The Walking Dead: The Final Season (Episode 1)

I knew it was coming, but it surprised me to find out that the last season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead was upon us. I guess I never really paid attention to the release date. I hurriedly picked up my copy of episode one of this four episode final season, and played through it ASAP. We’re seeing Clementine’s journey come to an end, and there was a beautifully rendered introduction that allowed us to relive key parts of that journey. It’s been four separate games and a number of years since this adventure began, and though I am sad to see it beginning to come to a close, it will be interesting to see where this little girl turned fierce woman ends up. Picking up where The New Frontier left off, Clementine had been reunited with AJ once again and were back on the road. Our story follows them scavenge for food when of course they come across trouble. They end up in a school run by kids and find a rather tight knit group — though something doesn’t seem quite right.

The graphical engine is a bit more refined than I remember in the last season, but for the most part the game plays the same as others. I felt like there were more action oriented combat sections, but there were plenty of slow dialogue-filled scenes as well. I won’t completely spoil things but the results of my season will. You should probably avoid the next screens and my reasoning to follow if you haven’t played this game yet.

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The major choices in this episode were varied. I chose to kill the couple in the train station to get the key off of one of them (they were both walkers at this point, when they were still people they poisoned themselves). Otherwise I could have chosen to send AJ into the room behind the locked door, but I didn’t want to send him on his own. I was with the majority of players on this. I didn’t go with the crowd on the next choice, which was whether to hunt with Aasim or Louis. Louis seemed to try to hard to throw himself at Clem so I went the other way. During our first night at the school AJ insisted that he sleep under the bed. I told him he didn’t have to but he begged so I let him. Looks like most people convinced him to try the bed (side note, he sleeps in bed on the second night). Later, we go back to the same train station where shit went awry the first time around, and Clem is confronted by a raider who wants the same food we had come for. I chose to push his ass out the window for walkers to feed on. Fuck that guy. Lastly, during the final confrontation with Marlon, I chose to petition Violet to help me out, and she came to my aid. AJ took matters into his own hands, though.

This season was different from all of those that came before in that there were some missable trophies and I didn’t realize that until I completed the chapter. There are a few collectable items, and certain dialogue choices that lead to trophies that I missed. As disappointing as it would be to have all the Platinum trophies for this series and miss out on this one, I’m not sure I want to go back and play through to find them all. I suppose if I do I will do so before the next episode releases so that I can be more mindful of this the rest of the way through. Either way I enjoyed the episode and The Walking Dead is still my favorite of Telltale’s series. Let me know if how your episode ended up, if you’ve played.

State of the Game: Shorts

Due to having had surgery yesterday, I’m in recovery. As such I’ve taken a couple of days off of work and have been trying to do as little as possible. Mobile Games like Clash Royale and Questland which I recently wrote about are fun and keep me occupied for a time, but after a while I want something more meaty to sink my teeth into. I’m limited to short stints of sitting in my computer chair, so I’ve been trying to prop myself up in bed and game on the Playstation. I’ve been neglectful of the Playstation Plus titles I’ve downloaded over the past couple of months, having titles like Beyond Two Souls and Heavy Rain still collecting dust, but I’ve managed to try out a handful of games that have been waiting for attention. I’ve also picked up a copy of episode 1 of the final season of TellTale’s The Walking Dead which I look forward to digging into (more on that later this week). Let’s get some first impressions over with, shall we?

So, earlier today I started off with Absolver, a game I knew literally nothing about. Billed as “online melee action,” that really doesn’t give us much to go on. It turns out to be a bit of a martial arts meets Dead Souls sort of game, where you’ll have some difficult to master combat tricks paired with character development and a semi-open world to explore. You start by picking a “fighting school” and after a short cutscene you are basically thrown right into things without much direction. This is fine, things start to make sense as you go along. I wouldn’t say the game is as difficult as Dark Souls, but it has the same sort of vibe, because you have more deliberate combat mechanics, and more importantly people can drop in and out of the world (though you can limit this to invite only) and PvP can breakout at any moment. I was jumped by someone who had some gear when I was fresh out of the early safe zone but then me and another newbie took him down together.

