Me — March ’18 Update

I’ve been pretty swamped with work lately. The last few weeks I’ve kept a notepad near my desk with a to-do list, because I’ve been having trouble keeping track of everything that needs doing. Because of that, the list always seems to be disappointingly long. I’ve been managing, though, and while I’ve run the risk of burning out and crashing a few times, I’ve managed to teeter on the edge quite well so far.

And as always, here’s the Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, and other things.

Like last month, no blog changes are planned. I feel as though I’ve found a schedule that works really well with my school semester and work load. I’ve been posting “Me” posts pretty much every Wednesday even though they’re freebies, but that’s mostly because not a whole lot of “different” things have happened lately. I haven’t been playing D&D the last two months, for instance. I also don’t know what I’m going to do about Sunday posts. I’m not ready to dive back into Spear Gate. In fact, I’m writing this before Sunday’s post. I don’t have a clue what I’m going to do (or what I will have done, as you would see it). I’ll figure something out, obviously. I don’t want to just not publish on Sundays. Wait, I’ve got an idea. More on that later… Well, I mean yesterday, for you.

Which leads me to my writing plans. They’re pretty short and simple. I plan on outlining Part One of Spear Gate soon, and then going back to work on it. Lots of stuff will be different. I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to rewrite it from scratch for the most part. Lisa Stenton is doing pretty well. The second story was hard to write, and I’m hoping March’s won’t be so difficult. They also obviously need work, and if I’m going to publish twelve as a short story collection, they’ll need some serious edits. But as of now I’m still enjoying it and I think I’m certainly up to the task.

Video games. Not a whole lot to say, actually. I’m still mostly playing Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone. I’m eagerly awaiting the next expansion for the latter, because I’ve got a bunch of in-game money saved up for card packs. I’ve also been playing Dungeon of the Endless, but less so the last few days. It takes a big time commitment to play properly.

In conjunction with whenever I’m playing games, I’ve also had the time to (finally) relax and listen to podcasts, too. I’ve caught up on Writing Excuses, and I’ve also been listening to Julian Smith’s new podcast: Spellbound. Each episode is basically an in-depth discussion about a different topic such as space, psychology, technology, etc. The content isn’t out of the park amazing, but since I could start with Episode One as it aired, I’ve been keeping up. It’s nice to not have to play catch-up, like I’m still doing with Voice Acting Mastery. I’m still about two dozen hours away from being up-to-date with that one, as I’m at December of 2015 at the moment. Luckily that one doesn’t post a whole lot of new content. I’m not reading anything physically at the moment. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have the time, but reading has always felt like a chore, and with how busy I am, I just need to relax with my free time.

School has been fine. Actually, most of my classes allow me to express myself alongside peers in different ways, so that’s interesting. I have a writing class, an acting class, and a costume design class. None of them are as high maintenance as my classes were last semester, so I’m not stressing out over it. Being at school literally all day two days a week is exhausting, but it could be worse, of course.

Just as a parting thing, I just want to mention how much can change for me in the next few months. If everything goes exactly how I want it to, I’ll be travelling no less than three times this year, and that alone has me excited. I want to start doing more and seeing more, and just generally getting more out of life. I still like video games, but sitting at home and playing them all day makes me uneasy now, even if I have a day off. I have no news to report for now, but hopefully the May and June 2018 updates will be fun.

 

Review — Dungeon of the Endless

Dungeon of the Endless is weird. I played it for the first time yesterday (well, two days ago as of this publishing), and the only reason I did play it was because a friend bought it for me and wanted to play it with me. I actually had zero interest in it. We booted up the game, it’s pretty small, and then while I was looking at stuff he just started talking/explaining.

I’ll be honest. I wasn’t really listening. I was in a weird mood where I was sort of tired so the enjoyment I was getting was pretty much solely just spending time with a friend (and brother). The game isn’t really fast paced, so it worked. I could just follow orders as he told me to walk in that room, put on this item, etc. Somewhat through osmosis I slowly started picking up the controls and the objective, and I have to say…

This game is amazing. It just does so much right for an indie game. Let me explain how it works. Imagine you’re in a giant tower infested with monsters that want to murder you. The only way to get up is to power the elevator, but the elevator is in a different part of the building on every single floor, so you have to carry the power source to it on every single floor. Problem is, there’s monsters everywhere. Trying to kill you, naturally. So you have to build defenses and power generators while you explore the floor, looking for the next elevator and (hopefully) not running into too many monsters.

