Clash of Clans: Town Hall 14 is here!

Clash of Clans has just released Town Hall 14, a major update to the game that has given myself and some of the other long-standing members in the clan new things to work on. The timing is pretty spot-on for me as my accounts were just about fully maxed out, and my interest in the game was dropping.

TH14 brings some new things I’ve yet to see, like pets you attach to heroes to give them some additional abilities, and the builder huts finally getting some defensive value. I’m sure all of the new things in the update will shake up the meta, and I’m personally excited to try out some new or modified attack strategies once I unlock things.

Our clan is still active, which is impressive considering some of us are past the 5 year mark with the game (7+ for me). Our activity, especially in normal wars, is off its peak, but we still regularly do them and always have a strong showing for the Clan War league.

SuperCell has made the early game much faster now, so jumping in and catching up isn’t as daunting as it once was. If you have played before and needed a reason to return, or are interesting in trying one of the best mobile games out, feel free to drop a note and join us, guild name is “Supreme Cream!”

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Shop Titans thoughts and guild creation

I saw Tobold post about Shop Titans, and then had a few guild mates also confirm they enjoy the game, so here I am, playing another grinder F2P game (via Steam, but is also on mobile). Honestly as easy as these are to bash, they do make for great background content, and Shop Titans can also be played a fair amount actively in a 30 minute gaming session.

This won’t be a full review, but rather a few points that has me enjoying the game more than similar titles. I think the biggest is it doesn’t seem to punish you with decisions you make, rather everything is varying degrees of progressing forward. This means playing Shop is more relaxing than other games where mistakes can be made and you feel more pressure to look up guides so you don’t ‘mess up’. I also don’t believe there is a competitive aspect of Shop, just the cooperative progression of your guild.

Speaking of the guild, another thing I’m enjoying a lot is that guild members all work together to upgrade your shared town, work on earning guild points via tasks, and when there is a global event everyone’s progress chips in. It’s again relaxed, but a lot of design focus has been made to tie progress together.

I’ve got a new guild going in the game with some spots open, the name is Supreme Cream. Post here if you have issues joining, or just jump into our discord.

Posted in Inquisition Clan, iPhone, Random | 2 Comments

Mighty Party advice after a year of playing

This information is accurate as of March 13th, 2021. The game is frequently updated and things change, while this post most likely won’t get updates, so if you are ready this months later, double check to make sure the advice still applies.

I have been playing Mighty Party for a year now, having reached league 1 on my Steam account rather quickly (legacy rules where progress was super easy) and league 8 on my mobile account (normal rules). I have spent some money across the two accounts, but am certainly no whale. Below are the most important tips or advice that isn’t clear to new players. Note that this advice is from the perspective of wanting to advance as quickly and efficiently as possible. That’s where I find the fun in games like this. If that’s not your direct goal, play however you want to have fun; it’s a game after all.

About spending money: The most impactful thing you can buy in MP is a legendary pet, which costs $50. It’s a high cost but they can’t be earned in-game, and have a huge power impact. I think of buying the pet as upgrading from the trial version of MP to the ‘real game’. The best pet to buy is Drogun, primarily for the +hit point ability, which will let you establish board control and scale your heroes out of reach. His direct warlord damage ability and his +attack boosts are also nice of course. Sentry is the only other pet to consider, as his immediate +attack is very nice, but right now Drogun is just better long-term.

You want to buy the pet as soon as possible (unlocks at league 16), because the sooner you have it the sooner you can start doing the Hunts to level it up, and because the best time to Hunt is during High Growth fable, that will naturally limit how quickly your pet levels up each month.

After the pet, the gem fund from Journey mode for $20 is great value in terms of cost/gems. This expires after some time, so if you are going to spend some money on the game, after the pet don’t let that expire. Beyond those two items everything else is of lesser value, and what to buy and when is more situational. Another good use of money is chest slots, especially if you play on PC, as on that platform chests all open at the same time, so the more slots you have, the more chests you can open. If you plan to play only on mobile, chest slots have less value, though it is nice to have the extra space to store bigger chests to be opened during events.

