Why I haven’t given up on Square Enix’ Marvel Avengers game just yet

I admit it, I’m a comic book nerd. So when Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics created the Marvel Avengers game last year, I eagerly bought it expecting to smash like the Hulk and yell “Avengers Assemble” at the top of my lungs. Granted, I was a little underwhelmed by the clunky movement and the strictness of multiplayer matchmaking. So why haven’t I branded Marvel’s Avengers a disappointment? I have thought long and hard about it and the truth is… I see its potential.

Square Enix & Crystal Dynamics’ Avengers game isn’t bad, in fact I would say it nailed the atmosphere of what a Marvel game should include. The narrative alone was great, and the characters all felt believable. After a disaster destroys San Francisco on A-Day, the Avengers disband and, in their wake, Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM) vows to protect the world. Soon, the Avengers are needed, once again, to protect the world against AIM. However, doing so will mean they will need to forgive themselves for the A-Day incident; a task easier said than done for Earth’s mightiest heroes. Marvel Avengers also adds Kamala Kahn aka Ms. Marvel to the roster; a decision I believe to be inspired. With the game focusing heavily on the young Muslim Inhuman throughout the campaign, we get to see a view into a culture that is rarely given a spotlight in video games, let alone as the protagonist. Soon though, players will have unlocked multiple members of the Avengers team and can then determine the hero that they have grown an affinity for and can choose to continue to play as for the rest of the game.

The Marvel Avengers campaign had me hooked until the very end. However, the game began to lose its hold on me once the campaign was over. The multiplayer needed work. As the only person in my friend group with a copy of the game, my only options were either to play with AI or with random people online. I opted for AI. Unfortunately, this became rather dull after a few weeks of random mission selecting and I regrettably decided to pick up a new game to play. Therein lies the game’s problem – a lack of drive. The multiplayer mission felt hollow and lacked the story-driven narrative of the campaign. Instead, I felt like I was grinding characters for no reason. Additionally, Marvel Avengers did itself no favours by refusing to allow duplicate heroes in multiplayer. Players that had upgraded one specific hero now found themselves limited when matchmaking. There could only be one Black Widow and one Hulk, if you wanted to play as them, you had to make sure no one else was playing them first; one extra hurdle that turned me and others off.

However, like Hydra, the Marvel game refuses to die. The developers are continuing to fix bugs and glitches, create new costumes, and adding new updates to the game. Most recently they allowed for the duplication of heroes allowing for multiplayer to be much less restrictive for a limited time. However, the introduction of new playable characters continues to be my reason for returning to the game. Since its release, Marvel Avengers has added Kate Bishop as well as Hawkeye to the team roster; both with their own mini campaigns to be completed to unlock them and new villains to defeat. With Black Panther announced to join the team later this year and the promise of Spider-Man to PS4 players as well, there is certainly a lot of content that will continue to draw comic book nerds, like myself, back into playing Square Enix’ game. For this reason, I like to think that like an Avenger, I haven’t given up on the game yet. After all, a hero never quits!

Review: Coffee Talk

Hey everyone! Yes you may be surprised It is me on the videogame crusade lately, but for once in a really long time I’ve had spare time to play on my PC or the Switch and try out a few games out there. So today I wanted to talk to you about Coffee Talk, a nice little independent game by Toge Productions. And just as a head up, depending how much of a purist of videogames you are, you may not consider this as much as a traditional videogame but more of a visual novel or interactive story. In any case, there is currently a free demo on the Switch, and the game only cost me like £8.00, and it is also available on Steam.

The premise is that you run a café that stays open until dark where people come and gather. You find out about their personal stories; you help them out with a hot drink of their choice (sometimes just whatever you want) and so the narrative develops. It’s all 2d animation, (pixel art) but the characters are very well distinguished, the colours are rather pleasant and it all conjures a sincere sense of familiarity and tranquillity – it also comes with a super smooth jazz playlist so, there is that! The game play is very basic. All the dialogue is straight forward, and you don’t have any choices to make in there (which is perhaps the one thing I wished was different about this game). You have some main ingredients which depending how you combine them you create this or that hot beverage based on coffee, tea, green tea, chocolate, or milk products. You don’t know more than a couple of basic recipes to begin with, and depending how you combine things along the way you learn more, which is handy because sometimes the main characters of this story will come and ask you for a drink by it’s specific name in the game and if you haven’t discover it yet, you gotta wing it. And why does this matter? Well, because if you get the drink wrong, it actually has an impact in the narrative!  The cool thing abut this is that you won’t actually know how it is impacting the game unless you start a new game again and try to avoid making the same mistakes, so here is some interesting replayability value if you are the completionist type and you want to know all possible permutations of these stories, I think it is a great idea. There is also a challenge mode, to try and get you to speed up with your drink orders, and an endless loop where you can discover new drinks without the pressure of the narrative – or if you are a clumsy person like me, you can practice your latte art, so that the characters in the game don’t criticise you for it (LOL).

