Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Karnage Chronicles -- Through the Eye of the Dwarves

Well team, I finished up the final dungeon of Karnage Chronicles, and it was pretty challenging. I was playing normal mode, but I can't even think of what this would be like on impossible difficulty. I might make an impossible difficulty game, but all this gets easier once you know the basic tricks of the game. Anyway, let me see if I can break this dungeon down for you, and how it played out for me.

The entry room for The Eye of the Dwarves is all about setting the mood. There aren't any enemies here, just nodes to mine, a howling wind, waterfalls, giant statues of dwarves, and a giant seal between you and an army of undead.

Laser Beams, Chains, Waterfalls, Giant Dwarf Statues -- this club has everything!

Once you beak that seal, you enter into a town, and it's immediate combat with enemies that are tougher than anything you've gone against. Of course, it's the same flair as before, but with a tougher, more intimidating skin. You have skeletal warriors, skeletal archers, skeletal crossbowmen, and skeletal brutes. Possibly the most annoying enemy however are the half skeletons missing their legs. You'd think missing your legs would slow you down, but not these guys. They speed up and crawl across the ground almost like a skeletal spider and reach up to claw your eyes out. It's terrifying.

Not your typical slow, half-bodied skeletons at all

The worst part of Karnage Chronicles continues to be the enemies that pop behind you and the jump scares outta nowhere. I hate taking two steps forward and pausing just waiting to get jumped, but I'm always prepared when it does. You just flee back 50 steps and kite. easy. 

The shop in the Eye of the Dwarves is actually up a flight of stairs in the town area. Don't think that just because it's a shopping area that it'll be safe. Nope. It's full of gosh darn skeletons. The best of which is the shopkeep! He's the only skeleton that actually doesn't attack you. He just smiles and waves as he watches over his shop. Once you buy some equipment from here, things get a lot more manageable with the OP skeletons.

An undead shop keep hoping I buy some of his cheese

Down further is an interesting fork in the road, and they've done something here kind of unique with their save points. During the past two dungeons everything has really only been linear in nature. Sure, there might be a fork in the road, but these typically led to dead ends, and you'd have to backtrack to the main path.  In this dungeon, it feels LESS like a ride path and MORE like an actual town . . . well, for at least the first half of the dungeon.

You see, this whole section of the game really revolves around collecting three items so you can craft a magic wand that . . . opens doors.  Disappointing, I know.  You were hoping to hurl fireballs, weren't you?  Well, I was.  Anyway, to get each of the components, you have to travel to the different parts of the town.  The magic potion is hidden in the tavern.  The metal ore is down by the docs.  The crystal gem is around the back of the farmer's house. Return to the Alchemist's hut, combine all three, and voila . . . you have a crazy magic wand that opens doors.

A wand from a cauldron, who woulda thunk it?

It's kind of a cool trick actually, you hold the wand inside the spider egg looking thing and it busts open for you to proceed. Of course, once you do that, you're instantly jumped by some hell hounds.  OH, did I forget to mention those?  Yeah, it's not all skeletons down here.  You'll also be fighting some super fast, fire breathing hell hounds. Have fun with that.

Another cool thing that I got along the way was a pipe that heals you when you smoke it. Yeah, so . . . again, this game has its rating . . . and if you're anti-smoking, feel free to ditch the pipe here as you don't really need it, but man, what a cool effect!  You hold the pipe up to your face and smoke comes out of your mouth. It also somehow seemed to match my actual breathing. I don't know if it accessed the built in mic on my VR headset (I doubt it), but it was possibly my favorite item in the game.

Smoke break before the bridge of a billion enemies

Once you're past the town, the winding passageway begins again. I'm so disappointed in something this game did here by the way.  At one point early on in the dungeon you pick up a magic flower.  Later, around the base of a coffin 3/4ths of the way in, you finally find a place to put this magic flower and release the trapped spirit inside.  The spirit hops out and begins to SING. So he's singing about "necromantic lore" that was a gift to elven kind, and I'm like THIS IS AWESOME!  He continues on about a king getting stripped of his throne when bam . . . enemies around the corner start attacking, so I do my running away kiting thing, and . . . accidentally get out of range of the song. WHYYYY?!?!?! CURSES!!! Well, at least the coffin gave me a cool magic necklace for my troubles.

