Let’s Play – Darkest Dungeon Episode 18: The Shuffling Horror

I reach the end of my patience with Darkest Dungeon, and head into the titular final dungeon – or at least my first attempt at it. Things go predictably badly.

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My Top Ten Games of 2018: #6

My top ten favorite games of the year, presented in ascending order each day leading into the holidays. Look for my full Top Ten list with categories and awards on December 24!

#10 Dead Cells
#9 Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden
#8 Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu/Eevee!
#7 Frostpunk

#6 Jurassic World Evolution

jurassic world evolution

Developer: Frontier Developments
Publisher:Frontier Developments
Platforms: PC, PS4, XBO

I have fond memories playing Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis back in the early 2000s. It was basically a dino-themed Sim Theme Park but with excellent use of the official license and a truly impressive dinosaur AI. Fast-forward a decade and a half later and we finally get the spiritual successor we deserve.

Frontier Developments streamlined much of their also excellent Planet Coaster to make a more console-friendly theme park game, but thankfully they kept the intricate dinosaur AI that makes managing, caring for, and dealing with dinosaurs so rewarding and fascinating.

The campaign is broken up into multiple islands, each with their own specific challenges and objectives, like extremely limited building spaces, or tropical storms that knock out your power grid and soon cause running and screaming. DNA progress and unlocked research carry over between islands, letting you hop back and forth and essentially play multiple games at once.

Figuring out how the most efficient and effective ways to manage the dinosaurs is a satisfying puzzle, as each species has specific requirements towards foliage, social herds, and enclosure size. It’s even a viable strategy to feed herbivores to carnivores and let dinos duke it out, increasing their star rating and boosting sales, turning everyone into the callous, nature-strangling overlords that Dr. Ian Malcom warned us about.

I admit that 2016’s Planet Coaster is ostensibly a better, and more robust theme park game, but I’m a huge sucker for dinosaurs and Jurassic World Evolution is the closest thing to a Jurassic Park dream game I’ve been waiting over a decade for.

My Top Ten Games of 2018: #7

My top ten favorite games of the year, presented in ascending order each day leading into the holidays. Look for my full Top Ten list with categories and awards on December 24!

#10 Dead Cells
#9 Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden
#8 Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu/Eevee!

#7 Frostpunk

frostpunk

Developer: 11 bit Studios
Publisher: 11 bit Studios
Platforms: PC

I was a bit late to the party with This War of Mine, a unique sim-survival game that played out like a strategic board game with a harrowing real-world theme about the horrors of war upon civilians. This War of Mine put 11 bit Studios on my personal radar, and I was very much looking forward to Frostpunk when it released earlier this year.

Frostpunk did not disappoint. Like This War of Mine it takes some very heavy survival themes and treats them with the cold-hearted seriousness that befits surviving during an apocalypse.

Your haggard survivors have found a geothermic reactor and established a city amid a world blanketed in sub-freezing temperatures.

The real-time strategy game forces you to manage precious resources like coal, wood, and food, but also regulate the happiness and morale of your people. Stuffing food with sawdust will help ration meek food stores but your people won’t be happy. A 24-hour shift could be just enough to make it through the night, but injury and exhaustion will spread like a plague.

Little story events force you to make tough decisions, like giving leniency to a mother stealing food for her children. Ultimately you’ll need to choose either a zealous or totalitarian path to unlock new laws and edicts and keep everyone in line, a sobering look at how humanity survives extreme conditions.

Thanks to its incredibly immersive atmosphere, haunting string soundtrack and compelling writing. Frostpunk is more than just a thematic city builder. It’s one of the best games of the year.

My Top Ten Games of 2018: #8

My top ten favorite games of the year, presented in ascending order each day leading into the holidays. Look for my full Top Ten list with categories and awards on December 24!

#10 Dead Cells

#9 Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden

#8 Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu/Eevee!

Developer: Game Freak
Publisher: The Pokémon Company, Nintendo
Platforms: Switch

I love my mainline Pokémon games but I typically skip the spin-offs. While I do casually enjoy mobile AR game Pokémon GO, I was fully prepared to roll my eyes at what looked like a dumbed down, Pokémon GO-ified RPG.

I was happy to be very wrong – Pokémon Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! are charming and delightful recreations of the original Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow games. Adventuring through a fully 3D Kanto is a delicious nostalgia fest but it’s the little improvements that really kept me hooked, like being able to swap your party out on field, drop-in co-op, and not having to teach the critical Hidden Machine skills just to get around.

