Friday, April 29, 2016

Youtube Series: Monster Factory


A few weeks back, our friend. . . we'll call them KingLouie, suggested that we watch a show on Youtube called Monster Factory, with the premise being that these two guys (brothers?) try to take the in-game character creation to its strangest limits.  To be honest, I was a little skeptical about watching a video with anyone trying to make the ugliest character possible, but it's a bit more/different than that.  And like you, reading my words about this half-hour show probably won't have the intended effect.  In the end, I want you to watch it.  Maybe even showing pictures like the following won't generate the amount of interest that both Conklederp and I now have in this show:


But because this is a blogging site and not a vlogging one, I will briefly use my words, occasionally hyperlinked to make your lives a little bit easier and mine a little more interesting.

Monster Factory is a show on Polygon's Youbube channel, and on an average, about 2/3rds of the show is these two gentlemen creating their character.  They don't typically start with a plan in mind, just testing out the limits of the character creation, and in the case of Mass Effect 2 above, using console commands to greatly exaggerate the look of the main character.  The rest of the time is spent in the game and having the characters interact/play as their created persona. 

Another interesting aspect of this show, is how the game parts look when they're not operating correctly.  Take Shepards face above.  Bioware created the entire eyeball, not just the visible part not covered by the eyelids.  

Perhaps it's an odd comparison to make, but listening to these guys talk reminds me a lot of Click and Clack from Car Talk.  What they're saying isn't always funny, but coupled with their laughs (which are infectious) and the frequently uttered "why would you let me do this!?" makes the show pretty hilarious.  It's actually caused me on occasion to grip my side out of pain from laughing and not being able to take in enough air to breathe regularly. 

Some of the episodes, such as Fallout 4 do give away some story spoilers, but that's only if you haven't played the game and don't want to know anything about any aspect of the story.  Also, their Dark Souls 2 video gives about as much of a spoiler in the Dark Souls universe as you can expect.  And, since they're not actually in the market of creating walkthroughs or LetsPlays, other than what is witnessed through game play, they do a pretty good job about avoiding spoilers overall.  I should probably also add that having played the game does add to the enjoyment of the video, it is not necessary, but it just means that you'll know what's going on.  Sort of.

Basically, if you have half-an-hour to kill, if you like video games, and if you don't mind two guys talking and laughing at their own creations, then you might want to give Monster Factory a try.  It's a lot funnier than I make it sound and it really is one of those things that it's funnier when you actually watch it, preferably with other people who might find it humorous as well.  Or just by yourself.



~JWfW/JDub/Jaconian

P.S.  The first video that Conklederp and I saw was their "Boy-Mayor of Second Life."  It's not a bad place to start, never having played Second Life, although I do know of its existence.

P.P.S.  
Oh Jesus God Man NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!
I also wanted to share this screenshot from their second episode, using The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which I found to be amusing, just not as legitimately laugh out loud hilarious as some of their videos that we had previously watched.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

MTG: where am I now?

I think it's safe to say that Magic: The Gathering has eaten my brain.  I play it online, I play it in person.  I spend gobs of money on it.  Somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 a month, I think.   I may have a problem.

But, honestly, it's not the money that bothers me.  It's the time.  Being this heavily invested in one thing, leaves me neglecting other things in my life.  Perhaps it's something akin to Christmas Present Syndrome, as outlined by Jaconian.  I feel as though I'm neglecting my other forms of entertainment.  And nowhere is that more clear to me than in this blog.  I haven't posted much, in part because I'm just not making the time, and also in part because I don't have much to say!  It's all Magic, all the time.  It consumes my thoughts.  

On one hand, I suppose it's better to post about Magic than to post about nothing at all.  So, here I am at work, writing out my thoughts out on the sly (which, incidentally, is much more difficult to do than it used to be).  I've got a few Magic-related topics I'd like to cover:  Shadows Over Innistrad, the latest set;  Modern Constructed format, which has just been abandoned by Wizards of the Coast and Cube Construction, I've just completed my first MTG cube.  

