Category Archives: Robo♥beat

PC Gaming: Mouse-and-Keyboard or Controller?

I ask this purely out of curiosity. When I got into PC gaming, one of the biggest draws for me wasn’t so much the graphics power — it was the mouse and keyboard set-up!

My first attempt at playing with mouse and keyboard was the first Assassin’s Creed game. That was tricky. I felt like I was performing a masterpiece on the piano (and I didn’t get very far).

When I switched to shooters, I fell in love with the set-up and decided PC gaming was really for me. Using the mouse enhances your precision when aiming a firearm, and it feels incredibly natural to just point and shoot — the same thing you do every day on your computer when you click on something! Playing Mass Effect 2Mass Effect 3, and Borderlands 2 with the mouse and keyboard was really enjoyable.

Later, I even tackled DmC: Devil May Cry using mouse and keyboard, even though the series is really for PlayStation and a good old-fashioned controller. But using the keyboard not only to select a weapon, but also to click a specific move while holding it, was totally fine. DmC is a lot more challenging with the keyboard than Assassin’s Creed was, but by the time I got around to playing it, I was used to those PC controls and mastered them easily.

Now, I prefer mouse and keyboard for every game I play on the computer, no matter what the genre or gameplay style.

Which set-up do you prefer for PC gaming?

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“Destiny” So Far

Screen Shot 2014-07-26 at 12.32.05 PMFor the past week, I’ve been dipping into Bungie’s Destiny beta — just like the rest of the gaming world, it seems! Although I’ve only had time to play for about five hours so far, I’m already hooked and eager to see what else the game has to offer. Here are my thoughts so far…

New Science Fiction IP

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As a huge science fiction fan, I’m always on the lookout for new sci-fi worlds to explore. That’s why I’ve been so eager to see what Destiny is like — it’s a brand new sci-fi IP!

If I had to compare Destiny to one other world, I would say it reminds me most of Star Wars — yet it’s totally unique. There’s some mystery to Destiny‘s world, and the presence of the Traveler — a massive sphere in the sky that enables people to colonize other planets in the solar system and equips some with special powers — reminds me of the “magic” of the Force.

Destiny has an intriguing science fantasy world that leaves a lot for players to explore and unravel. I’m very happy that it is a world with warmth, which makes me want to spend time there. There are some post-Apocalyptic landscapes, jumpships that add to the sci-fi flavor, plenty of tech, and some special powers that feel almost like magic. It’s a unique blend that I talk about a lot on my blog here.

Character Creation

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Destiny lets you customize a character — an automatic win for the role-player in me. You can choose from one of three character classes and one of three races, each with male and female options. I chose to play as a female Exo warlock. The Exos are a robotic race, while the warlock class is the equivalent of the mage class in other games (or, like, an Adept in Mass Effect).

The character creator itself gives plenty of attractive options without going so far as to allow customized noses and jaw lines and all that. You choose your gender, one of several face shape options, your skin color, eye color, hair, and tattoos or headwear. Those are the main choices, and they’re all designed to give you a unique, good-looking character with minimal fuss. I played around with the engine creating characters for a while before finally settling on my Exo!

Toned-Down MMO Style

 

When it comes to games, I like to immerse myself in the single-player experience. The biggest issue for me is that the “gaming” aspect of playing with other people is very distracting from the role-playing and worldbuilding. That’s why I don’t typically play MMOs.

Destiny offers an experience that feels MMO-ish without overloading you. Some parts you play solo. Other times, you’ll be able automatically grouped with a couple of other players — but the game doesn’t shout this at you. Instead, you’ll just spot the other players hanging around the area with you while you do your thing. And having a limited number of people with you means you won’t bump into others all the time or feel the crush of the MMO crowd. Of course, you can choose to play with others during these times, too — I just haven’t yet.

I appreciate that the MMO experience is toned down, but I’m still not a fan. It breaks the immersion to see other players’ usernames floating above their characters’ heads, and it’s distracting to see other players jumping around the Tower and approaching quest givers alongside me. However, I’m sure I’ll get used to it, and so far, Destiny has been enjoyable (and totally possible) to play solo.

