Tuesday, March 16, 2021

XBox Wireless Headset Review

 

I hustled to my local Best Buy today to pick up my XBOX Wireless Headset. 

After spending a few hours using them I've come to the conclusion that they are not for me.

Aesthetically I like them. The green accents on the black matte finish just look aces. But what I can't get over in the faux leather material on the ear cuffs. They just feel tacky. And I don't mean like 70s shag carpet tacky. They stick to your skin. Maybe it's the curse of the bald man. Maybe it's just me. But for the price the feature set on  these headphones are fantastic. I preordered them the day they were announced because they specs were so nice.

Make sure to check out the video for more details:




I spent some time combing the internet looking for some common questions. These are the ones that popped up the most. All of these answers are backed up with responses from official Microsoft reps.





Q: What is this compatible with?


A: This headset works on Bluetooth 4.2 and will pair wirelessly with your Xbox Series X, series S, and the Xbox One. You can also get it to pair with your PC but that might require additional software updates. Even though this does work on BT it is no designed to work with other consoles. So while you may be able to hack it and hook it up to a Switch or PS5 it's not intended for that.



Q: Are these noise cancelling?

A: No. They provide noise reduction which is different. The microphone is designed to isolate and pick up your voice and eleminate most of your background noise. It is NOT designed to prevent you from hearing background noise. So if you have a gaggle of unrully kids in the background your friends might not hear them but you still will.

Q: Can I pair this with my Xbox and my phone at the same time?

A: Yes. And you can control the mix of each. So if you want to turn down your friends and turn up the RP time in a cut scene you can. God I wish I had these for back in my MMO days.

Q: Can I connect to multiple BT devices at once?

A: Nope.

Q: What size are the drivers:

A: For you audiophiles out there: Speaker size: 40mm Speaker material: Paper composite diaphragm and neodymium magnet Speaker Impedance: 32 ohm Speaker Response: 20Hz - 20kHz

Q: Are the ear cups replaceable?

A: Sadly they are not. If they are damaged Microsoft recommends you send them in for repair. This is a bit of a bummer.





Thursday, March 4, 2021

How Assassin's Creed: Valhalla fails to live up to the legacy of Origins or Odyssey

 


Assassin’s creed Valhalla is a tremendous commercial success. Outselling it's predecessor, Odyssey, in the first 4 months by over 50% according to industry tracking site Superdata. It's fair to say that when it's run is finally done AC:V could end up being the most successful Assassin's Creeds of all time.

 

I’ve spent over 100 hours storming the shores of England as Eivor the VIking, and I’ve loved a lot of my time looting and pillaging but I still don’t feel like I’ve “beat” the game much less finished all the content it has available and this has largely left me feeling unfulfilled.

 

I've pacified England

 

Laid waste to the Order

 

Grown my settlement to rank 6

 

Found the locations of all the hidden ones

 

I've even walked on Asgard




 

 

And while parts of Valhalla are an excellent game. All of these disparate story lines and game systems cobbled together make for an overall broken narrative that lacks any true cohesion and because of this disjointedness  wind up detracting from the whole.

 

I was able to tie up all of the territorial England Arc's before I wiped out the order and that effectively culminated at the strategy table with….. Well, a message that informed me that there is a lot more to see and do. Go check it out! At this point Sigurd was back at my side even if he was a shell of his former self. And that betrayal they referenced at the beginning of the game? I never really felt it. I had learned a bit about the animus, and I did have a confrontation with Odin's but I didn't realize his arc was over but apparently it was. From that point I assumed that I just had to kill the order and then I'd end up with a satisfactory ending. 

