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Hades

Hades

Yesterday I completed Hades, a roguelike game developed by Supergiant Games and was released in 2020. The objective is to escape the underworld with Zagreus (the son of Hades) by moving from room to room and defeating the enemies within which include several bosses and 4 zones with different characteristics. Along the way you collect rewards which will either make Zagreus stronger for your escape attempt or give you resources which you can spend to make Zagreus permanently stronger, unlock special rooms, weapons or cosmetics.

The game features a lot of Greek mythology for which I admit I know very little. There is dialog with most of the Gods which reside at Mount Olympus and in the Underworld plus many others such as the hero Achilles. I found this to be not exactly a unique but an interesting flavour to the game which I haven’t experienced before. Better still the dialog between Zagreus and the various characters in the game contains a lot of humour. It takes the somewhat deep and interesting subject of Greek mythology and puts a funny spin on it which I really like. The story and dialog is also continuous and not repetitive, even when you fail and Zagreus dies the story and the dialog continues which somehow makes your failure feel like not a bad thing and actively pats you on the back, encouraging you to try again. Much like how real life should be.

Hades Art

The artwork by Jen Zee is exceptional as featured above. The soundtrack by Darren Korb is also very good. The gameplay has a lot of hack and slash so I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone who is susceptible to an RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury). But I would recommend using a decent mouse and keyboard, something every gamer should have if they can, it really is helpful with games such as this. I don’t know what my average APM (Actions Per Minute) was completing Hades, but I can say it is much higher than I am used to.

I felt a great sense of pride and accomplishment escaping the underworld for the first time and effectively completing the game, so much so that as well as adding Hades to my list of completed games, I also captured the moment I defeated the final boss for the first time and uploaded it to YouTube. I don’t know if my strategy of ‘going in all guns blazing’ was a good one, but I had such a good run that I hoped it would work.

Spoiler alert.

To be honest Hades isn’t the type of game I would normally play, it was given to me by my friends Jamie and Shadey as a birthday present just over 2 weeks ago. This is the second game they have given me, the first being Slay the Spire for Christmas. I feel so incredibly lucky to have such thoughtful and generous friends in my life who have helped me broaden my gaming horizons and perhaps more importantly my confidence. I can’t thank them enough.

It took me 40 attempts and over 25 hours of play time to escape the underworld, but there is a lot of end game content which could probably add another 30 or 40 hours of game play. This includes ‘hell mode’ which makes subsequent attempts harder and/or speed running the game with the different weapons available. For me though I am satisfied to leave Hades on a high and move on to the next game.


StarCraft Remastered Campaign

StarCraft Remastered Campaign

Over the last week or so I completed all of the StarCraft Remastered campaigns in full without cheating. I first played StarCraft when the Brood War expansion was released in 1998 and treated myself to the remastered version of the game in 2019 which I wrote about but never really invested too much time in playing.

To be honest I thought this was going to be a quick win for my list of completed games, but it turned out to be much more than that and it took me quite a bit of time to play through all 30 of the original missions (episodes 1, 2 and 3) and 26 brood war missions (episodes 4, 5 and 6). I remembered some of them, but most of the Protoss and Zerg missions I had completely forgotten about. Perhaps never really played through them properly back in the day because it felt completely new to me.

StarCraft Remastered Brood War Episodes

For the most part StarCraft is celebrated as probably the best RTS game ever made and one of the most competitive games of all time, bringing to life an entire industry of what we now know as eSports. But there is another side to StarCraft which is the lore and story behind the Terran, Protoss and Zerg with main characters Jim Raynor, Artanis, Sarah Kerrigan and some of the lesser known ones such as Duran, Tassadar and DuGalle. If any reader enjoyed playing through StarCraft II but doesn’t know the preluding story, I highly recommend you play through StarCraft Remastered.


Stray

Stray

Over the last 3 or 4 days I have played through Stay, a game which my friend Jamie recommended earlier in the year. As a cat lover I had my eye on Stray back in 2022 when it was first released, but for one reason or another I never got around to playing it. When Jamie said I could use her copy of the game in addition to a glowing recommendation, I couldn’t come up with any more reasons not to play.

