Friday, September 07, 2012

Hey. How YOU doin' ?

Life has been going on, we've been doing stuff, but as more and more time passed since my last Blog post I felt less & less inclined to write another entry. So why now? Why not just the Blog die? Good answer. Boredom, perhaps :P

The boy and I have been playing a lot of Magic:The Gathering. He's getting pretty good at building & tweaking his decks, and seems to know how to get the best out of each of the cards in his hand at any given time. Our games are no longer a walk in the park for me, and when I'm not careful about how to play my own cards he will take advantage of the situation and my lack of concentration and kick my butt. And I'm happy for him that he's able to do so :)

We've been watching Wil Wheaton's "Tabletop" videos on Youtube, where he has a few guests over and they all play a board game together. It's not as boring as it sounds. Okay, some of the videos are, but some of them are very entertaining to watch, too. Through Tabletop I finally got to see Munchkin in action, which is game I've had my eye on for a long time but never felt it was something the family would want to play. But after watching it played on Tabletop, then having a birthday last month, I decided Munchkin should be my birthday present, and so it was. And when it arrived we played it almost non-stop for several days in a row. We would play back-to-back games, then take a break for an hour or so, then one of us would be "So...rematch?" and everybody said "Sure! Get it ready!" I won't bore you with the details, instead, watch Wil & Co. play the game and you can decide if Munchkin might be something you could get into.


Subsequent edit to the review of Facebook's Walking Dead Game. I will leave the review up, but they made a few changes to the game, as I discovered when I was playing the other night, which IMO are game-breaking.

I had leveled up so I went to do the next Story Mission, and I discovered I didn't have enough Supplies to attempt it. Which was odd because I'd never ran into this problem before. In fact I had almost 250 Supplies, and yet I still needed more in order to do the Story Mission. So I did a couple more regular Missions, obtained some more supplies, then completed the Story Mission.

The next Story Mission popped up and naturally it required me to gain another level before I could attempt it, or I could spend Dead Dollars to unlock it now. Except it was pointless unlocking it now because I had no Supplies...and I needed 260 Supplies to attempt it. For several seconds I stared at that requirement in disbelief. Then I quit the game.

Don't get me wrong. I understand wanting to be compensated for your time in building your game by encouraging your players to pay-to-play, but IMO this change was ridiculously excessive and achieved the exact opposite of what "they" were trying to accomplish.

Instead of persuading me to invest money in the game as I've done in the past with other games, LOTRO, Wizard 101, and DDO, just to name a few, they turned me off the game instead.

Anyway, here's my original review, for what it's worth, given that I no longer consider it worth playing.

* * *


I recently began playing Facebook's The Walking Dead game which, unlike many of FB and Zynga's games, actually plays like a real game. If you ever played X-Com or any of its spin-offs The Walking Dead game is a lot like that. Naturally it's a "lite" version, and naturally, being a FB game, there's the pervasive begging to pay them real money to play what is otherwise a free game. But being a FB game it's not something you'll spend an entire evening playing; it's really just a minor diversion for 30 minutes or so, but it's a fun 30-minute diversion and with the X-Com-like mechanics it's more like a real game than any other FB game I've played (and I've played a lot of them).

You start with your main character who, after a brief tutorial with Sheriff Shane, finds him/herself in the first season's camp, where you'll meet Lori & Carl, and T-Dog, just to name a few of the more familiar characters.

There are other characters in the camp, too, and chatting to them will provide you with a Mission, Intel, or boost your Morale, with Intel & Morale being 'resources' you'll need to attempt the Missions. Before you go on a Mission you select a character (other characters will join your "Main Character"), then select a weapon. Some Missions are Guns Only, some are Melee Only, which is kind of irrelevant because you can change weapons mid-Mission. On a Melee Only Mission you can switch out your Hatchet for the Shotgun, if you feel it necessary to shoot a Walker. Conversely, if you don't want to shoot (Ammo is a limited resource, and gunshots will attract other, nearby Walkers) you can just use your gun as a Melee weapon.

