I like Heroes of the Storm more than Dota 2

I should start this blog off by saying I really enjoyed my time with Dota 2. I have about 200 hours in that game and for the most part, I love it. However, there's just a handful of things about Dota 2 that kept it far away from being a video game that I would put into the 'elite tier' and instead was settled into the middle of my 2013 game of the year list. In Dota 2, the matches take too long, I was never really sure what I should be doing in the endgame, I had trouble understanding situational items, there were way too many heroes that I didn't enjoy playing, often times I would pick up a new hero and just have zero idea of what I should be doing and it was way too easy for one person to significantly sway the outcome of a match of Dota 2. As I'm starting to get the hang of Heroes of the Storm I'm coming to the realization that this game might (for me personally) fix every single one of the issues that I had with Dota. I'm having an incredible amount of fun with it.

Now I'm not going to go super in depth about what a MOBA is (I'm sure you know someone who has told you all about it) but I probably should explain what makes HOTS different and why it is that I like the changes they've made. First of all, you level as a team and not as individuals. This makes it so that everyone on your team 'potentially' has the same output and puts less pressure on you as an individual to perform your duties and not die. I have way more enthusiasm to play this game with friends since its more of a team focused game and I also there are less times that I feel like I ruined the game because of my poor play (Boy, those feelings in Dota are THE WORST!) Thankfully, less matches of HOTS end up in one hero one side becoming ridiculously overpowered and just steamrolling through the other team. The times when that happened in Dota were always super frustrating because when one guy started to snowball, it was often too hard to stop it and you just had to endure 20 more minutes of dying over and over until eventually they beat you. The team aspect in also present in the way you use your lanes. Often times you will be moving around between lanes depending on what situation your team is in. The maps are a lot smaller and there you can ride mounts, which means that navigating the battlefield is a lot easier.

There are multiple maps in Heroes of the Storm... MULTIPLE MAPS! Each map has its own specific and unique objective, and often times therein lies the key to victory. From collecting doubloons to pay a pirate who bombards the enemy keep with cannons to collecting 'tributes' that curse the enemy team, each map is different in what its objective is. It does a good job of having vastly different goals that require you to think differently about each map. A strategy or build that works well on one map may not be very well suited for another. This was a cool addition to the game that sometimes shifts your priority from killing heroes or pushing lanes to actually focusing your attention on something else, be it capturing an objective or map control of a specific area. Games are often A LOT quicker compared to Dota 2, thankfully. There's way less time spend being on the defensive, waiting for your opponents to attack, which i really hated in dota. Instead of spending time behind your tower chipping away at your enemies, you can often spend your time capturing objectives or roaming to different lanes to kill enemies. Its a lot more active and frankly, its a lot more fun.

There are zero items in the game and you don't level up your skills. In place of those two things they have talents, which you gain every few team levels. Talents let you pick various ways of upgrading your character, be it upgrading skills to have new effects/damage etc, giving you new abilities to use, or just giving you passive buffs that help in various situations. This makes it so that there is still depth to each hero, but its never particularly overwhelming. In addition, I found the heroes to be way easier to use than in Dota 2. Obviously there are still numerous heroes who are quite complicated but you can usually tell what a hero is supposed to do by reading his/her skills, instead of looking up a FAQ or cookie-cutter build.

Overall, Heroes of the storm is a game that has picked up steam over time until as of right now, its basically the only game I want to play. Whereas Dota 2 was a game I could only play one match, maybe two per sitting, I often find myself playing 3-6 matches of HOTS in a row, sometimes even with multiple sittings a day. There's way less things that frustrate me about Heroes of the Storm and while I can't speak to anything having to do with 'high level play', I can say that I feel like there is still a large amount of nuance to the gameplay. All of changes that were made to the MOBA seem like positive things and that's why I feel like for me personally, Heroes of the Storm is better than Dota 2.

