State of the Game: Housekeeping Edition

Recently I’ve been doing some housekeeping when it comes to the backlog. As you well know, I have a problem. That problem is being sensitive to sales and bundles; having a subscription to both Playstation Plus and Humble Bundle, and being a frequent shopper when deals are presented. I’m seriously a walking Darth Kermit Meme.

That inner monologue goes something like:

Me: “You shouldn’t buy that game,  you don’t have time to play it.”
Also Me: “But it’s been on your wishlist for ages! You’ll make time! Plus it’s only $10 bucks and  you get all of the DLC!”
Me: “Damn me, you always know how to spot a great deal! I’m in!”

And so it goes.

Because I have this habit, I tend to play games a while after they are new. Occasionally I’ll spill for a full priced game, and in most cases that’s a good thing, but sometimes it’s a bummer. Other times you get a game for a great deal and it sucks. These are all things that have happened recently. Isn’t going to stop me from buying more games I don’t have time for. Me is right, I’ll make time eventually. The thing is, games aren’t making the cut as often as they used to. I’ve honestly bought more games in the past 5 or so years than for the remaining 30 years of my lifetime, and yet I play less of them to completion. It seems I have become more picky, and my time more valuable. As such, some games have been marked as completed, or as completed as I’m going to get them, and other games have been marked for deletion (in some cases I’ll card farm them and then delete). Some games I desperately wanted to like turned out to be not so great. And in some cases the games were simply there to add to the collection, not necessarily for immediate use. I do this from time to time, then kick myself for not playing the damn things. Regardless, let’s move on to the games discussion, shall we?

Mobile: 

I’ve been playing Clash Royale daily. It’s my go to game when I’m not at home. This makes sense because it’s a mobile game, but I do have other titles installed on my phone. A big one coming up is Super Mario Run, which was previously an iOS exclusive. That looks like it will be fun. I’m still playing Fire Emblem Heroes as well, but I typically only play that one when I’m stationary for a while. Clash is something I can run on my breaks at work and when I’m hanging outside of the house. Progress has slowed due to the fact that I’m level 10 and getting to the upper eschelons takes a while, along with being stuck in Arena 8 for quite some time now. I know my deck works, and I’ve tweaked it here and there to make it work even better, but it seems that I’ve hit a wall, and will continue to beat my head against that wall until some of my cards are levelled up. It seems to me that I only lose when someone has a card I don’t (of which there is only a handful at this point) or they have similar cards of a higher level. I know several members of my clan are in the highest arena and have far more trophies than I, so it’s doable, but I’m not there yet. Also, I deleted Tiny Tower from my phone. It was becoming more of a chore than fun.

Console:

During a recent sale I picked up a copy of a few games on PS4. Winkings is a arcade style game in the vein of Joust, but with far more creatures on screen at once. It’s got local co-op that I have yet to try (but will soon), and feels like a fun little time waster. Nothing amazing, but if you enjoy running around and killing stuff with a variety of weapons with a viking themed character, you might enjoy it too. Plus members can get it right now for like $3. Another game that was on sale was Q-bert Rebooted, which is one of those classic titles everyone should have in their library. Not only did it come with a rebooted version of the game, but the original is included as well, and boy is it a tough game. I was interested in picking this one up as I bought a bundle of other classic arcade games including Pac-Man, Galaga and Dig-Dug a few months back, and I enjoy having old collections of games. I have a version of Tetris and of course my Sega collection on Playstation consoles as well. It’s fun for me to go back and play some of these old games once in a while, and it’s great to have on hand to introduce people to some classic titles when the opportunity arises.

Lastly, the closed beta for Paladins, Hi-Rez Studio’s latest multiplayer free-to-play title went live on PS4. I had access to the beta on PC as well, but just like SMITE, I figured I would be more attracted to the game on console. It’s a team shooter similar to Overwatch or Battleborn, but has enough there to differentiate it from the others. I’m a big fan of SMITE on the console and still play that regularly, but I’m hoping that this one picks up steam too. The console SMITE population is excellent, but so far it seems that there might not be as many people playing Paladins. It was a buy in, but with that you instant access along with some perks. I’m sure the population will level out once it’s out of beta and anyone can join in. I liked being in on the SMITE beta and watching the game take shape on the console, so being in on this game from the start should be fun as well.

