Life and Games Progress Report

It’s been a while since I did a catch-all post, and today, while I sit at work at it’s slow as all hell, I figured it was a good time to write one up. I’ve been working, I’ve been dating, I’ve been playing games. I’ve been busy. I have ideas for posts or podcasts or videos but finding the time is difficult some days. Today is not that day. Today I rant about what I’ve been up to, in little snippets.

I wrote about a couple of the games I’ve been playing of late in older posts, but I have progress to discuss. I also have some personal stuff to share, but I’ll save that til towards the end. So what have I been playing?

Stories: The Path of Destinies – I fell in love with this game from the moment I started playing it. However, it does get frustrating after a while when you start opening endings that aren’t the “true” ending, and have to play through similar stuff over and over again. That’s part of the appeal of the game — the choose your own adventure part, but it’s also one of the game’s shortcomings. After having gone through similar areas, having all of the swords crafted and opening up all the branching paths, you literally have nothing left to do. I can still level up through combat and there are a few points left that I would need to earn to max out the character sheet, and there are plenty of endings I haven’t found just yet, but that doesn’t affect all that much. If I wanted the platinum trophy for the game, I’d need to max out the character and find all of the endings, but I don’t think I’m going to go that far. I think at this point once I find the “true ending” I’m going to be done with it. It was a fun title while it lasted though.

Banner Saga 2 – Still playing this one too, and still loving it. They took everything the first game did well, and polished that up, and then added new layers and units and variety that was sorely missing from the first game. I’m nearing the end, as both of my caravans (there is a part just like in the first game where part of your force splits off and you bounce between the two) are nearing the final city where we’ve been headed for the majority of the game. I’m curious to see the conclusion and if they leave things open for another title in the series. There isn’t much else to say there without spoiling anything. But seriously, play this game it’s awesome.

Diablo 3 – Season 6 kicked off a couple days ago, and of course I had to start a new character. I rolled a new Demon Hunter, which is the final class I would need to get to 70 to have leveled them all to cap at some point. My last DH died around level 60, otherwise I would have finished that goal off already. I’ve been enjoying the DH again, just like I have in the past, but I’m hoping this one makes it to cap. I’m sitting at around level 20 currently, and have nearly finished the first chapter of the new season journey. It seems to be about the same but I think they changed when you get Haedrig’s Gift this time around. On top of the set gear and pet, this time they are providing a pennant as well if you complete the season journey. I managed to do just that in season 5, so I don’t see why I won’t be able to do so again in season 6. I’m sure I’ll have a full post about this later in the week, so I’ll leave it at that for now.

League of Legends – I’m still playing League of course. They started doing the time-limited game modes every weekend now, and it’s a rotation. So instead of getting a week + of URF, we got a weekend. The weekend before was something else, this weekend has been Hexakill on the Twisted Treeline map, which was a blast last year, and has been a lot of fun this time around as well. I managed to get some games in with Tacktix as well, who basically hadn’t touched the game since BDO came out. I’ll have some videos edited from these past weekends soon. Also, I played 3 of the ranked placement matches to this point, and have a 2/1 record so far. I’m hoping to finish up my placements by next weekend so I can know how much of a hill I need to climb. More on this later.

I Subscribed to Humble Monthly – I’ve been eyeballing it for a while, and almost went for it a couple of months back. Each time a new month starts, they tease you with a title that will be accessible immediately, and then you get a bundle of mystery games at the beginning of that next month. This month’s early title was Mad Max, and it’s a game I thought about buying a couple of times. Getting that plus several other games for $12 feels like a much better deal than buying MM for $60. Also, I’ll get some extra games, hopefully ones I don’t already own. Looking back at the past monthly bundles, I’ve owned 1-2 games and have been not interested in some of them. Either way, getting a game I was interested in for $12 plus some extras is definitely worth it. Depending on how happy I am with the bundle will determine if I stay subscribed. I know when I did the Loot Crate thing I wasn’t that into it… we’ll see how this goes.

