State of the Game: Betas are In

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It’s been a while since I did a round-up post, and despite having semi-regular posts on various games I’ve been playing, there’s still a big chunk of time I’ve spent in other titles that I haven’t really discussed. First up, let’s recap what I’ve already written about:

  • Early in the month I took part in the Star Wars Battlefront beta, on both PS4 and PC and posted my impressions.
  • Later, I took part in the Warhammer End Times Vermintide beta week prior to launch, and have played a bunch of it since. More impressions.
  • We talk about Vermintide in-depth on the latest Couch Podtatoes.
  • I also completed the final chapter, and thereby the game, of Tales from the Borderlands. My choices are over here.
  • Finally, I played a whole game of Civilization V, finishing in ~700 turns. Entry one. Entry two. Entry three.

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I also talked about some other games I’ve been playing on that last episode of Couch Podtatoes — ones that were on the console and not my PC. I hung out with a friend of mine who owns both PS4 and XBOne consoles, and tends to get games right as they come out. As a result, I was able to play through several games I wouldn’t normally have access to. Months ago the two of us started playing split screen co-op for multiple games. We began with the Halo Master Chief Edition, and beat the first game. We beat the Gears of War remaster. Just this week we finished Halo 2, and half of Halo 3, along with playing some Halo 5, though that was only multiplayer and split screen is no longer an option (which is stupid). I also finished the original Uncharted, which I had started a while back when he picked up the Nathan Drake Collection. We plan to finish Halo 3 and 4, though we won’t be able to do 5. I also plan to eventually play through Uncharted 2 and 3 again, so that I can be ready and have the story fresh in my mind once Uncharted 4 releases. Overall, Uncharted holds up really well. I can’t say the same for Halo, and I have to say I don’t really see a reason to buy an XB1 ever. Most of the titles that I’d even care about become available on PC, or I can play at my friend’s house. Knowing the release window for No Man’s Sky means I have a deadline to get a PS4 finally, which is mid next year. I did play the PSPlus titles for this month as well, but the only real gem there was Chariot, and it’s not even that fantastic. PSPlus is starting to feel unnecessary until I get a PS4, but I have a year so I’m not going to cancel. I’ll still be accumulating PS4 games for when I finally get the console, so it’s not a complete wash. That’s about all for consoles.

On PC, I’ve spent most of my time playing the games I mentioned earlier, particularly Vermintide. I’ve been playing with Eri quite a bit, and the two of us work well together. I can’t say the same for the random people though, as sometimes they are great and sometimes a liability. I have heard some chatter around the blogosphere about it though, so perhaps once more people we know are playing we can get some full on team work going. I’ve finally earned a trinket so I now know they are just randomly earned, and I have confirmed that there aren’t any new hats for the characters in the game, it just seems that you can get one for each character if you bought the collector’s edition. Apparently there are plans for expansions already in the works, so perhaps some fluff gear will make its way in. I have a video in the works, that will be coming from hours of recording I’ve done of me and Eri playing Vermintide, but I have to cut out all the good bits to make the compilation. More on that soon.

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Unmentioned til now, I have been invited to a couple of betas over the weekend, and I have another title that you might not have heard of that I’d like to talk about. First, I was invited to the Battleborn Closed Technical Beta, but there is an NDA so I can’t talk about it, but I will say that I do enjoy the concept thus far. I was hoping to get into the Overwatch beta so I could report about this anticipated title, but I have yet to get in. This weekend was also a closed beta test for Devilian, the new-ish isometric MMO being imported by Trion. Knowing Trion’s reputation after ArcheAge, I don’t have high hopes for the game. But I love Diablo and isometric RPGs, so I wanted to give it a chance anyway. It mixes up concepts from both Diablo and traditional themepark MMOs pretty flawlessly. The gameplay and animations were smooth and enjoyable. I don’t really care for the anime aesthetic for the characters, but their designs were still well done. The kill ten rats quests are ever present, but for some reason it’s easier to accept when the combat is so damn enjoyable. I don’t really see much of a challenge from the game though, but I imagine it ramps up in later levels. It was pretty cool to see other players running around though, as typically you’re limited to a small group in Action-RPGs. I started up a Shadow Hunter which stylistically reminds me of Dante from Devil May Cry. He’s got a chain whip and shurikens, and various trees to spec different ways. I leveled him to 10 and then rolled a Berserker but haven’t gone beyond that. Basically, if you like Diablo, I think you’d like this game. It’s got that simplistic nature that’s easy to get hooked into. A quick google search should bring you to where you can sign up to beta test as well.

