Without The Sarcasm http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com Insights. Analysis. Answers. Sat, 31 Jan 2015 21:07:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Cult of the Fiver | January 2015 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/cult-fiver-january-2015/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/cult-fiver-january-2015/#comments Sat, 31 Jan 2015 21:07:36 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=6128 Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, Age of Wonders 3, and Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag.]]> The new year means new games! I’ll dig myself out of post-winter-sale hibernation to check out Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, Age of Wonders 3, and Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag.

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon

Cult of the Fiver: Ace Combat Assault Horizon

It’s USA ALL THE WAY BABY! When some Communists or Russians or whoever are causing trouble, Americans are ready to shoot them a lot, or blow them up, or HIGH FIVE THEM TO DEATH HECK YEAH. Hop in the cockpit or gunner’s seat of some billion dollar grade-A USA asskicking military hardware and SHOOT STUFF! WOOOOO! EXPLOSIONS! HIIIIGHWAY TO THAA DANGER ZOOOONE!

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon is worth your $5 because… it’s a pretty simplistic hyper-arcade style flight sim. There’s a bunch of different planes to choose from, with different types of flying vehicles featured on different levels. The pace is frenetic, with stuff blowing up constantly. The simplified controls mean that you don’t really have to worry as much about flying, much like an on-rails shooter.

But don’t pay full price for Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, since… as a flight sim or Ace Combat game it falls way short of the mark. It’s far too simple, although it can be frustratingly difficult at times. The different planes you can fly often boil down to a cosmetic choice, as it doesn’t seem to make that much of a difference in the actual gameplay.

Store page(s): Amazon w/Steam DRM | Steam

Quick Tips:

  • There are many planes that can’t be shot down without going into “dogfight mode” so don’t even bother firing missiles at “leader” planes otherwise.
  • Flares are pretty useless and highly limited in number. Stick to evading missiles with aerial acrobatics instead.
  • Generally you should have plenty of ammo to finish a level, so you might as well fire missiles in batches to make taking down “high HP” targets easier.

Age of Wonders 3

Cult of the Fiver: Age of Wonders 3

Age of Wonders 3 is a top-down, turn based strategy game that is divided into two parts. The first is a strategic map where you raise armies, capture and defend outputs, and explore for new quests and resources. The second part is a tactical combat mode where you pit your armies against enemy armies to vie for control of territory.

Age of Wonders 3 is worth your $5 because… it’s got a ton of depth in both the tactical and strategic maps. The strategic map plays out similarly to Civilization but without most of the micromanagement aspects. The tactical combat is well executed and manages to reward careful play without making the whole experience feel too slow. The sheer variety of heroes and races to play as keeps multiple playthroughs interesting.

But don’t pay full price for Age of Wonders 3, since… it’s got a number of balance issues. For instance, it’s really hard to have enough of an army to defend all your cities. In a game like Civilization, you could generally be assured that your border cities needed more defense than your interior cities. However, it’s very easy in Age of Wonders 3 to just blitz past the border cities and take the opponent’s capital or key resource cities and cripple them. The tactical combat can sometimes drag on, and the automatic resolution often ends with unnecessary unit deaths.

Store page(s): Steam | Humble

Quick Tips:

  • The campaign mode is really rough – you’re always outnumbered and outgunned when you start a campaign map level. Blitz early and often if you want to survive!
  • When attacking a city, concentrate your units to one side. The AI takes a few turns to catch on to this strategy, which will often lead to giving you an early advantage.
  • Explore ruins to gain artifacts you can give you your heroes – this can make them significantly more powerful. In the campaign, items you give to your leaders carry over from one campaign mission to the next.

Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag

Cult of the Fiver: Assassin's Creed 4

Yarr, meharties! Mizzen the foremast! Swab those mortars, my trumps! Every duck of cloth to the wind! Ubisoft’s long-running Assassin’s Creed series takes to the Caribbean sea to tell a story in the age of piracy. Stabbing, shooting, and sneaky bush-hiding in tropical climates dovetail with naval combat and high-seas piracy!

Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag is worth your $5 because… it’s Assassin’s Creed done right, and that makes for a solid core experience surrounded by a number of fun and interesting systems. The high seas piracy is done right, and it’s one of the best ship combat sims available today. The world map is packed with stuff to do, from assassination missions, myriad collectibles, hunting, and even diving missions to undertake.

But don’t pay full price for Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, since… it’s still the same Assassin’s Creed it always has been. The core game is staler than a year old box of saltines. Some of it gets pretty repetitive as well – there are far, far too many chests and other collectibles. Still, most of the irritating stuff is optional, and there’s plenty to do even if you skip the parts that annoy you.

Store page(s): Amazon w/Steam DRM | Steam | Humble

Quick Tips:

  • Focus on capturing forts early, as they’re not terribly difficult to take and reveal important locations on the world map.
  • In addition to hunting for upgrade materials, you can buy them at certain weapon shops in major ports.
  • There’s a mobile tie-in title that makes the Kenway’s Fleet minigame a bit easier to manage and therefore more profitable.
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Con Report: Best of PAX South 2015 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/con-report-best-pax-south-2015/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/con-report-best-pax-south-2015/#comments Tue, 27 Jan 2015 04:30:42 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=6073 Wow, what a weekend! EBongo and I spent 3 days checking out the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX South) in San Antonio, and we saw so many good games! We spent most of the ride back to Austin discussing our favorites. In this article, we’ll pick our top games from the expo floor!

Best Platformer

The King's Bird

Winner: The King’s Bird

Runner Up: Light Fall

agent86 The King’s Bird got the edge in this category due to its magnificent art and excellent controls. Light Fall was a top contender here, though. The art style is interesting, and the Trine-esque controllable block mechanic was intriguing.

EBongo After the conference, there were certain games I couldn’t stop thinking about – and one of those was The King’s Bird. As the crowds swelled on Saturday I started to think we’d seen all the great games PAX had to offer when Z from Serenity Forge humbly invited us to check out this amazing game. I get happy every time I think about it. It will be mine. It must be.

Best First Person Shooter

Wrack

Winner: Wrack

Runner Up: Black Ice

agent86 This is a tough one for me. Wrack just narrowly edges out Black Ice, although it was really close. Wrack has style in spades, while Black Ice brings the nifty game mechanics to the table.

EBongo We definitely debated this one, and surely there are parallel realities where Black Ice pulled out the win. Wrack brings the thrill of fast paced FPS action with that Borderlands-esque cell shaded art style. If your FPS sessions are a little less Mountain Dew fueled, the pace of Black Ice and it’s loot system may be more right for you. Also – neon Tron spiders that can be tricked into attacking each other.

