Weekend Gaming – Victoria 2, Etrian Odyssey Untold 2

Paradox Interactive, well-known for their historical grand strategy games, is certainly abuzz at the moment. The hype train is so very, very real for their new spacey space 4x-ish strategy everything-but-the-friggin-kitchen-sink title Stellaris. This is especially noteworthy as it is Paradox’s first foray as a developer into the cosmos. And judging by the dev diaries and the previews trickling in on YouTube, this is definitely one giant leap, and Paradox fanfolk will be at the game’s heels the entire trip.

While not on the game’s heels, I have kept a measured distance. Stellaris is shaping up to be perhaps much of what I loved about EVE Online but without PDoxInthaving to deal with other players’ stupid, backstabbing, sociopathic crap. Though, I do have reservations about Stellaris, at least its initial release (not to mention its overall accessibility). History has shown that Paradox games need some TLC right at the onset, for various reasons. Reading about how big Stellaris is proclaimed to be, I can with surety expect some part of the game to go bellyup or house some void in the mechanics.

But Paradox are the masters of following up – the Masters! And don’t you ever forget it. Whatever is wonky about Stellaris upon release will be patched up and eventually buried under four years’ worth of DLC. For good or ill. Just look at Crusader Kings 2! Every time I load the game after a new DLC/Patch, the UI is all different and there’s new mechanics and limits that stop me in my tracks. The same intrusive behavior can be said about EU4; some DLCs have been proclaimed to be game breaking. Staying up-to-date with these games is work, son – for both developers and the players.

All the while, Victoria 2 is just sort of there minding itself. It is not the most contemporary Paradox game but it is nonetheless a very integral part in the patchwork of the company’s history – And recent enough that it continues to have a healthy player base and modding community. It is also somewhat of an exception to the habitual addition of DLCs to Paradox games. Vicky2 only has two major DLCs. The game operates in a narrow window of time and hasn’t spiraled out of control as its younger siblings have. Vicky2HOD

Because it is ‘contained’ like this, I found an appeal. I tried playing CK2 recently, but the Conclave DLC (which I haven’t bought yet) and accompanying patch (which everyone gets regardless) rearranged stuff and I quickly lost motivation (non-aggression pacts? C’MAAAWN!). Personally, I have to get amped to initiate a grand Paradox campaign. It takes days to mentally prepare. And within the game, I need to know where my tools are and what they can or cannot do. The slightest change from what is familiar and I have to walk away. Petty, I know – but truth.

Anyways, with only two DLCs, I perceived Victoria 2 to be far less impenetrable than, say, to take a step back and see what EU4 is right now. I like that the focus is on industrialization and a global economy. The sociopolitical aspects are relevant to the game’s time period (1836-1936) and promise to keep the passage of those years interesting and varied, as opposed to just using time to make your military numbers higher. Industry, Prestige, Military – These are equal factors in determining a nation’s rank, and they all influence each other. Indeed. Each nation isn’t just an island rushing and crushing for numerical superiority. There’s competition, absolutely, but because of all the industrialization there’s a bit of a co-dependency nations have on each other. An internal and external balance must be sought in order to climb the ranks. I can dig on that.

This weekend I shall be developing a wicked case of vertigo as I continue to tread the infamous Paradox learning curve.

… Oh, and playing Etrian Odyssey Untold 2. I’m slowly making my way through the labyrinth and devising all kinds of oddball recipes for the populous to eat. I sort of regret playing in story mode bcs I want to try out different classes. I might make use of the extra save slots and start a game in classic mode just to see what it’s all about.

What are you playing this weekend?

Weekend Gaming: Spring Break Edition

1352293438_3c76a6fbeb_zThis coming week is Spring Break for the young buttonmashers, so we’ve been playing a family trip to the Big Apple. I’ll be driving the majority of the way there, so while we’re on the road they’ll be jamming with their 3DSes and Fire HD’s while I slave away in the driver’s seat. I don’t anticipate a whole lot of gaming for me for the next week or so.

Of course, being the Buttonmasher that I am, I am planning on a trip to the Nintendo Store in New York. Besides filling up our 3DSes with Street Passes, I’m looking forward to the kids’ reactions to two floors of Nintendo gaming Nirvana. If there was such a place when I was 12, I’d have to be dragged out, kicking and screaming. The Statue of Liberty has the history and the Empire State Building has the views, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to be Dad of the Year when we walk into the Nintendo Store.

