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.

State of the Game: Playing It All

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The past couple of weeks since I last wrote a SotG post have been all over the place. You might recall a post I wrote about Mobile Gaming experimentation that I’ve been doing, and I’ve continued with that. I’ve been plugging away at League of Legends as well, but unfortunately last night I lost another promotion series to get into Silver. The rage is strong, and though part of me wants to give up altogether, I still love the game and want to play it, so I’ll probably soldier on. I did make a new LoL post recently as well, updating my runes and masteries for the game, which you can check out here. I’ve also mentioned playing some Halo co-op with my buddy, and though that continued early this month, it’s waned as we started playing Resident Evil 5 Gold, which neither of us had done co-op on the Playstation (I played it on my past roommate’s Xbox, and he played it with friends on his). I figure if nothing else, it’s been a long time since I’ve played the game, and I’ll probably net a few trophies I missed in my solo run. I’ve also spent quite a bit of time in Dirty Bomb, after having stirred the interest in the game within my guild Obsidian. Scree and a few other members picked up the game and we’ve had a blast with that, though the last time I played ended in frustration. You just can’t win all the time, and my hyper-competitiveness gets the best of me sometimes. That’s the generalization of the past few weeks, but there’s more to it than just that, so let’s dive on in.

It’s rare that I see titles I’m interested in during the week-long deals on Steam (the ones that post on Mondays and are usually just a bunch of crap games that are discounted) but this week I managed to find a couple of gems. I wasn’t sure if they would be gems, but for a total of $0.88 I wasn’t taking much of a risk. I’ve always enjoyed shoot em ups since my Nintendo/Arcade days, and new ones are popping up all the time on Steam. Revolution Ace was on sale for a whopping $0.19 cents, and with my surplus of card sale money on my account, I picked it up. It’s unusual in that it has some RPG elements that most games of this ilk do not. Otherwise, it’s still regular ol’ shooting action. There’s different weapon slots you’ll open over time, advanced shields, and you get to pick and choose what air-to-air, air-to-ground, and super weapons you have equipped. As you go up in level, you’ll open more equipment along with perks, so each playthrough is theoretically different. There are other game modes as well, including hi-score competitions, but overall it’s a fun little time waster.

The other game I picked up is called Reprisal Universe, and it’s the closest thing to Populous I’ve seen in years. I played the original Populous on my Dad’s Atari ST back when I was a kid, and this game is so reminiscent of that it’s not funny. The graphics are slightly better, but still done in a retro fashion for nostalgic value. It’s is exactly what you would expect from a God game, where you can control the formation of the ground, pick up totems, command units and complete objectives. You eventually also get the power to cause disasters, which can be used to target an enemy force, but then becomes uncontrollable and can actually harm your own people. So far I’ve just played through a few levels of the game, which serve as a tutorial but still give you the general idea of the game. I look forward to more chaos in future play.

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On the mobile front, I downloaded some games on my phone and also via the windows store. I’m not going to go as in depth with this as I did in that mobile mini review post, but here’s some general commentary:

Pinball FX2: (Windows 8.1) A pretty standard pinball game. Gorgeous and runs well. However, you only have access to a couple of tables and the rest are stuck behind paywalls. It also feels like a rip off of Zen Pinball, as they both share Marvel and Star Wars tables that look to be the same. Perhaps the same company made both, which would make sense, but I’m too lazy to confirm.

AE Basketball: (Windows Phone) Much like the games you’d see at Chuck E. Cheese or Dave and Buster’s, where you’d actually throw basketballs through a real hoop, in time-attack fashion. This way is a bit easier, only requiring finger swipes, but same concept. Ad-heavy, but semi-fun.

Reaper: (Windows 8.1) Lighthearted side-scrolling RPG. Free version only allows you to play to level ten though, so you’re basically forced into buying the game if you want the full experience.

Trolls vs. Vikings: (Windows 8.1) A Plants vs. Zombies clone, with some differing mechanics, still fun. Social networking and RMT stuff abound though. Appears like you can play through the whole game without spending money though, it just might take a while longer.

Dragon Mania Legends: (Windows 8.1) I actually didn’t mean to download this game, but was a little click happy and did anyway. Was semi-pleasantly surprised though. It’s a lighthearted city builder type sim with some turn based combat reminiscent of costume quest (active timing to hit). A bunch of time gating and social network/RMT stuff, as seems to be the case with all of these types of games.

Lastly, on the MMO front, I haven’t been playing much, but I haven’t given up on them either. I did manage to play some EQ2 the other night and I finished off all of the quests from The Withered Lands. This means I can go to SkyShrine to do a few other quests, and then move into an expansion that I have yet to see. This is exciting and I want to put more time into this.

I also downloaded Skyforge, which just went into Open Beta. It wasn’t a game that was on my radar whatsoever, but members of my guild and a bunch of people on Twitter had been talking about it, and I wanted to see it for myself. It’s an interesting concept, in that it mixes Sci-Fi and Fantasy fairly well, but the story line is pretty confusing (or lacking) at the beginning of the game. It’s also not clear that despite there being something like 16 classes, only three are available to begin with and you have to unlock the others in various ways. Admittedly, I’m not very far past the tutorial stuff, but I can report that the game is beautiful, and I really enjoyed the action combat. I had to do some research to come up with answers to many of my questions though, and that’s not a good thing when it comes to MMOs, as most provide this type of information right out the gate. It is Beta though, so perhaps parts will be fixed up later on. I’m intrigued enough to follow along, but as it is I have EQ2, ESOTU, H1Z1, GW2, and SWTOR on my hard drive, besides all the other games, so finding time for another MMO is probably not going to happen as I barely play the ones I have installed. Still, I’ll keep up with it to see what happens.

That’s it for this edition. I’m out.

#stateofthegame #roundup