Dream Daddy: The Most Disappointing Game of 2017

The title of being my most disappointing game of the year is a special title reserved not always for games that are irredeemably awful (though usually, they aren’t good either) but games that had every reason in the world to be great yet they’re just…not. This can mean games that failed especially hard living up to their hype, games that severely lack the same quality as other games made by the devs or other games in their series, games that had incredible ideas that failed in execution, but above all, it means games that simply weren’t able to live up to the expectations they’d set forth. In 2016, I gave this unique title to an adventure game called Oxenfree.
And for 2017, I think there is no game more deserving of this title than Vernon Shaw and Leighton Gray’s own Dream Daddy.

I wrestled hard with the idea of Marvel vs Capcom Infinite getting this title instead until I remembered the first time images for Infinite were released it was immediately clear this game wouldn’t be good, so going into its release my expectations were already pretty low.Plus, when it comes to fighting games, I’m more of a Skullgirls/Guilty Gear/Street Fighter/Smash fan anyways. Doki Doki Literature Club was in a similar position–it was certainly a game that disappointed me tremendously, but I also went into it with absolutely no expectations for it. Dream Daddy, on the other hand, I was excited about. The trailer was great, the marketing was fun, the Game Grumps were involved in it. Moreover, it’s a dating sim and I, for one, have been nothing if not transparent in my love of visual novels and dating sims. Only a year ago, the highly anticipated Asagao Academy had been released and that dating sim turned out to be incredible–it must be a sign that YouTuber backed dating sims have a lot of potential. Surely Dream Daddy, which had been funded and advertised by the Game Grumps (note: I’m not saying made because it wasn’t made by the Grumps. It was made by Vernon Shaw and Leighton Gray. Apparently, a lot of people struggle to remember this) would be no different, right?

I reviewed this game on EliteGamer shortly after it came out, so if you want to hear my thoughts on it at length, you can read the article. To sum it up, my dislike for Dream Daddy stems from 3 things:
1. It lacks so many core visual novel traits (EX: branching paths, bad/different endings, character routes that feel like more than just a prologue or a teaser for their actual story) that it simply feels like a horrifically incomplete game in general.

2. Visibly more effort was put into writing the (admittedly wonderful) characters than the story itself, and the story suffers greatly for that.

3.It’s always having an identity crisis–it’s a game that can never seem to choose between being a joke dating sim or a serious narrative. It can never commit to being one or the other, and it meshes the two in such a polarizing and messy way that it makes the whole game feel tonally awkward.

Ultimately, I scored it a 6/10 on the basis that at least the characters were good (after all, characters are equally important as story in a dating sim), the art was certainly great, it’s a game that clearly means well, it’s technically sound for the most part, the idea of a dad dating sim is completely unique and very original, and mostly because it’s hysterical in the fleeting moments that it decides to be a joke dating sim before inevitably trying (failing) to be serious 30 seconds later. Dream Daddy wasn’t an awful game to me, despite what this article might make you think. It was just a game that had overwhelming potential that could’ve been realized if the game were only longer and/or felt more like a real visual novel with branching paths and bad endings that were not only actually bad, but weren’t literally the same ending copy/pasted just with a different dad each time (which, by the way, only furthered my calling this game incomplete). Dream Daddy was so close to being fantastic. It could’ve easily been fantastic. But because there seemed to be more focus on getting this game out soon as opposed to getting it out well, all that potential it was overflowing with became lost.

Nothing bugs me more than when a game is within a hair’s width of easily obtainable greatness that it just seems to blatantly ignore, and such is the case with Dream Daddy. Dream Daddy could be much better if only the branching paths felt more distinct and then were either longer or had better closure. Dream Daddy could be much better if it only had endings that weren’t just satisfying, but weren’t all literally the exact same thing word-for-word just with a different love interest each time. Dream Daddy could be much better if it would just make up its mind whether it wants to be a joke dating sim or a serious narrative and then commit to that tone. But alas, it didn’t. That’s the other main reason why Dream Daddy, to me, is leagues more disappointing than the likes of Marvel vs Capcom Infinite and Doki Doki Literature Club: Because Dream Daddy was so close to being great, but it squandered every single one of the countless opportunities it had. It’s really frustrating (for me, at least) to play a game and notice it just barely making all the wrong decisions over and over again. It’s distracting. It’s irritating. But more than anything, it’s disappointing.

Dream Daddy may not be the train wreck Marvel vs Capcom Infinite and Doki Doki Literature Club were, but the waves of disappointment it brought me from its insistence on making countless bad decisions are second to none from this year. Although Dream Daddy won’t be my go-to choice for worst game–or even worst visual novel–from 2017, it’ll be far, far away from my bests as well. It’s not a dating sim I’d readily recommend in general unless you’re just looking for unique concepts or something that’ll make you laugh from time to time–and even if you were looking for such dating sims, I can still think of plenty more titles I’d sooner recommend (Hatoful Boyfriend, Sweet Fuse, Asagao Academy, and Katawa Shoujo to name a few). Dream Daddy had so much potential to be great–it could’ve been one of the best visual novels or even best indie games in general to come out of the juggernaut of amazing game releases that’s been 2017. Alas, ultimately that same overflowing potential ended up more wasted than Robert. That’s why Dream Daddy is my choice for the most disappointing game of 2017.

