Tag Archives: Minecraft

2017 Game Review Haiku, #15 – Minecraft: Story Mode, Episode 1 “The Order of the Stone”

2017-gd-games-completed-minecraft-telltale-episode-1

EnderCon goes wrong
Find legendary people
More like Choicecraft, hurr

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

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Perishing is progress for Temple of Yog’s tributes

temple of yog early impressions gd

Let’s get the nitty-gritty out of the way: I’m buddies with Lee Bretschneider, the artist from ChudChud Industries and main pixel-morpher on the company’s first release Temple of Yog, which dropped on the Nintendo Wii U’s eShop last week, alongside something called Mimecrass. Real quick aside, spellcheck suggests the following instead of nitty-gritty, which I find amusing–bitty-gritty, nutty-gritty, natty-gritty, titty-gritty, and ditty-gritty. Also, I paid for Temple of Yog with my own hard-earned digital dollars, so don’t go thinking I’m on the take here. The last and only free game I got for review purposes was Monster Tale…a game that had you looking between two screens in the middle of all the action. Hmm, coincidence.

Temple of Yog‘s lore is thick with murky ancient history and told through a somewhat difficult font to read. Here’s what I’ve grokked so far: after Ao the Original, the leader of a small band of villagers, sacrificed himself for the greater good, things have been pretty good for said band of villagers. They found refuge outside a large temple’s base, finding great returns in terms of ripe fruit and fresh fish. The settlement prospered in the Zenith Portal’s protective glow. However, in appreciation for the temple’s generosity, the villagers provide a sacrificial offering via someone‘s life. Depending on how great of a warrior this someone is will affect how the village continues to grow.

Basically: get as far as you can and collect as many Boon points before you die so that you can upgrade your different classes to be stronger, better, more prepared for the next run. Think Rogue Legacy, but without the castle or hereditary traits. Or replace the castle with guilds. It’s a twin-stick shooter, so you move your character with the left stick and fire magic projectiles with the right. Everything you kill and do earns you Boon points, including moving on to the next area, which means players that can’t help but clear out every enemy in both the Light and Shadow realms will benefit the most. Right, there’s two realms, which you can switch between at will: one is on your TV screen, and the other below on the Wii U GamePad. However, you can only linger in the Shadow world for so long until your meter drains.

Before heading through the Zenith Portal to begin racking up Boon points, you’ll have to pick one of four classes: Holy Augur, Cult of the Magi, Livid Blade, or Rogue’s Nest. Each has their own stats and special abilities, and I’ve tried every one now, but found that I’m only interested in the Holy Augur guild. Why? Its special power is healing, a necessity when making headway through a jungle full of dangerous creatures. They also have fantastic reach. I’ve spent a lot of Boon points enhancing this guild the most. As you explore, you can find special items–like boots that make you move faster–as well as crystals that will give you side objectives for a chance to earn extra Boon. I wish there was more of the latter, or that the crystals showed up more frequently, as it gives me something to work towards, other than just eventually buying the farm.

Look, I’m not great at Temple of Yog. This has been my best run yet, getting as far as fighting the first giant wolf (warg?), but Fromage the Beloved hit the ground fast with one bite from its snout. Turns out, you should attack wolves from behind. Since the floors are randomly generated, some areas are tougher than others. I’ve encountered empty Light worlds, a Light world with one static plant monster, and then another filled with six to seven spiders, all bent on spitting in my face. This randomization greatly affects, at least for me, how far I’ll make it in a run. It also helps feed the “one more run” mentality.

Not every element here is a worthy sacrifice. This might be a problem only specific to me, but I had to “pause” the game a few times during runs, either to get a phone call or clean up surprise kitty cat vomit, and my natural inclination is to hit the “+” button. Nope. That doesn’t pause; it automatically sacrifices your character, and yes, I did this a few times before learning from my mistake. Still, when you are in a world where everything wants to murder you, a pause button would be welcome. I’ve also spawned inside a spider or right next to a spider when moving on to a new level, which is not ideal. Lastly, I play with the Wii U GamePad in my lap, which makes looking down at it and away from the TV screen a dangerous and unnerving task. Others might be better at it, but I’m still hesitant to do it often.

