Thoughts on Soul Calibur VI

Since moving back to my old town, I have been able to reconnect with my best friend who stayed behind when I moved away almost five years ago. One game series we both enjoyed was Soul Calibur. I believe I played either the first or second iteration way back when prior to knowing him, but we did play either the third or the fourth game together quite religiously for a time years ago. Since then, the fifth installment came along for PS3 and I picked up a copy while the two of us still lived together. We played it quite a bit too, but found ourselves less impressed with it than the prior versions of the game. One thing that makes Soul Calibur interesting is their inclusion of console exclusive characters depending on what platform you picked the game up for. For #5 I believe it was a Star Wars character on the Playstation. For the sixth game on PS4, Geralt from The Witcher series makes his fighting game debut (he’s pretty damn good too). There are familiar faces otherwise, along with some new characters.

The game has various modes as most fighters do. There is a story mode that is fairly easy to complete (I did so in a little over an hour). It takes you through the story of the Soul Edge and various other trinkets that certain characters interact with and a culmination boss fight against Inferno, who is an embodiment of evil. Nothing too challenging, but there were some interesting bits along with beautiful hand draw art during the story bits. The in-game engine is beautiful, and the characters have smooth animations. The special moves are especially over the top and reminiscent of some of the summon spells from Final Fantasy games.

Outside of the story mode, there are the typical battle modes where you can play against friends on the same console, or you can go online to play strangers via the Internet. There is a gallery where you can view various bits of artwork (much of what was unlocked during my story playthrough) and another mode where you can create your own fighter. In this mode you’ll be able to customize the look and name of your fighter, but it inherently works like other fighters in the game (you pick a particular fighting style). One thing I will note that is different in the sixth installment is that the controls feel more fluid and intuitive. I was picking up characters’ moves very easily despite playing those I had never tried before. Old favorites still worked great, but I felt like it was easier to pick up and jump into for people who haven’t played the series before.

Because I was playing on his system over on his house, I didn’t manage to get any screens of the game, but rest assured you can find them online. We felt like it was a good time, but he was already considering returning his copy just because it doesn’t feel like much of a value for the $60 price tag. We just don’t play these types of games like we used to. He probably also didn’t like the fact that when we used to play back in the day, he would be the winner the majority of the time, but this time around I had a record of 11-2 before going home (HA!).

Monetization schemes seem to be built in as well (which is expected in this day and age), as they are pushing a season pass which I assume will add in new characters (Street Fighter V has been doing this for a couple of years now). Overall it’s a beautiful game that I’d recommend if you’re a die hard fighting game fan, but if you don’t really play these sorts of games your money would be better spent elsewhere.

Thoughts on Street Fighter 30th Anniversary

Regular readers will know that I’m a big fan of the Street Fighter series and fighting games in general. I’m fairly picky when it comes to the games I like, but for the most part Capcom’s fighters have always been my favorite. So naturally when I learned about the impending release of the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection I knew it was something I’d have to pick up. When it released it was reasonably priced, but I still waited for a sale, and that happened just the other day so I was able to get a copy on the cheap. The game boasts a considerable line up from the history of the series:

Two things that stick out however, are that really you’re only getting 6 titles rather than the advertised 12, and also that these are Arcade ports rather than ports of the console versions. The reason I say you only get 6 games instead of 12 is because there are literally 5 versions of Street Fighter II here, along with three versions of Street Fighter III. The Alpha series is really the only one that could be considered separate titles, and the original Street Fighter didn’t have multiple iterations over the years. It’s also a little disappointing that these are Arcade ports rather than the console versions, mainly because I played most of these games on the consoles that were around at the time, and because they are less full-featured as a result. One of the main reasons I picked this collection up is because Street Fighter Alpha 3 is pretty much my favorite fighting game ever, and I absolutely loved the survival mode. I would play this for hours when I lived in my first apartment, and would play versus with friends endlessly. These bonus modes aren’t readily available, as when you hit start on the above screen, it takes you directly to character select. There are ways to play some different modes though, but they require particular button presses at the main menu of the title to do so, and they’re still not entirely what I remember. A shame, but I’m still glad to have this package.