It’s a pretty game, and runs well enough. I didn’t have any hitching even when random people were jumping on and off of the server. You’re given the goal of defeating a bunch of different people before you’ll be able to become and “Absolver” but I don’t really know what that even means at this point. I think it will take some time to dig deeper and see what it’s all really about but because it was free I don’t have a problem getting to it when I can.

Next I tried out Dead by Daylight. This is one of those asymmetrical pvp games that pits a team of players against a lone enemy player (hence the asymmetrical bit). We’ve seen this done before in games like Evolve (which didn’t last) and Friday the 13th. Having never played anything like it, this was my chance to see what this type of game is all about. There is a short tutorial that will allow you to get the hang of playing as either a survivor or the killer. As a survivor your goal is to avoid the killer, turn on some generators and then exit the level. A typical round sees you and your four teammates turning on the five generators, getting attacked, hiding, being offered up to some creepy spider god (the killer throws you on a meat hook) and rescuing each other. As the killer, you’ll be hunting the survivors and have the advantage on not needing to hide, and being able to down a survivor in two hits. You’ll then throw them on the meat hooks and hope they don’t get saved. All the while you’ll want to break down the generators so they can’t escape.

The lone round I played saw me being the first one downed and hooked and I ended up dying as my teammates didn’t bother trying to rescue me. Boo hoo. Overall it seems like a game that I’d rather enjoy with a full group of friends, but otherwise it gets pretty boring rather quickly. A shame, as it’s a cool premise. Some DLCs added to the game allow you to play as killers from several different Horror movies and that’s a cool idea but the game just feels to fall a little flat for me personally.

Last up, I tried out Mafia III, which was one of this months freebies. I was first introduced to the Mafia series when at some point my sister was raving about the game prior to this one. I played it a bit at her house and wrote it off as a Grand Theft Auto clone. From what she tells me, it’s much better story-wise than GTA ever was, and from the little taste of this game I’ve come to the same conclusion. I have GTAV on my PS4 but never beat it. I always get distracted by blowing shit up or dicking around in the online version. Mafia feels like the same kind of game — it’s 3rd person, it’s about crime, and there are some on foot shooty parts and some driving parts. It could be written off as a clone or just another entry into the open-world genre, but it seems rather well done.

Right from the get go the devs display a message about the racism and bigotry throughout the tale, but they give their reasons and I tend to think they are the right reasons to go ahead an include such things. You play Lincoln Clay, a half-Dominican half-White guy who’s just come back from Vietnam (this is set in the late 60’s) and looks to be getting involved in the mafioso life. There’s a cool montage at the beginning with news bits and a chamber of commerce message along with some testimonials from those close to Lincoln, and then we flash to Mardi Gras. On this day, you and a pal Georgi are taking part in a heist on the federal reserve, bringing in counterfeit cash that is to be burned, but then you manage to grab some real money but shit gets real. Then there are some flash back bits from when you first get home and you play through a couple of days of seeing how your family has gotten entangled in some mob stuff and you’re gonna have to help them out. I assume this leads to the heist so you can pay off some mobster your dad owes money to. As I said, there are the same sorts of bits as the GTA games, but I’m already more invested in this one that I was the last couple of GTA games.

So my initial impressions having me leaning towards playing through Mafia as I rather like it, but Absolver looks like it might vie for some time. Dead by Daylight is a solid “meh.”

Thoughts on Questland

Recently I’ve been on a bit of a kick with mobile games. Clash Royale has been and will be my game of choice for the foreseeable future, but I have been branching out looking for something different to play when I need a break from CR (or get frustrated with it). The other day I posted about Idle Apocalypse, which felt like a game that I’d rather enjoy until I found out that it’s just an endlessly repeating loop and there’s no real traceable progression. I have since deleted it and resumed my search for the next great mobile game (to me). One thing I’ll give Idle Apocalypse credit for: it forced me to watch advertisement videos, and one of the ones I watched piqued my interested. Enter Questland.

