Sorry – I’m Not Dead Yet

I’m not going to apologize for being absent for a while, mostly because I’ve had pretty good reason.  I will say that I have greatly missed communicating with all of you – but I’ll try to make up for it a bit by filling you in on some of the reasons for my absence.

First off, as some of you may have noticed from the godawful fucking heat and humidity, it’s summer!  This has meant that my two little evil-mages-in-training have been on a break from their studies and been wanting to spend time under the burning flame ball in the sky, like this:

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DEAR GOD, WHY?!?!

But since not just MY family, but ALL SORTS of people are ALSO much more active during the summer months, my work as a public defender has been extremely busy as well – and the ratio of incompetent/insane clients has gone WAAAAAY up.  Let me tell you just exactly how mentally draining it is when you are trying to explain to someone that murdering ducks is, in fact, a crime, and they are fervently telling you that it’s ok because the five-faced devil told them to do it…

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Because listening to this guy is just a fantastic idea.

And just in case increased work, increased time with the younglings, and caring for my feline overlord Zero while gaming and reading wasn’t enough, I decided upon advice from my little sis, the absolutely hilarious Kate Quigley, I decided to try making people laugh the old-fashioned way – so I’ve started doing some open mic nights at local bars and coffee houses and doing a little stand up.  Well, I suppose some might call it stand up…for me, it’s kinda just group therapy, where I get to talk about my issues and not bill my insurance!

Of course, it can’t all be upside – about six weeks ago, my fibromyalgia went into (I thought) a flare up.  It happens from time to time, based on weather and pressure changes, and normally I just grit my teeth and within a few days it is back to its normal level of constant-but-not-totally-debilitating pain.  But this time…it didn’t.  After two weeks, I contacted my doctor, and she gave me a significant injection of steroids due to the fact that my fibro meds were having no effect.  If it was fibro alone, the steroids would likely have made it worse, but if they helped, then there might be more going on.  Well…they sure as hell helped at first.  For about two days, I was Superman.  For two more, I was, you know…normal?  But then I was right back where I was before the shot.  Now I was going on a month of mind-numbing pain, and my doctor was out of normal options, so I am currently scheduled and waiting to see a rheumatologist in September.  Needless to say, going through all of the daily activities I described above while wracked with physical pain is…tiring.  So many are the day I have come home and couldn’t even find the energy to game or read, let alone write to you all.  So I would perform my ritual worship of Zero and collapse into bed, where he would then sit on my chest in an effort to comfort me (or kill me, I’m not entirely sure).

But take heart – all is not lost!  First, I am finding time to engage in some reading and gaming, so I will have some opinions on those fronts coming soon!  Look forward in particular to my review of Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, as it captured me even harder than the original PS2 game did, and that was one of my favorite PS2 RPGs.  And now, if I can FUCKING REMEMBER TO HIT RECORD, I can even now and then provide you with some footage from my open mic stand up gigs – you know, in case you don’t have enough to mock me for yet, irritating mortal fleshbags (Editor’s Note: That’s not nice; they’ve always been very supportive.)

EWE and Editor Return

So before I go, I wanted to give you one last thing – a bit of the old and the new all in one.  You see, I have not been able to do much experimenting in my kitchen of late – but I have needed quite a bit of caffeine.  And so I wish to recommend a particular purveyor of pure coffee goodness – Carpe Diem Coffee Shop, in my own hometown of Canton, Ohio.  Now, while I fully understand that many of you cannot travel to their actual location (which is a goddamn shame, because it is fantastic), you CAN order their absolutely amazing coffee right through their site to be shipped to you!  I in particular recommend the Blueberry Crumble – and by “recommend” I mean “until you have tasted this, your pitiful, meager lives are wholly incomplete.”

So with that, humans, I bid you adieu for the time being.  But lest you forget, as always, if you are a Trump supporter, I suppose you have something notable you can attest to – it took 240+ years for America to progress to the point that it had this past January, and it has taken Trump only six months to set it back in many ways to before it was ever founded in the first place.  Congratu-fucking-lations. – EWE

God Wars: Future Past Review

Greets, humans!  It’s once again been a minute since I was here last – I was under the weather the last few weeks, which after work and spending time with my sons and Malevolent Moogle, I have not had energy to do much more than crawl into bed and play some games or read a book for a bit before falling asleep.  But the GOOD news for all of you is that now I can bring you the good, the bad, and the ugly of what I’ve been playing while laid up.  Aren’t you all just the luckiest things?!

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Is that a grinning samurai bear in the corner?  Fuck yeah it is.

We begin with a title that I’ve been anticipating since I first saw that it was being localized for the Western market.  It’s not secret that I’m a huge fan of SRPGs.  So when NIS America, the purveyors of the amazing Disgaea series, began to show off their newest property, God Wars: Future Past for PS4 and Vita, I was giddy with anticipation.  Well, ok, maybe “giddy” isn’t a word that particularly applies to me…but I was looking forward to it with something approaching positive emotion.  While the title is available on PS4, my purchase and review were done with the Vita version of the game – because I will support the greatest Sony console of all time for as long as it takes until I get a goddamn Vita 2.  Are you listening to me, Shuhei?!