Sound boring? Well, obviously it’s a bit more complicated than that. Each room you enter is randomly generated. It could have food you need. It could have an adventurer you can recruit (randomly finding them is the only way to unlock them). It could maybe be encapsulated by a toxic cloud. The fun never stops! You could have an amazing layout on one floor, have it be a cake walk and saunter into the next floor, only to find that you have no way of powering any of the rooms and there’s just too many monsters. The power of random.

It’s just a blast for a variety of reasons. It’s multiplayer friendly (up to 4 player), and is pretty much the same experience regardless of how many people play. If you’re playing single player you control four guys, and if you have three friends playing with you each of you control one guy. The game isn’t fast paced, there’s a lot of strategy involved, so if one of you wants to take a bathroom break or needs to go do something real quick, they can give control of their hero to somebody else and the others can keep playing. (Also, it’s soundtrack is great. The whole aesthetic of the game, especially the music, reminds me of Faster Than Light. Which, I’m just now realizing, I never reviewed! Next week.)

Is it without faults? Of course not. It’s biggest drawback is that in order to win a playthrough, you have to dedicate anywhere from 4-6 hours, because each of the 12 floors can take upwards of half an hour, assuming you don’t die. You can save it and play later, but you’ll probably forget what modules you’ve researched and what your characters were good at. Also, the interface isn’t the best. If you’re in a room with a dozen monsters and two friends, it can be really hard to tell how much health each of your characters have. And switching between characters you control can sometimes be a pain, too. The wording of items is suboptimal, too. You can see an item in a shop that says “Gives ‘Pack of Dogs’ Skill”, but without knowing off the top of your head what that skill does, the only way to find out is to buy it (or use the internet).

I’ve had the game for two days (one and a half, really), and I’ve already put 16 hours into it. It’s just a fantastic game, and if you have the time, it can be both mentally challenging and physically relaxing.

Parting warning. The game has two difficulties: “easy”, and “too easy”. I’ve never won on easy.

Review — Battle Chasers: Nightwar

It’s been a while since I’ve played a traditional turn-based RPG. I mean, my favorite video game ever is Dragon Quest VIII, which was released over 13 years ago, and I honestly haven’t played many games in that genre since. (Dragon Quest XI still has no western release date, but it’s on the agenda.) So here’s a (mostly) spoiler-free review of the game!

So when I got my hands on Battle Chasers, it was like an itch that hadn’t been properly scratched in a long time. The last JRPG I’ve actually put time into is probably the original Suikoden, and it’s been several years. Now I didn’t know much about Battle Chasers going into it, I just knew that the art was cool and some online people I enjoy praised it. When I found out it was a turn based I was delighted.

This game was just a blast from start to finish. The opening cinematic(s) did a great job establishing the personality of each of the characters, and it did some interesting role reversals that were cool to see. As I played it, I found that the game really had everything I wanted: a meaningful progression of power (leveling up is really impactful to the experience), a sense of exploration, rewarding the player for being investigative, a clear sense of what being a completionist would entail (meaning “what can I do to see all there is to see?”), and challenging them with optional puzzles and quests.

This game was also a lot longer than I expected it to be. It took me 45 hours to beat it 100% (not New Game+), and if I had the time I would have no qualms with going through it again. New Game+ is cool because, while it isn’t necessarily “harder”, you can much more easily get Legendary quality gear and feel powerful, even if the monsters you’re fighting are 6 levels above you (when the maximum level is 30).

My favorite thing about this game was that it had time to put in lots of unnecessary things. All of the dungeons are randomly generated, so the puzzles you see the first time will be different when you revisit it. (This is a double-edged sword I’ll get to in a moment.) It has lots of side quest type things that feel rewarding. There’s also lots of cool lore books that are interesting reads, and the narration in general can be pretty sassy.
Ex: The game gives you an option to throw money down a well. When you throw 1000g in (a good chunk if you’re about a third of the way through the game), the narrative replies with something along the lines of “You have enough gold to feed an entire village for about a month, but you decide it’s best wasted by throwing it into a well.” It’s neat because this game very much adopts the philosophy of “just because your character can do it, doesn’t mean it’s the right choice to make”. A lot of the game actually seems to be modeled as a Dungeons & Dragons type adventure.

