Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Revisiting Armello

The release of Armello snuck by me earlier this month.  Granted, my month has been crazy busy.  I was looking through my current Steam games the other night and saw that Armello was no longer listed as early access.

Since then, I've jumped in and played a bunch of games.  I thought it had potential when I bought it in Early Access and it's definitely come a long way.  Things are much more clear and make more sense at a glance now.  They done a lot to improve how information is displayed to the player and it goes a long way toward making this a great game.

It's still an interesting blend of board game and video game with a unique aesthetic style.  It feels the way that a tabletop/videogame hybrid should feel.  It's very cool.

I even branched out from the AI and played a few games with real people online.  Those were actually much more compelling than any of the AI games I had played.  The AI seems overly smart and vindictive against a single player playing the game.  Other players don't have this problem.  I think online games against real people will be my preferred way to play from now on.

Almost everything I've experienced has been an improvement.  My only gripe is that games are still a little bit too slow.  I wish they would crank up the animation speed of everything so that I could play games in half the time.  It feels like a lot of time is spent waiting for the other players or AI to take their turn.

But that's my only complaint.  I really like the game overall!

I can't recommend it at it's current $20 price point, but I would suggest you go to the Steam page and put this game in your wishlist.  You know it will fall to that magical $10 price point within the next Steam sale or two.  That's when you should buy it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Call of Duty Black Ops II

I have liked Call of Duty games in the past.  These days it's extremely hit or miss for me.  That's why I typically wait until they get cheap to try them out.

Black Ops II fell to under $20 on Steam sale and I picked it up to try it.

Unfortunately, what I found was just another Call of Duty.  Nothing interesting or special going on here.  It didn't grab me or make me excited to play at all.  I know some people love the Black Ops series of Call of Duty games but I should probably come to the conclusion that they simply aren't for me.

After playing it for around half an hour I knew that I was completely done with the game.  This is where Steam Refunds come in.

Have I mentioned how much I love Steam Refunds?  I love them!  Now I can actually try out games that I'm unsure about.  As long as you play less than 2 hours of the game you can return it and get a refund no problem.

And that's what I did.  I refunded Black Ops II and now I have the money back in my Steam wallet... where it will no doubt be spent eventually.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Star Command Galaxies

This is one of the games I was referring to the other day when I said I needed to catch up on Steam games.

Star Command Galaxies is a game I Kickstarted.  It just released in early access to backers so I grabbed my key and jumped in.

The premise of the game is great.  You're the captain of a starship and you get to explore the galaxy doing whatever you want.

The execution of the game leaves a lot to be desired.  The tutorial is mostly broken, and super boring.  But jumping into the main game without being able to do the tutorial means that nothing quite makes sense.  It just feels clunky and broken.

I know that it's still early days for this game.  It even says Alpha right on the info on Steam.  I hope it gets better, because my short time with the game was nothing but frustration.

Star Command Galaxies is going way onto the backburner until it gets itself figured out.  Hopefully this game will be interesting eventually.  For now, stay far away from it.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Rainbow Six Siege Beta

I finally got around to checking out the Rainbow Six Siege Beta.  I've had access since earlier this week but today was the first day I got to sit down and play it for awhile.

The main mode of the game feels a lot like Counter-Strike.  It's a 5v5 setup with terrorists and counter-terrorists.  The defenders are trying to protect an objective while the attackers are trying to find it and disarm it or gain control of it.

That being said, the pacing is slower than CS and the environmental interaction is cooler.  You don't move as fast in this game and that leads to movement throughout the environment that is more thoughtful.  But the most fun part is the interaction with the environment.  As a defender you can construct barricades and re-enforce walls/floor/ceiling.  As the attacker you can use weapons or breach charges to blow open walls, doors, windows, floors, ceilings, really almost anything you can see.  It makes for some dynamic gameplay moments.

In the end I was more frustrated with the matchmaking than anything else.  It seemed to keep glitching out on me or making me wait for 5-10 minutes at a time before I could get into a game (which would only last a few minutes).  Hopefully that can be chalked up to being in beta and not to having bad matchmaking.  That's one of those things where you'll just have to wait for the full release and see.

The other mode available was terrorist hunt, where you and a team of attackers have to breach a building and get rid of all the AI defenders.  I liked this co-op mode more than the competitive mode, but I tend to like co-op in general.

At this point I don't see myself buying this game for full retail price.  It doesn't do enough new to make it worth the purchase for me.  Maybe when it falls down to the less than $15 range I'll eventually get it.  In a way, I'm glad I got into the beta to experience the game because now I know I can write it off until it's on super sale.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Magic Circle

The Magic Circle is a game that keeps popping up on my radar.  I haven't seen anything about it from major publications but there are bloggers and podcasters that I trust who have said it's worth checking out.

And it is!

The Magic Circle puts you into an incomplete game where the developers are fighting over what should happen in the world.  You quickly break out of the shackles of the pre-scripted game stuff and start messing with the game under their noses.

But it's not just one game.  It has all the assets they ever created for the game... and you can find them.  And exploit them.

It's a fascinating look at game development from inside a game still under development.  It's hard to talk about this game within a game but also outside of a game... but that's kinda what it is.

Ultimately, The Magic Circle was worth checking out... but then I got bored.  I logged out as soon as boredom started to creep in and Steam said I had played for 62 minutes.  I figured I probably wasn't going back so I got my money refunded and I'll end up using it for another game.

Have I mentioned how much I love these Steam refunds?  I feel like I can finally take chances on games and if they don't work out I can still get my money back.

It's a game where a trailer wouldn't give you a good feel for it, but if you have 15 or 30 minutes to check out a let's play it would definitely let you know if it's the type of game for you.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Dungeon Defenders II

Dungeon Defenders II is an Early Access game that I picked up on a Steam sale sometime in the last few months.

I kept seeing a couple of my friends pour hours and hours into this game even though it's only in alpha.  I figured there must be something worthwhile here if they're playing it that much.

And there is!  It's a fun tower defense and third-person shooter hybrid of a game.  It's much improved over the first Dungeon Defenders.  It's easier to play and more fun in the moment to moment gameplay.

Right now my main problem is that it's ok with random matchmaking but it would shine with a premade group of four friends over voice chat.  And no one else I know owns the game.

I'm guessing hype will rise for this game when it enters beta and then finally releases.  This is going to be one that I let sit on the backburner until I see more of my friends pick it up.  I can tell that it'll be a lot of fun with a premade group once more people are playing it.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Gaming To-Do List Check In

After having a crazy busy September all the way until now I thought it would be a good time to check in on my gaming to-do list that I started for Blaugust last month.  Let's see how progress is going:
  • Persona 4 Golden - I really need to make time for this game.  I loved playing it.  It's just been on hold.  I must make time for it!
  • Hearthstone - Still doing my dailies and playing enough to get weekly/monthly rewards.
  • Fire Emblem Awakening - I want to get back to this eventually, but with new Fall releases coming out I don't know when that will be.
  • FFX-2 - This is right up there with Persona 4 Golden.  I need to start carving out time for RPGs before all the Fall game releases drop!
  • Super Mario Maker - Almost all my gaming time (which has been very limited) has gone into this game lately.  I don't regret it at all.  This might be my game of the year![adding to list]
  • Star Wars Uprising - This mobile Star Wars game came out earlier this month and I've barely put a half hour into it.  I love Star Wars and want to see what Uprising has to offer.[adding to list]
  • Disney Infinity - I mostly got the game and figures for my kids, but I want to dive into the Star Wars playsets and see what they're like.  Especially if I can get my brother over to do some co-op Star Wars lightsaber action.[adding to list]
  • Steam Game Catch-Up - I have a handful of games that I haven't played yet.  Most of them are either kickstarters that just entered early access or games I grabbed on sale.  I want to try them all![adding to list]
  • Fall Releases - All the big games for the year are starting to come out.  September to November is always the biggest time of year for new releases.  I'm excited to pick up and try a bunch of these.[adding to list]
  • Lightning Returns - Tried it and didn't like it.[removing from list]
  • Valkyria Chronicles - I got tired of the hidden information in this game.  I'm done with it even though I liked my time with it.[removing from list]
That's where we stand.  Interestingly I'm now at 9 items, which is more than I had last time I checked in on this list.

