More Than a Bard’s Tale: Magicka Impressions

The world of Magicka is a rather twisted one, it seems. The main bad guy of the game, from the way the story is presented, appears to actually be more of a prisoner than anything else, chained at the end of the world by a council of wizards who wanted to keep the “bad guy” from developing a super-powerful spell that would, essentially, create peace across the land.

Your first task as a magician? Why, to stop by the farewell party the other magicians are having without you. They even finished the goat cheese before you could get there!

Magicka obviously doesn’t take the game world and setting too seriously, which is refreshing to note in this day and age where every game world you’re in is ultimately in peril. In the world of Magicka, the world has been in peril at least thrice in the span of one magician’s lifetime! They have a horrible track record of maintaining the peace, probably because they chained up the guy who wanted to develop a spell to end all strife.

I digress, of course. Let’s get to the meat, bones, and other choice exploding bits of this game. Once you’re able to find your way out of the magic academy to take on enemies, you’ll realize that combining spell elements together to create flaming balls of butt-kickery and icy death rays is a good idea. Compared to single-element attacks, your damage increases far better with spell element combos, such as fire and arcane, or my favorite, cold-arcane.

My run so far consists of the first three chapters of the game, all done solo, as the game’s multiplayer is a bit buggy at the moment. The game doesn’t care how many people you’re playing with though, because it still promises to give you tense moments of running and casting and bomb-avoiding and dying. It’s just more possible to die (hilariously, perhaps) due to friendly fire with more people in-game.

The game isn’t perfect though. There are points of game slowdown on the rig I’m running, which can run other games without a hitch on relatively high settings. The spell system, while fun to play, appears to reward unbridled use of offensive element + arcane combos, as they create death rays that pump up damage quickly, allowing you to take down single opponents faster and reposition. Fireball damage is a bit weak as well, though it hits far more people.

Much like any magician though, I’m sure that more time spent playing Magicka will result in the game casting its spell over me. I only hope that spell is a healing light and not some infernal death ray come to smite me for not coming up with better words to describe the game.

10 Minutes with Angry Birds: Some Impressions

I spent ten minutes earlier playing Angry Birds on the iPod Touch of a friend. The game is available for play on the iPhone or iPod Touch, provided that your device has the proper updates required to play the game.

Angry Birds is a game starring a bunch of differently colored birds who are angry… angry at pigs who apparently have done something wrong. I do not know what these pigs did (probably mass genocide of birds?), but the introductory cutscene-type deal seemed unappealing and cartoony so I skipped it.

Most of the ten minutes I spent playing Angry Birds was actually comprised of listening to my friends tell me about the controls. Apparently, these furious fowl are willing to jump on a slingshot and have someone finger them into position to be released all cannon-like in order to obliterate some pigs. This smacks of many MMORPG tropes, such as the suicide mission trope and the band of heroic fowl trope. By comparison, World of Warcraft and LOTRO both have chickens in them, and I assume they are also rather angry at the misrepresentation of their species as a fowl race.

Much like other MMORPG’s before it, Angry Birds is actually quite the intriguing multiplayer game, but for a different reason entirely. It involves a system of gaming known as “sharing,” which is commonly unheard of in many MMORPG’s as it requires people to relinquish control of the game in order to allow other people equal time in completing or failing objectives. That said, the addition of a sort of ranking system to determine who should best be set in the sharing roster may become an intriguing development for the game, should its developers decide to implement it, as it opens up an entirely new metagame that can enthrall its sizable fanbase into playing.

With that, it can be said that Angry Birds is one of the most innovative MMORPG’s I’ve had the experience of playing. Despite its lack of a crafting system and its rather lackluster quest implementation, Angry Birds serves as the immutable metaphor for the human spirit, as man, like an Angry Bird, must learn to overcome obstacles together in order to succeed in killing people who want to do other things which you disagree with.


EDIT: For the record, I do not take money from Rovio. They have not paid me to say anything. But I would like some money, so if you could send some my way, that’d be nice, Rovio. 🙂

Anime Recommendation: High School of the Dead


Doing a 180 from the happy world of Digimon, my second anime recommendation for the day would definitely have to be High School of the Dead.

The premise? Worldwide zombification pandemic. You’re in High School when the poop hits the air conditioning device, and the outbreak reaches your school from the front gate. How do you survive?

Well, if you’re a team comprised of a well-meaning high school kid with a baseball bat, a girl who’s good with spear martial arts, the class genius, a gun nut, the captain of the kendo club and the school nurse, you’re bound to find a way out of your zombie-infested school.It’s everything that comes after getting out of school that’s the problem.