With the recent removal of Raids, there are now only two game modes that rotate: pit and dark tower. Both of these scale in difficulty based on your total might, a hidden value that is the total power accumulation of your account. Doing well in these modes will earn you a significant amount of extra resources, so it is important to try and limit how much your total might grows. Because of this you want to avoid soulbinding any hero besides what you need for an event, and the current 8 heroes you use. Soulbinding anyone else will inflate your total might for little gain. You also want to avoid using reborn on most heroes too early, with my rule of thumb being level 16 for commons/rares/epics before I reborn. Legends are a bit different as you often need to reborn one for hunts, and when a reborn fable comes around its not a bad idea to take advantage of it. Once heroes are at 16, it’s good to start evolving that hero to its higher rarity rather than leveling it higher.

Making the most of the High Growth fable is also very important. While it may be tempting to level what you can each time, sometimes the correct choice is skipping a HG to go all-out the next one. The gold cap is 3 million, so getting close to that and then doing a HG is ideal, because the gems-per-level is higher after the first 5 tiers in HG. If you end up just short of levels, this is when using a reborn or two can also make sense.

The best use of gems is first to buy the pirate skin, its by far the most powerful warlord skin for anything outside of League 1. After you have the pirate, you want to save up gems to use in an event that has at least one top-tier hero. When that event comes around, you want to use gems to first reach chapter 3 on the first day, and then keep pushing as much as you can, including buying the warlord skin for that step in chapter 3. The more bosses you unlock early, the more times you can kill then after a refresh for sparks. Don’t waste gems on events with sub-par heroes, and never waste gems on things like summons or the wish shop.

Top tier heroes can change as balance is adjusted, but currently these are the heroes that will help you climb and are less level dependent: Shadow Shaa-moona, Dead Lord, Groot, Frost, Blair, Santa, Justia, Iceburg. This gives you plenty of direct removal, silence, and delay, while your backline is a ticking timebomb with Justia buffing attack. This is important because if you are progressing quickly, you will be facing accounts with heroes 2x+ the stats of yours, meaning you can’t rely on direct damage to kill them. Any hero that is only good when “its high level” won’t work for you, since you will always be under-leveled vs what you are facing.

The above covers some of the major points. There are countless smaller items and adjustments that will help or hinder your progress. Discord is the best place to ask those.

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Valheim, final thoughts after defeating boss 5

We have killed the fifth and, for now, final boss of Valheim, officially marking our end with the game until more content is released. At $20, the 136 hours I already have with the game have been well worth the cost. Certainly the best gaming surprise so far in 2021.

I’m trying to get into the flow of Red Dead Redemption 2, and its especially rough coming off Valheim, as the games are almost complete opposites from a core design and gameplay perspective. DDR2 seems hell-bend on having a different UI and way of doing everything in the game (and being a console port doesn’t help), while in Valheim you interact with everything using the E key, and combat controls are the same all game long. It just feels terribly bloated in DDR2, and makes me appreciate how clean things are in Valheim. I’ll say it again; the core reason why Valheim is so enjoyable is its the World of Warcraft of survival games; its not that it has one key super-awesome feature, but instead that the core of the game is so clean and works so well, and if Valheim is WoW, then DDR2 and games like it are EQ2; just clunky and worse-off but hey look, so much ‘stuff’!

Focusing back on Valheim and its gameplay, I think I appreciate two major things about it. First is that the game is consistent from start to (current) finish. You explore more biomes and use better gear, have access to some more utility, but the core loop of explore, fight, collect is always there, and it remains fun. The other is that while not perfect, a surprising amount of the games ‘stuff’ remains useful. You always need more wood, stone, and other basics. Because of how food works, many of the early game mobs are also still needed later into the game, as is going into earlier biomes like meadows and the forest to collect resources. Too many games have an open world in theory, but you still transition from area to area in those worlds, with the older content becoming obsolete. That’s not the case in Valheim.

