Moving Away From Mobile Gaming

My relationship with mobile gaming goes way back to the portable handheld Tiger games and devices like the Nintendo Gameboy or SEGA Game Gear. I’m only bringing up these devices because they are in my mind the equivalent of current era mobile (phone/tablet) games for my generation. As much as I loved my NES or SEGA Genesis, I still really enjoyed playing these handhelds and beat quite a few titles on offer. They were still limited in the sense that they weren’t able to present as complete of an experience as their hardwired counterparts. My meaning, is that a console game that came out for the SNES but was also released (in a modified fashion) for the Gameboy would be fairly different, this mainly being due to the limitations of portable hardware over more conventional models. As such, I think this correlation to modern gaming is true in the same way. While we have handheld devices like tablets and mobile phones along with newer portable console experiences with the Playstation Vita or the Nintendo Switch, generally speaking your experience playing the same game will likely be better on a gaming PC or next-gen console.

Generally speaking, most companies that offer a mainstream title on current generations of consoles and PC but also have a mobile platform version release different versions of the game for each. So your latest Call of Duty game on PC is not the same game as Call of Duty Mobile, though obvious comparisons can be made. Portable technology is much further along now than it was back in my youth, so the lines are beginning to blur. 

Whatever the case, I started with the idea of portable gaming experiences back then. Later, I would play basic cellphone games prior to the invention of smart phones. Obviously these were very simplistic and not really worth the time. At some point my opinion of mobile gaming was the same as my opinion of browser games, probably because most of the early mobile titles even on smart phones were very similar in design. There was a multitude of people that fed into these trends so obviously I’m not the majority in thinking that sort of time wasting is pointless, but it was still my position for a number of years. 

When smart phones were so mainstream that everyone had one, I started to experiment more with mobile games. Tiny Tower and its spin-offs ended up being one of the first titles that I really enjoyed and played for a longer period of time. It wasn’t until I discovered Clash Royale though, that I was truly swayed into believing that mobile gaming might have something to it. Being able to play games at work on breaks/down time or just when you’re out and about and have a few minutes was nice. The game’s design kept me wanting to log in to complete dailies, earn gold and upgrade my decks for a number of years. I started to branch out from there, and if you’ve been following this blog for the last few years I’ve touched on a couple dozen different games that I put nominal amounts of time into. 

I didn’t think I’d stop playing Clash Royale. A few months ago they introduced a battle pass of sorts, and I was consistently buying in for $5 a month and enjoying myself. I’m not sure if it’s the subscription model that is a turn off (but that shouldn’t matter because it’s completely optional) but I noticed that since the pass was introduced, my play started to wane. I only completed one of them, while most of the time I was only hitting level 10-20 and not really getting my money’s worth. This past time the reset happened, I didn’t even get back to my normal level on the ladder, and instead found myself only logging in to participate in Clan War stuff (collection battles and war battles). I’m not exactly sure where the issue hit, but it seems to have come at a time where I should theoretically have more time than ever, as I’ve been quarantined for weeks. I think perhaps it’s because I have found that I would rather spend my time doing something else, whereas in prior living situations I was spending more time away from my PC/Consoles and as such played more on my phone. I do remember coming home from work and playing on my phone for a couple of hours, and now I’m spending that time in League of Legends, Apex Legends, a single player game, or playing MTG. 

There have been some community posts on burnout and I guess after playing Clash Royale for over three years, maybe I finally hit that point. I know my clan was starting to play another game so perhaps I’m not the only one. Whatever the case is, I know that I’ve experienced this sort of burnout or disinterest with other genres in the past. At some point I was no longer interested in platformers and metroidvanias in favor of RPGs and shooters. I was obsessed with the MMO genre until I wasn’t. I played nothing but MOBAs for a time. I seem to always come back around, as I’ve invested in newer platformers more recently, I still play RPGs and shooters, I’ve given more time to MMOs over the years, and I’ve come back around to playing MOBAs again too. So perhaps its less of a parting of ways and more of a wave that I’m riding. Either way, I’ve not played Clash Royale for a couple of weeks now, and just the other night I uninstalled it altogether. I’ve uninstalled any other games I had as well. At this point, I’m honestly not missing it either. Other things have been filling my time and perhaps at another point in my life mobile gaming will make a resurgence, but for now, I’m content wiping one other obligation from my list. 

Thoughts on Teppen

Seeing advertisements all over the Internet is a common thing. Be it while browsing websites, seeing adverts on social media, or even within the apps we are already using, these things are everywhere. I happened to catch wind of a new game called Teppen due to one of these advertisements, and initially ignored it. Licensed IPs or no, I won’t always fall for the usual trappings of these targeted ads. After seeing it several more times though, I found myself at the Google Play store page, and well, I downloaded the game.

