Darkest Dungeon Review

June 19, 2015

Darkest Dungeon is kicking my ass. A lot of games are billed as being brutally hard or difficult, but few make that experience as enjoyable as this game. I’ve said before I’m not a huge rogue-like fan, and while DD is certainly that at heart, it’s also so so much more.

The key to my enjoyment so far has been the mix of long-term planning, short-term tactics, and the role luck plays in both. It also helps that the setting/mood are amazing; the graphics are fantastic and fit, and the sound is some of the best in any recent game in terms of pulling you in. Just hearing “A small victory, yet a victory non-the-less” as you sit on the edge of madness with one battle to go is the stuff that drives you insane in real life, as you watch your party die from fear in-game.

Speaking of fear, its a key mechanic, a sort of ‘second HP bar’ that doesn’t automatically heal after each dungeon run, and something that forces you to use many different characters as others are sent to the tavern or church to recover. What’s brutal about fear is its both a slow bleed (each hit you take generally increases it, as does simply being in the dungeon over time) and a potential chain collapse mechanic (going into a panic lowers your stats, raises the fear gain of others around you, which in turn might tip them into a panic). And unlike HP, where there is always a chance of survival even at zero, once the fear bar is full, you die, which in its own way fits the ‘creeping death’ theme perfectly.

The large range of character classes, each with its own selection of eight skills (you can have four active), plus the fact that each skill can only be used from certain positions, against certain other positions, makes creating a part of four always interesting. This is where the long-term planning is important; you never know who is going to make it out of a dungeon run, or who will be ready for the next one, so just putting together one group of four isn’t nearly enough. Often you are left throwing together a ragtag group, just praying they survive and get you to the next ‘turn’ in the game.

There is a TON of randomness in DD. Crit hits are huge; both when you score them (in addition to the bonus damage, they also reduce your fear) and when you get hit by one (more damage and fear). Who you can recruit each turn is random, sometimes frustratingly so, as are the starting skills and bonus/negative traits. Item drops and dungeon run rewards; random. Whether a character goes into a panic or lowers their fear and gets a bonus; random. What kind of dungeon runs you can select; random.

Yet I never feel truly out of control in the game, which is why its so brilliant. A wide range of class combinations can work, you just have to tinker with their skills and set something good up. Healing and curing characters can get expensive, but you also have a lot of non-random ways to manage your gold, both in how much you bring in (full clear a dungeon or leave as soon as you can?) and how much you spend (how much food you bring, how aggressively you cure/heal your characters). Combat randomness happens, but how you react to it is incredibly important, especially during boss fights, which themselves are both terrifying and incredibly rewarding.

A bit of caution; expect to fail and ‘not get it’ for a bit. The learning curve for the game is deceptively steep, and initially it can feel like the game is overly random. It’s not, but you first have to get a feel for everything and get your feet planted before you make any serious progress. It’s worth it though, as the game will continue to reward your mastery with new layers of challenge and surprise. Very highly recommended.

Edit: The game is early access, but I’ve yet to run into a single bug, and the amount of content and completeness right now beats a lot of fully released games, so don’t let that tag scare you off.

AoW3 solves the ‘one and done’ problems of most TBS titles

May 22, 2015

Long-game TBS games like Age of Wonders 3 take a long time to fully judge, especially if you are interested in how well the game holds up after a dozen or so multiplayer games, when the players know what they are doing and the ‘new shine’ has worn off.

I’m happy to report AoW3 is holding up very well, and the most recent expansion has only been a major bonus.

For starters, its important to note that AoW3 is overall a very good game. It looks good, sounds good, has lots of content/variety, and is technically solid (no crashing and the multiplayer doesn’t disconnect or throw weird errors). Bonus points for loading quickly, having a UI that doesn’t get in the way, and having units/races that are both traditional (dwarfs with axes/shields, elves with bows) and different (tiger-like race with pounce, lucky halflings).

Beyond that very solid foundation, perhaps the most important improvement AoW3 has going for it over similar games like Heroes of Might and Magic 6 or even Civilization V is that rarely does a multiplayer game ultimately come down to ‘one big fight’. If you have played similar games before, you know that the general pattern of each game is: buildup, fight neutrals, position for major fight, major fight happens, someone wins the fight and basically the game.

