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Divinity: Original Sin

divinity-original-sin

Divinity: Original Sin is a fantastic RPG experience that rises above the sea of mediocrity that the genre has become. I just thought I’d get that out of the way.

Premise

In D: OS you play as a source hunter; two, actually, but I’ll get to that later. Source Hunters are tasked with hunting down Sorcerers and other foul magical things, but for your mission you are sent to the town of Cyseal in order to investigate a murder. A councilman has been killed and the scene of the crime was hinky enough for the local wizard to request the aid of Source Hunters. However things aren’t quite as simple as they seem and soon you find yourself wrapped up in something much larger than you realize. Sound fun? Read on for our full review.  [Read more...]

Divinity: Original Sin Review In Progress

Keen and I were fortunate enough to get review codes for Divinity: Original Sin and have spent the past week playing the game’s drop-in/drop-out co-op. You don’t often see a lot of RPGs these days that are memorable or even that good, especially when everything is being dumbed-down and streamlined, so it is very surprising and exciting when gems like D: OS pop up. We’re still working through the game so we aren’t going to do a full review just yet, but we decided to share some of the very awesome aspects about Divinity: Original Sin in the mean time.

We found a bucket, a hammer, and a pot and made helmets.

We found a bucket, a hammer, and a pot and made helmets.

Exciting and Fun Cooperative Gameplay

Divinity: Original Sin can be played fully cooperative either over LAN or Online. You are already given two characters to play with so when somebody joins they take over the other character. Another interesting idea that they use is cooperative conversations. Every now and then you will get to interact between your characters and each person can take a different stance on something. If you can’t resolve it one way or another then each character will use their persuasion skill in a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors to see who wins out. Either way each character will gain points in different personality categories that will give bonuses to different abilities.

Turn-Based Combat

I absolutely LOVE turn-based combat and that is exactly what you get with Divinity: OS. As soon as you are detected by an enemy or take a hostile action then everything switches from real-time to turn-based. What’s actually really interesting is that if other party members are off doing other things then they will remain in real-time while the combat goes on. Once they get close enough they join in on the combat.

Spell Interactions

I love it when spells interact with each other and D: OS is full of that stuff. Many spells are able to create different surface effects like oil, water, fire, and poison. Other spells can then interact with those surfaces and make interesting things happen like lighting oil on fire, freezing water, putting out fires, or igniting poison. Not only that but many of the spells in the game also create cloud effects like smoke, steam, and poison gas. Some clouds can be electrified and others blown up or used to disrupt line of sight.

Fascinating Crafting

I haven’t even delved very far into the depths of the game’s crafting system but I find it fascinating. There are tons of different resources and ingredients you can find scattered about and you are able to combine them together in interesting ways. For instance, you can find branches and use a knife to carve them into arrow shafts and then attach them to arrowheads. Or combine two branches together to make a staff. Or you can take a wooden doll, combine it with a needle and then some pixie dust to make a voodoo doll that can damage a target. Sometimes you will find different recipes by reading books but it’s also a lot of fun just trying to combine different objects together. Near the very beginning of the game I was messing around and used a hammer weapon on a tomato, which made tomato sauce. Then I used flour and water to make dough and then added in the tomato sauce to make pizza dough, which when cooked at a fire source makes the pizza. It’s just cool stuff like that that you happen upon that makes the crafting so fascinating.

To Be Continued…

Keep an eye out for our full review of Divinity: Original Sin. Hopefully we will be able to get it up before the end of this week at the latest.

Shovel Knight

Shovel Knight is probably among the best purchases I’ve made this year and is easily one of the more memorable experiences. It’s pretty sad when a $15 download title is just so much better and so much more enjoyable compared to a lot of hyped “triple-A” titles that have come out this year. I’ve actually spent more time playing Shovel Knight and other stuff like Papers, Please than I ever put into games like Watch Dogs. That’s mainly because Watch Dogs just wasn’t very good, but it also seems to be a growing trend with all of these big budget games turning out to be boring and uninspired while the smaller, and often independent, games shine so much brighter. I suppose it’s something that has been going on for a while now, but I never really took a whole lot of notice until recently. Anyway, enough about all of that and onto Shovel Knight!

