Backlogged: Hiveswap Act 1

In an effort to get back into playing games I already own I fired up How Long to Beat Steam. I usually use this when I don’t know what I want to play and sort by the time to beat the main storyline. This is how I sort my Steam Games on Deck sidebar and I haven’t updated it in a very long time.

This game was next on the list with a playtime of only 2 hours. This cam as a surprise to me, I thought I had avoided the cliche of a PC gamer who didn’t know all of their steam games, but I have no idea where I got this from. My best guess is from Humble Monthly as this isn’t the kind of game I would usually choose to buy.

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Hiveswap is kind of a big deal if you look at its history. In 2012, a Kickstarter was put up by Andrew Hussie to make a video game based off is webcomic Homestuck. The Kickstarter raised $700,000 dollars in just under 32 hours and raised $2.4 million dollars overall. It became the third highest grossing video game in Kickstarter history at the time. The game was supposed to be released in 2014 after starting development in 2013 but arrived for purchase 3 years later in September 2017. It went through a number of iteration, starting as a 3D game and eventually scaling back into a 2D point and click adventure game.

Before playing this game I had no knowledge of either the Kickstarter story or the Homestuck webcomic. I vaguely remember reading something on Reddit about it when it was released but other than that it hadn’t crossed my radar. From the perspective of going in blind, it was a good game, a little short without much challenge.

The game bills itself as a tribute to 90’s adventure games without any of the frustration.I can agree with that, it pretty much leads you by the nose to what you need to do next to progress in the story. There’s hardly anything challenging about Hiveswap, it plays like an interactive webcomic. Luckily the art, music, and writing really make up for the simplified gameplay.

Hiveswap starts off with two kids playing with their dog in the backyard when monsters appear in the yard. The kids are separated as they are chased around by monsters and Joey Claire ends up being chased into her room. Her brother Jude is stuck in the tree house and one of the first things you’re tasked with doing is finding batteries for your walkie-talkie to talk to Jude. The first half of the game revolves around Joey trying to get to the attic because her brother is convinced is the safest place in the house.

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Hiveswap takes place in 1994 and as a result, every room in Joey’s house is chalk full of 90’s childhood nostalgia. Including but not limited to a Light Brite, street sharks, and pogs. The art is fantastic and there is so much stuff crammed into each of the areas. There’s a lot of interactable objects in each scene, most of them don’t do much besides give some funny flavor text.

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In the second half, Joey finds a mysterious device in the attic that is activated by a family heirloom. Suddenly, she is ported into a nightmarish sci-fi world in the middle of a revolution. Oh, and it’s inhabited by troll people.  It turns out Joey has been swapped with Dammek, the child leader of the revolution in Alternia. It’s more of the same gameplay as the first half with a funky sci-fi backdrop. Presumably, this is where the rest of the story will take place in the later acts.

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According to the wiki, there are suppose to be 4 acts of Hiveswap and the second game following Dammek called Hauntswitch. I’m not a fan of episodic games because I don’t like waiting for more story. I’d rather have a full experience than one broken up into pieces. The story of Hiveswap isn’t anything new but I like the characters enough to want to know what will happen next. Unfortunately, it’s hard to gauge exactly when the next act will be released if ever. The original release was supposed to be Spring 2018, but spring has come and gone without much talk of a new release date. Meanwhile, the studio has pushed out 10 volumes of a Hiveswap visual novel. Where that 2.4 million went is unclear. The game has high-quality art and music but 2.4 million for 2 point and click games seems a bit steep.

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Backlogged: Tales of Zestiria

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As I mentioned a little while ago, Tales of Zestiria is the first JRPG I’ve played in a very long time. The last one I played was Final Fantasy back in January 2017. I picked it and it’s prequel-sequel Tales of Berseria up during the Steam sale because I had wanted to play them for a while and nothing else was catching my eye.

I had some doubts that this game was for me at the beginning. I didn’t know what to expect going in, this being my first “Tales of” game. If you don’t like your game filled to the brim with cut scenes this is not the game for you. Especially in the at the start it felt like there was a cut scene every five minutes. Then there was the weird battle system which the game throws a lot of information about at you for  a while. I also couldn’t get past the fact that even when I had my character set on manual he’d only move in a straight line.

