The Last Colony
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 31 March 2015, 10:00 am

The Last Colony is a great book by John Scalzi.  I've read it a bunch of times but I just re-experienced it in audiobook format for the first time.  It's a really good audiobook too.

The Last Colony is part of my favorite Scalzi series, the Old Man's War books.  It's a universe where humans are colonizing, aliens are generally upset with us for doing so, earth is treated like a military recruitment center, and super-humans are green.  I can't do the setting justice, but I can say it's one of my favorite book series ever.

I highly recommend The Last Colony.  If you're interested in the series you should probably start with Old Man's War but you can feel free to skip the second book and move right into reading The Last Colony.  It actually provides a much better paced story if you skip the second book, Ghost Brigades, and jump right into The Last Colony instead.

There are so many cool sci-fi things in this series.  I don't want to spoil any of them by giving you plot information though.  I'll leave you with this... If you are a Sci-Fi fan you absolutely owe it to yourself to pick up Old Man's War and get acquainted with this amazing series.


New Posting Schedule
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 30 March 2015, 10:00 am
If you haven't noticed, I've been on a bit of a post streak.  I started posting every day sometime in December and I kept it going for about four months.

It was a really good exercise and I had fun doing it, but in the past week or so I've felt like I can't quite keep up the pace.  I don't want writing to become a chore, because I really enjoy it right now.

So, I'm going to try moving to a 5 day per week post schedule.  I've noticed that my posts on the weekends don't get read as much anyway, so I'm going to try to aim for a post each weekday.  Except for April 1st.  No one takes anything serious on that day and it's right around the corner.

Anyway, I'm giving myself permission to skip posting on weekends if I don't feel like it.  You might still get 7 posts per week, but I'm not going to hold myself to it.  We'll see how 5 days per week feels for me going forward.

That's it for housekeeping.  Expect a return to your normally scheduled programming tomorrow.  And thanks for reading my writing!  You guys make it fun to keep posting!


New Star Wars Canon Timeline
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 29 March 2015, 10:00 am

Oh my god.  It's so tiny.  Look at that new canon timenline.

Just compare it to the abridged version of only the novels for the Legends Expanded Universe.


I'm having trouble letting go of the old Expanded Universe.  Can you tell?




Final Fantasy Type-0 Wrap-Up
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 28 March 2015, 12:54 pm

I finished up Final Fantasy Type-0 last night!  As always with Final Fantasy spin-off titles it was really interesting to see what they did with the game and where they differed from normal.

I think the best thing they did with Type-0 is making it a mature game in a way that no other Final Fantasy game has been before.  Within the first few minutes you see an actual tragedy of war.  Death and being mortal are huge themes throughout the whole game.  And death often happens brutally, with blood.  Blood may not seem like a big deal in a game with war, but there is rarely any blood in a Final Fantasy game.  I'm surprised by how much weight it gives to the injuries and death in this game.

The themes and the story in Final Fantasy Type-0 are the strongest parts.  I loved watching the members of Class 0 develop together as the story progressed.  By the end of the game I felt a connection with each member, even though there are 14 playable characters!  The developers made it work somehow.

The counterpoint to this is the combat... it's not horrible, but it's not great.  After the first couple hours you will have seen everything the combat system has to offer.  The game is only about 15 hours long for an initial playthrough, so it's not a huge slog through the game but I was pretty tired of combat by the end.  It's basic hack n slash action-oriented gameplay without much depth.  You can assign a couple abilities to the face buttons on the controllers and that's it.  There are much better combat systems out there if that's what you're looking for.  Despite the combat, it's a good game.

It took me about 15 hours to beat Type-0 but the game is definitely set up for multiple playthroughs.  I can tell that the story would feel different a second time through, knowing what I now know.  There are big revelations at the end of the game that change how you look at things.  I also suspect that there are new missions and cutscenes on subsequent playthroughs.  Luckily, there's a New Game Plus option!  You can pick up right where you left off with your character development while taking them through the game again.  I love New Game Plus options in games, I wish they were more prevalent.

I'm glossing over many of the imperfections that exist in this game.  They're there because it's a port of a handheld game originally made for PSP.  You could nitpick a ton of things that result from this, but I had fun with the game overall so I'm not going to.  Just keep in mind, you're not getting a game built for the PS4 from the ground up.  This is a handheld port.  You have been warned.

I'm trying to think who I would recommend this for and I'm not entirely sure.  I like the game as a complete package, but I can't endorse it on any one aspect alone.  I suppose if you're a Final Fantasy fan you probably know whether or not you'll get it.  If you aren't a Final Fantasy fan chances are good that you're going to skip the game.  Like I said, I had fun with Type-0 and that's what matters to me.

