A short word on the future of the FyFYI Podcast

I have a hard time sitting still.  This is evident in the podcast where you can hear me moving towards and away from the mic.  And it’s evident in how the podcast has operated over the last 150 episodes with rotating cast members that can’t deal with me because I’m a hyper 12-year-old.  And (un)lucky for James I’m in one of those moods again and something needs to change with the podcast.

But why? We love James!  I do too.  In fact, that’s the problem, I think James is too good.  I think his other podcast, with his cousin, is worlds better than this one.  I feel like the bit of lag that exists while skyping from this side of the earth to that side of the earth makes it hard for him to get in there and shut me up.  But don’t worry, James isn’t going anywhere, we are still going to be recording every other week.  This isn’t changing.  Because even though I have an inferiority complex about Double KO, James is one of my favorite people on the planet and it’s an honor to make a shittier podcast with him.

I needed to do something to mix things up though.  So I’ve ended up with two ideas that are at complete opposite ends of the spectrum.  The first is that once a month (starting this week) I will be recording with Mike Phillips.  This is a bit of a nerd dream for me which is odd considering he has been one of my best friends for a decade now, but we’ve only recorded together a few times and never one on one.  I expect sexy results.  Now, you might be thinking, isn’t he on P1P and The Fanboys?  Yes, yes he is.  So won’t I feel the same thing I do with James?  Yes, yes I will.  But like James it’s worth feeling that just for the opportunity to record with him.

So what do I do to create my own niche in this funny little world?  Well, the other free week each month (starting two weeks from this week) I will be recording with my spunky, hyper, potty-mouthed, italian, wonderfully deranged wife.  This may be a glorious failure, but it’s worth a shot, right?  It’s likely to be less videogames and more tv and makeup, and dick jokes and farts.  Like actual farts.  She rips them like a truck driver.

This is where FyFYI is headed.  I hope you guys enjoy it.

 

 

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2 months of hype, 12 hours of Vita

This morning as I was driving from New York City to the medium sized suburb in Connecticut I live in (Branford, if you want to find me on Near) I was trying to reasonably extract what my expectations were for the Vita out of the completely insane hype i’ve had for it in my head, on my twitter, on the podcast and across various forums over the last few months.  That sentence is a mouthful, and so was the process.  I guess the first thing I needed to do was figure out why, exactly, I was hyped in the first place.

The Vita, since it was first announced, has been an impressive concept.  It basically takes everything that’s happening in the handheld space and puts together in a way that doesn’t feel like anything is tacked on(certain games will take care of the tacked on feeling).  In a time where the 3DS has a frankenstick to make certain game types work and the iphone has about 9000 controllers competing because no one on earth likes a virtual dpad, Sony designed something that doesn’t have any drawbacks.  It has two sticks, it has a touch screen, it has GPS, it has 3G and wifi (if you want 3g, that is), it has motion sensing, it has front and back cameras and, unlike Apple gadgets, it has a port out to expand if needed and it allows you to pick your memory size.  Though I guess that does lead into a drawback – all of this costs a lot of money.

So that’s the reality of it.  But I’m not exactly sure why that is why i was hyped.  I think in a lot of way we put our hopes into these gadgets because we want our lives to be better.  I know that’s a fucking crazy statement, but I think there is some truth to it.  You see a phone coming out and you are just so fucking excited for it because it does all this cool shit and that cool shit is going to make you happy.  And that’s what we want, right?  Happiness?

The device will never truly make you happy though.  I mean, it will in the short term, but eventually you will lust after some new piece of tech, because it will be so fun to play with that.  That’s not to say that all things die in a matter of weeks.  That’s where the winners and losers are created.  And I can’t speak to that yet, because as the title states, im only 12 hours into this with the Vita.  I know with the Nintendo Wii the first two weeks I had it I thought it was the greatest shit ever and then I played it maybe 5 hours over the next 4 years.  But, with the iPad I thought it was the best shit ever and two years later I still think my first gen iPad is the best shit ever and not a day goes by where it doesn’t get atleast an hour of use.  There’s no way for me to know if the Vita is the Wii or the iPad so I’m not even going to try, but I do know that’s it’s an inspired piece of hardware.

So let’s get the obvious shit out of the way.  The unit is insanely well constructed.  This does not feel like a toy, it feels like some sort of futuristic device.  And after seeing the 5″ OLED screen for several hours straight my iphone seemed quaint in comparison.  The analog sticks are the best in class, which isn’t hard since handheld analog has been a clusterfuck of terrible so far, but it is worth noting that they obviously don’t compare with sticks on a real controller.  In fact the first few hours with the device I was barely lukewarm on the sticks, but like anything else (including the terrible nub on the PSP before it) you adjust and it’s just fine.

The touch screen is very responsive.  The back touch also is and I think once developers start wraping their brains around it (and the escape plan devs already have) it will be a huge addition to touch gaming.  Because I do like touch gaming, but I hate that I can’t see the fucking screen.  Back touch.  Brilliant.  How did it take this long?

