Review

Review: Splatoon

Splatoon

Splatoon improves every aspect of the arena shooter genre by changing the way you move, shoot, and win. I probably shouldn’t lead with what is effectively the summation of my review but I feel it’s important to understand from the outset that Splatoon isn’t just Team Fortress with ink.

Let me do a quick breakdown. You have various weapons that shoot and/or splash ink. The ink from your weapon follows a logical trajectory, it’s not a bullet it’s ink. You can turn into a squid to move through the ink at higher speeds and with greater mobility than your non-squid form. There are various game modes that all boil down to controlling the map by covering it with your color of ink.

Killing (“splatting”) people isn’t the win/loss scenario in any mode. That’s what helps Splatoon stand out so much from the growing crowd of multiplayer arena shooters. Who cares if you die 13 times, did you help the team by protecting a beacon or firing off your special weapon at the opportune time? Then you feel accomplished. It’s hard not to come away from a winning round of Splatoon feeling like you weren’t part of a well oiled machine, even if you got rolled over by some Japanese 10 year old more times than not.

Besides just the excellent combat there are wearables you can buy that affect your stats in various ways but nothing game breaking. I was splatting people who were fully geared out in my first game of Turf War. It allows for you to customize your character without completely destroying the balance of a match. It also gives you something to spend money on and time on outside of the matches, which is nice.

There is a single player mode that mostly acts as a tutorial, it isn’t essential but some of the humor is chuckle worth and the boss fights are creative. You know what, scratch that, play through the single player just to experience the boss fights. The single player is also the best way to get yourself used to the gyro aiming used in Splatoon. Seriously, do this. The gyro is much more precise than the analog stick and if you want to be competitive (of course you do) then learn it’s intricacies.

splatoon boss

Splatoon may not fit everyone’s definition of good times, but chances are it’s fast paced and constantly shifting battleground will keep you coming back until the next content update, which will undoubtedly add even more frenetic action and strategic inking.

Banished: Stop dying you cowards!

I love Banished, but I’m not very good at it.  Much like Zapp Brannigan in Season 1 Episode 12 “When Aliens Attack”, I fail miserably and then blame the little people.

Why won't they just be smart?

If you enjoy city builders like Cities: Skylines you would probably enjoy this game as well. Where as Cities has a modern feel (including things like solar power) Banished is more Oregon Trail: after arrival. In fact, when pitching this game to friends I say: If you’re ever wanted to see what happens when everyone is done dying of dysentery and failing at fording rivers, this is the game for you.

Unfortunately it’s really hard, you start the game on one of three difficulties (I usually choose easy), which affects what your people have to start with, like how many herds or seeds.  You can further customize the game in the options menu to include different climates and disasters.  I never include disaster, because I’m terrible at this game.

Controlling population is the most difficult bit, because having too many or too few people affects everything else: food supply, housing, work flow, how many tools or coats you need, how much fire wood or coal for the winter.  Too many births at once and you have a bunch of useless children who do no work, too few and your people stop having kids and population drops too much to sustain you.  I’ve had settlements both starve because of too many people and starve because of too few people.  I’ve had settlements where I’ve built too many houses which causes people to stay single (why won’t they visit their neighbors? Winter is long and cold).

It's because I'm bad at the game.

My cities never look like this.

City planning is also a concern. Unlike in Children of the Nile (previously covered here) roads are not free, and you do need them.  They help speed up your people which is important when your city becomes giant, like the one on the left.

However, by not “free” I’m referring to time.  You don’t purchase anything with coins or gold or what have you.  Everything you choose to build or harvest takes time (and wood or stone or iron).  If you start things too late in the season (like trying to plant crops in late summer) or too early (a stone house in the winter) things can go…poorly.

However, there is help. The steam workshop for this game is thriving.  You can find things like new buildings or new house designs or mods that make the game a little easier.  I currently play with a rock respawner, an intensified fishing dock mod, and “Banished: Plus”.  Banished: Plus is a bunch of mods rolled into one that make the game much easier.  I recommend playing the game a couple times without mods, to pinpoint which things you find most difficult.

