StarCraft: Remastered Review [Pixelkin]

Read the full review at Pixelkin

Blizzard’s online service Battle.net wasn’t quite my first foray into online gaming, but it did solidify my love of computer gaming throughout the late 90s and early 2000s. Many a Friday evening in the early days of high school were spent constructing marines and mowing down Zerg with friends. To say I have deeply ingrained nostalgia for StarCraft is an understatement.

StarCraft: Remastered is a very faithful HD update to one of the best strategy games ever created. It suffers a bit from forgoing any gameplay or UI updates that strategy games from the last two decades have evolved (such as StarCraft 2). But make no mistake, StarCraft: Remastered makes a great game better.

Read the full review at Pixelkin

Master X Master’s Co-op PvE is Better than its MOBA [PC Gamer]

Read the full article on PC Gamer

There are dozens of ‘me too’ free-to-play MOBAs vying for your attention, and Master X Master looks like any other at first. It launched in June as MMO publisher NCSoft’s answer to the genre, and features a standard 5v5 lane-pushing match on a single map called Titan Ruins.

The best part of Master X Master is the surprisingly enjoyable cooperative PvE mode, which elevates an otherwise mediocre lane-pusher into a rewarding, bite-sized action RPG.

Read the full article on PC Gamer

Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 7 “The Dragon and the Wolf” Recap

Game of Thrones is about war, death, betrayal, love, loss, dragons, and undead. But mostly it’s about family.

No where was family more pronounced than in season seven’s finale, “The Dragon and the Wolf.” Some families split apart, some hashed out old wounds, some came together (JOKES!).

Most of these family squabbles feel petty in comparison to the army of death that officially crosses over beyond the wall during the finale’s thrilling, yet predictable final moments. In the wise words of Bronn of the Blackwater, “We’re fucked.” Continue reading “Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 7 “The Dragon and the Wolf” Recap”

D&D 5E “Storm King’s Thunder” Session 18 Recap

Our final showdown in the Zhentarim Outpost offers a rematch with Captain Xelan.

Streamed, recorded and uploaded every week. Subscribe for our weekly adventures. Join us live on Fridays at 7pm Pacific/10pm Eastern!

Previously on “Storm King’s Thunder”

The alarm bells rang out, and for a tense moment I wondered if we were doing the right thing. I ran to the door, practically barreling into it, shouting as if some foe were right behind me. 

“Captain Xelan,” I screamed in the acolyte’s voice. “We’re under attack!”

The Zhentarim leader whom we had thwarted at Nightstone, and who had tried to have us killed, stared back at me irritably. The well-dressed man to his left sighed. “Do you see, Captain Xelan? Your organization is becoming nothing more than a liability.” The large robed orc in the corner said nothing.

Xelan stood up from his desk, unsheathing a brilliant golden scimitar. “If you don’t want to die it’s your problem too.” He turned toward me. “Lead the way, Alicia!”

I hurried down the hall, pointing toward the west where the rest of my friends lie in waiting. Xelan nodded and charged forward, but the well-dressed man stopped to stare at me. I felt my heart beat rapidly as an uneasy force flowed around him. My mind felt the tiniest prick and I used all my concentration to retain my composure. This was no man.

My disguise held and the fake-man continued on. I heard Xelan cry in surprise as Halfred whirled around the far corner at the opposite end, dropping two arrows directly into his chest. A gout of acid sprayed across the other two, and T.I.M. summoned his terrifying spectral leech.

I stepped behind everyone as Xelan called out to me, “Heal us, woman!” My hatred of Xelan and unease over the odd nobleman coalesced around me as I shedded my disguise.

“Captain Xelan, I think you remember us.”

Xelan’s eyes went wide. “Gods damn it! You’re all supposed to be dead!”

I smiled wryly and held out an arm, channeling all my psychic energy forward. “Now you will know fear.” Continue reading “D&D 5E “Storm King’s Thunder” Session 18 Recap”

No Game Over: Pyre and the Acceptance of Failure [Pixelkin]

Read the full article on Pixelkin

I had mixed feelings about Pyre, the recently released tactical RPG by Supergiant Games. Despite my misgivings on how the story and gameplay were structured, I was fascinated by Pyre’s complete lack of a traditional Game Over screen. Unlike most video games, Pyre forces you to accept the consequences of failure.

