Case For/Against – The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited

The concept was pretty cool: take the massive role-playing experience provided by the likes of Skyrim and convert it to a MMO in hopes of creating a more narrative-flexible MMO in a genre that’s typically inflexible. Much like Star Wars: The Old Republic tried this last, and Elder Scrolls Online tried to cash in on a single-player franchise and apply it to it’s total opposite. It’s was a gambit that fell relatively flat quickly, despite early praise, and (also like Old Republic) quickly went free-to-play surviving off initial purchases and its atypical in-game store.

Tamriel Unlimited is among the first (Neverwinter having the distinction of being the first MMO on next-gen consoles) in likely many more console-headed MMOs. It controls and plays admirably on a controller, especially in a genre that features many nuances requiring key-logged macros, but things work pretty well. I can’t speak for the experience as a whole. Full disclosure I’ve never been a huge fan of MMOs. The last two I voraciously consumed were City of Villains and the first Guild Wars. I found myself chronically wanting to assault people in real life during my very, very brief stint with World of Warcraft, and after that effectively gave up on the genre until my next very, very brief stint with Star Wars: The Old Republic.

I wasn’t entirely sure how to approach talking about this game, so I’m just going to do this in the most simplistic way I can:

Pros

On the plus side, if you’re a big time Elder Scrolls fan whose been playing since the days of Dagerfall, it’s a treat to finally explore the whole world of Tamriel. Finally getting to see the likes of Elsweyr or Black Marsh was pretty cool. Especially after just having only read about them in in-game lore for several years. Maybe these will also be locations I’ll one day fully explore in a single-player setting since playing online felt like a non-stop chore.

I digress, to Elder Scrolls Online’s credit the world looks really good and true to Elder Scrolls’ fantasy design (though generic it might be anyway). Also the character creation system is pretty damn flexible. From the character creator itself, which allows very detailed avatars, to the build of the characters themselves. Instead of investing points into a general pool, Elder Scrolls Online tasks players with developing the character through repeated use, much like in the singe-player franchise. Want to wield a greatsword? In true form you must use one over and over in order to specialize with that weapon. Unfortunately, I also have beef with this system which leads me to the…

Cons

… of the specialization system. I get what the game wants the player to accomplish. Become good through use. Instead of waiting to level up to use something, you just use that weapon type from the start and keep with it. Instead of investing general points into pools, like being good at all swords or staves or bows, you have to invest in specific weapon types of those weapons. Meaning there are multiple types of the same magic staves to invest points in. So say when you invest in restoration staves, those point buffs don’t match to the other staff types like the destruction magic staves. It’s way specific as even the mainline games don’t do this. This means you must at times knowingly stick with weaker weapon options because that’s what you invested points in. Did that all read a little confusing? Good now we’re both on the same page about it.

As for the rest of the game very little of it feels like anything but the same MMO archetype I’ve experienced for decades. Sure, there are some occasional lines in a side-quest that check to see if I’ve been paying attention to the story but generally I’m not. I’m trapped in an eternal loop of fetch quests running around like a dumb bitch. Might as well make it mandatory to name your character Gopher, because I’m constantly going for other people’s shit. There’s nothing particularly engaging about the plot. A Deadric lord stole my soul, that alone should lead to a badass revenge story, but instead it’s, “Our nation is at war! Oh by the way, you have no soul, did you know that?” And I suppose that’s the fundamental problem when it comes to these story-focused MMOs.

The story wants you to suspend your disbelief and ask you to believe your unique (you’re not, ever) despite seeing an endless supply of new characters join you in your seemingly pivotal moment. It’s like being nominated for an award, onto find that every single person who was nominated won anyway. What the fuck is the point of this. As for it’s basic MMO elements, it’s grouping system also sucks to boot. It’s faster and more efficient to just spam, “LFG, LFG” over and over than trying to use the built-in system. So there’s that too.

