Random Screenshots #4

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This morning is one of those mornings when I am super thankful that I cobbled together the random screenshot tool.  Last night I sort of failed at doing any measure of directed content.  I tuned into Spiral’s stream as she continued to push forward into Final Fantasy V and spent most of the night alt tabbing between twitch and Final Fantasy XIV.  I’ve been on this mission to make sure that I complete the Ixal quests each day, and they take significantly longer than your average quest.  In truth the bulk of the slowdown is all of the swapping back and forth between classes and having to craft items over and over until I get X number of high quality baubles for the turn in.  Sometimes I just get unlucky, and the higher crafting gets the harder this seems to be.  So while I might only need 4 items for the turn in… I might end up with a stack of 15 normal quality items that I had to craft to get those four HQs.  Needless to say when I finally finished up with the quests it was around 9 pm last night… and I was feeling largely done with Final Fantasy XIV for the night.  So instead I popped into the bedroom where I have my Wii U connected and played some more Zelda.  It is growing on me, but I still find a lot about the game frustrating, or at least non-intuitive.  As a result I don’t have a whole hell of a lot to talk about this morning, and definitely no screenshots so… once again I crawl back into the vault and do a random sort.

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Chua Starting Area – Wildstar

While I may have issues with Wildstar… it will always be a gorgeous game.  This is I believe a screenshot from the tail end of Crimson Isle, the Chua/Draken starting zone.  There are times I miss my little Chua, and I went so far as to create a new one awhile back as a Warrior.  The problem is the game of Wildstar itself just never quite clicks.  There is just too much going on visually for me, and the style of targeted directional abilities with hotbar combat never seems to feel as good as I think they hoped it would.  I feel like the game would feel a lot better on a console where you can bind your main attacks to the triggers and bumpers and control movement and aiming with both analog sticks.  In theory you could emulate this… but keyboard to controller emulators never quite work as flawlessly as if you set the controls up for that purpose out of the box.  Just like running a console with a mouse and keyboard…  you are trying to fake out the hardware while using out another control scheme under the hood.

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Funny thing that I get a World of Warcraft image in this search because I really have not talked about the game lately much.  I am admittedly on a bit of a break right now, and in part I am simply just not forcing myself to log in when I don’t really want to.  For three or four weeks the real world got in the way of my raiding… and then I just got out of the habit of logging in regularly.  As it stands I have this meeting on Wednesdays that usually lets out about 6pm which leaves me an hour to get home.. find food and log into the game for the raid which is simply too rushed for my tastes.  So for the moment I am on extended leave, until the spirit drives me to start playing again.  This image is from me finding the Burning Plate of the Worldbreaker… aka the Protection Warrior alternate appearance.  This is probably the moment in Legion when I was playing the most intently, and every single day I made a trek out here to see if the shield was up.  The day it finally was… I took lots of screenshots and I so happily used this appearance until I got something newer unlocked recently.  The Legion launch and the first few patch cycles will always be a happy memory… even if I have sort of fallen out of the habit of playing the game.

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Another happy moment in a game… at the end of a long grind is when I finally got Turquoise on my Chocobo in Final Fantasy XIV.  For those who are unfamiliar… your base Chocobo can be dyed through an insane process of feeding the chocobo various fruits.  What makes the process maddening is that one set of fruit alters the RGB values… and another set of fruit seemed to instead alter CMYK.  When we first started doing this it was largely trial and error before the calculators came out… and even when they existed it never really was an exact science.  At the time we were doing this… the fruit for dyeing was prohibitively expensive.  While we were trying to keep an active stock of seeds growing in the garden… it never quite met up with the desires.  If you find yourself interested in this process, check out this calculator because it seems to be the best.  I remember towards the end I teetered back and forth between three colors until it finally clicked and gave me the Turquoise that I was hunting for.  All of this…  was simply to make sure that it matched my Leviathan Barding.

Random Screenshots #3

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This is another one of those mornings when I feel like I don’t have much of anything to talk about.  Work encroached upon my gaming time, first with a meeting that I did not get out of until 6 pm…  when I normally get out of the office around 4/4:30.  Second when I did get home I had a bunch of things that I needed to look into given that we are still ironing out the issues with a brand new website launch.  As a result by the time I finished up I largely just crashed on the sofa and watched some Black Mirror as I had not touched season 3.  That show is extremely creepy, but also something that I cannot really stop watching.  It is a sort of technological tales of the crypt, and if you have never watched the show…  be prepared for some disturbing content.  That said it is still very much worth your time and the latest season has at least one gem scattered among the digital nightmares in the form of the San Junipero episode.  Anyways this morning is going to be a random screenshot post morning because I am not sure what else to really talk about.  I am still fairly groggy and probably shouldn’t have finished the 4th episode last night, and instead just headed on to bed.

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I am not entirely certain of the context, but this is of course a screenshot from Wildstar.  I believe it is from the moon mission where you have to figure out what happened to all of the miners.  Even though I have long struggled to really click with this game, I cannot deny how much of an interesting vision it really is.  The art direction was on point and everything feels like it exists in the same shared technicolor delusion.  For whatever reason I never really liked how spastic their flavor of hotbar combat felt.  Most recently I paid a little money to be able to create a Chua Warrior and I found it enjoyable…  but still not really clicking as hard as I would have liked.  Honestly this game and Guild Wars 2 sort of exist in the same space for me…  where they are equally interesting to visit but not exactly the same of place I want to call home.  I will say though that the people who do play the game regularly are amazing and I am super happy to have a whole bunch of them occupying my social media streams.  This is one of those games that I root hard for…  just from a distance.

