Without The Sarcasm http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com Insights. Analysis. Answers. Sat, 01 Aug 2015 04:39:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Alphabear Review: Beary Fun http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/alphabear-review-beary-fun/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/alphabear-review-beary-fun/#comments Thu, 23 Jul 2015 00:26:27 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=6907 Alphabear is the latest mobile title from Spry Fox, who are old hat in the mobile scene. You may remember their Triple Town, a cute puzzler that was one of the earliest blockbuster free-to-play games. Alphabear is all about spelling and bears, as one might surmise given the game's title. Does Spry Fox have another hit on their hands? Read on for my Alphabear review!
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Alphabear is the latest mobile title from Spry Fox, who are old hat in the mobile scene. You may remember their Triple Town, a cute puzzler that was one of the earliest blockbuster free-to-play games. Alphabear is all about spelling and bears, as one might surmise given the game’s title. Does Spry Fox have another hit on their hands? Read on for my Alphabear review!

Alphabear will feel immediately familiar to anyone who has played a spelling game recently. The most recent popular game in this genere is obviously Words With Friends, although various games in the same vein as Scrabble and Boggle have been kicking around on mobile for years now.

In Alphabear, you’re given a game board with a set of exposed letters. You’ve got to spell a word using the available letters, which in turn exposes more letters to spell with. Each letter has a number on it, which represents the number of words you can make before that letter “turns to stone” and can no longer be used.

Alphabear Review: Bears, Everywhere!

When letters are cleared, bears take their place. These bears grow in size, and will fill whatever rectangular space is available from cleared letters. At the end of the game, you’re given points for these bears. Larger bears mean more points.

Pro Tip Bigger bears are worth a lot more than smaller ones. If you have to let a letter turn to stone, try to pick one around the edges rather than one in the middle, so that you can still get big bears.

Once you run out of words that can be spelled with the available letters, the game is over. Your score is tallied, and if you meet certain score thresholds, you get to open an egg and add a new bear to your collection!

You’ll also see a quick “mad lib” using your words, which can often be hilarious (or scandalous, as the case may be…)! I really love this feature, and I think it’s genius from a marketing point of view. It gets people sharing the game on social media without it being overbearing or forced.

Alphabear Review: Endgame Selfie Time!

Up to three bears can be turned on for each level, and they all provide different benefits. Alphabear’s bears “nap” after being used, so you can’t just pick the same bears every time. Bears are either “common,” “rare,” or “legendary.” The higher the rarity of the bear, the more powerful its bonus but the longer the nap time is. Finding another of a bear you’ve already collected levels that bear up, making its benefits stronger.

Alphabear Review: Score!

There’s a “stamina” mechanic in the form of “honey.” Playing a level costs honey, and honey regenerates over time. The default maximum honey is usually enough to play Alphabear’s 2 daily challenges in one sitting. This works out to be about 10-15 minutes worth of play.

I don’t really mind this low time commitment, and generally speaking Alphabear is not a particularly demanding game. Pop in, play the dailies, do something else. You can pay a flat fee ($4.99) and get unlimited honey, which is a nice touch for people who are power players.

The premium currency in Alphabear is called “coins.” Coins are earned whenever you find a new bear at the end of the level, and can be spent on special bonus stages which guarantee the drop of a rare or better bear.

Alphabear Review: Special Stages!

Pro Tip If you tap on the coins icon in the stage selection screen, you can watch an ad to get some free coins. So far I’ve been able to do this just once per day, but free coins are free coins!

After completing enough daily challenges, a special “boss stage” unlocks. Beating this stage unlocks the next level of difficulty, where new challenges and new bears await.

Game:Alphabear
Links:Homepage, Google Play, iTunes
Release:7/9/2015
Rating: - Awesome!
Our Thoughts:

Alphabear is an easy game to recommend. It’s cute, it’s fun, it’s free. Despite being free-to-play, it’s not demanding and it’s not obnoxious about using your social network to “go viral.” Grab it, give it a play – smiles and silly cartoon bears are 100% guaranteed.

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Victor Vran Review: It’s Vran-tastic http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/victor-vran-review-its-vran-tastic/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/victor-vran-review-its-vran-tastic/#comments Sun, 19 Jul 2015 20:56:01 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=6903 Victor Vran is an action RPG game from Haemimont Games, who are probably best known as the stewards of the Tropico series. The action RPG genre is dominated by several titans, including the 800 pound gorilla known as Diablo 3. Victor Vran has some seriously huge shoes to fill, and it does surprisingly well at it! In my Victor Vran review, I'll give you a rundown of what makes it worth your time.
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]]> Victor Vran is an action RPG game from Haemimont Games, who are probably best known as the stewards of the Tropico series. The action RPG genre is dominated by several titans, including the 800 pound gorilla known as Diablo 3. Victor Vran has some seriously huge shoes to fill, and it does surprisingly well at it! In my Victor Vran review, I’ll give you a rundown of what makes it worth your time.

Demonic Debts

Action RPGs are a long and storied genre, but there’s no question that the Diablo series is at the center of it. Orbiting Diablo at close range is Torchlight, the more indie series from Runic Games. Further away are action RPGs that hew a bit closer to “action” than RPG, like Devil May Cry and Kingdoms of Amalur. Victor Vran combines many bits and pieces from several of these games.

Most of these games follow a pretty similar pattern. You play alone or in co-op as a hunter of evil, armed to the teeth with weapons, magic, special skills, and various consumable items. Combat takes place in realtime, with positioning and cooldowns factoring in heavily in battle strategy.