MMOs are a dime a dozen now. There are some games that are worth your time and others that simply aren’t. Elder Scrolls Online, in my humble opinion, isn’t. Exploring Tamriel with friends might be cool, and the experience system makes it flexible enough to make whatever build your mind comes up, but that’s where the fun ends. There will be two minds on this game as long as it exists: the fans of the singe-player games disappointed with how unrecognizable the MMO is, and MMO fans who have been so inundated by other MMOs that they don’t give a shit anymore, it’s another fix.

Mandatory Score: 6/10

The nicest thing I can say about Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited is that it’s decent. But decent isn’t enough. Not when there are plenty of better, and subscription free, MMOs out there if you’re desperate to fulfill your OCD needs of eternal character grinding. Granted, it’s not all bad but it’s hard to want to invest in something that invested little in itself.

Advertisements

An Adult’s Primer Guide to Getting Back into Pokemon

MewTwoHeader

Alright let’s check our attitudes at the door and get this out of the way now: Confess to yourself right now that you’re still interested in Pokemon. Admit it. Now. Ok. Alright then.

Despite the inclusion of five new generations of weird monsters, mega evolutions, and a couple of new element types the fundamentals of Pokemon remain intact. The creed of ” Gotta catch ’em all!” still applies in full forces, along with the unspoken rules: subjugate all  and humiliate all foes. Ever been Trap Room-ed?

Wait, I thought there were only 150? Well now there’s 720 (and counting).

Seriously? Is Pokemon still this big a deal? Yes.

So what’s still so interesting about these games? Competition is what keeps Pokemon alive throughout all these years. Despite the simplicity of its paper-scissors-rocks styled fights the sheer amount of moves, team combinations and breeding possibilities means an almost infinite amount of team combinations. Not to mention Nintendo routinely runs official tournaments with varying themes. The latest is the upcoming Pikachu Cup: an all electric-type tournament where if Pikachu is the most commonly used in the tournament, a specialized Pikachu will be sent to participants. The rules are stupid but the effort is there. This is also not to mention global live tournaments also hosted annually by Nintendo. If you were inclined to take the game that seriously, there is a prize at the end of that road.

I want to attempt the insane task of collecting them all. What then? If getting your ass kicked online in all likelyhood by either Japanese children or 27 year-old American men isn’t your thing, collecting is thankfully just as addicting as brutalizing.

Aside from roaming the in-game world for these little bastards, you will also need to rely on trading with other real-life trainers to fill your checklist. Online trading is extremely fun if you play your cards right. For starters, the feature called Wonder Trade is the best new feature modern Pokemon games has provided. You can trade whatever you want to a cloud network where you will be set up for blind trades. You’d be right to predict a boatload of shitty low-level pokemon coming your way, but I’ve personally obtained lots of rare monsters thanks to mystery benefactors. It’s the lowest risk version of gambling around, specially designed for children.

Along with blind trades players can utilize the Global Trade System (GTS) to find specific pokemon. This system only works if you are offering something popular, or are very specific about what you want since looking for fair trades on GTS is akin to getting having your weird doujinshi fan-fiction coming to life. Just kidding. But seriously, if you’re writing that shit please stop it. If you don’t know what that is, please don’t look it up. Trades tend to be of the lopsided variety, where every listing at least contains 20 demands for rarities and legendaries monsters.

Cool, but I’m, like, a busy person? Why should I care? The best argument I have is that Pokemon is the perfect portable game. Truly it’s the only reason the DS and Nintendo’s portable lines still exist. It’s easy to jump into but enormously difficult to master. You could spend weeks just trying to craft a statistically-perfect Charmander that will grow into an angel of death, in an attempt to assemble the perfect team. That’s also to say there is no such thing as a perfect team, since everything has a weakness, but whatever.

It’s that level of strategy that keeps older gamers coming back. It distills the simplest elements of RPGs and makes it digestible in bite-sized portions. This is something that could easily be played on trains, on planes, and yes even in automobiles. If your quest is to become the best fighter, online competition is like your disappointed step-dad that tells you to your face that you’re not good enough but will become furious when you stop trying. You might be able to beat a few scrubs but the serious trainers out there will floor your punk ass.

