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Paladins Impressions (Nintendo Switch)

Posted on July 25, 2018 by Rae Michelle Richards

At first blush Hi-Rez Studios Paladins is easily compared to Blizzard’s Overwatch – both games are bright and colorful, both games feature a large roster of heroes with different play styles and both games are all about co-operative teamplay. In the two years since launch Hi-Rez has worked hard to distance their game from Blizzard’s offerings so much so that they’ve revamped player progression twice and even cancelled entire game modes – Siege and Survival (that latter being spun off as Realm Royale). 

Hi-Rez’s PR department sent me a Founders Pack code for Paladins on Nintendo Switch ahead of today’s free-to-play. With the recent Rise of Furia event ending on PC and PS4 with the release of the latest patch – which should be out on Nintendo Switch sometime soon – I thought it would be a perfect time to share my thoughts on the game. 

Core Gameplay Is Solid 

As a team based first person shooter Paladins has quite a bit of competition, mainly from Splatoon, which also has a bright and distinct art style of its own. Paladins feels great to play with the joycons both in docked mode and handheld (which I used primarily while playing for this piece). Draw distance, team markers and character effects are all readable and get your attention even on the smaller screen. Once you get used to the game’s UI everything just works when playing in handheld, which is excellent. Similar to Overwatch, Paladins doesn’t bog you down with death percentages or KDAs, instead even assisting with a kill will count as an elimination – something that I wish more competitive FPS games would adopt.  Paladins in Switch might not run at the same 60 FPS as its PC counterpart but this is really not a huge drawback, given how well it seems to hold at 30FPS in handheld mode and can be played anywhere.

Progression Feels Like A Mess (and is RNG Dependent)  

Paladin’s Founder’s Pack instantly granted me access to all of the available champions with the promise of automatically receiving any future additions for free. When comparable MOBAs can single characters for upwards of $15 USD the $29.99 Founders Pack seems like a no-brainer, when it comes to Free to Play Title. What’s not advertised however is that the majority of the “progression” in Paladins is unavailable even with all of the unlockables provided within the Founders Pack. 

By completing games in either of the available modes you’ll earn gold which can be used to level up an individual champion.  Along the way, throughout the 50 individual character levels your chosen champion will be granted a spare amount of emotes, alternate voice lines and there’s a final “golden skin” available for those who make the ascent to level 50. The remaining various unlocks for all of Paladin’s champions are hidden behind RNG loot boxes which can only be earned through a premium currency. It is true that this currency can be earned in small amounts by completing 7 days of login rewards but it would take you almost a month to earn enough for a single chest, and even then you’ll have no control over what cosmetics are unlocked.

Playing As Furia

Furia wields a semi automatic mid range rifle with a bayonet attached. She is a ranged healer who can use one of the abilities automatically bound to the left shoulder buttons to apply a massive 1000 HP heal to a single target. Pyre Blade summons a slow moving vertical beam of light that deals a massive amount of damage over time to opponents who are within its range. Her utlimate – Inflame – acts as a sort of team boost, making Furia un-targetable for 2 seconds while giving teammates increased damage and movement speed. In the right hands Furia can be a valuable clutch healer and kill streak powerhouse, during my time playing her I think I racked up multiple 20+ streaks.

Try It For Yourself

Paladins: Champions of the Realm is now free to play on Nintendo Switch. You can go grab the game’s client and try it out for free from the Nintendo e-Shop as of today. Hi-Rez PR provided an advance copy of the Founder’s Pack prior to the public release for our consideration meaning that I had all of the game’s characters unlocked from the start. The free to play version provides a rotation of ever-changing free characters as well as the ability to complete daily challenges to unlock gold to purchase individual characters.



Final Fantasy XIV’s Eureka Is A Fun Grind The Mixes Up Existing Mechanics In A Fresh Way

Posted on March 13, 2018 by Rae Michelle Richards

The latest patch for Final Fantasy XIV Online: Stormblood has arrived and with it a brand new land for level 70 adventurers to explore. The lost island of Eureka awaits players brave enough to explore a large open world map filled with challenging monsters as well as the return of a mechanics from both the 1.0 days of FFXIV and systems from Squeenix’s sibling MMO Final Fantasy XI!

What Is Eureka

Before discussing how Eureka’s new systems work and what it feels like to play for an extended period of time, there’s some background information that I need to get out of the way. The lost island of Eureka is a direct replacement for the Relic Weapon quests that were present in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn and Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward. In those quests you’d go to existing zones from the current version alongside farming older content in order to complete the steps required to get your glowy relic weapons. Eureka takes this idea and advances it one step further by melding in mechanics from the Heavansward group content known as The Diadem from Patch 3.1.

Here’s a point by point breakdown describing the new content awaiting adventures provided by Square Enix PR:

The Forbidden Land, Eureka Anemos, is an expansive, unexplored area that brings a number of changes to the normal pillars of gameplay:

  • Field Area-Style Gameplay: Up to 144 players can participate. Players are encouraged to group up with fellow adventurers to hunt notorious monsters and work towards common goals.
  • Player Progression: Players will gain elemental EXP to strengthen their ability to harness the elements, but will need to be careful. Death in Eureka will result in lost EXP, and even lost levels, if players rashly rush in.
  • Altered Battle Mechanics: Additional strategy is required in battle through an element system, in which players must utilize the Magia Board to change the element affinity of their attack to oppose their enemy’s. Players will customize their Magia Board’s elemental attributes and must carefully consider their setup depending on the goal of the adventure.
  • Rewards: Players will occasionally earn protean crystals through exploration of Eureka, and may use them to enhance Eureka weapons and gear with the aid of the famed blacksmith, Gerolt.

