Archives for October 2014

Weekend Gaming

IMG_03201024x768.jpgThe nights are getting longer and the weather is getting cooler, which means it’s another weekend of gaming without the guilt of, “man, I really should be outside doing something else”. Or maybe you don’t suffer from that guilt. You’re one of the lucky ones.

This weekend is quite possibly the busiest non-holiday weekend for us. We have family in town, activities going on all day Friday, Saturday and most of Sunday, and of course Buckeye Football Saturday Night and Browns Football Sunday afternoon. I’m really not sure when I’ll get some gaming in, but it will happen.

I was recently challenged by our occasional resident Frugal Gamer, Jason, to participate in something he’s calling NoMOBAvember. He knows that my gaming time is dominated primarily by Dota 2 and is therefore challenging me to branch out, to dig into the Steam library and play something new. And I’m not going to lie, I’m intrigued by the challenge. I’m not sure yet if I’m going to commit to a whole month of no Dota, but I may consider a NotjustMOBAvember. We’ll see!

In the meantime, I imagine I’ll get a match of Dota 2 in this weekend. I’m also really interested in checking out Neo Scavenger and the Endless series (Space/Legend/Dungeon). Lots of games, not a whole lot of time.

What will you be playing this weekend?

(No) Limits: The Development of Limit Theory

The truth is that sincerity in art is not an affair of will, of a moral choice between honesty and dishonesty. It is mainly an affair of talent.

– Aldous Huxley

Josh Parnell is the sole creator/developer of the upcoming procedural universe realm Limit Theory, to be released sometime before 2015 is half concluded. Successfully Kickstarted, Parnell has been chugging away on the game now for nearly two years. And he is really on to something…

Part of his development routine this past year involves recording monthly dev updates and uploading them to his Youtube channel. These updates serve many functions. They are evidence of progression for that past month, which Parnell is almost skittish to provide to his backers, always hoping it is sufficient for them (which it always is). They are also a fascinating look into not only the evolution of the game but into Parnell’s thought processes as well. Each update provides the details, glimpses, modifications, restructurings of a game that is sure to be a work of art – and the most recent one is a whopper.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with LT, this latest update, update #20, is the perfect crash course. Update #20 includes two months worth of work (Parnell had to skip a September update) so naturally it is bursting with juicy details. Not only that but it is adopting a new format for presenting the game’s progress. As in previous updates, just about every angle is covered: Grahpics, UI philosophy, game theory, and, most importantly, the code.

Indeed. The code. The heart and soul – a term I am not using frivolously here – of Limit Theory is Parnell’s own Limit Theory Script Language (LTSL). Much of his efforts continue to be placed on perfecting this language and its utility. Now, I am not a programmer – my language ability takes on a more traditional function (although the structure of both code and written word can achieve similar effects of subtlety and beauty. A comparison that interests me greatly, and a possible ButtonMashing post later on). But in my ignorance I can still identify Parnell’s confidence in the motivations of creating LTSL, and of creating a procedurally generated universe game.

I can likewise sense and understand the trepidations of other Limit Theory followers. The main concern being this: Is there a game here? Parnell’s intense focus on LTSL is creating a fantastic and vast exoskeleton, one that will support easy modabilty. But, come release date, will there be anything of substance inside? I have pondered, and hoped against, the possibility of Parnell burning himself out on LTSL and then being forced to cobble together some form of rickety gameplay. This concern is legitimate and sound…

…But also incredibly short-sighted.

I trust Parnell. I trust that he will deliver because he knows the risks. But he is confident in the code he is creating. His confidence, and mine in him, rests in the very name of his game. Limit Theory is a philosophy which adheres to overcoming just that: limits. Intellectual limits. As a developer, LTSL is his way of overcoming the limits of game creation and grasping on to the ideas that spark as a result. This is how the development of Limit Theory has felt organic, personal and compelling. Parnell is riding high on the freedoms his work has created.

And his enthusiasm is contagious! I want to see just what I can do, what self-imposed limits I can overcome. I trust that the gameplay will mirror its own development in that same sense of freedom, space and creativity – a sort of call and response to a randomly generated virtual universe.

