Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Shadow of the Tomb Raider might be the best game of the year. I preordered it after Day 1 of E3, and since it arrived Friday afternoon I haven’t been able to put it down. My PS4 has seen more action in the last 5 days than it has all year.

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Lara is more real than she’s ever been. She’s always been a badass to me, but watching her struggle with her physical limitations and express real emotion, I couldn’t be more impressed. In this game, she’s grappling with her accountability and guilt after taking a dagger that triggers a Mayan apocalypse. Those feelings seem to be a driving force in every side quest she undertakes to aid and preserve South American indigenous cultures. She pushes through her discomfort and fears, which is more than I can say. I’ve had to take breaks because I’ve been too scared to go on for a bit! Also, the way she expresses her frustration and sheer wonder makes me feel like she’s an extension of the player.

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My usual play style tends to be run-in-guns-blazing, but that’s not working for me here. Shadow of the Tomb Raider almost forces me to be strategic. In one particularly challenging scene, Lara needs to get by eight Trinity associates. Running in when there were even half left still killed me and over. But I stayed patient, practiced new tactics and picked them off one by one as soon as they wandered out of each others sight lines. Between BRUTAL stealth kills and tossing flammable objects to distract enemies, I was able to corral the remaining few into ideal position for annihilation.

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Overall, it’s been way more exciting to camo myself in mud and sneak up behind enemies to silently slit their throats and drag them into the brush. Or hide on a tree branch, shoot them with a roped arrow and string them up in the tree. Or tread water near the edge of a dock until the target gets close, pop out of the water and drag him under to slash or drown him.

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The horror level in Shadow of the Tomb Raider is much higher than I anticipated. It took me 2 nights of playing to get through the tomb with these horrifying ancient zombie(?) creatures led by the queen pictured above. That photo STILL gives me anxiety. It was dark. They were fast. The sounds they made were a blood curdling mix between a hiss and a scream. At one point, one pops out to attack me and I screamed in real life. By the end, I was shaking but I felt so satisfied that I completed it.

And then I couldn’t sleep because I was traumatized.

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I don’t play a lot of games like Far Cry or Uncharted, or actually ANY games where you kill human enemies, so the level of violence in this game was actually pretty shocking at first. But it’s so insane that I kind of love it. At one point, I dragged three enemies – one by one – into the brush with me after silently slitting their throats so no one could help them. The (probably) hundreds of deaths I put Lara through are so graphic they feel personal and the things that happen to her almost balance the horrific things she does to her enemies.

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I don’t want to go too deep and spoil the absolute pleasure of this game for anyone. There’s enough surprise, wonder and adventure for anyone to enjoy this game, whether you’re a Tomb Raider fan or not. GET IT!

How much do you love Lara Croft and/or Tomb Raider? Drop your favorite Tomb Raider moments in the comments.

 

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E3 Recap

E3 2018

E3 2018

I’m back from California, sun-kissed and head spinning with all the amazing things I took in. I’ll have a couple posts coming up about my trip, and as E3 was my main reason for heading to the West Coast, what better place to start?

First of all, I work in tech so I was able to nab a complimentary industry pass. I don’t recommend attending as a gamer. Glux had a rougher go of things with a gamer pass. Not only was the “gamer” community stereotypically smelly, rude and pushy-shovey, but once they were admitted they clogged up the lines and made everyone miserable. It was a much more enjoyable experience with Industry early access.

That said, E3 was like nothing I’ve experienced before. The booths, the swag, the calibur of other professionals buzzing around the show floor… It was so inspirational. I can’t even go into all of it, so here are my highlights.

Best of: Booths
Bethesda stole the show with an immersive Vault 76 walkthrough experience, complete with actors in each of the rooms to make it feel real. IGN got some amazing shots of the vault.

Vault boy at E3 2018

Well hello there, Vault Boy!

When entering the main hall of the convention center, Square Enix’s Mayan ruins-themed booth filled the immediate area. To celebrate Shadow of the Tomb Raider, they took us into Lara’s world, complete with a professional Lara Croft cosplayer stalking the grounds.

Of course, I spent a lot of time around the Jurassic World Evolution compound. Outside, there was a broken fence, presumably torn down by the velociraptor inside, as well as Denis Nedry’s Jeep. Through the looming gates, monitors showed the latest dinosaur creations and their specific DNA make up.

Finally, the Largest Booth Award goes to Fortnite for being the single game with the biggest E3 presence. The back third of South Hall was essentially an ode to Fortnite. The Battle Bus was there with props for a photo opp. Staff in forts handed out branded cups. There was even a mechanical llama pinata! Rows and rows of demos filled the rest of the area.

