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6 Reasons Hearthstone Is The Perfect Game For Me

Posted in Uncategorized on January 21, 2014 by Danny_Noe

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It just occurred to me that there are a lot of new nerd things in my life that I need to share with the internets. The newest one being the beta test of “Hearthstone”, the new online card battle game from Blizzard. I couldn’t bring myself to do some kind of game review for it, so I just decided to focus on the reasons this game is absolutely perfect for me. So without further ado, let’s get started!

 

6. Easy Time Management

Being an adult means having to take care of tedious things, such as go to work and pay the bills. These sort of detours can seriously get in the way of video game time, so having an online competitive game that only takes 5-20 minutes is something of a godsend. While I absolutely love titles such as League of Legends, Starcraft 2, and Team Fortress 2, trying to find the time to commit myself to those games can be difficult. LoL can last sometimes last up to an hour plus, and within that same amount of time I could play around 10 matches of Hearthstone.

 

5. Graphically Simple

For an online card game I wouldn’t expect much in terms of graphics, but because this is a Blizzard title, the presentation is still through the roof top notch stuff. It’s still a card game, though, so no matter how cool the boys and girls of Blizzard can make it, it’s always going to have a low demand in the graphics department. This makes my out-of-date “gaming” laptop happy, as it has a hard enough time running things. The fact that the frame rate doesn’t drop every five seconds makes the game experience and immersion all that more pleasing.

 

4. Turn Based Gameplay

Well, okay technically there is a time limit to your turn, so it’s more of a semi turn based game, but that’s still perfect for me. The fast paced nature of games like SC2 and TF2 can get my adrenaline pumping, but sometimes I just want something I can take my time on. Nothing is more anxiety producing than managing micro and macro on Starcraft, and nothing gets my blood boiling hotter than a Sniper popping my poor Pyro because I couldn’t find cover in time. With this, the pressure is still on to find a winning strategy within your turn’s time limit, but it goes at a much more comfortable pace and keeps my personal things from launching across the room out of rage.

 

3. Customization

With the multiple classes and endless amount of cards, this game gives me the option to make whatever kind of strategy I want. As someone who has upwards of sixty board games in his collection, I am a fan of not only strategy, but customizing cards to fit that strategy. Granted, most of these strats probably won’t work well, and most of the winning decks are already determined and can be found online, but the fact that it grants me the option is good enough for me.

 

2. It’s All You, Baby!

While I do love LoL and TF2, sometimes having to rely on other people to help you win can be a hassle. Not only do you have to try and find four other people to join a game of League, but then you all have to come to an agreement as to who’s going where, and then you have to pray that they know what they’re doing. The same with Team Fortress; I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve seen fail Pyros or begged anybody to run as Medic only to have my team fall to pieces because nobody wants to work together. The bonus in TF2 being you can just leave the game, but in LoL you have to suffer fools for at least 20 minutes. No worries about that in Hearthstone. Not only is it just you to worry about, but leaving the game doesn’t get you a slap on the wrist.

 

1. It’s Free

My wallets been feeling a little light after a series of unfortunate events, so to come across a game that meets all of my video game needs and also free is like Charlie finding that golden ticket. Granted, you do have the option to spend real money on bundles of decks, but you can buy decks with the in-game gold that’s given to you for playing matches also. I hear the arena costs money to play, but casual and ranked matches are completely free. You can play all day against people without spending a dime, and that’s quite possibly the best part of the whole shabang!

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 20, 2013 by Danny_Noe

ImageI commonly enjoy posting reviews on this blog relating to board games. I feel that the video game world has their fair share of video game reviewers and they certainly don’t need me to step in to tell you which games are good and which are trash.

This one, however is one of my few exceptions. 

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate crept into my radar like a nuclear bomb. By the time that it was out, I had read as much as I could about it and was so pumped, I needed it immediately. It’s rare these days to have a game that looks so fun that it makes me feel like a kid getting his first gaming console. 

Let me put this into a perspective that you’ll understand. When Skyrim came out, I saw the previews, thought it looked fun and exciting, but not enough to invest me. Bioshock Infinite was the same way, and this may be due to the fact that I’ve played some previous titles (Oblivion and Bioshock 1) that left me feeling very underwhelmed. So maybe this being the first game I’ve played out of the Monster Hunter franchise, I can look at it with unbiased eyes and begin it without a cynical expectation. 

Whatever the case may be, I began playing MH3U for hours and got addicted to every aspect of the game. I even started using my twitter account to post my experience with the game. Granted, roughly three people actually follow it, two of those being my cousins, and one of those cousins probably being the only one to read this, but I don’t care. I’m excited to share with people how much I love this game. It’s something so rare and unique feeling that it just begs to be praised.

