Stop. Pebble Time. They’re doing it again…

I have a Pebble watch. It’s freaking awesome.  Originally they broke all Kickstarter records when they raised $10 million. I’m seeing more and more Pebble’s around the place too: friend’s of friends, first, then a friend here, then several friends, then my brother…The watch has a few minor downsides, but it really nails what a smart watch should do. Big names, like Apple and Samsung, have been trying to get a piece of this pie, but they seem to have totally missed what it is that makes the Pebble so good. That is, not a replacement for your phone but simplifies your life. I love having my phone permanently on silent. I love being able to receive messages, and not having to pull out my phone if it doesn’t warrant a reply. I love not missing messages because of the loud ambience. So they’re doing it again. I’m not exactly sure WHY they need to Kickstarter again, but they’ve just dropped a new watch onto the crowd-funding site and raised $9 million in 24 hours breaking records (again.) The traffic took Kickstarter down…

Is the new watch worth it? Well, it certainly looks much nicer. Not quite as bright, but the thinner more ergonomic look is a big step up. The fancy new OS could be a hit or a miss, and the colour e-paper is nice but not necessary. It’s water resistant, but I can’t find out if it is rated as well as the original Pebble (a feature I’d be loath to lose.) It’s also a bit more expensive this time around. Look, if you ALREADY have a Pebble, I’m not sure you’d need to dive in again (having said that, if their last campaign is anything to go by and with the ridiculous popularity of the current one, your current watch may very well have expired by the time the new one is sent) but if you have not yet taken the plunge, I can STRONGLY recommend you get in on this new campaign.

More on Evolve

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It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Real life. What a scumbag.

Well I have a hankerin’ to tell people about a bunch of cool things I’ve been playing, and first off that list is Evolve.

Honestly, it’s copped a ton of flak just around release – as of writing, Steam reviews has it rated as Mixed – only 67% positive. For Steam reviews that is absolutely shocking. That platform is designed such that, as opposed to other user-review sites, games are more inclined to be rated positively. This is because you usually have to actually buy the game to review it, user’s generally bother to review in an effort to get others to join in playing, and it requires minimal effort. If it required more effort, you’d be more likely to see mostly people who are very motivated (often by extreme negativity) rating the game.

However, if you take the time to read of the reviews, they’re almost entirely critical of the DLC and packages. To me that’s just ridiculous. I might do another whole article on why jumping up and down over DLC (even day 1 DLC) is just dumb, but there are several indisputable facts:

1. The gameplay is excellent. A typical Steam review: “A fun game that proves to be a unique experience, but doesn’t offer enough content to merit it’s $60 price tag”

2. 2K and Turtle Rock have screwed the pooch on the pricing/marketing model.

Even to this day, I have a hard time recommending the game, despite the fact I play it nightly, simply because it is SO expensive. Simply put, it does come down to content. If I’m having a great time, and there’s a lot of depth, it probably is worth the full price, but $80 USD is a very tough pill to swallow under any circumstance, let alone a game with samey maps, and 3 monsters. (12 Hunter classes is quite a nice number, but as they’re divided into 4 roles there is not quite as much variety implied there as you may think. Don’t get me wrong – each hunter does play quite differently, but they’re not worlds apart.)

Price aside, the game is just fantastic. I can easily recommend it for $50 – which is a price you can get it for if you shop at G2A.

Personally, I love playing as the monster. The Goliath, specifically. I’m not great at it, but I’m good enough to win perhaps 50% of the games. This also speaks to how incredibly well the game is balanced for a totally asymmetrical experience it is.

Goliath-Attack-Evolve

To give you an idea of the level of depth, here’s how a typical match plays out:
After everyone has picked their characters, they’re revealed to the other side. As the monster, I need to quickly note the characters, because they’ll greatly influence my strategy. I firstly need to note if the trapper has picked Maggie – because if she has, sneaking is practically off the table. Her trapjaw pet can sniff a monster out easily. Sneaking makes the sniffing process a bit slower, but since I move slower as well (and even being sneaky it’s practically impossible to not accidentally leave a footprint that she’ll detect from time to time) I’ll decide at this point if I’m going for a dash and bash, or a hide and seek strategy.

evolve-characters

Next I need to take down the name of the medic. They’ll be my primary target sooner rather than later… but I also need to note the support character. If they’ve picked Hank, then HE’LL actually be my primary. It’s practically impossible to kill a medic while they’re being shielded.