Missions are played in a hybrid real-time, turn-by-turn, grid-based system, where you select an action or a square to move to, and while your character performs that action or runs to that square, any nearby Walkers will just stand there and watch. So you can run right up to a Walker and bash his brains in (out?), if you want to.

But it's not quite turn-based, because while you're deciding what to do, the Walkers will still be moving around the map, with one exception: once a Walker notices you they will take several steps toward you, then stop. They had their turn, they moved their maximum amount of steps, and now it's your turn.

This is where X-Com-lite and strategy come into play.

Each Mission has a goal, "Kill X Walkers", "Find X Supplies", etc., and every action you perform while undertaking that Mission uses an Energy point, and your Character only has a limited amount of Energy.

So...do you run up to that Walker and hit him, even though you need to go the other way to get to the Mission-critical Supplies?

Do you Shoot the Walker from a distance, and risk alerting other nearby Walkers?

Do you "End Turn" and let the Walker move closer, so you don't waste Energy on moving but now run the risk of the Walker getting close enough to Melee you first?

Or do you run the other way, hoping you don't run into another Walker, and hope to find something to hide (Crouch) behind so - hopefully - the Walker loses interest in you?

It's the little things like these which I feel make The Walking Dead game a lot more enjoyable than your typical FB game.

As you progress through the game and complete Missions you Level Up and earn Skills points, which you use to improve your Characters by buffing their stats. Such as Vision, to increase how far you can see. Stamina, so you can take more hits in combat, and Movement, to increase how far you can move "per turn", and so on.

Buffing Movement is a good place to start as it allows you to outrun Walkers, get in and deliver the first strike, or even just move long distances thus maximizing your Movement-to-Energy point ratio.

A few points in Stamina can also go a long way to keeping you alive when you're forced to engage multiple Walkers. And sometimes you will, because the game has an annoying habit at higher levels of turning what appears to be one corpse into two Walkers.

Vision is useful but not terribly necessary. Items like Food, Water, Medical Supplies, etc. are always visible, even when at the other end of the map. The only reason to buff Vision is to increase your short-range distance so you can see any nearby Walkers.

You also have a Striking and a Shooting stat, which you'll need to buff not to make you better at Striking & Shooting, but to allow you to wield higher level weapons. Weapons wear out and need repairing after a few missions, and you cannot attempt a Mission empty-handed, so you'll want a good range of weapons so you're not waiting on repairs.

And with that, comes combat. When you enter into combat a circular targeting reticle appears, and depending on your weapon one of several patterns will begin. Sometimes the reticle will move in a figure 8, other times it will bounce up & down or move from left to right, but it will always be centered over the Walker's head. As it passes over his head it turns red, and it's obvious what you need to do; left-click when it's red and make the Walker dead (more dead?).

Time your click right and you take the Walker out, complete with animation. Time your click perfectly and you get credited with a Perfect Kill and a special animation. For example, a regular kill with the Hatchet has you bury it in the Walker's head, but a Perfect Kill has you first decapitate the Walker then stomp on its head. It's not a ground-breaking combat system, but that you don't just click "Strike" and get an automatic kill makes it more engaging and more interesting than your standard FB "game".

Now if you miss, by clicking too early or too late, it's the Walker's turn and they don't miss. Your character will struggle with the Walker for a second or two before pushing it back, but the green Stamina bar below your character will now no longer be full. And if there were two Walkers they'll both get in a hit. These are the moments when you'll be glad you used several of those early skill points to boost your Stamina.

One last thing on Missions and Leveling. There is a Story that unfolds as you get further into the game and complete more and more Story Missions. In an attempt to persuade you to give them money the Devs slipped in a game mechanic where a Story Mission requires you to be one level higher than your current level before you can attempt it. Oh sure, you could grind non-Story missions, slowly earning XP, until you finally gain enough to go up a level. Or...you could give the Devs your credit card number and unlock that Story Mission now ;)

If you can get over the fact that it's a Facebook game, look past the blatant attempt to wring real money out of you, and don't mind playing it for half an hour or so at a time, you'll find a fun little game that lets you indulge your Zombie-slaying fantasies without drawing weird looks from the neighbors peering over your back fence.

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