 

What was once a central focus of the series, the order, feels shoehorned in at best. I had only killed about half the order members before I knew who their leader was. Unfortunately I couldn't do anything about it, and while that's not really anything new for the series it felt rather pronounced in this case. This forced me to kill the remaining members and hunt down the last zealots. Zealots were an inferior version of Phylakes from Origins and Mercenaries from Odyssey. Those enemies inspired fear. They always showed up at inopportunity moments when I was clearing out forts. They'd force me to run or reassess my assault. They were a severe thorn in my side and the challenge they provided was welcome. The Zealots were tame in comparison. I never ran into one in the world on accident. The majority of them I hunted down at the end and killed once I had completed the story. They were uninteresting, they were never scary, they provided no tension, and were entirely ineffective at making themselves anything other than a speedbump in my gameplay at the end. They were utterly superfluous Then when I was able to confront them the resolution was odd to say the least to and I was left feeling, is that it? Is the game over? I didn't get a credit roll, there was no climactic event. I was climbing to a peak but once I got there it was like? Is this over?

 

I couldn't believe it.

 

I was in shock.

 

So I went back to my camp and worked on finishing all the rest of the quests.

 

I had a quest from the seer that at first I just assumed was a side quest. But now I was convinced that maybe I had to complete it as well.

 

I also had the hidden one's quest line open. Maybe that needed completing too.

 

When I collected the materials for the seer and began the Asgard storyline it felt to me at this point like DLC when in fact it was an excellent allegory for what was going on in Eivor's life that would have enriched my experience had I played it in parallel with Eivor pacifying England. However, the game never really nudged me to go back and participate in these two questlines at the same time. Had it been more intertwined it would have been much more impactful. Once I completed the troubles in Asgard I felt that this story arc had reached a meaningful conclusion, however, this wasn't the main focus of the game. Upon entering Asgard for the first time I finally became male Eivor. Which, I thought it was pretty weird. I had spent the first 90 hours of the game so far as female Eivor. I did choose to let the game auto select my gender for me the parts it thought was most appropriate. Apparently playing the game as a mortal I should be a lady, but when I'm Odin I should be a dude.

 

But I can't stress enough just how good the Jotunheim region is. With the magic and shifting environments this is the most engaging and fantastical content in the game. Mythological fantasy buffs are gonna love it, and I almost missed it.

 

Finally I made my way to uncover the remaining 3 hidden ones locations. There was a lot of lore in this missions as you uncovered the missives and it was nice to hear Bayek's voice again considering he is my all time favorite Assassin's Creed character. But once again, when I completed this quest, it was just done.

 

Sigurd's Arc, Asgard, Order Arc, Conquer of England Arc. There were a lot of Arc's but none of them really felt like they received a proper ending. Like you beat this game. Now have fun running around England and reaping your rewards and discovering the secrets you have yet to uncover.

 

I also really don’t like the fact they nerfed the bird. He used to be majestic and grand. A flying eagle that was a warrior and could help attack your prey. Now it's just a flying periscope. They did you wrong crow.

 

It's not all doom and gloom though. The moment to moment game play is tremendously fun. Combat is as visceral as ever. Eivor has enough fatalities and brutalities to make a Mortal Kombat fighter blush.

 

The new point of interest location system on the map worked out really well for me. You could always look out into the horizon and see that there was plenty to do.

Valhalla is also a great Tomb Raider hunting down Britain artifacts. You'll know them on the map because their markers look like Tomb Stones but the puzzles these contain are fun and engaging and different then most of the puzzles you'll find in villages or outposts.

 

The world that was built for AC: Valhalla was also beautiful with little secrets sprinkled everywhere to find. On top of one hill I ran into a town that had fallen prey to a cult and there were burning man symbols everywhere littered with corpses and bad juju symbols.

 

There is a huge amount of content in this game and that's wonderful. You without a doubt get your money's worth. This isn't a case of the developer being lazy, This is not an inconsequential amount of content Ubisoft has delivered. This is thousands of people hours of work we are talking about. They did not take the easy way out. They've just over encumbered themselves by trying to consistently outdo themselves.