The Thrill of Battle

For two hours this afternoon I took my level 70 Machinist, Reka Ai’a, along with my wife’s lvl 70 Paladin out to the forbidden land of Eureka to experience the changes in combat first hand. In other open world content in XIV a level 70 character can pretty much be guaranteed to shred any mob that stands in your way, although with multiple mobs this can get a little dicey.

Right off the bat I could tell that this is not the case in Eureka. The island’s open fields are littered with monsters that if you’re not careful will not think twice about teaming up to stop you dead. Unlike other instanced content in FFXIV being “level 70” doesn’t really mean much since Eureka has its own experience and leveling system known as the “elemental leveling system”. A single mob will kill you if you don’t pay attention to Eureka’s unique mechanics (more on this in a little).

Defeating mobs in Eureka (carefully) will obviously award you experience points but the gain rate isn’t the same as the base game. Instead of requiring hundreds of thousands of experience points the level up, the jump from level 1 to 2 is somewhere in the range of 1,000 or so elemental experience points. Accordingly the amount of experience earned from defeating mobs is drastically reduced when compared to base XIV and more so when compared to leveling low level jobs in XIV. Soloing Eureka content I found that I was gaining between 20 – 45 EXP per level, which sounds like a tedious grind. This is because the EXP rates in Eureka rise with a “chain bonus” similar to the one you get in dungeons for killing mobs in quick succession, but only when you are partnered with another player. Chain bonuses can work their to a 30x multiplier before eventually resetting back to 1. With an organized team or just a single other player to play with Eureka’s leveling experience can feel rewarding and challenging without feeling like a slog. In the two hours I played today I got to level 4 – so about a level every half hour, not too bad.

Elements And… Notorious Monsters???!

This brings me to the most striking difference between Eureka and the core leveling experience to be found within any of FFXIV’s other encounters – the elemental level system.  Due to some really awesome lore that I won’t spoil here, the aether on Eureka is all sorts of messed up. Monsters are a lot more powerful than their Othard or Aldenard counterparts and even the Warrior of Light’s power stands little chance against them. To combat this threat Geralt and Krile have devised an “elemental wheel” which will grand you attack bonuses and defense bonuses towards certain elements. It’s almost like the meta-game of Pokemon: Fire beats Water, Wind beats Earth etc. UI elements on your HUD will show you which element you’ll need to aspect into for either attack or defense and the key to survive encounters is swapping between these attack and defense buffs for each of your encounters at the right moment. It adds a bit more nuance to the moment to moment combat of FFXIV and once I got the hang of it, I was really enjoying it.

Lastly I’ve come to the inclusion of Notorious Monsters, super powerful boss-like creatures that occasionally spawn in Eureka’s over world. The name Notorious Monsters comes from both Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV 1.0. 2.0+’s A Rank hunts were similar to these new NMs but unlike their ARR+ brethren, Eureka’s Nortious Monsters get their own map marker and FATE spawned as soon as they enter the world. No need to sit in shout chat and hope someone calls out the location of the challenging MOB – where should you miss an A Rank you’d have to wait possibly days for a respawn. NMs in Eureka are large events with dozens upon dozens of players all vying to take part in the monster’s destruction. NMs have high health pools and mechanics that if done incorrectly can one-shot entire swaths of players.  At times with so many players present it can feel like “effects soup”, so be prepared to think fast and maybe turn down your graphical settings. Outside of Savage, it’s probably one of the most challenge things right now – especially while the community figures out the unique mechanics per mob. After the large monster goes down you’re rewarded with special crystals that can be turned in towards Relic Weapon steps and special lock boxes that have a chance to contain a Eureka exclusive glamour or a T-Rex mount. Best of all NMs spawn so frequently that I saw a number of them during my time on the island.

That about wraps up my introductory coverage of Eureka, I’ve still got about 4 levels to go before I encounter the much feared “level down” mechanic, so expect another long winded blog entry sometime in the coming weeks. My journey towards GDC also begins tomorrow – so it could be a little while before I get a chance to take the ferry to the island of Eureka for an extended stay.

What do you think about Eureka? Let me know in the comments.



Final Fantasy XIV Patch 4.2 Impressions: Sigmascape

Posted on January 30, 2018 by Rae Michelle Richards

Phantom Train XIV

Raids in Stormblood – Final Fantasy XIV’s latest expansion – have been split among the wings of Omega and an on going plotline involving the Garlean Empire, the land of Ivalice and a theatre troupe. Patch 4.2 “A New Son Rises” once again sees the Warrior of Light (player character), Cid Nan Garland, Nero Tols Scaeva and Alpha the Chocobo face off against the artificial creations of the fearsome Omega. Raids are released with each patch – odd numbered patches bringing a new Ivalice raid and even numbered patches bringing a new section of Omega.

Spoiller Warning: Mechanics for 2 of the 4 “Omega Sigmascape” fights are described in detail below.

Here are my general impressions after running the “normal” difficulty for two of the four “Sigmascape” encounters.

All Aboard The Phantom Train

Fans have been speculating for years now about when “Doom Train” (also known as “The Phantom Train”) would make its appearance in Square Enix’s latest online incarnation of Final Fantasy. As far back as 2014 players have joked about the train – some wishing for a smaller version of the train to become a mount and others hoping that Goldsmith GoldBert would end up suplexing the train.

FFXIV Phantom Train

Sadly neither of these things happen in the normal version of Phantom Train. What players do get is a bit of a wild ride though – things start off with the entire party aboard the backmost car of the titular train. It is here that the party must send volleys against the train itself while avoiding ghosts that spawn, train car wide AOEs, using searchlights to “put out” the spawning ghosts and the possibility of being sucked into one of the endless number of the Phantom Train’s passenger compartments.

The journey to the Phantom Train is probably the strongest opener to a raid tier that I can remember in sometime. After all is said and done, once the train crashes off the tracks and dissipates back into the aether, the Warrior of Light is left with a haunting ghostly vision of some of it’s occupants – referencing events that haven’t happened in Eorzea’s existence.  The whole encounter feels other worldly and if you’re into FFXIV raiding – make sure to take a ride on The Phantom Train.

