What I'm Playing: December 2017

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Our recent move did a number on my usual pattern for playing games, ultimately a good thing, but I still feel like I'm searching for some clue for when my play habits changed so much. At any rate, its been a great opportunity for me to get caught up on some of the games I started but never finished as well as try out a few games I had often said I would try.

Suddenly Offline: A Few Weeks Without Internet Showed me how much I Missed my Single Player Games

Thursday, November 30, 2017

During a recent move, we were caught in the unfortunate position of being without internet for about 3 weeks. That time was not spent entirely without access, but acquiring that access required us to take great pains. Our consoles were offline for that entire time, during which I renewed my appreciation for the single player games I haven't played in far too long and helped me understand better what gaming is like for people who love games but consistently live with limited access to the internet.

All That and a Barrel of Skaven: Warhammer: Total War 2

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Warhammer Total War 2 is a game whose title I have a great deal of trouble with. It is cumbersome to say and feels redundant. Worst of all,it is a terrible reflection upon what, in my estimation, is one of the strongest entries in the Total War franchise.

Destiny 2: Steve's Review Part 2, The Grind

Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Unlike some players, it takes me some time to work through most of the content available in a game like Destiny 2. I try to take things at a slower pace so that I can really get the most mileage out of the game and my time in it. When I finished Destiny, I was disappointed that there wasn't more of just about every part of the game. I still have some of the same pains with the sequel, but the fact is that there is a great deal more to do and keep my interest in Destiny 2.

Call of Duty WWII PC Beta Impressions

Thursday, September 28, 2017

I took some time to hop into a few matches of the open PC Beta for the latest Call of Duty title. Promising to go back to World War II, there was a strange optimism from some writers in the industry that I just didn't understand. The idea that we somehow need to re-explore this very well trodden area of World War II is preposterous given the actual scope of the war and how much of its numerous stories have yet to be told through the medium of games. But I digress. I'm here to talk about the multiplayer experience on PC, and I can sum it up in three words: do not bother.

Runic's Hob is a Beautiful Puzzle

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

I was first acquainted with Hob at PAX 2015 when we sat down with Marshall Lefler. Since then we've had a couple other opportunities to play the game as it progressed, with our last opportunity just a few weeks ago at Runic's studio in Seattle. From the first minute we got our hands on the game, we have been enchanted by the game's visual style and mysterious, open world. If you are a fan of Ico or The Legend of Zelda, you'll find plenty to love about Hob.

Destiny 2: Steve's Review Part 1; the Story

Tuesday, September 19, 2017
I had a real roller coaster journey with Destiny. The initial game let me down, as did the first DLC installment for it, but I found myself more engaged with House of Wolves and The Taken King, then a little let down again a  with Rise of Iron. I ended my time in Destiny on a good note though, having found that I enjoyed it most when i could play with friends. Those friends are now (mostly) my new clan mates in Destiny 2 and while a lot has changed, and I've been having a lot of fun with the new activities, even though there are a few issues I still have with the game.

PAX West 2017: Hands on With Far Cry 5

Thursday, September 7, 2017

I'm a huge fan of the Far Cry series, at least as far back as Far Cry 2. The way the series has approached shooter mechanics in an open (or mostly open) world environment has been a landmark for other shooters still struggling to find their way off their rails. Few other games have, in my opinion, so thoroughly balanced world scale with regular bumps in player engagement. When I saw that Far Cry 5 was playable at PAX this year, I was eager to get a chance to play.

Steve's PAX West 2017 Roundup

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

This year's PAX West brought a ton of really interesting games to the show floor. We played a whole mess of 'em in our four days and came away with a lengthy wishlist of upcoming titles. From board games to Indie games, we covered as much of it as we could. Expect in depth coverage on a number of games, but for now please accept this quick run-down of some of my favorites of the show.

Nintendo Switch: The Good, the Bad, and the Curious

Thursday, August 17, 2017

As opening statement, I feel the need to say, I was not excited about the Switch. I know, weird, but my initial impressions didn't leave me with a lot of hope. The internal hardware is mediocre, the casing and screen are made out of styrofoam (not really, but it is super fragile), and there were less than a handful of games at launch, only one of which was a fully developed modern game and another of which was a gimmicky advertisement platform that should have been sold with the unit, not separately for $50.