The game drops in, and while the hunters watch a 30-second intro movie (complete with party banter a la Dragon Age) I have a bit of time to get a head start. If they haven’t brought Maggie the trapper, I’ll usually take off in one direction nice and loud, then drop to a sneak and loop around. To the hunters, this leaves a clear trail of footprints that then go cold. For all they know, I’ve jumped ahead or climbed a rock. Generally, they take off in the same direction the footsteps were heading in the hope of picking up my trail. Meanwhile, I’ve sneaked in the opposite direction and start hunting down wildlife one by one.

You see, my goal is to eat as much wildlife as possible until I have enough “energy” (Dna) to “level up” (Evolve). At stage 1, I’m weaker than the hunters, at stage 2 we’re about even, and at stage 3 I’m more powerful than the hunters… but there is a lot of variation that can change this up. The monster has armour which you replenish when you eat wildlife and health which are basically an non-renewable resource. Every point of this valuable resource they chip off me is gone for good, so even if I get to stage 3, if they’ve successfully worn my health down and/or catch me without armour, I could still easily lose.

Conversely, if during our cat-and-mouse games I’ve managed to incapacitate hunters (they can be helped back up by an ally) they receive strikes. Strikes lower THEIR maximum health and furthermore, once you receive 2 strikes, every time you are incapacitated after that, you out-right die (which leads to a 2-minute dead timer. A significant penalty.)

I can’t keep up the sneaking forever, though, because each time I eat an animal there is a random chance that some carrion birds will spawn, giving away my general position. As soon as this happens, the hunters will know they’ve been duped and will swing around to the correct section of the map to keep looking for me. If I make the mistake of accidentally disturbing bird flocks by walking too close they gives away my exact position… and those birds can sometimes be surprisingly hard to see. (The number of times I’ve leap from a high point, glided hundreds of metres through the air, and landed smack into the pack of them…)

Once I know the gig is up: I can continue to sneak – afterall, they only know my general vicinity – or I can take off at top speed. Hunters can never keep up with me, but I leave a clear trail of footprints. If they play their cards right, they’ll be able to corner me into the edge of the map.

It’s rare I can get to stage 2 without at least a brief skirmish. It’s a bad sign if they’ve caught me at stage 1, or immediately after evolving to stage 2 (you use all your armour’s energy to evolve, so you start a new stage essentially “naked”) and, to be honest, this is pretty common.

So the trapper drops a dome around the area called an arena, and I’m cornered for a good 60 seconds. If they’ve just caught me after an evolution, every point of damage they do is permanent. So what do I do?

Evolve-Alpha-Gameplay-Medic-Val-Kraken

So many things…

Perhaps I might try and hide. Playing hide and seek; cat and mouse. The arena is limited, but I can leap around and climb on high points. I can see them through rocks, but they have no such tools (barring the likes of Griffon’s “sound spike” sensor.) I can’t avoid all damage, but I might be about to avoid the worst of it with a little ring-a-round-the-rosey. Once the arena drops, I make like greased lightning (… that’s a lot of cliche’s I’ve used. Too bad. I like ‘em.) and put as much distance as I can between them and me to try and build up armour and maybe evolve to stage three. By this point, they’re likely hot on my heels, and each time I stop to eat I’m in danger of letting them close enough to entrap me again. This second stage of “hot on your heels” depends heavily on the tracker. They might be using Maggie, as above, and they’re basically always hot on your heels, or Abe who has likely got a tracking dart on you. You might be able to stay ahead long enough for it to wear off, but it’s unlikely… he only needs to catch sight of you again to keep you tagged up. It might be Griffon, with sound spikes scattered around the map. You’re likely charging across the map now, trying to stay ahead of the hunters… charging straight into the areas they’ve already been and Griff has put up sound spikes. You can sneak to avoid them, but it’s a tough balancing act. You need to get far enough away from the hunters for the sneak to work, but there’s not real way to tell if you’re in the sound-spike radius or not, which will make the location you initiate the sneak pretty obvious.