The early biomes staying relevant is important because exploration is so key to the game, and so enjoyable. The world generation is top-notch, and in all those hours I never tired of cresting a hill and seeing what lies beyond. Sailing around exploring was also a joy in its simplicity and in how impactful the wonderful weather effects are. Nighttime and fog means you can barely see the front of your boat, and that more than once resulting in unexpectedly running into land, which then required some pickaxing to get the boat going again. A storm with huge waves and rain FEELS like a storm, and the water level raising because of that weather effect is also a nice and impactful touch.

I’m sure I’ll play more Valheim as the game sees content additions. It has a lot of room to grow, in a lot of directions. But even as it stands today, its an incredibly easy recommendation for basically anyone. Just a fantastically enjoyable game.

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Valheim – Thoughts after 100+ hours played

Some more Valheim thoughts as I cross 100+ hours played according to Steam. This is all based on playing consistently with a small group of friends. I think everything overall would be less fun/interesting solo.

The boss fights are very well done, having seen 3 of the 5 so far (number 4 will be this Saturday). They remind me of oldschool MMO raid bosses in that when you first attempt them, you go through a learning curve of their mechanics and need to bring your best consumables to help with the odds. Then as you further progress in the game, those bosses, that once seemed so difficult, feel far more manageable in the event you need to kill them again. Adding more bosses and big monsters to the game will go a long way.

Each of the biomes feels very different. The meadows are calm and easy to navigate. Black Forest really captures the sense of being surrounded by trees and tougher terrain, with woodland creatures/enemies around. The swamp is hard to navigate because of all the shallow water and the leeches that occupy it. It’s also dark and always feels dangerous because of the many poison blobs and draugers. Mountains, after you gain protection from the cold, are more open, but the verticality and the need to sprint/jump around can leave you without stamina to fight back. Finally, plains, the current end-game zone, are open and seem inviting while being populated by deadly insects and goblin cities + patrols. If anything I feel swamps and plains should switch places in terms of progression. Goblins aren’t scarier than the undead. As with the bosses, more biomes will be very welcome.

Finally crafting feels about right in Valheim. Gathering resources does take time, especially metals, but it also feels rewarding. Getting a new tier or type of weapon or armor feels like a big deal, and with each type of weapon having a different feel in combat, switching is a noticeable change. Another important aspect of advancing is being able to go back to earlier biomes and actually feeling significantly stronger. It feels good to one-shot enemies that tormented you in the past.

I believe our current plans are to finish the existing content of Valheim, meaning beating the Plain biome boss, and then wait for more content to be added. If the content addition is soon and significant, we will likely play it right away. If not, we can always return for a fresh run at a later date, perhaps when the game leaves Early Access.

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Valheim, a survival sim that puts fun and smarts ahead of survival

I shall now also post about Valheim, because that is what one blogs about these days. As one should, because out of the blue the game has come out and done what so many before it have failed to do; it captures the core of a genre while removing much of the suck, and doing so in a clean and enjoyable manner.

The easiest way to understand why playing Valheim is more fun than say, playing RUST or ARK is similar to how the combat and overall feel in WoW is better than EQ or similar games. Both sets of games do similar things and have their own details and differences, but Valheim/WoW just ‘feel’ smooth and clean. Hitting a skill off your hotbar in WoW is better than doing the exact same thing in EQ. The ‘why’ is complex and has been covered to death in the past, but the important part for today is that combat in Valheim just feels correct, where combat in RUST or ARK feels floaty and ‘off’ by comparison. That’s a huge deal when combat and general gameplay is, well, most of what you do.

Small details also add up. For example, in RUST/ARK you wake up naked and clueless and good luck figuring it all out. Note that both games have now been out for years. In Valheim you fly in via giant bird, and the area around you, while still part of the whole world, is designed with a new player in mind. A crow also appears early and often with tips on what to do and how to do it. The game has been out for less than a month. Oh, and it was made by two people. Why don’t RUST/ARK do this? Because you suffer and die because its survival, or something… I’m sure there was a point to it back in the day.

