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    Remember Me (PS3)    by   jp       (Jul 24th, 2014 at 18:38:41)

    All I remembered about this game when I booted it it up was that it got a pretty mediocre review score in Edge and that it was set in Paris. Last night I played for a few hours (finished episodes 0, 1, and 2) and I'm looking forward to playing the rest. I'm hoping for a game that's short too.

    So, my impressions so far:

    a. Camera and movement feel a bit wonky, but nothing terrible. It only matters in the fighting sections which are 3rd person. However, I'm starting to get the hang of the 'dodge' button and how/when to use it, so it's not THAT big of an issue so far.

    b. The combat system is quite neat. You unlock 'buttons' that you then assign to combos. So far I've seen 4 types of buttons: for damage, healing, and reducing the amount of time it takes for a special attack to reload. In theory you should be able to craft combos that fit your personal style (aggresive? healing?). We'll see how it plays out - so far I've been able to succeed by spamming a 3 attack combo with 2 damage buttons and one for reducing the cooldown. I haven't gotten used to the timing of the button presses for the combos, so I have a hard time pulling off 5 attack combos (normally I have to dodge in between). Supposedly I should keep the combo going after a dodge, but that's not working for me so I guess my timing is off (on the next attack?)

    c. I'm really enjoying the cyberpunk setting. It's Neo Paris, which makes it a little bit more special. However, pretty much all the signage in the game is in English - so it's less French than I would have liked. I keep comparing this game (in my mind) to Deus Ex: Human Revolution (which I really enjoyed) mostly from it's setting. It's interesting how they're both cyberpunk but different. 'Remember Me' seems to really play up the augmented reality side of technology and while the urban environments are less 'rich' in terms of detail, it's cool how they've integrated what would normally be considered 'UI elements' into augmented reality elements that make sense in the fiction of the world. For example, you can see little pop-up windows outside of store fronts advertising stuff, environmental elements you're supposed to use to move around (e.g. a ledge you cangrab) is also highlighted with the distance and other information.

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    Animal Crossing (GC)    by   jkincade       (Jul 24th, 2014 at 14:31:13)

    This is my first session playing Animal Crossing. I'm trying to pin it down in terms of its time mechanic. I'm really interested in how that interacts with the game's fictional possibilities.

    This first play session has been mostly filled with tutorial-type information and tasks. Getting acclimated to the map was rather difficult, because there are some fetch quests that require you to run around a bit. But the designers seem to anticipate that response on the players' parts (Tom Nook supplies the you with one after a sarcastic remark).

    The fact that player owes Tom Nook money at least gives a reason for the player to perform these tasks. Hopefully the game play will open further after that. Why these characters have lent others these objects is unclear. As is the fact that they can't get them back themselves, across what seem really tedious distances. Why does Weber have Mitzi's handkerchief? Why did Mitzi give Weber's Game Boy to Twirp?

    This entry has been edited 1 time. It was last edited on Jul 24th, 2014 at 14:35:53.

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    Assassins Creed III (360)    by   dkirschner       (Jul 24th, 2014 at 08:44:16)

    Finally finished Assassin's Creed 3 last night. I tell you what, some of it was very cool, and some of it was terrible. Overall, it was my least favorite AC game, and if it weren't for the incredible way it weaved its sci-fi story into American history, I would wish I'd never played it. That's its redeeming feature.

    In my previous entry I noted how stunned I was that every female character was sexualized or sexualizing, and that the game did a better job with race. Well, I don't think there are any female characters even in the game after the first few hours, so I guess...the problem was solved by omission? Not solved, but ignored. I find this disappointing. How can you have a historical game where women are written out of history?

    Race is still wrestled with to some extent, but it mostly becomes wrapped up in the British/Colonial/Native Americans land dispute. Connor, being Native American, is of course more sensitive to racial oppression. At the end of the game, on Evacuation Day (when the last British ship sailed away), the Americans jeer "get outta here oppressors!" and "death to the oppressors!" Connor turns his head and watches a white man selling black people at a slave auction block. Connor shakes his head sadly at the contradiction. Americans freed themselves from British oppression only to happily enslave another race.

