Apex Legends Season 3 Begins

It’s been a couple of weeks since season 3 of Apex Legends kicked off, and though I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while now, it’s probably better that I didn’t jump the gun. I’ve played quite a bit of the game as of late, mainly because last season I was gifted the battle pass by my lovely lady, so I was in a mad scramble to at least get her money’s worth. This season I wanted to get in on the action right from the start, so I bought the pass on day one and have been able to keep up with all of the challenges much easier. I also have plenty of play time in this season to share my experiences with the newest changes to the game. What were the big changes?

  • New Map
  • New Legend
  • New Gun
  • New Cosmetics

Initially I was curious as to what would happen with the old map that we had all gotten used to. This isn’t a traditional move by Respawn — most battle royale games keep the same map for years, only making adjustments (which the team had done on the prior map throughout the year). When I first logged in, I was anticipating having the ability to choose between the maps, but that wasn’t an option. We’re stuck with the new map for the time being, but we’ve already heard that the old map will be making appearances. In the announced Halloween event, there will be new skins and whatnot to earn, but also a “nightime version” of the old map. So perhaps at some point we might see a playlist with other maps included, but for now, we’re focused on learning the ins and outs of the new one. As you can see above, it’s roughly the same size as the last map, but everything looks a bit different.

It’s a bit prettier in my eyes, mainly because I don’t really care for the bland color scheme of desert biomes. Here we instead have pops of red and white, due to lava and snow respectively. Overall it looks greener and more alive. I also like the addition of industry, with cityscapes and even a train that moves around the world. It feels better in many ways, but then I don’t like how wide-open some areas are. I’ve been picked off by snipers one too many times, I suppose. Whatever the case, it’s a well balance map and I feel like there is less competition to land in one or two places, and instead people spread out a little more. It also feels like the weapon distribution is better, as I don’t seem to come across 5 Mozambiques in one building anymore, nor do I feel undergeared before leaving the first area where I land. I suppose part of that is luck and experience, but whatever it is, it feels more balanced.

The new character, Crypto (pictured in the logo above) is a “surveillance expert,” and is another tactical legend, finally. We’ve only had Bloodhound for so long I was beginning to think they gave up on the archetype. He’s actually better at surveying than Bloodhound, but does so in a different way. He has a little drone that he can take control of, but when doing so he is vulnerable. He gives sight to teammates when his drones see enemies, and can also shoot off an EMP blast from the drone itself, which destroys some equipment and drains shields. Otherwise, he’s pretty much just another dude with a gun. I was able to unlock all of the legends prior to his release, but don’t have the currency saved for him just yet, so more on that once I try him out.

I also haven’t really used the Charge Rifle, which is the new gun added with this patch. I have however been decimated by it. It’s an energy sniper rifle that charges up shots and when they hit, they hurt! Again, I haven’t used one much (though I’ve had some stellar games with the Triple Take, the “other” energy sniper rifle) but I think it seems a little overpowered at present. I’m sure some adjustments will be made.

As far as cosmetics go, buying the battle pass unlocked a couple skins for legends right off the bat, and early on we unlock a “gun trinket” which is that little ornamental ball thing on my R-301 above. It’s not terrible, and some of them are okay to look at, but it seems like a wonky thing to give a shit about. I guess more customization is fine, but Apex is starting to go the way of Fortnite, and clown pants comes to mind. Some of the skins and things are pretty awesome but at some point we’re all rainbow brite running around like an idiot.

One last thing before I go. I thought I’d drop my Season 2 stats here to make comparisons when the next season starts.

Thoughts on Beyond: Two Souls

I spoke very highly of two of Quantic Dream’s games already, and had mentioned that I would also be diving into a third game that came out in between Heavy Rain and Detroit: Become Human. That game, is 2013’s Beyond: Two Souls. This is going to be a relatively short post on the subject, because unlike the previously written about games, this one didn’t sink its hooks into me like the others did. I’ll now attempt to explain why.

