Monthly Archives: April 2013

Poker Night 2 Review – When “Just Poker” is Not Enough

At the start of April I noticed a special offer sale for Poker Night at the Inventory and its sequel, Poker Night 2. Aside from the shorter name what caught my interest are the characters who would be entertaining us during the game this time. We would have Brock Sampson (from the Venture Bros Series), Claptrap (From Borderlands 2), Ashley Williams (From The Evil Dead) and Sam (From Sam and Max), with Glados acting as the Dealer. While waiting for Poker Night 2 I decided to play as much of Poker Night at the Inventory as possible and I was pleasantly surprised. The humour was rich and interesting, the inter-changeable decks, table covers and chips added something interesting to the game, and the random occasional rewards spiced things up for my Team Fortress 2 account. I had one major issue with Poker Night at the Inventory, and that would be the surprising Hardware strain on my Laptop. I was armed with similar expectations when I finally entered Poker Night 2, and I was very pleasantly surprised.

Don’t Starve: A Survivor’s Journal

I decided to give Don’t Starve a crack, after a longer pause, to see just how much has changed since my last game (the date of this playthrough would be the 23rd of April, 2013). To do that I decided to start a new game and see how long I can survive, noting down key events that happened to me, throughout. Some things were similar, I found, but it felt like an entirely new experience on different levels. More items, the Winter, drying (and perishable) food… … Walruses, and even a more “Physical” Magic element… including Madness. Compared to what I had about four months ago this felt like Don’t Starve 2.0, and I am glad the game has evolved so much. Although I only made it to day 23 in this playthrough I rather enjoyed it! What, in the end, was my downfall is lack of knowledge of the game (as it currently is) and a complete lack of preparations for the Winter. If you want a lengthy story on me attempting (and failing) to survive, read on! Just so you know, I played on “Default” world Settings, and with Wilson. The substantial lack of images was caused by my software deciding it does not want to cooperate… so I only include the screenies that I had.

Don't Starve

That is more or less how I felt throughout this playthrough.

Primal Carnage: The Basics Guide

Be it Dinosaur or Human, there are things that you have to learn about your respective classes, strategies and a few tips and tricks to cope better both in groups and alone. The aim of this Guide is to provide some basic information on Primal Carnage, its classes and all the other tid-bits that you might be interested in. While I will not tell you how to “win” (there is never a formula for that) I hope that you will gain something new from this guide, or if you are new to Primal Carnage some basic, yet crucial, information. Let us begin by jumping into the basic controls. Jump ahead for into on different classes or to the far end for some Hints and Tips.

Primal Carnage

Are you the Hunter or the Prey?

Bioshock: Infinite – A Minute Macrocosm

Bioshock: Infinite is the third hit from Irrational Games, and frankly the weakest of the three. I know saying that has just ignited a lynch mob and is bound to fill the comment section with people screaming STFU, but please hear me out.

I acknowledge wholeheartedly that Irrational has created a sweeping experience that slowly carries the player from a place of ignorance to one of enlightenment. It’s a long series of carefully placed clues intertwined with a satisfying story to bring us to the story’s twist (just as there was in Bioshock). And we as players get so bent on looking for and anticipating that moment of revelation that we’re willing to forgive and forget a lot, but it has to be said that the experience Bioshock: Infinite presents is simply not as solid as its forebears.

First, I’ll sing the game’s praises and hopefully tiptoe through the explanation of its weakpoints without giving away any spoilers. So allow me to give a stream of consciousness regarding my first few moments playing.