Pro-Tips:

  • Hunters and Gathers are crucial, build these first and stick them in a forest area you’re not going to chop down, make it close but not too close.  Too far and the people won’t get home in time to eat before starving too death.
  • Build farm land in the late winter, so it’s ready in the spring.
  • Build things slowly (I fail at this and my cities suffer)
  • Good planning is crucial, things have to be close but not too close
  • Wait until your other food sources are stable before creating an orchard, it takes a couple years before harvest starts.
  • Tools, create tools when low, it sucks up resources but I’ve had whole cities become ghost towns from the production drop.
  • Either build a church or a tavern to help with happiness.  Booze or God is the key to a happy fulfilled population.
  • Ideally you want a city that looks like this:
I have no idea how to do this.

But I have no idea how to do this.

Mu Complex : Episodes One and Two

We didn’t discuss this game when episode one came out last year, because college.  But it’s summer and episode two has just come out (scroll to the end for a link to the game)!  Mu complex is a programming game, sort of.  It requires that you type exclusively.  You’re not typing to make enemies appear or destroy things.  This is purely a puzzle game that requires you think while “programming” (not real programming), using a command line.  If you enjoy puzzles you’ll likely enjoy this game as well.

hard to find an image with no spoilers

To start, you may find it helpful to type “help” into the command line, from there it requires your wits and an ability to think in 3-dimensional space.  You can scroll up to see what things you’ve done in that level, which is nice when things get confusing.  Honestly this game reminds me of messing around with older (much older) computers.  Back when they had large floppy disks and orange type.  It’s also reminiscent of text adventure games, with more of a modern “hacker” feel.

Pro tips:

  • Don’t forget the “help” command that you type in whenever to see what options there are (these change, so if you get stuck remember this).
  • “sudo” is your administrative command option, this works all the time even if it’s not an option in the help list (most of the time you don’t need it).
  • Try all combinations of your options.
  • “ls” < that’s a lowercase L not a 1 or an I.

As a last note:  This game is (part of the reason) why there was no podcast last night.  I showed it to Kody ten minutes before start time.  Whoops.

Click here to go to episode two, which has a link to episode one (the main website is freaking out my anti-virus so I don’t suggest you go there). OR click the picture below to go to episode one.

Mu Complex

Don’t Starve Together: A Lord of the Flies parody

So I picked up the Frontier pack to get in the Don’t Starve Together beta. I’ve been playing around with it for a couple of days.  As it stands it is exactly what we expected out of the upgrade; it’s a multiplayer version of the game you already know and love.  My experiences have ranged from friendly gifts of food to a starving man to being mugged in a burnt down forest.

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Do not trust the mustache.

The main advantage I’m seeing out of the group is that greater obstacles are much more achievable.  The wolves on day 9 for example are nothing more than a minor annoyance to 3 people waiting in a fortified shelter with log suits and spears. At one point I even tracked down a Warg and lured back into the waiting spears of teammates…we died shortly afterwards, but we did kill the beast.  There are still a few strange bugs and trying to coordinate multiple people into a common goal is an obstacle in its own right, but at the end of the day having the advantage of several different characters at once and being able to divide your efforts into research/crafting, gathering, and hunting for food in some ways makes the game too easy.  I am fully expecting Klei to add in more difficult encounters and events into the final version of Don’t Starve Together Together to create that challenge of surviving against the wilds that we found in the original.  As it stands this is a great addition to the game that’s bringing me back to it in a big way, if you already have Don’t Starve I would highly suggest getting the Frontier Pack and start starving with your friends as soon as you can.

The Last of Us: Remastered (Review) Not Enough Dad Jokes

My gaming tastes have changed since I became a dad and not just because I didn’t have time anymore either. You see having a kid really moves around your perspective and goals and desires. It also changes who you identify with in the media you consume. Kratos from the God of War series was someone 16 year old me knew intimately. I could get into his brain and understand the frustration and alienation that drove his madness.

