Nov 11, 2017

Not Enough Resources: Episode 20 - Assassin’s Creed Origins, BlizzCon 2017, Stealth in Multiplayer games, Overwatch League

Hold on to your hype, it is time for the latest episode of Not Enough Resources!


Now Playing:
Dylan finished out this season of League of Legends just below platinum, despite a last minute push. Thankfully, the meta for the next season looks to show lots of promise thanks to some reworked systems. Ryan has finally finished Assassin’s Creed Origins, and it is his favorite Assassin’s Creed yet.

News:
BlizzCon 2017 was this past weekend, and there was a lot announced. World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth looks to be the closest to Warcraft 4 we will ever get. Meanwhile, Overwatch is getting a brand new map and a new support hero in early 2018. Starcraft 2 is going completely free to play, and is bucking the trend of secondary currencies. Hearthstones next expansion, Kolbolds and Catacombs, looks to be a doozy as far as balance is concerned, but hopefully the Dungeon Run single player mode can bring players back in. Finally, Heroes of the Storm is getting a lot of back end upgrades, including changes to stealth that begs the question: How do you handle stealth versus balance when it comes to multiplayer?

Competitive Corner:
We finally get our first details on the Overwatch League’s inaugural season, and we could not have been more wrong on how the entire thing was going to be handled. Cool new additions to the game include team uniforms and matching colors for abilities, but how will that effect readability for viewers? Meanwhile, Compete had a great look at how Super Smash Brothers Melee is hampered in Japan.

We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to Team Liquid, as one of their Overwatch coaches, INTERNETHULK, has unexpectedly passed away. Thank you for everything you have done for esports, and for channeling your passion into something that others can enjoy.

Follow us on Twitter @NERPodcast! You can subscribe to Not Enough Resources on iTunes or Google Play.

Nov 10, 2017

Assassin’s Creed Origins Review

Assassin’s Creed Origins had a lot riding on its shoulders as far as the franchise is concerned. The previous game in the series, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, was met with lukewarm reception and a sigh of relief that it was better than the glitch-riddled Assassin’s Creed Unity. It was passable, but not great. This latest iteration is a return to form in a series that faced stagnation thanks to an annual release schedule.

Like the other Assassin’s Creed games, Origins follows a dual storyline. The bulk of the game follows Bajek, a Medjay from ancient Egypt, as he seeks revenge against the Pharaoh Ptolmey XIII for the accidental murder of his son at Bajek’s own hands. Ceaser and Cleopatra have a part to play in the game as well, setting the stage for the beginnings of the long war between the Templar and the Assassins. There are enough twists and turns throughout the plot to keep things incredibly interesting and complex, and I won’t be giving those away here.

As always, the big star of the game is the setting. Ancient Egypt is thankfully not just a giant desert that is boring to explore, but a breathing world full of caves, rivers, lakes and sprawling cities. Memphis is a particular highlight, with rivers cutting through the city and under temples. Like previous Assassin’s Creed games, climbing to the top of giant structures to get a good view is amazing, and having something as iconic as the great pyramids of Giza to do so with brings a smile to your face.

The biggest change comes to character progression, ditching arbitrary sequential upgrades in favor of an open-ended talent system. Unfortunately once you hit around level 20, progression slows as talents start costing two or three points instead of one. I understand the need to not artificially inflate a skill tree with gap skills, but maybe they should have just reduced the level cap from 40 to 30. Thankfully, within a couple hours you feel powerful and diverse enough in your skills that you have plenty of options for executing your targets, and the talents you acquire later on just make you feel like a god.

Combat has also received a huge upgrade tied into the new character progression system. While you were able to upgrade items in previous iterations, Origins has you looting and switching out gear as you play through the game. You can hotkey two types of melee weapons and two types of bows to your d-pad for optimal switching, and there is about a dozen different types of weapons to choose from. These choices are great, but the ability to upgrade weapons to match your current level does allow you to play through the game using the same four weapons if you want. While I do like my spear that steals life on hit, I would much rather have to constantly be forced to change my weaponry around than just upgrade my existing weapons to match my level.

