E3 Perspectives
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 19 June 2015, 9:45 pm

Our hard-working writers don't all receive the Golden Ticket to appear on the Conference Call, let alone press passes to E3, but perhaps that provides them with a more down-to-earth perspective on all the hype – unless, perhaps, hype is more effective at ground level and vast distances away from the expo. At any rate, it turns out that some of our salt-miners have "opinions" and "feelings" about things. As an editor, I traded those in for pedantry and cynicism a long time ago. But just because I am emotionally numb doesn't mean I should silence the hearts of those I serve. (I'm an anaesthetist, not a killer.)

I'd offer my own thoughts, but as I look to Q4 of 2015, my mind tends to focus on my impending fatherhood and questions of whether I can manage a baby sling and Rock Band guitar at the same time.

With that said, I offer you, the Week Ahead crew's views on E2 2015.

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New GWJ Site Launching Tonight!
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 19 June 2015, 11:54 am

We've arrived at the ah-screw-it-let's-just-launch point of web design. Tonight we'll be migrating over to the new GWJ site design which means there will be a bit of downtime during the day as we make backups and again when we switch over. Will it be smooth? Maybe. Will there be a thousand things we decide to change after the fact? Probably.

Our focus for the beginning of the new site has been making sure features we currently have make it over and we're running on the latest Drupal (we're way behind on the current site) so we have a strong base to build off in the future.

Lots more to come including special sections for stuff like Graham Rowat readings and podcast spoiler sections. Stay tuned!

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Too Long; Didn't Play: Construction Machines 2014
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 19 June 2015, 6:26 am

Sponsored By: The child in me that still loves playing in sand boxes

Time played: 69 minutes

Small project

Hey! Look at that. A literal sandbox game!

Big Dig Review

My wife is very indulgent. I don't mean "indulgent" like a brownie sundae with vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, caramel and a brownie that's been heated until the chocolate chips in it get runny.

When's lunch?

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June 15 - June 21
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 15 June 2015, 7:37 am

Evidently my pick of the week is the Steam Summer Sale Meta-Game. I've never experienced the clicking of cows or cookies, so I am uncertain as to how those games managed to become addicting in their own right. What I know about this Meta-Game is that I'm not drawn to rapidly click on creatures, but am instead drawn to the promise of ever better equipment and ever bigger numbers.

Oh, and the unlocking of more games to be put on deep discounts for deep savings.

There's actually a strategy here, in knowing when to use certain abilities to maximize rewards and the timing of offensive or defensive powers, as well as to how your money is best spent. It's nothing spectacular, but it's enough of a distraction that I'm finding it to be the most enjoyable Meta Game I've participated in yet.

Otherwise, this week is all about E3 for me. It's like an annual holiday for me, especially with the Steam sale going on. A celebration of games that culminates in the giving of titles to friends and family. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

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Too Long; Didn't Play: Cat Goes Fishing
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 12 June 2015, 6:23 am

Sponsored By: A doting father's desire to share video games with his kids

Time Fished: 2 hours

Smelt it review

I have never been happier to pay six dollars for what could have been a free Flash game.

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Hearts of Iron IV Press Event
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 11 June 2015, 5:17 pm

As I saunter into the event room – an array of some twenty red computers set up in three sections and fresh coffee and drinks on the refreshment table – I feel remarkably centered and in-the-moment, considering that I had been up thirty-eight hours straight the day(s) before. The sun outside is bright in the fresh, early summer day of Old Windsor just beyond the M25 and the massive sprawl of London, and I’m struck by how not-dreary and not-rainy England is proving to be.

In the room are twenty people I respect, including some of my favorite strategy-game streamers, some of my favorite game developers, some terrific writers and good friends both old and new. If I’m honest, I’m a little intimidated by the whole thing. I realize to some degree that I’m the odd man out, a part-time games journalist and podcaster, and the best explanation I can concoct for why I’ve been given this very cool opportunity to travel the globe and see the next major grand strategy game coming from Paradox is probably because even after almost two years I still can’t stop telling you all how great Europa Universalis IV is.

Hint: It’s one of the best strategy games of all time.

Of my access to an early build of Hearts of Iron IV, the one thing I can say with confidence walking out of this session is that for as similar as HoIIV is to other grand strategy Paradox games, it is also exceedingly different. This is not EUIV in WWII. This is a deep wargame operating on a global theater, and in many ways I am experiencing this series for the first time. You see, I am here not as a long standing fan of Hearts of Iron, but as someone who wants to be and has been scared off time and again.

