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Dungeon Crawling: Barbarians

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Lords, Ladies, lads, and lassies it is time to rage. Barbarians have always been the meat-shields that protect the squishies. They’re big, tough, and fuel their battlefield expertise with Rage. Often played as dumb for the sake of humor, most of us have a stereotype in mind when we hear someone at our table has brought a Barbarian. Within the books of 5th edition D&D, however, things are not so cut and dry.

In the beginning, you’re a low level beast. The main feature of the class is Rage. This ability grants you advantage on strength checks, a bonus to melee damage, and toughens you up with a resistance to the basic three types of physical damage. Add to this the ability to stack your constitution modifier on top of your dexterity for unarmored armor class, and you’ve got someone who’s meant to take hits on the chin and keep going.

As you level up, your combat prowess increases. You can attack recklessly, gaining advantage against your opponents while leaving yourself open. As the meat-shield, this is perfect for protecting the rest of the party. You also develop a danger sense helping you face traps and spells that rely on you moving out of the way. Further on down the line, you get another attack, faster movement, better initiative rolls, better critical hits, and eventually physical stats that surpass the norm.

That’s all gravy, though. The real meat of the class is within your chosen subclass. The Berserker and Totem Warrior are the two basic choices from The Player’s Handbook.  Battleragers are the dwarf-only option presented in The Sword Coast Adventurer Guide. Xanathar’s Guide to Everything gives us three more choices: Ancestral Guardian, Storm Herald, and Zealot.

Berserkers get an extra bonus attack when they enter a frenzy. They’re also able to shrug off charms and fear affects. Their intimidation presence is enough to frighten most foes, and anyone foolish enough to go toe-to-toe with them can face a retaliatory attack in response.

Totem Warriors are more versatile than their straight forward kin. At various stages of their development, they can choose which animal spirit to follow and will gain an aspect related to that. Whether it be the strength and toughness of the bear, the eyes and flight of the eagle, or the pack tactics of the wolf, Totem Warriors can mix and match animals to get just the right combo for their Barbarian.

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From The Player’s Handbook

Battleragers adorn themselves with spiked armor literally throwing themselves into battle. Their spiked armor may be used as a bonus weapon,  extra damage when they grapple a foe, or even as a retaliation in melee. Eventually they can bolster their health with temporary hit points granting them a little extra staying power while raging. They might also use a bonus action to Dash into melee range.

Ancestral Guardians have to be my favorite flavor-wise. When you rage you’re surrounded by spirit warriors that hinder your foes and protect your allies. In metagame terms, they make you sticky. The spirits grant resistance to your allies, and if your foe doesn’t attack you they have disadvantage. The spirits can also shield your allies directly by reducing the damage taken, and even reflecting it back as force damage. Your spirits can also be consulted and used for Augury or Clairvoyance spells, should the need arise.

Storm Heralds surround themselves with elemental storms. If you choose the desert you can deal fire damage to multiple foes, gain resistance to fire, or retaliate when struck with fire. If you choose the sea you can deal lightning damage to a single target, gain resistance to lightning, breathe underwater, gain a swim speed, and knock the target prone. Lastly if you choose tundra you grant multiple allies temporary hit points, gain resistance to cold, freeze water, and reduce a foes movement to zero.

Zealots are chosen by the divine. Each turn they can do extra damage with a weapon attack. This damage is either radiant or necrotic and is chosen when the path is taken. If they are restored to life by a spell there is no material cost. They can also reroll a failed save once per rage. Eventually, if they are raging death does not stop them. They will keep on fighting, even after failing three death saves. Even then if they are healed above zero hit points before the rage ends they will live.

The menu of meat-shields is vast, the choices vary, and if you want to play a Barbarian…then rage on.

 

 

 

 

Games Created by Women: Blackwell’s Asylum

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Would you think you would be able to survive in a nineteenth century mental institution? What if, once admitted, you were sent to an asylum known as a place where no one ever left? What if the doctors were not only there to keep you from escaping but also to perform whatever atrocities on you that they wished?

Blackwell’s Asylum is a game that tests the abilities of the player to not only survive but also  to escape a terrifying asylum for the insane. Claudia Billie Stræde was the director of this game which started out as a project for the University she was attending. Blackwell’s Asylum was a multiple nominee. It also won Game of the Year and the Adventure/Roleplay category in the Intel Level Up 2011 Game Demo Contest. The game is also interesting becuase it was inspired by true events.