Then there is the addition of the shield. This is the only form of defense you get and mastering it is key, especially once you reach level 30 or so. Parrying attacks with the shield is a little cumbersome compared to other 3rd person adventure games, so you will miss a parry more often than not at first. This is mostly a control issue, where parry is mapped to an odd place on the controller. Thankfully you have enough tricks up your sleeve like smoke bombs and tiered, regenerating health to help.

With most open world games, the experience of the sandbox – the unique, player driven way in which situations are approached – is where Origins outshines its predecessors. With a simple up-tap on the D-Pad, you take control of Senu your eagle companion, giving you a literal birds eye view of your surroundings. This replaces the series ‘eagle vision’ where enemies would just get highlighted red and collectibles would just get highlighted gold. Now, you have to mark things using Senu, and if you don’t see any enemy with Senu, you don’t see the enemy until it is too late and they are already calling for reinforcements. This is a great way for Ubisoft to take off the training wheels and crutches players have relied on for years, all while making the game better at the same time.

Later story beats, and certain collectibles, will be met with eye rolls, but Assassin’s Creed has always straddled that line between a serious look at history and a tongue-in-cheek style B-movie. Thankfully, it all comes together in the end, with a final mission that will have history buffs grinning.

The Verdict:
While this isn’t the first Assassin’s Creed game for this generation of consoles, it surely feels like the first. Black Flag, Unity, and Syndicate all had at least one foot in the previous generation due to long development periods for these titles, and Origins finally feels like a fresh new take. Combat has changed for the better thanks to a generous loot system, and the addition of Senu allows for complex and fresh ways to tackle a stronghold. Hopefully Ubisoft keeps up the good work with the next Assassin’s Creed, and it doesn’t rush another one out the door in the next 18 months.

Review copy of Assassin’s Creed Origins for the Playstation 4 was provided by Ubisoft.

This review originally appeared on RoguesPortal.com.

Nov 6, 2017

First Impressions – Arcade Spirits

Visual novels have always been a staple of internet storytelling. I remember playing a really in-depth fan fiction Digimon visual novel back in the early 00s. Thanks to games like Dream Daddy, Hatoful Boyfriend, and huge online marketplaces like steam and itch.io, this bold new world of story telling is bursting at the seams. A fun new take on the visual novel that’s being crowdsourced through Patreon is Arcade Spirits, and based on the groundwork laid in the first three chapters, it is going to charm the pants off a lot of people.
What sets Arcade Spirits apart from most visual novels I have played is that it isn’t immediately about finding romance. That is an option later on down the line, but it isn’t the end goal. Instead, the protagonist of the story is trying to find their dreams, and maybe, just maybe, smile after a hard days work.

After creating your character through a series of menus, including picking your pronouns, you immediately lose your job at the local pool, and have to start the job hunt again! Thankfully, you’re always helpful roommate Juniper bugs you to install a personal assistant app on your holo-phone, and it finds you a job that matches your personality 99.97%! Suddenly you get whisked away into the world of Funplex, an arcade tucked into a strip mall, where you get thrust into a colorful world of blips-boops and children’s birthday parties.

Aside from standard visual novel flair, the writing in this game is scary good. In the first chapter alone, I was already excited to explore the world more thanks to two key sequences, one involving a flash back to the 1980s, and one where you are communicating directly to IRIS, the AI assistant downloaded on your phone. Instead of just being about the quest to bang hot anime drawings, Arcade Spirits challenges your relationship with technology and teaches you gaming history too.

As far as the characters you interact with, they all have their own unique personalities and quirks, with some liking certain responses to situations over others. Nearly every response you select has one of five different attributes; Quirky, Steady, Kindly, Gutsy or Basically, and each character reacts differently based on your choices. The best part about Arcade Spirits though is that I don’t want the protagonist to hook up with anyone quite yet. This world has drawn me in, and I want to explore these relationships and make friends, much like I would after starting a new job in real life.