There's a secret ending buried in the game that hints at a sequel.  The online community is already calling it Type-1.  After playing Type-0 I would definitely buy that game.  That's a pretty solid endorsement from me.  I liked Type-0 enough that if they made Final Fantasy Type-1 I would buy it day one, no question.

Final Fantasy Project Article List





Link-up Fridays
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 27 March 2015, 10:00 am
My friend, B.J. Keeton, has been doing Link-ups on Fridays for awhile now.  They're a really cool idea.  Basically, you embed the linkup code on your blog and let anyone submit a relevant link.  It's like a curated list of articles for the week, but both writers and readers of articles are submitting their favorites.

This past week he pointed out something interesting to me.  You can use the same embed code on multiple blogs and have it all contribute to the same Link-up.  He asked if I would be willing to try it out with him and I jumped at the chance.

So here it is!  My first Friday Link-up.  Check it out below.  Submit any link from the past week that you think other fans of this blog might enjoy.  Anything geeky, video gamey, exercisey, whatever.  We're not going to curate it and pull links out.  If you think it's cool and want to share it with the community then feel free to drop it in the Link-up.

And if you're interested in joining our Link-up and embedding the same code on your blog just let me or B.J. know and we'll get you involved!



An InLinkz Link-up



Final Fantasy XIV: Low Level Magic
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 26 March 2015, 10:00 am

I played to level 15 with all three magic classes.  Later, these classes evolve and split off into more than three jobs once they reach the job stage at level 30, but all Discipline of Magic jobs stem from these three classes.

Level 15 is a key point in Final Fantasy XIV because it's the point at which you can use the Duty Finder to automatically find groups and run dungeons.  It's when the game really picks up and becomes much more fun.

Dungeons are one of my favorite parts of the game and they also give great loot and experience.  I would much rather level via dungeons than via grinding out Leve Quests.  And that's what I've had to do while getting these classes up to 15.  Lots of Leve Quests.

Actually, under level 10 isn't too bad if you do your class quests and your class hunting log.  It'll generally get you to level 10 without too much grinding.  But leveling from 10 to 15 is a slog.  That's where Leve Quests come in.  Unfortunately, Leve Quests don't add much variety.  Any one Leve Quest vendor will give you the same four or five quests over and over.  The quests scale to be the optimal difficultly and experience... but going through the motions of the quests is exactly the same every time.  It's an efficient way to level, but it's not a very interesting one.

Right now I hate levels 10-15.

That's my basic methodology... do class quests, do hunting log, then do Leve Quests.  I got all three of these classes up to 15 even though it took awhile.  One of the benefits is that I can now start getting rid of low level gear in my inventory.  More importantly, I'm excited to start running dungeons as these classes.

But what have I thought about the actual classes up to this point?

Arcanist

Arcanist has been my favorite of the three magic based classes.  I thought I would like the Scholar job and this is the class that leads to it.  It has a mixture of damage over time (DoT) skills and healing abilities.  It also has a sweet summonable pet.  Arcanist is the class that leads to the Summoner job, so that makes sense, but it's cool seeing that the Scholar gets summons too!  This is the class that I'm most excited to level up beyond level 15.

Conjurer

I went into Conjurer expecting to not like it.  It seemed like the boring start to the White Mage job.  I was wrong.  Conjurer is actually really fun.  It's a combination of elemental attacks, healing, and damage mitigation.  The damage mitigation really sets it apart from Arcanist in an interesting way.  I liked my time leveling this class to 15 and now I'm intrigued to see how it plays with groups in dungeons.

Thaumaturge

I like DPS classes a lot.  I always have.  My main job is a Bard, which is a ranged DPS, and I love playing as it.  This is a ranged DPS caster and I thought it would be a great fit for me.  It is not.  I can't seem to get my head around the correct spell rotation or how the class abilities work together.  I feel like I must be doing it wrong.  This class leads to the Black Mage job, which is one of the most powerful DPS classes in the game.  I hung in there and got Thaumaturge to 15 but I wouldn't go back to this class without doing a lot of research first.  I feel like there's some key aspect about the spell rotation that requires more explanation than I've been given in the game.

And that's all of them.

I had a lot of fun with these casters and now I'm super excited to take my two healing classes into dungeons.  I anticipate running dungeons as a healer will be a completely new experience.  I look forward to it!

Final Fantasy Project Article List





Card Crawl
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 25 March 2015, 10:00 am

Card Crawl is a diamond in the rough.  By rough... I mean the Apple App store and by diamond... I mean a good game.

