Category Archives: videogames

Monster Hunter World: Introducing the Kulve Taroth

The last horrible beast we were introduced to was the Deviljo, a weird not-quite-T-Rex that became the new head of the food chain when it dropped last month. Capcom is rolling out our next monster, Kulve Taroth, and what looks like a new zone to go with it (hopefully). The YouTube page lists its event launch tomorrow, April 19th.

And here I am still grinding out that event that gives you a bunch of free food vouchers. It’s. free. food.

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Monster Hunter World: There is no enough

I’m struggling hard to be the jungle-swinging-dino-killer and attentive boyfriend with a game that demands chunks of my life with no brakes. You cannot pause the game and go see what it she needs. I’m stressing as I rush to try and finish what I’m doing or find a bush to hide in for a while before she walks back in the living room wanting to throw what she needed at me. First world problems.

As worthless as it is to say, I’ve felt guilty I’ve been absolutely drawn into Monster Hunter: World. Most especially for my girlfriend who has futilely attempted to grasp my attention over the sounds of pissed off dinosaurs being slashed at with an axe that morphs into a giant sword. Without saying more, there were conversations and alterations made.

The core of World, like nearly every other entry in the franchise, is a slow and steady grind towards apathy. It’s a grind Destiny 2 or MMO players are well acquainted with, for example. The siren call for better, prettier gear channeled through the challenge of addictive battle keeps the wheel moving.

 

Unlike Destiny 2, World offers continued challenge through free downloadable content in the form of new monsters and new, flashy things to wear. Yes there is stupid DLC like $3 gesture packs (to make your avatar do a specific emote like Ryu from Street Fighter’s hadoken), but there isn’t any paid DLC that directly involves itself into the ever spinning wheel.

If you’re new to Monster Hunter as a franchise, this is the definitive starting place. While its past handheld entries will always be held close to my heart (bye 3Ultimate, 4Ultimate, Generations), so many concessions have finally been made in world that to go back would be a very noticeably different experience.

It’s also a game obsessed with numbers. Lots of numbers and bits of miscellaneous information that may or not be important to you at any given time but it’s still important to know regardless. World does its absolute best to ease you into the game’s very intimidating amount of information (most of which won’t really be relevant until you reach the High Rank stage anyway).

There is a routine, a flow to things you’ll be expected to do automatically before the start of every quest: Visit your box, dump the crap you don’t need and organize your field inventory; Visit the canteen and eat food (always!); visit the forge and see what you need built to tackle your next challenge; go craft new consumable items and make sure you’re well equipped in potions, food and buffs; check on your farmers who cultivate combine-able items for you each time you leave the village. Suffice to say, there is a lot of shit to keep track of. It just goes on and on.

 

Your first 10 hours hunting will probably be intimidating then a sudden jump to bad-ass. This is all before you realize that really hard T-Rex you’ve been fighting 10 times was a weaker version of one you’ll be seeing more often with flying dragons. But by that point, any hunter worth their salt loves those kinds of parties.

I definitely could waste a lot of your time rambling about the similarities and minute differences World improves upon its predecessors, but the simple thing to say is the game wants to constantly keep you busy and out in the field as much as possible. Like nearly 24/7 – 365 busy. Yeah, like I said there are a lot of things to keep track of when at home but things like the wishlist system automatically tell you mid-game when you’ve collected all the components needed for something; which beats in the past having to endlessly visit the blacksmith to double check info.

There is a gradual rise and sense of progression to things also. While the physical gear is the literal representation of leveling up here learning how monsters operate and their place within the food chain is also invaluable knowledge. Fights easily break down to demonstrations of skill over gear. You can wear the best equipment the game can provide and still get your head smashed in if you’re careless.

 

When playing online the group is afforded a limited number of re-spawns per mission. Each KO is a significant blow to not just the team but even your purse at the end. There is a definitely thrill when running with the top dogs hunting the baddest of the bad, because you’ll need to rely on your partners and watch their backs more than you may want to. However it also drags having to keep the weakest link alive when their doing their damnedest to die.

