Friday, 19 June 2015

RanStacking - EP2 - Cruise Control



This post went up first on Ninja Blues.

Last time we rescued our slightly larger brother from a life of shovelling coal for the train system.

We move from a train level to a boat level, I think I see where this is going, one sibling per environment but first we have to solve a series of puzzles using our ability to stack and the abilities of the characters we stack into. I don’t see Charlie himself getting any new skills so it all will come down to the puzzles we are presented with and the folks we get to ride. Plus it seems like there is a handy rule of thumb for the number of levels, I am guessing it will be the same as the number of siblings, possibly siblings plus one for a final confrontation with the baron. But does anyone remember how many sibling Charlie has? I certainly don’t.

It also looks like there will be work to do in the hub area before we can move on to the later levels. The game helpfully tells me about some of the hijinks I can now get up to, but I will go into them a bit more next time, when I actually will play around with them a little more.

I should note that as of the time of these posts, all of the Double Fine games are on sale on Steam. I don’t know if it will drop lower during a daily or flash deal but Stacking is available for only $3.39 or your local equivalent

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

RanStacking - EP1 - A Brief Training Period



Note: All posts here are going up on Ninja Blues first. So if you want to get the first crack at them you should check them out over there.

I am kicking off a new series with Stacking by Double Fine, which was one of their XBLA titles that eventually made its way to PC. I bought it some time ago but never got around to trying it out. All I could remember when I started this was that it was a puzzle game that involved Matryoshka dolls, so some viewers/readers may be much more familiar with the game than I am.

I was immediately caught out by the art style, I knew it involved dolls, but I didn't really expect it to translate into the entire world being made out of toys and other building materials that emphasize the small size of all of the characters. From playing cards and pins to the occasional incandescent bulb the world really embraces the idea that someone is playing with these toys, someone with a massive collection and a great talent for building things. I am looking forward to see more in this world as the game progresses.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Ranneko Saves The Date



I have played a bit more Save The Date since the end of this video and it gets a bit more philosophical though I am yet to find a way to "win" that doesn't involve being an awesome hacker.

It is pretty clear that the Chris was trying to say something when he made this game, it feels like a very safe assumption given that Felicia will outright tell you that the creator must have had an idea they want to explore.

To me Save The Date is an exploration of an exercise I think everyone has done at some point. Running back through a day or series of events wondering what you could have done to prevent that big mistake/regret/loss.

In real life this is about as futile as it is in Save the Date, you can't change the past just as you cannot really save Felicia if you go out with her. Instead the game forces disaster at every single turn. In the end the only way to save the date is for it to never take place at all.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Ran of the Ninja - EP12 - The Mark and The Master



Warning: The following text will contain spoilers for the end of Mark of the Ninja. This probably should be expected for the final episode of a lets play of the game. But given what I am going to talk about is revealed in the last 5 minutes or so I think a spoiler warning is only fair.

I definitely did not see the twist here coming. That Azai was betraying us and something fishy was going on sure, that was pretty obvious, but that our companion was a mark based hallucination was a total surprise. It is the kind of thing that makes me want to go back and see if anyone interacts with her in cutscenes.

I never thought it odd that she always was capable of catching up but never attacked foes for me, because she is an NPC in a game, clearly intended to be a guide character. So that she never helped directly was unsurprising, heck one of the level puzzles revolved around actually helping her get past an obstacle. Something that theoretically was totally unnecessary.

Ultimately I sided with my hallucination not because it was the right thing to do, honestly I am very sympathetic to Azai and his plan to allow the clan to continue. But at this point I figured Mark was completely under the Mark's delusions, after all just how many clan members did he kill to confront Azai? And not just the well equipped stalkers. All of the guards on these levels turn out to be regular ninjas after you kill them and I have no idea how much of a threat they really represented. If I do side with Azai I think I would have to have taken a pacifism based approach to the last level.

I had a great time with Mark of the Ninja, while the keyboard and mouse controls are occasionally frustrating, the light, shadow and noise systems work so well and it is really satisfying working out how to get past a set of guards either through slowly whittling down their numbers or just passing by while they are unaware.

Ultimately I wish I had gotten around to playing this game earlier, when more of my friends were playing it.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Ran of the Ninja - EP11 - Avenging the Artist



That did not end well for Dosan. But at least we got the final stage of the mark so now we can teleport. This level is definitely meant to make sure that you learn to incorporate this new ability into your repertoire. I found it pretty frustrating because frankly I kept forgetting it was there and you really can't. This level actually took me longer than the previous one, there are a lot of failed attempts on the editing floor.

Found it especially interesting that this level does not let you pick your gear, not even on subsequent playthroughs. This is because the teleport move is actually tied to your outfit, changing to another mask removes your ability to use it and a bunch of the puzzles in this level are impossible (or at least intended to be impossible/fiendishly difficult) without the ability to teleport.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Ran of the Ninja - EP10 - For the Sake of the Artist



I will admit, I expected to be dealing with Mark's hometown at this point, not some ruin location full of trapped rusting out vehicles and other obstacles. But it does make sense to track down the artist Dosan since he definitely appeared to be on our side and we get to find out more about the mark and its source in the process.

I do not like the trapped cover, mostly because I rarely think to check it out with my fancy sight so it takes me by surprise pretty often, which just means I end up reloading checkpoints even more frequently.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Ran of the Ninja - EP9 - Killing Karajan



Well, we knew it was coming so this was hardly a surprise the game literally set this moment up from the very second level. I definitely appreciate that Karajan is not shown as a combatant at all. Every time you get close he retreats unless finally he is trapped in a box of his own devising. This was never going to end well for him because he was up against a video game protagonist. Someone who can never lose since they just reload whenever mistakes are made.

Now with that done I am sure that Mark will head back to Ninjatown, commit seppuku and everyone (else) will live happily ever after. It is not like the game has been hinting that your Master has been up to something or anything.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Ran of the Ninja - EP8 - Get To Da Choppa



Last time we closed in on Karajan he sicked Kelly on us and got away in his chopper. Rather than face that possibility again it is time for Mark to get to the chopper first and ensure it isn't going anywhere.

This level also introduces a challenging new foe, the elite guard, one who is immune to stealth kills unless first disabled. Really inconvenient unless you have been upgrading your distraction items or ninja tools. Fortunately the game also provides us with some handy tools within the level itself to help dispose of some of them and as for the rest of them? Karajan probably should have invested in some gas masks for these guys shouldn't he?

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Ran of the Ninja - EP7 - The Vast Stinky Depths



Turns out that the walls to the castle are too difficult to scale undetected so we have taken a second, deeper route. The castle is somehow built over an abyss full of choking poisonous gas. How charming, but it provides us an alternate path, one full of crates and guards with Night Vision.

It is interesting how ordinary guards with night vision turn out to be, to me they are effectively just guards that are always using their torches and actually the bigger obstacle they present is their immunity to the toxic gas found in my upgraded smoke bombs.