Graphically, the game leans more towards the Detroit side of the scale rather that the first game, mainly due to the fact that the latter two games came out on PS4 while the former came out on PS3, so that explains the difference in fidelity. That isn’t to say Heavy Rain looked bad, it was just a sign of the times. It still had a better story line than this game, as did the third chapter. You begin play as a little girl, and there are various current time frame and flash back scenes that lay the ground work for the story. It seems that as a little girl, your character has an “imaginary friend” that ends up actually being some sort of entity that has a link with her. It’s not so much that she has control of it, but more so that she can ask it to do things. In gameplay terms, yes,  you do control this entity at certain points, and are able to choose to listen to commands or not. There’s still branching dialogue choices and things you can do that affect the story, but the story itself was less grounded in reality and I think suffered because of it. I realize that robots becoming humans is also currently far-fetched but still something I anticipate could happen whereas this spirit/entity is complete bullshit and made it harder for me to suspend my disbelief.

I do however, think it’s cool when games get fully motion captured actors and portray them as themselves in games. Willem Dafoe ends up being the girl’s “handler” so to speak, and it appears as time goes on, she becomes more than just a girl with a pet, and more of her own CIA spy bad ass. That’s cool and all, but it’s less cohesive with all of the jumping around the game did. Heavy Rain ended doing some flashback stuff but it made sense when they did so. Detroit: Become Human ended up making more of a beeline to the end of the story but you played multiple characters so you could tell it was all happening simultaneously. Beyond: Two Souls ends up making a stack of layers that when unshuffled makes sense, but otherwise seems like a mess. This is probably why they included an option to play the game in chronological order, but I wanted the “authentic” experience.

What frustrated me the most was controlling the entity. Early on you have to fly through walls to “cheat” and see what card a person is looking at so that you can match it to a card on the desk in front of you. Then Willem Dafoe asks you if you can do anything else (at this point they seem to think she is psychic/telekinetic) and you can throw shit around the room. Like the other games though, this is controlled via QTE/weird button combinations and it just didn’t do it for me. There’s some forced stealth with an invisible spirit and that’s where I drew the line. It just simply didn’t hold my attention like the others. As it stands now, I can’t recommend this one, but if you are a fan of their other games, you might be able to power through it. That’s all I have to say about it, so I’ll see you all next time!

TWR: Throne of Eldraine Complete Spoiler

Spoiler season for the upcoming Throne of Eldraine expansion has come to a close, and that means I can discuss some of the better cards I’ve seen come with the set. When I originally talked about the set I noted that I wasn’t too excited with much that I had seen to that point, but eventually some decent cards popped up and I knew that I would want at least a few. On that note, I found a nearby LGS that does the prerelease events, so it’s looking like I’ll be going to that next weekend, and I’m looking forward to that mainly because I haven’t been to one in about a year or maybe more. I like the prerelease kits, they come with new dice, a promo card with the date on it, and a few packs to get you started with the set. New cards before the set even releases is great. I still am not very hyped for this particular set, but as I noted in my last post about the subject, I am looking forward to some of the sets coming out next year, and that will be here before you know it.

The somewhat standard product release is changing up a little bit this time around. It appears that there will still be normal booster packs, the themed boosters, and planeswalker decks. However, the new Brawl decks release along side this product, and another new type of pack is being sold as well. Collectors packs are supposed to contain the full art cards that previously were only part of the mythic editions. It doesn’t appear that there will be one of those this time around, but you can buy these (no doubt more expensive) packs to get some of that nice art. The trouble is, well there are some shitty cards getting the treatment. This does however mean that you’ll likely be able to buy singles of these versions of the cards so if you want the nicer copy of particular card that should be doable.

Buy-A-Box Promo:

The buy-a-box promo is actually rather good for this set. A new 5-color general for us commander players, and one that really only needs infinite mana to win the game. He might actually be one of the faster cEDH decks if built properly. I’m sort of interested, but also sort of don’t care. Still, a better card than we’ve seen for a while, but not enough to get me to buy a box. I might grab a single if it’s not outrageous. Next, I’ll go into some of the better cards in the individual colors. Again, with my hype levels being so low, there aren’t too many to talk about.

