Invisible, Inc.
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 11 June 2015, 10:00 am
I've been on a big turn-based game kick lately.  Invisible Inc is the latest in a series of games that I've enjoyed but failed to put a lot of time into.  It's kind of weird that I know I love turn-based strategy games so much but lately none of them can seem to keep my attention for long.

Invisible Inc is really good.  Out of all the turned-based games I've been playing lately this is the second best.  Only Valkyria Chronicles has a one-up on it.

In Invisible Inc you navigate a team of spies through a procedurally created enemy complex.  Your mission might be to get new equipment, rescue other agents, retrieve intel, or a number of other scenarios.  It allows you to push your luck by staying in the enemy complex longer while you search for more loot, intel, and gear.  But the longer you stay in the enemy facility the higher their security level gets.  It's really fun!

I like the game a lot.  I've had a bunch of nights where I'll play this game for hours on end while really thinking about every move.  I've had a couple other nights where I'll play haphazardly while watching TV at the same time.  Both ways work and both ways are fun.

For me I don't know how the longevity of this game will be.  After syncing a bunch of time into it I already feel like I've seen what the game has to offer.  Yes, these things will be remixed and rematched into new combinations the more I play... but I've kind of seen it all.  This is one of the drawbacks of procedurally generated games.  The levels all start to feel samey.

Overall I suppose I give this game a thumbs up.  It's really fun to play, and your mileage may vary.  If you're someone who enjoys roguelikes, turn based strategy, or procedurally generated games you'll probably find something here for you.  I just can't vouch for how long it will hold your attention.

Splatoon Single Player
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 10 June 2015, 10:00 am

I love the Splatoon multiplayer and my whole family has been getting into it.  I wrote about that yesterday.  Today I want to touch on the single player experience.

It has it's ups and downs.  The levels that are in the game are great.  It has the typical Nintendo level of polish and level design sensibilities.  Challenges build on each other in a progressive manner that makes perfect sense.

The single player levels are really good!  Unfortunately, the overall campaign is fairly short.  It's obvious that most of their focus was put into the multiplayer mode of Splatoon.  It was sad for me to see how short the game is compared to other Nintendo experiences.

The other thing that leaves a bad taste in my mouth is that 75% of the single player experience is locked behind Amiibos.  I wouldn't have realized this if I didn't pick them up, but now that I've seen that each Amiibo has an entire campaign behind it's paywall I'm kind of worried about the future of Nintendo content experiences.

It wasn't a big deal for me to pick up the 3-pack of Amiibos, and I really wanted them anyway because I thought they looked awesome.  But that's not going to be true for everyone.  Especially with the Amiibo supply shortages at the moment.

I guess what I'm saying is that the single player campaign that is in the game is good... but don't buy this game for the single player experience.  Only pick it up if the multiplayer looks appealing to you. That's where the heart of the game lies.

Splatoon Multiplayer
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 9 June 2015, 10:00 am

The Splatoon multiplayer experience is awesome!  This is one of the few games that has gotten my whole family involved.  My wife, daughter, son, and I are all playing this game on an almost daily basis.  It's full of charm and fun.  It's super approachable.  I'm so happy that the first new Nintendo IP is such a success.

This game feels like Mario Sunshine re-mixed into a fun third person shooter.

I love the color and the style in Splatoon.  It's so bright and cheery.  It's super inviting.  You don't really think about it often, but those console FPS games tend to be gray/brown blah.  All of them run into each other stylistically to the point where you don't even notice their differences.  Splatoon breaks this mold in the best way possible.

I love that the goal is to cover an area with your color ink and not just destroy enemies.  It makes the tactics and strategy so much more interesting.  It also means you don't have to have super fast twitchy reflexes to be competitive.  This is a plus for every member of my family.

Nintendo is planning on slowly releasing more multiplayer content as time goes on.  They've already unlocked a new multiplayer mode and a new map. With their support it will be interesting to see how long this game stays active and popular.  It seems like this could turn into one of their main evergreen games like Mariokart or Smash Bros.