Other things bugged me as well; like the fact that Nintendo was arbitrarily gating titles between the Switch and 3DS when there was no real reason to separate many of the games out like that. Most, if not the majority of games currently available on the Switch wouldn't even begin to test the limits of the 3DS, and most 3DS titles are on par with the majority of the titles available on the Switch. A lot of the reviews and information on the Switch led me to believe it was going to be like a lot of the stuff we've seen from Nintendo in recent years- an incremental improvement to their existing hardware repackaged and locked with proprietary software that will arbitrarily gate functionality so they can keep selling you the same thing you've already bought at full price. Now that all that is out of the way....

City of Seven Seraphs and The Nexus

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

First and foremost, I'd like to make sure anyone reading this who's a fan of the Pathfinder RPG is aware of the City of Seven Seraphs Kickstarter that went live this morning. If you were a fan of Planescape, Spelljammer, or even the old Weatherlight MtG novels, there are a lot of goodies in this book for you that open up planar adventures and otherworldly venues for your Pathfinder games.

I'm one of the writers contributing to this project, and my contribution is the new Nexus base class, a planar-themed veilweaving class that can take on the powers and even the physical forms of various outsiders like angels, devils, and genies. Building on the rules and system I originally wrote for Akashic Mysteries, the Nexus is a brand new class featuring tons of new veils that will also support the original akashic classes, the Daevic, Guru, and Vizier. Here's a sneak peek at the art for our iconic Nexus

D&D Beyond Part 1: Character Creation

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

For a while now I've been part of the Beta process for D&D Beyond, the new online tools for Fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons. I used the Fourth Edition tools extensively in the campaign I ran for a while, up until we ported it over the Pathfinder. Since I've moved back to D&D I've been looking for a good set of online tools for building and organizing my campaigns and characters and had limited success. I've cobbled together a few different sites that I use for audio and map making, but have otherwise turned to Google Docs to keep all of my notes straight. Now, with D&D Beyond, I have the beginnings of the tools I've been looking for but they aren't there just yet.

More Wolf Among Us (And Other Great Telltale Chapters)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Telltale just dropped some news worth squeeing over, Season 2 of Wolf Among Us will be released in 2018!

Destiny 2 Beta- Thoughts So Far

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Today marked the beginning of the Destiny 2 early access beta playtest for Playstation gamers who pre-ordered the game and I've now done pretty much everything the beta currently has on offer with all the classes and subclasses currently available. Having logged Lord-only-knows how many hours on the first Destiny, I had mixed feelings about the prospect of Destiny 2. The original Destiny was a great first-person shooter but a mediocre MMO, and I wasn't sure how many of its issues would or could be addressed by a sequel.

Zodiac Age: Final Verdict

Thursday, July 13, 2017

You may remember that about a year ago I talked about playing the demo for Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age. You might also remember that my feelings on the game were somewhat mixed and that I wondered why this, of all the Final Fantasy games, had been slated for remastering. Well, the game is here, I've logged enough hours to feel like I can talk about it fairly and intelligently, so now I'm going to try and do that.

Getting Back Into Space with Elite Dangerous

Thursday, July 6, 2017

It's been a while since I really made a commitment to learn the ins and outs of a space flight game. I suppose you could call Kerbal Space Program a space flight sim, so perhaps it hasn't been as long as I thought. The last Sci-Fi space sim I really got into was X: Reunion, a huge and complex game with tons of systems to explore and a huge wealth of options for players to explore and really make the game their own. In looking for a new game in the same idiom, I've found myself waffling between Star Citizen and Elite Dangerous but a recent Steam Summer Sale and reports of a fascinating alien presence in Elite Dangerous finally tipped the scales for me

Getting Pumped with VR

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Gamers don’t have the most flattering stereotypes when it comes to physique. A known sedentary pursuit, gaming doesn’t often help its players stay svelte. There are exceptions of course, but the physically undemanding nature of games can’t honestly be denied. There are many examples of developers trying a variety of techniques to keep players moving and motivated by their entertainment.

