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Skylanders Trap Team

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Another year has gone by and we are already at the annual Skylanders release. Time really does fly because it feels like we were playing Swap Force not too long ago. Again we were fortunate to get a review copy from Activision for the newest release — Skylanders Trap Team — and I’ve been checking it out ever since it got here. I wont bother going into too great of detail about what Skylanders are, but if you are curious we have several articles from the past games. Basically it’s light action RPG where you place figures on a tiny portal and see them come to life in the game. What I will go into detail about is all of the new stuff in Skylanders Trap Team.

skylanders-trap-team-fire-trapTrap Masters & Traps

The new hook this year are the traps and the whole concept of trapping villains and turning them to fight for you. The specialty figures in Trap Team are known as Trap Masters and they are each equipped with weapons made out of “Traptanium.” From what I can tell they don’t seem to be really any different than normal Skylanders and have the same amount of abilities and so on. The thing that makes them unique is their ability to destroy Traptanium deposits which usually lead to bonus side areas. Trap Masters are also the only Skylanders that can access the elemental doors that also lead to bonus areas. In past games you would be able to open these with any figure of the respective element, but in Trap Team the doors are made out of Traptanium and can only be opened by Trap Masters.

The traps are actually a pretty cool idea. Each element has its own trap and they can hold one villain from that element. There are around 50 villains that you can trap and initially I was concerned that you would need multiples of each trap in order to catch them all, but thankfully that is not the case. When you do encounter a trappable enemy and defeat him you are given the option of putting him in a trap our not. Regardless of whether or not you decline the trapping, or just don’t have that elemental trap, the villains will be locked away in a vault back at the Skylanders Academy. If you want to put a villain inside a trap, or switch it out with another, all you have to do is go to the vault. So this means you really only need one of each elemental trap rather than 40 traps. You could have multiple traps of an element if you wanted, for taking multiple villains of that element out with you, but it really isn’t necessary.

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Villains & The New Portal

Tskylanders-villainhe Villain characters are all very interesting and the whole concept of trapping them and using them is easily one of the best ideas added to the series. Some of the Villain characters are just specialty versions of normal monsters that you encounter but some are actually the bosses that you encounter in the game. In order to call out your villain all you need to do is press the left trigger and you “tag-out” with your current Skylander. The villain character can stay out and fight for short amount of time before having to recharge. The timer bar acts as its health as well so taking damage will decrease the amount of time they can be out. I was bothered at first by the time limit but it actually recharges fairly fast. Villains don’t level up or gain new abilities like Skylanders but each one has a special side quest where they can be redeemed. Some of them are fun little missions or minigames but there are a few that amount to just a short conversation. Once the side quest is done the villain turns into his evolved form which usually means some cosmetic changes and making his attacks stronger. Not only that but it seems to greatly slow down the trap timer and make them buffer. [Read more...]

Destiny Misses Way More Than It Hits

destiny-review

I decided to wait until I had experienced most of what Destiny has to offer before writing my review. Just a short while ago I decided that I had pretty much done just that so here we are. It’s weird to think that a game could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, make 500+ million on its first day and in the end turn out fairly mediocre. Can that even be considered a success? A financial one, sure, but that’s about where it stops.

Destiny has many problems and I’ll break them down here:

Cliched

It’s really crazy how so much of Destiny feels like a giant cliche to the point where you aren’t quite sure if it’s trying to be a parody on purpose. You’d think that a studio like Bungie would deliver something of higher quality after having created something like Halo. The main plot in Destiny revolves around an ancient enemy known as “The Darkness” trying to destroy “The Light.” I mean, really now? Unoriginality aside, I can’t help but feel like I’m playing through some kind of alternate universe Kingdom Hearts fan fiction. Guardians are chosen because of their light or something and are accompanied by a small robot called a Ghost, there are things called Travelers, a Speaker, etc. Think of pretty much every overused sci-fi/fantasy word and it’s probably here. It’s hard to explain it right out but if you played through even a portion of it you might understand. It’s like you’re running around in a universe designed by a twelve-year-old.

The villains you face in Destiny are just unremarkable and bland. First you fight some alien guys, then some robot goblins, and finally space marines. Seriously, they look just like Space Marines and even have jump packs. Bungie seems to have gone creatively bankrupt in this department. The aliens in the Covenant (Halo) were far more memorable than any of these. Grunts, Elites, Jackals, Brutes, etc. I can actually remember those. I’m not even a big Halo fan but I can at least give them props for making interesting bad guys.

