What I imagine the Destiny moon level to be like as someone who has actual obligations

Opinion, Video Games

By William Chandler

For those that are unaware, Bungie announced earlier in the week that it had a limited time promotion for Destiny beta users on Saturday if they logged in during a two hour window of time, more specifically from 2 to 4 PM Pacific Standard Time (meaning from 4 to 6 PM in my Central time zone). They neglected to go into further detail at the time of the announcement but one could imagine that it would merely be another one of those emblems or whatever that you put on your character card. La di da. This being of little importance to me, I payed it no mind, as I would be obligated to helping out my mother at her store for the day while an employee was away and wouldn’t be able to log in during those hours anyway. Imagine my surprise when I returned home to find that they’d revealed earlier during the day that they would be opening up the moon for a small taste during the aforementioned two hour time window, and that the emblem reward was tied specifically to this. Well, at least I was right about one thing.

Naturally, I’d discovered this fact roughly two hours later than would be necessary to get my glimpse at that shiny white marble in the sky.

The following is my rendition of exactly how such a space trot would have gone were I able to attend the event.

My warp drive nestled me somewhere on the dark side of the moon while I unironically bumped Pink Floyd through my ship’s speakers in celebration of this event. Clearly visible structures, once erected (heh) by humans and long since abandoned, mark the surface of the moon just as frequently as the massive craters that make it up. While my ship’s computer calculated an approach vector and feasible landing location Peter Dinkla- I mean my Ghost droned endlessly about our mission objectives and other relevant information. The bulk of which I, of course, dutifully ignored. All I really needed to know was that the darkness was prevalent here and I needed to spread some light via a muzzle flash. You know. Because muzzle flashes produce light so they eliminate darkness but they also produce bullets which kill the enemies of light. It’s funny. Anyway, I step out of the cockpit and drop lightly down to the surface and-

WOW OH MY GOD HOLY FUCK THE MOON IS DOPE. THIS IS UNBELIEVABLE LIKE DID YOU KNOW THAT GRAVITY HERE IS ONLY ABOUT 16% OF WHAT IT IS ON EARTH LIKE WOW THAT IS SO COOL. HOW THE FUCK ARE THESE BULLETS WORKING OUT HERE IN SPACE I DUNNO BUT IT’S COOL AS HELL

Something like that. Yeah, I’m sort of peeved that this event had such a short window of time, especially considering they easily could have made it a whole day thing, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I suppose I can’t really complain considering I was basically given free access to their game for an entire week but, you know, I enjoy complaining.

The Destiny beta is now over and release is just on the horizon with a launch date of September 9th.

Rapid Fire Reviews: 7-27-14

Opinion, Video Games

By William Chandler

A sort of regular segment in which I demonstrate just how lazy I am by deciding to only write brief analyses of various games I’m playing.

The Bureau XCOM Declassified: 3 hours in, bought as part of the 2K Humble Bundle and played on PC using an Xbox 360 controller.

Yo, this game fucking sucks.

I remember all of the pre-release shit that went down with The Bureau during its evolution from an investigative FPS to more of a tactical third person shooter, neither of which pleased fans of the franchise, but I still held out hope that it would be alright. After all, 2K Marin did the impossible and actually served up an enjoyable sequel to my beloved original Bioshock. And, to be honest, I vastly preferred Bioshock 2 to Bioshock: Infinite. But for whatever reason, they simply could not pull this game together in the end and I’ve been avoiding it since its release for fear that it would be not good. Well, not only is it not good, it is actually an absolutely agonizing experience and I feel worse off as a human being for having been subjected to it.

Cons: The story shifts exclusively between complete nonsense and tired tropes, but it is thankfully propped up by equally nonsensical dialogue that was probably written in a single afternoon after several bottles of ‘looming deadline’ whiskey. In addition, all voice acting does the poor writing complete justice by managing to make it sound even more stupid than it probably did on paper. The game manages to be absolutely unimpressive graphically yet also runs like a pile of poorly optimized ass on the PC. The gunplay is only serviceable which is a crime considering how shitty every other aspect is. The AI probably doesn’t actually exist but I’m pretty sure the enemies did at least move on occasion. The game, sadly, does exist.

