The Reason For Wii’s Success

When video games first began, there was this huge explosion of excitement. Everyone was interested and wanted to see “the next best thing.” There was no avoiding the presence of this interactive medium. You’d walk into your local restaurant, only to find huge line-ups for that next game of Donkey Kong, or Pac-Man. Video games were the new kids on the block. They were new, fresh, fun and exciting. In the early to mid 1980’s, the video game industry was experiencing a crash. Was it the beginning of the end? As it turns out, fortunately that was not the case.

A newcomer in the industry, Nintendo, was responsible for releasing the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System), that essentially single-handily revived the entire industry. Although Nintendo is over a century old, video games in particular were a new venture for them, so there was a lot of skepticism. That skepticism was quickly silenced once they released their first game console, with the globally recognized game mascot, Super Mario Brothers. This one game alone was responsible for putting the industry back on the map. One of the reasons for the game’s huge success is not solely catered to the characters cute personality, but largely due to the fact that Super Mario Brothers, in and of itself, was a revolutionary game. There was nothing like it at the time. It was a whole new wave on interactivity, and thus a new generation of gamers were born. Back in the early days, there’s was one particular element that all games had in common: Ease of use.

Games were fairly easy to pick-up and play, and as a result, this allowed a large number of people that were interested in the medium to give it a try. As time went by, games naturally evolved. At the same time, as games started to evolve more, so did the complexity of playing them. Historically, all video games were presented in two-dimensions (2-D). In the mid-90’s though, we were introduced to games that now leaped to the third (3-D) dimension. As a result, a whole new dimension of complexity, if you will, tagged right along with it. Although games being in 3-D may have had some affect on the “ease-of-use” factor, a large part of games becoming too complex had to do with the natural progression of the game controllers. Essentially, the tools that gamers use to control what’s happening on-screen.

As a result of this, people that used to play and enjoy games, all of a sudden turned their backs on it. Not because they weren’t interested, but more because they simply couldn’t handle the difficulty levels that were now presented before them. If you do some research, you’ll find that this increase of difficulty was also reflected in the sales, or lack-of industry growth. The amount of people that used to play video games were all of a sudden decreasing. This put the industry in a sort of frenzy. There was one company though that really showed their concern – that company was Nintendo. It was around 2004 when Nintendo stated they felt the industry needed to change, and so procedures were taking place to make those changes happen. The result: Both the Nintendo DS and Wii.

You’d almost have to be living under a rock in order not to hear of those systems. Their success thus far is simply unprecedented. But why is that? The answer is actually quite simple – those two systems are really easy to use. In a way, they go back to the basics of when games could be played by anyone. The DS uses a touch-screen as it’s interface, and a stylus as it’s “controller.” Yet, this combination really works, and it’s evident by the sales reflected by the system. The Wii on the other hand is motion-based, with a controller that looks like a, get this, T.V. remote! Who doesn’t have and uses a T.V. remote? Nearly everyone does, and thus the reason why the Wii remote was developed the way it is. The Wii’s interface makes playing games easy again, looking no further then the latest sales generated by the system to prove this point. The brilliant thing that Nintendo did was use the latest technology, but in a way that simplifies the process so anybody can use it. In other words, cutting-edge technology that’s easy to use. Brilliant!

Industry analysis shows that after the release of Wii and DS, the industry started to expand again. People that once stopped playing games, started to play again. Even more importantly, people that never touched a game before, were all of sudden getting involved. It seems now, that the industry as a whole, is working on expanding the market, reaching people of all ages and nationalities. A goal, where one day, people will look at video games as a legitimate form of entertainment – a medium that can proudly stand next to other forms of entertainment like movies and music. Rest assured, that day will come!

Diablo III The Ultimate Evil Edition

I can’t believe I did it again. I bought Diablo 3 for the fourth time! I’ve purchased both the PC original and its expansion, and now I’ve done the same with the console versions. Obviously, I am huge fan of the Diablo series, but pretty much anything Blizzard is amazing. With this developer, quality is insured. Granted, when Diablo 3 first came out on the PC there were problems everywhere, but the fundamental gameplay was still astonishingly fun. With Diablo: Reaper of Souls now available for home consoles, Blizzard has fixed literally every problem with the game thus far. You’re in for a treat.

If you’re a newcomer of the Diablo franchise, the game is a dungeon crawling action-RPG. What this means, is that you (or you and your friends) will be hunting Demons, Undead and various beasts across the world of Sanctuary. The fundamental gameplay objective of the player is to make his or her character as powerful as possible. Which happens via gear upgrades and character ability customization. What’s great about this rendition of Diablo 3, is that it comes with the recently released expansion pack, Reaper of Souls. The expansion adds multiple hours of game play, and even another playable character class, the Crusader.

Unfortunately, if you’re looking for an epic and engaging RPG story, Diablo 3 and its expansion disappoint. There’s a bevvy of cheesy lines, eye-roll inducing clich├ęs, and you can smell the betrayals a mile away. The story in Reaper of Souls’ additional fifth act is moderately better, but it still suffers from general predictability. One highlight though, you’ll find out more lore about your computer controlled AI companions with special quests. These were fun, and added more depth and backstory to characters that felt tacked on in the original standalone version.

Gameplay in Diablo: Reaper of Souls is refined to an almost perfection. Most of the moves with all 6 classes feel polished and were a blast to execute. For instance a powerful Mage spell will rip or explode enemies across the screen, or you could find the Barbarian class slashing and hacking demon’s heads off. It’s gruesome, fun and engaging. The best addition to the console releases is the same room, four player co-op. It harkens back to the days of you and your friends sitting on the same couch and spending all afternoon playing something like Goldeneye or Halo on the same screen. The framerate never slows down and the quick button taps still allows your characters to equip and access all of your abilities. The console version’s game play is by far the highlight of Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition.

