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Thief Disappointment

I played the original Thief games when I was younger and since then they have been the standard that all other stealth games get measured by. When I heard that a new Thief game was being made I didn’t hold out a lot of hope that it would be as good as the originals, but it looked interesting enough to try anyway. I’m not very far in the game yet, only up to chapter 3, but I have several things that I wanted to talk about.

Garrett the ThiefDifficulty Customization

Originally, I decided to try playing the game as they had designed it. I picked the hardest difficulty and left every other setting at default. I got all the way up to chapter three before I could no longer take such a patronizing experience. For some reason it seems devs think modern gamers are incredibly inept at playing games and require giant waypoint arrows, visual meters that show the alert level of guards, and special vision modes that make everything intractable light up like a Christmas tree. Fortunately the game allows you to customize the difficulty options in an attempt to make the game feel like the originals. You can disable anywhere saving, the aiming reticle, the focus vision mode, etc. So after turning on essentially every limitation and disabling waypoint arrows, and pretty much everything else, I started over. Unfortunately, there’s a lot that is still same about the game. Even though the focus vision mode is turned off you will still see climbable spots glowing with an offensive blue tint and even though the reticle is turned off objects will still highlight when you aim at them, which essentially is the same thing. [Read more...]

South Park: The Stick of Truth

south-park-stick-of-truth

The new South Park RPG comes out today and we were lucky enough to get an early review copy from Ubisoft. It probably goes without saying that the game is full of violence, cursing, and a whole lot of other offensive content, but it’s South Park so that should be fairly obvious by now. The show has been on for over 15 years or something, so I’m sure most people who would complain about anything are probably burnt out by now. But hey, at least it seems like they go out of their way to insult everybody rather than any specific thing.

cartman-the-stick-of-truthPresentation and Story

The Stick of Truth looks pretty much just like the TV show. Admittedly, I’ve only seen sporadic episodes from the first several seasons but they seemed to replicate the aesthetic rather well. The music is also fantastic and features a lot of pieces that fit really well with the fantasy motif. As far as I can tell all of the voice actors seem to be the same people that do the TV show, and the whole game seems stuffed with various cameos and references.

In the beginning you take on the role of the “New Kid” and create your very own South Park character. The creation is fairly limited but you are able to pick from several hair styles and colors, a base outfit, and even skin color (Which does influence a few conversations in a way I’m sure you can imagine.). Once you are in the game you can wobble around and explore your environment which consists of parts of South Park (Some neighborhood streets, downtown, etc.). Almost immediately you will find your way over to Cartman’s backyard and be asked by the grand wizard himself to join the KKK — the Kingdom of Kupa Keep. It’s then that you get to choose between one of four classes: Fighter, Mage, Thief, or Jew. I’m actually very curious as to how many people do a double take at that point in the game. Anyway, through most of the game you will essentially be taking part of the kids’ fantasy game that has the humans and drow elves waging war over the fate of The Stick of Truth which grants the bearer powers over the universe. [Read more...]

Weapon Shop de Omasse

Weapon Shop de Omasse

This was a curious little title that showed up recently during a Nintendo direct. The concept is immediately interesting: You help run a weapons shop that rents out swords, axes, etc. to various heroes and characters within an RPG. Things get even crazier once you actually start playing the game which is some kind of weird combination of rhythm game and store management with elements of a sitcom and twitter. Yeah, that’s not a typo.

Weapon Shop de Omasse GameYou can forge several different weapon types for your shop and each has different stats that are also increased on how well you do during the forging process. When making a weapon you tap on the hot ore in time with the music to beat it into the right shape.  You can’t just tap anywhere however and will need to actually follow the shape of what you are trying to make.

Once you have your weapon you can rent it out to a hero. Some of them seem to be scripted to show up while others are just random NPCs. They will usually have a specific weapon preference and affinity and it’s let up to you to decide what will be best to give them for their specific quest or to even recommend a different quest. You will want to match the right weapon with each person because if they fail their quest you will lose your weapon. Sorry, just store policy. If they do complete their quest they will come back with your weapon and pay you. Then you can polish up the weapon and increase its overall stats for the next time you rent it out.

