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Review: Divinity: Original Sin

Sep 08 // Patrick Hancock
Divinity: Original Sin (Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: Larian Studios Publisher: Larian StudiosMSRP: $39.99Release Date: June 30, 2014  You kick off Divinity by creating two separate characters, which includes their appearance and character classes. These two avatars then become the stars of the plot and require a bit of actual role-playing. It is possible to control the dialogue options of both characters or set the second character to answer things on their own. When the player answers for both, they can control what type of personality each character has by deciding how they respond to certain situations. Depending on dialogue responses, characters will acquire certain traits. For example, if a character decides a civilian should be harshly punished for something, they might receive the Heartless trait. If the second character is making their own decisions, they may disagree with the player on how to handle a certain situation. If that is the case, an actual rock-paper-scissors match begins between the two. Each victory rewards the winner with a certain amount of points, and the first to 10 points wins the argument. Players can add stat points to increase how many points they get with each victory, making the mini-game easier to win.  When creating characters, players choose from a wealth of character classes that focus on or blend together magic, strength, and stealthy skills and traits. However, just picking a class does not lock a character in to anything. If a player creates a character focused entirely on dealing heavy damage with melee weapons, but then wants to transition into a magic-focused playstyle, they can do so. It's all a matter of allocating skill and stat points upon leveling up, and there is a ton of customization. Each character really is a blank canvas, and players can eventually hire henchmen to take the place of the two other party members to have essentially four blank canvases in the party.  Of course, other party members will also join the player's party to add some flavor to both the plot and gameplay. In many old RPGs, it's the ensemble of characters and their interactions that really captivate players and keep them interested. Unfortunately, Divinity: Original Sin has some rather weak character personalities, which points to the game's lackluster dialogue writing. These characters don't stand out as much as the Minsc and Mortes of the past and are rather forgettable in the long run. [embed]280687:55575:0[/embed] Some of the NPC characters and their respective are quite memorable, at least. As players explore the opening town, they are bound to find a handful of colorful characters that do a wonderful job of setting the tone for the entire game. So while players might not remember the characters they controlled, they will likely remember the dog at the cemetery or the clam on the beach! The plot itself is more on the lighthearted side, which is a theme that persists throughout all the game's aspects. There are certainly some serious and even dark moments, but they always seem to have an extra twinge of humor or color. It's a nice and relaxed plot that never tries to do too much, but does build a gradually bigger sense of scale and urgency as the player progresses. Again, some of the weaker writing tends to shine through, but the plot overall is serviceable. The humor aspect should not be understated. There are some genuinely funny moments written into the game and even more hilarity when playing cooperatively with friends. Hearing your buddy say "oh, uhh, I think I just pissed off every pirate within 100 yards" and then walking over to them only to join a massive pirate slaughter is not something any other game is going to offer.  Gameplay takes place in true turn-based fashion. The order of the turns is determined by speed stats and is displayed to the player during battles. From there, it is up to the player to eliminate all enemies in order to progress. The biggest mechanic at play during battles in Original Sin is the use of the environment to deal out damage and status effects. See those enemies standing in a puddle of blood? Zap the blood with some electricity to hopefully stun all of them! Oh crap, that blood actually led a trail right to your warrior and she's also stunned!  I've actually had this exact situation happen to me many times. It is hard to tell the exact borders of certain puddles, and who exactly is actually standing in it. However, this could be due to my colorblindness affecting me during the nighttime battles, making it harder to see where the puddle ends and the dark ground begins, Other examples include blowing up oil barrels to create large explosions, or even using a spell to cause it to rain, and then freezing the wet enemies solid. It is of the utmost importance to utilize these environmental strategies while in battle, especially in tough battles. In some cases, being crafty with the elements turns what should be a difficult battle into a breeze. It can also make battles feel repetitive, but only if the player chooses to approach each battle in one specific way. Diversifying battle strategies is achievable to a degree, and is bound to happen as players acquire new skills. There's plenty of loot to pick up, use, sell, and craft in Divinity: Original Sin. Everything has a certain amount of weight, but since it is possible to split everything between the four characters, that's hardly ever an issue. Inventory management is a bit of an issue, however, especially for those who tend to pick up everything they see, whether it's a potato or a greatsword. Everything takes up a single square, and that inventory fills of quickly, making it a real hassle to find something in particular. There are various sorting options to help, but they can only do so much. The game features a skippable "tutorial dungeon" that goes over some of the basics of combat, but that's about it in the form of a traditional tutorial. Although Divinity ignores explicitly stating things like how to craft or even put up quest markers on where to do, this doesn't mean that the game does a poor job teaching the player things. In fact, Divinity: Original Sin is easily one of the best learning experiences of recent memory. Crafting recipes are found within the world and written out like a journal. When a player reads it, even if they are unaware crafting is in the game, the player will naturally try to combine ingredients that the recipe mentions and voila! Crafting is discovered. This is essentially how the game treats everything: in-game hints towards objectives or mechanics are given, and then the onus is on the players to actually figure them out. It's great not to have a game force-feed players the mechanics and instead let them discover things on their own. However one mechanic in particular, sneaking, isn't explained very well (or at all) and as such I have no idea how to successfully pickpocket someone without getting caught... As for the difficulty, Divinity: Original Sin will allow players to travel anywhere, but players shouldn't be surprised when they run into a group of enemies that are a few levels higher than them. If that's the case, the options are: put your gameface on and fight or hightail it out of there and come back later. Fighting more powerful enemies is doable, considering the first real victory I had in the game was against enemies two levels higher than me, but it is an extreme challenge. This also means, however, that is is extremely rewarding to accomplish. Divinity: Original Sin also includes multiplayer for two players total. The second player takes over the second created character of the host player, and it's impossible for a player to bring their own character into someone else's game. While this may seem annoying, it helps keep the roleplaying aspect in check and also prevents two players of wildly different levels from playing together. The second player can only, by default, control that one character in battle, but it is possible to have them control one AI character as well, it's just really confusing and obtuse to do so, so not everything always works smoothly in multiplayer. The game has a delightful art style which helps solidify the lighthearted tone set by the plot and writing. When walking around town it is hard not to notice how bright everything is, which helps give a real sense of liveliness to the town. Likewise, the music both in and out of battle is great; it isn’t overpowering but is certainly noticeable and always feels appropriate.  Divinity: Original Sin is an amazing RPG experience. It falls a bit flat on characterization and writing on occasion, but nails just about everything else. It does a great job of compelling players to roleplay their on-screen characters, putting the "RP" back into RPG. This is a game that any fan of the genre will adore, and is sure to suck in new players and teach them what the genre is all about. It's a love letter, and deserves to be loved back.
Divinity: OS review! photo
Always talk to the animals
Remember the first "western RPG" that really made an impression on you? Maybe it was Baldur's Gate, maybe it was Planescape: Torment, or maybe it was Dragon Age: Origins. Regardless, you love that game. It might have fla...