I'm really excited to see where they take this.

Puzzle & Dragons Z
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 8 June 2015, 10:00 am

Although I hadn't played the Puzzle & Dragons Z version of the game on my trip, I have done so since then.  While I ended up liking the Mario Edition side of this game I didn't find Puzzle & Dragons Z quite as interesting.

It's the same core gameplay but wrapped up with tons of unskippable story content set in a world similar to Pokemon... but less interesting.

After getting familiar with the core puzzle gameplay I was really disappointed to see how much extra fluff there was in between actual gameplay in this version.

If you really felt like Puzzle & Dragons was missing a story or if you're super obsessed with the Pokemon formula you might find something here.  For the rest of us it's probably better to stay on the Mario Edition side of this game.

Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 5 June 2015, 10:00 am

Continuing with the handheld gaming backlog I sampled while traveling, it's Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate!

This is an interesting game because it's an attempt to take a 3D free roaming game and translate it to a 2.5D platformer/beat-em-up.

The problem I had while playing this game is that it's so close to the 3D Arkham console games that I love... but it's not a 3D game.  The controls and the structure simply aren't as strong as they are in a 3D world.  I played the game a bunch and it's not really bad but it's not really good either.  It's middling.

The biggest thing this game has done is make me appreciate the other Batman Arkham games more than I did before.  I'm really excited for the next console Arkham game to release later this month with Batman Arkham Knight.

I probably won't be coming back to the handheld game, but if you're a super die hard Batman fan you might find something here for you.

What is a Monster Bag?
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 4 June 2015, 10:00 am

Monster Bag is a game that isn't worth your time or money.  This is mostly a PSA.

I had Monster Bag on my Vita for the trip last week since I had gotten it for free via PS Plus.  It's one of the worst free PS Plus games I've gotten.

You are a monster that also happens to be a bag.  You jump from one unsuspecting person's back to another while avoiding people with evil eyes and throwing things also.  I probably just made it sound much more interesting than it is.

Just a heads up.  Avoid this one.

Sword Art Online
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 3 June 2015, 10:00 am

Last week before my trip I watched my first ever season of an anime show.  As you can probably tell from the title of the post, it was Sword Art Online.

I've tried various anime shows over the years but I've never been able to get past the first few episodes of one.  Usually the pacing is too slow and the show isn't visually interesting enough for me.  My brother has told me that modern anime is much better than what I tried to watch long ago, but I haven't had much time to check out any of the shows he recommended.

Then, last week, I heard some of the podcast members on Aggrochat talk about the premise of Sword Art Online and I was very interested.  Essentially, Sword Art Online is a fully immersive MMO in an advanced virtual reality.  The premise of the show is that only 10,000 people were allowed a copy of the game at launch and as soon as they all log in on launch day they are locked in the game until they can complete it.

They end up stuck in the game for a long time and a lot of interesting social dynamics develop.

The part of the show that really got me hooked was the fast paced action in an MMO world that happens in the first 25% of the season.  I thought it was epic when they encountered the first floor boss, that's when I was hooked.

It gave me enough momentum to finish the whole season, but unfortunately the pacing starts to drag in the second half.  I wanted to finish the season anyway just to prove that I could actually finish an anime once in my life.  Now that I have I'm not sure if I want to get into season two or not.

My biggest take away from this is that anime can be interesting and I should probably listen to my brother more often.  I suppose I should ask him what show to try out next.

Puzzle & Dragons Z + Super Mario Bros. Edition
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 2 June 2015, 10:00 am

I discussed the possibility of picking up this game the other week... and I did!  I probably wouldn't have grabbed it if I wasn't looking for something new to check out while I was traveling.  In the end I'm happy I got the game.

The Mario Edition did such a better job of easing me into Puzzle and Dragons.  The demo and the iOS version that I tried last week did a horrible job of teaching me what to do when playing the game.  Everything from team composition to special abilities and powering up characters are taught in a friendly and easy-to-learn manner in the Mario Edition.