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Mmm…cruncy, munchy stats.

Now, this isn’t going to be a deep dive on what makes up an SRPG.  Suffice to say, the name of the game is tactical positioning and planning, as well as class grinding to mold your individual characters into a well-balanced and complementary fighting force, to be deployed on various isometric, grid-based maps and engage in turn-based movement and combat with enemy forces.  That basic concept underlies the entire genre; but that said, SRPGs through the years have tended to gravitate toward one of two camps.  The first camp is made up of games with tough battles, deep plots full of political scheming and intrigue, and relatively little grinding outside of that needed to unlock new classes or purchase new equipment.  Some excellent entries here include Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions and Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together.  Those of you that have been here since the beginning of my little blog will remember that I reviewed Tactics Ogre once upon a time.  In the other camp, one populated by NIS itself on many occasions, are wacky, anime-inspired SRPGs which are the essence of the term “over-the-top.”  These games eschew dark political plots for comedic, barely necessary stories that are primarily there to get you on the grinding treadmill, which is the true star of the show – getting all of your stats to obscenely high levels in order to challenge god-like uber-bosses after the main scenario has ended.  In games like my recent review of Disgaea 5 Complete on the Nintendo Switch, the vast majority of the game doesn’t start until the “story” is over.

Bridging the gap between these two groups is a PSP original title that I absolutely adored – Jeanne d’Arc.  A fantasy retelling of the story of Joan of Arc, set in an anime-inspired alternate history involving beastmen and magic, it deftly combined the slick anime presentation and somewhat quicker combat of the Disgaea titles with the deeply political and historical plotline that would have been at home in a Final Fantasy Tactics title.  So, where would God Wars land – serious, wacky, or somewhere in the middle?

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It’s Japanese history, if every anime you ever watched were historical fact.

I’m pleased to say that much like Jeanne d’Arc, God Wars occupies a happy middle ground in the SRPG genre.  Imagine a feudal Japan in which every mythological god, goddess, yokai, spirit and the like were all present and accounted for, accepted as part of the fabric of the world.  In this fantastical history, Princess Kaguya is freed from imprisonment and sets out in search of her mother, who disappeared after being forced to sacrifice Kaguya’s sister to appease the angry gods of Mt. Fuji a decade before.  Along the way, she will meet and befriend a host of humans, demons, gods and goddesses, as well as master over twenty different character classes, each with its own skill tree and abilities.  Along the way, she will also help the common villagers she encounters by way of taking up requests from shrines – side missions that are repeatable and function as both sidequests as well as the grinding mechanic to replace random encounters on the world map.  This is a welcome change, as once a request is accepted, the party is transported directly to the battlefield.  Combat is standard, grid-based SRPG fare.

The story manages both lighthearted and serious moments, and treads the line of being serious without ever taking itself TOO seriously.  Likewise, battles are challenging, but never to the point of needing hours of grinding simply to proceed to the next plot point.  Each character may equip a main class, a sub-class, and has an inherent unique class, all of which determine the pool of abilities available to that character in battle.  The system is flexible enough to allow for a wide variety of builds, without suffering from the crippling feeling of having TOO MUCH freedom and being paralyzed by that freedom.

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That is a whole lot of brown…

The artwork in this game is what jumps out immediately and grabs hold of someone, and interestingly this beautiful aesthetic also serves to highlight one of the games biggest weaknesses.  While cutscenes, character models, and portraits are absolutely gorgeous to behold, they stand in stark contrast to the bare minimum effort that seemed to go into designing the levels and maps on which you will spend most of your time in combat.  A dull, brown rock quarry looks like the dull, brown mine, and you’ll quickly stop paying any attention whatsoever to the backdrop for your battles because it’s just so boring to look at.  The other primary flaw in God Wars is not a visual, but technical.  Despite having the entire game downloaded and installed on my Vita’s memory card, I still experienced far too many loading screens that went on for far too long.  Now, I’m no stranger to SRPGs and portable consoles – and had the load times been limited to transitions between the map and combat, I likely would have said nothing.  But a cardinal sin in gaming for me is when I press the menu button and am forced to endure a load screen just to arrive at the main menu.  This is compounded by a fucking load time when going into submenus for inventory or class management.  I understand this is a portable title with a lot of assets but this just seems like it could have been avoided with a little more work on the part of the developer.  Thankfully, the game is good enough that these irritants are minor and don’t detract from wanting to proceed through it.

God Wars Gameplay 3
When you see ??? instead of numbers for health and magic, shit has just gotten real serious.

All in all, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with God Wars: Future Past.  It has combined all the things I’ve enjoyed in other SRPGs into one slick, beautifully presented package – and despite a few technical hiccups and some bland backgrounds, is just an absolute blast to play.  It has kept me up more than a few nights saying “just one more battle” – and really, as gamers, isn’t that the ultimate praise we can give something?

