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Divinity: Original Sin

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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?

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare (PC)

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Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare FINALLY released on PC this Tuesday.  I say finally because the console version Graev reviewed released months ago. Graev called the console version quote, “The BEST shooter I’ve played in years.” Now that I finally have a lot of experience playing on my platform of choice, I have to admit I completely agree with him.

PVZ:GW takes balance and mixes it with gratuitous and accessible fun. On the surface, PVZ:GW may look immature, but there’s remarkable depth to the strategies you can deploy when playing modes like Gardens & Graveyards where the plants have to defend their garden while the zombies try and invade.

I personally love the meta game of collecting the in-game coins in order to buy card packs. Card packs unlock new abilities, cosmetic accessories your characters can wear, and even new variants of the plants and zombies that can radically change how each plays.  The longer a match goes, the more coins you get.  Winning gives a decent bonus, but it’s more about simply playing the game to increase the volume of coins you earn.

How does the PC version compare?

I played the console version briefly (maybe 2 hours) and I have to say they didn’t just port the game.  If I didn’t know it existed on consoles I’d have no idea it launched on PC second. Match making is perfect, server performance is flawless (literally not a single issue in hours and hours of play), and I run the game on ultra and it looks phenomenal without a single hitch. I think it even uses Frostbite 3 engine and puts the way Battlefield looks to shame. Controls are flawless.

I have a few gripes.

  • Origin needs to add the ability to queue for matches with friends.  Right now we have to have Graev or I join a match and the other has to join off the friends list. Usually that means a wait because the server is usually full.
  • For the love of all that is undead please, please add an option to disable my microphone.  Every mic is hot ALWAYS by default.  I want a push to talk button, and I don’t want to literally have to toggle “mute all” constantly.

Seriously guys, if you like shooters–especially ones that can be a little wacky–you need to play Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare.  Graev’s full review has a lot more details if you need them. Simply one of the best games I’ve played all year, and one of the best shooters I’ve ever played.  Easily a 9.5/10.