Unsolicited Mental Objects, Week of 11/16

Tony – Lately I’ve been able to drag myself out of the Dota Vortex (but with the new update, I’ll be heading back in) and I’ve had a chance to mess around with HEX: Shards of Fate. This is my first foray into a collectible trading card game, having never played Magic the Gathering or its ilk. I’ve previously professed my love for Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer (and its expansions) but that is a deckbuilding card game, where each deck you use is dictating by what cards are available in the center row, not how many booster packs you have. It’s simple and the mechanics are straight forward. But! But it’s also complex and the combination of cards and synergy between them gives it depth and any number of play styles. I have my own and I’ve played others that go their way. It’s enjoyable, quick and rewarding.

Hex, on the other hand, is overwhelming me. There are A LOT of cards to learn and I’m still trying to grok the basics. There are five resource types and two factions (with four races each) with their own strengths and weaknesses. Not to mention the six classes of heroes you can choose from. Each of the races can feed/compliment off each other and each is different in its on way. I am trying to learn them all, trying to wade through the tutorials and beginner decks, but I’ve also got a decent sized pool of cards to build my own deck from (thanks to the Kickstarter rewards) and I seriously have no direction which way to take this game. Are there too many mechanics? Too many cards?

And let’s not even get into how a TCG such as this needs expansion decks and cards to stay relevant and interesting. I can’t even wrap my mind around the cards I already have!

And yet I am excited to learn more. I’ll learn as I go and work on a deck that I enjoy playing (I think I can safely say that Dwarves are not my favorite race). HEX is starting to dig its claws into me but good.

Nick – I was thrown to the wolves this past week. I secured a temporary teaching job in, what I’ve come to learn is an actual classification, an Urban School. It continues to be a tough assignment, still fighting against the current. Taking it day by day. It has been pretty much all-consuming, especially at home where I have to cobble together lesson plans and stress about meeting academic requirements and just getting these students to shut up and actually do some work. Unfortunately, because of this, I have had little desire or motivation to get my game on. I look at my steam library with shameful apathy. I do not have the capacity at the end of the day to play any of them; except for one for title…

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger has been my outlet during all this. It fulfills that very niche requirement I have for the times when all I want to do is be a cowboy and dual-wield my way through streets and saloons and canyons clogged with bandits. My accuracy rate on the arcade missions is abysmally low, but I don’t care. I’ve got two fast-loading revolvers and ammo aplenty; I’m gonna shoot the guns just because they sound great. I’m gonna aim for the sky, twirl in place and fire round after round because, dagnabbit, I am a cowboy, and cowboys do what they want. I also love the sound of lumber, both in this game and IRL. I dunno, there’s something wholly distinct about the sound of cowboy boots on a saloon floor, both in this game and mine IRL.

James – Played some Dota 2 and stayed up too late with Tony trying to win a game against a super fed Huskar. It was a close one though…

I have also been attempting to download HEX to play, but it suuuuuuch a big download that I haven’t just let it finish before turning my laptop or desktop off.

Someday. =)

Weekend Gaming

Desgaste del gamer, Xbox 360There was snow in the air yesterday. SNOW! This is happening too fast. But that means that now, more than ever, is the perfect time to be gaming. In fact, I think I’ll take the whole day off from “Real Life” to get a little gaming in. I’ll probably do some things on my wife’s honey-do list, too. I’ll figure out a way to gamify that, too.

And no, it just won’t be Dota 2. I mean there will be Dota 2 (there’s always Dota 2), but there will be other games, as well. I think for sure I’m going to delve back into Hex: Shards of Fate. I Kickstartered the dang thing, I should probably get to know the game a little more. And I’m feeling like some Nintendo gaming is in my weekend future. Whether that means a little 3DS action (maybe finally getting back to Link to the Past) or some Wii-U with the kids, I expect to do something whimsical.

What are you playing this weekend?

Unsolicited Mental Objects, Week of 11/9

Nick:
BLIZZCON! BLIZZCON! BLIZZCON! (Shouted to the tune of a monster truck rally)

Blizzard’s dog-and-pony took place this past weekend. There was much news and enticing reveals. Really, the only area of interest for me was any and all information about the upcoming Hearthstone expansion Goblins Vs. Gnomes, and more specifically a preview into some of the new cards. I am enough of a filthy casual to not absolutely need these cards; I still have many holes in my collection as it stands (Defender of Argus plz). But I was curious enough and aware of the meta enough to anticipate what Blizzard is cooking up. And what exactly are they cooking up? More RNG, that’s what.

