Those studios, to me, spoke of a kind of quality that made it safe to buy virtually any game they made. They knew their niche, knew their strengths, and were good at producing games that we fans enjoyed.
It’s been a while since I’ve had such a strong loyalty to a particular studio. Perhaps this recent distance is due to the apparent consolidation of small studios under huge corporate roofs; I don’t know. However, over the past few months, I have noticed a new, recent attachment to a newer gaming studio: Amplitude.
If you’re familiar with Amplitude, it will be from one of their three Endless titles: Endless Space, Dungeon of the Endless, and Endless Legend. Endless Space and Endless Legend are 4x games; I bought Endless Space years ago and played it quite a lot. I enjoyed the complexity of the 4x game without the complication that some “grand” strategy games end up with. I played it for many hours, eventually moving on to newer fare. The game – and the company behind it – slowly left my awareness.
Until recently. I had been playing Dungeon of the Endless without realizing its connection to Endless Space. The resource system is actually the same – industry, food, science, tech – but, honestly, that could be a resource system for any 4x or RTS game. DotE is an interesting mix of an RTS, a rogue-like, a tower defense, and an RPG. In it, you play a party of adventurers who’ve crash landed on a strange planet and must escape the underground substructures in which you find yourselves. To do this, you must explore the dungeon, find the exit, and – and this is the real key – then carry an energy from the first room you’re in to power the elevator exit while being under constant attack by monsters. It’s a hell of a game, and it’s a lot of fun.
Then Steam offered up Endless Legend for a free weekend and cross-marketed it with Dungeon of the Endless. Endless Space, which had fallen from memory, was there for sale, too, and it finally struck me: these were from the same company. I decided to give Endless Legend a try and have found it extremely enjoyable; it seems to have all the strengths of Civ 5 with an added level of city and combat strategy. The empires you choose to play are also extremely different, moreso than just a bonus to culture or a special building that gives extra faith. More on that in another post.
How much have I enjoyed it? Well, I planned to write this post two weeks ago, which was about a week after the free weekend. Each weekend I’ve opened up WordPress and a few sites I wanted to link to, sat down to write, and loaded up Endless Legend “to play while I write.”
And this is just now getting written.
I think you see my point.
So, if you’re looking for an excellent 4x game or an intriguingly different RTS/RPG/Tower Defense, check out Amplitude Studios’ games. I think you’ll be impressed!
Stubborn (not Endless at all)
I’ve recently come across two gems that you might not have tried, and I wanted to share them with you.
As you’re aware, I’ve been leaning more and more heavily towards co-op gameplay. As a result, I’m often scouring new co-op games for quality, depth, and play time (I’ve got to get my Ed Value!).
Through some blind luck and well-timed bundles and sales, I recently found Full Mojo Rampage and Fight The Dragon, both of which are excellent games that both my buddy and I, in all our scouring, somehow missed.
Full Mojo Rampage is a voodoo-themed Gauntlet-style roguelike in which you play a novice voodoo practitioner trying to help out various voodoo loa like Maman Brigitte, Baron Samedi, and Damballah. You play through a series of levels, each of which is comprised of connecting boards in which you play with Gauntlet-style combat. You must complete the entire level to finish each quest, but failing on a board allows you to keep all your progress and resource gains. To fight, you get three abilities: a main-hand ranged attack and two secondary attacks based on your class.
If that were all, it wouldn’t have been so impressive, but alongside this design is the character development. As you level up, you get access to new “classes” which have a wide variety of abilities: a tanky class with a shield, a totem class, a bomber-healer class, a wide variety of others that I haven’t tried yet (totem, my first choice, was OP). Additionally, there’s a Diablo-style loot system with a ton of drops that you can only keep for each level (from board to board), which means you’re constantly adjusting your gameplay to match your best gear drop. It’s a lot of silly fun for two players.
Fight the Dragon, on the other hand, is for up to four players. While I haven’t fought the titular dragon just yet (as I’m not sure how devastating death in the game is, if it’s an issue at all), I have played through several boards with my buddy and my wife, and we all had an absolute blast doing so.
