Christ Centered Gamer Blog

This blog contains non-gaming related reviews and random ramblings

Shadows of Mordor's Sequel, Gaming and Gambling

So the sequel to the popular Middle-Earth: Shadows of Mordor has micro-transactions. They are loot boxes; for folks who may not know, they are randomized rewards. You have no control over what you'll get. Now you'll find opinions, fact articles and many other thoughts on the sequel in general and micro-transactions. Yet here I want to talk about gambling. No matter your stance on gambling, I feel this will slowly become a more prevalent thing in mainstream gaming, adding random loot box prizes or card packs. So here we are going to talk about gambling from a faith based and business perspective.

Luke 12:15: Take heed and beware of covetousness - for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses. It is this quote that fits gambling best I would say. Too often people associate gambling to the slot machines and roulette wheels only. Remember, no matter your stance on gambling, it will lead to covetousness: you will want that skin, that rare card. Those who delve into this vice will risk becoming enveloped in the sins of envy and greed. Do not write it off as a phase just because it's not gambling for money.

Whether you feel gambling is a vile thing or not, understand that activities that involve playing the odds in anything requires a certain amount of mental toughness. If you let yourself get addicted to gambling, you won't have any medicines or physical therapies you can do to get it out of your mind. Gambling is a very strong addiction if you let it become one. Yet whatever's making money is going to follow in business. These game publishers know people will pay to make a game faster and they will exploit that without a care about someone's risk to gambling addiction. On record I’ll say that I am against loot box style micro-transactions in retail priced products that are not cosmetic only. These randomized rewards are usually designed into the game to test the gamers patience in earning them by grinding in game. Also on record, keep in mind whether you hate gambling or not, casinos are regulated in many ways including age restriction and government regulation to make sure the casino isnt cheating folks out of their money. The exploitation of those who will spend money to take a gamble at getting that "legendary" prize will most likely become more common in the games industry.

However, if you're a parent with a little gamer, keep these things in mind if they are spending that allowance on any loot box micro-transaction no matter the game.

Talk to your kids about the odds and reality: teach them that unlike buying a in-game skin or toy directly, they might not get what they want if they take the risk. Tell them if they spend their whole allowance on a loot box or card pack and they don't get what they want, that's on them. Don't let them expect an extra twenty if they didn't get the prize they wanted. Make sure they understand as well, unlike a investment or solid item, if the game shuts down, all that money they invest in randomized digital items gets flushed down the toilet.

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Should You Still Play Fallout 4?

When you work for any games publication, you're gonna play a lot of games. Shocker right? As games have evolved over the years, one of the biggest game changers is story. Long gone are the days where you simply had to pretend the pixilated dots on screens are airplanes and missiles. Sure we have great indie games that can draw you in with even the most minuscule or goofy plots on a meaningful level, yet how much of it is the gameplay and not the story? Likewise, can a game be ruined by a mediocre story, or can the gameplay carry the experience? I thought I'd do a few look overs of older games and see if they are worth playing purely on gameplay vs story. The first game I will look at is Fallout 4. This title has already been reviewed by our big boss lady Cheryl Gress, you can look at said review here. Today is just a journey to see if this game is good as a game despite supposed controversies of the story.

So let's start with the game's story. Long story short? It wasn't fun. In previous Fallout titles, whether the early top down RPG games, or Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas, you can easily pretend your character is whoever you wanted it to be. Yet Fallout 4 decided to do a fully voiced protagonist with a large backstory. It doesn't pan out well. The more you give a character a face, the more you have to put effort into emotional investment. Allowing me at least 10 minutes to enjoy my apparent married status and child before the nukes are dropped doesn't help me get invested in my fake family. Sure I am a married man in real life, so I tried to pretend that I was playing as myself and it did nothing to help the investment. Trying a different character file did nothing to help immersion either. Whether I was male or female, I was a lone parent hunting for my child that might not even be alive.

Some people may say, "wait were the previous stories in Fallout games really that good?" If they were stand alone books or movies, no, they would be rather mediocre. Yet by giving the player choice on how to approach a game you manage to bring that much more interest in the investment of the story. Previous Fallout games made you the story; Fallout 4 does not. Wide focus doesn't work for a book or a movie, yet we have many famous games that tell rather fun or compelling stories when it allows you to choose how much you want to care.

The reason character builds in previous titles helped define the character was due to that use of imagination. When I made the person with one strength but 10 agility in Fallout: New Vegas, it was not about playing optimally or providing a challenging. It's because I was playing as the skinniest, weakest gunslinger in the post-war west. No matter what gender, shape, or build I had in Fallout 4, I was a concerned parent that had to get by while dealing with other people's problems. It doesn't help that unlike the other games, you'll have to deal with most of these problems from other people whether you like it or not. If the game is still a ”RPG” then at the very least let me find my son first.

Now let me do another long story short. As a game Fallout 4 is still a top notch experience. I find the settlement management side of the game rather relaxing for when I don't feel like exploring. The loot system is fun, crafting is a joy and the game combat is enjoyable. Exploring the world just to loot and survive is still just as fun as in previous Fallout games. This is a case where I can say the weak story did nothing to prevent me from enjoying a game  as a game. Maybe one time I'll run through Fallout 4 on mute with my own music and I will just make up my own dialogue for the characters.

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Battle Princess Madelyn First Impressions

The way of the knight is a path of honor, duty, and cute graphics. At least that's what it is according to Battle Princess Madelyn. This knight in training and her kingdom fall under siege to the forces of a cruel wizard. With her ghost dog Fritzy, fight, jump and bite your way to saving your kingdom.

The first thing this game says is that it is heavily inspired by the Ghosts and Goblins franchise, and this is true in every step down to the way Madelyn runs. While she tosses spears, she can either have her dog shoot balls of energy to stop her foes or she can channel his power to charge at enemies to devour them whole. 

The first impressions are great so far. The story isn't trying to be some deep and complicated trek into Madelyn's world and yet I was invested into the introduction of the game. The combat was simple, but it felt satisfying and fun. My spear wasn't too weak and the trusty ghost dog didn't make the enemies in my way super easy. The artstyle is visually pleasing; people may say doing retro graphics is a lazy indie trope, yet the team behind Madelyn worked hard to make sure the world pulls you in. 

The most important aspect of these sorts of games is the challenge. Despite my own experiences with Ghosts and Goblins, I had a hard yet fair adventure with Madelyn. The enemies were paced well, I didn't get to a point where I felt I could just rush through the game. The enemies were varied and unique. This game doesn't suffer from “enemy recolor number 1000” syndrome. I started my journey with Madelyn in a unkempt graveyard. I had to climb through an Underground Mausoleum and it ended with a boss battle with a giant skeletal knight. When a game is challenging, the satisfaction of beating a level or a boss is all the sweeter. 

I can't completely critique a game that is far from finished so I’ll talk about what should be improved or what I hope stays strong. The music for the first few stages was not what I’d call memorable. While the artstyle pulled me in despite being based on retro graphics, the old school music just didn't do the same thing for me. I hope that the rest of the tracks are more immersive as the game progresses. While the enemies were varied in my playthrough of Madelyn, I hope this stays true throughout the game's development. Recolored enemies can make or break a game; that's why I hope enemy design remains unique throughout the levels. 

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