Saturday Night Gaming: Gigantic

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There’s a particular masochism when it comes to playing hero brawlers (or MOBAs, or Dota-style games, if you prefer). They’re a time sink and a colossal addiction for anyone who enjoys multiplayer games. Nothing as sweet as dominating the enemy alongside your friends, that’s for certain.

Gigantic is a magnificent game with some interesting background–the developers ran out of money at one point and the team was supposed to stop working; but the day after they got the memo, they all showed up and kept on the good work.

The result?

Gigantic spent some time on the Microsoft store–i.e. in Purgatory–where it didn’t get too much traction…since next to no one uses that platform for games, so badly is it optimized. Some streamers began picking it up, though, directly from the site. As is prone to happen with good games, people will eventually notice.

Streamers did, and so did their audiences…and more recently, it came to Steam. Since then, it’s only grown exponentially. The fact that you can buy all characters that have come out, that will ever come out, for only $30, certainly makes a sweet offer.

Now that backstory is out of the way, let’s go into the specifics of this colorful action game.

The way Gigantic looks speaks of cohesive vision–fluid, beautiful art direction is reflected both in map and character design, as well as in the way attacks and abilities are animated.

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Not too many characters are available to choose from, right now; about two dozen but they’re all distinctly different. They come with unique skill kits and fall into the roles of tanks, melee and ranged damage dealers and utility characters–mostly healers. I have only played five characters, and four of them were ranged; when you play with a ranged character, Gigantic feels like a cross-breed between FPS games such as Overwatch and skillshots like the ones you might be familiar with if you ever played Smite.

There are no mobs you kill for gold and experience, nor are there items to customize your chosen character; what there is, instead, is a comprehensive talent tree to choose from, when upgrading your abilities. Two levels of upgrades per each ability which makes for a nice amount of combinations and variety in what your character does.

It’s fast-paced and skill-based, this colorful little game; and I don’t mean the skills your characters have, but the ones you have. I’ve only played for several hours, buy experience in the genres which Gigantic successfully brings into one has proven to be of great use–I’ve murdered more two-legged cows with badly textured nipples than I can count with Mozu, a strange humanoid mouse-like wand-thief. Have a picture of her below:

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A real beauty, and a wicked shot, too!

The game mode is unique; you basically kill other players and the enemy’s creatures on the map in order to power up your guardian until he overpowers the enemy’s, and then you pound upon that enemy until you wound him. Wound him three times, and he dies. You win. Great job!

You get 10 points when you kill an enemy or a miniature creature on the map, twenty when you kill its upgraded variation, and twenty for energy orbs, which are orbs that help you gather Focus. Focus helps you upgrade buildings and use your ultimate ability; depending on the character, those can be pretty damn impressive.

This system doesn’t dilute personal accountability; rather, it enhances it. When you die, you allow your enemy to progress towards victory. Another tenth of the bar that allows them the opportunity to wound your guardian. The more cautious, the more attentive you are–the harder it will be for the enemy team to catch you unawares and tear you a new one. And trust me when I say this, paying attention to your surroundings and your hp and stamina bars is of the utmost import. The better you are, the greater your team’s odds of winning.

Truly, Gigantic is a wonderful experience that feels both familiar and new; much more than just a new coat of paint over reiterated design features that’ve been done over and over again. I’m absolutely charmed with this self-titled “Strategic Hero Shooter”, and can’t wait to see how it develops further.

P.S.A minor gripe– the game is locked at 60 fps, which is…unfortunate. Not for me, but for people with 120hz monitors and preference for hundreds of frames per second, it’s certain to leave a bad taste  It also requires a minimum of 6 Gigabytes of RAM; if you’ve got less, I’m sorry to say–you’re very much out of luck.

At any rate, thank you for reading! It’s been fun, writing this up! See you again next time.

Friday Round-Up: Lovecraftian Horrors on Mars, James Damore AMA,

Moons of Madness looks like fun, doesn’t it? Granted, fun is a relative concept; for me, fun can easily be described as a “Lovecraftian horror game set on Mars,” which also attempts to explore mental health issues in a mature way…while being a hard sci-fi space simulator. Is developer RockPocket Games biting off more than they can chew? I sure hope not!
I don’t actually like horror games, note. It’s been a horribly long time since I’ve even played one!

