Tag Archives: non-wow

I’m still playing Heroes of the Storm and this is why

FELPUNK KAELAfter several days of plinking around on other, lesser characters, I finally earned enough gold to shell out for Kael’thas and then I promptly handed Blizzard my wallet so I could get this Stormpunk skin.

I like it.

I like it a lot.

Also Kael’s voice is adorable.

As I said in my first review of Heroes of the Storm a week ago, this is a solid but otherwise unremarkable game that probably would not be keeping my attention if not for the fact that this is Silly Blizzard Fan References: The Game.  And, weirdly enough, that fact alone has still got me playing… for now.

I’ll let you know if I’m still playing next week!

Pike’s Quick Start Guide to Steam Sales

Steam sales are here, which means it’s time to add to your neverending collection.  Because if you’re anything like me, you are a dragon who hoards video games.

Image by iguanamouth.tumblr.com
Image by iguanamouth.tumblr.com

If you’re not sure where to start or what to get, never fear!  Here’s a quick start guide on how to sniff out the best deals.

STEP ONE: Praise Lord Gaben.

STEP TWO: Head over to the Steam Sales Tracker, which will become your best friend over the course of the next ten days.  This handy website will tell you what the most discounted games across the entire Steam platform currently are.  Even better, you can sort by many different variables including rating and price.  So yeah.  Steam Sales Tracker.  Bookmark it.

STEP THREE: Plug yourself into Steamleft.com and weep.

goodbye
Oh boy.

And that’s it.  Pike’s easy, three step guide to enjoying the Steam sales.

Just… don’t bankrupt yourself, okay?  And I’m here for you if you need moral support.  I’M HERE FOR YOU.

HotS is fun – but I’d rather be playing Awesomenauts or WC3

So I downloaded Heroes of the Storm yesterday and promptly spent a few hours on it.  And so far, my verdict on it is a resounding ¯\_(?)_/¯ .

…yeah, that about sums it up.  ¯\_(?)_/¯ .

If you want a more detailed review, read on.  First, a brief bit about my history with the genre so you can decide how many grains of salt you want to take my review with.

It was the year 2006 or so, sites like Google, YouTube, and Wikipedia either didn’t exist or were brand new, and there was a Warcraft III custom map that was making a splash in the RTS community called Defense of the Ancients (or DotA for short).  Specifically, the most played version was called DotA All-Stars.  DotA All-Stars took a bunch of heroes and units from WC3, gave them new personalities and names, and sent them off to fight each other and destroy towers down set lanes.

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Seeing as this was back when I was still huge into RTS games, I of course wound up giving DotA All-Stars a download and a look.  And you know, it was fun.  I didn’t think it was quite as fun as some of the other custom map games I’d played through the years, nor was it as fun as the base Warcraft III.  But I put a week or two into it before moving on to other games.

Fast forward many, many years later and this custom map had spawned not only several imitators and spiritual successors but an entire genre.  One that, for the most part, I have had little interest in.  Nothing against it; it just doesn’t tend to hold my interest.  As I’ve said before, the best MOBA I’ve ever played is Awesomenauts, which took the genre and gave it a fantastic shot in the arm by way of making it even more fast-paced and giving it considerable platforming elements.  But the more traditional stuff?  Not really my thing.

So I went into Heroes of the Storm wondering if it was going to pull off what most other MOBAs had not – if it was going to hold my interest.

And the answer is yes… but not for gameplay reasons.

urlFrom a technical standpoint there’s really nothing wrong with Heroes of the Storm.  It’s a solid example of the genre.  It’s easy to learn and get into.  It’s streamlined.  It oozes with Blizzard charm.  And the last part, here, is the key.  In Heroes of the Storm I can play Diablo.  I can play a robotic Anub’arak.  I can play Tassadar riding around on a tiny horse.  And they banter with each other and Stitches warns you when you’re getting low on health.  And ultimately that’s the part of the game that I’m enjoying.  As much as I hate to admit it, I’ve been in Blizzard’s thrall (no pun intended) since the late 90s.  The dorky fan side of me is eating this all up.

But seeing as this is all basically just Fan Service: The Video Game,  I don’t really know how much longer I’m going to put into it.  I suppose things could change, but I don’t really see myself playing this long-term.  When I play it, I have fun, but I also can’t get “Now I want to play Awesomenauts and/or Warcraft III” out of my head.  And that’s the crux of it.  If I want a MOBA, I’ll play Awesomenauts.  If I want isometric Blizzard universe, I’ll play one of the Diablo, Warcraft or Starcraft games.  If I want Warcraft lore, I’ll play WoW.