 

I'd like for the next game in the franchise to take a step back and put the order back as a primary focus of the story. I think it's great Ubisoft has put less and less emphasis on the modern day storyline tied to the animus because frankly at this point I don't think 99% of the people even care. I know I don't. While assassin’s creed origins was not the first game in the series it was in effect a soft reboot for the franchise and a fresh place for new players to jump in as the game switched focus from adventure to full fledged open world RPG. Over the next two games the developers began to weave a story of benevolent assassins pushing back against the order. But they still pulled in context from the current time via the animus. This most recent addition the animus could’ve just been left out. It's another arc that just abruptly ends. I keep expecting to see my modern day player character but she hasn't made an appearance in a long time.

 

Keep the combat, keep the order, tighten up the story, and you'll have a better game.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Unwrap of the Controller Gear Xbox Pro Charging Stand

Yesterday while I was at the store I picked up a Controller Gear Xbox Pro Charging Stand for my Shock Blue Xbox Series X controller. I was able to buy it for $29.99 but I see it range anywhere from $30-$40 USD on the internet depending on the retailer and the color.

I'm impressed with the style and they way the controller rests in the stand. It fits like a glove. Had I not known it was manufactured by a third party I would have assumed this was a genuine Microsoft peripheral. 

The color match is impeccable and while a lot of chargers are going overboard with the LED indications on the charger the Charging Stand has one subtle LED on it to indicate that the controller is charging.

My only three complaints (and two of them are very minor) with this controller are, the battery life is only 12 hours and that is exceeded by some of it's competitors. However, most of us will charge our controller before then so the point is pretty moot. Secondly at this price you can buy a bunch of different charging systems for a lower price that handle two controllers at the same time for example the PowerA Dual Charging Station or the Nyko Charge Base.  

Finally this charging station does not use a USB cable to plug in so you can't connect it directly to your console to power it,  you'll have to plug it into the wall directly. For some people this is a good thing though. So your mileage may very. 

You can watch the full video on YouTube here:




If you like the Controller Gear Xbox Pro Charging Stand you can pick one up on Amazon

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Unwrapping and First Impression Videos

It's been a while since I've made a post over here. A few weeks ago I started doing a series of unboxing videos mostly as a joke. Turns out the joke was me though because they were fun and I actually enjoyed it. They are up on my YouTube channel here

I'm really enjoying it because I'm taking the time to learn more about the inner workings of YouTube and flexing some brain muscles I haven't used in a while with the video editing. The videos have started off pretty rough but I think they are getting better as time goes on. Something I'm really focusing on at the moment is making better thumbnails so I get a better click-through rate when people see my videos in their recommended feed. 

Here is the first video I did and it's very rough (but also has the most views, frankly it's because it's of the 3070 which is insanely hard to get): 



Here is the video I've made that has garnered the most traction (other than the 3070 that is): 



Finally here is the video I've most recently made. I'm happy with the growth it's shown since the first video but I know I have a lot left to learn: 


By the way, people seem to love that Xbox Series X and Series S Power Station. You can find them here.

You can purchase the Power A Charger Station here in Black: https://amzn.to/3h65zKg
You can purchase the Power A Charger Station here in White: https://amzn.to/3aeJGqR



Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Wargroove: Fun Based Strategy Game, a Quick Review

Wargroove is a stylish turn-based strategy game with gorgeous pixel art visuals from developer Chucklefish.

Upon loading into Wargroove you are greeted with an anime cut scene that teases the rise to power of a young queen and her dog companion. Shortly thereafter we learn that Queen Mercia is forced to flee her home in the Cherrystone Lands and go on a pilgrimage to save her people and to reestablish her kingdom.


While the game is visually stunning it isn't all flash and no substance. There is a compelling campaign with well-written characters that range from humorous to sullen, and righteous to shifty. There are also a number of optional side missions which progress individual character narratives outside the main story. These side missions once completed unlock options for you to play as different characters in the arcade mode.

Besides the main campaign, Wargroove has a number of ancillary systems as well. There is a map editor and campaign editor. As well as the ability to upload your maps and have other players take part in your content. This user-generated content could lead to Wargroove having a long tail for die-hard and casual fans alike. Online coop play will also be cross-platform between the PC, Xbox, and Switch.



