jakob187's 2014 Game of the Year: The Nemesis System from Shadow of Mordor

Everyone's going to be listing off their top 10 or top 5 or however many games they want to put together with numbers in front of them. We do it every year. Also, anyone who knows my previous GOTY entries is aware that I don't follow the norm with this shit.

In a year filled with mediocre releases and a handful of really awesome ones, there was nothing...NOTHING...that impressed me nearly as much as the Nemesis system in Shadow of Mordor.

"But Josh, wouldn't that mean that your Game of the Year is Shadow of Mordor?"

No. Shadow of Mordor in and of itself is little more than an amalgamation of Rocksteady's Batman combat system, Assassin's Creed's parkour and movement, and light-ended open-world exploration ala every fucking game that exists in this modern day and age. While some games can excel greatly at being an amalgamation (i.e. the original Dead Space), I didn't feel like this entire blend of gameplay mechanics would've mattered nearly as much if the game didn't have its Nemesis system.

When you first experience the Nemesis system, nothing seems special about it. You kill a few captains, then others replace them. It's the moment that you die where you really see the depth of it all. That Uruk that just killed you? Yeah, he's a captain now...because HE killed YOU, the Shadow of Mordor. Now HE matters in this world. Now HE is going to be dueling with others for a higher position. HE is going to be ambushing other captains in a coupe for more power. YOU might not even be the person who brings him down.

All in all, within the ecosystem of Shadow of Mordor, I began to realize that in the grand scheme of everything happening in Mordor, I was nothing but a ghost story. All of this motion within the ranks of Sauron's Army was the thing that really mattered.

That was the other thing that made me love the system: it DID matter to me. When a berserker killed me and it was revealed that his name was Raksha Black-Heart, he had a mouthful of shit to talk to me upon our next meeting. He killed me again, having been bestowed with poison on his axes and commanding about twenty other Uruk to slay me alongside him. Funny enough, he would no longer finish me off. He'd walk away from the fight at the last minute and let his minions take care of me. This created more and more captains, all of which had their personal names and stories.

At least eleven Uruk became promoted through my hunt for Raksha Black-Heart, who at this point had climbed to the rank of a level 20 Legendary Captain. I wanted him down. I seethed with anger that he kept getting away. I hated that I had not been able to kill him yet, especially because he was susceptible to stealth attacks. All I needed was to be stealthed, sneak up, and slit his fucking throat for all the setbacks he had caused me. I slayed every Uruk in my path, interrogating every one of them to find out everything I could about this goddamn army, how I could slay every one of those captains that killed me.

Finally, the moment arrived. Raksha Black-Heart was next to a bush, only two people next to him.

THIS WAS MY CHANCE!

I sneaked up with a quickened pace. My heart was racing with excitement and vengeance.

I reached out of the brush, grabbed his hair, yanked him upward, and stabbed him repeatedly right in the chest. The two with him, frightened and demoralized, try to run. I chase them down, slitting one of their throats and decapitating the other. Everyone else runs, and I let out a battle cry of glory!

I then realized that it was 3:00am in the real world, and that the battle cry I let out wasn't in the game. It was me. I just screamed in my apartment at 3:00am...because I killed a virtual character that had caused me to virtually die multiple times.

This is the depth and the level to which this particular, individual character was able to connect to me in my adventure. This is something I've never experienced to this level in a game. I was on a two-hour long journey just to kill one goddamn Uruk captain in a video game because of how emotionally distressed and angry he made me because of his actions against me.

I have completed MAYBE five or six story missions in this game.

I've thought on multiple occasions already how much better the Nemesis system could make multiple other games:

  1. Marvel Heroes
  2. Warframe
  3. Diablo 3
  4. Divinity: Original Sin
  5. Sunset Overdrive
  6. Borderlands

The list can go on and on and on.

My Game of the Year is the Nemesis System from Shadow of Mordor. Argue amongst yourselves if that is legit or not, but when it comes down to it, that entire system is a game in and of itself.

16 Comments

There is No Black Friday Blog This Year.

Every year, I've kept a blog going of all the deals that are happening on Black Friday. This was a thing I volunteered myself to do in order to make sure that you, my fellow gamers and Giant Bomb family, would be able to plan ahead and know where, what time, and how to get everything you wanted.

This year, I announce that I am no longer doing this.

It's not any type of moral choice or anything, so don't worry about that. I still firmly believe that if someone wants to work on the day after Thanksgiving or whenever they decide to make the store open, that is their choice. The people who are essentially forced to work? Yeah, your bosses/companies are dickstains, and there's not much I can do there. I choose to work on Thanksgivings, though. I like having extra money in my pocket, and my family's Thanksgiving lasts a grand total of about two hours.

It also has nothing to do with my general lack of participation on the forums. I used to post a lot. I don't anymore. That's just due to overall work schedule and creating content for my YouTube channel (which I'm not going to advertise here because that would be crummy as fuck to do).

