Game Impressions – Marvel Heroes

So, recently I had a friend recommend we get and subsequently play Torchlight 2. However, I didn’t really feel like spending any money at the time and so counter offered that we try out the new free-to-play Diablo-like MMO: Marvel Heroes. We got 2 other friends together and away we went on a new crazy adventure! Well, less of a crazy adventure and more your traditional button click marathon while we chatted about nothing in particular. For you see, Marvel Heroes is a strange game in many ways. In some regards, its design is antiquated. However, there are still parts of the game that feel extremely experimental and new. Let’s take a closer look at some of the pros and cons of Marvel Heroes!

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If you’re looking for a grand story, Marvel Heroes really shouldn’t be your go-to game. It’s a Diablo inspired MMO game based on comic books. If there has ever been a mix of factors that lend themselves to an open ended story, it’s those three. Summed up, resident Marvel badguy Dr Doom has capture the magic McGuffin of the week and is using its power to provide every other bad guy in the Marvel universe an excuse to bust out of whatever hole their currently located in and wreak havoc. Therefore, it’s up to you and every other Marvel hero they can remember to lock up all the bad guys and stop Dr Doom from playing evil god. While it may seem I’m treating the story as childish (which it is), it is by no means bad for the type of game they’re going for. The story is open ended and pumps out as much fan service as it can provide. If you’re a fan of any Marvel character, villain or otherwise, you more than likely have some representation in this game. You’re here for bad guys being over the top and campy, good guys being snarky with one liners, and to just click click click kill your way through hordes of generic grunts. In that regard, Marvel Heroes delivers.

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So, now that we know it delivers thematically, the big question remains of does it deliver mechanically? Well, yes and no. Let me make this clear: Marvel Heroes is not a great game nor is it a horrible game. Think of it like a B-rated action film. It scratches all the right places you wanted it to, but you know you really shouldn’t have needed those areas scratched to begin with because you know it’s bad for you. In its most pure state, this game is Diablo 2, but with a few more rough spots. Gameplay is fairly mindless and you really are just fishing around waiting for awesome random loot to drop while killing thousands of henchmen. The game doesn’t do much to improve this combat/loot synergy since its earlier form in Diablo 2 and that’s really only a horrible thing if you let the skinner-box style rewards addict you too much. It’s not the healthiest of gameplay to obsess over, but it can still make for a fun time.

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Characters (which are equivalent to Classes for you Diablo fans out there) are mixed regarding how much fun abilities they have. They each have 3 talent trees with various passive and active abilities, but new powers are given at a fairly slow pace. Furthermore, you only start the game with 5 free heroes of whom you have to choose 1 and randomly unlock others along the way. With no way to test out these heroes before you choose, it is pretty easy to get stuck as a character whose play style just really doesn’t match your taste. You have access to a greater number of heroes if you want to, but each of these characters must be bought for real money if you don’t want to pray to the random number generator you get lucky enough to get one while playing. All this stuff really isn’t that much in the game’s favor, but I still want to give them credit for having just such a number of heroes/classes to choose from and trying to spread out roughly unique mechanics among them. Every now and then you encounter a cool ability that hasn’t been tried much in this genre and it can be fun to see just the number of abilities that there are spread throughout all the characters in the games. It’s just the sad part is that you are going to be viewing most of these powers by watching other people playing those characters, not by getting to play them yourself.

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Which, speaking of other players, let’s talk about some of the new experimental stuff that Marvel Heroes does. For you gamers out there with a keen eye, you probably noticed that I mentioned Marvel Heroes is both an MMO and a Diablo like game, two genres that historically haven’t been paired together. Well, now you finally get to the see the mad fusion of these two in action! Marvel Heroes has 3 types of areas total: overworld, dungeons, and boss dungeons. Dungeons are small rooms where you’ll be playing with only yourself and whatever friends you have currently in your 6 person max party. Boss dungeons are dungeons that will automatically try and pair you in as large of a party as it can so that you can tackle a unique and at times fairly difficult boss at the end of a much larger area than normal dungeons. Finally, overworld areas are a complete free for all. Where most Diablo style games cap out at around 6 people total in the world, Marvel Heroes’ overworld will see you playing with what easily appears to be 30 to 40 heroes+. This can be both very cool and also very confusing. For you see, to the game’s credit, it utilizes dynamic quests that will appear in the overworld at random and give you a goal that anyone in the area can work towards. The most popular of these quests are overworld bosses, bosses that spawn in the overworld and require huge groups of people to defeat. Bluntly put, it can be really cool to see a huge mob of heroes shooting missiles, lasers, giant chunks of earth, and everything in-between at large beefy bosses. Sad part is, you will have a really hard time telling where you are on the screen between all those affects going off and often you will not see a boss’ attack incoming, resulting in a quick swift death. Thankfully nearby players can easily and painlessly resurrect you, but it is still ideal to not die in general.

