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…

Walking Dead: Around Every Corner in Review

Part of the reason I find myself drawn to watching television series on basic cable channels, as opposed to the big networks, has to do with the decision to make shorter, more densely packed seasons. Sure, the level of quality comes into play, but as much as I love Justified (and I deeply, deeply love Justified), I’d much rather watch thirteen excellent episodes of Justified in a season than thirteen excellent ones, five good ones, three passable ones and two that flat out suck.

The point I’m trying to make here, is that sometimes, less is more, something I thought about frequently while playing Episode Four of Telltale’s Walking Dead. It’s the weakest episode of the series, by a long shot, mostly due to a narrative that provides a whole lot of set-up with very little payoff.

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Jumping the Shark Podcast #148

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

With Bill spending a few days getting back to nature, it’s the Brandon and Todd show once more and we spend it talking about the things of largest concern to gamers everywhere: The Tigers in the World Series and my nightmares of demonic possession. There’s some game talk thrown in for good flavor, I guess. Brandon goes back to Borderlands 2 and it’s initial go-round of DLC: Captain Scarlett’s Pirate Booty. I get in deeper with XCOM, including an ill-fated experiment with the game’s Classic difficulty. We also talk a bit about game modding and DLC in general. (I was wrong, by the way, that the modding scene hasn’t broken out yet for XCOM. There’s already some interesting options out in the field. You can find and read all about them at XCOM Nexus.)

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Calendar Man – Week of 10/22

Holiday Season 2012 continues in full swing this week as EA drops Medal of Honor: Warfighter, Forza: Horizon lets 360 fans get their race on, Skylander Giants works to deprive children and parents of even more of their money and The Unfinished Swan finally hits PSN. It’s a big week, yet there’s nothing I’ll be getting. Such is life on a budget!

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Bioshock: Infinite Board Game!

 

Well hot damn. I didn’t expect this. Plaid Hat Games, the guys that do Summoner Wars and the upcoming Mice & Mystics, announced today that they’re doing a Bioshock: Infinite board game. CRAZY. As if I weren’t already excited about the video game.

I’ve been a big supporter of Colby Dauch and Plaid Hat Games from day one, I’m very excited to see them snag a big license like this and I’m very interested to see how this turns out.  Sounds like it’s going to be  a conflict game, not a character-driven on. That’s likely a smart move, and it could stand to expand the world of the game in an interesting way. Here’s an edited version of what Colby had to say about it:

Plaid Hat Games is making a board game based on the upcoming video game Bioshock Infinite.  The board game is going to be called Bioshock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia.  The game is going to come packed with 52 miniatures, featuring 11 different unique sculpts.  One such sculpt has already been previewed in an article from Irrational Games, as they will be packing one in every collector’s edition of the video game. 

Speaking of cool, this board game is going to be totally rad.  It was designed by Isaac Vega. We’ll tell you more about it in the upcoming months.  We don’t have a release date yet but we are shooting for around the same time as the video game. Continue Reading…

Descent 2nd Edition Conversion Kit Review

Descent 2nd Edition Conversion Kit Box

The original Descent, Fantasy Flight Games’ behemoth tactical dungeon crawler, divided opinion like a sword divides a mewling goblin. Some people loved its combination of old school role playing with board game strategy, others loathed its over-bloated expansion range, confusing rules and gargantuan play time. So when a vastly streamlined second edition came out earlier this year most gamers were delighted. Except for first edition owners who suddenly had their valuable games rendered worthless and were understandably annoyed. To soothe their fevered brows, there is now a conversion kit so they can get some use out of their old investments.

There seems to be wide confusion over what this expansion actually does. It is categorically not the sort of conversion kit that will allow you to use your first edition Descent game to play the second edition rules. The differences between the two editions are too comprehensive for that. No, to use this you need a copy of second edition, and the purpose of this kit is to simply to allow the use of heroes and monsters from the old edition in the new one. No other components, no scenarios or tokens or board sections, just heroes and monsters. And that means it should be of interest to anyone who owns a copy of the second edition, regardless of whether they have older material lying around.

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