The final encounter in this level is particularly interesting, it is an escalating survive for at least 60 seconds scenario and one I am not entirely sure how I would have handled without the Mask of Nightmares. Do the guards raise the alarm during this encounter? I wouldn't know because for me they simply panicked whenever they saw a corpse. I love that mask.

Monday, 1 June 2015

100 Weekdays of Daily Challenge Challenge



Today marks 100 weekdays in a row of Daily Challenge Challenges (and another 60 videos prior to this streak), it has persisted through travel, family visits and even now a full time job. It is something I deliberately make time for each day, even now it has a sporadic schedule and the live audience is significantly reduced. I am proud of it mostly because of the persistence involved, even if the ultimately my initial goal of besting my friends reliably at Crypt of the NecroDancer has been an utter failure.

Turns out 5 games a week simply is not enough to get me to significantly improve at a game, ultimately that is 5-10 minutes a day and I don't really have the urge to play more often that that and as a result I still mostly die in zone 1 and only occasionally reach zone 2.

I also don't anticipate getting better at OlliOlli, the daily grind is fun and interesting, and it has only a very small community playing it such that I have actually made the number 1 slot a number of times. This is less impressive than even that sounds as the extreme score fall off in that game leads to my victories being more pulling a Bradbury over pure skill, timing and reflexes.

Finally Spelunky I think demonstrates most clearly of all that it takes more than the daily challenge to improve your skills. Spelunky has become my go to game for spending a little bit of time, meaning I have sunk a fair amount of time off stream into Spelunky as well and I have improved by leaps and bounds. When I started I avoided irritating shopkeepers and had never seen the end of the ice caves, now I have beaten the game 3 times, including one speed run and am pushing my way towards hell. It always feels like the high point of my stream, my chance to really push on and make progress. The kind of feeling I only get rarely when I play NecroDancer

To celebrate reaching a streak count of 100 I am running a giveaway. The winner will get their choice of:
  • Crypt of the NecroDancer
  • OlliOlli
  • Spelunky
  • Massive Chalice
To enter, either comment here or on video 100 congratulating me before my next stream (which will probably start sometime between 5 or 6pm)

Ran of the Ninja - EP6 - Karajan Castled



While we took out Kelly last time, Karajan made his escape but we have tracked him down to a castle somewhere in Eastern Europe. Between this episode and the last I replayed some of the older level tracking down scrolls and collectibles I had previously missed. I normally wouldn't really bother with that kind of thing but I have been enjoying the game enough that I have wanted to play it more often than I have had chances to record.

This means I have started to unlock more masks which let you tinker more with your play style. I had assumed initially that masks would be locked for the entire level, so picking that would also predetermine your approach, but actually any time you can requip (at the various black flag) you can select a new mask, you it really only determines your approach for that section.

Really wish I could see the seals when I make the selection though, especially at the start of a given level, some seals are basically impossible to obtain with particular masks (especially the swordless stealthy mask).

Friday, 29 May 2015

Ran of the Ninja - EP5 - Killing Kelly



With our distraction set up it is time to make our move against our well secured foe. But before we really get at Karajan we have to take out his lieutenant Kelly, the man who personally lead the attack on Mark's ninja village.

I quite like that Kelly is a puzzle boss, you can't straight up fight him, you can't even stealth kill him without disabling him first. It felt good to drop the light on him and I am actually glad there isn't an option to let him live, the entire context of the game is that you are a ninja and complete pacifism doesn't make sense here. A stealthy assassin that only goes after their target and key figures in their power structure is definitely a trope that you can play you instead.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Ran of the Ninja - EP4 - I'm A Monster



Much like the previous episode, this level felt a bit like a bait and switch, I anticipated setting the building alight to be more like breaking the transformer in an earlier level, a minor objective on the way to a bigger goal, instead it is literally the entire purpose of this level.

My favourite scene is one I could never have set up deliberately at the time, guards have two possible responses when they find a body, they can be calm and raise the alarm or they can panic, stumble backwards and fire into the dark. Honestly not sure how I triggered the latter response here, I can do so more reliably now, but mostly by dropping corpses into the light or other ways making the discovery of the body more... interesting.

It was amazingly satisfying to do here it was a completely different way to clear the room and I felt like an awesome deadly assassin striking from the dark in a completely different way compared to ghosting the level made me feel in episode 3.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Ran of the Ninja - EP3 - Quiet As A Ghost



How much violence you want to commit in Mark of the Ninja is pretty much up to you, so far there is no one you actually have to kill, in fact you can if you want try to sneak past everyone. Seemed like a fun time so I tried it here and it worked pretty well for me. In fact I found it a little bit faster since my priority was getting past guards without being spotted rather than killing every last one of them via stealth kills.

Interestingly enough you actually forgo honour if you try this route, a lot of the seals in this game are based around enemy kills. I guess you are a ninja after all, you are meant to be an assassin not a just a thief or a spy.

Later on you unlock costumes which let you tailor your play a bit more based on what you enjoy, but I will leave off talking more about it until later.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Ran of the Ninja - EP2 - Breaching the Perimeter



One of the things that caught me off guard was how long each individual level takes in Mark of the Ninja and upon reflection I think I have worked out why. Each set of levels marks a single mission and each level merely a stage of a given mission. The tutorial is an exception in how self contained it is.

As a result each level sets up it's own goal near the start which you achieve during it, it is a little bit more narratively confusing here because as the first level of a set, it is both setting up the overall mission as well as the goal for the level itself which is why I was surprised achieving what I had thought of as a subgoal took so long.

Maybe if there had been more separation between the mission set up and the level set up I would have ended up less confused?

On a narrative note we learn this level that gaining The Mark is both a great honour but also a death sentence, it is the kind of thing that is only used in a time of great need. The question is why do I start the game with the Mark then? What actually kicked this whole thing off? The raid against the village was pretty clearly in response to something. But I don't yet know why.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Ran of the Ninja - EP1 - A Rude Awakening



Time to kick off another Let's Play series. Mark of the Ninja has been sitting in my backlog for quite a while and I am not entirely sure why. It has a great reputation and involves sneaking around as a ninja which is definitely a thing I am in favour of in games.

Admittedly the only time I went to play Mark of the Ninja prior to this LP I did fall afoul of a minor issue I find in a lot of game, the assumption that just because a controller is plugged in I want to use it. If you have a controller plugged in it will only give you controller prompts and I had quite forgotten about having one plugged in at the time so it was extra frustrating to get the wrong inputs suggested. I really wish more games would move between controller and keyboard inputs smoothly, where the prompts are based on the most recently used input device rather than just what is plugged in.

This episode covers the tutorial level, which introduces most of the basics the game uses, light/dark, vents, sound and stealth kills and wall climbing. It does a nice job introducing them to you one step at a time building towards Mark being a fully capable ninja by the end.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Star Realms Diaries - EP3 - An Ark Full of Needles




Shortly after the Gambits expansion for Star Realms was released Jarenth and I decided it was a great excuse to record another episode of the Star Realms Diaries. Unfortunately various delays meant this episode wasn't released in quite as close to the expansion release than I would have liked, and this blog post is of course even later, but life goes on.

