Nick’s 2014 Game of the Year: Hearthstone colon something about WOW

I am initiating this post in the heat of the moment. Yes. Fury percolates my blood right now. My eyes are twitching just as feverishly as my hands. I am yammering out loud.

I am am am am am am in a state of extreme agitation because I just lost four matches in a row in Hearthstone. Which is, in all honesty, nothing new. Losing streaks happen. But these were sloppy losses, achieved by playing stupidly. Each of the matches at one point were tilted ever so slightly in my favor. But then one critical misplay on my part ultimately led to an embarrassing, enraging demise. I should have walked away after the third loss, but I was stubborn and went back for one more match. After that defeat I was furious; I backhanded my can of Diet Coke from off the desk and sent it flying into the next room. This string of losses seems to sting more than the others.

HSCover

And so, in this state of mind – this state of what I shall call ‘rabid lucidity’ – I am hereby declaring Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft to be my 2014 Game of the Year. Because I can! Because not doing so would be exactly what this stupid game would want! I have the upperhand, fool! Indeed. The fire which doth burn before mine eyes brings forth a clarity of understanding, a recognition of why this game stands apart from all the others I have played this year.

I still hate Hearthstone so much right now…

But there are times when I feel contrary to this, times when I hoot & holler with surprise & delight. There was that one time when, as a Shaman, I danced around two opposing legendaries for three turns, slipped through the cracks with a Spellbreaker and pulled off a miraculous, windfuried victory. I was so giddy I had to go for a walk, grinning from ear to ear the entire time, chuckling to myself, delighted at the flood of endorphins that unleashed as I watched the Paladin’s portrait explode. And hopefully that haughty Paladin had to go walk off the percolating fury in his blood after that loss, just as I may or may not have had to do an undisclosed number of times.

Indeed, no other game this year had me groveling and soaring as much as Hearthstone. It’s like being in a high school relationship all over again. Sometimes I swear that we are meant to be together forever; Other times, out of spite, I don’t even answer the phone. I have torn down Hearthstone desktop wallpapers so fast it would make your head spin.

Hearthstone has exclusively solicited other kinds of behaviors, which is the main criteria that I am using to declare this as my GOTY. (I’ve calmed down now, BTW.)

No other game had me talking out loud while playing. While Hearthstone certainly can churn emotions, its simplicity as a CCG and its unrepentant RNG-mongering keeps me on my toes. And the best way to keep from slipping into analysis paralysis each 90-second turn is to converse to myself about strategies and risk assessment. The extra step of vocalizing keeps me focused. Even if I’m tapping away on the iPad while laying in bed, and even after the elbow jabs from my wife.

I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.

I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.

No other game was as methodically played. Meaning, this goes beyond ingame activity. I make sure munchies are within reach. I have tunes in queue to match my mood and at the ready to be changed on a whim. Music level and game sounds level need to be perfectly mixed and are futzed with constantly. My head needs to be covered, preferably with a drawn hoodie. I need a ‘nerves toy’ to fidget with while I wait for my turn – a deck of cards to endlessly shuffle or one of my kids’ slap bracelets.

No other game has as many logged hours this year as Hearthstone. Granted, I don’t know for sure exactly how many but I am guessing it to be somewhere in the range of one and infinity. And because the game is available on iOS it’s easy to sneak away with the iPad at a family holiday function and play a match or two. Either on iOS or Windows, I rarely have matches go longer than 10 minutes. There’s always gold to be earned, booster packs to buy. Sometimes I don’t feel like building and experimenting with a deck. Sometimes I don’t feel like playing Hearthstone at all. Contrary to a grand strategy campaign or story-heavy games, you can walk away from Hearthstone for a week or more and then be able to pick right back up – there’s always other players in queue. This is one of the reasons I enjoy staying within range 22-15 of ranked play; the opposing decks are never the same, always a mishmashing hodge podge. It’s fun playing below the meta threshold. Always fun enough to keep me coming back sometimes after sometimes.

I love you. I love you. I love you.

I love you. I love you. I love you.

And finally, no other game was quoted so often by my family. There was a short while during the end of last summer where this was a thing. It was memorable and fun. In Hearthstone, soundbytes accompany every card placement and movement. If the card is a minion the soundbyte is some form of vocalization. And if something involves vocalization my kids are all over it. This mimicry was mindfully executed. Say, if I was arriving home after being gone all day Mitchell would shriek “Gimmie a big hug!” ala Leper Gnome. “Follow de rules” ala Aldor Peacekeeper was a parental favorite, though it didn’t always work – in fact, it rarely worked, but it was certainly fun to hope.

