Tuesday
May232017

Overwatch - paying for friends and ranking?

I've recently started playing Overwatch, so this recent article on Kotaku about utilizing Fiverr.com to pay people to play with you piqued my interest.  The idea is paying someone - top results are usually younger females who tend to be heals - such as here, to play with you.  After looking at a few services, you usually get 3-5 OW games for $5, with increasing monetary payments yielding more matches and added perks such as voice chat.  That gives roughly an hour or so of gameplay.  The usual trend, based on comments, is a perky las who is helpful and improves their teammates gameplay.  Which makes sense since it's in their best interest to get good reviews so others give a Fiverr.

Now, why do I care about this?  Well, in all my years of gaming - many of those online - I never knew this was a thing!  I kinda' feel like I was living under a rock, the whole PewDiePie incident not withstanding.  Overall, I think think this is a nifty idea.  Gives people a chance to make some money playing a game they enjoy, and other gamers get to also enjoy their gaming experience by playing with veteran players.  Plus, it's really not that expensive.  Everyone wins!

I started looking more into Overwatch coop play and came across rank boost at boostards.com.  Without diving too much into the system: In Overwatch Competitive Play, players earn Skill Rating (SR) depending on both their win/loss and how well they do in matches.  A lot more information can be found here.  At Boostards - and other websites - they will sell you a SR boost for $$$.  When initially looking, I thought it'd be a matter of cooping with a pro and increasing your SR.  No big deal.  And while you can order that (for a 60% surcharge), their main offering is to actually log in on your account and play to the purchased SR.  And that is where I draw the line.

It's one thing if you play with somebody to improve your SR.  It's called playing on a team, and we naturally want to surround ourselves with the best.  But to pay someone to actually play on your account to improve your ranking is completely unethical and against the spirit of competitive gameplay.  Looking at their website:

Boostards provides “boosting” services for Overwatch players who feel like they are stuck at a certain skill rating in the game to climb out of elo hell and into a place where they can realize their true potential. Luck can be a huge factor in the Overwatch competitive environment and what we aim to do is to take the luck factor out of the game, improve the gaming experience for players having a bad time, and offer a bit of help to those who need it.

That's just a load of crap.  Let's say a player is at Platinum Level SR 2800 and they want to be Diamond Level SR 3000 - and then can never get above SR 2850 on their own, what do we really think is going to happen after their boost?  1) They'll drop right back down to Platinum & 2) Diamond competition teams will now be handicapped when they are teamed with somebody who hasn't actually earned the right to play in Diamond, thus creating a negative gameplay experience for 5 other players.  Good job!  As far as "luck" goes, everyone is competing on the same playing field.  Over time, that "luck" would level out.  if you're really good enough to play Diamond, then you don't need someone to boost you to unlock your potential.  If you really have Diamond potential, then play the game!

Now, how much does thie cost?  Let's say you're SR 1500 - Silver Level - so you've at least played and won some competition matches.  To get a Top 500 boost from SR 1500 would cost you $1647.18.  Even going from one tier to the next - Silver (SR 1500) to Gold (2000 SR) is $75.   Yikes!  And make no mistake about it.  If a player gets such a significant boost in SR that they're not capable of on their own, they will be facerolled in competitions.

Tuesday
Apr042017

Battle for Candora Review

Humanity is on the verge of being enslaved by an alien race. They have taken most of humanity over with the power of sugar. Thankfully, there are a few brave souls that venture out to a planet named Candora in hopes of obtaining a cure that will defeat the aliens and their diabolical plot. There is one issue though, you see the aliens found out what you're trying to do and have turned the inhabitants against you. Can you survive and save humanity?

Battle for Candora is a free-to-play collectable card iOS game. In this game you will be working with a deck of 28 cards (8 heroes and 20 food cards) to battle level upon level of challenges and enemies. Even though the number of cards seems to be a smaller number, believe me you're not going to get through the entire deck. You will be able to hold up to 3 cards at a time in your hand. There are 3 positions that you can place character cards (attack position, and 2 support positions). Only the front position will be able to attack unless a special circumstance takes place.

So lets breakdown the core of the game. There is basically 5 phases that you're going to go through, and you can skip any phase that you want to, the thing is that these phases are either going to save your ass, or be the death of you. The confinement of having to do the phases in a specific order make it very difficult to capitalize on moments where you could perhaps squeak out a victory, so you're going to spend a good amount of time guessing on what is going to happen during your phases as well as hoping that your lead character gets a "Blitz", which is something you need to allow for an additional character to swap places and then attack.

