The worst kept secret in the universe turned out to be true: 2K Games is releasing a remastered collection of Bioshock, Bioshock 2, and Bioshock Infinite. It drops on Sept. 15th for $60.
I can't state strongly enough how great this is. I played Bioshock all the way through twice, Bioshock 2 once, and Bioshock Infinite twice. I replayed the last 15 minutes of Infinite about ten times. There has never been a stronger trilogy in my opinion. Bioshock is easily in my top 5 games of all time, and Infinite is my absolute favorite game of all time.
For those who love a strong narrative in their gameplay, you cannot beat the Bioshock series. These games looked great on the previous generations; I can't imagine how wonderful they'll look on current gen.
I still remember the mind-blowing reveals that happen in these stories. The characters are absolutely world-class. The action is good too, and blends into the narratives well.
I'd easily give Bioshock a 10/10, Bioshock 2 an 8.5/10, and Infinite a 10/10. If you haven't played the Bioshock series yet, make sure you get the remastered version on Sept. 15th. It's as good as gaming gets.
I've been a little late with my recent Game of Throne reviews as I'm currently busy with a move. I'd like to give my thoughts regarding Episode 9, but first just a quick word about Episode 8: 'No One.'
It was pretty solid throughout. Though the Riverrun battle was underwhelming, there were some very good scenes. I especially liked Gregor's attack, and the goodbye between Varys and Tyrion. Though I loved the way that Arya defeated the Waif, I wasn't big on her acrobatics with her severed core muscles (believability has become a significant issue with the series).
Now onto the Battle of the Bastards.
This was clearly the largest, most cinematic episode of the series yet, and easily one of the grandest episodes in television history. I was so happy to see where the money was spent his season. Obviously, the bulk of it went towards the the two battles of episode 9.
I loved the 'who is going to surrender' reversal, and the dragon destroying the fleet. The sf/x were darn good for television. I never buy Daenerys being able to hold onto a dragon, but it's a minor believability issue. The meeting between Daenerys and Yara & Theon was well written and acted, and did a fantastic job of setting up the inevitable conquest of Westeros.
The Battle at Winterfell was staged well, from the initial arrow shots at Rickon, to the phalanx with the pikes. The scale of the battle was well captured with grand, cinematic shots. Yes, the Littlefinger-cavalry-arriving-to-save-the-day was too much of a hand-of-God moment, but the post-battle stuff with Ramsay in the castle was oh, so satisfying.
So now I wonder--who is the main antagonist now that Ramsay is dead? I thought they would keep him around, and even let him gain power. It seems like for the first time there're more people we like that are left alive than those we don't like.
Obviously, the High Sparrow has to be overthrown. The new King of the Iron Islands too. Maybe Jamie & Cersei? I just don't know where they're going to go. It seemed like the whole buildup was for Jon and Daenerys to defeat massive armies in order to team up to take down the Night King and the White Walkers. But it seems like there's not a whole lot left for them to conquer.
Either way, I loved the episode. This season started out so poorly but really has become enthralling towards the end. These battles were exceptional for something shown on television. It's hard to imagine how they could top it with episode 10.
Ranked in order of how much time I'm currently playing them:
2. Witcher 3
3. Tropico 5
5. Bloons Tower Defense 5 (Android)
Games I'm most looking forward to:
1. Titanfall 2
Those are the only two I know that are coming out in 2016 that I'm certainly getting.
Last May, the Polish video game developer CD Projekt RED released The Witcher 3, a third person, open-world medieval fantasy game, that won over the critics, receiving several Game of the Year awards, on its way to shipping over 10 million copies worldwide. CD Projekt followed it up with two highly-rated expansion packs.
Even though the game has been out well over a year, CD Projekt is still improving it. When the game was originally released, I sunk a lot of hours into it, before Fallout IV and Battlefront came out later in the year. Lately, I've been back at it, wanting to finish the game and both expansion packs before Ubisoft's Watch Dogs 2 comes out in November. When I booted it up a couple of days ago, I was surprised to see that the interface had been redone, even though the game has been out for so long.
The whole map/crafting/bestiary/inventory/etc., menus have been redone. Little improvements have been made as well. For instance, when you pick up a letter or a note now, you just have to down-click the right controller stick to read it, and it shows you a list of all the notes you haven't read yet. I had several unread letters. Once I read them, several new quests popped up.