Special Powers

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There’s a problem for me as a sci-fi video game fan: Most sci-fi games are shooters, and I’m terrible at shooters. I just don’t like them all that much. I find it much more engaging to try out different kinds of weapons, such as the daggers, bows, and battle axes in fantasy games — or better yet, throw some magic around. There’s nothing I like more than freezing an archdemon in Dragon Age. It is awesome. And that’s why I enjoy Mass Effect so much. It’s a perfect blend of science fiction polish and special powers (tech powers and “biotic” powers).

The good news is that Destiny offers fantasy-style character classes while still letting you hold a rifle. You can hunker down and shoot in a typical FPS style or play to your more unique skillset. Titans are heavy armor and weapon specialists, Hunters take advantage of speed and stealth, and Warlocks channel energy from the Traveler to cast special (almost magical) powers. The diversity of these classes offers something for everyone, and I can tell I’m going to enjoy the Warlocks’ “magic.”

Last Thoughts. . .

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All of these elements create a very unique game, but it’s nothing if it doesn’t have the right energy. You might mix all of these features together and come out with a game that feels cold or methodical or slow — but Destiny feels right. You launch your jumpship from one location to another to take on missions in order, with the Tower always available to you if you need to grab supplies or upgrades in between. Having a little companion in my “Ghost” — a floating AI — is a perfect, personable touch. And even though it’s very early in the game, I already feel a sense of exploration as I land on these wasteland planets and start scavenging for supplies, fighting menacing enemies everywhere I go.

I have a feeling playing the full game is going to be a blast.

— Ashley

Why “Lost Girl” Would Make a Great Video Game…

For the past couple of weeks, I have been tearing through the first season of Lost Girl, an urban fantasy television show originally airing on Showcase. That’s the Canadian channel that airs one of my favorite sci-fi shows, Continuum — so I was excited to see how Lost Girl played after I heard good things about it.

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Kenzi and Bo

If you haven’t seen the show, here’s the gist: a woman named Bo, who has spent her life waking up to dead lovers, finds out that she’s actually a succubus — a supernatural being who feeds on chi. In other words, when she gets “hungry,” it means she’s horny — and when she sleeps with someone, she drains them of their life energy. But finding out who she is means meeting a whole world of other supernatural beings, called Fae. And she gets into all kinds of adventures as she tries to figure out who her parents are, where she comes from, and how she can use her powers to help humans rather than hurt them.

I kind of love the show. It reminds me of Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars in the sense that it’s a show with female leads who are bold and smart and witty. The show revolves around Bo and her human sidekick, Kenzi, running their own investigative services for people dealing with potentially supernatural problems. It’s fun to watch a duo of women instead of the typical male “buddy” cop show. And like Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars, their gender is really beside the point in their episodic dramas.

But seeing Bo run around kicking ass and seducing people to get information out of them — sometimes with a single touch — I started thinking how fun it would be not only to watch it all, but to play it. In a video game.

Succubus Powers

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The power to seduce is often seen as an “evil” power in fantasy stories and comics, and it comes with strong sexist tones. Male heroes like Thor and Batman are faced with seductresses who nearly turn them evil or make complete idiots out of them — all because men are supposedly putty in the hands of a beautiful woman, and a beautiful woman can use the power of sex to manipulate men. I personally hate that trope.

Fortunately, Lost Girl turns that upside down. The main attraction of the show is the fact that protagonist Bo is a succubus trying to use her power for good. Not all succubi she encounters are like her — using seduction for selfish purposes is a lot easier and potentially more fun — but Bo has a good heart and hates hurting people.

One of the issues she faces early on is learning to control her power. She’s used to draining human men and women completely, leaving them dead in bed beside her. Now that she knows she is a succubus, her goal is to learn to control her hunger and take only the energy she needs. She might leave her lovers weak and tired, but at least they’ll still be breathing in the morning.

