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Jarenth Plays Civilization: Beyond Earth — Episode 2: Strangers In A Strange Land

In the last episode of Jarenth Plays Beyond Earth, I spent a couple thousand words setting up the first turn of my new Franco-Iberian society. Labor assignments, building construction, scientific research, giant bugs, and even the eventual supreme destiny of mankind all came up in discussion. Now, with my initial plan — such as it is — all laid out, it’s time to send out my Explorer into the wild… blue-ish, I guess, yonder. Let’s see what the unspoiled wilderness of Terra Atlantea is all about.

After the break: What *is* Terra Atlantea all about? Alien plants, giant bugs, spaceship parts, toxic mists, and – unexpectedly – a whole bunch of other humans.

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Talk of the Ninja: DeadCore

Do you want me to talk about Dragon Age: Inquisition today? Well fuck you.

Just about all my online video gamer friend people have been talking about Dragon Age lately, on Twitter and the like. I really want to share in the enthusiasm, but that desire is crushed by my utter apathy for the franchise. I just do not care for Dragon Age in any way, shape or form. I own the DA:Origins Super Edition or whatever, the one that comes with all five thousand DLCs, and I played maybe a third of it before I tossed it aside. I tell myself I need to give it another chance, but man, just thinking about watching those elves and dwarves talk about the evil bad guy invasion while showing all the passion and emotion of an accountant filing his client’s tax returns makes me sigh in exhaustion.

So instead of talking about a game that interests everyone but me, I’m going to talk about a game that interests me and probably nobody else.

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This right here is a great example of a game that’s hard to pitch. Deadcore is a first-person platformer that emphasizes high speed, precision, and disorienting powers, combining these elements to form challenges that are both brutal and confusing. It’s pretty much become common knowledge that first person platformers (sans Mirror’s Edge, which is less traditional platforming and more parkour) are a damned genre from the late 90′s. Everybody hates them, and everybody dreads when a platforming challenge or “jumping puzzle” comes up in a retro game.

But here’s the thing: I fucking love this game.

I love dashing from floating platform to floating platform. I love that the limited perspective makes it harder to judge jumps. I love carefully landing in a safe place after dashing between several different floating platforms while dodging death lasers, and I’m totally fine with dying a dozen times in the span of a few minutes to make it through. I had a blast with this game, even though I know that statistically you probably wouldn’t.

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Jarenth Plays Civilization: Beyond Earth — Episode 1: Brave New World

In the last episode of Jarenth Plays Beyond Earth, I picked my sponsors, prepared my expedition, and set down on the planet of Wittbecker 109-e. Terra Atlantea. Boldly going where no man has gone before, this extraterrestrial colony is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to avoid the mistakes of the past and forge an amazing future for everyone involved.

Beyond Earth immediately deluges me with information.

After the break: learning about Beyond Earth, the ‘sink-or-swim’ way!

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Indie Wonderland: Appointment With FEAR

Trawling for suggestions in last week’s pigeon-related wonderland, I noticed long-time reader Museli talk about a game called Appointment With FEAR. And, I’ll be honest: a more western-oriented, superhero-themed visual novel game sounded like an excellent palette cleanser after four weeks of anime faces and high school romance plots. I looked it up on Steam, noticing that it can’t seem to keep its nomenclature straight — seriously, is the title supposed to read FEAR or F.E.A.R.? — but still mostly finding myself intrigued with the general idea put forward. The lone superhero defender of Titan City, fighting to oppose the forced of 1980′s villainy? Sure, sign me up!

FOR JUSTICE.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, medium. Mechanical, high.)

After the break: turns out justice wasn’t the only thing I was signing up for. Turns out Appointment With FEAR is lacking the letters D, I and S. Can you guess where those letters should be?

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Ninja Blues Stream in 18 Hours!

Ninjustin here with an update about the stream. Still happening tomorrow (Saturday) at the scheduled time of 2:00 PM Central, I’m still gonna be playing FTL and whatever else. But! Now I have a link to our stream page: Hitbox.tv/NinjaBlues. We’re using Hitbox because I don’t like Twitch monopolizing the game streaming scene, and because I’ve heard Hitbox has less delay, and because I tried it first and it worked and that was good enough for me.

I tried using OBS before and it seemed too confusing to me, but Hitbox has a really handy guide for how to set up OBS for Hitbox streaming. So it’s still a bit more complicated than Livestream, but not by much, and the end result is much better.

Hope to see you there!

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Jarenth Plays Civilization: Beyond Earth — Introduction

In the year 9595, I’m kinda wond’rin’ if man is gonna be alive. He’s taken everything this old Earth can give, and he ain’t put back nothing, woh-oh…”

It is an image commonly bandied around in science fiction and future predictions that, at some point or another, we’re going to tap the Earth for all it’s worth. Fossil fuels and rare minerals are sharply finite, ‘sustainable’ energy may or may not prove to be that, and even such things as farming land, fresh water and living space won’t accommodate all of us, forever. Nothing lasts forever, and an Earth capable of supporting human life is far from nothing.

So what will we do when we run out of Earth?