Fighting the aforementioned evil grants you experience, as well as loot. This loot is sometimes better than what you’re using, but even if it’s not, it can be transmuted into something potentially more useful, or sold for gold.

Victor Vran Review: Shopping

Victor Vran owes several debts to Diablo, especially Diablo 3. They both share a sort of twangy, brooding, soulful guitar soundtrack. Weapons are randomly generated with different attributes, which influence their naming. Get ready to wield a hundred different variants of “Shotgun of the Bear,” for instance. There are certain champion monsters that spawn with special bonuses, and some of these bonuses are the exact same as the affixes on champion monsters in Diablo 3.

However, Victor Vran’s similarities to Diablo help it feel familiar rather than making it feel like an imitation. There are a lot of new ideas in Victor Vran that set it apart from other action RPGs.

Victor Vran Review: Combat

The Ancient Art of Wall Jumping

The first “oh, that’s a great idea!” moment was early in the tutorial, when the game taught me to jump and wall jump. Wall jumping is rarely required to progress, and is usually reserved for uncovering secret areas. However, it feels so right. I don’t know why action RPGs have generally been anti-jumping, but it seems like such a simple concept once Victor Vran introduced it.

Pro Tip The eyes in the statue between the health and overdrive bars will glow when you are near the entrance to a secret area. Look nearby for false walls or areas where you can put your jumping abilities to good use.

Victor Vran also puts a lot of focus on careful, timed ability combos. It doesn’t quite approach the combat system of the Batman: Arkham series, but it’s enough to reward skillful play while still allowing for button mashing. Each weapon type has a set of 3 different attacks, with varying cooldowns. Chaining them together with precise combos can grant various bonuses, like guaranteed critical hits.

Pro Tip Switching weapons mid-battle is a good way to play to the strengths of both of your weapons at once. While the special abilities of one weapon are cooling down, you can be using the abilities of your second weapon, for instance.

In addition to weapons, there are a bunch of other swappable bits of gear. Demon Powers are super strong “limit break” style moves that need to be charged before they’re used. There’s also Destiny Cards, which modify your character in various ways. Finally, there are different outfits which confer bonuses tailored towards certain styles of play.

Victor Vran Review: Hexes

The game also features an adjustable difficulty in the form of hexes. Hexes are a set of 5 difficulty modifiers that can be toggled on or off at any time. Turning them on increases the difficulty but also increases the rewards for fighting monsters. This sort of thing has been done before in games like Bastion, and it’s a little like a more flexible variant of the Torment ranks in Diablo 3. However, it makes a lot of sense in a game like Victor Vran where grinding for loot is a key part of becoming as powerful as possible.

Also adding to the replay value is the challenge system. Each area has a set of 5 challenges, with 5 more “elite” challenges unlocked after completing the game. These challenges tend to vary, with some being tied to certain weapon types, while others want you to slay certain monsters or do something in a fixed period of time. Completing a challenge grants a reward – usually a bonus chest, some additional XP, or a big pile of gold.

Pro Tip You don’t have to do all the challenges in a single run of a level – if you clear a challenge, it stays cleared forever. It can be worth it to seek out challenges that grant XP, as they often give you substantially more than you’d get from grinding monsters.

All of the various strategies and challenges to overcome in Victor Vran keeps it feeling fresh through hours and hours of play. There are around 40 different zones in the game, although many are optional. It took me roughly 15 hours or so of play to get to the ending, but past the first 10 hours or so I didn’t really mess about with completing all the challenges and finding all the secrets before moving on. I could easily invest many more hours uncovering every secret and crossing off all the elite challenges.

Vexing Vran

Despite my love for the game, I do have some criticisms of Victor Vran.

First up is the plot, and just the writing in general. Victor is a “grimdark,” gravely, mysterious-past-having, gritty, brooding, walking cliche of a protagonist. I was rolling my eyes the first time he opened his mouth. His voice sounds like Geralt from The Witcher if he was trying to do an impression of Christian Bale’s Batman.

At the complete opposite end of the spectrum is the “Voice,” the ominous, omniscient narrator of the game who taunts Victor at every turn. He has a penchant for memes, although most of his humor just fell flat for me. There was an obligatory “arrow to the knee” joke, some Gangnam Style references, and even a few jabs at Steam. I’m not sure if they were going for a Thomas Was Alone or The Stanley Parable style humorous narrator, but it really didn’t do it for me.

Victor Vran Review: Look, a Steam joke!

Thankfully, the plot is pretty minimal, and mostly serves to push Victor into new areas with new challenges and better loot.

A few of the game mechanics were also a bit lacking. There’s just one class in Victor Vran, with no skill trees or anything of that nature. Although there are several different weapon types, all weapons of a given type have the same attack style. This means there’s not a lot of diversity in the combat. It seemed like ranged attacks were very advantageous, so I found myself using the same couple of weapon types throughout the game. This is balanced somewhat through other systems – like challenges, destiny cards, and so forth – which can shake up the gameplay enough to keep it feeling new, but it’s still something that veteran aRPG’ers will likely see as a drawback.

The inventory management is also a thorny. It’s possible to sort the inventory, although the option is well hidden. (With a controller, it was clicking the right stick.) Using the D-pad manually rearranges items, which was somewhat problematic for me since I tend to prefer to use the D-pad on menus to give me a bit better control. It’s also not uncommon to have dozens of bits of gear, and keeping it organized can get moderately painful.

