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4:06 PM on 08.01.2014

Fashion Show Friday: Ranking the Best Tomb Raider Outfits

Hey Dtoiders! Every week, I host a half-serious fashion show. First I rank the Top 10 outfits from your favorite franchises. Then I make fun of them. This week, I give my attention to the 10 coolest costumes from the Tomb Raider series.                                                                                                                               

Running from the law? Well we have the perfect apparel for you! Avoid unwanted attention in this two-sizes-too-small belly shirt. The rest is denim, baby.                                                                                                                                                      

Our South Pacific line will leave you wanting more... Literally... you're not getting much with this outfit. (Your braid will probably have more surface area than your shirt, just like Lara!)                                                                                                                

Our latest design is the perfect selection for your next home invasion. 12-gauge not included.                                                                                                              

Here at Croft Designs, we love asymmetry. That's why we threw in a random tourniquet on the pants leg. Asymmetry, people! Holey jeans are so yesterday. Tourniquets? Hip.                                                                                                                                            

We love parties. Don't you? In this chic tog, you'll look killer at the next Red Wedding. Just be on the lookout for metal detectors. And Walder Frey.                                                                                                                                                                   

Can't find that perfect Halloween outfit? Look no further. This costume is a double-whammy. You can be Catwoman OR Rubber Man! All you need for either is a whip. (Not included.)                                                                                            

Are you a murdering sociopath? Stand out from the crowd with the Guerilla outfit, the latest in our line of Yamatai Designs. It looks bulletproof, but no guarantees here!                                                                                                                                        

Bring sexy back in this modernized style of the Classic Croft design. But for the love of all things good, if you are shipwrecked on an island, and you're tearing through the bad guys like flies, just pick a jacket off a corpse. You're a Tomb Raider. You shouldn't mind ratty, dead things.                                                                                                

Our latest in the Croft Swim Line is the Sola Wetsuit. The bright, shiny buckle is sure to attract any underwater predators in your vicinity. Happy Hunger Games.                                                                                                                                                

When it comes to tomb raiding, no outfit quite compares to our Classic Croft design. This outfit is as practical to the trade as bringing a whip. (Except that it isn't.)                                                                                                                                                 

What Assassin's Creed costumes are your favorite? What series would you like me to rank next? Let me know in the Comments below!

3:11 PM on 07.27.2014

Been Playing: Left Behind

No third-person action adventure game is more enthralling than Naughty Dog's The Last of Us. This week, I finally got around to playing the story add-on, Left Behind, and I'm not surprised to say that the same sentiment still holds true.

*Spoilers Below!*

If you've read my Bio panel (see right), then you must certainly know that The Last of Us stands among my favorite games of all time. Under normal circumstances, you go into the announcement of story DLC with skepticism. Is this going to sully the 10/10 experience of the main campaign? Is this just a ploy for more consumer dollars? Yet I didn't have these reservations going into Left Behind. Naughty Dog has proven their pedigree on more than one occasion, and I knew they would deliver an exceptional addition to The Last of Us's universe.

I could not have been more correct.

I'll be frank - I knew one of the big twists going in. (This is where that spoiler warning becomes important! Turn back now if you have not played Left Behind.) I knew that Ellie and Riley were going to kiss at some point in the 4 to 5 hour adventure. IGN ran an article awhile back about gay characters in video games, which I avoided solely for the fact that the article's cover image had Ellie and Riley on the forefront, but the damage had already been done. Ellie was gay - and I had missed out on the opportunity to discover it for myself.

But saying one or two twists made this DLC exceptional would be selling it short. The whole adventure was masterfully crafted, switching back and forth between two big moments in Ellie's life - her mission to find medicine for an injured Joel in Colorado and her "girl's night out" with an old friend during her time in the Boston Quarantine Zone.

Both stories are mirrored in setting but focused on different styles of gameplay. The former sees the survival, crafting, and action elements carried over from the main campaign while the latter focuses almost exclusively on contextual exploration. This speaks volumes about the expansion's production value. Swapping between settings keeps the story moving at a refreshing pace; it allows us to enjoy the core mechanics we mastered in the main campaign while taking some time to smell the roses in this, presumably, last hurrah in the universe. (Naughty Dog is discussing sequels, but whether or not these plans will come to fruition has yet to be seen.) Ashley Johnson returns to lend her vocal chords to Ellie; she delivers the same high-quality performance prevalent throughout the main game.

But enough blanket statements. Left Behind shined in a few memorable places:

Playing games throughout the mall in the flashback sequences with Riley catered towards my inner child, who has often wondered what he would do if ever left loose in Wal-Mart. Touching all the trinkets in the Halloween store and even getting to trade off on some cool masks was a fun experience.