Developed by BlueTwelve Studio using Unreal Engine 4, my first thought was that Stay is a graphically pleasing game giving modern triple-a games a run for their money. But Stay is much more than that. The protagonist, a cat, has been expertly developed by fellow cat lovers. Everything from the animations, behaviours and sounds are based off of real cats owned by the developers. There are even 23 cats named in the credits which I thought was really cool.

Stray Cats

Set in a sort of post apocalyptic, perhaps even post dystopian futuristic city filled with robots, the game has a pretty decent (albeit short) underlying story to it. I found most of the robots really funny and I liked interacting with them. I also enjoyed the somewhat oriental atmosphere to the city which is filled with neon lights. The cat has a drone companion, B-12 (see what they did there?) which translates what the robots say and starts to remember things which it had forgotten before you met it. I can’t say much more without potentially spoiling the game for any reader who hasn’t played it yet, but I highly recommend that you take your time and explore every aspect of the game.

The only criticism I have is that the game is short. If rushed I think most people could complete the game in 6 hours, but if you take your time you could probably stretch it out to 9 or 10. There isn’t much replay value but I think that’s OK. For me Stay is a game best played when you’re ‘between games’ or as a way to take a break from a game you’re investing a lot of time. The game isn’t particularly challenging but it has a few puzzles to solve. I really enjoyed this play through and have added Stray to my list of completed games, something I am relieved to see growing steadily.


Final Fantasy VIII

Final Fantasy VIII

For about 6 weeks or so I have been slowly playing through Final Fantasy VIII. Developed and published by Square Final Fantasy VIII was released in 1999 for the PlayStation. Back then I was already fan of the Final Fantasy franchise and was really excited to get the game, but first I needed to borrow it from someone I knew at my school because at age 14 or 15 I couldn’t easily afford a copy of my own. I was later given a copy by mother which I still have to this day as one of my prize possessions.

The opening cinematic is breathtaking. It is in my opinion one of the best cinematics of its era beaten only by World of Warcraft in 2004. The graphics are a marked improvement over its predecessor and the music is of a high standard but perhaps not Nobuo Uematsu’s finest. Despite this I must admit I was at first disappointed. I think as a teenager I was expecting a continuation of the story or the setting of Final Fantasy VII, but found that it is completely different as a stand alone game with an entirely different world. Most (but not all) of the mechanics are different, there is no materia which provide characters with powers when equipped but instead Guardian Forces (GF) which allow you to junction magic to improve your characters stats among other things. After a few days however I realized this is a good thing which only served to improve my gaming experience.

I actually prefer the GF system. By collecting, leveling and teaching skills and abilities to the 16 GF available makes them seem more personable. Each GF has its own unique set of abilities and feel more like part of the team. For this playthrough I only collected the 12 GF below but I might one day use my save to complete the set and enjoy the ‘end game’ content a little more.

Final Fantasy VIII GF

One cool feature is that Final Fantasy VIII has a collectable card mini game. It’s completely optional but you can challenge most NPCs (non-player characters) and some characters to a game of Triple Triad and can collect up to 111 unique cards. I am missing 12 cards in this playthrough but I am convinced I managed to complete the collection as a teenager. It’s not for everyone but as someone who generally speaking enjoys collectable card games, most notably Magic: The Gathering, this mini game really hits the spot.

Final Fantasy VIII Cards

It must be said that the best feature of Final Fantasy VIII and all other Final Fantasy games that I have played is the story. I don’t think the story is as good as its predecessor, it has a few too many sort of juvenile undertones and at times it made me feel too old to play. But it really is still an excellent story which made me laugh out loud and even brought a tear to my eye on a couple of occasions. For some reason I think this game is hugely underrated, perhaps because it is comparatively an easy game or because people didn’t find it to be as good as Final Fantasy VII.

I am really proud to add Final Fantasy VIII to my list of completed games. Sadly the remastered version allows people to effectively cheat and cut corners, but I played through the game as it was meant to be played which I think is better, more legitimate and gives a sense of pride that I don’t think I could get if I had cheated.