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We go from a game that I don’t really get fully, to one that I absolutely do…  but still don’t end up playing that often.  I believe this screenshot is from one of the opening shots of Makeb which was the sequence of content I last played during a December 2015 binge of the game thanks to Force Awakens Star Wars hype.  I honestly thought I would similarly return during the Rogue One hype machine but it never actually materialized.  I realize I am missing so much great content, and I keep saying that one of these days when I hit a lull in whatever other games I happen to be playing that I will swoop back to Star Wars the Old Republic and gobble up all of the goodies I have missed.  I still have yet to start any of the Shadow of Revan content…  let alone Fallen Empire or Eternal Throne.  I did have an active sub, but I let that lapse at some point…  they keep roping me in with offers of “subs get X shiny bauble” and then I never actually end up playing.  I should in theory pop back in before this last bit of sub time lapses and I am stuck playing in freemium hell.

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On to yet another game that I have really fond memories of but never end up playing.  This is I believe a screenshot from one of the betas for The Secret World.  To the best of my knowledge this was me creating my very first character.  To be truthful I never was a huge fan of the character creation system in TSW, as it always felt like I never could create exactly the character that I wanted to create.  However on so many levels I loved this game, but the biggest problem is attempting to return to it.  Since you can repeat almost every quest it becomes extremely hard to see just what you have completed and what is new and something you should focus on.  When they release an issue I find it hard to actually track down all of the things that have been added and given that I last actively played during “Last Train to Cairo” which was issue number six… and they are currently on fifteen there is a ton of content I have missed.  I just find it extremely hard to get back into the game after being gone for so long…  and given all of the systems that they have seemingly loosely tacked onto the base experience.

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I don’t have an awful lot to say about this screenshot other than I thought it looked cool, so I decided to post it.  This is of course from Farcry 3 Blood Dragon, which is this insane 80s movie romp.  If you took every 80s sci-fi film and distilled it to its campy roots, then dumped all of that pure essence in a blender…  you wind up with Blood Dragon.  If you have never checked it out, you probably really should given that it regularly dips down into the $5 territory.  It is a completely stand alone experience and does not require Farcry…  nor does it really have anything to do with the Farcry Franchinse at all other than modeling some of the open world roaming gameplay.

 

Think of the Children

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For the majority of last week I talked about games that I had played at PAX South, and in truth there are still a handful more than I want to discuss.  I think that is the real triumph of this years show, that I walked away with so many things that I found interesting enough to write entire posts about.  Granted in my super meandering way I end up talking about a lot of things other than the game during each of them.  Today is not going to change that.  In 2016 the most memorable game at PAX South for me was a game called Ultimate Chicken Horse.  In fact this was the sort of experience that I kept dragging people back by the booth to check out for themselves.  I don’t have a ton of opportunities to do the whole couch co-op party game thing, and it seems that when I actually do get that opportunity I want to take advantage.  I even wrote a couple of different posts about my thoughts talking about just how fresh and interesting the experience was.  Now I did not expect to find another game like this, but it seems like it found me.

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Ultimately I think I happened to stare a little too long at a booth as I was passing by, and within moments was engaged by someone talking about a game called “Think of the Children”.  Admittedly we had not shifted into “lets play all the games” mode yet, and this game was a good part of that mental shift for me at least.  The idea apparently came out of a recent game jam and was being groomed into a full game.  The concept was simple enough…  that you are parents and have to try and take care of a bunch of children.  The challenge comes in when you find out that the children are essentially lemmings.  They have no survival instinct and instead of simply slowly marching towards the edge of the a cliff… they are going to actively go find danger.  The kids might decide it is super awesome to go try and pet a jellyfish… and get stung to death, or mess with a bird…  and get pecked to death.  Essentially these little buggers are constantly trying to kill themselves and you as the parents are trying desperately to corral or distract them long enough to make it through the timer without losing any of your charges.

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This turns out to be exceedingly difficult, and just as you seem to have one group of kids under control…  another group goes off and does something truly horrible.  Essentially you have a few tools for managing the children…  you can either pick them up and move them away from danger… or shout at them which effects every child in range for a super short period of time…  before they go right back to doing whatever horrible thing they were planning on doing.  You can also temporarily distract children by setting up tables, or deploying a pinata.  I found myself largely throwing children away from harm while Rae who was playing with me attempted to set up the distractions.  Regardless I was an extremely bad parent and my first time out of the gate I got an F-…  and on attempt two I upgraded that to a D.  Let me just tell you that was the proudest I had ever been of getting a D in my life.

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Sure the game is morbid as hell, given that inevitably some of your children are going to die horrible and stupid deaths.  However the gameplay was so fast paced and frenetic that we spent most of our time yelling unintelligible sentence fragments at each other while desperately trying to keep yet another child from going and playing in traffic.  I mean there is a clear reason why I am not a parent of anything but animals…  because in truth animals have way more survival instinct than proto-humans.  Where the game shines is when you are sitting there playing co-op with one of your friends, and if I had an opportunity to do this often I would absolutely suggest this game in your rotation of what I term “party games”.  One of the cool things that happens at PAX in general is that you wind up striking conversations with random people while waiting in lines.  Each and every time this happened to me it ultimately got down to talking about our favorite games of the show, and this is the game that I kept sending people out into the world to find.  It was tucked into a quiet row and was ultimately rather unassuming, but man was it a great experience to play.  Even though I don’t have a lot of opportunity for couch co-op I am still going to pick this up for no reason other than to support what is ultimately a really cool game idea.  If you find yourself interested in this madness you can check out the official website, or do what I did and just add it to my wishlist on Steam.

