Dungeons and Dragons review by person who has never played it or knows anything about it

March 4, 2016 no comments Posted in Video Games

Dungeons and Dragons is a popular board game lovingly developed in 1986 by Hasbro and has since adopted new versions with tailored game-play, more characters and better weapons through DLC. The aim of the game is to be the one who defeats the “Dungeon Master” — a sort of last boss, if you will  — without dying. A quest often angrily complained about by DnD players (D@Ds, pronounced ‘datdders’) as impossible, before frustratingly announcing that I’m talking crap.

D’D is very unforgiving, Players will have a hard time winning on their own without partnering up with another player or NPC companion, and they must remain vigilant as both have the opportunity to stab you in the back for a lovely profit(And in a large majority of rounds, they take that opportunity). Because of this, it is recommended newbies play with the ‘easier’ settings  on their first run, and make a gentleman’s agreement not to attack each other.

As the name suggests, a major element of DandD are dragons. Dragons in D,D are similar to those in pokémon, you collect them, fight them, and level them up to unlock new features and aesthetics. Players can introduce these dragons into combat scenarios to fight for them(And of course, risk losing them to Death, or more charismatic players).

Combat in DnD is refreshingly simple compared to most board games — whoever rolls the highest number in an encounter wins — with a few basic modifiers thrown in such as your weapon of choice. Combat occurs when a player arrives on the same tile as an opponent, be it another player or one of the many malicious monsters contained in D.D. Combat is encouraged, but not ultimately necessary if you team with another player.

In summary, DD provides skillful, amusing and tactical gameplay while being attractive to a wide audience, easy to pickup and helpfully short-lived, making it well worth your time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-Final Fantasy Explorers- Review

February 22, 2016 no comments Posted in Nintendo, Video Games

What a first, huh? A review that of a recent game rather than a SNES RPG

I have rather little to talk about before getting into the main portion of the review which is the gameplay. Explorers was released late 2014 in Japan, taking until January 2016 to be released in the US and Europe. All I could garner for development info was the director Atsushi Hashimoto making the game based off the concept of a multiplayer Final Fantasy adventure with a job system being incorporated. Soon after the game came out my drive to purchase this immediately was rather flustered by reviews generally not going higher than 7 out of 10 (Fun fact IGN indeed rated the game 6.8/10. I presume too much Final Fantasy) but after purchase has my fears been unfounded? Well first off the game isn’t being sold for the general 50 or above euro Nintendo games get as price tags for no fucking reason so scrounging 40 euro for the game wasn’t as much of a problem.

The story? Please. This game can be summed up as a Final Fantasy version of Monster Hunter, a series that does not bother with plot as far as I’m aware. The basic premise is there for the sake of it, people who hunt for powerful life and technology powering giving crystals are known as Explorers. YOU are a Explorer heading to the island of Amostra, which is newly discovered as a vast source of crystals but on the way there your airship gets blasted by fucking Bahamut. After booking it you (I’m getting fed up with this already) get to the town of Libertas to began questing around for questing’s sake in search of the island’s Grand Crystal. After about 20 hours of doing stuff and having a rather pointless lesson in what the search for crystals do to the world you get to the Grand Crystal, the story stops pretending it’s a thing and most of the game’s quests start opening up. Now let’s get to the REAL review.

First off the avatar customisation is rather shit with a very limited number of options, though I don’t mind not spending hours increasing the size and shape of every part of my character’s face. I do mind having to shorten my character’s name to Chris due to character limits that shouldn’t be there. Like usual you start off in your Freelancer Job, to get more you need to unlock them. You unlock a bunch early after completing one of the tutorial quests but you unlock most of them by finishing the Job Test quests that you’ll get along the game. Other Jobs are unlocked by specific means such as learning Firaga, Curaga, and Blizzaga to get the Red Mage Job or killing 500 monsters to get the Dark Knight job. You shouldn’t have any trouble with the requirements except the “Make 20 Monsters” one but we’ll get to that later. Jobs as you’d expect change your stats, the abilities you can use, weapons you equip and so on and so forth.

You get equipment mainly through the shop in Liberta using the materials you get from defeated monsters to either make more stuff or upgrade your equipments’ stats until the piece reaches its stat limits (haven’t reached the Buster Sword’s one yet so I don’t plan on replacing it). You don’t level up for killing things Liberta serves as the main hub, you select your quests there and after each quest you get sent back although you can choose to explore the island but certain areas are blocked off till you get a quest telling you can pass through and then the area is unlocked for good. These area barriers get rather annoying to see and I can’t think of a reason for them to really be there. You can select main areas you’ve discovered via the airship outside of quests but the in between areas leading to the main ones like mountain passages or forests have to be travelled through during quests and they’re much more repetitive since its basically 3 similar areas till you reach the next main area.

After a certain point you can also select a number of subquests to be done during quests for rewards like killing monsters or delivering a item. Regardless all quests cost a bit of money to actually start for some reason, it’s not like you’ll ever run out of gil in this game. Quests you unlock come in set difficulties which determines the monsters’ strength and exploring Amostra is always done on the highest quest difficulty available to you but Lv. 2 and Lv.3 item drops don’t happen unless you’re above a certain difficulty whilst Lv. 1 drops are always guaranteed. If you want to make finding new materials easier use LibertaExplorer, it’s a site opened by a bunch of fans at the start of February that contains a enormous deal of Explorers info that players should definitely check out, it’s really convenient. No matter what however you will get annoyed at how enemies tend to not appear in areas that they should like the humble Chocobo which you can kill but only if it decides to show up.