Best Tower Defense

Dungeon Defenders 2_fs

Winner: Dungeon Defenders 2

Runner Up: Fortified

agent86 Based on what I played at the show, Dungeon Defenders 2 is going to be highly polished and highly addictive. Still, it was a close race with newcomer Fortified just barely missing the top slot for me. I think as Fortified progresses it will be one to keep an eye on.

EBongo Dungeon Defenders 2 will be a fun and familiar romp, and will certainly not disappoint fans of the first game. In just a few minutes it was hard to fully feel it out, since tower defense games have so much strategy and depth, but when I didn’t know what else to do – the renewed focus on melee in the overall game balance meant that just smacking things was a perfectly good strategy. Fortified was a little harder for me to get into, but I chalk most of that up to my button mashing, and some sore feelings that agent86ix had a jetpack and I did not. The 50’s sci-fi enemies were interesting, and at times unexpected (in a good way) – and there was definitely enough to keep an eye on as the game matures.

Best Co-Op

HiveJump_fs

Winner: Hive Jump

agent86 Hive Jump is basically Super Metroid with co-op and RPG elements. That right there is enough to sell me on it, but the “backpack” mechanic for respawning is a really smart addition.

EBongo Since playing Hive Jump I’ve tried many vendors, but no one else will accept my yellow nutrient goo. As such I’ll have no choice take my business to the Hive weapon shop, where it’s value is appreciated.

Best Roguelike

EnterTheGungeon_fs

Winner: Gungeon

agent86 Gungeon is the real deal, guys. The art style is absolutely killer, the gunplay is fast, fun, and varied. Gungeon is going to be a staple game in my library for quite some time, I can tell already.

EBongo Losing my voice during PAX had it’s downsides, but a big perk was that agent86ix got to do the talking while I got first cracks at Gungeon. Tables you can throw over for cover, pixel art, dodge rolls… so much to love. Then one of the devs from Dodge Roll Games started typing console commands to unlock late game guns and my jaw dropped. Another PAX-goer saw the insanity unfolding and said “is that a Ghostbusters gun” – to which the dev said “no” …. and with a few more console commands showed us that there was a separate Ghostbusters gun already in the game!!!!111!!! My wallet refuses to close until I own this game.

Best Puzzle Game

Magnetic_fs

Winner: Magnetic: Cage Closed

Runner Up: Ronin

agent86 I actually really liked Ronin – which kind of rolled Gunpoint up with Mark of the Ninja and made something that I think is a really interesting puzzle experience.

EBongo I usurped agent86ix on this one and named my favorite Magnetic: Cage Closed to the top spot. It’s got a real Portal feel for sure, but the magnetic attract and repulse mechanics are fun to play with, and are sure to make for a ton of interesting 3D puzzles.

Best Party Game

knight squad_fs

Winner: Knight Squad

Runner Up: Super Slam Dunk Touchdown

agent86 I have to give it up for Knight Squad. Every round of this game I saw was chaotic and fun. It seems like something simple enough for new people to pick up, but deep enough to keep people coming back. Close second place goes to Super Slam Dunk Touchdown – the level of insanity in that game is unbelievable. It’s the kind of thing I could see being a big hit when everyone’s had a few.

EBongo Knight Squad conjures days of my youth, when I was crowded by other adolescent males playing Bomberman or Mario Kart, shouting in victory, or cursing in defeat but always having a blast doing it – and always wanting to play just one more game. Super Slam Dunk Touchdown has much the same party flavor, but I think it reminds me more of the great exaggerated sports titles like NBA Jam, Basewars and Mutant League Football. I was never very good at real sports – so games like Super Slam Dunk Touchdown are much closer to my heart.

Best Virtual Reality

elitedangerous_fs

Winner: Elite: Dangerous

agent86 Hands down, it’s Elite: Dangerous. With the Oculus and the joystick/throttle setup, there’s nothing like it. The immersion factor is out of this world. This game really nails exploration, as well.

EBongo If space is the final frontier, than it’s possible Elite: Dangerous has conquered it and gaming itself. It models the entire Milky Way and adds new stars and planets as they are discovered. I imagine myself finding my own secluded corner of the galaxy to hang out in. No jerks allowed – seriously.

Best Mobile Game

dungeonquest_fs

Winner: Dungeon Quest

Runner Up: Steam Bandits Outpost

agent86 After playing it at PAX, I went home and installed Dungeon Quest. There’s a lot to love here, it’s a solid action RPG in handheld format. Close runner up is Steam Bandits Outpost which is also a RPG, albeit a turn-based one. (They’ve got flying sharks with lasers. I mean, really…)

EBongo Steam Bandits Outpost had some great writing and obviously a pretty good sense of humor as agent86ix points out. Definitely worth a look.

The “One to Watch” Award

PAX South 2015: Beyond Sol

Winner: Beyond Sol

Runner Up: Faded

agent86 I have to give this award to Beyond Sol. It’s still pretty early, having just hit Steam Greenlight, but I thought it showed a ton of promise. I’m looking forward to building my space-base and flying my spaceships and destroying stuff.

EBongo Faded gets a very close second for beautiful art, a great back story concept, and a cool “color adding/spell” mechanic that has a great deal of promise. With a very early demo to show that already plays great, I can’t wait to see what this becomes.

The “Shut Up and Take My Money” Award for Best in Show

rebelgalaxy_fs

Winner: Rebel Galaxy

Runner Up: The King’s Bird

agent86 No contest – it has to be Rebel Galaxy. I am actually really sad that I can’t play this game right now. It’s so smart, and so polished already that I salivate to think what is still to come for this game.

EBongo I gushed about The King’s Bird above, but I also give this one to Rebel Galaxy by a less wide margin than agent86ix. I’ll happily throw my money at both of them. Certainly I echo agent’s excitement about what Rebel Galaxy will eventually become – because I’m already stoked to just play “warp chicken” with every destination in the galaxy and see my ship scream to a halt just before I crash at light speed.

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Contrast Game Review: Don’t Fear the Dark Side http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/contrast-game-review-dont-fear-dark-side/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/contrast-game-review-dont-fear-dark-side/#comments Wed, 21 Jan 2015 03:10:03 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=6060 Contrast Banner Contrast is an intriguing 2D/3D puzzle platformer from Canadian newcomer Compulsion Games that plays with the concept of shadows. In it, you play the role of a mysterious (perhaps imaginary?) friend to a little girl in a 1920s setting, and help her accomplish a variety of goals using your unique “shadow” powers.


Contrast Gameplay

Shadow platforming is like regular platform, but more shadowy.

