State of the Game: Playstation Plus Goodies

For a while I wrote about Playstation Plus and its free offerings every month, but eventually tired of the formula because simply put: Some months are better than others. When months would inevitably roll around that contained games I already owned or titles I just wasn’t interested in, it felt silly to just write about how much all the games sucked (or were great but I had already played ’em). This column has become my catch all for miscellaneous games I’ve been playing and it just so happens that this month’s games from the service are rather good. So without further ado, let’s talk about some games!

Coincidentally I’ve had my eye on this title for a while, and almost bought it a time or two. It’s not a new game by any means, but it piqued my interest with its Hot Wheels style tracks and it’s kid-friendly design. I figured it would be a game I might be able to get some time in with the boy, and I was pleasantly surprised by its performance. It’s a blistering fast romp through bite sized tracks, each that becomes increasingly more ridiculous (and difficult). To this point I’ve managed to clear the first 20 or so tracks and there have been some tricky ones in there.

Trophies range from catching big air to going really fast and clearing chunks of tracks. Watch out for the invisible walls when you go airborne though, you can have some spectacular crashes if you don’t heed this warning! It seems that the campaign is pretty long, and that’s all I’ve played so far, but it appears that there are plenty of other modes and options to explore. Not sure what the asking price is, but if you have the service I’d definitely check it out.

This title has been around for a long while as well. Somewhat based on the Mad Max Fury Road movie that came out around the same time, it’s got what you would expect from a movie based on a famous IP. You play the title character, you drive a post-apocalyptically appropriate vehicle, and the world is a wasteland — all of which lines up with the lore of the IP and with what you expect. Where this game goes a bit more above and beyond is in the execution. It seems to be almost RPG-esque and also has the feel of most open world games that have come out in the last decade. I guess that’s more of the same, but at the same time it’s an interesting IP so I’m cool with that.

I’ve only played this one for about an hour, but long enough to get a vehicle (which you get to choose from a few) and complete a few missions. So far it’s been fairly entertaining, and I’m glad to have this copy on my PS4. I owned this on PC from Humble Monthly way back when but hadn’t played it, and it feels at home on the console. Probably worth it if you enjoy open-world games, or the IP itself. It is pretty much more of the same but still isn’t bad.

This one came out of left field, it was a title I hadn’t heard of before. It’s a Brazilian game and as such has some Spanish language/cultural influence, but it’s presented in English and is clearly inspired by games like River City Ransom. I rather enjoyed that title from way back when and newer iterations that have released since, so I figured I would enjoy this title just the same and I have so far. There are several characters to choose from, but as I noted here on Twitter, I clearly had to pick this one:

As I said, it looks like River City Ransom, and it plays just the same. You’ll punch and kick your way through various bad guys, grab power ups and there are some light RPG elements. It’s not a new formula but it works and this is a serviceable title. I’d check it out if you’re a fan of this style of game.

Lastly, we have In Space We Brawl. It’s a clever title but it really just amounts to Asteroids on crack. It’s the same sort of twin-stick shooter, but instead of clearing asteroids until you eventually can’t survive any longer you’ll fight against up to three other people while still trying to avoid space debris.

You’ve got various ships and weapons loadouts to choose from and a variety of levels to compete on, but that’s really all there is to it. It’s a fun little time waster, but nothing too deep or serious here. This is the last title I’ve got to talk about this time, but overall it was a pretty decent month for Playstation Plus, and it’s been a while!

State of the Game: Couch Co-Op Time

Sometime in recent weeks there have been various sales (the store updates every Tuesday with different discounts) on the Playstation Network, and I was able to get a handful of games super cheap. None of them were games I had seen before, as it’s fairly difficult to keep up with every single game release, but also because I hadn’t really been buying too many games in the last few months. My little family has all been playing games together lately so I purposely looked for games that could be played at minimum by two players, but most of these support 4 or more players in couch co-op/competitive modes. As such, none of these games really warrant a full individual posting, so I thought I’d do a little gaming roundup as we managed to play all of these in the last few days. All of these titles were played on my Playstation 4, but I assume that most are available on Steam as well, save for the last one that is an exclusive.

