On The Unwind Podcast, two friends and I discuss topics related to tech, games, gadgets, and geek culture each week. Here is a soundbyte where we talk about my first impressions of the Oculus Rift, the upcoming virtual reality headset. I’ve had a couple of weeks to play around with the second iteration of the Development Kit, and Shawn and Josiah have also given it a spin. Check out what we have to say about it.
The Commentist Bloc has gotten off to a great re-launch and we are overjoyed with the positive response we’re receiving to our two shows, The Unwind, a weekly chat about tech, games, gadgets, and geek culture, and Roll to Hit, a 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons live play podcast. The shows can also be found on iTunes and Stitcher.
I’ve got an exciting 7 days coming up, spanning a few different conferences. First up is PAX East 2015. The whole Commentist Bloc crew will be there to check out the latest in gaming and tech. Fingers crossed we get a good demo of the Oculus Rift.
Then I’ll be heading out to Austin for the SxSW EDU conference to speak on a panel called Turning Public Data into Public Knowledge, where I’ll be discussing the importance of data transparency in education and specifically how that impacts school choice in Hartford.
I’ll be wrapping up my trip by checking out the SxSW Gaming Expo. So if you’re planning on attending any of these events, be sure to drop me a line to meet up and say hi!
Games are always tough to recommend since it has a lot to do with personal preference and what type of games you enjoy playing. Even though many people prefer consoles over PC, there is still no doubt that PC offers the best gaming experiences. With the holidays coming up, people want to know what games to sink hours into to escape the drama that this time of year can bring. So I’ve put together my Top 5 list of games to pick up no matter what platform you prefer and what genres you enjoy. This week – PC!
PC is difficult to list games because there are just so many options. Not only are there scores of indie games launched each year (it would take you hours just to browse through the Steam library), you’re also free to play any nearly any game that was ever launched. Ever. I’ve decided to keep this list to games that are exclusively on PC or are made significantly better by playing on PC rather than a console.
5) MMORPGs – World of Warcraft, Eve Online, TERA
It would be difficult for me to make a Top 5 list for PC without at least mentioning Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs). These are the games that most people are used to hearing about when it comes to gamers spending 100’s of hours in a game world. The king of them all, of course, is World of Warcraft. The game recently celebrated its 10 year anniversary, and while I only have limited experience with the game (only a month or so of consistent playing), I can honestly say that it still holds up today. The game mechanics are solid and I didn’t even get to touch the end game content (raids, etc), which apparently is where the game really gets good. Despite the recent hemorrhaging of players, the fifth expansion, Warlords of Draenor, was released in November, and has received rave reviews. It is worth pointing out that there is a monthly subscription to play the game.
If you’re looking for a free to play option, I suggest TERA. Similar to WoW, you go on quests, fight monsters, level up, and gather resources in a fantasy setting. The game’s active combat made it more exciting to play for my group of friends to play over WoW or other alternatives.
If space battles are more your speed, then EVE Online is the way to go. The game is super complex, enough so that it’s turned me off to the game the few times I’ve tried to get into it, but there is an incredible amount of depth to the game. There are some really crazy stories that come out of the guild battles and epic battles that include thousands of players.
No matter what MMO you choose, these games are built to suck you in for as much time as possible. WARNING: These games are highly, highly addictive. I have friends who dropped out of college or lost jobs because of them, so proceed with caution.
4) MOBAs – League of Legends, DoTA 2, Heroes of the Storm
I know, I know, it’s cheating for me to name genres of games over individual games, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas (MOBA). MOBAs, despite being a relatively new genre, are the most played and watched games available right now and have tournaments with multimillion dollar prize pools. I’ll start by saying that I am terrible at MOBAs. I’ve tried both League of Legends and DoTA 2 and for whatever reason, and I just can’t improve at them. That said, I get the appeal, and know that it is not far fetched to find players with over 1000 hours logged into them. If you’re looking for team based battles over the solo grind of many MMORPGs, then MOBAs may be for you. Games typically take 20-45 minutes as you destroy the other team’s minions and heroes to get to their base, but the addicting gameplay makes it easy to play a dozen games before you even realize that it got dark outside. Both League of Legends and DoTA are free to play, but will probably take you a little while to learn all the base mechanics. From what I’ve heard Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm is a more streamlined, simpler game to play, but you have to be fortunate enough to get a beta invite at this time.
For those of you who were fans of playing Magic the Gathering, Pokemon, or other trading card games back in the day, Hearthstone is an absolute must. Another free to play (and another Blizzard game) option on the PC, Hearthstone allows you to build decks and pit them against the computer or other human players. While Magic the Gathering is available on the PC as well, Hearthstone is incredibly easy to learn, but don’t let that fool you. The mechanics may be simple, but learning how to effectively build decks and chain together plays gives the game a ton of depth. Games usually take around 15-20 minutes to play, but I can’t tell you the number of times logging on to play 1 or 2 games turned into 10 or 11. A big expansion is due out this month as well, so even if you’ve played Hearthstone before, the holidays may be a great time to get back into the game.
