State of the Game: Shorts

Due to having had surgery yesterday, I’m in recovery. As such I’ve taken a couple of days off of work and have been trying to do as little as possible. Mobile Games like Clash Royale and Questland which I recently wrote about are fun and keep me occupied for a time, but after a while I want something more meaty to sink my teeth into. I’m limited to short stints of sitting in my computer chair, so I’ve been trying to prop myself up in bed and game on the Playstation. I’ve been neglectful of the Playstation Plus titles I’ve downloaded over the past couple of months, having titles like Beyond Two Souls and Heavy Rain still collecting dust, but I’ve managed to try out a handful of games that have been waiting for attention. I’ve also picked up a copy of episode 1 of the final season of TellTale’s The Walking Dead which I look forward to digging into (more on that later this week). Let’s get some first impressions over with, shall we?

So, earlier today I started off with Absolver, a game I knew literally nothing about. Billed as “online melee action,” that really doesn’t give us much to go on. It turns out to be a bit of a martial arts meets Dead Souls sort of game, where you’ll have some difficult to master combat tricks paired with character development and a semi-open world to explore. You start by picking a “fighting school” and after a short cutscene you are basically thrown right into things without much direction. This is fine, things start to make sense as you go along. I wouldn’t say the game is as difficult as Dark Souls, but it has the same sort of vibe, because you have more deliberate combat mechanics, and more importantly people can drop in and out of the world (though you can limit this to invite only) and PvP can breakout at any moment. I was jumped by someone who had some gear when I was fresh out of the early safe zone but then me and another newbie took him down together.

It’s a pretty game, and runs well enough. I didn’t have any hitching even when random people were jumping on and off of the server. You’re given the goal of defeating a bunch of different people before you’ll be able to become and “Absolver” but I don’t really know what that even means at this point. I think it will take some time to dig deeper and see what it’s all really about but because it was free I don’t have a problem getting to it when I can.

Next I tried out Dead by Daylight. This is one of those asymmetrical pvp games that pits a team of players against a lone enemy player (hence the asymmetrical bit). We’ve seen this done before in games like Evolve (which didn’t last) and Friday the 13th. Having never played anything like it, this was my chance to see what this type of game is all about. There is a short tutorial that will allow you to get the hang of playing as either a survivor or the killer. As a survivor your goal is to avoid the killer, turn on some generators and then exit the level. A typical round sees you and your four teammates turning on the five generators, getting attacked, hiding, being offered up to some creepy spider god (the killer throws you on a meat hook) and rescuing each other. As the killer, you’ll be hunting the survivors and have the advantage on not needing to hide, and being able to down a survivor in two hits. You’ll then throw them on the meat hooks and hope they don’t get saved. All the while you’ll want to break down the generators so they can’t escape.

The lone round I played saw me being the first one downed and hooked and I ended up dying as my teammates didn’t bother trying to rescue me. Boo hoo. Overall it seems like a game that I’d rather enjoy with a full group of friends, but otherwise it gets pretty boring rather quickly. A shame, as it’s a cool premise. Some DLCs added to the game allow you to play as killers from several different Horror movies and that’s a cool idea but the game just feels to fall a little flat for me personally.

Last up, I tried out Mafia III, which was one of this months freebies. I was first introduced to the Mafia series when at some point my sister was raving about the game prior to this one. I played it a bit at her house and wrote it off as a Grand Theft Auto clone. From what she tells me, it’s much better story-wise than GTA ever was, and from the little taste of this game I’ve come to the same conclusion. I have GTAV on my PS4 but never beat it. I always get distracted by blowing shit up or dicking around in the online version. Mafia feels like the same kind of game — it’s 3rd person, it’s about crime, and there are some on foot shooty parts and some driving parts. It could be written off as a clone or just another entry into the open-world genre, but it seems rather well done.