I’d also like to see some way to jump between checkpoints on some of the larger maps. Trying to do challenges or find all the secrets can get time consuming when you have to walk back through previously cleared areas over and over again.

Victor Vran got several meaty patches in the last week of its Early Access run, so it’s possible that by the time you play it, some of these issues will be nonexistent.

Game:Victor Vran
Links:Homepage, Steam
Release:7/18/2015
Rating: - Awesome!
Our Thoughts:

Victor Vran takes ideas from big games in its genre, and gives us a fun, creative, and unique variant on the action RPG formula. If you enjoy the staple gameplay elements of aRPGs and are looking for a fresh take, it’s certainly worth the time and money.

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]]> Inside Out Logo Ok, let’s be honest… a lot of IP tie in games are shovelware. They either are ridiculously lacking in polish, or they just aren’t fun. Inside Out Thought Bubbles bucks that trend with an enjoyable rethinking of King’s Bubble Witch Saga and (Bobble Bobble before it). Thought Bubbles that lacks most of the poisonous barbs of a F2P game, and yet is is fun and has pleasant, uplifting art in keeping with its source IP. I actually played the game before seeing the movie in the theater, and I had no problem getting into it just because I didn’t know the plot. I will note that I usually play mobile games with the sound off, but after having seen Inside Out I was invested enough in the characters that I was interested to hear them talk. They do not disappoint – and while just a touch repetitive, I love hearing phrases from each of the included characters.

Inside Out Thought Bubbles Game

A Strong Start

Thought Bubbles contains a lot of interesting tweaks to the bubble popping playbook, that while not revolutionary, do keep you coming back for more. Each “emotion” character has a special ability, and a short way into the game you unlock a second and later a third emotion. Only one character is active in a level per attempt which adds an extra dimension to the gameplay as you must often choose which emotion to use. There are also plenty of different bubble popping objectives and obstacles. Most are probably what you’ve seen in other similar titles, but they are well integrated with the IP, and when layers with the emotions mechanic they contribute to a pleasant variety. With only three of the five emotions from the movie featured in the game, there is decent hope that additional emotions may be added in a future expansion if the game is successful.

Inside Out Thought Bubbles Game

Your Mileage

There are some drawbacks to Thought Bubbles, but its hard to find them that offensive given the antics of this games most recognized competition. The game occasionally makes you go through the “use this power up” tutorials, and that means in the hands of the young at these specific points its possible to get lost in menus and frustrated. I should note, that like any F2P game, I recommend locking down your device so that your kids can’t rack up charges on Daddy’s credit card. In addition, there are certain levels that are near impossible with one of the emotions, and in general the games difficulty ramps in higher levels to a point that most kids won’t have the control to overcome. I don’t find these things that much of a bother because the game is free, and its a puzzle game so I just expect the higher levels to be tougher.

Game:Inside Out: Thought Bubbles
Links:Homepage, iTunes
Release:6/18/2015
Rating: - Awesome!
Our Thoughts:

A bubble popper clone that plays better than some of the veterans in the genre, with small tweaks that make it interesting and accessible for kids plus a super catchy IP? Joy must have had something to do with this….

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http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/inside-out-thought-bubbles-review-im-bubbling-with-joy/feed/ 0 Legends of Eisenwald Review: Tactical Fantasy Combat, Simplified http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/legends-of-eisenwald-review-tactical-fantasy-combat-simplified/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/legends-of-eisenwald-review-tactical-fantasy-combat-simplified/#comments Sat, 11 Jul 2015 22:35:01 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=6866 Legends of Eisenwald is a tactical RPG from Belarusian developer Aterdux Entertainment. It borrows heavily from classic tactical strategy franchises like Heroes of Might and Magic and Disciples, but takes a rather unique approach to the genre nonetheless. After spending a few dozen hours with the game, I'm ready to pass judgement - let's get started with this Legends of Eisenwald review!
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]]> Legends of Eisenwald is a tactical RPG from Belarusian developer Aterdux Entertainment. It borrows heavily from classic tactical strategy franchises like Heroes of Might and Magic and Disciples, but takes a rather unique approach to the genre nonetheless. After spending a few dozen hours with the game, I’m ready to pass judgement – let’s get started with this Legends of Eisenwald review!

A Brief History of Historical Combat

There are many similar tactical combat, fantasy RPG games – besides the two I mentioned above, there’s also games like King’s Bounty and Age of Wonders to consider. If you’ve never played any of these games before, I’ll give you a quick rundown.

Generally, these games are split into two major parts. In the first part, you explore a world map, with towns, castles, and other interesting structures and armies scattered around it. Here, you spend your time going from place to place, undertaking quests, and building an army. When your army comes into conflict with enemy troops, the game switches to a close-up combat view to resolve the engagement. Here, you give commands to your individual soldiers and have them duke it out on a tactical grid until one army emerges victorious.

Eisenwald’s Approach

What does Legends of Eisenwald do differently? Well, for one, the fantasy setting is a bit more down-to-earth, with medieval Germany providing the backdrop. Gone are elves, dwarves, dragons, and so forth. There’s still magic of a sort, although it’s called “spiritual power” here. There are also various enchanted weapons and accessories and so forth.

It’s all more of a “legends come to life” situation than a “enter a whole-cloth fantasy world” affair. Honestly, with the number of games trying to create entire languages, religions, races, and so forth, it’s kind of refreshing to not have to re-learn everything in order to understand the plot of Legends of Eisenwald.