Advanced Spellcraft

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I’ve talked about quite a few things that I experienced at Pax South, and this mornings post is going to do some more of the same.  I feel like this year more than others I walked away with a treasure trove of things I wanted to talk about.  I guess in theory it is because I approached the convention significantly differently than I have in past years.  In the past I largely only stood in line to play the games that immediately seemed to be in my wheelhouse, and as a result I am sure I robbed myself of a whole slew of interesting things.  The game I want to talk about this morning is a prime example of not being able to rely on our instincts and tastes.  If you have read my blog for any length of time you will know that I do not handle “finger wigglers” that well… or to clarify my own personal slang…  spell casters.  So when I walked past a booth demonstrating a game where the main character is slinging spells left and right, my first instinct is to keep moving.  However as a group we stopped and listened to the intricate tale that CEO Louis-Félix Cauchon had to weave.  Admittedly what make this game so interesting is just how detailed the spell system is.  We got to watch a twenty minute demo covering nothing but how the spell system works, before even getting into the awesome pedigree of the storytelling.

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Functionally your character has four spells, which in itself doesn’t seem like a lot.  However each spell can be modified with what I have been generically calling “mutators” to change the way it responds.  So you might have a spell that at face value is a small point blank spark, however by equipping a a behavior you can make it fire out like a fireball…  or by equipping an augment you can make it veer to the right after firing it.  If you suddenly decide that you don’t want to throw fireballs… but instead iceballs, you can simply go in and change the base element of the attack.  Over the course of this demo of the system we got to see personal shields turn into charge attacks, and glorious cascades of rock from the ceiling in place of a traditional blizzard spell.  Now you might ask yourself why on each you would need this level of detail for a spell system apart from the simple “wouldn’t it be cool” aspect.  Functionally the magic not only serves as a weapon, but also as a complex puzzle system.  So there might be switches that you cannot reach unless you modify your fireball to arc in a certain way in order to hit the trigger.  The spellbook also allows you to save off several different configurations of a spell, and in the final version you will be able to give them unique names allowing you to quickly recognize which version of a given spell is your avalanche and which is your frost barrier.  The only immediate limit to building insane combination spells is your imagination, and of course your mana bar.  Each trait that you give a spell increases its cost, and while it was described that this matters less and less as you go through the game… it does limit your early tinkering.  Additionally as you play through the game you find modifiers along the way, meaning your palette of abilities starts small and grows as you progress.

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Up to this point we have literally just talked about the technical spell casting system, which in itself is a pretty amazing game.  On top of this however they have added what is sure to be a pretty great story.  Ed Greenwood of Forgotten Realms fame has penned the story for this game about epic spellcasters, which only makes sense given that he gave us the character of Elminster.  Functionally I heard the game described as Harry Potter meets Zelda and that seems fitting, with a huge alteration in that there seems to be a lot more physical puzzle solving with your spells.  I find it so bizarre though that I am looking forward to the release of a game about magic users, and that includes absolutely zero armor clad characters for me to bash baddies in the head with.  At face value this game is traditionally far out of my wheelhouse, but it was also quite possibly the freshest feeling game concept I saw on the Pax floor.  We’ve done so much for martial combat and making it feel interesting and nuanced, but have done so little to bring that same level of nuance to weaving complex spells.  Most games give us the option of push button throw fireball, or push button create bubble…  but this is the first that I have seen that lets you take that bubble and then project it outwards or trigger another spell after the bubble casts.  I have this feeling that in many ways it will have an almost metroidvania feel in that each time you unlock a new ability to give you spells it is also going to open up new ways to solve puzzles and allow you to move deeper into the content.

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The game right now is targetted for PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One and does not have a firm launch date… but we heard March or April mentioned which I largely translated into a “Spring” launch window that might be plus or minus a month.  They are doing something extremely interesting to get us into the world ahead of the launch by releasing a comic that updates Tuesdays and  Thursdays and explains the world and setting.  I love it when I experience a game like this, not necessarily because “woo spellcasters” or anything of the sort, but because this is clearly the love child of a bunch of folks who care deeply about it.  Talking to Louis-Félix Cauchon within second it was clear to see just how passionate he was about this game, and the work and imagination that went into creating it.  That in truth is what makes the convention experience special.  You get to meet the creators face to face and see just how much they love what they are doing.  In many ways it feels like Pax South recharges the spark inside of me each year, and gives me fuel to keep going throughout the year.  We spend so much time on the negatives, the little details that bother us about this game or that.  However seeing a game like Mages of Mystralia shows me instantly that there very much still is magic out there…  pun only slightly intended.  I would definitely add this to your watch list and check it out when it ultimately releases.  I find it so bizarre that of all of the games I have experienced, this one ranks insanely high on the list of “wish I had early access” titles, if for no reason other than to play with the spell crafting system.  This is the first release from Borealys Games, but if they can pour this much passion into every project they are going to be a studio we see lots of amazing things from in the future.

Them Apples

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What has been bizarre to me has been just how different the three years of Pax South have felt personally.  During year one I was completely overwhelmed and did my best to hit as many panels as I could while also making a bunch of media appointments.  During year two we had roughly sixteen people roaming around in groups of various sizes, so my focus was to spend as much time as possible with as many people as possible.  I was also overwhelmed but in a completely different way, with trying to juggle meeting up with folks while also hitting scheduled media appointments.  Year three I completely cut the whole parking debacle out of the loop which greatly relaxed the entire experience.  Additionally we went from having sixteen to roughly seven… with two pairs of those largely roaming together and leaving me with a semi regular group of three people.  This opened up so many doors because three is not an unreasonable amount of people to sit down and demo something together with, and as a result I played way more games during the course of the show.  So many that I never actually made it off the main floor or attended any panels.  In truth this felt like the best possible thing because it gave me lots of interesting experiences to come back and shamelessly milk for blog posts.  It also let me spend maximum time with my friends while attempting to extract the maximum enjoyment.  It did nothing for my longevity unfortunately with me making my way back to the hotel around 6 or 7 both nights to hang with my wife and decompress from the days event.

