PS Plus Games for September
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 18 September 2015, 10:00 am

I got around to trying out the Playstation Plus games for the month.  It's always interesting to see what offerings we get.  Some are great, some are flops.  Either way, I always look forward to getting some games at the start of the month from Playstation.  Thanks PS Plus!

Here are some quick thoughts about the games for September:
  • Xeodrifter - is a game designed like a super hard Metroid game but with no guidance.  It was really frustrating to not know what to do or where to go.  This game needs to work on it's level flow big time.
  • Teslagrad - a 2D platformer with some interesting style and a magnetic gimmick.  I save most of my platforming for Mario games these days, but if you're a platforming fan there's a lot you could like in this game.
  • Grow Home - This game is both the most interesting and the most frustrating.  The concept is really cool.  You're a running/jumping/climbing robot trying to grow a giant plant into the sky.  You climb and platform your way up the plant and connect it to energy seeds which make it grow higher.  The frustrating part is the controls.  They don't quite feel ready for prime time.  They're kinda floaty and imprecise in a way that gets really annoying.  I would have loved to see what this game could have done with a little more development time.  But, if you're a 3D platforming fan you might want to check it out anyway.
We'll see what's they have to offer next month!  PS Plus game day is something I always look forward to!

Star Wars Dark Disciple
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 17 September 2015, 10:00 am

Dark Disciple is the latest in the new Star Wars extended universe books.  They're slowly adding to the new extended universe after wiping out the old one and it's been interesting to see what they concentrate on.

Dark Disciple takes place near the end of the Clone Wars and obviously draws it's inspiration from the Clone Wars TV show.  The two characters that are given the most focus are Ventress from the Clone Wars TV show and Jedi Master Voss, who is the main character for the majority of the book.

I'm glad this book mostly stays away from characters from the movies since they obviously have plot immunity.  They are present, but they aren't the focus.  All the tension and character growth happens through Ventress and Voss.

The book is all about grey force users.  I've always thought that grey force users are much more interesting than either Jedi or Sith.  Trying to ride the line between light and dark while giving in to neither is extremely fascinating.  Almost all of my favorite force users from the old expanded universe were some shade of grey.  Voss and Ventress both end up riding that line throughout the course of the story and the world is richer for it.

Overall, Dark Disciple is a fun read that helps flesh out the Star Wars universe during the Clone War.  If you're at all interested in that time period you should grab this book.

I Tried an Oculus Rift
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 16 September 2015, 10:00 am

I tried an Oculus Rift... and it was ok.

I'd been looking forward to trying one for years and when I finally got the chance I thought it was a neat little gimmick.  I was hoping it would blow me away.

I think the problem wasn't necessarily the Oculus Rift but the environment I experienced it.  It was in the middle of PAX with tons of noise and activity around me.

I loved the game I played, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes.  It was my favorite experience from PAX and getting to disarm a bomb with my brother was so cool.  But, it wasn't a game that needed an Oculus Rift.  It could easily have been done with a regular monitor as long as the second player couldn't see it.

I'm still excited for the potential of VR but I think that the next time I get a chance to try out a VR headset I want a quite space with good headphones and a lot of time to play around.

Windows 10
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 15 September 2015, 10:00 am

Was going to pull the trigger on a Windows 10 upgrade in the next few months but I was kinda waiting to see how it shook out.  A lot of the time early adopters can get screwed or run into bugs or have something horrible happen (like killing all your files).  But it has been a few months since the free upgrade started rolling out and I've heard nothing but praise.

Gigantic was the tipping point for me.  I got a beta key from playing at PAX and Gigantic is Windows 10 only, so I did the upgrade from Windows 7.

Overall, I'm so glad I skipped Windows 8.  Windows 10 takes everything good from Windows 7 and Windows 8.... and the takes out all the bad decisions from Windows 8.  Windows 10 is basically what Windows 8 should have been.  Just like Windows 7 was what Windows Vista should have been.

Microsoft has a tick tock with Windows and they always have.  Every second version of Windows is a good release.  If tradition continues we should expect Windows 11 to be horrible and Windows 12 to be awesome.