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In the end, I walk away from Marvel Heroes feeling slightly mixed. As someone who wasn’t quite satisfied with Diablo 3, it’s nice to see yet another entry into the genre. I like seeing someone try something experimental, even if it doesn’t quite work out. Games like Torchlight and what not will keep the traditional gameplay of Diablo alive, but we need the occasional weird offshoot now and then to mix things up. While I feel Marvel Heroes didn’t do enough to evolve their core combat/loot system from where it was in Diablo 2, I don’t hold it against them too harshly since they then applied those systems to a much more messy MMO / Freemium experience. I’m the type of guy who likes Diablo and occasionally buys new champions in League of Legends. I could easily see myself coming back to Marvel Heroes for another fun play through if they release a character I have a strong enough liking for. Parts of the game turn me off, but it satisfies a desire I have for a particular brand of game on occasion while making things flexible to my budget. The promise of additional future content is also appreciated since it gives me a reason to come back to the game in 6 months to a year. Marvel Heroes is a sloppy stale mess, but it’s satisfying. I should also note that, as with all things, it’s also best played with friends too. Really, Diablo like games in general are best played with friends as they can be a fun type of mindless activity to do after a long day’s work.

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Noticeable Releases 06/17/13 (06/19/13 UPDATE!)

With my new release schedule now being Monday/Wednesday/Friday instead of on every day of the week, Noticeable Releases is now being moved to Mondays. So, being Monday night, let’s talk releases for the 3rd week of June!

–          New Super Luigi U (Wii U eShop)

–          Knights of Pen and Paper +1 Edition (PC, Mac)

–          Magrunner: Dark Pulse (PC)

–          EDIT UPDATE: Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara (XBLA)

Ouch, only a digital Nintendo release and 2 indie games. Well, things have certainly been better. However, it’s not like these games don’t bring anything to the table and we’ve seen far worse release weeks. Let’s see what these games have to offer!

NewSuperLuigiU

First up is New Super Luigi U for the Wii U. Now, if you were like me, you were probably confused to hear this game was coming out this week. I know after hearing it myself, I had to double check Amazon to make sure and, lo and behold, Amazon lists it as coming out August 25th. Well, after digging around a bit more, it turns out that this early June release is a digital only release and the physical media release will be in August. For a company like Nintendo that has been relatively slow to embrace the digital medium for game distribution, this is quite uncommon. Granted, they have been getting better at it and the Wii U is at the front of their efforts to do so. But having that long of a gap between digital and physical media releases is just peculiar. Some folks are saying that the release this week is just playable DLC for the game and the actual game is what is launching in August, but even if that were the case, that would make things even more unusual. I’ve heard of demos releasing before a game comes out, but never DLC beating a game to launch AND being playable. Regardless of what the case maybe, the game is standard solid Nintendo gaming. New Super Luigi U is the next game in the series originally jump started by New Super Mario Bros on the DS and returns us to classic Nintendo/SNES era Mario Bros platforming before the main series launched into 3D. All these new attempts at traditional Mario platforming have been quite fun as is and New Super Luigi U shows no reason to think that has changed. The only real downside would be if perhaps you were looking for something new. While thematically the game does focus on Luigi more than Mario, you’re not really going to get that many new mechanics out of the title. So, pick it up only if you are fan of Mario platforming and not looking for something revolutionary.