Let’s get into mechanics now. Explorers can all do a normal attack and sprint. Your AP meter is the fuel for your abilities and sprinting, it fills as you attack, use a ether or stand still. For the love of god don’t overuse it and run out unless you want to be left walking after your teammates as they sprint away. You can lock on to nearby enemies by tapping R and have the camera move to in front of you by tapping L, holding L or R opens the ability lists allowing you to use what you have on them. Abilities also have a charge time after use but usually you should always have at least one ability to use if you spam all of them. Holding both L and R opens the Crystal Surge menu when the game tells you have one available. The controls do have a hefty use on the shoulder buttons but it’s easy to get used to, my main issue is how the lock-on always locks on to any boss monsters if they are in the vicinity and not the small fries unless you press “Track Small” on the touch screen.

You learn all your abilities from the Main Crystal in Liberta and they all cost CP. CP is what you get from killing things and is multiplied heavily after a quest. CP is also used during equipment upgrades and monster fusions. The Main Crystal also lets you learn any mutated abilities you’ve found. What are those? Let me explain that with Crystal Surge. You have a count of your Crystal Resonance on the top left that you raise by using abilities, when it gets over 100 a Crystal Surge can occur. The Crystal Surge menu then can be opened allowing you to choose a temporary status change for example all of your attacks are Critcal Hits or all of your attacks are Fire Elemental , but the 4 that appear are random and you won’t know what they do unless you look them up in the game or just try them out. Anyway when a Crystal Surge is active some of your abilities may turn yellow. Use them and you unlock a ability mutation which is a extra add on for the ability you have and all mutations can be stacked and added with whatever other mutation the ability is compatible with. For example:

  1. I have a ability called Sonic Steel
  2. I activate the Fire Crystal Surge that makes my attacks all do fire damage
  3. Sonic Steel turns yellow and I use it during the surge, the game prompts me that I’ve gotten the Fire Mutation
  4. I purchase Sonic Steel1 (which has the fire mutation) from the Main Crystal and replace it with the normal Sonic Steel.
  5. I get a poison mutation for Sonic Steel1 allowing me to purchase Sonic Steel2 which now has a chance of poisoning and burning a enemy.

I can increase the power and chance of success of abilities by repeatedly mutating the same Surge. If you don’t want to use any of the Crystal Surges that appear in the list you can change it by using abilities a couple of times. If you want to get the most of your abilities, GET EVERY MUTATION YOU CAN.

Now there’s Magicite (no not the Final Fantasy VI stuff) which you unlock after you Encase your first Eidolon during the quest where you learn how to. Eidolons are the series’ summons that fight you in specific areas and can be defeated for items but when they are at low HP the Encase Crystal Surge can appear allowing you to capture the Eidolon and use their magicite. It is REALLY annoying trying to capture a Eidolon for the first time so here are some tips that you should keep in mind every time you attempt it:

-Use abilities or Crystal Shards that don’t damage the Eidolon to raise your Crystal Resonance

-Use the Oracle item to change the Surge list

-When playing in a team you all have individual Crystal Surges at around the same time and raising Resonance is much faster. Having 4 people with Surges increase the chances of one of them having Encase.

When you Encase an Eidolon, you unlock its Trance for permanent use and can sell the Magicite as a Eidolon. Your Trance meter fills as you attack and use abilities. When its full you can go into Trance which fills your HP and AP. It also lets you use a Trance Surge when you get another Crystal Surge which is a really strong special but what it does depends on the Eidolon you have equipped. Now WHO WANTS TO TRANSFORM INTO LIGHTNING FROM THE POPULAR FINAL FANTASY XIII!?!?!?!? Like unlocking Jobs, you can unlock Magicite from the Libertas Moogles after completing certain requirements that let you transform into veteran Final Fantasy characters in Trance and use their Trance Surge. No Final Fantasy IX characters sadly. You can also unlock and forge Final Fantasy outfits but they’re generally overshadowed in terms of protection and convenience.

Now Monster Creation. This thing mainly exists so that people playing solo can have some semblance of “team”. When a monster dies they have a chance of dropping their Atmalith…it’s their soul so to speak. You use this to create monsters to fight with you and they can…level up even though you can’t. I split Monster Creation into two catagories: Either they’re shit or they’re broken damage dealers. My personal favs are the Black Knight, Cactuar and Magic Pot who deal really high magic damage.

So people like playing with other people right? This is self explanatory, you can play with up to 3 others in different quests, the difficulty is raised depending on how many people are there so good job synergy and teamwork is necessary. This can be done with friends or people you find online that may or may not be cunts and run off whilst you try to get materials. Can’t do much in profanities though, you have a set list of things to inform the team of.

I think I’ve covered more than enough. The game is rather clunky but still great fun as it serves its purpose well. Like some other games (BRAVELY DEFAULT) I think it would’ve benefitted greatly from some more time, attention and additions to make things more convenient. The music is…decent but with a game like this you’re probably listening to music or a podcast (wink wink nudge nudge) when playing. It’s worth the price that its going for and fans of the series have already bought the game because of all the beautiful fanservice. I wish Gilgamesh and Omega Weapon weren’t the only non-summon boss fights though, some more fanservice in optional boss department pls.

