MUCK

Muck isn’t great, but at least it’s free.

Muck is worth playing as an example of how compelling various roguelike elements and open-world survival games can be, even when done in a mediocre context. With that said, I think Risk of Rain 2 is a better 3D roguelike, and Minecraft is a better open-world crafting game. Maybe because Muck was made as a joke. Okay, let’s step back for a minute.

Despite the fact that we live in 2021, people apparently still write rude YouTube comments. I’m not sure why they do this. There are only two possible outcomes when you write a rude YouTube comment:

  1. No one sees your comment, no one cares, and you scream into the void.
  2. Someone sees your comment, and they feel bad for a moment.
  3. Someone sees your comment, and decides to dunk on you as hard as feasibly possible.

Muck is an example of #3.

I’m going to link the video here, all you really need to know is that Muck was made quickly, mostly to make a silly video, and now has been played a whole bunch.

I’ve only played about 5 hours of Muck, but I’m still going to write about it, because I’ll be damned if I don’t get something out of those five hours.

I don’t think Muck is bad, it’s more that it just isn’t very polished in any respect, which all things considered, kind of makes sense. To my mind, the game has more in common with roguelikes than crafting/open world survival games. I say this because in my experience, you don’t actually spend a lot of time building bases or structures like you might in say, Valheim.

Instead, you’ll toss up a few walls, build your crafting stations, and then desperately scramble around looking for food, supplies, and powerups before night falls, and enemies attack. If you’re playing multiplayer, there might be some division of labor on who exactly is trying to find what, but it’s basically a non-stop rush to get lumber to craft a workbench to craft a pick to mine rocks to make a furnace to smelt ore to…. you can probably see where I’m going with this. In any case, at some point, you’ll notice the sun has gone down, and you’re being mauled by goblins. Or wolf-shaped things. Or what appears to be a flying anemic dragon.

If you manage to kill them, they’ll drop some gold, which you can spend to open chests containing permanent buffs, similar to Risk of Rain. If I had any actual complaints, it would be that these buffs tend to be fairly dull, such as faster move speed, faster attack speed, more damage, etc. Nothing about them really lends itself toward being build-defining, or letting you choose a playstyle.

At some point you’ll either die, and restart this entire process (or just quit), or you’ll build up enough weapons and armor to start actually trying to beat the game. Unlike many other games in this genre, Muck actually does have an ending. You win by beating a few bosses, collecting some gems from them, repairing a boat with said gems plus a bunch of other supplies, and choosing to leave. Then there’s a final boss fight, which might just utterly shred you if you get unlucky.

You’ll notice I haven’t said much about combat in Muck, and that’s because it’s as barebones as it feasibly could be. You have swords, you hit people with them, and you move away from them when they do an attack to dodge their backswing. Some enemies shoot projectiles.

And that’s pretty much everything that makes up Muck. I don’t have too much to say on it. Its a free, incredibly barebones randomly generated survival game with roguelike elements. It doesn’t do anything incredible, but it’s also not trying or claiming to do anything incredible. There are worse ways to spend your time, and all the better ones cost money. If you’re really bored, and everyone in your friend group refuses to buy new games ever, consider grabbing Muck for free on Steam.

MTG Arena – Historic Brawl Best Cards

The best cards until Wizard prints better ones, or half the list gets banned from the format.

Ah, Monday. The first and worst day of the week, when you realize that you really should have been productive over the weekend, and instead spent the entire thing playing games, lazing about, eating jalapeno naan, then chugging milk to try to stop the burning.

Maybe that’s just me.

In any case, you get to Monday, you realize you haven’t written an article for the week, so you end up trying to throw together some Buzzfeed-esque listicle to stall for time. Look on the bright side though: this article has no ads, and isn’t click-arbitraging!

  1. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

Ugin gets the #1 spot on this list for a very simple reason: He’s a colorless boardwipe. In a format with a limited amount of control and board wipes, he gives every single deck access to a powerful amount of control, and every single other one of his abilities is strong as well. He’s also not banned in every other format, unlike a large majority of this list.

