Fighting crime, trying to save the world, they’re now on android, The Powerpuff Girls: Monkey Mania! Would you believe it if I said that this is a decent game? Probably, because the people who made this game also brought us Knightmare Tower and Burrito Bison. A well crafted, beautifully presented game in the city of Townsville? It sounds like a match made in heaven… So here’s a bit of information for those who’ve seen it around but haven’t taken the dive into the world of sugar, spice and everything nice.
It seems like picking on Blizzard right now is the geek-culture bloggers equivalent of kicking a dead horse, but that horse knows what it did, and while an apology has been issued for the political controversy, it comes across has a rather hollow token, to say nothing about the mass-blocking of comments on YouTube videos from the event.
We are not here to stir the political pot, that’s not what we’re here for. I am here to pick on Blizzard for something a little less volatile, the games that were announced this year.
What? I said a little less…
Blizzard do one thing exceptionally well, and have done since the 90’s: epic cinematics. They fall firmly into the “pros” column on pre-rendered cinematic cut-scenes and trailers and whether you are for or against them, there is nothing negative to say about Blizzards cinematics in their own right. As if to prove a point, oh wow that Diablo 4 trailer was pretty. There were times when the graphics quality bordered photorealism a little too closely, and there seems to have been a positive tone shift, which I will get to shortly.
Pretty pictures aside, we also got a good look at some in-game footage, and the level of detail is delicious, especially given the genre. Moreover, Diablo 4 is darker visually, and it sounds like they’re going dark in narrative, like it should always have been. My biggest issue with 3 was all the pretty colours, in defiance of the legacy left by 1 and 2, and it easily meant that Grim Dawn made a better successor to the throne. A more “medieval” version of hell has been suggested, and the little glimpses we’ve seen suggest hints of Hieronymus Bosche, and the brightest coloured things on screen – the blood red demon “fallen” – are stringy and drawn out horrors.
But of course it wouldn’t be Blizzard without compulsory online multiplayer elements, and sure you don’t have to engage with the other players, but so help me I don’t even want them around, and I don’t like the idea that they might try and engage with me. You’ll pardon me if I remain far more interested in Crate’s ARPG than the usurper to D2.
Oh, and can I get a citation on the claim “Best in class visceral and fluid combat” please? What I’m seeing is that there is a way to play the druid, a way to play the sorceress, so on so forth, with not a great deal of variety, only an optimised route to power. I’m going to hope that this has more to do with the demo than the finalised game, but I’m going to profoundly suspect that I am wrong.
Oh… good? Whatever happened to the days when Blizzard would wait over a decade between sequels? No, I’m not going to complain about this one.
As you may have already guessed, I don’t really do online or multiplayer, so I’ll keep my critique here short. Another of Blizzard’s fortes is great character development, we’ve seen it across the Warcraft legacy, and Overwatch really shows what they’re capable of. There’s a great Extra Credits video on the idle animations of Overwatch and how they communicate a great deal about the character you’re playing. I will watch Overwatch content because the stories are pretty cool, and I like that they’ve introduced some singleplayer content.
I hope that the new game will be more than just shooting while wiggling from side to side.
More World of Warcraft
Among the early announcements, onesies! Do you hear the sound of scraping? That’s the bottom of the barrel.
The former stranglehold Warcraft held on the market is broken, and I feel like now would have been the time to go completely revolutionary, bring back Warcraft as an RTS, I’d even take a World of Starcraft, just to see something that isn’t yet more WoW. There was a lot of talk about the Overwatch sequel being massively supportive, rewarding, and compatible with players of the original game, would a Warcraft 2 be so outlandish?
The game has been updated, modernised, more and more content has been brought to the game, and the original game has been repackaged and redelivered to us in brighter and shinier colours, which I cannot and will not disparage because I bought and played the re-releases of Skyrim, Myst, and Heroes 3 among others. And after fifteen years of World of Warcraft, it has now exceeded the lifespan of the strategy game that preceded it.
Board gamers can look forward to a Smallworld of Warcraft that looks like it’s close to a release date, and it looks like that’s as close as we’re getting to a Warcraft “original” style game.
Am I going to rag on Bethesda next week for only having Elderscrolls, Fallout, and Dishonoured? Well to be fair they also have Doom and Wolfenstein and whatever Deathloop is but it looks inte- y’know what? Bad example. And to be completely fair, I should also point out that Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and Starcraft exist.
I suppose I look to Blizzard as an example of a bubble that looks set to burst, and recent events make that bubble look especially fragile. The popularity of their fairly narrow range of intellectual properties is undeniable, and one must pay respect to any company that can keep players enthralled and enjoying a game for fifteen years, and then still go on to produce another market-dominating title in Overwatch.
And yet I’m watching the opening ceremonies from this year’s Blizzcon, and there’s an astonishingly similar feeling to watching the advert for a “new” apple product. It doesn’t sound like they’re changing much, it doesn’t sound like they’re innovating in any way, and yet there’s a host of fans who’ll still pour their money into the new thing and keep the bubble floating for another year.
For how much I love to discuss video games, it’s weird that I’ve not gone into greater detail about this. Halloween is really such a geeky celebration these days, as we love a good chance to get in our favourite cosplays, or to watch horror films (which, in its own right, is a huge niche that sorta sits neatly with us geeks). In truth, geeks and horror go hand in hand and today, I’d like to show how video games like to collaborate in their own way to the celebration of the spookiest season.
