Episode 171: Into the MAG 2019, Night 2

The second night of MAGFest rolls on with a second night of podcasts.

Part one brings on Lexington, Kentucky developers Amanda Hudgins, Adam Schroeder, and John Meister to talk their projects and more.

Part two collects together Wardcast friend and experience designer Ruthie Edwards along with Zarvot creator, Sam Eng.

Episode 170: Into the MAG 2019, Night 1

It’s the first night of MAGFest and the first podcast of 2019. We’re bringing on a bunch of awesome folks to talk anything and everything around MAGFest.

Part one brings on attorneys Ryan Morrison and Noah Downs, along with streamer extraordinaire Ryan “McLaffy Taffy” Capps.

Part two has us sitting down with friends of the show Nelson Johnson and Michael Macasiano and lead designer from Mega Cat Studios, Andy Marsh.

Best Games Played 2018: Greatest Mechanical Reach

These games and awards were decided during the Wardcast’s Best Games Played 2018 episode, where we considered any and all games played by the members of the Wardcast in 2018, even if they weren’t released that calendar year.

Earlier this year, Alex came to the podcast with glowing praise for tiny smartphone game Part Time UFO. I’d been trying to find enjoyable mobile games to dig into, and when he mentioned that the game was developed by HAL Egg, the mobile division of HAL Laboratory and the minds behind Kirby, Earthbound, and Smash Bros., I was itching to play. In the game you command a cute, little UFO with an extendable claw, taking on a number of gigs to pick up and place objects in specific locations – what Western audiences would call a crane game or claw machine and Eastern audiences would call a UFO catcher.

Even on first blush, I could tell that this was a well-crafted package: the pixel art was adorable, the music was catchy, and the controls felt solid. There’s a virtual analog stick to direct the UFO and a virtual button to operate the claw. There’s also an option to use a one-finger control scheme that, while intriguing, works better as an accessibility option than a convenient way to play. But the first few levels were fun, so I kept playing, not knowing what I would find.

What starts out as a simple physics-based puzzle game unfurls into a series of precarious challenges, thoughtful puzzles, demanding time limits, and more. I was immediately sucked in by the optional objectives for each level, like making sure boxes were placed right side up and stacking other objects in the correct order. Each level has three of these extra achievements, and they typically include a time limit. By completing these goals, you earn extra money which helps you unlock unique outfits for your UFO. These outfits don’t just add a cosmetic flair, most also bring strategic benefits: faster movement, stronger claw control, and other smaller tweaks that can make the difference between succeeding and failing at your current objective.

Part Time UFO brings all of HAL Labs’ charm into a tight mobile game that branches out into challenges that will keep a player engaged all the way through to the last gig.

Best Games Played 2018: Deepest Dive

These games and awards were decided during the Wardcast’s Best Games Played 2018 episode, where we considered any and all games played by the members of the Wardcast in 2018, even if they weren’t released that calendar year.

I’m pretty picky when it comes to roguelikes. Mainstays like FTL, Spelunky, and Darkest Dungeon just don’t do it for me. The unforgiving permadeath mixed with sticky, clunky gameplay ensured that I could never engage with them for more than one or two play sessions. But despite being put-off by the most popular entries in the genre, I’m always on the lookout for one that aligns with my sensibilities, and every once in a while, I find one that sucks me in.

This happened previously with Rogue Legacy – a game that professed itself as a rogue lite, where the punishment of death was lessened by adding persistent progression. I spent hours churning through Rogue Legacy: building out the skill tree, upgrading character classes, unlocking armor sets, and stomping my way through the game’s castle in an attempt to defeat its five bosses. That never happened, mind you, but the journey is what made it fun. That’s important. A lot of rougelikes make the entirety of the experience solely about what comes at the end, about trying to pull off the single, perfect run that gets you over the game’s stated finish line, and I played a lot of PUBG last year, so I know the rush.

But Enter the Gungeon, like other rogue lites, improves on this formula by staying jam-packed with stuff to do and see on your way to the endgame, attempting to kill the Elder Dragun. After all, if you never see the end, you may as well enjoy the middle. The game plays in the style of top-down bullet hell roguelikes like Binding of Isaac and Nuclear Throne. Clear a room, move on. What keeps the game fresh is its progression, its exploration, and – most importantly – its weapons.

The Gungeon is where every firearm from history and fiction comes to call home. Glancing through the Ammonomicon, you find amazing armaments like a NES Zapper, a poisonous t-shirt cannon, a shreddin’ guitar, and a lowercase letter R that shoots out the letters B-U-L-L-E-T. You start out with only a fraction of the game’s 200-plus weapons unlocked, and you’ll only ever see, at most, a dozen or so guns in any single run through the Gungeon. You’ll find guns that you’ll naturally gravitate towards and inevitably lose when you die, only to start over and have to acclimate yourself with a new firearm. This is what makes Gungeon so addicting: there’s always some new trick or objective or mechanic to sink your teeth into.

What starts out as a straightlaced roguelike with a seemingly clear objective – kill the final boss – turns into a intricately laced adventure that’s as deep as it is wide. Soon after the game starts, you learn about the Bullet That Can Kill The Past, a rare artifact that the player characters are hunting for, seemingly because they wish to escape some horror from their former life. Building the Bullet requires four components that are scattered about the Gungeon, and each one you retrieve has to be brought down to the final floor, the Forge, and given to the Blacksmith. So this creates the second persistent objective that the game has to offer, but there’s more.