Demo time!
The first game I played was Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate. In the 15 minute demo, 4 of us teamed up to take on one of three quests. Overall, it seemed the same as MHG on 3DS… just on Switch this time. Online play will be cool and there are some new monsters – my team of four was decimated by the new Elder Dragon Valstrax – but it doesn’t feel different enough to buy again.

Inside the Jurassic World Evolution booth, we sat down in a small theater where an Ingen executive gave a presentation about our mission as new park employees (and the risks involved). She told us we could choose to release and transport one of 3 dinosaurs into their designated pens… and then create a spectacle for park guests by provoking a dinosaur fight! Then we were ushered into the Jurassic Park compound where the demo stations were set up on three platforms. I played the Playstation version and enjoyed it. The dinos are so realistic and well animated. I’m not usually a fan of sims, but this is one I’m going to pick up when the physical release drops on July 3rd.

Jurassic World Evolution Jeep at E3 2018

… I think this was Nedry’s yellow rain slicker…

Luckily, Glux and I secured the very first time slots to play Super Smash Bros Ultimate. The standby line was… deterring to say the least. We got three matches so to make the most of it, we picked the two new stages first – the Sheikah Tower from Breath of the Wild and Moray Towers from Splaton 2. We let our random match up pick the final stage – he chose Donkey Kong’s Rumble Falls, which looked spectacular on the Switch! As for characters, I went with Bayonetta first and then loved the Inkling’s moves so much i played her twice. She’ll very likely be a new main for me. Glux tested the Inkling, then new addition Ridley from Metroid, and ended with Bowser. It’s worth the hype. I can’t wait to play again. As a bonus, we got Smash pins for being among the first to play!

Spotlight on Swag
Bethesda gave away the most swag. You couldn’t walk a booth-length without seeing 50 vault boy masks. Mine is hanging eerily in my office, successfully creeping out all who pass. They also had one of those souvenir penny presser machines set up with four different Fallout 76 designs. For 76¢ (appropriately) I selected the tricentennial design and then immediately preordered the tricentennial edition. In celebration of “Reclamation Day” party hats and cups were doled out to potential Dwellers. All that was missing, was Rad-free cake!

Twitch gave out some of my favorite swag of E3. You can attribute it to my high affinity for the brand, but they gave out purple sunglasses that I’ll actually wear. The tote bags they gave out are compact and quality with the cute Glitch logo. I also really liked their simple, branded nametag stickers that said “My Twitch ID is” with a big blank for your handle. I grabbed a couple to stick on my laptop and bujo.

What Nintendo lacked in swag, it made up for in content and quality. The Smash Bros logo pin is simple and nice. I’ll treasure it. They presented a lot of great photo opps with classic relics from Nintendo games too. DK’s tie, the Master Sword, Pit’s bow, Cappy… Sandbag was my favorite forgotten hero. Glad to see him get some much deserved appreciation!

Overall, I had a great experience. The only real downside was the gamer-clogged lines and the location – LA was the dirtiest city I’ve ever seen and I didn’t feel safe there even in daylight. We Ubered exclusively after 7pm every day, not that LA was particularly walkable anyway. I’m hoping my company will have a presence next year so I can go back to the Expo, all expenses paid.

What were your favorite moments from E3 this year?

Litany of Gaming

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have access to some type of gaming system, whether it was a Tiger electronics handheld,  those “learning” games you had to plug into the TV before computers were a household item, or a Tamagotchi (hey, it counts!).

I started playing games with my family as a social activity. My mom, sister and aunt would play sometimes and I had 2 younger cousins who lived down the block who were into games for a while. Of all of us, I’m the only one who still plays. I’m terrible with dates, but I want to go back as far as possible. I hope you’ll share your history too!

The Fuzzy Days: One of my aunts had an old IBM PC with a game called Gertrude that I begged her to let me play during every visit. My other aunt got an early Macintosh and I would watch my cousins play Chuck Yeager’s Air Combat. I was awful at it because of the inverse controls. While I’m STILL awful with inverse controls, one of those cousins has his pilots license now.

Lineage:

1990 My first system was the NES. I don’t remember being aware of it or asking for it, but we had one. At this point I lived with my mom and sister so it probably kept us out of my mom’s hair with minimal fighting.I begged my mom to take me to the video store on the reg to rent Little Nemo: The Dream Master.

Around this time my cousins down the street got the SNES and we played Top Gear (that music!) and Mario Kart every day before and after school. My stepbrother also had an SNES as well as a PC he played on. He wouldn’t let me play, but I watched him play Final Fantasy, X-Com, Doom and Wolfenstein for hours.

At my dad’s house I had a Sega Genesis and all the Sonic games up to Sonic & Knuckles. Dad sometimes played Ecco the Dolphin with me, but we couldn’t get very far.

1992? I asked for a Gameboy for Christmas so I could play on the 2.5 hour ride to and from my dad’s house every other weekend. I was all about Pokemon and Yoshi’s Cookies. I skipped Game Boy Color. I still have that original Gameboy though.

