No more free packs in Tavern Brawl?

One free pack per week during the opening celebration of Tavern Brawl.

I think we were all ignoring that second part. But I guess it’s time to pay the piper. Last week’s Brawl was the first to not have a free pack as a prize for your first victory, instead granting a Christmas-themed card back.

Which was good, because last week’s Brawl was shit and I really didn’t want to play it.

I mean, I did anyway. But I didn’t enjoy it. And that card back can go into the ever-growing pile of card backs I simply do not give a fuck about.
Continue reading “No more free packs in Tavern Brawl?”

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Earthcore: Shattered Elements

So, it’s been a month.

Alright, so it wasn’t my fault. Every weekend this month, I’ve been out of my house. This just so happens to be the first weekend I’ve had in my house for ages. So we’ll have less of that judging, alright? I haven’t had time.

And it just so happens that time is the theme of this post. Turns out that with a full time job, space for gaming is pretty scarce. I’ve squeezed it in where I could, but its nowhere near as much as I wanted. So this is largely a digest of mobile games I’ve played in the last month, and the occasional bit of actual PC gaming. Because mobile games aren’t real games, everyone knows tha– OH GOD I’VE BECOME WHAT I HATED!

The fate of elitists
MFW.

In penance, I’ll tell you about a mobile game I played this last month. Earthcore: Shattered Elements. I heard about this on the Co-optional Podcast, and it sounded interesting enough to keep me entertained on the loo while at work; the effective gold standard of mobile games.

Earthcore has an interesting mechanic. The game is played out on a 3×2 board where you and your opponent take turns laying out cards, and the battles are resolved after the board is full. The twist? Each card has an inherent element which interacts with other elements, rock-paper-scissors style. Fire beats grass, grass beats eater, water beats fire. Each card fights the card directly opposite it, and the dominant element wins the duel. Stalemates result in both cards getting flipped over onto the board. The loser takes damage equal to the “risk factor” of the losing card, represented by a number on the card. Stalemates mean that risk stacks, and whoever loses a matchup on that stack, takes all the accumulated risk on your side. The general idea is that higher risk cards have more influential abilities, but also pose more of a risk if played badly.

A fourth element also exists, known as dust. This element loses to any other element, except other dust cards, and a handful of card abilities can turn cards into the dust element, in exchange for changing another card’s element in another row, or some other advantage. Very few cards have dust as their inherent element, and those that do usually have an ability that makes up for it, like element mimicry. You’ll most often come across dust cards via card abilities, which can change your cards, or your opponents, into the dust element.

What’s that? You’re not confused yet? WELL SHIT SON, HOLD ONTO YOUR PANTS BECAUSE I’M ABOUT TO PLOT-TWIST THEM ROUND!

 There are three classes: Mage, Rogue, and Warrior. Playing Mage involves using a lot of cards that change the elements of your own cards, Rogue cards move around the board at will, and Warrior deals in direct damage to the opposing player. There are no class specific cards, but if your cards are aligned to your element then those cards have a discount on their risk.

There’s also a hero card system, which involves creating unique hero cards by sacrificing other cards to gain their abilities. But I didn’t really delve into that. Why didn’t I?

Earthcore: Shattered Elements board
It looks simple. So simple. That’s how it gets you.

Because it turns out that Earthcore makes me angry. Very, very angry.

The game has a single player mode, which follows a storyline. Something about coming back to your city and finding it overrun with goblins or something. I didn’t spend a lot of time reading, because of the rage.

This game is fucking hard. Like, really hard.

I got my arse handed to me on several different occasions by the first enemy. First AI enemy, mind you.

Playing Earthcore well is about balancing several different factors. Firstly, you have your own cards. You’ll want a generally even split amongst the elements in your deck, to give you a good reaction against any element your opponent might play – so being able to build a good deck is a must. Next, balance the risk factor of the cards you have against what your opponent is playing, whilst keeping in mind your cards abilities and the abilities of your opponent. A well-timed ability can turn the entire board against you. Irreversibly, usually.