RAGE at paid day 1 DLC. I already paid a fucking arm and leg for the game, Xbox, and TV. I’m not throwing more money out for the DLC, Xbox Live, and internet when there was no reason other than greed on earth, heaven, and in hell for this business practice—Wow, cool music video! Fuck the season pass store! Rowing, rowing, rowing, learning I’m playing as Booker Dewitt, an ex-cavalryman who served at Wounded Knee. Being talked about like I’m not there by a couple of bickering Brits. Now I’m being stranded. Now I’m reading a threatening note from a creditor that can’t possibly have been placed in such a remote area by anyone other than an inhabitant. Find religious tripe. Repeatedly. Then, oh blue fucking Jesus, a man’s been tortured to death…which I suppose is historically appropriate for religion too. Alright, stuffed into a rocket, then shot into the sky—Where I find the sublime dream of an America that never was in gold, white, and blue. Is this heaven? Crap. They’re all Christian fanatics and I’m seeing triptychs and iconography reminding me of a combination of several cults and architecture pulled from major churches of the Latter Day Saints… This won’t end well.

Bigotry. Religion. Prejudice. Yup. 'Murica

Bigotry. Religion. Prejudice. Yup. ‘Murica

Columbia, the city in the sky, is a metaphor (both in the glories presented and the evils hidden) of a society governed entirely by a unified religion. It’s a metaphor for the promised land that was the American Dream, and our character is a metaphor for the lowly immigrant who ventures across dangerous waters and uncertain circumstances for the hope that the dream is a reality. It contrasts sharply with Rapture from Bioshock, a forward thinking society that had cast out all religion. The subtext of Columbia, whether implied or just plain unavoidable, is that adherence to any one creed in word and not in deed brings about the same earthly evils as any society with or without a religion. The joke whose intentions I’m still questioning is that adhering to any creed in deed will bring about horrors of a different but equally terrible nature. It maintains both capitalist and segregationist overtones while presenting its citizens in a fashion that I think qualifies as uncanny valley.

Unlike in Bioshock, where you arrive to find Rapture already in ruin and are left to piece together in your mind the splendor of yesteryear, Columbia is filled with living, breathing citizens. They say a few words as you pass by. But you can’t respond. And their mood is both so peaceful and bland (reminding me of the Eloi from The Time Machine) that you realize the entire city (with its peoples) is based on The American Adventure pavilion at Epcot Center. There’s even an homage to it with an animatronic George Washington at the floating boardwalk. That in itself could be enough of a hook to pull us in. Sadly, it doesn’t really go anywhere. They all simply disappear when the shooting starts. There are no murmurs of dissent or slowly changing popular opinion as the game progresses and the city spirals further into dystopian ruin. It’s simply a stage early in the game that’s just as easily forgotten, and to match as gripping an experience as the first Bioshock requires that each element of the story and stage of the game lock together to create a tapestry that flows and moves, each piece of the utmost important to the whole.

That doesn’t happen here. You run across segregationists and ant-segregationists, and just leave them as you found them. The same with a floating version of the Ku Klux Klan that hails John Wilkes Booth as the slayer of the Great Tyrant. You are pulled in as a sort of Anti-Christ figure in their religious mythology, but you’re never given a choice. And since one of the major themes in Bioshock: Infinite centers around the choices we make and their consequences, being railroaded throughout the game just doesn’t make any sense. You are presented with a macrocosm of ideas, possibilities, and ideologies, but have only one way of doing things.

Heads or tails? Doesn't matter.

Heads or tails? Doesn’t matter.

Take for example theft. There are areas in the game where you are guilty of theft and attacked if you pick up things off the ground. In other areas it’s considered scavenging and perfectly fine. I would happily pay for the items rather than steal them, but I’m not given the option. So I’ve gotta be branded a thief and kill a bunch of people unnecessarily.

On the other hand, I have many options when it comes to using my Vigors, Columbia’s version of Rapture’s plasmids. But I only use whichever one I currently have equipped since they all pretty much do the same thing. I can fling them directly at the enemy or use them as booby traps, firing with my gun all the while.