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Rayman Origins: Completely ridiculous, utterly charming

Platformers are a genre where its really hard for one to stick out from the pack. No matter what mechanics you put in there, most basically boil down to moving the stick to move, pressing A to jump and sometimes having a run button. Make no mistake, Rayman Origins is definitely one of those. Its platforming mechanics are pretty standard and the levels are modestly fun. But having just recently played it this month for the first time, I can say the way it goes about it is something that I found to be really refreshing. The game is filled with those little touches that let you know that it's just oozing personality and that was the part of Origins that made me think that it was a fantastic game.

Disco Party!

For me personally, the way platformers play has never been extremely satisfying. As long as the controls don't feel sluggish or unresponsive, I've never particularly cared about the way they feel (Super Meat Boy might be my one personal exception to this). I feel like most good platformers out there have controls that work, as they should. There's never any real reason why you should make a game with unintuitive controls, especially in that genre. Rayman Origins platforming feels pretty good for what it is. It has wall jumping and basic attacks for you to defeat enemies and a fairly brisk pace to its gameplay. It also has two hidden areas in each level that contain electoons for you to rescue. Its a nice way to encourage exploration without getting too over the top. Rayman Legends, a game I just finished this week, has 10 things to collect in each level. I felt like that was just too much and I had to play through the levels much more slowly than Origins in order to collect everything. So for me personally, Origins level design and pace were better for me to enjoy the levels at a good speed.

It is extremely easy to show how charming Rayman Origins is.

The real reason I'm writing this blog about this game in particular is just how it put a gigantic smile on my face the entire time I was playing it. Origins is filled with so much personality that really add a lot to the game. It has a bunch ridiculous moments peppered throughout it, that just show you how crazy Michel Ancel really is. Since this game is basically his creation, you really get the impression that he is a dude who would be really exciting to be around. Many times in Rayman Origins I would just stare at the screen, wondering what is going on, with a gigantic smile on my face (see the image above). Another highlight is the soundtrack, which does an excellent job of straddling the line between genuinely good and, well... you should just listen to it to know what i mean. I also really enjoyed how at the end of each world they give you a really easy level where you are just collecting loads of lums while zooming through the level. The part of the game where you collect Queen lums (or whatever the hell they are) which give you a brief period where you get double lums for each one you collect. The fact that the lums would dance around combined the cutesy music made me glad that they were in plentiful supply.

This game is no joke in certain sections.

Part of Origins that was a little weird was its difficulty. Its not an easy game by any stretch of the imagination and the second half of the game, which has you going back through similar looking areas will really test your skills. It almost feels like a new game plus situation even though its still considered part of the main game. The treasure hunt levels are also a bit of a pain. Making you execute spot-on platforming in a game where the controls feel a little loose is not always ideal. Those levels can also be quite lengthy which sometimes makes them feel more like trial and error more than testing my skill. It was more of a relief than an accomplishment having finished all of those levels. The boss battles are also tricky, but I just chalk up my frustration with those to not liking boss battles in most video games (I'm a little weird, I know).

I'll wrap up this blog by saying that Rayman Origins is a game that makes me happy. Sure there were parts of it that were maybe a little dull but that didn't stop me from having a huge smile on my face for most of the time that I was playing it. Even though platformers are maybe starting to get a little stale these days, this game was one I could still enjoy in 2015. If you like a good time, you should play this game.

I don't even know what's going on here...

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What I've been up to: Video games and a podcast!

February is a time where there's not really anything exciting going on. That doesn't mean I can't keep myself busy, though. I played through some games, spent my club nintendo coins on mario party 2 (don't do that!) and recorded my first ever podcast with my old university roommate. So overall it was a fairly good month

Transistor

Transistor was free on Playstation plus so I decided to give that game a go and I'd say I really enjoyed it. Playing around with all the different functions was super interesting. The part of Transistor that I really enjoyed was the ability to use your functions as either a primary function for direct use or as a modifier for other functions. In addition, the fact that game gives you additional story information by using different skills in different slots encouraged experimentation with other skills. This was a very smart way to get you to play around with different combinations to see what works best for you.

