Deus Ex – Mankind Divided

TLDR: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a bigger version of Deus Ex: Human Revolution – without the horrible boss fights.

Seriously.

There is more here that didn’t change than did, or at least that’s what it appears to be.  Hacking is here, identical to before (like lockpicking for the past 10 years in Bethesda games).  Shooting, stealth, jumping up, punching walls, turrets, sentries, alarms, vents, picking up boxes, pocket journals, PRAXIS, stealth, CASSIE (for influencing conversations).  All of it – pretty much identical to last time.  There are new augments to use, but aside from remote hacking, none seem to have any real dramatic impact on gameplay – unless you want to go Rambo that is.

What has changed is the scope.  Where the previous game felt like chapters in a story, now you’re in a large hub (split by subway trips that take way too long), and run around finding new side quests and leaving to other zones for the main quest.  The maps feel bigger, and much more vertical than before.  There are at least 2 paths, if not more, to each goal.  It makes the non-combat aspects much more appealing because you know that there’s a way, you just need to find it.

RPG Growth

Simply put, it is not possible to play this game at level 1 and complete it without combat.  Going the combat route is a challenge, since anything other than a head shot means you need to empty a full clip.  And nearly every room has 2-3 enemies, and another 2-3 around the corner.  It takes about 4-5 solid shots and you’ll keel over.  So you need to invest points to get stronger.

I’ve personally found this as a weakness in the games, in that the foundational elements are so poor, that you need to pick a customization from the get-go.  Unless you want to ignore more than half of the game, you need to invest in hacking above nearly everything else.  CASSIE, the system that lets you detect human reactions in conversations, is the only way to get through some areas without shooting a gun.  Need that.   Rebreather so you don’t die in the numerous poisoned alleyways – need that too.  Actual power levels to be able to knock out more than 1 enemy per 30 seconds – need that.

It makes it feel more like the old WoW talent trees, where everyone has to take the same talents and the true customization is two or three real choices.

What usually ends up happening is that I judge an encounter and look for alternate routes.  Oh, this one needs me to jump 3m?  Get that upgrade.  I need to hack level 5 terminals?  Get that.  Punch through a wall?  Get that.  I am never taking talents because they sound cool, or expand the game.  I am taking them because I need them to progress, making them not a choice at all.

Quests

Maybe it’s just the timing, but the overall themes of oppression because of differences seems to hit the mark just right.  You play as one of the oppressed, working for the oppressors, trying to figure out who is black/white/grey in the whole mess.  It generally works, but the limited (almost binary) dialogue choices stiffle any creativity.  After having played Tyranny, I miss the opportunity to take a different approach to a conversation.

Sure, some people may live or die, but I end up at the same spot regardless.

The writing is good, the voice acting solid, the themes are relateable.  That part is fine.  It’s the investment in choice and character that’s missing.

Combat

It’s a thousand times better than before, but that’s like comparing a generic brand of cracker to a brand name.  It’s not a hard hurdle to pass.

Stealth

This part works, and it works well.  Enemies see you from farther and come searching in smart places.  They look down more than up, which is logical.  It’s entirely possible to sneak through a giant complex of a hundred enemies and never need to touch a single one.

It honestly feels as it the entire game is based on this single premise.  How can we get Jensen from A to B, acting as a ghost.  It takes thinking and coordination.  You can throw a box to distract a guard, turn off cameras, put them to sleep, punch holes in walls to bypass sections… it all works and works well.

And that’s really it, isn’t it?   A really good stealth game, with a myriad of tools that serve little to no other purpose than to move the story forward.  I find no joy in doing anything but the stealth aspects.  After hacking the 10th computer in the same room, why do I need to prove I can do it again?  Why do I need to shoot 20 people to open a door to have a talk with someone?  Why do I need to sit in a subway loading screen for 2 minutes in order to walk into an apartment for the quest to complete?

For all the work done here, this game is a rather large disappointment.  If fixes nearly all of the issues I had with the previous game, but it replicates the stale gameplay even further.  The stealth portions are incredible and only Dishonored really comes out above.  It’s too bad, since there’s so much potential here…

 

Arkham Knight Complete

I had started it a few months ago, on sale naturally, and drifted away at the halfyway marker.  Batman fatigue perhaps.  After playing through Tomb Raider, the itch came back, since the controls are quite similar.

I will say that the game mechanics are better here than in any other game previous.  The combat flows better, the gadgets are smoother, enemies are more diverse.  FF13s “Press A” this is not.  There’s a very strange difficulty curve here in that the mid-point is absolutely more challenging than the tail, solely because of upgrades.

