Love is “Eternal”?

Introduction

I was watching Brian Kibler’s stream about a week ago and he was playing a card game other than Hearthstone. A�It wasn’t Magic, either. A�Now, that would be news. A�It was called Eternal and, from what I could gather, it appeared to be a cross between Magic and Hearthstone. A�As I explained it to Chris, it has the mana and interaction on your opponent’s turn of Magic, but the quick matches of Hearthstone.

Heck, it even looks and sounds like Hearthstone.

I know that might sound antithetical. A�Hell, Chris and I have spent many a text conversation discussing how much better Magic is than Hearthstone for a variety of reasons. A�The only thing that we agree is better in Hearthstone is the mana system. A�Gaining one mana per turn instead of hoping on a wing and a prayer that you curve properly is the best thing about Hearthstone. A�We tried a version of Magic with the Hearthstone rules and, it turns out, being able to do stuff every turn is a good thing.

Nevertheless, I watched the stream and the game. A�I also chatted with several others since Kibler’s is one of the few streams that doesn’t descend into spam/meme chaos every day and you can have a conversation. A�It was especially easy since only about half his viewers care about Eternal or don’t care at all what game he’s playing. A�They politely answered my questions, as well as questions that others had. A�After about a half an hour, I was convinced. A�I needed to try this game. A�I was going to download it via the Steam client and try it. A�Then, something even better happened. A�I learned that it was on mobile. A�I downloaded it, started playing through the tutorial, and immediately texted Chris.

Okay, Grandma. Why don’t you just call him? Nobody texts anymore. It’s all about the Snapchat emoji…or something. A�I’m even too old to trash talk myself about being too old.

The Good

This whole game is good. A�In fact, it’s great. A�One of the selling points was that it is very F2P friendly. A�I’m still the grumpy old man gamer who refuses to pay good money for digital goods/currency, so if a game doesn’t let me compete without dropping hard earned cash, I’m not playing. A�I was skeptical at first, but that skepticism soon faded. A�The tutorials give away starter decks, which isn’t different from Hearthstone on the surface. A�Underneath, though, it only takes 4 wins to earn a whole deck, where Hearthstone makes you play through 10 levels of the character to get all of the basic cards.

There are also puzzle levels that teach you about the basics of the game and give, as far as I know, 20 gold per. A�I have only finished one of them as of this writing. A�The reason for that is because I am having so much damn fun playing the game. A�Who wants to read the instructions when you can just be out there slinging spells and minions at your opponent’s face?

I’d like to phone a friend.

There are a ton of game modes in the game. A�In addition to the typical casual and ranked versus modes, they figured out a way to do an actual draft mode where you don’t have to wait for people to sit down at your “table”. A�There is also a PvP mode called “Event”, which has a special rule and loot attached to it. A�While most come to a card game to test their mettle against other people, guys like me are perfectly content beating the snot out of the overmatched AI. A�Thankfully, Eternal takes care of us with two single player modes. A�In “Gauntlet”, you choose a constructed deck and fight against AI until you win 7 games or lose 1. A�”Forge” is a draft like mode similar to Hearthstone Arena where you pick from 3 cards to build a deck and then fight the AI until you win 7 or lose 2. A�The difference here is that you get to keep all cards drafted.

That brings me back to the best part of Eternal. A�The individual who told me that the game was very F2P friendly was not lying. A�Nearly every day you are getting at least one pack. A�The packs are full. A�None of this 5 cards per pack nonsense. A�Modes cost more than Hearthstone, but you are also compensated better for performing in them. A�I won 7 games in Forge and got the 2,000 gold entry plus in rewards. A�I also received a couple of packs for my trouble. A�There is no problem in building a decent to good collection in this game.

The Bad

In keeping with my pie in the eye optimistic gamer attitude, there isn’t much that I can categorize as bad in this game. A�The most obvious is that the mana system is like Magic. A�Sure, they give you less of a chance of flooding and screwing with one mulligan of your opening hand and by limiting the number of influence (mana) you can draw in the opener and mulligan. A�Also, there is a card that lets you draw influence for the cost of one. A�Still, the flood and screw will not be denied and some games you just sit there and stare as your opponent beats you mercilessly.

An exclusive 2GG investigation reveals that statistics are broken.

