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Priorities and Dedication Assessment

So, some of you may have noticed that both mine and Jerakal’s post frequency has decreased dramatically.

The reason for mine is A) I haven’t finished a game in quite some time, B) I can’t seem to organize my schedule to find time to write, and C) I have other obligations that are currently taking priority. With that being said I will be taking the entire month of September to reassess my priorities and dedication level to everything that demands my attention and at the end of the month will be deciding weather I will continue to attempt to maintain this blog. Jerakal should continue to post during this time, but I will not be riding him to do so, so it will really fall on his shoulders to decide if he wants to.

Enjoy your September, and hopefully I’ll be back and ready to go in October.

Lack of games, time, and creativity

So, yet another week has passed without me getting enough time in on a game to write a review this week, so you all get some editorial type stuff. Hopefully I’ll be back next week with a review of Splinter Cell: Blacklist, assuming the powers that be allow me enough time to finish it.

So what I want to talk about this week is gaming culture and the toxicity that seems to pervade it. It’s a subject that’s been seeing no small amount of discussion over the last few months, ranging from the work Riot Games is doing to combat it with their tribunal system, as well as public bans of well known figures from the community who act out of line with their code of conduct called the Summoners Code, to a bit Extra Credits did a few weeks simply titled Toxicity, even Microsoft is taking a stand with the new prisoner island style system on Xbox Live.

Toxicity runs rampant the gaming community, almost to the point that it’s all some people know about gamers. The integration of the internet into gaming culture has done much to exacerbate this, the most often cited reason being anonymity. Some have even gone so far as to give this problem a name. There’s a lot of heated discussion over this, possibly more heated by the aforementioned anonymity issue, with no small portion of our community saying that trash talking is intrinsic to the nature of competitive gaming, but there’s a very very very fine line between competitive banter and hate speech, and anyone who tries to blanket everything that crosses that line as “part of the game” or “part of the culture” is quite frankly a coward too afraid to hold a healthy discussion about the problem, or quite often are part of the problem themselves.

Fortunately for all of us there are multiple organizations out there, large and small, dedicated to stomping out toxic behavior. Good Guy Gaming is an e-sports organization founded on the idea of self improvement and positive community. The Penny Arcade Alliance was a group of guilds in World of Warcraft founded by the creators of Penny Arcade with the idea that each player, both in and out of the organization, was a person on the other side of that keyboard and should always be treated with the respect that you would give any person you interacted with in non-digital means. There are also the aforementioned efforts of both Microsoft and Riot Games, and the irrefutable words of Wil Wheaton “don’t be a dick.”

I personally can’t tell you what the correct solution is to this problem that runs rampant through gaming culture. It could be punishment of those who are the problem, or positive rewarding of those who actively fight it. It’s probably at least some of each, but I do know one thing, there must be consequences for actions and the reintroduction of consequences into the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory does much to combat toxicity.  We also need to not be afraid to discuss this problem, and treat it like the problem it is. Fear of the issue will allow it to continue unchecked and leave those of us who are not toxic ashamed to call ourselves gamers.

Crime Time

It was supposed to be a simple job, steal some meth, and trade it for information on the Mendozas.  Kill the Mendozas, take their loot, and walk away.  Hector is happy, and we all come away richer for our trouble.  Thing is, when Hector gives us a job, it’s never easy.  The cooks were dead when we got to the lab, if we wanted meth we’d have to make it ourselves, and the cops were already pulling up.  Looks like it’s gonna be a long night.

Such a scenario is delightfully common in the sequel to Overkill’s smash indie hit, ‘Payday: The Heist.’  Payday 2, which launched today on Steam, is a cooperative first-person heist, robbery, and general chicanery simulator.  The game puts the player in the role of one of four members of an infamous team of bank robbers, whose sole thrill in life appears to be the accumulation of massive sums of wealth via unscrupulous means.

Game play in the game consists of the player and up to three friends picking from lists of available heists and fending off waves of enemy law enforcement as they attempt to complete a variety of objectives.  Comparisons to Left 4 Dead are inevitable, with both games featuring 4-player FPS co-op, hordes of enemies, and a very similar method of reviving downed comrades. (In the first game in the series there was actually a level added later on feating Mercy Hospital before the infection broke out)  While the first game had a fairly limited number of missions, each one proceeding in roughly the same fashion, the sequel attempts to alleviate the tedium of repeating the same missions over and over somewhat, by way of making each mission a bit more randomized than in the first game, as well as offering 30 different heists to choose from.