I also kinda have a few big catch-alls in there with Steam Game Catch-Up and Fall Releases, but that's ok.  I'll end up trying out another bunch of games and realistically I'll only latch onto a few for any length of time.

I felt like I was almost at the end of my gaming backlog in August, but a month with lots of work and barely any gaming has let stuff pile up again.

I'm interested to see which of the Fall releases I end up putting the most time into.  Right now it's Super Mario Maker, but when Star Wars Battlefront comes out all bets are off.

Are there any Fall games you're especially looking forward to?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Crazy Schedule and Respect for Single Parents

A bit off topic today, but that's ok.  It's my blog.  I choose the topic :)

I've barely had any time to game at all since I got home from PAX at the beginning of the month.  For those of you not looking at a calendar, that's 23 days ago.

I got home, had one day with my family, and then my wife left for a trip to Europe where she was gone for a little more than 10 days.  The same day she left I had 4 clients all contact me that needed things ASAP and were in a panic.

I quickly went into overdrive for work and parenting.  I watched my two kids (both under age 5) and worked more than my normal work hours while they were resting/sleeping.  I basically did nothing but work and take care of my kids for 10 days straight.  That's including Labor Day weekend.

This is the trade-off of being a freelancer.  I normally get flexible hours, but if I get slammed with work I'm the only person who can do it.  I don't have any teammates or co-workers to cover for me so I can take time off.  And since work is so random, I need to work whenever I can.  I never know when I'll have a slow month or two.

So work I did.  And parent.  And oh my god, I don't know how single parents do it.  That level of effort and exhaustion is amazing.  My wife got home after 10 days and while I've still been doing a ton of work I now have my second half to help with everything else.  If you're a single parent you are amazing and I applaud you.

It seems like things are finally getting more manageable but September has been absolutely crazy for me.  You probably didn't notice because I had a huge backlog of posts scheduled because of all the writing I did in August (for Blaugust).  But now I've eaten through my backlog and need to get back into the swing of writing regularly.

Expect the posts to fall back down to 5 days per week soon, now that the backlog has been posted.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some gaming to catch up on.

Laura Croft Go

Laura Croft Go is a continuation of the Go series that Square Enix has started on mobile devices.  The previous Go game was based on Hitman.

I didn't know what to expect going into Laura Croft Go, but I'm always willing to check out new games on my iPhone.  I do enough mobile gaming that I'm always trying to find the next game I can sink a bunch of time into.

What I found was a puzzle game with a Laura Croft wrapping.  You move Laura around the level on a series of nodes and try to figure out the correct order of actions that will get you to the end of the level.

If the level indicators on the main screen are accurate I played through about two thirds of the game.  In the end I stopped because of the difficultly curve.  It was honestly way too easy for too long, then there were a bunch of levels that had a good difficulty set, and then they started getting really hard.  I got stuck on a puzzle and the only way to progress was to pay $5 to unlock the in game guide.  So, I was done.

I don't think I would recommend this game unless you are a huge Tombraider fan.  If you absolutely must experience all things Tombraider go right ahead and get Laura Croft Go.  If not, you can safely skip it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Assault Android Cactus

The other night I saw a retweet on Twitter.  The developer of Assault Android Cactus was looking for any bloggers, podcasters, or non-traditional media people that were interested in trying the game out.  It had been on my radar for awhile, so I reached out and said I was interested.

Surprisingly, the developer gave me a Steam early access key!  So, I've been trying it out.

Assault Android Cactus is a twin-stick shooter where you get to be an android trying to destroy swarms of evil robots.  I think there's some sort of story, but it's very loose.  Mostly this game is about crazy twin-stick shooting action.

I've honestly been really disappointed in the twin-stick genre lately, most games haven't held my attention for more than a couple minutes.  With Assault Android Cactus I've found myself going back to play almost every night.

At times it's a shooter where you're absolutely demolishing swarms of enemies.  Sometimes you're falling back and just barely holding them off.  Other times there's a ton of room to move but lots of projectiles are flying around and it almost becomes a bullethell game of dodging.  I've honestly had a great time with it.

This is one of the few games I've played in the last few years that actually lets me get into a state of flow and for that it gets major props from me.  There's something both challenging and soothing in fighting these waves of enemies.

I've also been enjoying the different characters, with their unique weapons and loadouts.  It's easy to change characters between levels and get a slightly different feel to the game, even though the core gameplay experience remains.

There's some variety to find here too.  The bosses are all unique and fun.  There's an infinite wave mode.  There's a daily challenge mode.  And it seems like all of the game modes support 2 players simultaneously, although multiplayer is not something I got to try out in my time with the game.

Assault Android Cactus may end up being an evergreen game for me.  A game I can go back and play over and over.  Like I said earlier, I've been doing a fifteen to thirty minute play session of this game almost every night.  And that's perfect.  I could never sit down with Assault Android Cactus for hours on end but I can definitely keep giving it a few minutes here and there between other games.

The developer said the game is officially out on September 23rd.  That's tomorrow!  That's also why I'm posting this today, so that you can pick it up at launch if you're interested.

Since I got an early access key given to me I have no idea how much the full release will cost, but if you ever see this game on Steam for around a $10 price point I would grab it.  Especially if you're a twin-stick shooter fan.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Making Marios

My kids and I have been playing a ton of Mario Maker since it released earlier this month.  I love this game.

It has immediately jumped up to my number one evergreen game.  Whenever I'm not sure what to play I jump into Mario Maker and I have yet to walk away disappointed.

I still haven't mastered the level making, and I don't think that part will hold appeal for me long term.  But, I'm been playing Mario since I was 3.  As a 28 year old I'm really good at it by now.  I've beaten every Mario platformer.  Now, for the first time in years, I can find levels that are actually challenging for me.

You see, you can sort the levels by difficultly.  The system looks at the percentage of people who were able to finish a level and assign it a difficulty of easy, normal, or expert.  Whenever I sit down to play alone I play expert levels and I have an amazing experience.

The flip side of this is that easy levels are actually easier than levels in a regular Mario game.  That makes them perfect for my 5 year old.  She's pretty good at Mario anyway, but the easy levels seem to be the perfect fit for her skill level.

You can hunt for individual levels or you can do the 100 Mario challenge.  Hunting for individual levels gives you a options and filtering to sort through, which is greatly appreciate.  But, the 100 Mario challenge is it's own fun because it will literally grab random online levels and put them in a series for you to complete.  You can still set your difficulty, so your 100 Mario challenge will be tuned just for you.