Here, the pictures painted differ. Some imagine apocalypse scenarios, wars and devastation and a struggle over remaining resources that is nasty, brutish and short. Others are more hopeful: in the face of greatest adversity, they maintain, humanity will finally manage to get its collective shit together, band together, overcome, and find some way to turn back the doomsday clock. There are those who bank on outside intervention, hoping deities or extraterrestrial travelers will bail us out in our hour of need. We’ve already seen how well that idea can go.

And then there are those who feel that the correct response to a dying home planet is to learn to let go. That if Terra Firma can no longer support us, we should strike out to find another place to live. That we need to go… beyond Earth.

After the break: guess which of these things we’re doing this time?

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Ninja Blues Stream this Saturday!

Ninjustin here, and you heard it here first! Jarenth and I are going to STREAM VIDEO GAMES LIVE FOR YOU!

Q: Which Saturday? This one? Next one? A distant Saturday, perhaps in 2019? Also, when on said hypothetical Saturday?

A: Saturday, November 15th, 2014, at 2:00 PM Central time. Mark your calendar and set an alarm on your iOS or Android device, motherfucker.

Q: Who all will be there?

A: Jarenth and I will be speaking. Val might also hop on the server. (I figure she deserves a spot since she made the art for this very website.) We won’t be letting anyone else on voice chat this first time.

Q: Video games, you say?

A: I’ve got my sights on FTL, which I’ve recently picked back up and been playing more than I probably should be. If we get bored, I might switch to Spelunky. Or something else. I’m keeping my mind open.

Q: Where are you streaming? Livestream? Twitch? Youtube? Hitbox?! A CAMCORDER FROM THE 90S??!!

A: I dunno. We’ll spend the next few days testing different streaming software and websites. On the day of the stream I’ll post a link here. Stay tuned.

Q: But I’ve got a wild party on Saturday!

A: Reschedule it, motherfucker.

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Indie Wonderland: Hatoful Boyfriend

Yes, of course I was going to review the silly pigeon dating game. Of course. It’s been on my list for ages, and it was literally the first fan-requested review when I ‘announced’ I was doing visual novels and dating sims for a while. Because of course it would be.

For the handful of you that are entirely unaware of this game: Hatoful Boyfriend, by developer Pigeonation Inc (or is it Hato Moa?), is a high-school style dating sim set in Japan… in a high school populated entirely by birds. The only human character in this high school is the player, who — following conventions — has to take classes, survive school shenanigans, and foster an active dating life… with one of the many, many eligible single birds.

Or, at least, that’s what I’ve managed to gather on Hatoful Boyfriend. I’ve been told that it’s good, and that it’s ridiculous, and that it’s ridiculously good. And right here, right now, I intend to find out for myself how much of that is true.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, medium-high. Mechanical, complete. But it’s a visual novel, so who cares?)

After the break: Hatoful Boyfriend. Yes, it’s a dating sim with birds in it. It’s also… really surprisingly good?

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Indie Wonderland: Sunrider: Mask of Arcadius

Hot on the heels of last week’s adventures into linear storytelling and boobs, I found myself browsing Sekai Project‘s website for games. Sakura Spirit made such an… impression on me, I just had to see what other games this studio has under their wing. Were they all going to be glorified cutscenes with half-naked fox girls?

While thus trawling the possibility space, I ran across a game called Sunrider: Mask of Arcadius. It confused me, because… it seems to have all the trappings of a visual novel game, what with the talking heads and the dialogue flow controls and the many multi-coloured anime ladies. A perfect fit for VNADS. But then it also seems to promise tactical turn-based battle gameplay featuring spaceships and giant robots. Seriously, a significant number of the Steam screenshots for it are taken up by hex grids in space and exploding star cruisers.

Oh, and it’s also entirely free on Steam.

A free visual novel, made by the same guys who made an expensive visual novel I disliked? But which is also a turn-based tactics game? Compute, this does not. Obviously I had to go check it out.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, low to medium. Mechanical, medium.)

After the break: Sunrider. *False advertising*: I never get to ride *any* suns.

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Indie Wonderland: Sakura Spirit

Wait, what’s this? Another visual novel? That’s right, you bet it is! Surprise: I’ve decided to spend the next couple Indies Wonderland solely on visual novels and/or dating sim games. Welcome to Visual Novel And Dating Sim month, or however long I feel I can stretch this joke. Welcome to VNADS! I even made a website tag for it. Buckle in, boys and girls, because we are going on a ride.

Today’s thrill-ride: Sekai Project‘s Sakura Spirit. And, hey, guess what? Guess who you have to blame for me owning this game, and as a result, who you can blame for me kicking off this talking-heads-over-still-images parade? That’s right: it’s none other than our resident website ninja, Ninjustin. Which means you don’t even have to go very far if you want to yell at him, and/or encourage him, somehow. You can leave a comment at the end of this very article.

One could argue that I’m equally at fault here, because I had this game on my Steam wish list. I will vehemently deny and all blame, however. I’m just as much a passenger here as you are.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, very high. Mechanical, absolute. Also, there’s a whole bunch of images of half-naked anime women on the second page. Be ye warned, I guess.)

After the break: Sakura Spirit. How stereotypically Japanese will it be? Here’s a hint: The sakura aren’t even in bloom.