Life Stuff – I bought a new bed. I needed one pretty desperately. The last time I bought a new bed, the ex I had been living with ended up taking it (I didn’t fight her for it). I ended up getting a bed 2nd hand off of a friend who only had it for a year, so it was halfway decent at the time. Nearly ten years later, I was hating it. So I found a place locally that allowed me to put some money down and finance the rest over 6 months. The overall total was around $700 and the financing is only going to cost me $50 in interest, but in return I’ll get a good mark on my credit. Sleeping on it has been wonderful, though I think it’s going to be even better once the bed and I adjust to one another.

The other day Riot was running a promotion for their newest figurine, URF. If you bought him, you’d get another figure from the collection for free. Considering they’re normally $20 by themselves (which is what I paid for my Nautilus a couple months back) it was a steal to get 2 for 1. I ended up getting Zed randomly, and even though he’s not a character I play, I rather like the way he looks. So my collection is growing, and on top of that, I’ve rearranged my room and busted out a bunch of my old decor (in conjunction with getting the new bed) so my room is getting back to normal. Nice and nerdy, just how I like it.

In other personal news, I’ve been dating again. There was a girl I had been seeing for about a year, but that ended albeit amicably. We’ve remained friendly and have gone out to eat and such but the romantic part seemed to be over. So I got back on the horse and have been on a few dates. For the most part it’s been a wash, but there have been some candidates that I have found interesting. I’ve also been hanging out with a couple of the guys from my work, and that was fun as well. Overall my social circle is starting to grow again, and comparing my life now to my life a year ago feels like night and day. I’m loving all of the improvements!

That’s all for me today. I’ll be back later in the week with something else. Also, potential big news for the podcast again. Stay tuned.

Couch Podtatoes Episode 84: Cynicism

CP4

Welcome back to another episode of the show. We’re back with Tacktix for an in-depth discussion about Cynicism and how it can relate to gaming. We tackle how some of us feel that we have become more cynical with age, how skepticism, apathy and other factors can affect our moods towards gaming itself, the industry and our communities. We round it out with how cynicism and trust are related. Of course, we also talk a bit about what we’ve been playing lately too. Check it out, and let us know what you think!

 

Download this Episode Subscribe via RSS Download on iTunes Listen on Stitcher

Couch Podtatoes Epsiode 84: Cynicism (runtime: 1:03:58)

What are we playing? (starts at 1:05)
Discussion: How Are We Doing? (starts at 15:23)

Host Contact information:

Izlain
Blog: Me vs. Myself and I
Twitter: @mevsmyselfandi

Eri
Blog: Healing The Masses
Twitter: @ausj3w3l

Tacktix
Blog: Tough Love Critic
Twitter: @TaCktiX

Music Credits:
“Bit Rush” by Riot Games
“Take It All Away” by Cake (from the album Pressure Chief)
“Enchanted Rose” by Bury Your Dead (from the album Beauty and the Breakdown)

Couch Podtatoes is a podcast about gaming, though we might stray into other forms of media. Sometimes we use strong language, but we try to keep that to a minimum. All opinions expressed by us or our guests are our own and are in no way to be interpreted as official commentary from any companies we discuss. You can visit our official podcast page at Libsyn.com. Be sure to follow us on iTunes, and/or Stitcher Radio.

You can also find the show in video format at The Gaming And Entertainment Network YouTube page.

Questions, comments and feedback are welcomed and encouraged!

The Banner Saga 2: Screenshot Dump

I pre-ordered The Banner Saga 2 as soon as I had the chance. The first game caught my attention due to it’s beautiful 2-D animation art style, reminiscent of old animated films from the 70’s and 80’s. Learning that it was a tactical RPG was all I needed to hear, and finding that I enjoyed both the combat and the story was even better. I loved it, but only managed one playthrough of the game. Sadly, I lost my save file so I was unable to import that into my playthrough of The Banner Saga 2. I might have to go back and play through them both again at some point, as the sequel is a direction continuation of the first game, so it is less of a sequel and more of a second episode — despite the title never being labelled as “episodic.”

