State of the Game: Holiday Haul Edition

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It’s been quite a while since I had so many titles to talk about at once that it warranted a SotG post, having had bigger games to sink my teeth into as of late. Still, between my birthday last month, Christmas in a little under a day and having a few bucks to spend of my own, I’ve come out with a bunch of new (to me) games to play. Not like I didn’t already have a massive backlog and plenty that I’m currently playing, but that’s okay, the more the merrier! Right? Well… I guess the jury’s still out on that one.

So I’ve been plugging away at Fallout 4 since its release back in mid-November. I really like the game, it is my GOTY after all, but I noticed after I played it consistently for about a week, I started to taper off and experimented with other games. I’ve got about 40 hours into the game, and that’s a small amount compared to people on my friends list, so I know that I’m not the quickest out of the gate, but I have started to push the storyline further to the point where I’ve hit the “twist” part of the story. I won’t spoil it for you, but I think I’m starting to push towards the latter portion of the main questline. However, I have done quite a few of the side missions and various activities along the way, so I feel like I have a pretty good handle on what the wasteland has to offer. At this point I’m ready to finish up the main quest and then perhaps load up a bunch of mods and see what other fun I can have with it while we all wait for DLC packs to come down the pipeline. Here’s some various shots from recent adventures:

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There’s a few new videos relating to Fallout 4 on my YouTube channel as well. The other game I’ve been playing pretty regularly for most of the past month is The Crew Wild Run. I am still enjoying this one as well for when I want to progress in a different fashion, and sometimes you just need a racing game. It’s nothing that breaks the mold too much but I have enjoyed progressing through the world and upgrading my cars. There hasn’t been much in the way of a challenge thus far, though I haven’t done much PvP just yet. Looking forward to being able to unlock all specs and a bunch of cars to mess around with. Here’s some more shots from fictional USA:

As far as new games go, I had some extra money burning a hole in my pocket and as soon as the Steam Holiday Sale got started I knew there’d be something I could pick up on the cheap. I ended up buying Windward, which is a sandbox trade/pirate simulator, that has been on my wishlist for quite some time. There isn’t a whole lot there when it comes to depth, but it has various elements you’d find in other RPG and Indie games. The worlds are procedural or hand made by you, along with some other various factors that you can set up such as factions and whatnot. There’s “gear” in that you can upgrade you ship (buy new ships altogether too), there’s “quests” but most of them become repetitive after a time. There’s a bit of city building, there’s exploration, and best of all you get to blow shit up with your cannons. I played it for a few hours, and recorded some video but I haven’t decided what I’m going to do with the recording just yet. Overall it’s worth the asking price, and even better on sale. If any of you have this one, let me know so maybe we can do some co-op stuff. Multiplayer seems relatively dead on the hosted servers.

I also picked up the latest Humble Bundle, due to some prodding by Eri. Episode One of Life is Strange was a part of the $1 tier, and she has been pushing me to try it. So now I can, though I haven’t yet. Also included at that tier was The Last Remnant, which is a JRPG that is sort of old but looks rather interesting nonetheless. The first three Tomb Raider games, all of which I played way back when but haven’t touched since were ported to PC at some point and were also part of the package. Lastly, a game that looks neat but I know nothing about is Murdered: Soul Suspect. They all look like their worth spending some time on, but I haven’t gotten around to any of these just yet.

Today I was surprised by my sister and brother-in-law, who gifted me a couple of games off of my wishlist for Christmas. One was the Legend of Grimrock sequel. Simcha actually gifted me the first game last year around this time, but I never beat it — I got stuck on a difficult puzzle and never went back. I was just going to let the sequel collect dust for a while and try to go beat the original before playing it, but I had to check it out, so I did a while earlier. It’s very much the same sort of game but there is a combination of outdoor and indoor zones that makes it feel better. The combat and semi-action oriented way in which you can dodge and move around feels better than the original as well. The first boss I came across kicked my ass though, so I think I’m going to customize my party when I get back to playing it. The other game they gifted me was The Evil Within, which is the game that came out last year from the creator of the original Resident Evil. One of my buddies raved about this game so I’m glad I’ll finally get a chance to play it.

