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I’ve put many hours into my Aldmeri Dominion Khajiit dual-wield assassin. She’s kind of amazing, and her name is Juunyth. I enjoy playing the game, yet I feel like ESO is the Lite beer of the Elder Scrolls universe. Not that Skyrim was Cristal, but many of the experiences I have in ESO feel empty compared to what I enjoyed about the previous games in the series. Having said that, I drink Lite beer on occasion. There’s a place for everyone, here.

Here are the things I miss about Skyrim while I’m playing Elder Scrolls Online

1. Solitude (the noun, not the city in Skyrim, although that’s quite a beautiful place)

There are occasions, like the dolmen and anchor fights, where I like having a group of strangers around to kill stuff. Those instances are fun, although I’m never quite sure at whom or what I’m swinging my daggers. However, if you approach an item out in the world, like an ore vein, an alchemical or fibrous plant, a locked chest, or a rune, someone else can take it right before your eyes. The other night, I took the time to unlock a chest, but my inventory was full so I had to destroy something or eat something in my inventory to open a space. I exited my inventory screen just in time to watch some other super-mean character with no tact take everything in the chest I’d just unlocked. I’m still not over it.

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2. Farming stuff

Materials, not livestock. Do you remember in Skyrim, you could approach some giant boulder and there’d be 10 different ore veins to mine? I’m level 28 in ESO at the moment and I’m constantly out of materials for the level of clothing and weapons I want to craft. Remember how you’d walk into a field, and there’d be 900 flax plants for your potion-crafting? Nope, not in ESO. Firstly, in ESO, flax is a crafting material, not an alchemical one. The alchemy plants are virtually impossible to find. I flat-out gave up on alchemy, and I’m starting to put points into provisioning instead (making food, like stews and cocktails).

3. Dungeons

I understand quite well how giant ESO is. It’s like a million times bigger than Skyrim. I know there are plenty of dungeons out there, but the dungeons in ESO are a bit disappointing. There’s never much loot, there aren’t many chests, and there are usually 1,923 other people in there with you. I love unlocking those stupid chests. I’ve always enjoyed Bethesda’s unlocking games, whether in the Fallout series or the Elder Scrolls series. I like this one too, but I rarely have the opportunity to use it.

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4. Loot

Remember in the Dwarven ruins how you could grab 29 dwarven gears and haul them back to town to sell? ESO isn’t nearly as interactive in this regard. I miss picking everything up. Do you remember how you could fill your inventory, drop a bunch of sh*t, go back to town, clear out your inventory, then go back and get everything you dropped? For obvious reasons, you can’t leave a bunch of stuff lying around ESO. That horrible character who stole my chest would come and take my pile of booty.

5. Sneaking

In ESO, it appears that sneaking generally exists to steal and pickpocket. When you’re in public places, the tank characters and high-level chaps simply run and gun, so to speak. There’s so totally zero point in sneaking.

6. Archery

There are many players that use bows. In Skyrim, I loved loved LOVED using a bow and arrow. Aim, then fire, using two buttons on the controller, as if shooting a weapon. These mechanics are different in ESO, which is why I ended up as a dual-wield assassin. I enjoy my dual-wield character, but I deeply miss the archery mechanics of Skyrim.

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Activities I enjoy in ESO:

1. Roaming around

It’s a gorgeous game. There are some weird things, lots of clipping (which is easily forgiven in such a large game).

2. Crafting

I’m a crafter. I like building my own weapons and armor, improving them and enchanting them. It’s fun in ESO, if you have the right materials.

3. Listening to the music

Seriously, Brad Derrick did an amazing job with the soundtrack. The music is fabulous. Jeremy Soule contributed a new iteration of the Elder Scrolls theme, and that’s terrific too. Here’s one of my favorites from Brad, called The Three Banners: Fanfare (especially the fanfare part after the intro).

4. Everything

Or I wouldn’t play it. I have my frustrations and I still enjoy the game’s beauty, content, story, quests, crafting, horsing around and music.

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Truly though, I wish ESO was a single-player experience. Thankfully, we’ll all get that soon with The Elder Scrolls 6.

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

So…………….. my latest obsession is Fallout Shelter. Seriously, Bethesda couldn’t have come up with a more brilliant way to generate hype for this fall’s Fallout 4.