In AoW3, because stacks are limited and moving all your units near each other is discouraged (you will fall behind in exploration and clearing neutral camps/treasures), its very common that you will have multiple major battles during a game, and winning any one battle won’t instantly decide the game. This may sounds simple or minor, but it makes a world of difference and the whole experience is far more entertaining because of it.

In many of the games I’ve played, who is winning has shifted multiple times, and even as a game looked to be winding down, a late turnaround is possible if things line up. That is huge, and really keeps the game from feeling like an inevitable slog towards victory after a certain point. I would say this is even more true in play-by-email games, as in those you must use auto-battle when fighting another player, which prevents cheese builds/strategies from being effective and also adds a final bit of randomness to everything.

Highly recommended title for any TBS fan, and both expansions are worth picking up as well, since they just add ‘more’ of everything without the game feeling like it has TOO much going on.

CoC: Supreme Cream! vs Spergs of War

May 9, 2015

(Writeup and stats by Delpez)

Supreme Cream! Vs Spergs of War

That was close (and fun!) – with about an hour left on the clock we were still trailing by six stars, and with eight minutes left we were four stars behind! However Lui, Justin and Syn pulled it through for a one star victory, but there were good clutch attacks by a number of people. First let’s have a look at the relative clan strengths.

Nr. of TH’s

SC! Enemy
Nr of TH10 3 1
Nr of TH9 11 12
Nr of TH8 24 25
Nr of TH6&7 2 2
Ave TH level 8.38 8.28

Average experience per TH

SC! Enemy
TH9&10 98.2 101.0
TH8 79.3 79.2
TH6&7 62.5 49.5
Overall 84.5 84.5

The matchmaker seems to be doing a decent job these days– this is probably as close as you’re going to get. We had one more top level base, but they had an extra base at TH8. Their TH9&10 and TH8 bases were slightly more advanced than ours, but we had three TH10’s compared to one. War stats are shown next:

Attack stats

SC! Enemy
Score 100 99
Total Attacks Used 73 75
Total 3 Star Attacks 24 22
Total 3 Star % 32.9 29.3
3 Stars Against Same Level 17 16
3 Star % Against Same Level 27.0 28.1
3 Stars Against Lower Level 7 5
3 Star % Against Lower Level 70.0 50.0
TH8 3 Stars 12 17
TH8 3 Star % 27.9 34.7
TH8 3 Stars (same level) 12 14
TH8 3 Star % (same level) 27.9 33.3
TH8 Ave Stars / Attack (same level) 1.9 2.1
TH9&10 3 Stars 8 5
TH9&10 3 Star % 30.8 22.7
TH9&10 3 Stars (same level) 4 2
TH9&10 3 Star % (same level) 21.1 14.3
TH9&10 Ave Stars / Attack (same level) 1.58 2.00

As you would expect, things were extremely close. We scored the same number of new 3-stars (22-22). The record says we scored 24 3-stars, but two of those were repeat attacks by TH7’s, probably because they believed that they had no chance against the remaining TH8 bases. Just a comment on that: if you have level 2 dragons you can always try and get a 3-star from a TH8 base, no matter how advanced it is. Your chance of success might be low, but what’s the worst that can happen? You’re almost guaranteed a star and much better war loot.

Our participation was ok, but not great; missing seven attack in a close 40-man war can be game-breaking. Otherwise we were beaten at TH8; our opponents scored more 3-stars at a higher percentage. To compensate we outperformed them when looking at 3-stars numbers at the top. This is shown in the number of stars left behind by TH level:

Stars left

SC! Enemy
TH10 6 1
TH9 8 10
TH8 7 9

At TH10 we established a big advantage, which could be expected since they only had one TH10 against three. Dotcalm and Sicarius made this advantage count, each scoring a 2-star and a 3-star. This is a huge return at the very top, and the reason we won. Both at TH9 and TH8 we left two stars more behind than our opponents, but the TH10 advantage was just enough to secure the win.

At TH9 we are definitely getting better, which is a big reason for our recent win record (11/12). As our TH9’s progress further we should start beating the other team at this level. TH8 performance is probably due to the fact that most of our advanced TH8’s have made the jump to TH9, which means that we’ve lost a number of GoWiPe and Hog attacks at TH8. For the remaining players getting access to those attacks will make a big difference to our performance at TH8.

