The Witcher 3’s Tribute to Paul Walker

 

paul walker fast and furious gif
Image Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Illegal Street Racing as Geralt

I’m finally finishing up The Witcher 3, year too late I know, and just participated in an illegal street race that is a subtle nod to the late and great Paul Walker and the Fast and Furious series.

It’s well documented that there is an achievement titled “Fast and Furious” that players can earn by winning all of the horse races throughout the game, but I couldn’t find any record of this other reference to the series, and Paul Walker specifically.

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Image Courtesy of CP Projekt Red

A Race for Cash, and Respect

The race I’m referring too takes place as part of “The Great Erasmus Vegelbud Memorial Derby” side quest. After you beat every other contestant in the derby, you are crowned champion and subsequently approached my one of Cleaver’s henchman, Cleaver is a dwarf crime boss in the city of Novigrad. Meeting with Cleaver results in him inviting you to compete in an underground and illegal street race through the city of Novigrad. There’s a vague reference here to Fast and Furious being that’s  it’s an “illegal street race” in a fantasy setting, which seems intentional, but it is also still part of the previously mentioned “Memorial” side quest and the race is known as the Palio for no discernable reason. Still pretty thin I know, I didn’t even make the connection yet, I had to replay the section after the race.

The King of Beggars isn’t exactly one of the scantily clad women that kicks off almost every race in Fast and Furious movies, but the line about respect is an obvious allusion to the scene in the original Fast and the Furious movie where Paul Walker’s character makes himself know the street racing kingpin, Dominic Toretto.

“I lose, winner takes my car, clean and clear. But if I win, I take the cash, and I take the respect… To some people that’s more important.”

The Palio is introduced as, “above all, a race of honor,” where, “the winner doesn’t  just win a reward, he earns our respect as well.” Taken altogether, this is a wonderful tribute to the late Paul Walker that seems to have been completely overlooked by most fans. Given that I’m a huge fan of the Fast and Furious and now the Witcher games, it was still pretty subtle overall.

But that’s not all! The icing on the cake is that after the races conclusion, there’s a humorous nod to the police chase following the race in the movie, except it’s a dwarf shouting, “temple guard, scatter,” rather than a street racer yelling, “we’ve got cops, cops, cops, go!” over a mic.

Someone at CD Projekt Red is obviously a fan alongside me, and that only makes me love the experience that is the Witcher 3 even more.

 

Resident Evil 7 PC Demo

resident evil 7 pc steam demo graphicsSurvival Horror Returns to Resident Evil

Resident Evil 7’s demo finally reached the PC and I was stoked to give it a try. I missed out on the first Resident Evil games when I was young and have always wanted to go. I haven’t made the time yet, but this sequel is geared as a return to the original direction of the series. I jumped into Resident Evil games with RE4, as I’m sure many people did. I had an incredible time playing Resident Evil 4, enough to get me interested in the entire rest of the series. Unfortunately, the brilliance and success of RE4 took the series away from its survival horror roots as the developers focused more and more on the cinematic actions scenes in Resident Evil 5 and 6. Resident Evil 7 is positioned as a reboot of sorts to bring the survival horror element back to Biohazard.

I played through the demo for the first time in a brightly lit room, midday with my dog sitting next to me. Despite the relaxed setting around me, I still had a tense and exhilarating experience playing through the short demo. I never had the pleasure of playing P.T., but it seems that both of these demos share similar inspiration. The demo starts with a short video being played that seems to be from the original “Kitchen” VR demo that eventually turned out to be the release trailer of RE7. Your character then wakes up in a dark room with a flashlight and a single directive appears on the screen, “Get out of the house.”

Incredible Atmosphere and Graphics

The literal first impression of the game is that it’s absolutely gorgeous. I’m not much into maximizing graphics, but my modest Alienware Alpha PC ran the game smoothly and the visuals were incredible to behold. Every surface is insanely detailed in the creepiest way possible. The biggest departure from the series’ history comes in here, the entire game is in first person. This makes the game feel even more immersive, and will make the announced VR version a one of a kind experience, at least in this stage of VR games.