I've really been enjoying Shadows over Innistrad.  This is the first set I really felt 'ready' for.  Out the gate, I participated in a pre-release at my local game store.  Then I split a box with two of my friends, and have purchased several packs of cards since.  I've also participated in three online sealed leagues, which have been the best value and fun I've gotten from Magic Online.  While this is all well and good for me and my ability to entertain myself, it's especially good for Wizards of the Coast, who are lining their pockets with my money.

Having invested myself so greatly into this product, I've started to feel the sense that I am entitled to be heard by the company.  I realize this is just a fantasy, and it's probably a lot of trouble to get a line out to wizards, so I'll just put my thoughts down here.  Now that Wizards has pulled the plug on Modern format in the pro tour, I would like to suggest a new format, aimed at people who enjoy buying packs and are generally casual players (which, among magic players, is still often pretty committed.)  I will get into the details of this idea in another post, but the short version is it involves restriction of rare and uncommon cards in a given deck.  

Finally, I want to talk about my cube.  I built this cube using cubetutor.com, a fantastic tool for cube construction.  The cube is currently in its first draft, and I have lot of fun building it.  I, personally, think of cube as the best and final form of Magic: The Gathering, and this is where I think it will all end up, for me.  Constructing this cube was great fun, and I anticipate another cube in my future, along with many waves of refinement; getting it just right.  Please head over to cubetutor.com and do a test draft for me,  I'd love that.

Okay, so, this is a big update for me, after a lot of silence.  Sorry about that.  I will endeavor to increase the frequency of my updates.
-D

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

MIDI Week Singles: "Three Hearts As One" - The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited (PC)


"Three Hearts As One" from The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited on the PC
Composer: Malukah

video

First off, this is not the version of the song that one of the female bards sings in-game, that song, although identical in music and lyrics is titled "The Ebonheart Pact" and is also sung by Liam O'Brien, Jim Cummings, and an unknown (to me) female bard.  This is an arrangement of her own song that Malukah did by adding some reverb and additional layering that I think improves upon the song.

I wasn't sure what song I wanted to post for today, then this song came on and as it always happens with this song, I got goosebumps.  That didn't always happen with this song though.  Once I actually listened to the words and took into context the Second Akaviri Invasion, that's when the song hit me.  

"Three Hearts As One" and "The Ebonheart Pact" is about the joining of the Nord, Dunmer and Argonian races in order to push back a massive invading force of Akaviri.  Previously, these three races were at odds in one way or another.  The Dunmer had a thriving slave trade and had a very negative view of Argonians.  The Nords often come across as very nationalistic and against outside influence. . .sort of, but not always the case.  A real world example that I can make (although I do not make comparisons to any of the fictional races and the real world cultures), would be if Israel, Palestine and the Iran all found common ground, peacefully acknowledged each other (for the most part), and joined forces in order to stop their lives and the lives of everyone on their continent from being overrun and destroyed.  I know that's a loaded sentence full of loadedness with the potential to offend some people, but I obviously do not intend to that, which should be pretty obvious if you know us here.

So once I had all of that historical context of Skyrim, Morrowind and Black Marsh in my mind while listening to this song that I previously had not given much time, it suddenly became this anthem of divided peoples coming together to overcome something bigger than their own prejudices.  Sure, not everyone (in-game) was happy with this alliance and you still hear people on all sides lamenting the opening of their lands to those who until recently had been their enemies and/or slaves.  

Plus, with this arrangement being all reverby, makes the song much more epic sounding.  Or at least I think it does.



~JWfW/JDub/Jaconian

Monday, April 25, 2016

Mirror's Edge Catalyst - Closed Beta Review


The closed beta for Mirror's Edge Catalyst, the prequel (reboot?) to EA DICE's 2008 freerunning FPS Mirror's Edge began last Friday April and goes through tomorrow morning (Tuesday, April 26th).  The beta testing consists of the first four stages (I recall reading that fact somewhere and it's not mentioned in the email I received, but we'll go with that fact, at least for now).

I should probably also mention now that there was no NDA regarding sharing any information from this weeks beta.  The odd part about this though, was that it wasn't mentioned anywhere in any of the agreements and terms of service prior to downloading and playing the game.  I actually had to search the official forums and found a link to a tweet from the game about being allowed to share anything and everything that we were able to experience.

