Without The Sarcasm https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com Insights. Analysis. Answers. Sun, 27 Nov 2016 15:34:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 41351423 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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Destiny Rise of Iron Review: Not Enough Rising https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/destiny-rise-iron-review-not-enough-rising/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/destiny-rise-iron-review-not-enough-rising/#respond Sun, 23 Oct 2016 03:22:37 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8443
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Well September has come and gone, and Destiny Rise of Iron has now been with us for a little more than a month. After having a little time to return to space wizardry, we are now getting back into the swing of being Guardians, exploding alien heads, and complaining about a game we’ve probably played more than any other. If you’ve stayed away from this DLC so far to wait and see how it is received read on for some details of the good, the bad, and the dusty.

Loot and Progression

For starters, loot and progression have not changed as much as in past updates. The Light cap has gone up, but Light levels work pretty much the same as they did before Rise of Iron dropped. Infusion also sticks with the more recent system that the light level of the item infused is almost always the level that the item to be infused will achieve. In rare circumstances, you even get a little bonus of an additional single digit increase in Light as well. Character levels are still capped at 40, and the time when they matter will still feel distantly in the rear view mirror for most Guardians, so much so that you might even forget you have a character level.

Loot, as ever in Destiny, is plentiful. At first “Green” is the new “Purple” and you’ll rapidly find gear upgrades with dropped off of every alien foot soldier you defeat. After a few days of focused playing you’ll likely start slowing your rise in Light level, and by then the grind will feel pretty similar to the April Update. Welcome back to the treadmill, Guardian.

Pro Tip Infusion can get a little expensive during the grind to the first soft cap, so make a point of running the Daily Heroic and Daily Crucible to bank some extra Legendary Marks. There are of course plenty of other ways to get them, including other activities and sharding old gear – but running the Dailies is one of the faster ways to build your Legendary Mark bank.

Campaign and PvE

Let me say up front that PvE is definitely far from broken in Rise of Iron. It has pretty much everything you remember from the last time you played Destiny – patrols, bounties, quests, and a campaign spattered with a few cut scenes and plenty of new dialog. The thing is, there is so much you remember from previous installments, because it doesn’t feel like there is enough that is new. The campaign missions actually introduce a fairly interesting nemesis, but despite some significant foreshadowing the end result feels rushed, too short, and ultimately hollow.

Of particular offense, to me, in this expansion, is a long string of fourth-wall-breaking references and jokes which poke fun at the games re-use of assets and mechanics. I should probably be more bothered that content is being recycled in the first place, but for some reason what makes it ten times worse is hear the same tone deaf jokes repeated by NPCs or my ghost over and over as I grind through the same events and areas. With the precedent of previous DLCs and the price point for Rise of Iron, Bungie has started to solidify what can be expected from mid-cycle DLC updates in the PvE department. It won’t be enough to turn away super fans like myself, but I’ll offer no defense to those that feel like it isn’t enough to justify the purchase by itself.

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Inklings Review: Lemm-inks https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/inklings-review-lemm-inks/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/inklings-review-lemm-inks/#respond Sun, 09 Oct 2016 21:15:27 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8436 Inklings is a physics puzzler released this week by Applepine Games, and is the studio's debut game. It combines elements of physics puzzle games, Portal-style portals, and Lemmings inspired gameplay, with a few Incredible Machine twists to boot. It's bold and artistic, but is it good? Find out in my Inklings review!
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Inklings is a physics puzzler released this week by Applepine Games, and is the studio’s debut game. It combines elements of physics puzzle games, Portal-style portals, and Lemmings inspired gameplay, with a few Incredible Machine twists to boot. It’s bold and artistic, but is it good? Find out in my Inklings review!

