March of the Living is the survival zombie game that you should try

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Lately I’ve been hearing some pretty positive buzz around March of the Living, enough so that it prompted me to pick up a copy a couple of weeks ago. While I’ve only played it here and there — the game is really suitable for sporadic sessions — I’ve been deeply impressed by what it offers.

In a nutshell, March of the Living is a survival rogue-like that is a blend of The Walking Dead, FTL, and old-school shareware pixelart. You take control of a character on a quest (initially, a guy looking for his son) and start marching across the country in the midst of a full-blown zombie apocalypse. Each segment on the map is made up of some walking (which causes fatigue and hunter while holding the threat of zombie attacks) and then a final story choice. Each of these little vignettes takes you into the world and makes you fret over what you think you should do, especially when it comes down to doing the moral thing or doing what needs to be done to survive.

It’s a game of both choices and resources, the latter of which are always limited and cause plenty of the former. Do you sleep on the road and chance getting attacked, just to reset your fatigue meter? Do you pick up more party members for safety, even though they’ll eat more food? Do you head into the city to scavenge or stay in the country and make a beeline to your objective?

It’s tense, because you make the best decisions you can and hope for the best. There’s a combat system here, of course, and you’ve got both melee and ranged weapons to help hold off the zombie horde. I’m not absolutely in love with the combat, but it is necessary and even sometimes gripping. I liked giving my guy a shotgun and having him mow down a pack with a well-timed burst.

I think that the simple graphics work in favor of this kind of game. The most intriguing parts come in text form anyway, so no need to gussy it up with loads of polygons and particle effects.

Anyway, March of the Living might not be the best game ever, but it is a gripping title and definitely a must-buy for me.

The Secret World: Chrome and Earthquakes

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Oh Ricky Pagan, has there ever been an MMO NPC like you? Ever?

So I’m trying to make good on my vow to catch up on The Secret World missions with my main. I took Yeti back to Tokyo for one last mission with good ol’ Ricky. He must have been a terribly fun character to write for, all Elvis and biker gang and deeply scarred psyche.

Ricky said that he and Orochi have always been on the opposite sides of everything, but now that they have a common enemy in the Filth, he’s willing to bury the hatchet and give them a hand. And by that, he means for me to be that hand. Why risk that pompadour if you could send some naive adventurer in your stead?

He did lend me his chrome hog for the mission, which turned out to be quite the merry ride through the streets of Tokyo. I wouldn’t have thought that Filth people could ride bikes, but apparently they can, so the mission was fun of fighting, fleeing, and turbo-boosted awesomeness.

I am pretty rusty on this character, so I did die a couple of times on one of the foot sections. I also kicked myself for missing the achievement — making a long jump off a ramp — that would’ve gotten me Ricky’s bike. Guess I can always go back and do it again.

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Then it was off to Argartha and Egypt to tuck in on the mission series from the latest issue. The stationmaster (what’s HIS story, anyway?) showed up to point out how earthquakes rippling out of Egypt were starting to affect the world tree. Would I be a dear an investigate? Sure sure.

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The investigation mission that followed was… adequate, I suppose. Nothing especially novel or tricky, just paying attention to some notes as to where to drop these earthquake locator/recorder things.

I’ll say this: One reason that I dislike City of the Sun God over the Scorched Desert is that at least the latter has clear air. CotSG has this gritty, sepia-like filter that detracts from the visuals greatly.

The mission led me into the Ankh, although this was a non-dungeon version of the instance. Nothing too hard, just tracking down a mad doctor who was injecting himself with the Filth (Pro-Tip: Do not inject yourself with the Filth).

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What was of most interest to me was the doctor’s notes, in which he talked about the ages of the world. He suggested that instead of the ages following a chronological pattern, they were more or less “resets” that took the world back to a beginning state, although certain artifacts remained and caused different changes for that age. Huh.

Battle Bards Episode 74: Black Desert Online

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This eastern sandbox import has many people playing and talking about it, but are they listening to Black Desert Online? The Battle Bards are, naturally, and in this conversation-packed episode, they charge through this fantasy soundtrack to glean the best and discard the rest!