The only other “bad” in the game is mostly likely just due to the fact that I’m a noob and don’t have the time to dedicate to getting better at drafting. A�Because of how it is set up, the skill cap for drafting is much higher than it is in Magic the Gathering. A�Again, instead of sitting down with a pod of players, you are “passed” a pack that has been opened sometime, somewhere, by someone and had cards taken from it. A�So, you can’t really pick up on signals or bully players off of strategies. A�What you can do is draft much more with synergy in mind. A�I just don’t have the skill to do it, so my only draft has ended with a very embarrassing 0-3 and I haven’t been back to try again.

The Ugly

I always worry with these types of games. A�Before you know it, the developer pulls the plug and you are left with a stagnant game or, worse, one that gets shut down completely. A�Now, honestly, I haven’t seen either of those happen with any of the games that I play. A�They must all maintain a high enough player base to justify keeping the servers open.

That’s not entirely true. I did join this game right before they decided to shut down the servers. A�Fare the well. A�I hardly knew ye.

I’m not saying that Eternal will shut down. A�However, I am worried that it won’t be able to maintain the player base in the face of all of these other games. A�One thing that it has going for it is that it is mobile and it seems to be quick paced, which has so far been a recipe for success with these types of games. A�The other side is that Magic is releasing their new digital property and it appears to occupy a lot of the same space as this game. A�I hope that Eternal can hold its own, but if not, it’s going to be ugly for me.

The Verdict

Eternal is a fun game. A�I have been playing it regularly for the last week. A�Unlike Hearthstone, which I log in to every couple of days to clear out quests and don’t really have much fun playing, I lose hours to Eternal and don’t regret it one bit. A�I know that it won’t ever reach Hearthstone levels of popularity because Blizzard just knows how to hook and then keep people running on that treadmill. A�However, I have had no problem in finding a match any time I log on and play to do the daily win quest.

Eternal is a cheap gamer’s game. A�They advertise it as a game where you can collect every card without spending any money. A�While that is probably true for Hearthstone and I’ve done pretty well by it, Eternal’s quest rewards are just an embarrassment of riches and I don’t doubt that I’ll have most, if not all, cards in a relatively short period of time.

Eternal is a well designed game. A�It is made and distributed by a company that employs prominent names in the gaming community. A�While that doesn’t always work out, I think of them as the Image of gaming. A�Image broke off from Marvel and DC to allow their creators to keep their creations and market them as they see fit. A�It didn’t work for everyone because not everyone is a marketing genius or able to keep a tight schedule. A�However, Image is still around, they are still allowing their creators full reign, and they are still making great comics. A�I hope to see the same from Dire Wolf.

(Mine)Crafting a Story

(Editor’s Note:

Introduction

Aiden recently let me know that I could download Minecraft Story Mode and play through at least the first episode for free. A�I was under the impression that it cost money. A�That’s the only reason that it has taken me this long to try the game. A�Although I haven’t played much Minecraft in any form over the last month or so, I remain addicted to the game. A�Because, every time I do sit down to play it, I lose several hours to whatever silly job I end up creating for myself.

I have yet to play any of the “story mode” games. A�I’ve been introduced to the Guardians of the Galaxy one and find it intriguing because I enjoy the movie and comics so much. A�I even went as far as to download the Walking Dead one. A�None of them, though, have enticed me enough to load up and start playing. A�Until Minecraft. A�Because we need some filler/an easy topic to get back into the podcast, I’ve played and written about the main game on more than one occasion, and I just discovered that part of it is free, join me for my introduction to “story mode” with one of my favorite games of all time.

The Good

If you’re anything like me, you will totally geek out the first time he talks.

Voice Acting – The first thing that I noticed, and I’m sure this was intentional, is that Patton Oswalt does the voice of the main character. A�I didn’t recognize any other voices and I’m a little surprised that Patrick Warburton didn’t voice any characters, but hearing Patton’s voice as one of the first things in the game has gone a long way to increasing my enjoyment of the game.

It’s Minecraft: A�I know that I was using this old trope quite a while to illustrate the good in these articles. A�However, I haven’t used it much recently, so I feel safe resurrecting it now. A�The game is recognizable as Minecraft, even if you aren’t performing many of the same actions as in the main game.

Decent Story: A�The story isn’t great, by any stretch of the imagination. A�It was interesting enough, though, to keep me playing. A�First, I wanted to see how the building competition might end (as I expected, but a twist to make it worth the wait), then when the pig ran away, I really wanted to chase after it, and now I want to see what happens with the Wither skull and diamond trade.

Funny: A�It is genuinely funny, too. A�Both Aiden, who heard some of the dialogue and me, as I played through it, laughed at more than one part. A�It isn’t side splitting, but there is humor and it is welcome.

