Splatoon Global Testfire Impressions

Splatoon

Nintendo killed it at E3 last year. From Zelda to Yoshi’s Woolly World, it seemed that everyone had at least something interesting to look forward to. Out of left field Nintendo announced Splatoon, a third-person shooter for the Wii U. It looked vibrant, colourful, fresh, and full of character.

It was a game that intrigued me despite a few worries I had about the product, and having played it during the global test, I’ve learned a lot more about what the game has to offer.

The Bad

Playing With Friends? I Think Not

I’d like to get the obvious out of the way and say that I’m puzzled at Nintendo’s choice to completely shun any sort of party and friend play. In the 90s Nintendo dominated the multiplayer scene, and yet they seemingly skimp as much as possible when it comes to modern multiplayer.

Why can I not play with my friends in a party? Why can’t I hear them speak? Why must I use third-party applications to have fun with your game?

I shouldn’t have to ask all of these questions, as all multiplayer games offer at least some sort of party play.

Matchmaking Since 2015

As I just mentioned, most multiplayer games use a tried and true formula that makes the experience smooth and enjoyable, something Splatoon seems to have completely disregarded.

Half of my time with Splatoon was spent looking at menus and error codes. Whenever I’d try to join a public match, I’d be told that the lobby was full and promptly booted to the main screen again for another try.

Instead of reaching for say, ten accessible lobbies to try and place the player in, it seems that the game tries to connect to one random lobby (I hope it’s at least based on ping) and if it’s full or the connection is bad, you have to start the entire process over.

Why do we have such archaic framework for your prime multiplayer experience? Why can’t there be an algorithm that searches for several lobbies at the same time, putting the player into the best and quickest fit with the least amount of trouble? At the very least give us some half-functioning browser like Battlefield has. At least then I’d know if my lobby is full before joining.


Motion Controls Are The Future

The Gamepad is a remarkable controller. It feels comfortable and light while offering several beneficial and innovative features. Why, however, Nintendo feels the need to force motion controls on us at first is beyond me.

To learn the game you have to play the tutorial, yet the tutorial only offers motion control rather than a prompt asking the player what they’d prefer. I felt sick swinging my viewpoint around with the Gamepad, and I don’t think it’s viable at all in any sort of competitive setting where quick aiming is a must. I’d much rather use thumbsticks, which are thankfully not entirely disregarded.

I would like to say that for what they are, the motion controls function well. It’s probably one of the best implementations of motion control for aiming, but it still doesn’t jive with me.

Options Menus Are For Punks

 Most games allow the player to pause the action to change up some key settings that anyone might want to customize. Not in Splatoon however, as it seemingly revels in the fact that it disregards basic game functions.

Want to adjust your sensitivity? Do you feel that the volume is too high or the brightness too low?

None of these settings are accessible through the pause menu, rather, you must exit to the main screen just to change these settings; an extremely inconvenient and annoying prospect.

Something like camera sensitivity or inversion is essential to a player’s ability to play the game. Something like this might only need a slight tweak to get that perfect feel, so having to go in and out of games just to adjust your sensitivity is beyond ridiculous to me.

I had to put up with several bad matches just so that I could test out the sensitivity until I found something that I felt fit my style of play. Furthermore, if you consider the bad matchmaking system in place, it makes doing this time-consuming and utterly frustrating.

Class Changing Ain’t Easy

 This is yet another misstep that turns out to be agonizing for no good reason. If you want to change your class in Splatoon, you can’t just do it upon death like almost every other class-based multiplayer game. Rather, you have to again drop to the main menu and start the matchmaking process over again.

I’ve now mentioned twice how bad the matchmaking is handled, so you can see the problem with all of these drop-outs.

It’s OP!

It seems that the paint-roller class has some balancing issues. While other classes slowly take away the opponent’s health or have a large charge time for long-distance shots, the paint-roller nearly instant kills anyone it comes in contact with. You essentially just roll the paint on the ground and charge enemies like a bull, racking up kills left, right and centre.

The downside to this class is that you can’t engage anyone that isn’t directly on even ground with you, but it hail’s in comparison when you consider how easy it is to downright slaughter other players.

 I admit that it is probably too early to start yelling OP, but the paint-roller seems to be the obvious choice for not only kills, but how quickly you can paint the map in your favour. (a key factor of who wins and who loses).

One Map, Or Two?

I am having a lot of trouble remembering whether I played one map or two maps. I am leaning towards two but they were both so grey, white and samey that I couldn’t really distinguish what map was which.

It is probably too early to make this point a bad point, as I am sure Nintendo made the rest of their maps varied, but the two maps we got to test felt so similar that I am still wondering as I write this, how many I had access to.

Splatoon

 The Good

Give Us Smooth, Give Us Silky

It is no secret that Nintendo loves colour. Every game they create has beautiful, vibrant visuals that age incredibly well. Splatoon, while not as colourful as something like Yoshi’s Woolly World, is still a vibrant and colourful experience.

The maps start out pretty basic, but as your team and the enemy start slinging paint all over the level, it becomes increasingly messy and colourful until you’re fighting in what appears to be a neon rave.

It’s really pleasing to the eyes and the OCD to have the ability to literally add colour to the game, especially in a competitive multiplayer setting.

Mini-game Inbound

I previously mentioned how awful the matchmaking and connection issues are, but what I left out was the one saving grace to all of this nonsense: a loading-screen mini-game.

