Holiday Play, 2012 Edition
Well, it seems we’ve reached that time of year again. The semester is winding down (or has wound down), final exams have been taken (or given), grades (or assignments) have been turned in, and many of us are kicking back with our favorite adult beverage in hand. Thats right, folks. The glorious Christmahanukwanzaakah season is upon us! And, in what has become a holiday tradition around the Play the Past offices, its the perfect time for us to share one or two (or three of four) of the games we’re looking forward to playing during our down time (before PtP goes on its holiday publishing hiatus).
This holiday season I’m really looking forward to playing Halo 4 (which my wife is “getting” me for Christmas). I’ve always enjoyed the games in the Halo series enormously and I’ve been waiting for this latest installment with rapt anticipation. I’m also really looking forward to finally being able to play the copy of the new Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition for iPad, which I bought a couple of weeks back but haven’t had a chance to play it at all because of a particularly intense end of semester schedule. I played the game faithfully and obsessively back in the day on PC (along with all of the expansions, Baldur’s Game II, and Icewind Dale I & II – I actually think I’ve got all of the original disks kicking around my office somewhere). As such, this new enhanced iPad version gives me a chance to return back to a world that gave me so much enjoyment (without having to dust off the old PC I’ve got buried somewhere in my basement.
My son is getting a copy of the new LOTR Lego game for Christmas (shhhh, don’t tell him). No, there isn’t much in the way of innovation in the Lego games, but they are a lot of fun for he and I to play together – I doubt this version will be any different (especially given the fact that he and I will most likely go see the Hobbit over the holidays).
I’ve also got some non-digital game plans as well over the break. My son is getting a copy of Martian Fluxx for Christmas. Neither of us has ever played any of the Fluxx games (I know, crazy, right?) but, from what people tell me, it is a perfect game for a lad of his age (10). He is also getting a copy of Talisman (4th Edition). He loves sword and sorcery, adventure type stuff (lets be honest, what 10 year old boy doesn’t), and Talisman seems like a great way to indulge that (especially since many of the multitude of similarly themed games out there are made for slightly older players). Besides, I’ve never owned a copy of Talisman, and have always wanted to (are you sensing a trend here?).
Happy holidays to all!
Two games top my list for the holiday break: first, the final episode of The Walking Dead, about which I’m inordinately excited because of what I see as the amazing storytelling mechanics Telltale games have evolved from the point-and-click adventure and the dialogue-driven RPG; second, Assassin’s Creed 3, which I can’t say I’m as much excited about as grimly determined to break. I have a nearly crippling nostalgia about the original topography of Boston, you see, and I’m planning to engage in the absolute minimum of the apparently (and unsurprisingly) tedious gameplay necessary to be able to perform myself as a citizen of revolutionary-war-era Boston. I’m not sanguine about the prospects of establishing myself as a non-conforming preacher, but at least I’ll be able (I think) to walk the length Charles Street, with the Charles River beside me and the beacon of Beacon Hill above me. (Charles Street today runs through the midst of the city, the original width of the Charles long greatly curtailed by fill; Beacon Hill is a hill no longer, having been hauled away, yes, for fill.) Plus, in late-breaking news, I believe I’ll be be playing a lot of Ingress, Google’s Niantic Labs’ ARG in beta, which I recently had the luck to be invited to play. If I hadn’t already wasted a shockingly large amount of gas on my travels among portals, this would be a game to end games, but as it is I assuage environmental guilt with the memories of the wonderful time I’ve been spending with my kids, who always claim the Nexus 7 as “Navigator,” and can snap-hack as we drive by a post office with the best of them. No, none of this makes any sense unless you know a lot about a game that hasn’t yet gone loud, but think of Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom played across, well, the entire map of the world. Also, get ready to have your idea of the nature of immersion transformed, if you still think it has anything to do with what you see on your screen.
The holidays for me this year will mostly involve catching up on dissertation writing and job searching, but should I manage to squeeze the time in, I expect to hopefully play some Assassin’s Creed 3 with my brother. I also picked up Darksiders II which I cannot wait to get into. Death and swords – love it. I will of course continue playing RIFT: Storm Legion because I just cannot seem to get enough of seductive mind-control dragons and marauding beasts from the parallel planes of existence. I expect as well that much of my time will involve a more analog style of play as I build set upon set of Lego Lord of the Rings with my two sons. Pretty sure I will have just as much if not more fun with all those little pieces as the kids. Have you seen the Legolas minifigure?! LEGO may have reached the pinnacle of its existence with this product line. Happy Holidays to all. Enjoy your families and make sure you spend time playing whether with snow, cookie dough, building blocks, game boards, or XBOX controllers. And, of course, have a very happy New Year.
While I would love to complete a second (and hardcore difficulty / renegade) play through of the Mass Effect series, it’s more likely that I will be sticking to mobile and analog games this holiday season. My roommates and I have been introduced to the world of Fluxx, a zany card game in which winning conditions and rules change as you play. My favorite is Star Fluxx, which references common characters and tropes from various sci fi series, although I’m looking forward to Zombie Fluxx as well! On the mobile front, I will probably finish Final Fantasy II on my old iPod touch and play through Golden Sun: Dark Dawn again on my 3DS. These are great games for the long bus ride home for the holidays! If I do have some quality console time, I hope to join the Companions and buy my first house in Skyrim. Maybe I’ll take up with the Imperial army, but I haven’t totally decided that one yet (it’s not my fault the rebels seem boring!). I also plan on trying out games that my boyfriend and his colleagues created during their first semester of NYU’s MFA program in game design. I hope you all have a great holiday season and that you find plenty of time to relax and play games. Cheers!
