The State of the Game #21

This edition of the column is going to be a long one, despite having blogged more regularly in the last week. I still feel like there is a lot to go over, so bear with me. I spent very little time on my Playstation this week, and as a result things on that end feel a little neglected. As a further result, I made more progress on the PC end of things. The playlist this week consisted of Diablo III, Hearthstone, The Banner Saga, Hawken, Loadout, League of Legends, Awesomenauts and Lone Survivor.

I’ll start with the Playstation updates, mainly because it will be the shortest bit. Last week Lone Survivor was the Plus offering, and you’ll recall that I was looking forward to it. I downloaded it and started playing while I was defragging or downloading… something that was going to keep me off of the computer for a while whatever the case. Graphically the game is very 8 or 16-bit, although on a larger screen it’s really grainy to the point where it’s hard to tell what you’re looking at half the time. I get the homage they’re paying to great games of the past (like Maniac Mansion which I’ve already compared it to) but in some ways it takes away from the experience. I think this game was made for a platform like a tablet or the Vita, because the smaller screen would help with the resolution and the requirement for headphones would help with immersion. Regardless, it does seem intriguing enough. I wandered around an apartment building, shot some zombie things, picked up stuff and weird things happened. I can’t really explain it beyond that. It’s survival horror, and that’s something I enjoy, and it has a layer of mystery that makes you wonder wtf? It reminds me of early Resident Evil or Silent Hill games in 2-D. More on this later if I ever get around to playing it some more. This week for Plus we’re offered a puzzle game for PS3 and some other game for Vita. I really don’t care about either, so it must be time to move on to PC stuff!

League of Legends:
I can’t lie, I haven’t been playing League nearly as much as I used to. In fact, aside from trying out the Team Builder beta I played a couple of ARAMs and that was about it. However, there are some developments in the game that are worth mentioning. Team Builder is something I’ve talked about before, it’s essentially Dungeon Finder for League. This is for players who don’t have a dedicated team or group of friends that plays the game. I know a couple of people in real life that play, but aside from that it’s just friends I made in the game, and half the time only a couple of people are on when I log in. This allows someone like me to get into a queue where I can play what I want, or I can even theorize strategies and hope that someone will be down to try it. The latter part is more experimental, and Riot has already said that unorthodox queues will take longer to form. The real meat and potatoes is being able to queue as whatever role I feel like playing that particular day, and not having an argument in champ select with someone else who wants the same role. This allows you to practice what you want without worrying about “getting it”. I think it’s awesome, but it’s not a reality just yet. In other news, new patch notes have arrived, Heimerdinger got a visual update, and there has been yet another champion teased. This one is going to be a Yordle, and Yordles are almost always cool.

Diablo III:
I took it upon myself to get to 60 in a night. I had mentioned being level 52, and finishing up the remainder of Act I and a chunk of Act II got me to 60. At this point I could go ahead and grind out the remainder of the game and start over again on the level above Hard, but I’m not sure that’s going to be required to progress further. I know that I would net a large portion of Paragon levels by doing so, but I’m pretty sure being at the cap and completing Act V is all that is going to be needed to get into the new end game, Adventure mode. I’m still not entirely sure how torment levels work and all that other end game stuff is going to go, but for now I’m leaving it on the shelf til next week when the expansion releases. Also, the Auction House goes down today, but I never used it to really have anything to say about it. Here’s a shot of my Wizard as is:

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Hearthstone:
The meta of Hearthstone changes so often that it’s not funny. When it comes to what decks are superior to others, and what people are using in their decks, it’s almost different on a day-to-day basis. I read The Meta Report on IHearthU, and they give rankings on what decks (heroes), and what types of decks (aggro, control, etc) are being played the most that given week. They might only be speaking of Ranked play though, because I notice differences in my sessions as opposed to their list, but it is pretty spot on at times. I had been complaining about Paladins for a long time, but they are now at the bottom of that list, and I really haven’t been seeing them played much lately. I’ve been focusing on my Hunter deck which is my ultimate favorite, and aside from Warlocks they also seem to be the most commonly played. I’ve set mine up to be able to counter mostly any other hero, I only have trouble when I simply get poor draws or if they have some legendary fuck-you to throw at me. Here’s my deck list as it stands now:

