Rant: Don’t Buy Batman Arkham City… Yet

More than any other super hero, I love Batman. He’s my favorite. He’s the best. When I play rock-paper-scissors with my kid, there’s always the hidden option of playing Batman. Batman always wins. It’s frowned upon to play Batman too often, otherwise it cheapens Batman for everyone involved. In the great party game Apples to Apples, there’s a card that says ‘Batman’ on it. When played, this card wins because Batman always wins.

TANGENT: When he was 8 years old, some relatives took my boy to see The Dark Knight against his will, and it scared the hell out of him. I didn’t find out about it until after the fact, but seriously, who brings an 8-year-old to that movie? Anyway, what was I saying?

Oh yeah, so the kid is afraid of Batman. He’s afraid of the joker, he’s afraid of two-face, and I was pissed. Fast forward to when he’s 10 and we’re discussing super heroes. I talk about the silly batman from the 60s, and he doesn’t believe me. He assumes I’ve made it all up! Minutes later I have him watching the 1966 Batman movie on Netflix and he’s laughing his ass off. When it’s done we go out and find Season 1 of 1990 Batman Animated Series, and he loves that! The point is, Batman always wins.

Do you see where I’m going with this? In Batman Arkham City, Batman is going to win. He’s going to beat up all the bad guys, buy-out all the evil businesses, and run over robots with the batmobile or something. It’s just going to happen because (say it with me now) Batman always wins. So you know how it ends. You know that the Dark Knight, will come out on top. This isn’t some Assassin’s Creed/Da Vinci’s Code bullshit, this is the Goddamn Batman. He’s going to win. So my question is, why are you willing to pay 70 bucks for the base game plus god knows what for DLC for a forgone conclusion? What are you, crazy?

Ah, but now you say “I’m not playing it for the ending! Of course Batman wins! I’m playing it for the experience! For the story!” And that’s when I start my maniacal laughter. Slow at first, but building to insane heights. And after a deep breath I say “Just as planned.”

You see, I plan on buying the game for the same reason. I plan on playing it with my boy just as I played Batman Arkham Asylum with him a few months ago. But if you’re playing it for the story and the experience, and you don’t care about the ending, then why rush out to buy it at launch, when it’s most expensive? Why give so much money to the publishers, just to have them deliver an incomplete experience that you have to then pay extra to complete? Why give them money to support their version of Project $10?

Remember what I said in a previous post about not letting the publisher’s marketing departments determine your spending habits? Well, remember it this time! Taking care of yourself in a shitty economy means making your non-essential purchases at the right times for the right prices. If you hold out for 6 months you can get the Game of the Year edition for $40 and it’ll have all the DLC, all the content, and none of the hassle.

Yes, I know waiting 6 months sucks but it sucks less than paying $60 +tax and wasting $10-$20 EXTRA on unnecessary DLC when there’s no multiplayer and you already know how the game is going to end in the first place. Ok, maybe you can’t wait for 6 months. Can you wait for 2? Because in 2 months, Steam will start its holiday sales, and you can grab the game then for stupid cheap. Hell, they’ll probably throw in a copy of Arkham Asylum for $.99 or something.

And again, don’t worry about the sales of Batman Arkham City. With the hype for the game, and the reviews it’s getting, there’s no way it won’t sell at least a million copies in the first week, and become a GoTY contender. Just bide your time with your backlog or some of the cheap alternatives I’ve mentioned before, and get the game when the Price is Right. Also, spay and neuter your pets.

Until next time, Good Gaming!

-Dan

Review: Small World [iPad]

Before we get into this review, I should tell you that you should first play or own the original Small World board game by Philippe Kenarets and published by Days of Wonder. So go to your favorite local game store (you have one now, right?) and do that. Go on. I’ll be here when you’re back.

Back? Ok! So Small World on the iPad. I’m pretty awful at reviewing games I don’t like, because this is another ‘buy’ game. I’m sorry, I’ll try to review something I hate next week. until then bear with me as I gush all about how great this game is, or skip down to the bottom for the bullet points. Anyway, what makes Small World on the iPad so good?

First let’s talk about portability. If you’re traveling by plane, boat, or Amish dairy cart, you probably don’t have a lot of space to set up even a two player game of Small World, what with all its bits and pieces. And have you ever tried to get an Amish dairy farmer to stop the cart on a count of a lost die? Yeah, that’s not going to happen. The iPad, being the sexy little wundertablet it is, is amazingly portable, and requires no extra pieces. All the in-game pieces you need are logically laid out and you have access to them when you need them. Speaking of access when you need it, the rules are available whenever you want to browse through them, right from the game’s UI. There’s no exiting the game to load up a webpage, it’s all there and ready for you.