Just beyond the coffin here you have another long passageway and eventually end up on what I have termed, "The bridge of a billion enemies." This was quite the battle my friends. I ended up clearing a ton of the bridge and facing off with one of the caster mushroom men people. Right as I was about to enjoy my victory, I spun too far in a circle . . . and promptly disconnected myself from my tethered VR connection to my computer . . . and died. MOTHER FREAKING MMPHER!! As I talked about in the last post, when you die in an area, it all respawns again, so I had to kill the billion enemies all over again. Sigh.  No worries. Where'd I put my virtual pipe?

Maybe it's not a billion per se, but it feels like it

After lowering the bridge by shooting out a couple weights on the sides, you finally enter the end boss room, which is a big circular arena. Basically you fight a giant ogre magi.  Every few seconds, the portal nearby spits out a goblin add, so you have to keep taking them out while hitting the boss.  When you take him down to zero health, he wanders back into the center of the arena and a light from above heals him.  

The Ogre Magi and his goblin buddy in a footrace, starring me as the finish line

Now, I actually didn't figure out that I needed to hit the gem at the top of the arena until after he fully regenerated 5 times, but it was getting frustrating and stupid.  Eventually I figured out that I needed to bust that gem above him, and then he only healed to half life . . . but when he did, he gained the power of shooting slime balls at you as well.

After taking him down to nothing once again, I hit the heart above him one last time, killed the adds, and the treasure trove was mine!  Two big fat chests in the back alongside his club for loot. It felt pretty great.

Just past the treasure you once again find your old buddy the collector, and he tells you all about who you are and what you're doing here along with some info about his position in life as well. It involves a council of 12 magicians and you being a kind of servant to them? I think? Anyway, after this chat, you hop on a boat, click the exit button, and watch a giant thanks for playing message rise with the moon as your ship sets sail over the ocean. The crowd goes wild.

You're welcome.

I really enjoyed my time in Karnage Chronicles. I'd like to go back to Vanishing Realms and play it again after playing this to see how much they are similar and different.  This game seemed to be a much higher quality experience. I'd buy a sequel game if they made one.

Happy Dueling!

Monday, September 19, 2022

29th Anniversary -- Natural Bridge Caverns Trip

Hey all! Dropping a quick "real life" post today to say that yesterday was my wife's and my 29th anniversary of being married!  To celebrate we decided to take a trip down to Canyon Lake, Texas. It was actually pretty surprising how wonderful and peaceful it was there. I don't know if it was considered off season in the middle of September, but it was pretty uncrowded and only a few boats were cruising around the lake. Bliss.

We didn't actually get in the lake while we were there, but we had a lot of serene moments just hiking around, throwing rocks in the water, and watching the water ripple toward us. 

While we were there we took a 30-minute detour to visit a wonderful location called the Natural Bridge Caverns. This was actually a very impressive cave tour that took us 18 stories underground. Hiking down wasn't too big of a deal, but climbing back up was quite the work out.

This was again a fantastic time for me to break out the 360 camera.  Check out these impressive Cavern Rooms we toured!


Unfortunately my camera ran out of battery life about half way through the tour. I would have liked to have snagged a 360 picture of the final hike up a cavern room that was truly impressive. I could have easily seen a D&D setting here where a roper or two ambushed the party.

I could see us heading back to this spot for a weekend getaway again in the future. If you're in Texas and looking for some bliss, this type of trip might just be the thing you need.

Happy Dueling!

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Karnage Chronicles -- Past the Caverns of Decay

I've been playing Karnage Chronicles on and off for almost three weeks now, and I've just today finished the awfully intimidating Caverns of Decay on normal difficulty. The Caverns of Decay is the second of three dungeons in this VR RPG. It was a wild rollercoaster of feelings for me, so I thought I'd take some time to think about how it went.

A typical view of the mushroom caverns in Karnage Chronicles

First of all, the setting is pretty great. Basically you're crawling through an endless winding tunnel system full of glowing mushrooms. Being in VR, there's a lot to like with being in this environment. I just have to continually hail back to how awesome it looks in this game. It FEELS like riding through a magical journey through a Disney ride if Disney happened to make a high fantasy exhibit that wanted to kill you. Of course, you're not riding, you're "bamfing" and nudging with locomotion controls in VR. That said, sometimes after clearing an area, it's pretty cool just to look around it and be in that environment.