On that note, I would highly recommend new hunters hold off on multiplayer for a while. Not out of some plea to keep scrubs off our sessions but because you genuinely learn a great deal more facing monsters on your own than relying on high power strangers to save your ass. Studying monster movement, behavior, and their place within the food chain is crucial wisdom.

 

With all that said: I’m not convinced World will change the minds of people adverse to the grind. Because let me reiterate: there is a grind. The game is the grindGRINDING. Because just beating a monster isn’t enough, you must also cover yourself head to toe in it. However, World easily comes off as one of those quality-of-life games where it just becomes a routine. You hop on for an hour, either do a few hunts or wander around picking shit up. You learn a little something new one day, and eventually the game just opens itself up to you.

This all comes at a heavy time investment. There is no dipping your toe in the game. You must go balls deep. When firing this up, it’s demanding every bit of your attention until you’re sleepy little eyes safely save the game back in town. It’s creed may as well be come correct or not at all. For those up for the challenge, welcome to your new addiction.

 

Fallout the Board Game

Info: Creator – Fantasy Flight Games; 1-4 players; Estimated 2-3 hour playthrough;

As a birthday gift to myself I purchased a copy of Fallout: A Post-Nuclear Board Game on the strength of how nice the box was and a bit off the strength of the beer(s) I had a hour prior. Its rules try to make the board game experience as familiar to the video game experience as possible, which is pretty admirable. Tough decisions will be put upon you and in good ‘ole Fallout fashion consequences will follow. Gamers still angry that Fallout 3 turned the franchise into a FPS will feel at home here following a somewhat familiar experience akin to the first two games.

The wasteland is a collection of hexagons you shuffle to make each game a bit different, which is awesome since this allows the game to be fresh each time. Up to four players communally explore the wasteland like you’re patrolling the video game world together, including tackling objectives together in a bid to become the most influential survivor in the wasteland. A collection of cards play out the choose-your-own-adventure gameplay, along with pieces which represent enemies, status effects, cap coins (my favorite stuff packed in the box), and a few other things.

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A gist of what you’ll be using

Wandering the board in search of encounters that will reward you quests, useful loot and influence points while you try not to die from super mutants, deathclaws and all the fun post-nuclear freaks in play are the real meat and potatoes here.

Battles are resolved through unique black and green dice meant to mimic targeting in V.A.T.S. Each side of the die displays an outline of a body and parts of it shaded in green to indicate which body part was hit. Enemies require specific parts to be hit, otherwise no damage is done. If an enemy has the the number two on its token and its head area is shaded green, this means only head shots will affect it (specifically two headshots in this case). Some sides of the die have either one, two, or no dots at the feet of the body icon. These dots represent the enemy’s counter-attack against you, meaning each attack against an enemy could be life or death if you haven’t been paying attention to your health or radiation poisoning (which is measured by green and red pegs on your player tray, respectively).

The game has a lot of strengths to it. The quest card library offers a lot of possible quests, but unfortunately it comes at the cost of replaying the same stuff over. After a few playthroughs, you’ll immediately spot prior entry quests and have already in mind how to milk those situations. At moments like this, the game begins to lose some thematic value. My players did love how their choices really did play out, as the game is pretty slick on how it makes player choice a legitimate thing. It wouldn’t be Fallout if there wasn’t tough choices to make, so one person’s choice can and probably will have a future effect on someone.

Though kind of weird from an immersion standpoint all quests no matter who initiated them become available for others to complete. I was pleased to see my players both cooperating on completing quests and racing to finish some to gain immediate influence for themselves. One person’s generosity in helping another player turned out that weak player snuck a victory on the back of said generosity. I enjoyed the salt that followed afterward.

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A solo game, for best immersion played on a dirty rug

Then there’s the quality of the stuff in the box, which suffice to say I felt like my $60 USD worth. Everything feels of good quality: from all the nicely printed cards you’ll panic about losing to the neat tokens you’ll be using to represent changes to your pseudo-Pip Boy. The cards are printed on high quality material, so I feel comfortable they will age well after usage (10 games later, my stuff still looks new). There are a lot of cards here but understandably so. One deck controls loot and gear, another the store and companions, another deck an assembly of V.A.T.S. skills, there’s just a lot of stuff and feels appropriately expensive.