Card Crawl is kind of like playing through a tactical solo dungeon crawl... with cards.  It's also a little bit like solitaire?  I feel like I'm not doing a good job here.  Stick with me, the game is good.

What happens is you are dealt a hand of four cards and you have to manage them.  They're in the middle area which represents the dungeon.  There are six types of cards in the dungeon and a few ways to deal with them.  The card types are shield, sword, coin, potion, special ability, and monster.  All of the card types can be dragged down into the section around your character, but the catch is that you only have two hands and one backpack.  This means only three items can fit on your character at any time.  Monsters, on the other hand, can be attacked with swords, get hit by special abilities, be defended against with shields, or dragged directly onto the character to deal damage.

As soon as you clear three of the four cards out of the dungeon area you will be dealt three new cards to fill up the empty spaces.  The goal is to work your way through the entire dungeon deck without having your character reach 0 health.

It's super fun.  It plays really quickly.  And it's a little bit addicting... in a good way.

I highly recommend it.  Especially since it's only $2 in the App Store and doesn't have any of the F2P/In App Purchase bullshit attached.




Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 24 March 2015, 10:00 am

This was a Star Wars New Canon Universe Novel.  I still don't know what the official terminology is for that.  I know that the old Expanded Universe is now called Legends... but I don't think the new books, comics, and games have an official classification.  I'll keep an eye out for it.

Anyway, this novel takes place between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back.  It happens to be the same time period that all the new comic books are in right now.  It wasn't ever explored very much in the Legends universe so it seems like they're finally taking a chance to flesh out more of what happens in the middle of the rebellion.

While the novel is about the rebellion, it's much more of a character piece about Luke Skywalker.  He's the main character and he's given most of the focus in the book.

Luke is just starting to understand the basics of the force and get experience in the wider galaxy.  He's breaking out of his farm boy roots and is excited to explore.  He's been left without guidance after Obi-Wan was killed and he's unsure about what to do next.  Generally, he feels adrift and he's trying to figure out what he should do to expand his Jedi skills.

Luke seizes on a chance to do a new mission for the rebellion and it kicks off the story.

Most of the main cast is absent, except for R2D2 and a small appearance by Leia.  On the other hand there are characters introduced specifically for this novel all of which are interesting and fit in well.  I don't anticipate any of them carrying over into future novels, but that's ok.  Everything is written in a way to keep the focus on Luke and, in this case, it works.

It's a good book, I liked it a lot, but I'm having trouble adjusting my worldview to accommodate the new canon novels.  I already know the Legends books so well.  Now I need to hold two universes in my head, with two different and overlapping timelines.

Despite that, I really enjoyed the book.  I would recommend it to Star Wars fans that are interested in easing into the new canon universe that Disney is creating.  It's a great point to jump in.  I recommend this over the other two books already in the universe, Tarkin and New Dawn.  It's definitely better than them and it's more relevant to the main characters in the Star Wars series.

Like many of the novels I read now, this one was partially read by me on my Kindle and partially listened to on Audible.  I still can't get over how well they sync, it's amazing.  The audio book production quality was fantastic with it's ambient sound design, sound effects, and music.  I wish all audio books had this kind of treatment.  You can happily pick up either format.

This is the first book in the canon universe that I can give two thumbs up and recommend to anyone.  All you need is a passing familiarity with Star Wars and you'll be able to enjoy the book.


Path to The Force Awakened
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 23 March 2015, 10:00 am

There was a Polygon article last week about the path of the new Star Wars canon universe leading up to the release of The Force Awakened.  There will be about 20 different books, novels, and comics leading up to it.  They'll cover the time period between Return of the Jedi and the new trilogy.  It will give hints about what has happened with the heroes from the original trilogy.

I'm actually really excited for this announcement, especially the part about giving hints as to what the characters from the original trilogy have been up to.  If they're only giving hints... that means that the novels will be full of unique characters and situations that have real stakes.  They can grow the universe, put characters in real danger, and have true character growth.  It's hard to do that when your main characters have plot immunity because of the films.

My problem now is going to be keeping the Star Wars Legends universe separate from the Star Wars Canon universe in my head.  The timelines are going to begin conflicting with one another.


The Flop Among Us
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 22 March 2015, 10:12 am

The Wolf Among Us was a flop for me.  I bought a season pass and played episode one when it released, but I hadn't gotten back to playing the other four episodes until this last week.  I buckled down, played episodes 2 and 3, and then gave up.

I gave this story plenty of time to grip me but it failed.  It was a murder mystery where I never actually got to solve anything.  It was very unsatisfying.