The Latest Adventure For Dungeons and Dragons Goes back to its Roots

Thursday, June 22, 2017

If you ask any veteran D&D player about the most unforgiving or harrowing adventure they've had, you'll likely hear Tomb of Horrors mentioned more than once. Originally published in 1978, the Tomb of Horrors is one of the most well known dungeon written by D&D progenitor, Gary Gygax. It is an unforgiving labyrinth of traps and monsters that spelled the end of innumerable characters. It was feared by players, revered by DMs and known even by those who didn't play D&D. And now it is back again in two forms for 5th edition.

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Our cup runneth over with new Dishonored games. There were a solid 4 years betwixt Dishonored (2012) and Dishonored 2 (2016), so it’s a bit of a surprise that we are seeing another standalone Dishonored game so soon after 2’s release late last year.

Ready Player One

Thursday, June 15, 2017

I'm a little behind the times with this one. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline has been on the shelves since 2011 but I only recently had the opportunity to "read" it via the audiobook narrated by Wil Wheaton. I figured with the movie adaptation slated for release in March of next year, now would be a great time to catch up.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Ever since seeing the ads and my short session at PAX, I have been aching to play more Star Trek Bridge Crew. I finally got my hands on it and without any hesitation, I can say it is everything that I dreamed of. If you're not a Trekkie, it may be a bit boring, as many fan service items thrown in throughout the game will be overlooked or make absolutely no sense.

Battleborn Should Commit to Free to Play

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Today, Gearbox announced that its long suffering multiplayer shooter Battleborn will be going free to play. Sort of. Battleborn will be available as what the studio is calling a free trial, and still offering the game at regular price through steam and retailers. I understand that Gearbox is still trying to milk Battleborn for all that it is worth, hoping that with enough time, support and exposure that the game will start to pick up. This latest attempt to liven up the player base has come so excruciatingly close to getting it right, but it misses a vital opportunity. There can be no halfsies when it comes time to make the move to a Free to Play model, and the longer Gearbox waffles on this matter, the more alien their game will become.

PAX Continues to Grow: GC Play Expo in China "Powered by PAX."

Thursday, June 1, 2017

I first attended PAX in 2007 at the Washington State Convention Center. I've attended every year since, watching new faces come and go and marveling at how much the convention has grown since then. PAX has become something far larger than it set out to be. Now occupying three separate cities within the US and one in Australia, PAX seem now to have turned it's unstoppable march towards helping other conventions find their feet.

Call of Duty WWII Disappointingly Back in the European Theater

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The latest in the banal and simultaneously ludicrous Call of Duty franchise will return the World War II, the first entry since World at War in 2008. I cannot think of a time that I have been more disappointed in a reveal trailer for a game I probably wasn't ever going to buy. Snark aside however, I feel that the franchise has missed a tremendous opportunity to finally expand beyond the European theater.

7 Days to Die, Hours of Entertainment

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Every now and then, I buy a game on a whim. Often I come to regret this purchase, but just as often I stumble across a gem that otherwise would have flown completely under my radar. Such was the case with 7 Days to Die. Wandering through GameStop, I saw 7 Days to Die sitting on the PS4 shelf with a limited time sale sticker on it. I actually thought that 7 Days to Die was a completely different game when I picked it up, but as I read the back of the case I decided it might be worth checking out.

Ghost Recon Wildlands: Just Cause With Friends

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Last week, a good friend of mine picked up a copy of the latest in the long running Ghost Recon series, Wildlands. Since the first game in the series hit store shelves in 2001, the franchise has ventured into almost every possible genre, be it a third person action game, a Facebook game, even a free to play mmo (offline since December of last year. If in that time, Ubisoft was trying to find the perfect fit, I think they've finally found it in the enormous open world and emergent gameplay of Wildlands.

