Nuclear Throne

Today I want to tell you about Nuclear Throne!

These are all playable characters, not monsters.

These are all playable characters, not monsters.

Nuclear Throne is a fast-paced top-down pixel shooter made by Vlambeer. It’s available on Steam, which is where I randomly stumbled across it. I bought it because it looked fun and creative and (most importantly) had roguelike qualities to it, and boy, does it ever. All the levels, enemies, and drops are randomly generated, and every time you level up you’re presented with randomized upgrades from which to choose. A round of Nuclear Throne generally doesn’t take much longer than 15 minutes, especially if you’re new to it, because it is extremely difficult and death is cheap.

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Skyforge – Open Beta

Skyforge is an MMORPG that went into open beta today. You play as a god that has recently undergone apotheosis and is working to protect the planet. I’ve been playing the closed beta since last week, so I think now is the appropriate time to let people know what they are getting into if they decide to try it. I’m going to try to cover what it does well and what it does poorly in a concise manner.

First of all, Skyforge is really, really pretty. The character models are very well done, the different classes use weapons that are visually distinct, and most of the spell effects are cool. The adventuring zones are huge, and so far mostly feature gorgeous rolling landscapes that stretch as far as the eye can see. If you remember all the things I said about the graphical quality of Guild Wars 2, those go double for Skyforge.

I’m on a cliff overlooking a port town. Well, actually I’m falling off the cliff, but this game doesn’t have fall damage so I just took the picture like I planned.

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Grimrock 2 – Final Thoughts

This is my last post about Grimrock until a third one comes out. I want to explore the subtleties in the story and talk about the overarching mysteries that aren’t required to beat the game. Grimrock has 2 endings, and one of them asks the player to combine game mechanics with lore to figure out what’s really going on. There’s spoilers here, but realistically, if you’re taking the time to read this then you probably already know them. I’m going to discuss all the important lore and plot of Grimrock 2 here, so it’s a bit longer than usual.

First, I want to cover a little bit of this game’s backstory. We can infer some of the history of the mysterious isle of Nex from the frescoes on the walls inside the Pyramid. As best I can tell, a long time ago, an Egyptian-like group of people lived on the island. They built the Pyramid and all the other buildings and ruins, which means they had quite the diverse taste in architectural style. At some point, all of these people were enslaved by an Island Master, and apparently the mantle of Island Mater is passed down through the centuries. Their reasons for wanting to rule the island are clear, Nex is a nexus of magic in the world, and all the world’s knowledge is stored there.

Other lore on the island tells the tale of a captain Kilhagan, a pirate captain who wound up trapped on Nex after a shipwreck. His crew was killed by the traps and monsters, and he spent years of his life hoping to get revenge for their deaths, though he was never able to find it. Eventually, though, we learn that Kilhagan abandoned his rage and “sought enlightenment”.

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Grimrock 2 – Insane Ironman Challenge

This is a post is related to Legend of Grimrock 2, and I think my Monday post will be too. If you’re sick of Grimrock talk, feel free to check out now, but also please feel free to come back once I’m done talking about Grimrock! Enough preamble, the topic is the “Insane Ironman” achievement.

0.6% of players were dumb enough to do this. Also notable: the vast majority of players correctly judged farmers to be garbage, and didn’t bring any.

I generally don’t go for achievements, in part because games these days often have hundreds of them, and in part because they are meaningless unless you assign your own value to them. I wanted to play Grimrock 2 again, but I wanted it to be challenging. In fact, I wanted to have the most challenge possible. To this end, I turned on all the difficulty settings and made a party setup that I felt would grow into their abilities well.

Difficulty in Grimrock doesn’t affect items or puzzles in any way, it only makes the enemies faster, stronger, and sturdier in the form of a lot more hit points. Because I had already fully played the game, this meant that I knew all the secrets and puzzle solutions. In fact, really all I did was make combat harder and more fiddly, remove my map feature, and make it so the heal/revive crystals only worked once each and were also the only times I could save. Normally you can save before you do something reckless or stupid, like most PC games, but now I was forced to ration my saves, like one of the older Resident Evil games.

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Legend of Grimrock 2

Legend of Grimrock 2 was released in October 2014 and is an improvement over the first in almost every aspect. After the original’s sales proved the existence of a market for this type of game, the team set out to make a sequel with a much larger scope, and in my opinion, knocked it right out of the park. There’s more content, more imaginative puzzles, better skill progression, more races, more weapons, extremely varied locations, and an interesting overarching set of mysteries that tie the game together. Almost Human is a development team to keep an eye on in the future.

This game maintains the grand tradition of starting adventures with a shipwreck.

The first thing to note about Grimrock 2 is the existence of what the layperson calls “outside”. The previous game was spent entirely inside a dungeon, and while the dungeon looked nice and did incorporate many different styles of architecture, it was still a dark, cramped dungeon. Grimrock 2 does have some nice-looking dungeon parts, but the art for the outdoors maps is gorgeous. Forests, deserts, beaches, bogs, castles and pyramids are just a few of the locales the player will visit, all while exploring the same island.

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Legend of Grimrock

So sometimes, life happens. All the time, really. You get involved in a new job or a family issue, and then it’s 3 years later and you’re like, “hey, I miss doing that blog!” I think we can all relate. Anyways, I wanted to talk about the Grimrock series of games! Let’s jump right in.

grimrock_title

Adventure awaits.

