Nerd Fuel: Green Mountain – Toasted Marshmallow Mocha

Every January I take a week’s vacation. I do this so that I can spend a whole week relaxing, catching up on my honey-do list, and so I can have a chance to refresh my brain before jumping in and tackling all that the new year has to offer. It’s my way saying goodbye to the holidays. So, with that, I’ve come down to the last seasonal coffee I have in the line up to review. For this Nerd Fuel post, I’m going to share my thoughts on Green Mountain’s  Toasted Marshmallow Mocha.

This is an odd cup of coffee. When brewing it, you get a nice toasted marshmallow aroma. It smells absolutely incredible. In fact, I reminds me a lot of the little freeze-dried marshmallows you might find in a box of Lucky Charms. It’s also the first thing you taste when you take a sip, but it’s quickly replaced with an awful cardboard-ish after taste. This is actually the mocha, but to me, it clashes with the marshmallow flavor. Both flavors are very artificial. They taste cheap and just overall… bad. This is not the quality I had come to expect from Green Mountain.

Somehow I managed to drink my way through 18 cups of this since the start of the winter season, and it never got any better. I tried it a number of ways too. I drank it black, I used my favorite Sweet Italian creme, I tried milk and sugar, I even tried a variety of different flavored creamers. Nothing helped me to enjoy it. I don’t know what to say about this selection. Maybe it could be good in some kind of shake or iced concoction. But I won’t be spending the effort to find out. This might be the worst K-Cup I’ve tried thus far.

Score: 1 out of 4

Would Purchase again?: No. Cheap artificial flavoring. Bad after taste. Overall, a real stinker.

My Experiences as an “MMO Girl” (Part 1)

So, as I promised, in 2017 I’m going to try to do more with this site besides write and post reviews. This post is a prime example of that. This is an article about a secret experiment I’ve been conducting. One that I’m now ready to share. In this post, I’m going to describe my experiences as playing an MMO under the guise of being a female.

Now, I’m not doing this in attempt to be controversial or shocking. This was an idea borne out of sincere curiosity. Please allow me to explain. If you’re a frequent reader to this site, you know that I’m an avid player of Final Fantasy XIV. My character, Kijimuna was created during 1.0 early access and has persisted throughout the entire course of the game. It was with this character that I founded one of the first Free Companies on the Balmung Server:  The Luminous Company.  However, over the years being a “casual only” company on one of the most competitive and overcrowded servers took it’s toll.  The numbers of active players in my company dwindled from over a hundred, down to about two dozen in a few years. In the last twelve months, I found that only myself and about three other players were active in company. Eventually, the company finally just came down to myself and one other player; a girl I had known since the original 1.0 version of the game. The day finally came when I logged on and noticed that even she had not logged on in over 30 days. It was then, I decided it was time to close up shop and consider finding a new group of in-game friends to join.

The problem I ran into was this: my server was jammed packed with elitist players. Despite my long term experience with the game, I am very much a casual player. I cannot commit to any schedule and I don’t have the ability to dedicate hours and hours to endless grinding. A few companies I did join up with never really felt like home to me as I was unable to participate in many activities due to my schedule. The one thing I really loved doing in the game, helping new players, was an impossibility on my server. You see, Balmung (my server) is super popular and therefore almost always locked for new character creation. There are simply no new players to help. That’s when I decided to take the plunge and move to a non-legacy server. A place where I could interact with newer players. As I was preparing for this move, I recalled a conversation that I had with my longtime in-game friend. One night, when it was just the two of us playing, she described to me her experiences being a female player in an online game. She explained how for the most part, people are generally kind. But how occasionally, she would find herself being objectified or suffering some minor unwanted advances. She also described how, if she really wanted to, she was able to manipulate a large portion of male players into providing her with help and sometimes even get them to carry her through difficult content.  I always wondered just how true that was.  – Well, as I sat there preparing to move Kijimuna to his new home, a thought occurred to me; what would happen if I transformed Kiji into a female? I mean, I had a number of these Fantasia potions (character re-design items) stashed away, perks from playing 1.0. I could use one and design my character as a female, temporarily – and blog about my experiences. It sounded like an interesting idea, so… I did it!   With that, Kijimuna Kudaka was no more.

……… drumroll

                                   ……..                            ……..

                                                                      …….                  …….  MEET:     Chichi !!!

First, I want to clear something up. When I transformed Kiji to Chichi, I did so solely with this article in mind. I had no intentions of using the transformation as an attempt to benefit or enrich my character. In fact, when creating my new persona I decided to stick with the very mundane and “unsexual” Lalafell race. The last thing I wanted to do was create some buxom, sexy fem fatale. I wanted to see what a real female mmo-player might experience.

