Give me the Rage 2!

I really liked Farcry 3 (4 is good too) and I really liked Saints Row 4 (3 was good too). If there’s a game that I will love instantly it’s something that combines these two together and that looks just like RAGE 2. Superpowers, tons of guns, insane openworld chases, strange cars and trucks, massive and dare I say GREASY explosions to steal a phrase from Baldtree.

Maurice!Bastard says that he doesn’t want to get his hopes up or set the bar too high for Rage 2 and wants to be emotionally cautious. I played Rage 1 and while it had some flaws, the game had definite moments of absolute brilliance. This is going to be all that brilliance all the way through.

Very long preview which is pretty enthralling all the way through.

The core thing is bringing creativity to the play of this type of game, setting up strange effects, unplanned destruction and all the physics interplay that super powers, vehicles, area and building destruction bring. I rarely say this, but this is one to pick up launch day.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance Review

This is going to be a hellaciously long post because I have many thoughts on this game from both a mechanical perspective and a historical one.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a Skyrim-style first person RPG set in the early 1400’s in Czechoslovakia. The game is heavily political, unapologetic about it’s historical depiction, has a ‘git gud’ combat system/mechanics… and no magic. I asked myself many times while playing: how the hell did this get made?

Games have to appeal to the mass of gamers, especially open world type games that take millions upon millions of dollars to make, so how did a game set in a country that most Americans can’t even find on a map, about a local political situation that most American’s have never even heard of, with a steep learning curve and extremely historically accurate setting get this popular?

Well, it’s real good. Since most of you have played the new Zelda or Skyrim or one of the other open world RPG’s, I’m not going to go into what that type of game is much except to say that Kingdom Come, despite is core story line and despite it’s long story/tutorial/rails in the beginning, is an open world RPG, and one that should be reckoned with!

The Story

You play a specific character named Henry. You can’t alter his sex or appearance or voice or skin color at all. He is the son of a blacksmith in a small village next to a lord’s keep. None of this can be altered at all and this was a bit shocking to me until I got a bit into the story and realized these constraints were fantastic for the immersion and the quality of the narrative throughout the game. You have a ton of leeway how you play Henry, but you are him in this game and that’s that. In addition to looks, what you fight, what you want to swive, your lineage and how Henry is warped and weaved into the story is set, but how you go about doing everything else is up to you.

No spoilers, but things go very wrong for Henry, and like most good stories, Henry’s story is a story of revenge and the hero’s journey from country bumkin who can do jack and shit, to someone who hits like a sledgehammer, can sneak up on people and slit their throat in broad daylight and who has swived more whores than most holy roman emperors of the time.

Overall, the arc of the story is long, broken up into very interesting sections with lots of time in between most to jag around. You will learn a LOT about Czech, German and Holy Roman history and politics in this game and while this may seem tiresome, I was extremely impressed with the game’s lack of shyness around discussion of politics in cut scenes. What’s more they do not hold back on medieval brutality, rape, and slaughter of unarmed peasants. Yet the scenes of carnage and rape are made much more poignant because they seem wholly an anomaly in the verdant and peaceful villages and castles that make up most of the game. In addition to the revenge story which is an obvious driver, you also gain an affinity to the working way of life (even of the bandits and thieves) which is horrifically disrupted by events in the game.

The map to the game seems small at first, but there is a lot of detail. I felt completely lost many times in the woods, always looking back at the overhead map to see where to go. Even though the game feels populated, out in the wilds the forests go on and on without seeing anything of interest– so travel feels like it’s travel rather than the get to the fast travel spot and then fast travel back to where you came. There’s a lot to see and destroy and have sex with in the game.

Women in this game, it being the 1400’s, have traditional roles. You won’t see a transexual cyborg spouting a bunch of made up pronouns or taking on a male role in society. Nor did they sneak in some female-combat savant for the sake of inclusion (certainly, this existed with women pretending to be men in order to fight).

Lastly, the NPC’s are very well done even if it gets a little cheesy at the end with sort of a Kelley’s Heroes type of vibe.

Mechanics

I’m going to go through Combat, Stealth, Alchemy and the fast travel system. I’m not going to go into the haggle and social parts of the game just for the sake of brevity.