resident evil 7 demo bad ending Interesting Enough for My Wife to Watch

Without going into exactly how I went through the demo, here’s a quick overview. There’s a bunch of things to interact with throughout the environment, and items to find that solve problems around the Baker house. I loved the video tape you find and watch/play through as found footage that both answers questions and brings more to mind. My first playthrough, I went on the most obvious path possible, which resulted in the “bad ending.” Later I got my wife to watch the game, she hates watching me play things, and went on the same directed path. She said she wasn’t that into it, but then I started a new playthrough and did everything completely differently. Using previous knowledge, I found new items that weren’t present on my last game and explored more of the house. I found more items and puzzles to solve. Long story short, she wound up coaching me and suggesting what I should try next, like what item probably solves which puzzle. I got much further into the experience, trying to get anything but the bad ending, and wound up getting killed. I answered some of my questions though, like “what the fuck was that noise”, and brought up new ones. I’ll use that knowledge in my next time in the Baker house.

All in all, I had a great time with the demo, and I got my wife to actually watch me play something, which is always nice. I’m definitely excited for this game. Since I missed the originals, this is my chance to get into the series for the same reasons that the oldest fans of Resident Evil did.

We’ll see how the rest of the game looks, but this is a great start to reinvigorate the series and capitalize on the gap that P.T. opened and abandoned in the market.

Destiny 2 on the PC Sounds Great

destiny 2 rumors for pc

The Struggles of a Controller Enthusiast and PC Shooters

Some information came out about Destiny 2, most importantly the fact that it’s likely to be released on the PC this time around. This is kind of a big deal for me. I sold my consoles and made the switch to a PC in my living room with a Xbox controller not too long ago and I’ve loved it so far. The only regret I have is in the area of first person shooters.

I love competitive first  person shooters, but my current setup locks me into playing all of my games with a Xbox 360 gamepad. Back on the 360, I was a pretty competitively skilled player in Call of Duty and the like. I can’t say the same anymore. Besides the fact that I’ve had less time to play, playing with a gamepad is technically inferior to a mouse and keyboard. I’ve tried my best with Overwatch and Black Ops 3, but you can feel that the controls are less precise than the competition. Since giving Overwatch the old college try, the idea of getting a console just for competitive shooters has been in the back of my mind. The idea just won’t go away.

Destiny raid co-op gameplay

Destiny’s Co-Op Seems Controller Friendly

Destiny 2 has given me a chance to save some cash. Destiny is known to be a finely honed shooter experience that is also, for the most part, not a competitive player vs. player experience. With this news, I’m hoping to scratch my shooter itch with some of the cooperative Destiny 2 action, with a little team death match mixed in for good measure. Unlike the majority of shooters, the focus of Destiny is the cooperative mode and not the cutthroat competitive multiplayer that my controller handicaps me at.

Controllers on PC and Steam Big Picture

It seems like the amount of players that use a controller on the PC and Steam is growing. Almost every newish game that I’m interested in has controller support, and hopefully the issue will be addressed at some time. I’ve heard rumors of games adding matchmaking that takes the type of input players are using into account and makes games from either all controllers or all mouse and keyboard, but I haven’t seen any examples of it actually happening yet.

This is such a first world problem, but I’m still hopeful that I’ll be able to use my more powerful PC and controller to play the shooters I miss so much sometime. Most specifically, I’m psyched for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered, whenever they decide to start selling it outside of a bundle that is.

Then again, a game like this emerging on a new platform could be bad for some people…

Images courtesy of Bungie

Steamworld Heist is Exactly the Game I Didn’t Know I Wanted

Steamworld Heist cover art

Steamworld Heist is a Future Classic

I recently played and beat Steamworld Heist, and I will assuredly be going back for more. It was one of my most genuinely quality game experiences that I’ve had in recent memory. It didn’t stand out to me because it appealed to me personally for any specific reason, it distinguished itself because it was the definition of being just plain fun. I would highly recommend it to anyone, regardless of whether they are typically interested in games. Here’s why.

Steamworld Heist Gameplay is Tight and Fun

Steamworld Heist is just a damn good game. It’s a turn-based, tactical squad game, akin to Xcom: Enemy Unknown, but in a 2D plane like the Worms games. It features only robots, protagonist steam-bots facing off against imperial adversaries, so there’s no blood and only cartoon violence. There are some tense tactical situations, but there’s no perma-death as the steam-bots can always be re-assembled. Each character has a likeable and cartoony personality and you end up with a crew of various outdated steam-bots on a noble mission against the ever powerful imperial forces. It sounds a little cliché, but the quality and approachability of the gameplay and the quality of the experience make this a game that everyone can enjoy.