Review: Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Aug 30 // Patrick Hancock
Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (3DS)Developer: Capcom, Level-5Publisher: NintendoRelease Date: August 29, 2014MSRP:  $29.99 The story revolves around the main characters from each game: Professor Layton, Apprentice Luke, Ace Attorney Phoenix Wright, and Spiritual Medium Maya Fey. It doesn't take long for these characters to meet up in a town called Labyrinthia, a town on no map and completely run by one person: the Storyteller. It's also a town that seems to be caught in the past: knights keep order and there's no modern technology to speak of. The Storyteller is exactly that: the one who pens the "story" for the town of Labyrinthia. However, the town has been having some major issues with magic-using witches in the past years, and everything seems to be coming to a head just as the four protagonists enter the scene.  The characters of Labyrinthia deserve a very special mention. There are numerous characters that easily steal the spotlight during the courtroom scenes, which is largely due to the fantastic writing. The game's tone ranges from incredibly serious to downright hysterical while hitting every note in between. Characters come to life, scenes nail the correct tones, and the unpredictable story itself all come from the brilliant writing throughout.  Gameplay is divided into two distinct sections: puzzle solving while navigating the town and court cases. The former will be familiar to anyone who has played a Professor Layton game in the past, and the latter familiar to Ace Attorney players. The major issue here is that they almost never blend together. Instead they act like oil and water, with each section being completely separate from the other. It is important to note, however, that despite this lack of congruence, the game does not feel disjointed, largely due to the character interactions between the two sets of protagonists. There is a moment towards the end of the game where the two gameplay types cease to act like oil and water and instead act like peanut butter and chocolate. Needless to say, this moment is nothing short of pure gameplay bliss and one of the most memorable moments of the entire game.  The Layton-inspired puzzles are various logic puzzles. For players unfamiliar with the games, these puzzles often require a decent amount of brainpower and/or trial and error to solve correctly, and the objective of each puzzle is different. The difficulty of these puzzles is widely inconsistent, as some of the final puzzles are laughably simple.  Some puzzles are required to progress, while others are included simply for players who want to try more puzzles. The context for these "extra" puzzles is always absurd, in an endearing way. Meeting someone on the street and having them challenge the player to a puzzle just because is absolutely ridiculous and perfect. The story puzzles are always given context and make a remarkable amount of sense within that context, making them feel very real. [embed]280424:55505:0[/embed] As for the Ace Attorney-inspired court cases, players will listen to witnesses tell their testimony, and then have a chance to point out any inconsistencies or contradictions they can find. Players can "Press" the witness, which involves Phoenix Wright asking for more clarification on a specific statement. Players can also Present information to the court, which will bring up a key piece of evidence to hopefully point out a flaw in a witness' testimony.  This time around, there can be more than one person on the witness stand at a time. This allows for a slightly different mechanic of asking two witnesses about the same topic. While pressing a witness, another witness may make a sound if they hear something funky. At that point, the player can move to that witness and ask why they had a reaction to what was said. It's a decent mechanic that lends itself to a little bit of repetition, since the original witness' testimony will be cut short when moving to another witness, and to hear the entire testimony players will have to press the original witness again. Hint Coins can be found while exploring the town and can be utilized in both the Layton-style puzzles and the Ace Attorney-esque courtroom scenes. During the logic puzzles, Hint Coins will slowly reveal more of the solution, until finally telling the player "alright fine here's the answer," essentially. In the courtroom, Hint Coins can be used when a player has no clue what to do next. The game will then let the player know who to Press or Present to, and when presenting, Hint Coins will remove certain incorrect options from the evidence to narrow it down for the player. The game's visual style and technical capabilities are wonderful. The town of Labyrinthia truly does feel alive with vibrant characters while maintaining a sense of a seedy underbelly and something very sinister lurking around. There are some moments in the game where the framerate becomes noticeably terrible. This is often when there are many animated characters on the screen, and happens whether the 3D slider is on or off. Speaking of which, the stereoscopic 3D presentation is great and is easily the best way to experience the game. The music and sound effects from each game make an appearance, but much of the music is new to go with the "Middle Ages" theme of the town of Labyrinthia. Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is two great tastes that taste great together, even if they don't congeal together until the finale. But wow, what a finale it is! The framerate issues are very unfortunate and the new Ace Attorney mechanics can make the game a bit repetitive, but with over 20 hours of well-written content, this is a game who will please fans of either series, and will delight anyone who is a fan of both series. This game is also a great entry point for either series, since it offers a glimpse into both without heavily favoring one or the other.
Layton vs Wright review photo
Gentlemanly and Objectiony
You got chocolate in my peanut butter! You got peanut butter in my chocolate!  Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are great. Personally, my favorite part is the edge, as long as you still get a little bit of peanut butter along ...

Techies omg  photo
Techies omg

Techies officially coming to Dota 2 next week


'Time to find a new hobby'
Aug 30
// Patrick Hancock
Techies, the explosive and suicidal Dota 2 Hero, is finally coming to the game next week, as detailed in the latest Dota 2 blog update. I've never played Techies in DOTA, but here's what I've gathered so far: Techie...
Dota 2 MMR video! photo
Introducing Dota 2 benchwarMMR!
Believe it or not, in all my time spent in Dota 2, I've never played a single solo matchmaking game. I've played plenty of team games, but the anxiety that comes with playing alone with strangers gets to me while playing Dot...

Ludum Dare 30 photo
Ludum Dare 30

Ludum Dare 30 has begun!