Combat is a bitch in this game and you will be glad if you put your lead shoes on in Dark Souls or Bloodborne before playing Kingdom Come. Those games teach you one thing that will help the most and that’s patience. Every fight has the potential to damage you if you are not careful and patient. Getting in fights with multiple opponents, unless you are heavily armored and experienced, will get Henry dead like very quickly. Combat is split into Sword work, Mace work, Axe work, and unarmed. Each of them follow the base combat system which is attack, parry and instant parry/counter attack and grapple. Your attacks can be combo-ed if you follow a rhythm of attacking and generate another attack the moment the first attack actually connects. This can be challenging for players who haven’t experienced say, Witcher 1, which has a similar rhythm combo system. You also have to control where your weapon is: either up, down or in the middle of the body. You can start an attack high and then switch to low or mid level during the attack which is quite fun. Henry has health and stamina and can also be damaged in various parts of his body, which causes problems regardless of your level of health/stamina.

Like Dark Souls, you use stamina to run and make attacks and block. If you get hit blocking with no stamina, you take damage and can get staggered, which is no fun at all. Fights without armor but with sharp weapons go rather quickly.

Unarmed combat, while it doesn’t happen often, is my favorite of the combat systems. You start fist fights early in the game during the tutorial when Henry is a fucking creamed puff extraordinaire, but later you get into many fist fights, sometimes protecting the women, sometimes fighting with friends, sometimes just to prove yourself and it’s awesome. Range, movement and timing are all critical components to good fisticuffs which really raised my cockles. I knew I had arrived wen I punched an armored knight out in a fight in a barn (his weapons were too slow and I was able to constantly hit-stun him until crushing his skull underfoot).

mincing fuck!

Sword work is typically used against the unarmored peasantry who are easy to slice open with a blade compared to the armored folks. Swords have the most attack combos and I can see them being very attractive for people that want to combo up. You also look cool with a big bastard sword, but for me, instead of a sword, I went for a mace.

Maces have very few attack combos, but do tons of damaged to armored foes, and still do enough damage to unarmored to warrant using them all the time. Henry can also get a perk where he can possibly knock anyone out with a headshot after which they can be killed via a coup de grace.

Axes I did not use much in my playthrough, so cannot comment, but they seem to fall between the sword and the mace.

Archery is VERY difficult in this game as you have to aim as you would in real life: down the bow and arrow without a reticle to help know exactly where you are aiming. Drawing back and shooting an arrow is also very slow, so in a fight or in just practice shooting, I had a lot of problems with archery in general throughout the game. However, it does help in mass-combat fights and to get at other archers. You can run away and shoot, hoping to take out a few of the peasant bandits or vs slower armored opponents, whittle them down. Overall though, except at close range, Archery is not something you can rely upon. You will need to learn it to some extent for the main plot.

While there is a lot of fighting, stealth (and lockpicking) are critical skills for Henry in the game. Your ability to sneak around effectively will make things a lot easier throughout. Early on, Henry is so clumsy that you have no hope at all of sneaking up on anyone, which can be very frustrating to new players who expect it to at least work some of the time based on other stealth games. Remember that Henry, from the outset, explicitly sucks ass at everything. You do get Henry better with practice, and eventually you are sneaking around in broad daylight. Getting caught in normal circumstances gets you laughed at or asked if you are taking a shit by bath maids. Getting caught in a place you’re not supposed to be can lead to a lot of problems.

Locking picking is essential and I can only say for new players: get your lockpicking skill as high as possible as soon as you can. There is a long part of the game where it’s essential. If you have played Skyrim, the lockpicking is familiar enough.

Alchemy is excellent, but fucking tedious. You need to actually craft the items on an alchemist bench and I don’t mean how skyrim does it where you pick your stuff and it makes a roll to see if it worked– nope: you have to physically guide Henry through the steps in the recipes you find in the game. For example, you will need to grab ingredients, put them in a pot of boiling water or spirits, and then cook them up for a specific amount of time tracked with an hourglass that you must manually turn. I ignored it for much of the game, but there’s a part where you must do it so just learn it.

Fast travel in the game is excellent. Instead of just appearing where you want to end up, your little avatar moves across the map and can encounter various things on the way which can drop you back into real time. Most of these are bandit ambushes. So it’s never guaranteed that you are just going to show up where you want to without being harassed, but it still functions as quite a time saver, especially later in the game when you’ve seen everything along a particular route many times.