Brilliant idea with forgivable execution

If you watched the trailer, you’ll start the game hungry for some shadow walking – and you won’t have to wait long. It is an amazingly innovative mechanic, and before long you’ll be bamfing in and out of shadows as if that were a perfectly normal means of locomotion. Shadow walking is quite fun, but you soon find that it can present it’s own challenges based on the shadows of other objects, and the direction of light sources. All these things make for the elements of some amazing mind bending puzzles that will have you smiling with delight when you finally devise the right shadow skill recipe.

The music, the art, the 1920s setting, and even the silhouette-puppet-show-plot (which some have been overly critical of) all had me perfectly immersed, but unfortunately I was plagued in the harder puzzles by various scenarios that would cause me to “pop out” of the shadow world back into the real world, and usually to my death. It seems a reasonable design decision that if something crushes you in the shadow world you should fall back into the real world, but more often than not this phenomenon seemed to happen when I was walking on perfectly solid shadows (a little hard to say that without smirking). It’s a pity these little blips couldn’t be slightly more ironed out – because they are a small blemish on an otherwise outstanding game. I played past them and finished the game, but I can imagine some will get frustrated and give up.


Contrast Gameplay - Princess Scene

One particularly fun scene in the game is a puppet show love letter to Limbo

Duration and the Future

I’ve read several criticisms of Contrast that cite the short duration of the game as an indication that the game was rushed. While the bugs are certainly unfortunate, I’d say it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that Contrast was imagined as a short, self contained introduction to world where people can walk in shadows. I’m not offended at all by the brevity (although admittedly I got the game on sale), but I’m actually at a point in my game playing career that I somewhat prefer short games that are creative and interesting, over long games that are grindy and monotonous. Time is a thing I’ve got a lot less of these days, so a short well executed game is fine by me. I wish I could say Contrast was exactly that, but despite it’s few flaws I found a lot to love about it and I’d love to see more. According to an interview with Autodesk Compulsion is sticking together, and I am really excited to see what them come up with next.

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Advanced Tips & Tricks for Steam In-Home Streaming http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/advanced-tips-tricks-steam-home-streaming/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/advanced-tips-tricks-steam-home-streaming/#comments Sat, 17 Jan 2015 18:29:48 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=6051 I have spent the past few months playing around with Steam In-Home Streaming. I’ve run into issues, solved error messages, and discovered a few handy tips and tricks. In this article, I’ll give you guys the lowdown on maximizing your Steam In-Home Streaming experience.

Steam In-Home Streaming

Helpful Remote Tools

Chances are good that your “host” computer is going to be pretty far away from your “client” computer when you’re using Steam in-home streaming. This means that messing with the host is going to be a pain in the neck. Luckily, any geek with IT experience knows there are several highly useful remote management tools that are easy to set up and use.

(If you happen to already be an IT pro, then skip ahead to the next section – I’m assuming at least some gamers haven’t been exposed to this already, but for you guys it’s going to be super rudimentary…)

Remote Desktop: RDP or VNC

First up we have Remote Desktop Protocol, or RDP. RDP allows you to control the desktop RDP is generally supported on most versions of Windows, so if you have a Mac or Linux box you can either install 3rd party software to use it, or you can use something like VNC instead.

You can set up the remote desktop server on the “host” machine, and then install the remote desktop client on the “client” machine. That way, if you need to change Windows settings, reboot the machine, install drivers, or do any other maintenance work, you can do so from the client PC rather than heading back over to wherever your host PC is.

Going over specifically how to install RDP or VNC is beyond the scope of this article – I just want to make you aware that it is something that exists and is useful. Microsoft has a good how-to for RDP that you can browse.

For OSX or Linux, try TightVNC’s documentation. Beware of “RealVNC” as it used to be open source once upon a time, but has since gone commercial and is a bit naggy for money.

Wake on LAN

If your host computer is asleep when you want to play, you’re going to have to wake it up. Sure, you could go press the power button, but that’s a waste when you can use Wake on LAN instead.

Note: Doing this over a wired Ethernet network is easy, but not all wireless adapters support wake-on-LAN. Wired networks are quite a bit better for Steam In-Home Streaming in a number of other ways, so try to use wired Ethernet if you can.

There are some network card settings that have to be configured in order for your host PC to be able to respond to wake on LAN packets. How-to Geek has a good article about configuring these settings.

After setting this up, you’ll need a program that can send the Wake on LAN packet. Grab AquilaWOL or WakeMeOnLAN and you’ll be good to go. You’ll also need to know the MAC (sometimes called “physical” or “hardware”) address of the network card. You can find this with ipconfig /all at the command line on Windows.

The Screen is Locked on the Remote Computer

This is a pretty common error you’ll encounter with Steam In-Home Streaming, especially if you’re using RDP and Wake on LAN. Windows can be configured to lock the screen automatically when the computer wakes from sleep. Also, when you close a RDP session, the screen tends to lock automatically as well. Thus, this isn’t a problem that is easy to fix with RDP.

The fix is a one-line batch file:

for %%i in (0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9) do ( tscon %%i /dest:console )

Just stick this in a file, call it logout.bat, and then when you’re connected via RDP, instead of closing the session with the “X” button, right click and run this batch file as Administrator instead.

Sometimes right after doing this, Steam will still complain with the same error message as before. Just give it a few seconds and then try again.

Troubleshooting Green Screens

Occasionally when you start streaming a game with Steam In-Home Streaming, the game appears as a green screen instead of showing you the game video.

I’ve found that some games just don’t work with in-home streaming, but some will start working if you change the video settings. Try toggling fullscreen or changing the resolution and see if that helps. If not, try contacting the game developer and see if there’s something on their end they can fix with a patch.

Ending Streaming Without Quitting the Game

Okay, this one is super useful. If you’re streaming a game and then you want to go back to playing it on the host PC, you have to be able to quit the streaming client without quitting the game. Usually the streaming client only quits when the game does!

There’s a few ways of doing this:

  1. Alt-Tab out of the game, and then right click on the icon for the streaming client and quit the client.
  2. Ctrl-Alt-Del and open the Task Manager, then force streaming_client.exe to quit.
  3. Alt-Tab to the Steam app, and then click the “Stream” button again.

All of these seem to work about the same, so do whichever works for you. I’d really like some keypress or sequence of keypresses that ends the streaming client without having to Alt-Tab out. However, this is the best solution I’ve found.

Running Non-Steam Games

You can run whatever you want via Steam In-Home Streaming. It’s not limited to just the games available on Steam.

In fact, you can run all sorts of applications, not just games. You can run Notepad, or Microsoft Word, or a browser, or whatever. You could even run VLC and have a cheap video streaming service.

Just add the application via the “Add a Game…” interface from Steam’s library view on the host PC. It will show up in your client libraries when you have a network connection between the two devices.

Running in Offline Mode

Surprisingly, you can use Steam In-Home Streaming when the host, client, or both computers are in offline mode.