One of the more fascinating parts of the game is the Grindcast. It’s something attached to every weapon and acts like a sort of Twitter feed that constantly updates you on what NPCs are doing with your weapons and how their quest is doing. So while you are busy making weapons, polishing them, or managing other aspects of the store you will get to read constant updates from people. These can have some pretty hilarious moments and the characters are zany enough that it never seems to get boring.

It’s only something like $7.99 on the 3DS eShop and it’s totally worth checking out. I’ve never played anything like it.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

We have been playing a lot of the new Donkey Kong lately and both of us are loving every minute of it. There aren’t a lot of couch co-op games anymore so it’s always nice to find one that we can both enjoy. Here are some of my thoughts about the game:

krankyThe Good Stuff

The overall presentation is fantastic. Everything from the theme, the visuals, and the music is just top-notch.  The frigid viking animals that show up to cause trouble are immensely more interesting than the little totem people in Donkey Kong Country Returns. I would like to see the return of the Kremlings and K. Rool but these guys are more than welcome for now. As I mentioned before, the music is just fantastic and easily one of my favorite parts. There is a nice mix of the classic DKC stuff along with some new pieces.

The gameplay is immediately familiar to anybody who has played the classic DKC games or Returns. You can roll to gain speed and take out baddies, jump on their heads, grab vines and barrels, and ground-pound. They seem to have gotten rid of the blowing mechanic from Returns but honestly I doubt anybody will miss it. You can also play the game completely waggle free with the gamepad or Wii U Pro controller. The forced waggle of the previous game was a major detraction. They also seemed to add back deeper water levels and mechanics, including a breath meter and and some new aquatic moves. [Read more...]

Banished

This past weekend I picked up a really great city-building strategy game called Banished.  The concept is simple: You are a banished group of exiles who have to settle a new area to survive.  Will you die or start a new thriving civilization that will go on for hundreds of years?  If you’re me, you’ve probably died a dozen times already.

banished

Build bridges across water to access new areas and resources.

Banished looks and sounds simple on the outside.  You simply have to make buildings and keep your people healthy, happy, and their bellies full of food.  There’s so much more to it, though, when you realize each of those mechanics are fully developed and very close to reality.

It’s all about risk and resource management.  Want to plant crops?  In other games it’s only a matter or assigning land to be farmed and workers to tend the crops, but in Banished you have to worry about which crops can survive the temperatures when it gets cold or be harvested in time.  An early winter will ruin your crops.  Working in the snow will lower worker efficiency, cause them to become ill, and then the least of your concerns will be whether or not your pumpkins withered.  Oh, and I should probably mention that if you farm in the same place for too many seasons your soil will be ruined.

Banished Snowstorm

Build a tailor to stock warm clothes to keep villagers alive in the winter months

Every resource requires real thought.  You need firewood to stay warm in the winter.  Firewood comes from wood logs.  Chopping down trees is simple, but once you chop them down they take time to regrow and mature to the point of yielding good wood again.  Distance matters so it’s not like you can just run to another big section of forest.  Reducing your forests will reduce the deer population… and then you might starve.  See the trend?   [Read more...]

The Second Half of Bravely Default: How to Almost Ruin a Great Game

*NOTE* If you at all care about spoilers then you might not want to read this. I’m going to try and be as vague as possible but read at your own risk.

Bravely Default ReviewI just completed Bravely Default a few minutes ago and I’m left feeling mixed emotions. Not because I’m sad that it’s over or because I found the ending good or bad, but because I can’t quite decide how I felt about the experience as a whole. Earlier I made a post about game length, and at that point I was near the end of the game’s fourth chapter and around 40 hours in. To be completely honest I think the game should have ended maybe a little after that.