Inklings initially struck me as being essentially a modern reboot of Lemmings. If you’ve never played Lemmings before, the goal of that game is to get the titular lemmings from where they spawn to some safe location, usually while avoiding splatting or otherwise offing your poor lemmings on whatever environmental hazards the game threw your way. However, the main focus in Inklings is more squarely on exploiting the various game physics to achieve the results you want. Sure, it’s still possible to launch your poor ink blots off into oblivion, or get them popped on a sharp piece of geometry, but for the most part your struggle is to exploit their movement and momentum to your benefit.

inklings-review-pipe-cleaners

There are a variety of powerups and special tiles that you can use on your inklings – each one changes their physics in some new way. You could reverse gravity, for instance, making them stick to the ceiling instead of the floor. Or you could set up a cannon and angle it to fire them in the direction of their goal. There’s also a working Portal-style portal gun, which can be used to teleport them across the map, if that proves beneficial. Need to make a hole? Assign an inkling to dig, or just make them explode in a shower of inky goodness.

inklings-review-rotary-engine

Each level takes place on the backdrop of a piece of art. Some of it is kid doodles or school projects, other levels are paintings, sketches, or even famous works of art. The clean, sharp “CGI” style of the inklings often contrasts well with the backgrounds, although sometimes it can be tricky to tell what is solid “art” and what is empty space on some of the levels.

In addition to the simple objective of having a minimum number of inklings survive any given level, each level also has a “bonus” objective that tasks you with solving the puzzle with some other constraint – like only using a select portion of the powerups that you’re given.

inklings-review-rotary-engine

Lemmings and Portal both tended to be somewhat forgiving in terms of timing. The real challenge was figuring out how to get from point A to point B, and there wasn’t that much fiddly twitch skills required to survive. By contrast, Inklings definitely requiring to you have precise timing and aim. Some levels keep you constantly in motion, and may take dozens of precise movements, executed at just the right time, in order to survive. This, coupled with the difficulty of some of the puzzle elements, made Inklings a difficult and sometimes unforgiving experience. There’s a “slow time” button, but even at the slowest speed I found it easy to make mistakes and lose a bunch of progress on some of the later levels.

Links:Homepage, Steam, iTunes
Release:10/6/2016
Price:$9.99 (PC), $4.99 (Mobile)
Rating: - Awesome!
Our Thoughts:

Inklings is a downright beautiful game, and it’s a joy to just watch it in motion. It’s downright challenging to master, however, and often relies on careful precision in order to survive.

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Star Vikings Review https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/star-vikings-review/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/star-vikings-review/#respond Sat, 08 Oct 2016 18:51:20 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8428 Star Vikings is a sort of turn-based strategy game developed by Rogue Snail, a Brazilian studio helmed by Mark Venturelli. Mark has been active in Brazil's indie scene for several years, and worked on Relic Hunters as well as WOTS-favorite Chroma Squad. Star Vikings pits the titular spacefaring nordic heroes against a legion of relentless space-snails, with a mysterious artifact in the center of their conflict. It's billed as "casual," but just how casual are we talking? Find out in my Star Vikings review!
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Star Vikings is a sort of turn-based strategy game developed by Rogue Snail, a Brazilian studio helmed by Mark Venturelli. Mark has been active in Brazil’s indie scene for several years, and worked on Relic Hunters as well as WOTS-favorite Chroma Squad. Star Vikings pits the titular spacefaring nordic heroes against a legion of relentless space-snails, with a mysterious artifact in the center of their conflict. It’s billed as “casual,” but just how casual are we talking? Find out in my Star Vikings review!

star-vikings-review-lost-in-space

Star Vikings is a turn-based strategy game for sure, but it’s certainly not a conventional example of the genre. Your vikings move from left to right across a set of five lanes, and they attack enemies that stand in their path. In this way, Star Vikings initially feels a lot like Plants vs Zombies but played as the zombies. The similarities are superficial, however.

star-vikings-review-big-battle

Depending on the enemy type, snails might react differently to your approach. While the vast majority of enemies simply counterattack when hit, others charge you and attack every turn. There are also traps that, when hit, fire a projectile that damage whatever it hits.