This game caught my eye due to its cartoony graphics and silly nature, I figured my step-son would enjoy it. I was correct in that assessment, as he seemed to have a lot of fun killing little skeletons and gathering loot. It plays like a Gauntlet style dungeon crawl, with traps, powerups and bad guys to kill. The controls are simple enough, as are the mechanics. You pick one of four bros, and none are very unique when the game starts. You have color selection, a couple of weapons to choose from (that don’t really change up gameplay) and that’s really it. As you play through the game though, there are ways to unlock more weapons and characters and appearance gear, so you’ll be able to feel a bit more unique fairly quickly.

Gameplay consists of controlling your bros through dungeons killing bad guys, avoiding traps and collecting loot. For the most part it’s pretty straightforward and there isn’t anything super deep here, but it’s good for kids looking for a simple dungeon adventure, and being able to play with up to four players means it can get pretty hectic pretty fast, particularly because you all share the same screen! I’d recommend it if you’re trying to play with little ones.

Recently he has been playing Mario Kart on his DS, and he’s really into it. I know that Mario Kart is a game that’s restricted to Nintendo platforms, but there have been other IPs that have attempted similar types of titles. Notables are games like Crash Team Racing or Little Big Planet Karting. This is another of those types of games, though it’s not from anyone with a recognizable IP. Some generic characters drive some generic cars, and you’ll race while being able to disrupt each other with various power-ups. Sounds familiar right? And it should, because it is.

There’s nothing special here that sets it apart from other kart racers, but it’s more of the same and that can sometimes be a good thing. You’ll be able to jump right in (we were) and understand the controls and what the power-ups do. The AI isn’t too terrible either, so you’ll have to play well to win, and that’s not something that can always be said about these sorts of knock off games. Overall it’s not going to blow your mind, but it’s still appealing to kids and can be a spot of fun.

This title came out of left field and I happened to look at it because what the hell is going on here? I had no idea what to expect with this one, but I went into it at least knowing that I could expect a frantic top-down shooter. It’s more than that, but that is the main core of its gameplay.

You will play as Tesla (yes, that Tesla) against the author Lovecraft who leads his Cthulhu armies. You don’t actually see Lovecraft though, and it seems that Tesla’s experiments are actually responsible for opening these rifts. You’ll have to suspend your disbelief a bit to really enjoy the story, but the gameplay is top notch. Each level is limited, in that there are borders to it, along with obstacles you’ll have to be mindful of. Enemies will spawn, as will power-ups and you’ll fight until they are all eliminated. As you make kills, you’ll gain levels and each level comes with perks that improve your speed, HP, bullets, etc. Different weapons will also drop, and eventually you’ll get some pretty cool gadgets that will slow down time, allow you to teleport, or allow you to summon a limited time mech that really fucks shit up. The levels increase in difficulty as you go, but it becomes a frantic kill fest for a few minutes and it is glorious. Highly recommended for all ages.

The last title I want to touch on was another game I got during one of these sales. Alienation is from the creators of Dead Nation, which was actually one of the very first games I ever downloaded from the Playstation store on my PS3. They also created Super Stardust and I want to say Resogun as well, but regardless, I’ve played most of the games from this developer and they are all pretty damn good if not being a bit low budget. This game is basically like the sequel to Dead Nation, but instead of focusing on Zombies, it’s an Alien invasion. The game plays pretty much the same otherwise, and despite having better graphics than its predecessor, it’s still pretty simple isometric graphics. Nothing wrong with this, and it works, but it is what it is.

This one is different from games like the Tesla one above, because it has an actual campaign, more of a storyline and will eventually end (until you start up New Game +). If you played Dead Nation you’ll be familiar with the formula, and if you haven’t played it, well I’m sure it’s pretty cheap to pick up (and it was ported to PS4). I think it was free via PS Plus at some point as well, but I’m not entirely sure. Overall though this one is a little more mature but I still think it would be fine for older kids.

All of these titles were recently on sale and will likely be again. Cheap options to play with friends or loved ones in the same room are always good because we have so much online multiplayer out there that won’t allow split screen options. Nothing better than being able to give a high five to the person next to you after finishing something particularly challenging! That’s all for this post, but as always, happy gaming!