Have Yourself, a Merry Little Switchmas: Why you should pick up a Switch if you haven’t yet

The other day I was in Target with my dad buying Christmas lights as we started prepping for the holiday season. At 21 I’d gotten used to gambit of “What do you want for Christmas?”  over the years my selection grew more mature and sophisticated (I think I actually wrote Roche Brother’s gift cards so I could get groceries), but I don’t feel that way this year. This year, I’m hopped on the band wagon and told my dad I liked the Nintendo Switch and thought it was a really cool system– he scoffed at me and brushed it off, saying he preferred the PS4 to, “just another Mario system.”

While he’s not wrong about that, I felt hurt that he brushed it off so callously. Not a sort of, that’s nice or you can buy that with your own money, but an answer filled with… almost disgust. I know it’s silly to get all worked up about something so trivial, but when I backed up my case, saying a ton of my friends play the Switch, he again just gave me rude remarks.

I’ve played bits and pieces of the Switch library thanks to some friends:

Mario Odyssey is incredibly fun and the worlds are gorgeous. The base game isn’t too long, but with 999 moons to collect, you’ll be busy for a while.

Snipperclips is silly and cute. That’s really all I’ve got. As the younger sibling, my childhood was filled with backseat-gaming and begging for co-op modes. Snipperclips delivers in a cute little package.

Stardew Valley is on the Switch. Let me say that again Stardew Valley is on the Switch. It’s similar to Harvest Moon apparently (I never played Harvest Moon), but I’ll take people’s word for it. Anyways… farming? Mining? Romancing? Building friendship? Betraying your loved ones for corporate greed? Any of that sound interesting?? Get it!

Just Dance 2017 made me want to get up and move for the first time in years. It’s not a secret, I’m a little tubby, but the only exercise I ever really enjoyed was dancing, problem is, it’s incredibly hard to get over that anxiety hurdle and actually do it. Now you’re saying there’s a game that only gently judges you AND has choreography already made? Sign me up!

And finally, Zelda.

I don’t like Zelda. We didn’t really click much when I was growing up.

As stated above, my dad really isn’t fond of Nintendo so while everyone else grew up on the Gamecube and Wii, I had the Playstation 1/2/3 and Xbox (360)… I should confess I did own a Wii and a Wii U, but had no one to really play with.

So I never really had a chance to play Zelda. It was always daunting and massive and I frustrating. I attempted Ocarina of Time and after sinking 10 hours into the game (9.5 of which were accompanied with a walkthrough), I gave up.

I did enjoy A Link Between Worlds, but from what I gather, it’s hard to dislike that game. Now, back to Zelda.

Breath of the Wild is a fantastic game. It’s still hard and frustrating and massive (oh boy is it massive), but if you’re stuck you’re not locked into a certain area. I personally struggled with the Zora guardian so just said fuck it and went to the Rivali. Now I can make air shafts under where I stand and it’s pretty incredible.

I would love to have a Switch if only for Zelda. I only got my one guardian freed, but my experiences up until that point solidified it as one of my games of the year.

Without getting too in-depth about that, because maybe you’ll hear from me again on the subject (MAYBE), I leave you all with this. As someone who doesn’t own a Switch… it’s worth it. It made me like games I didn’t before, gave me an opportunity to play cooperatively, and made me want to get up and move. And let’s not forget that Pokemon will be phased out of 3DS in the next generation, finding its new home on the Switch. Fire Emblem game coming soon? Access to more triple A titles and (N)indies galore.

Original Art by: Cuteosphere

If you can, buy a Switch. Take it from someone who doesn’t have one.

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp – This One’s Good.

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is one of many things to me. Animal Crossing has always been a healthy channel for my anxiety. Up until now, I’ve found that toting a 3DS everywhere is a bit unwieldy, and you get some looks when you’re not in a group of people who already know what the thing is. Phones are inconspicuous. People expect you to have games on your phone. And this is one that’s really worthwhile.

But this isn’t a post about how Animal Crossing helped my anxiety; it’s an opinion on just how right Nintendo got it.

Animal Crossing has always been about the small community you keep in your town. It’s been, for the most part, stationery. You’ve been tethered to a console, handheld or otherwise, and villagers have had a schedule. They sleep at a certain time dependent on their type, and they’ll interact with shops and other buildings in town. You’ve got a certain amount of time to catch certain types of fish and bugs. Stores have hours they’re open.

Pocket Camp has taken the Animal Crossing formula and condensed it. It gives you a small RV camper, expandable up to two rooms. It gives you a campsite to invite villagers to as you choose, and presents different areas potential villagers move in and out of every three hours. Instead of giving you an arbitrary friendship goal of “make friends with this villager and talk to them every day if you want them to stay in your town”, you do favors for them and up your friendship level.

There are some quirks with the system. Animal Crossing has never been a progression-based game. It’s laid-back, casual, and the only real obligation is paying off your initial home loan. However, for most people, there’s something about Animal Crossing that makes you want to keep playing. In part, it’s that casual atmosphere of living in a neat, quiet town and being able to fish all day. Another large component that Nintendo expanded on in New Leaf and Happy Home Designer is that you can style your home any way you want, given the furniture options of the game.

