Friday 31 January 2014

Dead Island Riptide: Can't Escape from Paradise

[Part of the Dead Island Diary]

Previously on Dead Island, we escaped from a zombie infected island via helicopter along with random convict guy as well as most-likely infected native girl and specimen zero leaving everyone else who helped us out to their gruesome and crunchy deaths. It was a stroke of luck then that before our fuel ran out we found an Australian Navy vessel to land on where we were immediately arrested by one Colonel Hardy under the orders of the suit wearing man Mr. Frank Serpo. Unfortunately while being transported to holding one of the soldiers got bit by the native girl. Guess what happened next?

Here we go again!

Alone in the chaos of the zombie ship (solo mission only) I managed to escape the cell and fight my way through zombified scum to the bridge but was just too late to drop that anchor. With a sudden jolt the ship ran aground on some reefs and I found myself falling into the water. Eventually I awoke on the shore, saved by some girl named Harlow who conveniently saved all the other immune survivors plus the Colonel as well. She was telling us to be careful because some sort of disease was spreading on these islands (called Palanai) too and no, it wasn't Syphilis.

It was a good thing she saved all of us too, because all hands were needed once we arrived at the nearby "Paradise" beach resort as the zombies were attacking in full force.

Thursday 30 January 2014

A Short February

Hmm its a short month up ahead with the added side tracks of the winter Olympics starting up, so hopefully I can get through everything I planned to before it ends. As usual, here's the list of things that are coming up on the JVT Workshop! You can find the previous list here.

Up Next in February:

What's on my Radar (done)
Music is Magic (done)
MMOs: Equipment more Heroic than You (done)
MMOs: The Problem With Levels (done)
MMOs: Why We Hunt (done)
MMOs: Need more Heroes and less Soldiers (done)
Review of a Dark Room (done)
Review of League of Angels (done)
Review of Wartune (done)
Review of Lost Planet 2
Review of Warcraft: Starter Edition (done)
NWO: Gateway to the Sword Coast (done)
Dead Island Diary will continue with Dead Island: Riptide (done)
First Chapter of Guild Story
Today I Smiled x2 (2/2)
Finish next NWO module? Really, this has been here awhile. Damn procrastination! :( (done)
Lose 1 kg. (failed, lost/gained zero!)

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Wizardry Online: Lost Souls

[Part of the journals from Wizardry Online!]

Soon after sending our last report a strange wizard appeared in town offering people to strengthen their spirit via the Trials of Isic, an otherworldly realm heavily focused on combat. Thanam and I went in and though we could only defeat the first tier of challenges upon our exit we found that we had been gone for months! The once bustling streets are now very empty, and Quark no longer runs the Porkul Union for reasons unknown. There is also talk of some upcoming cataclysm in the Ministry of Magic but we have other things to worry about first.

Selenka is one of the missing and her cartography project hasn't progressed much at all. While the Adventurer's Guild as well as Zermu Terlu don't know of her whereabouts, the knave Arahawi suggested that she might have gone into the House of Savage Lust deeper in the mainland. From the rumours it is exactly as it sounds, being inhabited by Succubi (among other things). With no other leads the elf and I are going to investigate.

Maybe they'll make a movie about it! :P


Tuesday 28 January 2014

Farcry 3: Killing is Winning

[Part of the Diary of a Marked One]

When we arrived at the temple, Riley was immediately taken away from me by the guards and Citra did a quick hello by blowing who knows what sparkly drug powder in my face. I found myself walking a fiery path until finally I came across the ancient knife once more. It was at Liza's throat, and Citra wanted me to sacrifice her to join the Rakyat tribe.

Stupid bitch. I went through all this trouble to rescue them, and to ask this of me now was idiotic. I set her and my other comrades free. In a rage Dennis tried to stab me for my insolence but stabbed Citra instead, taking that pleasure away from me. While they were in shock at the death of their leader I took advantage to do what I do best. I killed them ALL, starting with that ass hat Dennis. After all, with the "take what you want" mentality that whole tribe really was no better than the pirates they fought against.

Finally we got back to the now repaired boat to escape the island... only now my comrades looked at me with distrust for the amount of blood I had on my hands. They left me there on that shore with the rest of the murderers as they escaped into the sunset. I was a little annoyed at first, but then realized there were still plenty of Rakyat scum to eliminate and so I turned my back to the sea, reloaded my guns and headed back into the jungle to purge the world of these backward tribesmen who didn't deserve to exist in the first place.

Best and worst vacation ever.

Monday 27 January 2014

Farcry 3: This Little Piggy

[Part of the Diary of a Marked One]

After dealing with the traitorous mercs Sam and I were invited to a poker game with Hoyt - the perfect opportunity to kill him, but complicated by the fact that my last comrade Riley was actually still alive and imprisoned in the cells below. To this end Sam had other plans before the poker night involving an assault on Hoyt's main satellite relay as well as his fuel depot. When the two of those were well and truly exploded we both turned up to his compound with our best poker faces on but he saw through it immediately and knifed Sam in the neck. Maybe attacking all those locations gave us away? I wonder.

Ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?

What happened next is a blur. One second we were playing poker with his armed guards pointing their guns my way, the next they were all dead and I was knife fighting with Hoyt who actually was a pretty skilled opponent, slicing off one of my fingers in the melee before I pinned him down shoved a few blades through his face. Guess that explains why I only have nine fingers.

Escaping the compound involved a full scale gun fight again while I went to rescue Riley. In the chaos we liberated an empty helicopter and flew off, but not before making one pass of the entire compound while I drilled everything with the 50 cal. Once we had no more pursuers we flew directly to the safety cave only to find a dying Dr. Earnhardt saying he couldn't protect my friends from the jungle people. What the hell? It was time to pay Citra a visit.

Sunday 26 January 2014

Farcry 3: Crazy Monkeys

[Part of the Diary of a Marked One]

Once I was free and clear Sam suggested I go take care of some thieving traitors to put myself in Hoyt's good books, but that could wait. Now that I had the disguise it made it so much easier to annihilate all the mercenary outposts since they let me fully recon their bases first each time. Some put up more of a fight than the others but in the end they all fell, just like their tower jammers.