Questland is a rather deep, multi-faceted game. One part RPG, one part clicker, one part idle game, and one part turn-based RPG. The tutorial for the game will get you started with the basics, but there’s technically still a tutorial going on and I’ve played for a few hours. New bits and pieces open up as you level your character, so there’s always something new to check out. Honestly, you’ll probably be inundated with information at first, I know I felt a bit overwhelmed until I played for a while. First they’ll send you to the barbershop to customize your character, and then you’ll be thrust into the campaign which takes place on a rather large map, with each location having several levels or phases contained within. Initially it feels laughably easy, but the difficulty does turn up a notch as time goes on, but you’ll be countering that difficulty with gear upgrades of which there are multiple facets as well.

There are multiple currencies, some which will allow you to purchase items for the normal item shop, others that are used to upgrade gear, others still that are usable at a number of specialty shops that open up over time. Levels come pretty quickly as you complete quests and battle through the zones. Speaking of combat, let’s take a look at that.

Pictured here are a number of bosses that I have faced in my short time with the game. Each zone will contain 5-6 (to the point I’ve experienced) battles, each having three phases. You’ll walk along a path in first-person, coming to a group of mobs. You’ll tap the screen to attack and they will attack back in a turn-based fashion. Your basic attack also gives you a mana build up, which can then be used to cast spells. Currently I have a single target Fireball, an AOE Blizzard and a Healing spell. They aren’t really necessary just yet but I assume later you’ll have the option to upgrade them or procure different spells. Outside of combat there are a shitload of different screens which you’ll use to buy/sell/upgrade and perform other tasks.

New buildings in the town open up as you progress, and there are events and guilds and a ton of stuff to check out. Like most mobile games these days, there are lockboxes and wheel spins that will give you more gear, currencies and items. Of course this also means there is an RMT shop, and gems are this game’s premium currency. There is also a $2.99/month subscription that gets you a bunch of bonuses. The good news here is that the currencies seem to add up rather quickly, and I haven’t spent any real world money to have a great time so far.

The bundles seem relatively cheap, and there are special offers that provide huge bonuses so I’d say if you like the game you should probably throw the devs a few bucks. I might in the future if this one holds my interest long enough. As of now I’ve cleared 4 or 5 zones but have only scratched the surface of the game’s map. I’m approximately level 12 at this point. It’s a nice little RPG-lite experience and I’ve rather enjoyed it so far.

Like most modern RPGs, there are color-coded bits of gear. Each piece can be further upgraded using some of the in-game currencies, and it seems as you gain character levels you can also upgrade your gear further. The best gear in the game appears to be locked to crafting, which requires collecting parts of the gear piece (most have been around 30 individual pieces) and then merging those to get the item. Most of the pieces earned have come from chests, but certain levels will show you that there is a drop chance for gear pieces, so they can be farmed to get what you need. Also something typical of mobile titles, each level has a star rating which correlates to how many actions you take to complete all of the phases. Most have required under 20 actions to get a 3-star (max) rating and you’ll gain further rewards for earning all of the stars available on a level.

That’s all the information I can provide at this time. I have applied to a couple guilds but have not been accepted to one yet, so I’m not sure what benefits they bring. I participated in one event and won, but then the 2nd stage kicked my ass so I think that might be more end game content. There are also still features that are level locked at this time so it will take me a bit to get to where everything is opened, but I really like this game so I can report back later once I have more knowledge. I would still recommend this to anyone look for something else to play on their phones, it’s pretty damn good. Scratches the MMO itch without requiring the commitment.

Anticipation

Just a short little update today.

I meant to get a full on post out for Blaugust but this is going to have to do because I’m running out of time.

I have a rather large (13x7cm) kidney stone that I’m getting removed tomorrow morning and this is the first time I’ve ever had surgery so as expected I’m a little bit nervous.

I’m told the procedure is non invasive and it’s outpatient so I shouldn’t be too worried but the details of what’s being done are disturbing nonetheless.

So I’m going to try and get to bed early because I can’t eat or drink after midnight and my appointment is rather early tomorrow.

I’ll be back tomorrow with something more substantial. Wish me luck!

