The Pro Controller Got Me Into Splatoon 2

spaltoon 2 nintento switch pro controller 1

I pre-ordered Splatoon 2 given the great things I’d heard about the original game. Like so many, I never had a Wii U and missed out on it. I was into it for a bit. I played through the first few SplatFests and had a great time. It was nice to have a competitive “shooter” experience on my new console. I didn’t stick with it for long though. There was a ton coming out on the Switch and there was something that wasn’t hooking me into Splatoon.

It was the joy-cons.

Continue reading “The Pro Controller Got Me Into Splatoon 2”

Obligatory Nintendo Switch Post

nintendo-nx-switch-reveal

Today has been an exciting day for gamers. It began with the official reveal of the codename “Nintendo NX” as the Switch and then continued with the reveal trailer for Red Dead Redemption 2. Let’s take a closer look at the Nintendo Switch.

First of all, you’ll quickly discover that I’m pretty excited about their new console, its exactly the type of concept I was hoping for with all of the leaked information and will get me back to playing some Nintendo games.  The Switch is a modular gaming console intended to function both as a home console and as a portable console for gaming the go, all with the same performance and game library. Because of Nintendo’s unique approach to this console, just about every feature is unique to the Switch.

The form factor is a tablet like device in its most basic form. That is where the relate able features end though. It seems like the tablet’s screen is not touch sensitive from the reveal trailer as they show no one using touch inputs, so that makes it different from anything in the tablet space. The way that you interact with it is through the Nintendo Switch’s unique controllers. Firstly, the controllers, pictured above, are not tradition in any way, but can be attached to a sort of grip secondary device to form a more tradition gamepad with a layout not too far from a Xbox One gamepad, albeit with a significant square frame in the middle. This is the home console controller for when you have the device hooked up to the big screen.

nintendo-switch-multiplayer

You can then remove the 2 input sections from the grip and attach them to the sides of the tablet to make it an all in one device. This is where the portable aspects of the console come in. While on the go, you can also use a kickstand on the tablet to set it up on any flat surface and then detach the controllers so you can sit back and play. Here they look a bit like the Wii-mote and nunchaku without a cord attaching them to each other. A great aspect along with this is that the controllers seem to be identical, and when using them you simply hold one upside down so one controller favors buttons and the other a joystick, just like when they’re attached to the tablet or controller grip. But, because they’re identical, you can also hand one over to a friend and play together, as demoed with the new Mario Kart.

When you want to play at home, there’s a docking station that you just hook the tablet into to switch the video to your tv. It seems like gameplay seamlessly can be continued after docking it or after removing it from the dock. From there, you  can either take the detachable controllers off to play with them standalone or attach them to the controller grip. If you want a more traditional gamepad, there’s also a home controller that looks just like the old Xbox 360 controller. Nintendo has stated that the games will all preform identically whether you’re playing on the tablet or on your TV, but haven’t released anything about the display resolution of the tablet’s screen.

nintendo-switch-3

The reveal trailer also showed off a ton of software, likely due to the post launch woes of the Wii U. The games displayed featured some of Nintendo’s heaviest hitters like Splatoon, Mario Kart and of course Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but they also prominently display the Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. This is Nintendo speaking to consumers who are worried about 3rd party support. To further show developer support, they also showed a group playing EA’s NBA 2k16 (probably) with 4 players across two consoles that were linked wirelessly. I’m huge on couch co-op, but its often neglected in favor of online multiplayer in the current gaming environment, so it’s nice to see that it’s still a focus at Nintendo. Although, requiring 2 consoles to play 4 player local is an interesting move.

That brings me to my next point. Nintendo hasn’t given us any details outside of the release date listed at the end of the video. The video of 4 players playing with 2 consoles gives me the idea that it will be rather affordable though. Nintendo usually focuses on making their hardware approachable price-wise  and this seems like it will follow that trend, although it looks to be a more premium device than either the Wii or Wii U as far as build quality. It might not require 2 consoles for 4-player action, they might’ve just been showing off the portable multiplayer functionality though. If the modular do-anything nature of the device is any hint though, we’ll probably have a ton of options with the Nintendo Switch.

The last thing that really sticks out is that there were no kids in the trailer. Everyone showed playing the console is a young professional looking person, likely the crowd that grew up with the original Nintendo. They’re banking on nostalgia, just like with the upcoming NES Classic, and I have no problem with that.

All Images and Video courtesy of Nintendo

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

Beer Gaming Pairing: 3 Floyds Zombie Dust and Dark Souls 3

Beer Pair Dark Souls 3

Beer and Gaming Coming Together

I’ve been working on this one for a while, it’s an idea that I’m excited about. There are many reasons why I am so passionate about both beer and gaming, but one at the forefront is how well they go together. Pairing beer and food is all good and fun, but this idea is more me. It’s obvious that gaming is experiential, but drinking a great beer is an awesome experience as well.