    The game does an amazing job of integrating the Assassins, Templars and Connor into American history. I'm a bit of a history nerd and I didn't catch a single thing out of place. Major figures from history fought in the correct battles, had the correct scandals, were promoted and demoted at the correct times, died in the correct places...I don't even know how much research went into this script! Absolutely incredible interweaving of fact and fiction. And since the main game takes place over ~10 years, there is serious consistency going on. Also Sean's (the British tech wiz) historical notes in the encyclopedia (about battles, people, buildings, laws, culture, etc., like all the other AC games) are wonderfully informative and provide massive historical context.

    I found that Connor's story is actually quite short. For the first ~50% of the game, I tried out side missions, explored a bit, looked for collectibles, played with the game's many systems like economy and homestead. I cannot convey how boring and pointless most of these things were, and so I just played the main story for the second ~50% of the game. That took me all of one day (7 hours or so). I always spend like 20-30 hours playing AC games because there's so much to do, but I clocked this one in at 16. The first 9 hours took me about a month because I was doing side missions and they were so boring that I sort of dreaded playing the game and never lasted more than a couple hours.

    Anyway, so let's talk about these unnecessary bloated systems tacked on to AC3. I'll start with the best one, the naval warfare. You get a ship early on, which you can customize and upgrade. Pick up naval missions from the Harbormaster. These are most akin to the traditional AC side missions that I love so much (and were otherwise absent in AC3!) like assassinating a target, stealthily following a target, using actual skill to navigate terrain and so on. You do those things, but at the helm of a big ship, with your crew along, firing cannons and rail guns, through a variety of ever-shifting weather conditions and wind patterns. It is really impressive and a lot of fun. But, I didn't engage much extra in it because I know that AC4 focuses on pirating, and I'm sure the sailing is even better in that game. So I'll wait to be a sailor.

    In many of the naval missions, you secure trade routes. This helps your caravans arrive more safely at their destination, which brings in more money. Unfortunately, trading is pointless, as is money. I could have played this game with $0 and had the same experience. I believe I bought like 2 weapons during the entire game. That's the ONLY thing I ever bought!

    In order to trade, you need raw materials. In order to get raw materials, you need to recruit colonists to your big piece of land, your Homestead. When you complete a homestead mission (save the blacksmith from bandits), then voila, you have a new person living on your homestead, and they will produce raw materials for you. You collect these materials, pack them up on caravans to sell. You also then give raw materials to some of these folks and they will craft new things for you from recipes that you find in treasure chests. Again, this is all absolutely unnecessary and pointless. I didn't craft a single thing. I recruited a few colonists and barely saw them afterward. Who cares?

    You can also get some raw materials from hunting in the wilderness. There are many hunting regions, and OMG WHO CARES? You don't need the materials for anything useful, hunting is super boring and super easy. The only cool thing that ever happened to me while hunting is one time a cougar that I didn't hear surprised me and I jumped out of my seat. Then I wrestled with it and threw it off a cliff, which was pretty cool.

    There are other random quests scattered around the wilderness and OMG WHO CARES? Nothing to do with the story, rewards are pointless since all these extra systems are pointless. And in the cities you can liberate forts. I liberated 2, but there's really no benefit for doing so, and no challenge in it. The game is constantly asking you to "attack this caravan" or "save these orphans" or "stop this execution." None of these do ANYTHING remotely useful. It's like email spam.

    As in all AC games, there are a million collectibles. These were at least relevant, like catching flying pages of Ben Franklin's almanac or finding Peg Leg trinkets to give to Peg Leg the pirate, who then told you where secret treasure was (although you don't need the treasure).

    And there are many more still that I can't remember at the moment...

    Perhaps my biggest problem with all these side missions and systems is not that they are pointless, but that they are mindless. None of these things is difficult in the least. What happened to the puzzles of previous AC games? You know, the challenges where you're trying to find an amulet inside a fort, and it's just you and a massive platforming puzzle challenge. I LOVED those and they aren't here. The closest thing to a platforming challenge, oddly, is navigating the ship through rocky shallow sea.