Some of these cards are absolutely nuts on the randomness! PC Gamer posted 37 of these new cards, and I’m wondering (hoping, perhaps) if these cards are some of the more extreme cases. For example: Enhance-o Mechano, a 4 mana 3/2 minion whose Battlecry is (you ready for this?) Give your other minions Windfury, Taunt, or Divine Shield (at random). I don’t know if I laugh because of genuine giddiness or irony. This is one of the more extreme samples but other cards share in a lesser degree of this menagerie of functions.

I’m still not sure how to all the way feel about this. In a great interview with Blizzard senior producer Yong Woo, he says that this increased randomness is designed to heighten a player’s emotional amplitude and to mix up the meta. This is all well and good, but perhaps ultimately not for me. All this extra randomness, all this zaniness… I will be all about it at first. The new cards will help revive some of my lesser-used ones, find a new synthesis for them. Indeed. People are going to be constructing all kinds of creative and whacko decks. I just fear that overtime the Goblins Vs. Gnomes will (to steal from Mitch Hedberg) be like pancakes: You’re all excited at first but by the end you’re f#*@in sick of ‘em. All this RNG just sounds too dang slippery for me. I’m still up in the air about it. But we’ve also only seen, what, only 20-ish% of the new cards. I’ll bet there will be some sexy new silence cards somewhere there.

Tony:
I am old. I remember stand-up arcade games like Zaxxon, Elevator Action and Joust. My kids do not. They have been raised on Minecraft, 3DSes and Wii-U’s. Is a history lesson necessary? I would like them to understand where games have come from and appreciate what they have now. So, thanks to the Internet Archive, I can let them play (read: suffer) through some old-school classics. I give you The Internet Arcade:

The Internet Arcade is a web-based library of arcade (coin-operated) video games from the 1970s through to the 1990s, emulated in JSMAME, part of the JSMESS software package. Containing hundreds of games ranging through many different genres and styles, the Arcade provides research, comparison, and entertainment in the realm of the Video Game Arcade.

The game collection ranges from early “bronze-age” videogames, with black and white screens and simple sounds, through to large-scale games containing digitized voices, images and music. Most games are playable in some form, although some are useful more for verification of behavior or programming due to the intensity and requirements of their systems.

The Internet Arcade can even detect and use a gamepad. Some of the games I played around with are a bit sluggish and clunky to control, but it was a fun little trip down nostalgia lane. I don’t think the kids were impressed.

James:
I’ve only played a few matches of Dota 2 so far this week. Both of the matches I played were a landslide victory with the first matches having the other team rage quit. A rage-quit win can be satisfying, but the best is when you can dominate a team without any extra handicaps. This is where the second match comes in: EPIC WIN!

I really enjoy playing Centaur Warrunner because he has some really great burst damage with an area of effect stun and his ultimate can effect everyone on your team wherever they are. His ultimate allows all allies to run at a fast speed and they also gain the ability to run through enemies and in the process damage/slow them down. It is definitely a great ability when you notice someone trying to run away from an engagement that went bad or if you need to give a teammate a boost in speed to catch a retreating enemy.

I’m looking forward to playing some more Dota 2, possibly some Smite, StarCraft 2, or even Diablo 3 on Thursday night.

GAME ON!

Jason:
An unexpected arrival on my front porch turned my digital gaming experience this week into an analog one. Until recently Marvel Dice Masters, a dice based magic the gathering style game, had been unavailable to the masses due to a production shortage. They’ve recently released a second set to meet the demand and I couldn’t help picking it up.

It arrived on Monday and I couldn’t wait to rip it open of the box and play a few games against my wife. The gist: you work to acquire dice from a pool in the center of the table to build your arsenal of superheroes that attack, defend, and acquire more dice. It’s a great mix of luck and strategy and at less than 15 bucks it’s worth every penny. Amazon still has a few copies available.

