Author - Ripper71

The Banner Saga 3 Review

The Banner Saga has always embraced a visual style similar to the cartoons of Ray Bakshi.  The scenery in the games are terrific and the characters are flushed out not just by their stories but how they look in the old Hobbit cartoons.  That is what pulled me in on the first game and had me coming back for more trying to improve my game especially once I heard the save file will be used for the next part of the saga.

That is something that The Banner Saga does that few other games do – if you manage to keep a character alive in the first game it will be playable in the next game, actually wherever you got your characters to in story and condition all gets played off of in the next game.  I had the pleasure of reviewing the first game but my finances were tight when the second one came along so I don’t have it.  The Banner Saga 3 is, at its heart, a turn based square movement strategy game where you have to figure out how to best use your team while at the same time improving the gear and rotating the team so that you get the maximum amount of character leveling.  Different characters have different skills even if they look alike though some classes seem to have one special skill that they share like “poison tipped” weapons.  The real key is in rotating your fighters so you can find which skills best match your play style to keep your group from becoming a bloody smear.

That does bring up an interesting point, the enemies may fall before you but don’t expect a severed head rolling around while a bloody neck stump spurts gore.  Everyone just looks like they take a nice comfortable nap.  There isn’t anything wrong with that unless you really love your gore, thinking about it traditionally strategy games are usually not very gore intensive if it shows any at all.  This makes this game family friendly though, with the toughness of the game’s AI you want to watch that all of your party don’t go down for group nap time like in kindergarten.

There are multiple choice questions you have to answer that will greatly effect the narrative – in some cases even more than the results of your last fight.  The best fighters tend to be led by a strategist otherwise the battles are chaos.  Though if you have a lesser strength for strategy and most just care about the fights you can still have a storyline and different endings depending on how you do, for when they are multiple choice there is still a chance to follow the best path by educated guesses.

One of my biggest concerns, and it has seemed to be a common thread lately, is not having player save points.  When it comes to strategy games in particular where you have to choose questions and the ending can be effected by who is still around it would be nice to have multiple saves including ones right before battles in case they go bad.  It would suck to get near the end and have your save point be right after the fit hit the shan. This does lead into the next subject pretty well though: replayability.  With different storylines dependent on not just how you do in The Banner Saga 3 but how good you did with the save files for previous games, all three of the titles have high replay probability.  That doesn’t mean players have to but if they are truly committed to this series and want to get the most of it and not just the final chapter of the saga there will no doubt be lots of replay.

The Banner Saga 3 is a great end chapter to a great trilogy that was designed from the first installment to be one cohesive game experience.  They have done an excellent job with that, especially for the dedicated players who maximized their results all the way through though if you are like me and missed a chapter you can watch the recap at the beginning of Banner Saga 3 and still have a terrific gaming experience.  Also if you are unsure about the battle system there is some training you can do to better understand it.

Nier: Automata Become As Gods Edition Review

Nier: Automata Become As Gods Edition is one of those few games where I want to start a review saying you should get it.  Normally we wind through the review and somewhere near the end I will give you my verdict.  I will here too, don’t worry in case you were on the fence but, if you are into JRPGs and haven’t heard about this game, I think you should get it. Nier: Automata has a kinda crazy, beautiful story about Man being driven to the moon by his mechanical creations when they become sentient and take over the world in 119445 A.D.  Humanity sends down a small squad of sword-wielding warriors who are soon whittled down to two units, 2B and 9S.  This may seem like a spoiler but all this happens in the opening prelude to the game.

In no time you find yourself playing 3rd person behind 2B passing through a gorgeous but heavily industrial landscape fighting through a wide variety of robots.  The robotic playground that the Earth has become shows great strives forward in areas where machines might build other machines such in robot assembly rooms and mechanized arms. However, areas where humans would need to tread such as ladders and stairs have fallen to great neglect to the point of being broken away and impassible.  This is where the otherwise almost open world feel of the game (you can do a considerable job of backtracking if you think you have missed something) does show that it has a path that requires following but there are side paths and side missions that can be completely skipped and still get the player to the end.  These side paths often add side enemies too but that is kinda the point of the game for the most part.

Techically 2B and 9S are robots too but they show traits of emotions; pride, embarrassment, concern beyond just mission parameters. It reminds me a lot of “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep” (the main basis of the movie Blade Runner) and “There Will Come Soft Rains”.  Without giving anything away it brings up the question how close do androids need to get to their human counterparts before they might be considered alive – even to have a soul.  It is a deep question but one that the game offers up to you if you choose to think beyond hack and slash (not that there is anything wrong with that kind of play).  A lot of games that promise you multiple endings and make playing through again almost feel like a chore.  Nier: Automata Become As Gods Edition is one of those games where you are tempted to playthrough again anyway, new endings are just the bonus.