It's because...well, it's fucking boring to do!

Seriously, trying to go through every single ad that has poorly been put onto the internet, find the deals, make sure that it's accurate, digging for all of that information...and then typing it up and posting it through a blog I made? It's actually way more time-consuming than you'd think, and I'll be honest: I could be playing Marvel Heroes instead...or Magic the Gathering...or Dicemasters...or Heroclix...or literally anything else.

Therefore, I open it up to whomsoever would like to carry the mantle: if you want to make the Official Giant Bomb Black Friday Thread this year, the torch is yours to take.

I want to thank everyone for the past however-many years for your support, and I hope that your Black Friday this year is as good as the previous ones.

31 Comments

In which I search for creativity once again in the abstracts of life...

As a method of keeping myself occupied as of late, I've taken to using my free time as a way to be productive and creative. Well, maybe not truly "creative," but to at least do something that I'm passionate about.

"Passionate" is the key word in this scenario. I used to be passionate about my work, but now it just feels...menial. It doesn't fulfill me, and I'm in the motions of looking for something else. Nonetheless, I still don't quite know what that is. Video games are something that I AM passionate about, but the LAN center just doesn't quench that same thirst anymore. I'm even getting to the point that I kind of hate it. Being that this is unhealthy, moving to another job would be the best thing for me.

In turn, trying to offer myself an opportunity to dig into other passions of mine, I've taken to creating video content for a YouTube channel called Point Zero Games. Originally, the channel was called Hoopaclox, and it was a place to talk about all things related to Heroclix, a miniatures tabletop game that I've played for the last two or three years (since the release of Galactic Guardians, so whenever that was). I made about seven videos on that channel, but I didn't enjoy doing it. I also started a relationship shortly afterwards, and I devoted my time to that. If you've read my past blog posts, you know how that turned out.

Point Zero Games is an extension of what Hoopaclox wanted to be. Rather than focus solely on Heroclix, however, Point Zero Games is a place to talk about all things gaming related. The primary focus at this moment is on Magic The Gathering (which I got back into around Magic 2014 Core Set) and Heroclix. However, I plan on expanding into other realms of gaming such as Dicemasters, board games, and even video games at some point (hopefully on that last one, we'll see how it goes).

Part of the convenience in this has been that I work at a gaming center, which means I have access to computers and a fast internet line that allows me to upload stuff quickly and effectively. Another part is that the local game shop (The Game Closet, for anyone that is curious) is right next door to us. Therefore, when I'm not playing video games, I'm probably next door playing card or tabletop games.

The biggest reason for this, however, was that I needed something to get my creative juices flowing again. In high school and most of college, I played guitar...a LOT. I quit playing sometime shortly after returning from Georgia with my father after he started working at Gulfstream (around 2003 or so). After that, I ended up writing for BonusStage.com, doing game reviews and such. It allowed me to write, another passion of mine (in case you couldn't tell from the mounds of paragraphs I write in literally any comment, reply, or blog that I make). Once I started working at the LAN center, I pretty much stopped being creative completely and dedicated myself to work.

With Point Zero Games, I'm hoping that I can find my creative self again. So far, the channel is doing well. We are over 120 subscribers (within the course of a month, which is fantastic to see). I'm also hoping, of course, that the channel can eventually generate some revenue as a way to supplement my hobbies. I don't expect that to happen anytime soon. It will take time, but it's not the reason I'm doing it. The primary reason is to talk, have conversations, reach out to people in the worldwide community of these games, and generally get excited or disappointed about things alongside others.

It's been an interesting trip so far, as I knew very little about the actual background of creating video content, being dedicated to getting content out in a timely fashion, knowing analytics of video content, and more. If anything, it's given me a much deeper appreciation for the work that Giant Bomb and many other sites do over the course of a given week than I ever could've had. It's time-consuming, but in the end, it typically feels like it's worth it.

For anyone that is interested in checking the channel out, you can check it out by clicking here. If not, that's cool as well.

Thanks for reading, and I hope your days are ever bright and full of life.

Piece.

Start the Conversation

I don't know what this is, but it's words on a screen at least.

I thought about this on July 3rd: Ryan was someone that we all knew, whether we met him or not. He was never shy to let himself be known as a quantity and as quality. He was a fine Islay peated whisky in a sea of bourbon: strong, abrasive, but there's no way you could hate it because of how good it truly was. He made the rest of us seem dull as fuck. The continued heartfelt messages that people left for July 3rd, the creation of the hashtags to make him trend again on Twitter (because let's be real, he'd still flip shit about that), and the fact that thousands...if not millions...of people that are around the world felt their hearts sink into their stomachs, tears swell up in their eyes, and cry like babies in the corners like we had all lost our best friend...

