My Favorite Gaming Element for Apex Legends

Your uncle Geekly has tried out the latest battle royal craze Apex Legends and I like it despite loathing the genre. I’m more of a solo experience video gamer. Give me a story and characters I can invest in and I’m happy; multiplayer games don’t usually do a lot for me. Battle royal games and the chaos they bring do even less for me, but I’m surprised by Apex Legends’ focus on teamwork.

Everything about Apex Legends screams that the players must work as a team. When players jump into the map, they do so as a team and that shows the emphasis on team play at each game’s beginning. I’ve heard on some message boards that Fortnite players dislike being forced to jump as a team, but Fortnite is every player for themselves. Sure, there is a squad (or team) option for the game, but it pales in comparison to the every person for themselves game mode. Apex Legends’ squad play outshines Fortnite’s most likely because players jump as a team.

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The communication system, or ping system, works like a charm. The Gears of War series may have instituted a ping system, but Apex Legends gets it right. Players don’t need to use mics if they don’t have them. Heck. Even if they do have them, they may prefer to use the ping system. If you see a shield or gun a teammate can use, ping it so the item shows up on their map. If you see an enemy on the next ridge, ping the location so it shows up on your teammates’ map and you can converge on the enemy. Players can even ping one location for their teammates and another for themselves—you go here, I’ll go here—and a team can formulate a pincer attack in near real time.

Can Apex Legends be played by oneself? Yes, but not well. I’ve had teammates drop out because of server issues—of which there have been a lot since the game’s launch—and ended up in a solo team. I’ve made it to the final three squads in several of these instances, but when the game gets tight, more firepower is needed, firepower that won’t exist if a player is by themselves. The closest I ever got to winning a game as predominately a solo squad was second place with one other combatant standing. That’s not saying that Uncle Geekly’s good at Apex Legends, in fact, I strive for mediocrity, but my point is that one can’t win the game that easily going solo.

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More than any other battle royal game—on the market today—Apex Legends focuses on a team dynamic and if I’m going to play a multiplayer game, I prefer a team atmosphere. I could carry this team mentality further and discuss Overwatch at length and how the character selection screen breeds discontent while Apex Legends has a more relaxed feel, but let’s say that the concept of team shines through most of Apex Legends and that’s where players will find the fun. If you prefer team based multi-player games, you may enjoy Apex Legends.

Do you agree that Apex Legends is a good team battle royal game? Do you have a character that you prefer to player more than another? Let us know in the comments.

My Favorite Game Mechanics: Pit Crew

Many people won’t like Pit Crew. The real-time aspect of the game can get players flustered and dampen some of the fun, but that’s what I like about it. While most real-time games have players dashing to play cards or some other game device to a common area, Pit Crew has gamers play solitaire.

The rules are simple, but I won’t go into them in detail here. Players assume the role of a pit crew during a stock car race. They play cards numbered 1-10 in either white or black numbers (there’s a bonus if a player uses all of one color) on areas where they must place a pair of the same number, go up or down in number (with 10 and 1 being adjacent), and reach a specific sum. The first ones to do so begin rolling a die. For every 6 they roll, they move their car one space on the track—and that’s where it gets interesting.

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Geoff Engelstein has created a psychological game with his players. The impulse is to start playing your cards quickly as soon as you hear someone roll a die. But Pit Crew is more concerned with gamers playing a clean game of solitaire. Your opponents will gain more spaces with the penalties incurred by messing up a pattern, than any spaces gained on a die.

Roll. You may forget what total your on for the area that needs a specific sum. Roll. Did I play a three and then a four or a five and then a four? Roll! I don’t care if the color on the numbers match, I’m placing those two ones in a pair spot.

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What’s worse is that gamers may feel more impowered to give their opponents bonuses rather than take a penalty. This is another psychological trick Pit Crew uses. If my car went backwards on the board for every one of my mistakes, the penalty would only affect me. With all my opponents (it may be a 3-player game) gaining a benefit from my mistakes, my mistakes are multiplied, but in an odd sense, a lot of gamers would prefer giving other players a bonus instead of accepting a penalty.