A full head-on assault is almost never the right course of action. Viking health is a previous resource and must be conserved. Instead, often you’ll rely on your vikings’ special attacks to thin the herd and make picking off the remaining enemies a much safer proposition. By hitting enemies from afar, you can trigger their counterattacks to hit other enemies, allowing you to turn the tables without taking damage.

star-vikings-review-fog-of-ware

For instance, a common type of enemy snail attacks in all four directions when hit. If you attack this guy from afar, you can cause him to hit another snail, who might counterattack right back. Now the first snail fires again, doing even more damage. This back and forth combo’ing can clear whole groups of snails without putting your vikings into harm’s way. However, energy for these special moves is limited, so planning is key.

star-vikings-review-world-map

Individual levels in Star Vikings task you with meeting some sort of goal, usually by clearing 4-5 waves of enemies. There’s a lot of different levels to play – probably around 20 to clear the “main quest” plus another good 20 more in sidequests and bonus levels. A flat out sprint of the game took me 6-8 hours, but you could easily get 20+ if you’re going for everything.

While Star Vikings relies heavily on strategic thinking, once you get past the tutorial stages the maps are all randomized. You might get a favorable layout where you can trash all the enemies with no issues, but then the next stage might not be so easy. If all your vikings die, you’re kicked back to the world map without anything to show for it. On top of that, a lot of abilities have a percent chance to activate, while enemies do constant damage to you in return. Often, it felt like I was at the mercy of the random number generator when battling space snails.

star-vikings-review-random-chance-proc

Balance and difficulty scaling are two areas I consistently found lacking in Star Vikings. Enemies quickly grew in strength to the point where they could easily one-shot my vikings. Meanwhile, I’m still doing a piddly amount of damage in return. It wasn’t until very late in the game when I’d unlocked some relatively powerful hats that I really felt like I was starting to catch up with the power curve.

You can’t undo a move, and you can’t leave a level without losing your progress, so taking risks seemed to be heavily disincentivized. I found myself having to go back and grind older levels to boost my experience and gold. There’s also no respec of viking abilities, so if you make a mistake there you’re going to have to hire a new viking of that class and train him up to a reasonable level again. You might have to do that anyway, since vikings you hire often have stat bonuses you can’t find on the “default” set you’re given through the plot.

star-vikings-review-late-game-battle

Meanwhile, there were some vikings with abilities that were downright essential, while others I could have cared less about. The “mortar” ability allowed me to hit any square on the map and deal damage – essential for making the kind of thoughtful moves that hurt the enemy snails the most. Meanwhile, another viking’s ability triggers traps, which were often not in a great position or so few in number that I couldn’t make use of his ability consistently.

Star Vikings
Links:Homepage, Store Page
Release:9/1/2015
Price:$9.99
Rating: - Good
Our Thoughts:

Star Vikings is an engaging and challenging turn-based strategy game. Unfortunately, the random elements and the seemingly required grind make it far less casual and more frustrating than it really wants to be.

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Burly Men at Sea Review: Burly Whirly Adventure https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/burly-men-sea-review-burly-whirly-adventure/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/burly-men-sea-review-burly-whirly-adventure/#respond Sat, 01 Oct 2016 14:24:03 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8417 Burly Men at Sea is a charming, story-focused adventure game from the husband and wife team that calls themselves Brain&Brain. Inspired by Scandinavian folklore, Burly Men at Sea follows three bearded fishermen who find a magical map that leads them to great adventure.
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Burly Men at Sea is a charming, story-focused adventure game from the husband and wife team that calls themselves Brain&Brain. Inspired by Scandinavian folklore, Burly Men at Sea follows three bearded fishermen who find a magical map that leads them to great adventure.

While I think the “adventure” label works well for Burly Men at Sea, this is by no means a traditional adventure game. Burly Men at Sea is definitely designed with a simplified control scheme in mind. The controls are basically drag (or swipe on mobile) to move the “camera” around and explore new territory, and click (tap) to interact. There aren’t really any puzzles to solve in the traditional sense. Most of the time, Burly Men at Sea offers you some simple, binary choices and asks you which direction you want your adventure to take you.

burly-men-at-sea-review-exploring

The visuals and sounds of Burly Men at Sea are likewise minimalistic. Most of the characters and environments are simple shapes in bright pastel colors, which reminded me most of a children’s storybook. The music and sound effects are often simple tunes filled with a capella touches. I loved the aesthetic, personally. It’s all so clean and whimsical.

burly-men-at-sea-review-dialog

Burly Men at Sea is structured as a set of (almost always binary) choices. Each choice creates a different “chapter” of your story. The chapters themselves are charming and full of interesting situations and characters. After your story is complete (usually around 4 chapters), the game loops back to the beginning and lets you start fresh. A single four-chapter story takes around 10 minutes to complete.

burly-men-at-sea-review-storybook

Even though there are many different routes to take, you’ll end up playing the same chapters multiple times if you want to see them all. There’s no way to skip over parts you’ve done several times in order to get to the new chapters you might have missed. This repetition, coupled with the short length of each game, means that Burly Men at Sea feels really short. Games can be good and short, but Burly Men at Sea doesn’t end up feeling as “burly” as it maybe could be.