I also took the opportunity to finish off collecting the relics and odd jobs in the region. Some of the hunting ones were getting absurd though - such as killing leopards with a flame thrower and killing bears with your knife. On top of that I earned the highest rank in all the Rakyat weapon trials scattered around the island and collected all the correspondence from the dead japs, finding Hurk's epic quest against the grenade-pin pulling monkey he called Gilbert most amusing.

At least they weren't trained to use rifles!

Eventually I got a call from Sam again to help him defend a drug plantation from a roving band of pirates who placed time bombs within. I'm not quite sure why the pirates wanted to explode all the plants as that sounds... not financially beneficial, but it was a good bonding experience for the German and I as we charged in there and killed all of them. He's such a happy guy.

As a side note: Here's Belghast's review of the game which highlights some valid points of why it can be annoying at times. Anatoli's Game room has one too! :)

Saturday 25 January 2014

Farcry 3: The South Island

[Part of the Diary of a Marked One]

Since Hoyt was actually based on the next island I arranged with Willis to take a ride on his "private" aircraft (a single propeller thingy) as he was high tailing it out to Russia on another mission. After protecting him from an attack by the now leaderless pirates we took to the skies and he gave me my most favourite form of transportation on the island - a wing suit! Jumping out of a plane was meant to be scary, but it was actually very fun!

Upon landing I made my way to Thurston to meet Willis' agent there named Sam. This was a bit scary since instead of pirates, this entire place was full of mercenaries. Fortunately none of them recognized me so I was free to look around. I found Sam at the local poker game and was surprised that he is actually a german (as a side note, Farcry 3 is a great way to learn the basics of texas hold em poker)!

Iz gud to meet you, ja?

After finding a quiet spot to plot and plan he suggested that I go and "enlist" with the mercenaries. By that he meant go to where the rookies are, kill one and wear his uniform which would cover not just the tattoo but my face as well. This was the most tense mission yet since I couldn't risk detection OR killing any of the guards. Fortunately I can be quite sneaky when I want to be, and with enough patience and good timing I was soon undercover and attending the welcoming speech with the other recruits from Hoyt himself. Too bad killing him right there was akin to commiting suicide.

Friday 24 January 2014

Farcry 3: Trippin Balls

[Part of the Diary of a Marked One]

Getting "healed" by Citra involved drinking a strong poison that sent me into a dreamlike state where I fought a black giant and some shadow men, followed immediately after by what looked to be the cowgirl position with a topless Citra riding me in front of her tribe. Drugs really do whacked out things to you, huh? When I eventually regained my senses I was staring down at Vaas' island fortress. Bastard would never see me coming.

Or so I thought, for once I snuck into the side building all the TV's within put his face on, laughing as he said he expected me. Did I mention the building was on fire? There was no option left but for a full out attack against his remaining men - I did have some assistance from a trapped tiger though. Once I got into the final building Vaas got the drop on me again, stabbing me with a knife - or hallucinogens, or ... a hallucinogenic knife?

That's a leopard, not a tiger!

Suddenly Vaas was everywhere, I was shooting him - knifing him, running at me from every angle. Somewhere in the mayhem the blade finally found it's mark as I shoved the knife into his gut and twisted it - finally ending the madman's life. I was kind of sad at that because I was beginning to like the guy. His sister Citra on the other hand was pleased, but she wanted his employer Hoyt to be next. Since we were in agreement there I made one last visit to my rescued buddies - telling them to depart on the boat without me as I still had unfinished business on the island. They weren't that happy with the decision but could do nothing to stop me.

Thursday 23 January 2014

Farcry 3: Peekaboo! Guess who?

[Part of the Diary of a Marked One]

The convoy we were ambushing was not one of pirates, but of well armed mercenaries. For a change I was glad to have fodder... ahem... I mean allies to assist in the battle. The APC we were trying to halt eventually got past the roadblock though, so it was up to me to chase it down - kill its guards and like a real hero open the door to free the captives. Only, there were no captives. Just one psycho who promptly knocked me out.

Did you miss me?

When I awoke it was to the sound of his smug voice as he told me the definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over. In this case, killing me. With that he kicked the cement block my feet were tied to down into a deep well where he hoped I would share the same fate as his other victims rotting in the water down there. It was not to be though, for I freed myself and stabbed my way out using a stolen knife to his nearby camp - hijacked his helicopter and ... got shot down by an RPG.

Still in a haze I crawled out of the burning wreckage to find the maniac grinning down at me again. "Have I told you the definition of insanity?" he asked once more, just before pointing his pistol at me and pulling the trigger. The world went black. And then smelly. Once again I had escaped death in a manner of speaking, but I still ended up in a mass grave. After crawling my way out of there and retrieving my gear (don't know why since it was easily replaceable), Dennis told me to go back to the temple for healing.

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Farcry 3: That's not a Knife

[Part of the Diary of a Marked One]

Who're you gonna call, mate?
After barely escaping the sinking ship (of course it had to blow up while I was on it) I woke up on the beach with Buck standing over me. Did he give me mouth to mouth? Ew. He's obviously wanted his knife but it wasn't on board. Instead I found a glowy magical compass which supposedly pointed to the knife. He let me go on my merry way to find the blade while he went to play with his hostage a bit - ewww. Anyway the compass led me to an old submarine bay, then some mines and finally some dudes tomb. The first two stops were just to get more pieces of the compass and it was ultimately used as a key to open the tomb.

Strange that every location was swarming with pirates though. Were they looking for the knife too? Some of them had begun getting wise and wearing body armor over those singlets, forcing me to be a little more accurate with my shooting and totally out-dating my bow and arrows. Silenced sniper rifle works wonders. Regardless, I got the knife in the end - and when I went to trade it with Buck he tried to shaft me in the back with it. Good thing I've got a high reaction time because it was him that got gutted in the end.

After taking my friend who (I'll call "Bitch", because that's how he acts) to the cave, he told me that the my last comrade Riley was dead. He saw them shoot him. In a fit of rage I stormed out to get vengeance, leaving Liza, Bitch, Pot Head, and Independent Princess to handle the final boat repairs while I met up with a group of Rakyat for another rescue mission, this time for their people instead of my own. It's the least I could have done for them... you know, other than single handedly taking every pirate outpost on the island but I already did that.