“I will destroy everything! I will create a monument to non-existence!”

Sigmascape is filled with references to Final Fantasy’s storied 16-bit history but the one encounter that sent chills down the spine of those who watched the pre-release “Final Fantasy 14 4.2 Patch Trailer” was only hinted at – a battle with the one and only, Kefka Palazzo.


The former court jester has already successfully destroyed an entire world during the second half climax of FF VI, and now he’s got his sites set on wiping the floor with the Warrior of Light and her comrades. Mechanically Kefka’s sigmascape encounter is probably one of the hardest normal difficulty fights ever included in FFXIV. To successfully bring the clown down you’ll have to deal with large line AOES, circle AOEs, knockbacks similar to Heavensward Sephirot aaaaaand – the off chance that Kefka is straight up  messing with you and his mechanics are lying to you. Battling Kefka is interesting, challenging and when it’s not rage inducing to die to “lie” mechanic with less than 10% health left, a lot of fun.

There’s So Much More To See

Final Fantasy XIV Patch 4.2 has so much more to offer and I’ve barely done it all justice by describing the these two Sigmascape encounters. In addition to the continuation of the ongoing Main Scenario players can take part in the four Sigmascape raids – in a savage or normal difficulty. A battle with a brand new primal is included during the MSQ, where the Warrior of Light and her comrades face off against the Jade Stoah. Other improvements include new housing items, new fashion items, a whole new set of tomestone gear, new emotes and PVP adjustments.


Capcom’s Mobile Puzzle Fighter Is Surprisingly Fun

Posted on November 29, 2017 by Rae Michelle Richards

Puzzle Fighter

Over the weekend I noticed that Capcom’s brand new mobile version of the classic Puzzle Fighter franchise had finally launched on iOS in Canada, giving me the opportunity to finally try it out for myself. As with any free to play title, I was weary of the specter of constant microtransactions, loot boxes and RNG paywalls. Puzzle Fighter is a surprisingly fun little diversion in spite of its monetization and questionable art direction. 

Puzzle Fighter dates back to the 1996 PlayStation Original that featured adorable chibi sprite versions of Street Fighter II fan favorites like Ryu, Chun-Li and E Honda who battled each other using a tacking block mechanic, not unlike the one found in SEGA’s Columns. Puzzle Fighter for mobile retains this gameplay – asking players to stack together similarly colored gems, which then combine into larger crystals when stacked in formations of at least four. Players then must use a special glowing power-up that randomly spawns in place of a brick combination to eliminate lines/squares of colored bricks to pull off an attack against their opponent. Once a player’s health reaches 0, that’s it the round is over – no best of 3 here. 

Unlike the ’96 game, 2017’s Puzzle Fighter is primarily focused on real-time competitive rankings. After completing a very basic tutorial that explains the game’s mechanics, players are given one free fighter (mine was Ryu – and judging from those I’ve played online this is probably going to be yours too) and taught how they can level up their fighters using gold earned at the end of matches.  In total there are 11 different rankings ranging from various incarnations of Bronze, Gold and Silver and the game will allow you to freely try out a placement match in any rank.  

Offline missions are available, but they come at a cost – cooldown timers. Players are allowed to partake in up to 3 matches before being asked to wait a staggering 10 hours for their freebies to reset. Collecting characters and move-sets are also conversely locked behind paid RNG chests which can only be earned through real money purchases. Winning a round in the online mode will grant a player a free trip to E Hond’s restaurant where he is ready to serve up a dining boat of RNG flavored loot. These dining boats of RNGness are said to be able to contain characters but I haven’t come across this – only earning moves and gold so far. Puzzle Fighter isn’t’ limited to just the Street Fighter franchise either, I had one offline mission reward me with Frank West from the Dead Rising franchise. 

I’m having a lot of fun with Puzzle Fighter but I wish its free to play cooldowns and character rewards weren’t paywalled behind RNG loot boxes and Dragon Boats. Mechanically the game is fun and providing unlimited online mode for free players was a wise decision, I’ve lost more than a few hours at a time to Puzzle Fighter in the past few days. It’d be nice to be able to directly purchase the characters I would like or save up enough gold by playing online. Paid RNG loot boxes are manipulated and something I have a hard stance against. If you want to try Puzzle Fighter casually without putting in money, there’s a fun experience to be had. Just watch out for RNG Gacha. 


DOOM’s Nintendo Switch Port Will Have You Believing In The Dark Arts

Posted on November 16, 2017 by Rae Michelle Richards

Over the past week I’ve been playing 2016’s DOOM on the Nintendo Switch and this game… just wow, what black magic did Bethesda use to make a game as visually striking and visceral work on Nintendo’s hybrid tablet? 

Players new to this iteration of the classic FPS franchise will find themselves in the boots of the Doom Slayer, an unnamed marine who loves nothing more than ripping the limbs off of demons and splattering their guts across the floor. DOOM exists for two reasons: 1) to allow players to graphically murder countless demons in as comically over the top fashion as possible and 2) to provide the player with an assortment of deadly futuristic weapons that are each more devastating and implausible as the last. These two core tenants are true whether you’re playing the game’s introductory level or on the final boss. 

Overall I’ve played about five hours of DOOM on Switch and I’ve just returned from my first trip to Hell. As a repeat visitor to the lands of fire and brimstone, I have to say being able to be transported to DOOM’s hellscapes where ever I please – whether that’s on the bus or on the couch – proves just how viable the Switch is for First Person Shooters, a genre that up until now has gone unrepresented on Nintendo’s hot new platform. 