Burly Men At Sea
Links:Homepage, Steam, iTunes, Google Play
Release:9/29/2016
Price:$9.99 (PC), $4.99 (Mobile)
Rating: - Awesome!
Our Thoughts:

Burly Men at Sea is a minimalistic adventure game that is heavy on charm and whimsy. My only real complaint is that I wish that it was a bit deeper and less repetitive. The mobile version’s pricetag and portability make it the one to grab.

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Four Sided Fantasy Review: Fantastic Four https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/four-sided-fantasy-review-fantastic-four/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/four-sided-fantasy-review-fantastic-four/#respond Tue, 30 Aug 2016 17:01:40 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8399 Four Sided Fantasy is a puzzle platformer developed by Ludo Land, following a successful Kickstarter campaign back in May 2014. Two years and four months later, the game has been released on PC and PS4 with the help of our friends at Serenity Forge. The sent me a key last week to check out, and I'm happy to report this game is awesome! Find out why in our Four Sided Fantasy review.
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Four Sided Fantasy is a puzzle platformer developed by Ludo Land, following a successful Kickstarter campaign back in May 2014. Two years and four months later, the game has been released on PC and PS4 with the help of our friends at Serenity Forge. The sent me a key last week to check out, and I’m happy to report this game is awesome! Find out why in our Four Sided Fantasy review.

In the years since indie games first went mainstream, the success of puzzle platformers like Braid has often been imitated. There are good games in this genre, and there are bad games in this genre. 2-D platformers are (relatively) easy to create compared to massive 3-D open world titles, and puzzle/physics elements can add flavor to a game released in this crowded genre.

four-sided-fantasy-mushroom-forest

Four Sided Fantasy’s hook is that the game plays like your normal, everyday platformer… until you press the “freeze” button. Once you freeze, the camera is locked and the edges of the screen wrap around. That’s all there is to the game – move left or right, jump, freeze. It sounds like a simple thing, but Four Sided Fantasy managed to blow my mind at nearly every turn.

Good puzzle games have a number of qualities that make them interesting without being frustrating, and Four Sided Fantasy is no exception. Each individual puzzle is self contained – there’s no wondering if you’ve got what you need to figure it out; it’s all right there in front of you. The obvious solution rarely works, but trying it and failing teaches you something and usually gives you clues on how to proceed. The platforming is rarely pixel perfect – usually if your solution seems overly complex or skill-based, you’re doing it wrong. Failing and restarting a puzzle is extremely fast, so experimentation doesn’t feel frustrating or slow.

four-sided-fantasy-simple-puzzle

Four Sided Fantasy starts out simple, giving you platforming challenges that often seem straightforward at first. For instance, you might hit a dead end in a tunnel, or find a platform you just can’t jump high enough to reach. Careful manipulation of the camera and the edges of the screen allows you to align platforms, move in unexpected ways, or create a temporary bridge over a pit of death.

four-sided-fantasy-winter

As Four Sided Fantasy progresses through its season-themed levels, new twists on the core mechanics emerge. I don’t want to spoil anything, and I’d even suggest not really looking at screenshots or Let’s Plays of the later game, just so that you can have the “whoa!” and “aha!” moments for yourself.

Related Video If you really want to check out a bit of the game before picking it up, you can watch the first 30 minutes from when we streamed it just before release:

Minimalism is the order of the day – everything about Four Sided Fantasy is as simple as possible. Beyond the aforementioned controls, there’s really no plot, the art style is beautifully minimal, and the background music is simple, relaxing, and serene.

four-sided-fantasy-level-select

A single playthrough of Four Sided Fantasy takes around 3-5 hours, depending on how long you get stuck on the puzzles and how fast you master the mechanics. After the game ends, you can run back through in a “New Game Plus” mode that does some trippy late-game things with the camera.