By chance, this game is also like Gauntlet, in that it’s a class-based dungeon crawl with a few basic abilities for each class. However, the real joy of this game is the community involvement; most of the boards past the first few tutorial boards are user-generated content. The game’s entire system was based around users making the levels, and the community has overwhelmingly responded. I believe there were already more than 6,000 boards laying around to play last night.
The board sorting system is good, though it could use a few tweaks. You can search by tags like “story” or “intense,” or by categories like difficulty or authors you’ve liked. You can also just play the daily, weekly, and monthly “recommended” boards. Each board, too, is rated with a simple up/neutral/down system. One improvement I’d like there is a simple percentage of votes for each category, like Steam does, rather than having to figure out if 18 up/4 neutral/5 down is better or worse than 6,700 up / 1423 neutral / 531 down (it’s not).
Regardless, none of the boards my buddy, my wife and I played last night were anything but enjoyable, and they spanned from a Diablo homage with complex barrel-moving puzzles to a terraced desert with a hidden character named Michael Night to a classic Castle Rescue. Each one was a lot of fun and required varying strategies.
So if you haven’t checked out those titles and are looking for some fun Gauntlet-style games, check these two out!
Stubborn (throwing down the Gauntlet)
I’m extremely pleased to announce that I will be the guest this Sunday on the Twisted Nether Podcast!
I’ll be visiting the Nether this Sunday, March 29th, at 8:20 p.m. PST (or 11:20 my time). You should stop by and join the discussion at http://www.twistednether.net/live/. I’ll be chatting it up with Hydra and Fimlys on a variety of “surprise” topics (surprise only in that we haven’t discussed what topics yet, not in an “ambush” sense – or so I think!). I’m happy to answer whatever questions you kind folks might have, and I hope to see you there!
In other news, I decided to move my hunter over to Alliance – DavyOrckett will not make sense as a name anymore, which somewhat defeats the purpose – and give him a try. My wife’s been playing a lot of different characters and reported to me that hunters were currently the “most fun,” so that’s what decided the issue for me.
I’m proud to say, too, that in Crypt of the Necrodancer I completed my first speed run on one of the secondary characters (Melody) and came in #146 IN THE WORLD. Of course there may only be a total of 146 people playing, or “somehow only 145″ my buddy would say, so who knows how impressive that is. You guess is as good as mine.
I purchased and finished the first episode of Life is Strange, as well. I enjoyed it quite a lot. It delivered exactly what I expected, a kind of Donnie Darko meets My So Called Life story. I thought I was very thorough, but I apparently completely missed several interactions according to the end-game “decisions” report. I’m curious if that’s part of the meta, though. Since the game is about rewinding time to explore different choice options, I wonder if they expect you to miss them and “rewind” all the way back by playing through it again. We’ll see; I’ll be even more diligent in the second part, which was just released, and let you know.
As for PAX, well. It’s a bit of a story. It involves personal experience with Ice Road Truckers, The Vanishing, and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. All of which might have made it interesting, but instead made it kind of exhausting, hence my silence since the event. Being crazily sick didn’t help, either. The PAX plague is real. More another time.
Stubborn (and soon to be twisted!)
Today we’ll continue on with the question and answer portion of the Liebster Awards, for which I was tagged by Dahakha of Star Fired Beef. In our last correspondence, I broke under pressure and told eleven facts about myself (in which I included my love of grammar; check out how I used “for” in the previous sentence. Sexy.).
Today, we’ll complete the questionnaire portion of the assignment and add to the forward momentum of this movement by asking eleven questions of my own to a set of bloggers I choose to abuse.
Without further ado, the questions and answers!
1) How often do you go out to a restaurant?
Shamefully often. Well, sort of. I eat out and in quite a lot. Neither my wife nor I particularly like cooking; while I am overweight I don’t really take pleasure in eating and often view it as a sort of mechanical necessity; it’s just once I start doing so I have a hard time stopping if there’s still food in my field of vision. As a result, we eat out a lot, which, while expensive, helps manage portion control (I can pack half up in a doggy bag before I even start eating). I’d guess in a normal week where I could eat out, let’s say, eleven meals (7 dinners + breakfast and lunch on the weekend), we likely eat out five or so times.
2) If you could design the next playable race for an MMO (of your choice), what kind of race would it be?