I don’t…. have anything more to say about that. I just thought it was interesting – a lot of functionality is disabled in offline mode. I almost half expect Valve to disable this at some point.

Running as Administrator

Some games/applications have to be run as Administrator for whatever reason. This can cause issues with Steam In-Home Streaming. The symptom is that the game launches and you can see the game video, but the keyboard/mouse/controller input doesn’t work.

I’m pretty sure this is a security feature of Windows – with the game running as Administrator, programs without admin rights can’t send commands to it.

Fortunately, the solution is easy (but not terribly secure…). Just run Steam as Administrator too.

I would be very, very careful about this, though, as there are bound to be ways that Steam running as Administrator could be exploited. Use this sparingly, if at all.

Another disadvantage is that Steam will fall back to software encoding the streaming video if it is running as administrator, instead of using the GPU for encoding. If your host PC isn’t up to the task of playing the game and encoding the stream, the stream performance may suffer.

Streaming Consoles

This last trick is going to require you to have a PC with a video capture card. By itself, Steam In-Home Streaming can’t take the video output from consoles. I myself have a AverMedia C985 that I use for this. You can get one for $100 or less so if you shop sales.

In this scenario, you’ll want to add the capture software to your Steam games list on the host PC with the HDMI capture card. Then, you can use your client PC to launch the capture software and start previewing the HDMI input.

Controllers plugged into the client PC won’t work in this scenario – you’ll need to use the controllers for the console. Luckily, most console controllers are wireless these days.

It’s a couple of hoops to jump through, and it’s not free like the rest of the tips in this list. However, having your shiny new XB1 or PS4 game library at your disposal when sitting at your gaming rig is well worth it, in my opinion.

What Tricks Do You Use?

That’s how I get the most out of my Steam In-Home Streaming setup. I’m sure there’s things I’ve missed, though. What sort of things do you guys do to get more out of Steam In-Home Streaming? Tell me in the comments!

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Age of Wonders 3 Quickstart Guide http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/age-wonders-3-quickstart-guide/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/age-wonders-3-quickstart-guide/#comments Sat, 17 Jan 2015 17:02:03 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=6022 I’ve played a lot of Civilization, and I’ve played a fair bit of Heroes of Might and Magic over the years. Age of Wonders 3 shares a lot of similarities with these two series, and it came with a high recommendation from a friend. I grabbed it during the Steam winter sale, and I’m just now cracking it open and trying to figure it out. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like the first couple of missions taught me well enough to survive, so I’ve put together this guide to help other players out.

When you first start Age of Wonders 3, the game suggests you do the Elven Court campaign. The first mission of the Elven Court campaign isn’t that bad. The game starts by giving you some simple objectives and some starting units that are reasonably suited for the task. The second mission ramps up the difficulty significantly, though. You’ve got 3 opponents and the first one you meet is allied with another – they’ll both declare war on you as soon as you enter their domain. You’re outnumbered and outgunned, and the solution isn’t particularly clear.

We’ll start with some general concepts that the game kind of glosses over, and along the way we’ll cover specific strategies for getting past that second mission. Hopefully by the end of the mission, you’ll feel like you’ve learned enough to make smarter choices in the rest of the game.

The Golden Rule

Gold is king. Really, you’re going to need to produce a lot of gold in this game. Your gold is shown at the top of the screen, with your gold per turn next to it. You gain gold from cities, and certain tiles within your borders produce gold per turn as well.

In order to produce every unit you need a lump sum of gold to start production, and then you’ll need to spend extra gold per turn in upkeep. This means there’s a hard cap to the number of units you can have, and how many you can start production on in any given turn.

Buildings cost lump sum gold but don’t require gold per turn in maintenance, unlike many city-building games like Civilization. The lump sum gold is still something of a limiting factor, though. It’s very easy to deplete your gold trying to produce units, and slow the growth of your gold reserves from unit upkeep.

Basically, if you had unlimited time, you could build every building in every city. However, in practice the AI moves fast (if not faster) than you, and will probably crush you if you take the time to really max out everything.

Even with a large empire, chances are you’re going to have a couple of cities cranking out units while most of the rest are producing merchandise or something similar.

Mana Maneuvers

Mana is essential for casting spells, obviously. There’s also a concept of “casting points” which represent the amount of mana you can spend per-turn.

Mana is a shared pool among all your heroes. It’s shown at the top of the screen next to the gold production. There’s a cap to the mana pool, which can be increased by constructing certain buildings and researching certain technologies.

Next to the mana display is the casting points for your leader for the current turn. Keep in mind that each hero has his/her own pool of casting points. Casting points reset every turn, but we’re talking about “turns on the strategic map” and not “turns while in battle.” If you get a hero into two fights on the same turn, (or if you attack someone and are then attacked yourself) the casting points are not refreshed between them.

Research and Development

The other major resource your empire produces in Age of Wonders 3 is knowledge, represented by a candle. This allows you to unlock spells – both for the strategic and tactical maps. It also allows you to unlock more powerful units and buildings, as well as empire-wide bonuses.

Knowledge production can be boosted by certain buildings like the Laboratory and Observatory, so as the game progresses it’s important to build a few of these to keep up with the technology curve.

While you may have several heroes, generally the leader’s class determines what technologies you can research. Further, spells that you unlock through research are normally just for the leader. You can level up your other heroes and unlock abilities for them as well, but it’s a much slower process and they’re generally not nearly as powerful as the leader is.

Don’t Turtle

It seems like the right course of action would be to build up a small empire and prepare your forces for war. Trouble is, the AI moves blindingly fast and will hit you hard if you let it build up.

In the second level especially, the goblin and orc alliance is big and getting bigger faster than you can reasonably keep pace with. They’ll eventually start producing powerful units that can obliterate your forces. Compounding this is the fact that a lot of your leader’s skills are blight-based, and goblins resist blight to various degrees.

Age of Wonders 3: Tactical Map

On this level, what you really need to do is force your way west as fast as possible. Don’t hole up and try to grow. In the far northwest corner is the dragon village, and going here will net you a free gold dragon. This thing is a badass. It will eat your enemies for lunch. Just this unit and your leader will carry you through quite a few fights against tier 1 and tier 2 armies.

If you upgrade this city a bit, you can train more dragons. Having 3 or more dragons in a fight is just an instant win button. There’s really no stopping a dragon army.

Vulnerable Heroes to the Front Line

The campaigns in Age of Wonders 3 usually hand you a leader for your army plus a bunch of other heroes. Usually these heroes must survive the level, or the whole thing is shot. It might be tempting to have these guys hide in the back and never engage the enemy, but I took the opposite tack.