With either the PlayStation or Xbox controllers, you’ll find the moves are mapped out to your liking. I never felt gimped or at a disadvantage while playing on these controllers instead of the more precise keyboard and mouse set-up. The game feels much more like a Gauntlet type, fun-for-all experience, rather than a hardcore action-RPG by one of the most serious developers out there. Exclusive on all the console versions is the ability to flick the right thumbstick in any direction to initiate a summersault with your character. This added maneuverability is a godsend for the console version, because it lacks the accuracy of the PC controls.

Of course, the main meat and potatoes of the Diablo series is ability to replay the entire campaign on a more difficult setting for better rewards. You can still do that with Diablo: Reaper of Souls but my favorite new addition is Adventure Mode. Once you complete the campaign, you’ll unlock access to this feature. Basically, your hero is tasked with going around all of the different acts of Diablo 3 and Reaper of Souls to engage in different bounties and objectives littered around the map. You’ll find amazing rewards in the form of armor and weapons. You can also open Nephalem Rifts to get even greater rewards. I loved Adventure mode and I found it less boring than repeating the same storyline over and over again.

Also new with Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition is the Nemesis system. While playing the PlayStation 4 version of the game, I found a powerful demon that I’ve never encountered before. Basically, one of my friends on the PSN was killed by this creature and it joined my game even stronger. Upon avenging my friend’s death, the creature dropped gratuitous amounts of loot. I could even send some back to my friend with a click of the button. This was a nice extra feature, and makes things even more exciting on the battlefield.

Obviously, I love Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition. It’s a must own if you have any of the four systems that it has been released on, Of course, the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One versions with their better textures, resolutions and overall performance is the way to go. If you’ve yet to enter the land of Sanctuary, Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition is the definitive version to buy. Look for it at your local Slackers today, and prepare to be addicted.

Power Struggle Board Game Review

Do you have what it takes to rise through the ranks and succeed in the cut-throat business world? Pull the strings and take control of the corporation in Power Struggle! Best your enemy executives in influence, experience, shares and even corruption. Manipulate departments such as Accounting, Communications and Human Resources. Strategically place your managers and employees to make sure you end up the top dog in this corporate board game!

Power Struggle (or Power $truggle to be accurate) is a corporation-themed strategy board game designed in 2009 by Bauldric & Friends. It seems to be a sleeper hit, not attracting a lot of publicity even though the vast majority of reviews and player feedback on it have been positive. It is a highly complex board game similar to Agricola, and has the same target demographic and the same lasting appeal.

The premise of the game is pretty simple: you and your fellow executives in the corporation are out to determine which of you is the most influential, wealthy, experienced and corrupt bigshot in the company! That’s where the simplicity ends though, as Power Struggle boasts half a dozen victory paths, a huge choice of actions and fairly complex rules and mechanics.

Winning the game requires you to excel in at least 4 out of 6 tracks to victory. There is the Influence track determined by your control over the company’s chairmanship and board of directors. There is the Shares track based on how much you have invested in company stock. There is the Main Departments track that improves as you successfully merge departments. There is a Counsel track based on how many external consultants you employ, and there is even a Corruption track based on how often you bribe or are bribed by other players.

The 6th path to victory is a secret goal where you are allocated an Archenemy and a set of 3 tracks that you need to beat them in. Once you achieve the required threshold in 4 out of 6 of these paths, you can declare that the current round is the last one. However, other players might have more victory points than you, especially since the Archenemy path is secret, and also since other players could achieve more victory paths in the final round after your declaration. So it becomes a choice of declare-now-and-risk-it or wait-but-risk-somebody-else-declaring-first.

So how do you play the game and achieve victory? The full gameplay mechanics are too complex to describe in this review, but I will attempt to provide a summary of how the game flows. The game board (which represents your corporation) has 6 different divisions, under each of which there are 6 departments. Above all these is the board of 5 directors, and above that is the chairman’s office. The entire game is based on the control and movement of personnel in these areas.

The main mechanic involves placing a manager and his employees in a department slot. These managers will be your pawns in the battle for supremacy in the corporate world. At the start of every round, a Director’s Meeting happens. During this meeting, the existing chairman is “let go” and the player with the most members in the board of directors gets to promote one of the board members to be the new chairman.

At the same time, control of each division is determined. The player with the most departments in each division gains control of the division and becomes the new division head. If the same player was the outgoing division head, nothing changes. However, if a different player gains control of the division, the old division head is kicked out and the player with the new majority gets to place one of his goons as the new division head. Here’s where it gets interesting: the old division head isn’t “fired”. He gets to choose if he gets promoted to become a board member, or becomes an external consultant (which I guess is the same as being fired actually). So it may be a good thing to lose control of a division!

So what’s the use of being a division head? Each division head (and the chairman) have   unique  abilities. The head of Controlling earns more money when payday arrives, while the head of Accounting gets to buy shares for cheaper. The head of Human Resources gets to hire more employees, while the head of Development gets to “entice” employees away from other players’ departments. The Chairman gets to set up a new department for free, while the head of Communications appears to have the most powerful ability. He gets to determine how many turns there are in the current round, and what random events will affect the players.

These abilities are powerful enough as it is, but you can bribe them away from their owners for an even greater effect! A bribed Development head can “entice” 3 employees instead of 1. A bribed Communications head gets a free action before the next Director’s Meeting. The other abilities also receive substantial boosts. Bribing is therefore very tempting. The game even provides you with nice bribe wallets so that nobody will see any money changing hands. They will still see the bribe wallet changing hands though, but at least they won’t see how much (or how little) cash you’ve put inside it.

