Author - Ripper71

RIG 300HC Gaming Headset For The Nintendo Switch Review

Plantronics has been around a while and have already made a name for themselves when it comes to headsets and accessories, particularly the RIG series.  While they make each one for a particular system some are made to run the bases of gaming being able to be used on other systems by design or adapter.  One such headset is the RIG 300HC, designed for the Nintendo Switch but usable on any system with a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The RIG 300HC has some great features that make it solid for around the house.  With that size jack you can use the headset when walking around the house listening to music as well as playing games on your phone (one I play called Hello Hero sounds amazing on my iPhone) then grabbing a seat and snuggling up to your XBox One for a long gaming session.  They are designed to be used with the Nintendo Switch and they do work great with it, being lightweight enough to portable play with but being a larger profile than ear buds like a lot of people might use, the larger profile providing a far more expansive sound experience.

One of the ways the RIC 300HC keeps the weight down to keep the headset on the go is to have cups with a spider web modular design to the outer plastic section around the cup.  This actually works two fold, it allows sound to come in so you can hear a car screeching or maybe your mom yelling that it is time for dinner.  It is a great beginner and younger player headset since they can’t use the excuse that they can’t hear their parent/spouse.  I often find this a problem when I am playing WoW and Mrs. Ripper is telling me what I need to improve on during a raid while we are both wearing headsets to hear our raid leader on Discord.  The headset even has adjustable volume and mutable mic inline on it so you don’t have to open a jacket if your phone is in your pocket and you want to temporarily turn down the music and if you need to talk to someone outside of game you can turn the sound and mic off on your headset to talk to people IRL.  This all just seems so handy for a parent and child dynamic, which might be why it is aimed at such a family console as the Nintendo Switch.  Also the holes increase airflow through the headset which helps prevent too much sweat on them, yuck!

On the side of the head bar of the headset there are three holes on each side where you can choose to plug in your headset cups.  If you want a larger headset space you go on the headset holes at the farthest end, if you want it smaller then it’s inner most spots.  The headset uses this to set the size on your head, there is no adjustability to the bar which means it won’t slip but it also won’t fine tune in comfort. There is a modular/spider web design to the head bar as well, my guess is those and the lack of an adjuster are there to help lower the weight of the headset even more.  It is plastic with a bit of padding is all which definitely puts the main weight in the cups themselves.

The inside of the RIG 300HC has padding around the outside with quite a bit of padding on the inner most cup as well, this helps with the lack of adjustability allowing longer contact with that area before fatigue.  Attached to one side is a noise cancelling microphone on a bendable boom.  This combined with the cups being plug n play with the head bar makes it so you can put the mic on either side which I find to be a great design.  Sometimes if I want to block sound quickly to talk to someone in the room I reach up and cover the mic, often having to pull it down to talk to the person.  With this headset system I can put the boom mic cup on whichever side I want so if I spend a majority of my time talking to someone on my left side I can not only move the mic cup to my right but the boom is designed to be fully rotated around to face the other way for a natural look and feel even if the headset is technically backwards then.  You can even move the boom up and out of sight if you are playing a game that you don’t need a mic for or you are just walking around listening to music.  The mic is noise cancelling so you don’t have to worry about somebody else in the room letting out a blue streak about their game.

Last bit to mention would be 40mm drivers to hit the sound home and make music in your head and Soundguard Acoustic Safety Technology makes sure the sound isn’t damaging the hearing is said head.  Besides that if the headset is taken on an airplane you might be required to keep the sound down somewhat because they are cracking down on electronics that make noise other passengers can hear.  RIG 300HC have some bleed out which might not bother the average person in a car or house but sitting uncomfortably close on a plane is a whole different story.

Plantronics RIG 300HC is a great headset for younger gamers and professionals alike, pretty much anyone who wants great sounding audio and has a 3.5mm audio jack to plug into (or an adapter for such things as a USB port).  The design looks sleek while having every part of it serving a purpose or being stripped away to create the longest and most portable use time possible.

myCharge myFlipShade Phone Shade Review

When you use your phone in public spaces, particularly crowded ones, you tend to find someone peeking at your phone.  I notice this especially in airplanes where people often don’t bring anything to entertain themselves and with a short time they are finished with the in flight magazine.  At that point they start looking around for something of interest like your phone while you are watching a movie or reading a e-book. You can also imagine being at the beach or poolside trying to read your phone and you just can’t because of the glare on the screen.  myCharge had all these issues in mind when they developed the myFlipShade, a great and affordable way to keep your phone safe in multiple ways.