Pros: It has video AND sound. You don’t actually have to play it.

The Bureau is fucking soulless drivel. Do not play it. Do not think about. Just leave it be and maybe it will go away.

Gunpoint: 4 hours in, purchased on Steam and played on PC using mouse and keyboard

I’ve been meaning to play this game forever and am just now getting around to it. It’s extremely stylish and humorous which lends extremely well to its old school sensibili– No, you know what. Fuck this. The Bureau drained me. I just can’t write any more.

Shed a tear for the unparalleled beauty of these Halo 2 Anniversary cinematics

News, Trailers, Video Games

By William Chandler

I’m absolutely failing at my self appointed position of obnoxious cynic as of late. But there is just far too much cool shit coming out for me to allow my duty to get in the way of pure, red blooded honesty. And, honestly guys, I’m super fucking stoked for the Master Chief Collection. Yeah, I’m aware of its nearly pointless existence aside from filler material until the next major entry in the Halo franchise can be released, but it legitimately seems like Microsoft and 343 are trying to do right by actually putting a lot of work into it.

The trailer above just shows the visual overhaul on the cinematics in Halo 2 Anniversary and, man, they straight up shattered my rose tinted nostalgia goggles. Honestly, I was under the impression that the studio would likely try to keep the visual style of the original in order to perhaps preserve some of the old school (or, well, old-ish) gaming charm but nah. They went all out instead and I’m extremely pleased that they did. Blur Studios, the company responsible for the beautiful cutscenes in Halo Wars, are reportedly in charge of these too, and it shows.

It’s just too beautiful. I’m softly weeping just like ten year old me did for the original version of Halo 2.

Destiny is basically just Borderlands if you take out the Borderlands and replace it with Destiny

Opinion, Video Games

By William Chandler

I’m pretty tired of people trying to compare Destiny and Borderlands. I mean, I totally get that it’s difficult to describe things to people, especially through the written word, so its often simplest to try and use preexisting things to describe the newer things. I get that. But forreal, saying that Destiny is basically just Borderlands just does both games a disservice. They’re both loot driven first person shooters, yeah, but the similarities really end there. For instance, a major way in which they differ is that I haven’t had fun with a Borderlands game since completing the original because I found the second to be a dreary, copy/pasted mess, and I’m actually having a ton of fun with the Destiny beta.

Perhaps it’s due to the fact that my expectations for Destiny just couldn’t have been any lower, but the beta has been a joy to play for the roughly eight hours that I’ve put into it so far. The shooting feels tight and enjoyable, just as one would expect from a Bungie game, but what Destiny nails that so many other games fail to is the way encounters are designed. In order to have a truly satisfying shooter, one must understand the importance that the environment, enemy design, and enemy placement have on a combat encounter. Every single encounter feels lovingly handcrafted in order to maximize player enjoyment while still providing an appropriate amount of challenge.

Enemies are designed in a way similarly to Halo in that the types and tiers of enemies are immediately obvious to the player so that it is clear what they can expect from the enemy in the way of attacks, as well as what they have found to be their preferred method of dispatching that particular enemy. There are grunt type enemies that are the most abundant and are often easily dispatched, the slightly tougher squad leader type enemies that are less frequent and require a more careful approach, and the more rare captain enemies that can often easily overpower the player. This is, of course, an extremely rough approximation of the enemy types, but is currently applicable between the two enemy races, the Fallen and the Hive, present in the Destiny beta.

Bungie’s thorough understanding of these enemies and their abilities, as well as their careful and intricate placement throughout the environment, allows for both an enjoyable difficulty curve and good pacing in the missions or instances. And really, this is the most notable area in which Destiny and Borderlands differ. The latter has a ridiculously large variety of enemies but it often seems as though they are all designed in a way that could allow them to present a very formidable challenge to the player. This on its own is not problematic, but without a notable difficulty curve to speak of (aside from the stat differences that come with a difference in levels) every single encounter feels just as deadly as the last which, in my experience, can lead to the player feeling exhausted and annoyed at the lack of shifts in pacing. I can think of multiple points in Borderlands 2 where my two man team became bogged down by an absurdly long firefight and the constant rinse and repeat of going down and rescuing one another due to an overwhelming number of powerful enemies in a single area. In Destiny, combat is short, sweet, and to the point.