Legends of Eisenwald Review: Titular Legends

I found myself interested in the plot and its various twists and turns. There are a fair number of interesting characters, and some of the developments caught me by surprise. Side quests and tavern rumors flesh out the minor characters and bring a lot of flavor to the story as well. The titular “legends” are interesting bits of lore, with beautiful artwork to accompany them.

Pro Tip Listen to the gossip in taverns – there are some dialog options that are only unlocked when you’ve heard particular stories.

I was initially worried about the quality of the English translation of the game, since the early help text wasn’t always grammatically correct. However, on the whole it is done well and didn’t distract from my enjoyment of the story.

Combat in Minature

Another major change from most other similar games is the scope of Legends of Eisenwald’s combat. Most tactical RPGs have large grids, and many support giant armies clashing swords at the same time. This can give a game a really epic feel to its combat, but it comes at the expense of a lot of complexity. There’s complexity in setting up and properly balancing/leveling your army, and the complexity of the combat itself can make engagements drag on.

Legends of Eisenwald opts instead for a much smaller maximum army size, and a much smaller tactical grid. Soldiers are set up in a triangle formation, with the widest row being your front-line infantry, followed by your archers, and then by your support troops. Your “army triangle” faces off against the enemy “army triangle” with only a couple of hexes separating them from the start.

Legends of Eisenwald Review: Combat

Pro Tip You can rearrange these lines if you want to, but in general this pattern works well. You might put a melee soldier on the second line if they have low HP or defense, for example. This allows them to flank a bit, and stay protected on their first turn.

Melee troops can only attack the closest enemy to them, although they can pick between multiple targets if the distances are the same. There is no movement without attacking, so archers and support units are generally well protected, as they’re rarely the closest target while melee troops survive.

This all sounds like the sort of thing that would yield combat that is less interesting, but I found it very freeing. More complexity doesn’t always mean that the options you’re choosing between are interesting. Instead of wasting time at the start of every battle bringing your troops into position, you can get right down to the actual meat of combat.

Combat proceeds quickly as well, which keeps it from becoming a chore. There’s an auto-resolve option that you can choose at any time during a battle, so if you’ve got the enemy on the ropes, you can just hit the “Fast Combat” button to wrap up the battle, get your spoils, and move on to the next fight.

Pro Tip The automatic combat is surprisingly fair – don’t be afraid to use it!

Eisenwhaaat?

Legends of Eisenwald is a marathon of a game, and will easily devour dozens of hours of your gaming time. When a game is this long, though, there are often little nagging elements that get on your nerves as the hours wear on.

Movement on the world map is kind of a pain. You have to click on your destination to move there, and clicking again stops you. However, you can’t pan the camera at all, so getting to a distant destination can yield a painful series of clicks. The world map also doesn’t always show paths that obviously, so trying to get to certain remote areas can be a frustrating trial and error process.

Legends of Eisenwald Review: Weird Pathing

On the world map, time is stopped whenever your army is stopped, unless you click a button to let time flow. Remembering the state of this toggle and messing with it while the game is throwing various objectives at you can sometimes be problematic.

The tracking of side quests also needs improvement. Sometimes the next objective is vague, or the destination is unclear and there’s no waypoint to assist you in understanding the directions. Occasionally, I’ve gotten an obviously old waypoint for a quest, when I know that’s not the next destination. In one serious case, I wasn’t able to advance the main plot despite doing what the journal said was required. I had to open the scenario file and try to figure out what I was missing before the next stage of the quest would trigger.

The main campaign of the game is broken up into chapters, and at chapter breaks a large amount of your stuff disappears. Soldiers and their equipment are often lost, spare gear is taken, etc. I can understand that having your power level carry over between chapters might yield significant balance problems, but still it’s kind of sad to see the soldiers you invested hours in reset because the plot advanced and we had to move to a new area.

Pro Tip Your hero’s gear carries over, so it generally makes sense to give them all the best stuff you find, as that way you’ll never lose it.

Legends of Eisenwald Review:  World Map

It’s possible to garrison troops in castles and other fortifications for defense. However, if an enemy attacks, you have no control over the engagement. If your army loses, those soldiers are gone forever, including any gear they had. Thus, playing defensively seems like a very risky move. I tended to secure castles and then leave them undefended, and instead fight the enemy army while it was on the move.

There are a lot of things the game doesn’t quite adequately explain. Upon encountering new features for the first time, a popup appears, but the only way to get back to these tutorials is from the main menu.

Upgrading your troops is needlessly opaque as well. There are upgrade different tracks for the various troop types, but there’s no telling what the benefits of each different troop type are. The best you can do is a small popup that gives some limited information.

There are also a few bugs here and there – I had around 5 crashes to desktop while playing, although it was probably 1 crash every 3 or 4 hours at the most. Autosaves are frequent, so I never lost much progress. Still, it’s not what you want to see from a finished product.

Game:Legends of Eisenwald
Links:Homepage, Steam
Release:7/2/2015
Rating: - Good
Our Thoughts:

Legends of Eisenwald is a compelling game, despite its flaws. It manages to simplify and take the grind out of battles, while still feeling epic in its storytelling. It’s big in the areas where scale means fun, and streamlined in the areas where many other games lose steam. It has several issues that hold it back, although hopefully post-launch support will iron most of these out.

