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    Tales from the Borderlands (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Dec 9th, 2019 at 11:46:48)

    I started this in August and finally finished. That was due to a couple dry gaming months, finishing a couple other games, and then finally completing the last 3 episodes of this this weekend. My initial impressions were really positive, but in the end I think I just am not a fan of Borderlands anything.

    Telltale's storytelling is fantastic as always and the game mechanics are sound. Tales from the Borderlands naturally has a good deal of combat, including a pretty sweet finale, and gunplay mapped fine onto Telltale's style but could feel jarringly slow and disjointed during action sequences.

    I suppose what I'm most impressed with is Telltale's (RIP) ability to do such mapping, to fit any franchise they've handled into their style of narrative game. I've played some of the Walking Dead seasons, A Wolf Among Us, and the Game of Thrones one, and they all feel so unique, wonderfully capturing the spirit of each universe. I know they did such a good job with Borderlands because I felt like I always do about Borderlands by the end! Some of the jokes landed, sometimes I laughed out loud, but a lot of the humor missed. The world and characters are wonderfully weird and wacky, which I sometimes appreciate and sometimes cringe at.

    One funny thing is that I misread the romance options. I took the two main characters relationship as flirtatious when apparently it wasn't supposed to be. In fact, the guy can become romantically involved with her sister. I made him constantly reject her and not flirt with her because I wanted the two main characters to get together! My girlfriend thought this was hilarious. Does that mean I'm a bad flirt? Aw man! So really, Tales from the Borderlands taught me that I don't really like Borderlands so stop trying and that I'm a bad flirt. 10/10 learning things about myself.

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    Mountain (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Dec 4th, 2019 at 20:57:56)

    This is more a toy than a game, really like one of those interactive screensavers I used to have as a teenager. Remember the cute sheep that would eat your desktop icons? This toy/game/screensaver is designed to run in the background while you do something else.

    It's a digital mountain floating through space. You can spin it around, zoom in and out, click on trees to make birds fly away (into space??), and toss around objects such as airplanes and soccer balls that fall to its katamari-like surface. If you fancy yourself a musician, there are three octaves of a keyboard you can bang out. Finally, if you tire of watching your mountain accumulate stuff, you can send an asteroid at it and start over.

    There is no goal to Mountain. You poke it and prod it and see what happens. You leave it alone for hours like I did and get some achievements. At first, it was distracting in the background. Any time a heard a non-weather or ambient noise from it, I'd look and see what had happened. But after a while, it became soothing background noise, blending into the other noises in my apartment, and was really relaxing when I went to go read. All in all, that's a pretty cool thing!



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    Faeria (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Dec 4th, 2019 at 13:39:32)

    This was a surprise! I have had two card F2P card games in my backlog since I quit Hearthstone. I booted up Faeria last week, then one day when the servers were down, I tried the other, Duelyst. I made it through Duelyst's tutorials and screwed around a bit, but it didn't captivate me like Faeria did. But after an all-night binge last night, I think it is best for me to set this aside, after gushing about it first.

    Faeria combines elements of Hearthstone, Magic, and Catan, Hearthstone being the most familiar to me. You build 30-card decks with mixtures of creatures, structures (immobile and give passive bonuses), and events (aka spells). You mulligan like normal and gain faeria (mana) each turn like normal that you spend to play cards.

    The hybridization comes in because Faeria has a, as the promo goes, "living board." You don't just play cards on your side of the table. Rather, each player has a "god" and builds lands emanating from the god. Each turn you can build two regular lands or one elemental land (and if you don't want to do that, you can opt to draw a card or gain a faeria). You can only build lands adjacent to lands you already have or adjacent to your creatures. The default board is all water, and while some (blue, "aquatic") creatures can actually swim through it, everything else needs some kind of land.