The core mechanics are still present from the first game, players will complete heists to gain experience, granting them skill points that they can apply in the 4 upgrade trees available to players.  These skill trees allow for players to have vastly different skill sets to bring to any given mission.  A player high in the Mastermind tree can, for example, use their smooth talking abilities to get hostages to perform favors for them, such as reviving downed comrades, or even taking up arms against law enforcement.  A player deep in the Enforcer tree is an unstoppable combat juggernaut, barely taking damage from enemy fire, dealing absurd damage with their own weapons, and gaining access to a portable saw which allows quick and easy access to locked doors and safes.  The Ghost and Technician trees on the other hand allow for a more hands-off approach, granting the player access to tools, explosives, and jamming devices.  Having certain skills available to your group greatly enhances your team’s options, allowing them to proceed through heists in vastly different ways.  Players are not locked into their choices, being allowed to respect their skills in-between missions for some of the money they’ve earned.

This leads me to one of the other improvements that Payday 2 has over its predecessor; namely, the enhanced ability for players to choose HOW they want to complete a mission.  In the first game stealth options were very limited to the players and often an impossibility for certain missions.  Not so in Payday 2, aside from certain missions which are billed as action missions from the very beginning, it is possible to complete every mission in the game without ever attracting the attention of the police, so long as certain precautions are taken and perfectly executed by the players.   This can lead to many tense and exhilarating moments where every player in the team is performing their assigned duty, hoping and praying that no one has screwed anything up, missed a vital detail.  If all goes to plan, you’re in and out in a hurry, richer for your trouble.  More often than not however, that telltale alarm will sound, and now everyone is in for a fight.  Not as much of a problem on lower difficulty missions, but on the hardest difficulties, Very Hard and OVERKILL, where the real money lies, you may well be in for a trip to the Game-Over screen.

In addition to being able to customize and respec their skills, players are also able to find, purchase, and customize various weapons, equipment, and this time around, masks.  Yes indeed, probably taking notes from their friends over at Valve, Overkill has allowed players to engage in the time-honored tradition of collecting virtual headgear for their characters.   There is now a drop-system implemented in the game giving players a random item after each mission, from a list that includes: mask parts, weapon modifications, extra money, and ultra-rare “Joker” cards that give players very powerful weapon parts.  Due to the nature of this system, certain items are extremely hard to come by, which may hint at the future possibility of steam trading becoming available for the game.

From what I’ve seen of the beta, Overkill has done a fantastic job of improving on their first title.  Everything in this game feels better, more polished.  Guns feel more accurate, have the proper weight and sound, little details, like the camera lean when your character is carrying a heavy object add to the atmosphere and immersion.  The randomized missions and post-mission drop system add hours of replayability that the last game was lacking.  This game is doing everything right, fans of the first game have no reason to deny themselves this sequel, and people new to the series have plenty of reasons to check it out.

Crime does pay.

Payday 2 is available now on Steam for $29.99 or, if you’ve got friends to go in with you, the much more affordable 4-pack for $89.99.

Adorably Crazy – Genericguy Reviews Mugen Souls

Mugen Souls is an RPG for the Playstation 3 developed by Compile Heart and published in the US by NIS America. The publisher in this case was what attracted me to the game, as I am frequently not disappointed with their showings here in the states. Mugen Souls is a little older at this point, having released in Japan in March 2012 and here in the states in October of the same year. If you’ve ever played a game released by NIS America you probably have some idea of what to expect, since everything they seem to pick up follows the same pattern. Completely over the top protagonist, zany backup characters who are often just being strung along for the ride, a turn based combat system of some sort, and some kind of fiddly difficult to master system to be used in that combat. This title hits all these points with flying colors, multiple times in some cases.

