Tharsis is a brutally difficult roguelike of number crunching, risk management, and gambling that can be finished in a scant 20 minutes. The catch is that you’ll lose the game in those 20 minutes. And you’ll likely lose many, many games after that as well. In fact, based on the mixed reviews from critics and users on Steam, I’d wager that the overall win percentage of its player base is less than those of Splunky, The Binding of Isasc, FTL, Darkest Dungeon, etc. As a result, some of those people think that Tharsis is too hard, or broken, or unfair. I think it’s actually the perfect difficulty to keep things casual.
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Netrunner is a beautiful game. Its theme resonates wonderfully throughout every set of cards, and the asymmetrical gameplay makes for a rare and deeply compelling power struggle between corporations and hackers. I love it, I really do, but I find myself unsatisfied with its lack of a distinct casual format, especially as a means of recruiting new players.
I have tried about a dozen times to get my friends into Netrunner. For a game that features punk rock hackers and corporations that create murderous sleeper clones, it’s a surprisingly difficult game to proselytize. The game is popular, absolutely, and those that get into it tend to border on the obsessive once they go all in, but making the game truly accessible to new players is difficult.
I first played Sid Meier’s Pirates! on a Commodore 64 in 1987. I was kind of obsessed with it, and I remain kind of obsessed with it.
In an era when phrases like “open world game” and “sandbox play” weren’t familiar ones, Pirates! offered a more robust and unique gaming experience than anything that I had played before.
Artificial intelligence is all the rage these days. Case in point: while I was watching football this past weekend, there were two television commercials in heavy circulation during the games that featured AI avatars—Siri and Watson—having life-like conversations with actors.
As you may know, I have a few opinions about the prospects and limitations of AI. Recently, I had an email chat with novelist and philosopher of science Victoria Alexander about AI, art, and chance. Alexander’s work focuses on the uses of chance in nature and in fiction and the changing conceptions of chance in science, religion, and art. What follows has been lightly edited for clarity.
Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate loves the city of London, and it wants you to love it too. The Assassin’s Creed games have always excelled at creating virtual worlds that feel alive, stuffed to the brim with people going about their daily lives—relaxing, working, or having fun in period appropriate ways. However, the Assassin’s Creed games are also about climbing up buildings, running across rooftops, and parkouring your way through a city as if the ground was hot lava. It’s hard to appreciate all that impressive historical mundanity when the gameplay keeps pushing you up and away.