State of the Game: Filler

I remember when I first started this column and it was initially created as a way for me to cram a bunch of small details into a larger post and get something published. At the time I wasn’t blogging as regularly as I would have liked, and part of that was due to playing many games at once and not feeling like I had enough to say about each on individually. As such, this became a weekly series that would be devoted to those Playstation Plus freebies and other games that I was playing that didn’t have much lasting appeal but I still wanted to throw down some thoughts. Or, I’d discuss progress from larger games I was playing, or throw in news about games I regularly played that had new patches or things of that nature. In the following years this turned into less of a weekly post and just a catch all for when I didn’t have much else to say. Lately it’s been even more sporadic, to the point where sometimes I think there’s no point in keeping it going, but I still need a catch all post format and this has worked so I’m going to continue to use it. It’s been about three months since the last SotG post, and this edition I have updates on games I’ve been playing in recent weeks that I’ve touched on in the past.

Apex Legends:

I wrote some fond thoughts about Apex Legends when it released, but you’ll probably note that I haven’t talked about it since. Part of this was due to the fact that I was getting a case of Battle Royale fatigue — since the genre started to take off in popularity, everyone was throwing their hat into the ring and I tried many iterations of the concept. Some I enjoyed more than others, and Apex Legends is definitely one of the better versions of this style. The other reason I haven’t talked about it is because I stopped playing for a while. A few of my friends play along with my son and I primarily played with them but the slow pace of content updates made the game stale after a while. Even the introduction of seasons and a battle pass system wasn’t exciting to me, and my stats prove that I didn’t play a single game during that first season. We did see the release of a couple of guns and the new character Octane during that time, but earning the in-game currency to unlock new champions is painfully slow, and they run you about $10 to unlock individually. I’d gladly plop down $30-40 if you’d give me all of the characters unlocked along with all future releases but I don’t really want to spend the money otherwise.

Nonetheless, season two launched recently and another new character, Wattson, was introduced. The arena was also changed up, with the large creatures that were off in the distance are now on the island, and some structures have been destroyed. Otherwise not much has changed, and yet I’ve been having fun playing it. One motivator is the battle pass, despite the fact that I haven’t paid for it. Everyone can participate for free, and new daily and weekly quests give you points towards your battle pass level. You’ll get free rewards just for playing, and though they aren’t amazing it’s better than nothing (or just the apex packs like before). If you want to drop the cash, the battle pass will get you a ton of extra value in the form or cosmetics ranging from character skins to different music and loading screens. We’ve seen all of this sort of monetization before, but it actually seems worth it in some ways. Unfortunately just unlocking the battle pass doesn’t do a whole lot for you, unless you’ve leveled up enough to get a large chunk of the rewards. I don’t see myself maxing out to get all of the super cool loot, so I’m still on the fence about spending the money. We’ll see where I am towards the end of the season to see if it’s justifiable. I can’t speak to other platforms, but the game still seems very much alive and well on the Playstation.

Clash Royale:

Clash Royale is still my go-to mobile game and I don’t see that changing. It’s been over two years, and I can’t say I’ve been playing anything that long anymore. I maxed out my ladder deck a while ago, and most of the cards have at least one star level as well. The new battle pass system, Pass Royale is going strong, and I’ve unlocked 10 levels, but you can essentially grind them out as you play. I like the fact that they streamlined quests as well, where you are not limited to a particular game mode to complete them. For instance, before there were quests that said “play 30 buildings in 1v1 battles” and you would only get updates while playing the ladder — not in 2v2, challenges or clan wars. Now that same quest reads “play 30 buildings” without the limitation, and it’s a nice way to clear quests faster. I’ve been working on leveling up my cards that weren’t a part of my ladder deck, and so far each deck I play has almost all of its cards at level 12 or maximum. I have a queue of cards that are ready to upgrade, a couple of them to maximum level but gold income is slow going. I should have a 2nd max level deck within a couple of months. I’ve been as high as Master 2 since the rework to matchmaking, and have been at that sort of level for the past couple of seasons. The guild has been floating at high gold/low legendary, but we can’t seem to keep afloat in the higher tier. Our core group was promoted to Elder recently and we seem to be the ones gaining ground, but some of the stragglers have kept us from staying in the top league. I’m sure that will continue to be the norm for a while but as the core gets stronger we just might be able to keep it going.