Anyway, I'm really liking Windows 10.  It basically functions just like 7, but faster and with some new features.  I'm glad I did the upgrade!

I'm also interested to see what ends up happening with Windows 10 and the Xbox One.  I still don't have an intention to buy an Xbox One at the moment, but if they really start to do cool stuff between the platforms I might become interested.  Who know, maybe they'll even eventually bring Xbox One games to Windows 10.  Pretty soon they're going to be running on the same OS.  Time will tell.

Telltale is Consistently Great
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 14 September 2015, 10:00 am

I sat down and played both of the latest episodes from Tales from the Borderlands and Game of Thrones the other night last night.  Telltale keeps knocking it out of the park.

As long as you're even semi-interested in the setting of the game Telltale will give you a story and characters that you care about.  They'll also put some interesting and difficult decisions in front of you every time you play.

After playing through a bunch of their games I'm starting to see the similarity and the formula behind them, but I'm still enjoying all the ones I'm playing right now.  It honestly all depends on if you can buy in to the setting.

Telltale Games I've played and would recommend:

  • Walking Dead Season 1
  • Tales from the Borderlands
  • Game of Thrones
Not to mention that Telltale is making a Minecraft Storymode game.  It was on display at PAX but the line was always super long.  I figured I was going to pick it up when it releases anyway, so I would save the surprise until then.

Overall, I really like this new direction story driven games are taking.

Hidden Information and Valkyria Chronicles
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 13 September 2015, 10:00 am

Valkyria Chronicles has been a slow burn for me.  I've been playing it slowly but consistently since I first tried it in December.  It's been a fun strategy RPG.

But, I've gotten to the point where I'm fed up with one aspect of the game.  They do the thing where they have unfair hidden information moments in the game and they can often instantly end a mission.  This is horrible in missions that can span 30-90 minutes.

I've had so many times where I get more than half an hour into a mission and get instant failed because of some bullshit thing that was never explained or choreographed.  I made it close to 75% of the way through the game but I'm completely fed up with it.  It's basically to the point where there's no way to beat a mission on the first try.  Often it takes 3 or 4 attempts before even seeing all the hidden mechanics in a mission.

I love the moment to moment gameplay and the story has kept me very engaged, but I can't deal with it anymore.  I'm putting down Valkyria Chronicles for good.

I would love to see them take another swing at this game on a big budget.  I've heard Valkyria Chronicles 2 and 3 make a lot of compromises because they're on mobile systems.  If they ever make a full-fledged Valkyria Chronicles game again on a console or PC I will jump on it.

That being said, I still loved this game and highly recommend it to SRPG fans.  I'm going to go see if I can find a way to play Valkyria Chronicles 2 on a system I own.

Darkest Dungeon
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 12 September 2015, 10:00 am

I know I'm late to the party with this one, but I finally got around to trying out Darkest Dungeon.  It was on sale a few weekends ago so I grabbed a copy for $13 and tried it out.

Darkest Dungeon has style in spades.  It's dark and stylistic and looks amazing.  I can see how the setting alone would appeals to a certain kind of person.

While the style is amazing, the gameplay isn't what I'm in the mood for.  It's a dungeon crawler with turn based battles and positional combat.  Your characters stand in a line and the enemy characters do too.  All of your abilities are only able to reach certain places in your line or the enemy's line.  It's interesting, but I didn't love it.

I can see why other people like it, but it's one of those games that's just not for me.  I think it's an interesting game, but I don't see myself playing it much.  I think I'm going to get a Steam refund for it and use the money on another Steam game later.

C-Wars Early Access
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 11 September 2015, 10:00 am

C-Wars is a game that I was a Kickstarter backer for last year.  It recently came out in Steam Early Access for backers so I checked it out.

I was super excited for this game.  It seemed to be a turn based grid combat game with sweet pixel graphics.

Now, having played the game, the only thing about that which is true are the sweet pixel graphics.  It's a real time combat game with horrible controls and un-fun combat.  Wow.  I seriously regret Kickstarting this one.