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June 8 – June 14
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 8 June 2015, 9:16 am

This week marks the deepest part of the release-list trench as we approach E3's continental shelf, so prepare yourself for either unlauded gems or the desperation of a sinking writer trying to find any hint of light at depths that seek to crush us.

I actually kind of like the look and feel of a couple titles in the indie-powered, perpetually expanding PC release list (I was tempted to make a Pacific Garbage Patch reference, but as far as I know, nobody makes a habit of combing through that looking for treasure. Yet.) If you're looking for a fun way to kill friends on your couch, I recommend Miner Warfare.

If you ever played a space flying game and wished it was recast as swimming underwater and shooting shellfish, then ... we should hang out. Also, check out Neo Aquarium.

And what's that lurking beyond the reef? I think I saw a flash of the Steam sale's fin. Everybody, out of the water!

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Too Long; Didn't Play: Vangers
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 5 June 2015, 6:07 am

Time Spent: 47 minutes

Sponsored By: Omni

Larva review

So this was PC gaming in 1998.


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Face Values
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 2 June 2015, 6:41 pm

Have you ever read a review where someone claims a game isn't worth $60? Have you been on a forum where everyone seems to think this game you enjoy doesn't have enough content to justify the price tag? Have you been in disagreement? I don't think I'm unique in facing such a predicament.

I'm just as guilty of concluding my impressions of a game with a declaration to wait until it's in the bargain bin. Certain types of experiences must surely justify a certain price tag, right? Only what about the amount of time the game requires? Or the player's level of genre-savviness being able to enhance or detract from their enjoyment of a title? Or even the very reasons that people play games?

I say that trying to equate a game's quality with its price tag is nothing more than a fool's errand, and is perhaps the most subjective aspect of a game itself.

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June 1 - June 7
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 1 June 2015, 6:26 am

I'm writing this at quarter to ten on Sunday night. I was all set to write this week off until I saw updated release list after my kids went to bed. The result was... Still a bit underwhelming, but much better than it was when I got up this morning. Certainly a decent showing this close to E3, anyway.

If the Game King's spot here hadn't been usurped by the band of merry jacobins you've been reading these past few months, you'd probably be reading about Massive Chalice right now. I literally know nothing about it, except that it's from Double Fine, and will therefore go onto my wish list sight unseen, like any movie directed by Brad Bird or Joss Whedon. That is, however, not my pick.

Fans of dichotomies and odd juxtapositions have much to discuss is week. Hatred – a game designed to appeal directly to the part of the market that still hates Jack Thompson with the fire of a thousand suns – is up against Wander – an MMORPG without combat. If there are better examples of the two ends of the spectrum between Murder Simulator and Walking Simulator, I have yet to see them. These are both important games, if only because they define the boundaries that you want to stay between when developing a game.

Neither of those are my pick either. Important isn't the same as fun or good.

My pick is Tap Heroes, because it's simultaneously unusual and derivative. At first blush it looks like a Paper Mario clone, and goodness knows the game-as-theater motif has been done before. It has, however, been done by excellent games. If you're going to be derivative, you could do worse than Paper Mario, Puppeteer and Foul Play.

At same time, it's got a unique hook to it: You don't actually have to play it. The game description says it all:

Participate in battling a ton of foes, buy new upgrades, cast magic and recruit new Heroes. Or just sit back and enjoy the show as your Heroes fight on their own while you watch or do other things.

Many turn-based RPGs get mocked for being little more than interactive cut-scene delivery engines. This one isn't even bothering to make interaction mandatory!

Way to own a trope! Tap Heroes gets my nod for Game of the Week.

Anyone else? Anyone? Bueller?

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Too Long; Didn't Play: Dead Bits
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 29 May 2015, 6:02 am

Time Played: 45 minutes

Sponsored By: Chaz

Pixel Review

Do you like blocky, pseudo-retro art design? Do you like half-baked first person shooters? Do you like levels that erase themselves as you play, so backing up causes you to fall to your death?

Then don't play Dead Bits, because it has all those things and it's terrible!

Voxel Review

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Gaming in the Gaps
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 28 May 2015, 10:36 am

It is interesting to me that in this age of graphical fidelity where it is possible to create in great detail a nuanced, fully-fleshed world that a player can delve into, that with greater frequency I find myself drawn to games that tell the story of a world in many ways through abstraction.

A decade and longer ago I was, like so many others, obsessed with the seemingly limitless potential of improving graphics in video games. From the day I bought and installed my first 3dfx Voodoo 2 with its 8MB of RAM, it's promises of unlocking impossible resolutions such as 1024x768, and its ability to actually run EverQuest, a bold game that actually required 3d acceleration, I had in my head visions of someday playing photo-realistic games.