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Fallout Shelter is a mobile game, currently available for iOS but forthcoming on Android. It’s a free-to-play sim, where you act as the overseer for a vault. The vault runs on power, and your “dwellers” require food and water. You build your vault accordingly, creating rooms that generate those resources to keep the vault powered and the dwellers fed and watered.

Beyond building rooms that make your resources, you can build rooms that train a dwellers S.P.E.C.I.A.L., which is Fallout’s character skill set. Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intellect, Agility and Luck.

Your vault faces a variety of dangers, including raiders, fires and radroaches. To combat raiders and kill the radroaches, you need weapons. To acquire weapons, you can send dwellers out to the Wasteland. They’ll also stumble upon outfits for your dwellers that boost certain SPECIAL skills, and they’ll bring back caps (money).

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There are goals for you to reach – these vary widely from “Collect (amount) of Water” or “Send 6 Dwellers to the Wasteland”. Many of these goals reward you with caps, but occasionally, you’ll get a “lunchbox”. Each lunchbox contains caps and a chance to get a fancy dweller with great skills or a powerful weapon.

And that’s how you can spend your own personal money on the game – buying lunchboxes.

My first vault was a delightful failure. Everyone died. There were fires and raiders and roaches and death and sickness and starvation. I tried to go too fast with too few resources, and not enough dwellers.

My second vault has been a stirring success, helped largely by my checking account. I bought two lunchbox packages, which started me off with some serious caps to invest in my vault. It cost me $19.98 of my own cash and it was completely worth it. I’ve spent far more on games I enjoyed far less. Although, if you have patience, there’s no need to spend real cash on the game. You can “rush” rooms to produce resources, and you receive a tiny caps bonus for doing so. Each time a dweller levels, you get caps. Your explorers bring back caps. Completing goals gives you caps. It’s not unreasonable to expect success for free in this game.

Currently, I have 146 dwellers in my vault (Vault 878). Occasionally, dwellers will come to your vault looking for shelter, but you can also make new ones! If you put a male and female dweller in a room alone, they’ll produce a little kiddo dweller, who grows up into a productive adult dweller. If you have a couple of dwellers with high Charisma, this happens really fast. Like, put-them-in-a-room-and-two-minutes-later-the-female-is-pregnant fast.

You get to name the baby once he or she is born. I name all of my children after classical composers, although this gets tricky with the ladies (in a soul-crushing way), so I name a lot of the baby girls after my cat June.

I’ve accidentally placed siblings in a room expecting them to copulate, but the game says NO to incest. It’s hilarious, actually:

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The animation is fantastic, the dwellers say funny things, the concept is old but this game is so fresh. I can’t believe I just said that, but it’s true. The MUSIC is excellent, with that mid-20th century jazz sound so integral to the Fallout universe. Here’s a look at my Game Room, where dwellers hang out to increase their Luck skill (high Luck means more caps):

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I have two minor complaints: sometimes, it’s difficult to navigate around the vault without picking up and dragging dwellers on accident. I don’t have a tablet, so I’m on a tiny iPhone 5s screen. If you’re in a hurry to move someone, it can be frustrating.

Also, BATTERY SUCKER. Big time. I used to make it to the end of the day without charging. No longer. Too bad one of the vault rooms can’t generate power for your device.

Play this game. It’s insanely fun. Be patient. Train your dwellers. FALLOUTSHELTERFALLOUTSHELTERFALLOUTSHELTER

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

I had to purchase a new headset out of necessity (in a gamer sense) last week. My roommate sat on my Turtle Beach Ear Force PX4s and broke them. Bummer.

I decided to give Sony’s PlayStation Gold Wireless Stereo Headset a try. Here are my impressions of both, beginning with the Turtle Beach PX4s.

Firstly, the PX4s sound fabulous. I liked the depth of the audio, and I felt present in the game. I have zero complaints about the audio quality out of the PX4 headset. Good job, PX4, you sound nice on my PS4.

The PX4s are comfortable on top of my head, too. The headpiece didn’t dig into my skull, the ear pieces held up great considering how often I had the thing on my head. Granted, if given the choice, I prefer gaming with my stereo on, not a headset, but if I’m chatting with friends, it’s on. Speaking of chatting…

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Stupefyingly, the PX4s aren’t Bluetooth compatible with the PlayStation 4. I’m not sure if that ridiculous oversight falls on Sony or Turtle Beach. This is what that means: if you don’t want to chat with anyone, you’re fine. You can use the headset without connecting it to anything, so long as it’s charged. If you do want to chat with anyone, you need to plug in a 24” or so cable from the headset to the controller.

