War Never Changes. Let’s Play Fallout!

War never changes.

Ages ago, they had the War to End All Wars. That was supposed to be the end of it. With that one, we as a species were supposed to end it wiser, safer, saner. With that, we knew the horrors of war, we knew what it did to people, and we knew we wanted no more of it.

Not even thirty years later, we did it again. Ironic, isn’t it? War never changes.

Our species grew with time. We grew in numbers, and we grew in technology. We were smarter, living better lives. You’d think we’d be above it all, after all that. But war never changes. As we grew, so too did our needs. There wasn’t enough to go around. It got to the point where we were making war for the same resource we were consuming in war.

War never changes, but war changes people. Three quarters of the way through the 21st century, October 21st, 2077, war changed the world forever. We don’t know how launched the first bombs. Or who launched the last bombs. Maybe it wasn’t even man at all. Maybe this was the act of an angry God, hitting the reset button on a humanity who by that point was just making war to get what they needed to sustain their war. Whoever it was, it doesn’t really matter by that point. That war came to an end, along with the rest of the world. Nuclear bombs impacting all over the place, both the blasts and the fallout changing it forever, scarring the world in ways few would survive.


At least, that’s what I’ve been told. To be honest, we don’t really know what’s out there. Whether there is anything out there. War never changes, but war hasn’t hit us, these past 84 years. My grandparents were some of the lucky few to make it into a vault. Vault 13, specifically. In Southern California, if that matters to anyone. Safe from the blasts, completely isolated from the outside world, or whatever’s left of it. Here, we had internal conflicts, but things were relatively peaceful. My grandparents lived out the rest of their lives here. My parents were born here, and have lived out their entire lives in the safety of the vault. That was the plan for me as well.

Until recently. Our enclosed, self-sustaining vault suddenly became not so self-sustaining. Our water chip, which was a vital part of the machine that recycled and purified Vault 13’s water, broke. It couldn’t be repaired. We had no replacement. Our cisterns hold months and months of water, but we still had another 120 years before it’d be safe to leave the vault and rehabitate the world. Our water would not last. We’d need a replacement.

Ed was the first to be sent out into the world, seeking salvation. He was a hard, hard man, a survivor, and one who kept up his skills and his edge even in a world that didn’t need them anymore. He was also the single closest person to me in the entirety of Vault 13. Months passed, and we didn’t hear from him again. Then, we sent out Talius. A bit of a somber fellow, but one who was gifted, showing a high level of competence at nearly everything he did. Again, months passed, and we never heard from him again.

It’s time to send someone else out, in search of a new water chip. We only have 150 days of water left. Things are getting desperate. And now, it’s my turn.

A part of me worries. Ed was one of the baddest men I knew, and he’s still vanished, like something’s happened to him. I’ve got the skills. My life, such as it is, has prepared me far beyond the cushy, soften bodies and minds of some of my fellows, but even so, not know what’s out there, aside from that its still in the aftershocks of nuclear bombardment, it’s fearsome.

It doesn’t matter. I have to go. The overseer is not giving me a choice in the matter, however much I want one. I have to find out what’s happened to Ed. I have to save our water supply.

Maybe it’s not so bad. Maybe the 84 years has been enough for most of the Fallout to pass over. Maybe the total bombardment has left whatever remains to wise, fearful, and sparse to pose any real danger. Maybe the world outside is now just as peaceful as the world inside.

War never changes.

1087-0-1447769641.jpg

Continue reading

Advertisements

The Tabletop Critique-Eldritch Horror

Let’s get this out of the way, because I’m going to be talking about it a whole lot this post. My all-time favorite board game is Arkham Horror. Well, the 2005 version of Arkham Horror if you want to be that specific. Pedant. A deep, challenging, and thematic game loosely based on the Call of Cthulhu RPG which in turn is spawned by the Cthulhu Mythos/Yog-Sothothery created by H.P. Lovecraft and a whole host of others. I love that game. I’ve sunk hundreds of hours into it over the years, picked up every expansion set, and… well I haven’t quite gone down the fanfiction hole for it yet, but I’ve been tempted. It’s good, that’s what I’m saying.