Gameplay in Bioshock: Infinite is diminished due to a lack of strategy. Your enemies all have guns. They shoot at you. That’s it. In Rapture my enemies were armed, unarmed, acrobatic, heavily-armored, navigating a maze of ruined art deco buildings and half-flooded apartments. My ammo was limited and my plasmids at best put me on even terms with the enemy. I had to hack cameras, turrets, and other gadgets and take advantage of semi-destructible environmental items to stay a step ahead of the hordes of crazies who wanted to use my skin as a dressing gown. Here I frequent a lot of docks and loading bays and shoot a lot of people screaming prayers, which is what people tend to scream when you’re walking around shooting at random. There’s no strategy. No puzzle-solving. And no story engagement since I don’t ever identify or get to know my enemies. In Rapture I almost pitied the psychotic splicers who had been driven over the edge of sanity by their own warped science.

The only time Bioshock: Infinite breaks from this mold is when you take the skyrails, mixing high-flying rollercoasters with shooting in a fashion I think was done first in the film Zombieland. Still fun as all get out, though. I restarted several times just to play the skyrails over again.

Since Vigors are not used to their full potential, there needs to be a game-changing element here. That element, or so I thought for the first half-hour, was Elizabeth, the quasi-dimensional Tails to your silent and repetitive Sonic. This is the closest to puzzle-solving that you run across. Elizabeth can open portals to other dimensions. She brings you money, salts, and ammunition. And she can even bring into this reality objects and architecture from other realities. But why, if we’re looking at an infinite number of outrageous possibilities, does this boil down to sentry turrets and skyhooks? A year before Bioshock: Infinite was released, Irrational claimed that Elizabeth would be doing crazy things like dropping freight trains onto enemy’s heads and knocking down walls with speeding firetrucks popping out of thin air. They’re working with quantum mechanics and postulating the infinite universes theory here. They could literally pull from anything their sick, twisted little imaginations come up with, and the best they can do is sentry turrets? That’s throwing pearls before swine!

Weapons, wind, half-turning? Criteria for a badass game cover met.

Weapons, wind, half-turning? Criteria for a badass game cover met.

The graphics are breathtaking, and Bioshock: Infinite modulates the mood impeccably, especially when it has a nasty surprise in store, but there are thematic inconsistencies which taint what would otherwise be a satisfying experience. In Rapture, their entire society was based on casting aside their past and full steam ahead to a bright, unfettered future. That future came in the form of plasmids: a substance which could change your genetic makeup and give you unbelievable powers. Rapture’s rise, politics, economics, warring factions, and eventual downfall all revolved around plasmids. In Bioshock: Infinite, the presence of Vigors is not explained. They have no demonstrable impact on society. What’s worse, considering how hidebound and traditional Columbia’s society is, gamechanging elements such as Vigors should’ve been eschewed. Throw in quantum physics, religion, ancestor worship, capitalism, segregation, and there is, in other words, no singular lore to which Bioshock: Infinite ascribes in order to maintain a tight, cohesive world. Your storyline might move along quickly, but in order to plant the seeds of doubt in the player’s mind which anticipates the inevitable twist it sacrifices substance for glitz. Your voxophones, which are recordings you pick up that are meant to give you a greater scope of the world you find yourself in, only encompass a few main characters rather than helping to give the player a grassroots perspective of the situation.

Make no mistake; Bioshock: Infinite does many things well. The voice-overs and dialogue are toe-curlingly good. The character designs are tight. Animations flow believably. The storyline as a whole is radically different from the norm. It will be very hard for any newcomers to take the title from what’s rapidly shaping up to be game of the year. But it doesn’t top the original Bioshock.

And it makes you think in a bad way. While Bioshock made you spend a quiet afternoon pondering hidden meanings, Bioshock: Infinite will have you pounding your head against a wall trying to make sense out of pieces that don’t comfortably fit.

Rating:9.5/10
Pros:Storyline.
Lampoons our own preconceived notions of America.
Skyrails rock.
Cons:Combat becomes repetitive.
No unifying theme.
Elizabeth is a resource squandered.
Game producer's website:Irrational Games
Official website:Bioshock: Infinite
Game available at:

Choice-Based RPGs: Are They Overrated?

