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Posts by Chris

23
Sep

Review: Gears of War 3

I recently saw a quote about Gears of War stating it was the most influential franchise of the current era, and I think they might have a point. It has some of the most unapologetically gritty (and bloody) story and gameplay around. Think about these game elements and where they came from: Deus Ex’s intuitive cover system? Gears. No health packs? Gears. Resident Evil’s over the shoulder style? Gears. Modern Warfare’s knife executions? Gears (who are we kidding, that was absolutely born out of Gears’ melee executions). For a shooter, the Gears franchise has contributed mightily.

Gears of War 3 simply takes the great gameplay the franchise is known for and applies it one more time in a single player campaign that closes the door with finality. At times it’s a little like watching a good action movie. The characters often do things that are patently absurd but really fun to watch, and every once in a while you get a serious moment that’s actually quite powerful. That’s one of the things I like about this game – it has no illusions about what it is and why it’s here. Where Deus Ex (which has also received significant playing time) is a masterpiece artfully composed, Gears 3 is steroid filled entertainment, plain and simple. And at that, it’s damn good. Read moreRead more

20
Sep

Diablo 3 Closed Beta Out Now

It’s what we’ve all been waiting for… the Diablo 3 closed beta is here. And that can only mean one thing: Diablo 3 is less than six months away!

Start putting your finances in order, and notify your friends and family that you’ll be going away, because if Blizzard knows what they’re about and release anything as addictive as Diablo II, you won’t be seen for a while.

See the text of the announcement here.

24
Aug

Things Found at Baltimore Comic Con

Some of the team here attended the always excellent (and comic-focused) Baltimore Comic Con this weekend. Comic conventions are enjoyable for a variety of reasons:

  1. The people who attend are awesomely nerdy – there’s something to appreciate about a gathering of thousands of people that involves scores of stormtroopers patrolling the grounds.  Plus, our wristbands were checked by a Jedi and a Jawa when we first went in.
  2. Meeting the creators and artists. There are some absolutely incredible artists and writers in the comic book world, and it’s stunning to wander around, watch them draw and chat with them. A special call out to the guys from Top Cow, who were awesome to talk to.
  3. Finding new comics to read. I’m not a person who religiously seeks out new comics to read, so I relish the opportunity that a Comic Con provides to pick up and thumb through random comics as I walk around. It’s probably the primary method I use to find new comic books.

We’ll have a couple more posts talking about what we heard, saw, and thought about at BCC, but in honor of #3, those of us who went are going to call out a couple of the comics we got this weekend.

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15
Aug

Top Five: Formative Video Games

Halo wasn’t born out of the ether and World of Warcraft didn’t rise from the ashes. Nearly every video game we play today owes its lineage to something that came before it. It’s worth taking a look back at those formative games now and again, and in a couple places, actually replaying them. You get a real appreciation for the designers of the games, both for the cojones to make them in the first place, and the very real technical hurdles they overcame in doing so.

So without further ado, my (guaranteed to be disagreed with, lambasted, and generally derided) list of the top five most formative video games.

The List

11
Aug

Perspective on Diablo 3 “Always Online” Saga

There’s been a ton of brouhaha over the requirement that Diablo 3 will require an internet connection to play. Max Schaefer from Runic Games (the makers of Torchlight) had a great interview with Inc Gamers where he discusses his feelings about the Diablo 3 requirements and how they differ from Torchlight 2.

I think Schaefer really hit the nail on the head here – Torchlight 2 and Diablo 3 are trying to do two completely different things. Torchlight 2 is a multiplayer dungeon crawler; Diablo 3 is a (quasi) stateless, free, MMO. It’s worth considering for a second why that makes a difference. Read moreRead more

10
Aug

The Difficulties of Old Console Emulation

If anyone has previously played old Nintendo or Super Nintendo games via an emulator, you know how dodgy it can be to get a game to work properly or even at all. The N64 is nearly impossible. Yet these consoles are well over 15 years old at this point, so what gives? Read moreRead more

9
Aug

Review: Bastion

Proper story’s supposed to start at the beginning. Ain’t so simple with this one.
Now here’s a kid whose whole world got all twisted, leaving him stranded on a rock in the sky.

If I told you that was the narration for the opening sequence to a game, would you get excited? You should, because that’s exactly how Bastion starts. It’s a live action RPG available on Xbox Live Arcade for about 2000 Microsoft points (that’s about 30 wampum beads for those of you who like made up currency, $15 for those who do not), and it is excellent. Editors Note: As of August 16th, Bastion is also available for Steam.

Bastion shows that in the world of multi-million dollar blockbuster games like Modern Warfare 2 (which is honestly just so-so), a great game can be made that retails at a much lower price point. All it requires is a little innovative thinking and playfulness. The result is a game that’s intriguing, fun to play, and supremely casual. This isn’t Oblivion, which more resembles a garden out the back of your house – requires constant tending and you’re never quite finished with it. No indeed, Bastion is more like a game of pickup basketball – you play it when you feel like it, when you have a moment to spare, and you enjoy yourself when you do.

The details.

8
Aug

Hilarious RPG Version of HBO’s Game of Thrones

While I’m not sure it captures the drama and epic scale of the HBO series, CollegeHumor.com has created a video that provide a hilarious tongue-in-cheek version of the first season of Game of Thrones in the form of an old school RPG.

There’s something brilliant about the translation to an 8-bit RPG here – lines like “A wild BRAN spotted your incest…” are written exactly the way you would expect from a game like Final Fantasy, even if FF wasn’t generally referring to sleeping with your siblings. When I see something like this I always want to go play ChronoTrigger or one of its brethren.

Whether or not you get wistful for some good old school RPGs, check out the video after the jump for a couple of laughs.

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26
Jul

Throwdown: Magic and Fantasy

One of the core elements of fantasy is that it contains the fantastical. What could be more fantastical than the inhuman powers of magic wielded by the denizens of the universe? Magic is often found in fantasy books, although its provenance varies widely. In some universes, magic is an innate ability of certain people; in others it is merely the ability to bend wild forces of the universe to one’s will. What cannot be disputed is that magic has a significant effect on the worlds in which it exists.

When authors write magic into their books, they have to make a choice about how much of a factor it will be. Whether this choice is made consciously or not, it must be made, and it can make a big difference in how well the universe holds together. Magic, poorly incorporated, can result in instances of the Superman Problem, and, in doing so, cheapen the quality of an otherwise good book. I’m not bashing magic here. I’m saying that the way an author treats magic makes a huge difference in how well the constructed world holds up.

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12
Jul

Out Today: A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin

Here at last, a day I feared might never come. The long awaited fifth volume of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire finally hits the shelves today. ‘Finally’ is a good word too – by my count it has been over 2072 days since A Feast For Crows (vol. 4) was released, over five and a half years of waiting and wondering. Head on over to your local bookstore (because you should support local bookstores) and grab a copy of A Dance With Dragons. If you’re lazy, I’m sure Amazon’s got it.

A Dance With Dragons drops at an interesting time and poses some interesting questions. It clearly took a while to write and in the mean time, the excellent HBO series has stirred up massive interest in the books and story. George R. R. Martin is apparently planning to write seven books, but given how long it has taken for just this one, you would be forgiven for wondering if that will come to pass. I have some thoughts on that subject, and ideas on how A Dance With Dragons could give us some clues. Check them out