At this point I actually feel like I would probably like the mobile version now that I understand the game better.  I would download it again on my phone if it weren't for those F2P mechanics.  Just having that stamina bar and being able to buy my way to victory bugs me.

But the Mario Edition did away with the things I didn't like and did a great job of explaining the interesting portions of the game.

I would recommend it if you have a 3DS and you're a puzzle game fan.  There's a lot of entertainment there.  And I haven't even touched the entire other game that comes with the Mario Edition.  It also has the full game of Puzzle & Dragons Z.  I should get around to trying that too.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 1 June 2015, 10:00 am

You're probably going to see a bunch of quick handheld game impressions here this week since I spent a lot of time on planes last week.

The very first game I tried out when travelling last week was Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.  I grabbed it on the PSN store for my Vita right before the trip.  All the talk about the Kickstarter for it's spiritual successor got me really interested in trying the original game.

I've played a bit of Castlevania here and there over the years, but it's never been one of the series I go crazy for.  I had never touched this particular Castlevania game before.  But, it's supposed to be one of the best.

And the game is actually really good.  I can see the underlying systems that make this game a classic.  I can see the exploration and the challenge that make people love this game.

After a couple hours I could also see that this game just wasn't for me.  I think it's a combination of the setting and the power-up system.  Gothic horror setting has never appealed to me.  It's completely subjective, but it's just not my thing.  The power-up system actually has levels and gear.  It's basically an entire RPG system built onto a 2D action-platformer.... and that's not something I want.  I like RPGs and I liked action-platformers but it seems like I don't like them together.

I'm learning to be more ok with acknowledging that a game can be good but still not be a game that I have fun with.  That's the case here.  No hard feelings Castlevania.  I'm sure you'll make lots of other people happy.

Giving Up and Letting Go of Un-Fun Games
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 29 May 2015, 10:00 am
This seems like it might be straightforward, but it's not.  If a game is un-fun should you keep playing it?  The answer should obviously be "no" but often we keep playing games we're invested in.  Or we put down a game and tell ourselves, "I'll come back to that soon." but we never do.

I feel like these games have a mental weight.  For me they definitely do.  These type of games will be in the back of my mind in some sub-process of my thoughts until I explicitly tell myself that I'm done with a game and I let it go.  But it's a hard thing to do.

Sometimes it feels like failure.  What if you've only played 30 minutes of a game?  What if you've played 40 hours?  What if you're right near the end?  All of these are valid jumping-off points but they all carry different feelings and can lead to guilt.  I know I feel it.

One of the best ways I've found to let go of these games are to write about them.  If I can get my thoughts down on the page I can get them out of that sub-process constantly running in the back of my head.

So, let's do that today.  I'm owning up to two games that I keep saying, "I'll come back to that soon."  For me, right now, those games are Bloodborne and Majora's Mask.

I thought Bloodborne would be a good game to play while riding my exercise bike.  It was intriguing for a few days but after that it has been nothing but frustration.  I haven't touched it in over a month.  I've been playing Destiny again because Bloodborne wasn't clicking with me.  Today I'm letting go of it.  I know now that Bloodborne isn't for me.  That's ok.  It can be for other people but I don't need it in my mental RAM anymore.

Majora's Mask is harder to admit.  I love some entries of the Zelda series but find that other ones fall flat for me.  I loved Majora's Mask the first time I played it, but this time I'm finding it more of a chore.  I remember enough that the fun of exploring the world is gone but I don't actually remember enough to complete the puzzles without a guide.  I end up using a walkthrough to solve puzzles that I mostly remember to get to story beats that I definitely remember.  It's still a good game, but it's not a fun game for me right now.  And that's ok.  I'm letting it go too.

How about you guys and gals out there?  Do you have any game that's mentally weighing you down?  Do you want to let anything go and get it out of your head?

Try it.

It might help.

Board Gaming With a New Group
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 28 May 2015, 10:00 am
It's Thursday!  Typically on Thursday night I have a standing business meeting with a couple of my friends/colleagues.  Lately, we've been trying to build extra time into the night so that we can fit in a board game as well as work.