Moving onto a  somewhat politically charged topic…Remember James Damore, that Google Engineer who got fired for writing a critical document about diversity Google’s ideological echo chamber? He gave an AMA, and it was interesting. I haven’t personally had the time to read the document in its entirety, although I did check out its beginning, and it didn’t sound sexist; rather, it seemed to be going for a calm, rational discussion. I can’t speak for the entirety of its contents, obviously, but the entire debacle around Damore makes for an important case study: Should someone be fired for his differing political and social views, if these make some of his coworkers feel like they’re working in a…violent working environment, was it?
My personal views–this kind of speech shouldn’t be punished. It’s not hateful, or bigoted; it doesn’t call for hurting a portion of the populace. That’s part of the reason why I was so surprised to see the amount of backlash online and on Google.
The AMA is worth a read, at any rate.

Back to gaming, and other news!

Dead in Vinland is coming next year, and I find its graphic style and turn-based survival to be curious enough to keep an eye out in the coming months before its release. You can never have enough hand-drawn games to play, can you?
Apparently it’s based on the core gameplay loop of a game called Dead in Bermuda, with which I have no experience what-so-ever. Perhaps I ought to check it out and write a little something about it.

Book Depository is great, if you-like me- are in a country where shipping costs LOADS OF MONEY! Free shipping is great, and the waiting time (12 days, or 8 business days, in my case, with another two days of preparing the package) is entirely manageable.
I’m very happy to finally have a place from which to buy novels and graphic novels and art books that are insanely difficult to procure in Eastern Europe.

I like Total War: Warhammer, don’t you? It’s a great strategy with a fair amount of flaws but a whole lot of awesomeness going for it. At any rate, its sequel is coming soon, and the last core race of the game was announced a few days ago.
It’s rats, people. Rats.
If you don’t know anything about the Skaven, you might like to read this. I did, and came away from this particular feature more interested in playing with ratpeople than I was before!
The Total War: Warhammer II features I’m most excited about are the additions to the early game– exploration plays a much wider part of the game than it did before, and I imagine it’ll add a whole new dimension to our list of reasons for murdering enemy armies!

I’ve been enjoying James Latimer’s blog. His Hidden Gems are like my Thursday Book Recommendations…only better. You should check his latest post; it’s about Villains by Necessity, which I’m pretty damn excited to read thanks to Latimer’s very post.

StarCraft: Remastered is out, and I don’t have time to play it, and I blame my university for it. Who the hell needs Economic Policy, anyway?

The Hugo Awards were…awarded, as often happens with awards, and I have read none of the winners! I’ll go ahead and remedy that, if you don’t mind. Meanwhile, click here to see the authors and pieces of writing that took an award home this year.

 

Those’re some of the bits and pieces that grabbed my attention this last week, I hope you’ll find them interesting! At any rate, hope to see you around next time!

 

Saturday Night Gaming: The Shrouded Isle

Have you ever dreamt of being the head cultist and spiritual leader of a small post-apocalyptic village, working to awaken your great patron-god, Chernobog? Was your dream colored in Lovecraftian greens?

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Did it look something like that?

No? You’ve no clue what I’m talking about? Well, I can’t say I blame you.

This is the Shrouded Isle, a game with this exact premise. It’s a bit more complex than picking a villager and ending their life; each one has minor or major virtues and vices, which affect you in positive and negative ways, respectfully. Each run of the game is broken up in 12 seasons–it takes place during 3 years– during which you have to sacrifice 12 of your fellow villagers.

The villagers, there’s thirty of them, and none come from the most distinct genetic material; each is a member of one of five families, whose primarchs control some different suppression apparatus — the Iosefka family is in charge of the fervor in the village by building monuments and spreading the holy word of Chernobog’s imminent return, the Kegnni make sure that your villagers remain proper and ignorant, and so on and so forth.

It’s a game about information, and acting upon it. During each season, you’ve got three months to vote on the activities your cultists make. While you’ve got five councilors — one from each esteemed family on your shrouded isle — you can pick to work on one to three of your councilors’ activities each month; the more the activities worked on, the lesser are the returns for you. It’s a perfectly logical system that allows you to discover more about your villagers’ vices and virtues at only a small cost.

Vices and virtues are also found out by inquiries, of which you will get some, as long as you’re in good standing with the different houses; it’s always difficult to decide whom to use your first couple of inquiries, on account of knowing virtually nothing other than some cursory flavor text, give n to you by the house leaders whenever you scroll over the members of the family.