And that gets me to the Disruptor. See, Batman isn’t bullet proof, or stun proof, or knife proof.  All those things hurt, a lot.  The Disruptor prevents enemies from firing guns, restocking, reviving and a few other things.  It essentially turns them into target dummies.  So the game ends up having 2 phases, before the ugpraded Disruptor, and after.

Two of the side missions are to take down enemy fortifications.  These have sensors that shoot if they detect you, small and giant sentry guns, enemies packing more than Rambo, and usually only 1 way in.  They are the dragons of AK, that cannot be defeated until you get the holy sword.  I’m pretty sure this is the reason I stopped playing, now that I think of it.

I like challenges, more specifically I like puzzles.  It is very satisfying to play a stealth event, picking off enemies around corners, using gadgets to distract and disarm.  There’s a logical end.  Combat challenges are more like button mashing fighting games.  I played a lot of them when I was younger, and you needed tight controls and reflexes to make it work.  Batman controls are not agile, they are brunt and blunt.  So throw me in a ring with 10 enemies who can all shoot me, odds are I’m going to die.

So I move forward with the story, unlock more gizmos and then come back.  The combat challenge suddenly becomes a puzzle.  1-2 tries and it’s done.  Odd that.

Tanks But No Tanks

I like the concept of the Batmobile, I do not favor its execution.  Moving, transporting, puzzles – that works.  Me vs 50 other tanks, that doesn’t.  There is one side mission, and one of the main missions that puts you in this combat scenario.  Again, upgrades make a massive difference.  I much preferred the AI hack to take over the big tanks and get allies.  Without a fully upgraded car, some of these would not be possible.  Heck, two of the main boss fights are in tank-mode, and I needed to cheese line of sight to finish them off.

And yeah, let’s believe that Batman, shooting a cannon, is “not killing anyone”.  OK.

Joker’s End

Spoiler I guess?  Well, he’s dead in the last game, less dead here.  It’s a neat effect to have him part of you, adding color commentary throughout.  The final portion makes little sense in terms of gameplay (all of a sudden you’re playing an FPS), but thematically it’s a neat closure.

The game ends as I fully expected it to.  As all Batman series do.  It is so strange that Batman is the only superhero that cannot continue to be a hero and let the public know his identity.  You think that if people figured out Supes was Clark, that all of a sudden he’d leave the planet?  Miller did it first, and it made sense in that context.  Nolan did it, and it made no sense.  It’s done here and makes less sense.

Riddler Can Jump Off a Bridge

Who completes them all?  I mean that seriously.  Who in their right mind wants to explore every nook and cranny.  Who wants to fiddle with the wonky physics engine to make the ball fall just so.  I think the core Riddler work is ok.  It teaches you how to use Gadgets in a different way, and you get to banter with Catwoman.  Cool.

But finding the little trophies, hidden in sewer drains, or taking a picture of a random element at just the right angle.  I’m good.

Overall

Taken as a whole, there’s way more good here than bad.  Combat is excellent, the story is tight, Scarecrow (John Noble) does an excellent job.  The world building is superb.  Side missions make sense.  The high notes are some of the best in all games I’ve played this year.  Even the lows are better than the high notes of some other games.  Well worth the trek to play Batman one last time.

Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider has been on my wishlist for a while, and last weekend it went on sale for 50% off.  I have a general breakpoint for AAA games, and that appears to be $30.  That doesn’t appear to apply to indie games, as I paid full price for PoE, Tyranny, Grim Dawn and quite a few others.  I think it has more to do with expectations, where a AAA game must be super polished, and in most cases, that doesn’t happen until a few months in.  Dishonored 2 is a good example…

Anyhow, back to Tomb Raider.

I had played the reboot a few years ago, and have re-run it a few times since.  It boiled the series back down to basics – exploration, combat, and story.  It played a lot like an action movie.  I much preferred the structure here than within the Uncharted series, which focuses almost entirely on combat and story.  Don’t get me wrong, the story is good, but I can only take so many waves of bad guys before I’m noped out.

So, RotTR takes what the reboot did very well, then expands on it.  There are more options for movement across the world.  Crafting combat aids is now present.  Self-healing, skills, customized weapons, outfits… it’s all there.  So where the previous game had 2-3 options for combat, this one has a solid half dozen or more.  My favorite right now is 3 silent arrow headshots, followed by an incendiary grenade (molotov), a grenade arrow, then some more fire.  You can wipe out entire streams with that.  And the beauty is that combat is usually limited to 5-6 enemies at once, so you strike, move on, and strike again.  Short and sweet.