…but for now, I REALLY want Stormpunk Kael’thas, so for now, I’ll keep HotS installed.

This is the ONE THING that is going to make me download Heroes of the Storm, isn’t it

I’m not really a huge MOBA person (outside of Awesomenauts, which you should play,) and I haven’t really been planning on downloading Heroes of the Storm.

But then I found out that some sort of Felpunk Kael’thas exists.

holy omg

An elf.  With goggles. And brass machinery.

This may, in fact, be my one weakness.

DAMN YOU BLIZZARD.

DAMN YOU…

In all seriousness, how’s the game?

Good Games That Are Good: Europa Universalis

There was a time just a few years ago when the title of this post would have produced quite a few “huh?”s, but thanks to the recent mainstream success of Crusader Kings II, Paradox Interactive and their quirky grand strategy games have never been so in vogue.

Most of your time in a Europa Universalis game is spent staring at a map, which is admittedly not the most exciting sounding thing in the world, but that’s just scratching the surface – the EU games are all about digging into diplomacy, trading, colonization, and, of course, warfare.  Someone who’s never played the games before might benefit from having it compared to, say, Civilization, but the playstyle of Civ and EU really couldn’t be more different from each other.  Europa Universalis aims to be a more nuanced experience, and one that will keep you engaged for several times as long as a game of Civ will.

It also leads to situations like this.
It also leads to situations like this.

Europa Universalis, then, is a step up in complexity, designed for those who want more fine-tuned control than they’re going to get in most other empire-building games.  And if that isn’t enough for you, you can graduate to Victoria II and then eventually even more grognardy war games, but don’t rush – Europa Universalis has enough to offer you for many months to come.  So give the series a look if you haven’t already and if you’re a strategy fan.

Oh, and prepare to hate comets.

pox why

Are You Playing Diablo III Yet Because Holy Frick

I know, I know, I’m behind the times.  Pretty far behind the times.  But I finally caved and snagged both Diablo III and the expansion.

And you know, I love me some ARPGs.  I love them a lot.  I love the Torchlight series, I love Baldur’s Gate II Dark Alliance, and of course I love the older Diablo games.  There’s something pure about the idea of a lootfest isometric RPG; something that reminds me of playing old arcade games back in the day.  You just go around and kill things and collect prizes.  No questions asked.

So I knew going in that I was probably going to love D3, but dang.  I don’t know what Blizzard did but I cannot stop playing it.  I made a wizard and between the whole tornado summoning thing and feeling like Jubilee with Arcane Torrent, it’s an absolute blast.

Also yes, I am spending tons and tons of money on transmog.  Because welcome to my life.

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Also I look like a Final Fantasy character. Prove me wrong.

Good Games That Are Good: Civilization IV

From a technical and mechanical standpoint, I think that Civilization IV is probably the greatest thing Firaxis has ever done.  In fact, from a technical and mechanical standpoint, I think that Civilization IV is probably the greatest strategy video game of all time.  As soon as you load up the game and Baba Yetu (by the peerless Christopher Tin) kicks in, you know you’re in for an experience, and that is what Civ IV gives you.

Taking what prior Civilization games did and refining them down to one shined and polished experience, this is the 4X game that other 4X games have yet to beat.  By offering a plethora of options and victory conditions for every playstyle, perhaps what really sets Civ IV apart is the fact that it appeals equally to both oldschool  Civ players and newcomers to the series or genre.    With the expansions, especially, Civ IV is just unparalleled when it comes to options and depth of gameplay.

Tesla
It’s also basically unparalleled when it comes to One More Turn syndrome.

662 hoursYou may have noted that I haven’t quite said that this is my favorite 4X game.  That’s because that title goes to Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, which also holds the title of Pike’s Favorite Game of All Time.  But as much as I love, love SMAC and think it’s a classic, the UI is a little rough and it lacks the polish and finesse of Civ IV.  So don’t be intimidated.  Jump on into Civ IV and experience alternate history the way it’s meant to be experienced – with the Mayans hurling nukes around, of course.

What Made ME A Gamer? …What Makes the Sky Blue?

Today’s Talkback Challenge on the Newbie Blogger Initiative that I’m taking part in is the question “What made you a gamer?”

Wow.  Not even sure where to begin with that one.  You see, I’ve been gaming my entire life.  I don’t remember what my first game was, because games were always there.  Always a part of my life, just like eating and sleeping.