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Villagers and the five attributes of the entire village–Ignorance, Fervor, Discipline, Penitence and Obedience–are not the only ones you have to be on the lookout for; each house also has an approval rating that raises when you continually vote for their advisers, and falls whenever you ignore them. Approval also plummets whenever you decide to sacrifice someone; particularly if you have no proof, or even an idea, of an advisor’s transgressions.

‘This might all seem like a lot to follow, and I did have some difficulty making sense of it all during my first game; which is why one of the families quickly rose in revolt, and did me in, thus ending playthrough #01. That said, once I began all over again, it made sense and, in less than two hours, I stood above the precipice, awakening good old ‘bog and watching him as he stretched those holy wings of his.

The Shrouded Isle is all about revealing information one month at a time, and using that information to the fullest. There’s no overarching storyline, when one really could’ve worked quite well.The art-style is good but minimalist, and there are about…eight screens in the game overall, with an additional three-four cutscenes.

It’s entertaining for what it is…but I’m not certain that it’s worth the price tag of 10 euro. That has to be its biggest weakness; the Isle simply doesn’t have enough content. After my two and a half hours, I have absolutely no desire to go back and replay it in its current form; if the developers introduce a content-focused patch, perhaps I will.

The Shrouded Isle is an interesting experiment that’s built around a cool concept, strong aesthetics and ambiance, but hobbled by lack of variety and lacking a cohesive story.

Should you play it? Only you could say that, and I hope to have provided all the tools necessary to help with your decision. Happy Gaming!

PS: I know there are different endings–but I didn’t feel curious enough to spend another few hours unlocking them.

 

 

Friday Round-Up, 11/08/2017: Pyre, Shadow of War, Dark Legacy

Welcome to the Friday Round-Up, where I post links to the most interesting articles and videos I’ve discovered over the past week. You just might find something that catches your eye!

This series is inspired by the Sunday Papers on gaming site Rock, Paper, Shotgun which will probably feature often enough in the Round-Up, on account of RPS being my favorite site for news, reviews and impressions…and having a generally awesome staff of writers.

Let’s hit it off!

  • the Fantasy Subreddit had a great appreciation thread of author Barbara Hamby; her works were unknown to me but anyone who writes “a score of subgenres, from dark epic fantasy to espionage vampire fantasy” is very much my cup of tea and — if you’re following this blog or love fantasy– might be of interest to you, as well. The thread takes an in-depth look at some of her best-known works, and you should absolutely check it out.
  • Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, the oncoming sequel to the excellent Shadow of Mordor, announced and detailed microtransactions in its single-player content–the only content that matters, really–and the Internet went mad. Some people like the idea of having the option to hasten progression in single-player games…I don’t. I recall when cheat codes and all those goodies were free. The world was a better, warmer place.
    Apparently, it’s for people who want to skip the sandbox bits of the game…which are the most attractive bits, to be sure.

    Shadow of War players will have the option to purchase Loot Chests containing random items, War Chests with random followers, and XP boosts, developers Monolith Productions explained in Friday’s announcement. These will be sold for ‘Mirian’, the regular imaginary in-game currency earned by playing, as well as for ‘Gold’, a microtransaction currency which is awarded “in small amounts” at certain milestones through the game but can also be bought with real cash money.

    You’d think that publishers would have learned the lessons from Dead Space 3, but it appears not! As Alice O’Connor of RPS so aptly put it:”Ugh, who would want to do any of that? I’m only in this to meet the sexy spider.”

  • I discovered a month-old Star Wars fan-film, called Dark Legacy, and it is very good. I’m not sure about the lightsaber effects some of the time, but the use of light, voiceover and just about everything else is steeped into the unique atmosphere of a galaxy far, far away. It’s ten minutes long, and bound to entertain any fan.
  •  I finally got around to reading a Rolling Stone article about Greg Kasavin, the creative director and writer for Supergiant Games–the studio behind Bastion, Transistor and, most recently, Pyre.
    Pyre is excellent and unlike its predecessors, but far from the only topic covered in Rolling Stone’s article.

    “We don’t believe you can create a game on a whiteboard,” says Gavin Simon. Instead, Supergiant uses conversation, playtesting, and iteration in place of rigid planning sessions. One person may lead the implementation of a game’s art or music, but the studio relies on one another to ensure the project as a whole is moving in the right direction. The process works. As unique as the studio’s games may be, they’re also remarkably cohesive.

