One of my favorite things in the world is boating. I love being on the water. I love feeling the wind and the waves as we zip from place to place, and the freedom and adventure that come along with it.
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to share that joy with my daughter for the first time. My little flower did great, she explored the boat, threw some sticks in the water an continually crabbed about how bulky her little life jacket is.
I was hoping to give her a first opportunity to touch a fish, but fortune did not favor us. I’ve been out fishing twice this year, and apparently Casey the Chiro cursed our boat on the fishing opener. Like any true rival, he managed to find something I truly love, and make it turn to ash in my mouth. Is that where the term ashole comes from? He did give me some sage advice during the slow moments of the opener, telling me, “That’s why they call it fishing, and not catching.”
There were some big finales on television this month, and that was the focus of Outside is Overrated Episode 12: Tom and Phoenix Spoil the End of Everything. It was Phoenix’s first full appearance on the podcast, and we would love your feedback.
I also had the opportunity to chat with Sam Charchian on the 15 years he spent with Microsoft and Sony, working with some of the biggest video game publishers in the world.
As slow as the fishing was in May, it was an excellent month for gaming.
Board Gaming Day
Over the course of 13 hours, we managed to play Betrayal at House on the Hill, Game of Thrones, Ascension and Memoir 44, with eight players for the two middle games.
- Betrayal at House on The Hill – We landed the most convoluted haunt I have seen in the game. It centered around the number of items available, with the player with the most items being possessed, and the traitor would change based on the number of items everyone had. It was very difficult, because we had explored a huge swath of the house and had a number of items.
- Game of Thrones – This six hour epic ended rather anticlimactically. The Starks, Grayjoys and Dragon Queen (37.5 percent of the world’s population) allied up to claim victory for Daenerys Targaryen basically waited for her dragons to become strong and victory tokens to pop up in advantageous spots before swooping in for the win. Our hero was playing as the Lannisters. I spent most of six hours battling for Riverrun and Harrenhal. Our alliance with the Baratheons held strong while the treacherous krakens celebrated a shared victory. In the final turn, the Tyrells could have stolen an unlikely victory if I would abandon Casterly Rock for a shared win. We crushed the flowers to maintain my seat of power, but ultimately lost the iron throne.
- Ascension: Alliances – This expansion for the deckbuilding game allows up to four teams of two to compete. Using a new team mechanic, we loaded up on druids and blew the competition away.
- Memoir ’44 – When 11 consecutive hours of board games just isn’t enough, it’s time to bust out Memoir ’44 to throw some dice and kill some dudes. Our buddy Jake had an infantry-heavy map that would be relatively quick to play. When my wife woke up at 2 a.m. and saw that we were starting a game of Memoir, she asked if I had lost my mind. My squad played as marines against the Japanese, waiting for the sun to come up so we could bombard them with our artillery. Both sides had special rules that weren’t really explained before we started, so my side lost a closely contest battle because I lost a unit due to positioning in an effort to trap a Japanese unit without a route to retreat. It was a tightly contested battle, and a nice way to end the day.
The new title from From Software, creators of Dark Souls, is everything I hoped it would be through the first few hours. I made it through the opening hours, and can’t wait to play more. Relying on stealth to even the odds before engaging groups of enemies, I appreciated the brutal takedowns over the “board and sword” approach.
The game is very difficult, but I really enjoyed the progression system. Killing enemies nets experience points, which earn you skill points to invest in different skill trees. When you die, you have the option to stay dead or to resurrect. If you resurrect, your experience stays intact. If you die again, you will (likely) lose a good chunk of experience points and money. I made of habit of resurrecting and running back to the nearest shrine to reset the enemies and basically save my progress.
Thanks to a grappling prosthetic, traversal feels fresh and interesting from the traditional souls experience or as much of it as I have encountered. Enemies are brutal. It feels like there are more defensive options than in Souls games, but there is an intense focus on parrying as opposed to blocking/dodging enemy attacks.
If you are into ninjas and up for a challenging action/RPG, I loved this game.
Final Fantasy V
My first foray into the fifth entry of the iconic series was interesting. Out of all the re-releases, this one clearly had the least loving visual makeover. The story was not as good as IV, but it was still interesting. The job system was back with a new wrinkle – as you leveled up jobs you earned abilities that could be equipped with other classes. If you start out as a White Mage, you could unlock white magic for other classes, allowing you to be a Monk with healing.
I made it through about five hours – disappointing for how much I enjoyed the game – and saw the demise of three crystals. All in all, I am disappointed I didn’t find more time to play this month. Each entry in the series is getting better and better. I look forward to spending time with VI in June.
He may not have been on the podcast this month, but Hobby Box Burns was in our hearts, especially when we teamed up for an evening with Divinity: Original Sin. If I was forced to play one genre of video game for the rest of my life, give me the isometric CRPG. Divinity is an excellent title (I do prefer Pillars of Eternity, but both are great) and it supports online (or couch) co-op.
Burns handles our melee character and archer, while I control a pair of mages. We have played for a total of 18 hours, and we feel like we are just scratching the surface. I hope to dedicate an entire day to the game in June.
There you have it, the column is out with roughly 30 minutes to spare in May. Thanks for spending some time with us this month! We’d love to hear your feedback via email or twitter. Stay inside, kids! – Tom