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    Dicey Dungeons (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Dec 8th, 2021 at 16:01:41)

    Going to try and write some more proper reflection entries instead of just summing up when I finish something. I've thankfully got some relaxing time ahead of me in the next month. As usual, I've already subscribed to Xbox Game Pass, so I've got a bunch of stuff from my wishlist queued up. This time, it charged me $1 for three months. I don't understand these platforms enough to know how Microsoft can keep charging me $1. I'll probably play $500 worth of games in the next three months (and probably have played well over $2000 on Game Pass in total, while I've paid like $4). And Epic keeps giving away free stuff with that Fortnite money. When is the last time I even paid for a video game?!

    Anywayyy, I have been happily clicking away in Dicey Dungeons this week. It's a roguelike (lite?) card game hybrid thing by Terry Cavanagh (VVVVVV, Super Hexagon). The game is set up like a game show. Lady Luck presides. She'll grant contestants' wishes if they make it through all the challenges. She turns them into dice and sends them into the dungeon, where they fight enemies in turn-based card battles, open chests and shop to get new items, as they go down the 6 levels of the dungeon (always with a boss on level 6). You can play one of a handful of characters, each with unique skillsets and some unique rule sets as they play through different episodes.

    Example: The first character you unlock (and by far easiest to play) is the warrior. The warrior's special ability is to re-roll a die up to three times. Dice rolls determine damage/defense values. There is a lot of randomization, but a lot of room for you to be clever or totally screw up on your own. The warrior starts with a sword in his inventory (Do x damage) (x = die roll) and two dice. Did you roll snake eyes? Well, re-roll one and hope for a 6. Later weapons might say something like "Minimum 3. Do 3 damage." This means that you have to roll a 3 or higher to use that card and that it does 3 damage. Other cards can be reused multiple times in a turn. Others can only be used once in a battle, like the one that, upgraded, lets you plug in any four dice and adds 4 burn damage.

    I actually killed a boss in two hits using that badass weapon. It was brilliant (I am bragging). I was playing as the inventor, whose special ability is to convert one item after every battle into a once-per-turn ability (that basic warrior sword I mentioned, for example, can be destroyed to gain a 3 damage attack, while the badass weapon can be destroyed to gain a 3 fire damage attack, marginally better). I was on a later episode with different rules. In this episode, the inventor actually destroys TWO pieces of equipment after each battle and gets TWO once-per-turn abilities. I knew the power of that flame weapon from a previous run, so once I got it, I upgraded it and set it in my backpack to wait for the final battle (since you are forced to destroy two items from your inventory after each battle, I didn't want to run the risk of having to destroy the flame weapon, so I kept it safely hidden in my backpack!). I also knew from a previous run that if you destroy a crystal sword (Do 3x damage shown on die, once per battle), you get the ability to double your next action. Finally, another of the inventor's special abilities is to make all your dice sixes for a turn.

    SO. Once meticulously prepared, I arrived at the final boss. I equipped the flame weapon. My super power to roll sixes was ready. I converted my dice to sixes, put them in the weapon (6+6+6+6+4 burn damage), used my "repeat ability" action, and then attacked. 28 damage, good lord. Then attacked again! 56! 8 of which was burn damage, which sets enemies' dice on fire. If they want to use a die, they suffer -2hp for the privilege. The AI isn't brilliant, but it's not suicidal. The boss didn't even do anything. Then I killed it on my next turn with regular weapons.

    That was one of the best moments playing this game so far. It is full of these kinds of moments where you've sort of created your own good luck. The game stays fresh for a good amount of time with the RNG and varying rulesets in different episodes and of different characters. BUT! I fear it is starting to wear thin. Why? Well, as I mentioned, each character plays differently, and each of them has some unique episodes. However, I've learned that the unique episodes are episodes 2 and 3 (of 6) for each character, and I've already done most of those. Episode 1 is always standard. Check out the variety in episodes 2 and 3!

    Warrior 2: Start with two upgraded battle axes. All equipment you find is upgraded. Inflicted with curse (your equipment has a 50% chance to fail once) at the beginning of battle.