The Tides of Numenera are Beautiful and Deep

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

It has been a while since a game surprised me as much as Torment: Tides of Numenera. With as many games as I play these days, I thought I knew the difference between great writing and decent writing. After just a few hours with Tides of Numenera, I have had to completely readjust my spectrum, or at least include a new level within it. The writing in this game is truly exceptional. It takes me back to the days of Baldur's Gate and Planescape; games that came with huge manuals loaded with the lore of the game's world and characters. It has been so long since I have played a game like it that I forgot how much a game's writing can convey without having to explicitly show it.

MST3K Is Back and I Love it

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The first episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 that I saw was episode 407, "The Killer Shrews." I was 10 years old and up well past my bed time, looking through the channels on our new satellite dish system when I stumbled across Comedy Central. At first I wasn't sure what I was seeing, and I didn't really get all of the jokes, but I got enough of them to stick around for the rest of the episode. By the end, I had found my new favorite show and I followed it everywhere it went. When the Kickstarter campaign started to revitalize the show once more, I backed it immediately and have been waiting patiently for its return. Now that it's here and I've seen a few episodes (I'm trying not to binge watch it, but its so hard not to) I feel its time for this Mistie to weigh in on the new show.

Crawl 1.0 is Finally Here!!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

We've reported on a few of the updates that have been released for our favorite early access game Crawl, but today is a particularly special event; Crawl 1.0 is officially here and the game is launching for not just PC, but Xbox One and Playstation 4 consoles. We have been big fans of crawl since its very early days and it is great to see just how far its come since the early access went live in 2014.

Destiny 2 is Announced

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The official trailer for Destiny 2 dropped today. It seems to confirm what most of the active community had suspected for a while. The Cabal have destroyed the tower and the last city (first hinted at through a MEGABlox set description a few months ago), leaving the guardians and other survivors on the run with few supplies. Players will be starting over with all new gear and powers, essentially only keeping the appearance of their character as established in the first game. Perhaps most interesting of all though is the news that Destiny 2 will be released for PC. This presents me with a bit of a conundrum.

Mass Effect Andromeda: Finding the Good Amongst the Rushed

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

We picked up a copy of Mass Effect Andromeda the other day for our PS4. We've heard all the talk about the facial animations and some of the weird movement and I can confirm that these issues do indeed exist and are prevalent enough that they detract from the overall experience. I'm just as disappointed as many of the players out there, but instead of ranting and raving about how ridiculous and unacceptable the situation is, I've been trying to understand how the game came to look like it does now and focusing on the things the game has done well.

Civilization VI, Part 2: Player Clues

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Welcome the second part of my analysis of Civilization VI and its design. Last time we talked about some of the changes Firaxis brought to Civ VI, namely the new districts and the builder units. Today we will be addressing the way that Civ VI clues players into the best places to build districts and improvements and how it allows a player to glean a great deal of information in a short period of time.

A Frat House for Tiny Spirits

Monday, March 13, 2017

Nioh was a game that I picked up on whim. Once every year or so I get a compulsion to sit down and binge play the old Onimusha trilogy (because Screw Dawn of Dreams and its trying to be a more technical RPG). Looking at the screenshots and gameplay from Nioh, I thought it might fulfill that desire and add a new game to my repertoire. At least until Capcom gets its butt in gear and gives us a PS4 port of the trilogy.

REDUX: Spartan Ops is Episodic Gaming Done Right

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Recently, some execs from 343 Studios commented that all future Halo games will feature Split-Screen co-op, calling it "a hard lesson." There is another feature that I would love to see return, though it wasn't nearly as popular. The Spartan Ops from Halo 4 were, in my opinion, one of the best additions to the series. This from the guy who lists ODST as his favorite game in the franchise. I doubt Spartan Ops will ever return, but here's a reminder of why I really loved it.

VR is Finally Ours. Here's Why We Chose the Vive.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

We have talked sporadically about VR here on the site. As the technology has gained ground we have found ourselves increasingly anxious to take part in the games and experiences offered by it. MoreGun and Ssalarn may have found the PlayStation VR suited their need well, Wesley and I have felt for a while now that the Vive offered more what we hoped for from a VR experience. Well, the wait is finally over, and we have acquired Vive, but I'd like to take a moment or two to talk about why we went the way we did.

