Thoughts on Apex Legends

Respawn Entertainment, creators of the awesome Titanfall series, has now thrown their hat into the Battle Royale ring, like many other studios before it. The budding genre is already becoming over saturated, but some gems peek out from the chaff from time to time, and I believe Apex Legends is set to do just that.

I’ve played a handful of Battle Royale games and have found only a couple of them to be to my liking. Apex Legends ticks a few boxes for me that others have not. I prefer the forced first person perspective (which was also a plus in Black Ops IIII) because in any third person shooter, you can utilize the camera angle in relationship to your avatar to see around corners in a way that wouldn’t be physically possible in real life. Being a sort of spin off of the survival genre, Battle Royale succeeds when you are forced into this camera position and need to utilize your senses to outlast the other players in the round. I also enjoy the team-play aspect of groups of three. There are only three classes of legends in the game, so you can make a balanced team with only three players. The voice chat works, but it also is entirely unnecessary. The “jumpmaster” feature is also great for keeping your team heading to the same place on the map and not being picked off elsewhere.

The map feels large, but you can still traverse much of it fairly quickly. There are no vehicles, so everything is done on foot — thankfully there isn’t stamina to worry about. The weapon and gear selection feels adequate and the gunplay is excellent. I do miss the double-jumping and wallrunning of Titanfall along with the ability to call down and pilot mechs, but I understand why they didn’t go that route. I’m hopeful for an additional game-mode that will allow the use of mechs sometime in the future but it doesn’t seem likely. Still, there are a variety of skills to use via the different legends, so it still feels varied enough.

Typical of most Battle Royale games, you’ll have rounds where you are one of the first teams eliminated, and other games you’ll be the last ones standing. My second match ever when this good, as I was playing Gibraltar and our team was the first to the circle of safety so we set an ambush. Gibraltar’s ultimate ability calls down an air strike, so when I saw the enemy team coming I dropped it on them and managed to take they whole team out in one go. Since then I’ve managed to be in the top ten several times but haven’t won another round. Rumor has it that there are plans for solo/duo queues coming soon, but actually think the team co-op is a better approach. Even playing with randoms it has been a good time.

The game looks great and runs smooth. I think it’s a blast. At least Respawn seems to have done their homework, as they’ve taken some of the better ideas from the competition and included their top-notch FPS gameplay to the mix while avoiding some of the over-the-top design choices. When loading up for the first time you’ll have access to six legends, with two being unlockables. There is a micro transaction storefront, but no power is being sold — just fluff skins for Legends and weapons. You can buy in-game currency to speed up your unlocks or to outright buy skins, or you can just unlock them with scrap parts eventually. I still don’t have enough in-game currency to unlock a new legend, but it doesn’t seem like it will take that long to get there. Honestly it’s probably worth throwing a few bucks at the company just to make sure the game doesn’t disappear, but I’d rather buy a “unlock all legends now and in the future” package than skins ala Quake Champions or SMITE.

No matter the case, the game is out now, and is Free to Play. I personally don’t have Origin installed so I downloaded Apex Legends on my Playstation 4. If you’re a PC player you’ll have to get this via Origin. It probably looks even nicer there. I’d give it a whirl if you enjoy the Battle Royale genre or need a new FPS in your life.

New & Noteworthy: Wargroove

It’s rare these days when I get a game right as it releases (or at least this close to release). I suppose it should be noted that I didn’t actually purchase this one though, instead it was gifted to me by my father. He was congratulating me on my new job, which *side note* I’m starting tomorrow with an orientation at 8 am. So first of all, thanks Dad!

Wargroove is a game that I didn’t see coming. I happened upon it in the Steam discovery queue, and it was reminiscent of many old-school turn-based RPGs from years past. I added it to my wishlist and that was going to be that until later on when I had disposable income to check it out. Looking it over, I was instantly reminded of the Shining Force series, but most reviewers of the game hearkened it to Advance Wars — a series I’m familiar with but never played. There’s also elements that feel familiar to Langrisser (Warsong) of which I covered recentlyWargroove is a top-down tactical RPG created in-house by Chucklefish Games, whom you might know as the creators of Starbound, and also the publisher of Stardew Valley and a cool rogue-lite I played years ago called Risk of Rain. The one similarity all of these games have is a pixel-art graphic style, but that’s where the sameness ends.

The game opens with a short tutorial that explains a bit of what’s going on under the hood, along with a prelude to the storyline. You’ll start off as one of the evil characters heading to take care of the king of this land. Story bits happen in cut scenes that are layered over the top of the gameplay map, as is combat, done in an animation style that I adore. Your unit(s) will appear on one side of the screen, with enemy unit(s) on the other, and your unit(s) will cross over the middle border to attack and vice versa. A single unit on the map can represent multiple units though, which is mostly conveyed through their health bar. You can get an over view of the map to make strategic decisions, and also click on units or the map terrain itself for more information.