shovel-knight-levelThe whole concept of Shovel Knight is ridiculous and awesome or perhaps just ridiculously awesome. I mean, a knight that goes around fighting people with a shovel is just hilarious in its own right but the idea opens up some interesting gameplay ideas. Personally I would have loved to see some more elements that involved digging and some interesting secrets and puzzles to go along with it but at its core Shovel Knight is an action platformer first and foremost. I want to compare it to something like Mega Man but I don’t actually have a lot of Mega Man experience. Shovel Knight might actually be closer to, a lot closer actually, Duck Tales–even down to Shovel Knight’s ability to bounce continuously on enemies and certain objects with his shovel. There’s a lot more to it than that, however. In addition to bouncing and swinging your shovel you can also collect and buy various relics and upgrades throughout the game. There’s a wide variety of optional sub-weapons that you can acquire that not only help in defeating baddies but also provide some additional help in the platforming department by granting you the  ability to walk and travel over spikes or flight a short distance.

The overworl layout of Shovel Knight looks somewhat similar to Mario Bros. 3. All of the levels are connected by paths and in order to progress you need to defeat bosses to unlock the way through. There are also a few optional side areas where you can gather some extra treasure and even some wandering bosses. A few towns are also available and you can talk to NPCs and buy upgrades there. Each of the actual levels are themed to a specific boss like Mole Knight, Plague Knight, Propeller Knight, etc. This is what reminds me a little bit of Mega Man, especially since you get the option of a few levels at once and can tackle them in any order. Sometimes this can even prove to be helpful if there is a handy relic in another level that might make things easier for you later on.  The game is actually pretty difficult and you will die at least a few times be it from enemies or platforming. At the end I had 85 or so deaths so maybe I just suck. When you die you lose a portion of your acquired treasure and go back to the nearest checkpoint you reached, which can sometimes be pretty far away. Some of the treasure you lost will remain at the spot of your death in the form of floating bags and if you are able you can regain some of it. The higher treasure amount you have, which is what you use to purchase stuff and acts as somewhat of a score, the more you lose.

shovel-knight-bossMy first run at Shovel Knight lasted around 8 or so hours and that was only at about 97% item completion. A new game + option exists which lets you carry over all your stuff into a harder version of the game and right now I’m working through that. A form of achievements also exist called Feats. Some of them are fairly easy while others are just straight up crazy. I mean, complete the game without dying? Don’t fall into a single pit? That’s just crazy but that’s another cool aspect about this and games like it. You can really make it as hard for yourself as you want by trying to beat the game without getting any relics, by destroying the checkpoints for money, trying to beat it in under 90 minutes, etc. All of which also have an attached feat.

Shovel Knight is a fantastic game and one that I wish could just keep going on and on without end. If you have a Wii U, 3Ds, or PC then you really need to check it out. The visuals are incredibly charming and the sprites are just awesome. The music is catchy and there is actually a lot of good variety to it. Plus the game is just loads and loads of fun. Support Shovel Knight and maybe we will get a sequel if we are lucky.

Caverna: The Passive-Agressive Cave Farmers

A wild board game post appeared!

cavernaWe finally got around to playing Caverna the other day. I’m still not entirely sure who won though since we never tallied up the points at the end.  I know people joke about (or maybe not) how you shouldn’t play some games because they ruin friendships but I never expected a game about farming and digging to be one of them. I’m of course being a bit over dramatic here since at most things escalated into passive-aggressiveness but you get the idea. Plus all of this went down between two “grown” men while their mother sat next to them wondering where she went wrong. Sorry mom.

Anyway, the basic idea behind Caverna: The Cave Farmers is that you are in charge of a family of dwarves that mine and dig and sometimes go on expeditions. It’s made by the same guy who did Agricola and from what I hear it’s essentially Agricola 2.0 or whatever. I can’t really comment since I never played that game. The game gives you a lot of freedom when it comes to playing so if you are really interested in farming and raising animals you can do that or if you want to try clearing out your mountain and mining you can also go for that. Basically the idea is to have the most points by the end of the game.

