Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Knight Squad: The Best Party Game For My TV

Knight Squad is a game, in the truest sense.  It reminds you of Gauntlet, mixed with the frantic kill-or-be-killed action that Bomberman used to bring to your screen.  It's distilled chaos that's simple and direct.  There is no pretext, there is no plot, there is just the game, and trying your best to get as many points as possible as quickly as you can.

I know this sounds strange coming from me; normally, I'm the one that is digging into Final Fantasy Tactics because of its convoluted story-line, or trying strategies on exactly how to beat the hardest difficulty of Civilization V.  Here though, I find myself going back to a simpler time where it's just me, a directional pad, and one button to attack.  It's all I need, and it's all I want.  Three minutes at a time, Knight Squad drops you deep into a frenetic battleground, making you and your friends fight it out to see who will stand victorious.

This article is about one of my favorite games of the last year, finally getting its full release.  It was something I loved to play over a year ago, even while it was still unpolished.  Now, it's a game that gives you a reason to pull out controllers and make you and all your friends huddle around the TV again.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Look at Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows

Remember Shovel Knight, the quirky retro platformer that had the whole indie community blowing up for a month or so? If you don't, it's a good game for a good price, and you should absolutely buy it right now. If you have played it through already, Yacht Club Games has just given you reason to go back through again. They've released their first free expansion for it as promised, and it’s definitely worth diving back into the game for.
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Plague of Shadows was supposed to just give players access to another character: Plague Knight, the mad alchemist of the Order of No Quarter. As seems to be the norm, Yacht Club Games dug a little deeper than that. They’ve introduced a new Challenge Mode, added new secret areas to every level, and released a whole second storyline running parallel to the first. This one follows Plague Knight as he hunts down his fellow members of the Order in order to gather ingredients for his Serum Supernus, the ultimate potion. There's a lot of content being added here, so let's dive right in.

Friday, November 13, 2015

War Never Changes, but Fallout Certainly Does

Fallout 4, the latest and much-hyped installment in the long-running franchise, certainly does its best to live up to the hype. I walked into this game having steadfastly avoided any information about its plot, mechanics, and characters. I walked in blind, and now that I’m about seven hours in, I am mostly pleased with what I’ve found. Boasting impressive graphics, a gripping story with high stakes both personal and societal, and solid, streamlined gameplay, Fallout 4 has the potential to be a fantastic addition to the series.

Fortunately, Bethesda hasn't just made a clone of the older versions of the game: the landscape, the plot, and a new crafting system have really moved to transform this ancient series into something new.  Fallout has changed, and it's time to take a look at exactly how.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

How Legacy of the Void's First Level Is Perfect

I'll be upfront with you: I've been raised to be a bit biased towards Blizzard Entertainment. How could I not be, after sneaking into my father's office to see a co-worker playing Warcraft II at the impressionable age of 10?  I remember hiding in my room that same year to play my copy of Diablo I, then promptly running outside as I heard the Butcher in Diablo I bellow his now infamous battlecry for the first time.  From those points on, each game by Blizzard that came out captured my attention and my time, and each game gave me moments like that, of complete rapture.

That was twenty years ago though, ancient history in the world of video games.  The industry has evolved, and the push for dramatic moments, for cut-scenes and jump scares and voice acting long ago became commonplace.  I have long ago fallen out of being a die-hard fan of any one game by Blizzard, or even attempt to compete in their multiplayer arenas.

But now, twenty years later, I load up the newest and possibly final chapter to StarCraft, and I find myself feeling the same rush of perfect moments again.  One minute into the first level, and I am tuning out the regular world around me.  Twenty minutes into the campaign, and now I am invested in completing this story that for years had been pushed to the very back of my mind.  How does Blizzard capture and draw in so many players?  What is it that Blizzard does so right to create loyal followings for their various universes, and is this that missing 'something extra' which catapults a good game into a great one?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Wyrmwood Hero Vaults: A Kickstarter for any Tabletop Gamer

It’s been a while since we’re done one of these kickstarter promotions, and that’s not by accident.  Every time we promote a Kickstarter, it’s a project that one of us inevitably throws money towards… putting our money where our mouth is, so to speak.  Because of this, and because of my love of miniatures games, I’ve found it prudent to stay away from the Kickstarter website, for the sake of my wallet.

That streak of frugality ends now though, and I can blame the people at Wyrmwood for this turn of events.  It’s not a game that we’re promoting here, as that’s not what Wyrmwood does.  Instead, they make items to augment, to enhance the experience of sitting down with your friends to play a game. It’s well crafted, well made product, made to help you feel unique in your purchase.

With that being said, let’s take a look at their newest project, the Hero Vault: a project design that for right now, only looks to be available through this kickstarter.  A project created with lots of customization options, the Hero Vault is being made with the promise of being shipped and ready for Holiday gifting, so get your wallets ready!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Gloom: Misfortunes, Mental Breakdowns, and Murders

I’ve played games of all kinds. I’ve had to ruthlessly steal my opponents’ resources for myself, leaving their civilization to wither and die. I’ve had to backstab enemies and allies alike. I’ve been in battles where thousands upon thousands of innocent bystanders were killed by the clash of two relentless superpowers. I’ve hunted down civilians intentionally, whether because I needed to eat them to restore my own health, or simply because I wanted the money in their pockets. I’m a big fan of Cards Against Humanity, and trying to freak out people sitting next to me. None of this has ever made me wonder whether I might actually be a horrible person.

Gloom did.  Now, I'm pretty sure that I'm a bad person after all.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Running on Unfamiliar Grids: A Netrunner Story

Either my nerves are getting the better of me, or I'm developing claustrophobia. The narrow room I'm sitting in regresses deep into the building's basement, well-lit, but only about two and a half table-lengths wide. I spread out my playmat as I've done so many times before. Next to it, I place a neat pile of credits for easy access. Shuffle. Deal my opening hand. Nod in a friendly manner to my opponent and say “good luck”. On any other day, this would be a normal opening to a normal Netrunner tournament

Except that my opponent responded a little differently than what I normally hear.  They responded with "Lykke Til".  Norwegian, not English. 

This experience stopped being normal for me when I packed my Netrunner cards into my vacation luggage. Now, somehow, I'm sitting opposite my Norwegian counterpart trying to suppress my jitters long enough to win a match. How did I get myself into this? Playing Android: Netrunner, for me, is playing Chess with a customizable army. I memorize likely moves, anticipate my opponent, and take great enjoyment in knowing that my creation is particular to me. When I win, it's with something that I've built and tuned myself.

This article isn't about that.  This article isn't a review of Netrunner rules or tactics (Wyatt touched on that already).  It's not yet another internet article urging you to get out and experience your local tournament scene. It's about what happens when you get a little more outside your comfort zone.