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Review: Stardew Valley (2016)

Developed by ConcernedApe
Published by Chucklefish
Released: February 26th, 2016
Avabile: Steam, XBox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, PSVita, IOS & Andriod

Let’s chat about Stardew Valley.

Years ago, I had gotten a GameBoy Advanced and found a game called Harvest Moon. I was obsessed with it. I would sit on the couch and play for hours, ignoring the world around me. I never thought I would find something like that again. I played other Harvest Moon games, but they weren’t the same. In comes Stardew Valley.

I was so excited when I saw it was coming out that I squealed and told everyone. I wanted everyone to hopefully experience the same wonder that I had playing Harvest Moon, I prayed that it would be amazing and was not disappointed. It blew away my expectations. 

Now that you know I love the game, let’s talk about the actual game.

You start off, unfortunately, with the passing of your grandfather, who hands you an envelope and tells you to open it when you are at your lowest. Next, you are seen working in a cubicle at Joja Corporation and obviously hating your job. You remember the note and open it. It’s telling you that you inherited a farm in Stardew Valley. Obviously, you drop everything and bounce. Peace, Joja.

You arrive in town and meet Robin, the carpenter, and Lewis, the mayor. They show you to your farm and tell you a few basics. 

There are 4 seasons and 28 days in each season. Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. You plant crops according to the season. You go fishing, cook delicious food, upgrade your house, get farm animals, and, obviously, earn money. 

What’s better is that you are surrounded by these amazing NPCs that have their own stories, hardships and personalities. You can date and even marry several of them, regardless of gender. You can make friends with everyone. 

Their stories unfold and you really get pulled in, wanting to help these NPCs in their struggles. It’s really touching and extremely well written.

Not to mention fighting monsters in the mine, the festivals, the secrets and so many achievements. Also, the addition of multiplayer means you can farm with up to 3 friends. 

With several different farm map options, no real ‘end’ to the game, and the ability to decorate and change your farm around as you wish, the fun can be endless. 

I feel like Stardew Valley has something for everyone. It’s only $14.99 and with no paid DLC, the game is a steal. I only have 13 farms and over 300 hours in the game to prove it.

On a more personal note, this game has also gotten me through really tough times, depressive episodes, and moments when I had no strength left. I could turn it on and disappear for a few hours and come out feeling better. It’s always had a calming effect on me. I’m eternally grateful for that.

Oh, and if nothing I said above is impressive, this game was made by 1 person. The entire game, all aspects. 1 person. Let that sink in.

Do you play? What’s your favorite farm type? Who’s the best spouse? Show me screenshots of your farm!

Game On Expo 2019: Fun and Games!

While I am an avid gamer, I haven’t had the chance to go to a lot of gaming conventions in my life. I’ve been to PAX South twice and on, August 11th, I had the opportunity to go to Game On Expo here in Phoenix, Arizona. Thanks to Real Women of Gaming, I got to get a media pass for this 3-day event. I was unable to attend all three days, but luckily that didn’t stop me from seeing a lot of great things at this Expo. This is the first expo where I didn’t go with friends, but instead with my niece, nephew, and a friend of theirs. Three kids in an expo hall by myself? Was I nuts? Turns out they behaved really well. And it gave me a different perspective of the event.

This is Game On Expo’s 5th year, so they are still establishing themselves and building their own community. And I have to say, they are doing a great job. Everyone we talked to was incredibly nice and the crowd was fairly polite. I was pleasantly surprised to see quite a number of parents with their kids there. Much more so than at bigger conventions. I think this has to do with the sheer amount of games they had available for people to play while they were there.

The theme this year was Mario and they had voice actors from some of the games available for photos and signatures. There was the voice of Mario, Charles Martinet, plus Jen Taylor and Kenny James. There were Pokemon voice actors Tara Sands, Eric Stuart, Rachel Lillis, Megan Hollingshead and Veronica Taylor. There was also Mary Gibbs, the voice of Boo from Monsters, Inc, Hellena Taylor, the voice of Bayonetta, Tim Kitrow from NBA Jams and E-Sports personality Chris Tang.