But we aren’t leaving until Sunday, so in the meantime, it’s extremely possible that I pick up a copy of The Division before I head out of town. I think the communal love-affair with Diablo III has waned and we’re all looking for something new to play. Right now, The Division has risen to the top of everyone’s wishlist.

And you know, with the game set in Manhattan, I could actually say I need to get this game. It’d be a great way to ahem familiarize myself with the city.

Especially if the Apocalypse hits while we’re there!

What are you playing this weekend?

Weekend Gaming – Etrian Odyssey Untold 2: The Fafnir Knight

There was that time just a few years ago when I was looking into buying a Nintendo 3DS. A very thorough article on Kotaku caught my attention. Its enthusiasm for the innovation of the StreetPass system was convincing. Likewise were the testimonies of nearly every single 3DS owner I spoke with. There was a delight in voice and sparkle in the eye, as well as an inability to articulate just why they love their DSes so. I had never seen such tickled affection for an inanimate object.

I didn’t understand the sensation at the time, but now, as a 3DS owner myself, I do. And I too can only attempt to articulate the delight in knowing my DS is so near. It is a low-pressure mobile gaming device, but unlike other mobile devices, I do not have a compulsion to check up on a notification or text or any other countless distractions. The DS just kind of hangs out, always on standby and is ready when you’re ready.

The intensity of said delight may ebb and flow but it is nonetheless always there, and right now it is pretty stinkin’ high. Etrian Odyssey Untold 2: The Fafnir Knight is the reason. Yes. What began as an inquiry into the new Fire Emblem games now sees me nearly 15 hours deep into EOU2 and still getting my sea legs.

Like many other 3DS owners, Fire Emblem:Awakening was my first exposure to the franchise. And, like the majority who played FE:A, I could not and would not shut up about the game. It is fantastic and made a great impression. The follow-up games, Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright and Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest were released in the US a few weeks ago. Naturally, I was interested, especially at having to initially choose one title over the other. I did some investigating and came to the conclusion that, despite the differences between Birthright and Conquest, they are more or less ‘Awakening 2.0’ with a focus on either character matchmaking or aggressive tactics.

The thought of playing a familiar game held zero (0) appeal. I was feeling adventurous, ready to branch out. The 3DS, being the low-pressure, mobile platform that it is compliments this longing. EOU2

Etrian Odyssey is another franchise with a solid reputation. Untold 2, being the most recent release, is reported to uphold this high standard – And, get this: you actually utilize the touchpad! Not just to cycle through inventories or pan maps, but to create the maps! The game has a strong emphasis on exploration. Plus, it has both a story mode and classic mode as well as its own little sim building mechanic. A crafting system that, so far, is not arduous. AI that can’t be baited. Anime aesthetic and a great OST. Dialog between characters that doesn’t get too gabby…

It is a conglomeration that is all so wonderful and new to me. This, combined with the inherent, unspeakable delight of owning a DS, has me excited to take the time to play – which cannot be said about my steam library.

Alas, part of the motivating factor for choosing EOU2 was to get me away from habitually booting up my desktop and vacantly scrolling through my game library or, most recently, convincing myself load Diablo III. It’s time for a hiatus, son. The weather is breaking and the world beckons us forth from our winter shelters. So, why not grab the DS, trade some Grimoire stones via StreePass, and see what this spring has in store?

What are you playing this weekend?

Weekend Gaming – Diablo III

I wish to speak about plateaus.

Not the land forms, nor the pun that they are the highest form of flattery. I wish to speak of the emotional plateaus that can form when playing games of the video variety.

There comes a point when we discontinue our time investment in a particular video game and turn our attention to another. The motivations behind this transition are varied. Sometimes it may be a lethal ragequit. Sometimes it is a victorious completion. Sometimes we can bounce off a game before getting too far into it. Sometimes the game design just kind of shrugs, stops offering new challenges and variety, forcing the player to do the same things over and over again – plateauing.