Housekeeping wise, this list of games are mostly ones that are those that aren’t going to be completed, so they don’t really take up backlog space. I’ve called it quits with Destiny. I had fun making my way through most of the game, completing The Taken King and leveling to 40. But I’m just not interested in the Light grind. With talk of Destiny 2 around the corner, and other games like Mass Effect Andromeda coming out soon, I know I’d rather spend my time elsewhere. I’ll do the mad dash light grinding before Destiny 2 releases, if the rumors about some of your progress transferring over are true.

PC:

I’ve more random tidbits on the PC side of things. I’ve mentioned recently playing Shadow Warrior 2. Within the last couple of days there was a 2nd free DLC added to the game, and this one adds a slew of new content. Talk about DLC done right! I have made about 30% progress through the main story, and plan to try and knock this one out soon. That is if they don’t flood me with DLCs! I’ve also toyed around with the games I mentioned in a recent post called New and Noteworthy. Along with those newer additions, I’ve also dipped my toes into some other games that came with bundles or were otherwise purchased but never mentioned. One game that popped up in my discovery queue was called Disgaea PC. It’s a PC port of a Playstation 2 JRPG. I remember seeing the title in the past but hadn’t played it, and it turned out they ported the sequel to the game as well so I picked them both up. I know of at least two more titles in the series as well, so perhaps those will come down the pipeline. The game looks like a Final Fantasy Tactics style game, but centers around the prince of the underworld rather than a typical hero type. The combat is sort of wonky, but that’s to be expected from an old console title that is just now being ported to PC. I relish these sorts of experiences; being able to take a trip into the past to experience something you missed.

Sometimes, games that you really wanted to love just don’t do it for you. Last month’s Humble Monthly provided a copy of Total War: Warhammer, and I thought I would love the game. I gave it a test run, found it alright, and then plunked down some cash to get all of the DLC. After playing it a bit more, I felt that I didn’t really enjoy the combat, the strategy, or really any facet of the game. Just putting a Warhammer skin on something doesn’t mean you’re going to automatically love the game, and that’s a shame. A painful lesson. Speaking of Warhammer, Vermintide dropped a new free DLC that adds lore page drops to the game. Having neglected to check out any of the DLC since the Last Stand game mode was added, I decided to do just that the other night. 2 new areas were added to the game, both with 3 maps each. I tried finding players to play with, but ended up running around with dumb NPCs and not getting far in any of them. The new areas look cool, but it’s really just more of the same. I’d love to run through it with some friends, had I enough to fill up a party. A shame that the population has died out so quickly, as it was a very promising title.

Lastly, I finally got around to booting up the Skyrim Special Edition. Every time I looked at it, I just couldn’t justify the 100s of hours I would put into another playthrough when I have so many other RPGs that I want to play through for the first time. But one day I had the itch, and I wanted to play it though I wanted to also play around with some mods, as I have only played the vanilla version of the game. I did some research, and though it appears that you can just install mods via the client itself, I went ahead and installed two programs that were highly recommended: the Nexus Mod Manager and LOOT. The former is a one-click install tool for mods for the game. The latter allows you to sort the booting order of mods in case of issues arising. I ended up installing 20+ mods and it ran fairly well the first time. There was a laughable bug during the opening scene, but eventually things were working great. I didn’t get far enough into the game to really see all the mods have to offer, but again, didn’t want to put too much time into it. I intend to revisit soon.

Housekeeping wise, I have put some of the above titles on farm status. They will be uninstalled afterwards. Others are works in progress, but progress nonetheless. Until next time, happy gaming.

The White Rat

Finally!

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It’s been approximately three weeks since the pre-order crowd gained access to Warhammer End Times: Vermintide. I was a member of said beta crowd, and the initial maps were splendid, but only a mere sample of what the game would have to offer. I’ve been playing pretty regularly ever since, and can report that I’ve officially “beaten” it, on normal difficulty. It would be fair to say that this is just the tip of the iceberg though.

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Once the game was officially released (one week after the pre-order beta started), Eri had joined in on the fun, and the two of us played through the entirety of the game in co-op. I had this initial impression that we were getting close to the end, but more new maps kept opening, until the final level opened; this one called “The White Rat.” The intro cinematic shows the final boss in all of his glory, and the final level consists of a gauntlet of Skaven, traps and various mechanics (basically a combination of everything we had seen to that point) before culminating in a final onslaught. We played the level several times, and never could get the right combination of classes, levels, and gear together (not to mention cooperative skills) to beat the bastard. If you’ve been paying attention to my YouTube channel, I’ve been uploading edited clips of our adventures in the game thus far (part one here). I didn’t play much over the past few days, and was completely engrossed in Fallout 4 (which by the way, was what most of you voted on in my last post).

