Now Playing: Ascension: Chronicle Of The Godslayer (2011-2017)

Ascension is a collectible card game that may look a bit similar to Magic: The Gathering, but other than it being a fantasy-themed card game, it’s actually quite different. You don’t get lands or creatures, you just take whatever cards you get each turn and use them all up, trying to make the best use of whatever magic points, attack points, spells, and etc, that you can before the next turn when you get a whole new hand. Instead of directly attacking the other player, you both compete to gain the best cards and defeat the strongest enemies from the ever-changing center row, until the set number of max points runs down to zero, at which point, whoever has gained the most points wins.

Let me tell you, you’re not going to find a better card game than this for your phone, period. It’s easy to pick up, but has a lot of complex strategy that you can use to your advantage if you learn its ways. The touchscreen interface is amazingly simple and effective. Best of all, this is not one of those fucking free to play games where you can only gain powerful cards by countless hours of grinding or paying out the ass, no, in Ascension there are simply a selection of static sets of cards. Naturally, they all cost money (except the original set, which is still free SO FUCKIN TRY IT), but they’re only about 2-4 bucks each, and once you buy one, that’s it, no grinding or pay-to-win bullshit, you just have all the cards in the set forever. You can play each individual set or mix and match some or all of them together if you want. Play against the AI at varying lengths and difficulties or play online against random people if that’s what you’re into.

I’ve been playing this here and there for 6 years now, over the span of three separate devices, and they’re still making interesting new expansions, with all new cards and mechanics, and I’m still not tired of it. In fact, their latest expansion, War of Shadows, just came out and all the old expansions are on sale for 99 cents each, so now is a damn good time to check this game out.

Now Reading: Scalped

Scalped is the magnum opus of big-time comic writer Jason Aaron. Whatever your feelings may be on his mainstream superhero comic work (I’m of a mixed mind myself, loving his Thor, not really liking his Dr. Strange too much), these mature readers books are where he really shines, and Scalped, in particular, is something every comic fan should see, if they’re not too squeamish for it.

It tells the story of a bunch of people on a Native American reservation: some are criminals, some are the people trying to bring the criminals down, some are just everyday people caught in the middle, and all of them are thoroughly, disgustingly entangled in a complex train wreck of bleak misery. It’s certainly not for everyone. My wife often expresses her disgust in great detail when I play her movies and shows like this, where everyone is basically just awful and all they do is try to screw each other over, and she always asks me what I see in such dark, depressing stories where there isn’t really anyone worth rooting for. I’ll tell you the same thing I tell her: I just like dark shit, bro!

Anyway, also see the currently ongoing Southern Bastards for more similarly delightful Jason Aaron bleak-as-fuckery.

Now Playing – Nier (2010)

Playing the original in preparation for the long-awaited sequel coming out…tomorrow actually. Nier is a strange, strange game that is not for everyone and I’m pretty amazed that it’s actually getting a sequel. Nier is actually an indirect sequel to the first Drakengard game back on PS2. The plot doesn’t really require any knowledge of the Drakengard storyline to understand, but it does help, as the fallout of the final battle in Drakengard is what caused the world of Nier to turn out the way it did. What follows this final battle is a mysterious disease, the sudden appearance of monsters and magic, and a collapse of modern society that leads to everyone living in villages and fighting with swords and etc again. This neo-fantasy world seems simple enough, but as it turns out, the story is much, much more complicated than it first appears.

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Now Reading: Mind MGMT

Mind MGMT, put simply, is Matt Kindt’s tale of a secret organization of people with bizarre mental powers. The main plot is about a group of former members fighting against the Mind MGMT organization, which was formerly a beneficial one, but is now corrupt and evil, but the book also gets into the long history of the organization and its many weird members. As usual with Kindt, the powers these characters have are a lot more varied and unique than the usual telepathy/telekinesis/etc-type abilities you expect when you hear the term “mental powers”. Sure, there’s a little of that too, but mostly there’s a bunch of unconventional powers involving controlling and affecting minds through various mediums like books, music, and art.

This world and its characters are made even more dense by the unusual placement of pieces of side stories around the gutters of the pages and by Kindt’s dreamlike water colored art, which tends to contain a lot of double-imagery and other odd visual subtexts.

My only complaint is the same one I usually have about these kind of self-contained independent comics: the ending feels a bit sudden and condensed compared to all the slow build-up preceding it, a common problem with these kind of niche titles. Still definitely a worthwhile read though.

Now Playing: Final Fantasy Dimensions (2010)

Final Fantasy Dimensions is a mobile exclusive Final Fantasy game that’s based heavily on the old-timey Final Fantasy games of the NES and SNES days. The similarity to older Final Fantasy games is both the best and worst thing about this game. Yes, the retro look and mechanics and all the references to the old games are nice, but it brings all the old weaknesses with it too.

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Now Playing: Not A Hero (2015)

A Devolver Digital game with shooting, pixel graphics, and a nice chiptune soundtrack? What could go wrong? Shifty controls and outright cheating, that’s what. The game starts out decently, with fast paced shooting that feels a little like a side scrolling Hotline Miami, though a little more forgiving. There are multiple characters to be unlocked, though they all seem pretty useless once you unlock the fast running shotgun guy whose name I already forget.

There are comedic briefings between each mission that are amusing at first, but then get a bit grating after the first few times, when you just want to see your mission objectives, but are just given several minutes of jokes and nonsense that scrolls by way too slowly.

The biggest problem is that the button for the slide dash move is the same button used to take cover. Tap X to take cover, hold X to slide…except a lot of the time, even when you just tap X, you still end up sliding. When you are trying to take cover from a guy shooting a hail of bullets at you, but instead you slide directly into him, well…you can see how that might be a problem. A bit more than halfway through the game, the difficulty takes a huge, sudden leap too. It goes from walk in the park to Super Meat Boy type, one single wrong twitch and you’re dead, difficult. This suddenly turns that minor annoyance of a control issue into maddening mission failure after mission failure. I was trying to push through anyway, despite it becoming frustratingly un-fun to try to beat the missions with all the challenge objectives too, but then this happened in a ridiculously tough and strict secret challenge level:

I don’t even know how many times I had to try this level just to get this done, 50 times at least, and then it fucks me over like that? You can very clearly see that I got to the exit before the time ran out, but then the timer kept fucking clicking down anyway. No thanks, buddy. Quit and deleted the game before I ended up breaking another controller. Luckily, it was a free game this month, so all I lost was a few hours of my time, though I regret even that.