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Anyone want to see what review comes up next? I’m leaving that up to you.

-TheAceAlucard

Why One Piece Works So Well

February 19, 2016 no comments Posted in Animation & Anime, Film

Unless you’ve been living under the proverbial anime rock you’ve probably heard of Eiichro Oda’s One Piece. On the surface One Piece looks very similar to other long running, shounen series but it has consistently ranked higher with critics than others such Naruto, Bleach and Fairy Tale.

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So something is clearly different here between One Piece and other shows and I think I know what might be. First off let’s look at it’s structure. Right form the get-go Oda had the ending and general structure planned out and since then hasn’t really left from that path. He originally intended for one piece to only go on for 5 years but continued the series on to flesh the story out. For most the high amount episodes and chapters will be an incredibly high barrier of entry but I would argue that in the long run it helps the series. The characters are traversing an entire world stopping on each island along the way, most islands’ stories arguably out does many other series in size and scope alone. Not only that but since the character’s  goals are such lofty or in the case of some vague such as “Become the worlds greatest swordsman” or “Chart every ocean in the world” or even “become a great warrior” it makes sense that it would take a lot of time to achieve them.

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The appearance of One Piece is another determining factor.  Right from the start Oda’s art is great and only gets better over time. Not only that but Oda has a grasp on the medium he works in that few others do. He understand both what flows well and especially what looks cool in format. Luffy’s power to stretch his body already seems cool but when paired with cool perspective tricks his attacks appear incredibly flashy and badass.

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Zoro’s three sword style also looks great in the way that only a non-moving comic can make it look.

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Oda also never seems content to merely let events start and stop. There always seems to be a logical reason for why the characters move to the next place or do the next thing even if it is occasionally is obvious that things or character happen or appear just to move the story forward.

Finally, I would like to talk about the types of stories One Piece tells. One Piece especially recently has gotten much better at building up stories before they even happen. For example the whole Baroque Works saga begins in volume 12 telling the story of the Strawhats trying to return a princess to her kingdom and to defeat the a corrupt warlord so when we finally get to Alabasta it feels like a mini victory in and of itself. Similarly Fishman Island is first mentioned around volume 45 so when we finally get there it feels great along with this the Skypeia arc is famous for being a great self contained story that is just part of the overall narrative. One Piece also handles war arcs good too. Naruto was famous for having a long and drawn out war arc that tainted the ending for some. One Piece’s Paramount War on the other hand was is the best arc in the series.

I’m tempted to go into the themes of One Piece but I can tell many people are already bored of this as it it. So maybe I’ll do a follow up to this eventually.

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Thanks Again,

Kevin Smith,

My Top Five Sandbox Games

February 12, 2016 no comments Posted in Video Games

A game wherein the player has been freed from the traditional structure and direction typically found in video games, and is instead given the ability to choose what, when, and how they want to approach the available choices in content. The term is in reference to a child’s sandbox in which no rules are present and play is derived from open-ended choice. While some sandbox games may have building and creation aspects to their gameplay, those activities are not required. Sandbox games usually take place in an open-world setting as to facilitate the freedom of choice a player is given.

“Sandbox game” — Wikipedia

I like a good action-packed game every now and then, but my toy of choice in the gaming playground is the sandbox. The kind of games that appeal to that excitement of opportunity, and don’t later disappoint you when you realize they’re actually mostly hollow.

Here are my top 5.


#5 The Powder Toy(Free & Open Source, Windows, Mac)

This image may be slightly deceiving, you can't really build large structures that move like the Vertibird pictured centre-top

The Powder Toy is like a normal sandbox, but 2D and with a huge variety of particles that interact with each other in useful and intricate ways rather than just boring old sand; These particles include explosives, gasses, solids, liquids, and a bunch of real-life elements(which are more like elements that are just named after real elements to give you a hint on it’s behaviour than actual realism) TPT also differs from a standard sandbox by having less toddlers, allowing you to play in it without ending up in a cell.
 
TPT’s greatest feature is the electronics. You can wire things to behave in rather specific ways, leading to interesting creations like controllable reactors, laser rifles and miniature computers. The game’s ‘wire’s are anything that’s conductive(gold, ‘metal’, iron…), and electricity is a yellow pulse that travels infinitely at a speed dependent on it’s medium. Various particles act accordingly when in contact with electricity, which can be controlled with switches, sensors, one-way wires and other brain materials.
 
And it’s topped off with an in-game scene browser which you can use to download and upload some amazing scenes. So, it’s free, it works on Win(e?)dows and Mac OSX, and it’s tiny. Might as well just download it already.

 #4 Algodoo(Free, Windows, Mac)

Algodoo screenshot

Algodoo is a 2D physics game where you build contraptions from shapes, motors, thrusters, lasers and physics, and then delete them because they are all crap in comparison to stuff in the Algobox

You may remember Incredibots from 2009, well, Algodoo is like that but better. With a better engine, a (much) better interface, more object properties, scripting(Though, the custom scripting language ‘Thyme’ is probably the worst I’ve ever seen bar intentionally bad ones), lasers and Water!