I still intend to dig into the editor a little bit more.  I've been playing with it daily to unlock all the content, but I feel like I'm not very good at it.

That's ok, because Mario Maker provides me with the limitless Mario levels that I've always wanted.

(If you want to check out my favorite expert level so far, here's the Mario Maker code BA34-0000-0015-F84C)

Star Wars Lost Stars

Lost Stars is the greatest Star Wars novel I've ever read.  You need to understand how big of a statement this is from me.  Here's a partial look at what the old (now "Legends") timeline looked like:

That's only a partial list of books and I've read almost all of them.  This book is better than those.

The new timeline only has a few novels in it, and Lost Stars is the one I expected the least from.  It's the one that turned out the most amazing.  Last week I said that Aftermath is the best of the new books.  That's before I read this one.  Lost Stars is so much better.

You see, Lost Stars is billed as a young adult romance story.  The other novels that have come out are more traditional for Star Wars books and they deal with either the main characters of the movies or slightly expanding the timeline beyond Return of the Jedi in an adult book fashion.

Lost Stars is about how the events in the Star Wars universe look from the perspective of fairly normal people on a planet that is happily brought into the Empire.  It has a decidedly Romeo and Juliet feel to the main characters and the choices they make, but it fits so well.  They see eye to eye on a lot, make many similar choices for similar reasons, but also make a few key different decisions in their lives.  It's a story of two people who start out in the same place and grow in very different ways.

It seemlessly places characters in most of the main events from the original trilogy without ever feeling forced.  It adds a depth to the events of the original trilogy that I didn't even think was possible.  The perspective of people who aren't heroes and aren't high up in the command chain gives the Star Wars universe a radically different feel.  It's refreshing in a surprisingly insightful way.

I want to tell you all about specific events from the book but I don't want to ruin the plot.  I want to tell you all the little ways this book surprised me and how clever the author is.  But, I don't want to spoil it.

This is the Star Wars novel you should read.  If you only ever read one Star Wars book in your life it should be this one.  It's amazing.  Seriously.  Go read it.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Star Wars Aftermath

Star Wars Aftermath by Chuck Wendig is the first novel in the Path to the Force Awakened series.  Basically, starting with this one, there are novels coming out that fill in some of the timeline between the Return of the Jedi and the Force Awakens.

As you all probably know by now I love Star Wars, so I picked this up on release day and had it finished by the end of that weekend.

This is the first really good book in the new canon universe of Star Wars.  The others so far have filled in gaps between movies that we already know, but Aftermath truly gives us new information on how the galaxy is progressing after the fall of the Emperor, Darth Vader, and the second Death Star.

I've read all the new canon novels as they've been released, but you can honestly skip them all and jump right to Aftermath.  It's the best use of your time.

The galaxy is in turmoil after the events of Return of the Jedi and the rebel alliance is in the process of becoming the New Republic.  The Empire is shattered into pieces, but it still has strength that's dangerous.  Everything is standing on a knife edge and this book shows the first steps of what happens next.

By the end of the book there's an ensemble cast that I have already come to love.  I really hope they get a chance to write more books with these characters.  My favorite new character by far is Mr. Bones.  It would be spoilery to say who and what he is, but he kicks ass.

If you're a Star Wars fan this is a great jumping on point to get into the new canon expanded universe.  I highly recommend it.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Hearthstone Devices

I've been playing a lot of Hearthstone lately.  On top of the daily quests I'm also keeping up with the weekly Tavern Brawl and working my way through the class challenges in Solo Adventure.

One of the best things about Hearthstone is that it's available on basically every modern device.  You most likely own something that you can play it on.  I actually end up playing it on a bunch of my devices including PC, Mac, my iPhone, and my tablets.

In my experience the game is smoothest and looks the best on PC.  On Mac it doesn't feel optimized.  It's not something I would have ever noticed if I hadn't been playing many versions of the game.

It runs the worst on my Android Nexus tablet.  It's super annoying and almost unplayable.  I also tried the game on my brother's modern Android phone and it was also laggy.  It's easily the worst version of the game, but it's still playable which is something.

The platform I end up playing the most on is my iPhone 6.  I always have it with me, so it's super convenient.  Therefore, it gets the most playtime.  It runs fantastically on my iPhone but it feels a bit cramped.  They did smart things with the design to fit it onto a phone, but the extra step of tapping my hand of cards to browse through them gets slightly annoying.  It's also much harder to appreciate how cool the playfields are on a phone screen.  But, overall, I love the iPhone version of Hearthstone, it's great!

I think the best play experience for Hearthstone is actually on the iPad.  The game runs great, almost as smooth as the PC and definitely better than the other versions.  The form factor of the iPad means that the whole play field can be shown and all the cards fits nicely in the bottom middle of the screen.  There are no compromises made for a smaller screen the way they are in the phone versions.

It's funny that the best experiences I've had with the game are on the iPad but it's the version I play the least.  I'm almost always already at a computer or within arms reach of my phone when I decide to play, and walking to another room to grab an iPad seems like needless work.

Now that I've written this I should really make a better effort to play the iPad version of Hearthstone more often.  I truly think it's the best experience.

Friday, September 18, 2015

PS Plus Games for September

I got around to trying out the Playstation Plus games for the month.  It's always interesting to see what offerings we get.  Some are great, some are flops.  Either way, I always look forward to getting some games at the start of the month from Playstation.  Thanks PS Plus!

Here are some quick thoughts about the games for September:
  • Xeodrifter - is a game designed like a super hard Metroid game but with no guidance.  It was really frustrating to not know what to do or where to go.  This game needs to work on it's level flow big time.
  • Teslagrad - a 2D platformer with some interesting style and a magnetic gimmick.  I save most of my platforming for Mario games these days, but if you're a platforming fan there's a lot you could like in this game.
  • Grow Home - This game is both the most interesting and the most frustrating.  The concept is really cool.  You're a running/jumping/climbing robot trying to grow a giant plant into the sky.  You climb and platform your way up the plant and connect it to energy seeds which make it grow higher.  The frustrating part is the controls.  They don't quite feel ready for prime time.  They're kinda floaty and imprecise in a way that gets really annoying.  I would have loved to see what this game could have done with a little more development time.  But, if you're a 3D platforming fan you might want to check it out anyway.
We'll see what's they have to offer next month!  PS Plus game day is something I always look forward to!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Star Wars Dark Disciple

Dark Disciple is the latest in the new Star Wars extended universe books.  They're slowly adding to the new extended universe after wiping out the old one and it's been interesting to see what they concentrate on.

Dark Disciple takes place near the end of the Clone Wars and obviously draws it's inspiration from the Clone Wars TV show.  The two characters that are given the most focus are Ventress from the Clone Wars TV show and Jedi Master Voss, who is the main character for the majority of the book.

I'm glad this book mostly stays away from characters from the movies since they obviously have plot immunity.  They are present, but they aren't the focus.  All the tension and character growth happens through Ventress and Voss.

The book is all about grey force users.  I've always thought that grey force users are much more interesting than either Jedi or Sith.  Trying to ride the line between light and dark while giving in to neither is extremely fascinating.  Almost all of my favorite force users from the old expanded universe were some shade of grey.  Voss and Ventress both end up riding that line throughout the course of the story and the world is richer for it.