Luckily for me, today is the day that Super Mario Maker comes out and it's my most anticipated game for the rest of the year!  Expect to hear about that soon.

Martian Hype!
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 10 September 2015, 10:00 am
I'm so excited for this movie!

Out of all the books I read last year, The Martian was my favorite.  I've been recommending it to everyone I know who reads books or listens to audiobooks.  I read it and then immediately listened to the whole thing to experience it a second time.

It pushes all the right buttons for me.  It's a space adventure where things go wrong and people need to use their intelligence to get out of the bad situations.  It's also semi based in real science which can be fun when done well.  And it's done very well in the book.

If you haven't read The Martian and you're an avid reader you really need to get around to it.  It's great!  Even if that doesn't interest you, maybe you'll get as hyped as I am for the upcoming movie!  I can't wait!

Catching Up on TV
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 9 September 2015, 10:00 am
Having watched my backlog of movies I figured it was time to move on to TV.  There are a bunch of shows that I've been meaning to try out.  I watched the first couple episodes of each to see if they would stick.

Humans - In the near future there are androids (called synths) that are sufficiently advanced to pass for human.  A few of them seem to be on the verge of consciousness and that's where the tension of the show resides.  And this show is full of tension.  Instead of the deep philosophical look at humanity I was expecting instead I got a show that's trying to be subtle drawn out horror sci-fi.  The first few episodes are all about setting up the tension between the synths and the humans, but with no payoff at all after watching hours of the show I had to give up.  If Humans had picked up the pace I would have kept watching.

Dark Matter - Six people wake up on a spaceship as the life support is failing.  They don't remember who they are or how they got there but they still obviously have impressive skills.  I like the premise of this one a lot, but the execution leaves something to be desired.  The characters and their interaction either feel flat or overacted.  They don't ring true at all.  I got tired of it pretty quickly and won't be continuing to watch it.

Silicon Valley - It took me almost the entire first episode to get over how stereotypical most of the characters in this show are.  But, after I got over it, I started laughing a lot.  This is a funny show.  It's set in Silicon Valley and follows a start-up tech group.  I'm a freelance developer and digital marketer by day, so it really appealed to me.  If you're a techy you'll probably like this show.  It actually derailed my "sampling" and I ended up watching the entire series before trying out the next show.

Peaky Blinders - This show didn't pick up fast enough for me.  I was super bored after the first 20 minutes so I didn't even finish the first episode.  I've resolved to not feel bad about moving on from media if I'm not enjoying it, and I wasn't enjoying this show.

Bojack Horseman - I don't get this show.  I'm not sure what's interesting about it, even after watching a few episodes.  I'm pretty sure I won't be coming back to this one.

Sense8 -  It's kinda of a confusing mess of a show.  It was too slow for me and the characters weren't very interesting so I dropped it after the first episode.  I saw some reviews saying it gets better as the season goes on, but I have a low tolerance for shows that are slow paced.

DareDevil - I decided to give this one a second shot.  Originally I didn't like the pacing or pointless violence in the first two episodes so I had given up on the series.  Since then, I have heard so many good things about the show and because I like what Marvel has been up to lately I thought it was fair that I give it another shot.  I watched two more episodes and found myself liking it a lot more than last time.  I think I'll keep watching this one and try to work my way through the first season.

As always, if you have suggestions or recommendations let me know!  I'm always looking for more shows to check out.

New Headset
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 8 September 2015, 10:00 am

Playing on so many different gaming setups at PAX made me realize that I needed a new gaming headset for my PC.  The one I have is showing it's age and I've made it last for a really long time.

After that realization I started paying attention to what headsets I was using on the show floor.  It was actually a fantastic opportunity to check out real hardware in a real gaming situation.  My brother helped me too once he knew I was hunting for new hardware.

I came away from the show really liking the Astro A40 headset, which you can see above.  It was the most comfortable, best sounding, and most noise insulating headset that I used at the show by far.