You’ll also discover NPCs locked in cells throughout the Gungeon, and once you find the corresponding key and free them, they return to the entryway of the Gungeon, known as the Breach, and offer you aid in the form of purchasable unlocks, hunting objectives, and also elevator repair from the Tinker. The Tinker adds a unique wrinkle to a traditionally linear rougelike structure. Want to hunt for a specific reagent for the Bullet That Can Kill The Past on the third floor, but don’t want to risk dying on the first or second floor? Easy, give the Tinker the required number of resources found in the Gungeon – keys, shell casings, and bullet blanks – and he’ll build you an express elevator that takes you straight to the third floor. But to unlock it, you have to give all the resources all in one go – there’s no persistence here.

And I haven’t even gotten to synergies.

Base Gungeon had passive items that modified your weapons to great effect. Say you have a gun like the H4mmer, an average but reliable weapon, which fires a good amount of bullets quickly and effectively, with the last shot in the clip being a literal hammer. Now, say you also have the Stout Bullets item, which makes your bullets bigger and slower. Now you have a gun that shoots a quick spray of difficult to dodge ordinance. While you have to accept what the Gungeon doles out, you can mix and match your resources to deadly effect. Freezing bullets, healing bullets, electrified bullets, wings that grant flight, homing shots, and more add another layer to an already enormous cake.

But with Gungeon’s 2.0 update, Advanced Gungeons and Draguns, we were introduced to synergies, which are specific weapon and item combos that create completely new enhancements. An example: if you have the Mega Douser – a play on Super Soaker – and the Snowballer ice gun, the Mega Douser now leaves a trail of ice in its wake and has a chance of freezing enemies.

Most games have difficulty with having a single engrossing system, let alone two, let alone five, but Gungeon synergizes all its gameplay together into a symphony of systems within systems within systems, making it a more engaging roguelike than any I’ve seen.

Episode 169: Guest Games Played 2018

We’re rounding out the year with something special: we asked our guests if they wanted to say a few words about the games they played in 2018 that meant the most to them.

Thanks to Ruthie Edwards, Joe Wetmore, Mike Futter, Mason Brown, Alex Berry, Harris Foster, Craig Barnes, and Matt Gambell for taking the time to share their thoughts on what games were the most impactful to them in 2018.

Games include Factorio, Nier: Automata, Return of the Obra Dinn, Monster Hunter: World, Hitman 2, God of War, Celeste, Just Shapes & Beats, The Quiet Man, Dead Cells, Marvel’s Spider-Man, and Tetris Effect.

Episode 168: The Honorables 2018, Lower Bracket

We return for the second half of our honorable mentions bracket, here to decide our top ten honorable mentions this year. Join us as we duke it out over our favorite niche, obscure, and underrepresented games from 2018!

Episode 167: The Honorables 2018, Upper Bracket

New in 2018, it’s our latest and greatest end of the year show: The Honorables! It’s here where we discuss all the overlooked and underappreciated games that we played this past year and find our favorites in a double elimination bracket.

Each host submits a list of ten games comprised of up to fifty percent games that didn’t make it into our Best Games Played list and the rest chosen from any other game we played this year.

Join us in part one as we find out which games blaze a path through the upper bracket and which games have to find new life in the lower bracket next episode.

Episode 166: Best Games Played 2018

We’re back with the Wardcast Best Games Played for the third year running, here to discuss and debate the ten best games played for 2018.

The rules are simple: each host brings their personal ten favorite games from this past year. Any game played during 2018 is eligible regardless of release date. We’ll eliminate games one by one in a fight to the death, until we uncover the true winners.

Join us as we share our superhottakes, explore the wonders of warketing, and challenge our warring marmies on our journey to the best games played.

Awards include Most Majestic, Deepest Dive, Greatest Mechanical Reach, Greatest Redemption, Clearest Purpose, Freshest Storytelling, Best Antics, Best Remix, Most Charming, and Best Evolution.

Episode 165: Marvel vs. Konami

For our final regular roundtable of the year, we decide to do some mop-up on any and all games we missed out on talking about this year.

Alex glows about the sunlight in his hands, Will takes us down to Fartburg, Dylan chats about the GameCube Plug ‘n Play, and we end with a bombshell of an announcement.

Games include Star Wars, Satan’s Hollow, Golly! Ghosts!, Total Nuclear Annihilation, Bubble Bobble, Wild Riders, Super Monkey Ball, Gunblade, X-Men: Children of the Atom, Final Fantasy XV, Dragoon, Boktai: The Sun is in Your Hand, Dark Souls Remastered, Spike City, Part Time UFO, Dr. Mario, Mega Man 11, N++, Super Mario Sunshine, You Are Jeff Bezos, Tetris Effect, Jackbox Party Pack 5, and Space Hell (Working Title).

Episode 164: The Quiet Man Fan

Dylan is joined by Patrick Klepek – senior reporter at Waypoint and champion of The Quiet Man.

Patrick discusses his thoughts on a previous article he wrote about being both an Internet personality and a reporter, his relationship with his fans, and the eternal search for authenticity, as seen in things like the Thrillist article about trying to find the best burger in America. (We’d also be remiss if we didn’t include this additional information that came about about the owner of Stanich’s – the restaurant discussed in the Thrillist piece – after the article was first published. Content warning for domestic abuse.)

We also talk about the continued democratization of both games media and game development; Jessica Price’s article, “In search of real criticism”, and our rejection of the idea that there is no good contemporary games criticism; and Patrick’s favorite games he’s played this year as well as his personal spin on a game of the year list.

Games include The Quiet Man, Yoku’s Island Express, Moss, Astro Bot Rescue Mission, and Vampyr.