Tuesday 21 January 2014

State of Decay: Tips to reach Level 10 Breakdown

As a small break from my recent Farcry posts, I've finally reached level 10 in the Breakdown DLC of State of Decay and thought that I should share some tips for anyone else trying to do the same...

Know Your Valley
Regardless of what level you are on you will always be stuck in the same map only with less and less resources and more and more zombies. Make a mental note of where to get building materials and fuel as those will be your PRIME concern later on. In my case no matter where I start, I always head straight for the base with a tree house. Even at level 10, if you put two outposts in the houses just on the other side of the road your team can deal with all inbound hordes.

Unlock Those Heroes
Heroes have a "hero" trait that make them tougher than every other character. Even if you can't bring them due to space restrictions or they die, there is a chance that they will respawn with one of the enclaves in the later rounds. The only ones you shouldn't be actively trying to unlock are the ones that require you to die. Also, unlocking "the father" is a bit of a pain - and is best done on level 1 since you need every single type of building at max.

Train in Wits
Again a job to do in the early levels. To train, simply search search search. The higher this skill is, the less chance you'll make a big sound which will attract all the zombies around (the odds of which go up as you go further in the levels). You -really- want to avoid doing this by around level 5. Also, for this same reason you will love the "dead man" hero as he comes pretrained with max wits and the "ninja" specialty, enabling him to move faster in stealth, always be able to open doors silently, and will never make noise while searching.

Influence and Cars
In the first few rounds (probably up to level 3) you will have an abundance of influence and vehicles to go around. Use them! Unlocking and keeping Ray with you is a big help with his special ability to spawn a car near you. Finding vehicles later on within reachable distance is near impossible, and they become fragile pieces of paper so the farther you get, the more careful you have to be with hitting zombies (ie. don't). With influence, always have a partner in the first few levels to assist in training up but around level 4 you'll need to start flying solo. The reason for this is two fold: a) you'll need a lot of influence to repair the RV and b) your assistant can get themselves killed if they decide to go home (tired or enclave mission start or RV found). To this end I've also been getting by with only constructing the basic medical tent in my base and nothing else.

Packing Your Stash
Somewhat carrying on from the last point, all your stuff goes with you to the new level BUT your influence will drop back to zero! Make sure that whoever is going takes a big backpack and loads up on bullets before you leave, then puts the bullets back in when you get to the next stage. Bullets have the best influence trade ratio of 1:1 where other items will lose influence when traded in. Also there is an item limit which will really be annoying later as you won't be able to put in weapons for influence. To that end, when you loot be sure to pick up stackable stuff like meds, snacks, clocks etc as you can fit more in there.

Strength in Numbers
When going scavenging far from base (far could be a mere two blocks in the later levels due to the amount of wandering hordes, individual zombies and specials) it is always best to bring allies. In the earlier levels you can simply spend influence to get a follower but later on, when you are trying to save all the influence for the RV, you'll need to time your runs when others so happen to join you. In other words during enclave missions, or training missions, or best of all - survivors joining missions, make a detour to search a few spots for things you may need. 

Runners and Dump Trucks
Zombies respawn at an ever increasing rate, so especially in sites that are far away it is a valid plan to load up all the bagged goods and dump said items on the street, then make a few rounds of picking them up with a vehicle. It's a lot safer for a curb side pickup instead of having to go into a house again (zombies love spawning on your vehicle). Also, when using runners you have two options in the later levels: a) shadow them and escort them all the way or b) get the hell out of dodge. The second option only works because of how the zombies populate. They spawn in a radius around where -you- are (memory saving for the game). Thus if a runner is in your vicinity and you are not helping him out then he will be in trouble. If you are on the other side of town then he'll pretty much have a free run.

Silence is a Virtue
Stealth and silenced firearms become more and more important as you go up in levels, though ironically the firearms are really only useful for the unarmored specials. I say this because the amount of zombies wearing body armor (bullet immunity) later on is quite high. It will pay to figure out the best "bush concealed" paths earlier in your run before you really need them. Remember that "z" will instantly kill a zombie from stealth BUT it will make noise! Sometimes it's better to just ninja your way past everything.

Know when to Flee, and when Not To
This is more common sense than anything. If you spot something you can't handle, go the other way and come back later (when it despawned or moved on). If you make a loud noise while scavenging, drop everything - jump out a window (or nearest door) and get to your car or nearest shrub, ready to dodge roll your way out of trouble if needed. If you have 3 other survivors with you and an enclosed room however, it maybe a better idea to stand and fight where the zombie swarm can only come at you a few at a time. This generally goes out the window around level 8 or 9 as the zombies are just too numerous and too strong for defense in a non-barricaded house. Guess I should mention barricades attract "active" zombies and can serve as a good way to thin out an attacking force instead of them all coming in at once.

Down Time
Time continues while you are not playing. While in the lower levels having a high morale will prevent bad things happening to you, later on (for me level 7) regardless of morale if you left someone missing you'll come back to find them dead. Treat your team oriented missions as high importance before logging off. Never mind the enclave stuff so much. Also, after sometime you will get the "rumors of an RV" mission which saves you having to drive around randomly to look for it. Just gather up as much material and fuel as you can (ammo and food are easier to find) until you get the exact location of the thing.

Fate is Against You
Each level not only do the zombies become more numerous but they also get stronger, faster, deadlier and have more specials, infestations and hordes. You on the other hand will get tired faster, have a harder time breaking their holds (ferals become almost certain death), and will slowly notice your radar become unreliable as it slowly no longer tracks hordes nor displays the little dots for zombies making it easier for them to get the jump on you, especially in the dark. Unless you are really good then you'd best time your game time to coincide with day time.

Monday 20 January 2014

Farcry 3: Deals and Devils

[Part of the Diary of a Marked One]

In an appropriately named village called "Bad Town" I met Agent Willis who gave me the scoop about Vaas' employer, a Mr. Hoyt Volker - slave trader, and drug manufacturer. In exchange for getting info about the rest of my allies Willis first sends me to torch one of Hoyt's main drug fields with a flamethrower. After that trippy experience in which for once the pirates had an excuse for not being able to shoot straight, Willis then sent me to defend a different village from a pirate attack.