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]]> It’s the apocalypse, things went bad, and it so happens that you are the Overseer of life giving Vault-tech technology. People are literally lining up to get in on this deal. Sound interesting? Fallout Shelter Please form a line

In Fallout Shelter, you play the role of a Vault Overseer – responsible for dictating the every move of a Vault full of infinitely obedient Dwellers as they seek to survive, repopulate, and possibly even find happiness. Bethesda’s new mobile tower builder was announced with a good deal of fanfare at E3 in conjunction with news about the upcoming Fallout 4. The game is initially iOS exclusive, but will come to Android in time and it is already wildly successful – topping the likes of Candy Crush Saga on the revenue charts temporarily.

Upside-down Tower Building

The core gameplay of Fallout Shelter is very akin to mobile tower building pioneers like Tiny Tower: make money, recruit Dwellers, build bigger Vault. With this overall arc comes plenty of opportunity for micromanagement, and the game does an excellent job of sucking up any free time you have to tend your little zen garden whether it be three minutes or thirty. The balance is superb for a mobile game, giving you enough to do with fairly well designed touch interactions that you really feel like an Overseer – dictating the actions of every Dweller in your Vault. The over the top 50’s style cartoonish art style also contributes an interesting layer to the experience – sometimes making your Vault an idealized caricature of the harsh realities of post-apocalyptic life.

Fallout Shelter Vault

Climbing to Upper Micromanagement

On top of the fact that Fallout Shelter is fun, it stands out to me as a free to play game that gives you a ton of things to do without being in your face about making in app purchases (IAPs). In fact, I played the game for hours before I even figured out how to purchase the premium IAP currency – lunchboxes. You really don’t need to purchase lunchboxes to enjoy the game, but as you cultivate your Vault you may find that you want more unique Dwellers, Outfits, or Weapons – and these are all things that you can fast track by purchasing a lunchbox. Overall, the model makes me hopeful that this is the first in a series of mobile games that can figure out how to offer a quality free base product with a monetization model that isn’t intrusive or coercive. Hats off to Bethesda for a bold first step in that direction.

Radroaches and Other Bugs

Despite so many highlights, the game does suffer from a few series bugs that are large enough to unfortunately completely tarnish the experience for some players. There is a “sleep mode” resource drain bug that causes the Vaults of some Overseers to decay to a destitute state while they are away, which makes returning to their Vault a huge uphill battle to recover to a normal balance of resources. Early in the game before much gear is available, there is also a balance issue with Radroaches in big rooms that can result in a Dweller death domino effect (3DE, if you will) which can be frustrating and in some cases Vault ending if the financial impact can’t be absorbed. I’d like to think that these issues are simple growing pains of the initial launch that a solid developer like Bethesda will work out in a future patch, but as it stands they do have the capacity to sometimes taint an otherwise amazing game experience. If you are experiencing these issues, check out my other post on tips for playing Fallout Shelter which has some strategies for working around these issues.

Game:Fallout: Shelter
Links:Homepage, iTunes
Release:6/15/2015
Rating: - Awesome!
Our Thoughts:

It says something that you can play this game for hours without even knowing how it is monetized. The game feels loyal to the franchise, is fun in it’s own right, and controls well on a mobile device. It would be a five star review if not for a few severe bugs which will hopefully be patched out at some point.

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Pope defense

9. Defending Raiders

Raiders are a bit of a nuisance because they show up and start trashing the place without a very clear explanation of how to deal with them. Your Dwellers (who aren’t pregnant) will defend against them, but in the early going they may not be positioned well or equipped well to defend against them. To have a better response to them, there are several things you can do. First of all, upgrade the Vault door by tapping the antechamber room and using the top right “up” arrow as you would with upgrading other rooms. Upgrading the door just increases its hitpoints, but it will buy you some time while raiders attack. Second, have some designated “defenders” that you look for to send to the upper rooms when a raid gets started. I generally try to pick folks who have unique clothes and are easy to spot. I make sure these guys have my best weapons, so they can bring the pain when they are called to task. Finally, make sure folks on your first floor are armed to the teeth. That way, even if your dream team can’t make it to every room the Raiders will still get more than they bargained for when they get six sawed off shotguns pointed in their face.

10. Skipping quests

Every day you can skip at least one quest. Take advantage of this ability to eliminate pesky ones, especially those that take a long time. Quests that involve rushing a lot of rooms or dealing with a lot of incidents are first on the chopping block for me, because they require chance and a lot of maintenance. Quests that involve birthing a lot of babies may be next on your list, if you don’t already have a lot of pregnant Dwellers, since these things take time… :).

Radroach attack

11. Radio Station vibes

A quick but beneficial tip: once you have at least one Dweller working in the Radio Station, the happiness of all other Dwellers will increase slightly. This doesn’t seem like much, but it can help to improve your all important daily Overseer rating. Keeping your rating high leads to a Lunchbox every week – so its worth paying attention to.

12. Advanced population management

Somewhere around the 40 Dweller mark, it will get pretty hard to manage all those little individuals in your swelling Vault. Luckily the game provides a pretty sweet Dweller management interface when you tap the gear on the upper left of the screen. From this interface you can see all Dwellers, sort on various attributes, and also jump to individual Dwellers by tapping on their “row”. Some great applications include hunting down slackers who are taking a Coffee Break (not working) and sorting on SPECIAL stats to find good fits for a particular spot you are trying to fill. The gear interface also lets you see who are your most unhappy Dwellers. Tackle these frowny faces with a better job assignment, or some Stimpak/Radaway love and they will help to bring up your composite Overseer score for your daily approval rating.

