The Outer Worlds Review [Pixelkin]

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I put about 40 hours into Fallout 4 when it launched in 2015 before I fell off, leaving much of the massive world and story unexplored. I’ve kept it installed on my hard drive ever since, deluding myself that I would jump back in to finish it some day.

After playing The Outer Worlds, I promptly uninstalled Fallout 4. The Outer Worlds’ tight pacing, excellent writing, and fun gameplay have completely satiated my first-person RPG desires – and it does it all in under 40 hours.

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The Blockbuster Party Game Review [Pixelkin]

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The category was “movies with superheroes.” My wife and I locked eyes from across the table, hands poised over the buzzer. What followed was a hilariously heated exchange as we realized the incredible amount of superhero films we’ve seen together.

The Blockbuster Party Game combines multiple social party game modes within a delightfully nostalgic package, hearkening back to those 90s days of Friday night runs to the VHS tape emporium, Blockbuster Video.

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Disney Tsum Tsum Festival Review [Pixelkin]

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The Nintendo Switch has a slew of Mario Party-like mini-game collections, including Mario Party itself. But none bring the inexplicable gush of joy from kids (and some adults) like Tsum Tsum.

Disney Tsum Tsum Festival transforms the mobile puzzle game into a multiplayer party game for up to four players locally or online, starring the adorably chubby and popular Tsum Tsum toys.

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Borderlands 3 Review [Pixelkin]

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There are three main pillars for the Borderlands series: co-operative multiplayer, a bombastic and goofy cast of characters, and lots and lots of randomized gun loot. Gearbox may have played it relatively safe with the highly anticipated threequel in Borderlands 3, but they absolutely nailed all the important components that make this such a beloved series.

The Mad Max-like, zany comic universe of the Borderlands series has finally expanded beyond the planet of Pandora, as originally teased at the end of Borderlands 2 back in 2012.

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Untitled Goose Game Review [Pixelkin]

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Over the years and decades playing games I’ve embodied super-soldiers, dragons, cars, knights, aliens, and all kinds of fantastical beasts. In Untitled Goose Game, I’m a goose.

A normal-size, power-less goose sounds like a bit of a downgrade. Yet as I’ve come to learn geese are clever, resourceful, and hilariously aggravating, creating a uniquely light-hearted, memorable experience.

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Goodreads Review – The Shepherd’s Crown

The Shepherd's Crown (Discworld, #41; Tiffany Aching, #5)The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The fifth and final Tiffany Aching book and final Discworld novel is all too short due to the passing of Sir Terry Pratchett, my favorite author, in 2015. While it does tell a complete story, many elements are severely shortened and underdeveloped, leaving to an unfortunately underwhelming final tale.

Although I adored the first novel in the Tiffany Aching series, the rest of the series has been very up and down. I love Pratchett’s humorous and insightful writing style, but the series is less about Tiffany dealing with fun fantastical threats (as in the first novel), and more a series of coming-of-age teenage dramas.

The Shepherd’s Crown seems to even lack that, as by the fifth book Tiffany has come into her own as a witch of The Chalk. The passing of a major series character is a pivotal moment that’s done very well, but everything else falls a bit flat, including an all new side character who’s kind of pointless (yet given a lot of pages on his own), and the return of the elves which is resolved way too neatly. At under 300 pages it’s clear the book was left unfinished in many areas, and I suspect much of the novel’s praise was given due to the finality of the series and Prachett’s lifetime of amazing work.

Even so, I enjoyed The Shepherd’s Crown more than the second and third novels. Pratchett still makes me grin like nobody else, and finishing this book made me sad all over again that the world lost such a treasured soul.

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Goodreads Review – The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth #3)

The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth, #3)The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Phenomenal. The conclusion of The Broken Earth trilogy was everything I wanted and more. The emotional, epic climax between mother and daughter. The fate of the world. The history of the stone eaters. The slow-burn of the second book developing the relationship of Nassun and Schaffa paved the way for an emotionally-gripping finale.

I adored the intimate glimpse into the far-flung past (which is still our future) that sets up the cataclysmic world, how it broke, and how to fix it. Jemisin is an expert world-builder, yet always remains focused on the few but fantastic characters.

Every SF/F fan needs to read The Broken Earth trilogy, and I look forward to reading more of her work.

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Tabletop Review – Beastlands’ Maelstrom of Monsters

A procedurally generated monster manual with nearly 300 monsters.

A review copy of “Beastlands’ Maelstrom of Monsters” was provided by the publisher. Find more Tabletop Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

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Designed by: Todd Otto

“Procedurally generated” is a common buzzword (buzzphrase?) in gaming. It basically means content that is more intelligently randomly generated, involving parameters, settings, and algorithms.

Beastlands’ Maelstrom of Monsters” is a procedurally generated monster manual. The 285 enemies within aren’t even generated until you purchase the PDF, creating a uniquely bizarre concoction of mad-libs Frankenstein monsters that I don’t see any DM wanting to actually use.

Continue reading “Tabletop Review – Beastlands’ Maelstrom of Monsters”

Goodreads Review – The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth #2)

The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth, #2)The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wish Goodreads allowed half-stars. As much as I still adore Jemisin’s writing and world-building, I didn’t quite love the second novel in The Broken Earth trilogy as much as the first.

*VAGUE SPOILERS BELOW*

I was fascinated with the character evolution of Schaffa, but his (and Nassun’s) storyline plods along slower than I would have liked. Likewise I didn’t expect Essun to remain in Castrima for the entirety of the novel, though I enjoyed the socio-political developments, interesting minor characters, and the climactic battle. The best parts were learning about the fascinating world and history, and a much deeper dive into the stone eaters, as well as the awesome and satisfying reveal of the first-person narrator.

Make no mistake, this is still a 5-star series, and an incredible blend of apocalyptic sci-fi, fantasy, great characters, and excellent world-building.

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Goodreads Review – Cibola Burn (The Expanse #4)

Cibola Burn (The Expanse, #4)Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The fourth Expanse book almost has the opposite problem of the third book, it sets up the characters, setting, and conflict in an exciting way, then drags on for most of the second half of the book.
Cibola Burn tackles early settlement of the first of the new worlds opened up by the gates at the end of the third book. A renegade group of Belters were the first through the gate, and by the time a giant corporation ship from Earth arrives to document, research, and set up facilities, the squatters/settlers are already entrenched, leading to political conflict, especially when the squatters sabotage the newly arrived ship.
In comes James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante to mediate. The human drama take precedent over the exotic alien planet, but the new characters (including a returning old one from the first book) are all solid new additions, particularly the villainous Murtry and passionate scientist Dr. Elvi Okoye.
A cataclysmic event separates the two halves of the novel, and the second half slows to a crawl as we transition into man vs nature. There are two main storylines, and the orbiting ships in space becomes way more interesting and action-packed than the plodding survival story on the planet’s surface.
I still love this series and the characters are fantastic, but so far most of them could benefit from better pacing and about 100 fewer pages.

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