Don’t be too surprised by appearance as in this case it is definitely deceptive.  The myFlipShade is made of plastic with four total joints, two attached to the visor section and one attached to each of the wings that snap down to help prevent sun glare or side peeks.  The back of the myFlipShade is a piece of plastic with 3M adhesive strips to secure the section to your phone or a case. The back piece has nice sized holes to still allow use the camera. One of the joints that connect to the backing and both of the wings make a clacking noise that at first makes you a little nervous it might be breaking but in reality they are so that you can put the upper and side shades how ever you need to and they will clack into place and not just flop around.

One of the very nice aspects is that the back with the camera hole only takes up a third of the back so if you have a pop up holder or a Love Handle they can be attached and still have no problem.  You can even use one of those stick-on wallets below the myFlipShade with no problems accessing the contents.  My mother-in-law likes stick-on wallets with built in stands for the back of the phone because almost every meal she puts her phone on the table and plays slot machine games while eating.  People tend to see her doing it and stop briefly while passing by to glance at it and maybe whisper to a friend about it and now they won’t.  If she isn’t worried about it being seen she can fold the whole thing onto the back of the phone and use the wings as a kickstand to watch her phone on. The only drawback to having myFlipShade attached to your phone is that you can’t see any images on your case if it is a vanity one, it does however provide a few vanity designs of its own!

While you are out in the sun it is easy for a phone to overheat fast, sometimes even resulting in some battery leeching.  The myFlipShade helps absorb the heat and allows you to keep going.  The toughness comes into play because the shade lifts up above the front of the phone both when in use and folded down, as a result if you drop it on its face or its top-end the shade will wind up taking most of the impact making it screen damage resistant.

myFlipShade fulfills a variety of functions in its small plastic shade system.  It can be great for helping view hard to see screens in the sun and makes the screen hard to see when you don’t want it to be.  It also makes a great kickstand and helps protect the phone when deployed in case of dropping it.  If myFlipShade breaks in the process, it’s only 9.99!

Telltale’s The Walking Dead Final Season: Episode One Review

I have been following the story of Clementine and her horrifying adventures among The Walking Dead since the beginning several seasons ago.  It has been one a few different platforms too making it so that when it comes to my decisions throughout the game’s seasons I couldn’t accumulate them like all Telltale games do where certain decisions you make have long term last repercussions.  As a result I just decided I would play it cold then and whatever happened before was done and past, I figured especially since I hadn’t played any of the parts on the Xbox One it was just all I could do.

Luckily for me and others who find themselves in the same situation Telltale Games was prepared for this by making a Story Builder that gives you a chance to make all the really important decisions that needed to be made through the story while giving a recap of events as they happened after the decision.  In the end you find yourself in the same place starting the game out but your decisions and your opinions on things are based off of the Story Builder choices. After you make the 34 possible decisions you can get a downloadable poster that reflects all of them, neat!

Clem starts out the final season looking for food with two mouths to feed since she is still has AJ as a surrogate son, a hard thing to be going through with both the living and the dead to fear and is little more than a child herself. To make it harder AJ is at the age where he is like a sponge, he soaks in information from all over, especially from Clem.  There are some very serious decisions and consequences that start almost immediately.  And trust me without a spoiler, your choices made at the beginning will effect you before Episode Two, though the game definitely makes me want to come back for more.

Something that has to be mentioned, if you haven’t seen the art style that Telltale games uses on this game and others, you really owe it to yourself to check it out.  If you like comic books you definitely need to check it out, it almost feels like what motion comics could have been.  You feel more immersed than a comic because you make choices, you lead the fighting, but otherwise it is giving you a story in comic form.  This was also downloaded in 4K HD onto one of the newer Xbox Ones that can play the game in 4K HD onto a 4K HD 65″ television and I have to say it was amazing.  I was afraid the game might not translate to that size and quality but I was completely wrong.  Visually and voice wise this game was mind boggling cool.

