Without The Sarcasm https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com Insights. Analysis. Answers. Tue, 21 Feb 2017 16:27:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/wp-content/uploads/cropped-question-mark-512-1-32x32.png Without The Sarcasm https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com 32 32 41351423 Automata Empire Review: Automata for the People https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/automata-empire-review-automata-people/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/automata-empire-review-automata-people/#respond Mon, 20 Feb 2017 23:59:54 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8573 Automata Empire first popped up on our radar after a most unlikely demo - we saw it at an afterparty during PAX South 2016. It took home our Pleasant Surprise award at the con for popping up out of nowhere and stealing our hearts. Automata Empire released last April, but somehow we lost track of it until we bumped into Nonadecimal Creative again in an unlikely place - the Black Ice booth at PAX South 2017! We're not letting this one get away again - let's nail down these little fuzzy monsters before they head off in a random direction. It's time for our Automata Empire review!
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Automata Empire first popped up on our radar after a most unlikely demo – we saw it at an afterparty during PAX South 2016. It took home our Pleasant Surprise award at the con for popping up out of nowhere and stealing our hearts. Automata Empire released last April, but somehow we lost track of it until we bumped into Nonadecimal Creative again in an unlikely place – the Black Ice booth at PAX South 2017! We’re not letting this one get away again – let’s nail down these little fuzzy monsters before they head off in a random direction. It’s time for our Automata Empire review!

Related Video Over on YouTube, WOTS went into some basic strategies for playing Automata Empire, check out the replay:

Automata Empire is clearly a real-time strategy game, although it differs significantly from just about every other RTS I’ve ever played. Instead of controlling units, you only control where structures are built. The units themselves (monsters, they’re termed) wander aimlessly around the map unless otherwise directed. Depending on how many monsters inhabit the same tile, their behavior changes. Some groups wander randomly, others chase enemies, but the really interesting groups are the ones that can’t quite keep it together.

If there are too many monsters in one tile, they will try to split. This splitting causes the group to break into four smaller groups, but when they split their numbers increase. The monsters are both your only resource and the backbone of your army. Thus, the trick to growing your army in Automata Empire is establishing a solid monster breeding program. But beware – if the monsters are too dense in an area, they will spontaneously evaporate!

Various structures can be built on the map, each with its own monster-harnessing purpose. Roads and catapults move monsters from one area to another, while walls and taverns keep them together and foster more opportunities to grow their numbers. You can equip your monsters to fight with both spears and shields, which increases their lethality and survivability in combat.

Most of the game modes pit your monsters against enemy monster teams in objective-based combat. There’s a simple “kill all the enemies” mode, plus capture the flag (an interesting problem when you can’t directly control your units), base defense, and a sort of “last mand standing” zombie survival mode.

Automata Empire is a game all about patterns, and those patterns can be quite hypnotic. The monsters dance and spin around the map, splitting and joining and colliding with enemies. With little to no micromanagement to speak of, the game is all about long term strategy instead of blazing fast actions-per-minute.

The random elements of the game kind of undercut the strategy, however. Just when you think you’ve figured out the patterns, something unexpected happens that can throw off your careful planning. The occasional monkey wrench wouldn’t be a bad thing, but sometimes a whole colony of monsters just collapses and there’s not a real reason why.

Automata Empire
Links:Homepage, Store Page
Release:4/8/2016
Price:$8.99
Rating: - Awesome!
Our Thoughts:

Automata Empire is as chaotic as it is hypnotic. The strategy focus and the simple mechanics make it easy to learn but difficult to master. That simplicity and randomness cut both ways, though, yielding a few frustrating moments.

Review Policy

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Getting and Spending Command Points – Marvel Puzzle Quest https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/command-points-mpq-marvel-puzzle-quest/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/command-points-mpq-marvel-puzzle-quest/#respond Sun, 12 Feb 2017 23:34:31 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8564 Marvel Puzzle Quest. MPQ Command Points (CP for short) have quickly gained a reputation as one of the best ways to get 4-star covers, though. Optimizing your MPQ CP gain and spending those command points properly is a key strategic part of Marvel Puzzle Quest. In this Command Point guide for Marvel Puzzle Quest, I'll give you all the info you need to make smart Command Point decisions. You'll be earning 4-star covers like nobody's business!
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Compared to Hero Points and ISO-8, Command Points are a relatively recent addition to Marvel Puzzle Quest. MPQ Command Points (CP for short) have quickly gained a reputation as one of the best ways to get 4-star covers, though. Optimizing your MPQ CP gain and spending those command points properly is a key strategic part of Marvel Puzzle Quest. In this Command Point guide for Marvel Puzzle Quest, I’ll give you all the info you need to make smart Command Point decisions. You’ll be earning 4-star covers like nobody’s business!

Getting Command Points in Marvel Puzzle Quest

There’s a number of ways to get Command Points in Marvel Puzzle Quest. Some of the major ones are:

  • Daily Login Rewards (“Shield Resupply”) can sometimes be Command Points
  • PvP and PvE Placement and Progression rewards grant Command Points
  • At certain Champion levels, the reward is some extra CP
  • As a bonus for spending money

You Can’t Buy Love (or Command Points)… Sorta

Command Points are the only currency in Marvel Puzzle Quest that you can’t purchase directly. Well, kinda… you do get small Command Point bonuses for you and your alliance when you spend money on VIP plus larger packs of ISO-8 or Hero Points. On the one hand, if you’re in an alliance with 20 people and you purchase something that gives everyone +7 Command Points, that’s 140 CP in one go! However, very little of it actually goes to you, so this is a terribly inefficient way of getting Command Points.

Command Points from Events

Both PvP (“Versus” tab) and PvE (“Story” tab) events in Marvel Puzzle Quest can easily earn you Command Points rapidly. In my opinion, PvE events offer easier CP gains with lower stress.

Pro Tip Whatever your chosen method is, if you’re playing for CP, make sure you max out your SHIELD Clearance Rank. It does not affect the difficulty of the matches you have to play, but it does increase the rewards.

Earning Command Points from PvE Events

At most SHIELD Clearance Ranks, you’ll have 3 progression rewards milestones at which you’ll earn Command Points. Two of them are fairly early in the progression rewards – before you hit the halfway mark for the top prize. The top prize in most PvE events is a giant chunk of MPQ Command Points, but getting there can be a serious pain.

Pro Tip Generally you’re going to need to average around 10,000 points per day in order to get the top prize in a MPQ PvE event. The points increase on later days, so don’t sweat it too much if you fall a few thousand short on your first day. However, it is really hard to hit that top tier milestone without all three required characters plus clearing every node 4-6+ times, until it’s worthless.

Placement rewards in Marvel Puzzle Quest’s PvE can also award Command Points, but they’re typically hard to get. The more you play and win, the harder brackets you’re likely to be matched into. That, coupled with the low number of CP gained and the difficult grind to get there means that it’s not going to be your primary source of Command Points unless you’re truly a hardcore MPQ’er.

On the later nodes each day, one of the random rewards tends to be 1 CP. It may not look like much, but considering you can earn 3-4 CP this way daily, it can make an excellent addition to your Command Point total. If you’re grinding the nodes to get points towards the progression rewards, chances are you’ll end up with it anyhow.

Earning Command Points from PvP Events

PvP (“Versus”) events also award CP for both progression and placement. I don’t know about you, but I find it very difficult to push up and hold a leaderboard position in PvP. If you’re really hardcore into MPQ, maybe you can spend cash on shielding and keep your score longer, but for me I spend most of my Hero Points on new slots instead.

That said, it’s still totally doable to earn Command Points from PvP even for the casual player. What you want to do is target 575 points. I will tend to start the PvP event as early as possible, but then ignore it for at least the first day. Other players will duke it out for the top of the leaderboards, and then I can use their high scores as a leg up to get my progression rewards in as few matches as possible.

The timing somewhat varies depending on how busy my PvP bracket is. Usually by the last day, if I’m low on the leaderboard, winning a match will award me around 60 points towards progression. Then I only have to play 10-15 matches to get my CP reward!

Spending Command Points in Marvel Puzzle Quest

There’s only really a few ways to spend Command Points in Marvel Puzzle Quest. You can open a “Classic Legends” pack for 20, a “Latest Legends” pack for 25, or you can spend them to upgrade a 3-star or higher heroes’ cover level by 1.

Pro Tip Before you spend, consider stockpiling! Command Points never go bad, whereas if you pull an awesome 4- or 5-star cover and can’t make room for it within 2 weeks, you’ll lose it! If you’ve got a backlog of new characters to roster, consider just holding onto your CP for a while.

If you’re going for 4-star or 5-star covers, the “Classic Legends” pack is the way to go. Honestly, I always open Classic Legends. The Latest Legends pack is a sucker’s bet – it’s very likely to give you the same 4-star cover you’d get out of Classic, but it costs 5 points more. Yes, there are always going to be certain covers you can only get from Latest Legends, but if you’re patient, they’ll make their way down to Classic eventually. The only reason to open Latest Legends is if you’re hardcore into MPQ and have all but the very latest 5-star heroes.

The other option is to increase a 3-star or higher hero’s cover level by one. At 4 or 5-star prices, this is total insanity. Unless you just really really need one specific cover, it’s a total ripoff. Chances are good you will want/need multiple 4- or 5-star covers at the same time. Three star covers tend to be common enough that you’ll eventually get the one you need, so most of the time trading a guaranteed 4-star cover (that 20 CP could be a “Classic Legends” pull instead) for a specific 3-star cover is a bad deal.

Pro Tip There’s one instance where I will spend 20 Command Points to get a 3-star cover. If I’ve got a hero to 12 out of 13 covers, and I’ve got a spare cover I can’t use already (since they’re 5 in that color), I will consider using the 20 CP to max them out. Then I can turn them into a Champion, and use the spare cover I didn’t need before to level them up and get the Legendary Token. You’re basically spending 20 Command Points to get a 25 Command Point token, although if you had patience you’d eventually get it anyhow.

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Clash Royale Tips and Tricks MEGAGUIDE https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/clash-royale-tips-tricks-megaguide/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/clash-royale-tips-tricks-megaguide/#comments Sun, 12 Feb 2017 04:55:41 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8545
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Clash Royale is a game we could probably keep analyzing for 10 years, but it already feels like we’ve been writing articles about it for a decade. Here we’ve compiled a handy dandy cheat sheet to link you all our great tips, tricks, faqs, and guides. It’s a mega Clash Royale party, and you’re invited! If you have a Clash Royale question that isn’t answered here, leave a comment – we’d love to help!

Clash Royale Princess

Clash Royale Beginner’s Guides

Our beginner’s guides cover the basic things you should know when starting out in Clash Royale.

Clash Royale Chest

Clash Royale In-Depth Strategies & Calculators

Past the basics, Clash Royale has some pretty deep strategy and mechanics to understand. In these guides we focus on specific game modes or scenarios and dive deeper into what you need to know to win.

