Mar 20

Monday Night Gaming: Codenames Pictures

This week’s Monday Night Gaming / MNG: Codenames Pictures


Codenames Pictures GamePublisher: Czech Games Edition

# of Players: 4-8 players

Best with: 6-8 players

Playing Time:  15-30 minutes

We had the opportunity to play this game recently. We’ve never played the base Codenames game, so this review will be based solely on the game Codenames: Pictures.

Setup:  Players split into two teams and decide who will be their “spymaster.” The spymasters will sit on the same side of the table. (They’re the only ones who can see the keys.) The other players sit across from the spymasters and serve as “field operatives.” 20 pictures are chosen at random and placed on the table in 5×4 grid. Each card as a marking to show which way the card goes orientation wise.

General Mechanics: In each game, there is a key that shows which cards belong to which side or team. Like the pictures, the key card is chosen at random and should be kept between both spymasters where no one else can see it. Blue squares belong to the blue team and red squares with the red team. There is also a set of grey or neutral squares serving as innocent bystanders (there are four of these) and a black square assassin. Who starts first is determined by the key card, which indicates the starting color. Whoever starts has 8 pictures to guess while the other team has 7.

The spymasters will take turns giving one-word clues to help their teams guess which picture cards belong to them. After the one-word clue, the spymaster will also give a number. The team then tries to guess their team’s cards by touching the picture card. The spymaster will then reveal if they were correct. The guessing continues until they either guess wrong, pass the turn, or guess one more guess than the correct number of answers given in the clue. For example, if the spymaster says Flying 3, there are three correct answers. The team can then make 3 correct guesses + 1 more guess. This becomes helpful in later rounds when a team may use extra guesses to try and go back and correct mistaken guesses.

The manual has a great example of how this works. See picture below:

Codenames Pictures Clues

During the game, spymasters must keep a straight face at all times. No giving away clues via body language, facial expressions, etc.

How to Win/Lose: The first team to guess all their correct picture cards wins the game. If either team accidentally guesses the assassin, they lose the game.

What I Liked: The creativity in this game is amazing! It reminds me a lot of Dixit in its ability to force a player to think outside the box. I’m really excited to play this game again.

What I Didn’t Like: Nothing really. Okay, maybe playing it the day Daylight Savings Time began and thus, I hadn’t had shit for sleep was a bad idea. I don’t think creatively very well when I’m tired.

Overall Rating/Impression: 9.5/10. I really loved this game. Loads of fun!


Monday Night Gaming is a bi-weekly series reviewing tabletop and video games. Articles are posted on the 1st & 3rd Monday.

Read other game reviews in the Monday Night Gaming series by clicking here.

Mar 16

What I’m…Updates

Long overdue, I’ve updated the What I’m… pages. Check out:

So what are you up to these days? Play/read/watch/write anything good?

Mar 16

How to Pronounce Amaskan

I’ve had a lot of readers, reviewers, and other folks asking me in the past year how to pronounce the word “AMASKAN,” so I made a video. Yes, I know the video is mirrored and thus, the text is backwards. iMovie wouldn’t change it. If you know how to wrangle iMovie into shape, let me know in the comments.

Mar 15

Jessica Jones Panel

ECCC did not record our Jessica Jones & PTSD panel, but because they chose not to do so, we were given permission to record it ourselves. The mic setup in our room wasn’t stellar, but the audio is audible and clear most of the time. If you were sad you couldn’t make our panel, you can now give it a listen on YouTube. Or stream it right here.

There were so many great questions we didn’t get to discuss, not to mention a few questions from the audience we didn’t get to answer as we ran out of time. Feel free to leave any questions here or on the YouTube video and we’ll see if we can’t answer them.

From the blurb:

Jessica Jones isn’t the first character to exhibit symptoms of PTSD. Nor will she be the last. Join us as we discuss ways writers & screenwriters are creating diverse characters (like Jessica Jones) with PTSD & other mental illnesses. In terms of representation, what are they getting right, and what are they getting wrong?