State of the Game: New Classics

Last week I had a couple of days of strenuous labor in a row, and over the course of the weekend my back was feeling pretty sore. I’ve thrown it out a couple of times over the past few years, and I think I aggravated something one of those days. Over the weekend I took it easy but when I woke up on Monday morning it was a smidge worse, enough that I went into work but then immediately found someone to come in to cover me and went home. I stayed home Tuesday as well but was back to work by Wednesday. Nevertheless I ended up having a bunch of spare time to play some games that were mostly free that I hadn’t played yet. From last month’s Playstation Plus games, I tried out Grand Kingdom. From this month’s Humbly Monthly package, I played Lost Castle. I also touched on a few of the new games from Playstation Plus this month, Mighty No. 9, Bombing Busters, and finally played a game I picked up at some point on sale, called Battle Chasers: Night War. Lastly, I played through an indie title called Uncanny Valley that also came via Plus but I don’t recall when. This is on top of recently completing Shadow Warrior 2, and playing more of Crash Bandicoot and Shadow of the Colossus. It’s been a busy quarter for me, having completed several games and spending a bit of time in others. The theme for today is that these games all stem from a classic formula but put their own spin on their respective genres. Let’s take a closer look at these titles:

Grand Kingdom:

Grand Kingdom struck me as being a game I would enjoy, but it ended up being different than I expected. The only other title I can remotely compare it to is Has Been Heroes, which I wrote about back in January. The titles really aren’t that similar, but the combat systems are. In both, you’ll have different lanes in which you can move about to attack your enemies, but can only attack those in the same lane as your character. There is an element of timing as well, because you actually mash buttons when attacking, or must time button press correctly as the cursor moves during ranged attacks and magic spells. That’s where the similarities end, but it’s such a different way of doing things compared to most RPGs/JRPGs. There’s a storyline here but it’s not really all that important. You’ll spend most of your time on these mission maps, where you move a chess piece around a map and occasionally run into monsters and the game will swap over to the combat screen. Here you’ll move your forces around and fight the enemy. That’s really all there is to it, yet it still was a spot of fun. It was free last month via Plus so if you’re a member you’ve probably already added it to your account. I don’t think I’d pay money for it, but it’s decent nonetheless.

Lost Castle:

I mentioned having resubscribed to Humble Monthly for the month of March only because they were offering Dark Souls III as part of the $12 bundle. I still haven’t played that game yet (have yet to beat the first two games) but seeing the rest of the bundle reaffirmed my decision to stop paying for the service. It’s always one or two good games and a bunch of chaff, and this month was no exception. I’m happy to get a cheap copy of a game I wanted, but the rest of the package is never worth it. Lost Castle was literally the only other game I downloaded, but it’s pretty fun so it’s not a total loss.

A 2-D side-scrolling brawler, Lost Castle has rogue-like elements in that you will die, but you’ll get points to put into a tree of skills that will help you on further runs. You basically run around and kills shit until that happens. There isn’t much of a storyline, but it’s a fun little time waster and I enjoy these sorts of games so I’ll put some time into it here and there. Not sure what the MSRP is for this game but I’d pay a couple bucks for it.

Mighty No. 9:

Part of this month’s Playstation Plus offering, Mighty No. 9 is the Mega Man clone you didn’t know you wanted. It has had a troubled history being a successful Kickstarter that didn’t exactly keep its promises, but it’s been out for a while and it was something I wanted to try but didn’t want to buy. I’m thankful for that, as I would not have paid money for this one but it’s entertaining anyway.

The graphics are 3D models on a 2D plane, which is something we’ve seen before. It feels slow and kind of clunky, but then it still seems to work. I don’t know how to describe it, but basically I was unimpressed but it was still fun to play. Still has a bit of challenge like the old Mega Man titles too. It’s just sort of meh though. Thankfully it was free.

Bombing Busters:

Another free Plus game this month, Bombing Busters is basically Bomberman. The level design is the same, the bomb mechanics are the same. It’s more cutesy than its inspiration, but also less inspired. Fun to waste a few minutes with, not really worth the time.

