Monthly Archives: May 2023

Game review: Into the Pit for Steam

You ever have a guest who overstays their welcome? They finished the wine and drank all your bourbon as well. Now they’re looking like they might go through the kitchen cabinets to find something else to amuse themselves with, and you just want to say “Well you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”

That’s what Into the Pit feels like. It’s an absolutely gorgeous game with great music, art style and gameplay that should have been a 5 star contender. From the moment it opens with a short cutscene establishing the main character’s quest to find their missing cousin, the bold use of bright colors mixed with pixelated shadows make an impressive impact. In short order, the game guides said character to the eponymous pit to rescue not only their hell-bound cousin, but also all of the villagers who followed the town’s alderman on a false promise of finding riches beyond their wildest dreams.

Diving into the pit itself, the player is given weapons, a pair of magic “guns” bound to their right and left hands, as well as a talent that might be something like a chance to regain health after dispatching demons or being coated in poison so that enemy melee attacks will harm them in turn. From the center hub of each floor, there are four  areas that must be cleared to unlock another level down, leading eventually to the fifth floor where a boss fight is waiting. The dungeons are labeled, so you know what kind of rune is available to harvest, or whether there’s an imprisoned villager to rescue, or just a pool of health to recover a bit from the tougher rooms. To escape each room, a set number of mystic keys must be destroyed. Lots of early rooms will only have one or two, but deeper floors in the pit can go as high as four keys. (Oh, and lots of keys have a hidden ambush mechanic, teleporting in a large number of enemies as a form of defense. As a rule of thumb, if an area looks clear, it’s probably an ambush ready to punish player overconfidence.) Continue reading

Manga review: Claymore by Norihiro Yagi

This is going to start random, but a few months back I was watching a compilation of Japanese commercials. Back in my teens, before anime went legit in the states, folks in Japan would mail tapes of the latest shows overseas, and some import shops would have these shows available to borrow. It was there that I got hooked on the insanity that is Japanese advertising, and now it’s a regular habit of mine to go on YouTube to see collections of the “best” ads in glorious HD.

So, in the middle of one such stream was an ad for a manga app that promised everything was free to read. I wondered if the app was available here in Italy, and it is, under the name MANGA Plus by SHUEISHA. After just a few days of reading, I started thinking that perhaps I should add manga reviews to  the blog. It’s a perfect fit, really. For this first outing, I’ll be reviewing a manga that I collected in paperback form, but I’m now rereading on the app, Claymore.

Created by Norihiro Yagi, Claymore is initially the story of Claire, a warrior fighting the demonic Yoma with a giant sword. Early on, she insists that the name Claymore isn’t a proper title for her people. Rather it is simply the name the humans use for them because of the weapons they wield. This group of hunters are all women who have ingested the blood and flesh of Yoma, granting them super strength and speed. The organization they work for tried to do the same thing with men, but they all died horribly painful deaths. So, this mercenary army of “silver-eyed witches” patrol the country, slaying demons on commission. Continue reading

The Diablo IV Server Slam report

This weekend, Blizzard released a beta build of Diablo IV, the “Server Slam” meant to test the quality of the game’s network and hopefully prevent the access errors that plagued the previous game. When this was first announced as another always online game, my interest sank rapidly. I didn’t get Diablo III until it moved to console and dropped the online aspect. Even then, I didn’t really care for most classes, and only managed to finish the game once with the witch doctor.

The thing is, after I got my new phone and found it could play Diablo Immortal, I reactivated my Bettle.Net account to see if it was as bad as I’d heard. I didn’t expect to play much, so I named my first character AynGonalaslong. I played for a few hours, and then I started other character classes to see how they were, and now I’m only missing notes on the Necromancer before I can give a full, proper review. But the short version is, I love playing Diablo Immortal. So, in light of my enjoyment of this always online game, I decided to see what Diablo IV could offer.

Much like Immortal, Diablo IV has a tutorial section that’s offline. As soon as I completed that, I got hit with massive lag. I thought it was my crap PC, so I removed the high definition assets and lowered all the graphics settings to low. That didn’t work, but on restarting the game, I noticed the other players popping up in the hub town around me and realized it was network lag. So I logged out for a few hours, had some lunch and tried again. This time, things were better. I still experienced moments of lag, but they were fleeting, and only occurred every few hours instead of being a constant slog through rubber band hell. (During my first attempt to play, every time I stopped moving, my character would slide backwards to meet up with where the server thought I should be.) Continue reading

Let’s talk about the co-op in Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep

When I got Borderlands 2 on my PS Vita, it had all the DLC pre-loaded, so I got to play Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep a while back. I mostly remember how often the difficulty spikes came close to breaking my desire to finish the story, with certain areas just being a pattern of me dying and running back from a spawn point to get killed over and over again. The DLC got turned into a stand-alone game, and between those two events, the hubbers and I have played co-op on Borderlands, Borderlands 2, and part of Borderlands 3. So I figured, why not see if going in with a buddy could make the harder parts less annoying.

The short answer is, it’s a mixed bag. Certainly, having someone able to revive me or vice versa did reduce the number of times needed to run back, and an extra set of guns dulled some of those difficulty spikes. But there are still times when, even after side questing to level up, the game just gets painfully difficult. I could just stop here and call this a completed post, but I want to highlight places where that is the case, while also talking about my positive impressions about other aspects of the game.

So, firstly, our team was made of one gunzerker, hubby’s preferred class, and one mechromancer, because who doesn’t want to summon a third player when the shit hits the fan? I tried to convince hubby to do a commando and give us a fourth “player.” But he loves dual weilding so much that logic wasn’t going to convince him otherwise. (And yeah, it bit him in the ass, and he later said, “I should have gone with the commando.”) Continue reading

Versus series: MMO Battle Royale

You may recall in my last Versus series post, I said I would be pitting Anarchy Online with both Runescapes and Saga of Ryzom (Now just titled Ryzom) to sort out which one I’d rather pay a membership subscription for. I also said that decision might take a while, but it turns out, finding a winner was easier than I thought. But to draw out the tension, I’ll talk about the losers bracket first.

Anarchy Online ended up with the first easy loss for several reasons. Since I’d left, all of my old accounts were frozen, and some genius decided to get rid of the old tutorial in favor of a hot mess that they called a simplified introduction. The controls were somehow more terrible than I remembered, and the graphics were awful. Early levels were a chore, falling into a pattern of “fight, then sit down to recover health for two minutes.” Then when I finally got to the mainland, I was reminded how pretty much every starting solo and group mission fell into the same loop. Walk for ten minutes dodging high level mobs to reach a “cave.” (The interiors are always filled with hallways and sliding doors that someone installed for reasons unknown.) Fight a collection of enemies and collect an item. It’s boring, it’s ugly, and it controls like a tank. Hard pass, and moving along.

Then we have Runescape Old School, which fares much better despite also having lower quality graphics. Yes, I said in the contest between it and the newer version that it had less to offer, but no matter when I boot it up, I always find something to do, and it’s not always “go over there and fight X monster.” I might be baking a pie, or mining metal to forge new weapons and armor to sell. When I choose to fight, the combat is simple and relaxing. It’s just a lovely zen game where the whole point is “make numbers go up.” So if I did have a larger budget to toss out for subscriptions, I’d still want to get the full paid experience that this old school gem has to offer. Continue reading