There are MANY levels where dumb luck is going to be the only thing that will get you through the level, and to be honest there are some times where I feel that the AI has an advantage to easily defeat anything I put out there. So I have to pray that all the cards fall just the right way. Now I'm not saying that I don't appreciate a challenge, but there are levels where the outcome feels completely out of my hands.

As you go from stage/battle to stage/battle you're going to see that there is a main objective and then bonus objectives. If you complete all three you get the 3 star rating for that level. If you miss one you can of course always go back and try again. Now if you're not into getting the perfect score on each level there's another reason to go back through the levels, and that is the fact that as you kill enemies you can open up reward chest that will either have just gems, or gems with character points.

The character points are used to upgrade your different character cards. They can help with HP and Attack Power, and as you can guess both of these stats are EXTREMELY important to get through the game. Another important thing that you'll need to have to get through the game is the building of new weapons. Now I'm still a little bit haze how to get some of the blueprints, even though I'm pretty sure I've got the parts for several weapons, but if you can complete the blueprints the weapons you unlock will make your character much stronger and add some effects that will come in handy during tougher battles.

Now I mentioned gems, and those gems are used at 100 gem intervals to open up reward chest that will contain items, characters, etc. These of course will once again allow you to further customize your deck for the best possible outcome. Speaking of decks, I mentioned that it is made up of 28 cards, 8 characters, and 20 food cards, but I haven't told you want food cards are yet. Well these are cards that have either healthy food, or sugary food. Both of these options have bonuses for a character, or something bad for an enemy. The way you find out is that you'll notice that the cards have a give and a throw text to them. The throw is for what will happen if you give it to the enemy. The sugary cards, when applied to one of your characters, is going to give you a really good boost for a round, but you're going to be stunned for the next round as you'll suffer a sugar rush. There's also one more thing that you need to know about the food cards, there are a couple of categories that the food falls into and if you have more of one type than the rest you're going to get a bonus to the deck. My favorite is getting more of the cards with the coconut on them so attacks don't cost energy.

Overall this is a very interesting game, there are definitely some quirks to it that stop me from trying to play it often, but I do find myself wondering over to the game ever so often to at least get some extra gems and hope to unlock some extra goodies. I really wish that there was some balancing in some of the levels that feel like maybe the rules are misinterpretted, and I do wish that there was a way to use the phases in a more flexible manner. There is a bit of a push for in-app purchases when it comes to booster packs, specific cards, or the Gauntlet mode for the game (a mode that allows you to go after more booster packs), but I feel that this game can easily be played without feeling like you're getting smashed over the head with "hey you should really spend some money." This game, as it stands right now is a solid 7.8 out of 10.

Tuesday
Mar212017

Adam Wolfe Season 1 Review

Delve into the underbelly of San Francisco, where what you thought you knew might not really be all that the world has or is hiding. In Adam Wolfe you will be put into the shoes of Adam Wolfe, a private investigator of the paranormal variety. It is through this first season, or four chapters of the game, that you'll take on cases, all of which will get you one step closer to finding your sister that mysteriously vanished. The thing is that the path is fraught with danger, and one wrong step, or one moment of letting your guard down could mean the end of you, and perhaps many others.

This is an interesting game that mixes the point click adventure genre with puzzles, hidden objects, and replaying crime scenes through the manipulation of time. You will of course be taking on different pieces of an over-arching quest to find your sister, but in each chapter there is a new aspect, a new roadblock that will be put in front of you. The interesting thing, is that yes, it is frustrating to see these obstacles, but they feel natural in the flow of the game. Too many games put the obstacles to try to make the player spend more time in the game, but this game the obstacles seem logical, they seem to fit right into the story and allow the player to stay immersed in the game.

There are a couple of things about this game that really work for me. The first, of course, is the voice acting, there's nothing quite like actually getting to hear the voices and being pulled further into the game because of it. There is a lot of dialogue and text going on, and it is refreshing to actually have the characters speak so as to allow for the player to not have to read, and possibly re-read for context. The other AMAZING thing is that you can pick up items when you are in an area, EVEN if you don't need them at the current place and time. Sure, there might be items added to a location later in a chapter or the game, but for the most part you might have something that has no significance, but later on you don't have ton continuously backtrack to find what you need. This once again enhances the player's ability to continue to be immersed and get lost in the flow of the game.

