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Games to Get Excited About: February 2018

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2018 promises to be a good year for geeks with a lot of exciting movies coming our way.  Gaming is no exception and February is packed with some interesting titles.  We Were Here Too looks cool; a sort of adventure exploration game where two players communicate over walkie-talkie in order to find their way out of a medieval castle.  Shadow of the Colossus has been remade and is being released for PS4.  Also with the release of Bayonetta 2, the original game will also be releasing on the Nintendo Switch.

There’s one release this month that I am excited about, and hoping I can pick it up for streams in the next month or so.  The history nerd, and gaming geek in me is excited for Kingdom Come: Deliverance.  This game had a rocky start with lack of interest and funding for a game from the newly formed Warhorse Studios.  It looked, for a time, like this game would be just another game that seemed like a great idea but never saw the light of day.

In 2014 a Kickstarter was launched to earn enough money to prove there would be interested enough to justify funding.  They secured the needed funds, and have since pulled in over $2 million.  It will finally come to us in a full release on the 13th of the month after being in beta since March of 2015.

Why am I excited?

Unlike a lot of RPGs, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is going to strive to be historically accurate rather than set in a fantasy world.  The game promises period appropriate architecture, clothing, armor and weapons from early 1400’s Bohemia (modern day  Czech Republic).  In the story the old king has died and the new king’s brother kidnaps him in a plot to seize the crown.  The player takes on the role of the son of a blacksmith, whose parents were killed in the war.  You will seek revenge for the killing of your parents, and attempt to restore the rightful king to his throne.  I love the idea of a historical fiction RPG, which isn’t a very common concept in gaming.  We get a ton of fantasy, science fiction, or variations of those but not many that try to replicate a time in Earth’s history.  I love RPGs, video games, and I’m a huge history nerd so this game appeals to so much of what I enjoy.

The game seems to put a lot of consideration into the details as well.  Your armor and gear will wear down and need repairs.  You’ll need to eat, sleep, and otherwise maintain your character’s health.  Even the horses have their own AI, can fight along with you, and have their own set of skills and equipment slots.  Every NPC has tasks that they perform in their daily lives, and the player’s actions have an affect on them.  From the description it looks like this will be a truly immersive RPG where player actions and conversations will have an impact on the world of the game.

They’ve even gone as far as layered armors and having their damage and wear show on the character’s appearance.  Skills will change when they are used.  Combat will include a variety of moves, defenses, and tactics all modified by a kinetic system where blows can affect what you can do and how fast you can do it.  You can commit crimes, but they can change the game’s economics and how NPCs react to your character.  The level of detail is impressive and it sounds like this will be a fantastic game if they pull it off as promised.

Notable Releases for February

Shadow of the Colossus – A remake of the original is coming to the PS4 early in the month.  This is a complete rebuild from the frame up but it will retain its original game play.

Civilization VI: Rise and Fall – The first expansion for Civilization VI adding several new features, including the ability for your society to rise and fall due to several factors.

Dragon Quest Builders – This game will see players take the role of a hero setting out to rebuild the world after its destruction.  Game play will be along similar lines of other block building games like Minecraft or Terraria.

Dynasty Warriors 9 – This next release of the popular hack and slash action game releases on the 13th of the month.  It will include stealth elements and introduce an open world format.

Secret of Mana – This is a full 3D remake of the 1993 Super Nintendo release of the same name.  It will release in the middle of the month.

Bayonetta 2 – The sequel to the popular action game Bayonetta will release in the middle of the month as well.  It comes to us on the Nintendo Switch along with a re-release of the original on the same system.

Influential Female Characters: Keyleth

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Most of my readers and our fans know that when I started gaming again, my Dungeon Master suggested I watch some Critical Role to help me. I have a habit of getting stuck in my own head and being too worried about rules to just play and have fun. The show did help and also give me the idea to try what has become my favorite class in D&D because of  the Druid, Keyleth. I felt for Keyleth because her backstory. I was also really interested in her powers. I started playing Druids and that has become the class which I feel most comfortable, but I would never have chosen that class so quickly if not for watching Keyleth.

Keyleth is a Druid of the Air Ashari. Without giving away too much for those readers who are catching up on Critical Role, here is a little bit of her backstory. Keyleth has always been a talented druid, even when she was a child. Her father was the Arch Druid of her people and her mother left at an early age. Keyleth’s  father sees her potential and chooses her to be his successor. As it is then explained in the old intro, “ Just like that, her jovial childhood was stripped and replaced with endless spell memorization, teachings from ancient traditions, and exceedingly high expectations.” Here, I thought my school days were rough. 

