Sunday, November 30, 2014

An in Depth Look at: 7 Days to Die (Alpha 10)

The industry has been overrun by the zombie market for quite some time now. Year after year a whole slew of undead entertainment is thrown at our faces as developers continue to milk the horde for all its worth. My most recent adventure into zombie territory is an indie title currently standing in alpha, yet has gotten quite a bit attention over the course of its development. 

7 Days to Die is yet another sandbox, zombie, survival title created by a small studio that goes by the name The Fun Pimps. Though the overall concept has been explored all too much these past few years, 7 Days to Die offers something the rest of the market has only slightly touched on. 7 Days to Die offers a lot of what the competition is holding but adds intricate building features as you would see in a game such as Minecraft as well as an in depth crafting system. Scouring wastelands for food and supplies has become a tedious task that we take part in all too often, but having the ability to build and fortify structures in order to take shelter from the horde is a concept that has been greatly overlooked. Unlike Minecraft, building gorgeous structures in 7 Days to Die holds purpose. You are not just building shelter to hide from explosive green creatures or angry spiders. Your mighty fortress will be built in an intuitive manner in order to keep wave after wave of vicious undead from tearing you limb from limb. Since long nights can breed such a hostile environment the game holds tremendous focus on providing the player with ample opportunity to upgrade and reinforce structures in order to create as much breathing room as possible. Players will choose from various building materials to make walls and reinforce them with metal plating to give themselves enough time to clean out invaders before they tear through the players walls.  This can be an invigorating experience and having the creative freedom to construct your own defense in the manner that you see fit provides hours of game play as you watch your handmade structures evolve into zombie death traps. 

Every one of the countless items you will find in the wastes serves a purpose and this makes exploring the virtually endless maps of 7 Days to Die quite enjoyable. You will sneak through dilapidated cities, kill your way through infested villages, and hunt for game in numerous environments all while scavenging for weapons, tools, crafting materials and nourishment. The expansive crafting system in 7 Days to Die is impressive. Players use crafting materials to create a seemingly endless amount of items such as weapons, meals, building materials, traps and much more. Over time you will find yourself in a field of storage chests filled with crafted goods and the materials to make them. The crafting and building in this game is some of its most endearing qualities and is largely responsible for me returning to the game, having now dumped over a hundred hours into it.

7 Days to Die features a day / night cycle and allows the host to determine the length of each. In game you will follow a course of thirty days until the server resets the calendar. As more days pass hordes will grow in size and the game will get increasingly more difficult. This of course encourages players to start building and fortifying early in the week as to not be caught face to face with a horde of fifty zombies and nowhere to run, but zombies are not the only threat here. Large falls will land players a broken leg, hindering movement until it heals (hopefully with the aid of a splint). Hunger and dehydration will force a player to an untimely end and facing disease will cripple a players stamina. This forces you to play smart and be weary of your surroundings as the harsh conditions can seriously hinder your chances of survival.

Being in alpha, 7 Days to Die is currently afloat in a sea of bugs and glitches. This is to be expected so early in development, but if wonky doors, falling through maps and broken items are the bane of your existence you may be better off waiting for a later version. In it's current state the game is visually uninspiring and lacks sound quality as well as any music whatsoever. But it seems The Fun Pimps have been working diligently on improving the game and getting it ready for a proper release.

7 Days to Die has a lot to offer. Though the game is still in early development it's easy to see how 7 Days to Die will evolve into an extremely in depth and gratifying experience. Those who enjoy building, crafting and killing zombies will find countless hours of entertainment here and will likely come back for more as the game evolves. With obvious potential, 7 Days to Die could very well end up being a game that is often talked about as development continues.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Definitive Guide for PVP: SCH (FFXIV)

Revolving mainly around PVE, getting a start in PVP can be a bit unnerving when it comes to FFXIV. With plenty of experience under my belt I have decided to compile some of my hard earned wisdom into a guide specifically tailored to players that have developed an interest in excelling in this department. The guide below has been constructed explicitly for my all time favorite class, the Scholar. With this guide I have also taken it upon myself to include a video recorded with a couple of friends of mine, putting the points made in this guide to good use.