Legend of Grimrock is a PC game made by Almost Human. It is a real-time, grid-based, first person dungeon crawler. If you haven’t heard of this kind of game, it’s probably because the genre hasn’t really been a thing since Eye of the Beholder 3 back in 1993. In this game you are dropped (literally down a pit) into a dungeon and tasked with managing four characters; you must keep them fed, healthy, and well-equipped. The goal is to descend through the mountain dungeon Grimrock as punishment for crimes your party committed previous to the game. No one has ever been known to escape alive. There really isn’t a whole lot more to the story until the very end, and the majority of the game is gameplay-focused.

This is the character that carries all my food, including all my delicious giant snail meat.

Before the game begins, you’re prompted to create characters from a few classic DnD classes and races and spend their stat and skill points. Grimrock is not a very fast-paced game, you spend a fair bit of time managing your inventory and considering skill tree choices. Your party of four moves as one unit due to being shackled together, and the grid-based nature of the game means your movements are very specific in distance and direction. Combat is short but heavy on interaction, because you have to use each individual character’s weapons or abilities with the correct timing, while also using WASD to move to avoid the enemy’s pursuit and attacks. Spellcasting in a fight can be especially distracting, as you must input the correct rune combination every time. The game can be fairly unforgiving with combat later, and you’re not expected to stand in front of an enemy and tank all the damage they are putting out. Failing to dodge a lightning bolt or a troll’s charge might leave you with half the party down.

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Guild Wars 2 – Dungeons

So now that I’ve spent time talking about some things that Guild Wars 2 does well (although certainly not everything it does well), I think it would be appropriate to talk about the main, glaring flaw in the game – dungeons. Every MMO in the past decade has had some form of instanced group challenge, and every single one of them has done it better than Guild Wars 2.

The screenshots in this post will show your our futile attempts to complete this event. We were supposed to defend these “crystals”, although I strongly suspect they were really made of glass and paper.

In very general terms, a dungeon should be a fairly linear environment filled with obstacles, usually a mix of groups of weak normal monsters and intermittent bosses. There might be environmental hazards or timed goals, and the players should need to work as a team (if they don’t massively outlevel the dungeon). World of Warcraft and all its clones have this down to a fine art. You get in, you get your fill of plot and lore (or skip them), you murder all the things, and you get loot. It’s not the most elegant system, and one could argue that it isn’t fulfilling if there’s not enough challenge involved, but overall I think players would rather do something that is easy to moderately difficult, rather than bang their heads against a wall for say, 4 hours.

This is just the start, with only one burrow and a couple gravelings. My clones are pretty useless, even now.

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Guild Wars 2

It’s fun. Guild Wars 2 is fun in a way that I have not seen from a game in a while. It is an entirely new experience for someone who is used to the “WoW” style of MMOs. I played World of Warcraft for 7 years, and Guild Wars 2 is still surprising me by how hard it tries to eschew that much-copied approach to online gaming. Let me tell you about some parts of the game that I find refreshing and enjoyable.

This is my main character, Hoffenbachager. I made him at the end of a long day of making extremely poor decisions. I like to be colorful, and the dye system obliges.

Characters creation is just one of the ways Guild Wars 2 tries to involve the player in something new and different. When you make a character, you make some decisions about his/her motivations in life, their background, and in what ways they are skilled. As you can see, I made a giant Norn character, and then gave him the role of Mesmer, which is a job that is mostly about making illusions and spewing magic made of pink butterflies. All of the classes are entertaining, and any race can be any class. If you’re looking to try several classes to see which one you like, it barely takes any time to learn the abilities you will be using the majority of the time. Abilities are linked to the weapon you use, and can be earned very quickly. I appreciate this attempt to make classes simple yet complex, and to allow new players a quick glimpse at the future abilities of a class.

This character is level 10, but she already knows all of her abilities on all of her weapons. The only things left to unlock are the abilities on the right bar, and those will be used far less often.

Exploration is a huge part of Guild Wars 2. As you may or may not be able to tell from my low-quality screenshots, this game is aggressively pretty and almost offensively scenic. In fact, one of the ways to gain experience is to go to places called “vistas” and use them to view the surrounding area. They are usually in high places, and often there is a small jumping puzzle to get to them. However, you don’t need a vista just to see things that look nice, because in this game, you can look almost anywhere and get that. Read the rest of this entry

The Dark Knight Rises, and So Do I: A Movie Review

It has been a while since I’ve touched this blog. I’d say I was busy, but in truth I didn’t have much that I wanted to go to the trouble of saying. However, I just returned from my showing of TDKR, and I have a lot of things to say about it. From here on, there are SPOILERS, and I really think you should just go see the movie yourself before reading this. Also, I’m not going to say anything about the terrible real-life tragedy aside from offering my condolences. This blog is not serious enough to discuss a topic like that.

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Diablo 3 week!

Diablo 3 launches tonight at midnight! Well, 2 AM for me, but I’m going to be up for it anyways. I’ve got a group lined up and ready to go, and we’re going to have fun and power through. I plan to post about my experiences in the game this week, and I’m really excited to tell you all about a game that I expect to be great! I don’t have much to say now except that I hope you will also be joining in on the fun.