Tag Archives: Magic the Gathering

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH: Treasures of the Deep

games I regret parting with treasures of the deep 01

My childhood best friend loved animals, especially reptiles and all kinds of fish. I don’t know if he still does, as our relationship fell apart during the college years, and one day he just vanished from my life. I’d like to imagine he works at a zoo or is a veterinarian, but thanks to the magic of Facebook stalking…I know that’s not true. For most of his birthdays, I’d get him a couple packs of whatever new set of Magic: The Gathering was out (the Invasion block era if you want to pinpoint it), but one year I got him a videogame, one that I thought played directly to his interests–Treasures of the Deep.

I don’t think he liked it or played it very much, as eventually I ended up borrowing it from him–y’know, like people do all the time with the gifts they give loved ones–and then later traded it in with a bunch of my other PlayStation 1 games when it was clear the birthday gift was not missed, not a winner. Hence, it being a game I regret parting with.

In Treasures of the Deep, which kind of sounds like an Indiana Jones subtitle that I’m sure Shia LaBeouf would love to steal without crediting, you play the part of Jack Runyan, an ex-Navy Seal who has become, naturally, a freelance underwater treasure hunter.  Your main objective is to complete 14 varied missions ranging from disasters, such as things going awry on oil rigs or a plane crash, to simple exploration type missions, like scouring the wreckage of a sunken ship for goodies. Along the way, you can pick up as much treasure as you can find; once a mission is complete, Runyan can use this golden booty to buy more weapons, equipment, and upgrades for SDVs (swimmer delivery vehicles) or submarines. By capturing rare sea creatures in nets, you can also earn extra money.

Similar to Colony Wars, another game I regret parting with (post still forthcoming), the game had a real sense of place. You’re underwater, and you felt that constantly. Plus, you’re not just in some ocean; there’s real-life locations to see, like the Bermuda Triangle, the Puerto Rico coast, and the Marina Trench. Dolphins sing, your radar beeps, bubbles escape, and the water swooshes to create a laid-back atmosphere, backed by a moody soundtrack-stirring ambience. I have both a fear and fascination with large bodies of water, able to find it extremely relaxing and also terrifying and full of unseen monsters. I don’t want to dive too deep, though I do want to know what’s down there. That probably explains why I can only remember the very early levels in Treasures of the Deep, as I played it extremely safe, keeping close to the surface. My recent time with Hero in the Ocean reminded me warmly of those early missions.

Unfortunately, the sad truth hidden in this post is that it’s currently a lot easier to get a copy of Treasures of the Deep back in my life, but it’s really the childhood best friend I want. Unfortunately, that priceless treasure sunk to the dark bottom of the ocean years ago, that fateful Thanksgiving break, and is now buried and irrevocable, with no radar map to help.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.

Might & Magic: Duel of Champions battles for my attention


Readers of this blog should know that I love just about any and every CCG I can get my hands on, whether or not I actually have someone to play against. Part of it is the collecting aspect, the fantasy that if I get this card or that card or three of that card then I can really build something special and unique to my playing style. It’s all about dreams, and this definitely started with Pokemon, Magic the Gathering, and Lord of the Rings, which I played with a small circle of flesh-and-blood friends. I also have some other card games in stuffed away in a box in my studio space that I’ve never played with anyone, such as The Simpsons TCG, Gloom, and Wyvern; I just have ’em to have ’em.

However, over the years, my gaming circle has diminished, though there are the occasional spouts of Munchkin and Lords of Waterdeep with friends, which are board games with some card-based elements, but not enough to get my palms sweating. Alas, I’m pretty much alone nowadays in my affection for CCGs and TCGs, and since I have no one else to share that love with, I must resist and sit on my hands. Even when it comes to digital card games. Sorry, Cardhunter. Bummer, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. Too bad, SolForge. My apologies–argggh, fuck it.

I can’t hold out forever.

I guess there was a beta for Might & Magic: Duel of Champions a couple months ago, but I only ever first heard of the game when it released–for free–on Steam recently. You can mostly thank Penny Arcade for tweeting about it, but I decided enough was enough, clicked “play,” and waited for the game to finish up its installation thing, which did not take very long. However, before I could partake in any collectible carding, I first had to create a Uplay account, much to my disliking–a minor annoyance at best. But then it’s right into the action of this fantasy-themed strategic online CCG where you choose a hero, build an army of creatures, cast spells and fortunes, and defeat your opponent as swiftly as possible. Basically, Magic: The Gathering, but a teensy bit different in a few areas, just enough so that Wizards of the Coast does not come armed with lawyers and paperwork and turn one Lightning Bolts.