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Next up is Knights of Pen and Paper +1 Edition, an indie title I’ve seen making the rounds and got a chance to see in person down at GDC. Now, my first gut instinct whenever I see this game in action is that it really makes me recall many classic PC RPG games out there, both in terms of the graphics and in terms of what information it displays. Thematically though, it does feel like it breaks some new ground. The entire game focuses around you playing as a character that is currently roleplaying a different character in a table top RPG game. So, it is definitely going for a very meta experience. Within that, you basically play friendly yet shallower computerized versions of various tabletop like games. Choose and make your characters, tell the Dungeon Master / Game Master what decisions you’d like to do, and balance and build up your stats in various ways. I’ll admit, it does seem interesting and buzz around the game early on was fairly friendly. The game’s only 10 dollars on platforms like Steam, so if you have some spare cash and a love of old fashion PC and/or tabletop RPGs, check it out. I don’t think it can live up to the experience of actual tabletop RPG games naturally, but it seems to do a good job of selling the experience of playing one of those for anyone who has never actually given it a shot themselves.

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Lastly, we have Magrunner: Dark Pulse. On the outside, it seems like your average action-puzzle game in the same vein as Portal and Quantum Conundrum. Interesting, but those games can be a bit hit or miss due to the difficulty of making elegant puzzles for them. On top of that though, Magrunner: Dark Pulse tries to add a layer of horror to the mix by having it set in a futuristic world that borrow various Lovecraft / C’thulu story elements. As a fan of that stuff, it definitely piqued my interest in that regard. That said, adding elements of horror to an action-puzzle game isn’t exactly new and the original Portal did a good job of doing that without having to rely on extra dimensional space gods. Furthermore, while I enjoy that stuff, I know some people are turned off by Lovecraft story elements because they can sometimes be boring due to how “incomprehensible” they can be. The game is only 20 dollars, so it isn’t that expensive but not really that cheap; so maybe check it out if you are hard up for action-puzzle games. Those types of games aren’t that rare, but good ones can be. Besides, if you are a hardcore fan of those games, you almost always have that hungering for more puzzles regardless of if they are average or superb. So, this game offers you more puzzles to sate your gullet.

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EDIT: I can’t believe I almost forgot! Don’t forget that the 2 classic Capcom D&D sidescrollers are coming out this week on Xbox Live Arcade under the title of: Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara. If you like beat’em ups from the golden era of arcades, I highly suggest you check it out. Capcom did a fantastic job with the IP back in the day and I strongly feel more people need to experience this game.

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E3 2013 Impressions

Hey all! Well, it’s been one heck of a week, hasn’t it? E3 was in top form this year due to Sony and Microsoft’s new consoles coming out within the year. Not one to be outdone, Nintendo also put on a good show to make sure that the 3DS and Wii U are still relevant in this chaotic era for the industry as a whole. Overall, it was pretty fun to watch and read about. Sometimes for the reason of companies doing good by their consumers and at other times because certain companies are taking less than popular stances.

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First off, one thing this year’s E3 really help encapsulate was just how divergent the big 3 console manufactures are becoming. In a time when no one is sure where the market is going or what the best way to hook an audience is, each company is trying a different strategy and I have my fingers crossed that this will lead to some very interesting titles.

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The most blatantly different company of the big 3 is, as always, Nintendo. No matter how you slice it, Nintendo has always been an odd duck. They’ve always preferred to play by their own rules and usually have the clout to enable them to do so. This has led to many ups and downs for the company as a whole, but I’ll always give them credit for developing interesting business strategies. Often these strategies work and lead the industry to new places, but other times they just come off as supremely bizarre. During the Gamecube’s run, Nintendo encountered a problem. They had create a console they saw as catering specifically to core gamers with enough light-heartedness to still appeal to new gamers, but overall the system was a bit of a failure in their eyes. It was around this time that they developed their Blue Ocean market strategy of searching out new and untapped markets in order to avoid direct competition with Sony and Microsoft while correctly pegging Apple as their biggest threat moving forward. Years down the road and I think it is safe to assume that the success of the DS & Wii along with the rise of the iPhone proved them right.