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp offers much of the same core components, though. For as long as I’ve been playing, people have been asking for more control over who’s in your town and where they live: your campsite is open on an invite-only basis. You can increase your friendship level with whichever villagers you want and ignore ones you’re only using for resources without fear of them moving away. Your camper is a niche decorative space, and your campsite is a bigger, open room.

The main floor and upstairs extension of my camper, respectively.

 Issues With Progression

Despite the fact that Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is, without a doubt, the best mobile game I’ve played, it has some issues. Especially as you get into higher levels, progression slows down dramatically and it gets harder to level up amenities, Pocket Camp’s equivalent of public works projects. All of these builds require resources and time. The simple resources like wood, steel, and cotton aren’t an issue. They’re much easier to come by than essence, which you need 20-30 of to build one amenity. You get a fair amount by completing the stretch goals listed in the game, but after that you get them in quantities of 1-3 from villagers occasionally, after you’ve befriended them to a certain level or when you level that friendship up. Sometimes they’re available as daily rewards, but as a quantity of one.

I’m not saying that anything really needs to be done about this, it’s not a huge issue. It’s more of an inconvenience than anything. However, it’s probably a good idea to balance it out before rolling out another essence type, as shown by a recent datamine.

Another issue is that despite being able to have whatever villagers you want in your campsite, it takes a while to get them all there. Each one needs a specific set of furniture to be built, and some of the build requirements for furniture are a bit absurd. Again, an inconvenience.

Hey, Tad?? I’m trying really hard to be good friends here just give me more of your essence.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is incredibly solid. It’s a nice holdout to fill that awkward wait between New Leaf and Animal Crossing for the Switch. On top of releasing the game and keeping true to the Animal Crossing spirit, Nintendo seems to be planning consistent updates with new villagers, new furniture, and new things to do in general. It’s sure to have a longer life for more players than other forays into mobile gaming for Nintendo, or so I hope.

Read More

Vinyl Highlights #4 – The Uncanny Valley

To close out this miniseries, we come to my most favored record: The Uncanny Valley. It’s not video game related at all (unless you consider the artist’s cameo in Hotline Miami) but I think it’s great nonetheless. It’s probably my favorite atmospheric album, if not my favorite album of all time. But after all, who would I be if I didn’t at least collect records that aren’t video game related? Maybe a more niche collector, but that’s not the point. The point is that this one’s my favorite. It’s also the only deluxe edition I own. How I obtained it is irrelevant.

Released on May 6, 2017, The Uncanny Valley marked a career high for synthwave artist Perturtbator. It stands at #14 on Rate Your Music’s chart of best electronic albums of 2016, and brought a spotlight to an otherwise unknown genre of music. With the rise of cyberpunk in pretty much everything, it paints a very distinct portrait of a central city: Neo-Tokyo. And so do many other pieces: Ghost in the Shell and Akira invent the setting. Shadowrun has a plethora of lore pertaining to Neo-Tokyo and it influences the stage they set their RPG in. Blade Runner shows that Neo-Tokyo is an influence across the globe. That’s just to name a few. The difference here is that Akira is a movie, it has images. Shadowrun has a deep, thick book of lore. The Uncanny Valley, despite the fact that its deluxe edition includes a graphic novel, does a fantastic job of illustrating the sounds and evils of cyberpunk.

An Album That Plays Like a Comic Book

There are very specific story beats that The Uncanny Valley tackles. It builds upon the story that was left behind in Dangerous Days: Satan, a computer, taking over the world by corrupting humans and androids. A hero comes in and saves the day, and the plot lays dormant until a cult tries to awaken Satan (the computer) three years later. The hero returns, and liberates Neo-Tokyo with the help of an android assassin. And there’s something in there about the android becoming human? It’s cheesy, but it works.

It’s incredibly over the top, it falls into tropes, and yet? For an album? Pretty enticing. For a comic book? Yes, it’s a trope because superheroes deal with the “saving evil then it comes back because of fanatics after they’ve retired” thing constantly. The Incredibles did it. And everyone is anticipating that sequel. So, why an album? Why’s it novel here?

It isn’t. I just appreciate good worldbuilding.

And I do appreciate the fact that, even if it’s a reach, there’s at least some legitimacy to the plot.

The 3 vinyl records in the deluxe edition. (via @post_engineering on Instagram)

Design, Art, and The Vinyl

This is where it starts to get cool. Aside from the accidental marbling in the Furi vinyl, this is the only one that I have that has a deliberate design choice involved by splattering pink and purple into a clear disc. It’s unique, different from disc to disc even in its own package. It did also come in a glow-in-the-dark red, which I may go out of my way to purchase at some point.

In other aspects of the design, it’s a lot more dark, invoking the satanic imagery that is synonymous to metal for almost all suburban moms. The art on the actual album cover, inside jackets, and graphic novel is all sketchy and unfinished, evoking uneasy feelings like the album’s titular effect. They’re all drawn by Ariel ZB, a New York City based artist. (Be warned, much of his work is NSFW, The Uncanny Valley included.)

The graphic novel helps to fill in some of the gaps left in the album’s inner jacket and connect loose events in the plot. And to further get down into the world, Perturbator released an expansion album also included in the deluxe edition. It contains more atmospheric tracks and one was featured as the theme for MTV’s 2016 European Music Awards.

Final Thoughts

Somehow I managed to say “yeah this albums is great, listen to it at least once” in more paragraphs than one. If you’re looking for music that will set the stage for a perfect, empty-highway night drive, listen to this album. If you need some background music for Shadowrun, use this album.