Hearthstone was, and continues to be, a game that always seems to be so near, even if I am on a self-imposed ‘break’ from it. Despite its simplicity as a CCG, Hearthstone still feels like a complete package. Its snappy response and interactive board are just as critical to its success as the swift match-ups and evolving playing field. The game is constructed in a way that the player still has room to ease into the hot seat; thus, cultivating a mutually beneficial relationship. This post would not exist otherwise.

And so, here’s to another year of facepalms and jubilee, backhanded Diet Coke cans and awkwardly-quoted Paladin cards. “Boys! Look who it ’tis!” Indeed, dear Innkeeper. Glad to be back.

Weekend Gaming : Minecraft, Something Else (But Probably Not)

I have never ever, ever, ever, ever, in a hundred thousand million years ever thought I would get into Minecraft. Looking in from the outside, what I saw didn’t look interesting. This disinterest continued even after some hands-on time with the PS3 edition Santa recently delivered to my 7-year old son. It was fun to share this world with my progeny, neat-o to explore it, but it was an activity I did mostly out of love and support for my kid than actual enthusiasm for the game.

Then I discovered Redstone.
MIB

Redstone has completely reoriented my perception of Minecraft. And this is exciting, not just as it pertains to the game, but conceptually. I am engaged by the fact that a single aspect of a game, no longer clouded by my ignorance, gives a novel dimension to the bigger picture, generates new ideas and approaches. Oh man… Son, this is a philosophical rabbit hole I am not prepared nor smart enough to jump in. In what other games has this happened?

So, I discover and get all ramped about redstone. I try to explain circuits and logic gates to my boy. He brushed off my enthusiasm as if it were dorrito crumbs and went back to shearing sheep to facilitate the production of his purple carpet (Sure, dude, go ahead and use all the Lapis Lazuli I mined with the sweat of my brow). Later that night, after he went to bed, I logged back in and, like some amateur alchemist in way over his head, began tinkering with this magical red powder. Fascinating.

Long story short, Mitchell was severely displeased with the changes I made to his world: “It’s my game, and you played without me?” Point taken. Go back to making your carpet. Rookie.

However, I was allowed to dabble just enough that I am ready to begin my own world. Without him! I don’t need him or his carpet (yes, I do). I am considering taking this one step further and purchasing a copy for the PC. The modding possibilities alone have me just as giddy as redstone. It would be a survival world; I am more interested in making rickety, practical contraptions for home defense than in building majestic stone palaces from infinite resources. We’ll see how it goes.

What are you playing this weekend?

(And thanks for visiting ButtonMashing. We are in the process of tweaking the layout of the site and working on some new content. Because we care.)

Weekend Gaming

Well, as you can see from the picture above, I’ll be doing some PC gaming this weekend. I recently built myself a new gaming PC to replace my aging gaming laptop. I have some thoughts about my gaming laptop experience and thoughts about finding myself drifting away from being a console gamer and becoming entrenched in the PC gaming landscape, but those are posts for another day.

This weekend will be all about getting the new PC fully operational and decked out. I documented the progression of putting the system together with my cohorts, but I’ll include you all in the details soon. Needless to say, I am ready to play some games on this bad boy! I have already downloaded Dota 2 (because duh and because I wanted to see it in all its high settings glory), Endless Legend (because it chugged on my old system), Dishonored and The Walking Dead Season 2. The next order of business this afternoon will be to install Origin and download Dragon Age: Inquisition. There are tons of other games I’d like to play, but that’s a good start.

So I’ll be PC gaming this weekend — what are you going to play?

Tony’s 2014 Game of the Year – 2 Much Dota 2

We neglected to do “Game of the Year” posts last year. Previously we used to do “Fun Game of the Year” lists where we’d talk about the games we had the most fun with that particular year. We’re going back to our roots and posting our “Game of the Year” posts this year.

For me, my game of the year did not come out in 2014. It actually went into beta in 2011. Heck, it’s conception didn’t even happen in this decade — it’s a revamped version of a Warcraft III mod that was popular almost ten years ago. It went out of beta in 2013. And yet it’s the game that has held my attention longer than any other game not named EVE: Online.