As can be gleaned from update #20, the technical foundations of Limit Theory are now fairly secure. Now is when the floodgates burst open. “Everything in time… as always,” he says. Now Parnell can focus his efforts on the creation of a game. No. Not merely a game. Something… higher…

October Releases

Now we’re getting into the thick of release season — publishers stocking shelves with games before the holidays — sports games, Game of the Year Editions, etc. Surprisingly, I don’t see too many games that interest me (with the exception of one day-one purchase). With that said, on to this month’s releases:

Xbox One

Week of October 7th
Forza 5: Game of the Year Edition
Dead Rising 3: Apocalypse Edition – I still don’t know if/when I am going to get a Xbox One, but a new version of Dead Rising is as tempting as anything.
Ryse: Legendary Edition
Project Spark

Week of October 14th
The Evil Within – Bethesda’s new horror game is intriguing, but it’s also coming out on PC which means I’ll be grabbing it during the Steam Christmas Sale, which means I’ll be playing it sometime in 2016.
Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition: Limited Edition – If at first you don’t succeed…
The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season – If you haven’t already played it, you need to. YOU NEED TO.

Week of October 21st
The Walking Dead: Season 2
Need for Speed Rivals Complete Edition
Shadow Warrior – Mortal Kombat called, they want their logo back.

Week of October 28th
Sunset Overdrive Day One Edition
Lords of the Fallen
NBA Live 15


Week of October 7th
NBA 2K15
Alien: Isolation

Week of October 14th
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel – This is Day One for me (unless reviews universally pan it). Borderlands is the only game my buddy Jeremiah and play anymore, so I will be picking this up for an excuse to make him fire up his 360 and join me. Plus Borderlands is the bee’s knees.
The Evil Within
The Walking Dead: Season 2
PAC-MAN and the Ghostly Adventures 2

Week of October 21st
Just Dance 2015
Need for Speed Rivals Complete Edition

Week of October 28th
WWE 2K15
Mx vs. ATV: Supercross
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Danger of the OOZE
Assassin’s Creed: The Americas Collection


Week of October 21st
Bayonetta 2
Just Dance 2015 – Not a lot for Nintendo this month, but by all accounts Bayonetta is going to be a heck of a game. With three kids under the age of twelve, I don’t know if I’m the target audience, but I would like to give the game a try.


Week of October 7th
Tenkai Knights: Brave Battle

Week of October 14th
PAC-MAN and the Ghostly Adventures 2


Week of October 7th
NBA 2K15
Styx: Master of Shadows
Alien Isolation

Week of October 14th
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel
The Evil Within

Week of October 21st
Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth
Spellforce Tactics
Blood Knights
Need for Speed Rivals Complete Edition

Week of October 28th
Farming Simulator ’15
MX vs. ATV: Supercross Encore Edition


PS4 Banner

Week of October 7th
NBA 2K15
Alien: Isolation
DriveClub
Minecraft – How long will Minecraft be available on a Sony console?

Week of October 14th
The Evil Within

Week of October 21st
Samurai Warriors 4
Just Dance 2015
Need for Speed Rivals Complete Edition
Shadow Warrior

Week of October 28th
NBA Live 15
The Walking Dead: Season 2


Week of October 7th
NBA 2K15
Alien: Isolation

Week of October 14th
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel
The Walking Dead: Season 2
PAC-MAN and the Ghostly Adventures 2

Week of October 21st
F1 2014 (Formula 1)
Just Dance 2015
Need for Speed Rivals Complete Edition

Week of October 28th
WWE 2K15
Mx vs. ATV: Supercross
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Danger of the OOZE
Assassin’s Creed: The Americas Collection


Week of October 7th

Week of October 14th
SENRAN KAGURA SHINOVI VERSUS – ‘Let’s Get Physical’ Limited Edition

Week of October 21st
Week of October 28th
Freedom Wars

What are you picking up this month?
(Note: As always, all Amazon.com links have our affiliate code embedded in them. If you purchase something through our link, we get a little commission. It’s appreciated.)