As far as individual characters are concerned, Arcade Spirits covers the full gamut of gamers. There is the competitive esports streamer QueenBee, who is a rising streamer. You get to befriend Ashley, your co-worker with a burning passion for cosplay. Naomi is the hardware nut who repairs all the cabinets, and Percy is the old school gamer chasing high scores. There is even a new kid character who just moved to town and has no friends, looking to escape from the real world thanks to gaming. I wish this arcade mecca was real, and people clamored into arcades like the days of old instead of the world where everyone has their heads buried in their phones. Maybe a trip to 1up is in my future.

We will continue to watch Arcade Spirits and its development, and can’t wait to see more from this talented four person team. If you are interested in some of the more nitty gritty of game development, head over to the Arcade Spirits developer blog. If you want to support the development of this charming indie, head on over to their Patreon. Arcade Spirits is being developed for PC, Mac and Linux.

This post originally appeared on RoguesPortal.com.

Nov 3, 2017

BlizzCon 2017 Announcements

BlizzCon is going on this weekend in Anaheim, California, and Blizzard just released a bunch of trailers for most of their games.

Hearthstone: Kobolds and Catacombs

Kobolds are some of the goofiest enemies in World of Warcraft, so why don’t they get their own expansion in Hearthstone? The new expansion will bring legendary weapon cards to each class, and a new free-to-play dungeon crawler mode that pits you against random bosses.

Heroes of the Storm – Dragons of the Nexus

Heroes of the Storm is bringing two new heroes to their game! Alexstraza the Life Binder, from World of Warcraft, and Hanzo, from Overwatch. They also teased a bunch of back end updates that the community has been asking for, like in game voice chat, and performance based matchmaking.

StarCraft 2 goes Free to Play

StarCraft 2 is going Free to Play in November! This is the franchise that pretty much birthed esports, and to see it be released for anyone who wants to play. The first of four campaigns is included with the Free to Play version of the game, focusing on Jim Raynor and the Terrans, plus all co-op commanders will be playable for free up to level 5!

Overwatch: New Map – BlizzardWorld

Overwatch: New Hero – Moira

Overwatch: New Animated Short – Honor and Glory

Overwatch continues it rise in gaming, and it looks to be Blizzard is going to continue pushing that payload forward. In the BlizzCon 2017 Opening Ceremonies they showed off a new support hero, Moira, a new map, BlizzardWorld, and a new cinematic, Honor and Glory. The Overwatch World Cup is this weekend, and it looks to be a great preview of the forthcoming Overwatch League. Hopefully throughout panels this weekend they will tease more fun stuff coming to Overwatch.

World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth

Battle for Azeroth is the next expansion to the incredibly popular World of Warcraft. This expansion is focusing primarily on the Horde versus the Alliance, and this seems to be the closest we will get to a true Warcraft 4.

This post originally appeared on RoguesPortal.com.

Oct 28, 2017

Not Enough Resouces: Episode 19 - Assassin's Creed Origins, Animal Crossing Pocket Camp, split patches in League of Legends, and the Overwatch World Cup

Hold on to your hype and get ready to game, fall gaming is in full swing and we are here to bring you the latest episode of Not Enough Resources!


Now Playing:
Dylan is knuckling down on League of Legends to end the season strong, while Ryan is exploring ancient Egypt in Assassin's Creed Origins.

News:
Nintendo revealed Animal Crossing Pocket Camp and Ryan went to insane lengths to get it on his phone, but it has some curious design choices compared to Fire Emblem Heroes and Super Mario Run. Will Nintendo's mobile dominance continue? Also, Gamecube controllers now work with the Switch, so is a new Smash Brothers around the corner?

Competitive Corner:
Is it wise for professional esports to be playing on a different patch than what is on live servers? Dylan breaks down Riot's complicated meta, and how it effects how the game is played. Meanwhile, Ryan is disappointed that 4 out of 6 players from China's Overwatch World Cup team don't have their visa's in order to come to Anaheim for BlizzCon.

Follow us on Twitter @NERPodcast! You can subscribe to Not Enough Resources on iTunes or Google Play.