There was a section for old-school arcade games! There was Ms. Pac-Man, Paperboy, Pinball, Tekken and so many more! I have to tell you that I’ve never laughed harder at a kid playing a video game as I did at two of those that were with me when they tried to play Paperboy. They kept getting hit by cars, people, and even RC cars and they were like, “this is so hard!” Like kids, arcade games were supposed to be hard! They wanted us to sit there and spend more quarters!

Then there was a section for older consoles. They had Ataris, Nintendos, N64s, Segas and more! They were available to be played by anyone when they weren’t being used for the Retro World Championships.

Of course, we can’t forget about having an e-sports area with the ability to play Fortnite, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Mortal Kombat 11 and others. There were tournaments for these games as well, but mostly I saw a lot of families having a great time playing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. I know we went and played it a few different times. I have to say, my 10-year-old nephew is better at it than I am. I had to go old-school and smash buttons because I had no idea what I was doing. I did randomly do some great combos, but mostly he kicked my butt 2 outta 3 rounds!

There was a small Virtual Reality booth that had two set-ups for people to try. They were only usable by those over age 12, so only my niece got to try it. It was really amusing to see her trying to move around in the game while sitting in a chair with that giant headset on. While we were watching her, some guy came up and played Beat Saber on expert! He was really good too; it was fun to watch.

There were rows upon rows of merchants at Game On Expo. There were merchants I expected to see like The Army recruiters and local businesses looking for extra exposure, even though they have nothing to do with games. This particular expo also had tons of merchants selling used games for every console you can imagine. And then there was also the jewelry, cosplay props, art, knitted plushes, bookmarks, decorations and other handcrafted items.

Smitty Tut Designs was one cosplay prop purveyor that I had to stop and stare at. This is a husband and wife duo where he makes metal shields, pendants, swords, etc in the garage and she sells it all. The items were beautifully crafted and when I went home to look at their website, I was even more blown away.

Another booth I was blown away by was Amber Skies. She is a cosplayer that also does art and her dad was the one that was there when we first stopped at the booth. The kinds and I thought the artwork was beautiful, but the best part was her father showing us her cosplay books. He was so proud and loved helping her get it all together. I was amazed to hear she did a Nebula cosplay (from Guardians of the Galaxy) and that Marvel saw it and asked her to do another. She got to do a whole photo shoot and meet some of the cast. Every geeks dream!

I totally cannot forget to mention Rocket A Go-Go and Stormy the owner. She was the first booth we stopped at that Sunday and she was so welcoming and excited to be there. She had a booth that promoted multiple businesses – Electric Bat Arcade, Yucca Taproom, Rocket A Go-Go and That Rocket Gal. She told me about the awesome artists she supported and was selling for. They had handmade geek purses, custom sunglasses, accessories and jewelry for sale. I bought my sister an adorable Star Wars clutch for Christmas this year – of course, I wasn’t able to actually wait that long and gave it to her when I took the kids home!

One of my other favorite booths was the Non-Profit Cosplay for Charity booth – Umbrella Corporation: Arizona Hive. They raise money for the Arizona Animal Welfare League & SPCA. Having cats myself, I always like to help less fortunate animals when I can. We got some cool syringe pens and a zombie cupcake pin for donating. Plus these props they had were really creepy and awesome.

I may not have a lot of experience with expos and conventions, but this one was fun. It was way more family oriented than the big ones and I think that having cons like that is important for the younger generation. The kids pooped out early and we didn’t make it to the Kid’s Fortnite Dance-Off or the Puzzle competition, but I think they would have been a lot of fun. They did have a blast playing tons of video games, some that I hadn’t even heard of, and looking at all the great cosplays. I would definitely recommend Game On Expo to anyone who likes to shop geek culture, meet great people, play video games and meet actors from their favorite games.