 

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We never really hear about Keyleth having childhood friends. Nor, as it would seem,  has she had a lot of socialization till she is sent away from her tribe. When her father thinks she is ready, Keyleth is sent on a journey to the other Ashari tribes to “establish respect” with their leaders where she becomes a member of Vox Machina, what the group is known as, along the way. Because of this upbringing Keyleth is awkward and, at times, socially inept. She is also reckless in times of stress.

Keyleth is played by Marisha Ray who is not only a gamer, but also an actress and writer. Marisha often comes under fire for her style of gameplay. There are many reasons for why viewers don’t enjoy how she plays. Some of which are because of how their Dungeon Master allows his players to experiment and, some say, he is not enough of a rule enforcer. Marisha also really commits to playing Keyleth, flaws and all. She doesn’t polish her just because she isn’t the most popular character. I know that some of her particularly cringe-worthy moments make it difficult for me to watch her as well.

That being said, I give Marisha a lot of credit. She took a character who comes from a strict and sheltered religious background to thrust her into the world which does not follow the rules. Keyleth has gone through a lot of growing and evolving throughtout the game thus far. She has put aside many of the religious beliefs that she grew up with and has had to learn how to interact with people who have not. Keyleth continues to find her own strength and control over her powers. This has been particularly hard for her since they scare her at times. She also has come to terms with guilt that she continues to bury throughout the game.

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In short, Keyleth is an evolving and flawed character. She is very real because of her flaws. She is kind. She feels things very deeply, including remorse when she makes a mistake. Keyleth is struggling to be worthy of the responsibilities thrust upon her by others. She is finding herself, making herself better and helping those around her.

Keyleth helped me to understand that it is okay for me to play characters who unflinchingly believe in good. That I can play a character who isn’t a perfect hero from jump. Marisha has taught me that it is okay to make a mistake in game and learn from it. Keyleth inspires me to be creative with my characters. To allow an awkward moment to happen if it is what I think my character would do at the time.

She is a great example of being present in the moment of gameplay. Of going with your gut as a player. Of taking a risk because it might lead to something awesome. Keyleth is all of us just trying to figure the world out. She is us trying to figure ourselves out. Keyleth is all of us, just with awesome powers and a really cool headpiece.

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Check out episodes of Critical Role here.  

You can listen to a pretty rad soundtrack that Marisha put together for Keyleth here.

Always keep sparkling!

Games to Get Excited About: January 2018

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I had to take a short hiatus, which meant less game-type excitement over the last half of the year.  Now I’m moved, settled, and looking forward to bringing you all sorts of great stuff in the new year.  Here we go!

January is always a little slow for game releases.  The holidays are booming with new things as studios and publishers try to catch those gift-giving sales and last minute shoppers.  That doesn’t mean we are without anything to look forward to as we ring in the New Year.  In particular we have several releases for consoles, most of which are based on anime titles, as well as current Japanese games getting released in the states.

The one that’s looking the most interesting to me is Lost Sphear.  It’s being called the spiritual successor to I Am Setsuna, also from the developer Tokyo RPG Factory.  It is being published by Square Enix and has been available in Japan since October.  It will release for us in North America on PC, Nintendo Switch, and PS4.  Despite good reviews and praise for its similarity to Chrono Trigger, the Japanese release of Lost Sphear didn’t sell as well as the previous title.

Why We Should be Excited

Square Enix created Tokyo RPG Factory for the sole purpose of creating JRPGs with a 90’s feel.  Some of you may be too young to remember the 90’s, but that era gave us some of the best and most influential RPGs.  Many set the stage for the games we have today –  the primary reason I showcase them on my own YouTube channel every Monday night.  It may be a good reason to pull Lost Sphear and its predecessor into my Saturday show to explore a new game built in a classic style.

The game’s story follows a familiar theme for a JRPG.  Young Kanata and his friends must discover the cause of something plaguing their home and eventually save the world.  Looking through the screenshots it appears to be built like a classic top-down game with turn based combat mechanics.  The graphics are more modern while keeping the feel of games like those early in the Final Fantasy series.

Notable Releases for January

Death Mark – Coming to the Switch and PS4 on the 19th, Death Mark is a horror adventure game previously released on the Vita.  The game centers around a group of people who have received a strange mark, driving them toward a mysterious mansion to find answers.

Dragon Ball FighterZ – A fighting game that borrows from other popular titles like Marvel vs. Capcom, this game comes to PC, PS4 and XBOX on the 26th of January.  It will be a tag team style game where players select three characters and can use one in an assist move against their opponent.