Enjoy!

PANELISTS:
Raven Oak (Moderating), Bridget A. Natale, Jesikah Sundin, G. G. Silverman

Mar 13

ECCC Wrap-Up

ECCC or Emerald City Comicon 2017 was amazing though a bit crowded! They apparently set records with 90,000+ in attendance on Saturday, which is crazy crowded to me. Due to my schedule, I only attended on Saturday (when my panel was), but I had a blast hanging out with my author friend Jesikah Sundin and chainmailling friend Elise.

Raven Oak

Jesikah is not only a great writer, but she’s also a great seamstress who made me a killer Legend of Zelda skirt for ECCC. I wore it with my Zelda scarf and my normal “I’m-so-not-awake!” stare. It was a popular look for the con (the stare, not the skirt/scarf combo–that was unique to me).

Raven's outfit

Aforementioned Zelda skirt & scarf

While Jesikah and I waited for ECCC to officially begin, we ran into the cutest family cosplaying Mario.

Mario cosplay family

Jesikah and I also posed for a picture in the atrium as we waited.

Jesikah and Raven

Once the dealer’s room and artist alley opened, we stopped in to Clockwork Dragon to say hello to fellow authors Jeff Cook and Lee French. We also stopped by the Bards’ Tower to say hello to SFWA president Cat Rambo as well as Quincy J. Allen. I totally missed that several other friends at the tower. *waves*

I also got to finally chat with Jody Lynn Nye in person! We’ve been Facebook friends for a bit, but hadn’t actually met. Her books were some of the first science fiction/fantasy I ever read, so it was a great joy to chat with her. We had quite the conversation about the Apple IIGS, D&D back in the day, writing, and politics.

Jody Lynn Nye and Raven Oak

After stopping off at University Bookstore to chat with Dwayne and buy a few books, we went to a panel on Women in Fantasy, one of whose panelists was Robin Hobb. (Managed to get one of her books signed afterward as well!)

Robin Hobb ECCC 2017

We had a short break for lunch and then went to one of the best panels I’ve ever attended–this one entitled The Death of Belief: American Gods’ Impact on Modern Fantasy. The panelists were Brom, Richard Kadrey, Dave Bara, Seanan McGuire, and Will James. This panel managed to talk about the topic while rarely talking about the Neil Gaiman’s American Gods at all. The discussion of religion and how it both impacts and is impacted by speculative fiction was amazing. Seanan has an extensive collegiate background in myths and fairy tales, so her contribution to this panel is mostly what made it so good (that and she has a wickedly sarcastic sense of humor…for example, when introducing themselves, Dave Bara originally pronounced Seanan’s first name as “See-nan,” which is entirely incorrect. Despite her correcting him, he continued to say it wrong, so when she said his name, she pronounced DAVE as “Dahv.” He kept looking at her oddly as if he couldn’t figure out why she was saying his name that way. This interchange wasn’t lost on the audience.)

Seanan McGuire ECCC 2017

At one point, I hung out in the freeplay gaming area in hopes of playing some Magic, but apparently I was too girly for the group of guys playing. They were all of 19 and it showed in their insecurities. 😉 We did run into one of the best cosplays of Carl from Walking Dead that I’ve ever seen. Of course I had to pose ridiculously with the group.

Where's Carl?

That Carl on the right! Holy smokes!

Before too long, it was time for our panel on Jessica Jones and writing PTSD. My co-panelists, G. G. Silverman,Jesikah Sundin, and Bridget A. Natale, were great, and as usual, our panel was packed to standing room only.

Our jessica jones panel

In order, L to R: G.G. Silverman, Jesikah Sundin, Bridget A. Natale, Raven Oak

Part of the audience

Part of the audience–hard to see folks lining the walls.

We had many, many people come up to us after the panel to thank us for providing a safe space in which to discuss such difficult topics. Several people felt it was the first time they’d been able to really talk about their PTSD or abusive background. We were glad to share with the group and hope that shows like Jessica Jones continue to be made, giving all of us a voice.