As far as the story goes, I would probably say that I am mostly in agreement with the general consensus that it was a little hard to follow at times. Sometimes they didn't give you enough info to figure out what was really going on, but by the end I felt like I had just wrapped my brain around it. Overall I really like transistor; good gameplay, good voice acting, great soundtrack.

Geometry Wars 3: DIMENSIONS!

Okay, so theres no exclamation mark in the title of the game, I just feel like every time you say "dimensions", you have exclaim it and also make ridiculous hand gestures. Getting to the actual game, I think I would say that I enjoy the third game the most in the series. Having an adventure mode with 50 levels was fun to play around with. Most of the different level geometry they came up with pretty fun, although some of the shapes made it a little difficult to see what was around the corner. You can earn up to three stars in each level of adventure mode, and I had a huge compulsion to replay all of the levels and get all the stars. When you also add leaderboards, I spent a lot of time replaying levels, rarely ever getting frustrated.

A neat addition for this game was the inclusion of drones. You get your choice from four drones that help you out by either shooting at enemies, collecting spare geoms and the like. My go to drone was the collect drone, because I wanted to get my multiplier up as quickly as possible. For me personally, geoms were a thing that I'm glad they brought back in Geometry Wars 3, because without them, you play super defensively. With this game, though, you actually have to run into the fray in order to get any kind of high score, adding to the stress of each level.

I really enjoyed the power-ups in Geometry Wars 3. Having a temporary boost to your firepower, or being able to suck in geoms from further away was a cool idea. In addition, the new modes they added for this game were pretty great. Checkpoint was my personal favourite, where you have a time limit and every time you kill all the enemies on screen you get more time added. It's a mode that really forces you to play quickly and the moments where you have barely any time left are super tense and exciting.

Even though I wasn't a huge fan of the boss battles, I had a blast with the game. Everyone was unsure if this game was necessary when it came out but for what it was, I would say it is a mighty fine Geometry Wars game.

Also, I recorded a podcast!

So earlier in the week, I recorded a podcast with a buddy of mine. Its my first one, we talk about video games and other stuff. If you have a spare two hours to devote to complete nonsense, why not give it a listen and see how badly we can carry on a Skype conversation?

Here's a podcast

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Playstation Now: Enslaved, The Walking Dead and Darksiders

So I have never owned a Playstation 3 in my lifetime, so getting a chance to check out the free Playstation Now subscription free trial thing was a good opportunity to catch up on some games of last gen that I never got around to playing. Its a bit of a shame that my experience with the service was a little rocky, seeing I live with my parents and my sisters' children, who are constantly using the internet. Often times the game would have ridiculous screen flashes or parts where the quality would become terrible.Thankfully I'm not a person who cares too much about games looking great, so whatever.

I also had it happen where a message would come up saying that my internet quality sucks, the game is going to shut down and there appears to be nothing you can do about it. Having to replay part of a mission because of that is a HUGE BUMMER. This was the part of Playstation Now that made me a little frustrated but I guess those are the chances you take when using this service with variable internet quality. Anyways, onto the games. Rather than dabble in numerous games, I decided to buckle down and managed to squeeze in three full games during my time and to my suprise, I had fun with all of them, although some more than others.

And also... I haven't played Uncharted 2 & 3 yet. PLEASE bring those games to PS4 in some capacity. I'd really appreciate it -.-

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

Enslaved came out in October of 2010 and was probably the game I had the least expectations of out of the three games I played. I still managed to somewhat enjoy my time with it. The combat and upgrade system in that game are pretty decent, and having some ranged abilities in there as well allows you to mix up your style of play. The story was something I fairly enjoyed, and the characters and interactions between them were well done (Pigsy is really weird by the way). I don't really have all the much to say about Enslaved other than "Hey, I kind of enjoyed it and I never really got stuck all that much, so that's cool".

Also, I couldn't find the image, but a collectible in the game gives you images of people and objects and stuff and one looked like it was just a dude in a pool wearing sunglasses. That's awesome.

