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Get More Viewers on Your Twitch Stream: 2023 Hacks |

Understanding the Twitch Ecosystem

Understanding the Twitch EcosystemTwitch offers gamers, viewers, and advertisers alike a unique digital environment. Fully understanding it will significantly enrich your Twitch streaming experience.

  1. Influence of Games on Audience Behavior: One of the key facets of the Twitch ecosystem is how games influence audience behavior. Since Twitch primarily serves video game streaming, choosing an engaging game to stream can greatly impact viewership numbers. Not all titles attract equal levels of viewer interest over time, and their popularity may change. Understanding these dynamics helps select suitable titles at just the right time to strike a balance between your personal interests and those of potential viewers.
  2. Using TwitchStrike: TwitchStrike can help by enabling you to quickly locate games with high viewer numbers but less competition among streamers. This increases the chance that new viewers discover your stream and game. By giving an accurate depiction of current trends on Twitch, TwitchStrike simplifies the process of identifying promising opportunities.
  3. Lessons from Successful Streamers: Successful streamers provide valuable lessons about how to attract more viewers on Twitch. Studying their strategies for drawing viewers in, engaging their viewers, and taking advantage of advertising opportunities can be very informative. Successful streamers often possess an identifiable streaming style and schedule, and they know the value of community building. Watching their strategies can provide useful insights that you can incorporate into your own stream practices.
  4. Consistent Effort and Strategic Decision-Making: Success on Twitch doesn’t come overnight. It requires consistent effort, strategic decision-making, and adaptability in response to trends and audience preferences.By understanding the complex ecosystem surrounding Twitch, you can better navigate its complexities while expanding your viewership. But that is just the first step – there is so much more out there waiting to be discovered and explored!

Developing an Engaging Stream

Understanding how to gain more viewers on Twitch can be like mastering an art form. It’s an intoxicating combination of creativity, authenticity, and strategic planning that’s both challenging and fulfilling.

  1. Embrace Originality: Originality is at the core of creating an engaging Twitch channel. Your streamer persona and unique brand set you apart from the competition. Audiences appreciate and are drawn to your quirks, humor, and perspectives. Embrace and show off your individuality through your streams to make content truly stand out and form closer ties with viewers.
  2. Maintain Lively Dialogue: Maintaining lively dialogue during your streams is essential, regardless of viewer count. Engaging viewers from thousands down to just ten is crucial. If this becomes challenging, try using a random question generator for streamers. Such a tool can fill any silences during quiet times while stimulating discussion, creating more interactive and engaging streams.
  3. Craft a Captivating Stream Title: Your stream title plays an integral part in drawing viewers in. Think of it like the headline for an article – it needs to be captivating and intriguing. Humor or hinting at what will be discussed can all work effectively as strategies to grab viewer’s attention.
  4. Enhance Your Stream’s Aesthetic: Your stream’s aesthetic should not be ignored. An appealing stream appearance plays an integral part in keeping viewer interest alive. High-quality overlays, panels, and alerts not only enhance the aesthetic but also provide useful information about you as the streamer. Unique notifications may act as special gifts that encourage viewers to follow or subscribe to your stream.

Additional Tips for Captivating Streams:

Stay True to Yourself: This resonates better with viewers than creating any false personas.

Utilize All Available Resources: Both free and paid tools exist to enhance stream quality and viewer engagement.

Create an Inviting Community: Encourage interactions among viewers and foster an atmosphere of belonging.

Experiment: What works for one streamer may not necessarily apply to you. Finding your unique style and approach are keys to long-term success on Twitch.

Understanding how to increase viewers on Twitch requires continuous learning and adaptation. By consistently producing unique, captivating streams, you’ll create an engaged following of viewers eagerly waiting for your next broadcast!

Establishing Your Brand

Creating a consistent, meaningful brand is central to finding success on Twitch. It also builds an emotional relationship between you and your viewers. Branding for streamers extends beyond just creating an eye-catching logo or name. It encompasses everything from personality traits, visual aesthetics, communication style, and even how they engage with their viewers. With thousands of streamers on Twitch, creating an authentic brand is vital if you want to stand out.

  1. Unique and Easy-to-Remember Names: Your Twitch handle should reflect who you are as an artist and be easy to remember. Avoid names that are difficult to spell or pronounce as this could deter potential viewers.
  2. Confident Dress and Professional Design: Visual elements play an integral part in making a good first impression. Dress confidently and invest time in developing professional designs for your channel, including logos, overlays, emotes, and banners. These should all complement each other to provide an engaging user experience that meets brand criteria and goals.
  3. Maintain a Regular Streaming Schedule: Consistency isn’t just about visual branding. Maintaining a regular streaming schedule can build trust among your audiences by offering them something they know to expect. Stay with a consistent schedule. This not only demonstrates your dedication but also gives viewers a sense of reliability. Earning and keeping viewer trust are critical steps toward building an audience and expanding it further.

Building your brand requires time and dedication, but its rewards more than make up for that investment!

Leveraging Social Media and Other Platforms

Using social media platforms such as Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube to grow your viewer count on Twitch is an effective strategy. Utilize them as tools for announcing streams, interacting with the audience, and promoting your brand.

  1. Twitter: Twitter provides Twitch streamers with an excellent opportunity for audience growth. Sharing updates about your streams regularly while using relevant hashtags will greatly increase viewership and build viewer loyalty over time.
  2. TikTok: TikTok’s popularity among younger audiences makes it an excellent platform to promote your Twitch streams and related videos. Crafting short, catchy clips can bring in many new viewers.
  3. YouTube: YouTube presents more long-form opportunities. Here, you can post highlights from your streams, game walkthroughs, or behind-the-scenes content. Optimize these with keywords and descriptions that attract gamers using YouTube as their primary source for gaming content.
  4. Discord: Discord provides an ideal space to engage with fans, establish community engagement, and post ‘Going Live’ notifications. Hosting a dedicated Discord server makes viewers feel they belong in an exclusive club while increasing Twitch views.
  5. Forums and Facebook Groups: Becoming involved with forums and Facebook groups related to the games you stream is another essential way of increasing viewership on Twitch. Contributing valuable insight and information into these communities will establish you as an authority figure within the gaming culture, increasing the chances of members checking out your Twitch stream.

