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Just Us: Co-Op Survival Game

I saw this trailer today for a game called "Just Us" and I just had to share. It's like they took all of the sandbox/survival things I love -- at least in theory -- and put them into one trailer. "Here, Keen. Exactly what you want."

This sense of living, growth, survival, immersion... oh how I long for this to be in more than just a 2-player co-op experience. 

I want an MMO where I'm just living in the world and progressing as a person. Building ships, exploring a massive world, building houses, hunting, etc. 

I could pine forever on the subject, which I've done for the past decade, but for now I'll channel my passion for this stuff into hoping 'Just Us' is a fun game.

2

Dauntless (Co-op Action RPG) Looks Cool

Dauntless F2P Action Co-op RPG

Dauntless is a F2P Co-op Action RPG coming next year. Visually it’s compelling, and conceptually (from a 30,000 feet perspective) it sound pretty cool.

From what I can piece together with my imagination (because that’s what they want you to do, so that you create this awesome hype machine all on your own), it seems like Dauntless if some sort of Monster Hunter experience.

Dauntless is an online co-op action RPG set in a savage science-fantasy world where up to 4 players (Slayers in the Dauntless universe) work together to hunt down ferocious beasts called Behemoths. Slayers will explore an ever-changing, uncharted frontier, brimming with verdant flora and unique wildlife to find and destroy Behemoths. Each Behemoth has its own unique abilities and rewards, making each fight engaging and full of unique challenges.”

Big monsters to hunt? Check
Different weapon styles with varying degrees of combos and abilities? Check
Crafted armor and weapons most likely based on monster drops? Check
A tagline on the website stating “Join the Hunt”? Check.

Dauntless characters

Can you see why it looks like Monster Hunter? Personally, I’m thrilled. I enjoy Monster Hunter on the 3DS, but that’s not the platform I really want to play this type of game on. A PC, multiplayer co-op style game would be perfect.

Now here’s the rub… it’s going to be F2P. To what extent this business model decision will obliterate their design remains to be seen. What I DO know is that we’re finally entering an era where we can unanimously agree that games no longer need to be free. This isn’t 2010-2015 anymore. Feels so good to say that. We’re going into 2017 now where F2P is once again starting (emphasis on starting, we’re still working on getting rid of it) to phase out of popularity.

There’s a beta signup on the official Dauntless website. Fingers crossed for something decent. I’m itchin’ for a good action rpg.

4

We tried Warhammer Vermintide

Warhammer Vermintide

Steam had a free weekend for Warhammer Vermintide, so Graev and I gave it a shot. Turned out to be a lot of fun! Vermintide is like Left 4 Dead in a Warhammer setting. In fact… it’s pretty much a straight ripoff with a few added features. That’s not a bad thing, but it gives you an idea of the style of gameplay you can expect. There’s also this weird Warhammer Online vibe to some of the game, but that’s not necessarily founded on anything other than a “woah this feels like L4D meets WAR” feeling which is most likely driven by the setting.

Vermintide co-op

Graev searches the loot chest to decide on a weapon for this Bright Wizard.

Just like L4D, Vermintide is a co-op survival game with five heroes straight from the Warhammer setting, eat with their own unique loot and style of play. One of the key differences I see between the two games is that you can progress your character and obtain loot. Loot can be upgraded, has varying degrees of rarity, and modestly alters the way a character plays. Instead of undead and zombies, you’re escaping from the Skaven.

The Skaven comes in waves and attack you while your team of five tries to get to the objective — again, the more you think L4D the more you’ll completely get what I’m trying to explain. There’s an assassin Skavin who jumps on you and slices at you, pinning you to the ground; a Skaven that ropes you and pulls you toward him incapacitating you until you are freed; a suicidal poison skaven guy who will quickly make seeing impossible… need I go on? They’re cool, though, and they do fit the lore completely.

Vermintide is brutally hard. We struggled to not only find our way a few times, but the waves of Skaven and requirements to play really well as a team made for more than a few game overs. I like that though, and can’t imagine wanting it to be any easier. If it were any easier (even on normal difficulty) then the game would be over quickly and have almost no replay value. I didn’t find much replay value in L4D’s campaign either. In my opinion, that’s the downside of these games. They’re great fun for the first play-through, and maybe a subsequent one or two, but you can quickly find yourself desensitized to the immersion when you’ve been there and done that.

Vermintide Loot

Loot is handled by rolling dice to determine the rarity of your weapon. What you get is random.

They do a great job immersing you, though. The setting is beautifully crafted, the Skaven are seemingly intelligent (most of the time), and I like how the characters all play and feel. Melee and ranged combat both work nicely. I like hewing my axe in different directions and watching the rat pieces fly. Sniping as the Waywatcher was also a ton of fun. Oh, and I do also enjoyed the blocking mechanics and how directional dodging and swinging felt useful. Combat is solid.