I am a sucker for mini-games and this doesn’t disappoint. Whenever the game is doing any sort of matchmaking, you are left to play a jump-centric platformer game on the Gamepad’s screen.

It certainly doesn’t fix the issues I’ve presented, but it makes it much more enjoyable to suffer through!

 Lag Is A Thing Of The Past

With any multiplayer experience, it’s probably too early to tell how the game will function after launch, but if we can take anything away from this experience, it’s that we won’t be suffering from a lot of lag.

Splatoon runs like a dream when it runs, and that is saying something. I encountered no lag or framerate issues, nor any sort of choppiness with the other players in the lobby. It was nice to see no rubber-banding, no warping, no lag spikes. All of it felt great and smooth, and I’m grateful for this after spending months with Battlefield 4, or, as I like to call it, ‘a test of patience’.

Prepare For Battle

 Splatoon doesn’t have much downtime when you are actually in a match. It’s actually surprising how frenetic and consistently engaging the action is. You hardly spend time wandering around, as the maps feature many tight corridors and many flanks for sneaky engagement. Couple this with your ability to spawn anywhere you please (as long as you land on your paint), and you won’t be searching for things to shoot very often.

The addition of your squid form makes it all the better as well. When you’re a squid, you can quickly swim through your ink and hit big jumps for mad air that give you the boost you need to enter the fray as soon as possible.

It makes for fast-paced gameplay and it makes you feel more active in your pursuit of victory.

The Gameplay Is Where It Counts

I think that one of the best aspects of Splatoon thus far is just how well executed the gameplay is. When we get past the pretty colours and the fluidity of movement and map design, we’re left with what is essentially a tight shooting experience.

The classes are varied and they possess unique abilities such as a bubble shield or a paint radar that obliterates everything in it’s proximity, The weapons all have their unique feel and functions that vary in importance depending on the encounter, The controls feel responsive and fluent; you don’t have to spend much time fighting with them.

When you partner all of these things with nuanced maps that compliment the gameplay exceptionally well, you’re in for a great time with a game that knows what it is trying to do.

splatoon


I’ll Be Damned If It Doesn’t Feel Good

When all’s said and done, Splatoon is a game that feels great to play. The controls are tight, the action is consistent, the classes are varied, the mechanics are unique and engaging, and the art and sound design is top-notch. Nintendo nailed the gameplay, despite the fact that they almost completely disregarded some of the important UI and matchmaking tricks that modern shooters utilize.

It was a very flawed experience, and despite that, I am still anxiously waiting to play more.

Blackrock Mountain Cards Preview #5

Blackrock

This is the grand finale of cards that will be added in Hearthstone‘s Blackrock Mountain adventure.  This will cover all of the remaining class cards, including both Paladin cards.  Also, be sure to check on all of the previous articles on Blackrock to get completely caught up on all of the cards: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5.

DragonConsort

If you’re looking for a class to run dragons with, Dragon Consort just helped you make a decision.  This Paladin minion is good just as a 5/5 dragon for 5 mana, but the battlecry makes this card pretty crazy.  Note that the card doesn’t specify the turn it’s played, so that 2 mana discount will stick around until you spend it on a dragon with it.  If anything in this expansion is going to make dragon decks a thing, it’s this card.

SolemnVigil

Paladin has been needing some more card draw options and Solemn Vigil does a pretty good job.  On its own, it’s just a worse Arcane Intellect, but no class is better at expendable minions than Paladin and getting the cost of this card down won’t be hard.  Run this alongside Muster for Battle, Haunted Creeper, and other good token cards and you’ve got a pretty strong deck.

Demonwrath

Whether Demonwrath is a better or worse version of Hellfire is going to depend on the deck you run it in.  If you’re running a demon deck, it’s great as a cheap area-of-effect spell that can give you a big lead.  It also works with non-demon deathrattle minions like Nerubian Egg and Loothoarder.  It may not be a good pick for arena, but there are definitely plays to be made with it in constructed.

FireguardDestroyer

FINALLY!  A 4 mana 3/6 minion for someone other than Mage!  That stat line alone makes this one of the best cards in the expansion.  Water Elemental was the only card to have such a strong body to it from the start and it’s about time another class got to use a minion this tough.  Actually, this is a 4 mana 4/6 in the worst case scenario and a 7/6 at best.  There is that overload to consider, but that’s a small price to pay for such a powerful body.  With Lava Shock entering the game, that overload is even less concerning.  Fireguard Destroyer is definitely worth running.

Revenge

BLIZZARD, PLEASE, LEAVE WARRIOR ALONE!  I fell in love with Control Warrior recently, but Goblins vs Gnomes made the class significantly weaker.  In constructed, aggro decks became far to fast for Warriors to keep up with.  In arena, every new Warrior card save for Shieldmaiden was bad for the mode’s board control meta.  Between Axe Flinger and this worse version of Whirlwind, Warrior is only going to become even weaker with Blackrock.  Revenge is far too situational and Warrior already has enough AoE options that there’s no point to trying to fit it into your deck.  At this point, Warrior would be better off not getting new cards at all.