I knew in my darkest heart's desires that someday when hyper-realistic games were the norm, they would be all I’d play.

We could quibble on how close games are or are-not to this long held, photo-realism ideal, but by any measurable means were I to hand myself a screenshot of The Witcher 3, Dragon Age: Inquisition or Grand Theft Auto 5 back in 1998, I’d have conceded that these games are at least close enough. And yet, more and more these are games I play and dabble with like a kid handed a plate full of brussel sprouts and peas. I metaphorically push the games around with a fork for a while and try to cover them up with a napkin while I ask to be excused from the table.

Instead my time is monopolized by games like Galactic Civilizations 3, Order of Battle: Pacific, Rimworld, Kerbal Space Program and, of course, my long standing obsession with Paradox’s Europa Universalis IV -- take a drink! -- all games that I find far more immersive and evocative than these other games with incredibly detailed and visually stunning worlds.

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Rising To It
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 26 May 2015, 5:59 am

"You play these things for fun, right?"

That was a question I heard a lot as a kid – usually after I had spent some time growling and groaning at a particularly challenging level. The question was one of those not-a-questions that parents ask when they want their kids to change their behavior. Unspoken in that question is "calm down. It's only a game."

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May 25 - May 31
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 25 May 2015, 5:37 am

This week puts me in mind of Zero Mostel. There's Something for Everyone!

WiiUsers get the first major first-party release in ages, with a new IP even! Fighting game fans get two, count 'em, two new fighting games. Whatever the CRPG equivalent of Grognards are get Serpent of the Staglands, and fans of IOS ports get Badland, a title that's certain to be misspelled hundreds of times if it's written about at all (it should be, Badland is a wonderful game) and The Silent Age.

There's even something for whatever the hell kind of gamer I am: Catlateral Damage is a feline- themed Goat Simulator knock-off by Chris Chung. As a well-documented fan of unabashed silliness, I approve. The art style is crisp and beautiful, and the concept is tailor made for the content: you play as a cat who is a sadistic bastard. If that’s not a hard-core sim, I don't know what is. Finally, I'll be able to name a character Greebo and really mean it.

Catlateral Damage gets my pick for Game of the Week.

What else we got, team?

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Too Long; Didn't Play: Bastion
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 22 May 2015, 6:12 am

Sponsored By: Onion Bubs

Time Played: 59 minutes, plus commercials.

The Kid Review

Welcome to another installment of Too Long; Didn't Play, where our motto is "Late to the party, and going home early." Today we're here with The Narrator and The Kid for an exclusive interview about life, destruction, and federal regulations.

I'm your host, Pinta Winkles. Let's get this party started, after the break

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Unhappily Ever After
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 19 May 2015, 8:22 am

[Warning: This article contains spoilers for the endings of inFamous: Second Son and BioShock, with brief details from the endings of Drakengard 3 and Halo: ODST.]

A sense of déjà vu gripped me as firmly as I gripped the controller while the credits of inFamous: Second Son rolled by on the screen. I had been playing the game obsessively for just a few days as protagonist Delsin, a naive hero with a rather optimistic outlook and sense of right and wrong.

That is, if you're playing the "good" path.

Throughout his journey, Delsin encounters a number of characters balancing themselves upon the fence of morality, swaying in the open air, capable at any time of falling into the realm of good or evil. Delsin's – and thus the player's – choices often pull these characters down to whichever side of the fence Delsin has chosen, or challenge Delsin's ability to stick to an extreme. It becomes clear by the end that nothing is as simple as "good" versus "evil".

Before I even launched my assault on her fortress, I had chosen to spare Augustine, the game's antagonist. As I entered her lair, I was treated to her personal history, one that broke down the wall of extremes and sought for a third moral option. The game had me hooked. It was about time we had a story that challenged these ideas of black and white morality, where our protagonist would learn that "doing the right thing" would have consequences of its own. As I fought and defeated Augustine, I was eagerly anticipating a bittersweet, unhappy ending. Delsin's plans for a better tomorrow would only result in greater conflict upon the streets. Even if Augustine wasn't right, she wasn't wrong, either, and our naive hero was about to learn things the hard way.

Only, no. That wasn't the ending at all. Augustine was defeated, and Delsin's naive sense of right and wrong was rewarded with a bubblegum-happy conclusion. Everyone held hands and sang songs in a perfect world of tolerance and glee.

