All Hallows 2017

Halloween has always been one of my more favored holidays — when we’re kids we trick or treat and get loads of candy, later on in life we attend parties and dress up. It’s a great way to leave reality behind for a night and pretend to be someone or something else. The older we get it seems that we don’t participate as often as we used to. I don’t see the wild Halloween parties raging all night anymore, but we still hold to traditions, don’t we?

I spent part of the weekend in fall/halloween mode. We carved pumpkins on Sunday with the roommates and then started up a fire in the backyard and made s’mores. Drinking around a fire is something I hadn’t done in a long time and it was relaxing!

My contribution to the pumpkin display

This evening we’ll be taking my girlfriend’s son trick or treating and that will be the end of the festivities. I didn’t really put together a costume but found a t-shirt that will keep me on theme with the rugrat. I thought I’d take this time to say Happy Halloween to everyone, and also to share some of my favorite on-theme musical tracks for the holiday. Enjoy!

AFI – Fall Children

The Misfits – Halloween

The Black Dahlia Murder – A Shrine to Madness

Bioshock: Remastered

Let me give a little background on this particular title before I get into my impressions. Bioshock originally released back in 2007, so by gaming standards it’s pretty old. I remember the first time I was able to try it, my friend had a copy on his Xbox 360. I played through the first couple of hours of the game, had an impression that it was pretty cool, and that was the extent of it. I never did pick up a copy of the game, and though the next two games in the series would eventually be given away for free via Playstation Plus, I never really played them either due to the fact that I wanted to complete the first game before touching them. A few years later, the remastered editions were announced, and it turned out if you bought the originals on Steam, you would get an upgrade to the remastered editions for free when they released (this happened with Skyrim’s special edition as well). Before the release I ended up grabbing the trilogy on sale so I think it cost me $10-20 to get these remastered versions of the game. I figured having them all and having the updated graphics would allow for a premium experience on my PC. I want to say the free upgrade happened within the last couple of years, and yet these titles sat unplayed. I rectified that recently.

As I mentioned a few times over the year, my girlfriend has expressed interest in watching me play certain games. It has mostly been horror experiences, but she tends to get bored if there isn’t a lot of action. Unfortunately, most horror games lack a combat mechanic, and use that as a tool to make the player feel helpless. In Bioshock, it’s not so much of a horror game, but very atmospheric and there is of course plenty of combat to be had. After firing it up and playing for a couple of hours she seemed rather entertained, and I had forgotten how cool the game really is. Of course, having the ability to play it on max settings and everything looking gorgeous helps, but it does have an interesting storyline, a cool area to explore and unique bad guys and mechanics that I haven’t really seen done in other games. Rapture is truly captivating, and I have been enjoying my time.

It’s unfortunate in this day and age that we are able to get games so cheap and there is such an abundance of them without enough time to play each and every one. I have been getting into the habit of trying out more of my unplayed titles in the backlog and just deleting the ones that I don’t really like. I’ve freed up quite a bit of space on both my PC and PS4 hard drives by doing so, and I feel less guilty about having so many games still lying there unplayed. The good news is that some of the games take less time to complete (or they go in the trash bin) so I have been making some progress as far as that goes. Certain games I’ve acquired over the years just don’t do it for me, feel wonky, or don’t hook me like I would have expected and deleting them from my life relieves some of the pressure I have to complete them all. The bad news is that many of these titles are RPGs that take weeks to complete, so the backlog won’t be empty any time soon. But having more expenses as of late has meant not buying games unless they are absolute must haves, and still my wishlist has grown without me making any purchases. It’s likely I’ll wait until the fall sales and maybe pick up a game or two but I’m not buying games year round like I used to. I’m hoping these efforts help me to finally finish some of these experiences!