    Warrior 3: Start with a venus fly trap (weapon that does x damage, and if you roll a 6, it also heals you for 2). Lose 2 max HP when you level up. (This one was challenging!)

    Thief 2: You can keep enemy equipment after each fight (the thief can steal, of course, but usually doesn't get to keep anything).

    Thief 3: On your first turn, all rolls are 1. On your second turn, all rolls are 2. And so on... (I haven't beaten this one yet, hard!)

    Robot 2: Duplicate dice vanish immediately (yours, not the enemy's...)

    Robot 3: No CPU counter. Create any dice you like! (The robot doesn't roll normally. Basically, each die value adds to a counter. If the counter exceeds the maximum, like if you get greedy and keep rolling, it overheats and you can't do anything; so in this episode, you can choose which dice to create, which was neat, but tough because of...) 50% chance that equipment will randomly disappear each time you create a die.

    These have all been really fun, interesting, many challenging to complete, and I've done most of them. But episode 4 for each character just gives enemies more HP and all their weapons are upgraded. No other ruleset tweaks. I don't want to just play the exact same thing on hard mode! Then episode 5 changes the same thing for each character too (status effects work differently, enemies still have 10% more HP), and episode 6 just adds random rules each level you go down the dungeon. The RNG is brutal on that last one. I've beaten all the warrior episodes, but don't want to do them all for every character.

    Anyway, I feel like I've done the most interesting stuff, and that I won't see much more variety or interesting stuff until I sink a ton of time into this. I might play some more because it's fun and I can probably knock off additional challenges, but I'm going to start something else in the meantime!

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    Middle-earth: Shadow of War (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Dec 7th, 2021 at 21:29:49)

    “Beat” this last night. By that I mean that I completed the main story but neglected to complete the Epilogue (which I gather used to be called Act IV). The Epilogue basically requires you to 100% the game and play the “Shadow Wars,” a series of siege missions that the internet tells me runs several hours long (and used to be much longer before patches) and results in a brief cut scene at the end showing the true ending. I watched the ending on YouTube. Neat connection to the classic trilogy. But I actually like the normal ending!

    So, this is the sequel to a game I really enjoyed a couple years ago. Overall impression of this one: more of the same. In fact, too much more of the same! This took me nearly twice as long as the first game and it had no business being so long. Don’t get me wrong. It’s fun and engaging the whole time, but you can see how WB went for “endless play” here. You can continue hunting captains and leveling up your fortresses as you see fit. Then you can do the same thing online forever.

    I’m not entirely sure what is different about this game than the first one (I could go back and remember, but meh). There are a lot more skill points to spend, but you’ll unlock all the main skills by halfway through your play time. The rest (of the tons and tons of skill points) just unlock tweaks to the main skills. Combat flows as I remember. It’s hectic, orcs everywhere, and you feel like a badass. You have so many moves; it’s a bit overwhelming! And there are endless map icons to resolve.

    The gist of the gameplay is this (there is a story, and it is interesting, but you’re not here for that): You, ultimately, will capture Sauron’s fortress in each zone. Each zone’s fortress is defended by an overlord and several warchiefs. Each zone also has roughly 15 other chiefs. You can hunt these chiefs at your leisure or take on quests to ambush them while they’re attacking one another, going through a trial, or whatever. You want to kill these chiefs, or better yet, dominate them. When you dominate chiefs, you can then command them to do your bidding. Assign them as your bodyguard, force them to fight other chiefs (and gain levels if they win), send them to spy on warchiefs. The latter is particularly useful because your dominated chief spy will betray their warchief when you attack the warchief. Some warchiefs and overlords have like 5 subordinates, and if you task them all with spying, well, the boss is fucked.

    This is all part of how the nemesis system works in this series. Chiefs all have strengths and weaknesses. You can strategically pit one (say, with fire weapons) against another (say, with a mortal weakness to fire). Find a chief you like, with a good set of strengths and few weaknesses, and level him up through commanding him to fight other chiefs, taking him into battle and having him kill chiefs, or spending resources to level him up. At the end of the game, when you’re trying to take out a legendary level 45 overlord (and beyond in the Shadow Wars), you’ll appreciate having strong chiefs on your side.