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Of the really awesome games that I played, I think the very first that I sat down to play as a group is a card game called Wicked Apples.  At first I watched a couple of my group play it together, and when they finished the first round got dealt in for round two.  The idea is simple and the card game itself extremely small… I have not counted but it seems like maybe the card deck as a whole is maybe around 35 cards.  What I like so much about the game however is just how quickly it can be played.  One of the big challenges with most modern tabletop games is that they take a fair bit of time to set up, play and break back down.  In most cases you need a dedicated hour or more to really feel like you have enjoyed the experience.  At work I have been kicking around the notion of doing some tabletop gaming at lunch, especially since I have a coworker that is way deeper into the weeds than I am in the board gaming community.  However the challenge that is what sorts of games can you realistically play in a 30-40 minute window and get enough hands in to make it feel like you actually accomplished something.  When I saw Wicked Apples I immediately thought that this game would be perfect for this scenario because each hand seemed to last around ten to fifteen minutes depending on how much stalling from the players.

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The game consists of barrel cards, wicked apple cards matching each barrel color, and an assortment of unique apple cards that each have specific effects on them.  The game starts by dealing out barrels to each of the players… or in our case simply choosing whatever color you wanted to play.  That player the is handed the wicked apple of a color matching their barrel, as well as three random apple cards dealt face down.  The goal is to take these four cards and arrange them in any order in front of you face down… but at the same time memorize the position of each card.  The goal of the game is not to eat a wicked apple, be it your own or another players.  After setup the turn order is determined by the number on the players bucket from lowest to highest, but later in the game this will be determined by the top apple in each players bucket.  Each player can take one of two actions:  Peak or Pass.  Peak essentially means that you can secretly check to verify what apple is sitting in a given slot in front of you, and Pass means that you can take any one of your apples and give it to any other player.  After all players have either chosen to Peak or Pass, everyone has to choose an apple that they are going to eat that round.  If you are doing this right then all players reveal their apple at exactly the same time…  however we were pretty awful at doing this and wound up being a slow staggered reveal.  The eating order is determined by the number in the top right corner of the card, and each player performs the actions on their card if possible taking turns in ascending order.  The “if possible” is in there because there are situations where for example you have no apples… and as a result cannot say pass an apple as directed by the card.

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The game carries on like this until one of two things happen… either only one player is left standing at the end of a round where in that case they are the winner.  There is also the possibility that ALL players are eliminated in the same round, and essentially everyone loses.  Whatever the case, once you know the rules of the game it goes extremely quickly and I could see playing a bunch of round rapid fire in a short period of time.  There is functionally a lot of strategy and bluffing involved in what is essentially a game of memory.  Do you pass a good apple to the player beside you and think that ultimately they are going to assume you gave them your wicked apple?  Are you going to pass your wicked apple and then follow up by lacing it with the Candy Apple that forces a player to eat that apple next?  I absolutely did that last move, while also passing the poison apple to another player that round functionally executing both of them.  It is absolutely a game where you know every other players is going to back stab you and do so constantly, so the ramifications of this realization become greatly blunted and just part of the fun.  The individual decks at Pax South were $15, and I went back and forth on Friday about picking one up.  However one of the first things I did Saturday morning was run back and purchase one, and I am super glad that I did.  It seems as though they sold their last deck sometime early Sunday morning, and apparently this was their entire current stock as there are zero available through the website either currently.  So yeah… I guess it is probably cruel to tell you about a game that you literally cannot get at this very moment, but I still enjoyed it enough that I wanted to talk about it.  Like I said before I personally plan on taking my deck with me to work and trying a few hands over lunch to see how well it works.  It is easy to pick up and fast paced enough that I can see this doing really well with a wide variety of players.  If you have the chance to check it out in any upcoming shows I highly suggest you do so.

 

Embracing Chaos

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There are games from my childhood that I will always have an odd amount of nostalgia about.  There are the obvious ones like Zelda and Mario… but then there are the ones where I latched onto with both hands and never quite understood why.  Chaos Engine is one of those games in the second column because by all rights… it was not really a popular game in the United States.  We never really had the massive Amiga Culture here that the UK did… and while I owned one… I didn’t get it until my college years for use with Digital Video production.  However I did own a Sega Genesis and we did get Chaos Engine released under the confusing re-branding of Soldiers of Fortune.  I played the hell out of the game but didn’t realize what I had been missing… because while a completely functional port it is in no way as good as the original.  I bought my Amiga 3000 second hand… and it came with a box of crudely labelled Amiga floppies.  One of which was called Chaos Engine, and when I fired it up… I felt immediately at home.  The original Amiga game was so much better in every way than the port I was familiar with, and most importantly was the music.  I’ve included a video I found of the game intro running on an A500.  The game was essentially an isometric shooter but a much more interesting one than say Commando or Ikari Warriors.  It allowed you to pick from a cast of characters…  the Brigand, the Gentleman, the Mercenary, the Navvie, the Preacher and The Thug.  Each with their own strengths and unique weapons, and also added a small bit of RPG style progression as you could use the money found in each level to purchase buffs to further customize the way the character played.  Even today I have purchased every copy of this game that has come out…  from a Windows 95 CD version that no longer functions to the more recent release on Steam.

