Jumping the Shark Podcast #225

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The gang isn’t messing around this week. We’ve got Holly’s delightful adventures in The Room and her distaste for Betrayer. Bradon’s straight up Gat Out of Hell, the latest entry in Saints Row. Todd’s hiding in a ball in a dimly lit corner of the Darkest Dungeon. Plus, the glorious return of Birthday Uke and a bigtime spoiler section at the very end for Dragon Age: Inquistion.

Thanks for listening! (You can contact Brandon at Brandon@NoHighScores.com/@misterbinky, Todd at Todd@NoHighScores.com/@ubrakto and Holly at @winnersusedrugs.)

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DungeonQuest Revised Edition Review

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DungeonQuest is one of my all-time favourite titles. A fantasy adventure game in which your hero isn’t heroic, but pathetically grateful to escape the nightmarish dungeon alive with a mere handful of gold coins. There’s nothing else like it, and it’s fast, funny and frantic for all that it lacks much in the way of strategy.

So I was thrilled when Fantasy Flight got the licence for a reprint, and sad when it looked like they’d botched it. The expansions to the original game were full of tiny niggles. Like new characters with mismatched power levels and a tedious catacomb under the main dungeon that was largely empty. They had the opportunity to create a definitive version of a classic, and in most respects, perhaps they did. It’s just that no-one cared because they replaced the simple, speedy combat with a deeper but slower system that felt out of place in such a fast, chaotic game.

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Cracked LCD- Fantastiqa in Review

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Alf Seegert’s Fantastiqa wasn’t a game that I had much interest in, and I actually didn’t even really know that much about it other than it was yet another Kickstarter title with a ton of irritating micro-expansions and it was pulling in twice its retail value in the aftermarket following its release in 2012. I knew it was a deckbuilder, but wasn’t particularly keen on bringing in a new game in that genre with Dominion suddenly getting some renewed interest with the people I play games with. Gryphon Games did a reprint late last year, but they did something unusual with it. They took out a couple of extravagances like the board and pared down the number of cards to create a “Rucksack” edition for general release. It turned up at one of the retailers I frequent and looking it over, two things struck me. One was that it used actual artwork- not unlike last year’s Battle for Souls- and it was fantasy alright but more along the lines of Lewis and Carroll than Tolkien and Howard. It was fairly inexpensive and it was the holidays, so I took a chance.

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Claustrophobia & expansions Review

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Back in the days before Space Hulk was common as muck, gamers spent a lot of time and energy discussing possible replacements. Claustrophobia was a game that got mentioned a lot in those conversations, and I never understood why. Not because it was a bad title, but because it shares almost nothing with Space Hulk other than asymmetry, a collection of finely sculpted figures and some six-sided dice.

Instead of a pre-set grid, Claustrophobia has a randomly drawn series of dungeon tiles on which the precise positioning of your forces is meaningless. It’s virtually all melee, with ranged combat restricted to the occasional “blunderbuss” card that has a range of precisely one tile. Cards feature heavily in Claustrophobia and not at all in Space Hulk. I could go on.

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Cracked LCD- Eldritch Horror in (very late) Review

 

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When Fantasy Flight Games announced Eldritch Horror, a new game in its Arkham Horror line that appeared to be a simpler version of what had become a bloated shoggoth of a game after nearly a decade’s worth of expansions (including an expansion for all of the expansions), I was one of those people that scoffed at it. Who needs or wants a redevelopment of a redevelopment? Aside from that, at that point I was pretty much over anything to do with HP Lovecraft and the whole Cthulhu Mythos. I’ve been reading that stuff and playing games either based on or inspired by all of it for practically my entire life. In fact, one of the earliest stories I remember from Kindergarten was a book-on-record adaptation of “The Outsider”. Lovecraft fatigue aside, I’ve been burned out on FFG’s house style of flavor text-as-theme and endless piles of cards with overwrought illustrations on them for a couple of years now. If ever there were a game that I didn’t feel had a place in my collection, it was Eldritch Horror. Continue Reading…

Why Dragon Age: Inquisition Fails

Dragon Age Inquisition Dragon Fight

Dragon Age: Inquisition is not a game that feels like a failure. It’s got a world’s worth of stunning environments to explore. Its characters are universally layered with compelling and cliché-defying personal story arcs. The combat can get tedious, sure, but it’s a soundly designed system with some bonkers dragon fights. And certainly it has sold. Yet the game still fails and it does so for the very same reason Mass Effect 3 failed — it doesn’t stick the landing.