Episode 74 show notes

  • Intro (feat. “Majesty” and “Keplan”)
  • “Main Theme”
  • “Town of Glycidyl/Glish”
  • “Discovery Theme”
  • “Tavern Theme”
  • “Road to Valencia”
  • “Trent Village Ambience”
  • “Media Horse Riding”
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Jukebox picks: “Gravity Falls Mystery Tour” from Disney Infinity, “Makura Kouji” from Mushishi, and “Animal Apogee” from RuneScape
  • Outro (feat. “Nighttime”)

Listen to episode 74 now!

Gaming goals for May

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It’s May? Already? Inconceivable!

I’m actually pretty excited for this month, as my wife and I are going on a cruise for my 40th birthday (May 31st, start shopping now!). I just need to take a break and get away for a bit — from jobs, from kids, from the routine. Recharge. Because of this break, I’ll have a week less of gaming than otherwise, so here’s what I’m looking at accomplishing this month:

  • The Secret World: I want to go through the last quest of Issue 12, all of Issue 13, and the upcoming Issue 14 on my high level character. I always feel like she should be through all of the content to date. After that, keep plugging away at City of the Sun God on my playthrough character. Would be great to get to Transylvania by June.
  • Chrono Trigger: I put this game aside while exercise biking to get into Clash Royale, but I really do want to finish it up, so I’m going to make a point to do that.
  • World of Warcraft: I’m still dithering between characters to focus on, mostly my Hunter and Death Knight. I’m leaning toward the latter but keep dying a little too much in heroics for my comfort. Want to make progress in getting through Draenor so that by July I’ll be focused on going back to earlier zones and farming them for outfit pieces. No matter what, I’m sure I could jump into Legion with either of these characters on day one, unless of course I active/roll up a different character and have to get that toon to 100.
  • LOTRO: As I said this morning, I want to fully catch up in the epic book by the end of the week so that I can put the game aside until the next epic is released.
  • Diablo III: I did create a character for season 6, but to be honest I don’t know when I’ll have the time to play it. Would like to finish a season for once, tho!

LOTRO: City slicker

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Generally in MMOs and CRPGs, I am not a big fan of large cities. I don’t like feeling lost or disoriented in an area, and many times these places require a lot of frustrating questing as you try to figure out where you need to go next. Small-to-medium villages are my preferred haunts when it comes to civilization.

It doesn’t mean that I can’t be impressed by the scope of dev-created metropolises, of course. As I’ve been exploring Minas Tirith over the past week, even though it’s a huge city and not my cup of tea, I can’t help but be impressed by its scope and design.

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I know that there was some not-inconsiderable concern about the creation of this iconic city for the game before it came out. Turbine’s been winding down in resources and developers, and at nine years into a game, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the team would take as many shortcuts as possible in trying to tackle massive projects like this.

But the weird thing is that the devs didn’t; Minas Tirith is easily the most impressive city in the game. I went into it thinking that it would be mostly a facade — a bunch of generic building fronts with nothing to show behind them. But it’s a genuine city full of details and places to explore, and I’ve been screenshotting like crazy while doing it.

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Minas Tirith had to be a significant technical challenge, especially in trying to create it without divvying it up into instances. It’s a seven-tiered city with a jutting pier, with each tier rising higher than the last (and being somewhat smaller than the tier before it). In fact, the first mission you get in the epic is to travel from the bottom to the top, a task that took longer than you’d think as you have to keep traversing the city looking for ramps and trying to make sense of the somewhat-cluttered map.

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I did have a few geek moments, like when I saw the white tree or the Houses of Healing. What impressed me the most, however, was how the devs made the tiers nicer and more affluent the higher you went. You start down on the worker’s tier, which is both the largest and the grungiest. As you head higher, the tiers show more polish and even greenery, until you reach the very top.

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I had a sinking feeling that with all of the work done with this city, the epic story wasn’t going to scoot us through it quickly. And I was right. I’m still wallowing in many quests to help prepare the city for the coming battle.

I’m complaining here not just because I want to escape the urban setting for more pastoral landscapes, but because the technical ambition of the city translated into a heavy load for my cruddy computer. I’ve been sticking it out, but man my frame rate took a massive hit in this city. As in, I’m probably in the teens if not lower most of the time, making riding around a frustrating experience.