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While roaming around the floor at Pax South I came across what I could only describe as the logical successor.  Tower 57 is a game that I didn’t even know existed before this convention.  It apparently was on Kickstarter during August of 2015 and managed to raise roughly 55k dollars.  Had I known about the game then I would have likely backed it, even though my track record with video game kickstarters is not that amazing.  The game website describes it as:

In a dystopian, dieselpunk world, where Megatowers are the only enclaves of civilization, a group of extraordinary individuals is sent to infiltrate the reclusive Tower 57. Their skills, clips’ capacity & the ability to cooperate will decide on their fate.

Tower 57 is a top-down twin stick shooter with 16-bit inspired pixel art, destructible environments and heavy focus on co-op. It is also a modern take on what made AMIGA games so great back in the days.

What it felt like was a sort of Shadowrun meets Chaos engine, with a similarly interesting cast of characters.  Unfortunately I didn’t actually get to start fresh when I gave the game I try… but it seems like I could largely pick  between a female detective wearing a trechcoat and using a shotgun, and the diplomat which is a guy that looks like Abraham Lincoln with a flame thrower.  The game has all the right quirky notes that Chaos Engine did, and a similarly Victorian Era meets Steampunk meets 1920s speakeasy feel to it.  The artwork is absolutely gorgeous and the movement of the characters felt fluid, with interesting and challenging monsters that you encountered.  In the Pax South demo it seemed to largely be locked to the sewer level, and I was amped to see the gameplay unfold very similarly to what I expected with Chaos Engine.  Essentially doing something in one area of the map might unlock a secret area in another corner of the map, but also spawned multiple waves of mobs that you then needed to clear.

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The game is functionally a twinstick shooter, and the demo was played with xbox one controllers.  After a short period of time though I adjusted and managed to play my way through the level and get up to the mini boss at the end of it.  Ashgar managed to beat it… I however managed to take out the main encounter… then got super careless and died to something stupid on my way out of the room.  There was a line of folks waiting to take the controllers, so I stopped playing… but I would have loved to have had another shot at the game and tried playing some of the other characters.  Reportedly on both the game website and the steam profile the final version will include seven different playable characters, each with their own weapons and traits.  Another thing that I thought was really fun was the fact that the majority of the world appeared to be destructible.  Sure this serves a purpose with explosive barrels, but even when it serves no real purpose it is glorious to see the entire screen erupt in a hail of debris without actually slowing down the frame rate.  Reportedly the game will support local and online multiplayer co-op gameplay, which is admittedly something I am looking forward to.  I am probably going to convince Ashgar to play through the game with me some weekend…  which usually means he carries me super hard as I fail miserably somewhere in the background while looking for loot.

If anything I have said sounds interesting, I highly suggest you check out the game.  I have a huge amount of nostalgia for Chaos Engine and this game is riding heavily on that fact.  However Ashgar seemed to enjoy it just as much as I did, and he had never even heard of that game.  Right now the game has an ambiguous “Spring 2017” release date…  which to me means “any time before May” but to Square Enix apparently meant June when they were talking about Heavensward.  Whatever the case… the game felt really polished and hopefully that means the game will be available shortly.  You can pre-order now on Humble for $9.99 but to be honest I am more than likely going to wait for the steam release since I believe right now… humble disqualifies you from giving proper feedback on steam because it is not an “official purchase”.  To be honest the whole “steam purchase” versus “key redemption” thing is a mess when it comes to reviews.  Whatever the case it is definitely a game I enjoyed and I am ready to get my Chaos Engine game play back on.

Tale of Dice Games

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It is bizarre to me how I went into Pax South thinking it would be largely about the Nintendo Switch for me… and it wound up becoming almost entirely about Tabletop gaming.  More so it was the tale of dice games… and my experiences trying three different ones.  There was King of Tokyo that I had never actually played, and while I found it enjoyable it wasn’t exactly the sort of game I was going to rush right out into the store and purchase.  Then there was Dragon Dice…  which sounded familiar at the time as a game that TSR once published… and it turns out that in fact it is the same game just self published by the creator now.  The problem is that I looked in the general direction of the booth and got sucked in by an extremely motivated salesperson in the form of what I can only guess was the thirteen year old daughter of the creator.  I sat down to play… and got Ashgar roped into doing the same.  So we played and tried our best to wriggle out of the booth as soon and as politely as possible.  It was bad…  and not just in a general sense of not fun… but bad in a sense of whoever attacked first essentially put the other player on the ropes for the rest of the game and since attack and defense is out of the same dice roll…  it made it extremely hard to ever recover.  As a result we avoided anything else that was dice related like the plague… that is until while waiting in the hour and a half long Dauntless line I ended up getting into a random conversation with the folks I was standing shoulder to shoulder with as is the way of PAX.  We started talking about our favorite games of the show so far, and one of these other folks mentioned Dice Throne.  So before the night was up we wound up making our way over to the Dice Throne booth in the PAX Rising area, where unfortunately no one was giving demos at that moment.  However they mentioned that in the tabletop area there was a completely different set up where folks had been playing nonstop.  Little did I know that essentially this would be the last thing I played during my time at PAX and would eat up my last few hours.

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c3tib3xumaajc_wI am of course swiping images left and right from the Dice Throne twitter and Kickstarter for the purpose of this post.  The game itself is a weird mix of dice battling, action RPG and Magic the Gathering starter deck duels.  Each player chooses a character to play from the current list of Barbarian, Moon Elf, Pyromancer and Shadow Thief…  with Paladin and Monk playable at the show but ultimately stretch goals in the kickstarter.  Each character comes with a unique play mat, card deck, five dice, and a sheet that describes their status effects that they can give to opponents and explains the chance of rolling a given symbol on the dice.  What made the game addictive to me was the aspect that as you move through the session you can play cards on top of your playmat and upgrade your base abilities.  Sometimes this is just a matter of making the abilities more efficient, or having a lower number of dice needed to trigger the effect.  In the case of the game where I played the Shadow Thief… some of the cards actually served as two completely different abilities that you could then choose from.  I personally only have experience with the Barbarian and Shadow Thief, but I think Ashgar and Paragon wound up playing Shadow Thief vs Paladin… in which I heard that the Paladin is completely brutal.

