State of the Game – Playing Catch Up

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Yeah, it’s been about a month since I’ve done one of my signature round-up posts, but with NBI planning and execution coupled with less time at the computer, I didn’t really have the material to pull one of these posts together. Because it’s been a month and I haven’t talked about much in the way of what I’ve been playing, there’s plenty of material for this post. The games at hand this week are: Titanfall, League of Legends, Diablo III, Shadow Warrior, Hearthstone, and Star Wars: The Old Republic.

I have touched on all of these games over the course of the past month, be it in a random post talking about one or the other, my Tweet round up post, or during one of the various NBI writing prompts. Titanfall has been in my regular rotation for this past month, and as a result I’m almost max level (sitting at rank 45 currently) and I’ve also had some success in the ranked play. I mentioned this in my last screen shot post for the #NBI2015Safari so I won’t delve into it any further. It’s still a blast to play, and with the jump-in, jump-out nature of the game, it’s right up my alley.

I’ve also been playing League of Legends regularly, but I have slacked off on ranked matched. I did promo back to Bronze II, and have been bouncing up and down ever since. I did manage to pile up enough IP to get another champion though, and picked up Jinx whom I’m planning to practice heavily for use in ranked matches. In the last patch, 5.8 there were some improvements to the visuals of The Howling Abyss map, along with a new summoner spell that works just like the snow balls in the Poro King game mode that was out this past winter. They also added in a new way to use up those tiny amounts of RP you might have on your account, with a skin boost. For 95 RP, you unlock a random skin for each champion on your team, and everyone gets an IP boost as well. When I bought one, the boost was 200 IP, and when one was purchased for me, the boost was 100 IP. Either way, it’s nice to be able to use the small amounts you sometimes end up with.

The newest patch, 5.9 introduced a rework for Ashe, some balance tweaks and new skins. There was also a teaser for the next new champion released recently:

We now know his name is Ekko, and he looks primed to be a top/jungler but I could see him fitting into other roles as well. Here’s what he’ll look like in game:

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You can check out his full kit on his champion reveal page.

The Diablo III event that I was running this past Saturday basically didn’t happen, but that didn’t stop me from rolling a new hardcore Witch Doctor for Season 3 which started recently.

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One thing I didn’t realize, was that there was an anniversary event going on as well, where each new zone that you enter had a chance to become a cow level. Yep, just like back in Diablo II. I didn’t think we’d ever see this, as Whimsyvale was supposed to be the replacement for the cow level, and there is even some dialogue at some point that says “there is no cow level.” That has changed though, and when I entered a rift with my Witch Doctor, I ended up being accosted by bipedal cows. Horrifying.

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The rift guardian too, was a huge bovine, which an even bigger axe. He was taken down though, and throughout the rift I ended up with some pretty decent gear. My Witch Doctor ended up at level 25 before I decided I was done for the evening. She looks pretty fierce, doesn’t she?

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I’ve also been playing through Shadow Warrior still, usually just a chapter or two at a time. Despite my write up sitting at Chapter 6, I’m actually on chapter 13. It’s been a great game so far, and I really do recommend it to FPS fans. I won’t go into too much detail, as more of that write up will be coming soon. But here’s a shot of the next big baddy I had to take down:

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I mentioned it on the last episode of the podcast, but I’ve been playing Hearthstone again here and there, but not on my PC, no. My friend picked up a new iPad the other day, and since then the past couple of times I’ve seen her I ended up playing Hearthstone on it. I suggested she download it just so I could check it out, and she ended up getting hooked on it as well. Legend of Grimrock, another game I own on the PC was also available on the iPad, and I told her it was a good game as well, so she has been playing that too. Both games don’t require any sort of twitch skills though, and I think that’s why they run so well on the touch-screen device. Playing Hearthstone again reminded me that the new adventures came out, but I didn’t have enough gold on my account to pick one up. I’d have to do dailies for a while to get them, and while I’d like to, I also ended remembering why Hearthstone started to get on my nerves: fuckin RNGesus. Everything have random effects and it gets to a point where sometimes it feels like everything is out of your control, and that’s not something I really want in my card game. So who knows if I’ll ever actually get around to playing it anymore. Probably just when I’m visiting my friend.