...yeah, that's Ryan. He'd fucking love it, too. He'd giggle incessantly that we're all blubbery messes about his passing, and that's the best thing ever to know.

I recently lost a good friend in the last few months, someone who worked with me as well for many years. He was very much an incredible guy, and dealing with that has been difficult. Patrick, in his blog, mentioned the part about scrolling past Ryan's number in his phone, having that little moment. I had that same moment no more than a week ago, as I realized that my friend's number was still in my phone. I deleted it. I just couldn't look at it without busting out in tears.

Actually, come to think of it, it's been a rough two months for me all around...and I don't even know how I'm making it through all this shit. I hadn't even thought about it. A good friend passed away, my girlfriend betrays me two weeks later, my grandfather's condition has worsened substantially in the last three weeks, and my mother has been put on new medications that has made it difficult for her to get anything done. Hell, my youngest brother is sitting in jail because he'd rather do time than take probation (which I don't blame him for), and it's all for throwing a beer bottle at an asshole's car window. Three months for that shit.

I'm just now realizing that. I haven't had a mental breakdown. I just keep myself occupied, finding what I can to keep myself busy. I have a YouTube channel that I've started (which I'm not going to go linking in this because that'd be disgusting to do). I have Magic The Gathering and FNM on Fridays, Heroclix on Thursdays, playtesting and video games... I'm literally doing everything I can to just avoid breaking down into a mess in the middle of my empty living room (save the couch and my small 12" TV with a DVD player and PS2 hooked up to it).

I've literally been creating the illusion to everyone that everything is okay...and what's worse?

The fact that I'm more comfortable telling all of you, my Giant Bomb family, about this rather than anyone around me. I don't trust them anymore. I don't feel like I can talk to them without hearing shit like "maybe it's a sign you should find God" or pretending to listen and spouting generalized advice handed down through the ages. I also just don't care to say any of it because I don't want to bring someone else down. I don't like being depressed around people.

In short, I don't care to be vulnerable, emotional, and look weak.

God, I'm fucked up. Maybe I need help.

This all turned into something completely different than where it started. I wanted to write a tribute to Ryan, but in the process, I've done what I always seem to find a way of doing: turned it into something about myself. In a stream of consciousness, I've literally just said all the shit I've wanted to say but can't bring myself to actually do. Even then, I still can't shed a tear about how shitty things feel.

I don't want to sound pretentious. I know that it does, but it's not my aim. I just write. I let my mind and my fingers do the work, and hopefully, what comes from it is something that can be reflective for someone other than just myself. Maybe it isn't. Maybe it's just the random spouting of some egomaniac.

That's all. My fingers can't find anything else to type. Thanks for reading. Until next time, piece.

15 Comments

Songs Sound Much Sadder

The longest relationship of my life has lasted from November 3rd, 2012 until this past Friday.

I was informed by my girlfriend of the last year and a half that she wanted to break up. The news was a shocker to not just me, but everyone. Her reason? She has none other than deciding that she wants to break up, not try to fix it at all, move to Montana, and try to start a relationship with her ex-roommate. She claims all of this changed for her within the last month.

We never argued. We never fought. We were happy as hell. As I deleted all of the pictures we had of each other, the happiness could be seen. We were ecstatic for each other. Even though these last two days, every person she has talked to said that she had literally not one bad thing to say about me. They couldn't understand it.

I understand it less.

I came home last night to our cat gone (which is breaking my fucking heart severely as well), half of her shit gone, and all I could think about was "why?"

Why the hell is this happening? If I did nothing wrong, if I have made sacrifices, paid tribute at the alter of my girlfriend, worked to build a life with her (we moved into a new apartment on an eight month lease back in January)...

...then why am I being punished? What did I do to deserve any of this? Did I not save enough kids from cancer? Did I litter too much? Did I jaywalk on our trip to San Antonio in March? I have no idea.

She wants to talk. I want that talk to be at our apartment. She does not want that talk to be at our apartment. I say fuck that. If you want to stab me in the back and betray me, then you look around at the life we built, stare me in the face afterwards, and then tell me how you betrayed me. You don't get to ignore all of that. You simply don't.

I buried a friend this week. I found out that my friend since high school is getting a divorce after nine years and there is a kid involved. I found out that my mother is taking new medicine and it's fucking with her badly.

It's a shitty week, guys. The one solace that I'm finding is that I have the most amazing friends and family in the world, a support group that I probably don't deserve. Even HER mother can't believe this shit and is saddened for me, pissed off at her, and ready to tell her to fuck off. When THAT is the case, you know it's bad.

I don't believe in second chances, and I don't offer them. If she comes crawling back, I have a middle finger and directions to the nearest exit. I make clean breaks. When it's done, it's done.

Thanks for reading. Not looking for sympathy or anything. I just...I needed to get thoughts on paper, to vent, to say it somewhere to someone or something for the sake of getting it out. Keeping this shit pent up never does anyone any good.