What was the point to this article again? I dunno. Basically, Destiny is just Phantasy Star Online.

Critical Analysis: Far Cry 3

Opinion, Video Games

By William Chandler

Purchased on Steam and reviewed on PC using an Xbox 360 controller

Remember when Far Cry was exclusively about mutants, mercenaries, and hawaiian shirts? Those were simpler times. I really enjoyed Crytek’s old design philosophy of making linear, story driven shooters that frequently featured extremely vast open sections which allowed you to tackle some objectives in a multitude of ways. That shit was what made Crysis so enjoyable to play in my opinion. Well, that and throwing countless North Korean soldiers through the walls of shitty village huts. You know what Far Cry 3 has going for it? Fucking radio towers.

I kid, I kid. Far Cry 3 is, in all honesty, a very well made FPS with some extremely solid mechanics that have been polished to a mirror shine, a decent story, and shooting that feels just right from start to finish. Ubisoft, having long ago taken over the development reigns from Crytek, appear to truly be doing their best. But making an open world game is really tough. You have to design this massive environment that the player can roam through, fill it full of shit to make it feel alive, sprinkle it full of objectives and missions to keep the player entertained, and ensure there are plenty of easy ways to get around. These are the areas in which Far Cry 2 often struggled and, unfortunately, Far Cry 3 still struggles in.

They have certainly made a massive environment for the player. Too massive, in fact. There are two islands of a similar size and they often times feel absolutely fucking barren. I mean, it’s a massive improvement over Far Cry 2’s game world, and Ubisoft have completely nailed the atmosphere of a tropical island, but the actual content (story missions, side missions, hunting quests, etc.) would fill up a game environment roughly half the size. The only good reason that the rest of the land even exists is to allow for even more enemy bases that the player can then capture in order to reduce the frequency of enemy patrols in the area. Something that I imagine most people will want to do considering how ridiculously annoying those patrols can be when you’re minding your own fucking business trying to commute to your next mission or hunting down four more raccoons in order to carry a couple more grenades, and then some random dudes in a jeep cruise up and fill your ass full of lead.

The base clearing mechanic is genuinely fun, too. It harkens back to the “tackle an objective in any way you choose” days of yore that I mentioned earlier and am quite fond of. That said, just about anything becomes boring the 30th time you do it, and by the later hours of the game I was definitely growing tired of it. This issue is mostly to do with the checklist like nature in which you explore, uncover, and capture more points of the map. Similarly to the Assassin’s Creed series, Far Cry 3’s map starts off completely obscured and must be gradually uncovered by scaling and activating radio towers, of which there are 18. However, unlike Assassin’s Creed, your ability to get around is marred heavily by the terrain and proves to be a chore without any map to guide you, so locating and activating the radio towers can actually prove to be quite time consuming.

Indeed, my biggest problem with Far Cry 3 is the exact same one I had with Far Cry 2. It often feels needlessly padded with unnecessary content, stretching out the total play time to a length that makes many of its mechanics feel dry and uninteresting over time. The hunting mini game, something that should be an enjoyable and immersive experience, later feels like a fucking chore because of the stupidly large number of upgrades. One could claim that this content is entirely optional, however, I couldn’t imagine completing the game without at least a few of these upgrades because the player starts out with such a low ammo and syringe capacity. Even the story meanders around foolishly towards the middle, creating ridiculously frustrating scenarios that push the player’s goals ever so gradually out of reach without any good reason time and time again ad nauseam.