A Way Out

A Way Out

This week my friend Jamie and I have played through A Way Out and I have to say I found it an excellent story driven game. Developed by Hazelight Studios in 2018, A Way Out was a somewhat unique experience for me in that it’s a pure co-operative game experience designed to be played with a friend over something like 7 or 8 hours. This is achieved by presenting both players with a split screen as shown below. I am no stranger to split screen gaming, but I don’t recall ever doing this with a PC. Strangely however I think split screen works quite well for this game and only served to enhance my experience. I got a lot out of seeing what my friend was doing and could see what I was doing from their perspective which was cool because the main characters (Vincent and Leo) usually interact with objects and situations differently.

A Way Out Split Screen

Being pretty much completely story driven and linear there isn’t too much I can say without spoiling A Way Out. But I can say that both Jamie and I did not expect the story to pan out the way it did and I believe I can speak for both of us when I say the game is generally quite funny and made us laugh a lot. There are a bunch of minigames which were fun and it uses Unreal Engine 4 to make the graphics pretty good. At first I felt compelled to efficiently progress through the game but I later found that slowing down to take the time to explore some of the areas was more fun and a good way of savouring the overall experience. Having completely played through the game with Jamie I have added A Way Out to my list of completed games which I am relieved to see grow steadily in recent months.

The only downside for me is that this game is published by EA (Electronic Arts). Traditionally I haven’t enjoyed EA games so I tend to steer clear from anything they touch. On this occasion however the game is excellent and a credit to EA but in order to play it I was forced to use their game launcher. I suppose it’s not a big deal, I can uninstall the EA launcher if I want, but it feels wrong that I acquired a game through Steam which is in itself a game launcher only to then be required to use a different launcher to play it. Perhaps I am being grumpy.


Slay the Spire

Slay the Spire

My friends Jamie and Shadey were kind enough to buy Slay the Spire for me as a Christmas present which I have recently beaten on my 7th attempt after almost 13 hours of play time. While it is true that I have technically beaten the game with the ‘Ironclad’ character and have a Steam achievement to prove it, Slay the Spire is not the kind of game where you should beat it just once. There are 4 different characters, 3 different play modes, lots of content to unlock and high scores to beat, but for now I can say I have slain the spire so have added Slay the Spire to my list of completed games. Below is some statistical data on my first victory, I think the key piece of information is my score of 757, something I should aim at improving next time.

Slay the Spire victory statistics

Slay the Spire is a roguelike deck-building game which in short combines the elements of a deck building card game with RNG (random number generator) mechanics. While luck plays a big part in Slay the Spire and other roguelike games, the whole point is that players should try and ‘stack the deck’ to make their own luck. The goal is to climb the spire fighting enemies and their bosses along the way. The spire is broken down into 3 acts, each act has 16 floors which includes a boss at the end. As you progress the enemies get harder but with progression the player makes choices to improve their deck of cards (which are used to perform actions in each encounter), obtain and choose relics which typically improve your character for the remainder of your run and potions which are consumed when used.

Slay the Spire Combat

I think Slay the Spire is brilliant with limitless unplayability. It’s a cross between games such as FTL: Faster Than Light which I blogged about 3 years ago (almost to the day) and a card game such as Magic: The Gathering Arena. It’s very likely that I will continue to play Slay the Spire from time to time, even if only to try and beat my current high score. All that’s left to say is thank you Jamie and Shadey, this was really thoughtful and generous of you.


Fallout 4

Fallout 4

A few days ago I completed my first play through of Fallout 4 and have added it to my list of completed games. I should warn readers that if you read on there will be some potential spoilers, albeit they will be limited.

I realize that there are multiple endings and seemingly countless side quests, but having completed the main story line and getting the ‘prepared for the future’ achievement by deciding the fate of the commonwealth, I feel like I can say I beat the game. I spent some time doing side quests while trying to decide the fate of the commonwealth making my play through take just over 46 hours. In addition to this I have created a second character and have spent around 19 hours immersing myself in building settlements and completing optional objectives.

In my opinion Fallout 4 is an excellent game. Developed and published by Bethesda, Fallout 4 is a first person (or if you want 3rd person) open world story driven RPG (Role-playing game) where the actions and choices you make as the player define the outcome of the end and the events leading up to it. Much like other Bethesda titles such as Skyrim which is part of The Elder Scrolls series or the prequel, Fallout 3. Released in 2015, Fallout 4 still feels like a modern triple-a game which I paid just £3.99 for, which is superb value for money. I worked out that so far for each hour I have played Fallout 4 I have paid about 7p. The game is very atmospheric and packed full of action, I particularly liked it when the Brotherhood of Steel made an appearance with their Prydwen airship featured below.