EWE SAYS:

EWE Says God Wars

So that’s the verdict on God Wars!  Looking down the road, in addition to bringing you some more reviews as I get time (and more recipes if I ever find the energy to cook again), I’m also toying with the idea of doing a redesign of the look and layout of the entire blog.  As I’ve said before, I never thought anyone would ever find or enjoy my little contribution to the interwebs, but as some folks have and you all seem fucking crazy enough to keep coming back (boy do I wish you’d have a few words with this girl I know…), I want to keep things looking good!  For my fellow bloggers and writers out there, if there are any suggestions or favorite layouts that you would recommend, I’d greatly appreciate if you would leave them in the comments or find me on Facebook or Twitter.  Thanks in advance, and I’ll see you all again soon!  Unless that motherfucking maniacal mental midget masquerading as the US president manages to get us all killed by starting WWIII via Twitter somehow. – EWE

EWE’s Take On E3 2017 – Part 1

Hello again, humans!  Good to see you all – except the ones I hate, in which case, less so.  But even the worst among you can’t bring me down now – no, because it’s that magical time of year, that Christmas-in-June for gamers called E3 season!  That’s right, this past week was the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo in sunny Los Angeles, CA.  Per usual, there was a veritable smorgasbord of gaming news, announcements, and conferences – and now you can find all my wicked thoughts on the E3 events right here!  Aren’t you lucky?!  In Part 1, I’ll focus on the conferences from the non-hardware-producing developers and publishers.  Part 2 will feature the Big 3.

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So the news kicked off with the EA press conference.  Now, I’m not going to go blow-by-blow here – if you want that kind of in-depth coverage, well, you can easily watch all the press conferences at places like IGN or GameSpot.  I’m just going to go over my impressions.  And when it comes to impressions, well…EA just didn’t really make one for me.  I mean, you got your requisite sports franchises – Madden, NBA Live, FIFA – and if the yearly iterations on those games is your thing, you already know when they are coming out and have already planned on getting them.  Battlefield 1 is also slated to get new DLC, but as I don’t play Battlefield 1, this didn’t do much for me either.

Battlefront II

That’s not to say that there wasn’t anything in the EA event that caught my attention. Having played Star Wars: Battlefront and finding it enjoyable but sorely missing the lack of a single player campaign, I was quite happy to find out earlier this year that Battlefront II would now include a full story mode.  Well, not only will I get to enjoy that when it releases this fall, but EA revealed during their conference that there would be no season pass for Battlefront II – all of its DLC will be free of charge for all players.  While the game will feature microtransactions, EA has insisted that these will be cosmetic and quality of life in nature only – they will confer no advantage over other players.  Time will tell if this claim holds true, but for now, the concept of not having to shell out money beyond the initial purchase price in order to experience the full game is quite nice!

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The other major announcement at the EA conference from my perspective was the unveiling of the new IP from Mass Effect and Dragon Age developer BioWare – Anthem.  This was the first look at this game, and I am thus far intrigued.  If I could sum up what I’ve seen of it in one phrase it would be “third person Destiny.”  This actually excites me quite a bit – as the biggest issue I had with Destiny was it’s first person perspective.  With BioWare’s impressive pedigree behind it, I am anxiously looking forward to what this title has in store.

Another publisher hosting their own conference at E3 was Ubisoft – and boy oh boy, did they hit it out of the park with their conference.  There was a lot of news, but since I’m kind enough to parse through all this shit and bring only the best of the best, here is what you need to know!

Mario & Rabbids

Ok, this is going to sound insane, or like some kind of joke, but it’s some kind of peanut butter and chocolate dream – Mario & Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is a crossover between the Big N’s plumber-in-chief and the batshit crazy Rabbids of Ubisoft in an XCOM style turn-based tactics game for the Nintendo Switch.  Let that sink the fuck in.  Then once it does – go preorder that shit.  Right now.

AC Origins

Another game I’m quite intrigued by is Assassin’s Creed: Origins.  The AC series has been on a bit of a hiatus from its previous annual release schedule, and it looks to be returning in a strong way.  Of particular note here is that while the previous entries have been action experiences with some light character building systems, Origins has much more firmly embraced role-playing elements and it shows in its much more deliberate, tactical approach to leveling your character and equipment as well as planning battles.  Keep an eye out as this title comes along.

Skull & Bones

Anyone that knows me knows that I would chuck this entire world to go pirating in a second if it were feasible and not likely to lead to death by scurvy.  So it’s no surprise that the persistent world pirate simulator Skull & Bones is firmly on my radar.  Between this and Sea of Thieves, I’ll be even more soaked in rum than I normally am – and that’s saying something.

South Park

I feel obligated to include this because of how much I adored the Stick of Truth.  South Park: The Fractured But Whole was given (yet another) official release date of October 17.  It isn’t that I don’t think this game looks hilarious and fantastic…but since it’s been supposed to come out several times already, I’m firmly in “I’ll believe it when I see it” mode on this one.

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Oh yeah…and a little game called Beyond Good and Evil 2 was given a trailer.  Now, this will effect you in one of two ways.  Either you are asking “So?  I don’t remember a Beyond Good and Evil 1.”  If that’s the case, stop right now and go buy and download the Beyond Good and Evil HD remake from the PS or Xbox store.  Go.  Now.  If you’re in the second group, with me, you’re still wiping tears of joy away after reading the first sentence in this paragraph.