Clash Royale TIps

Clash Royale Tips and Tricks

Sometimes you aren’t looking to read an in-depth guide, and just want a few quick pointers. We’ve got you covered with these quick tips articles.

Clash Royale Emotes

Clash Royale FAQs and Urban Legends

With a game this deep, some common questions come up – and some rumors even rise to the level of urban legends. We break down the facts in these articles.

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5 Quick Clash Royale Clan Chest Tips https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/5-quick-clash-royale-clan-chest-tips/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/5-quick-clash-royale-clan-chest-tips/#comments Sat, 11 Feb 2017 22:59:07 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8547
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The introduction of the Clan Chest to Clash Royale has got to be one of my favorite additions to the game to date. It encourages different styles of play, and it makes working together in a Clan more meaningful. Filling the Chest is not a trivial task – but if you use the tips below you should be knocking them out in no time.

1. Clan Management

Running a clan is tough work no matter how you slice it, but the Clan Chest introduces a new element to consider when evaluating current members and recruits. Now more than ever, dead weight on your roster can really hurt you. If members become inactive, those that remain have to work that much harder to offset the lost Crown production. It takes 1600 Crowns to reach Chest Tier 10, and you have 3 days to do it. With an ideal Clan of 50 members, thats 32 Crowns per member, or an average of just a little more than 10 per day. That may not sound like much (and it isn’t really), but if your Clan is anything like mine there may be a decent number of members that can’t produce that many consistently. Worse yet, in bigger Clans you never know how many will just completely no-show.

Pro Tip When your Clan gets more than a few members, requests will start rolling in. When you are recruiting for maximum Clan Chest production, look for members that are in lower arenas with a decent 3 Crown win ratio. Players high in Jungle or Legendary are going to have a harder time producing Crowns, and likely will be less willing to drop trophies to increase output.

Pro Tip The best way to assess a members potential Clan Chest “value” is activity and past performance. The weekend is a good time to review both how much a member has donated over the week, and how many Crowns they contributed to the last Crown Chest. Remember that new members are only eligible for a Chest if they get in before the day it starts (so don’t go too hard on the new guy if he wasn’t eligible for the last chest). I recommend routinely kicking members who don’t show very low activity (<10 Crowns in the Clan Chest, <20 donates per week). If worse comes to worse, you can always invite them back later – and it will make the job of the active members that much easier.

2. The Easy Route

If you’ve played Clash of Clans then dropping trophies is no new thing to you, but if your a Day 1 Clash Royale player, it probably feels pretty scary to give up that ladder spot you’ve worked so hard for. Well, if you want to succeed at the Clan Chest you are going to have to learn to deal with it. High ladder matches in Legendary are a tooth-and-nail fight, and when you are playing near your personal high trophy limit, you are unlikely to have maximum Crown production. There isn’t a really good alternative to just dropping trophies (500 – 1000 minimum) to get to a range where you can more easily crank out 3 star wins. Is it kind? No. Is it fair? Absolutely not. Is it fun? Sometimes, but it can definitely get a bit tedious after a while.

Warning Before you drop any trophies, consider filling up your Chest slots. If you are pretty quick about dropping and rebounding back up you may not even miss out on any chests. What is far more important is that you don’t get a really rare chest in a very low arena (like I did). Keep in mind that when a Chest unlocks, you can leave it in the slot to block it. Missing out on a few Silver Chests is worth it to avoid the risk of a wasted rare Chest. Of course you can also use our Chest Calculator to check where you are in the cycle, and then you’ll know if you are at risk or not.

Pro Tip Set a reasonable target for what Arena you want to get to, and try to find something else fun to do while you are dropping trophies. You could read some of our other clash articles, and of course there is always Reddit. Remember that however many you lose (or nearly so) you’ll want to make back before the Chest is full – so try not to go to crazy and drop all the way to Goblin or anything. If you don’t make it all the way back to your typical Arena, your rewards from the Clan Chest will be less.

Pro Tip If you do find that your fellow clanmates filled the Chest before you could make it back to your usual arena, rumor has it that you can wait to open the Clan Chest till you get back to your ideal arena and still get the rewards for that arena. This would make it generally different than most other chests. I’ve yet to independently confirm this rumor, but when I do I’ll update this article.

3. The Secret Handshake

A protocol has emerged for signaling to your fellow Clashers that your King is into the “rough stuff”. Load up a deck with all offensive spells, and as soon as the game starts send direct damage the King Tower. Some opponents may be skeptical, especially if you only use Zap or Arrows, so I recommend going “all in” with a Rocket or Lightning, and in general just empty your hand of as much as you can throw until you are out of Elixir. If you are doing things right you should be able to lose a round in about 30-45 seconds. If you add in a little overhead for starting and ending rounds and round up to 1 minute, that means at 30 trophies/loss you can drop about 1000 trophies in 30-45 minutes. As you get into lower Arenas, your trophies per loss will go down, making it harder and harder to drop.

Warning There are definitely a lot of people out there thinking the same thing. If you go low enough, normally around Spell Valley, you’ll start to encounter a lot of like-minded individuals who will be resistant to letting you lose. Perhaps they also want to lose, or maybe they are just trolls. For this reason, it can be ideal to drop on Sunday night (the night before the Chest starts) to increase the likelihood you’ll encounter players who genuinely want to win. It is also a good idea to try and keep enough real cards in your deck that you can actually take down undefended towers, especially once the chest is in progress.

Pro Tip Mirror, Lix Pump, and Rage can be used to crank your Elixir production Sim City style for those drawn out battles. Pound for pound the Skeleton Horde is one of the fastest options for DPS as well, if you want to throw in a troop card. If you are doing something in another window, try and wait a second to see if your opponent is playing before you switch windows. It normally becomes apparent pretty quickly.

4. Deck for Success

Once you’ve reached an Arena level where you are 1-2 tower levels above the average competition, its time to transform from Santa Claus back into the Grinch. Pull out your most brutal noob slaying deck and prepare to lay waste. Cycle decks and in general any deck that has fast Tower KOs are what you shoot for – so Hog Rider, Elite Barbs, Lumberjack, Rage, Goblin Barrel, Skelly Horde, and Minion Horde are all great choices. Keep in mind that even if you lose occasionally, your next round is likely to be pretty easy so no big deal.

Pro Tip If you’ve never built a fast or beat down deck, you can check out statsroyale.com for the current top meta decks (see their “top lists” in the upper right corner). I recommend sorting on win % rather than average stars, because for the opponents you are facing 3 crowning really shouldn’t be an issue most of the time. Look for a fast deck that you have decent card levels for, and fire it up. Feel free to try out crazy decks too, because it will never be a better time.

Pro Tip If a loss seems imminent, go for a Tower if you think you can get it before a 2-1 or 3-2 loss. Shooting for a 2-1 or 3-1 loss is also a great way to hover in your “farming” Arena, until you are ready to start making the climb back to your regular home.

5. The Home Stretch

Keep a close eye on how many Crowns your Clan has left to fill the Clan Chest. With the current time windows, it is usually possible for an active clan to fill their Chest in about 2 days. Getting to level 7 or 8 is very quick, but since the Crown counts are lopsided, the last few levels take a little while. Make sure that several clan members continue to drop trophies and farm 3 Crowns until you know you’ve got level 10 in the bag. Our clan has missed it before, and there is nothing sadder than a partially filled Chest.

Pro Tip For a Level 11 King Tower and decently leveled cards, deep trophy drops (from say Legendary to Spell Valley in the current arena balance) can generate ~150 Crowns per day pretty easily. Once reaching Frozen Peak it becomes much more difficult so that ~50 Crown per day can be earned, slowing to a trickle in Legendary. Factor these rough estimates into where your members need to be in order to finish out your chest and fill that sucker up chief!

Want more Clash Royale Tips? Check out our other Clash Royale articles in the Clash Royale MEGAGUIDE!!

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LucidSound Drops the Bass at PAX South 2017 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/lucidsound-drops-bass-pax-south-2017/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/lucidsound-drops-bass-pax-south-2017/#respond Fri, 03 Feb 2017 02:37:10 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8521
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Here at Without the Sarcasm, we like to keep tabs on all the up-and-comers of the gaming hardware scene. On our latest trip to PAX South, we were invited to come check out a relatively new brand of gaming headsets that launched just last year. At the LucidSound booth, we met with CEO Chris Von Huben, who walked us through his company’s current lineup as well as their vision for the future of gaming headsets.

While LucidSound is relatively new, their team is no stranger to gaming audio. Chris actually founded Tritton, one of the oldest brands in gaming audio, which was acquired by Mad Catz in 2010. However, Chris felt that there were still new ideas to be explored in gaming headsets besides “angular plastic” and “RGB LEDs.” With a mission to advance the state of the art and style of gaming accessories, LucidSound was born.

LucidSound LS40

Chris gave us a run down of a number of unique features in LucidSound’s lineup that set them apart from other gaming headsets:

  • Amplified Audio – LucidSound’s headsets have a built-in amplifier and audio processing logic. This means that they’ve also got a built-in rechargeable battery to power it. Luckily, if the battery is dead, they can still be used in a passive mode just like standard headsets can.
  • Dual Mics – In addition to a high quality boom mic, LucidSound’s headsets have a built-in mic that operates even if the boom has been removed. Obviously, the quality is better on the boom mic, but for times when having one would be weird or awkward, the integrated mic can be used as a fallback.
  • Mic Monitoring – When wearing a headset that covers your ears, it can be difficult to both hear what’s going on around you and determine how loud you’re speaking. LucidSound has mixed their mic audio through the headset so you can avoid both of these issues.
  • “Lifestyle” Design – Instead of looking like something out of a cheesy 90’s sci-fi flick (like most gaming headsets still do), LucidSound headsets look like they belong in a more classy setting.
  • Simplified Controls – Many headsets, especially wireless ones, have weird buttons in awkward locations that make controlling them difficult. LucidSound’s headsets have a rotating ring on each ear cup to control volume (one for game and one for chat). A large, easy to reach central button inside each ring controls mute (one for mic and one for audio). Power and mode switching are also controlled via a single button. Simple, usable, and innovative.

We saw a total of three LucidSound headsets at PAX South 2017:

  • LS20 – The lowest end model is wired, and thus doesn’t support controlling chat volume independently of game volume. It still has the battery powered amplification features of its more expensive brethren, though. The LS20 is also currently the only “on ear” design in the line up.
  • LS30 – The first step up adds wireless for consoles and larger (50mm vs 40mm) drivers. The console interface is digital (optical) rather than analog (3.5mm)
  • LS40 – At the top of the food chain, this guy adds 7.1 surround sound (DTS:HeadphoneX) as well as custom ear cushions made from a combination of materials, designed for maximum comfort and breathability across long gaming sessions.