Remember, the key is being authentic and valuable when posting your Twitch stream link on various platforms. Spamming these platforms may drive potential viewers away. Engaging with potential viewers and building loyal communities around your stream is a more effective strategy.

Networking and Collaboration

Networking and collaboration are among the best strategies for increasing viewers on Twitch. This involves forging relationships among streamers, participating in community events, and supporting each other’s channels.

  1. Network and Support Other Streamers: The Twitch ecosystem thrives on community building. Invest time and effort into cultivating relationships with other Twitch streamers. Engage with their communities to increase visibility and attract viewers directly to your channel. Participate in active conversations in chat rooms of other streamers. Support other streamers by viewing their content and interacting with them. Schedule joint streams or cross promotions with other streamers to expose your channel to new audiences.
  2. Increase Visibility with Hosting/Stream Teams: Hosting allows a different streamer to introduce you and broadcast your stream on their channel, increasing reach. Stream teams are groups of streamers who work collaboratively to support one another and broaden their audience reach. When you join a stream team, your channel will appear alongside those of the team members on the Twitch platform.
  3. Strengthen Relations Through Channel Raids: Raiding is a Twitch feature designed to increase viewer count. A raid occurs when viewers from your stream are directed over to another streamer’s channel at the end of your stream. This develops relationships among streamers and their communities. Regular raiding increases channel exposure and viewer numbers significantly.

Networking and collaboration on Twitch can be powerful tools. They not only increase viewership for your channel but also increase its visibility and attract more subscribers.

Gaming Strategies

Gaming StrategiesEngaging in gaming strategies offers many ways to gain more viewers on Twitch. Your choice of game, engagement with viewers, and participation in gaming tournaments can significantly expand your fan base and increase viewer count.

  1. Choosing Games: Playing and streaming popular, niche, or new release games is one of the best strategies for increasing viewers on Twitch. Find popular games that fit with your gaming style and resonate with you. Stream niche games to attract smaller communities and position yourself as a premier player. Be among the first to stream new releases to put your channel front and center.
  2. Playing With Viewers and Subscribers: Engaging and amassing viewers and subscribers through gameplay can also increase viewer loyalty. Interactive streams add entertainment value and create a sense of community among viewers.
  3. Participating in Tournaments: Tournaments can help draw viewers to your Twitch stream. Viewers tune into Twitch to improve their gaming skills, and participating in tournaments is one of the best ways to do this. Tournaments also allow gamers to network and connect with like-minded gamers and potentially collaborate on future streams.

Success on Twitch requires consistent effort, innovative strategies, and building authentic connections with your audience. By understanding and capitalizing on the advantages offered by playing popular, niche, or newly released games as well as engaging your viewers and participating in tournaments, you will increase viewership on Twitch for 2023 and beyond!

Community Engagement

Community engagement is crucial in building up viewers for your channel on Twitch. Interact with your audience to create a loyal fan base, whether through chat conversations, playing games together, or acknowledging new and returning subscribers.

  1. Engage Through Chat: Engaging through chat allows real-time communication between you and your viewers, creating an intimate experience and making the stream more entertaining.
  2. Play Games Together: Playing games together provides a fun element that enhances the stream further.
  3. Recognize New and Returning Subscribers: Recognizing new and returning subscribers shows your appreciation, increasing their likelihood to stay with and support your streams.
  4. Create a Discord Server: Evaluate the value of creating a Discord server to enhance fan interaction and loyalty among your viewers. A Discord server offers fans another avenue to interact, discuss shared interests, and keep updated about streaming schedules.
  5. Use Twitch Tags: Twitch tags can help viewers discover your channel based on their interests. By strategically using relevant and accurate tags, you can attract the appropriate target audience.
  6. Implement Reward Strategies: Implement strategies such as rewarding viewers for engaging more with your stream by giving out rewards or using channel points or setting enjoyable channel rewards. This encourages viewers to come back, boosting retention rates while drawing in new ones.

Optimizing Your Stream Timing

The timing of your streams plays a crucial role in gaining viewers on Twitch. To maximize visibility and set yourself apart from competitors on Twitch, knowing when your potential audience is active can make all the difference. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean streaming at peak times.

Advantages of Off-Peak Streaming: One might assume the best time for streaming is when viewers are plentiful. However, competing streamers vie fiercely for viewer attention at peak times, making streaming more challenging. With such an overcrowded environment of content available online today, streaming at off-peak times might be more beneficial.

Conclusion

Expanding your viewership on Twitch requires more than simply increasing numbers. It takes careful thought and dedication. Understanding Twitch and developing effective strategies takes time and dedication. Success often doesn’t happen overnight. Customized approaches tailored specifically for your individual goals, needs, and circumstances should always be the goal.

  1. Strategic Branding: Branding goes far beyond creating an eye-catching logo or catchy name. It’s about cultivating an identity that resonates with viewers across platforms, helping you stand out and leave a lasting impression.
  2. Engaging Content: Engaging content creation is crucial to growing audiences on Twitch. Draw viewers back for more with high-quality, entertaining, and informative videos. Maintain regular interaction between you and your audience and schedule regular streaming events.
  3. Building Community: Cultivating an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere among viewers is paramount in increasing Twitch viewership. Promote an atmosphere in which all are welcome. Encourage interactions among viewers via community events or chat activities.

