Thoughts on Until Dawn

My girlfriend is an interesting character. She has shown no interest in playing video games, nor does she particularly enjoy horror movies, but for some reason she enjoys watching me play horror games. This started when I was playing through Resident Evil 7, and since then when I end up with a new Horror title to play with, she wants to watch. It works for me, and it gives us something else to bond over, even if the game isn’t particularly good.

Last month, Until Dawn was part of the Playstation Plus monthly free lineup, and I downloaded it without knowing when I’d get around to playing it. I had heard decent things about it back when it released in 2015, but it was never a game I felt I had to have. Having actually played quite a bit of it now I can say that it’s an interesting title, but I’m glad that I didn’t pay money for it.

That isn’t to say it’s terrible. It’s chock full of cliched horror tropes, the voice acting and character models are fine, and it has some jump scares and gore to boot (plus lots of talk of sex, though that typically means someone is about to die). Despite being full of these cliches, it manages to mix themes from several horror movies that we’ve seen over the years, and there are some interesting sub-layers that I would assume make for a more complete experience.

You remember that movie “The Butterfly Effect?” That is one of the main sub-themes of this title. The Butterfly Effect is a principal that goes like this: A flap of a butterfly’s wings can lead to a string of events that cause a hurricane elsewhere. This game splashes this concept throughout, and you choices in individual scenarios change the narrative of the game. Like TellTale games and other titles where “choices matter,” it’s apparent that there are likely multiple endings and ways that things can go with this game.

I powered through the first 6-ish chapters and have found the story line to be intriguing, if not a bit vague and confusing. Scenes between “episodes” have a mysterious figure being seen by a therapist. I won’t spoil anything here but the mystery man plays a major role in the story. I’ve made choices and people have died. I’ve made choices and people lived. Various innocuous actions have various consequences. It’s definitely more of an interactive narrative than a Resident Evil or Silent Hill game, combat is next to non-existent and there is more time spent chatting and watching cut scenes than actually playing. Of course there are plenty of QTE’s as well, which fans of horror/adventure games will be used to. Honestly, if you play TellTale or similarly styled games you’ll probably enjoy this one. As long as you can get past the terrible teenaged drama these kids bring upon themselves.

As I haven’t finished the game yet I can’t say if the ending will make me want to play through again for a different one, but I will see it through to its end. If you got it for free like I did, you should at least give it a whirl. Otherwise I’d recommend waiting for a sale, as it’s not really worth a full $60. Still a mildly entertaining diversion.

The War Report: Thoughts on Commander 2017

I know, I know, I’m obsessed. This used to be a gaming blog, and though I know that Magic: The Gathering could still be considered gaming, it’s definitely not “video gaming” despite having some titles in the digital space. Regardless, there is more news that interests me coming out of the Wizards of the Coast space than there is the gaming sphere, so here we are with another column of The War Report!

It’s spoiler season, which happens multiple times a year when it comes to MTG — each time a new set or collection comes out there are spoilers for it, as people want to know what they can expect before buying in, and I must say that having the spoilers is nice because you can tell if something you are going to buy is going to be worth your while. Given the spoilers of the last couple of main sets, Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation, I knew right away that I wouldn’t be buying too many packs, that most of the “power” cards that I wanted would be easier to just buy singles of and be done with. At this point I have done that for most of the cards I’d like to own from that block. Then once a year a new commander set comes out and we all get to take a peek into the minds of the creative teams at Wizards, and are rewarded with new cards in each set as well.

At this point, we know the exact color make ups, tribes and commanders for the new pre-constructed 2017 sets. Here they are:

5-color Dragons, Green/White Cats, Mardu Vampires and Grixis Wizards. Interesting color combinations, and an interesting new mechanic called “Eminence” which gives each new commander a bonus effect that triggers even when it is in the command zone. Well, this isn’t entirely new, as Oloro, The Ageless Acetic released with the 2013 commander sets and had what is now called Eminence. However, it’s a cool and powerful utility and I think we will see some awesome creative uses for the commanders outside of the precons. Out of these sets, as I mentioned in my last post I’m most interested in Vampires, but I was unsure how things would go having a mardu color-theme. Having seen Edgar Markov however, I’m sold. His Eminence ability is amazing and fits the aggro theme I wanted to use in the mono-black vampire deck I had been planning. I feel like sacrifice outlets and recursion are going to work out great in the deck, and I’m sure there will be some weaker cards that can easily be pulled out. I feel like there are some amazing dual colored vampires (orzhov and rakdos) that will slot right in, and if it ends up that I’m just splashing red, that’s fine — it’s what ended up happening with Kaalia as well.