SEGA Heroes:

My 2nd favorite mobile game and one I’ve been playing for nearly a year, this game has a ton of progression that is slow going as well. Currently my account is level 63 (I have no idea what the maximum is), and my main team of heroes are all level 60, with Sonic being level 63 (they are capped at your account level). They are also all at 2 blue stars, which means I put a shit ton of cards into their progression. My focus as of late is farming skill upgrades (they all have their three skills at level 8) and trying to upgrade them further. The reagents needed to upgrade their levels are getting ridiculous, hence why Sonic is the only one above level 60. They also introduced some guild related progression, in that we have events that happen regularly where your individual progress helps the guild as well, so at the end of the event you’ll get your own solo rewards along with guild rewards. There are also boss battles that anyone in the guild can initiate, but they are timed events so you might not get to participate if you don’t notice or aren’t online when it happens. We have yet to down a boss, but you still get rewards if you participate. It seems okay but I can think of a few improvements to the system.

Void Bastards and Amid Evil:

I wrote about Void Bastards and Amid Evil recently after I picked them up during the Steam Sale. Since, I’ve put a few hours into each title and I’m still very pleased with the purchases. I’ve cleared the first world in Amid Evil and made some progress in the second. There really isn’t much to report there, it’s a straight forward game but it’s still a cool retro styled game that I highly recommend. I’ve got even more positive things to say about Void Bastards, it’s quickly become one of my favorite Rogue-lites of all time. The game play loop is similar each time but there is just enough variety for it to not get boring. I have opened up a bunch of different items and equipment that have made runs last much longer, and I’ve learned the general strategy of getting through the nebulas quickly. You don’t have to dock at every port, you can skip things and only loot ships when you need food or fuel (or a key item you’ve been looking for). You do need some of the upgrades to items and things before you can really get to this point though. Once here, you can get to the next story related items you need quite fast, and from there it’s on to the next thing. Currently trying to get together the pieces for the HR Computer, this coming after completing the ID Badge. It’s been a blast on both accounts.

Horizon Chase Turbo:

The other free game this month besides the one I already wrote about, Horizon Chase Turbo is a strange game that melds retro with modern aesthetics. I can’t quite place what game it reminds me most of… probably something on the NES or Sega Genesis, but whatever the case it feels like games I’ve played in the past, but boy does it run a hell of a lot faster than those games did. It’s 2D sprite graphics but they run fast and it’s hard to keep up with the twisting tracks coming ahead — particularly when there are hills and valleys. It is however quite a bit of fun! I’ve enjoyed clearing the first few areas of the game and testing out the other game modes. I’d recommend trying it if you need a game to jump in and play for a few minutes here and there, the races don’t last too long and they are enjoyable.

Crash Team Racing:

Speaking of racing games, I’ve also been putting my way through the CTR Remake. I’ve cleared the first couple of worlds along with some of the side events and have also toyed with playing online a bit. Like many games of this era, CTR has added a big content patch that brings a battle pass like system to the game. There are daily and weekly tasks that are earned just by playing the game in any of its modes, but playing online seems to get you more points faster. Leveling up your pass level brings rewards like skins and whatnot, but again there is no RMT here — everything that was added can be earned just by playing the game, and it doesn’t appear that they are planning on any further monetization. They even added several new tracks, something that didn’t happen with the original and something that gives me hope that this game will be playable for much longer than the original. New tracks keep things fresh and tasks keep you feeling like there’s always something to do. This is the model I like to see and wish more companies went this route instead of bleeding their customers.

That’s all I have for this round-up… Hope everyone else is having as much fun as I am!