 

Tough Cookies – Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course Bosses, Ranked (From Easiest to Toughest) |

Nowadays there are plenty of games that bring the best challenge to any of the gamers. Looking at the current times, games like Diablo 4 can contend to such spot knowing how hard it could be to reach level 100 on Hardcore. Since the game has online features, players often duck out of the hard challenges and buy Diablo IV gold to ease out the gameplay. The game that you can’t really alternate anything unless you let your big brother play, is Cuphead. Cuphead is known to be one of the sweatiest games to touch the recent times, with its new DLC, there are even more frustration involved on beating the game. We took our time to rank the bosses so you can have a better understanding on how you can tackle the game. Here we go!

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12 – The Pawns (King of Games – Challenge 1)

Of all the King of Games challenges, the Pawns are by far the easiest. This makes sense as it’s meant to ease you into the general concept of how the rest of the challenges will function.

In this bout, the Pawns wait atop the rafters and jump down to attack, charging in your direction. To defeat them, the pink ball on their heads must be parried. However, once parried, they’re not out for the count. They’ll return to the rafters and continue to be a nuisance, continuing to attack until they’re all defeated.

Unless the game conspires against you, generally it’s not too hard to keep track of which Pawns are about to assail you. Ms Chalice’s double jump and roll make avoiding even multiple Pawns fairly easy.

Until your brain gets the hang of having to parry rather than shoot, this challenge may take you a few attempts.

11 – The Bishop (King of Games – Challenge 3)

While it’s not immediately obvious what makes the Bishop vulnerable, after cracking the code, it’s not too much of a feat to eliminate him from the board.

Fighting at his altar, he lights up the candles around him and becomes invulnerable. Avoiding his erratic moving patterns, simply touch his candles to snuff them out. After this, he’ll become open to attack.

Thankfully, using Ms Chalice in this fight (which is advisable unless you really want to challenge yourself) makes it one of the easiest encounters. Her invincible dodge roll can be used to get around the screen fairly easily, avoiding most hazards in the process.

The Bishop’s large cranium makes him a big target. While that makes him something of a pain to avoid, it also makes him easy to hit when he’s able to be parried.

10 – The Rook (King of Games – Challenge 4)

The axe-grinding Rook can seem oddly challenging at first. His difficulty inconspicuously ramps up as well, slowly adding in more and more projectiles to dodge.

The straight-moving castle piece starts the fight by pinging parriable severed heads at you. The heads slowly pinball from the top to the bottom of the screen at various speeds, and you have to parry them back to damage him. Some heads will need to be parried multiple times in order to reach him.

The key to this fight is staying airborne. If you can chain parries and jumps together like a skilled trapeze artist, this encounter won’t cause you too much stress. As the executioner takes more damage, he starts to fire sparks from his axe grinder. However, the sparks only threaten those close to the ground.

Using Ms Chalice’s double jump and dash parry ability, this fight shouldn’t make too many players sweat once they get a rhythm down.

9 – The Queen (King of Games – Challenge 5)

The final bout in the King’s Leap is made difficult by the fact that damaging her is sometimes more based on luck than judgment.

To take out the King’s fair lady, you’ll need help from the mice and their cannons. The cannons must be parried to be fired, with three to choose from. The Queen slides back and forth in the background, raining down jewels to hurt you. The cannons themselves turn from right to left, and they must be parried when both they and the Queen are aligned.

Often, it’s tougher to actually aim the cannons than it is to just hit and hope. The Queen moves at such speed, and its hard to tell when the cannons are actually aiming at her. It’ll look like it’s focused on her, only for the cannonball to go flying past.

Between that and avoiding all her projectiles, this can turn into a hairy duel in the blink of an eye.

8 – The Knight (King of Games – Challenge 2)

Despite being the second opponent in the gauntlet of the King’s challenges, the Knight is probably the toughest creature you’ll face in the Leap.

The battle with the Knight is a straight-up sword fight. Except you don’t have a sword. Turns out that bringing a cup to a knife fight isn’t a great move either. Anyway, the Knight has a few attacks that he telegraphs before he swings. To damage him, the back of his helmet must be parried.

The trickiness comes from the sheer speed that the Knight has to his attacks, especially his full-screen charge. It means his fight becomes about pure reaction time and to a lesser extent, precision.

The hitbox for his helmet can be a little awkward at times, causing you to take damage when you’re almost certain you were accurate. The key is also not to get too greedy. Trying to get too many hits will almost certainly be your undoing.

7 – The Howling Aces (Doggone Dogfight)

Now that we’ve sorted the King’s minions out, it’s time to move on to the big fellas. Namely, the “actual” bosses themselves. The easiest (although that term is used pretty loosely in Cuphead) is probably the Howling Aces.

The Howling Aces don’t have too many crazy things flying at you at all times. By Cuphead’s standards, this is a pretty relaxed fight. Phase One starts with the bulldog pilot firing his bone tattoos at you on one side, and his cat’s balls of yarn on the other. One of his pups will be throwing tennis balls as well, but they don’t cause too much of a bad time.

Once he’s been put in the doghouse, you’ll face off against his litter. These four kids rotate around you and shout barks at you. If you’re quick, you can take at least one of them out before this phase even really starts.

The final phase will have you dodging lasers and adjusting your perspective to fight the remaining pilot. Dodging the lasers isn’t too difficult, but having your world turned upside down (literally) can be hard to grasp. This is doubly hard when the game flips your controls.

6 – Moonshine Mob (Bootlegger Boogie)

What will probably be most people’s first foray into the DLC bosses, this band of bad-guy bugs is more a series of tough mini-challenges than one large, intimidating one.