Now you may be thinking: was this whole series just a ruse to get to this one? Well, no, but I did think of it shortly after I started writing the post on Hotline Miami. Much like the numerous other electronic artists that have been featured in video games (Disasterpeace being another, in Hyper Light Drifter), Perturbator just does a good job at setting a stage that’s easy to visualize. The Uncanny Valley isn’t any different. Though new releases have more of a distinct, less synthwave sound, this one is still good. That and I’ll probably hail its last track as the best song to drive to at night. Full stop.

 

Cover image via @post_engineering on Instagram.

Read More

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune – The 10th Anniversary

Without question, one of Sony’s most popular, and bankable, video game franchises is Uncharted. Nathan Drake’s pulpy-blockbuster film styled adventures have wowed gamers with its simplistic, yet tightly refined, gameplay, impressive action sequences, and overall consistently great stories.

The four main games in the series have won a variety of awards including a few Game of the Year awards.

Now, the series has reached another milestone: it’s now officially an age where people can create retrospectives on it!

While an entire series retrospective would be great (and potentially something later on…) we’re taking a look at the first game as a curiosity. What made Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune so appealing? Or better yet, how did it become a franchise?

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune Screenshot

“Greatness from small beginnings…” Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune development

After Jak 3 wrapped up, Naughty Dog decided to create a brand new IP. The new series was a drastic overhaul in terms of art and design, as up to this point their games were cartoonish and stylized. This time around, Naughty Dog wanted to create real people. They also wanted to make an action game that was less videogame-like and far more cinematic. Amy Hennig, who served as the creative director and writer of the first three games, took cues from old-school adventure films from the 40s, as well as colorful summer blockbusters of today. Thus, the core concept behind Uncharted was born

How is Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune?

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune Box Front

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune tells the story of Nathan Drake, a supposed descendant of Sir Francis Drake, who is on the trail to find the lost city of El Dorado (cue recently-praised-for-some-reason-reference to The Road to El Dorado). Drake is accompanied by his grizzled, wisecracking mentor Victor “Sully” Sullivan and television host Elena Fisher. Along the way, some old enemies of Drake and Sully come back to take the gold… The adventure involves an ancient curse, old Nazi U-boats, and more than several gunfights.

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune PlayStation 4 Shoot the fuel barrels on the pirate boats to blow them up

From the moment you boot up the PS3, you’ll notice something that was missing from games circa 2007: color and personality. The opening cutscenes still hold up in terms of how well animated and acted they are. Nathan Drake is almost immediately likable as a rougish everyman when he and Elena encounter some pirates. From there, all the characters fit right in place with the game and all exhibit real chemistry with one another. Nate and Elena aren’t immediately love interests, but rather work together throughout and Elena even holds her own in the action.

Not to go off on a sort-of tangent, it’s nice to see a legitimately interesting female lead who is well-rounded and doesn’t seem like she’s just there. As the series progresses, Elena becomes one of the franchises most likable characters.

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune PlayStation 4 There goes our ride

Throughout the game, the story will keep you hooked. It feels like an old-school film serial, as plot points have the melodramatic “Okay, and now what?” motif. For example, Drake is searching through an old German submarine, fights off bizarre creatures and then finds the bad guys right there. Another point of the game has a huge fake-out that gets revealed 3/4ths in and then transitions into another plot point involving an underground city!

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune PlayStation 4 AK-47 is a good way to engage multiple enemy targets

At its core, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is a cover-based, third-person shooter. In terms of new features, for those familiar with Gears of War, the shooting will make you feel at home. But something about it feels smoothed out. Same goes for the platforming, as it is always fun to jump from ledge to ledge or swing across the ocean on some ancient temple.

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune PlayStation 4 Climbing the fortress

The game’s level design ranges from linear, but fun, platforming to wide-open gunfights that transition into one another with ease.

One thing that keeps Drake’s Fortune from being boring is the fact Naughty Dog changes things up. From one minute you’re in a jungle with ancient ruins, and then you’re in an old Nazi compound, and then you’re in an ancient church. Every environment is gorgeous to look at and just oozes with color. The jungles and water effects are two standouts in the graphics department. Naughty Dog tends to set their platformers in tropical, outdoor environments and this is no different.

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune PlayStation 4 Hints and points of interest are prompted with the upper button

In conclusion…

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, and the rest of the series as a whole, embodies Naughty Dog’s spirit of consistency. Many of their games have an underlying development theme of  “not doing anything new, but rather doing everything right.” In the same way, Indiana Jones was a celebration of adventure film serials and tropes, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune celebrates the same tropes but within action video games. The game does not do anything truly new or revolutionary, but rather sets out to entertain the player till the end.

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune PlayStation 3 Looks like Roman found what he was searching for

And in that regard, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune succeeds in nearly every category.

Uncharted as a franchise has stood on its own based on these merits, with each game just looking to be more entertaining than the last.

Vinyl Highlights #3 – Furi

In the third installment of this series, we go back to the vinyl that started off my collection. Furi was the first game’s soundtrack I bought on vinyl. This is a rare case in which the soundtrack is released at the same time as the game on vinyl. I bought it through Hitpoint via The Game Bakers, as they’d taken on the task of pressing it to disc instead of sending it out to iam8bit or Laced Records. While the game is a bullet-hell boss rush, it thankfully offers an easier difficulty mode for people like me, who are too stubborn to use anything but a Steam controller. But that’s enough about me.