That being said, there are some faults with the game, unfortunately. Now, I could go on a big tirade about what I love about the game and what I hate; so that’s what I’m going to do. Enjoy!

 

THE STORY (SPOILERS(?))

This is the easy part to write, because there is no story. Well, okay to be fair that’s not entirely true. 

The quaint little village of Moga is suffering from severe earthquakes and everybody is afraid. That’s where you step in; a stalwart monster hunter fresh off the boat and ready to gain your hunting wings. The village chieftain suspects that the earthquakes are being caused by some sort of underwater monster by the name of Lagiacrus (Like “Legend of Legaia” with a “crus” on the end). So it’s your job as a monster hunter to work your way up the ranks, completing quest after quest until you’re strong enough to battle this beast.

This story is practically non-existent really, and what’s great about it is the entire thing is revolved around the main game mechanic. You aren’t some amnesia stricken whiner who needs to go collect four crystals from Ganondorf so he can be reunited with his father. 

You’re a monster hunter.

You hunt monsters.

The story compliments this by revolving it around a big monster that you have to train up to hunt. 

Pure genius.

In a game that’s meat lies within a quest system, they were smart enough to leave the complex JRPG stories out of it and let you simply experience the game and allow you to create you’re own narrative. I’m not saying that JRPG’s have terrible storylines, I’m just saying that some games don’t need them. And this is one of them. 

THE GAME

The basic mechanic of this game is;

1. Do a mission

2. Collect items from that mission

3. Use those items to get better things

4. Better things allow you to do harder missions

5. see 1.

And that’s pretty much it. It doesn’t sound like much, but where this mechanic shines best is taking down those massive monstrosities. From your first Great Jaggia to that damned Brachydios, this game has an amazing set of monsters for you to slay. And it’s not done by random battling. It’s not done with mashing buttons at random. It’s done by finding the monster’s tells, using your character’s weapon and dodging wisely, jumping in for a hit when he’s open, and avoiding his crazy attacks. 

There’s no leveling system in this. One could argue that the new weapons and armor make you stronger to take on harder monsters and that itself can be a leveling system, but what I mean is that you aren’t just given some sort of random number that says you’re better now and should go fight something harder. The way you gain new armor and weapons is by collecting monster parts and forging them, and the way you get monster parts is by going out there and busting your ass to slay the monsters. Any of the experience in the game is strictly player experience, not avatar experience. Your character isn’t getting better at fighting monsters, you yourself are getting better. You are taking your time to study what each monster does. You are figuring out which items to bring along a quest with you to help you out. You are figuring out which weapon and armor you should forge to help you the most. I can’t even begin to tell how many times I would hear of a new monster and then immediately bust out the hunter’s guide and read up on him, checking his star ranking, his habits, and his environment.

This is one of those games that having a strategy guide to isn’t cheating. Hell, it’s almost homework. There are times where you really need to knuckle down and do your homework on this game. Granted a lot of fun can be had by just exploring and finding new things, but sometimes you might be stuck and need to figure out how to obtain sap plants for an item you need to combine. That’s where the handy dandy internet shines and helps you out. You create your own objectives and actually feel like you’re getting more attuned to the game. It’s one of the rarest things I’ve seen in video games these days and takes me back to the 8-bit era, where a game like Mega Man and Castlevania made you become a better experienced player by studying the game and putting the work in. 

Aside from having this awesome game mechanic, the harvesting mechanic is equally loved by me. This may come off as boring to some other gamers, but I think it’s a wonderful contrast. After spending 30+ minutes trying to slay an aggressively frustrating beast, it’s fun to relax on a harvest tour quest and gather items that I need for potions, and traps, and stuff. Even though fishing is simple and easy, it calms my nerves to just sit back and see how many goldenfish I can catch. 

 

THE THINGS THAT SUCK

This is a short list, but they’re some glaring issues that I come across in the game.

First, the camera controls underwater can be a complete hassle, especially when fighting an underwater monster. I haven’t gotten one yet, but the add-on to the 3ds that gives you another analog stick looks like it would help with camera movement, but it still feels like it would be a pain in the ass.

Secondly, there are many invisible walls in the game, which aren’t that big of a deal when you’re wandering around, but when one of those monsters come after you and you have your attention focused on them, you forget where those invisible walls are, so when you try to run away you get stuck, leaving you open for a free hit from whatever is trying to eat you.  

