Barnestorming- Shadows of Malice in Review, Segamania, Patlabor

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MB Updated May 01, 2017
Shadows of Malice
There Will Be Games

 On the Table

Shadows of Malice should likely be considered to be one of this year’s “vanguard” designs. Chances are, at least half of you reading this won’t be interested and a quarter of you will actively hate it. But for the quarter of you that remain, this may be your favorite game of 2015. It’s an utterly compelling, leftfield design that does not feel anything like any other game out there. In some ways, it feels like a game that dropped through a wormhole from an alternate 1982. In others it feels like something from a sleek, minimalist future.

There is so much I love about this game- its vagary, its sparseness and the way it pretty much obliterates this notion that games have to have all of this stupid, ugly artwork and GW-style fluff in order to tell an actual story. This is a very different kind of fantasy game- experimental and sometimes shaky- but with a couple of ideas in it that are just genius.

Here’s the Review.

Review piles are forming…I just got in March of the Ants, which looks pretty cool but after a solo test play, it’s almost the exact opposite of everything I said above. It’s almost completely reiterative of other designs, but it has this ant thing going on that I kind of love. Bullfrogs, I thought would be a good family one but it’s really closer to something like Kahuna in that it’s brutal and unusually deep. Luchador…game comes with a freaking wrestling ring, what do you want from me?

On the Consoles

If you read pretty much any review of Codename: S.T.E.A.M., the reviewer is going to mention that the turns take too long. I saw a couple where folks said that they put the 3DS down to do something else while the aliens are moving.  So they’ve rated the game poorly based on the time spent “not playing”. Even though the wait times are not any longer than they are on XCOM or Fire Emblem.

But here’s the deal. This is a third party turn-based game sort of like Valkyria Chronicles. You do not have any kind of an overhead map. All you can see is what your characters can see, depending on their facing. YOU HAVE TO WATCH THE ALIENS MOVE BECAUSE IT IS THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN SEE WHERE THEY ARE. It’s a major strategic element of the design! You have to switch between characters during the alien turn to see what’s going on, and it makes it especially important to situate characters so that you have fields of vision.

But I guess most video game reviewers wouldn’t understand that, because it feels, strangely, VERY boardgame-like.

I like it quite a lot, despite the unfortunate Steampunk business. It’s hard as hell and some of the mechanics are SUPER gamey, but overall it’s a great lighter weight TBS title.

Other than that…SEGAMANIA has hit. I picked up the Sega 3D Classics on the 3DS and they have blown me away. The developer, M2, took some of Sega’s most iconic arcade titles (the ones in the giant moving cabinets) and transposed them pixel-perfect to the 3DS…and they’ve added all kinds of obsessive bells and whistles like simulating the moving cabinets and using actual sound recordings of the motors and buttons. OutRun is the newest one and it is astonishingly good. I actually haven’t played OutRun in 20 years, but oh my god that game holds up so damn well. After Burner II was probably my favorite in the 80s, it’s great to see it in action again- doing barrel rolls before Star Fox. Galaxy Force II I never actually played in the arcade because it was always like a dollar, it’s been fun so far. Super Hang-On is, like OutRun, amazingly current…and PUNISHINGLY difficult. I had to get Space Harrier too, that was my favorite arcade game for a while and I still love it to death despite how utterly shallow it is. I think these are, collectively, some of the best retro ports I’ve ever seen.

I also got the Shinobi III they did, playing through it as well.  Great stuff. That lead me to picking up a cheap copy of Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection…which is really good, of course, but it’s also missing half of the games I would consider to be definitive for the console- no MUSHA, no Ghouls n’ Ghosts, no Strider, no Sword of Vermillion, no Toejam and Earl, no Alien Soldier, no Gunstar Heroes…

But it does have all three Sonics, all three Streets of Rage, Comix Zone, Ristar, Alex Kidd, all three Golden Axe games…ALTERED BEAST, which is probably the worst game ever made but who doesn’t love that awful, awful game.

For some reason I’m really interested in Gain Ground. It seems like a terrible game, but there’s something about it I really dig.

So it’s been Sega, Sega, Sega here…I actually kind of half-entertained the idea of picking up a DreamCast.

On the Screen

Go ahead and add Inside Llewyn Davis to the list of Coen Brothers movies that I absolutely care nothing whatsoever about. Made it through about 30 minutes.

More Japanimation…still going through Death Note, which I really like a lot. Very compelling story, despite some of the more teenage elements of it.