I wish every game developer was like CD Projekt. Start with a fantastic game, and then keep improving it. You don't need all two or three hundred employees constantly working on it, but have a few stay with it for awhile. Not only will the gamers appreciate it, they'll be much more apt to buy your next game.
Within Witcher 3 is a card game called Gwent. I never got into Magic: The Gathering or Hearthstone, but as I made my way through the Witcher 3 world, I found myself falling in love with Gwent. I wasn't the only one. CD Projekt found that there were many Witcher 3 players that ignored the whole game except for traveling around from town to town to find other Gwent players. It's a seriously addictive game within a game.
At E3 this summer, CD Projekt formally announced that an updated version of Gwent was coming out for the PC and consoles. I'm sure it's just a matter of time before they bring it to the phones and tablets as well. This is a very smart move by the developer, and will bring in steady revenue while they develop their next large game.
I'm glad that CD Projekt is doing things right. Winning many top awards wasn't enough for the company. They just keeping on delivering. There're a lot of great gaming companies out there, each with its own strategy. I think most of them could learn a thing or two from CD Projekt RED.
I've played enough of Blizzard's Overwatch to finally feel comfortable writing a short review about it. Like I've said in previous posts, I wasn't planning on buying this game at all, mainly because of its fast pace and cartoon-ish look. Because of the fantastic reviews, however, I had to plunk down my $60 on it.
I'm glad I did. Blizzard crafted a fine multiplayer first-person shooter.
Overwatch is a 6vs6 game in which players choose one of twenty-one different 'heroes' to play as, each with very specific weapons, powers, and attributes. Some are more geared towards offense, some defense, and some support. The balance between them, which Blizzard is still fine-tuning, is pretty amazing.
It's this rich supply of characters which makes Overwatch so special. Some people like characters that can fire missiles, other's ones that shoot arrows. It's your choice, and if one character isn't working for you, you can change it within the game each time you die. You quickly find characters that match your skill, and it's fun trying to compete with characters that don't.
Beyond the character diversity, one thing I love about Overwatch is that how it de-emphasizes k/d ratios. There are essentially two game modes (with different variations of each). One is a headquarters mode, which Blizzard calls 'Assault,' and the other is an extraction mode, which is called 'Escort.' You work as a team to accomplish the goal, and there's no k/d showcase to distort players' behavior from accomplishing that goal. It's a relief, because you don't have to worry about that stat dropping, just because you're trying to hold a territory. It's exactly what the FPS genre needed.
The maps, although cartoon-ish, look gorgeous. And while the pace feels chaotic at first, once you get comfortable with it, it's not bad at all. It's not COD-slow, but it's not UT-fast either.
The major penalty in the game for dying is a time-penalty. You respawn away from the action, and you have to travel back towards it. With slower characters, this is a real pain. But, then again, that's the price you pay. It's not BF-bad (much less CS-bad), but it is a slow-down, and sometimes it feels like it's too much of one.
I don't find myself playing Overwatch for hours at a time, but I do try to play a few rounds every day. For the time being, it's replaced my Battlefront addiction. I seriously think I'll be playing this game for a couple of years, and I'm anxious to see how Blizzard expands it.
So far, it's very fun. Overwatch will definitely be my FPS of choice for awhile--at least until Titanfall 2 drops later this year.
My Rating: 8.7/10.
I won't say much about the episode in particular. Once again we have one effective scene after another. The middle part of this season has been fantastic. Jaime Lannister talking to the Black Fish on the drawbridge. Arya going through her stuff. Margaery confronting her grandmother. The Hound. These were all well-written, well-acted scenes. In particular, I thought the scene between Yara and Theon was exceptional, as she tries to convince her brother to return to his former self. The quality of the acting is absolutely wonderful.
The one problem that Game of Thrones has, and has had, just became amplified, to the detriment of the series as a whole.
When Jon Snow was shot up with arrows by Yigrette, and somehow survived, we lost a little bit of trust with the author. They played it off as if she's such a great archer, that she purposely shot Jon full of arrows at points in his body that wouldn't be fatal. Not a great answer, there.
The problem is that we have main characters that are clearly mortally wounded, and they somehow survive. Or, they die and then somehow survive. You do this once, you get away it. But every time you try it afterward, it's going to continue the damage between the viewer/reader and the author, because, in fact, we're being lied to.