If you want a full list of guests, vendors, etc you can find that on their website.

Critical Brew

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Dungeons and Dragons has a lot of variety for players to choose from. The combinations between the 9 races and 12 classes from the Player’s Handbook alone will grant you 108 possible combinations, not accounting for multi-classing, subclasses, and racial variants. For some that is not enough though, or perhaps their inner creativity just can’t be sated by what’s offered officially.

So we have Homebrew. Many a player and Dungeon Master has spent their time to craft homebrew classes and races. If they wish to share with the world, many of these creators post their offerings online in a Pay-what-you-wish format. There are too many for me to review here, but I will showcase two Homebrew classes created by Matt Mercer of Critical Role.

In season one of Critical Role one of the heroes of Vox Machina was Lord Percival Fredrickstein von Musel Klossowski de Rolo III, or Percy. Percy was a Gunslinger; a homebrew fighter subclass created by Mr. Mercer. In season two we saw Mollymauk Tealeaf, a Blood Hunter, join the Mighty Nein. The Blood Hunter is a full class, complete with subclasses to choose from. Both the Gunslinger and Blood Hunter were played by Taliesin Jaffe, and over the course of both campaigns his characters were adjusted as Matt tweaked and modified the homebrew classes.

The Gunslinger uses a mixture of Dexterity and Wisdom to make incredible shots with firearms, some of which they must create themselves. When you choose Gunslinger you gain proficiency with firearms to better hit your target, tinkers tools to craft your weapons and ammunition, and your choice of trick shots to give that added oomph to your attacks.

The trick shots are fueled by Grit, which is based on your Wisdom modifier, and can either be replenished when you rest or when you roll a critical success in combat. This is a good thing as rolling a critical failure will result in a gun jam, and should you fail to clear it, the weapon will break and need to repaired outside of combat at not-to-cheap cost of gold.

The action economy of the fighters multiple attacks and action surges will keep you busy as you unload and reload your weapon multiple times during an encounter. As you level the speed with which you can reload increases, so there is that. With the many Ability Score Increases a fighter gets you can customize the type of gunfighter you wish rather well. A Gunslinger with sharpshooter and the Bad News rifle can make the ultimate sniper, while choosing crossbow expert can make a dual pistol wielding Gunslinger rather fearsome in close quarters. In the latter case wielding two might be considered unnecessary and your DM might be convinced to extend that Feat’s hand crossbow bonus action to your pistol.

Ammunition is not cheap however, and it’s cost varies by the weapon you wield. The palm pistol will run you 2 gold for 20 rounds, while the Hand Mortar is 10 gold for 1 round. That is if you can find the ammo at a market. Most likely you’ll have to craft your own, and that cuts the cost down by half.

There are 8 trick shots to choose from. As you level on your way from Fighter 3 to Fighter 18 you’ll have the opportunity to choose 6, changing out ones you don’t like when you also have the chance to learn a new one, much like spells. These trick shots can intimidate foes, disarm them, give you advantage or grant them the reverse, and even greatly increase the damage you do, while also increasing the chance for your gun to jam.

I say double down on Crossbow Expert and Tavern Brawler, dancing through melee combat with pistol in hand and pistol whipping targets when the gun jams or you run out of ammo. Maybe there’s room for a Gun Fu Monk homebrew there somewhere.

Now the Blood Hunter is another creature entirely. With a fighters hit die, light and medium armor, and all simple and martial weapons they can be sturdy warriors. These arcane rangers are skilled in tracking fey, fiends and undead. Their class features allow them to sacrifice their own vitality in order to charge their weapons with magical energy and cast curses upon their foes.