The game even integrates social media via a run-down photo booth in which players get to upload their pictures to their Facebook wall. Mundane? Sure. But it was incorporated in such strong narrative context that one can't help but marvel at how seamless it felt. It didn't feel "thrown in." It felt like a very conscious decision that A) made sense in the context of the story and B) made for one of the more-memorable moments in the DLC.

Are we just totes adorable?!

In the other half of the story, as Ellie searches for medical supplies for Joel, a few moments stood out as well: There were a small handful of encounters where Ellie gets to play defense and use her resources to pit the Infected against the Bandits. This was a new approach to The Last of Us's combat encounters. I felt like a totally manipulative badass by pitting enemies against each other, all while I skirted around the enemy lines to safety. In one instance, a group of Clickers stood unawares in a back room. With a calculated toss of a brick, I lured them out in front of a group of unsuspecting Bandits. Within seconds, both factions were in open conflict, and when only two Clickers remained, I had the last laugh in the form of a molotov cocktail. 

This is just another testament to Left Behind's high production value. Not only do combat encounters return, but they are innovated upon.

Left Behind is everything I want from story add-ons in video games. It gives us more of the mechanics we loved from the main game but delivers a fresh experience entirely - like hiking a different trail than the one you'd normally take through the forest. Going into this DLC, I expected nothing less from a studio as world-renowned as Naughty Dog - and yet they still managed to blow me away.                                                                                           

That's what I've been playing. How about you?

12:17 PM on 07.25.2014

Fashion Show Friday: Ranking the Best Assassin's Creed Outfits

Hey Dtoiders! Every week, I'll be hosting a fashion show filled with fun and farce where I rank the Top 10 outfits from your favorite video game franchises. This week, I give my attention to the 10 coolest costumes from the Assassin's Creed series.

If you have suggestions for future fashion shows, let me know in the comments below!

Thirsting for blood? Act the part with our cannibalistic Animal Spirit outfit – guaranteed to instill fear into even the deadliest of your foes. This design harkens back to mankind’s primal nature; with space to dangle the bones of your enemies in front of your crotch, you will command the pack as its formidable and imposing leader, while also opening the door for a plethora of boner jokes.                                                                                                                                   

Searching for the perfect seafaring attire? Look no further! Nothing commands respect on the high seas like diamond-checkered cuffs and fluffy cotton long johns. And what could be more suitable that our ergonomic penny loafers? The perfect pair for the practicing parkourist.                                                                                                        

The latest addition to our Colonial England Collection is this style modeled by none other than Ratonhnhaké:ton himself. Want to join the Assassins? Nothing screams “stealth” better than this baby. Nope. Nothing conspicuous here! This motley assortment is guaranteed to help you blend right into colonial America – money back guaranteed.                                                                             

The latest style in our Kenway Collection introduces a chic, black robe marked with the dreaded emblem of pillagers, plunderers, and pirates alike. Black is the perfect color to be sporting out in the hot Caribbean sun; become the master of the sea AND heat exhaustion with this beloved design.                                                                                                                                    

Embrace your inner drag queen with this exotic addition to your personal Kenway Collection! In this assortment of endangered animal pelts and form-fitting brown leather, you’ll be walking the plank with pride.                                                                   


Our Shark Hunter selection seeks to appease a new generation of hipsters. Forget the drab, hooded robes of yore; combine our assemblage with your colored bandanna of preference! Color preferences range from These-blood-stains-come-from-the-Templar-I-just-murdered-White to I-just-got-frisky-with-a-courtesan-purple.                                                                            

Stand aside boys (unless you’re into this sort of thing), and parade this chiq dress in front of all your friends. Only in this special line by Aveline de Grandpré can you be both elegant AND deadly. (Note: Lethal blow dart umbrella sold separately.)                                                                                                                                                         

Here, folks, we have the design that started it all, courtesy of Al Mualim himself. Brown, leather accessory pouches accent the plain white robes. Don’t they just scream, “Slather me in the the blood of my enemies!”                                                                                                               

Guaranteed to make you poor AND blind, the Mayan Armor design stands leagues above its Assassin uniform predecessors. The gold-plate loincloth, obscured from view in this picture, is as chaffing-proof as the armor is bullet proof. (Disclaimer: Abstergo Design is not accountable for loss of life resulting from swimming IRL.)                                                                                                                                                                     

Coming exclusively this Fall as part of our Italia line, laugh in the face of your enemies as the Harlequin – you won’t be able to do otherwise! Our face mask is seriously demented, and if your enemies aren't laughing at the absurd jingle bells hanging from your hat, it’s probably because you’re murdering them… with a smile.                                    


What Assassin's Creed costumes are your favorite? What series would you like me to rank next? Let me know in the Comments below!