Finally watched Patlabor: The Movie. I freaking loved it. It’s such a different thing than most anime today. It’s really kind of slow paced, focused on drama, and the mecha stuff is mostly realistic and not really the focus at all. It’s more of a Michael Crichton-style techno-thriller that just happens to have mecha in it. And oh man, the mecha were awesome…I love the police styling of them, with the beacons and giant service revolvers. The story was interesting, the characters were good and I liked that there was some levity in it. I want to get more into the OVAs next.

I watched Ghost in the Shell last night I haven’t seen it since, like, 1996. Back then, I hated it. I remember just being confused and angered by it. I had a recollection of the whole thing looking milky and hazy. But then I remembered that I also saw it on a night when I had been drinking vodka and limoncello all night. On the 20 years late second chance, it’s really good- hilariously dated though. Definitely more thoughtful and sophisticated than the usual anime junk.

Record of Lodoss War…had to watch it on YouTube because the DVDs are stupid expensive…I read that it was actually inspired by one of Japan’s first D&D groups, who would publish their session reports. I remember seeing it back in the early 90s and thinking “OMG, this is just a D&D thing”…and it is. It’s fun.

On tap this week I’ve got the Macross Plus movie, which I’ve not seen before (although I saw the OAVs). Also going to start on Robotech again, I’ve seen the whole Macross part of it like six times in its entirety but it’s still an all-time favorite.

My kids are in on this too. I got them a set of the 2003 Astro Boy series and it’s REALLY good! I had kind of low expectations, but it was just like $8 at the Book Nook. The animation is awesome (especially for TV), and I think it mostly captures the Tezuka spirit even though I can tell that Astro’s dialogue and voice acting is kind of at odds with that…he’s not childlike enough and has too much attitude. Typical for US audiences, etc. But the messages are there, and the nonviolent resolutions are nice. Great robots, fun characters…money well spent.

I got Scarlett the Unico movies…which may or may not mean anything to you.

 

On Spotify

Almost exclusively listening to “No. 1 in Heaven” this week, Sparks’ record with Giorgio Mordoror. It’s amazing. Excellent cross between late disco and early synthpop. The whole time I’m playing OutRun or Super Hang-On, I’ve got “Beat the Clock” going through my head even though both have those awesome 80s funk-bass Sega music tracks.

There Will Be Games

Michael BarnesFollow Michael Barnes Follow Michael Barnes Message Michael Barnes

Editor-in-Chief

Sometime in the early 1980s, MichaelBarnes’ parents thought it would be a good idea to buy him a board game to keep him busy with some friends during one of those high-pressure, “free” timeshare vacations. It turned out to be a terrible idea, because the game was TSR’s Dungeon! - and the rest, as they say, is history. Michael has been involved with writing professionally about games since 2002, when he busked for store credit writing for Boulder Games’ newsletter. He has written for a number of international hobby gaming periodicals and popular Web sites. From 2004-2008, he was the co-owner of Atlanta Game Factory, a brick-and-mortar retail store. He is currently the co-founder of FortressAT.com and Nohighscores.com as well as the Editor-in-Chief of Miniature Market’s Review Corner feature. He is married with two childen and when he’s not playing some kind of game he enjoys stockpiling trivial information about music, comics and film. 

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Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #199758 19 Mar 2015 14:33
Wow.

For anybody just using the Fortress:At synopsis to judge Barnes' opinion of Shadows of Malice, do yourself a favor and get the full read at No High Scores. This is not his typical review.

I'll be honest -- I don't usually agree with your opinions on games. But this game changed your writing approach, focusing very heavily on the description of gameplay and elements, working your opinions into that instead of the other way around. That's telling, and you do one hell of a sales job on it in spite of your admonition that some players won't like it. It's like you're daring someone to do a shot of some liquor they've never heard of before.

So I'm thinking of buying as much because it seems to harken back to the less-structured games of the 70s as anything else. These days most game companies are trying to indemnify themselves by creating heavily structured, fully defined designs with a lot of gloss paint applied at the end. For the last few years I've played games with a guy that changes rules mid-session and is as comfortable calling a rule from memory as taking the time to look it up, and that's changed me (changed me back actually) into a much more laid-back boardgamer. I've been enjoying games more because of it. This one could be a good pickup for me and my boys, since they're essentially old enough now to play anything available on the market.

I'd be curious to hear how old the designer is and what he played in the past to inspire this approach.