Squirtle Squad (Original)1

Alright, I’m sorta interested. Which one should I buy? The latest game is Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire which was released last November. It’s a remake of 2003’s Ruby & Sapphire utilizing 2013’s X&Y engine. It has the most features of all the games and is the most online capable. It has most of the best elements of X&Y, though X&Y is much kinder (and shorter) for beginners.

If your appetite is to go retro, the Gameboy Color’s Gold/Silver is widely considered the best generation by gamers  who likely refer to their DS’ as Gameboys. As for older DS games, Black/White and Diamond/Pearl were largely forgettable. Soul Silver/Heart Gold versions are solid remakes of the original Silver/Gold and are (again) arguably the best of the generations. It is very grind heavy and slower paced than the newer games, but I suppose you can’t rush classics.

Can you trade somehow between past generations? Like DS to 3DS? Or older ones like from the GBA to the 3DS? It’s a complicated answer, so the short answer is no. The long answer is yes, but with a number of annoying stipulations. Many of which require you practically own the entire Nintendo DS family line. Or you could hack the game, which is a tried and true method. But that’s frowned upon. Especially by Pokemon’s game servers which (sometimes) catches frauds then ban cartridges that produce them from online participation.

If I can’t catch these damn monsters on my own, how can I get them? Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire are the best entries for this. You can utilize two wonderful apps: Wondertrade and GTS. Wondertrade is a blind trade randomizer. You offer up whatever pokemon you want and it’ll be shipped into holding online. You’ll instantly engage in a random trade. I’ve personally gotten extraordinary rarities like event pokemon and shiny variants this way by way of merciful benefactors. GTS, on the other hand, can be a pain in the ass to work with. Even for common pokemon, there are countless players online who clog listings demanding impossible trades. Mewtwo for a regular Pikachu? Fuck you dude.

Charmander and Slowpoke at the Park final

Will I ever catch them all? In all likelihood you never will. A select 16 are only obtainable through official distributions from Nintendo themselves. Of which happen seldom in North America. The rest you’ll have to barter for either through friends directly or (more likely) strangers online without any direct means of communication (which is for the best).

These games are too easy. Yeah, the newer games got faster in tempo. Leveling up and grinding cash is almost effortless in X&Y, while cash is always tight in ORAS. The original games were grind fests where all fights more boiled down to barreling through gyms at high levels. Nowadays types and specific stats count more than levels. The remakes of generation two are probably the biggest of all the games, but also among the toughest. They also included dozens of legendary from past generations.

However if the games overall are just too easy for you (because let’s face it, they aren’t exactly THAT complicated), fans have developed custom rules they impose on themselves to toughen the game. The more popular of which is to turn the game more rouge-like by making pokemon knockouts count as permanent “deaths.” Pokemon KO call for the release of that KO’d monster, while trainer KOs call for a total restart. But like every game ever, how you choose to play is always up to you.

What tips do you recommend so I don’t get my ass kicked? There are some things to keep in mind when trying to make actually good teams. The first of which is just mess around and toy with different pokemon. The lamest looking are often the most deceptive hiding extremely valuable moves. Not to mention trying different pokemon gives you an idea of what you want in a team and what sort of strategy you can build off of that. Sure you could try to bludgeon your way through most of your opponents, and it might works a couple of times, but eventually the same plan get seen through.

Once you’ve found the pokemon your looking to use create the best version of them through selective breeding. Breeding gets complicated but it’s a necessity if you’re going to take people on online. And with each version comes different ways to breed efficiently. There are tons of sites out there offering tips about breeding, but here’s one that offers the very basics (the author assumes you’re using ORAS). I’m not going to get into detail about IVs, EVs, hidden abilities, natures and all that other shit. We’re just starting out here.

Sites like Serebii.net and Bulbapedia are useful when figuring out what you need. Especially Serebii.net which is updated with Pokemon information like evolution conditions, overall stats, and event-only pokemon releases on the regular. Smogon is considered the defacto home of serious competitive Pokemon by a pretty large community. Plus much of their information is rock solid too, offering strategies and pokemon combinations if you’re looking for guidance. Plus its site is really cool, try messing around with its Attackdex page.