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Pit Crew poses an interesting question. Is it better to be punished or rewarded?

What do you like most about Pit Crew? What are the things you don’t like about Pit Crew? Heck, is it better to be punished or rewarded in games?

It’s a good thing I’m a glutton for punishment, let me know what you really think in the comments.

My Favorite Storytelling Elements Spider-Man “Kraven’s Last Hunt”

Most critics dub “Kraven’s Last Hunt” the greatest Kraven story ever told and one of the best Spider-Man stories. It features plenty of comic book action, but the character studies are what set “Kraven’s Last Hunt” from other Spidey tales.

The world no longer appreciated Kraven’s physical prowess. It no longer marveled at his courage, and most animal rights activists condemned him—he was a hunter after all—and the world he lived in no longer made sense. Before he met Spider-Man he’d never known defeat or humiliation. Now Kraven has fallen ill. He knows the end is near, but before he goes, he vows to reclaim his honor and prove his superiority over Spider-Man. He went out for one last hunt.

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“Kraven’s Last Hunt” embraces Kraven’s personal struggles. It blends aspects from classic literature and recurring themes to find a deeper truth. Kraven doesn’t just want to kill Spider-Man. In fact, Kraven doesn’t kill Spidey when he has the chance. He buries Spidey alive on his complex and assumes his identity. There’s even a moment where Kraven rescued Mary Jane, Spidey’s new wife, and she can see through Kraven’s disguise. Kraven falls short of being a hero. He never was one. This is a story that questions what it means to be a hero.

Kraven also thinks he can drive Spider-Man past the point where he ceases to be a hero. A rat-like monster named Vermin stalks the streets of New York while Spidey rests six-feet under. Kraven beats the creature unconscious, brutalizes him, and takes him prisoner. After Spidey comes to, he wants revenge for the time Kraven took from him. His anger leads him to Vermin, who Kraven uses as pawn to see if Spidey is strong enough to do unto Vermin what he did. Spidey proves that he’s strong enough not to.

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There are so many themes of what makes a hero and what makes a good person that it’s easy to see why “Kraven’s Last Hunt” is high on most critics lists of Spider-Man stories. It not only portrays Kraven at both the height of his powers and the lowest, it does a great job in its portrayal of Peter and Mary Jane’s young marriage.

Readers see how MJ deals with Peter’s disappearance and how she’d react if Peter ever died in action. It’s a great window into the life of someone who must stay up late, worrying if their loved one is okay. In short, “Kraven’s Last Hunt” is a triumph and a must read for any Spider-Man fan or Spidey newbie.

Is there anything about “Kraven’s Last Hunt” that you liked that I didn’t mention? If there is, message me and I’ll give you Jim’s phone number to complain to him. Or you could let us know in comments.

My Favorite Game Mechanism: Super Mario Bros.

I’ve talked about this before years ago, but one of my favorite game designs is the first Super Mario Bros., specifically the game’s first stage World 1-1. It’s an example of flawless game design that has inspired many game designers since. It’s a wonderful use of intuitive game design.

Mario begins on the screen’s far left. The player could try and move farther left, but the game won’t allow the player to do so. It’s showing the player that Mario must go right. Sure, the buttons are limited, but Mario can only move and jump, and the controls are easy to understand without ever reading the game’s manual. Soon, Mario encounters a Goomba (a mushroom-shaped enemy). Since Mario can only jump and the player gets caught in a corridor where they must interact with the Goomba, they find that Goombas can be defeated by jumping on them. This informs the player of Mario’s skillset and his enemies’ weakness.

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A question mark box flashes ahead, begging to be pressed. When pressed, a mushroom emerges. New players won’t know if the mushroom’s good or bad, but the game’s design makes it almost impossible to miss it. The mushroom turns out to be a powerup.

