It’s the holiday season, but this isn’t really a holiday post. It’s a list of a few things that give me the happies, though.
1. The Steam Winter Sale
‘Tis the season of sales and giving like you ain’t got nothing else to do. Although it’s not great for the wallet, I can look at all the games I have in my library that I don’t have time to play and feel proud about its collective fatness. Yes.
My generous pals (and boyfriend) have gotten me:
1. Condemned: Criminal Origins – From Junch, more screaming and pausing for recording on video
2. Serious Sam 3: BFE Edition
3. Death Rally
Whilst I myself have gifted:
1. Hotline Miami
2. Natural Selection 2
And here’s what’s new in my library because of my weak bacon will:
Legend of Grimrock
Tiny and Big: Grandpa’s Leftovers
Natural Selection 2
Still waiting it out for a flash sale on Far Cry 3 and more indie things. I’ve been camping at the site whenever I’m not sleeping, it’s so easy to get obsessed over it. The thing about the Steam sales are that they’re just so amazingly implemented. I mean, it’s basically a bunch of people gathering around the table arguing about how much a game should be discounted for and with which bundles, then set up automatically to wreak havoc on consumer’s wallets. And all of us fall for it. It’s all so psychological. “Oh, let’s stick Borderlands 2, Hitman: Absolution and some other game in community voting and see what happens!” Then 2 days later there’s a sale for the very same game; it’s just an illusion of choice.
But whatever. Let’s fund Valve and the publishers and the game developers. It’s amazing. If Steam didn’t put flash sales on, which heavily features indie titles, I wouldn’t have bothered to look twice at the unusual games that independent devs put their heart and soul into. Here’s to putting a little more money into everyone’s pockets, and giving us more reasons to play more games. Hooray for Steam sales!
2. TV holiday hiatus/downtime, the calm before the storm
This gives me so much time to catch up on the stuff that I missed out on. Right now I’m really enjoying the violent, over-the-top entertainment of Deadwood, and I’m prepping myself for Suits. Maybe if I’m lucky, I’ll squeeze in Parks & Recreation and White Collar.
What’s lies beyond the eye of the hurricane? Returning shows will sweep all that free time away. Or you know, fill up the times I travel to and from places. Here’s what I’ll be watching (yes, feel free to judge me):
I’m most concerned about the fate of The Walking Dead after news of showrunner Glenn Mazzara leaving the show surfaced – we know the rest of season 3 will be great but what happens after? The second thing I’m most excited about – Community. Same concerns, because we don’t know what it’s going to be like without Dan Harmon. Are these just going to go to the grave without their creators? It’s like GRR Martin retiring to an island off the shores of Jamaica and leaving the writing canon to someone else without even finishing his last book.
Fond as I am of these shows, I’d rather see them take the lethal injection for a last hurrah rather than have the stallion die and see its dead body continuously beaten into an unrecognizable pulp. ‘Cos these things happen to cult shows. They get cancelled before their time, or networks fling acid into their faces to stretch some bottom line dollar. And before you know it, fans become miserable, hold post-show parties and anniversaries, sign petitions for TV movies, and deepen their hatred mould for the suits that run the biz. Fingers crossed for some justice next year.
In the meantime, phew. Let me catch my breath, TV.
3. Awesome young people music: Disclosure and Bondax
My music taste evolves from time to time. When I used to be apprehensive of all things indie, I now seem to bob along with dancey tunes that adopt hooks which are characteristically indie. A single-note strum for a song’s entirety, a footstomping staccato, that sort of thing. They aren’t so bad now, because the production is ace – it takes all that I love about dance and extracts all that I typically hate in a standard hipster playlist. It’s about the producer’s skill.
Though Disclosure & Bondax aren’t indie in their sound, they successfully borrow what we know of dub and dance, and fuse it with old house, garage and contemporary soul flavours for a marvelous mix of super sexiness. These guys are young, but they know their stuff. They’ve got the skills. And damn, are those sounds a bitchin’ blend. They’re old, they’re new, they’re seasonless and opening new pathways to a heavenly kind of electronic sound that’s both familiar and novel, the way Frank Ocean is flipping the tables on R&B and Hip Hop industry. These are the masters that will create the mega summer hits for a decade; that’s the perfect play in the background when you’re kissing someone; they let you lay back and feel like the era of music is still elevating (and there is still hope).
4. Natural Selection II
Yet again showing my ugly laggardly ways, I recently got Natural Selection II during the Steam sale (as listed in point 1, and gifted it to Junch). Many good things were said about it and mountains of pats-on-backs descended on the developers for the game. But I can be a cheapskate and a pre-judging prick at times when it comes to gaming, so I’ve always thought of NS2 with an “eh”. Then it went on sale and my wallet succumbed.