Before we get to the actual beta-ing, I feel it important to mention that Mirror's Edge Catalyst, presently at least the beta, was only available through EA's game client Origin.  I don't know if it will remain an exclusive, but I feel that it will be since there have been plenty of EA PC games to come out recently that are only available through Origin.

So let's get down to sharing some screenshots since I don't have any video of my lacking playthrough.


Well, as you can see, I had the game crash on me, and it was pretty early on too.  I noticed that the game was windowed and once the opening cut scene seamlessly transitioned to being able to play, I immediately went into the setting to change some things around.  First off was to invert the y-axis (as always) and then I went to change from windowed to full screen.  Apparently something, somewhere didn't like that idea and the game crashed.  As you can see though, I had vertical sync disabled (default) and the game is set to medium (default, at least for me) and I figured that was fine.  Which actually worked out fine since I was able to take a number of screenshots, which I apparently wasn't able to do while playing Dead Space 3 (article to be coming. . . soon?).


So, like the first Mirror's Edge, this one is all first person, and while it's been almost two years since I first played and reviewed the game, I won't be making a lot of comparisons, but there will be a couple.  The first one being that I've noticed that EA DICE has streamlined the fighting mechanic.  In the first game, even going up against two attackers could be a challenge.  Here, I feel that there are more options in how to attack and that the game is more lenient, at least in the earlier stages.

The above screenshot takes place during the tutorial stage, which like the first game, throws a lot at you, especially during the combat simulator.  I've noticed that the areas where you can/are expected to run up/across/along walls are marked by shoe scuff marks, which you can kind of make out above.   You also have a red image that shows you a suggested path to take, and in the later stages, it becomes a ghostly voxel-ated apparition (referred to in-game as an "echo") that shows your path.  Don't worry, there are still plenty of red highlighted objects that show what you are able to grab on to and leap from.  Regarding the fighting tutorial, I was able to make it through, but there were a number of attacks that took me a number of tries to get right, like side stepping (after running at) two guys, and kicking one guard into another while in a tight-ish corridor/hallway/corner office. 



And in case you were wondering, yes, there is a helicopter that spots you while you're in one of the starter buildings.  I honestly don't recall it firing upon me, although I was terrified that it would.  Perhaps its placement was to install a sense of fear for people who played through the first game and became quickly annoyed at the sight/sound of those hunks of hovering death.

Because this game takes place before the first Mirror's Edge (although how much time is between the two games, I'm not sure), Faith (the playable character, whom I apparently failed to mention until just now) does not have all of the same skills as you start out with in the first game.  Here, you are unable to do the fancy roll after jumping from a height and you can't leap from one wall run to another.


You can however learn those abilities.  I think that this typical RPG mechanic works well in this instance.  As it's supposed to be early enough in Faith's "career" that she's not the parkouring bad ass that you play in the first game, she had to learn those skills at some point.  As you can see above, there are quite a few already filled in grey blocks and not too many red ones (able to learn) and white blocks (can learn in the future with enough earned XP.

And as far as RPG elements go, you are also given an overworld map of sorts that shows the route to your next mission and other available missions in the area.


Mirror's Edge Catalyst feels a lot more open world than the first game, and I feel that that's a great way to have the game operate.  Having the game operate this way, I didn't mind having to go inside a building doing an optional side mission because I knew that I would eventually get back outside to complete the main storyline.  There was also a fair amount of backtracking, which again, I really liked because it allowed me to develop a better understanding of the world and the area, or at least the rooftops of the The City.


The game did crash on me at one other time.  I was doing a side mission that involved taking some type of programming chip that had to do with tracking or surveillance, I fought two guards on a rooftop and the game froze.  The background music continued, but the visuals stopped and I had to Ctrl-Alt-Del my way out as even Alt-F4 didn't work.

The only other bug-ish-type-thing that I witnessed, was that the sound appeared to be a second or two off with the video during some of the later cut scenes (which have moved away from the animation-style art and towards a realistic representation).