I got home and jumped on Amazon to look it up only to realize there are 2 set ups for it.  One with just the headset and one with the mixer.  After reading a ton of reviews I decided that if I'm going to get the headset I'm going to get the mixer.  I really wanted the 7.1 Dolby surround sound because I've never had a chance to get a really good audio setup before.  That required the mixer.

But, the headset and mixer together were a bit out of my intended price range, so I left the tab open in my browser while I considered.  A few days later I glanced back at the tab and the price had dropped by over $50, so I jumped on the deal.

Now I'm the proud owner of a new headset!  I've been jumping between a ton of games over the past few nights just to check it out and I love it!  I'm so glad I pulled the trigger and got this one.

Movies Movies Movies
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 7 September 2015, 10:00 am
Still catching up on movies.  I'm also still looking for more movie recommendations.  So, send them if you have them.  Let's get into it:

Rise of the Planet of the Apes - This was a mixed bag for me.  I didn't like the first half of the movie.  There was a lot of bad things that happened to animals along with some straight up animal cruelty.  I know it's all fake, but it still bugged me.  The second half of the movie where (spoiler but not really) the hyper-intelligent apes rise up and fight for freedom was a lot of fun.  Now I'm tempted to check out the next movie in the series.

Mad Max Fury Road - Everyone has been talking about this movie like it was one of the best action films ever.  I thought it was kinda meh.  Yeah, there was action, but without much context at all.  I never felt invested in any of the characters, not even at the end of the film.  Because of that the action had no weight to it.  Basically the movie was one giant car chase scene... in a bad way.  Maybe you need nostalgia for the original films to truly get what they're doing here?  I definitely don't have it.

Birdman -
I went into this movie knowing nothing about it.  After I started the movie I was completely locked in and watched the entire thing.  I love the camera work and the acting in this movie.  It's amazing.  The two hours flew by.  I immediately wanted to watch Birdman again.  It's hard to talk about without giving away the plot, but it's a fantastic movie.  You should watch it.

Mission Impossible Rogue Nation - I expected a Tom Cruise action thrill ride and I got it!  Mission Impossible Rogue Nation was everything I wanted it to be.  If you don't like Tom Cruise action movie you won't like this one.  If you do like Tom Cruise action movies you will like this one.  It's honestly as simple as that.  I liked it!

Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol - Seeing Rogue Nation in theaters inspired me to go back and rewatch Ghost Protocol.  It's another good Tom Cruise action movie.  I like this one a lot too.

Blade Runner - This is not the first time I've tried to watch Blade Runner.  I've never been able to do it, and this time was no exception.  Blade Runner is extremely slow, has almost no plot, and doesn't have any character development.  I go crazy with boredom trying to watch this movie.  I really don't know why it's held up as such a classic.  Maybe just for the special effects at the time?  I dunno.  I give up.  I'm not going to try to watch Blade Runner again after this.  I've tried and failed too many times.

Edge of Tomorrow - I guess I've been in a Tom Cruise action movie mood.  I decided to revisit this movie and see if it holds up.  I liked it the first time I saw it and I still liked it this time.  I love the time traveling in the movie and some of the later scenes where he has memorized what will happen during the day are hilarious.  This is a great action and time travel movie.  If either of those are your thing you should check it out.

And that's where I currently sit with movies.  I have a couple more in my backlog to watch through, but then I'm probably going to move on to TV shows that I've been meaning to get to.  I really need to give Dare Devil another chance and there are a bunch of new Sci-Fi shows with interesting premises that I haven't watched at all.

Once again, if you have any movie or TV recommendations send them my way.  I'm always looking for more things to check out!

Evolve Free Weekend
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 6 September 2015, 10:00 am

I really wanted to play Gigantic beta this weekend but their registration system seems messed up right now.

Then I saw that Evolve is free this weekend so I jumped into that instead.

I was really interested in this game before launch, but then it launched at $60 plus tons of in-game purchases.  I didn't want any part of that.  And now that I've played it I'm glad I never bought it.

