Video Games

Destiny 2: Warmind DLC is Available . . . And I Could Care Less

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Say what you will about the original Destiny, but my boys and I loved that game.

We’re not blind fanboys: we know it had its faults. The single player campaign never had a story worth a damn until The Taken King DLC hit, the original voice acting for your ghost was cringe-worthy, your character never speaks a word, personalizing your characters was extremely limited – it was not a perfect game, by any stretch.

However, Destiny did one thing really well: it made shooting guns SO MUCH FUN.  Seriously, the game play mechanics for the original Destiny were so solid, and the weapons were so interesting, that shooting enemies and other players in the Crucible never got old.    You would have to go back to my college days to find a video game that I invested as much time in as I did for Destiny; I mean, I would literally go home and play during lunch every single time the Iron Banner returned, and it was the ONLY game I played for months.

As for the two boys, Destiny is the first FPS that I allowed them to play, as it is bloodless and mostly involves shooting aliens and monsters, instead of human beings.  (And even when you do shoot players in the Crucible, their body just drops, so that’s how I justify the violence – don’t judge me!)   My twelve year-old owned a titan who was ALMOST as powerful as my hunter, while my seven year-old used a warlock to navigate about half of the campaign and some games in the Crucible.

Yep: many hours in the Spalding household were spent playing Destiny, so naturally, when Destiny 2 came out I pre-ordered it, played it, and . . . stopped.  I’m not sure if either of the boys got through the campaign, and I know for a fact that neither of them has spent even one second working through the Curse of Osiris DLC.  Hell, even I didn’t complete the campaign for Curse of Osiris, and believe me: it kills me to say that.  I rarely purchase DLC for games, and to drop $19.99 on DLC that I abandoned with a week?   Literally NEVER HAPPENED . . . before Destiny 2, of course.

The list of problems I have with Destiny 2 is too long to go into here, so let’s just say that the game failed to improve on the original’s weaknesses AND managed to weaken the Crucible, which was easily the best part of the first game, IMO.   Bungie has taken some steps toward making Destiny 2 a more enjoyable experience – making the Crucible 6v6 instead of 4v4, finally including ranked play in the Crucible, and adding the new Escalation Protocol mode, among other things – and recently released the new Warmind DLC.

And I still don’t care.

I had high hopes for the Destiny franchise, and there is still I chance might get back into it down the road.  It had such potential . . . but looking at the reviews for Warmind it seems as if Bungie still has not quite gotten the message.  With games like Titanfall 2, Overwatch and Rainbow Six Siege handing out free DLC in order to keep fans engaged, and the insanely popular Fortnite: Battle Royale providing new game modes and customization options weekly, you would think Bungie would realize that if you are going to charge people twenty bucks for each DLC, you better be giving gamers a serious chunk of new content to sift through.  Instead, they are giving players a campaign that you can blow through in less than three hours, filled with the same bad guys we have been fighting since day one.

Aside from a few new maps in the Crucible, and some secrets to unlock in a new public space – you know, the sort of stuff we should be getting for free in the first place – Warmind is the sort of disappointing, over-priced DLC Bungie churned out for the first Destiny, until they finally gave us The Taken King, which was actually worth the price.  As much as I was hoping Bungie would give me a reason to reinstall Destiny 2 on my Xbox One S, I’m going to pass on this DLC and keep paying games like Fortnite, Surviving Mars and Sea of Thieves, with a little PUBG mixed in.  Better luck next time, Bungie.

 

 

 

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Video Games

Surviving Mars: Review Preview

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Time for a bit of brutal honesty: I truly suck at Fortnite: Battle Royale.

Sure, I have finished solo games in second place at least ten times now, and yes, I do actually get kills now and then (about one per game).  But I have never won a single goddamn match of that infuriating game, mostly because I suck at building and have NEVER been good at third-person shooters.  (I used to get kicked from SOCOM games all the time.)

And let’s face it: nothing short of quitting my day job and investing 10 hours a day playing the stupid game is going to make me better.  Playing Fortnite is for everyone, but winning Fortnite: Battle Royale is a young man’s game, and I have come to peace with that, which is why I plan to spend more of my gaming time exploring the high seas in Sea of Thieves and trying not to get my colonists killed in Surviving Mars

Surviving Mars is a game that has been on my radar for a while now, and I was just able to snag a copy of it recently for Xbox One so I have not put very much time into it.  The game is a simulator that tasks you with setting up a colony on Mars, making sure it can sustain life, and then maintaining and improving your colony as humans begin to populate it.  From what I read, it is quite difficult – colonists will die! – but also very satisfying when you finally succeed.

I can get behind letting younger kids play games like Surviving Mars and Jurassic World Evolution, so I hope to be able to put some time in on Mars and get back to you all with a review!  Until then, check out the gameplay reveal trailer to see how cool this looks!

Video Games

Video Games We Are Excited About: Jurassic World Evolution

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Not too long ago, my sister-in-law shared the following image on Facebook and tagged me in it:

Times You Know THE MOST About Dinosaurs

The image describes my family perfectly, since my oldest son was exactly four years old when he had a conversation about dinosaurs with a graduate student at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. The student was duly impressed with my kid’s grasp of the subject matter, and at one point he may have even remarked, “This kid knows more about dinosaurs than I do!”

Both of my sons, and even my daughter to an extent, have gone through their dinosaur phases . . . but it just so happens that my oldest son is sort of still in his dinosaur phase, as he often breaks out dinosaurs that we purchased years ago and plays with them in the den, or pits two stuffed dinosaurs against each other while he is unwinding in his bed after a long day. (Yes, he would kill me if he knew I was sharing this!)