Lastly, despite having ESO, GW2 and H1Z1 sitting on my hard drive ready to play whenever I want, I went and downloaded more games. First it was Marvel Heroes. I ended up hearing that some of my qualms with the game had been changed up, so I checked it out again. I still don’t like it. I’d just rather play Diablo, to be honest. Next, I downloaded Neverwinter again, mainly because I wanted to check out the dungeon creator stuff that we talked about on the podcast recently. Neverwinter just doesn’t sit well with me, or my computer for that matter. Something looked off and no matter how much I messed with the graphics settings it still looked funny. Which is weird considering the above mentioned MMOs run great and I believe they are all newer. So last night I downloaded Star Wars: The Old Republic. A bunch of people in the blogosphere seem to be playing it right now, and I remember enjoying what I played of it back when I first checked it out a year or so ago. Hearing about that XP bonus for story missions means avoiding all the sidequests and I think that might make it even more enjoyable, because I remember the story being the best part. I think I’m going to check out a different class though, because I remember the bounty hunter was getting sort of stale before.

So that’s what I’ve been up to. Til next time.

#stateofthegame #roundup #gaming

State of the Game: Varied Content

Another week has come and gone, and we’re probably halfway through Summer already. That’s good, because it gets too damn hot here, and I’m ready for the cool of Fall. So what have I been playing? A mix of old and new, with more new stuff on the horizon. Sounds typical right?

I’ve been playing Hearthstone more often lately. This is partly due to the fact that I am trying to save 2800 gold to be able to purchase the four Naxxramas wings as they are released. I made it past 1700 gold just last night, so that’s enough for two wings with a big left over. Working towards that 2800 won’t be an issue, with dailies and what we’ll be working on when Naxxramas finally hits. Speaking of which, the official release date was announced the other day, and the first wing of the expansion will be available on Tuesday.

The other reason I kept playing even beyond completing dailies was because I got on a roll in ranked. I haven’t really played Ranked too much since the game went live. I usually just make sure I get a little past rank 20 so that I get the special card back each season. I have hit a personal wall before, and 17 seemed to be the rank I’d always get stuck at. Win some, lose some, but never go beyond it. That changed the other day.

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I’m pretty mad though, because my winning streak should have continued beyond this point. I was doing pretty good in the game after this one, but then something shitty happened. I never got the notification that I was disconnected or “attempting to reconnect” or anything. But suddenly the game froze on my opponent’s turn, and nothing happened for a good twenty minutes.

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Eventually I got sick of waiting, so I left the game, and was given a loss. That seems like an instance where Blizzard needs to implement a “loss prevented” like Riot did in League. Who knows how much further I would have gone with that streak. I ended up losing the next game, so that dropped me down to 14. I’m not sure that I will keep trying or not. I’m pretty satisfied having done better than my best in the past. I’m mostly looking forward to Naxx now.

I made another milestone in another game as well. I’ve been playing Awesomenauts pretty regularly still, for the past six months or so. I play it on both the console and PC too, which is redundant, but I still enjoy each for different reasons. Anyway, I was shooting for being in the top 1000 before (console version), and ended up doing that, and then not focusing on it as much. My roommate was bitching the other day that he wanted me to help him out with trying to get up there, so I’ve been doing more with him lately. The other day we ended up having a bunch of kick ass matches, and I hit a new high, the 700’s:

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He’s highlighted there, I’m at the top of this list. He also went up quite a bit that day, but since then we haven’t been able to get any higher. Such is the nature of leaderboards. Besides that, on the console I’ve also played more Black Ops 2. I’ve hit rank 40 now, so 15 to go before the first prestige. I seriously doubt I will play that game very seriously much longer. I still want to see all of the upgrades and stuff you can get by the time you’re max level, but after that I probably won’t bother any more. Still more of the same and I think I’ve scratched that itch.

I’ve been keeping my eyes out for new games to play as usual, and besides finding that free bundle I talked about a couple of posts ago, I also ended up getting into a beta for Defense Grid 2. I know, I never talk about Tower Defense games, and yeah, I don’t really like them all that much. But if something doesn’t cost money, why not at least try it?