2) Telltale Games – The Wolf Among Us, The Walking Dead Season 1 and 2
Telltale Games has been putting out these sort of “choose your own adventure” type games for years now, and it took me a while to get into them, but boy, am I glad I did. I was hesitant at first because gameplay is very different than in games I’m used to playing. The focus isn’t to aim down the sites and shoot zombies or even do much exploring. Instead, the focus of Telltale Games is on the story, character development, and player choices, and they deliver on all of these. I tried The Walking Dead previously, and was turned off because I approached the game with the wrong mindset. These games are more like watching TV shows, and they’re even broken up into episodes that take around 1-2 hours each.
I received The Wolf Among Us as a gift and couldn’t put the game down. I finished all 5 episodes in two sittings. The voice acting is solid, the story is incredibly well written, and the use of traditional fable characters in unconventional settings (based on the Fable comic series) was very enthralling. The Walking Dead Season 1 I found on a Steam deal for under $10, and I can honestly say that I have never been so emotionally moved by a game. It is a brilliant story told in the Walking Dead universe (with different characters) that will appeal fans of the TV/comic series.
If you’re the type of person that enjoys binge watching shows on netflix or playing games in predetermined chunks of 1-2 hours, I highly recommend the Telltale Games. In addition to The Wolf Among Us, and The Walking Dead Seasons 1 and 2, Tales from the Borderlands and The Game of Thrones have also been recently released.
1) The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
I know what many of you are thinking – “But Rob, Skyrim has been out for 3 years, we all know about that game already. Why would you have this on your list?”. It’s true, Skyrim came out in 2011 and many people have played it, but Skyrim on the PC is a completely different experience than Skyrim on the console. Skyrim has some of the biggest replay value of any RPG that I’ve ever played. Not only is the world incredibly immersive, the map expansive, and the combat fun and entertaining, but mods have been able to keep this game fresh today, years after its initial release. Especially considering I’ve seen deals for Skyrim for under $5, it’s costs very little to try out the insane number of mods that people have created for the game. Head over to Nexusmods to see what’s available right now – from graphic overhauls and updates, to new weapons, magic, and creatures, to new campaigns and lands altogether. And people are still creating new mods all the time. Gamespot even has a weekly show to highlight new mods created three years later. I know I’ve said that a bunch of times already but I can’t stress enough how crazy the relevance is. I’ve gotten back into Skyrim a number of times already since my first playthrough, and have easily clocked over 200 hours in the game, far more than any other RPG that I’ve played. If you have yet to play this game, now is the time to start. With the main game, DLC, and mods, you essentially have an endless number of hours to keep you entertained over the holiday. One thing is for sure, it’s never felt so awesome to be Dragonborn.
Divinity: Original Sin – If you’re a fan of turn based combat RPG’s that allow you to control a group, you can’t go wrong with Divinity: Original Sin, but don’t get me wrong, it is a tough game. There is some great humor in the game, and you can even play co-op with a friend. A great pick up for anyone looking for a hardcore, turn based game.
Starcraft II – Real time strategy enthusiasts will love Starcraft II. My friends and I played hours and hours of the original Starcraft in LAN parties growing up, and the second installment of the game tightens up the mechanics. Another game that is incredibly difficult to master, Starcraft II’s campaign and multiplayer will keep you hungry to improve your skills.
Minecraft – While I’ve never gotten into the game myself, it’s hard to ignore the hysteria around Minecraft. The lego-like game has seen some truly amazing creations by its players, and gamers who enjoy building worlds will surely enjoy the game.
Civilization: Beyond Earth – If you’re looking for a turn based strategy game that may take you days to complete a single match, Civilization: Beyond Earth is a good choice for you. The latest installment of the game takes you to space as you vie for global, and galactic, supremacy.
Games are always tough to recommend since it has a lot to do with personal preference and what type of games you enjoy playing. But with console prices so low during Black Friday, there’s no doubt that many people made the leap to next generation (PS4/Xbox One) and with the holidays coming up, people want to know what games to sink hours into to escape the drama that this time of year can bring. So I’ve put together my Top 5 list of games to pick up no matter what platform you prefer and what genres you enjoy. This week – PS4/Xbox One!
5) Halo: The Master Chief Collection (Xbox One)
Anyone who’s owned an Xbox since it debuted in 2001 has probably experienced at least one of the games in the Halo franchise. Not only is it considered to be an incredible series that spans over a decade, but Halo is known for redefining
online multiplayer shooters. For the price of one game, The Master Chief Collection contains both single player and multiplayer modes from Halo 1 (the Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition), 2, 3, and 4. The earlier games have updated graphics and maps, and even lets you switch between the new and classic looks. Halo: The Master Chief Collection is worth dozens of hours of campaign and an endless amount of multiplayer madness bound to last you well into 2015.