S.
hotseatgames's Avatar
hotseatgames replied the topic: #199759 19 Mar 2015 14:52
Reading the review, I was reminded of the review for Duel of Ages. I already have Duel of Ages so I don't feel overly compelled to get this game. I realize they are totally different yet in my mind they still seem to occupy a similar space. Maybe that space is "quirky adventure games".
san il defanso's Avatar
san il defanso replied the topic: #199762 19 Mar 2015 15:32
That's actually my question. How close does this game relate to something like Duel of Ages II? I love that game, but it sounds like this is both less complicated, more "strategic," and less bonkers in general. It almost seems like it covers the same ground as something more adventury, like Mage Knight.
Black Barney's Avatar
Black Barney replied the topic: #199767 19 Mar 2015 15:56
What did you watch Inside Llewyn Davis on? A smartphone with cheap headphones in the middle of a sunny day?

That movie is all about atmosphere and feeling. I felt FREEZING when he did the walk back through that Chicago parking lot after his audition. The gaslight cafe sessions were hauntingly good, i had chills.

It's tied for my favourite Coen Bros movie. i can't decide if I prefer it to No Country.
san il defanso's Avatar
san il defanso replied the topic: #199769 19 Mar 2015 16:04
Alright, I reread the review, and now I'm strongly considering getting Shadows of Malice with the money I've been saving up for The Temple of Elemental Evil. That game will be on shelves for a while, but this looks like the rarest of Pokémon, and something I'd really dig.
Deleted's Avatar
Deleted replied the topic: #199770 19 Mar 2015 16:28
LOL, "rarest of Pokemon" for the win.
san il defanso's Avatar
san il defanso replied the topic: #199771 19 Mar 2015 16:33
No points for guessing what my sons have been watching lately.
Deleted's Avatar
Deleted replied the topic: #199772 19 Mar 2015 16:37
I read the review, and was compelled until I reached this point:

Mike @ NHS wrote: This is a wild, dangerous and risky design


LMAO. You shouldn't do hyperbole, because you suck at it. Saying "This game is a wild ass design that might really have made the designer look like a total asshat" is one thing, what you said is total bullshit. There's nothing dangerous about designing a game, except maybe to your wallet. A "Dangerous and Risky" Design (TM) would be your plan to go to the Million Man March on stilts, dragging a chain behind you and wearing a T shirt bearing the word "Auctioneer" in bold, block letters.

Dangerous. LMAO. That's funny.
Black Barney's Avatar
Black Barney replied the topic: #199773 19 Mar 2015 16:53
I think Barnes is moonlighting as the header-writer for 24-hour cable news networks
allismom3's Avatar
allismom3 replied the topic: #199774 19 Mar 2015 16:55

Sagrilarus wrote: I'd be curious to hear how old the designer is and what he played in the past to inspire this approach.

S.


D&D and Zelda

entropymag.org/the-devious-weasel-interv...n-shadows-of-malice/
Frohike's Avatar
Frohike replied the topic: #199779 19 Mar 2015 17:47

Sagrilarus wrote: I'd be curious to hear how old the designer is and what he played in the past to inspire this approach.


Byron Campbell just posted an interview which answers both of those questions:

entropymag.org/the-devious-weasel-interv...n-shadows-of-malice/
Deleted's Avatar
Deleted replied the topic: #199781 19 Mar 2015 19:19
The game does sound really cool and I love the idea of being able to form parties. Very neat shit right there.
Shellhead's Avatar
Shellhead replied the topic: #199783 19 Mar 2015 19:35
Thanks in part to the pictures at Frohike's link, I understand how the random monsters are generated. But how is that information tracked? Do players need to write those stats down? Or are there components that support the documentation of stats generated for a random creature?
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #199785 19 Mar 2015 19:45
Up to you. No specialized bookkeeping components. You could even use an olde tyme golf pencil and small pad.
Deleted's Avatar
Deleted replied the topic: #199786 19 Mar 2015 20:01
More games should just include character sheets and wee pencils. I hate having to keep track of a million things with tiny little circley bits.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #199787 19 Mar 2015 20:14
Oh, come on Pete...of course the game isn't dangerous in that it's going to hurt someone...but it is dangerous in the scope of hobby game design because it's basically throwing out the established- and popular- methods for communicating setting and narrative. It's showing FFG and all of the Kickstarter carpetbaggers that you don't have to have all of these specialized components, 10 decks of cards, character back stories, etc. to effectively communicate an epic fantasy story. It also flies in the face of the prevailing notion of co-op games, which is the whole whack-a-mole, division of labor concept. Everybody in this game has one overarching goal.

