Summing up MOBA

Recently, I made the big decision of quitting my temporarily largest addiction: MOBA games. I had to one time or the other, for fear of becoming a gaming couch potato. But I am thankful for making that spontaneous decision which brought more good than I expected.

But since MOBA was something that I gave a LOT of my time to and dedicated hours of thinking and understanding to, I decided to sum up my experiences while stuck in its delirium. For those who are not aware, MOBA stands for Multiplayer Online Battle Arena. I had been posting my views about two major games in this category for the last couple of months.

The reason this genre is so addictive is because of its unpredictability and the numerous combinations of heroes/champions and items that can be played with and bought in the games. If you’ve read my previous articles, you know that I am talking about Dota 2 and LoL. People still play even though there is hardly any choice of maps. That alone tells us how insanely addictive it can be.

The most important thing that you must focus on in the game can differ from game to game, or character to character or even position to position. It is complex, and not only depends on a player’s expertise in hand-eye coordination but also on their team picks and even the opponent’s team picks. The possibilities do not end there. As the game progresses, players accumulate gold which can be used to buy items. Those items have abilities as well.

Despite all that clutter and complexity, one thing is clear, your character should aim to level up as fast as possible. Items can offer bonus stats, but the real boost comes from levelling up. Which is why in pro tournaments, we don’t find players picking up all the attack damage and powerful items whenever they have enough money. Rather they communicate with their team and decide strategically which item must they pick.

It is a team game of course, which means that the responsibility of both winning and losing are partly on everyone’s shoulders. But that also means that if one out of the five players is not playing well, the match may well be in jeopardy. It happens all the time.

To conclude, the only logical thing that I can say confidently is that there is no way to predict if your next match will be a victory or defeat. You just can’t say. It’s a pity but that’s what makes it all the more exciting, right?

A Pale View of Hills

Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel. What really enticed me about this was the feeling of anticipation of something serious about to happen throughout the story was amazing. In the end however, nothing special happened. Ishiguro is known for his two novels turned into films: “Never let me go” and “The Remains of the day” which won the Man Booker prize. For his first book, this seemed like an experiment he conducted to observe how people would react because it felt like he was holding something back. I really liked the slow pacing since it fit the theme perfectly. There were the occasional moments of “suspense” which were sketched out vaguely. At the end, it left me a little confused because I thought he would clear up a few doubts towards the end like what became of Mariko and her Mom? I would assume that Frank took them to America (though I have a little doubt in mind). Also, who is Etsuko’s second husband? Shigeo Matsuda? What happened of Ogata-san? As you can see, the book left a lot of loose ends. I wish Ishiguro would have answered these doubts but nevertheless the story left a good impression on me.

Dota 2 vs LoL 2

After playing League for a while, my impression on the game has changed drastically although, certain things I had said in my first post are pretty much the same. I have mostly been playing with Master Yi. His strengths are attack speed and attack damage. It’s best to build him with those two aspects in mind. As for his defence, it’s quite non-existent. He will not survive a gank, he can escape using his ulti at best. With Master, you will either lose the game badly or win it like it is the best game you’ve played in your life. Depends on your team and the champions they pick.

Enough of that. LoL has a 1-Dimensional gameplay compared to Dota 2, I’ll be honest with you here. There are two major things I found lacking in LoL, but which are very much in abundance in Dota 2. The first is the champions themselves. Their abilities are primarily attack based, if not occasionally causing stuns or slowing movement. It’s all about how much damage you can inflict versus how much you can concede. Unlike Dota 2 where different heros are known for some special ability that they have. In LoL nobody cares! Because you don’t really have to care. Right-click to win. This very flaw of champions not having a “character” of their own is the main reason for the 1-Dimensionality of this game.