The opening video is the main character, Chou-Chou, and her Sidekick, Altis, preforming a completely ridiculous pop concert for all of her loving minions declaring her intent to conquer the seven worlds of the universe. It is so hyper charged and sugary that I think it gave me diabetes. Almost immediately after this intro you are launched into a series of combat tutorials that go about explaining basic things such as your move radius, the attack command, your skills menu and other RPG basics. Then comes the core of the game’s mechanic, the moe kill. For those of you who aren’t super huge into Japanese game and animation culture it’s pronounced mo-e and it is a slang term typically used to mean adorable or cute as applied to fictional characters. It also has a few other double meanings based on the origin of the slang, but I’ll let you look that up on your own time. The moe kill is what is used to turn enemies into your minions, and is honestly the core of this game, right up to and inclusive of, a great many of the jokes that are made. The moe kill is preformed by you looking at your enemy’s personality, be it masochist, sadist, bipolar, or any one of the eight personality traits, you then check their current mood, which has another seven possible outcomes, THEN either by trial and error or by looking up a chart online you decide which of the phrase options you are given will be best for turning the enemy into a minion. Simple, right? Well, it would be if those were the only factors you needed to consider. Later on in the game it is revealed that you can also change your own personality type in order to better facilitate the enslaving of the beasts wandering the fields.

The fact that the moe kill system seems to have no way of learning it without trial and error, as well as having so many variables can make some of the battles a little frustrating and make it extremely tempting to just beat the crap out of every enemy you find and the minions be dammed. However that leaves your ship sorely underpowered for the upcoming airship battles. Oh, did I not mention there’s an airship battle mini game? Yeah, and your ships power depends entirely on how many and of what type of minion you have. There’s also a, I guess you would call it mini game, to subject entire contents to your charms and make them your minions as well. The last components of the game will be recognizable if you’ve played any of the games NIS America has released, there’s an infinite dungeon and a master/subordinate system that parallels the item world and reincarnation systems respectively. There’s also weapon forging, character customization (quite extensive I might add), and plethora of other systems and mechanics to remember.

Overall Mugen Souls is a manic, turn based RPG with a lot of depth but maybe a bit too much complexity. It definitely sits in the “not for everyone” category, but my biggest fear may be that it’s so far into it that it may have hit “not for anyone.” You may be able to find it at your local retailers, probably not any big box companies, or Amazon is usually pretty reliable for digging up stuff like this.

So last week I hinted at this review, and yes I will be talking about Shadowrun Returns this week. For those that don’t know what Shadowrun is, it is a cyberpunk tabletop role playing game that very recently released it’s 5th edition. If you’re not familiar with the cyberpunk setting go watch Blade Runner or Hackers.

Shadowrun Returns was released a little over a week ago, as of the time of writing, on Steam for $19.99. The game is a reboot, or maybe a re-imagining, of the video game adaptation from the 16-bit era. The gameplay looks and feels very much like an update on the classic Shadowrun video game, and even much of the music is a recreation of tracks from the original game. While much of this sounds like it was done “in service to the brand” it all still feels very genuine and does not detract from the game overall.

The story offered with the initial game is enjoyable, if somewhat predictable for the cyberpunk genre. An old criminal partner contacts you with a request from beyond the grave through the use of a dead man’s trigger, asking you to track down his killer. The story behind the act is inevitably bigger than what you could have foreseen and takes you though a winding path of side quests and other distractions. The characters encountered frequently feel like stereotypes from the criminal underground, but with a little extra interaction often reveal themselves to have some pretty great personality written in. Sadly, or maybe thankfully, the lines are not voiced which could have been a great boon to immersion or if done poorly could have destroyed the characters they made.

On a gameplay side the turn based combat, spending all of your team’s action points and then waiting for the enemy to do the same, leaves something to be desired. Coming from a system that uses initiative based combat, some other more fluid adaptation probably would have served better, but overall it gets the job done. The characters are highly customizeable, by which I mean after you pick your Archetype you are free to spend your Karma (Shadowrun’s version of skill points) on whatever the hell you want. Do you want to be a Decker a rock hard body that can reflect bullets? Go for it. How about a spirit communing Shaman who can also put a rifle round between a target’s eyes from three city blocks away? Yup, that’s available as well. My only complaint about the leveling system is the fact that you are forced to choose an Archetype at the outset. All this effectively does is spend your first handful of Karma for you so that your character begins focused on something that you want to do anyways, but as someone who loved the classless system of the Shadowrun tabletop this rubbed at me a bit. Also conspicuously missing are glitches which is probably something that got offered up to your random number generator being controlled by a computer instead of a fistful of d6′s, but it’s still not quite as fun to succeed in a challenge without the potential of something going awry anyways.

Overall, Shadowrun Returns does a great job of recapturing the experience of the 16-bit video game and a decent job of simulating playing Shadowrun the tabletop game. The level design and music are immersive and the characters aren’t quite as two-dimensional as they initially appear. With the inclusion of the Shadowrun Editor I’m hoping we can see some pretty great user created content popping up in the future, and with a recreation of the original 16-bit campaign showing up on the community forums on day one I think that hope is a real possibility.