Sorry for the aside, back to Bioshock! So it’s such an old title that I’m sure anyone who ever wanted to play the game has done so. I can say that the remastered version does feel prettier and runs great but my memory of the original is hazy so I can’t tell what the real difference is. I’m just enjoying the game and trying to make my way through it, so I suppose there isn’t too much else to share. If you have been on the fence about it and having played, you can likely get it on the cheap, and as I said the sales are coming. I’d recommend it if you like atmospheric shooters that are story-driven and something you can play through rather quickly. The collection is cheap so why not play through them all? I’m hoping to knock them out quickly so I can move onto the next task. Here are some shots from the early portion of the game, and I’ll report back when I’ve completed it:

By The Numbers: Week 8, 2017

It’s still probably too early to count the season as a lost one, but it certainly feels that way. Reports are saying Rodgers could return as early as week 15, but other reports are saying he had a large plate and a bunch of screws attached to his clavicle, so it’s clearly a worse injury than the last one. Could this be the end of an era? Will he return at all? Can Hundley fill his shoes? Doesn’t seem likely. I believe that Rodgers will miss the rest of the season and might come back next year but who knows how good he will remain. It’s clear that the team isn’t the same without him, and though this week is a bye week and some of the other injured players might make their way back to the lineup by the time we’re back to playing, it’s still up in the air as to if they can actually win some games. The game was fairly close against the Saints, but they still managed to pull out the win, and I don’t see us making the playoffs at this rate. 4-3 isn’t terrible, but I imagine we’d be 7-1 at this point with Rodgers and that’s just sad. I’m sad. I love football but not having my favorite player on the field makes it feel like watching college football where I just don’t care. Anyway, let’s see how my picks went last week:

Chiefs 42, Raiders 27
Buccs 28, Bills 21
Ravens 21, Vikings 14
Jets 10, Dolphins 9
Rams 27, Cardinals 17 – Correct
Colts 21, Jags 19
Packers 20, Saints 17
Panthers 30, Bears 10
Titans 32, Browns 7 – Correct
Cowboys 27, 49ers 13
Broncos 30, Chargers 24
Steelers 24, Bengals 21 – Correct
Giants 20, Seahawks 17
Patriots 28, Falcons 24 – Correct

Wow, I did bad. I got 4 correct this week, and didn’t even make a pick for the Monday night game. This whole Rodgers injury thing has thrown me for a loop, clearly. Oh well, let’s get the picks for this week over with and call it a day.

Dolphins 27, Ravens 21
Vikings 28, Browns 7
Falcons 21, Jets 10
Buccs 24, Panthers 20
Eagles 32, 49ers 10
Saints 27, Bears 21
Patriots 30, Chargers 10
Raiders 24, Bills 19
Bengals 21, Colts 13
Seahawks 24, Texans 14
Cowboys 28, Redskins 20
Steelers 30, Lions 27
Chiefs 27, Broncos 20


Thoughts on Brawlhalla

I remember coming across Brawlhalla in the past, as it was an Early Access or Beta title on Steam for a while now. As something that looks and plays much like the Super Smash Bros. line of games from Nintendo, it wasn’t a game that I thought about playing on PC, so I likely saw it in the discovery queue and hit “not interested.” Early Access titles are very hit or miss and usually it ends up in a developmental slog before finally releasing some years later. Sometimes EA games can be gold, and feel like completed games while in their Alpha or Beta states. Other titles are less fortunate, and end up being piles of trash until they are finally released or the devs go MIA. In this case, the game was announced in 2014, has been in an open beta state for a couple of years, and officially released last week. While I haven’t played the PC version, it turned up on the Playstation Store, and having played some of the Smash Bros. games in the past, I knew I’d enjoy this one.

The last Smash Bros. game I played was on the original Wii console, and it was a blast, but I never had anyone to play with. If I recall correctly, you could still play online in that version of the game, but I eventually sold off my Wii and haven’t played this style of game since. I do have friends via PSN that would be interested in playing this game though, so I downloaded it and convinced a friend to do the same.

If you aren’t familiar with Super Smash Bros., it is a fairly basic 2-D fighting platforming game. You control one of a few dozen characters (called “Legends” in this particular title) in a small arena. 3 other AI or players will control other Legends and you fight it out. The platforming elements involve several levels of the game, running, jumping and trying to keep from falling to an early demise. Simple one-button combos unique to the Legends are your bread and butter, and you have a set amount of lives. You will do damage to the enemy players until eventually they fall to their death or you knock them out. Certain power moves will allow you to launch enemies into the nether, and unless they time their triple jumps just right, they will fall and lose a life. Last man standing wins. There are several game modes, including 1v1, 2v2 and some experimental and rotating modes. The network functionality works great, it was easy to queue up for a match and get going. There are only a few Legends available to start, I assume there is some sort of in-game currency that you can earn to open up new ones, and I’m sure there’s RMT to support the devs and speed up this process. Each Legend has a unique set of weapons available to them, and some differing moves, but overall they control similarly. Basically there is a light attack and a heavy attack button, and if you press a direction simultaneously you will perform that move. So up + light attack does one thing, while down + light attack will perform something else. Items will periodically drop from the sky allowing you to get a sword or some guns and changing up your moves. That’s really all there is to it, but there is some depth in the simplicity that veterans will pick up over time.