These heroes will auto-revive if they’re killed in a fight but you win the battle. Thus, they’re more like disposable shock troopers that have special abilities. Since there are certain hero bonuses that only work when the hero is the army leader, sometimes it makes sense to give them their own armies. Multiple armies can take part in a single battle, so you can stack them all into the same fight even if they aren’t in the same army. Just make sure they’re standing in a hex next to the enemy target when the battle starts, and they’ll be included in the fight.

Watch Your Back

Since units are so limited, and pushing forward is often the only viable strategy, it can be tempting to leave your cities unguarded. Resist this. Even a few weak units guarding every city can help. The AI doesn’t seem to like attacking cities that are defended, unless the AI’s got a relatively large army. Also, when defending a city you have walls to hide behind, which can be a big benefit to a weaker army.

What’s worse is roving bands of independent forces – these guys can also take your cities from you if you’re not careful. I’ve never had them attack a guarded city, but they’ve engaged small bands of units on occasion.

Bear in mind too that there can be multiple routes around the map. For example, teleporters, caves, and so forth. More of your cities may be on the front lines than it appears at first. I’ve also had enemies sneak past my border cities and try to hit the cities further in that were not as well guarded.

Often, though, I found that putting pressure on their cities makes them fall back and defend, which leaves them with less of an army to go hit my territories. Hitting them consistently also meant that they weren’t able to build up forces as easily.

Tactical Espionage Action

Age of Wonders 3 Guide: Tactical Combat

When push comes to shove in Age of Wonders 3, it’s time to fight. Here are a few tips for winning tactical battles:

Don’t auto-resolve combat. Just don’t. It’s terrible, your troops will die, you will lose. I only auto-resolve if I know I’m going to lose and I plan to re-load instead of continuing to play. Even if I think I will probably lose, I still fight to take out as many of the enemies as possible.

Don’t believe the “probable outcome” the game generates. I’ve had it tell me I had a very likely chance of failure in a 12v12 matchup and then went on to kill their entire army while losing maybe 2 of my troops. It can be a pretty good indicator of success, but it doesn’t take into account a lot of mitigating factors.

Remember your spell restrictions. You can only cast one spell per turn, there is a shared mana pool, and each hero has his/her own spell points per (strategic map) turn. Also note that you can use your leader spells in a fight even if the leader isn’t present, but it will cost you double mana.

Try to isolate and focus on specific enemy units. Units do full damage regardless of their hit points. It’s smart to try to get a small part of the enemy army away from the rest and gang up on them. Ranged units can plink away at an enemy, and then your melee units go in for the kill.

When laying siege to a city, the AI will sit and defend until you come into range. You can exploit this by staying out of range and moving far to one side of the map or the other. Bunch up your units and focus on the units at the edge of their defensive line. The AI will then spend a couple of turns scrambling to get into position, which gives you time to whittle them down before the reinforcements arrive.

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4 Trivia Crack Tips only the highest ranked players have figured out http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/4-trivia-crack-tips-highest-ranked-players-figured/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/4-trivia-crack-tips-highest-ranked-players-figured/#comments Sat, 17 Jan 2015 04:04:39 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=6028 Trivia Crack has taken the app stores by storm. Etermax’s infectious trivia game may have been born in South America, but it is clear that the US now has the fever (and I count myself among the stricken). The game has incredible polish, and while slightly derivative of the “Trivial Pursuit” model actually takes the genre much further with battle modes and plenty of user interaction (including user generated questions!). After many hours played, I’ve noted the following Trivia Crack tips that will help you get in the groove if you’re a new comer.

Trivia Crack Tips Science

1. Take Your Time

The nature of Trivia Crack makes it very accessible and fast paced. It’s part of what makes it so addictive. At first, you’ll naturally go a little bit slower, but even before the end of your first game you’ll likely start to find your self speeding up and sometimes answering too quick. Just like a multiple choice test, it pays to guess wise even if you don’t know the answer. Take a few seconds to consider if you can eliminate any choices. If you are really competitive you might even use one of the “boosts” the game gives you to eliminate choices or get more time. The games timer is quite generous for most questions, so take your time.


Trivia Crack Tips Challenge

2. It pays to show off

Since each turn is single elimination in Classic Mode, every opportunity to get a Character is golden. In addition, the more Characters you have showing, the more you will demoralize your opponent. In some cases, they may even give up trying and give you a free win. For these reasons – always go for the easy Characters first. Hit your strong categories and get those behind you. Show you’re opponent you mean business and they are better off giving up now.

Trivia Crack Tips History

3. When you’re desperate… ATTACK!

In my opinion, trying to steal opponents characters is generally a bad bet. You have to ante one of your own Characters, and statistically it likely more difficult to beat your opponent in a Challenge than it is to get one question right. All that said, if your opponent is close to winning and has a bunch of Characters, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and try and steal some of those babies. Try to ante Characters they already have, lest your attack double backfire and improve their chance of winning even more!

Trivia Crack Tips Geography

4. Seize the hour

As they say in Vegas, you can’t win if you don’t play. One of the key ways Trivia Crack entices you to spend money is limiting you to three lives. Once your three lives are used up, you can’t start a new game until some time has passed. In your first play through this will seem to let the air out of your awesome fun times balloon, but there is an easy way around this – just start a new game every few hours. You’ve got a two day timer on your turn for each game you start. Even if you have a load of games running in your queue, you can get through all of your turns pretty quick when you’ve got time to kill. Don’t let your lives go to waste (they respawn at a rate of one per hour). Seize the hour!


Are you addicted to Trivia Crack too? Got any of your own Trivia Crack tips to share? Leave them in the comments below!

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Tile Enigma Review http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/tile-enigma-review/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/tile-enigma-review/#comments Thu, 15 Jan 2015 03:03:42 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=6010 Pikaware’s Tile Enigma launches for iOS devices today, and it brings a new take on the “color matching” puzzle genre. In our review, we’ll tell you what Tile Enigma is about, and whether or not it is worth playing. Along the way, we’ll chat with Pikaware’s Tammy and Chris Ball about the game and its inspiration.

Easy to Learn, Hard to Master

Tile Enigma starts out simple. Each tile has two possible colors, yellow or blue. The objective is to match the color of the tiles across an entire row or column. When this has been done at least once for every row and column on the board, you win!

Tile Enigma Review: Early Level

In order to change the color of the tiles, there are just two equally simple interactions. One is a swipe, which moves a colored tile to an empty space and swaps its color in the process. The other is a two-finger tap, which flips all the tiles in a row or column.

While the game sounds simple in theory, the puzzles in Tile Enigma manage to bend your brain in weird and interesting ways. Each level presents a unique challenge, and a very limited number of moves in which to meet your tile matching goals.