Yippee ki yay?

Well, not the entire village - just his informant Rongo who not only I had to protect from execution, but all the way uphill through the village to his house to find the coded documents he stole. In the end only Rongo and I were left standing, and I left him there in his burning house and burning town to try rescue another of my allies nearby, the pot smoking party animal who was being transferred via convoy. After intercepting it with explosions and making a quick get away by boat (during which I had to shoot down a chopper among many other pursuers) I finally got him to the cave where I kept my other rescue victims.

Three out of five meant two to go. After checking back in with Willis he said he had a lead on my next buddy who was sold to some boy lover named Buck (Australian from the accent). Conveniently I found Buck at the nearby tavern and he suggested a trade - my friend for some really ancient Chinese dagger which he claimed is on a boat somewhere. Since I had no option to... I dunno, torture him, or follow him, or do anything remotely intelligent I accepted the deal and headed down to the beach where I saw the medium sized cruiser just off shore. Good thing there was a jet ski nearby because I'd be damned if I had to swim through the sharks to get there.

Sunday 19 January 2014

Farcry 3: I've got the Stones

[Part of the Diary of a Marked One]

One of the things Dennis told me was to mold the jungle to the things I needed. By that he actually meant harvesting various flora for a variety of syringes and carving up every type of animal on the island to fashion into bags, pouches, wallets and pants. While I was at it I figured I'd do the same to all the pirates I came across, liberating the entire Western part of the island from both their outposts and radio tower jammers.

For extra cash I was also taking odd jobs of hunting critters (usually with bows) or knifing bad men for justice. Most of the money I spent right away on maps to the numerous "whispering" relics (yes satan?) scattered in each region, making it easier to track them down and absorb their power. Truly, finding these small carvings did more for my combat intuition than actually going into combat. It's magic.

Eventually I found myself standing before a large stone temple in the jungle, inside which I met Citra - the "spiritual" leader of the Rakyat tribe, who also happens to be Vaas' sister. She doesn't really think much of my combat skills, despite being able to single handedly do what her tribe can't seem to handle. Seriously, these pirates with automatic rifles are losing to komodo dragons and wild dogs. It's not like defeating them is difficult, so what does that say about the Rakyat?

Your tribe sucks.

Anyway, she made me drink something that made me totally trip balls as a sort of test, concluding with telling me to find what has been lost. Not sure I'll be able to find her mind, but in the meantime I decide to cleanse the rest of the island of the pirate infestation, clearing out relics, old correspondence from japanese skeletons, and odd jobs while I was at it - like sniping some sharks. Another particular highlight was to eliminate a pack of rabid dogs... with an RPG. That was awesome.

Saturday 18 January 2014

Farcry 3: Independent Princess

[Part of the Diary of a Marked One]

Turns out the "princess" I was trying to rescue managed to get out all by herself and found refuge with a creepy, constantly stoned old doctor by the name of Earnhardt who thought she was his wife... or daughter. Either way, she was fine. She even located an old boat beneath the doc's mansion which she began to repair for our island escape. Now there's an independent girl if ever I saw one.

Perhaps she later becomes known as Samus?

Dennis soon radioed about another of my friends who wasn't as independent, and I soon found myself hoofing it over to a prison camp to try pull off a valiant rescue. I murderized all the guards on the way in but was caught off guard by Vaas himself! When I awoke, my friend Liza and I were left tied to our chairs as Vaas torched the old wooden house we were being held in - leaving us to burn alive.

Somehow I still managed to break free, rescue the girl and perform an incredibly dangerous escape via jeep. Not dangerous because of the pirates chasing and shooting at us - I had a gun for that. Dangerous because Liza was driving. We escaped from their clutches and soon I put Liza in the boat cave with the other, hotter girl named Daisy who had the boat repairs well underway. Our reunion was interrupted when Dennis radioed in again, telling me to speak to their leader who lives in a temple somewhere in the jungle.

Friday 17 January 2014

Forced: Aptly Named if you want to Finish it

This is a cooperative game that feels a lot like an intense version of Torchlight. Up to four people can play together as a team of gladiators who are trying to pass a whole bunch of demonic trials that test both their combat skills and intelligence. Your choice of weapon determines your class and with only four to choose from and no duplicates it might seem very limiting, and that is intentional. The number of opponents multiplies based on the number of players but you will still have a better chance with more people because of the unique mechanic in the game: the spirit guide.

More like spirit ball.

Regardless of how many players you have, there is only one spirit ball (who happens to be a smart-ass). Every player can call it to wherever they are currently standing and it interacts with whatever it flies over making it the key to defeating each arena. Hover it over a healing shrine and it will heal you for a bit. Make it go over a flaming hand and it gets a powerful explosive charge that will detonate when it hits something or someone - players included!

There is a bit of replayability too in that each challenge has 3 gems up for grabs. The more gems you have the more skills and abilities are unlocked. One gem comes simply from completing a room. Another always is time based (so completing the room in x seconds) and the last one is a special challenge in each chamber like take no damage. It really seems geared well to encourage cooperation, alas it is in the extra stuff where it falls down.

My two main gripes being no in-built mic support and no save points in co-op mode (as far as I've found) meaning you'll need to play the whole thing in one sitting. This really ruins the experience a fair bit for us because it's not a short enough game for that path. Pity, given all the other thought they implemented for co-op multiplayer those seem like odd things to overlook. For that reason I give it two blood thirsty demons out of five, and cannot really recommend it to people that can only play in small doses.

Update: Looks like there are coop save points now which certainly makes it more playable. Unfortunately I think this ship has mostly sailed for my gaming group which got annoyed during the stages of non-saving.

Thursday 16 January 2014

Farcry 3: The Warrior's Path

[Part of the Diary of a Marked One]

I was pulled from the river by a mechanic named Dennis who moonlighted as a tattoo artist and a soldier of the Rakyat tribe. He brought me to his village and when I awoke he was already beginning to paint my arm with strange symbols of the heron, shark and spider which he said would make me a better warrior. To prove his point he gave me a knife and a pistol then asked me to climb a radio tower to disable some jammer the pirates had put there. Fortunately the dilapidated structure was only guarded by a snake, which still managed to bite me and slither off.