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Claudia was inspired by the written chronicle from Nellie Bly. Bly was a writer who had started her career as a young woman writing; “women’s columns.”  Bly wanted to write about more than cleaning and traveled to New York seeking opportunities. There she pitched the idea of going undercover at a mental hospital to expose what was really happening behind the closed doors of such institutions. For ten days she gained information and stories from other patients. Upon her release Bly wrote down everything in her six-part series called; Ten Days in a Mad-House. This work helped not only expose the crimes of the asylum but also gained more funding for public institutions to try to improve them.

The design of the game is interesting and unsettling. The player starts off, as Nellie, restrained as a doctor drugs them. The player then tries to escape. The coloring of the game is dark and it can make it difficult to determine where in the game the player is.  The effects of the drugs only aid in making the surroundings distorted and confusing.

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There are random shouts and other noises to make it difficult to focus. Blackwell’s Asylum does have a neat effect in which large circles like sonar when footsteps get closer to the player as they sneaking in the darkness. It is the only effect that helps the player with all the distortion. The character design is very well done. The sound effects also aid in the gameplay. 

Blackwell’s Asylum is an interesting first person game of escape.

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ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

 

Review: Breach

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Publisher/Developer: QC Games
Platform: PC
Release Date: January 2019

I was extremely excited to be invited into the Technical Alpha testing for Breach, a game that is expected to be released in early access just next month. Breach is a third person co-op action RPG that has strong hints of Over-salt… I mean, Overwatch.

What’s it about?

Breach takes place in our world, but the veil between the “real” world and the world of mythology has been broken. You can either play as a Hero – with various class choices – or as a Veil Demon.

As a Hero, you can be any number of classes. You don’t have to stick to the standard balanced party of tank, healer and DPS, though it helps. As a Veil Demon, you create breaches, which summons monsters, and try to defeat the Heroes.

Breach has solo, co-op and versus modes. You can also do a custom mode with just your friends.

What did I think?

Gameplay reminded me strongly of Overwatch, but it was still extremely unique. There are various types of objectives for each area. I am unsure if they’re chosen by the game or by the Veil Demon. You may have to capture a point, defeat all enemies, deliver artifacts to a drone, or collect and deliver monster souls to a drone. At the end of each match is a boss. Either the Heroes can win an objective or the Veil Demon can win an objective.

I started out in solo play to get the hang of it. Even in Novice, this is difficult. You spawn in with 3 bots and you’re up against a Veil Demon bot. The Hero bots will only help you kill monsters, they won’t help you with any of the other objectives. This makes sense, of course, but timed capture objectives are nearly impossible when you’re the only one capturing the points.

I moved on to co-op mode. Four players are up against a Veil Demon bot. These are pretty cookie cutter so far. Each location has a set pattern of objectives.

Finally, I tried versus and we were annihilated. It’s 4 Heroes versus 3 Veil Demons, all played by people of varying degrees of experience. We didn’t even get to the end before we were all downed. Unfortunately, the Veil Demon of that section face camped me, so I couldn’t be revived. Needless to say, I was salty.

I did the Veil Demon tutorial, but I didn’t play a match as one.

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The game was laggy when in areas with other people, but that was to be expected. The server was only up for 3 hours and everyone who was invited to the closed Alpha was logged in. I had no lag in the solo matches. This being the Technical Alpha, I expect that that will be addressed before release.

The graphics are amazing and the gamplay itself was pretty intuitive. The tutorial is short and sweet, basically just showing you the basics before letting you into actual matches.

I like the fact that you can play by yourself with AI on both sides. It seems there’s a bit of a campaign with the solo mode, so you can unlock new areas by finishing the previous area and follow a story. I also like that you can have custom matches with up to five people.

Do I recommend it?

Yes, I really do. As someone who loves these types of games (a la Dead by DaylightFriday the 13th, and Overwatch), I definitely see a lot of potential in Breach. On Steam, it’s labeled as Free to Play, so what’s the harm in taking it for a spin when it’s released? You may also be able to still sign up to be a tester here.