Wrapping up Part 1 of my take on E3 is the conference by Bethesda Studios.  Would this finally be where we get some inkling of Elder Scrolls VI?!  Short answer: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

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Hope you’re ready to spend more of your time (and money…again) on the fifth entry in the venerable Elder Scrolls franchise, because as far as Bethesda is concerned it’s all Skyrim, all the time.  As we already knew, the complete edition of Skyrim is on its way to Switch this fall – and now we know that it will feature Amiibo support.  As you can see above, this means that you can roleplay a disturbingly realistic version of Link in your own Hylian tunic, shield, and wielding the Master Sword…if that’s your thing.  From my perspective, they could have added absolutely nothing to Skyrim and just brought it to the Switch as-is and I’d have gladly paid for it…again…to be able to play it on the go.  Hiding in the corner at a family reunion to play Skyrim?  Uh, yes please.

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A bit of a surprise, but a pleasant one for horror fans, underrated survival horror game The Evil Within is set to received a sequel.  It definitely looks creepy as all fuck, and it’s set for release on Friday the 13th (of October), so all the signs point to a pants-wetting experience!

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More up my alley, after several teases recently, Bethesda officially unveiled Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus.  Wolfenstein was one of my favorite FPS games of the past few years, and the sequel sees longtime series lead BJ Blazkowicz battling in the United States after it has been overrun by Nazi forces.  As we all know, killing Nazi’s is the only socially acceptable form of murder, so get those trigger fingers ready to go!

Dishonored 2 DLC

Last but not least, Dishonored 2 is seeing a new DLC pack released this fall.  This new story focuses on Meagan Foster, the popular NPC from the main game.  She seems set to try and take down The Outsider, who is the one that granted powers to the previous protagonists in the series.

And that brings us to the end of Part 1!  Next up – the conferences of the Big 3: Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony!  Look forward to it, mortals! – EWE

Disgaea 5 Complete Review and EWE’s New Companion

Greets, people, non-people, literate farm animals – anyone reading this, really.  It’s good to see you all again, and for a change, I have some good news!  First and foremost, the Ominous Dark Tower has a new resident!  After engaging in a dark and arcane summoning ritual – or, you know, contacting my friend and fellow attorney Heidi – I have successfully gained a new familiar.  Now all shall kneel before the might of EWE and Zero!

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He plots your doom, mortals.
And as if that wasn’t enough, Z and I have recently gained access to a Nintendo Wii U – thus we can soon enjoy and bring you our thoughts on some of the exclusive titles for that innovative, but ill-fated system.  But before we get to the Wii U, let’s discuss the latest title for its successor that has been sucking up all of my free time.  If you like any combination of SRPGs, wacky anime-style slapstick, and penguins, then boy does NIS America have a treat for you!

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So, let’s get this out of the way – if you’ve previously played a game in the Disgaea series and did not care for it, this game isn’t going to change your mind.  NIS has recognized their target audience and steered firmly toward it, and while there are some basic quality of life improvements to this compilation of the previous PS4 release of Disgaea 5 coupled with all of its previously released DLC, those who have been put off in the past by this series’ quirks will only find more of the same here.  In fact, if anything, there are even MORE stats to build, subsystems to master, and over-the-top zany jokes to roll your eyes at than ever before.

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You want stats?  You got stats!
Like previous games in the series, the main gameplay here consists of turn-based, tactical RPG battles on grid maps between up to ten of your units and armies of enemy units.  Your army will not lack for diversity – as there are an absolute TON of different humanoid and monster classes to be unlocked, in addition to the plot-based characters and their own unique classes.   Each class has its own unique skills as well as the ability to learn weapon based skills for any weapon that they gain sufficient proficiency in.  Between battles, you can wander through your hub world, conversing with party members, buying weapons and items, powering up skills, and as is tradition for the series, journeying into each and every one of your items in order to level them up.  As before, every character, weapon, and item in the game can be raised to Level 9999, and while this is not in any way necessary to complete the main plot, you will be doing an incredible amount of grinding in order to complete the challenging post-game content.  And honestly, if you came into Disgaea 5 without a desire to grind…what are you doing here?

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If penguins with bazookas aren’t solving all your problems, you aren’t using enough of them.
Likewise, the trademark wacky demon humor of the series has been ratcheted up to 11 here – and while I still appreciate it for what it is, I can easily see how it is beginning to wear thin for many.  You can only tell the same joke, or do the same slapstick, so many times before the audience becomes numb to it, no matter how funny it originally was.  But while some SRPGs are heavily focused on plot (hello, Final Fantasy Tactics), the plot in Disgaea has always been there as an excuse to facilitate the leveling treadmill.  The real draw of this series has always been for that OCD impulse in many gamers to create a party of living gods that can inflict damage in the billions of points of HP, and on that front, Disgaea 5 on the Switch allows you to scratch that itch literally anywhere you go.

