State of the Game: What Have I Been Up To?

It’s been a good long time since I pulled out a round up post (over 6 months, as a matter of fact), but given my absence for most of a month, I actually accumulated enough gaming experiences to make one. I was tempted by the holiday sales, and ended up purchasing a few games, including Rage 2, Devil May Cry V, and Risk of Rain 2. Apparently the past year was good for sequels.

Of these, I never played the original Rage but being from iD Software, I’m sure I would have enjoyed it to some extent. I heard mixed reviews over the years but never picked it up. The same goes for the sequel — I’ve read plenty of mixed reviews about it, but getting it for less than half of the original asking price meant that I could take reviews worth a grain of salt. I’ll throw $20 at the wall and see if it sticks, I have a harder time with $60. Gaming time is a luxury at this point in my life as well, so I want to make sure that I’m spending my time wisely, so I’ll drop a couple bucks here and there on some titles that seem like a “sure bet” and most of the time I end up enjoying myself. But dropping $60 on a turd is harder to swallow. Whatever the case, I have found a level of enjoyment out of Rage 2, and that’s good enough for me. On the surface, it’s just Borderlands with a different graphical engine. There’s still the psuedo RPG elements of gaining skills and different gear, but then there’s vehicles and a semi-open world to explore. I say semi because despite having large swaths of landscape to roam around, there really are only so many points of interest and most of them aren’t all that fleshed out. Think of the minutemen settlements in Fallout 4. Sure, you could babysit them all and rescue as many as possible, but in the end it ends up being the same gameplay loop and eventually you’ll get board. There are a ton of places you can find on the map, but in effect most will just reward you with some XP and coin for clearing them out. It also seems that enemies end up respawning so stuff is never really “cleared.” At the end of the day it’s a solid shooter, and it does have some cool things going for it, but it’s also nothing stellar. For me it kind of feels like the latest Wolfenstein, in which they took a likeable engine and then forced it into this co-op mission based looter-shooter that it never really should have been. That’s not saying Rage 2 suffers in the same way Wolfenstein: Youngblood does, but it also doesn’t set itself far enough apart from other games in the genre to really shine.

I do have a prior relationship with the Devil May Cry series. I played the first two thoroughly, but didn’t play the third or fourth installments. I also completed the sort-of-reboot, DMC: Devil May Cry on the PS3, and it was good but didn’t really fit into the ongoing story. Devil May Cry V apparently picks up on this story, and also treats you to a little catch up movie right at the beginning so you sort of know what’s going on. This was appreciated for someone like me who missed some of the games and would have no idea what was going on. You start off playing as Nero, who is clearly not Dante. He has a similar weapon set up, and you do see Dante getting fucked up in a cutscene. Apparently at other points in the game you’ll be able to play as Dante along with another character who has been introduced, V. So far the game is what I would expect from the series, though I don’t remember all of the complicated button presses to get shit done in the earliest games. Things have progressed though, so I suppose this had to happen. From my first impressions, I think the game looks great, it runs smoothly, the action and combat is fun albeit a little taxing at times. I can’t really comment on the story as I’ve only played the first couple of missions, but having finished off the last game I was steadily working on, I think that I’ll be able to get this one done in the near future. Fans of the series will appreciate the graphical upgrades and the fact that it still feels true to its roots. New players might be turned off by some of the complexities but it’s really not that difficult to get going. No one says you have to be a combo master straight out of the gate.

I also played the original Risk of Rain. I believe I wrote about it here on the blog, but I can’t be assed to look. Whatever the case, the game has made the jump from 2-D side scrolling pixel art, to low-res polygonal 3-D from a third person perspective. Otherwise, it is very much the original game. You start a round on a planet, and you’ll run around shooting the flora and fauna, picking up items and coins as you go. Some crates and shrines will require payment to unlock or gain bonuses. Eventually a boss will spawn and you’ll have to defeat it to move onto the next world. Being a Rogue-Like, certain bits carry on to the next run, but overall you’ll be doing the same things over and over again for a while until you unlock new characters and whatnot. Apparently this one is multiplayer, which is cool but I don’t know anyone with the game so I haven’t tried that out. I assume that would be much more fun, as Rogue-Likes end up getting boring after a time. If you like this style of game you might give it a whirl, but if you aren’t into the genre I’d probably skip this one.