Well, after the publishers released the 8th expansion for it, they seem to have decided, probably wisely, that it’d be counter productive to make the game any larger, so instead, Fantasy Flight Games had started making whole new games based on that originator. The Arkham Horror Files, a line carrying such games as Elder Sign, Mansions of Madness, and our little friend of today, Eldritch Horror. Children of the original Arkham Horror, all seeking to carry on the themes, atmosphere, and some of the aspects of gameplay that made the original so successful.

eh01_main.png

Suffice to say, when this game came to my home at Christmastime, I was pretty excited. A little unsure, however. I’d been playing the Elder Sign game and enjoying that as well, but that was designed by the same creator as the original Arkham Horror. Eldritch Horror was not. So how does it hold up? That’s what we’ll be talking about in today’s Tabletop Critique.

One of the best things about Arkham Horror is how deep and complicated it is. One of the worst things about Arkham Horror is how deep and complicated it is. It’s a game with literally thousands of little chits and cards, and at any given moment there are about a dozen little factors you have to keep in mind for any given move. Elder Sign cut both the depth and complexity way down while still keeping the feel and atmosphere of the original. All good, when that’s what you’re in for, but when I jumped into Eldritch Horror, I was really looking for some middle ground. Something approaching the mental gymnastics Arkham Horror called for but that didn’t require you and all your friends to set aside your entire afternoon if you were going to give it a go.

Continue reading

My Adventures in XCom 2

I got myself a new computer. I didn’t want to. I was perfectly happy with my old one. But you can’t always get what you want, so here I am, new computer in hand. Lap. There you go.

One of the important things to do with any new computer, of course, is to find out just how much it can handle. After all, if you’re going to be investing into any games for it, you need to know just how leet it is, else you could buy something above your system. And also, you get the hackerz casting hardz as to the spex of your system. You can’t have people hardzing your spex. Sure, you can just look at the system requirements, but that doesn’t give you anywhere near the knowledge on frame rates and specific graphic quality that a practical test does.

header (1).jpg

That drew me to XCom 2. A current gen game I actually wanted that I could get for cheap with a bunch of mystery gems on top through the recent Humble Monthly Bundle. If it worked on my system, and actually played well, I could comfortably get other modern games. If not, well, at least I got some other games I could play.

So when I started XCom 2 up, I really wasn’t planning on playing for long. My gaming schedule is rather full. Like, I need games to make reservations to get themselves in my immediate playlist. I played it for an hour, was satisfied with my system’s performance, and shut it down. But I couldn’t get the game off my mind. So I figured, you know what, Time? You can’t tell me what to do. I still have this super packed gaming schedule, so I wasn’t going to commit to a full runthrough, but given the nature of the game, I thought I’d give it an ironman run until it wasn’t possible for me to continue anymore. Continue reading

The Sole Eyes on Hollow Knight

Screenshot (3).png

Hollow Knight. I got a demo of it. That feels somewhat clandestine. See, I had no idea I would be receiving a demo of it. It was one of the mystery things slipped into January’s Humble Monthly deal. Nobody who got the demo knew it was coming. It just snuck its way into my possession, delivered by a faceless and mysterious person with no word or forewarning. And yet, to my knowledge, the previous Humble Monthly was the only way to get your hands on it. You don’t get to play this demo. Most people don’t get to play this demo. It was only provided to a select few, through a single point of distribution, that nobody knew about.

And yet, nobody’s talking about this demo. And that’s a darn shame. I played it. It was good. I thought it was lovely. Let’s talk about why.

Hollow Knight is a Kickstarter game yet in development, as most Kickstarter games are. I could give the overview, but let’s let the developers do the work for me. From their Kickstarter page:

Channeling the styles of classic games like Metroid, Zelda 2 and Faxanadu, Hollow Knight is a 2D action adventure set in a sprawling, interconnected world.