The Walking Dead: Season One

I've always wanted to play the first season of the walking dead but every time I would look at the price it seemed like it was always just a little more than I wanted to pay for it. Seeing as I could play it for free this was the first game I played when I started my trial. This was definitely a weird game to play in 2015, considering the massive amount of praise it received in 2012. The heaps of awards it won in that year made me a little worried that it wouldn't be able to live up to its expectations. For me personally, I would say that the walking dead is not my favourite "Experience-driven game" I've ever played but its still fairly high up there. Its quite good.

I was really interested in how much I would like the characters in The Walking Dead, because I am huge fan of great characters in video games. While I felt like maybe they had a few too many people overall, I really got attached . While some of people in the game are just dicks (Eat a brick, annoying guy), a lot of them were people you could kind of relate to and each of them had their own unique flaws that made their character interesting. Lee is a pretty cool protagonist who has a lot to deal with at all times, it was really cool seeing him weigh his needs with the needs of others. Although its definitely a little cliche having a little girl placed in a tough situation, but Clementine was fairly effective as one of the main foci of the game. It was maybe kind of hilarious having to do all that messed up stuff in front of her >.>

Much like everyone else, I liked the decision making aspect of the game. There was a moment where I had to choose between two people and I gave a "..." answer. The next time I had to choose again Kenny said something along the lines of "You can't be on the fence this time you have to back me up" and I felt like that really put the pressure on me in a cool way. At the end of chapter 4 it was really cool seeing all the different party configurations you could've had up until that point and how many people had whom in their party. If you're a person who only had Lee at that point, I think you messed up :)

So yeah, I liked the Walking Dead. Its maybe a bit of a shame that this game follows the adventure game framework so close. There's a bunch of poor puzzles and bad combat that put a damper on my experience but hey, I was totally willing to look past that in order to get to the next part where things get crazy. And boy, there's definitely some crazy stuff in that game.

Darksiders

Here we go, the game I really want to talk about. First off I have something important to tell you before I discuss my thoughts on Darksiders: I've never really played much Zelda in my life. I messed around with ocarina and a link to the past very briefly and I watched a friend play through the entirety of Skyward Sword (Watching someone else play that game sure is a weird experience) but I know that to fully experience that series you have to play that game on your own.

A lot of people out there hold the opinion of "The legend of Zelda is one the best video game series out there, bar none". I wouldn't really say I didn't understand it, but I before I played one I really had no idea what exactly it was that made Zelda great. My original plan for 2015 was to get into The Legend of Zelda series by playing A Link Between Words over the summer. My plans slightly changed however when I saw that Darksiders was one of the games of Playstation Now and it was generally regarded as a good game so I thought "Hey what the hell why not make Darksiders my first Zelda game" and you know what? I would say I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Darksiders.

First of all, I think its so cool how they just went and made a dark Zelda game. Its pretty awesome how you basically have heart containers and they just put the hookshot and boomerang in the game. You can call it the abyssal chain as much as you want, I'm still calling it the hookshot. I never got tired of hearing that chime play whenever I solved a puzzle, its great. You even fight a shadow version of yourself late in the game... what a weird but kind of awesome callback. I could've done without the stupid helper minion and lame backtracking, but that stuff was mostly inoffensive and if you're going for that style of game you might as well go all the way, right?

The part I enjoyed the most was definitely the final dungeon. As a person who is REALLY into portal I can say that a portal gun is a fantastic addition to this style of game. They did a really good job of finding interesting ways to implement the portal gun in the last dungeon. Seeing as it was the longest dungeon by far out of all them, they were really able to keep my attention with having all sorts of unique puzzle and making you approach each puzzle from different and unique perspectives.

Stuff like the combat and story I didn't love as much but the combat had enough depth in it so that although I never used the tremor gauntlets at all, there was enough variety with the sword and scythe that I never thought the combat was tedious. As for the story, I always hold the opinion of "I don't pay much attention to the story, see if it hooks me and if not, who really cares" and I was able to follow along with the story, but it didn't seem like anything special.

