Captain Scarlett and her Pirate’s Booty, the first of four planned Borderlands 2 expansion packs drops today and I couldn’t be happier. I just finished the main game yesterday morning and am in the midst of mopping up the last side quests while at the same time, going back through the game in True Vault Hunter mode. Yeah, I have Dishonored. Yeah, I have Sleeping Dogs. Yeah, I have Walking Dead Episode 4. I don’t care. I want more Borderlands 2, whether it be DLC or redoing the main game just with harder enemies and better loot. Those other games aren’t going anywhere and level 50 is a loooooooong way off.
Jumping the Shark #147 features that rarest of occurrences: A week in which we all have a shiny new toy to play with. Bill starts his journey into the world of Dishonored and is excited by what he sees. I talk about the little moments that make XCOM: Enemy Unknown such a wonderful re-imagining of the original and the elements that make it a fair compromise of old and new. And Brandon looks reluctantly at his old Pokemon hat, but decides to put it on anyway when he comes to terms with the fact that even though Pokemon White 2 makes him jump through a lot of the same hoops, he just can’t not love little animals that fight each other. (That’s sorta what happens in these games, right?) Enjoy the show!
After last week’s gameapalooza, this week offers a bit of a break, unless you’re really into James Bond games and/or Dance Central. Neither of those apply to me, so I’ll stick with Pandora and maybe take a crack at Dishonored if I’m feeling adventurous. What can I say? True vault hunter mode is too much of a draw. I know there’s a better bee shield out there! I just know it!
I have X-COM and it’s glorious. (As a reminder, yes, I do use the hyphen as twas intended by God itself.) That screenshot up there? The one where you can’t hardly make out any detail because it’s zoomed so far out? That is beauty. Dear Bioware, when you release the next Dragon Age, if I can’t pull back on the camera like I can do here, then you have utterly failed. I don’t care if the story is the second coming of… uh… something really good, but not as cliche to list here as Lord of the Rings. Just say’n.
Oh, right. X-COM. Ahem. It’s going to be awhile before I’m comfortable reviewing the game, so in lieu of that, I’m going to offer this quick impressions post and then, in forthcoming posts, document my progress, diary style, as my crafty crew of squaddies face off against gruesome death and dismemberment at the hands of an alien menace bent on world domination. Woo!
To set a baseline here, I think there are generally two kinds of X-COM players: Those who like the light strategy and emergent storytelling that the series hangs its hat on and the deep strategy folks who like wide open spaces they must navigate, moving carefully forward, spending hours micromanaging every facet of their squad. The original X-COM had a way of sating both these crowds and there’s nothing wrong with either track, but this game was built to appeal to the former much more than the latter.
Like any good alien-smashing squad, let’s take this point-by-point, starting with the stuff that will likely bother some folks…
If you’ve seen the Starz Network’s blood-soaked sword-and-sandal show Spartacus, you may not be as surprised as other board gamers might be to find that the new game based on it contains a card called “Jupiter’s Cock”. Between that R-rated card (which you will, in fact, use to screw other players), a very specific rulebook admonition warning players “don’t be an ass”, and the subtitle “a Game of Blood and Treachery”, fans of brutally nasty board games rife with player interaction and bad behavior should be aware that they are in for quite a treat. Coming to us from Gale Force Nine, a company better known for miniatures accessories, Spartacus is something of a surprise hit. It’s a theme-first game like Dune or Battlestar Galactica and although it doesn’t quite ascend to those dizzying heights of genius design it definitely captures the visceral and gleefully trashy nature of the show without apology.
Pokemon needs to die. Seriously.
I’m not saying the franchise in its entirety needs to die, but the rigidly inflexible presentation of the core games needs to die and be reborn, much like some phoenix-esque Pokemon that I’m sure exists but I’m too burned out to research properly.
If you’re like anything like I am, with each passing year you think “it sure would be nice if someone would develop adventure-based FPS games again like they did in the late 1990s and early 2000s.” I’m thinking great games like Thief, System Shock 2, and No One Lives Forever- classic titles that were much more than just rote shooters despite the behind-the-eyes perspective. These were games that had a sense of focused narrative occurring in meticulous, handcrafted settings paired with a great deal of player agency, allowing for a specific story to be told with the detail filled in by core gameplay. Games like this are rare, but when we get a really great one it turns out to be a Bioshock. Or even a Metro 2033.
With this is in mind and with only a couple of hours of play to back up my claim, I’m already prepared to induct Dishonored into this esteemed fraternity of Really Great Narrative FPS Games. Continue Reading…
I’m a little behind in my news, for which I apologize, but here’s something to brighten up your Wednesday. Sid Sackson’s dice rolling oldie but goodie, Can’t Stop has been released for iOS, a product of a collaboration between Gryphon Games and Playdek. The game features variable AI levels, single player games, pass and play multiplayer games and Game Center achievements, if you’re into that kind of thing. It’s available on iTunes for the low, low price of 99 cents. I haven’t played it yet, but I’m sure someone here will chime in eventually.
In other Playdek news, they recently announced that they have teamed up with Looney Labs to bring Fluxx to mobile devices. Fluxx appears to have more themed versions than I have shoes, and there’s no word if all of those versions will eventually make it to mobile devices. Only time will tell if you can get your prized version of Monty Python Fluxx on your iPad.
The Straw manages to fit us back into his busy schedule for episode #147 of Jumping the Shark. After we remind ourselves, you know, who he is, we launch into a lengthy discussion of blessed freedom from the tyranny of gatekeeper PR practices involving free games. Brandon takes on a journey through the Testament of Sherlock Holmes and then he and Bill compare notes on Borderlands 2. Finally we set the stage for this week’s big releases in X-COM and Dishonored. The countdown to 150 episodes begins here!