Thankfully, the characters are varied and interesting enough to keep the player invested in the story even at these points. The writing is far from good, sure, but it is absurd and exaggerated, much like the plot, and feels tonally appropriate throughout. The villains, Vaas and Hoyt, are deliciously insane in their own fascinating ways and lend to some of the game’s greatest moments. Too bad these moments are spread far too thin across a game as lengthy as this.

I enjoyed playing through Far Cry 3 if perhaps for no other reason than to say I finally completed it after numerous restarts since the game’s launch nearly a year and a half ago. That said, there are so many elements that made the actual playing part of the game feel like a second job. Activate the radio tower, capture some bases, kill some animals for upgrades, kill some people to gain skill points, play through several story missions, then rinse and repeat for a dreary and draining 30 – 40 hours. Far Cry 3 really is the best example of why less can sometimes be more and it’s extremely frustrating to see a good game be held back by a bunch of small problems, but one can only hope that Ubisoft will realize the true potential of this franchise with Far Cry 4.

Or maybe they’ll just ignore all of that shit and needlessly throw in four player coop.

A friendly reminder that sometimes video games are also movies

....Movies?, News, Video Games?

By William Chandler

Are you completely and utterly exhausted at the mere prospect of video game playing at the moment? Are your arms no longer physically able to repeatedly press down in Shovel Knight due to an injury in your early morning masturbatory routine? Do you like movies or, more specifically, documentaries?

Regardless of your answer to any of these inane questions, you should probably just watch the documentary on all things video games, entitled Video Games: The Movie, when it drops tomorrow for a simultaneous digital and limited theatrical release. The film was successfully funded on Kickstarter in June of 2013, far exceeding its goal of $60,000. It also features actor Zach Braff as another guy who threw money at it in order for it to exist and I really dug Scrubs for a hot second a while back so that’s pretty cool with me.

According to the Kickstarter page, the documentary will be broken up into four major points of study relating to video games: The history of video games, the culture surrounding them, the creation process, and the future of gaming. Not to mention that Video Games: The Movie appears to be laced with interviews with people like coolest guy alive Cliff “Don’t Call Me Cliffy B” Bleszinski, Nolan Bushnell, and Warren Spector, all of whom I imagine will talk about video games. So it seems pretty tight.

You can pre-order it right now on their website for $12.99, which gets you an HD stream as well as a download, and it also appears to be available on iTunes.

I know I’ll be peeping this tomorrow so fingers crossed that it doesn’t totally suck and, like, misrepresent our entire culture or something.

This is an appreciation post for The Wolf Among Us Episode 1

Opinion, Video Games

By William Chandler

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I am definitely way behind on this one. But c’mon friend, this is an enthusiast site. If you want some fucking by the minute video game coverage of just about every single shit property that hits the market then perhaps you should head on over to Giant Spot or Rock, Paper, Informer or whatever sites people like these days. Anyway, I really like what Telltale games have been doing with their properties as of late. They are a studio that shows great improvement with just about every single release and I respect the fuck out of that. Now they’ve polished their formula to a mirror shine and even though The Walking Dead was decidedly not my jive, that fact had absolutely nothing to do with the game itself. I really just don’t care at all about The Walking Dead universe. That said, I was still able to complete the first two episodes of that series just out of pure appreciation for the mechanics and solid character writing.

I am so indescribably flaky when it comes to schedules that there is absolutely no way I can stick to a set viewing time and remember to tune in every week or month or whatever. This creates a problem when it comes to me and Telltale because they really dig their episodic release formats for their games. Fortunately, the entire first season of The Wolf Among Us is now out and, being a huge fan of both noir and fables, I decided to start playing.

I’m not here to spoil the whole damn thing for you because the chain of events that occurs in the roughly two hour series premiere is absolutely fascinating, but suffice to say that the plot thus far appears to be extremely well done. Who knows if the whole thing can keep up with this level of quality but I definitely have my fingers crossed. Even the dialogue is really solid across the board, but I was particularly impressed with the depth of character from many of the seemingly shallow side characters you meet. Both the Huntsman and Toad show a great deal of depth by the end of the first episode even though they seemed like some seriously basic ass bitches at the beginning. I certainly hope this trend continues as well. Bigsby, the leading man, is decidedly generic as far as protagonists go because he struggles heavily with not giving a fuck and being extremely disliked, but I like him anyway because I identify with both of those traits.