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Review: Ghost of Thornton Hall

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Fire so red, night so black. Dear sweet Charlotte, please come back…

If you like point-and-click adventure games and/or enjoyed reading the Nancy Drew books growing up, you owe it to yourself to check out Her Interactive’s Nancy Drew series. All of the games are playable on Windows, and everything from Trail of the Twister onwards can be played on Macs as well. There are even step-by-step guides on Her Interactive’s website about how to play the older games on updated Windows systems and how to play them on your Mac with the Wineskin emulator- a nice gesture on their part.

Each game follows more or less the same route: Nancy arrives at a new location, gets the initial scoop on the mystery, and starts questioning the suspects (usually 3-5 people). Sometimes everything starts out calm, and then after completing a task or two, the theft/murder/kidnapping/whatever takes place. After that, you follow the trail of clues, continue questioning suspects, and solve lots and lots of puzzles to crack the case.

The game that I recently finished, Ghost of Thornton Hall, begins with Nancy receiving a phone call from a paranormal investigator in the middle of the night. A woman named Jessalyn Thornton disappeared during her bachelorette party. It appears to be a kidnapping, but some believe that the culprit is a family ghost, Charlotte.

Charlotte died in a fire under mysterious circumstances, so Nancy finds herself solving two cases: who kidnapped Jessalyn, and what’s the story behind Charlotte? Was her death truly an accident? Is her ghost really haunting the family mansion? And what does this past tragedy have to do with Jessalyn?

Growing up, I loved playing the Nancy Drew series, but as I got older, I began to lose interest. I’m not sure if there was an actual drop in quality or a change in tastes, but Ghost of Thornton Hall felt like a return to form. In fact, it was even better than some of the classics that I’d loved to play.

Other games in the series would have a great premise, but then wouldn’t completely follow through with it. For example, as much as I loved Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake, you only encounter the ghost dogs once at the beginning of the game. When you venture out into the woods at night and hear the howling, it’s terrifying- at first. But after a while, you realize that the ghost dogs aren’t going to pop up, and that takes out a chunk of the tension.

In Thornton Hall, Charlotte’s ghost does pop up throughout the game, and you never know when she’ll show herself. Other times, you’ll hear eerie singing, or something will scuttle across the floor, or a statue will turn its head. The whole game takes place at night and the music is beautiful, but grim. Combine all of these elements, and you get a genuinely creepy game.

The suspects all have intriguing backstories and memorable personalities. I was constantly guessing who might be the culprit. Sometimes it felt like all of them could have done it, and other times it didn’t feel like any of them could have done it. I found the reveal satisfying. And while the culprit is always the same, this Nancy Drew is unique in that it has three possible endings.

It’s hard to gauge the fun and difficulty of the puzzles, as that’s going to depend on the person playing. The longer I game, the more I’ve come to realize that everyone’s brain works differently, and what seems so easy for one person is next to impossible to solve for another. I did find the final puzzle very frustrating, due to the fact that it was just a more challenging version of one that I’d already completed. But if you need help figuring out what to do, you can consult the Task List that Nancy keeps with her. In Amateur Detective mode, you can also select hints that tell you how to complete the puzzles.

I’m so glad that I played Ghost of Thornton Hall. It had the same magic as the classic Nancy Drew titles and then some. Now I want to check out some of the other recent titles that I missed!

An Event List: 10 Games to play during the Holidays

Holidays – BAH HUMBUG! I am not a huge fan of Christmas. I will take Halloween over it any day of the year. However, we do get some pretty great events in gaming this time of year. Just in case you forgot, or didn’t know when they started, here’s a short list of some to watch out for!


 

Overwatch: Winter Wonderland 2018: Dec 11 – Jan 2 

Anyone who plays this game loves holidays because it means new skins! Winter Wonderland is no exception. This holiday season Blizzard World is getting a makeover and with new heroes this year, we can expect new skins. There was an “accident” earlier this year that revealed a skin called “Figure Skater.” but no news on who’s getting this skin. It is confirmed that the Yeti Hunt and Mei’s Snowball Fight will be back in the arcade. There is rumor of a “Rat King” Junkrat, but we will have to wait a few more days to find out! 