Four Sided Fantasy
Links:Homepage, Store Page
Release:8/30/2016
Price:$9.99
Rating: - UNBELIEVABLE!
Our Thoughts:

Four Sided Fantasy is an amazing game. It had me fascinated from the first puzzle to the final screen. Much like other stellar puzzle games like Portal and Braid, it takes what seems like at first a simple concept and twists it in interesting and challenging (but never frustrating) ways.

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The Final Station Review: Dead Inside, Keep Out https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/final-station-review-dead-inside-keep/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/final-station-review-dead-inside-keep/#respond Mon, 29 Aug 2016 17:02:36 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8392 The Final Station, developed by Do My Best Games. The apocalypse is upon us once again, and it's up to a plucky train operator tasked with carrying mysterious cargo to save the day. Can he survive the zombie hordes and beat back the darkness? Or should we just leave this one for dead? Let's find out in my The Final Station review.
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tinyBuild has published quite a few games so far this year, and the latest in their unstoppable train of releases is this week’s The Final Station, developed by Do My Best Games. The apocalypse is upon us once again, and it’s up to a plucky train operator tasked with carrying mysterious cargo to save the day. Can he survive the zombie hordes and beat back the darkness? Or should we just leave this one for dead? Let’s find out in my The Final Station review.

Zombie survival horror is a genre that basically needs no introduction. Chances are you’ve played approximately 6,000 zombie survival horror games at this point. Zombies go way back, but more recently they’ve been picking up steam. (lulz, I swear, the train puns never get old!) I have no idea why the genre is so popular among indie game devs, but there you have it. The Final Station’s twist is that all the zombie combat takes place from a 2-D side scrolling perspective.

Apparently toilets make GREAT improvised weapons during the zombie apocalypse.

Apparently toilets make GREAT improvised weapons during the zombie apocalypse.

The Final Station is actually two different games in one package. Half of the game is the aforementioned 2-D zombie shooter where you explore (mostly) abandoned stations in search of supplies and the code to allow the train to leave the station. The other half takes place on the train itself. Between stations, you’ve got to maintain the train, craft supplies, and keep any passengers you may rescue well fed and healthy.

Come on, ride the train, hey, ride it!

Come on, ride the train, hey, ride it!

The Final Station takes a sci-fi route to explain its zombie outbreak. Capsules from space arrived decades before the events of the game, releasing a gas that zombified a significant portion of the population. Humanity rebuilt, however, although many believe that more alien visitations are forthcoming. Thus, in the meantime, humanity has been attempting to science like crazy to prevent a repeat apocalypse.

The plot really has promise, but it ultimately fell flat for me for a number of reasons. One, the protagonist talks to others but we never hear his side of the conversation. That makes it hard to understand ongoing plot beats. Second, the script has a lot of little English errors in it that kept me from fully understanding what was being said. (I know, I know, I’m a hypocrite, my English kinda sucks too. Sue me :P) Finally, a significant amount of the story is told during the train sequences, when your attention is divided between multiple tasks.

While I’m on the subject of the train, I didn’t really care for these segments of The Final Station at all. There’s a lot to keep track of, for one. One of the trains’ systems is always malfunctioning, and if you don’t play an (extraordinarily simple) minigame periodically to keep it in working order, the train grinds to a halt. The passengers need food and medical attention, which you handle by rationing out some of the same supplies you need in order to survive the exploration levels.

Man, these guys take a 10 minute train ride and expect several full meals will be provided.  Entitled jerks!

Man, these guys take a 10 minute train ride and expect several full meals will be provided. Entitled jerks!

At the start of this article, I mentioned how this is technically a survival horror game. However, the emphasis is more on the survival part, and almost not at all on the horror part. I don’t think I was scared at all at any point during the game. I’d back away from a door as I opened it, but this was basically because it takes a second or two for the interior to become visible, and enemies would often pounce and steal some of my health before I could react. There are only a few times where the enemies do anything smarter than appear from behind a door and walk towards you.