Fallout 4 Prydwen

Fallout 4 Prydwen

While I can’t give Bethesda enough praise for Fallout 4 and many of their other games. I have to say that despite being about 8 years old the game still has a lot of bugs. Even when you take away the bad but funny NPC (Non Player Character) AI, there are some fundamental bugs which are thankfully usually resolved by exiting and re-loading the game. But I have heard from a friend that a bug has potentially blocked her from progressing through the main story, forcing her to either start over or move on without completing her play through.

Even with all the bugs Fallout 4 remains an excellent game and well worth playing. For me by far the best thing has to be that Tim Russ is the voice actor for Lancer Captain Kells (the Prydwen airship captain). For any reader who doesn’t know, Tim Russ played Lieutenant Commander Tuvok in the Star Trek: Voyager TV series of which I am a big fan. Friends who know me best would confirm that Tuvok is my favourite character in the Star Trek franchise. I knew immediately once I encountered Captain Kells that Tim Russ was the voice actor. It was a huge surprise and it blew me away, instantly making the game that much better.


Portal 2

Portal 2

Once a week for the last 3 weeks I have been playing Portal 2 with my friend Jamie. Developed and published by Valve Portal 2 is effectively a puzzle game where players place portals on surfaces in order to either teleport through them or to redirect various game mechanics to help them reach the end of a level. I must admit that I am not very good at puzzles so was to some extent carried by Jamie in the games 2 player cooperative mode which we completed earlier this week.

In the cooperative campaign Jamie and I played as robots ATLAS (blue) and P-body (orange) who have an array of funny but also at times sweet emotes. We were given instructions from GLaDOS, a sort of sinister yet funny artificial intelligence. It’s clear to me that Valve wanted this game to be both humorous and challenging, even the end credits were funny. Ordinarily I wouldn’t play a game like this, but I enjoyed every minute of it and was kind of sad when it ended.

Honestly the main reason I enjoyed playing Portal 2 was because it was nice to play a game with a friend. I have always found it difficult to make friends and I am usually wary when taking the necessary steps to cultivate a friendship. I have however known Jamie for a number of years now, she has shown me nothing but intelligence, kindness, understanding and seems to accept me for who I am without being judgemental. I have mad respect for Jamie and hope very much we can play some other games together soon.

I don’t think I will be playing any more of Portal 2 (which has a single player campaign) but I have a feeling this might have kickstarted more cooperative gaming with Jamie and given time perhaps with other people as well.


Final Fantasy VII

Final Fantasy VII

Today I completed Final Fantasy VII which is a game that does not require much of an introduction. Developed by Square (now Square Enix after a merger with Enix) Final Fantasy VII was released in 1997 for the PlayStation. As a schoolchild I had heard about Final Fantasy VII but did not think much of it until one day I was helping a school friend choose some games to buy in our local video game shop. I mentioned that I heard good things about Final Fantasy VII to which a stranger in the shop overheard and replied telling my friend and I that it’s the best game he had ever played. My friend bought the game but to be honest we didn’t get on well with it. Initially we found that the game slow paced which required a lot of reading and learning of the game mechanics. We were juvenile and probably thought reading and learning was something we did at school and didn’t want more of it. But I was intrigued (and didn’t have any new games of my own) so asked if I could borrow it.

In the weeks that followed I fell in love with the game. I was hooked on the story, learned most of the game mechanics and found much of the soundtrack simply exquisite. At school I bragged about how good the game is and how quick my school friend and I were to judge. This lead to him wanting his game back and me begging my mother for a copy of my own, something I still have to this day. I don’t think I would have been given my own copy if my mother could have known just how many sleepless nights would follow. It’s like reading a good story book which plays music at you and also has a puzzle on every other page, preventing you from reading on until you complete it. The story takes you through a wide range of emotions as you get to know the characters and whats at stake. Final Fantasy VII will make you smile, laugh, get angry, relate… even cry. It is quite simply one of the best, if not THE best story in a video game that I have played. I even grew to like some the ‘bad guys’ such as the ‘Turks’ featured below.