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I have played some games in the genre that I’ve enjoyed, though usually more along the lines of Dungeon Defenders. Anyway, this one is pretty basic, and it’s the OG scenario, where you just place different towers and watch them do all the work. It’s a pretty game compared to many I’ve seen, but it’s still that same basic gameplay that bores me to tears. If you enjoy the genre, I’m sure you’ll love it though. I can see the appeal, it’s just not for me.

I’ve also played more SWTOR, and it’s still held my interest to this point. I’m currently level 12, having spent time working on the story, I’m still trying to get into the great hunt. I’ve taken out the first target on my list, but there’s still two more people to kill before I can gain my entry. I finally got to play some of the space battles outside of the tutorial, and I have to say that I really enjoy that PvP mode more than the standard PvP. By far. It’s actually pretty damn fun, and not that difficult at all. Of course, I was probably playing against a bunch of other noobs like myself, and I just happened to be on the winning side.

Lastly, I downloaded Firefall, because of it’s impending “release.” Apparently the game has been in development and beta for a long ass time, and J3w3l told me that I needed to download it and play with her. I did so, but was unable to play, because the game isn’t available until the 29th. It is, but you needed to have been a beta participant in the past, or pay some outrageous early access package fees. Yeah, no thanks. So I’ll be trying that around the 29th. I also downloaded TERA, because it too is free to play and on my to-try list. More on these titles later.

What have I been watching?

It’s been a while since I touched on my Netflix/DVR Queue. On TV I’ve been watching AMC’s newest addition, Halt and Catch Fire, which is about a group of people who were in direct competition with IBM in the 80’s, and are trying to innovate during the birth of the personal computer era. It’s quite interesting, if not a little weird at times. It’s getting close to the end of the season at this point, but it’s definitely a good watch, particularly for nerds. Another new show started up on Sundays last week, called The Strain. It’s more horror and sci-fi, but it’s right up my alley. AMC and FX have been doing a hell of a job with TV shows that speak to me. I can’t really comment too much on that show because it just started, but so far so good.

Another show that was on FX, that ended recently was Fargo. Yeah, it’s loosely based on the movie from the 90’s. I actually caught the premiere but it conflicted with other shows my roommate was recording so I had to find it on the interwebs. I’m four episodes deep there. It’s been a great show. It’s so quirky and has such a great all-star cast that if you haven’t seen it you need to do yourself a favor. I’m also watching Defiance on Syfy when it airs on Thursdays. I really enjoy the show, much more so than the game. The whole tie in is a neat idea, but I don’t think it’s required to enjoy one or the other. If boring shooters are your thing 😛

Lastly, on Netflix we have been watching Dexter from the beginning. I had always heard good things about the show, but never watched it while it was still on the air. A couple of months ago Netflix added all 8 seasons, so we’ve been binge watching. We’re a couple of episodes into season 4, and man what a good show. On the one hand it’s got all of the tropes of every serial killer movie and CSI TV show. That means it’s a little predictable at times, but it also manages to find crazy ways to mind fuck you. And that’s always a good thing in my opinion. I would recommend all of these shows if you’re looking for something new to watch.

That’s about all for this week. Until next time, happy gaming!

#stateofthegame #gaming #roundup #naxxramas #hearthstone

Another Experiment

My life as an MMO player has been rocky for a while. Way back when the games were starting, I played sparingly. By the time the market was starting to get saturated, I was in the thick of it. At one point I gave them up altogether for a period of three years. Many titles later, we’re at a point where most are available to at least try for free.

It was only recently that I gave them another go. Of course I started with the tried and true (Everquest II, my longest tenure in a single world), and trying to get back into it after such a long time started out as a fun endeavor but ended up being tiresome. Walls of grinding are not conducive to a good time, in my opinion. It’s funny because the way I look at things now, doing some of the repetitive grindy shit that I used to enjoy isn’t fun at all. But put that in a new package and it’s suddenly ok. I’ve spent hundreds of hours in MOBAs, and not had a problem with that grind whatsoever. That goes back to the PvE vs PvP debate, and I won’t drudge that up again.