Any tips we didn’t list? Leave them in the comments! Miss the other tips? Use the navigation buttons below to check them out!

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5. Nightly Wasteland runs

You might play for a while before even realizing that the “Wasteland” is a place you can send your Dwellers. In fact, it’s one of the more important places to send them in the game. The Wasteland is the source of weapons and gear for your Dwellers (other than the odd Lunchbox) – so sending Dwellers out to go scavenge is essential. The trick is, it take a long time. What I have found to be most effective is to gear up some of your best Dwellers (often the few uniques you get from early Lunchboxes) and send them out loaded with Stimpaks and Radaways right before bed. They may eventually die during the night, but they’ll rack up so much gear they’ll be worth reviving. A few nights of doing this, and your Vault will be wearing Wasteland designer fashions in no time.

6. Rushing rooms

My first glance at the “rushing” mechanic in Fallout Shelter had me thinking this was “F2P” crap – and I didn’t pay it much attention for quite a while. Later I started to get quests to complete a certain amount of rushes, so I had to try it out. I found that it is not as bad as I first expected. Rushing gives pretty good odds of getting resources a little quicker, unless you do it over and over on the same room (difficulty seems to increase by roughly 10% per attempt, with some long cool down). You can make your odds a little better by using Dwellers with high Luck, and/or waiting till there isn’t much time left. Some tips I’d give when doing quests are that it seems easier to rush rooms that are smaller, and it is always a good idea to have the room at its Dweller capacity to deal with any incidents. Since Radroaches are one of the two things you’ll run into, make sure your room is well armed.

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7. More sexism

In what was probably a smart move for various reasons, Bethesda decided to add a mechanic to the game where pregnant female Dwellers run from any conflict and are not available to enter the Wasteland. However, given that you are greatly incented to keep female Dwellers pregnant, this makes them second class citizens when it comes to gear and especially weapons. Its hard to justify giving them your nicest guns when you know they are just going to run away if a fight breaks out. So, while it pains me to say it – give your best gear to Dweller dudes first, because you can be sure they will always be available to use it.

8. Obey the pulsing gear

Without much pomp or circumstance, there will be times when your Vault reaches its population limit (usually with a host of pregnant women wobbling around with sore feet and aching backs). At such times, the gear on the upper left of the screen will start pulsing to indicate your vault is full. At this point you need to expand a Living Quarters, or upgrade it, to make more space. It’s an easy fix, but remember as mentioned above not to add rooms too fast without also adding Power capacity.

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12 Fallout Shelter game tips for optimum Oversight http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/12-fallout-shelter-game-tips-for-optimum-oversight/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/12-fallout-shelter-game-tips-for-optimum-oversight/#comments Tue, 07 Jul 2015 13:53:21 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=6798
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Fallout Shelter is a fun little F2P tower building game, and one of the better executions of non-offensive free to play that I’ve seen in recent past. Past the initial tutorial levels the game actually has a lot of depth, and I’ve learned quite a few little tricks over the course of my hours as an Overseer. Check out these 12 Fallout Shelter game tips to keep your vault running smoothly and reach the highest levels.

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1. Always force quit the game

For whatever reason, the game has a mechanic that causes your vault to continue to consume resources for a period of time after you stop playing. In the first place I’m not sure I quite get this mechanic, but aside from its intent it also seems to be super buggy – leading to what seems to be an “indefinite drain” behavior. You might play this game and think that its terrible because whenever you return to your base everything is in the red and all of your Dwellers are borderline dead. That isn’t how it is supposed to work, and fortunately there is a simple solution, just force quit the app after each play session and you’ll never have to worry about returning to a “ruined” base.

2. Grow room count and size gradually

Growing room count gradually is very important and to me it was somewhat non-obvious. The rate at which Caps scale tends to be faster, especially in the early game, than your economic ability to sustain rooms. Build too fast, and you’ll start having brownouts because you lack the Power to keep them running. Rooms without Power are literally worthless, and that usually means that a lack of Power leads quickly to a lack of Food and Water…. and doom. Instead of mass expansion, make sure you are adding adequate Power as you advance.

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3. Merge and upgrade every time

Because rate of growth is an issue, you’ll want to get the most out of every room. In general you only have so much space too, so having a room that has a really low output is just a tax on your Vault. The game provides a means of increasing the efficiency of space by “merging” rooms which are built next too each other. Plan for this, and leave room to merge your major rooms (Power, Food, Water) every time. Other rooms such as the Stimpak and Radaway generators don’t feel as important to me (I tend to always have plenty) – so I don’t mind squeezing these in anywhere there is space. Note that when you select a room, there is also an “up arrow” on the upper right of the screen. In this menu you can upgrade the room, which provides a higher resource output, and further maximizes the efficiency of the use of space. The first upgrade is pretty cheap, so I normally pick it up early.

4. The Post-Apocalypse is sexist

So Dwellers are men and women, but unfortunately not created equal. In Fallout Shelter, women can become impregnated by “dancing” with men in the Living Quarters – and this is actually very important. After the first few hours, Dwellers will stop showing up at your door. After that you can only recruit them very slowly by using the Radio Station, or you can simply generate more by procreating. So the first sexism comes in with the fact that female dwellers are pretty much not meeting their full potential unless they are pregnant all the time. Being pregnant doesn’t prevent them from working other jobs, so when you population is small enough to warrant it – you can cycle through every female Dweller. “Reporting for impregnation, Overseer.”