The buttons are smaller than I assumed but feel fine.  The right stick is very close to them and I was bumping it with my thumb for a while but that passed.  I was also hitting the back touch screen for a while but after messing up enough in FIFA I trained myself to hold it properly.  The triggers feel better than they did on the PSP and (3)DS, but also don’t feel as wonderful as their big brothers.  The back touch screen is much more intuitive than I assumed, helped by visual prompts in most of the software.

Graphically it’s basically a PS3.  If you are a pixel counter you will likely disagree with this sentiment, but to my eyes FIFA and Virtua Tennis especially look like PS3 games.  I know the resolution is lower, but the screen is also smaller.  Call it an optical illusion, I don’t care, but the bottom line is the graphics are fucking nuts.  Rayman, for instance, will be out for the PC soon and will likely look amazing in 1080p, but I know on my $300 monitor it won’t look as amazing as it does on my Vita.  That screen is just amazing, i’ve never seen colors on any screen – no matter the size – like the colors that Rayman Vita has.  It really is that good.

So other than some small issues the hardware has delivered on the promise of a console experience in a handheld.  Cool.  So how does the software stack up?  Honestly, I can’t say yet.  I know that I’m very, very happy playing everything I have.  But part of the launch day mania, especially when you get a bunch of games with it, is you can’t concentrate on anything.  Rayman seems amazing, though obviously you can go play that basically anywhere else.  Stardust is a worthy sequel to an amazing game.  FIFA is FIFA, though the gameplay is the 2011 game not the 2012 game and you can kinda feel that.  Escape Plan is visually stunning and very fun and uses the back touch in smart ways making it feel like a game you can’t play anywhere else.  Lumines is Lumines, but on the best screen ever.  Little Deviants was talked so down over the last few weeks that it’s actually emerged as underrated to me because i expected shit.  The demo to uncharted was impressive in parts, and felt forced and kinda terrible in parts.  I will play through it, but it’s hardly a top tier game for me.

But each of those games i played about 4 times a piece for 15 minutes at a time because I have new hardware fever, so i’m not trying to dish out full fledged reviews here.  I think once the dust settles the launch lineup will be one of the better ones ever in terms of quality but pretty average in terms of originality.  I know a lot of people don’t give a shit about the launch lineup at all, because they never liked these series in the first place.  If you fall into that camp I don’t think these versions will change your mind.  But they all certainly live up to their PS3 counterparts.

So that’s the nuts and bolts of this thing and it all comes off in the early going as extremely positive.  Like I said earlier I can’t say whether this is a flash in the pan for me or something long term, and I’m certainly not going to jump into the shitstorm of whether handhelds are even needed in the age of smartphones.  Because, really, they are if you want one and they aren’t if you don’t.  It’s that fucking simple.

What has me excited going forward, however, is the operating system – of all things.  The second most striking feature of the Vita (after the godlike screen) is that the operating system leaves the rest of gaming – console or handheld – in the dust.  The live area is basically Facebook but instead of bitching about your boss it’s about shit we care about – trophies, high scores, game purchases, etc.  It will tell me that my friend bought Lumines and unlocked a certain trophy.  I can then go in and comment “You bought that for $36 you’re nuts!” and then when he looks at that he will notice that i bought it for myself 5 minutes later.  I’ve just been going around giving thumbs up to everyone’s trophies.  Why?  Because it’s fucking funny.

But this level of social interaction is fantastic.  After playing my first (horrible) round of Stardust a box popped up and said “You are in last place on your friends leaderboard for Arcade mode.”   Well ain’t that a bitch!?!  Social interactions in videogames are the next logical step after achievements.  99% of the reason that Bejeweled Blitz is so popular on Facebook and Google+ is because of the leaderboard.  Leaderboards obviously aren’t new, but the more they are built into the OS of the system the better.

And then you add to that the rather brilliant Near app.  On a basic level it just shows people within about 15 miles or so (for me atleast, maybe the size increases/decreases depending on population density) that have been online with their vitas.  Right now, the day of the First Edition Bundle, there are 12 people in my town that have a Vita.  I can see their game lists (if they chose to make that public) and look up their trophy lists and whatnot.  It’s neat because this works as another way of creating rivalries.  First and foremost I want to beat my friends, but I also want to beat dudes in my town.  I want kids in high school talking about “Did you see Famousmortimer’s score on Little Deviants?”  They don’t need to know im a fat 34 year old, but they need to know I can roll a fucking ball around with the best of them.  The more games that take advantage of this in the future the better.  This is a feature that just isn’t available on the ps3 or 360 and it really is awesome.

It’s these things that are keeping my hype moving forward.  Today, I figured, was the end of the hype and start of the reality.  And it was a big dose of reality, which thankfully was very positive… but I feel like the Vita is running at about 80% right now.  Once developers wrap their heads around features like the live area, Near, the back touch and other functions I think the Vita can be absolutely amazing.  As it stands now it’s a very exciting platform, but more importantly it feels new.  Even in all of my hype I didn’t really expect that.

 

 

 

Dungeon Defenders newb starter guide

I’ve loved Dungeon Defenders for well over a year now.  Ever since former co-host Billybillblack caught wind of it and said something along the lines of “check out this game, this is a pete game all the way” I’ve been obsessed.  In fact after reading the concept behind the game I went to Trendy Entertainment’s forums and started a thread titled “This is already my favorite game of all time.”  And I was only half kidding.