Constraints often inspire creativity!
Aug 22
// Patrick Hancock
Ludum Dare 30, the indie game jam, has officially begun! For the next 72 hours, many amateur (and professional) game developers are going to hunker down and do their best to create a game focused around a central theme. The t...
Free indie game photo
Free indie game

The Testament of the White Cypress is out now and free


Delightful indie game worth exploring
Aug 17
// Patrick Hancock
David O'Toole, developer of 2x0ng, has just released his newest game, The Testament of the White Cypress. Inspired by games like Ultima and Zork, Cypress follows a monk named Geoffrey as he explores a strange and da...
SpyParty jibber jabber photo
SpyParty jibber jabber

Look at these SpyParty characters talk!


Possibly playable at PAX Prime
Aug 11
// Patrick Hancock
Remember the five new SpyParty characters? Of course you do! I even came up with elaborate backstories for each of them based solely on their appearance. Surely everyone remembers that? Chris Hecker, developer of SpyPar...
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PRO TIPS FROM PRO PLAYERZ
I've been playing Crypt of the NecroDancer, and now I fancy myself a pretty amazing player. The game hits Steam's Early Access program in just two days, and so I figured I'd impart my wisdom unto any new players who may be out there by making a hawt tipz video.

Frozen Synapse renamed photo
Frozen Synapse renamed

Frozen Endzone renamed Frozen Cortex, Mac and Linux versions available


'The original name was a bit rubbish and we got bored of it'
Jul 23
// Patrick Hancock
Frozen Endzone, the tactical robo-sport from the developers of Frozen Synapse, has officially been renamed. The new name is Frozen Cortex, and I've taken the liberty of making a new logo for it. The rename is taking place bec...
Dota 2  International 4 photo
Dota 2 International 4

The biggest esports tournament in history continues


Dota 2's International tournament enters day 3
Jul 20
// Patrick Hancock
Note: there will be no spoilers in this post for day one or two, but expect them in the comments!  Yesterday was as exciting as it was heartbreaking for some, but that's just the way things go when over $10 million is on...
The International 2014 photo
The International 2014

Day 2 of The International is live, let's talk about it!


Biggest Dota 2 tournament will crush hopes and dreams today
Jul 19
// Patrick Hancock
First of all, don't worry I won't spoil anything from yesterday here. There will, however, be spoilers in the comments! Yesterday was an intense start to The International 2014, with great teams like DK, Newbee, and EG playin...
ASCII RPG photo
ASCII RPG

SanctuaryRPG is now available and name-your-own-price!


ASCII RPG for you and me
Jul 17
// Patrick Hancock
SanctuaryRPG, a combination of roguelikes and JRPGS with ASCII graphics, is available now and best of all, you can pay whatever you want! After playing for the past few days, I heavily recommend laying down some cash for this...
International 2014 photo
International 2014

The Dota 2 International 2014 wildcard round is underway


Two wildcard matches and solo championship today
Jul 08
// Patrick Hancock
The day has finally arrived! The biggest Dota 2 tournament of the year is about to officially begin! Today, four wildcard teams will battle it out for one remaining position in the tournament and their shot at a pri...
Dota 2 Streams photo
Dota 2 Streams

There will be a newbie-friendly stream for Dota 2's International tournament


For those who don't know a BKB from a CS
Jul 04
// Patrick Hancock
The 2014 website for The International Dota 2 Championships is now live, and with it comes some great new information. The best of which is that there will be a specific stream for players brand new to the esport. This s...

Review: The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II

Jun 30 // Patrick Hancock
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II (PC)Developer: Neocore GamesPublisher: Neocore GamesReleased: May 22, 2014MSRP: $14.99  The story of Van Helsing II picks up right after the end of the first game. In case players completely forgot the plot or never played it, the opening cinematic does a superb job of catching everyone up. Essentially -- the city of Borgovia needs defending, and Van Helsing just so happens to be pretty great at exactly that. Simple enough. In addition, a mysterious character simply named "Prisoner Seven" is involved, helping out Van Helsing throughout his adventure. However, Seven's intentions are the definition of vague, leaving the player and Van Helsing to always question his motives. The plot isn't too far off the beaten path and gets pretty predictable, but it's decently written and very well voiced in order to keep the player's attention throughout. The first game's humor comes back in full force, however this time its done with much more tact. The referential humor of the original rubbed me the wrong way, but that was not the case in the sequel. Players now have the ability to make Van Helsing one of three classes available, instead of being forced into a single role like in the original game. In addition to the classic Hunter, players can opt to make Van Helsing a Thaumaturge or an Arcane Mechanic. Each class plays very differently from the next, and there are loads of customization options within each class themselves, almost ensuring that two players will not play alike. Players may also import their characters from the first game if they wish. [embed]277288:54656:0[/embed] The Rage concept returns in full force, allowing even specific skills to be customized. Each skill has three sub-abilities that can be leveled up. These sub-abilities might make the main ability deal more damage, last longer, or cause some secondary effect. In order to use these powers, players must spend Rage, which is gained in battle, by pressing the appropriate sub-abilities keybinding. These can also be combined, as three points of Rage can be used at once. This makes battles feel more fast-paced, since players are tapping the S key three times, firing an ability, then pressing the D key twice and the A key once and firing off another ability. It feels great and makes this ARPG more than a standard "click-fest." Katarina, the "ghost with a snappy wit" returns in the sequel and can also be customized a ton. She feels much more fully fleshed out than in the first game and she even filled the classic "tank" role pretty well during my playthrough. Her AI can be extremely customized, which allows her to not feel like dead weight the entire time. Plus, she can hold on to excess items, go back to town and sell them, and even go buy potions (much like Torchlight). Later in the campaign, Van Helsing also gets control of a Chimera, who can be summoned to fight alongside the titular hero or be sent on missions to get loot. Naturally, I summed him all the damn time.  The tower defense mini-game makes its return, which is a mode that I wasn't too fond of in the original due to lack of direction. I am happy to say, however, that Van Helsing II gives this mode the care and dedication it deserves, making it leagues better. The towers are more interesting, the maps feel better designed, and the package as a whole comes together nicely. Van Helsing  is also in charge of resistance commanders now, and can send one of his commanders out to do his bidding for him. Managing these commanders is a mini-game in itself, as each one has certain tactics they are better at and sending the wrong one can mean a mission failure.  The difficulty in the game works similarly to how the original Van Helsing did: throwing more enemies at the player equates to a "harder" game. It's an arbitrary way to challenge the player, and it made me feel forced to constantly be pumping points into HP, since I was absolutely melting to the hordes of enemies thrown my way, especially in my second playthrough of the Story Mode. Luckily, re-doing skills and skill points only costs gold, which is plentiful. It's much more manageable in multiplayer, though if you don't have someone specific to team up with there aren't many public games out there to join at any point in time. Players can alter the difficulty in a different way, and can now add trophies to the Hall of Trophies to gain both benefits and challenges to the campaign. Said trophies will add bonuses like added elemental damage while at the same time adding a benefit to the enemies like giving them more HP. It's a nice risk-and-reward way of customizing the difficulty a bit and fits well into the game. In addition to the Story Mode, which can be played multiplayer, there are also Scenarios, which are only unlocked at level 57. After finishing the story mode once, however, players will likely be around level 30, meaning that they'll have to go into New Game+ mode or grind out some levels online. It's a less than optimal way to get to the Scenario mode, and I feel as if it should unlock after completing the story, at the very least. The Scenario mode offers up a random "mini-campaign" with various effects on the world, but will mostly only be for the hardcore players due to its high level requirement. Likewise, the Battle Royale PvP mode is also locked until level 57. The visual design of enemies in Van Helsing II is great, offering up some truly bizarre foes to take down throughout the campaign. Their behaviors are varied enough so that every enemy doesn't simply run straight towards the player, though many do. The visual style is alright, though things are overly shiny and can be a bit muddy as well. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II is a much better showing than the original. It's what a sequel should be; it improves on nearly everything while adding brand new ideas to the pile. Best of all, the core gameplay mechanics are still a blast to use and really spice up a genre that if often left untouched. It certainly has its shortcomings, but fans of games like the Diablo series, Torchlight, Titan Quest, or Path of Exile will love it.
Van Helsing II Review photo
The Search for Curly's Gold
The first Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing wasn't a bad game, however it did have crippling technical issues that held it back. Those issues have since been fixed, and developer Neocore Games has learned a lot i...