Wargroove has everything you would expect from a strategy game. A large number of different units to select from each with there own strengths and weaknesses. Command units that have special abilities known as grooves that make them more than just another unit with higher than average defense and damage output. Wargroove by default can be a challenging game. Fortunately, Chucklefish built in a number of options to allow you to tune the difficulty of the game. From hardcore down to baby mode. I had to turn down the enemies' damage output on a few missions in order to complete them. 

My only real complaint about the game has to deal with the UI. When inspecting a unit it can be hard to tell what other units they are strong or weak against. This is the only time the game's art really works against it. The game also doesn't have any character development elements through experience gains or a skill improvement system. The only character progression is narrative. 


Due out February 1st for the XBox, PC, and Nintendo Switch. A PS4 port is set to follow sometime in the near future. This is one game I can say with certainty that if you are a fan of turn-based strategy or fantastic pixel art Wargroove is well worth your $20. If you are a fan of either Advanced Wars for the Gameboy Advanced of the Fire Emblem series you'll enjoy Wargoorve.

Score: 8 out of 10

A review key for the Nintendo Switch was provided by the Wargroove PR team.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Darksiders III: A Step Back for the Franchise

Like many of you, I've been patiently waiting for the release of Darksiders 3. For the longest time, I didn't think it would happen. With THQ's bankruptcy and the IP acquisition by Nordic. Then when I learned it would I was excited. I could patiently wait to see what the new developer would bring. But now that it has? I almost wish it hadn't.

To begin with the new Horseman, Fury, is a subpar character. It's like Gunfire Games went out of their way to make her unlikeable after giving her such an amazing new weapon. Sure these are the Horseman of the Apocalypse and not the nicest Nephilim on Earth but she comes off as the Starscream of the Decepticons. Whiney, petulant, and self-serving. She doesn't want to save her brothers out of any sense of familial responsibility. She wants to save them so she can be the boss.


This newest entry to the franchise undoes a lot of the improvements made in Darksiders 2 over the original. This game is less focused on finding new gear and weapons and powering them up. Instead, you'll focus on gaining new abilities.

The game also places a heavy emphasis on puzzle solving and platforming. However, some of the puzzles aren't intuitive and are just downright frustrating, not fun. Also in the early game, Fury's jumps are awkward and do not handle well. This takes what should be one of the highlights of the game, the environment, and makes it frustrating to navigate around in. 

It's not all doom and gloom though. One nice thing is that within the first few minutes of actual gameplay you'll be in your first boss battle. The bosses are not easy. Some of them are as much puzzle as they are combat. This boss immediately sets that tone.

The two things I enjoyed the most about the game was the aesthetics and Fury's chain swords. It looked like an evolution of the Darksiders Franchise. As soon as I hopped in I felt, yep, this is a Darksiders game. Also playing with the new chain weapon was a lot of fun over just the standard sword. Unfortunately, the rest of the experience didn't pan out. 

I played an advanced review copy on the XBox One X provided by the developer and the game suffered from unsteady frame rates. I also had the game crash after defeating a sin and I had to replay the entire stage, which while not too difficult is a bit of a gut punch. It goes from a triumphant to a defeated moment in the blink of an eye. Hopefully, this is something they can patch in the near future.

6/10

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Shadow of the Tomb Raider: Workout and Review

Shadow of the Tomb Raider comes out tomorrow and if you haven't heard by now it's pretty rad. I reviewed it for MMORPG and you can check it out here. There is a delightful conversation in the comments too, which is rare.



I created a funny little workout for it while I was reviewing the game. I have a stationary bike, yes I've joined the cult of Peloton, (you can find me under Grak) and I thought some of you might enjoy it so I've chosen to share it with you.

You can pick whatever works best for you for length. I would usually choose a 30-35 minute scenic ride. It wouldn't work well to choose a live or VOD class. I would then establish my flat road with at least an 80 cadence. I'd suggest no less than 30 on resistance. I started off with 40 and made it one higher each time. By now my flat road is up to 45. This is what keeps it interesting. Whenever you hit a loading screen (which isn't that often unless you die) sprint! Get your cadence up to over 100 until the game is done loading. Whenever you find a relic or document, you have to climb and get out of the saddle. Read the text and once you are done you can go back to seated. By the end of the 30 minutes, you'll have got a fair amount of game time in, had some fun, and got a heck of a workout.