The problem with the second half of Bravely Default is that for some unknown, but assuredly unbelievably stupid, reason they decided to make the final 4 chapters a quicky version of the first four. I don’t mean as a whole, either. Chapters 5, 6, 7, and 8 have you very quickly replaying the events of the first four chapters FOUR additional times just at a quicker pace. All of the side missions are just to defeat the bosses you already defeated but the main goal is to awaken every crystal again. All of this happens with very little dialogue change as well. I won’t bother going into the details of why this is happening in the narrative but that wouldn’t be an excuse for it anyway. A game that has you replay content over and over until it makes you ill can’t be justified even if it fits within the story. I mean, even the characters start to remark about the ridiculousness of this.

I feel conflicted because I still really enjoyed the game. The combat and jobs and all other aspects of the game are top notch. I just cannot understand why they felt the need to pad the game out with extreme levels of repetitiveness. Bravely Default seems to have received many great reviews but I have to wonder how many of them only take into account the first half of the game and not the whole experience. I won’t say that Bravely Default is a bad game because it really isn’t. However I think the second half of the game keeps it from being truly exceptional.

Unexpected side effect: I think I finally understand why Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day started to lose his mind.

Elder Scrolls Online Beta Impressions

The Elder Scrolls Online NDA has dropped so I guess that means it’s time to give my opinion.  You won’t be surprised to hear that I am disappointed by what I’ve seen so far.  No, I haven’t played a ton like some of the diehard fans out there.  I participated in a few of the test weekends, leveled up as much as I could stand, ran around and explored as much as I could, but I didn’t try out the PvP.

ESO is incredibly linear.  This is such a hard pill for me to swallow.  I wanted so badly to run around Tamriel and experience the world as it has been experienced for over a decade, but it’s simply not a sandbox.  The leveling is quest-driven with a forced path of progression.  Someone who knows more than I can help me clarify, but I felt like the game used phasing a lot in the first couple of zones.  Lots of people popping in and out of obvious phased areas.  The story is too forcefully delivered, and I found myself wanting to click past forced dialog like I did in SWTOR.

I can’t decide if the combat is awful or just needing improvement.  I like how it’s closer to The Elder Scrolls series, but the animations were not up to par.  Animations felt janky, and on more than one occasion the combat devolved into me standing still swinging my weapon just waiting for things to die.  I tried just about all of the weapon types and none of them felt great. I was underwhelmed by the overemphasized combat — that’s really key.  The Elder Scrolls series, although full of combat, could be played for hours without even using a weapon.  I never felt that way in ESO.  The NPCs and story wanted me to always be out killing something.

PvP looks like GW2′s Door Wars 2.0.  I haven’t experienced it myself, but the recent videos out there show some moments that do actually look fun.  I think it’s hard to say sitting back and shooting people off walls with a bow and arrow isn’t exciting — I like that stuff — but I have to look at the game as a whole and realize those moments are just that: moments.

Although I could pick apart individual mechanics for days and shred them for spending their budget in all the wrong places, there are important questions to ask.  Is ESO a good MMO?  No, not really.  Is ESO a good PvP game?  For some, but not me.  Is ESO fun?  There are moments where I can honestly say I do enjoy myself.  Not all of my enjoyment is tied to linearity, combat, and PvP.   And most importantly…

Will I buy ESO?  I think the whole “vote with your wallet” mantra is easier said than done.  Although I’m not excited enough to be anticipating ESO’s release, my own personal taste in games doesn’t always dictate my buying decisions.  I’m influenced by my friends, community, and Graev.  If Graev was to buy ESO, I might buy it too.  Even though I wouldn’t like quest grinding and some of the ways the combat plays out, jumping into a dungeon and slaying monsters together could still be a fun time.  Do that enough and the cost of entry is justified.  I’m a practical person, and there are situations in which buying ESO could be both fun and worth the price.  If one of those situations presents itself, you’ll all be the first to know.