Whenever a game has side choices and missions the length of the game is harder to nail down.  If a player just likes to play fast and furious then they might complete the game in a few hours.  If a player instead likes to take their time, take in the visuals of the game and do side missions as they can be dug out of the scenery then the play is a lot longer.  Gameplay starts off top down fighter style, goes to 3rd person, goes side scrolling and even goes top down dungeon style so that the game makes sure you won’t get bored with your view anytime soon.  This is one of the first things I noticed and it is done so smoothly it is easy to not take much note of, it doesn’t feel like it is being done for the sake of doing it but rather doing it because that fits the message at the moment.  It doesn’t force a point of view on a section, nor does a section feel like it has been made solely to use a point of view.  It all just flows with the narrative.

The fighting style is almost as varied as the view style, you technically have a sword and a robotic floating sidekick who shoots guns but you can create combos with the sword which causes it to send your sword flying out boomerang style before 9S even comes into play.  You can also set the fighting for auto fire on your little floating buddy and the blocking and combos set up to auto too.  When you setup the play at the beginning of the game, or if at anytime you decide the game is too easy or too hard you can adjust the level of difficulty starting off with easy where pretty much all the more difficulty of the fight is taken out so you can concentrate on the storyline to the hardest setting where everything is manual, save is near impossible and if you get hit once you’re dead.  Luckily there are a few choices of difficulty between these two to choose from, most of which I think fit the average player. As you play you can customize your style by using different chips to change your narrative.  Mixing and matching playstyles as well as weapons result in some very different experiences and maybe some achievements as well.

The music score is really beautiful and flows nicely with the scenery.  The voice acting is topnotch and helps pull you into the moment rather than out of it.  There is only one thing with annoyed me a bit but is purposely part of the difficulty of the game: there are no player saves.  There are places you can find where the game with save your progress but if you don’t find them you don’t come back to them and that can sting in the pants if you have fought your way up to a boss without seeing one and that boss lays you flat.  Game over man, game over.

The Become As Gods Edition of Nier: Automata has a little extra content, some costumes and, more importantly, some more missions.  The big sell to a lot of folks though will be the fact that it is 4K and HDR.  The game was pretty before but this drove it over the edge to gorgeous environments.  Part of me thinks part of the “Become As Gods” is the amazing clarity of the game now.  The changes for each run-though are fairly far in so don’t think that maybe you aren’t on a different path because it all looks the same, in the end, or near it, you will see things a new way.

Nier: Automata Become As Gods Edition is a pleasure to play and a feast for the eyes.  The game is as deep as you are willing to dig for it and if you just want a really hard video game it is more than willing to offer that, if you care about story you will play it again and again, probably not on hardest because a one hit kill with no player saves sounds nasty at nicest, it would make getting to the end more than once seem a bit crazy.  No matter your playstyle, the difficulty you choose or the build you use Nier: Automata Become As Gods Edition is a must have for the JRPG player.

Warhammer: Vermintide 2 Review

When Warhammer: Vermintide came along I could not get enough of it.  It was challenging and the fun in all the right ways for a game that is essentially designed for multiplayer survival.  If you kept running too far ahead or too far behind your group you died, because those were the ambush positions the enemy would hit you at.  As long as someone is alive and able to get to another then you kept going, raising your fallen comrades and sharing potions of health.  The graphics were really nice and people learned that if they griefed their groups they would find themselves in a party of one with lots of rat faces around them, it seemed like one of the few games where they figured out how to balance attitudes with consequences.  With beautiful graphics and a gameplay balance the question is how would Warhammer: Vermintide 2 improve on that?

In the prologue you and your colleagues, each of whom has their own set of skills to bring to the party, escape from the enemy’s dungeon where you overhear their plan for domination and the things that aren’t quite going as they would like which suits you and your brotherhood just fine.  After escaping you get a reward consisting of a chest full of starter gear so you can leave some of the painfully low adornments behind.  You find out afterwards that things aren’t going too great for your side either, you are all hidden in a mountain side fortress where all exits except bridge (portal system) are blocked so that you won’t get overrun by dirty rats.  This really brings home the fact that it is you and your party against the Vermin who often attack in waves like a tide, completely living up to the game’s name.

There are five hero classes to choose from and each one suits a player’s style.  Markus Kruber is a tough fella, starting off first as a Mercenary, then a Huntsman, followed by a Foot Soldier.  He tends to be the guardian of the group.  Bardin Goreksson is a Ranger Veteran who becomes an Iron Breaker and a Slayer.  He helps break the attacks and keeps himself alive when everyone else drops in an attempt to still save the group.  Kerillian is a Waystalker who becomes a Handmaiden then a Shade.  She is a mix of unstoppable healing and distance damage, the farther back the better for her but she can move up for a revive.  Victor Saltzpyre is a Witch Hunter Captain then a Bounty Hunter and a Zealot.  He’s the gunslinger of the group, all about the damage and destroying.  Sierra Fugonasus is the fiery member of the group who deals fire damage both close and afar.  She definitely heats things up.  Each member has a very distinct play style and it’s important to try each out to see which one suits you most but also think of how which one will best suit how  you help the group.  It will also take quite a bit of patient grinding to get to higher levels, especially if your party keeps dying.

