Friday, 30 January 2015

Massive Chalice EP26 - Enforcers Suck

The sad news is that enforcers, just not good enough compared to the Hunters and Trickshots, they basically only deal comparable damage with close range shot, which is exactly where I don't actually want my hunters to be.

Give me a trickshot with the ability to hit multiple enemies with the same attack or the hunter with follow up any day over an enforcer.

I guess it is worth noting that I am comparing these guys when fully kitted out with the best weapons, armour and equipment that I can possibly have, but from what I have seen on the doublefine forums, enforcers only really become useful when using one of the cadence bows. Weapons which for the most part are significantly outpaced by relics, so I am not so sure it is worth the effort, especially with the other hunter bloodlines and relics I have available to me.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Massive Chalice EP25 - Revisiting the Marshlands

Back to the same map as last time, but from a different angle and against different opponents. As a cost saving approach I like it, the maps do feel different enough, as long as you don't see them back to back anyway.

I really enjoyed using kill rage here, if I could get a bit more damage up I would probably use caberjacks a lot more. Maybe I should think about using that Winter's Bone relic for a while.

This series will end on Friday week. If you have any suggestions as to what you would like to see me play next, please let me know.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

My Favourites of the Games I Finished in 2014

I realise that I have left this almost through to the end of January, but this year I actually have something resembling data.

During the year, when I finished games I ranked them on my games spreadsheet, because apparently I am that kind of person. I didn't allow myself to reorder games, it was always about slotting in the current game somewhere in the ranking, but I also lacked any firm criteria. Rankings were very much a gut feeling and I probably wouldn't have kept the same ranking were I to do it from scratch again now.

Because I ranked them when I finished, or in some cases decided I was done with the games. It also is a bit biased towards games that pack a good emotional or narrative punch towards the finish. I can't say I really feel that this is a problem.

I am going to continue trying to rank these things as I finish, I am not sure that it is at all helpful, but this year I think I am going to have two lists, one that I can reorder and one where entries are fixed when they are entered. I wonder how much they will diverge.

Well without any further delay, my top 5 games for last year were:

5. Wolfenstein: The New Order

One of the first games I played once my desktop arrived in Sweden. This was very much a purchase made from nostalgia, I spent a lot of my childhood playing through Wolfenstein 3D and Doom which gives this series an appeal it probably doesn't really deserve.

MachineGames did a great job building a lengthy imaginative modern take on Wolfenstein, the idea of taking the setting into a full blown retro scifi alternate universe allowed them to make some really eye catching levels and show a surprising amount of heart.

4. Call of Juarez: Gunslinger

This bite sized entry in the Call of Juarez series was a great mix of experimental story telling and satisfying gun play mixed up in a western setting that I must admit I am not too familiar with.

I tore threw it in a fairly short time and then went back for more. It is one of the few games this year that I replayed and even tried showing to friends via streaming.

I am a bit of a sucker for the unreliable narrator and I love the way this game uses it to play around with levels and scenery. I also enjoy how the tale gets taller and taller as the Silas get further into his drinks.

3. Shadowrun: Dragonfall

The eagerly awaited DLC for Shadowrun Returns. With this Harebrained Schemes managed to address most of the criticism that Dead Man's Switch (the original campaign) received.

It increased opportunities to access the matrix, added a persistent team of runners for you to use and had a much less linear structure. I became very attached to my little Kreuzbasar.

2. Hate Plus

Though a lot of reading, this game is very tense. It is a prequel/sequel to Analogue: A Hate Story and again Christine Love nails the ability to convey a tragedy.

I played this over the course of three days, as intended. But I continued from the impossible ending which did avoid one of the darkest parts of the game.

I can't say I am too upset by that, reading through the slow downfall of a society along with the hopes of the characters I liked being slowly crushed as they lost against the forces moving against them was bad enough.

1. Shadowrun: Dragonfall - Director's Cut

I guess this is a little unfair, but the director's fall of Dragonfall is a separate title and I did play both this and the original DLC. For the director's cut they expanded the
story, tuned up the interface and allowed it to breathe free of the constraints and stigma of downloadable content.