LucidSound LS30

At the con, we got a chance to try out the LS30 in a game audio session with Battlefield 1. The audio quality was quite good, although con floor noise can make it tough to get a clear picture of just how good a headset is. Chris also let us hook a pair of LS20’s into his phone, where he had some music queued up. Based on our quick impression, for an on ear headphone the sound quality was superb. The bass response was particularly impressive!

We hope to get our hands on a few pairs of these babies to put them through their paces and compare them to the other models we’ve reviewed – we’ll let you know our full impressions when we have them!

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Nefarious Review: Crime and the Payment Thereof https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/nefarious-review-crime-payment-thereof/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/nefarious-review-crime-payment-thereof/#respond Fri, 03 Feb 2017 02:16:21 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8519 Nefarious dropped in our lap during PAX South, and it promises to finally break us out of our rut and poke fun at video game history along the way. It's tricky to spin a tired concept and find a fresh angle - does Nefarious manage to nail biting satire or go directly to jail? It's time to find out in my Nefarious review!
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After decades of cheesy “bad guy steals girl, good guy saves her” tropes in our video games, I think it’s safe to say that we’re in the mood for something… fresh. Nefarious dropped in our lap during PAX South, and it promises to finally break us out of our rut and poke fun at video game history along the way. It’s tricky to spin a tired concept and find a fresh angle – does Nefarious manage to nail the biting satire or go directly to jail? It’s time to find out in my Nefarious review!

Nefarious is the debut game from yet another fresh indie studio – StarBlade. Founder Josh Hano is an artist, and it definitely shows. The art and animation in Nefarious is generally top notch. Enemies are detailed and have a ton of frames of animation, so their behavior is more cartoonish than what you’d normally expect from a hand-drawn, 2D indie title.

Nefarious‘ writing is similarly high quality, for the most part. The “damsel in distress” trope is in full effect here, and it’s subverted and inverted in every way possible. (Over)use of this trope has been something of a hot button issue in gaming circles over the last few years, so just be warned that if any reference to it makes you uncomfortable, it’s cranked to 11 in Nefarious.

Certainly, though, there’s no shortage of strong female characters in the game. Each of the princesses (and prince, naturally) that lead villain Crow abducts to power his humongous death ray have their own fiery personalities, and in more than one occasion they either consent to being part of his plan or forcefully inject themselves into it. (I half expected Crow to pull a Samus Aran in the final act, but no dice.)

Nefarious plays pretty much like you’d expect a 2D platformer to, and shares many similarities to games like Rayman or Earthworm Jim. Crow has a melee range punch attack, as well as a ranged explosive that recharges over time. Both of these can be upgraded on his ship with a few different modifiers, like sticky bombs or exploding fists.

My platforming skills have certainly degraded over the years, but I still feel fairly competent. I would rate Nefarious as being mildly challenging for the most part, with the exception of a few sequences that got painful but never “throw controller, flip table” frustrating. Most levels I managed to complete in less than 10 deaths and under 15 minutes.

The combat is pretty straightforward. Enemy AI usually follows a predictable pattern that is neither too easy nor too frustrating. One enemy type really likes to hover a fixed distance away – just out of the maximum melee range – which can get kind of annoying at times.

Most of my deaths were from falls into various environmental obstacles. Jumping and navigating in-air is fairly precise, although getting hit while airborne tends to knock you off course. Crow’s ranged attack also produces explosions that can be used to extend jumps, but that just as easily knock you into lava/goo/bottomless pits if you’re not careful.

Capping off every stage is a boss fight, except that in Nefarious you’re the boss and have to deal with some piss-ant hero trying to stop your evil schemes. Once again, classic video game themes, characters, and scenarios are turned on their heads for the lulz. You’ve got your “Sonic” style boss fight, your “Mario” style boss fight, “JRPG” style boss fight, giant robots of various shapes and sizes, and so on.

Nefarious “bungles the heist” for me in a few ways. I think I could sum it all up by saying there’s a lack of variety. Each of the levels has its own tileset, but they generally boil down to “jumping puzzle over instant death” juxtaposed with “quick combat section with one of this level’s 5-ish enemy types.” Crow’s got just two weapons, and the upgrades are kind of sparse and didn’t do much to make me feel like the game was changing significantly from start to finish.

Nefarious also has a handful of small “polish” level issues that hound it. While the music is rather good, the sound design often falls flat. When I’m smashing things with a giant robot, I want the sound effects to really make me feel like I’m smashing things with a giant robot. Sometimes sound effects were missing altogether, yielding some interesting sections where stuff was exploding on screen but there weren’t any sounds to go along with it.

I also had a few control issues. Boss fights put you in unique situations, but it’s not always clear how to properly control Crow’s various death machines. I died a few times on each fight trying to get the hang of the specific control mechanisms needed.

“Activate” and “Cancel” are both mapped to the B button, although Nefarious doesn’t have enough unique buttons to really justify this decision. So if you’re trying to exit the shop menu, for instance, pressing B closes and then immediately reopens the menu, dozens of times per second. In-home streaming with the controller doesn’t seem to work properly either, as I was unable to fire my grenades or navigate the map in this mode.

Nefarious
Links:Homepage, Store Page
Release:1/23/2017
Price:$14.99
Rating: - Good
Our Thoughts:

Nefarious is the good kind of bad in a lot of ways. It’s an enjoyable, throwback, satirical adventure that lampoons a lot of the silly things we take for granted in video games. A lack of variety and some sharp edges leave it just a few evil cackles shy of world domination.

Review Policy

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PAX South 2017 Con Awards https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/pax-south-2017-con-awards/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/pax-south-2017-con-awards/#respond Thu, 02 Feb 2017 04:03:15 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8497
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It was obvious from the start that PAX South 2017 brought its “A” game. A huge increase in exhibitors, substantially more space, and excellent new events like Acquisitions Inc… all signs pointed to a Con that was beginning to hit its stride. We had a lot of fun and we got to visit with many friendly faces from years past – but most importantly we got to check out a lot of video games! As is now a sacred tradition, below you’ll find our picks for the best of PAX South 2017!

About the Awards

Whenever WOTS goes to a con, we find games that really speak to us. We try to bring those to your attention by finding our favorites and featuring them. Our categories often change from con to con, depending on what’s popular and what we feel is deserving of recognition. All of the games on this list are ones that you should check out – they’re our hand-picked suggestions after weeks of research and three crazy days on the PAX South 2017 expo floor.

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Together, we decide on a “Best in Show” for a particular category, and then if there’s a particular game one of us wants to highlight, we’ll give that an “Editor’s Choice” award. Our highest honor is the “Shut Up and Take My Money” award, which we give to the game that we have already decided we MUST own.

Best Strategy

Winner: Has-Been Heroes

Frozenbyte & GameTrust | Home | Steam

agent86 Has Been Heroes manages to be both simple and incredibly deep at the exact same time, in what must be a violation of multiple laws of physics. You’ve got just three heroes in three lanes, plus a half dozen spells. Somehow, though, within 2 minutes of starting to play, it suddenly became the deepest strategy game I’d played in quite some time. Stack roguelike elements on top and I’m in tactical RPG heaven!

EBongo Personally, I don’t think the trailer for Has-Been Heroes does it justice. Something about the hands on experience really makes it click (even though agent86ix and I were playing on the Switch, and couldn’t keep the buttons straight). Real time combat with a pause function and a pretty deep combo layer make the core gameplay really enjoyable. Add in the roguelike randomization of spells and gear and you’ve got a solid title that you can sink a lot of hours into.

Editor’s Choice (agent86ix): Loot Rascals

The “turn-based roguelike” genre is one of the oldest in computer gaming history, and it’s always good to see a clever spin on its well-established mechanics. Loot Rascals has a cool day/night cycle that adds a layer of strategy to engaging enemies that I thoroughly enjoyed. It also puts some interesting spins on the subject of equipment – everything is a card, but cards have all sorts of restrictions and bonuses that impact how that equipment benefits you. There’s even a way to get cards back after you die, assuming other players are feeling generous.

Best Digital Board Game

Winner: Antihero

Tim Conkling & Versus Evil | Home | Steam

agent86 Antihero manages to cram a lot of high-quality turn-based strategy into a compact, fast paced experience. “Robust Tech Tree” and “Coffee Break Length” don’t really go together often, but somehow Antihero manages to pull it off with Victorian-era style.

EBongo We almost didn’t get our hands on Antihero because of the lines. Clearly, no one wanted to put it down. The game feels easy to pick up and play, but the upgrade system, territory control mechanics, and multiple win conditions mean that there is enough variety to keep you guessing. The “thieves’ guild” theme really works too. As I played the tutorial it didn’t take long before I was ordering gang beatings and urchin infiltrations from behind the steepled fingers of an irredeemable brigand.

Editor’s Choice (EBongo): Armello

PAX South 2017 stood out as a year of absolutely great strategy games, and while it got narrowly edged out, Armello was an impressive contender. With a ton of strategic depth, and a dash of chance, the core mechanics are solid. If you like games like Agricola where there are a ton of choices to make, Armello will be right up your alley (and you’ll probably whip my butt playing it too). I have to also mention that the artwork and cutscenes are extremely tasty. Layering that on top of the already excellent gameplay is sure to keep you coming back.

Best Game Art

Winner: Sundered

Thunder Lotus Games | Home | Steam

agent86 Sundered is a Thunder Lotus game. I feel like honestly, that’s all I should have to write here. At some point, we’re just going to have to give them a “Lifetime Achievement” award in the category of “Best Game Art.” The demo I got to play ended with the very beginning of a boss battle, and I’ll be honest – if I had continued, I probably would have just stared at the pretty skull spider thing as it killed me and ate my various fleshy bits.

EBongo Sundred continues a pattern of absolutely beautiful game art that helped put Thunder Lotus on our radar with their previous title Jotun. When I watched the horrifying hell beasts flaying agent86ix I smiled not only because they were shredding him, but also because the visual effects were like a classic 80’s cartoon come to life. He-man and Conan were nowhere near this dark though – they would have cried if they saw this stuff.

Editor’s Choice (EBongo): Gorogoa

When we played Gorogoa we sometimes didn’t know what we were doing. Okay… we usually didn’t know what we were doing. That didn’t matter though, because the visuals were so breathtaking I wanted to keep assaulting my depreciating grey matter just so I could see the another little moment where things would come alive and move us on to the next step.

Best Plot/Lore Concept

Winner: Nefarious

StarBlade | Home | Steam

agent86 If there’s one game plot point that we can all agree has taken a major beating over the past few years, it’s the “damsel in distress” trope. Well, Nefarious is having none of that. Basically every variation on “evil villain seeks defenseless hostage” is in full effect here. Plus, I have to give mad props for turning things around and giving the player a chance to mess around with enormous lasers, giant death robots, and flying spiky UFOs. Let’s face it, the bad guys have all the fun toys.