As stated previously there are 4 chapters, and at the end there HAS to be more to come. At the end of each of these chapters you are left with a cliffhanger which make you want to just dive right into the next game. This is a well crafted game/series. I'd highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in puzzles, mystery, and adventure. This game gets an 9.0 out of 10.

Saturday
Mar042017

Mascot Dunk Review

 

Time your jumps, stick the landings, and then bring it all home with a powerful dunk. That is as simple as it seems in Mascot Dunk for iOS. The thing is that it really isn't that simple. The game does take only one finger to play as you'll be timing your tapping on the screen, but the thing is that as you advance through the game, you're going to try to achieve the high score all in one shot, the speed changes as well as the placement and size of the trampolines. 

If you play the game long enough, you'll start to unlock additional fun dunks with time. You'll also gain coins through your playthroughs. If you get enough coins you can unlock a random mascot to give you more of a personalized feel. When you unlock a mascot you can change the colors for that specific character to add enough more personalization to it. I do wish that each mascot had a signature dunk that would distinguish one from another, sadly each mascot is just a skin change and the same set of dunks. Speaking of dunks you're going to be unlocking them with time, however that doesn't mean that you have any control over what dunk you're going to be attempting on each basket, that is randomly selected for you as well.

This game suffers that same issue that many free to play games suffer and that is the desire to get you to watch ads. The biggest problem is that at the end of a playthrough you're allowed to restart where you left off once by watching an ad, however, if you decide to try again from scratch by going back to the main menu there's a very good chance you're going to be hit by an ad anyways. I'm all for having ads, if it rewards the player, but pulling a fast one and placing an ad in a place that the player isn't expecting is only going to serve pissing off the gamer.

In the end this game is fun, definitely has some challenge to it, with a free-to-play tag it definitely is worth a look. The problem for this game ends up being the fact that there really isn't all that much customize control for the player and the shiny look and feel will fade and when that's over I'm not sure how many players will continue to stick around. This game gets a 7.9 out of 10.

Saturday
Feb042017

The Curious Expedition Review

Travel back to a time where there were plenty parts of the world that were undiscovered and groups of explorers wanted to make a name for themselves by discovering all that was unknown while at the same time gaining fame and riches. The name of the game is The Curious Expedition, developed by Maschinen-Mensch, and what I've just described to you is the foundation of this exact game.

You will get to choose one of the world famous explorers to be your leader and then it is up to you to hire the correct crew, make sure you have enough for supplies, upgrade characters and your pack mule, and of course thrust yourself into the unknown. Each adventure you go on will have a randomly generated map to navigate through, your ultimate goal is to reach the golden pyramid hidden somewhere on the map, but you will also have missions that you will need to accomplish first.

Up to this point this game probably sounds pretty easy, well let me dispel that myth right here and right now. You see that as you travel you're going to use up supplies sometimes its machetes, water, climbing gear, torches, or it might just be the groups sanity. That last one is the reason why this game becomes extraordinarily tricky. You will have to be very aware of the group's sanity, if it zeroes out there are some detrimental effects that can occur. There is one more curve ball for you too, there are times where your group members might try to commit mutiny, attack another member, become a raging alcoholic, succumb to a disease, or just run off in the dead of night. This game will throw things at you from every direction.

If you successfully navigate your way through an expedition you will get the choice what to do with the artifacts that you have discovered on your most recent journey. Do you give them to the museum and see a boost in fame, or do you sell them so that you have more capital to work with? There is one thing that I will warn you of and that is that no matter what you only have a limited inventory to work with, so you're going to have to balance your prizes with your supplies that you need to get back home.

This was a very interesting game, and it definitely took me a couple attempts to figure out how to really get into the game, but once I was in I got hooked. Sure, I had some blow up moments of getting attacked and watching everyone die, sure there were times where I took an artifact from a temple and the entire land started to change and basically doomed my expedition, and sure there were times where I thought to myself "if only I had one more inventory slot". The thing is that there's challenge in this game, every decision can definitely make or break you, or hell it might just make you fly by your competition.

The graphics are old school, they take me back to the 80s art style of PC games. Now that's not to say that that's a bad thing, I actually think that this style choice actually works really well with the game. The game was set in the past, there's something to the theme and feel of the game that really shouts that this is the correct art style.

So here's the deal, this game isn't going to be for everyone, but if you are looking for something a little different, where challenge can be high or low in a matter of seconds, where there is truly unknown lands, treasures, and dangers to every expedition, I think you're going to like this game. This game gets an 8.7 out of 10.