The new character missions were great, allowing us to see more of the world and learn to never ever ever let Blitz plan anything.

My favourite aspect was the expanded end content, you can argue with the bad guy now. You can even side with him if you are sufficiently swayed by his arguments, which is really cool and gives you an awesome semi-playable epilogue. SPOILER: It does not end well, there are horrors. But Sydney and the manastorm there are mentioned!

Monday, 26 January 2015

Massive Chalice EP24 - Keeps Exposed

After the attack this episode I am left with all 5 of my keeps exposed to direct attack by the cadence. This, given that I now face only 3 region attacks, is the most vulnerable period I am likely to have remaining in this game. I could potentially lose most of my keeps over the next few episodes, which will greatly reduce my ability to gather reinforcements.

Fortunately there are only 40 years or so left in this game. My youngest heroes should see a day where either the cadence are defeated or the fight has been truly lost.

Either way, when this run ends I will move onto the next game, this series should finish up next week, I am happy to take suggestions as to what to play next.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Massive Chalice EP23 - BOOMstriker!

Okay, Boomstrikers are a lot of fun. The high accuracy, free aim and area attack results in the ability to kill off enemies groups of enemies at quite a distance and they retain the alchemist's high damage.

They would probably feel a bit less awesome at lower levels due to the 5 flask limit, but at high levels they are really mobile from having free throw and boom and zoom, 2 high damage attacks in the same turn, with each success letting you advance or retreat as you please, yes please!

Definitely running out of things to say outside of the videos though, good thing I should finish off this game fairly soon.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Ranneko and Jarenth Play Star Realms

Today I have something a little bit different for you. A multiplayer game of Star Realms with my friend Jarenth of Ninja-Blues. I have been playing this game every day for the past several months and been having a lot of fun and thought it would be cool to do a lets play of it.

Star Realms is a deck building duelling game it plays a little bit like the combination of dominion and magic the gathering. At the end of each turn you draw 5 cards, then during your next turn you play and use all of the cards in your hand, generating trade, damage and authority which you use to purchase more ships and stations (cards for your deck), damage your enemy, or heal (authority is the term for health in this game).

The trade row determines the cards you can buy and because their ordering is random every game plays out very differently but the game isn't so random that you can't develop a strategy and try to come out on top.

The digital version of the game is also played asynchronously, an individual turn typically only takes 30 seconds or so which means that there isn't a particularly large time commitment to play as long as you can find about 30 seconds a game every couple of days. I often will play a few turns on the bus or while walking to the shops. I note this aspect primarily to explain why in the video Jarenth and I both keep checking what cards each of us have, the game was recorded over the course of about a week and I would have played a good 10 other games of star realms in that time, I in no way try to keep the entire game state in my head.

Star Realms is currently part of the Humble Card Game Bundle, the digital copy is in the lowest tier and the game runs not only on your PC, but also on android and iOS.

Okay, that is all I have to say about the game, the rest of this post is going to be about the idea for the video and the thinking behind it.

I had this idea while I was back in Sydney, Star Realms was one of the games I was still able to keep going pretty regularly despite the fairly hectic schedule and making the New Years Eve death montage specials for Spelunky and Necrodancer got me thinking about other videos that would be interesting to do.

The idea of doing a lets play for Star Realms seemed like a good one, but I recalled listening to something about what had helped make TV Poker successful; the hole cam. The idea being that the audience getting access to that hidden information helps to build tension, where the audience knows who is bluffing and can try to see not just how well the bluffer is hiding this information but can try to see if their opponent is able to pick up on it.

So that is where I got the idea of having a 2 player Star Realms video, hopefully the access to both what we have in our hands but also what we are able to express of our thought processes and strategies will help make the video more engaging especially to people unfamiliar with Star Realms.

I hope at the very least you enjoyed this video, if you did then please let me know it will likely influence whether or not I do these kinds of things in the future.

If you want to read what Jarenth wrote about this whole thing, you can read it over at Ninja Blues here

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Massive Chalice EP22 - Tricky New Hybrids

I really like the different feel of the new classes, the Shadowjack being able to sneak up on enemies for massive sneak attack damage is great, though it does mean they can't get to the fight quite as fast as a regular caberjack.