Toukiden

For the past several days I’ve been exclusively playing Bravely Default right up until Toukiden came out on Vita. I’m still playing BD but now I’m just switching back and forth between the two. There’s actually a lot of really cool stuff out on the Vita now and it’s only going to get better as the year progresses. More people should definitely consider picking the system up and especially so if they own or plan to own a PS4.

toukiden-logoToukiden is apart of the new “hunting” genre that seems to have been created since Monster Hunter first came out. The game actually borrows several elements from MH and other similar games like Soul Sacrifice. Basically, you undertake a mission from the hub town and get sent to a location that consists of several smaller zones linked together. Your goal is to slay demons rather than monsters, though. You also get a special vision mode that highlights hidden items and breakable parts of enemies, which seems lifted directly from Soul Sacrifice. Unless Soul Sacrifice borrowed it from something else–I have no idea, really.

windshredder

One of the demons you’ll fight in Toukiden.

When you fight the large monsters and break their parts (Arms, Legs, Tails, etc.) you have to do some kind of cleansing ritual to get rid of it and get the loot for that body part. The demon’s parts may be gone but there remains some kind of translucent spirit form behind. So if you cut off a giant demon’s leg he can still walk around with his spirit leg. If you don’t banish the cut off piece then it can get recalled back. I’m not entirely sure if they limbs do less damage or what but I imagine they must. It’s not like Monster Hunter though where you can cut off the tail or whatever and basically render that attack useless or less viable. EDIT: Supposedly in the manual it says that the spirit limbs actually do MORE damage but also take MORE damage. I’ve also noticed that when you destroy their limbs they trip and fall over more when doing specific attacks or charges.

With all of the demon parts and items you gather you can create weapons and armor. I’m actually really glad that this seems pretty much just like Monster Hunter. I was not a real fan of Soul Sacrifice having no gear and basically just being about collecting limited-use spells. Just like monster hunter you usually unlock new armor sets and weapons once you’ve tackled the latest thing and harvested its parts. Unfortunately the game doesn’t have any kind of regular crafting system so you can’t make tons of neat knick-knacks, traps, potions, or whatever. That’s one of my favorite parts about Monster Hunter.

toukiden-weapons

Some of the game’s weapons appear similar but for the most part play out a lot differently. There’s a long sword, dual blades, spear, gauntlets, flail & sickle combo, and bow. I feel like I’m forgetting something but I think that’s it. I’m honestly not a very big fan of many of the weapons. The flail and sickle combo looks awesome but it seems hard to use. I’ve mainly been sticking with the gauntlets which are slow but powerful and allow for some defensive options. One of my biggest gripes with the weapons is that it feels like their move pools are lacking. There’s not a whole lot for you to do with them or at least not a lot of options for tackling situations.

toukiden-gauntletAnother important part of the game are these spirit thingys called Mitama. They are souls of vanquished warriors that you infuse into your weapon. They gain exp or sorts and level up and unlock new passive bonuses. Each Mitama also comes with 4 special commands. The first is a recovery ability that heals you and seems to be on every mitama. Aside from that what you get depends entirely on the type you use. Defense mitama get abilities that increase your defense or let you block all damage and not get knocked around, attack mitama increase your damage/crit/etc, Soul mitama seems to be good for breaking parts, then there’s healing and speed types and so on. It adds another level to the combat which makes up for some of the shortcomings in some of the weapons.

Overall I’d say I’m very satisfied with Toukiden. It’s a lot better than Soul Sacrifice, which is still a good game in its own right, and is probably one of the better hunting games the Vita is likely to see over here. It can be a little unfair when comparing it to the latest Monster Hunter games, which are themselves sequels and expansions upon expansions, so you really have to judge it as the first game in it’s own series. Oh, and there’s also online play which is pretty awesome. If you see somebody running around named “Old Bastard” that would be me.

First Impressions of Bravely Default

bravely-default-boxartI’ve been playing a lot of Bravely Default these past few days. So far it has been a very positive experience and is almost certainly the best 3DS RPG I’ve played. Rather than wait dozens of hours until I finish and possibly review it I decided I’d offer some fist impressions of the game. Most of it is good stuff but there are a few things that are starting to irk me.