Choose Your Own Adventure: A�The game tells you that your choices matter. A�It also helpfully reminds you at times that a character will “remember” your choice for later in the game. A�I don’t know exactly how true that is since I’m only part of the way through the introduction, but it is valid enough that I consider my choices before making them. A�I could go back to play through again, similar to how I used to read the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books until I got the best and the worst ending, but right now I’m treating it like a game, taking it seriously, and considering the circumstances of my choices.

The Bad

In spite of the bad voice acting, this game genuinely frightened me in more than one place.

Voice Acting: A�How can this be both good and bad? A�Well, as I already mentioned, other than Patton Oswalt, I didn’t recognize a single voice. A�That’s not necessarily bad, but at least one of the voice actors seems to have taken a class at the Resident Evil school of voice acting. A�It’s not awful, but it isn’t good, either. A�It is just bad enough that when you hear the voice, it takes you out of the story for a moment as you realign and try to fit this bad into something that overall is actually decent to good and might become great later in the game.

It isn’t Minecraft: A�Wait, you are probably thinking, now you are just talking in circles. A�While that might be true, let me explain. A�It is recognizable as Minecraft due to the graphics and overall feel of the game. A�However, and I’m not saying that it is trying to be, it isn’t anything like Minecraft in terms of gameplay. A�Sure, you mine and you craft, but those are accomplished only to advance the story and only by rapid pressing of a single “button”. A�Overall, it’s just not that engaging and doesn’t add much to the game other than make it more game and less of a movie.

The Ugly

I mean, this is running on a super duper high end computer and they look like this.

The graphics: A�Again, the game knows what it is and it has been successful in spite of the fact that it uses blocky, retro style graphics during a time when games are becoming more and more realistic and pushing for realism to add to the appeal of virtual reality. A�But, seriously, the graphics are not just retro, they are retro in 3D. A�Sometimes the style is just jarring and I wish for slightly better aesthetics. A�But, I know it won’t ever happen, so I’ll just keep complaining about it. A�That’s what we old guys do, right?

The Verdict

It’s not quite Minecraft, but it’s close enough. A�It’s named for its story, which isn’t great, but is just good enough. A�Some of the voice acting leaves quite a bit to be desired, but Patton Oswalt makes up for all of that. A�Minecraft Story Mode isn’t a great game by any measure.

What it is, though, is a good enough game. A�It does just enough right to make me want to finish the first episode. A�We will see if I can continue to forgive the not so great and keep playing once it isn’t free anymore. A�I get the feeling that I might end up just buying it. A�That will most likely lead me back down the rabbit hole of the main game and both will feed one another.

 

Fail Hydra

(Editors Note: A�We’ve reached the end of Secret Empire and, with it, comes my review of the overall event. A�I’ve already done at least 2 (maybe 3) reviews of the beginning and middle (so, I guess 2) and promised that when all was said and A�done, I’d be back for the big send off. A�Away we go…)

The Good: A�This was a good story. A�I remember when the event started that I wasn’t completely on board with the idea. A�It seemed to go against everything that the Captain America character has ever stood for. A�How are you going to make Captain America into a facist? A� I understand that comics maybe aren’t selling as well in the face of movies and television shows that provide the same entertainment value at a possibly reduced cost for the consumer. A�But, come on, there are some things that you just don’t do. A�Turning Captain America into Hydra is something that you just don’t do. A�There are numerous instances of him fighting facists. A�One of the most recognizable images in comic book history is Cap punching Hitler straight in the face. A�I’ve shared that very image on this page probably to prove a similar point.

And, if punching Nazis is wrong, I don’t ever want to be right. Give ’em hell, Cap.

I won’t say that I ever came to terms with Captain Hydra. A�However, this story did a decent to good job of explaining a situation that, for many (myself included), had no good explanation. A�Granted, they jumped through hoops and the suspension of disbelief was almost too much at times. A�Still, it got me back into reading and enjoying comics and that is the name of the game. A�Well played, Marvel. A�Well played.

Aside from all of that, the story was compelling. A�It followed a good, logical arc with plenty of all the good kinds of conflict that make me want to invest my time in the story. A�In fact, I became so invested in the story that I did what I told myself I wasn’t going to do and I bought all of the crossover issues for the event, too. A�The last time I fell for that trick was the first Civil War and some of those books just felt like filler. A�That wasn’t the case with this event. A�Every book, even the crossover books, told a piece of the story. A�When you put them all together, you get a well executed event.

