Lost in Infinity

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Upgrade Day

For whatever reason I have been putting off the upgrade to Windows 10, even though all of my machines have been asking me to do it for some time now.  Essentially I keep telling myself there is always something looming on the horizon that is way to important to risk having a machine down.  It is either the Monday or Wednesday raids or the impending Saturday session for recording AggroChat.  However this week I told myself… that as soon as I finished with the AggroChat festivities Sunday morning that I would exit out of everything and upgrade.  So roughly 9:30 in the morning yesterday I took a leap of faith and performed a Windows 10 in place upgrade.  I have to say I am shocked and amazed at just how smoothly things went.  The only major issue that I have run into so far is the fact that I had no sound… which isn’t terribly shocking because I use an Asus Xonar sound card.  After some quick digging I found out that the Unified Drivers that I had been running all along updated to fix this issue.

The best surprise however was something that I had been concerned about for some time.  The account that I use to log into windows, and have used for awhile is my outlook.com account.  I like using this… as it makes more sense than my previous windows account.  That said my Xbox 360s as well as the old Games for Windows are configured to use a completely different account that is based on one of my second gmails.  So my biggest concern was how the Xbox Windows 10 app would work.  However it seems like Microsoft has thought of this problem and allows you to sign in a different account.  When I did this bam… my Windows login account is now bound to my Xbox Live account and cross linked allowing me the best of both worlds.  I don’t have an Xbox One, but if I did I am sure it would be handy to have this set up in such a fashion.

Lost in Infinity

Asoka and Adorable Wookie Youngling

While upgrading Windows I ended up playing Playstation 4 pretty much all day long, and inadvertently falling into a Disney Infinity shaped hole.  This time around the hub world feels much more interactive than it did in 2.0.  Additionally you have all of these really cool sidekicks to collect, and I am guessing the majority of which are gained through doing side quests.  While working on the Twilight of the Empire playset I managed to find four younglings that I could then use as sidekicks when I got back to the toybox.  I of course chose the Wookie youngling because who doesn’t want to be followed around by a tiny Wookie.  I’ve spent a lot of time playing both Asoka and Boba Fett, but Asoka is by far the furthest progressed.  Namely I don’t think I have Boba Fett as an option for any of my playsets that are available yet.

There are so many aspects of this game that are absolute crack for me, like collecting bits to decorate my house.  I added on a bit to my house which is basically a combat arena that lets you fight level appropriate baddies while in there.  You talk to a tiny side kick form Agent Coulson and bam he spawns a whole bunch of stuff for you to jump down and fight.  At this point I have only actually made it through a few areas of Twilight of the Republic, but I am now on Coruscant and just checked into the Jedi Temple.  I am just shocked that I quite literally lost from about 9 am until 3:30 pm yesterday afternoon playing this game.  The gameplay is pretty damned fun, and much in the same was as I enjoyed running around in Ratchet and Clank beating things up for bolts… the same sort of mechanic is in place here for Sparks that can then be spent on items for the toybox.

Waiting for Sleep

My First Rayman Game

Last night when it came time for bed I was getting choked up again from my allergies.  So I took some Benedryl and went upstairs to wait for it to kick in.  Since I did not really feel like futzing with my PC I opted to fire back up the PS4 and piddle around on it.  Would you believe that until last night I had never actually played a Rayman game?  I mean they always looked interesting enough, but there was something about the arms and legs floating in the air that bugged me about the character.  There was a recent flash sale and I managed to pick up Rayman Legends dirt cheap for the PS4, and since I had always wanted to give it a shot… it seemed like an awesome idea.  So far it seems like a fun game, but for whatever reason didn’t hold my attention for long last night.  I made it through one level  before popping out and trying something else.

Home Sweet Tower

Instead I settled into a game of Destiny and spent my time fiddling with gear and trying to sort out the things that had changed.  It seems like most of the really cool stuff is already available to me which kinda shocked me.  I’ve not picked up Fallen King and was not really planning on doing so any time soon.  However when I started working on leveling my character with their much streamlined system… all of this loot flagged with a Taken King icon started dropping.  I spent a lot of time on Mars working on a few bounties and kept running into fallen corruption zones where corrupted Vex and Cabal would spawn in.  These things were extremely nasty but had a chance of dropping some pretty nice stuff.  The biggest thing I noticed is that it seems like the drop rates are greatly increased when it comes to pretty much everything you can do.  I walked away with more weapons than I had seen in a very long time… since maybe launch.  Also it seems like engrams are more true to their color… if I got a blue engram I pretty much got a blue item out of it.  Maybe I was just exceptionally lucky last night, but it did not seem like I was pulling greens out of them like I did before.  I need to spend more time playing Destiny, I enjoy it still and I have a lot of fun running around with my Hand Cannon.  I still have yet to play any of the expansion content, so I need to do that at some point.

 

Week In Gaming 9/20/2015

Allergies Suck

This week has been a tale of the universe conspiring to kill me… otherwise known as horrible horrible pollen count.  When you go to one of those sites that tracks air quality, my neck of the woods has been bright red for the last several weeks.  As a result I have been walking around in a bit of a stupor.  Friday I felt like I was coming out from behind a fog, but this morning after running around yesterday I am once again feeling miserable.  Essentially it seems like my best option is to huddle inside and forget the world outside exists.  The biggest problem I have is that the only allergy treatment that seems to really work is Benedryl…  which puts me to sleep.  So as a result I take a cocktail of other medications in the hopes of blunting most of the things going on… and then combining that with copious amounts of caffeine in the hopes that somehow someway I will be able to function as an adult.  Adulting is really damned hard sometimes.  In spite of all of my time hunkered down this week, I really don’t have a wide variety of things to talk about.

Star Wars the Old Republic

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Treek is a Badass

Once again this week my primary source of gaming entertainment has been Star Wars the Old Republic.  As I mentioned last week during the recording of the AggroChat podcast I started working on my Smuggler, and I have continued that process throughout the week.  As of last night I am now on Alderaan and level 34.  The extremely level gap that I had on the content is starting to shrink and as a result things are getting more difficult.  I need to look up and see when the next upgrades are available because I am starting to feel like I need to spend some commendations on both myself and Treek to get some more gear.  I had been trying to do this every other level range, so that I skip one upgrade step but the levels have not been coming nearly as fast as they were on Taris and Nar Shadda.  I am however rolling in the commendations because they just seem to keep coming quickly.

I am absolutely enjoying the smuggler storyline because it feels so vastly different than any of the other storylines I had experienced.  The Jedi Knight and Jedi Consular stories interweave as you go throughout the game, but it seems like the Trooper and Smuggler don’t really work this way.  I am very much on my own mission through the galaxy with my own cast of characters to interact with.  I am still really happy I made my choice to go with Treek over Corso Riggs, because even listening to him running Crew Missions is enough for me.  I’ve managed to unlock three of the faction story bits with Treek and I am wondering if she has a special mission at the end or not.  She just seems genuinely happy to roam around the galaxy killing things, and I am happy to keep her in business.

Tron 2.0

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Yesterday I went through the steps outlined in this video link to attempt to get Tron 2.0 up and running on a Windows 8.1 system.  It took a little bit of fiddling but I finally managed to get things running.  I have to admit right now I am struggling a bit, because quite honestly it feels like a decade old game.  The controls are not nearly as responsive as I have come to expect from a shooter, also it returns to an area without functional auto-save.  This means that yesterday I died…  after playing the game about an hour, realizing that the last time I had saved was during the tutorial when the game specifically asked me to do so.  The combination of wonky controls, and not having auto-save to lean on… is going to mean that I have to shift the way I think about the experience.  I’ve decided already that when I restart the game I will be lowering the difficulty and skipping the tutorial since I already saw it once.  Here is hoping that I can manage to get through it before the AggroChat show next week!