Being a game featuring many of my favorite Capcom characters, I thought this might actually be a licensed game that could actually be good. It’s supposed to be a card game utilizing these symbolic characters, but it doesn’t play like the typical digital card games I’ve played previously.

So above is the battlefield. As you can see, there are familiar concepts here as you have your hand down below, a mana bar that is more similar to Hearthstone and a life total one either side of the characters who are fighting. What’s different, is that your character isn’t really fighting, more like just waiting for their special ability to charge (the AP meters in the corners) and then you can do some various things including direct damage to creatures or the enemy character. Otherwise, the combat is done via your cards, and are typically other characters from Capcom games that have various power and life points. When placed on the battlefield, an arrow will slowly travel towards the enemy from the unit you placed. If there is another card placed directly across from it, the cards will damage each other. If there is no blocker, then you damage the enemy general. That’s really all there is to it. I’m sure other depth might arise due to having different characters to play as, but overall it was very simplistic and not something I see holding my attention.

After a few battles  you’ll get to the main menu, which functions like most mobile game menus do. There are various currencies used to buy things, “Hero Stories” where you’ll play characters through several missions and learn more about them. Missions are like dailies. There are other various modes that allow for PvP and those that provide additional challenges. I can see that there’s plenty to do here, but with the core gameplay loop being so boring, I couldn’t be assed to go any further.

I just figured I’d share my thoughts about this one to hopefully prevent someone else from wasting their time.

Mobile Games Update

It’s funny to me that despite my protests about mobile games in years past — things like they aren’t real games and none of them are worth the time investment — I play them more than console or PC games these days. It’s true, there was a time when the majority of mobile games were time wasters in a bad way, either due to huge time gating mechanics or pay walls and I guess the same can be said about the entire free to play industry so there’s that. You’ll know that my mind has been changed more recently though, as I have been blogging about one title in particular for a couple of years now. Others have come and gone, but I usually at least share my thoughts about said titles each time I play a new one, or give updates on the long running staples. The last time I did an update like this was about six months ago, so I thought it would be interesting to see what’s changed on my phone, and what’s happened with the games I’m still playing.

Currently Installed:

Clash Royale
SEGA Heroes
Pokemon Go

So we have the usual suspects here, but also a game I didn’t think I’d ever write about outside of the “it’s a passing fad” commentary I’ve made in the past.

Clash Royale has seen a few big updates since the last time I went over what was on my phone. Shortly after that time the new trophy road system was implemented. Just a little over a month ago we also saw pass royale become a thing. I have to say I think the new trophy road system is better than the old ladder, as I do enjoy getting a slew of unlocked prizes each time the season resets, rather than just dropping a bunch of trophies for nothing. They did reward a chest but it was never as good as all of these rewards have been. Then as we take the trek back up we get more unlocks as well. It has felt good during the few months we have had it. Ditto pass royale. For $5 you get some creature comforts, but as you progress you get more unlocks than you used to at the end of any season. I do feel like I always fall behind with unlocking the tiers and have to do some grinding from time to time to earn crowns, but hell that used to be all we did during clan wars, just grind out as many trophies as you could — that got old fast. They are gamifying what used to bother us, to a point where it no longer bothers us. I think Supercell has done a great job with the game and I hope it continues to be awesome.

SEGA Heroes has also seen some updates that added in some cool features. One thing that was always really annoying was when doing your challenges (these reset daily for the most part) for any of the levels in which you earned a 3-star rating you could later “loot” without having to actually do the fight over again. You can do the same on campaign levels, by the way. Anyhow, you can now “quick loot” the whole set of levels on each challenge if you’ve already completed them all. It’s very nice for convenience sake. Boss battles were introduced recently as well, and some new currencies introduced. You can spend one type to summon a boss and the other type to fight against it. Bosses have a ton of health bars, so if the whole guild attacks repeatedly, you should be able to take it down. If not, they disappear after a set time and you’ll be rewarded for what hurt you did put on it. It’s an okay system but due to the fights being timed, they also opted to limit the speed at which you play. See there are game speed settings, and most people play on the faster speed so they don’t have to sit through the drawn out animations. In the boss fights you can’t adjust the speed so it’s painfully slow. Otherwise a fine idea. New characters are being added all the time, recently from the games Shenmue, Altered Beast and even Valkyria Chronicles. I’m still enjoying it, but at account level 65 and working on the blue stars on my main team, progress has slowed to a crawl.