Man, that’s a really good one. I love the creativity that this question requires. I would like to see something truly alien in an MMO; I can’t think of a single playable race in a big MMO that isn’t essentially a human in various forms and sizes. Even the fuzzy trio of thingamajigs (Popori?) in Tera are still, essentially, a team of small humans (though I admire the creativity it took to let them work collaboratively like that). I’d like to see something truly inhuman, like a gaseous cloud or intelligent cohesive sand. You could do all sorts of awesome animations with them and it might be a challenge to the player or game designers to figure out how to have them interact with the world.
3) You have to spend the next year in a different culture. Where would you choose to spend it?
New Zealand. Edoras, here I come. I have the all-too-popular minimalistic feeling of Americans of my age, wishing I could go be a sheep farmer in a sleepy hamlet Somewhere Else. Luckily I’m mature enough to realize what a silly fantasy that is, as I know nothing about sheep nor really want to have to birth another one (that story another time, but it’s for realz).
4) What kinds of things make you laugh in games?
I appreciate the well-timed joke, humorous allusion, and even insanely-irritating game breaking bugs (which I often laugh about later, if not at the time. See all of my Star Wars posts). It’s hard to do humor in games well simply because you can’t always assure the timing will land or that the player will get the allusion. In Saints Row 4, a game I played under duress by my blindish buddy, there were many allusions I didn’t get, and he’s only a few years older than I am. He would be laughing up a storm while I sat clueless.
If I had to pick, and I’m to pretend I do, I’d say the Fallout game series, particularly Fallout 2, probably had the “best” sense of humor for my taste.
5) Is freedom really free?
Where is this freedom to which you allude?
/startrant American freedom is only available to a select few of wealthy individuals. Everyone else is already a wage slave in an already-existing corporate oligarchy as predicted by numerous science fiction writers of dystopian futures. I hate to be a bummer, but there’s a reason the government doesn’t curtail the college loan business; people who have large college debt are forced to work jobs beneath their qualifications that may not make them happy to pay that debt off. In the meantime, they run up credit card debt because they’re paying a percentage of their too-small wage to the previous debt, further enslaving them. This benefits the businesses by providing a vast work force living in fear of losing their jobs, which benefits the government by the businesses keeping the same individuals in power through campaign donations.
A vast majority of the American population is wage slaves with little control over their lives. And all that’s without getting into the consumer must-have culture we’re fed from our birth, further indebting ourselves for junk we don’t need. I don’t even have a credit card. /endrant
6) Name a book that was better than the movie, and a movie that was better than the book.
A) Virtually all of them
B) Lord of the Rings. THAT’S RIGHT; I SAID IT. I love Tolkien, but as a linguist, he was obsessed with reading his own writing and WAY overwrote those books. They’re beautiful, but that beauty can take away from the heroic epic that plays out within its pages. The movies, while they do drop a few important parts, largely remedy that.
Also, all three of the Hobbit movies sucked, going from about a 3/5 in the first movie to like a 1/5 in the last. Peter Jackson King-Kong’d it.
7) If you had no access to a computer/tablet/phone for gaming, what would you do instead?
Read. A lot. I do even with those devices. Right now I’m reading the Magic 2.0 series, the Critical Failures series (a lot of potty humor in there, but it’s a nice, light, escapist read), and the Connie WIllis Oxford time travel series (The first was the best so far, but I’ve liked the others. Seriously, if you haven’t read The Doomsday Book by Willis, go read it now).
8) What is the best pizza topping?
Pepperoni. Sorry for the basic answer, but it’s something most people can agree upon, and it’s delicious.
9) Do you think raiding is a net positive or a net negative for MMO games?
Net positive without a doubt. I think the insistence that “elite” raiding must be honed to perfect executions is a negative, and I think many games’ focus on efficiency is a negative. I think both of those foci create a lot of tension for guilds and raid leaders, and I think it takes a pretty masterful leader not to slip into imbalance when faced with “personal” versus “professional” choices in what amounts to most of us as a hobby. However, without an end-game raiding environment, there wouldn’t be MMOs.
10) Favourite alcoholic (or faux-holic) beverage?
So I don’t talk about this a lot, as it makes people weirdly uncomfortable, but I don’t drink any alcohol, nor does my wife. I don’t have any problem whatsoever with others doing so; it’s not a religious or moral thing, I just suspect that I’m a control freak and don’t want to give up any of that control. Caffeine and sugar are my vices, and they meet in soda, which is slowly killing me.