Regardless of the specific configuration the game is ultimately a game about duels… which admittedly is the part that makes me the most excited.  I love tabletop games… but I don’t exactly have a wide circle of people that I can play them with locally.  I mean I could branch out and just show up at a game shop and look for people to play… but that isn’t really my way.  I am way too introverted to ever make that work.  So instead I have limited opportunities usually one friend at a time to play things.  Dice Throne is absolutely perfect for this situation because it creates a completely meaningful experience with only two players.  In theory this game also works with any multiple of two, in that players can set up 2 vs 2 or 3 vs 3 scenarios and some of the cards would play perfectly into that situation.  The reason Magic the Gathering comes into play as a reference for this game is that it is set up in a number of phases:  Upkeep, Income and Draw, Main Phase 1, Offensive Roll Phase, Defensive Roll Phase, Main Phase 2, Discard Phase.

Players start out with 50 Health, 1 combat point or CP and 4 cards from their deck with the ultimate goal of reducing the other player down to 0 Health to win the match.  Each round the players gain 1 CP during the income phase and draw one card, with the CP being spent to play the various cards they have in their hand.  Each character plays a little different in that the Shadow Thief seemed to be all about hitting the 15 CP cap as soon as possible and then striking from the shadows with critical attacks that scale based on the current CP number. The Barbarian seemed to be about healing back lost health and avoiding taking damage by simply overhealing the incoming attack…  all the while smashing with big attacks that can easily become unblockable.  Barbarian absolutely was “my thing” but it also sounds like the super defensive Paladin might have been a good fit for me as well.  Each round of attacks you roll your 5 dice and then take the symbols and numbers and try and make something with them.  You are given two rounds of re-rolls as you attempt to hone in on the exact thing you need.  There are also cards that shift your abilities so that you can make certain dice wild, or with “samsies” swap any dice to match any other dice.  These however take the luck of the draw and the CP to play them when needed.

What I found most interesting is that essentially you are having to look at the symbols and the numbers to see what the best course of action is.  All of the characters have something interesting that happens when you roll a small straight (4 numbers in sequence), and something interesting that happens when you roll a large straight (5 numbers in sequence).  Then again there are other things that are super powerful that can play off of the other attacks.  For example 2 swords and 2 “pow” symbols on the Barbarian gives you an attack that deals less damage… but becomes undefendable which when upgraded serves as an amazing way to finish off your opponent.  The Shadow Thief allowed you to shift in and out of the shadows… allowing you to be essentially untargetable until you exit on the next round.  Attacking from the shadows allowed you to roll an extra dice as you exited to deal a little bonus damage.  Every hero has an ultimate attack that is essentially triggered by rolling five 6s, but in truth I found these pretty freaking hard to make work unless I had a wild card or two available in my hand.  There is a lot more nuance that I feel like I cannot adequately cover after literally having only played two games.  Suffice to say there is a lot of meat on these bones, and I am sure more than enough to start to develop even a bit of a meta game among players.  I was not well suited for the Shadow Thief because the whole poke from the shadows thing is not really my deal.  That said I know players that would absolutely excel at that game play style since essentially the Barbarian and the Shadow Thief are playing two completely different games.  From what I understand each of the characters plays this way essentially with the Moon Elf focusing on dealing damage while defending for example.

The long and short of this is that as soon as I got back home on Sunday night I went out to the Kickstarter and backed the game.  I was completely and thoroughly sold.  As of this morning even though the page has not updated they have already hit the Paladin stretch goal so it will be included in the Champion version of the game.  Next up is an upgrade to Linen Cards at $35k, Vacuum formed tray at $40k, Thicker Box at $45k and finally the inclusion of the Monk Hero at $65k.  With 24 days to go they are already sitting at 200% of the original goal, and I have to think that Pax South is going to give them a lot of good exposure going forward.  There was a pair of guys who had literally spent about twelve hours over the weekend playing the game… and wound up serving as surrogate coaches when we had so many people wanting to play the game in the Tabletop area.  The rules are pretty simple and easy to pick up, and the game play while actually taking awhile to resolve itself… feels like it moves forward instead of stalling out.  I have to say for something in prototype form… the game felt really damned polished.  The cards and artwork all felt great… with the only complaint being sticker dice.  However the first stretch goal was to upgrade to engraved dice so that will in theory no longer be a thing.  I went with the $39 Champion edition which seems to be the point that the majority of backers are entering at, which in theory should give you access to all six characters and slightly nicer multi-tone dice.  The base game will include four characters: Shadow Thief, Barbarian, Moon Elf and Pyromancer which sits at $29… so I felt that extra $10 was more than warranted even for the shot at two more characters.  Dice Throne was definitely my tabletop game of the show… but in truth I think probably it was my game of the show as a whole.  I highly suggest if you have the opportunity to check this out at any conventions between now and the projected November release date that you grab hold of it with both hands.