The second aspect is complementary to the first, in the sense that even the items do not have any special “characteristics”. All they give you is extra attack damage, or magical damage, critical strike, life steal, yada yada yada… Quite contrary to Dota 2 items. Almost half (or even more) of Dota 2 items have some active ability and a subsequent cooldown. It adds a whole new dimension to the game! It’s not just that, even the abilities that the items have are unique amongst themselves, like the Bloodstone with which you can commit suicide and hence not feed the opponent with experience and gold. As a result, Dota 2 is much harder than LoL on many levels, and is also way more serious. If you have watched tourneys you’d know. Once I saw LoL players singing songs before the start of the game and some even had a victory dance which they performed after they had won! Dota 2? Nothing of that sort. Can’t blame them though, look at those freaking huge prize pools ESPORTS puts up. Better commentators and overall production for Dota 2 although LoL is the game having more players per month. I am sure that they see a lot of potential in Dota 2. It feels great watching Dota 2 matches though. I will say that it depends more on the skill of the player than on the hero that he/she selects. However, LoL isn’t like that. From their pool of 100+ champions, very few even get played with in tourneys and nearly the same ones get banned all the time. I would say that’s a turn off because the team that has the strongest picks will win. And that’s lame, especially after you’ve played Dota 2. I just play LoL because it’s easier, and people are cool.

The Game of Thrones

Possibly one of the greatest stories ever created by humans, a legendary book series turned TV adaption by the famous George R. R. Martin is the best book that I have come across so far. So good it was, and so much thrill I got from it, is unforgettable! With some nerve wracking plot twists that you will not see coming and stupendous characters, GoT has outdone itself.

I was introduced to GoT a few years ago when I heard friends talking about it excitedly. But that really didn’t pique my interest. I was into other things back then. But recently, I joined a library and they happened to have Game of Thrones. So I decided to see what all the hype was about. Then it began, the endless adventure and lasted around 800 pages yet which seemed like a teaser for the story still to come! When a masterful plot and great story writing come together, this is the fantastic product that they create. The first book was published in 1995, which is quite long ago. Never have I heard of it before. Quite surprising, that. It became really popular when HBO launched the GoT TV series.

Maybe there plenty of gore and sex, but if you’d like to bathe in maturity here is a golden opportunity. Martin kisses goodbye to naivety and brings the darkest part of our minds come alive with so much cunning that will keep you gripped till the end no matter what! There are a few main characters through whom he narrates the story in 3rd person. Ned, Catelyn, Tyrion, Robb, Jon, Bran, Arya, Daenerys and Sansa were the main characters in the first book of Song of fire and ice which is the name of the series GoT is a part of.

If maturity disturbs you, the TV series is no different. But trust me, you would want to read the book than watch the series to enjoy everything the author poured out into the book. Personally, my favourite character is Tyrion because of his cunning, calm character and the way he can retort to anything spoken to him. It’s really quite amazing how much character development he got and you get to see several sides of his personality like his will to save Catelyn even though it was her who captured him. Tyrion may seem like an evil character, but so is everyone else in that case. The other character I adore is Daenerys. Although not so much in the TV series. She is supposed to be a very powerful person which I felt her actress missed out on. The first book ends on a neutral note, but exciting note. While Daenerys becomes mother to the 3 dragons, Robb Stark becomes the Lord of Winterfell and their banners and they separate from the Seven Kingdoms. Sansa and Arya are still in King’s Landing where prince Joffery is wreaking havoc.

I felt like Ned and Catelyn were the main reason behind the whole crisis that occurred with Ned’s eventual death. He made the biggest blunder by going to the King’s Landing with Robert at the start of the book and almost as a price that he had to pay he was beheaded. None of this would have actually happened if he refused to become Hand of the king. The worst part of it was, not only did he lose all of his personal guard, his daughters were both in a bad position, his wife had to flee and his son had to go to war.

The character who most people will like, maybe not as a favourite nor as their least favourite is Jon Snow. There is a lot to be said about this guy. His life has been terrible because of how his name got tainted with ‘bastard’ and it was none of his fault. Jon Snow’s life on the Wall always served as a good distraction from all the politics and war going on at other times in the book.

I’ll conclude by saying, I can’t wait to read the next book A Clash of Kings!