Tonight, I’ve finally done it. I decided to randomly try, and at first I began the match by myself with bots. One player joined in, and we failed the mission. Upon restarting, our party was rounded out, and quite well. There was me, the Witch Hunter, a Dwarf, Elf, and the Mage. The mage had a very effective AOE staff that seems damn near mandatory for that level. The small amount of bombs strewn about is offset by her staff. The Elf and I would handle threats at a range when necessary, and the Dwarf was a very good shield wall. As you can see in the screen above, having both the Dwarf and the Soldier both wielding sword/board was less optimal. I simply loved that mage. It turns out that during previous runs with Eri we had actually been very close to the end of the level, but always died just a bit short. The ending cinematic was short and sweet, but leaves the game wide open for expansion, mentioning Chaos and Undead. Eri had mentioned reading about those being future foes that will be added to the game, and that basically confirms it in my mind. Speaking of expansion, the first DLC was just announced, and looks to add a slew of new weaponry, new game play options, a new shrine for the Inn, and new game modes (survival sounds like a grand ol time), all for free!

I captured the run where I beat the final level, so here’s that for your viewing pleasure:

Funny Moments: Vermintide

I’ve mentioned it a couple of times now, but there have been several occasions where me and Eri played Warhammer: Vermintide lately, and I’ve recorded several hours of footage. At some point I thought it would be possible to edit all of that down to a reasonably sized video, but it turns out that there are a bunch of funny and/or epic moments in that game, and I want to share them all. One of the first videos we recorded I was streaming as well, so it was nearly four hours long — that’s four hours of hacking, slashing, cursing, joking, laughing and loving the game. I managed to condense that to ~25 minutes worth of “the good stuff.”

I uploaded the video in the wee hours of the a.m., as I acquired a new video editing tool, and it took me a while to get the hang of using it. Now that I have the foundation down, I can only improve with practice. You might notice that the transitions aren’t that fluid, and I see it too, but I’ll get the kinks worked out. I still have several hours of footage to comb through, so expect a part two in this series at minimum, but a part three is likely as well. Anyway, there’s plenty to watch, so I’ll let you get to it. Enjoy.

State of the Game: Betas are In

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It’s been a while since I did a round-up post, and despite having semi-regular posts on various games I’ve been playing, there’s still a big chunk of time I’ve spent in other titles that I haven’t really discussed. First up, let’s recap what I’ve already written about:

  • Early in the month I took part in the Star Wars Battlefront beta, on both PS4 and PC and posted my impressions.
  • Later, I took part in the Warhammer End Times Vermintide beta week prior to launch, and have played a bunch of it since. More impressions.
  • We talk about Vermintide in-depth on the latest Couch Podtatoes.
  • I also completed the final chapter, and thereby the game, of Tales from the Borderlands. My choices are over here.
  • Finally, I played a whole game of Civilization V, finishing in ~700 turns. Entry one. Entry two. Entry three.

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I also talked about some other games I’ve been playing on that last episode of Couch Podtatoes — ones that were on the console and not my PC. I hung out with a friend of mine who owns both PS4 and XBOne consoles, and tends to get games right as they come out. As a result, I was able to play through several games I wouldn’t normally have access to. Months ago the two of us started playing split screen co-op for multiple games. We began with the Halo Master Chief Edition, and beat the first game. We beat the Gears of War remaster. Just this week we finished Halo 2, and half of Halo 3, along with playing some Halo 5, though that was only multiplayer and split screen is no longer an option (which is stupid). I also finished the original Uncharted, which I had started a while back when he picked up the Nathan Drake Collection. We plan to finish Halo 3 and 4, though we won’t be able to do 5. I also plan to eventually play through Uncharted 2 and 3 again, so that I can be ready and have the story fresh in my mind once Uncharted 4 releases. Overall, Uncharted holds up really well. I can’t say the same for Halo, and I have to say I don’t really see a reason to buy an XB1 ever. Most of the titles that I’d even care about become available on PC, or I can play at my friend’s house. Knowing the release window for No Man’s Sky means I have a deadline to get a PS4 finally, which is mid next year. I did play the PSPlus titles for this month as well, but the only real gem there was Chariot, and it’s not even that fantastic. PSPlus is starting to feel unnecessary until I get a PS4, but I have a year so I’m not going to cancel. I’ll still be accumulating PS4 games for when I finally get the console, so it’s not a complete wash. That’s about all for consoles.