Perhaps instead of playing hide and seek (perhaps there is not enough hiding spots) I decide to take the dome down. To do this, I need to incapacitate the trapper. So, Griff, Maggie, Abe – whoever you are – woe is you. This is where remembering who is playing which character is important. You can make out their siloutte’s, but they’re so damn SMALL compared to you, I find it pretty tough sometimes. Especially when the support class starts winking people in and out with a cloaking field.

Perhaps I charge into the trapper and send them flying, but the support raises a shield over them, and the medic starts healing them. What to do? I need that trapper down FAST – every second the assault is tearing up my hitpoints – perhaps I could focus the medic? Maybe I just toss a rock or two at them to keep them distracted? Maybe I hit the trapper with as many knock back moves as I can to separate them… get us enough “alone time” to take that dome down. Maybe there is a native of the planet that can help me – crocodile creatures called Tyrants that pull hunters into the water, or carnivorous plants that gobble hunters up like venus fly traps, can disable a hunter until a friendly shoots them free.

It is very easy to lose the game here, and it all comes down to reading the situation. Hide and seek? Take down the trapper? How to take down the trapper? What’s the lay of the land? What creatures are there nearby?

After I get out of that dome (IF I do) and we’re playing the “hot on the heels” game, I then look to have as much takeaway food as possible. Kill, eat, keep moving. Even better if I find a fresh kill that the hunters or other wildlife has left for me. If I can get enough energy to evolve, I’ll look for an area with plentiful wildlife that is also as far from the hunters as possible. This allows me to evolve, and quickly get my armour back up before they catch up to me.

When we reach this point, it is end-game time. I can usually tell who’s going to win – how much of my health have they whittled away? How many strikes did I put on them? If the hunters choose to avoid me at this stage, I can always go to the middle of the map and destroy a generator that’ll win the game for me. That never happens. Many hunters will retreat back to the generator when they realise the monster is going to evolve to stage 3 (a bad mistake IMO – why not try and catch him while his armour is low?) and then it’s a fight to the death. A final brouhaha that could go in many different ways.

I’ve had games where the monster, all but destroyed, has escaped from the final fight, eaten a bunch of wildlife, and come back multiple times after recharging their armour. I’ve had games where a final hunter has escaped, and waited until his allies respawned, dropping back on the monster before he could finish off the generator.

Honestly, it’s a thrilling, deep game – but there is not as much content there as you’d want for the price. DotA, and similar MOBA’s, have 80+ characters to choose from, and each is vastly different. This leads to practically endless replayability and costs 1/3rd the price. The game works for me, and I’m pretty certain I’ll get my money’s worth — but the same won’t be said for everyone. If it was $30, absolutely. For $50 – yes, probably. More than that and consider it only if my above story makes you VERY wet in the pants.

A Slapped Together Review of Evolve

First up, let me just say I got pretty addicted to Evolve last night, so that should set the tone for most of this little impressions/review. Having said that…

