My friends, when life gets you down, all you can do is try and distract yourself with gaming and news related to the industry. I’ve been playing a few things these past couple weeks and and have some scattered thoughts I’d like to share with you dear reader, so come along and join me on this magical mystery tour. Let’s talk about the last Two Weeks in Gaming (see what I did there?) and what’s been on my gaming slate.
Watch Dogs 2
I ended up at 30 hours of gameplay (more likely 25+ since the game was been left running a few times) and the story was interesting enough, but I definitely got the same feeling I had in Mafia 3 where some of the quest chains could be 1 or 2 steps fewer and still be entertaining. In the end I had settled into a method of play that allowed me to pretty much avoid combat which I like, but it does mean that certain missions took a bit longer than normal. My adherence to nonviolence was pretty easy too, especially when dealing with the numerous gangs in the city, after I finally obtained the ability to have the police show up and arrest them. It resulted in some extremely odd behavior swings though, especially when these gang members seem so quick to start unloading heavy ordinance at my hacker but sometimes stand there slackjawed as the police come rolling in heavy.
*Mild Spoilers Ahead*
The game does have a decently satisfying ending compared to the first game, and even allows the rest of your hacker crew some time to shine. I particularly enjoyed getting to play as “Wrench” who “rolled heavy” with some serious ordinance and didn’t really require any kind of stealth for his section. A few of the other characters were less involved, but in the end it felt like Marcus and the Dedsec crew had scored a victory for their cause, but definitely left the window open for the story to continue with another group of wily hackers in a new venue.
Super Mario 3D World
This has become my “go to” game when I don’t particularly want to play for an extended period, and the game continues to delight and frustrate me as most 3D platformers tend to do. The levels are still extremely well designed and the controls excellent, but maybe I’ve just never quite “gotten” the 3D Mario games quite as well as the 2D ones, since I tend to find myself battling with the depth perception when trying to line up jumping on a goomba but miss more often than not.
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
I’ve been playing this game as kind of an odd experiment, entirely without sound and relying on the subtitles and in game character interaction to convey the story. Maybe there is something about the sound in this game that would add something, but I feel I’ve gotten pretty much everything needed out of the game. The story is fairly boilerplate “fight the power” with a few twists and turns and even a “twist” which I easily spotted just based on what I was seeing. As for the game itself, it certainly has an aesthetic, but I feel like the console version lack that extra level of polish & detail I’m sure I’d get with the PC version of the game. It ran excellent though, so I guess the sacrifice of graphical fidelity did yield a playable game.
I continued to be unimpressed with the combat, and not because I’m bad at it, but honestly because it’s just so damn boring. It really boils down to a bunch of button mashing, especially when you get locked into one of their “combat arenas” where progression is locked until you defeat a set number of enemies. I found it much more satisfying to take out or disable an enemy while mid run as it allowed me to feel cool without getting bogged down in their “rock, paper, scissors” combat model. I’m glad I played it to see if my love for the original was well founded, and I still have a fond memory of that game, but it seems like with the sequel they did “just enough” to make it feel different enough, but didn’t really hit me the same way as the first game.
In what is becoming a new paradigm, developers are starting to release games that integrate a control scheme that they believe anyone would know: their smartphone. I’ve played my fair share of the Jackbox games over the past few years, and stand by them as outstanding games to bring out at gatherings of any kind, since the barrier to entry is so small. This game (Eon Altar) takes the foundation built by those games and adds an additional layer of its own dedicated app. The game is a simple 3D action RPG, but your character information and controls are done from the phone app. The character sheet and ability to access relevant character info is awesome, but the actual controls are lacking. Luckily, if you want to play this fairly passively you can set your character to follow any other PC, which is a nice touch. Thankfully the game’s combat is handled in a turn based manner, with all PCs moving and acting then the enemies taking their turn.
One thing to definitely call out is that this game encourages you to “get into character” by reading passages sent to your phone aloud, and even has “secret” messages you can choose to reveal or not, and even gives you inner monologue and dialogue choices to round out the RPG elements. It seems a bit haphazard when it comes to their tutorials as they don’t seem to offer enough context on the need to gather the materials during the quest in order to upgrade/unlock powers/abilities. We’ve got some video of this adventure in the pipeline so keep an eye out for that soon.
Fire Emblem Heroes
I have an interesting relationship with the Fire Emblem series, I’ve played several of the games, but have never ACTUALLY finished one. The general course of play with those games for me is that I spend an inordinate amount of time playing the same mission over and over again, mostly due to one simple mistake that costs me a vital member of my army. Also, the fact that XP is such a limited commodity means leveling up certain characters can be a pain (again some of the games alleviated this with a shared XP pool you could assign) and meant you became reliant on just a few power characters and other suffered.
The latest foray by Nintendo into the mobile space is a free to play title set in this universe, and takes its queues from other titles like Final Fantasy Record Keeper, in that you are “dimension jumping” between game worlds and recruiting the heroes from there into your own army. The battles themselves are easily digestible and can be completed in a few minutes. Also, the stakes are much lower in that your characters can die and you don’t actually lost them. It certainly has the “pay to win” aspect that I’m not a big fan of, but overall it’s a great distilled version of the game that has a limited barrier to entry, and will probably remain in my rotation of daily mobile games.
I originally played this when it came out on iOS before the launch of Fallout 4, and enjoyed the time I spent with the game, but felt a definite lack of an “endgame” or an ultimately satisfying goal. In the time since, apparently Bethesda knew this was the case and has been adding significant content to the game since that time. In addition to more rooms and equipment to build/purchase, the biggest addition I can see is a quest system that is unlocked by building an Overseer’s office in your Vault.
The quests allow you to send out your vault residents out on missions, which of course has a timer based system (it is a free to play game after all) that can be bypassed with a limited currency. These quests appear to be created by the developers, but could be randomly generated as well, but they do have unique locations that you explore, as well as plenty of loot to find and monsters to fight. It also helps that I can play this on my PC with a much larger screen and a mouse to control/select everything makes it much easier to play. I might actually throw a few dollars at this game (I did the same with the mobile version) and would recommend if you do play the game to pick up the “Starter Pack” offering, as it will alleviate the grind/boredom that you could encounter in the early game.
I’ve been playing a LOT of this game, which is deserving of it’s own separate piece which I’ll post tomorrow. I'll just leave you with my favorite picture I've seen so far.
So that’s it for these past couple weeks, I’ll see you on the grid programs.