A Whole Lot of Mummies

 

20190813215400_1.jpgLast night my group wanted to play Strange Brigade. We didn’t have enough time for a campaign mission which can sometimes take upwards of an hour. So we tried out the horde mode setting. Originally, when we purchased the game, this was the only mode we thought there was but it’s taken us a while to play it because we’ve been enjoying the campaign so much.

Horde mode is a solid game mode. It’s a good thing we played a bit of the campaign first because a lot of the mechanics carry over to this mode. But there isn’t a tutorial, or at least not one as good as the campaign. Overall it’s not too hard to figure out. You kill enemies in waves, collect gold and can spend that gold on various items, weapons, and unlocking doors.

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Action screenshots are hard to get in this game

Unlocking doors seems to add rooms with puzzles and occasionally health potions. The puzzles are an odd choice. There are 25 seconds in between each round to upgrade your items and spend your gold. So you can spend those trying to figure out the puzzle or just do it during combat. We didn’t end up completing any of them because the rounds were pretty intense by the time we unlocked some of those rooms. I still have no idea what kinds of things unlock when you figure them out. You also have the chance to spend gold to get a special weapon out of a crate. This is randomized so you can get anything from a crossbow with exploding bolts to a machine gun that freezes enemies. I found these essential as we climbed the waves.

We started Round 1 with only pistols and good ole’ fashion fisticuffs. The next round I was able to buy a weapon upgrade to a bolt action rifle. The enemies were the same ones we had been facing in the campaign for the first few rounds. Round 5 they minotaurs started spawning, probably the most challenging enemies we had fought so far. They’re tanky, run really fast, and hit like a truck. By round 10, I was starting to get the hang of things. Some new enemy types were spawning. The ones I particularly liked were skeletons with purples hearts that explode and kill other nearby enemies.

It looks like weapons upgrades are tied to your progress in the campaign. I was only able to upgrade to the third tier of bolt action rifle which I had bought during the story missions. I was only able to buy 1 extra grenade type that I had also unlocked earlier. I don’t mind this, I like the campaign mode enough that I know I’ll be playing it and unlocking things.

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We ended the night after round 11 where we faced off against 3 giant minotaurs with swords. After killing all the normal enemies in the wave we had to take these bad boys out. The key was to shoot the glowing crystals on them until they fell over. Then a player had to run up to them and hold the left house to charge up their amulet that somehow damaged the giant sword-wielding cows.

We did all of this in about 45-50 minutes. The rounds are quick but very hectic. I found it to be a good mix of difficulty with the enemy density being overwhelming even with a 3 man group. After exiting there was a message that said I unlocked new starting spawn locations and that this was the highest wave reached on this map. I don’t know if we will have to start at Round 1 when we play again but I’m interested to see how the new spawns change things up.

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Backlogged: Oxenfree

 

Oxenfree 7_5_2019 10_18_33 AM.pngOxenfree was, uh, free a few weeks, maybe months now, ago on the Epic Games Store. Jay has been telling me for about 2 years now how good Oxenfree is. So I immediately picked it up and, in true fashion, didn’t play it for a month or two. He’s also the one who recommended SOMA to me and that is now one of my favorite games of all time. While Oxenfree doesn’t fall into the same caliber of the game for me, it was very good.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A group of teenagers go to a haunted island to drink and party. There they discover a mysterious cave and set off an event that has them being chased by an evil entity the rest of the night. There’s a mystery, time travel, and scary ghosts in the PA system! Yes, it’s a generic horror plot but Oxenfree’s biggest strength is it’s cast of characters.  Every line of dialog is voiced and the characters are written so well that I actually started to miss them after the credits rolled.

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Oxenfree isn’t a game as much as it’s an interactive story.  Like a TellTale game (RIP) with less quick time events. There aren’t a lot of choices to be made other than what the main character, Alex, will say next. It’s a very on-rails experience and while I’m sure I could have taken a slightly different route and had a slightly different experience I didn’t feel the need to replay it….until I went to go take screenshots for this post.