One critique Graev and I both share is that we don’t understand why they decided against player-controlled Skaven. That would have been a blast, and helped with replayability. Instead, it’s simply co-op vs. Skaven AI.

All things considered, Vermintide is a fun game. We’re probably going to pick it up now since it’s on a 40% off sale for $17.99 (down from $29.99) on Steam. There are also a few DLC in the $3-$9 range. We think it’s worth the price.

7

Entering The Division’s Dark Zone

Graev and I played lots of The Division over the weekend. We decided it was time to venture into the Dark Zone for the first time last night to see if the dangerous PvP area was worth spending any amount of time. I have to say… it was pretty awesome.

The Dark Zone is a nice big section in the center of Manhattan. In the Dark Zone you can be attack or be attacked by other players at any time. Attacking someone who has not already attacked another player turns you ‘rogue’ and makes you red and visible on the minimap to other players. When you go rogue, other players can attack you and obtain a bounty for killing you. Going rogue is not without its benefits, though.

The best gear in the game is found within the Dark Zone. In order to take items out of the Dark Zone they must be evacuated via helicopter in special containers. Evacuating can only be done at special locations in the Dark Zone, and requires an event be initiated. Once initiated, after a minute an thirty seconds you can drop clip your bag onto the rope dropped by the helicopter and your gear is safely transported to your base.

Here’s where it gets good. These events announce to everyone that you are trying to evacuate gear you found. As you can imagine, rouge players want nothing more than to relieve you of your goodies.

We spent 2 hours last night hunting NPCs in the Dark Zone to gain Dark Zone rank, Dark Zone currency, and find good items. We did pretty well! Throughout the evening we chased rogue players down and ultimately walked away with a few full containers of goodies. I should mention that the Dark Zone has its own level system and currency outside the scope of the regular single-player/co-op game, so the playing field is much more fair and balanced. You can gain rank and buy lots of nice items.

One incredibly memorable moment last night was when there were maybe 12-15 guys all trying to evacuate gear at once. Everyone was on edge and no one was holding still — you could feel how uncomfortable people were around each other. I had this gut feeling that the guy hanging back was going to go rogue so I kept my shotgun trained on him. Sure enough, he started sniping at people and went red. I put my shotgun to his back and unloaded! I ended up snagging a full bag of goodies and ran in at the last minute to click them onto the evac.

I wish the entire game was like Dark Zone. That feeling of working with other players to stay alive is awesome, and when you see a red player your heart starts to pound and you sometimes have to just go and hide to catch your breath. Evacuating gear is incredibly unnerving and by the end of the night we were both exhausted from the experience of being on high alert. Definitely something to be said for the human interaction that is blatantly missing from the rest of the game.

3

The Division: Very Early Impressions

Graev and I picked up our copies of The Division yesterday to fill the gap in our list of evening co-op games that we like to play together. Prior to purchasing the game I kept seeing people referring to this idea of “massively multiplayer” and even weird hints at open-world and even elements of DayZ. Those are definitely way out of left field because The Division is neither a massively multiplayer game, nor anything remotely like DayZ or a survival game.

The Division is a third-person shooter game with hints of RPG, but definitely not a game I would ever comfortable say fits the RPG bill. RPGs have choices, and The Division is more of follow the story experience where you shoot bad guys, get gear, and level up. If there are decisions in the game, I certainly haven’t seen any.

The world is a mixture of seamless lobbies and mission phases. For example, safe houses contain other players. You walk through the door and ‘bam’ you are suddenly faced with a few dozen other players. You walk out that door and they stay there and you’re in your own world. If you group up with people then you’ll see them outside. There’s only one area of the game where it’s more about PvP and seeing other people, and that’s called the Dark Zone.

The story is intriguing. I like the idea that someone created an epidemic in New York causing the entire city to go into chaos and be quarantined. This special group of people who are like good guy sleeper agents are activated to go in and fix things. Fun premise.

The engine is fantastic, and gunplay is very tight. I really like the cover system — especially being able to select different cover and then automatically transfer to it even when it’s far away. Gear has a nice level of customization and variety/diversity. I think finding cosmetic items and weapon/armor upgrades will be fun, especially in the Dark Zone areas where you have to export your gear safely in order to keep it.

One critique I have about the shooter side of the game is that the enemies are spongey. They’ll soak up lots of bullets despite looking like normal people — I think they ARE normal people. I don’t know many humans who can take a full clip from a M4 and still be running around. Head shots really, really matter in The Division. Putting it on Hard Mode makes the spongey feel way worse.