Beautiful visuals. The little chibi characters are cute and funny but I’m actually more impressed with the backgrounds. The cities you run around in have a very interesting look to them. They have a somewhat hand-drawn look to them like they were pulled straight out of a fantasy/fairytale book and presented in a three-dimensional papercrafty sort of way. Maybe that’s not a great way to describe but it does look very nice.

The BRAVE and DEFAULT combat system is actually pretty interesting. Choosing to default acts somewhat like a guard and prevents some damage done to you while also giving BP. Most regular actions require at least one BP but if you choose to you can BRAVE to gain additional actions for that turn. You can even go into debt and take extra points that your current BP doesn’t cover. You may have to skip a few turns if you go negative but it lets you do several different actions in 1 turn. The battle system gives you a lot of strategic options and there are several fights where you need to make smart use of the system.

Tons of jobs. The game uses classic final fantasy jobs and they are awesome. You acquire new jobs by defeating the holder of the current job asterisk which then lets you adopt that job. Along with exp that increases your regular level you get JP to increase your job level. Higher job levels give you more abilities to use, both active and passive. Another really cool thing you get to do is equip a second set of job abilities. So if you are a thief, for example, you could also equip white mage abilities. Then there are the passive abilities that can be equipped which leads to a whole lot more cross-job awesomeness. Sometimes you might want to get several levels in a job just for ONE specific ability which might help out another job.

A world map and airship! I can’t remember the last time we got both of these things. It’s funny how this isn’t technically a Final Fantasy game and yet it is the best Final Fantasy game in many, many years.

Most of my negatives seem to revolve around the village rebuilding mechanic.

bravely-defaultIn order to build up your village, which is required to unlock a lot of stuff, you need to devote workers and real time to build them. It’s a similar mechanic to a lot of iOS games where it might take 10 real hours to build something. Fortunately you can attach additional workers to make it go faster but this is still the kind of mechanic that I was hoping to never see on portable systems. I absolutely hate this kind of progression.

In order to get more workers for your village you need streetpasses, which I’m liking to rarely ever see in North America unless I attend a convention. You do get 3-5 workers per server day if you connect online but it’s still somewhat frustrating. I’m not a big fan of the streetpass feature at all.

For time to pass you need to have your 3DS on or in sleep mode. It’s not like animal crossing where time passes whether you are powered on or not. Sure, they may be entirely different kinds of games but they both still deal with the passing of real time. I’m not personally a fan of leaving my electronics in sleep mode for long periods of time especially when I sometimes might not play my 3DS for weeks at a time. So if I want to chip away at some of these buildings that take 99 hours to build then I need to have the system at least in sleep mode.

Really most of my complaints are just a small aspect of the game and some just boil down to personal preference. Bravely Default is still an incredibly fantastic game from what I’ve seen so far. If you have a 3DS you should definitely check it out.

Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island

robinson-crusoe-adventure-on-the-cursed-islandI saw Robinson Crusoe pretty early on when I was initially exploring the board game world. The game has seemed to be very high on ratings list and popularity charts but for some reason I was just turned off by the theme. Still, so many people recommended it and it made top lists for a lot of players. Also it’s supposedly a very good solitaire game. So I decided to look into it more and was actually pretty surprised by the kind of game it is. It seems to be more about the surviving, which has always been appealing to Keen and myself. We loved playing survival games like the Island Troll Tribes custom map in Warcraft III and I suppose it extends out to other games like Minecraft and Rust. Something about just trying to survive really harsh conditions can be a lot of fun.

We picked up the game and so far we have only played about 1 and a half times. The first half game was cut short because we were both pretty sure we were playing it wrong and we were. The second game we did manage to play through the first scenario but we didn’t quite make it. The game is really hard and Keen isn’t entirely sure we’re still playing it right but we both agree that it was still a lot of fun regardless of the poor outcome. [Read more...]