The area effect of the Flash arrow does seems harder to use compared to regular flask attacks, because enemies only tend to cluster when they are charging and I try to avoid being visible long enough to let them do that and arrow are not free targeted, you must directly attack an enemy.

I am definitely approaching the end game and those 3 region attacks are going to start costing me pretty dearly. I am pretty sure those are all I will face until the end and as a result I am definitely going to start losing regions and most of my keeps are on the outer edge. If this happens too early I could basically run out of viable heroes before year 300 rolls around.

Only time will tell I guess.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Massive Chalice EP21 - Massive Noir

Little bit of weirdness after the battle here, no idea what happened there, definitely going to report it as a bug.

For me one of the major differences between XCOM and Massive Chalice's tactical combat is the emphasis on line of sight. In XCOM I spend a lot of time managing cover and overwatch. Trying to lure enemies out into the open and ensure that mine are never either caught out of position or flanked.

In Massive Chalice there is no cover or overwatch, the goal is to ensure that my heroes are never spotted by an enemy they can't kill. In an ideal game I should never end a turn with a hero visible to an enemy who is not stunned or dead. Once I got veil armour and flarrow I have historically been very good at this. My heavy hunter usage has allowed me to ensure that my enemies have never really been able to see me, either through stealth or being blinded. In general I have had at least half a dozen of those shots available to me every fight, enough to almost never be worried about being caught too out of position.

As a result, the removal of flarrow's blinding ability has resulted in some actual tension in my battles, this game doesn't let me repick, so I haven't had a chance to actually use blinding shot. Instead I have had to fall back on pure positioning and damage to try to sort out these problems and that simply has not always been enough. My heroes have been hit and damaged, enough that I have actually had to deploy healing. I think today's fight is the first one that I have actually had the chance to lose a character in for several in game generations. One more advanced bulwark hit and Roderick could have died before first aid arrived.

It will be interesting to see next week how I go having blinding shot available once more, between that, stealth and veil armour however I really do not see myself ever investing in flarrow again. Especially with level 10 heroes, genetics, dead eye and veil armour means that I have a ridiculously large sight radius and I can invisibly scout ahead.

Next time we get to play around with a couple of trickshots and a shadowjack. Looking forward to seeing how they play.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Massive Chalice EP20 - Experienced Relics

Unfortunately none of the new hybrid classes have come of age yet, so I stuck with the pure ones. Hopefully I will have some new heroes to play with next time. Meaning I can fight with them in episode 22.

This isn't that big a deal though because at this stage of the game I am trying to level up relics that the my older heroes are carrying. They are the only things left in the game I have that have some space left before they hit their XP cap.

I spent way too much time getting to this screen
They are also a key source of interface frustration. I keep having to duck into menus in battle to keep track of the XP value of the relic, I think I did that at least half a dozen times in the fight this episode and it is at least 3 or 4 clicks each time. Not a fast process.

It seems like it would be very easy to fix this too, the heroes weapon is shown in the bottle right, so you could pretty easily just add the XP bar to that, possibly coloured differently so it isn't confused with the hero XP bar on the bottom left.

Something like this
It is also interesting to note that because all of my heroes are now at level 10, even the ones that never enter combat themselves, my vanguard are starting to almost entirely age out. I don't feel the need to promote them to standards or regents because all I do then is lose a soldier, one of the younger heroes is almost always a better candidate because they have they don't have relics and I can focus purely on what traits I want to pass on.

In fact I am likely to keep my current vanguard until they either die and pass their relic on, or a space opens up in the Sagewrights guild. The relics are easily the most important factor right now.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Five Years On - A Trip To the Mountains

Today marks five years since my youngest brother passed away. He went on a day trip into the Bush, his group missed the exit they needed and got lost, unfortunately Nick died in a freak accident just hours before the rest were rescued.

The whole event lasted three days. The day of the trip followed by two days of searching. For me the first day was completely normal, I had no idea anything was wrong until I got home late that evening and my parents told me that the group hadn't returned and we didn't know why. The second day I went to work but was particularly unproductive as I spent the day desperately waiting for a call telling me that they had been found. On the third and final day I went to the mountain they had set out from, to wait with my family as well as the families of the others in the group up there, where the search was being organised and coordinated.