During the above conversation with Noah, the mouth movements were about a second slower than the audio.  In another section, all I heard was Faith's voice responding to someone, presumably Noah, but there was no other voice present.  These were the only noticeable times that the audio was not completely synced with the video.

All-in-all, I had a good time with the hour and-a-half I spent playing.  I should also note that at the end of that time, I felt, "Yeah, that's a decent amount of time" and I put the game down.  It wasn't that I had stopped having fun and I still wanted to explore a bit more, especially given the fact that this time around the world seemed a bit more open than in the original game.  If the beginning of the game is any indication of the rest of the game, then it might be the first game that I actually buy on Origin; although probably after it goes on sale, because I'm cheap that way.



~JWfW/JDub/Jaconian

P.S.
 I realized I didn't cover anything about multiplayer, but that was because I didn't do anything that had to do with multiplayer.  In fact, I never saw anything about multiplayer, which for me is fine because I'm not much of an online multiplayer.  Dr. Potts had talked about having a race of sorts in his review, but from what I've read, there aren't any races scheduled, although leader-boards for time will be present, which should please speed runners (of which I am not one).

Oh, and with one last picture:

falling to your death is still a very real possibility, although this time around, I didn't hear the bone crunching sound effect as your shin bones shot up through your shoulder blades.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

MIDI Week Singles "Sand Storm" - Gradius III (SNES)





"Sandstorm" from Gradius III on the SNES (1991)
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Konami



Gradius III was a game I returned to many times during the SNES era.  I eventually bought it used for $20 at our local Blockbuster Video.  The game was simply fun: blasting everything in sight and grabbing powerups - "Speed Up" - "Option."  Maybe a giant sand dragon bursts out of a dune.  In space. 

I think this track is a good representation of Gradius III.  It's generally cheerful and exciting, anthemic, but not particularly serious.  Gradius III never bothered with plot, it was just different environments in which to shoot, dodge and have fun.  The music is similarly light, action packed and fun. 

-D

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

MIDI Week Singles: "Souls of Fire" - Dark Souls (PC)


"Souls of Fire" from Dark Souls on the PC (2011)
Composer: Yuji Takenouchi
Album: No Official Release
Developer: From Software

video

I originally chose this song as it's one of the few songs from Dark Souls that isn't about some gargantuan demon trying to disembowel your already dead husk of a body.  I also chose it because of how much it reminds me of the "Safe Haven", the music that plays in the safe rooms from Resident Evil.  

"Souls of Fire" was composed by Yuji Takenouchi whereas the rest of the soundtrack was from Motoi Sakuraba, which is probably the reason why the song is not available on any of the Dark Souls soundtracks (thanks to the /r/DarkSouls sub-reddit for this bit of information).  The song plays while selecting which file you want to play from or how you want to distort the face of your character and that's it.  The rest of the game, you have music for a few specific areas and for when you find yourself confronting some monstrosity of a monster.  The rest of the game is atmospheric noises.  I thought that this would be a good place to showcase this little bit of music that is so different from the rest of the soundtrack.

That's really all I have to say about "Souls of Fire."  It's a pretty song in an otherwise bleak setting, which is a great way to start of the game.



~JWfW/JDub/Jaconian

Monday, April 11, 2016

Back In The Saddle Again: Return to Dark Souls (PC)


Well, I'm back at it!  With all of the Dark Souls III schtuff going around, I couldn't help but feel that I should go back and try to continue with the first Dark Souls.

If you recall my post over on Two Boys and their Blog from December 2014 (wow, I didn't realized it was that long ago), I will note that I since gave up on both my female knight (Brynhild) and the female sorcerer (Modgude).  This was in part from watching a new (as of June2015) series from Extra Credits called "Side Quest" which is like a Let's Play channel, but with commentary as to design elements in the game.  In their first episode, Dan and James go through the starting area of Dark Souls and watching them play and hearing James talk about how the world of Dark Souls was created and how the game plays by a logical and honest set of rules made me want to delve back into that agonizing world of death and undead.  Through what they said, I feel that I now have a greater appreciation for world of Lordran that From Software created for this game.