Dota 2 10 Million photo
Dota 2 10 Million

Dota 2 International prize pool now at $10 million


Yes. You read that correctly.
Jun 27
// Patrick Hancock
The Dota 2 prize pool for the upcoming International 2014 tournament is now at $10 million dollars. With zeroes that looks like this: $10,000,000. All of the newly added stretch goals have been reached, the most recent ...
TF2 Update! photo
TF2 Update!

Team Fortress 2's Love & War update detailed, let's talk about it


FAT ENGINEER
Jun 19
// Patrick Hancock
I'll assume everyone has already seen the Team Fortress 2 animated short that Valve put out yesterday and have been very excited to jump back into TF2. Today, the Love & War update has been more detailed, with new weapons and GIGANTIC balance changes. Let's chat about them, shall we?

What the Mortal Kombat X trailer tells us and hints at

Jun 02 // Patrick Hancock
Mortal Kombat X will feature level-dependent attacks, just like Injustice: Gods Among Us In Injustice: Gods Among Us, also developed by NetherRealm, fighters could use certain parts of certain stages to perform unique attacks against their enemy. For example, players could throw cars or break shark tanks to barrage their enemies with a one-time attack. While watching the teaser, Sub-Zero pulls off a branch of a tree, ices it, and attacks Scorpion in the face. The teaser really focuses on this aspect, which cannot be a coincidence. He also uses a tree limb to do a flippy-kick, which is another perfect example. "Multi-stage" stages could also be used Alright, so there's no real evidence of this in the trailer, but if NetherRealm is borrowing one idea from Injustice, why not more? Injustice featured stages that would change at certain times, like bashing someone through some walls into a new area. Old Mortal Kombat games have done similar ideas, and NetherRealm has the technology, so it could very well show up here in MKX. Weapons and styles may be returning At one point late in the teaser, Sub-Zero picks up a weapon and attacks Scorpion with it, only to have it knocked out of his hand. This could be another environmental attack, but also consider that as part of the Fatality at the end, Scorpion throws a weapon from his sheath to stick Sub-Zero's head onto the tree. These examples could lead to another weapon system like past games have employed. The game will be "2.5D" just like Mortal Kombat 9 While this isn't surprising, it's good to know that NetherRealms is not transitioning back to a 3D fighter. Watching the teaser trailer clearly has them fighting in a straight line for the entirety of the fight, which again, is no coincidence. When a small change can disrupt an entire community, it's nice to have confirmation. To go along with that... This is Mortal Kombat through and through In other words, the obvious is confirmed. Scorpion and Sub-Zero are playable. They both have their iconic moves from the franchise. Plus, gory fatalities are still in, making this an M-rated game (something that somehow isn't always a constant). They've got the basics down and are building up from there. X-ray moves are back Sure, this is something that can be assumed when transitioning from one successful title to the next, but it's always nice to have confirmation. What I personally love about the X-ray moves is that they make the fight look cinematic. If a non-Mortal Kombat fan were to watch this trailer, they would think that the X-rays were purely for effect, not an indicator of what is in the game. E3 is next week Ok, the teaser trailer doesn't tell us this, but it needs to be said. E3 is next week, so naturally there won't be a huge reveal trailer today. This was really created to hint at some aspects of the upcoming game, and to make us GET HYPE for another Mortal Kombat. Whether or not any of this is correct remains to be seen, but I'm sure much more will be revealed next week. Sure, this is likely a pre-rendered CG fight. And yeah, the music doesn't really fit so well (though I will say the song itself doesn't seem too bad). These are, however, just a few small blemishes on a video that otherwise does an excellent job at teasing. As a big fan of the last Mortal Kombat, I am anxiously awaiting what MKX brings to the table, whether I'm way off base or not. I just hope Meat is in it.
Mortal Kombat X photo
Look.....harder
Our first glimpse of Mortal Kombat X (MKX) came today in the form of a presumably CG teaser trailer. Some people don't think that the trailer served much of a purpose, since it didn't explicitly state what we can ex...