  1. Command Tower/Arcane Signet
    I’m putting these here as a pair, because they’re effectively the exact same thing: mana production in your commander’s colors. The only reason to not run both of them is because your deck is mono-color.
  1. Solemn Simulacrum
    Colorless land ramp, card draw, and a 2/2, all for 4 mana. Like Ugin, Solemn Simulacrum gets its spot on the list because it slots into pretty much any Historic Brawl deck.
  1. Field of the Dead
    Banned in Historic. Banned in Brawl. Banned in Standard. In theory, a card that makes you a 2/2 zombie every time you put a land into play while you control 7 differently named lands isn’t this good. But with the length of Brawl games, it’s just a powerhouse. Of cards on this list, I’d hold off on crafting this one primarily because I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets banned from Historic Brawl.
  1. Golos, Tireless Pilgrim
    Golos is an entirely reasonable card in every other format. In Historic Brawl, he’s one of only 9 five color commanders, and one of two colorless five color commanders. Combine this with his land fetching, and his activated ability, and you have arguably the single best five-color commander in the format. Golos is a Solemn Simulacrum on crack. It’s worth keeping in mind that Golos was banned in Brawl, so you may want to wait on crafting him. Or maybe craft him now before he gets banned. Regardless, arguably one of the best commanders.
  1. Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath
    I’d like to think the creation process for Uro went something like this:
    MTG Designer A: All right, so growth spiral is a perfectly reasonable card.
    MTG Designer B: Sure.
    MTG Designer A: But what if it was also a 6/6 Creature that triggered it’s ability each time it entered the battlefield, or attacked?
    MTG Designer B: Wow. That seems like it might be too powerful. We better increase its mana cost by 1 and make it sorcery speed.
    MTG Designer A: Sure. But because it costs so much, you should be able to cast it from the graveyard, and maybe it isn’t a creature unless you do? And maybe it should give you life?
    MTG Designer B: Sounds good to me! Let’s get lunch.
    The end result is this absolute unit.
  1. Wilderness Reclamation
    It turns out untapping all your lands at the end of your turn in addition to the start of your turn is pretty good.
  1. Omnath, Locus of Creation
    I was gonna say that Omnath, Locus of Creation falls into the same space as Golos, but then I went and actually checked, and he really falls into more the same space as Uro, which is “Format warping god-emperor.” Seriously, this motherfucker got banned everywhere. Except Historic Brawl apparently. So enjoy him while he lasts I guess?

I honestly can’t think of anything else to add to this list at the moment, so yeah. Here’s some weekly content. Now go yell at me on Twitter about how I clearly missed Stormcrow, and Golos is trash because he dies to removal.

Back 4 Blood Beta

My friends review the Back 4 Blood beta so I don’t have to!

Back 4 Blood can’t seem to decide if it’s a spiritual sequel to Left 4 Dead or not. On the one hand, the marketing, dev team, aesthetics, all scream Left 4 Dead. On the other hand, the subreddit for the game keeps saying that it’s unfair to compare to the two, c’mon guys.

If you haven’t played Left 4 Dead, here’s a brief overview of the structure of the game. You play as a group of 4 survivors, you start in a safehouse, and try to make it to the next safehouse while shooting, beating and running from the undead. I think the shortest way to describe it would be “Co-Op Horde Shooter”. In addition to the normal zombies, there are special infected who have a few special abilities, you have the ability to res your friends when they get downed, and you have to manage ammo.

B4B adds a few systems, including a stamina system shared by melee and sprinting, and a card system that seems sort of like a rouge-like. Oh, and attachments for your guns. Cool. Overview done, lets get to the reviewing.

I think the Back 4 Blood beta is garbage. The thing is, I haven’t really even played the game, and I don’t like the genre, so I figured I’d ask my other friends I played with for their feedback. So let’s see what these other folks thought, shall we?

Stop comparing it to Left 4 Dead guys, that’s not a fair comparison! It’s just marketed the same, and by the people who made Left 4 Dead.

Person 1 – Likes the genre. 100+ hours between the various Killing Floor games. Unknown amount of time in Left 4 Dead.

“It’s not worth $60 and the things that are missing are fundamental. The net-code sucks, there’s a crazy amount of rubber banding, all the time. Bot AI sucks. This game requires you to have 4 people that contribute at least to a minimum amount, and the AI is so garbage, it simply can’t pick up the slack.

