Weekend Gaming – Atlas Reactor, System Crash

There’s been low-level chatter amongst the ButtonMashing crew about investigating Atlas Reactor. The game is currently F2P, and will be so for the next six days. So, since Dota and Heroes of the Storm and Rocket League have been on the backburner for quite some time, we figured it is time to try a new team-based PvP game where we get snippy, huffy puffy at each other.

4v4 PvP

Personally, I think Atlas Reactor looks very promising. It is one of those examples of genre merging that yields something fresh and exciting. I like that it is a primarily tactical game and coordination with teammates is essential. Plus, the psychological element, the game theory, the need to get into the heads of your opponents’ will also give an advantage – So cool. And then, when all tactical decisions have been made, the orders are all carried out simultaneously, the potential spectacle value of just this is enough to warrant checking the game out.

On other fronts, we’ve been given a review code for System Crash. It is a cyberpunk CCG with a singleplayer campaign steeped in heady subterfuge and electronica music. I’ve only been able to dip my toes in but I can confidently report: So far, so good! The presentation and setting is convincing. An initial impression is that the AI is a conniving little devil, it doesn’t mess around. And I already despise haste cards – unless, of course, I am the one playing it, in which case: I love haste cards! Expect a full review of System Crash sometime early next week.

What are you playing this weekend?

Weekend Gaming – The Confusion (not a video game)

A thought keeps recurring. This thought goes something like: Take a break from video games for a little bit. If anything, for as long as it takes to finally – FINALLY – finish reading The Confusion. You’ve only got 150 more pages to go. Neal Stephenson is your literary comfort food. Instead of poking around, aimlessly playing stuff from your steam library, return to Mr. Stephenson’s world and dwell happily therein.

Not a Video Game

Not a Video Game

But then I read about new updates made to Thea: The Awakening which perks my curiosity. Or, I get pulled back into the undertow of the twin-stick madness of Waves, of which I crushed my previous high-score of 93mil with a staggering 1.2bil. And then fellow ButtonMashers put a little bug in my ear about Hex: Shards of Fate, and I tinker with that for a little bit. And then I just randomly booted up the Risk-like domination game Lux Delux. And then I wanted to give Prison Architect another shot. And then I found it Bastion is 5 years old today, so I wanted to revisit that…

And then… And then…
And then…

I normally don’t like just skipping along the surface like this. I like to be able to dig into a game. And while every single one of the game mentioned above are totally legit, I haven’t allowed myself to gain any traction with them. This can lead to underwhelming and unsatisfying gametime.

Maybe it is time to heed this recurring thought. This need to tip the scales in favor of the printed word over video games always seems to happen mid-late summer for me. All things considered, perhaps this is the weekend where I make a clean break from the desktop and burrow into the reading chair to finally finish the last fraction of The Confusion.

Play doubly hard for me this weekend, dear reader. I’m sitting this one out.

Writer of Words, Shaver of Heads - Neal Stephenson

Writer of Words, Shaver of Heads – Neal Stephenson

Thea: The Awakening ‘demo’ now available

It is with utmost pleasure and anticipation that I would like to announce that there is now available a demo for MuHa Games’s Thea: The Awakening.

But, this is not just a demo in the traditional sense. This is not just a glop of the first several hours of gameplay which is then abruptly ended by the game sending you to the Steam store page. In a fantastic gesture of confidence MuHa Games has made the entire game available for a trial run, albeit the Early Access version from last fall. But, even in that, even in its nascent stages, Thea was, and continues to be, something really special.

Thealogo

It is a hard game to describe without going into details because it does not conform to any archetype. To say it is a 4x would be wildly misleading, for there is no expanding or exploitation. To say it is a grand strategy would be erroneous because in-game events can suddenly bring your campaign to a bloody, and sometimes unfair, ending. And yet, to call it a Roguelike would only hold true in that any progress made in a campaign – any XP – however piddly in amount, is accumulated to help in unlocking and leveling up new overlords to play as in subsequent playthroughs.