 

Dota 2 vs. LoL

Probably one of the biggest debates out there! Dota 2, a game started in 2009 and completed in 2013 created by Valve with help of IceFrog and League of Legends a game released in October of 2009 are one of the most formidable rivals in the gaming industry. With Dota 2 comes stunning graphics and spectacular gameplay integrated with Steam where as, LoL has some really interesting background stories of the champions and large amounts of art created by their developers Riot Games.

LoL was officially there on the scene first! Which is why they have amassed a larger number of audience than has Dota 2. There are other reasons behind this, like the huge size of Dota which is like 17 GB whereas LoL is just about a third if that. Another reason is that Dota 2 relies on more powerful PCs which can pose a problem to those who still use ancient machines. LoL is a little lax with its graphics requirements, but after playing both games in full graphics settings, it becomes hard to distinguish between which is better.

Coming to the graphics, LoL terrain and buildings have a much smoother look and they actually look better than Dota 2 buildings. However, heroes look better than the champions in LoL and so do creeps than the minions. LoL offers more than one map unlike Dota 2 where players have to play play on the same old map over and over again, though that does not get boring. I like the Dota 2 map much more, because there are several elements which give it a realistic look like the way the map is in no way symmetrical and even the Radiant and Dire sides are completely different! LoL has a generic map which looks symmetrical and lacks the kind of detail that’s put into Dota 2 maps.

It will not come as a big surprise to you that I find the gameplay of Dota to be better than LoL. The map, the characters, their movement and even the way Gold shuffles hands! LoL has some interesting features like spells which give bonus abilities with large cool downs like healing and agility. Although after playing Dota, I didn’t see the need for such spells I won’t deny that they saved me more than once 😀

LoL has an easier learning curve and Gold is also easier to procure. No gold is lost upon death, but the opponent gains some if we die. In any case, the items that you can buy are in a way cheaper than Dota items and there are 7 slots instead of 6 in LoL unlike Dota which has the latter amount. If you really like stories, you will enjoy the lore behind every champion on their websites and in-game, even every skin has artwork made for it. Just imagine how much artwork is made for LoL, there are around 130 champions and each one has at least 4-5 skins. Some things about that game are really incredible. No wonder LoL has far more players per month that does Dota 2!

One of the best things about the Dotaverse is the Arcade. The Arcade opens up a whole new level of games, like a 10v10 where 10 players on each side battle for the other’s ancient and overthrow. Many of the games are made by the official Dota 2 team, and they have released a development workshop for those who are interested in developing games for that section.

Dota 2 gives full access to all heroes from the beginning to a new user, but LoL relies on the user levelling up and earing influence points (IP) by playing more games or buying riot points (RP) to purchase champions and skins. Every week 10 new champions are introduced to players for free. It strikes me as odd that some champions are more expensive than the rest (does that mean they are also better?). Dota is said to be a balanced game, a fact that don’t think is absolutely true. But then again, it really depends on how your teammates play.

My take on the two games is that, Dota 2 is the better one. It might have just one map, and the size may be massive, but still the experience and fun I had playing the game clearly exceeded my expectations of MOBA.

Discovering Dota 2

Dota 2 is surely a sensation among gamers with its fairly new mode of gameplay, MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) and the fantastic analysis that has been put in to make this game. Dota originally was a mod based on Warcraft III, until Valve hired the lead developer of Dota and and began working on its own version of the popular battle arena in 2009. It was only in 2011 that they released Dota 2 in beta phase for testing. In 2013, a stable release of Dota 2 was released. Dota is gaining momentum from online communities because of the large money sums offered at tourneys, and also from casual players who want to give it a shot because all of their friends are crazy about it.

An easily addictive game, with people complaining about its steep learning curve which I will not argue about. But the true essence of magic lies in the balance of the gameplay. The way in which the engineers at Valve have allocated abilities and attacks to the 111 different heroes trying to try and make them even. It is incredible how they did this. As a matter of fact, only 5 out of 111 heroes were not played or banned in TI5. This figure justifies the careful fine tuning done to ensure balance of different heroes despite there being a variety of parameters both material and strategic.

If the balance does not stun you much, surely the sheer number of characters that you can play with has by now! The quality of graphics is admirable. It is amazing how they have paid attention to every little detail of this game, like the online match-making. Not online dating! 😀 You won’t have time to think of that anymore. You can form a party and the servers look for a game for your party. That way, you are able to play alongside your friends with other online players.

