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:

Snow-Day-Ziggs-league-of-legends-33096083-1215-717

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.

My Top Ten Games of 2013

I played too many games to mention this year. The ones that made the best impression were the ones I’ve already spoken of. There were many games that I played that didn’t release this year, so despite loving some of them, they won’t be on this list as they aren’t “current.” I also wasn’t playing any MMOs this year (at least not seriously) so there aren’t any of those on this list. Finally, these are mostly niche games, because I haven’t been buying mainstream games as they release, as much of the AAA titles on offer this year weren’t ones I was interested in, or couldn’t afford when they released. When I say “couldn’t afford” I really mean I’m a cheap ass gamer these days. So with all that said, on to the list (in no particular order):

The Last of Us:
This is one of the only two AAA titles I played this year, though it still wasn’t upon release. I picked up my copy of The Last of Us a few months later on sale. This was a game I couldn’t pass up, not only because I have loved nearly everything Naughty Dog has ever done, but also because it’s a survival horror game which is right up my alley. I only played through the game once, but the story was amazing and the game play equally fun. Multiplayer was more of the same, but was still enjoyable at times. I will probably go back and play this one again some day, as it really was a great experience.

Ni No Kuni: The Wrath of the White Witch:
I spent less time with this game than I would have liked, but still have strong feelings about it. I can’t say that I beat it or even got all of that far through the game, but what I did play was amazing and I will be revisiting it soon. Another AAA title that I got on sale, it was most definitely worth the $20 I paid. There are so many different systems from different JRPGs present here, that it feels like a mix of most of the RPGs I loved playing as a kid, on through my adulthood. I love all RPGs, but there is something to be said about the addictive nature of ones from Japan.

Dragon’s Crown:
This is the only game I couldn’t wait to have this year. I bought it shortly after release for full price. Granted, it was less money than a boxed $60 game, but still, this needs to be notated. I have recently posted about this game so I won’t go into reasons why it’s on my top ten again, but if you are a fan of side-scrolling beat-em-ups with RPG elements, this game will suit you.

Path of Exile:
PoE is the true successor to Diablo II. I say this without having played Diablo III, but I know enough about it to make that statement. Everything about it screams “Diablo II with slightly different systems and holy fuck look at that skill tree!” This game has been playable for more than just this year, but was officially released in 2013, so it makes my list. One of the best 3/4 view action RPGs of the year.

Rogue Legacy:
One of the two Rogue-likes that made this list (FTL would have too if it would have been released this year), Rogue Legacy is an awesome 2-D platformer that redefines death. Death means you will get new powers and possibly new disabilities, all of which are random along with the levels. I have progress pretty far into the game, and I would recommend it to anyone that owns a PC, and a controller. Controls are weak without one, and that’s my only disappointment.

Sword of the Stars: The Pit:
This is my other Rogue-like pick, and it is vastly different from the aforementioned title, but still good in almost every way. Permadeath is definitely a pro and a con, in that it is great to have to take responsibility for your actions, but it really sucks to get further into the dungeon than ever, just to die and have to start over. Still, I have had much fun with the game and have written about it multiple times. Grinding recipes is about the only part of the game that is overly frustrating, because some characters simply cannot hack machines for the messages needed. All in all a must-play.

Terraria:
Terraria released this year on PS3 (though I believe other versions were last year?). I haven’t made much headway with the game, and it is disappointing that there isn’t a way to connect with people that aren’t on your friend’s list. Aside from that, I have had fun exploring and taking part in gameplay that is far from traditional. I have explained my lack of experience with sandbox games, and this was the game that opened the door for me. If you like Minecraft, I’m sure you’ll like Terraria. Just make sure you have friends with the game, as multiplayer makes it more fun.

Dragon Fantasy Book 2:
Dragon Fantasy Book 2 is the sequel to (you guessed it) Book 1. Where Book 1 was an 8-bit adventure reminiscent of Dragon Warrior, Book 2 mixes elements from the 16-bit era, with combat like Secret of Mana or Chrono Trigger, a Pokemon-like pet collection system, and other goodies that remind me of being a kid. In the “good ol days.” I haven’t finished it, but it is on my to-do list and it recommended for old school JRPG nuts. Looking forward to seeing the next iteration, that is supposed to support an engine using 32-bit graphics. FF7 clone here we come 🙂

The Walking Dead Season 2, Episode 1:
This was a recent release, so this goes without commentary. If you scroll down, the dedicated post should still be on the main page. Must-have for those of you who were fans of the first season. I just wish it wasn’t so short, and hope that future episodes make up for this lack of length.

