Game Night! – Dragon’s Crown Pro

Long time, no see, mortals!  I’ve been a bit swamped with various unexpected events lately – still am, truth be told – and as such, have not had the opportunity to either game nor write nearly as often as I would like.  However, Dracollia, Beefer, Monkey, and Special Buddy were able to all join me for Game Night last night and we were able to throw a live stream up on the Twitch channel of Dragon’s Crown Pro for PS4.  While some headset issues prevented you from enjoying our typically insane banter, the gorgeous art style and satisfying 2D brawler-RPG gameplay more than make up for it.

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Look upon this beauty, and despair…

For some reason, I can’t embed Twitch the way I can YouTube, so you’ll have to hit the link above if you’re interested (Editor’s Note: and if you can help us solve this little dilemma, feel free to educate us in the comments below).  Until next time, humans! – EWE

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Game Night! – Dad of War

Happy Friday, humans!  So, technically yes, I know, the game is God of War…but let’s face it, the hook is that Kratos and Atreus are learning to be father and son every bit as much as they are an ass-kicking combo of gods.  We tried something a little different for tonight’s stream, as Dad of War is obviously a single player game and I have not wanted to spoil the main story beats of the game.  So, since Beefer has advanced the furthest in terms of combat ability and accessed a difficult optional battle with a Valkyrie Queen, we elected to stream his attempts to defeat her…with the rest of the crew providing him with, ahem “encouragement.”  Hopefully you find it as entertaining as we found ourselves!  Except Beefer.  He didn’t appear to be entertained by it at all.  You can find the video on YouTube or below.

Until next time! – EWE

Friday Night Game Night – Samurai Spirit!

Greets, humans!

So another Friday is mercifully upon us, and that means that once again, myself, Dracollia, Beefer, Monkey, and our Special Buddy (along with Zero, our Feline Overlord) got together for our weekly gathering of gaming goodness!  On the slate for this week was Samurai Spirit from Fun Forge.  It’s a ton of fun, and unlike many of our card or board games, it’s cooperative (Editor’s Note: …ostensibly…) rather than competitive.  However, while the average play time on the game’s website lists 20-45 minutes, our group’s…more colorful dynamic resulted in a significantly longer session.  Also, I’m beginning to seriously worry that my son might be insane.  And not just because he’s my offspring.

Anyway, we gave a shot at a streaming client for a live Twitch stream, but it wasn’t working out, so we just shot the video for later upload.  And interestingly enough, even uploading it to Twitch didn’t work, so it’s a YouTube only week this week, unless you’d rather just watch below.

Next week, I’ll endeavor to either stream live to YouTube or have a working Twitch stream.  Unless I don’t have time – I do this for free, after all.  Much as I might like to do it for a living.  Until next time, kiddos! – EWE

God of War – First Impressions

(Editor’s Note: While the following will contain spoilers for the previous games in the God of War series, there will be NO SPOILERS of anything not previously made public about the newest entry just released for PS4.)

Early on in God of War, there is a moment when Kratos’s son, Atreus, is despondent and unresponsive after a brutal battle.  “You’re in your head, boy,” remarks Kratos, “Close your heart to it.”  Atreus doesn’t respond, and so Kratos gruffly states “Then we return home,” before slyly adding, “A shame…to quit the journey so soon after we began…”  Atreus immediately snaps out of his shell shock, exclaiming, “What?!  No!  I’m fine!  See, here…I’m dropping the chain!  I’m fine now!”  It was a moment that made me, and would make any father or parent, smile.

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I am still early on in my journey through the Norse lands in God of War, but Sony Santa Monica has already taken a character in Kratos, who was once the poster child for one-note characters – literally just an anthropomorphic personification of rage – and transformed him into one of my favorite nuanced characters, and fathers, in all of fiction.  This isn’t an exaggeration.  I am a father of two sons myself, and perhaps that is part and parcel of why I find myself relating so, so much to the struggles and the strengths of Kratos in this adventure in these latter days of the demi-god’s life.

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It isn’t a spoiler to say that Kratos and Atreus are on a journey following the death of Kratos’s wife and Atreus’s mother – that much was made obvious from the prerelease trailers and campaign from Sony.  And yet, despite sharing this deeply personal loss, it is obvious in the early hours that Kratos struggles with the emotional bonds of fatherhood.  There have been several times where Atreus has appeared in need of comfort, while Kratos reaches an unseen hand toward his back, only to hesitate at the last moment and then drop the hand away.  Many have speculated that this is indicative of Kratos’s struggles with “adjusting to fatherhood,” but for me this misses the mark and overlooks a huge chunk of the character’s history.  He’s already been a father – and it came to a brutal, tragic end at his own, albeit unwitting, hands.  So it isn’t that the bonds and emotions of fatherhood are foreign to Kratos – instead, he is all too familiar with them, and knows the pain of having them ripped away, and thus has been torn between nurturing them with his new family or keeping them at arm’s distance to avoid the risk of repeating his tragic and violent past.