    “I don’t know what exactly produces our creativity chemistry,” Rao says. “[At] times I don’t even want to know because I just like what we do and I like how it feels to make games together.” He calls the longstanding relationships between team members “the bedrock of Supergiant.”

    I don’t know about you, but to me this sounds like the dream working atmosphere. Kasavin’s personal story, furthermore, is an absolute inspiration to me, and for good reason.

  • Belzebubs is a thing, and I love it to death.
  • The Internet went mad over Artifact, Valve’s first new game since Dota 2 came out in 2013. It’s a Trading Card Game. Valve’s really listening to its base, aren’t they?
    It’s funny, though — Valve’s not really a gaming company anymore, not the way it used to be. With Steam being King of the Hill when it comes to gaming platforms, their interests are focused where the stacks of money come from.
    If Artifact offers real-money markets for cards — well, that’d be interesting, from an economic point of view. Other than that, only time will tell if the game’s worth anything at all.

And that’s where I’ll cut this list short! Hope you found some of these bits and pieces interesting — I certainly did!

Saturday Night Gaming: Pyre #01

Supergiant games deliver yet again.

That makes for three outstanlion p kdiglng, visually stunning –breathtaking, even — games, each three years apart from the other, starting with Bastion, transitioning with Transistor and now, the largest of them all, Pyre.

I have played too little of Pyre since it came out on Tuesday (July 25). Not enough, certainly, to construct an in-depth analysis of the mechanics of the strange, fascinating sport-like combat system; nor to talk about the different route choices, the leveling system or several other aspects I would love to take a y look at.

What I can tell you is that Pyre is beautiful. Breath-taking; and yes, I realise I repeat myself, but I can’t accent that nearly enough. I would put each of the landscapes hanging on my wall as posters.

It’s no small thing, that – I don’t own any posters at all.

The story is very easy to get into, and although the narrative takes something of a backseat this time around, it’s not for lacking in plot. To the contrary, there is now more written speech between characters (and more characters overall) than in any of the two previous games by Supergiant.

The music – fantastic in so many ways, once again written by Darren Korb…although I might have that last name wrong. I’ll be sure to check and react it a few hours from now, in the comfort of my home.

Next week, I will go more in-depth in many of those aspects I glossed over. Look forward to it!

Saturday Night Gaming: Critiques and Wolfenstein: The New Order

Whenever I begin writing a video critique or review for a game, I spend some time considering how to go about it. This blog post will look at the reasons behind my choices and plan for the (as of yet) unfinished critique; if you enjoy talk about gaming, you might enjoy it, and if you don’t — stay tuned for our regularly scheduled programming!

Wolfenstein: The New Order is not too complicated a narrative by any stretch of the imagination. Id Software’s writing team took a whole bunch of chapters from Philip K. Dick’s “The Man on The High Castle,” and — to the joy of everyone involved — succeeded in creating a tense world that makes you more than enthusiastic enough to shoot all the Nazis you find!

There’s a love story going on in the background too, and it’s done well — but that’s all narrative. When talking about a first person shooter, the story has to take a backseat to the gameplay; what matters most is gunplay, enemy variety, map/level design and what I’d like to refer to as the sheer bloody level of AWESOME that a game can provide the player.

For a ‘narrative’ guy like myself, putting an accent on the mechanics of a game first is a difficult task, occasionally. Two things help; the first is, realizing that the mechanics are in fact complemented by the story, and the second — recognizing when that happens.

Otherwise simple actions, mechanically, become much more meaningful when the narrative dictates that they be so — stabbing a Nazi grunt will not remain in your memory but daggering the lover of a hated adversary most certainly will, for example. That’s the kind of synergy between gameplay and

Another aspect I am looking at has to do with the boss battles. These are often some of the most memorable parts of a game; either for the best reasons…or for the worst. While I’m not going to go ahead and critique those here — I’m saving that up for the video review — I’ll let it slip that Wolfenstein’s boss encounters leave much to be desired. I judge at boss battles according to how ‘gimmick’-y they are; the more freedom one such encounter gives the players on how to tackle the gigantic metal monster — the better. For brilliant boss battles that packed one hell of a punch in an FPS game, look no further than 2016’s Doom, developed by the same studio as Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Id Software took notes, I think.

The most important questions, when preparing any sort of long-form critique about a video game have to do with the genre and how the game performs compared to the average expectations and performances of other representatives of that genre. Follow each thread, observe how the game does, and its weaknesses and strengths become evident enough.

The rest is…only words.