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However, as demonstrated at this E3, that decision from almost over a decade ago now has put them in a tight situation. On the mobile market front, they are up against Apple and smart phone gaming in general. That market focuses primarily on Freemium these days and, for better or for worse depending on who you ask, those styles of games aren’t really something Nintendo seems to want to do. Funny enough, this has led to them attempting to highlight the 3DS as the last portable bastion of traditional Premium games, games that are usually quite polished but cost a good amount of money up front. While the 3DS got off to a rocky start, constant support for it by Nintendo and integration with the Wii U have helped to get it running these days and it shows some viability to still stay relevant, even if not dominant. Then, in the console market front, Nintendo is finding themselves at odds with Sony and Microsoft in a peculiar way. The evolution of the consoles for those 2 industry giants has led them to become more akin to living room computers rather than the consoles of old. In fact, infrastructure of the PS4 and XboxOne seem to  be similar enough where porting games between the two consoles should be fairly easy. Now, porting those same titles to the Wii U is a bit more difficult and thus, will probably not even get done. This has Nintendo relying once again primarily on themselves without the promise of 3rd party support and puts them right back to where they were with the Gamecube. Thankfully this time around, they are slowly embracing digital distribution and the idea of strong communities of all sorts of gamers. This very direct and friendly approach with their consumers is all the more evident by their monthly Nintendo Connect events where their CEO actually does webcasts, something that I honestly couldn’t see any other company getting away with as gracefully as Nintendo has. Their back is in a corner, but Nintendo is re-building old ties to gamers while attempting to retain what they’ve gained during the Wii/DS. As always, you can never count them out and E3 showed they are carving out a nice market share for themselves despite all the uphill battles they have in front of them.

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Now, we get to the other big boys: Sony and Microsoft. The events of this year’s E3 really highlighted the cyclical nature of corporate arrogance in the game industry.

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Having gained some very strong ground with the 360, Microsoft has come swinging out of the gates with an attitude reminiscent of Sony’s arrogant attitude during the PS3 launch. They come off as thinking they can do no wrong and that it is by a consumer’s own good luck that Microsoft has deemed them worthy enough to bestow all sorts of new digital goods upon, provided that customer makes certain concessions. If you follow the game industry at all, I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Microsoft went away from this E3 needing to do some damage control. Microsoft’s answer to the future of gaming is a fully functional multimedia center that takes care of all a consumer’s digital living room needs. From digital TV streaming, to gaming, to social media; Microsoft has it all in one place. However, they seem to believe so strongly in this future that they are willing to impose it on the consumer. Intense restrictions on used games, the console needing to connect to the internet daily to allow it to be used, and a mandatory obtrusive Kinect camera are but a few things Microsoft consumers are going to have to swallow to be a part of that future. While there have been rumors for a while now regarding those things, what I absolutely find the most baffling about this entire scenario is that Microsoft seemed surprised by the reaction. While it is true that many Microsoft members speaking to the press have been sparse with the details about the XboxOne, they still seemed woefully unequipped to handle Sony taking quick advantage of the negative reaction resulting from the Microsoft press event. Suffice to say, Microsoft needs to get their head in the game by the system’s launch this fall or start looking for a new audience to market their system to.

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Then, finally, we have Sony. Just like Nintendo, but to a lesser degree; they’ve come a long way. They usurped Nintendo dominance over the console market by catering to 3rd party developers back in the days of the PS1, utilized some savvy marketing to bleed and muscle out Sega, and swiftly rose to power over the turn of the century. But then the PS3 happened and things changed. Gone was a company who was easy to develop games for and prized themselves on afford consoles over powerful consoles. The arrogance they displayed during that time, implying that consumers would be more than happy to buy anything for any price if it was a Sony product, was absolutely mind boggling. Suffice to say, they reaped the ills such arrogance afforded them and spent most of the last console generation doing damage control and struggling to remain competitive against Microsoft in any market that wasn’t Japan. Still, there is a lot more to learn from one’s failures than their successes and Sony seems to have grasped that very well. Despite its troubles during the PS3 era, I always gave Sony credit for supporting the auteur gaming market. Often, Sony would go out of their way to pay for and help develop games that were artistic and unique in their vision. While often this seemed to be primarily driven by the desire to get some strong and exclusive system movers on the PS3, it is hard to argue that they didn’t get some great games developed out of that strategy. Expanding out of this strategy, we now see a Sony who is extremely friendly for indie developers and big name companies to make games for. Sony has gone out of their way to recruit new talent to help move the PS4 and much of that talent is from the burgeoning indie scene. They were quick on the ball at poking fun at Microsoft’s poor treatment of their consumers and demonstrated a good understanding of who their market is in this new era. While it is true analysts can easily point out that the core gamers who reacted poorly to Microsoft at E3 aren’t really mass market and most likely not Microsoft’s intended audience, the perceived poor reaction still spelled some slight trouble for Microsoft. Meanwhile, Sony has taken up the stance of pin point targeting the core market and, if they scope things correctly, can easily make some nice bank off this strategy. That said; core gamers also make for a fairly self-centered and fickle market, so things still remain unseen as to how things will play out.