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How saving someone’s life leads to indentured servitude.
If you are a fan of the series, then this game is the ultimate way to experience everything great about Disgaea.  The DLC chapters give you access to a plethora of bonus characters for your party drawn from across the other games in the franchise, as well as from other NIS SRPGs.  And the Switch’s blessed portability is the absolute best way to play a Disgaea title.  I have owned and played every entry in the series on every platform it released on, and I have always enjoyed the PSP and Vita ports of the prior Disgaea titles – a game so dependent on jumping in, grinding a few maps, and jumping back out before it gets tiresome is absolutely MADE for a portable platform.  I honestly can’t say enough about how at home this game is on the Switch, and the beautiful screen is perfect for the hi-res sprites and beautiful 2D cutscenes.  The voice acting is a mixed bag – Killia has a cool, calm voice perfectly suited to an aloof anti-hero, Red Magnus is a hilariously obnoxious knock-off of the Rock…but word of warning: Seraphina’s voice, laugh, really any sound she makes is tooth-grindingly aggravating.

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Goddammit, don’t you people know how shonen anime works?!  It’s the 5th game in the series!
Bottom line is this – if you weren’t a Disgaea fan already, this game isn’t going to change your mind.  But if you’ve liked the series at all in the past, even just a little, then this is probably the best game it’s produced so far, and this is the ideal, definitive version of it to play.

EWE Says:

EWE Says Dood

That’s it for now, doods and doodettes!  See you again soon – and that’s not a promise, it’s a threat! – EWE

Switch Quick Hits, FF XIV Update, and a Sweet Treat

Hello again, kiddos!  It may seem to have been a while since I was last with you, but worry not – I’ve been busy putting together all sorts of fun for you since I spoke with you last.  And a big part of that has been to sample several of the titles on my Nintendo Switch.  So what do I think of the initial batch of take-anywhere titles?

Binding 1

For those unfamiliar with The Binding of Isaac, you control the titular Isaac – a terrified, naked toddler who is trapped in a nightmarish hellscape after his mother tried to murder him, trying to escape and combating the horrors there by weaponizing his tears.  So, yeah…it’s fucked up.  Not bad, mind you – in fact, it’s one of the best twin-stick shoot-em-ups that I’ve played in a long time – but clearly the minds that concocted this scenario are in serious need of some therapy.

Binding 2

There are a couple of things that stand out here.  First of all, this came is brutally difficult.  In true bullet-hell fashion, shit is flying everywhere all the time, and you will die, a lot.  And permadeath is in full effect – you die, and that cool gear you’d been racking up is gone.  But this is somewhat offset by the second thing that stands out – the randomly generated maps and powerups lead to near-endless replayability, and keep you coming back over and over.  For anyone that has played this on PS4 or PC, you already know this – but here is where the Switch gimmick shines through, letting you take poor, abused Isaac with you wherever you go.  So long as high difficulty doesn’t bother you, a definite recommendation.

Shovel 1

Next up, we have a modern-day love letter to classic games.  Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove collects the original Shovel Knight game, and adds the two expansions, Plague of Shadows and Specter of Torment, all in one package.  For fans of classic 8-bit and 16-bit action/adventure games, picking this up should be a no-brainer.  And since I’m incredibly old and a fan of those types of games, there was no question that I would want to be able to take the heroic Shovel Knight and his quest against the Enchantress and the Order of No Quarter on the go with me.

Shovel 2

Fantastic platforming and action are the order of the day, beginning with the original Shovel of Hope base game, and just being further refined and perfected in the two subsequent expansions.  A well written and witty story are the icing on the cake.  In particular, the newest expansion, Specter of Torment, is just a joy to play, incorporating all of the feedback received and improvements that indie developer Yacht Club made since the release of the original game.  If you like pure gaming goodness, get and play this game.

Setsuna 1

Another love letter to the past, I Am Setsuna was developed by Tokyo RPG Factory, a studio set up by Square Enix with a simple mandate – make games in the vein of the beloved 16-bit RPGs of yore.  For their first effort, they chose a very good game to look to – the seminal SNES classic, Chrono Trigger.  I Am Setsuna, from a gameplay perspective, is a RPG that you’ve played before.  Turn-based active-time battles, combination Tech attacks, spells and abilities learned from equipping magici- er, sorry, spritnite…but again, all distilled and refined from years of experience into their purest form.

Setsuna 2

What sets I Am Setsuna apart from the predecessors that it emulates is a heartfelt, emotional story and a beautiful, haunting piano soundtrack, both of which you will remember long after you’ve completed the game.  It isn’t the longest RPG you’ll ever play, but this feels more like a trimming of fat and padding that has become all too common in many modern games, rather than anything missing from Setsuna.  Square Enix has gone on record that it intends to strongly support the Switch, and this is a tremendous first effort toward that goal.  Highly recommended.

Zelda 1

Ah, here it is – the one everyone wants to hear about and talk about.  And for good reason – Breath of the Wild is without doubt a tremendous game.  Beautiful, artistic, breathtaking – all of those adjectives definitely apply.  The visuals and score are absolutely stellar.  Story is a timeless (pun completely intended) Legend of Zelda tale, and at the same time turns that classic formula in some surprising new directions.  It is most definitely the star of the Nintendo Switch launch lineup.  BUT…is it for everyone?