There are repeat maps from the previous game but the developers came out with some new ones as well, so if you start playing and it looks a little too familiar don’t worry there will be new content coming it.  Not that you will probably mind the old maps, they looks stunning from the crumbling ruins to the hordes of rats.  The gore factor is also high and beautiful, if you find a rodent losing it’s head and blood spurting out the stump or one sliced clean in half and falling in two different directions as possibly being things of beauty.  They definitely can be even if it is a bit morbid.  You are a rat hunter and killer afterall and they number hundreds to each one of you.  Beautiful, ugly ass rats!

The sounds are great and ample too, plenty of fine music scores to go with the nasty business of extermination on both sides.  The difficulty is a good deal like the first game, pretty hard AI that come in droves.  It punishes the players even when they are working as a group well together and it annihilates the glory seeker as they find themselves on their knees waiting to see if someone can reach and raise them, if not they might drop the whole group defeated.  And if you really want a challenge it has multiple levels of difficulty as well.  Some might say the game is too hard even on the easier settings, it is definitely designed to be a challenge no matter what.

The next thing to consider, what setup to use to play the game, is an unusually hard call to make.  Normally the keyboard or the controller have a very obvious advantage over the other one but it really didn’t feel like it did this time.  It really comes down to which way you prefer to play FPS in, nothing more.  The keyboard is setup like a traditional first person system you would expect intuitively, you may  want to just double check them on the control section but otherwise it is jump in and play.   Doing the prologue gives you not just your first treasure chest it also lets you go through the control settings, whichever one you decide on.  If you are always playing FPS on the controller it is all setup for that too, just do a quick check of the setup but you will find that matches most of the FPS you would find on a console.

Warhammer: Vermintide 2 is great fun and just about the perfect concept for an online FPS, the safety of the group always comes first, if a player forgets that the whole group suffers, maybe even gets defeated.  It is a beautiful, hard game that is fur flying fun no matter which hero you choose to lead into the fray.

Where We Live: A Benefit for the Survivors in Las Vegas Review

My wife and I were in bed, I was reading a book on my phone and she was on Facebook and Twitter, catching up on the day’s news while we wound down.  It was October 1st and we are Halloween enthusiasts that generally had us traveling since September so a quiet night at home was welcome until she let out a quiet stream of expletives and simply said “they are shooting at that concert outside the Mandalay Bay.”  Without another word we went and sat at our respective computers and started going through media sources trying to weed out the bad information and get people out of there as safe as possible, we were good at it.  I talked a guy out of grabbing his gun and heading back to the concert to try and get the shooters, my wife passed word on to media as to where to send triage patients, where to donate blood, where to meet up with loved ones outside the event.  We weren’t there physically but mentally we were trying to help in any ways we could, trying to help both friends and strangers to get to safe places, locking themselves in hotel rooms if that was where they were and stay away from windows no matter how exciting it seemed to the morbidly curious.  We did all this until the sun was up and our bodies were racked with mental and physical exhaustion, we had spent the night trying to help while not getting in the way and things had finally gotten to the point we couldn’t do much more so we slept a deep sleep and had first nightmares about the events.

Move ahead until the next year when it was time for the Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con and we were covering it for getting all the pics of costumes and fun that a good con can bring.  On a few tables I noticed a book that looked like a really thick graphic novel that had a logo playing off the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign that almost always got play on special edition covers in town.  When I got closer though I realized it wasn’t a super hero book, at least not in the sense I had thought at first.  It shows a suburban looking two story house with the strip in the background and the header “Where We Live: A Benefit for the Survivors in Las Vegas.”  My first thought was good, someone has written a graphic novel about the night so those who weren’t there would have more understanding but man was it heavy.  When I mentioned this the seller looked at me and told me over 150, yes one hundred and fifty, writers and artists from street portrait vendors to Neil Gaiman had provided their skills and more importantly their feelings into the over 325 page book.  The cost is $20, very reasonable with 100% of the proceeds going to the Route91Strong.Org charity.  I bought two.

Then there was a panel on Sunday and about 25 of the writers and artists from the book told their stories of what had happened to them and why they had contributed to the book.  It was mostly hosted by J.H. Williams III and his wife Wendy who had worked together on curating the book.  J.H. is a really nice guy, last year I brought a comic to him to be signed and we realized he had already signed it so he wrote on the cover “Yes, I really signed it there! (arrow points to his signature), J.H. Williams III.  We had laughed long and heartedly at the joke but now it was a panel of mostly people who had been there or had someone who was injured or killed at the event.  J.H. is very well known for some art in a Sandman series he had done with Neil Gaiman which I figured was how he reached out and got Neil to send a poem.  The book is full of poems though and comics and essays and generally only a few pages each since there are just so many stories it tells.

I am comfortable saying I cried while reading this, I did so without being self conscious at the time because the emotions in the book are still raw, for some time hasn’t past beyond that night, particularly for the dead and the grieving.  Some tell of their violent childhoods, others of political issues, and still others just try to give a voice to the dead trying to guess their last thoughts and the heroic actions of others.  I won’t go into any real detail of the content here, just that pretty much every section is a collaboration between artists, writers, letters and anything else that had to happen to flesh out the feelings.