With my present character, Bjorn (a male warrior), I am at level 44 with 23 hours played.
  
When last I left the game (back in July of last year), I was grinding levels in the Undead Parish.  Conklederp can attest to my frustration at going up against the Bell Gargoyle and failing miserably, which ultimately is what made me stop playing for the last eight months.  The other night however, I dove back in and managed to kill the damnable gargoyle on my third (for that evening) attempt.  Since then, I've been having a lot more fun as I've been exploring more (which helps when you're not grinding in the same area for hours on end) and I even managed a couple of loot runs into Darkroot Garden and Darkroot Basin where I was able to kill another one of those Black Knight fellows, as well as Havel the Rock (back in Undead Burg by way of Darkroot Basin).


The way I'm playing the game is still pretty much the same as before, although now I'm actually paying attention to the various weapon requirements and leveling my stats so that I can use more difficult weapons, such as the Zweihander and the Black Knight Sword.  And actually, it's been since I've been using the Zweihander that I've been having a lot more fun as it can one-shot-kill most of the enemies in Undead Parish, granted they're not blocking with a shield.  But even when they have their shield up, it still causes them to drop their guard and makes them stagger back a step or two.

Undead Soldier realizes it's made some bad unlife choices. (Swinging the Zweihander with one hand).
What I realized that I love about this game is that the combat is tight.  "Tight" in that the enemies have a number of attacks that they'll use depending on how you're approaching them and how their recent attack on you fared.  The locations are also very gorgeous and a lot of them seem practical.  It makes me wonder what Lordran was like in its past when there weren't undead and hollows clambering about everywhere (although I may still not be understanding the lore as much as I think) and I am realizing that in this game, there seems to be a quality over quantity relationship.  And in truth, watching Dan play Dark Souls with James' commentary about the developers intentions has only cemented my appreciation for the work that From Software has done here.

So after what appears to be five different characters and a combined total of 45 hours, I feel that I can finally say that I am a fan of Dark Souls.  Now to figure out how to deal with that bloody Capra Demon.



~JWfW/JDub/Jaconian

Obligatory Butt Shot Because Why Not!?  And Damn Those Thigh-High Black Boots Are Sexy!!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

MIDI Week Singles - "Ending Theme" - Super Mario Bros 2 (NES)


"Ending Theme" from Super Mario Bros 2 on the NES (1988)
Composer:  Koji Kondo 
Developer: Nintendo



Super Mario 2 was one of these games from an era where we would just skip to the end and beat the game.  I think the first time I beat the game may have been over at Jaconians house.  And I think we just took all necessary warp zones to go straight to the end, and just beat the game in order to watch the ending sequence with the neat animation of Mario snoring.  It was so cool, and such a head trip "it was all a dream."   Deep, man.

This is another Koji Kondo offering, which should come as no surprise.  He is the flagship composer for Nintendo, and his contribution to the "Nintendo Sound" cannot be overstated. Look, I'll even try:  Koji Kondo IS the Nintendo sound.  Without Koji Kondo, the legacy of Nintendo could be very different.  Nope.  Those aren't overstatements. 

Enjoy this victory fanfare and sleepy little song.

-D  

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Monthly Update - April '16

Good Evening Ladies and Germs,  

I'm here to say hello, and to give you a rough breakdown of my last month of media consumption.  I like these posts because it gives me an excuse to ramble, and sometimes I find I talk about things I want to talk about, or have the occasional insight.  It happens!

It happens that I read the first graphic novel in the Sandman series by Neil Gaiman.  I first discovered this series about ten years ago, and have been meaning to read it ever since.  So one day I requested it from the library and got started.  So far it's pretty interesting.  This first book was much more gruesome than I expected, containing a trip to hell, which is a nasty place, and also what Gaiman described as 'the only true horror story I've written' [paraphrasing].  I'm definitely interested in reading more, so I've got the next two books coming to my local library branch.  In the meantime, I'm reading 'Snowcrash' by Neil Stephenson, which is an early 90s cyberpunk novel.  So far, it's pretty entertaining.  Dated, and yet still fairly relevant, conceptually.  I'm excited to see how things develop; I'm still pretty early in this book.