Since the Caverns of Decay are all about the mushrooms, take a guess what the monsters are that you fight in it?  

Time to put an arrow in his cap!

Not to worry, you also get to fight poison barb spitting plants, infected goblin zombies, and harpies . . . and in typical Karnage Chronicles fashion, you get to fight them every two footsteps forward and sometimes every one footstep forward. It really does get a little aggravating how often this game uses this "spawn in" method as you cross certain thresholds while crawling through the dungeon.

The most annoying of the bunch are these little speedy mushroom men who rush you and explode upon impact.  They come in groups of three, and I'd say 4 out of 5 times they jump scared me and blew up in my face, causing me to eat some food to regain health. The other 1 out of 5 times, I was actually able to shoot them and blow them up before they got to me . . . or at least one of the three dive bombing mushrooms, which is why it was absolutely critical to keep your health up.

A scene from the one time I killed all three speedy mushrooms before they exploded on me

Oh sure, it's easy enough to resurrect at a waypoint, but here's one of the most annoying features of this level. If you die in a section of this dungeon and leave just one monster behind, the entire section of the dungeon repops and you have to do it all over again. It got to be absolutely infuriating when I would clear this large courtyard area of 9 harpies, 4 poison plants, 3 mushroom men, 4 zombie goblin archers, and then die to something only to have to have them all repop again. To make matters worse, for some reason the game was thinking I was bound all the way back at the beginning of the dungeon and made me bamf all the way back.  This happened three times, and I was ready to rage.

After letting the game sit for a week I was ready to try again though . . . the allure of the harpies was too great.  By the way, I gotta say this . . . those harpies . . . LOL. I couldn't even concentrate on their horrible faces and vicious talons. All I could look at were their perfectly nakey, perfectly boob job boobs. It was so distracting! As I sunk an arrow deep into the areola of a harpy, I couldn't think how I should get bonus points for that bullseye. I mean, the game has a rating, but I think they could have accomplished what they were going for without it. I digress.

This dungeon was good training for how this game was most likely meant to be played:
Step 1: you bamf forward a couple steps.
Step 2: You bamf backward several steps quickly.
Step 3: You shoot to kill. 
Step 4: You drink potions from your quick belt slots, sometimes during the heat of battle.
Step 5: Gather the loot.
Step 6: Go to step 1.

I guess the other option is to pull out your melee weapons and actually stab things when they get close, but melee just doesn't feel as good as bow shooting, so I'm not going to do that.

There were a few really great trap moments in the Caverns of Decay including the old classic from Indiana Jones. Yes indeed . . . the rolling stone trap.  It was an awesome moment.  I'd play through this dungeon again just for that moment! The other trap that was fun in this dungeon involved the old giant blades swinging across a hanging bridge and a puzzle room where if you got the answer wrong, you got stuck with a billion needles.

Speaking of that puzzle room. Wow!  This room is amazing with its magical universe machine.

It was a cool puzzle . . . picture doesn't look like much, but it was cool . . . trust me

The puzzle itself was a bit infuriating. Basically there were two ways to get the clues you needed to solve it. 1) Find all the pages with the symbol clues. 2) Find the symbol clues in 3 random locations around the dungeon. It took a lot of wandering around, but eventually I found them all.  The reward? A piece to a separate, different puzzle.  For that puzzle you have to find 3 broken tiles and put them together to open up a sarcophagus with a weapon upgrade inside.  The infuriating part of this puzzle was that one of the broken tile pieces was actually sold at the vendor all the way at the beginning of the dungeon. 

Being in VR also naturally means that once in a blue moon you really have to search for a button to press around the world in a spot you wouldn't normally look. (Let's call it the VR-Button-Paradox.) This happened in that big harpy court area of this dungeon.  You have to push a button to reveal stepping stones out to a skeleton to give him an arm.  It took me forever to find that button . . . especially because I didn't know I was looking for it.  If they would have just put the button a little closer to the water's edge, it would have been easier to find. Just sayin'.

