Thoughts on the Steam Controller

During the summer sale on Steam, Valve decided to put their hardware offerings on discount, and I’ve thought about purchasing a Steam Controller for a while now. Honestly, I dislike the Xbox controller very much, and always have. I know that is probably the most commonly used controller for PC gaming, but my distaste for it meant that I ended up buying a Logitech controller that was sort of a hybrid of an Xbox and Playstation controller. It has the same A,B,X,Y button layout as an Xbox controller, but instead of the skewed sticks, they are in-line like the PS setup. It was a fine controller and still works, but it is wired and the D-pad is shit. I found that I didn’t use it all that often, but some games simply feel better with a controller rather than keyboard/mouse.

I realize that you are able to use Playstation controllers on PC, but the last time I tried that you had to keep it wired, and I assume that is still the case so it’s not optimal. The Steam Controller is made for PC gaming, and made for Steam specifically (where most of my game collection is found outside of consoles) so I figured it was a good investment, and for $35 (on sale) it’s cheaper than buying most of the other AAA controllers on the market.

The controller finally arrived the other night, and I finally got around to giving it a whirl. It came packed in a nice box that you can see above, and here’s what comes inside:

I swear at some point I read that you are required to have the Steam Link to use the controller, but that isn’t the case. The Steam link is similar to an Nvidia Shield or other streaming device that just puts the display from your computer onto a TV in another room. Great concept, but not needed for me, so I just got the controller. It is battery powered and comes with a USB dongle that enables wireless usability. Installing the batteries was easy enough, and I assume if you use rechargables, you’d be able to charge them via the USB cord, but I could be wrong about that. Outside of installing the batteries, there was no other setup required, just plug in the dongle and start up steam. It will update the firmware automatically and then you’re good to go.

Big picture mode is not required though it makes navigating Steam a bit easier with the controller. Overall I like the construction of the unit and the feel of it in your hand. It feels like a great controller. In practice, it takes some getting used to.

I started off by checking out steam controller supported games in my library, and the first one I tried wouldn’t work with the unit. The second game I tried worked well, but it was a platformer and only used the one stick and buttons. The trackpads feel great, but they are hard to use in the case of FPS games. I tried one, and it didn’t feel very good to move the camera with a trackpad. Apparently you can push on the trackpad and swing the controller in various ways to help with the camera control, but I didn’t really figure that out until watching a video later on. People rave about the controller being great for any game, but I feel like it’s best saved for slower paced games or more simplistic ones. Those that require twin sticks will definitely require some practice, but I want to put in that practice because I made the investment. We’ll see how that develops over time.

My final verdict? It’s worth the sale price. It feels and looks great. Most games that you would traditionally think about using a controller for (fighting, shmup, beat-em-ups, side-scrollers, and platformers) are going to benefit. Those that use twin-stick camera and movement controls might irritate you at first, but I think once you get past the learning curve it can be great. I’d buy it if you dislike Xbox controllers and want something built for the PC.

State of the Game: Too Hot For TV

The Steam Summer sale has come around once again, and this year things are unique as they usually are. The discounts are there just like each year before it, but this time around the gimmick is a bunch of sticker packs that you can use to fill up pages of a book and presumably get some sort of prize. Collecting the cards to craft the badge nets background images for your profile, which in turn are the same pictures used in the sticker book, so it’s unclear what the purpose is. Perhaps it is explained somewhere that I missed, but presumably it’s just a time waster and a way to convince you to spend more money, as if the massive discounts weren’t enough.

So far there have been games on my wishlist that were on sale, but none that I was really looking to pull the trigger on. My backlog, as ever, is filled to the brim and some games probably won’t ever see the play they deserve. That didn’t stop me from grabbing a couple items though. I’ve been toying with the idea of picking up a Steam Controller for some time now, but it’s never been something that was a necessity. I have a Logitech gamepad for my PC that suits its purpose, though I don’t use it all that often. I thought that I might lean more towards controller schemes in particular games, so I finally ponied up for one as it was on sale for $35. I also bought one game off of my wishlist — Everspace.