Despite being 2D, there is a lot you can do in Algodoo. I’ve had a lot of fun making multipurpose vehicles, games, solar systems, and just generally messing around in this game. It runs well, is now free, and best of all: it doesn’t use Flash, earning it #4 on my list.


#3 Minecraft(20€, mods only work on Linux, Windows, and Mac)

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Missiles are piped into these silos from below. Because nothing reminds you of your sandbox days quite like liberating enemies from existance before they can sign any silly peace treatie!

You already know what Minecraft is, I don’t need to tell you.

 

But what puts it at #3 on my list are it’s mods. Specifically,  Industrial Craft 2, Buildcraft, ComputerCraft, ICBM and a Bukkit server with Factions.

Industrial Craft 2 brings Minecraft into an industrial revolution, and then some. Mining lasers, carbon armour, jetpacks, teleportation devices and a large array of power storage, transmission and generation blocks(incl. Nuclear reactors!) to power them.

Buildcraft adds mostly just item transportation pipes and automatic crafting tables, which can be used to build factories to construct pretty much anything. I use it to make automatic ore processors, missile construction factories and extremely advanced nuclear power plants.

Computercraft gives you mining turtles, portable and static computers and a few other computer peripherals, and everything is programmable using Lua. You can draw to a computer’s screen and get user input, leading to some people creating their own OSs! Mining turtles can be programmed to do your bidding as they have their own inventories, and they can attack, dig, and transfer items. You can also use OpenPeripherals and OpenCC Sensors to make them stand watch at your base and attack intruders.

ICBM adds InterContinental Ballistic Missiles, which allow you to punch a hole in the world up to 10,000 blocks away. The size of the hole they punch is anyone between ‘conventional’ TnT, to a missile with 3 nuclear warheads powerful enough to reclaim a moderately sized base back to nature. With that last bit in mind, it’s important to construct missile counter measures, such as radar & EMP towers, anti-ballistic missile silos and AA guns.

Factions is a server-side mod that allows players to claim land and prevent your low-level, unorganised griefers from helping themselves, claimed land is uneditable to anyone but the faction it belongs to. The fun part of Factions is that for claimed land to remain claimed, the owners of that land need to not die too much. Traditionally, on Vanilla servers, this meant that Faction ‘raids’ would occasionally  take place. Raiders would invade an enemy base when enough of their players were online, attempt to slaughter as much of the enemy as possible(Attackers often fell victim to clever traps, and well prepared defenders often stood a decent chance of repelling the attackers, and profiting from their *highly* precious, often beloved raiding kits)

What about when a faction simply builds a box and hides in it? Traditionally, a TnT cannon would be constructed outside a faction base by the invaders’ smartest technicians in order to breach the enemy base. With ICBM, I like to exhaust their missile counter-measures with a barrage of low-tier missiles, and then make a clean entry hole from afar.

Or if I’m feeling like the materials are worth it, convert their entire base into a crater. ICBM is awesome.

 


#2 Garry’s Mod(10€ on Steam, free on certain other places 😉 )

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If the Internet was a game, this would be that game. Garry’s mod was originally a Half Life 2 mod, abusing HL2’s (at the time, arguably still) groundbreaking engine by turning it into a Sandbox game. Eventually it became standalone, with it’s own support for mods. And when I say “support for mods”, it’s not like child support or anything added in a “I suppose we have to” sort of way, It’s closer to air support, like calling in a Wing of Enola Gays to the middle of the Atlantic and blowing other modding support out of the water. It’s fitting that “Enola Gays” was split into two lines, given the context.

 

Gmod’s modding support provides access to a high-performance engine through an easy to learn, easy to implement scripting language – Lua – with an API providing both coarse and fine levels of control. Which allows the immature newbies and people that have never scripted before to enjoy themselves, and allows the (still immature) experienced modders to create their crazy works of art exactly as they invision it.

There are two types of mods for Garry’s mod: In one type, people add content to Sandbox mode(Hey dawg…), such as Wiremod and less impressively, an assortment of meme mods like Epic Sax saxophone, a ‘This is Sparta’ weapon etc etc.

And for the more ambitious, separate gamemodes can be made. Which has led to some pretty creative games, like the iconic Prop Hunt, where players animate inanimate objects and have to hide from regular humans. Or Trouble in Terrorist Town, which is like Cluedo but with social engineering and PvP. Or DarkRP, where you roleplay as a 12 year old roleplaying as a gun/drug dealer/manufacturer trying to print earn a living in a world full of hackers guys out to shut down your meth lab legitimate business. Multiplayer mods and gamemodes thrive because whenever a player joins a server with them installed, that player automagically downloads and installs all the mods on the server, and is only bothered by them when they join that server.

Sandbox mode allows you to weld various plates, cubes, complex shapes and models together, and then attach axles, ropes and thrusters, which can be controlled from a seat or remote controller if you have Wiremod installed. All of this can lead to some pretty cool vehichles(And pretty cool combat if you have Pewpew installed), but in multiplayer mainly just equates to a lot of people getting run over and the 13 year old’s Mona Lisa constructed and painted in a large, often impressively creative variety of ways.

 


#1 Kerbal Space Program(40€, free demo with less features, Win+Mac+lin)

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KSP is my favourite sandbox game, and my favourite game full stop.