I recorded the audio from our panel and hope to have it up on my YouTube channel soon, so if you’re interested in our discussion on Jessica Jones & Writing PTSD, keep an eye on my channel or this site.

Mar 06

MNG: Magic the Gathering EDH

This week’s Monday Night Gaming / MNG: Magic the Gathering EDH

I’ve been busy enough that tabletop hasn’t been happening much at all (though Magic has), so I’m going to do a bit of a change in review this week by looking at the Commander or EDH format in Magic the Gathering.


Kaalia of the Vast Magic the Gathering cardPublisherWizards of the Coast

# of Players: 2-6 players (though you can play with more)

WHAT IS COMMANDER? 

Unlike the standard deck in Magic the Gathering, the Commander (or EDH as it used to be called) format is based on a deck-size of 100 cards, 1 of which is your commander. No two cards can be the same, making for an interesting deck with interesting complications.  For example, it’s much harder to get a card that you need when you need it if you have 99 cards to swim through to find it.

Wizards states: “The Commander format is all about picking your hero and building a deck around them. In this casual, multiplayer format, you choose a legendary creature to serve as your commander and build the rest of your deck around their color identity.”

YOUR DECK:  1 commander card (legendary creature) and 99 other cards (only one copy of any card, except basic lands). All cards must be in the color identity of the commander.

COMMAND ZONE: If your commander would be put into your library, hand, graveyard or exile from anywhere, you may return it to your command zone instead. The cost to recast your commander from the command zone grows each time the commander has to be recast. For example, the to recast Kaalia of the Vast a second time, it will cost 1 white, 1 black, 1 red, and three colorless mana. To recast her a 3rd time, it will cost 1 white, 1 black, 1 red, and five colorless, and so on.

COMMANDER DAMAGE: Any player that’s been dealt 21 or more combat damage by the same commander over a game loses the game. “The commander is tracked across zone changes for this purpose (for example, if one player takes control of another player’s commander, any damage that commander already dealt is still counted).”

OTHER FORMAT RULES: While Wizards recommends 2-6 players, I’ve played Commander games with as many as 10 players. It gets a bit chaotic doing that, but it can be fun. Also, all players begin with 40 life (vs. standard’s 20). Wizards has a more in-depth look at the format HERE, as well as a list of certain cards that are banned in the format.

 

GAME PLAY: LOVE this format. I love that it is intended to be a casual, non-competitive format, which makes it easier for beginners and non-wealthy players to play the game. It’s a format where you don’t have to spend a year’s salary building a deck to “win.” The creativity required to come up with 100 cards that synergize with each other and yet, are unique, is incredible. Players may find themselves teaming up with others to take on a threat, then turning on each other, much like Munchkin. This is definitely my favorite format to play in…except when douchebags happen.

One of my biggest complaints about even attempting to play Magic in the legacy, vintage, or even modern is that typically, the player with the most money wins. Whoever can afford to go buy all the mythic rares, Planeswalkers, etc., typically ends up with the broken deck that’s near impossible to beat. I don’t think that’s particularly fair to new players or those of us without a silver spoon in our mouth. I don’t know about you but I can’t afford to spend $350 on one card. That’s my freaking car payment. :/

While Commander does allow a player to build a deck from any set (and thus, does open up to the more $$ = better deck issue), the format itself is meant to be a CASUAL format. A player doesn’t need a $350 card for their deck because the format isn’t meant to be all that competitive. I love this because I can build very thematic decks. For example, I have a seriously casual deck that is cat themed with a crazy-cat lady commander. I have a much less casual deck (more on that later) that is dragon-themed, and then I have a more intermediate casual deck that is Hydra-themed (both hydra as is in the creature and HYDRA as in Hail Hydra! And yes, I do plan on making an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. deck to go with that).