- No, I don’t know for sure how much staying power the game has (I think at least a month, if not more… but I can’t really tell after one night’s play. Would need like a week.)
- There is heaps of depth. Almost an intimidating amount. Not on the level of learning DotA from scratch, though, I suppose.
- It is extremely expensive. Even though it is unquestionably tons of fun, and the unlocking system is pretty addictive, they’re still asking a lot with the base AAA full-price and then, down the track, paid-DLC for new classes and monsters. I think it’ll be worth it if they hit their marks with everything … but will they?
I’m mostly trying to convince people to play because I have these great ideas of solo queuing so I can play as the monster (and that works great) and when we’re in a team, we play as hunters. For that, I’ll need a few peeps.
SO. To give you an idea of the depth of the game, check out some of these short tutorial videos.
First up, a hunter. Hunters have 4 roles to choose from (Assault, Trapper, Support, Medic) and each role has 3 classes (that is, characters) to choose from. So for example, the Trapper role has a black chick, an Australian mustache, and a Texan mustache. The interesting thing here is that even though they all have the same ROLE, the three classes are really very different. To show you:
Maggie, the base-line trapper (that I played a bit of last night): This is her basic and advanced tutorials. They give a good indication of how the class works: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YU6zVIX17vQ  and   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBF_LohTSJI
Compare that with one of the other trappers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZykRxEqvt4s
The differences between the classes really makes the game play quite differently. I mean, something like Nosgoth has quite different classes too: you might play as a rapid-fire long-range dude, or a grenade launcher person, or a leaping vampire vs a flying vampire. But especially the humans in that game really just felt like different weapons. The vampires felt a bit more like totally different experiences but there wasn’t that much depth to it… just different ways of killing dudes. Not a bad game, but fairly shallow.
Back to Evolve, and consider: 4 Roles, 3 classes in each role… There are some combos to be discovered there. For example, Maggie, who has the pet “dog” Daisy. If you don’t take Maggie, instead selecting, say, Griffon, then the team doesn’t have any way to sniff out the monster. There’s tracks, and birds, and other hints to find the monster but the typical strategy I found from last night was for the hunters to stand around until Daisy picked up the scent. By far my most successful monster runs were when I could prevent Daisy from picking up my scent (more on that later.) So – if the trapper goes Griffon, perhaps the support should consider playing Bucket? A robot who can pull his head off and fly it around as a UAV. Hrm. Decisions, decisions.
Now, the monsters. The human classes are one thing, but the monsters are so different from each other it’s ridiculous:
So, story time:
Most of the time the monster was the Goliath. I like him, and besides he’s the only one unlocked at the start. But what I noticed the most was when I ended up a trapper and some other guy had a Wraith. The differences in strategy…
Hunting the Goliath came down to speed a lot of the time. When *I* played the monster, I preferred to sneak as much as possible, but I noticed most people would tear around the map at top speed to try and stay ahead of the hunters killing and eating on the move (as best as they could.)
So a typical Goliath hunt would involve following Daisy to get close enough to see the tracks, then following the tracks as fast as possible to try and limit his ability to stop and eat wildlife (and thus “evolve”) until such time that he makes a mistake and we get close enough. I’d drop the shield arena, and we’d do as much damage as we could before it went down.
While the fight is raging I’d move around the battle dropping harpoon traps to just consistently pin the big guy. They take less than a second to break off, but they really disrupt the monster’s rhythm (and slows his escape.)
Meanwhile, hunting the Wraith was much harder to pin down. They tended to play him a bit stealthier, so I really felt like we were always close (we could see tracks and other clues) but unlike the Goliath who you’d hear/see from quite a distance, I never felt sure if the Wraith was right there.. or not. Combine that with his decoys… we’d think we had found him but he was just dropping decoys in our path. It took a long time to work that one out – my teammates would stop to fight the decoys every time (and I did the first 5 or 6 times… bloody hard to ignore a kaijin tearing you up) which just meant we were stopped and the monster could put more distance on us.
Then, even when we did catch him, I’d hesitate – is this the real one, or a decoy? And that hesitation was often enough for the Wraith to dash out of range of my shield arena. With the ability to go invisible it was hard to tell if dropping the arena was the right idea. When locking down a Goliath it was just a matter of whether we wanted to be cornered with him or not. With the Wraith I actually missed a couple times and it was hard to tell. I’d throw it down, and things would go quiet…. did I miss, or is the Wraith just hiding? Catching a Goliath in a mobile arena was a totally different feeling.