11:23 AM on 07.20.2014

Sticks and Stones: Why Console Wars Should Not Matter

Boy, it has been a rough week for Microsoft. On Thursday, it was announced that the tech giant would be closing the doors to its Microsoft Entertainment Studios, a division of the company which aimed to tap the Microsoft brand into the television market through original programming. Microsoft has become as amorphous as Play Dough, constantly reorganizing its assets and priorities as a continuing response to its poorly received plans to focus on entertainment as a whole, instead of gaming, exclusively.

I’m hurt by this announcement. While some of the studio’s most-anticipated projects are still on-target for release, including a live-action Halo television series as well as Remedy’s television/game hybrid Quantum Break, I was a supporter for Microsoft’s decision to move into the television market. It goes without saying that I am in the minority for this opinion, but understand that my feelings are no different than finding out that your most-anticipated video game was just cancelled. As a TV junkie myself, I was truly eager to see Microsoft's TV plans come to fruition.

Speaking of cancelled games... ehem...

A plethora of articles have cropped up the past few months about the infamous and ever-present “Console War.” Microsoft is losing, they say. Sony is where the games are at. Steam is now a major competitor. Most of these authors have taken a side, as is to be expected in any war, and while I may be a Microsoft sympathizer at heart, I stand somewhere in the middle of the battle grounds. Seeing the gaming marketplace as a war zone instead of a market brimming with healthy competition is harmful more than anything. Here’s why:

1. Healthy Competition is Healthy

Having strong competitors might make the industry’s big corporate financial experts sweat, but the benefit this competition has on the industry is progression. Competition moves the games industry forward. Rewind the clock to your college years for a moment. You are sitting in a class for your major, and your professor is handing back the exams you took the week prior. In a veil of mystery, your exam lays face down, and slowly, very slowly, you pull up the corner to find a large ‘B-’ written in red pen. You smile. But you are curious, and you wonder how your score holds up to Suzy Smartypants who sits next to you. You peer innocently over her shoulder to see a big ‘A-’ written at the top, and suddenly, you aren't smiling anymore. Hours and hours of preparation went into that test, and although you know Suzy Smartypants must have put her time into it as well, you can’t help but feel a little jealous that she scored higher. However, it isn't long before your jealousy is replaced by motivation - motivation to work longer and harder next time to achieve a better end result.

You see, the exam represents a video game, and you and Suzy represent the major players vying for dominance in the video game market. When one competitor achieves a great result, the other becomes motivated to do something better. It doesn't matter which side makes the better product, because both have incited progress. Their efforts to best each other work in tandem to push the industry forward. 

This should not be a thing...

2. Monopolies Suck

Imagine for a second that Microsoft controls the entire gaming market. (Heaven forbid.) The Xbox brand is everywhere. It is on your home entertainment system. It is on your phones. Your tablets. Your PCs. Everywhere. Now the thought might be appealing to some of you, but let me remind you: monopolies suck. If one company was given the ability to control exactly what type of entertainment consumers are enjoying, there would come a point where people would stop enjoying it. Variety is the spice of life.

I don’t eat out that often - after all, I’m a broke college kid – but when I do, the consensus is normally Brother’s Pizza, a local pizzeria. But you know what, sometimes I want Little Caesar’s, and sometimes I want Dominoes, and sometimes, Infinito’s is the way to go! If there only existed one pizza chain in the world, wouldn’t we get sick of it? The same ideology applies to the games industry. Having competition is good, because the competitors each bring something new and something fresh to the table. Some days I’m in the mood for PlayStation games, but other days, I just want to track down those achievements!

3. Because Games Are Not Going Away!

We argue that one corporation is better than another. Sony. Microsoft. Valve. Indie. Valve. Sony. Microsoft. Valve. We complain about prices. We negatively compare one exclusive to another. The arguments are irrelevant, because the intrinsic nature of the games industry is that there will always be games. These large corporations exist to feed its consumers entertainment, and that entertainment is not going away! So why waste time constantly belittling one company and praising another when both are making the products which some person out there wants to play? If only one thing was true about the video games industry, it would be that there will always be games to play.

The games industry is only growing – the number of people playing is growing with it. This notion of a “Console War” is harmful more than anything. It stunts progress. The chaos at Microsoft the past year is, arguably, the result of  consumers who refused to see that great things were coming, and Microsoft, out of a lack of conviction, and most likely for fear of losing money, compromised their visions to help the industry evolve.

I must not see the negatives that everyone else sees - I wouldn't even call this a war. But even if it is, that's okay, because the good thing about wars is that they always end.


