My week in games

I told myself quite a while ago I would start writing about games at least once a week, and as we come to the end of January it seems a good a time as ever to actually start that. Given the intensity of the first month of the year in my job, perhaps it’s acceptable to have an early February resolution.

In any event, consider these brief comments as promises for future longer written pieces that may never be kept, and a chance to write if just for a little bit about some games that have crossed my path recently.

A bunch of games this week, though that’s mostly the result of some decidedly fuzzy math regarding what constitutes “this week” so that I can write about Fallout 4, and plenty of mixing up within the hours I do have to play. In no particular order:

Fallout 4

Oh, Fallout 4. I feel obligated to point out that this game is really good, and that I really liked it. I got to a point, though, where it just became exhausting. I’ve never been one to adhere to the idea that the revived Fallout series is sometimes little more than a poor shooter, but this is the closest I’ve come to changing my mind. This is not because the game is any worse than its predecessors, but because the grind became so imposing, so forbidding. The game never became dull, and I enjoyed it until I gave up playing, but I gave up playing in a bit of a huff. Maybe I’m over factions in open world games; maybe we all need to move on.


I wrote three hundred words on Duelyst as a response to an open request from the kind folks at Haywire Magazine. Here are a few of those three hundred words:

Duelyst… successfully iterates on all of the things that Hearthstone does well to become even more accessible, more welcoming than the Blizzard game and with its own fair share of depth to its gameplay. That three dimensional board with its rosters of generals and minions calls to mind the strengths of tabletop games like Warmachine, summoning more of those gaming store memories. In addition to the additional opportunities to maneuver that the 3D board provides, the game just looks good. Factions brim with character. Underlying all of it lies the game’s secret ingredient: at its root Duelyst feels like a competitive puzzle game, the training modules in essence presenting a single-player campaign. It’s not (just) the fighting or the cards. It’s the puzzling through.

That sums it up, really. Duelyst is tons of fun, and you should play it.

Alien Isolation

I don’t know that Alien: Isolation is for me. It’s not that often I do this. Mostly I give up on a game in secret, just letting it sit on the hard drive unplayed for a few weeks. I just don’t think Alien: Isolation is for me. It’s a terrible pity. The presentation is amazing, maybe the best I’ve ever seen in a video game. The premise is fantastic. The core gameplay just turns me off. It’s too tense.

That’s remarkably difficult of me: tension is the whole point of this game. When it was first released, I took heart at the various game reviews. This was a game that seemed to push writers. A few hours in and I can see why. But… it’s too much. Partly I think I’ve psyched myself out, as conscious as I am these days of the time I have available to play and the surfeit of warnings that the game overstays its welcome just a bit. Maybe I’ll come back to it. That’s always what I tell myself in these situations.

Heroes of the Storm

A couple of months ago I really wanted to write about this game. It’s my ultimate “dad” game, or at least my “dad” MOBA. There was a time, once, when I dared played DOTA 2, when I shrugged aside the insults of strangers. That time has passed, though not because I’m too sensitive; I just don’t have the time to play a competitive online game that effectively requires an hour per match when including all the various connection times. I can play three games of Heroes of the Storm in that time. Three!

It’s also considerably more welcoming. DOTA 2 might not be QUITE as toxic as its reputation suggests, but it’s not really a game or a community that welcomes people just looking for something fun to do in their free time. Heroes of the Storm as a result is a manic hodgepodge of a game, at least down in unranked play where I happily hang out, with wonderful spontaneous manifestations of implicit teamwork coming out of nowhere just as often as five players ostensibly on the same team run around like cats with their tails on fire. It’s pretty great.

Else Heart.Break()

Else Heart.Break() is weird. It’s fundamentally weird. I think this game is seducing me. One of the main reasons my game time is so limited these days is that I’m making a point of reading (for fun, not just for work) every day. Else Heart.Break() cheats, it splits the difference a little bit. It has that insouciant tangent towards meaninglessness that drives those of us who play games wearing our smarty pants wild, so close is it to being genuinely meaningful, a container for a story that is mature without having to spell it out. I haven’t even gotten to the fun stuff yet, which I won’t spoil because I can’t; I got so excited by some of the coverage of this game I jumped out early in preparation. So far my character has gotten a job at some kind of soda corporation and weird metaphysical things are happening on a small island off the coast of a vaguely Scandinavian continent. Come back next week. This might be the only game I write about.

Episode Fifty Three: Starcrash (1979)

We discuss Starcrash this week: is it camp, an unmitigated disaster, or does it alternate between the two? How did they get Christopher Plummer and John Barry to show up for this thing? Why is there a sexist robot with a southern US accent? Oh for the days of Star Wars knock-offs filmed in Italy and full of odd dubbing and questionable miniature models.

You can watch Starcrash yourself here.

Episode Fifty Two: Never Too Young To Die

John Stamos is Never Too Young To Die in an odd film that aspires to be an American Bond Jr. adventure, an aspiration helped by the recruitment of George Lazenby but complicated by the decision to cast Gene Simmons as an evil hermaphrodite.

Watch the film yourself here. If you dare.


Episode Fifty One: Rappin’

We’re back!

Star Trek is great, but Gus and I needed to get back to discussing pop culture more generally. We’re back with a bang, and if you’ve ever wondered what the 1985 film Rappin’ is all about, this is the podcast for you. The film itself was an odd attempt to create a standard musical but with badly written rap, and Mario van Peebles. Join us.