Apparently the pattern of being unable to wait to give me gifts persisted, because my Dad ended up sending me a copy of Grim Dawn, which is a new-ish ARPG that is just about to full release next month. They are calling it “feature complete” at this point, but it is still tagged as Early Access for now. So far it reminds me of older D&D inspired games, Diablo II and Path of Exile. It has that dark and gritty aesthetic, but it feels faster paced than PoE. It feels more on par with Diablo II and III. Either way I played for a couple of hours, hit level 15 and called it a night, but I’m liking what I see so far. There is a system of upgrading your weapons and a devotion tree that remind me of systems from PoE. Then there’s the skill tree that is more reminiscent of an MMO really. There’s also the ability to dual-class, and that is pretty neat if you ask me. I rolled a Demolitionist, and the went with a secondary of Occultist. Basically I’m a pyromancer mixed with a marksman that has a crow for a pet. It’s weird, but cool. Here’s some screens from that title as well:

So at this point, I’m really trying to divide up my time as best I can, but there simply isn’t enough time in the day for all of this. Add in the fact that I’ve been playing League of Legends semi-regularly, Diablo III has a new patch + new zone coming, there are betas/alphas I’ve been participating in, and I have no time. That’s just going to get compounded as time goes on. But hey, that should mean plenty of content to share with you guys, right? See you soon. Oh, and I probably won’t post for a couple days, so Merry Christmas everyone!

The Holidays Without Faith

There are grumblings every year.

Talk of a so-called “War on Faith” or “War on Christmas” pops up every year, be it on blogs, news websites or social media. I am bombarded by it from every angle — images fly by on time lines, friends have opinions they absolutely need to share, marketers fill up every ad space they can get their hands on. Despite the fact that I’m an Atheist, most of the time I just keep my opinion to myself, but today is a new day.

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People ask, “how can you celebrate Christmas when you don’t believe in Christ? His name is right there in the holiday’s name!”

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Images boldly proclaim that this holiday must belong to that religious group, and if you don’t believe in this particular version of life as we know it, then you shouldn’t be allowed to celebrate the holiday. I do like this retort to that sentiment though:

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Now I know that all I’m doing at the moment is poking fun and stoking the fire by posting memes, but honestly, do a little bit of research for yourself. Here’s a link that will give you some insight into just how much this isn’t a Christian holiday. To paraphrase, the Winter Solstice is the root of the Christmas holiday, and the holiday as we know it is steeped in Pagan ritual and takes influences from many different cultures, all of which celebrated a holiday at a similar time of year, in many different ways. Before Jesus existed (and before you ask, no I don’t think Jesus was a real person at all, but that’s a story for another day), people still celebrated the passing of the worst part of winter, and looked forward to longer and warmer days ahead. See, there were times when people didn’t have the luxury of heaters, well made clothing and grocery stores. They had to worry about keeping warm and having enough food to last through the winter. It was serious shit back then, so there was good reason to celebrate the receding cold fronts.

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This is all rather frustrating as an American, where the vocal majority is Christian. Politicians are regularly touting this country as a Christian nation, claiming that we were founded on principles of their religion and all that is right and good with the world comes from this Christian morality. This isn’t true either, but without educating yourself and doing a little bit of research, you wouldn’t know any better. I truly believe that this is the case with a large majority of Americans — they just aren’t paying attention. They’re simply going along with whatever is easiest, and believing everything they’re told. What happens when they really do look though? If you’re a person of deep religious faith and I just pointed out that your holy day is a sham, you’re not likely going to listen to me, are you? No, because you have been told since you were little to avoid people of no faith. Logic and Reason could win the day if you just let it, but no, you must fight against the Devil’s influence and ignore the facts that are staring you right in the face. Christmas is not a Christian holiday. America is not a Christian nation. Christmas is a commercial commodity. America reserves the right to freedom of religion, which also means freedom from religion. It was truly formed as a secular nation, and that whole separation of church and state bit isn’t really being respected these days.