I forsee myself plateauing with Diablo III. It is inevitable. I will plateau hardcore. Sure, difficulty levels can increase, enemies can hit harder and I can tank more; these numbers increase with every increased difficulty level (in all honesty, is there cap to greater rifts?) And, sure, there are a plethora of builds to experiment with. But in all the game boils down to click > kill > loot > repeat. Loot is needed to create stronger builds, even if loot drops are random. So, aside from escalating grifts levels, and the blind hope for sweet loot drops, there really is not all that much to strive for. This method will not hold my attention forever and I will turn my sights elsewhere.

But not this weekend! No no no. My wizard is finally at a point where she can hold her own in Torment 3. At first, I admittedly had no idea how to build a wizard, trying to make her play like a crusader. But as the orange items starting trickling in and my Kanai’s Cube library filling in nicely, I’ve been able to make her a bringer of fire and vengeance. Likewise, my crusader unleashes havoc no matter what he’s doing. Brother could be standing still and he is bringing the pain.

It has been awesome to create builds that have so many different components, so many different kinds of synthesis. Doing what you can with what you’ve got. Though D3 is maddeningly obscure with its numbers and mechanics in some places, sometimes you’ve just got to observe what is happening in the playing field for the best evidence of a build’s performance… Unless you’re in a set dungeon – at that point it’s like your playing in a quantum level Twilight Zone.

What are you playing this weekend?

February Releases

February is a great month. For starters, it’s Mr. Buttonmashing’s birthday month. It’s cold and miserable outside for most of the northern hemisphere, so it’s perfect for gaming. And it’s short, so the cold isn’t that bad. With that said, on to this month’s releases:

Xbox One

Week of February 9th
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4
Dying Light: The Following
Assassin’s Creed Chronicles
Arslan: The Warriors of Legend
Alekhine’s Gun

Week of February 23rd
Far Cry Primal
Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare 2
Megaman Legacy Collection


No new releases for the Nintendo Wii U in February.


Week of February 16th
Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright – Tempting…
Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest
Project X Zone 2

Week of February 23rd
Megaman Legacy Collection


Week of February 2nd
NARUTO SHIPPUDEN: Ultimate Ninja STORM 4
XCOM 2
Fortified
Sorcery! Parts 1 and 2
Cobalt
Tales of Symphonia

Week of February 9th
Defragmented
The Renegades of Orion 2.0 – I watched most of the video for this game on the Steam Store page and it is a singularly bizarre experience.
Doors
Wayward Terran Frontier: Zero Falls
Firewatch – As a long-time fan of the Idle Thumbs podcast, I feel like it’s my duty to give this game a try.
ARSLAN: THE WARRIORS OF LEGEND
Space Pirates and Zombies 2 – I played and enjoyed the first SPAZ.

Week of February 16th
Talisman: The Horus Heresy
Dead Effect 2 – A game with an upgrade called “Thor’s Biceps” can’t be all that bad.
Street Fighter V – There is something that feels distinctly wrong with playing a Street Fighter game on the computer.
Dub Dash

Week of February 23rd
The Descendant
Disgaea PC – There is a very good possibility I will be picking this one up.
The Town of Light


PS4 Banner

Week of February 2nd
Gravity Rush Remastered
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth
Megadimension Neptunia VII
Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel

Week of February 9th
Assassin’s Creed Chronicles
Arslan: The Warriors of Legend
Alekhine’s Gun
The Last Tinker City of Colors
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4
Dying Light: The Following

Week of February 16th
Street Fighter V

Week of February 23rd
Megaman Legacy Collection
Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare 2
Far Cry Primal


No new releases for the Playstation Vita in February.

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.)

Read In 2015

(Oops this was supposed to be done before the end of the year. Better late than never, right?)

LordOfTheFliesBookCover2015 wasn’t a great year of reading for me. I had plenty of time to read (I spent six weeks in Boston, during the biggest snowfall in decades, and didn’t read as much as I should have). But I did get to check off a couple of the books I have on my ever-growing To Read list. Here’s what I read in 2015:

Roadside Picnic by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky (145)
Roadside Picnic had been sitting on my night stand for years. I bought a copy after I watched the Russian film Stalker, based loosely on RP. I wish all books could be like Roadside Picnic — it was complex, had interesting characters and moved along at a brisk pace. The movie set the stage for how an alien visitation site would have looked and felt but the book really drove the weird, almost post-apocalyptic isolation, home.