As mentioned before, the Communications head determines how many turns there are in a round, letting each player perform between 4 to 7 actions. These actions include creating new departments, splitting departments up into new ones and merging them to create main departments. You can also hire new employees, bribe other players for their abilities, and use cash to buy up shares, departments and external consultants. There are other special actions, such as the “entice” action that the Development head gets to use.

There are plenty of ways to play the game. As mentioned before, there are 5 different competency or victory paths you can excel in. You will usually need 3 of these plus your secret Archenemy goal in order to get the minimum 4 points needed to win the game. It is also very reactive, depending on what other players are doing. If everyone is buying shares (which are limited), it won’t be efficient for you to compete with them. If other players are using their fired division heads to create external consultants, you can use yours to take control of the board of directors and chairmanship, and score Influence at the same time.

Power Struggle is a complex but fun and rewarding game. It might take a few games to get your head around the many rules and actions available. But once you do, you will enjoy a  game  that depicts the backstabbing and politics of corporate battles in a  unique  and exciting way. Power Struggle is ideal for you if you like advanced strategy games such as Agricola, or corporate-themed games such as Acquire (though at a much higher complexity).

Complexity: 4.5/5.0

Playing Time: ~ 1.5 to 2 hours

Number of Players: 2 to 5 players

Super Dragon Ball Z Review

There are those that are thankful that the Dragon Ball Z series continues to continue, and there are those that wonder how the hell it can continue since it doesn’t seem to evolve. There really is no need to wonder anymore my friend. As long as the first group I mentioned continues to buy the continued series, the series will continue to continue. How many more Dragon Ball Z games can we expect in the future? To be continued…

Those that do appreciate Super Dragon Ball Z don’t need any excuses. They are a diehard bunch that won’t be satisfied with just any old fighting game. Even if they aren’t into the whole anime thing, Super Dragon Ball Z is built on a solid fighting platform that few games can match. It doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles such as tons of different modes and unlockables that a lot of games rely on, but fans appreciate this game for what it has and that seems to be good enough for them.

It’s not enough for me however and while I can appreciate the responsive controls and the depth of combat, the game lacks magic. I want more than just a fighting game, in fact, I demand more. Dragon Ball was already established as a great fighting game years ago but little has changed with the series since the start of the millennium. You could almost say that some things have regressed with this title. There isn’t as much combat depth as was seen in some of the earlier titles, even though this version is taking a slightly new course and focusing more on close-range combat. You would expect more moves with such a format but moves such as counters and reversals are the exception and not the rule.

In all there are 18 characters. A dozen of them have been ported from the arcade version and six are exclusive to the console version. Goku and Gohan are back, of course, and you can also expect the androids, but no particular character stands out in terms of personality or ability. The ability issue I can understand because you can upgrade each character much like an RPG, but the lack of personality is unforgivable. Did the developers think that we’re already too familiar with the characters and that anything further would be overkill? Imagine overkill in a Dragon Ball Z game. Ridiculous, I know.

Using the core of a particular character you can upgrade him by acquiring moves with points that you are awarded in combat. This will give you some flexibility with the characters but you can end up with the same result regardless of which character that you begin with. The moves are basic and the super moves are relatively easy to pull off. The combos require some quick button configurations which gives the combat more depth than your average button masher. With the trend toward more close-range combat you will spend less time in the air doing aerial combat, and the two main combatants will be within striking distance of each other so there will be more a focus on fists and feet than long-ranged power beams. You also won’t see a lot of the dramatic, special attack animation that has been a staple of the game and cartoon series. Super Dragon Ball Z attempts to distance itself from the cartoon by paying homage to the comic book style which is a little more mature, which means it’s less colorful and over-the-top.

The 3D environments can be used strategically for cover. They are interactive and destructible and add some more dimension to the gameplay as they add multiple levels that you can jump up to or down from. The collision detection system however makes things a bit messy. You will hit the odd invisible wall that hinders your movements and occasionally you’ll get trapped between these planes and find that you can’t attack your opponent even though they can attack you.

Regarding the AI in the single-player mode, you won’t be disappointed by how convincingly they are programmed. They put up a good fight that is natural and best of all, unpredictable. Each character has some special attribute that is exploited. It’s not enough to give them a nuanced personality; they become a stereotype, or caricature of a character. The two-player mode is more than just the icing on the cake, it’s the main ingredient. The single-player mode is just a prelude to the multi-player mode, but only if you can find a worth adversary. Playing against someone that lacks the passion will be an agonizing experience. You’ll find yourself yearning for the challenge of the single-player mode.

The music is an amalgam of remixed old and new tunes. The sound effects are decent but nothing special. The voiceovers are functional but do little to further the plot or define the characters.

Overall Super Dragon Ball Z would be best described as “slightly different” than “new and improved.” Not everyone will agree that this is a waste of money but be sure to rent it first if you have any doubts.

Titanfall Review

Microsoft has to be feeling a little bit nervous right now. The Xbox One is absolutely getting decimated by Sony’s PlayStation 4. In order to stay in the console race with the new generation, Microsoft needs a killer app, or another Halo-like hit. It seems they’ve hit gold with Respawn Entertainment’s Titanfall. After playing the retail version obsessively, I can confidently pronounce Titanfall as one of my all-time favorite games.