Weekend Gaming: Reus, Crusader Kings 2

Amongst other activities which I have going on this weekend one of the highlights is that I will be sans family Saturday night into Sunday afternoon. And though I will miss them ever so dearly (yes, yes, of course) I am anxious – nay, revel – in the opportunity to be a bachelor even if it is just for one 18-hour period. There was a time some years ago when I would have made plans to use this time to go be, yknow, social, or looked up to see what bands are playing live in various watering holes around town. But I am old and fat now, and the motivation to do any of these things is equivalent to that of zero (0). Instead, I shall take advantage of being childless, having zero (0) expectation of being woken up early Sunday, and stay up until one million o’clock playing video games.

Two games are currently occupying my thoughts. Their genres are very befitting for my intention of playing for the long haul this weekend. Or, at the very least, the time enough to become actively engaged in a campaign that will carry on after Sunday.

Out from left field, the first is the God/Sim game Reus. I picked this up during the Steam Summer Sale of ’14. I’ve dabbled in it here and there since then, earned some achievements, unlocked additional resources, learned the ropes. The ‘ropes’ in Reus are many, and they crisscross and thatch and weave.Reus Reus doesn’t have a learning curve so much as the new player has a sort of… methodology curve. The other day I was studying the game’s wiki when my wife happened into the room, glanced over my shoulder at the screen and ultimately declared: “That looks like homework. Why would you want to play a game where you have to look stuff up like that? (No you’re not getting a second monitor…)” I asked myself the same thing. Reus at times does make me feel a bit stressed; there are always so many things to consider, so many well-balanced ecosystems at stake. But a weird ember of logical masochism deep inside me keeps me from turning my back on the game altogether. Mostly this is because I recognize that the game has a very, very cool concept at its foundation and, despite my struggles, it presents that concept well. Part of my weekend gaming activities is to fan this ember by honing my own methodology for achieving objectives in Reus.

The other game is a more familiar one but with some new branches of DLC I have yet to explore. Just around the time that I was finishing up the Iron Fisticle review I was feeling a hankering for some Crusader Kings 2. And then, as if reading my thoughts, Steam rolls out a weekend sale. Between Oct. 2 and Oct. 6 Crusader Kings 2 and the rest of the Paradox Publisher catalog is heavily discounted. Heavily discounted. Like, whoa, kind of discounted. Various bundles are now available and game collections are updated. For CK2 I picked up the Rajas of India expansion and a few character portrait DLCs. So, it is safe to assume that my weekend gaming regimen will include some medieval duplicity and zealotry.

It is worth noting for anyone equipped and interested that Crusader Kings 2 is free to play all weekend. The game is a refreshing departure from the standard top-down map domination strategy game. It takes strategy, yes, but if you can incorporate just a tiny bit of imagination – just a titch of role-playing – the game will wisk you away. Such crusades. Very Dynasties. Wow.

What are you playing this weekend?

Iron Fisticle, review of.

Iron Fisticle asks the question ‘How well can you keep it together with your back against the wall?’ Developed by Confused Pelican this game is a dual-stick top-down carnage fest whose gameplay and visual style hearkens back to the glory days of blowing two weeks’ worth of allowance money in a single afternoon at the video arcade. It is claustrophobic, tense, bombastic, and worthy of a critical look. Button Mashing turns the table and now asks the question: How well can Iron Fisticle keep it together with its back against the wall?

Mechanically, the game is straight forward and familiar. The player controls an armored knight and uses his default battle axe and other various weapon power-ups to carve his way through waves of ever-pursuing enemies, enduring and maneuvering through the levels of the game.

The level design, though modest, is deliberate. The game map consists of only four floors. Each floor contains battle chambers, increasing in total number with each higher floor, wherein the main carnage occurs. Each chamber is a single screen, no panning or roaming around, and has its own structural obstacles which can help or hinder your gameplay: make one false move and you will yelp with horror as you find yourself suddenly cornered; make one smart move and you will mow down your enemies without mercy. Between the patchwork of chambers are different types of connectors which host either a ‘bonus stage’ or a shop for power-ups or nothing at all and you just move right on to the next chamber.

Come at me, Bro!

Come at me, Bro!

