Game Night! – Schroedinger’s Cats

Mortals!  So, you may have noticed that this entry and video are simply entitled “Game Night” rather than “Friday Game Night” as is my usual practice of getting together with my regular crew of miscreants.  This is for a very good reason – and that reason is God of War.  My entire crew and I sat enraptured on Friday night well into the evening as I began the opening hours of Sony’s absolute masterpiece upon it’s release.  As a fan of the previous God of War games, I don’t think I can stress enough just what an incredible achievement this new game is – it should be played by everyone.  Fans of God of War games, fans of games at all.  Absolutely everything about it has been stellar thus far, and I am enjoying absolutely every moment I spend with it, and am thoroughly excited to bring you my detailed thoughts on it as I progress further into the game.  All this is to say, however, that my crew and I didn’t get to our game stream until the following day.

But it was worth the wait, because thanks to my absolute bestie Malevolent Moogle and her hubby Absurdum taking a trip to PAX and bring me back some gifts, my crew and I got to play a new card game from publisher Ninth Level Games, Schroedinger’s Cats!  It was a lot of fun, and is a much quicker play than some other card games – so take a look and see if it looks like something you and your gaming groups might enjoy!  You can find the video at YouTube and Twitch, or just watch it below!

Hope you enjoy!  But seriously – go play God of War.  Now.  Right now. – EWE

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EWE’s Insomnia & Gaming Part 2: Ys Origins – Hugo Playthrough

Ah, some sleepless humans have come to join me!  Welcome, fellow sufferers of eternal exhaustion.  This is the little corner of the blog where your favorite sleepless wizard, old EWE himself, tries to find a way to pass the hours before the sun comes up and he’s forced to go pretend that writing to all of you isn’t his real passion and calling.  So, what should make the cut for our slice of nocturnal gaming nourishment tonight?  I believe we’ve settled on Ys Origins, available on Steam and PS4.

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No girl like that ever says it’s a pleasure to make my acquaintance…

Ys Origins, as the name implies, takes the long running series of adventures by hero Adol and sets them back far before the time of Adol, or any of the other running characters in the main series and instead tells a somewhat more self-contained story that limits the scope of the world to one immense and expansive tower and the power it contains within it.  Two Goddesses have been kidnapped and are on the  run from the evil forces of darkness, and it is the forces of he traditional defensive order that begin to dictate how your character will approach the story unfolding.  You see, you can initially choose between two characters, a fairly happy-go-lucky young girl who is a wonder with her twin axes, or a haughty and arrogant wizard who believes that all lives, even his own, are fuel to be added to the equation  that leads to victory.  Only by mastering both of these paths can you unlock a secret, third playable character,

The gameplay is fantastic Ys action arcade RPG mechanics.  Even lesser enemies need some level of respect  so that they don’t respawn and decimate your party when you least expected it.

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I’m doing my first playthrough as Hugo Fact the Mage, who is…kind of a pompous asshole during the entirety.  That said, unlikability of Hugo aside, I have very much enjoyed sinking my teeth into the meaty combat system in YS.  Hugo definitely controls like a squishy mage in this type of action rpg – keep him away from the action and shoot away, and if the enemies close in, move away!  It is satisfying, in its own way, just as I am confident the playthrough with the melee character will as well.  Then we get to see who the mystery third character is going to be and play as.

Thus far in my insomniac playthrough with Hugo, I have overall been pleased.  As we have discussed, Hugo is not a pleasant character to have as an avatar, but his combat style is diversified, challenging, and rewarding.  My hopes are that playing through with the other characters will prove just as amusing! – EWE

Friday Game Night Stream – Cards Against Humanity

Salutations, humans!  Tonight it’s time for something a little different – for the blog if not for myself.  You see, every Friday night I gather together with my closest cabal of chicanery and celebrate the end of the infernal work week by reveling in some gaming goodness.  Now, while some of our exploits are certainly not going to win me any Father of the Year Awards anytime soon, it was decided that we should give a try to opening up our little shindigs to you out there.  Being the utter novice at video production that I am, I decided not to jump feet first into live-streaming, but instead recorded us playing one of our favorites, Cards Against Humanity – and oh, it was a good time.

So join EWE, his spawn Beefer and Monkey, sexy succubus Dracollia, adorable Special Buddy, and Zero the Feline Emperor for a decidedly NSFW evening of entertainment!  You can join us on YouTube or Twitch or if you’re a lazy bastard (Editor’s Note: Like him) then just watch it right here!