Third, the hit detection can sometimes feel a bit wonky. Sometimes my dodge works against a tail whip, and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s hard for me to tell how this works. Maybe I’m just doing something wrong, but it just feels like the game wants to cheat you sometimes. Also, given the varying sizes and caution you take when approaching a monster, sometimes you can’t tell how close you are and just straight up miss. This wouldn’t be a problem if the 3D looked a bit better, but the graphics aren’t that smooth, so it’s a strain on the eyes. They do give you an option to keep the 3D off, which I do like, I just wish it had a bit more polish on it so I can use the dang thing.

ALL IN ALL

I love this game. If this game were a woman, we’d be married. It just keeps offering you more and more. I haven’t even tried out multiplayer, either. All of this love is stemming from just me slaying the monsters alone. That’s how much fun this game is. Get it. Get it now. Treat yourself.

Twilight Struggle

Posted in Uncategorized on February 11, 2013 by Danny_Noe

Image2 players

ages 13 and up

180 minutes playtime

Following World War II came a clash of two superpowers; The capitalistic United States of America, and the red communists of The USSR. This conflict would continue on from the mid 1940’s until the early 90’s, and was known as The Cold War. The constant threat of nuclear war, and the increasing tension of paranoia and subterfuge made this a very long and trying time; it also makes for a pretty amazing card-driven strategy game. Twilight struggle puts two players into the seat of the leaders of USA and USSR and has them both clash heads throughout the entirety of The Cold War. Through armed battles and politics, these players will duel to come out on top, and see how they fair within The Cold War.

The Pieces

Twilight Struggle comes with handfuls and handfuls of tokens representing a player’s influence withing a country on the map. The board has many countries connecting to one another represented as boxes where you can place these influence tokens. There are two dice which are used to determine certain card events, military coups, and other varying factors. There are also several miscellaneous tokens to keep track of turn order, round order, def-con status, military ops, events, the space race, and scoring. 

Since this is a card-driven strategy game, this comes with over one hundred event cards that each player uses to simulate all the events that happened during The Cold War, and to also screw the other player over to their benefit. These cards are broken into three different decks; Early War, Mid War, and Late War. Each of these cards can be used for their event, or used for their military points to perform strategic actions. Some of the cards, when used, are removed from the game permanently, while others are discarded and used again in later rounds. There are also scoring cards, which are required to be played each round, and are one of the main ways of winning the game. Each one of these cards are unique and interesting to read about. With a card-driven strategy game, it’s all about the cards, and these are some of the best I’ve seen.

The Rulebook

As intricate and deep of a strategy game as Twilight Struggle can get, the rule book is very friendly to get into. For people who have never played a card-driven strategy game before (this is my first), it takes a few reads to understand how it all works. After you get some practice in and begin to understand it, the rules become very fun to learn. The first part of the book is a standard tutorial of the game. The next part is an example of a few rounds of the game to give you an even better understanding. The final part (my favorite) is a list of all the cards in the game and an historical description of them. There’s no real strategic advantage of reading these descriptions; it’s just a fun history lesson that gets you into the game and immerses you just a little bit more. 

The Mechanics

The game is played over ten turns. Each turn is broken into several rounds of card playing by each player. You don’t get to draw a new hand until the next turn, so you’ll be using nearly all of the cards you have (commonly, you are left with one card remaining). If you play a card that is for your superpower (USA or USSR) and don’t use the event, but instead use the military points on it for strategic actions, the event doesn’t take place. If you play a card with an event for the other player though, the event takes place regardless. So, if you want to use Japan Defense Pact for its amazingly high Military Value, the USA player still gets to activate the event (which gives him control of Japan). This requires careful planning, as you obviously don’t want to play your enemies cards, as your hand dwindles each round you will need to play these cards eventually. 

There are also neutral and scoring cards. Neutral cards can be played by either player, and if they don’t want to play the event, it won’t take place. The scoring cards, however, have to be played by the end of the round. Sometimes, this is good as you might have a lot of influence in the continent being controlled. Other times, it could get tricky if you don’t have much influence there, so you’ll strategy will focus on that scoring continent and attract the attention of the opposing player, causing him to try and stop you gaining influence there so he can score more. 

Overall

If you head over to www.boardgamegeek.com and search for Twilight Struggle, you’ll notice that it’s ranked #1 Board Game, #1 Strategy Game, and #1 War Game. Basically, what I’m trying to say is, if you love strategy games, war games, and board games, then you should be in possession of this game. Keep in mind, too that this is not a light game. It will last hours, so you’ll need to plan a session with your buddy. The good news, though is that you don’t technically have to play all ten turns. There are specific rules that allow you to go as many turns as you want to and then score accordingly. Since this is a more “serious” game, it’s not for everyone, but for people who want a deep, intense strategy game that’s easy to learn and exciting to play, this is the game for you.