I know these Telltale story-based games are on rails.  There's not much you can do to effect the overall outcome.  But, while most of them keep me on the edge of my seat, this one completely failed to connect with me.

It's sad because I loved the Walking Dead and I've loved the episodes of Game of Thrones and Tales from the Borderlands that have released so far.  I'm actually super excited that the next Tales from the Borderlands just released.  I never felt any of that excitement about The Wolf Among Us.

It would probably be different if I were already invested in the world.  I know a handful of people who have read the comic books and they all loved the game.

I don't know if I can put my finger on one major thing that drove me to give up after three episodes.  I think it was just too slowly paced for my tastes coupled with the fact that I never managed to connect with any of the characters.  The combination killed it for me.

Of all the Telltale games I've tried this is the only one that I haven't absolutely loved.  That's still a really good track record for the developer.



Final Fantasy XIV: Crystal Tower
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 21 March 2015, 10:00 am

I did my first raids in Final Fantasy XIV!  After finishing my run through of all the level 50 dungeons I figured it was the next piece of content to experience.

There are two main sets of raids in the game at the moment, The Crystal Tower and the Binding Coil of Bahamut.  The Crystal Tower is much more approachable and newbie friendly, so that's what I did.

I had a set of guildmates walk me through the entire thing.  This is definitely the best way to learn the fights.  I'm sure you could find youtube videos too, but learning from real people is awesome.  Especially people who will answer your questions and not get frustrated that it's your first time.

They were all running it anyway because of the weekly incentive Final Fantasy XIV provides.  The game developers are so good at social engineering.  Once per week you can run through the entire Crystal Tower set of raids and if you complete all three raids you get an item that can increase the stats and item level of your top tier gear.

It's great incentive to continue running the raids even if nothing will drop there that you need.

The Crystal Tower had lots of good story.  There were big cutscenes and reveals between each of the three raids in the set.

Each of three raids looks and feels unique too!  It's nice to have a set of related raids but not be stuck in the same tileset throughout the experience.  The Labyrinth feels like an epic dungeon full of exploration.  Syrcus Tower, the second raid, takes you into the clouds and reveals secrets from the past.  The Dark World takes you to a different plane of existence as you try to patch up the gateway between it and the normal world.

These have made me much more excited to raid, which is surprising given my raiding experience in World of Warcraft.  In WoW I would hit max level, do a raid once, and then unsubscribe.  They never held anything of interest for me.  This newbie friendly raiding in Final Fantasy XIV is much more my style.  I love how approachable it is.

I'm not really sure what's next for me in Final Fantasy XIV.  I'll still do some work on getting better gear for my main job, but I'm starting to look at some of the other jobs and professions with interest.  I may try leveling up a healer.  I might just waste time with Triple Triad.  I dunno.  We shall see.

Final Fantasy Project Article List





Monster Hunter 4 Demo
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 20 March 2015, 10:00 am

I've wanted to like Monster Hunter ever since I first heard about it.  The premise of taking on giant monsters with 3rd person action skills appeals to me.  The problem has always been the execution and unfriendliness of Monster Hunter.  It's never been a game that's easily approachable for new players.

In fact, it's a game that's been extremely difficult for new players to figure out.  I think I would have gotten into it long ago if I had a friend to answer questions and guide me through the game.  But, that's never happened.

Everything I've heard about Monster Hunter 4 says that it's the most newbie friendly Monster Hunter game that they've ever made.  So, I gave the free demo a shot.  Thanks 3DS eShop!

I sat down and played the demo for over 3 hours the other night, just trying out all the weapons and attempting to get my head around the basics of monster hunting while in the beginner section of the demo.  I finally settled on two weapons that I like (after trying almost all 16).  It's tough, because each weapon feels almost like you're playing a different game.  They each handle in a unique way that doesn't translate to the other weapons.

I powered through, struggling with the different weapons, until I found the long sword.  It was the first weapon that clicked with me.  After going through almost everything else, I eventually tried the duel wielding swords and found those to my liking too.

With two weapons in hand that I kind of understood, I jumped into the intermediate level of the demo to see if I could take down a monster that was actually a challenge.  And I did it!  It was my first monster hunter kill that I was really proud of.  It was also the first time I hunted a monster and didn't walk away frustrated at the controls.  Spending that time picking the right weapons seemed to make a world of difference for me.

After pouring so much time into the demo, and hearing such great reviews, I downloaded the full game.  The demo did enough to convince me that Monster Hunter 4 might be for me.  The verdict is still out.  I'll let you know once I've had more time with the full game.