Why Scholar?
Some might notice that SCH doesn't receive a whole lot of attention compared to its counterpart, WHM. SCH is a class that is severely underestimated due to the sheer potency that WHM actions possess, but the SCH has numerous advantages that tend to be overlooked. With a reasonable amount of practice these advantages can make SCH an equally (if not superiorly) appealing choice in most situations. 

What really makes the Scholar shine?
No doubt there are numerous things that make the SCH stand out, but there are a few capabilities that without question take the spotlight.

Sure, Selene has her merits. But when it comes to PVP, Eos reigns supreme. Your pet is very much the lifeblood of the SCH and without it a players healing capabilities would be severely gimped. In PVP Eos will provide additional healing throughout battles as well as ensure stable footing while in Cleric Stance.

Getting the best results out of your pet is obtained through controlling Eos yourself. This ensures Eos is always healing the individual that needs it most and allows you to use skills that come with longer cooldowns as they are needed. Traditionally speaking I prefer Eos to be in "Guard" stance. Placing Eos on Guard gives her the freedom to use Embrace as she see's fit but saves her most circumstantial skills for the player to use when most needed. One might think, You said, controlling Eos ensures Eos is always healing the individual that needs it most!
But wait! There's more...

On her own Eos is certainly impressive, but with the use of a few macro's the Scholar can go from a good healer, to an amazing healer. For the most part this can be achieved by simply replacing all of your basic heals with a macro which commands Eos to cast embrace in conjunction with the action in question.

In example: 
By using Physick in unison with Embrace, a SCH can essentially turn it's most basic heal spell into the equivalent of Cure II all while burning significantly less MP. This allows the SCH to further excel at one of its most endearing qualities, exceptional MP management. 

For those of you that are a bit lost in the world of Macro's, below I have taken the liberty of doing the work for you.


But what about Medica II? True, Medica II is a fantastic way to provide AOE heals with the added bonus of regen, but with the help of a Macro, SCH can achieve similarly appealing results in this department. Simply make a seperate macro that commands Eos to cast Whispering Dawn while you cast Succor. Whereas Medica II can be used more frequently This macro can be used in conjunction with Rouse and Fey Illumination to provide superior HP regeneration. Though Succor heals for significantly less than Medica II, it also casts Galvanize on all who are in range, providing damage mitigation in addition to healing. So long as your party is hanging close by you can offer additional damage mitigation with the use of Sacred Soil. Whispering Dawn is an extremely valuable pet action and should be used often. 

Lustrate is arguably one of the best actions in all of FFXIV. Yes Benediction provides a WHM with the ability to offer an instant full heal to any party member on its last leg, but you are greatly mistaken if you believe this gives WHM an advantage over SCH. With the use of an Aetherflow stack a SCH can provide an instant 25% heal to any chosen target. Unlike Benediction, Lustrate allows a SCH to split up massive heals as it see's fit amongst numerous targets in need. Since the amount of times a SCH can cast lustrate is dependent on the amount of Aetherflow stacks a SCH has at its disposal, a SCH with three Aetherflow stacks ready and Aetherflow off cooldown can rapid fire six instant cast 25% heals in a row. Not only can this result in a massive amount of healing in a short period of time, but Lustrate is unaffected by Cleric Stance since it is a percentile heal. Meaning, SCH can be dishing out commendable amounts of damage all while having its most powerful heal at it's disposal. Being able to use Lustrate in Cleric Stance means while Eos is providing steady, mediocre heals, you can still counteract substantial amounts of damage throughout your party with the use of Aetherflow stacks all while keeping your dots in check. For this reason I highly encourage saving your Aetherflow stacks for Lustrate unless a situation arises where a Sacred Soil or Bane would be considered extremely useful.