The missions are neither here nor there so far. Focusing on the gameplay model too much would actually be a detriment to the game for me because it ultimately boils down to running around a world to find quest markers. If I were to think about it really hard, technically the game is about forming groups and going out on missions with the “open-world” being more of a pseudo-open-world experience — almost an illusion. But again, don’t overthink it. You’ll find encounters and more of an “open-world” experience the further you progress, but it’s definitely not an Elder Scrolls kind of open-world experience.

Co-op is fantastic. Graev and I have had no problems grouping up together and running missions. The Division really integrates nicely with the PS4 friend list as well as the Ubisoft accounts.

Bugs have been annoying. I had a glitch where right in the first 5 minutes of gameplay I was halted for an hour trying to interact with a laptop to “activate” my agent. I had to do a work around where I ran 200 meters away, did a matchmaking gimmick to find a group, then fast travel back to the house to activate it in a different phase. How that made it past QA boggles the mind.

The Division is, so far, a great third-person shooter with light RPG elements. Definitely worth the buy. I’ll integrate these thoughts with later thoughts for my more formal review. So far, I’d say 8/10.

4

Ragnarok Odyssey Ace & Pushing Keen out of his gaming comfort zone

ragnarok-odyssey-aceGaming for us may have mostly taken off with PC games but prior to that we did invest a good deal of time playing stuff like our Master System, Super Nintendo, and later on the N64 and PS2. We used to play all kinds of different stuff together but over the years he has withdrawn into a near impenetrable shell that doesn’t have much room for anything other than MMOs and a few other games. Getting him to even try other types of games can be incredibly difficult.

For years I’ve been trying to get him to play a Monster Hunter game with me but that hasn’t had much success at all. I think I might have mentioned a while back that the first attempt saw my PSP thrown to the ground in frustration. Anywho, a while back I discovered another game in the “Hunting Genre” called Ragnarok Odyssey Ace. From what I could tell it was the updated version of the game like Ultimate was for Tri. I picked it up for my Vita and after playing it for a short while I figured that I might be able to get him to try playing this with me.

Monster Hunter may not have drawn him in initially, but Ragnarok looked like it might do it. Bright colors, Norse-ish theme, wizards, etc. Plus the combat seems more approachable than Monstrer Hunter. If I couldn’t get him to try this out then there was really no hope. After a lot of complaining, guilt-tripping, extortion, and pestering I was finally able to convince him to play it with me. We downloaded the PS3 version of the game (which can play with the Vita as well) and gave it a go. Continue reading

Super Mario 3D World

super-mario-3d-worldKeen and I have been playing the new Mario game off and on since it came out and whenever we can find the time. The short of it is that we both really love the game and we think it’s great and all that. I’m sure anybody that comes across our site knows about Mario games and how they work so I’m not going to bother going into that and rather I’m just going to highlight some of the things we like and don’t like.

The Gameplay

3D World’s platforming mechanics are great. The game is kind of a blend between classic side scrolling games and the newer 3D games. Several of Mario’s signature moves are available like the long jump, backflip, side flip, wall jump, roll, etc. The only things that I really find missing is the triple jump and the ability to grab onto ledges. That last point might kind of defeat the purpose of this kind of game, though, since it’s more about getting through a platforming level rather than exploring one. It all seems to control very well, though, and for the most part any time you die is going to be directly tied to your competency level and not the fault of the game.

There are four playable characters initially: Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Peach. Each character actually controls fairly differently, too. Mario generally seems to have the best handling, Luigi can jump higher, Toad is faster, and Peach can float a bit mid-air. Pretty much the same kind of stuff you might remember from SMB2. Unfortunately, Yoshis don’t seem to have made it into the game, which is a bit of a bummer. There is an additional unlockable character but I won’t spoil that in case some people get bothered by that kind of thing. Continue reading

1

Rayman Legends

Keen and I picked up Rayman Legends a few days ago — it’s crazy fun! Usually Keen is pretty awful at console games but he is, surprisingly, not so bad at this. He’s actually getting better over time. Who knew? Anyhow… just dropping by to throw out some thoughts about the game.

rayman legendsSo Pretty…

This game looks nuts. I don’t think too many games use the hand-drawn graphics style these days but it looks fantastic and runs totally smooth. We’re playing on the Wii U version, arguably the definitive version, and it looks great. I can’t imagine the visuals being any different on the other systems, though. The game isn’t quite as nice looking on gamepad-only play but it’s still good. It’s unfortunate that there’s no online multiplayer, though, ’cause I’d love to see how the game runs with 5 people playing at once.