League of Legends: All Random All Mid:
In the MMO world, people will select expansions in their “best of” posts, and as League is the closest thing to a Massive game that I’m playing, I’m going to consider this an “expansion” for all intents and purposes. ARAM was released this year, and became a dedicated game mode, like Dominion and Twisted Treeline before it. ARAM most likely consumed more of my game time than any other game this year. I played my share of other modes in LoL, but I think ARAM took the cake for hours played. The game mode is my favorite way to just unwind, without the pressure of having to win, as there is no leaderboard. I love League, and will most likely keep it in my rotation for a long time to come.

I read a post over on The Cynic Dialogues about 2013 being the worst year in (PC) gaming, and I was about to argue against that fact (except the author has comments disabled), but after delving through my posts, trophy lists and memories, it was difficult for me to put together this list of ten. I am now more inclined to agree with them, despite knowing that if I had a slightly better computer I would have been playing some games that I can’t run now. Also, being rich would help to buy some of the games that I didn’t touch this year, so my list might be a little skewed from where it could be. Still, here’s hoping that 2014 blows us away. I hope to get a PS4 and a new computer next year, so maybe I’ll have more options available to me and next year’s list will be easier to pull off.

Lastly, if you are anal like me, you can verify release dates for any of the above listed games here. Just so you know I didn’t cheat ;P

January IGC

January is shaping up to be one of the best Playstation Plus months in recent memory. There hasn’t been any AAA titles that came out in the last couple of months that I didn’t already own — these are the types of months being a member is a drag, but it is still required to play already acquired games. This is fine. There were months where I payed a sub for an MMO and didn’t really get my money’s worth, this is par for the course. But I digress. The upcoming month sees not one, but two AAA titles that I really wanted to play, but never got around to buying. Both were on sale recently and I still avoided buying them, and I’m happy for it now. What are the games you ask? Here’s the preview if you prefer watching your content:

For those of you who are still with me, the games I’m really looking forward to are Bioshock: Infinite and DmC: Devil May Cry. I was a fan of the original DMC and it’s sequel, though I never played any of the other games of the series. I heard both good and bad things about the reboot, but you can’t go wrong with free. On the Bioshock side, I tried the first game a long time ago, but never finished it. The sequel was free last year, and I still have access to that, but never played it as I’d prefer to play the series in sequence, so I have asked a friend to borrow the original. I’m going to try and play through the first two before jumping into the newest iteration.

Other games on offer:

PS4: Don’t Starve.
PS3: Brothers.
Vita: Worms Battle Island and Smart as.

I don’t have commentary on these games, as I don’t own the other two systems. Brothers seemed an interesting Indie, but I won’t know until I try it. As always, commentary will come about these games as I play them. Stay tuned.

The State of the Game: Revisiting The Past

This week I delved into the past a bit, playing games I hadn’t touched in a while, and in one case playing a game that released when I was still in high school, for the first time. I did play one new game, and I did end up lying about not wanting to make any new purchases, as I did grab a couple of sale items last Tuesday. The playlist this week: Borderlands 2, Dragon’s Crown, Dyad, The Walking Dead Season 2: Episode 1, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, Planescape: Torment, and League of Legends.

The new game I picked up for my PS3 on Tuesday was the first episode of Season 2 of The Walking Dead game. I have already made a post about my impressions of that game, and you can view it here. I won’t go into it again. Dyad was the free game last week for Plus members, and having played it a bit, it is interesting, but not a game that really sucked me in. It reminds me of an old Atari game called Tempest (and probably other games that have a similar premise). It has its charm, but the psychedelic nature of the graphics made my eyes hurt after a while. Best played in short bursts!

I also had mentioned wanting to get back into Borderlands 2, as there were parts of the game I hadn’t explored yet, but after looking at my trophy list I decided it would be better to just jump on my Gunzerker and level him to the point where I can get his class specific trophy, and then retire him for good. I started off doing that solo, and it got boring really quick. This week, I did something I hadn’t done before in the game, I played multi-player. Well, actually I did do that with my roommate when he got a copy of the game sometime after I had beaten it the first time. But we just played together privately over the LAN, not over the internet. Because I was so bored playing by myself and doing the same damn story missions over and over, I decided that I would just join some random person’s game. The matchmaking works fairly well, and it tries to match you with people who are on a similar quest or of similar level. I ended up in a group with three other people, and being in a four person group makes the game quite a bit more difficult. I was impressed with how the mechanics changed so drastically, and I now kick myself for never having played online before — in this game or its predecessor. I’m still a few levels off from where I need to be to complete the Gunzerker, and then I can go back to my main (Siren) and level her up some more and finally get through the remaining DLC. This is still on the to-do list.