Want to get up and refill your water? You either take off the headset for the short trip to the kitchen, or you bring your controller along for the ride, but it’s connected to the headset so you constantly have to carry it around and can’t set it down for lack of mobility. DUMB.

Does your cat want to be in your lap? Move the cable first or the cat will lay on it because the cat doesn’t give a s**t, and then you have a 20 lb. cat impeding your movement.

Even better, let’s say you need to charge the headset while you’re wearing it. Now, you have one cable coming out of your right ear connecting the headset to the PS4, in addition to the cable coming out of your left ear connecting the headset to the controller. It’s a tangled mess, and it’s frustrating and needless.

The PX4s aren’t exactly elegant in their appearance, either. I looked like an air traffic controller, but from the ‘80s. The mic isn’t internal, so it curves down in front of your mouth. Not that I’m an advocate for eating while playing, but c’mon, we all do it on occasion – I bet my mic is disgusting, now that I think of it. It’s probably best off in the dumpster.

The PlayStation Gold Wireless Headset has a giant advantage over the PX4s in that they’re made by Sony, and therefore really super duper compatible with the PS4. When you hit the PS button on the controller to bring up the home screen, you’re given icons indicating both the charge your controller has and the headset. With the PX4s, I had to wait until the low battery indicator started beeping (LOUD) before I knew to charge the set.

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Initially, I didn’t have the audio settings tweaked to my liking, and I felt like the game sounded distant. I’ve messed with the settings and the Golds sound much, much better now. I feel like the PX4 has a slight advantage in terms of audio quality, but the perks of the Gold Wireless make up for any small degradation of sound.

And yes, they are completely wireless. I felt like a free woman walking around the house, chatting with my friends as I grabbed a drink from the kitchen or stepped outside to check if the cat was getting rained on or not. The range isn’t fabulous, but I don’t have a giant house, or even a big one, so it works fine for me.

I don’t think the Golds are as comfortable as the PX4s on my head – I’m literally speaking of on my head. The Golds seem to dig into my skull a bit. However, the Golds kill it in terms of having an INTERNAL MIC. There is no mouthpiece stretched in front of my gaping maw. Liberating! I don’t have to move a mic to take a drink!

Oh, and the price? The Golds are cheaper, which brings me to what I imagine will be my obvious conclusion: if you’re looking for a great headset under one hundred dollars that’s actually wireless and sounds great, buy the Golds for sure. They look neato too.

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

E3 is the worst, and here’s why: it gets me excited for the end of summer. With all the terribleness we go through each non-summer in Minnesota, I expect to languish and linger in the long, warm days and forget about cold weather. Yet each summer, E3 pulls out its carrot on a stick and forces me to anticipate the Season Which Can’t Be Named.

So here’s a shout out to the games I’m looking forward to playing when the snow comes:

FALLOUT 4 FALLOUT 4 FALLOUT 4 FALLOUT 4444444444444444444444444444444444

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I’m excited for that one…

Seriously, Fallout 3 is one of my favorite games ever. Never mind that my first playthrough was short because I didn’t realize I was ending the game. My second, third, fourth, fifth playthroughs were just fine. Holy s**t that game was amazing. I can’t wait for Fallout 4.

In fact, in the meantime, I’ve been playing the mobile/tablet game Fallout Shelter. If you’ve not picked it up yet, you must. It’s like a tower sim, only you’re the Overseer of a Vault (number is your choice). I have 42 dwellers at the moment, although several are dead following a pretty intense radroach infestation. I can revive them once I make enough caps. The graphics and audio are top notch, and someday, when my dwellers are successful enough, I can build a Nuka-Cola plant. WHO WOULDN’T WANT THAT?!

Next level of excitement: Destiny: The Taken King. I hate that I love Destiny. I really do. The initial DLC, with the Crota raid, was short and annoying. The next bout of DLC with Petra and the House of Wolves is amazing and I’ve had a great time getting back into the routine of the game. The upcoming DLC this fall, The Taken King, has received some well-deserved bad press, but looks amazing. I hope they fix that price point, or find a way demonstrate that they (might) care about those of us who’ve been there from the beginning… it remains to be seen.

