Empty Dungeons

Legend of Grimrock - a brilliant game in an empty setting

My current gaming time is being spent entirely on indie dungeon-crawler Legend of Grimrock. It’s a sadly neglected genre which done right (as Grimrock is) is capable of delivering a sublime mixture of puzzle solving, twitch combat and the addictiveness of RPG item and level collecting. Almost all games in the category belong to utterly generic fantasy worlds which they spend little or no time elucidating. So far, five levels down, Grimrock seems no different.

Indeed the wider world of fantasy computer and board games boasts relatively few examples of any settings other than boilerplate ones. Given that perhaps the most wondrous thing about fantasy is its potential for open-ended, imaginative worlds, this seems a sad and unfortunate state of affairs.

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XCOM: Enemy Unknown “Casualties of War” Trailer

More footage from XCOM…and this is still firmly in the “gotta play” category.

Oh, yes, I do have Dark Souls…which I am about to play right now. I’ve also had a retail version of Madden 13 for a few days and will offer up some thoughts later as today is embargo lifting day.

Cracked LCD- Starship Merchants in Review

The biggest surprise of 2012 so far is Toy Vault’s Starship Merchants. It’s an ultra-streamlined business game with a science fiction setting with more than a little 18xx flavor. For the uninitiated this means that there are elements of that particular genre of railroad game, particularly certain notions of making capital investments to increase your firm’s ability to deliver goods and increase profit turn-after-turn. It’s an incredibly slick, smartly abstracted moneymaking game rife with competition (if not conflict) and an almost shockingly breakneck pace. The rules are simple, the game is carefully structured to provide lots of compelling long and short term goals, and the result is one of my favorite games of the year.

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The Case for Guild Wars 2

On Jumping the Shark #139, while talking about upcoming releases, we rather clumsily stumbled around next week’s release of Guild Wars 2. I say “clumsily” only because none of us have really paid enough attention to the mechanics of the game to really know what it’s supposed to be all about. We know it’s an MMO, and in a time when most of the big MMO’s are barely modest derivations of every other MMO/WoW, what else is there to know? The game not having a monthly subscription model isn’t remotely reason enough to buy it. So, Garion333 helpfully posted this link in the podcast’s comments section. It leads to a page loaded with Guild Wars 2 info written for people who aren’t familiar with Guild Wars. This one might really be different, folks. Watch the video above and check the site if you want details that are actually detailed.

For me, here’s the thing – I’m not sure it’ll matter…

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Dishonored Shows You the Ropes of Stealth

If you’ve played anything in the stealth genre, or any stealth levels of games in the past, oh, I don’t know, ten years, then you won’t learn anything from the latest Dishonored trailer. What’s that you say? Stick to the shadows? Don’t make noise? Truly groundbreaking stuff here.

I’m kidding, of course. The video does show some neat touches to the Stealth-o-vision power, namely how sound ripples will show up if you’re moving too quickly. Shadows are easy to detect but sound can be tricky depending on how sensitive your enemies’ ears are. Oddly enough, the trailer doesn’t show one of the key aspects of stealth, namely hiding the bodies. One of the things I liked the most about seeing the game at E3 was the ability to grab a body and then use the short range teleportation power to hide the bodies above the patrolling guards. No more searching for broom closets! Just chuck those corpses up in the rafters and be on your way!

Transformers: Animated Is the Best Transformers Line Ever

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron dropped this week and while I have not had time to start the game yet, due to an overabundance of children’s activities and an under-abundance of disposable income, I plan on tearing into the game this weekend or, quite possibly, as soon as tomorrow. Still, we can’t let a release as momentous as this go without celebration, so instead, you get this post about Transformers: Animated.

Simply put, Transformers: Animated is the best Transformers line ever created. Hands down. End of story. If you don’t agree, you are a doofus. Yes, that’s right, a doofus. Allow me to explain myself and then you can throw off the yoke of doofusness and enjoy some hot toy action.

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Up Front FINALLY Getting Reprinted

You may know Curt Schilling primarily as the Winston Cup-winning rookie quarterback for the Cincinnati Cubs or as a wildly successful video game tycoon, but he also runs this company called Multiman Press. He’s kept Advanced Squad Leader in print for years. And up until recently, he sat lethargically on the rights to Avalon Hill’s classic Squad Leader card game Up Front doing nothing with it. At one point, they were saying it was “in development” to be re-released as…Up Front 2000.