I could spend a month’s worth of posts explaining why Dota 2 consumed so much of my time. The short list includes:

  • “Quick”, concise games – I know what I’m committing to when I hit “Play” in Dota 2. This isn’t going to be a marathon gaming session. It will be between 40-60 minutes. There will be no do-overs, no quick saves. Just me, my team and uninterrupted mayhem.
  • Over 100 heroes to learn and love (and hate) – It takes a while to get used to any one hero and it takes HOURS to get “good”. I would say I am “good” with about ten heroes. There are some I don’t care if I ever play. There are probably another 20-25 I’d like to get better at.
  • Never the same game twice – (Which is ironic to say because it’s the EXACT same game EVERY TIME) With two teams of five heroes each, the combinations are limitless. Add in varying skill levels and teammate competency and you’ve go the ingredients for infinite variety.
  • Free to play, pay to be different – This is actually going to be the subject of its own post, but I used to think free-to-play games that offer character customization (flair, if you will) was no way to run a free to play game. After having spent more on Dota 2 than I would buying a triple-A title, I have to say that Valve got free-to-play “right”.
  • The pro scene – I sometimes compare the pro Dota 2 scene to professional golf. Golf is a game that has a low enough bar for entry that just about anyone can play it. At the same time, the level of play of professionals is so advanced, no weekend warrior will ever be as good. But they are playing essentially the same game. Other pro sports are not like that. Your yearly Turkey Bowl with you buddies is not and will never be the Super Bowl. Dota 2 enthusiasts can watch a Dota 2 pro match and understand the strategy and gameplay and think “I could do that”.
  • I am a collector and stats whore – See above about customizing your character for the collector part — I love my Dota 2 inventory. But if you’ve followed this blog since the beginning, you’ll know how much of a stats whore I am (Halo 3, for instance). There is a ton of data generated during each match of Dota 2, and there are great sites like dotabuff.com that will aggregate and present it so you can brag to your friends after that great 20-3-15 game.

juggernaut

Yes, the game has a community that is usually toxic but there are always pleasant little surprises sprinkled in among the dreck. If you find some dudes that don’t disparage your manhood nor question your ancestry (like the guys in the Buttonmashing Steam Group!), team up with them again. It’s safer to go into the Swamps of Sadness with some mates.

Even though there is a lot, this post is just scratching the surface. I’d really like to delve deeper into some of the games mechanics and concepts and the things that you can do around the periphery of the game as the year goes on. So I hope you like reading about Dota 2, because I sure like it as a game!

January Releases

Here are the video game releases for the month of January 2015.

It looks like this will be a great month to work on that backlog and play some games you’ve been meaning to get to without worrying about what games are coming out this month, because quite honestly, there’s not a whole lot to write home about. With that said, on to this month’s releases:

Xbox One

Week of January 20th
Saints Row IV: Re-Elected + Gat out of Hell

Week of January 27th
Dying Light
DYNASTY WARRIORS 8 Empires – CLEARLY THE CAPITAL LETTERS ARE IMPORTANT


Week of January 20th
Saints Row: Gat out of Hell


No new releases for the Nintendo Wii U in January


No new releases for the Nintendo 3DS in January


Week of January 20th
Saints Row: Gat out of Hell

Week of January 27th
Grand Theft Auto V
Dying Light


PS4 Banner

Week of January 20th
Motorcycle Club
Saints Row IV: Re-Elected + Gat out of Hell

Week of January 27th
DYNASTY WARRIORS 8 Empires
Dying Light


Week of January 20th
Saints Row: Gat out of Hell
Motorcycle Club


Week of January 27th
Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth2: Sisters Generation

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

It’s the first weekend of the new year, hopefully everyone has some new games the need to be played, either from the holiday gift-giving festivities or from taking advantage of the deals available to gamers everywhere (is it just me, or were the Steam Sales really disappointing this year? Are we spoiled gamers? Did Valve and other publishers tire of giving away their stuff for next to nothing?)

We got some new games in the Buttonmashing household, including Disney Infinity 2.0 and Super Smash Bros. Wii U, so I hope to get a little time with the little buttonmashers throwing down in SSB (where I literally have no idea what I’m doing and I get by on my buttonmashing skills honed over the last twenty years). I didn’t pick up much during the Steam Sale, but I did pick up Turbo Dismount which looks like it’s going to be a great game to play with my sons. Finishing my Wild Walkers campaign in Endless Legend and finally trying Dungeon of the Endless a try will round out my weekend of gaming. And Dota 2. There’s always time for Dota 2.

What are you playing this weekend?

In My Digital Weekend Gaming Hands

Yeah, it’s the Holiday Steam Sale, but before I grab anything off my wish list there, I picked up a couple digital downloads for my gaming pleasure. First up is the latest expansion for my hands-down favorite iOS game, Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer.

realms_unraveled

The new expansion, Realms Unraveled, introduces multi-faction heroes and a “Unite” mechanic that allows cards to play off each other. It’s a great mechanic for throwing down some great combos, but those combos can get out of hand quickly:

Outside of that drubbing, I’ve been enjoying the new expansion. I haven’t tried it out with any of the other expansion decks. (Also, be warned: Ascension is now available on Steam. I can’t be held responsible for your addiction.)