Lest I give the impression that I’m picking nits over nonsensical cut scenes and weird star children, my problem with Mass 3′s ending was largely quite different from everybody else’s. I’m not talking about denouement. I’m talking about climax and how it relates to the rest of the game. Star child was incomprehensible, sure, but he’s not what made Mass 3′s climax bad. Likewise, the lackluster final confrontation with Corypheus isn’t what tanks Inquisition either.

The key to a memorable and satisfying ending isn’t the implication of what happens after the camera fades to black or even whatever tedious boss battle kicks it into gear. It’s the question of whether or not it fulfills the promise set up by the rest of the game. Like Mass Effect 3, Inquisition is a game that beats you over the head, telling you over and over that it’s about team and coalition building. You face a threat that requires uniting disparate factions and disparate people to face a common foe. You dare not face it alone or you’ll be too weak. So you spend a good 100+ hours working your way through the world and sending lackeys on assignments in the name of building a better, stronger Inquisition.

Cool. Cool cool. Shouldn’t it follow, however, that when you reach the final stage of events that the strength of your Inquisition should, oh I don’t know, matter? At least a little?

Let’s dive deeper (minor spoilers ahead)…

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Jumping the Shark Podcast #224

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This week Holly brings us through her 100+ hour Far Cry 4 journey, Todd and Brandon continue to dissect Dragon Age: Inquisition, including why Todd thinks it ultimately failed. Brandon talks cheating in Gems of War of all places. Plus, football, football, football! And somebody, we don’t want to say who, has a girl scout cookie mishap.

Thanks for listening! (You can contact Brandon at Brandon@NoHighScores.com/@misterbinky, Todd at Todd@NoHighScores.com/@ubrakto and Holly at @winnersusedrugs.)

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This War of Mine Review

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They say that civilization is only three meals away from barbarism, but I managed six. After two days without food, I stabbed an elderly priest in a fight over carrot and then fled in terror from his avenging friends. As if I didn’t feel bad enough after that, This War of Mine informed me that the carrot did nothing to assuage my gnawing hunger.

It’s very much that kind of game, where you’re damned whatever you do. It loses no opportunity to ram home the bleakness of its setting, the trials of three civilians trying to survive in a war-torn city. Sometimes, its solemnity tips over the edge into parody. But mostly it traps you in a vice between compelling gameplay and the tragic consequences of your decisions.

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Cracked LCD- Return to Heroscape

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I’ve had an unusual relationship with Heroscape, the Hasbro-produced miniatures battle game with modular, plastic terrain that landed on mass-market shelves way back in 2003. I remember distinctly driving around to Target stores across Atlanta that summer once word was out online that it was available. I never, ever under any circumstance shop at Wal-Mart but I had a moment of weakness after coming up empty at so many stories, and of course that was where I found the last copy in town. I opened it in the car and was kind of blown away by what all you got for $40- remember, this was before pre-painted miniatures were a thing and at this time, $50 at a hobby shop would get you a nice big game, but one that was all cardboard and maybe some wood. Flipping through the rules, I was surprised at how the advanced rules had some tried-and-true hobby gaming concepts- line of sight, special abilities, zones of control and elevation.

 

I played it with a couple of friends, whose opinions ranged from “I’m buying five sets of this tomorrow” to “meh, would rather play 40k”. For my part, I thought the game was revolutionary- a thoroughly accessible miniatures game that deftly absolved the genre of its traditional barriers to entry (modeling/painting, terrain, complexity, financial commitment) while offering a truly innovative, almost proto-Minecraft system for custom playfield construction. It felt like the kind of game that makes kids game players, the kind of game that had that X factor, the kind of game that had the potential to be another Dungeons & Dragons or Magic the Gathering. I wrote a review of the game and posted it to Boardgamegeek.com, and it landed me my first job at a magazine. Continue Reading…

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition: Dungeon Master’s Guide and Monster Manual Review

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I’ve always been amused by the way player and dungeon master materials swapped size between the 1st and 2nd editions of D&D. With first edition, it seemed obvious the DMG should be bigger than the PHB. With second, it seemed equally obvious that the opposite should be true since everyone ought to know most of the rules.

That pattern has persisted with 5th edition. The new Dungeon Master’s Guide is a chunky enough tome to make it appear worthy of the asking price, but slimmer than the Player’s Handbook. What have they put inside?

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