Tits

Despite our differences on everything else, every race, gender and sexual orientation can agree on one thing: TITS. If you are going to play some of the romantic bits in Kingdom Come, note that there are tits and Henry gets down to fucking in the game. It’s not gratuitous, but enough to bring out the horny gamers for sure. Just make sure kids aren’t around when you are wooing or going to the bathhouse. There’s only one part of the main plot where you get greased up and fuck– the other nudie parts are optional and you will know when you are getting close to seeing tits in those. One of the side missions tits will sneak up on you during, so watch it if you are playing in front of your grand ma on the big TV in the living room.

Bottom Line

Kingdom Come is an unbelievably immersive gaming experience, unrelenting in it’s depiction of life as a Czech during this time period. Some of it stands in stark contrast to modern existence and some of it is eerily similar. While the combat has a steep learning curve, coupled with Henry’s trash skills make it even more frustrating, pushing through so you can take out multiple enemies at once is very satisfying after taking such a beating for so long.

The writing is superb and the arc of the story, while nothing new, is well worth giving this bad boy a play through.

MOLES, BITCH!

I couldn’t help myself and printed out the PnP of the The Great Dutchy of the Moles from the new Root kickstarter and we got in a couple games with them plus the base four factions (Cats, Alliance, Vag, Eyrie). Here’s my view of the Moles so people can see if they fit their play style.

The Moles start with a single tunnel on the board that connects to their off-board ‘cave’ where the moles swarm from. The mole cave connects to ALL the mole tunnels, so the more tunnels you have out on the board, the easier you can move your guys around. Moles have a terrible action economy at the beginning of the game with only two actions to take (cats have three in contrast). Their actions are similar to the Cats: Move, battle, recruit, build (factories or citadels), dig (add a tunnel) so if you are familiar with the Marquise, you will easily pick up how to play the Moles.

Despite their weak and slow start, the Moles can elect members of their underground species to parliament by revealing matching sets of cards (2, 3 and 4 depending how far you are up the parliamentary track), which begins to increase their action economy. This is a bit like the bird’s decrees… and is also fairly unstable. Once officers are placed in parliament, you can take their action every single turn. Most are Move or Recruit, draw cards, etc., but three of them score points off the buildings on the board, which is the main mechanism for scoring for the moles. Other than crafting and destroying stuff, the Moles get points for electing officers and using officer actions to score points. Unfortunately if you lose buildings due to battle, you also lose officers permanently (much like the Riverfolk’s trading posts).

The Moles need to control areas to build buildings, keep lots of cards in their hands (and not use them!) in order to get parliament filled up as well as watching their scoring to not alarm the other players…

Like the Cats and the Birds, the Moles are useful to police the forest against the non-area control factions (Vag, Lizards, Riverfolk and Alliance), so you need to stake your claims on the board and then kick the crap out of those little bastards if they come around. You will need to likely make an alliance with one of the other police factions or you’ll both end up losing badly.

The Moles are an interesting design, basically a new take on the Marquise de Cat but with a little of the Alliance and Eyrie mixed in. I’ve played twice with them so far, and in one the Cats pulled out the win in the end, with the Dutchy in second place, the second place (5 player game) the moles ended up lagging mid game and in 3rd place. They are very much about take-and-hold with them being pretty useless scattered around the board since they really really need to protect their buildings once they start scoring points.

Netrunner continues!

It was pretty shocking when FF cancelled the excellent Netrunner LCG, I’m sure mostly to hardcore fans and not passive fans like myself. I played it as a youth in the mid 90’s for a few months hardcore but then stopped (no $$ for that and Jyhad and Shadowfist and RAGE). The new set I didn’t get into from a $$ perspective too much, just a few expansions and a couple copies of the core box, but I played quite a few times and was glad it was back out. Fans have apparently taken up the torch and will continue to release expansions, much like On the Edge.

http://nisei.net/products/Downfall

If you follow that link and see what they are doing it indicates print on demand: usually something impossible to do since the card quality of print on demand is usually quite bad. This is neat because it’s possible for fans to get together to print some of the old ccg game sets if they have access to the proof sheets. Who knows, we may see Shadowfist or Jyhad going this route in the future, which would be pretty awesome (200 card set for 50$?!).

More Jung-induced violence

I just got back from seeing Us. Great acting, but I think it will be a confusing film for those that aren’t up on what’s influencing many writers in the indy film scene: Jung’s Red book.