On the board gaming front, Jane bought a couple new games, including a game called Suspend and Dominion: Intrigue expansion.  This Dominion expansion is pretty fun and interesting.  It really expands the game and gives me an idea of how people can go all nuts for this series of games.  However, I've already got one card game obsession, which is Magic the Gathering, and I just can't shake it.  Magic gets new expansions every three months or so, which really keeps you on the hook.  In the meantime, I've started making my own drafting cube, which has been a fun project, and what I hope to do more of in the future. 

On the television, it's been lots of Superheroes.  Finally saw Ant Man-  I liked it!  It was fun and slightly generic.  Just as expected.  I've also been watching Daredevil, even though I don't really like it that much.  I'm just getting really sick of everything being 'dark and gritty.'  It's like they decided Daredevil should be Batman instead.  Okay, it's not exactly like that, but kind of like that.  I did make it to season 2, where Shane from Walking Dead plays the Punisher, and is pretty great.  I don't know if I'll keep watching.

Video games, alas, are a footnote again for me.  I play Mario Maker every few days, and I play 80 days with Jane.  I've got my eye on some other games, and I'm always collecting cool-looking indie games for the Pak Watch segment.   Twitter is my primary source for these game previews, as I believe I have mentioned in the past. 

Okay, well, it's time to void my bowels and head to work, where I will repeat that process until the aching in my gut goes away.

Have a nice day,

-D 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Monthly Update: April 2016



Welcome to the month of April!

Well, gaming-wise, I feel that I can safely say that most of my time (presently 22 hours) was dominated by Tomb Raider.  According to the game, I'm 87% complete and I've been pretty consistent with 100%'ing areas as often as I can.  The inclusion of fast travel, although absurd that it's in the game, has definitely helped with making sure I haven't left any contextual stone unturned, nor a tomb unraided.  I've also been putting some time in Killer Instinct, which I also talked about last week, and I think the game might turn into a slight de-stressor.  I did read that, at least in the Xbox One version, that the free fighter rotates, and I hope that that is the case with the Windows 10 port, but if not, no worries.  At least for now.

On the 3DS, I've been playing through Fantasy Life, an interesting game that reminds me a bit of a toned down Dragon Quest world with a similar aesthetic to Final Fantasy: The Four Heroes of Light. I also finished SteamWorld: Dig, a game from the Nindie Bundle and there might be an article about that coming later in the month; or there might not be if you know me by now.  I've also been playing a lot more of ATV: Wild Ride 3D, which is kind of like a 3D Excitebike and is just as infuriating when you get cut off, or in this case, take a jump and end up skidding off a cliff face (and again, the soundtrack is pretty awesome!).

In the mobile gaming front, I've downloaded Nintendo's first foray in the mobile marketplace with Miitomo.  Although Miitomo is less of a game and all of a social application that basically just asks you questions and those answers are shared with people whom you've allowed to be your friend.  Nintendo is great on this front in that you already have to be a friend/follower via Facebook or Twitter, or meet in person, in order to be friends on their app.  What I wish they would do, is for people who link their Miitomo profile to their Nintendo ID (which I did because why not), is allow people whom you've already shared your friend code with to add as a friend too.  OR, maybe that is a thing and the few people I've shared my friend code with aren't using Miitomo and/or linked to their Nintendo ID.  At the moment, it's fun/cute and I'll check it a number of times a day.  Plus there are non-real world money monetary rewards (like with the old Club Nintendo) that allows you to use points/coins to purchase digital rewards such as in-game items, games through Nintendo's eShop and discounts on specific games.  Again, I'm sure there's more, I just don't know about all the bells, whistles and mushrooms about it all yet.

I am looking forward to attempting another escape room, seeing as how the group we went with had so much fun a few weeks back.  Our original plan was to make a second go (at a new room this time since we had already figured out (were told) the final solution to the puzzle (which we had already figured out, but were missing pieces that allowed us to complete it).  I will update y'all if that does happen, as I really hope that it does, but it may have to wait until May because of people's schedules.