This game, like others in the Telltale library, is extremely reliant on quicktime events to move things along, and while they are never really going to be an ideal game mechanic, they are about as well implemented here as they are ever going to be. So, unless you absolutely despise their entire existence, you won’t find any problems to speak of. Other game mechanics include standard adventure game tropes of interacting with flashing objects in the environment and talking to various people about various subjects to various results. Both of these aspects are similarly well done and I particularly like the fact that your dialogue responses are timed, meaning you often have very little time to decide what to say. This ensures that the conversations flow well and feel very natural, lending even more credit to the writing quality. The Wolf Among Us also advertises that you, as the player, will be making many difficult choices throughout the game that will drastically alter the progression of events, and while I have not played enough to truly see whether or not this is the case, it certainly feels like your choices matter at the time.

Honestly, unless you absolutely hate story driven adventure games, you should probably just play The Wolf Among Us.

The Verdict: I give it a “Dope as fuck” out of 170.

Yo, guys, Neversoft and I are the same age

News, Video Games

By William Chandler

Neversoft, creators of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and later the destroyers of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, were officially made defunct today following the full absorption of their staff into Infinity Ward, creators of Call of Duty and later the destroyers of Call of Duty. Huh. Weird.

Anyway, Neversoft have sadly been largely irrelevant for several years now so this is probably only news if you’re surprised that they actually still exist. I’m really only writing this article because I thought it was cool that Neversoft and I are both twenty this year. The difference being, you know, that they’re dead now and I am still living on as an amazing torrent of beauty and passion that simply cannot be stopped.

According to the image above, they died as they lived. Slowly burning out until only the charred husk of their former glory remains. Holy hell, I am being extra sassy today. Perhaps I’m still upset that Tony Hawk’s Underground was like the dopest shit ever and then they just left me hurting when every game afterwards represented a slow decline in quality. Even thirteen year old me knew that Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground was lame.

Crawl delayed from planned July 17th release, puns about time crawling until the game actually releases declared “inevitable”

News, Video Games

By William Chandler

Looks like you’ll have to wait a while longer to piss off and subsequently lose all of your friends. Crawl, the cleverly named cooperatively competitive dungeon crawler with an extreme focus on fucking over everyone who ever cared about you, has been delayed from its planned release next week due to “tax issues”, according to a post on the game’s official site. No new release date has been set. Hopefully the massively entertaining GIF (see above) that the developers made will serve as some sort of consolation prize.

For those that don’t know, Crawl is a unique multiplayer dungeon crawler supporting up to four players. The trick is that one player attempts to successfully navigate the hazards and defeat the enemies of the dungeon floor by floor as a human while the other three inhabit those very same obstacles in an attempt to kill the human player. Whichever player lands the killing blow on the human then takes his place and the cycle begins again. Frankly, if that doesn’t sound like some dope as fuck cathartic fun then I don’t know what to tell you. Perhaps you should consider reevaluating exactly who you are.

Rapid Fire Reviews: 07-09-2014

Opinion, Video Games

By William Chandler

Well, fam, I decided to make this a regular segment due to the fact that I play a metric shit ton of games, many of which I either don’t have the time, or simply do not care to write about in full. So here are some critical summations of various games that I’ve been playing lately.

The Banner Saga: 5 – 6 hours in, purchased on Steam, played on PC

Admittedly I’ve been sleeping super hard on this game because it came out way back in January and I’m just now taking the time to play it. I was looking forward to it prior to release because it is essentially a Norse themed Fire Emblem game developed by a few ex Bioware employees and I fucked heavily with Bioware games. Even the later ones that eschewed many of the core components that made their early RPGs great like actually having complex skill trees. The gameplay is solid with just enough depth and difficulty to keep one interested as well as reasonably challenged, which I certainly appreciate. The battles are played out in a fashion similar enough to a Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy Tactics game that you’ll likely feel relatively at home with the mechanics if you’ve played one of those titles, however, there are enough small differences to ensure that you won’t have a complete mastery over them upon first booting up the game. For instance, the stamina system not only limits how much you can use a character’s special abilities, but it also allows for spare stamina points to be added to regular attacks for additional damage, or they can even be used to move slightly outside of a character’s standard movement range. These mechanics, combined with the fact that most characters only have a handful of hitpoints which make them realistically squishy, ensures that moves must be thoughtfully considered during some of the more difficult battles.