The Furi vinyl, on two LP discs. It features selections of songs from the OST. (via Hitpoint)

Artists and Sound

Where The Game Bakers really knocked it out of the park was the sheer number of synthwave artists that they crammed into the soundtrack. You have classics like Danger and Carpenter Brut, who have found fame of their own outside of video games. Beside them, you have Scattle and Lorn, whose music might be hard to listen to outside of the game but fits perfectly when rushing a boss down. Tracks from Carpenter Brut in particular underscore many of the cutscenes in the game, and Danger fills the stage during the boss at the very end. By having so many different artists with different styles on one soundtrack, The Game Bakers gave each and every boss a personality that the player gets to know through their music.

Much like the Hotline Miami vinyl I showcased a couple weeks ago, this has that same synth sound. I’ve rehashed it a few times, but it really is something to hear music made with computers played from a medium which has been around since the 1880s, at its earliest. It’s something that really never gets old to me. One thing incredibly unique to this soundtrack specifically is that The Game Bakers put on a concert featuring the artists from the game in Paris shortly after the game launched. It’s a celebration of a new soundtrack that we’ve only seen Nintendo do with The Legend of Zelda, and it feels right to have other genres get that concert treatment.

Design

On the cover of the Furi vinyl we have a silver-embossed outline of the Rider. The cover freezes him in a kinetic pose, stepping into a swing of his sword from below. His hair and cape billow up behind him, further accenting the movement. Combined with the silver embossing, it gives off the effect of a spark coming off of a sword that’s used often in animation.

On the inside, there’s a display of the first monolith that the Rider enters, just before fighting the second boss. It illustrates the size of the prison that he’s been kept in for hundreds of years, and even then doesn’t give us the entire scope of how big it really is.

The discs are reminiscent of the color scheme of the game, much like the inside cover. The Furi vinyl comes pressed on two discs. It looks like you get two colorful discs, one in a cerulean blue and one in a magenta, but they look much more vibrant to the eye. This probably isn’t intentional, but my discs have a slight marble design to them, seen below. Unfortunately you can only really see it when light is shining through from behind it. Again, I’m not sure if this is intentional or not, but it’s a nice perk.

Final Thoughts

All in all, I’m glad that this was the vinyl to really kickstart my collection. I think it’s a great medium, no matter the reason. Maybe you’d like to give some generally cool-sounding music a warmer tone. Maybe you just like the album art. There’s plenty of reasons to collect vinyl. While my collection of specifically video game records is pretty small, I do have some more that I’m proud to share with you next week.

 

Cover image via The Game Bakers.

Read More

Dan’s Deck Tech — Budget Black/Red Aggro

My favorite part about Magic: The Gathering is absolutely how varied and interesting deck building is. With 25 years worth of cards and mechanics, pretty much anything is possible. As of late, I’ve been updating a few of my decks, and I decided that I want to share some of them. Today I’ll be talking about one of the first good decks I’ve ever used, a budget black/red (Rakdos) aggro deck that I affectionately call Super Weenie Hut Jr.

And when I say budget, I mean REALLY budget. It’s composed of nothing but commons and uncommons, but I’ve been able to make it see a good amount of success over the years. This is the most recently updated version of this deck.

The Decklist:

Creatures:

x4 Rakdos Cackler

x4 Tormented Soul

x4 Rakdos Shred Freak

x4 Spike Jester

x4 Minotaur Skullcleaver

x4 Mogis’s Marauder

Instants:

x4 Lightning Bolt

x4 Go For The Throat

Enchantments:

x4 Untamed Hunger

x4 Madcap Skills

Lands:

x4 Dragonskull Summit

x9 Swamp

x7 Mountain

Pretty straight forward strategy here. Play good value, low cost cards throughout the game and swing in with them as consistently as you can. Eventually use one of the menace-giving auras to make creatures harder to block and/or play Mogis’s Marauder and win the game. Let’s get into the meat of it, starting with the one-drops: Rakdos Cackler and Tormented Soul.

This deck wants to attack a lot, so these two offer some really good advantages. Rakdos Cackler is a super versatile card. Early game, you can Unleash and get a 2/2 on the board on turn 1, or later in the game, it’s still a solid card to play quite simply because it adds to your field of weenies and is mana efficient. The fact it loses its ability to block if unleashed doesn’t really bother this deck because it’s not going to do much blocking to begin with, plus if you ever have to be cautious, you can just not unleash it. That said if you’re playing defensively with this deck, you’ve probably already lost. The reasoning for Tormented Soul is the same. The fact that it can’t block is made up for by the fact that this deck doesn’t block much, and being an unblockable 1/1 that we can pump later with our auras is super good for how aggressive we’re trying to be here, especially since this card can help us get past threats that are simply too big for this deck to handle otherwise.

For our two-drops, we have Rakdos Shred Freak and Spike Jester.

Again, reasoning here is quite simple. Rakdos Shred Freak is a 2/1 with haste, and Spike Jester is a 3/1 with haste. Fast, easy damage. But let’s take a look at the board for a minute here. Let’s say turn 1 you play Rakdos Cackler and unleash it. That means if you play Spike Jester the following turn, you’re swinging for 5 damage on turn 2. Between the 1 and 2-drops in this deck, you pretty much never run out of ammo to throw at someone.