So basically just this year I got back into sampling MMOs. With these titles being free to play, I was able to try them and not feel obligated to keep playing if I was to hit a wall of boredom. Of the ones that are out there, I’ve tried Fallen Earth, Star Trek Online, Neverwinter, Rift, Wildstar (beta), and Star Wars: The Old Republic. I still have a list of games that I want to try as well, but some have pay walls that are slowing me down (Guild Wars 2, ESO), and the others that are F2P I just haven’t gotten to yet. I have this funny pattern where I feel the urge to get invested in an MMO, and then by the time I’m mid-game (sometimes sooner) I end up getting bored and disillusioned with the genre again. This is a symptom of a larger problem, I think. The problem I’ve been talking about for a long time now. A lack of true innovation.

Still, while I was playing Rift I had a lot of fun. I think where I lost interest there was when it was clear that people I had started playing with weren’t playing the game as much, or we were on differing time frames. I still intend to go back and level to cap at the least. Then I can say I’ve done most of the content at least. I enjoy the world and the lore and all that, but in the end the mechanics are all still the same, and that’s probably why after the newness factor wears off I get bored.

That doesn’t stop me from theorizing, or from dreaming about MMOs to come. I still love the idea of the virtual worlds that these developers are creating. I love the social aspects too, though I miss the days when everyone I knew was playing the same game and doing it together. These days everyone is bouncing around and playing “together alone.” That’s definitely the case with my newest foray, SWTOR.

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Playing together alone isn’t putting me off though. Quite the contrary. I’ve been having a blast playing solo, having a story catered to me. Being able to jump into Flashpoints and Warzones and the Starfighter battles on a whim is a nice change of pace, and doesn’t really break immersion too much. I do feel more out of character participating in those modes, but that’s been the only group content I’ve experienced so far.

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I do understand that the custom tailored story does seem to put a hinderance on grouping outside of dungeons and PvP though. It sort of forces  you down a path that other people of the same class can’t join, and also would force those same classed players to have to do the same content over and over again. That’s not conducive to group play. I guess it’s a good thing that I don’t know anyone playing the game and don’t have to worry about it. I’m treating it like Mass Effect in the Star Wars galaxy, and that suits me. The story is intriguing, and has kept me wanting to see what comes next. Despite there still being FedEx and Kill Ten Rats quests, having the voice acting and conversation choices feels better to me. I don’t care as much that I’m still doing exactly the same thing. So take note devs, to get me to play your game, I either need high production values or innovation. I’d prefer the latter but am currently settling for the former.

At this point, I’ve been running through the Prologue. I’m level 11 on my Bounty Hunter, and have also made sure to complete the first dungeon and try out the PvP. Overall, SWTOR and Rift feel very similar with these systems. They are simple, enjoyable, and I like the lore. I’ve been wanting to check out the space battles, but every time I queue up nothing ever happens. I tried out the tutorial level, and the mode controls nice and looks nicer. I’d like to see an actual game of it though.

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PvP was weird. In all of the MMO PvP I’ve participated in, usually bum rushing your opponents works best. The rounds I played in this game were different, in that the players on both teams stood around a lot more, and then pounced all at once. I don’t know if that’s a viable strategy or not, but diving in solo isn’t a good idea. I also ended up with unbalanced teams, so those were losses. No fun.

Overall I feel like SWTOR is just another themepark, but seeing as how it isn’t fantasy based and I’ve not played a kick ass Star Wars game, well… ever, it’s been a nice change of pace. Will I see the end game? I don’t know. But as long as I’m having fun with it I’ll keep playing. \

#swtor #starwarstheoldrepublic #pvp #themepark

 

State of the Game: Multi-Platform

This week on the Couch Podtatoes podcast, and in a post I wrote about the Steam Calculator app, I’ve been talking about the gaming backlog that I, and many other gamers end up with. Be it because of sales, not having the time to finish games or a loss of interest, each purchase sees a game go on the back burner. Add in free to play titles and MMOs that usually require larger time investments or dailies or both, and you’ll see where it can become more of a collection than a hobby. Knowing myself, I have come to the realization that I will always continue to add new titles to the rotation. That’s just who I am. I like to have new experiences to go along with the tried and true. However, I am making a more concentrated effort to eliminate some of those games from the backlog, particularly the ones that I know I’ll never play again once they’re done. Recently I spent time with both my PC and PS3, and despite adding some titles that I’ve been wanting to try out,  I also completed more than one game.