Final Fantasy Type-0: Initial Impressions
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 19 March 2015, 10:00 am

Type-0 just released on PS4!  As I'm writing this, I've played the first four hours or so of the game.  Just enough to get an impression.

I have a bunch of minor issues to nitpick, so let's get that out of the way, because I actually like the game.  Here we go.  It's obviously an upscaled port from a lesser game system.  The graphics could easily have come from a PS2, though they came from a PSP in this case.  There's a lot of loading between areas of the map.  I'm sure that made sense on a less powerful system, but it's annoying here.  At least it's really fast loading.  The voice acting is a little forced and I doubt the actors got to record their dialog together.  Tone and responses to statements don't always mesh well.  Just like in Final Fantasy XIII there are a lot of proper nouns early in the game which aren't clearly defined.  But, it's not as bad or unclear as Final Fantasy XIII, so it has that going for it.

That's is for the little things that bug me about this game.  Honestly, none of them bother me that much.  And all of them are because it's an up-ported version of a PSP game.  None of them are game breaking.  I just thought they were worth mentioning.

Overall, I really liked my first few hours with the game.  It's an action RPG with a focus on the action.  There's no turn based battles or carefully considered planning once you get into combat.  Abilities and attacks are assigned to the face buttons of the controller and you use them in real-time against the enemy.  It's really fun and I hope it holds up throughout the whole game.

One of the other really interesting things is the cast.  Instead of having one main character or a small central cast there are 14 characters that are controllable.  You can switch between them in and out of battle.  You're never truly defeated unless all of your characters fall in battle.

The 14 characters are members of class 0, the most elite group at a military academy.  The nation where this military academy is located has just been attacked, so the recruits are sent out on missions to win back territory and stabilize the region.  It's an interesting backdrop for the characters.  I really hope the focus is on character development throughout the game.  If it focuses too much on the warring nations it runs the risk of getting boring the same way Final Fantasy XII did.

I plan on trying Vita remote play with this game.  Since almost everything is controlled with the control sticks and face buttons it should actually be a great candidate for remote play controls.  I'll report back on that whenever I get around to it.

I really have high hopes for this game.  My initial impressions are good and I'm excited to play more of it!

Final Fantasy Project Article List





Agent to the Stars
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 18 March 2015, 10:00 am

The other day I finished Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi and it was well worth the read.  Well, in this case, the listen.

I listened to the audiobook version on Audible narrated by Wil Wheaton.  He narrates a lot of John Scalzi's books and they make a good team.

Scalzi is one of my favorite authors, but Agent to the Stars was released before I had discovered him.  I finally got around to reading the book but I wish I hadn't taken so long.

Agent to the Stars is about a Hollywood agent who is asked to represent an alien species trying to make first contact with earth.  Instead of the traditional model of contacting world leaders they would like to make first contact through Hollywood.  Their thinking is that American media sets the standard of culture for the world, so it's best to make first contact through them, they just aren't sure about the best way to do it.

It's a great sci-fi novel and also gives an interesting glimpse into the world of being an agent.

The novel is an easy recommendation, it's a good book.  But, if you've never read anything by Scalzi before, I recommend reading his best novel Old Man's War over this one.  This is a good novel, but Old Man's War is amazing.


Final Fantasy XIV: Endgame Bonus
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 17 March 2015, 10:00 am

I "finished" Final Fantasy XIV, but I've actually still been playing it.  My twitter friend and free-company mate (guildmate) in the game, Belghast, encouraged me to jump back on and try some of the content that unlocks at level 50.

Wow, there is a ton of content that unlocks at level 50.  When I wrote my wrap-up post I was at 84 hours of play time after leveling to 50 and completing the main story.  I'm now over 160 hours and I have yet to repeat content after hitting the level cap.  I haven't even had to run the same endgame dungeon twice.

Let's talk about content.  Final Fantasy XIV releases huge amounts of content on a regular basis.  In one of their recent "small" updates they patched in an entire mini-game center and new location in the game called the Gold Saucer... on top of adding new story quests and dungeons.

At this point, after 5 major patches, there is almost as much story after level 50 as there is leading up to level 50.  And there are many more dungeons at endgame than there are while leveling up.  It's a huge shift from a game like WoW where only a small handful of dungeons are meaningful at any given time.  In Final Fantasy XIV there is a level 50 version of every low level dungeon, unique level 50 dungeons, level 50 versions of every primal encounter, and a bunch of raid content.

Essentially, I'm sitting at over 160 hours played and the only time I had to repeat content was a few days when I was leveling through the 30-50 range.  I haven't repeated any content at level 50 yet.