White:

One of the best cards in the set, Hushbringer is great for hatebear/stax strategies and I can’t wait to get a couple of these for existing decks. Deafening Silence is another stax piece, Happily Ever After is a convoluted win-con but still seems doable. The Archon could work well in some decks as would the Charming Prince, I mainly highlighted them as they are interesting cards.

Blue:

Emry is one of the other best cards from the set. It’s mainly good for artifact decks, but can get you into some loops pretty easily. Gadwick is an interesting card that wants to be a commander but also wants to be in a wizard deck. The mirror enchantment is a great way to get interesting effects from other people’s decks into your own. The mirror artifact is pricey but can be cheapened, and can snowball into some nice card draw. The folio is more group hug oriented, but can be used to mill as well, so a very political card.

Black:

People who like building rat decks rejoice, as the Piper and Witch both support the tribe/strategy. Murderous Rider is a Hero’s Downfall on legs, but also recurs itself. Our twisted elf noble is another strong aristocrat style card, while Syr Konrad benefits from the strategy as well. Rankle looks janky but fun. The Cauldron could be something amazing but it’s pretty convoluted. I like some of these cards more than others.

Red:

Another one of my favorite cards from the set comes with Torbran. He instantly adds 2 damage to any damage source you control. This means if you’re hitting with 5 1/1 goblins, they’re now doing 3 damage each. Combine that with effects from cards like Impact Tremors, and you’re speeding up your damage quite rapidly and red already wants to do damage fast. I see him going into my Krenko deck, while I also really enjoy the new legendary equipment and see that slotting into my voltron deck. Other cards here have some value in particular decks but are less exciting.

Green:

People were losing their shit over The Great Henge. I think it’s okay but not spectacular. The aura is another nice way to eliminate a commander by turning it into a do-nothing 3/3. Not as good as Song of the Dryads but it’s still not bad. I also like Return to Nature, which is flexible removal for a cheap CMC.

Multi/Colorless/Land:

The new land cycle of the castles are pretty bad. There’s another mono colored land cycle that I didn’t bother to highlight, but they are essentially tap lands unless certain conditions are met. I do think Fabled Passage is pretty good, it’s another Evolving Wilds type card, but can have the upside of the land not being tapped. Not as good as the one recently printed in Modern Horizons, but still on a similar level. There are a couple of decent artifacts and one new vehicle (it’s not great) in the set. Most of the multi-colored cards are pretty bad too, but I do like the new mana dork treefolk and the gruul colored spell that lets you play cards through until your next turn. The Boros enchantment is good in conjunction with say Assemble the Legion, with both you can create a bunch of tokens pretty fast.

Overall there aren’t too many cards here I really want. I think outside of the prerelease I’ll probably buy a handful of singles and call it done. Here’s hoping I get something good at the event.

TWR: Brewing Around Partners

I’ve been sitting on a couple of partner commanders for a couple of years now. I bought the Saskia Commander 2016 precon that came with Tymna the Weaver and Tana the Bloodsower and though I played the deck as it was for a little while, I eventually broke it up to make Saskia into a weird ball lightning deck before later changing her to an infect commander. Tymna found her way into another brew of mine that centered around Alesha, but Tana was relegated to a binder never to see play again (not to mention that the decks I’ve mentioned to this point aren’t seeing play or are broken up). Knowing that the partners have some powerful decks people have come up with, I was looking into another competitive option so that I’m not forced to play Zur every time I want to play cEDH. Arguably the most powerful combination, Tymna + Thrasios builds typically rely on the “Flash Hulk” combo. You can google that last term and find viable lists abound. Vial Smasher decks look solid too, and was the other build I saw most of when it came to partners with Tymna. Finally though, I came across a “Bloodpod” primer that showcased a deck centered around Tymna and Tana, and these are the cards I already owned. It turns out that I owned a good chunk of the list too and though I didn’t want to out right copy it, there isn’t a lot of room for change either. Mainly, I figured that there were some budget versions of cards that I could swap out, and thereby make it a little easier to build overall, despite having a value similar to that of my Zur deck. Most importantly, it isn’t trying to win via Laboratory Maniac and actually wants to turn creatures sideways, which is fun. It’s also pretty stax oriented, another style I enjoy. Backstory aside, let’s take a look at our partners:

Tymna doesn’t look all that great at first glance, being a 2/2 for 3 with Lifelink. However, if you can manage to damage an opponent, you’ll get an extra draw during your second main phase. If you manage to damage multiple opponents, you’re drawing more cards. That’s actually pretty amazing, and with her low CMC you can start doing this early. Tana supports the other side of our plan, in that she too wants to get in for combat damage, but also produces tokens for us to use sacrificially, or to spread our damage around to multiple opponents for more card draw via Tymna. Also, being able to create tokens and draw cards while under stax effects means we’ll be ahead of our counterparts for the majority of the game.

So what’s our game plan? Well the original Bloodpod deck was named as such due to the above two cards. Blood Moon is a card that hoses many multicolored decks, particularly if they are running mostly non-basic lands. It does ruin our non-basics too, and with only a few basic lands that can hurt, but it shouldn’t be an issue if we already have out our commanders and can keep drawing cards and creating saprolings. Birthing Pod is a nefarious card that allows you to sacrifice creatures in order to tutor up other ones, and there are several ways we’re going to utilize it. Essentially, the deck wants to throw down some early stax/tax effects and then pod into a victory combo. The original deck was made a few years back though, but newer versions have come out and I’ve managed to take some ideas from multiple decks and put them together. Some things to note: I don’t have the mana base that most lists do, but found a more budget friendly way to go that should still be effective. I also don’t own some of the most expensive cards, so I’ll be showing you some budget options for those as well. First up, the stax pieces:

I’d argue that more stax pieces are artifacts and enchantments than creatures, but it seems there are plenty of good hatebears for the deck as well. These cards are all purposefully picked in order to slow your opponents down and allow us to get ahead. Combo/Storm decks need to cast more than one spell a turn, so shutting that down as an option is good, as is forcing them to pay taxes on top of CMC. Shutting off the abilities of artifacts and creatures or making them come into play tapped sets people back turns. We also have the all important graveyard hate stapled to Leyline of the Void and Anafeza the Foremost. Magus of the Moon is a second Blood Moon. Grand Abolisher protects us on our turns. You see where this is going. So our gameplan then is to have more mana, more card draw and a faster tempo than the rest of the table. We’re only running 34 lands, which are a combination of Shocks, Pain lands, and others that allow us to create mana of any color, with very little utility. Mana rocks are present in Mox Diamond, Chrome Mox and Sol Ring, but otherwise we are depending on multiple early dorks to really accelerate our plan. Here’s our dork package:

We can make most of our colors with the above elves, along with making an explosion of green mana if we get priest of titania and a couple more elves on the battlefield. Birds of Paradise and Deathrite Shaman can fix for us. So after we have out some decent ramp and some stax pieces to put us solidly ahead, we can work on our wincon. This can be helped with a solid tutor package:

Yisan is basically another Birthing Pod, while Fauna Shaman is a budget version of Survival of the Fittest. Eldritch Evolution only works one time, but can grab you something needed, while the other more traditional tutors can pick up pieces that we need for our combos. What do we need for combos? I’m glad you asked:

So, here are some combo pieces that will win us the game. Kiki-Jiki along with Splinter Twin are two ways to allow us to infinitely ping down our opponents in conjunction with Goblin Sharpshooter, as such:

Splinter Twin + Goblin Sharpshooter + any x/1:

  • Twin on Sharpshooter #1.
  • Tap #1 to create #2.
  • Tap #2 to kill a dork. #1 and #2 untap.

Loop:

  • Tap #1 to create #3.
  • Tap #2 to damage face.
  • Tap #3 to kill itself. #1 and #2 untap.