Regardless, the task was done and soon I found myself advancing with Dennis and two of his Amanaki warriors to an outpost where supposedly one of my friends was being held hostage. The feeling of the gun and blade in my hands felt natural, as did shooting the first pirate I saw in the face then flanking their encampment. While they focused fire on Dennis and his pals I snuck around and shoved my knife into the backs of as many pirates as I could. Soon enough they were all dead and the outpost was ours, however my friend was nowhere to be found.

"Your Princess is in another castle my friend."

Wednesday 15 January 2014

Farcry 3: Memories of the Fall

[Part of the Diary of a Marked One]

The arena bouts were quite challenging and for the most part nothing I couldn't handle, so much so that my hostess "Mad" Moxxi began taking a liking to her new champion. After a particularly gruelling round I found her waiting for me at the infirmary where she began asking about my past, and how I got that tattoo on my arm. The surprising thing was... I could remember! Maybe I've just had my head cracked over so many times that it fixed my amnesia from before? Regardless, I've decided to write it down in my diary in case I forget once more where I came from.

In my youth, before the arrival of the Zone, I was just another everyday teen that wanted to see the world - and have crazy fun while doing so. To that end my comrades and I decided to go skydiving out to some remote island away from the busy hubs of tourists. It was all going well until we got captured by the local pirates led by this crazy man named Vaas. He even has clips on youtube.

They separated us and planned to sell us back to whoever would pay. Fortunately my brother in arms who was with me managed to break our bonds and initiate a speedy escape from the prison camp. I got away by jumping down a waterfall while evading a barrage of bullets, he on the other hand was not so lucky.

Looks like you didn't make it, hermano.

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Hearthstone (Beta): Put your heart in the cards Yugi!

 The wars in Azeroth are over. Now they just play cards.

Juris gave me a beta key to this game a month back and I can see how it can become addictive. This online World of Warcraft themed CCG (collectable card game) is pretty easy to get into but will take pretty long to master, basically because you won't have all the awesome cards in your stable at the get go - You need to earn your way up. In the beginning playing against the NPC serves as a good extended tutorial while you unlock the various starter decks but after that you will need to go and face random opponents in Play mode who have a similar rank to yours. Despite it being pretty much a game board with slight decorative variants, there's not really much to look at other than the cards. That said, the graphics are pretty good regardless and the little touch of having the classic Warcraft (RTS) music and sounds to the game really add to the flavour for me.

There are still daily quests to do, believe it or not - despite it being a card game - though I imagine your main goal would be to reach Rank 1. There is no storyline to follow and no vast "multiplayer" beyond you and your opponent. In that regard it is a bit like chess, though you don't know what pieces your opponent has and it is quite likely they have things that can wipe you out really easily later on. Some people even just pay for better pieces I'd imagine. There is ofcourse, Arena mode which requires in-game gold to join (which you gain doing quests) where you and your foe build a quasi random deck each time to try even the battlefield. Winning enough matches (without losing 3 times) can give you better cards for your normal deck.

So... I guess it's like pokemon chess then, because you've got to catch them all? Anywho, if you like CCGs then this should probably be on your watch list. If you like WoW then maybe this will be on your watch list, but I suspect you should play WoW instead. Or go to that place where they're playing Hearthstone in WoW, then play Hearthstone like a true roleplayer. Haha! As a stand alone game it is pretty good. The very restricted chat options between opponents (unless they are on each others friend lists) is a good idea too. I'm guessing there are still some balance issues which is why it remains in Beta but otherwise it is a pretty complete game. I give it 3.5 out of 5 happy dwarves which isn't bad considering a) it's in beta, b) I don't like CCGs and c) I'm not into WoW.

For those who already play Hearthstone, Cogitationes Astalnaris has a list of recent nerfs you may want to check out.

Monday 13 January 2014

Damned (Alpha): Splitting Up is a Valid Strategy

Damned is a semi-coop indie game available on steam where in up to four people form what I call the "scooby gang", a group who find themselves stuck in haunted and dark locations like asylums or old mansions and are simply tasked with getting out. Armed only with flashlights they need to locate items scattered throughout the level to achieve this goal. Opposing them is the one player being the bad guy, currently either a spectral thing or a large, skinless humanoid. The dude playing the monster only has one goal, to kill everyone else.

Yeah, you're dead.

Being in Alpha, help or information about controls is quite limited in-game. You won't realize that as a survivor you need to hold down the left mouse button to drag doors open and closed, or that the furniture sitting around is all interactive. Desk drawers, cabinets and stoves are all openable and valid places for the game to hide things you need. As the monster you exist in two states - one in the bright grey world of spirits where you can sprint around really fast and move through all doors but cannot see the scooby gang or you can manifest in the "real" dark world and be a slow, lumbering, terrifying, one hit killer who cannot open doors. There's a hidden cool down that prevents you from spamming the transformation states to give the humans a chance.

I must admit the concept itself is really cool, and when the music strikes up letting everyone know the monster is manifested really gets the heart racing. The biggest downside to it that it doesn't handle player elimination well. By that I mean that if you die first but the rest of your team is good at eluding the bad dude you could be idling for many, many minutes and often results in me dropping from the game out of boredom. If they add a way to drag your allies corpses to some sort of respawner or otherwise give them something to do while dead and add a how to play section in game it would go a long way. As it currently stands (remember, it's still in alpha) I can only give it one skull out of five. Worth keeping an eye on but not getting, just yet.

Sunday 12 January 2014

Police Precinct: A city full of crime, but only one Murderer!

For a kickstarter game, this is actually a pretty well balanced and tested offering, in coop mode anyway. The artwork is decent enough and the gameplay is only just slightly more involved than the game I consider to be the best for people new to board games, Flashpoint: Fire Rescue. In Police Precinct everyone is plays as a cop (with each officer having some semi-unique special ability) and are either depicted as a marked police car (moves faster) or an unmarked police car token (better for investigation) as they drive around the medium sized city.

To win the game the cops must collect enough evidence to fill up their investigation board and catch a murderer. This is slowed down by the ever increasing thug numbers on the streets as well as what appears to be an insane crime spree as literally emergencies ranging from traffic accidents and gas leaks to car thieves, bank robbers, and kidnappers. If the crime meter goes to high or the murderer escapes without being caught the good guys lose.