Afraid of the Dark – Alan Wake

In Alan Wake, the darkness itself is your enemy. Not in that, child-afraid-to-sleep-without-a-night-light sort of way, either. It’s more of that, malevolent-beings-cloaked-in-shadow-advancing-on-you-with-pointy-objects sort of way.  Alan Wake is an interesting game to say the least. The titular character is a writer, overburdened by his success, he and his wife seek asylum from their stress in a quiet mountain town, presumably in Maine from how southward things quickly turn. Yes, it’s not long at all before the inevitable shambling mollusk from beyond the reaches of space and time rears its ugly head, snatching away the protagonist’s wife and hurling him into a peril-laden adventure to fetch her back.

Ninety-nine percent of the game can be described thusly: “You trudge through the dark woods with a gun and a flashlight, darkness swirls like mist about you, you are likely to be eaten by a grue attacked by 3-8 knife-wielding assholes. “ This is fairly scary the first few times that it happens, but a hardened horror game veteran can quickly succumb to the tedium that familiarity brings, especially once one progresses far enough into the game to be able to predict the incoming jump-scare or wave of enemies.

Vanquishing the enemies is a bit more complicated than simply popping a few rounds into them however. Every enemy in the game is literally cloaked in darkness, shielding it from your attacks until you’ve focused your flashlight on them long enough to reveal them. While an interesting idea in concept, and not much of an issue against a single opponent, it becomes an entirely different situation when up against any number of enemies greater than two since nearly every enemy in the game has some sort of ranged attack, and the game has a delightful habit of spawning enemies BEHIND the player in areas they’ve already cleared. It quickly becomes a rather infuriating game of keep-away. You can of course try to evade enemies and their attacks, but seeing as how Alan apparently has the stamina reserves of the fat kid in gym class and the all enemies are olympic track stars, running will nearly always result in a dogpile of crotch-stabbing. Not to mention that the game’s evade button only seems to want to work when it has the time. It’s not here to help you avoid damage, god damnit, it’s got a lot of things to do today and helping you just happens to be the chore it’ll get around to once the rest are finished. Combat in Alan Wake is like trying to hose the feces off of a group of angry knife-wielding baboons before finally saying, “fuck it” and shooting the flea-ridden bastards.

Even if the game occasionally falls flat on the ‘fear’ part of being a horror game, it can at least get the ‘tension’ part correct now and again and does manage to be legitimately unnerving from time to time. The first time a tornado of pure darkness drops a goddamn train car five feet in front of your face will certainly wake you up in the morning. It also features a number of really nice atmospheric things that help make the setting a little creepier or a little more real in turn. You’ll find TVs and radios scattered around as you make your way through the twilit countryside, each of these producing either a clip from the local radio-host calmly reassuring the increasingly terrified locals as they call in reporting strange sightings and noises in the night, or featuring delightful live-action mini-episodes of a show reminiscent of “The Twilight Zone” or “Outer Limits.” These are a really nice touch and I would frequently go out of my way while playing the game just to find them.

The game also features collectibles for some unknowable reason and while I feel absolutely no attachment to the hundred-odd random coffee thermoses scattered throughout the game, the pieces of Alan’s manuscript; the grim tale slowly coming to life around him; are actually really fucking cool. They often describe events that take place much further in the game, but in such a way as to not spoil any surprises when they come, giving them an excellent method of foreshadowing later segments of the game. On a similar line of thinking in regards to foreshadowing and calling back previous segments, the game is also separated into six “episodes.” Each of these, after the first, start and end with a cutscene not unlike those seen on serial dramas in the 80’s and 90’s. You know the kind, “Previously on such-and-such, our hero is in over his head…” cue cuts to scenes from the previous episode, snippets of dialogue.  It was certainly kind of bizarre, especially when attempting to play the entire game in one sitting, but it is charming and unique, so it gets points for that.

It’s a hard game to judge, it is literally a game about a writer, writing about another writer who has written about himself and that other writer. And also there’s a monster. It’s hard to tell if the game is taking itself seriously or not at times. The combat is solid if a bit frustrating, but that’s sort of par for the course in most horror games. The characters are notable if a bit stereotypical, and oftentimes the dialogue feels forced. I like any game with a bend towards Lovecraftian horror, but I feel like Alan Wake is just sort of skirting the line between average and pretty good. For a game with a lot of very neat ideas, and a setting that I can absolutely get behind, it’s a shame that the game itself isn’t a bit more enjoyable.

