Review: Phantom Doctrine lacks the fun of XCOM

I want XCOM 2 on the Nintendo Switch. I'm waiting for it. Hoping. It has yet to come, be announced or even rumored by its developers. So, of late, I've found myself looking for other ways to get my turn-based combat fix. I completed Wasteland 2 some time ago. Japanese games seldom hold my attention and, even Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle has lost its charm. A couple of days ago, despite its mediocre reviews, I downloaded Phantom Doctrine, for $20. It's so close to being pretty much what I'm looking for. Sadly, it's held back by a number of issues.

In the game, you're in charge of a cell of cold-war era spies who bop around the world collecting intelligence, killing members of a shadowy opposing faction and trying not to get captured or liquidated in the process. What are they collecting intel on? It's hard to say. Unlike XCOM, which has a solid story that leads you from one plot point to the next, in Phantom Doctrine, it's hard to keep track of what why you're doing what you're doing. The game's story is paper thin and even when it becomes a little more clear, still isn't all that compelling. Mission briefings inform you that you're supposed to collect an informant or, in some cases, kill someone who recognized one of your agents. You base is always under threat of being exposed. Your spies are always run the risk of having their covers blown. It's run-of-the-mill stuff.

As with XCOM 2, your team members gain experience from every encounter they survive. Read the rest

Witcher III: The Wild Hunt is coming to Nintendo Switch

When Witcher III: The Wild Hunt was released a few years ago, everyone lost their minds over how great it was. Because my aging 2015 MacBook Pro lacked the guts to even consider running it, I never had the opportunity to take the game for a spin. It looks like the Nintendo Switch--the best port machine ever created--will finally give me a chance to step into Geralt of Rivia's shoes.

From Nintendo:

The Complete Edition contains every piece of downloadable content released for the game, including two massive story expansions: Hearts of Stone & Blood and Wine. It's the perfect opportunity to enter this world for the first time or relive the adventure — on the go! Coming to Nintendo Switch in 2019.

The lack of a firm date for the game's release sucks, but it's not surprising. I suspect it'll be pushed out once the port is damn well good and ready. Being as I've gone this long without playing the game, I suspect I'll survive a little while longer without it.

Image via Flickr, courtesy of BagoGames Read the rest

My On-the-go gaming set-up

Mostly for use during extended camping trips in my Volkswagen camper, I'm running a docked Nintendo Switch and 13.3" 1080p IPS monitor all off of power banks.

Spare me the horseshit about how awful it is I or my kid might play video games inside our camper van while camping. We like to play video games and we're spending a lot of time in our Westy this summer. I wanted my kid and her cousins to be able to play Mario Kart. I like to play Fortnite. This system is getting us hours and hours of playtime.

Nintendo is sensitive to the order in which these devices are plugged together. Failure to follow the correct order frequently results in starting over. I plug a stock Nintendo power supply into this 20,000 mAh AC Outlet bearing power bank. The power bank is rated to 100W and has some internal fans to cool down if it gets too hot. Thus far the Nintendo doesn't force it to cool very often. The Nintendo USB-C power supply evidently will draw a max of 39W and this battery should be more than capable of providing hours and hours of power. Playtesting has shown it to run down about 10% in an hour.

I plug the Nintendo power supply into a Nintendo Switch dock. I then plug an HDMI Cable into the dock. The other end of the cable connects to my 13.3" 1080p IPS display. I use an HDMI to HDMI-mini cable that came included with the monitor. Read the rest

A portable dock for my Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch is a fantastic portable gaming console that is made better with a portable dock.

I like to plug an Xbox controller into my Nintendo Switch. There is but a single USB-C port on the device, however, and I can only get in 2-3 matches of Fortnite (if I don't get eliminated immediately) before the battery is dead. To charge the device at the same time you use the USB port for anything else, you must have a dock. Nintendo's supplied dock is shaped like, and as convenient to carry, as a brick. I went looking for a cheap, small, portable dock.