All I want to say is Where We Live: A Benefit For The Survivors In Las Vegas is a must-own regardless of whether you were there or knew someone who was.  It is packed full of importance and helps not just the readers but the survivors of the whole ordeal.  You can get the book cheaper at places like Amazon but this is one of the few times I will say please don’t save a couple bucks because that is a few less dollars going to Route91Strong.Org charity.

Cherry MX 6.0 Mechanical Keyboard Review

My last gaming keyboard died after five valiant years of service.  As I mourned the loss, our Editor-in-Chief looked around his office to ship me something he knew I would like: A new keyboard!  Sure enough the Cherry MX 6.0 mechanical gaming keyboard arrived in the mail in a black and red box with the words Cherry on the side.  I went to pick it up, almost fumbled with the unsuspecting heavy weight in my hand and pulled the keyboard out while simultaneously shoving a temporary, no-name keyboard that was keeping my desk warm off to the side to give the Cherry MX 6.0 a place to land.

My first impression of the Cherry MX 6.0 keyboard is that it is hefty! It actually weighs 4.8 pounds (the average mechanical keyboard on the market is closer to 3.3) and feels really solid on your desktop.  The top of the Cherry MX 6.0 keyboard is one large piece of sanded aluminum, with punches for the keys and metal stamped around the directional keys.  The back isn’t snapped on but instead a thick plastic with multiple screws attaching it to the top section.  This all shows the commitment to quality and design that the name “Cherry” is known for in the keyboard field (they started in 1973, believed to be one of the first keyboard companies).  The legs on the underside to tilt up the keyboard are really strong feeling and snap into place with a satisfying click.  However, the hefty keyboard weight and size means you probably won’t want to use this keyboard for travel or on your lap – this is meant for your desktop.

The next thing that Cherry is known for is their mechanical key switches and they are, of course, found in the Cherry MX 6.0 keyboard.  These Cherry MX Red keys are built for speedy actuation and clicky response.  The Cherry MX 6.0 keyboard features a Windows key lockout, which I love, that disables the Windows key in case you are prone to hit it by mistake while gaming.  That can mess you up so bad and is one of the most understated, yet important features of many modern day gaming keyboards.  Cherry also added a visual cue on the keyboard if the Windows button is disabled or not. If it is active it lights up blue, but if it is disabled the button becomes the same color red as all the other keys.

Which brings us to the the Cherry MX 6.0 back lighting.  The no-name, cheap keyboard I was using didn’t have an actual name but it did change back lighting colors.  These days, most gaming keyboards go the extra mile and have full RGB lighting, which enables the keyboard lighting to be especially eye-catching and vibrant. Save for a couple of status keys which turn blue, you are looking at only having red back lighting on your keys. While the lighting is decent and does the job of allowing keys to be seen in dark conditions, it just isn’t very stylish.

The Cherry MX 6.0 mechanical keyboard also comes with large wrist rest made from a rubberized material.  Being made from this rubberized material, it is fairly easy to clean and fairly comfortably.  The best part about the wrist rest is that it attaches and detaches from the Cherry MX 6.0 keyboard by way of magnets! This means that you won’t have to deal with cheap plastic clips like on some less expensive gaming keyboards.

At around $200 dollars depending on your reseller, the price might be a little higher than most mechanical keyboards. Those who know keyboards well will respect the Cherry brand and its assured 50 million key stroke durability and quality. However, this cost may be too high for some gamers – especially when the Cherry MX 6.0 does not feature the flashy RGB lighting that other keyboards do in this price range. The Cherry MX 6.0 keyboard is available now.

The Crew 2 Review

When I was a kid we took a road trip from southern California to the “Frontier Days” event in Cheyenne, Wyoming and we went up through the northern California/Oregon and a very round about drive through the Western states.  It was a long, sleep deprived trip as full of sights and smells as any of the Vacation movies (we all related to the stinky sock smell).  We even brought a camper shell along for the drive too so that we didn’t have to use hotels rooms along the way.  It was a horror show that there is no way Chevy Chase would have ever survived.  I’m pretty sure the experience drove a wedge between us instead of binding like glue.  I’m pretty sure I remember us giving up on the way back through Arizona, we parked the van at a family member’s house and flew the rest of the way home, the word “divorce” popping out of a mouth or two.  My parents didn’t divorce and though I almost always think about those locations with a touch of anxiety I enjoy games with landmarks on an almost therapeutic level.  With this background, I started my trip into Ubisoft’s new The Crew 2.

There are a few things that are understandably missing from The Crew 2’s map of the Unites States. We don’t want to see every one stoplight town or half empty strip mall victim of economic conditions, everything we see is pretty idealized and not covered in an eternal grime that only our country’s landmarks can really convey.  That’s nice because we don’t play games like this with multiple national treasures in order to know what life is really like there, we play them for an idealized background to show something pretty while we play.  So Mount Rushmore looks like the weather is beautiful, The Golden Gate Bridge isn’t too socked in with fog to see and if you find yourself running a “King Of The Hill” outside of Las Vegas on a track you will see sagebrush and cacti.  Watching a KoTH outside of Vegas though the track was covered in snow which surprised me, though that happens every few years.  It doesn’t make sense for a game to check the weather in a location and supply that in a game but dang wouldn’t that be awesome? I want to see a developer do that now!

