Gaming Backlog Final Thoughts – Hard West

A fun XCOM-lite in a dark Western setting hampered by its tight indie budget and odd campaign structure.

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I have finished another backlogged game via Rogue’s Adventures. You can read my latest Final Thoughts below and also on my gaming blog on Game Informer.

Developer: CreativeForge Games

Publisher: Gamibitious Digital Entertainment

Release Date: Nov 18, 2015

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Hard West had all the right ingredients that got me excited about its Kickstarter campaign: tactical XCOM combat, Western setting, supernatural elements, choice-driven gameplay. The end result is something of a mixed bag, mostly due to its shoestring indie budget and odd campaign structure.

Hard West mostly tells a classic Western story of revenge. Warren loses his parents, then his girlfriend, then his life (life was rough back then, man).  He’s given a second chance with a not-so-subtle Deal with the Devil, and begins his quest for vengeance. Also an ill-conceived quest to bring back his dead girlfriend.

Now I said “mostly tells” because that story represents only a fraction of the total campaign. And here we come to the crux of my issues with Hard West. Continue reading “Gaming Backlog Final Thoughts – Hard West”

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – X-Men: Curse of the Mutants

The X-Men are attacked by a united vampire army, and one of their own is permanently transformed. Guest-starring Blade!

With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.

Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!

X-Men Curse of the MutantsWriter: Victor Gischler

Artist: Paco Medina

Issues: X-Men (2010) #1-6*

*Also included the following tie-ins: Death of Dracula One-Shot, X-Men Curse of the Mutants: Storm & Gambit One-Shot, X-Men Curse of the Mutants: Smoke & Blood One-Shot, X-Men Vs. Vampires #1-2, Namor: The First Mutant #1-4, Wolverine & Jubilee #1-4

 

The Heroic Age of 2010 gave us lots of clearly defined good vs evil storylines. What could be more evil than a conquering army of vampires? In “Curse of the Mutants,” yet another new X-Men series brought us a vampire story straight out of Underworld or Blade. By embracing its campy tone the story remains fun and action-packed, though the finale feels a bit too rushed and easy.

The problem with X-Men is that there’s always way too many X-Men comics. And most of them star the same damn popular team members. At the time this new 2010 X-Men volume began, we already had Uncanny X-Men, Astonishing X-Men, X-Men Legacy, New Mutants, X-Factor, and shortly – Uncanny X-Force and Generation Hope.

Now granted some of those are great off-shoots with unique teams (I can’t say enough good things about X-Factor). But we definitely didn’t need yet another book starring Cyclops and gang dealing with problems at Utopia. And yet, having the son of Dracula rise up, unite the vampire clans and set his sights on mutants as kindred spirits in need of a good ol’ fashioned subjugating makes for a damn fun little event. Continue reading “Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – X-Men: Curse of the Mutants”

D&D 5E – “Princes of the Apocalypse” Session 5 Recap

The party gains peaceful admittance to Feathergale Spire, attends a feast, hunts a manticore, and discovers a startling secret.

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Watch our sessions live on my YouTube channel every Sunday night beginning at 9pm Central. Subscribe and catch up on previous episodes!

Previously on “Princes of the Apocalypse” 

A standard monster-filled dungeon can be fun, but I really enjoy when an area has some unique twist about it aside from room-to-room monster-bashing. The Feathergale Spire is a neat four-story tower filled with seemingly innocuous knights and aerial enthusiasts.

The encounter can transpire in numerous ways depending upon how the PCs react. Nothing is more fun to me as a DM than listening to my players hastily deliberate on a course of action, each crazier than the last.

First the party had to make it to the spire. When we left off they’d just killed a bunch of griffons in the Sighing Valley and found an alcove to rest in. When they awoke I had a group of aarokocra find them. The aarokocra were wary but curious. It was a fun opportunity for some unique role-playing, as neither party could understand each other.

Talus rolled really well on a History check and I gave him some information on these bird-like humanoids – mainly that they’re not evil and often fight forces of elemental evil. Numerous drawing, pointing, and miming ensued which was delightfully funny.

Talus would eventually cast Comprehend Languages (gotta love when seemingly mundane spells become very useful), and I would give them a bit more direct information – drawing a symbol over the tower, skull and crossbones nearby, question mark over the gully, and a hidden trail that lead up to the tower. Continue reading “D&D 5E – “Princes of the Apocalypse” Session 5 Recap”

Fire Emblem Fates Review [Pixelkin]

The tale of family, love, and war remains captivating throughout each tactical battle in Fire Emblem Fates.