    The parkour element has been so simplified that I think even if there were a platforming puzzle, you would just hold up and RT and Connor would just auto-complete it. I cannot believe how simplified the climbing is now. It takes no thought whatsoever. Really, really, really disappointing to have one of the series' defining features so diluted, and to have my lovely platforming challenges set aside for skinning rabbits and fetch quests for my Homestead.

    In one sense, it's nice they tried some new things, but since they all suck (besides ship sailing!), then the gameplay is same old same old, but simplified to death. Very bad!

    Maybe there is a parallel to this in the new setting. Whereas Rome and Florence were big complex cities, the American frontier is sprawling nature. The beauty is still there, but the complexity of the environment isn't. No longer will you scale massive European buildings because they just didn't have those in the Colonies! Instead, you get to explore the wilderness, which brings its own verticality. I enjoyed running through the wilderness for the most part, but there are so many cliffs and valleys that it becomes extremely annoying trying to find your way up to places. You'll come up to a cliffside that you can't climb, and have to work your way around. It would take me 15 minutes sometimes to get to where I wanted to go because of the brutal terrain. And don't even get me started on horses in AC3. They won't jump over hardly anything, or make the smallest jumps downward. I dismissed my horse out of frustration 100 times. Unless you're on a road, horses are damn near useless.

    Aaaand, that's the end of my AC3 entry. In the end, the bizarre sci-fi meta story gets fleshed out some more. I guess I'll have to wait til I get AC4 to get the next 10 minutes of what happens to the present world. I do hope that AC4 isn't as disappointing as 3. It was better reviewed, and I believe the focus is a bit different, ships rather than parkour, so it may be a nice change of pace.

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    Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Jul 18th, 2014 at 10:49:04)

    I've been successfully and casually playing Hearthstone for about a month now. I ended up looking stuff up about it and learning important information about strategy, dailies, arena and other things. I'll just sum up what I've been doing.

    (1) I learned that you can only have 3 dailies at a time, and that you can select a daily to re-roll once per day. I know what the list of possible dailies is now, and know that there are some 60 gold dailies and one 100 gold daily. The rest are 40 gold. So to maximize efficiency (the least time for the most gold), I've found it's best to try to synergize 40 gold dailies. Sometimes I can get something like "Win 2 games with Mage or Rogue," "Win 2 games with Priest or Mage," and "Win 3 games." That's great because then all I have to do for 120 gold is to win 3 games, two of them with a Mage! Just do this every 3 days and you get a constant stream of, at minimum, 280 gold per week. That's enough for just under 2 arena runs per week (or 3 card packs), which, if you do well, nets you even more gold, dust, cards, practice and fun. I've read about other people re-rolling dailies until they get the 60 gold ones, but those are "Win 5 with Mage or Priest" types. 5 for 60 gold or win 2 for 40 gold? I understand that 60 is more per day, but winning 2 takes a hell of a lot less time, and is more efficient in that way, especially if you can synergize.

    This requires thinking about the game in a patient frame. There is no rush to accumulate gold. There is no rush to accumulate cards.

    (2) I learned that if you play Ranked and achieve level 20 (of 25) in a season (which is every month), then you get a special card back. Okay cool, there's a goal to reach every month. I found this out right at the end of June and over a couple days managed to get my ranking to 20. Then I got to 20 by mid-July. I didn't mean to get there so fast, but I'm clearly a better player than I was a month ago! There's no real motivation to attempt to get higher rank. I think you get something when you become legendary, or whatever it is after you hit rank 1, but besides not caring about that, I know it wouldn't be possible for me any time soon. Players at rank 20 already have a buttload of rare and epic cards that they use to slaughter me.

    (3) There are two things that have forced me to learn other class types, which is good, because the more you understand how other classes play, the better equipped you are to handle them. The first one is those "Win x games with x class" dailies. One time I had one that synergized with using a Paladin, so I build a custom Paladin deck and leveled him up to 6 or 8 or so in the process of completing the dailies. The second is arena.