 

 

I do have two problems with the game, though. The first is that it can be somewhat unclear with the consequences of something. When you find an artifact, the game makes a big deal telling you that they’re valuable, which implies you should keep them, even though you have the option to sell them for a different type of currency. What it doesn’t tell you is that this is literally the only use for artifacts. They’re meant to be sold. Don’t hold on to them. What’s more, some of the optional bosses can be encountered accidentally if you’re “adventurous” enough, and there’s actually no way to know the power level of what you might be getting into. (There’s a mini boss in one area that’s four levels higher than the monsters inside, and he has a passive of reducing the party’s healing by 50% when you’re fighting him. He’s no joke!)

By far my biggest gripe with the game is how the “random” tiles in dungeons are placed, though. There’s a random encounter in the first dungeon with a skeleton, and you can choose to help him or refuse. If you refuse, he attacks you. If you help him, you can find him (randomly, again) in a later dungeon, and he attacks you there. Here’s the problem. Neither of these events are guaranteed to spawn in either dungeon. And what’s more, you have to do the first dungeon at least twice in order to take both options, because in both instances he’s a unique monster. So in order to fight every monster, you have to do it multiple times. The worst part is it was bugged for me, so I couldn’t go back to the first dungeon to fight him after I helped him in my first runthrough. So I had to do New Game+ in order to complete my monster book. This is terrible game design!

But really, it’s a fantastic game. I expected to beat it within 15 hours, but it had over 3 times that content for me. Overall it’s great, and it can be very challenging if you want it to be. Also, it has fishing. In my experience, every game that has time to add optional fishing stuff to it is going to be a good game.

Life — Upgrade!

So, I’ve finally gotten my new computer, and it’s a pretty interesting experience. All my life has been spent playing the hand-me-downs as far as video games are concerned. Usually, this means getting the old computer when my brother made a new one for himself. That is to say, the systems I had available could usually play all the newest games, but just barely. They would run poorly and the frame rate would be terrible— and this would already be at the lowest graphics settings possible.

So yesterday was the first day of an entirely new experience. When I played Overwatch, for example, there were many heroes I simply could not play. I couldn’t use sniper rifles because it required too much precision on a fast paced game. So I stuck with characters that didn’t really have to aim, and I was usually fine.

This new computer has literally transformed the way I play a game like that. I can do whatever I want, regardless of the circumstances, and now the only thing holding me back is my own skill. It feels great to be able to try new things and test my boundaries.

So, while I’ve only had it for a few days, I’m already super stoked. For me, the concept of opening a YouTube video and having the automatic quality adjuster playing HD without having to buffer is insane. My old computer wasn’t able to play seamless videos on high settings even if you gave it time to load!

One interesting thing to note is the fact that I couldn’t really even perceive graphics well enough to be jealous of other people. I would see one of my brother’s playing on his computer with high graphics and I wouldn’t notice much of a difference between what his game looked like and what my game looked like. But now that I’m doing it, I can feel how drastic the change is. It’s not even the visual aspect that I even care about. In a game like Heroes of the Storm, there were particle effects I had never experienced because of the graphics barrier. Little things like adding a targeting reticle on the ground as opposed to a highlighted circle.

As I wrote this blog post, in fact, I opened up the game. I entered practice mode, changed the graphics, restarted the game, and did it again to compare the two. This process took less than three minutes. With my old computer, it would take up most of that time just getting to the start menu!

The best part about all of this, is that it’s mine. As I said, most of my life has been spent with hand-me-downs, and indeed that’s pretty true in all aspects as I’m the youngest of six. But not only is this relatively high quality, but it’s also something I did entirely independently of anyone else (save the putting it together part). There was no charity here, nobody offering to help pay for a new computer because my old one stopped working. Just me deciding that enough is enough, and I can do this thing for myself for once.