Very enjoyable, not heavy on the Sci-Fi but recommended if you like science fiction. Not recommended if you like your stories tied up in nice pretty bows at the end, though.

The Chronicles of Amber: Volume I (The Chronicles of Amber #1-2) by Roger Zelazny (338)
This was the second book I’ve ready by Zelazny. (Technically second and third, but who’s counting?) Lords of Light was difficult to follow but a great read. The Chronicles of Amber: Volume I (Nine Princes in Amber and The Guns of Avalon) made me nervous that it would be equally difficult to follow with the cast of characters (nine princes and four more sisters) and an opening to the book of the main character suffering from amnesia, but it picked up steam quickly and wasn’t that hard to follow at all.

The main character Corey (Corwin) wakes up in a hospital heavily drugged, with no memory of how he got there or who he is. Turns out he is one of nine Princes of Amber, a fantastical world in which our Earth is one of many “Shadow Worlds” of Amber, and these Princes have the ability to walk in shadows, to travel freely between our world and theirs. The first book details Corwin’s first attempt to get back to Amber and take the throne from his brother Eric, with the help of the siblings still loyal to him.

That first attempt doesn’t go too well, which leads to the second book, wherein Corwin attempts to bring gunpowder into the world of Amber (which previously was that to be impossible) and make a second attempt at the throne. The second attempt is a little more successful but still results in things going south for Corwin and Amber.

There are more stories to go in the world of Amber, and I hope to get to them soon.

The Martian by Andy Weir (369)
This book delivered one of the best reading experiences I’ve enjoyed in a while.

It might be called “hard science fiction” but “hard” like college physics or chemistry classes. It’s not obtuse or dense but still feels like what is happening could actually be how things would happen on Mars. The science is solid and thorough. Maybe a little too easy to follow, but is that a bad thing?

The book had a couple of those “moments” I love, where you’re left hanging on a cliff, anxious for the next chapter or section. Highly recommended. (The movie wasn’t too shabby, either)

Lord of the Flies by William Golding (208)
Another in the list of “Classics Tony Needs to Read” has been crossed off. This time, it’s Lord of the Flies and it’s considered a classic for a reason. I was in love with the writing of this book. At times it is elegantly descriptive and beautiful (the imagery of fists being pistons, pounding someone in the face, was a personal favorite) and plain and yet still evocative (“His head opened and stuff came out and turned red,” was particularly jarring).

I won’t pretend to understand all the symbolism and the commentary on society and its morals, but I recognize them and the story is a scathing representation of the breakdown of civilization when there is no rule of law and the way power corrupts and all that comes with that. I just enjoyed the story and I’ll let other people figure out “what it all means”.

That’s the short reading list of 2015. A total of four books and 1,060 pages. What did you read this week?

Books (and pages) read in 2013: Five books (1,546 pages)
Books (and pages) read in 2014: Six books (1,724 pages)

In My Digital Hands

Diablo_3_reaper_of_souls_box_art_0

As Nick said in the most recent Weekend Gaming post, the Buttonmashing crew is back into Diablo 3 in a BIG WAY. That includes the Reaper of Souls Expansion, which Nick and I finished up Sunday night.

The Loot Loop struggle is real.

LOOT LOOT LOOT.

Weekend Gaming – Diablo 3

All aboard the loot train!

…Say that again? The loot trains left years ago? The most recent one left last week? Well, I shall walk the tracks.

Indeed. I am late to the party. But considering how Diablo III has had years to evolve into the game it is now, I’d say now is as good a time as any to jump in.

I can’t pinpoint why I hadn’t committed to D3 sooner. The timing perhaps never felt right. Maybe I was waiting for the price to come down. I don’t know. The game was always in my sight, always a possible buy, but its favorable particulars went noticed…

That is, until last Friday when PC Gamer posted the news of D3’s new patch (which it declares to be ‘a biggie’) and the launch of season 5. I watched the embedded video and my interest finally flared. What in the Everlasting Mother Love is all of this, I thought. Rifts, Seasons, Set Dungeons, additional map zones, adventure mode. Clearly, Blizzard has addressed D3’s end-game problem – reports of which was another snag that kept me from buying. ROS

After I watched the embedded video, I watched the embedded video again. After I re-watched the embedded video, I sat in silent meditation, reflecting on the gamer’s doldrums I felt myself drifting into. Could D3 be the necessary shakeup? And then I discovered that Blizzard now sells the vanilla and the Reaper of Souls expansion together for $40. Welp, that pretty much sealed the deal.