 

World of Warcraft: Feast of Winter Veil: Dec 16 – Jan 2 

Feast of Winter Veil is a yearly occurrence for those of us that still play WoW. There are snowballs and cookies and ice cold milk. We get to save Metzen from the Greench and return some stolen treats. You can decorate your garrison for the holidays and don’t forget Great-Father Winter wants some milk and cookies before Christmas. Added last year was the snowglobe in which a Yeti spawns every 30 minutes or so and whoever gets there first wins! And of course come Christmas there are gifts under the tree for all to partake in. Get your pets, your toys, and decorate your pug and mounts – have all the holiday fun! 

 

Fortnite: Season 7: Dec 6 

Fortnite’s sixth season is coming to a close, just in time for a Christmas themed Season 7! It is confirmed a big announcement and world premiere will be happening on The Game Awards that same night. There have been subtle hints about the cold front coming.. It is said you can see your breath on the starting island for Battle Royale, there is an iceberg on the horizon, and the message “A bitter ice spreads…” from their Twitter. So far no leaked trailers (the one everyone thought was leaked.. A fake!) to show what’s coming and also no leaked skins. Stay tuned to Fortnite’s Twitter this week as they will be sure to give more hints as Season 6 comes to a close. 

 

Creativerse: Elfi’s Toy Drive: Dec 24 

Nothing has been officially released on Creativerse’s News page, but a quick search reveals that they plan to update for the holidays later this month. In recent years the login chest was replaced by a Trog Trap Login Chest and most likely will again this year. It gives you traps for starting timed holiday events similar to the Halloween ones. You can also randomly find presents on blocks of ice and snow all day and night. You use rescued toys from these events to buy the holiday themed recipes and hopefully other holiday decorations. 

 

Ark: Winter Wonderland: No date released yet 

Ark may have missed Halloween this year because of the release of Extinction, but be damned if they will miss the rest of the holidays! This event brings Raptor Claws who will drop random presents around the map and there is a possibility of snow. No word yet if there is anything new coming with this new expansion, but with the devs saying to stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks. So we can hope! 

 

DC Universe: Season’s Greetings: Nov 30 – Jan 2 

This holiday season there are new quests to be found. Go and thwart Larfleeze! Be sure to look for the new feats to accomplish, as well as go to Skeet’s Workshop daily to view the discounted item of the day. 

 

Blade and Soul: Holiday Treasure Trove: Dec 5 

Blade and Soul doesn’t do big events for holidays like many other MMO’s. Instead, they mark it with troves! You get one chance daily to get extra awesome loots from this trove. You can buy extra slots and keys to increase your chances. The trove is essentially a store roll – but with drastically reduced prices. This is the time to try and get all those items you need to upgrade the legendary weapons of your dreams. I have also found out that there are a few quests this year that you can do. The event currency is snow crystals and you can get all the loots with it – including 2 items that reduce the cost of upgrading a legendary by 50%. If you go into the store for 0 hongmoon coins you can get a Joy to the Realm Jackpot gift that keeps on giving every 10 hours until you reach the end and it grants the phat loots!

 

Destiny 2: Dawning: Dec 11 

This will be the second year for this event, but is starting a bit later than last year. It still promises holiday quests to be done and the possibility of the return of the Mayhem PVP Mode. Not much is available for this right now, so keep an eye on their news feed! 

 

MapleStory 2 : Dec 6

We all know the adorableness of this game. This year we get to do The Holiday Uproar where we help a sad little girl enjoy the holidays. Could it get any cuter? There is also Schwanda’s Holiday Gallery where you can get lots of consumables and 2 event-exclusive prizes by doing tasks in the Merry Village. Plus! Our favorite game Dance Dance Stop is also getting a holiday makeover! I should also mention this is a huge expansion that has lots of goodies in it!

 


These games are going to have Holiday events, we just don’t really know when or what! But honorably mentioned anyway!

 

Slime Rancher – Wiggly Wonderland

There is no official information on when this will start, but it has happened in past years and has been confirmed for 2018. You get a visit from the Twinkle Slime on your ranch daily.

GTA 5 Online – Festive Surprise

Nothing out yet on whether this will be coming back this year. Generally, GTA releases some snow for snowball fights and masks for the occasion. Hopefully, this continues! 

 

Influential Women in the Gaming Industry: The Black Girl Gamers

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The most effective change comes when people band together and make it happen. The Black Girl Gamers are one such group. They work to make sure that the world of gaming is more inclusive for everyone.