To say it is a tactical game can likewise be misleading because all encounters – whichever of the half dozen types one may be – are not handled in a traditional point-and-click hex arena but rather in an innovative and fun table-top card game setting.

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The survival aspect of Thea is my favorite part of the game. The hunting and gathering, the resource management, the personnel management, the crafting – it is an integral part of gameplay and not just utility, another thing you have to handle and worry about. The crafting, especially, is more than just lumber + iron = sword. All the basic resources have several derivatives with values that can have tremendously different effects on the attributes of what is being crafted. These items have very real and functional numbers that can aid in gathering more resources or talking your way out of an encounter or attracting different types of populace to your single village. The choices made in crafting and equipping matter, and…

… And there I’ve done it; I’ve gone into details. #sorrynotsorry

Thea: The Awakening is just one of those games that is best learnt by playing because it is the sum of so many parts. It is a brave endeavor. And the love that MuHa has shown for it – the growth and free DLCs, updates and features – is only making the game that much greater.

Even if the ‘demo’ is the entire game in its Early Access state, it is still but a tantalizing taste to what MuHa has done to it since official release, and, no doubt, what they have in store.

The demo is available on the game’s Steam page.

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Guy’s Weekend 2015

Last August, a group of us got together for what is becoming an annual event — the “Guys Weekend”, a time when we get some time away from the family to hang out and do what we love best — eat greasy food and play games. Lots and lots of games.2015-08-21

We decided this year to kick things off with lunch at the Columbus greasy spoon Icon Thurman’s Cafe, home of the world famous Thurman Burger. After stuffing our face with burgers and wings, we headed back to Buttonmasher HQ for some serious board gaming.

The king of Board Games (Mr. Board Gaming Deals Himself) decided that in addition to the games being played, we’d hold a sort of meta-contest with a traveling trophy. He kept track of wins and losses for each game played and compiled ranking that changed as games were won and lost.IMG_1453

What follows are the games that were played and who ended up in possession of the traveling trophy (spoiler alert: The Guys’ Weekend Champion is devastatingly handsome.)

The Game Champion

The Game Champion Trophy

Games:
King of Tokyo has become a family favorite in the Buttonmashing household. You play as one of six Monsters, vying to be the King of Tokyo. You can do this by defeating the other monsters in a fight to the death or peacefully achieve victory by way of victory points. You increase your monster’s powers by buying cards. There are numerous expansions, and we brought in the King of Tokyo: Power Up! expansion, which gives each of the monsters a set of unique powers as the game goes on. KoT has the potential to be over quickly or drag on far too long, but it’s an enjoyable game that balances luck with good planning and strategy.

Dixit was probably my favorite game of the weekend. Each player is dealt a number of cards corresponding to the number of players. Each card is a beautiful piece of artwork, depicting a scene or a portrait or something evocative. The player chooses a word or phrase to describe his card, and everyone else chooses a card from their stack that best matches the description. Then all cards are shuffled and revealed, and players choose which card they think the player’s card is. The card is revealed and points are dealt out according to the outcome. What makes Dixit so enjoyable is the ambiguity that is needed to describe your card enough to obfuscate it within the other cards but not distinguish it.

DC Comics Deck-Building Game was another game that got some attention, similar to Ascension, and if you’ve read this site for any length of time, you know my relationship with Ascension. It also led to a few early disagreements over who were truly your friends and who were dirty rascals out to ruin your fun and your life.

2015-08-25Relic is a variation of the classic game Talisman, set in the Warhammer 40k universe. Relic probably had the biggest turn around of any of the game played. Jason and I seemed to be more or less headed for a showdown while James and Nick struggled to get a foothold. But as my chances started dwindling, Nick made a push through the final tier of challenges and his assassin’s perk, an extra die roll on explosions (rolling two sixes), gave him the extra oomph to claim victory. It was an unbelievable string of dice rolls, capping off a hard fought game of Relic.