The game went live this past Tuesday, and I dove right in. I’m only three hours into the game at this point, but I can already tell you it’s fantastic. If you enjoyed the first game, you will enjoy this one all the same. It feels like some of the kinks from the first game have been ironed out, and some additional depth has been added. For instance, it seems like you earn Renown more readily, which can be used to promote your heroes and buy items/supplies. It also feels like the random encounters are almost always bad, but you’ll still make it to your next destination with supplies to spare. Either that or things that I learned during the first game are just coming back to me, and I’m playing a safe style? I’m not sure but it seems more balanced this time around. The combat also feels more varied and diverse. There are additional races and combat abilities this time around. For the most part though, if you liked the first title, you will enjoy this one as well. I wanted to save some of the screenshots for posterity, so I’m going to add them to the bottom of this post. Be warned, there might be some mild spoilers but I don’t think anything game-breaking.

I saved a couple bucks by pre-ordering, but you can still pick the game up for only $20 on Steam. It’s very much worth your time. The first game took me 8 hours to beat, and it’s likely this one will be a similar length, so it’s also one of those games you can beat in a weekend and still feel like you got your money’s worth. That’s my two cents at least.

Thoughts on the LCS Playoffs

So the Spring Split has come and gone, and with the end of the regular season I didn’t have fantasy LCS to play anymore, which meant that I didn’t talk much about the professional side of the game. Over the past few weeks however, there was plenty of playoff action, which means I have something to talk about once again. It’s been an interesting half of a season so far, which brings us up to the Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) and then the Summer Split shortly thereafter. There’s also a big ass patch for the mid-season, with a bunch of new features that will likely shake up the summer split for all of us, not just the pros. I’ll get to that bit in another post though. For now, let’s talk about the playoffs.

During the first weekend in April, the Quarterfinals went down. I didn’t watch much of the European LCS, but during the course of that weekend Fnatic beat out Vitality, and that was surprising considering the shaky season Fnatic seemed to have (again, I didn’t watch much of the EULCS), and Vitality seemed to be the superior team prior to playoffs. The same goes for the other matchup between Unicorns of Love and Origen. Though I called Origen as one of the powerhouses for Europe at the beginning of the split, but they didn’t deliver on that as much as I thought. They were no Immortals, let’s put it that way (more on them later).

In NA, more surprises were abound. TSM looked to be a powerhouse for North America, but they struggled throughout the split. Cloud 9 had a shaky start to the season but finished strong and were the clear favorites in this matchup. They managed to take a game in the series, but TSM dismantled them. It was surprising. Where was this TSM all spring? Less surprising was Team Liquid taking down NRG, particularly with how well Matt and Dardoch performed as rookies. NRG never really stood a chance this split. They need to find better talent in a couple of roles.

The following weekend the semi-final matches were played, and in Europe we saw G2 take down Fnatic (expected) along with Origen continuing it’s streak to defeat H2K. The latter team seemed pretty consistent during the split but didn’t have it when it counted. Origen moves on to the finals against G2, but there is a clear expectation there.

In NA, I was rooting for Liquid to take down CLG. Honestly I don’t think CLG is that good of a team, despite winning the summer split last year. Darshan pulls off some pretty amazing stuff, and Aphromoo has his moments, but I’m not too big on their other players. I think CLG of last year was a better team. Liquid felt like the new hotness. I wanted the rookies to win and for Piglet/Fenix to get some real recognition for their efforts. I think a different top-laner might make up all the difference. Why don’t they pick up Impact? Imagine that team? But it was not meant to be, as CLG took the series 3-2, and moved onto the finals.

The most shocking part of the entire playoffs happened in the other semi-final game. Immortals, the team that only lost one game the entire split, though looking a little weaker towards the end, was expected to completely dismantle TSM. But this wasn’t the TSM from the split, nope that part of their lives was already done. They put together a monster series, and swept Immortals right under the rug 3-0. It was incredible to watch. The tilt was real. I’m really beginning to love esports!

The finals were less exciting, and more exciting at the same time. CLG vs TSM, the dream. The rematch. The same result. Meh. Again, less impressed with this year’s CLG as opposed to last year’s. More impressed with TSM stepping up when it mattered, but they still lost overall. In Europe, G2 triumphed over Origen, as I expected. A new crown over there, the same crown for NA. Either way, it was a fun split, and I look forward to watching all summer long. MSI soon, I may have more thoughts.