There’s one fight in particular where you stalk enemies from the water, while surrounded by a haze of gas.  It’s a strike and flee scenario, and it works wonderfully.

Exploration also gets expanded upon, with the majority of content available when you encounter it.  There were only 3 tombs where I needed to backtrack once I had the appropriate skills/tools.  There are more hidden treasures, the lore is all over the place, little nooks to explore, caves to spelunk and animals to hunt.  Animals in particular are an interesting twist, with wolves, tigers and bears coming out of nowhere to lay a beatdown on you.  Killing them gets you some extra resources to further improve your character.

A few spots have actual quest givers, sans question mark, that rewards extra materials or the unique gold currency used to purchase items from the in-game shop.  You can get a silencer, grenade launcher, laser sight… even a tool to unlock the final upgrades on weapons, though that one is supremely expensive.

So combat and exploration have undergone a rather significant expansion.  Great.  What about story?

Tomb Raider has always been about a MacGuffin chase.  Heck, all of these games are based on this premise.  Here it’s a divine source that provides immortality.  You’re competing against Trinity, a secret cabal that’s lasted for centuries, bent on world domination.  Their avatars are an interesting pair, one a fervent believer, the other more practical.  There’s some grey here, and their story is fully exposed.  This provides them motivation that you can relate to – it’s their ethics that don’t line up.

There’s certainly a theme of immortality in many of these games, Tomb Raider in particular.  The last one was about an immortal spirit keeping people on an island, this one is about a tool that gives people eternal life.  It’s certainly a trope, but it works.

Overall, the game is a definite improvement on the previous game and that was the best one of the series in a long time.  RotTR is to me, the best game in the exploration/combat genre, and well worth the play through.

 

Power Through Experimentation

I finished Tyranny the other night, solid ending.  I opted to take the Disfavored path, so that meant killing Nerat.  I won’t ruin the rest, but I tied up loose ends with the other 3 Archons nicely.  The game ends with a nice set-up for a sequel, if they so choose.

One thing I like are boss fights, and most RPGs have a half dozen or so.  Due to the way Tyranny works, the bosses you end up seeing are all at the tail end of the game.  The fights are impressive, very impressive.  Enough to make you wonder why there aren’t more of them throughout the game.  You really need to think strategically, which is a swap from the floor mopping you’re doing by level 10 or so.  I died a few times in them, then needed to swap some things around.

Which ties into a thought I had about the game overall, and that’s how it approaches experimentation.

Finding the Elements

Tyranny doesn’t provide you with nearly enough instructions on how to experiment, or how the systems intertwine.  It’s quite old-school in that regard, as until you understand how Sigils work together, and what Sigils exist in the game world, you’re mostly playing blind.

This reminds me a lot of Dragon Age Origins, or even Fallout, where you needed a full playthrough to understand all the pieces and how they fit together.

When I completed the game, I was missing a few Sigils, though I had an idea what they did.  I was missing upgrades to them as well, like improved accuracy and whatnot.  What I didn’t realize was that I was missing some essential ones – like Volcanic Weapon.  This one makes it so that every melee strike shoots out a beam of elemental damage.  Combined with Verse’s ninja-melee speed, there’s a potential for a nuclear event if you build her right.

Making Explosions

My favorite part of learning is making mistakes.  I have made more than my fair share of mistakes, and each one taught me something.  Rarely have I ever made a mistake that I would consider permanent, which is good.  Experimenting and tweaking is the key to success.

Some games punish this behavior (EvE with it’s time-based skill points) and others allow you to go wild (WoW with infinite talent resets).  Stand-alone RPGs often put you in the former situation, where once you make a selection, you’re stuck with it.  Very few games allow you to turn back the clock, though it should be said that few actively punish you for poor choices.

I wrote a character building guide for Dragon Age Origins, it’s on Gamefaqs.  I wrote it originally for myself, as a sort of grid to map out options.  I came up with a concept of a tank/mage, though it was predicated on unlocking a certain class in a previous playthrough.  It took a fair chunk of tweaking mind you, and the tank never really stood on it’s own until the early mid-game, but from that point on, it was a walking god.  It took a fair chunk of tweaking to get there, and a lot of talent reloads.

