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Brakketology Gets a Job; Keeps Flying

FireflyBoardGame

In this day and age a guy has to do what he can to get by. That means you have to take a lot of jobs to make ends meet, even legal ones. A Firefly class boat needs parts and supplies to keep it in the air, after all. In this week’s Brakketology, if you haven’t guessed, I got a chance to play Firefly: The Game. Along with some first impressions of that, there’s a promising first look at Banner Saga (via RPS) that demands you pay attention, more Enemy Within bits, Project Eternity continues its climb up my list of most anticipated games, Amazon does something that almost made my life better, a real Ultima lands on iOS, and Xbox One gets a release date…

Find a job. Find a crew. Keep flying. I talked a bit (or tried to) about Firefly: The Game on JtS this week. I loved the thing. It’s exactly what a Firefly boardgame should be and if you’re a boardgamer and a fan of the series, you should absolutely give it a look. The theme is exactly as described in bold. You’re the captain of a Firefly and you need work, legal or otherwise. The board is big chunk of space populated by the many moons and planets featured (and not featured) in the show and you travel from place to place seeking work from the likes of Badger, and Patience, and –shudder– Niska. Do not disappoint Niska. You also have to build a crew that complements the skills required to execute on a given job, you have to keep them happy, and you need supplies (not to mention gas) to keep your boat in the air. It’s thematically perfect. The only flaw is that it’s a bit solitaire. There are means by which you can interact with other players while on-planet together, trading items, stealing crew, etc., but it’s not required and in the game I played it never happened. It’s also a game that takes a full play-through to get the hang of. In my game there was a lot of downtime while people figure out their moves, consulted rules, etc. It’s the kind of thing that goes away once at least a couple players know the game cold, but it’s a factor you should consider before breaking it out. Also, it’s a four-player limit, which it really didn’t need to be. I’m betting that, like Spartacus (also from GF9), that the inevitable expansion addresses this. (On the bright side, you can also play it with just one player.)

Banner Saga. It Looks Good. RPS has a hands-on look at Banner Saga. It’s long and detailed and you should read it. This was a game that I had intended to Kickstart back in the day, but missed the deadline because I am, of course, monumentally lazy (and cheap). Now that single-player information is starting to come out, the game sounds (and looks) exactly as good as I thought it did during its proposal stage. Here’s a taste from RPS:

I can’t think of a game I’ve played in recent memory where each and every choice I made felt so heavy. I went from telling tiny squads which squares to move to while fighting drunks (that was a fun tutorial) to managing a powder keg caravan of thousands. And if I didn’t keep it all together? If the whole thing went sky high, if I didn’t placate the spoiled human prince, if I didn’t show my Varl legions that I was just as firm yet wise as their old leader, if I didn’t keep our supplies topped off, if I didn’t get rid of the spoiled supplies some grateful merchant accidentally gave us when we saved his life, if I didn’t, if I didn’t, if I didn’t…

Then the ice would break.

There are comparisons to Oregon’s Trail (in a good way) that follow, not to mention the sorts of hooks and subverting expectations that any gamer will appreciate. Go. Read.

XCOM: Enemy Within Tries to Look Spontaneous. There is now a highly, highly scripted demo, which is so contrary to what XCOM is that it’s hard to draw much of a conclusion from it. It’s worth noting that the more scripted the events in a mission in Enemy Unknown, generally, the less interesting that mission was. It concerns me when they talk about “new environments” they haven’t addressed them in the context of just another mission, because that’s what the game needs from an expansion. More types of random missions. More variety of environments for random missions. A longer game to accommodate it all. More ways to customize your squad is nice too, but I’m not on-board yet with the whole mech and genetic modification angle. I’m strictly wait and see on that. If I can be permitted to concern troll Firaxis, I’m wary their focus is on expanding on the wrong things. I’ll still buy, though, because that’s how much goodwill they earned from me with Enemy Unknown.

