George Bush had a dastardly scheme back in 2001 (no not that one, Paultards!). He passed a $1.3 trillion tax cut for nearly every American. The bill is set to expire in 2011, raising those taxes back to the 2001 levels. Steny Hoyer says this dastardly tax cutting scheme will not happen and he’ll extend those tax cuts. Which, um, Republicans want to happen.

Hoyer yesterday:

“We have no intention of allowing the Republican tax increase — that their policies would lead to — to go into effect for working Americans. Period,” he said. “We’re going to act and make sure that the Republican phase out and increase in taxes does not end as they provided for in the laws they passed.”

First, English teachers diagram this sentence for me. It’s nearly incomprehensible.

Secondly. Get this? The Republicans had a dastardly scheme back in 2001 to cut your taxes. If they’d only offered a plan to make those cuts permanent, the plan would have been thwarted. You’d think that Hoyer, protector of the middle class, would have supported this plan, right? Can’t let those Republicans raise taxes, after all.

But you’d be mistaken. Hoyer voted against the Bush tax cuts and he voted against making them permanent as well.

  • Voted NO on making the Bush tax cuts permanent. (Apr 2002)
  • Voted NO on $99 B economic stimulus: capital gains & income tax cuts. (Oct 2001)
  • Voted NO on Tax cut package of $958 B over 10 years. (May 2001)

As a follow up to my Puzzle Quest 2 review yesterday (and as a way to make sure my server move worked properly – so if I can see this in a day or so, the move worked), here is how to beat the Arch Lich Greater Challenge very easily.

The fight is fantastically flawed in its design. Probably one of the easier “boss” fights I’ve done. So he’s 100% immune to magic – so don’t bother using your spells (the way they were intended). You will be doing damage mainly through skulls and action points. Occasionally, he’ll cast a spell that damages you, and does 50% of that damage to himself as well – but this is a losing proposition for you, of course, so it’s not a way to win.

So, prepare for the fight. Equip a weapon that uses 3-4 action points/attack and does about 2x that in damage (Ancient Shortsword is wonderul). Change all your spells to be the ones that use the -fewest- gems. Optimally, you want spells that use 3-4 red or 3-4 yellow or whatever, but not ones that use 3-4 red -and 3-4 yellow. Single gem usage is important, in case he casts his mana explosion and drains a given color.

So, you will play this fight on defense and only match skulls or action gems. Unless there is a 4 match available on board, you want to skip your turn. How? Simple. He’s 100% spell resistant, so cast a spell. He’ll resist it and you’ll lose your turn and you won’t lose any gems. So he’ll move and make a match. Rinse-repeat this method till its over. Make action gem or skull matches over using your weapon. Use the weapon if there is no skull or action match on the board. If you can’t use your weapon -and- no skull or action matches on the board -and- no 4 or 5 matches out there; cast a spell and end your turn.

If he uses his mana explosion, you’ll lose a full bar of mana so you might have to change spells now and again but the premise is the same. If all your mana pools are empty, match the color you need as far to the top as possible to limit secondary matches that you might not want to make.

All in all, a very easy fight. First “Greater Challenge” I did in one shot and ended up with about half of my hit points left in the end.

Puzzle Quest 2So I’ve started playing Puzzle Quest 2 on my Xbox 360. I loved the first Puzzle Quest, but didn’t feel like it played well on the Xbox, so I played it on the PC instead. This time, I decided to play it on the 360, since I want the achievement points (yeah, I don’t know why either).

I’m going to start this little mini review with some peeves and I’ll finish up with some positives and more or less let you decide if you want to play the game or not.

