BioShock: The Collection
Feature

The cycles of violence in BioShock: The Collection

Between 2007 and 2014, Irrational Studios and 2K Games told a story. This single story had five acts: BioShock (2007), BioShock 2 (early 2010), Minerva’s Den (late 2010), BioShock Infinite (2013), and Burial at Sea (2013-2014). Since episodic presentation encourages isolated judgment, it wasn’t always easy to see the unity of these fragments as they were marketed and released. But the legacy of the BioShock series is marked by rigid and often irrational schisms: between expectations and reality, themes and mechanics, rabid fans and equally rabid detractors. Now that 2K has kindly assembled all these narrative segments in BioShock: The…

darkestdungeon
Review

Darkest Dungeon’s unpredictable terrors get inside your head

His foot slipped, and Kugel the cleric fell toward the lava that was rapidly filling the chamber. He seemed oddly resigned, taking no immediate actions to alter his fate. “Perhaps this is the end of Kugel,” he whispered as his boots hit the magma. Darvin the fighter, too high up to be of immediate help but ever the problem-solver, called down to the monk Talia, beseeching her to extend her staff for Kugel to grab. But a sudden fit of selfishness had taken hold of the monk. “I don’t think so,” she replied calmly. “I really like this staff. It’s…

INSIDE_02
Feature

Smokestacks and metalwork: The industrial horror of videogames

In the most famous scene in Fritz Lang’s cinematic masterpiece Metropolis (1927), the protagonist, Freder, descends beneath the film’s urban dystopia to find a great network of machinery being tended by nameless, uniformed men. Steam columns, the clouds of this underground microcosm, rise and fall all around as the brass soundtrack mimics the percussive thronging of industrial noise. Freder wanders aimlessly through this metallic maze, looking onwards, terrified, at row upon row of men all operating levers in perfect automated symmetry. As the horns reach their background climax, an eruption of smoke and gas tears through the metalwork and throws…

xcom2-3
Review

Author in the machine: An XCOM 2 Review

Vigilo Confido goes the motto of the titular fighting force in Firaxis Studio’s excellent XCOM 2. To any English speaker, even one without any specialized knowledge of Latin, the meaning of the motto appears self-evident. Vigilo—vigil, vigilance, or something to that effect—and confido—obviously, confidence. Or . . . wait, is it confidential? In fact, the Latin is intensely and conspicuously ambiguous. Depending on whether or not those final “o”’s are read as nonal case endings or verb conjugations (to say nothing of the tense), defensible translations of Vigilo Confido include everything from “I Am Watchful; I Am Relied Upon” to…

wheels of aurelia (race)
Review

Wheels of Aurelia sputters onto the race track

Elevator pitches have the benefit of being ideas rather than actual things in the real world. With the right pitch just about anything can sound promising. Take communism, for instance—a system that, on paper, reads like an egalitarian haven, promising equality, fairness, and a stable life for everyone. It often doesn’t play out so well when put into practice, but the idea captivates so much that it lead to countless wars, dictatorships, and deaths. Wheels of Aurelia, set in a 1970s Italy reeling from feminism, communism, revolution, and terrorism, sounds better as an idea than it plays. You are Lella,…

Vinyl player
Feature

The neglected history of videogames for the blind

The game starts with a black screen. A woman’s voice, speaking in Japanese: “Real Sound. Kaze no Regret. This software brought to you by WARP Inc.” A string quartet, swelling and romantic, begins to play—press the start button, and the music stops suddenly with the sound of a bell. A light hiss of static. An acoustic guitar picking up the same theme as before is quickly joined by a ticking clock. A deep male voice starts to narrate: “Every so often, when you meet someone else, you have a feeling that it’s not for the first time.” The screen remains…

ReCore
Review

ReCore buries its head in the sand

“The old dog barks backwards without getting up. I can remember when he was a pup.” — Robert Frost, “The Span of Life” /// ReCore was supposed to be about a woman and her dog—her robotic dog. Its biggest fault is that it isn’t. Joule is part of a group of colonists sent to Far Eden after Earth became uninhabitable. She’s been in cryosleep for a long, long time—Mack, her robot dog, has been chasing his tail for at least a century, I guess. She awakes to find herself alone on Far Eden; the terraforming process there having failed. Corebots…

Virginia
Review

Virginia needs to go back to film school

Every film studies student is forced to watch an infant in a carriage careen down a staircase to its death. They do this because it’s important. The Odessa Steps sequence in Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1925) is a Cinema Studies 101-level text in film editing. As a theorist, Eisenstein, together with contemporary Lev Kuleshov, argued for a cinema built on the revolutionary effect of montage: meaning was created in the edit. In Battleship Potemkin, this meant a shot of a horrorstuck face and that shot of the runaway baby carriage played on the audience’s then-fledgling grasp on cinematic language. Terror…

Indie Play
Feature

The Determination of China’s Independent Game Scene

At night, Shanghai transforms itself into a new city. Bars, restaurants, and small shops start to open in the alleyways and neon red lights begin to shine throughout China’s largest city. Its nightlife, as well as its economic growth, makes this city the best place to see how the country has changed. At the end of July each year, Shanghai also becomes the hub of the Chinese videogame scene for one week. China Joy, the largest consumer and business game show in Asia, opens its doors for people from all over the world who arrive to try to understand what’s…