Probably 60-75% of the time, if we’re playing with strangers, it’s a casual game. But one of my biggest complaints about Magic in general is that some players do not understand the meaning of the word casual. For example, yesterday we played with a local at our LGS with our very casual decks. A nearby judge (Magic judge during tournaments) asked to join after a game. We asked if he had a casual deck–after all, he’s a judge and more likely to have less-casual cards–and he assured us it was casual. I pulled out an EDH deck that I’m currently testing, meaning it isn’t done and will have holes/flaws. VERY casual. He was fine with that.

He proceeded to play with a deck made up almost solely of cards that are 20+ years old and worth $100-$500 a card. Autographed. And with modified art. (So here’s the thing about modified art–it makes the card lose its value. That means this guy had enough $$$ laying around to deface cards worth several hundred dollars a pop.) Not only were his cards expensive, but they were really good. Powerful.  Absolutely. NOT. Casual. They were tournament level, and he killed all three of us very, very quickly. Let’s put it this way, most people play 1 mana per turn if they are incredibly lucky. He had SIX mana by turn two.

That’s typical in a very competitive, tournament level deck and a completely DICK move in a casual game. The only reason to do that to players in a casual format in a casual game is to get off on the power-trip of curb stomping people. It’s not polite and honestly, makes judges look bad because he should’ve known better.

And that brings us to the dragon deck of mine. It’s not casual. Not a bit. And I made it as a response to assholes like this judge because many times, it can hold its own (though I’ll admit, it wouldn’t have stood a chance against this judge’s deck, which was probably worth more than my husband’s salary). We once played against a douchebag who didn’t know the meaning of casual, and in response, I crushed him with my dragon deck. I pretty much only play it against assholes and people who want to play a non-casual game of Commander.

I bring this up because I love the format, but I’m really sick of the number of assholes in Magic. If it’s not the bro-gamers who are convinced that I don’t know how to play because I’m a woman, it’s these assholes who don’t know what the word casual means. The latter is why my husband quit playing Magic back in the day. The reason Wizards created this format was to get away from the competition and give players a casual and fun format to play in. Too bad some players don’t know how to be good sports.

If you can avoid the douchebags, Commander is a great, solid format and a ton of fun to design/play decks with. Wizards releases pre-made Commander decks as well so if you’re new to the format and want to try it out, that’s a way you can test the format without having to take the time and the money to create a deck.

Overall Rating/Impression: My favorite Magic format. In some ways, better than drafting, though watch out for the assholes. 9/10

(Kaalia of the Vast Magic Card is copyright Wizards of the Coast and used under the CCC for review/critique purposes only.)

Monday Night Gaming is a bi-weekly series reviewing tabletop and video games. Articles are posted on the 1st & 3rd Monday.

Read other game reviews in the Monday Night Gaming series by clicking here.

Mar 03

What It Means to be Fandom

The year was 1994, and I was 16.

Me, 1994

Me, early 1994

I was “old enough to drive,” which humorously enough was the slogan for ArmadilloCon 16 that year. I’ve written about my experiences at my first convention before, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I took a good look back at the past 23 years of my life in fandom. (Completely fitting for a Flashback Friday!)

See, fandom has this history and sadly, this reputation that isn’t always a positive one. With the rise of tabletop games, shows like Game of Thrones, and the exponential growth of conventions like San Diego Comicon, DragonCon, and PAX, some aspects of “geek” have become cool, while others remain on the fringes of society, not quite acceptable and certainly not “literary.”

Rarely does a science fiction or fantasy film/movie win an Oscar. Rarely does a work of genre fiction (especially speculative fiction) win a prestigious literary award, and you almost never see a speculative fiction writer become a poet laureate. Memoirs and literary fiction and maybe historical fiction on a lucky Sunday, yes, but science fiction and fantasy are for “weirdos.” For those “folks that dress up funny. What’s it called? Cosplay?”

Speculative fiction is the red-headed step-child no one wants…even within the writing community. I’ve lost count of the number of writing conferences I’ve attended where fewer than 10% of the writers, agents, and editors attending represented my genres and it showed in their attitudes towards the genre and its authors.