11) What is the one feature you would love to see in your game of choice that isn’t currently there?
Well, I’m going to politic this answer and not really answer what you asked. I think originality is the most lacking feature in games as a whole at this moment. As game devs are centralized under huge corporate entities, the demand for reproduction of previous successes has sapped the will to create from a lot of devs. That’s why when I look for a new game what I’m most after is originality.
But it is there. I’ve written plenty on those three recent games that I lucked out and played back to back: Transistor, This War of Mine, and Crypt of the Necrodancer. Each one has a wholly unique portion, whether it’s gameplay, world building, or ethical challenges. Without a doubt the originality is out there, we just need to cultivate it as much as we can.
Okay, my turn. Here’s eleven questions, or short writing assignments, since I am, after all, an English teacher.
1) Describe in detail something that makes you very happy.
2) Which blogger(s) did you find most influential when you started. Have you contacted them recently? Why or why not?
3) Do you have pets? What are they? How did you choose them? Or if not, why not?
4) What game has influenced you the most over your gaming years? How so?
5) Did you like school? Why or why not?
6) On the same note, did you have a teacher who meant a lot to you? If so, have you contacted them recently? Why or why not? And if not, why do you think you didn’t?
7) If you feel comfortable talking about it, what’s your biggest vice?
8) To balance that out, what’s your biggest virtue?
9) What movie / TV series / book / or music (or all of the above) do you wish more people had been exposed to?
10) What’s the most important lesson kids should learn when growing up? Why?
11) Do you vote? Why or why not?
For this interrogative session, I’m tagging
- Balkoth from Balkoth’s Word
- Short from Ability Powered Gaming
- Rowan Blaze from I Have Touched the Sky
- Syl of MMO Gypsy
- Jessica aka Larisa of The Velvet Cafe
- Vidyala from Manalicious
- Ferrel of Epic Slant Press
I hope I’ve chosen people who haven’t been asked to do it yet, as I found a few I wanted to tag who had. Here’s looking for your responses!
You know, Exit Music Starts would be a great name for a movie review blog, or just a Hollywood Celebrity Blog. It’s free. You can have it.
Anyway, I was recently tagged by Dahakha of Star Fired Beef to participate in some sort of epidemiological study of Internet viruses called “The Liebsters.” Let me start by saying that I’m old enough to have once received a real chain letter in the actual mail – you know, youngsters, all that paper junk that comes to the box outside your house. Despite the vague sounding threats of a curse, I threw the damn thing out and went about living my life at my wise old age of thirteen. You know, now that I’m overweight, have a bad back, and have some sort of plague running around up in my sinuses, perhaps I should have taken the curse more seriously.
Seriously, though, I’m honored to have been tagged to participate in this, and I’m happy for a chance to blog, since mine has slowed down a lot in recent months. The rules as they’ve been delivered to me is that I should share eleven facts about myself, answer the questions posed by Dahakha, and then create eleven other questions to spread to the next set of bloggers.
1) Does the age regarding the real physical chain letter thing count? I don’t know. I worry about things like that, which is certainly a fact.
2) I now teach 6th grade. They’re very little. I could pick some of them up with one hand, and I’m not particularly strong.
3) I had pretty severe depression when I lived in Illinois. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I did. I suspect it was a brain-chemistry withdrawl thing, going from a real classroom to being a college professor, which is a completely different sort of thing that doesn’t produce oxytocin or whatever at anywhere near the same rate, so I think I was basically addicted to teaching.
4) I like numbered lists.
5) I wouldn’t have a blog at all if it weren’t for Larisa of The Pink Pigtail Inn, a.k.a. Jessica of The Velvet Cafe, which is her current blog. I sent out a cold email to her just asking for help and advice, and she answered with a ton of great information and encouragement which really got me started.
6) I always miss my blog’s birthday, which I did again this year. I’ve been blogging for four years now!
7) I’ve lived and worked as a teacher in 4 different states in the past decade or so: South Carolina, New York (City), Illinois, and now Virginia. New York was the best. Virginia is the worst as of now, but I live in hope.