Final Fantasy VII Turks

The soundtrack, produced by Nobuo Uematsu, is simply a masterpiece. Widely celebrated by many Final Fantasy VII fans but also enjoyed by a lot of people who never played the game. There are countless covers, some of which have been performed in an orchestral setting. Hip hop artist Raheem Jarbo released an album called ‘Black Materia’ in 2011 and remade it in 2021. I listen to them now as I write this post. A somewhat mediocre anime film, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children was produced in 2005 and is a sequel to the Final Fantasy VII story. While I find the film not exactly bad but also nothing particularly special, the soundtrack (once again produced by Nobuo Uematsu) is excellent. As well as a film there have been other games such as Dirge of Cerberus and perhaps most notably Final Fantasy VII: Remake which I haven’t played yet. Combined with all of the fan art out there it really shows how much Final Fantasy VII means to people all over the world.

Needless to say I became a fan of the Final Fantasy franchise and have been interested in any other game developed by Square, especially Front Mission 3. It feels great completing Final Fantasy VII again after all these years and I have added it to my list of completed games. I still need to complete the second part of Final Fantasy IX and I am considering playing through Final Fantasy VIII, but whatever I do next it will be hard beat the experience of playing this jewel of a game.


EVE Online Thrasher

EVE Online: Abyssal Thrasher

After my EVE Online: Hurricane post I realized an important part of my alpha clone experiment was the Thrasher, specifically when used for running tier 0 (tranquil) abyssal deadspace. Abyssal deadspace is perhaps one of the most profitable activities in EVE Online for a solo player. While a tier 0 run offers the lowest possible reward (and difficulty) it can be highly profitable if they’re completed quickly and frequently. Perhaps more importantly tier 0 abyssal deadspace runs can be completed cheaply by inexperienced players who have characters with low skill points.

The key to the Thrasher fit below is to have the small projectile turret skill trained to level 5 so that small artillery specialization can be trained in order to use 280mm Howitzer Artillery II guns. By grouping all 7 guns together we can take advantage of the high strike damage, which in my case is close to 1,600, allowing me to frequently 2 shot or even 1 shot some enemies. The power grid and CPU requirements are also high so having both the power grid and CPU management skills trained to level 5 is important.

EVE Online Thrasher Fit

High Slots
280mm Howitzer Artillery II
280mm Howitzer Artillery II
280mm Howitzer Artillery II
280mm Howitzer Artillery II
280mm Howitzer Artillery II
280mm Howitzer Artillery II
280mm Howitzer Artillery II

Medium Slots
5MN Y-T8 Compact Microwarpdrive
Small Clarity Ward Enduring Shield Booster
Small F-S9 Regolith Compact Shield Extender

Low Slots
Gyrostabilizer II
Gyrostabilizer II

Rigs
Small Projectile Collision Accelerator I
Small Ancillary Current Router I
Small Ancillary Current Router I

Cargo Hold
Phased Plasma S x3000
EMP S x3000
Fusion S x3000

I could improve the damage output by using implants and/or faction ammunition but I believe using standard ammunition without implants is good enough and helps keep the costs down. It’s also possible to remove 1 of the small ancillary current router rigs in favour of upgrading the small projectile collision accelerator from tech 1 to tech 2. This increases the cost of the fit and also puts greater strain on the power grid, making the skill point requirements more demanding.

Captain Benzie demonstrates how effective this ship can be by completing some electrical abyssal deadspace runs in 3 – 4 minutes. I however have expanded it to include gamma and firestorm deadspace by using different ammunition. EMP for electrical, fusion for gamma and phased plasma for firestorm.

This really is an excellent way to get into abyssal deadspace content and is an ideal way to earn some ISK (the main in game currency). Even if you’re not very interested in abyssal deadspace it’s still worth having this Thrasher just so you are able to complete many of the daily challenges for some of the more lucrative rewards. Yesterday for example 2 of my challenges needed to be completed in deadspace. It took me an hour to complete the challenges and I was given 35,000 skillpoints which I think was well worth it.


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