That said, I probably won’t be doing a whole lot for myself again for a while. Computers are expensive!

Story — Blowing Off Steam (475)

(This is the first fanfiction I’ve written in over a year, and it was actually inspired by one of the Destiny 2 ads that came out recently. This ended up being far more indulgent than I usually write, as I’ve never written actual people I know into my writing before. I intended to make one ‘Destiny veteran’ version and one ‘less familiar’ version where I leave out a lot of the names, but the content ended up so game-specific that it doesn’t really work if you’ve never played. So if you’ve never played it, be warned that a lot of names are thrown out that aren’t explained.)

 

“Hold position,” Aria said, using her scope to scan the field from the outcropping they stood on. It was doted with small craters, and there was sporadic gunfire throughout the landscape. “I’ve got sight on the shooting. Looks like Vex and Cabal.”

Zul rolled his eyes. “It makes sense for Vex to be here. This has been their territory for decades. I still don’t understand why we’re here. Especially all four of us. Isn’t this a little overkill?”

She shook her head. “It isn’t necessary to know why. We just follow orders. The Red Legion started a drilling operation here just before the attack on the Last City.” She returned her focus to the battlefield, where the Cabal was defending against a Vex assault. “We need to stop it before it continues any further. The Vex don’t have enough presence to do that.”

“I don’t know. Seems like we could be a lot more useful defending Earth than coming all the way here.”

“I’m not sure a few more guns will deter the Red Legion,” P-2 chimed in. “Their leader seemed pretty set on claiming the Traveler for his own purposes.”

“Either way, we should wait for the Cabal to clear out the Vex before we engage,” Aria said. “The fewer we have to face ourselves, the better.”

The sound of a gunshot blasted next to them. Aria aimed her pistol to face the threat, only to see Nex-52 crouched down, aiming his sniper rifle down into the battle.

“Nex, did you hear what I just said? Do not engage,” she scolded.

“Yeah,” he said, still looking through the scope. Another shot rang out. “But if we pick off a few of the Cabal, the Vex won’t be taken out as quickly. Easier for us this way.”

“Not if they engage on us now that they know we’re here.”

Another gunshot, but this time to Aria’s right. She turned to see Zul also aiming down his sights with his rifle. “He’s got a point,” he shrugged.

She groaned. “The Hunter going against orders is understandable, but you, too?” P-2 patted her shoulder and shrugged.

“Wait a minute,” Nex said. “The Cabal found a new toy.”

“You mean the giant drill? The one we knew about before we came here?” P-2 asked, sarcasm coloring his tone.

“No, of course not,” he replied. “They’ve got some new dog with them. Maybe half a dozen down there. Running in to attack the Vex head on.”

“I’ve got sight on them,” Aria replied. “Don’t shoot. Watch how they move and attack. We should know what they’re capable of before we–”

A gunshot to her left, and the beast she was looking at immediately fell to the floor, dead. “They don’t seem very durable,” Nex concluded.

“Damn it, Nex, can’t you at least try to follow orders?” She sighed. “I’m suddenly very glad we don’t work together very often.”

“Well, technically,” P-2 said. “The only official orders are over comms. Like Zavala advising us. All the Guardians in a strike team are often the same rank. It just makes sense to have a leader on the field, so that’s how it’s usually done.”

“Can we cut the chatter and get a move on?” Zul took out his empty magazine and replaced it, turning to the rest of the group. “It looks pretty safe to go down, now. There’s only about two dozen left, both Vex and Cabal.” Without waiting for a response, he leaped off the precipice, still shooting on his way down.

P-2 jumped after him, and Nex-52 pulled the sniper rifle to his side to pull out a hand cannon before following suit. “I hate you all,” Aria mumbled. After making sure her weapons were loaded, she joined them.

The battle was already fading when the Guardians landed. With the Vex cleared out, the Red Legion turned their attention to the new arrivals. While Zul and Nex fired at the Centurions in their backline, Aria and P-2 charged in, taking on the enemy Phalanx and War Beasts. A few well-placed shots staggered the Cabal, exposing the massive bodies behind their shields, and a solid punch was all it took to bring them down.