FINAL SCORE: 9/10

Also, at the very end of the rulebook, there is a page of developer commentary, describing their reasoning for the designs of the game. As someone who loves commentary on DVDs and video games, this is a pretty amazing thing to read. If you pick up this game, give the last page a read; it’s very much worth it. 

Posted in Uncategorized on February 6, 2013 by Danny_Noe

want

SlickGaming

Fire Emblem Awakening CoverWith a story involving ancient dragons, a land divided by turmoil and different rulers, and a character suffering from amnesia, one might think Fire Emblem: Awakening is a run-of-the-mill tactical RPG. But looking at the game in such a way only scratches the surface of what Fire Emblem: Awakening has to offer: a huge cast of varied characters, approachable yet deep gameplay, and cutscenes that are more stunning than some console games.

 

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Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game

Posted in Uncategorized on January 3, 2013 by Danny_Noe

x-wingminiatures2 players
ages 14 and up
30-45 minutes playtime

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…
So begins the epic Sci-Fi adventure series that is “Star Wars”. Imagine suiting up, jumping into an X-Wing, and fighting against the Empire. Or, what if you want an armada of agile TIE fighters to keep those rebel scum at bay? If there’s one thing Star Wars fans enjoy, it’s watching those amazing looking ships go at it in some exciting dog fights. Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game gives you handfuls of collectible ships and let’s you man said dog fights against your friends. Is The Force with this game, or is it nothing more than a scruffy Nerf Herder? Let’s take a look and find out.
The Pieces
Probably the most notable and coolest thing about this collectible game is the plastic, 3-D Star Wars pieces you use for the game. Each piece is placed on an elevated platform to look as though it’s flying through space, and it couldn’t be more satisfying. They come with rectangular stat cards you put in the base of the platforms that tell you which ship is which. There are the movement pieces, which are long cardboard pieces that either bend or stay straight, and are used to move your ships around. There’s the range ruler, which measures whether or not you can shoot at an enemy ship. There’s the damage tokens, stress tokens, target tokens, and some specialty tokens for certain scenarios. There are damage cards that not only signify hull damage, but can be flipped on the other side when a critical hit occurs to denote specific kinds of damage. You also have you character cards for referencing, and your upgrade cards such as R2-D2 and Proton Torpedoes. The artwork on the cards looks nice and gives a good tone for the game. Interestingly, there are also movement dials for each of the ships in the game. These dials have a range of different moves a ship can pull off, and are specific to the type of ship (X-Wing, TIE Fighter, Y-Bomber, TIE Advanced, etc.). Make sure there is plenty of extra table space though, because all of these pieces will need to be constantly used.
The Rulebook
There are two different sets of rules: The Quick-Start Rules and The Full Game Rules. This makes it quick and easy to get into the game right at the get go, and then slowly learn the more advanced parts of the game. The rules are easy to read, too, given that the mechanics themselves aren’t too complicated. If you’re new to miniature games, I recommend starting with the Quick-Start Rules to get a feel for how the rhythm of the game goes. Once you and your friends get comfortable with the game play, you can start implementing some of the advanced rules.
Mechanics
The goal is simple: Out maneuver your opponent and blast his ships out of space. The flow of the game is more or less a move-and-shoot routine, but the use of the movement dials and ship upgrades make for some interesting strategies. For instance, the TIE fighters are weaker ships than an X-Wing, but they’re much more maneuverable. X-Wings, on the other hand, handle like a metal elephant, but have shield generators, making them much more vigilante. Once a ship gets hit, they take one of the damage cards face-down and put it next to that ship’s character card. If it’s a critical hit, however, the card is dealt face-up. This can have many differing effects, from making it harder to pull off stressful moves, to actually blinding the pilot. This creates some tense moments with your ships, giving a bit of randomness to the tactics of the whole thing. All-in-all the mechanics feel simple but deep and offer up a good amount of strategy for beginners and veterans alike.
Overall
Being a fan of Star Wars might make me a bit more biased than I should be, but that does not excuse the fact that this is a solid strategy game. The simple mechanics, the well designed structure, and the fact that since it’s a miniature game, you can set your battlefield pretty much anywhere. Even if you don’t want to spend a hefty amount on more and more ship pieces to increase your armada, the starter box alone has enough replay to keep you and your friends entertained. The fact that you CAN increase the amount of ships in the game can also offer up some epic space battles, and even allow the inclusion of more than two players (should each player want to control a squadron of fighters). If you’re a Star Wars fan, you should get this game. If you’re a strategy game fan, you should get this game. If you’re a Star Wars AND strategy games fan, you probably already own this game. 😉
Final Score: 9/10

My Top 5 Favorite King’s Quest Games

Posted in Uncategorized on July 12, 2012 by Danny_Noe

I’ve been a fan of Sierrra adventure titles ever since I was old enough to play games. They’ve had a profound effect on my life, giving me a huge heart towards adventure games, and the King’s Quest series has probably left the biggest impact on me. From appreciating game immersion, to increasing my ability to problem solve, to increasing my vocabulary and ability to type, I owe a lot to adventure games and wanted to share with you today my 5 all time favorite King’s Quest games.