TwilightWhelp

LOOK AT THIS ADORABLE LITTLE GUY!  I don’t care if he’s arguably a worse version of Zombie Chow, he’s just so cute!  In all seriousness, this card probably isn’t going to see much play as Zombie Chow already gives Priest a 1 mana 2/3 that doesn’t demand a lot of dragons and can synergize with Auchenai Soulpriest in the late game.   While he may not have the downside of healing your opponent when you don’t have Auchenai, it’s still a worst topdeck than the zombie and just about any other card in the game.  On the plus side, I promise not to abuse caps lock for the rest of this article.

VolcanicLumberer

On the one hand, Volcanic Lumberer is a worse Ironbark Protector on its own.  However, cards like Force of Nature and archetypes like Token Druid can make it very easy to cheaply summon.  Even with that, it’s still a fairly situational card and may not be practical even in decks built around it.  It has potential, but we’ll need to see how it plays out in practice to see how viable it really is.

That does it for the Blackrock previews.  Keep an eye out for boss guides to hit once the adventure releases this week.

Blackrock Mountain Cards Preview #4

Cards

With Blackrock Mountain releasing its first wing this week, Blizzard has revealed all of the cards that will be added into Hearthstone with the new adventure.  I’ll go over seven of the new cards that have been revealed in this article with the remaining seven covered in one last article.  We’ll look at the three remaining legendaries and some of the first cards that will be released with the expansion.  Some look like guaranteed mainstays in the new meta game, while others make for better comic relief than competitive cards.  Either way, fun times abound.

Emperor_Thaurissan

First up is Emperor Thaurissan, the first legendary that we’ll get and easily the best.  His stat line may be a little undervalued for the cost, but his ability to reduce the mana costs of the cards in your hand makes up for it.  Since it triggers at the end of your turn, you’re guaranteed to get some value out of him.  There’s also the fact that there aren’t too many great turn 6 plays in the game already.  I have no doubts that Thaurissan will enjoy the same kind of popularity as Naxxramas‘ Loatheb as there simply isn’t a deck that he’s bad in.

Majordomo_Executus

This guy is hilarious, but also extremely impractical.  When Majordomo Executus dies, your hero will be replaced with Ragnaros the Firelord and your hero power will now deal 8 damage to a random enemy.  It sounds awesome, but then you realize that Ragnaros only has 8 health and this transformation leaves you extremely vulnerable.  It could act as a heal if you’re desperately low on health, but it will only get you so much and you can’t heal higher than 8 afterwards.  This could have some potential in Warrior with the aid of armor for added surviability, but will most certainly be relegated to joke card in all other scenarios.

Chromaggus

Chromaggus straddles the line between being good and being goofy.  On the one hand, his stat line isn’t great and his effect has a good deal of randomness to it.  On the other hand, the simple virtue of having more cards in your hand than your opponent is a major advantage.  In control-focused decks, he could be viable as a late-game asset that keeps your resources plentiful.  However, he may not be practical enough for many decks.

Gang_Up

The new Rogue spell, Gang Up, certainly isn’t a card that many competitive decks can fit in.  Getting three minions of your choice from what’s currently on the board sounds nice, but you still need to draw into them afterward and this can cost you a great deal of tempo.  However, it will be great in a certain type of joke deck called Mill Rogue.  Mill is the tactic of intentionally filling your opponents hand inorder to burn their most important cards and to kill your opponent with fatigue damage once their deck runs out.  One weakness of the deck is that you tend to burn yourself out as quickly as your opponent, so a card that increases the size of your deck would certainly be useful.  It’s not a great card, but I’m definitely glad to have it.

Resurrect

Randomness is a factor in the Priest’s Resurrect spell, but it may still be viable at a competitive level.  Odds are fairly good that you’ll get at least a 2 mana minion and that will be decent value.  If you get anything bigger, then this card is incredible.  The biggest problem is that the odds will depend on the minions that your opponent is using and high aggression with smaller minions is very popular at the moment.  It’s a good card, but now might not be the best time for it.  Oh, and speaking of aggro…

UPDATE: I JUST noticed that the card specifies friendly minions, so my problem with getting a bad minion from your opponent is not actually an issue.  This card is 100% awesome.

Quick_Shot

Raise your hand if you hate face-damage Hunters!  Quick Shot is strong just as a 3 damage spell for 2 mana, but the added effect of card draw when your hand is empty makes this insane as a late-game topdeck.  Your best hope is to try and bait your opponent into spending it in the early game where it will still get good value but won’t lock down a win.  Otherwise, the nightmare of your opponent drawing into lethal has just gotten worse.  Hunter is currently incredibly strong and this card is only going to make them more powerful than ever before.

Druid_of_the_Flame

Finally, we have Druid of the Flame, a 3 mana 2/5 for Druid.  You have option of making it a 5/2, but you’re never going to.  It’s okay, but pretty bland for a class exclusive minion.  It is worth noting that transformation is immune to silence, so whichever buff you pick will stick.  Also, both forms count as beasts, so this may encourage players to use Druid of the Fang more.  It’s not going to set the world on fire, but it can be viable in most decks.

There are only seven more cards to cover and they’ll be here soon.  Until then, let us know which cards you’re most excited to play with.