The strike team made quick work of the squadron, but out of one of the bunkers shambled a giant, hulking frame. Armed with missiles and a minigun, staying in sight of it would be a death sentence.

“Colossus!” P-2 shouted. “Get down!”

The team dove to cover inside the many craters that dotted the landscape. “You guys distract it,” Aria said over their comms. “I’ll go around and flank him.”

“You remember what happened last time you did that?” Zul replied.

She ignored it. Racing out of the crater, she sprinted parallel to the Cabal, getting further and further away from whatever he was shooting at. As soon as she was behind him, she rounded the bunker and jumped onto it.

With a breath, she pulled out her own minigun, Sweet Business. “Surprise!” she yelled before unloading into him.

As soon as he fell, a bullet whizzed by her face, almost grazing her helmet.

“Whoops. Sorry about that,” Nex called. “I wanted to steal the kill.”

“You could have killed me with that, you idiot,” she scolded.

“I’ll try harder next time.”

“This isn’t all fun and games you know. People are counting on us.”

Zul sighed. “Relax, Aria. There’s no reason to be fighting. Let’s just move on.”

“Tell you what,” Nex said. “Why don’t we have a little Crucible match here and now?”

“What?” she asked, incredulous. “Why? We’ve got a job to do.”

“And we’ll get it done, don’t worry. But let’s raise the stakes a little bit. You beat me and I’ll follow your lead from here on out. I win, you take a chill pill and we can all get this over with sooner.”

Aria’s eyes squinted from inside her helmet. “Just me and you?”

“I don’t see why the Warlocks can’t get in on the action, too. What do you say? Last man standing? Like the Trials?”

Zul nodded. “No Shaxx and his useless commentary.”

“Think we can beat these two?” Aria asked P-2, who was pacing up from behind and picking up some ammo the colossus had left.

“Maybe. I think we could all benefit from blowing off a little steam, though. We haven’t really gotten a break since the Red Legion came.”

“Alright, Nex. You’re on. Rules?”

Nex was walking away, getting some distance on the two of them. “Anything goes except your stupid shoulder charge.” She rolled her eyes. “Last team standing wins.”

“Alright,” she nodded. “On my mark.”

As she said this, the four of them got into place. Zul ducked into a nearby crater, out of sight of his adversaries. Aria pulled out her sidearm and looked to P-2, who already held a shotgun at the ready.

“Three! Two! One! Go!”

The two of them rushed into motion, charging out opposite sides of the crater to flank them. P-2 blinked across the battlefield just as Zul held up a fusion rifle aimed at Aria.

His reaction was immediate. He ducked down and turned to face the other warlock, pulling the gun up and firing. A charged bolt of purple energy shot into the air, barely searing P-2’s robes as he aimed and shot.

The blast tore through the armor, a haze of void energy dissipating as Zul’s shield was shattered at the impact. Aria held her gun up to assist right as a familiar shot whizzed by. Cursing, she dove for cover instantly. Whether Nex had genuinely missed or was just teasing, she could only guess.

But she couldn’t leave P-2 unaided. She ran back out to see the two warlocks continuing their struggle. They extended their palms out, and the blasts of blue and violet that shot out rippled through the air and distorted the light between them.

Aria pulled out a grenade and sent it towards the crater Nex was holed in, then ran in to help P-2.

Despite his initial lead, he seemed worse for wear. She shot at Zul, but soon ran out of ammo. Upon seeing he was outnumbered, he leaped into the air and pulled his hands close to his chest.

P-2 shot again, but at this distance the shotgun’s range did little. Aria jumped up to meet the warlock just as the mass of void energy was leaving his palms.

She hammered a fist into his gut as hard as she could, enforcing the blow with her own void power.

A loud slam sent a shockwave through the air. The strength of the blow was just enough to take Zul out, and the two landed back on the ground as the echo subsided.

Aria glanced towards where she thought Nex might be, then turned to P-2. “Nice one,” he nodded in approval.

As soon as he turned away, a knife embedded itself into his helmet, a ripple of flame streaking along its path. He fell to his knees, and Aria swiveled around to see Nex at the crest the crater.

“Game over,” he said.