For those looking for hope, here’s a blurb from RPS who got some hands-on time with it:

I got to play a little of Enemy Within last week, and the net effect of these new units was that aggressive strategies felt much more effective and satisfying. I usually turtle so hard that people want to turn me into soup, but mechs’ ability to essentially function as mobile cover and a nice helping of active camouflage for weaker units made me feel like I was better able to control the battlefield. However, to balance that out, aliens have mechs too, and I nearly ingested my Adam’s apple every time a sectoid gave one a near-impregnable shield via mind merge. The short version? It wasn’t necessarily better or worse than the way I usually play XCOM, but it was certainly different.

Project Eternity Gets a Stronghold. Obsidian came out with a fresh info-dump on what is one of my top three Most Anticipated Games That Might Come Out Next Year — Eternity. The topic du jour is the player’s stronghold. This is no longer a fresh or novel concept for an RPG, but that does not mean it can’t be cool if done well. This looks cool, mostly because it will have function beyond being a place to dump stuff. Here’s a list of passive things it’ll do. You’ll find much more at the Kickstarter page; the bit about constructing a prison sounds particularly cool so do click over.

  1. Resting bonuses. Some of the upgrades to your stronghold will grant temporary bonuses to your attributes or non-combat skills when you rest there. As examples, you can build Training Grounds to improve your Strength or a Library to improve your Lore skill. Some of these upgrades are expensive, but you’re worth it.
  2. Adventures for idle companions. You will eventually have more companions than will fit in your party, so you will have leave some of them behind. While they are idling away at the stronghold, they can take part in their own adventures, earning additional experience for themselves and extra money, items and reputation bonuses for you!
  3. Ingredients. Many of the stronghold upgrades will generate ingredients used by non-combat skills. For example, Botanical Gardens create Survival ingredients over time, and a Curio Shop produces ingredients for use by both Lore and Mechanics.
  4. Special offers. Sometimes visitors to your stronghold will have rare items for sale, or perhaps they will offer you items in return for something else. Pay attention to these visitors. Some of these items may be nearly impossible to find any other way!
  5. Wealth. Don’t forget that by owning a stronghold, you also own all of the surrounding lands and impose a tax on all of the inhabitants. It will feel nice for a change to have someone recognize your high standing and give you the money that you so richly deserve.

Xbox One Needs a Hug. Has no Takers. Lots of Xbox One stuff going on this week. November 22nd is the first day you can officially not buy the console. Lucky you! What’s amazing is that I’m actually on the fence about it. Despite the fact that I’ve been doing 100% of my gaming via PC the past year, and am perfectly happy with that, I almost want this console just to have it. Maybe it’s because Microsoft keeps bending over backwards to let people know that, “Yes, we know you hate us and everything we stand for, but look at all the ways we’re maybe(?) changing things you don’t like just to make you happy!” Like, teasing the possibility of backwards compatibility… someday. There’s a desperation so thick it makes me want to give them a conciliatory hug by just buying the thing. Also, I think my kids will like the new Kinect and it might keep them off my PC. Also also, I haven’t bought a new gadget in a long time and I’m getting twitchy. It’s a sickness.

On second thought, this ad is so full of awful maybe I’ll reserve my hug for awhile longer…

YouTube video

Because football wasn’t complete until Xbox One. Maybe it’ll even solve that pesky concussion problem.

Ultima IV to iOS. If you want to get the stink of the kinda sorta free-to-play abomination that is Quest of the Avatar, you can now get a retro fix of Ultima IV on iOS as Mythic –let’s just call it an apology even though it isn’t one– ported the Commodore 64 version over to Apple’s mega-mall of a store. And it’s free.

Kindle Readers to Get the Best of Both Worlds? Almost. Amazon, which already gets props for doing this with their music catalog, will now let you purchase their print books and, at the publisher’s discretion, let you tack on the ebook for a small fee (free in some cases). As a Kindle user who laments not being able to share books I enjoy with the people I know, this is a long overdue solution. Now if only I could tack on the print book sale to all my ebook purchases from the last year. Nothing like punishing those of us who bought into your platform already. Ugh.

Endless Space to Drop on July 4

Iceberg Interactive and developer Amplitude Studios are releasing the turn based 4X strategy game Endless Space on July 4th. I still need to dig into this one. Yes, I have failed you. It’s going to run $30.