Oct 27, 2017

First Impressions – Assassin’s Creed Origins

After a two-year haitus following Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Assasssin’s Creed is back with its latest iteration, Assassin’s Creed Origins. Origins is unique because it doesn’t follow the traditional storyline of Assassins vs. Templars. Instead it follows the origin of both secret societies, and how the entire conflict began. It takes place in ancient Egypt and follows the story of Bayek as he plots revenge against Pharaoh Ptolemy XIII. Thankfully, it is a huge return to form so far for Assassin’s Creed. While I am no where near done with the game, there is a lot of fun packed into those first 10 hours!
First things first, the new control scheme takes some getting used to. Changes from previous Assassin’s Creed games are apparent from the get go, with the attack buttons moved to the trigger buttons instead of the face buttons, and a new shield mechanic that I haven’t quite wrapped my head around yet. Thankfully, once you get used to the new combat controls, everything gels incredibly well. Movement on the other hand seems a bit glitchy, as the default control scheme means you will be holding a face button to do all of your climbing. If that doesn’t work for you though, and you are set in your ways from 10 years of Assassin-ing, you can swap to a control scheme in the menus that resembles the older titles. Another complication with controls comes with pushing and holding various buttons to do totally different things. Some of these make sense, but others aren’t as intuitive as they should be. This is very apparent when you are trying to use an Animus Pulse, but end up taking control of Senu instead…
Senu is Bayek’s eagle, and it is fitting that you finally see that connection between bird of prey and assassin, given that the Assassin’s have used bird imagery throughout the series. By pressing up on the D-Pad you gain control of Senu, giving you a literal birds eye view of the world around. You can use this to spot enemies, find treasure, mark prey and even fast travel. Every time I come across an encampment of bandits, I scout the area with Senu, trying to find all of the guards I can before planning my one-man army assault. Senu is by far the best addition to the game, and I hope to see the feature included in future iterations of the series.
The biggest draw back, so far at least, is that Egypt is very boring to look at once you get outside of cities. It is a big desert after all. Assassin’s Creed games have been known for their giant, breath taking landscapes that capture an era, and while it certainly captures the sweltering heat one imagines when thinking of ancient Egypt, it is pretty boring to ride a horse through it all. I have yet to hit a major city like Giza though, so I bet my feelings on that will change.

Expect our full review of Assassin’s Creed Origins next week! We are currently running a contest for a PS4 copy of Assassin’s Creed Origins for Canadian Residents, and expect some more in-depth Assassin talk on this weekends episode of Not Enough Resources.

This post originally appeared on RoguesPortal.com.

Oct 26, 2017

A Mortician’s Tale Review

Gaming is truly magical for the simple fact that it allows players to use technology to interact with the world in a unique way. Sometimes that means collecting stars throughout a castle, or stopping an alien force from activating a super weapon. A Mortician’s Tale challenges the gaming status quo with a smart narrative and uncomfortable subject matter, and that is what art is supposed to do. It is supposed to push us beyond ourselves.
From a purely capital G-gaming standpoint, A Mortician’s Tale is a point-and-click adventure through the eyes of Charlie, a mortician. The game has you prepare bodies for both burials and cremations in a game that reminds me of the earlier versions of Trauma Center. Instead of life saving procedures though, you are preparing bodies for a wake.

The gameplay is fine, not really ground breaking, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t engaging. I am lucky (or dumb) enough to have a computer with a touch screen, and having to prepare these bodies by using my hands felt oddly calming. I really do wish that this game was available for tablet and mobile platforms, although I don’t know if it could survive the free-to-play app ecosystem with a price tag of $14.99. If you have the ability to play this game with a touch screen though, you absolutely need to.
Where A Mortician’s Tale soars above all other games is how it engages the player through the narrative. Before you prepare each body you have to comb through emails from your boss, your co-workers, and one of your close friends. This is where the game challenges you and your feelings on death.

Without getting too morbid, I have always had an arms length fear about death. What happens when I am gone? What happens after? Will I remember my life? Instead of asking players to face these fears, A Mortician’s Tale takes a pro-death approach. One of the email chains Charlie is subscribed to is a pro-death newsletter, that offers all sorts of insight into real questions and situations that people dealing with death go through. Do you honor the wishes of a minor who committed suicide, or do you follow the law that says his parents have final say about the deceased teen who took their life? How do you handle LGBTQ+ corpses for burial?