The first phase has you go head to head with the Spider. He’ll patrol on one of the three levels. Occasionally, he’ll call in his fly goons from the background for some extra muscle. Alternatively, he’ll drop some bombs in from webs that detonate when you get too close. By exploiting Ms Chalice’s dodge roll, you can set these bombs off without much fear of taking a hit.

Once the arachnid’s been alleviated, you’ll go up against the dancing ladybug. She won’t attack you herself, but the beams from her gramophone will. It’s recommended to stay on the bottom platform and fire up at her, keeping an eye on the beams that become actively harmful. A shot that can lock on to enemies will help massively here too.

The final villains are the snail and the aardvark. This is undoubtedly the toughest phase. Again, a weapon that will do the aiming for you will be of great benefit here seeing as the aardvark’s nose moves so rapidly. You can parry his tongue, but you’ll need lightning reactions, so it’s much safer to stay away.

Once the anteater’s been downed, it’s not quite over! The snickering snail pops up to be one final pest. He’ll rain fast shots down on you, so you can’t stay still for long. Again, since you’re moving so much, a weapon that will find your targets is a huge plus in this bout.

5 – Mortimer Freeze (Snow Cult Scuffle)

This winter wizard takes a few forms, and can be more annoying than anything (especially if you’re going for an A+ Rank).

The start of the fight has Freeze dropping sentient snowballs into the ground and projectile playing cards at you. The snowballs have an annoying habit of somehow aiming right for you, but using Ms Chalice’s roll makes this much easier to avoid.

Once Mortimer’s had enough, he’ll morph into an abominable snowman/fridge monster. His slam attack isn’t too tough to dodge, but his ball attacks can be. His tells that show whether he’ll jump through the air or roll along the ground are ever so subtly different. It’s better to use your ears rather than your eyes for this, as there will be a different audio cue for each attack. Occasionally, his evil lollipops will fly in to be a nuisance.

His final form is that of a giant snowflake. He’ll fire one of his eyes that shoots a laser, fire buckets that split into moons when they break, and shoots ice creams that can zero in on you.

With Mortimer switching sides, the quickness of his attacks, and the need to stay on the platforms without falling off, the pure speed of the final phase makes this a tough tussle for sure.

4 – Glumstone the Giant (Gnome Way Out)

Living up high in the mountains so people don’t bother him, Glumstone doesn’t take kindly to visitors.

Phase One may actually be the trickiest of all the Giant’s stages. It’s the pesky gnomes that create all the headaches. Staying on the floor will cause them to poke their sharp hats at you. The platforms moving up and down mean you have to constantly pay close attention to what will and won’t hit you. The gnomes will shoot fireballs at you, and climb up the blocks to swipe at you with their hammers.

They’ll also brew projectiles from their cauldron to send towards you, with some being able to be parried. Glumstone will occasionally call in a flock of geese and bring a bear in to try to damage you. Dodging all this madness and laying some hits on him will start his puppet show.

Phase Two has him throwing a ball back and forth between his two hand puppets. It’s best to save a Super Art for this phase to get it over with, seeing as both targets are static and easier to hit. Keep an eye on the ball and the gnomes in the floor too.

After swatting down the King Dice and Devil hand puppets, Glumstone will take you for a snack. It’s up to you to give him an upset stomach by hitting his ulcer.

Having a homing shot helps here if you struggle to move and aim, but the charge and looper shot also work very well for racking up damage.

3 – Esther Winchester (High-Noon Hoopla)

The only airplane boss to be in the DLC, Esther is just as chaotic as the other shoot ‘em up fights in the main game.

Her first phase is frantic from the beginning. Her snake oil shots will fly towards you then back to her before launching back at you one more time. Flying horses also move in and will shoot a small projectile at you, and vultures drop in sticks of dynamite that split into smaller ones. She can also lasso in a cactus to render one half of the screen deadly.

Her second phase has her vacuuming in stolen bags of money, coins, and gold bars, all of which need to be dodged. She’ll then eject her vacuum bag into the sky, with safes falling down and shattering, releasing the deadly money and coins.

Beating this will turn her into a string of sausages, and she’ll fire steaks at you. Keep your wits about you to dodge the cans of beans that open to create small walls. Try to stay on the top half of the screen and switch to the bomb shots when Esther moves to the bottom of the screen.

After being thoroughly cooked, Esther will morph into a can of Prarie Dog sausages. Here she’ll make a cone of hotdogs that have gaps in them to pass through as well shooting jalapenos at you.

This phase can get crazy. With the amount of dodging you’ll need to be doing while also actually damaging Esther, this a turbulent flight for sure.

2- Angel and Demon (One Hell of a Dream)

A secret boss that can be unlocked by solving the graveyard puzzle, this is a return of the Devil, far from happy after his defeat in the main game.

Here, it’s all about how you face your problems. Similar to how the Boos function in the Super Mario games, the Demon and the Angel can be swapped depending on who you’re facing.

By turning around at the correct time, you can render the previous Demon’s fireballs harmless. Alternatively, if you’re not paying attention, you’ll switch a previously innocuous cloud of air into a fiery circle of pain.

This fight isn’t traditionally difficult as many have come to expect from Cuphead, but the mental gymnastics one has to do to understand when to turn around is of an Olympic standard.

1 – Chef Saltbaker (A Dish to Die For)

It’s fitting that the DLC’s hardest boss also be the last one. After pulling the pastry over your eyes to fetch his ingredients, Chef Saltbaker reveals himself to be cut-throat cook looking to take the Wondertart for himself.

After revealing his intentions, the Chef enters the manic first phase by prepping his ingredients in the most deadly way possible. Between the limes, sugar cubes, dough animals, and gnome berries, there are an awful lot of things to keep your eyes on. And that’s without even shooting the crazed culinary!