Well over a year and a mobile (iOS/Android) release later, the game is finally out on the PSN/XBLA and Steam for $15.  I do have a few issues with the game, which I’ll touch on in here, but as far as I’m concerned there isn’t a better $15 you can spend on the PSN/XBLA (i’ll leave steam out of it because $15 during a sale can get you an alltime great game like Civilization or $2 can get you KOTOR).  The game is enormous, filled with tons of content that at minimum will take you 15 hours to beat if you just want to see it all…  or upwards of 100 hours if you are an insane completionist like me.  Trendy has also promised extensive post release support so the game is only going to get bigger.

With this guide I’m going to try to break down the core concepts of the game in a way that I hope makes sense for new players.  The fact that this game is so complex also makes the barrier for entry high, and that’s exacerbated by some questionable UI decisions.  But once you learn all the systems it will become second nature to you.  So let’s rock this shit!

What system should I play it on?

All things being equal, the steam version is by far the best.  This is a no brainer, of course, as the PC version of most games is the best.  But beyond the obvious (ability to mod, improved graphics, more and faster patches, etc) the PC version is the easiest to control with a mouse and keyboard.  You get more hotkeys, tower placement with a mouse is cake (though it does become quick and easy with a controller) and you get the ability to move the camera up and down (y axis) which is missing from the console versions for reasons I don’t understand.  (Update:  It’s not missing Y axis, it only works with the default control scheme, which I didn’t like… but have now adjusted to)

If it comes down to console versions I personally prefer the PS3 version for a couple of reasons, some of which may not matter to you.  First off, it has more trophies (including a platinum) while the 360 version has only 200 points.  Secondly it supports the Move (which the implementation is crap at present, but im hopeful it will be tweaked in upcoming patches).  And thirdly… it’s in 3D.   And, supposedly, there will be cross-platform play between the PC and PS3 versions in an upcoming patch.

If all you have access to is the 360 version, fret not, the game is still fantastic.

What class should I start with?

You can, of course, pick whatever class interests you the most.  But for the sake of making life easier I will break down the classes based on what Trendy thinks is easiest to hardest.

Apprentice (mage) –  According to Trendy this is the easiest class for beginners.  I don’t agree, I would put them second behind the squire.  The apprentice does ranged attacks, has a knockback ability, eventually gets abilities to summon defenses faster and do a giant AOE mana bomb.  As for towers, the mage has arguably the strongest towers for speed and sustained damage.  You get a shield tower, a single target lightning tower, a fire-ball tower, a AOE (well target jumping) lightning tower and a very powerful and long range sniper tower.

The apprentice is a great all around class with wonderful towers and the ability to dish out a large amount of damage once you start getting some better weapons.  A tower defense expert will also be able to beat most of the levels early on with just strong tower placement.  It’s also worth noting that the apprentice’s barrier has two purposes… one is to block the creeps (of course) but also the creeps that attack them lose their resistances.

Squire (warrior) – The squire, to me, is by far the easiest class in the game.  They have the most HP, so you won’t die if you jump in the fray.  Their weapons swing in an arc and hit multiple enemies.  They have the ability to block, which not only mitigates damage but can act as a makeshift wall to contain a train of mobs while your co-op buddies burn them down.  The also get a whirlwind attack hitting everything in a 360 degree radius and a blood rage ability to boost damage for a short period.

The squire also has very strong towers.  Their barrier towers are not only stronger than the apprentice but they also deal damage to those who attack them.  And then add to the fact that the rest of the towers, while may be a tad slow, deal substantial damage (and it’s all physical damage so there is no resistances… yet).  High HP, AOE attacks, strong towers…   um, yeah, if you are just starting and playing solo there is no stronger class in the early to mid game.  The debate is still up as to whether their damage scales enough to be considered overpowered in the end game, but even if the damage doesn’t scale the ability to tank and strong barrier towers will always be needed.

Huntress (ranger) – The huntress is the first of the more advanced classes.  The huntress has arguably the highest single target DPS in the game and her traps also do arguably the most burst damage.  The drawbacks are that her traps (which basically are like putting mines down) are low in detonations and long in re-arm time during the early to mid game.  A strong player will be able to overcome this with high dps and smart placement.

The huntress is very important the further you get in the game.  Any group wants to have a skilled huntress for the ability to deal huge amounts of damage quickly.  Later in the game the huntress can target more than one enemy at once and there is nothing more powerful for burst damage than her traps.  It’s also worth noting that watching 20+ creeps go flying to their death after a proximity mine explodes is quite fantastic.

Monk (support/hybrid) – Monks are a very important class to have around because they can do everything, but they can be a bit frustrating because they don’t really excel at any of them.  A monk has high HP but not as much as a squire.  They can hit multiple enemies like a squire as well, but seemingly for less damage.  The secondary attack for a monk is a ranged attack, but it does far less damage than the ranged attacks of the apprentice and the huntress.  Lastly the monk places auras around the map, which are incredibly helpful (definitely the strength of the class) but none of them are as bombastic as the other classes (ie they are important but boring).

