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    Star Realms (iPd)    by   jp       (Aug 22nd, 2014 at 09:51:27)

    I saw a friend recommend this game on Twitter the other day. I somehow misread his suggestion - I thought the game was a CCG when it's a deckbuilding game. Not a problem though.

    Other than the terrible (as in not notable) name, this game is basically a slightly simpler version of 'Ascension'. It's simpler in some of its mechanics (and I'm pretty sure has less of them), but adds a few new things I've enjoyed.

    I'm not sure what else to say about it other than the fact that some of the missions against hard AI are really hard...

    I'm looking forward to playing other people online, but so far no luck. :-(

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    Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Aug 19th, 2014 at 18:23:02)

    The greatest thing happened when I was clearing out my dailies today. Let me provide the context:

    I save up dailies until I have 3, try to synergize them and quickly knock them out. Today after I finished the two synergized mage win quests, I still had the "Play 30 minions under 2 mana" quest leftover. I have a rogue deck reserved for those 30-under-2 and 20-over-5 quests. What does the 30-under-2 deck look like? Well, it is full of 1 and 2 mana cost minions, in addition to every draw card I have. The idea is certainly not to win, but just to pump out cards to finish the quest in 2 games. If the opponent's deck isn't prepared, this deck will swarm pretty good.

    So today, I was playing around with the 30-under-2 deck and put all my murlocs in for fun. I have like 10 low-cost murlocs, one of which is the one that gives all the other murlocs +1 attack.

    I was playing against a priest, who didn't have a very good deck anyway, and somehow near the end of the game I wound up with 5 or 6 murlocs on the board that he couldn't wipe. The next turn I played the +1 murloc and about killed him. He surrendered to me.

    So. Today I won with a deck full of 1 and 2 mana cards. I won with murlocs. I had a good laugh, couldn't believe it.

    Still really enjoying this game. The Naxxramas expansion is fun. Each boss provides a little unique challenge to overcome. None have been terribly difficult. I'll lose sometimes, but haven't replayed a boss more than maybe 4 times. And I really like getting so many new cards! I've even built a warrior deathrattle deck using many of them that is fun to play. What IS hard though are the heroic bosses. I tried one a month ago and got clobbered. Eventually I will buckle down and challenge myself to develop decks to beat them, but I wager I'll need some better (non-Naxx) cards first. Since I've been putting all my gold toward Naxx, I haven't gotten any normal cards or done any arenas in a long time.

    I do have the gist of all the classes now though, which has made me a much smarter player. My favorite is still my mage spell power deck. With this deck, I put in all my + spell power cards. When I can get a few on the board, my spells become really deadly. I've hit people with 10 damage fireballs, wiped the board with 4 damage arcane explosions, that kind of thing. Players really have to be vigilant about killing my + spell power minions because things can quickly go south for them! I do like to keep a few cheap ones in my hand, and play a couple at once along with a spell for a surprise attack.

    My other favorite classes are the priest and warrior. I think this is because, like my mage, they have more unique decks. The priest deck I have is an inner fire / divine spirit one. The strategy is that you use is put a minion out, use divine spirit to double its health and inner fire to make its attack equal to its health. Obviously this can get insane. My minions for this deck are almost all high health/low attack minions to maximize this gimmick. The other day against one of the Naxx bosses I got an Oasis Snapjaw up to 30/30 and killed the boss in one shot. That was Oasis Snapjaw, then +2 health, divine spirit, divine spirit, inner fire. It took a couple turns, but the AI doesn't recognize *potential* threats a lot of the time.

    For the warrior, I've come up with a cool deathrattle deck, that is, playing a lot of cards that have positive deathrattles. The warrior has a couple cards (warlock would be good for this too actually) that damage ALL cards. So if you have cards that do good things for you when they die, and you can kill them, then, wow, hitting everyone's cards is bad for the enemy and good for you. I just put in two legendaries from the last Naxx wing too, so it should be even cooler next time.

    I have also played some opponents with incredibly cool decks. Last time I did dailies, I had a priest who was using wild pyromancer (deals 1 damage to ALL cards whenever its hero casts a spell). The priest kept casting spells and then healing the wile pyromancer. I had a lot of trouble killing it and it just wasted a lot of my cards. Then the priest went into shadow mode (never seen that before) which, instead of healing 2 for his hero power, dealt 2 damage...to anything on the board! He kicked my ass pretty handily, and it was awesome to watch.

    Good times. Looking forward to one more Naxx wing, then playing the arena some more. I think I will be much better now than last time I played!


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    Remember Me (PS3)    by   jp       (Aug 19th, 2014 at 10:24:29)

    Finished!

    And yes, I enjoyed it and recommend it. The ending was all kinds of crazy and strange, but in a good way. It's also quite cyberpunk which was another added bonus.

    I recently saw a headline somewhere about the game where the director(?) claimed that the game was misunderstood. I'm not sure if he referred to the ending (people misunderstanding the ending) or the game as a whole - as in, people didn't get it so that's why it wasn't a commercial success. Either way, I think I 'got it' and I'd definitely recommend it (with the caveats from all me earlier posts on this game).

    I still wish it was a little bit more french - in the way that Deus Ex had the international areas feel international. But hey...still worth it.

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    Beyond: Two Souls (PS3)    by   jp       (Aug 19th, 2014 at 10:14:13)

    I really enjoyed Heavy Rain (despite being the only one, apparently). I've even written a few academic articles on the game. Needless to say, I was quite interested in Beyond: Two Souls when it came out.