2 Comments

Trying to Cope With Death

This past weekend, I was given the information that a good friend and one of my former co-workers passed away. His name was Todd. Well, his name was actually Walter Todd Courtney (triple first names are a threat, eh?), but everyone knew him as Todd. The blow hit hard. Very hard.

Death is not something that comes upon my life very often. As I grow older, and with Todd's passing, I realize that I'm 32 next month...so this is going to start becoming more common. It's the thing that no one tells you when you grow up, no book explains to you, and most of us never really think about: once we reach a specific age, death starts becoming far more commonplace in your life.

Enough about how I feel. I'm just a guy that was friends with Todd, that was his boss for some time. The reason I want to write this blog...that I NEED to write this blog...is because I need you as the reader to understand that you will never meet Todd. You will never know this wonderful human being. That's a fucking shame, and I'm sorry.

Todd was a guy that had his demons and his issues, but 90% of the time, that was never the case. Todd was a short, portly man that wore a "Jesus is my Lord" hat, wore simple clothes and a mustache, and wielded a redneck Arkansas accent. If you looked at him, at first glance, you would assume he was the most backwoods redneck imaginable.

He was a classic case of "don't judge a book by its cover."

Yes, he placed his faith in God, and he was a devout Christian. However, he hated organized religion. He was a member of my boss' fellowship, a group of Christians who would meet at random members' homes every Sunday to have service. He thought that organized religion was corrupt and idiotic. As an agnostic, he was always intrigued by how I viewed the world, what I believed in, where I stood on issues. He wanted and craved knowledge. Hell, he's one of the few Christians that I knew who would tell you that he believed homosexuality was a sin and personally disgusting, but that he believed they absolutely had the right to get married since marriage was not exclusively a Christian institution and that it was sad that mankind felt the need to hold any person's rights out of their reach.

He was also wickedly hilarious. He wanted YOU to laugh, YOU to smile, YOU to have joy and happiness in your life. He would crack any joke he could, and his wit was almost thoroughly unmatched by anyone I know, even myself. He was a child of language (as he spoke English, Spanish, El Salvadorian-Spanish, German, and fuck knows what else!), and he would always find a way to twist your words into a laugh. His favorite one was to use the word "decimate" against you. We both worked together at the LAN center, and kids would always talk about how they would "decimate" someone in an online match. He would always use the literal use of the word (to take down by one-tenth), and it was hilarious every time.

He could also be morbidly humorous. He had his raunchy jokes, but it was his clean jokes that were the best. They were always stupid and dumb in that way that clean jokes can be stupid and dumb, but you couldn't help but laugh because his delivery of it would be comedic perfection.

He was an incredible strategist. His favorite video games to play were strategy games, particularly League of Legends, Battle for Middle-Earth II, Command and Conquer, StarCraft II, Company of Heroes, and Faster Than Light. If you played against him, your chances of survival were pretty damn slim...except with League of Legends. He was the one person in our store that mained the support role, and he was using AP Soraka before AP Soraka was cool (I'm talking SEASON ONE)! He had a way of making you think about your decisions like you wouldn't imagine, and he always had some way to blow your mind.

He was also a humble man. Because of his faith, he never believed he was perfect or better than you. He was never someone that acted like he was above you. If you were wrong, he would point it out, correct it, and say "now you know, and I hope it helps you later in life." He never showed hubris.

Todd was 40. He died after a driver side blowout on the highway sent his Chevy S10 pickup rolling over four times onto the access road. It happened no more than two streets away from my parent's house. I hadn't cried yet since I heard the news. As my girlfriend and I drove to my parent's house last night, and we passed the spot where it happened, I saw the skid marks on the highway. It hit, but not with tears. It hit because I remembered a conversation that I had with Todd a few years ago.

I explained to him that I wanted an eventful death, something crazy, weird, or big. I wanted this not because I wanted people to say "that's a cool way to die" or anything else. I wanted this because I WANTED to know that I was about to die. I WANTED to be aware that it was coming. He told me quite simply "I don't want to know, because then it's a seamless transition."

Todd was unconscious after his accident, and he never became conscious again. People made an effort to save him, but to no avail.

It is a goddamn travesty that you will never know this unique, spiritual, and tremendous man. I feel sorrow for his family and friends, many of which I know personally. I feel sorrow for our store, as Todd was to Lansharx as Norm was to Cheers: everybody knew him.

However, the biggest piece of sorrow that I feel is that you will never know him, that you will never experience a five-hour long conversation with the man that you don't want to stop, that you will never feel the encouragement he gave you to become a better version of yourself, and that you will never get to laugh alongside him and experience honest joy and happiness.

The world lost a good one, and it happened way too fucking soon.