All of this would be excellent in a video game. First off, the video game could have all kinds of sex appeal, with certain characters available for seduction if the protagonist needs to “drain” information from them — or just create a himbo or something. I could see some players choosing a more “evil” play style that involves leaving bodies everywhere, while other players limit their feeding and use their wits to ask the right questions early on. This type of power would definitely lend itself to a new, creative type of thinking as players try to progress the plot.

The trick for the game developers would be in keeping the game classy. I’m not opposed to the game having a whole lot of sex scenes — that’s half the fun if you’re playing a succubus video game — but the game would feel cheap if players could just run around using powers to create their own porn game. It would help if the game limited how far random seductions can go, with several cinematic sex scenes built in that are actually integral to the plot, optional side quests, or part of a romantic storyline.

Two Paths

Lost Girl has all kinds of action.
Lost Girl has all kinds of action.

Another aspect of Lost Girl that would make a great video game is the divide between Light Fae and Dark Fae. These are two clans that live by very strict rules; they take care of their own, and they don’t cross into each other’s territory whenever they want. If a Light Fae kills a Dark Fae (or vice versa), you can bet it will be problem for the whole community — and depending on who is involved, it might even be considered a declaration of war.

When Bo is “discovered” as a succubus, she first has to pass trials to show that she is worthy of being accepted into one of the two clans. But when she passes these trials, she refuses to choose a side, instead aligning herself with the humans. This makes her a free agent in the Fae world, capable of associating freely with both but having no real protection from either side if something happens to her. Being neutral makes her homeless, at least as far as the Fae are concerned.

The alignment instantly made me think of a video game and how fun it would be to choose sides at the start of the story. Playing as a neutral protagonist would be fun, but I would especially love the replay value in choosing between the two paths and having different stories, follower characters, or side quests based on your decision.

Supernatural Mysteries

Dyson_part-shifts_(101)Supernatural mysteries never get old. I’m a big fan of the Lost Girl mythology so far, which features some interesting types of Fae not often depicted in other urban fantasy/supernatural stories. And having Bo and Kenzi working as detectives in this world of weirdos — some of them terrifying — is a blast.

We already have a lot of supernatural mysteries out there. I saw several on the bookshelves earlier today, and they’re what make Fables so fun to read and The Wolf Among Us so fun to play. But each one I read or watch or play has its own flavor, and a succubus video game would already feel refreshing for having a unique female protagonist. Throw in some little-seen supernatural characters involved in some hair-raising unsolved crimes, and you’d have a pretty amazing game. I’d definitely waste a few weeks on it. =)

— Ashley

Different Games for Different Moods

Video games have all kinds of effects on me. Some help me unwind at the end of the day; others totally stress me out. Some are easy, while others are so difficult I end up rage quitting. But this is why I love games — there are so many different genres, I always manage to find a game that suits my mood.

Weekend Morning Games

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The Wolf Among Us

Specifically, I have weekend morning games. These are extremely special to me, because they are easy to play. Sometimes that’s exactly what I want. My favorites for weekend mornings are the episodic TellTale games, such as The Wolf Among Us, and dating sims. Immersing myself in the dramatic world of Fables or just goofing around with Chrono Days — that’s how I like to burn a morning while I have a pastry and some coffee on the couch.

Games With Rewarding Combat

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DmC: Devil May Cry

I also have games that require quick skills and concentration, and I love those for how rewarding it is to get them right. It’s all about the gameplay style — and for me, that’s hack and slash combat. I like beat ’em up combat as well — it’s so similar — but hack and slash is my favorite because it feels much faster paced and looks so glamorous.

Devil May Cry is my favorite here. The series offers a challenging combat style, but it’s the only one that I have had so much fun with, I actually replay missions over and over to improve my score. And then I go on to play the more challenging modes you unlock after beating the game once. I may not be the most skilled player, but it’s a gameplay style I find really rewarding to practice. That’s why Devil May Cry has become my go-to series for when I feel energetic about my gaming.