Pokemon Shuffle Review

Pokemon

With Nintendo’s recent announcement that they will start venturing into mobile development, there is endless speculation as to what kinds of games they might develop in the future and how they will use (or possibly abuse) the free-to-play models that the devices are known for.  Fortunately, we already have a glimpse of how Nintendo may tackle the mobile market with Pokemon Shuffle, a free-to-play 3DS game that can best be summarized as “Candy Crush with Pokemon“.  That’s not to say that the game doesn’t have a few of its own twists on the formula; it’s just abundantly clear where the business model for this title was taken from.

Pokemon Shuffle is a your typical match-three puzzle game with a few unique mechanics.  For one, you’re matching your own team of four Pokemon that you select from your collection at the start of each stage.  Each Pokemon has a type, attack value, and special effect that can trigger when they’re matched.  Using Pokemon will earn them experience and level them up, gaining more attack power.  Pokemon won’t evolve over time and their evolutionary forms have to be caught seperately, but certain Pokemon can Mega Evolve during a stage if you have its Mega Stone and place it at the front of your team.  To start a Mega Evolution, you’ll need to fill the Mega Gauge at the side of the screen by making matches of that Pokemon.  Mega Evolution lasts for the remainder of the stage and gives that Pokemon more power and a more valuable effect.  The new and old ideas meld together well and make this a distinctly Pokemon-styled puzzler.

Now the question is how you actually add Pokemon to your collection.  Each stage in the game is represented as a battle with either a wild Pokemon or a rival trainer.  Defeating a wild Pokemon will give you a chance to capture it while trainers will challenge you with a mega evolution and reward you with the corresponding Mega Stone upon victory.  Building an optimal team for each stage requires strategy as certain Pokemon will be significantly more useful on certain stages.  There is a option to have a team automatically optimized for you, but this will only account for type advantages and attack power with no regard for effects.  The most skilled players will be able to balance out the values of various effects to truly optimize their teams on their own.  Effects do have a great deal of significance as enemy Pokemon won’t just stand around while you line up combos.  Some will occasionally disrupt your board by freezing your some of Pokemon or replacing them with stone blocks or weaker Pokemon.  Others will only allow you a scarce few turns before they flee, forcing you to chain strong combos immediately.  Many stages are genuinely difficult and will demand an optimized team to get through.  The one major issue is that there isn’t any kind of preview for the stage that you can build a strategy off of, so tactics for harder stages will have to be built through trial and error.  Also, the cascade effect is still a big factor and massive combos will result more often from luck than from tactics and the biggest chains won’t really feel earned.

Story is nonexistent as the game focuses simply on the “gotta catch ’em all” motto of the franchise.  Even the rival trainers you meet are represented as black silhouettes of characters from the main line of games.  It’s a bizarre decision that only reduces the game’s personality as opposed to what it might of had if it they’d just directly ported art assets.  There’s also little sense of exploration as the campaign follows a strictly linear path from start to end save for the unlockable expert stages.  The only facets of personality that the game has come from the adorably minimalistic artstyle and the somewhat bland musical score.  The intended tone is best set by the Mega Evolution theme, which is less like an elevating point for an intense battle and more akin to the goofiest carnival music you’ve ever heard.  Pokemon Shuffle is structured like a casino machine and it’s not ashamed to embrace that with its aesthetics.

The most vital factor to consider a free-to-play game is the business model and, fortunately, Pokemon Shuffle handles it quite well.  Spending real money will get you virtual jewels, which can then be exchanged for hearts or coins or can be used to keep going on a stage that you’re about to fail.  Hearts are needed to play stages while coins can be exchanged for consumable power-ups or Great Balls that are twice as effective at catching wild Pokemon as the default Pokeballs that you have an unlimited supply of.  Both hearts and coins can be acquired without having to spend jewels as a heart will automatically be given to you every thirty minutes if you have any less than five.  Coins are even easier to get as you’ll receive some every time you win a stage and when you check in online daily.  Even jewels can be acquired without spending anything as they’ll be awarded the first time you defeat a trainer and during special events.  These are rare, but it’s the sentiment of generosity that helps make the game more enjoyable.  There are also regular free content updates and daily challenges that provide plenty of replayability.  You’re bound to feel the paywall hit whenever you run out of hearts, but Pokemon Shuffle is as generous as it can be while still expecting to make a profit.   Given that cosmetic items like those seen in League of Legends and Team Fortress 2 can’t work in a game like this, the business model couldn’t be much kinder to consumers outside of just making the game outright free.

Pokemon Shuffle works best as a bonus game for the 3DS that players can turn to in-between rounds of full games and makes for good bit of variety.  It’s certainly worth downloading; just don’t let it nickel-and-dime you too much.

VgamerZz_1

Final Score: 7/10

Blackrock Mountain Cards Preview #3 UPDATE: Release Date

Blackrock

Hearthstone‘s Blackrock Mountain expansion keeps drawing closer and more new cards continue to pour out.  This time around, we have more neutral cards, the second new Mage card, and even a new legendary.  Before we start, these reveals have brought up something strange as it appears that the expansion won’t include any new epic cards.  Mapping out all of the cards that have been revealed and the remaining legendary and class cards, there is not enough room left in the 31 card set to include any epics.  There are 18 class cards (all commons and rares), 6 neutral commons, 2 neutral rares, and 5 legendaries.  That fills out the entire span of new cards without a single epic able to fit.  It’s a bizarre omission, but any rarity lower than legendary is really only relevant in arena, so it’s not a great loss.  With that out of the way, let’s get into the cards that will actually be added.

