Tag Archives: Microsoft

State of Decay 2, the categorical and harsh suffer sim

I never played the original State of Decay, but I really wanted to. On paper, it sounded challenging, but rewarding, putting you firmly into that fantastic scenario we all ponder now and again, thanks to so much post-apocalyptic media in our lives: how would you survive in a world gone to shit? I know I personally wouldn’t last long due to my lack of cardio and upper-body strength, but I’d hope I could contribute to a community in other ways. Either by organizing our rations and inventory or even just making sure people knew what goals needed to be accomplished and by when. Still, eventually, I’d be zombie food. Or even a zombie myself.

So far, for my little community in State of Decay 2, despite things going pretty poorly from time to time, no one has died (editor’s note: I wrote this sentence almost three months ago, but as of mid-September I have had a member die out in the field trying to take on an infestation by himself, insert sad face here). I take great pride in this because there’s been some seriously close calls. However, Choe, our resident nurse, got frustrated with the lack of medicine and eventually left the group. Otherwise, I’ve been able to keep people somewhat satisfied, even if morale is constantly bouncing between stable and poor and nobody wants to be on latrine duty.

It’s not one hundred percent fun to play, and I constantly feel like I’m just treading water and making very little progress. The area around my tiny community is mostly cleared out of zombies, but keeping my group of people healthy and happy is a constant task that never seems to churn out great results. Basically, I pick a spot on the map to investigate, take a friend with me, use our only car which is damaged and low on gas, go kill a few zombies, and discover, if at most, a few items to bring back, but mostly an empty shack or house. Rucksacks are the most important thing to find, but they are few and far between, so I’ve been relying mostly on calling in special drops to pick up…which feels a little like cheating sometimes.

Fast forward to now-ish, and I basically haven’t played the game in a few months…for specific reasons. Well, I noticed that a new piece of DLC came out recently called Daybreak, and it is part of the season pass which I guess I purchased at some point. It’s a brand-new game mode for State of Decay 2 completely separate from your base community. Basically, it’s a re-playable co-op “zombie siege” experience, something akin to Horde mode in Gears of War 4. You and up to three teammates play as elite Red Talon soldiers, armed with potent high-end weaponry. Working together, you must defend a fortified position where a technician needs time to repair a critical satellite relay. You’ll have to survive seven waves of increasingly difficult swarms of zombies, including the brand new blood plague juggernaut, with the ultimate goal being keeping the technician alive. Do that, and you win.

Between each wave, you can run out into the woods to pick up more ammo, weapons, and wall repair kits from CLEO drops. You only have two minutes though to grab what you can before a new wave deploys upon your small fortress. What I really like about playing Daybreak is that you earn weapons–melee, guns, and tossed explosives–to use in both further attempts at the DLC, but also in the main State of Decay 2 mode. You can even earn the opportunity to recruit a Red Talon soldier into your base community. I’ve attempted keeping the technician alive twice now–first time, we were successful, and the second time, he got killed in the final wave. Either way, it’s a pretty fun mode that, thanks to you earning new gear and being able to bring it back to your main game mode, feels more connected than it probably needed to be, even if it feels a little repetitive.

I do look forward to playing more, but a part of me now just wants to unlock all the best gear and weapons first in Daybreak and then start a new community over, especially since I just lost Mike who was suppose to become my group’s leader. At some point, I’ll have to avenge his death, take back all his good gear, and focus on someone else to take the lead, but even the thought of that currently doesn’t fill me with excitement. In the end, that’s kind of what State of Decay 2 is, a game I both want to play and stay far away from because it is draining. I now know why people refer to it as a suffer sim…you do it to yourself, really.

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2018 Game Review Haiku, #38 – Korgan (Prologue)

Impending evil
Use three characters to fight
First bite free, don’t eat

For 2018, I’m mixing things up by fusing my marvelous artwork and even more amazing skills at writing videogame-themed haikus to give you…a piece of artwork followed by a haiku. I know, it’s crazy. Here’s hoping you like at least one aspect or even both, and I’m curious to see if my drawing style changes at all over three hundred and sixty-five days (no leap year until 2020, kids). Okay, another year of 5–7–5 syllable counts is officially a go.

My first solo chicken dinner in PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

The pier was bereft of life. Not a single other soul dropped there, as far as my eyes could tell when quickly scanning the sky as I parachuted to the dirt. It was just me, and 99 madmen elsewhere on the main island. Time to scavenge.