Past the harpy courtyard is the final boss, and it was a perfectly acceptable fight. Just make sure you're stocked with health potions on your quick belt and use 'em as you need 'em. Mostly you'll need them for when the boss is hitting you while a mushroom wizard is throwing things down on you from above.  Focus on the boss, then kill that pesky mushroom wizard!  Worked great for me.

Happy Dueling!

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Playing Raji and Thinking about India

Yesterday I spent the day, strangely enough, really contemplating India. I thought about its massive population of 1.3 billion people compared to America's 329 million people, and then I just started comparing and contrasting all kinds of things between the two countries. I spent a lot of time thinking about the majority religion there and perhaps began to understand just ever so slightly a bit more?

I really don't know anything, of course. I look at America and all of our nuances that would be hard to explain to someone or even realize they were going on around you until you started a deep dive into the real-life social stratosphere of where we live. Who are you people and why are we like the way we are? Likewise, I'd love to spend some time really getting to know a new friend from India and their culture.

The closest I think I've come was when I was working outsourcing for WIMO and had the opportunity to work with a few professionals from India on a weekly basis. I would try to guide and direct design while monitoring milestone due dates as they made a game with us. I'd slip in a few things after the meetings to try and get to know them better. Questions like what foods do you eat when you celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi? Spoiler alert, it was nothing like what I had read online. I'd also entertain them by coming back each week with a little bit more memorized of how to count to 20 in Hindi. I'm a dumb American. They found it entertaining. The song Ek Do Teen helped a lot. I miss talking them them every week.

Yesterday I spent a lot of time flying over a few towns in India on Google Earth VR. I was surprised to see that major cities like Bengaluru and Hyderabad weren't even 3D modeled.  Of course, I could still go into street view and look around, so it's not all lost. Funny to think that Google Earth VR in a way has a caste system of its own . . . not based on any social structure mind you, but probably based on likely markets or what people typically search for? I'm not really trying to make a political statement here though.

The 2-D map overlayed the flat geography of Bengaluru, India

After that, I jumped on to Steam and downloaded and played the demo version of Raji and put the full game on my wishlist. It's an absolutely beautiful, isometric Action Adventure game filled with the mythology of India.

Raji and Shiva

For the most part the demo is just the tutorial, but it's also a lot of story set up, which is done through a kind of puppet show presentation and also through interactable murals as you're scaling the walls.

This has to be my favorite mural so far in Raji

The final boss was a little challenging and it took me a few tries to understand what I needed to do to defeat him, which is always a sign of a good game, right?  I don't want things to be too easy or it doesn't hook me.

Gulp. Here we go again!

Raji isn't without its social problems come to find out. I guess there's some cultural issues that I don't fully understand where mythology was re-written to glorify nationalism and conservativism? There's a Vice article that gets pretty angry about it. On the other hand, you get Steam store reviews like this, where you realize that there's a lot of under representation in a world steeped with mythology.

But they didn't like the combat ;)

At the end of the day my wife asked me to cook burgers out on the grill for the family, and it suddenly felt very American. As it turns out, my oldest returned home from work earlier than I expected, so the hamburger I had slated for myself went to them, which left me needing to make something for myself. I was almost tempted to spend 30 bucks on Indian food delivery from Grub Hub, but instead I turned to my spice cabinet. 

I ended up taking asparagus tips and broccoli and cooking them in a mixture of vegetable oil, curry, ginger, almond flour, ground mustard, salt, onion powder, chili powder, chili flakes, and monk fruit sugar. It filled the air with a really nice aroma, and I gave it a passing grade for my dinner. Throw in some chicken and I would have given the recipe a name of my own and shared it!

At the end of the day, my thoughts turned to the millions of Hindu widows who by tradition can't remarry and take upon themselves social isolation and poverty. It's absolutely heartbreaking to read about, but it's again, something I understand little about with limited sources. There are, of course, several charities you can donate to if you so choose.

I didn't go as far to actually watch a Bollywood production. I just . . . can't really . . . get into those. Although I might cave to watch Mutamestri because of its Batman cameo. 

All in all it was a complex and interesting delve for me over Labor Day Weekend. One that I wouldn't mind repeating again. I'm fascinated with India lately, and I'm on the hunt for more information, games, and experiences. If you have insights, please share.

Happy Dueling!