    Of course, if your chief loses, he’s gone and your enemy levels up and often gains more brutal traits. It’s especially demoralizing when a chief kills you. Your penalty for death is that the orc that killed you becomes stronger (and gloats). If it was already a tough fight, then this may make it borderline impossible. One time when I was in the high-20s, I attacked a captain in the mid-30s. He had some crazy bow-and-arrow tracking shot that I couldn’t dodge. One of his straights was to be super strong, so he basically one-shot me and I couldn’t help it. Well, he leveled up close to 40 and became “legendary” (i.e., even super stronger with bonus traits). I didn’t tackle him until when I was nearly done with the game. I had forgotten about that bow-and-arrow tracking shot! When he hit me with it (-50% health, ouch), I quickly realized the trick was to close in and not let him get a shot off. I had to kill him before any of the other orcs around, avoiding like 10 regular orcs and another couple captains while chipping away at him, not letting him fire. Easier said than done, but I managed it!

    The game entices you with tense risk/reward calculations constantly. Battles become so hectic and high-stakes, with orcs everywhere, knowing that if you die, some orc becomes especially deadly (and you can use even this to your advantage, as higher level orcs drop higher level gear, so you can purposefully make them stronger to get loot or to level up your followers more quickly). By the end of the game, I was in battles with 5 captains simultaneously. 5 powerful orcs running around using special moves, me trying my best to keep an eye on them all, exploit their weaknesses, and not let them level up. Like I said, it’s certainly fun. But ultimately, that’s the game. Killing orcs. You’ll kill thousands of them, and a hundred captains. Eventually, it gets repetitive. At that point, you might choose to avoid the Shadow Wars, like I did. But that’s okay. The nemesis system is worth experimenting with no matter how far you decide to go.

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    Marvel's Avengers (PS4)    by   jp       (Dec 4th, 2021 at 20:25:33)

    I've played maybe 20% of the campaign. Or, as far as I can tell - the FIRST campaign. I have no idea if everything else that showed up on the menu is available for me to play or if I need to pay (DLC?).

    I've been enjoying the game so far, it's basically a brawler with a lot of progression and RPG systems. There's all kinds of things to unlock, level up and so on. And, also special abilities (combos, special moves, etc.). So far I've (mostly) played with the Hulk and the Ms. Marvel character with the rubber hands/arms. It's been fun, and I've enjoyed the Ms Marvel(?)

    The game's menus are quite overwhelming and I was initially not feeling in, not feeling excited about playing the game. But, I then had an epiphany of sorts - I realized that this game looks like what Destiny 2 must look like to a new player. There's events that seem like strikes (online multiplayer - get loot/rewards) and more. There's a whole map full of them - though I suspect I'm too low level at this point for it to make sense for me to chase these. But we'll see!

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    Runbow (PS4)    by   jp       (Nov 28th, 2021 at 10:32:16)

    Running and Rainbow. The name of the game is a pretty good explanation for what you're supposed to do. We played "co-op" for a few hours in the campaign/adventure. As a team we're all trying to get to the end of the level - first player there "wins" and in the grand scheme of things there's a rectangular grid where each tile is a level and we're trying to trace a path from the start tile (first challenge/level you do) to a "S" tile which has the boss. There are 4 S tiles (all far away from each other) and presumably when you beat the last one you "win" the game. We did three before we started to get tired - the levels were also getting harder overall beyond the 3-tiers already evident (green, yellow, and red).

    As for gameplay, there are different characters but AFAIK they're all the same. No special abilities or anything like that. The main gimmick/twist is that there's a background color "sweep" (in a flat color) that affects things in the level that are that color. When the sweep is green, everything that's green is invisible and doesn't exist. So, platforms to land on but also enemy lasers. So, there's a frantic pace of rushing to the end but careful timing is also important so that you can land on/avoid/etc. whatever level objects are there to either help or hurt you.