The weapons you get to use are essentially the most generic assembly of weapons I have ever seen. There are a few varieties and they are split between three different categories (Primary, Special, Heavy ). You would think that a game like this that is set so far in the future and has such interesting tech would at least provide some cool weapons. It might, but you don’t get to use any of them. You get stuff like a handgun, automatic, semi-automatic, scout rifle, sniper rifle, shotgun, scattergun, machine gun, and rockets. Aside from the scattergun you could essentially find all of that stuff in something like Call of Duty and it would seem no different at all. Where are the interesting energy weapons? Bad guys have energy weapons and other cool stuff but you are left with what feels like rejects of a derelict era. Again I find myself thinking of Halo and the weapons provided in that game. Sure it had your standard military guns but it also had a lot of interesting alien weapons. Where’s my Needler 2.0, Bungie? [Read more...]

You know what’s great? Cross-buy.

I really appreciate how a lot of stuff on the Playstation Network supports cross-buy. Cross-buy is when you buy a game once and have it for use on multiple systems, so I could buy Game X on PS4 and also get it on PS3 and even Vita. Not every game on PSN supports it and not all games are always on every Sony platform, but it’s appreciated when it shows up. Actually I did mention two cross-buy games a little while back: Rogue Legacy and Oddworld: New ‘n Tasty.

I would love to see Nintendo adopt a cross-buy policy. Their account system is really outdated and has been for years, which has been the source of complaint from many players. What I find aggravating is the need to re-purchase  things like virtual console games. Back when the Wii came out I bought Super Mario World for 8 bucks or whatever it was. When the Wii U came out you had to purchase your stuff all over again. I think any game tied to your Wii was reduced in price to like a buck or two but that still seems petty. That’s actually another annoying aspect of Nintendo systems. Most of your content is tied to hardware so you are forced to do system transfers if you get a new system. For the 3DS they used to limit these to like 1 a year or something but fortunately they changed that. I do love Nintendo but they seem extremely slow at adapting to new technology and concepts.

One thing that you pretty much never see is cross-system cross-buy. Take Zen Pinball for example. Currently it is released on pretty much every platform imaginable and by now there are a crap-load of tables. It would be really awesome if your tables were tied to your account, but unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. It’s especially frustrated for anybody who bought tables on the Wii U since they all but abandoned the console outright. That’s pretty much what happened in my case so if I wanted to move over and start purchasing some of the new tables on PS4 then I would need to repurchase every table that I had on Wii U. That’s like over $30 in pinball tables. BUT… the tables are cross-buy within their respective brands so all of your tables on PSN are shared across PS3/PS4/Vita and Xbox 360/One. Still, it would be pretty sweet if you could hop onto Steam and access all of your tables when away from your consoles. A global account would be much appreciated.

Speaking of Global accounts, I think BioWare actually does something to that effect. I believe all of your content is tied to your BioWare account, or at least some of it, and is accessible across various systems. I haven’t tested this out between consoles like PS3 and Xbox 360 but I was able to access a majority of my content in the PC versions of Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2 after having previously played them on Xbox. I remember Keen and I thought that was pretty nifty at the time.

In general I would like to see a lot more cross-buy enabled products and overall it would be great if there were more cross-system compatibility. I’m not completely certain but I think I heard Keen say that the iPad version of Hearthstone uses your same account and cards and I think even lets you play with PC people. If I’m mistaken I’m sure he will probably edit that out. That’s pretty much the end of my ramblings.

This new console generation kinda sucks

xboxone-ps4It’s not fun to admit, but I’m pretty bummed out about our current console generation. There are a lot of factors contributing to creating this overall “meh” feeling. Obviously I can only speak for myself, and for every unsatisfied person there is likely dozens more who are happy. I feel like I need to vent a little bit about some of the really annoying aspects of the supposed “next gen.” You should probably note that there is a great chance that all of my info and everything I say is entirely wrong. Hey, I should get a T-Shirt that says that.

They don’t seem powerful enough

I totally admit that I am not a very tech savvy guy, which I’ve probably said before multiple times but I’m just putting it out there. The current generation of consoles doesn’t seem powerful enough to run next gen games. Getting 1080p and 60FPS seems to be an actual challenge and that’s pretty disheartening. Price points were really important for the PS4 and Xbox One and going over anything higher than $599 is a death sentence. Maybe trying to hit that $400-500 dollar mark wasn’t the best idea since they cant put a lot of power in it while still making good margins.

I’ve always been a huge fan of more stylized visuals over the gritty realistic stuff anyway. Maybe it would be better if more devs went in that direction rather than trying to shove as many light shafts, dust particles, and sweat drop bloom effects into a game as possible. Realistically console games will never look as good as PC games so maybe they shouldn’t try so hard to be what they can’t.