EBongo Have I played the “bad guy” before? Sure. The things agent86ix and I have done in the Saint’s Row series go far beyond “profoundly immoral” – but one “bad guy” I’ve not played before is the bumbling schemers of the style encountered in the Mario and Sonic games. Enter Nefarious where you get to do exactly that, with similarly futile results. The “good guy” has better things to do than fight you, and the “princess” seems like she might be getting kidnapped for attention. Between satisfying platforming and action puzzles you are constantly rewarded with tongue-in-cheek jokes about the incompetent baddies of the great action/platforming dynasties of yesteryear. My hopes aren’t high, but I really want to play through and beat Nefarious to see if I can break the curse and finally let the “bad guy” win one.

Editor’s Choice (EBongo): Haimrik

Wow, a tongue-in-cheek word-oriented fantasy with plenty of Monty Python blood fountains. Has someone been reading my diary? The cool folks at Below the Game came up with an incredibly unique story line and from what we’ve seen so far there are already numerous hilariously unpredictable developments. I don’t know yet whether the titular Haimrik is lucky or cursed, but it seems probable that he is both in equal measure. For a game with such awesome word puzzle mechanics, I’m really pleased that it has a robust plot to support it.

One to Watch

Winner: In the Shadows

Colorspace Studio | Home

agent86 Most of what we got to play of In the Shadows was focused on early levels and explaining the basic mechanics. That said, the “real puzzles” that I got to see were quite clever and utilized some interesting mechanics. Braid really popularized the modern indie puzzle platformer, and it’s great to see more games challenging my wits as much as my reflexes.

EBongo I’ve struggled to manifest a good comparison, but in my mind In the Shadows is somewhat like the spawn of a wild night between Limbo and A Boy and His Blob. There are some occasional happy colors, and even something approaching “whimsy” at times, but darkness and shadows taint it. Developer Colorspace Studio describes the game as an exploration of childhood fears, and it definitely comes across. The demo left me wanting to more thoroughly explore the setting and the backstory to see just how dark things get, and lets face it – I’m going to need some time to work out some of the harder puzzles. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out to see how In the Shadows develops.

Editor’s Choice (EBongo): Minit

Since I only got to play a few minutes of Minit (pun wholeheartedly intended), I suspect there is a lot more to see in the game. The beautiful simplicity of it means there could be a lot more too it and I’m really curious to see where it goes from here. I’m hopeful that it will continue to tap into the low-fi pixel art nostalgia that made the PAX South 2017 demo a delicious appetizer.

Repeat Offender

Winner: Battlesloths 2025

Invisible Collective & Rooster Teeth Games | Home | Steam

agent86 Technically we’ve never seen Battlesloths 2025 before. Technically, what we saw at RTX last year was just Battlesloths. But the Groucho Marx ‘stache and glasses aren’t fooling me, no sir! Now that Rooster Teeth has picked it up to publish, the team at Invisible Collective has seen fit to take the game from “Best Sloth-Based Combat Simulator in the World” to “Best Sloth-Based Combat Simulator in the Universe.” We’re talking hundreds of hats, environmental obstacles, crazy weapons, Hell (which is in Australia, btw), and so much more. When you need a custom UI to hold all your sloth hats, you might have enough sloth hats. Still, though, add a few more to be sure.

EBongo We’ve enjoyed our fair share of “mayhem” type games at conventions, or at least I have… whenever I’m pounding agent86ix into the ground. Few, very few, rise to the level of chaos and randomness of Battlesloths 2025. For starters, you could spend all damn day cycling through sloth head wear. This may not seem essential, but if you think having an animated-inflatable-advertising-windsock-guy on my head while we battle doesn’t give me an edge, I guess you don’t know much about competitive gaming. I’m not going to lie – I lost a lot of pizza in this game, but I also stole a lot of pizza in this game. I stole sloth pizza. I stole agent86ix’s sloth pizza. It was a good feeling, and I’m really stoked that Rooster Teeth discovered this little gem. I’m even more pleased that Invisible Collective included online multiplayer so that I can steal agent86ix’s pizza from the comfort of my own home.

Editor’s Choice (EBongo): Light Fall

It’s almost here. Our buddies at Bishop inform us that later this year, Light Fall is going to finally be a thing you can throw your money at. I’ve spent a lot of time with different demo versions of this game, and every time I see it there is something more to love. The Shadow Core is likely to go down in platformer history as one of the coolest platforming mechanics this decade – and as I raced through the PAX South 2017 updated demo I picked up on a lot of small tweaks Bishop has made to make the platforming feel even faster and more effortless. These folks know what they are doing, the wait will be worth it…. I need this game now.

Best Party/Mayhem/Relationship Ender

Winner: Lupinball

Craftven | Home

agent86 Rounds of Lupinball go from “sedate stroll in the park with some friends” to “oh god it’s all on fire whyyy” rather quickly. Just once you think you’ve seen everything in the 4-player party mayhem space, here comes a well crafted, interestingly balanced game like Lupinball. I’m terrible at it and I still enjoyed it. Two furry paws up!

EBongo When you play Lupinball you try to have a strategy. Then fireballs. Lots of fireballs. All the fireballs. Varied arenas, and plenty of random mayhem from your fellow wolves lead to a wonderfully chaotic party game. Its simple and fun, and really hard to put down.

Best Kid Friendly

Winner: Trove

Trion Worlds | Home | Steam

agent86 Our childrens’ children may still play Minecraft, but even if they don’t, they still will probably play some game heavily inspired by it. Trove seeks to break out of the crowd of voxel graphics sandbox crafting simulators by offering a more MMO style take on the subject. There’s a massive persistent world to explore, complete with dungeons, crazy biomes, and stuff to kill and/or explode.

EBongo If your kids love Minecraft like mine, I’ll bet that what they love about it includes a lot of creating. It is a great platform for creativity, but it falls short in the amount of custom user generated content it provides without modding. Trove steps into that niche nicely with a robust content creation integration, and enough people and process to keep the content fun and friendly instead of an internet garbage fire. In the demo we road a spider, we glided with flaming wings, and we could jump forever. I can say without hesitation that my children would love to inhabit this world.

Best Action/Adventure

Winner: Mages of Mystralia

Borealys Games | Home | Steam

agent86 Mages of Mystralia is the kind of game idea that you’d expect a famous “big thinker” game developer to talk up and then never deliver. It’s another game that seems like it’s too ambitious to actually exist. The only problem with that is that it does exist, and I played it. On the one hand, it’s got a lot of Zelda esque action/adventure elements. On top of that is a fully functional spell creation system that feels like it is almost but not quite its own programming language. I’m completely fascinated by the possibilities!

EBongo I’ve gotta admit, when we sat down with Louis-Félix to check out Mages of Mystralia I wasn’t prepared for what he was going to lay on us. Sure, the game has killer collaborations with Ed Greenwood (Forgotten Realms) on story and Shota Nakama (FF XV) on music – but when he showed us the spell system my jaw dropped. Mages has by far the most complex user-customized spell system I’ve ever seen, and the possibilities of it are still blowing my mind. Oh the things I’m going to do with those spells…

Editor’s Choice (agent86ix): Sundered

It seems this year’s PAX South is a con of impossibilities. Sundered is somehow both a procedurally generated roguelite and a Metroidvania game. One genre is very carefully plotted out and paced, and the other is created from whole cloth on every playthrough. We only got a very small slice of the game at the con, but I think I am beginning to understand how both things are possible at the same time. At any rate, with a planned release date this summer, we (hopefully) won’t have long to wait to see the result.

Editor’s Choice (EBongo): Minit

Having never really been in to the “speed running” thing, games with time limits tend to give me anxiety (and games that give me anxiety don’t usually hand around long). Minit is such an interesting twist though – in that you quickly start thinking turns ahead, and a given failure rarely feels that frustrating. The dream team of indie devs behind this game show impressive skill in the subtle ways that they channel the player through this low rez little journey. After completing the demo I just want to play a few minutes more…

Best New Concept

Winner: Haimrik

Below the Game | Home | Steam

agent86 Haimrik replaces the “pixel hunt” of a traditional adventure game with an interactive storybook full of potentially useful words to exploit. Instead of typing “TAKE FLASK” or clicking the Hand on the Flask, you’re literally pulling a flask from between the lines. It’s one of those concepts that’s both intuitive and clever at the same time.

EBongo The core mechanic in Haimrik is a spin on “story become real” that I never saw coming. In fairness, my imagination doesn’t involve many blood fountains or sisyphean arm mutilations. Still, the idea of Haimrik, and the execution thereof, are incredible. You start to look at words as tools and weapons, even before you’ve finished reading a given page. When Haimrik walks past a crossbow (going to need that) and arrows (better pick up those) you might feel pretty well prepared – until the game switches to a first person perspective and you have to hide behind cover and down a dragon. There are so many cool ideas here mashed into one game that Haimrik definitely stood out from the pack.

Editor’s Choice (agent86ix): Beat Cop

Beat Cop mixes up Police Quest and Papers, Please into something that I find irresistible. I’m not sure if it’s the “morality as a game mechanic” aspect, or the “meticulous attention to detail” aspect, or the 80’s and 90’s cop drama nostalgia that it peddles, but whatever it is, it’s drawn me in.

Editor’s Choice (EBongo): Russian Subway Dogs

When you think “based on a true story” – a game about dogs who ride the subway in Moscow is probably not what you had in mind. The source material doesn’t really matter though Russian Subway Dogs is a fun little romp through real life Russian subway stations with a simple “score attack” style combo system. It is the kind of light-hearted fun the world needs more of.

Best Puzzle Game

Winner: Gorogoa

Jason Roberts & Annapurna Interactive | Home | Steam

agent86 Gorogoa is so wonderfully mind-blowing. Each of its handcrafted panels is full of patterns within patterns, and recognizing how they fit together and come apart kept me so engaged I lost track of time. I desperately want to finish this game and unravel all its secrets.

EBongo agent86ix and I didn’t even know Gorgoa was a thing until we saw a massive line of feverish fans waiting to play it. When we finally got our hands on it, there was no question that this game stood out as the best puzzler of the show. Working as a team we still couldn’t defeat the demo, but by the point time ran out we were already so deep in surreal artistic euphoria that it took several minutes to unbend my mind. That’s some sweet puzzling.

Best RPG

Winner: Divinity: Original Sin 2

Larian Studios | Home | Steam

agent86 The western style RPG has had its share of ups and downs over the past couple of decades, but I for one am glad to see the genre alive and healthy. Divinity: Original Sin is easily one of my favorite RPGs of all time, and I’m so glad it did well enough to justify a sequel!. From what we saw of Divinity: Original Sin 2, it seems like Larian has been paying attention to what we players want, and they plan to give as much of it to us as possible.