We also have loops from Birthing Pod/Yisan that count on creatures like Felidar Guardian, Karmic Guide and Village Bell Ringer, all of which can essentially be tutored with Buried Alive and then reanimated with either the Karmic Guide or the couple of reanimation spells present in the deck. For example:

Birthing Pod + 3drop + 4drop + 2mana -> pod 3 into Felidar Guardian -> Flicker Pod -> pod 4 into Kiki-Jiki

The deck can be a little convoluted, but you should be able to win either by infinitely pinging, or making infinite Guardians with haste that you can hopefully win the game with. Instant board wipes could be an issue, but with the recursion you should be able to get one of these going. If nothing else, you can stax lock the board and win via normal combat damage. I think the deck can be very competitive and I can’t wait to start building. It’s probably going to take some time to get the capital together for the cards needed but I think it’s going to be worth it just as much as building Zur was.

Thoughts on Heavy Rain

Back in July, I wrote a post about a surprise hit for me, Detroit: Become Human. It happened to be a free release via Playstation Plus that month, and I decided to try it on a whim. I usually try out the free games each month, but oftentimes they simply aren’t for me and they get uninstalled. No harm no foul, considering no money spent (unless you count that $60/year fee, but it’s awesome value no matter how you look at it). It turned out that this was a game that would hold my interest, which isn’t something that happens very often to me anymore. Besides the base game, the Plus offering included a digital artbook, soundtrack and a copy of the company’s first Playstation title, Heavy Rain. We already went back in time a little bit with Detroit: Become Human (released last year), but end up going even futher back to 2010 with Heavy Rain and to some degree, it shows. This is the same style of game, but it’s not nearly as pretty. The controls are a little clunky as well, but the story is good, and that’s really what matters in this genre. Actually, part of what I said about Detroit: Become Human applies to this game as well:

Regular readers will know that I’m a fan of narrative, story-rich games that don’t necessarily have a lot of game play so to speak. These types of games range from adventure titles to interactive story books. I’ve been a fan of some of the TellTale Games series, though now that the company is defunct it’s unlikely we’ll see more of those unless another company picks up the reigns. Another recent game of this style The Council was very good and had basically no game play whatsoever — yet the story was intriguing enough that simply controlling a character through a story arc and making some minor decisions was fine by me. Detroit: Become Human lines up pretty well with this assessment — I’d go out on a limb and call it a QTE game, because outside of dialogue all of the action is controlled by various timed button presses and other motions with the controller. Honestly this is one of the first games I’ve seen that uses the controller motion technology along with the touch pad on top of the normal controls — that part was pretty cool, but also kind of annoying at times.

Unfortunately, with games like these requiring you to be on the ready to quickly press buttons at any moment, so taking screenshots ends up being sort of difficult. As such I tried to include some pictures that show of some of the neat features of the game, but those that wouldn’t really spoil anything. But, the game is nearly ten years old, so if you haven’t played this you probably don’t have any interest. Whatever the case, there is an intriguing story here that I’d love to spoil but I won’t. Suffice to say that you can play as four different characters, and each have their own part to play in the story, along with interacting with each other before the game is over. There are branching parts based on your decisions, and clearly there were places where I could have chosen to go another route, but unlike Detroit, you don’t get the branching graph that shows you exactly how things could have gone. Obviously that was something that was thought of later on in the company’s game repertoire.

A true detective story, Heavy Rain is doing its best work while trying to convince you who the killer is. I really didn’t suspect the character who ended up being guilty, but as the story unfolded I wasn’t disappointed with it. I suppose there are other ways things could have ended up, but I don’t really see the point in playing through a thousand times. I made my choices and I enjoyed the ride, but I don’t intend to go back for more. The same happened with their other game, and I don’t feel bad about it.

One other note: I didn’t realize that Beyond: Two Souls (2013) was also produced by Quantic Dream, and it was also a free Plus game a while back. I went ahead and downloaded that one and intend to play through it soon. So expect more about that later on this month.