I'm so glad that Belghast convinced me to come back and try endgame content in Final Fantasy XIV.  I've decided to subscribe to the game and actually pay for game time for awhile.  I haven't had a MMO click with me like this in a long time.  It'll be a good gaming home to put down roots for awhile, at least through the expansion that is due in June.

Now that I'm subscribed and committed, I'll most likely cut back my play time a bit.  I don't want to burn out on this MMO as fast as I typically do.  I would love to start getting more into the Final Fantasy spin-offs soon as well as anything else that comes out and grabs my attention.  For the foreseeable future, I'll be dabbling in Final Fantasy XIV while playing other games too.

As far as what I want to accomplish in game.  Well...

I want to try out the raids and see if they're fun for me.  I've never much enjoyed raiding in any MMO, but maybe this one will be different.

I'd also like to try leveling another class or two and eventually get around to crafting.  Now that I'm committed to this world for awhile I want to branch out and explore what it has to offer.

I also want to try to do more content with my Free Company.  They're great people and I have fun chatting with them.  Now that I'm max level I can help anyone running lower level dungeons and hopefully soon I'll be able to help with endgame raids too.

I mostly just want to own up to being wrong about my initial endgame impression of Final Fantasy XIV.  There's actually a lot of compelling content after hitting level 50.  Enough to actually get me to subscribe to a MMO for the first time in over 4 years.  Good job Final Fantasy XIV.  I didn't think anything would convince me to subscribe to a MMO again.

Final Fantasy Project Article List





There Came An Echo
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 16 March 2015, 10:00 am

There Came An Echo is an interesting game.  It's real time strategy controlled entirely by voice commands.

It actually has really good voice recognition... once you get your mic configured.  But, it took me way too long to find settings that would work for it.  I probably spent my first 30 minutes with the game just fiddling with mic settings.  Once it was finally set up, the voice command recognition worked great, so I do need to give it credit for that.

And not only is the voice recognition good, but the voice acting is really good too.  They hired great voice talent, including Wil Wheaton!  He's one of my favorite author/voice actor/actor guys.  He's cool.  And the rest of the cast does a good job too.

But while the quality of the voice acting is good, there's just too much of it.  Overall there's too much story, and not enough gameplay.  I played the first 3 hours or so of the game and I feel like I was only in control of gameplay for maybe 30 minutes of that.  It's not nearly enough.  Maybe it gets better later in the game, but I couldn't put up with another super long cutscene to find out.

It's cool to give voice commands and have units carry them out.  But the gameplay is a little too slow for my taste.  Units move at a decent speed, but the length of time it takes to take out enemy shields and units is too long.  I would issue a good set of commands and then just sit there watching my units plink away at the AI units.



I can see a good game buried beneath the surface here.  If There Came An Echo picked up the pace of both the story and gameplay I could have loved it.  As it currently is... I'm done with it.  I'll put it away in my "Games I'm Done With" folder in my Steam library and hope that they can do better with a sequel in the future.


Heavenstrike
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 15 March 2015, 10:00 am

Heavenstrike appears to be what happens when you take Square Enix's talent at making tactics games and neuter it with Free to Play mechanics.  Ugh.

I tried it because I'll try most things that Square Enix releases.  They always have my attention since they're the company that makes Final Fantasy... and if you haven't noticed by now, I love Final Fantasy.

Heavenstrike is a turn based lane pushing strategy game.  You summon units using mana and the units push up each lane trying to get to the enemy commander to do damage.  The first one to take out the opposing commander wins.


The basics aren't bad, but the game has all the free to play trappings that I try to avoid.  Energy is used each time you enter a battle and if you run out of energy you can either wait a while or pay real money to buy more.  You can also pay real money to have a chance to recruit new super units.  This is not the way I want games to make their money.

It's the worst of free to play and pay to win combined.  Ugh.

I hope Square Enix starts releasing mobile games without free to play mechanics soon.  I would love for them to make a solid game and just sell it for one price... you know, like the good old days.


Nothing Will Stick
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 14 March 2015, 10:00 am

Ever have one of those days where you try a bunch of games in your library and nothing will stick?  You just jump between games for a few hours before giving up on all of them?  That happened to me the other night.

I think I'm finished with a couple more Steam games.  These are games from my positive impression pile back when I did my big backlog playtest.  Wolfenstein, Shadowrun: Dragonfall, and Saints Row IV are all good games but I can't seem to get them to stick.

They're just not games for me at the moment even though I can tell they're good games.

I don't think I'm in a big FPS mood, so Wolfenstein was fun for a few play sessions but I have no desire to play it to completion.  It's going in my "Games I'm Done With" Steam folder.  Maybe I'll revisit it in the future if I get a sudden FPS craving... but not anytime soon.