The one thing the Monk brings that is truly unique is the strength drain aura (slow + lightning is awesome as well, but *can* be replaced by other classes).  This alone make a monk, even a poorly played one, worthwhile in a group.  But the true strength of the class is becoming an expert.  Even though none of the other abilities are as good as their counterparts, a skilled player using all of those skills at once can turn a certain defeat into a win.  So much like the druid in World of Warcraft, if you put this class in the hands of someone willing to use every single aspect of the character you will be amazed at what the class is capable of.  But, they certainly aren’t for beginners and can be tough to solo with as the only damage your auras does is lightning, so you will need to be everywhere at once to deal with lightning resistant foes.

Let’s get started (basic concepts)

If you are a bit overwhelmed by all the info thrown at you in the character class section… don’t be.  All you need to do is choose which sounds the best to you on a basic level.  I am writing this, however, assuming that a squire or apprentice was chosen.  I will touch on the huntress and monk, but in general you will need a decent understanding of the game of and genres to excel with those.

The concept behind Dungeon Defenders is quite simple.  On any given map there is an Eternia Crystal (or 2, or 3, or 4) and there are Creep Doors, and creeps pour through the doors and head for the crystals.  It’s your job to stop them.  How you do this up to you.  As an action RPG you will get new and better weapons, equipment and you will level up your characters and bolster certain skills in the skill tree.  You can even level up your gear to make it even more powerful (which I will get to in another section).

Deciding how you want to stop the creeps is the first step.  There are basically three choices… do a build that makes your towers more powerful, do a build that makes your personal attacks more powerful or do a hybrid of the two.  Now, you should know that no matter which route you take you will still need to do both (towers and personal DPS) but you are choosing which you are more reliant on.   If you aren’t particularly good at strategy games or tower defense games you may want to go for higher HP, DPS and Speed so you can kill as many creeps as you can personally.  Likewise, if you have a strategic mind, you may want to bolster your towers and then pick and choose where you help with your weaker (and more likely to die) character.

Death is not permanent by the way.  You will respawn.  The only death penalty is you will drop the mana you have on you.

Starting the game you only have one point to put into your skill tree so you won’t be turning the tide of your character in any major way.  So choose your character, pick their colors, name them and then choose either “full tutorial” (which you will do each action, but is quite long) or “quick tutorial” which will show you a video chock full of stuff you will forget almost immediately.  Don’t worry, I’m going to help parse this info.

The first level (The Deeper Well)

The game has two phases, the build phase and the combat phase.  You start in the build phase, and as long as you aren’t playing on Insane the build phase has no timer, so take your time to get a feel for everything.

The first two things you need to figure out as you enter each level is where your Eternia Crystal is and where the Creep Doors are.  From there you can use basic reasoning to figure out the paths the creeps will take to get to the crystal.  Also, if you look at each door you will see a list with how many of what type of enemy is coming.

On this level on the first wave you will notice that there are three doors on the lower section with Creeps ready to come for you.  You should then note there are only two stairwells up to the crystal.  The stairwells are also kinda thin.  Do i smell a choke points?  Yes, yes I do.   But to build you will need mana, so open the treasure chests near each door and grab the mana and get ready to build.

If you are a mage throw a lightning tower anywhere from halfway up each stairwell or higher (their range is short early on).  If you are a squire build a blockade on each stairwell.  If you have left over mana and want to build another lightning tower next to the ones you have… or another blockade further back – have at it.

Once your defenses are set run upstairs and click the crystal to hop into combat phase.  And then go back downstairs and start wailing on the creeps as they come out of the door.  You will probably notice quickly that if the creeps are in the purple circle near each door that they are invincible (except for creeps that do ranged damage).  So it’s best to let them get a few steps outside and then give them the business.  Chances are you will finish this wave with minimal help from your towers.  Good job, so far you are awesome.

Gather up the mana (you can only hold a certain amount at a time so you may need to gather, build, gather more, build more, etc) and go make some more towers.  There is a limit to how many towers you can put down in a map, which is up in the upper right hand corner… but you won’t need to worry about this yet.  This second wave has more creeps coming, but once again it’s from the bottom three doors.  But here’s a spoiler for you, the wave after this one has creeps that come from the doors upstairs, so if you have the extra mana it may be a good idea to start building towers up there to prepare for that.

Also, you will notice some loot on the ground.  The basic rule is that if the box is green it’s an upgrade, if it’s red it’s not, if it’s grey it’s either too high a level or not for your class (if you are playing solo you won’t get loot for other classes).  The tooltip will give you two buttons to push, one to equip the piece now and one to put it in your item box to look at/equip/sell later.

The problem is that green is not always better, unfortunately.  The system in which trendy decides what is better is not dependent at all on what your current build is.  If you rely on towers and you are wearing a hat that improves tower heath by two and then you see a hat on the ground that improves your personal health by 3, it will tell you the hat on the ground is better, even though you never are putting yourself in harm’s way and don’t need HP as much.  So take a look at the stats.  But you don’t really need to worry about this early on, in general if it says its better in the very early game, it probably is.

So once you sort what loot you are  putting on and what you are throwing in your box, and you have all the new defenses up go and hit the crystal again.  The second wave is like the first, but with more dudes.  You will need to rely on your towers a bit more but with them and your own damage you should be able to clear this wave no problem.