Pikaware’s Tammy and Chris on the simplicity of the mechanics:

“We started with game pieces that were two sided. The earliest iteration of the game was prototyped with pieces of cardboard, with bright paper taped to one side. In the beginning, we envisioned a game where you try to get all the pieces to be a matching color. But it is more interesting to match up just one row or column at a time— that way both colors are represented throughout gameplay. We really liked the quality of two opposites within the same game piece, and that neither side (blue nor yellow) is more important than the other; just that they are different but equally useful.”

Each level in Tile Enigma is scored on a 3-star system. There is a “par time” to beat to get maximum stars on each puzzle.

Ramping Up With Echoes

Once you’ve cleared the first “world” of 20 puzzles, the game introduces “echoes” – tiles that can cause chain reactions when they are matched.

Tile Enigma Review: Echoes

The first echo is shown in the screenshot above. Whenever this tile is lined up with tiles of the same color, it will cause the 4 tiles next to it diagonally to flip.

Pikaware’s Tammy and Chris on echoes:

“Having played many popular games in the match-3 genre, one of the aspects we felt was most satisfying from a gameplay perspective was the potential for cascading effects. We went through a number of iterations on ways to bring that fun gameplay element into Tile Enigma. Eventually we nailed it with echoes.”

Echoes add a bit more variety to the game’s puzzles, and keep the later worlds feeling fresh.

Puzzles, Not Random Chance

Unlike levels in Candy Crush Saga, each puzzle in Tile Enigma can be solved with the number of moves you’re given. It’s just a matter of figuring out the right sequence of moves to properly align the colored tiles. Additionally, there’s no penalty for failing and trying again.

In this way, Tile Enigma never feels frustrating – instead of wondering if random candies are going to fall your way, or stressing about having to wait an hour before trying again, you can just relax and experiment.

In-App Purchases

Tile Enigma is a free download, and like most free-to-play games it features in-app purchases. The free version comes with the first 40 levels, but unlocking the other 60 will set you back $1.99. More levels are planned, with Tammy and Chris saying that they plan to release more “as soon as we have a critical mass of players reaching the last level.”

The game starts you out with 20 extra moves, which can be used to help bypass puzzles you get stuck on. It’s possible to buy more once these run out, but as each puzzle is solvable without extra moves, this is completely optional.

Tile Enigma also features ads which can be turned off for another $1.99 fee. The only downside to this is that unless you purchase this option, the game won’t let you play without a data connection.

Should You Grab Tile Enigma?

Mobile gaming is a crowded market with tons of choices. Most are rehashes of old concepts, or downright clones of popular titles. Pikaware’s Tile Enigma stands out as a unique, simple, yet challenging entry into the mobile puzzler genre. It’s free to grab the first 40 levels, so there’s really no reason not to try it out!

Grab Tile Enigma from the iTunes store!

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Cult of the Fiver | December 2014 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/cult-fiver-december-2014/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/cult-fiver-december-2014/#comments Wed, 31 Dec 2014 21:31:17 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=5998 To The Moon, buy a bunch of cheap foreign goods from Tropico 4, spend time with our Grove Street family in GTA: San Andreas, get really drunk and punchy in Pixel Piracy, and magically teleport from rooftop to rooftop, delivering... "presents" in Dishonored.]]> The holidays are in full effect, so let’s honor a dying man’s last wish with To The Moon, buy a bunch of cheap foreign goods from Tropico 4, spend time with our Grove Street family in GTA: San Andreas, get really drunk and punchy in Pixel Piracy, and magically teleport from rooftop to rooftop, delivering… “presents” in Dishonored.

To The Moon

Cult of the Fiver: To The Moon

To The Moon is a top-down story driven “lite adventure” game that focuses on the story of a dying old man. He has hired a company with the technology to rewrite people’s memories and allow them to experience things they desperately wanted to do but couldn’t, for whatever reason. The man wants to have gone to the moon, although he’s unable to articulate specifically why. His story, and the story of the people who matter to him are central to the adventure.

To The Moon is worth your $5 because… it tells a unique and touching story using classic adventure and puzzle game mechanics. The soundtrack and art style are both very well done.

But don’t pay full price for To The Moon, since… it’s relatively short, and once I’d finished it I didn’t really feel the need to play it through again. There’s not a lot of “game” here, and the one puzzle minigame isn’t that much fun.

Store page(s): Steam | Humble

Tropico 4

Cult of the Fiver: Tropico 4

The Tropico series follows El Presidente, the somewhat benevolent dictator of a tiny Caribbean banana republic. The Prez must balance the needs of the people while making as much money as possible – both for the upkeep of the island, and his own private Swiss bank account. Campaign missions present unique challenges and objectives, or play a sandbox game and build to your heart’s content.

Tropico 4 is worth your $5 because… it maintains the addictive “one more year” formula of previous Tropico titles, and introduces some new and useful mechanics. For instance, now you can spend money to rush the construction of buildings.

But don’t pay full price for Tropico 4, since… it’s only incrementally different from Tropico 3, which was only incrementally different from the original Tropico. Most of the interesting and new stuff comes from expansions, so make sure you grab the “complete” edition.

Store page(s): Amazon w/Steam DRM | Steam | Humble

Quick Tips:

  • Care for the primary needs of your people – housing, religion, healthcare, and entertainment, as soon as possible
  • Every year, you’ll get some foreign aid money depending on your relationships with the major powers. This is most of your income in the early game, so time your new construction around when this money arrives
  • A strong economy is a good starting point for almost every mission. Build farms, and the corresponding factories to produce goods.

GTA: San Andreas HD

Cult of the Fiver: GTA San Andreas HD

In this, the third entry in the GTA 3 trilogy, a former west-coast gangbanger returns home to attend the funeral of his mother, and to swear vengeance against the gang that took her life. The modern GTA third-person open world sandbox style gameplay is in full effect. GTA San Andreas featured one of the largest game worlds available in a console game at the time of its release. The HD remaster boasts updated visuals and achievement support.

GTA: San Andreas HD is worth your $5 because… it’s a classic of the PS2/Xbox era, updated with some nice touches for the modern era. Despite its age, San Andreas still holds up well, and it recalls a time in the GTA series when the game was more about having fun and less about realism.

But don’t pay full price for GTA: San Andreas HD, since… even with the updated visuals, this is still a game that’s hard on the eyes. Some of the textures still feel like they could use another pass. The enormous game world has its downsides, as there’s a ton of dead space and obscure collectibles in odd locations.

Store page(s): Xbox Marketplace

Quick Tips:

  • While the collectible items can often be a chore, grabbing them tends to unlock weapons and other benefits for your safe houses.
  • Consult a map of the game world to find out where weapons and body armor spawns. Having good gear helps a ton in most of the missions.
  • Working out at the gym makes CJ more powerful, so work out whenever you can!