The game also plays by the rules. The biggest issue that makes me think twice about buying a game on the iPad is how well it’s programmed. There’s a lot of crap in the App Store, so read those negative reviews before you buy a new game. Thankfully, Days of Wonder did a great job with the Small World app, and not only does it work, but it works well. I’ve never had the game crash on me. The dice rolling appears to be truly random regardless of difficulty. And you probably won’t come across a strange case of ‘why is the CPU cheating’ like with other iPad versions of board game (I’m looking at you, RISK).

Let’s talk price. The game is a steal at $6.99, but it occasionally goes on sale for cheaper. If you want to wait to enjoy this game when it’s cheaper then by all means please do so. Keep an eye on the Games category page of the App Center and pounce when it’s in your price range.

Sadly, it’s not all gumdrops and berserker hill giants. There are a few negatives. Firstly, the game only supports 2 players. Small World is a game that excels when played with a group of 3 or more. It’s a laugh riot and surprisingly competitive. Being limited to two players is kind of a bummer. Next, the expansions. There are 2 base games and 6 expansions in the Small World game line, and only 2 expansions can be purchased in-game. Boo! I want more! Finally, there’s the occasional glitch. I know this goes against my ‘but it works well’ praise. It wasn’t a game ending scenario and after the first time it happened it was easy to avoid. Just be sure you put down your heroes, fortresses, and other such things in your Redeployment phase, otherwise they might come off the board and vanish. Silly I know, but it’s there.

PROS:

  • Great digital version of a great board game
  • Cheap
  • Just as fun as the original

CONS:

  • Only 2 expansions can be purchased for the game
  • The game only (currently) supports 2 plays
  • The occasional hero, fortress, what-have-you placement glitch

VERDICT:

  • This is a fun game with no free demo available. It’s cheap at $6.99 and it occasionally goes on sale. If you have your iPad with you and you’re looking for something to enjoyably kill 30 minutes alone or with a friend, then I suggest you give the Small World iPad app a go!

   BUY (this and the board game too)

Store Spotlight: Uncle’s Games in Redmond, WA

I’ve written previously on the importance of buying your games locally. This tends to be harder with video games these days, as you can probably plot out the route to two different GameStops right now without really trying. Stores that sell ‘traditional games’ like board games, card games, war games, etc, are different. For reasons I won’t get into in this post there’s no strong national competition in that space. Provided you don’t count the generally crappy choices in the Wal-Mart and Target toy isles. But enough about them, let’s talk about my favorite game store.

Uncle’s Games is a regional chain of traditional game stores in Washington State. Though it started out as a side business in the corner of a popular Spokane bookstore called Auntie’s Books, it’s since outpaced Auntie’s and now has four locations as well as an online shop. For now let’s talk the one in Redmond Town Center, because it’s the one I frequent the most.

There are many resons why this is my favorite game store, but let’s start off at the top. First reason? The People.

The Uncle’s staff is professional. You’ll never get an indignant ‘WHAT DO YOU WANT?’ from an Uncle’s employee. Plus everyone bathes, so there’s no 3rd day at SDCC odor. In addition to smelling nice, they’re also very friendly.  9 times out of 10, they’ll stop what they’re doing and play a game demo with you if you ask them. Everyone is also very knowledgable about their games, as they tend to only sell products that they’re passionate about.

Next reason: The store itself. Uncle’s Games has plenty of space for gaming. It’s well-lit and laid out. All the ‘hardcore’ games like Decent and Axis & Allies are in the back, and all the shiny kid’s stuff is up front. Card games behind the counter, and snacks in the mini fridge. Oh and there’s a whole wall of puzzles in case that’s something you care about. It’s not really my bag, but 3 out of 4 walls get me going every time.

Next next reason: The schedule. Every day of the week there’s a scheduled event, be it Magic on Thursdays ,Wargaming on Wednesdays, or the Pokemon CCG league on Saturdays (so you can drop off your kid and take the wife somewhere special for dinner). There’s always something going on at Uncle’s.

Next next next reason: The stock. They never seem to have a problem getting a hold of games and merchandise. I visit Uncle’s at least once a week and every time I do there’s something new and exciting to add to my game collection. If there’s something you’re looking for and you can’t find it, hit up of the employees to get it on to their special order list, even if it’s out of print and impossible to find they’ll do their best to find it for you. They really go the extra mile in this regard.

Final reason: The discounts. If you’re a frequent shopper at Uncle’s, or if you’ve organized an event or 3 at their store, chances are you’ll end up getting a discount. Or if you’re not interested doing either of those, if you time your purchases to coincide with right day on their schedule, you’ll automatically get a 15% discount. Which is more than enough reason to hibernate your PC long enough to get out of the house and hit them up at least once a week.

So if you’re ever in the Redmond, WA area, stop by Uncle’s Games in Redmond Town Center. They’re always willing to answer any questions and help out as best as they can. More so than any other game store I’ve been to in the past, they’re just as invested in you as you are in your hobby.