The game isn't that great.  It's ok.  It's not... bad.  It's just kinda another competitive first person shooter.  There is the gimmick of having 4v1 since you have 4 hunters versus 1 monster, but after you get over that the game doesn't have a ton of new stuff to offer.

The main mode is super frustrating.  There's a huge open map, the monster wants to stay away from the hunters while killing random wildlife and leveling up.  The hunters want to find that monster as fast as possible before they level up all the way and become super powerful.  It sounds interesting in the abstract but in practice it means you spend almost the entire game almost getting to engage with each other and then not actually fighting.  Eventually the monster feels they're high enough level and they'll try to engage and kill the hunters.  It doesn't make for a good game mode.

I tried out the other modes and found more to like, but not enough to keep me coming back.  There's an arena deathmatch mode where you duke it out on a small level.  There's a defend mode, which I thought was the most fun, where the hunters are defending objectives and the monster has to attack them.  It keeps the engagement and the action up.  I wish I could have just played the defend mode over and over, but there's no way to select that.  You have to throw yourself into a general "Skirmish" playlist and hope it lands on the game type you like.

I got a couple hours of fun out of Evolve, but I'm already done with it.  You should make up your own mind and try it out, it's still free to play for another day.  Check it out.

PAX Thoughts Wrap-Up
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 5 September 2015, 7:47 pm

Here are all my PAX thoughts and impressions in one convenient location!

I had a great time at PAX!  I hope I can go to another PAX sometime in the future!

Finishing my PS3 Backlog
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 5 September 2015, 10:00 am

I realized that I only had a couple more games on my PS3 that were part of my backlog.  My PS3 has been moved to a different room than my other consoles ever since I got my PS4.  I haven't touched it much since then.

I thought I could try out the games, see if any of them grab me, and if not then I could retire my PS3 to my game storage in my closet.  It feels like it's usefulness is almost at it's end.  So, I did.  The other day I talked about Lightning Returns.  That was the second to last game on my PS3 backlog.

The last game on my PS3 backlog was Ni No Kuni.  I tried it out, and that game has style in spades.  It's impressive what they've done visually and with the art style.  But the gameplay and setting ultimately failed to pull me in.  For me to commit to a super long RPG I need to either love the overall series or absolutely love the game within the first few hours.  Ni No Kuni failed to grab me in any meaningful way.  But don't get me wrong, the art in that game is amazing.

I also had gotten all three Uncharted games with my PS3 bundle back when I bought it.  I thought I would get around to playing them but I never did.  Now we're only about a month out from getting all three games as a single remastered version on PS4.  So, if I end up compelled to play them that's where it'll happen.

After finishing up the games on my PS3 I also spent some time transferring downloaded PSP games from my PS3 to my PS Vita.  There are some games that can only be moved to the Vita this way, and I already had them downloaded.  For some reason I had just never gotten around to transferring them.  But now I have.

And with that, I think I can retire my PS3.

It served me well, but it was never my main console of last generation.  I had a Xbox 360 almost from day 1, but I didn't pick up a PS3 until almost the end of last generation.  I ended up only playing PS3 exclusives on the system, but I definitely feel like I got my money's worth.

If I ever get a gaming room or a huge home theater setup my PS3 will assuredly get hooked up with all of my other retro consoles.  Hopefully I get to do that someday!

Movies Galore
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 4 September 2015, 10:00 am
After catching you up on my Sci-Fi movie kick yesterday I thought I'd touch on some non Sci-Fi movies today!

500 Days of Summer - This is a movie I've seen before, but I remember liking it.  I rewatched it for the first time in years and still like it a lot.  It's a relationship movie without being a relationship movie.  At times it almost feels like a rom-com, but it definitely isn't.  It's a movie about different people's perception of the same relationship.  It feels a lot more grounded in reality than most Hollywood relationships movies.  That's probably why I like it so much.

Wreck it Ralph - I completely missed this one in theaters but I'm glad I got around to it.  Wreck-it-Ralph is an animated Disney movie that stars arcade game characters in an old-school arcade.  I loved the premise and the visual style of this movie.  And come on, it's a video game movie that doesn't suck, of course that appeals to me.

Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall - I went back and rewatched all the Daniel Craig Bond films.  I think he's probably my favorite Bond at this point.  I still love Casino Royale even having seen it a bunch.  Quantum of Solace is the weakest of the three films and it actually manages to diminish Casino Royale because it's a direct sequel.  Skyfall I had only seen once in theaters and I was very happy that it still holds up to my memories of it.  Skyfall is an amazing Bond movie.  It might actually be my favorite now.

It's been fun playing movie catch-up lately.  Like I mentioned in a previous post, movies fell off the priority list when my first kid was born.  Now that both of them are beyond toddler age I'm finally getting back to it.

So please, if you have any movie recommendations from about 2009 to 2015 let me know.  I'm not even sure what I've missed.

PAX Thoughts: Most Played Game of the Show
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 3 September 2015, 10:23 pm

And the winner of my most played game of the show award goes too.... *drumroll*.... HEARTHSTONE!

Surprise!  Or not.

I played Hearthstone every morning and every night that I was in Seattle for PAX.  I would have played it in lines on the show floor too, but the network connection in the middle of the convention center was horrible.

I'm still loving Hearthstone.  I've been doing my daily quests and climbing my way up slowly in ranked mode.  It's been fun seeing how the new expansion is throwing the meta into disarray too.

The best part of Hearthstone is still how many devices I have it on.  It's always within an arm's length from me.  I typically play a couple games throughout my day.  It's great for waking up, taking breaks, and going to sleep.

I expect I'm at the peak of my Hearthstone hype at the moment, but I wouldn't be surprised if this is an evergreen game that I consistently play in one form or another for a long time.

PAX Thoughts: Mini Metro
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 3 September 2015, 4:00 pm

One of the really cool things about PAX was getting to actually chat with the developers of the games either immediately before or after playing them.  That in itself was an amazing experience.

One of my favorite interactions with a developer came from the Mini Metro booth.

I started to talk to a guy that was standing near the booth about how I loved the game and I've had it for awhile in early access on Steam.  I told him I was super excited to see an iPad version of the game on the PAX show floor because I think that's the most natural platform for the game.

Then I realized that the guy I was talking to wasn't someone waiting in line to try the game, he was the lead developer!

He was a great guy and it was really fun to talk to him casually for a few minutes.

Like I said, I'm super excited for the iPad version of this game to come out.  He said he's hoping to have it out in the next few months!  I'll be sure to pick it up once it releases.

PAX Thoughts: Square Enix Games
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 3 September 2015, 2:00 pm

I walked by the Square Enix booth a bunch during PAX because of where it was located by one of the main entrances.  Over the course of the convention I watched a bunch of live gameplay from Square Enix games on the floor and got some hands on time myself.

Quick impressions of their offerings in no particular order:

  • Final Fantasy Explorers - I got hands on time with this one.  It's one of the only games they showed off that's releasing soon.  It's shaping up to be a fun little handheld action RPG.  I'll probably pick it up when it comes out.
  • Just Cause 3 - If you're a fan of Just Cause games then you're going to love this one.  Otherwise it's kinda generic and meh.  I fall more into the later group, but I know people will be nuts for this one.
  • FFXV - Still looking good, but it seemed like they just had the demo on the floor that I had already played at home... twice.
  • FFXIV - They had a special Revana fight set up where you could win a t-shirt.  I heard some of my Free Company members took it on and won the fight.  Good job guys!
  • Dragon Quest Heroes - I wasn't giving this game much attention before but now I will.  It looks like it's diverged enough from the Dynasty Warriors / Hyrule Warriors formula to be interesting in it's own right.  I'll need to look into this one further.
They had a couple other games too, but none that I spent any time watching or playing.

It seems like the immediate future for Square Enix is looking light on releases aside from Final Fantasy Explorers.  But, the future holds a lot of potential.

PAX Thoughts: Blogger Lunch
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 3 September 2015, 3:00 pm
Liore organized a blogger get together over lunch for a bunch of us that interact through blogs and Twitter.  It was awesome getting to meet people face to face!