There’s even a moment where a seemingly random jump would result in finding a hidden 1UP mushroom (or extra life mushroom) and since it looks like the previous powerup mushroom, players are informed to grab it. A field study showed that most people who had never played Super Mario Bros. before found the 1UP mushroom. That’s because of its placement in the world; the first 1UP mushroom’s placement is just before a hole in the floor that players must jump over. It takes a little intuition to learn this game.

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Speaking of jumping over something, the first occurrence of a piranha plant, a polka-dot Venus flytrap enemy, is also strategically placed. With its mouth and fangs pointed up, players are informed to avoid them, but if a plant like that can go up a pipe, Mario can go down a pipe and that’s exactly what Mario can do there. It’s an excellent way of revealing a game’s secrets.

The rest of the level continues in a similar fashion, non-verbally teaching the game. When gamers say that they want intuitive game design or controls, they want something like Super Mario Bros. World 1-1. It’s still one of the best game designs.

Don’t believe me? When Hirokazu Yasuhara designed 1991’s Sonic the Hedgehog, he stated that he tried to recreate Super Mario Bros. World 1-1 with every level. That’s high praise from Nintendo’s greatest competitor at the time. What are your favorite elements of classic or modern video games? If you disagree with my choice in World 1-1, feel free to jump on my Goomba head. That might hurt. Instead, leave me an angry comment.

 

My Favorite Game Mechanics: Sentinels of the Multiverse

There isn’t just one game mechanic that I like from Sentinels of the Multiverse, there are several, but most of them center around one thing: character building.

Sentinels may not be perfect—your Uncle Geekly will have to write an in-depth analysis about it after a while—but most of the design choices in Sentinels do something to characterize the heroes, the villains, and sometimes the world in which they live. Players feel like they’re heroes. They feel super. And that doesn’t happen as much as it should in board games with superheroes.

Some games like Marvel: Legendary (perhaps a better game than Sentinels overall) puts gamers in the role of someone like Nick Fury. You’re assembling a team of superheroes to deal with a threat. Others put gamers in the role of a superhero, but there isn’t an attachment to the character or the characters are flat. You are a unique hero in Sentinels.

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While there may be some misses (in terms of character building), there are more characters like NightMist. She’s reckless. How do we know this? She’s just as likely to hurt her teammates as she is the enemy, and the mechanisms in her deck bring out that flavor. Legacy is the leader of the gang. A lot of his abilities promotes this identity. Visionary has a more hands-off approach and many cards in her deck reflect her personality.

The villains have just as much personality, and Sentinels does one of the best jobs in tabletop gaming of building antagonists. Some villains have no regard for their henchmen and prefer the heroes to squish them, others may care for their righthand man, but have no attachment to anyone else. Still others depend on no one else but themselves. These henchmen, if there are any, also tend to build on the eccentricities of the various villains. Citizen Dawn’s lackeys don’t behave like anyone else’s. Grand Warlord Voss has his own unique cronies. The Matriarch always has a murder of crows in tow.

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There are even some villains like Akash’Bhuta who are more forces of nature than true villains. The Dreamer who is an 8-year-old girl whose dreams come to life, but she suffers from night terrors and therefore, she’s a victim herself. And Wage Master who’s the resident Mister Mxyptlk who turns game play upside down just because it strikes his fancy. The characters in Sentinels have plenty of—well—character.

Even the environment decks (that represent the location the game takes place) have their own sense of character. Certain environments like Wagner Mars Base aren’t so good for specific characters like Bunker (kind of like Ironman) or The Wraith (a female Batman) because it randomly destroys equipment, while other environments like Rook City (a Gotham City type) hates on all heroes because even the cops are crooked. There are even a few environments that handle heroes with kid gloves. I won’t mention them here. Greater Than Games has plenty of forums for that and many of new game copies rates each environment according to difficulty.

It’s easy to fall in love with Sentinels despite any shortcomings. It has personality. And personality is something more superhero games and antagonists in cooperative games need.

What do you like most about Sentinels? Is there another game that handles character building in a fun and interesting way? Let us know in comments.