I have now been playing as Chichi for almost three months and it has been an interesting experience. But before I get into the details, I want to layout some important facts around this experiment:

First – I never come out and claim to be a female. I’m simply playing a female character, and allowing others to make assumptions.

Second – I don’t flirt, act girly or cutesy, or change my in-game behavior in any way.

Now, with that in mind let’s talk about the results. Well, the last three months have been interesting. First, I’m amazed at just how many people automatically assume that because I am playing a female character, that I must be a female. Perhaps it is because I’m playing a cute little Lalafell and not some bikini-clad Valkyrie… I don’t know. But the majority of players I interact with do assume that the person behind my keyboard is indeed a female.

I’m proud to report that most players treat me no different than they did before. I’ve not been sexually harassed, or looked down on. However, it does seem that people actually seem to be a little kinder and patient with Chichi then they were with Kijimuna.  If I’m playing with others and I botch something, there’s less frustration exhibited.  I have also received more offers for help and more invitations for groups than I did before.

In fact, this led me to making another very important decision in regards to this experiment.  I decided to politely decline all free company invitations for the first few months or so. Just so I could see how many invites I would receive.  When playing as Kijimuna, after disbanding The Luminous Company, I received a total of two invites in the three months before deciding to leave Balmung.  As Chichi, I received a total of eleven in the same amount of time!

In fact, my refusal to join with any established groups created a bit of a buzz. A lot of people seemed puzzled by my insistence on playing solo. Well, I’ve recently caved and accepted an invitation to a small, but established Free Company. This will no doubt result in more social interactions with other players. So, I’m curious to see just where that might lead.  To date, I have yet to experience any off-color comments or negative experiences. Let’s see if that changes as I begin to mingle more with other players. Stay tuned for an update in the coming months!

Check-up: No Man’s Sky (1.1 Foundation Update)

I’m a little late with this post, but a couple month’s ago Hello Games released the first major update to No Man’s Sky; version 1.1. Also known as the Foundation Update. This patch is described as the “foundation” in which future enhancements to the game will be built on. So what’s new?

First of all, there are a plethora of bug fixes and quality of life enhancements. Certain items are now stackable. That may not sound like a big deal, but it’s actually a HUGE boon for players. As the game suffered from major inventory management issues.  The crafting system has received a major overhaul. New materials  have been introduced and a major re-balance of resource availability as been implemented throughout the entire game.  Players can now craft new items that can be used to actually build and construct player housing. (Bases).  If that’s not enough, players can now purchase “freighters” to horde away materials and gear.

The patch also introduces two new modes of play: Creative and Survival  (Basically, God Mode and Hard Mode). It also includes several graphical enhancements, making the game look and feel better than ever.

One of the stranger aspects of the patch is that it seemed to actually reset the entire game universe. All of my previously discovered planets were changed. Worlds that were once barren moons were now lush planets when I revisited them. Landmarks were different. Previously discovered areas no longer existed. The game remembered all of my old progress, but at the same time I had to rediscover everything over again. This felt very odd to me.  For this reason, players who are not deeply invested into their progress with the game, may want to consider starting over from scratch. This would seem to provide a better experience.

Overall, the Foundation Update is certainly a step in the right direction for No Man’s Sky, but the game still seems to be missing something. There’s still not much of a “game”.  There’s no real end objective and no real compelling content to hook and drive players towards an end goal.  That being said, No Man’s Sky is a beautiful game. Playing it can be a relaxing experience. But just go into it knowing what to expect.

For me, I’m looking forward to future updates. This game has so much potential, but I fear it may never manifest.

Check Up: Diablo III (Patch 2.4.3)

It’s been almost three years since my review of the Diablo III expansion pack, Reaper of Souls. But the game is still going strong. In fact, due to a recent update I decided to provide a “check up” on the status of the game.

Since Diablo III’s initial release, the game has gone through a number of changes. We’ve seen the removal of a few controversial features, a full expansion set, and even a port of the game to home consoles.  Throughout all this time, Diablo III has managed to stay relevant through a series of patches that not only fix bugs, but add exclusive items and loot that are typically only available for a limited time.

Most players manage to complete the game’s main story rather quickly. It’s the game’s “Adventure Mode” or Seasonal challenges that really seem to gather the most attention.  At the time of this writing, Diablo has just launched it’s ninth season. What are seasons? Well, a “season” in Diablo III is a chance to start the game over from the very beginning. You create a new character and tackle the game from the ground up. What’s special is, when playing a seasonal character, you have the chance to earn exclusive season-only items. When the season is over, your character and all of their seasonal loot are converted back to your main savefile.