New SpyParty characters photo
New SpyParty characters

SpyParty adds five more characters to its roster


Skeleton hair, purse-puppies, and vehicles!
May 22
// Patrick Hancock
I've always had a strange relationship with the characters from SpyParty. With the old "basic" character models, there really isn't much detail or emotion put into any one character. Yet, I always find myself saying things li...
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The International 4 prizepool passes $6M, new stretch goals added


Can the Dota 2 community raise it to $10M?
May 20
// Patrick Hancock
The Dota 2 community, along with most MOBAs, gets a bad rap for being mean jerks. While yes, there are plenty of mean jerks out there, it's moments like these that prove that we can really band together to...spend money....
Dota 2 lots of money photo
Dota 2 lots of money

The International 2014's prize pool has reached $5.5 million


Almost $4m raised by Dota 2 community
May 17
// Patrick Hancock
The penultimate stretch goal, environmental effects, has been reached for Dota 2's International 2014 tournament after only a single week of raising money. Nearly $4,000,000 has been contributed by the community, making ...
Dota 2 Compendium 2014 photo
Dota 2 Compendium 2014

The Dota 2 Compendium for The International 2014 is now live


Players have added over $1m to the prize pool
May 10
// Patrick Hancock
The time has come to for Dota 2 players all around the world to spend their $9.99 in preparation for this year's International tournament! Buying the Dota 2 Compendium grants the purchaser a slew of things, much mor...