The rain that seems almost constant in Seattle burns your skin as it falls, decades of over pollution and under regulation have turned it into quite literal acid rain. A figure in a black trench coat covers his cybernetic limb from the nuisance as his gaze darts around in an attempt to decipher which of the other shady people walking the streets are looking for a Better Than Life fix, and which are Lone Star. A block away a fire fight erupts with a private security force while a Shadowrun team’s Decker surfs the matrix, looking for the information that will mean they all get to eat next week.

But sadly that review will wait until next week. This week I’m going to be talking about some more smaller games that the Steam Summer Sale managed to milk out of me.

First up is FTL: Faster Than Light. This is a game that’s been out for quite some time, and frankly I am ashamed that I did not pick it up sooner. When FTL first hit the market it got some pretty great reception, a lot of which was from people I actually listen to. So I went and looked at the game play video, read some stuff, and somehow decided it wasn’t really for me. Or at least not for me at the $10 price point, so when it went on sale for less than $5 I decided to at least see what all the fuss was about. It is not often that I say this, but I was wrong. I was so incredibly, stupidly wrong. This game would have been a bargain at $30. For those that have not yet experienced FTL, you control a ship that is part of the Federation and her crew. Your ship is carrying information vital to defeating the rebellion that has the Federation on the ropes. You and your crew must make the dangerous trek across the galaxy to meet with the Federation fleet, all the while being pursued by the rebellion. Doing this requires careful planning of your route, in order to explore as much of each system as possible, while also keeping in mind that each jump could result in an asteroid belt, or coming in too close to a star, or maybe you weren’t watching your fuel reserves and now you’re stranded. Combat is nearly frantic as you adjust power levels to make sure that you can evade, keep shields powered, extinguish fires, repel enemy invaders, repair damaged systems, and pretty much anything else you could possibly think you would need to do on a space cruiser. Oh, and for maximum pain when your crew dies and your ship gets destroyed (and it will, often), you can name them. In case this last paragraph was unclear, I can not recommend FTL highly enough.

Let me reach into my sack and see what’s next. Organ Trail: Director’s Cut. This game is a re-imagining of Oregon Trail, that classic that everyone played on their floppy disks that were ACTUALLY floppy disks, only this time you’re not on a journey of westward expansion, instead you’re on a journey of westward escape from zombie hordes. While I personally feel zombies have been done right into the ground Organ Trail feels pretty good. It’s not a terribly complex game, and if you have ever even played Oregon Trail you know exactly what to expect, but with zombies. Ultimately I can’t really recommend this as more than a curiosity and time killer, but it fills that role fairly well. It’s available on Steam and various Android stores.

The last thing in the bag is Super Hexagon. Now, admittedly I have had this since long before this year’s summer sale, but I couldn’t think of a better place to talk about it because, quite frankly, it’s way too simple to do a full length review on. Super Hexagon has you controlling a small triangle as you rotate around a hexagon attempting to get through holes in the oncoming walls. Kind of like Fall Down Forever (ya know, that game that EVERYONE had on their TI-83+), but instead of being garbage black and gray pixels you get ridiculous neon flashing rave colors and music to match. Now let me warn you, this game is simple, extremely simple, but don’t let that fool you it is hard. No, that’s not accurate, it is punishing. Completely, brutally punishing. If you get frustrated easily this is not the game for you, unless you think your keyboard looks better in a million pieces. This is a game that people who have good reaction skills use to challenge themselves and make their reaction times better. Ultimately this game is fun, if you enjoy losing, unbelievably difficult and has a pretty great soundtrack if you’re into electronic music.

That’s the last of my sack. My sack is empty. Hopefully what was in my sack will keep everyone sated until next week when I will most definitely be talking about Shadowrun Returns.

Generations of Failure

I haven’t posted any reviews for the past few weeks.  Sorry about all that.  I could give you the run around and make a bunch of excuses, but I respect all of you far too much for that, so let’s just get right to this week’s review, shall we?

The game that I’d like to tell you beautiful people about this week is Rogue Legacy, and a more apt name for a game there has never been and likely never will be. The more astute among you likely noticed the word ‘Rogue’ in the title of the game and may have assumed that the game is a roguelike of some sort. Good job, it is. The rest of you have to stay after class. And don’t try to lie and pretend like you made the connection. I can tell. And don’t think I’ve forgotten about ‘Legacy,’ we’ll get back to that.