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Another game that I stumbled upon while following #InternetRabbitHoles (yes, I’m making this a thing) is called Indivisible. It’s from the creators of Skullgirls, which was a 2-D fighting game with awesome hand-drawn art. That’s about the only similarity between Skullgirls and Indivisible, their striking hand-drawn art style. Otherwise, Indivisible is a game that successfully mixes the metroidvania style with turn-based JRPG combat that also makes use of fighting game mechanics. As you explore the world, you only see your character, and not the other members of your party. When you come across enemies, you can attack them to get in extra damage (or kill them outright with sufficient power) and then when you do enter the battle screen (pictured above) your other party members come out and it uses an active time battle system. This is where the fighting moves come in. Holding different directions while pressing the button for the appropriate character changes their basic attacks to do different things. The gauge at the top is much like fighting game rage meters, where it can be used for super moves when it’s filled. It’s a great concept and they’re allowing anyone to download and play the prototype for free. They’re asking for 1.5 million on Indiegogo, but the game looks to be fantastic, so I’d recommend supporting it!

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Last but not least, I was gifted a copy of Shadow of Mordor as the GOTY edition was on sale this past week on Steam. Thanks Dad! I haven’t played too much but I have to say I like what I see so far. It mixes elements of the recent Arkham Batman games, Assassin’s Creed or similar open world games, and of course, LOTR. The nemesis system looks intriguing and I haven’t gotten far enough to really know how to comment just yet, but I have to say the controls are wonky as fuck if you don’t use a controller on PC. Outside of that criticism, it looks to be a great game I’m looking forward to spending more time with.

That’s all for this round-up. What have you been playing?

State of the Game: Too Hot to Care

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It’s been a while since I’ve done a round up post, and if you’re wondering why this hasn’t been a weekly occurrence lately, I did mention the last time I did one of these posts that I was going to relegate it to “when necessary.” This means I’ll only make a State of the Game post when I have a multitude of titles to talk about and/or haven’t posted in a while. Real life has kept me afk a bit, but mainly when it comes to posting here; I’ve still been playing games of course.

Overall I’ve spent the most time playing League of Legends as usual. There’s been a bunch of news coming down the pipeline, and I have a bunch of links rounded up for your viewing pleasure. First of all, patch 5.13 is about to hit (or already did) and with it there are the typical tweaks and changes, the biggest being the adjustments to the cost of Needlessly Large Rod, which is a main component for most items that AP carries use. You can read the full patch notes here. There was a teaser and a reveal of the newest champion coming to the game, Tahm Kench, along with a Q&A session that will get you acquainted with him. I have already saved up the IP to pick him up when he releases later on with this patch. He’s a tanky support champion, and I look forward to trying him out in that role.

Like the earlier themed events surrounding the Shadow Isles, the Freljord, and Shurima, the newest event coming to League deals with Bilgewater, and there’s some information here. From the looks of it, it’s just a new skin for the ARAM map, which will be called “Butcher’s Bridge,” but still holds to the same ruleset as the Howling Abyss did. However, there is a new game mode that’s coming along with it, including new items, mercenaries and currency. It’s a lot to take in, so you can read more about “Black Market Brawlers” over here.

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As Bilgewater is a home to many pirates, it’s fitting that the two most famous pirates of the game get reworks as well. Not only will their character models and skins be updated, but their kits have been tweaked as well. Gangplank has had his E reworked completely, and now has a special currency he can use to upgrade his ultimate. Miss Fortune hasn’t had much done to her kit, save for her passive being changed slightly and her E now activates her passive instantly. Otherwise they’re still the pirate and pirate hunter you know and love. Don’t know if this will bring Gangplank top back to the meta and/or change up the AP MF mid meta, but we’ll see how it goes.

The rest of my play time was pretty equally divided between Fallout: New Vegas and Dirty Bomb. I’ve mentioned them both on Twitter/Couch Podtatoes a few times, but haven’t delved into them much here on the blog, so I guess now’s as good a time as any. I borrowed FNV from my brother-in-law when I went to visit a couple of weeks ago and actually started playing the game there, then just uploaded the save game to the cloud and pulled it back down when I got home. At that point I had only cleared Goodsprings and the next little outpost, still trying to figure out who the hell it was that tried to kill me.