The only downside is that it has roots in the CCG blind acquisition model. You buy booster packs that contain a random assortment of new dice and the heroes and villains that go with them. However, each booster comes in at a cool $.99. I couldn’t tell you the last time I saw a game component sell for less than a dollar. It’s likely that I’ll pick up a good handful of them before all is said and done.

WizKids definitely knows what they’re doing.

Unsolicited Mental Objects, Week of 11/2

Unsolicited Mental Objects is a new feature we’re going to try out. The idea is pretty straight forward. Every Wednesday (except for today) the ButtonMashers who chose to participate will perform a brain dump concerning anything gaming related he or she has experienced during the previous week. These mental objects may comprise knee-jerk reactions to gaming news or reasons for abandoning a game’s campaign, analysis of a failed Dota match or musings about avatar creation. The goal is to be more actively aware during our gaming time and to present it in a way that is organic, engaging and current.

The overall idea being that these posts can be a seed-bed for discussion in the comments section and possible future ButtonMashing posts. Collaboration, if you will – Collaboration between readers and writers, and to possibly blur that line over time. Let’s roll…

JASON:
NoMOBAvember was going to be a thing. I had the hashtag lined up and the marketing practically wrote itself. I had grand visions of digging into my steam library and actually finishing two or maybe three whole games this month. I sold myself on the idea that MOBAs are drastically changing the way I interact with my entertainment choices and not always for the better.

It was going to be a time for reflection.

It was going to be a time to appreciate what I have and what I’ve been missing.

Oh look, it’s November 1st. It’s 10 o’clock in the morning. Crap, I’m playing Smite.

While it was a weak way to start my week I decided that I wouldn’t let it hinder my plans to get back into my steam library. I started by jumping back into Skyrim bent on playing a character who wasn’t a stealthy bowman.

It’s not been a fantastic experience so far. I’ve been trying to enhance my return to Tamriel by loading in mods only to have my gameplay mired in crashes, glitches, and slow loads. So I think I’m going to give up on that approach. Later this week I’m looking to jump into a fresh install with no mods and take it from there. After all, the base game is the one I fell in love with three years ago.

NICK:
Jason did indeed act on a ray of inspiration with NoMOBAvember. I embraced the idea but only because it was going to be no real challenge for me. I can stand on my ivory tower and glare down on everybody else. MOBAs haven’t really been on my menu lately. The last time I played Dota was the night several weeks ago when James and Tony kicked down my door and, before I knew it, usurped my dainty internet connection with their laptops. I relinquished, and the three of us sat in my dining room and played a few matches. Being physically in the same room like that was something we always talked about doing. Communication is much more effective. But screaming at my monitor at the two other guys on our team is still pretty useless.

But, yeah… NoMOBAvember continues to be a piece of cake for me. I too desire to dig into my Steam library and make the time for some of the more overlooked titles. This past week I played and enjoyed Gunpoint. I am currently romping around in Tiny & Big: Grandpa’s Leftovers. This was a title I bought at 90% discount just days before this past Steam summer sale. I felt in my heart of hearts at the time that I would never get around to Tiny & Big; it would just get buried under everything else. But nay. I’m glad I started the game. It is a fun open-world puzzler with a quirky, silly vibe that reminds me of MDK. A breath of fresh air. And after Tiny & Big is complete I reckon I shall give Guacemelee a whirl.

As Jason said, part of the intent of NoMOBAvember is to appreciate what I have been missing. I have 24 more days of treasure hunting my own Steam library. Ta-Ta!

JAMES:
No NoMOBAvember for me!!!! Nah Nah!

I’m still playing Dota 2 and Smite as my main choices of gaming. If I am not playing and have a moment, I tend to stream some Dota 2 on my phone or tablet through a Twitch app. I’ve been meaning to get back to some Vita game time – finish off the Uncharted game I have for it or play some more Dragon’s Crown, but I just haven’t gone back to it.

Be on the look out for a lengthy post about Dota 2. Dropping soon!

TONY:
I loved Jason’s idea for abstaining from MOBAs for a month, but I just can’t do it. Dota 2 is still my game of choice for many reasons, but right now my gaming time is constrained to the point that I have come to rely on a Dota match not exceeding an hour of time. This is huge.

I’m also doing things in Dota I’d never thought I’d do in a Free to Play game. I know there hangs a thread, which will be the topic of a future post. But Dota has grabbed me like no other game has in a LONG time. But I recognize I have so many other options. I will force myself to play something not-Dota this weekend.