Hope you all enjoy, and please, while I never discourage people from hate, if you feel compelled to lecture me in the comments about my poor parenting skills, save it – my kiddos are well adjusted, brilliant, grounded (in the good sense), and happy.  And Special Buddy is just perfect!  Until next time, humans. – EWE

The Distinction Between “Favorite” and “Best” – Also, I’m Back, Fleshbags

Humans!  How long it has been!  Well, more for you than for me – I’m the timeless personification of darkness, so really, a couple of months is a catnap for me.  Though I suppose I’ve perhaps somewhat missed imparting my wisdom/seething misanthropy onto you, the select group of mortal meatbags that I don’t abjectly abhor.  So…I guess…maybe…it’s nice to see you again.  There!  I’m not repeating myself!  (Editor’s Note: Aww, you missed-) I swear, I will set your entire BLOODLINE on fire if you finish that thought (Editor’s Note: …nothing, nevermind.)  Damn skippy.

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So many things have contributed to my absence – physical, mental, emotional – and I’m sure over time some or all of them will bleed out into my writing, whether in bits or in their entirety.  But if I’d had the right words to tell those stories, I’d have been back before now.  So then, what finally made me able to pick up my pen – keyboard, whatever – again after being away?  Well, that would be, of all things, a Twitter poll from my fellow wizards of the written word over at The Well-Red Mage.  By the way – read them, listen to them, support them – they are each and every one an amazing writer and person.

And when you start reading those fairy tales again, you’ll realize just how horrifying the things we tell our children really, truly are…

The premise was simple:

Now, at first blush the only dilemma I had was that I felt torn between two decades, as the period from the mid-to-late 90s through the early-to-mid 00s was what I considered my perfect answer.  But then I saw a tweet in response that really got my inner-philosophical-gamer juices working.

And then another to further get me thinking.

Ohohoho, now we had a full-blown bout of navel-gazing going on inside my head, minions!  What was my Well-Red (and Read) friend actually asking – for an objective “best” era of gaming, or a subjective “favorite” era of gaming?  What was the distinction between them?  IS there a distinction between them – and even if such a distinction were to theoretically exist, can we ever truly grasp it, as we are inherently colored by our own perceptions of our own individual realities and experiences?

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The first issue that occurs to me is that while I truly respect the opinions and thoughts of all the individuals involved in that particular Twitter discussion (Editor’s Note: This is no small thing for him to admit – he works daily around judges and magistrates that he considers barely worthy of continued intake of oxygen, let alone actual respect), I believe that the concept of an “objective best” is impossible.  The term “best” is inherently and inescapably subjective – it is brewed from all manner of differing criteria depending upon the evaluator, steeped in one’s own personal preferences and pet peeves, and filtered through the time, place, manner, and setting in which we each experienced things for the first time.  There are times when, under certain circumstances, we may attach a more objective modifier to “best” – such as associating “fastest” with “best” when discussing race cars – but even then, it presupposes this connection between the objective term (“fastest”) and the subjective “best.”  As soon as someone decides that perhaps handling is a more important consideration than raw speed, suddenly the illusion of an objective “best” race car is shattered.

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Also, steering.  Steering is important.

So then is “best” – without the attachment of some more objective modifier – simply synonymous with “favorite?”  Not so fast – it isn’t that simple at all.  You see, “best” may be inherently subjective, but it is still something that invites debate.  Advocating for or against an interpretation of what is the “best” – trying to convince others as to why they should also adopt what you see as the “best.”

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“Sasuke-kun’s brooding narcissism is his BEST feature!” “No, Sasuke-kun’s psychotically hate-fueled obsessiveness is his BEST feature!”

But “favorite” isn’t just a subjective concept – it is inherently, indelibly personal.  It isn’t so much a debate or attempt to convince others as to the correctness of your point of view as to simply express your own opinion.  You “favorite” can of course change – but the reasons will always be internal, personal – singular to you, not the product of debate and analysis by a wider audience.  My “favorite” Final Fantasy is Final Fantasy Tactics.  The Shameful Narcissist’s “favorite” is Final Fantasy VII.  LightningEllen’s “favorite” is Final Fantasy XIII.  The three of us can debate endlessly over which of the three – or perhaps even another – is the “best” Final Fantasy.  But there is no debate over our “favorite” – because it is just that…ours.

I suppose this little tirade is in part a response to another point made by my feathered-hat-wearing compatriot.