Battle Chasers: Night War:

This game I actually paid for, and I’m glad I did. Hearkening back to old school console RPGs, Battle Chasers is actually based on a comic book from the 90’s. It plays like a combination between Final Fantasy titles and the likes of Secret of Mana, etc. You’ll move around on a world map, where you’ll come across encounters, and then warp to a fight screen, which is turn based and uses a series of menus to control (this is like 99% of RPGs of this style). In some areas, you’ll enter into a dungeon and will control your character from an isometric viewpoint. You have a party of 3, and each has a “dungeon skill” that can help you navigate around so you can swap between characters on the fly while in the dungeon. You’ll still run into creatures and swap to the combat screen. Otherwise when you are in town and talking with NPCs, a beautifully rendered comic book style conversation will take place, most of which is voice acted.

Of all the titles on this list, this one is certainly my favorite. It speaks to my generation of gamers who grew up with classic RPGs on the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, but it has the depth and graphics of newer generations. I fully recommend this one to RPG junkies, and it’s not too expensive either (I paid $17).

Uncanny Valley:

Finally, a trip into the strange world that is Uncanny Valley. This is one of those 2D pixellated horror games, a genre which has basically always been around but with which I have little experience. I can’t say that I have completed the game, because looking at the trophy list it appears that there are a bunch of different events that I did not witness. However, I lived through several days in the life of this main character, saw an ending and saw end credits. The storyline is loosely put together but it appears that this large building in the middle of a forest has been closed down (or hasn’t open yet) and you are hired as a security officer to watch over it. You run the night shift, and relieve a rather large man. The apartment you are provided as an employee is through the woods nearby. That’s really all they give you to go on. From there you’ll explore the building, meet a nice girl named Eve, have all sorts of weird dreams and hallucinations, and do your job.

In the end, I made Eve fall in love with me somehow, but then she murdered me at the end, severing all of my limbs from my body — roll credits. It was an abrupt ending and I still hadn’t really figured out what was going on at that point. I kept finding tapes and listening to what sounded like a therapist talking with a mental ward patient. Strange machinery was present throughout the building. But nothing was ever made very clear and the bouncing back and forth between reality and fever dreams was a bit confusing. Honestly I think this would have made a better 3D or first person horror title, but it’s still serviceable in its current form. I’d give it a whirl if you’re into that sort of thing.

That’s it for this round up. I have posts in the works for another RPG that I started that hearkens back to the good ol’ days, and the 2nd season of TellTale’s Batman game. Be back soon!

State of the Game: Backlog Goals

Despite having a pretty regular posting schedule these days, I still don’t touch on all of the things that I’m doing in my day-to-day life. I play other games besides the ones I write about, have thoughts about various titles or my progress on projects, and still mess around with my Magic cards. I also do that thing called “living” so there’s much more going on than might be alluded to here on the blog. It’s been a while since I did a round up post so I thought I’d take the time to do so today. Besides working on Everquest II and making my way through the backlog, I’ve got some specific updates and then some thoughts to round things up. Let’s get started.

I’ve made steady progress with Clash Royale, the only mobile game I play with any regularity. The last time I wrote about it, Supercell had just added another arena. The Electro Valley arena became Arena 11, pushing Hog Mountain down to Arena 10, and making the Legendary Arena #12. At that time, I was placed in Arena 11 due to my trophy count, so that was a nice little boost. I have since pushed my way into the Legendary Arena and also upped my King level to 12. Hitting 13 is a long ways off, mainly because it’s going to take 80k points to get there and I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 20k at the time of this writing. My highest trophy count is 3914, which happened recently. I pushed into Legendary status a while back but then fell back down into Arena 11, and pushed my way back up to 12 where I have stayed for the last month or so. Getting to Challenger status isn’t too far off.

 

My two main decks are above. I used to only focus on one deck, but I have found that having a couple to choose from is nice to break up the monotony. I tend to use my Hog/Loon deck the most, especially when trying to work my way up the ladder, while I use the Golem deck primarily in 2v2 matches, but I have a feeling that it might be more consistent as I get up into the Challenger scene.

