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Too many Games, too little time

Sorry for the slow few days around here.  We’ve actually been *gasp* playing games.

The Elder Scrolls Online

ESO launched two days ago, and I’m actually having more fun than I thought I would.  No that’s not an April Fool’s day psych-out.  I think it’s partially how we’re going about things.  Three days in we are still only level 8.  We are going really, really slow.  I long for the days when I could play 10 hours at a time — those are my weekends — but playing slow has helped avoid the burnout.  ESO is quest-heavy leveling.  The quests themselves are 85% boring and “go here do this” lead you by the nose stuff, but you don’t get lead one quest to the next — that’s part is less linear.  If I can actually get to 10, we’ll be able to PvP!  Stay tuned.

Live Streaming

We are making a serious push to stream more of the games we play and even upload to Youtube.  I got Graev a microphone, the new Playstation Gold headset, and a Live Gamer Portable.  He better stream or I’ll kick his butt.

Look for his streams every morning between 9am-12pm pacific time.  He’ll most likely be streaming a lot of Xbox One Plants Vs. Zombies Garden Warfare.  Then look for me to stream in the evenings.  Probably a lot of ESO and EQ Next Landmark.  You can find our stream on Twitch.tv or on our stream page here on the blog.  Be sure to follow us to know when we go live!

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls

Graev and I picked up RoS and started completely new characters.  We’re now on Act 5 and just (minor spoilers) beat Adra.  So far so good.  I think Diablo 3 has been patched for the better over the past year, especially in loot patch 2.0. The legendary loot drops are pretty sweet now that they have been tuned to give you pretty much a guaranteed drop every 2-3 hours.  Each boss you kill for the first time is also a guaranteed drop.  We’ll write up more formal thoughts once we finish the campaign and run some of the new Rift and Bounties.

It’s still, hard as it tries, not Diablo 2 .  Really fun though, and much improved.  Now that I think about it… D3 is probably awesome on consoles.  More on that in the D3 post to come.

So many games…

Aside from Diablo 3 and Elder Scrolls, I’m also enjoying the heck out of Landmark.  I claimed an awesome bit of open land where I’m going to build a a Harvest Moon style farm (pictures coming soon!).  It’s an awesome piece of property overlooking a lake and the ocean on a flat hilltop.  Man I love Landmark.  I’m also wanting to jump in and play more Albion Online, some original EverQuest, and Assassin’s Creed Black Flag.  Sheesh, there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare – The BEST shooter I’ve played in years

Plants-vs-zombies-garden-warfare

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare came out near the end of February with pretty much no hype or fanfare. I’m not entirely sure if it was really marketed at all. It was actually several weeks later that I noticed it had indeed come out, initially on Xbox One and 360 only, and that’s when I started paying attention. After watching several videos and streams I just knew it was something I would enjoy, and I was totally right.

The Basics

pvz-engineerThe game is a third-person shooter with the Plants vs. Zombies theme. Garden Warfare is essentially multiplayer only but you could play split-screen offline if you really wanted to. There are several modes including a horde-style defense mode where four plants defend their garden from waves of AI zombies, your regular TDM mode where you have to get 50 kills, Gardens & Graveyards where zombies are trying to push through 6-7 gardens to complete their objective while the Plants defend, and a newly added Gnome Bomb mode where each side has pickup the gnome and use it to blow up three objectives. Gardens & Graveyards is easily my favorite but I do enjoy all of the versus modes. The horde-style defense mode, the name of which escapes me right now, is one that I haven’t quite put a lot of time into. Mainly because it’s the kind of thing that requires good communication and a certain level of competency that I have yet to find. [Read more...]

inFamous Second Son

infamous-second-son

I just beat inFamous Second Son the other day and overall I enjoyed the experience even if there were some annoyances along the way. For those unfamiliar with the series, you play as a person with special powers in an open city environment. Along the way you make clear-cut moral decisions that give you either good or evil karma which determines how the story plays out and what kind of powers you can utilize.

Presentation

The game looks very good but not quite as good as some of the early footage we’ve seen. I don’t know what the framerate is exactly but it definitely didn’t feel stable. It really only seems to hit the low side during really large battles with a lot going on, especially if you activate your “kill everything on the screen” ability. Other than that I mostly experienced fluctuations on the higher end because I kept noticing sudden bursts of disorienting smoothness. That sounds stupid when I read it back but I don’t know how else to describe it. Personally I find that kind of thing jarring and really prefer a stable framerate.

The story takes place some time after the events of the first two games but doesn’t follow any of those characters. You play as a beanie-wearing and vest enthusiast who also likes to graffiti on the side. Along with having one of the most punchable faces I’ve seen he also sports a curiously stupid name: Delsin. It sounds like a dandruff shampoo and cold-medicine mash-up. I pretty much maintained that sentiment for a while before the game even came out. I later found out it is apparently a Native American name, which the character is, so cue white guilt and all that. At least until the character basically admits in a side conversation that his name is stupid and his mom got it from an old western movie. Now I don’t feel so bad. [Read more...]