One of the great things about the Nintendo dock is the HDMI out port. With this, you can play games on any screen that accepts HDMI. I wanted my tiny dock to support this as well, not just be a USB-C to USB-3 or USB-2 hub. This RREAKA multi-port hub works exactly like Nintendo's dock, and is the size of a king-size Sharpie.

I have been using this hub for the last few weeks. Moving between strange TVs and tiny portable monitors. I can charge the Switch while playing games, powering a USB controller and feeding HDMI to a screen. I can also use a power bank with 'Power Delivery' to run the whole thing.

I wish the Switch also had support for wired USB headsets, plugging into the 3.5mm jack on top of the unit is annoying.

A reminder that Nintendo wants everyone to never use 3rd party anything. Read the rest

This live action Super Smash Brothers video is the best thing you'll see all day

There are few things finer in 2018 than being able to hunker down with a few friends, in person or online, and beat the living crap out of each other over the course of an hour playing Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. For those without a Nintendo Switch, this live action video featuring professional stunt actors beating each other down Super Smash style is the next best thing. Read the rest

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 coming to the Nintendo Switch

I've always had a soft spot for Marvel Ultimate Alliance and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2. They were met with middling enthusiasm from critics, but they served up a whole lot of what I wanted: the ability to build my own team of Marvel heroes to open cans of whoop ass on the forces of evil. Long before Diablo 3, the Ultimate Alliance games allowed me to scratch my "quest for gear" itch, without having to log on to World of Warcraft and deal with other people. Providing me with juuuust the right combination of mindless button mashing, light tactics and story to keep me coming back, they used to be among my favorite games to turn to when I needed to switch my brain off for an hour or two.

Soon, there'll be a new addition to the franchise for me to play.

From The Verge: Nintendo has announced Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order exclusively for the Switch. The game was announced through a trailer shown off at The Game Awards, which are currently in progress; it’ll be out in 2019. Team Ninja, the studio behind Ninja Gaiden, Dead or Alive, and Nioh, is on board as developer, marking its first Nintendo collaboration since Metroid: Other M.

I'm curious about how it'll work for the Switch. The PSP version of the first installment in the series was playable, but often felt cramped on the portable console's tiny display. I guess I'll have the opportunity to find out in 2019. Read the rest

There's a new Katamari Damacy title for the Nintendo Switch: Reroll

"Katamari" is the Japanese word for "clod" or "lump," and people familiar with the Katamari Damacy video game franchise know that the object is to created a giant clod of stuff by rolling it around like a snowball, picking up increasingly larger objects over time.

Reroll is a new Katamari Damacy game for the Nintendo Switch and it looks like fun. I'm going to get it and I'll let you know what I think.

Image: Nintendo Read the rest

Review: Diablo III for Nintendo Switch is the best way to play this much-loved game

Blizzard games have staying power. They're incredibly well crafted and designed to run on a wide spectrum of Windows PCs and Macs, both low powered and high. New content? They're all over it. I can't think of a single one of their titles that hasn't received multiple updates, oft-times for free, in the past decade.

I played Diablo III on my Mac. When it came out for PS3, I played it there, too. It's a game that I return to time and time again, not because it is particularly challenging, but because of the grind: there's always something new to find--a new piece of gear that'll give the character that you're playing a slightly different way to play. So, when I tell you that Diablo III Eternal Collection for Nintendo Switch is pretty much the same deal as Diablo III played on any platform, you'll understand that what I actually mean is that it's great.

I've always preferred playing Diablo III with a game controller over a mouse and keyboard. I like that a wee flick of the right thumbstick will send my hero rolling out of the way of danger. This was one of the first things I tested when I loaded up the copy of the game that Blizzard sent to me last week. The thumb-flick works with the Switch. The rest of the game's controls are similar to what I remember from my PS3 as well. You can't remap your controller's buttons, but your powers and attacks are laid out well enough in the game that it's not a hassle to use them, arbitrary or not. Read the rest

How to modify your Nintendo Switch game case to hold up to 24 games (cheap gamer tricks)

“I modified a standard Nintendo Switch game case to hold up to 24 games,” says IMGURian MrJspeed, who provides a killer step-by-step HOWTO for gamers who'd like to try this instead of buying a multi-game carrying case. Read the rest

Review: Wasteland 2 for Nintendo Switch

I played Wasteland 2 when it made its debut, four years ago. Despite my Love for Brian Fargo's work on Fallout 1 and 2, I never did manage to finish it. There's something about working in front of a computer, seven days a week, that keeps me from wanting to sit in front of my laptop during my downtime.