Final Fantasy XIV

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This is going to be the first week period that I have not actually logged into Final Fantasy XIV.  Allergies and generally feeling like shit kept me from raiding on both Monday and Wednesday nights, which was unfortunate.  I’ve been in this holding pattern waiting on the 3.1 release to come in and sweep me off my feet with overwhelming love for the game again.  However over the weekend at the Tokyo Game Show they announced that we can expect the 3.1 patch in November.  That seems a really long ways away… considering that people are desperate for content right now.  The only thing we can think is that maybe the pet battle system might be what is delaying it… but honestly it would seem like a much better call would be to bump pet battles to 3.2 and get some fresh content now.  This is precisely the problem we went through at the launch of 2.0 and ultimately why many of us quit playing when we did.  We got tired of grinding the same two dungeons over and over.  In the mean time  I will have SWTOR and Wildstar to entertainment.  I don’t plan on quitting the game, but I will probably not be playing a lot of it until November to be brutally honest.

Disney Infinity 3.0

Boba Fett is Overpowered

The other thing that I have started playing with yet again is Disney Infinity.  I managed to catch a silly deal on the Disney Infinity 3.0 set while only spending $15 out of my pocket on it.  This gave me the 3.0 base game with five figures… the exclusive Boba Fett and then Luke, Leia, Anakin, and Asoka.  The 3.0 interface itself is much refined from the 2.0 version and features an almost MMO like feel to it where you have various hubs in a persistent main world.  Additionally there seems to be some sort of arcade feature that allows you to connect to players around the world and play with them.  I have not really explored much other than talking to each of the quest givers off the main hub, and unlocking their specific area.  Boba Fett is pretty damned overpowered as he has rockets that pretty much destroy anything they hit.  The only negative that I see so far with the Star Wars characters is that unlike Iron Man or Thor none of them seem to have flight abilities.  I halfway expected that Boba Fett could use his jet pack, but instead that is just used as a sort of charge attack.  I am guessing that also means that most of the play sets will be built in a way where they don’t need flight in any fashion.  Right now there are really only the two playsets that I have seen for 3.0 but I am sure more will be coming shortly.

Content Walls

A Different Dark Knight

ShippingPC-BmGame 2015-06-24 17-38-36-07 So here is the point where I admit that I have never actually played any of the recent crop of Batman games.  I own I believe all of them other than the latest one that just came out, because I keep thinking that they are games that I would really enjoy, but for whatever reason like so many games in my Steam backlog I never end up playing them.  With all of the hype surrounding Batman Arkham Knight lately I have had this massive desire to delve into these games and see exactly what they are made of.  Last night was an odd night in that I got home relatively early, but knew I would have to leave and go pick my wife up as she was getting in from our last trip of the summer.  I knew I had an hour or so to kill so I opted to delve into this game and see how far I could get.  So far there is a lot to like but some things that are a little bit maddening at times as well.  Combat seems to take place in a three dimensional “final fight” style manner.  NPC bad guys approach you in waves and you can beat on them to turn them away from your position.

ShippingPC-BmGame 2015-06-24 18-02-56-67 The problem I have however is that the game employs a “bullet time” mechanic that I seem to have no real control over.  Sure it looks cool to zoom in as your fist cracks against the jaw of a bad guy, but it is jarring in the same way that slow motion kills in Fallout 3 were.  It pulls you out of the action and forces the entire world to slow down for a moment before unfreezing and expecting you to pick up combat where you left off.  Hopefully this is something I will just get used to, as I didn’t make it terribly far into the game last night.  I have to say the storyline and the plot are compelling enough to make me want to keep playing.  I’ve always been a fan of Batman, and the dynamic between him and joker have been the stuff that has driven me to read more Batman comics than I can recall.  Harley Quinn is another of my favorite characters in the universe, and she seems sufficient so far… but really I have not gotten to interact with her terribly much.  Yes I realize at this point that this game is pretty “ancient” but I am going to enjoy it nonetheless.

Content Walls

ffxiv_dx11 2015-06-23 21-13-11-19 I am still very much loving Heavensward but I wanted to take a moment to talk about my biggest frustration with the game so far.  This game has some phenomenal story that makes you want to push forward so that you can see what happens next.  The problem is quite frequently you hit a wall where you must be the next level in order to continue the quest chain.  The red quest icon taunts you until you have managed to push through that next level…  only to grant you access to a few more steps of story before locking you out again.  I realize as I leveled my way through the original story in A Realm Reborn I experienced this…  but it has been almost two years so I guess my memories had faded.  Partially I think this is the fault of the way that I am currently playing the game, where I mostly focus on the Main Story, hoping to leave a lot of the side questing for secondary classes to get some experience off of.  Unfortunately I think the designers intended you to do all of the new quests that open up in each area to help you push forward into the next content goal.

ffxiv_dx11 2015-06-21 17-02-44-44 Thankfully I have dungeons to augment my leveling process, and since everyone seems to be comfortable asking me to tank for them… I am getting quite a lot of access to running these dungeons with my free company.  The only problem being that I never know exactly how I want to level when I am left to my own devices… and have run out of story.  I absolutely love FATEs but the problem being that they simply do not seem to be worth the effort.  We have a running theory that they have watered down the FATE experience in an effort to force players to complete their main story content, rather than simply FATE grind their way through the levels.  The whole FATE grinding to the end thing happened a lot in A Realm Reborn, and I could see them wanting to maybe nip that in the bud at least for the early players.  The problem being that side quests, really don’t reward that much experience either.  I’ve recently unlocked the second their of Clan Hunts, so I will have to see if they reward significantly more experience than the first tier that unlocks at 53.  As it stands right now… I am hoping the first major patch gives FATEs a significant tweak as far as XP goes so I can return to doing those for my alts.

In That Old Place

Wow-64 2015-06-11 21-14-01-64 This coming Tuesday in theory marks the end of our World of Warcraft raids break, and as I find myself moving closer to that date I realize…  I am just not ready to resume raiding.  In fact I am not really ready to play World of Warcraft right now on any level.  So for the time being I will not be rejoining them in raiding, and more than likely won’t be playing at all for some time.  I feel like my primary issue right now is there really isn’t anything other than the raiding tying me to the game.  Sure I had some fun faffing about trying to farm mounts or doing old raid content for cosmetic gear…  but that ultimately has a limit to just how long I can do that without something else keeping me rooted in the game experience.  I’ve explored the new areas, and pushed three characters to the level cap in Warlords of Draenor.  While the content was extremely fun to level through that first, second and even to some extent third time… the whole experience feels extremely disposable because it is also exactly the same each time you do it.

WoWCancelledAgain2015 In many ways this expansion reminds me of the way I felt after leveling my third character in Star Wars the Old Republic.  While the individual class quests there were excellent, it was all the other content that I kept having to repeat that ultimately wrecked my enjoyment of the experience.  I thought walking into Draenor I would be awash with nostalgia about how much I enjoyed The Burning Crusade…  and to some extent that worked for a month or so.  The problem is it is like going back to your High school twenty years after you graduated…  while some of the aspects are similar it is still very much a brand new place that does not synchronize with your memories of it.  The reboot timeline just feels wrong, and with this patch and the reintroduction of Hellfire Citadel, I just find myself not caring anymore.  Arthas and Illidan were bad guys I could really get behind taking down… a constant parade of grim dark future orcs…  not so much.  I made the mistake yesterday of checking my account to see when it would renew, and when I saw September I went ahead and cancelled it.  I figure if the game has not grabbed my attention and made me want to play again in that time… it will just quietly close the door on another chapter of my own personal Warcraft timeline.

Fairwell to Highmaul

Isometric Sorta Minecraft

Albion-Online 2015-01-29 23-14-44-84 About a week ago a friend of mine hooked me up with access to the Albion Online alpha.  I was immediately a fan of the art style, but concerned that it would end up feeling like a throwback to something like Ultima Online.  I do not have the fond nostalgia towards that game that so many players did, largely because I did not give it a shot until after I had already played a ton of Everquest.  So the other night when I got in, I noticed I was naked and the movement was click based… but other than that I popped right back out expecting to explore it at a later date.  Last night after the raid I wanted to play something, but did not want to get too deeply involved.  Seeing the icon on my desktop I decided to fire it up and give it a shot.  When I was quite literally falling asleep at the keyboard at 11:30 I realized the mistake I had made… because this is absolutely one of those “just one more thing” games.