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Faction/Influence Meter slash Scenario Cards

At some point during gameplay you’re expected to claim allegiance to either one of these factions. It’s conceivable you can all chicken out and support the same faction so you all work together to either succeed or fail as a team. You can’t directly engage players in anything but trade and conversation, so you can’t opt to directly murder fellow players. Cooperation is instead encouraged. Leading monsters to your rivals is an allowed strategy if you’re feeling particularly petty.

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Brotherhood Outcast, Wastelander, Vault Dweller, Ghoul and Super Mutant

 

 

 

For the impatient or those who just want to toy around, the rules do accommodate for solo play and it’s not nearly as silly as it sounds. Even solo play feels like I’m experiencing a lot of the core elements of the video game, but with a lot of setup you might find yourself just wanting to fire up one of the video games instead (not bad on a day where you’ve got cabin fever, though).

As much as I’ve loved what I paid for there are some hard to ignore flaws. For one, the verbose rulebook doesn’t do a great job of clearly explaining fairly complicated rules. It took a few visits to Fantasy Flight’s message board to figure out what the hell the rulebook was trying to explain, but after two rocky games I sort of figured things out for myself and adapted a few house rules in the process.

Second, and perhaps harder to ignore, were my problems with the faction system and some of its scenarios. At its best, the faction system makes the game quick, perhaps too quick for players wanting to explore the depth of the quest library. At it’s worst, it can be confusing and you can get stuck with a scenario that’s very, very stingy on influence points and drags on way too long.

For example, the tutorial mission, Fallout 4‘s The Commonwealth, is so far my least liked scenario, as you can easily play for two hours and get at most two influence points (where winning conditions usually ask for around 7-10 influence points). I found a sweet spot in the scenario based on Fallout 3‘s Capital Wasteland, which plays with the influence system more so than the others I experienced (to be honest, I’ve yet to try The Pitt; my players seem to favor the Capital Wasteland), meaning there is a genuinely push-pull going on when players declare for teams.

My average play time per session has so far averaged at about three hours, and that was with me making house rules to shorten the game. So if you’re planning on seeing this game all the way through, clear your day.

All told, the creators did an good job of taking the core elements of Fallout (interacting with the wasteland and creating cause/effect storylines) and adapting them over light role-playing elements. It’s going to take a little brain-elbow grease to get at the heart of how the game works for some (including me), but once you pass that initial learning curve the game is a lot of fun. It’s just ending the game that might cause some headaches. However as I’ve experienced a few house rules can alleviate this, and I’ve garnered nothing but praise and curiosity from my group regarding the game since.

All said, Fallout is a fun but flawed board game. The core experience is solid enough I would recommend this to Fallout faithful. I wouldn’t, however, expect any expansions any time soon, but then again never say never.

Injustice 2: And with TMNT that makes 38

 

In a bitter sweet moment, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have finally dropped into Injustice 2 capping off what was a pretty exciting run of speculation. No one saw the TMNT coming and as weird as their presence is in a dystopian future with a sad-brains Superman, it’s really fucking awesome to see them at work.

We’ve made no secret around here we like Netherrealm Studios’s Injustice 2. Like a lot. In fact, I have a lot of love for the semi-local product for quite a long time, fondly having played little league across what was once the old Midway office while schooling bitches in Mortal Kombat. Because of course we’re diligent people here at High Kick and were following each DLC’s release (with a small lapse, yes), we couldn’t let this momentous occasion pass by.

The TMNT crew is a bit more complicated to work than most other characters, since your weapon of choice dedicates which turtle you play and half the team operates on their own set of rules. Melee fighters like Raphael and Michelangelo don’t have certain charging-forward moves that Leonardo and Donatello have, but they do have access to new combo inputs the others don’t.