It’s a rogue-like shooter in space that has a feel similar to Faster Than Light, in that you have a map and you move from zone to zone trying to get to an end goal. Death is permanent, but money is spent on perk points that give passive benefits, theoretically making future runs easier. The gameplay consists of flying around these zones, collecting various materials for crafting along with destroying enemy ships. This is done in real time, in either first or third person view. It’s a gorgeous game and runs at max settings very smoothly on my rig. I’d recommend it if you enjoy space shooters with rogue-like elements. The controller hasn’t arrived yet, it should be here next week. I’ll report back on that after I test it out.

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The Infinity engine games are also on sale, included Baldur’s Gate Enhanced + the expansion that came out last year, BG2 Enhanced and the newly released Planescape Torment Enhanced. Sadly I already own copies of the originals on GOG, but I found that many didn’t play well with the newer versions of Windows. It seems that the enhanced editions are revamped ever so slightly and would probably be a better way to experience those titles. I’ve added them to my list as well, but I doubt I’ll buy them, mainly because I’ve got too many recent RPGs to play through but I would love to add them to my collection.

Sony’s Playstation Store also has a sale going on, though it has weekly sales that rotate year round. It does seem like there are some bigger discounts on offer at the moment though, probably to coincide with Steam. Most digital outlets have quarterly sales that save you some bucks. I found more titles that I was interested in on their store, and ended up buying two new games: The Dwarves and Worms W.M.D.

The former is a strategy RPG where you have a team of various Dwarves whom you can assign actions to, and you fight against hordes of enemies. Picture the heroes of LOTR during the battle at Helm’s Deep. You have a handful, they have hundreds, but your elite skills keep you in the fight regardless. There is a pause function that allows you to give all of your heroes commands to be executed at once, but during the live action you can only control one hero at a time while the AI handles the rest. Overall it seems like a novel concept, but I haven’t gotten too far in to add much more.

The latter is exactly what you would expect. Worms is a long running franchise and the various iterations over the years have added new features, while graphically it hasn’t changed much. The last game I played in the series was a few years back on PS3, and I enjoyed that one as much as some of the older versions I played back in the 1990’s on PC. Where this one differentiates itself from its predecessors is with the addition of vehicles and turrets. There have always been a ton of weapons and customization options for your team of worms, but now they can jump on machine gun turrets or pilot a tank to victory. Apparently there were changes to the Forts sub-game, and a bunch of people can play in multiplayer battles. There is also a ranked system that has been implemented, so I suppose this is more feature complete than past installments. It did release last year though, so I imagine there are already new titles in development. Overall it’s a good buy for people looking to blow up worms alone or with a friend or two.

That’s about all for now. I’ve been spending more time doing IRL stuff than gaming, but I will hopefully have some time over the long weekend to log more hours. Until then, happy gaming!

Thoughts on E3 2017

Despite the fact that I knew E3 was coming up fairly soon I didn’t realize it was this weekend and ended this evening with Sony’s Conference. When I realized I had missed a couple of days worth of news I figured I would make my rounds and check out trailers and whatnot. The usual suspects were present as always: EA, Activision, Ubisoft, Bethesda, Microsoft, Sony, and the PC Gaming Show. Most years when I talk about the games coming out of E3 it’s difficult to cut a list down to a manageable size for a blog post, but this year it was difficult to put together this list. There simply wasn’t much announced that was really amazing and the rest of the show was just more information on things we already knew about. I was underwhelmed with the total package, and the sprinkled in bits from YouTube/Twitch personalities along with some cringy e-sports tie-ins did not add to the overall experience. That isn’t to say that I don’t see some games on the horizon that interest me, it just felt like less of them than usual. Perhaps I’m just less enthused with gaming in general as of late. Either way, let’s run through my anticipated games from E3 2017:

The Crew 2

I was hesitant to put The Crew’s sequel on my list, because despite owning the first game and enjoying it, at some point I was locked out of my Ubisoft account so I can’t access any of the games (of which I admit are few) that I own that are accessed via the Ubisoft launcher. And though I purchased most of said games via Steam, you still have to use the Ubi launcher to play them. I did my due diligence as far as trying to recover my account via their various means of support, but that’s basically shit so the games I did own I deleted and the launcher was removed from my system. I will not be buying anymore games from them on my PC. On PS4 however, I wouldn’t have any problems, so I might just go that route. The added elements to this sequel feel like they’ll make the game even more entertaining than it already was, and I’m sure the title would feel great on console anyway.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

I didn’t think Wolfenstein The New Order would resonate as well with me as it did. Original trailers made it look rather hokey and generic, but after playing through DOOM I was still craving that old-school shooter vibe so I gave WTNO a try. I loved it. It had everything I enjoy in a single player shooter and played liquid smooth on my PC. I have no doubts that the sequel will also play amazing and bring back the feels.

The Evil Within 2

Admittedly I did not finish the first chapter of this game, and feel that I should do so before I play this one. I’d also say that this isn’t high on my list of must-haves, but I did enjoy the vibe of the original and felt it was more on par with earlier Resident Evil style games. This makes sense due to the pedigree of the creator, but I have to admit that the recently released Resident Evil VII was phenomenal. EW2 will have to pull it’s weight if it wants the survival horror crown.

Quake Champions

We saw Quake Champions announced last year, and I didn’t really think much of it. It’s been quite some time since I’ve played a true arena shooter with any regularity, but I did spend many hours playing Quake 3, Unreal Tournament and later Quake Live, so I do have that itch on occasion. The addition of some interesting layers such as individual champions and special abilities makes me think it will fit right up my alley. I love the shit out of Paladins, and though I know they aren’t an apples to apples comparison, the similarities are there and give me the feeling I’ll enjoy it.

Anthem

A new Bioware game comes with bated breath. Though I didn’t see anything wrong with what little I’ve played of their last two releases (ME:A and DA:I before that) there have been plenty of stories about broken releases and uninspired content for both so I look at Anthem as a possible must-have, but I’m not sure yet. From the trailer I gather that it will be a multiplayer RPG, and it looks like it’s Mass Effect style gameplay. I assume this is EA’s answer to Activision’s Destiny, similar to their yearly battle for profit shares via Battlefield and Call of Duty franchises. I’d also assume Bioware took lessons learned from their multiplayer formats for Mass Effect and Dragon Age and hopefully do this one right. Knowing the things we know though, it’s hard to say. I’ll be watching this one for sure.

Beyond Good & Evil 2

A long awaited sequel to a beloved game from early adulthood. I played the original back in the Playstation 2 days and then played it again when the remaster hit on Playstation 3. The cinematics alone show the sheer amount of time that has passed between the two games, we never imagined games looking like that when we were playing the original. Still, no real gameplay yet, so who knows if it’s really going to release? I think we’ll probably see it next year at the earliest. Still one I’m looking forward to!

BattleTech

An interesting looking title that came out of the PC Gamer show, it appears to be a turn based strategy game, but I only saw bits of combat. Will their be base management or other meta games? Time will tell I suppose. Still looks pretty cool even if it is just battles all the time!

Playlink

Sony introduced their Playlink program. An interesting new development, but not the first time I’ve seen apps on our phones try to interact with other devices. Companion apps are nothing new, but games where you get to play the game using your phone as a controller aren’t quite so common. The only one I’ve played was made by fellow blogger Talarian, called Eon Altar. The games they teased were nothing like the aforementioned RPG, but still the idea is a novel concept. I’m hoping something interesting comes out of this line of games.

Gran Turismo Sport

One of the games on my list that isn’t a new announcement, it’s actually supposed to release in Q4 of this year, but it’s very highly anticipated for me. I absolutely adore the GT series and I can’t wait to get my hands on this one!