There’s also not much enemy variety. There are something like four or five enemies, tops. The basic zombie poses little to no threat, even in large groups. I found myself just punching them to death in order to conserve ammo. There aren’t that many weapons, either. Just a pistol and a shotgun, although late in the game the pistol becomes an automatic rifle.

Another problem is ladders.  Zombies will tend to hang out near them, which makes it hard to get a shot off.

Another problem is ladders. Zombies will tend to hang out near them, which makes it hard to get a shot off.

Although The Final Station supports controllers, the need to be precise with every shot means that the only real way to play is with a mouse and keyboard. Trying to headshot a well armored zombie is awkward and frustrating with analog sticks.

Level design is relatively simple. Most of the exploration levels are a single loop. You go out from the train to find the code, where you also find a key or a back door that takes you a different way back to the train. They’re relatively short on the whole, with most of your playtime being devoted to restarting from checkpoint due to becoming zombie chow for one reason or another.

All the way out, time to head back...

All the way out, time to head back…

The Final Station
Links:Homepage, Store Page
Release:8/30/2016
Price:$14.99
Rating: - Meh
Our Thoughts:

I wish I had more nice things to say about The Final Station. It’s not a particularly great horror game, its story is initially interesting but ultimately disappointing, the exploration is nearly 100% linear, the combat is bare bones, and the train sequences are painful.

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Avoiding the Pokemon Go Your Bag is Full Message https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/avoiding-pokemon-go-your-bag-is-full-message/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/avoiding-pokemon-go-your-bag-is-full-message/#respond Sun, 28 Aug 2016 17:05:21 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8408
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After you’ve been playing Pokemon Go for a while, you’ll start to figure out Pokestop routes, and at first you’ll be swimming in Pokeballs. In fact, the first time you see the dreaded Pokemon Go “Your Bag is Full” message, you might not be that worried about it since you’ll probably have hundreds of Pokeballs at that point. Time will pass though, and eventually you may find that the “Your Bag is Full” problem will become more and more of a nuisance that prevents you from catching all the precious pokemon your heart so desires. Read on below and we’ll explain how to manage your backpack so that you always have plenty of what you need to catch ’em all.

First World Problems

It turns out that either by random chance, or a stroke of brilliance, Niantec injected an interesting bit of “scarcity friction” into Pokemon Go by limiting the amount of items you can carry in your Backpack and giving you an increasing variety of items that can drop from Pokestops as you level up. This makes pokeballs at first seem ubiquitous, and then gradually seem incredibly scarce, until you figure out that a) you are getting fewer pokeball drops from each pokestop (because you are getting other things instead) b) your bag is full of other items you don’t use as much, limiting the space for pokeballs. Since backpack space is limited, I suggest the following prioritization:

  • Low Priority – Potions and Revives – These items are pretty much only needed for Gym battles, and in the early game you won’t be doing that much. I reserve between 60-100 spots for these items, but I don’t battle that actively yet. Unless you are in Gyms constantly, don’t let these items fill up your bag.
  • Medium Priority – Pokeballs and Razz Berries – These should make up the meat of what fills your bag. Depending on your access to Pokestops, you may want to allow for a larger quantity so that you can use your extra stock as buffer until the next time you can make a Pokestop run. You should keep enough Razz Berries to use them liberally when capturing elusive pokemon, but 50-80 is normally plenty and you can get by with less.
  • High Priority – Incense, Lures, Lucky Eggs – While you can buy these items, the number that you get for free is very limited. They don’t take up much space, so they aren’t anything to worry about. Don’t throw them out.

In case you didn’t realize, you can throw away any consumable just by opening your Backpack and tapping on the “trash can” next to the item you want to thin out. A dialog will open where you can specify the quantity you want to purge, and then you’ll be asked to confirm before they get erased.

Pro Tip To avoid the dreaded “Your Bag is Full” message, make sure to check your bag status before hitting a Pokestop. Its especially important to check after a level up because the “level up rewards” can often push you way negative on bag space, often with low priority items. Chuck the stuff you don’t want, and make space for more precious pokeballs!