In 2015 The Black Girl Gamers formed. They began as a safe space against sexism and racism in the gaming world. BGG has grown from their original purpose to become a tour de force in the gaming world. Which really isn’t surprising due to their dedication. The BGG have become the people to go to for the black perspective of gaming.

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The community that is BGG continues to grow. They have 2400 multifaceted gamers, streamers and game developers in their ranks of members. That alone would be insanely impressive for BGG. However they do even more. BGG are also on panels and do press!

The members who make up BGG are a huge part of their success. They have a dedicated group of main streamers. The BGG also have an amazing troop of writers who help keep the gaming community informed and entertained. There are also a few members who should be referred to as nothing less then Elite. These dedicated folks have been with BGG since it’s start and who continue to aid in it’s progress as a community.

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One of the best things about this group is that they also allow their community to merge into other public streams and discords. This gives the BGG the ability to spread safe spaces throughout the gaming community. The BGG is a family that works hard to make sure that the gaming community a better place. Not only do they make gaming spaces more diverse but they also give others a place to use their voices. That makes this awesome group of gamers pretty phenomenal.

You can unite with them on their Facebook.

If you never want to miss an update you can follow them on their Twitter.

They could also use your support. A great way to that is their Patreon.

The BGG are an amazing force in the gaming community. They are using their skills and passion to make real change in the world. The members of BGG prove that you can be the change you want to see. So fight to make gaming spaces what they should be.

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ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

 

Games to Get Excited About

Well, it’s that time of year, the time we’re all broke! All the big name games have already come out earlier this year, so December isn’t really a big time for video games to be released. However, there are some good ones coming out so let’s have a chat…

Just Cause 4 – December 4, 2018

This game is taking place in Solis, a South African World. The hero Rico Rodriguez has come here to find out about his past. And as we all know, in a video game that means things will get dicey! Just Cause games are really an excuse to do whatever it takes to complete your mission. I haven’t personally played any of them, but I’ve seen game play and they look like a blast. Lots of action to be had and enormous world maps. This new installment promises to be the most diverse and dangerous world they have had so far.

On this new island you aren’t just finding the truth, you are leading a rebellion, as in all the Just Cause games. Only this time you get a wind suit and insane weather that you can use to help you. The footage of this game is beautiful. The map has all different climates and it promises to keep you on your toes. Without having played any of the previous games, I’d definitely give this one a try.

 

Forza Horizon 4 – Fortune Island – December 13, 2018

Unless you are living under a rock, you’ve heard that Forza Horizon 4 is an amazing game. The driving is fun, tweaking the tuning can be for beginners or experts, and who doesn’t want a car just the color they always dreamed. This barely came out a few months ago and already it is expansion time! This new island is the biggest expansion of any of the Forza games and is promising to beat your expectations. They have new terrains and weather to really change up the driving experience. You can even watch the Aurora Borealis while you drive! If you own the base game, you definitely need to pick up this expansion. And don’t forget, it’s on Game Pass!

 

Silent Night: A Ghost Story for Christmas – December 2018

Until now I was completely unaware there were ghost hunting games. As a lover of horror and creepy – how dare I not know this! Then I found Silent Night. It’s a standalone game from Darkling Room who are the creators of the Crown franchise of ghost hunting games. There isn’t a lot about this game, but the idea behind it and the short trailer make it look like it could be a fun play through. I mean come on, a haunted church and graveyard on Christmas Eve, what could be more exciting? You get to use ghost hunting gadgets and encounter ghosts from all the way back to the Black Plague. This game doesn’t have a set release date yet, but I have definitely followed to find out when it is. I recommend this one for anyone who likes a game that’s a bit different, ghosts, and creepy things!


We all know these aren’t the only games coming out in December, so keep your eyes out for anything that looks good! It never hurts to take a chance on something you think you will have fun with. For those that love Borderlands 2, the VR version does drop on December 14, 2018. You can head over to Steam to find Silent Night: A Ghost Story for Christmas, you can find Forza Horizon 4‘s expansion on the Microsoft store, or Just Cause 4 online and at your local retailer.

That’s all for this month, time to get looking at what comes out in next year! ‘Til then, play what you love!