By now I'm pretty sure you can tell and I hope its not too blasphemous to say this, but I felt like Darksiders was a pretty great intro into Zelda-style games. I can't wait to play ALBW and see how that game compares to this one. Who knows, maybe in future I'll end up playing all the Zelda games and loving them.... Naw I'm just kidding, I'm sure at least a few of them don't hold up in 2015 :D

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The Mass Effect Trilogy - Playing them all in 2014

The Mass Effect Trilogy was on sale on Origin for 20 dollars recently, and I figured now is a great time to get into those games and play them all in a row. Thankfully, I stayed away from/forgot all the important story beats of the games so that the story wasn't really ruined for me and I got to experience that ME3 ending first hand. It sure was fun playing all these games back-to-back-to-back just to seen how games(and also Joker's face) have evolved over the past 5-10 years.

There's a few SPOILERS in here, if you're wondering.

Mass Effect 1

So I should probably get this out of the way at the beginning and say that this game looks ROUGH. This game did come out in 2007 but unless there's something crucial I missed, the fact that the highest 16:9 setting on the PC is 1280x800 is pretty telling of just how old it is, and it definitely took a while to get used to. I wouldn't quite say it impacted my enjoyment of the game, I would just say it was really noticeable, that's all. Playing it on the PC, I never felt like the jankyness was annoying to the point of frustration but I could only imagine how much worse that stuff would've been playing on a console when that game came out...

As for the game itself, I would say I actually really like the first Mass Effect on the whole. I went in expecting a lot of stuff to be rough but in terms of gameplay I thought it was a lot of fun. The things you were doing weren't always amazing, but I would say that there are a ton of fun missions, areas to explore and there were a few fun side missions, although a lot of the side stuff was kind of bland. There were definitely aspects of the gameplay that also showed that this game has aged quite a bit. Weird things like only being able to sprint in combat and other mechanics of that nature (the mako totally tells you this game came out in 2007) really stick out as weird design decisions. Overall, however, I would say I was definitely into the RPG shooter nature of Mass Effect. Shooting people generally felt good and I also felt like I had some cool powers to play around with. I never felt like the shooting felt extremely clunky or anything, but I sure am glad they fixed that stuff in the next two games.

But of course, knowing what I know now, the Mass effect games are really about the story and dialogue. I feel like it got off to a bit of slow start, what with the first quarter of the game basically boiling down to "You should find Saren" but it really got my attention as i played it more. I definitely felt like some of the story beats that happened were still shocking/satisfying even playing it in 2014.

I also thought that the dialogue in Mass Effect 1, both inside and outside of missions is extremely well done. Often times when I was talking to people, I found myself thinking "Hey, this is good dialogue" which is always a good thing. Its always good to have a good bond with your party members and I felt like most of the dudes on my ship were people I actually wanted to talk to and get backstory on (I got your back, Garrus!).

So yeah Mass Effect 1 - way better than I thought it was going to be. Even though the look and general feeling of the game feel a little old, a lot of other aspects of it were totally fine, if not pretty great in my opinion. Its always totally crazy to look at this game by itself and say "Man, its awesome how much effort they put into the fiction for this game" and thats totally a good thing, considering that this is a trilogy.

Mass Effect 2

So, I think Mass Effect 2 is really good. Is it one of my top games of this generation? I'd have to say probably not, but that didn't stop me from enjoying basically every aspect of it. I would say that most of the changes they made were for the better. Stripping down the RPG mechanics was something that I wasn't totally on board with, but improving the shooting, gear upgrades and the general feel of the game made the game feel like more like a modern game.

It shouldn't really be suprising to you at this point, but hey, the story in Mass Effect 2 is excellent. Sure, having you work for Cerberus only in ME2 and not the other ones is definitely weird, but I would definitely say this game has some pretty amazing moments. Just like the first game, there were a ton of interesting squadmates and talking to them on the normandy was something I enjoyed doing. It weirded me out a little to see most of the squad make a lot of jokes and stuff this time around (which well get to in a bit), but I feel like they always had interesting things to say and I want to respond with actual answers, instead of just saying something stupid to see what their reaction would be.