First off this is a game without classes in any fashion.  You gain mastery over whatever you happen to be doing.  As such I have focused on leveling my crafting and working on leveling my sword and board skills.  So you start out rather simply by gathering rocks and chopping down trees so that you can build a skinning knife.  There are “suggestions” of what you should do when that appear in the lower center of the screen but these can honestly be largely ignored if you like.  I would however suggest you follow the first few until you grasp how exactly the game works.  At the end of the night I had upgraded all of my crafting gear and adventure gear to tier 2, and was preparing to venture out to try and find the tier 3 areas.  The real interesting thing for me is going to be that it appears to be available on PC, Mac and Linux… but also iOS and Android making it extremely cross platform.  If this thing runs on my Samsung Galaxy S5 phone… I am in real trouble.

Fairwell to Highmaul

Wow-64 2015-01-29 19-59-39-67 Last night we ventured forth into Highmaul Heroic and after clearing the roadblock that was Butcher on Tuesday attempted to down some new bosses.  First up was Brackenspore and while we struggled a bit towards the end with the fungal creep and lost one of our flamethrower masters… we managed to push him across the line and kill him all in one shot.  We had made attempts on Brackenspore heroic previously, but had not really put any serious time into it.  From there we moved on to Tectus and while things did get a little dicey at times… we managed to oneshot him as well without any previous attempts on the heroic version.  This set our sights on Ko’ragh, and we fought valiantly, however were ultimately bested.  I believe our best attempt got him down to something like 22% but each time there would be a transition at a bad time and folks would die as the healers struggled to keep both tanks up.  I figure given some more time to work on him we could easily get him down.  As my friend Kadomi just reminded me… this content is still the current tier meaning we might want to kill Imperator to get the achievement.

However for the time being our princess is in another castle, as Blackrock Foundry releases next Tuesday and we plan on setting our sights there for the time being.  Highmaul has been a really fun raid for us, and I am proud to have gotten 7/7 normal and 5/7 heroic before the launch of the next raid.  This is kinda huge for me, and as I said in and earlier post…  I had not been up to date with relevant content since Icecrown.  I especially appreciate the way that folks have pulled things together in the last few weeks.  I joked that folks got good while I was away at Pax South, but it really did feel like that.  When I left we were still struggling a bit here or there, but when I came back… everyone seemed to have laser focus and precision.  I really am looking forward to Tuesday and sitting my feet down in a brand new instance… one that drops actual tier set gear!

Marketing Is Strange

When I first heard about Dying Light it was through watching a gameplay video from some conference… I spent a bit of time this morning trying to locate said video but was unable to do so quickly.  Essentially the video touted the multiplayer co-op survival horror sandbox nature of this game, and in doing so sold it to me completely wrong.  While it looked gorgeous, and while I have yet to tire of worlds full of post apocalyptic zombies.  I have however completely tired of the hardcore survival sandbox genre.  In a sea of hundreds of those games… it feels like a horrible way to market a game right now, but I am guessing the folks thought it might be wise to try and ride the coat tails of Day Z or something of the sort.  The early description that I saw of the game, and was reinforced by almost every trailer pointing out the sandbox nature…  excited me about as much as you saying “brand new moba”…  which is to say, not at all.

What I am hearing after the launch of the game however is that it is essentially Dead Island, but better in every possible way.  I loved Dead Island for its strange campy free roaming RPG feel.  While I never played the second game that came out of that series, I logged quite a bit of time playing the first and would gladly step back into that world.  The problem being that the storyline behind Dying Light was mostly obfuscated until I stopped caring about it.  Had I seen the above trailer first… I would have been interested.  I feel like this is one of those games that is going to be judged wrong by folks like me writing it off… when it sounds like it is absolutely a game for those who enjoy open ended RPGs.  While I have missed the initial purchase rush, I will probably pick it up when it gets the first price break on steam.  Had they done a better job marketing the game to more than one demographic…  I would have likely been a day one purchaser.

Raiding Tombs

Process Automation

One of the things I have figured out over the years is that things work really well only if you aren’t thinking about them.  For example if I have a repetitive data entry task, I can seem to do it awesome and at full speed…  only until I actually stop to think about what I am doing.  Hell even typing itself works amazingly well and I can compose perfectly at the keyboard with zero typos… until I stop to think about what my hands are doing.  At that point I screw everything up and get the sequence completely out of whack.  As a result I try and commit as many things as I can in life to a sort of ritual.  This frees me up to daydream about whatever the hell I want to, while still performing the task at hand on autopilot.  My morning routine is much like this, a sequence of events that happen essentially on their own, and works awesomely until I am forced to think about it.  When I do have to think about whatever I happen to be doing the process breaks down completely.

Each morning I get up out of bed, walk across the room to turn off the alarm clock.  I turn on the television, make sure it is on the local news channel, walk to the kitchen and turn on the keurig and then hop in the shower.  When I am out of the shower I get dressed, make coffee, deliver a mug to my wife and take mine upstairs into my office where I sit down at my computer and do a blog post.  After I’ve finished that I head back downstairs, feed the animals, give our eldest cat her medicine, run back into the bedroom to say goodbye to my wife, grab my chromebook and then leave the house.  At which point I head to QuikTrip, grab breakfast and consume said breakfast while I drive to work.  Finally about the time I reach work I am capable of physical exertion because my body is for the most part finished “booting up” and I walk leisurely the 1000 steps or so it takes to get into my office.  After sitting at my desk for thirty minutes or so checking email and catching up on my blogroll, I am finally at that point ready to engage in conversation.  All of this happens pretty much on its own, and any false step along the path causes the whole sequence to fall apart.

The weekends have naturally had an abbreviated version of this process, as a lot of the activities simply do not need to happen.  However the last two mornings I have decimated this process entirely, and I have been paying the price.  At first yesterday I thought maybe I just was not awake enough to go walking.  So I got up, sat up in bed and watched an entire episode of Pokémon, thinking that surely my body was fully awake at that point after having to explain why Ash Ketchum cares about collecting gym badges to my wife.  But still, even after that prep work…  my body had no clue what in the hell I was doing to it.  I feel like maybe I could add a walk into my existing process…. but essentially that would defeat the purpose, since I doubt I would be awake enough to perform until I have at least had a shower and some caffeine.  I think today will be the end of this experiment and I will return to my modified weekend process tomorrow, because right now I feel completely out of sorts.

Raiding Tombs

GameCapture 2014-07-04 21-46-03-894 I have to admit that I was never a big fan of the Tomb Raider franchise.  Maybe I am not “male” enough, but I didn’t find the previous incarnation with its two big breasts and two even bigger guns that amusing.  There were so many times in the games where I had no clue what was going on, and rarely made it more than an hour into the game before giving up.  So when the 2013 reboot happened I had no real fondness for the series, and was not even really paying attention to it.  That said something interesting happened… all of my friends raved about just how amazing the game was.  Even more interesting to me was how most of said friends raving about the game… were Female.  So I knew at some point I wanted to give it a try, but that said I have technically owned this game in one form or another for the better part of a year, but this weekend was really the first time I had given it a play.

GameCapture 2014-07-04 14-21-02-228 Traditionally I do not go in for this sort of game.  I have tried multiple times to play Uncharted, but the whole “playing a movie” aspect has always been a massive turnoff for me.  Something I just realized last night is that for the better part of the last two decades I have had my head firmly in one MMO or another.  During that time I have nibbled at single player experiences, but never really sat down to to the buffet.  In that time we moved from the golden age of 90s sandboxy rpgs like Baldur’s Gate and Fallout…  to a world where most games are cinematic on-rails experiences.  The dissonance of this cultural shift honestly took some getting used to.  I would poke my head out of MMOs long enough to consume the more free form gaming experiences like Fallout, Elder Scrolls and even to some extent Mass Effect that allowed me to go off the rails and wander freely, but I have resisted giving myself over to the “narrative experience”.