Steamworld heist gameplay

The scrappy captain and the crew that she assembles echoes likeable sci-fi properties, and comparisons to the likes of Firefly are unavoidable. The similarities only make the game’s spirit more fun. I haven’t played anything that so effectively evokes memories of the well-meaning struggles of Mal and crew.

The phrase that just kept coming to my mind while I was having a ball playing through the campaign is that it’s just clean fun. In a world where games realistic graphics and competitive killing situations get the most attention, this is a diamond in the rough. The feelings of pure fun I had while playing it are shared with the greats like Super Mario 64.

Steamworld Heist Captain Piper Humor

Image and Form Evokes Classic Nintendo

While I’m not sure how much success Steamworld Heist had on the 3DS as a Nindie, I can completely see why Nintendo wanted it on the platform. Without any compromise, this game mirrors the quality of experience that gave Nintendo the reputation that they enjoy today, despite their more recent struggles.

I will always love Nintendo because of the experiences their consoles and games afforded me during my youth that sparked my interest in video games. The time I had playing Steamworld Heist strides side by side with some of my favorite gaming experiences. Sure, I probably won’t sink the hours into it that I do with the likes of Dark Souls games, but there would be no shame in doing so. Along with that, I would never introduce someone to modern gaming with a Dark Souls adventure, but Steamworld Heist would be a perfect way to jump into contemporary gaming.

All images courtesy of Image & Form Games

South Park: The Stick of Truth Finally Does Game Humor Right

South Park stick of truth avatar
That’s me with Cartman in fantasy South Park form with a sweet eye scar!

The Stick of Truth is Fucking Hilarious

I love South Park, it has its highs and lows, but on average, I think its a terrific show that’s grown up as its aged. Video games have tried to take advantage of the quality of South Park quite a few times with limited success. The best attempt might have been a Xbox Live Arcade tower defense game with a quality skin of South Park over the entire thing. It was an alright game, but it felt like a pretty generic game with a few sound bites and some licensed assets added in. South Park: The Stick of Truth is what South Park games should have always been, and displays the potential of both humor in gaming and licensed video games.

Firstly, I cannot believe that I waited this long to play this game. I’ve looked forward to every new episode of South Park for years and loved the arc featuring the Stick of Truth, but this game came out when I was doing limited gaming and slipped by me. What a shame. But with the hype building around South Park: The Fractured But Whole and a great Summer Steam Sale deal, it was about time I jumped in.

SOuth park stick of truth jimmie
Jimmy could stutter on forever if you don’t “Hold to Skip”

Poking Fun at Cliche Game Mechanics

It’s amazing how genuinely the entire game looks like the show. Even though this was originally an Xbox 360 game, I can’t see it looking any better than this due to the art style of the show. I’ve seen this license squandered in the past though, and graphics themselves don’t do much for me although these are a bit of a special case due to subject matter. I’ve heard Matt and Trey took a more active role in the creation of this game due to the mixed results of South Park games in the past, and it shows. I am a biased South Park fan,  but this may be the funniest game I’ve ever played and one of the best uses of a license. It pulls the player into what feels like a genuine, feature length, South Park story while never forgetting that it is also a video game.

It is at its best when it feels like a great South Park sequence that would only work in an interactive medium. It makes players a part of the joke and often attaches a video game trope mechanic to the joke to make sure it lands just right. This is fan service in the best possible way, while especially catering to fans that love gaming as well. This ranges from context sensitive lines from characters to hilarious button prompts. My favorites were scenes where Jimmy’s stuttering is never ending until you use the now cliche “press and hold to skip” button mechanic.

south park post-2

RPG mechanics  and tropes are fully taken advantage of in the best ways as well. You get the chance to create your own avatar in the style of the show, which is great fun for fans. Then you get to name your character, but when Cartman asks you what your name is and the text input box appears you realize that you are a very literal silent protagonist. You can’t answer so the box defaults to a blank box and Cartman decides only one title is fit for a hero such as you… Douchebag, of course.

Befitting a fourth grader in South Park, you get made fun of a bunch for being weird and never talking, but you are also the hero of the town and the entire game. Fitting the classic silent protagonist role , there is also an awesome elf costume, which straight up makes you a South Park style Link from the Legend of Zelda.