PR ahead:

Publisher Iceberg Interactive and developer Amplitude Studios invite players to celebrate the holiday this year with the launch of Endless Space, for Windows PC. Coming to digital distribution platforms on July 4, 2012, Endless Space is a 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) sci-fi strategy game that pits eight civilizations together in galactic conflict.

“With the success of the game’s beta program and tremendous feedback from the community, we couldn’t be more excited to be able to get the final game in front of fans,” said Mathieu Girard, CEO at AMPLITUDE Studios. “We look forward to even more players getting their hands on Endless Space as we deliver an intuitive, yet immersive experience for all types of players.”

Set to launch after a highly successful beta campaign via Steam that saw over 20,000 fans registered on the community website, Endless Space is a 4X strategy game covering the space colonization age, where gamers can control every aspect of their empire: Economy, Diplomacy, Science and War. As one of eight unique civilizations, players must strive to control the entire galaxy through trade and diplomacy or technological advancements and strategic warfare. Begging the question, will they conquer the galaxy with an open hand or a closed fist?

Additionally, Endless Space marks the first Amplitude Studios title to take advantage of GAMES2GETHER, a new platform that lets the community track the development team’s objectives, progress, and achievements, while gaining access to early builds, providing feedback, and discussing the game’s future with the developers themselves, giving them an active role in the future of Endless Space.

Endless Space will be available on digital download platforms on July 4, 2012 for $29.99 (MSRP).

For more information on Endless Space, please visit: http://endless-space.amplitude-studios.com/

Aliens: Colonial Marines Set for February Release

I’ve heard mixed things about this one based off some press previews. This is a game I want to be good because the setting remains one that I am fascinated with despite the milking of the movie franchise and the way that (almost) every videogame ever made centering on the xenomorphs have turned out.

We’ll now get to find out on February 12th if Gearbox has another Borderlands on its hands or another Duke Nukem. Or maybe another Brothers in Arms…but with Aliens. With all of the delays, one has to wonder…

PR:

SEGA® of America, Inc., SEGA® Europe Ltd., Gearbox Software and Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products are thrilled to announce that Aliens: Colonial Marines™ will be in stores worldwide on February 12, 2013. As the authentic addition to the ALIENS franchise canon, the game’s stunning visuals and adrenaline pumping action will deliver breathtakingly immersive single, cooperative and competitive multi-player modes. Providing for an innovative asymmetrical competitive multiplayer experience, Aliens: Colonial Marines lets players fight in first person as the ultimate combatants – the United States Colonial Marines, or in third person as the universe’s deadliest killers – the Xenomorphs. Plunging into familiar and new environments from the iconic film franchise, players will have to fight the fear and face the true horrors of the ALIENS universe.

“I am thrilled to announce the definitive launch date for Aliens: Colonial Marines,” said Randy Pitchford, President of Gearbox Software. “Aliens: Colonial Marines is the culmination of a life-time of inspiration from the films and relentless passion and drive from the exceptionally talented development team behind the scenes.”

“We knew this game would be incredible from the moment Gearbox began developing Aliens: Colonial Marines,” said, Gary Knight, Senior Vice President of Marketing for SEGA Europe and SEGA of America. “Now that the title is in its final stretch of development, we can confidently release the exact date that gamers will finally get to experience this blockbuster thrill-ride.”

“SEGA has a proven track record with the ALIENS franchise. ALIENS vs. PREDATOR released by SEGA in 2009 became one of their top-selling titles,” said Gary Rosenfeld, Senior Vice President for New Media for Fox Consumer Products. “We look forward to working with them and bringing an exciting new way for fans to immerse themselves in the ALIENS world.”

In partnership with Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products and developed by critically acclaimed studio Gearbox Software, Aliens: Colonial Marines will (ship on February 12th.) bring new levels of bone-chilling suspense and adrenaline-filled action to the renowned franchise. Aliens: Colonial Marines begins with an ostensibly abandoned ship, the U.S.S. Sulaco, recovered in orbit around LV-426. Players lead a group of highly trained United States Colonial Marines as they board the deserted craft to uncover the fate of the crew. They will have to fight to survive unspeakable horrors and their own anxieties as they chase down the truth behind a galaxy-spanning deception that places humanity at the mercy of the most murderous and deadly species in the universe. Aliens: Colonial Marines features authentic environments, such as the surface of LV-426 and Hadley’s Hope, weapons inspired by the film series and is designed to provide an exhilarating and engaging new chapter in the ALIENS universe.