As I said above, I’m surprised to be writing about this at all, but yes I have Pokemon Go installed on my phone right now. I can pretty much guarantee this would have never happened were it not for my woman, but it has happened nonetheless. Apparently she had it installed since back in ’16 when it released, most likely due to prodding from the boy. Whatever the case, she started playing it again a couple of months ago, and prodded me to install so that she could send me gifts. I agreed and pretty much only logged on when she would bug me to accept my gifts so that I could be sent more. The bug may have caught me a bit more at this point though, as I have been catching Pokemon more often (mostly while sitting at home, or when we are out doing errands) and now find myself with the app open while we are driving around trying to get pokestops and catch more critters. It’s still a game that frustrates me due to being janky sometimes, and I don’t like the fact that they essentially force you to pay for storage space but maybe I should be using my items faster? I don’t know exactly, and I don’t know shit about Pokemon except for the more popular characters. So yeah, I’m not truly invested but I have participated more actively as of late.

Previously Installed:

Warriors of Waterdeep
AFK Arena
Dr. Mario World

So in that last Mobile check in post, I had spoken of Langrisser still being installed on my phone. It lasted for a while longer but I just never came back around to it so it was thrown on the burn pile. It seemed fine as I expressed in the linked post, but I just don’t play games that are too involved on my phone — I’d rather be able to play for five to ten minutes and feel like I did all I needed to do for that day.

I also rather enjoyed Warriors of Waterdeep but I just couldn’t keep up with the requirements to stay relevant. I eventually started to see that the play pattern wouldn’t change any more and lost interest. It was fun while it lasted though.

Ditto AFK Arena. It was fun to play for a few weeks but it was clear that it would be a play pattern that I wasn’t going to enjoy indefinitely. I’ve already essentially got a couple games that do this thing for me really well already, and despite thinking I’ll find another to add to the list I haven’t found a solid third game just yet.

Lastly, Dr. Mario World which is still a fairly new release and could possibly change into something I’d enjoy more, just didn’t do it for me as much as I wanted it to. I’d still take a bare bones Tetris game over this though, so that hurts its prospects. I don’t know why Nintendo have such great success with their first party IPs on their own systems but can’t seem to get this mobile thing going. Whatever the case, I have my doubts about any of their games being addictive to me personally.

And that’s all there is to touch on. Any good mobile game recommendations, given what I’ve written above? I’m always open to trying something new, but there’s no guarantee it will stick!

Dr. Mario World

I pre-registered for Dr. Mario World on Google Play a while back, and just a few days ago I was pinged with a reminder that the game had gone live. I downloaded it that evening but didn’t play it until a couple of days later. A few things spring to mind when considering this mobile version of the famous Nintendo puzzle game. Firstly, I was surprised to find Nintendo entering the mobile market considering their success with console titles and a monopoly on first party intellectual properties. However, their success with portable game devices would easily lend itself to the mobile sphere, as they wouldn’t need to create hardware for these games, as everyone already has a cell phone in their pocket capable of playing console quality games. For whatever reason though, Nintendo’s prior releases haven’t been all that great (depending on who you ask). Arguably one of the more popular mobile games of all time, Pokemon Go had its time in the sun but doesn’t seem to be the phenomenon it once was. I do have it installed currently because my family plays and I have to participate to some degree but it is definitely not the type of game I would normally see myself playing. Super Mario Run and Fire Emblem Heroes both seemed pretty good, just not really worthy of the Nintendo name. Don’t take me the wrong way, I’m not a huge Nintendo fan as it is, but I was for the first few generations of hardware and have dipped my toes in their offerings ever since, but I don’t really buy their consoles often. As such, mobile versions of their games work for me as well, because I don’t really want to spend the $300 on a Nintendo Switch just to play some Mario (I might pull the trigger on the new Switch Lite that’s coming, but I’m still on the fence). Either way, those games are gone as well, only spending a limited amount of time on my device. I’d still prefer a traditional version of one of these games but I guess the only way you’ll get that is with their flagship console. Anyway, let’s take a look at the newest offering, Dr. Mario World.

I enjoyed Dr. Mario on the NES, and played other versions as well. It was a solid puzzle game in a genre dominated by Tetris. Let’s get this out of the way — Dr. Mario World really doesn’t feel like Dr. Mario at all. That’s not to say it’s bad though, just to say that it is different enough that I can’t really compare the two outside of the very core thematics. Nintendo as a company has changed drastically since the 1980’s and 1990’s, so I wouldn’t expect a game released today to feel just like a game from thirty years ago, but it’s almost not familiar enough. There’s a loose storyline that translates to viruses poisoning the land and Dr. Mario and friends being tasked with eliminating all of the disease.

