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Keen’s Thoughts On Heroes of the Storm Technical Alpha

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I finally got into Heroes of the Storm technical alpha a week or so ago, and after spending several hours going head to head with heroes, villains, and well-known characters from all of Blizzards IPs, I’m ready to share my thoughts.

First impression: Blizzard polish is (duh) amazing. They enter the MOBA scene years after so many others yet create a game that just ‘feels’ great. I don’t need to go into details about the UI being great or the game running smooth. The map is standard MOBA with a Blizzard flare (more on that in a moment). It’s all flawless, and that’s to be expected. Go watch a youtube video if you want to see more.

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Heroes of the Storm is, essentially, a dumbed down version of other mobas at least where mechanics are concerned. There isn’t last hitting or denying. There are no items. Experience is shared across your entire team. Everything is super basic, but remarkably it works.

Gameplay centers solely around improving your team’s heroes faster than your enemy. Hero customization comes in the form of choosing talents and abilities that actually make the customization in HotS significantly better than most if not all other mobas out there. As you level you get to choose to upgrade abilities, and you have to make a choice of which ability will receive which upgrade. Upgrades may make an ability do more damage or gain an effect.

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As you play heroes more and win games you unlock new traits for them and gain experience to level those heroes up. This encourages you to pick a hero, buy it (yay cash shop?) and rank it up.

HotS also has mounts. It wouldn’t be a F2P or a Blizzard game without mounts. These can be activated by pressing Z and make moving around the battlefield when traveling a little bit faster. They can also be customized (more later).

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What makes Heroes of the Storm unique is the interesting gameplay twists. Throughout the match there will be timed events to gather things or beat the enemy team at performing a challenge. In the Halloween map ‘Cursed Hollow’ the goal is to curse your enemies by collecting the tributes. This curse makes the enemy creeps have 1 HP — a great way to push their base. Another map I’ve played had players entering into a goldmine (good ole classic Blizzard gold mines) to slay undead and collect tokens to spawn a boss that would fight for your team.

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The free-to-play component of HotS disappointed me. I hate games that only make certain heroes available each week. It’s like League. I prefer DOTA2’s method of giving you every hero. You’re forced to buy heroes and they ARE NOT CHEAP. Some range from $3.99 up to I think I saw one for like $10? It’s crazy. Yes, you can unlock them with the in-game ‘gold’ you earn slowly by playing normally. Other things like mounts, cosmetic skins, and the usual fair can be found. Blizzard clearly likes Riot’s business model.

Worth playing? Yep! Heroes of the Storm is a lot of fun despite being a somewhat obvious cash grab. If you’re like me you’ll look to find the most value possible without paying a cent. I can have plenty of fun for free.

Can’t Bring Myself To Play The Evil Within

I made a similarly titled post a few days ago about Alien: Isolation and how the intensity and stress caused by being stalked made it difficult to play. I don’t have that problem with The Evil Within because so far it just isn’t scary. Even while being chased by guys with chainsaws and wading through pools of human gore all I manage to think about is how the protagonist is going to end up surviving this entire ordeal just to die from the hepatitis he is sure to contract. What makes playing the game difficult is how the game is presented and how poorly optimized it is.

My computer isn’t great but I think it’s at least mid-high. I don’t know anything about specs anymore but it can run Alien: Isolation great on max settings but with The Evil Within I’m getting FPS bouncing around the low 20’s. That is pretty bad but I’m oddly used to it having played games on crappy computers for years. What makes the entire experience something rather difficult to stomach (it’s actually the first game that has ever made me feel ill) is a combination of several factors:

The Game Seems Super Zoomed In - I think this is referred to as “field of view” and I’m sure somebody will correct me if it isn’t. Anyway, the camera is extremely close to the character even to the point where he almost completely disappears from the screen when you aim to fire your weapon.This kind of view is something I find extremely disorienting and when you run around there is a lot of camera bobbing and turning the camera creates this swooping feeling that makes my stomach drop out. After only playing for 20 minutes or so I’ll get a headache and feel nauseated.

The Black Bars – There are horizontal black bars on the top and bottom of the screen. I really have no idea why this is. Supposedly for some kind of cinematic experience or something but I just don’t understand it. The field of view is already incredibly low and now you cut off a significant portion of the top and bottom screen? Why? Why would you do this?