This statement, made far too often in gaming journalism, is part of the conflation between “favorite” and “best.”  I in no way am suggesting that reviews cannot be subject to the personal interpretations of the reviewer – that’s impossible.  Any critique, no matter how much the reviewer strives for objectivity, is going to be influenced to some degree by their subjective views.  But an analysis that is supported by sound reasoning (“the ATB battle system is the best RPG battle system because it balances the tension of quick thinking and decision making with the strategy and planning of traditional turn-based systems”) is completely different from a blanket qualitative statement based upon nothing but a vague, unspecified dislike (“the combat in this game just doesn’t work”).  The only time the phrase “just doesn’t work” should be used is when the aspect of the game to which it refers LITERALLY DOES NOT FUNCTION.  As in, every time a battle is triggered and the combat engine tries to load, the entire game crashes.  Otherwise, it is just a lazy cop-out to substitute “I just don’t like this” for a critical analysis of a game’s virtues and vices.  Does this mean a reviewer can’t simply express dislike?  Not at all – but they need to add two very crucial words: “This just doesn’t work FOR ME.”  Suddenly, as in the difference between “best” and “favorite,” the expression is clearly personal – not right or wrong, just a statement of opinion individual to the reviewer.  It isn’t an argument for or against the overall merits or flaws of the game – those can be made but must be supported with reasoning.

Whew – quite a winding trail of babbling, wasn’t that?  If I were one to ask for understanding, I might point out that it has been a while, and I’ve had some pent-up literary expression brewing…but I’m not, so I won’t!  Regardless, I must say that it is quite agreeable to be conversing with you mortals again…I think I shall try to do so with greater frequency.  Until then, my friends! – EWE

EWE’s Insomnia & Gaming – Part 1

So, humans, it is a fairly poorly kept secret that old EWE has issues with sleeping through the night. For whatever reason, I am typically unable to get a thorough night’s sleep – and thus the search begins to find something to do during those hours when the world is aslumber and I’m left alone and awake.  Of course, this primarily means Switch, Vita, 3DS, my laptop with Steam access, or occasional classics on PSP and GBA.  Doesn’t mean I won’t switch a PS4 or Xbox One game in there, but generally these are last resort options due to having to go downstairs from bed and risking waking the neighbors – so what games make the grade?  Well here is the first in a haphazard and sporadic series on what I play when I sit bolt upright in bed, look at my phone, and utter some type of curse at the time.

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It is no secret that I absolutely loved Trails in the Sky – in my opinion, one of the best classic-style turn-based RPGs to be made in years.  So I naturally picked up its sequel series, Trails of Cold Steel, when it initially released on Vita.  But, as I had something of an extensive (cough massive cough) backlog, I had yet to do more than start the first game once or twice.  That has now changed, as when I woke up at 2 a.m. the other night the first thing I did (Editor’s Note: the second thing, actually, the first being looking at the time and saying, I believe, “god-fucking-dammit) ahem, the SECOND thing I did was fire up a new game on my Vita.  While I have thoroughly enjoyed the game thus far, I will say that all of the comparisons between this game and similar “social life” RPGs in the Persona series are not entirely accurate.  Time often passes in chunks rather than day by day, and as of this writing the social link aspect hasn’t really done much but give me some cute but predictable cutscenes and a slight increase in combat teamwork.  But if this comes across as a criticism, it is not intended as one – if I wanted to play Persona on my Vita, I would, you know…play Persona on my Vita.  I like what Cold Steel has offered so far, and I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of it…though preferably not always in the dead of night.

As an aside, and at the risk of sounding sappy (Editor’s Note: please, before you mock him, remember that he would not hesitate to set the world, quite literally, on fire), I’m well aware that it is some type of corporate emotion holiday today, and while I do not have a “Valentine”…if I were to, I know who it would be, and I got to make that person smile once or twice today, so I will take my small victories where I can get them. – EWE

Monster Hunter: World – Or Gutting Dinosaurs For Fun and Profit

Hello, Hunters!  So, as I continue to adapt and adjust to some changes in my fibro (Editor’s Note: you curl up in a ball and mew like a kitten when the weather changes abruptly) SHUT UP…ahem, ADAPT and ADJUST, I was given an unexpected treat.  My Eldest Evil Offspring ™ decided that he wanted to spend some of his Christmas money on a copy of Monster Hunter: World and leave it at my apartment to play when he and his younger co-clone are here plotting with me.