Completed Games:

As most of you know by now, The Wolf Among Us came to a close this past week. Episode 5 was different from the others in that it was more action packed and also had more deaths in one episode than ever before. It was fun to play, and the series as a whole was pretty awesome. You can check out my playthrough starting here:  Episode 1.

I also randomly decided to play the Castle of Illusion remake that I’ve had for a couple of months now. It was fun, and though I played the original on my Genesis so many years ago, this one still felt familiar. I did a side by side comparison back when I first got my hands on the game (for the first few days it came with a copy of the original), but I hadn’t touched it since. I knew it would be relatively easy to get through, and I had no plans on trying to 100% the game, so I dove right in. The final boss was surprisingly difficult, but I did eventually triumph. I will say that I absolutely HATE when a game forces you to watch a cut scene over and over again after dying though. I ended up having to come back to the last boss on a separate occasion because of this fact. Still, overall it was a fun little platformer that brought back a lot of memories.

New Games:

I don’t remember exactly where I found it, but I ended up at the PCGamer website, who has been running a promotion called “Build Your Free Steam Bundle,” in which they give away Steam keys for games. I missed the first couple of weeks but the games on offer weren’t really all that great. This week the game was called “Really Big Sky,” and I downloaded that readily. There’s still two more weeks of this so maybe I’ll have more to talk about later, depending on what’s offered.  Anyway, Really Big Sky is a “twin-stick shooter” or Shmup (shoot em up). It’s got the classic gameplay mixed with today’s graphics, and is reminiscent of games like Gradius, Life-Force and R-Type. It really is a good looking game, and it’s pretty damn challenging too. After playing (and dying, as you should expect) you’ll be rewarded with points that you can use to upgrade your ship. This makes the next run a bit more managable, but also acts as a meta game of sorts. Overall it’s a cool game and if you check that link you might still be able to get a copy.

A new Free to Play title made it’s way to Steam yesterday, called “Heroes and Generals.”  A WWII Massive shooter, it combines FPS action, objective based combat, and a strategic element I’ve not seen anywhere except for maybe in the game Natural Selection (Half-Life Mod). After setting up an account and getting in game, the tutorial starts off right away. First, pick a faction:

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I rolled with Germany, partly because it’s part of my heritage, but also because I like their weapons better overall (from the multitude of WWII games I’ve played over the years). I also tend to enjoy being the underdog, and we all know who lost that war in reality, don’t we? Next, you’re basically forced into a battle because it’s “the best way to learn.” Yeah, the game says that almost word for word. Ok, so here we go.

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Unfortunately while I was playing the match I didn’t think about taking screenshots during the actual combat, so here’s a picture I did managed to take, because it’s fucking hilarious. See, the game is played kind of  like Rush mode in the Battlefield franchise. It’s also sort of like Day of Defeat and other objective based shooters from years past. You start on one end of the map, the enemy on the other. There is a capture point that is closer to your starting area, and one nearer to theirs. Of course, there’s one in the middle as well. You capture your close point, then fight over the middle and try to push towards the last point. Whoever holds more than the other team gains points faster, therefore holding two points to their one will always give you a win. Running from the spawn point (which is always the same) to the middle or far end of the battlefield takes forever, so they added in (at least on the map I was playing) a “civilian bicycle” that you can jump on and ride to the heat of battle. An ally can also ride on the back. I found it pretty humorous. I assume eventually you’ll be able to utilize the motorcycles and other vehicles I’ve seen that I can’t yet unlock. Yes, there is a cash shop, but it appears that mostly everything can be purchased without paying a dime, but as usual be prepared for a grind.