Monster Hunter: World – This open world action RPG is coming to XBOX, PC and PS4 on the 26th.  Much like the other games in the franchise, the game centers on capturing creatures to be studied.  Players will have single player as well as multiplayer available as well as many of the features, weapons and skills found in previous Monster Hunter titles.

As I said, light on the releases but it’s early in the year and close to the holidays.  I’m sure we have more exciting games coming as the year marches on.

Influential Females Character: Alice Liddell

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Alice Liddell is the protagonist of American McGee’s Alice, a game that takes place years after Alice’s adventures in Wonderland. While Alice has been away, Wonderland has become corrupted, or maybe Alice has. Now, she has to return and fight to make things right again. That way, she can save Wonderland and herself.

American McGee’s Alice was created by American McGee and released in 2000. The game is inspired by and takes place in the world of Lewis Carroll’s works, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Thankfully this world lends itself well to the gaming genre.

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Alice has lost everything since her return from Wonderland. Her family and home are gone due to a fire. She even seems to have lost her sanity. At the start of the game, she is being treated in a mental institution called Rutledge Asylum. Alice’s guilt has put her into a catatonic state. The only thing she has from her childhood is a stuffed white rabbit.

Alice is then sucked back into Wonderland by the White Rabbit.  Apparently, Wonderland has been turned into a twisted and macabre version of what it once was under the rule of the Red Queen. With the help of the Cheshire Cat, Alice must bring Wonderland, and possibly her mind, back to rights. She completes tasks and fights her way to her enemy. Only then can Wonderland be restored and, hopefully, Alice’s sanity.

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Alice has always had a soft spot in my heart. I love the idea of taking a such a well known character and being able to say, “well, what if?” What if Wonderland is real? What if Alice is insane? What if the two are tied together? Then, making a world from there that is full of danger.

The fact that Alice is allowed to question her sanity makes her a very important character. So many people deal with different mental illnesses every day. We fight our way through each hour. Alice also has to fight to be sane. That struggle has not always been a focus in story lines.

Alice is a strong character who is allowed to struggle.

The game is also well constructed with an interesting take on Wonderland.

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Always keep sparkling!

Influential Female Characters: Princess Peach

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Princess Peach is yet one more character that started out as a damsel-in-distress and has evolved into something much more. It is true that Peach has spent a lot of time locked up in the evil Bowser’s castle, waiting for Mario to save her. Nowadays, Peach tends to fight and race for herself. She does it in her signature color of pink and sometimes she even uses a parasol!

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Peach first appeared in 1985 in the game Super Mario Brothers. She is a princess of the Toadstool kingdom and is often kidnapped in the earlier games which, I think, has given her a bad rep in the gaming world. As I have written about before, we seem to have this unfortunate trend that if a character is not always a fighter that they are unworthy in the eyes of the gaming community, and honestly, the greater world. Even though she has been featured more recently as a playable character, Peach seems to be undervalued by players, which is a shame.

Some of my earliest gaming memories with my mom are of trying to fight my way through these old maps to save Peach. My mom, my brother and I spent a lot of time playing those games. I never minded that we had to save Peach. I was mad that the security of her kingdom seemed to be so lax that Bowser kept taking her and that the best person to save her was a plumber and his brother. However, that could have just been my young mind overthinking the games. At the end of the day, I always liked Peach.

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Part of it might have been that she was a princess. Part of that was because when she first became a playable character, she was originally the only female character to play. I always play her in Mario Kart with my friends. I like it when I have a rare win and I get to wave past in a blur of pink and sparkles.

I like that Peach has been allowed to evolve. She is still a princess. She is still “girly” in her design and mannerisms. However, now she gets to race and fight for herself. Peach has even gotten to go rescue the boys in Super Princess Peach! In a great switch, it is Mario and Luigi who are kidnapped and Peach who must save them. super peach

Peach can also be played in Super Smash Bros. Melee and Brawl, Super Mario RPG, and Super Paper Mario. Peach also appears in numerous Mario-themed sports games. She is a playable character in many of the Wii games, such as Super Smash Brawl, and even has her own remote now. Yes, it is awesome and, yes, I want one despite being terrible at Wii games.

In short, Peach is a fun character to play. She has a rich history in the world of gaming. Her design has never been compromised while she has been given room to change over the years. Sometimes you just need to play a pretty princess, particularly one who can beat people up with accessories if she so chooses.

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Always keep sparkling!