When I’m Stressed or Tired…

When I’m feeling stressed or tired, indie games are a much better fit. I love playing little offbeat platformers or just burning up toys in Little Inferno. The less skill required, the better — I’m more interested in an unusual atmosphere that sparks my imagination. It’s actually been a while since I dug into these types of games, partly because my PC burned out on me. (I used to get all my indie games on Steam…) I will have to remedy that soon!

Immersive Games

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Mass Effect

And then there are the games I like to play when I really want to game: RPGs and adventure games. They’re my favorites for their immersive worlds, epic storytelling, and compelling characters.These are my go-to games when I have lots of time to immerse myself in another world. I find myself replaying my favorites over and over — games like Mass Effect and Skyrim. I can’t get enough of those, and I have to admit, I’m pretty particular about them. While I have enjoyed exploring the rich worlds of Red Dead Redemption, Assassin’s Creed, GTA V, and Tales of Xillia, at the end of the day, I have only a handful of absolute favorite RPGs and adventure games that I just can’t get out of my head. Those are the games that really make me a gamer, and without them, I probably wouldn’t have the job that I have now or be blogging here today!

— Ashley

The Fine Art of Avoiding Spoilers

We all hate spoilers, right? I actually unfollowed a couple of people on Twitter several months ago (who I didn’t personally know — but still, sorry!) because they were live tweeting The Walking Dead, and I had to wait a day to watch it. People can be very insensitive with their spoilering… but I do understand that once enough time has passed, you have to get over it. Live tweeting is never okay, but if you’re talking about an old season of a show or something that’s been out for more than a few weeks or months, spoilers are going to come out. It’s inevitable that you’ll have to work pretty hard to avoid spoilers if you’ve waited too long to watch something.

But what about spoilers for things that aren’t even released yet? I’m talking mainly about video games now, because like all good fans, I’m thirsty for information about upcoming game releases that I’m excited about. Every time I see a news article for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt or Batman: Arkham Knight, I get giddy. I read it all. I want to know everything. At least, I think I do — at first.

However, I’ve noticed that some game companies release a lot of game details before release — almost too many. I have actually started avoiding news articles detailing companion characters or villains you’ll meet in some games, because I don’t want to know about all of them before I play. I like the sense of discovery, and I want to feel like I’m crafting my own journey through a game. I don’t want to be instructed where to go or what to do — however subliminally — by pre-game spoilers.

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Arkham Knight spoiler!!

But what makes a spoiler a “spoiler” for something that hasn’t been released yet? I guess the ending just has to be kept a secret. But even if I know I won’t learn the ending of a game, I still get a little nervous about finding out too much. Sometimes I want to go into a game blind and experience the thrill of something catching me off guard — or a chill when I see a familiar villain make an appearance that I hadn’t expected here. There’s even a point when I’ve seen enough footage of a game, and any more will just be smogging up the atmosphere that I want to breathe in the first time I launch the game at home.

Of course I’m not totally against video game companies releasing details about a game before it comes out. It’s up to me to decide what my personal definition of a spoiler is — and then work to avoid those spoilers as much as possible! Because as much as I love learning how my next favorite game is doing in development, there are definitely times when I would rather shut my eyes than see too much too soon.

— Ashley

Why I Still Love Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”

Like a lot of kids, I watched a lot of Disney movies growing up. I still remember seeing The Lion King in theaters, and acting out Pocahontas with my sister when we watched it at home over and over. I saw Mulan in theaters twice — once with my dad, who almost never took us to the movies but actually seemed to enjoy that one. My mom always liked Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella, so those were in heavy rotation at our house, and Aladdin was a big hit when I was young. But my personal favorite was always The Little Mermaid.

What amazes me most about that movie is that all the things I liked about it when I was a kid still hold true today. I liked that Ariel was a daydreamer who didn’t want to stay put. She had this crazy collection of exotic finds from the human world, which she used incorrectly because her dealer was an eccentric seagull. So she brushed her hair with a fork. That was all right with me. Maybe she was a little obsessive in collecting things from the world of humans, but I always liked that she had a secret space all her own for that sort of stuff. She wanted to travel and experience life in another place, another culture, from a new perspective.