I Bet There’s A Secret In That Bottomless Pit

Running through levels together is a blast and looking for all the collectables is actually something we’re doing together. Usually Keen can’t be bothered to collect everything or doesn’t have an interest but there have been several instances where he says “Let’s replay that level I think I can get them all”. Playing co-op is great because usually I’ll be the first person to run off an edge or into a hazard in search of hidden stuff and I have the fortune of having the more cautious player to reel me back in.

So far from what I can tell the game mechanics are the same. You run, jump, slide, etc. We haven’t unlocked any new abilities yet, if they even exist. Even so it’s an incredibly fun game and the levels are really well done. Especially if you love trying to speed through them. We actually really love the music-themed levels. As you run through, all of your actions (i.e. jumping, sliding, hitting) are timed to the music and beat. It’s really thrilling and we find ourselves humming the tunes even when we’re not playing. Continue reading

6

Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition Impressions

Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition LogoWe finally picked up Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition for PC.  The reason we waited so long was that we originally thought the Beamdog client (sorta like STEAM) was required, and we didn’t want yet another client.  Thankfully we realized the game can be downloaded with its own patcher (like an MMO would use) and can be standalone.

We’re only a few hours into the game because it took us so long to make our characters.  This happens to us in every D&D game we play, whether it be a Pen and Paper adventure or a game like Neverwinter Nights;  We spend hours making our characters and getting everything just right.  We’ve still made great progress, completed many a quest, met more group members than we can bring along, and slain a few beasts.

First of all, the game runs really well.  If you’ve ever tried to get Baldur’s Gate working on your modern PC you know it can be a pain.  This installed perfectly and hasn’t given us trouble yet.  Multiplayer was pulled off without a hitch, but make sure you open the port required or else it won’t let you join games.  We hear there are issues if you try playing with more than one other person.  Given that multiplayer is still in beta, issues are to be expected.  It’s worth noting that in the menu it says that in a future patch there will be a browser to see active and available games which is neat. Note: The use of Hamachi allows for easier multiplayer if you have a larger group of friends.

As for the gameplay itself, we love Baldur’s Gate.  Something about these old games just resonates with us.  We love how the dialog adapts to your situation.  The NPC’s know you’re short if you’re a gnome, and characters recognize actions you’ve taken.  These days games just have the same text for everyone, and there’s a ‘nice’ or ‘rude choice’.  In Baldur’s Gate, you really consider the role-play before picking an option.  When encountering a stranger who asks where you’re going, do you tell them you’re on your way to meet your friends or do you try to stay neutral and get away — why should you share your identity?  So cool to really immerse oneself in the story!

If you plan to play multiplayer like us, you’ll want to know that the game assumes you’re playing single-player.  The host can set permissions for who can talk and control characters, etc., but more than that you share a gold pool.  When one person spends, it spends for both.  Everything is attributed to “the party” as though it were a single-player game and the other person just has control.  This works perfectly fine, though, if you simply communicate with the people playing.

What’s enhanced about the game?  Cutscenes aren’t poor CGI — they’re more like a static moving art; They look good.  Resolution is higher, you can zoom, sounds are improved, and everything seems to run slightly better than the original.  Class kits, subraces (which we can’t find), and classes from BG2 are available.  There’s a reason it’s called the “enhanced edition” and not a remake, but the changes are indeed noticeable and worth every penny.

We have quite the journey ahead of us, and we’ll update you with any additional impressions we have along the way.

3

Spelunky

Spelunky, now synonymous with a dozen expletives in our house, released for XBLA last week.  It’s an addicting platformer with randomly generated levels, monsters, traps, and a ton of freedom to beat levels in your own way.  The trick is, it’s SO SPELUNKING HARD!  Death is so fast, sometimes so unseen, and absolutely mind-crushing when you can see the exit to the level but die to a poorly thrown rock or a ill-timed jump.

The goal is to make your way through levels to the exit while earning money, obtaining gear, rescuing damsels in distress, and discovering secrets. There’s a surprising layer of depth to the game, and as you play enough (and die enough) you come up with strategies for beating monsters or quickly progressing.

Shotguns, Freeze lasers, bombs, climbing gloves, spiked boots, hobos with shotguns, cavemen, ghosts that force you to keep moving at a faster pace, and dozens of annoying monsters make the game feel different every time you die. Break blocks to create shortcuts, use ropes to repel, whip each other playfully, buy from shops, sacrifice your friend damsel enemies on the altar of Kali, find hidden characters, and so much more.

We’ve had a blast with the same-system Co-op (2-4 players). Watch as we fail miserably. I may or may not scream like a girl at one point… or two.

There’s also a deathmatch mode that allows you to battle with your friends on the same system. It’s ridiculous. At this point our only complaint is that we wish there was an online multiplayer option.

Definitely check it out. It’s an amazing little game.

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