Yes, graphically DOOM’s portable iteration is a visual downgrade from its PC based sibling (which I adored and reviewed last year) but when seeing it in motion none of that really matters. Halving of the frame rate from 60 fps to a mostly locked 30 and lowering the resolution of some environment textures to accommodate the Nintendo Switch’s 4GB of RAM does little to hamper the visual quality of this port of DOOM. For the most part, the framerate remains rock solid during heavy action scenes, effects like water running down windows and depth of field are faithfully recreated. Somehow, Panic Button got the full 12+ hour campaign on to Nintendo’s handheld and I’m glad for it. If you haven’t played through DOOM yet and own a Switch I’d highly recommend picking it up – it plays great either docked or in handheld mode.


A 5 Year Old Freemium Sims Game Is My Mobile Guilty Pleasure

Posted on July 11, 2017 by Rae Michelle Richards

The Sims has been a staple for simulation fans for the better part of two decades now, the original (released in 2000) is almost old enough to drink in the United States.  While I’ve been a fan since the first iteration, I can’t profess to have partaken in any of the mobile entries in the franchise with the sole exception being The Sims 3 on the Nintendo 3DS, which I found to be so sub-par it wasn’t worth playing. Perhaps that is why it is so perplexing to me that my mobile vice at the moment is a five-year-old Sims mobile title from 2011 – The Sims Free Play.

Recreating friends and family has always been my go-to activity when enjoying brief obsessive periods with The Sims and the week I’ve spent with Free Play is no exception. Within the first 20 minutes of booting up Free Play, 3I had a pretty good facsimile of both myself and my wife, ready to go. This is where I found one of the first roadblocks that this game was going to throw in my way – at the start of the game a ‘family’ consists of only one Sim and you can’t move in with another sim until you’ve obtained the rank of ‘good friend’ or higher. As frustrating as that is (and for simple enjoyment purposes – it is frustrating) – I labored forward and purchased two lots for my wife & I, but elected to only build one house – SUCCESS!

Gameplay in The Sims Free Play will be instantly familiar to anyone who has played either The Sims 2 or The Sims 3. You guide your simulated people through the minutia of daily life – everything from making breakfast to sleeping, to skipping work entirely and watching a movie marathon is available to you at just the tap of the screen.  On the bright colors, plum-bobs, interface design, and available actives give the impression of the same depth as this mobile game’s PC counterparts. It all works as you would expect: Sims sleep in beds, can enjoy passive time on the computer and chill in the Jacuzzi when times get rough. After assigning your first set of tasks you’ll probably instantly notice one of the key differences…

Actions in The Sims Freeplay take place in real time and players have no control to speed up the passage of time or slow it down. In essence, this makes playing with multiple Sims an exercise in managing various timers to see your chosen task completed.  Activities in game roughly correspond to their real life counterparts: Watching a movie takes 2 hours in real world time, making dinner can take half an hour etc. While this would be super annoying – *sarcasm* luckily you can PAY EA money to avoid waiting around for your tasks to complete – making this one of the friendliest-looking Skinner boxes around. Testing your patience to wait for several hours versus the options of opening your wallet and dumping out pocket change for micro transactions.

It is not all doom & gloom and waiting hours for your bars to fill up, however. There is a very positive upside to how The Sims Freeplay’s core mechanics work that can actually bring quite a bit more enjoyment out of the game without having to close it.  Just like in the PC versions, you’ll need to manage a number of meters like thirst, hunger, cleanliness, social time for each of your Sims. Thankfully the shortest activities (say eating a snack for 1 minute vs cooking dinner for half an hour) still count towards these metered needs. I’ve had the most fun simply telling my sim to do one short activity after another to meet their needs. This strategy not only cuts down on the amount of time you are outside of the game but also provides a similar feeling to playing the PC titles – watching your Sims interact or do other daily activities without having to go through the laborious time commitment.

The Sims Freeplay has a few glaring downsides to it: the inability to spawn infinites amount of money or speed up time takes some of the creativity and humorous moments from the core experience. Sims themselves lack any kind of will of their own or even the ability to cue multiple actions in a chain to automatically carry them out – this means you’ll literally be guiding each of their actions independently. EA’s constant reminders that “HEY YOU CAN SKIP THIS TIMER IF YOU JUST PAY US MONEY” can be more than a little obnoxious as well. Despite all of these negatives I’ve enjoyed my time with The Sims Freeplay enough that is has been my go-to time waster for the past week or so. Without paying any real world cash I’ve got a mobile Sims experience that on the surface resembles its’ larger counterparts while still including elements that have made the series so enjoyable these past 20 years (seriously if I could get a pinball table in my living room I would so DO IT).

My best advice if you decide to try out The Sims Freeplay is to adjust your expectations accordingly. Know that you will be pestered to buy micro transactions, with some creative gameplay choices you can get around these for the most part, none of the self driven or goal focused A,I exists in this game and that in the end The Sims Freeplay doesn’t offer parity with the PC Versions, even if you were to buy EA’s post expensive micros transaction. Still, a stripped down mobile Sims is a stripped down mobile Sims and I’ll be playing it for the next little while at least.

If you’ll excuse me – I’ve got a house to burn down….


Final Fantasy XIV Stomblood Impressions #2 – Vising The Great City

Posted on July 3, 2017 by Rae Michelle Richards

It has been a week since the launch of Stormblood, the latest expansion for Final Fantasy XIV and I thought it would be a perfect time to share some updated impressions now that I am several hours further into the expansion’s narrative. Unlike my last impressions entry, this one is not free of spoilers, be forewarned that ahead of this paragraph are bullet points that may contain story, quest and NPC related spoilers.