South Park stick of truth legend of zelda link

So Many Great Video Game References

That isn’t the only funny and blatant nod to gaming culture though. The toxic goo in town from a UFO that’s causing so much trouble is doing so by turning anyone exposed to it into, wait for it…. Nazi zombies. The only enemy more played out than generic zombies. But they do it in a hilarious way by making fun of how done the idea Nazi zombies is, even as the zombie is running amok. Oh, and there are zombie nazi cats and mutant rats to, as well as babies…. I’ll let you figure that one out.

South Park stick of truth Canada retro map

The adventure takes you to far off lands as well, well Canada, which hilariously transforms the game into a 16-bit classic RPG as soon as you cross the border.

Get into Your Own Epic South Park Adventure!

The whole gang is in tow on this epic too, so you can look forward to all of your favorites making appearances and doing what they do best. The main quest is definitely the main attraction in this game, but the side quests flesh out the world. Talking to characters at home often gets you a fun side quest to do a wide range of activities from play hide and seek with kindergartners to hunting down manbearpig and then Al Gore to unfriend him. They’re a blast and the art style makes it feel like each one is a South Park short hidden in the game.

Hilarious situations and dialogue are around every corner in the Stick of Truth. I’m glad I finally sat down with it and I cannot wait until the undoubtedly epic Marvel Civil War parody, South Park: The Fractured But Whole, comes out this winter. Thanks for reading and feel free to leave a comment below!

Enter the Gungeon Review- It Kicks Some Serious Ass, Seriously Fast

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My New Go-To Quick Play Game

I’ve been playing way more Enter the Gungeon than I anticipated that I would when I picked it up. I’ve also been more steadily busy recently and unable to devote the kind of attention to games like I gave to Dark Souls 3. I still want to play, but I want quick sessions that give me a full experience in not too much time. Enter the Gungeon is exactly what I want right now.

An Entrie Game Experience Every time you Sit Down

Enter the Gungeon is a humorous, roguelike, bullet hell indie game from Devolver Digital and Dodge Roll Games. Sounds weird, I know. You explore dungeons slaying monsters with your trusty firearms which range from generic starter weapons to Mega-Mans blaster and a lightsaber gun. The floors are procedurally generated and contain random chests which feature guns you can unlock in the lobby with the in-game currency. Each floor ends with a boss selected from a few possibilities that allows access to the next floor through a giant, bullet elevator.

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They Love Crazy Guns as Much as Borderlands

That elevator doesn’t stand out rocketing you between levels though, just about everything in this game is gun themed. They really went with the “Gungeon” theme. Bullets with arms and legs waddle toward you shooting pistols and machine guns. Fittingly, shotgun shells are armed with shotguns that spray large amounts of shots. Further down on the second floor, you’ll find large caliber bullets armed with high damage sniper rifles. If everything stuck to these conventions, it could get a little tiresome though. Luckily, there are still some more typical dungeon dwellers, like angry, magic-wielding, spell books and huge knights to fight. The best Gungeon dwelling monsters come with creative crossovers though.

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My favorite monster I’ve run into is the Beholster. It’s a clever take on the well know D&D giant, floating eyeball monster known as a Beholder. At least I think its well know enough for people to get it, I’ve never played D&D and I’ve definitely seen this thing a few places before. In the Gungeon, instead of each of his tentacles ending with another eye, they each hold a different huge gun so he can attack in a multitude of ways. That’s not an uncommon sight in the Gungeon though. In addition to being a roguelike, this is definitely inspired by bullet hell games.

Simple Combat that’s Hard to Master

Not a far shot from the Dark Souls games I love, rolling is crucial in Enter the Gungeon. Your arsenal includes a diving combat roll. While you’re in the air, bullets don’t hurt. Its a crucial skill to be able to duck and roll while firing away at enemies almost constantly. Face your fears and dive straight into a wall of bullets, if your timing’s on point, you’ll emerge unscathed.

The deepest I’ve made it is to a boss on the third floor. I’ve heard there’s 5 floors total and I’ve only unlocked 2 of the 48 Steam Achievements, so I’ve got some work left to do. I’ve played for almost 10 hours already and I feel like I’m barely scratching the surface. I just discovered an entirely secret floor you can unlock behind a fireplace on the first floor, and I doubt that’s all the game has hidden from me.

