TeamFight Tactics: Galaxies

So it’s been a while since Teamfight Tactics officially went live, and since then I dipped my toes into the game with their Elemental set. I had only played the game once prior to that during the beta, when the original set was introduced, and honestly didn’t know what would change with this game nor how often these changes would occur. I had also basically written off the genre after I wasn’t really intrigued with DOTA Underlords or Teamfight Tactics in its earliest form. When friends convinced me to give it another go, I found a surprising amount of fun could be found while not really controlling the action. I suppose this should be common sense, since people have been playing idle or clicker games for years now, but those styles of game rarely appealed to me on a personal level. Regardless, I managed to play enough to start to understand the rules, the champions available, their classes and item builds and then jumped headfirst into ranked. During that season (which are rather short) I climbed from Iron to Bronze, but abruptly the next set was released and progress was reset. The next new thing? Galaxies.

The previous set had a special feature, where certain tiles of the battlefield would be enhanced with buffs that would apply to whichever champion you stood upon them. This time around, those tiles are gone, replaced by a random chance to enter into a different galaxy for that game. Above are examples, and honestly I don’t even know if I’ve seen either of these or if there are more of them. I have probably played more games since the new set kicked off than I did last season, so I would imagine I would have seen at least one of them, but honestly there is so much new information to absorb after a reset, I couldn’t tell you if I have.

New items were introduced that can help you to get to those higher origin/class tiers faster, along with a couple that are utility oriented. Having used both the Shroud and the Portal, the Portal is the better of the two but the Shroud still has its uses. I like putting it on my tank that has an item or two by late game or is level 3 and it’s effectively a guardian angel. It’s really good. The others rarely pop up in the carousel and you don’t get spatualas often either so you’ll see less of them.

Just when I started to understand which origins and classes worked well together, they switched things up on me. I have managed try most of these to the minimum or 2/3 that they need to go online, but have pulled together a Mech Pilot team one time, a full squad of 6 Chrono and Star Guardian. I really enjoy Chrono because it grants attack speed across the board, so if you have a couple of other strong champions that don’t quite fit they still benefit from the attack speed. Speed = more mana = more spells = more DPS. Fighting against Mech Pilot comps feels shitty but I actually got crushed when I ran it so I guess I didn’t have the proper support.

There are some similar classes this time around, but a couple of others that do something a little different. Snipers only require two units, and actually stack quite well with Chrono. Vanguard is a solid choice too even if you only get to 2 units. Starship basically replaces Alchemist in that the character runs around aimlessly, but has a powerful ability. Infiltrators are basically Assassins. Blademasters function mostly the same. Overall the bigger changes occurred with the origins, and many of these I haven’t fully delved into due to having other preferences.

Anyway, as I said I’ve been playing more often now than I had been mainly due to being home basically all of the time. I’m really starting to enjoy it as well, after learning more about the new abilities I felt confident I could get further in ranked than I had previously. I managed to come out of my placement matches in the same spot I had ended the prior season on, so there was nowhere to go but up! Since then, I have played a few more rounds and managed to get my first victory of the season (with the aforementioned 6 Chrono 2 Sniper build) which promoted me from Bronze IV to Bronze II. I think I’ll be able to run up to Silver at least before the reset. Looking forward to trying, and I’ll check back in the next time we have something new to tackle.

Easing Into Riot’s Games

Somehow or another it’s been over a week since my last post. Honestly don’t know where that time went. I have been playing a ton of games though, and a bunch of MTG to boot, so I do have some drafts floating around in various states. Still figuring out where blogging fits into my life at this point, seeing as how I’ve had some swings in momentum for the last 6 months. Whatever the case, I’m not here to talk about that, I’m here to talk about Riot Games.

The last time I did so, I wrote about the company’s 10 year anniversary and their livestream with a bunch of announcements for a bunch of different games they have in development. It seems they are aiming at being more than just the company that produces League of Legends. Since then, I hadn’t really played the game, but in the last month or so I have dipped my toes back into their content. The main reason for the renewed interest was finding out a few of my co-workers still play, and though they are much younger and definitely less rusty than myself, it’s been a reason to play. I like the camaraderie that comes from actually knowing the people you’re playing with. The one co-worker in my department actually has a friend list with people he actually knows, so we’ve gotten nearly full groups a couple of times and all get on Discord to bullshit while we run through matches. Another reason I’ve been engaged is that the URF (Ultra Rapid Fire) mode has been running for a good long time, and it’s always been a blast. We jam a few games several times a week and though I haven’t played any normals or ranked yet, but we’ve already to talked about doing so after URF rotates out. I would share more stats and figures but at this point I don’t really have anything brag worthy. I think I’ve earned one S rank the entire time and more low grades than I care to share. Thankfully the friends are pretty good and oftentimes carry me, but I am pleased with my progress. I’ve knocked quite a bit of the rust off and I think when we do drift towards ranked play I should be good to go. I will miss the max CDR and infinite mana, but I’ll adjust again.

