops 2 juggernaut and game lovers everywhere are all the better for it. Assassins Creed gives its take on colonial America, Professor Layton gets his first 3D adventure, Criterion takes Need for Speed for a test drive and men in tights take to the ring yet again in WWE ’13.

Games, games, games!

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Borderlands 2: Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate Booty in Review

I don’t know at what size or at what point what we traditionally call “DLC” gets magically transformed into an expansion pack, but make no mistake, Borderlands 2′s first piece of story related content, Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate Booty is a full fledged expansion pack, giving players thirsty for more Pandoran mayhem a healthy portion of new areas to explore, guns to find and enemies to kill.

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Worlds of Borecraft

World of Warcraft - a dull blade

Like most teenage video game addicts in the late 80’s, I fantasized about being able to play my favourite games online along with my friends and any number of random strangers. In those days doing such a thing on an average home computer was absurdly beyond the reach of technology. It wasn’t long before commercial multi-user games appeared though, such as Shades, a game I longed to try but sadly I was unable to convince my parents to invest in a modem for that sole purpose.

I eventually realised the dream while I was at university, where I started playing an obscure multi-user game called Nanvaent. It still exists, basking in the same text-based glory that it had back in 1996. I played Nanvaent and played it hard over the next seven years, eventually becoming a “creator” or coder. Indeed I suspect it was instrumental in my failing to complete my doctorate, and equally instrumental in ensuring I was able to salvage a career as a programmer from the ashes of my academic dreams. And once I’d made that switch, I never touched the game again.

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Cracked LCD- Barnes’ Best, 2000-2009

At last, Barnes’ Best comes to the most recent decade for a survey of the games that are my favorites from the era. Not necessarily the most popular or most innovative- Barnes’ Best is about selecting my personal picks and for 2000-2009, I found myself somewhat surprised by how easy it was to slate my ten picks. I had thought that I would need to do a top 20 or possibly split the decade into two five year periods, but in the end it wasn’t necessary. The cream rose to the top, leaving behind worthy runners-up.

Reflecting on the decade in games that was 2000-2009, it was truly an amazing time for the hobby. The foundations laid in the 1990s on the internet blossomed into full fruition, and the result was that once obscure games that had fallen out of print were in demand, gamers who thought they were living in isolation found people to play with, and production values reached all-time highs. Thinking back on games like Twilight Imperium 3rd edition and Heroscape, these were the games of our dreams, games that weren’t possible in the earlier eras of the hobby. Lots of bona fide classics came out of this period, and many new gamers were effecitively raised in the strongest, broadest, and most diverse era the gaming hobby has ever experienced.  2000-2009 is arguably gaming’s greatest generation. Continue Reading…

Dishonored Review: The Modern Day Thief Shuffle

Dishonored is a pretty good game. It’s likely not something that will have a lasting impact because much of this we already experienced years ago in the Thief series and to a lesser extent in the Assassins Creed games.  Sure, this time around you have better technology driving the game compared to Thief and there are those neat-o superpowers you have access to such as teleporting, animal and human possession, and the “go to” power of seeing bad guys through walls.

The bigger story in my view is that Bethesda has finally published an externally developed game that doesn’t suck.  The list of mediocre to downright bad games that Bethesda has pushed on the public that isn’t an Elder Scrolls/Fallout game is long and varied. And this stuff matters. Track records matter. Decisions matter.

New Vegas defined the term “buggy release”, Brink is love it or hate it, Rage was supposed to be this huge Bethesda/id success story and other (decent) games like Hunted: The Demon’s Forge sort of vanish upon release. Seriously Bethesda’s’ track record  here is spotty at best. Dishonored changes all of that and while I don’t think it’s nearly as good as its buzz would indicate, it’s clearly Bethesda’s best outside the studio project in a long, long time and the company deserves some credit for it. I hoped this distinction to go to Prey 2 but…well…yeah.

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XCOM: Enemy Unknown in Review

I finished XCOM: Enemy Unknown Tuesday night, so that means it’s time for a proper review. (I officially give up on the hyphen. From now on we’ll just pretend it’s there.) Before I get into that, however, a few words about the two recently announced pieces of DLC: Slingshot and Elite Soldier Pack. This is the 2k I know and loath. First, the Elite Soldier Pack is basically armor colors and a few more heads (three helmeted ones and a new hairdo). It’s content (particularly the armor tinting) that should have been part of the main game by default. Asking people to pay $5 for this is shameful. It’s the same nickel and dime for the least amount possible that we got from a lot of the Civ 5 DLC. The Slingshot DLC adds a new playable “hero” to the squad and some scripted missions. It’s not fair to judge sight unseen, but I am not enamored with the idea. I think it fundamentally misunderstands what makes this game good. It’s arguable that the weakest parts of XCOM are the parts where it’s scripted, which is thankfully uncommon, so trying to make people excited about three new council missions that have their own story arc isn’t the world’s greatest sell. Hopefully I’ll be proven wrong about that.

On with the review…

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How About a Crusader Kings II Contest?

Why yes, that sounds lovely.

Crusader Kings II is a wonderful game. I played the hell out of it when it was released — a month of non stop Crusader Kinging. With the release of the 2nd expansion, Legacy of Rome, I need to get back in the swing as I love that period of history. This isn’t Glory Days Rome but rather the Eastern Empire — Leo, Justinian and the boys.

In celebration of said expansion we are giving away five (5) Steam codes for Crusader Kings II. This is just the base game and not the add on. So if you skipped it last time around, now’s your chance to score a freebie.

To enter the contest reply to this post and tell us why you should win a free copy. Seriously. Why should I give YOU a free CK2 code? It’s that simple.

Winners will be chosen at random. Or maybe not.

Good luck!

Confessions of an XCOM Cheater

The new XCOM, if you haven’t played it yet, is a stone masterpiece. It’s exactly the right way to modernize and smarten up (as opposed to dumbing down) a classic but aging brand. I haven’t played an X-Com game in years, but it’s definitely not a nostalgia trip even though it feels familiar and flips all of the right “hey, remember this?” switches. It’s hardly an example of the over-romanticized sort of retro-gaming that has become popular over the past several years- it is very much a 2012 title, an example of evolutionary progress and a possible future for classic, turn-based strategy games.

But I’m not here to review the game, I haven’t played it enough to make it official like that. I’m here to confess that I, Michael Barnes, am a dirty XCOM cheater and today I am bearing the burden of guilt for reloading saves in mid-mission. And I didn’t do it just once. I feel awful. Continue Reading…