Ok, looks easy. Shouldn’t have too hard a time. Sure, when you’re sitting around reading spreadsheets and tables. Until a single pokemon comes along, picks you up by your dumb-ass pocket protector, and slaps the shit out of you while recounting its enchanting evening with your mom. In seriousness, get ready to lose. A lot. Pokemon’s fanbase is very, very dedicated to winning. Meaning to become the best you’re going to have to invest a disgusting amount of time into the game.

So what do you think? Ready to get started again?

Someone matches Dark Souls speed record using YouTube

It feels like every once in a while someone is attempting some new bizarre speed run of Dark Souls. One player has beaten the game using a Guitar Hero controller, while another player has beaten it by just yelling at the game. One player has taken it to the next level simply by using their eyes.

Going by the online alias of BakaGaijin, the player has alleged to have tied the alleged fastest speed run record set by Twitch streamer Elajjz of 1:24:20, simply by watching the screen. Over an IRC chat interview BakaGaijin said, “It was intense. It was definitely a strain on my eyes to stare so hard and for so long but I did it. I managed to maintain constant eye contact and completed the game from beginning to end.” When I asked how he felt sharing the current record Gaijin replied, “He did it his way. I did it my way. That’s all I’m going to say.”

Muten P’s Theatre – Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’

dragonballresurrectionf1

Battle of the Gods was like a wish from the Dragon Balls themselves coming true. A continuation of Z? Under creator Akira Toriyama? It was taken as a sign from the gods that were like, “Hey guy, what’s up? Heard you like Dragon Ball Z? Well how about some more?… Nah man, I’m not talking GT…yeah…well, anyway here’s a movie.” It was awesome, how could DBZ fans not be excited at the prospect of more stories? I guess maybe be a little careful what you wish for.

In BotG we got a limp story that was an excuse to explain why Goku can transform a couple of more times. Resurrection ‘F’ however fires on all cylinders from the very beginning. In fact it fires so hard it says fuck it to the story entirely. For that reason Resurrection ‘F’ is all the better for it. It gets to the meat of what we want, more fights. Though to be honest the title would have been better served as: Dragon Ball Z – Vegeta Can Do Goku Shit Too.

Freiza, trapped in his own personally designed hell in Hell, escapes thanks to the last remaining soldiers loyal to his cause and some unlikely help.  Having thought of nothing but revenge the entire time in Hell, Freiza decides if he actually put his whole ass into something just once he could become powerful enough to get his revenge against Goku. And lo-and-behold within a few short sequences we see a super saiyan-ed golden Frieza looking to start shit again.

Meanwhile Goku is off training under Whis with Vegeta on Beerus’ world. If that sentence made you say, “What?” and wince then you gotta watch BotG and come back.  In short time Goku and Vegeta naturally develop even greater powers. Whis schools them on their toxic relationship and their personal flaws: if they could only learn to work together they would become unstoppable. Both Goku and Vegeta agree Whis needs to shut up.

Upon learning Freiza is blowing cities up on Earth, Goku and Vegeta race back to find a resurrected Frieza invading with an army of thousands of warriors. We are reintroduced into the old cast auxiliary again and seeing what they’ve been up to in the years they’ve been away. Piccolo has grown a little softer, Krillen is caring for his family, Gohan is doing the same while becoming physically weaker. It’s a short reunion to get the viewer up to speed on a now older cast.

Without providing any more spoilers, the movie serves to provide another transformation for Vegeta and Goku, the awkwardly named Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan (or SSGSS), but mostly pointing out Vegeta has finally matched Goku in power. This is to play a bigger role in the upcoming Dragon Ball Super, but for now the film feels like another filler episode. Sure the fight was pretty cool and interesting. Ultimately though nothing that happens in this movie matters much beyond Vegeta becoming a SSGSS himself.

What happens next? That’s to be seen soon with Dragon Ball Super. But if you happen upon Resurrection: ‘F’ give it a shot. It’s wonderfully colorful, unexpectedly flashy and a surprising treat to see an old villain one more time. Even if it’s just an appetizer until the new series comes stateside. It’s a nice distraction even if it shows you things you you’ve already seen dozens of times before.