He grabbed for his gun, channeling solar energy into it as his entire body erupted into flames.

No time. That gun had three shots, and any one of them would be fatal.

She called her own strength, summoning all the void power she had stored up and sent it outwards. A bubble formed around her, shrouding her in a field of glowing purple. His gun couldn’t shoot through that.

A crack like a cannon igniting, and the purple haze shimmered as fire spilled around it. The light bent as the gunshot tried to push its way through, but it held firm.

Nex fired again as he descended into the crater. Again, the streak of fire slammed into the shield, right in the same spot. The void energy curved against it, but the second shot was too much, and the purple glow cut short.

Her protection faded, and she was met face to face with a Gunslinger in full power. Aria pulled the trigger, and only then realized that her sidearm was still out of ammo.

He fired again.

The flaming cannon went off, and the bullet left a trail of fire, burning the air as it soared past her head, missing by a hair.

Aria halted, dropping her guard in her confusion. She had been standing still, and he was right in front of her.

She caught the sound of burning and growling, and turned to see one of the Cabal war beasts writhing on the ground behind her, incinerating into nothingness from the shot that, she assumed, had missed its target.

Nex-52 was already using his Ghost to help the warlocks back on their feet by the time she turned to face him.

“So, what does that mean?”

He shrugged. “I got the extra kill I was looking for. We’ll call this one a draw. Besides, we’ve got work to do, and by my count I’ve still got fifteen kills on you. You’ll have to step up your game if you want to catch up by the time we face whatever is down there.” He nodded towards the giant drill that still spun in the distance.

“I got cocky,” Zul muttered as he palmed the place Aria had hit him. “Thought I had enough time to take you both out at once.”

“I wouldn’t have charged right in if I realized we would be going all out,” P-2 said, laughing.

“By the way,” Nex said. “I’m going to need my knife back, P-2.”

“What? No way. You gave it to me fair and square. It’s mine now.”

“I don’t think it works that way,” Zul replied.

Aria couldn’t help but chuckle as the three of them kept bickering. The stress the Red Legion’s assault had brought seemed to have melted away. Blowing off a little steam was just what they needed. Maybe she’d thank Nex later.

Review — Hammerwatch

As far as fun little couch co-op style games go, it can be hard to find ones that work these days. There’s a lot of choices, to be sure, but the abundance of choices can actually hinder the decision making process because while there are so many games, it isn’t easy to find the one that works for you and your friends.

For me, Hammerwatch is a great example of a retro dungeon crawler. It is a Gauntlet style co-op hack and slash. You each have a different class with different abilities, and you run through dungeons killing all manner of little monsters, solving puzzles and finding secrets. If you’re not careful, however, you can die instantly, so there is a risk factor.

My favorite thing about the game is how unforgiving it can be. There are different sources of threats that are more or less difficult for certain classes. There are challenging monsters that run fast and deal insane amounts of damage. Ranged classes deal with these best, usually, because they don’t have to get close. There are also swarms of enemies that shoot from a distance which are also hard for melee classes to deal with because at that point the game is a bullet hell. But the melee guys excel at dealing lots of damage to nearby enemies, so if it’s relatively safe, they can delete swarms of enemies in one blow if you time it right. Of course, there’s also traps. Spike traps kill you instantly in this game, and for whatever reason, I am really bad at maneuvering around them. They kill me a lot because I’m an idiot.

The levels aren’t random, but there are so many secrets it lends itself well to replay-ability simply because there’s bound to be loads of stuff you missed last time. The more you play, the better you’ll get, naturally. But there are also plenty of difficulty modifiers. There is the basic “Easy, Medium, Hard” settings, but you can also adjust more specific settings. You can make mana regenerate faster, or make health naturally regenerate slowly, for example. You can also make it harder, adding a shared health pool or setting everybody’s health to a maximum of one, meaning taking any damage at all will always kill you (or everybody, if you have shared health!)

My favorite thing about this game is the upgrades. As you go higher up the tower, you collect money and find stronger vendors that sell upgrades such as increased armor, increased damage, or increased life pool and movement speed. There are lots of things you can buy, and finding more secrets can make upgrades cost less in addition to giving you more money to pay for them, so its incredibly rewarding. (You can also unlock new abilities for your specific class as you get further into the game!)