Read the full article on Pixelkin

Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 6 “Beyond the Wall” Recap

Last week left us with the promise of a Squad of Ultimate Badasses adventuring within the zombie-infested lands north of The Wall. Our squad quickly ran into trouble in “Beyond the Wall,” prompting one of the most exciting yet weirdest, plot-hole-ridden episodes this season.

We had only three POV’s this week, with much of the focus on Snow’s Seven (plus redshirts). Wide, zoomed-out shots of men marching in the mountains evoked some fond memories of Lord of the Rings.

We were treated to more fun dialogue between these fun combinations of characters, such as Jon and Jorah discussing Jon’s sword Longclaw, which was given to him by Jorah’s father.

Tormund was this week’s Davos – the jolly, witty character that made every scene he was in a delight. I was seriously worried Tormund would bite the big one given how many great lines he delivered (his unfamiliarity with the word ‘dick,’ his adorable infatuation with Brienne, etc).

The episode toyed with us further by later putting Tormund in mortal danger. NOT MY BIG BEAUTIFUL MAN HE WAS KISSED BY FIRE AND HE IS DESTINED TO MAKE GIANT BABIES WITH BRIENNE!

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But first our heroes had a mission: secure an undead soldier to bring back to the meeting with Cersei. Continue reading “Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 6 “Beyond the Wall” Recap”

Tabletop Review: Starfinder Roleplaying Game

A press copy of the Starfinder Core Rulebook was provided for the purposes of this review.

Over the years Paizo Publishing has carved a successful name among tabletop roleplaying fans, releasing dozens of Pathfinder rulebooks, supplements, full campaigns, and modules.

Starfinder represents Paizo’s first entirely new roleplaying system since Pathfinder’s release in 2009. In many ways it’s a science-fiction version of Pathfinder, expanding on those rules (which is itself largely based on D&D 3.5e) while adding a few unique twists of its own.

Starfinder draws upon the best sci-fi archetypes, stories, and concepts from across media to create a full-fledged, detailed universe rife for adventure. Continue reading “Tabletop Review: Starfinder Roleplaying Game”

D&D 5E “Storm King’s Thunder” Session 17 Recap

We infiltrate the underground Zhentarim outpost using some subtle and not-so-subtle tactics.

Streamed, recorded and uploaded every week. Subscribe for our weekly adventures. Join us live on Fridays at 7pm Pacific/10pm Eastern!

Previously on “Storm King’s Thunder”

I headed toward the flickering torchlight down the tunnel, motioning for the others to stay back. I rounded the corner and the cave opened up into the entrance to an old temple – just as the Zhent thug had described.

A pair of guards near the entrance were playing cards. I stumbled onto some loose rocks and the nearest one glanced up. I felt a rush of adrenaline before I remembered I was still disguised as the man we had interrogated outside the cave.

“Walter!” he called out. “What are you doing? I thought you were going into town with the others?”

I had to act fast. “Ah yeah,” I stammered, gradually calming myself. “I forgot something. Hey, those brutes – the guards, are acting really weird.”

“The orogs?” He replied. “What are they doing?”

“I don’t know but they’re starting to get violent. Get out here and help me with them!”

We went back and forth a few times. I briefly entertained trying to pry some more information out of him (Zellan was indeed here, somewhere) but didn’t want to press my luck.

Finally the guard relented. He and his buddy got up to investigate. I mentally called out to my friends that they were coming down the tunnel. I made sure to avoid making physical contact as they brushed past me.

The fighting erupted almost instantly. Bryseis conjured up several magic missiles, slamming into one guard, and Halfred unleashed a hail of arrows. The Zhent fell, and the other turned to run, shouting about the alarm. T.I.M. smashed him with the mace as he ran away, directly towards me.