The Steam Grand Prix

It’s that time of year again! Wallets shall weep and Gabe Newell shall rejoice at their weeping! Or some such thing. Whatever the case, the Steam Summer Sale kicked off this past week, and with it a new theme/game. This time around the theme is “Grand Prix” and instead of playing an actual game, you’ll instead play regular games to complete quests in order to affect your team’s positioning in the race. Each day a winner is crowned, and by the end we’re supposed to have a chance to earn games off of our wish lists. How likely that actually happens is yet to be determined, but out of the four days that passed, my team (Team Corgi) came in first place three times. We’re currently in first place again today, so if this keeps up I imagine I’d have a better chance to win something, but I’m still not holding my breath. Overall I don’t usually care too much about the events going on in the client, it’s all about the deals. This year my wish list is a little thin, and while much of it was on sale, I really scrutinized those items on my list again and ended up removing some of them altogether. When all was said and done though, I can’t resist a good deal, so I took the opportunity to grab a couple of games on the cheap. I had the opportunity to play both games for a while over my days off and have some thoughts to share about them. First up, Void Bastards:

I discovered this title via the Steam discovery queue and the first thing that caught my attention was its art direction. It borrows heavily from science fiction comic books, and looks great in its hand-drawn style. The main menu actually shows off the above art complete with a hallmark comic book cover, and much of the game’s style derives from this. Sound effects will also come with floating word bubbles, the cut scenes between missions play out in animated frames for you to follow along with. The aesthetics are amazing and that’s just the beginning!

The story goes that you are a prisoner on a space barge that has been floating along in space for some time. The prisoners on board are your fodder — you can die as many times as you like because the lives ready to be defrosted and then controlled by you are limitless. The corporation that owns the prison ship (and by extension, you) literally defrosts you, attached a little sentient robot to your body, and sends you on your way to do things. As far as the gameplay goes, this is a rogue-lite so you can expect a degree of procedural generation and to die a lot before getting anywhere. There is a global progression though, so as you gain key items and store them on the S.T.E.V., or unlock/build new gear the next inmate to be revived will have access to them. I can name quite a few games that have had similar concepts and where each little detail was borrowed from, to the point that this feels like the ultimate version of the rogue-lite game.

The gameplay loop contains elements from games like Rogue Legacy, FTL: Faster than Light, Sword of the Stars: The Pit, and probably others. From the star map, you’ll jump from location to location with an ultimate goal usually being a key item needed to progress the storyline. This feels much like FTL in that you need to always be on the look out for fuel and food in order to survive. When you arrive at a new location (typically a derelict ship, but other nodes exist) you can choose to jump to the next location immediately or to dock. Each ship will have some sort of item you’ll want to look for on it outside of wanting to grab up all of the fuel, food and ammo possible. These key items can usually be combined via the workbench into gear, but sometimes are quest related. While on the ship, you’ll switch into FPS mode and run around shooting goons and looting stuff. The set pieces aren’t all that random (I swear I’ve seen a few of the same layouts already) but when it comes down to it, this is just a vehicle for progression and nothing more. If you die, you’ll be greeted with a death comic strip, and then a new prisoner is defrosted and provided with a care package of goods to get started again. Currently I’m still trying to get some of the story items needed, but I have already unlocked several weapons and upgrades. Despite being the same sort of thing you would expect from this genre, it’s really well done and I am happy with the purchase.

The other game I picked up is also an FPS title, but not a rogue-like this time around. Amid Evil has been on my radar for quite some time. Apparently it was in early access for a while, and only saw its 1.0 released just this month so it was a good time to buy it especially with the discount. When I first heard about the game my immediate comparison was to old school shooters like Heretic and Hexen, and for good reason. This game uses a weird combination of old 3D graphics with some newer lighting effects to where it looks retro but still looks modern in some ways. It’s hard to describe, so here are some pictures to make my point:

So it looks kind of like that new ray tracing mod for Quake that came out recently, where it’s an old game engine that was spruced up with some graphic effects. I like the old school feel and there really hasn’t been a modernized version of this style of game, where it’s an FPS but you are using melee and magic rather than guns. For the Hexen fans out there, you’ll truly enjoy this. It’s fast, you can get swarmed, there are puzzles — it’s a blast from the past.

That’s all I ended up getting in the sale and I don’t see myself buying anything else. Other games I want to play are on the horizon but probably won’t see many discounts until the holiday season. What did you grab in the sale?