Yet another game series I’ve had a long term relationship with. I have played every iteration of Marvel vs. Capcom, though the one I spent the most time with was number two, in which I played on the PS2 originally, and then again when it was re-released on the PS3. Also on PS3 was the third iteration, but that too was re-released on PS4 as Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and I played both versions a bit. Finally, the jump from sprite based to polygon graphics was made for the series, similar to when Street Fighter made the switch with Street Fighter IV. Otherwise, it’s the same sort of game, but I have to say that the story mode was a fantastic romp! There were probably too many cut scenes, but the storyline was interesting, you got to play as most of the characters in the game, and it familiarized you with the controls and systems. The variety of characters is pretty good, but apparently there are other DLC options, which is typical of Capcom fighting games. I don’t think I’ll invest anymore money into it, but I did enjoy what I played and I look forward to the next gathering when I can challenge some friends to battles. I also intend to jump online to play some random opponents but I have no idea if the game has a population online still. I would assume, but you never know. It’s not exactly a new game so I suppose I’ll find out. If you love fighting games, this one is a blast but it’s obviously a personal taste sort of thing. You might like Mortal Kombat better. You might also be wrong.

Released for free for Playstation Plus users last month, Titanfall 2 is a title I already owned, but this gave my friend an opportunity to pick up a copy of the game for free, and the population was bolstered with an influx of new players. We haven’t played it as religiously as some of the other games we’ve played together in the past, but it has been a fun diversion from other things we’ve been spending time on. Like its predecessor, Titanfall 2 boasts a ton of multiplayer modes in which you play as pilots. As you fight you’ll charge up your Titan which you can eventually call down to pilot against the enemy. Where this game differs from the original is in the fact that there is actually a single player campaign and its rather good. I’ve blown through a few chapters but have spent more time with the multiplayer recently. If you’ve played the original I’m happy to report that the gameplay is just as good as you remember. If you enjoy Call of Duty or other competitive shooters, this one is probably better. It’s from Respawn too, so if you like Apex Legends, you’ll see a ton of what made its way into that game with abilities and weapons. Honestly, it’s a great game and getting it for free is worth the download. Sometimes you just gotta jump in your mech and blow shit up, man!

So there you have it. Several games I’ve dipped my toes into as of late. Hoping to finish some of these up soon so I can share some individualized proper thoughts.

Void Tyrant: A Mobile Rogue-Like

I should first note that the only reason I’m even checking out another new mobile game is because I’m trying to fill a void. SEGA Heroes was one of my steady games for the past year or so, but recent changes to the game left a bad taste in my mouth. As such, I deleted it. I’m also not really playing Pokemon Go anymore, but it is still installed. So, I was in the market for another mobile game to play when I’m not in the mood for Clash Royale. On a whim I went to the Google Play store and this little gem caught my eye. Void Tyrant is a nice mixture of game genres with an aesthetic that I can get behind. It’s equal parts Rogue-Like, RPG and Card Game. It plays from a first person view point, and is reminiscent of games like Dragon Warrior, along with feeling similar to games like Dungeon Master.

You’ll start the game running through a short tutorial, and then you’ll get your random hero. To start, you can only play as a Knight, but there are ways to unlock a Priest and Ranger class through gameplay. You have a starting town where you can do various town things, but the meat and potatoes of the game starts once your space ship leaves town and heads towards the end goal. You’ll be presented with a star map, where two planets are available to explore. Complete a planet and you’ll move on to the next set. Eventually you’ll get to the end of the line and I assume that is where extra bits will open up, or perhaps that is the end of the game — being a Rogue-Like, getting there will take several tries.

Combat is interesting. There are a variety of weird creatures, and of course bosses. As you can see in the pictures above, you have standard RPG elements mixed with cards. Enemy’s life and energy points are on display at the top of the screen, while your stats are at the bottom. You have a deck of cards, and they are used in different ways. Each combat you’ll play a card and it will have a value between 1-6. You opponents will also have cards they play, but they vary dependent on the creature. The little battery gauges in the middle of the screen will fill up based on the cards drawn. You can draw to a total of 12, so in a way this portion plays a lot like Blackjack. If you’re at 8, you might not want to risk drawing a 6 and going over 12, because if you do you will lose that round and take damage from the enemy. Conversely, if the enemy over fills their gauge they will automatically take damage from you. Each enemy also has a “sweet spot” where they will lock in their number and not go any higher. This gives you a slight advantage because you can typically go higher, but RNG isn’t always on your side. If you happen to hit a 12, you’ll automatically win and “overcharge” which nets critical strikes. The other cards in the middle of the screen are activated using your energy points. You restore these by making hits on the enemy. Cards can be direct attacks, equipment usage or modifiers that give you extra points on your gauge. I assume there are plenty that I haven’t seen to this point but the variety is there and does feel very fun. Bosses are a whole other cup of tea, they have huge life bars and take some strategy on your part to beat, but I’ve managed to do so a couple of times.