Something that surprised me was my interest in playing Teamfight Tactics again. Riot’s spinoff Auto-Battler was in beta last I had checked, but recently fully released. I tried it out last year during the beta, and shared some thoughts. I wasn’t too fond of it, or the genre in general. Initially I played DOTA Underlords and because I don’t have a relationship or investment into DOTA I wrote it off pretty quickly. When a game that I adore made its own version I thought I would enjoy it, but it turns out I just didn’t really understand what I was doing. This is a product of not really giving it a fair shake along with really only using the experience for blog fodder.

Upon its full release, Teamfight Tactics did some overhauling to the systems of the game, and I thought I might as well check it out since I didn’t give it much of a chance in the past and my friend was talking it up as being really good. One day I finally logged in and gave it a shot. I ended up playing nearly the whole day. I’m not sure what the actual issue was in the past, but I now consider myself a fan. One advantage it has over traditional LoL is the fact that there aren’t any twitch requirements which I recall thinking was a bad idea, but in fact makes the game more relaxing. Once you start to understand how the various elements and classes work together, how item builds work and which champions tend to be better than others in various situations, it really does feel like a chess match, except you’re playing against more than one person so the strategy intensifies. My only real complaint is that sometimes the AI is stupid with its targeting system, but I have come to understand that it is working as intended, and that the characters follow particular rules for targeting. For example, when a low health enemy hides behind a higher health champion that happens to be closer to yours, yours will target the high health character when every shred of rationale is screaming to kill the other champion first. Whatever the case, it’s been a blast and I intend to continue playing it for the foreseeable future. At this point I’ve done two of my five placement games in ranked and I’m hoping to make a climb.

Lastly, one of the other games announced last year has entered beta as well, and that’s Legends of Runeterra. I went ahead and signed up and downloaded the client (which is currently separate from Riot’s launcher, though I imagine it will be integrated at some point). My initial impressions are positive, but there is one negative. Overall the game looks like it will be good fun. There’s a fair mix of CCG elements we’ve seen in other games (feels closest to Elder Scrolls Legends and Hearthstone but only in particular ways) and League of Legends characters. Riot’s rich lore lends itself to other genres quite nicely, it seems. The negative aspect was the fact that there is a fairly long tutorial (which I appreciate them having) and while I was playing I got through multiple steps, the game then crashed and I was forced to start over. I assume at some point there will be an option to skip this, but I didn’t feel like starting over and have not played since. Granted, that was only within the last couple of weeks, but I just haven’t gotten back around to it. I do intend to give it a fair shake though, because I don’t want to overlook it too soon just to write about how much I enjoy it later.

So yeah, I’ve not had as much to write about as a result of spending more time gaming. I’ll get working on these other drafts soon and give y’all something new to read. Until then.

Thoughts on Team Fight Tactics

About a month ago, I shared some thoughts I had about an emerging genre – called Auto Chess or Auto Battlers, and my experience with the beta of DOTA Overlords. I really had no idea what to expect with this particular game or the genre as a whole. The name relays the fact that something automatic is happening, but other than that it’s a far cry from the real-time combat and tactics of DOTA 2 that it is named and modeled after. What I found was something that is nothing like Chess either, outside of having a chess like board to place your troops on. I wasn’t overly impressed with DOTA Overlords, but I attributed that to the fact that it was something new, it was still in beta, and I honestly don’t know much about DOTA itself to really know what these characters were going to do.

Given that DOTA Overlords was based on characters from DOTA 2, it was fitting that another game company famous for MOBAs would make their own version of the game. Enter Riot Games with Teamfight Tactics. This is the same style of game, but essentially reskinned with League of Legends assets. It plays in a similar fashion, but I’m sure there are some differences that the more trained eye would catch. I know that I was able to make it further in a game of Overlords than I was this title, so it seems to have a more difficult learning curve. Honestly I didn’t play all that much, I just wanted to check it out and share what I found, but I have to say that I’m not really a fan of this genre. I like controlling my character and using intellect and reflex to outplay my opponents. Watching a squad of characters I threw together perform actions without input from me feels like less of a game and more of a chore.