    (4) Arena is awesome. Definitely my favorite mode. I had played it a few times when I was a complete noob (now only semi-noob) and I believe my win rates were 1, 2, 1, 0 or something. When thinking about how to maximize gold-for-cards, I looked up arena rewards to see what all you got for more wins. Turns out if you get 3 wins, you'll make up the extra 50 gold you spent on entering the arena vs. just buying a pack. Turns out also if you get 7+ wins, you can "go infinite," which means you make enough gold to enter another arena. If you can average 7+ wins every time, you basically no longer need to get gold for anything else.

    After learning this, and after biting it in my early arena runs, I decided to go check out some strategy, because arena is a bit overwhelming if you don't have good knowledge of cards at least! It works like this: You choose from among 3 random classes. Then you are presented with a series of 3 cards, and you choose one from each trio, until you have filled a 30-card deck. So you must know a bit about which cards are better than others, which work well together, which complement what classes, which cards are efficient, which have worthwhile abilities, and on and on. And there's the whole other layers of game strategy, like mana curves, trading cards and a bunch of other stuff that I am just learning about.

    Anyway, I found a bunch of great resources to learn about the game, read a lot of explanations of mechanics, watched some pro streamers play, all just to get more of a sense of the game. Then I found "draft lists" that are essentially rankings of which cards are generally better to choose by class in arena. Super handy. So the other day, I followed a few of these draft lists, chose a Paladin and actually went 4-3! I got a pack and 60 gold, so I did better than just buying a pack! Pretty cool feeling to win 4, doubling my previous best.

    In looking up all this information about the game, I stumbled upon stat tracking. There are several sites/apps that do this, and I've signed up for a couple to play around with. Arenamasters and hearth-stats in particular seem useful. You can see how many wins you've got with each class, versus which class, using which decks, whether you go first or second, etc. etc. Lots of info.

    The other thing I started doing was trying to beat the Expert AI. They are snazzy, have a lot of good cards. The Mage kicked my ass twice, then I beat her. She had a ton of secrets (I don't even have one!). So the AI definitely has more and better cards than I do. I figure though it'll be good practice to play mirror matches so I can see how the Expert AI plays each class. I'm still clueless about a few classes, like Warlock, Priest, Warrior and Hunter. So anyway, I beat the Mage, beat the Rogue on my first try, and got absolutely stomped by the Druid on my first try, and that's where I stopped. You get 100 gold for beating them all, so there's some more incentive.

    Also I found out there is a sort of free expansion coming out next week, Naxxramas. It's like a raid I guess, where there are 5 wings. The first wing is free, and the rest will cost cash or 700 gold each. I figure I can just casually save up the 700 gold for the others. I haven't read much else about it, but I think it's like a single-player campaign mode. Sounds exciting, and you get some cards for beating each wing.

    I haven't really found people to play with yet though. P is busy, my brother didn't sound too interested, girlfriend not interested, most Bnet friends I talk to playing exclusively WoW and Diablo 3, IRL friends who play all have 100000 cards and crush me into the ground. Still working on that front.

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    The Walking Dead: Season One (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Jul 18th, 2014 at 09:31:39)

    My girlfriend and I have been playing this and we love it. We played Episodes 1 and 2 in one long sitting a couple weeks ago, and played Episode 3 last night (followed by a couple episodes of BSG because I knew I couldn't make it til 2am through another 3-hour episode of Walking Dead!)

    We think the dialogue and the story twists and turns are unbelievably gripping. I love all the characters. I don't mean that I like them all as people -- some suck -- but I love all of their complexity. Lee and Clem are adorable.

    Yeah so playing this game together, we are just on the edge of our seats the whole time. Whenever things seem calm, something happens, and nothing is ever what we think it is. There's this overwhelming sense of dread. For example, in Episode 3 last night, we investigated the mystery of the chalk and the missing supplies, and the whole time we're just talking about who we think did it. Then when Lee finds the paper bag in the drop spot, we were both like OH SHIT! BANDITS! And then the next scene, BAM, bandit attack, action time! And then we STILL don't know who did it, and then Lilly flips her shit and we are captivated by what she is saying, accusing Carley and Ben.