I’ve just been recently cycling back through some of the “classic” titles on the PS3 before the new console generation is upon us, and I’m about 44 hours into Dragon Age: Origins, rife with choices and consequences left and right. While this obviously adds an interactive element to both storytelling and player immersion, I must say that I felt slighted on several occasions once caught in crucial moments of the game. Least to say I raged pretty hard, so hard I thought my brain had exploded from the built-up pressure in my skull. Listen to this story, then you’ll see why DA:O and other similar choice-based RPGS really get on my nerves.

If I’m going to waste away two days of my life in front of my TV screen, mashing buttons and the like, there’s a good chance I probably will invest some personal attachment in most of the characters. Allistar—a mildly charming, yet buffoonish Templar who really is at the center of this controversy—wasn’t an exception as my female Warden swooned over him, coddling the man-child all whilst slaughtering the darkspawn. I expected the Landsmeet in Denerium to proceed without a hitch, though I had more than one surprise in store that made me want to slap a few, pixaled faces upside the head.

Well, well Dragon Age. What do you have to say for yourself?

Well, well Dragon Age. What do you have to say for yourself?

Cart Life: Not Only About Carts

Some time ago I stumbled upon a small Steam offer for a game called Cart Life. I was hungry, at the time, for a decent Economic Simulation and when the promise was that of playing a Cart Vendor, dealing in prices, supply and production, I was sold. What sold this game for me at this early stage was the price and it’s intriguing Indie look. I do not care about graphics at all, as long as they are functional or in some way eye catching. If we were to take a Triple-A release and compare it to Cart Life nobody would most likely take it seriously. I did, and after playing just fifteen minutes of this game I knew I hit a jackpot. Cart Life is not just a game about running your own Business. It’s about life, in an almost brutal nightmarish sense. There are reasons for that and I will explain them in as much details as plausible.

Cart Life

Not just about Carts but personal hygiene as well.

The Developer of Homesick Needs Your Help

UPDATE: The Campaign page was closed down due to the campaign being “High Risk” (according to IndieGoGo). While I am trying to keep tabs on the whole situation there are as of yet not enough facts to post a full conclusive update.

With so much happening on the internet it is hard to keep track of everything happening around you. In this case only today did I discover the story of Chloe, the Developer of Homesick. I did not hear of Homesick or of Chloe until I decided to check the news on Project Zomboid. Turns out that Chloe, an active member of the Indie community has had a serious Car Accident. While the doctors managed to patch her up and get her walking and moving again the procedure was not flawless. A piece of metal shrapnel is still stuck in her and it is causing serious poisoning. The campaign she started on Indiegogo was frozen when a lot of very skeptical people asked for an analysis of the campaign, whether it was a scam or not. After a few days the results of this investigation proved that the Campaign was genuine. A message from Chloe may be watched below.

The Developers of Project Zomboid and Thomas was alone organised a small campaign to donate to the campaign and help Chloe recover. Today (5th of April 2013) already a third of the money was gathered for the whole campaign so with a month still left I strongly believe that the campaign will be a success. However, if you can help out, do so. The sooner Chloe gets the money she needs the better. So if you have a bit of spare change, or are willing to help out a bit more follow the links below to the different sites providing information and campaigns to help you keep on track.

Spread the news if you can, it is the least one could ask for.

Project Zomboid Campaign (posted on the 3rd of April 2013)

Indiegogo Campaign Page

More in-depth article from Indie Statik

The Homesick Indiestone Forum Topic

Thank you.