Sprint! (And why it's your best friend)
When it comes to clearing out a tight knit group, killing the healer is of utmost importance. For this reason a SCH must always be alert and ready to take a defensive stance. When it comes to survivability one of your best friends is an action that is easily overlooked, and that action is Sprint! A SCH has little use for TP and therefore has the ability to use Sprint far more frequently than a lot of classes with little to no consequence. When finding yourself under fire, Sprint is an amazing way to put ground between you and your pursuer, not only does this allow you to avoid damage more easily but while sprinting a SCH still has means of replenishing health with Lustrate and Embrace. Embrace will be particularly tricky to use in this fashion but situationally speaking you will be able to get some extra heals in with the assistance of Eos.

When it comes to a one on one encounter it is extremely difficult to best a skilled SCH. In all my time with Frontlines, I have only been defeated once in such an encounter (by an especially skilled Monk. Hats off to you, good sir). SCH is a class that can dish out considerable damage for a healer, and with the added benefit of Lustrate and Eos, SCH makes an especially dangerous foe when no backup is to be found. In one on one combat there are a few things that a SCH should keep in mind to ensure an easy win. 

Though the SCH can do an adequate amount of damage, it goes without saying that is doesn't take a whole lot of damage to kill one. And since dots can do their thing while a SCH tends to other matters, survivability will be your main focus when it comes to 1v1. Fortunately the scholar is quite effective in the means of escapism.

The best start to a 1v1 encounter is knowing that your enemy is approaching before your are in immediate danger. In a situation where you have a moment to breathe before taking off, take a moment to throw up Bio II on your enemy. This way you already have some damage in place while you are getting your bearings straight. Your next step is to kite the enemy the best you can. Since Miasma does not "slow" in PVP  your best bet here is Sprint. If you notice your enemy has used Sprint already, try to hold off on blowing Sprint straight away, otherwise your opponent will have a means of staying on your heel.

Cleric Stance is highly recommended in a 1v1 situation as it will increase the damage a SCH is dishing out and you will have little chance to get off a heal that requires a cast time. Leave the healing to Lustrate and Eos.

While you have the advantage of distance, use terrain if possible to acquire a little extra breathing room here and there. This extra distance will you give you time to get what damage you can in while not having to worry about sacrificing heals in place of damage. Immediately start working your dots in. Because they are instant, Bio, the cross-class action Aero (from WHM) and Miasma II (when an enemy is close enough) are going to be your dots of choice here. Avoid using Instant Cast for damage at his time as its going to be needed in case the enemy closes in.

From here on out Ruin II becomes especially useful because it is your wimpy nuke that can be cast while on the move. Purify will likely be needed to get out of binds.

As your enemy starts to close in, your priority will quickly shift to buffs and debuffs. This is an essential time frame because it will provide the chance to mitigate extra damage before they lunge in for the kill. You will be focusing on popping Rouse, Whispering Dawn and Fey Illumination on yourself and Virus on your opponent. Save Instant Cast for an extra quick heal or to resummon Eos if your enemy is smart and manages to take her out.

At this point you may have to let your dots do the work while you focus on survival until Sprint is once again an option. Once Sprint cools down the SCH will rinse and repeat.

Most enemies will regret the move of attacking you at some point in the fight and will decide to make a run for it. If this happens let your opponent go and regroup with your party. Chasing a stray takes time away from doing your job and a healer will benefit very little from the pursuit.

Arranging your HUD
For those who are like me and use a combination of buttons and clicks to use your skills, your HUD layout will be especially important. Making sure that your Party List as well as your Alliance List are as close as possible to your action bar can make a significant difference. Make sure you play around with your HUD until you find something that works well for you.

Keep in mind
For a better end of match report, it is essential that you stay with your party to the best of your ability. The more you stay with your party, the more healing you will be able to dish out. Knowing your class is important, but teamwork is a must. Properly using the strategies I have presented you with will provide a considerable boost to your performance in battle. For a better idea of how to implement these tactics, watch the video I have provided below.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Deadlight Review

Over the last few years we have seen just about everything zombie within the realms of possibility, but never before have we seen it quite like this. Taking place in the 80's for seemingly no reason whatsoever, Deadlight is a side scrolling platforming puzzle game which puts the player in the shoes of protagonist Randall Wayne. Randall Wayne is a grizzly looking manly man in search of his family from which he has been separated. Seattle has been overrun by a sickness that has spread and turned its inhabitants into the flesh eating, walking undead known simply as "shadows".