First, we have a new legendary with Nefarian (pictured above).  Given that Nefarian is the main antagonist of the new adventure, this will likely be the final card to be obtained in Blackrock.  Nefarian is a bizarre yet potent minion that gives you two random spells from your opponent’s class.  These won’t necessarily be spells that your opponent is running, but any spells that the class has available.  There is undoubtedly a great deal of randomness involved and you may end up with worthless spells.  On the other hand, an 8/8 stat line is pretty durable and fearsome.  On the OTHER other hand, 9 mana is a big investment that will take up your entire turn and will leave you vulnerable if you aren’t already ahead or at least stable.  Even the spells you acquire will have to wait until the next turn to be played unless they’re extremely cheap (and if they are, they’re not going to do much).  Nefarian is an okay card that will surely see some experimentation, but probably won’t become too frequent in the long term.

BlackwingCorruptor

Next up is Blackwing Corruptor, who carries a less than stellar stat line as a 5/4 for 5 mana.  However, he might be able to make up for it with his battlecry.  In a new bit of dragon synergy, Corruptor can deal 3 damage if your holding a dragon.  Many have jumped to calling this a worst version of the Fire Elemental card, but the Elemental can only be used in Shaman decks while Corruptor is class neutral.  While dragon synergy will limit the number of decks that this card can work in, it’s certainly a good card that’s worth keeping an eye on.

DragonsBreath

Here is the second and last new Mage card that we’ll be seeing in Blackrock and, unfortunately, it’s nothing to get excited over.  We’ve seen cards with flexible mana costs before, but sacrificing minions for cheap spell damage is only worthwhile if you’re running a token deck.  This could have had potential for Druids, Paladins, Hunters, or Warlocks, but they instead opted to give it to Mage, a class not exactly known for throwing out expendable minions.  What Mage is known for is having Fireball, a more powerful and reliable spell than this could hope to be.  The idea is that this can help clean up survivors after casting Flamestrike, but it’s too situational to be viable.  Don’t expect this card to show up too often.

VolcanicDrake

Volcanic Drake is like Dragon’s Breath, but remotely decent!  Given that it’s a neutral minion, it can be much more flexible and much less situational.  Unfortunately, it’s still not that good as a 6/4 stat line is fairly weak.  This could be viable as mid-game muscle in Zoolock and various token decks as a good option for bringing down tough targets or just smacking the enemy hero.  Otherwise, it won’t go far.

DrakonidCrusher

Finally, we have the Drakonid Crusher, a minion similar to the Core Rager which should be a red flag right away.  Getting a cheap 9/9 when your opponent is low on health sounds great as a finisher, but there’s the issue of getting your opponent that low to begin with.  That’s easiest in aggressive decks, but huge bodies aren’t too useful in those types of decks.  They’re more handy in control-focused decks which focus more on the board than the enemy hero.  The biggest problem with the Drakonid Crusher is that he doesn’t really have a deck to call home when it comes to constructed play.  He can at least say that he’s much better than Fel Reaver and Anima Golem and will likely see most action in the arena where it can be beastly.

Which cards are you most excited to get a hold of?  Are you disappointed by the apparent lack of epics in Blackrock?  Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.

UPDATE: Blizzard has officially announced the release date for the first wing.  Blackrock Depths will release in the Americas on April 2nd and in Europe, South Korea, Taiwan, China, Southeast Asia, and Oceania on April 3rd.

Blackrock Mountain Cards Preview #2

Cards

More cards have been revealed for the upcoming Hearthstone adventure, Blackrock Mountain, and they have their own share of shake-ups for the game.  All three new cards are class-exclusive for Warlock, Hunter, and Mage respectively.  If these particular cards fail to excite you, keep in mind that each class will receive two exclusive cards.

Warlock is fearsome at flooding the board and Imp Gang Boss is all about that.  However, it’s debatable whether this will be better or worse than the existing Imp Master card.  Boss has a better stat line and demon synergy, but it has to run itself against an enemy to spawn an imp and a tough taunt is all it takes to whittle him down.  Honestly, the Imp-losion spell will probably prove better than either minion, but Boss is still an interesting option.

CoreRager

Hunter-exclusive minion Core Rager is similar to the Druid’s Druid of the Fang card, but it’s either more or less situational depending on the deck it’s placed in.  As a 4/4 beast for 4 mana, its stat line is fair enough, but playing it simply as a 4 drop should only be done as a last resort.  The idea is that this will be strongest when you’re topdecking in the late game, but calling out a 7/7 without a hand is only going to be useful if you already have a strong hold on the board or if its enough to land a lethal hit on the enemy hero.  Otherwise, it’s not going to get much work done and your opponent can afford to ignore it.  Core Rager is definitely the least exciting of this crop.

Flamewaker

Flamewaker is easily the most competitive card in this set and it already has plenty of people outraged at it.  Mech Mage is currently one of the strongest decks in the game and, while Flamewaker isn’t a mech, it does have a great deal of synergy with the Spare Parts series of token spells.  Mage is also heavily based around good spells in general, so this is likely to become a mainstay in most Mage decks.  I don’t think it’s nearly as overpowered as a lot of people are assuming given the randomness of its effect, the fact that you have to spend a spell to trigger it, and the fact that its stat line is only okay, but it is certainly a force to be reckoned with.  Definitely keep an eye out for this one.