However, in the weeks since I was given a review copy of it for the Nintendo Switch, I've been enjoying the holy hell out of it.

If you're not familiar with the franchise, its premise is pretty simple. You and your squad mates are new recruits to the Desert Rangers: the only real peacekeeping force in post-apocalyptic Arizona. It's your job to range out and aid the folks under your protection. You'll kill bandits, attempt to negotiate peace between warring factions and uncover insidious threats. The game lets you choose whether you want to start with a squad of four pre-made rangers, each with different skills and strengths, or role your own. This time around, I chose the latter. As I accidentally created a pretty strong team, it's worked out pretty well so far. That's all I'll say about the game, plot-wise. Wasteland 2 might not be new to many of us, but there are some first-timers that might be reading this. I don't want to blow the story for them.

I will however, talk about game play.

All of the interactions you'll have with NPCs are text-based. Given the small size of the Switch's display, the game's development team could have blown it by making the text too small for older eyes, like mine, to read. Read the rest

My daughter and I share a Nintendo Switch

A few months back we bought a Nintendo Switch. The portable console gets shared between a 46 year-old dad and an 11 year-old daughter. The Switch sees a lot of playtime. Read the rest

Why games cost more for the Nintendo Switch than other platforms

I own a Nintendo Switch. I deeply Enjoy my Nintendo Switch. I am not, however, thrilled to discover that I am paying more games for my Nintendo Switch than folks playing on other platforms are.

From Ars Technica:

The folks over at Switch blog Switcher decided to quantify how much that "Switch tax" costs while building their own database of Switch games. Their analysis found that, of 471 games being sold on both Steam and Switch, the downloadable Switch versions cost just over 10 percent more on average. That average obscures a wide range of price discrepancies, of course, including some that end up in the Switch's favor. In fact, a majority of titles listed on both platforms (55.8 percent) sell for the exact same price on both, and an additional 8.9 percent are cheaper on Nintendo's eShop.

That said, the price discrepancy for the remainder of the Switch's PC ports can be quite large. Payday 2, for example, costs $50 on the Switch compared to just $10 on Steam. The 2016 Doom reboot runs $60 on Switch and $20 on Steam. Steam's frequent sales can exacerbate the differences, too: De Blob is currently $30 on Switch but just $6.59 on Steam—down from a PC list price of $20.

Not cool.

One theory, based on the data that Switcher came up with, is that the games cost more on Switch because, while they’re old news on other platforms, they’re still fresh to the console. As time goes on, Ars Technica’s thinking is that the Switch port of the games will drop down in price. Read the rest

A Nintendo Switch controller that fits adult hands

This $30 AnvFlik wireless Nintendo Switch controller has improved my game play experience. Read the rest

Diablo III for Nintendo Switch? Yes Please!

I lost my spring break to the original Diablo back in the mid-1990s. I spent the whole damn week in my underwear, wrapped in a blanket, playing it from dusk until dawn, surviving on pizza and Pepsi. It wasn’t my proudest moment. When Diablo II came along, I was a little older and much wiser. I knew what to expect. I promised myself that I’d play responsibly: No more losing sleep in the pursuit of better gear. I’d wear clothes. I’d force myself out into the daylight on a regular basis.

I would break every one of these promises as the game held me in thrall.

By the time that Diablo III rolled around, I was mature enough to know that playing too many games meant not making enough money. I was able to boot it up on my laptop and then, after a reasonable amount of time, turn it off so that I could get some work done. I bought it for my PS3, so that I could play it with my friends. When I upgraded to a PS4, I repurchased the game so I could play it there too.