The first thing you need to know about Titanfall is that there isn’t an offline single player campaign. This is a shame because a world this rich could really benefit from a 6-10 hour immersive experience. What you get with Titanfall is an online only campaign. Basically, you control either the rebel Militia or the Star Wars Empire-like IMC. There are quite a few missions to smash, shoot and vault yourself through. Often there was so much action on screen that it was hard to listen to plot-building dialogue.

Truthfully, I was having so much fun playing the game as a multiplayer shooter that I hardly paid attention anyway. That’s the thing with Titanfall: it combines so many different experiences into one package. If I could compare it to other franchises, I would say it’s a masterful blend of Mechassault, Tribes, Halo, and of course, Call of Duty. It’s a welcome change of pace to have a shooter that isn’t part of the overly cliche military set. Everything just feels right.

When you finally get your boots on the ground, you’ll find a war-torn environment to vault through. That’s why this game reminds me so much of the classic PC game, Tribes. It’s all about movement on the battlefield. Your character is equipped with a jump pack, making him/her a gleefully nimble future soldier. It’s momentum-paced and a talented player could easily traverse the map without letting their feet touch the ground. Titanfall‘s soldiers are like Master Chief with a case of Red Bull injected into his blood stream.

Besides all the jumping around, you of course have the massive mechs called Titans. You earn these massive metal machines by either waiting for the timer to finish building them, or you can shave precious seconds off of the time meter by playing the objectives or killing other soldiers. No matter how skilled you are, you’re going to be able to call these mammoths down before the end of the match. Near the end of the match, you’ll no doubt see numerous Titans battling it out in the field. To say it is thrilling would be underselling the point.

There are three distinctive Titans you can play around with in Titanfall. You have speedy Strider, who’s all about guerrilla like ambushes; the slower Ogre who has a massive pool of health; and Atlas, the best of both worlds. When you start the game for the first time, you’ll only have access to customizing the Atlas but as you finish both sides of the campaign you’ll be able to unlock the other two. It’s a carrot on a stick but when the game is this fun, who cares?

With all the jumping and mech calling you might be wondering about the actual core gameplay: the shooting. Well, you can rest easy- Titanfall has some of the most satisfying gun gameplay ever to be released on PC or on consoles. Whether it’s from the satisfying snap of the two sniper rifles you can unlock, or the shredding capabilities of the shotgun, you’ll feel right at home with these weapons. All of the Pilots have access to anti-Titan weapons as well, so you never feel completely helpless when one of the lumbering iron giants finds its way to you.

With my extensive time with the game, the only thing I was disappointed with was the lack of gameplay modes. I only really seemed to play Attrition and Hard Point, which are essentially Team Deathmatch and Domination from Call of Duty. The other modes are fun but they grew tiring after awhile. Hopefully Respawn Entertainment keeps updating the playlists so we can have a nice change of pace.

Another minor complaint I had with Titanfall was the weapon unlocks. You really only get three very limited scopes and the rest of the attachments are the standard silencers and extended magazines. For a game that’s bursting with creativity, I was hoping for something just a bit more inspired. Also, the customization of the appearance of your Pilot and your weapon is practically nonexistent. Hopefully this will be improved in the sequel.

I want to address one of the biggest concerns people had when they heard about Titanfall: the addition of bots in the multiplayer. The AI never seemed to get in the way and just added more variety and things to shoot at. You can even use them as a viable distraction against other human players as well. Overall, they enhance the gameplay.

Titanfall is one of those rare games that gamers absolutely have to get their hands on. Despite the limited campaign, and customization options, Titanfall‘s other features easily make up for these minuscule shortcomings. I can’t recommend this game enough and truthfully, I feel like this title is enough to warrant a purchase of Microsoft’s new console. Do yourself a favor and experience what’s sure to be one of the best games of the year.

Bloodborne Review

After nearly a year and a half the PlayStation 4 finally gets the game it deserves in the form of Bloodborne. From Software delivers one of the most engrossing video games I’ve ever played. Not only is the game pretty hard, it’s also very rewarding. If you take your time learning the game and respect it, the difficulty becomes irrelevant and Bloodborne becomes even more enjoyable. From Software did everything they possibly could to make Bloodborne more open to newcomers and casual gamers, even then though Bloodborne could still be considered a ‘hardcore’ game. If you leave all the baggage at the door though, Bloodborne is the best game on the PlayStation 4 and should be played by gamers who want something more.

I was lucky enough to have some experience with Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2 before diving into Bloodborne, so I knew what kind of experience I was getting myself into. But unlike it’s predecessors, Bloodborne sucked me into it’s world in a way I’ve never really experienced. I literally couldn’t put the controller down. I spent roughly just under 30 hours in the world of Yharnam and loved almost every minute of it. My playthrough consisted of a lot of trial and error, exploring, dying, and killing as a From Software game should. I feel like I spent more time in areas than an average player might, taking my time finding certain items and gear. But if you just want to play straight through without deviating from the main path, you can expect a 20-24 hour playthrough.

Bloodborne’s combat is one of the biggest departures From Software has made from it’s previous titles. The Souls series relied heavily on a wait around and learn your enemy type combat, with a sword and trusty shield. With Bloodborne, they encourage you to be the aggressor in a much more fast pace style of gameplay. It is still smart to learn your enemy before rushing up on them, once you do you can really put it on them. You have the usual standard attack, heavy attack, parry, dodge, roll and it is seriously one of the best tuned third person fighting in any game. I just began playing the Witcher 3 and it’s combat feels very floaty and unresponsive after coming from Bloodborne. That’s how good it is. No shields in Bloodborne either, instead you get a gun. While it does some damage, it’s not used for killing enemies and barely has any range. Instead it’s used to parry enemies and stagger them so you can get the draw. It’s a smart mechanic and really fun to use once you grasp the idea. Another huge move made by From Software is that you have a chance to regain some of your health after it’s dealt by an enemy. After being hit, you have a very short window to strike back and regain some or all of your health you just lost. It’s an awesome mechanic and just another way Bloodborne opens itself up to new players.