I prefer the visual style of this game over the DOTA version. That’s probably a personal bias though, and not reflective of anything — the graphics aren’t too far off from each other as it is.  The gameplay is exactly the same from what I saw. You get some money each turn, you’ll fight against some creeps to get more money, then you’ll take turns having battles with single opponents until someone’s life total is reduced to zero. It takes far too long to complete matches and I get bore far too easily for this shit. You’ll gain the ability to play more heroes, upgrade them (it doesn’t appear that there are items, so there’s a difference for ya) and I found that despite my knowledge of LoL characters, I really wasn’t able to put together a squad that would get me very far.

Don’t get me wrong, I think this is a game that someone out there will enjoy. People who suck at League would likely be able to play this more ably due to the complete lack of twitch skills required. At this point, the first determination should be if this style of game even appeals to you, and from there I’d probably point you in the direction of which MOBA appeals to you more, then play that developer’s version of the game. Outside of that though, I can’t really recommend it.

Thoughts on DOTA Underlords

In another story where Valve went ahead and took the idea made by modders and made it their own, DOTA Underlords is the result of the success of another company making a mod for DOTA 2 (made by Valve, but in turn being originally created by a modder of Warcraft III) and its success being measurable by the company. A new genre of sorts is emerging, these games are being called “Auto Battlers.” What’s being pointed to as the original is called DOTA Auto Chess and was developed by Drodo Studio and was actually only just released at the beginning of this year. Turns out this ended up being fairly popular, by May they had 8 million unique players. The Wikipedia describes the genre as featuring “elements derived from chess, along with those from DOTA 2,” but the devs said they mainly referenced Mahjong for inspiration (which I was unaware is traditionally a multiplayer game). Since their popularity boom (they also created a standalone variant called Auto Chess), several mobile versions of the game have cropped up (I actually tried one recently and didn’t really care for it) and now it’s come full circle where Valve themselves had developed a new version. Currently in Beta on Steam, I decided to check it out to see what they hype was about.

I’m not really up to speed on the lore of DOTA, so I don’t really know anything about these characters or their abilities which probably puts me at some sort of disadvantage, but at this time I’ve only played against AI and can honestly say it’s not really the sort of game I’d normally play. Strange to say because I absolutely love Chess, but I wouldn’t compare this to Chess in any way, shape or form so there’s that.

Apparently there will be seasons so there will be a ladder and competition and all that. I’m not overly interested in trying to climb this ladder though, mainly due to some of my first impressions with the game. I understand this is a beta, but when the game crashes your entire PC when it’s been running for under two minutes is not a good look. I eventually got things set up and got into a game which started me off with a tutorial that explained things mechanically, but the knowledge of the different races and characters and how they interact is not inherent and I didn’t really get what worked better than other stuff. I generally just went for the more rare characters to run and made sure that I opened up the maximum number of heroes I could run at a time as fast as I could.

The game play is simple enough. There is a small grid (think game board) that you share with your opponent. You’ll get some currency to buy characters to dispatch into battle. Each has different stats, is a particular race/class, and has different abilities. They are arranged by rarity and the more rare characters cost more to buy. You have a bench where you can store them and swap them out between matches in order to have a better fight. You’ll place these units on your side of the board where you prefer, and then you’ll start the round. That’s where the game play stops, at this point you’ll watch your forces fight the enemy army and then a winner is declared. You’ll get currency and experience between matches, and you’ll level up as you go. Your level determines how many characters you can play per round, so you’ll want to level quickly to get an advantage. Otherwise it feels like a bunch of luck.

Getting through a single game seems to take an excessive amount of time. It’s not like playing a round of DOTA where you’ll expect to play for 30-45 minutes but you’re constantly doing things so the time just flies by. No, in this case you’ll click a few times and then watch the action unfold. Then you’ll click a few more times and repeat. You spend much more time watching things happen than actually controlling things, and that’s boring to me. I guess it’s not much different than the mobile titles with automatic battles, and honestly most of those haven’t held my attention either, so I guess your mileage may vary.

I ended up playing through a whole first game, which took over an hour, just to “win” and have the game lock up when it should have been providing me with rewards and salutations. Again, I know it’s a Beta but it’s not a good look. This might appeal to you, but at this current juncture this doesn’t appeal to me. I’d rather micro manage one character than watch a crew fight automatically.