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I’ve done similar things in my own life. Besides being a little obsessive about my interests, I love traveling and living in other places. When I was 19, I moved far away from home to experience a new city and lifestyle, which was kind of terrifying at that age but ended up being a life-changer. And I’m still a daydreamer. That’s part of what makes me a geek.

But it’s got me wondering whether I always related to the character Ariel, or if it happened the other way around. Maybe The Little Mermaid actually had a really big influence on me, and that’s why I love Ariel so much even today. From watching that movie, I learned that imagination is good. Daydreaming is good. Getting to know other kinds of people is good. And being passionate about other places and foreign things is something that can lead to real adventures, even if not everybody understands why you have that impulse at first.

Even though I loved so many Disney movies growing up, I rarely re-watch them now that I’m an adult. My biggest exception is The Little Mermaid. That’s the Disney movie that still, to this day, feels most like me.

— Ashley

“The Wolf Among Us” Review — A Crooked Mile (episode 3)

So this morning I played the third episode of Telltale Games’ The Wolf Among Us, and I’m still recovering. It is by far the best episode of the series yet. Proceed with caution, though — it’s hard to talk about this series without giving away spoilers!

The first episode, “Faith,” has Fabletown Sheriff Bigby Wolf (a.k.a. The Big Bad Wolf of fairytales) joining up with Snow White to investigate the murder of a call girl. It’s a point-and-click mystery adventure, which I reviewed on my blog here. The first episode leaves you with a cliffhanger, and I couldn’t wait for the second episode to begin.

However, after playing the second episode, “Smoke and Mirrors,” I just couldn’t find the inspiration to write a review of it. After how much the first episode sparks, “Smoke and Mirrors” just felt lacklustre to me. The story in episode two progresses at a slowed pace, with a little too much time spent throwing things around the local strip club just for the hell of it.

I also felt like I had less agency in the second episode. In “Faith,” your decisions result in a main character either living or dying, and you decide which suspect to arrest while letting another go free — for the time being. However, in “Smoke and Mirrors,” decisions are more along the lines of how-mean-do-you-want-to-be-to-this-character, and it feels like things will work out similarly no matter what you do. I suppose the big difference is in what information you get. This is a series where it pays to pay attention to every little bit of data you glean from suspects and witnesses.

ep_3_bigbyIn any case, episode three, “A Crooked Mile,” empowers the player with major decisions, just as it did in episode one. Some of the choices are how Bigby responds to the people around him, but these moments feel much more important than before. With more murders happening and Bigby hot on the heels of someone directly involved in them — possibly the killer himself — both Fabletown and our protagonist are at their breaking points. That means confrontations, and every dialogue option has the potential to piss somebody off. I personally loved an argument between Bigby and Holly — the latter grieving for her murdered sister — because it played on how Bigby interacted with Holly in past episodes. (Basically, Holly hates my Bigby.)

The episode also clips along at breakneck speed. There’s a meeting happening between the prime murder suspect and a mysterious witch at exactly 2 AM, giving Bigby and Snow just a few short hours to track down who this witch is — and where she is. I usually get stressed out when there’s a timer on missions, but in this case, it works for the suspense.

You have three places to investigate, but there’s only time to visit two of them before 2 AM. There are also unexpected turns of events when you arrive. For instance, you might show up somewhere to look through someone’s things, but you can’t anticipate who is going to be there or what information they are going to give you if you handle them right.

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Best of all, the scenes get a little emotional. The beginning of the episode has Bigby crashing a funeral. Later, while investigating a murder suspect’s belongings, he has to sneak around the grieving Holly who is subdued and half-asleep from pain medication. Though I could have had Bigby announce himself to her, I kept him quiet while Holly (who hates him, remember?) rambled on about him. There was a touching moment toward the end of that. And during the last fight scene, Bigby morphs into his wolf form, is shot several times, and has to fight just to stand up and keep going.

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It gets intense. The series seems to be heating up, and I can’t wait to see how the story wraps in the next couple of episodes…

— Ashley