The third wave, as I said before, has guys coming from the doors up top as well.  It’s always a good idea to know where are the physical doors are on a map so you can check to see if any are coming so you don’t get some surprise visitors with a clear path to your crystal.  Bringing up the map will also give you a bird’s eye view of this though getting your bearings with that map is a bit awkward at first.

If you have leveled up again (now to level 3) you will have opened up the second tower.  For the apprentice this is the barrier, for the squire it is a spring-loaded barrier.  Use these, they are both very helpful.

In the later waves watch the creep billboards as they tell you whats coming out of each door.  You will see that guys will start coming out of the doors up top so set up defenses accordingly.

 

Other basic concepts:

 

Leveling up:

 The first thing to know is that you cannot level up during the battle phase.  If you happen to level up during battle you will have to wait till the next build phase to apply it.   Once you are in the build phase click R1/RB on the controller, or the middle mouse button on the mouse.  Go over to hero in the upper right and hit X/A/LMB and then choose the top one called Hero Info.   From here you will get two different boxes.  The left is your skill tree, the right is your character with the gear he/she is wearing, weapon they are using the pet they have with them.  Ignore the right box for now, its covered later, but in the left box you will have a number of points to put into your skill tree each time you level.

What you do with these points is up to you.  There is no need to be perfect with your point distribution so don’t worry all that much about it.   You just need to decide what you are going for.  If you are playing with friends and are in charge of towers, then by all means dump all your points into towers.  Likewise with personal damage.  I don’t ever level the special attacks of each character, but maybe you use them a lot and would benefit from that.   I will say that if you are playing primarily solo you will want a fairly even spread of points.  Your towers need to be strong enough to defend the areas you aren’t at, and your personal DPS needs to be high enough to take down the ogres.  So just spread those suckers out 🙂

 

Your Defender’s Forge (item box):

Whenever you pick something up that you don’t equip it goes to your item box.  There is an item box on every level (only during the build phase) and in the tavern (actually there is two, but the other is hidden).  Once you open your item box you are given three options:

 

Hero Info

Item Box

Swap Hero

 

We are going to ignore Hero Info and Swap Hero for now, but click on item box (or the corresponding controller button if you are playing with a controller).  This is where all your stuff is stored.  From here you can sell pieces for mana (you need this mana to upgrade your equipment, so selling gear is very important), you can equip it, you can lock it (so it won’t be accidentally sold) or you can just leave it be.  Basically after every game I go into my item box and put on whatever upgrades are in there, lock whatever stuff I want to keep for later (if im leveling) or for another character, and then I sell the rest.

 

Leveling up your items:

Back at the forge this time we are going to click on Hero Info.  You will see the same two boxes as before with the skill tree and the inventory.  This time we are going to pay attention to the inventory.   Once you are wearing gear that isn’t what you started the game with (which should be after you finish the level I did a walkthrough of above) you can upgrade what you are wearing.   And move the cursor over to your weapon and hit X/A/LMB.  You will see all the stats for the weapon and a half circle meter at the bottom.   On the PS3/360 you will need to hold down R2/RT to fill that half circle – on the PC just click “invest all.”  Once it is fully invested you have leveled it up once and you can then go up and pick which stat you want to upgrade.   With weapons this is almost universally weapon damage (though if you can add extra projectiles to a mage staff for instance, that’s even better).

You can do the same stuff with the gear you are wearing.  This is where you will level up the other stats, like jacking up your tower damage or run speed.  Don’t be afraid to level your equipment up, even early.  Believe me, what seems like a lot of mana early in the game can be made in seconds later on.   So, at the very least, try to level up whatever weapon you are using a few times to get a big boost to your DPS.

There is only a certain number of times a piece of equipment can be upgraded, as shown in the bottom right.  Early/crappy gear tends to have a lower number (and in fact some gear can’t be upgraded at all, though its rare) but as you get deeper into the game you will start finding pieces that can be upgraded 20 to 50 times.  And this is when you will start the mana hording grind.

 

Pets:

Pets in this game are interesting because they are more powerful than you would assume looking at them.  When i first saw them added to the game I thought they were like the pets you get in in WoW that don’t really do anything except for look cool.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  Most pets can put out a decent amount of damage.  It’s not crazy… like right now my warrior can do 22K dps and my pet does 2k.  So it’s not winning any battles for me, but you better believe that the 2k comes in handy over the course of a battle wave.  There are tons of pets and they all have different side abilities, which is where they really excel.   Some pets will bolster or repair defense, knockback enemies, heal you or do other cool shit.

Pets are usually the last thing you can equip, as you wont start finding them for a long time (unless you got them buying the game) and they usually have a level requirement of 20+.  But once you find one it’s worthwhile to level it up.  It’s also just fun to collect them and see what they all do.

 

Leveling multiple characters:

Once you get going you will get to the point where you can beat levels without having to do any personal DPS at all.  Not only does this make you a tower defense savant (congrats!) but it also means you can start power leveling the other classes much easier.