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In the end though, I loved E3 this year. I don’t know if anyone is going in the right direction, but I like that they are all going in different directions. Nintendo is attempting to move their empire forward by bringing back in older core gamers who felt abandoned during the Wii era and combining them with the new gamers they’ve created from the Blue Ocean strategy, Microsoft is going full force on betting that final vision of the game industry is a true all-encompassing entertainment system that funny enough is what Nintendo claimed to be to the US market back in the 80s, and Sony is targeting the core gamers that they helped take from Nintendo during their teenage years and make a console that supports the early adult gamer who has been playing games his or her whole life. I wish them all the best of luck and I hope that one of them finds a proper path for consoles to stick around well into the future. I’ve always PC and console gamed, but I’ll admit some reluctance in seeing consoles go the way of the arcade.

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Noticeable Releases 06/11/13

Ah, the week of E3. It’s almost easy to forget amongst so much gaming news that games are actually coming out this week. But, we have 3 solid contenders that seem too good to ignore.

–          The Last of Us (PS3)

–          Animal Crossing: New Leaf (3DS)

–          Mighty Switch Force 2 (3DS)

So, that’s two new Nintendo titles and an exclusive for Sony from Naughty Dog. Not too shabby.

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First up we have The Last of Us, developed by Naughty Dog, whom you may know as the makers of the Uncharted series. Set in a zombie-like apocalypse, The Last of Us sees us go through the classic tale of gruff guy escorting a small child through hostile territory. Now, I know I may sound cynical writing that, but I’m actually not. That was essentially the main driving point of Telltale’s The Walking Dead game and I enjoyed that immensely. Furthermore, reviewers are praising The Last of Us across the board. Overall, despite being very cliché, Naughty Dog did a good job with the Uncharted series and I expect The Last of Us to be just as good if not better. If you have a PS3, you should probably pick it up.

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Next up we have Animal Crossing: New Leaf, the 4th and latest installment in Nintendo’s Animal Crossing series. I’ll admit; it’s going to be hard for me to remain neutral regarding this game since I’ve been a longtime fan of the title since it was originally on the N64 in Japan. I love the series’ light-hearted undertones, interior decorating, and real-time garden town. Not only that, but the series’ 2nd entry on the DS was quite popular since it allowed folks to play the game on the go and this new 3DS version sees to try and repeat that recipe for success. Now, despite my love of the series, it isn’t always for everyone. It can be slow paced and meant for having a nice, fun, and light activity to do on the go. If that sounds up your alley, check it out. Otherwise, stick to more action related 3DS titles like our next entry this week.

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Lastly, we have Mighty Switch Force 2, developed by the niche but quite popular studio WayForward. WayForward first made a name for itself with their 2002 GBA title, Shantae. Since then, they’ve had quite the good reputation for all sorts of platformer games. As you can tell by the 2 at the end of the title, Mighty Switch Force 2 is a follow up to the popular Mighty Switch Force. Overall, WayForward is one of the few small remaining studios out there still pumping out classic core gamer games in the modern era on classic portables like the 3DS / DS and so I can’t help but encourage you to support them when you can. If you have a 3DS, give Mighty Switch Force 2 a try.

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Game Impression: Reus

Truth be told, I’m an unabashed fan of god sims. Maybe it’s because of my love of mythologies or my childhood passion of biology and watching things grow and evolve in a given environment. I love carving the earth, controlling the ebb and flow of the oceans and magma, and throwing various resources at different creatures and seeing what they do with it and how they react to each other. Sadly for me, the genre doesn’t get as much love as it used to. Sure, it isn’t dead by any stretch of the imagination, but I could always use more. Thankfully, stepping up to the bat is the indie crowd. Just as it has for many undervalued and appreciated types of games, the indie scene is thankfully breathing new life into the god sim genre and, in some ways, is bringing things back to their roots. So, with all of that said and most credibility I’d have for NOT being biased about this title going out the window, let’s talk about the new indie god sim game: Reus.