I’m still a noob to the mechanics and the speed of play is hyper. Breakneck, they usually say. Lucky for me they’ve got servers that are rookie friendly. You play on one of two teams, the Marines or the Aliens, and there’s always a commander/Queen overseeing things by deploying buildings and support units to help the team push forward in their mission to annihilate the opponents’ base. As the head you’re also in charge of the R&D/upgrading that goes on in the grand scheme of things, so your team’s success is pretty much on your shoulders. The lead strategist of sorts. If you happen to land in the commander’s seat, you’re basically playing Starcraft, but you’re not able to control your units because they’re your teammates.
If you’re not a commander, you’re on the ground just being the destructive minion. That in itself isn’t as straightforward as you think. With enough resources, you can upgrade your unit to something more badass and mow down enemies and their bases faster. And best of all, at any time you can choose to evolve between classes as you see fit for the situation, so that you’re not confined to one particular line of attack/defense strategy at any time. The strategic bits are what elevate NS2 as a competitive FPS, and as someone who’s poor at RTS games, I still find the injection a welcome boost because I like having to think a little more in order to shoot someone’s nose off. You’ve really got to be on the ball to make your plan work. Plus, you get to run around as an alien, with your POV from the toothy cave of your gaping maw.
Honestly, I haven’t gotten used to the gameplay yet because everything’s going so fast that I don’t have the chance explore the gameplay properly yet. But from what I’ve played so far, it’s addictive. I mean, I thought my Marine team was doing well clearing skulks from the corridors when suddenly two onos barge in and flatten my base completely. Immediately I screamed, “I WANT TO DO THAT.” So that’s my goal – learn the ropes, hope for a great commander, and eventually taste the sweetness of bulldozing my way to victory.
5. The Walking Dead Board Game
Ray gave this to me for Christmas and I must say that it was very clever of him, for there couldn’t be a gift cooler than something that combined my obvious love of The Walking Dead TV show and my interest in board games.
It’s not difficult to pick up at all. It’s spoiler free, too, because the six characters you can pick from are Shane, Dale, Glenn, Rick, Lori and Andrea, and they all have their own special character abilities that you can use once during the course of the game.
The first way to play the game is to pit all survivors against one another. You start off at camp, and you race to pick up four cards from each corner of the map. These are important “supplies”, if you will. Unless you land on a space that indicates otherwise, you will have to draw an Encounter card every time you land on any space. Twice if you land on the corner for the supply run, which is a little like a boss battle if you’re most unfortunate to encounter two zombie hordes in a row. Encounter cards can bear goodies or easy passes too, but they’re of course, more scarce. To move, you roll a die, advancing however many spaces the die dictates.. And should you encounter a dreaded walker, you need to roll a die too. Roll a 6 and you’re automatically safe. The thing is, walker fights tend to be 7 and above. Some spaces can give you a +1 or +2 advantage, but zombie hordes can be worth 10. What happens then?
The game employs scrounge cards, which are basically the very limited resources that exist through the game. Once these run out, they’re depleted forever, unless you happen to pick up a lucky encounter card that tells you that you can refresh the deck again. These scrounge cards are specifically battle aids that boost your die score in the form of weapons (+4 for Rifles) or movement (move ahead 2 spaces if you wish to). They typically have a one time use. Sometimes they have great advantages – if you roll 5 or 6 you can keep your card – that can really help to save your ass. Other times you feel like you’re just giving them away to poor luck because of your sucky die throws. But you know what? A tough board game is an exciting board game. The zombie fight is really about luck more than skill too, if you think about it.
If you lose your battles with zombies, you lose an Ally chip. These act as lives. So if you have no more allies and you get bit… You die.
The best part of this game is that you can actually rise as a walker. Hurr hurr! The game allows for a maximum of two dead players, after which the whole game turns into a team event of zombies versus survivors. The objective changes from “first person to camp wins” to “please make it back to the base with the four basic supplies ALIVE”. As a walker, you have your own deck to play with, and you can use shortcuts to help you chase down the rat bastard who refused to play his card to save your life (yes, you can throw in scrounge cards when it’s not your turn to help your mate during team mode). So your objective as a walker is to just eat everyone left.
Very nice, sturdy game pieces of pressed cardstock, cards, and a lovely mat (reminds me of a mouse mat, really). I’d love to play this with my mates sometime soon. There’s single player (YES, you are the lone survivor, poor thing), and up to four players. The really random nature of the game and the whole “I can be a walker and get my revenge, you traitorous imbecile” bit gives it great replay value among buddies. It’s not too complex either, but it can be extremely stressful when you have no idea when the next zombie is going to appear and make you use all your resources. I understand this could be frustrating for people who hate luck-based games, or who don’t have friends with a great sense of humor, or who’re just looking to be seriously competitive. Not exactly for the power board gamer, but fun enough with friends that it makes you holler for help or facepalm at your miserable luck.