You can do it earlier, but what i did on both the PS3 and when I changed over to the PC was level up my squire until he was able to run The Ramparts (12th or so level) on hard (usually around level 40+) with ease.  And I would spend the first two waves setting up my defense and collecting mana to upgrade said defenses and then between waves I would go to the Forge and select Swap Characters and choose a lowbie.

The lowbie, obviously, can’t do much of anything once the next wave starts, but he can stand there and collect experience out the wazoo for what the towers put down by the higher level guy is killing.

Another option is to use a second controller and go split screen and just AFK the 2nd controller guy somewhere safe.  But be warned that playing with more players at once means it’s a bit more difficult than solo.

 

 

Deciding what you want out of the game:

Dungeon Defenders is a great game and will give you back what you put into it.  If you want to go hardcore you can, as evidenced by my 40+ hours on the PC and 50 or so hours on the PS3…  and i have friends on the PC over 200 hours at this point.  But, if you don’t want to spend the rest of your life playing you can take a more casual approach and still feel rewarded.

Assuming you just want to beat the campaign, my suggestion is to stick with one character (or two, preferably, if you have the time) and just make your way through the campaign.  It’s fun, it’s a decent length (maybe 5-7 hours?) and you will feel satisfied by the time you beat the final boss.  And you will finish with a fairly strong character that won’t be amazing by any stretch but if you wanted to play with a friend online you would be able to contribute.

If you want to go the more hardcore approach, you really need at least one of each class (or one of each class and a second of whatever class you want to dps with… so 1 tower build of each class and 1 DPS of a single class).  And beating the campaign is just the beginning.  You will want to do it on every level, get every achievements, beat every challenge) play survival mode for hours at time, pour over the dungeon defenders forums for info/strats…  and play an absolute ton online.

 

 

Have a question?  Leave a comment.   I will hopefully add more to this guide as time goes on.

 
Quick tips/reminders:

*Don’t forget to level up your weapons damage!

*Don’t neglect run speed, some of the bigger maps are impossible if you are moving slowly.  And having a huge DPS doesn’t mean crap if you are spending more time getting place to place.

*Don’t feel bad knocking down the difficulty or doing the same level over a couple of times to ‘grind’ up some levels.  The game is challenging solo and this will help ease that.

*After playing for a while when you feel like you are starting to understand it watch the tutorial video again, there may be a little bit of info that you missed that will make sense to you now.

 

 

A Demon’s Souls guide for newbies

Why this exists:

If you listen to the show you are aware that I recently took another crack at Demon’s Souls after giving up around the 15 hour mark when the game initially came out.  A huge reason that I am enjoying it more is that I am successfully making my way through the game now, as opposed to smashing my head into the wall like I did my first time around.  When I rebought it I did a bit of homework before throwing it in, spending a few hours on the couch next to the wife with my iPad scouring the internet for a good newb guide.  I didn’t really find any…  I did find a few forum posts, and some info on the wiki, but I basically had to sort all of that data into something useful to me.  At this point in Demon’s Souls life cycle it is the realm of the truly hardcore and obsessed.  You are much more likely to find info on the world tendency in the valley of defilement than you are what class to pick as a newbie.  So I figured i would try to fill that void.

I will say though that this post wouldn’t exist without the wiki, the thread at neogaf and countless other things I found via google a few weeks back that I can’t exactly remember right now.  I am not trying to take credit for any of this info, I am merely trying to take what I learned from the internet and from playing and put it together in one spot.  I may update this from time to time, so the version info will be here:

1.0  —  Post date 2.2.11   Initial Guide Posted

 

Step One:  Character creation and Tutorial

The most important bit of knowledge about character creation is that the starting class you pick really only affects how you start (and how you finish, if you are going for a min/max build, but that’s not our worry).  Each class has differences in stats, starting weapons and in some cases spells…  but you aren’t locked in or out of anything by choosing a class.  If you pick a barbarian and then as you level put all your points into Intelligence, Magic and Faith…  you will end up a mage.  So, to repeat, you aren’t locked into or out of anything by picking a class, it just defines what your starting stats, gear and spells are.

I highly recommend you start as a Royal and will be going through this guide making the assumption that you did.  The reason for this is simple…  the Royal is fairly balanced (though a bit weak) but starts with a devastating ranged spell called “Soul Arrow” which will help out new players in a HUGE way.  The other perk is that they start with a ring that regenerates mana, something that is a bit more subtle but makes a world of difference early on.

In general though as a newbie Royal you will be fighting with your sword and shield which is the main crux of the combat in the game and it will teach you early on the skills you need to succeed.

Gender selection does have an affect also when it comes to armor.  Each piece of armor you find is gender specific.  Is one better than the other?  I have no idea.  I would guess that both are pretty equal at least to the point where it’s not a game breaking decision to pick male over female or vice versa.

After that it will ask you if you want to take the Journey to the Nexus.  Hit yes, even if you’ve played in the past, this is the tutorial and it will get you familiar with  your buttons…  and if you’ve played before it’s a good area to knock the rust off without penalty.  If this is your first time in the tutorial you’re going to die at the end, you didn’t do anything wrong, don’t worry.