There are games like LoL that came before Dota 2 and effectively stole the audience that this game deserves. By all means, Dota means serious business unlike the cartoonish looks LoL characters have. Dota relies heavily on teamwork and is a good way of teaching a non-teamplayer. So, no matter how good a player is on their own, if their team is bad, they are done for. Communication, is also key and Dota has provided necessary provisions to do so (thought no one uses the mic).

The intricacies don’t stop there. There are about a 100 items which give additional abilities, or enhance them. The downside of the game being that its learning curve is steep. Nobody cares as far as I am concerned. Once you start playing, you become addicted. Lol.

The game of Forks and Spoons with Shokugeki no Souma

Shokugeki noSouma was another popular anime of 2015, and it justified its popularity by giving a great viewer experience in those 24 episodes filled with foodgasms, and exaggeration beyond safe levels. But it was an entertaining show that I thought would finish by the end of 2 cours but apparently dragged on with its own pacing.

The pacing was quite perfect for a slow show like SnS where there was a lot of stress on the drama and focus on the food itself. Though they did not delve into the fine makings of recipes, I hope people well versed with culinary knowledge will be able to pick up bits of cooking wisdom that it offered.

Like most anime there was love rivalry of some sort, and although the romance is bleak, it is certain that there will be a romance plot in the near future. The story played out well with the characters, and the character developments were done decently as well with generous attention given to the hero of this anime: Food.

It may be hard to believe that even after 24 episodes, the anime progressed only so much. It has a gradual feel to it with small arcs branching out from the storyline and merging back in without much disruption to the original story. The character development is satisfying yet sluggish, where the characters that need development are properly developed, yet I felt the need for additional information of all of the characters. That can be attributed to the writers wit, without doubt.

The so called antagonist Nakiri Erina is a tsundere at first glance but reveals her soft side as the anime progresses, typical of tsunderes. She is one of the major characters who require development. The arcs are so entwined so gracefully that you will feel like they are part of the main story. Even though the story hasn’t progressed much, they managed to deliver a successful 2 cour show without getting me bored.

The gems of this show are his mates in his Polar dormitory. That’s where the family type feeling reels up on this show. The kernels of love and much of the time in episodes goes in that. I would look forward to the next season of SnS, confident that I won’t be disappointed.

Ghost in the Shell (2015)

When I got to the end of the movie, could see the link between this and the first GITS movie. It was then that several things made more sense, and this was perhaps the movie which made the most sense to me (who is not a hardcore fan and all).

Ghost in the Shell always excites me with the massive amount of depth comes because of the inherent setting of their world. I must say, that this kind of designing of a storyline is one of a kind and that is something I would remember this franchise for.

Especially when it comes to futuristic genres, where the setting consists of sophisticated robots and lightning fast computers that blow away our minds, it is super important to get things right (I mean the story) because say all you want, in the end it’s pure fantasy although I hope I am proven wrong. In that sense, the first movie of GITS was released 20 years ago which is a blasphemously long time, and in that age having such futuristic ideas (which are entertaining to watch even now) is utterly magnificent. It is genius. This is truly a classic franchise worth your time.

This movie as opposed to the sequel has more elements of comedy and definitely lesser gore and absolutely no nudity which I find surprising (because, you know). Also, I understood this movie better than the first (maybe it’s just me). Another thing I would venture out to say is that there is much more action in this one.

Perhaps the only thing that it lacked was the serious atmosphere (with all the gore, nudity and longer political talks) the original movie had made for the viewer which got the franchise its fans. However, I liked this one the most 🙂

What makes Noragami

Noragami is possibly an anime liked by many, considering how all the top reviews on the MAL page gave it a 10/10. But the same sentiment is not reflected in the rank. Nevertheless, Noragami is quite a unique piece in my eyes. Noragami starts with a god named Yato who wants money to build his own shrine. He starts looking around the city and doing small errands for 5 yen each. Yato has a greatly fleshed character, and his every demand, whim depicts really what his personality is made of. I observed the way he asks for nothing more than 5 yen for any sort of job, no matter how difficult it is. It reveals how much this anime has got to offer. Noragami particularly excelled in storytelling than in execution, because the anime was quite boring in terms of animation at times when fights were pulled back from what they could have been if executed with great vigour. Even the dialogues were great! I reckon that the mangaka could write great romance manga.