There are still 19 cards left to be seen with Blackrock Mountain, 4 of which will be legendary, and we likely won’t have to wait too long for them to be revealed.  It may not be that long before we even start to play with them as the adventure is set to begin sometime next month.

Blackrock Mountain Cards Preview

Blizzard has revealed some of the new cards that will be added into Hearthstone with the Blackrock Mountain adventure set to release next month.  Some of them look like massive game-changers while others fail to impress.  If you haven’t already read my first impressions of the cards that were shown off at the reveal event, I recommend getting caught up with that first.  Here, I’ll be going over four new cards that Blizzard has announced since then and going over the potential strategies that they can offer.

First up is the Warrior-exclusive Axe Flinger (pictured above).  As it turns out, each class will receive two new exclusive cards with Blackrock, one common and one rare.  For the record, the Rouge exclusive Dark Iron Skulker discussed last time is a rare.  This is certainly good news to accompany the Axe Flinger reveal because he doesn’t have much to offer the Warrior class on his own.  Dealing damage to the enemy hero is really only relevant in highly aggressive decks and Warrior tends to find its strengths in slow-paced board control.  Yes, he can potentially deal 10 damage on his own, but that’s pretty wishful thinking.  Aggro Warrior is certainly possible in constructed play, but the biggest problem with the Flinger is that he’s 4 mana for a 2/5.  As I’ve said before, turn 4 is one of the most crucial in Hearthstone and you need minions that can deal with the fearsome stat lines that tend to come out at the time and Flinger certainly doesn’t do the job.  The worst place for Axe Flinger would definitely be Arena mode and the last thing Warrior needed after Goblins versus Gnomes was more bad Arena cards.  Here’s hoping that the new rare turns out better than this guy.

LavaShock

Next is the Shaman’s new rare, Lava Shock.  As spell damage goes, 2 damage for 2 mana is pretty bad.  However, this card’s ability to unlock your overloaded mana crystals is incredibly promising.  The Shaman has a number of cards that have their mana costs divided over two turn with the overload effect, locking up mana crystals that you could otherwise use on your next turn in exchange for playing something cheaply now.  The problem with overload is that, if your opponent is able to respond to your previous play, you’re left with less options for your follow-up and could quickly fall behind.  Lava Shock, if played at the right time, could actually generate more mana than you spend on it and allow you to burst ahead of your opponent with incredible results.  Not only does it free up crystals that were locked for this turn, but also ones that were currently set to be locked on your next turn.  It’s an incredible new twist on the Shaman class that is sure to lead into some fascinating new decks.

DragonEgg

For a new neutral card, we have Dragon Egg.  The obvious comparison for it is the Nerubian Egg that was introduced in Curse of Naxxramas and, between the two of them, this is definitely the weaker option.  Nerubian Egg is useful not only for its ability to generate a 4/4 fairly easily, but it also acts as a counter to area-of-effect spells.  Your opponent doesn’t want the egg to hatch and will be forced to avoid damaging it.  In Zoolock, where AOE is one of your biggest threats, Nerubian Egg has remained a staple.  Dragon Egg simple doesn’t have that same intimidation factor as a 2/1 is easy to deal with.  It does have the ability to spawn multiple Whelps to swarm the board, but it demands a good buff for that to even be possible.  I should also mention that, while the Whelps count as dragons, the card itself doesn’t and lacks any kind of dragon synergy based on the cards we’ve seen so far.  Cards like Velen’s Chosen and Cruel Taskmaster can get good value out of it, but a Nerubian Egg or even a Worgen Infiltrator will give you more consistent effects.  What makes this card especially disappointing is that it makes Hungry Dragon that much more of a threat.  If your deck isn’t already designed to support a card like this, your opponent can safely ignore it as a wasted spot on the board.  I’ve been hoping to see more good one-drops appear to help offset the Hungry Dragon’s incredible stat line, but this is pretty much the exact opposite.

DragonkinSorcerer

Finally, we have the Dragonkin Sorcerer.  It’s effect is a bit odd, but I think the best way to describe it is like the added spell damage effect applied to buffs.  He grows stronger whenever you target him with a spell and buffing spells would naturally become much more potent when used on him.  You could trigger his effect with any targeting spell, but a +1/+1 buff generally isn’t going to useful if your just dealing damage to him.  Also note that he doesn’t grow stronger when your opponent targets him.  Being a dragon type with a decent 3/5 for 4 stat line, this will certainly be a strong card for Paladin, Priest, and Druid decks.  A deck with access to a lot of spare parts cards would also make this minion devastating.

That’s all of the cards we know of right now, but we’ll be sure to keep you caught up with any new cards that are revealed.  Until then, be sure to let us know what you think of the new cards and what strategies you already have planned for these new cards.

This War of Mine Review

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I’ll start by being honest with you: I didn’t have any high expectations from This War of Mine – I had no expectations, actually, since I barely knew anything about the game. I’ve decided to purchase it, though, as part of the Steam Winter sale mostly because I am willing to try anything out at least once and if I can help a small studio, I’ll do it. Even more, I kept the game in my Steam library for a couple of days before eventually playing it for the first time and now I regret all the time that I have wasted.