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Here is the thing – Nintendo’s latest magnum opus is a game that requires something that has become a lost art among many modern gamers – PATIENCE.  It is almost intentionally trying to frustrate you.  You can only carry a handful of weapons, and they are going to break after only a few solid hits against your enemies – probably in the middle of a fight.  There is a huge open world to explore – but many times it will feel too big, too empty, as you struggle to determine how to get to your next quest objective.  You can climb any surface – but if you run out of stamina, which seems to disappear as if Hyrule were located in the Bermuda Triangle, you’re going to take a long, fatal fall.  And even if you get to the top of that mountain, I hope you’ve brought some cold weather gear or food, otherwise, you’re going to freeze to death.  These are all elements of many of the survival games that have come into prominence among hardcore gamers in recent times, but those same elements are likely to completely frustrate gamers who just want to play a Zelda game, rescue the princess, destroy Ganon, and all that.  Do I recommend it?  Yes I do.  Do I enjoy it?  Yes, I do…when I am in the right mood.  It isn’t a game you can just pick up and play for a few minutes – you have to have a good chunk of time to devote to it in order to feel like you’ve accomplished anything.  So be warned – while a great game, this isn’t a Zelda game like any Zelda game you’ve ever experienced before.

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So, you may ask, “EWE, that’s all great, but you still seem to be gone a lot lately?  Has your personal life improved?”  Well, there are a few answers to that – the first being WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YO- Ahem, sorry, I mean, I suppose it depends on what you mean by “improve.”  If you mean, have I finally turned the head and won the heart of my maiden fair…no.  No I have not.  So thanks for reminding me of that.  Assholes.  BUT, if you meant spending time with cool people and having fun – well yes, because I’ve fallen headlong back into Eorzea with my beloved summoner, appropriately named Evil Wizard.

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Currently, I’ve been trying to power through story content in an effort to see most, if not all of it before the new expansion, Stormblood, drops this June.  I’ve managed to get to level 47 on my main class (as I said, summoner) while only minimally indulging in my normal penchant for leveling absolutely EVERYTHING there is to level equally (also known as OCD to normal people).  For the first time in a long time in an MMO, I am very pleased with the community and player base.  Long ago, I was a member of an absolutely fantastic World of Warcraft guild and community, with people that I loved playing with and interacting with even outside of the game.  Alas, due to complicated personal circumstances, it became best for them that I step away.  I quickly found that I disliked most of the player base outside of my friends, and left the game.  Since then, I’d never quite been enchanted with a player base in an MMO – but FF XIV just seems to have a predominantly kind and encouraging community.  There will always be exceptions to the rule – but by and large I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game.  More updates to come – I’m currently trying to get to level 49 so I can continue to wage my personal war against the Garlean Empire!

oatmeal raising cookies

Last, but not least – you didn’t think I’d let you leave hungry, did you?  Silly humans.  Have some chewy oatmeal raisin cookies!

Ingredients:

  1. 1 1/2 cups old-fashined rolled oats
  2. 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  3. 1/2 cup raisins (or craisins)
  4. 1/2 tsp baking soda
  5. 1/2 tsp salt
  6. 6 tbsp butter, room temp.
  7. 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  8. 1/4 cup sugar
  9. 1 large egg
  10. 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the oats, flour, raisins, baking soda, and salt.  Mix together and set aside.  In a separate bowl, combine butter, sugar, and brown sugar and mix until fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla and mix until thoroughly combined.  Slowly add in the oats mixture, mixing until combined.  Use a tablespoon to drop the dough onto two baking sheets, placing each cookie about 2 inches apart.  Place in oven and bake approximately 12 – 16 minutes, until cookies are golden brown but still soft.  Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.  Pour a glass of milk – and if you’re me, add some Kahlua – then enjoy your dessert!

And with that, you’ve reached the end of this bit of my ramblings, mortals!  Thanks for sticking around, and see you all again soon! – EWE

The Nintendo Problem

Greets once again, boys and girls.  Now, if you’ve spent any time around here at all, you know that I’ve been a huge fan of games for longer than most of you have probably been alive – and if you count starting ACTUAL wars as “war games” then for CENTURIES longer than you’ve been alive.  And in all that time, I can honestly say one thing – I’ve never, ever, EVER fallen prey to the fanboy console wars.  I’ve played every single home console available since the Atari 2600, and most of them at some point as well.  Each one has had their strong suits and weak points, and I’ve enjoyed them all to one degree or another.  So this is not an attack on Nintendo as a console maker or game developer – I dearly love Nintendo and all of the many memories it has given me.

Nor is this an attack in on the Nintendo Switch hardware itself, or it’s killer app, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.  I’ve spent a considerable amount of time playing it courtesy of a friend, and I can say that the Switch itself more than lives up to its billing as a true merging of home console power with portable gaming convenience, and BotW is not just one of the finest Zelda games, or open world games, I’ve ever played, but simply one of the most beautiful and masterfully crafted video games of all time.

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No, my gripe today is with Nintendo as a company, as a business entity.  This is not sour grapes because I am playing BotW on my friend’s Switch rather than on one of my own – rather, it’s the reason behind why that is.  Nintendo has made a disturbing habit over the several console generations of intentional, manufactured hardware shortages – as a business and marketing strategy – and I feel that the time has finally arrived for them to overcome their stubborn pride and admit it for the costly long-term mistake that it is.