There seems to be a bunch of complexity here but it’s really rather simple. Some units do better against others, and weak to others still. Some terrain will benefit you, and some will slow you down along with lowering your defenses. Later missions introduce buildings that you can capture by first lowering their health to zero and then using the appropriate unit to claim them. You’ll also eventually get barracks and other buildings that allow you to purchase units once per turn. The story continues, and with your father being dead, you (the princess — now queen) must lead your people against the oncoming evil. Sounds pretty similar to most fantasy tales, no? You will end up being able to control other heroes, and your heroes themselves have what they call a “groove” which is essentially a hero power that can turn the tide of battle. Our queen can heal units in a small area. Another hero of this faction can lay down a stone that grants units within a small area a defensive boost. It’s all pretty straightforward when you get used to it.

Outside of the main campaign, there are a few other things you can do. There is a multiplayer option where you can play against friends. You can play Arcade, which essentially is a death match on a map with plentiful resources and you’ll progress through various bosses to complete it. There is also a map/campaign maker, and it’s fairly easy to use. I threw together the above map in under 5 minutes with minimal effort, and it appears that you could create some cool stuff if you wanted to go down that route. This gives the game near infinite replay-ability. There is also a puzzle mode that I have yet to unlock, but I’ve only played the game for a handful of hours.

It appears that the devs haven’t quite called the game done yet either. There is a post on the dev blog that tells us what we can expect in the future, from bug fixes to additional content updates and DLC. The main complaint I’m seeing around the interwebs is that the factions aren’t defined enough, and having played a bit I can see why there is this criticism. Indeed, your Pikeman will behave identically to the enemy’s spearman but will have a different skin to identify it. Essentially all units in the game are identical, so you’ll be seeing the same things over and over. Thankfully there is quite a bit of variety between units, just not between the factions outside of their heroes. Still, I have enjoyed the game and think you will too if you’re into this type of game. Perhaps future patches will add some new units to switch things up a bit. Either way, I adore this game so far and am thankful to have the opportunity to play it! Wargroove is available now everywhere besides Playstation 4, but that’s coming “soon.”

By The Numbers: Season Results 2018

So the 2018 season has come to a close, and that means I need to round things up with my totals for the year and see how I stacked up to last season’s scores. First, let’s start with the playoffs breakdown, which I did a little differently this year. Last year I ended up making all of my playoff predictions in a single post, and well, that was probably stupid. As such, I ended up with completely different teams in different rounds and basically screwed myself out of points. This year, I made my picks before each weekend so as to maximize my chances at making the right picks. Whatever the case, I ended up doing okay, so let’s take a closer look:

Playoff Picks:

Wildcard Round:

Texans 30, Colts 24
Cowboys 21, Seahawks 20 – Correct, almost got the score right too!
Ravens 28, Chargers 24
Bears 27, Eagles 21

Divisional Round:

Chiefs 24, Colts 20 – Correct
Rams 30, Cowboys 21 – Correct
Patriots 27, Chargers 14 – Correct
Saints 31, Eagles 24 – Correct

Championship Games:

Patriots 31, Chiefs 28 – Correct
Saints 30, Rams 27

Superbowl LIII:

Rams 30, Patriots 24

Post Season Score: 6-5

Going 6-5 in the post season wasn’t too bad, but I have to say that I think things should have gone differently in the Championship games in particular. I also absolutely hated this year’s Superbowl, but there’s nothing we can do about that now, is there. Let’s recap my regular season weekly scores next:

Regular Season Weekly Scores:

Week 1: 10-6
Week 2: 10-6
Week 3: 7-9
Week 4: 10-5
Week 5: 6-9
Week 6: 8-7
Week 7: 10-4
Week 8: 11-3
Week 9: 6-7
Week 10: 8-6
Week 11: 6-7
Week 12: 7-8
Week 13: 9-7
Week 14: 7-8
Week 15: 9-6
Week 16: 11-5
Week 17: 12-4

Regular Season Total: 147-107 (apparently made a math error somewhere throughout the season so this doesn’t match my total in the last regular season post)
Combined Total: 153-112

Compared to last year’s total: 149-118, I had an increase of 6 correct calls.

That seems like a very small increase, given that I didn’t even make picks in the last week of last season, and I also made the mistake of picking all of the post season games in one post. Whatever the case, I still improved year over year, so for that I’m happy. I guess I’ll have to try to outdo myself again for the 2019 season, but we have a good 8 months to wait until I can get started. How about that Superbowl though? Man, talk about boring! I took until the forth quarter until we saw any real action, and given two of the highest scoring offenses, I was surprised to see it go down the way it did. The fifty third Superbowl went down in the annals as the lowest scoring big game of all time, and that’s pretty pathetic. You know what else is lame? The Patriots now have six rings, and Tom Brady gave them all six. Excuse me while I clean up this vomit off of my shirt.