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The future of invisible weaponry

Crappy cell phone pic aside, the Space Suit armor has done me just fine. However, it seems a bit buggy when you are forced to disarm in certain areas but still look like you’re holding a gun. I’ve found quite a few other bugs, and for a game this old you’d think they’d have worked out all of the bugs by now. Overall though, the game runs fine and hasn’t kept me from completing quests or anything of that nature. Soon enough I found myself in New Vegas, where various factions hold sway and I was presented with options to either help out the infamous Mr. House or to take his place. Other factions vying for control also want my help, and though I started my career as the people’s champion, I’ve done some backhanded devious things in the time since.

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Mr. House… I’m coming for you!

Spoiler alert, I killed Mr. House and took over his army of Sentry Bots, along with upgrading them in a hidden bunker. Now I’m dealing with Caesar, and a group of assholes who bomb the everloving shit out of anyone who comes near their AFB. Good times. I’m not sure what percentage of the main story I’ve completed, but I’ve already decided to avoid doing all of the side quests because I don’t have access to the DLC/expansions and don’t want to pay for them. So I’m not going for the “total experience” and just trying to complete the game to prepare for Fallout 4.

Dirty Bomb is in open Beta right now, and it’s a team based shooter, with classes and objectives. It’s quite a bit like Team Fortress 2, but with more modern shooter conventions. There really isn’t a whole lot to say there, outside of I’ve been having a blast playing it. This past weekend there was a new game mode that was open for testing, but it basically plays like Counter-Strike, and since I already own that game I don’t see the need for that mode at this point in time. The Objectives and Stopwatch (which is still objectives, you just have to beat the opposing team’s time) modes are plenty so I think I’ll be avoiding it altogether. There’s also a fresh announcement for a new character that’s being added to the game. There aren’t a whole bunch of characters to choose from as is, but the ones on offer feel different enough to keep things fresh. It’s free to play, so if this sounds like your cup of tea you can jump into it right now. I can happily report that there are plenty of people to play with at all hours of the day, so population woes aren’t a thing just yet.

Lastly I’ve been playing a bunch of indie games on my Steam account. Some old, some new, but all fun. Mainly I’ve been playing Ironcast and Basement which I’ve mentioned in past posts, but I also played a little bit of Broforce, Delver, Deep Dungeons of Doom and Nuclear Throne. Many of these titles have had updates since the last time I played them, so it was worth taking another look (especially since they are in early access development). In Ironcast I’ve finally managed to make it to the last boss of the game, but that fucker hits like a truck!

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Not fair.

Look at the size of him? It appears that actions you take during the countdown (of days before you have to fight the boss) affect the amount of “ground troops” that will remove some of the boss’ health before the fight, but as you can see despite removing a chunk of his health he still has a hell of a lot more than I do. He also basically one shots your systems, and killed me within a few turns. In the process I opened up another new pilot, but I’m not sure how I’m ever going to actually beat this guy. I suppose that’s why there’s the global experience bar, and eventually it will be easy enough to complete. Time will tell.

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Drugs anyone?

Basement is a fun little time waster that recently released in early access and I find it pretty entertaining, but obviously not finished. There is no tutorial, there’s no tooltips that are very helpful, it’s sort of just there. You have to figure out everything yourself. Thankfully it is mostly self explanatory, but there have been times where I’ve wanted to do something that seems like an obvious action, but can’t find the way to do it. For instance, see that little building on the left in the above picture? That was inhabited by police. I started in the building on the right. When I decided to send employees to attack the smaller building, it was so that I could expand my operation. I’m guessing the end goal it to take over the whole street, as it were. So anyway, after sending my employees over and taking over the building, there is no way to send them back to the original building, so I lose out on anyone who dies but then have a bunch of idle hands. You can fire the employees and hire new ones, but that seems counter productive when employees level up over time. So yeah, there’s a great framework here for a strategy/simulation game, but it seems there are features that need to be added to make it truly great. I’ll be keeping an eye on this one for the time being.