Shadowrun: Dragonfall is good too.  It has solid turn based mechanics with a variety of classes and options.  It's a full-featured RPG with lots of dialog choices too.  I don't know why it can't seem to grab me.  This should be right up my alley.  I like all the parts of the game on paper.  I also like them in isolation.  There's something about the whole package put together that doesn't work for me.

It's hard because I can see all the reasons I should like Shadowrun: Dragonfall.  I just don't.  I won't be revisiting it, but at the same time I could recommend it to a certain subset of people.  It's weird that way.

Saints Row IV is fun if you want to mess around in an open world.  Unfortunately, I'm burned out on open worlds.  They all start to feel the same after awhile.  I'll probably try to avoid them until next year's Assassin's Creed release.  That series always seems to pull me back in.  I also tried to get into GTA V recently and that didn't stick either.  While I would rather play Saints Row IV over GTA V any day... I would rather just not play either.

I'm frustrated right now.  I'm just jumping between games and not much is sticking.  I'm still playing FFXIV regularly, but I would love to get more non-MMOs into my gaming mix.  I guess I'll keep trying things from my Steam library and hope something grabs my attention soon.


Star Wars Legends: The Truce at Bakura
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 13 March 2015, 10:00 am

Let's just get this out of the way and say... this isn't a very good book.  It doesn't fit into any other overarching narrative or character development.  It's a one-off novel that isn't very interesting.

The novel takes place the day after Return of the Jedi.  The Rebels are reorganizing when they get a distress call from a remote imperial outpost about a new enemy that could threaten the galaxy.  Luke Skywalker is given a task force to command and goes to assess the situation.  He brings along the main cast from the movies and together they discover that the alien threat is stealing human lifeforce in order to power their technology.

The only real character development that happens is Luke getting slightly better at force healing through practice and Leia coming to terms with Vader being her father.

In the end, the alien menace is destroyed, the planet that was threatened joins the Rebel Alliance, and some imperials defect.

Don't waste your time on this novel unless you're a Star Wars completionist like me.  For most people it wouldn't be worth it.  There are much better novels and series later in Star Wars Legends that definitely are worth reading.

Again, I'm glad I found an abridged audiobook version of this novel.  I didn't have to re-read the entire thing.  It was a time saver.

This is the last novel in the Rebellion era.  After this we start to get into the New Republic era and the novels get better.


Super Time Force Ultra Complete
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 12 March 2015, 10:00 am

When I did my big Steam backlog playthrough I saved all the games that I had a positive impression of so that I could swing back around to play them later.  I've started doing that a bit with Wolfenstein and now with Super Time Force Ultra.

Super Time Force Ultra is a time traveling game where you never truly die, you just choose to rewind time and try again.  But instead of your old self disappearing, it persists.  This means that on some bosses you'll have 30 copies of yourself all attacking from different angles at the same time.  It gets chaotic but it's super fun.

The game is full of humor too.  The reasons for missions are often along the lines of, "Wouldn't it be cool if the dinosaurs weren't extinct?  Let's go stop the meteor from wiping them out and see what happens."  Philosophy and consequences of time travel are nowhere to be seen, but it's better that way.  They make it work and they make it funny.

I finished the game the other day and completely felt like it was worth my money.  I have no problem recommending it.

You should really see this action platformer in motion.  I'll embed a video below for your viewing pleasure.




CounterSpy
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 11 March 2015, 10:00 am
Since finishing Rogue Legacy, I've been dabbling in other PS4 and Wii U games to play while I'm exercising. One of this month's free PS Plus games was CounterSpy.  It's been a ton of fun and fits into my workout routine with my stationary bike.  It fills the same niche for me that Rogue Legacy did.

But it's not like Rogue Legacy.  CounterSpy is a stealth platformer, a stealth shooter, and a cover shooter all at the same time.  It's really cool.

Basically you start as a stealth platformer, but there are certain areas of the environment where you can hit a button and snap to that piece of scenery.  At that point you're playing a cover shooter, unless you have a silenced weapon, at which point you're playing a stealth shooter.  It's a really cool mash-up of genres and control schemes.  It took about half an hour for the game to click with me, but after that I was loving it.


The setting and art style are amazing too.  It's basically a new cold war setting where both sides are trying to launch nukes to blow up the moon for some reason.  The premise lets the art style feel unique and cold war-ish.  I like the aesthetic.

This is actually a game that I've played while off my exercise bike too.  So, while I gave Rogue Legacy a hesitant recommendation I can give this one a wholehearted thumbs up.  And if you have PS Plus you have no excuse, it's free for you, go try the game.