Remember Mandy? I did some research after seeing that film to try to figure out what the very, very end was all about: the final shot with the twin suns over an alien landscape as Red drove off into wherever he was supposed to be going. That through me for a loop, big time (which was the point of it). This led me to read some descriptions of the film and it’s ending and specifically it’s purpose in relation to Jung’s recently released and translated Red book, which is a book about his imaginings later in life that was finally made available to the public in 2009. Specifically this part:

We hauled things up, we built. We placed stone upon stone. Now, you stand upon solid ground…We forged a flashing sword for you, with which you can cut the knot that entangles you…We also place before you the devilish, skillfully twined knot that locks and seals you. Strike, only sharpness will cut through it…Do not hesitate. We need destruction since we ourselves are the entanglement. He who wishes to conquer new land brings down the bridges behind him. Let us not exist anymore. We are the thousand canals in which everything flows back into it’s origin.

The final chapter in the Mandy film is entitled MANDY and yet she is in this portion, nearly the entire last half of the film, barely at all. The Jungian concepts that are brought together in Mandy are the concept of the conscious self and shadow self, and that dealing with trauma, truly dealing with it, is destruction of the current self to be renewed as a new, stronger self that better merges the shadow and normal selves. It’s postulated that the revenge part of Mandy is not a dream, but a trauma-management imagination where Red is the destroyer of the demons that destroyed her old self, or caused it to need to be destroyed, so that she can be reborn (watch the cartoon parts again if this doesn’t make sense). Enigmas of the people that scarred her in her youth enter the house that she and Red live in, to me symbolizing that she brings that same baggage to her and Red’s relationship and it’s causing Red to want to change things (specifically move away from where they live). Later in the film, Red is Mandy, or rather, she imagines herself as him.

But back to Us. About half way in, I realized that Us is another Jung’s Red book-influenced film and I think both this and Mandy will be compared in that way. I don’t want to put spoilers but:

  • The main character is named RED.
  • Certain characters wear red jumpsuits
  • The main weapon is a scissors– cutting threads or… you guessed it: entanglements (which is you yourself).
  • There are shadow and non-shadow selves. Which are the good, which are the bad? When you see the film, what are the ‘bad’ ones doing at the end?

I also noticed that the film tricks the audience to think it’s about racial inequality with some of the statements in the middle of the film. However, the quite well-off family in the film is black, so if you go down the inequality between people with different skin pigmentation, it doesn’t get very far, so I don’t think Us is about that at all.

Us is a solid film, and the acting is superb, though a bit slow in the middle as it slowly peels back the onion. If you look at it as a sci fi-esque slasher-thriller, great– but if you look at it from the Jungian perspective I think there ends up being a lot more meat to it.

Garycon 2019!

Garycon was this past weekend and I was able to go Friday and Saturday to game the fuck out of it. Always a great time, it’s one of those cons that I very much hope does not get any bigger because the venue, the attention you get from the staff, and the small but cool set of events are not something that should be forced to change due to overgrowth. While I really dig Game Hole Con, that thing is going to get bigger and bigger until it’s rival to Gencon itself. Garycon, hopefully, not so much.

Most years we get in some RPG games (mostly DCC) at garycon, but this time it was all board games. Matt went Thursday and mentioned that the game library was very small (they didn’t use Milcog which is at Gencon and Gamehole con) so we had to schlep a ton of our games to around the place. Luckily, unless we have an event, we go to the same spot every year, park our sweaty asses there and don’t move for the whole fucking weekend.

FRIDAY. I’m going to call Friday exactly what it was: eurotrashday. Now I like a good euro, and I generally like to try new games, but this was a bit too much worker placement for a single day.

We started out with the excellent but messy (and poorly graphic designed) Terraforming Mars. This took a long time, but the experience of playing was quite fun, and we were fresh and not drunk. While not super easy to learn, it was easy to relate the systems and mechanics to what was going on on the board quite a bit more than the next few games. I’d play again.

