Barnestorming #248- Empires of the Void in Review, Gameshark, We3, Midnight Express

Barnestorming #248- Empires of the Void in Review, Gameshark, We3, Midnight Express Hot

Michael Barnes     
 
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empires-1I would have called Empires of the Horrible Black Void...

The Truth about What Happened at Gameshark

OK, since Pete asked about it in the forums this week, I think I'm clear to let the cat out of the bag about why Cracked LCD is not at Gameshark anymore, ending its five year (!!!) run there. As you may or may not know, Gameshark is owned by Mad Catz- the company that makes those crappy "guest" controllers as well as some really damn good fight sticks. Gameshark was originally their support site for their Gameshark product, which was basically a cheat code generator. Of course, none of the current consoles support that kind of silliness, and it eventually became just a video games site. Bill Abner took over Editor-in-Chief duties back in 2007, shortly after he hired me.

Anyway, at the behest of Mad Catz, Gameshark kind of shifted gears earlier this year. They cut the budget and decided that they only wanted to run reviews of AAA games. No XBLA or PSN stuff, no indie PC stuff, and so forth. Which of course, left really very little to cover and us writers all but twiddling our thumbs. But Cracked LCD was still funded, because it was and always has been extremely successful. They also decided to not send anyone to E3. Bill, Brandon, and Todd are out there right now on their own dime for No High Scores. Crom bless 'em.

A couple of weeks ago, right after the Destined Hero review was posted, Bill sent me a "call me now" email and I pretty much knew what the deal was because it was one of those "writing on the wall" cases. Sure enough, he had been let go and Mad Catz was pulling the plug on the site. Frankly, I'm surprised it took them so long to do so since the site really had nothing to do with their products and the brand is pretty much dead in the water. But the end result is that my good friend Bill is out of his full time job, and I'm out of my #1 freelance gig. Everything you see written by me until further notice is pro bono.

So that's that, Gameshark RIP. We don't know if they're going to take the site down or what, it's still up and the full Cracked LCD archive is still there. I've got almost everything stored away locally, and once Gameshark goes dark we're looking at doing a new series at NHS, Cracked LCD Classics. It'll be the classic articles with some commentary and reflection. Looking over some of that stuff from five years ago is hilarious and awkward. I can't believe I actually recommended Descent!

Anyway, Bill needs a job. Any hiring managers out there looking for a writer/editor?

On the Table

Empires of the Void is definitely a good game, but it’s one of those where it’s coming into a genre that’s pretty much dominated by a couple of titles (TI3 and Ecilpse along with some second-tier efforts like Ascending Empires). The question becomes if we really need- or even want- another space 4x game. The good news is that Empires of the Void does a couple of things differently that are worth noting, and its tone overall is closer to Merchants of Venus than TI3 and I appreciate that. Overall, it’s derivative but not unappealing, and it’s a quicker and lighter game than I expected. You misguided people that huffed and puffed at Eclipse because it focused on the economy might want to check it out.

Review is at Cracked LCD’s new home at No High Scores.

Abbadon showed up today…odd how little attention it’s getting. It looks fun as hell, opening it up and seeing those old timey dice that you put the stickers on made me think of Mutant Chronicles, Battle Cry, and Queen’s Gambit. It has that same kind of look and feel. It’s kind of tacky but it sounds like it’ll be big dumb fun. I’m probably going to solo the hell out of it tonight before settling into my nightly video game coma.

On the Consoles

E3, blah blah blah. A bunch of corporate rah-rah and razzle dazzle, and I’m not seeing much that looks very exciting. Watch Dogs, maybe. ZombiU? Seriously? Most of the stuff shown- Assassin’s Creed 3, Borderlands 2, Black Ops 2, Halo 4, etc. all seem like foregone conclusions than new “reveals”. Dishonored looks awesome, but I was convinced of that last year. I had planned on joining Abner and the gang out there this year but with two little ones at home that wasn’t a good idea. I don’t regret not going. Do I really need to travel 2000 miles to see Nintendo announce that Wii U will have a fucking Mario game?

Anyway, Dragon’s Dogma. Still playing that damn game. For all of its fumbles,I’d say it’s the second best game of the year after Witcher 2. It _definitely_ takes its time in revealing why it’s great to you. There is something very compelling about setting off on a journey in this game, much more so than in a Bethesda game. Last session, I trekked out to this fort with a goblin problem. Routed them, fought their Cyclops on a rampart (pretty exciting), and then headed back. I had lost one party member and we were limping back to the main city. Night fell, and we were getting hammered. But I saw some campfires and headed in that direction, bow ready in case it was bandits. It wasn’t. The Duke sent a crew to set up a camp for us out in the wild, complete with a resting spot and a peddler. What a relief.

I think this game will be a major cult hit, particularly once it lowers in price and circulates a little more. It’s sold well, but it had mixed reviews. But it’s far, far more engaging than a lot of the other AAA releases this year. And right now I’d rather be playing it than any of the E3 titles I’ve seen so far.

On IOS

Or, the Comixology section. :-P

We3 was something of a disappointment. I liked the concept a lot, there was some awesome layout and paneling, but by and large what could have been a poignant and emotional story about animal abuse and exploitation in the name of science was turned into a gore story more about violence and empty shock value.

It made me think of Milo and Otis as written by Garth Ennis. I expected a lot more from it and from Morrisson. Oh well, three bucks down the tubes.

I also read a couple of issues of Locke and Key, which I absolutely hated. Hate the artwork, hate the story, hate the characters.

Animal Man had a free first issue, that was really good and slightly goofy so I may read some of those…I absolutely love the “Court of Owls” Batman story arc…1602 is kind of silly, but I like it. You just can’t take “Peter Parquahr” and “Sir Nicholas Fury” too seriously.

I’ve also looked at some of the free Batman Black & White shorts…the ones from Karl Janson and Bruce Timm are must-reads. Janson’s is about Batman’s birthday. Timm’s is a killer little noir piece about Two-Face.

On the Screen

After some truly dreadful kidflick garbage- Despicable Me, Puss in Boots, Monsters vs. Aliens- we finally hit a good one and from shitty kidflick masters Dreamworks at that. How to Train Your Dragon was actually really good, a fun and spirited story without incessant “hey adults!” pop culture references and crude humor. I thought it was heading south early on with the nerdy main character and all, but it turned out to be charming and funny. Still not on the level of Pixar, but at least they aimed a little higher than butt jokes and Smashmouth songs this time.

The dragon looked straight out of Pokemon, that was my only real issue with it.

On the more adult end of things, I watched Midnight Express on Netflix. I’d actually never seen it all the way through. It’s a tough movie, I like prison movies and this was probably one of the better ones. It gets a lot of flack for the way the Turks are depicted and Oliver Stone(who wrote it) issued some big apology to Turkey for making them seem like evil, subhuman monsters in it. But the thing is, it’s REALLY effective in conveying a sense of being imprisoned in a foreign, unfamiliar place by people that you culturally do not understand. Yeah, some of it is a little over the top, but it’s a very stylized film. As expected from Alan Parker.

Man, I don’t know if there’s a more pathetic scene in all of cinema than the last time his girlfriend visits him and he gets her to show her breasts. Such a lonely, desperate scene.

Oh, and that soundtrack. Simply awesome.

On Spotify

Still no cassette adapter for the Ford Tempo I allegedly drive, still no music. The Sounds of Silence.

Barnestorming #248- Empires of the Void in Review, Gameshark, We3, Midnight Express There Will Be Games
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