His visitation is tomorrow, and I'm more than positive that it will hit then. It always hits for me when that happens. I'll hit my knees, ball uncontrollably, and realize that another fantastic soul is gone.

12 Comments

jakob187's Top 10 Albums of 2013

My musical tastes are varied and wide, but this year, it seemed like my favorite albums of the year were vastly more varied. Here's the list of albums that kept me hitting repeat in 2013.

10. Black Sabbath - 13

I was one of the naysayers that believed Rick Rubin producing this album would lead to something terrible. I was one of the many who said "NO BILL WARD, NO BLACK SABBATH." I was one of those that said "Brad Wilk's on skins? That sounds dumb." I was proven OH...SO...WRONG. 13 was another return to form, a "reunion" that I was happy to hear creating new music. From front to back, it's a tour-de-force of retro-inspired Black Sabbath where Geezer's rhythm and Tony's leads seer your eardrums with prime doom and gloom. They were able to capture the magic of Volume 4 and Paranoid while keeping it modern, making it work for this generation as well as previous ones. Rarely do you see a band come back together to produce such a fantastic piece of music.

9. Run The Jewels

Thanks to the Giant Bomb community, I learned about this project through the forums. I really enjoyed it on my first listen, but I found myself constantly coming back to it time and time again over the year. Something about the flow, the beats, and the homemade feel of the album is so addicting. There's a lot of great wordplay, but at the end of the day, it just comes down to the fact that it's a pleasure for the ears to take in the sounds produced by El-P and Killer Mike. Every time I hear "Sea Legs," it just puts me in a good mood for some damn reason.

8. Daft Punk - Random Access Memories

When we heard that Daft Punk would have a new release this year, the fervor was massive. When the album finally released, we were presented with a funkadelic EDM album that really went outside of the normal Daft Punk parameters. There was actual bass being played, production from Pharrell Williams, and one hell of a feel-good song in "Get Lucky." However, digging deeper into the album, we are presented with a greater concept: the robots want to make human music. What makes music "music?" How does EDM present itself to the mainstream as "actual music" rather than constantly being tossed aside by many naysayers who believe in the archaic philosophy of "no instruments, no music?" Random Access Memories is the solid answer to that question.

7. Sevendust - Black Out The Sun

It's been a long time since I liked a Sevendust album. After Seasons, things just seemed to go downhill and sideways with these guys, trying to dig into a well that was long tapped and just not themselves. With Black Out The Sun, the boys in Sevendust have returned to full form, creating what is arguably the best album of their career. Much like with Norma Jean's Wrongdoers, Sevendust take their classic formula of hard-hitting metal, mix in some melody from efforts like Animosity and Seasons, and somehow bring in some modern flavor to create a pounding and brutal album. This was indeed one of the most pleasant surprises of 2013.

6. Carcass - Surgical Steel

Part of me really wanted to put Death Angel's The Dream Calls for Blood or Annihilator's Feast on this list overall, but when it came down to metal - true, earnest, hard-edged bleeding metal, Carcass's Surgical Steel was THE...FUCKING...EPITOME...of metal in 2013. No album that came against it could stand on two legs without toppling to the ground in a gory mess. Steer and Ash deliver some of the grindiest riffs ever with a fantastic rhythm section from Walker and Wilding. However, it's the eccentricity of the music, the grandiose nature of the sound and the violence that really amplify this album above any other metal released this year.

5. Protest The Hero - Volition

Speaking of metal still, let's talk about Volition, the fourth effort from Protest The Hero. Ever since they released Kezia, Protest has been marching to the beat of their own drummer. They marched so hard to that beat that they left their record label (Vagrant Records), decided to crowd-fund their new album, and even had to deal with their drummer leaving (to venture into other interests) and replace him with Chris Adler (drummer, Lamb of God) in the studio. Volition itself is a fun album, but it has its serious moments. More than anything, though, it's one of the few albums released this year that felt homegrown, like it was a labour of love, that it was a creation for the band more than the fans. If anything, Volition is the first time since Kezia where it felt like the guys were just jamming out, making some killer music, and having a good ol' time.

4. Big KRIT - King Remembered In Time

There are few rappers out there who honestly claim to be truly great. However, Big KRIT proved with K.R.I.T. that he is among them. His beats are original and eclectic. His flow and lyrics are genuine and heartfelt. His ability to create a SONG rather than just a beat with a flow is magnificent. Everything on K.R.I.T. is just truly spectacular. It's an actual orgasm for the ears, and if anything, it's a damn shame that something this good isn't embraced by mainstream radio because it refuses to follow the "formula" for popular music. Big KRIT aims to be different, but it's not for the sake of being different. It is a genuine want to create something more than just bullshit. Moreover, K.R.I.T. is a rap album that literally ANYONE from any walk of life, genre of music, etc. can listen to and enjoy.

3. Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience Part 1

Timberlake is cool. That's just a fact. He has this magical power to create pop music that is literally just excellent. With The 20/20 Experience Part 1, he did a lot to push pop music into a different direction than it is currently following. He decided to write songs that were experimental, songs that broke the 3:30 - 4:00 formula, songs that were highly personal, and songs that brought back the vibe of old R&B. By doing so, he created an abnormality in the pop industry: a pop album that clocks in at 79 MINUTES LONG featuring nothing but smashes and hits. At 40 minutes, that would be expected, but when you start breaking the 7 minute mark on some songs, you go outside of the pop norm and find yourself in legendary status. Timberlake has now proven that he can withstand the test of time, and The 20/20 Experience (at least Part 1) will be a classic pop album.

2. Tesseract - Altered States

Words cannot describe how much I fucking love this album. Very few bands approach "albums" as being one full piece quite the way that Tesseract has come to perfect. Despite having a new singer, the band's latest album offers soaring and existential music that breaks all boundaries and conforms to no one. It's impossible to not listen to the album from start to finish, and with every swooping melody and addicting chorus, Tesseract refuses to let go of you. It is seriously an album that stands all tests of time.

1. Coheed and Cambria - The Afterman: Descension

GOD...DAMN! There were plenty of rock albums this year that helped revive my faith in rock 'n' roll overall. Bowie, Volbeat, Clutch, Stone Sour, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam... There were so many that made me flip shit. However, not a single one of them held a flame to the second part of Coheed's grand and epic tale of Sirius Amory, the legendary figure in their Amory Wars storyline who discovered the Clockwork. Rather than just telling that tale, Claudio and company dig deep into the personal side of Sirius Amory, how his travels take him away from the one he loves, puts him in the shoes of fantastic characters, and leads him down a personal journey that is beyond most mortal comprehension. The sting of betrayal, the lament of love lost, the pain of filling burdened shoes... Claudio's lyrics pierce through your soul, touching a deep part of your heart that rarely gets attention. I cry every time I hear "The Dark Side of Me," as its sadness is already something immense. Once you look at the story that is being told, the realization that it's a song of recognizing within yourself rather than just love lost...goddamn, I'm getting weepy just writing about it. This album gives me goosebumps, literal goosebumps. You don't necessarily need the first part of The Afterman (Ascension) to see how beautiful, eclectic, and fantastic this album is.

24 Comments

The "I Didn't Play Last of Us So Deal With It" jakob187 Top Eight Games of 2013

From 8 to 1...because 8 is the new 10, and by that, I mean that 10 is inferior and 8 is superior because it forms two circles that make the sign for infinity, thus meaning that this list is infinitely better than any other list (including

@sweep

despite him believing that all other lists are bullshit).

LOGIC, SON!

In all honesty, I just haven't played much this year. I started a bunch of games, but I never really finished many of them to get a good idea of whether I thought they were fucking awesome. Then again, since I didn't finish them, that might be a call of judgment in its own right.

So here it is, my obligatory pretentious belief that my choices are superior to yours...

8. Diablo III (console version)

Diablo III on PC was corrupted and turned into some awful after the now infamous 1.03 patch launch. I hadn't looked back at it since that time. There were so many issues that I took with that game that I felt I could never forgive it.

Then the console release happened... It made me go back and take a look at the game in its current state...and it has been improved greatly. I feel that the console version of D3 is exactly the D3 I remember playing in its very early life, the one that I enjoyed. I didn't get very far with it, but I can easily say that it's a great representation of the game for people interested in ARPGs on console and keep waiting with baited breath for Snowblind to come back and do another Norrath game or something. This will definitely whet your appetite.

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7. Magic 2014: Duels of the Planeswalkers

Honestly, it's still MTG. There are tons of cards for you to sift through, build a deck, and then play with said deck. However, the new addition of sealed deck play brings another degree to the madness of deck building and multiplayer. The game DOES keep things fairly basic in terms of the cards you can get and the strategies you could employ in building your deck. However, if you've ever wanted to just try out Magic, learn how it's played, or maybe just kill some time, M14 is a great way to fulfill all those needs.

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6. Wordament

It's a dumb puzzle game and it didn't even come out this year. However, I just discovered it this year, thanks in part to my conversion to Windows Phone. Wordament does what I feel many other word games don't: they know how to make you feel like the smartest person alive and the biggest idiot in the existence of the world. The rules are simple: make as many words as possible out of letters placed on some tiles within a certain time limit. The thing that makes it addictive as hell? Every one of these rounds is played by anyone else in the world playing the game, and at the end of the round, you see where you ranked in terms of overall score. You are also conveniently presented with a list of words that you could have created...and at both of these points, you will slap your palm to forehead and say things like "I'm fucking stupid, how did I miss that word?" or "these muthafuckers HAVE to be cheating." I should point out that I DID try cheating at the game with one of the many various websites that will list out every word you could make from the tiles...and I would actually do WORSE than if I was just doing it freestyle. It's that weird mixture of achieving and shaming that made this game incredibly difficult to stop playing.