Kickstarter Link

 

Restless Weekend

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This weekend was a bit of an odd one, because at least for me it centered around recording our “Games of the Year” show on AggroChat.  This is generally speaking a huge ordeal given that our show is made up of six very different minded people.  Back during the days when we had four regular hosts it was less of a proceeding but now that we essentially have six people each picking three games a piece… that means we wind up talking about 18 games, which as it turns out divides neatly into two 9 image panels.  The above image is the first of these and serves as the backdrop for our normal show card of sorts, however with the text over it you can’t necessarily make out all of the images involved so I decided to post it here.  You can as always find the show on AggroChat or my method of choice for sheer simplicity of listening…  YouTube.  The reason why this largely dominated my weekend is because we ultimately recorded two podcasts that were both two hours long before I set down to edit them.  Post edits they both clock in around an hour and twenty minutes, which really is shocking given that I did not actually time anything out in an attempt to make them work as relative set pieces.  I guess however if you set out to record nine games per show… the end result comes out fairly evenly.  I did make an attempt to shuffle the deck in such a way as to put the games I thought we would most likely talk the longest about divided evenly among the shows.

So we recorded from 8 pm CST until just after midnight, and then I got up around 7:30 Sunday morning and edited until 12:30…  and as a result every other element of the weekend felt like it was shoved to one side or the other.  Of course all of this madness has a purpose since the double episode is timed perfectly to cover the absence of myself and Ashgar as we go to Pax South.  Now in theory Grace, Kodra, Tam and Thalen could record without me… but that would mean I had the forethought to have the mess that is our show in a state that I could easily hand over the reigns to an understudy.  I have not planned ahead that far, and while I do have a series of Audacity and Photoshop projects to speed up the process…  I am not sure if I could even properly explain what exactly I do each week.  It is my hope however that I managed to not only publish yesterday, but also schedule everything else to publish next Sunday while I am driving home from San Antonio.  Staging a publish to happen without me is always a fraught thing for me… because so rarely does it actually work as intended.  Even if it does… I am literally stressed beyond reason until I see the tweets show up in my timeline from the publish process actually doing its thing appropriately.  In the grand scheme of things however…  it is not the most important thing in the world… but it is important to me.

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As far as gaming went this weekend that was equally scattered.  I patched up Final Fantasy XIV and made it far enough to hit the first instance gate, before ultimately walking away.  Similarly I patched up Wildstar, created a Chua Warrior and played to around level seven before once again walking away like a bored child.  As far as gaming that managed to last for more than an hour…  we had World of Warcraft where I finally hit 35 points on my Protection Artifact and started pushing up Fury instead.  I have gotten back in the habit of logging in each day to do my Emissary quest because now there is also a potential legendary upgrade waiting at the end of the grind.  I started doing my Time Walking dungeons… but only managed to make it through the first one tanking it before once again wandering away.  The game that seemed to stick the hardest was Elder Scrolls Online where I completed a good chunk of Malabal Tor, a zone where I am already completely enthralled by the storyline…  even though it involves largely nothing but elves and their internal politics.  I’ve decided that the Bosmer are what it takes to make me really enjoy Elves.  I am really enjoying the whole lore regarding the Green Lady and the Silvenar, and I guess in truth that was an aspect of the lore that I had either forgotten or ignored in playing other Elder Scrolls games.  I even managed to have a few emotional gut punches last night, when I lost characters that I actually really liked during one quest chain.  In truth all I want to do right now is hide in my blanket cocoon on the couch and play more ESO, but that said I do want to at some point get a Mythic+ in for the week since I have a +5 Maw of Souls key.

Family We Choose

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On a day that could wind up being absolutely horrible for the future of our country, I find it important to talk about something good to offset the bad vibes.  If you really want to read an excellent worded post on the election, then I suggest you go read the heartfelt post by my friend Rowanblaze.  Past that my only admonishment to you is to get out and vote, because not voting is functionally the same thing as voting against your beliefs.  So now that I have said that… onward with the feel good piece.  For the most part I have resigned myself to being an MMO Gamer, because even though there are a plethora of single player games that I would love to be playing…  I always find them lacking when it comes to the human interaction that I crave.  Sure I occasionally hole up in skyrim or minecraft or some equally engrossing game to hide out from the world, but there will always be a point where I stick my head up and want to interact again.  Ultimately it is the people that really matter to me when it comes to gaming, and one of the interesting trappings that comes with the MMO is that you end up getting intimately aware of the folks you are playing with.  There are people that I am still in contact with that I played Diablo and Starcraft with in College, and even more that I met playing my first real MMO experience Everquest.

The group that has seemed to have the most permanence however are the folks I have raided with.  There is a core group of people that transitioned long ago from acquaintance, to guildie, to friend and eventually wound up in the inner most circle of family.  This is a group of people that I quite literally talk to every single day, even if none of us happen to be playing the same game at the same time.  The core of this group represents what is remaining intact from the very first raid group I was ever part of.  There are other members of course that I stay in contact regularly but, there is a smaller group that held together far more firmly.  Of the six regular members of AggroChat myself, Tamrielo, Kodra and Thalen all come from the same non-guild raiding community that sprung up on the Argent Dawn server in World of Warcraft.  Now Thalen is a bit of an edge case since he was technically in a competing raid… but there was a bunch of cross over between those two groups with various members of our group the Late Night Raiders, filling in with Last Horse the group he was part of and versa vice.  Ashgar is similarly linked to Tam and Kodra from their post LNR raiding, and to me starting at a time in history that I can’t even remember at this point.  Right now it honestly feels like Ashgar has just sort of always been there in my life.  Similarly I cannot tell you exactly when Grace joined our merry band, because once she arrived she also felt like she had always been there too.