“So what do you write?” I’m asked.

“Science fiction and fantasy.”

“Oh, isn’t that like space aliens and humans having monkey love or something? Way too smart for me.”

Yes, that’s a real conversation that took place between myself and a top 1% bestselling romance writer who was the guest-of-honor at a writing conference.

The dismissive attitude or outright derision I’ve encountered is downright insulting, if not hurtful. Many who feel outside of fandom, feel we’re a clique. That we’re exclusive and snooty. The complete opposite of what I’ve found fandom to be. I realize that everyone has different experiences, but the idea of fandom being exclusionary is a foreign one for me as it’s been the only group that has ever accepted me for who I am. 

Society sees us as an obsessive group of mentally ill freaks. Even fellow authors have been known to look down on us. They often see us as writers not good enough to write anything with any merit or meaning. Never mind the fact that many works such as George Orwell’s 1984 and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 have not only made us question the fabric of society but have forever changed the way we see ourselves. So much civil disobedience and revolutionary change is documented in fiction, both as reflections and as warnings. Speculative fiction asks the what if? It pushes our technological advances, our culture, and our selves.

Sure—fandom has its oddities, but inside that mix of Whovians, Browncoats, Trekkies, and Jedi is a family—one that is unparalleled (at least to me).

I found something back at that first con, back on October 7, 1994, something that never left me and has only grown in the 23 years since. I found a family.

Me with Elizabeth Moon & Margaret Ball

Me with Elizabeth Moon & Margaret Ball, Oct. 1994

That first convention, I was only 16, yet I knew I wanted to be a speculative fiction author. As I wandered around the halls of the Red Lion Hotel, I met people like Elizabeth Moon, who was Guest-of-Honor, and Ellen Datlow and Margaret Ball. These were names on my bookshelves, and here I was talking to them about writing. Attending authors encouraged me, helped point out some of the panels I might be interested in, and loaned me pencils when mine were worn down to mere nubs. I was a new writer and a new member of the tribe.

When my husband and I moved to Washington State, I had no idea what kind of world as waiting for me, or that my family would grow so, so much.

In the state of Washington, there are more speculative fiction conventions than I can possibly attend in any given year, possibly because the Seattle area is so incredibly tech heavy and geeky. Or possibly because so many speculative fiction authors live in the Pacific Northwest. Either way, it is a home I’ve grown to love—a piece of my heart that I didn’t realize how much I’d been missing.

For most of my childhood, people looked at me as if they were “better than,” as Badger (Firefly) put it. I was a geek, a nerd, a nobody. My loves and fandoms were frowned upon by the general population (especially by many of my classmates). As a public school teacher in Texas, I still was lesser than in the eyes of my coworkers, bosses, parents, and sometimes students. I was that “weirdo teacher” who knew more than I should about computers (after all, I am a girl so I’m supposed to teach kindergarteners how to count rather than middle schoolers how to code). I was the “chic with all the t-shirts” saying things they couldn’t and didn’t understand. I didn’t fit in, not even as an adult.

But in Seattle, like ArmadilloCon, I found my people. I could mention Doctor Who and it was rare that someone didn’t know what I was talking about. No more, “Doctor Who?” (at least the kind said without irony). Imagine my surprise when I attended Norwescon for the first time and found an entire community of people just like me.

And it wasn’t just Norwescon.

Anglicon, Emerald City Comicon, GeekGirlCon, Crypticon…no matter where I went, the fandom community embraced me and welcomed me. Names on a bookshelf became people I knew, people who were my friends. If you’d told me 23 years ago at that first convention who one of my critique partners would be, I would’ve peed my pants (well, maybe not because she wasn’t published yet, but you get my drift). It was surreal to find myself a member of this community that works hard to be inclusive and celebrates its diversity.

The opportunities and connections in my career have happened because I’m part of fandom family that cares about acknowledging each others’ successes and spreads the word. These are people who when one of us gets sick and needs help, fandom steps up and help happens—because that’s what we do.