This is something that has really taken off with players. I’m ashamed to admit, that I really have not taken full advantage of this feature. Yes, I’ve tinkered around with seasonal characters in the past, but I’ve never really given it the attention that it deserves. As a result, I’ve missed out on some great stuff.

But, even if you’re like me, and never really dabbled in the seasonal or end game content for Diablo III, now is the time to take a second look. It’s the 20th anniversary of Diablo, and for a limited time, there’s a special Diablo 1-themed dungeon available to explore. This content includes exclusive achievements and loot.  This event is restricted to Adventure Mode, so players will be required to have completed the game before they can access it.  But even if you haven’t, there’s still time!

I recently started up my neglected copy of Diablo III just for this anniversary event and was floored at just how polished and mature this game has become over the years. If you’re a fan and haven’t paid much attention to this title recently, now would be a great time to jump back in. Everything we love about Diablo is still here, and it’s better than ever.

Nerd Fuel: Green Mountain – Wicked Winter Blend

Winter is certainly here for most of us in the United States and other parts of the world. One of the ways I always warm up after a trek outside in the snow is a warm cup of coffee. For us Keurig owners, there’s certainly no lack of options when it comes to seasonal winter coffees. So far, I’ve checked out Sugar Cookie, Peppermint Bark, and a Starbucks Holiday blend. So today, I’m going to take a look at one of Green Mountain’s offerings, the Wicked Winter Blend.

What we have here is Green Mountain’s holiday spin on a dark roasted coffee. But, before you assume this is just a rebrand on their Dark Magic variety, think again. The Wicked Winter Blend is it’s own beast. It’s certainly dark, with a mild bit of bitterness. But it has a very complex flavor. It’s a bit hard to nail down… spicy, earthy, but somewhat mild at the same time. It’s a difficult cup to explain and one that should be best experienced for yourself. The flavor certainly seems fitting for a winter seasonal.  I found it to be pleasant and quite drinkable.  As the name suggests, it makes for a rather effective way to warm up after being out in the cold.

All in all, if you’re a fan of dark, bold coffee and you’re looking for something a little different for the winter season, this is certainly a welcome suggestion. Fans of lighter, less aggressive coffee might want to skip this one.

Score: 3 out of 4

Would Purchase again?: Doubtful. This coffee is great. Very well done, but there’s nothing here unique enough to make me choose it over some of the other great blends out there. 

Dungeons & Dragons: Volo’s Guide to Monsters

Wow! It’s been a while since I made a Dungeons & Dragons post. Almost two years. But, it’s also been that long since Wizard’s  released a core supplement. Everything they’ve put out in the meantime has either been adventure modules or campaign source material. But finally we have something of interest to talk about;  Volo’s Guide to Monsters.

What we have here is an interesting combination of both a reference book and a monster manual, all rolled into one. The first half of this book deals strictly with monster lore. This is mainly of interest to Dungeon masters who may wish to know more “scientific” details behind some of the more iconic monsters in the game. It’s written much like a research paper. For example, there’s a section on Beholders that includes everything you could ever want to know: life cycle information, physical details, diet, etc.

Second, there’s small area that introduces a handful of optional playable races to the 5th edition game. That’s always interesting, albeit controversial.

Finally, we have the real gem. The Bestiary. And it is filled with tons of classic, forgotten 1e monsters! (Including some of my old favorites; Darklings, Flail Snails, Red Caps…. classic stuff!)

Sadly, I haven’t been playing much D&D lately. But, I’m still relentlessly collecting every official 5E supplement. I know the time will come sooner or later when I will be able to pick up one of my favorite hobbies again.  So, if you’re just getting back into the game, or even if you’ve been trucking along the whole time, Volo’s Guide to Monsters is a quality release. No 5E DM should be without it, in my opinion.

Happy New Year! (2017)

With 2016 behind us, let me take a moment to share my plans for the new year.

In terms of this site, I got a lot done last year. For RetroSensei.net, 2016 was the year of Final Fantasy.  That being said, 2017 is going to be the year of the backlog. It is my intention to make great headway in playing-through many of the more iconic games of yesteryear. So far on this site, I’ve touched on the 8-bit and 16-bit eras. Currently, I’m mixing things up between the N64, PS1 and late-90’s PC games. This will continue.

On the agenda for the comings months are classics like; Ocarina of Time & Majora’s Mask, Final Fantasy Tactics, Resident Evil 2 &3, Baldur’s Gate 2, etc.