I reached out with my mind, but the man’s eyes were wide with fear. The same man I’d just spoken with seconds ago. He was in full flight mode and barreled into me, even after I manifested my psychokinetic glaive and slashed at his legs. I held my ground, bracing against the cave and shoved him backwards.

He gave a sudden scream, and for a moment I questioned how hard I hit him. Then I heard a sick sizzling sound as his face began to melt. The melting flesh cascaded down his body, choking him before he could even scream.

As he dissolved into a messy puddle I glanced back to see Korinn retract her arm and nod solemnly at me. I took a moment to realize that a few weeks ago I would’ve been horrified at this brutal display. Now it was just business as usual. Continue reading “D&D 5E “Storm King’s Thunder” Session 17 Recap”

Sundered Review [Pixelkin]

Read the full review at Pixelkin

Friedrich Nietzsche famously said “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” In Sundered that which kills you also makes you stronger.

Sundered is a challenging, beautifully animated roguelike action-platformer from indie studio Thunder Lotus Games. With a carefully crafted difficulty ramp, Sundered excels in a genre that often teeters on the brink of frustration and repetition.

Read the full review at Pixelkin

Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 5 “Eastwatch” Recap

We had a far quieter episode this week on Game of Thrones with no dragons burning armies. Well, maybe a little dragon-burning. Despite no real action scenes “Eastwatch” managed to be one of the fastest-paced episodes of the entire series as pieces rapidly moved around, leaders concocted plans, and Jon formed a superhero mash-up team of beyond-the-wall badasses.

At the end of last week I assumed that Jaime and Bronn would become Daenerys’ prisoners. Apparently Bronn’s heroic move not only saved Jaime’s life, but also eluded them from capture. I was incredulous and kept thinking at any moment one of Dany’s forces will simply notice them. How big is that river anyway?

Jaime and Bronn already make it back to King’s Landing to report the loss to Cersei. She actually takes everything in stride, remarking that they can use the gold to hire a mercenary army. He tells her what he learned from Olenna about Joffery’s true murderer, which she also seemingly takes in stride. She’s more than willing to go down fighting, but Jaime is not so sure.

A calm Cersei should worry everyone. A calm Daenerys fucking kills people.

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In a firm but brutal display, Daenerys calls for all the captured soldiers from last week’s battle to bend the knee or die. Most comply after a not-so-stirring speech from the Mother of Dragons – it’s hard to call for peace and prosperity when you just burned their friends alive.

Randyll Tarly, whom I’ve been misspelling this whole time, is too proud to kneel. He’s a complete asshole with zero sympathies, but his son has proven to be the opposite.

It’s an interesting twist when son Dickon refuses as well, joining his father as Dany stands them up before Drogon. The Mother of Dragons doesn’t hang people.

Tyrion is horrified at this display of power. “Eastwatch” touches upon the moral gray area that rests in being a leader. He and Varys have a discussion that reminds us of the cruelty of the Mad King that prompted the civil war before the series started. Later Arya and Sansa have a discussion about ruling, as do Jon and Dany, both admitting to doing what’s necessary – and what’s necessary often isn’t very nice.

The Jon and Dany exchange also teases a scene we all saw coming – the dragons responding positively to Jon Snow. Jon lovingly pets Drogon and Dany becomes even more enamored, though whether it’s love or respect is difficult to say.

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We know that Jon has been confirmed a Targaryen, thanks to Bran’s time-travel abilities. But this episode goes a step further with a seemingly innocuous scene between Samwell and Gilly.

Sam (who’s father and brother were just killed by Dany) remains frustrated with the Maesters, and even more frustrated with his inability to find real information on the Night King. Maybe he’s looking at the wrong information, as Gilly manages to drop a brief but possibly explosive info bomb before Sam waves her away – that Prince Rhaeger Targaryen’s initial marriage to Ellia Martell of Dorne was annulled.

We have to dig a bit into Game of Thrones‘ history to know why this is important. We know that long-time theory R+L=J was confirmed last season, with the L being Lyanna Stark, Ned’s sister. It’s said that Rhaeger abducted her, leading to Robert and Ned to start the civil war against the Targaryens, though it’s possible (and increasingly likely) that the two simply ran away together.