 

I finally got my hands on a Mega Knight (actually upgraded him to level 2 already as well) since my last post, which was the last card I needed to “catch em all” at that point. Since then the Royal Ghost released and I recently got one of them out of a chest. The most recent card is the Magic Archer, which we just got to check out in one of the Challenges, but he hasn’t released just yet. He’ll be the only card I need once he comes out. Overall the game is still a blast to play and I do so daily.

I’m still plugging away at The Order 1886, which has been a pretty fun title, but a bit more challenging than those I played through recently. There are some stealth bits that require you to not be detected, and if you are it’s instant-death which is rather frustrating. Regardless, I have worked my way through the 6th chapter and progress is steady. I want to complete this one before really starting on something new, as I have been trying to keep focused on clearing out my backlog. I have some ideas for where I’ll start next, but I’ll get back to that in a bit.

Over the weekend my girlfriend and I did some errands and while we were out I spotted a couple of older MTG starter decks that I picked up on a whim. At $15 a pop they tend to have alternate art or Planeswalkers at the helm, a preconstructed 60 card deck along with a couple of booster packs for whatever particular set they are from. I picked up the Nicol Bolas Planeswalker deck from Hour of Devastation, along with a starter deck from Eldritch Moon (a few sets back, before they started doing Planeswalker decks for each set). I really only picked them up because I wanted the Nicol-Bolas Planeswalker and the alternate art Noosegraf Mob that came with the starter kit.

The face cards are on the right there, Noosegraf mob is a card I needed for the Alesha deck I’m building, and Nicol Bolas for another EDH build I’m working on. I ended up pulling some nice additions out of the booster packs – Unesh will slot into my Sphinx deck and Tamiyo is another Planeswalker that will go into the deck with Bolas. Nice pulls!

I also resubscribed to the Humble Monthly service again for March, as Dark Souls 3 + DLC was the featured game. Steam is having a Lunar New Year sale at present, and this game was on sale for $15, but via Humble I was able to get it plus DLC for only $12. This is great for the wallet, but unfortunately I still haven’t completed the first two games in the series, so this is just more fodder for the backlog!

Speaking of which, I am having trouble deciding what to start next after I complete The Order. I have Alien: Isolation which I started just to check out and only played for about an hour, I also have Shadow Warrior 2 which I spent a few hours on but didn’t complete. There’s Monster Hunter World which I would like to dive into, along with the aforementioned Dark Souls trilogy. The latter few would be a significant time investment, but still worth doing. I also have plenty of other titles that are collecting dust, so it’s going to be a tough choice! I’ll write about The Order again once I’ve completed it, and perhaps by then I will have decided what to do next.

That’s all for this wrap up. Until next time, happy gaming!

State of the Game: Warframe and More

I’ve been managing to get some decent playtime in over the past week or so, and though I’ve already touched on some of the games I’m about to talk about already in individual posts, there has been some progress made and that’s exciting to me, because I’ve had a bit of gaming malaise recently. Hello run-on sentence! So not only have I been progressing through Bioshock Remastered and playing some of my MOBAs and whatnot, I also picked up a game that was on sale for $1.50 and is actually pretty decent. Finally, or firstly perhaps, I’ve been playing a game I hadn’t touched in at least a year:

Warframe has been around for a long time, and I’ve toyed with it more than once. A couple of years ago during one of the NBI’s, I earned a prize which ended up earning me some platinum for this game. At that point I downloaded the game on PC and went to town. I played for a bit, actually enjoyed it but was probably more enamored with something else at the time and it ended up sitting unplayed as many games do. A few years later, Destiny was out and I had just picked up a PS4 and a copy of the game. I had some friends that wanted to group up and run through the game together, but a squabble between myself and one of the guys ended up where we never played together again. That’s why Destiny sat unplayed for a very long time until I finally finished it off earlier this year. Destiny doesn’t really have anything to do with Warframe per se, but at the same time the parallels between the game are there. This was noted by Isey recently, and some discussion about the game started up when he was disappointed (but still finished) Destiny 2 and discovered that Warframe was a similar game he could sink his teeth into. Having read and agreed with his judgement on things several times in the past, I figured that I should avoid picking up Destiny 2 and instead put my efforts into playing Warframe again. For one, it’s free to jump in and play so I don’t have to drop $60 to be potentially disappointed, and it also happens to be something I had already played in the past. I’ve also been craving shooter experiences, and enjoy the RPG mechanics tacked on. Jeromai has also fully endorsed Warframe in a recent post, and it just seemed like it was time for me to dive back in.