Matchmaking sucks, it takes forever, and matches you into games that are literally just ending, or about to run out of continues. Lobbies closing also seem bad, cause when you run out of continues, the game just kicks you out. Reload animations are kind of jerky.

A lot of the weapons feel like they need more balance. I do like that the hitboxes for the head are massive, like twice as large as the head and I like the new systems they’ve added. The card system is neat, I really like the stamina and melee system. The problem is, though, even if the new systems are cool, the fundamentals to making the game fun just aren’t there. I’d pay no more than $20 for it in its current state.”

Person 2

“I love it, but the bots need to be infinitely better. Matchmaking just kind of sucks right now,but I’m sure it will be fine eventually. Netcode feels awful, you rubberband like shit. I know some people complain about gunplay, but I think that’s pretty good. You should be able to remove attachments from guns. Difficulty scaling needs tuning. Feels like there needs to be 4 difficulties instead of three. AI director is kind of shit. I like the card system, and the ways to build into classes. Telling specials apart is hard.”

Update: This individual is still pre-ordering the game.

Person 3 –

“The two minutes of gameplay that I got to see between two hours of disconnecting, uninstalling the game, and then trying to launch the game on anything but the lowest settings was okay I guess.”

So, there you have it. The Gametrodon survey. I had more fun shooting my friends with guns in the rifle range than I did in any of the missions I played. So yeah. Right now, I absolutely won’t be buying Back 4 Blood based on the beta. It was just kind of trash, and since it comes out in three months, I really don’t expect it to get that much better.

SNKRX

SNKRX is neat, but not revolutionary.

If I had to boil down my thoughts on SNKRX, it would probably look something like this: It’s a neat little game, but its actual moment to moment gameplay is somewhat lacking, and its upgrade progression structure that it borrowed from the Auto Chess genre doesn’t map super well to its mechanics. On the other hand, it was also $3, and I’ve spent more than that on food that’s made me sick. So I feel like I got my money’s worth.

I learned about SNKRX several months ago, and then proceeded to forget about it until last weekend, when I saw an unfinished article about it in the drafts folder. This wasn’t my article, because someone else promised me they’d write me an article, and then didn’t, because they’re preparing to “Follow their dreams and move to another country for school.” And since that effort took most of their time, they didn’t really have the space to finish their article.

Which is fine. I’m not upset or anything.

So after reading what they’d written, I decided to go grab SNKRX myself. While I’ve seen people describe it as like the game Snake, I’d say it’s closer to Geometry wars. Each level places you in a large square, while waves of enemies spawn in and try to kill you. There are no level layouts other than the square, and there are no obstacles. Occasionally variant enemies spawn in, and I’m pretty sure they start showing up based on what level you’re on, but I didn’t pay enough attention to be sure.

Every few levels, instead of being presented with waves, you’ll be tasked with killing a single larger enemy/boss while waves of normal enemies spawn in.

These are the two level types in the game.

After you beat a level, you go to the buy screen, where you purchase more units for your snake/train.

A Brief Side Note: If you’ve ever played an Auto Chess style game, such as Underlords, Team Fight Tactics, or the original Dota 2 mod, SNKRX pretty much completely copies the upgrade mechanics from those games, and you can skip this next bit.

Here’s how it works: After each round, you’re given gold based on two factors. First is the gold that you earned during the round, from killing enemy units, and also from enemies dropping it, based on various combos and perks. The second main way is interesting: You get up to 5 gold per round based on how much gold you have saved up.

You spend this gold on either upgrading your items, (which you get a choice of after specific rounds) or buying more units for your train. After each round, you’re given a selection of three units to buy. You can buy as many or as few of them as you want, and you can also spend gold to get a new pool of three units.

Units have a few separate factors. They have one or more classes, they have an ability, and they can also be upgraded. More on upgrades in a moment. Classes function as a sort of set bonus style mechanic. For example, when you have 3 Rogues, all Rogues get a chance to deal 4x damage with each attack. When you have 6, that chance increases. Most of these bonuses are threshold based, requiring you to hit some number of units before they come into play, and usually play to those units’ strengths. For example, Rogues’ fast attack speed and multiple projectiles benefit from the damage multiplier.