I could tell you about our Commodore 64 and all the dozens upon dozens of games we had for it.

I could tell you about renting the NES from the video store (because back then renting game consoles was a thing.)

I could tell you about arcades and arcade games and my dad holding me up so I could reach the joysticks.

I could tell you about days spent parked in front of the Super Nintendo and the Nintendo 64, playing some of the greatest games to ever grace a console.

I could tell you about Pokemon (oh hey, I did that yesterday), about Final Fantasy (w… wait, I did that too!) about Starcraft, about The Elder Scrolls, the Civilization series, the SimCity series, about Zelda, about X-Com, about grand strategy, about… well, you get the picture.  It’s a list that goes on and on.

The point, though, is that games didn’t just make me a gamer.  Games made me.  They are more important to me than basically anything else on the planet.  They have helped me get through some of the roughest patches my life has ever seen.  Does all of that make me silly?  A big ol’ nerd?

Probably.

But I like who I am, so it’s okay.

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Good Games That Are Good: Pokemon X/Y

It’s no real secret that I love Pokemon.  I have loved Pokemon since the first games came out oh so long ago, despite the fact that I was probably just slightly over the targeted age for them, and of course I got into the cards and the show as well.  I also skipped high school specifically to go watch the first movie in theaters.

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I know a lot of people who sort of “fell out” of the games after the first or second generation, and I’ve gotta say, if you are one of those people then now is the perfect time to get back into Pokemon.  The latest generation – consisting of X/Y as well as remakes of the third generation games – is beautiful and streamlined without losing any of the charm that makes Pokemon, well, Pokemon.

Being able to trade Pokemon online makes the entire process of filling out your Pokedex easier than ever, and the addition of features like O-Power buffs, Pokemon Amie (which I have no doubt will be removed in the next generation, so enjoy petting and playing with your Pokies while you can), TMs that can be used multiple times, and the absolutely gorgeous 3D models make this generation a solid and smooth culmination of all of the best bits of prior Pokemon games.  Best of all, the core gameplay is still there, so even if you haven’t played since the days of Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle, you will have absolutely no trouble jumping right in.

charmander caution

Probably the biggest downside to X/Y (as well as Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire) is that you have to have a Nintendo 3DS or 2DS to play, and those are still fairly pricey.  However, the 3DS library is huge (and fantastic) these days and I’d recommend investing in one if you can spare the change.  Even for the Pokemon games alone, it’s worth it.  Besides, haven’t you been feeling the urge to catch ’em all lately?  …all 721 of them?

Good Games That Are Good: Final Fantasy Tactics Advance

I’m one of those long time Final Fantasy players who has played essentially every numbered game in the series – and plenty of the spin-offs, too.  Asking me to pick my favorites is going to result in either weird obscure stuff (like FFII.  Yes, II.  In Japan, not America.) or really divisive stuff (like FFX.  HECK YES, FFX!)

And then there’s this little gem of a game:

FinalFantasyTacticsAdvanceGBACoverArtUS

Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.  Which, for my money, is not only the finest of the FFT/FFTA games, but one of the finest Final Fantasy games period.  (It is also largely responsible for the fact that I paid no attention to my college classes Freshman year, but that’s beside the point.)

This is a tactical squad-based RPG, superficially similar to, say, X-Com, except the focus is on the “RPG” bit rather than the “tactical” bit.  The result is a cozy, relaxing game to play which revolves around messing with job classes and customizing them to your liking and playstyle.  The job system is one of the Final Fantasy series’ biggest draws (to me, anyway), and FFTA hits the glorious bullseye of having a huge number of classes to have fun with, without going overboard and having so many that you can’t fit them all in your clan.

A very small selection of the available job classes.
A very small selection of the available job classes.

Combine this with extremely addictive “one more turn” styled battles aaaaaaand yeah remember what I said earlier about not paying attention in school?  Yep.

Basically this game is just absurdly fun and well-crafted.  I know a lot of die-hard FF fans don’t like this game as much as its predecessor, usually because of the idea that FFTA offered a much more simplified story.  Me, I’m not playing this stuff for the story.  Sorry guys!  I’m here because stuff like this exists:

FFTA_Job_ListAnd because in the sequel, stuff like this exists:

FFTA2_Job_ListMmm, delicious geekery.

So yeah.  Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.  If you ask me to pick a favorite Final Fantasy game, it might just be this.  In fact, I’m pretty sure it is.

Also, that delicious soundtrack.