The city of Yharnam is an absolutely gorgeous one. I’m not really into gothic steampunk looks, but Bloodborne does it in a very subtle way. Bloodborne’s areas are very well made and are all connected brilliantly. If you don’t know anything about From Software’s games, they don’t have checkpoints in a literal sense. Every so often you across lanterns in an area and when you die that’s where you respawn. The only problem is they are far and few between. You might make it very far in an area just to die, then you get spawned all the way back at the beginning. This is balanced out though with the games awesome level designs. There are shortcuts placed throughout the areas that make navigating much faster, while also making everything connected. It’s pure genius.

Bloodborne is a great looking game from the player’s perspective, but once you get close to things or a cutscene, the game can look a bit older. For the most part though I didn’t have a problem with it. It also runs very smooth at around 30 frames per second and 1080p. The only time the game felt a little sluggish is when another player enters your world for co-op or the camera is moving around a lot. But nothing game breaking. I didn’t start playing Bloodborne until after it’s first huge patch, which fixed a lot of bugs, glitches, and those horrible load times.

I only have two complaints with the game. First is the co-op aspect of the game. There were a couple times I wanted to play with another human companion to clear a zone I was stuck on or fight a boss with, but couldn’t. I would ring the bell (which is how you start the match making thing) and I would literally wait twenty minutes before a player joined in. This made me not even bother with that element of the game. Lastly, the games story. You would think a semi open world role playing game would have a coherent story. Bloodborne forgives you for thinking so. While you get a brief cinematic to open the game, everything is so vague. You must find NPC’s scattered behind closed doors to talk to them or read up on every item description to really understand what’s going on and to me it wasn’t really worth it. I’m already dedication my time just to play you’re beautifully challenging game, the least you can do is give me a decent story I don’t have to take even more more time to figure out.

Bloodborne is a fantastic game. I would recommend it to anyone who would be willing to pick up the controller and learn how to play. It’s certainly not for everybody though and I can’t fault most gamers for letting Bloodborne slip through their fingers. But anyone who has played the game may be able to support what I’m about to say. Bloodborne is definitely the best PlayStation 4 exclusive you can buy right now and just might be the best game of this generation so far. I never thought I would be so in love with Bloodborne. Even after beating it I can’t stop thinking about it. For the first time ever, I’m seriously considering picking it back up to start New Game Plus to experience it again. I’ve never replayed a game’s campaign ever, so I think that’s saying something. Not for the story, lore, or graphics. Simply for the gameplay, it’s so responsive and rewarding I can’t understand why other developers don’t fine tune their gameplay like Bloodborne.

Bloodborne is a brilliant piece of gaming and it deserves a 9.25 out of 10.

Borderlands 2 – Game of the Year Edition Review

Characters

You follow one of six unique vault hunters, each with different abilities: Axton the Commando, Salvador the Gunzerker, Maya our resident Siren, Zero the assassin, the two DLC characters, Gaige the Mecromancer and Krieg the Psycho on their quest to stop Handsome Jack and Hyperion, find adventure and the best gear on Pandora.

Before we get into the story, I want to spend a bit of time with our playable characters, their different abilities and back stories:

First is Axton, our Commando, who like Roland utilizes Turrets. A former Dahl Sergeant, dishonorably discharged for his personal glory seeking ways and sentenced to death by firing squad. His former wife/commanding officer recommends he not try to escape to one of the many places beyond Dahl’s reach, which he does, then makes his way to Pandora after hearing one of Handsome Jack’s ads. Depending on which tree you utilize your turret can heal you, set off nuclear explosions or even spawn a second Turret.

Salvador, the Gunzerker, in my eyes, is this game’s Brick, using two guns instead of his fists. Born and raised on Pandora, he has a love of violence (and steroids, causing his 5’4″ stature), but aimed it towards bandits and other outlaws. None the less, before the events of Borderlands he too is set to die for his actions, but before he does, Hyperion attempts to seize his town. After defeating the invaders, Salvador becomes interested in the vault, after interrogating (torturing) the last survivor.

Like I said previously, Salvador’s ability is gunzerking, meaning firing two guns at once, so weapon placement for him is key. A good method is keeping a slag weapon in each rotation. His skill trees range between gun and damage boosting, extending gunzerking times, ammo regen and healing.

Zer0 is the game’s Assassin, kinda like Mordecai’s hunter with his sniper rifle proficiency, but no bloodwing. An assassin for hire, dealing with common hits as well as political ones, he becomes disillusioned when his victim won’t fight back, even after Zer0 demands it. A bartender tells Zer0 of Pandora after he laments about his lack of interest lately.

There’s not much known about Zer0, even his gender maybe a lie. He gets his name from the zero displayed on his face plate. There’s also a lot of debate on if Zer0 is even human or not, given his body type and lack of fingers. I’d like to think he was possibly a R.A.T, or genetically modified in some way, though it’s speculated that Tanis knows his origins.

Zer0’s ability is decepti0n, creating a hologram of himself to distract enemies. His skill trees involve strengthening his sniper rifle usage and critical damage, strengthening the decepti0n ability and combat and strengthening his melee attacks. Quite useful since his melee weapon is a sword.