Pixel Piracy

Cult of the Fiver: Pixel Piracy

Pixel Piracy is most easily described as a mashup of Terraria and Sid Meier’s Pirates! Like Pirates, you build a crew and sail the high seas, looking for loot. Like Terraria, the game is presented in 2D pixel art, and you can build your ship from bits and pieces any way you see fit.

Pixel Piracy is worth your $5 because… it’s a bunch of different games and genres mashed up into one, and for the most part the individual game mechanics gel well together. It’s fun to gain experience and watch your crew level up, it’s fun to explore and plunder for treasure, it’s fun to build pirate ships, and so forth.

But don’t pay full price for Pixel Piracy, since… there’s a lot of repetition. There are only a couple of basic encounters – island, town, and pirate ship. Each of these has multiple levels, but in the end they’re fundamentally similar. There are a lot of alpha/beta quality things about the game, including some funky menus and the occasional glitch.

Store page(s): Steam | Humble

Quick Tips:

  • At the outset, focus on making your captain as powerful as you can. Give him lots of boosts and skills. You can worry about hiring crew later.
  • Level 1 pirate ship encounters are pretty easy. Don’t forget to head back to your ship and click “plunder” after you’ve beaten the enemy pirate(s) to get your loot.
  • Having the “fishing” skill and the “cooking” skill can produce nearly infinite food. Just remember to have a fishing rod on hand when you’re sailing from place to place.

Dishonored

Cult of the Fiver: Dishonored

In the opening to Dishonored, Corvo is betrayed by the country he would give his life to serve, framed for a murder and kidnapping he did not commit, and forced to be an unwitting pawn in a supernatural game of balance. He’s now the only hope for a resistance movement that has a dubious agenda of its own. Dishonored plays out like a more medieval version of Deus Ex, with multiple routes to achieve your goals. Be a silent assassin, a walking tank, or shadowy kingmaker, depending on your choices.

Dishonored is worth your $5 because… it’s a AAA title that lives up to the quality you’d expect from that tier of game. The plot is interesting, the world is immersive, and the gameplay is extremely fun. It’s possible to clear the entire game without ever killing anyone, even your “assassination” targets. Your decisions can effect they way the game plays out, even turning your own allies against you.

But don’t pay full price for Dishonored, since… there are a few irritating moments. Some of the enemies are not fun to deal with. It’s also possible to get lost in some of the larger environments that give you little direction.

Store page(s): Amazon w/Steam DRM | Steam

Quick Tips:

  • Killing people increases the “chaos” level, which increases the number of enemies and can lead to the “bad” ending
  • Having an enemy fall into the water (or if you drop them into the water once they’re unconscious) counts as a kill, unfortunately
  • Enemies take a couple of seconds to spot you, and they’ll get little “lightning bolts” above their heads to indicate how close they are to discovering you
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Best of the Fiver | Winter 2014 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/best-fiver-winter-2014/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/best-fiver-winter-2014/#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 23:22:02 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=5981 With the Steam winter sale right around the corner, let’s take a look back at the back half of 2014 and I’ll pick the 5 best $5 games I played during that period!

It’s Dangerous to Go Alone!

Take these Steam Sale tips and tricks! For real, they will save you money.

Number 5: Goat Simulator

Goat Simulator

Featured in: July 2014

Why it got the nod: Goat Simulator is a game that is unashamed about its weirdness. It stands tall among a sea of buggy, early access shovelware by being unabashedly crap. It’s a parody of a variety of other games. It has no right to be any good. It should be a one-trick pony that is fun for a few minutes but then quickly falls apart.

Except, it’s not. It’s actually a pretty fun game. It blends some of the more entertaining parts of trick based games and destruction based games. It sets interesting goals and gives you a wide array of ways to accomplish them. It’s got a ton of easter eggs and fun little references and moments. It has a wealth of mutators that mod the game in interesting ways. Finally, it’s been patched several times to drastically increase the amount of content available.

Goat Simulator isn’t a game for everyone, but if you can relax and enjoy the ride, it can be a ton of fun.

Get it: Amazon w/Steam DRM | Steam | Humble

Number 4: Lego Marvel Superheroes

Cult of the Fiver: LEGO Marvel

Featured in: October 2014

Why it got the nod: Movie and comic tie-in games are a bit hit or miss. Often they’re total garbage and fail to do service to their source material. It’s a real shame, too, as many characters and stories from comics and movies would be interesting to experience in video game form.

Lego Marvel Superheroes manages to be several good movie and comic book tie in games at once. Despite the kiddie exterior, and the sometimes uneven quality of Lego games, Lego Marvel Superheroes manages to be fun and entertaining almost completely from start to finish. All the major Marvel properties are featured, with a roster of hundreds of characters.

Missions team up various Marvel superheroes against a wide variety of Marvel villains. Outside of the missions, there’s a whole open world style city to explore, including a SHIELD helicarrier and all the major New York Marvel hotspots.

If you can deal with the kid-friendly exterior, Lego Marvel Superheroes may just be the best Marvel title in recent history, as sad as that is. C’mon Marvel! You guys have a massive cinematic universe, and the best you can do video game-wise is a Lego title!?

Get it: Amazon w/Steam DRM | Steam | Humble

Number 3: Papers, Please

Papers, Please

Featured in: July 2014

Why it got the nod: Papers, Please is a socially conscious game about manning a fictional Eastern European border checkpoint. It’s a game where you have to starve your family in order to win. It’s a game where the “right thing” is not always clear, and often just plain doesn’t exist. It tells an uncomfortable story about the way people dehumanize each other.

All of that really means that it’s an “important” game. It’s a game you should want to play, although that doesn’t really answer the question of whether or not it’s actually worth playing. However, despite some occasional frustration, I generally liked the gameplay of Papers, Please. I think it’s a unique game that manages to be challenging and even fun despite the depressing and oppressive social message.

Get it: Steam | Humble

Number 2: The Wolf Among Us

Cult of the Fiver: Wolf Among Us

Featured in: October 2014

Why it got the nod: Telltale has been consistently putting out high-quality adventure experiences lately. The Wolf Among Us is cut from the same mold as their acclaimed The Walking Dead series. The art and the gameplay are similar, with both games echoing their comic book roots.

Where Walking Dead focuses on a survival horror story, Wolf Among Us tells a more noir detective tale. A murder mystery forms the central plot thread around which the story winds. The cast of characters are all lifted from classic fables, often twisted to fit a more adult theme. Bigby Wolf is the central protagonist. He takes the basic template of Little Red Riding Hood’s big bad wolf and mixes elements of superheroes like Wolverine, the Hulk, and Batman.

The end result is a compelling story filled with interesting, unique characters and tense situations. It’s an immensely satisfying experience from the opening moments of the first episode to the final showdown between the “good guys” and the “bad guys.”