I’ll continue to provide updates for FFXIV as well as occasionally touching on some other modern titles. I plan to play and post reviews for The Last Guardian, for example. Also, this year I plan to post more general articles, something I have not done in a while.

I have a few other ideas for 2017 that I’m not really ready to announce yet… but rest assured – I have some plans that will lay the groundwork for some big changes to the site.

Retrosensei.net has always been a very personal project of mine.  I write here mostly for my own amusement, it is a journal of my own interests. But, since the inception of this site I’ve watched the daily pageviews grow. In the age of YouTube and drive-by content delivery, I’ve been proud to present a site that focuses largely on the written word. I’ll continue to do that, but I may also open myself up to other mediums of content as well.

As always, follow me on Twitter for the most up-to-date gaming news. Twitter is my live playground.

Nerd Fuel: Starbucks – Holiday Blonde Roast

As 2016 winds to a close, I leave you with my final Nerd Fuel coffee review of the year. This time, I’m stepping out of my comfort zone and trying a brand that I generally don’t care for; Starbucks. From my experience, most Starbucks coffee tastes burnt and mediocre at best. But, my local grocery store was really pushing this holiday offering from them, so I decided to give it a try.

What we have here is a “Blonde Roast” coffee. A blonde roast is a very lightly roasted bean. So light in fact that the bean doesn’t actually darken. This generally makes for a rather weak coffee. I typically don’t like this type of brew, but considering Starbucks’ has a habit of over-roasting their beans, I decided to give it a try. I have to admit that in this particular case, it works well.

This is actually quite a pleasant coffee. The box claims to have hints of brown sugar, allspice and orange,  but to be honest, these flavors are barely detectable. To me, it tasted like a slightly-weaker, general breakfast blend. But one of good quality. Unlike many holiday coffee blends, there’s no overpowering spice. In fact, I quite liked it.

I made my cup in my typical fashion; sweet Italian creamer, no sugar.  But, I feel that this blend would be ideal for experimenting with different flavored creamers and would also work well as an iced coffee. All in all, this a very nice presentation by Starbucks. Blonde Roast fans should certainly give this coffee a try. Yes, this is a weaker coffee, but somehow it manages to keep a full flavor.

Again, this coffee really surprised me. Many blonde roasts taste watered-down. Not the case here. This is a full-flavored, complex coffee. A very good quality offering from Starbucks.

Score: 3 out of 4

Would buy again?:  YES! This is a unique coffee with a bright interesting flavor. One of my favorite seasonal selections from this year so far.

Review: Final Fantasy XV – A King’s Tale

For those of you that pre-ordered your copy of Final Fantasy XV from Gamestop, you may have noticed a download code on your receipt for a bonus game. (If you didn’t notice this code, go fish your receipt out of the trash, quick! The code is for something called A King’s Tale. A King’s Tail is a mini, 16-bit style beat-em-up based on characters and monsters from Final Fantasy XV.  It’s a simple little game, and one that’s nothing at all like the actual Final Fantasy XV. But, for a price tag of $0.00,  you can’t beat it.

The premise of the title is simple, in A King’s Tale, Prince Noctis is still a child. One night his father, King Regis, tells him a fantastic bedtime story about an epic battle against legions of monsters. The “bedtime story” makes up the actual gameplay. Once you have completed the main story, Prince Noctis finally goes to sleep. This unlocks a slew of optional Dream Battles.

The gameplay is best described as an old arcade-style brawler. IE: Double Dragon. But much more fast paced. To start, King Regis only has limited abilities but as you continue to play and progress through the stages, more and more attack options become unlocked. As you play, you’ll find that certain monsters are weak to certain types of attacks. So you learn to tailor your strategy to match whatever you’re fighting. The tricky part is that you’re often attacked by multiple enemies at once, so you have to learn to switch up your assault on the fly.

Once you completed the main scenario, you unlock what are known as Dream Battles. These are short rounds of combat that also include an optional goal. To complete the battle properly (and earn a gold star), you need to achieve whatever the objective is – for example, complete the battle without using magic.

On the surface, A King’s Tale seems like a very simple little freebie. But, there’s actually a surprising amount of thought that’s gone into the game. The game comes complete with it’s own chiptune style soundtrack and even has achievements/trophies.

The worst thing about the game is that it is not available to the general public. Currently, only players that pre-ordered the game from specific retailers have access. I hope that after some time goes by, this decision is reversed.  Until that day arrives, if you’re one of the lucky bunch of players who can get your hands on A King’s Tale, it’s certainly worth a look. My only complaint about the title is a lack of multiplayer. This would be the perfect game for some co-op, even it was only local with a second controller.