 

The dark decent into the oppressive world we call 1-1 (and the newb rules of combat)

After being introduced to the hub world (something I’ll get into later in the guide) you will be dropped into your first area which is referred to as 1-1 (think Super Mario Bros).  There are 5 worlds with 4 sections, so to make things easier the internet tends to refer to them as 1-1, 1-2 ,  2-3, 4-4, etc etc etc etc.  This is another concept i’ll flesh out a bit later.

The important part is that this is where the game proper starts.  From here on you will be playing by a rule set that is harsh but fair.   As you kill guys you will gain souls (which are used to level up *AND* as money to buy items).  When you die, you drop your souls.   So you can spend 2 hours plodding through 1-1 and then get whacked in the face by a knight with red eyes and all the souls you collected will be on a spot in the ground and when you respawn all the way back at the start of the level every single enemy you killed has respawned.  If you make it back to that spot you get your souls back, if you die on the way back they disappear forever.

Before you run away screaming, this may sound harsh, and it is, it also creates a level of tension not found in other games.   The penalty for death is very, very real.  The good news is that if you play smart you won’t die.  The game itself is not all that difficult once you get the hang of the combat.  And the game has a fairly unique online system built-in where people can leave helpful messages like “strong enemy ahead”  or “jump down here.”  By and large you can trust these messages, but there are a few griefers out there that will place misleading messages.  So before you take a leap off the side of a castle wall at least swing the camera around and try to see if there is land below to land on.   You will also find blood stains which when touched will show you the last few seconds of someone other poor fool’s last seconds alive…  these serve as pretty good warnings of what you will find ahead.

Actually, let’s tackle that combat.   The first rule of Demon’s Souls is simple: NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER PUT YOUR SHIELD DOWN.  Grab a piece of duct tape and tape L1 down if you have to.  The game in general is not cheap, but there are ambushes setup along the way, and you don’t want to get caught with your pants (well, shield) down.  Everywhere you go just keep that mofo raised and you will be much, much less likely to find your souls spilled all over the floor.

The second rule of combat is button mashing will only get you killed.  The game works around a stamina system, each swing you take and each block you make will drain your stamina meter a bit.  It will replenish itself fairly quickly, but if you block an attack and then retaliate by jamming on the attack button like a crack monkey playing God of War 3 you will quickly drain your stamina, you won’t be able to attack or block, and your face will get bashed in by a demon with a claymore.

Combat is all about looking for openings and exploiting them and NOT BEING GREEDY.  You will have to fight all of the bad habits that most of the games this generation have taught you.  The checkpoint *isn’t* close by.  Dying is bad!  Button mashing is the short bus to death.  Rushing or playing reckless won’t make you a hero, it will kill you.   In general it’s best to go into each fight looking to block first and attack second and make sure you make use of R3 which will put a camera lock on your target.  A lot of the time an enemy will swing at you, you will block it, and they will recoil —  It is then that you make your counter attack.  Again, don’t get greedy, take 2, maybe 3 swings.  Anything beyond that and you’re out of stamina, the enemy is recovered and you’re fucked.  So you block, they recoil, you get a couple strikes in and immediately raise your shield again and repeat the process.  It sounds boring but it’s not, as you get further (and start fighting more enemies at once) it becomes very strategic and you will really need to think about when your opening is and how much to unleash during it without putting yourself in jeopardy.

Also, don’t forget that you have Soul Arrow.  Hit right on the dpad to switch your main hand weapon to your little Harry Potter wand and then hit attack (after locking on with R3) and you will shoot a magic missile-ish attack that does pretty massive damage.  Your mana pool isn’t huge, so it’s best not to use this spell for every encounter, but if it looks like you have a tough fight ahead of you lead with Soul Arrow and then hit R on the dpad quickly to get your sword back in your hand and start the fight at an advantage.   In general you want to fight these guys where you feel comfortable and not where they stand, so if you are in a nice little clearing and the enemy ahead of you is in a cramped area use Soul Arrow to aggro them and pull them to you.

With these skills you are good to go get your 1-1 on.  I’m not going to write up a full guide on everywhere to go in the level or how to handle each encounter as I think part of the fun is exploring it all on your own, but if you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments, i’ll try to answer as quickly and thoroughly as possible.   But in general just go out, shield raised, and explore.  Kill guys.  Pick up some loot.  Kill more guys.  Get confused when the level design gets less linear.  When you reach some badass demon’s give them a liberal helping of Soul Arrow.   And eventually you will get to the boss of 1-1.

The only thing you need to know about the boss of 1-1 is that his weakness is fire. Along the way you picked up some turpentine.  Use that on your mainhand weapon.  Once your sword is on fire you can slice through the boss and all his little spawn pretty easily.  Not super easy!  You still need to block and pick your attacks, but with the weapon on fire his HP will drop quickly.  You may need to reapply midway through the fight, go hide behind a pillar and do that.  Once you beat him go touch the switch thing in the middle of the room and you will be ported back to the hub world.

 

The Nexus, Leveling, Upgrading and other such RPG conventions

Once you beat the boss of 1-1 you will be brought back to the Nexus which acts as your hub the rest of the way.  When you get back the hot chick with the sewn up eyes will send you on a quick quest to go upstairs and talk to the creepy kid statue.  After you do that come back downstairs, it’s time to get your RPG on.