Of course, you won’t always make it to the boss or will die to him. Each time you die you get some rewards that help you in your next go. If you do happen to beat a boss, you’ll get a chaos key, multiples of these are needed to open up the pyramid at the end of the map. Afterwards you’ll be able to go to the next planet, and the gameplay loop continues from there.

So far I’ve only seen two forms of monetization. There are several times through your gameplay session where you’ll be presented with the option above, where you can buy the individual spirit needed for the task, or for $5 you can buy them all, which in effect makes the game ad free. Of course you can just watch the ads and still get the benefit of the spirit. The fortune spirit above gives you extra gold when you open chests (which are kind of rare but I’ve seen several in one play session). There’s a life spirit that will rez you once if you are to die, and then there’s a secrets spirit that helps you to get mystery packs of cards on occasion. I think it’s worth spending the $5 just to not have to watch ads. The classes I mentioned earlier are the ones included with the game as it released and as I said they are unlockable via gameplay. However, a recent patch introduced an assassin class that at this point is only available for purchase. Overall it’s not too bad of a deal, and honestly the ads aren’t so often that it’s annoying so you really can play and enjoy this one for free. I’d recommend it for fans of any of the games I mentioned above. You’ll get a kick out of it.

15 Years of Blogging

Holy shit, I totally forgot to make this post when it the anniversary actually happened, but as of January 9th, 2020 this blog turned 15 years old. That’s the majority of my adult life. Clearly, this habit is for life, despite some breaks from time to time.

I’d like to thank those of you who have been along for the ride, no matter how many of those years you were actually reading. I know I’ve had ups and downs, shifts in priorities and shifts in writing style/content. But having anyone read what I have to say gives me a sense of empowerment that my thoughts actually mean something.

I have no intentions on going anywhere. I love doing this thing, and even when I lose motivation, I’m always thinking about the next piece to write. Your support keeps me going.

Here’s to 15 more!

 

Games Played 2019

I wrote a post at the tail end of 2018 reviewing the games I played and compiling a list of completed titles from throughout the year. Since I’m trying to get back into the full swing of things on the blog here, I thought it being 2020, I should look back on what I did throughout 2019. According to the last post of this type, I had started a fair binge of backlog titles and was completing them left and right. I know that I played less of single player games over the course of 2019, as Playstation did a yearly wrap up with some cool stats to look back on, and I spent the majority of my gaming hours on that platform playing Apex Legends.

If you click on the link in that post, you can check out your own stats. It was interesting to see how I spent my time, how many trophies were earned and how many games I played. What was a little confusing was seeing the sheer amount of hours played though, which I know can’t be accurate. I think it’s just accumulating time based on when the console is turned on, because my girl would watch a lot of streaming services and that would help to account for over 2000 hours of play time. Anyway, given the fact that I know I didn’t play nearly as many games on my PC throughout the year I think it’s safe to say that I completed less, but let’s go through it and see.

January:

In January I had recently moved back to my home town after a nearly 5 year absence. It wasn’t the ideal situation but it was less money out of our pockets and an opportunity to get closer to where we wanted to be in life. I started back at the casino I worked at years ago, and things settled into a new routine. I was able to spend more time with my best friend whom I had left behind for a few years, and as such time was spent at his house playing games, along with playing together online more often. He had purchased a copy of Soul Calibur VI which is a series that we had enjoyed playing together for many iterations. It’s not exactly the type of game you beat though, so it’s just something we played for a time. I also picked up the Civilization VI expansion Rise & Fall, and played through the campaign once again to see the changes. I had purchased a copy of Call of Duty Black Ops 4 for my son for Christmas the month before, and because he wasn’t playing it very much I decided to give it a whirl. I found it underwhelming, as CoD has been for a number of years, but still spent a little time with it during the month. Lastly, I continued to pick up and play new mobile titles, and the one I spent some time with in January was Looney Tunes: World of Mayhem. It stayed in the rotation for a while but I eventually tired of it.

Feburary:

In February, one of my favorite games of all time released a remade edition: Resident Evil 2. I managed to grab a copy as it released and played through both Leon and Claire’s campaigns rather quickly. That was how I spent the majority of the month, but it was also the month when Apex Legends was released, and I started playing that pretty regularly with my best friend and others. At this point I’ve put a ton of hours into it but again it’s not the kind of game you complete. Recently they unlocked the level cap (previously 100) and I have still yet to reach the original cap but with the battle passes released every few months, regular special game modes and new Legends added there’s always a new reason to continue to play.