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As with most god sim games, Reus starts off, “in the beginning.” In the beginning of what? In the beginning of everything. You start the game off as a barren planet devoid of any life or distinguishing features. Because this game would be very short otherwise and not live up to the name of being a god sim, you decide to right this wrong by using your strength to summon 4 giants: the Ocean Giant, the Stone Giant, the Forest Giant, and the Swamp Giant. These 4 giants act as the divine instruments of your will and will be your only method of interacting with the planet.

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As their names imply, each giant has their own unique strengths. For example, the Ocean Giant can carve out oceans while the Stone Giant can raise mountains. However, not all of their powers can be guessed by their name alone, as the Ocean Giant is also responsible for summoning non-exotic creatures to inhabit your lands. Your first steps in the game will be to use these 4 creatures to carve out oceans, deserts, swamps, and forests on your planet and populate them with resources like plants, animals, and minerals. Most likely while you are doing this, humans will emerge from within the earth and begin to dwell upon the land.

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Like most god sim games out there (but not all of them), humans represent the one aspect of the world you can’t directly control. Once you start populating the world with resources, humans will be drawn to those resources like ants to a picnic. Depending on where the humans decide to settle, their type of settlement will change. If they decide to set up town in the desert, they become desert dwellers. Meanwhile, swamps make them swamp dwellers and forests make them forest dwellers. Each of these 3 cultures has different values. People living in the desert value wealth, those in the forest value food, and swamp dwellers value technology. Now normally this wouldn’t be of too much of a concern to you since the affairs of mortals are only worth the worry if you’ve decide they are. But, providing for the humans will provide you with just what you need to empower your giants with even greater abilities.

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For you see, humans will occasionally decide to start projects: special buildings in their territory that will provide them with some massive boon. These projects require a good amount of resources; resources that will be your duty to provide by placing them near the humans. Should they complete a project, you’ll be awarded an ambassador from their village. That ambassador can then take up residence on one of your giants and, in doing so, unlock a new ability for them depending on what town the ambassador was from.

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Most of these new abilities are referred to as aspects. Bestowing aspects on certain resources can allow them to mutate into more advanced resources and provides them with above average output. Even if you decide to not rely too heavily on aspects, it is important to note that resource in the world also has what is referred to as symbiosis. Symbiosis will allow resources to provide additional output depending on if certain conditions are met. For example, some plants will output more food when placed next to other plants while other plants provide additional tech if placed next to minerals. So while you can certainly go around placing resources wherever you feel like, you’ll be better benefitted by making sure everything is in balance with one another and providing for the humans. Just be careful, as like I mentioned before, humans are the one thing you can’t control directly.

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Providing for the humans can be a tricky job. While they start out meek and thankful for whatever scraps you benevolently decide to cast their way, they slowly start getting cocky as time goes on. Soon, the divine gifts of the giants are no longer enough for them and they begin to demand tribute rather than ask politely for it. If they feel their demands aren’t being met, they’ll become greedy and begin to wage war with other towns and even the giants themselves. Thankfully, it’s not like the giants are incapable of defending themselves, but it can still be a sad thing to have to put down a village of humans you helped build up in the first place. Furthermore, you can still use the Awe and Danger attributes that come from certain resources to curb human’s potential downslide into a path of greed.

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In the end, Reus was fun. Although, as I alluded to at the beginning of this article; I can be a bit bias when it comes to a god sim game. Though, that shouldn’t count against me too much when talking about these types of games. As any fan can tell you, being a fan of something can sometimes make you all the more prudent when looking at future entries into a field. Reus has a solid art look, good solid mechanics that play nicely with each other, and is still limited enough that everything feels focused. I do wish that certain other elements were represented, like fire. The 4 giants are all very creation oriented and even though you can use their powers for destruction sometimes (floods, quakes), lacking something like fire that is so attributed to humanity’s rise and is essentially to the creation of land on earth seems odd. But, that’s really getting into small nit picks and wish lists features when I’m complaining about wanting small features that appeal to my vision of a god sim game. I had a fun time with Reus and you will too. Pick it up.