Between the Euros we did get a game of ROOT in. I pretty much told everyone that I would be satisfied to play ROOT all goddamn weekend, and that I needed to play it at LEAST once per day so people were aware. Root is not a euro (it’s only called that by eurofreaks who couldn’t possibly lower themselves to play an ameritrasher) so there was a bit of a reprieve. The game that day was a Vagabond, Lizard Cult, Cats and Birds game. It was surprising win for the Lizard Cult, even more surprising when after the game we realized that Matt had not been discarding his cards whenever he scored garden clearings. It’s a wee bit more difficult to score with the Lizards than that! People are starting to get better with them though and that’s excellent because they are nasty.

The next euro we got the wooden cubes out for was Gugong : a game where you play a faction trying to get the most influence in the Forbidden City for reasons I’m not totally sure of. This is a worker-placement-point-salad-solo game with very little interaction between players but a neat looking board and peices. Gugong was really difficult for me to learn after playing Terraforming Mars (and playing Root), but was basically placing stuff on the board to generate points, either inexpensive and late, or expensive and early and hope that whatever you were doing generated more points by the end of the game that the other players doing the same thing. This game seems to have about 30% more crap on the board to do than needed with an area where you could float your cubes around on boats and ride a little horse around as well as trying to complete a wall, moving up a track through a little village… it was incomprehensible thematically to me and just seemed like a mess of linked mechanics. Gugong wasn’t terrible, but just has nothing to recommend it over tighter euros.

The last game of the day was one I really did not like, but it had some great art and graphic design: Coimbra. I’m not sure what to say about this one except I wished, based on the theme, that I was playing Princes of the Renaissance instead. I did not know what was going on in this one, and just chose the tiles with pretty girls on them most of the time. One incredibly annoying thing was the variable turn order. I wanted to switch seats with people but of course you have this big tableau of tiles in front of you. I’d likely play the others again if pressed (especially terraforming mars), except for this one.

SATURDAY! This is the day we played the good shit, but it was loooong. We got to the con pretty late in the morning and immediately started a massive game of Eclipse with likely too many expansions and new races and shit. It’s a great game, but they pumped out the expansions there for awhile and unless you play A LOT of the base game, I just don’t see the need.

This was a slog, and a very low-tech game so battles took a long time. I hope the second edition consolidates some of these expansions and just keeps the good shit. While I appreciate a game where a bad hex pull can ruin you for a couple turns, with the ‘moving ancients’ your whole game can be fucked for good. With a game this long, that’s not good.

Next up was the amazing game of the CON: DUNE. I brought my old set that I’d had since high school, that has no more player aid sheets and has pubes in the box that are older than my kids (hey, we played on the floor some times…). We had a full 6 players and lest you forgot how good this game is, or never knew, let me remind you. You see where the storm goes, you see where the spice lands, you bid on cards (the only tedious part of the game) and then each player lands stuff on the planet and moves one army. That’s the whole game! Yet in those simple phases is one of the greatest war games that also fundamentally nails the feel of the conflict from the book perfectly.

I drew the Bene Gesserit and immediately wanted to get retribution on the game of Dune and all players after a loss years ago to them in a game when I destroyed everyone as the Harkonnen’s on turn 2 AS PREDICTED and lost.

For the prediction, looking at the board and players: newer Harkonnen player, totally new Emperor and Guild player, strong Atreides player and experienced Fremen player. I chose the Fremen on turn 4, which is a bit of risk since the game can be over (with a worm appearance) on turn 2/3 after alliances are made. The Harkonnen and Atreides were hammered off the board by the Fremen, Guild and Emperor in the first couple turns and based on the board positioning, I got lucky and a worm wasn’t drawn until turn 4. The Fremen made an alliance with the Guild, both of whom had strong board presence and it was all over but the yelling and crying as the Bene Geserit again snatched victory from the jaws of defeat (I think I had 2 pieces on the board at the end).

right on the cusp of mid-game.

The last game of the day was another game of ROOT, this time with 6 players! This was an awesome game and took place during the Goodman Game’s free beer and chocolate bar party in the same area, so people kept coming round to see how things were progressing. We were intensely into the game and even with that, it went until 12:30 or so AM where I was able to squeeze out a win with the Riverfolk with the Vag and Lizard Cult nipping at my heels! I was able to put away the win because of a single, unprotected garden that had been ignored in a mouse clearing far away from the action (remember Lizards control any clearing where they have a garden no matter what) allowing me to place a trading post and hit 30 points. Great game, lots of shit talk and yelling of the word fuck.

There’s also a ton of radical pictures I took of the miniatures area I’ll throw into another post.