Does fandom have cliques–absolutely. We’re human too, and sometimes, our bad days overflow into the public. It happens in any community. But at the end of the day, we’re family in every sense of the word, and I’ve never been prouder to be a part of it.

Mar 02

Norwescon 2017 Schedule

If you’re attending Norwescon 40, April 13-16, 2017, I’ll be there as a panelist. Below is my schedule (and is subject to change):

THURSDAY, APRIL 13:

Writing Workshop
on Kurt Cagle
3:00pm – 4:00pm @ Baker

Navigating the New Publishing Landscape
4:00pm – 5:00pm @ Cascade 7&8
PANELISTS: Mark Teppo (M), Raven Oak, Shannon Page, Marc Gascoigne

Fan Culture and the New Meta
6:00pm – 7:00pm @ Cascade 10
PANELISTS: Lisa Mantchev (M), Raven Oak, Torrey Stenmark

FRIDAY, APRIL 14:
Shady Characters
4:00pm – 5:00pm @ Cascade 11
PANELISTS: Raven Oak (M), Kat Richardson, Tod McCoy, PJ Manney

It’s All About You (Without It Being At All About You)
5:00pm – 6:00pm @ Cascade 7&8
PANELISTS: Stephanie Weippert (M), Raven Oak, Alexander James Adams, Shubzilla

Writing Workshop
on Charles Walbridge
6:00pm – 7:00pm @ Rainer

SATURDAY, APRIL 15:
Hand me the Superwrench ConnectorThingy
12:00pm – 1:00pm @ Cascade 10
PANELISTS: Spencer Ellsworth (M), Raven Oak, David D. Levine, Elliott Kay

Running your Author Business
3:00pm – 4:00pm @ Cascade 5&6
PANELISTS: Raven Oak (M), Annie Bellet, Tori Centanni, Jak Koke

The Changing Landscape of Worldbuilding
7:00pm – 8:00pm @ Cascade 5&6
PANELISTS: Brenda Carre (M), K. M. Alexander, Raven Oak

READING: Raven Oak
8:30pm – 9:00pm @ Cascade 2
Raven Oak (M)

SUNDAY, APRIL 16:
Book Marketing Masterclass
11:00am – 12:00pm @ Cascade 11
PANELISTS: Tori Centanni (M), Jaym Gates, Tod McCoy, Raven Oak

Writing Workshop
on Jeff Howe
12:00pm – 1:00pm @ Baker

The Fantasy Videogame
2:00pm – 3:00pm @ Cascade 5&6
PANELISTS: Raven Oak (M), Jonny Nero Action Hero, Brian Snoddy

When I’m not in a panel, I’ll probably be playing Magic the Gathering or tabletop in the gaming areas. Feel free to come find me and say hello! Also, I have ribbons!

Mar 02

ECCC 2017 Schedule

If you’re heading out to Emerald City Comicon 2017 (ECCC) this weekend, I’m one of the Literary Guests for the Writers’ Block. I’ll be there on Saturday, March 4th, along with a whole slew of other awesome writers like Robin Hobb, Randy Henderson, Django Wexler, Jody Lynn Nye, and of course, my co-panelists!

Come to our panel on Jessica Jones & PTSD on Saturday at 5:15 PM in WSCC 604.

Jessica Jones isn’t the first character to exhibit symptoms of PTSD. Nor will she be the last. Join us as we discuss ways writers & screenwriters are creating diverse characters (like Jessica Jones) with PTSD & other mental illnesses. In terms of representation, what are they getting right, and what are they getting wrong?

PANELISTS: Raven Oak (Moderator), Jesikah Sundin, Bridget A. Natale, and G. G. Silverman.

