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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…]

Space Engineers

Space Engineers is a lot more than just Minecraft in space, but to be honest I haven’t played Minecraft with all of the crazy mods currently available so maybe it is more similar than I realize. Right now the game is still in “Early Access” stages but Keen and I both really love what we have experienced so far. There’s a lot I can talk about so I’m just going to break down some of the really cool aspects of the game.

space-engineers-cockpitGravity – There is no gravity in Space Engineers unless you build gravity generators. You get a fancy jetpack that lets you zoom around and control your positioning, but that doesn’t do a whole lot to help you when drilling into an asteroid. All of the chunks you break apart will go flying off in all directions which forces you to desperately try and fly after them. Some people probably think that this doesn’t actually sound enjoyable, and it isn’t, but it does force you to come up with creative options. The easiest thing that we discovered was to extend the gravity field that is generated by your starting ship and park right above the spot you want to chip away at. It was really satisfying to come up with a solution to that problem.

Mining, Processing, & Assembling – Everything in Space Engineers requires some kind of raw material. I’m not sure exactly how many different kinds there are but so far we have encountered rock, iron, silver, gold, platinum, magnesium, uranium, cobalt, and probably one or two more that I’m forgetting. Once you collect some of these materials you can process them in a refinery. Once you have refined ingots, or whatever, you can use an assembler to create components like construction pieces, metal plates, computers, displays, etc. All of those objects are then used when creating the various pieces of ships and stations. [Read more…]

Moon Chronicles: Episode 1

Moon Chronicles is an episodic first-person shooter and remastered version of the DS game ‘Moon’.  The first episode contains the first four chapters of the game along with a bonus training mission all for $8.99. The rest of the game, releasing over time, will be spread out across three more episodes for about $1.99.

moon-chroniclesEpisode 1: One Small Step

Gameplay in Moon Chronicles is driven by waypoints guiding you through exploration and investigation of a moon facility. Throughout the levels you’ll be confronted by drones and spider bots along with a couple boss fights.  Accessing computer consoles will give you access to more story information as you try and discover what happened to the rest of your team.  [Read more…]

Kirby: Triple Deluxe

Kirby: Triple Deluxe is the latest entry in the series and, like some past titles, it comes with a few different modes for you to play around in along with some additional unlockable modes. I believe this is Kirby’s first game on the 3DS and everything looks really nice. The visuals are very nice and charming and the 3D depth effect is among some of the best seen on the system. You don’t usually encounter many titles where the 3D is so well done and enhances the experience. I think I can name about three titles where that’s the case. But anyway, here’s a brief breakdown of each of the game modes in Kirby: Triple Deluxe.

new-kirbyStory Mode

This is the main adventure of the game and likely the place where most of your time will be spent. You play as Kirby and travel through six different worlds filled with half a dozen levels each. Kirby’s basic moveset is pretty limited and doesn’t let you do much more than jump, float, puff air, and perform his classic inhale. The gameplay mechanics branch out quite a bit more after you swallow certain bad guys and copy their powers. I don’t know the exact number of powers but there seems to be quite a bit of them and they include stuff like fire, ice, archer, fighter, Ninja, beetle, bell, and so on. Lots of different stuff to check out with different play styles. [Read more…]

Mario Golf: World Tour – A Hole In…Fun?

maro-golf-world-tour-logo

That title doesn’t really make any sense, but I figured we need to start being trendy and make puns out of our review titles. What I’m curious about is whether that sounds negative or not. A hole-in-one is a good thing but I imagine a hole in your fun is less desirable. Then again, it isn’t saying there is a hole in a one but rather that the hole was hit in one shot, right? So if you say hole-in-fun would that mean that they made it fun on the first try? If you read through this entire paragraph then I just wasted precious moments of your life. No refunds.

So I should probably clarify that I do think that the game is very fun. I haven’t played any of the previous Mario Golf titles but I have heard good things about them. Well, at least about the Camelot developed ones. I heard those had some RPG elements which sounds pretty cool to me. Camelot did make this game as well but from what I’ve seen there do not seem to be any RPG elements. Sounds like kind of a stupid thing to be disappointed over; not having RPG stuff in your golf game. Still, the game is very enjoyable. [Read more…]