So, this first slice of Temple of Yog falls under the label of “The First Epoch,” with three further updates forthcoming next year. Early investors, like me, will get those for free, but others will have to suffer with the game’s base price increasing with each new add-on. Regardless, I’m going to keep playing, because death is progress, even for meager Boon points, and, theoretically, I’ll only get better as the guilds grow stronger and can take on and dish out more damage. Let’s check back later when I can take down a clutter of spiders like a pro.

Also: Temple of Yog‘s soundtrack is killer, probably something like 805,967 in Boon points. Sacrifice gladly accepted.

The good, the bad, and the grind of Dragon Fantasy (Book 1)

Dragon-Fantasy-8-bit-Screenshot

So, I beat Dragon Fantasy (Book 1) recently, as well as earned all of its Trophies, which makes it the first game on my long list of mostly untouched PlayStation 3 games to have a shiny 100% next to its name. No Platinum Trophy though, but that’s okay. Maybe I’ll get my first Platinum somewhere else, like say Ni no Kuni or Grand Theft Auto V. ::runs off laughing maniacally::

Anyways–it’s pretty good. As I mentioned before, Dragon Fantasy (Book 1) really is an old-school JRPG with a few modern conventions tossed in for good measure. Now, I would not say I have true professional gamer experience with the classic RPGs of yesteryear, though I’ve dabbled in the early Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy games enough to know what they are about and how they helped shape the roleplaying genre as a whole: straightforward plot, tough fights, and a whole lot of grinding. Muteki Corporation’s celebration of all this sticks to its guns….er, swords, and it’s kind of a mix of good and bad, though I was still able to find a lot of enjoyment in this 16-bit fantasy realm of nostalgia.

Dragon Fantasy (Book 1) is basically split up into three chapters (and an intermission), which can be played in any order, though I went with linear; any other way felt wrong.

Chapter 1 focuses on the character Ogden, who is a washed-up former hero trying to get back into the business of saving the world from great evil. You’ll travel solo across the map looking for magical pieces of armor. I found this chapter to be the longest and most dull in terms of gameplay, and since you only have one member in your party, fights are pretty tough and it takes a while before Ogden has the upper hand. Expect to use a lot of Herbs.

Chapter 2 is all about Prince Anders, brother of Prince Marlon, who one saw kidnapped at the beginning of Ogden’s adventure. Well, he wasn’t kidnapped exactly, and you’ll eventually see Anders discovering an important artifact. This chapter is extremely short compared to Ogden’s, probably made easier by the fact that you have a bigger party for those never-ending random battles. I actually missed two Trophies related to this chapter and had to pop back to it for twenty minutes or so.

Chapter 3 introduces two new characters to the journey: Jerald and Ramona, a thief and his niece. They are trying to escape the eastern desert empire of Sandheim, but first need to save up enough money for passports. After some grinding and stealing and plot twists, the two of them end up robbing a ship that the heroes from the first two chapters are using, thus bringing everybody together for, what I assume is, further adventures in Dragon Fantasy (Book 2).

Lastly, there’s a whole intermission chapter devoted to praising Minecraft and its creator Notch. It’s totally throwaway though the monster-recruiting ability is a nice change of pace, and I found it to be a bit overly gushing, and heck, I like Minecraft. You can skip it, unless you want all them Trophies, like I did.

My favorite thing about Dragon Fantasy (Book 1), besides its punny names and comedic writing, is how you can push a button to speed the game up. I’m no mathematician, but it felt like maybe three times as fast. It helps make the grind less of a, well, grind, but you still have to pay a little attention as you just can’t button-mash your way to higher levels here as your attacks miss often and one needs to constantly before of how much HP the characters have left. However, after a bit, even with the game on ultra-speed, the music and random battles, which happen just about every three to four steps, can become grating. Mostly because, with time sped up, you will hear the first few notes of the overworld map, then the first few notes of battle music, then the first few notes of battle victory music, and then back to the overworld, only to rinse, lather, repeat for all eternity. That said, I found myself playing the remainder of chapter 2 and chapter 3 (and that intermission) on mute, listening to a podcast or a playlist.