Finally, our 3-drop creatures: Minotaur Skullcleaver and Mogis’s Marauder.

These two are quite honestly some of my favorite cards ever printed. Minotaur Skullcleaver is a hyper-aggressive monster, coming onto the field as a 4/2 with haste. Skullcleaver is scary because it’s not only 4 damage raw the turn you play it, but the turn it’s played, it can deal with threats the deck otherwise couldn’t handle. Those threats being literally anything with 4+ toughness. He’s hard to block, super cheap and efficient. Mogis’s Marauder is this deck’s win condition for when you’re facing a deck that either doesn’t run red or black, or runs them but isn’t swarmy. That is, if you haven’t already won from repeatedly bashing your opponent’s face in. When Mogis’s Marauder comes into play, it gives X creatures haste and intimidate until end of turn where X is your devotion to black. Notice something about the cards in this deck? The only permanents that don’t count towards devotion to black are Minotaur Skullcleaver and Madcap Skills. Chances are when you play this, you’ve got enough devotion to black to pretty much give your whole side of the board intimidate, which you use to swing in and win the game. So long as your opponent isn’t running black. Generally speaking, if you’ve been playing well and drop Mogis’s Marauder on turn 4, you can probably win the game. If you’ve been playing well and drop him on turn 5, you definitely win the game.

Now as for instants, it’s quite simple. This deck is running two instants: Lightning Bolt and Go For The Throat.

So uh, what is there to explain? Lightning Bolt is an amazing card that can help keep your tempo going or just smack your opponent in the face for 3 damage. Go for the Throat is amazing removal for every threat that isn’t an artifact. Creatures in this deck don’t really go past 4 power, so if any really big threats show up, Go for the Throat can generally handle them.

As for enchantments, this is where the deck becomes really mean. Fun, but mean. We’re running 4 copies of both Madcap Skills and Untamed Hunger.

Menace has always been a really cool ability, in my opinion. It doesn’t make your creatures unblockable by any means, but it makes them incredible frustrating to deal with. being forced to double block is always something players dread, and when you’re being as aggressive as this deck, it makes it even more frustrating. Madcap Skills gives a creature +3/+0 and menace, and Untamed Hunger gives a creature +2/+1 and menace. By the time you end up playing these auras chances are you’ll have built up a solid board state of 3-4 creatures. Putting menace on any of them will make them terrifying, and force your opponent to deal with your offensive pressure in ways they probably didn’t want to. Generally speaking, Madcap Skills is preferred on cards like Rakdos Cackler and Minotaur Skullcleaver and Untamed Hunger is preferred on Spike Jester and Rakdos Shred Freak. But any combination of aura and creature work. Tormented Soul makes menace not important, but a 4/1 or 3/2 unblockable is still scary. Untamed Hunger also helps with Mogis’s Marauder by adding to your devotion to black. Menace also helps in conjunction with Mogis’s Marauder. If your opponent has a way to get through intimidate, you can still mess with their blockers by having a menace or two on the board.

Our mana base is quite simple, with 9 Swamps, 7 Mountains, and 4 Dragonskull Summits. Really basic setup because quite frankly, this is all you need. You could replace the check lands with better ones like, say, shock lands, but then this deck wouldn’t be as cost-effective.

For a super budget version, you could run only basic lands and still have the deck function well, cutting the price of the deck down to about $30 USD. Just replace the 4 Dragonskull Summits with 2 swamps and 2 mountains. Roughy 1/3 of your creatures are hybrid mana, so getting mana stuck generally isn’t an issue.

Total price of this deck is just under $40 USD, $30 USD for the super budget version, and for that price, you get a fun, aggressive deck with interesting abilities.

Why I Love Super Smash Brothers 64

Super Smash Brothers 64 holds a special place in my heart. I’ve been playing this game ever since I small child. My history with Smash begins when I went to a flea market with my dad. I was about 6 years old we randomly found a copy of Super Smash Brothers for the Nintendo 64. As soon as I got home I put the cartage in my Nintendo 64 and I played it for hours. All of my favorite Nintendo characters were in one game and they, at the time, looked incredible in 3D. I never thought I would see a game where Mario would fight Pikachu, it was mind blowing. This game also exposed me to characters that I had never even heard of before like Ness, Captain Falcon, Link, and Fox. This game knows that you might not know some of the characters so they give every character a summary so you can know their background. This made me appreciate Ness the most and he quickly became my favorite and most used character after I read his bio. These character bios give an extra amount of depth that even as child could appreciate.

Smash 64 character selection screen. ( via PlayBuzz)

I showed this game to my cousins and we would play for hours and hours doing crazy challenges. For example, every character has a different target test stage and you can play it multiple times to try and get a higher score each time or even do it as fast as you can. Me and friends would always do the different break the targets to see who could do it the fastest. Then whenever we would play in versus more we would turn items up on high which made every time we played different and chaotic. There were also so many stages to play on and they had some fun twist. The best part of the whole experience would definitely have to be unlocking new characters that you were not expecting. You could unlock characters like Ness, Jiggly puff, Luigi, and Captain Falcon. After you fulfil a certain requirement the character that you could unlock will challenge you and if you win you can use them. This would create an exciting moment for an unsuspecting player and it feels like an amazing accomplishment after you unlock the character.