With the Crimson Rite they can reduce their maximum hit points (which Mollymauk did by slicing himself with his own blade). This adds an extra die of arcane energy, that scales with their class level, to the imbued weapon. Starting at 1st level they choose one of basic types (fire, cold, lighting, or acid) and will gain 1 more each at levels 6 and 9. When they hit level 13 they can choose one from the lesser types (thunder, psychic, or necrotic).

Upon reaching 3rd level you have another major choice before you. Which Blood Hunter Order to you follow; Ghostslayers, Profane Soul, or Mutant. Like other martial classes they can choose a fighting style at level 2, and gain an extra attack at level 5. Further on they gain the ability to cast blood curses, determine an object dark past through psychometry, fend off fear and charm, move swiftly around the battlefield, and even have a greater chance to stave off death.

The Ghostslayers seek the Undead and add a splash of Radiant damage on top of their chosen damage from their Crimson Rite. They can also hasten their actions gaining another attack and bolstering themselves from the defeat of a foe, extend their Blood Curse to targets without blood, see that which others cannot, and continue to fight in spirit form while their mortal form slowly bleeds out.

The Order of the Profane Soul have borrowed a few pages from the Warlocks handbook. They choose a few cantrips, a few spells, and may use their weapon as an arcane focus. Further advancement along this subclass sees them casting cantrips and making a bonus action attack in the same turn, or channeling a spell through a weapon attack in the same blow. They can also gain resistance to magic energy that matches their currently chosen Crimson Rite, make a spell attack as a reaction to a foe’s error in combat, or regain a spell slot upon the defeat of a powerful foe.

The Order of the Mutant consists of Doctor Jekylls that alter their own bodies on the fly through alchemical experimentation.  They eventually master the knowledge of 5 mutagenic formulas, and become immune to toxins because of it. The creation of these mutagens requires a short rest, and by level 15 you’ll be able to craft 3 separate formulas during a single short rest. Drinking these requires a bonus action and their affects, and deleterious side affects last until you take a rest or mediate and flush the toxins from your system. As your body grows accustomed to these toxins you’ll be able to ignore the side affects, and find that you’ve begun naturally producing one of them permanently.

There are 15 mutagens each with side affects, and class level prerequisites. Any of the six attributes can be boosted, but they are accompanied by a penalty to one other. You may find yourself able to fly, but physically weaker. Foes may not be able to restrain or grapple you, but you’ll be slower in the combat order. Every pro has it’s con, at least until level 15.

I suggest watching the 1st season of Critical Role, or listening to the podcasts of it, and paying close attention to Percy to gain a better feel of the Gunslinger class. Taliesin’s luck, good and bad, with dice was most entertaining and showcases the pros and cons of that class very well. As for his Blood Hunter, Mollymauk, in season 2…

The risk of betting ones own health did not fare well for poor Molly. He did shine bright, even if only briefly.

 

 

 

 

Review: FAR: Lone Sails (2017)

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FAR: Lone Sails
2017

FAR: Lone Sails is an exploration adventure game by Swiss developer Okomotive. Available on PC, Xbox One and PS4. Where you traverse a dried-out seabed littered with the remains of a decaying civilization. Keep your unique vessel going, overcome numerous obstacles and withstand the hazardous weather conditions. How far can you make it? What will you find?

Now that that’s been said, I’ve beaten this game 5 times in 3 days and got 100% steam achievements. That’s something I rarely do. It isn’t a long game so beating it several times will only take a few hours. However, this game is full of magic.

Let me explain. In this game, you have an androgynous character traveling a grayscale landscape with red being the only other color. The art style is beautiful. As you side scroll in your large land vehicle, the scene is ever-changing. 

You start in a small house/workshop after taking a moment to honor the passing of, what I assume is your father or mentor. After leaving the building behind you walk until you come across a massive vehicle. It reminds me of many things, reminiscent of movies about a dystopian future, you do everything you can to keep your vehicle operating. 