But I had heard it was good and I pushed on through the first few hours. Gradually it became much more enjoyable. I got used to the pacing of the game and I was really enjoying the story. It’s nota ground breaking narrative just your average hero’s journey. The main character Sorey is a human who grew up with Seraphim, kind of like spirits, and sets out on a quest with his best friend to see the world. Turns out most humans can’t see Seraphim, so Sorey spends a good portion of the first act talking to himself in public. Along the way he becomes the Shepard, aka the chosen one, who has the responsibility to defeat the Lord of Calamity. Cue the game play equivalent of a montage as you collect your various party members for the second act. The third act is running around the world learning how to use your new found powers and helping out in the various cities. The Act 4, it’s time to take down the Big Bad Lord of Calamity.

It’s pretty standard stuff but what I really enjoyed was that it never took itself too seriously. It’s very light-hearted and is full of bright  happy colors. Even the darker aspects of the story overly dramatic. Which is kind of weird because at one point you come across a group of dead children. This is probably one of the only games I’ve played where I’ve seen that.

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JRPG’s live and die by their battle system because there usually isn’t too much else to do outside of it. Tales of Zestiria almost died for me. Even after reading the walls of text the game through at me I still wasn’t getting it. Plus it was really frustrating  that I could only move in a straight line. I never thought I’d be so happy to unlock the ability to move left and right. About 10 hours in it finally clicked with me and I started to enjoy the battles a lot more. Essentially you have a set of moves and that have elemental properties and enemies are weak to certain elements. I have no idea why this took me so long to grasp but it might be because it was coupled with a stamina bar that I didn’t understand only replenished when you guarded. Once I figured that out things ran a bit more smoothly. The game also never stops with the tutorials for combat it adds on a few more things but then you can find these stones out in the world with different tool tips for combat. I think it’s a great system because it can be as deep or shallow as you want it to be and still enjoy the game.

20180719194438_1.jpgThe last time I wrote about this game I was about halfway through and I was questioning whether it was a good game or I just thought it was good because it was different than what I had been playing. I can confidently say that after 45 hours it was a good game. And what made it a good game for me was the characters. As generic as the story is it works because of the cast of characters. Sure they all fall into your stereotypical tropes but I really liked all of them. Those cut scenes that pop up so often help build up the characters and their relationships. There are these visual novel-esque cut scenes that pop up when you rest at an in or find a point of interest that further develop the characters. A lot of them may be one or two dimensional personalities but you spend so much time listening to them interact that they become a fuller character.

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I think I’ll hold off on playing Tales of Berseria for now. I was getting antsy towards the end of Zestiria. For as good as it was it overstayed it’s welcome just a tad to long. I wouldn’t have minded it but 5 or so hours before the end of the game the story seems to be saying “This way to the end boss” and then decides that it wants to take you down one more side story arc before the end. I also forgot that final bosses in JRPS’s usually have multiple forms. I ended up using a lot of items on the first fight because he was 20 levels higher than me. Then the second form came and my heart sank. I didn’t want to spend a few more hours grinding to beat it so I had to turn the difficulty down form moderate e to simple. I wanted to see how the story would end.

*Side note: I don’t usually care much about video game music but the music in this is freaking awesome!

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Backlogged- Batman: Arkham Asylum

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Something truly unusual happened with Batman: Arkham Asylum. I beat the entire story only a few weeks after I bought it. It’s one of the few single player that I’ve been compelled to beat.

I ended up spending 11 hours on the main story with a little light collecting. I gave up on solving all the Riddler challenges pretty quickly because some of them had me stumped for a while before I’d just move on and some of them are not very fun. The ones I could figure out relatively quickly I did though. In all I got 70% of the game complete.

Like I said in my last post on this game, I’ve had a love hate relationship with Batman. This was one of those love moments. The entire story was like playing a comic book. It wasn’t some complicated story with twists and turns but an action packed summer blockbuster type story. Batman: Arkham Asylum is the classic tale of the Joker trying to best Batman and Batman trying to stop the Joker. As the title would suggest, the whole game takes place in Arkham Asylum where all the great Batman villains go for a time out when Batman catches them. The story also takes place over one night. The story moves quickly and there is some great pacing. Once I hit the last couple hours of the game I couldn’t stop until the credits rolled.

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Essentially the Joker and his Henchman have taken over Arkham, have trapped Batman there, and are planning nefarious schemes to unleash on the city of Gotham. You, as Batman, have to discover what’s going on, save a few people, and escape the island.