See you next year.

TWR: The Off-Beat Spellslinger

Keeping with the guilds theme I’ve had going for a while now, I decided that this time I would brew up a deck around the Azorius guild. However, I didn’t really want to build a deck around their new leader from Ravnica: Allegiance, so instead I picked another Azorius commander that I’ve had in my collection for quite some time and always wanted to build around. That commander is, Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper.

Noyan is a 4/4 for 5 CMC, which doesn’t sound all that great at first, but he comes with an interesting ability that fits two archetypes that I’ve never really brewed around. Those things things are a spellslinger deck, and a lands-matter deck. I guess I have brewed a spellslinger deck with Kess, but I never ended up building it, instead slotting her into my Inalla Wizard Tribal Deck. I definitely haven’t made a lands-matter deck before, let alone one where your lands are your primary creatures. You see, every time you cast an instant or sorcery spell with Noyan on the board, you are able to put three +1/+1 counters on one of your lands, making it a 3/3 elemental creature with haste. Theoretically this means that you can out of nowhere make an army of man-lands and swing in for a ton of damage on those that are unsuspecting. There are some other creatures we’ve included as well that can help with this game plan, but also can be ways to make an army of tokens too. Let’s look at the deck’s staples first:

Spellslinger Staples:

These cards are those that are typically included in most spellslinger decks. However, most spellslinger decks are usually different colors, namely Izzet or Grixis (but other combos exist). Azorius decks are typically more control based, but we have to go with our commander’s strengths, so this is how we’re going to roll. Baral, Primal Amulet and Jace’s Sanctum will lower the cost of our spells which is always a boon. We can make armies of token creatures with Murmuring Mystic, Talrand, and Docent of Perfection just by casting spells. Metallurgic Summonings will also get us tokens by casting spells, but their power/toughness will equal the CMC of the spell cast. Lastly, Inexorable Tide can make our man-lands even bigger given the proliferate mechanic. Cast some spells and make all of your land’s +1/+1 bigger for each. One of the biggest issues we’ll have is needing more lands to throw counters on, as well as keep casting spells. So let’s look at how we can ramp in these colors:

Ramp:

Land Tax and Weathered Wayfarer are arguably the best ramp available in white. Both will get you extra lands every turn. Knight of the White Orchid and Gift of Estates are a little more restrictive, but if played at the right time they’ll get you more lands, but only plains. Solemn Simulacrum gives us some ramp and card draw for a fair price. Now that we know we’ll have plenty of ways to ramp and benefit from casting spells, let’s look at our spells themselves.

Spells:
Card Selection:

Blue is great at card draw and card selection. These cards will allow us to look at chunks of our library and get to what we need faster. There are some that also allow us to shuffle if we really need to shake things up a bit.

Removal:

Any good control deck should have various forms of removal, and I’ve tried to cover the gamut. In some cases we’re using staples like Path to Exile and Swords to Plowshares. In other cases we’re using some different cards that I wouldn’t normally play, but they work in this deck. Destroying non-land permanents (board wipes) are great for this deck as you’ll be able to destroy all the creatures on the board that your opponents control, but you’ll still have your lands. Of course you’ll need to have some counterspells handy so that you can avoid other player’s board wipes or pesky cards like Jokulhaups or Armageddon which will absolutely do you in.

Other Utility:

I’ve included a small counterspell package, along with some cards that will proliferate or support for more counter shenanigans, along with ways to take extra turns. A couple of decent tutors for enchantments/spells, and a couple of other tricks like To Arms! and Unity of Purpose which will effectively untap all of our lands if timed properly. Mirrorweave is one I look forward to playing in particular, especially when someone drops a nice Dragon/Angel/Demon that isn’t legendary and I can then make all of my lands into big beaters for a turn.

Extra Protection:

One thing we’ll want to avoid is our lands being destroyed while in creature form (or in general). Sacred Ground and Terra Eternal help with this immensely. The former will bounce any land that hits the graveyard back to play, and the latter makes our lands indestructible. Diplomatic Immunity is extra protection for Noyan, giving him Hexproof.

Man-Lands:

This last category are actual man-lands. These are cards that can be turned into creatures for a cost. I’ve included these because not only will they tap for mana, but they can also turn into chump blockers in a pinch, and it’s more desirable to lose these than our 3/3 elementals for the most part. They can also be beefed up with Noyan if we want to go that route.

I’m not thinking this is the strongest strategy for competitive playgroups, but I think it could be a fun to play build that can get out of hand if not put in check. The thought of having either a ton of tokens to swing for tons of damage or alternatively being able to make a bunch of lands pretty big to kill someone with sounds like a blast.