All of these questions scare the absolute crap out of me, but A Mortician’s Tale forced me to deal with these deaths as if they were a close family member of mine. A poignant wake you have to prepare for late in the narrative is sobering and brought tears to my eye. I know these are real world situations that hundreds of people deal with on a daily basis.
The one thing I disliked about A Mortician’s Tale was the length. I felt that it was too short to really get at the meat of the taboo issues surrounding death, and it ends on a predictable note with very little pay off. I really wish there was at least one wake to prepare for post-credits, if only to drive the pro-death message home further. On the flip side of that coin though, if it was longer, I am not sure it would have had the impact on me that it did.

Thanks to a slew of factors, like a robust indie scene on PC and wide acceptance of titles that challenge the preconceptions of what a game can be, A Mortician’s Tale is going to hit a lot of people right in the gut. I certainty didn’t expect it to effect me and my outlook on death the way it did. I am not saying that I am ready to embrace death with open arms, I still have a lot of life to live, but I feel oddly at peace with it now.

A Mortician’s Tale challenges what a game can be in the best of ways, and forces its players to engage with conversations most people never consider. The narrative carries the game from start to finish, and it leaves a lasting impact that most game developers only dream of. If you have the means to play it, please do. It is an experience unlike any other. A Mortician’s Tale is available on Steam, Humble Bundle and Itch.io.

Review copy of A Mortician’s Tale was provided by Laundry Bear.

This review originally appeared on RoguesPortal.com.

Stranger Things 2 Review

Stranger Things was a breath of fresh air when it hit Netflix last year, thanks to its energetic young cast, a comeback worthy performance from Winona Ryder, and a huge dose of 80’s nostalgia. While the Duffers Brothers originally envisioned Stranger Things as an anthology project, similar to American Horror Story, they pivoted back to the already established cast and storyline of season 1. Thankfully, that was the right call, as season 2 continues the mystery and intrigue from season 1, without falling into the traps sequels usually do.

The first episode is a slog, as it aims to reestablish the world of Hawkins, Indiana. Mike, Dustin, Lucas and Will are doing their best to get their lives back to normal following Will’s return from the Upside Down. Following a trip to the arcade, the party (as they affectionately call themselves) are thrust into a new adventure.

Will can’t seem to escape the pulls of the Upside Down and is dealing with visions of the other realm. Then there is the introduction of the mysterious new addition Max, who is welcomed into the party with open arms by Dustin and Lucas. Not by Mike though; he is still hung up on Eleven.
A bit on Max: she is a welcome addition to the cast, but the way she is introduced is unoriginal and quite frankly bland. While the series is set in the 80’s, that doesn’t mean it’s writing has to be. Dustin claims that “Girls don’t play video games” and then he and Lucas proceed to fight over Max’s unearned affections. She blatantly calls out the group for being creepers, but the boys don’t get the hint and continue to pursue her. Eventually she finds her way into the party following an invite to trick or treating, but she is still kept at arm’s length by the boys. It takes a while, but the gate of the boys club is eventually busted down.

I will say, beyond her induction into the party, Max’s storyline and its payoff are some of the best moments of the season. Max comes with her own baggage in the form of her older brother Billy (Dacre Montgomery, from this summer’s absolutely fantastic Power Rangers). He also comes equipped with perfect hair and music queues. He provides a nice contrast to the other high school kids from season 1.
As far as the returning cast are concerned, the standouts this season are Will (Noah Schnapp) and Steve Harrington (Joe Kerry). Following his absence in season 1, it is nice to see Will develop as a cast member instead of a plot point. Steve gets a full arc this season as well, getting fully incorporated into the party by the end of the season. The scenes with Steve and Dustin are particularly memorable, and it all pays off in spades.

The one character who feels out of place is the breakout star from Stranger Things season 1, Eleven. There is a full episode detour to explore her story, and it stops the flow of the season dead in its tracks. It feels especially odd because it just dives into tropes that have been done time and time again. It comes off as uninspiring and flat. I would have much rather seen that journey sprinkled throughout the season, instead of all at once in one episode.