Until next time, Good Gaming!

-Dan

Game Spotlight: BrikWars

The biggest complaint I hear about wargaming is the cost. Those little lead man-dollies cost quite a bit when it comes time to put a reasonable army together. Not to mention the cost of construction equipment like paints, files, saws, and brushes. You’re looking at hundreds of dollars invested by the time you have a small force, just large enough for the other guys in your gaming group to smirk at.  Ah, but at the same time you want to throw the dice! You yearn to play out fantastic battles around the table, checking rule books, and pinning your hopes on lady luck. By the way, I bet that you have a box full of LEGOs somewhere. Either that, or you have LEGO houses, castles, and Death Stars just sitting on your bookshelves. Why do I ask? Oh, no reason…

Oh wait there was a reason, and that reason is BrikWars! Over 15 years in the making, BrikWars is the… well, let’s save some time and just quote Wikipedia:

BrikWars is a miniatures wargaming system by Mike Rayhawk, created for use with plastic building blocks and figurines. It is designed to be simplistic and flexible, allowing for its players’ full range of creativity in creating armies, creatures, vehicles, and worlds out of construction toys. Although targeted primarily at adults, BrikWars is known for its straight-faced acceptance of the kinds of ridiculous scenarios and multi-genre mashups that arise naturally when children dump out their unsorted toybins on the floor. Much of its humor comes from satirizing “serious” wargames and their players, while flouting or deliberately misinterpreting conventions of the genre.

I’ve played many wargames. A few of them I still play *cough*Warmachine and Dystopian Wars*cough* Some of the games I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on have vanished. Gone off to the big IP auction house in the sky. But some games I never spent a dollar on and they’re kept alive by groups of like-minded manchildren. BrikWars is one such game.

Playing a game of BrikWars is equal parts wargame, and good ol’ fashioned playtime. The rules leave much to personal interpretation and while the objective of the game is to win* the point of the game is to have fun with your bricks and friends.  This is also a great first wargame for kids. When my boy was 9, we busted out his LEGOs and had a huge BrikWars fight between Orcs, Dwarves, and a hyper-intellegent-catapult. It was great fun, and we still have each force today sitting on opposite shelves in the TV room, mocking each other, waiting for the next round. So grab the rules, fish through your old toy boxes for your LEGOs and call up a friend. You’ve got yourself a free game that will delight and enrage. Don’t say I never gave you nothing.

Tomorrow I’ll write about my favorite local game store. Until then, Good Gaming!

-Dan


*No it’s not.

Rant: Buy Local, Save the World

I’ve made a lot of interesting choices in my life. Chief among them (for the purposes of this article) is where I live. I’ve traveled all over the world and I’ve seen stuff in person that most folks only get to see on the internet. Women immediately spring to mind (ZING!) But over the last few years, whenever I travel to a new part of the US, I’ve seen the same thing. Foreclosed houses. Derelict downtown commercial centers. Wal-Marts and homeless people. I’ve seen it in towns and I’ve even seen it in some major metropolitan cities.

The number of times I’ve driven through a city and seen nothing but chain stores and empty parking lots with people sleeping in them is frightening. You might be saying to yourself ‘So what? What can I, the humble gamer, do to fix this giant economic mess that’s affecting everyone on Earth?’ Well the answer is two words: Buy local.  It’s not the solution for everything, but if more people kept their money in the local economy, as I’ve seen done here in western Washington, the country would be a lot better off. Anyway, here are some tips for buying local.

  • While it might be tempting to buy things cheaply online, don’t outsource your gaming dollars to the online retailer with the lowest price. Think about what that extra two dollars can do in your community!
  • Look online for a local game store that’s NOT a GameStop or other national chain. A regional chain is fine. You’d be surprised at the level of service that a local mom-and-pop store will go through to keep your business. Unlike the national chains, they’re invested in you!
  • If there are no mom-and-pop or regional chain game stores in your area, organize a weekly gaming group at a community center. Community centers usually offer their services for free, or for a small fee that goes towards maintaining the facility and providing much-needed services to your community. Don’t sit around and play games with yourself in the dark, go out and share your love of gaming with the people around you. While this might not immediately strike you as keeping your money local, consider this a stepping stone in the right direction. It’s a sorta if you build it, they will come, kind of thing.
  • If you must buy from huge national brands or chains, buy from local manufacturers/producers. This is easier for me, because I purposefully chose where I live. For example, when I buy from Microsoft, Nintendo, Amazon, Wizards of the Coast, Privateer Press, WizKids, Soda Pop Miniatures, Ebay, Coca Cola, Costco, Valve, Starbucks, Penny Arcade, and scores of other companies/brands, my money stays in the local economy! The greater Seattle area has not been affected as much as other major cities in the US, and I think a large part of that comes from the efforts of people trying to keep their money local.
  • Move. If you just straight-up hate your local community, move to a different one. I didn’t care for Orlando, Florida, and though I was leaving behind good friends & family, my life in Redmond Washington is better that I could have imagined just a few short years ago. Do some research and find a community that you can be passionate about, and then move there. Chances are they’re waiting for you.