Conklederp and I are very much looking forward to the return of Game of Thrones and aside from the first couple of trailers, we've been intentionally in the dark about what is going to happen.  Partly because we want to be surprised with what the show does, but also because Mr. R. R. Martin hasn't published volume six ("The Winds of Winter") yet so most/all of the fans are in the dark with what certain character story-lines are going to entail and how the already differing plots in the TV show will translate to the book (hopefully published by the end of the year).  I think Bates Motel is also returning pretty soon. . .actually it looks like we're already four episodes late, which just means that we'll have to catch up in time for the new episode next Monday.  In Vikings, things are kind of odd, but I read in an interview, that by the end of the season, everything that's happened is supposed to make sense, or you know, storytelling.

Well, that's all I can think of to update y'all with about the upcoming (and present) month of April, in this, the year of our Cthulhu, two thousand sixteen.



~JWfW/JDub/Jaconian
Don't You Worry About A Thing

Friday, April 1, 2016

First Impressions: Killer Instinct (PC / Windows 10)


Earlier this week, Killer Instinct became available through the Windows App Store to be downloaded for free, exclusively for people who use the Windows 10 operating system.  Presently I've put a couple of hours into the game (although I've only spent 20 minutes in 15 actual fights; I've won 14 of those and the game's currently on "Beginner") and I feel like I can talk a bit about the game, or at least my impressions of it.  Eh!?

Wait!?  Really!?  This game is rated T for Teen?
When I first saw that Killer Instinct had become available on PC, I went to the Windows App Store and searched for the game, the main thing, and only thing that confused me was the "XBox Live" banner above the game icon.  Not being one who has a current generation console, I wasn't sure if that meant that this game was only compatible with XBox One consoles, if I needed an XBox Live subscription.  Then I told the old curmudgeon man in me to go drink his Metamucil since right there on the page it says that it's "Built for Windows 10" and "Is your PC Killer Instinct ready?" So obviously the game would work well enough on my computer.  So, I clicked the download button (labeled as "Free+") and began the 23 GB download that Windows 10 would soon recognize as Killer Instinct.

When I first started the game, I was greeted with a few company logos, (Microsoft Studios, and Iron Galaxy), and then with the iconic music that Robin Beanland wrote for the original 1994 arcade and SNES release (titled "The Instinct").  This was a good sign.  Then the game went to the "Checking Downloadable Content" screen.  It stayed this way for well over 10 minutes and at first I just chalked it up to a Day One patch.  An additional 10 minutes later, I decided that I had had enough and I closed the game down.  Perhaps my computer wasn't actually capable of running the game, although I had read that the game ran a benchmark test when you started it up for the first time.  Upon rebooting the game, I was again greeted with the Checking Downloadable Content screen, but this time for only a few seconds before I was given the start screen.

Then I started to play the game.

As it turns out, this free version of Killer Instinct (a fact which I knew before downloading, so it wasn't a surprise) only allows you to play as Saberwulf, which I was fine with as I did like the character when I played on the SNES, although I do favor Jago pretty heavily in both the arcade cabinet and the SNES game, but Saberwulf is a close second.  I mean, his stage music ("Tooth and Claw") is some of the best fighting game music out there.  One note on the music though, is that I don't really notice the music while I've played.  This aspect of the game makes me a little sad since I love the soundtrack from the original game.  Maybe I just need to play the game with a greater focus on paying attention to the music, but at the moment, I couldn't tell you anything about what the music is like during the actual fighting, which comprises 85% of the game.  

Maybe I'm old, but that seems like a lot of blood for a T Rating.
So basically, I was okay being relegated to only playing as Saberwulf.  Except that you are able to play as Jago too.  But only in the "Dojo" tutorial stages.  Which is kind of odd.  In the Dojo, you learn the basics of playing Killer Instinct and the basics really only last for a handful of tutorials before it starts getting complicated when you have to perform a Heavy Opener followed by a Heavy Auto, followed by a Medium Linker, followed by another Heavy Auto and finishing it all up with an Ender.  Granted leading up to this, the game will give you on screen directions as to how to perform a specific move, and then just like school, the training wheels come off and they just tell you to perform a move without the cheat sheet, which I fully acknowledge is a good thing.

