Barnestorming- Special Jeff White Themedome Edition, Diablo III, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Chvrches

Barnestorming- Special Jeff White Themedome Edition, Diablo III, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Chvrches Hot

Michael Barnes     
 
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Which game has the most sand when it comes to its theme? Let's find out!

 

 

On the Table

This one goes out to Jeff White. Jeff, you can thank Nate for running his Scoundrels of Skullport review this week, because he scooped me again and that bumps mine to next week. Looks like ya’ll are already talking it into the ground, but I’ll still fulfill my obligation and post another review similar to his because Skullport is awesome and Waterdeep is awesome. Nyah nyah.

So here it is, the Tamanny Hall/Five Points showdown. I thought it would be more interesting to look at how these games present their themes and setting than to just flatly review them, so that’s what I did…call it…THEMEDOME. If you must.

There’s really no competition if you’re looking for buyer’s advice. Get Tamanny Hall. The game is awesome, and it’s quickly become one of my group’s favorites. Simple rules and TONS of above-the-board friction, collaboration, and alliances of convenience.  Bill the Butcher would play Tamanny Hall over Five Points…and then throw a meat cleaver in your back. The choice is clear.

DOAII continues to be an object of obsession. I’ve been soloing it like crazy just to see what kinds of crazy shit happens. There was a great piece last night where the Mexican revolutionary that has an abstracted gang (meaning that he can opfire with multiple weapons) was holed up in a dome and couldn’t get out. His initial card draw turned up NO firearms so his gang had a couple of knives, some kind of weird energy shield, and a mule. The Colonial duchess (I can’t remember her name) that starts with three Henchmen bravely walked out, not scared of his unrevealed weapons. She also had a Promising Midshipman (future  shooting lady), a French Legionnaire, and a DMV lady (she reduces your movement by tying you up in line). The Midshipman and the Legionnaire both have built-in firearms, so they just posted up in the woods near the dome where the revolutionary was sitting, the DMV lady there just to keep him from getting squirrely. He sat there for like four turns, nothing happened elsewhere that could help, so he charged. And got gunned right the hell down.

But it wasn’t over. The modern rescuer guy (“The Walrus”) failed a labyrinth quest and dismissed to the dome near where he fell. So he walked down there, resurrected the whole gang, and gave them an antique pistol to boot. He never did get revenge, but it was a fun little story that unfolded there.

Mob guy versus fairy turned out pretty badly for the fairy.

On the Consoles

Diablo III. It’s great. It’s Diablo alright. It’s funny, even after playing Sacred II, Torchlight, Din’s Curse, and so forth- all of which are nominally better than Diablo in some way or another- coming back to Diablo after what, 10 years feels like coming home. I like that it’s simpler and more direct. The classes are awesome, very specific and very clearly defined. The looting is good, there’s a touch of crafting, and I love using the controller with it. It feels more substantial than pointing and clicking on monsters until they dispense prizes.

I’m playing the Demon Hunter for the first go, she seems pretty powerful. The machine gun arrow thing is probably overpowered…but man, is it satisfying to just hose down a mob with that. It has to have been inspired by Hawk the Slayer’s rapid-fire arrows. I’ll probably run a Monk next since I’m doing all ranged right now. I love that you can have followers, it gives a little touch of the multiplayer experience without having to deal with random players.

Gave up on Kingdom Hearts, I just couldn’t do it. That Gummi Ship crap alone killed it. I regret not getting to see Mickey, Halloweentown, and all the other Disneyana…but oh well. I can go back to Duck Tales or Castle of Illusion if need be.

On IOS

I almost downloaded Infinity Blade 3, but then I realized that IOS7 slowed down my 4 enough that I think it’d chug it. So I played a little Infinity Blade 2 instead. That’s a really good game, perfect for the format.

On the Comics Rack

I figured what the hell, why not read Armor Wars next. So far, so good…the Micheline/Layton team works for me, I can definitely see why they are regarded as one of the best teams to have worked on Iron Man. I think they really had a handle on how to present Iron Man outside of the context of the Avengers, playing up elements of corporate intrigue, Tony’s personal problems, espionage, tech thriller-style storylines, and crazy villains left over from the Silver Age (“Stilt Man”?).

Hate the silver and red suit though, yuck.

On the Screen

Given my recent Iron Man thing, surprisingly not Iron Man 3. But I did watch the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot, and it was overall pretty good despite having the “Whedon writing for TV” feel to it. I like some of the plot seeds planted, particularly about Agent Coulson and the possible bigger picture about a world dealing with the aftermath of the battle of New York/advent of the superhero age. The storyline about the down-at-heel guy trying to become a superhero was pretty well done and had a nice tragic arc, I suspect he’ll become one of the show’s leads. I like how the story showed how he COULD have become a villain, that was a nice touch. There’s lots of fun Marvel stuff in it- Nick Fury’s old Porsche! I also like how it does feel like a canonical continuation of the film, even if the scale is smaller. Characters are a mixed bag right now- Coulson’s great, but Skye has absolutely zero credibility whatsoever. It’s that whole “Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist” thing. Bad casting. Will watch more.

On Spotify

If you have any inclination toward electronic pop at all- whether it’s Depeche Mode, Yaz, New Order, Human League, M83, Ladytron, The Knife or whatever then you absolutely must listen to the new Chvrches record, “The Bones of What You Believe”. It is freaking outstanding. It’s the kind of record where you’re listening to it in the car and a synth lick kicks in and you find yourself nodding, saying “oh hell yeah” and turning the volume up because the sound is so precise, so clear, and so moving. Once you’ve heard the 10th or 11th absolutely breathtaking hook, you realize that you are listening to a great record.

Antecedents are pretty clear- all those bands listed above (one song could have been an outtake from “Dare” if had been released in 2013), but there’s a much bigger, swing-for-the-fences sound here than most recent synthpop acts. This is a band that understands that synthpop is teenage music, and it’s all about huge, epic emotions and dramatic sweeps- it’s intimacy on a grand scale. There’s a no holds barred quality to it, this is not a bedroom-made, moping into a four track thing. This band wants to rock arenas.

But it feels too like the songwriting is informed by some very mainstream stuff- I think the band listed Whitney Houston as an influence somewhere, and if you listen you can hear that. Don’t be scared, it’s OK. It works.

It’s not hard to compare the band to The Knife, particularly that band’s earlier work, but if The Knife is all oily black and inky purple, Chvrches is hot pink and neon turquoise.

By far the best record I’ve heard all year, if only for the first three tracks. This record is totally front-loaded, which is its one weakness. The first song is just bonkers great (“The Mother We Share”), the second track buries it (“We Sink”) and then the third seals the deal (“Gun”). Whether you go to Spotify or the record store to hear this album or not, you will hear this band somewhere. Mark my words. 


 

Michael is a weekly columnist for Fortress: Ameritrash and one of our co-founders. He is a columnist for Gameshark and NoHighScores. He has two small dogs named Pixie and Posie that will bite your face off.
Click here for more articles by Michael Barnes.

Barnestorming- Special Jeff White Themedome Edition, Diablo III, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Chvrches There Will Be Games
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