In the groups I played in we found victory as the murderer was halfway through his escape. What really takes the cake though are the unknown circumstance cards which play in addition to an emergency. For example you can try deal with a suicidal employee but when you get there find that he or she has an angry dog, or try to nab a pickpocket who also has a bomb. These WTF moments actually make the game better for me as you can share the laughs all around the table.

There's also a version where one or two players could be "dirty" cops where they secretly try to let the crime escalate and the murderer escape but being a coop guy I haven't tried that out, nor do I want to really. With a bigger variety of things going on but still being easy to learn and pretty quick to play (1 - 1.5 hours at most per game), it's a pretty fun experience all around. I just wish the manual was a bit easier to read. Overall I give it 2.5 out of 5 police sirens, and my tick of approval.

Score after re-review: 1.5 out of 5 police sirens.

Saturday 11 January 2014

What D&D Character are You?

You can blame Cogitationes Astalnaris for todays post. It's one of those online questionnaire thingos with a D&D twist. Must say it pulled an unexpected result for me though! Just for fun I put up what came second for some categories in italics.

I Am A: Neutral Good Gnome Ranger (4th Level) 

Ability Scores:

Neutral Good A neutral good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them. Neutral good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias for or against order. However, neutral good can be a dangerous alignment when it advances mediocrity by limiting the actions of the truly capable.

Runners up both by one point were Lawful Good and True Neutral, which are nowhere near similar.

Gnomes are in wide demand as alchemists, inventors, and technicians, though most prefer to remain among their own kind in simple comfort. Gnomes adore animals, gems, and jokes, especially pranks. They love to learn by personal experience, and are always trying new ways to build things. Gnomes stand 3 to 3.5 feet tall and live about 350 to 500 years.

In second place was the Human race. Guess they just don't live long enough?

Rangers are skilled stalkers and hunters who make their home in the woods. Their martial skill is nearly the equal of the fighter, but they lack the latter's dedication to the craft of fighting. Instead, the ranger focuses his skills and training on a specific enemy a type of creature he bears a vengeful grudge against and hunts above all others. Rangers often accept the role of protector, aiding those who live in or travel through the woods. His skills allow him to move quietly and stick to the shadows, especially in natural settings, and he also has special knowledge of certain types of creatures. Finally, an experienced ranger has such a tie to nature that he can actually draw on natural power to cast divine spells, much as a druid does, and like a druid he is often accompanied by animal companions. A ranger's Wisdom score should be high, as this determines the maximum spell level that he can cast.

There was no other class that scored remotely close to my Ranger score!

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus

Friday 10 January 2014

Redshirt: Facebook in Space

Some games people call Diablo clones while others are labelled WoW copy cats. In this regard Redshirt is a lot like Facebook. Yes, there's the comedy factor of being on a doomed space station performing ludicrous duties parodying Star Trek but all your actions will be spent on the station's social network: Spacebook.

The aim of the game is to manuever and manipulate your social circles by making friends, hosting and attending events and sending messages to keep people happy to put you into a favourable position of saving yourself while everyone else dies horribly. Sleeping your way to the top is one valid path, but given that your friends are often killed in away missions (and then replaced by people that dislike you) I simply opted to work hard and purchase an exit ticket which is probably the easiest solution to the game.

Hope you really like this screen, it's where most of the action takes place.

While the music is pretty cool, there are very few moving parts given that most of the time you will be staring at the pretty stale Spacebook screen. As a concept it works pretty well, and people who enjoy spending a bunch of time on facebook (especially trekkies) will probably get a kick out of this game. I clocked up 6 hours on it before victory myself, however I have no inclination of playing it again since it is not really that enticing. Not really something I would recommend unless you are a fan of the genre. Redshirt - I give it 1 and a half out of 5 mangled body parts from the transporter.

Thursday 9 January 2014

Today I Smiled: I'm an Avatar?

Managed to get this happy snap from the comments section of Syl's blog: MMOGYPSY in regards to my Darklands story....

This not only put a huge grin on my face but made me laugh out loud! Thank you! =D

Chivalry: Medieval Warfare

There's nothing Chivalrous about Chivalry, but for what it is - it is great! The easiest way to describe it is that it is like Battlefield but with knights instead of soldiers, and it comes with the similar unlocking weapon and equipment tree for each of its four, very different classes. Knights are the slowest but can take a truck load of damage, Vanguards dish out the most pain, Archers can hit from a distance (with a lot of practice) but are otherwise prone to decapitation and my favourite - the man at arms who is both the quickest and nimblest of all four, being able to dodge attacks if you have good timing.

The expansion of Deadliest Warrior adds other factions but since the gameplay there is restricted to team deathmatch or free for all I tend to stick closer to the main game where the Knights of Agatha and the Masonic Order both try complete objectives with alternating defender/attacker roles (always harder to defend) which is absolutely great fun. Pity there are only around six maps for it though, and that sometimes Team Objective games are empty.

Having to be up close and personal really adds to the tension too with wide swings able to hit your own team mates. Even sniping archers need to be ready to melee at any moment, and finding foes of equal skill level to you (as a player) makes for pretty good duels. Some guys are just fantastic in their swordplay while others intentionally wait for the enemy to be distracted for a back stab. If only there were more campaign type missions I would give it a higher score. Still, since it is pretty damned fun I give it three trebuchets out of five and recommend it for any who like this sort of martial diversion in their games. 

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Descent: Journeys in the Dark

Before any confusion arises this is about the second edition of the board game, Descent: Journeys in the Dark. Not sure why it has the "Journeys in the Dark" part as most of the quests that I've seen take place above ground. This game is semi co-op, designed to be played with a maximum of four hero characters and one player who acts as the evil overlord for the campaign, which consists of many quests - majority of which come in two parts, which ever side wins the first part usually sees some sort of advantage in the second.

These quests come in a very wide variety of areas given that the board can pulled apart and reassambled as needed and the figures used for the monsters and heroes are really cool! Most quests work on the basis of the heroes (or overlord) must accomplish x before the otherside does y. This keeps the pace of each encounter really fast and really gets the adrenaline pumping, pitting tactics and luck against each other. Often times the overlord has infinite monstrous reinforcements pouring into the board but so far in our campaign he has failed to win every quest in the first act, though often it has come down to a single dice roll that fell in the heroes favor.