That’s it for this week. Next week I’ll see if I can wrangle up a give-away and a guest post or two. Until then, Good Gaming!

-Dan

Charity Spotlight: Humble Indie Bundle

It is my belief that if you’re a Low On XP reader, you’re a gamer that likes to save money. It’s also my belief that you understand the importance of charity, especially during a recession. If that’s the case, then GOOD NEWS, EVERYONE! The Humble Indie Bundle is back, and ready for you save money, play games, and give to charity.

Now in its 5th iteration, the Humble Indie Bundle is a bundle of PC, Mac, & Linux/Unix games from independent studios that are DRM free, and are served up in a pay-what-you-want manner. Think the games are worth $500? Great! Think they’re worth $.10? Great! Think the games are worth nothing? You’re a terrible person and you should feel bad. Very bad. Because in addition to paying for the games, the price you set for the bundle can be split up via handy-dandy sliders between developers and charities like Child’s Play (my favorite) or the Electronic Frontier Foundation (whatever it is they do).

The bundlers behind current humble bundling have bundled additional games into the bundle via dark and occult bundlations. When you pay more than the average donation (less than 5 bucks at the time of writing), you’ll also get the 5 games that were a part of the Humble Indie Bundle 2.5. Head to the Humble Indie Bundle homepage for more information.

If you need even MORE prodding to part with your pocket change to support charity and indie game makers, then you should know that whenever I’ve participated in past humble bundlatory behavior, they’ve sweetened the deal by adding additional games as the time remaining draws to a close. So, what are you waiting for? Give some change and make a change for the best. And, you know, get some awesome games while you’re at it. Win-win.

Review: Orcs Must Die! [Xbox Live Arcade]

It’s an unspoken law in most fantasy games, but Robot Entertainment’s Orcs Must Die! jumps straight to the point that, well, those orc bastards have to die. Here’s the elevator pitch, taken straight from the site:

Orcs Must Die! challenges players to defend fortresses under siege. With a wide variety of traps and weapons to choose from, Orcs Must Die! dares players to find the best ways to hack, launch, flatten, gibletize, and incinerate an endless army of filthy orcs and their vile allies. Orcs Must Die! features a vibrant look, addictive gameplay, and a blatant disregard for the welfare of orcs.

  • Play as the War Mage and defend 24 fortresses from an enraged mob of orcs and 11 other villainous monsters.
  • Choose from a selection of 6 weapons and magic spells and 17 traps that hack, launch, flatten, gibletize, and incinerate your enemies.
  • Upgrade your traps, spells and weapons to cater the game to your personal play style.
  • Cleverly combine traps and spells for higher scores on the leaderboards.
  • Expertly wield your wits and your weapons through the story-driven campaign and unlock a brutal “Nightmare” campaign.
  • Replay fortresses endlessly, combining different defenses and tactics every time!

Do I even want to know what the hell ‘gibletizing’ is? And what did these Orcs do to deserve being gibletized? How many times can I say gibletize? Anyway, for the most part, the game delivers on these promises. I had a chance to play this at PAX Prime a few months ago, and I loved it. I’m a sucker for tower defense games, and I’m a sucker for this game.

However with that being said, and as much as I’m a Xbox 360 Fanboy, I can’t say that I prefer the Xbox version to the PC version. The Xbox controls are too clunky for what the game is asking you to do. I’m sure you could easily adjust and get used to it, but that’s like adjusting to wearing pants 3 sizes too big. Why? Just wear the regular pants. And a belt. And a haircut. And wash your face for once in your goddamn life, you look like a hobo in those pants.

PROS:

  • Fun new Tower Defense game from the folks that brought you Age of Empires Online and Halo Wars.
  • Surprizing amounts of variety when it comes to trap and weapon choices.
  • Clean and fun art style that reminds me of World of Warcraft but with more pixels.
  • They had a comic book at PAX! I love a comic book tie-in, always a classic.
  • Orcs Must Die! will only set you back 15 bucks.
  • Gibletize Orcs who probably had it coming to them.

CONS:

  • The game was meant for a mouse and keyboard.

VERDICT:

  • Orcs Must Die! Is a fun game. You should check it out. If you were born with an Xbox 360 controller in hand, then this is the version of the game for you. If you’re an old salt like me, then you’ll want to wait for the PC version to come out next week. Regardless of the purchasing path you take, download the demo today on XBLA and have some fun.

   TRY