A beautiful touch in the fight is that all the items collected by the player are used against them in the fight in some form.

Phase Two has you shooting pepper shakers into the Chef’s face while avoiding their peppercorns. Saltbaker also drops mint leaves from the ceiling which need to be dodged as well. This phase isn’t too difficult, but it depends on how many hits you took in Phase One.

Phase Three is fairly trivial as it just has the dancing salt duo. This pair has barely 100 hit points, so they won’t last long if you can lay into them quickly.

Finally, keeping a cool head and one eye on the platforms, you can parry the heart from the Chef until he finally gives in.

Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands

Review of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands

Tiny Tina’s WonderlandsIf you’re a fan of Borderlands, or just looking for a good dungeon crawler to play, then Tiny Tina’s Wonderland is the game for you.

Although it may seem like a simple reskin of Borderlands 3, there are plenty of new features and improvements that make this game worth playing. The shooting and looting loop is as fun as ever, and the humor is much more consistent than in the previous game.

However, if you’re getting bored of Borderlands’ formula, then I wouldn’t recommend picking up Wonderlands. The structure of the game has barely changed since the original Borderlands, so it might not be what you’re looking for.

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If the notion of a “What if Borderlands, but with D&D rules!” sounds strangely familiar, that’s because it does. Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep was a DLC expansion for Borderlands 2 based around the same concept, and this is a near-direct follow-up set after. In fact, Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep: A Wonderland’s One-Shot Adventure has just been re-released as a standalone title. It doesn’t matter whether you play it or not; you’ll know what’s going on without playing it.

Of course, let’s start with the basics; Tiny Tina, along with two of her friends named Valentine and Frett, has crash-landed on a planet while waiting for rescue. Tina decides to bring out Bunkers & Badasses, a role-playing game with a lot of weapons that just happens to be set in the Wild West. Tina creates her own campaign in which you must fight the malevolent Dragon Lord, as voiced by Arnett, the voice of Batman from the Lego Batman movie, as a nameless rookie. How do we know he’s bad? He chops off the magnificent, most amazing, and prettiest pony’s head in all of existence: Queen Butt Stallion. The bad guy has to die clearly.

I had hoped that Wonderlands would be more edgy and dark in its humor, avoiding the subjects that the Borderlands series is known for. There’s always been a dark comedy lurking behind the fart jokes and insanity in Borderlands. Tiny Tina, for example, is a hilarious illustration of this; she’s a completely broken kid who had undergone an immense amount of trauma and wound up dealing with it by adopting a mad persona.

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Over time, the more tragic aspect of Tiny Tina has been pushed into the background, and in Wonderlands, it’s barely even addressed; nevertheless, despite the coarse humor, there are no curse words. That’s because, unlike all previous Borderlands games that have received an M rating, Wonderlands gets a Teen rating.

Let’s be honest here: an age rating on a video game doesn’t immediately improve the writing and humor. The idea of Wonderlands being rated Mature doesn’t make it any more funny, but it does limit the jokes somewhat. The writers themselves poke fun at it several times, noting that the hundreds of Pirates you encounter drink Soda, not rum. In my opinion, the game does not feel as much like a full-fledged Borderlands game as it does previous entries in the series. It also lacks some of the same trademark humor that has been characteristic of this franchise since its inception. With more cooperative play and less focus on exploring, Tiny Tina’s Wasted Potential is a far better fit for younger gamers than its predecessors were. As a long-time Borderlands fan, I did miss the black comedy and adult jokes in this release. The game is rude and crass, which was where much of my enthusiasm for it stems from.

But the good news is that despite the ESRB’s rating, the writing is far superior to Borderlands 3’s cringe-inducing efforts, although it still falls short of the highs set by its predecessors. The tone is lighthearted and enjoyable, and most of the jokes land favorably, however, there’s a feeling that the writers are just flinging joke after joke at you without giving you any rest. The story is also a little on the self-referential side, cramming in subtle and not-so-subtle references to just about everything from the Monkey Island games to role-playing clichés. It relies on it a little too much, though, forgetting that referring to anything isn’t humorous in and of itself.

Tiny Tina is in top form as the insane, erratic, and loud Bunker Master. Ashley Birch provides the voice of Tina once again, and her role as Aloy in Horizon: Forbidden West was somewhat flat. She puts everything into voicing Tina and would have fooled me if I hadn’t known beforehand that she was playing both parts.

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Tina is likely to be as divisive as ever. Her wild behavior, loudness, and tendency to end every statement with a YELL can be quite charming and amusing, or totally irritating. Her voice plays a crucial role in the Bunker Master’s job of narrating activities and even altering the planet in front of your eyes. If you found her annoying in the past games, you may wish to skip Wonderlands entirely or just lower the volume. However, if you’re one of the many people who find her distinct brand of insanity charming, this game is for you.

Valentine and Frett are secondary characters who appear in and out, parodies of D&D players. Although Valentine isn’t the brightest knife in the drawer, he is a fan of the idea of being a hero, and he is more guided by his emotions than Frett, the Robot. These two reconciling their two very different approaches provides a great lesson for all D&D players: there’s a time for rules and a time for winging it.

Overall, I had a lot of fun with Wonderland’s narrative, and I especially liked the Dragon Lord, who gets a lot of words and backstory. Arnett seems to be having a blast voicing the character, and it shines through in all of his lines. What I’m trying to say here is that the tale accomplishes its purpose; it provides a bare minimum of plot explanation for everything while also eliciting a chuckle or two, such as when Torgue violently destroys the entire ocean.