It's particularly bad in this episode. It's revealed that the Hound has survived. There's no way he could have, given his wounds. They play it off as if it was the gods' will. Once again, not good.
Then in the same damn episode, Arya is wounded, clearly mortally, yet at this point we have absolutely no expectation that she could die. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if in the next episode it's revealed that Ned Stark survived, sans his head.
I hope that the story gets back to a more believable place, where mortal wounds actually end up being mortal. Our trust needs to be regained. If death isn't connected to finality, then it's really not death. It's some absurd fictional tool that causes us to lose faith in the story, and using such a device repeatedly is not something that should be done in a tale of such high quality as what Game of Thrones has proven to be.
If Arya died from her wounds, the trust would be regained. However, who really believes that could be possible at this point?
There's a browser game, made by GameForge, that I've been playing for many years. It's called Ikariam, and it's a super-addictive massive-multiplayer online strategy/war game that takes place in ancient Greece.
I've tried many other browser games throughout the years, but none have come close to sticking with me like Ikariam has. It started out as a pretty basic build-your-cities-and-fight-others type of game, but over the years, Gameforge has added layers to it that have made it much more complex and satisfying to play.
There is a multitude of buildings to build, but you only have limited space, so you have to choose the types wisely. There's research that you must earn points to partake in. There are open markets and the prices of goods fluctuate depending the current day's supply and demand. There's spying and a whole separate combat system (apart from the main troops & ships combat) called the Pirate Game that allows players to search and steal other people's points in order to win resources. Alliances form and try to rise up the ranks. Some survive, many do not.
It takes years to build up your cities. But because of wise balancing, someone who plays for four years isn't likely to be twice as powerful as someone who's played for two. They will have military advantages, but there's decreasing marginal returns on gaining those advantages as time goes on.
The game is free to play, but you can pay for certain advantages--and if you pay a lot, those advantages can turn out to be huge. I've sunk very little money into the game over the years, and although I haven't grown as fast as those that do, the game has still been a blast.
You can log on once a day if that's all you have time for, but in war time, you probably want to log on several times a day. Overall, it doesn't require a bunch of time to play.
For those who like long-term build, strategy, and war games, I'd recommend Ikariam. Though some players don't last years on the game, many do. And once you play for a while, you realize it's a fun community to be a part of.
When I first heard that Valve was making a 'Steam Machine,' I actually got a little excited. The idea was to have a box, similar to a console, but that was just tailored towards PC gaming. Valve was going to make an innovative controller, and best of all, it was going to cost much less than the horribly expensive PC gaming rigs.
Since I do all of my work on a laptop, I have no reason (or room) for a desktop PC. But I'd still like to play PC games. A Steam Machine using the living room television seemed like a perfect solution for me. Since it was Valve putting out the boxes, they'd have to be good.
But it took two years for the Steam Machines to come out. The launch was less-than-spectacular, and there was hardly any marketing for it. Hell, you'd be hard-pressed to find many articles about Steam Machines on the most popular gaming websites.
Now we've learned that after 7 months, Steam has sold under 500,000 boxes. That's not a good number at all. In fact, you could call it a disastrous number. Valve really messed up, something they don't often do.
What makes matters worse, is that the Xbox One.5 and PlayStation 4.5 are coming out soon, probably within a year or so. That's another $500 we're going to have to plunk down sooner than we thought.
I don't know where Steam went wrong, but I think they offered too much of a product line with far too little marketing. Their controller caught my interest. But the ultra-low sales just makes me think like this whole plan is a lost cause.
Perhaps they'll refocus and come out with something that'll be more bang for the buck and give us a solid reason to buy it. I was leaning towards purchasing a Steam Machine, but now my money is going to sit in the bank for the Xbox One.5. That being said, if sales pick up, maybe at some point down the line, I'll pick up a Steam Machine too. I like what they were trying to do. The implementation just seemed to be a disaster from the start, which is something that one does not expect from Valve.
Though I have the Pandora app on my Google Nexus 6, I rarely listen to it while I'm out on my hour-long walks or while I'm grocery shopping. I tend to listen to podcasts or Sirius while I'm out and about.
But when I'm home, and I'm doing the dishes or my bills, I almost always turn Pandora on. The Xbox One app is completely useless because it always gets stuck on a still frame of an advertisement, usually one that seems perfectly chosen to create burn-in on my plasma TV. However, the Pandora app on my Amazon Fire box seems to work fine.