I felt cheated and betrayed. This wasn't the ending I wanted. This wasn't the ending that said anything meaningful about its characters or the state of the world. It was the ending of a fairy tale, and I hated it.

It was BioShock all over again.

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May 18 - May 24
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 17 May 2015, 10:47 pm

I was into The Witcher before it was cool. That’s right, I said it. From the moment it was announced as the first game to use the Aurora Engine (Neverwinter Nights) outside of Bioware, I kept an eye on the series. It took a long time and a lot of engine upgrades before it finally came out in 2007. It took nearly four years for the sequel to emerge in 2011 and another four to bring us to CD Projekt RED going for broke with this big, open world expression of the series. The major review sites have lauded The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt with near-perfect scores across the board, some comparing it to Red Dead Redemption just to twist the knife and make the wait that much more excruciating.

Strutting around a dark fantasy world like Clint Eastwood with a sword is pretty much 80% of my gameplay aspirations so you’d better believe The Witcher 3 is my Game of The Week. Also happy to see Life is Strange Episode 3 is launching. The first two episodes have been tops and I have high hopes for the remainder of the series.

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Too Long; Didn't Play: Luftrausers
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 15 May 2015, 6:04 am

Sponsored By: Me, enabled by you

Time Played: 99 minutes

Achtung! Review

Vrrreeeooooowww! Pew pew pew! Bbbrrrremmmmmm! Pshoo! Pshoo!

Ach du lieber! Review

I should just buy stock in Devolver already. Literally every game they've published has been a real winner with me. Time and again they capture the essence of video gaming as I understand it. Every game is a fine meal: delicious, easy-to-eat gameplay, gorgeous presentation that still manages to be unobtrusive, and an inevitable lump of gristle that would mean some dental work if I were slowing down enough to chew.

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The Case for Social
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 14 May 2015, 6:24 pm

A few weeks ago I was presenting at a speaking engagement as part of my job. Part of my presentation talked about social media. After the event, one of the audience members approached me, and pointed out how much they didn’t like social platforms. As it happened, the amount of how much this person didn’t like social platform was "a lot."

I’m far from being the great advocate of Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, but I understand their place in our society and I get why so many people like them so much. What I began to realize as we talked about this person's not-particularly-veiled dislike for social media is that two things were influencing the dislike. The first was a fundamental predisposition – part of the dislike just came from the sense that disliking social media was what this person felt like they were supposed to do. The second thing influencing the dislike was a fundamental misunderstanding of why these networks exist.

“People get on there, and it’s all just self-serving. It just feels really pointless to me. Like, why should I care about your picture of what you ate for lunch?”

I actually can’t remember the last time someone Tweeted me a picture of their lunch, and yet I hear this particular criticism all the time. The reality is that social media isn’t creating some new vehicle for narcissistic egoism. It is, in fact, quite the opposite. It is replacing a relationship-building tool that has been around in one form or another for centuries.

Because, as it turns out, doing something like sharing what you had for lunch – in case that’s a thing people are doing in droves just ever so slightly outside of my vision – has very little to do with aggrandizing the person sharing the photo and everything to do with the people at whom that shared moment is aimed.

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May 11 - May 17
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 10 May 2015, 11:22 pm

My first impulse this week was to just shrug it off as a loss and pick the re-re-release of Final Fantasy X/X-2. We've long established that I'm a AAA vacuum that is "what's wrong with this industry", after all.

Instead I chose to break free of my comfort zone and look through these indie games, walking away with some surprising discoveries. When a trailer opens up with "From the Makers of Mark of the Ninja", I'm sitting up straight, eyes lit by lanterns of interest. A tactical stealth game from the creators of perhaps the best stealth game in years, you say? Why yes, sir, I'll grab that order of Invisible, Inc. right quick.

But my actual pick of the week must go to Toren. It's an adventure about a young girl taking up sword to face the dragon. From the gameplay to the story it just feels like the sort of game I've dreamed of making – had I the talent – since my niece was born. How could I not choose it?

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Too Long; Didn't Play: Transistor (For Realsies This Time)
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 8 May 2015, 6:04 am

Sponsored by: Me on the PC, PS+ on the PS4 (which means me again).

Time Played: around 90 minutes between the PS4 and the PC

Limiter Review

I feel a certain amount of atonement is necessary. The last time I put Transistor in the title of a review, it was a joke and, judging by the response, not a very funny one. Since I fancy myself a humorist, and a humorist is only a humorist if the humorist is funny (otherwise the humorist becomes a "humorist"), I feel no small amount of shame over the affair.