As you know from several of my other posts, I love the Dark Souls series and Dark Souls 3 was the first of the games that I had the opportunity to play the moment of its release. Right around that time, I had also luckily acquired some of what would become one of my favorite beers that I’ve ever tasted, 3 Floyd’s Zombie Dust. The game and the beer paired together seemed like a match made in heaven, and they proved to be such.

Dark Souls 3 beer pairing zombie dust

Two Parallel Acquired Tastes

Almost everyone that follows video games knows about the punishing difficulty that has made the Souls series of games notorious. They are a grinding and sometimes stressful experience, but for certain people, they are also the most rewarding game experiences you can have. I happen to be one of those people, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the final entry in the trilogy. I have an acquired taste for the difficulty curve at this point, I’ve finished the first Dark Souls a few times and I’m in the middle of my second play through of Dark Souls 2. Even with my seasoning, sometimes you hit a wall in these games and it can be frustrating. In those situations, the Zombie Dust was a welcome complement to the game.

Much like the Dark Souls game, aggressively hoppy beers can be overwhelming and are an acquired taste among craft beer drinkers. But, just like the game, they have a habit of hooking people who embrace them. After you’re hooked, there’s nothing else like a well hopped IPA. Zombie Dust happens to be one of the most renowned hoppy beers in the country, marketed as a pale ale, but likely actually closer to an IPA. To those imbued with an unnatural appreciation for overly bitter beverages, this one is a gem.

For anyone who likes beating up their palate while they’re getting beat up in a game, this is a great beer gaming pairing. There wasn’t anything too ridiculous in the early parts of the game within which I was partaking of these fine brews, but Dark Souls games are always hard, they just aren’t always ridiculous. Whenever “You Died” appeared on screen, a hefty swig of Zombie Dust was an awesome counter-balance. The citra hops are aggressive, but the citrus notes they add make this beer nothing but refreshing to an IPA enthusiast.

Dark Souls 3 viewpoint

A Niche Appeal, Executed Perfectly

It’s interesting that both of these products most likely weren’t going for universal appeal when they were first released, speaking specifically to the original Dark Souls or even Demon’s Souls. They both set out to stand out from the crowd to a very certain type of gamer or beer drinker, but through the undeniable quality of the experience they present, each has transcended through to the mainstream. More people probably discovered a love of hops because of how fine a beer Zombie Dust is and I know gamers started to warm up to challenging games more as Dark Souls devotees raved about the quality of the experience that the Souls games offered being above any other.

Zombie Dust -4

That all sounds a bit dramatic, but I freaking love Zombie Dust and Dark Souls.

I wanted to start this idea for a series off right with something I knew I would enjoy writing about. This pairing definitely did not let me down.

Let me know what you thought of the post and the idea for the series in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

Microsoft is Going All Out on New Xbox, Partnering with Oculus Rift

Xbox Scorpio Oculus

New Microsoft Xbox “Scorpio” Rumors to Compete with “Neo”

As you have probably heard by now, details have leaked about Microsoft’s plans to iterate on the Xbox One by not only releasing a slimmer version of the box, but also by releasing a more beefy, PS4K-esque, Xbox next year. Kotaku reported that multiple sources have leaked information to them about plans for the new-ish consoles, saying that Microsoft is “moving toward an iterative approach for their consoles, not unlike Apple.” Polygon also corroborated this discovery from sources of their own, adding that Microsoft aims to make their new xbox significantly more powerful than the PS4 “Neo” that Giant Bomb leaked details about a bit ago.

Microsoft xbox scorpio performance chart
Awesome chart courtesy of Polygon

Microsoft Going All In on Xbox Performance

The story of this generation has been all about Sony’s consistent messaging and the PS4’s slight graphical edge that have made it a better buy in many consumers’ minds. Performance benchmarks of the original PS4 and Xbox One put them at 1.84 and 1.32 teraflops respectively, where reputable sources have put the PS4 Neo at 4.14 teraflops. According to Polygon’s sources, the next Xbox evolution, code-named “Scorpio,” will clock in at 6 teraflops.

That’s more than 4 times more powerful than the current Xbox. If true, this should give it a significant performance edge over the competition, assuming the Nintendo NX isn’t even more powerful with it’s industry leading chips. Combined with Phil Spencer’s much more consistent messaging around the console, the promise of the Windows Universal Platform, and a growing backwards compatibility library, this new version could give Microsoft the edge in consumers’ eyes that Sony has been enjoying so far. Will it be enough to convert a large amount of the over 40 million people who currently own the PS4 though?

