The State of the Game #20

This week I have been overloaded with games. I played more than I’m going to go into detail about, but I want to give some updates and impressions on what is going to be the core of my gaming experience for the foreseeable future. As I wrote in my last post, I now have a computer in my possession that is capable of playing mostly anything available right now. This has opened up the floodgates, and I am having a blast jumping around between titles that have interested me since they released, but I haven’t been able to try until now. I spent some of my requisite time doing dailies/arenas in Hearthstone, and pvping in my usual MOBAs Awesomenauts and League of Legends. The latter has been running the Team Builder beta, and I checked it out, but aside from being able to preemptively being able to choose your role, it’s still the same game. It will be interesting to see if the mode goes live full-time. I finished The Walking Dead S2, Ep2, but I already posted about that. I also managed to get in some time with the Tomb Raider reboot, and I must say it is worthy of the Tomb Raider name, and actually felt a lot like the original did. That sense of wonder is back. I made it through enough of the game to know that it is worth the time to play it through, but I am probably not going back to it for a while…

Okay, still with me? Let’s get to the meat and potatoes.

I only played Diablo III briefly, but enough to gain a few more levels and complete Act I. I’m not quite to where I was when I was playing on my Dad’s account, but close. I know that playing through the remainder of the game is definitely doable before the 25th when the new expansion releases, and I’m also thinking that attaining level 60 is as well. Experience flies with the 50% bonus event that’s going on right now, not to mention other boosts that stack like shrines or the new reflection pools. I’ve already mentioned this, but I didn’t play D3 at all before this new patch, and I haven’t even looked at the Auction House that is about to shut down. Some of the issues this patch fixed seem to be what everyone was complaining about, and having missed what the problem was, I can say that D3 feels like a great game. I may have had a different opinion a couple of years ago, but as of now, I can see where all of the major Action RPGs that released around that time have their own pros and cons. D3 is just as much fun in its own way as Path of Exile or Torchlight II are in theirs. Similar to when people fight over which MMO is better than the other, those types of arguments were going on with these sorts of games, and I’d rather be the guy that plays them all. So the bonus XP event runs until Reaper of Souls is released, and I am going to try and be ready for the expansion. Of all the original characters, I have found that the Wizard is my favorite, but I am really looking forward to trying out the Crusader. Me and Paladins have had a great relationship over the years, outside of Hearthstone that is. I love the idea of the tank that also has some magic at his disposal, and if you check out the following video, you’ll see a few reasons why the melding of the two works great:

Now, onto the other games that have been on my to-do list for some time now. The following three games were ones that I heard about from various sources, be it my fellow bloggers, from gaming sites or from the storefronts that I usually purchase from. Each one was intriguing, but I wasn’t really sure if they would run on the laptop and I didn’t want to spend the money without the guarantee that they would work. Now that my worries are waylaid, I have been playing these games, and though they all have some similarities, they are also very different from each other. All three have turn based strategy elements. All three have RPG elements. Two of the three have excellent writing. Each have their own graphical style and their own unique settings.

I first heard about The Banner Saga via Keen & Graev. If they aren’t the first to talk about new stuff, they’re close, so this is nothing new. Graev’s description of the game was intriguing, so I knew that I would have to try this game out eventually. He really hit the nail on the head with his comparison to Oregon Trail. I’m pretty sure I’m older than the boys from that blog, but I still fondly remember playing the Oregon Trail when I was in Elementary school. There have been quite a few games that tried to capture that essence again, but none have succeeded until now. Bouncing between a screen where you watch your troops march (ala OT), storyboards and a tactical grid combat screen, there is always something going on. I want to believe that some of the events that take place on your trek are randomized, but I’m not sure. There are portions that are obviously part of the main narrative and would occur one way or the other. But there are other parts when it seems somewhat randomized, where some portion of your group is going to leave to do something, or you encounter more people who want to join with you, etc. It is unclear if that is the case, but it has been made clear that choice you make affect the game and the way it plays. The tactical combat is reminiscent of Final Fantasy Tactics, and though it’s a little weird at first (strength being your attack and your health, armor being a separate bar, strange abilities) once it starts to make sense the game is incredibly fun. I played up to Chapter 3 in one sitting, and am frothing at the mouth for more. But I did have other new shinies…

I tried out Aarklash Legacy next. This game is more along the lines of a MOBA or RTS where you control a group of four champions. These characters all have their own strengths and weaknesses, backstory, and all of that. Immediately the biggest flaw that came to my attention is that the voice acting and dialogue was a little on the weak side. But the combat… the sweet, sweet combat reeled me in. Similar to the old school Baldur’s Gate games where an active pause allowed you to make decisions and plan out your actions, this game has you controlling all four characters at once. You start out with the trinity, a tank, healer, mage and rogue, the latter two forming the DPS portion of the trinity. Apparently there are more characters and you will be able to pick and choose who you use to find your favorite synergy. I didn’t play far enough in to get more characters, and the storyline was meh enough that I can’t even comment. That combat will bring me back for more though, any day.

Finally, Shadowrun Returns. Based on the tabletop RPG, and some older video game, this game oozes character, but mainly from the lore standpoint. Otherwise, this is basically X-com and Baldur’s Gate rolled into one. Graphically, it is set up isometrically, like most older cRPGs or Action RPGs, whatever you want to call them. The gameplay shifts once you get into your first combat situation, and turns into X-com. Seriously, the way you move and shoot, or shoot twice, the way movement works, the way abilities or using items is done, the way line of sight works — this is all X-com combat. But I loved the latest X-com game, so there is no complaint there at all. Mix that up with RPG elements and I’m stoked.

Between the three, The Banner Saga gripped me tightest, but I am very interested to finish all of these games. I will go more in depth once I get a bit further in. This week on Plus we get Lone Survivor, and I have to at least check that one out for a bit as well. That’s about all that’s left for the rest of the month as far as that service goes, so I’ll be otherwise disposed with these games for a while.