The best way to play KSP is badly. People say that it is a hard game, because they can’t readily do what they set out to, or what they’ve seen other people do.

KSP is not a hard game. KSP is a Sandbox game. When your ship disintegrates during re-entry, or crashes into Mun instead of landing gracefully, you might think “This is hard” , “That failed” or maybe even slam things if you’re prone to anger. People that I’ve managed to get into this game instead think “Hehe! It exploded!” or “That was close. Now what can I do to get closer?” like tiny green Elon Musks.

Unlike what too many think, it isn’t a game you need to be smart to play(or even to be good at). Ever wonder how a few thousand tiny green men and women manage to get to other planets without any other technology or even civilizations outside of the Space Centre? It’s because they’re relentless(And also because they seem to value science over each other’s lives, judging by all the Kerbals drifting around my Kerbol). If you cannot accept that failure is always an option, this game is not for you.

If this game is for you, do not look up anything. The game covers all the essentials  and when you look things up, you miss out on all those fun ways you can fail. Start a career mode, and just have fun, because a spectacular fail is still spectacular.

Also, take screenshots and videos. I regret not taking more, they help you remember the great moments you had.

Things of the Year 2015

February 1, 2016 no comments Posted in Video Games

Why hello there, I’m Sean Reidy and these are my things of the year 2015.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
This is a game I spent several year obsessing over every slightest detail of in the lead up to its big release on September 1st. I had seen every trailer dozens of times. I watched any appearance of Hideo Kojima for some hope of news. I watched a Japanese livestream on Christmas Day to have a chicken hat confirmed for me. I bought the big 140 euro collector’s edition with a half scale replica of Big Boss’ bionic arm. I played the game non-stop for a month and I feel it is half a perfect game. Playing the game you see the occasional glimpse of an all time great, and the game still debatably is. But it could’ve been so, so much better. The game’s core gameplay is fantastic, every movement is fluid and responsive. The shooting is great, every one of the game’s wide variety of guns feel different to each other. The story is acceptable by general gaming standards but is pretty woeful by Metal Gear standards. Some segments of the story are fantastic. Quiet manages to have somewhat of an arc without any dialogue, the “woman in the room” who I won’t mention for spoilers has a heartbreaking side story, the mission “Voices” is spectacular and builds a fantastic atmosphere in one of the game’s very few indoor areas. MGSV is a huge disappointment, but also my Game of the Year.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
My Film of the Year was less of a disappointment. I was a big Star Wars fan a good few years ago but it had sort of subsisted into me deciding Empire was the only good one. The Force Awakens changed that, in the lead up to it I rediscovered the series I had abandoned and the film itself was the final clincher. I loved it. Almost every part of it. I understand it’s just A New Hope with new characters but I really like those new characters. Kylo Ren’s pathetic immaturity has given me one of my favourite film villains in years. Finn was well-acted, humourous. And of course, John Williams, fantastic as ever. The soundtrack is great, with the highlights being Rey’s Theme, March of the Resistance and The Jedi Steps & Finale. Rey’s Theme in particular gives a sense of discovery, hearing that song in the film I felt as if this was really it. After 32 years they got it right again. Good job, Disney.

Toast of London
Please watch Toast of London. Seriously. I don’t know a single person who watches it and it is the best surreal sitcom on TV since The IT Crowd. Toast stars Matt Berry (Douglas Reynholm from the previously mentioned IT Crowd) as Steven Toast, a failing, middle aged actor from London who is forced to do whatever job comes his way. The best of this year’s episodes involved popular US actor Jon Hamm, as Toast develops an unwanted homosexual crush on him. The show evokes memories of Father Ted, and I’d put some episodes on a level with that show’s absurdist highs like Speed 3 and The Mainland. It’s a fantastic show and, despite winning BAFTAs, I worry it has gone underappreciated.

Music Complete

The latest album from the legendary New Order is something that popped up out of the blue for me, I only knew of its existence a day before release, I’m glad I did find out about it though. The album has a perfect mix of electronica, the occasional classical instrument and some pretty good vocals. The highlights on the album include Restless, a song that sounds straight off a Joy Division album with its vaguely mopey lyricism with top class instrumentation, Stray Dog, a contemplative slower song with a spoken word angle that sounds semi-similar to Ron Perlman and Tutti Frutti, a much more house type of song with occasional disco flashes throughout. Overall the album was a tremendous surprise, and one I thoroughly recommend you give a listen to.

Bonus Thing of 2016

Blackstar, the 26th and final studio album of David Bowie was released on January 9th, Bowie’s 69th birthday. I listened to it then and I thought it was fantastic. I thought I had already found my album of the year. 3 days later, Bowie died after a secret 18 month battle with cancer. This cemented the album as my favourite, which allows me to write this in absolute confidence. Listening to the album that weekend was a strange experience. It was a fantastic album, but a weird one. A lot of things in it were unexplained. Then the news broke. It is a parting gift from Bowie, with the jazz infused tones of the album playing him out from the world. He did not take his death idly, and instead used it to fuel one last masterpiece. To my mind the best songs on the album are Lazarus, Dollar Days and I Can’t Give Everything Away. These songs are rooted in death. Lazarus is the most blunt of these, opening with “Look up here, I’m in heaven” before descending into a final verse about how “This way or no way, you know I’ll be free” and the song uses the same notes repeatedly to create an overwhelming sense of dread. It is a fantastic album, only made better by the unfortunate context.