Remakes/Re-Releases out the ass

This is probably my biggest gripe and I’m pretty fed up with seeing remakes and re-releases of past generation games. Sometimes this is a good thing, like when it comes to a game like Wind Waker. That was all the way back on the GameCube and they gave it a pretty great overhaul and added in some new features. I don’t see anything wrong with revisiting older titles like that, especially since they can be hard to find. What really irks me is all of the PS3/360 games that came out so recently and are getting re-released onto the PS4/XboxOne. You can get some of these games for really cheap on last gen consoles but the re-releases are full priced titles most of the time. That really bothers me and I don’t know why anybody would pay potentially $50 more for a slightly prettier game. Kudos if that’s your thing but the real issue I have with all of these games is that it is usually stuff I have A) Already played or B) Had zero interest in last gen. So for me, and people like me, there aren’t a lot of new things to play and experience.

/End Rant

That pretty much covers all the stuff that I can think of that annoys me. It may be that my mood is just foul because I’ve had a really long and boring game drought this summer with only a few small oasis… oasises… oasi? bright spots in it. Luckily next month seems to be my salvation and I’ll get to enjoy Destiny and Disney Infinity 2.0 along with some other stuff. I imagine things will get even better over time but if they don’t I will probably be back here bitching away.

Rogue Legacy PS4/Vita

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Rogue Legacy came out on PC a year or so ago but just recently made its way to consoles. Despite being an avid fan of roguelikes and rogue”lites” I never got around to playing the PC version. Recently we were able to get a review code from Cellar Door Games for the Playstation version of the game and I have been playing it non-stop ever since.

What kind of game is Rogue Legacy?

Rogue Legacy plays like an action platformer with roguelike elements. However, I also get a major MetroidVania vibe due to how the map and game levels are laid out. Not only that but the enemy types and variety along with the character combat remind me a lot of 2D Castlevania games. Your character runs around a castle setting fighting off skeletons, armored knights, floating eyeballs and skulls, elemental wizard guys, etc. Your main weapon is a sword which you can swing with but you also can do a downward thrust attack Scrooge McDuck Style, though you only bounce off of enemies and only slightly. You also get a secondary attack in the form of a spell like an arcing axe or throwing daggers. Like I said, very reminiscent of Castlevania sub-weapons. There’s also a very heavy emphasis on platforming elements and while you are making your way through the game you will have to avoid hazards like spikes, turrets, and fireballs as you make your way through corridors and between platforms.

rogue-legacy-ps4What are the roguelike aspects?

Whenever your character dies in Rogue Legacy (and you will die a lot) you take over as one of your descendants. You get a choice between three characters with different random configurations. There are several character classes in Rogue Legacy and they all have different strengths and weaknesses along with a special ability that can be unlocked. Your choice of character can also come with a variety of different and interesting traits. Some of these are just fun and offer cosmetic changes, like Color-Blind which makes everything black and white or I.B.S which makes you fart occasionally. Some of the traits can actually be beneficial like O.C.D. which lets you gain mana by breaking environmental objects. Gigantism increases your sprite size but also increases your swing range while conversely dwarfism makes you really small and shortens your range but lets you access a lot of secret areas. However a lot of the traits can be just awful and really impact how you play, like with Vertigo, Far-sighted, and Near-sighted.

Your progress in the castle and adjoining areas will be reset and randomized upon your death, aside from major bosses which stay dead. Fortunately there are lots of things you can do with all the gold you find stashed away. You do retain all of your gold upon death and in your next life you can use it to put points into a skill tree of sorts. There’s a lot of passive abilities that increase your hp, mana, and stats but some unlock access to new classes, class abilities, and merchants. Once you have a blacksmith you can use your gold to buy new equipment, provided you find the blueprints for the gear in the castle. The Enchantress can give you up to five different bonuses depending on the runes you find within the castle. These can increase your speed, how much gold you earn, give you double jump, let you fly for a short while, etc. If you double up on runes it actually increases the effect so if you equip two of the jump runes (or whatever it’s called) you can actually jump two additional times mid-air. The last merchant is the architect and he will keep the previous castle layout but you will only get 60% of the loot inside. It also lets you teleport to and retry bosses.

Final Thoughts

Rogue Legacy is essentially everything I want in a game like this. Great art style and music, fast-paced and difficult action, and gameplay mechanics that keep me playing for hours on end. The PSN version of the game is also cross-buy and cross-save compatible. In fact, Rogue Legacy has the best cross-save that I’ve seen of any game yet. Your saves are automatically synced (but it can be done manually) and it’s really easy to jump between platforms. I’m spent quite a few hours with the Vita version and it is just as good as the console counterpart. So if you have a PS3/PS4/Vita or any combination of them you should really consider checking this game out. Or if you don’t then it’s always available on PC but I’d recommend you play with a controller since I imagine trying to play this with a keyboard would be a nightmare. Anyway, for what it is I find Rogue Legacy pretty perfect or at least as close as you can get in this kind of game.