Their use of the character ability is also impacted by which turtle you use: Donatello has access to specialized landmines, Michelangelo utilizes his skateboard to coast and launch it, Raphael uses a taunt move first to build up his character power (that you must input) but will grant him an auto-combo depending on how many taunts performed (limit of 5 stored), and Leonardo utilizes all the other three individually depending on button press (for example, character power button + a direction chooses which turtle will show, while just pressing the character button will spawn Donatello).

I can easily see the TMNT team wrecking havoc on unsuspecting newbs given how each turtle has their own little flavor to them that both makes them familiar but different enough. Because showing is always better than telling, I’ll let the video do the rest of the talking. Cowabunga dude! Come on don’t cringe on me, I had to say it once. AT LEAST ONCE.

Fortnite: It’s a Safe Space

Here’s the thing: I want to like PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS. I want to understand my friends’s obsession with this game, but for the life of me I can’t. Running around an empty world for 10 minutes to be sniped by hackers or just in general isn’t too much fun in my book. It was suggested that maybe I just wasn’t attune to the game enough, that more time practicing would help me see how fun this is. Or better yet, squad-ing with them would make the game more fun. And in this somewhat true, rolling with three others friends will always be more fun than the lone pubby whose lunch for someone’s chicken dinner.

At first I dismissed Fortnite, like I’m sure a lot of PUBG players probably still do, as a poor man’s imitator. You fly into an island map, you parachute to a location of your choice and you stay alive as long as possible. All similar and core functions of PUBG. However Fortnite adds complication where PUBG is pure simplicity and I’m sure that’s where many fans stop.

To be fair I’m not one for competitive shooters. Perhaps now as an adult the last thing I  need is additional stress on top of managing life, and PUBG can be quite fucking stressful. PUBG’s lessons are slow and hard, and vary depending on which map the game tries to push (Miramar sucks, obvs). This is all to say, I felt like I was chasing a high that yet to come. It wasn’t even about the winning moreso it was just feeling like I was just doing something other than running and hiding.

It’s counter-intuitive to a PUBG player to consider creating a wooden wall as cover versus finding the nearest thing for cover. Or even more so counter intuitive to build towers to post up in. Fortnite encourages general creation over circle management: matches are meant to be quick and very messy.

There’s a very different feeling when shit goes down in PUBG:

As opposed to how it goes down in Fortnite:

It’s like talking apples and oranges. Yeah their both fruits but obviously the flavor here is a bit different. Also I have to acknowledge the Fortnite clip was solo while I had a partner in PUBG, but trust me the footage would’ve been more boring without.

To be clear I hate battle royales in general. Even if I find myself craving an occasional match it’s in the same sense that I’m disgusted with myself that I still eat McDonald’s; but drunk at 2a and yeah I’ll get 40 chicken nuggets and large fries, sure. Truth be told, any game can be a lot of fun with the right friends, but PUBG in particular is a tough one to enjoy when cheaters are plenty.

All I’m saying right now is give Fortnite a chance. Yes it’s free, yes it has microtransactions (perhaps less onerous than PUBG’s bullshit crates), and yes it’s visuals are very Team Fortress 2-esqe. It’s also stupid fun and a safe space for PUBG refugees.

Get Gud: A PUBG Beginner’s Story

tl;dr

 

I’ve spent a fair amount of time playing PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS both in Early Access and now in official release, and I still don’t know how to feel about it. I both feel this is the most obnoxious fucking game I’ve played to date and also one of the most intense, often switching off between the two intermittently.  Initially I wanted to write some kind of review, but then I quickly realized it was both a dumb and pointless. Instead, I thought it would be more constructive to document the early experience of the game in the eternal quest to “get gud” as I’m often told. Especially since there is inherent comedy in watching futile attempts to succeed.

There is a very specific sense of fragility to this game. The player knows there is no safety anywhere. No matter how much equipment you gather, how suped up your gun may be, how much bullet-proof padding or how many kills you’ve recently acquired there is always the lingering knowledge your (digital) life is forfeit at literally any moment. Lately, it seems, thanks to Chinese hackers. In many ways, PUBG is legitimately both the most obnoxious and the most frightening game I’ve played yet.