Chrono Trigger Review

January 28, 2016 no comments Posted in Nintendo, Video Games

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Disclaimer: I rushed this one out the ass.

-Release-

In 1995 Square released Chrono Trigger saw its release on the SNES, a creation of what was dubbed the Dream Team; Hironobu Sakaguchi (creator of Final Fantasy), Yuji Horii (creator of Dragon Quest) and Akira Toriyama (who most of you probably already heard of) with the game being produced by Kazuhiko Aoki. It was critically acclaimed upon release although official PAL cartridges of the game were not created for some reason and it wouldn’t be until 2009 that PAL regions got Chrono Trigger via the DS version. There was a PS1 port created in 1999 but like Square’s port of Final Fantasy VI and such, it was absolutely filled with load times and they were almost 10 second ones at the least. I presume this has something to do with the PS1’s RAM or lack thereof which is why SNES ports got these load times. The only new addition to the PS1 version was a set of animated cutscenes that would play at different intervals created by Bird Studio and Toei Animation. They’re great and all, especially with the opening’s version of the main theme but they’re also included in the DS version of the game along with bonus features, a better translation and such. Predictably the DS version is the best one out there, while I did manage to cope with finishing the PS1 version that’s something I’ll never do again and there are already iOS and Android versions of the game if you need them.

-How Trigger got triggered (lol)-

Crono is a young swordsman who’s a mute. Oh boy. In all seriousness the kid wakes up excited (at least that’s what his mother says) for the festival the Guardia kingdom is holding to celebrate its long prosperity. While testing out his friend Lucca’s teleportation device being showed off at the fair a girl named Marle, who tagged along with Crono after bumping into him, tries the machine out but her pendant causes a malfunction which opens a random portal that she gets sucked into. Crono picks up the dropped pendant and decides to open the same portal to find her while Lucca stays behind and tries figures out just what the hell happened. He finds himself in the Middle Ages where he finds that Marle has been mistaking for that era’s queen whose been missing. Marle suddenly and rather painfully disappears in front of Crono just as she begins to explain why she was mistaken for the missing Queen Leene (lol). Lucca appears to tell Crono that Marle is actually the present’s Princess Nardia who took on the name of Marle to go off doing non-royal things. Leene is the Nardia’s ancestor and because she is still missing with Marle taking her place, a grandfather paradox occurs causing Marle to simply not exist. Crono and Lucca team up with a frog knight named…Frog in order to rescue the missing queen and restore the royal family line. After doing so Marle is restored and using Lucca’s new device designed to open gates in time that are appearing for some reason (sort of explained later on) they return to the present. Upon doing so Crono is arrested upon escorting the princess back to the castle under the pretence of “kidnapping her” (don’t worry there’s a sidequest also explaining this well enough) and escapes from jail with the help of Marle and Lucca. After escaping to a time gate leading to the distant apocalyptic future they discover that at some point the planet was ravaged by a unknown force named Lavos. Deciding to try and find a way to stop the event from happening they begin their journey through time to save the future and that’s where I’ll stop for now. The game may be over 20 years old but I don’t feel up to spoiling a lot of elements that make it easier to enjoy. Besides this synopsis is pretty bare but the depth to the game and the characters start coming about from Antiquity onwards along with the endgame sidequests mainly focusing on character events and development for example going back in time to stop Lucca’s mother from losing the ability to walk by getting caught in the active machine right in front of the poor girl (just save beforehand so you don’t fuck it up and make Lucca watch it a 2nd time). It’s what they went for I think, mainly giving you a romp through the world and characters they created until you get to Magus where things start adding up. The time travel logic isn’t pure perfect, it never is when changing history is the subject, but it uses it really well ignoring some paradoxes .

 