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I was pleased to see this. Most F2P games don’t really explain what’s going on with their multiple currencies or give you a clear idea what you have to spent real money on to get. This game comes right out and tells you. I think that’s pretty ethical. I approve. So the game ends up mixing in some of the Call of Duty progression, in that you have to open up weapons and consumables and other things that will make the game more fun and customizable. Then, there’s a whole other part of the game that is supposed to be strategic and that is from the point of a General. I didn’t get into it, because I have to be able to buy a group unit that I have yet to do, but I did check out this map and have a theory:

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See, each side has all those individual battlefields under their control, and the bright dots are where conflict is happening. Generals are supposed to be able to give upgrades or tactical advantages to the FPS players. My theory is that the battles play out and as a team wins they gain control of that sector. Meaning in the game I played, when we lost at the last possible minute (seriously, we were kicking ass the whole time and then they came back right at the end), we lost that territory. So that would have changed on this map. This gives the game that persistence, where when I go back and play the game again, this map might look completely different. I’m not entirely sure that’s how this works yet though, so more later.

Lastly, I ended up installing yet another F2P MMO. I’ve tried nearly all of them, and for some reason this one was just calling to me. Last night I started a character in Star Wars: The Old Republic. Of course I went Sith Empire, because I almost always roll on the evil side of things. Of course I went with a Bounty Hunter because blasters are fuckin’ cool. Of course I went with a Zabrak, because it was the most interesting race available to me. Actually, none of these were obvious choices except for the being evil part. I never really followed this game so I had no idea what I was going to play. I did end up with this character, but after playing it for a while, I might end up rolling a Sith Lord (evil Jedi) because man I like light sabers. I’m waiting until my first character hits level 10 though, because at that point through something called  “legacy” I’ll have access to more stuff when it comes to character generation. So yeah, I’m still on the starter planet, and am level 6. So far I really like the story, and the way it makes you feel like a bigger part of the world. I can see where phasing might turn people off who want to group up, but as long as you’re different classes, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue. Really, I’m just treating it like a single player game. Eventually I might try out PvP and group content, but for now I’m cool with what’s going on. The space battles look pretty cool in videos I’ve watched, but I have yet to try one. I feel like I should go play more Rift now too. At least get to the end game. Anyway, here’s my character:

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Tried and True:

Of course I’ve played most of the usual games, including Awesomenauts, Call of Duty Black Ops 2, Nuclear Throne and Dead Island Epidemic. I also picked up where I left off in another console title, Strider. I believe I mentioned picking that one up back in March or so, but I didn’t play it for too long because that’s right around the time I got this new machine and was focused on PC gaming primarily. I had beaten a couple bosses and then hadn’t touched it. In the spirit of cleaning up the backlog, I played this one for a couple hours the other day and made some more progress, downing a couple more bosses. I have a feeling this one will take me a bit longer than Castle of Illusion, but it’s been a fun on that same old-school level. If you have a PS4 it’s free right now. If you have something else, it’s worth the money still.

I’ve been back to playing more Hearthstone. Recently the Naxxramas pricing was revealed (though we still don’t have a release date), and I realized that my initial goal of 1000 gold simply wasn’t enough. Each wing is going to cost 700g, so a total of 2800g to be able to buy them all (the first wing is free). I’m currently at approximately 1200 so I have dailies to focus on again, and I won’t be playing anymore arenas til I get to that total. This has severely slowed down my pack and dust earning (still so many legendaries I’d like to have) but I know I’ll be getting a shitload of cards come the Naxxramas event, so it will be worth it.

Lastly, I played more War Thunder, and actually tried out the tank battles this time around.

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Tank battles are fun, but definitely remind me of World of Tanks, and that game bored me. This mode kind of did too. I just drove towards the enemies, got blown up, respawned, rinse and repeat. The controls aren’t as intuitive, and it seemed to run a little worse than the air battles did. It also appears that the air and ground combat isn’t mixed as I once thought. Tank battles and Plane battles are separate. I find that I prefer the Air battles, but I’m thinking that I won’t play this game much more if at all. I already retired Star Conflict because it’s population is is dismal. But that’s ok. Sometimes removing games from the list is a good thing. Allows me to focus on something else. Ok, we’re beyond 2k words at this point, so I’ll end it here. Until next week, happy gaming!

#roundup #gaming #stateofthegame