Black Desert’s Beauty Could be More Than Skin Deep

We’ve been peering at Korean MMORPG Black Desert Online [official site] with some interest since plans for a western release were announced in 2014. We’ve cooed at trailers, pondered the combat system and applauded the character creation tools. To learn more, we sent Agent Messner into the fray and he returned with exciting news. Could this be the MMO for those of us who are weary of the genre’s formulaic structure?

I am bored to death of MMORPGs. Not their potential mind you, but the execution. The seemingly endless chains of quests, the sole focus on murdering everything that doesn’t give you a quest (and some things that do), and, perhaps most of all, the way developers think that shoving more quests into the meat grinder is the solution to prolonging a game’s lifespan.

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A Few Of My Favourite Monsters

We live in complex times. When I was a youngster, it was perfectly reasonable to buy a game simply because it had more monsters than the other games. Playing through shooters, RPGs and platformers alike, I’d be tempted to give up when I reached the point where no new enemy types were appearing. The very idea of a game with only one type of enemy, no matter how intelligent and believable, was poison. Give me all of your mutants, demons and aliens, I cried, give them to me now.

Here are a few of my favourites, ranging from the first-person shooters of my teenage years to the surreal horrors of my childhood.

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Cardboard Children – Best Boardgame Of 2015

Hello youse.

In the first few years of doing this column, I would always do a Game of the Year award thing. It’s the kind of thing you’re supposed to do at the end of a year, right? You look back over the months and follow your heart to the place where everything was magical for you. There was a time when a game would absolutely stand out over all the rest, and you’d feel like you’d seen enough of the rest to make a confident call on what you thought was “the best”. But times have changed.

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Premature Evaluation: Scrap Mechanic

Please give a warm welcome to Rob Zacny, the new writer of Premature Evaluation. Each Monday he’ll be picking through the detritus of early access to separate the games might one day be assembled into something worthwhile from those which should remain on the scrapheap.

A confession: I think sandbox games are boring.

Which makes their popularity kind of ironic, considering that Jim Rossignol once wondered whether games might one day “banish the curse of boredom from our lives.” If you look at the great majority of popular Early Access games on Steam, you’ll find they are either about sandbox construction and crafting, or about survival, or both.

Entire worlds at our fingertips, all manner of heroes, explorers, and villains to choose from, and yet the surest way to players on Early Access is to leave them with a few building blocks, a lot of room to use them, and nothing else to do. So it is in Scrap Mechanic.

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Wot I Think: Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! (Parts 1 and 2)

Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! [official site] has been showing the mobile world what modern gamebooks can be since 2013, and now they’re following 80 Days onto the PC. The first two chapters come as a bundle, with two more on the way. If you’ve played them on iOS, they’re exactly the same games, only you can finally click on things instead of using your filthy sausage-fingers. If not, here’s Wot I Think.

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Wot I Think: Bombshell (The First Few Hours, Anyway)

3D Realms, freshly emerged from their settled lawsuit with Gearbox, bring us the much delayed top-down action shooter, Bombshell [official site]. Has the deviation from the Duke been worthwhile? No! No, it hasn’t! This is a steaming pile of shit. Now, with all surprises off the table, here’s wot I think:

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Have You Played… Spaceship Warlock?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Space may be the final frontier, but it doesn’t have to be so serious. Back in the ’90s, space games were more than happy to poke fun at themselves, from the Muppet-like live-action puppeteering of Commander Blood to Sanctuary Woods’ light-hearted Orion Burger.

That’s why I’m in love with 1994’s Spaceship Warlock, a first-person adventure game that feels as far away from conventional space exploration games as anything ever could. It’s an odd mishmash of surrealism, space pirates, and the strangest characters you’ve seen this side of Harvester.

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Wot I Think: Lego Marvel’s Avengers

Something very odd is going on at Traveller’s Tales. I’m not sure how, but in Lego Marvel’s Avengers [official site] they’ve managed to release a game that actively goes out of its way to hide everything good about it. So much so that it was only after hours of snoring through its dull, phoned in story mode that I discovered, behind a completely obscure and unmentioned menu option, what was really on offer here. Here’s wot I think:

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Wot I Think: Cobalt

Cobalt is about a tiny, blue, quick-witted murderbot who’s travelling through space with its ship’s AI, searching for remnants of human life. It’s a story that tackles themes like consciousness and sentience, but it’s tongue-in-cheek and full of lighthearted touches – like stumbling across a copy of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep in a library, or meeting an enclave of dubstep-listening, friendly robots who identify as non-binary genders. It’s SOMA via Futurama and Max Payne, and here’s wot I think.

From the outside Cobalt appears to be simple 2D, physics-based shooter, but if you jam a crowbar under its metallic blue plating and tear it back to reveal the tangled circuitry beneath, you might be surprised by its composition. Under its surface there’s a complexity to Cobalt’s systems and a surprising depth that will keep you playing.

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