Now, if they actually got married that means that their child, Jon Targaryen, is not a bastard but a true-born son and heir to the Iron Throne. Jon would have just as much claim as Daenerys. I think he may actually have a stronger claim being the son of the prince (whereas Dany is Rhaegar’s younger sister). I’m not up on my succession rules.

I think it likely that we’ll never know the whole truth, and this was just a tease for the audience to help confirm yet another theory. Just having Targaryen blood would make Jon respected by the dragons (as we saw) – how the hell would they care if his parents were married?

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It’s a fun reveal made even more enjoyable given the way neither character realized what they were looking at. Sam’s frustration reaches its peak during an epic rant, and he and Gilly pack up their things and leave. Poor Sam. I enjoyed his surprisingly compelling antics at Oldtown and hopefully now he can get back to the action.

The bulk of the action surrounds Team Targaryen’s new plan. Jon receives a raven from Bran. Oh hey, Bran and Arya are alive. So much for an emotional reunion. The dead are coming – which I thought we already knew. They decide on a plan: convince Cersei (and everyone else) that the undead army is real. To do that they’ll need to capture one “alive” and bring it to her.

Now who the hell thinks Cersei gives two shits about an army of the dead? Every character in that room is being extremely naive to think she would rally around this common cause, Tyrion especially.

Regardless they decide that going north of the wall, running into the giant army of the dead, capturing an undead zombie, and bringing it back to the very hostile territory of King’s Landing is their best plan for generating an armistice so everyone can fight the dead.

Ser Jorah reunites with Daenerys just in time to volunteer, but Jon insists it has to be him. Jon may be an admirable leader but his insistence on being the first one at the head of every plan and battle usually makes for a short-lived career.

Tyrion knows that actually trying to talk with Cersei isn’t going to work. Instead, they worth through Jaime. Davos and Tyrion travel to King’s Landing to set up a meeting through Bronn, and the Lannister brothers are briefly reuinted.

This was a fantastic scene that I wish had lasted much longer. Tyrion balking at Jaime for being mad at him for killing their father was heartbreaking. Peter Dinklage got to flex his superior acting muscles more than he’s had to all season.

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But alas we’re moving at lighting speed. Jaime agrees to a proposed armistice. Cersei again takes it in stride, putting the bulk of this “betrayal” on Bronn. She decides that a meeting puts her in the best position to deal with Daenerys. If Jaime was starting to get cold feet they’re immediately snuffed by Cersei’s admission of a pregnancy – and he’s the father.

Now, is she really pregnant or just saying that to keep Jaime on board for a bit longer? I would not at all put it past Cersei. One interesting note: Cersei’s fateful childhood prophecy has so far rang true (all her kids have died), but the prophecy also said she’d only have three. Her time will be coming to an end, and I still think it’ll be at the end of Jaime’s sword.

Meanwhile Davos surprises everyone by going to the blacksmith and finding Gendry, last bastard son of Robert Baratheon. Gendry! We last saw the poor bastard rowing away from Dragonstone after Davos freed him from Melisandre, in season three. Davos delightfully jokes that he expected to find him still rowing, a snarky comment frequently made by Game of Thrones fans.

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A special shout-out to Ser Davos Seaworth needs to be made. I make notes to myself to help write these recaps, and a solid 25% of them this week were just quotes of everything Davos said. Nothing fucks you harder than time.

Gendry grabs a warhammer – Robert’s signature weapon, and immediately signs up to join Davos, and later Jon. The group runs into a brief encounter when leaving King’s Landing, and once again Davos gets to flex his wit in a rare humorous scene involving fermented crab Viagra.

In true Game of Thrones fashion, it ends in violence.

Jon leaves Dragonstone to embark on their crazy mission, taking Jorah and Gendry. Dany could have forced him to stay but her opinions have definitely softened – not every man can pet a dragon and Jon ain’t bad to look at either.