The art, for the most part, was very good, too. A�In a previous review, I mentioned that one of the reasons I enjoyed Civil War was Steve McNiven’s art. A�He didn’t do all of the books, but there was only one or two that I didn’t care for the art because another one of my favorite artists, Leinil Yu filled in for a couple of issues.

The Bad: A�I already mentioned that there were a couple of issues that I didn’t like the art. A�Granted, in the issues that I didn’t care for the art, there was a reason to use that particular style. A�I understand that, but I just didn’t care for it. A�It took me out of the story and, for me, had the exact opposite of the intended effect.

By my understanding, the art is supposed to convey an otherworldly or dream feel. It does make sense as this is an alternate reality, so every once in a while, it was interesting to have the art break down into the gauzy and ephemeral which was a stark contrast to the hyperrealism of Steve McNiven. A�However, for me, it was a reminder that this was only temporary. A�Steve Rogers was not going to remain a Hydra agent and Marvel insisted that things weren’t just “going to magically go back to normal at the end” during the whole event.

The art isn’t bad. It’s just different. Normally, I wouldn’t have a problem with that, but it just didn’t fit well in my opinion.

I’ve recently heard rumors that initially, they meant for the Captain Hydra event to lead to another “Dark Reign” type storyline, at least temporarily. A�But, response to the change in Cap’s character was met with such resistance (probably the most out of any of the recent changes) that they had to figure out another way to wrap it all up. I don’t know about all of that, but I will say that another bad thing about this arc is that it got pretty dark in the middle. A�Granted, there were things happening in real life that probably exacerbated my feelings about Hydra ruling the country. A�But, I strongly considered not reading anymore.

The Ugly: A�Other than that middle “despair” arc of the story, the ending was not all that great. A�I think that we all agree that if they were going to end the story in this fashion that this was the only logical ending. A�Still, I’m a guy who likes a good ending and this one was just okay. A�It was what was supposed to happen and it happened.

So, why put this one in the ugly column? A�Well, it’s disappointing for one major reason. A�They said all along that this wasn’t going to be one of those stories where everything just gets fixed and we pretend that nothing happened after a few months. A�Before reading that, I was convinced that the cube would realize her mistake and work to fix what she broke. A�Then, I read that’s not how it would end and I was intrigued as to how they would end it. A�Chris suggested the old Dallas “it was just a dream” ridiculousness. A�While I didn’t have to make good on my threat and return all of the books that I bought if they actually went through with that, the ending was sort of along the lines of what I initially suspected. A�Okay, fine, but given everything that they said about it not being that ending, this deserves an ugly.

The Verdict: A�Similar to Civil War, this event will go down in history as bringing me back to comics. A�I didn’t enjoy this one as much as that one, but I did like the cohesiveness of this story with the crossover titles. A�So, this one might end up being more enduring and keep me in comics for at least the next year, if not more. A�Soon after Civil War ended, I found other things to spend my money on and quickly dropped comics.

Even though I complained to Chris about not having enough comics as the event wound down, I still found a way to spend almost 40 dollars this week. A�I’m back into comics in a big way. A�I have branched out from my almost 40 (well, with a few decades of breaks in between) year status as a Marvel zombie to read far more DC books that I’ve ever read. A�I have even picked up several independent books that aren’t Image while sticking with Spawn long enough to start to appreciate that book again. A�I have no idea what the future of comics holds but, I’m along for the ride no matter what.

Have You Played Atari Today?

(Editor’s Note: A�Our summer vacation has extended for far too long. A�However, we hope to be back next week and every week for the rest of the year. A�Until then, I will warm up with a gaming article here to break the stretch of comic reviews.)

Introduction

For the last week, the answer to the question posed in the title is emphatically “Yes!” A�My first gaming system was the Atari 2600. A�It isn’t the first one I purchased myself. A�That honor goes to the SNES or Sega Genesis. A�I can’t remember which I bought first. A�However, our family owned an Atari 2600. A�We also got a 7800, but honestly, that one didn’t last long and got quickly eclipsed by the original NES. A�So, while you will often read about me waxing poetic about Nintendo, my gaming lineage has roots much deeper.

Why do I bring this all up? A�Well, recently I had the idea to acquire a method to play my old Atari 2600 games. A�Let’s just leave it at, “My current laptop (after all of my mishaps in the past) is not very powerful and I wanted to test the waters with something that wouldn’t tax it’s meager capabilities too much.