But I digress, the important thing is that they knew people would want to race in Vegas and play with vehicles there too.  The thought of getting anywhere with a stock race car in the desert or over landmarks doesn’t seem very likely so this is a good spot to go over the different types and sub types of vehicles.  The types and sub types are Street (street racing, drifting, drag racing, long-distance hypercar racing), Off-road (cross-country rally raid, motocross, loose-surface rally cross), Freestyle (plane aerobatics, jet sprint boating, monster trucking), and Pro (power boating, air racing, touring cars, and grand prix).  Now that is A LOT of types of vehicles, if only one or two of each type were provided the average player would be happy but there are lots of unlocks and between racing and open world playing you really get to run them through the ringer.  In race mode you get to see them as close to reality as possible with maybe a little looseness to the physics here and there.  In race mode this can be seen as one of two things depending on the player, they either see it as a device to allow for more fun play or a weakness in the gameplay.  I keep going back and forth on it since I really like these kind of games but my reflexes aren’t quite what they used to be and if an AI is too hard for me on the first couple tries there is a good chance it will stay that hard, though you will be hard pressed to see me give up.

There are different ways to control one of your vehicles, each one tailored to the designs and desires.  With this in mind I was able to pick up the controls for car racing on the keyboard really fast since it followed most car racing formats.  The same could be said for the style of racing for the boats, it felt like Hydro Thunder all over again and I was more than happy to get behind the wheel of those water skimming demons.  Then comes airplane racing and my first issues with keyboard controls.  I never could master them with a keyboard and I really think this might have been the first sign that this game really is made for a controller even on the PC.  You can do great aereal maneuvers and just as great ground ones no matter what the discipline with your controller so there really didn’t seem much point of using the keyboard unless you want a different challenge.

Speaking of challenges the game does a great job of not just giving you tracks to race on and the open road isn’t just for having fun taking in the city builds it also provides challenges and achievements all over the locations so as to keep you playing in an area even when you feel you have run as good of a race on the local track as you can muster.  Just doing all these things at a beginning level will provide you with easily over 20 hours of playing and that isn’t even giving the full unlocks a shot.  There can be a bit of a grind to get to some unlocks, though the better you get at the vehicles and tracks the easier the grind will be.  Also just driving around areas you stumble upon side quests which give you extra followers and money.

Yes, we did say followers, because the game approaches the underground racing scene as coming above ground as the players try to help legitimize the different racing disciplines across the country.  The idea is the more social media followers you have the better you are known and eventually it won’t be underground anymore.  There are people who are out to fight this, feeling they are able to be underground kings of the sport as long as it never goes into the limelight.  Then there is always money that helps you level by gaining new achievements and winning races so that more people know about you.  There are a lot of unlocks to be had, even more with the Gold Edition.

I felt kind of lucky one of those places is where I live in Las Vegas so I could cruise around stumbling on achievements while seeing how they changed the names of hotels and resorts so that people would still know what it was even though the name wasn’t quite right.  Mandalay Bay is Borneo Cove, Luxor becomes Ramses and so on.  The game even seem to have the same bad driving taxis (I kid, I kid).  I found myself sucked in to just taking in all the beautiful work of the game then suddenly I see another player go flying by on a motorcycle and I am reminded that this is an online game and while I futz around they are setting new stakes to live up to.  I still like driving around though, I kept forgetting what I was doing when I was heading west to see if they put in the World’s Largest  Thermometer because, well, I get a kick out of it.

The game is definitely worth buying if you like any racing games at all since it gives you pretty much any kind you could want.  The biggest question might be whether or now to get the Gold Edition.  Here’s the extras:

Now to me it is definitely worth it with the Gold pack giving you a variety of vehicles across the disciplines but most of all being that it comes with the Season Pass, between that and community maps and challenges this game will constantly be bringing Gold Edition players something new all the time.

You don’t have to be a hardcore racing fan to like The Crew 2 Gold edition, you really don’t even have to like some of the types of racing to do good in the game and progress.  There should be continuous updates and additions both through developers in the Season Pass and through the community which seems very active and excited about the game.  If you can’t win regularly you can still do side missions and stunts to help work your way up and there are some matches that just require you to finish making this game great for the full spectrum of player.

Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con 2018 Wrap-Up

It isn’t a surprise when a comic convention comes along with a boasting name that it has to live up to.  “Greatest”, “American”, “World”, “Phenomenal” and, of course, “Amazing” are just a few of the adjectives used to describe them and, when they are starting out it sometimes just seems like wishful thinking.  Then there is the Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con, one that has had every right to boast over the years for the talent and exhibitors it pulls in.