It's been awesome!  These guys are all gamers, so they're always up for learning a new game.  I'm loving it.

So far I've gotten to introduce them to Lord of the Rings LCG from Fantasy Flight Games and Ticket to Ride from Days of Wonder.

Lord of the Rings LCG is a co-op card game where you play together against the quest deck.  It can be very challenging but I've had a fantastic time every single time I've played it with a group.  It's not the most simple co-op game but it's also not the most complex.  It's truly a nice middle ground on the complexity scale which is why it was perfect for this group of guys.  I knew they would pick it up fast, and they did!

Ticket to Ride is low on the complexity scale, but it's still one of my favorite games.  Even the most complicated version - Ticket to Ride Europe - you can teach in less than ten minutes.  If you pick a simpler version like Ticket to Ride America it's easy to teach in five minutes.  The best part of the game is that there's enough depth that it's held my attention across multiple versions and more times on the table than I can count.  I introduced these guys to Ticket to Ride Europe because it's my favorite and I knew they would be fine with the extra rules and conditions.

I'm hoping to get more games on the table with this group soon.  A couple of my favorites that I'm most excited for are Small World and Citadels.  After we get a nice sampling I'm going to see what they'd like to dig into more and see if we can get a regular gaming session going.

As I said earlier, we don't have time for gaming every single week... but it's turning into more of a regular thing.  And I love that.

Games for Traveling
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 27 May 2015, 10:00 am
I'm traveling a bunch this week.  I'm probably in the process of getting ready to leave right as this post goes up.  There's going to be lots of time in airports and on planes for the next few days.

I'm trying to figure out what games to play.  I always go loaded for bear when it comes to electronics and traveling.  I'll have my 3DS, Vita, iPhone, Nexus Tablet, and Kindle.

Should I revisit old favorites or dive into the games that remain untouched on my 3DS and Vita?  Should I download a bunch of iOS games to play try out?  Look through my forgotten folders of iOS that I like but never play?  Should I just give up and read a book on my Kindle?  Should I read comics on my Nexus?

As of writing this post I'm really not sure what I'm going to end up doing.

I ended up grabbing the Mario Edition of Puzzle and Dragons.  I also have Persona 4 Golden sitting untouched on my Vita.  Those two games are top of mind for me, but I know I have some other untouched games on both systems too.

Ugh.  I have no conclusions here.  I'll definitely let you know what happens after this travel wraps up.

Destiny Expansions
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 26 May 2015, 10:00 am
So... Destiny Expansions.  I guess I have them?

The second expansion, House of Wolves, released last week.  I was browsing the PSN store and checking it out when I noticed a button that said "Activate Expansion Pass".  I clicked it and the PSN store said that I now have both expansions.

Apparently what happened is that I bought the digital deluxe version of the game when it launched, but the expansion pass didn't activate automatically.  And then I forgot about it until last week.

So now I'm the owner of both expansions and I don't quite know what to do with them.

I only recently got back into Destiny by playing it almost every day while on my exercise bike for the past month or so.  When I started playing it while exercising I started a new character (a hunter this time) and that character is now level 23.

The problem is that to get to any of the expansion content for the first expansion I need to be level 24.  To get into anything for the second expansion I need to be 28.

I own both expansions but I can't play either of them until I get a random loot drop that is better than the stuff I have now.  I suppose I'll just keep playing while I exercise and eventually I'll get a loot drop that I need.

Valkyria Chronicles
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 25 May 2015, 10:00 am

I tried Valkryia Chronicles in my massive Steam backlog playthrough earlier this year.  It was one of the few games I liked that I played in my backlog, so I made a mental note to come back to it.  Now that I have gotten back around to it I'm having a lot of fun.  It's scratching the Strategy RPG itch that I've had lately.  Valkyria Chronicles has been satisfying in a way that the Final Fantasy Tactics games just haven't quite been.

If you didn't know, Valkyria Chronicles is a ported game from PS3 to PC.  It just released on Steam in the past year.  I picked it up during one of the big Steam sales.  Although I played it on PC I used a controller the whole time, and I would highly recommend it.  The game plays great with a controller.