4) Dragon Age: Inquisition (PS4/Xbox One)
Admittedly, this is a game that I have not been able to experience yet since it just came out and I have a backlog of games I’m currently working on finishing, but I am looking forward to diving into this world. Judging by reviews, this is a game with an expansive open world with an endless amount of quests to pursue. Fans of the Dragon Age series will undoubtedly be eager to get their hands on this latest installment. I’m a huge fan of games that have meaningful choices that impact character development, and Dragon Age seems to incorporate that element into its story. With many reviews citing over 100+ hours of gameplay, including the story and side quests, this will be a great pick up for anyone looking to lose themselves in a new game world.
3) Destiny (PS4/Xbox One)
I can’t remember the last time I was so hyped for a game release, and boy, did Destiny not disappoint. From the development team that created the Halo franchise, Destiny promised to be something new. A type of blend between first person shooters and Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG’s). While it may not have been as genre shattering as it was initially touted to be, this game is simply fun as hell. I highly recommend playing this game with a group of friends, especially as you get to the higher levels and raids, which shouldn’t be too hard to do seeing as nearly everyone on my friends list was playing this game at some point. Fans of the Borderland series will be right at home playing Destiny, as it keeps many of the same elements. While the game isn’t particularly challenging per se, and the story and voice acting aren’t the greatest, it nails down the mechanics of a good shooter. Taking down hordes of enemies just feels great, and the addiction of leveling up weapons and armor and going on loot runs will appease any RPG fan. With the first major DLC expansion coming in early December, it’s a great time to get into the struggle to save Earth.
2) Grand Theft Auto V (PS4/Xbox One)
Grand Theft Auto V was one of the standout games in the last year of the past generation of consoles. With a great story line that arcs across three main protagonists in a incredible, sprawling rendition of Hollywood and the surrounding area, this game packs in more activities than any other game that comes to mind. Outside of the fantastic campaign, you can do everything from skydiving, racing, and jetskiing to hiking, hunting, and playing tennis. Oh, and of course, perform bank heists, take police on wild chases up and down the Pacific coast, and cause mayhem in any way you can possibly imagine. The number of possibilities in this game are remarkably staggering. The high definition remake makes the game even more stunning on PS4 and Xbox One. This updated version also brings first person mode to the game, which adds an entirely new sense of realism to the game. Driving, especially on motorcycles, is exhilarating, and I even caught myself apologizing to cars I barreled my sports car into on the freeway. The online mode of the game allows you to go on missions with friends, but in my opinion, the fun lies in the beautifully created open world, giving you a massive sandbox for you to create some hilarious adventures. With a score of 97 on metacritic, this is truly a game to not overlook, even if you’ve already played it on the last generation of consoles.
1) The Last of Us Remastered (PS4)
Hands down, The Last of Us was my favorite game last year, and probably even last console generation. It would be very difficult for me not to recommend this game to anyone other than those seriously turned off by violent games (there are some really brutal scenes). In a year that saw the release of more than a few games with good storylines, the plot and voice acting in the Last of Us are some of the best I’ve ever encountered in my 20+ years of gaming. I haven’t felt so close and connected to characters since the crew on the Mass Effect series, and joining Joel and Ellie on their journey and seeing their transformation really touched me. This is a game stays with you long after you play it, much like a beloved television show, with some highly memorable scenes. Even if you played the story before, being able to replay it in high definition on the PS4 is well worth the price (especially now that it has been substantially reduced during Black Friday and Cyber Monday). I have a feeling that this game will remain in my Top 5 all time favorite games for a long, long time.
FIFA 15, Madden NFL 15, NBA 2K15, NHL 15 (PS4/Xbox One) – No matter what sport you fancy, chances are, there is a game for it. My particular taste is for soccer, and FIFA 15 did not disappoint. I sink well over 100 hours into the series every year, and with the variety of modes, there is always something to keep me entertained.
Shadow Of Mordor (PS4/Xbox One) – Finally a great game in the Lord of the Rings universe. A fantastic open world game with an innovative gameplay system created to infiltrate and manipulate the enemy forces. With tons of side quests to complete, this is well worth consideration if you’re looking for a good goblin killing fantasy adventure.
Towerfall (PS4) – One of my go to games when my friends are over. If you have a bunch of PS4 controllers lying around and friends coming over during the holidays, this indie hit is must have with its frantic, pixelated gameplay. It will have you and your friends jumping and yelling in no time.
Child of Light (PS4/Xbox One) – The game was a surprise to me. I picked it up on sale when it was released on the Xbox One, and immediately fell in love with the art style and gameplay. Those of you who enjoy turn based combat will surely consider this a worthwhile purchase.
Sunset Overdrive (Xbox One) – The best comparison I can make for Sunset Overdrive is to Dead Rising. With its wacky weapons and the way it doesn’t try to take itself seriously, fans of the Dead Rising series will definitely enjoy Sunset Overdrive.
- Oculus Rift First Impressions – The Unwind Soundbyte
- Tracking Hartford Students Through College (Class of 2007)
- What is the Value of Art in Video Games? – The Unwind Soundbyte
- Will the Surface 3 Become the “iPad Killer”? – The Unwind Soundbyte
- Turning Public Data into Public Knowledge – SxSW Panel Audio