Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Gaming Guilty Pleasures (Pt 2)

Part 2 in the trilogy of games I loved that most people hated, trashed and forgot about.

Too Human 

Too Human was a game I didn't even know about until it was already out. I actually tried the demo on Xbox Live and thought it was just "OK", but it started to grow on me. I got a really good deal on it when I bought it on eBay (well below the retail price at the time), and started really getting into it. I was completely sold on the idea of a futuristic take on viking mythology. You got to be Baldur, choose a play-style (mostly either ranged combat or "in your face with a sword"), and wreck endless hordes of ice giants. Well, OK, they were robots. Still awesome. The story was actually pretty decent, and they managed to weave in a lot of the lore to fit the game. The more I played it, the more I liked it, probably because I died way less over time. If you replay certain levels and grind a little bit to level up and hone your skills as a viking god, you learn what works for certain fights and what doesn't. Eventually, you just get a ton of badass armor and weapons - so many that you don't even know what to do with.

Ah, but the negatives do still ring fresh in my mind. When you died, they wanted you to know. You get to watch a cinematic of a valkyrie coming down to pick you up and take you to Valhalla each and every time. And for several hours into the game, you'll watch it a lot. There was a steep learning curve. Also, the inventory eventually became  overwhelming. I ended up spending a lot of time just sorting through what I wanted and what I was just going to sell. But none of this stopped me from actually playing. In spite of the glaring issues the game had, I loved picking it up and playing it - if only to take out a couple hundred giant robots... BY MYSELF.

I was hoping for the sequels to actually see the light of day, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen. Sad panda. :(

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hopstache Black IPA - Brew Night

I got home from work today and decided I'd start the batch of black IPA. The ingredients were sitting in my closet crying out for attention. Every time I opened the closet door, where I store all of my brewing-related items, I could smell the grains. While I really enjoy them, I've never made an IPA before (only standard pale ales), let alone a black one...

So I sanitized all the necessary items for the whole process and started the boil. The end result - my apartment smells like someone blew up a hops packaging facility in my kitchen. I opted to not use muslin bags while hopping the beer wort because I like to get as much hop utilization as possible by adding it directly. I should have used bags for this batch, however, or at least strained it out before pouring it in the carboy. There's almost an inch of hop trub that sank to the bottom, and that's still with a huge portion of it left behind in the boiling pot. Whatever - worst case scenario, I'll have a little less liquid, but a lot more hoppy flavor. This is also the first time I decided to use a blow-off setup for the primary fermentation instead of a regular airlock, mainly because it's a higher gravity beer, and I've heard the yeast can be incredibly active. I didn't want to risk having krausen (that's the foam while it's fermenting) all over my closet because of excess CO2 build-up. So now it's all done and ready for the yeasties to go "om nom nom".

EDIT: Less than 8 hours in and it's happily fermenting away. The blow-off tube is releasing the pressure just fine. Probably a good thing that I set that up - this is very active yeast.

Next steps:  dry hop to secondary, wait, bottle, wait...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Holster Your Weapon

While traveling, I decided to post something quick and funny. Sometimes I love the fake billboards, posters and other ads in video games. There's a theme with these ones...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Gaming Guilty Pleasures (Pt 1)

I've actually been meaning to write this one for quite some time, but I've been too busy playing Skyrim to pay much attention to anything else (slaying bunnies and dragons is important work).

I have to admit - I've played some really crappy games over the years. Games that make me wonder "why did the developers even bother?"  Games that make me wonder who the target market even is and contemplate why they would ever throw their money away for such a terrible investment. However, I'm 100% positive that I'm not alone in saying that there are a few games I've loved playing that everyone else in the world seems to hate, or games that have been criticized to death and resurrected so they could be criticized again. They've all been slammed for various reasons, and I usually tend to agree with some of the harsh words said about a variety of games. But there's just something special about them, regardless of how bad everything else is... it's like finding a diamond in a pile of manure. There are specifically three (3) titles I've played over the years that stuck with me the most, which were quickly and quietly forgotten about by a majority of the video gaming community. If you asked me if they're worth playing, I might be one of the few within a thousand-mile radius to say "yes". I realize that if I wrote it all in one blog post, this could get quite lengthy, so I'm splitting it into one post per game. Without further rambling... the first of three...