Plus, I have this cool retro joystick to use!

The Good

I’ve spent the better part of my adult life trying to convince people that nostalgia is a liar. A�Things weren’t better then and even if they were, they’re really not all that bad today. A�Well, I’m here to admit that maybe sometimes nostalgia isn’t a liar. A�I mentioned earlier that I’ve played this at least once a day since getting it. A�It has been for at least an hour each time. A�I started with Frostbite, probably my favorite game for the system. A�Then, I moved on to Pitfall, which I played a couple of times until I got 10 minutes of the timer cleared. A�As a kid, I cleared the whole timer more than once.

As I searched the games, I found Yar’s Revenge, which A�was a game that I “borrowed” from a friend and enjoyed so much that I never returned. A�The last game that I got is perhaps a more obscure game, a deep cut if you will, Plaque Attack. A�It is Activision and I noticed that the sound effects were recycled from Frostbite (or vice versa) and maybe that’s why I liked the game so much. A�I mean, it certainly wasn’t gameplay, which revolves around you controlling a tube of toothpaste and shooting food that is trying to decay teeth in a mouth. A�Okay, so yeah, maybe sometimes nostalgia is a liar because I didn’t last long in that game before moving on to River Raid and Frogger.

For those who think I was making up Plaque Attack. I have a good imagination, but not even I would think to make this game up if it didn’t exist.

The Bad

Unfortunately, I don’t any of these consoles anymore. A�I shouldn’t say that. A�Honestly, my mother might still have the Atari, NES, and possibly the SNES and Genesis in her basement or attic. A�Me, though, lacking any foresight and (as we’ve seen) little sense of nostalgia, I have either sold or given away most consoles I’ve owned as an adult.

PS1? A�Gave it away because it only played when flipped upside down. A�N64? A�Sold to a local YMCA for gas money, basically. A�Original XBOX? A�Gas money, too. A�I do still have my PS2 and Dreamcast, so I guess I got some sense in me eventually. A�Granted, the Dreamcast was bought after the console was already dead and I just found it at the bottom of my closet, but I still have it!

The bad about all of this is that I have to resort to questionably legal means to play all these old games. A�I mean, I got a 2600 joystick console one year for Christmas or birthday. A�It was fun and I played it a few times, but the games are limited and most of them aren’t my favorites. A�The classic Nintendo consoles are also limited in the games they play, and the games are often the good ones, but good luck getting one in the current environment of limited runs and eBay resellers grabbing all of the stock. A�So, I go the emulator route and hope that I don’t get a cease and desist from my internet provider again.

I fully admit that I’ve engaged in quite a bit of questionably legal content online and should have been warned. But, really, this was the last straw? It wasn’t even that great of a movie.

The Ugly

You probably think that I’m going to go with the obvious choice of E.T. here. A�Well, if you think that, you haven’t spent much time on the page. A�I know that E.T. is always pointed to as one of the biggest failures in video game history and said to have essentially killed Atari as a company. A�I refer you to the documentary Atari: Game Over for an entertaining look at the second claim. A�As for the first claim, the game might have failed, but I owned one. A�I also enjoyed the game immensely. A�It is one of the first games that I finished completely.

I mean, how is E.T. still considered the worst game ever with this turd out there?

The real ugly is that ultimately, nostalgia is a liar. A�The games are fun and they do the best that they can with limited pixels and colors. A�However, the graphics are still terrible, the sound effects are lame, the gameplay for most games is repetitive, and there’s not much here other than the reminder of simpler times. A�With all of the other options out there, what is the reason to choose a 40+ year old console with all of those limitations?

The Verdict

Playing these games gave me some insight into what people say when they go on about “the good old days”. A�I had some potentially bad news (that has ultimately worked out well as of right now) and going back to the games of my youth when I didn’t have to worry about all of these things was a powerful attraction. A�I have kept coming back to the games daily for a bit of a distraction.

In the end, though, they are little more than that. A�Like the games on my phone that I cycle through on a daily basis, I’m not terribly invested in the games. A�I play them to give my brain a break. A�I’d much rather be playing Skyrim, Fallout, Portal, or even the Lego games with the boys. A�I don’t know if it will have staying power in my daily routine, especially since I’m going back to school and time will be more limited. A�For now, I like the feeling of experiencing the games for the first time again and remembering other games that send me on the hunt for them. A�If you’re not worried about the questionable legal ramifications, I highly recommend the run, jump, and chomp down memory lane.