Women in the Gaming Industry: Brenda Romero

Women in the Gaming Industry: Brenda Romero

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Brenda Romero is a highly lauded force in the gaming industry. She is a game developer with a diverse resume. Brenda has also worked as a creative director and consultant for various companies. She has designed many different games, including one inspired by her daughter. Her creativity has been helping to fuel the gaming industry for years.

In 1981, Brenda started to work on Wizardry, a role playing series which helped to launch her fame in the gaming industry. Since then, Brenda has been a major part of many games and worked for various game companies. Some of these companies include; Atari, Sir-tech Software and Electronic Arts. Brenda is now the Program Director of the MSc in Game Design & Development at the University of Limerick. Brenda is also the co-founder of independent game developer at Romero Games, Ltd in Galway, Ireland. 

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Clearly Brenda has a passion for creating neat games for us to play. In addition to her work on Wizard, she has worked on Def Jam: Icon, in which the player uses beats and sound to – literally – crush their opponents with debris. Playboy: The Mansion is a game where the player helps Hugh Hefner build Playboy into the famous company that we all know today by completing different campaigns. Dungeons and Dragons: Heroes was inspired by her daughter. The Mechanic is the Message is an analog game that experiments with the word “game.”

Brenda has won many awards. So many in fact that I won’t list them. I suggest, instead, you go to the awards link on her page to read them. Brenda has also had the privilege of being a TED speaker. 

Brenda Romero is an accomplished game designer. She is a person who finds inspiration in many places. She shows us that work can be fun and that if you do the work you will be successful.

Always keep sparkling!  

Games to Get Excited About: August 2017

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August is looking to be a much better month for game releases with more than 25 games coming out, including Ark, Uncharted, and another Life is Strange title.

There’s a good mix of console and PC releases, and Nintendo continues to slowly add to the Switch library.  A few are continuations of popular franchises, and a couple are re-releases of games we’ve had for awhile, so it’s a mixed bag of new, almost new, and official releases of games we’ve already been playing.

It’s looking like a good month, but a difficult one to pick out a title despite the selection.  Ark is certainly a contender for most exciting release, but unfortunately my experience with it has been hit or miss.  Various bugs, memory leaks, and now unable to even join a server due to a strange error after the last patch has worn down my pleasure with the game.  Then there’s a lot of sports and racing games that just aren’t my cup of tea.  I’d be excited for the Pillars of Eternity Complete Edition release, if I owned a PS4 or XBox, but that’s one I’m sure a few are looking forward to.

That leaves me with one game I’m sort of excited about, even though I haven’t played the original series.  Thankfully, this is a prequel, so I might pick it up to play before going back to the first series.  Life is Strange: Before the Storm Episode 1 comes to us on August 31st and will tell the story of Chloe Price three years before the original game’s story line.  Chloe forms a bond with Rachel Amber, and together they help solve the mystery of Rachel’s family.  Some of the game mechanics have changed, most notably the removal of time travel.  Chloe will instead have a conversation feature called Backtalk that will allow you to manipulate characters in the story.

Why Should we Be Excited?

Obviously, this is a popular series, and a lot of gamers are going to be excited to jump into this world again.  For those of us who have not yet played the first, this could be a good place to hop on the train.  As a prequel one can step into the story without having to know the previous games.  If we enjoy it then we can pick up the first series and continue the story chronologically.  We’re also going to see an added episode covering a character named Max Caulfield, expanding the world’s lore even further.

Whether you’re jumping in to start here, or continuing the story of Chloe in a way, it should turn out to be a good release for August.  I’m seriously considering adding it to my list.  Maybe it will change my mind about this type of game.

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Notable Releases for August

Ark: Survival Evolved – The official release for a game long in early-access comes to us on August 8th.  It’s unclear if the bugs that have plagued it recently have been cleared up, but we’ll see early in the month.  Here’s to more dinosaur taming fun.  The release is for all systems.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice – Also releasing on the 8th for Windows and PS4 is a action game from Ninja Theory, who are touting it as an “Independent AAA” game.  The story works with Norse and Celtic mythology and takes place in the underworld.

Sonic Mania – Sonic rolls into all systems on the 15th as a classic side-scrolling game that the franchise is known for.  The game received a good deal of acclaim at E3 and gamers are excited to return to the feel of what made Sonic a hit.

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy – Dropping on the 22nd this installment follows the story of Chloe Frazer, and stands alone as its own story in the world of Uncharted.  Beside the new characters the game will be much like others in the franchise, incorporating combat and platform play in third-person.

Hello Neighbor – A strange release hits the market on the 29th.  This stealth game has the player attempting to enter his neighbor’s house without getting caught.  The neighbor sets traps while you try to break and enter. Interesting, but odd concept.