Age of Empires Castle Siege on Windows and iOS

Age of Empires Castle Siege Review

Microsoft Studios continues their experimentation in different business models and applications with Age of Empires Castle Siege, the latest entry into the AoE franchise.

This time around, Age of Empires has been adapted to fit what I have coined the ‘time waster’ model. Essentially it’s a full game, but actions are gated behind time sinks. Building a barracks will take just a few minutes, but upgrading that barracks to be able to build your next units may take 10 hours. Gathering resources plays a huge part in time waster games, and that mechanic is ever-present in Castle Siege. Have you played games like Clash of Clans, Star Wars Commander or similar games? If yes then you already know how to play Age of Empire Castle Siege.

Your Kingdom Can’t Run on an Empty Stomach

ResourcesGameplay is centered around building up your kingdom whether it be Briton, Teutonic Knight, or any of the other popular civilizations. To do so, you need three things: Apples, Wood, and Stone. Acquiring these three resources is done with buildings that generate the resource over time then storing them in another building. Each of these buildings (generators and storage) can be upgraded to generate faster and store more.  It’s simple and easy to manage in Castle Siege. [Read more…]

Agar.io for iOS

Agar.io for iOS

Have you ever played the incredibly addictive Agar.io? I thought it was just a browser game until I logged into the app store yesterday and saw that it was the #1 free game.

Agar.io AppAgar.io is simple. You move your little cell/dot/bubble/thing around what looks like a piece of graph paper and absorb little baubles and other players who are smaller than you. It reminds me of those games I used to play where I was a fish and I could grow by eating smaller fish until I was eventually the biggest fish in the sea.

In Agar.io the goal is much the game: Grow. Eventually you’ll grow so large that you can barely move and you just sit there as a fat mass absorbing anything that makes the mistake of coming too close to you. What I like about Agar.io (and hate… or love to hate) are the splitting mechanics. You can eject part of your mass in the direction you are moving thus catching others who are running or out of your reach. Moving too slow? Eject your mass onto someone else and assimilate them into your blob or simply split into multiple pieces to move faster.

Something to watch out for are the jaggedy green circles. Run into one of those when you are too big and you’ll split yourself into a ton of little pieces and be swept up by someone like me who like to lurk around them waiting for prey.

A really fun/funny feature to play with is the nickname system. There are dozens of names you can use that will make your blob/dot/thing take on an image. Most major countries are represented along with memes (Doge), major sites (Reddit), and even EA. I chuckled when I saw the irony that was a massive EA blob floating around absorbing everything in its path.

Agar.io on iOS is 100% online. You play with others. It’s actually such a simple and ‘pure’ gameplay experience that it lends itself beautifully to touch controls and mobile implementation. It runs phenomenally. I pretty sure there isn’t even sound. My only two complaints are that you can get some annoying ads between rounds (when you die and have to restart), and sometimes there are little lag hiccups which will cause you to fly right into EA a waiting juggernaut.

Download it and give it a try. It’s free, fun, and addicting (at least for a while).

Assassin’s Creed Unity Review

Assassin's Creed Unity

My original plan was to forgo an Assassin’s Creed Unity review, but after finally completing the game I feel like I need to write up some of my thoughts.

My wife was a major contributing factor to my enjoyment of Assassins’ Creed Unity because, for the first time ever, she sat next to me for every single minute of gampeplay. Although she’ll play the modest card and deny it, she’s fluent in French and an encyclopedia of French history. Throughout my play-through I would turn to her with guidance with what the heck is going on in this thing called the French Revolution. Having been to France and loving the city of Paris, she was a great tour guide helping me figure out puzzles and helping me to understand the nonsensical mumblings of the French language.

Story

Assassin’s Creed is one of my favorite gaming franchises because I love how Ubisoft plays with the facts of history to twist our world into one big shadow game of Templars vs. Assassins. Unity does not disappoint in terms of history — especially if you’re into the French history like my wife — but doesn’t keep up with previous AC titles’ ability to create a story bigger than life.

Almost all (like 99%) of the “real life” story has been cut out of the game, leaving the player in control of Arno Dorian. The actual story of Arno is rather dull. He’s the son of an assassin who is killed within the first minutes of the game leaving him to be adopted by a prominent Templar family. Revenge drives Arno’s decisions through life as does his love for the daughter of the man who adopted him.