Maya is one of the 6 Sirens, like Lilith, though her ability is to phaselock, locking an enemy in a bubble and damaging them. She was given to The Order of the Impending Storm when she was identified as a Siren when she was still an infant. She was trained in secret until she was revealed as a goddess to the orders followers. She later found out she was actually being used to extort money from the followers. Maya kills the monks who raised her, and decides to go to Pandora, to learn more about Sirens, and to finally explore.

Maya’s ability can be great for co-op, playing the role of a healer. With her ability to phaselock a teammate back from fight for your life, heal them by shooting them and heal everyone by phaselocking an enemy. Like the other Sirens, she can also cause elemental damage, even creating some out of nothing.

After the game’s release we were given two DLC characters, Gaige and Krieg. Both completely new and unique to the game. Here’s their rundown.

Gaige is a high school student, who for her science fair made an anti bullying robot. While making the robot she cut her arm rather deeply, so instead of healing it, she sliced it off and made a cybernetic one to digistruct her robot, at that point named DT. She later finds out the school bully found her blueprints for DT and sold them to the local police force. Enraged she finalizes DT, with digistructed claws and lasers and renamed him Deathtrap.

At the science fair her bully’s father has bribed the judges, giving Gaige third place. Her bully begins to gloat and shove Gaige, prompting Deathtrap to protect Gaige with his digistruct claws. When struck by the claws, the bully, for lack of a better word, exploded. Gaige was sent to the principal’s office, where her worst fears are confirmed, she’s going to be expelled and arrested. Her father creates a distraction, with a golf cart and lots of gasoline, and Gaige escapes to a ship heading for Pandora. There she hopes her intelligence can be appreciated.

Gaige utilizes Death Trap, her partner robot who can attack with claws, lasers, and explosions, he can also regenerate your and your teammates shields. That doesn’t mean Gaige herself can just shoot, she has many unique and fun abilities. Depending on which tree you use you can trade accuracy for damage, have ricocheting bullets, and cause electrical and burn damage.

Our final character is Krieg, the Psycho, basically one of the bad guys became a vault hunter. Not much is known about Krieg’s past other than he’s deemed Hyperion property, though you can see small glimpses of the man he was before with his inner voice. Before the events of Borderlands 2 he wandered the wastelands looking for bandits and other combatants to date his bloodlust. He tries to avoid the non-fighters/innocents, since his inner voice threatens to kill him if he does.

He meets Maya, his inner voice thinks she can help him, so he attempts to call out to her, but instead yells about poop trains. Maya, thinking he’s a regular psycho, and engages him in combat, and doesn’t see the R.A.T.S creeping up behind her. Krieg’s inner voice finally is able to yell out a warning to Maya, before decimating her attackers. At the end of his introduction video you can see him on the side of the train heading to Windshear Waste, explaining how he got there.

His ability is The Buzz Ax Rampage, your melee damage goes up 500%, you completely heal with every kill, speed increases 33% and you gain the ability to throw your buzz ax. Depending on your tree you choose you can pad your melee abilities even when your not rampaging, add explosive damage, and cause elemental damage. Krieg’s abilities also alter fight for your life, where he can drop a grenade and gain double experience for the kills, or throw dynamite at enemies to try to regain health.

Story

Our game begins when the train carrying you and your fellow Vault hunters is discovered to actually be a trap by our games main villain, Handsome Jack. You’re found by claptrap, from Borderlands one, who decides you’ll be his ticket out of his frozen wasteland prison. You travel through Windshear Waste, where you meet some new additions to the Borderlands badie team, Bullymongs, and have your first boss fight with Knuckledragger.

Claptrap later leads you to Liar’s Berg, where you meet one of the new characters, Sir Hammerlock, where, after doing a few more missions, you finally get to sanctuary, where you get to meet several characters from Borderlands. The old vault hunters are back, and more fleshed out with some great personalities.

Compared to its predecessor, Borderlands 2 has definitely stepped up. From character customization, Borderlands you got to choose the hair, shirt and pant color, while in 2 you get tons of color schemes to play with and head customizations. You can get these customizations buy doing certain missions, enemy drops and ammo machines.

The weapons have greatly improved as well, they’re more accurate, vividly colored and stronger. The launchers in one were weak, and did more more damage to you than for you, here… well, if you blast yourself it’ll still take a huge chunk of your health, but it could be a one hit kill in your favor too. Sadly the Atlas gun company is gone, but we get the elemental Maliwan instead (perfect for Maya). The rarity levels are still the same as well (white (most common), green, blue, (uncommons) purple (rare), orange (legendary) and light blue (pearlescent/mega legendary).

The main story is so immersive, and you really get attached to these characters. There were several parts that did make me actually tear up. There are so many twists, turns and surprises it always keeps you guessing, even if it’s your first, second (True Vault Hunter Mode) or third (Ultimate Vault Hunter mode). Another fun bonus is they brought back the Catch-A-Rides, and of course Scooter. You get your basic two seater runner, with a ton more color options, and a new edition, the Bandit Technical, which could carry up to for players, has a turret and you can use your normal weapons on it as well, this too has lots of customizable colors.

Co-Op

The co-op mode is great, there’s no tether (unless your teammate has the menu open), You can complete separate missions and both get the rewards. The upside (or down if you don’t like a lot of difficulty) is with the more teammates (only two per system, four in your party all together) the stronger the enemies, and rarer the loot. A personal recommendation us if your co-oping, have a Siren on your team, especially if your doing a slaughter dome challenge, even if she gets taken out she can still snipe and phaselock you back to health from the sidelines.