Then, boom, I have a son and suddenly Kratos seems immature and impotent.

I mean, I still enjoyed God of War because of the fighty bits, but I couldn’t pump my fist in solidarity with our rage-filled protagonist because I found his motivation to be laughable.

So now I’m a dad and I don’t get certain games anymore.

Then, suddenly, a bunch of games with Dads as protagonists start coming out.

So what does all of this have to do with The Last of Us?

It stars a great father who turns into a psychopathic killing machine because his daughter dies.

tumblr_mpivsesOTO1sz9jb2o1_500

Ellie’s totally talking to Joel here.

It’s no wonder that all of the most recent high profile “dad games” focus on a father-daughter relationship rather than a father-son relationship. I don’t think the men working in Video Games are quite ready to tackle just how complicated it can be to raise a son in our modern era. It’s much easier (read: Lazier) to cast a daughter and then have her be victimized by the antagonist(s).

Wait, scratch that, we do have a great example of a father/son relationship in The Walking Dead in which Duck gets zombified half-way through and you have to shoot him. He’s really just a prop. A reason to MAKE the player choose whether or not they can shoot a dying kid in the face. Would the developers have put a daughter in Duck’s place?

Anyway, back to The Last of Us. Joel starts the game as a single father just making it by and being at least present in his daughters life. He’s not the best, he’s forgetful and acerbic and awkward in his role but his daughter appreciates him none-the-less. So of course things go to shit quickly and his daughter bites the dust because of a trigger happy soldier. By the time you and Joel get to the end of the game he’s become a pathetic effigy of “father”. Someone who lies and kills and steals because of the IDEA of being a dad. The type of father who life vicariously though their kids and can’t let them save the world by having their brain removed (don’t get me started on that scientific bullshit).

That’s the main theme I can take away from this game. It’s stuffed with thoughtful characters and atmospheric music and innovative combat systems that are hampered by bad writing and repetitive puzzles and unnecessary combat sequences.

Take, for example, the non-combat wilderness scenes. It gives a the player room to breathe between climactic scenes in the narrative but this room is few and far between as most often that reflection is shattered by another boring combat room. Your enemies aren’t smart enough and are too numerous to present any real excitement or enjoyment. Even on the harder difficulties the bad-guys remain dreadfully stupid and one by one walk into your stealthy crouch of death where the only thing stopping you is the durability on your home-made shiv.

Which brings me back to my main point, that of Joel as a father and relatable figure turned murder-machine. His motivations quickly morph from “grieving for my dead daughter” to “protecting my daughter proxy from any and all harm” and the one time Joel isn’t there to protect Ellie she almost gets raped.

Ellie, after being a complete badass who is able to hunt, shoot, and track a huge buck through a snowy wilderness. Who kills scores of zombies with her unbreakable shiv (take THAT Joel) and who single handedly burns down an entire town full of well-meaning cannibals, somehow can’t take down a 50+ year old man who’s been stabbed multiple times. She has to just wait until Joel comes to save her. I mean, I get it, he’s the player character and his job is to do everything but he was not 3 hours ago passed out in a fever coma from being run through by a metal pole because of his blood thirst. Why not let Ellie take care of herself this time? Because we need to be worried for Ellie in some way and the laziest way for writers to do that is to put her in danger of being raped.

The next time we see our dynamic duo, Joel is having trouble understanding why Ellie is being so distant and quiet. Maybe it’s because the writers fucked her over.

In the end, I did really enjoy my time with The Last of Us. The story it told was more mature than most anything modern videogames produce and the post-apocalyptic world Naughty Dog built is full of nasty life. I can’t be completely happy with it though because of both the gameplay and narrative tropes it falls back on.

For once, I want my Video Game developers to give their consumers more credit.

the-last-of-us-promo-pic

LttP: Alpha Protocol

Alpha protocol

 

Last week I was going through Green Man Gaming looking for something new to play and found one of a new (to me!) Obsidian game on sale.  Now as a modern gamer, the siren call of the sale cannot be denied.  Thus began my love of Alpha Protocol.  It’s a tactical espionage spy simulator complete with double agents and shady quasi-legal organizations.  Underneath that it’s also an extremely satisfying third person action game with RPG elements. Obsidian rarely disappoints me when it comes to gaming and this one was a very fine addition to their catalog.