Red colored minis are stronger than their white counterparts.

Now's a good time to mention how the campaign works too - apart from the introductory quest the heroes get to pick to do three out of five act 1 adventures before an interlude quest (two versions, depending who is winning I think). In act 2, you then run the continuation of each of the first 3 quests based on who won the previous one. That totals up to 15 optional quests (you will only play 6 of in a campaign), which then closes with an ending quest which again has two versions, depending who has had more wins. A scoresheet pad provided makes it easy to keep track of each session too when you need to pack up.

Lastly everyone levels up. While heroes can buy gear from the shops in-between quests they can also spend XP points to purchase more skill cards for their chosen hero, the most expensive for which are 3 XP. Given that you usually only gain 1 XP after a whole two-part optional quest, you can see that those would be hard earned. The evil overlord too gains experience. He spends his on getting better "evil power" cards that can really mess up the heroes via traps or giving his minions an edge. He can also win himself evil versions of the awesome magical gear the players can get, if they lose their missions.

All in all it makes for a pretty damned good game, with each quest part running around about 30-45 minutes (still a heck of a lot faster than a round of Arkham Horror). My only problems with it are that it can be hard to pack with the heavy minatures, and can really bring out the competitiveness of some people because in the end it IS a competitive game. To that end I give it 4 out of 5 torches in the dark.

Tuesday 7 January 2014

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

This is a beautiful game which tells the tale of two brothers on a quest to find a cure for their ill father. Since it can be played with two players on one keyboard I got my wife to play as the younger sibling and it proved to be a very enjoyable experience (I love co-op games). As an arcade type player she is just a novice (while I'd like to think of myself at a veteran skill level) but the game provided many learning and practice moments for her to get the hang of things while still advancing the narrative so that it never felt like you were just "practicing" and at the same time had the required skills for the more dangerous situations later on in the game.

While there is voice acting, none of the characters speak any particular language so don't expect to find a subtitle option but that just goes to show how strong the story telling is when the words are unnecessary. I guarantee you'll still understand what's going on as your own mind will fill in the blanks. In truth the only thing I can semi-fault it on is that it only lasted three hours for us to finish, but we were glued from the get go and finished it in one sitting. Despite that I give Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons five out of five giant thumbs up (my first perfect score I think) and highly recommend it to everyone that enjoys a good story with some arcadish puzzle solving.

Monday 6 January 2014

Today I Smiled: The Epic Splits

I'm probably late on this one, but for those who haven't yet seen the very impressive Volvo ad with Jean Claude Van Damme you should take a look. It's been so successful that there have been a variety of people copying him either dangerously or comically. One of the best comic ones is this one, and I hope it brings a smile to your face as it did to mine. :)

Sunday 5 January 2014

Top 10 Reasons Why I Stop Playing Games

I'm sure everyone has their own version of this list but just for kicks I figured I'd put mine up here to hopefully give game developers some possible extra insight on such matters.

#10: My Friends Dislike the game

Especially true in MMO's, if our guildmates don't give your game the thumbs up it makes it a bit less likely that I will play it over something they do enjoy. Almost impossible to cater for everyone's likes but this is the first "flood gate" that usually stops games from even being installed on my PC.

#9: I Dislike the game

Even if my friends aren't playing, I still may go ahead and play your game regardless if I like it enough after testing or researching it (Age of Conan is a good example) - and if I don't like it but they do then I may still put up with it. Obviously if no one likes it, it becomes a no brainer. Reasons I dislike games not only stem from actual game play mechanics but can also be things that don't sit well with me. Payday is a good example there where you can only be the "bad guys" (not even a dark shade of gray). For that reason alone I will never play it.

#8: We Can't Play Together

Another MMO slayer. If we can't play together then odds are high that your game is just going to be looked over or skipped after the initial test run. Region/IP barriers are quite frustrating for a guild with members all across the world. Even non MMO's suffer from this. Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombies is a good example. The gameplay is great but trying to get into a session that no one drops out of is like digging through a stone wall with a plastic fork. Worse still is that the person that drops out cannot rejoin a session like in L4D2. Good game, but if I am asked to recommend a co-op zombie shooter Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombies would NOT be on my list.

#7: It Isn't Free

This is probably a unique one for me. You see, I've sworn not to buy games for myself anymore. I still buy them for other people and receive them from my family and friends so that's all cool, however I don't think anyone would ever offer to pay for an ongoing subscription fee for me which is the main reason that World of Warcraft and other MMO's that require or really push for it simply get ignored like the leeches they are. Afterall, the best things in life are free - right?

#6: I've Won The Game

This is an odd one to be on this list because as you might expect that's when most people stop playing games. However a select few such as Diablo and Path of Exile simply just unlock harder modes to the same story that you've already played. Unlockable difficulties has always been a gripe of mine as it just shows for lazy development. Let people play the hardest mode at the get go and I'll have more respect for you. As it stands, after I win once that's it. The end. Unless you have new content (or are that frigging amazing) it's uninstall time for you.

#5: Slow to Patch

Updates to the game are good but there is a limit to what I will deem acceptable. Mabinogi is actually an example for me here because it is notorious for having massive updates which like to fail, and then require a reinstall to repair. Well, I -could- go through all that trouble or I could play a different game that won't give me any hassles to play. Guess which one always wins out? Also having BIG patches (looking at you Warframe) that interrupts my other online gaming really ticks me off, so if I can't finish downloading your patch in the time it takes for me to have a shower then I'll likely NEVER patch, and toss your game into the void.

#4: Frequent Patching

Almost a continuation of the above. Patches are good, but patching every day or even every week just tells me that your developers are shit, don't test, and require to keep pushing out "fixes" which only make more issues to compensate on your unfinished, unpolished, turd of a product.