I absolutely love the fact that my oldest son still wants to play with his dinosaurs, and that my seven year-old still wants to build Jurassic World LEGO sets, because it means my kids are still using their imaginations, something that is in short supply nowadays. While I do appreciate the creativity and imagination that goes into MAKING a quality video game, playing video games requires very little creativity and imagination. The work has already been done for you, and while you may have to use strategy to survive in a game like Fortnite: Battle Royale or solve some puzzles in various games, the amount of brain power required to play most video games is minimal.

On the other hand, simulation/building games, such as Sim City and Minecraft, DO interest me, precisely because they present players with a blank slate and literally force the player to use his or imagination to bring the world to life. If someone would only combine a simulation game with dinosaurs, I might actually be able to own a game I would not feel guilty about letting my kids play . . . .

Obviously, I’m headed somewhere with this, so let’s get to the point: game developer Frontier Developments has created a simulation game called Jurassic World Evolution, and it is all my oldest son wants to talk about right now.

And who can blame him? I’m excited by the thought of being able to design my own Jurassic World resort, populate it with dinosaurs, and watch the fun, and the shit, hit the fan! I mean, if you have EVER gone through a dinosaur phase, how could such a premise NOT interest you?

This isn’t the first time the Jurassic Park franchise has been translated into a simulation game – older gamers might remember Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis, which is considered by many to be the best Jurassic Park game ever made. Jurassic World Evolution will follow in the older game’s footsteps in the sense that it will task players with the goal of building a fully-functional park, but maintaining a thriving resort is only part of the game. Players will also be allowed to unlock dinosaur DNA, which will allow players to not only breed known species of dinosaurs, but to genetically modify their dinosaurs and even create their own hybrids.

Normally, I try to limit my kids to between 20-45 minutes of gameplay the handful of times a week we allow them to play, and I have no intention of loosening the reins TOO much once Jurassic World Evolution is released, but the game’s combination of site building/business simulation/scientific research might persuade me to be a little bit more liberal with my time allotment. Kids should be encouraged to use their imagination as often as possible, be it the old-fashioned way or digitally. Personally, I cannot wait to see what my kids come up with!

Check out the pre-order trailer and mark June 12, 2018 on your calendars!

 

 

Video Games

Sea of Thieves Review:

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Now that I have covered the evils of excessive use of electronics, I want to turn my attention to a video game that I think could provide hours of family fun for any of you fortunate enough to own an Xbox One or Windows 10 PC.

No, I am not contradicting myself! There’s a huge difference between allowing your kids to have unlimited access to electronic devices, and giving them access to their technology provided they have behaved and understand they will only have a limited time to use these devices.  For example, my son starts getting texts right after school from kids who want him to get on Xbox Live and play.  By now he knows what to tell them: maybe later.  Video games are only allowed in my house if the kids have worked through their to-do lists and have earned the right!  

The game I am recommending today is Sea of Thieves, an open-world pirate simulator that is an absolute blast to play with friends or other family members.  That’s the biggest catch with this game: if you purchase it for your kids, do so knowing that playing it solo is a good way to get the hang of things early, but will get old pretty quickly.

If you are playing with other people, though, this game is a blast. For starters, unlike a lot of the popular games that are shooters (Fortnite, Public Battlegrounds, the Call of Duty series, Rainbow Six Siege, etc.), there is not a ton of violence in Sea of Thieves.  Yes, you will encounter skeletons and even other players who you will have to battle eventually, but those skirmishes will not make up even half of the time spent playing this game.

Instead of combat, the majority of time players invest in Sea of Thieves will be spent sailing your rig across the sea in search of islands, buried treasure, and the like.  This game is seriously the next-best thing to getting on an actual boat: players need to work together to perform all of the tasks that go into sailing, such as raising and lowering the anchor, adjusting the sails, keeping lookout, and steering.   If that sounds like a recipe for hilarity, you are 100% correct: the first time I hopped into a boat with a crew consisting of myself and two other players who spoke only Spanish, we sank the boat and wound up swimming for our pirate lives.

Once everyone gets the hang of navigating the open seas, the game world is your oyster.  With some of the most realistic water and weather effects I have ever seen in a video game, just hopping in a boat and sailing WHEREVER is a blast.    Navigating the seas will require cooperation among the players, and can lead to some very interesting, unscripted moments. Once players are ready to tackle a quest, there are three pirate guilds that will offer players quests to complete, and plenty of islands to explore and forts to raid.   While the quests are a bit repetitive for people who plan on logging days worth of time into this game, they should be fine for kids who are only playing for 30-40 minutes at a time, and developer Rare has promised to grow the world as they gather feedback from players.

Because the game is online, there will always be other players populating the game world, which means the odds of your crew engaging in naval combat with a crew of rival pirates run high. Fighting on the high seas is a thrill, but I have yet to win a fight, since most of the players I run into have logged way more hours than I have.  While losing all of the booty that you might have collected from a fort raid kind of sucks, the good news is that the game puts all players on a level playing field: experienced players might have saved up enough gold to buy fancier-looking sword and guns, but all of those in-game purchases are cosmetic, meaning that newer players will not be at a disadvantage simply because they have not had time to buy a bunch of cool gear. In other words, your crew might go down, but odds are good you will take at least one or two players with you, as well!

I know Fortnite, PUBG and games that require players to become ruthless killers are all the rage right now, and hey: I play those games, too!   If you can get your kids to set their inner special forces member aside, Sea of Thieves is worth a look, because it is a riot to play with friends and other family members.