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So how does one avoid these sorts of difficulties? Well, to be honest there is no avoiding it. You either go with the flow and go about the same traditions that countless generations have gone through before you, or you stop celebrating it altogether. Or you continue to celebrate the holidays without acknowledging the religious stuff. Honestly it’s become a hollow shell of what it started out as; commercialism of the holiday has ruined much of its spirit, though I can appreciate the sentiment of spending time with family and having that one time of the year where you spread joy by giving gifts to one another. For me, I simply go about the holiday with that in mind, knowing that I can make someone happy with a gesture and spending time with family is important. This whole “war” just irritates me because people that I love and respect believe in things that I find irrational, and in some respects you have to pick a side. It is impossible for me to sit idly by and acknowledge a fanciful story that has little to no evidence to prove it. It is impossible to acknowledge this holiday as the day little baby Jesus was born (or some variant of that) because there isn’t enough evidence of his existence. It is impossible for me to acknowledge this nation as being a Christian nation when I am not one of them, and it was not founded on those principles.

If more people did research, this wouldn’t even be an argument.

Couch Podtatoes Episode 72: Our Favorite Games of 2015

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Holy crap, we can’t seem to make a short episode anymore. But hey, it’s the end of 2015, and we’re taking a look at our favorite games of the year, and doing a little gushing about them. Also shit talking on each other’s lists, because we all know that mine is superior. We’ll still let Eri think that hers is, as it’s better for my health. So yeah, there really isn’t a whole lot to say in this intro. Have a listen, let us know what you think about our lists, and tell Eri you think she’s wrong. That should do it for the year. We won’t be back with a new show until Janurary, so have a happy holiday with your loved ones, from the Couch Podtatoes.

 

Download this Episode Subscribe via RSS Download on iTunes Listen on Stitcher

Couch Podtatoes Epsiode 72: Our Favorite Games of 2015 (runtime: 1:22:52)

What are we playing? (starts at 1:25)
Discussion: Favorites of 2015 (starts at 10:50)

Host Contact information:

Izlain
Blog: Me vs. Myself and I
Twitter: @mevsmyselfandi

Eri
Blog: Healing The Masses
Twitter: @ausj3w3l

Music Credits:
“Bit Rush” by Riot Games
“Repentless” by Slayer (from the album Repentless)
“Enchanted Rose” by Bury Your Dead (from the album Beauty and the Breakdown)

Couch Podtatoes is a podcast about gaming, though we might stray into other forms of media. Sometimes we use strong language, but we try to keep that to a minimum. All opinions expressed by us or our guests are our own and are in no way to be interpreted as official commentary from any companies we discuss. You can visit our official podcast page at Libsyn.com. Be sure to follow us on iTunes, and/or Stitcher Radio.

You can also find the show in video format at The Gaming And Entertainment Network YouTube page, or stream it right here:

Questions, comments and feedback are welcomed and encouraged!

By The Numbers: Week 15, 2015

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151218-infographic-oak-920A very powerful statement was made by the Packers last Sunday. Despite the fact that Tony Romo has been injured again and Matt Cassel did absolutely nothing to impress anyone, the Cowboys’ defense is highly ranked. They showed up during the first half of the game, limiting scoring opportunities and the Cowboys’ offense made some great runs that ended in a touchdown. They would have had a second touchdown had Sam Shields not made a pick in the end zone earlier in the game. However, the second half belonged to the Packers, and the run game got going in a great way. Receivers mostly caught the ball too, and the Defense played lights out — only allowing 7 points all game, which came on the drive that had the big run plays from the Boys. Overall I didn’t expect to blow the team out like that, but I expected a victory and the Packers delivered. They are now in sole possession of first place in the NFC North, and it’s likely they will hold onto that lead for the rest of the season. A road trip to Oakland is coming up this weekend, and though I see a much improved Raiders squad compared to recent years, I don’t think they will pose too much of a challenge. They’re still rebuilding around Carr (whom is a good QB from what I can tell) and I think it’s going to take a season or two for them to be really relevant. So anyway, let’s get on with the picks:

Buccs 21, Rams 14
Jets 24, Cowboys 10
Chiefs 21, Ravens 13
Texans 24, Colts 14
Falcons 21, Jags 20
Vikings 28, Bears 20
Patriots 31, Titans 16
Giants 28, Panthers 24
Bills 21, Skins 17
Packers 36, Raiders 20
Seachickens 28, Browns 6
Steelers 23, Broncos 16
Dolphins 21, Chargers 17
Bengals 20, 49ers 10
Cards 32, Eagles 20
Lions 21, Saints 13

The Best Metal Albums of 2015 #Listmas

After making a list in my last post, I remembered why I enjoyed making lists in the first place. I do them periodically on my own, but Listmas is the perfect excuse to make more. So here I am rehashing my idea from last year during this time of making a list of my favorite metal albums of the year. Admittedly I didn’t pay attention to the scene as much this year, so I had to do a little looking around to round out the list. A couple of my favorite bands put out new releases this year, so those were easy additions, but I didn’t really go searching for new music to consume this year, probably because I’ve been so busy with all of the other content generation, and you know, playing games and such. That doesn’t mean that I’ve given up on searching for new music, it was just lower on the priority list for the first time in a long time. Anyway, this year I decided to also pick a favorite song off of each album and include a video for it. So let’s get to it, shall we?

5. Slayer – Repentless

Slayer is a band that most if not all metal bands are influenced by. Part of the “Big Four” that includes Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax, they were legends of the thrash scene of the 80’s. They’ve persisted through the decades and still have a signature sound, despite losing some founding members before recording this album. Their dark and brooding lyrics plus anti-religious themes probably won’t sit well with most, but hey, credit where it’s due, they started something bigger than themselves. The title track is my personal favorite, and sounds reminiscent of Raining Blood and other classic Slayer tracks.

4. Thy Art is Murder – Holy War

Thy Art is Murder is an Australian death metal band that I discovered this year. I guess that goes against what I said in the opening paragraph of this post but discovering them was a good thing. The title track from the album is dark and gritty, but paints a picture that resonates within me. The video helps to drive that message home. Good shit. My only complaint is that the mastering of this album was a little light on bass, so it doesn’t thump as hard as it should, but it’s a great album nonetheless.

3. Lamb of God – Sturm Und Drang

Lamb of God has been putting out commercially accepted metal for a decade plus now, and it still feels like they have more in the tank. Not only are they sounding tighter and more polished than ever, but this album feels less repetitive than previous efforts. Still, if you’ve heard one LoG album, you’ve pretty much heard them all. If you like them, you’ll like this one. If you aren’t a fan then don’t expect something different here. It’s still a great album even if you don’t think so.

2. Revocation – Empire of the Obscene (Remaster)

Though technically not a new album for 2015, Revocation’s Empire of the Obscene was re-released this year, so it counts. It’s also their first effort as a band, so it was one of those things you couldn’t find unless you knew where to look. With the remaster you get the demo release that sounds like a brand new album, and because I hadn’t heard it before it was like getting one. I love this band, with their combination of thrash and death metal that just shreds.

1. The Black Dahlia Murder – Abysmal

There was a time when I had a favorite band. They were my favorite band for years and years, but then they took a turn for the worse and I just couldn’t stomach their new direction. I vowed from that day on that I wouldn’t ever declare another single band as my favorite because the same result could come about. Since then, I’ve had a handful of bands from differing genres that I would consider favorites, but if you put a gun to my head and made me choose, The Black Dahlia Murder would be it. Somehow each new release impresses me more than the last, and nothing ever feels rehashed. These are truly creative guys and I love everything they do. The album’s opening track is above and I just love how it builds in intensity before blowing your head off and then maintains that high threshold for the remainder of the song. Absolutely brilliant from start to finish.

See something you don’t like? Did I miss something? Do you hate metal? Let me know in the comments!