I had recently transplanted myself to the Las Vegas valley when I first heard about Amazing Con during its inaugural year.  I knew better than to be impressed by a convention’s name and to turn a skeptical eye towards the list of expected celebrities because everyone of us has had something come along and at the last minute we go “nah I would rather stay home.”  In the case of Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con though that hardly ever happens, maybe one or two people but usually not the top draws.  It may have something to do with the chance to hang out in Las Vegas with a free room for a weekend, maybe it is because when it comes to people who do the convention circuit there is a certain fraternity getting to see one another again.  It’s not very often that you see people arrive at the bigger conventions here without heading over to another booth to give someone a hug.  The time I saw Stan Lee come over and give Todd McFarland a big hug and smile will be something I remember forever.

Those are the kind of moments you might see at the Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con because the convention really is amazing and not only does it draw massive numbers of fans it brings together the industry and I wouldn’t be shocked if many collaborations started at its tables.  The headlining anchor has been year after year Rob Liefeld who brings a level of excited energy that you hardly see in any other human let alone a comic book legend.  He has done so much, starting with comics and pushing properties towards films and television that most people would have burned out long ago but he is still a fanboy when he meets other stars and if you ask him a question it never feels like he is brushing you off. You have his attention and he really wants you to leave the conversation happy.  It may sound like I am gushing a bit about the guy, maybe I am, but few people shine so bright that you find yourself glowing a bit for being around them.

The celebrities are always well rounded, especially when you consider the convention has “comic” in its name.  Movie stars, TV heroes and voice over artists all find a place at the Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con.  Charlie Cox, Daredevil in the show by the same name, was the television anchor while Jason David Frank, the Green Power Ranger and all around cool guy plus adrenaline junkie (ask him some time), is another anchor in the sense that he is good about showing up and supporting cons he commits to doing in a big way.  A couple of relative new comers to the Vegas conventions scene were Brianna Hildebrand (Negasonic Teenage Warhead) and Lewis Tan (Shatterstar) of Deadpool fame.  They brought on their fresh look at being movie stars and how that has change things for them at conventions and life in general.

As for comics the convention could have gotten away with calling itself the Amazing Las Vegas Comic Legends Con with the line-up, many of which come back year after year.  Rob Liefeld, Jason Aaron, Tyler Kirkham, and Jim Starlin just to name a few.  Attendance showed that the names were appreciated too since the convention was packed starting Friday and had people still looking around right up until close on Sunday.

It is also nice to say that the non-profits got places at the convention too showing just how much the Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con is part of the community.  The United Blood Services had a table and a mobile blood lab, the Critical Care Comics of Las Vegas was there collecting funds to visit children’s critical care wards and deliver comics while in super hero costumes and the Very Awesome Girls were there having a silly game of Family Feud with heroes versus villains while collecting money for charity the whole weekend.

The biggest show of support was in the form of Where We Live, a graphic novel that was on sale throughout the con that donated 100% of it’s proceeds to one of the October 1st shooting charities.  They even had a panel on Sunday where 16 of the over 100 contributors came to tell their experiences and why they chose to contribute to this book which shows the terror and community that the mass shooting brought to our home.

Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con is one of the best comic convention to hit the Vegas Valley every year and one of the top couple to hit the state every year.  While still sore from this one we are already looking forward to next year’s.

2018 Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con Photo Gallery

Wreckfest Review

Wreckfest, a demolition derby game from THQ Nordic and Bugbear, hails from an originally failed crowdfunding a few years ago. Back then, it was labeled with the very peculiar name of “Bugbear’s Next Car Game”.  It that odd moniker for years before finally getting the slightly more descriptive name of Wreckfest. Wreckfest was developed by the makers of Flat Out 1 & 2 as well as the Ridge Racer games, so they know what they’re doing.

Of course, with the name Wreckfest and focus of demotion derbies, the main focus of the game is all about winning races and smashing your opponents out of commission.  When playing the game’s Career or Multiplayer modes, you are expected not just to race well but to try and hit and spin out your opponents.  Depending on the exact game type, there are some cases where the racing seems to take a lead in terms of importance and other times when the destruction and mayhem are the main goals. Game tracks such as the traditional, mud-filled arenas are just designed to have cars smash into one another for a certain amount of time and see who is left standing.  This is the kind of wrecking I grew up with when going to monster truck shows, tractor pulls, and demolition derbies.

However, Wreckfest seems to suffer a slight identity crisis in regards to the smashing aspect. You are expected to place well – even win so you can get points to level and unlock cars. However, the smashing into other vehicles part tends to slow you down and cost you position. So, unless the wolf pack is still fairly tight and you have the leader cars close enough to hit, then you really want to concentrate less on the smashing and more on the racing and doing your best with the road conditions.  Obviously, there is no question about the goal of the game in those previously-mentioned mud arenas where you smash cars or tractors into each other – that’s when Wreckfest truly shines.

Career mode consists of 5 sections starting with the Regional Juniors and ending in the World Masters.  While driving through your career, you earn points which let you unlock the next career phase, vehicles, car upgrades, etc.  In an ever-growing attempt to make the players happy they have recently added a bunch of Ford skins to their lineup of other official skins so that you aren’t playing cars with a knockoff look.  You can change the paint job on your vehicle too to try and have a bit more of your own personal feel.  This is nice though I have already fallen in love with the car that has “THE RIPPER” painted up the side of it for obvious reasons.  I wonder if I can get that paint job on a lawn mower. Speaking of lawn mowers, that is one of the amazing parts of Wreckfest. Charging at the enemy in your own mower while simultaneously trying to hit others and avoid being hit.  They are such small targets (as are you), it is like a lawn mower dogfight.  This is one of the must fun parts of the game and I highly recommend you play it when able.