    I've already played the first 5 or 6 'scenes' and I've enjoyed how they are organized with respect to each other. You're basically jumping back and forth in the narrative, with each new scene filling in blanks and question you may have from the earlier ones. It works quite well for me and has kept me intrigued so far.

    It's also clear how the experiments with the interface and interactions have evolved. I'm not sure that they've gone in a 'good' direction - mostly because everything seems a lot simpler. By simpler I mean fewer choices. On the other hand, some of the 'obvious' interactions have been simplified so you don't need any complicated sequences to follow. You mostly just flick one of the analog sticks and you're done.

    What has surprised me is that the game seems markedly more linear than Heavy Rain. At most times I get the feeling that there is only one correct way to address a problem, but I'll admit that I could be incorrect about this. I look forward to, once I've finished the game, exploring some of the scenes using alternate strategies. Actually, there's only one that seems amenable to that approach: the embassy scene. I suspect the rest are either linear (only one choice) or binary (make a choice, but not really any impact).

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    Zombie Gunship (Other)    by   dkirschner       (Aug 19th, 2014 at 08:25:02)

    Some of these humble bundles are hit or miss. I grabbed the last one I did primarily for the Android version of Settlers of Catan because I've never really played the board game. I played Zombie Gunship for either 1 or 2 hours on the airplane yesterday. I lose track of time on planes. It is fitting to have played Zombie Gunship on a plane because in it, you shoot zombies from a plane.

    And there, I have summed up the whole game! Just kidding. It's got a slight amount of depth to it. I played the same 1 level over and over again. There are 3 others unlockable with coins, which you earn through killing zombies. The zombies in each level slowly swarm from the edges of the map to your bunker. When they get too close to the bunker door, the door seals and ends the level. There are also civilians running toward the bunker. The game tallies how many citizens you save (though not sure why) and if you kill more than 3, the level ends. Zombies will attack civilians, and there was one achievement to kill 5 zombies attacking civilians in one level (achieved!).

    As you accumulate coins, you can purchase 2 new guns, and you can upgrade the ones you have. You can also upgrade 'extras' like where zombie kills give you more coins. As you can see, the game is really just a vicious loop of coin generation. You do the same few levels over and over (once you unlock them with coins) to kill zombies to get coins to upgrade your guns to kill more zombies to get more coins to upgrade your guns to kill more zombies to upgrade your guns to kill more zombies........

    As such, the game became mind-numbingly repetitive after the 1 or 2 hours I played. Each level I unlocked was practically the same as the others. Occasionally a larger zombie was tossed into the mix. These facilitated little challenge and required no evolved strategy. The game's achievements, or missions that reward you with 'rank,' were thin. They included "Use two bombs" which required me to spend 2000 coins to buy two bombs, "Kill 100 zombies" which doesn't deviate from normal gameplay at all, "Save 15 humans" which also doesn't deviate from normal gameplay at all, and a bunch of other uninspired "challenges."

    That's it for this one. I'm saving Settlers for last, but I've got 2 others to check out from this Humble Bundle first...

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    Half-Life 2: Episode 1 (PC)    by   DonJohnson

    The first person shooter genre has seen several revolutions since it was created. Wolfenstein, Doom, Half Life, and Halo. Though it has been six years since it came out, Half Life 2 is still one of the most dominant and popular first person shooters in existence. Half Life 2 does not re-invent the FPS, but it comes close to improving on every it in every way. The graphics of Half Life 2 are stunning, and were the first of their kind. The complex lighting effects used have only been fully taxed by computers that have just come out. In effect, Half Life 2 still has some of the most impressive visuals of any game for the PC. For the first hour of the game, the only weapon the player will have will be a crowbar. Elements of the game are introduced gradually, and a player does not even make it out into the wide open world for several hours into the game. The sound as well as the graphics are stunning. For the first time on a PC game was 5.1 surround utilized so well. All possible sound effects combine with the impressive graphics to create an assault on the senses. However, once the player gets the pistol, the physics engine of the game shines. The bullets effect many things throughout the environment and hit the enemy causing a multitude of different results. All the enemies increase in strength as things progress as well, so the player has to develop a strategy and tactics for fighting them. The battles almost never play out the same way, and give the player a real feeling that they are fighting thinking, living enemies who react dynamically. There are no automated responses, but rather the physics engine filters through all possibilities and lets objects interact. The best way to understand the fabulous physics engine is by looking at the gravity gun. Initially players will likely use the gun to throw barrels at enemies, but as time goes on, all the possibilities become apparent. Nearly everything that is not attached to the environment can be grabbed and thrown. Once the player gets outside and starts moving cars around, the potential of this gun is revealed. Simply speaking, the game would have been great without the gravity gun, but it adds a totally new dimension that was previously unseen in any other game. The plot keeps the player on the edge of the seat as well. An estimated 16 hours of gameplay turns into a lot more if anyone decides to explore the massive levels. The enemies are so plentiful that as the climax of the story approaches you are fighting 3 story tall creatures in an urban environment outside, and once these battles are finished, the final level leaves the player feeling extremely satisfied. Besides all this, the engine used for Half Life 2 has been used in many other Valve and non-Valve productions and fuels many of the most popular multiplayer games today. The only reason HL2 lost a half point is because there was not enough deviation from the original plot line. While it was fantastic overall, it stayed very closely linked to the original.

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