Unlike its peers, Valheim is a PvE game first. The point is to unlock and kill big bosses, while gearing up and killing ever increasingly difficult enemies as you explore the giant and procedural world (a quick note about the world generation; its insanely good, mostly avoiding creating things that don’t make sense or get you stuck). Why it took this long for someone to realize the potential of a full-on PvE ARK/RUST is beyond me, but its here and surprise, its super fun. While you can play solo, the game is far better with a small group of friends, and in another major “how is this early access done by two people?”, making your game open to others is both very easy and works like a charm. You can even have a paid hosting service keep your world online 24/7 (otherwise when the world host goes offline, others can’t join).

I won’t go into the details of everything you can do, but it has all of the basics. Build a base, upgrade and expand it, collect resources, explore, gain skills by doing things, die and corpse run, teraform, different weapons with different advantages/penalties, etc etc. Again, insane how much this game already has, and how well it all works.

The progression is very smooth, rarely is something critical lacking in an annoying way, and lots of small details make sense and are well thought-out. For example ore and metal bars can’t go through portals (fast travel), so while you can eventually fast travel around the world instead of repeatedly running back and forth, you DO need to plan major trips back when it comes to metal, which is a key progression resource. So you initially have travel for exploration, or shorter distances for local resources. Then you expand and unlock some fast travel to ‘shrink’ the world, but still must make the occasional trip via cart or boat for ore/metal. It just works, and is well thought-out.

The game is full of other examples of smart design. Of things that challenge you but aren’t annoying. The game is just a joy to play, and especially with others. For $20 its the biggest steal in gaming right now. Can’t recommend highly enough!

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Talos Principle mini-review

Quick review of the Talos Principle, a game released in 2014, one I purchased on Steam a few years ago, but only recently actually play. In short its a puzzle game similar to Portal, but with a far greater focus on telling an interesting story about what it means to be a human.

I liked the game a lot, and felt that all of the puzzles were challenging but fair (I finished all non-star/bonus puzzles). The game still looks great, the setting is very attractive, and the two voice actors did a wonderful job. No issues with bugs or anything else.

The story is told via some voiceovers, but mostly through text you read in computer terminals. As mentioned, the central theme is what is a human, and how is a human different from other living beings. As you progress more and more pieces of what happened to the world and why you are where you are is explained, and the ‘good’ ending ties it all together in a satisfying way. I did this all in just under 20 hours, but could have played a bit more to finish all of the bonus puzzles.

A worthwhile purchase if you enjoy Portal-style games, and like a deeper mystery story that challenges you on some basic concepts of humanity.

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Mini Metro review

If there is an award for cleanest design to achieve it’s goal, Mini Metro wins it. When you first load the game up, you are taken directly into the first map. No intro screen, no main menu, no tutorial section; just right into the game (with tooltips to help you along). And it works, because Mini Metro is exactly what you would expect it to be; you connect stations and transport people (well, symbols, more on that in a bit).

Things start nice and slow, three stations, low population. As the game progresses, more and more stations pop up in random locations, and you are given more trains, train lines, tunnels, and other bonuses to build your network. You lose when any one station overflows with people.

Each station in the game has a symbol, and the train raiders in the game are also symbols. A square ‘person’ wants to go to a square station. The odd/unrealistic part is that any square station will do, but once you know this, you can more fully begin to build successful setups (I was initially expecting people to want to go to one specific station, so my early designs failed horribly). The other negative is you can unrealistically min/max things without issue; you can for example pull an empty train from one line and place it directly on a station that is busy, have it deliver what it needs, and pull it off again. Same goes for train lines; delete or edit them as much as you want, instantly, with no cost/penalty.

That said I’ve been able to ignore those faults and still very much enjoy the game as a fun puzzler. It’s very easy to pick up for a couple tries in say 30 minutes time. There are currently plenty of different maps, and the replay-ability is very high per-map due to the random nature of it all. For its usually discounted price of $5, its a worthwhile pickup.

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Foundations mini-review

Mini review of Foundations as the game is still in Early Access (aren’t they all), and also because its a medieval city builder with all of the basics you would expect from such a game.