Overall, Dark Disciple is a fun read that helps flesh out the Star Wars universe during the Clone War.  If you're at all interested in that time period you should grab this book.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

I Tried an Oculus Rift

I tried an Oculus Rift... and it was ok.

I'd been looking forward to trying one for years and when I finally got the chance I thought it was a neat little gimmick.  I was hoping it would blow me away.

I think the problem wasn't necessarily the Oculus Rift but the environment I experienced it.  It was in the middle of PAX with tons of noise and activity around me.

I loved the game I played, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes.  It was my favorite experience from PAX and getting to disarm a bomb with my brother was so cool.  But, it wasn't a game that needed an Oculus Rift.  It could easily have been done with a regular monitor as long as the second player couldn't see it.

I'm still excited for the potential of VR but I think that the next time I get a chance to try out a VR headset I want a quite space with good headphones and a lot of time to play around.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Windows 10

Was going to pull the trigger on a Windows 10 upgrade in the next few months but I was kinda waiting to see how it shook out.  A lot of the time early adopters can get screwed or run into bugs or have something horrible happen (like killing all your files).  But it has been a few months since the free upgrade started rolling out and I've heard nothing but praise.

Gigantic was the tipping point for me.  I got a beta key from playing at PAX and Gigantic is Windows 10 only, so I did the upgrade from Windows 7.

Overall, I'm so glad I skipped Windows 8.  Windows 10 takes everything good from Windows 7 and Windows 8.... and the takes out all the bad decisions from Windows 8.  Windows 10 is basically what Windows 8 should have been.  Just like Windows 7 was what Windows Vista should have been.

Microsoft has a tick tock with Windows and they always have.  Every second version of Windows is a good release.  If tradition continues we should expect Windows 11 to be horrible and Windows 12 to be awesome.

Anyway, I'm really liking Windows 10.  It basically functions just like 7, but faster and with some new features.  I'm glad I did the upgrade!

I'm also interested to see what ends up happening with Windows 10 and the Xbox One.  I still don't have an intention to buy an Xbox One at the moment, but if they really start to do cool stuff between the platforms I might become interested.  Who know, maybe they'll even eventually bring Xbox One games to Windows 10.  Pretty soon they're going to be running on the same OS.  Time will tell.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Telltale is Consistently Great

I sat down and played both of the latest episodes from Tales from the Borderlands and Game of Thrones the other night last night.  Telltale keeps knocking it out of the park.

As long as you're even semi-interested in the setting of the game Telltale will give you a story and characters that you care about.  They'll also put some interesting and difficult decisions in front of you every time you play.

After playing through a bunch of their games I'm starting to see the similarity and the formula behind them, but I'm still enjoying all the ones I'm playing right now.  It honestly all depends on if you can buy in to the setting.

Telltale Games I've played and would recommend:

  • Walking Dead Season 1
  • Tales from the Borderlands
  • Game of Thrones
Not to mention that Telltale is making a Minecraft Storymode game.  It was on display at PAX but the line was always super long.  I figured I was going to pick it up when it releases anyway, so I would save the surprise until then.

Overall, I really like this new direction story driven games are taking.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Hidden Information and Valkyria Chronicles

Valkyria Chronicles has been a slow burn for me.  I've been playing it slowly but consistently since I first tried it in December.  It's been a fun strategy RPG.

But, I've gotten to the point where I'm fed up with one aspect of the game.  They do the thing where they have unfair hidden information moments in the game and they can often instantly end a mission.  This is horrible in missions that can span 30-90 minutes.

I've had so many times where I get more than half an hour into a mission and get instant failed because of some bullshit thing that was never explained or choreographed.  I made it close to 75% of the way through the game but I'm completely fed up with it.  It's basically to the point where there's no way to beat a mission on the first try.  Often it takes 3 or 4 attempts before even seeing all the hidden mechanics in a mission.

I love the moment to moment gameplay and the story has kept me very engaged, but I can't deal with it anymore.  I'm putting down Valkyria Chronicles for good.

I would love to see them take another swing at this game on a big budget.  I've heard Valkyria Chronicles 2 and 3 make a lot of compromises because they're on mobile systems.  If they ever make a full-fledged Valkyria Chronicles game again on a console or PC I will jump on it.

That being said, I still loved this game and highly recommend it to SRPG fans.  I'm going to go see if I can find a way to play Valkyria Chronicles 2 on a system I own.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Darkest Dungeon

I know I'm late to the party with this one, but I finally got around to trying out Darkest Dungeon.  It was on sale a few weekends ago so I grabbed a copy for $13 and tried it out.

Darkest Dungeon has style in spades.  It's dark and stylistic and looks amazing.  I can see how the setting alone would appeals to a certain kind of person.

While the style is amazing, the gameplay isn't what I'm in the mood for.  It's a dungeon crawler with turn based battles and positional combat.  Your characters stand in a line and the enemy characters do too.  All of your abilities are only able to reach certain places in your line or the enemy's line.  It's interesting, but I didn't love it.

I can see why other people like it, but it's one of those games that's just not for me.  I think it's an interesting game, but I don't see myself playing it much.  I think I'm going to get a Steam refund for it and use the money on another Steam game later.

Friday, September 11, 2015

C-Wars Early Access

C-Wars is a game that I was a Kickstarter backer for last year.  It recently came out in Steam Early Access for backers so I checked it out.

I was super excited for this game.  It seemed to be a turn based grid combat game with sweet pixel graphics.

Now, having played the game, the only thing about that which is true are the sweet pixel graphics.  It's a real time combat game with horrible controls and un-fun combat.  Wow.  I seriously regret Kickstarting this one.

Luckily for me, today is the day that Super Mario Maker comes out and it's my most anticipated game for the rest of the year!  Expect to hear about that soon.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Martian Hype!

I'm so excited for this movie!

Out of all the books I read last year, The Martian was my favorite.  I've been recommending it to everyone I know who reads books or listens to audiobooks.  I read it and then immediately listened to the whole thing to experience it a second time.

It pushes all the right buttons for me.  It's a space adventure where things go wrong and people need to use their intelligence to get out of the bad situations.  It's also semi based in real science which can be fun when done well.  And it's done very well in the book.

If you haven't read The Martian and you're an avid reader you really need to get around to it.  It's great!  Even if that doesn't interest you, maybe you'll get as hyped as I am for the upcoming movie!  I can't wait!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Catching Up on TV

Having watched my backlog of movies I figured it was time to move on to TV.  There are a bunch of shows that I've been meaning to try out.  I watched the first couple episodes of each to see if they would stick.

Humans - In the near future there are androids (called synths) that are sufficiently advanced to pass for human.  A few of them seem to be on the verge of consciousness and that's where the tension of the show resides.  And this show is full of tension.  Instead of the deep philosophical look at humanity I was expecting instead I got a show that's trying to be subtle drawn out horror sci-fi.  The first few episodes are all about setting up the tension between the synths and the humans, but with no payoff at all after watching hours of the show I had to give up.  If Humans had picked up the pace I would have kept watching.

Dark Matter - Six people wake up on a spaceship as the life support is failing.  They don't remember who they are or how they got there but they still obviously have impressive skills.  I like the premise of this one a lot, but the execution leaves something to be desired.  The characters and their interaction either feel flat or overacted.  They don't ring true at all.  I got tired of it pretty quickly and won't be continuing to watch it.