No matter. Today isn't yesterday, nor is it tomorrow – and a good thing, too. Otherwise I'd miss out on whole weeks of pages from my pun-a-day calendar ("The word's a stage, and a pun is a play on them.")

Let's get down to the business of finally reviewing Transistor.

It's great!

Goodnight, everybody!

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GWJ Plays Dread - Part Three (Final Episode!)
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 6 May 2015, 12:16 am

One of our 2014 Donation Drive stretch goals was for us to record an RPG session at rabbitcon so you could finally see what all the fuss was about! We've brought together some of the finest roleplayers around along with master GM Kevin Kulp to take you through a complete game of Dread.

Daring adventure! Space! A Jenga tower! Horrible visions that will keep you up at night! This is the third any final episode of the adventure. Will they make it out alive?! Youtube link in case embedded video doesn't work for you.

Once you've watched all three parts you can read the Q&As the players filled out ahead of time to fill out their character backgrounds and give Kevin ideas on how to tie everyone into the story.

Starring Lara Crigger, Karla Andrich, Graham Rowat, Rob Daviau and Shawn Andrich as the players.

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GWJ Conference Call Episode 447
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 5 May 2015, 11:56 pm

Episode 447 - May 6th, 2015
RimWorld, Axiom Verge, Kerbal 1.0, Marvel Heroes 2015, Early Access Squatting, Your Emails and More!

Right Click Here and 'Save As' to Download!
(An Early 37.1 MBs, 1:04:52)

This week Sean Sands, Cory Banks and Allen Cook talk Early Access.

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Game Faces
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 5 May 2015, 8:14 pm

I slide the truck into an open spot and put it in park. I sit for a moment while the podcaster finishes speaking, because I am Greg – and Greg has a hard time interrupting people. The voice finishes. I stop the playback, disconnect the iPhone and turn off the truck. Through my windshield, I see the squat, two-story building that holds my work stuff.

Time to change. As I open the door and step into the parking lot, I'm Work Greg. Not Mr. Decker, like my grandfather, or Decker like my father. I go by Greg here, but I'm not the Greg I am at home. I'm louder, more confident, not necessarily funnier, but funny in a different way – the leopard can change his spots, but not remove them completely. My jokes become less witty, more socially acceptable. Occasionally I'll let a joke that's a shade too geeky slip out – and then immediately wish I hadn't, because I get the blank looks and awkward silences that remind me why Work Greg exists.

I'm affable at work. I make small talk, even though it hurts my head to make small talk. I work my butt off, and I do it smiling because nobody wants to be around Work Greg when he's a sourpuss – and if nobody wants to be around Work Greg, then Work Greg ceases to exist, because there will be no work for him to be Work Greg at.

I'm Work Greg for nine hours, sometimes more, and by then Work Greg is starting to get on my nerves. He's always on. They never let him sit down. He can't get tired, because he's Work Greg, so I get tired for him. Eventually I pack it in and say "it's a day," because that's how Work Greg calls it a day. Nobody laughs. Work Greg tells that joke because he knows I like it.

Work Greg is a real mensch. Everybody likes Work Greg. At least they pretend to. I've never been sure about that.

Work Greg and I head for the truck. Ignition, podcast, drive. Sometimes memories run through my head unbidden.

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May 4 - May 10
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 4 May 2015, 6:25 am

There are no easy choices this week. The industry didn't make it easy. I was hoping, for example, that there would only be two releases for the PS4. That way I could have said, "This week I'm picking the game that was released on PS4."

And everyone could ask, "Which game on PS4?"

And I could reply, "Oh, Ether One."

Yes, I did work hard for that joke. Thanks for noticing!

Notable this week we have Cosmophony, a former WiiU exclusive, making its way onto the Sony platforms for today and yesterday; Syberia 2 on PS3, because that game is totally still relevant; and another Shin Megami Tensei game, which I'm sure will get its proper tongue bath from everyone in the 3DS thread who is not me.

High Strangeness is on my watch list because the marketing hinges on me knowing the difference between 8-bit ARPGs and 16-bit ARPGs, and I didn't play enough of either for that short-cut to tell me anything about what the game actually is. They also lose points for calling the game "12-bit" when the programmer in me knows the game is 16-bit all the time, regardless of how much space the graphics take up.

Sometimes, though, you just have to ask yourself: "What would the Game King do?" I feel like the answer is to flip a coin between Project Cars and Wolfenstein: Old Blood. Since I don't like racing games in general, that leaves me with Wolfenstein. If they don't let me blow up Hitler in a mech suit, I shall be sorely disappointed.

Let's see what everyone else thinks.

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