Foundations has two things going for it that stand out, one more so than the other. The big standout is that cities tend to grow more naturally than in other sims, because while you can directly place production buildings, homes are built somewhat randomly in a residential area you paint on the map. As citizens walk to where they need to go, a road forms, and future citizens will walk on that road rather then a more direct path. This in turn leads you to build around said road. It works, and makes cities look and feel more natural.

The other feature is the ability to build monuments and larger buildings, like a keep, church, or lords manor, piece by piece. This not only gives you flexibility in how they look, but the bigger you make them, the more they benefit you. A bigger church can hold more people, while a larger lords manor lets you hire a tax collector, have a larger treasury, and gives you more prestige.

The biggest pain-point with the game right now is the UI; its horrible. Luckily the next big update is a UI overhaul, hopefully coming in Jan or Feb. Other than that the game runs well and I didn’t encounter any bugs. It’s not ultra-deep right now, but if you are looking for a city builder, both for now and for the future, Foundations has promise.

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The Long Dark review

I finally purchased The Long Dark after it had been sitting on my wishlist for a few years. Before playing it, my view of it was that it was a stylized survival game that may or may not be interesting to me, hence why it sat so long without being purchased.

Having now played it, I was both correct AND wrong in terms of what The Long Dark is, and my enjoyment level of it. The first time I loaded it up I played the story-focused episode mode, but about 30 minutes into it I wasn’t enjoying it so stopped that and went into the more sandbox survival mode. About an hour into survival I wasn’t enjoying that either, but playing that mode did make me more curious about the story so I went back to episode mode. I ended up finishing all 3 available episodes (parts 4 and 5 are coming in 2021 I believe), which took about 25 hours. I have now been playing the survival mode for another 20ish hours.

The Long Dark is as pure a survival game as I have played. The need to stay hydrated, fed, and rested are not just requirements, they are basically the ONLY requirements, and the entire goal of the survival mode is to see how long you can go until you run out of food/water/health and die. It’s because of this that I initially didn’t see the point of playing survival; since the first few days on the lower difficulty level were very easy, and it felt like I was just wandering around to wander and collect more stuff that I didn’t seem to need. And since you are the only human alive in survival, the feeling of loneliness kicks in fast (which is the point in some ways, of course).

The more story/mission focused episodes serve as a very nice tutorial for both the gameplay aspects and the world setting, while still mostly revolving around the core gameplay loop of staying alive and exploring to gather things that help you stay alive. The story itself is interesting, more-so IMO than most video-game stories. You aren’t reading a books-worth of text here or anything, but who you meet and the overarching plot is really solid.

Once the episode content was complete, I had a solid understanding of how the mechanics worked, and wanted to go back into survival mode on a higher difficulty to apply that understanding. This also clicked, and I got into a good loop of exploring and surviving. Of finding better clothing to stay warm, and new/better tools to help in exploration. And slowly your character gets better at the basics, like starting a fire or having the stamina to go on without needing as much rest.

The Long Dark does some things exceptionally well. For starters, the weather in the game is the most impactful weather I have seen. Visually a blizzard or fog greatly reduces what you can see, while from a gameplay perspective harsh winds drop your warmth fast, and make walking into the wind much slower. Snow leaves your clothing wet and will eventually freeze. The night is colder than the day. Combine it all and a clear day to explore in feels like a bonus, while getting caught out in a blizzard at night is panic-inducing and brings a real sense of dread.

I like the art style a lot as well. There are some very rough textures at times, the animations can be a little stilted, and overall this isn’t the next Crysis by any means, but everything looks ‘right’ when you are out in the woods, surrounded by snow, trees, and the occasional animal. The game places you in the designed setting very well, and nothing ever really feels ‘off’ to break that immersion.

The Long Dark is a hard game to recommend because it is so unique. There is little combat (mostly shooting wolves and bears with one of three weapons), no building, limited character progression, and a pure and singular focus on survival. But it does what it sets out to do extremely well, and again for me personally it did click, and has become a really enjoyable game.

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