Given the way that Sigils work in Tyranny, there’s a tremendous opportunity to experiment.  I now know that the latter portion of the game has fairly high armor and magic resistance on enemies, meaning that base damage is vitally more important that attack speed.  I now know that Raw damage and Cold damage are king, that Fire and Shock are used more for crowd control than damage.  I know that AE attacks are vital, that fast movement and ranged attacks are needed, that Quickness is better than Resolve and whole bunch more.

It took the first playthrough to understand the mechanics, some reading to understand the pieces I had missed, and now it will take some planning to come up with a new strategy for the next try.  I have a bit of writing to do, methinks…

 

Tyranny – Companions Overview

Many RPGs allow you to form a party of motley characters.  Sometimes you make them yourself, sometimes they are preset.  Tyranny follows the latter model, where you make the main character but then get to select up to 3 companions, of 6 total, to accompany you in your travels.

Companions fill 2 roles.  First is the story aspect, where they add color, comments, and context to the events as they unfold.  Maybe one is a hardline militant and another is a hippy. Each brings a unique flavor to the game – or at least they should.  Iron Bull in DA3 is a good example.  Companions in Tyranny do this job fairly well.  I do wish they would interject more often, but each is rather firm in their beliefs.  Verse loves chaos, while Sirin is distrustful of everyone.  It does make it so that you want to interact with the party, and see where the story takes you.  One tweak that I’ve yet to find is a way to expand on a character’s abilities aside from what you see at level 1.  Barik, the game’s sole true-tank, doesn’t allow for armor upgrades.  You’d think that would change over time, especially if he’s always in the party.  Maybe I’m missing something.

The second role is the numbers role – stat machines.  Most events are resolved through either combat or some magical dice roll on other stats.  Given that you’re in a small (4 person) group, and most combat is against groups of enemies, you’re going to want a tank.  Since damage spikes are normal, and you’re going to find some big monsters, you’re going to want a healer too.  Now we get into the damage dealers, and this part gets complicated.  Similar to MMOs, AE damage is everywhere, and that’s a rather massive disadvantage to melee classes.  Stealth plays a very minor part of the game, as it only impacts the start of battle – there’s no way to get back into it.  Positioning also doesn’t appear to have any effect, so no backstabbing here.  Finally, casters are not bound by manage but by cooldowns.  4 spells or so is usually enough for a full rotation.  All told, that means that you’re likely going to want ranged attackers.

So let’s review the companions, in the order I encountered them.

Verse

DPS role, either dual wield in melee or from range with a bow.  She has a stance that improves her damage if she takes damage, but you should only ever have her in light armor.  The ranged skill selection is rather poor as compared to melee, but it’s next to impossible to keep her alive once she gets into the fray.  That said, there are some amazing bows in the game.  Might, Finesse and Quickness are your friends.  The solid part here is that you can set Verse on pure AI mode and not have to worry.

Of special note for Verse in Duelist mode.  Three Whispers stance, Killing Spree, dual wielding, high speed and Volcanic Weapons makes for some rather interesting combat mechanics.  Every hit will shoot out laser beams of elemental damage, and she will be hitting quite a few times per second.  She’s essentially a lawn mower.

Barik

Pure tank, made to take the big hits.  It takes a while for taunt to work on large groups properly, and he lacks defensive cooldowns, but he gets the job done.  Giving him a couple spells to self-manage is good too.  His combo attack with Verse is insane.  Putting stats into Vitality, Might and Finesse are a solid bet.  Unless you’re making your own tank, he is miles away the best option.

Lantry

The source of the healing sigil (talk to him for a bit), he’s a solid mage option to either nuke or support your team.  The only character with a res spell, and he can have the highest lore score of all characters (including the PC) – meaning the most devastating spells.  His combo with the PC is a massive AE heal from the group, which is extremely valuable.  Wits, Quickness and Finesse the stats you want to stack.  He’s the only true healer in the game, and with tweaking can cast the best spells.  Really hard to dismiss that value.

Eb

Casts water and gravelight spells, and is a serviceable mage overall.  She’s quite good at crowd control and knockbacks, as well as draining enemies.  I find that playing with her is more of a skill/talent affair as compared to customized spells – and in that regard, the AI is really the issue here.  I like enemies to stay put on the tank, and that’s hard to do with Eb.  She’s a mage, so Wits, Quickness and Finesse are the stats to take.  A pure DPS mage, you need to invest in her Lore skill early to get enough skill upgrades to work in the late game.