This War of Mine is really more than a game: it’s an intense experience, a tale about survival, a tale that you write as you wish and a title that has a deep impact on any human being playing it. It’s not about fighting zombies and blowing stuff away, it’s about staying well fed and feeling powerless against the elements, powerless against the things that the God of Randomness throws at you. It’s real life – or as close as it can get to real life when wars, survival and video gaming are involved. It’s amazing.

This War of Mine throws you directly into the action. There’s no tutorial telling you what to do or where to go and you get the hang of everything slowly, as you experience the game. You’re thrown right into the survival situation and before you know it, you’ve already wasted an important day doing mostly nothing but keeping your survivors hungry and miserable. So this is how war might feel like!

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You control three different people, with three different backgrounds: a female reporter who can get a better deal when bartering items, a slow middle aged guy who can cook a great meal and a former soccer player who still has the pace to help you in messy situations. They all live in an almost destroyed building, with basically nothing but a bit of garbage to keep them alive and a dangerous city to explore. The fun part? You will probably get a different set of characters, because each time you start a game, three are randomly chosen from a poll of 12 existing characters (and hopefully more will be introduced in the future).

Each day is divided in two parts: the first one takes place during the day time, where you can search your house, interact with friendly or less friendly visitors, rest your survivors and craft things required to keep on going for one extra day. When the night comes, you can go scavenging – but you can only use one survivor and a backpack that will usually be too small for the things you’ll find during your trips. You only have your gut to tell you where to go and what to do and all actions are permanent. There’s no save option, you can’t retry again until you do it right, you don’t know what to expect. And you’ll most likely die before it’s all over. That’s the sad reality.

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And it’s exactly this grim feeling that you get, the suffocating pressure that you feel constantly while playing this gem that makes This War of Mine so incredibly amazing. Although not spectacular from a visual point of view – mostly tones of gray and black – it does exactly what it’s supposed to: it gives you a true, complete experience, and not only a game.

While playing it, I couldn’t help but compare it with the Rebuild series – because really, I don’t know of any other game that can be compared with it – and the more popular Rebuild simply fades in front of This War of Mine and almost feels like a colorful, worry-free, pointless piece of candy.

Therefore, all I can do is wholeheartedly recommend you This War of Mine. It’s an absolutely amazing game, a complete product that will amaze you, even more so if you are a survival freak like me. Two thumbs up – and I’d give it more if it were possible!

VgamerZz_1Final Score: 10/10

The Wolf Among Us: Cry Wolf Review

Wolf

Generally reviews are pretty straight forward from a writer’s perspective. Play the game, dissect the game, review the game. Even if the process is complex, the steps are rudimentary … that is to say, if the game actually functions.

In the case of The Wolf Among Us: Cry Wolf, the game ceased to cooperate so many times that it has delayed the review for weeks. Every time I attempted to tackle the game, it denied me access with bug after bug, as if it wanted to remain out of the limelight.

Cry Wolf is the most frustratingly broken episode Telltale has ever created, yet regardless of technical aspects and a few questionable design choices, manages to surpass everything that In Sheep’s Clothing attempted. That is, after  I was finally able to surpass the myriad of bugs that awaited.

The fifth and final chapter in The Wolf Among Us has you returning to the shoes of anti-hero Bigby Wolf. As with past episodes, you will once again get to guide Bigby on a path of redemption or destruction, that is, when the game allows you to actually make real choices.

A common problem with Telltale games is that they offer both immensely satisfying and stressful choices, but as a contrast, offer the illusion of choice that tricks the player into believing they’re a part of the story. Several times in The Wolf Among Us, be it Cry Wolf or Smoke and Mirrors, you will have to make what appears to be a hard decision, only to have your character guided to the same place regardless. It’s not an apparent problem until you’ve had to replay the game either due to bugs and frustration, or by choice, but it’s a problem nonetheless.

A studio like Telltale, famous for character driven adventures, has earned the reputation of provoking both an immense attachment to characters, and tough choices. That said, one must argue: is the choice meaningful or impactful if you know that it’s simply an illusion? The answer is no if you were to approach me with the question.

When you’ve explored every musty, dank corner that Cry Wolf has to offer, you realize that you are frequently stumbling upon story-breaking illusions. A good example of this is (introductory spoiler) when you have to chase down two cars, and Telltale deceitfully leads you to believe you have a choice, only to be forced onto the car regardless of how many ways you attempt to take the other. It is this kind of thing that really makes Cry Wolf frustrating and disappointing, though luckily for fans of the series, intense action, dramatic tension, fantastic writing and plot twists await regardless of this criticism.

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Bigby and the tale of the various citizens of Fabletown definitely comes to a close on this chapter, and almost nothing feels left unexplained. After four episodes of exposition and mystery, it’s very satisfying to have all of the enigmatic plot points unraveled and explained in a meaningful and memorable way. Some of the moments in this chapter stand out as some of Telltale’s best work to date, and though I’ve said that a lot, it’s commendable to them that they can continue to outdo themselves on a regular basis.

From the moment the Cry Wolf begins to the ending credits, there is not one moment of fluff or filler to be witnessed. It is direct and straight to the point without spending too much effort on down time. Telltale has put the more investigative, explorative aspects on the backburner to keep this chapter always in your face with its drama.

I must mention that this chapter suffers from being quite short however, but it never feels as if you’ve missed out, simply that they needn’t drag on which is essentially the very end of Bigby’s interactive story.