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Now, I’ve tried on a number of occasions to “get into” Monster Hunter games.  Dating back to some of the PSP outings, and even most recently with Monster Hunter Generations on the 3DS, I have wanted badly to like them.  The general concept – take assassination contracts on various monstrosities, harvest their parts, wear them as trophies – appeals to both the maniacal evil genius, and the grinding treadmill gamer, sides of me.  (Editor’s Note: “Genius” might be a bit of a stretch…do I need to recount our personal life choices?)  …Point taken.

The point, dear humans, is that despite my efforts, I just have heretofore been unable to really enjoy my time with previous Monster Hunter games.  Everything about them just felt…slow.  Clunky.  I know in part this is by design – these aren’t designed to be fast-paced hack-and-slash games – but sometimes it also felt like an artificial and unnecessary frustration inducer.  In short, I would inevitably play for a while, over several sessions…but invariably put the game aside for something else and not really miss it.  They were never able to capture my devotion long-term.

Until now.

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Now I’m hardly far enough into the game to call this a “review” but in my early and not-so-humble opinion, Monster Hunter: World fixes just about everything I’ve ever really disliked about the series.  Is the combat still measured?  Yes, but not in the same frustration-inducing way that I remember.  Instead, each of the 14 Hunter weapon styles is distinct in its speed, timing, combos, and visceral impact – the combat rewards changing not just your weapons for different fights, but also your mastery of each weapon’s distinctive play style.  If you have been using the lightning-like dual blades exclusively, and then notice that a particular target is weak to blunt damage so you grab a hammer and go after it without spending some time altering your approach to suit your new tool…you are going to get painfully destroyed in short order.  But unlike my past experiences with the games, this stops short of feeling unfair or frustrating – just intelligent and challenging.

I also LOVE the open-world expeditions that you can choose to embark on as an alternative to the more traditional timed missions that are a hallmark of Monster Hunter.  Don’t get me wrong – the missions are still the primary bread-and-butter of the game, and I’ve never had any issue with the mission-based structure of previous games – but the open-world exploration and sidequest elements supplement the larger-scale missions perfectly, allowing you to take a break from difficult tasks and relax or grind up some bones and scales to improve your equipment.  As someone who has many (Editor’s Note: many, MANY) times lamented the seeming glut of games that just decide to throw in an open world because it’s “the thing to do,” I was very pleasantly surprised to discover how well done this is.  There is freedom, but not lack of direction or sacrifice of world building and level design.  It is just so well balanced – a tremendous testament to the development team.

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Suffice to say, I’ve been pleasantly surprised (and mercifully distracted) by this unexpected addition to my PS4 library.  I’m looking forward to further hunts, more harvesting, and bringing you my additional thoughts as I continue to delve deeper into Monster Hunter: World.  Plus, you get an anthropomorphic cat as a personal bodyguard – this automatically makes it awesome.

Until next time, humans, remember – next time you may be feeling down about yourself, you pick up that chin, because this is America, a land where anybody – ANY-FUCKING-BODY – can do anything, even be president.  Yes, even a horrific, abhorrent, orange-skinned, fake-haired, petulant, raving, rambling, syphilitic, moronic, illiterate, misogynistic, raging dumpster fire posing as a human can.  And if HE can, then YOU can.  Unless, you know…he gets us all killed first.  Then you can’t. – EWE

I’m Still Here

Hello, humans.  I know I’m interrupting your massive celebrations caused by my absence and apparent demise – but my death has been greatly exaggerated.  Or at least a little exaggerated.  I have, in reality, been feeling pretty shitty, and trying to get work done and helping out the people in my life that need takes all the energy that I have out of me.

I do find time for some games though!  I’ve finished Divinity: Original Sin and loved every minute, and now I’ve launched right back into Divinity: Original Sin 2.  These are both just prime examples of how to do so many parts of game development right.  Crowdfunding, significant content stretch goals, quality product on release, and a deep and immersive RPG story.  I love these games – I can’t say that enough.  I’ve also begun a weekly ritual of fourplay coop games with my sons and friends which has been a blast.

My writing and journaling has been sporadic as my pain levels allow me to find the energy to be creative.  My standup is much the same – whenever I can find it in my body to do an act, I’m trying to do so.  It is so fun, and I’m glad I can still find energy to write and perform!

And work is still a love both professional and personal.  One day maybe my love won’t break there, but heal full instead.  It is the same person that can do both, so hopefully a matter of time!