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Stopping to gather items for fuel, solving puzzles to upgrade the vehicle, outrunning disasters. All while a quiet story is told in the background. A story without words, which can be the best story there is. As I travel, my mind races to try to fill in the blanks. Wondering if it’s a comment on our current society and where we are headed or it’s just a simple story to be interpreted how we wish. This was magic to me. 

As I stated, I played the game over and over, hoping to grasp more and get all 14 achievements on steam. Each playthrough I noticed something different, something I was surprised I hadn’t noticed before. Honestly, these discoveries excited me and now that I’ve achieved everything I may slowly go through one more time to see if I’ve missed anything else.

This is definitely a comfort game for me and I could see myself booting it up after a long/bad day. It’s stunning, well worth the price and time. I can’t wait to see what else this developer has to offer.

TL;DR: Great Game, Must Play

A Trip Through the SNES Classic: F-Zero

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It’s shameful, I know, but up until I got the SNES Classic, I’d never played a game in the F-Zero series.  I didn’t even know what type of game that it was, though the title sounded familiar.

For those in the same boat, F-Zero is a racing game set in the future.  It’s the series that introduced everyone to Captain Falcon, though he doesn’t have a clear presence in the first game.  If you’re a longtime fan or a newcomer like me, I recommend reading this interview with Kazunobu Shimizu, Yasunari Nishida, and Takaya Imamura, three of the original developers of F-Zero.  They share some great stories about the history behind the game and the reasoning behind some of the decisions they made.  Some highlights include: Captain Falcon was initially designed to be a mascot for the Super Nintendo system, not F-Zero, and that the game was set in the future to work around different programming issues.  They didn’t have the technology yet to create effective tires that turned, so they just took out the tires and designed hover cars for the racers.

The original game allowed you to pick between four different cars and race through three different sets of tracks: Knight, Queen, and King.  In a manner similar to Mario Kart, once you pick a set, you have to play through all of the tracks. I wish these games would just let me select a racetrack that I really enjoy and let me play it without going through hoops to get there.  That’s something that I appreciate more and more about Diddy Kong Racing.  (And yes, F-Zero has a Practice Mode that lets you do this, but only for seven tracks.)

Regardless, I fell in love with the original F-Zero. I couldn’t get over just how fast and smooth it feels, even when using a control pad.  It doesn’t have all the extra bells and whistles that you get with racing games like Mario Kart or Diddy-Kong.  You can’t pick up items that give you colorful shields or the infamous Blue Shell missiles.  But that’s not a bad thing at all.  It’s just straight, pure racing and I appreciated the change.

When you start a race, your hovercar has a Power gauge that functions similar to health.  If you hit the edge of the track, or your fellow racecars, your power diminishes.  If it drops down to zero, your hovercar will explode and it’s game over.  You can also fail if your hovercar goes completely off-track or if you fail to complete laps after a certain period of time.  It didn’t take long for me to get the hang of things, and it helps having Practice Mode available if one ever needs a quick refresher.

If there’s one thing that holds F-Zero back from being a perfect experience, it’s the lack of a multiplayer mode. While it is fun and challenging, playing against an AI can get boring after a while.  Having the option to play with friends would have made it even better and increased the replay value.

Still, I’m so glad that I had the chance to discover the original F-Zero on the Super Nintendo Classic.  I’ve had a blast playing it, and if the other games in the series are just as good, I’ll have to check them out too.  If you’re a fan of F-Zero and have any recommendations, please don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments!

I’m rating this game 9 out of 10 hovercars.

For The Hoard (Of Dice)

Games, Dice, Play, Gamble, Success, Casino, Fun, Bet

One of the first things that people new to Table Top Role Playing Games take notice of is the oddly shaped dice that are used. More than just a six-sided die left over from a copy of Monopoly they range from 4 sides to 100 sides. Veteran players tend to develop collections, nay even a hoard, of dice.  Why, you may ask? What is the attraction to the random tokens of fate that we roll across tables,, into dice trays, and drop down dice towers?