On PC, I’ve spent most of my time playing the games I mentioned earlier, particularly Vermintide. I’ve been playing with Eri quite a bit, and the two of us work well together. I can’t say the same for the random people though, as sometimes they are great and sometimes a liability. I have heard some chatter around the blogosphere about it though, so perhaps once more people we know are playing we can get some full on team work going. I’ve finally earned a trinket so I now know they are just randomly earned, and I have confirmed that there aren’t any new hats for the characters in the game, it just seems that you can get one for each character if you bought the collector’s edition. Apparently there are plans for expansions already in the works, so perhaps some fluff gear will make its way in. I have a video in the works, that will be coming from hours of recording I’ve done of me and Eri playing Vermintide, but I have to cut out all the good bits to make the compilation. More on that soon.

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Unmentioned til now, I have been invited to a couple of betas over the weekend, and I have another title that you might not have heard of that I’d like to talk about. First, I was invited to the Battleborn Closed Technical Beta, but there is an NDA so I can’t talk about it, but I will say that I do enjoy the concept thus far. I was hoping to get into the Overwatch beta so I could report about this anticipated title, but I have yet to get in. This weekend was also a closed beta test for Devilian, the new-ish isometric MMO being imported by Trion. Knowing Trion’s reputation after ArcheAge, I don’t have high hopes for the game. But I love Diablo and isometric RPGs, so I wanted to give it a chance anyway. It mixes up concepts from both Diablo and traditional themepark MMOs pretty flawlessly. The gameplay and animations were smooth and enjoyable. I don’t really care for the anime aesthetic for the characters, but their designs were still well done. The kill ten rats quests are ever present, but for some reason it’s easier to accept when the combat is so damn enjoyable. I don’t really see much of a challenge from the game though, but I imagine it ramps up in later levels. It was pretty cool to see other players running around though, as typically you’re limited to a small group in Action-RPGs. I started up a Shadow Hunter which stylistically reminds me of Dante from Devil May Cry. He’s got a chain whip and shurikens, and various trees to spec different ways. I leveled him to 10 and then rolled a Berserker but haven’t gone beyond that. Basically, if you like Diablo, I think you’d like this game. It’s got that simplistic nature that’s easy to get hooked into. A quick google search should bring you to where you can sign up to beta test as well.

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Another game that I stumbled upon while following #InternetRabbitHoles (yes, I’m making this a thing) is called Indivisible. It’s from the creators of Skullgirls, which was a 2-D fighting game with awesome hand-drawn art. That’s about the only similarity between Skullgirls and Indivisible, their striking hand-drawn art style. Otherwise, Indivisible is a game that successfully mixes the metroidvania style with turn-based JRPG combat that also makes use of fighting game mechanics. As you explore the world, you only see your character, and not the other members of your party. When you come across enemies, you can attack them to get in extra damage (or kill them outright with sufficient power) and then when you do enter the battle screen (pictured above) your other party members come out and it uses an active time battle system. This is where the fighting moves come in. Holding different directions while pressing the button for the appropriate character changes their basic attacks to do different things. The gauge at the top is much like fighting game rage meters, where it can be used for super moves when it’s filled. It’s a great concept and they’re allowing anyone to download and play the prototype for free. They’re asking for 1.5 million on Indiegogo, but the game looks to be fantastic, so I’d recommend supporting it!

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Last but not least, I was gifted a copy of Shadow of Mordor as the GOTY edition was on sale this past week on Steam. Thanks Dad! I haven’t played too much but I have to say I like what I see so far. It mixes elements of the recent Arkham Batman games, Assassin’s Creed or similar open world games, and of course, LOTR. The nemesis system looks intriguing and I haven’t gotten far enough to really know how to comment just yet, but I have to say the controls are wonky as fuck if you don’t use a controller on PC. Outside of that criticism, it looks to be a great game I’m looking forward to spending more time with.

That’s all for this round-up. What have you been playing?

Thoughts on the Warhammer Vermintide Beta

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So I’ve talked about the new Warhammer game coming from Fatshark Games a few times already, be it here on the blog or on the Couch Podtatoes podcast. I pre-ordered at the beginning of the month, which isn’t something I usually do, but the price was right and the wait wasn’t too long. Having preview information at my disposal, I knew I would enjoy the game so I pulled the trigger. As a pre-order bonus, we got access to the game a little early, as the Beta started this past Friday and the game releasing on the 23rd. I put a few hours into the Beta so far, and I have some thoughts that I’ll share with you now.