Almost more important than it being a roguelike though, it is also a metroidvania game. Yeah, now we’re talking. As the number one biggest neckbeard fanboy of pretty much every metroidvania style game ever created;  (I have literal shrines to the two original series that make up that particular portmanteau) I was already pretty well sold on this game by those two points alone,  but then the devs had to go and sweeten the deal. See, it’s not just a side-scrolling platformer where the monsters, rooms, traps, and map of the dungeon changes each and every time you play, they added in a very interesting RPG aspect to make your repeated death-marches just a little bit more rewarding. This is where that ‘Legacy’ part comes in. Thought I’d forgotten, hadn’t you? You see, all of your characters have something in common aside from a predisposition towards running headlong to their own deaths like a pack of particularly well-armed lemmings. They’re all related. Every new character is the descendant of all the characters that came before him/her.

What does this mean exactly? Other than that apparently bad decision-making runs in the family, it means that when one of your characters dies, all of the gold and items they found are left to their descendants, meaning that each new character gets to spend that gold and use those items. Y’see, when a character dies, that gold goes into a pool, which you can spend in-between dungeon crawls to upgrade your manor, which in turn, makes all of your characters stronger. There are a wide variety of upgrades you can get from passive stat bonuses, to allowing your character to equip better armor, or unlocking entirely new classes that future descendants can be. This helps alleviate the crushing agony of defeat and actually helps the player feel like they’re progressing, failure to accomplish this is the failure of many a roguelike; which tend to dissuade more casual players with their daunting difficulty and unforgiving gameplay elements.

In addition to receiving these benefits from their forebears, each new character you play also comes complete with a variety of random features of their own, such as their name, gender, class, (Randomly picked from those unlocked at the Manor) as well as physical and mental flaws. Most of these are entirely cosmetic or humorous in nature, such as IBS, which causes your character to become horrendously flatulent, or baldness with the expected effect.  Others will GREATLY impact your ability to progress through the dungeon such as giant/dwarfism, which changes your character’s hit-box and attack range, in addition to granting them access to certain areas too small for normal-sized adventurers.  Still other defects may turn the game black and white, or sepia tone, or flip the entire perspective of the game upside down.  These elements add another layer of replayability, since no two adventurers are exactly alike.  Every new life the player is given three randomized adventurers to choose from for their next dive into the dungeon.

The music is wonderfully reminiscent of those old Castlevania games as well, the song for each of the game’s levels suiting the level of menace currently facing the player quite well. The enemy sprites, though few in number, are well animated and memorable. Except the skeletons, but I think you’d be hard pressed to make your run-of-the-mill skeleton anything more than cannon fodder. The variety of different rooms, the traps, and tasks within them is delightfully large allowing for quite a bit of exploring before the player begins to encounter any repeats.

Another feature of the game which gives the player a bit of control over how they face their trials are the runes which can be unlocked over the course of several lives. The player has five rune slots in their inventory which can take one of a variety of different runes, each conferring their effect to the player.  But since all runes stack regardless of what type of rune is selected this can lead to rune combinations that cause adventurers to play VASTLY DIFFERENTLY. For example, a player that stacked a number of vampirism runes would see their health recharge drastically every time they killed an enemy whereas a player that stacked jump runes would have access to double, triple, quadruple, and even quintuple jumping, allowing them an enormous degree of maneuverability as well as the ability to bypass some traps entirely.  With something on the order of about 20 different kinds of runes this leads to a massive amount of possible rune combinations, and widely differing playstyles.

With all of the randomization and customization packed into this game, it’s obvious that the developers took careful consideration of how much replaying your average player would have to do in order to conquer all of the game’s bosses and see it through to the end and all of their design choices in making the game greatly complement this approach. I have nothing but respect for this game, and that’s probably why I’ve been playing it for 3 weeks instead of writing reviews. Did I just type that? Shit.

Oh, and one more thing.  It’s got a New Game + mode.

Go nuts.

Rogue legacy is available on Steam, or from Cellar Door Games website for $15.

Genericguy’s Mini Gamesack

So this week has seen me playing A LOT of small games, in large part due to the advent of the Steam Trading Cards, so in that vein I will be talking about 3 different games this week. I’ll be relaying my thoughts on Monster Loves You, Really Big Sky, and Skulls of the Shogun.