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

It was definitely teased at the end of Nathan Drake’s run of the Uncharted franchise that his daughter would pick up the reigns, and in the trailer we find a grown up daughter ready to follow in her father’s footsteps. It’s unclear if the game will be co-op, but it sure looked that way in the trailer. Though older entries have always had companions, so perhaps it’s still traditional AI. Regardless, Naughty Dog are great at what they do so I’m sure it will be a blast no matter how they tell the story.

Days Gone

This one came out of nowhere and has a very Last of Us sort of feel. I liked what I saw, but who knows what the game will actually play like.

There were many other titles showcased, and of course there are still a couple more days dedicated to Nintendo and I’m sure there are more indies to be announced, but this was the bulk of what I saw that I was the most interested in this time around.

Thoughts on Elder Scrolls Legends

I remember hearing about The Elder Scrolls Legends a while back, and thinking that it was a game I should give a try at some point. At the time, I was sick of Hearthstone and I had tried Magic Duels but didn’t care for it. I also wasn’t back to playing paper Magic just yet, so I was looking for something to scratch that CCG itch without being one of the games I had already tried or lost interest in. There was a beta at some point and the game has been released for a time, but it recently came to Steam which brought it back to my attention. I downloaded the game and gave it a whirl the other night, and despite some similarities to both Hearthstone and Magic, it stands on its own merits in other ways.

You’ll log in and create an account with Bethesda if you don’t already have one. Then you get to pick an avatar from the familiar races of TES lore and set off into the tutorial where the various mechanics of the game will be explained. Like Hearthstone and Magic, creatures have power and toughness and various abilities that trigger depending on circumstances. Some of the names will sound familiar, others will be new in name only having the same effect that you would expect. Like Hearthstone, you will start with one mana and build up another mana each turn. Also like the coin, there is a ring that will provide you 3 charges of one mana (used once a turn), which is actually pretty damn nice. Most of the enter-the-battlefield effects are what you would expect, but I feel like there are more similarities with MTG in this regard; more effects and spells that do interesting things that I didn’t see during my time in Hearthstone (though I’m sure there are plenty of differences between the game I played and what the game is like now).

The major differences that I’ve seen thus far is the ability to upgrade cards which feels more like the RDA’s I’ve talked about recently — though it doesn’t function exactly the same. In Clash Royale, you collect multiple copies of a card to upgrade it for a small in-game currency fee. Here you’ll earn upgrades for card that then change into different versions of that type of card — you’ll have a lizard creature that will change into a version of your choice, either offensive or defensive, for example. Not all cards can be upgraded, and I’m not 100% sure how you earn the upgrades, but it’s a neat idea. Another big difference between this CCG and others I’ve played is the addition of “lanes” and effects those lanes can have. You can play creatures in either of the right or left lanes, but you can only attack creatures in that particular lane. At one point the tutorial shows a “shadow” lane which gives units played in that lane “cover” for a turn, which makes them untargetable. It’s a neat idea as well, and I assume there will be other cards that will affect those lane rules but I have yet to see that. One of the coolest differences (and something I wish existed in MTG!) is the runes that surround your character. Each time you lose 5 life a rune breaks and you draw a card. In some circumstances, the card you draw can even be played for free!

A story is present through the tutorial battles and is apparently something that was recently added to the game, where you can continue this story and play against AI while leveling your account. It’s a good idea to play single player modes to learn all of the mechanics and perhaps earn some cards along the way. Deckbuilding seems straightforward enough, but it more like Magic because you can have a larger deck than the traditional limit of 50 if you so choose. No more having to cut that awesome card, just go over on your deck size!

The store is set up similarly to the other digital CCGs I’ve played. There is a core set and an expansion for the Brotherhood was recently released. You can buy packs for in-game gold or dump a little real money into the game, which I have yet to do but might if I become a little more invested. Prices seem reasonable. Overall I think it’s a very well done CCG and a great answer if you are like me and got sick of what else is already on the market. You can play for free so if this genre is up your alley I’d give it a shot!