Thanks for the great conversation everyone and thanks a ton to Liore for organizing everything!

One of the weirdest parts for me was finally putting faces with voices and Twitter icons.  I mostly chat with these people over Twitter and know them by their screen names.  But a few of them are on podcasts I listen to so I know their voices too.

It was an interesting mix of people.  It's awesome to see how diverse we are as a community.

PAX Thoughts: D&D Sword Coast Legends
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 3 September 2015, 12:00 pm

D&D Sword Coast Legends was another game I had never heard of before PAX.  My brother had heard a little bit about it and wanted to check it out.

We finally got to the game on the last day of the convention and it ended up being a cool experience.  You could be forgiven for thinking this is a generic action RPG set in the D&D world.  I certainly thought so until we got half way through the line.  Then we were made into groups of 5 and asked who in our group wanted to be the Dungeon Master.  No one else jumped at the chance so I volunteered... and I'm so glad I did.

I think I might have been bored being one of the players, but being a DM was amazing.  I got to control the dungeon and tweak it on the fly.  I could add things and take them away.  I made their first encounter easier which got me some DM currency to make a later encounter much more challenging.  I laid traps in tricky places.  I dropped monsters in behind them when they thought they had completed an encounter.  I changed the mood lighting on the fly.  I even took direct control of the final boss in the dungeon and duked it out with the players.

D&D Sword Coast Legends jumped from a game I had never heard about to a game where I want to dive in and make dungeons.  I would love to sit down with the DM tools and craft intricate encounters for players.  Tweaking the dungeon on the fly was a cool touch, but I think the real power is in sitting down without players and creating the dungeon for the first time.

This is a game I'm going to be watching closely.  If a good community forms around it I will be very interested to see what kind of things they come up with.

PAX Thoughts: Some Flops
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 3 September 2015, 1:00 pm
I played a ton of new games that I liked at PAX.  I found new games that I had never heard of that are now very much on my radar.  I saw games that I know and love being played.  I saw games that I've known I'm going to buy on day one for a long time.

I also saw some letdowns.

In no particular order:

  • World of Warships - It didn't click with me at all.  Slow and clunky.  The controls and playstyle were much more annoying than even world of tanks.  At least I got a sweet pinny arcade pin.
  • Some Indie Games - Most of the indie sections were awesome but some had games that looked super derivative and generic.  I'm not going to pick on any one in particular, but some sections of the indies were a letdown.
  • AAA Lines - We decided not to wait in any super crazy 3+ hour lines for the triple A games.  I'm looking at you For Honor, Halo 5, Assassin's Creed Syndicate, Battleborn, Rainbow Six Siege, and a few more.  I pretty much already know what these games will but, but it was still a letdown.
  • Bethesda - They had a huge side of one of the big expo halls and all they had were trailers and life size statues to take pictures with.  Lots of ads for Fallout 4, Doom, and Dishonored, but no hands on experience for the players.  It seemed like a waste of space at a convention that's supposed to be about the players.  But, they did manage to cram in a merch booth.  I guess they're still willing to take our money.
  • Hidden Tabletop Gaming - It was my first PAX, but I still expected a bigger tabletop gaming presence than I saw.  I suppose PAX is just much more about video games, but I would have loved to see more board games around.
Nothing too bad and nothing that can't be forgiven.  I just thought that after so much praise for these new games I've been writing about I should talk about the other side of it.

Either way, now I have a much better idea about what to expect if I ever go to a PAX again!

Lightning Returns
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 3 September 2015, 10:00 am

Lightning Returns opens with some beautiful cutscenes.  Square still knows how to make some gorgeous pre-rendered stuff.

After that the game almost immediately becomes incomprehensible.  Throwing around a bunch of terms that don't have any relevance to a new player.  Final Fantasy XIII had this problem too, but in different ways.  Lightning Returns uses words that we know but in ways that are obvious different in the game.  God, Chaos, Ark, Savior.  They're used in a specific way in-game that doesn't actually map to the real-world terms.