Now, one week later, and almost finished (I suspect) with Act IV, I am still driven by my Everlasting Mother Love ignorance. A line of inquiry about what this game is continues to piece itself together the deeper I investigate and the more I play. There is a giddy excitement resulting from the fact that I don’t fully understand what rifts are, where they are or what they do, or what happens during seasons and what happens when they conclude. And just what exactly can I do with my Death Magnet Monk once I complete the campaign? The meta-inventory for my loot works… how? Greater Rifts? Scaled Torment Difficulty?

Conversely, I find it interesting to learn about this iteration of the game and how it compares to its three years of evolution. Doubly so to hear about it directly from other ButtonMashers as they re-visit the game, having moved on before RoS was released.

The game feels familiar from my time with D2 all those eons ago, but still something very fresh. To my eyes, Diablo 3 is now far more arcade-y than I previously thought. And right now, I so need it.

What are you playing this weekend?

Weekend Gaming

fallout_4_communismIt’s the first real weekend of gaming of 2016 (that New Years Day nonsense doesn’t count), so what better way to get the year started with some video games!

I recently (and very belatedly, I’m ashamed to admit) hopped on the Rocket League bandwagon. I heard people rave about this game for weeks on Twitter and podcasts but never took the time to check it out (Dota 2 still had me firmly in its grasp). It went on a nice deep discount during the Steam Winter Sale, so I picked up a four-pack for me and my fellow co-bloggers.

Rocket League is some good stuff, man. It hits on all this buttonmasher’s cylinders — matches that are quick and easy, excellent co-op, and that sweet, sweet nectar of “HOLY SCHNIKES, DID YOU SEE THAT?!”. Rocket League also hits the Portal 2 areas of my brain, where connecting on a centered ball and slamming it home with a perfectly timed jump is as satisfying as that “ah-ha!” moment in Portal 2. Except in Rocket League those moments come all the time. The satisfaction is real.

So yeah, I think I’ll be playing quite a bit of Rocket League this weekend.

I’m also making significant progress in Fallout 4. As much as I’m loving Fallout 4, I’m also starting to see some serious repetition in a lot of the side “missions”. I’ve defended my settlements enough times to know that it’s a never ending battle, so I’m going to focus on the main mission for a while. I think I just hit a major milestone, so I’m going to follow this next batch of missions to see where it takes me.

So it’s Rocket League and Fallout 4 for me. What are you playing this weekend?

January Releases

gameboxesIt’s a new year and a new batch of video game releases for the month of January. There aren’t any major titles this month (with the exception of The Rise of the Tomb Raider on the PC) so I don’t think I’ll be rushing out to grab any of these titles. Besides, I just recently discovered the joy that is Rocket League, so my gaming plate is full. With that said, on to this month’s releases:

Xbox One

Week of January 19th
Resident Evil Origins Collection – Capcom keeps banging that Resident Evil Remake drum, don’t they?
Life is Strange

Week of January 26th
Warner Bros Lego Marvel Avengers


Week of January 26th
Warner Bros Lego Marvel Avengers


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Week of January 19th
Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam – One of my junior buttonmashers will be very excited to hear about a new Mario & Luigi RPG for the 3DS.

Week of January 26th
Warner Bros Lego Marvel Avengers
Final Fantasy Explorers


Week of January 5th
Dead TrailZ
Dungeons Are Random
Contract

Week of January 12th
Big Action Mega Fight!
Oxenfree

Week of January 19th
Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak
The Deadly Tower of Monsters
Resident Evil 0 / biohazard 0 HD REMASTER
The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human
Crashlands

Week of January 26th
Bombshell
LEGO MARVEL’s Avengers
Rise of the Tomb Raider


PS4 Banner

Week of January 19th
Resident Evil Origins Collection
Life is Strange

Week of January 26th
LEGO Marvel’s Avengers
Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel


Week of January 19th
Steins;Gate

Week of January 26th
LEGO Marvel’s Avengers

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.)