Stop Fighting It

GameCapture 2014-07-04 18-08-21-027 Basically I give up…  I cannot fight the direction my beloved game industry has gone in.  I have spent my time resisting it, and as a result have essentially turned into an old man yelling at the kids to “get off my internet”.  So after hearing yet another friend talk about just how amazing this game was… I decided to give myself over to the experience.  To get the full effect, and keep myself from trying to use the old crutch of “mouse and keyboard”, I opted to play this game entirely on my Playstation 3.  It was given away some time ago as part of the Playstation Plus package.  For awhile I considered trying to pick up the double special extended deluxe remastered edition available for the PS4, but I really don’t care about how pretty her hair is… or how realistic her sweat movement is.  The game looks gorgeous regardless of what platform you play it on, and in truth I kind of prefer the “clump” of hair rather than being distracted by seeing each individual particle.

GameCapture 2014-07-04 17-58-01-887 I like this Lara Croft so much better than the previous one.  Firstly she seems to have human proportions as well as human emotions.  The previous incarnation was essentially Wonder Woman with guns, and felt like playing a guy with tits at times.  I actually enjoyed the series of Angelina Jolie movies, but this Lara feels like a product of her circumstances, rather than someone trained and bred to be mind numbingly amazing.  In the course of this game, your character goes through some truly horrific things… things no one should ever have to.  Each time she becomes stronger for it, and you start out as this visibly naive girl and turn into a woman with razor will and a desire to survive at all costs.  Quite frankly… everything about this franchise is just better than the previous incarnations.  This is a Lara I would love to see in a movie, but in reality that is essentially what we are seeing…  movies played out through our actions.

Many Narrative Elements

GameCapture 2014-07-04 17-35-03-972 One of my favorite constructs in the game is that of the “day camp” system.  Every so often in the game there is a camp spot, be it a formal camp or just a clearing with a makeshift fire ring.  When you are at camp all of these interesting interludes happen.  Sometimes it is interaction between two characters, other times it is Lara talking to herself… and then there is a series of asides that involve her watching pre-shot footage from the video camera of another of the characters.  These little moments help to flesh out the story, and the character interactions making them all far more three dimensional in the process.  This combined with the various journal entries you find scattered throughout the levels helps to create a very three dimensional feeling of Yamatai and the characters that inhabit it.

GameCapture 2014-07-04 17-22-49-054 I think another aspect that has helped to make me fall in love with this game quickly, is that the setting itself is extremely familiar to me.  Playing Tomb Raider is like playing out what happened to Oliver Queen on the island of Lian Yu in the television show Arrow.  The fact that the best weapon Lara has at his disposal is a make shift bow… that slowly improves over the course of the levels really underlines this feeling.  So it gave me a point of reference that I already cared about that I could latch onto with both hands and use to pull me closer to the story.  The funny thing about surrendering to the narrative, is that it has allowed me to do something I rarely am able to… Play a female character and enjoy it.  Most of my game play experiences have been about inserting myself into character character I happened to be playing.  So as superior as the writing of “Femshep” might be, I could never disconnect myself enough from the character to make that work.  Now it is not like I am playing a character, but instead watching a story unfold in front of me… and it is working.

Old Dog Learns New Tricks

GameCapture 2014-07-04 22-32-07-552 Now at this point I want to go back and try again some of the game that did not work for me in the past.  So often times I wanted them to “let me play the game” and stop with all the “cutscenes” never really grasping that the game had changed, and I was simply not prepared for that sort of a game play experience.  Another thing that has helped this process is that I have forced myself in many cases to start playing with a controller.  Earlier this weekend I was playing Bioshock Infinite with a controller, and not absolutely hating it.  I still feel like a controller does a poor job at fight targeting control, but for the most part it works well enough, and I have now reached a point where controlling my character with two thumbs has reached a place where I no longer have to think about it.  Movement and Aiming is starting to become “ritual” and as such I am rejecting it considerably less.

Not every game is going to work out to be better because of this little revelation I have gone through.  I tried to play the original Witcher again last night, and realized that “nope, it still sucks”.  That game has one of the most uncomfortable and unorthodox control schemes I have seen in some time.  No matter how awesome that storyline is…  I will likely never play it, because I cannot get past how horrible it feels.  This is the sort of game that I guess “lets play” videos exist, because while I would love to know what happens storyline wise… there is no way I am going to play it.  I’ve given it three tries, at separate times and come up with the same rejection.  I guess this is literally a case of three strikes and you are out for me.  There are many games however, namely console titles that I look forward to dusting off and trying to play again.

#TombRaider #PS3

Next Gen Achieved

Aversion to Sports

image It started yesterday with a random dumbass quip that I am known to occasionally spout towards the end of the day.  Watching the internet be enthralled about the World Cup is a really surreal experience when you are living in the United States and soccer never actually makes the sports page other than during the World Cup.  I figured surely someone would give me shit about my statement, but I expected them to hone in on the World Cup portion.  Instead my friend Liore latched onto the root of the comment… asking why exactly I found the appeal of sports bizarre.  I rattled off a half truth and said that I just was not born with what I call the “spectator gene”.  I love league of legends for example, but no matter how many times I have tried to watch the LCS I find it completely boring.  All it does it make me want to boot up League and play it, instead of getting completely caught up in the matches like my friends do.

My aversion to sports however goes far more deeply than that.  When you grow up in a small town in Oklahoma or Texas… your entire school life revolves around the sports team.  I grew up in a town of 2000, with a graduating class of 60… and even though we had a horrible football team… the entire damned town revolved around it.  Growing up a big kid I was stalked from middle school on by coached that wanted to make me part of their “lineup”.  I played little league ball and gave an attempt to play football…  but I just didn’t enjoy it.  Additionally I have never bought into the bullshit drill instructor act that all coaches perform.  While that might motivate some people, all it does is make me want to flip them the bird…  because I had so many other options for spending my time.  It completely baffled them that anyone would not want to play football.

On top of that over the years sports have come to represent what was wrong with a small town.  You might have duct taped together supplies in the science classroom, and classes meeting in portable huts instead of actual buildings…  but by god if the field house needs renovated that is going to happen, and there is nothing that will ever stand in the way of our losing football team from getting shiny new equipment every year.  The focus on football means other things slide and the school as a whole graduated a ton of barely functional adults.  In my graduating class of 60, I would say 2/3rds of the kids who went to college flunked out their first year and are now working menial jobs in the same town.  Then we get to the problem of the coaches themselves… who always seemed to be History or Mathematics teachers.  My Geometry teacher was the head football coach, and would spend exactly five minutes writing something on the board… and then spend the rest of the hour as we worked on our homework assignment with the football players huddled around his desk talking about plays for the “big game”.  The history teacher, while a nice guy was equally incompetent.  He once told us that “Old Iron Sides” was named that because it was made of Iron not Wood.  So how can I respect sports when I grew up in this situation.

I realize that huge swaths of the population love sports, and love cheering for their team.  I try my damnedest to just ignore it, because I really don’t want to be a buzzkill.  Every now and then one of these quips slips out, and as I said while I really do not have the spectator gene…  there is a lot more driving that attitude.  I played little league ball, but for whatever reason the indoctrination never really took.  Which is humorous because I used to work in a baseball card and later comic shop.  I  even collected cards…  but then it was more about the artwork on the card or the value of a specific rookie… and not about me actually caring about the game itself.  I will say though that to this day Baseball is the only game I will really willingly watch.  There is something untainted about that sport, because at our high school they never got any attention either.  They had to play in old uniforms and on a crappy field…  because the football and basketball programs drained the system dry.  So in a way I felt almost a sense of kinship with them, since they too were damaged by the system.