Now, High School of the Dead is pretty depressing fare. People will die, and some of the living will turn on their friends just to try and survive, but will die anyway. Thing is, it’s compelling because the zombie outbreak scenario hasn’t been done from a school angle, as far as I know, and the high production values of this anime make it a must-see if you like horror, action, and  nail guns being turned into submachine pistols.

They’ve currently got three episodes aired so far, and it’s been quite intriguing to see what’s been happening to the people in the show. I won’t spoil anything else, but suffice it to say that zombies are only one pesky problem in the show.

Feel free to watch the opening sequence above, and then look for the anime online. Cheers!

Anime Recommendation: Digimon Xros Wars


It’s been a while since I did an anime recommendation, and with a new season of Japanese anime upon us, it seemed like a good time to focus on some pretty interesting series.

My first recommendation from my current viewing roster is Digimon Xros Wars, which is a new anime set in yet another alternate Digimon universe. It began on July 6, 2010, and currently has three episodes so far, with all of them being quite good, production value wise.

The story follows the adventures of a new child, Kudo Taiki, chosen by some mysterious force to carry the power of a new Digimon evolution device, called a XrosLoader (said as Cross Loader). With the XrosLoader, Taiki can evolve his stable of digimon by combining them into stronger forms. These DigiXros combinations give the fused digimon amazing power, and allow them to defeat the current baddie of the series, the Bagura Army.

Together with friends, rivals and his partner digimon Shoutmon, Taiki resolves to grow an army of digimon with which to fight the Bagura Army, ultimately allowing him and his friends to find a way home.

The premise is fun to imagine, since Xros Combinations would be very cool if you had an ever-increasing stable of digimon to help you out in battle. Like a little kid, I look forward to Taiki shouting, “DigiXros!” and seeing his digimon combine into awesome forms. It’s not a very deep series, but if you’re looking for something light-hearted and action-packed, it’s not a bad way to spend 23 minutes of your life.

Much Like the Force: Stillwater’s Star Wars Galaxies Impressions

Yes, I'm dancing. Shut up.

I spent a good chunk of time during my weekend playing Star Wars Galaxies and trying to get a hang of how the game plays. I guess it’s time to write some impressions of my own to add on to or contrast with what Elandarex was saying in his Star Wars Galaxies Impressions article.

For the most part though, let me spoil you now by saying that I am looking at this game without any knowledge of the New Game Experience. Whether pre-NGE was better than its current iteration is beyond me, but as it stands, the game has good and bad points, and I suggest that people try it out for themselves to make an informed decision of their own rather than simply reading my opinion on the matter. After all, I’m on the trial phase still and not the purchased portion of my free game time.

I rolled a Commando on the Farstar server in order to meet up with and get some additional training from Petter of Don’t Fear the Mutant. As such, I learned quite a bit more  about the game than what most newcomers would find, which included hanging out in Petter’s in-game home, as well as learning about beneficial buffs from Entertainers and Medics.

If you’ll read the blog post of Elandarex linked above, you’ll note some minor concerns with the character creation system, and I share those concerns myself. Starting off with a naked body and scaling it first before working outwards onto clothing options would have been a much more useful way of customizing the character you start off with. Luckily, my character looked Asian enough for me to be happy with, so off I headed to Tansarii station with my blaster in tow.

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Anime Recommendation: Summer Wars

Summer Wars

by Victor Stillwater

It’s been a while since I last made an anime recommendation post, and that’s for good reason. While I do watch quite a bit of anime in my spare time, rare are the instances when any piece of media makes you want to watch it more than once. Luckily for me, I found Summer Wars to be an enjoyable film that I’ve already seen thrice.

The story of Summer Wars can be summed up as a boy-helps-girl, boy-accused-of-crime, boy-fights-giant-evil-Artificial-Intelligence-with-math. Of course, that’s an exaggeration, so let me give you a more extensive overview of Summer Wars.

The story begins innocently enough: We are introduced to the virtual world known as OZ, which is essentially the equivalent of internet on crack. People can do everything on OZ, from play games, buy commodities, create custom avatars, and even access individual special areas, such as the accounts of public officials that manage water and power, etcetera.

We move onto the people of the story.[The main protagonist, Kenji, volunteers to help out the school idol, Natsuki, during her trip back to the countryside to attend her grandmother’s 90th birthday. Without his approval though, Natsuki announces him as her fiance to her grandmother, who figures out that something is fishy.

The juxtaposition of OZ and the family story occurs when a rogue AI called Love Machine (yes, I laughed when I first saw it too), wreaks havoc on OZ by stealing the accounts of users, creating havoc almost on a worldwide scale not only through the acquisition of the accounts, but also by manipulating important accounts to cause trouble for everyone: from faking fires to stopping traffic, Love Machine did it all.