Musings on the Dota 2 6.81 patch

May 05 // Patrick Hancock
Treant Protector is my favorite Hero, and remains untouched in 6.81! He's still first pick/ban material for many teams. I'm so proud of him.  Abaddon  Aghanim's Scepter Borrowed Time now redirects 35% of all damage dealt to nearby allied heroes to Abaddon when active Pretty big buff for Abaddon. This will make him a much more clutch Hero than he already is. Nearby teammate potentially going down? BOOM, Aghs ult can save them. With a 900 range on this bad boy, I expect some premium teammate saves to be seen.  Ancient Apparition Chilling Touch attack speed reduction increased from -15 to -20 Some people have always defending Chilling Touch, especially when concerning the early game, but this certainly doesn't help. Those five extra points could be the difference between securing First Blood and giving up First Blood. I'd have to see the change in action first though.  Axe Counter Helix now uses Pseudo Random chance I always wondered why this wasn't already the case. No more helicopter Axe, but also no more regular non-spinny Axe. This is a great change and I'm not sure it's a nerf or a buff.   Bestmaster Base damage increased by 4 Again, if going mid this could be pretty significant, but won't matter much otherwise. Personally, I love Beastmaster and would like to see him picked up more, even if he tends to just be a walking ult + Hawk.  Bloodseeker Bloodrage cast point improved from 0.6 to 0.4 Bloodrage can no longer be dispelled  Bloodseeker gets even better! This Hero has really come into his own recently, although the pro scene doesn't seem to recognize this. A NINE second silence at level 4 that can't be dispelled? You could put this one TWO people with a three second overlap. That's ridiculous! Huge buff to Bloodseeker.  Brewmaster If you have not attacked for 10 seconds, your next attack will always activate a Drunken Brawler critical hit If you have not been attacked for 10 seconds, Drunken Brawler will cause you to evade the next attack This also carries over to the Fire Spirit when Primal Split is active, and really sounds like an interesting buff. Brewmaster is one of the carries I feel decently competent playing, and I'm happy to see anything to help him out. I know Eastern teams favor him more at the moment, and I hope this helps people remember to bring him back into certain lineups!   Broodmother Spiderling's Poison Sting damage per second increased from 4 to 8 Spin Web's free pathing no longer deactivates when enemy has vision on Broodmother Spin Web's free pathing is now disabled for 3 seconds when Broodmother takes damage Insatiable Hunger lifesteal increased from 40/60/80% to 60/80/100% Hooray! Broodmother isn't complete garbage anymore! I don't think Brood is a terrible Hero, but I do think that something needs to be done to allow her to be able to help teammates in an instant. Someone smarter than me suggested giving her webs charges, which sounds like a real good solution, and would allow her to TP to a tower to help her team when needed.  Chaos Knight Phantasm now has a 50% chance to create one extra illusion when cast Good buff to Chaos Knight, as that extra illusion can really help his early game. Hell, it can always help. It never hurts to have more illusions on an illusion Hero. Just like Brewmaster, I hope this change brings Chaos Knight back into the conversation for certain lineups.  Dazzle Poison Touch no longer causes a ministun This is actually a pretty big dent into Dazzle's game. Poison Touch is already a great skill so removing the ministun probably won't remove Dazzle from the competitive scene, but it's a good way to balance an already popular Hero without crushing him.  DOOM! Doom damage no longer ignores magic shields  Awww, I liked the fact that literally nothing affected Doom's efficiency. Stupid Pipe of Insight...  Drow Ranger Gust knockback duration increased from 0.2 to 0.5 I actually just played a game where this could have made a difference. Our Nyx was chasing a very low Drow Ranger, and as a last ditch effort she threw out a Gust, only to immediately die. That extra 0.3 seconds is actually enough to allow Drow to turn around and create space between her and a melee Hero.  Earthshaker Creeps no longer try to path around Fissure; they will wait for it to disappear Echo Slam no longer ignores units that are invisible or in Fog of War Yay! No more cheesy creep strats that are lame. Also, the second fix is another one that just makes sense and should have always been that way.  Elder Titan Echo Stomp mana cost reduced from 100/115/130/145 to 100 Echo Stomp physical and magical damage increased from 80 to 80/85/90/95 each Woah, pretty huge buff to Echo Stomp here. Now if only I had any idea how to use this Hero effectively.  Ember Spirit Searing Chains duration reduced from 2/2/3/3 to 1/2/2/3  Sleight of Fist bonus damage reduced from 30/60/90/120 to 20/40/60/80 Ember Spirit is everywhere these days. This is a pretty big hit to not only his early game thanks to the Searing Chains nerf, but his overall effectiveness with his Sleight of Fist damage nerf. That damage nerf is HUGE! His risk vs. reward ratio is slightly lessened, but I'm not sure this will make him disappear from the competitive scene.  Enigma Midnight Pulse area of effect increased from 400 to 600 THIS IS HUGE. Clearing trees is now Enigma's job. Sorry, Timbersaw.  Faceless Void Base agility increased from 21 to 23 Turn rate improved from 0.5 to 1 Didn't really expect Faceless to be buffed here. He's a really solid Hero that just got that much better. He fills the hard carry role better than most and I'm sure we'll see him more and more in lineups.  Gyrocopter Homing Missile now hits invisible units Homing Missile hits required to destroy increased from 3 to 3/3/4/5 BIG buff to Homing Missile here. I believe that these buffs can rocket Gyrocopter back into the pro scene. Homing Missile is such an interesting move, and I'm glad to see it buffed up.  Huskar Burning Spears is no longer a Unique Attack Modifier As great a buff as this is, I don't think it will help Huskar competitively. As for pubs, WATCH OUT for Huskar because I hate that guy ugh.  Invoker Ghost Walk slow no longer affects magic immune enemies EMP delay increased from 2.6 to 2.9 The EMP change is one that needed to happen. I'm glad it did, because it brings Invoker into the realm of not being so ridiculous. I don't think this will do much to hurt his presence, just a fix that normalizes him. Comparison of Jakiro's ultimate from 6.80 to the new 6.81. Image courtesy of reddit user dodek1000.  Jakiro Dual Breath range increased by 50 Liquid Fire level 4 cooldown reduced from 5 to 4 Aghanim's Scepter Macropyre duration increased from 7 to 14 Aghanim's Scepter Macropyre range increased from 1350 to 1800  THESE ARE AMAZING. Have you seen the new distance on Macropyre? IT'S HUGE! Throw it up towards the tier 3 tower because why not? It lasts 14 seconds! Jakiro is back baby, and here's not going anywhere until they change him again.  Keeper of the Light Added Aghanim's Scepter upgrade: Provides permanent Spirit Form. Additionally, the following effects are active during the day: Keeper of the Light gains unobstructed vision and Illuminate heals allies for 75% of the damage values Day Keeper. This is a good change. I don't see it as groundbreaking or first pick/ban material, but as something that changes the way the Hero plays for the better.   Kunkka Torrent area of effect increased from 215 to 225 X Marks The Spot can now last twice as long on allied heroes Ghost Ship allied buff duration increased from 8 to 10 Add Ghost Ship AOE indicator for allies The X Marks The Spot change is the most interesting here, since it allows teammates to base travel and heal up real quick if they need to! I expect to attempt this and be a second too late on casting X, making my teammate simply travel home. I'm sorry, future teammates.  Lich Frost Armor can now be cast on buildings Aghanim's Scepter Chain Frost no longer has a bounce limit LICH BUFFS! More building spells always make me happy, and the Chain Frost buff is ridiculous. These could theoretically turn Lich into an anti-push hero, who can transition pretty well into something else. I really hope to see more Lich, though I don't think the "Ancients Trap" is anything really noteworthy here.  Lina Attack range increased from 650 to 670 Aghanim's Scepter Laguna Blade damage goes through magic immunity  I'm glad Lina's ult finally got a buff that separates it from Lion's. She really needed that, since her ult really was lackluster in comparison.  Magnus Removed Skewer maximum target limit Skewer range increased from 600/800/1000/1200 to 750/900/1050/1200 We could see return of the magnanimous Magnus! These are both good buffs and really help out Magnus' early game. Perhaps more Magnus + Enigma combos are in our future? I'm always up for more "wombo combos" so count me in!  Medusa Split Shot reworked from 50/60/70/80% damage with 5 maximum targets, to 80% damage with 2/3/4/5 maximum targets Mystic Snake no longer requires Fog of War vision to bounce Mana Shield damage absorption per mana increased from 1/1.5/2/2.5 to 1.6/1.9/2.2/2.5 These are incredible buffs to Medusa. So incredible, in fact, that I could see competitive teams building team compositions with her in mind. I'm not generally a fan of super-farm Heroes, but I love Medusa's ultimate ability and I feel bad that I've literally never seen her in any major tournament since she was added to the game. All of these fixes dramatically change this Hero, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed to see Medusa in some games.  Necrophos Heartstopper Aura area of effect increased from 1000 to 1200 Reaper's Scythe now adds +30% duration to the respawn timer Necrophos just keeps getting better! As if Heartstopper wasn't already super annoying (especially in mid), the range is even further! His ultimate buff, combined with the recent disabling of buyback, is going to be incredibly frustrating. Unless he's on my team. In which case, BOOYA!  Ogre Magi Base armor increased by 1 Cast animation improved from 0.56 to 0.45 Literally no damage.  Omniknight Purification area of effect increased from 225 to 240 Repel no longer removes positive buffs from allies Guardian Angel duration increased from 5/6/7 to 6/7/8 Aghanim's Scepter Guardian Angel duration increased from 5/6/7 to 8/9/10 The biggest change here is the Repel fix. This change rockets Repel's effectiveness, and thus Omniknight's effectiveness, through the roof! He'll fit certain lineups very well now, especially in 4-protect-1 scenarios.  Phantom Assassin Stifling Dagger cooldown reduced from 8 to 6 Blur evasion chance increased from 20/25/30/40 to 20/30/40/50 Holy shit, 50% evasion chance at level 4? That. Is. Ridiculous. I definitely expect for Phantom Assassin carries to be picked from here on out. FIFTY PERCENT! Riki  Backstab now works when attacking allied units Et tu, Riki?  Shadow Demon Added Aghanim's Scepter upgrade: Demonic Purge cooldown replaced with two charges that have a 40 second replenish time This is an awesome change! Imagine Purging two characters at once? That could change a teamfight real quick. Shadow Demon is already a very popular Hero, and he just got so much better! [embed]273932:53738:0[/embed]Here is a video of some of the highlights of this patch in action. Courtesy of YouTube user diesmiling666.  Terrorblade Strength gain reduced from 1.9 to 1.4 Reflection slow no longer persists through magic immunity Reflection duration rebalanced from 5 to 2.5/3.5/4.5/5.5 Terrorblade needed a nerf, and I think this is a pretty decent one. That Reflection slow at level 1 was absolutely ridiculous, and I am very thankful that it changed. Now if only I could convince my teams to actually gank him early on so he doesn't become unstoppable later...  Tidehunter Anchor Smash damage reduction increased from 40 to 60% Anchor Smash now works on Ancient creeps Sixty percent! Anchor Smash working on Ancients! Is Tidehunter coming back? I hope so, he's always been one of my favorite Heroes to play and watch, thanks to his ability to make BIG PLAYS. Serious though, huge buff here to Tidehunter and I really hope it brings him back into the scene. [insert joke about making a "big splash" here]  Tusk Reworked Snowball into a two-part ability: one which creates the snowball, and a sub-ability to launch the snowball. You have up to 4 seconds to use the sub-ability. The area that automatically pulls allies in has been reduced.  You can now load an ally into your snowball within 400 range by right clicking on them Snowball moves 75 MS faster for each allied hero inside it Snowball deals 20/30/40/50 extra damage for each additional hero in it This Snowball rework is really interesting. I've liked Tusk conceptually since the beginning, but have always had a hard time finding a place to put him on teams. This change can make him a solid initiator, or even a roaming ganker? I'm still a bit unsure, really. Where does Tusk fit in for everyone else?  Undying Soul Rip area of effect increased from 975 to 1300 Tombstone Zombie Deathlust's Max % health threshold increased from 5/10/15/20% to 20/25/30/35% Tombstone Zombies no longer give any experience or gold Tombstone Bounty increased from 70/90/110/130 to 75/100/125/150 Flesh Golem's Plague Aura now affects magic immune units Undying has always been a great Hero, but he doesn't fit the most popular lineups currently. These buffs make it seem worth it to change up lineups around Undying. Tombstone is one of the best skills in the game thanks to its great utility, and it just got better! Combined with the Soul Rip and Flesh Golem buffs, I can't wait to continue picking Undying every chance I get.  Ursa Fury Swipes is no longer a Unique Attack Modifier AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. This is ridiculous. Ursa with a Satanic? Or Desolater? :(  Vengeful Spirit When Vengeful Spirit is slain, her killer is inflicted with a negative Vengeance Aura, which decreases the damage of her killer and their nearby allies, until she revives  Hooray! Finally a Hero that encourages me to do what I'm already best at: dying! This jives so well with her ultimate that I think it's a great change to an already wonderful Hero.   Visage Grave Chill cooldown increased from 10 to 16/14/12/10 A pretty big hit to Visage's early game, but I don't know that it will affect his popularity that much. He's still very strong in particular tri-lane lineups.  Windranger Activating Windrun now disjoints incoming attack projectiles Aghanim's Scepter Focus Fire damage reduction decreased from -50/-40/-30 to -30/-15/0, and no longer has special rules for procs This Windrun change is another change that just makes sense. I always thought it disjointed projectiles until I actually tried to do so myself. Also Kudos to Icefrog for making Focus Fire more appealing thanks to Aghanim's, but it seems as if getting a Scepter on Windranger feels like money wasted, except for maybe some niche builds and situations.  Zeus Arc Lightning cast point improved from 0.4 to 0.2 Lightning Bolt true sight range reduced from 900 to 750 Lightning Bolt flying vision range reduced from 1000 to 750 Lightning Bolt can now be cast on the ground, affecting the closest enemy hero in a 250 range Zeus! A Hero I always completely forget about always. These changes to Lightning Bolt make the Hero much more appealing. I am very curious to see how this affects Zeus' popularity. I don't want to make any crazy assumptions like "ZEUS MID NEW META," but it's certainly possible with these changes. All it takes is one team to find his true potential and it will snowball from there...
Dota patch analysis photo
Blink Dagger still no mana!
A new update just hit Dota 2, and it brought with it another slew of balance changes in the form of the 6.81 patch. Buffs and nerfs abound, and the future of the game has changed once again. Many have claimed that the 6.80 ve...