The first game in the list, Monster Loves You, is a life simulator in which you live your life as a monster, from spawning to elderhood. You will make decisions throughout your life, starting from simple concerns such as chasing mice or hiding from predators and scaling up into decisions such as spying on humans or even outright attacking them. The decisions you make in early life affect your personality in various ways, adjusting your five primary stats of Kindness, Ferocity, Bravery, Honesty and Cleverness which contribute to your ability to generate respect. Respect is needed to gain the favor of the elders at the end of your adulthood so that they will aid you in your quest to become an elder. Failing to gain enough respect will result in multiple trials that test your primary stats. Once you are an elder you are asked to make decisions that hold a little more weight, the results of which will shape the coming conflict between humans and monsters. Overall the game is simple, and not really challenging but still fun. Oh, and you can become a neurosurgeon.

Next up is Really Big Sky. This is a SHUMP, pure and simple. You pilot a ship, shoot at other ships, and dodge their shots. Overall the game as a whole is not doing anything ground breaking with the genre, although the ability to switch to a drill mode that disables your gun in order to bore through asteroids (if you’re fast enough) and planets (where they hide all the powerups) is definitely neat. The visuals are pretty great and the soundtrack is a pleasure to the ears, but if you’re not into SHUMPs this game probably won’t do it for you. For avid fans of the genre it’s a great way to kill some time, and the modes beyond classic such as nightmare, which is exactly what it says it is, are a great challenge. Good to kill a few hours, but once again not for you if you don’t like the genre.

Finally is Skulls of the Shogun. This is a game that I saw at PAX East about two years ago and was completely blown away by, then immediately forgot since it didn’t hit the XBLA for nearly a year afterwards. It is now on Steam, listed under early access and doesn’t seem to be any worse for the space in time since I last saw it. It is a solid tactical combat game with some interesting game mechanics, such as the spirit wall or your commander’s ability to meditate at the beginning of combat, becoming more powerful until you activate him. The humor in it is solid, and the gameplay works exactly like you’d expect from a game of its genre.

With the Steam summer sale just starting today and all three of these games showing up on day one, it would be a great time to pick up some smaller games, and I honestly can’t think of a better place to start than these three.

It All Falls Apart – State of Decay

I actually wanted to write this review for about three weeks, but then Last of Us came out, and immediately following that I discovered that I’m not actually very good at keeping a schedule, so without any further delay here is my review of State of Decay.

State of Decay is an XBLA game from Undead Labs, yet another side studio picked up by Microsoft. It is a sandbox style zombie survival game, think Grand Theft Zombie. You start by controlling Marcus, but as you progress and convince more survivors to join your group you can, and often will need to, switch characters. You have two missions during your stay in Trumball county, the first is survive and the second is get the hell out of there. You survive by scavenging for resources, adding fortifications to nearby buildings, and aiding other survivor groups who can provide you with another source of supplies and even eventually join you. As for getting the hell out of there I’m not really sure how that is accomplished. I know that there are story missions, and I did quite a few of them up through the second town but as can happen to so many people during sandbox games I got a bit distracted from the goal. The story is not compelling, but it does get the job of moving things forward done.

There are also several random events that can alter your priorities as well, including an allied survivor asking for help with special zombies, a request from the military for an artillery scout, or even one of the members of your community going missing on a scavenging trip. These are just a few of the things that can shift your focus. There is also the ever present need to juggle your community’s happiness, lest people start becoming disgruntled and leaving, this can be done by completing missions, bringing home supplies, or by doing almost anything that directly aids your group’s survival. The appearance of excessive infestations, loss of survivors, or other events that would negatively affect survival all bring your community happiness down.

Overall State of Decay is solidly fun game and, like any sandbox game, if you don’t like the story you can easily make the adventure your own. A lot of my early gripes with the game, such as my resources bottoming out or mission opportunities not pausing while my system was off, have recently been patched out. I initially thought these events were by design to keep you playing because there is nothing quite like the experience of coming home from work one night, logging into State of Decay, and finding that 3 of your community members have died and you are now out of ammo. It seems, however, that either I wasn’t the only one who thought this mechanic was unnecessarily brutal, or it may have never been intended. With a clear dedication to bug correction and making the game more enjoyable Undead Labs is making it real easy to recommend State of Decay at it’s price point of 1600 Points or, in real person money, $20.

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