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The major reason why this deck works is because of the synergy between all of the beasts that are available in the game. Not only are the Hunter’s class specific beasts well designed, but many of the expert cards work well too. The cards I find helping me out the most are as follows:

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The first two cards, Snake Trap and Unleash the Hounds are situational sure, but they both add extra “tokens” to the playing field. Alone, the snake trap helps recover for a lost or damaged minion. The hounds are an AOE, in that you can cast it to take out multiple */1’s or maybe utilize them in another way. Alone these cards are cool, but not game changing. The synergy between these cards and the next two cards is what helps considerably. The Scavenging Hyena gets +2/+1 for every friendly beast that dies. Sending snakes or hounds to their death (while also helping to clear opposing minions) makes him bigger, and sometimes that will win you a game. The same goes for the synergy with Starving Buzzard, who allows you to  draw a card for every beast summoned. If you have a buzzard in play when you cast the hounds or the snake trap is triggered, bam, free cards. Combine that with the Hyena and you get damage to spread around, cards in your hand and a beefed up minion. Finally, Ragnaros the Firelord is a new addition to my collection. When they nerfed Tinkmaster Overspark, I disenchanted his ass for this bad boy. Ragnaros is a finisher, and even though he doesn’t necessarily synergize with this deck thematically, he’s a beast. He can’t attack, but will throw out 8 damage every turn until he is destroyed. This is random, so he’s best played after eliminating opposing minions, so when you end turn you get free damage on the enemy. I win 90% of my games with this deck. There are some things that I might do to tweak it further, but this is my stand by for now.

Steam Games:
I’ve been playing The Banner Saga here and there, and I must say it is a relaxing game. Most of the time you’re staring at the screen watching the caravan trudge along. The rest of the time you are reading bits of dialogue and about random encounters that are part of the journey. Then they break things up with some tactical combat that was confusing at first, but is very satisfying once you get the hang of it. Last I wrote I was on chapter 3, and things were going along smoothly. Initially you jump between main characters and have completely different groups to lead on the road and in battle. Eventually the story takes a turn and your separate groups meet, along with other characters being added as well. Now I’m at a point where I have everyone in one large caravan, and the world is quite dire… the storyline is rather depressing, but on a Lord of the Rings level of epic-ness. I’m now in Chapter 6, and it is getting to the point where I am losing at least a couple of my fighters in battles, and supplies are so scarce that each time I spend all of my reknown on them, I’m still losing clansmen in between places where I can buy more. That also puts a damper on promoting my units, so I’m trying to find a happy medium of strength and deaths of innocents. I’m hoping that eventually things get a little better.

Hawken has seen a couple hours of my time, and I must say that I really enjoy the gameplay. I’ve been focusing more on the co-op bot destruction (survival mode) rather than pvp in an effort to get better at the game but I did get my ass handed to me a few times regardless. For a free to play title this one feels a little more grindy. What I mean is that when I finish a round it doesn’t appear that I make much progress as far as leveling up my account or my mech. There is an in game currency that also feels like it takes too long to earn, but can be used to buy more mechs and some consumables. The real-money currency is available for those items along with being the only way to buy cosmetics. It seems that this game is a little more on the pay to win side, because although it is free it is quite the grind the earn anything. I suppose if you compare this to the amount of time it would take to buy the 100+ champions in LoL it’s about the same though.

I’ve also played some Loadout in between other games, and it is more of the same when it comes to session based shooters. There’s nothing revolutionary being done here, but the wacky action is part of the fun. So far I have only played a few games in a mode that sees you capturing various objectives that randomly spawn. I haven’t progressed too far but it does seem to have the similar cash shop, but weapon customization was available almost immediately, and I already sunk some currency into the tech tree. One observation: Don’t pick the rifle stock when making your first weapon, the beam weapons are far more effective it seems.