When I’m not at the panel, I’ll be wandering around the con! Feel free to ping me on social media if you’re around. 🙂

Feb 21

MNG: Diablo III

This week’s Monday Night Gaming / MNG: Diablo III

Since we have some friends we play with online (via Discord), we’re always looking for multiplayer games to play. My husband played (and greatly enjoyed) the first two games in the Diablo series, so it when it was mentioned as a possible game to play on Saturday nights, we hopped in, myself included.


Image copyright Blizzard Entertainment & used under CCL.

Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment

# of Players: 1-4. (Multiplayer caps at 4)

# of Expansions: 1, Reaper of Souls

While I’ve not played Diablo 1 or 2, I’ve watched my husband play them so I walked into Diablo III with some idea of what to expect gameplay wise, plot wise, and so on.

PLOT: As with most multiplayer Blizzard games, the plot line in Diablo III is predictable and a bit ham-fisted, but the plot is entertaining enough to be enjoyable in a multiplayer scenario. As a writer, I’m a bit pickier about my character and plot development so it’s not a plot line that would keep my interest in a solo run. I can see why many players click past most of it to get to Adventure Mode. That said, it’s a better plot arc than the latest Paper Mario game.

CHARACTERS: The whole “she’s a girl so therefore she must be evil” trope is getting pretty old, game designers. Find a new shtick.

LORE: One of my biggest complaints about some of the newer games coming out (cough, cough, I’m looking at you, Destiny), is either a lack of lore or sticking the lore off on a wiki somewhere, expecting players to stop playing in order to go read it. You can go overboard with the world building and lore, but I feel like Diablo III gets it correct here. Lore is scattered throughout the game via books and scrolls (and plot). You can choose to listen to them as you play or skip them if lore isn’t your thing. The lore inserted into the game is relevant and often funny. It added depth to the plot without overloading the player.

GAME PLAY: I haven’t played it solo (with the support characters), but instead have played it 100% multiplayer–keep that in mind in regards to my review. The keyboard controls are nice and simple, relying on a mouse and a few keys to fight your way through the game. The game consists of cut-scenes and dialogue in-between a lot of dungeon crawling and creature/boss fighting, as is typical for hack and slash action RPG games. There are several levels of difficulty, so no matter what level of gamer you are, you’ll probably find a difficulty to your liking. The graphics are clean and like most Diablo games, the music is well composed and fitting to what’s happening in the plot or scene. Very dynamic.

What I like about the game is how fun it is to fight enemies and bosses in hopes of getting good loot and equipment. I also really like crafting items via the blacksmith or gem guy. The user interface system is very intuitive and the leveling system feels natural. Organic.

What I don’t like is how much Blizzard neutered the game after its initial release. People were selling items for real world money and other such shenanigans, and as a result, Blizzard removed players’ abilities to trade gemstones at all or certain items after a time limit. Even worse, rather than just remove the options, some of the play options were “disabled” rather than removed, making it appear as if one might be able to do things they can’t. It gives false hope to a new player (I know it did to me!).

While I understand why Blizzard felt the need to remove some of the game mechanics to ensure that people weren’t doing unethical things with their game, but sheesh. The way it was handled wasn’t the smoothest or best way to go about it. There’s a bit of sloppiness all the way around in this game beyond these edits. They decided post-game to add in a new character in the Reaper of Souls expansion. When folks loved the fortune teller character, they decided to make her accessible earlier in the game. Problem is, they didn’t do anything to smooth over the plot, so when the player gets to Act V, this character we’ve been getting to know through acts I-IV suddenly doesn’t know us. She acts like we’re strangers and the plot doesn’t make sense.

There’s also the issue with the multiplayer cap. Four players in a group That’s it. If you wanted to game in a larger party, tough shit. This was a big problem for our group since there are six of us. We had to split into two groups of three, which only marginally works.

 

Overall Rating/Impression: My least favorite of the Diablo series. If you can get it on sale, it’s worth the play, but be aware of the bugs. 6/10


Monday Night Gaming is a bi-weekly series reviewing tabletop and video games. Articles are posted on the 1st & 3rd Monday.

Read other game reviews in the Monday Night Gaming series by clicking here.

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