Duel of Champions opens with a faction selection: Haven (protection and healing), Inferno (attack damage), or Necropolis (infecting and stealing life). Depending which one you align with, you’ll see a different story and deck of cards to muck around with. I went with Haven as it reminded me the most of white weenie MTG decks, where it is all about small creatures and protecting yourself with spells. The campaign starts with a lengthy, but vital tutorial that teaches you all the basics before padding off main story missions. Each encounter has some–well, to me–throwaway dialogue at the beginning that ties into the plot, and you battle with cards to earn XP, gold, and seals. To win, you have to damage your opponent’s hero until he or she has no more health.

In order to play cards, you not only have to use stored resources (like mana, but not), but also a combination of three different tracked elements: Might, Magic, and Destiny. Each turn, the player can increase one of these stats or their hero can use a special ability to do something else. I think the Haven hero lets you draw an extra card? Sorry, I don’t remember. Also, each player has eight event cards on the side, which are shuffled together and brought out in twos. These rotate around with each use and can only be activated once a turn if you can pay for the cost, with effects that generally target all players, negative and positive. They remind me of portals/dungeons from Munchkin and planes in MTG, in that they often are the vital game-changers in any round.

After all that, there are three main types of main cards found in every hero’s deck: creatures, spells, and fortunes. Data printed on creature cards correspond to an attack score, a retaliation score (damage dealt back to an attacking creature), and its overall health points. Health does not regenerate at the end of the turn like in MTG, meaning you have to be always aware of who is hurt the most. Spell, so far, are rather straightforward, such as raising the strength of a creature or healing its wounds. Fortune cards are like mini-event card that seem to only effect you and play around with the rules of the game.

And so it goes: you play cards, perform your actions, attack, and prepare, and then the other player goes. An opponent’s turn can sometimes go by in a blink of an eye, so you have to be paying attention, but truthfully…it’s a bit lifeless against artificial intelligence, but it’s all I have currently. Not terrible, mind you; just void of something. I suspect once I’m further along I can do a little online multiplayer and see what that’s like, but for a free card game riffing on what MTG created, it’s pretty good and has enough tweaks to make it a wee bit more interesting than a blatant clone. I certainly am playing it more than I did that other Might & Magic title. And if you read through all this with wild, excited eyes and totally grokked all that I wrote, please come over and play card games with me on the weekend. I have plenty to try. Any time is fine.

Top of the mornin’ to ya, 41,000 Gamerscore

41000 GS 4x1HurleyCanonBall

When I first got my Xbox 360 some three or four years ago and began racking up Achievement points, I cared very much about my Gamerscore. In fact, I was able to hit 10,000 points on the dot, and from that moment I knew that I’d always have the internal goal to hit such milestones perfectly. Chalk it up to some light OCD or strange compulsions or me continuing to focus on the things that matter the least, but there’s something so nice about a big solid number like that. I continued on slowly, but steadfast, earning 20,000 Gamerscore and 30,000 Gamerscore a year apart from one another.

Unfortunately, I was unable to get 40,000 Gamerscore perfectly. Yeah, I know. Boo. Big boo. A big boo-hoo doodie doo. We can blame Fable III, as it suddenly awarded me an Achievement worth 85 Gamerscore points, which I was not banking on, putting me well over 40,000 in one fell beep. And so the tradition broke. I was saddened, but not completely sad. My love for Achievements and desire to unlock many of them has certainly withered, but I set a new–if less lofty–goal for getting 41,000 Gamerscore, and hit the mark last night. No, really. Check it out:

PaulyAulyWog 41000 GS

The free games Doritos Crash Course 2 and Magic the Gathering 2013 helped me get there. For DCC2, just some light grinding got me two Achievements, and they just hand you a bunch in MtG2013 for playing the first few parts of the campaign. So it wasn’t exactly a challenge, but that’s okay.

And I still plan to go for 50,000 Gamerscore because chances are very low that I’ll be moving into the next generation of gaming consoles this year. If I do, it’ll probably be with the PlayStation 4, but I have plenty of games in my collection still to plan and unlock Achievements in. Like Dead Rising 2, Assassin’s Creed II, and many others I’ve yet to even touch.