Valkyria Chronicles does some Standard tactical combat stuff but it also does some really cool tactical stuff too.  When you move a character you jump behind them into a third person shooter view and start free roaming.  When you stop to fire at an enemy you actually aim your weapon.  One of my favorite parts of the game is the Command Point (CP) system.  Instead of every unit taking one turn during your round, you are given a certain amount of CP and you can use it as you see fit.  It's typically enough to activate each unit once, if that's what you want to do.  But, more interesting, is being able to activate the same unit multiple times by spending more CP on them.  It adds an amazing layer that's a ton of fun to play with.

Based on how many chapters are in the game I'm about a fourth of the way through it.  Unless I hit a roadblock of difficulty I think I'm going to keep working on this game slowly until I finish it.  It's really hitting the spot.

Puzzles, Dragons, and Mario?
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 22 May 2015, 10:00 am

There was a free demo for the 3DS Mario version of Puzzle and Dragon on the eShop so I grabbed it to see what the game was about.

I've never played Puzzle and Dragons before, but what I found was a game somewhere between a Bejeweled, Puzzle Quest, and Terra Battle.  If you're not familiar with those games, it's basically a game where you're trying to match 3 or more gems of the same color in a row or column.  Every time you start moving a gem it shifts all the others it travels through in order to get to it's final destination.  The game quickly becomes more about bumping other gems around rather than concentrating on the gem you're dragging.  Moving the gem around is timed, but you can freely move it as much as you want and as far as you want within the time limit.

You end up trying to bump as many gems into combos as you can within the time limit to set up massive damage.  You have a team of characters sitting above the gems, and those team members correspond to gem colors.  When you match up gems of their color they will attack.  So, line up 3 or more red gems and all your red characters will attack the enemy.

I had fun playing the intro level to the Mario version of Puzzle and Dragons but I got demolished in the expert level.

I felt like I must be missing something so I grabbed the regular Puzzle and Dragons on my phone and started to play (since it's free to play).  After less than a day I'm already bored of it.  It's completely designed to make you start running into roadblocks so you need to pay to play adequately.  Once I reached that point - and it only took a few hours -  I deleted the app from my phone and moved on.

Then I went back to the Puzzle and Dragons Mario Edition and tried the expert level again, thinking that maybe my newfound skill would help me.  It did not.

Now I'm kind of caught in a dilemma.  The core gameplay of Puzzle and Dragon isn't bad for a puzzle game, it's actually kind of fascinating.  The thing that turned me away from the game is the freemium/F2P structure... but the Mario version won't have that.  But apparently the Mario version gets very hard and that can be just as frustrating.

I'll probably hold off while I wait to read some reviews on the Mario version.  I'm glad I played around with these games a bunch, now I know what people are talking about when they mention the craze that is Puzzle and Dragons in Japan.

Thor: God of Thunder
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 21 May 2015, 10:00 am

Thor: God of Thunder is an awesome run of comics.  I want to tell you about it but I haven't done much writing about comics in the past.  I'm going to try anyway.

By picking up a Marvel Unlimited subscription earlier this month I've been able to dive into the entire Marvel backlog of comics.  Without having to worry about price I've been exploring all kinds of comics.  I give a new series an issue or two to grab me and then I either read the entire run or I move on to something else.

Thor: God of Thunder has been one of the best runs I've read.

It requires no previous knowledge about Thor or the greater Marvel Universe.  This is a huge plus for people like me who are just starting to get into comics.

The run comes in at about 25 comics, which is also a plus for me.  Long enough to tell some big story archs with weight behind them.  But not too long to overstay it's welcome.

Thor: God of Thunder actually covers Thor in three different time periods of his life at the same time.  They all weave together to tell a cohesive story on a galactic level.  There's Thor as a young god before he got his hammer, Thor as we know him (the Avenger), and old Thor who is one of the last gods.

The first arc of the story involves a God Killer.  He goes around to all the deities he can find and wipes them out.  Thor tries to track him down and end his killing spree.