I really like the changes brought in via Gambits. I had played enough games that the new variation in the card pool was very welcome and the new emphasis on bases has really shifted how often I purchase them. Previously I had a very ship heavy approach to my strategy and now I find myself really emphasizing bases, using them to shield myself from enemy attacks as well as triggering the new cycle of bases that trigger on bases being played.

The new gambit cards are definitely a bit more of a mixed bag, I find them most powerful when you can use them to grab an early game advantage ideally by grabbing a powerful card in the first couple of turns. But generally results in me being disappointed when I end up with some of the gambit cards that simply aren't suited to that kind of play. Some of them are definitely weaker than others and I never feel happy to have received them.

This was a fun game and it is one I am still regularly playing with friends, in general I have about 7 games running at any one time if you want to play me just send a challenge to Ranneko.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Ranslinger - EP11 - Ghosts of A Violent Past


With this we finish off Call of Juarez: Gunslinger. The ghosts in the final chapter are a very strange addition, really pushing Silas over the edge into madness. He seems to have gotten better by the time of the framing narrative but who knows what would push him back over.

I had a great time with Gunslinger and really wish there was more information available on how and why it was made. I definitely think it was stronger for its framing narrative and its willingness to strip things back and present a mechanically satisfying short western themed shooter.

As a thought experiment if they had gone for a more standard approach I think this is roughly the structure I would predict:

1. Riding with Silas's brothers, maybe dealing with some kind of ambush. (NB Need horse riding or justification for no horses)
Finish with reaching a town, cue cut scene with gambling and wild bunch, end with hanging
2. Silas trekking back to town and taking off after his brothers killers

At this point the exact ordering would be a bit trickier, but definitely you would mix in going after the wild bunch with having various regular bounty hunting style of levels.

Not sure you could pull of having a barkeep Bob with this set up, you would need to justify a big action scene like in the second last level and Bob as the barkeep loses a lot of impact without the framing narrative. So maybe you actually have Bob be in that final graveyard fight, perhaps finish with a deliberate double kill so Silas dies fulfilling his revenge.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Ranslinger - EP10 - A Vista Full of Snipers


This episode we take a trip to the mountains, fulfil Grey Wolv's prophecy and take down Jim Reed, leaving us with only the mysterious Bob left, a fella who seems to be near impossible to find and take down.

This is one of the sillier levels in that Silas is clearly pretty drunk right now and his mood is trending to the melancholy, He is definitely gearing up for the end of his tale, which will happen next time on Ranslinger.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Ranslinger - EP9 - An Express Robbery



In this episode of Ranslinger we complete the third and final train related level. This time the train is moving, which results in me paying significantly less attention to it most of the time. Makes me wonder if it loops and if so how often.

I really like the scene where Silas wanders off to the bathroom. Both for the speculation by his audience but also for the endless looping slow motion carriage. It was a fun way to spend time listening to the banter, certainly much better than freezing my camera.

I really should read up on Jesse James, I am kind of curious as to just how one would go about robbing a train running across the countryside.


Thursday, 7 May 2015

Ranslinger - EP8 - Keep on Training



Train robberies are another archetypical western plot so it probably shouldn't be surprising that 3 levels of Gunslinger revolve around trains and train robberies. It makes for some pretty linear levels, but a lot of door kicking which feels pretty nice.

We also finally get to find out just why Silas is so keen to track down Roscoe Bob Bryant. Gunslinger like a lot of games reveals a motivation for the player character that doesn't really have any reason to bleed over to the player. Sila's brothers are only introduced in a cutscene that also kills them off, there is no time spend developing them or interacting with them. They are a key formative event in Silas's past but I am not Silas, I am merely controlling him in the fight scenes.

I don't really consider it a problem in this game, because it is such a short and linear game and at least we have had time to get attached to Silas himself, had they pulled it off in the beginning then it would have been worse.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Ranslinger - EP7 - The Swamp Job



Continuing the chase Dalton brothers after they robbed 3 banks in the town they live in, we pursue them into a swamp, but this time we have a posse of our own. I am sure that there will be no surprises here.

I like the swamp, mostly I like the way that the swamp is heavily impacted by the conversation in the framing narrative, changing the weather, environment and even the foes at one point. Again reminding the player that they are in a story being related over a pint in a pub. People fall asleep and other conversations and tangents show up, even at times where the storyteller thinks they are at one of the most exciting tense parts.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Ranslinger - EP6 - The Bank Job



The devs got maximum use out of their bank assets here and the level hook felt pretty clever. A situation with confliction viewpoints and we get to play through them all, from how Ben remembers it fallout out, the story that made it into the dime novels and then finally the "truth" from Silas himself.

The first time around if you have the perk that lets you know secrets are near by, this level can be surprisingly frustrating as you are warned about a secret you can't grab until the next time you run through this area approaching from another angle.

The non-duel boss fight at the end is kind of annoying, not a great deal of cover and a big sack of hit points and none of the flavour of the duels. At least it was over pretty quickly.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Ranslinger - EP5 - Spelunking



This episode has a couple of instances of the door problem being solved by moving rocks rather than a convenient final wave of foes. It is definitely an approach that Gunslinger leans on pretty heavily and gets away with it mostly due to novelty. If a longer game or simply more games tried this same approach I am pretty sure it would grow tedious and dumb pretty quickly.

The multiplier in this game see powers not just some of the perks I rely on but also determines your XP gain, the bigger the multiplier the more XP you get and the faster you progress. This makes the few points in this game where you get free extended concentration or just a turret and wave after wave of enemies are thrown at you really high points as you push through and try to take advantage. If you have the right perks at these times you can get a pretty significant amount of progress towards the next perk or two.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Ranslinger - Ep4 - Stop Swapping to Pistols



Some of these levels are a lot more open than I ever realised before. I guess partly to allow for arcade mode and other more creative reuse of level assets.

It was really neat to find paths I had never realised existed.

The framing here is really just used to play around with time and introduce other little tidbits like it being Wesley Harding's birthday. Oh and to rig the duel of course. The first couple of times I didn't really notice, because quite frankly I was bad enough at duels that it never really occurred to me my accuracy was suspiciously off.

I think the key thing that duel is meant to teach you is how to dodge, this can be really important in some of the later duels. It isn't just a case of first to shoot is the winner.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Ranslinger - EPi3 - Mines without Crafts



This episode we spend in and around a mine and get dynamite, which behaves almost exactly like a grenade does in any other first person shooter. You never struggle to light it, you can press the grenade button and out comes the dynamite.

I really like the trick with the mine, letting the player explore it and clear it, then pulling back to go around the outside, because obviously the mine would have been a bad idea. I am curious as to how it came about. When they were pitching the level did they have a couple of team members that thought fights in mines were silly? Did they come up with two ideas for tackling this level but didn't want to have half the level left unexplored by the general player? Was this just more fun than sticking the outdoor section on to the end of the interior one?