As it happens, Kenji and Natsuki’s family try to stop Love Machine from escalating his attacks to include large-scale casualties, and that’s where all the action happens.

From CG fighting to amazing flying scenes, this movie delivers amazing animated CG and hand-drawn work. Of course, without a story, it means nothing. Summer Wars is a treat to watch, mostly because of the struggle of the family to find a way to work together to save the world, even while dealing with problems of their own.

Out of everything I said, you’d expect that I’ve already spoiled the movie for you. That, however, is not the case: the good parts are still well-hidden, and you’ll be surprised at how Love Machine looks, as well as how the rogue AI escalates his “games” with the rest of the world, leading to a climactic showdown between the family and Kenji versus Love Machine.

As for how to get a copy of Summer Wars, it should be out on Blu-ray now depending on where you live. Barring that, of course, there are “other means” available, if you wish to watch it.

The Nature of the Beast: Darkfall Impressions

It’s hard to put my thoughts into words at the moment, so let me preface this write-up by saying that I am the consummate Carebear. I generally dislike killing other players, prefer killing mobs, and love PVE.

As a simple game, Darkfall has that option for people who want PVE. You can skill up on mobs, acquire their gear, and grow stronger through their deaths.

If Darkfall were a living, breathing thing, however, it would be the equivalent of a wolf playing a Siberian husky: the beast will hide its fangs until the perfect time to show them comes, and when that time comes you should be prepared to fight or die.

I won’t go into too much detail regarding the look of the game, as screenshots on the net will give you a good enough impression of that, and the animations are serviceable enough, so instead, let me just tell you of my experience playing the game, hoping that the information contained inside will suffice for people who want to know about it.

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White Knight Chronicles: AKA Baby’s First RPG

While this article is mostly an excuse to post the utterly cute picture you see above for My Baby: First Steps, it’s also a long-overdue chance for me to write about a game I’ve been playing and haven’t finished yet. That game is White Knight Chronicles for the PS3.

I believe that there are no unplayable games, only people who dislike playing those games because it’s not a good fit with their personality. To that end, I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out how to best come up with an impressions article for WKC that explains the concept well without sacrificing the idea that all games are just looking for the right audience. I guess we should start with the ending idea, if only to make this clear: White Knight Chronicles isn’t a game for babies. It’s a game that is, perhaps, best suited for people who have never played an RPG before.

The story isn’t WKC’s strongest suit. At it’s core (at least, for the majority of the time I’ve played it) it lends itself out to the Mario Bros. genre of Saving the Princess, failing, then trying to save her again, getting stronger and more skillful as you go through trials. While this type of story may leave long-time RPG players somewhat jaded, it seems like the perfect entry point for someone who’s never played an RPG.

Under normal circumstances, strong gameplay mechanics and assorted other accoutrements would help to make an RPG playable for most everyone. Unfortunately for most veterans, WKC doesn’t serve up the same kind of experience. The main game itself is less of a strategic endeavor as it is the forcible use of a single cheap attack to store up Action Chips to summon your White Knight to speed up the process of killing stuff. While you could kill most everything as a human, it just takes way too much time to do that with the larger enemies, and mastering the art of healing and attacking is basically all you need to survive White Knight Chronicles.

The Georama system for this game, which is basically a town creation simulation and online RPG combined, adds value to the game, but doesn’t do much to enhance the experience. At its best, the game currently only has 50 online quests, forcing you to rerun kill quests if you want to get a higher guild rank and do more quests of the same type. The town creation system is nice, but you need quite a bit of coin to really make it work, which I haven’t been able to do at my current level.

One of the other minor annoyances I’ve found for this game is that you get to create a character for Georama use at the start of the game, but he not only doesn’t speak, he also doesn’t get credit for any of the heroic things he’s done in the Georama questing system. Even if he finds a rare item that could benefit the party in the main game, there’s no mention of him being thanked for it at all.

Does that make the game bad? To me, perhaps it’s a bit disappointing, but if I were to introduce this to my younger cousin, who’s never played an RPG before, he’d probably be in love. The game is a perfect wish fulfillment for being the knight in shining armor out to rescue the princess, and the game’s various systems are easily accessible to just about anyone. Best of all, if you’re new to the genre, and liked what you played, you’ll love the fact that the game doesn’t end here.

The knowledge that this game’s ending is gearing up for a sequel (White Knight Chronicles: The Awakening of Light and Darkness) also makes it clear that this is an entry into a world, rather than a definitive RPG experience. It’s probably not meant for long-time RPG fans, but as an entry-level RPG, it’d probably make for a wonderful first foray into Japanese role-playing.

Speaking of which, did I get to mention that you become a giant armored knight robot thingy?!