But for now, let’s just bask in the unconventional glory that is 41,000 Gamerscore.

It’s hard to stay alive in a horror-ridden basement

binding of isaac thoughts

I love trading cards, and I mostly blame Magic: The Gathering for it, but this affection traces back further than that to when I was a wee lad, collecting Fleer baseball and Marvel cards with a vigor I’ve never since seen again. I still have much of my collection stashed away in boxes and binders, but have mostly fallen away from collecting cards due to the cost these days and the fact that, part of the fun, is trading X and Y for Z with other collectors. Alas, I can count the number of real-life friends I have on one blender-mangled hand, and none of them are down with this type of lifestyle.

That all said, Steam now has trading cards, and while I still don’t fully understand how the system works, I find it fascinating nonetheless. Also, with these being digital trading cards, I no longer have to worry about accidentally bending or nipping them, as well as how to store them safely amongst everything else crowding up my studio space. Basically, you play a specific game, and a new trading card is added to your inventory roughly every 30 minutes. However, you can only earn so many, say 5 out of 9 cards, and thus have to either trade with other players or sell/buy cards online. Once you complete a set, you can craft a badge which gets you some background art, new emoticons, discounts on other Steam games, and XP to level up. It’s an odd meta game that I have a hard time ignoring. Thankfully, I haven’t gone full tilt yet, selling only one duplicate for $0.27 and sitting on it while I figure out my plan of attack.

I was able to give Grinding Down long-standing compadre Greg Noe some of my extra cards from The Binding of Isaac, allowing him to craft his first badge. It was both exciting and not. Like when you’re seven, and you are watching your best friend opening his birthday gifts. I believe he has some Stacking cards for me, too, but last time we attempted to trade the system kept glitching out. Another time, me hopes. I’m also pretty close on completing all the cards for Super Meat Boy.

Anyways, even though I got all the cards that I possibly could to drop from The Binding of Isaac, I’ve been playing a lot of it lately. Like, first to relax and just mindlessly see how far I can go, and then immediately after try my hardest to actively reach the end. Unfortunately, I’ve still not gotten past the Depths, but I feel like I’m getting better with every run. However, getting far actually requires a ton of luck, in that certain items will be more beneficial than others. Noe mentioned that a friend of his beat it on his first run, to which I replied, “Fuck him.” Trust me. When I beat The Binding of Isaac on my 157th run, now that will sound impressive.

Bosses that I just can’t seem to grok:

  • Widow
  • Pin
  • Chub

But it’s not actually the bosses that often slow me down or bring my flight of fancy to a grinding halt. Just your day-to-day room enemies are enough to give you grief if you don’t know how to handle them or can’t hit the keys fast enough, and I particularly hate entering a room to find it filled with charger maggots, hoppers, knights, keepers, and globins. On the other hand, I’m a pro at dealing with flies and piles of poo.

Hopefully, luck will be with me one day soon, giving me the best items from the get-go and opening a clear path to Mom. If I can just beat The Binding of Isaac once, I will feel a great wealth of accomplishment, because it really isn’t a simple task. I do have to wonder if I’d be any better at the game using a controller, but I don’t think, unlike Hotline Miami, another tough title requiring quick reflexes, that it offers gamepad support.

Magic: The Gathering and its hold on me still

I’m not just a videogame fanatic, but an extreme lover of all kinds of games. Board games, TCGs, CCGs, Solitaire, seeing how many pretzels one can fit in their mouth, and so on. In fact, I’d almost go the distance and say I love board games and card games more than console gaming except for one major hiccup: I rarely have anyone to play with. It’s usually just my fiancée and I playing a few rounds of Munchkin or the occasional grumble match known as Scrabble among family members. In the past I’ve dabbled in Killer Bunnies, Chez Geek, MagiNation (::shudders::), Settlers of Catan, Descent, and, most importantly, Magic: The Gathering.

Now, I’m not going into my full MtG history just yet. That’s a long and winding road, but I can say that the last time I played against a real life opponent was well over six or seven years ago. Yet my interest in the game has never waned. To fill this void, there’s Magic: The Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers, which is decent enough, but certainly lacks the fun and creative outlet of deck customization. Still, every day, I continue to check spoilers of new, upcoming sets and read detailed, in-depth articles about the functionality of specific cards and draft formats and so on. I can’t get away from it…despite being nowhere near any of it.