The story is obviously also a major component in The Banner Saga and it is as solid as one would expect from a Bioware pedigree. Very few of the characters are particularly likable at my current point in the game but I expect that to change over time. Honestly though, the main draw is the lore in my opinion. The world is decidedly unique and interesting enough to keep me going just to learn more about the way things work.

If you like slow burn RPGs with a heavy focus on character interaction and decision making then I imagine that it is difficult to go wrong with The Banner Saga. Shout out to the dope as fuck atmospheric sound design as well.

Shovel Knight: 4 hours in, bought on the Nintendo eShop, played on a 3DS XL

Yo, this game is wicked charming. From the true 8 bit graphical stylings and soundtrack to the legitimately funny NPCs, you’d be hard pressed to not be grinning from ear to ear while playing this game. Well, that is until you get to some of the more bullshit platforming sections later on. Perhaps the 3DS d-pad just isn’t as accurate as is apparently necessary for this game, but I’ve found that many of my trips to the void are due to the slightest and most frustrating of miscalculations. That said, the difficulty is never overwhelming and it ensures that even the most annoying of areas do not overstay their welcome. Aside from that small complaint, the game feels extremely tight and responsive which lends itself well to the type of game that Shovel Knight is. That is, a 2d side scroller in a similar vein to that of the Metroid or Mega Man games of yore, but you probably already knew that considering the absurd amount of praise the game is getting from the press.

Just fucking buy it if you haven’t already. It certainly isn’t perfect, nor do I find it to be as great as many reviews suggest, but it is damn fun and just the type of thing you probably need if you’re sick of a lot of the tropes present in modern games.

The Forest: 5 – 6 hours in, bought on Steam, played on PC

Let me just say that this shit is decidedly early access. It’s still quite rough around the edges in many spots and a great deal of the content hasn’t even been implemented yet, so my evaluation of the game will likely change over time.

The Forest is an extremely thorough survival horror game with an almost obsessive focus on the survival portion of that description. Let me just say that this game is not afraid to mercilessly and completely fuck you over in an instant, and indeed that will likely be the case the first few times you play it. It certainly is never frustrating though, as the game really insists on the player learning from their mistakes of their last playthrough. And the randomly generated island layout as well as the various possible starting locations ensured that my few attempts never really felt too similar. That said, I did find myself growing bored a couple of hours into my most successful playthrough, so perhaps the advertised longevity of the game is not nearly realized in the current build.

You must gather food to avoid starvation, build a fire for warmth so you don’t freeze to death, and construct a shelter in order to avoid exhaustion, and those are just the basics of survival. It seems as though the developers plan to expand upon all of the survival aspects as game development progresses but the systems are pretty bare bones in their current form. There are only a few types of shelters and very little in terms of flora and fauna diversity, which means that hunting and gathering can often feel like a grind, but I imagine that won’t be the case in later versions.

While being stranded on an island sounds horrible enough on its own, the fact that there are mutated cannibals stalking you at every turn is really just the icing on the cake. The combat system leaves much to be desired in its current state, and it often feels like you have to dish out far too much damage to dispatch any adversaries, but the fact that it is a horror game makes that par for the course. And if the fact that it can often be a pain in the ass to find food doesn’t kill you then it is highly likely that these boyos will.

The Forest is certainly an interesting concept with some great ideas and even the fact that it is extremely early in development doesn’t stop it from being one of the most in depth survival focused games on the market currently. It’s some good fun but likely not worth the fifteen dollar price tag for the current version.