Tuesday
Jan312017

Summoners Fantasy Review

Journey into a world where to compete and survive you will have to play a card game that will quickly determine if you will be victorious, or if you will have to rethink your strategies. Summoners Fantasy, developed by Darknight, is a game in which you will be amassing a slew of cards to try to build the best deck you can, or should I say decks. Although you can only have one deck at a time, you should always be aware that given the different scenarios you might need to switch out some if not all the cards.

In this game you will be playing on a 3x3 grid, each location on that grid is a potential spot to play your card. There's a catch to where you want to lay your card down, and that is that every card has four numbers on it, on the top, on the bottom, on the left, and on the right. You will want to play the card in such a way that the higher number is either protecting or capturing the opponent's card(s).

There are a couple of variations to the rules of the game.

 

  1. There is Normal which only allows you to affect the cards touching your just played card. 
  2. There's enraged mode, which has more of a domino effect. You will place a card and the numbers will be compared to those around the card, just like normal, but then if you capture that card, it will then check the cards around the just captured card, and take that one, and then rinse and repeat until all cards have been captured or no more captures can take place. This is probably my favorite mode as well as the most frustrating mode.
  3. Then there's Veiled mode, in this 2 of the numbers on each card are hidden from the opponent or from you. The only way to reveal what that number is is to play a card touching that hidden number. 
  4. Although not strictly a mode, there's also elemental influences that can come into play. You will see in some matches that element symbols are in certain spots, if you have a card that has an elemental rune attached to it of the same type you get a bonus, there's also a chance that if you don't have the correct match you might take a decrease in stats.
  5. Speaking of runes there's also special effect runes, this will give you a bonus if you are on a certain spot on the board, take away certain stats, help other cards, etc.

 

The interesting thing is that a lot of this game mixes and matches the different modes and as you play the game you will see that there's more emphasis on the elements and effect runes. So not only do you have to have the best cards, but you have to supplement them with runes as well.

This is a free-to-play game, and there's definitely microtransactions to this game, but I have to say that I've felt as if I'm getting the full game experience without spending a dime. Since this is a free-to-play game there is energy costs for each of your actions that could potentially cut your gaming sessions short, but that's what the microtransactions can help with. There's also daily rewards for your commitment of coming back every day to play the game.

This is a solid game, there's a ramping up of difficulty, but not to the degree that you're going to scream in frustration and want to break something. There's also the fact that you can replay opponents, take on actual player in PVP action, and of course customize and upgrade your cards. There is a lot of game here, and I enjoy every moment that I get to play it.

Now of course this isn't going to be for everyone, the level of complexity and having to keep 100s of strategies in your head, sort of like when you're playing chess, to combat whatever you're about to go up against, might turn some off, but this is a game that I think many will enjoy. I'm also a huge sucker for anything with well down fantasy elements, and this game definitely has it. The other thing is that each card of a certain type will have the same 4 numbers when it is first revealed, but those numbers could be in any of the 4 positions, making you actually think about the renewed importance of cards that might not have had the correct numbers in the correct spots, but now do. This game gets a 9.2 out of 10.

Monday
Jan022017

The Last Door Season 2 Review

Once again, it is time to take this Edgar Allan Poe and Lovecraft love letter for a spin. You will be taking on a fellow friend of the first season's main character. The question is will you be able to find not only him, but the person that he was seeking as well. You can be sure that there are many chapters ahead where twist, turns, and terror will lurk. What is it that you find in the end?

The interesting thing is, no matter if you play the game on the PC or the iPhone this game stands up to what it needs to do, and what it needs to do is have a point and click adventure game stand on its own. Just like season one you're not going to be blown away by the graphics but there is something about the way that the story just works with the look of the game.

I always wish that there is voice acting in heavily story-driven games, and these games do not have that feature, but the feel of the game and the way that the dialogue is crafted I can feel the accents and voices through the words.

This is definitely not going to be a game for everyone. There are definitely slow points as well as times where you are just screaming for a bit of direction, but there is something about this game that made me keep coming back. It might have been just wanting to know what is going on, maybe its who will I meet next, and how crazy things are going to go, but there is definitely something that I couldn't keep myself away from.

In the end if you are looking to turn off the lights and let the darkness meld with the twist and turns of this game you should pick it up on Steam, but if you are looking for an experience where you can only steal a couple of minutes to delve into the game's depth you're going to want it on your iPhone. So with that in mind I have to say no matter the platform this game deserves a 9.1 out of 10.