I would really love to learn more about how this game was made and put together. Unfortunately I can't seem to find any kind of post mortem of it anywhere.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Ranslinger - EP2 - Milling To Victory



This shoot out in the first part of this episode is where they first really push the narration directly impacting the game. First they take away your ammo, not just by providing you with too many bodies to shoot, but also by literally taking it away when Silas mentions that he was running out of bullets.

Then they use it to open up a door, literally by having a sliding a rock over to create a path that was unavailable to you before. It is an interesting variation on the door/gating approach to a combat arena. Often in situations where a game wants to you have a stand up fight you will end up in an arena like that one and conveniently the last enemy to enter will break open a door, or destroy whatever obstacle was keeping you there. This is the first time I have literally had the scenery move itself, it lets the level designer and storyteller be a lot more blatant with the solutions to this kind of problem while winking to the player.

I am glad most games don't take this approach because I think it could be overused fairly easily, but having it happen in a game like this is refreshing and I found it pretty amusing.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Ranslinger - EP1 - A Man Walks Into A Bar



I watched a friend stream through Gunslinger recently and got the urge to play through it myself one more time. As I say in the video I really dig this game, it is the kind of thing I would like to see more studios doing. A small targeted experience, it has satisfying gunplay, entertaining story and doesn't outstay its welcome.

It seems like they settled on a fairly interesting narrative approach fairly early on in the development process and they really got to play around with it. I have not seen any other game use an unreliable narrator framing device quite the way this does.

There should be a total of nine episodes in this season, one per chapter of the game. I hope you enjoy the ride as much as I do.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Ransistor - Fin


Didn't really keep up with the posts here for this season of Ransistor, but here is the rest of them.

Transistor ended up being a game which for me outstayed its welcome just a little bit. I can't say I ended up too keen on its combat and unlike many of the people I have talked to I didn't quite work out a proper killer combo until the last area of the game and that combo was focused around the action RPG side and the final boss you really have to fight in turn based mode.

That said overall the game was great, it has a great soundtrack, narration and art style. The city was interesting despite not really getting that much development, there was no attempt to even vaguely suggest what the virtual city was for. That is the thing about this kind of environment, they have to exist for a reason and I didn't notice any exploration.

The ending took me by complete surprise, I did not see it coming and it felt pretty horrifying as it happened. The credits sequence helps but wow it was surprisingly intense. I am genuinely surprised that I was not spoilt on that element by anyone.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Ransistor - Episode 4 - Processing


I quite like the function system, at least for now the extra backstory unlocked by swapping them around has me constantly reevaluating and trying out new power combinations. I am sure I will settle on a stable set at some point in the future but for now it seems to be fulfilling its purpose.

I am looking forward to getting a bit more memory so I can use more functions at the same time, it can't be too far off because I am already constantly hitting the limit without being able to fill most of my slots.

I was also pleasantly surprised that the little tests in the sandbox were faster and less painful than the equivalents were in Bastion, again at least for now. They give me a nice little buzz of satisfaction but don't feel like they are pulling me away from the main story for too long.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Ransistor - Episode 3 - Taking_A_break.exe


We have our stronghold now, our home away from home, our bastion if you will. In keeping with the approach from Bastion we get little side tasks in the form of time trials and undoubtedly other trials that will test my ability with different elements of the game.

It is kind of neat to have it, but I am not sure it fits thematically. Red just doesn't seem like the kind of hero to sit back and relax while she has a job to do and the city seems to be being converted without her. It made a lot more sense in Bastion because story wise it was structured as the hub you strike out from and return to. Here the sandbox is just the kind of place you seem to run across entrances to periodically as a chance to take a break.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Ransistor - Episode 2 - Headline Performance


Sorry for falling behind on these posts, been a bit ill this week.

Today's episode has the first boss fight of the game and I think it is a pretty interesting one in that it feels like it is intentionally unfairly long. Every time you take the boss down she immediately regenerates tougher and with more friends. It seems to me that the designers want the player to run out of health at least once in this fight so they can introduce the equivalent of lives.

Basically whenever you run out of health one of your active functions blows out and is unusable until you have visited a few more access terminals, so your options and abilities are further restricted. Enemies are not reset so you do get to keep pushing on, but you feel restricted and damaged. I like it conceptually, though I do have some reservations because I have a tendency to have only 1 or 2 damage dealing functions active at a time and I could see myself losing both of those first and then literally having no option other than to throw the remaining lives away.

It will be interesting to see how I feel about it later in the game when presumably I will encounter that state much more often.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Ransistor - Episode 1 - Hello World


This week kicks off a lets play, this time Transistor where I take the reins of Red and her mysterious sword. This is the latest title from Supergiant games, the same folks who made Bastion and it is another action RPG with a smooth voiced narrator.

This time however it is not set in a mysterious post apocalypse in the sky, instead it is in some kind of strange virtual world and it features an interesting hybrid real time and turn based combat system along with a slot based weapon and upgrade system. It will be interesting to see how long it takes to get used to them.

Already really enjoying the art and atmosphere. I have gone into this game hoping to have an interesting setting and story to explore, hopefully Transistor will deliver.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Ranneko Plays The Collider


The Collider was a fun little palette cleanser, I guess it would count as an infinite runner and it was made by Shortbreak studios.

The aim of the game is to thread the needle for as long as possible, as you get faster and faster, you collect coins as you go and the only way to spend them is to let you recover from a crash. I noticed it because a friend on twitter compared it to Super Hexagon and I can see what they mean, but it just doesn't quite hit the same notes for me.

I can definitely see that it likes to use patterns, but unlike Super Hexagon you just can't see them until you are already part way through and it means it feels much more like a raw reaction test rather than also building on pattern recognition.

I did have fun with it and will definitely be popping back to it every so often if I need a quick distraction but it isn't going to hold me the same way.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

The Ideal Support Interaction

When applying for support roles you see some questions crop quite frequently, the exact forms differ, but the general concepts remain the same. I figure here is as good a place as any to try to expand upon my answers and make sure I am providing useful information.

The first one is "What is an example of an ideal support interaction?"

In my view the absolute ideal support is invisible.

Ideal support is the result of a system where the customer never needs or wants to contact support because the design of the product and the resources available to provide help are all so good and useful that it simply never occurs to the customer to contact support as they can quickly and easily fix their own problems.

This is a pretty tall order, it means that the design that is intuitive enough that users can always find the functions they want quickly and easily, but also a design where mistakes are difficult to make and easy to recover from. It also would somehow need to be immune to abuse and misuse.

The help functions would need to always be present, relevant, up to date and useful, covering both common and extremely unusual use cases. Ideally the help would be proactive in surfacing information that users might find useful, especially during the set up phase, where you need good on-boarding tools to ensure that your users get everything up and running quickly and easily.