Gameplay is tight. Though I did manage to find one bug so far, overall the game runs smoothly, things work as you would expect, and there aren’t any drops in framerate even while streaming. The melee combat is visceral. Swinging an axe feels as it should. Blocking with a shield and then swinging it at your attackers to knock them down is very satisfying. Rapiers are quick and nimble. 2-handed weapons are slow yet powerful. This isn’t rocket science, but it feels right. Ranged combat is equally tight control-wise, but seems less effective in most cases. Crossbows are slow to reload, but pistols/shotguns and long bows feel much better. I haven’t tried out the Fire Mage just yet, but the ranged abilities coming from staves seems to be very effective at range.

The variety of Skaven is nice. Not only are there differing skins for the regular grunts, there are various types that are bigger and badder than their normal counterparts. Fighting a Rat Ogre for the first time was a magical experience. The armored Stormvermin come in packs and are tough to take down. The gunners, hook rats and assassins are a pain in the ass, as are the poison cloud creating variants. There’s no lack of challenge either. Normal difficulty still takes its toll, and the hard difficulty is almost too hard, at least at the lower levels with crappy gear. But there’s a couple of extra difficulty levels that I haven’t even seen yet, so there’s going to be plenty of replay value in this game.

As is common with most first person shooters of this era, you have a global experience level. The interesting bit here is that it’s not tied directly to any of the game’s five classes, so you don’t have to level each individually. Each level you’re rewarded with some gear, but each time it’s for a different class, so none are completely left out. Also, when completing a level, there is a dice game where you get the chance to earn better gear. The devs chose to keep with the traditional Diablo/MMO formula of color coding rarity, and so far the best I’ve come up with is a set of blue swords for the ranger class. Each time you level or dice roll, the gear can end up being for any of the classes, so that’s a nice way of avoiding an annoying individual grind. Gear is primarily weapons, though there are slots for trinkets, and you can change out your helmet, though I haven’t seen any of these drop just yet. Outside of the RNG at the end of levels, there are supposedly gear drops within the game, and you can also find extra loot dies that will help with your end-of-level rolls. At the very least, this system gives quite a bit of replay value if you’re the sort that wants to completely kit out your characters (I am).

The Beta only gives a taste of what’s to come though. Three levels are available to play at this time, though a handful more are scheduled to open at release. Of the three levels, I enjoyed the The Horn of Magnus level the most, but the others were fairly interesting as well. Each has a distinct feel to them. The Horn level sees you traversing a whole city, blowing through a gate with several powder kegs (a mini-event in itself) and finally blowing the horn and surviving an onslaught of Skaven. On Smuggler’s Run, you have to clear the Skaven out of the sewers and then escape yourself. Finally, on Supply and Demand, you fight through part of town and collect sacks of grain while being attacked by all manner of Skaven. Each of these game types varies ever so slightly, but are different enough to give you something new to do each time you play.

After each level and dice game, you’ll have the option to vote for what comes next. You can replay the same level, move onto the next or go back to the Red Hook Inn, where you start your journey in the first place. Here you can access your inventory (swap out weapons and gear) the mission map (where you can choose which level to play next) and access the forge – a powerful tool. The forge allows you to fuse, upgrade and disassemble items. Fusing requires five items of the same quality, and combines them into one item of the next quality up (5 whites = 1 green and so on). Weapons earned from the dice game often have locked traits that you can unlock in the forge, upgrading the weapon with passives. These upgrades require essences earned by disassembling items. It’s a basic system but it works well and I have seen some decent stuff come out of it.

Overall, I love the game. It’s been compared to Left 4 Dead, and I can say that it has a similar feel, though these small systematic upgrades give it a better replay value than L4D did, and the devs have already stated that more levels and classes are yet to come. I’ll be playing and talking about this game for a while to come. On Friday, I streamed for a while and uploaded the full uncut stream to my YouTube account. In that video, I only played on the Horn of Magus map because I was matched with a damn good team and we were just grinding for gear. We managed to beat the level on normal a couple of times, fail on hard once, and then complete hard mode. It was a blast, but I wanted to break so the video ends. I checked out the rest of the maps without recording, but I’m sure I’ll make some more videos before long. Here’s that stream for your convenience:

If anyone picks this title up, let me know. I need co-op partners!