The first thing that will jump at you while playing Deadlight is its apparent dreary look and atmosphere. This is something that Deadlight does indisputably well. A blend of dark shadows against brightly lit, yet washed out backgrounds set a tone that is perfect for the games setting. The thing that impressed me the most about the in game visuals and environments is the way the developers made this obviously two dimensional adventure seem very un-two dimensional. From time to time you will stumble into areas that have a breathtaking amount of depth for a side-scroller. Often given the illusion that the background is much more than just a background, almost giving you the urge to explore it. The bulk of the main story is done through comic like stills that are equally impressive and also fit the games tone just right.

But does the story stand up to the games impressive lighting and dynamic environments? Unfortunately it does not. The story here is fairly cliche, something you may expect from an older budget title of days passed. It's not that the story was absolutely terrible, it just simply falls into the category of mediocre. As far as the games ending is concerned, the story gets an A for effort, but its delivery is poorly executed, ultimately stealing the thunder of the moment.

To go with the games dreary look is a wonderful, eerie and atmospheric soundtrack of ambiance that harmoniously melds with the games visual experience. Its obvious that a lot of care wen't into this games soundtrack and the effort has certainly paid off. Yet I can't say the same for the games atrocious voice acting and dialogue. Randall Wayne's voice definitely holds a certain gruffness that one would expect from a giant man with an epic beard. But gruffness doesn't go the distance when it comes to voice acting. A lot of the voices in this game make cheesy B-rate acting seem wonderful and a few interesting lines aside, the games dialogue seems forced and at times unnecessary.

All the things mentioned above can still sum up to a great experience, but most of my frustrations with the game come from the titles mediocre gameplay. Aside from a few overly frustrating parts, the game doesn't offer much in the way of challenge. Keep in mind that this is coming from a guy who tends to stray from titles involving heavy platforming and puzzles. Deadlight is extremely linear and though there are a fair amount of collectibles to be found, the game offers very little in the ways of exploration. After finishing my first play-through with the game I had a an overall completion of over 85% percent. I had found a great many of the games collectibles, though I wasn't really looking for them. In fact, I didn't particularly find many roads straying from the beaten path. As far as puzzles are concerned there are definitely a few moments here and there that had me scratching my head, but the end result of the puzzles failed to wow me in any way. Deadlights gameplay is about as straight forward as it gets. 

Deadlight focuses greatly on survival. Your best bet is to avoid the undead at all cost and a lot of the time it almost seems like there is no danger of combat whatsoever. But its the moments when combat is unavoidable that emphasize just how clunky and frustrating the combat system really is. Swinging your ax around uses up stamina. When your stamina runs dry you will have to wait a frustratingly long time for it to refill. Simply hacking away at zombies with your ax will get you no further than knocking a zombie down, providing you with a few moments until they are once again on their feet. When on the ground players can bring the ax down on disabled enemies for a kill. In small numbers this is fine, but when facing an overwhelming number of zombies you might as well throw yourself at them until they rip you apart allowing you to restart at the last check point. It doesn't help that the controls, especially when it comes to platforming, are simply passable. Normally I would ease up on infrequent clunky and unresponsiveness in controls. But seeing as this is a platformer, I personally feel the controls should be the most solid of all the games aspects. Usually the occasional wonkyness with controls is fine, but its frantic situations when you need to make every jump and attack count that this can cause agonizing frustration. 

Deadlight is definitely not the worst title I have ever played. It gets a lot of respect for making an attempt on something new and refreshing in a genre that has nearly been beaten to death. But with lack luster gameplay, a campaign of three to five hours, some bugs including crashing, horrible voice acting and equally unimpressive dialogue I couldn't consciously recommend this title for a price of fifteen dollars. If you find it on sale for five bucks and some of the games aspects intrigue you, give it a go.  


- Impressive Visuals 

- Diverse Environments 

- Great Soundtrack


- Linear 

- Terrible Voice Acting

- Too Short

- Uninspiring Gameplay


6.4 / 10