Each player takes a turn placing their dwarf pawns on specific action squares. Some let you clear our the forest and lay down meadow/soil tiles, dig tunnels/caverns, collect resources, or forge weapons. There are a lot of options and usually the best ones will get snatched up first. At the end of some rounds there is a harvest event which usually means collecting any planted crops, breeding animals, and feeding all of your dwarves so you don’t have to take a begging token. Each turn a new card is revealed with a new type of action you can take. Like right away you can’t forge a weapon but the action will show up sometime in the first (I think) phase of the game. After 12 rounds of this the game ends and points are awarded for things like animals, crops, additional dwarves, specific furnishing and buildings, and bonus points.

I didn’t do a great job of explaining the rules, which to be fair were a little daunting at first. I spent what felt like hours just punching out tiles, sorting everything, and reading up on things. Things started to heat up a little when Keen got annoyed by the first player mechanic. To further explain things, the first player always gets to play his pawn first so he gets to pick the best actions to take. In order to become the first player you have to place on pawn on the square that lets you become first player for next round. Keen thought that this would make us just trade places in the turn order and got fairly annoyed when I tried to explain that it always goes from first player to the left, which essentially meant that he went from being 1st to last. Then I started to hulk out because it felt like everybody was treating me like a crazy person when they couldn’t understand that by merely swapping places in the turn order you essentially screw over every other player but whatever. For the rest of the game it was pretty snippy and there was some passive-aggressiveness over who took rubies and whatnot. After the final round we decided to not try tallying up the points since I didn’t seem to explain the rules well enough.

I still had a blast playing Caverna, which I should probably make clear in spite of anything that might have happened. As for Keen’s thoughts on the game, well, you will have to ask him but I think he still liked it. My mom REALLY enjoyed herself, though! She loves playing those tablet games where you farm and make villages (bleh…) and it seemed to translate into her liking Caverna a lot. Hopefully I can scrounge up enough people to play again.

Future Board Games

The next games on my radar are: Marvel Legendary: Villains, The Witcher Adventure Game, and DungeonQuest Revised Edtion.

None of those are out yet but I’m looking forward to all of them. We had fun with the original Legendary game and the new villain versions looks to be a lot of fun. The Witcher looks pretty great as well and I’ve been interested in playing some form of DungeonQuest ever since I got into the hobby. So what have you guys been playing?

Lego Minifigures Online

I was browsing around gaming news sites when I noticed that “Lego Minifigures Online has entered open beta.” I think I vaguely remember hearing something about the game a while back so I decided to try it out. Surprisingly enough I saw Funcom’s name attached to it. Anyway, I love Legos and video games and even Lego video games so this should be great, right? Here are my thoughts after playing for around three hours.

Lego1The Basics

Lego Minifigurs Online is pretty much Diablo: Jr. Edition. You run around from a birds-eye perspective and whack monsters and break stuff. The game doesn’t seem to be terribly demanding spec-wise so I was able to run everything on Ultra with ease. It may not have looked quite as good as some of the other Lego Games out there but it still had its own charm. There are also several different genres of Lego represented in the game from stuff like sci fi, fantasy, and even real world.

The gameplay is fairly simple. You run around on a somewhat linear map fighting monsters. Along the way you will come across quests that will automatically activate for you and they usually boil down to stuff like “Break a bunch of this” or “Collect a bunch of that” and so on. When first starting out you get to choose between three sets of minifigures that make your party. I went with the one that had a cyclops, plumber, and some fantasy lady with a bow. Each character represented a different category: Striker, Builder, Defender. Strikers do more damage, builders build faster, and Defenders are beefier I guess. Each Minifig has a different basic attack along with a special attack. My cyclops smashes with his club and shoots an eye laser, the plumber throws plungers that I think slow and also has an AoE pop-up attack, and the defender lady shoots three arrows at once and also has a rope shot that AoE roots guys. You play one character at a time and can switch between them by pressing their respective number slot of 1,2 or 3. Each character has their own life bar so if one isn’t doing to hot you can swap them out. As you gain exp you can level up your minifigs with some of the stars you collect and give them various bonuses.