-Gameplay-

We have quite a number of new things to cover but nothing too in depth. Trigger does away with random encounters and transitioning into a different screen for battle. Battles are initiated by coming into enemy contact or going to a specific tile for fixed battles and battles all happen on the same map. This was considered quite innovative to have battles happen where they start, however there’s one major problem with this: There are a lot of fixed battles, combine that with enemies respawning everytime you leave the room and come back and you have a annoying number of repeated fixed encounters when you step on a tile on your way back to somewhere. EarthBound didn’t have this problem because dungeons had one way to go most of the time and avoiding encounters was more of a element there. In here its more in theory. One thing that makes it a bit harder to take is how because you fight on the same map YOU KNOW that you’re fighting the exact encounter again in the same area whilst with random encounter transitions you feel more like fighting just another one of that enemy type if they show up. You get used to it fast enough and if you don’t it’s not something that hampers the whole deal but it’s something that’ll make it hell to play the PS1 version where battles have load times where they didn’t. At least thanks to this system there are no encounters in the world map. Battles run off Final Fantasy‘s Active Time Battle. Basically everyone, enemies and characters, runs off a ATB Meter which gets full when they can perform a command. The higher a characters’ speed the faster the meter goes, although I recommend altering the battle speed and ATB in the Options menu to go faster or slower and whether or not it still fills when selecting through Items and Techs in case you don’t want to feel pressured to pick something in those menus fast before the enemy snags you. Techs are basically where all a character’s special moves and spells are and they cost MP to use. You learn Techs by gaining TP but unlike XP a character has to be in the battle to have earned it, whilst members out of the party can gain some XP on their own. Techs generally have a field of effect, some work more when the enemies and lined up or in a particular area of range; for example Falcon Strike is a Tech that attacks diagonally so anything next to what your attacking gets hit as well. What makes creating a party in this game unique in terms of strategy are the powerful Dual Techs. When two character’s ATB are both filled you can use any Dual Techs they may have. Dual Techs come about when character’s Tech’s can be combined for example Crono’s Cyclone Tech can be combined with Lucca’s Flame Toss to create Flame Whirl. Dual Techs cost the characters using the Dual Tech the amount of MP that their normal Tech would cost on its own meaning Crono spends MP needed for Cyclone and Lucca spends the MP needed for Flame Toss   learning Dual Techs is a matter of changing around party members once in a while when they learn new Techs and seeing what appears in the Tech menu. It gets even further with Triple Techs which require a specific party and in some cases a specific item to use. Party members can be swapped at any time outside of battle so making a new party is a button push away if needed. Since TP has to be earned during battle I generally like to fight the respawning Rubble on the Mountain of Woe past the halfway point of the game, the bastard drops 100 TP which is not something I can pass up to grind on until everyone has their Techs which is something you WILL do before getting to the near end anyway. I don’t think this game will ever force you to grind too much but there are bosses that you will need to think of a good strategy to beat…or be like me and just abuse strong Techs when I can get them early. Basically fights give good challenge either way, they’re difficult enough as things go on so that you need to keep your eyes open and learn the enemy starting with Magus and especially with the fucking Golem boss.

One of the main gimmicks for Trigger is, well, time travel. Different version of the same planet through a number of time periods allowing access to new locations; The present, middle ages, prehistory, apocalyptic future, antiquity and finally the year 1999 where Lavos rose and destroyed the planet. And when I was born. Lovely. The End of Time which you enter soon into the game acts as the main hub for any Time Gates the group come across until you get the time machine Epoch and eventually its upgrade to fly. Gaspar will generally give you hints of where to go next so getting confused on what to do isn’t ever a problem. Just don’t touch the bucket’s Time Gate, that takes you straight to the final boss. Gaspar does warn you not to touch the bucket when you meet him but fuck he could’ve mentioned where it lead. The Epoch comes majorly into play when doing sidequests which are basically the meat of Trigger‘s final chapter. Getting Crono back into your party endgame is technically one since at that point you can beat the game with any party you want but the others serve to strengthen the party for the fight against Lavos so ignoring them is a very bad idea unless you want Lavos to wipe you out. I won’t go too in depth to them but they’re enjoyable side quests nonetheless and give you great equipment for the final battle as well as the time travel coming into play for stuff like the Sun Stone and Rainbow Shell. The game is designed quite straightforward until that point, and it helps cut down the backtracking by a mile.

I think I’ve covered the main gameplay so far so let’s get into the DS version’s additions. Besides some interfaces changes we also get a self filling map which is always nice to have. There’s also 2 Lost Sanctum areas which basically have you do fetch quests and things for reptites in return for rewards. I never bothered since the stuff opens extremely late game and you all know how I feel about areas being dedicated to fetch quests. We also have this Arena of the Ages. Ever wanted to raise a monster? Now you can, although this is accessible from the End of Time it doesn’t anything I deemed worth going after although some items can be nice to get a bit early and the raising mechanics are extremely straightfoward. I just get a kick out of watching my raised pet out damage another one but that’s about it. Finally we have 4 extra boss fights against a few shade versions of your party members and then the Bucket will take you to the Dimensional Vortex dungeon. This does get you some more awesome equipment but it’s the last thing in the game so I didn’t feel it was worth trying out and Square usually made extra dungeons in ports a pain to get through. Maybe when I bother to go after the Dream Devourer (yeah that’s the name of it) and the other ending, I’ll update the review but not now.

Speaking of extra equipment Chrono Trigger was one of the first RPGs to introduce the holy New Game Plus. Replay the game with all your badass equipment, levels and Techs? Fuck yeah but now we can get into alternate ending territory. There are a large number of endings you can get that the game keeps track of, all based on when in the game and how you beat Lavos. The ending most players should get first is the ending that comes after you rescue Crono and fight Lavos after going through the Black Omen. A lot of the endings are more of a play for laughs like what if you went into the Bucket defeated Lavos before helping Ayla take out the reptites in Prehistory, thus turning the present’s humanity into repitites. Another ending is…the female characters going through a list of the male characters of the game. Fucking hell.

-Presentation-

Sexy on all accounts; the music is phenomenal and definitely my favourite SNES soundtrack. The graphics were spectacular for the time make the game hold up extremely well amongst the DS library although the numerous uses of the SNES’ list of special graphical effects (can’t name them all myself right now) does age the game to some extent. The story is what I feel it needs to be, its less about deep questions but still keeps characters’ and story’s development and has good writing with twists that are strong as they need to be. I recommend the game for everyone to at least try out, I know a lot of people aren’t very friendly towards some of the ideas implemented (specifically ATB and encounters started by touching tiles) but it’s a great game given a fair shake and worth any gamers’ time. The DS version is great despite my disinterest in a lot of the extras but seeing as the other options are the PS1 version (huge load times), the SNES version (90’s RPG localization), and iOS (touch screen controls), I think you’ll come to the conclusion it’s the best choice out of them.