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The introduction of three new classes? Yes. Sign me up. My favorite Destiny class is the Warlock, and I look forward to the new super power she’ll receive.

Believe it or not, I’m pumped about the new Call of Duty. Please don’t hate. Call of Duty: Black Ops III might be a good time. I was always more fond of the Treyarch iterations of CoD. I can’t say I’m too excited about doing multiplayer with 12 year olds who now have cyber abilities, but a four-player co-op campaign might be fun (if it’s longer than 8 hours or so).

I’m SUPER pumped about Housemarque’s new game, Alienation. The makers of Dead Nation and Resogun seem to always delight with their downloadable titles. Alienation is supposed to come out this year, but no date is set yet.

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I’ll pick up Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection so I can replay the first three Uncharteds before the 4th comes out in 2016. I feel like I was mostly alone in my overall dislike of the third game – I like the first 2 the best. It’ll be nice to get back into that series – it’s been a while since I climbed around as Nathan Drake.

My biggest surprise, however, comes in my excitement for Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence. I don’t know a single thing about this franchise, proving my disappointing ignorance in gaming firsts (it’s one of the first sims from thirty years ago) but this game looks amazing. Several years back, I went through a stint of sims when Civilization: Revolution came out for PlayStation. I think I’ll heartily enjoy Nobunaga.

Well, what are you excited for this <shudder> fall/winter?

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

My friend Holly was over the other night, and we were shopping around for games on the PlayStation store. Keeping an eye out for local co-op games, we stumbled across Beach Buggy Racing by Vector Unit. It’s a karting game, just like Mario Kart, and it’s soooooooooo worth the ten bucks (it’s on mobile devices too).

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There are multiple game modes, including split screen racing. Subsequent split-screen races have resulted in ridiculously close games, determined by whose bumper crossed the line at the most crucial instant, full of laughter, trash-talk, tears, anger and joy. I’ve experienced wins and losses determined by hundredths of a second.

The 25-plus power-ups do the usual; there’s dynamite (which only detonates if you hit or get hit by something), the “moon” power-up releases gravity so opponents fly up into the air, there’s a springboard you can drop, missiles you can fire, and a few varieties of boosts.

All the maps have shortcuts, of course. Some shortcuts live up to their name, others are amazing if you can pull them off, and the remainder are too risky to try depending on your speed. You can change out your character driver, each of which has his or her own special skill made to confuse, wreck or outrun opponents. You unlock each new driver by winning a boss race against him or her. These are tricky endeavors.

The cars range from lunar rovers to buggies to muscle cars and sports cars. I’m partial to the muscle car, although it’s not the fastest of the choices.

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Career mode takes you through a series of races, culminating with the boss fights at each stage, and as you upgrade your kart and win more difficult races, you earn more money, etc.

The championship mode consists of four stages of rally races for each car, but you need to have each car leveled up as you progress through the stages. It’s expensive, and there’s grinding involved. Players can earn money in races, however it’s not much unless you win, and even then, it’s slow-moving in the beginning.

Once I got my muscle car leveled up enough and learned the tracks, I discovered the best way to earn cash: Quick Race mode. My muscle car can race at the highest difficulty, and if I win (or shall I say, when I win), I receive 500 bucks to invest back into whichever car I choose.

Aside from already getting hours of split-screen mayhem in with my pals, I’ve played the heck out of this game on my own too. Best part – when Holly got home that night, she bought it. Her scores show up next to mine, and I keep finding all the races where she beat me so I can beat her back, even when we’re not playing together. It’s pure, innocent bliss to beat your friends, isn’t it?

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For some reason, LittleBigPlanet Karting didn’t do it for me when it came out. I can’t say why at this point, it’s been so long since I played it, but I guarantee it didn’t grab me like Beach Buggy Racing has. I’ve been longing for a game like this, and Vector Unit delivered.

The music is clever and fun, although I turned it off. It’s not unusual for me to turn off music in a game if the music serves no other purpose than to exist. The music in BBR doesn’t tip me off to any events, so it’s unnecessary to my success as a player (haha! But true). Therefore, I’ve been enjoying the viola da gamba suites by J.S. Bach – a suitable soundtrack for racing!

Or listen to whatever music you’d like. As far as Beach Buggy Racing goes, buy it. Play it. Love it!