This is especially tricky both because you don't want to create a new version of clippy and also keeping help resources up to date is difficult in even at the best of times. Documentation is one of the less interesting tasks on any project and most web start ups really like to advertise a fast evolving improving product, which means existing help files go out of date even faster.

So what can you do to move towards this kind of support? Look closely at your on-boarding process, make sure you have tools in place to help people get set up, pay close attention to the kinds of issues your customers contact support over and ensure your help documents keep up to date.

Finally make sure that the reason why people don't contact support is because they don't need to, not because the support experience is bad or that finding how to contact support is difficult.

In the next post for this series I will talk about what I think makes for a good support interaction, because at some point some users will or at least should contact support for help.

What do you think? What makes for an ideal support interaction?

Friday, 13 March 2015

There Came An Echo / Episode 6 / End Simulation


And so we hit the end. An ending I would definitely class as unexpected. It basically comes out of left field in order to answer the last remaining questions. I can't say it is one I thought was particularly cool, which is a pity because as you can see in my last post I was really having fun riffing on some of the ideas introduced in the tower. Ultimately I think I was way more interested in exploring them than the game was.

There Came An Echo does achieve the primary hook, it is a tactics game that can be fully controlled with your voice. It still missed enough that I got frustrated at times, but not to a point where it was unplayable, and I am not sure if some of those instances weren't just bugs.

That said, the voice control limits it in unusual ways, your squad size has to be manageable, the battlefield has to be split up into predefined points, your limited squad size results in smaller enemy confrontations and the vocabulary you can use is limited and definable. You can really see the trade offs they had to make for this to all work and the end result is mostly novelty. The best system to come from this is the Mark system. I actually really want to be able to use it in other real time games. To be able to queue up a bunch of different orders to be executed at one specific time in the future.

Being able to set a single mark is useful enough, but being able to have multiple marks means you can try to set up contingencies a thing I am pretty bad at handling in these kinds of games. All you need is a bit of prep time to get it all going.

The art, animation and voice acting all tie together really well, soldiers even stick their guns out of of their shields when threatening people. The writing up until the end was also good enough, they answered questions at similar times to when I asked them, characters mostly acted in a believable manner and no one was particularly one sided.

Then we get that ending followed the best video game credits sequence I have ever seen, though admittedly one that could never be done by a AAA studio.

Overall really happy with having backed There Came An Echo, I am glad it exists and that Iridium are building new and interesting games.

It is available over on Steam right now and I believe is also coming out on consoles at some point in the future.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

There Came An Echo / Episode 5 / Activating Override


This mission was surprisingly frustrating to complete. Some of it was because it checkpointed badly on my first attempt, some of it was that my voice commands were not reliably understood and acted upon and some of it was that I did not know how to skip the starting cut scene.

Thank goodness that it is over though, it was frustrating enough that I quit out and had to come back to it later.

The point I tried to talk about a few times in the video, but didn't quite get to was the potential uses of some of the technology mentioned so far, even without the ability to print out and download minds into fresh bodies.

The game already explicitly has the ability to upload and store people's conciousness, and to put said consciousnesses into sims, the potential uses both ethical and unethical are amazing.

Imagine if when you joined a company, they reserved the right to make a copy of your conciousness for consultation in the future. You build something for them and it breaks down after you left? No problem, boot up the old copy and ask them about it.

The uses for spying and security are also pretty obvious too, if you have captured someone, you can scan them and then interrogate the digital copy, multiple copies in fact, in parallel, Check each copies answers against each other to try to eliminate lies and the physical version of the prisoner never even gets to learn the questions asked of them.

In fact the potential mix of permanence and impermanence could also be pretty cool and creepy to explore. Imagine an artist who makes a deal for immortality, when her work is purchased a copy of her conciousness is made and sent along side so that whenever it is shown the viewers can question the artist herself.

Assuming that they just reset it at the end of the day, to the these copies of the artist every showing is the first since the purchase, the grand opening. To him there is no difference between the first showing and the last, every past showing makes no impact or impression because they literally were not experienced by him once the power goes off at the end of the day.

How does the original react to this? Does she regret it in later years? How would the staff react at a museum or gallery? To this person who they are increasingly familiar with, but is incapable of growing to know them?

There Came An Echo really isn't interested in exploring these questions which is totally fair enough, but I certainly am.

Monday, 9 March 2015

There Came An Echo / Episode 4 / Merciful Miranda


So many reveals in this episode, enough that I want to be pretty careful about what I write here because I don't want to give away spoilers to people reading the snippet of description that will go up on Google+.

But I think the most important thing revealed is that The Tower both has the capability of growing new bodies, back up minds and put virtual minds into simulations. So yes, they have very expensive functional immortality, original gets into an accident, print out a new copy, lose at most a couple of weeks experience.

Who wouldn't be interested in this? Imagine if you no longer needed to be worried about the head of a government being assassinated. You just back up the president regularly and before every public appearance.

No wonder Farrick wants to get her hands on it, I am frankly surprised The Tower ever lost its funding with capabilities like that.

Friday, 6 March 2015

There Came An Echo / Episode 3 / Slyly Syll


I really enjoyed the turret defence mission in this episode, it was pretty straightforward and at the difficulty level I was playing I'm frankly not sure I could have lost too badly, but it was so much fun literally telling mines to explode to take out a squad of mooks.

That said, I am having a surprising amount of trouble getting Syll and Grace to listen to me, I guess the accent model for AU doesn't quite match with how I pronounce those words, I definitely need to look into defining more custom commands because I suspect that may help me avoid that issue in future.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

There Came An Echo / Episode Two / Graceful When Angry



Bugs happen, but it is always unfortunate when you run into one that blocks progression. Even temporarily. I am in general pretty averse to playing the same thing over, at least in story focused games.

I really like the mark system, I love being able to set up a bunch of orders ahead of time and then trigger them and see my whole group work as one. I kind of want to see it as a feature in other tactical games though I guess it only works if they are also real time.

I probably should try setting some up marks for weapon configurations and retreats too. It is good that you tend to have a quiet period before fights so you actually can take advantage of the mark system, setting it up during a fight seems like it is a path fraught with peril.

Friday, 27 February 2015

The Long Dark - Episode 5 - A Wet End


And thus ends my Longest Dark lets play, for now at least.

I had a good time and was really intensely engaged especially during my long trek to try to find food, but without a story mode right now this has a very limited appeal, not that thrilled by just trying to see how long I can last.

Definitely going to keep an eye on the game though, shows a fair amount of promise and definitely interested in seeing what a bit more direction will add to the experience.

The Long Dark is by Hinterland Games Inc, find out more at http://intothelongdark.com/

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Völgarr The Viking - World 1 - All The Lizardmen


Völgarr is a norse themed platformer by Crazy Viking Studios. I picked it up as part of the Adult Swim bundle but didn't actually start playing until seeing a friend stream it and get really into it.