Anyways, it’s cards like Khalni Hydra, a newly revealed beastie from the upcoming Rise of the Eldrazi set, that really gets me yearning:

Yeah, that’s an 8/8 trampler…for free. Any easy peasy task for any green-loving planeswalker, no doubt. Something I’ve always been at heart. Plus, hydras rock. Already, deck ideas are bouncing around in my head on how to abuse this hydra to no end. Drop two or three into an elf deck or saproling and you’re good to go. I just wonder if the developers learned their lesson after Urza’s Saga and the affinity for artifacts keyword from Mirrodin when it comes to giving stuff away for free. Time will tell for this one.

Want more spoilers for Rise of the Eldrazi? Make with the clicky right here.

So, even though I’ve stayed away from social MtG gaming, I’d like to think I know a decent amount about the game and its evolution over the past few years. Alas, I know I don’t. Looking at spoiler lists and reading strategy guides do nothing for a game like MtG. It has to be played–experienced firsthand–to be understood. While I grok the rules of landfall, I have no idea how it plays.

Every time a prerelease event looms near, I always think, “Man, that’d be fun. Getting back into Magic.” But then it never happens. Time, money, severe anxiety–they all play a part. And so I just keep on reading, reading, and yearning, in that order.

An update of sorts, mainly bits and pieces


Hmm, it’s been a pretty busy weekend/week, and sadly that means I haven’t had much time for videogaming. Between the day job, revealing the website for my forthcoming comic Supertown, and the cursed return of all my favorite TV shows, I just haven’t had the (mental) energy to plop down and game the night away. Sure, I could watch less TV, but The Office and House are too good to not see.

Okay, enough excuses. Here’s some tidbits.

Bought Scribblenauts. It could easily be summarized as “a fantastic toy, but a flawed game.” The very first word I typed in was “LOLcat,” which did not work, but then I remembered I was thinking actually of “keyboard cat.” That did work, and I quickly summoned a dragon to eat it. Feel free to analyze that as you wish. The one nice thing is that you don’t have to play every single level, just a few to open up more, and then you can hop to and fro from the world map. The music is pretty fantastic though.

Beat Shadow Complex. For a second time. This trek though was to get 100% of items, and man it was a bit tricky. Sadly, I had to rely on a guide to get two or three of them, but once you have everything you totally feel like a badass walking into battle. Will probably play through one more time to get the Level 50 achievement, as well as the less than 13% items achievement (which I’m anxious to even try). All in all, a really fun game, and I generally don’t play ’em more than once so this is obviously saying something.

And I finished up the main campaign in Magic: The Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers. Did not take very long to knock Tezzeret on his butt, and I’m still unsure how I feel about this stripped down version. Sure, it’s a wonderful introduction to the trading card game, but man does it feel so empty.

Full reviews coming on all of these games. When? Whenever.

Puzzling Master to the Extreme

Puzzling Master (20G): Completed all challenges

Last night I ran through all the puzzle challenges in Magic: The Gathering — Duels of the Planeswalkers, which were fairly basic, easy-to-solve brainteasers in the mindset of the ones previously published in The Duelist. While I liked the majority of them, I felt they were a bit too obvious and wished for, well, for lack of a better word, something more challenging. It didn’t take many tries to reach an answer, especially since there were multiple ways to outdo an enemy. I only used a guide after the fact to see how others handled certain situations.

Don’t mind me though, this is just some moaning and groaning because while Magic: The Gathering — Duels of the Planeswalkers is a fun waste of time, it isn’t the Magic: The Gathering I went through high school playing with friends in the cafeteria. Little deck customizing, odd timing issues when it comes to responding with an activated ability or spell, and bad, bad 80s rock muzac.

Also, I hate online-only achievements (<– silver account).

Two new Xbox Live Arcade games downloaded

Needed a little pick-me-up last Friday evening, so I purchased some Microsoft Space Bucks and downloaded Shadow Complex:


…and Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers:


I’ve had only a limited amount of play-time with both games, but so far they’re not terrible. In fact, Shadow Complex is quite impressive for an Xbox Live Arcade title, doing many a things great. Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers is not the MTG I’m used to playing, but now that I lack a group of friends to play with it does a decent job of filling said void. More later as I continue to work through ’em…