Random battles have been completely replaced with Pokémon GO‘s pokéball throwing minigame, and it’s honestly a really great change of pace. Collecting Pokémon becomes quick and rewarding rather than a slog, and we finally get to actually see Pokémon out in the field. I can be far more proactive and engaged in Pokémon hunting – with the benefit of also making the world of Kanto really come to life.

It’s a testament to how well designed that original 20 year old game is that this modern remake doesn’t have to change a whole lot to get me sucked in all over again. Yet all the changes and improvements are very welcome. I would love to see Let’s Go editions of each Pokémon generation.

My only complaint about the game – it released two weeks before Super Smash Bros. Ultimate!

DMs Guild Review – The Priest, The Witch, and the Lost Temple

Save an entire town from an undead invasion – and its own prejudices, with this excellent Tier 1 adventure.

A review copy of “The Priest, The Witch, and the Lost Temple” was provided by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work via Patreon.

Designed by: David McDonough

dms guildAlthough its title may bring fond memories of Narnia, “The Priest, The Witch, and The Lost Temple” is more akin to The Lost Mine of Phandelver – and that is indeed high praise.

The low level adventure is designed for levels 2-3 and features a town in need of saving, exceptionally detailed NPCs, and several satisfying dungeon crawls.

Continue reading “DMs Guild Review – The Priest, The Witch, and the Lost Temple”

My Top Ten Games of 2018: #9

My top ten favorite games of the year, presented in ascending order each day leading into the holidays. Look for my full Top Ten list with categories and awards on December 24!

#10 Dead Cells

#9 Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden

Developer: The Bearded Ladies
Publisher: Funcom
Platforms: PC, PS4, XBO

I’m an easy target for any game that features tactical, XCOM-like turn-based combat. Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden had the dubious potential to become a budget XCOM – which I probably still would have enjoyed. But by combining solid tactical gameplay with rewarding stealth mechanics and shockingly good voice acting Road to Eden carves its own space in the genre.

Road to Eden is based on the old Mutant Swedish tabletop RPG from the 80s, recently reborn as Mutant: Year Zero. Shameless plug alert: I wrote an article diving into the adaptation from tabletop RPG to tactical video game for PC Gamer earlier this month.

Unlike XCOM, Road to Eden features RPG-like characters with their own skill trees and personalities. They’re a bit one-dimensional but the banter and commentary is delightful, particularly the hilarious dialogue heard from enemy zone ghouls on the battlefield.

Stealth is a huge part of the gameplay. While XCOM 2 lets you enter a map in stealth mode to set up an advantageous opening salvo, Road to Eden lets you enter and exit turn-based combat mode as you please. The trick is to isolate and eliminate targets with silenced weapons, just as any stealth game, letting you drop back into stealth mode and continue to turn the tide in your favor.

The post-apocalyptic world is made up of smaller zones where you can find scrap for upgrades as well as new guns and armor. The zones are just big enough to allow some tactical wiggle room without getting lost in – and unlike XCOM the campaign won’t take you 40 or 50+ hours to finish.

It’s a bit rough around the edges and definitely feels like it left a lot on the cutting room floor but as a big fan of the tactics genre Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden provides a unique blend of real time stealth and turn-based tactics.

Tomb of Annihilation Session 15 Recap

A deactivated Shield Guardian is worshiped by local tribes, and its control amulet lies in the heart of a nearby goblin village.

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Previously on Tomb of Annihilation

Starring:
Mannix, level 3 Human Inquisitive Rogue
Khaless, level 3 Half-Drow Assassin Rogue
Gillian, level 3 Triton Bard of Whispers
George, level 3 Tortle Battle Master Fighter
Therin, level 3 Hill Dwarf Druid of the Moon

After the harrowing battle with a horde of plant-zombies, the party continued following their captured goblin guide Yokka toward his “Iron God.” As they suspected, the thing the goblins were worshiping was a deactivated Shield Guardian – most likely the one Wakanga had told them about. Curiously, it was shaped like a tortle.

The construct was surrounded by three separate tribes: the goblins, the grungs, and some strange plant-fungus creatures the party had never seen before. All three regarded them warily but made no hostile actions. This was sacred ground.

Continue reading “Tomb of Annihilation Session 15 Recap”