    So, the strategy is not only in building your deck, but in building the board each game. Stronger cards will require, say, 4 fire lands before you can play them, and some cards require multiple kinds of land. In addition to the land, there are "faeria pools" that generate one faeria each turn. If you place a creature next to one, you get that bonus faeria. So you also want to maintain control of as many of those as you can because you will be able to play more and stronger cards. It's a balancing act because you can't just go straight for the faeria pools. They are on the corners of the board, and if you build outward, your enemy may start building straight down the middle and rush your god. But I found that generally having control of more faeria pools led to victory because you simply out-spend your opponent.

    I've established that the mechanics are complex and a whole lot of fun. So what is there to do? There are a ton of "mission packs," typically with 8 or 9 scenarios and little bosses at the end. These serve as tutorials, challenges, and practice against AI, while allowing you to unlock rewards like cards packs, lore book entries, and the in-game currencies. Some are "puzzles" with the goal of defeating the enemy in one turn with a specific board state. As you complete missions and level up your account, you gain access to more stuff, including a single-player or co-op campaign, online casual and ranked modes, and Pandora, which is a draft mode.

    My favorite thing in Hearthstone was Arena, so I went straight to draft mode as soon as I could. In Faeria, you have to wager card packs or currency for entry, which I suppose is like paying 100 gold in Hearthstone. You either lose it spectacularly or do well enough to make it back plus rewards.

    I FULLY expected to get crushed in Pandora. I'm still learning the game, I've never seen most of the cards, total noob playing against experienced players, right? Well...I had a near perfect run and went 6-1 (and somehow got the achievement for going 6-0!), earning the top prize of 5 card packs and a lot of currency. While this was awesome, and I stayed up until 5am doing it, there is no way in hell that someone who has played a competitive collectible card game for just a few hours should be able to stomp everyone in draft mode. Like, that could say a lot about the player base or design. Is everyone else a noob too? Is there no one playing (queue times averaged probably 3 minutes)? Did I just get lucky and draft awesome cards (I don't think so)? Is the game SO well-balanced that skill doesn't affect outcomes as much as in other games (probably not)? What a weird positive-negative feeling.

    Since I basically achieved the pinnacle of CCGs for me, winning a draft mode, I decided to retire at the top of my game. I still have about half the mission packs to complete and after that there are randomized "wild" packs so you have something to do forever. There is still the campaign mode, which I dabbled in and didn't find especially interesting. And there are puzzle modes, infinite card backs and things to buy, daily quests, and etc., etc. In short, if I wanted to commit to another CCG, I would spend more time here. But as much as I enjoyed Faeria, I don't want to get sucked in. I hope the game stays afloat because it's worth attention!

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    Dishonored (PS3)    by   jp       (Dec 4th, 2019 at 11:24:55)

    Finished this over the weekend.

    I think that what I've enjoyed the most about the game is the level design - I really enjoyed exploring and discovering different ways to get in to places, watching what happened, and so on. It is definitely a much better experience than Thief, and I've been trying to articulate what it is exactly about the level design that worked here (and did not work for me in Thief). I think part of it is color - greater variations in color schemes make places seem more interesting and highlight differences between areas? I also upgraded the ability to see items you could pick up and such - that really helped navigate as well, since it adds a filter of sorts that also really changes what things look like. I think the blink ability was also a significant factor - blink is essentially a short range teleport (which I also upgraded as early as possible) that eliminates a lot of the problems I have when I know where I want to go - but aren't able to get there (missing jumps, falling off narrow things, getting spotted while trying to climb, etc.). Using blink makes it a real joy to navigate because I focus more on WHERE I want to go (and then just teleport there) and less on how to execute the jumping, climbing, walking, etc. without missing (and having to start over or not being able to get back to where I was before) . So, for me it might be the ability + the geometry/level design?

    Weirdly, it wasn't until very late in the game that I realized how the "possess animal" ability worked. I had assumed that you possessed a creature and could move around and then it died and you went back to where you were originally. So, good for scouting not but actually for entering. It turns out you possess a creature and when the timer runs out it dies and you reappear at that (new) location! So, you could use the ability to infiltrate as well. Sigh.