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While much has been made of how this game represented a “fresh start” and would not necessarily be tied to the prior games, but would still “honor” them, for me personally, the ties to Kratos’s journey through the previous games have been pervasive through the early hours of his new quest.  From multiple characters referencing Kratos’s past, to Kratos’s starting equipment referencing that it covers a “dark secret,” to a mysterious illness that Atreus suffered from as a child that Kratos seems to know more about than he is telling…and then there is the growth of Kratos himself.  Gone is the blind rage of Kratos rampaging through the Greek pantheon.  In its place is an older, wiser man, still capable of tremendous violence when challenged, but more focused on imparting reason and wisdom to his son than in engaging in the slaughter of all who oppose him.  He is a deeper, nuanced character that can be related to much more easily than in past installments in the franchise.

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These changes to the God of War formula are immediately apparent in the gameplay itself.  Gone are the days of the zoomed out, fixed camera angles – instead we now have a controllable camera that is zoomed in over the shoulder of Kratos, making combat much more visceral, brutal, and tactical.  Every encounter, even on normal difficulty, has the potential to end your game if you just mash an attack button and don’t pay attention to your surroundings.  Enemies are brutal and intelligent, engaging in flanking tactics, adapting to your battle maneuvers, and attacking in well-balanced packs that require employing varying battle tactics to succeed against.

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But this isn’t to say that combat is in any way unfair – if you plan well, you’ll succeed.  Time your blocks, look for openings, call for Atreus to send in arrow strikes at opportune moments, and unleash hell, and you’ll be rending enemies limb from limb in short order.  Boss fights, however, are still tense affairs requiring you to observe and identify patterns and weaknesses.  Rushing in without knowing what you’re doing is going to get you quickly killed – and honestly, that feels right in a game set amongst gods and monsters.

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I spent all weekend and as much time this week as I could playing God of War and I still feel like I have barely scratched the surface – and that thrills me.  I don’t ever want it to end.  Everything about this game has amazed me, and it has been one of my favorite gaming experiences that I have had in a long, long time.  More thoughts will assuredly come as I continue my journey alongside Kratos and Atreus, but for now, all I can say is that if you haven’t begun your own journey at their side, you should.  This isn’t just a game – it is a piece of art, it is a timeless story that should be told and listened to and experienced.  Do not miss it. – 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

Pain Sucks and Other Wisdom

It’s been a while, humans.  While I would actually love to be able to say I’ve just been so busy that I haven’t had time to sit down with you all, unfortunately the reason is MUCH more of a pain in my ass.  Actually, it’s pain literally everywhere.  See, years ago I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia.  Essentially, I hurt, everywhere, to varying degrees, all the time.  There are medications and treatments that they try to help mitigate the condition somewhat, but the bottom line is that fibro itself isn’t that well understood yet, and they can’t cure it or do much more than try to treat the symptoms.  Several months back, I started to experience significantly increased, debilitating levels of pain, along with increased frequency of migraines.  Dealing with that day in and out is, quite simply, exhausting.  So after months of testing to figure out what was wrong – as I have a family history of other issues that they wanted to rule out – it was finally determined that my fibro has advanced in severity and intensity, and in addition, my nervous system is actually more responsive and acute than most – top 4 percent of people, from what they’ve said.  While normally, I’d be thrilled to be in the top percentile of anything, when it means you feel exponentially more pain from your CONSTANT FUCKING PAIN DISORDER, it loses its charm.

All that to say…I have to accept a higher level of pain as my new “normal.”  And that has sapped most of my waking energy lately.  So the updates have been very sparse, and may still be for a while – but I promise they will keep coming when possible!

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But while I’ve been laid up I’ve found some ways to spend my time – like, for example, the digital crack that is Stardew Valley on the Nintendo Switch.  Yes, my cat Zero and I have started quite the cozy little farm, creating mayonaise and cheese and trying to win the love of the dark gamer girl Abigail.  Sadly, art imitates life – and she wants nothing to do with me.  Goddammit.

I also decided that, in order to fully immerse myself in the storyline of Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward, the ideal class to play was Ishgard’s own Dragoon.  So after some intense grinding to get my level up to snuff, I can say it was well worth it, as much of the lore and history of Ishgard and the Warrior of Light’s quest there is inextricably woven with the Dragoons themselves.  While by no means do you NEED to play as a Dragoon to appreciate the story, I’ve felt much more of a connection to the characters and their struggles as one of the high-flying dragon-slaying knights than I would have otherwise.  FFXIV remains my favorite MMO of all time – and I’ve played many – as well as one of my favorite FF games ever – and I’ve played them all.

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Getting tired (and pissed off for being tired) but before I go for now, one last tidbit that caught my attention, and that is that sleeper-hit SRPG God Wars: Future Past is getting a full story DLC expansion in Japan.  The main game made its way to the West on PS4 and Vita and was one of the best SRPGs I’ve played in some time, so here is hoping that the DLC makes it here (for Vita especially since that’s what I played it on) as well.

Now, it is time for meds and trying in vain to actually sleep for a while before giving up and playing a game while watching Dragon Ball Super all night and being exhausted tomorrow.  This isn’t a cry for help – it’s just my natural state now.  Actually…that might be a cry for help.  I don’t know anymore. – EWE