As the enigmatic Hollow Knight, players will journey through the depths of Hallownest, a vast and ancient kingdom buried deep underground. Though long fallen to ruin after a dimly-remembered catastrophe, explorers and thieves still brave its dark roads, its caverns and towers, searching for riches and wonders.”

That… sounds completely and utterly standard, doesn’t that? A whole bunch of words that deliver little context and with descriptors that nearly any game in its genre can claim. Yeah. I’m pretty sure if you’re colorful enough, you could describe my dinner using much the same terms. Team Cherry, the developer, is a three man group, and it doesn’t seem any of them have much marketing acumen. Luckily, the demo speaks to a game beyond that weak description, so allow me to see if I can do better.

Screenshot (19).png

In spite of the developer’s claim, gameplay in Hollow Knight feels nothing like Zelda 2, only a bit like Metroid, and… I’ve barely heard of Faxanadu, so what the hell, it feels exactly like Faxanadu. It plays like nothing so much as the Igavania games, though, taking clear inspiration from the likes of Symphony of the Night. Gameplay relies on a lot of the same things that Iga’s Castlevania titles did, so expect lots of interconnected platforming, zoning, and angle management.

On top of that, the game carries an atmosphere that harkens back to Dark Souls. The whole feel of the game is deliberately dour. The art is one of the best things about the experience, and it is implemented beautifully and masterfully to create that tone. It’s no coincidence that most things in the games comes in shades of grays, blacks, and muted blues, with only the rare splashes of color highlighting important things. Nor that shadows envelop almost everything aside from yourself in this game. The demo doesn’t give you much of an idea of what the world you find yourself in is like, but it is clear enough that it is at or near its end, and it has a very depressed spirit, because of it. It carries a lot of subtleties that it weaves together quite well, and the visuals and overall mood of the game are incredibly striking.

Screenshot (12).png

So yeah. Gameplay of Castlevania, atmosphere of Dark Souls, all wrapped up in a cute cartoon bug shell.

Combat here feels wonderfully kinetic. I mentioned before that zoning was a big part of gameplay, and the impact of successful attacks plays a big part of it. They get everything on point there, from the brief pause upon impact, the sounds and sights of it, and the knockback achieved. It all goes together to just feel good. Not nearly as good as getting hit feels, though. Yes, I realize how strange that sounds. I can’t think of the last time I played a game where getting hit has such impact. Not that I would know, never having gotten hit by a single thing, after all. This is just what I heard. Large cracks appear from where you’re struck, the music grows mute, and the screen grows darker in response to a successful enemy attack. It adds a lot of weight to the moment, and seemed to draw me in a lot closer to what was going on with my little bug dude.

Screenshot (21).png

Another thing I would have absolutely no idea about due to never ever needing it and anyone who tells you differently is a filthy liar, the game has a pretty unique method of healing. Attacking enemies fills up an healing reservoir, which you can later use to recover health after an impact. You can. Not me. You can heal yourself in the middle of a fight, but it takes some time spent motionless or defenseless, so you really have to pick and choose your moments.

The game is obviously built to be upgrading your character overall. That’s part and partial with the whole Igavania/Metroid inspired deal, after all. The demo didn’t give you the chance, but there are areas that are obviously calling for abilities that aren’t available at the start. Double jumping is the big, obvious one, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see dashing, some limited flight, and the rest of the standard offerings there. Judging from the way you open up more map abilities, I’d imagine that it’s a lot of minute unlocks that you’ll be hitting frequently. I get a certain satisfaction from unlocking things, so it’s good to me to have a ton of small ones, but I know that’s going to grate on many.

Screenshot (8).png

The game is good. This is a really early version, showing a very limited area, but it does showcase solidly competent gameplay coupled with excellent visuals and atmosphere and a lot of promise. The gameworld is gorgeous and intriguing. I’d love to see more. If you could play the demo, you might to. Keep your eye out for it. I’m sure it won’t be exclusive to me and only me for long.