Know this: Iron Fisticle is not a dungeon crawler. Exploration has no place here. Literally. There simply isn’t room for it. The arrangement of chambers is clustered instead of labyrinthine. Your end goal – the boss – is clearly labeled on the map of every floor. The game will even stymie your attempts to wander through each floor (no back tracking!) as if to flush you out into the presence of the floor’s boss. Chambers are not grand arenas nor do they house hidden nooks with super sweet loot. This choking sense of immediacy smothers out any need or desire or thought for exploration.

Iron Fisticle’s narrow, claustrophobic scope is its greatest strength. It doesn’t try to be more than it is, washing out the potency and crunch of the gameplay. It doesn’t try to be anything else, though some extra effort into the presentation would help the game stand out – more on this later.

Indeed, part of the challenge of battling in such a claustrophobic space is trying to maintain both a microscopic and macroscopic view simultaneously. Each chamber quickly becomes clogged with enemies. So, while you are hacking away at the immediate threats you must at the same time keep an eye out for minute openings and empty pockets which you can use to maneuver the mindless mob, and position yourself to best utilize your timed powerups.

There is also just the right amount of types of enemies. The game balances quantity and differentiation very well, prompting you to make realtime decisions in movement based on how much of what is coming at you. Enemies are not in a frenzied rage but are still persistent, so persistent.

Focus fire these little pricks ASAP

Focus fire these little pricks ASAP

Most of the time the safest place to be, whatever the situation, is with your back against the wall, skirting the perimeter. Overtime a satisfying momentum is established; once you get rolling it’s hard to call it a night.

A major speed bump to this momentum is the ‘bonus level’. The bonus level switches gears from top-down slaughterfest to sidescrolling jumper. The obstacles and loot are randomly generated and the controls are laggy. These levels are not only pointless but botches up your mojo, your tempo, your pulse. They kill the momentum. They are not very bonus-like: You will see 5X more coinage in a regular slaughter chamber than in the entire run of the bonus level, and the rewards for completing it are also rather piddly. There is very little motivation to take the bonus levels seriously. More often than not, as my veins are still pumping neon adrenaline from playing a previous chamber, I take the first opportunity to perish in a bonus level just so I can move on to the next chamber.

Though the claustrophobia is practically palpable while in the chambers, the game gives the player a gratifying amount of elbow room when it comes to the metagame – another one of the game’s strong points. Once you beat a boss and enter a new floor, that new floor is now available for you to jump to from the title screen – a design that is sure to make any roguelike purist scream to the heavens. Likewise, some of the connectors between chambers are shops where, from four randomly generated items, you can purchase ability upgrades or health. Some of these ability upgrades are permanent, carrying over into the next game. These options – these freedoms – provide an opportunity for players to tailor their experience with Iron Fisticle.

The most important freedom the game gives you is the option to erase all progress data. Because, admittedly, once you’ve maxed out your avatar the game quickly looses steam. You are so tremendously OP that there is little challenge left. So, reset that sucker back to level zero and experiment with your own self-imposed restrictions during another playthrough. Yes. The replay value is subtle but quite tremendous.

Aside from the lame-duck presence of the bonus levels, the only other area of improvement involves the lack of attention to details in the rest of the presentation. Particularly, more love could have been given to the audio which could bolster stronger, more confident gameplay and add character to the game overall. There are times when the game gets delightfully chaotic, a mishmash of activity. During these moments I’d like to hear more from my avatar, something other than the indiscernible grunts when taking damage and disgust when you pick up certain loot. The ‘taking damage’ soundbyte needs to be more pronounced, so I can hear just how much heat I’m taking and can try to GTFO. Hoots and hollars, taunts and jabs, praises to GabeN. Something! The same goes for footsteps. It is just this robotic clunk-clunk-clunk, regardless of the frothy viscera that is smeared all over the floor. Let’s hear some sqishyness!

This may seem nitpicky, but attention to little details like audio and health bar and bonus bank placement can really go a long way. It can ultimately help raise Iron Fisticle above the din and come into the focus of many more perspective gamers – a place where the game belongs.

Held up against the wall, Iron Fisticle does indeed keep itself together. It is unadulterated arcade action but could have been more outstanding with just a little more attention to details in the presentation. It recognizes the focused scope it which it operates and does not overextend itself. Solo or co-op the game is an absolute blast to play, just as were the arcade boxes of old.

(Couldn't resist)

(Couldn’t resist)