Silicon Valley - It took me almost the entire first episode to get over how stereotypical most of the characters in this show are.  But, after I got over it, I started laughing a lot.  This is a funny show.  It's set in Silicon Valley and follows a start-up tech group.  I'm a freelance developer and digital marketer by day, so it really appealed to me.  If you're a techy you'll probably like this show.  It actually derailed my "sampling" and I ended up watching the entire series before trying out the next show.

Peaky Blinders - This show didn't pick up fast enough for me.  I was super bored after the first 20 minutes so I didn't even finish the first episode.  I've resolved to not feel bad about moving on from media if I'm not enjoying it, and I wasn't enjoying this show.

Bojack Horseman - I don't get this show.  I'm not sure what's interesting about it, even after watching a few episodes.  I'm pretty sure I won't be coming back to this one.

Sense8 -  It's kinda of a confusing mess of a show.  It was too slow for me and the characters weren't very interesting so I dropped it after the first episode.  I saw some reviews saying it gets better as the season goes on, but I have a low tolerance for shows that are slow paced.

DareDevil - I decided to give this one a second shot.  Originally I didn't like the pacing or pointless violence in the first two episodes so I had given up on the series.  Since then, I have heard so many good things about the show and because I like what Marvel has been up to lately I thought it was fair that I give it another shot.  I watched two more episodes and found myself liking it a lot more than last time.  I think I'll keep watching this one and try to work my way through the first season.

As always, if you have suggestions or recommendations let me know!  I'm always looking for more shows to check out.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

New Headset

Playing on so many different gaming setups at PAX made me realize that I needed a new gaming headset for my PC.  The one I have is showing it's age and I've made it last for a really long time.

After that realization I started paying attention to what headsets I was using on the show floor.  It was actually a fantastic opportunity to check out real hardware in a real gaming situation.  My brother helped me too once he knew I was hunting for new hardware.

I came away from the show really liking the Astro A40 headset, which you can see above.  It was the most comfortable, best sounding, and most noise insulating headset that I used at the show by far.

I got home and jumped on Amazon to look it up only to realize there are 2 set ups for it.  One with just the headset and one with the mixer.  After reading a ton of reviews I decided that if I'm going to get the headset I'm going to get the mixer.  I really wanted the 7.1 Dolby surround sound because I've never had a chance to get a really good audio setup before.  That required the mixer.

But, the headset and mixer together were a bit out of my intended price range, so I left the tab open in my browser while I considered.  A few days later I glanced back at the tab and the price had dropped by over $50, so I jumped on the deal.

Now I'm the proud owner of a new headset!  I've been jumping between a ton of games over the past few nights just to check it out and I love it!  I'm so glad I pulled the trigger and got this one.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Movies Movies Movies

Still catching up on movies.  I'm also still looking for more movie recommendations.  So, send them if you have them.  Let's get into it:

Rise of the Planet of the Apes - This was a mixed bag for me.  I didn't like the first half of the movie.  There was a lot of bad things that happened to animals along with some straight up animal cruelty.  I know it's all fake, but it still bugged me.  The second half of the movie where (spoiler but not really) the hyper-intelligent apes rise up and fight for freedom was a lot of fun.  Now I'm tempted to check out the next movie in the series.

Mad Max Fury Road - Everyone has been talking about this movie like it was one of the best action films ever.  I thought it was kinda meh.  Yeah, there was action, but without much context at all.  I never felt invested in any of the characters, not even at the end of the film.  Because of that the action had no weight to it.  Basically the movie was one giant car chase scene... in a bad way.  Maybe you need nostalgia for the original films to truly get what they're doing here?  I definitely don't have it.

Birdman -
I went into this movie knowing nothing about it.  After I started the movie I was completely locked in and watched the entire thing.  I love the camera work and the acting in this movie.  It's amazing.  The two hours flew by.  I immediately wanted to watch Birdman again.  It's hard to talk about without giving away the plot, but it's a fantastic movie.  You should watch it.

Mission Impossible Rogue Nation - I expected a Tom Cruise action thrill ride and I got it!  Mission Impossible Rogue Nation was everything I wanted it to be.  If you don't like Tom Cruise action movie you won't like this one.  If you do like Tom Cruise action movies you will like this one.  It's honestly as simple as that.  I liked it!

Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol - Seeing Rogue Nation in theaters inspired me to go back and rewatch Ghost Protocol.  It's another good Tom Cruise action movie.  I like this one a lot too.

Blade Runner - This is not the first time I've tried to watch Blade Runner.  I've never been able to do it, and this time was no exception.  Blade Runner is extremely slow, has almost no plot, and doesn't have any character development.  I go crazy with boredom trying to watch this movie.  I really don't know why it's held up as such a classic.  Maybe just for the special effects at the time?  I dunno.  I give up.  I'm not going to try to watch Blade Runner again after this.  I've tried and failed too many times.

Edge of Tomorrow - I guess I've been in a Tom Cruise action movie mood.  I decided to revisit this movie and see if it holds up.  I liked it the first time I saw it and I still liked it this time.  I love the time traveling in the movie and some of the later scenes where he has memorized what will happen during the day are hilarious.  This is a great action and time travel movie.  If either of those are your thing you should check it out.

And that's where I currently sit with movies.  I have a couple more in my backlog to watch through, but then I'm probably going to move on to TV shows that I've been meaning to get to.  I really need to give Dare Devil another chance and there are a bunch of new Sci-Fi shows with interesting premises that I haven't watched at all.

Once again, if you have any movie or TV recommendations send them my way.  I'm always looking for more things to check out!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Evolve Free Weekend

I really wanted to play Gigantic beta this weekend but their registration system seems messed up right now.

Then I saw that Evolve is free this weekend so I jumped into that instead.

I was really interested in this game before launch, but then it launched at $60 plus tons of in-game purchases.  I didn't want any part of that.  And now that I've played it I'm glad I never bought it.

The game isn't that great.  It's ok.  It's not... bad.  It's just kinda another competitive first person shooter.  There is the gimmick of having 4v1 since you have 4 hunters versus 1 monster, but after you get over that the game doesn't have a ton of new stuff to offer.

The main mode is super frustrating.  There's a huge open map, the monster wants to stay away from the hunters while killing random wildlife and leveling up.  The hunters want to find that monster as fast as possible before they level up all the way and become super powerful.  It sounds interesting in the abstract but in practice it means you spend almost the entire game almost getting to engage with each other and then not actually fighting.  Eventually the monster feels they're high enough level and they'll try to engage and kill the hunters.  It doesn't make for a good game mode.

I tried out the other modes and found more to like, but not enough to keep me coming back.  There's an arena deathmatch mode where you duke it out on a small level.  There's a defend mode, which I thought was the most fun, where the hunters are defending objectives and the monster has to attack them.  It keeps the engagement and the action up.  I wish I could have just played the defend mode over and over, but there's no way to select that.  You have to throw yourself into a general "Skirmish" playlist and hope it lands on the game type you like.

I got a couple hours of fun out of Evolve, but I'm already done with it.  You should make up your own mind and try it out, it's still free to play for another day.  Check it out.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

PAX Thoughts Wrap-Up

Here are all my PAX thoughts and impressions in one convenient location!

I had a great time at PAX!  I hope I can go to another PAX sometime in the future!

Finishing my PS3 Backlog

I realized that I only had a couple more games on my PS3 that were part of my backlog.  My PS3 has been moved to a different room than my other consoles ever since I got my PS4.  I haven't touched it much since then.

