Homescapes Level 43

When I think of some of the earliest games I played on the iPhone, a few notable titles come to mind: Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, and Homescapes all rung-in a new generation of gaming that made mobile phones a legitimate vehicle for contemporary gaming.

With all that in mind, I’m not sure whether I’m just a bad player or if I played more Gardenscapes than Homescapes, but I’m not sure why I’m still only at level 43!

Ah, I know what it is … parenting.

Without getting into a long monologue about contemporary parenting as a gamer, what I will say is that, often, overnight when you have a newborn, you want a quick fix of a short, sharp, but – most importantly – fun video game. Since the birth of my third child, I’ve been leaning quite heavily into Gardenscapes, cf. Homescapes, and so while they’re both great titles, I’m considerably ahead on the former.

The other thing that I think draws me to Gardenscapes over Homescapes is the story. While it’s nice that the whole narrative focuses on improving our protagonist’s parent’s home, I think it feels more engaging to be working on the expansive garden in Gardenscapes. There is real aesthetic changes rather than just the small tweaks and occasional new asset dropped into the environment of the home.

So … with that in mind … I better get back to it. This house won’t renovate itself, and the cat needs a new bed to sleep in!

Break the Bank

Hitman 2 • Completed “Golden Handshake” • 20G • 0.67% of gamers unlocked this

Those who know me, know that I love the Hitman rebooted series – it was by far-and-away my Game of the Year for 2016, and the sequel was pipped-at-the-post for 2018 only by the exceptional masterpiece that was God of War.

What GoW doesn’t do, however, is keep up with a healthy drip-feed of content and love that IOI (which I now chuckle about since I started watching Ready Player One) have given the game ever since they wrestled control of it from Square Enix.

I have to say – if getting out from a big publisher can do this for Hitman 2, I have exceptionally high hopes to see what Destiny 2 can do once free from Activision.

But I digress. Today I want to talk about one of the newer missions in H2, set in a New York Bank. It’s tight, controlled, and offers up a ‘Hitman-lite’ experience when compared to the main game(s). But I have to say, as additional content, I am more than happy for this level of polish. Sure, it doesn’t have the sprawling environment of Sapienza, or the NPC-rich markets of Marrakech, but what it has is story. It has enough beats for 47 to make this feel quintessentially Hitman, and – above all else – it’s fun.

Without much effort, I was able to get through two of the main story angles, and with a bit of blind luck and random button-presses, I managed to clear a few more milestones as well. The mission itself asks you to kill the main bank boss and steal some data from either the safe or off three other bosses in the bank – and while my plan going in was to aim for the safe, as it turned out, I stumbled into those three executives without too much trouble – and so, I killed them, took their hard drives, and then put a bullet in the front of the bank boss lady’s head.

Just another day in paradise.

Which, ironically, is where Lucas Grey tells 47 that they are headed to next at the end of the level – right before the ominous TO BE CONTINUED splashed across the screen.

After XIII ended the game like that back in 2003, I’ve been a little bit scarred. At least give me a (The) Sopranos-style cut-to-black!

I suppose the difference here is, the fact overarching story told in cutscenes is very different than that told through either in-mission voiceover or through emerging gameplay. Hitman is a game where you can dive into a world and kill a target without needing to know all the nuts and bolts of their lives. XIII is an intensely narrative-driven action romp where context is essential.

Still, to be safe – just don’t do ‘to be continued’s’.

I’m curious to see what some of the other achievements are for this DLC but I’m more than pleased for a solid first effort from IOI. I can’t wait to see what else they come up when they inevitably (shudder) ‘continue’ the series.

AoM Forbidden Valley 1-7 Flicker of Hope

As it turns out, you can only use your ‘borrow a minion off a friend’ once a day, and so with a whole roster full of woefully underpowered heroes, I elected to mix up the path a little and head into the Forbidden Valley.

I didn’t think there was anything special about this fight – it was fairly evenly matched and both sides lost a person or two (though, obviously, I still had some standing at the end!), but my main takeaway out of this whole encounter was that I had completely missed the auto advance button on the left hand side of the screen. So, instead of trying to find the best attack/defend option on each round, I can increase the speed to 4x, let it auto-play, and I believe it’s going quicker than I’ve ever been able to get through a game that didn’t use an auto-clicker or a few player-friendly enhancements!

AoM Light Campaign 2-7 Valley of the Shadow

It’s been a few days since I last opened up Age of Magic, so imagine my delight when I logged on and got bumped to level 19 straight away. Lucky me!

Back into the throng of the fight, and this was a level that wasn’t shy about introducing quite a few enemies into the mix. The main antagonist for this level was a floating demon-like creature called an ‘Arekhon Shadow’, who was big, nasty, and did a good job of taking the focus – and the damage – off the rest of the group.

Of course, the whole fight was made a lot easier given I ‘borrowed’ a Level 41 Roland from a ‘friend’!

AoM Light Campaign 1-15 Fallen Lord

One of my favourite enemies in the game God of War is the Ancients, which are essentially creatures not dissimilar to this level’s ‘Last Guardian.’ He’s big and he has some sort of elemental vibe, but at the end of the day, he’s killable, just like anyone else.

With the battle all said and done, I reached the ending of Act I! Recognised by a delightful little spiel and some goodies to unlock with my new found wealth.

And so, our journey continues. Onward and upward to Act II!

AoM Light Campaign 1-14 Murk and Fyre

The team goes head to head with ‘Abaddon’ in this round, but – for a change – it does not end up with you obtaining Abaddon for your hero roster, instead he is just ‘gone.’

Abaddon tickles that bad guy vibe that you need in a proper game. He’s big. He goes up against a red backdrop nicely. He has a big sword. And, perhaps most importantly, he has a supernatural affinity for fire. It took me a couple of rounds to kill him without any team loss, but I got it over the line, and did a mad dash to the end of the Act.

Next stop, the Fallen Lord.

AoM Light Campaign 1-13 The Black Wastelands

Another new location, this one very red-and-glowy, but the combat was not all together difficult, and even a time-intensive battle is made easier with 4x speed on.

This level marks the penultimate battle on the Act I map, so it will soon be time to move location onto more robust enemies. It’s a good chance to try and flex my moves and naturally work my way up – but who has time and inclination for that when you can just burn through the lower levels.

AoM Light Campaign 1-12 Mountain Road

This was the level that prompted me to need something different for a little while, and re-balance a lot of heroes to be able to take on … well, this level.

In the end, I think the addition of a new hero plus some levels (I have most sitting between 10-15) was enough to get me over the line.

Now … let’s see how far past that line I can get with my current line-up!

AoM Valley of Treasures 1-6 New Trials

Another red icon level, but I discovered that the red loot reward are essentially just a type of ‘shard’, which I have no idea about if I’m perfectly honest, but I assume it’s an upgrade material of some description.

The battle itself was, once again, a three-round, filled-to-the-brim-with-enemies encounter, but I seemed to get though this one a lot smoother than some of the others in this world – so time will tell if that skill – or luck – lasts.

AoM Valley of Treasures 1-5 Secret Paths

Another level down, this time I only lost one hero, but I did notice there was quite a bit of scope to update some of my heroes for this round, so I suspect that I will need to learn how to pace out my games so that I have enough resources now to upgrade every few hours or so.

It is these ‘strategy’ elements of the game which I clearly need the most work on. I’ll persevere.