But, without a doubt, as much as I love the chill concept of making coffee to help people with their struggles, the narrative is the best part. Every character has a specific viewpoint or relatable issue, and actually I must say now that the topics addressed by the game are actually quite hard hitting with current social issues. I have just forgotten to tell you that the setting or the game takes place in an imaginary alternative reality where Seatle in the current time, is a fantasy city with orcs, elves, vampires, etc, so this is a multicultural modern fantasy society. I really appreciated this not just for the freshness of the concept art, but also because it brings new light to the genre of fantasy, and it utilises this so effectively to approach current subjects which us humans should be better at handling. Just to give you a few examples, there are reflections and digs about racial profiling, xenophobia, interracial/cultural relationships, dating and dating apps, the videogame and pop culture industry itself, the lives of freelancers such as artists and writers, personal trauma, fighting ones own demons, class divide… and much more.

I was playing the demo, and just a few minutes into it, I was so taken by the characters and the stories that I bought the game, no regrets. If you are a Netflix nerd like me and like watching random things, this game has a similar feel to the Midnight Diner ( which if you haven’t watch and you have played Coffee Talk, I sincerely recommend, or if you like wholesome humane stories all the same, go watch it). It was a very welcome change of pace for a few hours, away from killing people, building empires or being an absolute hero, and catching them all Pokémon. Sometimes, we just need a little reminder of all the good we can do in the world by just being ourselves, and Coffee Talk definitely achieves that with a certain feel-good vibe about it.

Pokemon Sword and Shield Expansions – The ACTUAL Game

Ok so now that I have clocked several countless hours on my Switch playing Pokémon Shield, I will write about this which I have been meaning to do for a while. I am, like perhaps many of you, a gen 1 Pokefan. My favourite Pokémon is Psyduck (he is the best boy SHUT UP), I used to be able to sing the whole Pokémon rap in Spanish and English, I watched the series, I went to the movies to see the film with my mum and my aunty when it came out, i bought the trading card game, I have plushies…The Whole Deal. My first Pokémon game was Pokémon Yellow, although I had played Red before in a friends Gameboy Colour, but these things were super expensive by then and we didn’t have that kind of money so by the time I had behaved well enough my parents thought this was a reasonable expense, it was Yellow. I hate Pikachu following me around EVERYWHERE. I hated grinding in the bloody tunnels to level up and I hate that my stupid Nidorino was so strong it wouldn’t listen to me because I was like 10 and I didn’t fully understand how to play a game that was actually a lot more complex than it is these days. But the struggle made it worthwhile. That’s what made the task of catching all the Pokémon fun and interesting.

Like it or not, I have compared consecutive Pokémon games to the originals, and every single time it gets EASIER…to the point it stinks. I haven’t bought many of the latest ones – Lucky enough my sister has and I have borrowed and paid some attention to them – but when I bought the Switch right the Christmas before lockdown started, I have given a voucher from work I couldn’t spend anywhere else I could care about other than PC World, so I bought Zelda (OBVS!) and Pokémon – it was free money after all. I must say, I really like the aesthetic of the game, I love the customisation and the fact that the Pokémon are from different generations and what not. I also ADORE the fact that I can play with my pokefriends and make them curries (which I am awesome at btw, no bragging just a fact) and just have that different element to the game. What I don’t appreciate so much is the fact that I finished the game originally in a little less than a week…And then I find out there are supposed to be some expansions?! WTH? Surely the unfinished game business hasn’t caught up with Nintendo? I thought to myself.

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Disco Elysium: The Final Cut – First Impressions

In case you missed it, we did a livestream of Disco Elysium! Watch the vod below!

Disco Elysium is an RPG unlike any other I’ve played. It would take a while to put into writing how good it is, so instead I decided to record a new playthrough of the Final Cut edition of the game, which updates the game with more content, and most importantly full voice acting!