I completed the game in 2-weekend play sessions. In all, it took about 8 hours from start to finish. Like I said, I loved the cast of characters and the story had some fun twists and turns. Playing through Oxenfree felt like binge-watching a very good show, I just had to know what was going to happen next. The setting is a tourist island that seems to be closed for the season. The only full-time resident has recently died so you will end up in her house looking for answers. The characters manage to awaken some sort of ghost trapped in what appears to be a radio signal. Throughout the night this ghost possesses Alex’s friends as it tries to get back to the world of the living.

The visuals in Oxenfree are perfect for the story it’s trying to tell. Everything is lacking just a little bit of detail, it’s colorful, but also mostly covered in fog. I found that it set a great atmosphere for the whole story. I think if they were any more cartoony or realistic they wouldn’t have been nearly as effective. I also love that the loading screens show the polaroids that are taken in various parts of the game. These add a little more detail to the graphics and always feel like an intimate moment between the characters

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There is a bit gameplay in Oxenfree besides choosing dialog trees. Alex carries a radio with her that when tuned to certain frequencies can trigger events. Each zone on the map has some unique radio stations that are interesting to listen to, so it’s worth pulling it out when you enter a new area. Also, there are a few collectibles. I found a lot of them but I didn’t go out of my way to look for them all. I’d would recommend Oxenfree if you’re looking for a laid back game with a very good story.

 

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Alright back to the screenshot thing. See there’s a little detail I missed after the game returned to the screen. What I assumed was the new game button actually said “Continue Timeline?”. I needed screenshots so I went back in for some pictures and the opening scene was a little different than I remember. So I played on…for another few hours actually. I may need to go back and go through the whole story again and see what I can change the second time around.

 

 

Long-Distance Friendships

I don’t think gaming would be as prevalent and important in my life without my friends. Some of my best memories around video games have been with friends. Long nights trying to beat Demon souls, hours spent grinding our way through monster hunter, hanging out after school and playing a few rounds of the terrorist hunt in the original Tom Clancy’s Rainbow 6, and all the excitement around Call of Duty Modern Warfare.

When I was in high school, voice communication in games was becoming more prevalent. We used Teamspeak and Ventrillo when we had friends who had a server. I remember for the longest time our friend group would conference call each other and tie up our parent’s landlines when we didn’t have access to a server.

I went to college in a different state and as a result, I lost touch with a lot of my friends as tends to happen But there were a few I kept in close contact with. In college, I didn’t game nearly as heavily as I did in high school and as a result, I lost a lot of contact with my friends who shared that common interests. In fact, after college, I’ve really only kept in contact with one of my childhood friends, Jay. I talk about Jay a lot here, he’s my go-to gaming buddy and my best friend.

This isn’t by accident. When I graduated college in 2014, I bought myself a headset for my PS3 that had been gathering dust at my parent’s house. I knew that if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be in touch with my friend for long as our lives grew busier. We live 4 hours away so we don’t see each other in person all that often. But through video games, we’ve kept in touch for the last 5 years.

About 3 years ago, Jay introduced me to his circle of gaming friends. We were all in a group skype chat that was fairly busy. It was a little weird at first, feeling like I was intruding in the conversation of all these people who had known each other for years. But after a few months, I felt part of the group. I’ve kept in contact with these folks for 3 years through various games. We’ve, thankfully, moved our group chat over to Discord. It turns out Skype is not good for these sorts of things.

Flash forward to earlier this year and I actually got to meet these guys I’d been talking with for years at one of their weddings. It’s a surreal experience meeting someone in person that you’ve come to know by their voices alone. But we all lived so far from one another it was awesome having us all in one place.

All of these connections have come from games. And they wouldn’t have been possible without them. Today it’s easier than ever to keep in touch with friends new and old with discord, skype, and social media. I for one am so thankful for the ability to talk to my friends and play games so easily.

Reintroducing I’m Not Squishy

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The OG header of the site.

This blog is in its 4 years. I use the term year lightly as some “years” I’ve been active here for a month or 2 before disappearing. However, it is Getting to know you week for Blaugust so let’s get to know this blog.

