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Destiny Misses Way More Than It Hits

destiny-review

I decided to wait until I had experienced most of what Destiny has to offer before writing my review. Just a short while ago I decided that I had pretty much done just that so here we are. It’s weird to think that a game could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, make 500+ million on its first day and in the end turn out fairly mediocre. Can that even be considered a success? A financial one, sure, but that’s about where it stops.

Destiny has many problems and I’ll break them down here:

Cliched

It’s really crazy how so much of Destiny feels like a giant cliche to the point where you aren’t quite sure if it’s trying to be a parody on purpose. You’d think that a studio like Bungie would deliver something of higher quality after having created something like Halo. The main plot in Destiny revolves around an ancient enemy known as “The Darkness” trying to destroy “The Light.” I mean, really now? Unoriginality aside, I can’t help but feel like I’m playing through some kind of alternate universe Kingdom Hearts fan fiction. Guardians are chosen because of their light or something and are accompanied by a small robot called a Ghost, there are things called Travelers, a Speaker, etc. Think of pretty much every overused sci-fi/fantasy word and it’s probably here. It’s hard to explain it right out but if you played through even a portion of it you might understand. It’s like you’re running around in a universe designed by a twelve-year-old.

The villains you face in Destiny are just unremarkable and bland. First you fight some alien guys, then some robot goblins, and finally space marines. Seriously, they look just like Space Marines and even have jump packs. Bungie seems to have gone creatively bankrupt in this department. The aliens in the Covenant (Halo) were far more memorable than any of these. Grunts, Elites, Jackals, Brutes, etc. I can actually remember those. I’m not even a big Halo fan but I can at least give them props for making interesting bad guys.

The weapons you get to use are essentially the most generic assembly of weapons I have ever seen. There are a few varieties and they are split between three different categories (Primary, Special, Heavy ). You would think that a game like this that is set so far in the future and has such interesting tech would at least provide some cool weapons. It might, but you don’t get to use any of them. You get stuff like a handgun, automatic, semi-automatic, scout rifle, sniper rifle, shotgun, scattergun, machine gun, and rockets. Aside from the scattergun you could essentially find all of that stuff in something like Call of Duty and it would seem no different at all. Where are the interesting energy weapons? Bad guys have energy weapons and other cool stuff but you are left with what feels like rejects of a derelict era. Again I find myself thinking of Halo and the weapons provided in that game. Sure it had your standard military guns but it also had a lot of interesting alien weapons. Where’s my Needler 2.0, Bungie? [Read more...]

Rogue Legacy PS4/Vita

rogue-legacy

Rogue Legacy came out on PC a year or so ago but just recently made its way to consoles. Despite being an avid fan of roguelikes and rogue”lites” I never got around to playing the PC version. Recently we were able to get a review code from Cellar Door Games for the Playstation version of the game and I have been playing it non-stop ever since.

What kind of game is Rogue Legacy?

Rogue Legacy plays like an action platformer with roguelike elements. However, I also get a major MetroidVania vibe due to how the map and game levels are laid out. Not only that but the enemy types and variety along with the character combat remind me a lot of 2D Castlevania games. Your character runs around a castle setting fighting off skeletons, armored knights, floating eyeballs and skulls, elemental wizard guys, etc. Your main weapon is a sword which you can swing with but you also can do a downward thrust attack Scrooge McDuck Style, though you only bounce off of enemies and only slightly. You also get a secondary attack in the form of a spell like an arcing axe or throwing daggers. Like I said, very reminiscent of Castlevania sub-weapons. There’s also a very heavy emphasis on platforming elements and while you are making your way through the game you will have to avoid hazards like spikes, turrets, and fireballs as you make your way through corridors and between platforms.

rogue-legacy-ps4What are the roguelike aspects?

Whenever your character dies in Rogue Legacy (and you will die a lot) you take over as one of your descendants. You get a choice between three characters with different random configurations. There are several character classes in Rogue Legacy and they all have different strengths and weaknesses along with a special ability that can be unlocked. Your choice of character can also come with a variety of different and interesting traits. Some of these are just fun and offer cosmetic changes, like Color-Blind which makes everything black and white or I.B.S which makes you fart occasionally. Some of the traits can actually be beneficial like O.C.D. which lets you gain mana by breaking environmental objects. Gigantism increases your sprite size but also increases your swing range while conversely dwarfism makes you really small and shortens your range but lets you access a lot of secret areas. However a lot of the traits can be just awful and really impact how you play, like with Vertigo, Far-sighted, and Near-sighted.

Your progress in the castle and adjoining areas will be reset and randomized upon your death, aside from major bosses which stay dead. Fortunately there are lots of things you can do with all the gold you find stashed away. You do retain all of your gold upon death and in your next life you can use it to put points into a skill tree of sorts. There’s a lot of passive abilities that increase your hp, mana, and stats but some unlock access to new classes, class abilities, and merchants. Once you have a blacksmith you can use your gold to buy new equipment, provided you find the blueprints for the gear in the castle. The Enchantress can give you up to five different bonuses depending on the runes you find within the castle. These can increase your speed, how much gold you earn, give you double jump, let you fly for a short while, etc. If you double up on runes it actually increases the effect so if you equip two of the jump runes (or whatever it’s called) you can actually jump two additional times mid-air. The last merchant is the architect and he will keep the previous castle layout but you will only get 60% of the loot inside. It also lets you teleport to and retry bosses.