While the single player career mode is a blast, Multiplayer is also fun.  You can start your own map with your own rules or just check the already established maps for one that fits what you want to do.  Some are just demolition derby arenas, others are just racing. Some are restrictive on rules while others have none.  The real fun is the number of players you can have at one time.  It wasn’t that long ago when we were excited to have 8 vs. 8 teams running around but these online ones can be up to 24 players! Some servers might be set to less, a few were set at 15 players probably to keep lag under control.  If you have a good rig and you are getting good latency then the real fun is in the bigger races where there are that many more players you are racing against.  Some allow for “special cars” which I won’t spoil for you because it’s more fun to discover them and try to get them yourself.

The keyboard control system for Wreckfest is kind of odd, it is done through the up, down, left, and right arrow keys with additional controls at A and Z just to make things kinda weird.  I got used to the controls but it took a while. I did soem matches in Career mode then didn’t save my progress so I could have a fresh start to the mode without the false start of the learning curve.  The game also has built in Xbox 360 controller compatibility and the controls are far more intuitive this way – it is the method I recommend when playing Wreckfest.

Wreckfest’s graphics are really nice – you recognize the vehicles and when they take damage and start to shed parts in a very realistic way.  Besides that, there is great attention to detail paid to the various tracks and arenas you cruise around on. The game’s audio is great with lots of crunching noises to go around. Also, Wreckfest has a ton of replayability when it comes to taking on your friends, the online community with their leader boards, or just playing through career mode in a different way.

Wreckfest may have been a bit slow making it on to the scene, which probably worried a lot of players, but now that it is done the game is pretty polished and a lot of fun to play.  There are still regular hot fixes to get the bugs out that usually don’t get noticed until the game is launched with a large population but that’s par for the course. IN short: Buy Wreckfest – it’s fun!

Lust for Darkness Review

I have been looking forward to Lust For Darkness for a bit with its trailer presenting an adult-themed puzzle game.  I have been playing puzzle games for a really long time, including such famous older ones like Myst from 1993 with its breathtaking graphics. In recent years there has been a surge in video games with adult or explicit themes. Games like Grand Theft Auto V and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt have very mature storylines.  Movie Games new Lust for Darkness is a puzzle game aimed at a mature audience, bringing us a dark, sexual world that feels like a combination between Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut and Sam Mendes’ American Beauty, but in a sort of Lovecraftian setting.  When you consider how wide of a berth those three descriptions are you get an idea of where Lust for Darkness treads.

Lust for Darkness starts out with a woman in a sealed room with a note waiting for her telling her someone has spirited her away and locked her in, but it only takes looking at the other item on the desk to get a key and leave the room.  You are in a basement, first person point of view, and everything is lit by little tea candles on the floor.  There are a couple little puzzles to do then you find yourself in a room with sex machines, artificial male genitals, a ball gag and masks. Masks tend to be an important theme in the game much like in Eyes Wide Shut. If you are a fan of Lovecraftian worlds, this game really brings the atmosphere of a Cthulhu setting home as the robed people aren’t just in it for the sex (though they certainly don’t shy away from it either).  Idolatry is really the moving purpose of the game and it becomes fairly self evident by the bronze statues and elements throughout the game.  Yes, you have puzzles to solve but most serve a purpose to drive the story forward rather than just having a random puzzle to be solved and increase the play time of the game.  There are actually not that many puzzles to solve if you just want to finish the game’s main story. However, if you want a richer experience by doing the side stories your game experience will be much longer.

A few days ago the developers put out a note to the community addressing concerns brought up by players who review the game for Steam and the chief concern was the length of the game. However, the playtime stats referenced by the devs showed that most players hadn’t done the side missions.  If you search around for side stories the game length gets longer really quick and the motivations of some of the characters come into light.  If a player wants to just see how fast they can blow through it, they should realize that they aren’t getting the full game experience.

The game has both really nice graphics as well as musical score, both of which help create the Lovecraftian horror as well as the adult/sexual situations.  Lots of detail work has been done on the idols, masks, and horror elements but a little less detail in the sexual participants – though it is always quite obvious what sex act is being performed (and any “toys” used are detailed as well).

The biggest drawback to the game I saw was that there were no manual player save points, the only game saves are when the game loads a new section.  After it loads and you hit continue that will be your save spot until the next continue.  This can be a little frustrating to discover if you play pretty far past the save spot and go to quit game you will lose all the progress you gained.  Basically each time a continue comes up you need to be sure you can either play until the next one or can leave the game open on your desktop while you do whatever life throws at you.