I immediately made for the largest house in the area, scooping up every weapon, ammunition box, and gear item I could before eventually settling down in the attic. I found two different rifles and a pistol. I left the crossbow and bolts where they lay upstairs, an emergency backup option only. Overall, I had some decent stuff. Not enough ammo–because there’s never enough ammo in an isolated and cutoff existence where the only way to keep on eatin’ is to shoot everyone still–but enough ammo for the time being. I checked to see where the circle was. Somehow, I was almost directly in the middle of it. Phew. I stayed put, watching out the windows and listening for any movement downstairs. I mostly put on my patience pants and waited.

Outside, the engine of a vehicle drawing near got my attention. I hurried to the closest window and spotted a large truck trying to get up and over some small hills right outside my building. I didn’t hesitate, opening fire, the window shattering glass everywhere, but I think I only landed one shot before the player drove off to safety out of range. Oh well. Also, my cover was now blown, but I knew what was coming, and so I got prone on the floor in front of the staircase, waiting, listening. A minute or two later a man came up the stairs, and I fired instinctively, not even giving him a chance to know where exactly I was. I looted his body for goodies, but didn’t get any more ammo for my weapons. One kill.

By then, the circle had changed, shrinking away from me and the pier and up north towards the farmland. Alas, I would have to move and leave my safe perch on high. I zipped out of the house, keeping low and to the shadows, and made my way to what I quickly saw was a very open field. Not good. I got just inside the circle and instantly found a bush to squat in, watching my surroundings like a hawk. I didn’t move until the blue started creeping in more, and after taking a few steps, someone behind me began shooting at my butt. I spun around and managed to take them out without receiving much damage, but there was no time to loot or even take in the moment–the blue crept onwards. Two kills.

I made it to another bush just inside the circle unscathed. In the distance, I saw two players battling it out, and I watched with concerned interest as one took out the other and then began crawling on the ground…right in my direction. I waited patiently, popped out of my bush, and took him out. Three kills. At this point, my one rifle was now out of ammo. That left me with another rifle with like 20 shots and a pistol with something like 60 rounds. I also had some kind of grenade, but I never remember to use grenades.

As I moved closer to the next circle, a player in a vehicle came out me, clearly intent on running me down. I fired, using all of my ammo, but took the player out. Naturally, I stole their car. Four kills. Also, it had a full tank of gas and was not terribly damaged, so I was feeling really good about that, especially since I could see/hear another player nearby driving around in a vehicle too.

At this point, there were four people left alive, one of them being little ol’ me. One was driving around, trying to ram me, and two…were clearly hiding nearby. There were no buildings, only bushes. Both of us drove around in circles in the circle, hoping to find these hiders. I managed to run one over. Five kills.

It got down to two players left after the other guy in the car ran over the third remaining madman, and unfortunately we couldn’t just drive our vehicles around forever. This player certainly thought the strategy of putting it into reverse and trying to run me over backwards sound, while I took pot-shots from my P1911 pistol and hurried out of the blue. Using a buggy for cover, I sealed the deal. Sorry, TheScoobySnoop. My hands were shaking, and Melanie and I both let out an exclamation so quickly and loudly that scared our cat Timmy off of the couch. It was, to simply say, exhilarating.

Six kills.

Winner winner, chicken dinner.

If you wish for peace, be ready to wait in Battle Ages

battle-ages-xbox-one-gd-impressions

One of my more fonder early gaming on a PC moments was the time I spent in Age of Empires, a history-based real-time strategy video game developed by Ensemble Studios and published by Microsoft. Yes, despite my natural disdain for the majority of RTS games out there, save for things like Kingdom Rush and the random run of a Command & Conquer: Red Alert skirmish, I did have a good time with that one, as it was a much more methodically paced foray into building up your camp and defending it when deemed necessary. It was definitely more Civilization than Warcraft, and that’s probably why I did better at the whole goal of trying to maintain peace for years on end. I’m into peace, majorly.

Anyways, Battle Ages is without a doubt no successor to Age of Empires, but it tries to guide the player slowly through different historical ages and creates one-off scenarios to do battle with other players’ camps or in-game missions. The problem is, right from the start, it’s a free-to-play game, and that means progress barriers for those unwillingly to pay money to knock those walls down. Like me. I started playing Battle Ages back in October 2016, and I guess I’ll consider myself being done with it as of this month. There’s still a new age to reach, as well as four seemingly unattainable Achievements, so I’m ready to uninstall the whole thing as soon as this post gets posted. Boom.

I’ve dipped into Battle Ages almost daily, whether to collect coins or begin researching a soldier or upgrade a building, because all those things are important to growing a strong, survivable settlement, as well as heavy on time. Naturally, the timers begin short, with some ranging in the 15-30 minutes range. A few, such as for upgrading landmines or walls, are instant, so long as you have enough free workers available for the job. By the end though, you’ll be waiting up to 5-6 days for some processes to complete. You could, of course, use money to bypass these timers via the use of jewels, the game’s special currency, but you don’t need to, if you are patient enough to wait. You will earn some jewels as you play, and I ended up burning a bunch to instantly have enough coins to push my civilization into the next era.