As far as the threats of the Upside Down, they continue to escalate in fun and inventive ways. Seeing the constantly growing casts adapt to these ever changing circumstances is great, and where most sequels split the party and it ends up just further complicating the story, Stranger Things 2 uses that to its advantage. Each storyline and plot comes together in a natural way, and there is even an unexpected fan favorite who comes off as cheesy first, but turns the corner back to greatness by the end.

Ultimately, Stranger Things 2 is more of the same, but thanks to some clever plotting you get to see most characters grow organically through their interaction. The new additions of Max and Billy help up the drama and tension thanks to their superb performances, and the Upside Down is just as creepy and mysterious as it was in the first season.

Thankfully, this season is only 9 episodes long, so it feels like an adventure without overstaying its welcome. There are some great twists and turns, and the younger cast continues to shine in their established roles. I sincerely hope the next season branches more characters out of their comfort zones, as that is where Stranger Things 2 thrives.

This review originally appeared on RoguesPortal.com.

Oct 24, 2017

The Art of Overwatch Review

Many items line the bookshelves in my cramped apartment–from graphic novels, to DVD’s, to statues of things I love. None of these other things are held in as high esteem as art books though. These tomes are but a fraction of documentation that shows what it was like to work on something I love before I even knew I loved it. Concept art shows what characters started as and what they were shaped to be. Environmental art is a glimpse beyond what we can see in the final medium. The latest art book I will be adding to my collection is the forthcoming The Art of Overwatch.

First things first, I absolutely love Overwatch. I play on average 15-20 matches a week, and follow it’s sports scene like most people follow football. Beyond that, I have been a Blizzard fan for nearly 20 years now. What makes The Art of Overwatch so special is that it is the first entry into a franchise for Blizzard. There was no art book for Diablo, or Warcraft: Orcs and Humans or Starcraft, only their sequels. There are no previous installments for Overwatch to fallback on.

Because of this, The Art of Overwatch sings. It really feels like Blizzard had been so used to making the same three games for years that Overwatch allowed a huge explosion of creative energies from its staff. The book is broken up into nine chapters, showing off unused hero concepts, rich sprawling environments, and in-game things like Sprays and Skins. The biggest mystery is still the story of Overwatch, and this book continues teasing players as to what has shaped this world.

The best part of the book by far is the chapter on the stars of Overwatch: the heroes. The book was completed sometime after Orisa’s launch, but before Doomfist entered the world of Overwatch, so sadly he is exempt from the book. But that means even heroes that came out post-launch like Ana and Sombra have some concept art to show.
The best part about this chapter is it shows us how many iterations of a character Blizzard goes through before we fall in love with them. Mei was originally Canadian and wielded an ice axe like Lara Croft. Sombra was originally a Japanese Fashionista named Omniblade that threw daggers. McCree was based off of old, unused Starcraft concept art. Bastion’s original ultimate ability was a land mine that popped up and shot bullets in every direction. Mercy was a dude. These little details go a long way to show where these characters came from and hopefully where the world of Overwatch will go.

As much detail and work that were put into the heroes, there was even more put into the environments. After all, these are the maps that everyone plays in, so they need to look great while remaining functional. This is where a bunch of easter eggs are hidden, and this artwork shows them off without the wink and smile presented in game. It is really daunting to realize how much work has been put into something as simple as a jar of Winston’s peanut butter.
Then, there are the skins. The book includes not just looks at everyone’s skins, but also some of the seasonal event skins from all of their events from the last year. This is such a great gift for cosplayers because it shows details of things that you might not be able to see in- game, like the intricate carvings on Mercy’s staff for her Halloween Terror skin.
The other section that stands out above the others is the section for the animated shorts and cinematics. It really shows how far Blizzard has come as an art house, and not just as a game maker. This concept art looks more like a movie, showing off story boards, color tests and lighting designs. They even show how they spruce up in-game environments like the Volskaya Industries map that was used in the Sombra announcement trailer.

The Art of Overwatch looks to be a great addition to any shelf. Art books like these are few and far between. The amount of artwork in this particular book is astonishing, with something new to grab your attention with each turn of the page. The stories told in the forward and first chapter of the book show exactly what Blizzard was aiming for with this ambitious project, and it is safe to say that they hit the mark.

This review originally appeared on RoguesPortal.com.