Two Worlds

There was a lot of hype over the open-world RPG Two Worlds when it came out. Some were even so ambitious to call it the "Oblivion killer" (that didn't fare too well). There has since been a sequel, which was infinitely better but still forgotten about, mainly due to the original's reputation. I wouldn't have even touched Two Worlds II (that name is terrible) if I hadn't remotely liked the first one. Two Worlds wasn't nearly as big or epic as Oblivion, and never even came close. The only good bit of graphics was in the environment, the characters were forgettable and absolutely atrocious. The dialogue was so bad, that in Two Worlds II they ended up intentionally poking fun at the original. The story sucked and overall, the game just didn't impress on the level needed to sell copies. It got absolutely reamed by critics. But I loved Two Worlds. I spent about 100 hours on it; exploring, dungeon clearing, leveling, killing dragons, etc. While I was fully aware it wasn't a good game, I kept playing it. I got hooked by the little things that it actually did *right*. The equipment and spell crafting was one of the best in an RPG title I had seen, and the world, albeit fairly stereotypical, was fun to roam. I found myself actually enjoying the gameplay while laughing about how comically bad everything else was. I'm a sucker for cheesy 3rd person role play games. I'd tell people to play it for the crafting and the laughs, if nothing else.

Mayhap I have too much free time... verily?

Friday, November 11, 2011

And you wonder why...

I'm writing this while waiting for my copy of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim to install to my Xbox. I went to the midnight release at Gamestop and waited quietly in line, as most should. Others didn't do that. Tonight I witnessed more reasons why people look down on, and sometimes even shun, gamers. These are the people that make playing video games a frowned upon hobby by non-gaming society - those that spoil it for everyone and make me ashamed to share a hobby or even be a member of the same species as them.

Let's start with the yelling. It's understandable - you're excited about the game. But screaming profanities every 2 seconds at everyone that's in front of you at line isn't cool. Calm the hell down.

Next, lets start with the complete disregard for everyone else around you and just being overall annoying. Why, oh tool in the back of the line, must you set off your car alarm intentionally, pissing everyone around you off? What the hell does that accomplish?

Now onto what really bothered me for some reason... the absolute trashing of the entire area. Beer bottles smashed in the parking lot. Fast food bags laying about. Free promotional material that Gamestop employees gave you thrown on the ground. One group of kids was throwing Gatorade bottles (still full) onto the awning.

And you wonder why people look down on gamers...
I realize this could happen at any party, but this isn't helping anyone. It's a game release. You're there to buy a game and that's it.

To steal one of my favorite lines from Metalocalypse... "Don't be a dick - be a dude"

Friday, September 23, 2011

Oh hey... been awhile. I haven't forgotten - just been busy, as usual. Rented a lot of games, none of them terribly fantastic but still worth killing time on (Space Marine, Rise of Nightmares, Crysis 2, and more...) My life has been consumed by Gears of War 3. Yes, it's that effin' good. I love me some Gears. I haven't even beaten the story yet, but I've been tearing my way through twats in versus, horde mode and beast mode. Glorious. I don't even have to write a review for this. Get it if you know what's good for you... so I can have more people to play 4-player co-op with.

In other news, I think my EA Skate career is dead. Uploading clips to EA Nation no longer works, and I have no other feasible means of recording, save for buying a capture card, which at this point, would be an absolute waste unless I wanted to start filming other games, which I really don't ever think of doing. I suppose I could record Gears of War 3, but .. ehh... I dunno if it'd be worth it to buy a capture device.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Don't Diss Duke

Hey there,

Been awhile - for the little few of you that actually read and/or care. I've had a lot to do lately, plus I've been sort of lazy, so I haven't really gotten around to actually writing anything. I just moved into my new apartment in the St. Louis area and started my new job. No more university homework, so I can just come home now and play games. Between the moving and off-hours, I've recently played 3 games that I think deserve talking about. I'll be honest and say that I rented all 3 of these. This one will be a three-part wall of text so brace yourself. I'll try to make it quick and concise.