Telltale’s The Walking Dead Final Season: Episode One was Telltale’s commitment to quality by making the sensory aspects of the game look great if you like stylized game art and I appreciate it and a good quality story at it’s heart.  The only drawback I have is I now have to wait for Episode Two!

Surgeon Simulator CPR Announcement Trailer

London, UK – 6th September 2018: Surgeon Simulator – the critically-acclaimed operation sim by Bossa Studios – today announced the release date for its highly-anticipated Nintendo Switch port by way of a brand-new Launch Trailer. Arriving on the 13th September, the news was shared in the form of a highly-stylised training video – dubbed ‘A Burke’s Guide to Surgery’ (Dr. Nigel Burke being the game’s notorious protagonist) – which plays up to the game’s 1980s setting to toe-curling effect.

As for those who are pulling their hair (not to mention teeth, eyes and intestines!) out with anticipation, the good news is that Surgeon Simulator CPR can now be pre-ordered via its Nintendo Switch store page. Priced at £9.99, Bossa Studios are also offering a 10% discount from now through to launch week!

Armed with a less-than-conventional toolkit, the game sees players perform terrifying transplants in theatre, high-pressure procedures in an ambulance, and anti-gravitational operations in space! But it’s Surgeon Simulator’s notoriously difficult controls for which the game was originally celebrated, with previous ports on PC, PS4, PSVR and iOS spawning over 2 million fanmade instructional videos, as well as a strong influencer following including PewDiePie, Fernanfloo and JackSepticEye.

Fully revived and feeling better-than-ever, the upcoming Nintendo Switch version takes advantage of the console’s much-lauded functionalities to create the most immersive surgeon experience yet. By snapping out a Joy-Con controller, players will be able to swap to motion controls at any time for nail-biting precision, while HD Rumble will help bring the full roster of tools – from hammers to hatchets, buzzsaws to laser pens – to life like never before!

Also taking advantage of Nintendo’s split Joy-Con support, players will be able to tag a second surgeon in at any time, whether it’s at home or on the go, to immediately launch local co-op play! Because sometimes you need a second opinion…

Containing all the original heart-in-your-mouth (or wherever else you decide to put it!) operations, including the additional teeth and eye transplants from the A&E Edition, Surgeon Simulator CPR also includes the highly-classified Alien Autopsy mode, too! Coupled with the console’s effortless portability and multitude of play options, it’s safe to say operating on the go’s never been easier!

Jurassic World Evolution Review (PC)

Jurassic World Evolution starts off wonderfully with the beautifully detailed island jungle underneath the helicopter as it heads toward the landing pad.  Then Ian Malcolm, voiced beautifully by Jeff Goldblum fills us in on what’s in store, reminding us that the island chain will be playing on is known as the “Five Deaths” and we don’t know how it earned it’s name in the first place but once the Jurassic team had shown up it lived up to the name thanks to lots of dinosaurs with big pointy teeth.  This means that this game is more than just a glorified zoo sim, there aren’t a whole lot of animals in a standard zoo that go out and kill people for fun.  Well, some do but not on the scale that the Jurassic critters do.  The voice acting is key to the game’s enjoyment and suspension of disbelief so it is nice that they got most of the cast from the movies to lend their voices to the characters.  The same can be pointed out as being key when they don’t have the actor’s voice in the case of Chris Pratt’s Owen where the person who did the voice work in his place was really bad, laughably so.  I think it almost would have been better to have someone else’s character or a fresh one to speak in place of Owen.  Luckily with the excellent voice work of all other characters and the beautiful scenery of the island it is easy to forget about Owen until they decide to use him again.

The gameplay is fairly similar to most city or zoo sims with maybe a bit more simplification. You don’t have to worry about trash cans and bathrooms but you do need to consider souvenirs and hotels as well as transportation once the park grows in size.  Starting off just about all of the contracts and objectives are designed to set up the basics of the park as well as to train you on how to use the menus which is good because the menus aren’t as intuitive as one might hope for, mainly because the game’s biggest weakness is some of the learning curves.  For example you can run powerlines over near a property and it will declare that there is no power going to it.  So you open up a menu that gives you a map that shows where the power is going to.  You then have to quit that map and go to the main view and make powerline adjustments.  You then have to go back into the menu to see how the coverage is until you get it just the way you want, then when you build new buildings you have to do it all over again.  Repetition results in a learning curve but when you just want to have fun making dinosaurs you definitely wished you could make corrections on the menu map.