I thought I could try out the games, see if any of them grab me, and if not then I could retire my PS3 to my game storage in my closet.  It feels like it's usefulness is almost at it's end.  So, I did.  The other day I talked about Lightning Returns.  That was the second to last game on my PS3 backlog.

The last game on my PS3 backlog was Ni No Kuni.  I tried it out, and that game has style in spades.  It's impressive what they've done visually and with the art style.  But the gameplay and setting ultimately failed to pull me in.  For me to commit to a super long RPG I need to either love the overall series or absolutely love the game within the first few hours.  Ni No Kuni failed to grab me in any meaningful way.  But don't get me wrong, the art in that game is amazing.

I also had gotten all three Uncharted games with my PS3 bundle back when I bought it.  I thought I would get around to playing them but I never did.  Now we're only about a month out from getting all three games as a single remastered version on PS4.  So, if I end up compelled to play them that's where it'll happen.

After finishing up the games on my PS3 I also spent some time transferring downloaded PSP games from my PS3 to my PS Vita.  There are some games that can only be moved to the Vita this way, and I already had them downloaded.  For some reason I had just never gotten around to transferring them.  But now I have.

And with that, I think I can retire my PS3.

It served me well, but it was never my main console of last generation.  I had a Xbox 360 almost from day 1, but I didn't pick up a PS3 until almost the end of last generation.  I ended up only playing PS3 exclusives on the system, but I definitely feel like I got my money's worth.

If I ever get a gaming room or a huge home theater setup my PS3 will assuredly get hooked up with all of my other retro consoles.  Hopefully I get to do that someday!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Movies Galore

After catching you up on my Sci-Fi movie kick yesterday I thought I'd touch on some non Sci-Fi movies today!

500 Days of Summer - This is a movie I've seen before, but I remember liking it.  I rewatched it for the first time in years and still like it a lot.  It's a relationship movie without being a relationship movie.  At times it almost feels like a rom-com, but it definitely isn't.  It's a movie about different people's perception of the same relationship.  It feels a lot more grounded in reality than most Hollywood relationships movies.  That's probably why I like it so much.

Wreck it Ralph - I completely missed this one in theaters but I'm glad I got around to it.  Wreck-it-Ralph is an animated Disney movie that stars arcade game characters in an old-school arcade.  I loved the premise and the visual style of this movie.  And come on, it's a video game movie that doesn't suck, of course that appeals to me.

Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall - I went back and rewatched all the Daniel Craig Bond films.  I think he's probably my favorite Bond at this point.  I still love Casino Royale even having seen it a bunch.  Quantum of Solace is the weakest of the three films and it actually manages to diminish Casino Royale because it's a direct sequel.  Skyfall I had only seen once in theaters and I was very happy that it still holds up to my memories of it.  Skyfall is an amazing Bond movie.  It might actually be my favorite now.

It's been fun playing movie catch-up lately.  Like I mentioned in a previous post, movies fell off the priority list when my first kid was born.  Now that both of them are beyond toddler age I'm finally getting back to it.

So please, if you have any movie recommendations from about 2009 to 2015 let me know.  I'm not even sure what I've missed.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

PAX Thoughts: Most Played Game of the Show

And the winner of my most played game of the show award goes too.... *drumroll*.... HEARTHSTONE!

Surprise!  Or not.

I played Hearthstone every morning and every night that I was in Seattle for PAX.  I would have played it in lines on the show floor too, but the network connection in the middle of the convention center was horrible.

I'm still loving Hearthstone.  I've been doing my daily quests and climbing my way up slowly in ranked mode.  It's been fun seeing how the new expansion is throwing the meta into disarray too.

The best part of Hearthstone is still how many devices I have it on.  It's always within an arm's length from me.  I typically play a couple games throughout my day.  It's great for waking up, taking breaks, and going to sleep.

I expect I'm at the peak of my Hearthstone hype at the moment, but I wouldn't be surprised if this is an evergreen game that I consistently play in one form or another for a long time.

PAX Thoughts: Mini Metro

One of the really cool things about PAX was getting to actually chat with the developers of the games either immediately before or after playing them.  That in itself was an amazing experience.

One of my favorite interactions with a developer came from the Mini Metro booth.

I started to talk to a guy that was standing near the booth about how I loved the game and I've had it for awhile in early access on Steam.  I told him I was super excited to see an iPad version of the game on the PAX show floor because I think that's the most natural platform for the game.

Then I realized that the guy I was talking to wasn't someone waiting in line to try the game, he was the lead developer!

He was a great guy and it was really fun to talk to him casually for a few minutes.

Like I said, I'm super excited for the iPad version of this game to come out.  He said he's hoping to have it out in the next few months!  I'll be sure to pick it up once it releases.

PAX Thoughts: Blogger Lunch

Liore organized a blogger get together over lunch for a bunch of us that interact through blogs and Twitter.  It was awesome getting to meet people face to face!

Thanks for the great conversation everyone and thanks a ton to Liore for organizing everything!

One of the weirdest parts for me was finally putting faces with voices and Twitter icons.  I mostly chat with these people over Twitter and know them by their screen names.  But a few of them are on podcasts I listen to so I know their voices too.

It was an interesting mix of people.  It's awesome to see how diverse we are as a community.

PAX Thoughts: Square Enix Games

I walked by the Square Enix booth a bunch during PAX because of where it was located by one of the main entrances.  Over the course of the convention I watched a bunch of live gameplay from Square Enix games on the floor and got some hands on time myself.

Quick impressions of their offerings in no particular order:

  • Final Fantasy Explorers - I got hands on time with this one.  It's one of the only games they showed off that's releasing soon.  It's shaping up to be a fun little handheld action RPG.  I'll probably pick it up when it comes out.
  • Just Cause 3 - If you're a fan of Just Cause games then you're going to love this one.  Otherwise it's kinda generic and meh.  I fall more into the later group, but I know people will be nuts for this one.
  • FFXV - Still looking good, but it seemed like they just had the demo on the floor that I had already played at home... twice.
  • FFXIV - They had a special Revana fight set up where you could win a t-shirt.  I heard some of my Free Company members took it on and won the fight.  Good job guys!
  • Dragon Quest Heroes - I wasn't giving this game much attention before but now I will.  It looks like it's diverged enough from the Dynasty Warriors / Hyrule Warriors formula to be interesting in it's own right.  I'll need to look into this one further.
They had a couple other games too, but none that I spent any time watching or playing.

It seems like the immediate future for Square Enix is looking light on releases aside from Final Fantasy Explorers.  But, the future holds a lot of potential.

PAX Thoughts: Some Flops

I played a ton of new games that I liked at PAX.  I found new games that I had never heard of that are now very much on my radar.  I saw games that I know and love being played.  I saw games that I've known I'm going to buy on day one for a long time.

I also saw some letdowns.