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Industry Quotes – Hiroshi Yamauchi on RPG gamers

[People who play RPGs are] “depressed gamers who like to sit alone in their dark rooms and play slow games.”

–          Hiroshi Yamauchi in a 1999 interview

Yamauchi

Oh Yamauchi, I could do an entire article on you. As you might be able to tell by this quote, the now retired president of Nintendo was (and probably remains to this day) a very straight forward business man who wasn’t afraid to speak his mind. He certainly wasn’t your average Japanese company head. That, to his credit, is what allowed him to press Nintendo forward into the success it remains to this day. Yamauchi was always direct and would grab any business opportunity by the balls, refusing to let go until he got what he wanted. Which, above all else, money is what Yamauchi wanted. He was strict and ran Nintendo with an iron fist that led them to prosperity.

That prosperity came at a cost though. While overall Yamauchi appeared to have quite a keen eye for judging video games properly despite not playing them himself, his opinions on various matters like the above quote did help contribute to Nintendo burning various bridges with 3rd party clients. After suffering under Yamauchi and Nintendo’s strict guidelines during the Super Nintendo era, many 3rd party companies jumped ship to support Sony’s Playstation back in the mid-90s. 2 of these companies, as you might suspect, were Squaresoft and Enix, companies renowned both in Japan and overseas for their various successful RPG titles. While relations have healed somewhat overtime, Yamauchi’s decisions are felt to this day in the company.

Although, to be honest, I’m still not sure to this day if this quote is really the slight folks have made it out to be. Remember, Yamauchi wasn’t a gamer. Not of RPGs or any other genres for that matter. For all we know, he felt this way about almost all gamers. I think in Yamauchi’s eyes, the biggest insult he could deal to the RPG demographic would be to call them not profitable. Regardless of WHY they played RPGs or how big of losers they are, I really don’t think Yamauchi would’ve cared much as long as they provided him lots of money. For all we know, maybe this was just Yamauchi’s way of identifying what he saw as RPGs’ core demographic.

In the end, regardless of why he said it, Yamauchi had the guts to always speak his mind back in the day and made an interesting character that helped shape the very nature of the video game industry to this day. I have to respect the man for not giving a fuck. Though if any readers here decide to follow suit, remember that that attitude might make it difficult in the business world and that you, like Yamauchi, best be prepared to strong arm people into helping you rather than hoping on their good will and sense of professionalism.

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Game Recommendation: Team Fortress 2

Oh boy. More so than my Okami recommendation, I feel I might be breaking some of my self-imposed rules regarding Game Recommendations with this post. Team Fortress 2 is hardly a small or niche title that simply flew under folks’ radar. The game was created by Valve for heaven’s sake, a name that pretty much guarantees a certain level of quality and pretty much rules over PC digital game distribution. However, I feel that the nature of the game itself may have caused some folks to simply either pass it by while thinking they were too late to the party or they played it once upon a time when it was part of the Orange Box and haven’t touched it since. Furthermore, like almost all games I post as Game Recommendations, I feel this game has a more universal appeal than just to those interested in one particular genre. I know that’s an arguable claim on my part, but it is actually one of the reasons I try and avoid very well done but still niche titles, like various entries of the Japanese indie Touhou series or Persona 3 FES. Both of which are games that are like crack for their intended audiences but may not be the best ambassador of their respective genre to outsiders. Maybe I should make a different series to recommend those… Anyway, with THAT out of the way, let’s talk Team Fortress 2!

TF2

Originally released in 2007, Team Fortress 2 is the fairly official sequel to Team Fortress, a game that has its origins in the mid-90s. The reason I say ‘fairly official’ rather than just ‘official’ is because the original genesis of Team Fortress was as a mod based off of Quake. However, later, the guys behind the mod were hired up by Valve and created Team Fortress Classic. Many years down the road from that, Valve finally saw fit to create a sequel from the ground up for the game and Team Fortress 2 was born. So, technically, you can call it an official sequel, but I like to give full due to the IP’s origins.