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Batman: Arkham Knight Quickstart Guide http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/batman-arkham-knight-quickstart-guide/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/batman-arkham-knight-quickstart-guide/#comments Sat, 04 Jul 2015 22:15:37 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=6806 Batman: Arkham Knight, but there were a few parts of the game that left me perplexed - mostly stuff in the Riddler sidequest. I thought I'd put together a plot spoiler-free guide for the tricky bits of Batman: Arkham Knight - a quick FAQ, if you will.
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I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Batman: Arkham Knight, but there were a few parts of the game that left me perplexed – mostly stuff in the Riddler sidequest. I thought I’d put together a plot spoiler-free guide for the tricky bits of Batman: Arkham Knight – a quick FAQ, if you will.

I’ve been everywhere in Arkham Knight, but I’m still missing a gadget. Where is it?

There are two gadgets that aren’t handed to you directly in the game. The first one is the Remote Electrical Charge, although I think eventually the plot will force you to pick it up. It is in the Evidence Storage room at GCPD, and you can get it the first time you go there. Just break the glass enclosing it and pick it up!

The other missable gadget in Arkham Knight is the Freeze Blast. It is located on a small table in Panessa Studios. It’s in the “Quarantine Cells” room, next to the leftmost cell. If you use Detective Vision, you can see it on a small round table.

Batman Arkham Knight Missing Gadget: Freeze Blast

This gadget is only used for Riddler challenges, so you can theoretically finish the game without ever grabbing it!

What do I do when a Riddler informant fights back?

New to Arkham Knight are Riddler informants who don’t immediately give up their intel. If you encounter one of these guys, hit the “counter” button as soon as they resist. This will knock them down and force them to talk. There’s a very short window to counter, and if you screw it up you won’t be able to get intel from them – you’ll just knock them out or they’ll run away instead.

What do these numbers mean next to Riddler trophies?

Batman Arkham Knight: Numbers Near Trophies

If you see a Riddler trophy with a pair of numbers painted next to it, these are map coordinates. These coordinates show up in the lower right corner of the screen when you’ve got the map up.

If you go to the coordinates painted near the trophy, you’ll find a spot to start a race. Some races start you out in the Batmobile, with a Power Winch hook.

Batman: Arkham Knight: Race Start Pad

Others start you out on foot by standing on a pressure pad for a few seconds. You’ll be given a timer (usually 30 seconds) to get to the trophy before it is locked away again.

Why does the game give you the end of the race as a hint rather than the start? Who knows.

What’s the deal with the Riddler robots guarding certain trophies?

There are a couple of different types of Arkham Knight Riddler challenges that involve manipulating Riddler robots.

Batman: Arkham Knight: Green Robot Trophies

Some of the time, you’ve got to use the Voice Modulator to order them around – they can be ordered to step on pressure pads, or even pick up trophies. In order to get the key for the Voice Modulator to control the robots, you’ll have to destroy one of the green robots found near certain Riddler trophies.

The robots will refuse to listen if they spot you – you’ll have to fight them or run away to get them to go back to idle. Usually there is a Riddler switch with some arrows around it that will reset the robot if it gets destroyed.

Batman Arkham Knight: Red Robot Trophies

Other times, you need to destroy the Riddler’s robots. The red robots have guns, and typically you’re not supposed to face these guys hand-to-hand. Try to find some way to wipe them out all at once – crush them, use the Batmobile, or activate a sentry gun, for instance.

How do I save the Riddler thugs with bombs in their brains?

The Riddler explains this one the first time you encounter one of these challenges in Arkham Knight, but in case you’ve lost track…

First, go to the marked location on the map, and stand on the “bomb” pressure plate. Then, throw the Remote Batarang, and control it so that it flies near to the thugs in the crowd nearby.

Once you’ve identified the thug with the bomb in his head, he’ll glow red. Nearby, you should see some sparks from a damaged electrical device – a neon sign, or similar.

Throw another Remote Batarang, and have it pass through the sparks. Then hit the thug highlighted in red, and the challenge will be completed.

There’s at least one thug that does not have sparks nearby – you’ll need to use the Remote Electrical Charge gadget instead!

How do I clear Militia Checkpoints full of armed guards/big cannons?

If you see one of those massive turrets that requires the Batmobile to destroy, and/or a whole group of armed guards with no Predator tricks (grates, gargoyles, vents, etc) around, chances are good that you need to use the Batmobile to clear them.

Sometimes, you can get the Batmobile up to an area where it’s easy to shoot into the checkpoint. Other times, you need to jump the Batmobile into the checkpoint using a ramp or other high object.


Hopefully these quick tips put you on the right track to clearing Arkham Knight and getting all the side missions wrapped up! Got any tips or questions? Post a quick comment!

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Batman: Arkham Knight Review: I am the Knight http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/batman-arkham-knight-review-i-am-the-knight/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/batman-arkham-knight-review-i-am-the-knight/#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2015 02:08:45 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=6773 Arkham series has consistently delivered the most authentic, fun Batman experience available to gamers. Rocksteady's Arkham games are a bright spot in the AAA gaming world, having consistently delivered high quality, innovative ideas, and plenty of thug-punching. The final entry in the Rocksteady trilogy - Batman: Arkham Knight - came out this week. Let's take a look at how it stacks up in my Arkham Knight review.
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The Arkham series has consistently delivered the most authentic, fun Batman experience available to gamers. Rocksteady’s Arkham games are a bright spot in the AAA gaming world, having consistently delivered high quality, innovative ideas, and plenty of thug-punching. The final entry in the Rocksteady trilogy – Batman: Arkham Knight – came out this week. Let’s take a look at how it stacks up in my Arkham Knight review.