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5. Shadow Man

Shadow Man is on this list because fuck you. That's why. It was recently re-released through Steam and GOG.com, and my love for this game knows no bounds. Sure, the controller support is wonky as balls and the graphics haven't aged well (even with a community-created HD texture mod). However, the overall atmosphere and game itself are still excellent. Playing through this again has been a dream come true. Now if they would just release Vagrant Story, the greatest game of all time, onto PC...

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4. Don't Starve

After Shank and its sequel, I just didn't think that Klei was going to do much to impress me. Mark of the Ninja started changing that opinion, as it was a good game...though a bit hand-holding and still following the same general art style. I felt they were a one-trick pony. Don't Starve drastically changed that opinion and single-handedly changed my opinion of the studio. The brilliance is in its overall simplistic objective: survive. However, the way you choose to do so has so many available options. To add on top of that, there has been a plethora of content updates made that help push your "time played" beyond any reasonable or logical threshold.

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3. Bioshock Infinite

Bioshock Infinite would've been my #1 game of 2013 if it weren't for a handful of issues I took with the general gameplay and some story loopholes. Regardless, it was the atmosphere, the characters, and the general story aesthetics that I can't forget. Top notch production values mixed with excellent voice acting make this world something that feels odd yet tangible in the current socio-political climate. Unfortunately, the gunplay felt wonky as most Bioshock games do, and the elixirs never honestly felt as necessary to use as the plasmids in its predecessors did. Still, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more controversial and fascinating example of game design in 2013.

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2. Rogue Legacy

There were many indie games that reigned supreme in 2013, but none of them were nearly as powerful to me as Rogue Legacy. My interest here wasn't about story. It was about pure gameplay, and that's what Cellar Door delivered with this game. Billed as a "Rogue-lite," Rogue Legacy followed in the footsteps of something like Dark Souls in creating a unique RPG that had you pounding your head in frustration while coming back for me. The unique way of leveling your character up, the interesting traits that could be obtained through the game's genealogy system, and the beautiful 2D artwork make this an indie triumph for 2013 that easily kept my thumbs on the analog sticks for a long time.

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1. Warframe

Warframe is an example of how to launch a free-to-play game correctly and use the model to improve your product overall. When the closed beta originally started, all of the levels looked the same and it seemed destined to fall to the wayside of free-to-play doom. However, in the time that the game has been in open beta, the exponential growth of the game's overall content has been alarming! Introducing new levels, reworked boss fights, gads and gads of new weapons on a regular basis has helped the game gain a healthy following. Moreover, it's the kind of game where you can literally obtain everything you need without ever spending a single penny. It's not easy, and many have called it a "grind-fest." However, I've yet to find any of the stuff that I WANT to obtain to be THAT difficult...at least no more difficult than getting gear in World of Warcraft. Beyond that, the game has an excellent fiction highlighted with incredible character designs and incredible graphics. With the recent launch on PS4, we'll also see the game getting cross-platform play, and since the game uses a very controller-friendly control scheme, it's difficult to not recommend this to someone looking for a solid co-op game.

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All I Want For Christmas...

Christmas is always an odd time of year for me.

I don't do presents on Christmas. Haven't for about nine years now. Instead, I usually give about $200 worth of toys (try to make it somewhere around 40-50 within that full amount) to charities.

I grew up in a poor family, and I watched my parents scrape and scrounge for money to put something under the tree for my brothers and I. It wasn't always that way; at one time, there was money. It wasn't MONEY, mind you, but we weren't living paycheck to paycheck. Unfortunately, things took a nosedive in my dad's particular industry and money became something we had to worry about. It caused a lot of arguments in our house. A LOT of arguments.

Things have worked out since then, but as a kid, it was tough. I've had at least six Christmas days in my life where there were zero presents under the tree and the day was either filled with my parents arguing about money issues or we just sat down and enjoyed the fact that we had a Christmas dinner to eat at all.

I doubt many know what it's like to go to school after Christmas break and say "nothing" when you were asked by fellow students what you received for Christmas, only to be met with a reply of "oh yeah, because you're poor." As if it's something dirty, something foul... It was worse whenever the teachers would want to do a show-and-tell of what you got for Christmas. I would try to pawn off previously bought things as new toys, and it worked sometimes.

Regardless of all that, I appreciate that my parents would...on most Christmas holidays...scrape together whatever they could, try to cut some corners here and there, and take the time to try as hard as possible to get just one present under the tree for my brothers and I. While some people will take for granted an action like this, I never did. My parents wanted us to have something nice, something new. Even if it was some little pop-cap gun from the dollar store, it meant something to us.