Duke Nukem Forever

In case you haven't heard, Duke Nukem: Forever finally came out. No really, it did. It's been getting absolutely atrocious ratings, however, which I feel that are wholly undeserved. I don't consider myself an oldschool Duke fanboy, but some things need to be said here. I've seen ratings of 2/10, 1 out of 5 stars, 10 out of 100, etc etc, so on and so forth. You get it. People are reaming Duke with terrible scores. I think it's because of one major reason alone, coupled with a few other contributing factors. That reason, dames and dudes, is high expectations. Sure, it may seem normal to expect something that has been in development for over 12 years to be worth it's weight in shat-out golden bricks that line the fountain of youth, but lets be realistic here... You would only expect that if it was the exact same product being worked on from start to finish. Let's all understand this - Duke: Forever has had several story rewrites, several graphic engine overhauls, and has even been tossed to a different development team. They weren't working on the same monster for 12 years straight. By the time Gearbox got the rights to the King, the graphics were about 2008 quality, and most of the content was whatever they inherited. Gearbox didn't make the entire game - they simply finished it. There's no way anything could ever live up to that kind of expectation and deep-down, they knew it. And let's cool it on the graphics gripes - honestly, I think the game looks better than CoD: Black Ops (which reminds me of PS2 days), and I'm not one to even judge a game purely on its graphics anyway. So, yes, I played it. And I actually enjoyed it. Was it freaking amazing, capable of inducing gamer-gasms? No. Was it fun(ny)? Yes. I don't think it deserves all the heat it's taking. Seriously, a 2 out of 10 would mean that a game is utterly unplayable garbage that a 2 year old could code out in a week. I've played *WAY* worse games than Duke: Forever that had better ratings. I think the "professional" reviewers were just really butt-hurt that it didn't live up to their wildest dreams. Sure, there are some parts I can gripe about, such as the over-use of the mini-duke levels, but for the most part, the game mechanics worked, and it was fun to destroy alien scum in a purely blast-through-em mentality. I played Duke Nukem: Forever with a beer in hand, knowing full well that every bit of it wasn't about being taken seriously - it was about college toilet-humor and slapping wall-boobs, and more importantly, Duke himself.  Don't drink the haterade til you've given it a go yourself, after having pulled the stick out of your arse. Worth playing? Yes, but maybe not buying. Give it a rent. I'll leave it at that.

Child of Eden

Short and sweet. That's Child of Eden for you in 3 words. This is a game that, whether you play it with a controller or with the 360's Kinect (my chosen method), sucks you in visually and musically. Overall it was a very enjoyable experience, and I felt more connected to a game while playing it than I had in quite a long time. Maybe it's the fact that while I was playing it, I didn't have a controller in my hand... or it could have been that while in the beautiful digital levels, there's barely a noticeable HUD to distract you. Musically and visually, this game couldn't have done better. It's a shame that its just so damn short. You can beat it easily in a day, but there's a ton of replay value to be had. The achievements and collectibles in Child of Eden are extremely challenging to obtain and, if you're into whoring yourself out for achievements, you'll have plenty of fun. Because I only rented it, I didn't get to do much whoring, myself.  Worth a buy (which I plan on doing after a few paychecks settle in maybe), especially if you own a Kinect. Fun to play, easy to approach, but difficult to master.

F.3.A.R  (aka FEAR 3)

This one is fresh in my mind, so I figured I'd review it. I've had a love-hate relationship with the FEAR series. Each game was very enjoyable, but always had one or two things that it could have done to make it better. The story arc among all 3 games has gotten progressively more complex and confusing. The first game focused more on being scary than the following 2 sequels, but the latter added more solid game play in a nicely wrapped package. F3AR, I'll say, wasn't nearly as scary. It had its moments of tension, but they were always kind of a letdown. I wouldn't even bother to call it anything close to a survival-horror shooter anymore. It was more of a thriller than horror. The game starts off rather quickly, assuming you totally understand the previous 2 games and hoping that you ignore some of the plot-holes it leaves. You play as one of 2 brothers, either Point Man, from the original FEAR, or Paxton Fettel, who you shot in the head at the end of said first game. Does it bother to explain how a psychic-him is still floating around? No. Does it bother to explain why the main character (Point Man from the first game) was captured and imprisoned? No. There's a pregnant ghost-girl mother who's having FEAR2's Daddy's baby. If you've ever played any of the FEAR games, you'll know what I mean. They assume you come into this knowing you're getting into some paranormal stuff they don't have to explain. It just has one gear, and that's *GO*. So other than those gripes, how was it? Pretty good actually. I'm considering buying it soon when I can, so I can replay it as the other brother and get into the completely reworked multiplayer. For this review, I just played through the single-play instead of the 2-brother-co-op, which the game was quite obviously designed for. I owe it more time, but I liked it. They improved on some let-downs from FEAR2, and actually brought in characters we care about again. The gameplay was really solid. I can't really complain about the shooting bits, because there's really nothing wrong there. I just wish it were scary again... that's part of what sold me on the original. F3AR constantly takes you out of the game by throwing tons of stuff on your HUD reminding you that you're playing a video game and that you're not actually in some horrific setting. Take me back to the creepy bits please - I actually like games that make me hesitant to go into the next room. I felt like I blazed through this without much worry at all. I digress...
If you like shooters, put down your Halo and your CoD and give this iteration of FEAR a whirl. It's a welcome change of pace from the typical crap that the FPS market is churning out, and is definitely worth playing through if you've had any experience with this game's predecessors.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Two Worlds 2

A long jump forward, a few steps back...