I recorded my first game against live people, a 2v2 match where I was playing the Legend called “Cross.” He looks like a Roaring 20’s Gangster, and he performed well enough for me. We won the round and I got a good feel for the game:

For a free to play title I rather enjoy it. I’m not sure if the RMT is fair, but I’m sure the game is fun to play without spending any money. If it ends up being something I play on the regular then I’ll probably throw the devs a few bucks. If anyone wants to get a round in, look me up on PSN: Built4Sin82.

TWR: Taking Inspiration From Others

There are a few brews that I’ve been working on in my spare time, decks that I want to build but are a bit too expensive to grab outright, so I’ve made small investments here and there, and several of my decks are considered under construction. Hell, the decks I play with regularly see revisions too as new sets come out and more optimal or on-theme cards present themselves. But to this point the decks that I discuss in this column are those that I’ve already built, or those that I’m updating from a previous version. I intend to keep things that way, so behold, my latest project that has come to fruition.

I already owned Saskia, the Unyielding — having purchased the pre-constructed deck “Open Hostility” back when I first got into Commander. I played with that deck a few times and didn’t really understand how to use it, nor did I really care for what it was doing. It turns out it’s probably the weakest deck from that year’s Commander set, and that’s probably why I wasn’t that into it. The other day I was reading an article over on EDHREC, because I was curious to see what someone else might do with this card as a Commander. I rather liked the author’s idea, where the deck is centered around the combo of Saskia’s passive ability and “ball-lightings.” Let me illustrate why this sounds so good.

Ball Lightning has been around for a long time. It always felt like a weak card unless it was played in the right deck, but the mechanic itself has found its way onto many different variants of creature cards. What matters here is that it is a 6/1 with trample and haste, but must be sacrificed at end of turn. Still, for only 3 mana you could potentially start casting these cards as early as turn 1 or 2. This means you’re hitting for around 6 damage a turn if you have enough of these guys in the deck, and even if they get out a weenie or two you’re still causing trample damage. Combined with Saskia’s passive, and as long as you swing at a different enemy you’re doing damage to two players simultaneously. Or, you can basically double down on one person. Either way, it’s free damage and we like free damage. So the majority of the deck is set around this theme, and the credit for that is due to the author of the post I read. He had some other ideas as well, some of which I took parts of and others that I didn’t. I tweaked it enough to call it my own, but it’s definitely not my original idea. It turned out that I had the Commander and the expensive pieces in my collection so I didn’t have to spend much to finish her off. The other creatures in the deck tend to be more Ball Lighting types, but I will highlight some of the utility I included as well:

The creatures that stray from being Ball Lightnings have their place as well. Brion is a good sacrifice outlet, and those are important too. Being able to have a sacrifice outlet for the Ball Lightning that survives combat means you get a bonus effect from them before they self destruct at end of turn. 2nd main phase means something, kids! Feldon let’s me copy already dead Ball Lightnings. Some cards proc for card draw when I play creatures. Vizier of the Menagerie is mana fixing and card draw. Stalking Vengeance allows for extra damage when your creatures sac at end of turn. Synergy all around. For spells, I added some board clears that the original author did not. Plenty of ramp, some card draw as well. My enchantment selection was pretty important:

Mostly thematic and/or utility, the enchantments I added to the deck can help with things like card draw (elemental bond) or ramp (perilous forays) but can also give me double strike while attacking, or more free damage when creatures hit the battlefield. Rite of the Raging Storm is fantastic because it gives me a Ball Lightning every turn for free. I also replicated this sort of effect with some of my artifacts. Otherwise those cards give some additional card advantage (lifecrafter’s bestiary) and mana fixing (chromatic lantern).

Overall I think it will be a fun deck to test out, which I’m hoping to do later this evening. Deckbuilding is half the fun, but the other half is playtesting! Can’t wait for the day that we get our best decks together and go enter a tournament or other store event and see how we do against the competition!