Ultimately words don’t do justice to prove how much I suck. So, I’ve distilled my early experiences with the game into a small video. I’m sorry in advance.

Replay – Cities: Skylines

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There’s no serious way I can make Cities: Skylines sound sexy and I’ve tried at least six different drafts of this. It lacks the explosive action of popular games like PlayerUnknown’sBattlegroundsOverwatch, or anything that involves murdering people. Cities: Skylines is the complete antithesis of games like that: it’s slow, very mellow and about procedural growth. I’d forgive you if this is where you started tuning out but if you can, bear with me.

It probably explains a lot I smoke a decent amount of weed before zoning out for the next four hours in what is surely a bizarre stupor to any bystanders. There is no decipherable action to let you know you’re doing right aside from numbers being green, happy sounding noises, no angry looking icons floating above buildings, and the bright green smiley face at the bottom of the HUD telling me I’m doing a-ok. That’s not to say there aren’t frustrating moments. After all, nothing like spending an hour trying to revive a city imploded by my own lack of foresight.

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Skylines is without argument the best SimCity-esque game on the market today, beating out even the originator itself, SimCity. Of which was deeply shamed back in 2013 so badly EA had to do a LOT of damage control and probably won’t be heard from ever again. The goal is very simple: develop your provided property into a growing town and supervisor its development and growth into a full-blown city. However actually doing this is another, as unlike in SimCity 4 (the last decent SimCity), it’s pretty possible to fail making a town from the very start.

This is a supremely menu driven game, and many of your questions you’ll come across during your time building cities will often be answered looking for data within the myriad of menus, though perhaps not so obviously. Skylines asks the player to think ahead in terms of how to proceed, because while not impossible, it’s hard and damaging to your city to try and re-build segments after they’ve already started growing independently.

Your endgame is to create as large as city as possible, anyway you want so long as it is financially sustainable. This means watching your budget, finding ways to squeeze just a little more money from your properties without pissing off your constituents, and giving your city time to develop organically by letting its simulations run a bit. You’ll want to throw stadiums around and grow as fast as possible, however too fast growth can also mean your artificial population bubble will burst hard when the weight of the city collapses upon itself because you didn’t let its population catch-up to your rapid growth.

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Unlike the aforementioned SimCity, the world of Skylines feels organic and alive. Your citizens, each and every one, can be selected, followed and studied. They are born, they grow, they work, they die. They also unfortunately move into cities at the exact same age, causing what’s known in the Cities: Skylines community as a “death wave” if you grow a huge chunk of your city at the same time. Good luck keeping your cemeteries open.

Perhaps the biggest complaint against Cities: Skylines is the developer’s tendency to create weak DLC and charge premium prices. I don’t have any of the paid-DLC installed (there are bits of free DLC that are quite a bit of fun), but I can say I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. It’s also hard for me to justify spending $12.99 USD to include natural disasters, a feature I find myself asking why the fuck would I pay so much for. Seems like something basic that should’ve been included from the onset.

You could spend $5.99 USD to supplement the free Match Day DLC (which gives you the ability to place a large-scale football stadium in your city) with four actual recreations of real football stadiums such as FC Barcelona, Chelsea, PSG, and Juventus. Again, you might’ve missed where I said this $5.99 DLC just has four stadiums. This is the type of crap I was talking about.

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Look, again, none of this sounds sexy, like, at all. Cities: Skylines is meant for a particular audience: one tired of random violence and into methodical, zen-like construction. I enjoy the steady grind of slowly letting a city build its economy up itself. There is a sense of peace and focus I’ve never quite experienced with other games. Sure, it’s easy to zone out but the game also calls for a measure of attention to make sure your growing city doesn’t decay from within so easily. There is no end, just the infinite potential of growth and seeing what kind of civil creator you are. Or at least until you misappropriate the city’s funds.