I’m not quite ready to move on directly to the SNES-inspired Dragon Fantasy (Book 2), but when I get that itch for some classic RPGing, warts and all, I know where to look.

Master Architect says a house is a machine for living in

Actually, Le Corbusier said that, but what does he know–he didn’t spend countless hours fast-traveling and staring at the same ol’ loading screens in Skyrim‘s Hearthfire DLC to gather the numerous and welcome-to-encumbrance building materials, such as clay, quarried stone, and iron ingots, to build three houses that are void of character and personality and truly, without a doubt, not worth all the effort. Really–don’t bother building your own house, especially if you’re already pretty far into the game, wherein you likely already own a home in one of the many cities, such as Breezehome in Whiterun or Honeyside in Riften. Those cost the same base price as your own plot of land, but require a whole lot less work, giving you more time to kill that bandit leader in Cave X or find your twentieth Jazbay Grapes.

Housing in Bethesda’s games has always been a pesky business. For Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, you had a few options to call home, but they were not very exciting. In the former game, I shacked up in Megaton, covering my bed in teddy bears and the shelves with rare trinkets–if I could figure out how to properly move and place an item via an Xb0x 360 controller. Your only other choice was staying in Tenpenny Tower, which came with some neat themes, but required going through a lot of load screens to simply access. Too much waiting, not enough storing of loot, if you asked me. For New Vegas, pickings got even slimmer. Some hotels offered a permanent room, and if you felt like going through a lot more loading screens, you could keep your prizes in the Lucky 38 presidential suite. Strangely, your best place to call home is at The Sink, a futuristic homebase brimming with goodies. Oblivion had a few homes that you could earn through quest completion as well, but I never really used them as once you joined a guild, that became my place to store stuff and rest comfortably.

You could always find places to…let’s call it…squat. Abandoned houses or shacks that seemed ready to be yours, but at an invisible risk. See, while they might have containers or places to store you treasured treasure, there was no was to know if that container was safe or would respawn its contents in a few day, thus erasing yours completely. Unless you used the Internet, of course, but that’s never fun. I’d rather sell off items than lose them to a coding abyss.

So, unfortunately, while the three houses in Hearthfire look pretty cool once totally complete–that’s Lakeview Manor, Windstad Manor, and Heljarchen Hall–they are not fun to build and require, at least for me, a ton of back and forth, as I’m not the sort of character who just carries around 100 iron ingots at a time. You spend a lot of time looking at menus or watching your character mine for quarried stone, which is as exciting as it sounds. And after all that, you really have little input over how your house turns out. Sure, you can place tables and chairs and barrels and weapon racks, but they go where the game designer decided they should go. All you are doing to spending your materials to place it there. Your house is not your vision. And that’s a big bummer. I was hoping to be able to have a trophy room that was filled with my kind of trophies, like a thousand scattered troll skulls, presented in my way. Instead, no. It is a model home, and nothing more. Again, you might as well purchase a house in one of the cities, which is a model house too, but cheaper and easier to fill in.

You can also hire a bard for your house, as well as make any follower a steward. The steward helps a lot in ordering building materials for you which go directly to the chest by the workbench, but only to that chest. If you need that clay for your other house, you best make room in your inventory. The steward can also bring in animals or furnish your rooms completely for a small fee. It’s okay, but came across as very robotic, especially when one is ordering piles of wood after piles of wood after piles of wood.

In short, I wasn’t expecting Minecraft, but definitely some more flexibility for creativity. I mean, I couldn’t even pick the place to build my house, ruining my dream of shacking up right next to the Thieves Guild.