Unlike the other difficult platformer I play, Völgarr is linear, in fact I find it leans pretty heavily on foreknowledge allowing players to reduce some of its difficulty because a well placed spear throw can eliminate foes before they would otherwise be seen.

The game also is extremely light on check points. When you die you are sent back to the start of the level. If you don't finish a world before you quit, you are sent back to the beginning of the world, which I feel makes it a pretty poor candidate for a regular lets play.

So here, you see the beginning of a kind of ultimate newbie run. Whenever I die, I fade into the next run that passes that point. You basically will see the first time I pass any given challenge, not necessarily the best way, but a way that will work, once anyway.

Basically going to put these up in any convenient Monday/Wednesday/Friday slot until I have finished the game. So there may be some gaps depending on how long later worlds take me to beat.

If you want to find out more about Völgarr the Viking, please go to http://www.volgarrtheviking.com/

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

There Came An Echo / Episode One / Calling Corrin


I backed There Came An Echo on Kickstarter and as long as I have done things correctly, this should be out as the game launches. I backed mostly on the strength of some friend's love of Sequence, the previous game by Iridium Studios. I haven't played much of Sequence, but I did enjoy the humour and like the idea of someone using DRR to build a completely different kind of game.

I am really keen to find out how everything unfolds, it is great to see developers try new approaches to controls and systems. One of the features I find most interesting about this game is the constrained, but user editable vocabulary. You can add your own alternates. I am definitely taking suggestions, especially for alternate character names.

There Came An Echo is a tactical combat game with a twist. It is built to be controlled by your voice. Find out more at http://www.playiridium.com/games. It is available on Steam for $14.99

Monday, 23 February 2015

The Long Dark Episode Four - The Long Trek



I think it is the last couple of episodes where The Long Dark really grew on me. It evokes desperation really well. I was being very careful to look for food as my supply and situation grew increasingly desperate.

The desperation really engaged me and generates stories I really want to tell, even if the story is ultimately that time I started right near some wolves and was eaten while running for shelter.

Really feel like things are looking up for me this game, despite still lacking a building I can set a fire in or a good source of food. For the moment though I am not starving and can warm up a little. That is a kind of progress right?

The Long Dark is by Hinterland Games Inc, find out more at http://intothelongdark.com/

Friday, 20 February 2015

The Long Dark Episode Three - I Had It So Easy!


I seriously had no idea how easy I had it on my first life until I had the ones this episode. In its current state The Long Dark doesn't seem to try to have a specifically gentle or hard introduction. You are just planted in a random location on the selected map, at a relatively random time of day (you can spawn towards sunset apparently), in whatever weather conditions have been generated.

So you can spawn right near a pack of wolves, who then eat you, or at the end of a snowy foggy day with no shelter in sight.

Interestingly enough as a result of these very painful experiences I felt much more engaged with the game, they were definitely punishing and unfair, but they were also very unusual experiences and they were over fairly quickly so I could start over.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The Long Dark Episode Two



Having played a bit more Long Dark now I am surprised at just how gentle the game was with me here. The trapper's homestead and the camp office are two great locations, full of gear, food and gear to keep me going.

And then I throw it all away with an expedition I really didn't need to make at the time, at least I don't think I did, I could have spent some time reclaiming wood and materials in the cabins and tried putting up the snare again to catch food.

I am still far from an expert at this game, but really appreciating the stories you get to tell about it.

The Long Dark is a survival game set in a post societal collapse Canadian wilderness. It is by Hinterland Games Inc, find out more at http://hinterlandgames.com/projects

Monday, 16 February 2015

The Long Dark Episode One


And so begins the fight for survival. How long can I last on the edge between starvation, freezing cold and thirst. Can I figure out where to find food and how to avoid wolves?

The Long Dark is a survival game set in a post societal collapse Canadian wilderness. It is by Hinterland Games Inc, find out more at http://hinterlandgames.com/projects

When I say survival I mean just that, survival, at this stage at least this is not a game where you ever are expected to get substantially ahead of the curve. You are never meant to feel too secure because starvation, thirst and cold are always around the corner. Unlike Minecraft you can't just set up a shelter whenever night falls, or build yourself a small farm in which to grow food, nor will food keep forever.

Friday, 13 February 2015

The Star Realms Diaries Episode Two - Rematch


Jarenth and I had a lot of fun recording our Star Realms game last time so we thought we would do it again, show off how varied the game can be given how much depends upon building off that trade row.

And I guess we did, but this is definitely my least favourite kind of Star Realms game, the kind where I critically misread the board and the amount of damage my opponent was building up until far too late. Jarenth pays a lot more attention to the starting colour distribution than I do and here it paid off in a lot of cheap high damage yellow cards that I in no way found a counter to. If I had read the situation better I could have at least split some of those damaging cards with him and we could have beaten each other down until one of us won.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Drunken Robot Pornography - The Cleanest Game on The Internet


Today I am taking a look at Drunken Robot Pornography by Dejobaan Games. It is much much tamer than it sounds.

You are a man taking responsibility for giant robots that are destroying Sky Boston. It is up to you, your sentient starfish suit, your jet boots and your gun to take out this mechanical marvels before things get out of hand.

It so far at least has 3 different game modes:
- Kill titans
- Reach a particular score by shooting things and collecting pick ups
- Reach a particular score by collection and depositing alcohol

Definitely more of a fan of the first mode rather than the later ones, though it is always nice to have a bit of variation. Every level has a time limit and they also tend to be chock full of little drones intent on killing as well as those giant robotic titans.

This really drops the time commitment of this game, any given attempt will last at most the time limit of the level, the longest of which is about 4 minutes. But unlike in their other games like Aaaaa! For the Awesome, this game is completely linear. if you get stuck on and sick of a level you can't move on to a different one, you have to keep trying until you succeed.

This barrier made it pretty easy for me to lose interest in favour of other game. I definitely enjoyed my couple of hours playing this game, but not sure I am likely to go back any time soon.

Monday, 9 February 2015

ADOM - Ancient Domains of Mystery


Today we are trying out ADOM - Ancient Domains of Mystery, one of the older roguelikes that is making its way over to steam with a fresh coat of paint.

My friends and I spent a surprisingly large number of hours playing this in high school, both at home and on the school computers. I don't actually remember any of us finishing it though. I know I got close through rampant save scumming and other forms of cheating and I remember one of my friends getting a character up to the level cap at 50 but even the basic ending eluded us.

It was kind of frustrating to learn that there are a number of advanced endings that require a fair amount of foreknowledge, ensuring that you get the right items before key points. Trying to avoid killing cats, marking down the first thing you ever killed so you know how far through the infinite dungeon you have to go.

This game has a surprisingly detailed control scheme that allows for some interesting interactions, but it does lead to some rather strange and comical results.

For example if you are sufficiently tough, you can abuse a low alchemy skill, for some reason incompetent alchemists can make any two liquids explode. It is an amazing supernatural ability, I distinctly remember mixing orange juice and water to take out a shopkeeper. In the video my character starves to death over the course of a couple of days despite having several meals during that period. I guess it is important to remember that detailed mechanics does not mean realistic simulation in any sense.

