Thursday, October 2, 2014

Endless Legend Review Part #1: Hardships as Heroic Adventure

As I played this game late into the AM hours for the third day in a row, I found myself wondering why exactly I loved this game so much.  Strategy games like the Civilization series have been infamous for the "just one more turn!" phenomenon, but Endless Legend took this to the next level for me.  Normally, when I beat the game with a faction, I can put down the game, released from the need for completion, and would come back weeks or months later to try out conquering the world as Germany, or Brazil... or heck, sending the Iroquois into space as the first manned attempts to colonize the galaxy.  Each turn based strategy game is a commitment, as any lover of the genre can tell you, and one that you should contemplate if you have time for before hitting the start button.

Yet, Endless Legend has me hitting 'new game' as soon as my last run through one finishes... not just in a context of completion or achievement grabs either.  I'm not just trying to beat the game with every civilization just because I can, but because I genuinely need to see and experience more sides of this game.  Why is this?  It might be how the game, you realize, isn't just to succeed, to claim victory over other factions.  Instead, the planet Auriga - almost a character all itself - is dying.  You fight for survival and the maintenance of a sense of identity for your faction as much as you fight for victory.

The great success of Endless Legend is in how it make the factions and the world itself come to life through a constant threat of struggle.  It's engaging, it offers a sense of challenge, a need to always grow.  Good game mechanics are a needed baseline for this sort of game - and the ones here are certainly worth mentioning - but for me, its the aesthetics and the premise that makes this game fun, and one of my favorites this year.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Thoughts/Musings on the Smash Bros. Demo for 3DS

I think Super Smash Bros is one of those titles that, if you have any fond memories of it, you've probably wasted whole weekends playing nothing but this title.  Wyatt and I used to have some epic matches on the Gamecube with this:  we found a rhythm, knowing when the other person blocked or would try to grab, constantly rolling left and right, trying to land the final punch or kick.  When one of us scored, it was cause for cursing or celebration...and this is before either of us discovered how competitive the game was becoming at tournaments.  Needless to say, it holds a very special place in my heart. Now, I was lucky enough to snag a code allowing me to download the Smash Bros Demo on 3DS early... so I’ve been playing a lot of it.  Below, in no real order, are some of my thoughts/observations on the game.

Oh yeah, Smash Bros is back!

Friday, August 22, 2014

I reviewed Depression Quest for StoryCade, and you should too!

Zoe Quinn has undeservedly been the subject of a lot of crap lately, as have many other developers. Phil Fish and Polytron were hacked last night. Many developers are facing constant harassment on Twitter, doxxing, death threats, and more. Just because they make games. (If you care about combatting this, Leigh Alexander's article, But WHAT CAN BE DONE: Dos and Don’ts To Combat Online Sexism a good, long read, as well as Mattie Brice's How Do I Help?)

Today, I don't want to draw attention to the controversy, other than the fact that it's happening. What I really want to talk about is Depression Quest (it made my top games of 2013 for a reason).

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition: A First Look, and a Breath of Nostalgic Fresh Air.

When you try to talk about Dungeons and Dragons... how do you begin?  Where do you begin with a game that you can often call an institution, a grandfather to the gaming industry as a whole?  It ushered in not just one, but many worlds of dungeon crawling, of tabletop role-playing. You can certainly argue that it's what helped create a rich video game industry filled with back story and imagery, that without this predecessor, we would have never seen games such as Baldur's Gate appear.  This RPG is an ancient, a gaming ancestor that has managed to stay in the game.  It started in 1974, and is celebrating its fortieth birthday by reinventing itself for the fifth time; in a world filled with flashing screens and automated systems handling things like dice rolls and world generation, this game world stands tall on its precedent.  Its determined, convinced that even though we live in the digital world, might still has something unique and exciting to offer.

A relic of the past, yet still relevant.

Let me save you some time: Dungeons and Dragons, and any table top RPG, certainly does have something to offer, an experience that feels entirely different from a video game.  As the fifth edition hits though, you can't help but ask: is this tabletop RPG still relevant?  Has it adapted to the 21st century?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

We Should Treat Our Inspirations Better

I grew up with a different set of role models than most. While my friends watched Derek Jeter hit home runs, I was laughing at the Rooster Teeth crew while they used Halo characters as digital puppets. While other boys were fawning over Jessica Alba, I was watching the Angry Video Game Nerd as he took a diarrhea dump on Nintendo cartridges. I would say I was the only one, but over the past couple of years I've learned I was not alone.

These days, it seems internet celebrities rank just as highly if not higher than other celebrities. PewDiePie, the most popular streamer of Let's Play videos on YouTube, has ranked higher in influence among teenagers than the likes of even Jennifer Lawrence and Daniel Radcliffe. Rooster Teeth has become such a behemoth in gaming that they have their own convention. As the internet takes over nearly every part of our daily lives, the way we interact with each other changes, as do the people we look up to. And you know what? We treat our inspirations like crap sometimes, internet or otherwise.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Coming Out Simulator: A Snapshot of How Growing Up Sucks

Before reading, I recommend you play Coming Out Simulator yourself here. While there isn't much to spoil, it's really worth it to play the game before listening to me talk about it. It doesn't take very long to complete. I'll be here when you get back. I promise.

Growing up is hard: No matter how privileged their upbringing, every kid has struggled with relationships - with their parents, with their peers, and with themselves. I started my morning the other day by playing Nicky Case's Coming Out Simulator 2014, and felt a flood of feelings I thought were gone the day I graduated high school. While the name of the game implies it's about coming out of the closet - which it is - it also isn't just that. It's an illustration of a small fragment of time in a teenager's life. The significance of that moment may be different from person to person, and for me that significance is in relationships.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Nidhogg Review: Refined Rawness

Nidhogg is a game I would not usually purchase at first sight: it looks unfinished, undone.  Its sprites sway loosely,  and brightly colored 'blood' splatters seem jagged and incongruous.  The music stacks on top of itself in frenetic, chaotic ways; there is no story to explain, and somehow, there is only one mode of play in the end, really.

And yet... yet, it is perfect.  I have nearly killed my friends by introducing them to this game, and then watched them fall off the couch in fits of laughter and glee.  Friends picking up controllers, eager to take on the victor of the last match, and often too busy making snarky comments to play at their best.  Their spritely avatars fall and die in horrific ways, only to return, hungry for revenge.

It helps that the castle stage reminds me of Hamlet for some reason.

Nidhogg is perfection in one of the weird ways that only small production games can produce, and something that must be experienced to truly understand.