Kingdoms of Amalur

In February of 2012, Ymiris & I were playing Skyrim, DotA2, and Diablo III.  Those three games were it, the pinnacle of our gaming year, and we were happy with that.   Now, two years later, there are still Skyrim quests I wish I could go do, but I just can’t bring myself back to that white-washed world.  DotA2 has gotten a lot better, with new tutorials, nicer players, and purchasable outfits, but it sucks up too much time and only I am interested in it.  Diablo III – I admit it, I regret my time playing that; sure, it was a great hack-and-slash game, with it’s easy controls and progressively better equipment, but it felt so shallow when the purchaseable items could become outdated so quickly, like the game became too transparent for the underlying commercialism.  (Sure, I know the point of every game is to make money, but it would be nice if the developers tried to hide it better)

Why am I recapping February of 2012 for you?  Because that is when Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning was released, and we missed it.  I may have folded a page in PC Gamer for it, and Ymiris may have forwarded me an advertisement for it, but I can honestly say I was not interested.  The cover art makes it look like a God of War or Gears of War lookalike, full of blood and gore and a one-path plotline with no interesting characters; an FPS meant to appeal to hard-core FPS gamers.  I’m here to say : DO NOT LOOK AT THE ART ON THE BOX!  It is not a GoW lookalike.

Amalur is Skyrim’s questing, fast-travel system, and skill tree diversity, World of Warcrafts coloring, Dragon Age’s choice-based dialogues, God of War’s monster battles, and Diablo III’s ease of controls.  That’s it, if you are looking for a quick summary.

Now to tell you why a 2-year-old game has been our new apex to which other couple games will now be compared.

1) The diversity means it appeals to so many different play styles.

Ymiris & I don’t play games the same way.  I play for characters, game changes based on choices, and to join a beautiful, complex world for just a while; I play as an escape where I feel like I’m progessing.  I asked Ymiris why he plays games; his reply was “so my wife doesn’t beat me”, so I’ll have to answer for him.  He plays as a way to be entertained that stimulates his mind, which usually translates to an FPS with monsters that can awe him.

Despite being a single-player game, there were aspects we both had input on.  Which skill trees we put points in and how we answer questlines  - these two aspects can drastically change how we decide to play a character.

The Destiny skill tree is the first obvious example of this.  Ymiris is more hands-on in fighting, and I need to be a ranged magician, so we consistently put equal points in Rogue & Mage, a valid destiny tree that allowed us to cast spells as well as backstab to our heart’s content.  There are even armor and weapons that feed this destiny that we could both choose – daggers with mana regeneration, or boots that increase poison and fire damage.  Of course, we ended up with a Dagger-Chakram combo because Chakrams are incredibly more fun than staves, and I found that when I was really stressed out, the key-combination to cast spells was suddenly too complicated.

The Skill tree was the next place that we had to collaborate on what our Couple playing style was.  We started out with a little in everything – Alchemy, Dispelling, Lockpicking, but ultimately maxed out Persuasion and Stealth first which meant that I could talk our NPCs into doing things they wouldn’t otherwise, and Ymiris could do some wonderful stabby moves, killing enemies in one quick movement (that took AN HOUR to get to! Seriously, sweetie, sometimes you don’t have to start the stealth from the NEXT MOUNTAIN OVER. GAH!)

Once you start down a skill tree, you start seeing what your personal Couple Play Style is.  After finishing the main questline & trying out the DLC, we discovered how much fun it is to create our own armor & weapons.  Into my second glass of wine, we created “Pugskin Stiletto’s” after our pug punctured my chest for the third time, and we created the “Pointy daggers of DOOOOOOOOM”, which has been WAY too much fun.

With your character defined, you now get to put this definition into the questlines. For the most part, the main questline is defined : you’re going to have to take on the bad guy.  However, what & how you do it changes things.  We are the Co-Queens of the House of Ballads with a crazy-but-realistic Maid.  We also own a house in a village populated by people, instead of spiders.. though, the house once belonged to a guy we kinda’ turned in as a murdering asshole.  The point is – the choices we made, we made together, which made it OUR game.. a couple game.

2) Low cost of entrance

Titanfall requires a mastery of the controls to play well.  KoA:R does not.  I first picked up the controller while Ymiris went to get a drink long after the tutorial, and was able to figure out how to do incredible damage pretty much instinctively.  One button for one weapon, one button for another.  Voila.  So while getting the basics down is easy, the there are also ways of mastering

3) Parts to Play Apart

Every good couple knows that there are times you cannot be together.  One of the first times I almost stabbed Ymiris is when we bought a motorcycle together when we were first dating.  He would ride the motorcycle to & from work, and then I would want to go for a ride when he got home – but he wasn’t interested in doing so because he had just finished a 30 minute ride.  I promptly bought my OWN motorcycle, thank you very much.  Point is, if you both like to do the same thing, you need to find a way to play both together and apart.