So in the quiet I’d lay down harpoon traps about the place hoping the Wraith would get snagged on them once the fighting started. I found it really hard though because he was so sneaky. Moving around, trying to pull people out one by one… the traps I’d laid rarely snared him, and when I’d throw some down near a fight, he’d usually hit and run before they activate. Fighting a Goliath was a much more violent affair. Snaring wasn’t a huge problem, it was more about getting the traps to stagger and be spread out so he couldn’t easily break them off.
So playing as the monster. This is what I did most of the time. Story time.
The longest game I played went for 15 minutes. And it felt like forever.
I lost nearly every match, but was getting better. In this game I had evolved to level 3, and was barely scratched. I’d done well by using a trick I’d worked out: At the start of the match, I’d bolt in one direction, then when I got to a junction, I’d sneak and then loop around. I could see in the replay, they’d usually fall for it. They’d follow my tracks until they suddenly stop, then keep going in that general direction, allowing me to sneak around eating wildlife. I just had to be careful not to leave a footprint, or stir up birds because then Daisy would pick up my scent. Once the monster gets to stage 3 he can destroy the power relay. Destroying the relay actually takes a really long time, and can be interrupted easily. It’s pretty clear that winning by destroying the power relay is never supposed to happen. It’s only there to prevent the hunters from totally avoiding the monster. If you literally stay away, he’ll just end the game without you. So it forces the hunters to defend the relay at the end of the match in a final show-down.
I got to stage 3 and bee-lined straight for the power relay. I was confident I could beat the hunters in a straight up fight, so really I was just attracting them to me.
Right on queue, they showed up. I burnt them, bashed them, smashed them. It was great. They had no hope. When a hunter is knocked down, it plays out very much like L4D + Tank. That is: Someone goes down, and the monster can keep beating on them until they’re totally dead, and if not, someone can go help them up. If you’re incapped 3 times you’re dead anyway. All dead people respawn together on like 3 minute timers… this is a very long time.
So as I smashed them to pieces they were dying all over. They’d all been incapped so many times, they had few hit points (every time you’re incapped you lose max HP) so it was easy to take them out and they’d die… but… they just kept coming back. Way too fast for it to be the respawn ship.
For some reason, the game just wasn’t ending, so after smashing them in the face, I’d go back to the power relay, and this is eventually how I won.
It wasn’t until later I worked out what was going on. The Medic role had picked Lazarus as his class. This character doesn’t really heal much – instead, he canresurrect players even after they’ve been totally killed. I had no idea.
It just goes to show, that because I didn’t consider the difference in strategy that different classes bring, I really fucked myself. I mean, for about 5+ minutes I had those hunters completely fucked over… but just couldn’t finish them off, because the fucking medic was running around resurrecting people. I could have lost that game that I had in the bag.
So that’s my opinion. There are currently 3 monsters, another one coming soon (March, I think?) and a 5th slated already (some of the more expensive editions get it as soon as it comes.)
Assuming new classes and monsters keep rolling out… there’s a lot of playability here. How quickly can they pump these classes out, though? I’m a bit dubious – there’s a LOT of detail here. Way more than a DotA hero. So they’ll probably be kinda slow after the initial roll-outs.
Then there’s the price… it’s confusing… it looks like everything (so far) is unlockable in the game. You start with 1 monster, and 1 class for each role, unlocking as you go. I think the more expensive purchase deals auto-unlock these? Then when new classes and monsters come out … can you unlock them, with auto-unlocking if you pay… or do you have to pay to get the privilege of unlocking them? I dunno. It’d be like paying for a new hero in DotA. Something LoL does, and I think is dumb.
Like I said, there’s a lot more work that goes into these ones though… so if they keep them coming quickly (but not too quickly…) then I might drop money on them to unlock it. It all depends on how I’m feeling in the coming months, I suppose.
One other thought comes to mind… you could wait until it goes on special. It’ll surely be worth the money if you can shave 25-50% off it… but I’m thinking of the population, which will be best in the early days. I suppose, the logical conclusion here, though, is that if the game really has staying power (like, say, DotA) then the population will actually grow over time, making the matchmaking betterer, and betterer.
Oh! The matchmaking. Did you know I played with randoms ALL NIGHT. Generally the same ones – we got into a match, and out of the 5 of us, I think 3 of us stayed in the same game and one of the guys only dropped out at the end.
If you’re still dubious, probably ask me what I think in a week. I certainly don’t have the Titanfall feeling – before I saw the game, and the moment I played it, I thought “I’d be surprised if there is more than a week of playtime in this…” I was hoping I was going to be wrong, but I wasn’t. This I feel like there is about a month, and if cards are played right, more than a month. I just wouldn’t stake my life on that prediction.