I was also given a review code for Thomas Was Alone for the Wii U. I have heard great things about TWA but I haven’t had a chance to dive in yet. I hope to do that this weekend.

And of course there will be the usual Dota 2. There’s always Dota 2.

What will you be playing this weekend?

Unsolicited Mental Objects, Week of 11/30

Tony
I haven’t delved into a strategy game or a civ/sim game in quite some time. But I couldn’t resist the allure of giving Endless Legend a try, and I’m glad I did. I hope to write some more in-depth initial impressions soon, but suffice it to say that it has its hooks in me. It has a Civilization-esque “just one more turn” coupled with skill and tech trees to give variety and complexity to each game. I went into the game (after the tutorial) completely green and let the defaults reign as I tried my first world. I went with the elf-like Wild Walkers as my race. I’m 30 turns in and even as I type this I wonder what the next 30 turns hold. I’ve pacified a minor faction of Minotaurs, expanded my first city and am well on my way to founding my second.

I worry that “just one more turn” is going to turn into “just one more hour”.

Nick
Blizzard yesterday revealed an additional 61 Hearthstone cards that will be included in the new Goblins vs. Gnomes expansion to be released sometime this month. Prior to this unveiling I was under the impression that the expansion is just going to be an unfavorable hodge podge of RNG and incessant Priestcraft trickery – which, during the first weeks of release, Hearthstone shall still be. But now, after seeing these new cards, I am starting to feel that spark of yielding to the hype, the willingness to jump into the cyclone giddy and clueless.

Where some of the initial expansion card reveals had me scoffing and chuckling with irony, Blizzard is, as I am now perceiving it, methodically expanding the playing field. It’s good to see Silver Hand Recruits get some love, as well as counters to secrets, the misfire mechanic of the ogre cards, Hunter’s Feign Death (Battlecry: Trigger all deathrattles on your minons… so evil). Tokens. Murlocs. Mechs. So many disgusting combinations…

To date, I have spent an approximate $0.00 on Hearthstone. This figure is not shared here as a badge of honor, to be a snoot about it. Nor has it ever been an act of principle or guiding light during gametime. I simply have never felt compelled enough to pay USD for boosters because earning gold in-game is a joy and a journey. At times I admit to wondering just how long I can and will go before coughing up the funds. But with this impending onslaught of cards both fresh and wily… Dagnabbit, Blizzard. You may have caught me on this one.

*enter evil laugh here*

James

I got maybe one or two matches of Dota 2 in with Tony during the holiday break, I think we lost both matches. It’s getting harder and harder to win when your “teammates” are either going AFK or just downright horrible. =/

Played a few matches of Smite in last night with Jason and we won a few and lost a few. I think I’ve been away from Smite for a while/I wasn’t playing very well. Thankfully you can surrender after the 10 minute mark if your team is being destroyed. This way you can end a match and hop into another one and roll the dice for a chance at a good team.

December Releases

With the bulk of gaming releases already out in November, December doesn’t usually bring along a huge slate of games. This December is no different, with a couple games that might hold your interest but otherwise aren’t all that great. With that said, on to this month’s releases:

Xbox One

Week of December 2nd
Terraria – I’m surprised to see this out on next-gen consoles, but Terraria is a great game so why not?
The Crew


Week of December 2nd
The Crew


Week of December 2nd
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker – If ever there was a game that screamed “THIS IS NINTENDO”, Captain Toad is that game. Look at those bright colors. LOOK AT THEM. My goodness, the colors. So bright.
NES Remix Pack – Nintendo going hard, tugging at the nostalgic heart strings. /Purchases NES Remix Pack


Week of December 2nd
Ultimate NES Remix


Week of December 2nd
Skullgirls
Titanfall Deluxe
Battlefield 4: FINAL STAND
The Crew

Week of December 9th
FINAL FANTASY XIII-2
Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris

Week of December 16th
Divinity: Original Sin


PS4 Banner

Week of December 2nd
Terraria
The Crew

Week of December 9th
Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris

Week of December 16th
Guilty Gear Xrd – SIGN – “Xrd”?! It’s like they’re not even trying anymore with these names. Xrd, indeed.


Week of December 2nd
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX


No releases this month for the Sony Playstation Vita.

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.)

In My Weekend Gaming Hands

endless_legend

With the Steam Sale in full force, I had to pull the trigger and grab Endless Legend (by the time it downloads, I’ll probably have picked up Endless Space and Dungeon of the Endless as well). So along with some Black Friday deal posting (like this one for Diablo III: Reaper of Souls console version) I imagine I’ll be playing some Endless Legend this weekend. And of course a weekend of gaming wouldn’t be complete without a game or two of Dota 2. So my gaming deck is loaded.

What are you going play this holiday weekend?