March:

March saw the release of the final episode of TellTale’s Walking Dead Final Season. As such, I played through that and crossed another game off of the list. I was happy that Skybound Entertainment picked up the game and finished it off, but it sort of marked the end of TellTale’s legacy and I doubt there will be more games like it anytime soon unless someone else picks up the mantle. Through the rest of the month I was struggling with what to play next, running a poll to see what I should play. I eventually settled on picking Destiny 2 back up, and started working my way towards the Forsaken expansion that has been out for a few months at that point.

April:

April was the month of Destiny 2. I picked up where I had left off in the base game, and then started in on the expansions. I completed The Curse of Osiris shortly thereafter. Next up was running through Warmind, and that done was within a couple of weeks. I really didn’t play much of anything else throughout the month.

May:

World War Z came out of nowhere in May. It was a game that was compared to older titles like Left 4 Dead, so I knew it was the kind of gameplay I would enjoy. It has since seen some big patches adding new difficulties and modes and overall it’s a damn fine game. I moved into the Forsaken expansion during the month as well.

June:

When June rolled around, I had pretty much called it quits with Destiny 2. I like this style of game but I can’t be assed to do all of the end game shit. I picked up another mobile game called Warriors of Waterdeep and though it appealed to me for a while I didn’t play it for that long. Dauntless, a game compared to Monster Hunter was released for PS4 for free, so I checked that out, and just like Monster Hunter I didn’t really care for it. However, a game I had been looking forward to for a while released, and I played Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled quite a bit through the summer. It too has had several patches and events and even a battle pass style progression system but all of it was added for free. It’s a great cart racer and ulitmately I feel it’s better than any Mario Kart that’s been released to date.

July:

A new style of game started to bust onto the scene last summer. The Auto Chess or Auto Battler genre came into popularity (or at least hit my radar) with DOTA Underlords. I tried it out but due to the fact that I didn’t have any attachment to the characters, it was a lot of Greek to me. One of the Playstation Plus games for July was Detroit: Become Human, which also included a copy of the company’s earlier game, Heavy Rain. I honestly wasn’t even interested, but once I started playing it, I binged it to completion in just a couple of days. I picked up a couple of other console games on sale that month, and though I didn’t play much of the Castlevania Collection, I’m happy to have it. I also grabbed Dragon’s Crown Pro, which was a slightly upgraded version of the PS3 game that I had completed a few years back. I played through it again and still enjoyed it. Lastly, another mobile title from Nintendo hit the Google Play Store, and I checked out Dr. Mario World. It didn’t hold my attention though, as most mobile games tend to do.

August:

The blogging challenge Blaugust popped back up this year, and I once again participated. It seems I spend more time writing opinion pieces and about MTG rather than gaming, but there were some tidbits in there to share. Riot Games decided to get in on the Auto Chess genre and because I am more familiar with/fond of League of Legends, I thought it might actually appeal to me. It turns out that I’m just not into the thought of setting up some options and then watching a game play itself for me, but I will say that I preferred Teamfight Tactics to the DOTA version. Another game I had been looking forward to, Wolfenstein: Youngblood released and I got a copy. I played it for a few hours but never finished it. Unfortunately it wasn’t so much like the prior Wolfenstein games, and ultimately fell short. I think if I had a dedicated co-op partner for the game it would have been more enjoyable, but it is what it is. Lastly, we knew that Borderlands 3 would be releasing in the next month, and a new DLC was released for Borderlands 2. Commander Lilith and the Fight for Sanctuary ended up being a short and sweet romp that filled in some of the story gaps between where BL2 ended and where BL3 would pick up.

September:

My will to blog started to trail off come September. Blaugust was a slog last year, and though I was successful in posting all 31 days of August, I was burnt out at the end. The only game I wrote about during the month was Heavy Rain, and I did manage to complete it. I enjoyed it nearly as much as Detroit: Become Human, but it was obviously an older game so there were some quirks that were not as enjoyable.

October:

I discovered that another game made by the same company as Detroit: Become Human and Heavy Rain (which was released between the two) was in my library (given away with Playstation Plus at another time). I tried out Beyond: Two Souls but found that I didn’t enjoy it at all in comparison to the other games from Quantic Dream. Apex Legends proceeded into Season 3, and that would turn out to be what I would play the most of for the rest of the year. Also, I picked up my copy of Borderlands 3 and also convinced my best friend to get it. We started playing it pretty regularly through the month but have yet to complete the main campaign. We’ll get around to it eventually.

November:

In November I didn’t post about gaming at all. I spent the month celebrating my birthday and I’m pretty sure I was only playing Apex Legends. My gaming started to taper off and as a result so did my blogging. I wrote about football, and then eventually disappeared for a while.