There’s also another interesting element to customize your stats. A Brick Menu can be accessed and it shows you a gray lego figure. Using various colors of legos (red for striking, Blue for Defending, Yellow for creativity) you can add to the bonuses of your character. At least I think that’s how it works since they didn’t really explain it at all. You eventually unlock larger pieces and the pieces you already have level up to become more effective. It’s interesting trying to fit them in different ways to maximize the kinds of bonuses you get.

lego3Things Quickly Head South From Here

Lego Minifigures Online may not be a very deep or thrilling experience but there is something there that makes you want to keep playing. Unfortunately, for me at least, I won’t be doing so due to a large number of factors. I’ll detail them below.

Pocket Adventures & Epic Dungeons – As you travel through you game you come across several little side areas which lead off to things called “Pocket Adventures.” However the only way to gain access to said adventures is through the game’s first paywall. Only subscribers get to enter into the Pocket Adventures. As I played through I must have passed five or six of these and each time it felt like a small flick to my eyeball. Then I came across my first “Epic Dungeon” which also requires a subscription. That’s just not cool. I don’t mind paying subs for games but I find it really annoying when a F2P game has not only subs but a huge number of nickel-and-diming shop items, but I’ll get to that next.

NotCoolMicrotransactions & Diamonds – The business model for LMO is pretty heinous. In the game there are two types of currency: Stars and Diamonds. You can find stars and they are the basic currency that is used to buy upgrades and such. Diamonds can also be found but their drop rate seems to be astronomically low. You can get a decent amount from completing story quests but I have a feeling that the well will run dry sooner rather than later. Diamonds are what you use to purchase everything in the store. You cannot buy a minifig of your choice and must instead buy a pouch for 750 diamonds and it will give you one figure at random. It’s actually fairly interesting to note that you can only buy the lowest amount of diamonds in chunks of around 1250 for $4.99. I find that interesting because it’s not quite enough to cover the price of two minifigs so you will be left with extra diamonds. It’s the same kind of BS that Microsoft did back when they dealt in Microsoft Points.

You can also use your diamonds for other stuff though. Lets say you want to upgrade your character once he levels up. You could spend your stars, and you will, but you will barely have enough to cover one character. So you will either have to be happy grinding away trying to collect stars OR you could take the easy way out and throw a few dozen diamonds at them. Need some health potions? That’s some more diamonds. Heck, you can even buy a months subscription for something like 2000 diamonds. The amount of time it would take to farm that many would not even be worth the effort. You are better off just subscribing to the game for $8 a month.

lego4Smashed Characters – From what I’ve experienced it is not very easy to die in Lego Minifigs Online. I’ve come close but never actually had it happen. I was curious though so I decided to let all three of my characters get wiped out and this is when the ugliest aspect of the game showed up. Each time one of your characters dies he becomes “Smashed” and is not playable for a certain period of time. For me it was 20 minutes, but I would not be surprised if the time goes up as you get farther in the game. So you are basically put in time-out if you wipe out all of your minifigs. But wait, what’s this? Oh, of course! Diamonds! You can pay diamonds to unsmash your minifigs! That’s when I exited the game and uninstalled it.

Oh what could have been…

I’d love to imagine that somewhere out there in an alternate reality Lego Minifures Online was a great game. Not only accessible for all ages while still having depth, but featuring a fair balance in its free-to-play model. Too bad we don’t live in that universe. Instead LMO is a shallow F2P game that locks content behind paywalls and features ridiculous microtransactions. I just don’t get it, honestly. I don’t think it’s impossible to make a fair and balanced F2P game. I just wrote about Marvel Heroes and how great I think they are doing. Maybe it’s not fair to judge the game when it’s still in Beta. Things COULD get better, right? It’s possible, sure, but anybody who is considering sinking any real money into this “beta” should really think it through and possibly wait.

I just can’t shake this bothersome feeling I get when I think about the microtransactions in this game. Two types of currency, paywalls, pay-to-skip options… This seems a lot like the ugly model that a lot of cell phone and tablet games use. But it couldn’t… Could it? *GOOGLES*

“Platform(s) PC, Android, iOS”