Alex “WriterX” Bielski

On Health, Life and Death in Video Games

Health Systems… Many games follow a very simple “HP” system. You lose a few points, you find a Med Kit, you get back the lost Hit Points. Or you just hide in the corner while you genetically modified DNA grows back your limbs after suffering a direct hit from an RPG. Maybe it’s a mix of both, a shield that regenerates and health that does not. These are the most brutal basics. Even RPGs follow a very, very similar rule. There might be status effects, but they are very rarely “permanent”. When you are blind it’s because somebody cast a Blindness spell on you, and not because a Goblin poked your eyes out with a rusty dagger. Even if a Giant pummels you into a bloody pulp, leaving you at one “HP” a health potion will fix you right up! Internal Damage? What is that? Fractures? Disease? Don’t make me laugh! Health is not a complex addition to most games, not because the Developers are lazy, but because most games would become overly complicated because of it. Can you imagine just how short a lot of Zombie games would be over in the first few minutes if there was a realistic disease/damage system? What of Modern Shooters, where you can take countless direct hits without bleeding out on the side walk? If such mechanics were implemented most games would simply be too hard. That is not to say there are no games without such mechanics…

Health

I hope you brought a lot of Ointment… Dragons tend to breathe an awful lot of fire.

Mount and Blade: Five Mods You Should Try

I recently wrote a short list of Mods for Mount and Blade: Warband, and now I desire to do the same for Mount and Blade. The difference between the two games is that Warband has Multiplayer while the first Mount and Blade will offer only a core Single-player experience. It will not be a bad one, trust me. I have found a lot of Mods for the first Mount and Blade that I enjoy returning to, because of how detailed and feature rich some of them are. I did not play every single Mod out there, so this is my personal list of favorites. You can search for more Mods on ModDB and on TaleWorlds where all the Mods are still stored and available for use. If you are looking for Mods to Mount and Blade: Warband we have a list for that as well!

Mount and Blade

Sometimes you just want to ride giant eyeball monster… things… (Solid and Shade)

Heroes, Damsels, and Morality

The roles of females in our culture, specifically in video games, has long been discussed and debated. There’s no denying the fact that Princess Peach sat up in a tower on her lonesome much like Helen of Troy, passing the time until a certain plumber would come to make a daring rescue.

I could count the numerous feminine characters who’ve been portrayed to be helpless, weak, merely a hazy silhouette stewing in the shadows of a shining male protagonist, though this article isn’t a rant about feminism more than it is an exposition, just some ramblings upon a subject others might rather push aside instead of pick apart. Strong women resonate deeply within gaming’s picturesque lineage, that’s not the point – where does this desire to save a victim stem from? Sure, it’s nice to parade around slicing and dicing as the ravishing Lara Croft…. the problem lies in the fact that this doesn’t always compare to the full-bodied thrill of unchaining your companion and exhuming him or her out of a dingy prison cell.

Oh, Peach...When will you learn?

Oh, Peach…When will you learn?

And what about the lovely painted and decorated men who save these women? I think I can vouch for the collective whole of our society when I say how much people adore not only heroic characters, but drool over the idea of a superhero. Good looks, amazing abilities, indisputable vitality and stamina, these are the fictional gods that conduct our universe. What’s curious is how, even if we step back in history, maybe to Ancient Greece or Rome, the notion of heroes and damsels still conjured much affection in the populous, mere mortals in awe of Hercules, Persues, and, but of course, Achilles.

Is there something biological that draws us to this complex, a carnal chromosome woven into our DNA, or do we just enjoy watching a normal human suddenly find themselves shoulders-deep in power and immortality? It’s a very interesting theme, one clearly visible in some of the most popular IPs of the generation.

Bioshock gave us the remarkable opportunity to explore Rapture and the possibilities of either becoming a hero or a villain through various plot-driven choices; Infamous put us in the shoes of Cole MacGrath, a man who valiantly saved Empire City in some playthroughs, while in others, did not; finally, we come to Corvo Attano, a bodyguard turned juggernaut caught between a lethal or stealth-driven journey through Dunwall. Although each of these entries are different in a number of ways, they all meander back to one common thread: morality. Do I take the life of this Little Sister to make myself stronger? Do I forgo the shadows to massacre everyone in my path?

Heroes, damsels, and morality are like scalding tea, tar, and feathers from revolutionary times; even if you have one, it’s just not the same without the other two.

I implore you to post any comments, concerns, thoughts, and questions down below in the comment section. Mostly importantly, have an oh-so-Happy Easter!

Rebecca