Xbox One Destined to Support Oculus Rift?

Microsoft might have one more surprise in the future though. As hinted by their partnership with Oculus to bundle Xbox One controllers with the headset, the significant performance upgrades in the new console might be in order to bring it in line with the requirements of the Oculus Rift. The PSVR is definitely on its way, but Facebook’s Oculus is still the biggest name in VR. They could give Microsoft the competitive advantage that they’ve been looking for.

Keep in mind, all of this information is currently leaked rumors with no official word on the accuracy of them. The console game definitely seems to be changing though. We’ll know for sure when these plans from Sony and Microsoft are officially confirmed, but they seem like solid rumors. What do you think about the evolving landscape of game consoles as they move to shorter cycles in a more phone like production model?

 

Images and references courtesy of Oculus, Microsoft,

Kotaku, Giant Bomb, and Polygon.

Learning Patience with Dark Souls

Dark Souls Path of the Dragon
The Path of the Dragon requires patience young one

Difficulty, Patience, and Dark Souls

When I was a kid, one Christmas my grandmother gifted me a rock with the word “patience” engraved in it. Being around 5 at the time, I didn’t get it. She told me that I could benefit greatly by focusing a little bit about the patience that I was lacking. I wasn’t alone, most kids lack patience in our instant gratification culture. It got top me though, and I still have the rock today. A more contemporary example of this act is a grandmother giving her grandchild a copy of Dark Souls. They would say, “finish this and they’ll be an amazing present waiting at the end.” I don’t think this is a thing that’s ever happened, but I really hope that it has or will. While the kid’s parents might think their mom or dad is losing it, they are completely on top of their shit.

So much of the growing amount of attention being given to Dark Souls games is about the difficulty. “Prepare to die” and “get gud” are everywhere in its marketing and community. Souls games are, without a doubt, more difficult than your average games. It’s something that new players should know before throwing down $60. The reason that they stand out as so difficult is how this all comes together though. They are different in their expectations of players than most other AAA games coming out today. Rather than guaranteeing a action filled thrill ride, they want players to learn, explore, and fight on their own. The games provide little guidance so that players gain a sense of appreciation and achievement from the experience.

Take a Breath, Plan Your Next Move

From Software expects patience and respect from their players. Take your time, don’t run in blind expecting to come out on top. Tread carefully and respect their game design as being proficiently executed and fair. It can feel like they’re just out to get you at first, but it all comes around.

The Index Gundyr is a perfect example of this. “Welcome to the game new player! Here are a few simple grunts to fight to learn the controls. Next up is the first boss, he’s a tutorial in the Dark Souls sense. Sink or swim.” From’s design implies the idea of learning and adaptation that’s guaranteed by the progressing through these games. From might as well follow up with, “he might seem tough, but wait until you see him again in New Game Plus. You’ll crush him”

The first time, his ass was a wad of cookie dough. After a few weeks, he was carved out of wood

From Software might be forging their own digital fight club with the success of these games. “A guy who came to Fight Club for the first time, his ass was a wad of cookie dough. After a few weeks, he was carved out of wood.” The same rules apply, get in and get better or get out. The way you get better in Dark Souls is far away from some intangible toughness and skill that veterans have honed over the last few games. Most often, it simply comes down to patience. Slow down, watch for patterns, don’t force the last hit on a tough boss. Eventually, you’ll emerge victorious.

I started playing the original Dark Souls before I got into reading and writing about games online. I bought it based on the recommendation of a co-worker who told me that it felt old-school, like the re-invention of the games we grew up with. I didn’t know about its reputation online for its crushing difficulty, I just knew it felt different than anything else I had played around that time. It almost forced me into a flow state, it required focus and almost meditative attention like nothing else. I learned to take my time and plan ahead, that’s what the game required. It didn’t feel tremendously hard to me, but it did feel entirely different from any other contemporary game I’d played.  Savor the experience, work through it, don’t expect to be catered to, you get what you earn. With how much media attention the third entry had received, I wonder how many young players are benefiting from the same lesson I received at their age, except through a much cooler medium.

 

Image captured in Dark Souls 3, courtesy of From Software

Dark Souls 3- Updated Impressions

Dark Souls 3 irithyll
So many great sights and moments…

One Game Down, Many More to Come

I finally finished my first play through of Dark Souls 3. It took me just under 55 hours and I feel like I got a relatively complete picture of the game, at least as much as you can on a single play through of a Dark Souls game. I read a few reviews during my game and I think that all 3 of them listed shorter times. I focused on taking my time and exploring with this first go and rarely used guidance. There’s still a ton that I don’t know about the game that I will be starting to research, but here’s my updated thoughts so far.

