Snowdown 2014

I mentioned some of the sales coming with Snowdown in my post this past Sunday, but at this point the event is officially live. Not only are there three new skins to pick up, but all of the legacy snowdown skins are available along with mystery gifting, new icons, ward skins and a new featured game mode. This year’s game mode takes place on the Howling Abyss, and is called Legend of the Poro King.

Poros are the cute little white balls of fluff that run around on the map, that usually only provide limited interactivity. You can feed them, and if you pay attention to them near the bushes, they can give enemy position away as they tend to flee from champs that are nearby. In this game mode, they become a weapon and a boon. Basically everyone becomes a Lee Sin, being able to throw a poro and then jump to it (like Lee Sin’s Q) and also get the chance to summon the Poro King, who buffs and allows friendlies to jump to it (like that other Lee Sin ability). A full explanation of the game mode along with icons and bits that you can earn can be read about on the official Snowdown page. Conversely, here’s the trailer for your viewing pleasure:

One of the Icons is a rehash from last year, which is kind of weird as I haven’t seen that done before. You can also buy one of your choice that acts as a temporary skin for the poros in matches, but I’ll have to investigate further because it was a little confusing. The others are earned by playing the new game mode, so that should be easy enough. More on this as I try it out. If you play the game, you should check out the new mode for yourself!

#leagueoflegends #snowdown

State of the Game: Mixed Bag

Another week bites the dust, and this time around I’ve been playing a bit of everything. Well, not everything, but I’ve dipped my toes into many different pots. Earlier in the week I covered the launch of the new Hearthstone expansion, and also the news of H1Z1 coming to Steam Early Access. That was the biggest news of the week for me, but I bounced around between finishing up some TV shows and playing an assortment of games, so let’s talk about that next.

I’ve been playing FFXIV sporadically, just enough to get a feel for the different starting areas, and the general feel of the game. I only have a handful of days left on the free trial, so I probably won’t get too much further along before that runs out. Like I said before, I could see myself playing it a bit more seriously but that would require buying the game and subbing, and with the recently announced H1Z1 Early Access, I don’t think I’ll be getting involved. As I mentioned in that H1Z1 post, I’ve been hyped about that game all year and I don’t see myself playing anything else (MMO-wise) once I get my hands on that. I probably won’t jump in on day one, but provided early reports aren’t entirely negative I think I’ll be in it sooner than later. If it is terrible to start off, or otherwise not worth it during EA, then perhaps I’ll dive further into FFXIV.

So aside from that Thurmaturge class I highlighted last week, I also made a Marauder and an Archer, both so that I could see all three starting cities. Of the 3, I preferred the Archer’s starting city, but I spent the most time with the Marauder, leveling to around 12 or so. I didn’t like the Archer at all, so I deleted that character and just played the marauder through a zone and a half of quests and content. I completed Fates (live events), duties (instanced story quests) and regular quests throughout. I’m still amazed by how beautiful the game is, and how it melds the best of computer and console RPGs into one package. Here’s some shots of my Marauder and one of the Archer who now rests in peace:

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We spent the last podcast talking about some of our favorite games of the year, and one that me and Eri both agreed on was Diablo III: Reaper of Souls. The discussion of the game made me realize I hadn’t played the game in a couple of months (or more). The more I thought about it the more I wanted to play, so before I knew it I was in the game and grinding away. I played my Wizard for a while and decided to experiment with different builds, finally settling on one that used a mix of abilities I had never used before, along with ones that I used all the time. I’m satisfied enough for now. I played through a few bounties and Nephalim Rifts and managed to get a few new legendaries, along with boosting my Paragon level to 17. I also was craving some different gameplay, so I decided it was time to play something else, and perhaps level another class to 70. I already had a Crusader who was level 25 and a Monk at level 19, and both were hardcore characters. I was torn between wanting to level one of them or start a fresh class on the normal ruleset. I like not having to worry about dying, but at the same time I like the challenge that hardcore presents; the game is more satisfying when you know death actually means something. As such I decided to roll with the hardcore Monk, and leveled him from 19-28 in a couple of sessions. I really like the Monk, more than I thought I would, and I think I’m going to try and level him to 70, while breaking things up with my Wizard. The only unfortunate part is that the Paragon levels and other goodies that I’ve leveled up in normal mode doesn’t carry over to Hardcore, which means buying all the stash tabs, leveling the crafters and getting to 70 before I get the benefit of the extra passives. That’s a bummer, but also a motivator. Anyway, here’s what the two look like currently:

Screenshot019 Screenshot020

Otherwise it’s been League of Legends in a major way. I am still playing multiple games per day, and still having a lot of fun with it. Also, this weekend saw the expansion tournament for the North American LCS, because this year they are adding two more teams to the pro scene, so instead of 8 teams duking it out during the Spring Split, there will be 10. I assume that will go for the Summer Split as well. Either way, Team Coast and Curse Academy won their way in, and the games were quite exciting. I think most if not all of the players from both of those teams have been in the LCS before (albeit on different teams) so they aren’t exactly new players or new teams, but some of the teams/players that were in this weekend’s tourney were. Too bad they were all eliminated. Anyway, it wasn’t Worlds but it was still fun to watch.

In other League news, patch 4.21 came down the pipeline, nerfing Warwick (who needed it), adding the Negatron Cloak back in (we missed it!) and making a slew of other tweaks and changes. Rek’Sai also released, and I’ve seen her in action and she is a tanky, elusive, DPS powerhouse. One of the more annoying junglers in recent memory. Here’s her champion spotlight in case you missed it:

Lastly, Snowdown is on it’s way to the Rift, meaning there will be skin sales, new skins added, and probably a new featured game mode (or a rehash of an old one). This also means we’ll be earning new summoner icons and things like that. I’ll have more about that as the new stuff is announced, which should be this week.

On the TV front, I’ve watched the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead, the series finale of Sons of Anarchy, and we’re nearing the end of this season of American Horror Story. TWD had a shocking end, but I won’t give anything away with spoilers. SOA’s ending was shitty, but you pretty much knew it was coming to an end in the way that it did. I’m sad to see the show go, but the last couple of seasons were reaching a bit, and it’s better to end on a semi-high note rather than drag it out past its natural conclusion. AHS has been alright, but this season and last weren’t nearly as good as the first two seasons. I’ll keep watching but I’m not sure how long they’ll be able to keep this going without some better writing. Then again the last season started to pick up at the end so we’ll see how it goes. That’s really all I’m watching on TV, most of the shows I enjoy are either over for the season or over for good. On the horizon is the end of Mad Men, which is another show I’m sad to see go. Around that time we’ll get the end of this season of TWD as well. From there I really don’t know, as quite a few of the shows I’ve watched in recent years won’t be coming back, so we’ll see what new stuff comes out. I do see people talking about all kinds of other shows out there, but my general rule of thumb is that if it’s on the big networks (CBS, ABC, NBC — basically channels 2-13), it’s not going to be any good. They keep rehashing comic book stuff and other things that just don’t appeal to me. I’m curious to see what AMC is going to do to replace some of the stellar shows that have ended… Better Call Saul is most likely not going to be better than or even as good as Breaking Bad was, despite the tie-in. Replacing Mad Men is also going to be tough, and FX will have a tough time replacing SOA, though The Strain was a good addition. I guess time will tell. That’s about all for this week.

#stateofthegame #roundup #gaming #television

The State of the Game #10

I decided that rather than trying to come up with titles for the individual posts for this column it made more sense to simply number them. This is the tenth post of my weekly column, and I will probably keep this format for simplicity’s sake. The other part of my reasoning behind this was the fact that I didn’t play many titles this week, and there wasn’t any sort of theme. The Christmas holiday just passed, and it’s New Year’s Eve today, so gaming time was a bit limited. The playlist this week was League of Legends, Borderlands 2 and the Minecraft PS3 edition demo.