    While the game storngly favors combat/killing (most of the abilities/skills/weapons are for killing/harming) - it's definitely the least interesting experience. At least for me. I tried to play stealth as much as possible, but I think the "kill/violence tracking" got borked because there were a few levels whose results (in the final scoreboard you get when you finish a missions) indicated that I had essentially killed everyone when I really had not. This was a bit frustrating, so the last two missions I basically decided to "screw it" and go all in on the violence - at times it's just easier to kill an enemy than try to work your way around to stealthily knock them out or to sit there waiting for them to get into a favorable position. (blink was also really useful here)

    I would say that the game experience was overwhelmingly positive - and interesting, and I'm looking forward to playing the sequel. Strangely, the only really annoying interaction in the game was trying to get out of the water...for some reason I had a really hard time getting this to work. I'd get to an edge and instead of "jumping out" I'd dive...and this would happen over and over. I died a bunch of times from carnivorous fish killing me while desperately trying to get out of the water. Sigh.

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    Bayonetta 2 (WiiU)    by   dkirschner       (Nov 30th, 2019 at 17:31:45)

    Quick and...surprisingly easy. The first Bayonetta kicked my ass. I remember spending hours on the final boss. In Bayonetta 2, I can count the number of deaths during the entire game on one hand. Let's assume I've become very good at action games.

    The story is interesting once it picks up. The only character with enough time and space to be really great this time around is Bayonetta herself. The "little one" felt relatively flat in her presence, though not unlikable. In this game, you get to go to Inferno (hell), which looks stunning. Given that, the game is not as jaw-dropping in any way as the first one, which is disappointing. Graphically, perhaps it isn't as impressive because it's on the Wii U. Technically, it feels like the first game except easier and more button mash-y. Character designs are still awesome though, especially the Paradiso enemies, but bosses are not as giant, imposing, or multi-stage. They look cool but aren't as epic to fight.

    In most action games you need to consider your combos, use them situationally. In Bayonetta 2 it hardly matters. I spent most of the game going XXXXX. RT. XXXXX. RT. XXXXX. And I still got a ton of platinum and gold medals. It's fluid as hell and feels great, and the complexity exists if you want/need to delve into it. You will dodge (RT) a lot. This activates slo-mo (Witch Time) and lets you unload on enemies. Witch Time is super easy to activate. Enemy tells are obvious to read and there is enough time to get out of the way.

    That's really it. Solid action game. Not essential like the first though. On to the next game!

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    Castle Crashers (PC)    by   td227

    No comment, yet.
    most recent entry:   Monday 22 April, 2013
    Castle crashers is a casual Beat-em-up-style game. It supports various modes of multiplayer and includes a voice chat system, allowing for a great deal of social interaction.
    The game was originally released in 2008 for X-Box arcade and it was later released in 2010 for PlayStation network. In 2012, a PC edition was released on steam. The game features cartoonish art, often with bright colors. It presents a comical take on the swords and sorcerer’s theme. The music features artists from Newgrounds, so it varies widely in style.

    The game can be played with 1 to 4 players. The player can move in two dimensions (left/right and closer/further). The player can also jump. Users can attack through melee or magic(/ranged on some). When starting out with a character, players can use four different attacks: Light melee, Heavy melee, Ranged, Magic. As the game is played, the player earns experience and money. Experience is used to level up a character, and money is used to purchase new weapons. As the character levels up,

    Centered around a linear line, but the player can move around throughout this line. A few levels are dedicated to boss fights. There are also branching side levels, however, that must be completed to progress further. The levels themselves are very linear. As a player moves forward, enemies will spawn and must be killed before progressing further through the level.

    There are 31 known player characters in the game. There are just a handful of starting characters a player can choose from, but more are unlocked through beating the game. The differences between the characters aren’t very large. The melee among all characters is almost identical, but the magic does differ somewhat. Most combinations are pretty similar, especially the lower level ones. However, they all have different effects. For instance, the blue knight’s magic attacks apply a slow to enemies and allow for kiting, while the green knight’s magic attacks apply a damage over time effect.

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