When Super Smash Brothers is present at any sort of gathering, a multitude of people will begin to reminisce on how much they used to play the game and claim how they were the best. This usually calls on the competitive nature of other people who also claim to be the best and this leads to a huge battle to see who is the best in this game they have not played in years. These reasons blend together perfectly to give an amazing experience and leave a lasting impression. I think Super Smash Brothers is one of the best games of all time and if you ever get a chance I would definitely recommend you try it out this title for the 64 to see where the smash series originated from and hopefully you can see why it has lasted throughout the years.

Cover image via SSB Wiki

D&D 5E: Link, Hero of the Goddess

For as long as I’ve been playing games I’ve been playing the Legend of Zelda series. A Swords-n-Sorcery and Fairy Tale style of Action-Rpg developed by Nintendo.  Sounds pretty similar to my favorite recent pastime, Dungeons and Dragons. And that got me thinking about what class and background our beloved protagonist Link would be and well..

I got a bit carried away..

If you’d like to download an editable version of it for yourself click here.

Choices:

There were a lot of tough choices I had to make since there are many different ways Link has been interpreted throughout the years and many ways to interpret those Links mechanically.

Race:

I went in thinking Link is a Wood-Elf, obviously. But as I read more about the Hylian race I realized that they have many similarities to the High Elves of D&D. They also get the free cantrip and I chose True Strike and interpreted that as the “Z-targeting” mechanic of the 3d Zelda games.

Class:

Now this can be interpreted in many different ways. I wanted 5E Link to represent all of his interpretations, meaning I wanted him to be able to fight close range, long-range, and cast magicks.

At first I thought Eldritch Knight and I was working with that for a bit but I switched to Ranger because I thought it fit Link’s origins and skill set a bit better. Not to mention they get a few spells that increase their Bow ability.

It heavily depends on what Link you’re looking at. I could see:

  • Twilight Princess’s Blue Eyed Beast being a Champion, being seemingly the Link with the most martial prowess.
  • Windwaker’s Hero of the Winds being a Battle Master, with how much focus they put on his sword skill.
  • Or Skyward Sword’s Hero of Legend being a Paladin of Devotion, with how peious the his hometown seems to be.

And you can just say that all his magicks just come from the many Legendary items he has with him.

Background:

Outlander definitely. Almost every interpretation has him starting from very rustic beginnings usually in a forest.

You could argue acolyte for the Hero of Legend. Or perhaps Guild Artisan(Blacksmith) for the few times he’s the son of a blacksmith.

Alignment:

I could see Neutral or Chaotic Good fitting our young hero as he does seem to go behind the back of the Law to get the job done sometimes but most of the time he does seem to follow the law… mostly.

 

Treasures:

“Racing for Rupees” – Callegos

The most important part of The Legend of Zelda is Link’s arsenal. Each game in the franchise features an impressive array of items for Link to defeat monsters and solve puzzles. I made sure to take extra care with this section. This section is also useful if anyone ever wants to run a Hyrulian setting game.

Master Sword, The Blade of Evil’s Bane:

“The Master Sword”
  • Longsword, Legendary(requires Attunement)
  •  +3 to ATK and DMG
  •  When the wielder is at maximum hp the sword awakens, sending a wave of energy forward with each attack up to 30ft. The wielder makes regular attacks rolls and if it hits it deals 1d8+STR as radiant damage.
  • When attacking a being of evil alignment your attacks with this weapon and energy wave become more potent. You deal an additional 1d8 radiant damage per hit and ignore all resistances.

Hero’s Bow:

  • Shortbow, Legendary(requires attunement by a spellcaster)
  • +3 to ATK and DMG
  • As a bonus action the wielder can choose to expend spells slots to  enchant the next arrow fired with a fire, ice or light enchantment, dealing fire, cold and radiant damage respectively. The arrow deals 2d6 damage per spell slot.

Fairy Necklace:

  • Wonderous Item, Legendary(requires attunement)
  • This item holds up the three charges. The charges recharge when the wielder captures a fairy using the necklace.
  • When the wearer falls to zero hp this necklace expends a charge healing the wearer for 2d10+Con.
“The Hylian Shield”

Hylian Shield:

  • Shield, Legendary
  • +3 Bonus AC
  • As a reaction the wielder can choose to add this shield’s AC bonus to Dex saves.

Hookshot

  • Wondrous Item, Very Rare
  • The user can spend a bonus action to shoot a projectile 30 ft and almost instantly move to that location.

Magic Hammer:

  • Maul, Very Rare
  • +2 to ATK and DMG
  • This is considered a Siege weapon, dealing double damage to constructs.

Gale Boomerang:

  • Wondrous Item, Very Rare
  • The user can spend a bonus action and make a ranged weapon attack at a creature for one of two effects:
    • The target must make a constitution saving throw(DC: 16) or be stunned.
    • You throw the boomerang around the target and create a small tornado pulling the target 5 feet towards your location. The creature must make a Strength saving through or be pulled an additional 20ft towards you as the boomerang returns to you.

Pegasus Shoes:

  • Boots, Rare
  • The wearer can as a free action move double their movement in a straight line. If they collide into an object/creature the wearer is flung 5ft back and both the wearer and object take 1d6 bludgeoning damage.

