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by Nick Dinicola

20 Jul 2012


Syndicate creates an interesting world and places you in an interesting position within that world: There are no more countries, just giant corporations. It’s a set up primed to offer social commentary by showing you different facets of everyday life filtered through a corporate lens. You play as an Agent, essentially a spy but nowhere near as subtle. It’s a great role for the player since it justifies our travel to multiple syndicates and our access to sensitive information. From this position we can easily watch a conspiracy unfold.

Syndicate could have offered social commentary by way of a political thriller, but it doesn’t. The great world building is undermined by a plot twist so hackneyed and lazy that it turns Syndicate into a prime example of how not to tell to a story.

by Nick Dinicola

13 Jul 2012


Slender is a free indie game by Parsec Productions based off the Slender Man mythos that originated in a Something Awful forum thread about fake paranormal pictures. His creation and history are a fascinating story, a community-driven monster myth in the making, so it was only a matter of time until someone made a game about him.

by Nick Dinicola

29 Jun 2012


Asura’s Wrath is a simple game that tells a simple revenge story. It doesn’t do anything new or interesting with this basic premise. This story progresses as you expect with the characters that you expect taking on the roles that you expect. There are no surprises… until the cliffhanger ending. Leaving aside the ethical issue of purposely cutting off the end of the game and selling it as DLC, this DLC is worth the price or at least a gander on YouTube (which is what I did) because the final four episodes take the crazy spectacle of Asura’s Wrath and mix it with some shockingly thoughtful themes.

by Nick Dinicola

22 Jun 2012


Like most RPGs nowadays, Game of Thrones begins with a character creation screen where we get to choose a fighting style and skill set and so on. It’s very standard until you start to pick your “traits.” These are permanent modifiers named in such a way that it encourages us to think of our character as more than a collection of stats (“Ambidextrous,” “Honed Reflexes,” “Gifted”), but the best part about these choices is that once we’ve picked three positive traits, we have to pick three negative traits that permanently weaken our character.

by Nick Dinicola

15 Jun 2012


A few months ago Thomas Grip, co-founder of Frictional Games, the developers behind Amnesia: The Dark Descent, wrote a blog post about the ten ways horror games can evolve. Grip makes a lot of good points, but the first one that stands out to me the most because it almost never happens in video games is the idea of establishing a sense of normality:

In most games the player usually starts out in some strange and not very normal situation…However, much of the good horror in other media starts of very mundane. They build on having the audience strongly relating to what is taking place and being able to draw close parallels to their own lives. For horror games this would mean to establish a very familiar situation and then slowly introduce the horror there. The goal is for the terror to not just be inside the game’s virtual world, but to reach into the real as well. (“10 Ways to Evolve Horror Games”, In the Games of Madness, 26 April 2012)

Then, as if right on cue, Telltale Games released The Walking Dead, which does just that.

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