Anyway, the rights have been sold and I guess Mr. Schilling flushed that money down the 38 Studios toilet. But the good news comes to us from Torben Sherwood at Valley Games:

Valley Games is very excited to announce that we have been offered the opportunity to produce Up Front. In association with the original designer, Courtney Allen, we will reproduce this classic title with improved and enhanced rules, new artwork and new graphic design. We will use Kickstarter to fund the project with a planned launch date of December 2012. More information to come as we get closer to the launch date.”

Aw man, Kickstarter? Damn it. Maybe one of the “stretch goals” will be an improved rulebook, or a T-shirt with ol’ Nazi Hans up there on it. Keep your eye on this one, it’s one of the best and most innovative games ever published and it will be good to see it on shelves again.

GenCon 2012

Everyone has different scenes, whether it’s a small gathering of friends, hanging at a coffee house with your laptop in tow, leeching free WiFi and enjoying overpriced and over-brewed Starbucks “coffee”.  Perhaps you’re a gamer who loves a good LAN party? Perhaps you’re the gamer who parties on Friday and rolls D6s on Saturday? Whatever the case may be, we all have various scenes that we enjoy and scenes we don’t.

I enjoyed the scene at the WBC in Lancaster a few weeks ago. Sorta small, maybe 2,000 people, everyone mostly chilled out, there to play some games, see old friends, drink some beer and have fun. I’d bring a carload of buddies to WBC and we’d have a blast.

GenCon isn’t that. GenCon is the hobby’s version of E3: although not as big, not as glitzy, and with a lot more people dressed in costume and playing Magic: the Gathering. Of course unlike E3 the people in costume are getting PAID to do that. The people at Gencon do it because…OK I have to tell you I don’t have a freaking clue.  We had 230 pound Wonder Woman. (Do not ask. My buddy Dan saw this and relayed the info to me.) We had cellulite Xena. (I saw this and truly, genuinely, wish I hadn’t.) We had a dude wearing a dark green velvet cape and a robin hood hat sporting a giant walking stick. There was the guy dressed in what looked like full on plate mail. There was another fellow who had on a fake Gandalf beard. That was it. I think he was wearing a Blue Oyster Cult T-shirt so it was a weird mix of ’70s rocker/stoner…with a fake beard. Didn’t get that look. Maybe he was being sarcastic gaming hipster? Finally, there was a guy dressed in what looked like Conan garb with very little covering his…stuff. Dude for the love of Crom put that shit away.

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Danielle’s summer of adventure… games. And Stealth.

Why, hello there. Long time, no see, No High Scores folks! It’s all my fault. See, I moved and got a new job, and the excitement of living in San Francisco, which is nirvana for nerds (especially queer nerds, but really, any kind of nerd) has been taking up my time. That and writing a whole lot about games and teaching, and the other jobs. But I digress.

The other thing I’ve been doing all summer is indulging in the adventure genre. First, there was LA Noire, then Resonance, which I consider to be a legitimate masterpiece – and I even wrote about how it’s female lead is a godsend in this era of angst about women in games. I enjoyed every (all-too-brief, but well-paced) moment of Dear Esther (thanks, Steam Sale!), which was the very first game I’ve ever played that I understood completely from a developer point of view (in that, this was the first experience I’ve ever had where I’ve had the knowledge to technically reproduce what I played in the Unity engine). Now, I’m playing The Book of Unwritten Tales (which I’ll also be reviewing for NHS), which is incredibly fun and dare I use a cliched term, but utterly charming. I’ve also finally started Deus Ex: Human Revolution, you know, a year after it came out. That’s actually not bad for me, considering I typically pick up games well after the one year window. Continue Reading…

Dream.Build.Play 2012 Finalists Announced

40 finalists have been chosen in Microsoft’s yearly Dream.Build.Play challenge. You can view the full list of games and developers at the official website, which includes games from around the globe created for both Xbox 360 and Windows Phone.

Contestants in the Dream.Build.Play challenge are vying for cash prizes up to $40,000 (USD) and possible publishing contracts. Last year’s grand prize went to Blocks That Matter, from developer Swing Swing Submarine.

For what it’s worth, my vote goes to qrth-phyl (pictured above). Is there a game that you played that you think deserves a winning spot?