KoA:R has the main quest line that you should do together, and there are faction questlines that you can play together if you want, and then there are side questlines.  If Ymiris is outside in the cold, then I am taking off to help someone who’s husband was kidnapped.  I have to run to the store, so Ymiris did some of the map research so we could fast-travel places.  Side quests rarely change anything major, though they might, as with the village of spiders vs. NPCs, but they are still fun.

Now for some downsides.

I will say that this game IS buggy.  As I write this, we spoke to a quest-give in a cage, and by the time the conversation was over, we had glitched so that we were now locked in the cage with her.  Ymiris has to Fast Travel to get out, and run all the way back through.  With the weird repetitive cut-movies and close-ups of creatures that appear after the movie, this was not the first glitch, but it’s one of the most annoying.

The game is currently free on PS3 (or was recently), with some DLC that costs $10 each.  I suggest getting the Dead Kel DLC, especially if you are a fan of Futurama, which is really what made that entire $10 so worth it.  Please go get it – we need to tell developers why this was good, and to please make more like it!

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Beyond Electronics #1 : Dixit

About five years ago, Ymiris met a couple on Twitter, and the couple shortly thereafter pronounced us their BFFs, despite my greatest attempts to be as anti-social and awkward as possible. Upon this announcement, and the accompanying announcement that friday’s are forever known afterwards as “Bob and Lala nights”, we realized things will need to be done with said friends. It started out small, with card games like “64″ and poker. Then it opened into Fluxx, and I was introduced to a regular DnD group. After that, we delved into Munchkin, Zombie Dice, The Walking Dead, and down the rabbit hole we went, officially hooked on tabletop games as a valid form of entertainment with friends. Cards Against Humanity on drinking nights, and New Years Eve was devoted to me running Mansions of Madness.

Despite all this, it is only today that I realized CoupleGaming should realize that it is okay to put down the mouse/controller, and spend $60 on a game that will pull you, as a couple, together with other couples. So, crack open the wine, lower your inhibitions like you were 21 again, and give it a try — I promise it won’t hurt, and you may even enjoy it.

Today, we’re going to talk about Dixit. It’s a good beginners tabletop game you need 3+ people to play, and the more the merrier. The rules are simple – everyone takes (5?) beautiful, artistic cards. One person is chosen to go first, who looks at their cards and chooses one. They describe to the group their perception of the card – a story, a color, an emotion, a word – then lays the card face-down in front of them. Everyone else picks their best card that could be described by this story/color/emotion/word, and gives it face-down to the chosen one. Once all cards are gathered, they are mixed and laid face-up in front of everyone. Now the voting happens – everyone (except the chosen one) guesses which card was the chosen ones card.
Scoring is where it gets tricky. If EVERYONE figured out the chosen ones card, the chosen one loses & everyone else gets a point. If it is split, then players whose cards got chosen get points.
Easy game, beautifully drawn cards, and it shows enough personality that discussion for why cards were chosen makes it a great getting-to-know-you game.
You can get through about ten games without getting bored of the cards, but after that you’ll want to look into picking up an expansion pack. The artistry really makes the game, so much so that it could be put in a frame afterwards as displayed art.

Next, I’m hoping to review Fluxx. If you decide to make it to a specialty gaming store, or happen to be on Amazon looking for something to do with friends &/or family on a weekend, and can’t wait for reviews, try checking out Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop Gaming podcasts; he can get incredibly annoying, and I’d never want to actually play a game with him, but it gives you a good idea of what the gameplay is and if you would like it.

Good Luck into your non-electronic foray, Couples!

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Torchlight : We’re just playing it just for you.

With the incredible popularity of recorded gamers such as Tobuscus, Pewdiepie, & Cry, and because for some reason people are still listening to, and I assume enjoying, our podcasts, Ymiris has mentioned more than once that we should begin recording our CoupleGaming sessions.

I’m not entirely sure how successful this will be. I’ve watched the above reviewers, and it seems like a lot of screaming, with the exception of Cry (<3 Cry! Sshh, don’t tell Ymiris, but we’ll always have Corpse Party). Then again, I’ve watched the CupQuake couple play Minecraft, and was amused for way longer than I thought. Isn’t half of CoupleGaming about how much we enjoy watching the other person play? We share in their victories and frustrations, making fun of their stupid moves and laugh at their fearful screams, acknowledging that we were on the edge of our seat as well.