EBongo Look, this game has not only “plant based disguise”, but also “rock based disguise” and several others. Jokes aside, it is clear that Larian has listened to their fans and improved on every axis of what made the original Divinity game a hit. I look forward to picking this one up and tag teaming fantasy baddies with my trusty sidekick agent86ix.

Best Co-op Game

Winner: Dauntless

Phoenix Labs | Home

agent86 Co-op games rate highly with the WOTS crew. There’s something so satisfying about working together with a team of your friends to do something that seems impossible. That said, it tends to be difficult to get together a quorum for long, challenging raids. Dauntless aims to tackle this by making its core gameplay experience center around the massive boss fights that make raiding worth the time and effort.

EBongo If video games have taught me anything, its that I like getting together with my buddies a killing big digital monsters. Gravemind – dead. Onyxia – dead. Atheon, Oryx, Aksis – dead, dead, dead. I love the teamwork needed to take on these beasts, and judging by our time with Dauntless it has got some serious contenders to add to the list. Facing off against a behemoth named Pangar I’m not going to lie – I was daunted, extremely daunted. That thing was loud, and huge, and while I’m sure my war maul had some awesome enchantments on it, Pangar was not impressed. In the end we couldn’t bring him down, but the tense cooperative combat, and the thrill of tracking and hunting was an enjoyable romp that left me hungry for another crack at it.

Editor’s Choice (agent86ix): Streets of Rogue

Sometimes co-op is better served by a more frenetic, less organized experience. Enter Streets of Rogue, a roguelike co-op action game full of weird and wonderful things. Cops arresting people, gorillas mad on steroids, explosions, drug addicted bankers, more explosions, punching, eating fresh fruit from trashcans… probably more explosions(?) Chaotic co-op is good co-op, in my experience.

Editor’s Choice (EBongo): Hyper Universe

While we don’t know much about MOBAs, we know a lot about what is fun in gaming and Hyper Universe is right up that alley… or lane, I’m not sure of the terminology. You’ve got tanks, you’ve got healers… a whole host of bizarre over-the-top characters to choose from – but most importantly you’ve got a fun 2D tug-of-war that is fast paced and easy to get into.

Best Music/Rhythm Game

Winner: Just Shapes & Beats

Berzerk Studio | Home

agent86 Let’s run down the checklist real quick. Are there shapes? Yes. Are there beats? Yes. Is there much else? No. Okay, Just Shapes & Beats has its act together. Co-op, bullet hell, music-based insanity is what happens when you mash together some shapes and some beats. Not much to say about the shapes; they’re certainly geometric and colorful, although I will say that the boss we saw in the demo was exceedingly clever. But what beats these are! Chiptunes always make me a happy camper, but somehow these crazy people also got the song from Mortal Kombat into their game!

EBongo If you want to call yourself a music game, you better have some great music. Just Shapes & Beats led in with some excellent chip tunes with throbbing bass tracks that had every head in the significant crowd nodding to the beat. The gameplay was basically Thomas Was Alone trapped in a musical bullet hell with three other friends all constantly dashing for their lives. I thought 4 player co-op might make it easier, but in the end it meant a lot of rescuing was needed (usually me). Did agent86ix mention they got the Mortal Kombat song? It bears repeating.

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

Winner: Mr. Shifty

Team Shifty & tinyBuild | Home | Steam

agent86 Mr. Shifty is almost certainly the best thing to come from tinyBuild thus far. It’s obvious that this isn’t Team Shifty’s first rodeo. The core mechanics are slick and polished despite the early nature of what we had a chance to play. Apparently I only got to see a slice of the first third of the game, and I can’t wait to see what the final version brings!

EBongo Mr. Shifty hits you like a teleporting punch to the face. Even before things get hectic, teleporting around and laying waste to floor after floor of an office building is just a hell of a lot of fun. When things get real, Shifty forces you to attack and teleport carefully, but when things go right you feel well… probably almost as awesome as if you could really teleport. Enemy types are varied and interesting, traps and level layout are fun an challenging, and the trident has got a solid nomination for video game weapon of the year. This game was a great surprise, and definitely deserves the top spot. Shut up and take my money…

Editor’s Choice (agent86ix): Has-Been Heroes

We’ve already established that Has Been Heroes rocked my socks. It feels like part Plants vs. Zombies and part Final Fantasy Tactics. I’m very certain that I failed to grasp some of the finer points in my short demo, since I was convinced I’d lost the round before the Frozenbyte guys stepped in and laid waste to the enemy army. Clearly Has Been Heroes has more to teach, and I’m excited for the chance to learn it.

Editor’s Choice (EBongo): Dauntless

Talking with the folks from Phoenix labs, it is very clear they get how to design a fun co-op experience. We swapped stories about our favorite raids of the past, but something we kept coming back to was how it gets harder and harder to devote that kind of time as we’ve gotten older. I was really pleased then to hear that Dauntless is designed around 30-40 minute hunts so you can get in, get wrecked by some ten story abomination, and get back to working on your Penny Arcade fan fiction. Just me? Regardless – Dauntless was definitely a stand out from PAX South that I hope to sink some significant behemoth butt whipping time into when it get released.

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10 PAX South 2017 Must See Games https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/10-pax-south-2017-must-see-games/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/10-pax-south-2017-must-see-games/#respond Thu, 26 Jan 2017 14:15:09 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8488
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As agent86ix and I have looked through the Exhibitor list for PAX South 2017 we have been getting hyped… Big Time. The last two years of PAX South have been great, and it really got us interested in the whole gaming conference scene – but it is hard to not get a little jealous of the epic spectacle of West, East, and Aus. This year looks like things are taking a huge step in the right direction as the Exhibitor List has nearly tripled in size, and some really exciting stuff is going to be on display. Every Con is a whirlwind – and since you are probably not pulsing with the same amount of cosmic “hype energy” that courses through the WOTS team vascular system, we thought we’d share some of the best games of the Expo floor that you really must make time to see. Below are our top 10 PAX South 2017 Must See Games, in no particular order.

Light Fall, Bishop Games

As the trailer on Steam will tell you, I’ve been drooling to see this game finished ever since we got our first taste two long years ago. The platforming mechanic is incredibly innovative, and the speed and darkness of the game feel like a LimboMeatboy-lovechild. I always felt like that Limbo kid should be running faster to be honest.

Night in the Woods, Finji

I have to check agent86ix every few hours to make sure he isn’t making any rash decisions to get early access to Night in the Woods. The “paper cut” art style and vivid colors give the game a totally unique richness that is almost tactile. Add to this an irreverent sense of humor with plenty of snark and you’ve got a game right up our alley. The doctors say that agent86ix’s uncontrollable urge to roll in dead leaves can’t be cured until his Night in the Woods hunger is sated – so I’m sure we’ll be spending some quality time at the Finji booth this weekend.

Mr. Shifty, tinyBuild

Our good friends at tinyBuild know how to do a Con right. There will no doubt be some epic SpeedRunners going on up in that giant orange structure, and I’m willing to bet the will be “hard partying” and the dividing of sheep as well. All of that would be reason enough to visit, but then a review copy of Mr Shifty teleported into my inbox and beat me senseless (it made a real mess of my office too). Watch the trailer and you’ll know this guy really gets around. It’s probably better for your doors, walls, and furnishing if you pay these guys a visit.

Starwhal, Breakfall

Let me break this down for you. Starwhal is a game about neon narwhal combat. If I have to tell you more its possible you need a new monitor or a trip to the optomitrist. Fun fact: My wife is not convinced narwhals are a real living creature that actually exists. I’ve thus far found it beyond my means to prove it to her in person, so if you have one as a pet let me know.

Haimrik, Below the Game

One of the reasons attending PAX was on my bucket list to begin with is my simpering fan boy idolization of Mr. Tycho Brahe so it should come as little surprise that I’m a pretty big fan of the written word. Show me a game where words become things, and the author needs to use his own blood to unlock said magic and you have my attention. Lets see where this goes, Below the Game.

Minit, Devolver

Devolver teased this little pixel art mystery on their twitter feed, and when I saw the names attached to it my jaw dropped. Not sure if this is a “four indie devs walk into a bar” joke, or a philosophical “if you could pick four indie devs to collaborate on a project” Q&A answer – but either way I’m stoked to see what it is about.

In the Shadows, Colorspace Studio

As I’ve watched (and rewatched) the trailer for In the Shadows, something about it really grabs me. It looks like a cross between Gunpoint and A Boy and His Blob, with a dash of melancholy for flavor. A concept that “indie” is definitely worth a look.

A Dual Hand Disaster: Trackher, Ask an Enemy Studios

We were fortunate to be able check out Trackher at RTX 2016, and it stood out as one of those game concepts that was way outside the realm of anything we could have imagined. On the one hand – its chaos and in the end your failure is guaranteed. On the other hand – you’ll be amazed at what your brain can do with the ridiculous levels of multitasking. After you play the game, we can discuss pun royalties.

Has-Been Heroes, Frozenbyte

The Trine pedigree from Frozenbyte speaks volumes, but the trailer for Has-Been Heroes looks intriguing in its own right too. There aren’t a lot of stories told about adventurers nearing retirement, and I’m eager to get my hands on it and hear a little more about the back story of these has-beens.

Universim, Crytivo Games

Not sure why I gradually lost interest in god-sims, but I haven’t seen one that really caught my eye until I drank in the trailer for Universim. This little planet is talking to me and all of this tiny life is progressing and then trouble and darkness and uh-oh and……. aliens? There is so much beautiful “say what” going on in that trailer that I have to see more.

So… suffice it to say, we are freaking out to get to PAX 2017. Do you have any must see entries that we missed? Leave a comment below, or send us a tweet!

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Beginner’s Guide to Civilization 6 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/beginners-guide-civilization-6/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/beginners-guide-civilization-6/#respond Sat, 26 Nov 2016 15:24:16 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8459 Civilization 6 should be a good starting point. I'll cover the major new ideas in this installment, and provide you with the basic strategy that will allow you to dominate!
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The Civilization series has provided me with countless hours of turn-based strategy pleasure. With every new edition to the series, though, the game changes in fundamental ways that can take time to adapt to. If you’re just getting started and having trouble figuring out a strategy, this guide to Civilization 6 should be a good starting point. I’ll cover the major new ideas in this installment, and provide you with the basic strategy that will allow you to dominate!

Civilization VI does a decent job of explaining the absolute basics – how to navigate the map, how to found cities, produce stuff, and so forth. If you’re brand new to the series, this is probably new territory for you. However, I won’t be covering this sort of very basic stuff here; just play the tutorial and a couple of games on the lowest difficulty with the adviser turned on and you’ll probably get the hang of it quickly. The goal of this guide is more to fill in the gaps in the Civilopedia and the advisers – stuff they should explain but for some reason they just don’t.