Controversial perhaps, Niantic have been selling tickets for Pokémon Go’s latest event. Until this point, events in Pokémon Go have been fairly straightforward and open. You can either get a EX Raid Pass, which allows you to go for a much rarer Pokémon. The first was Mewtwo, where EX Raids were the only way to get the hard hitting Psychic legendary. There have also been Pokémon Go Fests, which is where inspiration for these paid events come from. Here are the facts of the event.
Ah it’s the Halloween season, which means that we’re going to get the popcorn on. Let’s turn on a movie and… Oh no. Oh dear, oh my. These horror villains are so scary! No, not because they’re shocking, murderous and altogether evil beings. No, they’re so scary because even the most psychopathic of villains succumb to the most terrible of horror tropes, which is what we’re investigating in today’s Top 10!
Most years, James Rolfe, also known as the Angry Video Game Nerd, puts out at least one Halloween Special and each time, they’re some of his most adventurous videos. They’re always amongst his most memorable, so I thought today I’d pay homage to The AVGN by sharing three of his Halloween Specials and talking briefly about them. I’m gonna take you back to the past (and present) – To watch some Video Game Reviews. Though as a forewarning, the Nerd’s content is Not Safe For Work! Okay, warned now? Let’s do this and drink plenty of beers and watch amusing videos.
Riot Games have gone all out for their 10 year anniversary, which is a pretty exciting thing to be able to say. Riot Games made the Free-To-Play giant, League of Legends, which is a major title in the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) genre. For years, they’ve run just the one game but this year, they’ve decided to throw caution to the wind and show how much progress they’ve made in their world.
I’m going to preface this with “this is a short article”. Literally, I was sat up with Joel last night chatting about the new Pokémon designs and for the most part, we agreed that most of them looked fantastic. There are a few highly questionable decisions, but overall, I really am digging the way this new generation is turning out. The Galarian forms of old Pokémon look fantastic and I’m glad it’s a trend we’re continuing from the Alolan regional variants from Sun and Moon. As more gets announced, I’m going to be keeping my eye on Sword & Shield, because I think the Pokémon Company know how to laugh with their fans – and that’s a beautiful thing.
Let’s preface this with, yes I am a 90’s kid and yes, I had a couple of Tamagotchi in my life. It all started I believe with one from 101 Dalmations. I also then had a Pikachu one and I had a few smaller ones along the way, from monsters through to just ordinary pets. For the unaware, a Tamagotchi was a small device which you could carry on a keychain. On this device was a little virtual pet, or creature that you had to take care of, from feeding, playing with and even sometimes “cleaning up” after your pet. I, like many kids from that era, loved Tamagotchi… But why hasn’t it translated so successfully onto mobile?
You may remember I chatted about this one, and about a year or two before that it was all over the board game social groups. In short it’s a leviathan board game in a box the size of a couple of breeze blocks, it has a foot firmly in the RPG camp in the same way that Diablo and Grim Dawn are RPGs, all the stabbing, easy on the character moments, incidental decision making with pretty direct fallout, but damn it does the hacking and slashing well.
Characters are diverse in appearance and collection of powers building to tactical combinations with the rest of your party, clever but frustrating action economy, and so many possibilities, status conditions, and moving parts that the whole thing is far easier to manage with an app or three on the side. And actually with that electronic assistance Gloomhaven becomes an incredibly fun game, without it you’ve really got to enjoy your bookkeeping.
Borne on its popularity, Gloomhaven now has a video game version, all of the heroes fully animated, the modular board pieces turned into deep, rich scenery, and all of the numbers handled for you from behind the proverbial curtain.
The video game version is still in early access stages so that players can help test the hell out of the many features to make sure that every character is ready and waiting to go. Currently the only playable characters are the Brute, Scoundrel, Spellweaver, and Cragheart, and after a recent update, the Tinkerer, which means that of course, my character has to wait until last. It’s almost like the Mindthief’s deck is filled with complex strategies, different mechanics, and like huge swarms of rats are hard to animate! Vermlings will not be sidelined!! Although apparently he gets released some time before the end of the year.
The board game has a mass of other characters who are unlocked over time, and given the pace of updates we might not be waiting all that long for the full release as it’s the characters and their management who are the most intricate part of the game. If their actions can be managed properly then so can all of the creature actions.
Oh, and on the subject of the creatures, the creatures in Gloomhaven always looked pretty in the artwork, but seeing them brought to life is something truly incredible. Demons, elemental undead take on a far more haunting aspect when they float and shamble their way towards you to kill you. “Elite” creatures also take on a better visual aspect, rather than being the same cardstock token inserted into a different colour stand, cultists change robes, bandits gain subtle armour decorations, and while the differences are not dramatic, they do add a little depth to the design that sets it apart from the tabletop version.
The gameplay is practically identical, you have your deck of cards, each of which with two options, in combat you choose two cards per turn, and you execute the top of one card and the bottom of the other, typically the top half will be more offensive, the bottom will be more tactical. For a turn based strategy you can easily take your time mulling over your options, and because you can play alone you’re not rushing to ensure you’re not holding everyone else up. When using those abilities, there is always the extra step of “confirming” your moves, which can be skipped by double-clicking, and there’s also a lot of confirming the end of turn, confirming how you take damage, and while it’s all necessary, it does jar the flow of the gameplay a little. Better I think to have played the board game to appreciate the reason for each feature, or maybe in-game tutorials will help advise new players after the proper release.
Early reports are naturally mixed because this game is early access, but fixes have been swift, broadly successful, and expected features are being released at a respectable pace. Whether you decide to jump on in the early days or wait for the full title, I think it’s safe to say that this will be a worthwhile investment for fans of the original board game. Whether or not it will translate to a broader audience… I’m going to suspend judgement for now.