With that in mind, we decided to try streaming ourselves playing a Co-Op game. Truthfully, it was a little difficult to stream co-op games. First, you have to find one. Second, you have to tear me away from forcing my Sims Kingdom queen into a lesbian relationship with a pirate lass that goes overseas a lot, so she ends up having a fling with the evil Shopkeeper (shopkeepess?) that was modeled after an Evil Fire Elementalist (Mab Monroe from the Elemental Assassin series), but then the lecherous witch… WAIT. Sorry. There is a lot of drama in my Sims Kingdom. So, yes, third would be the technological difficulties.

We have overcome all of these with Ymiris’ tech inventiveness, my inattentiveness to what he spent to make it work, and Torchlight, which I can NOT get enough of. I find myself coming home every night & asking “SO?! Are we playing tonight??”

Torchlight is a colorful Diablo 3. It’s also a bit more fun with how many characters you can choose, the in-depth choices of your character points, spells, and clothing, and your pet (or slave slut, in Ymiris’ case).

We’re enjoying the HELL out of this game… so come join us! We’ll even accept criticism.. unless it’s “Ophilye, put down the wine”.. because we all know that isn’t going to happen.

http://www.twitch.tv/thecouplegamers

(I think we also own http://twitch.tv/couplegaming as well.. but Ymiris can’t figure out what email it went to, so it’s lost)

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2 “Don’t Even Rent on Redbox” and 1 “Worth It!”

For the record… do not waste any sort of time, money, or brain power on Adventure Time anything.
As a huge fan of Ooo, this makes me very sad to say; I really, truly wanted to live there and play with Finn, Jake, Marcelline, BGP, and all the weird little animals (not Treetrunks, though. That monstrosity gives me old-people nightmares). But every game I have tried is buggy, repetitive, would not even download on my phone if it were free. Seriously, I would knit before any playing either the Adventure Time DS game or the “Explore the Dungeon because I Don’t Know” game. I don’t know who was paid to make these games, but they may have hired someone from the early 80′s to make it. I don’t mean to say they are retro.. I mean to say that this is equivalent to the Ghost Busters game, but without the great sounds. It’s like they ported the games… from the original Nintendo Gameboy.

I know, “What The Lump!”, right? Kinda’ makes you want to kick puppies in the Boinloins.
OK Ophilye, breathe in good bits, breathe out the bad ones.

Next we tried Wipe-Out. To be fair, we tried to play this as a couple for 15 minutes. Do you remember when the Kinect first came out and it didn’t see you right? It didn’t quite get down where your arms and legs were, and wouldn’t react. That is as long as it took to realize that this game was NOT optimized for kinect. It would jump when I wasn’t jumping, and wouldn’t jump when my competitor was jumping. It was bad. On the plus side, I jumped so much trying to get it to jump right that I was fully sweating after the 15 minutes of trying. I was also ready to kick big red balls.

OK, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I will share one good find we’ve come across — A Game Of Dwarves. We bought it thinking there was a Co-Op, but were mistaken. Despite that, it’s a fun single-player game of digging, digging, more digging, and a little appropriation of goods. It’s kinda Minecraft meets Dungeon Master. Kinda. Give it a try next time your list of Steam Unplayed Games is under one hundred.

Seriously, not to rant or anything, but how is it I have 123 games in my To Play list, yet I still pulled up Ghost Master yesterday?! *sigh* I love that game.

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The truth

Lets face it. We have been playing games way to much and blogging about them much to little.  And I would love to say, “we will fix that and get back to blogging more”, but I know it would be a lie.  We do love to talk about our games. Just ask friends and relatives, at least what is left of them.  So what do we do?  Well we are going to try a few things.  Maybe they will work and be fun for us and you, or they won’t and we may just stop talking about gaming to the general public.  Which I think would be sad. We know there are a lot of you out there who enjoy gaming as a couple as much as we do.  So, this is what we are going to do.

Now I have no idea how often we will do any of the videos. I think as we find a game we both enjoy playing and want to share it.  It should be a lot more than we post here. What we would LOVE to do, is have our friends and followers who are couples join us!  Twitch allows this and we will have a TeamSpeak server you can join and just chat along with us. No you don’t have to have your SO around to join us, but you’re welcome to.

So, with that said, lets make 2014 a better year for couple gamers by getting closer ;)

 

 

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Steam Summer Special Post : FTL (Faster Than Light)

If you’ve forgotten to change your Steam settings to your favorite window as “Library” instead of “Store”, you have no doubt been tempted by all the promises of games as far as the eye can see for pennies – PENNIES!  Forty dollar games for the price of two Starbucks drinks, and the latest games at least half price.