Next Gen Achieved

I have for the most part avoided the “next generation” of consoles, and as all the hype surrounded them leading up to the launch I didn’t think much about any of them. Then something happened… and I saw the 2013 E3 presser from Sony. During the current generation of consoles I started out an XBox 360 fan… but over time I gravitated towards the Sony Playstation 3 when I picked up one used from a friend. The primary reason behind this shift in allegiance was the phenominal deal that is the Playstation Plus membership. For what is roughly $50 it gave me access to a massive game library of I think a dozen different playstation 3 titles at a time. So not only was the service cheaper than Xbox Gold but worth way more value in that it actually just gave me a curated collection of games every month for me to download. One of my good friends Ashgarshowed me a nifty trick that allowed me to log into the website and “purchase” the free games to add them to my account each month. After watching the E3 press conference last year, I knew sooner or later I would be getting a Playstation 4, but I was mostly waiting for the price to come down. Nonetheless this meant every single month I would add the new PS4 game to my account knowing that sooner or later I would get one and have a game library ready to play.

Awhile back on the AggroChat podcast, my friend Tam introduced me a rule he uses for the purchase of new console systems.  He waits to buy a new console until it has at least five games, either currently released or releasing within the next six months that he wants to play.  The more I thought about it, the more I thought this was an excellent and logical way to decide when to jump into a new console.  For me right now the list of games I am excited about looks something like this.

  • Infamous:  Second Son
  • Assassins Creed 4:  Black Flag
  • Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition
  • Last of Us: Remastered
  • Destiny
  • Kingdom Hearts III
  • Final Fantasy XV
  • The Order: 1886
  • Guilty Gear Xrd
  • Bloodborne

While many of those are not Playstation 4 exclusives… I am devoted to the playstation family of consoles thanks to the warm fuzzies I have about playstation plus as a whole.  In the time I have been subbed to the service I have gotten 151 games, and have a library of six PS4 titles waiting on me.  Granted most of these are not exactly AAA titles yet, but one of them at least is something I have amped to play since the moment I saw game play from it.  Microsoft on the other hand…  really has nothing to offer me.  As far as Microsoft Console exclusives… the only two that I am interested in that are not also coming to the PC are Killer Instinct and Sunset Overdrive.  Neither of which are going to be games I play enough to make that console worth my time.  Then again…  there is just a lot I don’t like about the target of the XBox One.  I was watching an excellent rundown video about the two consoles yesterday, and the guy admits that while he used the Kinect and TV integration features for the first month… he hasn’t used them at all since.

Getting the Goods

RESOGUN™_20140613234425 When it comes to buying hardware especially… I am a cheap bastard.  I rarely if ever buy game systems new… in fact the only game system I did buy new was the 3DS, and only because I had pretty much exhausted all options.  So when I started kicking around the notion of maybe picking up a PS4… I hit craigslist like normal.  I did a search of the site and noticed that someone had a PS4 incorrectly posted in the barter section for way less than normal.  They were wanting $280 and it came with two sports titles.  Since I have zero use for those… I opted to try and talk the guy into a price without them.  I honestly expected nothing to come of it, so when it texted me back a day later saying he would do $250 without the games… I was absolutely pumped.  I joked during the day yesterday that I hope I didn’t get killed meeting a stranger on craigslist… which apparently disturbed Rae considerably.  It was a little odd because generally I am not alone when I meet people from craigslist, but my rule has always been that we meet at one of the many QuikTrips in Tulsa… since they are ALWAYS busy 24/7.

RESOGUN™_20140613234507 The guy was running late…  as in he was an hour late at the time he finally arrived.  For awhile I was thinking that it was going to fall through like so many other “good deals” from Craigslist have.  However he arrived with a PS4 in hand, with the original box and everything that came with it.  It seemed that once again I was benefiting from the flighty nature of teenagers.  He bought the PS4 and games with High School graduation money… and then decided he needed that money to move into an apartment.  It is funny the stuff that folks you meet from craigslist will tell you, like when we bought my chromebook we found out that the guy grew up in the same town as my wife… and that they knew some of each others family.  I think maybe this stuff only actually works out this well here in Oklahoma… where people are generally well meaning and rather polite about everything.  But once again I am more than happy to take advantage of a good deal when I can find it.  I took the machine home, booted it up and everything works awesome.  It feels as though the dual shock four hasn’t really even been broken in.  The guy had not even registered an account on the playstation network, so after a wipe of the system it is now set up with all the plus games.

inFAMOUS Second Son™_20140614005549 So far I am mostly playing Resogun and Infamous Second Son.  I would like to find a cheap copy of Killzone Shadowfall because it looks pretty cool.  I am also kicking myself that I did not sign up for the Destiny Alpha.  At that point I had no clue I would actually be getting a PS4, so of course hindsight is 20/20.  Here is hoping I can figure out a way to get an alpha key and play it as well.  So far I am loving the system, and super happy with the purchase.  It is actually good timing considering my allergies are going completely haywire and right now I can barely breath.  Seems like the perfect time to hibernate with a console and play some games.  I might even try streaming to twitch later, just to see how well the service works.

#PS4

Assassin’s Creed II

Steampowered Sunday #10

I have had a really lousy week, and if you have followed my blog you know why.  However that said, I did not want to break the Steampowered Sunday tradition.  This week we had a tie between Assassin’s Creed II and Evoland, and in order to settle the tie I essentially flipped a coin.  As a result I played roughly and hour and a half of Assassin’s Creed II.  At face value this seems like a game I would not like very much, considering in general I do not like stealth titles.  However so many friends of mine have been so into this game series that I felt like I had to give it a try.  I feel like I am somehow losing gamer cred by admitting that I have never played ANY of the Assassin’s Creed games before today.


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All of my friends have said that the essential title that I needed to start with was Assassin’s Creed II, so as a result that is the title I have placed in the running for a few weeks.  Initially the title suffers from many of the console game tropes that I hate.  Namely the “long introduction” and the forced “stealth” to get to an area where the game opens up.  Then when you finally get into the action, there is yet another trope that I cannot stand…  “the un-skippable mini-game” namely in the form of the rooftop race with your brother.  So early on… things were not looking really good for this title.  Within the first 15 minutes it had committed three cardinal sins.  That said I kept playing and eventually got a grasp on why exactly this game is fun.

AssassinsCreedIIGame 2014-03-23 11-16-19-93

Where this game shines is the open world exploration aspect.  While they only give you a small area at a time to roam around, for the most part you are allowed to get to your objective in whatever fashion you like.  Additionally the “stealth” aspect of the game is extremely forgiving.  If you are “feeling your wheaties” you can beat the shit out of your pursuers, or if you don’t feel like fighting you can simply run away and in a grand theft auto style wait for the coast to be clear again.  Your enemies show up as very clear red dots on the map, and in many times you can simply blend into the crowd to avoid them.  The only time they seem to notice you is if you are extremely close or doing something like running about or doing something to draw attention to yourself.

AssassinsCreedIIGame 2014-03-23 11-22-55-66 I realize at an hour and a half into the game I have barely scratched the surface.  So far it seems like the game progresses in a very GTA style, where you are presented a series of small quests.  Some of them involve going and fetching something, others beating up a person, and others still following around NPCs and helping them with some task.  All of this is pretty boring, but the fact that you can accomplish these missions by wandering around the rooftops of the city make it far more enjoyable.  I can see why people are into this title, and I think I would like it even more if it were more open and free.  I can only imagine how great this title would be if it were presented in a more “fallout” type sandbox manner.  Right now you are given pretty clear direction in what the quests do and which ones you should take.

AssassinsCreedIIGame 2014-03-23 11-18-25-82 So far the only real frustration is when I manage to get a “timed event” style quest.  I find movement in this world to be cludgy at best, especially after being used to the parkour of newer games like Titanfall.  There are many times where I do something like leap off of a building that I did not intend, but did so because I either didn’t wait long enough for my camera angle to readjust or waited too long.  If I can get used to the quirks of the movement I feel like my enjoyment will improve, however when you put me under a timer and the  movement does something screwball I feel like throwing the controller across the room.  I have to remind myself that this game was initially released in 2009, and since then game controls have become so much more responsive.  I am sure if I cracked open Assassin’s Creed IV many of these issues have been solved.