There's a lot of depth to this series and if you have Marvel Unlimited I highly suggest checking it out.  Look for Thor: God of Thunder (2012) in the app and you'll find it.

Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 20 May 2015, 10:00 am

After my disappointing stint with Final Fantasy Tactics I thought I would go back to some of my early Final Fantasy roots and dig out my copy of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.  This is my all time favorite Game Boy Advance game and it's one of the Final Fantasy games that I've put the most time into.

When I booted up the game for the first time I already had two separate save games on the cartridge, each with over 50 hours played in them.

I started up a new game and after the intro missions it all came flooding back to me.  I have such strong memories of playing this game.  It's really good!  The general battle structure is similar to Final Fantasy Tactics but it gets rid of the deal-breaking annoying features of that game.

I love Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and I've beaten it multiple times.  And you know what?  After a couple hours with it I realized that I don't feel the need to beat it again right now.  It's a great game but I've already finished it in full on many occasions.  I don't think a long enough amount of time has passed for me to dig into this one again.

I'm going to put this game down with fond memories, knowing that I'll pick it up again some day in the future.  It really is a fantastic game.  But playing Final Fantasy Tactics Advance reminded me that I have never finished it's sequel, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance 2.  So that's the next game I'm diving into.

Final Fantasy Project Article List

Star Wars Lords of the Sith
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 19 May 2015, 10:00 am

I just finished Star Wars Lords of the Sith and it was excellent!

It's a novel in the new Star Wars canon.  It's about the Twilek struggle on their home planet of Ryloth and how the Empire interferes with them.  But that's more the backdrop than anything else.  What this book is truly about is the relationship between Darth Vader and the Emporer.

Through the eyes of both Vader and members of the resistance on Ryloth we get to see the events unfold as an assassination attempt is made against the Sith Lords.

This is one of the more interesting looks at Vader's character development that I've ever seen.  It does a good job of having Vader deal with his past as Anakin and in the process we, as the reader, get to learn more about the Dark Side of the Force.

I'm not sure how to talk more about what I liked in this novel without ruining some of the plot.  But, it's an easy recommendation if you're curious about Vader, the Emperor, or the Dark Side and want to learn more.

It looks like so far they've done a consistently good job with media in the new canon of Star Wars.  I'm still adjusting to having the old Expanded Universe wiped out, but if things continue like this I'll be happy.

The Force Unleashed II
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 18 May 2015, 10:00 am

I picked up The Force Unleashed and The Force Unleashed II last a few weeks ago in the Star Wars Steam sale.  After messing around in the original game for awhile I moved on to the sequel.  It's a better game by far.

I had much more fun playing around with it.  There are a ton of extra abilities and powers that are unlocked from the very beginning of the game which make it fun right away.  The controls are also tighter and the level designs are more interesting.  In all respects this seems like the superior game.

I don't think there has been a long enough amount of time since I last played it.  I remember the game really well, so it wasn't as exciting as last time I played it.  And unlike when I picked up the original The Force Unleashed last week, this one doesn't have DLC that I had never played.

So I'm done with The Force Unleashed II after playing with it for a few hours, but I'm leaving it on a happy note.  There's still a really good game here and I know I'll revisit it eventually.  And now I have it in my Steam library thanks to a great sale!

Starting SWTOR, Abandoning SWTOR
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 15 May 2015, 10:00 am

I've said in the past that one of the only things that would get me into SWTOR is if they made it possible to only play the story while ignoring the grind.  About a week after I said that on Twitter one of my friends pointed me to the announcement that all storyline missions would get a 12 times experience boost starting May 4th for the summer.

So I had to try it out.

I was immediately drawn in by the Star Wars aesthetics.  I love the universe and the lore so much.  And then I was almost as immediately let down by the MMO-ness of the game.

Apparently all my time with Final Fantasy XIV had tricked me into thinking that I enjoyed the MMO genre again.  That's not true.  I like Final Fantasy XIV, but it does a lot of things that separate it from the rest of the genre.  SWTOR doesn't do anything like that.  It just has the Star Wars IP going for it.