Low FPS – By default the game is locked at 30 FPS unless you change that with a console command. That doesn’t really help me though since my performance is pretty horrible anyway. I did say that I’m not too bothered by low FPS but when you combine it with the other factors I mentioned it creates a visual nightmare.

I probably should have avoided the PC version of the game but I’m not always one to listen to warnings, even if there are a lot of them. Even so I can’t imagine I would get any better of an experience with the console version. At least on PC you can get field of view fixes and remove the black bars. I tried doing so but it only made my performance worse. Also oddly enough I didn’t get any sort of better performance when setting the graphics options to their lowest and on a lower resolution. That’s just weird, right? I get the same performance no matter what the settings are.

Anyway, buy at your own risk but I couldn’t recommend it. Some people really do like it, though. I’m just not really one of them. Maybe I’ll revisit it later on with better hardware.

Greetings from Mordor!

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Thinking of where to spend your next vacation? Well look no further! Visit these exciting and wild lands  and experience the rich culture and wonders that can only be found in the land of Mordor, where not only shadows lie but you can as well!

Exiting Activites for All

– Make sure to keep your sword sharp! The locals love to spar with the guests and you might find yourself taking on dozens at a time!

– Enjoy archery? Well good news! There are lots of things to shoot and Uruks love playing “catch the arrow.”

– Is Hide and Seek your game? Well keep your dagger handy ’cause the local Uruks take their sport very seriously.

– Try your hand(s) at climbing one of the various structures littered about he landscape.

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Make Friends with the Locals

– The local Uruks are very social and super excited to meet you! Do be put off by their enthusiasm if you see them charging. They just want to be friends!

– Witness the fascinating Uruk military heirarchy and see normal Uruks make their way through the ranks of Captain and even on to Warchief.

– Join in on the festivities between Captains as they feast, test their might, and duel each other. They love outsider influence.

– Any friends you make with the Uruks during your stay may pop up again from time to time. They love to repay the hospitality you show them!

– Watch the local human population toil away mining rocks or performing other mundane tasks but don’t stick around too long or you might just get invited to join the fun!

 

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The Wilder Side of Mordor

– Enjoy a ride on the unique and wondrous creatures that inhabit the region. Explore the countryside on the back of a wild Caragor or if you are feeling particularly adventures try hopping on the back of the majestic and gargantuan Graug!

– Journey out in the twilight hours and if you are lucky you may just encounter some local Ghuls! Careful now, these guys sure know how to party and bring lots of friends.

– Enjoy collecting exotic flora? Well Mordor is for you! We are host to several distinct variety for you to collect and pretty much all of them are good for curing what ails you!

– For the sportsman in you we also offer unique hunting experiences. Mordor plays host to many sport animals such as rats, spiders, bats, and hell-hawks!

All You Ever Dreamed of and More!

Stop by, grab a mug of grog (Just make sure none of those rascals have poisoned it!) and enjoy all that Mordor has to offer you and your family. We’d love to have you for dinner!

DISCLAIMER: Mordor, the Lands of Mordor, and all affiliate partners are not responsible for any loss of life or limb, emotional trauma, feelings of vengeance, wraith possession, property damage, or incurred wrath.

Can’t bring myself to play Alien: Isolation

I’m only two hours into Alien: Isolation. TWO HOURS. That’s like nothing at all, really. The game is just incredibly intense to play and the Alien just showed up. Seriously, it just showed up around the two hour mark and I’m already losing it. This usually does not happen to me with games. I hear people say “Oh this game was so scary” or “that part was the scariest ever” all the time over the years and when I actually play those games it usually results in a feeling of “Really? This is it? What’s the big deal?” I’m not trying to come off as some kind of tough guy because really I am not. I get scared of things that go bump in the night. Quite literally, too. My cat will run around at night doing who knows what and I startle at every sound. It’s just that video games have never really bothered me that much.