 

Difficulty: Hard –  Looking like a retro title isn’t the only thing “old school” about A King’s Tale. The game also has a “Nintendo-Hard” level of difficulty.  This is especially true for the final battle and several of the Dream Battles. Progress is saved from stage to stage, but occasionally, the battles themselves can get very frantic. Those who are easily frustrated or not familiar with this type of game may not find this to their liking.

Story: This game could loosely be considered a prequel to Final Fantasy XV, as it takes place when Noctis is a young boy. But, the storyline here is not critical to the XV universe at large. Regardless, it’s cute and does provide a bit of nice window-dressing to the already large FFXV universe.

Originality: Years ago, games like this were a dime a dozen, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen a title like this so it was quite a refreshing experience. I’ve certainly never played a Final Fantasy title in this genre.

Soundtrack: Classic retro era chiptunes! The music here sounds like something right out of Double Dragon. It’s simply amazing!

Fun: I used to enjoy these games immensely when I was young.  So, I personally had a blast. But I can imagine that fans attracted to Final Fantasy titles as a whole may not appreciate this type of game. The difficulty level can also result in some frowns from younger players, I imagine.

Graphics: The graphics here are on par with a title you might find on the old SNES or in a retro arcade. Cartoonish, 16-bit sprites. But, the game is tweaked for modern consoles and looks great in HD.

Playcontrol: The controls are easy to grasp and very responsive. No real issues.

Downloadable Content:  N/A

Mature Content: Cartoon violence

Value:  This title is provided for free as a preorder perk for Final Fantasy XV. It doesn’t get any better than free!

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – For a free title, it’s difficult to be picky. I suppose my biggest complaint would be a lack of local multiplayer. The difficulty level may turn off some modern players, but just like any retro title; practice makes perfect.

Available on: PSN and Xbox Live (DLC code only)

 

Other Reviews In This Series:

IIIIIIIVVVI VIIVIIIIXXX2XIXII XIIIXIII 2XIII Lightning Returns XIV – XV 

IV: After YearsVII: Dirge of CerberusVII: Crisis CoreVII: Advent Children (Movie)XII: Revenant Wings – Type-0 – XV: A King’s TaleXV: Brotherhood (Anime)XV: Kingsglaive (Movie)

World of Final Fantasy – Explorers – Mystic Quest – 4 Heroes of Light 

Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2

Dissidia – Dissidia 012

Crystal Chronicles – Ring of Fates – My Life as King – My Life as Darklord – Echoes of Time – Crystal Bearers

Dimensions – Record Keeper – Brave Exvius – Mobius Final Fantasy  – Justice Monsters V – King’s Knight 

Nerd Fuel: Donut Shop Coffee – Peppermint Bark

Merry Christmas! It’s here, Christmas 2016. I hope you got tons of games and nerdy goodies this year. Being a parent certainly puts Christmas in a different perspective. As a father of two boys, I still receive a gift or two over the holidays, but the focus shifts from enjoying your own gifts to watching the kids enjoy theirs. Naturally, kids are wound tighter than a steel drum on Christmas Eve so this can make for a late night, if you know what I mean. To get through it, I always rely on a strong cup of coffee.

This year my father came over to visit and brought over a box of Donut Shop – Peppermint Bark coffee. Now, I’m not a big peppermint guy. I like mint in my gum and occasionally in my chocoloate, but I’m in no way a fan of drinking mint.  I don’t like mint cocoa, minty chocolate milk, etc. It’s just not my thing. So I cringed at the thought of a peppermint bark-flavored coffee. But, I’ve been a fan of Donut Shop’s other offerings so I decided to drink it in the name of science!

The brewing process resulted in quite a strong minty-aroma. It was a pleasant smell, but I was certain this was going to result in a buzzfest of mint in my mouth. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as bad as I anticipated. The peppermint flavor is certainly there, but it’s not overpowering. Depiste the “Extra Bold” label, I found it to be somewhat mild and smooth. It works quite well with a sweetened creamer. I enjoyed his coffee hot, but I imagine it would be just as good, if not better as an iced coffee.

Personally, due to my personal preferences, this isn’t a coffee that I see myself buying. But, it certainly wasn’t bad at all. If you’re a fan of peppermint bark, or just mint in general, this might be exactly what you’re looking for. The peppermint flavor does give this coffee a bit of zing, but nothing too extreme. It actually works quite well on a winter night as an after dinner dessert coffee.

Score: 3 out of 4

Would buy again?:   Maybe. This is a decent desert coffee, and it certainly has it’s place in the holiday lineup.  But I’d have to be in mood to drink this. It’s not an everyday cup. Peppermint lovers will really dig this though.