Let’s face it – ever since the days of the Gamecube, Nintendo has made no secret of the fact that they have not even tried to stay on the bleeding edge of console hardware capability.  Instead, they have focused on two other things – innovation and marketing.  As with all things in life, they’ve experienced some tremendous successes as well as some setbacks.  There can be no argument that the Wii was a tremendously successful piece of console hardware, nor that the Wii U that followed failed to recapture that success.  But neither device was in any way a high-powered gaming console when compared to its contemporaries.  And yet, the launch of both consoles – and in the case of the Wii U, throughout its life cycle – were marked by a virtual absence from store shelves, with units arriving in minuscule trickles, snapped up within moments, and with never any real idea of when the next may arrive.

These shortages could be nothing short of intentional.  The simple fact is that the components required to manufacture those consoles was not difficult to fabricate nor to acquire.  There was literally no viable reason why Nintendo couldn’t produce significantly more product than they did – which means that they simply chose not to.  Now, there are reasons why a company may do this.  If they are unsure as to what the market demand for their product will be, it is often wise to reduce the quantity of the initial product run while running an aggressive marketing campaign.  This has the effect to stoke market appetite, and then to drive it even further by making the product seem artificially more desirable by virtue of scarcity.  With a paradigm-shifting console like the Wii, which was the true advent of mass market motion-controlled gaming, this approach made some sense, as even with focus testing and aggressive marketing, Nintendo couldn’t be positive that this radically different experience would be universally received well.

Such is not the case with the Switch.  The Switch is less a revolution, an more of an evolution.  It represents the culmination of what gamers have dreamed of for years – a true hybrid of home and portable gaming.  But while this is a fantastic achievement, it was done utilizing fairly pedestrian technical specs.  The Switch is essentially a tablet with a charging dock – none of which is even remotely new technology.  And Nintendo’s Switch marketing blitz did an absolutely phenomenal job of priming the market for the console’s debut – so why the market shortages?  This wasn’t a gimmicky flash-in-the-pan longshot, it was a traditional home console/traditional portable hybrid, with an absolutely killer launch game in BotW.  Nintendo knew this.  And they knew that the aftermarket sales – the Switch’s thrown onto ebay for 2x-3x the retail value – didn’t benefit them in any way.  So in the end, Nintendo’s entrenched policy of intentional hardware shortages, and their stubborn corporate pride in refusing to admit the mistake, as shown with the NES Classic, is resulting not in additional hype, but in a very real and dangerous chance of loss of consumer goodwill.  Let’s face it – this was not a holiday counsel launch.  There are not going to be customers lined up day after day, parents trolling auction sites willing to pay hundreds of dollars above retail so that they can see their kids smiling on Christmas morning.  This was a March launch, and with only one physical game on store shelves that was a must-play.  Sure there are some other fantastic launch games – I Am Setsuna and Shovel Knight come to mind – but those are both digital releases and both available on other platforms.  And BotW, for that matter, is as well – any Wii U owner could play it without finding a Switch.  So rather than setting the stage for a bright Nintendo future, instead this could backfire – customers could quickly grow tired of searching stores and websites for one of the few Switch’s that Nintendo deigns to send to market, and decide that they simply don’t need it.  And Nintendo simply cannot afford that.  After the flop of the Wii U, they need every single person who is inclined to buy a Switch to be ABLE TO BUY A SWITCH.  If that means deviating from previous strategy, they need to do so.

After all, Nintendo was once a playing card and toy company, and they deviated wildly from their traditional strategy and took a major chance on a completely untamed market.  You may know that chance as the NES. – EWE

Quick Game Hits & An Apology

Good evening, mortals.  First things first…sigh…I’ve given my word to Editor that I shall begin tonight with a sincere apology for missing another entry of #FrozenFoodFridays.  I believe that I have informed you of the past couple of weeks being difficult for me – and they have been particularly bad these last couple of days.  But that is no excuse, considering this blog has always been my outlet for when things are difficult for me, and #FrozenFoodFridays has been a mainstay segment of it.  (Editor’s Note: We haven’t been hurt this badly since our fiance walked away.)  Silence, fool!  I will NOT allow this to devolve into some kind of therapy session.  (Editor’s Note: Oh, if anyone needed therapy…)  Ha.  Ha.  Ha.

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Now then…with that out of the way, let’s see what EWE has been up to in his gaming time, shall we?  And with a backlog to rival that of the lovely and talented LightningEllen there is plenty for me to bounce around between.

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Let’s start with one of my most anticipated, and least (currently) played, games, the recently released Tales of Berseria.  Now, I’m going to be honest here – and I feel like I may have said this before, so bear with me if I have – but I am a relative newcomer to the Tales series, with Tales of Vesperia being my first experience with it.  Vesperia went on to become one of my absolute favorite RPGs of the Xbox 360 generation.  Since then I have played Tales of Xillia and Tales of Xillia 2, as well as Tales of Zestiria, and while I thoroughly enjoyed each of those games, Vesperia remained my favorite, primarily due to it’s incredibly well-written and diverse cast of characters.  So how has Berseria stacked up?