At some point during my journey to earn more gold so I could upgrade quicker, I broke some sort of peace treaty. This meant that, while I wasn’t playing Battle Ages, other people playing the game could attack my settlement and steal my hard-earned coins, as well as deplete my stock of soldiers. Boo to that. There were times that it felt like I was going nowhere, earning just enough gold to repair my bombs and restock my army tents. You can also go through a number of campaign missions where you attack a settlement and try to utterly destroy it, and these range in difficulty, but the most annoying thing for these is that, after you do one, you need to restock your army and call-in help before doing the next one. I eventually stopped doing these early on and stuck to timers for earning money and fame…which is probably why it took me so long to reach the Industrial Age.

So, with all that said, my time with Battle Ages has come to a close. I don’t see myself acquiring the four following Achievements left unpopped on my account:

  • Moving on Up (Acquire 2,500 trophies in battle)
  • Sticky Fingers (Steal 1,000,000 coins from the enemy)
  • Hold the Line (Achieve 250 defensive victories)
  • For the Win (Achieve 250 offensive victories)

If anything, Moving on Up seems permanently glitched, having been stuck at 40% for me since last year. Unless I’m doing something wrong. Either way, whatever. No Achievement for lowercase trophies. Well, when I get that next free-to-play, lots-of-timers itch and Fallout Shelter isn’t doing the job, I also have Battle Islands: Commanders from the same publisher 505 Games to get into, with that one focusing on World War II.

I’m floating in a most peculiar way in Jetpac’s space

Y’all should know by now that I’d  do nearly anything for a free game. Some things I won’t do include swimming with sharks, eating an entire jar of mayonnaise, or going on one of those roller-coasters where you are dangling in the air from shoulder straps, your feet inches away from smacking into something solid and breaking into a thousand pieces. Otherwise, so long as I don’t end up in a lot of physical pain, I’m game.

And so, during this past week of E3 2017 shenanigans, there was a chance to earn Rare Replay, No Time to Explain, The Final Station, and a bunch of other digital rewards for zero dollars by simply watching Microsoft’s press conference live through Mixer, its streaming service formally known as Beam. Alas, I was too late to catch the conference, but there were other chances to participate throughout the week.

Of all those goodies, Rare Replay is the “game” I was most excited to receive; it’s a big collection of Rare’s history, a company that, after reviewing its portfolio, I have actually had little contact with, but appreciate their humor and love of colorful graphics from afar. I think I have only ever played one Rare game found in the collection, and that was Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. Outside the collection, I’ve enjoyed Marble Madness, Donkey Kong Country, Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest (sorry, not you, Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble!), and that opening level repeatedly on an emulated copy of GoldenEye 007 (please don’t arrest me). So there’s a lot to try out for the first time in this collection, and I have no intentions of playing through it in chronological order, but I did start it all off with Rare’s first game Jetpac, back when the company was called Ultimate Play the Game.

Jetman’s plight in Jetpac is one that pre-dates Groundhog Day, the film, by about ten years, but surely was an inspiration to anyone thinking about what it meant to be stuck in a time loop, repeating the same day and tasks again and again. Jetman must assemble his rocket (which spawns in installments scattered around the map) and fill it with a select amount of fuel before taking off to the next planet. This procedure is then repeated, over and over, with no end seemingly in sight. In addition to this, Jetman has to defend himself from the planet’s native aliens, which a varied and have different attack patterns. Some move diagonally, and others lock on to the tiny astronaut and follow him around the screen. He’s got a ray gun that shoots horizontal lasers for defense, and things like gems can be collected for bonus points.

By and far, my favorite thing about Jetpac is its wraparound world. You go to one edge of the screen, cross over, and appear on the other side. This is extremely handy when trying to avoid a group of enemies or make a shortcut to the rocketship. I’m sure this wasn’t the first game to do this, but I’m too tired to look up when Mario Bros. came out versus this game. Regardless, it works, and I have to say that, some 34 years later, the game plays pretty great. Jetman is pretty quick to move around, and the only problem I had was with collision on the platforms, which made him bounce back, often right into an alien enemy I was trying to avoid. The repetitious gameplay gets old, but one has to remember that this came from an era of high scores and bragging.

Thankfully, Rare Replay throws in some additional things to do, both in their milestone quests and snapshot features. Milestones are things like “kill X number of aliens” or “fill your rocketship up with fuel X times” while snapshots make things a little more tricky. One took away Jetman’s laser gun, forcing you to maneuver on your own quick wits, and another tasked him with completing five wraparounds in a row without dying. I happily completed all of these and popped every Achievement related to the title.