AssassinsCreedIIGame 2014-03-23 11-15-41-64 Overall I think this is going to be a title I play quite a bit more of.  In fact once I finish a few chores this morning, I will probably boot it back up and play some more.  I am hooked enough on what is there to make me want to play some more.  Right now I am also feeling deeply antisocial, so a single player title is a good option.  At this moment I am tentatively positive about the game and considering I got it as part of a massive package of other Assassin’s Creed titles, I can see maybe going back and playing the others as well.  My friends all told me to start with 2, because there were some serious controllability issues prior to that point.  If that is the case I am very glad I did, because I already feel like 2 is more than a little awkward, I would not have likely made it this far in a title where the controls were worse.

Brutal Legend

Steampowered Sunday #8

This week I decided to mix things up a bit.  Instead of me picking the title I let my readers pick.  I learned a few things about this, firstly google docs apparently is not a great option since one of my more “inquisitive” friends decided to see if he could skew the results by voting multiple times.  Sure enough you could, but it was pretty easy to see his results and weed them out.  Additionally it seems like giving you guys ten titles to pick from was a bit too many.  For most of the week there was a four way tie, with two results each for Brutal Legend, FTL, Assassins Creed II, and Alan Wake.  On Saturday there was a deciding vote cast for Brutal Legend so that is precisely what I played this morning.  I am thinking this week we will have a runoff between the other three titles.

Let’s Rock!

BrutalLegend 2014-03-09 09-02-16-96 First off a little background about this title.  I grew up at exactly the right time, during the height of the hair metal era.  While I did not actually have cable television until college, I jealously watched Headbangers Ball anytime I was over at a friends house.  I had my faded jean jacket with a Metallica back patch, walkman in the inside pocket and headphones permanently cranked full volume.  That’s right… I was a Metal kid… and while Metal turned into Alternative turned into Industrial…  I still have a penchant for it.  So much like Blood Dragon was going to be a nostalgic ride, I knew this game would as well.  Thing is… I didn’t buy this title on purpose.  I ended up getting it as part of a humble indie bundle.

BrutalLegend 2014-03-09 09-00-51-74 From the moment I saw this game I was intrigued, but one thing scared me away from it.  Everything is voiced by Jack Black.  Over the years I have come to have a love/hate relationship with him in anything.  Essentially he seems to be capable of playing two characters… the loveable dumbass, and the egotistical schmuck.  I have had more than my fair share of the later, and seeing him involved with a project is cringe worthy these days.  So I didn’t know which version of him we would get.  I love the music of Tenacious D, but over the years the stage act has shifted from the loveable dumbass character to more and more of the egotistical ass.  So my fear going into this game is that we would get that character.

Loveable Dumbass Rules

BrutalLegend 2014-03-09 09-04-42-38 While the character is not necessarily a loveable dumbass, we get the Jack Black treatment of such… which makes the game enjoyable.  You play as Eddie Riggs, which is essentially a Jedi Master Roadie.  He is set up as the best roadie in the business, can fix anything or build anything…  but is a man out of time.  The game starts with him working for a emo numetal type band, that clearly does not appreciate his aesthetic.  Through a chain of events, he steps in to prevent the death of one of the band members and ends up falling to his own demise.  Where his blood summons the elder fire god Ormagöden through a sigil in the form of his belt buckle.

BrutalLegend 2014-03-09 09-06-36-59 Chaos ensues, and the fire beast destroys the crappy band to the cheers of the crowd, as your character is transported to another realm.  Everything about this game is completely over the top.  You find yourself awake on a sacrificial altar with a group of skeletal monk things praying before you.  Your character mistakenly thinks that it is you they are worshiping, but instead they mean to sacrifice you to Ormagöden.  Sitting there on the ground just happens to be some fabled weapon, and the games tutorial directs you to pick it up and use it.  The game controls itself feel a lot like Darkstalkers.  I had intended to play the game with an XBox 360 controller, but for whatever reason it got confused.  Where it had only some of the keys active through the controller and the majority not.

BrutalLegend 2014-03-09 09-08-12-26 Thankfully however the game does control very well with WASD and uses the standard E to interact with things.  I am always glad to see when some thought is put into the PC controls rather than having a half assed port like Force Unleashed… that you can’t even really use your mouse to interact with things.  The game is a bit of a smorgasboard of things.  Firstly the game is very much a 3D beatemup with your left mouse button being your axe attacks, and your right mouse button being your guitar chord based attacks.  This gameplay style feels really fluid and like I said earlier just like a Darkstalkers game.  The only thing that is frustratingly missing is jump.  I am not sure why but this is a big deal to me.  I am one of those people that jumps around aimlessly while playing games.  So instead of the standard space to jump, we get a space too defend mechanic and no jump ability that I have seen so far… or at least none that you are introduced to during the tutorial.

Burn Rubber Baby

BrutalLegend 2014-03-09 09-19-49-06 In order to make your big escape from the temple of Ormagöden Eddie uses his Jedi Masster Roadie abilities to create a really slick deuce coupe out of spare parts laying around the temple.  So this introduces a yet another playstyle into the game.  Controlling a vehicle feels like most GTA style games where you W accelerates S brakes and we have a decent mechanic for turning on a dime by hitting space to apply the handbrake.  You get to test all of these out in a really odd vehicular battle sequence against a very spikey worm creature thing.  Did I mention this game is completely over the top?  Everything and everyone is pretty much coated in skulls and spikey bits… as god intended them to be.  In the same way Blood Dragon was a love song for 80s action movies… this game is a love letter to the Heavy Metal era.

BrutalLegend 2014-03-09 09-26-40-27 After the big car battle you have to make your escape over a crumbling bridge by avoiding holes in the road and boosting over gaps by hitting Shift to apply the nitro.  Overall this is a pretty simple minigame, and nothing really cringe inducing.  Overall the game I pretty damned forgiving when it comes to the minigames I have encountered.  While normally I hate when a game breaks out of its normal control scheme and forces you into something different for an “event”, but so far this game feels pretty natural about it.  Primarily I have problems with the games that do so, but make it so QTE or twitchy that if you screw up once you are dead.  The obstacles you have to avoid on the bridge you can pretty much see for the entirety of the screen giving you plenty of time to react and avoid them.  It messages the fact that when you see a big guy fixing to stomp the bridge… you need to avoid that area because it is about to fall.

Real Metal vs Glam Metal

BrutalLegend 2014-03-09 09-30-26-82 You go to Blade Henge and meet Lars the leader of the fledgeling resistance, his sister Lita… and you find out the girl that helped you escape from the temple is Ophelia.  The games central conflict revolves around “Real” metal struggling against the “Glam” metal sellouts.  So while the protagonists are dark and brooding and full of spikey bits, the evildoers are wearing pink and zebra print… with teased out hair and a very obvious sellout attitude.  You can tell exactly where Double Fine stands on the age old Poison vs Metallica metal debate.  Considering I tended to shy away from the glam rock, and favor the more hardcore stuff… I definitely feel them here.  It is all the more enjoyable for me to beat up the pretty boy rockers in the game because of it.

BrutalLegend 2014-03-09 10-01-06-44 As roadie extraordinaire your job is to help them build an army, using your mystical roadie powers.  The game employs another mini-game to accomplish this.  At various times you can play a power chord that will have some effect.  The one you end up doing the most often will summon the Deuce to your location.  There is another one that will allow you to pick up new abilities at these shrines of sorts scattered throughout the world.  I am guessing that over time this has a Legend of Zelda type trope allowing you to access new areas.  As I wandered around the country side I noticed that most of the shrines were chained up, and when I tried to access them there was some flair dialog about needing to find a way to free them.

BrutalLegend 2014-03-09 09-43-30-80 The first mission to help build an army is to gather up a bunch of brutes that have been trapped in the mine and forced to bang their heads against the wall to break rock.  The result is they have turned into this muscle bound troglodytes.  As you roam around the level you can play a power chord to rally them to your side.  Upon hearing the music they swear allegiance to the heavy metal and will do your bidding.  This introduces yet another game play style…  I told you it was a smorgasbord.  Much of the game seems to rely on small group based squad tactics.  You can deliver some simple commands like stay and defend, follow and attack your target.  The system lacks any real fine control, so essentially you point your mindless mob towards a target and then go do something else.