Original GameBoy Nintendo

Still works!

1996 For Christmas, I got the N64. My cousins got it too and we proximity mined each other into oblivion and hysterics in GoldenEye. Ocarina of Time was the first major Zelda game I really played through and understood. Mario 64 is still my favorite Mario game.

I skipped Nintendo consoles for a while after that, but kept up on handhelds.

1999 I graduated grade school and my mom took me to Toys R Us to get a Sega Dreamcast with my graduation money. I wanted it because I loved Sonic the Hedgehog and the VMUs/save cards were like mini Gameboys. I never got to play much on it because an earthquake in Japan made the VMUs scarce in the US. I couldn’t save my games or enjoy the handheld aspect so that ruined it.

2001 I asked my mom for PS2 for Christmas. I was a Jr in high school and obsessed with Final Fantasy. I upgraded to the PS2 Lite at some point in college. At some point I spent some of my summer earnings on a Gameboy Advance. It was pink and see-through and I loved it. Golden Sun and Final Fantasy Tactics were favorites.

2003 I upgraded to a Gameboy SP.

I skipped GameCube. It was ugly aesthetically and I thought I had outgrown Nintendo consoles. I had a little exposure to it through a friend, but felt meh about it in general. When the Wii came out,  I saw it as a general sports console. My cousins got one for Christmas the year it released, but I was never interested and our moms played it more than any of us did.

Although watching my late grandfather hit a home run with the wiimote remains one of my favorite Christmas memories. Ever.

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Grampi hit a home run and we all jumped out of our seats.

2004/2005 I bought the original Nintendo DS. Then, I upgraded to the DS Lite and played it all the time. I skipped the DSi and XLs because I didn’t see the need. My

In 2006 or 7 I traded up for a PS3, which I wanted for the next Final Fantasy games mostly.

March 27th 2011, I picked up my preordered Nintendo 3DS in blue, which I still have. I was still playing my DS Lite until this point. I wanted to replay Ocarina of Time on handheld and was also really driven to buy because of the 3D gimmick and the concept of Streetpass. Several social groups sprouted around Streetpass to encourage people to meet and play. Backwards compatibility was a big draw for me too, with all systems.

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Meet the family!

November 2012 I picked up a Wii U at launch. I don’t remember why I wanted this console. I think I wanted to give Nintendo another try? I did not play it much. I was still really into PS3 and my 3DS. I started playing it a lot more when Splatoon came out, but that was toward the end of the system’s lifespan.

In May 2013, I bought the 3DS XL Animal Crossing Edition. I wasn’t planning to upgrade until I saw this gorgeous edition. I am obsessed with Animal Crossing. That and Zelda are the only two Nintendo IPs I really love. I still have this system as well.

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Still one of my favorite 3DSXL designs

For Christmas 2014 I asked my mom for an Xbox One. I had never had an Xbox so I wanted to see what the big deal was and try a new console.

In February 2015 I bought the NEW Nintendo 3DS XL Majora’s Mask edition for myself for Galentine’s Day. Wasn’t planning to upgrade because I love my Animal Crossing 3DS but I had been bugging Nintendo to port Binding of Isaac for a couple of years at this point and they were finally releasing it but only on the New 3DS because of the C stick. This is my current 3DS.

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Muldoon likes taking care of his Nintendogs.

December 2015. A dude from Tinder sent me a PS4 because we were having a great chat volley about games, (but he was only in the US for one night and I was not about to meet up with that) and he wanted to play with me on PS4, which I said I did not have. I thought it was a joke, but gave him a secure address and sure enough, the PS4 showed up with his real name on the receipt. I googled him to find him very married AND with a newborn. I kept the PS4 as Asshole Tax.

December 2016 I picked up the NES Classic because nostalgia.

March 2, 2017 my Nintendo Switch arrived at my office a day before release. Breath of the Wild wouldn’t show up until the next day. I wasn’t originally planning on getting a Switch, having been disappointed with my Wii U, but I literally cried at the trailer for Breath of the Wild. Also Splatoon 2. Also the best indie support Nintendo has ever had (I play games on PC rarely, preferring consoles, but loving the endless game options on Steam). I also got to attend a preview event for the Switch where I got to experience all of its configurations and capabilities. I was impressed. And it brought back that social aspect I love about the 3DS.

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Can I have all the joy con colors please?

September 2017 I picked up the SNES Classic because nostalgia.

So that’s where I am. Currently no plans to upgrade the PS4 and Xbox One. If an N64 Mini is announced I’ll be all over that. But this sort of feels like the last generation of console gaming. As the industry moves to mobile, AR and VR, the way we interact with games is going to change drastically.

What has your gaming litany looked like? Which systems were your favorites?