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try and Try Again

Throughout the first four levels of the campaign (60 – 63) the Warrior of Light & Co. has had their share of failures and setbacks assisting the resistance. As Lyse, The Warrior of Light, and Aliase enter the occupied lands of Gyr Abania they are not treated with the hospitality that House Fortemps showed the party in 2015’s Heavensward. Instead, the people of Ala Mhigo are hesitant to work alongside the heroes, for a wide variety of reasons. Some of these reasons are macro-focused (such as the Eorzean Alliances thus far refusing military involvement against the occupying Garleans), and some are on a more local level (the bloodbath that took place at Baelsar’s Wall didn’t leave anyone that could help). It’s going to take a lot more than small favors, fetch quests and heartfelt speeches to rally the hearts of a population that has been trampled by oppression for decades, one that would be risking the superior numbers of the Garlean forces coming down on them even harder should another organized resistance fail.

Residents of Gyr Abania despise the empire, and the tyranny it has thrust upon them but it is understandable that they refuse the help of our players, this is not just one quest NPC for the Warrior of Light to fight – this revolution belongs to the hearts of the people of Gyr Abania. All of this is a lot deeper than the political fare found within the 2.X and 3.X series of patches where the leaders of the Alliance stand around the groves of Gradania, talk and then nothing really changes.

The Towering City of Kugane

The bloodbath at Rhalgar’s Reach complicates things even further, after rallying the survivors of the previous revolutions and standing alongside both the eager and formerly unconvinced the people as well as members of the player’s party take a literal beating. Efforts are then turned towards the on-going resistance in the Far Eastern lands of Othard.

It is here in Othard that we are introduced to the second major city, Kugane, a large trading hub and the only port open to outsiders. Like Gyr Abania the residents of Othard are under Imperial rule and the flow of people, good and information coming in and out of Othard is tightly controlled. Right from the outset it is clear that the political climate and overall atmosphere of Kugane does not set the expectation for whatever other areas the continent of Othard has in store for us. The party must keep a low profile to avoid the Empire’s attention, this means that direct action against Imperial forces is off the table for the time being and using a corporate headquarters just down the road from the Garlean Empire will have to suffice.  Outsiders are known by the label of “Ijin” (an obvious parallel to the Japanese concept of “Gaijin”) but the Ijin concept stretches far beyond societal labels, with the immediate tangible ramification of the Ijin label being a separate housing district for outsiders. From a gameplay perspective, Kugane’s large red bridges and absolutely stunning architecture are home to the usual suspects – a market board, a materia handler, an aetherite and several NPC vendors. Curiously there are two things that make Kugane distinct from other major quest hubs in XIV – the lack of any Job or Crafting guilds and the fact that none of Kugane’s side-quests involve combat in any way.


After Trying Injustice 2 I Think Scarecrow Is My New Main

Posted on May 11, 2017 by Les Major

Injustice 2 - Scarecrow

During last nights amazing Injustice 2 event at a wonderful venue in Toronto we got to try out some gameplay action! Sure, we only got to try three matches, but I think I’ve found my new fighter. First off, Injustice 2 boasts an impressive roster of at least 32 characters! More characters are even playable through Premiere Skins which changes their voice and appearance, but keeps the play style of a base character.

I enjoyed trying out newcomers Black Canary and Cheetah but Scarecrow really stole my attention when I just started tearing up my opponent without any prior knowledge of how the character plays. Scarecrow has this huge hook on a chain that I was able to just wreck with! After some close up damage, I was able to lash out with that hook, and then combo into spinning the chain overhead in a long range attack! The two of us didn’t know really what to do with our characters so it was a surprise when I pulled off this move and then just seemed to keep going.

It may just be me, but Scarecrow just plays naturally to me. Of course I’m sure you bound around to various characters in the campaign and I’m going to have to learn a lot more, but I know who I’ll be leveling up for fun though.

The game itself looks just incredible! The graphics are beautiful and cinematic, the frame rate flows like butter, and once you know what you’re doing the battles become an impressive display of superhuman prowess. Background items still play a role in this one, allowing you to cause damage with the scenery or bound away from your opponent off various landmarks. Super moves make a return too with impressive visuals and damage as well. Those are moves you pull off by using up your power bar by pulling both triggers and hopefully connecting with your opponent. You’re then treated to a cinematic of your character beating the tar out of your foe.

Injustice 2 is making sure that players keep coming back for more battles with a new gear system. If you’ve spent any time grinding away for loot on Destiny, you’ll probably feel right at home here. Not only can you collect new gear to customize and actually improve the stats of your fighters, but you can even use shaders to customize their look! If the thrill of battle wasn’t enough, there’s now the thrill of rare gear dropping that you can improve your favorite characters with!

We’ll be getting a good look at Injustice 2 next week and have a review on the way shortly after! If you’re still not sure check out the video we just posted with Ajay Fry’s interview Ed Boon last night at the event, or watch the Scarecrow trailer below to see my new fave!


LiquidSky 2.0 Is More of a SpaceX Crash Than a Launch

Posted on April 5, 2017 by Rae Michelle Richards

At CES 2017 cloud streaming service LiquidSky promised that when their company launched their public beta later this year they would offer “the world’s first free gaming PC” by providing free game time to users in exchange for the ability to serve advertisements to free tier users. After months of anticipation LiquidSky 2.0 was set to roll out globally on March 14th – now that we are 3 weeks removed from the launch date it is clear that LS 2.0 is nothing short of an absolute dumpster fire.

The Promise

Back in January LiquidSky unveiled a series of different packages that users can choose from alongside the basic gist of what their service was and how it would be delivered. For the uninitiated LS renders a user’s game using highly powerful server grade hardware, not unlike those found in the N-Series of Amazon Web Services (complete with dedicated GPUs, SSDS and the like). In theory, LiquidSky is able to offset the costs of this hardware in their data centres by connecting several instances per server, allowing the company to charge as little as $0.50 USD/hr for their lowest tier package in the closed alpha phase. Now their revenue is collected by either accepting payment from their customers or serving them advertisements.