Some time ago Tam came to me and asked if I thought folks would be cool with him commissioning portraits.  The catch was that these would be portraits not necessarily of a given character, or a given person… but this strange amalgam of how we represented ourselves and to some extent his mental image of us.  I of course thought this was an awesome idea, but then months passed and I had not heard anything about it.  I had no clue who he had commissioned and if it actually was still a thing, so I largely filed it away in the back of my brain as a “cool idea”.  Recently I myself decided that I wanted to commission our good friend Ammo to pick back up this project and at least do some matching portraits of the current Aggrochat cast and our regular alternates.  Ammo told me she was excited about the idea, but that she was working on another big commission so it might be awhile before she could get around to it.  Little did I know that the commission in question was the one I had heard so many months ago.  Tam made a huge production of the unveiling yesterday, and gathered us all together at the time to announce it.  To be truthful I am not sure any of us had a real clue what was going on, until we were presented with the above image.  For point of reference…  the above image left to right is Ashgar, Neph, Vexa, Grace, Gabri, Kodra, Tam, Me, Toadchild, Inky, Helkim, Sol and scouting ahead is Thalen.

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What is so phenomenal about this project is the sheer amount of tiny details that went into each and every portrait.  From the moment it was unveiled yesterday afternoon, I literally just kept pouring over the details and finding little things.  For example on Gabri the Cooking Mage’s Whisk Staff… there are all these tiny carrots at the bottom.  Ashgar similarly is this perfect amalgam of all of these things that we think of when it comes to him… the Earth Mage magic nature… with the shape shifting feral druid spirit behind him that he is just about to shift into.  The one that I cannot get over is the portrait of me however.  It is this juxtaposition of big dark heavily armored axe wielding warrior…  with the whole friend of the woodland creatures thing.  We decided that it is now canon that the woodland creatures helped me put on the armor in the same manner as Cinderella.  The birbs however have a second meaning in that they are all bluebirds…. the symbol of twitter which my friends are constantly poking fun at me over.  There is even the detail of the belt… because we have had all of these conversations about how I really liked the 90’s comic book style of having way too many belts on EVERYTHING.  I am sure to strangers, this is just a well rendered image… but to those of us in it… it absolutely captures the soul of every single person.  The only way this would have ever worked is because Tam supplied a ton of details… but also that Ammo knows each of us extremely well so was able to fuse the things he was telling her with the things she just inherently knew.  When it happened last night… I literally had the sudden desire to run around outside making random strangers look at just how awesome it was.  So there was no way we were getting past today’s post without talking about it.  I am so completely enamored with each and every portrait, that all I can really think to do is just say thanks to Tam and Ammo for making it happen.

Long Time Coming

Bug Squish

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At the launch of Heavensward we absolutely wrecked us a Sky Whale, but struggled a bit with Ravana.  It was a combination of insane amounts of incoming damage, mixed with the fact that we consistently failed at Final Liberation.  As we all faded away and off into other games, the one big regret many of us had was that we never actually managed to take down a bug.  Last night we finally set that record straight, and defeated Ravana.  In true fashion for our group however, the kill was a complete mess.  In fact I managed to get knocked off right before we finished the fight, because some random roofer was knocking on my door.  In Oklahoma our version of ambulance chasers are fly by night roofers looking to repair “hail damage”, and this guy had an equally questionable name to go with it.  So in my somewhat distracted state I was just a bit too close to one of the attacks that knocks you off the edge.  Ashgar somehow managed to survive alone until we finally pushed him over the edge at the last possible moment.  There is a final final liberation… and we probably killed him as the bar passed the O and was creeping up on the N…  aka seriously the last moment before we all died a horrible death for our hubris.  Of course like is usually the case no axe was dropped… but instead we did manage to pick up a pretty spiffy looking book that reminds me of a strange armored butterfly.

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After downing a bug, we set our sights on Final Coil since a few of our modern assemblage were not with us when we managed to take this down the first time.  We started off with Turn 10… and honestly had to relearn fights as we went.  So much of this happened so long ago… that we maybe partially remembered a mechanic here or there but had largely forgotten the bulk of them.  We outgeared a good deal of the mechanics, but in truth what this really meant is that we could simply chain resurrect players when they died instead of dealing with the proper mechanics.  Ashgar and I attempted to think on our feet and deal with this as best we remembered them…  the primary example of this being the giant metal clad hydra that serves as the boss of Turn 11 who happens to have an attack that will straight up oneshot the current tank if it is not taunted off.  Traditionally we have a firm cut off time of 10pm CST but we went over a little bit.  Tam called our final attempt on Bahamut for the evening, and that happened to be the attempt we pushed across the finish line and got the win.  I am so happy to have been able to come back and take on these fights for the folks who had never seen them.  While I want to keep progressing into content that I have not seen, it is always good to go back and do the stuff we have, just to remember how far we have come.

Legion Lock

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In other news I managed to push across the finish line in a completely different sort of fight.  For whatever reason I have had a fire lit under me to level a bunch of my stragglers up to level 100.  I pushed the Rogue from 92 to 100, Druid from 95 to 100… and then started on my Warlock that happened to be sitting at level 75.  As of last night I managed to nudge him across the line to 100 and even got in a quick LFR before the FFXIV raid.  I was honestly shocked to find out that you could queue for Highmaul LFR at item level 615, and I absolutely did just this.  I am not sure why I am enjoying my warlock so much.  It is just a style of game play that I have never really spent much time doing… and this represents the first “finger wiggler” I have ever legitimately leveled to the current cap.  I’ve had a Priest and Mage temporarily at “cap” but in both of those cases it was a boosted character so it really does not count.  I think part of it as well is that I really want a proper character to start farming transmog items for all of my cloth wearers.  I also want a tailor that I don’t mind grinding cloth on, because the Shadow Priest is absolutely not that character.  Now with the launch of Demon Hunters tonight, I fully expect to be attempting to do that madness…  however in the meantime I am really looking forward to exploring the world with my army of demon buddies.