    I was mostly annoyed by the fact that you can interfere with the other players - often knocking them out of the level which was annoying, especially in the harder ones were we were struggling to get to the end. On the other hand, there was much laughing at this too.

    The game does come with a bunch of other modes, but I'm not sure we'll be all that interested to try them out? I only bought the game because of the couch co-op and I'm not sure we were all that enthused enough by it to play a bunch more?

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    Carto (PS4)    by   jp       (Nov 27th, 2021 at 18:59:01)

    I played a few hours of this about a year ago, and I picked it up again a few nights ago and finished it.

    The game is adorable in how it looks, and the story, and so on. Very cute, likeable and calming. The main draw for me though was the game's core mechanic (and the puzzles associated with it).

    The game has two modes - in one you're wandering around on a 2D map and can interact with objects and characters. In the other, you're looking at a map that's made up of square tiles (a la Carcassonne) and you can pick up the tiles, change their location and rotate them around. Sometimes (mostly in the beginning of the game) you find little sheets of paper in the world which are actually new tiles for you to place. Later in the game you have to arrange the tiles on the map to "unlock" a new tile that will suddenly appear. There are certain rules for how you can place tiles - mostly about different kinds of terrain lining up (you can't place if they don't line up - e.g. a road up against a forest). Furthermore there are some "interior" and underground locations where the same mechanic is used - inside houses (a hut, a multi-room library, underground tunnels and rooms) and there are some neat interactions between them. For example in the underground rooms you can't move/pick up the tiles, BUT each underground room is associated with an overground tile so you have to move THOSE (overground) ones to get the orientation underground that you need.

    The game has a neat progression system in how the puzzles get slowly more complicated or introduce a "new" type of solution/answer and I enjoyed how they didn't overuse the same puzzles over and over again. Also, the longer I played the "lazier" I got - taking advantage of the tile moving to, for example, relocate the tile I was on to be closer to the tile I wanted the character to go to, but I couldn't be bothered to walk that far (not that far, actually, but still). There's a bunch of secret little things you can do but I enjoyed the following puzzles:

    (a) Noticed a tile with a blue bird in the corner, then another. Turns out there were 4 tiles with birds and when I placed the tiles such the all the bird corners were together a secret puzzle piece popped out.

    (b) At one point you're asked to solve a super easy version of the towers of hanoi puzzle, then a slightly more complicated one and finally a REALLY long one (that's probably impossible with the space provided). The 1st two were on three mats in the same room, but the last one had a huge tower and mats in three rooms. The "answer" was to swap the rooms such that the starting room (originally on the left) was now on the right. It worked!

    (c) One of the challenges required putting a fish-shaped lake together from a bunch of "lake parts" - and then, following a kids drawing on a sheet of paper, re-arrange the lake parts into four specific fish shapes and fishing that type of fish from the lake with that shape. I thought this one was neat - but I had trouble getting all the shapes right even after I had figured out what I had to do.

    There were some more annoying puzzles as well - one where I left a mostly empty tile in the center when I actually had to leave an empty space (no tile) in the center. Sigh. Also one where I had to rotate pieces around so they lined up with lines on ice that the character (Carto) would slide on - all trying to get to an object used to decorate a snowman. This one I solved more through trial and error than actual puzzle solving. Again, sigh.

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    Lego Battles: Ninjago (DS)    by   jp

    No comment, yet.
    most recent entry:   Saturday 3 July, 2021
    Lego Battles was interesting because it's a Lego RTS game. I thought this would be an improved versions of that...but it's not. It's strange in that it's less of an RTS and more of a...MOBA? Not really a MOBA, but rather than emphasize the army building and so on, it emphasizes the heroes (Ninjago characters). And so, I lost interest quite quickly after I'd completed a few of the missions from the first act. I was mostly moving a single character around, talking to NPCs and doing fetch quests.

    As in Lego Battles, they do have to formula worked out with red bricks, getting all the studs, etc. So, the usual things from the Lego games you can worry about completing, but here I was just not into it. Because, not enough RTS for me!

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