Summer Fun 2015 Pt.2

The dog days of summer have lingered for a while now leaving the city feeling muggy as shit. This is the type of humidity that feels as if you’re swimming through air, your underwear drowning. Then again it’s also nice to see the sun since I’ll miss it come late September. (American) Football season is upon us meaning another year of intense TV watching, panic filled smartphone glancing, and the unyielding and personally crushing disappointment that is fantasy football. However there are still a few weeks till regular season begins and I’ve got time on my hands with some days off from work. In that time the new Dragon Ball Z movie came and went recently, feel free to peruse my not-quite a review here. And since the film put me in a Dragon Ball mood, I figured it was a good time to dig back into a game I’ve saved since February.

Game 2: Dragon Ball Xenoverse (PC, PS3/4, X360/ONE)

Lots of Kamehameha Waves

Released: February 24, 2015

So what is it? The most recent installment in a long line of hyper-mediocre Dragon Ball Z games. Like Dynasty Warriors, it’s fan base will believe anything to keep their addiction going. How does one even reach hyper-mediocrity? It’s an interesting phenomenon but one that happens to franchises that drown in its own sea of shameless cash-ins. Many of the DBZ games have either been bizarre amalgamations of lesser fighters (the Budokai series stands as brighter gems of the bunch) or weird RPG projects. This game falls into the later category.  Dimps went in a different direction with Battle of Z which mixed simple beat-em up combat with a hefty coat of flashy graphics. While Metacritic doesn’t have many kind things to say about it, it still filled a void in mimicking the frenetic action of the anime. Xenoverse carries Battle of Z’s simplicity and puts expands it to an online world. Better yet, one experienced through the eyes of your own custom character.

What if I don’t watch Dragonball Z? Then you will most definitely not give a flying fuck about this.

Even Batman plays

So why the hell should I play this? Truthfully this is a package intended only for the DBZ faithful. The type who have subjected themselves to too much psychological abuse by knowingly paying for shitty games. In a way it’s akin to developing stockholm syndrome. “If I buy enough of these, at least one of them has to be amazing, right? Maybe then they’ll finally let me go?” Some sad shit, truly. I’m here to argue Dragon Ball Xenoverse is the best to date in a franchise which seldom does anything different. It’s also like proudly proclaiming your the tallest midget, if that makes sense.

So let’s pretend your an ardent DBZ fan. You may be asking why you should even bother with this? I’m with you on that you shouldn’t pay full price ($59.99) for this one. However Xenoverse has managed to find a compromise between providing the non-stop flashy beams with signature attacks of the show while keeping combat simple and quick. The roster is fairly big with 50 characters, some alternate versions of the same character, so you can set up your own dream mash-ups very easily.

Moreover the biggest appeal to Xenoverse is the idea you can create your own fighter for the first time in franchise history. Xenoverse’s story weaves in and out Z’s story lines and tasks your custom fighter with protecting the official timeline at the behest of Trunks and the Supreme Kai of Time. In ture DBZ movie history, the story is lame but there’s entertainment in finally seeing something different in a DBZ game for once. Besides, the true point of Xenoverse is to provide a platform for everyone to show off their own Gokus. In a game where five unique races are now available (Saiyans, Earthlings, Buus, Frieza Race and Namekian) each with their own unique buffs and hundreds of fancy, colorful moves to perform every soul is inevitably drawn to making some kind of bootleg Goku. Yes, you can go Super Saiyan. No, you can’t go Super Saiyan 3 or 4.

Playing  the game’s various quests online is where this all works and survives by. Offline missions are extremely tedious and some are downright annoying without at least another person’s help. Especially early in the game when you are still developing your new fighter and want to level up on the quick. Each time you level up you allocate points to either boosting the energy bar, health, stamina bar and general speed. These points are also buffed by certain race bonuses, like the Saiyan’s general boosts to everything but mostly physical attack, or the Namekians’ ability to regenerate health independently.