This is just a sampling of games we’ve played. Other games included Forbidden Desert, Sushi Go, Family Business, and Formula D. (Others played, but I did not, Great Heartland Hauling Co and Lords of Waterdeep). I really liked the co-op nature of Forbidden Desert and I loved the cutthroat Family Business and the accompanying threats that flowed freely. Family Business should be called Friends and Family Relationship Ruiner. The less said about the things that were said during Family Business, the better.

Computers were set up for some PC gaming and of course there was Dota 2 to be played. While computer gaming usually takes a backseat to tabletop, there’s always time for Dota 2.

In the end, the results were tallied and a champion was crowned:

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This bad boy looks beautiful displayed on the top of my new gaming PC.

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In My Hand (Literally)

razer_deathadder

Decided it was time to up my mouse game for the Gaming PC Workhorse (even though it’s been in service for over a year). For the longest time, I’ve been running a vanilla Logitech M510. While a perfectly serviceable mouse, it is wireless and I never could find an optimal place to plug in the little USB wireless nub. It might be totally psychosomatic, but I blamed any hiccup I noticed on the placement of the dongle. It’s been nagging me even more acutely lately when the mouse seems to lag slightly or outright not react to my movements. When you’re as bad as I am at games, every mis-click and mis-movement is amplified by my initial lack of skill.

So after some research at my favorite Recommendation Engine (The Wirecutter) and some PC Gaming reading, I decided on the Razer Deathadder. It’s not the “Chroma” version the Wirecutter recommends, but it’s just a minor stepdown from it. I had also considered the Cooler Master Mizar but my local PC Mecca (Microcenter) was out of stock, so Razer it is!

So far, so good. This mouse is definitely a +1 to movement smoothness and a 25% increase in point-and-click efficiency.

Weekend Gaming – Vietnam ’65

Two weeks ago I posted an idea about how to buy games during the Steam summer sale ‘16. Last week I explained how I almost strayed from this idea but mustered the resolve to continue forward and to spend and play wisely during Steam’s bi-annual extravaganza.

I am here now to report that between last week and now my plan has gone completely and utterly fubar. The third portion of my meticulously mapped idea fell apart. None of the games I planned on buying were purchased. And instead of piecemealing my acquisitions, I went ahead and hoarded like a buffoon – the complete opposite of what I had so steely resolved against doing!

My plan was disrupted by the discovery of a curated list over at wargamer.com. Here, Alex Connelly posted a game recommendation once a day for nine days – And I tell you what, they are fantastic recommendations! Each post gave a succinct run-down of what the game is, what makes it unique, why it succeeds, and how much its Steam discount is. As someone who is just now dabbling in the war game subgenre, I found this intel very useful and exciting, and I acted on it…

This weekend I shall be diving deeper into the intricacies of Connelly’s day #2 recommendation, Vietnam ‘65. It is a wonderfully designed game that places you in a very narrow time and place during a specific and rather unpopular war. vietname65 Because the view is so focused the game only gives you a handful of units to be familiar with. But these sparse number of units each have tremendous utility in trying to
pacify charlie along the Ho Chi Minh trail, all the while trying to garner political support for the war back home – Very cool ideas in this game. This is also my first exposure to a counterinsurgency game, and I am loving it, though it is easy to fumble around with the UI sometimes, enacting very costly, disastrous misclicks.

You’ve done your job, Connelly! By intention or not, you’ve captured the interest of a fellow gamer. Wargames are a subgenre that I plan on reading about, if not trepidatiously. Wargamers, at least from what I have seen thus far, are very particular about certain aspect of war games – sometimes trumping even the game itself. This is a broad generalization, I know, but still, this is a whole gaming ecosystem that has a history and audience that demands attention. Am I smart enough, is my attention strong enough, to make headway? We’ll have to see.

What are you paying this weekend?