Dota 2 Spring update photo
Dota 2 Spring update

Dota 2's 'Spring Cleaning' update now live


6.81 balance patch is here!
Apr 29
// Patrick Hancock
The Spring Cleaning update for Dota 2, which seemingly was announced a little bit earlier than Valve wanted, is now live on the main client of the game. A metric butt-ton of bugfixes are included, along with new chests and ba...

The Darkest Dungeon gods were kind to me

Apr 18 // Patrick Hancock
Darkest Dungeon plays like a positional turn-based RPG. Everything happens on a 2D plane, which forces characters to line up one behind another. The characters for this demo were, in the order from front to back, Crusader, Highwayman, Plague Doctor, and Vestal.  The Crusader was akin to a Knight class, the Highwayman used firearms, the Plague Doctor inflicts status ailments, and the Vestal fits the healer role.  Certain moves are only available if a character is in a certain position. The Crusader really thrives in the first position, but if he switches out with the Highwayman, the Highwayman can then use his Point Blank Shot ability to deal some serious damage. There are certain moves that will push your characters around, however, so it’s best not to get too comfortable with a single arrangement. Characters will also have certain personality traits that affect their stats and behaviors. They begin simple enough, with things like +10 Protection or -20% Critical Chance, but as players traverse the dungeons they will gain more. The traits in the PAX demo were random, and luckily I didn't get a Crusader with minus accuracy or protection or anything just as bad. As I explored, my Highwayman encountered a strange artifact, and after inspecting it, got a new personality trait that made him more prone to inspecting future ones. He just couldn’t resist the temptation... This is easily one of the coolest aspects of Darkest Dungeon. Characters will gain more and more traits as the player uses them, and this allows them to develop and evolve, even if it is for the worse. When characters enter the titular "darkest dungeon," the game's last dungeon, they gain a trait that prevents them from ever entering that dungeon again. They've just seen too much and refuse to go back. [embed]273446:53480:0[/embed] Other than health, characters also have a Stress bar. If their stress bar maxes out, they will become afflicted with something. Luckily, I avoided this during my playthrough, but the player before me had all of their party members afflicted by the end. Their Crusader, for example, became a Masochist and no longer accepted heals in any form. They aren’t all terrible, but they are unpredictable and not exactly ideal. Critical hits can increase stress if your team is on the receiving end, or reduce it if you’re the one dishing it out. Darkest Dungeon even has strategic camping mechanics! While exploring an area, the party has the option to camp in an empty room with some firewood. During this time, the party is allocated a certain amount of camping points to use camping spells. These spell can reduce stress and increase health, but the better the skill is the more points it will use up. It adds a lot compared to the typical “rest button” in most other games that just heals everyone up. While it wasn’t in this demo, I was briefed on the town aspects of the game as well, which will function similar to XCOM: Enemy Unknown. While at the town, players can recruit more characters, especially if theirs have died since death is permanent. This is also where players will access the various areas, which they may go to at any time. The exception to this is the last dungeon, which is the titular Darkest Dungeon. Spoooooky! The art is amazing and does a lot to add to the dark and morose tone that the game sets up. Attack animations aren't fluid swipes and movements, but rather a quick frame change with a smash cut that really add impact to attacks and spells. The art is clean, yet grimy. I loved looking at it because of how grimy the characters looked. The atmosphere is absolutely perfect, which adds a lot to Darkest Dungeon.  I came away from Darkest Dungeon with nothing but a lust to play more. I really enjoyed what the team at Red Hook Studios has put together so far and am eagerly awaiting the full game's release. If you're interested in Darkest Dungeon but missed out on the Kickstarter, you can still buy/pre-order the game from their website.
Darkest Dungeon photo
I didn't panic, and neither did my crew
Hot off its huge Kickstarter success, Darkest Dungeon is already in a playable-enough state to have a demo at PAX East 2014. Although the demo was only a short snippet of what's to come, it was easy to get a sense of the them...