As usual, I do have issues with this game, but they are sort of nit-picky. The first is that there is no random generation. I get that it’s difficult to implement secrets if the map is always different, but it feels like the sort of game that would have randomly generated levels and enemies, so the replay-ability is less in the novelty of the experience and more for the personal challenge of increasing the difficulty. As an unrelated side note, it can be almost impossible to tell what secrets do sometimes. You can press a secret button that says “A passageway has been revealed!” but there is no indication of where that might be, which will force you to backtrack all across the map in the hopes that you discover some new place. That part is a little frustrating.

My second real frustration with the game is that the “good” ending is reserved for people that know all the secrets. In order to escape the tower once you beat the final boss, you have to use “strange plank” items that you found in various places in the tower, which at first serve no discernible purpose. But, if you find all of them (you have to find all of them, too,) you can escape the castle and beat the game. And as far as I know, there’s no indication of how many there are in the dungeon in the first place. There’s twelve one for each floor of the castle.

Is the game worth it? Certainly. Full price, it’s currently worth $10, and a successful run-through of the first campaign will take over three hours, though it’ll probably take you a few tries to even get that far int he first place. I recommend it for anyone that likes hardcore games that try to kill you and your friends. It isn’t the most insanely difficult game, once you get the hang of it, but you can certainly modify it to be.

Review — Iron Brigade

Iron Brigade is one of those games that has a unique charm to it that, even if it’s not super polished and the team that worked on it isn’t very large, it’s still got a very strong theme, and they hit their mark well.

But I’d also doubt that many people have ever even heard of this game, let alone played it. Basically, it boils down to a co-op tower defense game as well as a third person shooter. You defend your base against waves of monsters (called ‘Tubes’ because they are all cords and television themed), and as you call down turrets to defend points, you can also set up your own mech to fight them for yourself.

This game has a lot going for it. It has half a dozen different types of weapons, but there are also different chasis you can use for your mech that enable different amounts of guns as well as different turrets to place. You can fix two giant sniper rifles on your mech and sit at base blasting away from afar, or you can throw six shotguns in and get a quick mech that rushes into the frontlines, or you can have a tiny mech with few guns whose purpose is to call down a bunch of turrets to fight for you. There’s also lots of different paintjobs and costumes you can put on your mech/character, so in addition to having different chasis, all of your friends’ mechs will look very different from each other. It reminds me of Front Mission in that regard, because everyone’s characters look visually suited to their job.

My favorite thing about this game, though, is the loot system. It’s nothing special, really. You level up and earn money as you play, and reaching higher ranks unlocks more powerful guns and turrets. What it doesn’t tell you, though, is that as you’re playing, you can find weapons that aren’t sold in the store, and some of them are crazy strong and fun to use. With some tinkering and lots of luck, my brother had a loadout that could kill bosses in two seconds (literally) because he was lucky enough to find two super rare sniper rifles that did an insane amount of damage.

It isn’t without its faults though. Overall, I have two main issues with this game. The most glaring of which is the online aspect. Hosting games and letting your friends join only works some of the time, and a friend of mine can’t play this game online for reasons because he disconnects too much, and we have no idea why (he doesn’t have this issue with other games). It sucks because we often have to strike this game off the list of things we can play together for no real reason at all. (It is plausible that it isn’t the game’s fault, but I haven’t found any evidence to the contrary, so it seems the most likely.)

The second problem isn’t as bad, and that is the fact that it’s too easy. I don’t even know what happens when you fail a mission, because we’ve never come close. Even when it gets hard, we’re only at risk of losing points, not the game. In addition, when a friend starts playing for the first time, we have to start the campaign over again for their sake, and while I am totally fine with doing the same mission repeatedly, I’d love for there to be some way to challenge myself. I suppose you could simply be competitive and see who can get the most kills, but that’s not the way my group really plays things.

Overall, though, it’s a solid game. I would recommend it to anyone that likes tower defense games, especially since it’s played in third person, giving it that unique feel, since most games like it only involve placing turrets and upgrading them from a bird’s eye view the whole time.