531944

-TheAceAlucard

 

 

 

Wanna know why this was rushed? I wanted to review Mother 3 but I realised how long I would take writing a plot synopsis so I looked over a couple of things I could do. I tried rushing a playthrough of the original Ratchet and Clank as a nod to the upcoming reboot game and film but it was agonizing going back to it. I had about four days to decide, most of which I wouldn’t spend writing so I picked Chrono Trigger as a easy ticket out.

Complexity, Change & Community The 3 C’s of Pokemon VGC

January 25, 2016 no comments Posted in Video Games

I’ve been a long time Pokemon fan having played every main series game since Pearl. And in recent years the games official championships have had an explosion of viewers and participators. With the game now having garnered eSport status I still find myself being brushed off by most people when I participate in competitive Pokemon even by friends who play bigger eSports such as LoL and Dota. So today I would like to explore the true complexity of this Pokemon VGC along with some of the recent changes to the format and there impact on the community.

Complexity

Some of you may not know this but there are currently 721 Pokemon, you also are only able to have 6 Pokemon on your team at a time. Which means there is a total of 137,579,356,487,018,880 possible team combinations this all before taking into account Items, EVs, IVs, Moves, Abilities and Forms. And that is just team combinations. You are also allowed to only take 4 of your 6 Pokemon team into battle meaning you have to look at your Opponent’s team and try and predict what they will bring along with the how to counter them. The format is also a “Double Battle” which means you always have 2 Pokemon active at a time. So you have to manage two Pokemon at at a time whilst also trying to work out what is the best plan of attack along with predicting your opponent is going do.

Maths also factors a surprising amount into this, you will often see top level players with notepads beside them and they’ll constantly be scribbling trying to calculate the percentage chance of out speeding the opponent to get the first shot in along with the percentage chance of the bonus affects from there moves taking place. So to truly be a Pokemon master you need to be able to manage all of these skills along with being willing to put in a lot of time just to get into this team of yours it can take several hours to just to get one Pokemon for your team of six and then you have to retry again if the team dynamic doesn’t work.

Change

Pokemon VGC gained it popularity at the 2014 VGC World Championships receiving millions of views. Then Se Jun Park one using a Pachirisu on his team. And using it surprisingly well. For those not in the know Pachirisu is a Pokemon that is often caught early on in the game and then quickly discarded due to it’s weakness and small move-pool. This rocked the Pokemon Community for lack of a better word, showing that you too can be a Pokemon Master with your favorite Pokemon, Karen would be proud.

But then in 2015 the meta game stagnated having an incredibly small variety of Pokemon among the top level players. For example Landorous-Therian Form was on the team off all top 16 players in the masters division. The fans cried out asking for The Pokemon Company to do something. The logical decision would be to ban Pokemon that were overused and overpowered. But instead they added in a bunch of Pokemon previously banned for being too powerful. This changed so much of how people played the game. Yes there is more variety (This is just from what I am seeing, there hasn’t been any live streamed Pokemon tournaments at the time of writing) but at the same time there is a new Landorus if you will. Not as bad, but still rather prevlant. Xernas. Xernas was always a hassle to deal with before even when it was surrounded by legendries, but now amongst lesser ‘mons Xernas can be fatal to an entire team if not neutralized quick.

Community

The VGC community has grown in recent years as I mentioned above. People are now able to make a living off making VGC Youtube videos, which doubles as practice. And the Friend Safari subreddit has gained thousands of members. But there is also a different side to the community. With legendries being non-breedable that means that you have to turn your game off and on again and battle them again and capture them and then get there IVs checked and it can take a couple of minutes just to do it once. So people have turned to twitter and social media. Asking and trying to exploit people to send them legendries to use. This was received negatively by most pokemon fans and demonstrates how far people are willing to go to get just one Pokemon.

Doctor Who: Series 9 Retrospective Part 1: Flooding Daleks

January 22, 2016 no comments Posted in Film, Television

Doctor Who last year, frankly, wasn’t very good.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of good things to be said about it – Capaldi was a fantastic choice to play a darker Doctor, Jenna Coleman got an actual character to play, and it had many entertaining episodes. Overall though, it was a bit of a mess, a show that couldn’t quite decide whether it wanted to be a show where the Doctor can talk a robot to suicide or a show that featured the Doctor swordfighting Robin Hood with a spoon.

I’m happy to say that series 9 not only is a return to form, but one of the most consistently Very Good seasons since the return of the show. But it does raise one problem:

The Problem with Reviewing Two-Parters

Series 9 used an interesting spin on the show’s formula by having two-thirds of the series be two-part episodes, with one three-parter and only one single-episode story. This works on a number of levels, as it gives more time for characters and concepts to develop effectively and it can create a more detailed story. However, it also means that it is difficult to decide whether to judge each episode individually or the story. If the second part is amazing, can I ignore a lacklustre setup? It’s a difficult question to answer, but I’ll be judging these story-by-story. It just seems like the best way to go about it.

SPOILERS WILL BE AHEAD. SPOILERS STRAX IS WARNING YOU.

https://cdn.makeagif.com/media/8-24-2014/N_aE2s.gif
Spoilers Strax warding off a spoiler-hunter.

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