    An interesting thing this game does to you is that since you KNOW you are going to have to make meaningful choices, you plan ahead for outcomes. So as soon as there was this missing supply issue, we were discussing who might have done it and why, and then what we would do with the person if we caught them. Would we take them with us? Leave them? Kill them? And not only us, but what would the other characters do? Would Kenny leave them? Would Lilly kill them? And as Lee, what should Lee do? Given that Kenny likes our Lee and Lilly dislikes our Lee, depending on who took the supplies, what do we do considering our various relationships with other characters, as Lee?

    So when Lilly is accusing Carley and Ben of treating with the bandits outside the RV, she's escalating the situation, and we're both like, okay, what is she going to do? Because she's wavering back and forth between screaming at Ben and Carley and both of them together. I was thinking we'd tell Lilly to shut up and like lock her in the bathroom or something because she had no proof of anything and was getting really harmful to the group. I figured we'd have that option, or the option to support her accusation of Ben and/or Carley, and then we would probably leave whoever. But as usual, there's a twist, which I won't give away for anyone who hasn't played, and we were stunned sitting there on the couch, like...whoa. WHOA. Shit. Then when these unexpected things occur, you pick up the pieces and move on.

    After 3 episodes (well, in the middle of the 3rd), A got curious enough about our choices to look up what happens if you choose other options. I was thinking it would be more like Mass Effect, where the people you save or kill have perhaps seemingly small impacts on your story in the immediate, but turn out to really affect things later. Or I was thinking like Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls where there is a lot of branching. Like, we took Carley from the store in Macon and left Doug. Then the stolen supplies incident happens with Lilly. What would have happened if we took Doug? Does the same thing happen, just to a different character? What happens if you don't kill Lilly's dad in episode 2? Does she like you more, and Kenny dislike you more? Can you accuse Ben of stealing supplies and kill him or leave him? Are there a wealth of different scenes and situations if you make different choices?

    Well, it turns out that things don't branch like Heavy Rain and they don't seem to have such lasting effects like Mass Effect (not yet at least). Events will happen nonetheless, just with different characters. I don't mind this at all because the story is so great and there are so many different micro-interactions Lee engages in. It's not just about what happens, but about how everyone feels about it that matters.

    Playing off this knowledge though, it would be nice to see more detailed choice statistics at the end of chapters. Like last night I saw that most people let Lilly back in the RV. I was surprised at this, because for me it was crystal clear to leave her. But then again, in my game, I didn't like her and she didn't like Lee. She was always stirring trouble with Kenny (we liked each other) and becoming more and more paranoid. The statistics are just a small snapshot though. I'd like to be able to click this stat and see the other choices that may have influenced the outcome of this choice. So for example, I bet that players who were friendly with Lilly (didn't kill her dad, sided with her over Kenny most of the time, didn't want to leave the motel, etc) were much more likely to let her back on the RV. Players unfriendly with Lilly, like me, were much more likely to leave her. I would LOVE to see these other influential choices alongside the main episode choices. How cool would that be?

    I've never seen the show or read the comics, so this world is all quite new to me. Well, besides the fact that it takes place in Georgia. A has watched a couple seasons and read a bunch of the comics, so she's telling me sometimes what's from which medium and explained how the zombie virus or whatever it is works in this world. Neat info. Anyway, we freakin love this game. Can't wait to play more, but want to savor them. Also I will so be buying Season 2 when it's bundled, as well as Telltale's other episodic game, The Wolf Among Us. If it's the same quality as the Walking Dead, then I will be a happy survivor.

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    Warcraft III -- Frozen Throne (PC)    by   Apollo

    One of the best RTS of all time imo.
    most recent entry:   Wednesday 10 January, 2007
    I loved the storyline in this game, much like I did with War3 RoC. This was probably why I ultimately spiraled into the much dreaded WoW, which sucked up the majority of my playing time until I escaped. I still enjoy playing TFT, more so DoTA which is a custom map for the game rather than the actually game play. This probably stims from my probablems with micromanaging units, which is probably rappidly apparent if you've read any of my other posts.

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