Mandatory Goku Look-Alike

At higher levels the game because a series of bit-sized fights rarely going on longer than seven minutes with either crushing victory or hilariously embarrassing failures. Every mission is limited to 15 minutes and early experiences will likely see time-outs. High level missions become massive seizures in the making. The lock-on targeting is mandatory at all times since it’s very easy to lose track of the action without it. Online fights between players are also somewhat broken thanks to the abuse of Female Earthling types: characters too small and hard to hit with most normal attacks, but also benefit from a constant supply of refilling energy which fuels the fuck you beams. However when playing with more open minded players, it’s fun to settle fantasy fights with strangers in a really dumb flying brawler. Who would win in a fight: Broly or Yamcha? The possibilities are truly endless!

Sadly the world isn’t influenced at all by these crazy energy beams being thrown around. When firing off a 100X Kamehameha Wave at a building, you’d expect it to stop existing instead of leaving a quarter sized dent in the building which vanishes after three seconds. This is something no Dragon Ball Z game has managed to capture yet: a sense of scale and destruction all these heavyweights cause when they fight. I hope maybe Dimps (or anyone else) is given time, money, sleep, food or whatever is required to make this happen should Xenoverse get a sequel. We want to see the world shake when Beerus is throwing giant spheres of energy into the ground.

With all that said, it’s not a great game. It’s a decent game for the single-minded. It’s not even one I can recommend to people who don’t own Dragon Ball figures somewhere in their house. If, though, you’ve already sullied yourself playing past games, Xenoverse is the closest the franchise has come to replicating the frenetic fights of the anime. Fans looking for deeper experiences might as well keep playing Budokai 3 or drawing shitty fan-fiction. As much negativity I’ve pumped into this article, Xenoverse still puts a dumb-ass grin on my face to spam Kamehameha beams at people after coming back home drunk.

Concentrated ANgeR

Mandatory Score: 6/10

Replaying Rarities with Rare Replay

Rare Replay is one of those games I found myself excited for yet didn’t know why. As if I was brainwashed at an unknown point and the sight of Rare’s logo activated subliminal programming forcing me to think, “Oh shit, I fucking need this.” Maybe I was just excited that Microsoft finally unveiled a Xbox One exclusive fans cared about that wasn’t Halo or Gears of War. Or maybe it was the fact the Xbox One would have more N64 games available on it than even Nintendo’s own Wii U’s shop. I can’t remember the reason either. Regardless, $30 bucks for 30 games isn’t a bad deal, especially since Rare has some gems.

This game is straight for the nostalgia junkies. Especially for the nuts who still rant that the N64 was the last good system. Perfect Dark, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Banjo-Kazooie (and it’s two other sequels), Killer Instinct Gold, Jet Force Gemini are just a few names to drop on this bundle and solid reasons to pick this up. I can’t speak much for Rare’s early and later games. I don’t know a soul who ever said they couldn’t wait to replay Kameo: Elements of Power or Viva Pinata, or a dozen mid 80s arcade games (when they were then known as Rareware) bundled in. Like opening a capsule from the distant past to a time when nu-metal was cool.

Jet Force Gemini 1

I’m not much for nostalgia. Very few games age well and fewer pique my interest long enough to give them thought after 10-25 years. How can you when games are being released like clockwork on a breakneck pace? Or with their ever increasing sophistication? Rare Replay reminds me of when weird ass games managed to stand out because being weird was a trademark. Games like Battletoads or even Jet Force Gemini, which is weird as shit, has something special to it. Granted it plays kinda shitty by today’s standards it’s worth a replay to at least consider how cutting edge this was 16 years ago. I don’t have anything I can compare it to other than say it’s a product of the N64 era of games, with their especially weird ass controller scheme. It’s a shooter but not overtly violent as was Nintendo’s notorious ways. You’re enemies are a cross between Stitch from “Lilo & Stitch” and those ants from “A Bug’s Life”. You work to save animals that look like cheaper Ewoks. Yet once the screen starts flashing from the cutting edge tech only 1999 could provide, you can feel the excitement still exists.