In another egregious example of fast-travel, Jon and company make it all the way up to Eastwatch-by-the-sea, one of the few manned castles of the Night’s Watch. It’s currently manned by Tormund, who’s disappointed that Jon didn’t bring Brienne (me too).

The Brotherhood Without Banners is also there, rotting in a jail cell. Seems their vision in the flames didn’t go over well with the wildlings.

A tense but funny meeting occurs when these characters meet. Gendry has good reason to hate Thoros and Beric based on his experience with Melisandre, while Tormund is none too please at having a Mormont (Jorah) in the party.

As Jon eloquently says, they’re all on the same side because they’re still breathing. He tells them the plan and lets them out of jail. Snow’s Seven is officially born! It’ll be our first look beyond the wall since Bran fled during the epic Hold the Door sequence, and looks like the primary focus of next week’s adventure.

game of thrones

Before we end this recap let’s predict the fate of Snow’s Seven:

game of thronesJon Snow – Come on, he’s fine. Besides, he already died once. At least one person will sacrifice themselves for him.

game of thronesGendry – It would be pretty lame to kill him off after we only just met him again after being MIA for years. He’s strong but the most untested of the lot. I could see him getting injured, and/or turning into a loyal sidekick for Jon.

game of thronesSer Jorah Mormont – Jorah only just now got back to fighting strength. Like Gendry it would be lame for him to die after all that. But he was given a plot coin by Tyrion and told to come back, so his death would be heart-breaking. He’s either going to live, or die saving Jon (and put in a final good word for Dany).

game of thronesTormund Giantsbane – Tormund has turned into a fun character, despite not having a whole lot to do this season. He’s been a loyal friend and ally to Jon, and is the most experienced member of the party for this mission. His death would be very emotional for both Jon and us. I think he’s a gonner.

game of thronesSandor Clegane – The sardonic Hound has gone through a rollercoaster of events since his appearance in the very first episode. It’s a very strange journey that’s lead him here. He’s probably the best fighter of any of them, but also the least reliable and loyal. His hatred of his brother still needs a conclusion with zombie-Mountain still by Cersei’s side, so he’s going to make it to King’s Landing.

game of thronesSer Beric Dondarrion – His flaming sword will come in very handy against the zombies, but otherwise Baric doesn’t have much going on, and we don’t really care one way or the other.

game of thronesThoros of Myr – As one of the least effective fighters the red priest may be able to call upon his god to smite the undead armies. Or more likely he’ll just die ignominiously.

And how’s this for a bold final prediction: One of these men will die and become the zombie warrior they’ll bring to King’s Landing, and in the final episode the Night King will cross (or destroy) the wall.

Winners

Jon Snow – It’s not every day you get to pet a dragon and assemble a superhero squad of ultimate badasses. We likely learned he’s a full-blooded Targaryen as well, but Jon doesn’t exactly have his eyes set on the Iron Throne.

Davos – Davos, like Bronn, is always a delightfully snarky presence in every scene. His dry wit and candor were on full display this episode, whether it was recruiting Gendry, bribing guards, or admitting he’s not much of a fighter. Davos has easily become one of my favorite characters in the entire series.

Gendry – When we first saw him I thought this was going to be a quick one-off scene to remind us that he was there (like Arya and Nymeria). I was pleased that not only does Gendry join up with Davos, but then pledges himself to Jon based on the friendship of their fathers (ironically Robert Baratheon killed Jon’s actual father Rhaegar Targaryen). PROTECT GENDRY!

Losers

The Spies of Winterfell – Despite holding a large number of prominent cast members Winterfell continues to be boring. Now it appears that we’re manufacturing drama for the sake of drama. According to Polygon the note that Arya finds (which Baelish planted) is the one Sansa wrote under duress years ago, urging Robb to bend the knee to Joffery. This could create further division between Arya and Sansa, or make Arya finally get rid of Baelish. Either way it’s hard to care compared to what’s going on everywhere else.

Ghost – Um, has anyone seen Jon’s direwolf? He didn’t go to Dragonstone, he didn’t accompany Snow’s Seven. Have we seen him all season? Is Ghost the new Gendry?