I really like the new tiles and the ability to use the mouse driven interface, it just seems kind of counter-intuitive that a game that wears inaccessibility on its sleeve should get this kind of a UI uplift, it'll help new players, but I am not sure how much.

I should mention I recorded this just before I headed off to Australia. The times I have tried to play it since I found out that bizarrely, on the steam version you have to be online to launch the game. It kind of put a damper on my desire to play more of it again, I suspect that it is simply an oversight on the creator's part, but I wasn't really in a position to ask him at the time.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Massive Chalice EP29 - The Massive Finale


Here we are, the final battle. My heroes, wave after wave of enemies and one giant cup that I need to protect. Honestly at this point it isn't even a challenge.

Large numbers of enemies are met with rage, explosives and the ability of most of my heroes to flat out vanish before the enemy can come looking for them. We are in the best of all possible timelines here my heroes have been at high level for ages, every item they have ever needed is at their fingertips and they can even replenish their explosive flasks straight from the chalice!

I don't even get to show of the cool thematic stuff that happens when you lose heroes in this fight, or at least I wouldn't if I hadn't also recorded this cool bonus footage. Other than the difficulty, which I must admit is at least partially due to this particular run stemming right from the initial backer beta, I really love the thematic content of this fight.

It is a last stand where your heroes ancestors ready to help them should they fall. Standing guard of the chalice you zoom into at the beginning of every fight, beating back the demons of time as they advance on this most important of objects.

I really like the idea behind the very final twist, in some ways it undercuts the player's success but it rams home that this game is about the inevitability of time, at some point all things will come to an end and all we can do is fight to ensure that end is pushed back for as long as possible.

The inevitability of loss is the thing I have enjoyed most in this game, in other tactical games I am the kind of player who will reload and replay a fight because I lost a squad member. Here I am willing to face the loss and move on because even if they survive the battle, the loss of heroes is inevitable, they cannot and will not live forever, eventually even without ever losing a battle the loss of land and keeps is inevitable. Time cannot be stopped.

I had a great time playing and recording Massive Chalice and I will definitely continue to track its progress through to its release and probably will play through it again at that point. I don't think I will do another Lets Play of it though, I am very happy to let this one stand.

Tune in next week for a series of one of episodes where I try out games sitting in my Steam library.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Ranneko Plays Sunless Sea


Sunless Sea is a survival exploration game set in a gothic fantasy setting by Failbetter Games. As the beginning text says, "Three decades ago, in the reign of Victoria, London was stolen by bats. Now it lies a mile below the surface."

Fortunately for the player, this new location for London is not without its own advantages, for example there is a big black sea a mile below the surface with plenty to explore, full of strange islands, people and mysterious sea life, often of the large and dangerous variety.

It is a setting full of mystery, horror, romance and text. Oh yes there is a lot of text in this game, the video itself has a lot of unrehearsed reading of this text too in it. It makes me aware of just how little time I spend regularly reading out loud, it is surprisingly easy to stumble.

That said I really like the text in this game; Failbetter games is really good at writing interesting stories that hint at further secrets to discover. I backed this game due to their reputation from their existing Fallen London game, which at the time I hadn't actually tried for myself. Since then however I have spent more time than I am really comfortable expressing engaging in this subterranean world where squid-shaped men roam the streets and Hell is a real place that is capable of establishing embassies and its devils are capable of quite politely bartering for your soul over a cup of tea.

I really enjoyed the hour or so I spent here with this game, though I don't think my captain here has much of a future, she seems to be really bad at managing money and supplies and I don't think it will be too long before the crew get a little too hungry and the fuel runs out. The game itself says to expect many deaths before victory and it will be interesting to see just what I am able to pass on to my successor.

I guess my main complaint is that looking through the shops in London I assumed that there would be actual trading to do across the Zee, I pictured myself buying and selling goods in every port, trying to pick what would be profitable to pick up, but not many ports seem to be interested in buying and selling anything other than the occasional supplies. Especially few are willing to both buy and sell goods making any trading route very one-way. I get the sense that you really are just meant to explore which makes you an unofficial part of the admiralty´s fleet rather than a real merchant captain. I can tell it will be a few tries before I can work out how to actually keep ahead financially.

Hopefully though the game will keep me interested long enough to find out how.

Sunless Sea is currently in early access on Steam for €19.99 or $18.99US depending upon your location, enters full release at 5:30PM GMT tomorrow.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Massive Chalice EP28 - Setting Up the Finale


Just one last fight before the game is over.

I have to say that I was not exactly surprised to find out we need the cadence present to finish the game. It would have been pretty disappointing if we just hit the end of year 300, the chalice charged and zap, the game is over. It wouldn't feel complete with a finale fight.

Plus of course there have been threads on the Doublefine forums talking about the final fight, which also gives it away somewhat. The final fight brings in a rather interesting and cool hook which I will go into more next time on the blog.

When recording this episode I was kind of impatient to get to the end and get to play out that fight, most of the strategy level decisions have lost their impact knowing that I no longer need to shepherd future generations towards the final confrontation. It renders a lot of things that previously felt very satisfying to kind of pointless busywork as I let my keeps and other buildings fall empty and direct my research down deliberately fruitless aims.

It seems oddly appropriate given the entire aim of this society from my time with it has been holding out against the Cadence, as victory and relief grows closer the struggle itself loses the same appeal and intensity it once had.

On Friday it all finishes and these people can work out what to do with their lives.

Monday, 2 February 2015

1 Year In Sweden

Today makes it one year since I arrived bleary eyed into Copenhagen airport where I was greeted by my partner and taken on the train to the town I have lived in for the past year.

I can't say that it is at it's most attractive at the beginning of February, cold, dark and full of dead looking trees but without the snow that would make that look kind of pretty. It was pretty clear that I was going to be living in a very different climate the one one I had grown up in. It was not exactly a surprise but not an ideal introduction either.
This is actually from the end of March, but I think it gets the point across
It has been an interesting year, getting used to a place, a new culture and a new language.

Sweden is a relatively easy country to speak only English in, you just have to be happy not being able to read any official documentation. Fortunately they are also pretty keen to have immigrants learn Swedish, they have free Swedish For Immigrants/Svenska För Invandrare (SFI) classes that I have been attending. At this point I can confidently say that I am better at it than I have been at any other non-English language I have studied. Unfortunately I can't say that particular bar was set particularly high.

One of the most interesting things about adapting to a new culture is realising just how many things and practices you thought were normal and relatively common aren't. I wasn't expecting to find Vegemite, Tim Tams and Kangaroo meat in stores here or anything, but by the same token I was expecting to be able to find beef sausages, proper bacon and plain peanuts without difficulty. This has become a new interest of mine when talking to other foreigners, "What did you expect to find in supermarkets that wasn't there?" I feel you can tell a lot about a place from the products you see in its supermarkets.