TWR: Stax Chain Veil Estrid

One of the archetypes of EDH decks that I have yet to build is a “Stax” deck. The archetype gets its name from a card named Smokestack, which essentially gets counters on it each turn and forces players to sacrifice permanents equal to the number of counters on it. There are a bunch of cards in all colors, but primarily colorless artifacts that have these sorts of effects on them. The goal of a stax deck is to slow down your opponents, but to have a gameplan in place that makes the negative effects less of a burden on yourself. Originally I brewed up a Grand Arbiter Augustin IV stax deck, but it was never actually built and then the new Commander 2018 product released and I found a new and better leader for this style. Enter Estrid, the Masked:

At first glance, Estrid doesn’t seem like a stax commander. Unlike GAAIV who inherently causes your spells to cost less and your opponents’ spells to cost more, Estrid is a Planeswalker that has a variety of effects. The reason she can be used effectively in a stax strategy is due to her +2 and -1 loyalty abilities. Her -1 allows her to place aura enchantments on permanents, which then can be untapped once per turn using her +2. With stax effects, often times you are limited to untapping one thing, or sometimes nothing at all, but with her +2 you can untap anything you control that is enchanted. That isn’t to say that we will be using her -1 to do this, it’s just an option we can use if needed. Instead, we are going to focus on Enchant Land cards and The Chain Veil to give us some combo ability. First let’s look at our main combo:

Our goal here is to get to a point where we can produce 5 mana via enchanted lands. A Wild Growth will allow a single land to tap for two mana. A Market Festival makes the enchanted land tap for three mana. Once we can produce that 5 mana, have The Chain Veil and Estrid on the board, we can gain infinite mana that can be used in a variety of ways. You’ll have to use something like Relic Ward or Estrid’s -1 to enchant The Chain Veil, then you’ll be able to untap the lands with Estrid’s +2 ability, then pay 4 to use The Chain Veil to use her ability again. The 5th mana each time you do this will add up to infinite mana. We can do even more shenanigans using cards like Arbor Elf, Kiora’s Follower, Ley Weaver or Voyaging Satyr to further untap lands or permanents. Those creatures can also be enchanted with Estrid’s -1 to use their effects further. Any of these combinations of effects can produce infinite mana with which we can use to end the game. Here’s how:

Using our Commander + TCV combo above, we can get an infinite number of Squirrel Tokens to close out a game. We’ll want something like Concordant Crossroads on the battlefield first so they will have hast though. The same goes for Luminarch Ascension and Heliod, God of the Sun — we can pump out an infinite number of tokens given our infinite mana pool. Helix Pinnacle doesn’t require us to do anything except get 100 counters on it, which is easy to do with infinite mana, but it will have to survive until our next upkeep, so you should probably try to give it a Relic Ward or Totem Armor with Estrid’s -1. Lastly, if we have the highest lift total at the table, we can burn our opponents out with a high costed Hurricane. These are the ways that we want to win, but we also want to slow the rest of the table down until we can find these pieces in our deck (which can also be done with our infinite mana combo — once Estrid is a 8 loyalty, simply -7 her to get free enchantments onto the board. We can mill ourselves until we find the appropriate pieces all on the same turn). As such, here are the stax pieces we’ll be including:

Creatures, Planeswalkers and Artifacts working hand in hand to slow your opponents down and ultimately secure you the win. Bonus with the Planeswalkers, they also benefit from The Chain Veil and it’s activated ability works for all Planeswalkers in play, so you can easily draw your deck with Teferi and get to their ultimate abilities quickly. There is another interesting interaction with these artifact pieces: I’ve included Inspiring Statuary, which allows you to use artifacts to tap for mana, and if those pieces are tapped during your upkeep the negative effects won’t hurt you. You can then get them untapped again by the time it’s your opponent’s turn with Paradox Engine or Unwinding Clock. I’ve also added a Seedborn Muse to help with this. We’ll be wanting to do a lot of tapping and untapping shenanigans, but in the end our opponents will be miffed and we’ll combo off to win the game! Probably not as consistent as Chain Veil Teferi, but I think this deck will be a lot of fun. You can see the full decklist here.