Unfortunately, much like the last time that I mentioned this RPG, I am not far enough into the game to be able to really say, due to the ongoing PC audio bug that creates a horrific screeching/droning noise during almost every single battle in the game.  There have been a couple of patches released, and I have not tried the game since the most recent patch dropped, so hopefully this issue has now been resolved.  But until it is, I just cannot bring myself to play much of this game.  Based on my limited experience so far, I can say that Berseria’s protagonist, Velvet, reminds me a bit of Yuri from Vesperia, in all the right ways.  The tone of this game is much darker than the Tales games after Vesperia, which I enjoy thus far – Velvet’s quest for revenge has just begun for me, but holy FUCK does she have a solid motivation for wanting it.  I mean, not that you really NEED a motivation for wanting revenge…(Editor’s Note: Don’t start.  You’re just hurting.)  Oh, shut up and let me be bitter, would you?

As a Tales game, one would expect combat to be the highlight of the experience, and sans the audio bug, one would be correct in that assessment.  The action-packed, combo-driven Tales combat is honestly at it’s peak among the games in the series that I have played, being fluid and forgiving enough to allow button-mashing to be effective, but with nuance and depth that mastering its intricacies is highly addicting.  I don’t want to get into much more detail on the rest of the game due to my limited time with it thus far, but if you are a fan of the combat in the later Tales games listed above, and if Vesperia was a great game to you, then you’ll want to try this out.

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Next up, I decided to spend some time with a game I picked up during a recent Steam sale for almost nothing.  Can’t beat an old Diablo-style lootfest, right?

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So, everyone loves Diablo clones, right?  I mean, sometimes you just want to kill everything in sight and collect oodles of treasure that explode from their corpses.  But most of those games share a similar, fantasy setting – so one of the most refreshing things about Titan Quest, both the original game and the recently updated Anniversary Edition, is it’s setting of Egyptian-dominated myths and legends.  The Anniversary Edition upgrades the graphics of this classic to make the game more palatable to modern gamers.  But even without the graphical upgrade, this game is just fun.

You really don’t need me to analyze much in the way of the gameplay systems in this loot fest – click on shit until it explodes into loot, do this until you level up, assign points to skills, traits, and abilities that help you kill shit more quickly and efficiently.  Rinse and repeat until you are a physical god laying waste to everything in your path.  The audio is well done, but nothing particularly memorable has jumped out at me in my play sessions thus far.  This may be in part because when I’m playing a game like this, I tend to put on other music or something so I don’t really notice the in-game audio.  I haven’t experienced any technical issues during my gameplay thus far, but I will note that the NPC text is somewhat small and difficult to follow in the tiny chat bubbles that appear over their heads.  But this is a small complaint, outweighed by many more fantastic Diablo-esque tones that scratch every itch that a compulsive loot-gathering dungeon crawl should.  Even at full price, it’s a great cost-benefit ratio, and if you find it on sale, snap it up.

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And finally, I’ve been feeling the urge to jump back into an MMO again lately.  Not because I have the time or money or patience to do so, but because I have no life whatsoever and probably stand no chance at love or friendship outside of either the Internet or the MMO gaming community.  So, I dusted off and updated my Elder Scrolls Online account – since there is no monthly fee, I could remind myself of why I don’t play many MMOs without killing my budget deader than it already is.

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Now, in order to make things a bit more interesting (Editor’s Note: or just because he’s not all that bright), I have taken a sleep aid just before I fire up the ESO client each time.  This resulted an an…odd looking Dunmer Nightblade named Evil Wizard Esq (at least I retained consciousness long enough to name him) who has engaged in a few beginner’s adventures that I have little to no memory of at all.  At one point, I woke in the middle of the night to find I had apparently murdered a villager while trying to talk to her and now the guards were…upset.  I frankly didn’t see the problem, but sadly they did not agree with my point of view.  In the days and weeks to come, I will try to keep you updated on Dunmer EWE’s adventures throughout Tamriel.

And that’s that for tonight, kiddos.  Thanks for sticking around, and again, I am sorry for the missing #FrozenFoodFridays entries.  Since I have not contributed to your culinary requests recently, I will instead leave you with some advice from Editor.

Do not take for granted the people in your life that love you.  Maybe you think they aren’t good enough for you, or aren’t what you pictured in your imagination, or that you can “do better.”  But in reality all you’re doing is demonstrating a complete lack of caring for someone that likely cares about you quite a lot.  And while I doubt that you are out there reading this (you know who you are), on the chance that you are, you may tell yourself whatever you like to help you sleep at night for treating someone who loves you like a piece of refuse.  You may say that I am not good enough to be worth keeping around, even when you just recently expressed how glad you were to have me in your life.  But no matter how hard you try, where you look, or what you tell yourself, you will never find anyone who as honestly and truly loves you as I.  For now, you will be glad to be rid of me, to be able to see me around but never have to speak with me outside of the briefest of moments.  But someday, sooner or later, you will miss being able to pick up the phone and know I’ll be there for you; you’ll miss the warmth of being next to me and communicating so many thoughts and feelings without exchanging any more than a glance or two; you’ll miss me doing silly little things for no reason other than to show you that I wake up every day and choose you as the person I want to be with.  I don’t know when that will be – but I’m not going to just let myself be continually hurt until it comes.

Until next time, minions…be kind to one another.  Life is too short to do otherwise. – EWE