That's it. It's quick, simple, and fun. I hope some of you have fun with it.


Friday, August 31, 2018

Dragon Quest XI: My Review for MMORPG

So this is another title I reviewed for my old site. If you are interested in Dragon Quest XI make sure to stop over at MMORPG.com and give this one a look. You can find it here.



All you really need to know is that it's an instant classic. This franchise has been gone far too long from the west and I'm glad it's back.


Saturday, August 25, 2018

5 Things to Know Before You Start Dragon Quest XI

Dragon Quest XI is due out soon. I wrote a post about it for my friends over at MMORPG.com. You can find the list 5 Things to Know Before You Start Dragon Quest XI here. There are really a few more because I was feeling cheeky. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the game. I'll have a full review out soon!

Things to Know Before You Start Dragon Quest XI

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A Filthy Casual's Return to WoW

I've spent a lot of time back in World of Warcraft with their recent release of Battle for Azeroth. For those keeping count at home that is the seventh expansion.

I found Pooh and Pals.
I wrote an article for MMORPG today going over some of my initial thoughts. You can check it out here. I'll follow that up with some more thoughts on the blog later next week.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Dead Cells: I'm Up, I'm Dead, Let's Do it Again. A Quick Review

I hate to die in games. I know I'm not the only one that shares in this frustration. It's why I find my fascination with Motion Twins new roguelike platformer Dead Cells so interesting. It's a game where you have to die, and I've become okay with that.
Don't get me wrong. When I'm on a deep run and have collected 20 to 30 cells and assume I'm close to making it to the collector and die... well, that still pisses me off. But I find myself sucked back in each time.


From the Ramparts, we watch, what was so gallantly streaming (the banners).
The outstanding pixel art was the first thing that gripped me. The character model of the decapitated protagonist, the prisoner, is well designed; tall, slender, and graceful. The animations are fluid and add personality, even humor (wait until he flips you the bird). The stages are varied beginning with the prison. You'll traverse sewers, castle walls, and even fishing villages. The color palettes for each stage are varied and feel different from any place you've been before.

These sewers don't have sharks, but they do have scorpions!

Combat is fast, fluid, and smooth as glass. There are a variety of different weapons, from swords to bear traps, that let you fight in a myriad of different ways. Even with a lot of enemies on the screen and effects taking place the frame rate never fell. The controls are also precise. Even when double jumping through wide spaces I felt like I had control over where my character would land. Barrel rolling through enemies, throwing traps, and blocking with a shield all happened when I wanted them to.

Like any good roguelike once you die it's back to the beginning. Your mass of goop of a character will spawn back in the prison. The layout of the stages will change from the previous run. The only thing you'll keep is certain bonuses that you can buy from the collector, like the ability to use potions, or runes that you'll collect from killing minibosses, one of the earliest is a rune that allows you to grow vines to climb to higher areas. As you unlock these runes you'll also open up the ability to access different stages. Instead of going through a promenade you can cut through the sewers.

Mixing it up with the undead in prison.

You'll have competing interests as you progress through a stage. If you kill the bad guys you'll earn cells and coins. You can buy better weapons with the money. You can buy bonuses from the collector with the cells. As you make your way through a stage you don't have to kill the enemies, you pass by them and press on. The reason this is important is that some doors are locked on timers. Typically there is a lot of items stored in those rooms so you have to decide is it worth skipping enemies in hopes of finding one of these rooms or do you want to farm bad guys for gold? You can also discover plans for powerful weapons as drops from enemies that you then turn into the collector and have to unlock with cells. This sense of micro progression in each successive run keeps you invested each time you die even if you don't make it all the way to the end.

What Dead Cells lacks in story it makes up for in character. From the prisoner to the enemies to the NPC's you'll meet along the way. The game is gorgeous, the protagonist handles like a finely tuned machine, and the system never feels like it cheats you when you die. It is a solid platformer and a great roguelike.