There’s also a lot of overlap between Civilization 5 and Civilization 6, so if you’ve got a lot of experience with the latter you’ll have a leg up in this new installment. I’ll try to point out things that have changed significantly since Civilization 5 for those of you who are veterans of the series.

Cities, Districts, and the Placement Thereof

Civilization has traditionally focused on founding a city in a single tile, and working the surrounding land to produce resources that build and grow the city. In Civilization 5 and also 6, these tiles are represented as hexes. Each city can work hexes that are within 3 hexes of the city center.

Pro Tip Not sure if a city will be able to work a tile? Starting from the city center, work your way towards the tile. Every time you cross a tile border, increase the count by one. If you can find a route to get to the target tile before you count to 3, the city can work that tile.

However, in Civilization 6 the city actually uses these surrounding tiles to build structures that would have previously been built in the city center. Cities can designate a particular hex as a “district” that can build certain buildings – like the “Theater Square” where cultural buildings can be built. The maximum number of districts a city can build is determined by the city’s population.

Wonders are also built on their own tiles, and most wonders have specific requirements about what tiles they can be built on. On the whole, I feel like many of the wonders in Civilization 6 are underpowered, and I don’t find myself rushing to build many of them like I might have wanted to in previous games. They provide useful bonuses, sure, but the wrinkle in placement plus the long build times and lackluster rewards limit their utility somewhat.

The Civilization series has often struggled with how to deal with the fact that managing a large empire often becomes micromanagement hell late in the game. Both Civilization 4 and Civilization 5 had mechanics that tried to impose limits on the amount of cities you could build before your whole empire started to grind to a halt.

Civilization 6 largely ditches these systems in favor of trying to make each individual city become self limiting. Global happiness has been ditched in favor of local “amenities” – the larger the city, the more amenities are required in order to keep it growing. If your amenities count goes into the negative, there’s a chance that the city will rebel and spawn enemy military units nearby that you’ll have to deal with.

civ-6-beginners-guide-avoiding-growth

Pro Tip If a city has outgrown its amenities and is at risk for rebellion, you can slow growth by ignoring food – when you have the city selected in the lower right corner of the screen, there are a series of tiny buttons above the city’s name. Find the “food” one and click it until it is red. You can also build settler units, which reduce the population by one, or remove improvements like farms.

Another easy way to get some extra amenities is through trade. If the AI has luxury resources you don’t, you can offer them a deal for their excess. They will often propose these deals without you having to do anything, but it’s still something to check into if you’re having serious happiness issues. (Thanks soontobeabandoned for the suggestion)

The other limiting factor for a city’s size in Civilization 6 is housing. A lack of housing in a city will slow the city’s growth. In the early game, farms and tiles next to fresh water can provide a small amount of housing. In the mid-game, building an aqueduct and/or specialty buildings in districts will generate additional housing. Finally, as you enter the late game, any tile can be converted into a “neighborhood” that provides a large amount of bonus housing.

Pro Tip Neighborhood tiles are the primary use of a tile’s “appeal” stat. The higher the appeal of a tile, the more housing a neighborhood on that tile will generate.

When trying to found and expand a city, the questions you’re likely going to ask yourself are:

What kind of area is desirable for founding a new city?

Unlike most previous Civilization games, terrain seems to matter a lot less in Civilization 6. Tiles that would normally be useless (ie, desert, mountain, or tundra) can be used much more readily than before. That said, there are some things to consider:

  • A tile surrounded by several hills can be good to settle near, as mines on a hill tile provide production bonuses, plus a +1 production bonus to an adjacent industrial district.
  • Building a city on a tile that has fresh water (most commonly, tiles adjacent to rivers) gives a +3 bonus to housing, which can be significant in the early- to mid- game.
  • Luxury resources you don’t already own provide amenities to your most needy cities, so settling near these and getting them improved can save you from a lot of amenity-related disasters. Past the first copy, luxury resources only give you something to trade with and provide no other benefits. The AI will often want to trade your excess luxury goods for theirs, which is a win-win.
  • Similarly, strategic resources can give you a military edge and should be prioritized. That said, it’s important to note that it only takes 2 copies of a strategic resource to build any unit that requires it, regardless of the number of units you wish to build. For instance, 2 iron will let you build 50 swordsmen. If a city has an encampment district (or the right late-game policies), it can build any number of units with just one copy of the strategic resource.

“How far apart should I build my cities?” is another common question when it comes to city placement in Civilization 6. In previous Civilization games, you’d want to make sure that there wasn’t much overlap between the tiles available to each city – that way, you could make use of the maximum amount of land area. However, in Civilization 6 there are a couple of districts and wonders that benefit from being close to multiple city centers. For instance, an industrial district with a factory improvement gives its bonus production to any city center within 6 tiles. For this reason, I often consider having a small overlap between my cities so that I can max out these benefits.

How should I best utilize my tiles and position my districts?

Civilization 6 makes changes to the way tile improvements are handled and balanced as well. In previous games, you’d pretty much decide how to utilize each tile once, and then you’d improve it and leave it alone for the rest of the game. However, in Civilization 6 you’re going to have to improve tiles more slowly, and plan to evolve tiles over time.

For instance, you might start with a forest on a tile near your city. Forests in previous Civ games were often worth preserving, but in Civilization 6, I’ve found that I often will chop them down almost immediately. The small production bonus on a tile is often outweighed by the immediate production bonus for removing them.

You might then put a farm on that tile for the early game. It will provide a small amount of food, and a bit of housing as well. Farm tiles arranged so that they touch two other farm tiles eventually produce bonus food, so try to make triangular patterns of adjacent farm tiles when you can.

As the city’s population increases, you’re going to want to create more districts. Since farm output increases as the game progresses, you might need less of them to feed your city. Now that farm tile might become the city’s commercial district, or late in the game it might become a neighborhood for bonus housing.

civ-6-beginners-guide-harvesting-resources

Pro Tip Many resources can actually be removed from tiles so that you can repurpose the tile after the resource bonus is no longer beneficial. Sending builders to remove forests/rainforests/marshes, or to harvest obsolete resources will provide an immediate benefit to the city, whereas simply building over the tile from the city production menu will erase the resource without giving you the bonus.

Each district has “adjacency bonuses” that are worth considering, especially in the early game. The important ones are:

  • Industrial zone districts benefit most from adjacent mines on hill tiles. Try to put industrial districts next to multiple hill tiles when you can.
  • Commercial hub districts benefit most from having a river running along at least one edge. Usually you’ll have a lot of tile options to get this bonus if you found your city near a river, so don’t miss out!
  • Campus districts benefit most from adjacent mountain tiles (+1 science per turn), although they also benefit from adjacent rainforests (+0.5 science per turn). In the early game, it’s probably worth it to keep rainforests around for these bonuses, but late in the game they’re dwarfed by the bonuses from buildings within the district.

This is by no means a comprehensive list – there are bonuses for most districts that can also come into play. However, I’ve found these bonuses to apply the most often. Thus, they are the ones I will take into account when trying to found a city nearby and when trying to plan out my district layouts for new cities.

There is one other wrinkle to consider for industrial zones and entertainment complexes. These two districts enable buildings that benefit multiple cities, provided the city centers are within a 6-tile range of the district. This means that if you put your cities close enough together, you can build your districts between them and stack the benefits.

civ-6-beginners-guide-centrally-located-industrial-zone

So how should you lay out your industrial zone districts? Is it better to build an industrial zone near a bunch of mined hills, or in a space where two or more cities could take advantage of the factory and power plant bonuses?

In my opinion, in the early game it’s worth it to maximize the mine adjacency bonuses. As you found cities later in the game, the benefit of being able to extend the factory/power plant bonuses outweighs the benefit of having mines nearby, especially when the difference is only +1 or +2.

When it comes to entertainment complexes, however, there aren’t any adjacency bonuses. My suggestion here is to place them far away from your city centers, and as close to as many other city centers as you can.

Strategies and Victories

Some of the victory conditions in Civilization 6 are directly carried over from previous games. However, there are some really powerful ways to win games very quickly, which we’ll cover in this section as well.

General Advice

Found cities often. There’s very little reason not to go nuts with founding cities. Portions of the map that used to be useless in previous Civ games (ie, deserts, tundra, lots of mountains) are now perfectly viable city locations. Building a settler costs a city one population unit, so in the very early game you might slow down the growth of your core cities by overproducing settlers. However, once your city growth starts to slow due to a lack of housing or amenities, building settlers and making new cities is a no-brainer.

Don’t delay establishing districts. Districts provide all sorts of benefits for your cities and your civilizations as a whole. Yes, there are optimal ways to lay them out, and yes, it does specialize a city in the short term to pick one district over the others. However, don’t let this paralyze you. The benefits of having an additional district are almost always outweighed by putting it on a slightly-less-than-optimal tile.

Invest in tiles. You’re going to need more tiles than ever before to grow cities – tiles to found districts, tiles to build wonders, and tiles to improve farm, mine, etc. Don’t be afraid to buy that “perfect tile” to put your district on. Likewise, even though builders get used up and tile improvements are often temporary, invest in builders. Farms, mines, and similar improvements are still worth the time and effort required to create them!

Leverage your existing cities to grow new ones. Trade routes from new cities to established cities can provide a huge production and food boost to the new city. You can move your trade units instantly between cities, so as you’re moving to settle, build (or idle) a trade unit in an established city to get ready. Similarly, you can queue up builders in established cities where they’re faster to build, and send them as soon as it’s safe to do so.

Focus on religion in the early game. We’ll see shortly that religion is an easy way to win, but it’s also a super easy way to lose. Don’t skimp on Holy Sites in your first few cities – having extra faith and a strong religious base early on can save your game!

Industrial Zones and Entertainment Complexes go well with almost every city. Regardless of what you’re going to do with a city, having extra production and extra amenities makes a huge difference. After the early game, they’re usually my first two districts in a new city. Beyond these two, I will typically build a Commercial Hub so that I can get extra trade routes (to pump up new cities), and then consider carefully what I want this new city to specialize in before building more.

Pay attention to tech/civic boosts, but they won’t always be worth it. Some of these are easy to boost, especially in the early game. However, if you let what you have boosted determine what you will study next, you’ll probably end up taking a very strange path through the tech and civics trees. The “key techs/civics” vary depending on your play style, your nation, and the current game situation, but generally improvements to siege weaponry, industrial production, and district or other city growth are my priorities.

civ-6-beginners-guide-city-states-suzerain

Look out for the little guys. (Suggested by /u/soontobeabandoned) City states can be powerful allies. Sending a single envoy to a city state usually unlocks a small bonus for your capital. At three and six envoys, you’ll unlock bonuses for all your districts of a given type. If you have more than 3 envoys at a city state, AND more than any other player, you’re the “Suzerain” (think “ally”). Suzerain status grants all sorts of benefits, including a bonus that is completely unique for that city state. Envoy points vary by government and policy, and you get one free envoy if you’re the first to meet a city state. You probably won’t be able to be Suzerain for all city states in the game, so try to figure out who you want to prioritize based on the bonuses. Getting to the 1/3/6 milestones is also often worth it if you can work it in.