Project Spark

We just discovered an awesome little game/tool called Project Spark.  I remember back at E3 they showed off this new tool that would allow players to create their own games, build their own worlds, and (hyperbole) revolutionize the way games are played.  Well, it’s now available for people to try on Xbox One and Windows 8.

I was skeptical, but after playing around for a few hours I am totally loving what this thing can do.  I’ll try and explain a very broad overview of Project Spark, but you really need to watch the video I made to truly understand.  It’s a long one, so use the times below to jump to different parts that may interest you:

  • Creative mode (01:30-12:25)
  • Someone made the Original Fable RPG (12:31)
  • Pinball (17:47)

Project Spark Create ModeCreate Mode

The possibilities in Create Mode aren’t endless, but they are closer than anything else I’ve experienced.  Creating any kind of game from a platformer to a fully realized RPG is as simple as hand-crafting the terran, adding props, and “scripting” (Koding, as Project Spark likes to call it) the gameplay.  Utilize Kode is simple because everything is built with intuitive ‘when’ and ‘do’ statements.  When X occurs, do Y.  The interface offers visual cues to follow, and if you have any experience playing games you will know what to look for when trying to make the game play how you would expect.

Add, subtract, expand, erode, smooth, blockify — it’s all there.  After playing EverQuest Landmark for so long, I felt like Project Spark was almost too easy.  Not that Landmark makes things difficult, but Project Spark’s terrain tools are so natural feeling that I really sort of with Landmark could be this easy.  Project Spark’s limitations are really only in what props can be placed.

Project Spark Zombie GamePlay Mode

Play everything from a fully realized RPG, 3D platformers like Mario 64, or side-scrollers like Donkey Kong.  All of these can be made in the create mode then be shared and played.  I get a huge Warcraft 3 custom game vibe from Play Mode.  Looking at all the Tower Defense, Defend the point, and mini-RPGs out there it’s like the perfect ‘game’ to play when you are itching for that custom map experience.

Marketplace

Project Spark is free to play, so the developers are making their money via a marketplace.  You can buy tokens or earn credits.  Both will let you buy assets to use in-game when building.  You can buy individual props (everything from barrels to characters like a Knight) or new textures.  You can buy entire packages to make castles, new spell effects, new abilities, sounds, etc.  If you are serious about making games and love to get feedback from people who vote on them, etc., then you will love Project Spark’s marketplace.  I’m unsure as to whether or not there will be monetization for people to be able to sell their creations or not.

Check out the video above for a more in-depth look at Project Spark.

Yoshi’s NEW Island

Yoshi’s latest game is out, and it seems to be getting a lot of mixed reviews. I don’t think Yoshi’s New Island is nearly as bad as some people think it is, but maybe I’m in the minority. To me it plays almost exactly like the previous games with only a few bumps along the way.

yoshis-new-island-floating-marioThe Old

The game is very much similar to the original SNES title. The levels and bosses may be a bit different but the story seems to be essentially the same. You play as Yoshi carrying around baby Mario on his back. When you get hit Mario starts to float away in a bubble and scream like banshee until you either get him back or the timer runs out and he gets swooped away by baddies. Yoshi can swallow most enemies and turn them into eggs which he can then throw at baddies or other triggers within the level. Yoshi retains all of his other classic moves such as his ground pound and flutter jump. In each level there is something like 20 red coins hidden around as well as five flowers. Plus completing a level with a full 30 stars, or whatever the timer points are called, contributes to the overall percentage of completing a level. 100%-ing all levels in a specific world unlocks a bonus level. So yeah, pretty much exactly like the original game.

The New

yoshis-new-islandThe visual style seems to be pretty divisive. The original game used a kind of crayon-drawn aesthetic but the new one is some kind of chunky clay pastel thing. It’s hard to explain, really. The game does seem to look pretty bad in screenshots but when you are actually playing (and in 3D) it does look a lot better.

You get some new egg types this time around. In some levels you will get to use a rather gigantic egg which you need to use to break down pipes either directly or by banking them off walls. There’s also a larger, but not quite as large, heavy egg which you can roll out ahead of you like a large boulder or to weigh you down in water.

Yoshi transformations are back and I think some of them are new. There’s stuff like a helicopter, submarine, jackhammer, and I think there is a hot air balloon as well. You wont encounter these in every level but when you do you must use the gyro controls to steer the transformed Yoshi around.

Final Thoughts

I do really enjoy the game despite the flaws it may have. The music isn’t great, which is a real bummer, and the transformation sections are pretty “meh.” The levels themselves aren’t overly challenging but the difficulty is definitely a lot higher if you are trying to 100% the level. Making it through with 30 star points and also finding all of the coins and flowers can be pretty tricky, especially on most of the bonus levels. Yoshi’s NEW Island is basically Yoshi’s Island, but not quite as good. Still fun, but probably not destined to be a classic like the SNES game. However, if you liked Yoshi’s Island DS then you will probably enjoy this.