The artists and animators who have stretched their abilities and raided the color box appear to have benefitted from the D&D concept. The settings are vibrant, colorful, and full of fascinating views of ransacked pirate ships or villages that have been lifted into the air by a magic beanstalk. There are several interesting elements in the levels, as well as some enjoyable opponents. Enemy variety is insufficient for the game’s scope; basic skeletons make up the majority of it.

The game surprisingly ran well on my Ryzen 4800 and the aged but still kick-ass GTX 1080. I had everything turned up to maximum, and I didn’t notice any significant framerate drops. The only problem I encountered was stuttering in windowed mode, which the game would occasionally switch to when first starting it up.

This is a Borderlands game through and through, with all the same drawbacks and strengths as its predecessors. This ends up being just as much of a liability as it is a benefit because, on the one hand, the shooting is still lots of fun and the weapons feel fantastic to use. After that, you’re probably going to die a few thousand times over. It is highly unlikely that you will survive the entire campaign on your first try (or even attempt). But hey! You may still have fun with a game like this if you put in the effort, and I’ll show you how further on. What awaits during your journey through Unholy Heights? There are thousands of skeletons and pirates and other cannon fodder who will happily charge at you with all the intellect of a goldfish attempting to solve a math problem, eager to be shot down amid a barrage of colors, explosions, and special abilities. There are still mountains of guns to loot and analyze. There are still heaps of pop-culture nods, dumb jokes, and nonsense for you to read and chuckle with.

Given the plethora of fantasy cliches, I was a little disappointed that Gearbox stayed true to their guns. In fact. You could be fighting goblins, climbing beanstalks, and battling an evil Dragon Lord while wielding an assault rifle or a shotgun, in general. A few weapons get a little more glamorized, such as pistols with crossbow parts or a shotgun with a bubbling cauldron of crystals, but I believe there was much more space for Gearbox to go creative and embrace the fantasy element rather than sticking to the franchise’s usual style. A handheld trebuchet that shoots flails perhaps?

The guns are still enjoyable to use, and they’re well-balanced. There is no longer a way to improve weapons, so if you find something you like, it will certainly be discarded after an hour or two, but with so many different gun models shot at your face, you’ll undoubtedly discover something else to fill the huge hole in your heart. Then wielding that boomstick to kill stupid opponents is satisfying, stress-relieving fun.

The new spell system adds a little bit of variety to the mix by swapping out grenades for spells. You may loot a wide range of magic abilities, such as meteoric fireballs or intense auras, in this D&D reskin. It’s not like these additions provide much gameplay value; it’s simply another ability with a Cooldown. However, throwing out spells is still enjoyable, and when combined with your class’ specialty, it provides you with lots to do. If you pick the spell-casting class, you can really hurl magical projectiles quickly, and even equip two spells at once.

In terms of class distinction, things have gotten a few improvements, owing to the fact that you no longer pick a predetermined character with a fixed class. When creating your own custom character, you may select from six different classes, but you can also adopt a second class later on. It’s not feasible to max out both skill trees since you only have so many skill points available, but it’s a lot of fun to mix and match your skills. Then, near the end of the game, you may swap out the secondary skill tree at any time to play around with it. I really like this alteration to the system because it allows for a lot more experimenting and varied play styles in terms of whether you want to go after elemental damage or buff spells or concentrate on your companion dishing out more hurt.

There has also been an effort to improve the melee combat. You may now obtain new swords, hammers, and axes with their own characteristics and special perks, and the fighting skills have a slew of bonuses for hitting people in the face. Actually, I believe that constructing a totally melee build is feasible. However, that would be a pretty boring way to play because there’s just one button for striking things, so doing so for 15+ hours is probably going to get monotonous. Plus, in a series about stockpiling weapons like some sort of military dragon, why would you want to?

The strict adherence to the Borderlands game template is perhaps the most significant problem with this, as we saw in the first game and which has barely changed in the years since. It’s a little vexing that Gearbox hasn’t advanced their quest-making methods for decades, despite the fact that so many games have come and gone. The story’s writing team does a fantastic job of disguising the tasks with interesting themes or concepts, such as when Tiny Tina is attempting to complete a quest while Valentine and Frett are distracted by an unimportant NPC. These portions are fantastic, and most of the side missions are good, but I found myself growing bored with the same basic structure over and over again. There aren’t any. It would have been nice to include a few surprising pieces or turns to make things seem new and exciting, but there aren’t any. I get the impression that I had a good time playing Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, yet I can’t recall anything in particular.

The new overworld, like the previous games, is constructed similarly to that of classic D&D campaigns. It acts as a connecting link between all of the objectives and is full with ruins and dungeons to explore. Your character’s head becomes a bobblehead; there are shortcuts to discover and even a few abilities that allow you to return and access previously inaccessible locations or collect special loot dice that boost your chances of finding valuable gear. The new Combat Encounters are self-contained arenas full of monsters to fight, essentially condensing the whole Borderlands concept into a few rounds of combat. I enjoy some of the smaller overworld elements, such as fallen Cheetos serving as barriers or soda rivers that neatly convey the idea that the overworld is a genuine D&D map. It can’t be denied that the overworld adds nothing to the game in and of itself; after all, it’s just a hub world with a different camera angle – but I still appreciated its inclusion for what it was.

The shooting and looting in Borderlands have always been its two major pillars. The first game was advertised as containing “millions” of weapons, and that number has only increased thanks to the game’s ability to combine distinct parts to create new bullet-spewing equipment. Most of the time, this implies minor statistical variances and elemental properties, but it’s not uncommon for it to produce interesting results. There are also the new legendary items, such as a screaming Banshee blade or the Queen’s Crey, which can call frost meteors. Hunting down valuable loot, obtaining slightly superior gear that fits your build, and the thrill of a Legendary emerging from a chest are all as pleasurable, gratifying, and addicting as they’ve ever been.