July Releases

July is usually light on the Triple-A titles (or just titles in general) so it doesn’t seem that there will be much action, except for a couple outliers. That being said, on to this month’s releases:

Microsoft Xbox One

Week of July 5th
Carmageddon: Max Damage

Week of July 12th
Ghostbusters


Nintendo Wii-U

No Nintendo Wii-U games for the month of July.


Nintendo 3DS

Week of July 12th
Monster Hunter Generations
7th Dragon III Code: VFD


PC

Week of July 5th
Frost – “Inspired by deck-building board games like Dominion, Ascension and the like, it’s an unique take on the genre as it puts you in charge of a group of people struggling against a restless, lethal storm.” You officially have my attention…
Cavernus
Furi
INSIDE – This game has been getting a tremendous amount of buzz recently. Definitely one I’ll be looking into.
Leviathan: the Cargo
Hero Zero
Haven Moon

Week of July 12th
Last Will
Song of the Deep
NECROPOLIS: A Diabolical Dungeon Delve
Tumblestone
Dead Age

Week of July 19th
Dreambreak
I am Setsuna

Week of July 26th
We Happy Few
Obduction
Industry Manager: Future Technologies


Sony Playstation 4

Week of July 5th
Carmageddon: Max Damage
Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII

Week of July 12th
Ghostbusters

Week of July 26th
GalGun: Double Peace
OlliOlli: Epic Combo Edition
N.E.R.O : Nothing Ever Remains Obscure
Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force


Sony Playstation Vita

Week of July 26th
Shiren The Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate
GalGun: Double Peace


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 – Renowned Explorers: International Society

Last week I posted the idea of a more moderate and thoughtful approach to the Steam summer sale. Instead of scooping up mounds of discounted games I proposed that you piecemeal your purchases based on the type of game it is rather than the discounted price. Doing so would thus encourage wise spending and keep Steam backlogs from bloating even more.

And then, in that same post, after breaking down the idea, I outlined three games that I would personally buy while adhering to this idea: Nuclear Throne, Renowned Explorers: International Society, Offworld Trading Company.

REIS

Well, as it turns out, things have not gone exactly as planned. I haven’t totally flown off the rails, but I have had to make a couple course corrections. It all went awry from the very beginning because Nuclear Throne is not on sale. The game is still a mere $10 but to buy it without an accompanying green discount tag sort of defeats the purpose of participating in the Steam sale at all. So, right at the onset, we had a wrinkle. This unforeseen detail threatened to derail my entire plan as I then aimlessly continued to browse the storefront and be seduced by all those pretty discounts.

NAY! I declared. Begone, ye vile temptress! Stick to the plan!

With great resolve (I’m so brave) I skipped over Nuclear Throne and went straight to Renowned Explorers, having already anticipated that the bulk of the sale would be spent playing this. And I have, and will continue to do so into this holiday weekend. It is a great game with a light-hearted style and a surprisingly deep strategic layer. It takes a little bit of playing to develop your sea-legs but once you get the feel for the game, once you can sort out all the fiddly bits, it is full steam ahead!

Admittedly, there have been several brief occasions during the last two or three hours of gametime that I thought I’d had enough, that I didn’t want to explore the same places albeit with a different crew. But then I spun a lucky roll on the game’s ‘adventure wheel’ or had a close call in an encounter or recognized a small detail in character animation, and the game dispels any whiff of gamer’s fatigue.

The attention to detail in Renowned Explorers is a joy – From character animations to the soundtrack, right down to the soundbites of tokens being collected. It is all so satisfying. The tactical encounters truly are a unique kind of dance with the enemy, with actions whose effects can ripple into subsequent turns. Characters are not merely separate entities with their own specific stats; they have their own tendencies and narrative that can thread itself throughout the campaign, sometimes, for example, relating to a specific location of an expedition, boons of which benefit the entire team.

Yes. The components of Renowned Explorers web themselves together, and it has snagged me. The game is equal parts exploration, risk-taking, greed, tactical slow-dance. And I am in it to win it.