After college, I was making money and decided that I would give presents rather than receive them. It didn't stop some people from giving me presents in the beginning, as they literally thought I was saying "don't get me anything" as some kind of reverse psychology or something. Eventually, they realized that I wasn't kidding. I didn't want any presents. If anything, I wanted THEM to offer presents to those less fortunate.

Nowadays, people around me realize my goals during the Christmas season. Money is a piece of green paper to me, and if it can buy a toy to put a smile on some kid's face for Christmas, even if they will toss the toy to the side after an hour of playing with it like most kids do, then that's fine by me.

This year, I celebrate my second Christmas with my girlfriend, and she still hasn't understood it. I imagine it's tough to understand when the world you were raised in does not match up to where I came from. That's not a slight against her at all. She's the most amazing thing in the world that's ever happened to me, and she's an incredibly kind-hearted woman. However, from where she comes from, people have houses in nice neighborhoods, about 10 presents for each of the 30 people in their family at Christmas, and unwrapping presents can take an hour. In my family, unwrapping presents takes about 4 minutes and then it's on to watching claymation movies. Her Christmas day involves singing hymns, eating a wafer and drinking some grape juice. I'm agnostic (and she's not of a particular faith herself, but her family are good ol' Southern Baptist Texans). At my family's house, my parents say grace before dinner and that's about it...and that's only been in the last three years since they converted. At her family's house, they play games and do activities for hours on end, laughing and giggling...even if some of them may have problems. In my house, we'll shoot some darts on the patio while we smoke some cigarettes and drink some beer.

It's odd, existing between these two worlds...when the whole time, all that I truly want for Christmas...is to be home alone with her. Just the two of us, sitting down, watching a Christmas movie and eating some ham from a lunchmeat package.

In the past, I thought I knew the Christmas that I wanted to always have when I grew older. At 31, I'm still discovering that I don't know what the hell that I want.

However, I've known for a while that there is one thing that I want: for no child to have to know what it's like to see an empty floor under the tree.

Donate a toy this year, folks. Do someone a solid. Thank you.

Until next time, piece.

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Am I Tired of Video Games?

I have save games for about 30 different games sitting on my computer at this present point in time, but I have absolutely no ambition to play any of them.

Do you ever have that feeling? What contributes to it? In looking at why this has occurred, I can point to obvious things:

  • I'm now in a relationship that has lasted a full year (longest one ever, and she's a hell of a keeper)
  • My work schedule doesn't allow for a lot of free time, and when I do have free time, I want to spend it doing things that don't involve video games
  • I have too many hobbies vying for my time: video games, Heroclix, Magic The Gathering, movie watching, writing

When it comes down to it, my other hobbies take up much of the time I could use to play video games, but even when I DO play games, I find myself only focusing on two of them: Warframe and League of Legends. The former is really due to the cooperative nature with the fantastic Giant Bomb community as well as just generally enjoying loot grind games. The latter is a bit more personal: I'm a very competitive person, and League fuels that competitive nature for me. There's also the bonus that most of my friends play the game, so it also fuels my cooperative needs.

Nonetheless, I've recently fallen into this place where I want to not just be competitive, but I would like to EXCEL at that competition. I'm playing in Friday Night Magic and trying to ramp up towards going to Pro Tour Qualifiers, big events, and plus I just genuinely like deck-building. With Heroclix, I have a goal of going to the World Championships at Gen Con next year. I can't do that without focus and making sure that I'm pushing myself to be better and wittier.

So these games...they sit...and they wait. This gaming PC that I built and filled with games, it sits alone in the computer room, rarely being turned on. When it is, I just stare at the list of games...digging for something to bide my time and captivate me, but nothing does. Little five minute spurts of gaming take place, yet not a single one can pull my attention from these other things.

Is it because of my work environment? Is it because I literally see video games every day, all day, until my eyes are ready to bleed? I started playing Call of Duty: Ghosts, mainly just to check it out. I like the multiplayer, as it feels like they brought it back to that COD4/MW2/Black Ops 1 vibe that I loved. However, will I continue with it? Is it just something to kill the time? Hell, the only time I really even get to play video games anymore is when I'm waiting for my girlfriend to get off work so I can go pick her up. Beyond that, it's deck-building, team-building, and just doing whatever I can to keep myself busy.

Maybe that's the problem. Maybe I'm trying to find things to keep myself busy rather than finding things that I genuinely want to do. Maybe there isn't a game right now that can grasp my interests by the balls, carry me along for the ride, and then somehow magically make my balls not feel like they were stretched for a million miles.

So I sit here...shuffling my green devo deck...test running my hands...and I just keep thinking the same question every single time:

Am I just tired of video games? Did I finally outgrow them?

Thanks for reading my selfish and egocentric thoughts. I just needed to actually write something to see it all in print.

Until next time, piece.

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