Domination Victory

Military victories (and the strategies you use) are pretty much the same as they were in Civilization 5. The AI is still really terrible at waging an effective war, and often ends up giving up any advantages it has by employing a total lack of strategy.

The easiest thing to do is to turtle heavily at the start of a war. Place your ranged or siege units in your border cities, and fortify melee units in the hexes next to them, oriented towards your shared borders. Let the AI troops rush in and get slaughtered by your ranged units and wail impotently on your heavy defenders. Rank up your troops with free experience and prepare for the counterattack.

Once the AI stops sending troops, heal up and roll out. Support units in formation with your front line troops will make sieging AI cities faster and less painful. Keep a few spare units in reserve to cycle out as your front line troops get damaged. By this point, the AI is probably begging for mercy, but how much of their land you claim before accepting their surrender is up to you.

At the highest difficulties, you’ll have to change strategies somewhat. The AI will likely be able to crank out units so fast that you’ll have to deal with more resistance as you approach the enemy’s cities, and their tech level is going to be somewhat higher. You can’t just turtle to win, and domination is a much slower process.

Diplomacy and war declarations have changed somewhat, but not so significantly that it makes a huge difference. To avoid warmonger penalties, you might want to denounce a few turns before you start a war, but honestly the AI still gets angry and declares war so often that they’re the ones who have to worry about the penalties and not you. Don’t let the terminology fool you – casus belli is just the fancy term for “justification for kicking butt.”

Cultural Victory

The cultural victory in Civilization 6 is very similar to Civilization 5 with the Brave New World DLC. In short, you have to generate tourism that overwhelms your opponents’ culture production. Defensively, you need to be generating enough culture so that others don’t overwhelm you.

One new aspect is that culture is considered its own tech tree, separate from science. You basically “research” with culture as well as science now. Governments and social policies are also unlocked through this tree.

Tourism is generated most easily through great works, which primarily require great artists, musicians, and writers. Build Theater Squares (and their improvements) to improve your cultural output and generate the required great people points.

civ-6-beginners-guide-tourism-boost-theming-bonus

Pro Tip Great works can be arranged between your various cities/buildings, and certain combinations can increase your overall tourism output. If you’ve got great people to spare, consider selling or trading away some of your great works to make room for more.

Science Victory

The science victory requires a combination of both high science output and (in the very late game) high production output. You’ve got to research the required technologies so that you can build the various space programs, and then launch them in order to win.

Really, this one hasn’t changed much over the years, although in Civilization 6 there aren’t that many parts to build compared to some iterations. Keep your campuses and industrial zones at peak performance and you’ll be able to knock this out in no time, although it does require you to be later in the game and further in the tech tree than virtually any other victory condition.

Religion Victory

Religious victories are brand new for Civilization 6, and they’re easily the fastest way to win. You can start almost right from the beginning of the game, and if your opponents aren’t on the ball, you can end things very quickly.

The requirement for a religious victory in Civilization 6 is just that your religion must be the primary religion in more than half of all other civs’ cities. So if an opponent has 3 cities, you’ve got to make your religion account for more than half the population in at least 2 of those cities.

Apostle and missionary units can easily enter other civs’ territory so long as you’re not at war, so this is an easy, bloodless way to win. Even if the AI asks you not to convert their cities, they typically won’t declare war on you over breaking this promise or ignoring their request completely.

There are a few new mechanics to consider. Missionaries are cheap religious units that can’t fight other religious units, although they can defend. They are good for spreading religion relatively cheaply, although they lack the special abilities of apostles.

Apostles can spread religion, but they can also help your religion in other ways. As long as they still have 2 spread religion charges remaining, they can evangelize a belief, which adds a new perk to your religion (the max is 2 additional perks). Alternatively, they can be used to launch an inquisition, which allows you to build inquisitor units that purge rival religions from your cities. They also also start out with a free upgrade that you can use to select from two randomized abilities.

Pro Tip Some of the apostle upgrades are crazy powerful, like they can both spread their religion and purge other religions at the same time. This can make eradicating an opponent’s religion that much easier!

Possible Glitch /u/soontobeabandoned points out that in their game, using an extra apostle charge and then trying to evangelize doesn’t work. This goes against the in-game tooltips, so this is likely a bug. I’ve had good luck with this so far, but just be warned…

This ease of winning via religion cuts both ways, though. It really pays to establish your religion early and to spread it throughout your own cities. That way, it’s harder for the enemy to come in and take over. It’s also doubly important to found your religion at a city with a holy site deep within your territory. If you lose all your cities to another religion and have no religious units, getting your religion back is almost impossible. This leaves you in a very, very bad position. Declaring war is about the only way to recover in this situation.

If you catch an enemy sending religious units your way early enough, you can attempt to fend them off. Apostles can smack rival missionary and apostle units around, preventing them from converting your cities. Inquisitors can purge enemy religious influence as well, so it might be worthwhile to keep a few in reserve and let your enemy use up their religious units converting a city, then swoop in and undo all their work.

Pro Tip Parking a damaged religious unit near or on a holy site of a city following their religion will allow them to heal. Don’t let damaged enemy units run away – finishing them off keeps them from healing and returning, plus it reduces their religion’s influence on nearby cities.

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Fallout 4 (+All DLC) Quickstart Guide https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/fallout-4-dlc-quickstart-guide/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/fallout-4-dlc-quickstart-guide/#respond Tue, 01 Nov 2016 23:58:36 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8422 Fallout 4 is an absolutely massive game. It's easy to get lost in the sheer quantity of places to go, stuff to do, and things to shoot. After playing it for literal days of real-life time, I've compiled my "must know" tips, hints, mods, tricks, and other assorted interesting stuff.
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Fallout 4 is an absolutely massive game. It’s easy to get lost in the sheer quantity of places to go, stuff to do, and things to shoot. After playing it for literal days of real-life time, I’ve compiled my “must know” tips, hints, mods, tricks, and other assorted interesting stuff.

Picking SPECIAL and Perks

fallout-4-quickstart-perk-chart

Choosing how to build your character is always something a personal decision in Bethesda games. There are many ways to play, and each one can be just as satisfying as the rest. Still, not every skill is created equal, and you never quite know at the outset what the “best” Fallout 4 build is.

My personal favorite way to play is as a “sneaky sniper” who uses stealth crits to one-shot enemies. Being able to deal with tons of simultaneous enemies at virtually any range while using the minimum amount of ammo is a big plus for me. Keep that in mind as you listen to my recommendations.

When choosing your SPECIAL stats, there are two things you should know. One, in Fallout 4 you can sink a point into any stat at any level up, instead of taking a perk. As long as your character is kinda sorta viable at low levels, you can always address your weaknesses as you move up in levels.

Second, there’s a free SPECIAL point that you get from reading a book under your son’s crib after the prologue. If you build out your character and realize you’re just one point short, don’t fret! Of course, bobbleheads are back, so you can get +1 to each of your stats if you find them. You’ll probably be pretty far into the game before you collect them all, though.

The first perk I’ll mention is this: Idiot Savant rocks. As far as earning experience goes, it’s way, way better to take ranks of Idiot Savant than invest in INT. Taking this perk requires LCK 5, so you probably want to get there ASAP. Idiot Savant can give you 3x or 5x the experience for actions, randomly, with the chances increasing the lower your INT is. Reddit geniuses have studied it and shown that Idiot Savant is better than high INT at giving you experience.

The other “generally useful” stat to consider is CHA, especially for the Local Leader perk at CHA 6. If you plan on playing the “settlement minigame” (more on that later) at all, getting Local Leader to at least rank 1 is a really good investment. Speech checks aren’t nearly as important in Fallout 4 as they are in nearly every other Fallout game, though. Most of the time, you’re just going to get a slightly better reward from passing a speech check,

Beyond those two, your choice of other stats really depends on what kind of character you want to play in Fallout 4. STR is key for melee fighters and END makes them tanky. Meanwhile, take PER for ranged fighters, and AGI for sneaky folk. There are a lot of secondary/derived stats that are impacted by each, but that’s sort of the broad strokes.

You can continue leveling indefinitely, as there are always new enemies to fight and procedurally generated quests to play in Fallout 4. It’s more a matter of “when” and not “if” when it comes to maxing out.

While we’re here, let’s chat a bit about perks.

  • Almost all weapons can be modded to be automatic or single shot. Single shot does more damage, but obviously the rate of fire is lower. For ammo conservation reasons, I tend to prefer single shot weapons. Thus, I took the Rifleman perk and maxed it out.
  • Lone Wanderer still works if you have Dogmeat as your companion. This can be pretty powerful, since Dogmeat can carry stuff and tank damage for you, plus you get all the Lone Wanderer benefits stacked on top.
  • If you want to go nuts with custom gear, you’ll need Armorer, Gun Nut, and Science at the very least. These are only required to craft mods; you can still swap mods between gear of the same base type without them. For instance, if you find a sweet scope on a 10mm pistol, you can move it onto another 10mm pistol that has a damage boosting mod without any ranks in these perks. But you won’t be able to craft a new scope/sights without the requisite rank. Bottom line: you can generally scrounge pretty decent gear without these, but extremely late game gear will benefit from being able to craft your own.
  • Scrounger is good in the early game for keeping your ammo supplies topped off. Shops are kind of few and far between in this game, and without investing in settlements or your barter abilities, you’ll probably end up short on ammo at times.
  • Scrapper is another perk that’s good for settlement nuts. You can take weapons and/or armor and break them down into rare components when in your settlements if you have enough ranks of this perk.
  • Hacker and Locksmith are both just as essential as they’ve always been. Good loot is often locked behind some sort of mechanical or electronic lock.

Mods to Consider

I’ll assume for this section that you’re on PC and can use NexusMods. If not, you might have to deal with the more limited selection available on consoles. I’m not usually a “#pcmasterrace” snob, but for Bethesda games, you miss out on a lot if you can’t be free to mod as you please.