Personally, I’d used LiquidSky 1.0’s paid service from its closed alpha for several months before the March 14th public launch. Users would connect directly to the server instance, and were presented with a virtualized Windows desktop where they are able to install Steam, Origin, Uplay or any other content delivery platforms onto their virtual machine. While participating in the closed alpha I played a few games for dozens of hours while using an old MacBook that could never dream of playing them on even the lowest settings. I experienced enough server lag while connected to their California data server that games requiring “twitch” responses (Overwatch, League of Legends) were unplayable but MMOs certainly were an excellent experience at a solid 30 frames-per-second. It was far from perfect, but LiquidSky 1.0’s closed alpha showcased the potential of the service, and I couldn’t help but share my excitement and hopes with my friends in the tech industry: that LS could be something really special.

A Comedy of Error Messages

As a user of the previous 1.0 closed-alpha, I should have simply been able to download the LiquidSky 2.0 client, migrate my old account to the new system and be able to use the existing “Sky Credits” for whichever of the three performance packages that I desired for my games; the execution thus far is nowhere near the promise showcased during the closed alpha.

After downloading the LiquidSky 2.0 client and allowing it to patch, I have attempted to migrate my old account a number of times and even attempting to create a new account has resulted in the same error for the past two weeks: LS 2.0 attempts to find the closest data center to me (hint it’s California until their Seattle datacenter comes online) in an endless loop forever.

See this screenshot above? I’ve sat and watched the globe spin for hours in an attempt to get LiquidSky 2.0 to do anything other than take up hard drive space for weeks.

While writing this article I fired up a VPN, and was finally able to validate my connection’s ping rate against the endless loop of “finding closest data center”. Unfortunately, my previously paid Sky credits did not transfer over to the new system after migrating my existing account to 2.0. The client’s splash screen informed that I should purchase a package in order to access my Sky computer once again. Any attempts to watch advertisements for free credits also failed with the error “there are no opportunities to earn sky credits at this time”.

Give us money to access the virtual PC you already gave us money for.

Screaming Into The Void

By now I have been partially successful in accessing LiquidSky’s service. With some VPN trickery and at least a touch of patience, it is at least possible to bypass the endless “searching for data centers” loop. A cursory glance at the LiquidSky community forums shows that a number of users throughout the world haven’t been so lucky.

(Image source)

Here is just a brief summary of the common errors that have gone reported on the LiquidSky community forums without any official word from the company just in the past 24 hours:

The above three examples are but a small fraction of the recently opened threads on LS’ “report a bug” forums and none of the threads browsed for this article contained an official response or resolution from the company itself.

To their credit LiquidSky has been quick to issue a few patches for the client – most notably to fix input delay and a nasty bug that would kick users off their session after thirty minutes.

Wrapping Up

As it currently stands, I can not recommend LiquidSky to anyone. Even for early adaptors who might live within the recommended 1500KM of the nearest datacenter: my own personal experience with bugged out ping tests, reports of input lag and paid credits going missing make LS 2.0 an instant no-go. Perhaps once the service has matured and the apparent infrastructure problems have worked out then LiquidSky can fulfill its promise of a “free gaming PC” for everyone but as it stands right now trying to use the service is an exercise in frustration.

Disclosure: Broken Joysticks writers have in the past received press materials, stock images and embargoed details from LiquidSky in advance of publication. The author of this piece purchased $20 USD of “SkyCredits” during the closed alpha period of LS 1.0 last year and used the service for a number of months before the publication of this article with the intent to carry them over to LS 2.0. An attempt was made both on the official LiquidSky community forums and through Public Relations contacts to bring a remedy to the account problems and technical hurdles the author experienced but we never heard back from anyone at LiquidSky.


Playing Overwatch’s New Hero, Orisa, Is Fully Loaded Fun

Posted on March 8, 2017 by Rae Michelle Richards


Blizzard surprised everyone by unleashing a brand new tank for Overwatch during GDC. While I did not get much time with OW’s second Omnic, Orisa, during the convention – now that things have calmed down somewhat, I feel that it is time to dive into the experience that I have had with this Gatling Gun carrying defender and how she differs from the available roster.

Orisa is a specially customized Omnic OR-15 unit modified by the child genius Efi Oladele to protect her city from the assault of Talon member, Doomfist. Unlike her contemporaries Orisa possesses an advanced artificial intelligence program, built by Efi, which gives her the ability to tell the differences between right and wrong. This sense of morality allows Orisa to organically learn from her experiences and discern what may be a threat to herself, her people and her creator.

As a tank Orisa might feel like a combination of Bastion, Reinhardt and Zarya at first glance but after several matches playing with or against her it is clear that she is not analogous to any one particular existing hero. Certainly there are pieces of her kit that do feel like modified versions of other heroic abilities but none of them are direct copies. For example: her frontal shield can block incoming fire defensively, like Reinhardt but the fact that it has half of the health of Reins and no mobility changes up how you would use. The same goes for her graviton surge like secondary fire which will pull enemies towards the blast. Unlike Zarya’s ultimate these small bursts of magnetic energy dissipate within a second or two and are really only large enough to affect one opponent at a time. To sum it all up – Orisa’s kit doesn’t feel like Blizzard is aping their own work but rather drawing inspiration from what works with other heroes and finding new ways to make these abilities work within the tank role.


Facing off against enemy Orisa players it became quite apparent that some heroes have an advantage against her when compared to others. Matching up a Tracer vs Orisa will surely end in the Tracer being quickly murdered with the chaingun unless she can quickly plant her smart bomb on Orisa’s back (a strategy that can also apply to stationary Bastions). Orisa’s fortify ability also allows her to negate certain ultimates and stationary traps. A fortified Orisa can simply walk over a Junkrat trap, take damage but take no movement penalty. Likewise, if you are playing Reinhardt and try to use your ultimate on a fortified Orisa, there will be no effect on her. One thing I did find interesting is that Sombra’s hack ability does work on Orisa’s damage amplifier ultimate, effectively canceling it.