Possibly what the whole audience was waiting for was the romance to finally set in. The anime provided the perfect pacing for a good and longing romance which is something that didn’t fully get materialized in the end. The love polygon was between the three main characters, although it is not made very apparent viewers will definitely want something happening between the characters. Noragami for some reason, by coincidence or not had a good mix of characters, and it managed to give them flesh in the limited time that it ran for. Not only was there some superb character development, the sheer number of characters were also nor too little nor too much.

In terms of animation quality and sound, Noragami did excellently. The animation was great, little CGI here and there but the only thing that’s worth pointing out is the lack of great animation during fights. Especially after watching Nanatsu no Taizai, pretty much any fight scene seems dull. But Noragami should have complimented the splendid story and the well fleshed characters with some vigorous animation. The OP was brilliant, and the ED was quite a good song.

I will say that even the great plot failed to save the anime at times. Firstly, there was little aim in the plot. Going around killing phantoms which will keep appearing because people keep dying (phantoms are basically people). The story started out trivially as well, if you remember how Yato first encountered Hiyori. The plot doesn’t have many special features on its own, but it certainly starts out with great riveting concepts such as gods roaming around cities doing errands for money and collecting shinki. There was the abrupt manner in which the villian suddenly broke into the storyline, which seemed nothing more than an annoyance to me. It was like eating oranges with tea. I absolutely can’t even think of such a combination! The final arc didn’t contribute anything to the story, however. It was no more than how team rocket got blasted off during my Pokemon days.

I think Noragami is a show with great ideas, but its greatest source of strength, its plot, led to its demise. I liked Hiyori and Yato a lot, and I would ship till to the end of this world! Several side characters were also brilliant, and they truly and honestly made up for the faults or shortcomings of the few interspersed premature plot designs. I didn’t miss the OP even once in those 12 episodes and 2 OVAs.

Reviewing Nanatsu no Taizai

The seven deadly sins the by far the anime that I have enjoyed the most. It has been made (by a genius, or by pure luck?) who strived to keep great pacing and an amazing story. But the ace in the hole for this particular anime is its fights. THE FIGHTS! My gosh, they are brilliantly done and completely riveting.

The anime comprises of a princess named Elizabeth (Liz) who comes in search of the seven deadly sins to fight off the holy knights who are holding the king (her father) in a powerless position. Thank god this did not get any more political than that (unlike Log Horizon), probably because it couldn’t. Haven’t you heard of the saying, “Only the strongest will survive”?. Oh yes, baby. They cut all the talking crap and brawled mercilessly. Let me say it again, the fight scenes are INSANE!. If you have even a remote interest in watching superhuman fights, this is the right anime for you. A review on youtube described it as a dragon ball fight without the huge buildups. It’s got a lot of fantasy like fairy tail does, but you know how in the end it all comes down to how powerful you are. Well, Nanatsu no Taizai completely does that justice.

Liz first encounters Meliodas, the dragon sin of wrath who takes her along with him since they share a common goal to find the 6 other deadly sins. This anime is basically a very well orchestrated shounen anime with fantasy, magic and superpowers all ccombined into one. The appealing bit is that it brings itself out as the best shounen anime I have ever seen. It shone on all the points that I was looking for, and at the end was immensely enjoyable.

During the battles, attacks are reused but it’s different most of the time. Unlike anime like Naruto in which Naruto uses the shadow clone jutsu against every enemy right from the beginning (it gets so annoying at times). There is reuse in Nanatsu no Taizai, but it definitely does not feel like they reused a clip of animation to save money or just to make the work easier. For a 25 episode anime, attack combos is a rarity. There are so many of those combinations, and the mangaka actually enjoyed the task of making up the name of two attacks combined in one.