I feel like the other Eminence abilities are less useful, but some of those commanders are more powerful in their own ways. Time will tell how the decks themselves play out, but I’m excited to get my hands on Markov and to build out the deck in my own way. The guys in my play group are excited as well, one for Dragons and the other for Wizards — no one is too thrilled with Cat tribal, but I’m sure someone will pick it up anyway.

There are some other great cards that are making their way into the decks as well, with some old school mechanics like phasing making their way back to the game. It’s been a great spoiler season thus far, and soon we’ll be looking forward to Ixalan as well. I will report back once I have the deck in hand and can start to modify it!

The War Report: Brewing Vampires

The new batch of Commander pre-constructed decks are coming very soon, August 25th to be exact. Like the sets of precon decks before it, there are several to choose from, and there is a general theme. This year’s theme is tribal decks, whereas last year the focus was on four color partner decks and other years have had things like Planeswalkers that could be used as commanders, etc. Bits of information have been leaked over the course of the year for the new decks, and though nothing has been fully confirmed, we know that one of the decks is 5-color Dragon tribal. Cat and Vampire tribal has also been basically confirmed, and the last deck is said to be Wizards.

Of these, the deck I am most interested in is the vampire tribal. I have actually brewed a mono black aggro deck that is based around vampires, but haven’t spent the money to buy the cards just yet. When I heard that vampires would be one of the new tribes, I figured I would wait and see what comes in the deck before building the one that I brewed. Word on the street is that the deck will be Mardu (red/white/black) which is a strong combination that I’ve used with Kaalia — and that deck smashes. However when it comes to vampires it doesn’t necessarily feel like the best colors for the job.

I picked mono black for my own brew mainly because the majority of vampire creature cards are black. Black also has a variety of ramp, removal and card draw. Honestly, black feels like the best color in a lot of ways, but I am also drawn to Orzhov (black/white) which adds some additional goodies via white spells, but some of the gold cards that are Orzhov are powerful, and there are some vampire options there as well. Black/red does have some vamps as well, but it seems that the mono red vampires are mostly weak, and revolve around madness quite a bit — which is a mechanic only found in one block.

I’m seeing subthemes here, but I honestly need to see what comes with the precon to see how I want to build it out. I can stick with Mardu and change it marginally as I’ve done with precons in the past. Or I can strip the red out and change the commander to Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter. He’s the only Orzhov Legendary Vampire. There are plenty of mono black legendary vamps, but no mono red and no mono white. I’m assuming that the mardu precon will provide a new commander card because currently there aren’t any mardu legendary vampires. That’s one bit that keeps me from making any decisions currently, because the precons each come with some new cards that have never been printed before. If the new commander is worth keeping the deck mardu then so be it. If he is not, I may run Vish, or I may just strip out the good black cards and stick to mono black.

At this point it’s hard to say which way I’ll go. I feel like the mono black brew I’ve made could be a strong deck, but I am also intrigued to see what they come up with in a three color. Regardless, the next deck I’m going to be working on is this vampire deck, but that won’t be until the end of the month. In the meantime I think I’m going to focus on finely tuning my existing decks as there are still some Hour of Devastation cards that I’d like to sprinkle in, along with some weaknesses that need to be shored up. In particular I want to change around my zombie deck by making Scarab God the commander (which may end up giving the deck a mill subtheme), add Razaketh to Kaalia, and change some of my equipment/auras in Sram. Reaper King also feels like he needs some changes, because he draws a lot of hate and when he is off of the board it feels like I can’t do as much. So for the rest of the month I’m going to focus on those improvements and then work on vampires once I get my hands on the precon.

How do you go about starting new brews?