Lastly, I spent some time at my friend’s house over the course of the last few weeks and we’ve been playing through the Halo Master Chief Collection co-op. We beat Halo a couple weeks back and are now closing in on beating Halo 2. 3 & 4 are still on the horizon beyond that. I’ll say that there are leaps and bounds in the controls and graphics of each game, but man the older versions show how dated FPS engines can really suck. I don’t think playing these games when they first released would have really changed my opinion either. I find that the story of Halo is basically nonexistent or I just don’t care about it. It comes down to shitty weapons and shitty gunplay. I hope that the newer games help change my opinion, because I feel bad for Halo fans the world-around, as much better FPS experiences can be had elsewhere. I’ll hold that judgement until I beat the others, but I’m not overly impressed.

That’s about it for this round up. See you around.

#stateofthegame #roundup

State of the Game: Multi-Genre

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Apologies for missing the column last week, but when most of the week you’re spending time with family, there isn’t as much time for gaming, and I didn’t feel I had enough to say to make the post. This week is a different story.

So what have I been playing? The list for this edition of State of the Game includes: Elder Scrolls Online, Sid Meier’s Starships, The Forest, Titanfall, League of Legends and the Halo Master Chief Collection. 

I haven’t played as much ESO as I would have liked. The problem I’m having is that I want to play it, but know that it takes a significant chunk of game time, so I have to wait until certain parts of the day to dive in. By then, sometimes I’m not in the mood, so I’ve been averaging a couple of hours every other day. But once I actually get logged in, I love what I’ve seen; I get sucked in and end up playing for a couple hours. The only other problem was my incessant need to try out every class before settling on one to play. In games like EQ2 (with 16 or so classes) it becomes a nightmare. Thankfully ESO only has the 4 archetypes, and though I realize there’s pretty infinite customization for each, I still feel the base class gives you enough of an idea of their playstyles. Previously when I spoke of the game, I had created a Khajiit Nightblade and a Dunmer Sorcerer. I have since made an Orsimer Templar, and a Nord Dragonknight. I’ve stuck with somewhat traditional RPG builds for each class, with the Nightblade going dual wield and stealthy, the Sorcerer with a destruction staff and pets, the Templar having sword/board and some healing, and the Dragonknight utilizing a 2-hander. Here’s the newbies (super new in the case of the DK):

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Who knows how each with progress. For now, I’ve found that I enjoy the Sorcerer the most, and I have played it more than the others, though level 8 isn’t a huge accomplishment. My review of ESO to this point would be favorable, in that I see plenty of players, I enjoy the quests and story, it’s the best looking MMO I’ve played, and I love the lore and feeling of being in Tamriel. However, I haven’t hit any of the walls and issues people had with the game to this point, because I haven’t tried to group with anyone, and haven’t hit the level cap either. Still, I am going to keep plugging away at it. I love the buy to play aspect, as I did with GW2 (which is a game I still should put more time into) in that I don’t feel guilty about not playing, but can still play whenever I want. I see this as being my favorite pay model to date. I’ll leave it at that. Here’s a nice landscape shot:

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The reason I haven’t been able to stick to just ESO is because I’ve had a few other additions to the library that have been vying for my attention, along with the old standby, League of Legends. This past week they re-introduced Ultra Rapid Fire (URF) mode for April Fool’s, though the joke was that it was going to be called NURF and have cooldowns increased and the gameplay slowed down. Then some of the LCS pros decided to fry the game servers (with sliced ham, no less) and it turned back into URF, which is super fast, low cooldowns and mana costs. I actually missed out on this the last time it happened (must have been during a LoL break) so this time around I made sure to get in on it. It’s surprisingly addicting, and there’s a lot less pressure to perform because it’s far from balanced and it’s not a ranked queue. I’ve had modest success, though I believe my win/loss ratio is sitting right on 50%. My best game came when I played a tanky Hecarim, and went 7/1 /6 and carried my team. It’s definitely a fun game mode to break things up, and honestly I’d be ok with it being a permanent queue type. The meta is different in that there’s no jungler, which reminds me of how we used to play back when I first started the game. Some really weird team comps have popped up and did well too, so it’s rather unpredictable, and keeps things fresh. I feel as good about it as I did when I first discovered custom ARAM matches. Check it out before it disappears.