I had a second stint in Warframe after my Destiny group fell apart, where I convinced my friend’s brother to download the game on his PS4 to play with me in lieu of Destiny. We played a few hours together before he lost interest and again the game sat unplayed. Still, I had started with the Volt Warframe and leveled it to around 13, while having similarly leveled guns and a starter sword. I really had no clue where I had left off and didn’t really remember what I was supposed to be doing, not to mention there had been several updates that probably changed a bunch as it was, but I started re-familiarizing myself nonetheless. It turns out that there was a promotion that if you have Twitch Prime, you get free access to the Frost Prime Warframe, Soma Prime gun, and Scindo Prime axe. It also turns out that as an Amazon Prime member, Twitch premium membership is included, so all I had to do was link my accounts and bam:

The Frost Warframe which is like the “standard” edition would have been pretty much on par with the Volt frame I had been running. The “Prime” variants are souped up versions that have better base stats and stronger abilities along with the ability to slot extra mods into them. The new weapons were big upgrades too, but after using the axe for a few missions I didn’t really care for how slow it was. I’m thinking I eventually want to grab some nunchucks or dual wield some blades but for now I’ve gone back to the base sword until I find more blueprints and materials. Somewhere along the lines a new mastery ranking system was added and I went through the first couple, each of which seems to unlock various bits and bobs for your account. The tests see you having to fight AI in a sort of holodeck area using various parts of your loadout. Once the waves are cleared you earn you mastery rank:

I was going back and forth between wanting to pick up my progress on the PS4 or going back to the PC. It’s too bad I can’t link my account and play on either platform and share progress. I suppose I could be really crazy and play on both accounts, but I don’t have that kind of time. My hesitation to pick things back up on PS4 was because the most recent update adds some open world bits to the game and though I’m probably not at the level to participate, I wanted to see it as soon as possible. But I read somewhere that the PS4 update was coming soon, and I saw this the other day:

So probably before the end of the month the expansion will hit the console, so I’m just going to stick here. I’m used to the control scheme and I’ve already put more time into it than the PC version. As of now my Frost Prime is nearing rank 9, so I’ve almost caught up to the Volt. I’ve cleared most of Mercury and it seems that though I remember clearing other planets that they are all still locked up, so I’ll be clearing for a while. Hoping to get the materials together to experiment with other frames and make some new weapons in the process. I’ll report back more on this as I progress!

The game I picked up for $1.50 is called Anomaly 2. It’s the sequel to Anomaly: Warzone Earth (which I believe also had a couple of expansions). I played the original back in the PS3 days and just happened upon it and well, it was a steal and I have a problem. The game is a sort of tower defense and RTS hybrid but what makes it unique is that it’s really “tower offense.” You play a commander with various abilities and run around the screen in real time. Your units will follow a designated trail and towers controlled by the AI try to stop you. Your commander heals and buffs the units, keeping them alive to push through to whatever the objective is. That’s really all there is to it, but it’s rather entertaining.

Lastly, I’ve been working my way through Bioshock. I don’t know why but it feels like I’ve damn near beaten the game, but I’ve only put in a little over 6 hours. I do know that I’m progressing towards what feels like the final showdown, and things have been fairly smooth going, though I have found a few tricky bits, and some of the groupings of big daddies with splicers and turrets have killed me. Still, I’ve found a good group of plasmids and weapons and feel like I’m coasting along. I imagine it has somewhere around a 10 hour average completion time, so I should be done with this one soon. Some shots of recent events:

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So my goal for now is to finish this off and then move onto the sequel. I’d like to be done with the Bioshock games so that I can strike a few titles from the backlog. Warframe feels like a game I can play for a while as well, so I’m going to continue with it until it gets boring. Otherwise, I’ll mess around with some of the other more session based games I’ve had in the rotation, but it feels good to finally be making some progress! Until next time, happy gaming!