I actually hate that they're using these characters from FFXIII but they aren't actually the same characters at all.  They've changed so much that they might as well have been wiped clean and replaced with all new characters.  Snow is a king or something.  Lightning calls herself a savior un-ironically.  Hope is here too but he's some kind of coordinator for Lightning's adventures and he's young again... even though he was older in FFXIII-2.  It's all just kind of weird.

The battle system is the most interesting part of the game.  It falls somewhere between the Dress Sphere's of FFX-2 and the Paradigms of FFXIII.  You can have multiple sets of equipment that you change between in the middle of battle.  They are essentially different classes.  The cool part is that each set has it's own ATB bar that charges up while you're using the other sets.  Battles consist of constantly switching sets and choosing from the abilities within those sets.  It's fast and really fun.

With a new set of characters and a different story I think I could have bought into this game.  I like the battle system, the gear system, and the idea of an open world exploratory Final Fantasy game.  But at this point I can't deal with these characters and storyline from FFXIII anymore.  They jumped the shark after the first game and it's just been incomprehensible since then.

I'm done with Lightning Returns after only a few hours.  I'm glad I tried it and got to see it's redeeming features but I won't be coming back to it.

Final Fantasy Project Article List

PAX Thoughts: Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 3 September 2015, 11:00 am

Defusing a bomb with my brother was one of my absolute highlights of PAX.  Let me explain.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is a game where one person (me in this case) wears an oculus rift and is put into a room with a virtual bomb.  The other player (my brother) sits next to them with a bomb defusal manual.  You have five minutes to defuse the bomb or else you explode.  GO!

We didn't quite know what to expect but it ended up being amazing.  We were communicating back and forth so much.  I had to relay what I was seeing and answer questions for him about the bomb.  He had to make sure he found the correct instructions for the correct bomb modules I was dealing with.

What I didn't realize (because I was in the oculus) was that a crowd was slowly forming while we were playing.  We had a lot of trouble with our second bomb module.  We used two of our strikes (three strikes and you go BOOM) on the second module before deciding to leave it and move on.  We defused the rest of the modules and came back to module two with just over 30 seconds on the clock.  In a race against time he started rapidly iterating through the possiblities while I looked at the bomb and said, "No, No, No, maybe... No, No, No, Yes? Yes!  I think.  I'll try it."  And with that we defused the bomb.... with 7 seconds left!  The crowd let out a huge cheer!  I took off the oculus and there were at least 25 people standing there watching us do our bomb defusing attempt.  It was awesome!

The developer said Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is slated to finally release in October on Steam.  If you have a second player that's willing to try it with you... you absolutely should.  It was such an amazing experience!

PAX Thoughts: Star Wars Uprising
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 3 September 2015, 9:00 am

Star Wars Uprising is the first game to officially add to the new Star Wars canon universe since the old expanded universe was wiped out last year.  That alone has me excited.

Uprising takes place between Star Wars Episode VI and Episode VII.  It's part of the media push to span the gap in time between the original trilogy and the new trilogy that is being released this December.  I'm really interested to see where the story takes us as players.

While I think I'll like the game, the PAX floor demo kinda fell flat for me.  It seemed like it was just the first 10 minutes of the game.  There was a tutorial and then I got one special ability and defeated an easy boss.  It wasn't nearly enough time to figure out how engaging the full game will be.

On the other hand, it was enough time to see the influences Uprising pulls from.  It's a beat em up game in the style of Diablo or Torchlight, adapted for mobile controls, and with a touch of KOTOR flavor thrown in.  I could definitely see the KOTOR flavor in the UI and inventory systems.  I hope more of KOTOR has ended up in this game than can be glimpsed in the first 10 minutes of play.

There's no question in my mind that I will play this game when it releases.  You all know how much I love Star Wars.  I devour all the new Star Wars media that I can, especially when it contains key story moments or worldbuilding.

This game has potential with it's gameplay, but it's impossible to say if it will live up to that potential.  Here's hoping it does when it releases later this month!

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