I tried to just play it like a single player game.  I did love the original Knight of the Old Republic single player game and this is supposed to be a true follow-up to it.

I got a Bounty Hunter to 25 before giving up on the character.  The story wasn't grabbing me and the planets I was on were very dull and uninteresting.

I asked some people I trust on Twitter about other class quests and I decided to give Sith Warrior a shot.  It was much more fun!  I liked the story a lot more than the Bounty Hunter, but after getting the Sith Warrior into the mid-20s the MMO-ness of the game wore on me too much.  I couldn't do it anymore.

So I'm done.  I gave SWTOR a good try.  I got two separate classes over a third of the way through their individual class quests and the game still didn't hook me.

Now I know that Final Fantasy XIV is an exception when it comes to MMOs for me.  Not the rule.  This makes me much less likely to try going back to other MMOs in the future.  Instead, I'll bide my time waiting for the Final Fantasy XIV expansion to come out.  At least now I know.

Revisiting Destiny and the Level Gap
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 14 May 2015, 10:00 am

I've been playing Destiny some more.  It's my current exercise-bike game.  I'll play it for an hour or two at a time while I'm doing my exercise for the day.

The gameplay still hold up really well.  The core of the game is just superb.  The gunplay, melee, grenade, and super power balance is spot on.  It's amazing how great they made it.

Now that I'm almost done leveling up my second character through the story I'm noticing some of the same issues creeping up.

My main problem with the game is that after you hit level 20 there is no clear progression track if you're a solo player like me.  I don't have time to organize groups of people to do the hard mode strikes or the endgame raids in Destiny.  The matchmaking works just fine for normal strike missions, but it falls apart after that.  And there is no matchmaking at all for raids.

I currently have a level 26 Warlock and an almost level 20 hunter.

Tons of information about the new expansion came out last week, and while some of it looks like it would be perfect for me I don't think I can play it.  The content starts at level 28.  My highest character is level 26.  There's no clear path for me, as a solo player, to get two more light levels.  So, an expansion that would be a day one buy for me (because of the new co-op mode) has become a never buy.

The Destiny team needs to take a note from the way MMOs typically do expansions.  They always seem to give returning players a clear and quick way to dive into the new content.  If Destiny had that, I would grab the new expansion for the co-op mode alone.

Summer Drought
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 13 May 2015, 10:00 am
Video games traditionally have a summer drought, and we're currently staring it in the face.  There are still a few releases trickling out this month that I'm excited out - mainline Splatoon - but the rest of the release calendar looks pretty bare between now and September.

This always happens, but I seem to forget about it until it hits each summer.  Summer is the time when people have the most free time but it's also the time of year where people spend their days outside.  Less people are inside playing videogames.

It makes sense that publishers would hold back big releases until the fall when they can start tying them in to the Holiday release season.

That means that this is the perfect time to settle in and work on your backlog.  Or hunker down with a game that you're having fun with and experience everything it has to offer.

I know I'm planning on getting into my backlog again.  I also want to keep working on my Final Fantasy Project by investigating more of the spin-off games.

While game releases are winding down the movie hype cycle is in full swing.  All the summer blockbusters are coming!  I'm looking forward to those.

And it's summer!  I'm going to get outside with my kids and play.  I also love sitting on my porch reading, and now is the perfect time.

How about you, dear readers?  What's your summer plan?

Final Fantasy Tactics
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 12 May 2015, 10:00 am

I don't like the difficulty curve in this game.  That's my initial impression.  I loved the first few missions of Final Fantasy Tactics, but then I ran into a brick wall as far as difficulty was concerned.

I should mention, I'm playing the remastered PSP version of this game on my PS Vita called Final Fantasy Tactics War of the Lions.  Just another reason to love my PS Vita.  It plays so many classic Playstation games.