League of Legends:
I played League more than anything. I am really enjoying the Snowdown Showdown, and I did end up picking up one of the Snowdown skins. I was unimpressed with the new Sivir, Singed and Lulu skins because I really don’t play any of those champions. However, we were presented with the ability to buy any of the retired Snowdown skins, and of the ones on offer, Ziggs is my favorite champion. I have been playing him a lot in Showdown, and have wanted to pick up one of his skins for a long time. Here’s the splash art for Snowday Ziggs:

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He’s so awesome 🙂 Because of “wearing a snowdown skin” I earned another of the event’s summoner icons. I have now earned a total of eight icons from various events. I would have to send a mystery gift to a friend and play in a premade to earn the final three, but I’m not in the gifting mood anymore, and I haven’t been playing other modes outside of Howling Abyss. Apparently the premade doesn’t count with Snowdown matches, as I did play with my Brother-in-law quite a bit the other night. Still, I think it’s a nice little feature for those of us who like earning new stuff, even if it is just fluff. Playing the game is still where the real fun is at, and for a free to play game it has held my attention for far longer than I would have expected. Here’s a shot of my icon collection:

snowdownicons

Borderlands 2:
I mentioned it at some point or another that I had decided it was time to play some multiplayer in Borderlands. I finally followed through with that, in an attempt to level up my Gunzerker without having to grind through the same missions by myself. I still ended up having to play through some of the same content, but the added difficulty that comes from playing with other people makes it a little more “fresh.” Basically, adding another player to the game ups the difficulty, and when you get four players in the same game, enemies become ridiculously tough. So much that when I matched up with some players that were only a level or so above me, I was getting dropped left and right, but so were they. We never fully wiped but there were times when 1 or 2 of us would have to respawn because a revive wasn’t going to happen. This ended up being a lot more fun, but the looting system kind of sucks, in that everyone fights to grab the better colored stuff. I wasn’t too concerned though, as I never intended to play my zerker again after completing the trophy. Leveling from 15 or so to 21 occurred over the span of a couple of nights. I then retired to my own little world to try and earn the trophy. I found a few places where enough enemies spawn of lower level that I felt I’d be able to Gunzerk for 90 seconds, but as of right now I haven’t completed the task. That’s on the to-do list and after it’s been completed I will go back to my Siren, and attempt to clear the DLC content I have yet to touch, and in the process try to get her to level 50. I also have to finish up some of her challenges, and beat the final boss of the game (the raid boss from after finishing the storyline). At that point, I’d have a platinum trophy for the game. I’m unsure if I will buy the newer headhunter packs, the psycho, or the digistruct peak dlc. There aren’t additional trophies, and I may be burnt out on the game by then. We will see.

Minecraft:
The Playstation 3 edition of Minecraft released last week, and having played Terraria and seeing their obvious similarities along with hearing that my Sister has become addicted to the game, prompted me to download the demo and see what the fuss was about. The demo is fairly limited in that you only really get to play the tutorial. Aside from the graphical differences of 2-D and 3-D games, Minecraft and Terraria start off pretty much the same. I didn’t see day turn to night, nor did I fight anything. I just learned how to harvest and craft, and it felt like more of the same. The major thing that irks me is that I can see the appeal of “retro” graphics, but I have a strong dislike for crappy 3-D graphics. When I started playing video games there wasn’t 3-D. I can see the appeal of 2-D graphics because I grew up with them. I also grew up with 3-D graphics, but it took quite a few years for it to advance far enough for things to look decent. Minecraft’s graphic style reminds me of games on the Sega Genesis that attempted to be 3-D or early 32-bit games like Virtua Fighter and Daytona USA that had “3-D graphics” that looked like utter dogshit even at the time. So Minecraft’s “charm” isn’t so charming after all, and deters me from really wanting to play it. Pixellation in 2-D is still charming to me though. I guess I’m picky. Either way, I’m not dropping $15 for Minecraft, though I might pick it up if I can get it for $5 or less. I’m sure it will be on sale soon enough.