It’s nice that within the approximate hour and a half chapter, you do spend a lot of time engaged in the typical Telltale dialogue trees. You’re constantly arguing and reasoning with the people you meet or are bumping into again, and luckily, Telltale has avoided making every interaction feel samey and predictable, a major criticism of In Sheep’s Clothing.

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These interactions would be nothing if it weren’t for fantastic character development in the previous chapters, and that is made quite clear by how much you will feel yourself caring as the events unfold. Characters you despise, you like, and characters you like, you despise. It’s that third dimensional writing that makes almost every single character you meet memorable. Nobody is perfect, and nobody is either entirely evil or entirely good.

As mentioned earlier, Cry Wolf spends little time developing already established characters, but they nonetheless remain as unique and interesting as ever before, even if you don’t get to spend much time with some of them. No matter the importance of the character, they’ll make an appearance, and the finale wraps things up for everyone. It may not be a Lord of The Rings-esque ending that shows the life and death of each character, but no one feels entirely left out.

The ending itself is a pleasant surprise. It felt as anything could’ve happened, but the route Telltale took with the exposition, pacing and the final conflict was a fantastic choice on their part. It kept you in the dark until the very last moments, and struck with revelations and explanations at just the right intervals. The final conflict is heated and intriguing, and the way they implement the core mechanics and the progression of Bigby as a character to impact the ending is quite fitting.

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When all is said and done, Cry Wolf managed to redeem In Sheep’s Clothing with a hard hitting, suspenseful ending full of mystery and tension that any Telltale fan would be stricken by.

There are a few glaring issues such as illusory choices and bugs that prevent progress from being made, but once you conquer that, Cry Wolf is a game definitely worth playing.

VgamerZz_1Final Score: 8/10

Entwined Review and Gameplay

Entwined

On the gaming world’s biggest stage Entwined was born to high expectations. The short presentation during Sony’s press conference introduced the title as the first game from a group of recent college grads, a new Sony studio called Pixelopus. The short gameplay segment shown featured flowing audio and striking visuals, immediately recognizable as the barrel gameplay from games of old. The short presentation ended with the announcement that it was on sale, right then, to Playstation 4 owners.

The abrupt announce and sell strategy of Entwined may seem a bit shady to some, but after playing through the game I can assure you there is nothing to worry about. In short, Entwined complicates one of the classic gameplay types so intuitively that it remains interesting for an entire game. The music is paced and varied, with the best tracks earning a place in your memory. The visuals are great for the same reason music visualizers are, they manage to match the speed, music and gameplay in a way that’s beautiful without being in the way. As the game culminates, the difficulty can become off-putting, until you overcome the challenge and it is appreciated for it’s purpose. The game comes across as a good freshmen effort that promises greatness in thee years to come.

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The gameplay evolves and challenges you through each of the game’s nine section’s or ‘lifetimes’. Beginning simply, every few seconds players align two characters, each controlled with an analog stick, against a grid they can pass through (Check the gameplay below to see this in action). Each character, a blue bird and orange fish, is stuck in the right and left hemisphere’s respectively. The movement allows for small twists to the base gameplay, for example as the two  get closer they become green and are able to pass through green spaces. While this may sound simple and even be simple for the first two or three lifetimes, the difficulty and complexity of each level increases dramatically. The level design is smart, with one level requiring the two characters to always occupy opposite sides and the next required no synchronization at all. This building and twisting of expectations builds throughout the game and makes the real challenge of hand-eye coordination all the more difficult.


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As to the story, the gameplay and objectives lend themselves to a tale of connection and reliability. Many subtle messages are sent through minute actions, such as the two characters relying on each other for success and the relationship between the players movement. The undertones of relationship can be ignored for other facets as well, whether the soon to be beloved soundtrack or the elegantly stylized visuals. Entwined’s soaring soundtrack makes good use of quiet melodies and driving hooks, more than once pairing with vista’s for truly chilling set-pieces. The visual design changed slightly with each passing lifetime along with the music, making this one sharper, this one electric and that one airy. The best part in the game happened toward the end as all the past aesthetics’s and music blended for the last level. Halfway through the game I expected the collage, but that didn’t decrease the inexplicable happiness I felt seeing all the little bits and pieces brought together underneath the games best track. The culmination wowed me in contrast to previous levels which I enjoyed, but didn’t love.

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The problem with Entwined is the problem of many indie titles. Difficulty is to blame for the only real unpleasantness found within Entwined. While the game is by no means ‘hard’, the punishment dealt out during later levels serves only to distract and frustrate the overall calming experience. In the moment it feels so out of place, being mad at this game that has thus far has only projected joy and peacefulness. Disconnecting from the characters you have come to endear, while remembering that this is a video game that you can loose, can be disheartening to say the least. Entwined manages to alleviate some of the irritation by making players feel triumphant over the difficulty through the stellar music, but for some, the frustration may be too much to get past.

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Entwined provides a good experience all around with standout looks and sounds that will leave a player entranced. The game is a bit short at only 2-5 hours, and the difficulty is problematic for some. Overall, I thoroughly appreciated the atmosphere, enjoyed the distinctive gameplay and  reveled in a completed challenge. Entwined carries on the mood, individuality and aspirations of games like Journey and The Unfinished Swan with the same gumption and less polish.

VgamerZz_1

Final Score: 8.5/10

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WK4jIN9GvP4&feature=youtu.be