Overall I’ve had a lot of fun playing with Orisa and I can’t wait to see what she does to the games’ meta once she goes live. Some of the strategies I am used to using when playing Bastion, such as mounting on the top of the payload on Kings Road, work with Orisa with the added benefit of her frontal shield and fortify ability.  It should be noted that these impressions are based upon the current Public Test Realm version of Orisa and are subject to change before she goes live on the production servers in a couple of weeks. If you want to do some in-depth reading in regards to counter strategies for Orisa before she comes to the live version of the game I highly recommend you read this Mic article.


Overwatch’s ‘Junkenstein Revenge’ Fills A Much Needed Gap

Posted on October 13, 2016 by Rae Michelle Richards

Blizzard released the first major Overwatch update since August’s summer games and not only does Junkenstein’s Revenge bring some pretty epic Halloween collectables to the game but it also shows that the game could use more story-driven PVE content, something the initial release of the game completely lacked. After putting in two complete evenings into the mode and securing several of the new loot boxes, I’d like to share some of my thoughts on Blizzard’s take on the popular horde mode.

What Is Junkenstein’s Revenge

This Halloween themed brawl takes inspiration from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and classic horror movies in order to transport a team of four players to a modified version of the Eichenwald castle. Team selection is limited to only four characters – McCree, Soldier 76, Hanzo and Anna – and the team has a simple objective: defend the castle gate from waves of monstrosities and zombified omnics.


Each round of Junkenstein’s revenge only lasts about six to eight minutes but the adrenaline rush from defeating waves of helpless zombie omnics and the more powerful named foes is relentless and a lot more action focused than any other mode to be found within the game. While PVP games surely have their fare share of action packed skirmishes and close calls when it comes to defending points these are paced along with sprints to the objects after a respawn. The waves for this short Halloween brawl don’t really give the players much breathing room and this provides a fantastic arcade shooter experience against dozens of enemies that simply isn’t found within the base game.

Topping off this fantastic new experience is an excellent use of stylistic art choices, clever visual flair and a dynamic narration system that I didn’t know I needed in my life. Each Overwatch character featured in Junkenstein’s Revenge is cleverly remodeled / renamed after some sort of Halloween trope. Mercy is the absolutely jaw dropping Witch, Roadhog is Junkenstein’s Monster and of course Junkrat is the titular mad scientist… oh and all of these outfits are unlockable via the new Halloween loot boxes. Probably the coolest addition to this Brawl is the dynamic narration read by none other than Reinhardt. As the players destroy waves of enemies or slay the named monsters Reinhardt’s narration will change accordingly such as “the gunslingers bullet finally found its mark as he knocked down The Reaper”. Not only does it add some narrative context to an otherwise chaotic free for all but it gives the world of this brief experience a lot of character as well.


The Cool Loot

Like the Summer Games event there is a whole stash of in-game skins, sprays, voice-lines and portraits for players to unlock. Like the loot from the last event these are only available through limited time loot boxes but unlike August’s Olympic fair the legendary skins can be purchased with in-game coins. You won’t necessarily need to pull out your credit card to get that Witch Mercy skin but it will costs you more than a regular legendary – 3x in fact, the most expensive items are priced at 3,000 in-game credits. Price prohibitive? Absolutely but its better than simply locking the item behind the grind/paywall of RNG boxes. 

Here are some of my favorite unlocks revealed thus far:

The Reaper Forms In The Darkness 


An Anna-Latern?


Witch Mercy, Probably My Most Wanted Skin:


Undead Pharah Has A Cool Glow:


Junkrat Gets His PHD… IN EXPLOSIVES:


[Images via this IMGUR gallery, make sure to check it out for more awesome unlocks from the Halloween event!]



The Elder Scrolls Legends Open Beta Impressions

Posted on August 31, 2016 by Broken Joysticks

Impressions By: John Edward Bridgman Follow Him On Twitter @JEBWrench

The Following Impressions Were Based Upon The Open Beta of The Elder Scrolls Legends. You can sign up for the Open Beta on their official website if you’ve enjoyed these impressions.

Ideally, I would prefer to discuss The Elder Scrolls Legends without having to compare directly to other, more frequently played digital card games. However, it would be much more useful to get the most obvious comparison out of the way. So, with that it mind – The Elder Scrolls Legends is extremely reminiscent of Hearthstone.

This is by no means a negative or unfair comparison, as the core gameplay mechanics are quite clearly borrowed heavily from Blizzard’s hit game. For those unfamiliar with that game, players take turns playing cards from their hands, drawing a card and automatically generating additional resources each turn to summon creatures to attack and defend with or spells to affect the board in various ways.


Even the mechanic of giving the second player additional mana resources as compensation is borrowed, though this is where the small changes to the Hearthstone formula come into play that differentiate The Elder Scrolls Legends. As of writing, in the Beta, the second player receives three uses of bonus mana to compensate for the tempo loss. This feels excessive, and I would not be surprised if it gets changed at some point.

Another important change is in deck construction. In The Elder Scrolls Legends, rather than building your deck off a class, you choose two stats from which to create your card pool. Strength, for instance, focuses on powerful creatures while Intelligence cards tend to be more deceptive or magical in nature. This gives a surprising amount of flexibility in deck construction without requiring a large pool of cards.

Combat occurs on a battlefield with two lanes. Creatures may only attack creatures in their own lane, so positioning becomes an important element of strategy. Also, the two lanes have different properties. One of the lanes has a property that gives all creatures the ability Cover when summoned to it for a turn, meaning they cannot be attacked directly. It allows for the use of some surprisingly powerful glass-cannon creatures with a lower risk of them being removed by something more efficient.