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

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Brian Trifon and Brian Lee White are a composing duo called Finishing Move Inc. These two weren’t on my radar until early this year, when I learned they were writing the soundtrack for Double Fine’s Massive Chalice.

If you’ve not heard their music for the game, take the opportunity to do so now. Massive Chalice is a turn-based strategy game (which means I’d be terrible at it). The narrative takes place over generations of heroes and warriors and such that you breed together, hoping that genetics will help you create more powerful characters and such.

The game happens over the course of years and years, which presents an issue musically. The issue isn’t necessarily a problem, per se, but consider this: how music does represent a time and/or place in your own life?

It doesn’t have to be that way, of course. I had an interesting conversation recently with Paul Ruskay, the Homeworld composer, and he pointed out two varieties of soundtracks for sci-fi: the John Williams Star Wars orchestral approach, and the Vangelis Blade Runner synthetic approach.

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Massive Chalice isn’t sci-fi, however Finishing Move (the Brians) still needed to figure out a way to write a timeless-sounding score with elements that reflect the narrative itself. As a player, you’re controlling characters like alchemists and hunters in a game with “chalice” in the title. All signs point to medieval-ish castle-y type settings, right?

Finishing Move accomplished this through a blend of acoustic plucked things (like guitars, mandolins, etc), piano, drums, synths and many others.

In the Thick of It” is a great example, because you get both right off the bat. For my ears, the drums alone can make the connection to that fantasy-type setting. The plucked instruments are icing on the cake.

The Main title track, “Timeworn”, defies a lot of this logic (if you want to call it that), containing mostly electric guitar. Still with the drums, though. I love the heavy (use of) electric guitars here, and I like the tonality with the lowered 6th scale degree and the major third in there – good stuff.

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The People’s View is super. First of all, the interval of an ascending fifth is a recurring theme throughout the soundtrack, and you hear the deeply human sound of string instruments like violin and cello, playing that ascending fifth over and over again. It’s a mournful sound, but sheesh it’s lovely.

Here’s a super nerdy thing I enjoy: I like the modulations, you know, how they change keys sometimes and stay in a different key for a while before heading back to the main key for the loop. It happens in a couple tracks, and I’m not kidding, this is something you don’t often hear in video game music. Wanna know why? I’ll tell you! So video game music loops, right? And it takes a certain amount of time to establish a key, which we as listeners like – we want to know, oh, we’re in a major key or a minor key and this is home. Given that it takes this “amount” of time to convey to listeners that a piece of music is in a specific key, it takes a certain amount of time to move to another key. And after you hear that new key, the composer has to make it back to the original key to make the loop work. w00t!

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Anyway, as I said, Finishing Move employs this technique in a couple tracks, and here’s one: “To Battle!

Have you played Massive Chalice? Sadly, I have not. This music makes me want to, though, even though I really would be horrible at it. Spend some time today and listen to Finishing Move’s music for Massive Chalice!

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

I’ve been drawn into this game called Hohokum. It came out last year (forget that I’m late to the party, celebrate that I showed up), and it’s free for PS Plus users this month.

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There isn’t a tutorial, and the only sense I get that I’ve progressed is by collecting little eyeball-snake friends. I think I’ve collected four or five of them. The music is chill and responsive to objects you touch, although it’s not even the music that draws me to the game.

Hohokum is a gorgeous playground of randomness. You play as a long thin snakelike being with an eyeball at one end, making it look a ton like a giant sperm. While I found this distracting and odd at first, the beauty and exploration of the game make it a non-issue.

If you check out the work of artist Richard Hogg, you’ll get a good sense for what the game looks like. There are bright colors with simple shapes, and Hohokum is your playground within that art. Of all the games that tout some sort of meditative vibe, this takes the cake for me.

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thatgamecompany gives a strong showing in this “chillax” gaming category with titles like Flower and Journey, but even these games have semi-stressful levels with enemies to avoid. I’ve not encountered any sense of danger in Hohokum whatsoever. Sure, there are objects you’d better not touch, but it won’t kill you.

Even in Dear Esther, where the entire point of the game is to walk around and look at things, there was always this sense of wanting more – of wanting to be able to interact with items – of wanting to feel some sense of accomplishment.

This is absent in Hohokum.