Aliens: Colonial Marines will be available in stores across the globe on February 12, 2013 on PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system, Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and Windows PC. A release date for the announced Wii U™ version will be revealed at a later time.

Diablo III Confirmed for May 15

Blizzard has unveiled its global release date for Diablo III on PC and Mac which if you read the title header up there you know is May 15th, 2012.

“After many years of hard work by our development team and months of beta testing by hundreds of thousands of dedicated players around the world, we’re now in the homestretch,” said Blizzard chief Mike Morhaime. “We look forward to putting the final polish on Diablo III over the next two months and delivering the ultimate action-RPG experience to gamers worldwide starting on May 15.”

So there you have it. By releasing the game on May 15th, Max Payne just wet himself, A Game of Thrones just leaped off The Wall and The Witcher said, “Whew” before bedding a street hooker.

 

BioShock: Infinite Set for October 16 Release

Ken Levine via the Twitter dropped this little nugget this morning: BioShock Infinite will ship in the states on October 16th with an International release date of October 19th. Now, this is pretty standard “news” but consider this:

BioShock, the original, was released in August of 2007. August is a fairly slow time as far as releases are concerned. It’s still summer. It’s not quite holiday rush. It’s for games that publishers feel are “tweeners” and if you recall BioShock was in NO way a slam dunk from a sales perspective because everyone was harping on the “System Shock was great but sold poorly” mantra and BioShock was being compared to System Shock at every turn.

Fast forward to BioShock 2. New developer. Hit/miss buzz. 2K releases it on February 9, 2010. February is another interesting release window. It’s smack dab in the middle of the 2nd quarter fiscal year for public companies. Early February is an odd choice because people are still reeling a bit from holiday spending. This year we see games like The Darkness 2, Amalur, UFC 3, Syndicate, Neverdead, Ashura’s Wrath, etc. all dropped in February. February could also mean a release date push from 4th quarter.

March, on the other hand, is (usually) when big AAA releases start to flow again (unless you are releasing a Blizzard game but they are a very unique circumstance). Mass Effect 3, Resident Evil, etc. These are clearly not hard and fast rules and it’s easy to point out outliers when it comes to release dates but companies don’t throw darts at a calendar when they decide on when to drop a game on the public.

I do find it interesting that this is the first Q4 release for a BioShock game. That’s either random chance or 2K has more confidence in Infinite than the other two games in this series. And there’s a lot of eggs in this particular BioShock basket.

Oh, yeah, the press release. Here ’tis:

2K Games announced today that BioShock® Infinite will be available in North America on October 16, 2012 on the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system and Windows PC. The title will be available internationally on October 19, 2012.

Developed by Irrational Games, BioShock Infinite won more than 75 editorial awards at E3 in 2011, including the Game Critics Awards’ Best of Show. The title has been named one of the most anticipated games of 2012 by more than 50 media outlets, including WIRED, USA Today, TIME, GameSpot, and GameTrailers. The BioShock franchise is one of the interactive entertainment industry’s most successful and critically acclaimed series, which has sold-in over 9 million units worldwide.

“After BioShock, we had a vision for a follow up that dwarfed the original in scope and ambition,” said Ken Levine (@iglevine), Creative Director of Irrational Games (@irrationalgames). “BioShock Infinite has been our sole focus for the last four years, and we can’t wait for fans to get their hands on it.”

BioShock Infinite puts players in the role of Booker DeWitt, a hard-bitten former Pinkerton agent, together with the revolutionary AI companion, Elizabeth. The two struggle to escape the sky-city of Columbia, in a 1912 America that might have been. Armed with an arsenal of new weapons and abilities, they face menacing enemies, in unique expansive environments. Classic BioShock gameplay joins innovations such as aerial combat on high-speed Sky-Lines in the service of a immersive storyline – an Irrational Games signature.