December:

I officially announced my hiatus but it had already been a pretty slow month. I was busy trying to get a new place for my family and ended up doing so. I officially came back from hiatus a few days ago, so I now have more to talk about. I did play Jedi: Fallen Order through the month but I ended up not completing it until January, so that will have to be counted on next year’s list.

Games Completed 2019:

Resident Evil 2
The Walking Dead: Final Season
Destiny 2 base game
Curse of Osiris Expansion
Warmind Expansion
Detroit: Become Human
Commander Lilith and the Fight for Sanctuary Expansion
Heavy Rain

As I suspected, my count for games completed is down quite a bit from years prior. Most of this is just DLC expansions that I’m counting as completed. However, it was still a pretty good year for gaming and 2020 has already started off well. We now know that the Final Fantasy VII remake is coming in March, as is the next DOOM title. A Resident Evil 3 remake is also coming, and that’s the only game in the series I haven’t finished so I’m looking forward to that. We’ll check back in come the end of the year and see if I did better.

Thoughts on Jedi: Fallen Order

The last time I played a Star Wars game that I actually enjoyed was the Battlefront reboot that came out a few years back on PS4. I played that one pretty regularly for a few months, but as most lobby shooters tend to do, it eventually lost steam and I stopped playing. It didn’t help that it was produced by Electronic Arts, who are notorious for bad DLC/RMT practices, and I didn’t end up shelling out for any of the map packs. Later, they would release a sequel and Battlefront II was pretty universally panned about said price gouging so I avoided it altogether. Beyond that, the only other Star Wars game I’ve played in the last decade was Bioware’s The Old Republic MMO, but it too was lacking and never stuck with me. I was skeptical about Jedi: Fallen Order until I started seeing videos and had friends at work telling me it was really good. Compared mostly to the Souls games, it was said to have “difficult” combat that relies on timing rather than button mashing. I’m hard pressed to actually make this comparison myself, because it is in no way anywhere near as difficult as the Souls games, but I can see why people made the commentary. I would also compare it to games like Uncharted or Tomb Raider, in that you have a lot of running around jumping and climbing on things, but it also has some psuedo RPG elements in that you gain skill points and there is a skill tree, though much of it is locked until you complete parts of the storyline to “repair your connection with the force.”

Visually this title is stunning. I’d put it right up there with the likes of Uncharted, because it has a cinematic quality that isn’t present in most console games. This is probably due to the fact that we are coming to the end of this console generation and the machines have already been pushed to their max, but I’m still impressed that this several year old hardware can make such pretty pictures. The voice acting and motion capture of real world actors is top notch as well. The red-head kid from the TV show Shameless is Cal Kestis, our main character. Forrest Whitaker makes an appearance, and the lady from Mad TV (I can’t recall her name) is one of your crew mates who has some major parts influencing the story.

From what I can tell, this game seems to take place somewhere between Episode VI: A New Hope and Episode VII: The Force Awakens. There is talk of “the purge” where the Empire was able to basically eradicate all of the Jedi but there’s also talk of the Clone Wars and things that happened during Episodes I-III. Whatever the case, Cal has been working as a scrapper on a junk planet though you can tell there is more to the story. Eventually it is revealed that he was a Padawan receiving training from a Jedi Master but that Master was killed during the purge and he had been in hiding ever since. The Empire comes to the junk planet and he must reveal himself as a force-sensitive individual, barely escaped on a ship called the Mantis, piloted by an alien named Greez. Cere is his companion, and also your antagonist for a time, who pushes you to reconnect with the force and rebuild the Jedi order. There’s much more to it than just that, but I can’t say anything else due to spoilers.

Eventually you’ll lead your rag tag team to several different planets, where you and your droid companion BD-1 will learn new skills and open up new areas as you go. In this sense there is a feel of a Metroidvania, because new areas will become accessible only after unlocking certain skills/abilities for Cal/BD-1. There are a bunch of collectibles, chests and “echos” to locate on each of the planets, and if you are the completionist type, you’ll probably want to make side trips back to these planets as you progress the story and unlock these new abilities. Eventually Cal will have a bunch of different force powers and lightsaber abilities and the combat gets really fun. Boss fights can be pretty intense, but once you get the hang of your powers everything starts to feel pretty easy. I didn’t really feel challenged throughout the game, but I didn’t play on the harder difficulties where perhaps the game would actually feel Souls-like.

Overall I thought it was a great game. Perhaps not worth the full $60 price investment unless you are a diehard fan, but I was lucky enough to get this as an early Xmas gift from my girlfriend so I wanted to play the shit out of it so she felt that she got her money’s worth. It won’t be long before it goes on sale though, so if you can get it for even $10 off I’d jump on it. It will give you a few weeks of fun.