A lot of the draw of superhero games for me is that you start off awesome and you just get more awesome as the game goes on. Playing RPG’s I’m used to starting out as nothing and watching my character grow over time. With superhero game’s it’s like your character is already grown and they just keep getting more and more overpowered.

This game had a lot of stealth in it. I’m not usually one for stealth games but this was really easy stealth. If the enemies see you they’ll yell and scream and shoot at you until you grapple up to the rafters. Then they forget you even existed. You can hit them with batarangs over and over again and they’ll never look up. It’s great fun.

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And it’s a good thing to because the combat is a little lack luster. It’s like Shadow of Mordor where you hit one button to attack and one to counter with a few combo moves in between. There are some fun moments like when your fighting 8+ enemies but most of the time you’re only taking down 2 or 3. I didn’t try the extra challenge levels because they all sounded like mostly combat. If the combat was just a bit more engaging I might be rushing to play them but right now I’ll pass.

The boss fights aren’t all that different from each other. They use the same big enemies that you have to hit with a batarang while they charge at you a lot. It was fun the first time when fighting bane, by the end of the game it was pretty uneventful. Ok, riding the big enemies and having them beat each other up never got old

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I really, really, liked the Scarecrow levels. They added so much to the game between the weird cutscene’s as Batman succumbs to the fear mixture. The levels themselves also help break up the games core game play and take the game from 3D action to 2D stealth.

My favorite parts were collecting the character bios and interview tapes. They were really interesting to read, especially becuase they tell you the first time a character appeared in the comics. The interview tapes add a little more to the main villains. They’re all recordings of therapists interviewing the villains as patience. It just adds a nice little touch to the whole Asylum feel.

I’m glad I got to play this game after so many years. I’ve been told over and over that it’s fantastic. Now I’ve come to my own conclusion that while it has it’s flaws, it’s a very well done game and still holds up even 8 years later.

 

Arkham Asylum: I’m Batman!

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Lately, I’ve been playing Batman: Arkham Asylum when I’m in the mood for a single player game. I’ve somehow managed to avoid spoilers and the game in general for a long time. I found it on sale earlier this month and for whatever reason I was in the mood to do bat things. And there are a lot of bat things to do like throwing batarangs, sulking in the shadows, and being reminded for the hundredth time that Bruce Wayne’s parents are still dead.

I’ve had a love hate relationship with Batman. On the one hand, I grew up on the animated series cleverly called Batman: The Animated Series. I didn’t know going in that Batman and The Joker were voiced by Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamil from the animated series and that already makes this game amazing.

On the other hand, the Christopher Nolan movies defined Batman as a character for a long time. As much as I wanted to be as hyped as the people around me about these movies, they  just didn’t do anything for me.

So I swore off all things Batman for a while. That is until I discovered the excellent comic series written by Scott Snyder in 2013. My faith in Batman was restored. He was a cool, mystery solving, gadget wielding, action hero Batman again and not some grainy, over dramatic, lets yell at everyone in a gravely voice Batman.

I didn’t even see Batman Vs Superman, I just didn’t need that in my life.

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But Back to Arkham Asylum. I really didn’t know what to expect going into this other than I would be Batman and the Joker probably had some horrible plan up his sleeve. The whole opening scene I was sitting there just waiting for Joker to escape. It took a lot longer than I thought it would. But the gist of it is that Joker has taken over Arkham Asylum for his own nefarious ends and Batman has to stop him. Pretty standard stuff.

I’m about 20% in and I can’t stop playing it. I love the little character Bios you can collect, I love the voice recordings you can find of therapists meeting with super villians like Scarecrow and Killer Croc, and I wasn’t expecting to love the Riddler Challenges so much. Every new area usually has some riddle and you have to use Batman’s withcer senses detective mode to find a certain object and scan it. Then the Riddler says some demeaning comment about your intelligence and you get on with your game. They’re really quite addicting…except the annoying ones but I’m not a completionist so I skip those.

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Those Scarecrow levels though, those are weirdly fun. They take the game from a 3d stealthyish game to a 2d side-scrolling stealthyish game. It adds a little variety to the somewhat repetitive game play.