The distance from family and friends has not been ideal, Skype and Facebook help and we have had people come and visit which has been great, but in the past year there have been births and deaths within my family and it really sucks that I haven't been able to be there for them in the way I would like.

Making friends is not nearly as easy as it was back in Australia. In Australia I had the advantage of growing up there, school and university both were environments where I was constantly mixing with people of a similar age and interests and I don't quite have the same situation here. I really miss the casual social contact I had from weekly gatherings with friends and being able to rustle up some multiplayer gaming when I wanted. Time zones mean that spontaneous multiplayer is much hard harder now and it turns out that the gamers I have met here don't actually play much of the kinds of games I like playing.

Massive Chalice EP27 - Forgetting Your Rage


Despite having researched the equipment that lets me ignore special damage like the wrinkler and lapse attacks, I've never really bothered using them. The goal has been to try to put down lapses and just stay out of range of wrinklers.

The special damage does mean that they are always a threat though, I am never really comfortable with the idea of ending my turn visible and in range of any of them.

This is especially true at level 10 because there is there is no XP buffer one hit from a lapse and suddenly you lose your awesome special level 10 skill. It is pretty painful and  I have no idea how forgetting the skill will work for Mad Bomber and Chalk One Up, would I lose the damage boost I have built up or would my alchemist suddenly lose 5 vials?

Regardless, we are getting ever close to the end of the game, this series will finish up on Friday.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Massive Chalice EP26 - Enforcers Suck


The sad news is that enforcers, just not good enough compared to the Hunters and Trickshots, they basically only deal comparable damage with close range shot, which is exactly where I don't actually want my hunters to be.

Give me a trickshot with the ability to hit multiple enemies with the same attack or the hunter with follow up any day over an enforcer.

I guess it is worth noting that I am comparing these guys when fully kitted out with the best weapons, armour and equipment that I can possibly have, but from what I have seen on the doublefine forums, enforcers only really become useful when using one of the cadence bows. Weapons which for the most part are significantly outpaced by relics, so I am not so sure it is worth the effort, especially with the other hunter bloodlines and relics I have available to me.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Massive Chalice EP25 - Revisiting the Marshlands


Back to the same map as last time, but from a different angle and against different opponents. As a cost saving approach I like it, the maps do feel different enough, as long as you don't see them back to back anyway.

I really enjoyed using kill rage here, if I could get a bit more damage up I would probably use caberjacks a lot more. Maybe I should think about using that Winter's Bone relic for a while.

This series will end on Friday week. If you have any suggestions as to what you would like to see me play next, please let me know.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

My Favourites of the Games I Finished in 2014

I realise that I have left this almost through to the end of January, but this year I actually have something resembling data.

During the year, when I finished games I ranked them on my games spreadsheet, because apparently I am that kind of person. I didn't allow myself to reorder games, it was always about slotting in the current game somewhere in the ranking, but I also lacked any firm criteria. Rankings were very much a gut feeling and I probably wouldn't have kept the same ranking were I to do it from scratch again now.

Because I ranked them when I finished, or in some cases decided I was done with the games. It also is a bit biased towards games that pack a good emotional or narrative punch towards the finish. I can't say I really feel that this is a problem.

I am going to continue trying to rank these things as I finish, I am not sure that it is at all helpful, but this year I think I am going to have two lists, one that I can reorder and one where entries are fixed when they are entered. I wonder how much they will diverge.

Well without any further delay, my top 5 games for last year were:

5. Wolfenstein: The New Order

One of the first games I played once my desktop arrived in Sweden. This was very much a purchase made from nostalgia, I spent a lot of my childhood playing through Wolfenstein 3D and Doom which gives this series an appeal it probably doesn't really deserve.

MachineGames did a great job building a lengthy imaginative modern take on Wolfenstein, the idea of taking the setting into a full blown retro scifi alternate universe allowed them to make some really eye catching levels and show a surprising amount of heart.

4. Call of Juarez: Gunslinger

This bite sized entry in the Call of Juarez series was a great mix of experimental story telling and satisfying gun play mixed up in a western setting that I must admit I am not too familiar with.

I tore threw it in a fairly short time and then went back for more. It is one of the few games this year that I replayed and even tried showing to friends via streaming.

I am a bit of a sucker for the unreliable narrator and I love the way this game uses it to play around with levels and scenery. I also enjoy how the tale gets taller and taller as the Silas get further into his drinks.

3. Shadowrun: Dragonfall

The eagerly awaited DLC for Shadowrun Returns. With this Harebrained Schemes managed to address most of the criticism that Dead Man's Switch (the original campaign) received.

It increased opportunities to access the matrix, added a persistent team of runners for you to use and had a much less linear structure. I became very attached to my little Kreuzbasar.

2. Hate Plus

Though a lot of reading, this game is very tense. It is a prequel/sequel to Analogue: A Hate Story and again Christine Love nails the ability to convey a tragedy.

I played this over the course of three days, as intended. But I continued from the impossible ending which did avoid one of the darkest parts of the game.

I can't say I am too upset by that, reading through the slow downfall of a society along with the hopes of the characters I liked being slowly crushed as they lost against the forces moving against them was bad enough.

1. Shadowrun: Dragonfall - Director's Cut

I guess this is a little unfair, but the director's fall of Dragonfall is a separate title and I did play both this and the original DLC. For the director's cut they expanded the
story, tuned up the interface and allowed it to breathe free of the constraints and stigma of downloadable content.

The new character missions were great, allowing us to see more of the world and learn to never ever ever let Blitz plan anything.

My favourite aspect was the expanded end content, you can argue with the bad guy now. You can even side with him if you are sufficiently swayed by his arguments, which is really cool and gives you an awesome semi-playable epilogue. SPOILER: It does not end well, there are horrors. But Sydney and the manastorm there are mentioned!

Monday, 26 January 2015

Massive Chalice EP24 - Keeps Exposed


After the attack this episode I am left with all 5 of my keeps exposed to direct attack by the cadence. This, given that I now face only 3 region attacks, is the most vulnerable period I am likely to have remaining in this game. I could potentially lose most of my keeps over the next few episodes, which will greatly reduce my ability to gather reinforcements.

Fortunately there are only 40 years or so left in this game. My youngest heroes should see a day where either the cadence are defeated or the fight has been truly lost.

Either way, when this run ends I will move onto the next game, this series should finish up next week, I am happy to take suggestions as to what to play next.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Massive Chalice EP23 - BOOMstriker!



Okay, Boomstrikers are a lot of fun. The high accuracy, free aim and area attack results in the ability to kill off enemies groups of enemies at quite a distance and they retain the alchemist's high damage.

They would probably feel a bit less awesome at lower levels due to the 5 flask limit, but at high levels they are really mobile from having free throw and boom and zoom, 2 high damage attacks in the same turn, with each success letting you advance or retreat as you please, yes please!

Definitely running out of things to say outside of the videos though, good thing I should finish off this game fairly soon.