The Kill Master

BrutalLegend 2014-03-09 10-12-20-31 At this point I have only made it about an hour and a half into the game, but I am enjoying it so far.  I was pleased to see a cameo from Lemmy Kilmister as the “Kill Master”, a mystical healer type character.  I have a feeling that the majority of the gameplay is going to revolve around doing missions to free followers and then using those followers to band together in an army against the evil Doviculus voiced by Tim Curry, and the Glam Metal sellout General Lionwhyte voiced by Rob Halford.  While at face value this seems like pretty standard fare, what makes the game worth playing is the fantastic dialog that only a Double Fine game can deliver.  While the game sounds pretty Frankenstein in its stitching of a bunch of different genres together.  However for some reason it works really well.

I’ve heard that there is a grand switcheroo that comes towards the end of the game, but I have yet to make it there.  Where essentially they throw in yet another genre, making you do battle with your army RTS style.  If it is as well carried out as the other bits and pieces I think I will be okay with this, but I can see how confused it might feel.  I know I was pissed as hell when I got to the “force you to split everyone up into small groups” army battle phase of Dragon Age Origins.  But that mostly was because I am notorious for playing that type of game with only my chosen group of four characters, and pretty much ignoring everyone else in my party.  In this case I hope I will just be given units and I won’t have had to do much to power them up outside of the normal game play flow.

Overall Enjoyable

BrutalLegend 2014-03-09 09-54-33-48 While I don’t generally give these games a rating system, I have to say I greatly enjoyed this one.  I can see myself cracking it open again and finishing the game.  That is about as high of praise as I can really give.  I played an hour and a half and I want to play some more.  The movies and cut scenes feel like they are part of the game, and not something tacked on for filler.  The story crafting is superb and I am definitely a fan of the subject material.  Nothing feels cooler than running around kicking stuffs ass while Def Leppard blares in the background.  I have loved the games of Tim Schafer since Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle and Full Throttle… and this definitely feels like a worthy member of that family, if not a slightly oddly designed one.  It was not exactly what I was expecting, but the sum of the pieces add up to a really fun game.

Next Steampowered Sunday

BrutalLegend 2014-03-09 09-07-07-49 There are many times when it feels like the readers of this blog are all somehow already connected to me, either through being friends on twitter or somehow having played in one of the many guilds I have been at the helm of.  This week however surprised me in that the winner of the Bioshock give away was someone completely unknown to me.  I delivered the copy this morning through steam, and having learned a few things from last weeks I have made some tweaks to the lineup for this coming weeks contest.  First up I will be using Survey Monkey, to try and cut down on the skewing of the poll by well meaning friends.  Next up we will be having a sudden death round among the three titles that came close to winning this time:  FTL, Assassins Creed II, and Alan Wake.  Finally I happen to have a spare copy of Brutal Legend, so we will be giving that away during the voting.  As always you can vote without entering for the copy of the game.  To make the link easier to see… I am introducing a “Big Damned Button” below.  I made it the most obnoxious 80s induced color palette I could think of just to make it stand out even more.

The Wi-Fi Miracle

Aging with Technology

high-contrast-keyboard

It has been a really weird morning so far, and as a result I am getting an extremely late start getting a blog out today.  For starters I was up pretty late last night watching episodes of Lost Girl on Netflix.  Neither of us really seemed to want to get out of bed this morning, seeing as for both of us it was a holiday.  The original plan was to go up to my mother-in-laws and set up a printer.  However there were several other issues that needed to be dealt with at all.  She is in her 70s, and the fact that she is on Facebook is pretty damned impressive to me.  However technology as a whole is this black box for her, and she seems to be unable to decouple the existence of the internet with the existence of her laptop.

For weeks she has complained that her laptop isn’t working, and in truth it works completely fine.  What is at fault however is her internet connection.  Quite simply put she doesn’t have one.  That is not to say she does not sometimes have one, but internet is not a thing she pays for.  Instead years ago I installed a wifi router at my nieces house that lives adjacent to her.  The intent was to provide me internet access when I was up there during a family illness so I could continue to work while still being available.  By some freak if science the wifi signal was usable over at my wife’s mothers house. 

The Wi-Fi Miracle

Using Google maps to measure the approximate distance it is well over 200 ft, and passes through lots of walls between the access point at and the location where my mother-in-law has her desk.  It was absolutely amazing that it ever worked, let alone has continued to work until recently with a over seven year old wireless router.  But she cannot grasp or does not seem to believe that it is simply an issue of not enough signal strength.  At this point it could be so many different things, her new laptop could simply have a weaker wireless card, since good wi-fi coverage is just an assumed fact these days.  It could be that she piled more stuff in the back bedrooms, which the signal has to pass through.  Or it could simply be that the wireless access point is slowly dying.

Whatever the case she feels there is a  grand conspiracy to deny her access to Facebook.  In truth I was really not ready to deal with this issue today as I have never attempted to set up a wireless repeater, let alone tried to make two different access points work together.  We have a graveyard of old wireless routers laying around the house as we seem to burn through them every couple of years.  The last thing I wanted to do was try and install a semi-functional technology in the home of someone completely technologically confused…  and end up having to do house calls two hours away.  So we rescheduled for next weekend, and this week I need to research some options and get something ordered from Amazon.

Gauntlet Revival

Hammerwatch 2014-01-19 16-29-59-38 I am not really sure if yesterdays Steampowered Sunday post adequately covered how much I really enjoyed playing Hammerwatch.  By the time I stopped to write my blog post, I had played roughly 66 minutes.  By the end of the day I had logged well over 4 hours.  Shortly after posting my blog entry, I hooked up with 3 other friends and we discovered a bunch of new things about the game.  Firstly when doing multi-player you have the ability to add crutches.  Since we were still obviously learning the game, we added two really important ones.  Firstly we gave ourselves unlimited lives, which allowed us to brute force a few horrible areas of the game by simply respawning back into combat and bashing our faces against a wall until we got through it.  Additionally we added hit point regeneration… which was extremely slow… but just enough to help take the edge off things a bit.

With these added bonuses… we were able to push through to the third set of stages and down two world bosses.  I have to say the game just keeps getting more enjoyable and trickier.  It seems like each of the character classes has some really strong abilities.  The paladin that I was playing eventually got the ability to proc a stun on mobs, as well as the ability to deflect missile attacks from an ever widening frontal arc.  The warlock began getting some life drain abilities which greatly improved its sustain.  While I didn’t pay that close of attention to the Ranger or Wizard they both also seemed to get more and more lethal over time.  I have to say sale or no, this game is very much worth picking up.  The above image if from a really cool Gauntlet bonus level that we unlocked.  So much nostalgia. so many feels.

Hammerwatch

Steampowered Sunday #2

Steampowered Sunday episode was relatively well received, and that was a pleasant surprise.  So much so that it seems that my friends have conspired to grief me.  When I set forth on this journey I probably had a years worth of games to play before I needed any assistance.  However over the course of the week a good friend of mine, Ashgar, decided that I needed to play a game of his choosing.  So we made plans yesterday to meet up this morning and play some Hammerwatch multiplayer.  I have to say it was a really enjoyable hour, before I needed to leave due to some bad news.

Red Warrior Needs Food Badly

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For starters, Hammerwatch is the fruition of the yet another Steam Greenlight process.  You can buy it without discount for $10 from steam, and at that price I consider it well worth it.  However thanks to the insanity that is the steam sale, you can generally get it at a significant discount.  It is in every way the spiritual successor to the original arcade Gauntlet by Atari.  For those with no cultural reference to this king of all quarter munchers…  it is basically a four player game that focuses on each player providing a different class.  From what I have seen the single player game is just as enjoyable, but the real fun comes from multiple friends working together. 

Classes you have to choose from:

Paladin2 The Paladin

This guy is your basic melee class.  Special attack includes a really handy charge and if you time it just right you can deflect projectiles with the basic attack.  Upgrades later increase the frontal cone of the attack, which makes kiting mobs and killing them from the protection of a corner doable.

