Brakketology Embraces the Terror


First up, there’s no JtS this week. Here’s your obligatory kitten. Bill and I agreed that an hour of listening to him sniffle and hack up a lung, combined with us talking about all the games we’re not playing, was probably not the way to go. On the bright side, we’re all picking up The Wolf Among Us and will be discussing it next week.

As for this week’s Brakketology, I have found a new game to drool in anticipation over, which we all know I rarely do anymore; Steam shows us what it’s upcoming SteamBox controller can do, and it’s rather impressive; there’s a new faction hanging around in XCOM: Enemy Within; and two new game trailers, one that shows you something that should be cool, but decidedly isn’t, and something that should be passe, but looks fantastic. Also, I finally saw Gravity (in 3D) this weekend and the critics are right; it’s, like, whoa.

Who is it that loves you? It’s me and you’ll sleep better at night knowing this.

Bring it To Me. NOW! (Or, you know, when it’s ready and will be good too.) I’ve only read a small blurb about it (in a dev journal at PAR), but Red Hook’s Darkest Dungeon has instantly shot to the upper echelon of games I’m most interested in playing. The premise is that of an RPG dungeon crawl, but on that emphasizes something wholly obvious–something we’ve all continuously overlooked and taken for granted for decade–Dungeons should be f’ing scary. A couple excerpts:

It started as a sort of sarcastic half-joke. The thing about dungeon games is that more often than not, actually being in the dungeon is taken for granted – which is ridiculous when you consider how truly awful these places are. I know if I was down in a pit somewhere, it wouldn’t matter how much my sword glowed, or how big my shoulderpads were, I’d still be scared as hell. The accepted formula for many MMO’s and dungeon runners is to gloss over the stress in favor of the stats.

But even fear and morale are not enough. We wanted to take things further. The real underlying mechanic is stress. So why not an RPG where all human responses to stress are modeled?  Fear, check. Greed, check. Apathy, check. Sadism, check. The list goes on.

Read the PAR diary and then get thee to the game’s homepage and learn more. You can already see in the teaser above that the art style they’re gunning for is a perfect fit for the game they want to build. I don’t need to see actual gameplay (it’s turn-based, tactical combat, for the record). I am all in. All. In. Obligatory FAQ check reveals: Future Kickstarter probable; no F2P/microtransaction nonsense; primary platforms are PC/Mac/Linux. Win.

This Might Actually Work. A bit over a week ago Valve introduced the controller for their Steam Machines. It is, without question, one of the first unique designs that’s likely to see widespread use. I love, love, love that they’re trying something innovative with it. This past Friday they released a video actually showing it in action with some PC games designed specifically for keyboard and mouse usage. The two that really stand out are the demos for Civilization 5 and Papers Please. It’s impossible to tell from a video like this if it all works as well as it’s made to look, but yes, Valve, you officially have my attention.

RPS Targets the Exalted. The latest bit out of the Firaxis XCOM factory is the revelation of a new human faction, the Exalt, that are working to subvert your efforts as head of XCOM. RPS had some hands-on time with the game and you can read about it here. An excerpt:

Exalt don’t attack XCOM head-on. In fact, it’s possible to leave them to their own devices and concentrate on the more pressing matter of repelling the aliens. The problem with that approach is that Exalt are using their devices to hack into XCOM’s systems, stealing money and stalling research, and when they set up a cell in a region, they disseminate propaganda, raising terror levels and turning public opinion against XCOM.

There are two possibilities: This adds an engaging new element to the game or this completely unthreads the game balance and destroys it. As an example, take the notion that Exalt can raise regional terror levels. On anything above Normal difficulty, terror levels were already very difficult to manage in Enemy Unknown. I don’t want another degrading influence tacked on unless there are more ways to successfully mitigate them.Chances are there actually are more ways, but I’ve not seen any of those details yet.

It occurs to me that it’s entirely possible that I loved the base XCOM so much that anything that messes with the formula makes me nervous.

Baldur’s Gate 2 Enhanced Edition Gets a Release Date. It’s November 15th. I already know I’m taking a pass on the iOS version this time. My experience trying to run BG1 on it, which was very close to being quite good, was enough to convince me that this sort of game needs a larger screen than the iPad can give me. And a mouse.

The Old Republic Takes to the Cockpit. Wow does that not look very good. I was going through some boxes post-move this past weekend and came across my old copies of X-Wing and Tie-Fighter. I know those were legit space dogfighting sims and Old Republic is a traditional MMO, but seriously, how can these two games sit out there as shining examples of what can be done and yet nobody with a Star Wars-license can come remotely close to successfully mimicking it? It boggles the mind. Seriously. I’m sitting here utterly boggled. In the head.

Buried at Sea. Here’s a pallet-cleanser from the last trailer. I really thought I was over the whole Bioshock thing after playing Infinite, but I have to admit the story beats here have me intrigued. I may have to play this after all.

Bonus Trailer. I ran across this one just before posting this. I still haven’t funded Star Citizen, but I’ll admit it, this is my kind of spaceship porn.

*Originally published at, 10/15/2013
*Updated 2/23/2016 (minor text updates)

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Todd Brakke

Todd was born in Ann Arbor, with a Michigan helmet in one hand and a mouse in the other. (Never you mind the logistics of this.) He grew, vertically anyway, and is a 20-year publishing veteran as an editor of books on consumer tech and professional development for educators. Because that wasn't enough of a challenge, Todd was a 20-year part-time snob about video games, writing reviews, features, and more for multiple outlets from 1997-2015. Follow him on Twitter @toddsfoolery.

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