At the beginning of the game there is a decent amount of start then wait for things to be done moments. However, don’t fret as, once the game gets going, you will find you are running around taking care of all kinds of things at once keeping you constantly occupied.  Enjoy the easy pace while you have it!

You need to think of the Hammond Research Center as being your command building.  If you want to build a t-shirt shop you need to research in the Hammond Building for example.  If you want to build dinosaurs that happens through the Creation Center but you need to send out dig teams from the Expedition Center to get fresh Dino DNA and the more and better quality of it you get the better the chance of the dinosaur surviving the birthing process.  All the starting buildings serve a purpose to get those dinosaurs hatching, after that most of what you do is developing a park while sending out regularly to get more Dino DNA, you definitely want to be careful when juggling buildings and building upgrades with funds to go on expeditions and creating new dinosaurs.

There are three main branches that give you contracts to fulfill and they are Science, Entertainment and Security.  Anytime you do a contract for one you lose popularity with the other two even if it should have been positive for them.  If the scientist asks you to build a new dinosaur that should make the Entertainment division happy but no matter what the other divisions are unhappy.  Also you might make a triceratops for one division and then the next division will ask you to make a triceratops and even if the first one fits all the criteria the game doesn’t recognize the step as already having happened.  You have to make it all over again to fulfill that contract.  Science won’t be happy even if that new dinosaur improves on the one you already have wandering around if the dinosaur is made for Security or Entertainment.

You can go into the dinosaur DNA and alter it using the DNA of other creatures to make them live longer, be more aggressive, to be able to eat a variety of foods and other such things.  You might add turtle DNA to make the brain power of the dinosaur to last longer.  Most of the DNA changes you make are to help the dinosaur’s health though some can alter the aggressiveness of them as well.  DNA manipulation can result in the dinosaur rating dropping and the dinosaur aspect of the park to drop as a whole so keep an eye on such things, it might even effect the percentage of chance that the hatching will provide a viable dinosaur (hint: it almost always gets changed).  So if you decide to try to make the dinosaur version of a platypus it won’t be very viable and actually you can only get so far in that direction.  The longer you play the more DNA juggling you can get away with as well as unlocking more dinosaurs.

If you picked up the Dinosaur Pack DLC as well then you will find yourself that much happier with Styracosaurus, Crichtonsaurus (one of my all time favorites), Majungasaurus, Archaeornithomimus, and Suchomimus being added to your ultimate dinosaur list.

When it comes down to it, everything I have mentioned as an issue is one that is easy to overcome with practice and let’s face it: most of us are playing it so we can make dinosaurs and see them be released into their enclosures and start running around it.  This game has behavior traits built into the dinosaurs as well as allowing you to make variations of them through their DNA resulting in watching the little dinosaurs start running around eating and drinking to the big dinosaurs that stand off against each other in great battles.  You can watch the dinosaurs from a couple of aerial maps or you can lock cameras onto a dinosaur to watch it from a ground point of view or you can order a helicopter or jeep in and watch the action from third person or man the camera and look at them first person from a distance and take “pictures” which are screenshots the game saves to your drop box.  Watch a meat eater trying to take a bite out of a triceratops is pretty exciting, especially if you have altered their DNA to make them behave or survive differently.

Jurassic Park Evolution has a learning curve to it but once you get past it there is a great and continuous excitement hatching and taking care of the dinosaurs.  True, you are supposed to concentrate on the fact that it is a theme park sim. To paraphrase Samuel L. Jackson, you have all the problems of a zoo and a major theme park, but don’t let that distract you from the joy of dinosaur-making and watching your creations come to life and run around behaving like we believe the dinosaur would in modern day.  When you get far enough in you can open sandbox play and get unlimited cash at which time you really can concentrate on dinosaurs.  Until then make t-shirts for the guests who survive the island to take home as souvenirs, if any survive that it.