DLC

Something you may want to invest in is the game of the year edition, or all of the DLC, not just Gaige and Krieg. In the GOTY set you get both characters, and four expansion games, all taking place after the main story, so if it’s your first play through, save them for last. The GOTY’s expansions are: Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate’s Booty, Mr. Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage, Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt and Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep. I know there are more DLC, but I only have experience with these four. After completing each DLC you’ll get an exclusive head and skin.

Captain Scarlet and her Pirate’s Booty has you searching for Captain Blade’s lost treasure. You meet Captain Scarlet just after you arrive in the strange town of Oasis, where she asks you to join her in her search of the lost treasure.

The second DLC, Mr. Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage, introduces Mr. Torgue, of Torgue’s guns. He’s found the next vault, so to decide who gets to open it, he hosts a brutal fight to the death tournament. In this DLC you get a ton of Torgue equipment, along with certain heads and skins.

The third campaign is Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunting. It wasn’t as well received as the other DLC, and I can see why. It starts off as a hunting trip with Hammerlock, which turns into dealing with a Handsome Jack cult. Sadly the story seems a bit lacking, with some parts being needlessly difficult, and others laughably easy. I honestly just played it for the sake of completion.

The fourth was Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon’s Keep, my personal favorite. While our current Vault Hunters are interrogating a Hyperion spy, the originals are playing a game of Bunkers and Badasses to pass the time. The story is such a wild fantasy, and I never felt like it was dragging on, it manages to include most of the characters. Since its from Tiny Tina’s mind you know its wild, entertaining and you never know what anyone will say.

Dog’s Unique Ability To See!

I was told that dogs are color blind. What were you taught about dogs’ vision?

Observing my own dogs all these years, I believe they can see color, but I was told otherwise. My dog is blind in one eye according to the Veterinarian eye specialist. However, my test of that eye (covering the seeing eye) demonstrated for me that he can “see” from the “blind” eye! Hello? Are there extra sensory abilities we don’t know about?

Many questions, but with some research, we will discover together much more about a dog’s vision.

The placement of a dog’s eyes gives him peripheral vision with a wider depth and field, and therefore see more than humans. However, a dog’s peripheral vision compromises binocular vision (seeing with both eyes). The wide-set eyes would have less binocular vision, however a dog’s depth-perception is best when looking straight ahead, as they are blocked by their muzzle at different angles.

Even though dogs’ peripheral vision cause them to see more of the world, their eye for detail is seven times poorer than in an average person, because of the structure of their eye: dogs have no fovea or area with 100% cones, that assist with acuity or detail.

Dogs are red-green color blind. This is due again to the eye structure of having only two cone types. Therefore, the dog’s view of color gives the brighter shades of yellow and white, into the softer blue and muted purple-violet, brown and gray tones. So they do see color!

I do notice my own dogs are very sensitive to the slightest movement around them. This is true, as all dogs have an increased sensitivity to detect movement. Often my dogs witness a movement before I am ever aware of it, particularly at night. Of course, this is such a positive benefit for their vision.

Humans do not see with ease at night-dogs do! Again, a  unique  eye structure provides dogs with more rods, which enable better night vision. They also have an eye structure called the Tapetum Lucidum, a reflective surface behind the retina that reflects light back through it, which gives the shine and reflection that you see at night.

It seems dogs have  unique  sight advantages hence more privileges than humans when it comes to being aware of their surroundings! They see more around them; they are keen to notice the slightest movements; and they see brightness and mute camouflage shades, all of which can be advantageous for their hunter instinct.

If we were to use the television as an example to compare our vision with dogs, it can be hilarious to observe a dog “watching television!” Many owners say their dog watches television. This is true. My dogs do too! Particularly when I watch my favorite dog show programs on Animal Planet, or Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer.

As we already discussed, seeing in sharp detail is poorer for dogs than humans. So, because dogs have an appreciably lower visual acuity than humans, what they do see on television are rough images, or blurs. Dogs cannot see actual objects on the television screen, but they do see movement and shapes. Couple these capabilities with *sounds*! Dogs definitely can differentiate sounds coming from your television. As mentioned earlier, we enjoy watching Animal Planet and other dog shows. Our dogs react to “images of sorts,” and definitely to the actual animal sounds! This is when it becomes hilarious to observe the dogs, rather than the television screen!

Leveling Fire Mage – How to Get to Level 80 Fast

The Fire talent tree is the best choice if you like to burn your enemies down quickly. It is the most powerful build of all the other two (Arcane and Frost). It has the highest critical strike rate of all three builds. But the price for the brute force is lack of crowd control (CC) and survivability. Anyway, keep in mind that you kill enemies super fast, so these cons are just not such a big issue. Let me show you what talents to pick for the most efficient Fire Mage leveling.

Leveling Fire Mage – What talents to choose?

Improved Fireball (5/5)

Ignite (5/5)

Flame Throwing (2/2)

Impact (3/3)

Pyroblast (1/1)

Burning Soul (2/2)

Improved Scorch (3/3)

Molten Shields (2/2)

Master of Elements (3/3)

Playing with Fire (3/3)

Critical Mass (3/3)

Blast Wave (1/1)

Blazing Speed (2/2)

Fire Power (5/5)

Pyromaniac (3/3)

Combustion (1/1)

Molten Fury (2/2)

Fiery Payback (2/2)

Empowered Fire (3/3)

Dragon’s Breath (1/1)

Firestarter (2/2)

Hot Streak (3/3)

Burnout (5/5)

Living Bomb (1/1)

Arcane Tree

Arcane Subtlety (2/2)

Arcane Focus (3/3)

Arcane Fortitude (3/3)

Leveling Fire Mage – What is the spell rotation?