Looking ahead I am planning on playing these games more (minus MC), and possibly delving into some of the other more recently purchased games. There is only a PSVita game on offer this week from plus, as it is the last Tuesday of December. The plus offerings next month will definitely keep me busy when they finally come out, and I am supposed to be borrowing Bioshock from a friend so I can get started playing through that series in preparation for Infinite’s Plus release. However I did just get my car back up and running, so buying anything game related is going to be on hold for a while, as I have real-life expenses to take care of. The next month should be great for gaming nonetheless.

Snowdown is finally here!

It took longer than I expected, though in past years I never really paid attention to the holiday events in League of Legends. I have been playing the game since 2011, but this past year (during Season 3) I played the most, and was the most active in paying attention to the new stuff on offer. I used to just read the patch notes. Now I have things to say. These are the way things are here, I go in waves with everything.

Snowdown is League’s winter event, and during the next couple of weeks, we have new winter-themed skins on offer (Lulu, Sivir, Singed) and the legacy vault is opened on all of the past Snowdown skins. As with all holiday events, there are opportunities to earn new Summoner’s icons, purchase skins, and the new trend brings along a new featured game mode: Showdown. But as will all events, most of what you can “earn” is through making purchases. For example, you can only buy skins for real world money, and some of the new icons are unlocked only after buying some of the themed content (skins, ward skins). This is fine, if you have the money. The limited availability makes it more tempting, because you know you’ll be part of the smaller group of people who ponied up for new stuff. However, that isn’t always enough of a draw. I like skins as much as the next guy. I like to earn new stuff that sets me apart from everyone else, it’s the American way. During the Harrowing I did make a purchase or two and did earn some of the new stuff. This time around, I think I’ll only be getting a couple of the icons, ones that are earned by playing. The first requires 3 wins in the new game mode (I already have two) and the other requires playing in a pre-made, which should be easy enough. Everything else requires a money expenditure, and I’m just not gonna do it this time. Maybe during the Lunar Revel things will be easier.

The trouble with all of these holiday events and sales is that we are supposed to be buying things for other people, and it’s so tempting to just buy for ourselves. I can admit to doing it more often than I should, but I did manage to get everyone something for Christmas this year, so I would technically be in the clear (I did actually bite the bullet on GOG again, but more on that later). However, having spent money on everyone else means I can’t afford this shit right now, as much as I would like to. So I’m going bah humbug right now. Maybe they should make these sales last until the end of January, to give our wallets time to recover?

Ok /rant off. Moving on, the new featured game mode “Showdown” also went live with the event, and I’m not sure on the time frame that we’ll have it available, but it is pretty awesome. Different than I expected, but still fun and a great change of pace. I know that most people play Summoner’s Rift almost exclusively, and that’s where the Ranked games happen, where the pros play as well. But dammit, I need variety, and that’s what’s being added here. Dominion was so-so. ARAM was a big win in my book. The last featured game mode (one for all) sucked, and so far Showdown is a win.

As I mentioned, it takes place on the Howling Abyss map, which is usually reserved for ARAM. That’s where the similarities stop though. I was expecting the game to play just the same, but instead of teams of 5, it would be 1v1 or 2v2. This isn’t the case. Also, instead of stating off at level 3, your champ starts at level 1. You don’t get the bonus starting gold. You do start with a free scrying orb trinket, so it’s nice to see them integrate that outside of Summoner’s Rift. You can also recall to base to heal and buy stuff, which is necessary if the game starts to lag. The win conditions are the strangest yet, and the hardest part to wrap your head around.