Sirin

The group chanter, which is a similar role found in Pillars of Eternity.  This is a set-it and forget-it character, as it takes a while to build up enough power to cast spells.  I dislike that you cannot build your own songs, and that the ability to sing 2 songs takes until Act 3 to really unlock.  The songs are ok at the start but quickly get eclipsed once you upgrade other characters.  She’s quite strong in AE fights, but when against a boss, she provides little value.  The best benefit from her is a rather deep investment in her talent trees, which is unfortunate.  Wits, Quickness and Finesse here as well.  I like the character story-wise, but always feel hampered when she’s in the team.

Kills-in-Shadows

A melee DPS/tank hybrid that is meant to deal big hits. Some of her best skills are from stealth, so you only get to use them once per battle (if pathing works).  She has next to no armor and takes a massive beating if she does end up tanking, without some talent investment.  She can’t wear armor, but can equip a 2handed weapon in 1 hand.  Might, Finesse and Quickness are the best stats here.  On paper, her best build is an unarmed melee attacker, as when she hits, it’s a massive amount of damage.  In reality, she rarely hits and takes all the hits, dropping like a fly.  There is so much potential here…She even has some late-game accessories that improve her damage further.  There’s a pile of potential here.

Player Character

I play mages in my games.  Tyranny lets you build spells, and the power of them is limited by your Lore ability (which improves as you level).  I can de/buff, heal, and damage – but not tank.  The mage talents are solid enough, especially the last one.  Leadership after that is pretty good too.  Remember to train Lore between level ups.  If you do this every time, then you’ll likely be around 150 Lore at the end game.  Of particular note, Frost deals the most consistent damage, Lightning for the stuns, and finally Fire due to resists.

That said, a tank is also a solid option, as you have tons of customization options available to you.  Barik does a more than serviceable job, but you can be essentially invincible by mid-game.  Even swapping out the shield for more damage is a good option.

Melee DPS, that’s a weak point in this game.  There’s too much AE and you’re made of paper.  Unarmed deals a pile of damage but is bugged.

Ranged (bow) DPS has some solid options, but still feel highly limited when you compare them to mages.

My Party

For now, my Party consists of Barik, Lantry and myself.  Verse is there as a passive DPS increase as she provides more value than Sirin, more area control than Eb, and none of the bugs of KiS.  Once the unarmed attack bug is fixed though, KiS is going to rock it.

Tyranny

Link here

First, I liked the previous game, Pillars of Eternity.  It was in the vein of Baldur’s Gate, with the same difficulty challenge and bugs/features.  Some things worked well, others were less fun.  The dragon at the bottom of the tower was one such thing, where it took 2 days to beat, and with ample amounts of cheese.

oei-edgeringruins_2

Tyranny uses that engine as the foundation, then lays a new RPG game on top.

Story

Instead of a combat-heavy game, Tyranny is more akin to a choose-your-own-adventure.  It is incredibly text heavy, though each on-screen message has links within to add extra context.  Choices matter, and you gain favor/wrath based on it.  This may close out entire quest paths, or provide alternate solutions.  And that choice is consistent throughout, with each map offering at least one of these decisions per.  It certainly makes you feel more invested in the story, as you’re a part of it, rather than an on-rails approach in most other games (Final Fantasy).

A further change is the overall plot of the game.  This is no hero’s journey.  You play an adjudicator for an immortal tyrant, in the final throws of a campaign to conquer the continent.  You’re thrown between 2 supporting factions, with wildly differing approaches to life (order vs chaos) and eventually need to pick a side.  None of the sides are nice.  Even the rebels you’re attacking aren’t nice in the traditional sense. So each and every decision you make is either the lesser of two evils, or a completely pragmatic one.

For example one quick conversation had me adjudicate a deserter from one faction trying to gain acceptance into another.  The one doing the running saw that it was a better deal on the other side.  The one accepting had strict rules to join, and even more strict rules on deserters.  The options were either to let either side “win”, outright execute the deserter, or subject them to a live of slavery.  The “win” options were not viable to my character plan, plus it would have pissed off the opposite side something fierce.  I opted for slavery, to which the deserter was actually happy as an outcome.

The main judge in all this is a character called Tunon.  An extremely pragmatic character, with a penchant for the long game.  Two people argue in front of him, one wins but rarely in the fashion they thought.  Which in fact is a smart thing, as it forces people to resolve their issues outside of court, as no one really wins but someone ends up losing big time.

Suffice it to say, that the writing is very well done, and the characters are much more than just posters.  There is purpose.