In terms of the missions, I would have to say I enjoyed most of them. I felt like even though this was the second game, the stuff I was doing was still important. Man, a lot of those loyalty missions sure are great in this game. I really feel like they shouldn't have made that stuff optional because some of the stuff was both important to the mass effect universe and it was also excellent. I'm also glad that Mass Effect 2 has its own contained story. A lot of times with the second part of a trilogy, the second and third part are really just one continuous story and I hate that. But with Mass Effect 2, dealing with the collectors was its own thing and i felt like it had importance in the world.

Just one last thing I have to say about ME2... Did anyone else find the humour in this game to be really weird? There were definitely a couple times I tilted my head at the game and said "Did that really just happen?" I mean, a krogan makes a pun in Mass Effect 2. I'm no sci-fi expert, but I can tell you THERE'S NO WAY THAT WOULD EVER HAPPEN! Sorry, I just had to get that out of my system.

Mass Effect 3

Alright, here we go. What do I think of Mass Effect 3? I think its a pretty good game that generally declines in quality as you progress through it. I feel like the first half of the game is still of a really high quality, having great moment both in the story and the action. The mission where you stop the genophage in Tuchanka was super cool. You get some pretty good action, and also the other 'things' that happen later in the mission I thought were pretty good (I have a weird obsession with liking games that make me sad).

Speaking about the second half of the game, I just didn't feel like it stayed at as a high a level as it did previously. I still enjoyed my time with it and wouldn't call it 'bad' in any capacity but I found myself enjoying it just a little bit less. I felt like there could've been some awesome set pieces of "Everything is going badly!" in Mass Effect 3 but I really only felt like there were a couple of those. Changing the subject a little, I'm a person who doesn't particularly like dying in games where that's not the main goal (As opposed to games such as Dark souls, FTL, Xcom) so having this game seem harder then the other two was not something I was particularly on board with. I died so many times on that part where you fight that reaper one-on-one (maybe that's just me, though) and a lot of the time I just felt like there were maybe a few too many enemies for me to deal with sometimes.

So I guess if you're reading this, most of the reason you are reading it is that you want to see my reaction to the ending. And yeah, I thought it was a little disappointing, but I'm not so I would go as far as to say it totally ruined my whole Mass Effect experience or anything. However, I've always been a person who thinks the ending is the most important part of the story. TV shows like Curb your Enthusiasm and Video games like Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons tell me that having a video game or episode of TV culminate in a single, solitary amazing moment at the end is something I would almost always prefer over having a bunch of good stuff and then falling flat at the end. While I still feel ME3 was a game that had some bright spots it definitely is disappointing to see the trilogy end on such a flat note.

I feel the same way about the ending to this game that I do about the ending to Bastion, where in the very final moments they just dump a bunch of information on you. Then after that, they force you to make a decision that I didn't really care about, and that whatever decision you make doesn't really make any difference. For me personally, making a choice that alters the world at the end of a game is something that I'm never going to care about because the game is already over at that point. It's not like I can jump back in and make my decision have consequences, it just make a random choice and then I'm done. It was sad to see Mass Effect go this route, and I wish my last memories of Mass Effect were maybe something a little better, but it most certainly could've been worse.

One more thing...You know what? I enjoyed the multiplayer in Mass Effect 3. I don't really play a bunch of wave based horde modes, but I feel like Mass Effect is a game where that style of game works because of all the different powers you can have at your disposal. Also, I thought it was interesting how it integrates in your story progress. The fact that its there to help you out but its not completely necessary for you to do it was fine by me in the grand scheme of things.

So I guess I'll close this gigantic wall of text to say yeah, I like mass effect (suprising, I know). I'm a person who usually enjoys themself when playing games, so it didn't really suprise me that these games are awesome. What did suprise me is just how much i enjoyed that first Mass Effect (boy am I glad I played that game on PC, you should too if you haven't). I mean these games have already been discussed to death, but if you saw something I said that I thought was interesting feel free to talk about it :)

Also, "I'll cut your balls off and sell them to a krogan" is a FANTASTIC line.

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