The player is (ready for this?) only known as “the player” of Helix, a game by Abstergo (Templars in modern day) once again using genetic memories for entertainment and their nefarious purposes. (Obtaining artifacts and pieces of Eden, etc.) Your gameplay feed is hijacked by Assassin’s and you’re asked to join the order as an initiate. It’s actually weaker and even less cool than I’ve made it sound here.

One of the more intriguing sides of the story in Unity is how the Templars and Assassins were trying to broker piece, and how such an act caused rifts within both organizations. How that plays out drives a great deal of story. [Read more…]

Splatoon

Splatoon Review

 

Alright Inklings, it’s time for our Splatoon Review! Splatoon is Nintendo’s first true foray into an online multiplayer experience on their consoles, and definitely their first attempt at creating an online shooter. How’d they do?

Splatoon is set in a brand new world where everyone is a kid… or a squid… let’s just call them Inklings. Inklings have gathered in Inkopolis Plaza which acts as a staging area for shopping for gear, venturing forth into single-player missions or challenges, jumping into ranked or unranked battles, and interacting with other players’ Inklings via the Miiverse.

Maps and Overall Feel
Splatoon is an incredibly fast pace third person shooter. Each round/map is only three minutes long, and players have one goal: Cover as much of the map in ink as possible. The team with the most ground (note: ground only) covered in their color ink will win. While an incredibly simple approach, and favorable for the younger audience, there’s depth and strategy at play here that only some of the more advanced or skilled players will employ.

You can still “kill” or splatter your opponents by shooting them inking them up bad enough. When you die you spawn back at your starting point which takes anywhere between 10 and 15 seconds to happen. This is valuable time lost if you consider that any ink you lay down can be painted over by the enemy. The map turns into a constant tug-o-war. The key is to own the center of the map and not let the enemy sneak behind your lines. If you lose control of the map you are likely to lose. [Read more…]

Hearthstone for the iPhone

hearthstone-iphone

Hearthstone released for the iPhone just a couple of days ago, and I’ve already clocked 5+ hours…. all of which may or may not have been during the work day. I’ll be the first to admit that I am not great at Hearthstone. It’s not the deepest or most difficult to understand or even master card game out there, and like all card games you are only as good as the cards in your deck. Since I haven’t been into the idea of playing a lot of Hearthstone on my PC, as I’d rather play on the go, I’ve held off playing and thus haven’t earned cards. So take this review for what it’s worth — not that of a Hearthstone master, but rather an iPhone 6 Plus gaming enthusiast and still a fan of the game.

Hearthstone on my iPhone 6 Plus runs well enough. I have moment of slow-down, and loading times aren’t fantastic. These feel like something that I bet will be patched within a couple of weeks. This delay and often finicky nature of the touch controls has lead to more than one mistaken selection or card placement resulting in my utter defeat. The image above is actually of a match I was playing today. I mistakenly healed myself because the touch control let go when I was dragging it to my minion.

Blizzard’s implemented of the game on the iPhone does, overall, work. A few extra steps like having to click on my hand to bring it up, and touching to hold cards to see what they do adds to the time it takes me to execute my turn, but over time as I learn cards these will be less of an issue. The extra steps are a little annoying, but at the same time I’m willing to put up with them having Hearthstone in my pocket where I go.

What I love most about this whole thing is how integrated the Battle.net experience is, and the fact that I am playing on my phone with people on their computers, tablets, or phones. I have full access to my friends list and can chat, see what everyone is up to, and whatever I do on my iPhone is completely linked to my exact same Hearthstone account anywhere else. Wonderful integration that has, thus far, worked flawlessly.

Yeah, Hearthstone isn’t perfect. As a card game you can rip it apart. It’s pay-to-win, governed by incredible meta game, luck., etc… but it’s hard to beat free, and it’s hard to beat having it on my iPhone. The pay-to-win aspects are no different than the hundreds I’ve spent on MTG cards. I’m just trying to convince myself that a digital version is essentially the same thing when my brain is telling me it’s not. Bottom line, I have to spend money on cards for Hearthstone to realize its full potential.