Get it: Steam | Humble

Number 1: One Way Heroics

cult-of-the-fiver-one-way-heroics

Featured in: August 2014

Why it got the nod: It’s rare that I obsess about a video game enough to play it after I’ve beaten it. It’s rarer still that I opt to play a game to get all the achievements. One Way Heroics is one of a very short list of games that I got to the end of the achievements and still didn’t want to put it down.

One Way Heroics is a roguelike RPG stripped to the studs. It’s everything fun about the genre without any of the frustration or grinding. For instance, although the game world is randomized, the game will tell you the seed and let you replay it should you fail. If you find something awesome that your current class can’t use, you have the chance to save it when the game ends for a future playthrough.

Daily, there are “special seeds” given that produce experiences that are otherwise relatively rare. A game of One Way Heroics can take hours, but often it can be cleared in less than an hour if you know what you’re doing or you play on an easy difficulty.

There are a bunch of achievements to get, and a bunch of extra content to unlock once you’ve cleared the challenges the game initially presents. Between all of the various challenges, leaderboards, unlockables, and the procederally generated worlds, One Way Heroics has a lot to offer roguelike RPG enthusiasts.

Get it: Steam

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Best Minecraft Gifts – Minecraft Gift Guide! http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/best-minecraft-gifts-minecraft-gift-guide/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/best-minecraft-gifts-minecraft-gift-guide/#comments Mon, 08 Dec 2014 13:22:53 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=5958 Some people are just hard to shop for. If you’ve got a friend, family member, or significant other that’s really into Minecraft, but you have no idea what would be good to get for them, this is the guide for you! In my Minecraft Gift Guide, I’ll lay out the best gift ideas for the Minecraft obsessed person (or people) in your life.

Minecraft Gift Guide

Minecraft Gift Guide: More Minecraft!

If you’re not savvy to the world of Minecraft, you might not know that there are actually three major editions of the game. Possibly the best gift for your favorite Minecrafter is another copy of the game! Those who play on PC or console may love to get the mobile version for playing anywhere. Those who play on console or mobile may also be interested in getting the fully moddable PC version, to find out how it all began. The full run down on each version is as follows:

Minecraft Gift Guide PC Version

The PC version has been around the longest, and has the most features. There are a lot of things you can download for the PC version which extend the replay value of the game. The PC version of Minecraft is easily the definitive version. If the Minecraft lover in your life doesn’t own this version, it’s an easy thing to recommend. You can grab it at the Minecraft official site and the current price is around $26.

Minecraft Gift Guide Minecraft Console Version

The console version is available for several different consoles, and while it lacks mod support and some of the most recent additions to the game, it’s still a blast. One major difference is that the console version support local split-screen multiplayer which means that a whole family or group of friends can sit down and play together. If there are Xboxes or Playstations in your house and a whole gaggle of Minecraft lovers, consider grabbing it from Amazon. Just make sure you pick the version that matches the console they own!

Minecraft Gift Guide Minecraft Mobile Version

Finally, the mobile version is available for both Apple and Android devices. It’s the least feature rich of the various Minecraft versions, but on the plus side you can take it with you wherever you go! Grab it for Android devices from Google Play or the Amazon Appstore. You can get it via iTunes by clicking here.

Minecraft Gift Guide: Games in the Same Vein as Minecraft

With Minecraft’s runaway success, there have been quite a few imitators and variations on its innovative formula. There are a ton of copycats, though, so I’ve sorted out a few games that are similar and worth playing. Any of these would make a great gift for the Minecraft enthusiasts.

Minecraft Gift Guide Terraria

First up is Terraria. The short description for Terraria is “it’s like Minecraft but in two dimensions.” There’s a lot of differences between the two games, and I personally prefer it to regular Minecraft on most occasions. It can be a little scary for smaller kids – kind of “Halloween scary” stuff like skeletons and zombies.

Terraria is available for Xbox 360 and also for PC.

Minecraft Gift Guide Starbound

Another game very similar to Terraria is Starbound. Unlike Terraria and Minecraft’s focus on a single world, Starbound is more about flying around between various planets and exploring them for treasure. Starbound is currently only available for PC.

Minecraft Gift Guide Kerbal Space Program

Finally, I’ll branch out a bit and suggest Kerbal Space Program. Kerbal Space Program is all about building rockets to explore the space near the planet Kerbal. While this is vastly different from the premise of Minecraft and Terraria, most of the folks who get really into Minecraft enjoy Kerbal Space Program immensely. If strapping rockets to stuff, building spaceships, and watching them fly sounds like something that they’d find fun, you should consider gifting them a copy of **the PC version of Kerbal Space Program.

Minecraft Gift Guide: Minecraft LEGO

Minecraft and LEGO have a lot in common, so it’s no surprise that there are officially licensed Minecraft LEGO sets available for purchase. If your kids play Minecraft and you feel like they are “plugged in” to it a little too often, Minecraft LEGOs are a great way for them to get away from screen time and still flex their creative muscles. Many parents that are “all thumbs” when it comes to video games may find LEGOs a nice way to engage in their kids interests and still reminisce about the good old days (when LEGOs were mostly primary colors).

Minecraft Gift Guide The Cave Lego

The Cave is a good starter set, it’s one of the less expensive ones. We are talking about Minecraft and LEGO, though, so it’s still somewhat pricey.

Minecraft Gift Guide The Farm Lego

Similar to this is the Farm set which includes some animals and some crops!

Minecraft Gift Guide Micro World

There’s also a whole “Micro” line like the Micro World set. These are a bit smaller in scale and have fewer pieces, but they’re still fun nonetheless. That set is actually a bestseller, according to Amazon!

Minecraft Gift Guide: Minecraft Toys

If you’re just looking for something small, a Minecraft-themed stocking stuffer perhaps, then there are a wealth of Minecraft toys available that make great gifts.

Minecraft Gift Guide Wall Torch

I personally think this Minecraft Wall Torch is pretty cool. It makes a decent night light, although it doesn’t automatically turn off.

Minecraft Gift Guide Redstone Nightlight

The Minecraft Redstone Block makes a decent night light as well. Although it can’t be hung from the wall, it does automatically turn itself off.

Minecraft Gift Guide Minecraft Pig

On the “cute but not particularly practical” side of the scale, there’s a wealth of Minecraft-inspired plush toys, like this Minecraft Baby Pig. They’re inexpensive enough to round out another gift, or for that one niece/nephew who you have to buy for but you don’t really like.

Minecraft Gift Guide: Conclusion

Despite how tricky it may seem at first, there are a ton of gifts out there that a Minecraft fan could enjoy. Do you have any suggestions for items we missed? Leave us a comment and share your favorites!

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