However, when it comes to the rainbow showers of weapons, armors, abilities, and trinkets, I must confess that Borderlands has gone a bit too far. With the introduction of lootable spells, armor, and cosmetics there’s now more gear than ever before coming from foes and chests alike; all offering minute changes in stats. I soon found myself ignoring almost all of it, only pausing to investigate the purples and legendaries, and maybe the odd blue. The rest remained on the floor, like a carelessly discarded handful of Skittles destined to be thrown away. I don’t believe there will be that many die-hard fans who will go through every single drop, but I feel like the typical person would be similar to me and overlook the bulk of it, in order to save hundreds of hours of their life. Perhaps I’ll be alone with this viewpoint, but I think Gearbox needs to reel down the loot a little so that it starts to seem valuable again.

I’m really not a fan of how the game manages cosmetics. It’s nice that bad guys constantly drop new tattoo designs and colors for your custom character to use. However, it is aggravating to have them take up room in your inventory if you do not remember to go in and open them.  All this in mind, cosmetic collections are a waste of time and money. When you have hundreds or thousands of cosmetics, they take up a lot of room until you finally toss them out. It’s an ill-advised game design that takes away essential inventory space in a game all about hoarding things like a rampaging vacuum cleaner. The obvious answer is that cosmetics should be added straight to your collection. Simple, right?

It’ll take you 10-15 hours to finish the game, and if you want to complete the numerous side-quests and challenges that dot the overworld and major areas, it’s certainly going to be double that. There’s a decent amount of end-game content after that, in which you may participate in the Chaos Chamber fights. These are a sequence of arena fights against a variety of foes, with curses and blessings being picked up between rounds. A currency is gained during the journey that may be used to obtain loot, with new kinds of gear not seen in the rest of the game appearing along the way. It’s a fantastic method to extend gameplay time without detracting from the overall experience.

Conclusion

Borderlands 3 is a fantastic addition to the series, with more shooting and looting than ever before. Although there may be too much loot for some players, the game still offers an enjoyable experience that can last for dozens of hours. The end-game content is also well-done, providing extra challenges and rewards for players who want to keep playing after finishing the story. Whether you’re a fan of Borderlands or not, this game is sure to please.

Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands
Overall rating: 3.5 star
Available On: PC, Playstation & Xbox
Developed By: Gearbox

Back to basics with X-Wing and Armada

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My wardrobe is full of spaceships. So many spaceships that there’s barely room for clothes. Most of them live in an enormous box which crushes my shirts out of all recognition when it’s squeezed in and out for play. It’s a good job I play with spaceships a lot more than I wear shirts.

Having a cupboard crammed with spaceships is awesome, but it’s also a little tiring. Each comes with cardboard and plastic that must be meticulously selected and laid out before playing. That was, up until recently, where most of the game was in x-wing, and that’s sad. What was sadder is how often I’d ruin the suspension of disbelief just to make a better list.

Take Poe Dameron. Poe’s an incredible fighter pilot, and it shows in his skills and abilities. He’s also an incredibly expensive fighter pilot that you’ll want to preserve to cause maximum carnage and deny the enemy victory points. So, given that his ability lets him benefit from focus tokens without spending them, it makes sense to give his ship an astromech droid which can spend the token to regenerate shields. Right?

Of course it does. Poe with R5-P9 is a great combo that I’ve seen used to great effect in many games. It’s also completely and utterly wrong.

You’ve seen The Force Awakens. You know that Poe would never take to space without his beloved BB-8 and focus tokens be dammed. So, with the Force Awakens base set for X-Wing and one each of the existing expansion models, that’s exactly what I did. I flew Poe as he’d want to be flown. With BB-8 on board, a rookie wingman, and nothing else.

They ran into an ambush on the wingman’s training flight. Three members of the First Order’s Omega Squadron and their fearsome ace. Similarly unequipped with any modifications. The TIE f/o’s caught them in an ambush and smashed down the rookie’s shields with a volley of plasma fire, before smartly executing a k-turn and coming back in for the kill.

Poe screwed up. He panicked, and no matter how much he weaved and used BB-8 to barrel roll, he could barely make it into the fight beyond a couple of stray bolts. The rookie, meanwhile, took a deep breath, concentrated on the force and flew straight and true into the heart of the enemy swam.

When the dust cleared, only Omega leader was left flying and the rookie, his hull hanging together with prayers and sticky tape, joined up with Poe and caught the wicked ace in a murderous crossfire. Game over.

It was simple. It was fast. And it was brilliant.

Armada had the same feeling of freshness when it was first released. That’s part of what I liked about it: a rich, epic game that played in a couple of hours and didn’t need lots of pre-prep work. What mattered were the decisions you made on the table, more than the ones you made beforehand. Wave 1 didn’t overburden that dynamic too much, and the game did need a few more ships.

So now we’ve got wave 2 and so far I’ve picked up the rebel releases. How could I not, with Admiral Ackbar coming in the Home One expansion and giving me the chance to shout “it’s a trap” when my fleet came into contact with the enemy? Plus, Home one and the MC30 rebel frigate are sweeting looking models. The Frigate also promises to bring some much-needed black dice firepower to the Rebel side. I still haven’t tamed my inner wargamer enough to resist pre-painted plastics.

Throw in the Rogues and Villains expansion and you’ve got a plethora of ships to play with. And that, for the moment, is all I care about. So I’ve started doing the same there – forgoing lots of detailed upgrades in favour of a fleet commander, a couple of capital ships and a few characters and fighter wings.

It’s hard to leave out Han and the Falcon when you’ve got them in your collection. You can even take the little plastic ship off its stand and perch above the bridge of a Star Destroyer if you’re a real geek.