5. King’s Quest 1: Quest for The Crown

I’m honestly not very familiar with the first three King’s Quest games, so I can’t really say much on them, but King’s Quest 1 holds a place on this list for simply being the first adventure game with full graphics and interactive environments. Prior to King’s Quest 1, adventure games were merely a screen full of text describing your surroundings and you would have to use all of your imagination to actually feel there. It’s not great for game immersion, and so when Ken and Roberta Williams came out with King’s Quest, they shattered the limitations of a text-only adventure. Granted, the graphics were simple and are severely dated, but for it’s time, it was a masterpiece and deserves a permanent place in the adventure game hall of fame.

 

4. King’s Quest 5: Absence Makes The Heart Grow Yonder

When I was a kid growing up, I was lucky enough to find a used copy of King’s Quest 5 at a gun show (I’m from Oklahoma, btw). Granted, this one has some flaws and isn’t necessarily spectacular, but recently replaying the game I’ve found it to be extremely enjoyable and fun. Picking this game up after so many years has filled me with all sorts of nostalgia, from exploring the witches forest, to trying to find my way around the western desert, I remembered spending hours enjoying this game and finding all the clues and solving the puzzles. Truly, this game does a fine job offering an exciting and fun filled adventure. It would almost be perfect if it weren’t for the hard to find items and that annoying bastard, Cedric.

3. King’s Quest 6: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow 

My sister had found a used copy of this game, and I think at first I wasn’t too interested in it, especially since you had to have the manual for a specific part of the game, making it a short lived experience, but later in life when I found out about GOG.com and download a copy of the game plus the manual, I gave it another shot. It’s pretty amazing how clever and well thought out this game is. Everything about the puzzles feel challenging, but not needlessly confusing. The clues to the puzzles made sense and you didn’t feel cheated when you couldn’t solve a puzzle. The characters were interesting and well acted, the environments were colorful, and the whole feel of it was just plain good. It even has the best death scenes in the entire series; where all of the other King’s Quests would merely have a screen that more or less said “Hey, buddy. You’re dead.”, King’s Quest 6 showed Alexander (the main character) walking into the underworld and crossing into the land of the dead. Even more amazing (SPOILERS!) later on in the game, you have to actually travel into the very same underworld. I always thought that was pretty cool.

2. King’s Quest 4: The Perils of Rosella

So, not only is King’s Quest 4 the first King’s Quest game I’ve ever played, but it’s also the first adventure game I’ve ever played. For the sake of this countdown, I picked the game back up and gave it another play through, and I can’t believe how giddy it made me. From cleaning the gnomes’ house, to exchanging items around to get the flute, to being kidnapped by Lolotte, the evil witch of the game and being forced to bring her rare gifts spread across the land, this game has probably had the most influence on me as a game player. I can’t even begin to think of how many hours my sister and I spent trying to beat that game. Granted, as children we never did beat it, but as an adult I still have a wonderful sense of satisfaction by simply wandering around the world and interact with all the things. I love this game. Go play it.

1. King’s Quest 7: The Princeless Bride

When I was a kid the only Sierra adventure games we had were the older, DOS powered, 16 color adventures. Granted, they were amazingly entertaining, but I couldn’t imagine an adventure game with 256 colors, voice acting, and a full score. That all changed when I managed to obtain a copy of King’s Quest 7. Not only were my sister and I bedazzled over the fact that there existed a King’s Quest 5 and 6, but our brains were completely shattered when we laid eyes on this amazing game. With hand drawn animation, various and interesting scenery, and not one but TWO playable characters, this game had it all. Not only did Rosella return for adventures, but we even got to play as her mom, Valenice for the first (and only) time in King’s Quest history. From the dry desolate deserts, to the underground caves of the trolls, to mythical forests and bizarre animal towns, to the haunting land of Ooga Booga, to the lands in the sky, this game takes you all over the place giving you an amazing experience. This game is just straight up fantastic. In fact,  I think I’m going to go play it again right now. 

 

For anyone interested in trying any of these games, you can find the entire King’s Quest catalog at http://www.gog.com. Enjoy!