Refueling and Remixing

For most active Trainers, there will come a time when you run out of pokeballs. Don’t be embarassed Trainer, its a natural part of free to play and it happens to us all sometimes. The solution is to hit some Pokestops, but in fact it is not quite that simple. If you visit just one Pokestop and camp out, you will get 3-4 items about every 5 minutes if you are really on top of things. The catch is, as you level up those 3-4 items could be exclusively non-pokeballs. This means that for refueling you are going to want to keep two things in mind:

  • Pokestop Density – When you are really low on pokeballs, most of the time a single stop isn’t really going to cut it unless you are hanging out for hours. You need to search your area for a place where several Pokestops are in close proximity. Pokestops tend to be near historical sites or landmarks, so even if you live in rural areas you can still often find a cluster near points of interest. There are various Pokestop maps online that can also give you a hand.
  • Remixing – It is essential that you throw away items that you don’t need, or won’t need soon. If you are planning to do a lot of gym battling, you might keep some potions and revives in reserve, but if not than make sure you are cleaning them out regularly. Also, as your bag gets full be sure you are chucking the lowest form of items first. Regular potions go in the trash for me now almost instantly.

Upgrades

If you are in it for the long haul, it is possible to upgrade your bag for 200 coins. This won’t completely solve the problem, but it will create some relief especially earlier in the game when you are leveling up more often. Earning the coins at lower levels will be a labor of love likely spread over the better part of a month, or of course, you can just buy them.

Hopefully with these tips, the Pokemon Go “Your Bag is Full” message will no longer keep you down. Do you have any other Pokemon go questions or tips? Let us know in the comments section!

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Redactem Review: There Will Be Blood https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/redactem-review/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/redactem-review/#respond Sat, 27 Aug 2016 13:18:09 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8385 Redactem - an indie puzzle platformer with rockets, gravity bending, and time rewinds. It was an interesting experience that I may have nightmares about, but I'm undecided as to whether that is a good or bad thing.
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Recently I got a chance to check out Redactem – an indie puzzle platformer with rockets, gravity bending, and time rewinds. It was an interesting experience that I may have nightmares about, but I’m undecided as to whether that is a good or bad thing.

Redactem Gameplay 3

The Indie-est of Platformers

To be sure, Redactem is a straight up “capital I” Indie. Its clear that the game has had tons of puzzle fine-tuning and there are a lot of mechanics crammed into a small package, but the overall look and feel is decidedly “indie” in nature. Unless you are crazy about window-dressing, you won’t notice for long, because as you get into Redactem’s puzzles you’ll need all of your attention and twitch skills to survive the death plummets, rocket launchers, and buzz saws. As one more platformer tossed in the ring, Redactem stacks up pretty well for running, jumping, and parkour. A lot of the puzzles come down to timing and mastery of the basic movement scheme, and Redactem’s controls and feel manage to be accessible and enjoyable even considering the pretty high difficulty curve.

Redactem Gameplay 2

There is No Spoon

Redactem’s puzzles are creative and sometimes delightful when you figure out the trick to downgrade an “impossible” level to something more on the “extremely hard” spectrum. There is a distinct Super Meatboy feel that keeps you trying and trying again, but layered mechanics of gravity shifts, wall jumps, and time rewinds add enough possibilities to make levels feel fairly unique from one to the next. Rocket launchers are a particularly interesting example as they are used as both obstacle and puzzle solving tool in various levels. A successful gravity-dance with a rocket feels… very satisfying. I applaud developer Elliot Marc Jones for the interesting puzzles he’s been able to produce with these few mechanics.

Redactem Gameplay 1

Splat Splat Splat

About the buzz saws though… There are a lot of them, and at times you will be immersed in the Super Meatboy or King of Thieves infinite “splat” loop. Redactem makes no apologies for its sometimes brutal difficulty, like many a platformer before it – and that’s fine with me. “Splat” detection near a buzz saw is fairly aggressive though, and this makes some of the precision jumping rather tedious when you are already several obstacles into a level. For a budget platformer with plenty of mechanics and good puzzle design I consider this a forgivable aspect of Redactem – but it will make you cuss at times.

Redactem
Links:Twitter, Store Page
Release:8/1/2016
Price:$3.99
Rating: - Awesome!
Our Thoughts:

A solid, but difficult indie platformer, with a low price tag. Must love saws.

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