8) I’m not particularly religious, but if I “had” to be, I’d probably be Buddhist. I like the non-aggressive approach that it seems to put out, and think its general philosophies fit me better than most others.
9) I’ve been happily married to my best friend, the most wonderful person I’ve ever met, for the past 9.5 years. We’re renewing our vows this coming August for our tenth anniversary. I’d usually hate this kind of pomp and circumstance – the wedding was miserable (and my wife agrees) – but I actually suggested this. That’s growth, I guess!
10) I really, really like grammar. I’m not a “strict grammarian” in any sense; I don’t care about your grammar and I only correct others in ironic or professional ways (I am, after all, an English teacher), but I do love grammar. I pondered over the likelihood of people using the wrong form of have or has in a sentence like this: “I really love the blogging community, but I feel like my move and my more time demanding job HAVE/HAS really pulled me away from the community. That was the original start to #10, but I removed it because, while I know the correct answer (have), I don’t like the way it looked in the sentence, where it really felt like has should be there. So I got rid of it and wrote about grammar instead.
11) I strongly believe that gamergate is a hate-based organization without much difference to the KKK or the pro-Apartheid government of South Africa prior to its fall. The truly insidious part is how they’ve used propaganda promoting their “positive” message about ethics, which is only really a veneer. There’s no way to force people to admit their agendas, and as a result, a lot of stupid or impressionable people fall into the trap of believing the surface level ethics nonsense while slowly being indoctrinated into the misogynistic and violent culture that lays beneath. In fact, I probably admire Sarkeesian more than anyone in the gaming community as a result of how she’s pushed forward against this garbage. That’s no disrespect meant to Wu or Quinn, I honestly just haven’t informed myself as much about who they are and their struggles, so I have no doubt they’re equally important and admirable; it’s just my own failing that I know so little about them.
Okay, well, that’s longer than most of my posts are anyway, so let’s take a break and come back to this on Wednesday. Then, I’ll answer the questions and infect a few more bloggers for participation in this medical study.
I’ve been enjoying several new games recently, though admittedly it’s hard to compete with my run of Crypt of the Necrodancer, Transistor, and This War of Mine. However, the three listed in today’s title are all excellent games as well, though – well – like I said. It’s not a fair comparison to those masterpieces.
Blackguards is a hex-grid turn-based tactical role playing game. It’s based on a tabletop system I’ve never played, called, I believe, the Dark Eye. I don’t know anything about the core system, but the experience and development in this game system was quite good, and I don’t have many complaints about the game as a whole. The concept is that you “get” to play bad guys, something that kept me away from this game until I got it as part of a Humble Bundle. I don’t like playing evil; I don’t care for the power-madness or revenge fantasies often acted out in such games. However, the story in this game isn’t really about being evil; you’re falsely accused of a crime and thrown in prison, given no opportunity to speak for yourself before your execution, and decide to escape to find out what really happened. That you must “break the law” to do so is less and issue of evil and more an issue of law vs. chaos (in a D&D sense), so I really had little problem playing the game.
The story developed well, and the fights were largely enjoyable – and then I hit that spot I too often do where I knew I could beat the game and was told there was going to be a slogfest of like 13 fights on the last board. I saw that and kind of froze up; I’ve done all the side quests I could find, so I’m super-powerful at this point and just don’t need to finish to know I could finish if I wanted to. I may, don’t get me wrong, but then again… well, we’ll see. I know how it’s going to end, I know I could get there, and there’s just so many good games to play!
Speaking of, I started playing Our Darker Purpose, a little Zelda-style gem that’s been a silly blast. The concept is simple: you’re the quiet kid at a school where the adults have vanished, and the more popular and more athletic kids decided to eliminate you and your kind. Can you survive long enough to reveal the truth?
Well, I can’t. At least not yet. It’s a single-playthrough “rogue-like” game that reminds me of Binding of Isaac crossed with Rogue Legacy, in that each attempt allows you to improve your power and practice and hopefully get further the next attempt. The art is dark and moody, reminding me of Edward Gorey or Tim Burton with a dash of Lemony Snicket of Series of Unfortunate Events fame. It’s been great for micro-play sessions (since I can’t get past the third board just yet), and it’s dark mood has humored me in the past few days.