Lastly, I have dug deeper into the PC version of Awesomenauts, and I’m addicted to this game far more than I ever was on the PS3, and I was pretty damn addicted to that version. So far I have opened up several characters that were previously unavailable to me, including Gnaw, Raelynn, Skolldir, Vinnie & Spike, and Genji. Also, Ted McPain who is part of the Starstorm early access. Raelynn and Vinnie were instant favorites, Raelynn being a sniper with some decent utility and Vinnie being another aerial naut, who has some cool abilities. The new map that I had yet to try is nice, and helps to break up the monotony of having only 3 maps previously. Another new map is part of Starstorm but isn’t out just yet. I am still observing all of the differences and nuances of this version of the game, and still plan to write a dedicated post to that. One big observation: I was in the 800 rank range on the PS3, and that was out of nearly 100,000 accounts. Looking at the leaderboards here shows a much smaller pool of players, and despite only playing a few games I’m in the 6,000 rank range. I know it will take some time to rise up the leaderboards but my concern is that there are less players listed. I would assume there would be a larger pool of players on the PC platform, especially considering that it’s been out for PC less time, there’s more content, and people backed their kickstarter for further content. Perhaps I’m misunderstanding something.

The Horizon:
Reaper of Souls doesn’t release until a week from today, so Diablo III will likely sit on the shelf. There aren’t any Plus offerings I care about, and nothing really on my PS3 at the moment that I want to play. Most likely I’ll be playing the usuals from above and perhaps it’s time to play some more EQII, so I can feel like I’ve made more progress there. I did the epic repercussions on my Brigand but still need to do that on my Paladin and I have a few new or low level characters I wouldn’t mind toying around with. There’s also this game called Luftrausers that released today and it’s only $8.99 on Steam right now, so I’m tempted to grab it. That’s all for now. Sorry for being so long winded.

March IGC

March is shaping up to be another pretty decent month for the Playstation Plus service. I’m glad that Sony decided to support the PS3 for a while, those of us who haven’t purchased a PS4 yet are still getting a ton of new games to play. For PS4 owners, a game that was the first I ever purchased off of PSN is coming to the new platform. The game in question is Dead Nation. This is the “apocalypse edition,” so I’m assuming that it’s the original game plus the DLC that released for it all rolled into one. Dead Nation is a zombie-themed over head shooter, in Smash TV style. It was a great game, and I had a lot of fun with it, so I’ll still get it into my Download list for a possible future playthrough.

On the PS3, we’re getting the Tomb Raider reboot, which is a game I’ve been wanting to play for a while. I actually purchased a used copy for my friend for Christmas last year, and was going to borrow it later, but never got around to it. Now I will have my own copy, so that’s a plus. I was a fan of the Tomb Raider series back in the Saturn/PS1 days, I played the original on the Saturn and the next two on the Playstation. The original was a whole new world of gaming, the story was great, the open world (that wasn’t really open at all) felt huge, the combat was fun, and the puzzles weren’t super annoying. Fast forward to games like Uncharted and it’s a dinosaur, but it was awesome at the time. The sequel added some new features and was still fun, but by the third game I was pretty much done with Lara’s adventures. I know there was a fourth game on the first PS, and at least a one or two through PS2’s generation, and one that I know of that released previously on PS3. I never played any of those games though, it was another series like Call of Duty that became a rehash and I grew tired of it (though this was before all of the modern day cash grabs with DLCs and whatnot). So my relationship with the series was jaded, but I am willing to give this reboot a chance. Especially for free. And Because Boobs:

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The other two PS3 games are indie titles that released last year. The first, Thomas was Alone, doesn’t look like a game I’m interested in whatsoever. It’s pixels. And Puzzles. Or something to that effect. I might give it a whirl but I’m not expecting much. The other title is Lone Survivor, and it’s supposed to be a 2-D survival horror game, which is one of my favorite genres. The game also reminds me of an old school NES title, “Maniac Mansion.” I believe that game was a port from computers of its day, so the interface is different of course, but check out these pictures and tell me you don’t get a similar vibe:

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23 years does make quite a difference when it comes to pixellated 2-D art. Nevertheless, I intend to dive into that game whole-heartedly upon release. Because of late 2-D + Indie has been a win. 

The above two titles are also cross-buy, so Vita owners will get those two games along with Unit 13 and a Monster Hunter iteration. I do wish I had a Vita, I probably have 100 games for it already. Monster Hunter is also a series that I always hear buzz about but have never tried personally. Unit 13 is a title I’ve heard of but really know nothing about so I’ll leave it to you to read about it elsewhere. All in all, a decent looking month is ahead.