Final Thoughts

Rogue Legacy is essentially everything I want in a game like this. Great art style and music, fast-paced and difficult action, and gameplay mechanics that keep me playing for hours on end. The PSN version of the game is also cross-buy and cross-save compatible. In fact, Rogue Legacy has the best cross-save that I’ve seen of any game yet. Your saves are automatically synced (but it can be done manually) and it’s really easy to jump between platforms. I’m spent quite a few hours with the Vita version and it is just as good as the console counterpart. So if you have a PS3/PS4/Vita or any combination of them you should really consider checking this game out. Or if you don’t then it’s always available on PC but I’d recommend you play with a controller since I imagine trying to play this with a keyboard would be a nightmare. Anyway, for what it is I find Rogue Legacy pretty perfect or at least as close as you can get in this kind of game.

Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty Review

My experience with the Oddworld is almost nonexistent since Keen and I never owned a PS1, which means we missed out on all that cool stuff. It was one of those really neat looking games that I never got a chance to play, like MediEvil and Crash Bandicoot. Later on I did get to play it for a bit at a friends house and I played the PC demo a lot. Oddly enough a lot of Abe’s gamespeak has stuck with me over the years like the way he says “Hello,” “Follow Me,” and “Okay.” I still pull those out every now and then. A few years ago I tried to get the first two games on Steam but eventually gave up after way too much trouble getting them to work. Anyway… when I found out that a remake of Abe’s Oddysee was happening I was pretty excited to get to play the game for the first time. Well, almost those first time anyway.

oddworld-new-n-tasyWhat Is Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty?

Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty is a puzzle platformer. You take control of a Mudoken floor-waxer named Abe who overhears a plan to turn Mudokens into meat products. From there you make your escape from the RuptureFarms meatpacking facility while rescuing as many Mudoken buddies along the way as you can manage. Soon after that Abe pretty much falls backward into the role of fated savior of the Mudokens. It’s fascinating stuff and it’s told with a lot of rhyming.

Abe is a pretty weak dude. There’s not a lot he can do other than run, jump, duck, roll,talk, and throw stuff. He can, however, perform a mystical Mudoken chant that will turn birds into portals and take over the minds of Slig guards. I’m not entirely sure why Abe can do this or if only certain Mudoken have the power but I guess that’s not really important. When making your way out of RuptureFarms you will need to dodge various security measures, slig guards, and several nasty ways to get killed like mines, pits, and grinders. When you encounter fellow Mudoken slaves you can chat them up and tell them to follow you. Upon finding a ring of birds you can chant open a portal for them to escape through. They’re not terribly bright though and they will run into hazards if they aren’t cleared and if there are sligs around they will get gunned down.

The platforming elements are very good and the controls seem very tight. I can’t really recall a single death that wasn’t my fault. What I really like about this game is how well it works as a speedrun game. The way Abe moves actually reminds me a lot of the original Prince of Persia game. The way he runs and jumps, hangs and rolls, etc. Actually a lot about this reminds me of PoP and I wonder if that game was influential at all or if it’s just coincidental. Unlike PoP there are quite a few nasty bad guys that want you dead. Sligs will gun you down, paramites will follow you and attack in numbers if cornered, scrabs will run you down but will fight each other, and slogs which just want to chew you up. Elum are pretty cool dudes however and will let you ride on them in some portions of the game. They run faster and jump much farther than Abe can on his own.

You will face a lot of hazards on your adventure. Not only do you need to worry about falling down pits and the local wild life but also mines, floating bombs, rolling boulders, grinders, and electricity fields. Here’s where a lot of the puzzle elements also come in. You have to sneak around bad guys to pull levers to disable stuff or open areas and try not to get gunned down. Sometimes you will have to do all of this while worrying about fellow mudoken buddies who might get caught in the crossfire. Other times you will just have to worry about remembering a a mudoken whistling password or how you are possibly going to run through this area, activate what you need to, and make it back without being killed. It’s fun stuff.

So What’s New?

So as I mentioned before, my experience with the original game is limited. However I have noticed quite some big differences between each version. Firstly, and most obviously, the game looks and runs a lot different. New ‘n’ Tasty looks visually very impressive while still capturing the aesthetic of the original game. It’s actually pretty interesting because while playing the game it felt like this was what the old game looked like but after tinkering around in my Steam version of the original I saw that was very much not the case. So either they did a very good job at recreating the original game or I just have a very bad memory of what old games looked like. In addition to the impressive visuals the game also runs a bit differently. The game screen actually scrolls as you move rather than changing screens every time you get to edge.