The mods I used were:

  • Unofficial Fallout 4 Patch – Always a lifesaver. I still ran into a few glitches here and there, but this fixes a lot of issues you’d otherwise have.
  • Fallout 4 Texture Optimization Project – This is a big mod, but if you’re at all concerned with your computer’s ability to play Fallout 4, this will help you make it run smoother.
  • WET – Just some better water textures. Given that you’re on the coast or on islands for a lot of Fallout 4, better looking water is a nice feature.
  • No Negative Affinity and No Affinity Cooldown – I tend to like to play without companions, but then you miss out on their perks. Also, some companions (like effin Strong) hate things that are core to the game. You can tweak how this mod works, and just take the no cooldowns, or you can cheese it and get max affinity in one action.
  • CBBE – CBBE is the body mod for Bethesda games. By default, women without armor on are nude, so if that bothers you, make sure you opt for underwear when you install. (Which of course, you won’t, you perv!)
  • Improved Map With Visible Roads – Upgrades the Pip-Boy map so that it’s a bit clearer and easier to navigate.
  • Achievements Mod Enabler – Using mods disables achievements, which I think is BS. Luckily, there’s a mod to fix the fact that mods break achievements. How very meta.
  • Load Accelerator – This mod disables VSYNC while on load screens, which makes loading WAY faster. If you have issues where you leave a building and it takes minutes to load your game, give this a shot!
  • Love to Craft Legendary – With this mod, you can craft legendary mods for your weapons and armor. Now useless legendary gear can be recycled into something useful!

Settlements for Fun and Profit

fallout-4-quickstart-cages

Fallout 4 doesn’t really have a lot of NPC-run towns. Sure, there are a few, but they are very much outnumbered by the number of player-owned settlements. You can’t throw a hunk of radscorpion meat in this game without hitting a damn settlement, it seems.

Really, the settlement portion of Fallout 4 is almost completely optional. You can spend hours making everything “just so” or you can pretty much ignore it completely and suffer no ill effects.

So why bother? Well, for one, you’re probably going to want a safe, accessible place to store your gear. That location might as well be tailored to your needs, right? Picking a settlement to make your “base” is a natural fit.

Beyond your first settlement, though, the motivation is resource production. Settlements will passively produce food and water that you can collect and use or sell. In return, you’ll occasionally have to protect them from attacks and keep the people at least a bit happy.

Settlements are complex, and there are a lot of things Fallout 4 doesn’t adequately explain before throwing you in the deep end and assuming you can swim.

fallout-4-quickstart-settlement-recruitment-beacon

First off, the Settlement Recruitment Beacon. New settlers won’t arrive at a settlement until this has been built and powered, and it has to be switched on to work. You’ll find the Beacon under Power -> Misc. It should be built near a generator of some sort in order to run. The beacon’s light is green to indicate it is on. You can also read “On” on the switch itself, assuming it’s bright enough to read it.

You’re going to want to build structures to provide food, water, and defense in your settlements. Keep in mind when budgeting your space that settlers will continue to arrive until there are 4 unemployed settlers, or until there are 10 + CHR residents in the settlement.

Food is typically provided by plants, and settlers can work up to 6 plants each. Mutfruit is a wasteland staple since it produces 1 food per plant, versus most other plants that produce half that. Just keep in mind that overproducing food increases the chances that your settlements will be attacked.

Water can be pumped or purified. I prefer pumps since they don’t require power and are generally cheaper. They must be placed in dirt, but this is really not that big of a deal in most locations.

Defense is produced by a variety of methods, but turrets are probably the most scalable solution. The basic machinegun turret is my go-to. It’s relatively cheap to build and has a crazy long range, and it provides 5 units of defense. I tend to build them up high so that melee invaders can’t reach them. Build a staircase so you can get up on top of structures to place the turrets, then store the staircase in the workshop afterwards in case they need repair. You can build your own “gun towers” out of workshop materials if there’s not enough good roof space.

More people will tend to come to your settlements faster if the settlement is happy. Happiness is measured on a scale of 0 to 100, and is the average of all individual happiness in the settlements, plus any modifiers. Non-humans (ie, brahmin, robots, synths) always have a happiness of 50, while humans will have a happiness of 80 assuming you meet their three basic needs (food, water, and a bed with a roof over it).

Getting above the “80 cap” for Fallout 4 settlement happiness requires adding some other elements to the settlement itself. Certain shops add happiness, although you’re going to need more perks to build them than most settlement buildings. Animals also help, so consider buying a dog if you find one for sale.

With the Wasteland Workshop DLC, you can also trap dogs and cats. If you’ve got the Vault-Tec Workshop DLC, you can follow the quests at Vault 88 to unlock several other happiness buildings. The effectiveness of these buildings varies depending on your choices during this quest. My favorite building is the slot machine, which if you pick the “Lost Revenue” option, will generate 15 bonus happiness in your settlements. It also doesn’t require a settler to operate it, unlike shops and the other Vault-Tec DLC items.

Achievements in Fallout 4

fallout-4-quickstart-100-pct-achievements

Fallout 4 was fun enough for me that I opted to go for 100% of the achievements. I used this guide for most of the basic stuff in the base game. They’ve got some good listings for all the collectible items and some decent info about the story-related lockout points. Do note that their guide to settlements is not particularly accurate, however.

Multiple Endings Achievements

There are several different endings to Fallout 4, and like New Vegas, there are achievements tied to some of them. In general, you can play through the story and choose whatever options you want – killing synths in the Commonwealth doesn’t make you hostile towards the Institute, for instance. There’s really no global “karma” or generalized faction reputation. Only starting/completing certain missions in certain ways will lock you out of the various factions.

Instituionalized is where things start to become tricky. Past this point, I suggest just creating a new save every time you complete a faction mission.

It’s safe to play Brotherhood of Steel missions until you get to the end of Blind Betrayal. Right after you turn this mission in, you’ll start a mission that commits you to the Brotherhood of Steel over the Railroad. Playing Mass Fusion for the Brotherhood will then lock you out of the Institute.

It’s safe to complete Railroad missions at the same time as Institute missions, although you’ll lock out of the Brotherhood of Steel after the Mass Fusion mission. You’ll want to work on Underground Undercover as you’re working through the Institute.

The Minutemen are a minor faction by comparison to those three, so once you have done Old Guns, you can safely ignore their story missions. There aren’t any achievements further down that chain.

Tricky Achievements in the Base Game

Luckily, most of the base game achievements are things you’re just going to be doing anyway as you explore.

Benevolent Leader is probably the worst of the bunch. If you’ve got the Vault-Tec DLC, though, it’s a lot easier. I finished this DLC, which unlocks the vault settlement as well as a bunch of happiness-increasing items. I turned off the beacon so that only the first 1-2 settlers were there, and built them a bunch of slot machines. If you picked “Lost Revenue” as the slot machine’s mode, they generate a bunch of bonus happiness. Then, just leave the settlement alone and eventually the happiness will hit the cap.

Lovable isn’t that bad, but it can be grindy if you didn’t opt to use a companion affinity mod. Codsworth loves it when you modify weapons, so just have him around when you play with your weapon mods. You can attach/remove the same mod over and over and he doesn’t care. In the vanilla game, though, there’s a 24-hour cooldown between actions, so plan on doing a lot of waiting/sleeping. You could also just travel with a companion for a long time and let this happen organically, but I prefer to roll alone.

Prankster’s Return might be a bit painful if you’re not that into pickpocketing. Honestly, I never saw the benefit. There just weren’t that many friendly NPCs that had stuff I really wanted. What I did here was accumulate enough perk points from leveling up so that I could save the game, buy the pickpocket perks, do this achievement, then load my old save again. I pickpocketed someone from one of my settlements after assigning them to work at a guard post way far away from the rest of the people in the settlement, so there was less of a chance I’d be caught.

Tricky DLC Achievements

Automatron

Automatron‘s achievements are pretty straightforward. As you loot robots, make sure you pick up their “custom” parts, as this unlocks those parts for building at the robot workshop and counts towards Robot Hunter. You’ll have to make some modifications to a robot (or two) as part of the main story quests for this DLC, so just build a whole bunch of the stuff you’ve unlocked to make The Most Toys pop.

Wasteland Workshop

This DLC is probably the least well explained.

Trapper requires that you build one of each cage type. Cages require some basic materials, plus usually a food or drug item. Try to stockpile at least a few units of each type of meat as you explore the wasteland and you’ll be in good shape. Some of the cages will trap animals that drop meat which can be used to build other cages. Just be careful when killing things like brahmin in your settlements – this can turn your settlers hostile. I built my cages in a line in the same order as in the build menu, so that I could keep track of which ones I was missing.

Docile requires you to have 5 tamed creatures. You’ll have to build cages and the Beta Wave Emitter in order to meet this goal. The Beta Wave Emitter requires perks that require high CHR, so this might be another case where you want to stockpile perk points, make a save, unlock the perks, build the emitter, trap creatures, and pop the achievement. Then load your old save and spend the perk points on something you actually want.

Instigator makes you start a spectated arena fight. To start an arena fight, you have to assign a settler to one of the colored pads you build in the cages menu. They will then fight creatures, or alternatively settlers assigned to the other color pad. In order to make the fight spectated, you need to build a Quitting Time Siren and turn it on so that people stop working and go watch the fight. Might as well do this one at the same time as Docile – after Docile pops, turn on the siren, assign a settler to an arena pad, and you should get this shortly thereafter.

Far Harbor

Far Harbor’s not that bad. There’s two factions, but there aren’t any faction-specific achievements, so don’t worry about locking yourself out. The Islander’s Almanac is the only collectible, and there are only 5 to find. I used this list to locate them.

Contraptions Workshop

For Show Off, I was initially confused by the “armor rack” requirement. For the other ones, you just transfer the item to the container and you’re done. However, for the armor rack, you have to go into the rack’s inventory and press the “equip” button. (Note that this is also the way you make settlers and companions equip gear, which I didn’t realize!)

fallout-4-quickstart-mass-production

Mass Production is easiest to do with .45 ammo. Just build an Ammunition Plant and set it to build .45 ammo with a terminal. Then load it up with fertilizer and steel. Steel is available at most “general goods” vendors, and fertilizer is created by brahmin at your settlements.

Nuka World

Ugh, man, frickin’ Nuka World. This one’s got the ones that gave me the most trouble…

Eyes on the Prize requires you to earn and then redeem 100,000 tickets. Argh. You can earn ~1,000 tickets by playing the shooting gallery, and if you you have a weapon with explosive ammo you can just shoot at the middle every 10 seconds or so and clear it easily. That’s still 100 freaking rounds of the shooting gallery, though.

For Beverageer, you’ve got to first find all 20 Nuka-Cola recipies. Then you’ve got to assemble all the ingredients at a Nuka Mixer station. Finding the recipes is a pain, and the mixes themselves require colas that you can only find in Nuka-World.

All Sugared Up isn’t too bad, as long as you mix up some colas that last a while. Look for ones that grant rad resist or carry weight, as they tend to have a longer timeout than those that just restore HP or AP. Make sure to chug one before you go into combat and you’ll knock this one out quick.

If you’ve invested a lot in the settlements minigame, then Hostile Takeover is going to be painful. You’ve got to take over 8 settlements in the Commonwealth for the raiders. This also makes Preston Garvey SUPER upset. I created a checkpoint save before taking the first camp, then I bought out settlements and finished the main story quest of Nuka World. Then I loaded my save and went back to what I was doing in the main game.

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