Some of these set bonuses are more interesting than others. The Infestor class bonus buffs up the mini-units that many Infestors summon while the Curse class bonus increases the number of enemies that can be cursed. On the other hand, the Warrior class bonus just decreases enemy defenses.

So let’s go back to talking about those upgrades, shall we? Upgrading items is straightforward. You just spend money, and after buying enough levels, they upgrade.

Upgrading units is a bit more convoluted.

In order to upgrade a unit, you need to collect 2 copies of the unit. So to upgrade a level 1 Blade to level 2, you need 2 more level 1 Blades. To upgrade a level 2 Blade to level 3, you need 2 more level 2 Blades.

And this brings me to my first big problem with the game: Unit recruitment.

See, while the game’s upgrade structure is almost an exact copy of the Auto Chess structure, the game doesn’t allow you to use multiple copies of the same unit at once in your train. What this means is that where in Autochess, picking up your second level 2 of a unit can be a small, but useful power spike, in SNKRX, that gold is effectively gone until you can actually finish the upgrade. Again, because you can’t use more then one a unit in your lineup, if you roll a unit in your buy pool that you already use at level 3, it’s effectively a dead slot.

So yeah. Despite the interesting between level progression, the actual gameplay itself only has two types of levels, and few types of enemies, meaning that it’s not super satisfying to play, and the post round progression isn’t the most satisfying thing in the world. I don’t really hate or love SNKRX, but it’s not a terrible use of $3.

SNKRX is on Steam, and also apparently, this Github page?

A Brief Statement

Gametrodon condemns the behavior of the abusers at Activision-Blizzard, and the management that enabled them.

The next several months will likely determine if the company has any chance for reform, or will just act to save public face without making any actual commitment to demolishing a culture of sexism and abuse.

California Department of Fair Employment & Housing Complaint

NPR Coverage of the Complaint

An Open Letter from Blizzard Employees to Management

Jason Schreier’s Twitter – Writer for Bloomberg, and coverage of the unfolding events.

We encourage our readers to review the links above for more information and context.

The most valuable voices to listen to at this time are those who have had to endure this discrimination and abuse.

Weekly Wrap-Up

3 Interesting games I haven’t played enough to do full writeups on, because I’ve been playing too much Hunt: Showdown and Minecraft.

Ah, Saturday. Well, technically Sunday at the time of writing this. July has passed us by, it’s now officially August, and I really need to make sure I pay my rent at some point tomorrow.

But enough about all of that. I don’t actually have a full new writeup this week, as I’ve mostly been playing old stuff, and I’m not sure anyone would benefit from me writing about Minecraft, Hunt: Showdown a second time, or even Dota 2. So instead, here are a few things that might be neat to check out. I may do longer reviews of them in the future, but for now, short reviews will have to do.

Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate

The Shiren the Wander series was the progenitor of the mystery dungeon games, and arguably my favorite set of non-mainline Pokémon games to ever exist: the Mystery Dungeon series. So visiting the actual sources for those games is interesting. Shiren is far more brutal than what I’m used to, even though I have a decent understanding of the mechanics. The game can feel like a roguelike at times. In either case, I haven’t beaten it yet, so all I can say so far is that it’s neat and very hard.

Skul: The Hero Slayer

I have mixed feelings on this one. So far, Skul reminds me of both Dead Cells, and Hollow Knight, but it hasn’t really clicked for me. It feels like a sidescroller roguelite, but the combat isn’t as clean as Dead Cells, and the story feels overplayed for what it is. On the other hand, I’ve only played for an hour and half so far, so make of that what you will.

Barotrauma

Last, but not least, we have Barotrauma. As best as I can summarize, Barotrauma feels like a combo of Minecraft and Overcooked. You and others attempt to pilot a submarine through the underground oceans of Europa, while not being murdered by fish, enemy subs, other enemy monsters, having your equipment breakdown, or overheating your nuclear reactor. It’s Overcooked in that it’s a frantic dance of chaos and resource management, and it’s Minecraft in that after playing 2 and half hours, I haven’t beaten a single mission, and still barely understand how to start up the reactor. It’s got both single and multiplayer, but I’m not too interested in the single player parts, and the folks who convinced me to buy it haven’t finished the tutorials yet, so I’ve yet to see how incredibly poorly we work together to play it.