Aaru's Awakening is all about movement

Apr 17 // Patrick Hancock
Aaru has two main moves at its disposal: the charge and the glowy ball. A charge will launch Aaru in the direction of the cursor and can be used to break through cracked walls, add some needed elevation to a jump, or just redirect Aaru quickly in order to avoid something. This is of course in addition to being able to move and jump around like a normal bird-beast-thing. The glowy ball can be shot out at varying levels of power in the direction of the cursor. At any time, Aaru can then teleport to the glowy ball. This allows Aaru to get through tiny cracks and even kill enemies. If Aaru teleports to the ball while it is inside an enemy, Aaru will then kill that enemy. Using all of the available movement techniques makes the player feel like they can go anywhere. Jumping, charging, and teleporting all in the same jump made me feel like a badass, even if I eventually ended up dying afterwards. It can be quite flustering to chain any moves together. Perhaps it was because jump was mapped to the W key, but I frequently forgot I could even jump at times. Generally, my first instinct was to charge, which doesn’t get as high as a jump but still felt more natural because it was mapped to the spacebar. [embed]273403:53456:0[/embed] The hand-drawn art of Aaru’s Awakening is beautiful in person. Most everything from the character designs to the environments were breathtaking. There were some background effects that I thought were stage hazards, however, which led to some unnecessary deaths. Some of the animations for enemies weren’t up to the standard of the rest of the art, either. It’s likely because these weren’t finished yet, or at least I hope that's the case. Aaru’s Awakening is a great blend of platforming with just a hint of puzzle-solving, thanks to Aaru’s friend Mr. Glowyball Jr. (Mr. Glowyball Sr. is the Sun, which, ironically enough, sunlight hurts Aaru). Some of the art needs to be raised to the standard of the rest of the game, but the core mechanics are solid enough to have me wanting more. Aaru’s Awakening has an alpha demo here, if you'd like to try it yourself!
Aaru's Awakening at PAX photo
Kill enemies by teleporting *in* them
I’ve been interested in Aaru’s Awakening ever since its announcement captivated me with its hand-drawn art style. It’s pretty hard to pass up playing a game that looks the way Aaru’s Awakening does. Fr...

Defense Grid 2 hands-on photo
Defense Grid 2 hands-on

Defense Grid 2 will welcome user-created content


And it's not hats!
Apr 17
// Patrick Hancock
Hidden Path Entertainment sure does know how to make some good videogames. Defense Grid and its expansion are a blast for any tower defense fan, but they've also done Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Age of Empires I...
Hack N Slash PAX photo
Hack N Slash PAX

I hacked a bush in Double Fine's Hack N Slash


Take that, stupid bush
Apr 14
// Patrick Hancock
With a name like Hack N Slash, it’s easy to assume exactly what’s in the package and dismiss it. Then people hear it’s from Double Fine and expectations immediately change for the better, as they should. Hac...

Gods Will Be Watching stressed me the hell out

Apr 14 // Patrick Hancock
[embed]273248:53398:0[/embed] Gods Will Be Watching began as a game jam game, but the reception was so good that the developers, all five of them, decided to expand the concept into a full game. Players are put into an unfavorable scenario with the simple task to handle it. The scenario at PAX was in some sort of hi-tech facility, where my team of brigands had already captured 4 hostages, and a SWAT team-like force was bearing down on us. I had to buy enough time so my buddy could hack the entire system in order to escape. The hostages proved a big problem to tackle. When clicking on the hostages, I had a myriad of options including to calm them down, shout at them, kick them, or kill them. If I was too mean to them, they could try to commit suicide. If I was too lax, they would take advantage and mutiny. I never did find the right middle ground, since my first attempt was very brief as the SWAT team killed us, and the second time each and every hostage tried to run out, leaving me with no collateral. Keeping the SWAT team at bay was a matter of using one of my other cohorts to either fire at them or to negotiate. Either one would help postpone their march, buying me more time to finish the hack. Another ally could charge up his hack boost, and it could be unleashed once it got to an acceptable percentage. He could also display another screen on a camera, allowing me to keep an eye on how close the SWAT team actually was to the room. You have to be an awesome juggler to succeed at Gods Will Be Watching. If you get too caught up with one thing, say, the hostages, another will come and bite you in the butt (like the SWAT team). Scenarios are very tense, making it very easy to lose concentration and blow an entire scenario. It’s also a game that will test players’ ethics and resolve, making it a game that’s also incredibly enjoyable to just watch and see how certain people react to certain scenarios. Gods Will Be Watching will be out in June for PC. You can play the original game jam game here.
 photo
I thought I was a nice person...
I have found myself both playing and looking forward to more and more “point-and-click” games in the past few years than ever before. I didn’t grow up with games like Day of the Tentacle or the Monkey Island...







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