It is obviously risky, because we're being asked to do something -different- with this game. Yet it is almost more back-to-basics than forward thinking, showcasing a style of game design that hasn't been popular since 15-20 years before a lot of this generation of gamers were even born.

It's also risky and dangerous in a sense because Jim Felli put up his own money, his own stake to bring this game to market. Total props for that.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #199788 19 Mar 2015 20:18

SuperflyTNT wrote: More games should just include character sheets and wee pencils. I hate having to keep track of a million things with tiny little circley bits.


I've been saying this for years. Screw all of these little die-cut heart counters. Just jot that shit down. I'm sure supplying a golf pencil and a pad in a game box would be much less expensive than a couple of punch boards worth of counters.

But oh, the wailing and gnashing of teeth at BGG if a publisher did that...
Deleted's Avatar
Deleted replied the topic: #199789 19 Mar 2015 20:26
Well, if there's any ONE thing that the pariah known as DOOM AND BLOOM: SURVIVAL got right, it's the resource tracker. A bunch of cheap glass stones laid over a stiff board with a bunch of icons and numbers. Totally makes upkeep useful.

Still, I'm all about the pencils and paper. It always pisses me off that I have to make a 50$ game a 60$ game via Plano box purchase simply because the publisher had to have 1x10^100 counters to track stupid shit that you'll lose in one turn.
DukeofChutney's Avatar
DukeofChutney replied the topic: #199793 19 Mar 2015 21:22
pencil and paper in my copy of dune beats FFGs tokens anyday.

I usually think coop suck but this game has something that interests me. It understands the basic tenet of good rpg writing; show don't tell. I like stories that accept that im smart enough to read between the lines and fill the gaps and don't have to state every fact of their fiction upfront. Having said this, its still a coop.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #199795 19 Mar 2015 22:07

Michael Barnes wrote: . . . character back stories . . .


You know, when you put it in the list like that it makes it obvious to me why I hate modern games with characters. I don't like the characters! It's rare that the art on the card interests me all that much and I kind of like the idea of setting my own personality. If I want to play Lazy Karl then that's who I want to play, not Willie Ibn Hoojomowotz from the Lower Boozeeboos with a fangs and big ears, whose blind but sees through a rock embedded in his forehead or some other hokey-assed bullshit I outgrew when I was 14. FFG and that crowd always have you playing some freak with a "tragic flaw" to him. Having that character thrust onto me sucks, because no one ever puts Lazy Karl into their box. I can make Lazy Karl come alive dammit!

So bully for this guy for having people make up their own personalities to play with. I might just be able to manage that on my own.

This thread is bracing. I'm buying the next round.

S.
Frohike's Avatar
Frohike replied the topic: #199797 19 Mar 2015 23:39
To clarify (maybe), the monsters don't need to be tracked beyond the span of the turn being played. You either win the battle or flee, with a couple of options depending upon your desperation. You can either immediately withdraw to a random hex, or you can risk enduring one more round of battle without the ability to attack (i.e. defense only) and withdraw to a hex of your choice if you survive. Once you withdraw, the form you were fighting is gone. If you re-enter the lair, or chase a Shadow down that you previously fled, you will regenerate a new adversary. So... any paper & pencil tracking you need to do is up to you but may not be as necessary as you may be thinking. I haven't needed to jot anything down yet, personally.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #199818 20 Mar 2015 11:12
Great review this week.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #199852 21 Mar 2015 16:15
The Devious Weasel interview linked above (thank you both) was a good read as well. This guy has walked the same path I have, and I can hear it in everything he says. I don't do co-ops anymore, but I may need to make an exception in this case.

S.
Josh Look's Avatar
Josh Look replied the topic: #199856 21 Mar 2015 20:21

Sagrilarus wrote: I don't do co-ops anymore, but I may need to make an exception in this case.


Same here, I can't stand co-ops, but this sounds pretty compelling. I ordered it.

Great review, Michael, and that interview is pretty cool, too. Makes sense that one of his favorite movies is Alien, a movie that embraces the concept of allowing your imagination to fill in the blanks in order to generate a greater effect, as that sounds like what the game does as well.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #199857 21 Mar 2015 20:36

Josh Look wrote:

Sagrilarus wrote: I don't do co-ops anymore, but I may need to make an exception in this case.


Same here, I can't stand co-ops, but this sounds pretty compelling. I ordered it.


When's it due in? I'll stop by for a game.