And at the end of every round, victorious cards return to the hand, so make sure you remember what cards you saw from your opponent’s four card hand.

And it turns out that I can’t do any of these things. I’m a terrible strategic gamer, and a poor loser. It wasn’t unknown to play a few games on the bus and arrive home in a foul mood, simply because it felt like the card draw screwed me over. It hadn’t, but god damn it felt like it.

So I uninstalled it for the sake of everyone around me. I’m a much nicer person without Earthcore.

But if you’re the type of person who enjoys really deep strategic gameplay, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. The free-to-play model is well balanced, and it’s easy to get a good collection of cards just through the single player.

Well, I say easy. “Possible” is probably a better word.

It’s a good game, if you’re any good at this sort of thing. I’m not, so I utterly despised it. Still, like any free game, it’s worth a punt, and it’ll burn a few of those paid loo breaks away.

(Just a note: if you happen to employ me, I totally don’t spend ages on the loo playing games. That would be very unprofessional.)

(Please don’t fire me.)

Fuck you, Alien Swarm.

After playing for around an hour on Alien Swarm, my brave comrades and myself finally reached the last stage of the Jacob’s Hope campaign.

Our task, which we chose to accept, was to detonate a nuclear bomb deep underneath the campaign’s facility in order to raze the alien menace from the face of the Earth.

We suited up, ready to take on the alien menace plaguing the facility. In a break from my usual vocation as the Tech marine, I had chosen the Officer class, in order to fully take advantage of the monstrous shotgun combo afforded to that class. Armed with my Vindicator assault shotgun and a pump-action shotgun as a sidearm, I strode into the fray, blowing apart multiple xenos as I went.

It was all going well until I ran out of ammunition. I was forced to pick up a mining laser, in order to keep the aliens from eating my face. Thankfully, my electrified armour kept my face from being literally eaten by parasites – think Headcrabs, but more persistent.

Bruised, bloodied but never beaten, we made it to the final area. There was an ammo dump too, so I got to refill my shotgun before the final task. We simply had to hack the console to turn the nuke on, before hotfooting it out of the level before the explosion went all Modern Warfare on us. Sounded simple. Until we realised that every motherfucker and their alien cousin was going to turn up to check out the disturbance.

Time’s up; hack’s over. We ran for it. All semblance of squad tactics forgotten, we cheesed it for the exit. Our transport was waiting for us at the very end. Our Medic bit it first, being taken down by aliens flooding into the area. I ran on, followed by our Special Weapons person (sexually equal title). The Tech marine took a one-way ticket next, being gang-banged by remorseless aliens. Just behind me, the Special Weapons person taken down by horde after horde of aliens; a vicious slow motion giving me second-by-second analysis of his brave death. I imagined his soundless mouth telling me to push on, to defeat the alien menace. But with my ears full of alien viscera, and my head down I heard nothing.

Alone, I purged forwards, unloading my shotgun again and again and again. Aliens fell before me, carpeting my squishy path to freedom, Perhaps I had been cold to leave my fellow soldiers behind to die, but that’s the cruel nature of leadership. Sometimes, sacrifices must be made for the good of the mission. Each would be remembered as a martyr for their race. And now, the mission was all. I needed to escape. The end was in sight, I could see the gunship before me, hovering and ready to take me away. Spitting in my face, the devil had sent his finest, and large aliens waited to assail me before my final victory. Shield bug after shield bug awaited me, with legions of regular soldier bugs. I scythed my way through, blowing through rank after rank of exploding alien carcasses. I never bothered with the shield bugs, simply running past them. But this was to my folly. One turned to deliver a mighty blow onto my backpack, hurling my slight body into a pile of wooden boxes. Frantically, I smashed my way through the countless aliens in front of me. But strike after strike took their toll, and I finally fell beneath the unstoppable alien horde. My last sight was the gunship taking off in panic as the alien attempted to claw at it’s undersides…

Afterwards, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. The complaints of lag were well placed, and ultimately led to many of my compatriots downfall, including the brave Special Weapons person. But it was one hell of an exhilarating game, and one I hope to try again.