Jet Force Gemini 2

I can’t help but feel a lot of love went into the collection. I can only imagine the wave of nostalgia a developer who has been around with the company long enough to remember being called Rareware must have felt looking at old work. Carefully curating the games to make it look just a little cleaner, a little bit shinier like you imagined it did when you were a tiny tot. It’s also a refreshing look at a portfolio of games from a company that was unafraid to be whimsical, bizarre, funny, weird and challenging at the same time. I can’t say I love every game but I do love the collection itself. This is how nostalgia should be done if it must be brought up at all. A joyous look back at a company who hopefully has more left in them to give. And besides, it’s summer so there’s no other games out right now and you’re desperate for something exclusive on the Xbox One, so treat yourself to a surprising buffet.

Viva Pinata 1

Mandatory Score: 8 out of 1738

Lots of great content at an unbeatable price. Those who first played games during the PS3 era will wonder why the hell anyone still wants to play these games. Gamers who remember that arcades were actual places and not just the name of “those old game” combo packs will eat this up. Me and my trap queen  enjoy some throwbacks.

Summer Fun 2015 Pt.1

It’s beautiful outside. The sun is shining, the sky is as blue as the lake is when it’s calm, and there’s a gentle breeze hitting my skin. For Chicago this weather is particularly rare. Summer lasts typically around three months before we re-enter the cold phase and the second-half of Chicago’s “summer” begins. Instead I’m nursing a headache that won’t quit and a fear of light that gives me the feeling of needles to my eyes.

Now that all the AAA titles have been released (Batman: Arkham Knight, The Witcher 3, Mortal Kombat X) and now face the summer drought, now seems like just a good a time as any to go through the ole’ backlog. The game I convinced myself to buy but immediately lost the will to finish. Because let’s face it, is there not a Steam user out there who isn’t knee deep in 30+ games that you bought for less than five bucks? It’s truly a wonderful time we live in for gaming.

I tried this project last summer and got through about ten games, before I caved and craved the sun once more. Not to mention I never pegged down what the fuck I was even going to do with all that shit I wrote. So I’m trying it again this year, but I’m going to continue to find something I can use to turn this into a full-fledged piece. Summer just began, it’s the beginning of July, so let’s see how many games I can get through and how far my patience will take me. I invite you dig through your own backlogs and find new reason to fear the sun like the stregori on The Strain.

Game 1: Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine


Released: April 23, 2013 | PC, Xbox 360, MAC, LNX

What is it? Monaco is a game about navigating mazes. You pick from eight pixelated thieves who sneak into fortified buildings and steal sweet loot. Each character is built with different abilities: the locksmith cracks locks and safes very quickly, but the Cleaner is much quicker and better adept at fighting and disposing of security. It’s fun to return to a map and find a new way to solve the maze using someone like the Redhead who can manipulate single security guards and order them to provide a path for her.

The visuals are kind of conflicting as everything is pixilated but there is a lot going on at any time. Small footprints might suddenly be seen if a security guard is approaching, same with you when running. Truth be told despite seeming kinda minimalist, this shit is also a little complicated. However the game’s use of neon colors and bright lighting against a gray backdrop make everything pop and work.  I felt tension while trying to navigate a burning ship while a helicopter above searches with the aid of foot patrols. The flash of colors when your alert a compound instill a sense of dread I didn’t think I’d be experiencing from something like this.

There doesn’t seem to be much of an active community behind Monaco, leaving it’s online components unfortunately dusty. The madness of four people coordinating a job is something I’ll sadly have to think about rather than experience. It ran a speed run competition last year but its developers have moved onto a new project. Still it survives thanks to Workshop support and a continued influx of custom maps. Many of these created maps are very imaginative (like escaping a UFO) and still give Monaco a breath of life. It’s also routinely on sale during Steam’s various deals, so it wouldn’t hurt to give this indie title a whirl. It may have only been two years since release, but in gaming two years might as well be 10 years ago, but Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine is a game that will age gracefully. Unfortunately I’m not sure many will remember it.

Score: 7/10