November Releases

It’s my least favorite month to do the monthly release list — NOVEMBER! It’s the “let’s release all the games so we can get in on that sweet, sweet Christmas Cash on Black Friday!” month of releases. It’s all here — a Halo release, YACOD (yet another Call of Duty), shooters galore, sports games, and Nintendo’s big Marque Release. It wouldn’t be November without ‘em! With that said, on to this month’s releases:

Xbox One

Week of November 4th
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
The Wolf Among Us
Rocksmith 2014

Week of November 11th
Pro Evolution Soccer 2015
Shape Up
LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham
Assassin’s Creed Unity
Halo: The Master Chief Collection – And here it is, the first salvo in the “should Tony get a PS4 or Xbox One” debate. Halo. Sure, I’ve played all of these games before. Yes, my online skills have atrophied to the point of embarrassment. I still want to get some of that Halo Haloness and I can’t get it anywhere else. Decisions, decisions.

Week of November 18th
Rabbids Invasion
WWE 2K15
Far Cry 4
Grand Theft Auto V
Dragon Age Inquisition

Week of November 25th
Minecraft Xbox One Edition – Here is salvo #2. The kids go cuckoo for Minecraft and moving over their worlds from the 360 seems like a no-brainer.


Week of November 4th
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
Bioshock Infinite: The Complete Edition
The Wolf Among Us
MotoGP 14

Week of November 11th
Payday 2: Safecracker
Pro Evolution Soccer 2015
LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham
Assassin’s Creed Rogue

Week of November 18th
Rabbids Invasion
Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom
Escape Dead Island
MXGP 14: The Official Motocross Videogame
Dragon Age Inquisition – Xbox 360 Standard Edition
Far Cry 4
Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor


Week of November 11th
LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham
Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric

Week of November 18th
Watch Dogs
Super Smash Bros. – At least we have the Wii U and can play something next gen!


Week of November 4th
Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley – When there’s a new Harvest Moon, you should know the drill by now: Wherein a new Harvest Moon is released, I am bound by tradition to link to one of my favorite posts: my Harvest Moon review.

Week of November 11th
Tetris Ultimate
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Danger of the OOZE – Is there a reason ooze is in all caps? That must be some really serious OOZE…
LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham
Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal

Week of November 18th
Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom
Pokémon Omega Ruby – I have a feeling the buttonmashing household will be procuring between one and three copies of Pokemon this month.
Pokémon Alpha Sapphire

Week of November 25th
Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth


Week of November 4th
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

Week of November 11th
LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham
Assassin’s Creed Unity
Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms

Week of November 18th
Escape Dead Island
Company of Heroes 2: Ardennes Assault
Dragon Age Inquisition
Far Cry 4
Construction Simulator 2015

Week of November 25th
Geometry Wars 3 – Salvo #3 — who needs an Xbox when I can get Geometry Wars on the PC?!


PS4 Banner

Week of November 4th
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
MotoGP 14
The Wolf Among Us

Week of November 11th
LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham
Assassin’s Creed Unity

Week of November 18th
Rabbids Invasion
MXGP 14: The Official Motocross Videogame
Dragon Age Inquisition
WWE 2K15
Far Cry 4
Grand Theft Auto V
Little Big Planet 3 – Salvo #4 — I really think the kids would love Little Big Planet. Like love love it. Tell me I’m wrong.

Week of November 25th
Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed – Salvo #5 — you can’t find this kind of high-quality entertainment on that big green box.


Week of November 4th
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Day Zero Edition
Bioshock Infinite: The Complete Edition
The Wolf Among Us
MotoGP 14

Week of November 11th
Payday 2: Safecracker
Pro Evolution Soccer 2015
LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham

Week of November 18th
MXGP 14: The Official Motocross Videogame
WRC 4: FIA World Rally Championship
Escape Dead Island
Dragon Age Inquisition
Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F 2nd
Little Big Planet 3
Far Cry 4
Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor

Week of November 25th


Week of November 4th
The Wolf Among Us
The Walking Dead Season 2

Week of November 11th
LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham
Minecraft

Week of November 18th
Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F 2nd

I’m sure I’ll be picking something up this month. 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

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)