Thematically, Team Fortress 2 takes place in an absurd alternate history during the late 60s into the 70s. I have to say, the plot is absolutely ridiculous, yet fun and always evolving. Valve has no qualms making up any excuse they want to put features into the game and somehow creating a narrative based around their excuse. It’s a true gift. For example, when they released a map set in medieval Europe for a gameplay mode where modern day weapons are banned, they relied on the age old throw away reason that, “a wizard did it.” Specifically, one of the character classes pissed off a wizard who threw them back in time as punishment. Now, it would’ve been easy to just let things be with that reason thrown out there and never touched again, but later on during a content patch we are introduced to the wizard as a re-occurring plot character. He even becomes a boss fight even further down the road for their yearly Halloween update. Valve tries their best to reference past lore precedence and, regardless of how ridiculous it becomes, they stick to it. It really makes for fun little call outs to the fans who’ve kept up with the game over the years and while not isolating new comers because it ultimately doesn’t matter.

Mechanically and competitively, the game sits in an odd place. Originally, when the game launched, all 9 player classes (3 offensive, 3 defensive, and 3 support) had a small set amount of weapons and game balance was much more obvious, focusing around the various classes providing nice hard counters for other classes. For example; the defensive class Engineer could have his automated turrets that he built sabotaged by the support class Spy, who in turn had his disguises be particularly susceptible to the attacks of the offensive class Pyro. While all of this is true to this day, the game has seen a healthy life time in these past 6 years and has received TONS of content. Some of this content is new weapons that help swap out certain class weakness with others. Another example, the Engineer has received a weapon that no longer allows him to upgrade his turrets (a default ability at time of the game’s launch) but instead gives him the ability to much more quickly build one weaker turret. In this way, the initial balance of the game has shifted throughout the years and competitively, the game is viable but not always the gold standard of most competitive first-person shooter tournaments. This can also sometimes make it confusing for new and returning players as old advice becomes obsolete over time and certain nuances have emerged that allow for exceptions to some of the hard counter rules that were once in place.

Still, because of the hard counter nature of the game and limited weapon load that classes can carry, the game is still quite new player friendly. There are a multitude of modes to play the game in, both cooperatively and competitively. Death, while with its basic respawn timer, is fairly forgiving compared to other FPS titles out there. There is no leveling in the game. The only thing that players gain over time playing the game is random weapon drops, which most weapons simply swap out weaknesses for classes rather than acting as pure upgrades. Furthermore, all of these weapons are purchasable for players willing to put the money into the game. Which, I should mention, Team Fortress 2 is free to play these days due to how much money the in-game store made. There is little barrier to a new player hopping into the game, having no major weakness compared to other players outside of more limited strategies due to having only starting weapons, choosing a class, and quickly killing an opposing class they just so happen to hard counter. Although, they’ll need to be OK dying quickly in turn when they run into their class’ counter. Quick, fun, dumb action is the name of the game when it comes to Team Fortress 2. There are ways to employ strategy in the game and for a class to beat someone who hard counters them, but it takes time to learn the various ins and outs of the classes to do such. Easy to learn, difficult to master; it’s the mantra of many a great game.

Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention just how much character the various classes have. All 9 of them, while all cliché, are extremely iconic. They’re all cartoony, exaggerated, and fulfill their class stereotype wonderfully. It’s hard to not grow attached to them and, thanks to Valve’s movie making software; it’s easy to see just how beloved they are by the fans already. In fact, because this relationship is so engrained with the fans of the game, I’ve included both official and unofficial movies of the classes in this write up. Even if a class is almost the exact stereotype you were hoping for from them to be but not quite, there are a number of hats and other objects you can earn in game and buy from the store that allow you to further customize your characters. Trust me; these hats are serious business. Even though it is something that is for vanity’s sake only, hats have been a huge hit with the fans and sales from the hats help keep the game extremely profitable for Valve to this day.

In the end, Team Fortress 2 is an extremely well-crafted game that continues to thrive. It’s easy to jump in and start having a fun time right away and even if you are afraid of the competitive scene, they have a cooperative “horde” mode these days where you team up with other plays to kill armies of robots. The art style ages very well and it’s hard not to adore the crazy cast of characters. Being free-to-play these days, you have no reason to not give it a whirl and, even if you tire yourself out on it, you can always come back to new content provided every year. It really is simply put, a great game and I whole heartily recommend it.

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