Another big addition to New ‘n’ Tasty is the inclusion of three difficulty levels: Easy, Normal. and Hard. I imagine Hard probably resembles the original game the best but the other difficulty levels are great for people who might have thought Abe’s Oddysee was too much of a challenge. Probably one of the biggest changes added in New ‘n” Tasty is 200 additional Mudokens that you can rescue which brings the total to 299. That’s a whole lot of dudes to rescue. I thought I scoured the levels but I was still only able to get 175 at the end of the game. There are also several different kinds of leaderboards for anybody who really wants to compete on speed running and saving mudokens.

The only real negative change that I have noticed involves jumping while standing still. In the original game you can jump forward just by pressing a button. In New ‘n’ Tasty you will have to also press forward or else you will just jump upwards. That was a little annoying at first, especially since pressing forward and jump at the same time didn’t always seem to work for me. However not long at all in the game I figured out you can press jump first and then quickly push over on the stick and execute a standing side jump 100% of the time. It’s a small complaint, and really my only one in the entire game. Even then it doesn’t seem like anything that couldn’t get patched. Even if it doesn’t it’s not that big of a deal.

abeShould You Get It?

Yes. Yes you should. This is coming from the perspective of somebody who hasn’t played through the entire original game before, though. Even so I can’t imagine old fans not wanting to play this just to see the new additions. Even if you mastered the original game there are 200 more Mudokens for you to rescue this time around and the game looks and plays better than ever. I got 7 or 8 hours out of my first run through and I plan to go back and try to do it all over again–and rescue more buddies along the way. Oh, and it works GREAT with remote play on the Vita. I played through about 1/3rd of the game that way, but the game is cross-buy/cross-save anyway so when the Vita version comes out you can just use that. So yeah, support the game and hopefully New ‘n’ Tasty does well enough that we get a remake of Abe’s Exoddus and even some new Oddworld games.

9/10

Review Code Provided By Oddworld Inhabitants.

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?

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare (PC)

pvzgw

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.

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”

Having a blast in Mario Kart 8

We just got our copy of Mario Kart 8 in the mail yesterday and I’ve already logged a ton of time. Keen joins in when he isn’t playing Wildstar (or Wild Star? I have no idea) and when he isn’t distracted by his personal life. I mean the nerve of some people, right? Mario Kart just came out! I’ve put more time into it than Keen has so I can’t really speak for him but I’m sure he will chime in down by the comments sooner or later. I’m just going to overview what I like, and don’t like, so far after playing.

wario-dk-mario-kart-8COOL STUFF

Anti-Gravity Racing – The new anti-gravity gameplay is pretty sweet. When your kart crosses over special lines or during certain parts of the course the anti-grav will kick in. Your wheels turn sideways and start to glow blue and you find yourself riding a wall or completely upside down. For most of these areas you can’t really tell that you are upside down at all, or at least I can’t. Keen swears he can tell but I think he is full of crap. The times when it really does feel like your perspective is crazy are the side paths that let you optionally drive on the walls.  Another neat aspect to the anti-grav is how it changes some of the driving mechanics a little bit. Bumping into other players and special bumpers will give you a speed boost.

New Items – Along with the classic stuff like bananas and shells is the addition of some cool new things. The Piranha Plant will chomp at nearby enemies and items and I think you might even be able to get a small speed boost out of it. The boomerang lets you throw out a huge projectile either forward or backward that returns to you (x3 I think). Then there’s the really cool horn/speaker thing that you can even use to defend yourself from shells, even blue, or just blast it at other racers. There’s probably a few more new things that I’m not remembering but you get the idea.

New Racers – In addition to most of the classic cast you can now race as Shy-Guy, Lakitu, Rosalina, Baby Rosalina, Metal Mario, Pink Gold Peach or something, and every Koopaling (Iggy, Ludwig, and a bunch of others than I can never remember the names of).

Fun Tracks – The levels are very well done in Mario Kart 8. I don’t think there is a single one that I don’t like. After 8 games they still manage to come up with some fun and interesting ideas. My only real complaint is that some of them aren’t longer. Along with 16 new courses you also get 16 retro courses that come from the previous games across tons of different platforms. They have been given a very pretty visual update and even feature some minor tweaks to make use of the new gamepaly mechanics like gliding and anti-grav.

Controller Support – Mario Kart 8 supports pretty much every controller configuration on the Wii U. Gamepad, wiimote, classic controller, Wii U Pro controller; it’s all available. You can even steer with the gyro controls if using the gamepad or wiimote. I think I have one of the Mario Kart Wii steering wheels around here someplace so I’ll have to check that out. The reason this is appreciated so much is that with the Wii U you are usually put into a situation where somebody gets to use the gamepad and player two gets screwed and has to use some crappy control scheme. A surprising number of games don’t support the classic controller and that’s just messed up.

The Visuals! SO PRETTY! O_O – Best looking Mario Kart ever. First Mario Kart in HD. Performance is also flawless. Not much else to say, really. [Read more...]