Mt Wilson Rural Fire Service Station
A few days ago, while I was back in Sydney I went with my parents on their yearly trip to Mt Wilson. It was the first time I have ever been back there.

That area holds some very painful memories for me, despite having spent less than a day there. On the right is a photosphere showing the fire station and the car park. It was that area I spent the entire day.

I can still picture where the major vehicles were, where the rescue workers congregated. I can picture in the inside of the fire station building and where I sat with my family and talked and waited. I can picture the office we were gathered in when the police told us that they group had been found and that it appeared that unfortunately one of them had died.

I can remember the desperate hope that the police were mistaken, that maybe one of them was just injured and the heart shattering news when we found out exactly who had been lost. For me standing there and looking back those are the memories that come rushing back.

The irony of all this is that to Nick and the rest of them I suspect the fire station was a minor landmark in the journey. It was where they parked the car and set out from and the car would have been their ultimate goal, but for them looking back I really doubt the fire station features prominently.

For my parents, the trip out there is a yearly one. It is not exactly a trip they both enjoy, but certainly a trip they both feel obligated to perform. Neither of them were quite able to express why they go, but I don't expect they will stop any time soon. Difficult as it was I am glad I went with them this year.

I can't say I expect I will ever go back there though. Once was enough.

All that is left to say now is Nick, I miss you and love you.

A view of the mountains from a lookout nearby

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Massive Chalice EP19 - A Slight Pause

My hiatus was not planned at the time I recorded the intro to this episode, which lead to a little bit of awkwardness at the start. But now that my holiday is over and I am back home and, most important of all the Hybrid class patch is out I can resume this series again.

This patch has brings some really significant changes along with it, but most of them completely fail to show up in this video. Pre-existing heroes maintain their old skill trees and class, so I need fresh babies before I get to see any of the new sub-classes.

It also looks like the new relic appearance isn't applied retroactively, and I am no longer actually generating new relics, instead I am focusing my efforts on levelling up old ones so I am pretty much stuck with the boring non-distinct ones I already have.

All I have are the relatively minor tweaks to existing skills and combat rules, most of which have no real impact on my play style, save for a sudden inability of my hunters to blind my enemies, meaning I need to play it a little more cautious until my new wave of anklebiters show up.

This is all pretty much a flow on from my decision to try to have one single massive chalice series as a lets play, rather than multiple timelines, I think the game would simply take too long and I would have to either show only highlights, significantly increase episode times or increase the episode release rate. None of which I am very keen on, for the purpose of this lets play I will follow this timeline to its conclusion, whatever that may be.

If you are interested in playing Massive Chalice for yourself, you can grab it on Steam right now, or if consoles are more your thing, it will eventually be released on Xbox One as well.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

My Year In Review (2014)

Ideally this kind of a post would go up on either New Years Day or my birthday (I am officially older now), but this trip home for Christmas has really soaked up free time.

I have:
- Moved to a country half way across the world from home
- Visited 5 countries (Not including Australia or Sweden)
- Begun learning Swedish (and making good progress from what I can tell)
- Produced and published 103 videos on YouTube, gathering roughly 1600 views
- Written 53 blog posts
- Finished 41 games
- Started going grey

It has been pretty interesting dealing with life in a new country and new culture. Even trying to establish a new group of friends is surprisingly difficult. In Sydney my social circles grew fairly organically from school and university, but in Lund I have to start from the beginning.

I don't have the existing social support that will occasionally introduce me to new people, I don't have the same kind of external forces like school and university that would have me interact regularly with people of a similar age group and interests to me.

One of the things I would like to do this year is to spend more time on hobbies that will help me do that, maybe look into participating in Friday Night Magic at a local game store or something.

I also should probably take advantage of SFI, given it also brings me into contact with a class of people in largely similar situations to me.

Overall I am pretty hopeful going into this year, I have a few opportunities I am actively working on, I have a hobby that is keeping me engaged and a life that is delivering me new experiences.