What I find annoying, and maybe it's a marketing tactic (and if so then it's a good one), is that while in the Dojo, you learn a lot of Jago's moves, which are pretty typical for a Jago/Ryu-esque-type fighter in a street fighting game with Down->Down/Left->Left performs a fireball and Right->Down->Down/Right doing an uppercut.  But not all of Jago's move translate to Saberwulf as he doesn't have (at least not that I've found through experimentation) a fireball attack, although he does have a charging attack that I haven't quite figured out how to implement properly yet.

The rest of my time has been spent in either the survival mode (lose once and your session is over) and once through of the arcade mode to which I lost once to Maya, and then beat B. Orchid.  One thing that I've noticed, is that this iteration of Killer Instinct is very forgiving when it comes to performing combos as well as executing Combo Breakers.  I guarantee you that in the original Killer Instinct, I never would have been able to pull of a 29 (which turned into a 32) hit combo, let alone having a 12 in-a-row winning streak (even on the Game Boy port, I'd be lucky to beat the game on easy).  And I just realized that all of this is because I have "Combo Assist" turned on (which it is by default), so I'll have to give the game a go with this function turned off; I will report back later.  Combo Breakers can easily be performed on the Xbox 360 controller by pressing either up, right, or down (up=Heavy, right=medium, down=light) to perform the corresponding Combo Breaker, but if you get it wrong the second time you try to break the combo, you're locked out from trying to execute it again and you're given a visual timer while your proverbial crap is kicked from your digital person (or in my case, wulf).

So how does one go about acquiring additional fighters?  I believe the only way to do this is to buy them, but I could be mistaken.  There are a couple of cameo fighters (Rash from Battletoads, and (the?) Arbiter from Halo are two that I recognize) with Rash having a countdown timer until he is "Available," which either means he will then be a free to access/play character or he will then be available to purchase.

This area of free-to-play games is where I have conflicting feelings.  I most likely will not be buying individual fighters (costing $4.99 a piece) or by buying one of the full priced bundles which include anywhere from 8 or 17 up to 25 fighters, along with KI coins (which unlock character art, backgrounds, music, etc), for between $19.99 up to $49.99.  My feelings are conflicted here because since the game was free, I don't want to spend money on it, because it is in essence, free.  I can already play the game, albeit, a limited version of the game.  I blame free smart phone games in this respect.  Plants Vs. Zombies2: It's About Time has been the only game over my four years of smartphonedome that I've spent any real world money on (and that was only $2.99 for the Snow Pea).  Maybe if there's a sale (a Steam-esque level sale mind you) will I decide to throw money at the developers/studio/intertubalwebbedcloud, but until then, I've resigned myself to playing only as Saberwulf, which again I am perfectly fine with.

[. . .sounds of chirping crickets maybe. . .]
There are a number of aspects and features of this game that I know that I haven't covered (the Shadow Lab, Online Play, Multiplayer?, Experience Points, Shadow Moves/Meter, Finishing Moves), mainly because I haven't delved into those depths, but also I feel that I've been going on for quite a bit already.  I will say though that one part of the game that I've noticed possibly something not working quite right is that during the character animation intros, there often seems to be sound missing.  When Saberwulf comes on screen, he'll growl, then stand up and apparently roar (as above), but there is no sound effect.  There's the ambient background sound and some intro music, but nothing from Saberwulf.  I don't know if this is an oversight or something that will eventually be patched.

Basically, if you happen to be looking for a fighting game and you have a spare 23 GB on your hard drive, I would recommend picking up Killer Instinct to at least give it a try.  If you're not happy with it, uninstalling should be a simple enough endeavor, although I don't see myself doing this any time soon as I am very much enjoying my time with Killer Instinct.



~JWfW/JDub/Jaconian

P.S.  And lastly, here's a picture of Saberwulf bitch-slapping Riptor, if only because Dr. Potts will typically beat me at Killer Instinct, especially when he's playing as Riptor.