There is no such thing as the best and the most optimal spell rotation. It all depends on the unique situation you will be in. And keep in mind that leveling Fire Mage doesn’t mean that you are going to spam one spell or two. Ant this fact makes the whole leveling process even more exciting. Although your main DPS spells will be Pyroblast and Fireball. Also don’t forget to choose Glyphs. The best three glyphs for fire mage are Glyph of Scorch, Glyph of Molten Armor (it is a must have. It gives you 20% of your spirit to crit rating) and Glyph of Fireball.

Leveling Fire Mage – Frost vs. Fire? Why to choose Fire?

From my experience, leveling Fire Mage is the most efficient way of leveling a mage. With extremely high damage output you are going to find that leveling Fire Mage is the most exciting ways of leveling a mage. Maybe even better then the leveling any other class. You will be amazed how quickly the mobs will go down. And due to such DPS you are rarely going to be ganked by the other faction.

Nutrition for Your Shingles and Post-Herpetic Neuralgia Patients

Nutrition Planning – A Little Something Extra for Your Postherpetic Neuralgia Patients

Treating the postherpetic neuropathy or shingles patient can be challenging.

They’ve already been through the pain of shingles…

The rash is gone and they expected to be normal again.

What they didn’t count on was postherpetic neuropathy.

Chances are by the time they reach your office, they’re frustrated…depressed…irritable.

The medications aren’t working and they’re looking for a solution.

Something…anything…to make their postherpetic neuropathy pain stop and give them back their lives.

As a postherpetic neuropathy specialist, you’re in a unique position to give them what they need to heal. The missing pieces of the treatment puzzle that they haven’t addressed before now.

That Little Something Extra – A Good Nutrition Plan

Your postherpetic neuropathy patient is probably accustomed to hearing the “take 2 of these and call me in the morning” approach to their neuropathy pain. That approach hasn’t worked or they wouldn’t be in your office. They need address the most basic ingredient in healing the human body – nutrition.

There are certain vitamins and minerals that have been shown to lessen the pain caused by shingles and postherpetic neuropathy. Your postherpetic neuropathy patients need to make sure they’re getting these vitamins and minerals, in healthy amounts, to give their body what it needs to heal.

This is where you come in. By providing nutrition counseling services to your postherpetic neuropathy patient, you not only address their actual real-time physical symptoms, you give them vital information they need to participate in their own care and take control of their health again.

Make sure that any nutrition planyou prescribe for your postherpetic neuropathy patients includes:

– Whole grains and legumes to provide B vitaminsto promote nerve health. Whole grains promote the production of serotonin in the brain and will increase their feeling of well- being.

– Fish and eggs for additional vitamins B12 and B1.

– Green, leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, and other greens) for calciumand magnesium. Both of these nutrients are vital to healthy nerve endings and health nerve impulse transmission and, as an added bonus, give the immune system a boost.

– Yellow and orange fruits and vegetables (such as squash, carrots, yellow and orange bell peppers, apricots, oranges, etc.) for vitamins A and Cto help repair skin and boost the immune system.

– Sunflower seeds (unsalted), avocados, broccoli, almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, peanuts (unsalted), tomatoes and tomato products, sweet potatoes and fish for vitamin Eto promote skin health and ease the pain of postherpetic neuropathy.

– A good multivitamin and mineral supplement to fill in any gaps in their daily nutrition.

Advise them to avoid:

– Coffee and other caffeinated drinks.

– Fried foods and all other fatty foods. Fatty foods suppress the immune system and that’s the last thing they need when fighting postherpetic neuropathy.

– High protein foods like animal protein. High-protein foods elevate the amount of dopamine and norepinephrine which are both tied to high levels of anxiety and stress which will only make them more irritable.

– Alcoholic beverages. Alcohol consumption limits the ability of the liver to remove toxins from the body and can make a bad situation worse.

– Processed sugar. They don’t have to eliminate sweets completely, just control them. Keeping blood sugar levels constant will help control irritability.

– Control salt intake. Opt for a salt substitute with potassium instead of sodium and stay away from preserved foods like bacon, ham, pickles, etc. Reducing salt intake will help ease inflammation and that alone will work wonders in the healing process.

Sit down and discuss your postherpetic neuropathy patient’s lifestyle and diet as part of the initial consultation process. The information gained will help you devise a nutrition plan tailor made for your patient and help to build a rapport between you. And pay close attention to the responses you receive in that first meeting – they will give you a good idea as to whether or not you have a compliant patient.

Stress Management Strategies

Now that you’ve addressed the nutrition portion of the postherpetic neuropathy treatment program, talk to your patient about their stress level. Even with good nutrition, if they’re letting the stress of life and postherpetic neuropathy get the better of them, their body is working too hard. They’re expending energy battling stress that could be used to fight postherpetic neuropathy.

Put together a lifestyle plan for your patient utilizing patient appropriate stress management tools. Some suggestions might be:

– Exercising regularly. If they’re physically capable, a brisk 15 minute walk every day is a good place to start.

– Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, tai chi, yoga or meditation. Any of these will calm the mind and, in turn, calm the body and nerves.

– Finding a hobby that will take the mind off postherpetic neuropathy pain.

The combination of nutrition and stress management will do wonders for your postherpetic neuropathy patients. When used in concert with the other medical treatment options available to you, you may just give these patients a new lease on life and build healthy habits that will remain with them long after the pain of postherpetic neuropathy is a distant memory.

We hope this gives you some insight on nutrition counseling and diet planning for your postherpetic neuropathy patients. Offering these services can be the missing piece of the treatment puzzle that you’ve been looking for in treating this challenging patient population. The addition of these services to your treatment options can help you build a successful medical practice as well.

When you’re trained and ready to offer these services, let them know you’re there.