Civilization VI, Part 1: Districts and Builders

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Civilization is one of those classic series' that most gamers know of at least by reputation. A consistently solid franchise that sits as the crown jewel of the Sid Meier empire (if you'll excuse the pun), the entries in this franchise have regularly met with critical acclaim, and seldom fallen below the threshold of adequacy. Each game in the series has introduced new mechanics, adding more complexity to the game. that is, at least until Civilization V came along and did away with many of the previous titles systems and mechanics in favor of a more streamlined and accessible experience. Some players decried these actions as signs that Firaxis had sold out or been too lazy to make a more complex game. The vast majority of people however, after a few pieces of DLC and a number of iterative patches came to love Civ V and it currently sits as the widely accepted best of the franchise.

Civilization VI picks up the torch right where Civ V left it, continuing many of the themes established by its predecessor. The espionage system defined by Civ V's  later DLC remains intact, as do large swaths of the game's trade system and religious mechanics. What really distinguishes Civ VI isn't the similarities it bears to previous games. In the places that it innovates, Civ VI manages to accomplish a spectacular feat; it has added depth and complexity while preserving accessibility.

Resident Evil 7 Made my Brain Moldy

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Resident Evil vs. Silent Hill; it is well documented that I come down firmly in the Silent Hill camp. My general opinion of the RE franchise has been that it focused too much on action and not enough on horror. I'm starting to think that I hold that opinion just because my introduction to the series was Resident Evil 6, essentially a military style shooter like COD with odd shooting parameters and zombie bug things. Resident Evil 7 has at least allowed me to place the Resident Evil in it's own similar yet distinct category.  It seems that Capcom had their notebooks out while playing P.T. (The Silent Hill that never was) because RE7 incorporates a lot of the elements that made PT so terrifying and really nailed their execution. It was that good.

Go Get the Humble Freedom Bundle ASAP!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

From time to time, I'll plug the latest Humble Bundle if there are some really interesting games within it or it supports a particularly good cause. Well right now, the Humble Freedom Bundle has both of those things and I highly encourage you to pick it up as some of the games in the bundle have limited quantities available.

If You Haven't Read the Expanse Series, I Suggest You Start Now

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Sci-Fi on the scale of the Expanse is a difficult thing to come by. The novel series is currently on its 6th principle novel with the 7th due out later this year. The Syfy channel series based on the novels has just started its second season and is an excellent adaptation. But, as is often the case, the books are really where its at. The Expanse takes hard sci-fi to new places and creates a truly immersive, frightening and exciting view of our possible future. If you haven't read it yet, start soon.

Some Thoughts on the Current State of Battleborn

Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Image courtesy of Gearbox

It has been a very long time since I played Battleborn. My last few sessions with the game a few months ago were undeniably bad experiences, but I booted it up again recently to see how much things have changed. I played a couple of the new missions (Attikus and the Thrall Rebellion and Toby's Friendship Raid) and a few rounds of multiplayer and while there certainly have been some additions, I wouldn't say that the overall makeup of the game has changed and I don't think I'll be going back again any time soon.

2 Games About Serious Issues

Thursday, January 26, 2017

This past week has been very difficult for a great many people in this country and around the globe. For those of you who fall on either side of the issues, it is vitally important that we be able to maintain an open dialogue with each other. To that end, I have selected 2 games that I think deal with some very serious issues and would be a great place to start having conversations about topics like surveillance and the value of a free press. 

Starting a New Campaign From Scratch

Thursday, January 19, 2017

When we talk about video games, replayability is an oft touched on topic. We like large games that invite players to experience the stories within it again and again. That's why games like Skyrim, Mass Effect and Grand Theft Auto V have such staying power even years after their initial release. As a tabletop player though, it is very unlikely that you'll be tempted to play through the same module or adventure path more than once. Maybe I'm wrong, and this really isn't a thing, but I have never encountered a player or group, who upon finishing off the BBEG and closing the book on their quest turned around and said, "great job everyone! Let's do it again, but this time we'll all play different characters and be total dicks to everyone."