The original Two Worlds was an RPG that actually had a decent amount of hype, but fell short on pretty much all of it. Yet I still played the ever-living hell out of it. Given all of its shortcomings, bugs, terrible voice acting, low framerate and overall clunky and mostly broken system, I loved playing it. It had a certain charm to it, and I really, REALLY like 3rd person, open-world RPGs. I think I'm one of the few people in the world that legitimately liked it.

Now take the original game, with all its failures, and improve almost damn near everything... almost. That's Two Worlds 2. Its name is a bit silly, but my, how it has grown. They learned their lesson and actually made the sequel into something really worth playing, if you like RPGs, that is. Do not make the mistake of calling yourself an RPG fan and then compare it to Elder Scrolls... it doesn't work like that. I hate that criticism, "oh it's no Oblivion, so therefore it sucks". They're on completely different ends of the RPG spectrum, with the only thing linking them is that they are fantasy games.

With that out of the way...
In Two Worlds 2, you are once again the main character from the original game, except the story or the landmarks in the original didn't matter. Your sister and you (the nameless hero) are imprisoned by the evil emperor Gandohar (funny names in this game). Apparently you've been in prison for somewhere around 5 years, so there's enough excuse to make you have to relearn all your combat skills over again. You get busted out by some friendly orcs and get sent on your epic quest to learn Gandohar's weaknesses and free your sister. It doesn't sound as epic to start off, but later in the game, things build up to where there's more than just the rescue of your sister at play.

Almost everything about it is better than the previous iteration. They actually throw in an existing story, hired some decent voice actors, and made things interesting. There's a decent tutorial right from the get-go this time around. The character models are kind of iffy-looking but the environments look absolutely awesome. A lot of the original game got a major overhaul as far as functionality and customization goes. You can still stack "cards" to increase your magic power, but it's even more customizable. Almost everything can be broken down into raw materials to upgrade weapons or armor with. That's one thing I loved about the original Two Worlds, that I'm glad they kept around... the sheer amount of customization and upgrades. This version of the game is much deeper - there's a lot more to do - it definitely feels like the kind of game you'll spend a ton of time on. There's even a good bit of humor in the game, often making pop-culture references or poking fun at how campy the original game was (see videos embedded at the end of this post).

As for your combat, you can deal in magic, melee or archery. I recommend choosing 2 of the 3 for at least a small portion of the game, so you can adequately defend yourself as a mage in close-quarters, for example, by also having some melee until you've improved your spellcasting. You'll want to choose what you focus in wisely for awhile until you start earning extra skill points as you level up. But beware... one thing that I found strange was that not all the skills you can master are actually useful. For example, I might have used alchemy once, but never found a reason to use it again. And I had no real reason to allocate precious points into stealth or armor-crafting. Just go with what works for you and don't venture too far from your set skills.

There's also a multiplayer, which I've honestly spent a decent amount of time on, where you can play a few matches against other players, build a village, or do a secondary campaign with friends. I like this option because instead of importing your solo character, you create a new online character that you can choose more focused and specialized stats in. It's fun to mess around with the different builds you can use and it's actually a good tool in learning what you might want to use in single-player as well. Village mode is like RPG meets RTS meets crack. I check on my village daily and make sure that I build a new building or save the villagers from spiders when needed.

Even though it's wayyyyy better than the original, and more than I could have hoped for, there's still some issues I have with it. For one, and this was something the original was criticized for as well... the horse-riding still sucks. Ok, well they improved on it, but it's still just useless. You're better off walking. The inventory is still clunky and the interface is see-through, so depending on where you are or what's in the background while you're browsing your latest loot, it can be kind of annoying. One thing I liked about the original that is pretty much non-existent in the 2nd game is dragons. NO DRAGONS?! WAAAAAAT?! I loved going dragon killing in Two Worlds and they took it out.

So that about sums it up... I might add to this already-too-long post if I think of anything extra to love on or bitch about. Overall, I love the hell out of Two Worlds 2 and I'm glad TopWare & Reality Pump have my money for it. Well worth it if you like RPGs. And now, for some humor...

(Making fun of the voice acting & general abuse of language in the original Two Worlds)

(A tribute to Monty Python...)