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I’m Not Squishy came in to being as the result of the Newbie Blogger Initiative in 2016. This would ultimately be the last NBI event and it would be a year or two before it was rolled into Blaugust. At the time I had been thinking of starting a blog for a long time and was inspired by what I saw in the MMO blogging community and The CRPG Addict. My original thought was to blog about MMOs and have a side project where I played through the games I owned. My backlog seemed quite big back then at 100 or so unplayed games.

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If you’ve been wondering what the meaning behind the name is, I’m not sure anymore. I wanted a gaming related title for the blog and this one just came to me while at work. I’ve always played the glass cannon type characters and my friends have always yelled at me for sacrificing survivability for more damage. I thought it was a cool name at the time, these days I’m not as sold on it.

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Over the years this hasn’t changed too much. I do find myself playing fewer MMOs than I thought I would. I’ve also gone through fewer games than I thought I would almost 4 years in. I was pretty active in my first year and then other projects and real-life seemed to get in the way of keeping up with the posts.

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The state of this blog, as I see it now is more of a gaming blog than an MMO blog. I’ve been waiting for an MMO to grab me for some time now and nothings latched on too much. Well except Trove, but it’s hard to write about Trove on the daily, sometimes even weekly do to the repetitive nature of the game. I’m planning on focusing a little more on my self imposed backlog challenge. I’ll be focusing on my steam library instead of all systems and I’m still trying to figure out the best way to write about it. For now, I still want a place to share my gaming adventures and other interests and this is the perfect place to do it.

 

Audio Drama Sunday: Space, demons, and a little bit of magic.

 

 

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Photo by Thomas Le on Unsplash

I’m trying out a new feature. I’ve been getting into audio dramas and audio fiction a lot over the last few months. I wanted a place to put my thoughts down on the things I’m listening to each week instead of making them separate posts like I had previously tried with Vast Horizon: Adrift. Plus, it’d be nice to have a guaranteed something to post on Sunday for Blaugust. So without further ado welcome to our new Audio Drama Sunday feature.

 

Vast Horizon: Adrift

S1 E6 – Bear and Bees

Faced with the reality of Poe’s death, Dr. Nolira Eck must now face her own struggle to survive. Without power and alone, she sets off to find a way to recharge her limbs, and attempts to stop herself from descending into darkness.

After last weeks emotional roller coaster of an episode, Vast Horizon returns with more action-packed audio scenes. We got a lot of back story on Norlira this week. At the same time, I was also left with more questions about her past. The last 10 minutes of this episode are absolutely amazing. Norlira finds herself at the bottom of a shaft badly injured. The acting and the sounds made this scene so immersive and heart wrenching all at the same time. I look forward to the next installment.

 

Calling Darkness

What happens when six women accidentally summon a Demon from the bowels of hell?

The first season of this show has already ended but I just discovered it this week. It’s a comedy horror podcast and it lives up to that. It’s funny and dark and has some fantastic voice acting and writing. In a lot of ways it reminds me of a CW show but in a good way, a bit of drama, a little spooky, and it’s played on some horror tropes in a new way. I knew after the first episode I was in to listen through the rest of the season. And was double sold after hearing David Cummings, of the No Sleep Podcast, is the executive producer of the show.

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Ah, the reason why Wednesdays are my favorite day of the week. This week the crew took a break to put the finishing touches on season three’s finally. I can’t believe we are already at the end of the season. This week we got a season 2 mailbag episode where the crew answered questions from listeners. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting this to be that fun of a listens but I happily proven wrong. I was a short episode, only 22 minutes, but I wish it were longer. All the questions were answered in character and were just as funny as a normal episode. There’s a few more of these for Maximum Fun supporters, I may have to sign up for that because I want to hear more of that!

The No Sleep Podcast

This is my go-to podcast when I play Trove. I’m working my way through season4 and I’m up to episode 9. I’m glad that the intro has changed this season. The intro for season 3 included a sound clip of someone screaming and after a while, that was getting annoying. The quality of the stories is still amazing. I bought a season pass up until the end of season 5 and will gladly buy the next 3 season passes when I’ve listened thoroughly up to that point. I’ll need to keep a list of some of my favorite stories I come across in a given week if I’m going to continue with this little feature.

 

 

Why Write a Game Blog?