I’ve put several hours into the game, and I still don’t quite understand the home world, or how you travel between areas. Sometimes, you’ll enter a portal from one world to the next, and then go back to that portal assuming you’ll return from whence you came, and this isn’t always the case. Now, if you’re in a fantasy MMO of some sort, and you expect to return, this is an issue. Not in Hohokum. It just doesn’t seem to matter. In some ways, it’s the perfect metaphor for life: Everything will be fine.

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In my mind, Hohokum is brilliant. You might ask yourself, or me, “What’s the point?”

I have no idea. I have no clue. I don’t know how many levels there are (I don’t want to look it up). At one point, I did a Google search for something along the lines of “red elephant bird hohokum” to see what I should do with a being described as such, but I never could come up with an answer. I carried the bird-elephant around until it hopped off on its own, purportedly to where it wanted to go.

This seriously is the first time in my life where I do not care what the end game is. I don’t care how to get to the end, and I don’t care if I collect all my eyeball sperm friends, because once you collect them, they don’t appear to do anything (I refuse to look that up too).

In many ways, and I’m certain the developer of Hohokum understands this carefree attitude to the game; it’s the perfect antidote to every other game I’m playing (right now, that includes Awesomenauts, Dungeon Hunter Alliance, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Ether One, and a word game on my iPhone).

Of course, once I pick up The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, I might forget all about Hohokum and how calm it makes me feel to play. I’ll check in with you next week!

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

Did you ever play Black on PS2 or Xbox? EA Games released it in 2006. My cousin and I spent hours amounting to days trading off levels in Black. I waited years for Black 2 before I realized it would never come. In this time, I’m unsure what Black 2 would look like, other than another overly masculine first-person shooter. I’m content with my memories of Black the first, but I’d probably play the hell out of some kind of port.

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Black has a fabulous soundtrack, written by Chris Tilton and recorded at Newman Scoring Sound stage. Michael Giacchino co-wrote the theme, and Chris wrote the rest.

Listen to Tunnel Trouble. Listen for the muted trumpets (sounds a bit like this sort of). There are bassoons honking around underneath, then this great flute solo. The flutist is using a “flutter-tongue” technique – think of how you roll your Rs – it’s like that. It’s a neat section of acoustic music.

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I like Ambush as well, with its bits showing off French horns and the occasional cello. The tracks titled Bunker Buster and Bunker Buster #2 are variations on the motive that opens each cue. In effect, the first 12 notes you hear come back in various ways throughout the piece. If you drew a line in the shape of those first 12 notes, it would be an angular line. And even though the opening has six beats to the measure, it’s not long before Tilton starts mixing up the meters and we, as listeners, tend to lose our footing a bit. It’s an effective way to create anxiety for players.

Simplicity. Tilton’s soundtrack for Black is an excellent example of how to write a great score for a first-person shooter that uses an orchestra. Just an orchestra. It’s aural simplicity. I like it when composers to more with less. I’m a big fan of that. Hey, let’s see if we can get a port of Black for next-gen, huh?

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

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I participated in the Elder Scrolls Online beta on PS4 over the weekend. Overall, I enjoyed it. It’s a beautiful game, and it worked better than Skyrim did on PS3 at launch. That’s positive. I chose a Khajiit and named her Jün (all my characters in all games are named after my cat, June Bug. I’m that lady). In both Skyrim and Oblivion, I liked being an archer, so I got Jün a bow.

Playing an Elder Scrolls game on this new generation of console was certainly a dream come true. Jeremy Soule wrote the main theme for Elder Scrolls Online, which is darker than the previous two iterations (here’s Oblivion, and here’s Skyrim). The theme is in here, but it appears toward the end of the track.

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That’s all Jeremy wrote for ESO, though. Composer Brad Derrick wrote the rest, and from the hours I spent roaming around Auridon, he captured the mood I’ve come to expect from the Elder Scrolls. Here’s Auridon Sunrise. By the way, the sounds I expect from Elder Scrolls include lots of reverb, solo instruments with accompaniment, the instruments tend to be orchestral (things like English horn, violin) clear melodies that are memorable, location-specific and sing-able after I shut the game off.

One of my favorite parts about Oblivion and Skyrim: roaming around the landscape, seeing things I probably could see in real life if I could afford to travel anywhere, getting lost in the music and the view. I think there is room to do that in ESO, but I wasn’t keen on the idea of doing missions that require three friends to complete. I’m trying to recall if I’ve ever thought, Wow, I wish I could play Elder Scrolls with other people. It’s always been one of my favorite places to get lost, not to pal up.

