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The Good and Bad of Borderlands 2

For a game that was one of my most anticipated of the year, I haven’t played Borderlands 2 for nearly as much as I would have liked. Alas, just as I got started getting into it, something else for review dropped into my lap and I had to devote some time to it. Such is the way of a game reviewer, you go where the money takes you. Wait, we’re not getting paid for this?

Get my agent on the phone!

I have put in enough time with the game to talk about some of the stuff that I like, and some of the stuff that I don’t, though and I’m happy to share it, thereby gaining me a small respite from Bill’s incessant cries for a piece about my Borderlands 2 impressions. A real taskmaster, that Abner.


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Dungeon Command Sting of Lolth and Heart of Cormyr

Dungeon Command Review

I’ve made no secret of my basically limitless adoration for the new range of Dungeons & Dragons board games from Wizards of the Coast. It’s great that there’s another big beast on the publishing block, better that they’re putting out superbly designed and innovative games. So I was obviously keen to take their newest offering, the modular tactical miniatures game Dungeon Command for a spin.

Each box of Dungeon Command comes with a set of pre-painted miniatures, some double-sided jigsaw board pieces and two decks of cards, one that has the stats for the creatures in the set and another with orders to make them do neat stuff. You need access to at least two boxes to play a proper game, and if you have more then you can have three or four player set-ups. Everything in each box is interchangeable so the potentially bottomless nature of recombining these things should be obvious. And online retailers are offering sets at prices that make owning several of them entirely feasible.


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Cracked LCD- Lyssan in Review


Sam Brown’s Lyssan is yet another board game fresh off the Kickstarter bandwagon. Like most of its crowdfunded peers- at least the ones I’ve played- it’s another compelling design that stops short of greatness. Like Empires of the Void, it feels like it’s a couple of development rounds short of being potentially a great game. It lacks that final coat of polish that you really need a professional publisher and pro-level post-design development for, but with that said it’s definitely a very good and really quite original title that offers some novel concepts and some terrifically nasty gameplay. (more…)

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bioware doctors retiring the doctors

Farewell to the Doctors

Yesterday it was announced that BioWare co-founders and the bane of gaming journalist spell checkers everywhere, Doctors Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk were retiring and not just retiring from BioWare but retiring from gaming altogether.

To be honest, this comes as no surprise to me, although I am saddened to see it happen. I work for a small company that was bought out by a very large company and the person who built our company lasted about as long under the new company as the doctors lasted under EA. That’s not to say that EA is the cause, or that EA is a horrible company to work for, but it’s been my experience that people who build companies traditionally want to keep building or rather than maintain that which got them bought out.


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Humble Indie Bundle 6 has arrived

Man, these Humble Indie Bundles. Not only do they just keep coming, they are also pretty much perfect for me, the psuedo-new PC gamer (on a Mac, yes) who has basically gone 75/25 indie. Oh, sure, I still play “big” games, usually something like a year after they come out, and I take my sweet, sweet time with them. But really, most of my playing time these days comes courtesy of crazy Steam sales and humble bundles, and I couldn’t be happier.

I’m sure you know the drill by now. You set your own price to receive 5-6-ish well-received indie titles from the recent past. Most of the money goes to the developers,but you can set it up so that the EFF and Child’s Play get a cut of your contribution, as well as the Humble Bundle service itself. So it’s a win-win-win: you get good games, you get them for ridiculously cheap (if you care to), and some of that money goes to charity.

Of course, none of this helps you if you’ve already got the games. This time around, the bundle includes Torchlight (which everyone loves), Rochard (which is excellent – I reviewed the PSN version back in the old GameShark days), S.P.A.Z., Shatter, Vessel, and Space Pirates and Zombies. If you pay higher than the average, you get Dustforce thrown in for good measure.

Everything works on PC, Mac and Linux. No excuses, people.

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mark of the ninja

Mark of the Ninja in Review

I absolutely hated Klei’s 2011 digital release Shank. I think it is a disgrace, an embarrassment to the video games medium that wallows in joyless, cynical immaturity and dully moronic violence. Its humor and tone are straight out of one of those mid-1990s post-Pulp Fiction “indie” crime or action films and the look was a cheapjack imitation of pretty much any “edgy” adult cartoon you’ve ever seen. The gameplay was stultifyingly stupid, rife with button-mashing and little to offer but mindless and unappealing lowest common denominator bloodshed.  I gave it the lowest score possible at Gameshark, and I stand by that. I ignore the fact that a sequel exists.