When playing by yourself against another player, you start off in a blind draft. You both get your 3 bans, and then make your champion selection. After in the game and heading down the lane, you will meet your enemy in the middle, and creep waves will funnel out as usual. Play will seem pretty standard, but you need to be mindful of last hitting, and be aware of giving up first blood. But you can’t be too passive and let your tower take too much damage either. Sounds pretty much the same right? Well those are the actual win conditions. Give up first blood, you lose. Let your enemy get 100 creep kills before you, you lose. Let them destroy your tower first, you lose. It’s a simple premise, but it’s effective. The games can be incredibly short.

Speaking of which, my first foray saw me playing one on one, and getting my ass handed to me before the 3 minute mark. All it takes is giving up that first blood. After getting a grip on the concept, I played 2v2 for a couple rounds and saw a couple of wins. Twitch/Blitz is a very effective combo, and Ziggs is still my most dominate champion on the map, regardless of mode. His harass is epic. I need to start playing him in Ranked. But I digress.

I vote that this mode makes it to the live game, with a dedicated queue. It beats the pants off of the last one.

One for All

A while back it was announced that there would be some new game modes coming to League of Legends. These were going to be on a limited time basis, and based on community feedback, some might make it to the live game as permanent queues. I completely forgot about this in light of being focused on Ranked and then not playing quite so much league after the season ended. A few days ago, the first of these promotional game modes went live, this one being called “One for All.” The premise is simple, each team is made up of five of the same champion. This sounds like a cool idea, until you really think about it. How many champions can you list that can effectively play all roles? There aren’t many I’d put on that list. Even with those few champs that can do it all, there are many champions that will counter  you no matter what you do. It’s just completely unbalanced, and I really can’t get into it.

It seems to me that it would only be a viable option if you had a pre-made that all could agree on a single champion that they are all effective with, in their particular role. One champion I can think of that can shine in any role is Elise. I prefer her in the jungle, but I have played her mid, top, and support. Never as an ADC, but I’m sure it could be done well enough. But what are the chances that four of your friends can also play her well enough, in any given role? It just seems ineffective. Sure, it’s mindless fun, but I am too competitive for that. I want to win. Or at least have a decent shot at winning. 5 Nidalees vs. 5 Tryndameres just isn’t my cup o’ tea. I down vote this game mode, and I hope the next one is more fun.

Speaking of which, it has already been announced. The next featured game mode is coming during Snowdown, the annual Xmas Holiday event. Taking place on the Howling Abyss this time, the new mode will be 1v1 and 2v2. I think this is a mode I can get behind, because I always like to 1v1 and my friends never want to do that. 2v2 also sounds intriguing, as there are some nice duos in my champion pool. Snowdown is also coming with new skins, ward skins, summoner’s icons and once again the legacy skins for the holiday are coming back for the limited time. The list of skins included:

  • Snow Bunny Nidalee
  • Workshop Nunu
  • Happy Elf Teemo
  • Earnest Elf Tristana
  • Old Saint Zilean
  • Re-Gifted Amumu
  • Santa Gragas
  • Reindeer Kog’Maw
  • Candy Cane Miss Fortune
  • Ragdoll Poppy
  • Nutcracko
  • Silent Night Sona
  • Festive Maokai
  • Bad Santa Veigar
  • Mistletoe LeBlanc
  • Snow Day Ziggs
  • Dark Candy Fiddlesticks
  • Toy Soldier Gangplank
  • Snowmerdinger
  • Slay Belle Katarina
  • Snow Day Singed*
  • Snowstorm Sivir*
  • Winter Wonder Lulu*

Lastly, the next new champion has been revealed, his name being Yasuo. From what I have read, he is a fighter that is supposed to go mid lane. He seems weird, and I’m not impressed with his kit. I’m waiting on seeing some video and trying him out before I give an actual impression. Check him out here.

*These are the new skins debuting this year. Those without an * are from previous years.