And there are all these other games that are less than the gas it costs to go see what Best Buy may have in it’s bargain bin.    How can you pass those up?  Especially when, in some cases, there are six games for this price?!  It’s hard, we know.  We’re here to help.

There are a couple of games that have come up in this bargain-bin price range that you should, nay, MUST pick up!  They will make your gaming life more complete, more rounded, and are wholly satisfying at any price, but especially at this price.

First on our list: FTL, or Faster Than Light.

FTL has been shouted repeatedly to me during coffee walks and breaks by a coworker, but his description always overwhelmed me.  In my head, it sounded something like this :
“It’s like you’re an omnipotent god over Captain Picard/Kirk and you travel space but upgrade things by recovering scrap and can kill your people by sucking the oxygen out and I was up until 3am playing it.”  And, let’s be honest, there is something unappealing about playing out Star Trek until 3am to someone that has never watched more than 3 episodes.

I’m here to say that it’s more than a space game.  It’s more than a Trekkie game.  It’s like playing WoW or Borderlands, where you gear yourself up and get farther and father to your goal, better & better gear, so you skip along and a civilian is being harassed so you think “Fear not citizen! I shall help you!” in your most heroic voice, and then you’re jumped by the obvious trap you were set up for, are killed, and you START ALL OVER. No gear, no levels, from the beginning.  On the plus side, the map is completely rearranged, so it’s not horribly boring.

Let’s be more concise to explain what you’re doing in this game.  You own a ship with three people and you’re travelling 7ish star systems to deliver important papers.  Each star system has about 20 planets, but may be only 6 jumps from entrance to exit. Each jump costs 1 gas, and each stop may result in a battle, a mission, a store, or some random event.

At each battle, you pick up scrap.  Scrap is then used for gas, missiles, hull repairs, workers, and ship upgrades.  Ship upgrades alone could use up all the scrap – better engine, shields, multiple guns, bots, the list goes on.  With SO many things wanting your precious scrap, and scrap dropping so rarely, you have to choose a tactic.  Do you invest in the reactor so that you can later invest in your systems?  If so, which systems – drone, missiles, engine, shields, med, etc, or the subsystem?  Or, do you save your scrap to ensure you have enough gas, missiles, drone parts, and hull repair when they become available at a store?  Or, do you invest in the other things a store has for you – a repair arm or miscellaneous bot?

Then the game gets going.  You have many pathways to get from the entrance to the exit, and each one with a degree of possible peril.  At each landing you may be confronted with a choice.  Do you help out a civilian ship that has been overrun with space spiders?  Do you go after a fuel federation ship?  Do you just try to hold off a fighter and try to jump out as soon as you can to avoid a fiery death?  Have enemies been beamed aboard & taking out your subsystems?  All of this while the federation gets closer and closer to you.  Do you go through the nebulous cloud to slow them down and risk your systems going out because of the electrical failure, or pay someone to slow them down for you, if you get that lucky?

I purchased this game on saturday afternoon and had played 8 hours by sunday night.  In that time I ran out of gas and drifted endlessly in space twice, had all my people killed five times, got past the 5th system three times, and was blown to pieces more times than I can count.  I have saved people that were under attack, and I have left people to die, much to the disappointment of my crew. I cannot tell you what happens if you deliver your message, because I haven’t yet been able to, though I did manage to unlock another ship that uses drones (note: READ WHAT GUNS DO.  Once I figured out it was a disruptor gun, the drone made a lot of sense to use with it).  I can say that every moment I type this review, my mouse gets closer & closer to starting up the game again.

It’s addictive, it’s fun, and I’m sure that this time, if I get my reactor then shields up, I can destroy enough to buy a hull arm and…. You know, I think we’re done here.

Continue reading

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Because we know gaming

As a lifelong gamer, I feel I have a pretty good grasp of what gaming can do to a person.  I wager anyone visiting this site also feels the same.  Regardless, my friend thought it should be on here, so we are putting it on for all of you.  Enjoy!

 

 

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Ouya

OUYA

 

 

 

 

 

 

A while ago I backed a project on Kickstarter called “Ouya”.  It promised to bring some casual and core gaming to my T.V. for a small price of $99. I was pretty excited about this prospect and waited eagerly for its arrival.  A few weeks ago I finally received the console.