At which point, the game told me that the mission had been failed.

Fuck you, Alien Swarm. Whether or not we made it back alive or not is not part of the question. The nuke still went off, and we still saved the human race. Each one of us was a brave and forgotten martyr of the human race, and we deserved to be told that we succeeded.

Damn, this wrong needs righting. Fire that game back up!

I’ll admit creative exaggeration on the numbers of aliens in the final part, but it sounded pretty damn good! Either way, Alien Swarm is available for free from the Steam Store now.

On Murdering Defenceless Animals

Who knew that killing deer could be such fun? Certainly not I.

That’s why when I found myself getting rather addicted to the hunting simulator, “theHunter”, I was rather surprised. I’d never played a hunting game before this, for fear of becoming an evil fuzzy-bunny murderer. And after becoming an evil fuzzy-bunny murder, I must say it isn’t as bad as I’d thought it’d be. For one thing, I’m an evil deer murderer.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not the kind of guy who revels in pain and death. I’ve wooped at my own share of crockets, and I’ve sworn and promised revenge on plenty of Demomen. But it’s never been on the level of slaughtering an innocent animal in the name of sport, even if it is in a game. I’ve always been of the mindset that unless it’s actively trying to kill me, I’ll leave it alone. That’s always been my mindset in Warcraft PvP, and I feel iffy taking an innocent life.

I downloaded the 450MB client and about a week later, after I remembered that I’d downloaded it, installed it and created a character on their website. Standard login, standard password, standard nickname… what’s this? Choose a from a randomised selection of faces and names? Vincente Foxe it is, a beautifully pornstar-esque name, even if my character does look Mexican.

So, with my Mexican pornstar alter-ego created, I clicked the “Hunt Now” button (the game is launched through the website; this isn’t a game for those with unsteady connections) and the game booted up. I quickly chose the highest possible settings based on a pre-disposed assumption that my computer can run anything.

My god…

This game is prettier than a Hollywood poster boy. If anything, my deer-hunting pornstar felt a little intimidated. It was certainly prettier than his day job. I wondered if he was getting feelings he was only supposed to get on set. I knew I was.

After literally gobsmacking at the graphics and squeeing at the presence of crepuscular rays, I wandered aimlessly around for a while, inspecting the odd leaf, and strolling off into the forest at my leisure. Ten minutes later, bored, I closed the client.

So far, it wasn’t the emotional tour de force that I’d expected from Grand Theft Hunting: Deer edition. Hell, I hadn’t even seen a deer. It was as I closed the game and glanced at the website that I noticed I had a message. It turned out to be the tutorial, and I follow the directions down to the waterside, where I notice two deer drinking from the lake. I go prone to steady my gun, aim my sights carefully over the poor animal, whisper an apology, hold my breath to steady my sights and…

I miss. The deer runs off into the forest. With it go my last vestiges of restraint towards the killing. I’m hooked. There’s something horribly compulsive about tracking down and killing something that actively works against you. There’s a true pride in pitting yourself against an opponent that you must out think and outmanoeuvre your prey. The first time I succeeded in taking down a deer, I yelled “get some!”, like I was in Vietnam or something. It felt like the deer had really made me work for my victory. This was the most fun that I’d had in ages. No FPS had compared to the sheer joy that I gained simply from trekking around forests. It was the constant hope that a deer will be around the next corner that kept me tracking them, and it made up for the long time between spottings when I finally did find one. And then it was “just one more”.

I’ve succumbed. I’ve bought a four month license to hunt the rest of the wildlife on the island, better camoflague, and a much better gun.

But how long will this game last me until I get bored? In the meantime, turkey, coyote, elk and whitetail deer await me!

Visit theHunter at http://www.thehunter.com/pub/.