Not that repetition is bad, it’s actually a pretty satisfying game play loop of find some clues, hide in the shadows and swoop down on your unsuspecting foes, and then beat them up until they’re unconscious, find out a little more about the Jokers plan, then rinse and lather. The combat is so simple and yet its fun. It’s Assassin’s Creed style beat up your enemy until another one attacks, parry them, and then go back to beating up your enemy. Plus you get the super slow mo finisher scenes when you defeat the last bad guy. I thought they’d get old…they haven’t yet.

It’s been a long time since I played a super hero game but I always find them fun. They just make you feel like your in a comic book or movie. Instead of reading and watching your favorite hero fight bad guys, you get to fight bad guys as  your favorite bad guy.

 

 

 

Backlogged: The Division- How We Saved New York

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Last night I saved New York from a mad man with a helicopter. Me and Jay have been making our way through The Division’s story off and on for the last year and a half? Has it really been that long?

We geared up for the last mission a few weeks ago and then proceeded not to play it at all. Part of me didn’t want it to be over. The games cover mechanics and Diablo like loot drops made for a great time taking on all of the street thugs, pyromaniacs, and rouge agents through out almost-post-apocalyptic New York. But last night we decided it was time and walked into the UN armed to the teeth.

For most of the last mission everything felt anti-climactic. We were completing the same objectives and fighting the save wave patterns of enemies that we had been the whole game. Nothing about it felt especially epic or exciting. I mean, having a shoot out in the General Assembly of the UN was a nice touch, how many times do you get to do that?

Regardless of whether things felt mostly the same or not, we died a lot. The Division’s missions all seem to have a spot where we get stuck and almost feel like giving up and it’s always at or near the end. We beat most of the missions just because we didn’t feel like losing a half hour of time by quitting for the night and retrying later. But in this last encounter, we didn’t hit anything like that. Either we had gotten better or our gear was very powerful. Probably a mix of both.

But the end of the mission, that’s an entirely different story. Thus far we had been fighting guys with guns, bigger guys with guns, and occasionally a couple big guys with guns at the same time. The final boss however, was a big guy with a giant helicopter.

Luckily we could turn on some turrets to help us take it down which required us to run around the stage like mad men dodging the helicopters mounted guns. Once we turned on most of the turrets, the helicopter got angry. Now it was both fire lots of bullets and launching blinding flares. And just as we had gotten rid of it’s shield, it started launching rockets.

Now the helicopter boss in itself wasn’t too bad once we figured out where all the switches to turn on the turrets were. The part that kept killing us over and over and over were the ground troops that started to spawn. These guys had a lot of health, like way more than the normal red enemies and they did a ton of damage. After what seemed like our tenth attempt were able to overcome every obstacle and blast the helicopter our of the sky. One big fancy explosion later and we had beaten the base game.

I also hit level 30 which promoted a tutorial of the end game. I really have no interest in playing the end game or collecting all the things I’ve missed on the map.  It was a fun ride and I liked the story missions but farming the dark zone just doesn’t sound appealing to me. I do think that when the DLC goes on sale again for PS4 I’ll probably pick it up but for now The Division can rest snugly back on the shelf.

 

 

Sampling the Borderlands

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For the better part of 2 weeks the only games on my gaming menu have been Borderlands, Borderlands 2, and Borderlands: The Pre Sequel. For better or for worse I’ve been bouncing between all three games depending on which one of my friends are on to play. I played Borderlands when no one was around, I played Borderlands 2 when Jay was around, and I’ve just started a play through of the Pre Sequel with Jay and CC.

I wasn’t interested in Borderlands when it first came out in 2009 on the account that I was really into the Nintendo Wii at the time and didn’t like the FPS genre all that much. I remember my friends in high school were eagerly awaiting it’s release. I didn’t even really know what it was until a few years later when I started playing it with Jay. By the time I played it with him he had played it 7 times over and new where do go and what to do andd ended up dragging me through the game. We kept restarting to play new characters and I don’t think we ever got farther than the second boss.

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Fast forward to a few days ago when I decided to fire up the PC version of Borderlands I got from one steam sale or another. The game is brutal I spent more time at the revive station than actually shooting some times. By myself there’s no other focus for the enemies so I’m the one absorbing every bit of damage. It was still fun though if not challenging. It was the first time I actually paid any attention to the story and it turns out I wasn’t missing out on that much. As fun as it was I’ve made it to level 15 where we had stopped in the past and I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to finish it.