I’ve mentioned a couple of times about having played Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, and I finally sat down and finished it. Overall the storyline was the strongest part of the game, I really enjoyed feeling like I made major things happen in the old west. The revenge was sweet when finally finishing off the major “villain” that you had been chasing down the whole time. I will say that there are some stupid parts of the story that didn’t make any sense though, especially towards the end. The duel system got worse as time went on as well, as at one point you have to take out two guys and not get shot, which seems a bit unrealistic. All in all it was a cool game for the cheap price I got it for, but it would have been disappointing for full price. There are other game modes and things to do with it, but I am done. It’s already been removed from my hard drive. Moving on.

Dragon’s Crown is another game I already gave my impressions of, and I still stand behind the things that I said. It’s still a great game, a few months removed from release. Recently, a new patch was put into place (yes, a patch with new content, not DLC!) adding 156 new levels (cap raised from 99 to 255) and a new dungeon. The original progression of the game was beat the levels on normal, then go back and do the alternate routes to get all of the gems to get access to the final boss. Then you open hard mode, where you start from the talisman gathering quest, and do it again. Then the “Labyrinth of Chaos” opens, and you progress through its floors, and at the end you fight another new boss. By then you should have been level 99 or close to it, and had “completed” the game. Now, another new dungeon is added, that is randomly generated and supposedly contains “tens of thousands of levels.” As such, I can’t access the new stuff just yet, because I have only beaten the game on normal. I decided it had been long enough I could go back and play the game and enjoy it again, so I fired it up after the patch dropped. I also decided to play in online mode, so when I jumped into the Labyrinth of Chaos, I was able to play with people through the first 3 floors I had access to. Those floors actually took almost three hours to complete, so that was the only session I’ve had so far, but I made some progress with my character as a result:

WP_20131220_002

 

The other sale I took part in was on GOG.com, and it netted me a copy of Icewind Dale, Icewind Dale II, and Planescape: Torment. These are all games that released when I was in high school or shortly thereafter, but ones that I never got around to playing. I loved the old Infinity Engine games, and these will be no exception I’m sure. I also picked up Fallout, Fallout 2, and Fallout: Tactics when GOG announced that they were free before they removed them from the site. I never played those either, so put them on the the to-do list. Rather than starting up a game in all of these games, I decided to pick one and stick with it until it was finished. It was a hard choice as I haven’t played any of them before, but I went with Torment. I completed the first area and have been exploring The Hive, picking up sidequests and talking to everyone I can. The ever faithful ! or ? above quest givers head is missing, and that’s something that I have grown accustomed to. Now I have to actually pay attention as there really isn’t a quest tracker or way to know who gives out quests or who you need to turn something in to. I do find this more immersive, it’s just not something gamers are accustomed to anymore. I will have more on this game as I get further into it.

Finally, I have been playing League a bit more than I had in the past month. The Snowdown event brought me back, and the Showdown featured game mode has kept me interested. It’s funny how changing the ruleset ever so slightly can make for intriguing gameplay. It’s still the same old Howling Abyss, but the mechanics have changed enough to make things fresh. I am still dominating with Ziggs, but have had a few good games as other characters.

Loading screen for Showdown
Loading screen for Showdown

I did have one of the shortest games ever the other day. I was going to play as someone AP oriented (they seem to have a poke advantage in this game mode) but my partner picked Morgana, so I wanted to have some AD balance. It really doesn’t matter, pretty much anyone can pick anyone and still have success in this mode, but old habits of searching for balance die hard. Anyway, I picked Ezreal, and we were matched against a Graves and Zilean team. Under normal circumstances, this probably would have been a fairly even fight, although post level 6 (if it went that far) we might have been screwed because of Zil’s resurrection ultimate. So the match starts and me and Morgana are standing by our turret when Graves comes charging up to us. I shot him a time or two, and he stayed in turret range until he died. I thought maybe he lagged out, but then the Zilean came charging at us as well, and Morgana scored that kill. The match ended, and we were told that “Graves had to go” so they effectively suicided to end the round. Still, check the time of completion:

Call Guinness
Call Guinness

Yeah, 56 seconds. Fastest game ever. I don’t see that ever happening again. Even the 1v1 I played at some point was over quickly, but not that quickly, it clocked about 2 1/2 minutes or so. In other news I managed to open the Poro summoner icon, its requirements were only to win three times in Showdown. I don’t think I’ll be earning any of the other icons this time around, but that’s ok.

There you have it. Another week down. This week we see Christmas come and go, so I might have a little less to write about. The plus title is for the vita, so nothing new there for me. I am off of school until after the new year starts, so I will have a bit of extra free time though, so it could go either way. Time will tell.

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.