In no particular order:

  • World of Warships - It didn't click with me at all.  Slow and clunky.  The controls and playstyle were much more annoying than even world of tanks.  At least I got a sweet pinny arcade pin.
  • Some Indie Games - Most of the indie sections were awesome but some had games that looked super derivative and generic.  I'm not going to pick on any one in particular, but some sections of the indies were a letdown.
  • AAA Lines - We decided not to wait in any super crazy 3+ hour lines for the triple A games.  I'm looking at you For Honor, Halo 5, Assassin's Creed Syndicate, Battleborn, Rainbow Six Siege, and a few more.  I pretty much already know what these games will but, but it was still a letdown.
  • Bethesda - They had a huge side of one of the big expo halls and all they had were trailers and life size statues to take pictures with.  Lots of ads for Fallout 4, Doom, and Dishonored, but no hands on experience for the players.  It seemed like a waste of space at a convention that's supposed to be about the players.  But, they did manage to cram in a merch booth.  I guess they're still willing to take our money.
  • Hidden Tabletop Gaming - It was my first PAX, but I still expected a bigger tabletop gaming presence than I saw.  I suppose PAX is just much more about video games, but I would have loved to see more board games around.
Nothing too bad and nothing that can't be forgiven.  I just thought that after so much praise for these new games I've been writing about I should talk about the other side of it.

Either way, now I have a much better idea about what to expect if I ever go to a PAX again!

PAX Thoughts: D&D Sword Coast Legends

D&D Sword Coast Legends was another game I had never heard of before PAX.  My brother had heard a little bit about it and wanted to check it out.

We finally got to the game on the last day of the convention and it ended up being a cool experience.  You could be forgiven for thinking this is a generic action RPG set in the D&D world.  I certainly thought so until we got half way through the line.  Then we were made into groups of 5 and asked who in our group wanted to be the Dungeon Master.  No one else jumped at the chance so I volunteered... and I'm so glad I did.

I think I might have been bored being one of the players, but being a DM was amazing.  I got to control the dungeon and tweak it on the fly.  I could add things and take them away.  I made their first encounter easier which got me some DM currency to make a later encounter much more challenging.  I laid traps in tricky places.  I dropped monsters in behind them when they thought they had completed an encounter.  I changed the mood lighting on the fly.  I even took direct control of the final boss in the dungeon and duked it out with the players.

D&D Sword Coast Legends jumped from a game I had never heard about to a game where I want to dive in and make dungeons.  I would love to sit down with the DM tools and craft intricate encounters for players.  Tweaking the dungeon on the fly was a cool touch, but I think the real power is in sitting down without players and creating the dungeon for the first time.

This is a game I'm going to be watching closely.  If a good community forms around it I will be very interested to see what kind of things they come up with.

PAX Thoughts: Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

Defusing a bomb with my brother was one of my absolute highlights of PAX.  Let me explain.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is a game where one person (me in this case) wears an oculus rift and is put into a room with a virtual bomb.  The other player (my brother) sits next to them with a bomb defusal manual.  You have five minutes to defuse the bomb or else you explode.  GO!

We didn't quite know what to expect but it ended up being amazing.  We were communicating back and forth so much.  I had to relay what I was seeing and answer questions for him about the bomb.  He had to make sure he found the correct instructions for the correct bomb modules I was dealing with.

What I didn't realize (because I was in the oculus) was that a crowd was slowly forming while we were playing.  We had a lot of trouble with our second bomb module.  We used two of our strikes (three strikes and you go BOOM) on the second module before deciding to leave it and move on.  We defused the rest of the modules and came back to module two with just over 30 seconds on the clock.  In a race against time he started rapidly iterating through the possiblities while I looked at the bomb and said, "No, No, No, maybe... No, No, No, Yes? Yes!  I think.  I'll try it."  And with that we defused the bomb.... with 7 seconds left!  The crowd let out a huge cheer!  I took off the oculus and there were at least 25 people standing there watching us do our bomb defusing attempt.  It was awesome!

The developer said Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is slated to finally release in October on Steam.  If you have a second player that's willing to try it with you... you absolutely should.  It was such an amazing experience!

Lightning Returns

Lightning Returns opens with some beautiful cutscenes.  Square still knows how to make some gorgeous pre-rendered stuff.

After that the game almost immediately becomes incomprehensible.  Throwing around a bunch of terms that don't have any relevance to a new player.  Final Fantasy XIII had this problem too, but in different ways.  Lightning Returns uses words that we know but in ways that are obvious different in the game.  God, Chaos, Ark, Savior.  They're used in a specific way in-game that doesn't actually map to the real-world terms.

I actually hate that they're using these characters from FFXIII but they aren't actually the same characters at all.  They've changed so much that they might as well have been wiped clean and replaced with all new characters.  Snow is a king or something.  Lightning calls herself a savior un-ironically.  Hope is here too but he's some kind of coordinator for Lightning's adventures and he's young again... even though he was older in FFXIII-2.  It's all just kind of weird.

The battle system is the most interesting part of the game.  It falls somewhere between the Dress Sphere's of FFX-2 and the Paradigms of FFXIII.  You can have multiple sets of equipment that you change between in the middle of battle.  They are essentially different classes.  The cool part is that each set has it's own ATB bar that charges up while you're using the other sets.  Battles consist of constantly switching sets and choosing from the abilities within those sets.  It's fast and really fun.

With a new set of characters and a different story I think I could have bought into this game.  I like the battle system, the gear system, and the idea of an open world exploratory Final Fantasy game.  But at this point I can't deal with these characters and storyline from FFXIII anymore.  They jumped the shark after the first game and it's just been incomprehensible since then.

I'm done with Lightning Returns after only a few hours.  I'm glad I tried it and got to see it's redeeming features but I won't be coming back to it.

PAX Thoughts: Star Wars Uprising

Star Wars Uprising is the first game to officially add to the new Star Wars canon universe since the old expanded universe was wiped out last year.  That alone has me excited.

Uprising takes place between Star Wars Episode VI and Episode VII.  It's part of the media push to span the gap in time between the original trilogy and the new trilogy that is being released this December.  I'm really interested to see where the story takes us as players.

While I think I'll like the game, the PAX floor demo kinda fell flat for me.  It seemed like it was just the first 10 minutes of the game.  There was a tutorial and then I got one special ability and defeated an easy boss.  It wasn't nearly enough time to figure out how engaging the full game will be.

On the other hand, it was enough time to see the influences Uprising pulls from.  It's a beat em up game in the style of Diablo or Torchlight, adapted for mobile controls, and with a touch of KOTOR flavor thrown in.  I could definitely see the KOTOR flavor in the UI and inventory systems.  I hope more of KOTOR has ended up in this game than can be glimpsed in the first 10 minutes of play.

There's no question in my mind that I will play this game when it releases.  You all know how much I love Star Wars.  I devour all the new Star Wars media that I can, especially when it contains key story moments or worldbuilding.

This game has potential with it's gameplay, but it's impossible to say if it will live up to that potential.  Here's hoping it does when it releases later this month!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

PAX Thoughts: Cosmic Star Heroine

Cosmic Star Heroine was a game I almost kickstarted.  I don't remember why I didn't pull the trigger and jump into the Kickstarter but now I regret my decision.

On the floor at PAX I was taking a shortcut through the middle of the Sony booth and Cosmic Star Heroine was sitting there... playable on a TV... with only one person at the controller and no line.  I instantly remembered the Kickstarter and jumped over to check it out.

I love the way this game is turning out.  The moment to moment gameplay feels like the best parts of Chrono Trigger mixed with modern gaming sensibilities and a Sci-Fi setting.  In the first few moments of playing I knew that I would buy this game on release day.  I love a good RPG and I love Chrono Trigger and I love Sci-Fi.

A few minutes was all it took to convince me that I'll like this game.

If you're a fan of Chrono Trigger or miss the golden days of classic RPGs you should really check out Cosmic Star Heroine.