Star Trek Las Vegas Convention 2018 Photo Gallery

I cannot overstate how amazing the Star Trek Las Vegas Convention is every year, it is something I dream about going to every year and pinch myself every year that I make it.  It is hard to even express how it can reach you to your core if you are even a slight Star Trek fan and it is easy to understand how this show put on by Creation Entertainment is a mecha for all things Trek.  I was a fan before but now I am a fanatic with the Enterprise and “boldy go” tattooed on my arm.  I don’t think the show quite touched my core as deeply as it did after going to this show.

The first thing people generally ask if they haven’t been to the convention is “It’s just about Star Trek The Original Series right?” Nope, that couldn’t really be farther from the truth.  It is about everything you can possibly imagine Star Trek wise, just about every guest star who has ever graced any of the incarnations shows up to sign autographs, take pictures and do panels discussing their experiences on and off the set of the Star Trek show they were on.  Every anniversary of every one of the shows is celebrated with guest panels, podcast recordings and merchandise.  The merchandise goes from hats and shirts celebrating the different Treks to coffee tables and specially built Borg cube computers (oh I would be willing to get assimilated for one of those).  Ever wish you had Mal’s hand gun from Firefly or an autographed picture of Cindy from Land Of The Lost?  You can get those too.  Ever dreamed of meeting the best creature character actor of all time Doug Jones?  Stop by Discovery’s row of autographs and you will get to meet Doug Jones and the rest of the cast (though Doug Jones is one of the nicest guy’s in the business and I can’t steer you to meet him enought).

The convention items from the vendor’s room with it’s massive number of autographs and souvenirs is nice but it’s really the panels that make the convention.  They are going constantly during the show, in different rooms, all curated to be a great bunch of folks full of high energy.  Creation Entertainment does an thoroughly impressive job providing a panel interviewing extras from the first series in one, and interviewing the creators of a game like Star Trek Online in another discussing their Discovery content that will go until about the convvention’s time next year.  If neither of those catch your interest you can sit in on a panel about Star Trek’s influence on culture and technology as presented by one of curator’s of The Smithsonian.  This year there was even a panel comparing Shakespeare to Star Trek, particularly the roles of Kirk, Spock and Bones.

If you decide you want to take a break from sales and sessions you have the opportunity to go into different museums dedicated to costume and weapon designs from Discovery, the Terran Empire and even the bridge of the Enterprise with all it’s pretty lights flashing.  For those who were will to try out brave new worlds there was a Star Trek VR experience setup that allowed people to put on a headset and controllers and take a trip around a federation ship, looking around rooms, taking turbo lifts and even interacting with items (people were having fun figuring out what they could pick up and throw at each other).  It still needed a few kinks worked out (walking nausea which is fairly common in the build process) but for lots of folks who had never done it there was a lot of excitement.  Every day at the beginning of the day I took my program and went through marking what I wanted to see because it was easy to get distracted by something else and missing some event.

Being a lifetime player of Star Trek Online I got to geek out with the creative team at their booth and talk about a new playable character coming out with the new Age Of Discovery content.  They have so many missions and ships it is almost hard to keep up but I am already trying to figure out my gaming plans later this fall to allow for some serious trekkin’.

This year there were three big things in Trek news the first being Discovery and it’s content from a costume museum to video games.  CBS is working closely with it’s video, audio and even IDW  comic partners to make this new property that the fans have been nicely embracing already.  The Discovery cast was amazing and they showed up everywhere they could to promote the new property.

The next big deal was that it was already DS9’s 25th anniversary!  Time really does fly when you aren’t traveling at Warp Speed and I was surprised it had already been that long.  Lots of the cast members made appearances and talked about the old days on set and off of it and what it was like to be part of such a huge Star Trek universe.

The big deal of the weekend though was Patrick Stewart being snuck into the building and surprising everyone with the announcement that he would be reprising his role as Jean Luc Picard and his continuing life adventures after TNG.  There were little to no details other than that but it was enough to ignite the imaginations of everyone who heard that.

Creation Entertainment’s Star Trek Las Vegas is a dream come true for any Trekkie, hardcore or casual, it actually makes a lot of the casual become hardcore.  It is the final frontier for anyone who shares Gene Roddenberry’s dream.

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.