Another game that has had my attention of late is Titanfall. Yeah, I know, it’s one of those Xbox games that got ported to the PC, and yes, I know it’s only available through Origin, which as a whole is a huge pile of shit. I actually played the game (and I believe I mentioned it before) at my friend’s house who owns an Xbox One, and I loved it. It’s a great game, and works very well (as well as looking very nice) on the console. PC ports of console games have a reputation for being rather shitty though, so I was hesitant to make the purchase until I saw that the game was on sale AND you get the season pass for free. Let’s see, pay about $15 for a game or spend hundreds on an Xbone? Yeah, obvious choice there. So I picked it up and have been playing it a bit here and there. It’s just as fun and I don’t really see any differences between it and the console version, but my friend who owns it there swears that the Xbone version has “more stuff in it” – his words not mine. The major issue I see is that I have a key bound for screenshots, and either it’s not working or I can’t find the screenshot folder. As such I don’t have any cool pics to share, but I did snap my stat sheet with my phone for your viewing pleasure.

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At that same friends house on the same Xbone, we’ve been playing through the Halo Master Chief Collection. Not sure if I’ve mentioned it before or not, but the only Halo game I had ever played to that point was Halo 2, and I had only played the multiplayer (LAN parties back in the day mostly). I wasn’t a big fan. So I wasn’t really going into this with excitement, though my friend assured me that the co-op campaign was fun. I was skeptical but went along with it, and I have mixed feelings having completed Halo 1 the other day. First, the story line isn’t engaging whatsoever, and the voice acting and animations are garbage. Yes, I realize this is an old game and what not, but this is an HD update and it still looks shitty. The game design was simple and repetitive to the point where everything starts to look the same. It has very dated combat, most guns lack ironsights/zoom and a cover system is basically non-existent. I’m not a fan of the first game, and don’t think I would have been when it released either (especially because there is a button you can press in game that shows you exactly how bad the game used to look before the update). Soon we shall move onto Halo 2, which I now think will be an improvement on the original game. Apparently #3 is where it really starts to shine, from what my friend says. We shall see, all 4 games are in this package, and Halo 5 is on the horizon, and I’m sure I’ll get suckered into playing through that one with him as well. The major upside I can give the game is that playing it on the hardest difficulty (which we have been doing) presents a real challenge. There were checkpoints that took us quite a while to get through. All I know is I’m ready for the combat to evolve.

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I’ve been playing Starships a bit here and there as well, and I really don’t have a lot to say about it. I’d recommend it to 4x newbies, or to 4x veterans who want something that isn’t so time consuming. It’s really a 4x lite, and that’s ok. I enjoy it in short bursts, and have already started amassing an empire while meeting the other AI counterparts. The strategy is a bit limited, but it’s a fun experience for when you want to jump in and jump out.

Lastly, I started up a co-op game in The Forest with my sister. It’s been out a while, and I believe I mentioned that the multiplayer is now integrated into Steam as well, so invites are a piece of cake now. There was a day when I started up a public server and played for about an hour but no one joined, and to this point anyone I knew who had the game wasn’t playing it so I had no one to invite. Well, during my sister’s visit I had to go somewhere for a couple of hours and set her up playing The Forest on my computer. She ended up playing it the whole time I was gone and was hooked. She bought her own copy of the game when she got home. Here’s where the funny part comes in. See, when I play The Forest single player, it runs fantastically. I mean there’s a little pop-in here and there or something that might be buggy (it’s still Alpha after all) but overall it runs great. As soon as you add one person to the mix, it bogs down like crazy. I’m not sure how that puts such a load on my system, but it surely did. And it didn’t matter if she was the host or I was, it happened. We still played for a while but the optimization was disappointing. However, the developers have recently stated that they are upgrading the engine to Unity 5, so it’s supposed to have better graphics and performance soon. I’m hoping that helps the multiplayer in particular.

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It’s interesting that the voice chat is directly linked to these walkie talkies, and the amount of detail they put into them is awesome. If you start swimming, you can’t hear or speak via the WT. If you put it down to carry something, same effect. Your voices actually kind of sound like they’re going over WT’s as well, which is a nice touch. I missed that in the patch notes somewhere, and yes, I realize I haven’t posted a couple of the patches, but I hadn’t really been playing the game. So anyway, I noticed that the game ran smoother the further away we were from each other, though it did seem to normalize when we had a big rock to our backs and set up our base camp. Perhaps it was something to do with the time of day (peak hours) or our distance from each other. Not sure, but I hope it improves soon.

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That’s all for this week. Until next time.

#stateofthegame #roundup