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And while some of the quests have felt worthy of my Middle-earth hero status, some are just busy work that could’ve been handed off to a servant instead of a soldier packing a broadsword. The devs are obviously trying to get the most mileage out of Minas Tirith, but I’m starting to come to a breaking point here.

Probably the worst example was a quest where I had to go check the food stores in two locations, including one all of the way at the bottom of the city. Now, there are stables to help transport between tiers, but you still have to run between them, and this particular quest sent me from the second-highest tier all the way to the lowest and back about four times. Up, down. Up, down. Up, down. Up, down. It got to be ridiculous, especially when I was going between areas just to say one thing to someone and then come back.

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At least Minas Tirith has personality and a sense of life to it. I love the touches such as the above
“oliphant” in one of the taverns serving as target practice for bored and drunk soldiers.

My goal is to completely catch up in the epic book by the end of this week so that I can move on to a new MMO project. Pray for my frame rate!

King’s Quest IV part 10: Happily ever after

(This is part of my journey going checking out King’s Quest IV. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

All right, let’s finish this game up! With both magical fruit and Pandora’s Box in hand, Rosella returns to the evil fairy’s mountain fortress. I can’t complain that the game keeps sending these flying goons to carry her up there — beats walking that path — but I feel bad for the girl. That cannot be good on her shoulder joints.

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Up at the castle, Lolotte gives Rosella her “reward:” forced marriage to the shy and very green Edgar. Can’t help but think that this is all of Rosella’s gangster life karma coming back to bite her in the tuckus.

The marriage ceremony will take place in the morning, for no reason other than to presumably offer Rosella a chance to escape. She gets locked in Edgar’s room while Edgar get the couch.

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As Rosella dithers in a pre-marital panic, Edgar shows up and slides a rose under the door. Aw. And it has a key in it. AW YEAH MY BOY EDGAR. I shall let you live when my throne comes to power.

Rosella creeps through the castle, avoiding all of the goons, and getting her stuff back. At least they put it all in one easy-to-find location. Not really in the mood for a scavenger hunt at this point.

w4For giggles, Rosella sneaks up to Lolotte’s room and shoots her with Cupid’s bow. This proves more fatal than you’d expect, since love apparently is poison to green witches. The description above makes me far more wary about Rosella than before. Once she gets a tastes for revenge, watch out!

Now the looting can commence! Rosella takes the talisman off the dead fairy, then reclaims the hen and Pandora’s Box. I like how the room with the chicken running around in it reprises the Astro Chicken theme from Space Quest III. Gave me a chuckle.

w5No quick resolution here — this game is going to make you work for your ending! Rosella lets the unicorn go (why? would’ve been a great mount) and returns Pandora’s Box to the crypt. Then she makes the long journey back across the world, across the ocean, and into the good fairy’s palace. Nice to know that this lady is sleeping away the hours while Rosella is doing all of the hard work!

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Anyway, Rosella gives both the talisman AND the hen back to the fairy. In return the fairy changes Rosella’s clothes back (oh, hooray) and transforms Edgar from an ugly green guy to a definitely much-more-ugly reddish “hunk.” He then proposes to Rosella on the spot.

Hilariously, Rosella shoots him down with a “oh man, got to go save my dying father seeyalaterbye!”

w7And King Graham is saved! The end.

Final Thoughts

Overall, King’s Quest IV is an enjoyable game and a definite step up from its predecessors. It not only took a graphical and audio jump forward with this installment, but it manages to tell a better story with cutscenes, more of a plot, etc.

Big kudos to Sierra for putting a female character as a lead — the first time that they did that for one of their graphical adventure games, I think. There’s a lot of mixed messages here that you can take or leave depending on your irritation with princess fantasies and subtle sexism, but for the most part Rosella is portrayed as capable, level-headed, and a stone-cold killer with the bow of love.

The game isn’t without its faults, of course. Hardcore pathing and obscure puzzles are everywhere, the writing is kind of lame, and there are a few spots where you can get into a no-win scenario that requires you to go WAY back in the game to fix. But yeah, I didn’t mind it at all. Good times.