Like many others have said, Dark Souls 3 feels like a distillation of everything that’s great about the series. All of the core aspects that fans expect are well represented in their best form. The only lacking aspect could be seen as the world map, a point I’ll hit on later.

Dark Souls 3 Boss Abyss Walkers
With the great combat come great boss encounters

Everything You Loved About the Series is Back

The combat feels better than ever. There’s a huge variety of items presented offering more playstyle and build options than any other Souls game. The combat and movement feel faster as well, offering the ability to make a Bloodborne-esque brawler, a great feature for players who jumped into From’s games with Bloodborne. Armor is no longer upgradeable, so the upgrade elements can be focused on weapons, luckily there’s enough in game to go around. There’s some debate about the value of heavy armor with the seemingly nerfed poise stat, I can’t speak to that as I generally use light armor but I’ve seen a fair amount of players online with heavy armor equipped.

The lore is widely presented and might be a little more accessible than other Souls games as far as piecing it together, although that could be a result of my previous experience with the series. An interesting cast of characters is present, and they offer a good amount of storytelling through their speech alone. Some work to piece it together is still required though, as it should be. There are several NPC side quests as well, although they are pretty obscure to initiate and proceed through. The only quest line that I completed was the deserter’s story, no spoilers but you might be able to figure that one out. I initiated others, like a certain knight’s, but never came across him again to continue the story. I have also heard a little bit about another side story which is supposed to be great, unfortunately the keeper of that story died suddenly, and not because of me… I’ve spent 55 hours in the game and there is still a ton to uncover and explore, that’s a great sign for me.

On my next play through, I’m planning on referencing a guide more. I referred to a guide on two occasions for this run, one was to find the Chloranthony Ring, which I found long after I should have. I love the ring for my quick builds and I knew it had to be in the game somewhere. I’m also pretty sure that I would have never found it if I hadn’t looked to Google, it was well hidden and I’m looking forward to discovering other treasures that are far from the beaten path.

There’s No Shame in Using a Guide

This brings up an interesting part of this game’s nature, especially if it’s anyone’s first Dark Souls game. I played through the game, taking my time to explore, and was reluctant to reference a guide at all for this play through. I fully intended to play the entire game at least one more time though. If you’re playing and only anticipate doing so once, I think having a guide handy is a totally valid approach. There’s so much to the game that it’s very easy to miss out on a ton, so you’ll get a much fuller experience in one go with some guidance. Luckily, the web is jam packed with DS3 guides and information now.

One thing that I neglects throughout most of my game, until just before the final boss actually, was the multiplayer. I read a great piece over on Kotaku by Patrick Klepek about running around helping other players with bosses. I’d been invaded my fair share, but I had not engaged in co-op at all at that point, so I went and grabbed a soapstone and wrote my summon sign in front of a late game boss. It wasn’t long before I was backtracking through the games bosses and areas to give other players a hand with my badass washing pole. It was a really good time and the limited emotes provide for some entertaining interactions with others. I still need to look into finding a DS3 PvP fight club, but it’s so damn difficult because no one talks about them… (Bad Fight Club joke, but no one can talk in Dark Souls after all)

Dark Souls 3 broken bridge view
I’ve been there before and I’ll be there again

Like I referenced before, one design that I’ve heard major criticism of is the world map. Unlike the first Dark Souls, where the entire world was connected in tangible and interesting ways, Dark Souls 3 uses a hub and allows you to teleport to any of the bonfires you’ve lit in the world. While I can see where players are coming from, the world of Dark Souls was a joy to explore and immaculately laid out and assembled, Dark Souls 3’s map has a nicely connected feel as well.

Sure, there are several junctions where you are swept to a far off area and unable return by any means other than bonfire. There are also other places where I gazed at a landmark in the distance only to wind up there a few hours later. The broken bridge where you find Yoel specifically stands out to me, I could see a ton of detail on the other side, and about 6 hours later I stood on it looking up. I had adventured much deeper into the unknown world only to end up a few hundred feet from a vantage that I had held earlier. That moment was great and there were more exactly like it, that’s enough for me.

Dark Souls 3 Mound Makers Cage Guy
Still making new discoveries

A Worthy Successor to the Throne

Since starting writing this, I’ve already started 2 new games, as well as a new game plus, to explore some different play styles. I’m trying out a magic user and an even lighter build where I won’t use a shield, which should provide some good fun. I’m obviously a huge fan of the series, but with the news that this is all but assured to be the last true Dark Souls game, I find this to be a worthy send off for a series I love.