Shhhh don't tell anyone, it's a secret

Spy stuff is going down

At this point in my playthrough, I am attempting to play the sneakiest man alive.  Unfortunately,  sneaky spy stuff often fails and I have to gunfight my way out of situations though honestly this doesn’t bother me.  After all, who didn’t enjoy Hitman?  Alpha protocol is very fair about its sneaking mechanics and every time I have been caught it as been due to my own failings and not a fault with the game.   I had heard that the PC port was incredibly buggy (like most Obsidian titles) but so far I have only once dodge rolled through the planet, I choose to believe it was just the best action roll I’ve ever done in my life.

It's a high teir you probably haven't heard of it.

Skills, ability to dodge roll through planets not shown

I’ve not played more than a third of the way through Alpha Protocol, but the potential replayability seems high.  I think I’d rather enjoy playing a solider and just blast my way through to the sound of 80’s music.  At the time of this writing Alpha Protocol is on GMG for $14.99 USD and I would heavily suggest it to anyone who enjoys spies, espionage, and sneakily going through objectives.

Children of the Nile, Bow Down Before The Pharaoh!

Dance

Enjoying a festival in my honor, while I look on, like a benevolent god-king

November 2004, that’s when Children of the Nile was published. I can’t believe it took me so long to find this game. It’s seriously addicting. If you enjoy building cities, and constructing giant monuments to your might (!) this is the game for you.  I for one, seriously love city building games and this is one of the most fun I’ve ever played.  Roads and decoration are free in this game so you can make your city pretty and well planned without having to devote resources.  The interfaces are clear and easy to use, once you get used to them.  The tutorials are really in depth and the controls and concepts are easy to pick up.

Additionally I have some tips to make your empire grow vast and powerful:

TIPS:

Working for the glory of Pharaoh

Enhancing my prestige, growing my crops.

That’s not to say that it’s easy to be a mighty and powerful God-King, there’s always someone whining about not having enough something…usually worship. Egypt had waaaaaaaay too many Gods. Or there’s a malaria outbreak, or bubonic plague. Those issues can be easily handled by using your first graduate to become a priest. This is crucial, actually, because only priests can educate other elite/nobles and make them into other graduates who can become overseers and scribes, and priests…etc.  The instinct is to make your first graduate a scribe, so those shifty nobles stop dodging their taxes.  Don’t. That way lies madness, and seriously sick, unhappy people.  Let the nobles get away with murder for a while and get your people some healthcare and education.  Keep in mind that you can build shrines and then switch which god is being worshiped without having to recarve (unlike a temple or cult temple) the statue.  That way, you can only build two or three shrines and switch to Osiris or Hathor or whatever your people want for that particular season or need. 

Also servants, they’re just as important, all your elite classes will hire them to shop, and luxury goods sellers will use them to gather materials.  Servants helped make  life smoother in a time before automobiles and quick transport.

Lastily, don’t worry about making sure there are no complaints ever, it’s a tall feat that’s difficult to achieve, just make sure that any one household doesn’t have too many complaints.

 

It’s a cheap game on steam right now, under ten bucks, and I’m sure at some point it’ll be in a bundle.  Give it a shot, it’s a fun game.

Known Issue:
Even though Children of the Nile is super old, it still crashes for some people, if you’re having problems with it crashing, set your shadows to off and your fog lower in the options menu.  Kinda a pain in the butt, but if you’ve picked it up for a couple bucks, it’s no big deal.  If after you’ve done this it’s still crashing for you, leave me a comment and I’ll give you another solution or two.

 

Whining Jerks

Never happy, I tell you what, like it’s hard to be a government paid priest

 

More servants solved this priest’s issues.  Servants and priests, they make the world go round (also: fat bottomed girls).