#3: You Don't Let Me Play It

Guildwars 2 is a unique beast in this category. While I did like to voice my concerns about various parts of it, it was still a game that I would play regularly until I suddenly couldn't because they don't send me the validation email anymore. Checking on their forums the only staff reply to the issue I found was "The emails are going out, check with your email provider." Well, I -could- do that OR I could play a game that lets me play it with no hassles? Anything that causes me hassles just makes me give the middle finger to the screen and move on to something more productive and/or enjoyable. I'm here to play, not talk to tech support.

#2: Work vs Play

Playing games is meant to be enjoyable. The line between work (unfun, unrewarding, repetitive activities) and play exists for everyone and some people can simply take more "work" than others. As I get older I find that "work" line growing more and more over the "fun, rewarding" section because I have less time than I used to. Our last Ultima Online shard really killed it for my brother when it decided to increase the "work" side waaaay too much. The result? Not only did the game get uninstalled but the CD and box was thrown into the garbage.

#1: New Shinies

Christmas time and my birthday are the usual times this happens (given I don't buy myself anything), but wow do I get inundated with stuff when they do! As with all things I will go poke and play with the new shiny games for a bit until I either finish them, or find my older ones more appealing after the initial shine has faded off. Not really anything developers can do to combat this other than make their game the best it can be. :)

Saturday 4 January 2014

Darklands: King of the North

This is part of The Darklands story.

When Zubon and Augratin returned to Flensburg to report to the King of Denmark he merely laughed in their faces and had his guards throw them out to the street (specifically into a puddle). This, along with suddenly being accosted by random guards made the pair hold weight to the recently deceased Liore's fear that the King himself was allied with evil - or at the very least just wanted to be rid of them. Zubon openly wondered if the reason for this was that their unit, while killing rats in the castle, accidentally slew the king's pet mouse while Augratin suggested it may have been because of Rakuno's decoration suggestions.

With the tide they took passage on the next ship across the expansive river to Naskakov to lessen the ire of Denmark's monarch but even then, they were accosted by pirates most likely hired by the same king, who were only fought off with the help of the travelling hermit/bard "Vayshen Panda" and a mysterious nun who only introduced herself as "Sister C". Even there the soldiers of Denmark and the wiccan Wild Hunt chased them in the (small) lands across the waves. With no luck finding shelter they took another ship back to the mainland, jumping off near the shore to avoid unwanted attention. Sister C suggested they could try to outrun the long reach of the King's influence while Zubon voiced that they should try to put an end to the evil king in a near suicidal attempt on the city.

There must be some way to trick the King of the North...

Either way, their decision would have to wait for the light of day (since I'm taking a break from Darklands here) so they camp out in the woods and hole up for the night.

Friday 3 January 2014

Darklands: Seige of Castle Schauffelin

This is part of The Darklands story.

After telling her tale to the King, the Church and anyone else who would listen, Liore was tasked with simple clerical duties while authorities looked into the matter. Days passed but she heard no word about her allies left behind in the monastery. Her persistent questioning began to draw the ire of the castle officials often leading to her expulsion from the premises.

It struck her as odd then that one day the King of Denmark summoned her to accompany the soldiers "Zubon Ratkiller", "Rakuno Shardim" and "Augratin Nerdly" to hunt the robber knight Felix Schauffelin. He said her previous experiences made her ideal for this task, but something felt very off. She shared her doubts and her recent past to her new company, whom she learned were also all out of favor with the court for various reasons.

Still, Rakuno was a man of honor and led the party to their goal defeating a few of Felix's thugs on the way. At the robber knight's castle for the first time the party was denied entry, so Zubon suggested laying seige to starve him out. After setting up camp out of bow shot a large group of scum came out of the castle trying to break the defensive line. They mostly failed, but Rakuno was cut down in the skirmish.

Two groups of bandits then tried to resupply the castle and only once both were denied did Felix himself and his last man-at-arms come forth. Liore's fear of having been sent here to be "erased" proved true as the robber knight decapitated her before Augratin shoved her spear through his face.

Spear to the face would count as mortally wounded right?

Thursday 2 January 2014

Darklands: The Great Escape Part II

This is part of The Darklands story.

At the courtyard Liore and Syncaine decide to separate, as it would increase their chances of someone surviving to get help. The pursuing templars follow suit, half their number going after each fugitive. Liore spots a staircase to the South West while Syncaine rushes North East to a red door which he crashes through, finding another staircase up beyond it.

Both scramble up their respective flights of stairs and strangely are not pursued by the templars. Syncaine finds himself in a tight stone corridor, finding two doors at the end - one wrought from red metal and the other made of wood. The red one is locked, and he can't bust it open this time so he moves over to the other door. It's his only option as going back downstairs means meeting the templars again. He opens it and finds a room full of demons waiting for him!

If only he had a gatling gun!

With a wry grin he readies his mace and holds his ground as they come swooping towards him - he knows he has no chance of outrunning the things anyway. With a thunderous roar Syncaine engages in battle for the last time. Meanwhile in the graveyard outside, a secret passage opens and Liore finds herself outside the monastery once more. Panting, she flees back to Flensburg to seek aid from the King of Denmark.

Wednesday 1 January 2014

Darklands: The Great Escape

This is part of The Darklands story.

Imprisoned in the dungeon beneath the Monastery the templars take most of the team's equipment (though somehow Syncaine managed to conceal a mace and everyone still has knives). The lead templar implies that they will be used as food for the next feast and cackles manically as he leaves them in their cell. Fortunately someone is on their side, unlocking the door after a few hours and whispering hurriedly for them to escape before vanishing into thin air.

The four cautiously explore the crypts that double as the templar dungeon, finding a chatty skeleton who Liore returns a bone to. The skeleton informs them that at the top of the monastery is a great demon preparing a powerful ritual. It uses a lot of fire attacks but is quite susceptible to the rather humble flea dust alchemical potion (it makes people itchy. Seriously). Not that it matters as no one was carrying that and also their gear is stored in a trapped / locked chest that none of them can unlock.

With escape being the top priority they find some stairs and climb up, only to run into a bunch of templar guards! River is killed almost instantly while Doone heroically sacrifices himself so that Liore and Syncaine can exit to the courtyard. Armed only with a small knife against six guys in full plate armor and two handed swords he doesn't last long, but the few seconds he buys them are invaluable before eventually he is overrun and knocked out.

Queue Yakety Sax music.