The subject does come up of whether the sexual situations seemed gratuitous or an important part of the storyline.  It could be argued either way but I think when it comes to the plot it makes sense to have these adult elements just as much as it made sense in the previously-mentioned Eyes Wide Shut. Without these elements, the story wouldn’t be the same and Lust for Darkness should be commended for how well it weaves them into the story.  It shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone either since it was funded on Kickstarter and was the last ever Steam Project Green Light. Also, in the game’s description it lets you know it is adult themed and even their gameplay examples made it really obvious.  I think the only surprise to me was that one of the platforms it is coming out on is the Nintendo Switch, which is in general considered the family, kid-friendly system.

Lust for Darkness is a fun game that you really should play in darkness with a headset on so you can get the full effect of its dark world.  The game can be fairly short but the price is also fairly inexpensive and the developers have already been talking about putting out possible additions on it to explain the mysterious ending more and well as explaining some of the mystery in the harder side missions.  Lust for Darkness is an adult-themed Lovecraftian horror story told in a puzzling mystery style that will keep you guessing even after the game is over…

Memories of Mars Early Access Preview

When I saw Memories of Mars coming down the pipe, I was hoping I would get the opportunity to play it.  Memories of Mars looked like a combination of a FPS and a building survival game that borrowed its feel and graphic styles from games like Halo and Mass Effect Andromeda, both of which I have played like crazy. Luckily I got my hands on the game’s Early Access build so that I could get a true feel for the game without having to wait until official drop.

When you first show up on Mars though you are running around picking up ore and raiding any buildings you can find for ore, parts and schematics.  You start with an empty gun and though you really don’t have to worry about players killing you to start off you do have to worry about robot spiders, robotic sand worms and other such AI creatures.  Until you get some ammo you can fist punch but that is not much of a comfort.  The moment you can make bullets you’ll want to, but first you must find the 3D printer and that machine is the cornerstone of early survival.  If you pay attention before exiting the cloning center you can find a portable 3D printer and more can be found through out the world which is nice since if you die everything including what you are wearing and what you are wielding is left on the corpse, there is a good chance that whatever killed you is there protecting your corpse from being recovered.  Or if you are as unlucky as I was another player watched me die at the shots and mechanical claws of spiders then waltzed right in and took all my loot, lots of minerals, med kits, 3D printers and a gun with bullets.  That is quite a bit to recover from especially considering that the buildings you raid don’t repopulate their loot just because you die.  If you lose your corpse you just lose those resources.

Once you get the ability to make an ore drill you can start mining all the giant rock piles you see around the world instead of just picking up little rocks here and there.  Scavenging both on the Mars surface and in the abandoned (?) buildings gets a kind of grind feel to it as you collect more and more ore to survive but the more bullets you have and the nicer the gun you upgrade to the happier you will be when a whole bunch of mechanical spiders set their glowing eyes on you.  The problem is the game doesn’t have any training lessons so I had no idea at first I could just use the 3D printer in my inventory to make a gun.  I thought that was something I had to discover the schematics for then go to a 3D printer in a building instead of the one in my inventory.  I happened to ask someone passing by in the world about guns and he said to just make one and the bullets.  All you need are simple resources which is nice since you need a resource for the drill which is harder to come by.  Building at first is also confusing since there seems to be limitations on what you can make and how but it isn’t clearly spelled out.  The game banks on the fact that the player has played open sand box style survival games like Mass Effect Andromeda but have the skills of a FPS like Halo or Destiny, which isn’t an unreasonable assumption but it has its own style of making and building things which could use a little tutorial.  Figuring out how to get aluminum, a key element in crafting, took me quite some time.

“Flops” are what you are looking for above all though.  Flops (or floppy discs) can be found on the corpses of mechanical spiders and other rogue machines as well as found on counters and in storage locations.  The Flops are used to level up skills through out different skill trees that tend to mirror how a player prioritizes their style of play, so one might concentrate on gathering, another might concentrate on healing or another on guns or armor.  Your Flops kinda act as leveling up though how many you get depends on random drops from mechanized corpses as well as finding them in abandoned buildings so they are rewards for scavenging and fighting rather than leveling.  You can even take them off a fellow player’s corpse which happened to me when I was saving up for a really expensive upgrade and died… only to find myself with nothing to show for it after someone raided my corpse along with everything else.

One last note I highly suggest that one of your first unlocks and builds using your Flops is the Excavator which allows you to break down big rocks for nitrate and iron, the key elements in bullets.  Aluminum plays an important part in the game too when it comes to making items but the first thing you want to do is make sure you have a pistol and lots of ammo because the ammo is sub-par and will have you burning through half a clip just taking down one mechanical spider.  There was a misfire element too but they have suspended it at this time of writing since players are having a hard enough time with low damage from it.

Things will no doubt change in Memories of Mars, how it is every day there is a downtime for the server so that bugs, stuck points (of which I found two) and other changes can be made to maximize the experience.  If you are looking forward to a polished, little to no bugs game you probably want to wait for the game to leave Early Access and start going into its persistent world world then you will want to wait for the official release.  If you like to enjoy low populations while you are getting a feel for the game and help the developers know where there are holes in the world or stuck points the time to strike is now.  I actually have had a hard time tearing myself away from the game long enough to write this.  Hope to see you there!