One of my favorite computer games of the past year, the World War II themed ‘Unity of Command’, just released a new expansion, ‘The Red Turn’, so I imagine more than a few afternoons will be spent plotting how to best pierce German lines with my stalwart Red Army. Thanks to the winter break, I’ll also have time to really dive into Crusader Kings II and hopefully bring a glorious conclusion to my Croatian dynasty that I started playing a few months ago. (I had a great plan early on to keep Hungary destabilized while I dealt with the Byzantine Empire to the east- but in the late stages of my game, Hungary has roared back even as the Byzantines falter under pressure from the Muslim powers in the Middle East and North Africa!) If you enjoy medieval politics and machinations or just enjoy watching/reading the Game of Throne episodes/books, then I highly recommend checking this game out. On the non-digital front, I’m hoping to teach my board gaming buddy the rules for the first game in GMT’s new COIN series, Andean Abyss (a board game about the Colombian counter-insurgency campaign from the mid 90’s up to now), all while I play-test the next volume in the series, A Distant Plain, which centers on the most recent war in Afghanistan. I am also itching (no pun intended) to get Pandemic on the table, because I haven’t really played any ‘c0-operative’ board games and this title seems to be one of the best.
I pledged the Kickstarter for John Butterfield’s new Battle of the Bulge iPad game, and it’s due for delivery from the Apple Store any day. Butterfield is a legendary designer in the world of hex and counter board wargames, and this is his first foray into the tabletop tablet (tablettop?) realm, in partnership with an outfit called Shenandoah Studios which includes some other long-time grogs as well. The IOS and Android platforms have really begun to makes themselves felt in the board wargames hobby, with GMT, Victory Point Games, and others porting established designs to these new platforms as well as creating new titles that combine the best design elements of of manual and computer sims. For example, in the Bulge game, you, as the player, can gauge the relative strength of enemy forces, but you can’t “factor count” to arrive at a precise mathematical ratio to improve your combat odds. The game thus keeps the chore of number crunching out of the players’ hair, while also generating a more realistic experience of battlefield command. I’m looking forward to giving it a try.
I so want to go play something. Anything. I’m to teach a class on history and simulation for historians come the winter term, and from the sounds of it, everyone who’s going to take it is very keen on Assassin’s Creed 3 indeed. This poses a problem for me as I don’t own a console. I am going to play some Portal (last one to the party, I know), and I hope to eventually figure out how to get Micropolis (the open version of the original SimCity) working on my machine. But I think most of my time will be spend playing Hungry Hungry Hippos with my kids.
I recently began playing Bethesda’s Dishonored, a stealth/action game set in a steampunk whaling port under siege by a deadly plague. I was hoping that Dishonored would be this year’s Skyrim—which I have spent countless hours playing in the past year. I’m not far into Dishonored yet, and while I’m enjoying it, I’m sure that it won’t top Skyrim (in fact I still enjoy Skyrim even after finishing the main storyline). A less complex game than Dishonored is Tokyo Jungle (which is only available for the PS3, via the PlayStation Network). The premise is simple: humans have disappeared from Tokyo and you play one of the now-wild animals in the city, starting off as a tiny Pomeranian. The mechanics are refreshingly simple, and it’s a blast to sick this little lap dog on larger prey. The game (like Journey before it) also suggests that the PS3 might become the go-to destination for quirky games that challenge the dominance of typical blockbuster games. Finally, if you want a “game” that really gets you moving, I recommend Zombies, Run!—an iOS and Android running app that weaves the narrative of a zombie apocalypse around your regular running routine. Each run becomes a mission in which you invariably try to outrun pursuing zombies while characters from your home base talk to you through your headphones, slowly revealing a background story. Zombies, Run! is a bit like an ARG of one player, and it’s definitely made my running more entertaining.
Having skipped most of the end-game content of Rise of Isengard, I’m eagerly awaiting the latest update to the Riders of Rohan expansion for The Lord of the Rings Online. I hope to spend a bit of my small holiday break as my captain charging across the open plains of Rohan, hunting some orc. From what I’ve played so far, the mounted combat mechanics introduced with the latest expansion have changed the gameplay experience of LOTRO significantly — and not at all in a bad way. In addition, I’m also hoping that my wife received my not-so-subtle hints that I’d like Halo 4 for Christmas. With a bit of luck I’ll be in Master Chief’s boots for another go round. Lastly, I’ll be playing the most challenging game of my life as we read all the directions, twist the pieces off of the sprues, punch out all of the chits, and frantically set up for the arrival our first child after the new year. Happy Holidays, everyone!
I could say that I will be spending my holiday break poking into all the Playstation 3 games I have purchased over the last year and never played (e.g., Batman: Arkham Asylum, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Fallout 3, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, or Assassin’s Creed III). Or I could say that, like Jeremy above, I plan to keep building my medieval Irish empire in Crusader Kings II on the PC. Or I could even say, like Ethan above, that I plan to play with my son the LEGO Lord of the Rings game I bought him for his birthday in early January. However, that would all be lies (well, except for the last one…fatherhood and all that…). I have only two main video game sicknesses right now: 1) multiplayer mode in Mass Effect 3; and 2) Skyrim (glorious, fantabulous Skyrim!). Add in a healthy dose of tabletop RPGs (currently mucking about with the Mongoose version of Traveller and First Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons), and you pretty much have not only the next few months of my life, but the last few as well. Happy Holidays!