The Tabletop Critique-Ticket to Ride: First Journey

I’m not positive, but I’ve heard that some people out there have these things called “children”. From what I’ve been told, they’re a type of parasite. They hatch out of eggs inside people’s bodies, then progress to devour their hosts’ time and money as they grow. Oddly enough, people seem to like having these children around. And so they purchase products specially made to appease them.

51093100.jpg

Our subject today is one of them. Ticket to Ride: First Journey. As you might guess from the name, it’s based off of a larger, slightly more complicated game that’s made for grown ups, which is what I’ve been told children become when they exit their larval stage and develop muscles and body hair. Now, I’ve never played the original Ticket to Ride, but I’m guessing that this is something of a simpler version of the original. Less rules, less pieces, and some more colors and happy faces.

But in any case, let’s take a look at how the game stands on its own.

So, Ticket to Ride: First Journey is a competitive game about trains. You’re in control of a train company, trying to outperform your competitors by buying and establishing transportation routes between key cities. Specifically, each player is given specific cities to connect with each other. If your routes can take someone from one city to another, you get a ticket. First player to six tickets win.

I’ve heard a lot of very positive reports about the original Ticket to Ride. Apparently it’s the height of easy to pick up hard to master-ness, featuring some simple gameplay with some deceptively complex resource management and predictive strategizing behind it. Ticket to Ride: First Edition definitely maintains that simplicity. The game is pretty easy to work through. So easy, it feels like you just go on automatic, sometimes. It does not seem to have much depth or complexity to it, though. It does have some element of strategy to it, particularly when you have more than two players there and the board starts getting crowded. So skill does make a bit of play. But it doesn’t seem that you have much room to exercise it. Which, you know, you’re playing a kid’s game here, so you shouldn’t be going into it expecting a masterful hardcore tabletop gaming deal, but you know, just saying. It strikes a really good balance, though. It’s enough thinking that your engaged, so you’re having a good time, but not so much that you really have to be planning things out, if you’re not up for plumbing the limited depths there are here.

pic3116343_md.jpg

One thing I really have to give the game credit for, it is snappy as nothing else. The game moves fast. Even when you’re playing with kids, it is a swift game. It helps that you only do one thing each turn, and you’ve only really got two options. You either get more resources, or use your resources to buy a route. It’s pretty easy to choose what you’re going to do. Even if you’re one of those kid things. This makes it feel super active. It’s not one of those games where you have to wait like ten minutes for the other player to figure out their move because the game never bothered putting in a time limit and your fellow players don’t care about anyone else having a good time. Man, freakin’ scrabble. No, here, you’ve barely finished your turn and it’s your turn again. Same thing for everyone else. It moves fast. Like, cheetah speed in SimCity or something.

The game is pretty rife for abuse, as well. Making plays that, although perfectly legal, are not exactly sporting. For example buying up routes for the express purpose of denying other people easy access between Chicago and Washington DC, or buying worthless routes solely to run out of trains so you can end the game early when you’re ahead on tickets but behind on resources. The rulebook says that you shouldn’t do that, but what is it going to do? Give you a paper-cut when you’re tasting the sweet, delicious, brutal victory? This might be taken as a flaw in the game, a gap in the design. Really, it’s not a bug, it’s a feature. This opens up the opportunity to reveal to this ‘children’ the valuable lesson that the world is a horrible place and everyone you trust will take advantage of you if given a moment’s chance. Sure, they may cry in the moment, but think of how better they’re going to be set up to move forward in life.

You know, I wonder if that’s why I don’t get asked to babysit so much. It seems parents would rather just leave their children weak.

So yeah, Ticket to Ride: First Journey. I really wouldn’t recommend that you play it with a group solely made up of ‘mature people’. I actually had a good time playing it with kids, though. It moves quickly, it’s easy for them to pick up on their own so they don’t need me planning out their moves for them, and when you’re working on that level, it’s pretty fun. I didn’t play it long enough for its lack of complexity to wear thin, although that’s a definite possibility, but hey, if you’ve got some of those childrens in your life and you’re looking for something new to do on those slow Tuesday nights, Ticket to Ride: First Journey is really solid. I had some good times with it.