State of the Game: Let’s Call Them RDA’s

It’s been a minute since I pulled out a round up post, so I thought I’d do that this fine holiday. The last time I checked in I was finishing up Destiny and Resident Evil VII, and it’s been quite some time since I wrote those games off to move onto something new. My recent posting history has been fairly balanced between pieces on individual games, the Humble Monthly write ups, and my MTG series, but I still manage to play other games and not really talk about them. Not long ago, I posted a poll to see which “time intensive” game I’d play next. I have so many, and there were several other options not presented, but these were ones that had been in my library for a while but not completed:

As you can see, The Witcher 3 took the top spot in the poll. I was cool with this, because it’s been a game I’ve been wanting to give a proper try. Those of you who participated in the poll are probably wondering why I haven’t mentioned playing it yet, so I thought this was a good time to explain. I bought the game on my PS4 because it happened to be on sale with the expansions. I figured I’d want to be able to get the full experience, so it was a no-brainer purchase. So many people raved about what a great game it is, but despite a couple tries at it, I just don’t concur. It seems interesting enough, it runs well enough, but it just feels so wonky. I don’t like the combat, I don’t like Gwent, I really don’t like anything that I saw. I honestly believed that Fallout 4 was the better open world RPG that year, and I still feel that way a couple of years later. So I uninstalled and tried not to think about the wasted money. I feel like I’m going to have a much better time with either FFXV or ME3, both of which I want to dive into soon. I haven’t put aside the time to devote to either just yet, having dipped my toes into each and liking what I saw. They just control so much better than the Witcher. This isn’t the first time a shitty control scheme turned me off of a series. I’m hoping that Red Dead Redemption 2 fixes the ailment.

So what have I been playing? I’m still doing my rounds with a multitude of lobby based games, including SMITE, Paladins, Battle Islands Commanders, Minion Masters and Clash Royale — the latter 3 being part of an emerging genre I’m going to start calling RDAs, or “Real-Time Duel Arenas.” You can go ahead and spread that around. I’ve also played a bit of a game that was given out for free during Humble Bundle’s Spring Sale called Dungeons II which I have rather enjoyed. Lastly, I’ve picked up a couple more free to play games on the console to play with my best friend, as PS4 is our only way to play and he’s on a tight budget these days, so free to play is the way to go. Those titles are Marvel Heroes Omega and Skyforge — two games I’ve mentioned here on the blog before, but I was playing them on PC, and solo. Which is probably why I never got all that far. Still, I have found that I enjoy them and they feel great on the console!

SMITE has been more of the same, though I’m not playing it as regularly the past couple of weeks due to spreading my time around elsewhere. I’m nearing 60 Gods mastered and have just been plugging away at quests when I get them. It’s starting to get to the point that I don’t crave playing it as much as I used to, and that’s what happened with League of Legends a couple of months before I started up with SMITE (which has been over a year now, by the way). I’ll keep it around and play it often enough but less often than before. Paladins has been keeping my interest and breaking up the monotony of having only one game to play with your buddy. SMITE is great, but playing the same game day in and day out (on the days you do get together) gets old. I think we’ve retired Awesomenauts too, but Paladins has seen steady play.

RDA’s have started to become a thing, and I’ve covered them here with increasing frequency. I’m sure just like with MOBAs before them there will be a lot of copies and a lack of innovation for a time until the few remain and another new sub-genre emerges. Still, I have been becoming more invested in this style of game, mainly because of the dueling nature of it. In MOBAs or other team-based games you have to worry about yourself, but also try to work with your team to completed objectives. In these dueling games, you only have to worry about the opponent you are facing. Bite sized rounds also means more time to play multiples, and though some rely on time-locks to keep you from playing non-stop you can find those that don’t have these limitations. Obviously I started with Clash Royale, which I think just might be the originators of the concept (correct me if I’m wrong), so let’s check in there first:

I’ve finally gotten over the hump and have solidified my place in Arena 9. Like other choke points before it, I was teetering on the verge of staying in Arena 9 and dropping back down to Arena 8. I kept tweaking my decks trying new strategies and listening to what guides and others had to say, which ended up hurting me for a while. Finally, I picked my style of deck and put something together that I can say works pretty well most of the time. Well enough that I got over that hump and am currently sitting at my highest ever trophy total. I still don’t have all of the cards yet, as new ones keep being added in, and the meta shifts quite a bit between the Arenas. This is what my deck is looking like at this point:

I like the “Hog Cycling” style of deck, where the majority of the spells are cheap and your main win condition is using Hog Riders often. I was trying to avoid using E-barbs because people tend to complain about them pretty loudly, but they are a good form of defense and tend to help with counter-pushing. I just recently added in the Log as I finally pulled one from a chest, and am currently working on leveling my Dart Goblin to level 7 so that I can use it to replace the archers, as I think for the elixir cost it will actually benefit the deck. I know trading out Arrows for the Log did. I’m not getting 3 crown wins every time with this deck, but it has been winning pretty consistently, even against some of the hard to counter Golem and Royal Giant decks out there.

In Minion Masters, I have settled on this deck, and this Master. I haven’t been playing it super regularly, but when I do I’ve enjoyed it. The Early Access is plugging away and keeps being enhanced. I’m still not as committed to this because it’s not in full release, but I look forward to that day. Not having to upgrade cards and not having a time limit on rounds makes this game play differently and I enjoy the nuance. Wonder how far they will go with things before release?

Dungeons II is a modern version of Dungeon Keeper. It plays nearly identically, save for the little intro that played more like a traditional RTS (perhaps other bits of the game will as well) but the first couple of levels felt so similar to Dungeon Keeper, but in the best way possible. If you enjoyed that game, you’ll enjoy this one. Hope you got your free copy! There isn’t much else to say there. Here’s pictures instead:

I also picked up a copy of the newly released game Killers & Thieves, which is from the same company as The Banner Saga. Not sure if I mentioned it before, but I did back The Banner Saga 3 on Kickstarter a few months back, as I own and have completed the first two games and really enjoyed them. It basically just got me a pre-order copy of the game. Anyway, K&T is made by one of the developers from Stoic, who was coding this game as a side project and almost completely alone. It’s got that great hand-drawn art style, some interesting ideas behind it, but as many people will mention in the reviews, there are some basic settings and tutorials that are not there yet (but are supposed to be patched in soon). Turns out that the reviews are right, and though I don’t mind a bit of a learning curve, I didn’t get to far into the game without feeling like I’d rather wait for it to be patched a time or two before I get further. At the end of the day, it’s a Thieves Guild management sim, and it seems to do that fairly well. The heist bits were entertaining, but a bit frustrating. I honestly think it will benefit from some patches, and I’m hopefully that it turns out well, but at this point I wouldn’t outright recommend it.

Lastly, I picked up both Marvel Heroes Omega (the newest rebranding of the popular MMO-lite from Gazillion) and Skyforge for PS4, as I was looking for something new to play with my friend. He’s not terrible at the games that we already play, but sometimes the competitive nature of those games get on our nerves. There are times when it’s nice to play some co-op too, so I wanted some titles we could check out together, and because I was already familiar with these it seemed like a good idea. MHO just went into open beta so anyone with a PS4 can jump in right now. Founder’s packs are still available and usually come with a hero or heroes and skins. They aren’t too over priced, and you do get enough in-game currency to open up at least one character from the get-go. Apparently it’s not too much of a grind to open up others, but otherwise it’s the same exact game you already know. Apparently couch co-op is also available, so that’s pretty cool. It runs well and the controls are intuitive. I think we’ll be putting some time into it.

Skyforge hasn’t been played as much. We were trying to get through the tutorial bits today so that we could finally group up, but it takes some time and he’s not exactly an experienced MMO player, so I’m sure the systems seem a bit complex to him. Once we do get a chance to play I think we might have a good time with it too. They both feel oddly more at home on console, just like SMITE and Paladins (for me, that is).

I think that’s it for this round, nearly 2k words later. Adios.