Right from the get go the devs display a message about the racism and bigotry throughout the tale, but they give their reasons and I tend to think they are the right reasons to go ahead an include such things. You play Lincoln Clay, a half-Dominican half-White guy who’s just come back from Vietnam (this is set in the late 60’s) and looks to be getting involved in the mafioso life. There’s a cool montage at the beginning with news bits and a chamber of commerce message along with some testimonials from those close to Lincoln, and then we flash to Mardi Gras. On this day, you and a pal Georgi are taking part in a heist on the federal reserve, bringing in counterfeit cash that is to be burned, but then you manage to grab some real money but shit gets real. Then there are some flash back bits from when you first get home and you play through a couple of days of seeing how your family has gotten entangled in some mob stuff and you’re gonna have to help them out. I assume this leads to the heist so you can pay off some mobster your dad owes money to. As I said, there are the same sorts of bits as the GTA games, but I’m already more invested in this one that I was the last couple of GTA games.

So my initial impressions having me leaning towards playing through Mafia as I rather like it, but Absolver looks like it might vie for some time. Dead by Daylight is a solid “meh.”

State of the Game: Recent Updates

Hello everyone, and welcome back to our once in a while round up post. A few different things came up that I wanted to talk about and didn’t feel like they’d flesh out a whole post so here’s a mash up post instead. The first game I want to talk about today is Clash Royale.

It’s still been my go-to mobile game, though I’ve found a few other games that I’ll play here and there from time to time. Clash is still going strong, and my clan is still plugging away at the leaderboard. I finished my 2nd season in the challenger league, this time with my highest trophy count yet at 4139. Last season I made it into challenger but dropped out before the reset and my highest trophies then was somewhere around 4010 or so.

A big update dropped within the last week or so, revamping things for clans. There used to be a clan chest once a week where everyone in the clan had to grind matches so that you’d earn crowns towards a grand total. There were 10 levels of chests, and we’d get the level 10 chest most of the time, providing more cards for the clan. That feature has since been removed, and Clan War has been introduced. Instead of mindlessly grinding for crowns, you now have 3 matches to play on “collection day” and depending on your results of those rounds, you’ll earn cards for the clan. The following day is “war day” and you’ll build a deck out of the cards earned and fight one round. Wins are tallied up against four other clans and whoever comes out on top gets better rewards. Clan wars end after the two days and can be then started immediately again. Apparently the season is monthly, and you’ll earn trophies to work your way up the leaderboards again. As of now we’ve worked up to Bronze 1, but we’re not far off from breaking into the Silver tier. I like this version better because there’s less of a grind but also because it encourages skilled play rather than just throwing yourself against the leaderboard and your crowns counting for a cumulative chest. The game is constantly improving and I still love it.

My best friend and I have been plugging away at Dying Light in our spare time, or more appropriately when we can meet up. It’s a great game and we’ve progressed through about half of the storyline, not counting the little side quests and errands we’ve participated in. At this point we finally got some proper guns, rather than the stupid bats and pipes we’d been using, and it seems that we might be able to hang onto them for the foreseeable future.

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Here’s hoping that this is the case, because the game is much more difficult without them. We did end up getting them taken away again when we had to fight in the pit, but after completing that mission the gear was given back to us. It seems that despite being sent in by a government organization, they are just using you and now it’s coming to a point that you’ve got to be the hero and save all these innocents. Too bad everyone you come into contact with seems to be dying left and right. We’ll see how the story unfolds and I’ll report back once we’ve finished this one up.

I’ve played some more Pillars of Eternity only minimally, as I mentioned in a recent post I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately and haven’t been focused enough to finish up any one game. Spreading my time around has been fun, but that means little to no progress on most games. So I’ve cleared a couple more pieces of the map, but haven’t progressed the story any further, still looking for some spirit or old lady or something from a vision, clearly I haven’t been paying close enough attention. I enjoy the game, but I guess I should hurry up and beat it since the sequel is out now.

Lastly, one of the Playstation Plus games this month was Rayman Legends. I’m not a huge fan of cartoony platformers, but games like this don’t maintain a following for so many years unless they’re pretty decent.

So far it’s been entertaining… it’s sort of along the lines of Crash Bandicoot and other games in the genre. I’ll say I’m pretty impressed by the graphics and smoothness of the animations. Nothing feels wonky, the game controls great. It’s not the most ambitious game, nor is it something I was dying to play but a good little time waster. Beyond Two Souls was the other freebie for the month but I haven’t gotten around to trying that one yet, so I’ll report back on that once I do.

That’s all for now. Just wanted to jot down some notes. Until next time, happy gaming!

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!