So I start playing the game. The intro quests are pretty easy (the troll fight is kinda cool), then you get into the real game and your first encounter is with a “Rat swarm” or something. A bunch of rats that do rather puny amounts of damage. Seems easy enough, right? It’s then that the game introduces a mechanic that lets opponents block attacks an insane amount of the time. This rat thing has a defense of like 52 (which I presume means he blocks 52% of the time, though I’m still not sure if that’s correct – but it seems close). So my sorcerer does like 1 point of damage on a 3 skull match. And maybe 5 on a spell attack at this point. The rat wipes the floor with me. And here I am thinking – this is retarded. So, instead I make the Paladin type character (a tank essentially – doesn’t do a lot of damage, but a lot of mitigation so he’s hard to kill). And it’s a lot easier. Fights take a while, but there are long stretches where I don’t even have to match tiles. I can completely control the battlefield. I just steal his action points and hit him with my sword – 9 hit points at a time adds up after a while. So, in summary – the game has some really irritating combat mechanics (especially blocking – though I understand why they put it in there).

The next thing that bugs the crap out of me are the quests. Not the quests themselves, they are as varied as they can be for a match-3 type game. But after you complete a quest, you gotta wait like 10-15 seconds while it rewards you xp, gold, items and then completes it; before you can even move again. It’s silly and pointless. Needless delays like that are just frustrating. Leading me to the next point…

The combat animations are cute at first, but why do I have to keep watching my guy swing his sword for the millionth time? A way to turn that off would be nice. Yes, it does 9 hit points. Sometimes it criticals for 18. I know. I know. I also know it’ll inevitably be blocked and do 4 hit points.

The looting of treasure chests and piles is stupid. Another match 3 game here, of course. If you get a “heroic effort” you get a random chest to spawn. If you match 3 of those, you’ll get a “rare” item. Rarely is it worth the effort (see what I did there?). Yes, it’s an item – not gold or some sort of material – so theoretically it could be helpful. But probably won’t be. Also, it’s always fun when those “rare” chests spawn at the bottom of the grid, then the grid eats it before you even have the chance to match it up.

Upgrading items. You cannot see what the end result of your “upgrade” is before spending the materials. I guess it’s predictable if you use it enough; but really it would have been a simple mechanic to add to the game.

Monsters seem to get lucky in their “drops” WAY too often. Sometimes, you can catch the AI knowing what is coming next when it makes a play that makes no sense (IE skipping a match 4 to get 3 reds instead) which then produces a huge heroic effort. There is no way that move gets made unless the AI knows what gems are in the future rows that you can’t see. It happens way too often to be a coincidence or random chance. That is the main source of frustration in the game too, unfortunately. I think that’s the  “challenge” I guess. If the AI played straight, it’d be a cake walk.

That’s quite a list. A lot of it comes down to randomness in the game, but other parts are simply lazy coding. But really the game has a lot of fun features too that make it better than the first.

The combat is a lot more dynamic. You have a lot more abilities that you can swap in and out between battles to see how your toon performs. You can also learn new spells through quests – and that is very cool. Though most do not seem to be made for a Templar. That’s okay.

The dungeon exploring is fun. No more just pretending to enter a cave and kill a rat. You actually explore an entire dungeon, going room to room (not freely of course, it’s guided) and killing stuff.

The quests are pretty varied (keeping in mind every one of them is a match 3 game). Putting out a fire (blue matches put it out, red matches hurt you), freeing captured goblins from their chains, etc etc etc.

The use of items is a lot nicer. In the first Puzzle Quest, I wasn’t sure half the time what I had equipped, now it’s all very obvious and the inventory is handled pretty well. You can shop for items at vendors that are in town or sometimes in the dungeons and upgrade those items as well (with the previously mentioned caveat).

The game offers some intense challenges. The first “Greater Challenge” is a Yeti that is just insane. Requires good board management to win. And some luck – sucks when he gets 81 red gems on his opening turn and kills you immediately (if he gets 65 red gems, he does a 999 hp instant kill attack). Ended up winning that one with 7 hps left. The second one is a bit easier, a Cave Ogre – which was not that bad on the Templar once I played to my strengths – not matching tiles and using action points for weaker hits. Ended up winning that one with 33 hps left. After fights like these, the normal fights almost seem boring.

I haven’t finished the game of course, but you can see I’ve listed what I think are pretty fair pro’s and con’s about it. I’d recommend it – if you like match 3 games and can tolerate some really frustrating fights. If you don’t and can’t – then don’t get it. It’s pretty simple, I think.