Secrets, Depth, and Plenty of Replaybility

It’s not a huge game, but it’s got plenty to offer for the $15 price tag. It could be exactly what you were looking for, it has been for me. I’m playing on my Alienware Alpha PC with a Xbox 360 controller and the game looks and runs great. I’m loving Enter the Gungeon so far, and I’m sure I’ll be putting quite a bit more time into it, I can’t wait to try out the local co-op with some friends.

Let me know what you think of Enter the Gungeon or the review in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

Photo Credits: Devolver Digital, Dodge Roll Games, and in-game Captures from Enter the Gungeon

10 Tips For Getting Started In Stardew Valley the Right Way

 

Stardew Valley Intro Scene

Stardew Valley has taken Steam by storm over the past week, and that includes myself. It’s been one of the top seller since release, occasionally even the top but usually falling behind one big budget game like Fallout 4’s Season Pass or currently, The Division.

I have been waiting for this game for what seems like, and may have been, years. I discovered Stardew Valley awhile ago after I first got into Steam gaming, I thought there had to be something like Harvest Moon out there for me to get into rather than further emulating Harvest Moon 64. It turns  out there wasn’t anything on the market at the time, but there was a development blog going for a one man project called Stardew Valley. I immediately became interested in the project and started keeping tabs on it every few weeks.

(Don’t worry, I have the Harvest Moon cartridge and it may be the only one I keep forever. Bury me with it and a N64. If the Egyptians were right, they probably weren’t,  it’ll keep me entertained forever.)

Back to Stardew Valley… Where to begin? I am so engrossed in this game right now. It is everything I wanted for a spiritual successor to the classic Harvest Moon games that I fell in love with. Thank you to Concerned Ape, the lone developer that brought it to life.There is so much to say about this game and the process that brought it to completion. I will definitely be writing a few posts about it, given that it’s all I’ve been playing since it was released.

The first thing that I want to get into is it’s obvious roots in the Harvest Moon series. It is so firmly rooted in classic Harvest Moon that it seems like the developer assumes that you’ve played at least one of them and know the core mechanics. The gameplay is very similar to a point that it was immediately comfortable and engrossing for me to get into it, but this could be frustrating to someone who has no history with the games that inspired it. I don’t think looking at guides online is the answer though, it doesn’t seem like that is what the developer intended.

“I still think that the best way to play the game is to figure everything out yourself and not necessarily try to maximize the amount of money you make in anything, but I can understand that eventually you would want to do that just as a way of challenging yourself within the game.”

-Eric Barone (@ConcernedApe) via Vulture

The “Living off the Land” TV show is great for tips throughout your play through and you should check it out everyday, but I wanted to make a brief primer for people who just discovered the game due to its huge success so far on Steam.

    Here’s what you should know to get started:

    1. Water your crops everyday, once a day. You’ll be able to tell if the soil is wet.
    2. Pet your dog and your other animals, just go up to them and hit the action button. It’s almost as important as feeding them
    3. You can start planting crops however you want, but eventually your watering can will water 9 squares at a time. (It’s amazing)
    4. Tools get easier to use, meaning they use less energy, as you use them more. You can make your tools better using mined minerals with the help of the Blacksmith, Clint.
    5. Robin can build you several buildings which allow you to keep livestock that you can purchase from the ranch just south of your farm.
    6. Eggs can be hatched into chickens with an upgraded coop
    7. Giving gifts to the townspeople and talking to them makes them like you more. Don’t look up what gifts to give people, just try out different items to figure out what everyone likes yourself.
    8. Crops die at the end of seasons. Some crops can be harvested only once where others last the entire season with multiple harvests.
    9. Don’t miss the festivals, they build up the characters, town, and the game experience.
    10. You can forage for stuff and sell it to get started, it grows randomly around the town. You can also chop wood and break rocks to sell, but they’re worth more as building materials later on.

I think that’s enough to get you started. One of the best aspects of this game, and the Harvest Moon games that came before it, is the sense of discovery that you get as you find out how deep the game is.

Is there any basic info that I missed that helped you get a farm started right in Stardew Valley? Let me know in the comments below, but no spoilers!

Stardew Valley Haley