Power Bracelets:

  • Wondrous Item, Rare
  • Your Strength is 19 while you wear these bracelets. They have no effect on you if your Strength is already 19 or higher.
“Bomb”

Bomb Bag:

  • Wondrous Item, Rare
  • A magical bag that allows the storing of a total of 20 bombs.
  • Allows the holder to ready and throw the bomb with a single action.

Bombs:

  • Equipment, Uncommon
  • You can spend an action to pull out and light the bomb.
  • The bomb will explode in 2 rounds from the point of ignition unless if collides into an object or creature. Then it will explode instantly.
  • Creatures within a 10 foot radius of the bomb will have to make a dexterity saving throw (DC: 14) or take 6d6 fire damage on a failed save and half as much on a successful one.
  • This is considered a Siege weapon, dealing double damage to constructs.

Spells:

I crafted a few(completely busted) custom spells to go along with Link:

“Din’s Pearl”

Din’s Fire:
2nd-level evocation

  • Casting Time: 1 Action
  • Range: 15 Foot Cube(self)
  • V,S,M(Din’s Pearl)
  • Duration: Instantaneous
  • Effect: Fire erupts from within you. Each creature in a 15-foot cube originating from you must make a Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, a creature takes 6d6 fire damage. On a successful save, the creature takes half as much damage. The fire ignites any flammable objects in the area that aren’t being worn or carried.
“Nayru’s Pearl”

Nayru’s Love:
3rd-level evocation

  • Casting Time: 1 Action
  • Range: Self
  • V,S,M,(Nayru’s Pearl)
  • Duration: Concentration, 1 minute
  • Effect: Energy representing Nayru’s love wraps all around yourself protecting you from harm. While the spell is in effect you take half damage from all sources.
“Farore’s Wind”

Farore’s Wind:
4th-level

  • Casting Time: 1 Action
  • Range: 10 ft
  • V,S,M,(Farore’s Wind)
  • Duration: 8 hours
  • Effect: When you cast this spell you leave a mark upon the ground. Using an action within the spells duration can have you immediately returned to that location.This point must be in the same plane of existance. If you enter another plane of existence the spell immediately ends.

 

Give me feedback either on this page or @TLCStageHazard.

If you’d like to see more of my homebrews click here.

 

Read More

Vinyl Highlights #2 – Undertale

Last week we revisited a classic, and this week we move into the realm of recent hits. Undertale is just barely two years old, and has made an impression on internet culture– for better or for worse. The game resurrected the Earthbound style of RPG and gave it a new twist. In its puzzles, it became self-aware. Characters referenced multiple playthroughs of the game. Where timelines diverged, they remembered. And in Undertale’s puzzles, we saw a lovable cast of characters. I mean Alphys and Undyne, of course.

Style, Sound, and Pressing

Undertale’s vinyl debut was pressed by iam8bit. Much like Laced Records, who pressed Hotline Miami’s soundtrack, iam8bit takes games with good soundtracks and gives them a permanent home on a tried and true format. The discs of the Undertale vinyl, two LP records, are translucent red and blue. It really hits a soft spot for me: if it glows or it’s translucent, I’m here for it.

undertale vinyl
The cover and records included in the Undertale vinyl. (via iam8bit)

The sound of Undertale reminds me of old chiptunes. Though, not really. It reminds me of newer, layered chiptunes that we now have the capacity to produce. Most of the songs included have a distinct MIDI sound, but fill an acoustic space like a MIDI never could. What we get instead is a rich, acoustically fitting accompaniment to a fantastic game. The cover features the sprites of nearly every character in the game, forming the heart that’s so central to the game’s themes. Again, we see a really great juxtaposition here: new-age music on a relatively old method of playing it.

On Revisiting Undertale

I don’t think I’ve had a moment to properly address how much Undertale shook me to my core when I first played it. The Undertale vinyl, when I opened it up, gave me an immense feeling of nostalgia for a game I hadn’t touched in a year. Not half an hour into the game, I was blindsided by the fight with Toriel. Accidentally, I’d killed her. I hadn’t saved, so I figured I’d close the game, play through it again, and just talk to her through the fight. Maybe it’d work, I didn’t know.

Well, little did I know that I was in for a shock. The game remembered, and when I went to talk to Toriel during the fight, the game really threw me for a loop. I clicked on the Mercy button like I had set my mind to, and the game spit this out in response:

You thought about telling Toriel that you saw her die.

But…

That’s creepy.

Yeah I’d Say That’s Creepy Alright

Needless to say, I felt like I’d stumbled on a game secret that would only be found in a published walkthrough. So, that was cool. Other than that moment, Undertale holds so many more that were pretty special to me at the time. They still are. The game has a lot of good lessons, quotable lines, and an overall warmth that I have yet to see in another game. It felt real, and the game did a great job of making it seem like I would’ve upset some delicate balance if I went on to play through its No Mercy run.

I never did, and to this day the save I have of Undertale remains at its pacifist ending. Sure, I couldn’t save everybody. But I made damn sure to try, because I was that important to the course of events. It didn’t feel right to be so heartless. And while Undertale has a strict sense of morality: kill or be killed, it did a better job of portraying it than other games that give more player agency. In a way I think it was maybe too aware of the fact, but then again… it was aware of everything.

Cover image via GameUp24.

Read More