Ranger The Ranger

This is your standard archer ranged attack class.  We noticed that there was a significant damage drop off the further the arrows travelled.  Seemed to have the longest range of all of the classes but dealt the least damage.  Special attack is a bomb which comes in super handy when clearing large numbers of mobs.

The_Wizard The Wizard

This one threw me for a loop a bit.  I expected a long ranged fireball when in reality it only actually travels about 5 character lengths.  The special however is a really powerful dragons breath like attack that does massive damage to anything in a short arc in front of the wizard.

Warlock The Warlock

The Warlock is the oddest class.  It has the highest starting health, and really fast mana regen.  However it’s base attack is a relatively weak dagger melee attack.  The special however is a really powerful bolt attack with a range similar to that of the ranger but it seems to consume about half of the starting mana pool.  This is going to lead to some really different game play as I figure there will be a lot of the time you hang back waiting on your mana to recharge.

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Anyone who has ever played the original Gauntlet will recognize the game play immediately.  This is one of those games that I highly suggest you hook up a controller for.  Even moreso I found it far easier to control using a dpad as opposed to an analog stick.  By default player one will be set up to use keyboard controls, so make sure you switch things up before getting into game if you choose to play it with a controller.  The first thing to know about Hammerwatch is that the levels are custom designed and this is not a Rogue-like.  That means traversing each level happens in a non-linear fashion.  There were several times we had to go back to a lower level because a switch triggered something we could do down there. 

We started playing the game on normal mode, but to be honest we did not even last the first level.  On normal, heal options are very few and far between, so this lead myself and Ashgar to be moving around perpetually looking for the next apple or orange.  The positive however is that unlike its predecessor you cannot shoot the food.  You can however accidentally charge through two food items screwing your friend out of getting any.  Yeah I did this a few times when there were apples placed between dart traps.  Of note… the Paladin charge is totally a great way to cheese these.  Everyone else has to time the traps… something I learned when I was playing the ranger later on.

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Unlike Gauntlet, gold is not simply a scoring mechanism.  As you go throughout the level destroying barrels in the proud Diablo tradition, the coins you pick up get added to the purse of both players… which is a really nice mechanic.  I know I started out trying to ration my pickups to make sure I was not absolutely looting Ash into the poor house.  Additionally there are big coins that you can pick up called Vendor Coins.  If you look up in the lower right hand corner of the above screen you will see at this point we had picked up 4 of them, and each one gives you a permanent .5% discount.  The gold you collect is spent on vendors, and the above vendor is one that changes what your weapons do.  For example Sword Damage 1 increased the total amount of damage I dealt, and Sword Arc 1 as I mentioned above changed my sword swing from a 90* arc to a 120* arc making it far more useful.

During the course of the hour we spent playing we found weapon vendors, combo vendors and stat pool vendors.  The combo vendors introduced a new mechanic that if you kill 10 creatures within 1 second of each other you triggered your combo effect.  For example I ended up buying an ability that procced a heal whenever this happened.  Ash on the other hand decided to spend his gold on increasing the amount of time between kills, allowing him to get combos easier. 

Obviously both are useful and needed abilities, but unfortunately at the time we were near the vendor we only had enough money to purchase one.  Combo Nova was one I think we were both eyeing, as it did a huge AOE damage nova whenever you managed to get a combo.  The stat pool vendors were pretty self explanatory, allowing you to either increase your total health pool or your total mana pool.  I ended up purchasing a health pool bump which nearly doubled my total available health.  We were not nearly as good as we could have been about breaking barrels and picking up gold, so I imagine we could have likely afforded a lot more if we were more carefully clearing the rooms.

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My biggest suggestion while playing this game, is to trust your Gauntlet inspired instincts.  There was a mechanic that we just instinctively dealt with that did turn out to be exactly what we thought it was.  The game has mob spawners, that work just like they did in Gauntlet.  If you look above you can notice there are two brown spots on the ground.  I wish I had taken a picture of these before we destroyed them, but these were previously Beetle spawners.  Just like in Gauntlet they appear in a room full of the same kind of mob, and slowly over time spit out more of them.  They seem to be only triggered when you actually aggro the mobs surrounding them. 

The strategy that seemed to work is that Ashgar would gather up the attention of the mobs that were already spawned kiting them around… and I would make a beeline directly for the spawners taking them out.  One of the worst rooms we encountered had 5 worm spawners in them, and Ash through some streak of insanity managed to solo the encounter because I went off in a different direction.  That is another thing of note… this game is not limited to having both characters on screen at the same time, so as a result you can wander off in completely different directions and get lost.  I am thankful that we were both on mumble at the time as we went through the levels.  Ash and I play together enough, and have a similar enough viewpoint that our crude directions were usually successful in allowing us to meet back up.

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As you wander through the levels there will be various objectives.  If you look at the top of the screen you can see four indicators with numbers beside them.  These are in order…  Bronze Key, Silver Key, Gold Key and Extra Lives.  The keys work exactly like you would expect them to work based on the Gauntlet lineage.  You pick up a key and then walk into a wall of the same color.  There are many objectives that are hidden behind walls.  One sequence involved us stepping on four different runes, which then spawned a vendor coin and a treasure chest when the sequence finished.  The above image shows a sequence of four switches that apparently need to be activated to unlock the boss of the level.  We however did not survive long enough to actually see what a boss looks like.

The bane of our existence seemed to be spike traps…which I did not unfortunately get a screenshot for.  There were multiple varieties of these, some were switch puzzles that involved opening up a clear path through the spikes.  Other instances were simply timed puzzles that involved moving through them in a pattern as they cycled on and off.  In all cases however they were essentially a oneshot kill.  Figuring these out pretty much accounted for most of our lost lives.  I figure going in again we would fare far better.  The nastiest surprise is while moving across a large field of synchronized spike traps… that mobs would in fact follow you across.

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Like I said we started the game on Normal and found it to be extremely challenging.  Briefly before I needed to log for a bit we tried playing different classes on Easy mode.  Primarily the only real difference that I could tell is that they were a lot more healing options.  Where on normal there would be a single apple spawn, there might be three on easy.  The mobs dealt the same amount of damage and seemed to spawn in the same numbers.  We did extremely poorly because really… we chose classes that were not well suited for our play styles.  I tried the Ranger and Ash tried the Wizard.  In truth the Paladin/Ranger combo was just about perfect for the two of us, so I think switching to playing the game on easy we would have made it through to the boss without any issues.  I think we did fine for two complete noobs to the game.

Hammerwatch 2014-01-19 11-31-04-05

One of the cool things about dying however is that you get a nifty graphical breakout of all of the statistics of the last play session.  As you can see, Ash totally kicked my ass in total damage dealt.  While not worth taking a death for, it does seem to a little bit of a consolation prize that you get to see the cool info about what just happened.  To wrap things up, if you were like me and you spent large chunks of your childhood feeding your allowance a quarter at a time to Gauntlet…  this is a game you will really appreciate on so many levels.  If you are like Ash and way the hell too young to have experience Gauntlet when it was an actual thing…  but tend to have an appreciation for the classics.  This also will likely be a really fun experience for you.

However if you are someone who needs cutting edge graphics and deep story interaction.  This is not your game.  It is old school quarter munching dungeon crawling at its finest.  However in this case you cannot simply feed the beast more money to save your sorry ass.  You have a limited number of lives and cannot pay to make up for your lack of skill.  I figure given time I will cease sucking quite as bad as I did during this little play session.  I would definitely buy the game again given the chance, and I might gift it to someone in the future to spread the madness if playing this becomes a regular occurrences.

How Are You Liking This?

So I am curious… how are you enjoying Steampowered Sundays?  This is only the second one but I am curious about what you like and don’t like about this approach.  I am also interested in any suggestions for types of games you would like to see me play.  Generally I am looking for a game I can get in for a few hours Sunday morning and get enough of a feel for it that I can do a write-up.  Additionally I am limiting it to games that I have either not played at all, or have only played for less than an hour… preferably less than 30 minutes.  I have a large backlog of games so I am sure I can keep finding something that sounds interesting each week.