Failing at GTA V
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 10 March 2015, 10:00 am

I tried, I really did.  I bought GTA V around the holidays and I've tried to play it and get into it multiple times.  I just can't.

I used to love this series.  When I was 13 I thought GTA 3 was one of the greatest games of all time.  I have amazing memories of playing GTA Vice City when I was just a little bit older.  But somewhere around GTA San Andreas or GTA IV the series lost touch with me.  I don't think it's GTA that's changed, I think it's me.  I'm not the same person at 28 that I was at 13.

It doesn't do anything for me anymore.  Somehow all the hype convinced me that this time would be different when GTA V released for PS4 a few months ago.  I've tried to get into it multiple times and I've met with failure every time.  Not failure at actually completing objectives in the game, but failure at being remotely interested in the game.

I guess I'm not the right demographic for GTA anymore.  It takes itself too seriously with too much nitty gritty.  It aims for realism in a way that doesn't appeal to me.  For me, it's lost the fun that it used to have.

These days, if I want to scratch that itch for off-the-wall open world craziness it's better to turn to a Saint's Row game.  They don't take themselves seriously at all, and that's what make them fun.


Star Wars Legends: Shadows of the Empire
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 9 March 2015, 10:00 am

The two books I wanted a quick refresher of in the Rebellion era of Star War Legends were Shadows of the Empire and The Truce at Bakura.  Luckily for me, I found the audio book abridged versions of both of these books.  I wanted to jog my memories but didn't want to re-read the whole book for either of them.  As I've said before, I think this is the least interesting era of the Star Wars Legends novels.  They're much too constrained by the movies.  I remembered them not being very good, and it seems like I was at least correct for Shadows of the Empire.

This novel takes place between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.  It focuses on Luke, Leia, Lando, Darth Vader, and Xizor.  Essentially, both Darth Vader and Xizor are hunting for Luke Skywalker while Luke and his friends are looking for Han Solo.  Darth Vader wants to capture Luke and turn him to the dark side of the force while Xizor wants to kill Luke in retribution for a past transgression that Vader caused him.  It's an interesting dynamic, but the implementation isn't very interesting.

The book also introduces a one off character, Dash Rendar.  He fills in the smuggler role while Han is frozen in carbonite.  He's an annoying character and I'm glad he's not recurring throughout the series.

Overall, it's a filler book.  If you've seen the movies you know exactly where the characters are at the start and end of this book.  It makes the whole thing feel pointless.

I should also mention that the audio book version really annoyed me because the narrator kept pronouncing names wrong in the universe.  Emperor Palpatine and the planet Coruscant are pronounced incorrectly throughout the entire performance.  And it's not much of a performance.  It's much more like someone reading a book to you and less like a talented voice actor performing the bookk.  It does have sound effects and music, which help out a bit I suppose.

As far as my recommendation.  Well, It's not a very good book, but it does help flesh out the events that transpire between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.  If you feel like there's a conspicuous gap between the movies then maybe you should give Shadows of the Empire a try.  I think, for most of us, this novel is better avoided.


Playing with Toys
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 8 March 2015, 10:00 am
Last weekend we were out and about at an activity.  After exploring for awhile my son wanted to just sit down at a table and play with toys.  He's 2 and he's a blast.

Playing cars with my son while waiting for my wife and daughter was awesome.  We drove them across the table.  We let them drive themselves off the table.  We crashed them into each other.  We had a giant dinosaur puppet eat them.  He was laughing and playing and having so much fun.

It reminded me that sometimes it's nice to disconnect and just play.  We don't always need to be online and be connected.





I Beat Rogue Legacy
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 7 March 2015, 10:00 am

I beat Rogue Legacy!  I guess it was alright.

The only reason I stuck with it is because it's a great game to play while I'm exercising on my stationary bike.  Certain games lend themselves to being played while doing other things and this is one of them.

And I'm always doing other things while playing Rogue Legacy.  Usually I'll mute Rogue Legacy, get on my stationary exercise bike, play a podcast, and just zone for awhile.

After you understand the mechanics and basic classes of the game it becomes about execution of platforming and attacking.  It doesn't require a lot of thinking or planning.  That's exactly what makes it perfect as a game to play while exercising.

I played it almost every day for the past few weeks and I finally beat the last boss.  I liked my time with the game and at this point I would pick up a sequel if they were to make one.  That being said, I would never sit down and play this game as a solo activity.  It needs to be accompanied by other things like listening to podcasts/audiobooks or exercising.

Now I need to find the next game that will keep my mind occupied while I'm biking...


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