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Oblivion was one of the first games I bought for PS3. It was the first time I’d ever played an RPG, in my entire life. I’d never played anything remotely similar to it. It took me until my second play-through to discover I could use magic to heal myself. Seriously.

I played it so many times, and none of them required another human being. It never occurred to me that that would improve my experience with Elder Scrolls. Thankfully, ESO includes missions you’re required to complete alone, so it’s not all social all the time. But it’s the ones that do require friends that bug me.

I’ve yet to meet a gamer who enjoys being told how to play the game.

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My other concern: in Oblivion and Skyrim, I could take full advantage of saving multiple times to replay sections if I killed the wrong person, or accidentally stole from a barrel or gave the wrong answer to a question.

This is not an option in ESO, not that I could figure. Maybe I’m not millennial enough to know how to work it.

Did you happen to play the beta this past weekend? Or have you played on PC for the last year?

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

First of all, if you’ve not played Awesomenauts, you have no excuse, because it’s on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, and Linux (whatever that is).

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Nauts is a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena), so each team has a series of turrets to defend and a home base to prevent enemies from destroying. MOBAs like Dota 2 and League of Legends have a top-down view, but ‘Nauts is a side-scroller. Rather than a left, right and middle lane, the game has a top and bottom lane.

Four composers, who call themselves Sonic Picnic, wrote the music for ‘Nauts. That’s about as much as I know about them, other than they write great music and they’re from the Netherlands.

Nauts has 16 characters (plus four you can purchase – more on that in a moment). Once you choose to start a game, you have 60 seconds to choose one of those 16 characters. Each character has two individual themes. For instance, “Leon Chameleon” is apparently French, so his character theme is this hysterical French slow rock tune. If you choose to play Leon, you’ll hear his special character theme until the game begins. Once the battle gets going, if Leon happens to be on a killing spree, everyone in the game hears this music.

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“Leon Chameleon”

I recommend you check out all 16 character themes and all 16 killing spree tunes, but I’ll share some of my favorites! They’re all so good.

“Raelynn” is a sniper type, and might have my favorite character theme. My pal Josiah is a beast with Raelynn, although I’m useless. He picks her a lot, and we couch co-op this game (another great reason to own! couch co-op!), so I hear her themes often. Her killing spree song is virtually the same as her theme.

“Coco Nebulon” has a hoverboard she rides around on, so her music reminds me of surf rock. “Skølldir” is a big, Norse tank who can throw enemies long distances. Given his name and appearance, it’s fitting he has a Scandinavian death metal theme, and here’s his killing spree.

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“Coco Nebulon”

I love playing as “Froggy G”, and yeah, he’s a hip hop frog. Here’s his awesome theme. Froggy G, in my opinion, is deceptively dangerous, mostly because he’s very fast. What do I know, though, I die constantly when I’m playing real people online. The only time I ever hear killing spree music is when I’m practicing against the bots (on 20% difficulty). MOBAs are hard, man.

Anyway, the absolute best part of Froggy G is his killing spree music. Make sure you listen for the “ribbit”. Ayla’s theme consists of someone singing “Ayla” over and over again. That rules.” Admiral Swiggins”, well, wouldn’t you write a sea shanty for someone named Admiral Swiggins? Yup.

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“Froggy G”

It’s creative and adorable and fun. Well, maybe not always fun, unless you’re playing the bots on 20%. That can be fun.

‘Nauts was a part of the PS4 Flash sale this weekend, for $2.50. It won’t break the bank, by any means. I paid the full price, ten bucks, and I’ve not bought anything else for the game. There are micro-transactions, however they aren’t essential to the game in any way. If you want all 20 characters, yes, you need to buy the other four. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve encountered these other characters during online gameplay. The sixteen characters the game already has are so enjoyable that I’ve concluded most of us are satisfied with those. Other transactions include special character skins. Some of these skins cost more than SEVEN DOLLARS, and I paid ten for the game.

Play this game. Do custom rounds or practice rounds with bots on a low difficulty setting. You can do these custom rounds with or without friends (no strangers in the custom rounds!). If nothing else, listen to the soundtrack, and enjoy a musical tour around the Awesomenauts globe.

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

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