Players start at thirty life and have a minimum deck size of fifty cards. Tied in with the life totals is what might be the most interesting mechanic of the game, the Rune mechanic. Players start with five runes in addition to their life total, and for every five life lost, one of that player’s runes breaks. When a rune breaks, that player immediately draws a card. If the card has the ability Prophecy, they can then play that card without paying its cost. The inclusion of this catch up mechanic makes some games feel very swingy, and though it can lead to some irritation of losing to luck, it does serve well to keep games competitive as long as possible.


Oddly enough, this game has a single player story mode. It’s through this you play the tutorial and unlock your first cards, as well as earn experience to level up your profile – and in a rather peculiar design decision, upgrade some if your cards. Various cards you acquire will be made better as you make progress, either with increased attack or health numbers, additional abilities, or sometimes a complete change in card function. When an upgrade occurs, you will get to choose how the upgrade occurs. I have not yet seen if the form you don’t choose becomes locked out.

Besides the upgrades, you get choices during the story mode which lets you decide between cards to unlock. These are presented as actions during the story, in basic situations such as whether to spare or execute a bandit, or, in another very bizarre moment, adopting a wolf puppy or throwing it off a waterfall. These decisions do not lock out the option you don’t choose, as they will still appear in booster packs.

The story is fairly typical fantasy, sending you through a variety of gimmick battles, many of which are quite fun and keep the games interesting. I’d like to see these available as options for Versus mode, but right now they are not. The presentation is quite nice, with some good static artwork in the cutscenes and in the cards themselves. The voice acting is not outstanding so far, but it’s serviceable, and there’s not too much of it to get in the way.


Currently, The Elder Scrolls Legends is a good digital card game that can occupy a lot of your time if you wanted to. It draws heavily on Hearthstone without question, and that may put people off from it. The differences in place are small, but they do give the game some feeling of its own identity. There is a great deal of potential here and I am interested to see where it goes from this point in the Beta. Sign-ups are open at https://legends.bethesda.net.


Surprise, The Internet Loves Miitomo – Combining Miis & Cats Is The Best Thing Ever!

Posted on April 1, 2016 by Rae Michelle Richards

The internet loves adorable kitty cats and memes, right? Well, we can add Nintendo’s first mobile title Miitomo to that list as well, for the time being. The company’s first mobile offering is currently trending in top 10 on Twitter with over 135K tweets about the game. Sadly over on Facebook the story isn’t exactly the same, as of publication time Miitomo is not trending. However, for those who doubted Nintendo’s presence carrying over into the mobile space, this just shows that there is an appetite for Nintendo content on smartphones.

Miitomo is the first free-to-play mobile game from the company long known for Mario and single handedly reviving the video games industry in the 1980s, among other accomplishments.  For Nintendo Miitomo represents a shift away from their traditional release model of tying their exclusive games to proprietary hardware to more open mobile platforms like Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems.Read More


Unravel Impressions: A Wooly World For Xbox & PlayStation Fans

Posted on February 10, 2016 by Rae Michelle Richards

When EA unveiled Unravel to the world last year during E3 I wasn’t exactly enthralled with the idea of yet another side scrolling platformer featuring a main character made out of cloth. To be honest, I always kind of pegged that as Sony’s thing and comparisons between Unravel and Little Big Planet are almost inevitable (creation tools aside) given the similarities between the two titles. This past weekend I sat down with the final build of Unravel and played through the first two of the game’s stages. After experiencing part of Yarny’s adventures, I can see what makes this game so unique from its peers.

Mechanically Unravel can easily be described as a physics-based side-scrolling puzzle game but that kind of distilled description does absolutely nothing to convey the sense of wonder, joy and happiness that will swell up inside of you when  the music, art direction, and main character all work in harmony.

Unravel stars the charming Yarny who is a small doll made out of red yarn probably no bigger than the size of your hand. As players traverse the environments the doll slowly leaves behind a single thread of red yarn that trails behind. Managing your amount of yarn is absolutely pivotal to succeeding in the two stages that I got the chance to play. As the material that comprises Yarny begins to literally unravel Yarny’s appearance becomes thinner and thinner until you can no longer travel any further. Thankfully players do have at least trick up their sleeve to help manage the output of yarn – by pressing the left skin our little red friend will pull taught on the yarn tail until there is no more slack, increasing the amount of space you can move.


Because Yarny is so small the world’s sense of scale a more of a micro scale when compared to other platformers. Things like chairs, seesaws, cupboards and gates are quite the obstacle for our little yarn friend to overcome. This is a game all about environmental puzzles – the game will set you up with all of the tools that you’ll need but it is up to you to put all the pieces together. Yarny might just be heavy enough to tip an empty seesaw when standing on it but the little doll will have to find an apple or another object to weigh down the playset. There is no way to throw items or really attack enemies, instead, gameplay focuses on finding clever ways to your environment while avoiding enemies or tricking them with distractions.

Upon first glance Unravel is a charming game with unique yarn based mechanics like limiting player movement, adding more yarn to our hero with checkpoints and the ability for players to lasso themselves from tree branch to tree branch. Not wanting to spoil what little the initial levels teased me with in terms of story it feels like Unravel is going to spin a narrative that will tug at the heart strings. The developers at ColdWood have taken the time to craft the world that feels interesting, unique and also warm – like visiting an old friend’s house after being away for a long time. After playing the first few levels, you’ll surely be wanting to return to his beautifully colorful world to find all of the secrets that Unravel’s world has to find.

[youtube id=”e_IY3pcB3rQ”]


The Overwatch Stress Test Changed My Opinion Of The Game

Posted on November 20, 2015 by Rae Michelle Richards

I’ve known about Blizzard’s colorful and vibrant first person shooter, Overwatch, for a while now. I remember everyone getting totally amped up about the game last November when the game was unveiled but I wasn’t as taken in my the initial gameplay trailers and character reveals as some fans where. After spending several hours with this weekends Beta Stress Test my opinion on the game has radically changed. Here’s a rundown of what I played and why I enjoyed it so much!Read More


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