But yeah. This is one Achievement definitely earned with stubbornness and patience, backed by a numbing soundtrack of clinking hammers and thumping hammers:


Master Architect (10G): Build three houses

Here’s hoping that player housing changes quite dramatically in Fallout 4 and whatever the next Elder Scrolls ends up being. Here’s hoping…

Five things I still need to do in Skyrim

At the same time that I splurged on Mark of the Ninja–more on that fantastic stealth-stabby game later, I promise–I also picked up the second DLC item for the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. It’s called Hearthfire, not Heathfire or Healthfire as I’ve been constantly seeing it misspelled across the Internet in the days since its birth, and it only costs 400 Microsoft Points. The low cost is low because there isn’t actually a whole lot of content in the pack; it basically gives you three spots to build a house of your own, and then you have to grind for materials like iron ingots and nails and chopped wood to actually build it and fill it with items. I’ve only just begun filling my Lakeview Manor with storage barrels and shelves to place my filled grand soul gems. Nothing terribly amazing, and it seems like this kind of Minecraft-esque stuff is better suited for somebody just starting out on their adventure to rid the realm of evil dragons than me currently who already owns a house in two different holds.

But at least I’m back in the game for the time being. Finishing up a few quests while selling some items and emptying my digital backpack of potions I’ll never use–like anything related to breathing under water for X seconds. And so, I got to thinking, and here are five things I’ve yet to do in Skyrim after playing the game as one single character for upwards of 95 hours.

Ride a horse

Look, if you could hop on a horse and ride it in first-person perspective all while still wielding a bow and arrow or sword and magic spell…then yeah, I’d be all for that. I play these Bethesda games in this perspective and this perspective only; moving out of it breaks immersion and really comes across as just goofy and dangerous to one’s safety. But no, if you get on horseback, you must ride in third person, and that’s not for me.

Get married

Haven’t really given it much thought, to be honest. From what I can tell, being married in Skyrim is a bit…old-fashioned. You gain a spouse who makes you food and takes care of your home. Great. Not really. I’m curious to see if I can adopt a child without being married after I finish building my house; if not, I guess I’ll go hunting for a favorable partner. Vex sounds ideal /sarcasm.

Find the Dark Brotherhood

Please note there that I said find, not join. I haven’t even been contacted by them yet, and I guess for that to happen I’d have to openly murder somebody who didn’t deserve it. Like, not a bandit cave leader or blood dragon. Hmm. That’s not really how I play, so it is unlikely this will every happen on my first character. Maybe if I ever roll a new dude, but that might not happen for a long time–if ever. I know, call me crazy. Except you should know I never did many Dark Brotherhood quests in Oblivion either. So there, fantasy murderers.

Learn any spell above the novice level

I’m no Harry Potter, y’all. When I need healing, I use a potion or eat some cheese. When I need to weaken a foe, I poison my arrows and loose them from afar. I’ve done the occasional spell to clear webs or gain entrance into the School of Magic, but that’s been it. Not my style of combat.

Kill a giant

Everybody did it at the beginning of the game. You see some mammoths and head over to check them out. Then a giant comes stomping at you, swings violently with his club, and sends you flying into the sky with one hit. Instant death. Lesson learned. Since then, the only times I’ve come across giants has been in groups of three or four, and I’m scared to take on one for fear of three more seeking revenge. Plus the mammoths, too. So, yeah. All those giant’s toes in my bag? I stole them.

So, those are my things still to do/things to never do in Skyrim. What about you? What have you not done yet in a world that seems to never run out of quests or ways to occupy your time? Catch a butterfly?

Humble Indie Bundle is back to it with the Humble Voxatron Debut

I didn’t expect to purchase the latest and greatest from Humble Indie Bundle–which, when announced on Halloween, was simply Voxatron Alpha–but then they went and threw in two more games, specifically Blocks That Matter and The Binding of Isaac, both of which I’ve seen in action thanks to GiantBomb‘s Quick Looks and found appealing. To get all three games, you have to pay above the average price, which at the time of purchase, was $4.75. My lunch at Panera Bread earlier this week was double that (turkey artichoke panini and broccoli and cheese soup for the curious). Included in the purchase are two soundtracks, as well as the promise of further updates for Voxatron Alpha, a game not fully complete yet, hence the alpha-ism.