You’ll start with a world map that has a trail for you to follow with levels at each stop. The first twenty levels serve as the game’s tutorial, so you won’t find much in the way of things to do until you complete them. You’ll have infinite hearts with which to do so, and losing does nothing outside of forcing you to try the level again. The game’s mechanics will be explained, and it definitely feels different here in particular. Instead of dropping capsules from the ceiling as has been the norm in puzzle games for decades, instead you’ll rotate and put your capsules onto the playing field from the bottom of the screen, and things float upward. There is a vague sense of these things being thrown into liquid and floating towards the surface, but it’s not really explained why the change in aesthetics was necessary. The rules are otherwise the same in that you must match three or more of the same color capsules/viruses to eliminate them. Other special items, power-ups and hindrances have been introduced, such as turtle shells that clear a whole row when matched or viruses frozen in ice that need to be effectively cleared twice. It does add some variety to an otherwise solved format, and honestly it feels like its in a pretty good place, it’s just so much different that it’s almost off-putting at first. Still, I managed to finish the game’s tutorial in one sitting and then some additional options arise.

At one point during the tutorial you are able to choose different doctors besides Mario. Koopa and Peach are options, and I’m sure there will be additionals added to the game at some point. Beyond the doctor selection, you’ll also get access to two assistants who are basically passive effects — the initial Goomba assistant provides a 1% bonus to your score after clearing a level, this helps with gaining stars on each level. Daily quests will earn you gold, and gold can be used to buy some of the power ups, but also other characters that can be used to play the versus mode. There’s a ladder and the game works basically the same as versus modes in other puzzlers. You’ll have to move quicker than your opponent to drop in extra viruses and things to mess them up, but they’ll be trying to do the same to you. I lose my initial matchup but I’m not exactly pro at the game yet either. A friend system allows you to send extra hearts to each other, as that is the time-gating mechanic for this mobile title. You can only hold so many though, so you’ll want to use up those hearts so friends can send you more.

Overall it seems like a promising title. I enjoy puzzle games but they tend to get stale after a while. The campaign seems to be long enough to keep you engaged, and I’m sure there will be other updates to take advantage of free-to-play monetization. I’d check it out if you enjoy puzzle games, but not if you are expecting a port of the original NES titles.

Clash Royale: Trophy Road

The next big update to Clash Royale arrived earlier this month. The April update brought with it a new spell card — Earthquake — and general changes as usual. The big portion of the update is the way the ladder now works, and how matchmaking has changed a bit in the process. Dubbed “Trophy Road,” the new ladder is pretty much the same as the old ladder, except now you get rewards along the way while pushing through each arena. For those of us already past 4000 trophies (aka where the ladder actually starts) we were able to follow the trophy road from arena one all the way up, and collect a ton of rewards. I ended up with a bunch of extra gold, trade tokens and unlocked the new spell card just by collecting all of the goodies.

It seems that now when you get a win in a ladder match, you’ll still earn roughly 30 trophies and move up in rank. However, losses are mitigated quite well (net loss ~15 trophies), and it seems my entire clan has elevated to higher levels than they had before. I had previously made it to Challenger III, but I’m already a full 100 trophies beyond my prior best, and I think I might actually be able to push up into Master before the reset. Whatever the case, after the reset, we lose 75% of our trophies above 4000, so I’m likely back in Challenger I if I don’t push further in the next couple of weeks. We won’t get season reward chests anymore either, but do get to unlock the trophy road rewards again after the reset.

Speaking of the ladder, my ladder deck is nearly maxed out. I currently only need two more Electro Wizards to have all 8 cards at max level. As you can see I’ve also put some star points into a few cards, and I’m not too far off from being able to do so again. I still love this deck and it hasn’t changed in quite some time, but I do get bored playing it all of the time. The reason it works is because Hog and Loon are effective ways to take buildings down, but they are both vulnerable so I’ve included answers to the worst threats. The deck still struggles sometimes against 3 Musketeers and Golem decks, but usually ekes out wins regardless. It works well in other game modes as well, along with clan wars, but because I don’t have to worry about putting gold into it anymore I’ve started playing around with other options.

I’ve been trying to find a good Pekka, Royal Giant, or Mega Knight deck, and have experimented with them all. I have a Golem deck that is solid and another deck I’m going to share shortly, but I really wanted to make one of these other decks work. As such, I have a few experimental builds but I straight up copied this RG deck from my clan leader and it actually works pretty damn well, despite also including Pekka in the deck. Bonus, he’s used some of the same cards as I have, so I already have some max level cards, along with being close to maxing out RG itself. I’m not sure it will replace my ladder deck anytime soon, but it’s fun to toy around with.

Here’s a deck that I’ve created myself. I picked up the “Giant Double Prince” idea from from the classic deck battles, but then decided to run a deck around Goblin Giant instead. I pretty much chose cards I wasn’t using but still found strong. It is a little weak against air swarms, but you can combo things like Ice Wiz and Zap to take them out. It works well against other meta decks as well, but I’m still mainly playing it in 2v2 battles. I like it, just need to get some card levels before it’s really going to be any use to me. Now that I’m not focusing everything on one deck anymore, I have the time to test and grow.

Just thought I’d share some thoughts on the new update. The game is still going strong!