Despite the difficulty curve that I ran into, Final Fantasy Tactics is a good game.  All the underlying systems are solid.  I can see how it's been a huge influence on all the tactical RPGs that have followed it.  And the story is great.  It's a conflict on a grand scale, but the main character is right in the thick of it.  It seems like Tactics delivers on the grand scale conflict in a way that Final Fantasy XII failed to do.

In some ways the game is starting to show it's age.  It has unskippable story sequences which suck if you have to retry the same battle multiple times.... which you will have to do.  And the reason you will is because this game has permadeath for it's characters.  If you character falls in battle and you don't revive them before that battle is over they are gone forever.  These characters that you've poured hours and hours of effort into are just gone.  So, you'll reset to your last save and try the battle again.  And again.  Until you can perfectly execute it without losing a single unit.

I don't like this at all.  It's my single biggest complaint about the game.  My time is precious to me these days and if I'm just banging my head against a wall without making progress I get frustrated.  I have been able to consistently win battles one my first try, but I typically lose a character or two.  Then I have to redo the battle over and over until I get it perfect.  It feels like a waste of time.

Despite the really cool underlying systems,  the steep difficulty curve and permadeath combine to make Final Fantasy Tactics a very frustrating game for me.

I've seen so many people say that this is their favorite Final Fantasy.  It might very well have been mine too if I discovered it in my teens when I had all the free time in the world.  But I feel like I'm ready to give up on the game.  I'd rather play a tactical RPG without permadeath.  I hate it as a mechanic.  It's punishing and not fun at all.

I haven't completely written Final Fantasy Tactics off, but I'm very close to it.  Next time the game frustrates me I'm going to be done with it.

Final Fantasy Project Article List

A Return to Hearthstone
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 11 May 2015, 10:00 am

Hearthstone is now available on phones!  As a result I've played it more in the last few weeks than I have in the last year.

It's a great fit on phones.  They already have the touch controls perfected from the tablet versions of the game, they just had to make some minor adjustments for smaller screen sizes and the game is good to go.  I actually think the phone version may be the best version of the game since it can always be in your pocket.

My problem now is that I'm really struggling with not having modern decks.  I don't have any of the expansion content and most of my good decks from when I initially played the game  just suck now.

It's frustrating because I really want to get into it again, but I either need to spend a ton of time earning gold to unlock cards or drop a bunch of real world money on the same thing.  If there were a core pack of cards that I could buy for a flat fee to catch back up I would do it.  But I can't really justify spending the amount of real world money I would need to spend on random cards in booster packs to achieve the same thing.

I'm not sure what to do at this point.  I love piloting a good deck, but the actual acquisition of cards and deck building aren't appealing to me.  It looks like I have a long and slow grind ahead if I want to make my decks viable again.

Right now I'm just having fun messing around with it on my phone but soon I'll need to decide if I want to make it a daily activity and really try to build my card library back up.

Marvel Heroes 2015
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 8 May 2015, 10:00 am

A bunch of my digital friends have been playing Marvel Heroes 2015 as a side game, so I thought it would be fun to check out.  It's mostly the fault of Belghast and the Aggrochat crew.  Since I play Final Fantasy XIV with them and listen to their weekly podcast they can definitely influence me to try out new games.

I've never really liked diablo-ish clickfests.  But, maybe I just wasn't playing them in the right setting.  Putting a superhero skin on the game makes it much more appealing to me somehow.  I'm actually really liking the game.  It's not going to become my main time-sink ever but it could consistently become a fun side game.

My biggest takeaway after a few days is that Storm kicks ass.  I tried a bunch of the free starter heroes, but Storm's huge AOE damage ability is super fun.  She's most definitely my main character now.  But, the good part is they have tons of heroes to choose from.  If you have a favorite from the Marvel Universe you can probably play as it.

The game is also free to play, but I haven't paid anything so far.  It seems to be completely viable to play through the game without paying money as long as you're happy with only having a couple heroes.  If you start buying more heroes or costumes then you're going to end up dropping real world money, but it seems to be completely optional.

It's free and it's on Steam.  If you have any interest in a Diablo style game in a Marvel Superhero setting there's no reason not to check it out.

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