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Last week we looked at why we read game blogs. This week, let’s talk about why we write game blogs. This blog is now 3 and a half years old. That’s crazy, where has the time gone? While I haven’t always written here, it’s been in the back of my mind every day since it started way back in 2016. But I was thinking just the other day, why do I keep coming back to the blog? I’ve gone months without writing, but I always come back whether it be for an event like Blaugust or just when inspiration strikes.

Let’s me chronicle my own gaming history

Blogging lets me chronicle my own history of gaming. I can look back on my posts and see what I was playing, what I liked, what I didn’t like, where my head was at in that particular momment. I often look back on old posts and remember exactly what triggered me to write that particular post. Plus with my self imposed baclog challenge, I have a place to keep track of all the games I’ve beaten over the years this blogs been here. If you look at the Games Beaten page, you’ll see its pretty small for something I’ve been trying to do for almost 4 years.

Changes the way I think about games

When I’m active on my blog, like I am this month, it changes the way I think about games. It adds a little more to the expereince. Instead of playing for pure fun, I’m constantly looking at opportunities for a post. When I’m not playing, I’m immeresed in news and other’s blogs that inspire my writing and my enthusiasm for the hobby,

Gives me more enjoyment from the hobby

When I’m not blogging and I’m not streaming with Jay, games feel almost like a waste of time. Yes, this is probably not a good thing, but writing makes my gaming time feel important. I’m not just playing, I’m playing to create something at the end. If anything, writing a game blog brings me more enjoyment than simply playing a game.

It’s a creative project

I like having a project. It’s why I like a lot of the grindy games I play, it’s why I love writing a blog, it’s why I like streaming and managing a twitch channel with my friends. It’s a nice creative outlet, I can’t draw, I can’t play an instrument, but I can write

There’s a great community

The game blogging community has some of the nicest people in it. Everyone is very welcoming to new people. Everyone is helpful if you have a question. And everyone loves games just as much as I do. I find this corner of the internet to be the least toxic gaming community ever. And with such great bloggers around with years and years under their belt, its hard  not to be inspired by them.

It improves my writing and style

Last, but certainly not least, writing a game blog helps me improve my own writing. Especially at a time like Blaugust where I’m writing everyday. I can always tell when I post multiple days in a row that my writing gets better. When I take a few months off, it’s like going to the gym after a long break, it’s hard, I feel like I can’t do what I used to, and it takes a while to get back to where you were before you stopped.

Quick side note: This post marks 2 straight weeks of posts in a row. This may be the most posts in a row ever on this site. I’m feeling good about finishing Blaugust this year!

 

Getting Strange with the Strange Brigade

 

20190721004632_1.jpgThe Strange Brigade is one of my new favorite multiplayer games. My group has played it a few times over the last month and it has quickly become a group favorite as well. It’s like multiplayer Tomb Raider set in 1930’s Egypt. We haven’t gotten very far, the missions are quite long and usually, we only have time for one or two before one of us has to log off for the night.

Actually, we bought it because we thought it was going to be a lot like Killing Floor 2. I didn’t really like Killing Floor 2 all that much but others in my group have played the game nonstop for years. I liked the look of the setting more in this game. Truth be told we haven’t played the horde mode yet.

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As it turns out though it has a fun story. I wouldn’t say it’s a great story so far, big bad gets released and is going to take over the world sort of thing, but it has been super fun to play through. The narrator is absolutely the most stand out aspect of the game full of 1930s-Esque quips. Also puns about the strange brigade, lots of puns.

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The core gameplay revolves around solving puzzles and shooting zombie mummies. Ya, I might be tired of zombies by now but these are MUMMY zombies, a whole new breed. Also giant scorpions, but mostly mummies. The puzzles are great because they can be done solo but it’s much better to figure them out as a group. There are secrets to collect, a treasure to unlock, more guns to slay your enemies, and there are also ceramic cats to shoot. The narrator is quick to congratulate you on each cat statue destroyed, he evidently does not enjoy felines.

I’m looking forward to putting more time into this game. It’s been a while since the group had a game all members actually liked. Now if we could all coordinate our schedules better we’d have more time to play!