The first move you should make is talk to the NPCs.  There are several scattered around the ground floor, some sell weapons and upgrade, some sell spells or miracles (basically holy spells) and there is a dude that acts as your chest.   Use him often.  You have a weight limit on how much you can carry, and you can’t sell weapons/armor…  so everything you get that you aren’t going to equip, give it to that dude to hold on to.   One cool aspect of that guy is that you can give him all the stones you find (which are used to upgrade weapons/gear) and even if you find a NPC out in the middle of some level somewhere the stones from that inventory can be used.  I’m not sure why this is, but it makes life easier not having to carry them around.

Your first purchase should be the Heater Shield from the weaponsmith.  This shield has 100% physical mitigation which basically means as long as your stamina isn’t drained and your shield is up, you won’t be taking any damage (unless someone is shooting magic at you –which does happen later in the game — but it’s not something you need to worry about all that much yet).

After buying the Heater Shield I recommend going and talking to the hot chick with the sewn up eyes and she will ask you if you want to trade in souls to raise your soul level.  This is the basic leveling convention in the game —  instead of getting XP out in the world and leveling when you hit a threshold, you have to save up your souls and trade them in to this chick to level.  I would start by giving yourself a bit of a boost to Endurance and Vitality to raise your stamina and HP.  From there you can sculpt your experience how you want to play.  I’ve gone pretty even, I like having spells and a decent sword, so im spread out.  It took me a bit of soul farming to pull this off, but I enjoyed the farming as the combat is great, so it was worth it.

The maiden in black is who you talk to when you want to level up.

You probably can’t afford any new spells or anything yet.  You also may need a few levels in strength to equip any cool stuff you found.  It will all happen soon, scooter.

 

What’s next?

From here the world ahead of you is pretty wide open.   Like i said earlier the world is split up into 5 areas that has 4 areas each.  You will know world 1 because you came out of it and it has a dude sitting in front of it.   If you go clockwise from there (up the stairs and back down the other side) you will find 2-1, up at the apex is 3-1, on the decent back down is 4-1 and near the bottom is 5-1.   You also have 1-2 open to you since you beat 1-1.   Where you go next is up to you.  Most people seem to recommend tackling 3-1 next, but I actually find 3-1 to be kinda tough.  I think 2-1 is the best spot, but try them all out.

Once you are comfortable with the combat, level 4-1 is amazing for farming souls to get a bunch of level ups early.  The skeletons there hit hard, but if you keep your shield up and attack smartly you can kill them fairly easily and get a ton of souls.  I farmed that for quite a while and got my level up to 20 or so. Again, don’t get greedy, kill a few dudes and then leave and level up.  If you get too deep and die and can’t get back, all your work was for nothing.

I found getting my magic levels high enough and buying the heal miracle to be a pretty big game changer for me.  The heal spell takes a bit to cast, so the healing herbs are still best in the heat of combat, but being able to just cast a spell to heal between battles keeps the game moving and saves those precious herbs for the fights that matter.   I also recommend the fireball spell if you go the magic route as, at least early on, there are a bunch of enemies with a fire-weakness.

Having a kickass sword and shield is always a good time, so don’t neglect strength.  And also don’t forget to use the stones you pick up to upgrade your weapons in the Nexus.  You can craft some pretty awesome stuff once you get into all of that.   But once you get that deep into it you’ll want to consult the wiki.

And that’s it.  You now know how to play Demon’s Souls.  Don’t be afraid to experiment with your character, or even make runs through the levels knowing you are going to die (and lose your souls) just to explore.  Also, the wiki is your friend, and when in doubt on how to kill a boss, youtube has the answers.

Good luck, have fun and feel free to ask any questions in the comments section

 

 

 

Operation Flashpoint Impressions

So, Operation Flashpoint. Wow.

If you were ever a fan of the original Ghost Recon games on the xbox/PC, you should really at least rent this game.  If your idea of a military shooter consists of Halo and CoD alone, consider these things:

-no jumping

-health doesn’t regenerate. You may apply field dressing to stop the bleeding, but it’s not a fix, it just stops the blood.

-Shot in the leg and no more sprinting. Shot in the arm and you aim poorly. Take one in the head and its game over. One shot kills at any moment.

-You may spend 10-15 minutes without even seeing someone in the distance. You move very slowly in this game. Very slow.

-No hand holding. You decide how to attack the situation which really means trial and error.

The missions are neither short nor a cakewalk. In the first two missions, you are dropped into the map and told to go blow something up. Go. I admit, my first mission was spent walking in the wrong direction for 20 minutes and then I took one in the face. Once you learn what to do and how to use the map, it’s pretty simple. Couple that with a variety of orders and point to point paths for your team and you have a squad capable of doing some elaborate attacks.

Playing coop with a couple groups of people last night really added a layer of fun. All achievements and campaign progression are achievable through coop as well as single player. One can defeat the missions alone, but having a couple real humans by your side makes things much easier. The few games I played with four competent people were super fun.

This game is NOT for everyone. In fact, I would bet most people would hate it. If you enjoy some difficult gameplay and a more accurate portrayal of a war game, go pick this up.