Barnestorming #28- Star Trek: Fleet Captains in Review, Uncharted 3, Dracula, SMiLE

Barnestorming #28- Star Trek: Fleet Captains in Review, Uncharted 3, Dracula, SMiLE Hot

Michael Barnes     
 
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"I have been, and always will be, Barnestorming #28"

On the Table

In case you missed it last week because I was dumb and forgot to mention it, I had a new Worthpoint article regarding valuable horror and Halloween-themed games. Yes, of course Frank and Sandi contributed.

But in Cracked LCD this week, it’s the sad case of Star Trek: Fleet Captains. My feelings toward this game are very weird. It’s not an awful game by any means, but it’s also just not really all that good. I feel strangely indifferent toward it, probably because the really great stuff about it is counterbalanced so completely by really bad stuff. Good grief, those cloaking rules…seriously? There’s more rules regarding cloaking and cloaking ships moving and scanning or whatever than there are for any other function in the game. And MJ was right about the theme- tons of +1 cards, very little actual narrative or atmosphere. It's a soupy mess of a lot of half-realized ideas competing for attention. It lacks focus. But the irony is that I think if it were a more complex, heavier game it could have been awesome.

My copy was in good shape, at least it was when I saw it last. I handed it over to Steve Avery in a McDonald’s parking lot last week.

I’ve been tinkering with Geoff and Brian Englestein’s The Ares Project. It’s a very, very interesting game and yes, it does completely feel like an RTS. The abstraction level is fairly high with only three geographic points in a two player game, but conceptually it works. There is some dissonance- moving the buildings out into a battle line is weird to me and the asymmetry can get pretty extreme- but I’m very intrigued by it. There’s definitely some fresh ideas and good fighting. I’m not crazy about the way it looks though, despite that awesome FASA-style box. It’s functional, but looks pretty dry.

Should have a copy of Super Dungeon Explore soon. Guess I’m gonna be gluin’ miniatures.

On the Consoles

Bill Abner has entrusted me with reviewing both of the year’s biggest shooters, so my Battlefield 3 review is up and the week after next we’ll post my Modern Warfare 3 write-up. No, I haven’t played it yet. We don’t rate an advance copy.

Anyway, yes, Battlefield 3 is excellent. Just stay away from the single player.

I’m playing through Uncharted 3 right now as well. I’m close to halfway through, and I think if you liked the first two games then this is a sure bet. All of Naughty Dog’s core competencies are on display, along with the same sort of clunky and not very interesting gameplay. But the story is great, the characters among the best in games today, and the production values are through the roof. Last night Sully and Drake had to escape a burning Templar castle that was literally falling apart around them. It was pretty freaking awesome.

Unfortunately though, the game opens with a bar room brawl that just really, really looks embarrassing in light of Arkham City’s melee.

I realized last night how casual the Uncharted games really are…they’re not exactly taxing, and there’s some qualities that are almost like Dragon’s Lair or something. But that’s OK, because I like how light the games are and the quality of the writing and scenarios makes up for the linearity. Definitely not a GotY contender or anything, but hugely entertaining and fun to play.

On the Phone

Fantasy Flight finally released an IOS app, and it’s an implementation of Elder Sign called Elder Sign: Omens. It’s four dollars. But here’s the kicker. It’s BETTER than the printed game. By far. The format works better for the kind of game it is, and it feels like it went through some more development and editing. There is streamlining and there are some pretty substantial changes, but the end result is what Elder Sign should have been in the first place. It’s actually harder, too.

On the Screen

It’s been all Halloween viewing for the past week, and I’ve gone off on a Dracula bender. In the past week I think I watched every notable Dracula film ever made (barring the Jack Palance TV one, which I haven’t seen since I was little, and the god awful Wes Craven Dracula 2000).

I realized that I had never seen the 1979 Frank Langella/Laurence Olivier Dracula and it was Netflix so I had to check it out. For some reason, I always thought it was a modern “Disco Dracula” take on the story, maybe because it was directed by John Badham, whose previous film was Saturday Night Fever. Or maybe it’s Langella’s hair and god awful open-neck shirton the cover, I don’t know.

But no, it’s a period Dracula film…set in the 1910s. The whole movie is written as if by someone who kind of half-remembered reading Dracula, so it has all of these crazy mix-ups of plot and characters in it. A lot of Dracula movies do, but they’re particularly egregious in this one. I didn’t dislike it, but it’s weird seeing a story you know backwards and forwards mixed up in such an odd way.

Langella is definitely not the best Dracula. That hair, man. He comes across like a creepy lothario for the entire picture- you can tell they were really trying to play up the sex appeal thing, which looks dated and awkward now. I didn’t really care for Olivier’s Van Helsing either- sort of an Afrikaner take on Edward Van Sloan’s portrayal in the ’31 version. But I will say this, Dracula’s demise was one of the better ones I’ve seen. He gets killed by a ship in a pretty cool way.

The production values are really good though, it’s a very nice and expensive looking movie. The colors are WAY desaturated so it has this brownish gray look. Not quite as pale and gauzy as Herzog’s Nosferatu.

I love Dracula anything. Dracula is the best monster, hands down. I’m wearing Dracula boxer shorts right now, as a matter of fact.

On Spotify

Much to my delight, Spotify has ALL of the just-released Smile Sessions, The Beach Boys’ legendary scrapped album from 1967. I’m just starting to piece through it- and there’s TONS to go through- but of course it’s essential listening for any serious rock fan. A lot of the main tracks have been available elsewhere on boots and official releases and this is where “Good Vibrations”, one of the most perfect songs ever recorded, comes from as well as “Heroes and Villains”, which I think is one of their best songs.

It’s wild and wooly, not like anything else going on at the time. It’s extreme, but in a different way than the Stooges or the Velvet Underground were. It’s extreme, mad, art-pop severely fragmented, drugged out, and sometimes explosively brilliant. There’s no way this record would have been a commercial success back then. Some compare it to Sgt. Peppers or The White Album, but this is something so much more fractured and less cohesive- and that’s what makes it exciting, it’s the sound of a smart guy messing around and occasionally doing something transcendent…and sometimes completely missing and falling into the WTF bin.

Pitchfork’s review (I know, I know…) had a great bit in it…how it’s almost a rite of passage for serious music fans to come to realize that the Beach Boys weren’t just all those bubblegum songs about surfing and girls…that they did make some incredible and very sophisticated music. I remember when a friend of mine that was all into punk and hardcore bought a vinyl copy of “Pet Sounds”, saying that he read that it was like the best album ever made. I scoffed at him, remembering hearing the Beach Boys on the oldies radio station my parents’ listened to. A couple of years later, there I was listening to “Pet Sounds”.

Next week- I might finally get around to that Dragon Rage review!

Barnestorming #28- Star Trek: Fleet Captains in Review, Uncharted 3, Dracula, SMiLE There Will Be Games
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