This fall, Diablo III is coming to the Nintendo Switch. Junkie that I am, I will exchange money for a copy of it to play on my handheld. I will do so, giddily.

When the title comes to the Switch, it’ll include the Reaper of Souls expansion and the Rise of the Necromancer. I never got to play either before surrendering my PlayStation during a cash crunch, a few years back. Read the rest

This Waterfield Designs Nintendo Switch case is pretty sweet

I spent a lot of time away from home over the past few weeks, visiting With friends in Edmonton in between business trips to New York City and Boston. As a freshly-minted Nintendo Switch owner, I wanted to take my console with me to spruce up my downtime while I was on the road. As I can be kind of hard on my gear, one of the first things I do, especially if it’s a piece of kit that I plan on traveling with, is invest in a good case to protect it. As I’d had success with their bags and cases in the past, I opted to take Waterfield Designs’ Cityslicker case for Nintendo Switch for a spin.

For the most part, it was a good decision.

Heavily padded and well-stitched to within an inch of its life, the Cityslicker Case looks and feels great. When I ordered the case, there were a few different color options to choose from. I opted for Grizzly Leather: a light brown that gets better looking the more you beat it up. Aside from its leather lid, most of the case is made from ballistic nylon. It feels good the touch and should (although I wouldn’t recommend trying it) offer your Switch a bit of protection from liquids, too. Most importantly, the CItyslicker comes with enough padding that I don’t think much would happen to my Switch were it dropped from, say, the height of a dining room table while it was in the case. Read the rest

Thoughts on the Nintendo Switch from a Gameboy aficionado

As an insomniac, I take my gaming seriously. When I get to a point in a cycle of sleeplessness where I’m too tired to work or keep track of where I am in the book I’m reading, I turn to video games to keep me from delving too deeply into the dark thoughts that creep into my skull in the middle of the night.

After waiting for over a year to see if it would prove popular enough with developers and players to make it worth picking up, I finally broke down and bought a Nintendo Switch – that I have an upcoming assignment that involves testing Switch accessories made it easy to pull the trigger, despite its steep price tag here in Canada. The last Nintendo console that I bought was the Gameboy Advance Micro. I still own it, 13 years later, and play it on a regular basis. After tinkering with the Switch for just over a month, I’ve got some thoughts on the major differences between it and my much-loved GBA Micro that I thought might be fun to share.

Cost of Ownership

The GBA Micro wasn’t cheap, back in the day. I remember paying around $200 for it in Vancouver, BC. But aside from the games I’d buy for it, that was it. There was no need to purchase anything else. The Switch? Not so much. After paying $300 for it or, in my case, $400 Canadian, there's still a ton of cash that needs to change hands to ensure a solid experience with the console. Read the rest

Bethesda reveals latest Fallout game

Bethesda released a teaser trailer for their next game in the Fallout series, Fallout 76, and man, I am so ready for it.

Having been around to play Fallout Fallout 2 and Fallout Tactics in the late 1990s all I wanted was more Fallout. Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas definitely scratched that itch (New Vegas is one of the best RPGs of all time, and yes, I will fight you over it.) Fallout 4, I loved. It was a departure from the feel of the games that came before it, but it wasn't long until I got into the rhythm of the game. It's hands-down one of my favorite games of all time. Despite my love affair with the series, there's a VERY good chance that Fallout 76 will be an entirely different animal than anything that's come before in the franchise. A big clue to this is smack dab in the middle of the game's title: Vault 76. In Fallout 3, Vault 76 was listed in a Citadel computer terminal as being a "control" vault. It makes sense: with every other vault encountered in the Fallout Universe has been screwed with by Vault-Tec scientists, subjecting the vault's occupants to a wide array of social experiments. Vault-Tec would need a control vault to illustrate what sane, well adjusted vault dwellers who were left alone with everything they'd need to survive a nuclear disaster would look like. There's a good chance that anyone coming out of this vault would be healthy, mentally stable and well supplied. Read the rest