I have a complaint, though. Pandora should have two types of rating systems, the default being the simple one they have. The user should be able to choose a more complex rating system, however, one that will better fine-tune the listeners likes and dislikes.
Every song shouldn't be a thumbs-up, thumbs-down, or no rating. Yeah, there are songs that I like to hear often. But just because I give Traveling Band, Bad Moon Rising, and Fortunate Son a thumbs-up, doesn't mean that I want to hear Who'll Stop the Rain as much as those three. I still want to hear Rain every now and then, but Pandora plays it far too often for me. I don't dislike it, so I don't want to give it a thumbs-down. But I'd like to rank it compared to the other CCR songs.
My suggestion would be to have a 1 through 10 rating system for every thumbs-up and a -1 through -10 for every thumbs-down. You hold the thumb icon for two seconds in order to bring up the more accurate rating system.
With this system, Pandora would quickly learn that I'd give Def Leppard's Let it Roll an 8, Rock of Ages a 7, and Rocket a 6. It would also know that I'd give most current pop or country songs a -5 to -10. The more information an algorithm has to work with, the better it can produce the wanted results. In today's competitive world, you need stuff to work well in order to keep consumers attached. If Pandora worked better than it does now, I'd even pay to get rid of the advertising.
Of course, you could just preset anything off of Master of Puppets to be a perfect 10, as everyone would be known to give that score anyway. But for everything else, I think Pandora could use a more precise rating system because with the amount of hours I've poured into it, the algorithm should know me much better than it currently does.
Another excellent episode.
The opening scene with Bran being saved in the woods--thank God they followed up on what happened at the door. And the reveal of Benjen Stark and his whole backstory was truly delightful.
The excellent establishment of Sam's father--awesome stuff. The dinner table scene was a masterclass in efficient and powerful character establishment.
The continuing of the wonderful royal play, and Arya's ultimate decision regarding her new line of work. This storyline, which often seemed astray, is now paying off in spades.
Walder Frey, berating his sons, and showing his only real concern, which is his reputation. Thank God we got to see him again.
The spectacle of the King Slayer riding up the steps and taking on the High Sparrow--finally some grand shots that were so badly needed. And the reveal, that the King has been brainwashed to stand with the Faith--much needed drama at King's Landing as well.
The closing scene with Daenerys sitting on her dragon giving the rousing speech dragged on a bit too long. The dragon looked good, and we could have done with less of it, and less of Daenerys cropped so we don't see the dragon beneath her. But, it was another much needed grand shot, and although the Dothraki are not my favorite part of GOT, I think we're finally getting somewhere more fascinating than wandering around the desert.
Overall, I loved the episode. Last week's was one of the best, not only in GOT history, but in all of television history. This week's episode was top notch as well, and I'm anxiously awaiting to see what happens Sunday night.
Yesterday I got all my errands out of the way in the morning. Took my car in to get the tires rotated, did my laundry, sent out my emails, paid my bills, and then by 3pm I was ready to sit down and enjoy the rest of my day off by doing a little gaming.
I fired up Tropico 5, and then before I knew it, it was 3:30am, and I decided to go to bed, so as to not upset my sleep cycle too much. Twelve hours flew by so fast, I can't even describe it.
As I've said before, I'm a long-time fan of the Tropico series. In fact, I started playing Tropico 5 on my laptop before Windows 10 killed it. The game is so much more fun on a console, though. It's easy to learn, and Haemimont Games does such a great job at making simulation actions a breeze to do on a controller.
There's a huge amount of tongue-in-cheek humor and blatant humor that's well-paced throughout the game. It's full of color personalities, to say the least. It looks amazing as well, especially on a TV that excels with warm hues. On normal settings, it's not the hardest game in the world, but you will find yourself losing on occasion.
The big question is, is this game worth $50? For me, the answer is 'yes.' For others, there may not be enough material to warrant that price. I think most people are better off waiting for it to get down to the $35 price point. But, if you like playing easy-to-learn construction strategy games, Tropico 5 is probably a great buy for you. It's not something that you'd play as long as SimCity, assuming that a decent version of that existed. But the time you spend playing it will be very enjoyable.
I think the GameSpot 8/10 rating is right on the mark.