It’s all good either way because I’m pleased to announce that all three games run–and run amazingly–on my Mac. My Macbook’s torrid history of trouble playing newer games has been steadily documented here on Grinding Down. Knowing that, I continue to try, and as each game loaded up, I held my breath with worry. Would it load at all or just quit to the desktop? How unbearable would the lag be? So many questions, none that would ultimately be answered. Every game loaded without a hitch, and plays very smoothly. This warmed my gaming heart and fingers immediately.

Of the three, the one I played the most of after installations were done was Blocks That Matter, a cute puzzle-platformer that has some elements of Minecraft to it. You control a tiny drillbot and are trying to rescue your creators by navigating through each level to a magical portal at the end. The trick is in figuring out how to use the blocks you collect to build new platforms. The other two titles, Voxatron Alpha and The Binding of Isaac, are interesting, if very chaotic. A lot of runnin’ and gunnin’ if you know what that means. Maybe I just need to get used to the controls more. Both require fast response skills, and sometimes that’s harder to do–at least for me–with a mouse and keyboard than a gamepad. We’ll see if I can get any better at ’em both.

If past bundles are any indication, there’s the strong possibility of Jeffrey Rosen adding more games to this bundle before it closes for good. Since I’ve already bought in, hopefully that means I’ll get further perks for free, such as soundtracks, additional gamey games, and pivotal updates, which is always nice. If anything, these bundles are just a great way to show support for indie game development, something I’m growing increasingly aware and curious of, and whether or not I love every game I buy, I still like to be involved.

Can’t escape smiling at this Ludum Dare game called BATHOS

If it wasn’t for Notch, I would have never even known about this crazy thing that recently took charge, known to indie game developers worldwide as the Ludum Dare. Basically, participants develop games from scratch in a single weekend–that’s 48 hours, okay–based on a theme suggested by community. This time around the theme is escape. Browsing through the 500+ finished entries is a bit daunting; some of them really do look great, and others…well, not so much. Unfortunately, a good chunk of them blur together.

The first submission I clicked on to check out was BATHOS by Johan Peitz, mostly because it looked like a SCUMM title, and those experiences always pull at my heartstrings. Seriously, there’s a Maniac Mansion vibe here. I’m super pleased to announce that the very first Ludum Dare title I’ve tried…is a winner! Well, in my book. I’m sure Notch’s entry is stellar too, but I haven’t attempted it yet, considering I barely understand Minecraft still, and I’ve been playing that for several weeks now. Anyways…

In BATHOS, the player wakes up in a supervised prison cell, naturally wanting to escape. The door is locked, but he quickly discovers many keys in his tiny, depressing cell room. Surely one of them will work on the door. And that’s it. Find the right key and get out of there. It sounds simple, but it took me about fifteen minutes on my lunch break to figure out, and the solution is delightful, obvious, turning this little indie bit of Flash wizardry into something truly charming. The graphics are clean and unobtrusive, and the game controls smoothly. There’s only so much our pixelated hero can do, but it all works. Picking up keys that don’t work and flinging them under your bed never felt so good.

One of the definitions for bathos is “an anticlimax,” and yes, Johan Peitz’s take on solitude, yearning, and escape most certainly is that. However, it might be the first time something so ludicrous has made me smile.

You can play BATHOS in your web browser by clicking this very sentence. Or, if you’re looking to download it for Windows/OSX/Linux, go here…just don’t read any of the comments below otherwise you’ll spoil a perfectly genuine gaming experience. And remember, this was created in under 48 hours. To me, that’s mighty impressive–and gives me hope that maybe one day I could make a videogame, too.