There are other games in the Jetpac series left to try out in Rare Replay, but I don’t know what I will tackle next. I suspect I’ll save some of the collectathons for later in life, when I have the time and am in a find shiny things kind of mood. Either way, I highly recommend you check out Jetpac and to not be put off by its age or graphics, of which I think the latter is pretty cool. The sound effects department is lacking, but I absolutely love the bright, crisp colors–the blurry screenshot above doesn’t do it justice, I know–and there’s a surprising amount of strategy and skill involved in bringing canisters of fuel to and fro. Certainly more than I expected when first launching it, and it’s always great to see where a company started. Here’s hoping Sea of Thieves incorporates some elements from Jetpac, like bringing bits of grog back to your ship one glass at a time until there’s enough to get the entire crew wasted and off to some other island.

Cut the Rope, grind out some free Achievements

I’m a curious fella, and so I like to download a range of freebies, judging nothing by its cover or title or clearly-designed-for-mobile artstyle, from walking simulators to platformers to physics-based puzzle games. Like Cut the Rope. Now, I got Cut the Rope as a free download on the Windows Store back in November 2016, many moons after everyone probably already played it on their phones. Or somewhere else. No, really. Allow me to list a few of the places you could have already played ZeptoLab’s indie darling from October 2010: iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Leap Motion, BlackBerry 10, Symbian, BlackBerry PlayBook, DSiWare, Mac OS X Browser, BlackBerry, Nintendo 3DS (Nintendo eShop), Chrome OS, Firefox OS, Nook, iPad, and so on. I’m sure I missed a few platforms too. Sheesh.

Cut the Rope‘s objective, from its title alone, should be self-explanatory, but there’s a little more to it than simply snipping some string. Sorry, I love alliteration. Your true goal is to feed candy to a little green creature named Om Nom while collecting stars. The candy just happens to be tied up by a bunch of ropes, and by cutting them and using other elements in the level, like bubbles and puffs of air, along with general physics and momentum, you must guide the candy to Om Nom’s gaping mouth. You can use your finger to cut by swiping it across the touchscreen, but I’m cooler than that and played it on my laptop so imagine the same sweet maneuver, but done on a less-than-stellar trackpad. Boom goes the dynamite. It actually works fine, with the bonus of not having to look at my phone any more than I already do.

I was initially under the impression that Cut the Rope was like nearly every other free-to-play iteration built around getting three stars in a level out there–y’know, Angry Birds, Bad Piggies, Crush the Castle, and on for infinity. Nope. Well, not this version from the Windows Store, at least. If anything, this is Nintendo’s take on free-to-start, with only the first six levels of the first two worlds available for play and the remainder under lock and key. I thought I’d get the whole game and just have to occasionally close some advertisements or deal with an energy meter that limited how much I can play. Turns out, my play time was constricted, to only 12 levels that clearly hinted at fun gameplay and a super cute aesthetic, but I found one way to milk this cow for all it ultimately had. Ew, milk. I must think of a better metaphor for next time; anyways, I’m talking about Achievements. They’re those digital rewards I’m still somewhat interested in popping for the games I play.

Yes, despite only have access to a few early levels, I was able to unlock nine of Cut the Rope‘s 19 Achievements. Not bad for zero pennies and maybe an hour and change of my time. These Achievements revolved around doing tasks a specific amount, such as cutting X ropes, popping X bubbles, and losing X pieces of candy and were easily earn-able through repetition. Find a level that quickly lets you cut, pop, and drop, do it, restart, and the cycle is formed. I was also able to pop “Tummy Teaser,” which tasks you with getting Om Nom to open his mouth 10 times in a row in one of world 1’s basic levels, using a piece of candy on a single rope and having it swing back and forth in front of the teeny green beast for a bit. Strange enough, the Internet said this could only be done later on, in the full version. So this just proves my amazing prowess.

But yeah, ringing these twelve levels dry for Achievements with the music turned off and something else occupying my ears was the most fun I could come up with for Cut the Rope, seeing as the gameplay didn’t hook me enough to purchase the rest of the levels. I ran into this problem before with Can You Escape, also from the Windows Store, so I have to start being a little more critical in my downloading decisions because something labeled free might not always mean complete. That said, let the countdown begin until I inevitably grab Cut the Rope 2, which, in its description, says this:

SWEET! Cut the Rope 2 has arrived and you can enjoy the full adventure for FREE!

Uh huh. Sure.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #48 – Ben-Hur

2016 gd games completed ben hur

Take the reins, Ben-Hur
Steer this freebie, for glory
Easy Gamerscore

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.