Alien: Isolation isn’t really a scary game, though. I don’t find the Alien (Or Xenomorph, whatever) to actually be that terrifying. Actually they are pretty dang cool and I’m a fan of the movies and some of the games. What really gets me is that feeling of being hunted or stalked relentlessly. In past horror games the only parts that legitimately made my heart pound were the parts where something chases after you that you can’t take out. I think there are a couple of Resident Evil games that have regenerator bad guys like that who will chase you for a while until you can find a way to take them out. Dead Space also did a really good job with this and those parts are really the only reasons why I feel hesitant about replaying the games. And to think that almost all of Alien: Isolation is going to be like that? It stresses me out just thinking about it. [Read more…]

Skylanders Trap Team

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Another year has gone by and we are already at the annual Skylanders release. Time really does fly because it feels like we were playing Swap Force not too long ago. Again we were fortunate to get a review copy from Activision for the newest release — Skylanders Trap Team — and I’ve been checking it out ever since it got here. I wont bother going into too great of detail about what Skylanders are, but if you are curious we have several articles from the past games. Basically it’s light action RPG where you place figures on a tiny portal and see them come to life in the game. What I will go into detail about is all of the new stuff in Skylanders Trap Team.

skylanders-trap-team-fire-trapTrap Masters & Traps

The new hook this year are the traps and the whole concept of trapping villains and turning them to fight for you. The specialty figures in Trap Team are known as Trap Masters and they are each equipped with weapons made out of “Traptanium.” From what I can tell they don’t seem to be really any different than normal Skylanders and have the same amount of abilities and so on. The thing that makes them unique is their ability to destroy Traptanium deposits which usually lead to bonus side areas. Trap Masters are also the only Skylanders that can access the elemental doors that also lead to bonus areas. In past games you would be able to open these with any figure of the respective element, but in Trap Team the doors are made out of Traptanium and can only be opened by Trap Masters.

The traps are actually a pretty cool idea. Each element has its own trap and they can hold one villain from that element. There are around 50 villains that you can trap and initially I was concerned that you would need multiples of each trap in order to catch them all, but thankfully that is not the case. When you do encounter a trappable enemy and defeat him you are given the option of putting him in a trap our not. Regardless of whether or not you decline the trapping, or just don’t have that elemental trap, the villains will be locked away in a vault back at the Skylanders Academy. If you want to put a villain inside a trap, or switch it out with another, all you have to do is go to the vault. So this means you really only need one of each elemental trap rather than 40 traps. You could have multiple traps of an element if you wanted, for taking multiple villains of that element out with you, but it really isn’t necessary.

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Villains & The New Portal

Tskylanders-villainhe Villain characters are all very interesting and the whole concept of trapping them and using them is easily one of the best ideas added to the series. Some of the Villain characters are just specialty versions of normal monsters that you encounter but some are actually the bosses that you encounter in the game. In order to call out your villain all you need to do is press the left trigger and you “tag-out” with your current Skylander. The villain character can stay out and fight for short amount of time before having to recharge. The timer bar acts as its health as well so taking damage will decrease the amount of time they can be out. I was bothered at first by the time limit but it actually recharges fairly fast. Villains don’t level up or gain new abilities like Skylanders but each one has a special side quest where they can be redeemed. Some of them are fun little missions or minigames but there are a few that amount to just a short conversation. Once the side quest is done the villain turns into his evolved form which usually means some cosmetic changes and making his attacks stronger. Not only that but it seems to greatly slow down the trap timer and make them buffer. [Read more…]

Super Smash Bros. 3DS

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I have a pretty big backlog of blog posts that I need to get around to writing, I’ve played a lot of stuff that I have yet to really talk about. So today’s topic is: Smash Bros.

I absolutely LOVE this series thought I am by no means a competitive player. Just having fun and playing is my only objective so you will likely never find me playing those “items off, final destination only” matches. I just don’t see the point at all but kudos to whoever enjoys that. Anyway, Keen and I have very much enjoyed the series ever since the N64 days but I have yet to convince him to pull the trigger on the 3DS version. So please if you could pressure him into that it would be fantastic.

The Controls

This is a pretty big question on people’s minds, at least it was on mine. I had no idea if the 3DS circle pad and buttons would in anyway feel right when controlling a Smash Bros. game and as it is now I am torn. I still feel scared that I’ll break something and all of the horror stories and pictures out there don’t alleviate that at all. I grip my controllers very tightly, especially in intense situations. So having to dial back on this and get used to not thrashing a control stick around was a bit of a challenge. Mainly at first it affected my ability to input commands and even accurately move my character but over time I was able to adapt and I feel I am able to control the game fairly well, though probably not on the same level as with a controller in my hands. So really I wouldn’t say that this is a problem with the game on the 3DS so much as it is with me. Even so I imagine there will be a learning curve or adaptation period for everybody. [Read more…]

Destiny Misses Way More Than It Hits

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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

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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

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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…]