As a DM, I have run the same module more than once, but it has always been for different groups of players. The closest thing we DM's come to replayability is our player's engagement with the worlds we imagine for them. Over the last few weeks, I've been working on creating a world for my players to inhabit. It's a slow process that involves a lot of reading, writing, drawing, rereading, erasing, rewriting and redrawing. In the end we hope to have created an environment that the players can make themselves at home in and really become a part of. The first session, the reveal of that world is one of the most terrifying moments as a DM. Will the players like it or will they spend the next few hours shitting on the world you've spent weeks creating?

The Walking Dead Season 3: A New Frontier

Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Pre-apocalypse Javier. Looks like a young guy with a whole lot ahead of him.

I've been following Telltale since their early days with Sam and Max and Monkey Island (both new additions to two of my favorite Lucasarts adventure series) but I don't think many will argue that their work on The Walking Dead really put them on the map. The story they told proved that they were capable of far more than just comedy. The story of Lee and Clementine remains one of my favorites from the last 10 years. Though it ended tragically for Lee (I draw the spoilers line at 3+ years. Sorry, folks.), we've still had Clementine around. She was the player character for Season 2 and is back in Season 3 as a very important NPC. Seeing the way that she has grown and changed over the course of the story has brought hope and heartache and Season 3's 2 episode debut shows no signs of changing that.

I'm Prepared to be Disappointed by Andromeda

Thursday, January 12, 2017

In anticipation of Mass Effect: Andromeda, I've been replaying the series on PC. I'm now a few hours into Mass Effect 2, which I consider to easily be the best of the three existing games. But as I've spent more time with the series, I've come to realize something very important. Andromeda may not end up being very good. For everything I've seen of it, intriguing as it all may be, there remains the distinct possibility that it won't live up to the lofty expectations heaped upon it.

Dishonored 2: Keeping up with the Kaldwins

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

One of the things that I appreciate about the Dishonored series is that Arkane Studios has set expectations well. I've become accustomed to watching game trailers with interest and then tempering that with the likelihood that what I've seen will be dialed back somewhat; that the initial trailer(s) includes concepts that will be cast by the wayside and forgotten, having become too costly or complicated to bring to fruition in the finished title. It's common for a game to be given a polished cinematic to advertise the game rather than a series of gameplay clips, especially for a game's announcement. 

While these advertisements are successful in introducing story with a high production animated mini-feature, they often obscure the actual gameplay in the process. True gameplay trailers are all well and good, but they are often no better at giving reasonable expectations for way the final game will truly be like to play. This is one of the reasons I was so pleased by Dishonored when I had finally got hands on with it. It played as its trailers gave you the impression it would. The protagonist, Corvo moved through spaces with the gift of the same strange arcane powers and an assassin’s practiced swiftness that had been presented. It was marvelous. 

REDUX: Monikers is Simply the Best

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

We left out this fantastic game from our holiday list! Wesley and I played a lot of Monikers with family over the holidays and we just didn't feel right about not mentioning it. So here is our original piece about it, reprinted here for you.

While at PAX Prime last year, we had the opportunity to play Monikers with Alex Hague, one of its creators. Crammed into the crowded Indie Megabooth, Alex dealt out a few cards to each of us from which we assembled a deck of our favorites. Each card had a name of a person or a thing on it and our goal was to guess what thing was on the card from a description given by another player. In the second round, we were asked to guess the same cards with only one word clues and the final round forced us to play charades-style, with only gestures and slight sound effects. In fifteen minutes, we laughed uproariously while fumbling to describe or act out the things on the cards. As soon as we were able, we bought our own copy and tonight we played it with my mother and brother.

We Are Back for 2017!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Hello readers! We had a long and lovely break over the holidays but we are back and ready to jump into 2017. We played a number of games over the break but there are a few that stood out. Here's a quick run down of some of the games that captured our attention during our winter break.