PC Upgrade #1982

It’s been a while since I’ve done a hardware post, and as most of you know I’m not really a keep up with the Joneses kind of guy. I try not to skimp on PC components, but I also recognize a good deal when I see one, even if it is on something that some might consider mid-range. I’m okay with not having the best thing money can buy, because it will be on sale sooner or later. And sometimes, you hit gold on something that fits your budget. I feel like that is the case with my most recent upgrade.

The Corsair Strafe Keyboard

I was coming home from visiting a friend last night, and there’s a Fry’s Electronics along the route I was driving, so I thought I’d just pop in to answer some questions that have been floating around in my head for a while. I told myself I was just going to check out their selection of monitors because I have been thinking about getting one. I’m running on an LCD TV at the moment, so it doesn’t have the best refresh rate, nor can it display anything more than 1920×1080 resolution. I was toying with an upgrade to at least a 2k monitor with a decent refresh rate, and relegating the trusty old 32″ to PS4 duty (which it’s perfect for). That would allow me to stream things in the background off the PS4 and dedicate my PC to gaming or whatever other projects I’m working on. I really want that two screen experience. But I digress. That purchase was not made on this day.

I looked at all kinds of goodies. I found some really cool custom fighting game controllers for the PS4, and other various accessories that I might invest in at some point. I have a good idea now of what I’ll probably end up spending on a new monitor when the time comes. I checked out Podcast microphones (they did have the Blue Yeti in stock!), hard drives I could potentially use to expand upon my PS4’s capacity, even tablets. I think I’m leaning more towards a new monitor over a tablet, though either solution would give me the two screen experience. Finally, I found myself looking at mechanical keyboards.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s no real reason for this upgrade, but man am I glad I made the decision to go for it. My Corsair Raptor K30 was a fine keyboard, and has handled 2+ years of blogging, school work, and gaming use. But it was showing signs of wear, and one of the support legs in the back had broken so it would wobble at times and that was rather annoying. To be fair I guess it was time to buy a new one, but my cheap as could justify keeping it for a while still. Somewhere along the line though I decided that I wanted to upgrade to a mechanical keyboard, but when I was looking at the prices of the K70s and comparable models, I was swallowing hard at the price tags. There was a rather neat Logitech (G910 I think it was?) that had a dock for your smart phone, and a mobile app that integrated with the keyboard to work similarly to other keyboards with built in screens, providing in-game data. It was also almost $200 and for a keyboard that feels rather steep.

So I went with the Corsair STRAFE (non-RGB). I’m fond of the company, having had one of their keyboards prior to this one, along with using a Corsair mouse and water cooler. It was half the price of some of the higher end models, but at $100 I can’t complain one bit. It has Cherry MX Red keys, individual per key lighting, some animations/effects for the keys, and programmable keys and lighting schemes. It’s a plastic shell, unlike the K70 which is aluminum, so that’s part of where the reduced cost comes in. It also lacks a wrist wrest, and dedicated media keys. That is the only aspect that I miss from my old keyboard, but having to hold the FN key and then hit a function key to control the media isn’t that big of a deal. It’s less convienient sure, but it’s not a huge deal. The keys are smooth plastic, but the space bar is textured. Optional keys were provided for FPS and MOBA set ups. Since both use most of the same keys, I used all that were provided, so Q-R and A-F are all grey faced now, along with being curved directionally apropriate. I played a couple of Rogue-likes earlier and got a feel for playing a WASD focused game, and it felt fine. I’m planning on playing a game of League to see how it feels after finishing up this post, but I wanted to see how typing on it felt, and I have to say that I rather like it. I feel like I can type a bit faster when I get on a roll, but I’m not quite used to the key placement and touch that goes along with a mechanical keyboard. It’s getting easier the further I get into this post, but I can tell that after a month of using this I’m going to be typing 100 WPM. Maybe not, but it still feels that way!

So yeah, if you think spending $150-200 on a keyboard feels silly, I humbly recommend the Corsair Strafe. It’s a budget priced ($100) well constructed gaming keyboard that has already exceeded my expectations.