Read the full review at Pixelkin

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Fire Emblem may not be as recognizable as Final Fantasy or Pokémon. But it is one of the most prolific franchises in gaming. Fire Emblem Fates combines the series’ trademark chess-like battles with building up relationships between your soldiers. The tale of family, love, and war remains captivating throughout each tactical battle.

The immediate biggest difference between Fire Emblem Fates and 2013’s Fire Emblem Awakening is the split story and dual release. Early on your avatar is forced to choose between two warring factions. It’s a critical decision that determines whom your allies and enemies will be for the rest of the game. It’s also decided for you depending on which version you buy.

Read the full review at Pixelkin

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Secret Avengers (2010), Vol. 1-2

Of the three new post-Dark Reign Avengers series I’ve read, Secret Avengers is far and away the strongest opener.

With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.

Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!

Secret Avengers 2010 vol 1Writer: Ed Brubaker

Artist: Mike Deodato

Issues: Secret Avengers (2010) #1-12

 

In 2009 Steve Rogers returned from the minor setback of death. To be fair he was dead quite awhile in comic-time (several years). It caused quite an upheaval for the Avengers, and lead to some of Ed Brubaker’s best work on the continuing Captain America series at the time starring Bucky Barnes (ex-Winter Soldier) as the new Cap.

So when Steve Rogers returns, he actually doesn’t want the shield back. The world is a far darker place, and he doesn’t want the political climate of fear to lead to another Civil War between superheroes. And Bucky’s done a pretty decent job as a new gun-toting Cap.

Instead, Steve starts his own Secret Avengers team where he takes on more of a Nick Fury role. It’s similar to when Cyclops created X-Force, only way less bloody. This is a team that sneaks in and gets shit done before it hits the fan.

It’s also a pretty wacky group that works surprisingly well: Steve and Agent 13 (Sharon Carter), Black Widow, Moon Knight, Ant-Man (the sassy Eric O’Grady version), Valkyrie, Beast, War Machine, and sort-of Nova. I say sort-of because he needs rescuing in the very first story, and afterward goes off to do more Cosmic-level stuff. Continue reading “Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Secret Avengers (2010), Vol. 1-2”

D&D 5E – “Princes of the Apocalypse” Session 4 Recap

Our heroes leveled up to 5 and left Red Larch to follow one of their leads – some shallow graves near the mysterious white tower in the hills.

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Watch our sessions live on my YouTube channel every Sunday night beginning at 9pm Central. Subscribe and catch up on previous episodes!

Previously on “Princes of the Apocalypse” 

The aftermath of the scandalous town elder – secret cult revelation lead to some fun role-playing. Our heroes then leveled up to 5 and left Red Larch to follow one of their leads – some shallow graves near the mysterious white tower in the hills.

I’m never quite sure how a purely role-playing section is going to pan out. My players feel most comfortable rooting through dungeons and killing bad guys. Occasionally some big dialogue sessions can occur, and the enjoyment level seems to fluctuate depending on the mood of the table and the players’ interest levels in the NPCs and plot.

In this case my players got to be the triumphant heroes, having defeated Larrakh and exposed Red Larch’s town elders as a creepy, murderous cult. Continue reading “D&D 5E – “Princes of the Apocalypse” Session 4 Recap”

Heaven’s Hope Review [CGM]

Thanks to numerous modern conveniences and relatively easy and linear puzzle designs, Heaven’s Hope is an enjoyable, light-hearted adventure.

Read the full Review at CG Magazine

Heaven's Hope (PC) Review 5

When Tim Schafer put out his Kickstarter video for the 2012 Double Fine Adventure campaign, he jokingly mentioned that all the good Adventure games were being made in Germany—he was not wrong.

While many American studios are creating narrative-focused Adventure games (like Telltale), a number of European developers continue to release Point and Click Adventure games. These games revel in the nostalgic Golden Age of the 90s with hefty inventory puzzles, whimsical humor, and beautiful art work. Heaven’s Hope is a wonderful example of these qualities, and a particularly effective entry point thanks to its keen puzzle organization and variety.

Read the full Review at CG Magazine