This being the third (or fourth, depending on if you count the non-Rocksteady Arkham Origins) game in the series, Arkham Knight wastes no time throwing you into the action. Batman doesn’t start out having lost all his gear and abilities for whatever reason. He’s already got a significant compliment of stuff that took hours to earn in previous titles, and it’s presented without comment. Arkham Knight assumes that by now you know what Explosive Gel does and how to use it.

Batman: Arkham Knight Review: Gotham City

Instead of dwelling on the gameplay of the past, Arkham Knight instead focuses on introducing new tricks to Batman’s repertoire. One of the earliest plot missions unlocks 5 new tricks, including a new multi-takedown option that requires stealth kills to use – much like recent Splinter Cell titles.

Pro Tip Advance the plot early – there are a lot of gadgets and gear that you’ll only get from completing plot missions, and all of the side missions can wait. They actually get easier as you go along – sometimes you’ll be up against a challenge you just can’t beat without specialized gear.

Grand Theft Batman

Chief among these new changes, though, is the Batmobile. Arkham Knight’s Batmobile is similar to the Nolan Batman “tumbler” model, in that it’s basically a sports car crossed with a tank. The Arkham Knight Batmobile has some new tricks up its sleeve, though. It can instantly switch between “pursuit” mode and “battle” mode. Battle mode makes the vehicle into a four-wheeled tank, complete with cannons and machine guns, while trading raw speed for nimble strafing and dodging.

Pro Tip The weaker “Rattler” tanks can be taken out by shooting the machine gun into the bright spot on their turrets. The game considers this either “critical” or “perfect” depending on how many shots it took you to hit the spot. This is important for unlocking certain AR challenges and achievements, but the game doesn’t really explain it well.

Batman: Arkham Knight Review:  Batmobile in Pursuit Mode

The pursuit mode, meanwhile, adds a new way to get around town, and that’s good because Gotham has never been bigger. New grapnel boost abilities make Batman’s standard glide traversal even faster, though. It’s not like you have to pick between the two, as switching from Batmobile to gliding couldn’t be easier. One button calls the Batmobile, and Batman swoops to catch it. Once inside, you can launch Batman out of the ejector seat to immediately start a high-speed glide.

Environmental puzzles have always been a staple of the Arkham series, and Arkham Knight throws the Batmobile into this mix as well. The Batmobile can pull objects, move elevators, shoot targets, pull itself up walls, and jump ramps to get where it needs to go.

Pro Tip One of the side missions tasks you with clearing militia checkpoints on the roads. If you see a large gun in the checkpoint that can only be destroyed with the Batmobile, that means you can shoot or jump the Batmobile into the checkpoint.

Pow! Thwack! Biff!

The Arkham series single-handedly redefined what hand-to-hand combat in video games should be like. Arkham Knight continues to raise the bar with new abilities and enemy moves, while building on what has come before in the series.

For the first time, Batman has allies and can tag team in combat. Switching between characters is straightforward, and team combo attacks can insta-KO enemies. Team combat doesn’t come up a lot, but it does feel super awesome when it does.

Pro Tip If you can get the drop on enemies before combat starts, use the Disruptor to booby trap their gear, or you can use Fear multi-takedowns to even the odds right from the start.

Batman: Arkham Knight Review: Alfred FTW!

There are a million little things I could praise about this game – Arkham Knight is polished to a glossy shine. The animations are stunningly good, especially Alfred’s face via the gauntlet communicator. It still impresses me every time I see it, despite it being such a simple thing. Likewise, the voice acting is top notch.

Batman: Arkham Knight Review:  Crimefighter!

The detective mode crime reproductions are still damn fun to play, and are still my favorite portrayal of Batman as the World’s Greatest Detective. As per usual, a set of secondary supervillians have escaped, and are running rampant over the streets of Gotham. Each one has a distinct MO, and has to be tracked and confronted in a slightly different way.

Pro Tip Many of the side missions will task you with tracking down certain things in Gotham – firefighters, for instance. As the plot progresses, eventually waypoints will be added to the mission select screen. Also, destroying the flying drones will let the police helicopters roam the city, and they will sometimes point out items of interest to your side cases.

RIP PC Port

It’s a real shame that the PC version was released in the state it is in. I have a pretty mid-to-high end gaming rig, and it really chugs on sequences in Gotham, whether it’s flying around or riding in the Batmobile. I’m sure this will be patched, but the response from Rocksteady and WB is unprecedented. They’ve pulled the game and are offering refunds. I’m not planning on taking them up on it, though, and I knew I was taking this chance when I preordered. Still, like I said, it’s a shame.

Game:Batman: Arkham Knight
Links:Homepage, Steam
Release:6/23/2015
Rating: - Awesome!
Our Thoughts:

The Arkham series has always been about letting you be Batman. If played well, you feel like you are the Dark Knight. When you screw up, you know it’s you – Batman can do this, you just need to get to the point where you can. Arkham Knight gives us a truly “next gen” Batman to play with. New tricks, new toys, and new challenges to overcome. This would be a 5-star rating and serious game-of-the-year material, if not for the PC fiasco.

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