Massive New Steam Update – Follow me for fun times!

I swear to all that is gaming that I have a massive, huge, bigish post on my experiences with the DK2, and what games work the best coming… but in the mean time Steam has just released it’s huge “Discovery” update.

There’s a lot to like with the update, and it goes some way towards what I had wished Steam had done a long time ago – make it a social network for gamers.

In lieu of that, I have been using Google+, but ultimately it’s not the best fit.

Unfortunately, the update doesn’t quite do everything I want (such as being able to tag people as well as games) but it does have nice improvements to your news feed. An area I’m sure most people neglected, but maybe now will give another look.

Most significantly for me, is you can now follow “curators” who can recommend games to you. In fact, your store page now recommends games to you based on a magic algorithm, part of which is which curators you follow.

So my advice: Give me a follow! I’m not even trying to pad my numbers, I just like giving people the low down on the best games, and now you can get it straight to your Steam box.

http://steamcommunity.com/groups/TheGamesPusher#curation

Massive Chalice – I featured!

So I backed Massive Chalice at the level that allowed me to add my own house to the game.

Double Fine do a live stream each week showing off the game. I decided to check out live stream 24 … and my house appeared in game! Check it out: my house Arnold-Amon (it makes an appearance a few seconds in)

Then at 7:50 my battlecry gets quoted!

At 22:00 my descendant is married and given a keep: Huntsville! (named after my cat :))

Holy Crapola! Wild West XCOM? That’s a Backin’

Check out this Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1752350052/hard-west

How damn cool does that look? XCOM wildwest, with HOMM overland map? Oh god yes. Just check out that gunfight!

And the mechanics they’re espousing:

The combat is fast. The whole combat encounter takes no more than 5-10 minutes. It’s short, bloody, and decisive. All it takes is one well laid shot. It’s just not that easy to put yourself in the proper position.

No peeling off HPs. HPs represent the ability to withstand a shot or two, alternatively to sustain a powerful blow.

There’s little randomization: you either make good predictions and good decisions to land a kill, or you die. There’s no victory without risk, but it’s a well calculated risk.

BANGBANGBANG! Look at ‘em go! I’m a backer. Maybe you should be too?

Last Day Steam Summer Sale

It’s the last day of the Steam Summer Sale, so if there were any deals they’re back and this is your last chance. Here is a list of games that are on special, and if you don’t own them yet – SHAME ON YOU.

(all prices are AUD. Click to jump to Steam.)

Tomb Raider – this was an amazingly good game, now only $5

The Stick of Truth – It lived up to the hype, now $37

XCOM: Enemy Unknown – One of the greatest games ever made for $13. Steam is crazy.

Civ V – the crowning jewel of the Civ series… and that’s saying a lot. $13.50

State of Decay – An amazingly fun, and unique, take a zombie apocalypse. It is a bit rough here and there, but for $5 it’s a bargin.

Banished – An extremely fun and challenging city builder. Nothing like starving a fledging village of outcasts during the winter! $10

Payday 2 – I’ve been getting a LOT of mileage out of this game. Get a crew together for an fantastic co-op experience that has great theme, depth, and RPG-like elements. You’ll get many hrs for your $6

Stanley Parable – I’m not going to try and explain this one… but for $6 you really should try it to see what all the fuss is about.

Batman: Arkham Origins – It was missing a little something-something from the other Arkham games, but it was still worth sinking 22 hrs into. $7.50

Dragon Age: Origins – A good RPG, you’ve probably heard of it. I go against the grain and claim the second was better. I mostly suggest this one now, because the upcoming Inquisitions is looking really good so for $7.50 you could catch up on the “story so far.”

Wolfenstein: The New Order – Just a straight up fun FPS. Captured “Wolfenstein with modern computing technology” really well. A-grade fun here, boys! $40 (expensive, I know, but that IS 50% off.)

Portal 2 – Who would have thought they could improve on the original? Well they did! Play it now. With a friend is a good option too. $5

Chivalry: Medieval Warfare – a standard multiplayer FPS with a easy-to-use-hard-to-master melee system. Plenty of fun to be had here for $5.