Mechanics

Mechanically the game is fairly sound.  It’s a mix of PoE,Dragon Age, and Elder Scrolls. You have a 4 person party to play with, though by the 5 hour mark I had 3 more in the wings.  You start off with the traditional tank/dps/healer folks, then get some interesting additions.  Again, there’s a bard-like player who uses song to help in combat.  You can issue commands in real- or stop-time, and health pools are inflated enough that combat isn’t over in 3 hits.  Group combat is common, and some strategic planning is required so that people don’t get knocked down.

Getting knocked down introduces wounds to the player, which can stack.  A 10% hit to stats may not seem like much, but compounded it makes a large difference.  Rest is the only way to cure the status.

Magic, melee, stats and whatnot are still there.  There are fewer equipment slots, which is good.  You can craft your own spells, for more damage, range, effects – each increasing the Lore requirement to cast.  Mana doesn’t exist, just cooldowns on spells and skills, stopping you from chaining the same attack.  Reducing that cooldown is a big deal.

Stat themselves are interesting. You have the basic attributes that impact damage, health, crit and the regular stuff.  Then you have the combat skills and tertiary skills.  Swing a two-hander, get better at two-handed weapons.  Cast fire spells, get better at fire spells.  Pick locks, get better at Subterfuge.  And these skills are used in more than combat – it could be climbing a wall, intimidating someone, or finding a secret.  It all works.

Miscellaneous

I’m not terribly far into the game, under 10 hours.  I’ve had a few head scratchers where I wanted to find a better way out of a situation.  I’ve had combat go terribly poorly, until I seriously rethought my combat approach.  I’ve encountered few things I’d consider a bug, though I did find an odd dead end without much reason behind it.

The sound and art click for me.  The voice acting is relatively well done.  I get the feeling I’m in another world, which is essential for any RPG.  I like that my reputation precedes me, and that for good or ill, I don’t have to rebuild things in every new town.

It’s certainly an iterative take on the classic RPG, one that I think works better for the risks taken.  I strongly recommend picking up a copy.  It’s a rare thing where we get indie companies that can make such strong gaming statements – and we should be supporting that as much as possible.

 

Fun Times Ahead

I guess I got a BINGO on the previous post, smack through the middle.

Blizzcon Bingo Win.png

I think that was the easiest of the bunch to score upon.  There was certainly a lot of opportunity for surprises… which didn’t really show up.  To me, the high points are:

  • Diablo 3 is getting DLC (necromancer and D1 retro)
  • After 7.2 we go to outer space again in WoW (not sure how an entire planet becomes a patch and not an expansion…)
  • That WoW actually has something planned past the next patch!
  • Varian and Ragnaros in HotS.  Especially the latter who can transform into a raid boss.
  • Blizzard’s own esports league. Why?  Starcraft 2 can’t be there.  There’s no real esport in HS.  WoW hasn’t had any since arenas were a thing.  HotS doesn’t work at that level.  Overwatch seems the only candidate…maybe something else is in the pipes.

Overall, not disappointed with Blizzcon but not impressed either.  Wasn’t really expecting much either, given that WoW and Overwatch launched to acclaim this year.  Guess it means next year…

Mobile Stuff

I like idle games.  They scratch the RPG itch of growth, the rogue-like of restarting, and don’t require full attention.  I have played a metric ton of them as well.  Soda Dungeon is right at the top for set-it-and-forget-it gameplay. There are countless others in that stream and most people have to try a couple out to get a feel for it.

The one currently hitting the right notes in Endless Frontier.  It has the same level progression as others, plenty of characters, guild wars, PvP battles, dungeons, and pets.  It’s a rather complicated system to grasp at first but it is quite generous with mistakes.  The best part is the dev’s approach to in-app-purchases.  Gems are used for nearly everything, but you get an ample daily credit, and more during special events.  In a good week, you could get 20k or more.  So while you certainly can use the IAP to progress, it isn’t mandatory at all.  It is exceedingly rare for a game to find the right balance on this front, and eventually they all tend to tip towards dumbness (hello Non-Stop Knight!)  Might as well take a look at it today if you can.

US Elections

Up here in igloo-town (Canada, eh?!), our media cycles are captivated by the US election.  I am also quite curious to see what goes down.  Regardless of what happens, I think the end result is that everyone will have a poorer opinion of the US overall.  For a country that prides itself on the “best of the best”, the options that are on the table are so dramatically polarizing, it boggles the mind.

And that’s on top of a congressional approval rating (11%) that is lower than most warlords in other countries.

It’s just a sad state of affairs, and one I hope that they can get out of without dragging the rest of the world through the wake.  That said, I think we’re all going to wake up to a different world-view tomorrow.