Also within those past few days, I snatched up The Long Dark from a Steam sale. I’ve played a lot of the horror-survival sims, and to be frank, this one’s not that different. That said, this one’s pretty different. Rather than running around a post-apocalyptic zombie wasteland as I did in DayZ and 7 Days to Die, there’s no real supernatural threats here. Okay, yes, there’s “electro-magnetic disaster effected evil” wolves and bears, but you can turn them off if you really just want to survive and be left alone. Even then, it’s tough; this game’s environment is the real killer, and being out when it’s too cold will kill you quite quickly (as will standing in a fire you just set because you did a bad job placing it and it ended up beneath you – whoops!).
I’ve enjoyed the art in the game a lot; it’s as beautiful as Skyrim while not being photorealistic, with instead a somewhat surreal art style mixed with a beautiful pallet (reminder: I know nothing about art) – when it’s not a complete white-out while you’re wandering around hoping to God you find some shelter before you freeze to death. That immediacy – the imminent threat simply of the wind, for example – has largely replaced the real visceral fear of other players I had in DayZ, which surprised me, since I didn’t know if a game could get me to feel that way without the viciousness of real people on the other end.
So all three games have been very enjoyable, and I recommend you try any of them whose design and reviews here strike your fancy.
Until next time,
Stubborn (and about to go play one of those right now)
Okay, the headline stink a tad bit of yellow journalism, but seriously, I’ve got a story to tell.
In January, I noticed an odd charge to EA on my bank statement, and when I looked into it, it appeared someone had bought Fifa ’15 on my Origin account with my credit card. I contacted EA immediately, and to be fair, they were super helpful and immediately resolved the issue, including that I should probably up my account security with log in verification, which I happily did.
That interaction was a big relief after all trouble I had with Star Wars: The Old Republic, wherein the custserv reps were idiotic and unhelpful, so I was feeling pretty good about EA… for a while.
Tonight I got an email indicating my password to my Origin account had been changed – something I hadn’t done. As soon as I got home, I began the process of looking into it, which only took about 30 minutes; I had to regain control of my account, including using the verification system, and then log in to the help queue. The notice I got said I’d be called “now,” but it took about an hour for the call to come in. Fine. I can be patient; they’re a big company.
After explaining what had gone on to the custserv rep, who again was helpful, polite, and patient, I asked how my password could be changed without the person having access to the log in verification or access to my email, which, frankly, I knew they didn’t. I keep a pretty tight ship around here, and after scanning my computer with two different virus/malware programs, nothing had turned up, which I expected.
The custserv rep, frankly, didn’t know. He asked for a few minutes to check with someone higher up – a security expert. About 10 minutes later (again, fine, I don’t mind waiting), he came back and informed me of something that made my mind explode.
I’m paraphrasing, to be clear; I don’t remember the exact verbage he used since my head was spinning, but the gist was that EA is intentionally changing people’s passwords to scare them into being more proactive about account security. He said that their premise is that even if the customer loses control of their account for a little while, it will hopefully cause them to use more security features so that the account can’t be hacked or hijacked in the future.
Now, again, to be clear, I’m not mad at this poor fellow. He also told me that his queue length had jumped from zero to over 150 while he was at lunch. He’s in for a bad night.
I checked the email I got again to see if it was worded in a way that indicated this little “trick,” but it wasn’t; it’s the exact same email you get when you or anyone else changes your password. EA is freaking out and wasting the time of its customers in the interest of improving security so they have less work to do in the future to fix security breaches. EA is charging its customers time now to save itself from potential security breaches in the future.
One of my favorite quotes is that “all great disasters start as small decisions that seem like a good idea at the time,” which is taken from The Sparrow, a sci-fi novel about interplanetary missionaries by Mary Doria Russell. It’s a monster of a book, thoroughly enjoyable if you’ve not read it. This EA situation is clearly a case of “good idea at the time,” and I can’t imagine this doesn’t end in a PR nightmare unless it’s being done on a small scale, which would, you know, defeat the purpose of their insane project.
Now, maybe I’m out of line. Maybe I’m responding from an uninformed worldview; I can admit I MAY be wrong.
But I don’t know. This seems kinda stupid.
Stubborn (and perhaps wrong)