Score 9/10 The game is Fantastic!


A review copy of Dead Cells for the XBox One was provided by Motion Twin's PR team.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Diablo 3 Headed to the Switch? Look for Blizzcon Announcement

Remember when Blizzard teased the world with this tweet?

It's hard to believe but that was almost 6 months ago. Everyone at the time thought they knew what it meant, and they were probably right, they just were not clear on the timing.

Blizzcon is 90 days from now and I can state with some certainty that Diablo III on the Nintendo will be one of Blizzard's big announcements. Hopefully, it isn't THE big announcement or even the big Diablo announcement. Sure this game will sell, but at this point, I doubt even I would buy it. It would be awesome if the announcement tied in with a simultaneous release on the Nintendo eShop.

Hopefully, we will get some other news about a new Diablo game but other than the job postings I haven't heard any rumors about Diablo 4 or World of Diablo. However, I'll take bets that Nintendo Switch Diablo III will be part of the buzz.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

VAMPIRE: THE MASQUERADE, LAUNCHES AT GENCON 2018 Today! (Press Release)

LONG-AWAITED FIFTH EDITION OF CLASSIC TABLETOP RPG AND CULTURAL PHENOMENON, VAMPIRE: THE MASQUERADE, LAUNCHES AT GENCON 2018

An Exploration of Evil and Morality Awaits in White Wolf Entertainment’s Vampire: The Masquerade Fifth Edition

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN (AUGUST 2, 2018White Wolf Entertainment, creators of the transmedia World of Darkness story universe, today announce that their iconic vampire tabletop roleplaying series moves into the 21st century with the release of Vampire: The Masquerade Fifth Edition (V5). The beloved roleplaying game of personal and political horror launches on the GenCon 2018 show floor in Indianapolis, Indiana. Online purchase is now also available in digital format from worldofdarkness.com and in physical formats exclusively from distributor Modiphius Entertainment



V5 is a return to the vision of the 1991 Vampire: The Masquerade, the classic that changed roleplaying games forever, and spawned a supernatural transmedia universe that’s influenced two-and-a-half decades of film, television shows, novels and video games. Rooted in the exploration of evil and morality, the Vampire series challenges players to confront — or channel — their inner monster and exploit the weaknesses of society to satiate their desire for power — and thirst for blood. Featuring a streamlined and modern rules set, beautiful full-color art and photography, and a rich story experience, this new edition of Vampire: The Masquerade will enrapture both new and returning players. 

“With the launch of V5, today marks an incredible milestone in the history of Vampire: The Masquerade,” said White Wolf CEO Tobias Sj√∂gren. “The fifth edition of Vampire is the culmination of 30 years of creative efforts by White Wolf, its partners, and of course, the passionate global community of players and fans. It’s an experience we expect longtime fans will find engaging, while similarly bringing newcomers into the World of Darkness.”



V5 consists of three main full color hardback books —  the V5 corebook, the Anarch and Camarilla sourcebooks (the latter two available November 2018) — as well as an official V5 dice set, V5 storyteller screen and V5 notebook. All three books will also be available in a high quality slipcase along with a special edition of the corebook. For those wanting to mark the occasion of this new edition, a collector's edition of the corebook as well as a limited-print luxury leatherbound Methuselah Bundle will also be available. Please visit the order page for more details: https://www.modiphius.net/collections/vampire-the-masquerade.  

The physical V5 corebook is now available for purchase online from White Wolf distribution partner Modiphius Entertainment and in brick-and-mortar shops this month. Each physical corebook includes a complimentary digital copy. There is also a free V5 Quickstart Guide, intended to get players right into the action fast with minimal setup time available at worldofdarkness.com. Early hardback copies of the V5 corebook are available now for purchase from GenCon 2018 at the White Wolf booth (#509) and Modiphius booth (#2563). 



Starting this winter, translated editions of V5 will become available in French, German, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish, with more languages to be announced.