The OUYA is very small and looks good. The controller doesn’t feel right, but nothing too annoying. I do think the touch on the controler is nifty, but so far doesn’t seem to have much of a use.  The biggest problem I have with the Ouya? I can’t find anything to do on it.  Unfortunately netflix, hulu and amazon do not have any apps on it to stream video.  The games are very limited and aren’t even as good as most of the games on my Galaxy S2.  The selection is just very small right now. This isn’t to say the Ouya is useless. I think for Indie game lovers this is a must buy.  However for the rest of us, I would wait to see what else gets added.  Sure you can side load XMBC or something else, but with a Wii U, PS3 and an XBOX, there is no point in doing so except to tinker, and if that is your desire, you would be better off spending money on a Raspberry Pi and get more out of it.

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Reus: A god game

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One of my daughters first games that she really enjoyed was Black and White.  It was the first god game I spent any real amount of time in.  I use to control everything while she told me what to do.  It is how we have learned to play a lot of single player games as a family.  Since then my daughter has moved on to games like Halo and Bioshock. And the memories of Black and White have faded to the back of our minds.  That is until I found out about Reus.  My daughter doesn’t know it yet, but this will be our next god game together.

What is Reus?  In their words;

In Reus, you control powerful giants that help you shape the planet to your will. You can create mountains and oceans, forests and more. Enrich your planet with plants, minerals and animal life. There is only one thing on the planet that you do not control: mankind, with all their virtues and and all their vices. You can shape their world, but not their will. Provide for them and they may thrive. Give them too much and their greed may get the upper hand.

Sounds awesome right?  Well, I mean there is some things lacking in that description, but if gives you a good idea of what to expect. It is a beautiful 2D game that I’m looking forward to playing with my family and finally stopping my daughter from griefing boys in Halo. At least for a little while.   There will be a proper review once we play the game.  In the mean time check the game out at their website.  It releases May 16th 2013

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Discovering “The Cave”

The-Cave

 

 

 

 

 

While squeezing the last bit of life out of our Playstation 3, @ymiris discovered that his beloved Double-Fine had slipped in a downloadable game without our noticing. “But Tim, I backed you on Kickstarter, you know I love you. Why didn’t you tell me this personally?” I could hear the hurt in Ymiris’ button punches, but we couldn’t get it downloaded fast enough. There was some confusion as to the cost; we’re pretty sure it was $10, but Playstation did some sort of magic and we may or may not have paid for it. Have I mentioned my dislike for PSN? Because it is large. In the words of the great Mrs. White “I hated her So much…flames.. FLAMES.. on the side of my face… heaving.. breathless…” but, that’s not the point. If you despise PSN as I do, it is available on Steam, XBLA, and Wii U, which I would have tried, had I known.

The Cave sucks you in the moment you are spoken to by a deep, mysterious, and randomly hilarious voice. The cave is personified, a knowing vessel for telling 3 stories, and exacting a sort of revenge of sorts. You start by selecting which 3 stories you want to learn about by creating a team of 3 out of 7 possibilities, and then using these three and their special abilities to maneuver through the side-scroller cave, solving clever puzzles and mechanisms.

So that’s the basics.. manipulate three people (counting the twins as 1 character) through various puzzles that are the same regardless of the characters, which is pretty fun to figure out and give you little snippets of the characters’ stories. Then, for each character you chose, you get a special puzzle that fleshes out their particular story. These parts are beautifully created, and the real heart of the game. You know how, when you look back on a book you just finished, there was one scene that encompasses the entirety of the book? These puzzles are like getting just that part of three different books. It’s beautiful, and you come to appreciate the characters for their choices. The puzzles are also difficult enough that having a spouse &/or family member close by to point out significant tools (or insignificant ones you just can’t let go of) makes this game great for Couple Gamers. The controls are also Incredibly easy to figure out, so no problem letting one person drive one day, and switching off for the next.

Each character’s story has just as much work put into it, though my favorite was the twins who did not particularly like having to stay where their loving parents wanted them. You then maneuver through a huge victorian mansion in cave-form to solve puzzles and play out what happened in their story. This victorian mansion in cave-form was a work of art that captured the atmosphere of the children and their point of view. It is beautiful, and if you bought this for only this part of the story line, it’s worth it.

But you’re not buying it just for this one story line, you’re buying 7. We played through the Twins, Time Traveler, and Monk, with the first being our favorite, though the Time traveler had some truly unique puzzling and the Monk had a twisted way of solving things. Each storyline puzzles are unique, and fun, but we have not picked up the game again to try the other 4 stories due to the repetition of the 4+ default puzzles. Why will I want to solve the Treasures, Island, Miner, & Zoo area again? We’re hoping to give it a few days and try it again; we’re getting old, maybe the alzeimers will make it feel like the first time. :D

TL;DR: Go get The Cave and play it with your loved ones.

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