5:51 PM on 07.16.2014

How to Destroy Your Backlog of Video Games

There is a certain allure to Steam sales - an affliction of the mind that plagues all PC gamers. Call it consumerism, or call it gluttony, the effects are the same every year. Gamers find that they have purchased enough titles to seemingly last them a lifetime. With so many new games in their library, it is expected that some degree of buyer's remorse will settle in, but this is not the case. Those games were cheap! For the same price as a new AAA release, gamers might find they have nearly 20 new games to play, and that instead of buyer’s remorse, they feel a sense of foreboding. “Which game should I play first?” quickly turns into, “How will I ever find the time to play them all?” Well, fear not! I have composited a few tips and tricks to help you tackle that infinite-scrolling list of games like a true champ.

The first step to eliminating your backlog is to pick one game and stick to it. Not two games. Not three games. One game. When you are taking on a foe as imposing as a pile of beckoning video games, you need to start with one game, play it to completion, and put it on the shelf before starting the next one. But why not two? Why not three? So here’s the thing: when you are playing multiple games, it becomes very easy to say, “What’s one more?” Before long, you have seven to ten games started and unfinished, and your backlog of games has turned into a ravenous hydra. Cutting off one head does not eradicate the stress of the other nine snapping and biting for your attention. Before long, you will be enjoying the feeling of moving onto the next game more than the feeling of playing a game in the first place. That’s no way to play! Choose one game. Move onto the next. Simple as that.

Those of you who are obsessive-compulsive, like me, will love this next one: When you pick the game you are going to play, play it until you can put it on the shelf and say, “I don’t need to play this game until years from now.” (Of course, multiplayer games are the exception here, but more on those later.) It becomes difficult to tackle that backlog one game at a time when a game you played previously constantly beckons for you to come back to it. Sounds almost like a siren, right? Well kill it. If you don’t beat a game in its entirety, it becomes ten times easier for you to fall into the playing-more-than-one-game-at-a-time mentality. Find as many achievements as you can until you are content, play through New Game +, and complete any side-missions you haven’t already. The more thorough you are while playing, the easier it will be to shelf a game when you are ready to move onto the next one.

If DLC is available for a game while you are playing it, buy it and play it now. And if you are playing a game with DLC that has yet to come out, be thorough when it does. Treat it as its own title. I regret just blinking through Dishonored’s Brigmore Witches DLC, because now that I have moved onto other games, I still suffer from the pull to go back and play that expansion until I am fully satisfied. It truly does weaken the enjoyment of moving onto another game, and replaces that enjoyment with a sense of obligation rather than a sense of anticipation.

Games which offer multiplayer modes are beasts in and of themselves. But if you are following this guide, then these games should look no tougher to tackle than the final boss in Fable 2. (That was ridiculous, by the way.) So this is how you approach a multiplayer game: Start by setting a goals. These can be anything from prestiging X-amount of times to becoming a beast at a particular map or mode, to mastering your favorite weapon. When you have clearly-established goals, it is so much easier to move onto another game when you have achieved them. Many developers release new maps and modes for their games throughout the year; if this is the case, treat them like you would treat DLC. Treat it as its own title. Set goals. Achieve them. Brag to your friends. Move on.

The biggest challenge a gamer with a library of un-played games can make is starting an MMO. MMO’s are the vampires of the backlog. They unyieldingly sink their teeth into your time (and your wallet) until chances of ever getting to those other games become as slim as Sarah Michelle Gellar knocking on your door, cross and holy water in-hand. You have a few options in handling these beasts. First, don’t start an MMO. You might find it easier to reward yourself with an MMO after getting through, say, half of your backlog or X-number of games. However, if you are up to the challenge, treat one character as its own title. Set your goals. They might be something like, “I’m going to push Daenerys Hordemaster to Level 70, then stop.” Or, “I’m just going to play through the main campaign.” Or, “This character will just be PVP-focused. I’ll play until I’ve earned the Golden Armor of Awesomeness, and then I’ll stop.” This way, you can play the MMO until you have completed a character, start and beat two new games, then pick up the MMO again.

Another tip I find extremely useful is to alternate to a different genre when you finish a game. Beating Final Fantasy XIII and moving onto Final Fantasy XIII-2 will leave your mind exhausted, and as a result, you become less likely to destroy your backlog before the next Steam sale. Assassin’s Creed to Fez. Dark Souls II to Rayman: Origins. Keep your palette clean, and you’ll be through that library in no time.

If you have a commute to work, or need a new method to tick off your significant other, pick up a handheld title, be it Pokémon or Candy Crush Saga. This will increase the rate at which you pump out those games, and gives you an excuse to escape reality a little while longer. But if you plan on trying to “catch em’ all,” don’t do it at home. Leave your handheld games to your commute. If you don’t, you will be violating the first rule (choosing ONE game at a time), and you can rightly give up on ever seeing the bottom of your backlog.

Whether you are the latest victim to fall prey to Steam Sale Syndrome, or you have just been busy with work/school, this guide should provide enough structure and rules for you to get through all of those titles that are gathering dust, and breeze through them with maximum pleasure.   read

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