Depending on the game, you may find yourself wanting multiple sets. Deadlands for instance has a mechanic where you’re required to roll multiples of the same die for each skill check. It’s easier to purchase 5 sets and roll a handful of D8’s instead of picking up the same one and making several rolls with that. Champions, a superhero game I locked onto through most of my 20s and early 30s relied on your standard D6s but would see dozens of them being rolled for damage depending on the power level of the hero you had created. When I started I would stroll the aisles of my local pharmacy searching for  5 packs of black and white D6s from Hoyle. I’d pick them up regularly. gathering more and more until eventually I found myself purchasing bricks of tiny 6 sided dice in different colors to match the color scheme of my heroes.

To an outside observer our behavior concerning dice is odd. We anthropomorphize them. We talk to them. We “train” them to roll well by displaying them on the table with the better numbers on top. We scold them when they roll poorly and put them in dice jail after a string of bad rolls. We are superstitious about them as well. You never roll someone else’s dice (without permission). We treat specific ones as blessed or cursed as we watch them roll consistently well or poorly.

Dice also come in all colors, sizes, styles, and materials. No matter your budget you can build up a collection of these precious rolling gemstones. Translucent or solid colored plastic dice are the base models. You can get a set for free with shipping if you trust certain overseas shopping apps, or a drawstring bag decorated as a bag of devouring full of 20 complete sets from Amazon for around $30.

True collectors though can expect to pay out some serious cash for dice crafted from metal, stone, bone, or even wood. From the moderate pricing like Skullsplitter Dice to the high end cost of Level Up Dice you can satisfy your inner dragon and amass a hoard of fateful gems.

The accessories we get for our dice need to be discussed as well. The first is the dice bag. Usually a felt drawstring bag, sometimes lined in bright colors, or decorated on the outside as a magic bag. Many dice hoarders begin with a borrowed, or stolen bag from Crown Royal. Like a pouch of coins we arrive at the gaming table and set down our purse of luck pulling them out and testing to see which ones will behave that night. Some people use dice chests, designed to look like…chests…or mimics. I’m a bag man myself.

Rolling them across tables can be problematic, what with maps and miniatures getting in the way. Dice towers sculpted from wood and plastic resembling watchtowers and fortified walls with little trays or courtyards below restrain range our dice may wander. There’s also portable trays that fold and snap into form that are more easily transported.

So search high and low, near and far. Find the shiny baubles that speak to you. Feed your inner dragon and collect your hoard of dice, but I issue you a warning:

Never let Wil Wheaton touch your dice. You may as well toss them if he does.

Quick Start: City of Heroes – Homecoming

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Lords, ladies, lads and lasses, I am Vinni the Troll and I have good news for you.

The capes are back. City of Heroes shut down roughly 7 years ago and it has been resurrected by a devoted fan base. How much will this cost you? Nothing. How can you get into the game? With three easy steps: 

  1. Head to the City of Heroes: Homecoming forums and create an account.
  2. Login to the forums and then go to the Game Account thread and create a game account. If you have trouble try a different name. This will NOT be your global handle, so don’t worry about that yet.
  3. Download the Tequila (pc) or Island Rum (mac) launcher and install the game

That’s it.

What can I play as?

You can create a hero or a villain, playing in either Paragon City or The Rogue Isles. You can choose to play through the tutorial, or skip it altogether. You’ll have access to all the archetypes, even the epics: Peacebringer, Warshade, Arachnos Soldier, and Widow.

How do I change my Global Handle?

Once in the game you can change your global handle (your first toon’s name) from the main menu.

I’m not starting with much, am I?

If you miss the prestige sprints, jump pack, Nemesis Staff, Black Wand, etc. look for the P2W Vendor. They are in the tutorials and starting zones and will give you what you desire for free (despite their name). They even have boosters for experience and the origin starter powers.

That’s it for my helpful 2 merits. See you on the flip side.