Finally, there had been some discussion in chat regarding our attack strategy. Currently we use the first attack against our direct opposite number, and the second to clean up. Our opponents in this war hit two down with their first attacks, and we played a clan once that hit ten down. I believe two factors are critical for any attack strategy. Firstly a unique base for every player to attack, meaning that a specific base is mine to attack, and mine only. This allows for detailed planning of an attack – nothing worse than cooking up a Hog attack against a specific base and someone else jumping the queue! Secondly, the strategy should allow for redundancy, especially against TH9&10 bases. Executing attacks against tough bases are hard, and fails often happen. Real life also intervenes and people sometimes miss wars. This means that you should have back-up attacks – to clean up all the zero- and 1-stars. That’s why I believe our current strategy is successful; every player targets a unique base for his first attack, and can clean up with the second.

The lower down you hit with the first attack the less redundancy you have against top bases. For instance, the clan who attacked ten bases down scored fantastically well during the first round of attacks, but they still had zero stars against our top ten bases. Because their top bases hit so far down, they only had ten (fifteen max) effective attacks against our top ten and left way too many stars behind. To give another example, in the current war we scored four 0-stars and five 1-stars against their TH9&10 bases. If we didn’t have redundancy those attacks would have been final, and we would have been crushed at TH9&10.

Having said that, I also believe that we shouldn’t be shy to hit down with our second attacks. A tough TH9 base with 1-star and an average TH8 base with 2-stars against it represents about the same likely return – one star. However, it might be a lot easier to get the star from the TH8 base. This becomes more and more important as time is running out. With ten hours to go you don’t want to take attacks away from our TH8’s, but with an hour left I think you should go for the easy star every time.

HS: Now not even a footnote, and the clock has officially started for the FFXIV takeover of WoW

May 6, 2015

Bla bla bla WoW is dying, will soon be overtaken by FFXIV for most subs, SynCaine right again, etc etc etc.

Honestly if any of this is still surprising to you, that’s on you. Pay attention and join the cool kids table already.

What is mildly surprising is that Blizzard’s footnote title, Hearthstone, isn’t even a footnote now. How can you do an article about digital sales growth and not even mention HS? What, just because the title can’t crack the top 10 grossing chart on the iPhone, and plays “wheres Waldo” on the iPad chart, you can’t even mention it? You have to lump it into ‘accounts created’ Turbine territory with Destiny?

At least give me a cute tweet or two? Just something like “oh hey remember that art we reused from that game we are slowing killing due to laziness? Um we are still doing that, care to roll some dice with us? Or at least ‘+likeHeart’ our Twitch channel? Anyone? Hello… hello?”

Dear KTR, unblock me

September 16, 2014

I miss leaving extremely witty one-liners, get me out of your spam bin.

Spam, freebies, rewards

September 9, 2014

Slow days in blogging land of late, unless you are really into ‘debating’ definitions or pounding away at the corpse of a long-dead horse, so just a quick couple of notes for today.

First, if you own a blog that I occasionally comment on, check your spam filter. Seems I pop into spam filters now. Not entirely sure that’s in error…

Second, I’ve noticed that if a company outright sends me a copy/code for a game, I’m far more likely to at least give it a shot than if someone sends me one of those “would you be interested in…” emails. Just something about getting right to it and not pre-filtering it with a wink wink nudge about a positive review works for me. Still doesn’t guarantee you anything, but if you have a solid product, it removes one barrier I have to giving you a shot.

Finally, I like how Final Fantasy XIV handles subscription longevity rewards, in that you can see what you will get the longer you stay subscribed, and (I think) all of the rewards fall into the fluff category. It’s not THE reason to stay subscribed, but at the same time it is a nice bonus and does its part to justify the monthly cost. FFXIV maybe not have the one killer feature to make it amazing, but so far it seems that everything it does, it at least does well, and the sum of all those solid parts makes for a great MMO.

CoC: All we do is win win win no matter what

August 17, 2014

Just a friendly reminder that if you aren’t playing Clash of Clans with us, you’re missing out big-time. Great group of blog readers just helping each other out in a great game and having a great time all around. Great.

Oh and since I took over leadership of “Supreme Cream!” and did a little house cleaning, we haven’t lost a clan war. Coincidence? I think not.

We accept anyone willing to learn and who will be active during wars, don’t worry about being low-level, we’ll train you up quick. Clan space maxes out at 50, we are at 34 right now. Don’t wait and then live with unbearable regret forever.


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