Now, I suppose, we just need to wait for an official release date.

PAX Thoughts: Eon Altar

Eon Alter was a game I heard a bunch about from my blogger/twitter friend Talarian.  That's because he's a member of the dev team!

I had heard a bunch but I hadn't ever seen the game in action or gotten hands on time until PAX.

It's a really cool concept.

Eon Alter is a multiplayer simultaneous turn based RPG that you control with whatever phone or tablet you have on hand.

My brother and I played it together, me with my iPhone and him with his Android phone.  All your controls are on your smartphone/tablet screen but the action is actually taking place on the main computer monitor.  All the enemies simultaneously take a turn, and then the players all get to take their turns simultaneously too.  That means that even though it's turn based you're never waiting long for the next thing to happen.

It's obviously still in early access since it's a bit rough around the edges but it's easy to tell the core hook of the game is there and working well.  We had a bunch of fun plowing through waves of enemies in combat mode on the show floor.  For playing the game we got Steam early access keys, so I tried story mode when I got home too.  Every player has their own secret objectives displayed on their personal screens.  It's a really cool design decision and I'm excited to see what they do with it.

While it's way too early to make a ruling on Eon Altar it is most definitely a game to keep on your radar going forward!

PAX Thoughts: Gigantic

Gigantic was another surprise hit for me.  Like Dreadnought, it caught me off guard.  I had heard of Gigantic from Belghast since he had played it at PAX South.  But, I knew almost nothing about the game.

Gigantic is a 5v5 third-person shooter MOBA and it's a ton of fun!  Instead of having lanes, creeps, towers, and last hitting like a traditional MOBA... instead you get two gigantic monsters that square off against each other.  You need to protect your gigantic Guardian and kill theirs.

Basically, any time you help your team or hinder the enemy team you generate power for your Guardian.  When your Guardian's power is full they take off across the map to do battle with the enemy Guardian.  If they successfully knock down the other Guardian you and your teammates need to close ranks on it and wound it.  Three wounds on the enemy Guardian will win you the game.

I wish I could have gotten to play Gigantic more, but after the first day the lines on the floor got.... gigantic.

Near the end of the show we discovered a little theater away from the show floor with almost no waiting and 10 Gigantic stations set up.  So, we did get to play again.  But I want more.

Luckily I scored a beta key by playing it at the show.  It looks like it's Windows 10 only (boo) so it might get me to actually upgrade a bit earlier than I expected to.

I'll report back more if I successfully get Windows 10 and Gigantic up and running.

PAX Thoughts: Dreadnought

Dreadnought was one of the highlights of the show for me.  I had never heard of this game before PAX and we wandered by it the first day.  I saw gigantic spaceships duking it out in real time action combat and I knew I had to try it.

We got into a deceptive line.  It looked really long but it moved really fast.

Dreadnought is slated to possibly be a spaceship action MMO, but for the moment they were showing off 5v5 deathmatches.  After about three minutes of play I was hooked.

You control a HUGE lumbering spaceship with crazy amount of firepower.  Because of the speed and firepower involved it becomes a game about positioning and strategy, not a game of twitch reflexes.  Think about something along the lines of World of Tank or World of Warships... only way more fun... and with awesome spaceships... and no permadeath.

I loved this game so much that I went through the line three more times during the course of PAX, even with all the other amazing games on the show floor.

I'm really looking forward to this one, even though it probably won't be out for at least a year.

Keep Dreadnought on your radar.

Blaugust Conquest!

Blaugust Conquest!

Belghast released the final results for Blaugust today and gave out some fancy graphics (see above) to everyone who participated, did half the challenge, or finished the whole challenge.

As you can see from my flair up there, I completed the whole challenge!

I was moving steadily at about 5 posts per week before this challenge, but moving up to 7 days per week was a cool way to push myself.

It was awesome to see all the content from everyone who participated this year!  Good job everyone!

More Sci-Fi Movies!

I'm still on a Sci-Fi movie kick.  I feel like I'm playing movie catch-up lately.  I've been behind on my movie watching ever since my first kid was born and now I'm finally working through my backlog.  It just happens that a lot of my backlog is Sci-Fi.  Here we go with more impressions:

Oblivion - Tom Cruise is the last repair man on earth, maintaining drones until the automated machines have enough fuel to launch the last of humanity to our new home on Titan.  Until things start to go wrong.  I really liked this movie.  I could say more but it would start giving away the plot.  Overall, it's a good Tom Cruise sci-fi/action movie.  But, I like most of his stuff.

Jumper - The premise of this one was good.  A teenager learns he can teleport, starts using it to rob banks, and creates a new life for himself where he jumps around the world.  The first half was a lot of fun.  Then the second half jumped the shark and got stupid, predictable, and boring all at the same time.  I can't recommend Jumper.

Looper - A bunch of really good actors in a time travel movie where a present day character has to kill a future version of himself.  If I say any more of that it will give away too much of the plot.  But, this is a really good movie.  I recommend it.

Transformers Age of Extinction - Bad.  So, so bad.  I know last time I was checking out Sci Fi movies I said Jupiter Ascending was bad.  This is so much worse.  I couldn't finish it.  Avoid at all costs.

Elysium - In the future all the rich people have moved to a giant space station orbiting the earth while life on Earth keeps getting worse.  Matt Damon is a resident on Earth who gets screwed over by corporate safety standards, gets a huge dose of radiation, has fives days to life, and decides he has to make it to the space station (Elysium) to use their advanced technology to heal himself.  The first half of the movie took awhile to set up.  Probably too long.  The rest was just a Matt Damon action romp.  Overall it was ok, but not great.  If you love Matt Damon it might be worth your time.

Godzilla (2014) - This one was really good for a Godzilla movie.  But, it was still a Godzilla movie.  I enjoyed it once but I don't see myself ever watching it again.

Divergent - There's a huge Hunger Games vibe to this film.  But, that being said, it was good.  I liked it a lot.  In the far future humanity has been divided into 5 factions.  Everyone fits into one of these factions and it determines the course of their life.  Divergent is about the people who don't neatly fit into just one faction.  It's a cool setup and premise.  I liked the way they executed it.  This is another one that's definitely worth seeing once.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Unpacking PAX

I got back home from PAX late last night and my mind has just been unpacking everything since then.  I'm mentally worn out from the long weekend, but it was a ton of fun!

It was my first PAX and I didn't know what to expect.  The show floor spanned multiple expo halls, all sorts of nooks and crannies, and offsite theaters.  We visited the expo floor every day and we got out to a few panels too.

Some of my highlights:

  • Watching Acquisitions Inc live on stage.
  • Hunting down the Talent Pipe pin for my wife.  That took so much effort and I'm super happy that I found it in the end.
  • Defusing a bomb with my brother in Keep Talking and No One Explodes.
  • Playing Dreadnought a bunch of times even though I hadn't heard of it before the show.
  • Getting hands on time with Gigantic, and winning both times.
  • Trying out Eon Alter which my blogger/Twitter friend Talarian is developing.
  • Hands on time with the new Star Wars mobile game.
  • So much more
I'm sure there's a ton I'm not even listing there.  It's hard to get everything out of my head and down on the page.  There was so much to see and do in the 4 days we spent in Seattle.

I think I'm going to randomly post thoughts about the various games over the next few days to help me mentally unpack my PAX experience.  So, expect posts on top of my normal posts.