So it’s a big surprise that Mark of the Ninja, their latest now on XBLA, isn’t just good- it’s one of the best games of the year. (more…)

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Dragon Age III: Inquisition Officially Official

The worst kept secret at Bioware is that Dragon Age III is in production. Today, franchise Executive Producer Mark Darrah makes that all official-like with an open letter. Given the lack of any detail to speak of whatsoever, there’s not much to report here. Here’s the most relevant bits from the letter.

So here’s what I can confirm for now:

  • The next game will be called Dragon Age III: Inquisition.
  • We won’t be talking about the story of the game today. Though you can make some guesses from the title.
  • This game is being made by a lot of the same team that has been working on Dragon Age since Dragon Age: Origins. It’s composed of both experienced BioWare veterans and talented new developers.
  • We are working on a new engine which we believe will allow us to deliver a more expansive world, better visuals, more reactivity to player choices, and more customization. At PAX East, we talked about armor and followers… Yeah, that kind of customization. We’ve started with Frostbite 2 from DICE as a foundation to accomplish this.

You check out the rest here, if you’re so inclined.

After the break, however, I can offer you an NHS-exclusive look at the main Foozle in DA3! (Yes, this is an excuse to make you click through to see something that is decidedly not the main Foozle in DA3. It’s worth it.)


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Battle Beyond Space Out Now, You Should Buy It

Some six or seven years ago, my good friend (and Christ look-a-like) Frank Branham showed me a prototype for a board game that he designed called Battle Beyond Space. It was inspired by The Last Starfighter and Starcrash, and it had bits salvaged from the old TSR Buck Rogers game as well as lava rock asteroids. The game was awesome, a fun space shoot ’em up with a cool squadron movement mechanic and plenty of total mayhem. We’ve played it off and on over the years, and now it’s finally been released to the general public by none other than Z-Man Games.  I tell ya, that Zev Shlasinger is a man of impeccable taste. Looks like the discounters are selling it for about $32.

It’s a great beer-and-pretzels style dogfight game and the production looks outstanding- the illustrations are right on the money in terms of capturing the tone and atmosphere of it. Also, my name is in the thanks section…printed in Comic Sans. It’s the only Comic Sans in the whole game. I really should demand a complementary copy as reparations.

Anyway, I am totally shilling for this game and for my pal.  Don’t be like old Bill Abner, who failed to buy a copy at Gen Con. Right after meeting Frank. How rude!

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Jumping the Shark Podcast #143

No High Scores Podcast Logo

Image: Filomena Scalise /

Jumping the Shark 143 can be safely thought of as the show before Borderlands 2. Consequently, Brandon and Bill wax poetic about playing the game and Brandon scolds Bill about not having a build already planned ahead. Binky is such a boy scout. Sort of. Then they bicker for awhile over who’s fault it is that we don’t play more together online, with the consensus being the blame probably lies with me. Funny how that seems to happen. We also set aside some time to talk about the Wii U release strategy, which includes charging extra for a game, and a steeper than expected price point ($300). Sorry, Nintendo, but I don’t think you made a sale to the JTS gang. Hang your collective heads in shame. Finally, we talk some more FTL, Inquisitor, and Dark Souls. As I wrote last week, FTL is really frigg’n good. And it’s $290 cheaper than a Wii U. You know what to do.

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Calendar Man – Week of 9/17

Borderlands 2 comes out this week, which, by my calendar, means that the 2012 Holiday Gaming Season has officially begun. Nothing against Darksiders II and Sleeping Dogs, but from here on out, I’m pretty sure there’s going to be at least one high profile release a week. Hell, this week you have Torchlight II and Realms of Ancient War along with Borderlands 2. Plenty of loot for everyone!

On a side note, Borderlands 2 uses Arabic numerals while Torchlight and Darksiders use Roman numerals. There’s a correlation in there somewhere, but I’m too busy mapping out my Siren build to find it.


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