What are you playing this weekend?

In My Hands

Actually, it’s a little too big to actually be in my hands, but yesterday I picked up a new Xbox One console and brought it home the only way that seemed fit:

Nice and safe in the front seat.

Nice and safe in the front seat.

Readers of the site will know that I recently picked up a Surface Pro 4. Not for gaming, per se, but gaming was going to (and has) happen with it. I’ve been extremely happy with the Surface Pro 4 for non-gaming tasks (it has worked nicely as a laptop, which I was worried about initially) but now I’m even more happy — the purchase of the surface has facilitated even more gaming in a very round-about way.

Recently, Microsoft announced a whale of a deal where you could get a Surface Pro 4 and pick up an Xbox One for a cool zero dollars.

So being with in the window of the return policy, I asked if I could return my Surface Pro 4 and take part in the deal, and the great folks at my local Microsoft Store were more than happy to help me walk out with a new Xbox One, an extra controller, a copy of Watch_Dogs and a cool 50 bucks to spend at the Microsoft Store in the future. (There’s a better than zero chance that it will go towards an Elite controller)

I had sort of decided that I was going to sit this console generation out, content with a screaming PC and the Wii-U. But this opportunity was too good to pass up, so I’m a next generation gamer I guess. Sure, I’m two and a half years late to the party, but that just means I have a nice big backlog to dig in to.

Any recommendations for what I should check out? I imagine Halo 5 will be my first foray into the Xbox One Universe.

Unsolicited Mental Objects – Fallout 4

(Unsolicited Mental Objects are a series of posts that we started as a sort of stream of consciousness to talk about whatever was on our mind, gaming-wise. I am currently making an effort to write everyday, so these should start popping up with regularity, along with other content.)

fallout_4After an extended break, Fallout 4 is back in heavy rotation. With the first two solid DLC packs having already dropped, I wanted to get through the main quest line before diving in to the DLC. That’s been my SOP for most games like this — finish the main game, then play the DLC the way the Lord intended (in the order it was released). I feel like there was a distinct order the developers had in mind and I want to stick with that.

Unfortunately for me, I put my playthrough on hold and the first two DLCs dropped before I finished the original storyline. No big deal, I’ll knock out the main quests and then work my way through the add-ons later.

So I’m working my way through a quest and it sends me to a randomly selected location to clear out some ghouls. I flip on my Pip-Boy and the quest marker is in the upper right corner of the map, a place I have never been.I dutifully head up there to find the “Eden Meadows” drive-thru. But I get up there and Eden Meadows is nowhere to be found.

It’s just a couple buildings, a dock and an older Asian couple looking for their run-away daughter.

Wait a second. This sounds like a quest that mysteriously appeared in my queue when I started playing regularly again. I talked to Detective Valentine about it and realized it was the Far Harbor DLC. I stashed that quest away to come back to later and now this randomly selected location was smack-dab in somewhere I had no intention of going until I finished the main story.

(I’ll reserve judgement on whether this was a good design choice or not for another post. Fallout 4 is massive and a marvel of development and programming. I’m not going to accuse Bethesda of not squashing a potential bug. I was helping out some Synths and Far Harbor fits that description anyway)

But this presented a dilemma, one that I have grappled with before. Do I sully my experience with the DLC, something I had been saving, to continue on with this quest? I have to further the story of Far Harbor just so I can make progress in infiltrating The Institute. I like to think my way of playing through content is the right way and now I’m forced to do something against the grain.

So I went to Far Harbor, ignored anything that might trigger another quest line, made my way to Eden Meadows, handled my business and got back to The Commonwealth. But in doing so, I still had to further the Far Harbor story a little and now it will wait, fallow, as I continue my quest to get answers from the Institute.

Sorry Mr. and Mrs. Nakano, your daughter’s disappearance will have to wait. I have some revenge to exact for my dead wife and lost son.