The first time I ran a list like this was against someone who’d tooled up with upgrades just like usual. Because there’s still not a fleet builder for Armada that actually prints the card effects on the output sheet, it took a while to get set up. I’d seized on the concept of using Garm Bel Iblis and just taking as many ships as I could, to maximise my free tokens. It seemed like a good plan. It wasn’t.

In truth, it was a massacre. I didn’t play well, treating it more like X-Wing and going in all guns blazing than the more thoughtful approach required for Armada, but even so, I don’t think I took out a single Imperial big ship. Upgrades, it seems, are more important in Armada than they are in X-Wing. Which makes the lack of a fully-featured fleet builder all the more annoying.

Such an awful loss was partly down to an unfortunate feature of Armada that I don’t think I’ve spotted before. With the range ruler literally allowing handfuls more dice to be thrown between range steps, tiny distances can make a big difference in the outcome. His Gladiator-class Star Destroyer was in black dice range on a critical turn, and my MC30 wasn’t. If the opposite had been true, it might have been a very different outcome.

Frankly, I stopped playing miniature games to get away from exactly this sort of thing. But I like Armada too much to hold that against it. So next time, I think I might make both lists. Hang the upgrades and just take Akbar and Home One squaring off against some big Star Destroyers and squadrons, just like the denouement of Return of the Jedi. I’ll get to shout “it’s a trap!”, and I’d urge you all to do the same.

Bolt Thrower: #2015 Game of the Year

This time last year, I was so tired of the generic nature of most new board games that I’d started to wonder if my favourite hobby had passed its glory days. I’ve never been happier to have been proved wrong. After a couple of years of wretched releases, 2015 has been a stellar time for tabletop gaming.

When there was so much chaff in the machine, I couldn’t bring myself to do much more than pick a top three for my best-of-year posts. Sometimes it was difficult to find even three. This time I’m faced with an embarrassment of riches. I’ve never liked the idea of honouring games by category: it feels artificial. If the two best games this year were both dexterity games (they weren’t) then both deserve a mention.

So here’s what were going to do. I’m going to run through my favourite games of the year and, at the end, pick one for game of the year. But they’re all fantastic. All worthy of your time and money.

Before we get stuck in, I have to admit that there’s one title that ought to be in the running which I haven’t played. That title is Pandemic: Legacy. Not being an enormous fan of the original, I passed on this at first. By the time it became a must-have game and I wanted to review it, everyone else had it already. Hopefully there’ll be time for a review in the new year. I might think that Pandemic is merely average. But since I opened Risk: Legacy this year and it became my sixth-ever top scoring game, I ought to see how the legacy concept works with other systems.

Now, on with the show.

Star Wars: Armada

X-Wing looked fantastic on the table, but it felt more like a crapshoot than a tactical combat game. That’s slowly changing but, however good it gets, it’ll never offer as much game as Armada does. And even with unpainted fighters, Armada still looks the biz when it’s laid out. I was playing in a pub once, and a complete stranger came over and started taking photographs, muttering “that’s mint. That’s fucking mint.”

I’d argue it’s actually more accessible than its older brother due to fewer ships and upgrades and a more predictable play time. So, easy to pick up, fantastic looking, rich and deep to play: what’s not to love? Well, the price, I guess. But you don’t need a lot of ships to build a fun, functional fleet.

Specter Ops

The sorts of games we love are often bloated with rules and components in place of actual theme. Sometimes this works, more often it just gets in the way of enjoyment. Yet when designers try to strip these things away to make shorter, simpler games, often all that’s left is a hollow shell.

Specter Ops is the grandest refutation of that conclusion I’ve ever seen. You can be up and playing in minutes yet you might end up playing for hours and hours over the shelf-life of the game. It’s built taut, asymmetrical and full of cunning deduction on a foundation that looks flimsy, but is rock solid.

Fury of Dracula 3rd Edition

Hidden movement is one of my favourite mechanics, so getting two top titles in one year is a real treat. And with the original Fury being one of my favourite games, it’s no surprise I see 2015 has being an out of the park year for quality.

You’ll need to put in a bit of work to figure this one out, but it does play fast and it’ll reward you a hundredfold. Dense, claustrophobic and slipperier than a box of frogs yet still full of depth and crazy see-saws of fortune. It’ll suck you in and never let you out.

Codenames

People have been mining the seams of social games and word for so long that it’s rare anything of value turns up. So imagine my surprise when a designer known for mediumweight thematic titles turned up a great title that was novel in both genres.

The best thing about Codenames is its chameleon-like ability to be all things to all people. It works co-operatively or competitively. You can play it hard or for laughs. Teams can play it just as well as individuals. Whichever way up you turn it, it’s still just as much fun.

Churchill

You’d not think, to look at the box or read the rules, that this is perhaps the deepest game I’ve seen in years. It looks and smells like a negotiation game, and there’s plenty of that to do. Yet underneath are layers and layers of mechanics to puzzle over and perfect.

That it presents such a compelling piece of alternative history too is just the icing on the cake. With such variety and replay value, Churchill would go on my “if you only had 10 games” list without a second thought.

And the winner is …

In keeping with the quality of this year’s games, this is the hardest choice I’ve had to make for some time. So I’m not going to make it: I’m going to let my friends and family do it, without them knowing.

They’ve had a great time with all of the games on my shortlist. But there was one that got asked for over and above the initial wow-factor of any well designed. One that got worked over, worried at, examined in a fierce competition to be the first to be best. One that shut out the world outside more effectively than the rest.

That game is the new edition of The Fury of Dracula.

I had always dreamed that one day, someone might be able to shoehorn the best bits of the two previous editions into one box, but I never really believed it would come true. Yet there it is, a special Christmas present for me. And for all of you, too, if you’re lucky enough to find one under the tree. Have a great solstice.