This is also Lilly’s first time actually seeing the game herself after hearing me go on about it for over a year now. Join us on our first impressions as we play the start of the game!

Why is Valheim So Good?!

I planned to write up this review of Valheim a couple weeks earlier… but I was too busy playing valheim.

Valheim describes itself as “A brutal exploration and survival game”, and while this is true I feel like it might give you the wrong impression. Let me start with how I discovered the game. Anyone who knows me knows that I love Viking stuff, so whenever I see a game pop up on steam with a Viking theme that doesn’t fall into the usual tropes (hornet helmets etc.) I’ll wishlist it and give it a look when it releases. Most of these games don’t amount to much, and I didn’t really expect anything from Valheim either, until I checked it out on its Early Access release day and saw “overwhelmingly positive” reviews. 

So I bought the game and downloaded it, which wasn’t a big deal considering it was only £15 and a 1 GB install. I’m used to games these days costing upwards of £50 and hogging 40+ GB of my dwindling SSD space. 

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Coping With COVID19 With Love Nikki

So, no surprises here, the quarantine means that I have a lot of time in my hands. We have done several recordings for the podcast (yay), but I’ve also played a lot of video games. The Love Nikki Dress Up Queen Community has been very active through this entire ordeal and there have been many exciting challenges to do so I have been making lots of designs, and I’ve had to make space in my account so, I am posting up some pics from challenges I’ve completed – old and new.

A few of these come from the “Tag Challenge”, which involved doing a design with a tag that categorises clothing into a particular theme. Also, because I’m not just a basic designer (duh), I added little descriptions/titles/stories/concepts to the images to understand what was it that I was trying to create. So, here we go.

This one was from the “Chinese Classical” Tag. I called it Moonlight Serenade. It reminded me a bit of that melancholy moment in Wuxia films by the lake with a flute.

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Manaburnt Podcast – Episode 9: Sci-Fi

The podcast returns! This time it’s all about Sci-Fi!

You can listen through Spotify below, or find links for all other places to listen at anchor.fm/manaburnt

In this episode we are joined by our friends and frequent guests Mike and Jaq to have an impromptu chat, at the behest of Lilly, all about Science Fiction in its various forms!

The discussion goes down some unexpected paths and gets very interesting! Spoiler: it gets slightly political 😛

TOTAL WAR: 3 KINGDOMS

Hello peeps, it’s me again! This may come as a surprise but, I am here to talk again about videogames. And no, I haven’t swapsies with Alex! It just happens that earlier on this year, 2 big loves of mine had a love child and made me a very happy woman with the release of Total War: 3 Kingdoms. Those of you who follow us know that I am a big Wu Xia fan, and obviously the Romance of the 3 Kingdoms has a huge impact in the Wu Xia genre – that and I am a historian by trade and Chinese culture fascinates me…enough said! As it happens, the Total War series has been one of my all-time favourites, since I was introduced to it perhaps quite late in the game (7 years ago?). My first Total War was Medieval 2, which I loved and played through many times. I have particularly fond memories of my campaign as Scotland conquering the world and countless hours of hotseat campaigns with my uni friends at the games’ society. Then I went back to Rome: Total War – about the only thing my tiny laptop could run without crashing much back in the day, and a few others, up to the release of the two editions of the Warhammer games. However, and perhaps to the shock of many people, I did not enjoy the newer Total War games because of the way the diplomacy had been changed, and a few other dynamics.

You see, I loved sending my princesses and diplomats across the map and setting up merchant shenanigans and cardinals to spread religion and what not. It was an aspect of the game I did really enjoy. I also liked the dynastic element of it, which although not as in-depth as the likes of Crusader Kings, it still added to the equation. Granted, there is no point of comparison with the way the armies work, and the 2 editions of Warhammer really made me wow at how the minis I was used to see on the table top, suddenly came to life on the screen. But, in general, i didn’t enjoy much the actual run of these two games other than the military aspect, and to me that was a let-down. The Warhammer universe has so much lore and it feels by splitting it into 2 games – and the third one to come – I was cheated. So, I was a bit so-so about the new release of any Total War games. I wasn’t too keen on Rome 2 because of the diplomacy aspect either so, when I knew 3 kingdoms was coming out, I got concerned. Would they destroy something I loved so much?

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