I bought the Handsome Jack Collection to play with Jay about a year and a half ago and we still haven’t beaten it. Borderlands 2 is much like Diablo 3 where I get in a mood to play it and then it becomes my main game for a few weeks until I get bored. So every few months or so we’d pick it back up and get a lot of story done and some DLC and then we’d stop.

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It’s always been a struggle to get myself psyched to play it that first time after a long break because the co op game play is a lot of fun but the story is kinda boring even with a great cast of characters. And after a few hours the dialogue gets overdone. I love spoofs, puns, and pop culture references in games but when its all of that 24/7 it gets a little tiring.

With that being said me and Jay are currently working through BL2’s DLC Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragons Keep and it’s fantastic. I especially enjoyed a quest line spoofing Dark Souls and the whole setting of being in a tabletop game. In fact both the DLC’s that we’ve played through have been much more interesting than the rest of the game.

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Now we’ve just started the story in the Pre-sequel and it’s nothing new in terms of story telling or game play. But the Pre-Sequel, despite the story outshines the other 2 in terms of co op for one reason. I can be ClapTrap who is simultaneously the trolliest and most supportive character all in one. I can dish out tons of helpful buffs and abilities to my allies one moment and then turn us all into bouncing rubber ducks the next moment. Much to the chagrin of my friends. Since the game is set on the moon there’s very little air and apparently there’s a mechanic my friends keep talking about where they have to fill up their air canisters every now and then or they die….but I don’t really know because as a robot I don’t need air.

So after this intensive few weeks of the crash course to the Borderlands series I can say that its much more fun to play with friends than alone, the story is nothing to write home about, but the game play and co op is top notch. Your always one drop away from a gun that will change your entire play style or make you super overpowered for your level.

I Risked the Rain

Risk of Rain_20170122162045A very rare occurrence happened last week. I bought a game and within the span of a week I beat it. I guess “beat” is a relative term for risk of rain because while I got to the final boss and killed him there is still a whole lot to unlock.

I’ve been eyeing this game for a long time. It’s been on my steam wish list for as long as I’ve had a steam wish list and for some reason I never pulled the trigger. Part of this was I heard it was a great multiplayer game and could never convince my friends to get it. This past PSN  Flash sale the game was a mere $4 and I thought to myself if I don’t get it now I’ll never get it. As it turns out one of  Jay and I’s mutual friend had it too so I had someone to play multiplayer with. That and the fact that it was a PS4 and Vita cross buy it was finally time to get it.

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I knew going in Risk of Rain was a rouge like, I knew it had pixel graphics, and I knew it was highly acalimed. What I didn’t know was that there were so many classes to unlock, the difficulty increased with time, and that I would be facing a relentless onslaught of tiny creatures for an hour or more.

I really like the fact that the difficulty goes up as time goes on. It adds a little more to the rouge-like formula. You can spend time after you clear the map looking for the chests and power ups you might have missed or you can go to the next level and have a slightly easier time on the next world.

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Playing this through in multiplayer has kind of ruined the single player experience for me. With 2 people the game is challenging but not seemingly impossible. I can only imagine how fun and chaotic three or four players would be. I played the first 2 hours in single player and only managed to make it to end of the third world. But when I was playing with a friend we beat the game twice in one night. I

Being a rouge like it has a ton of replay value that’s only added to bye the many classes available to unlock. So far I’ve unlocked 4 and they all have a unique feel to them.  also think some of the classes make more sense when playing with other people. There’s just no way I’m playing through the single player with the sniper with his single shot rifle that needs to be manually reloaded. Therese also artifacts to unlock that add interesting mechanics to the game like being able to choose which power up you get out of a chest or enemies dropping bombs when they die.

My favorite experience with it so far has been when a friend and I wentaround seeing how many drones we could collect at once. We took our massive drone army and obliterated everything on the last level just by getting close enough to be in drone firing range.

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What I like most about the game is that there is a real sense of progression throughout the game. I think this has to do with the fact that the difficulty is always increasing and with it the number of enemies on screen as well as the distribution of power ups. In the beginning its fairly easy with low level monsters spawning leisurely. In the middle you are getting your bearings and are facing situations that get dicey. By the end of the run you’re done actively dodging individual monsters because you have so much health and can take out big chunks of their health. Until you get to that final boss fight and you have to dodge.

This was the best purchase I’ve made in a while. I’ve already gotten my moneys worth out of the game and still have so much to unlock. It’ll definitely be one of those games that stays installed on my system for a while.