Outside of the games themselves, there is a pretty impressive amount of information about the series. You can read details from each individual arcade title, along with seeing a timeline of the entire Street Fighter history. There are detail character bios, sketches and artwork for the games and little tidbits of trivia sprinkled throughout. It’s pretty cool if you’re a super fan, but most people will probably skip over these details.

Otherwise it’s still the same old Street Fighter that we know and love. You can play pixel perfect (a border surrounds and looks just like the old arcade cabinets) or stretch the size of the screen from more modern TVs. If you had a favorite version of Street Fighter II, it’s here and you can choose to play it over the others. Honestly it doesn’t make a huge difference but there are nuances like the speed in which the game plays or the amount of playable characters or even if there is an inclusion of a super move bar. Capcom is still doing this sort of thing to this day, as with Street Fighter IV there was a normal, arcade and super edition of the game, and Street Fighter V just recently added the arcade edition of the game (for free if you owned the base game) which I wrote about here. Another new feature is the addition of online matchmaking to some of these titles, though I believe this was already done for some of the games in the past. I know that you could have purchased Super Street Fighter II on the PS3 and it had online matchmaking, and a version of Street Fighter III did this at some point to. In this collection, you can only play Street Fighter II Hyper Fighting, Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Street Fighter Alpha 3 (I believe this is the first time you could play online with this one) and Street Fighter III 3rd Strike. I’m not sure what the population is like but I was able to play a few matches online so far with short wait times.

If you’re a fan of the series like I am, I’d recommend picking this up just to complete your collection. I’m happy with the purchase.

Zeal Goes Live on Kickstarter

I gave my first impressions of Zeal not too long ago. It’s a game that’s in Early Access on Steam and as of right now you can download and try it for free. It doesn’t seem to have that big of a playerbase at the moment though, as I didn’t have much luck in finding matches when I tried it out. There are some basic arena and training areas to test and the game is being updated frequently with new tweaks and balances. Apparently the developers are aiming higher though, and have just started up a Kickstarter for the game. The video above will give you an idea about what to expect from the game, as can my impressions post. It’s basically a PvP arena with predetermined character builds with a smidge of customization options. It does sound like the developers have more in mind though. From the description:

Zeal is a 3rd person Action RPG where you don’t need to level up and gear up your characters, you just pick a class, make a build and jump right into the action!

Depending on the success of our campaign, the game will feature:

— No more placeholders, 90% of the assets will be replaced and graphics, animations, optimization and effects will be greatly improved.
— Up to 16 playable classes 
— Arena mode of 1v1, 2v2 and 3v3 with ladder system
— Battlegrounds, big scale fights that ranges between 5v5 to 20v20 depending on map with interactive objectives such as Capture The Flag or Defend The Base.
— Dungeons: An action-packed PvE mode with different difficulty levels.
— Conquest Mode: A massive map with 35 teams of 2 players fighting for dominance until a last team is standing.
— Story Campaign which can be completed alone or with up to 2 friends.

One of my early complaints was that the game looked kind of crappy and the animations were pretty wonky. Apparently they are planning to update their assets, which should definitely be a step in the right direction. There were already 8 or 9 characters to choose from when I played, but looks like they are shooting for 16. I also only tried the arena mode, but they aim to add Battlegrounds, Dungeons, Conquest and a Story Campaign. So they are trying to have some PvE content as well, which is good for people who care, but I would think that if they stretch themselves too far you might get lower quality in each. They also aren’t promising all of this for their original asking price, some modes are only part of stretch goals.

As of this morning, their crowdfunding efforts have brought in $8638 of their $102,691 goal. There are 29 days remaining, but that probably doesn’t bode well. $100k isn’t that much to ask for games these days, but I don’t know that this is exactly what people want. Some players actually enjoy the grind and many don’t want a predetermined character. This mixes some of the elements of MOBAs and MMOs in my mind, where you get the MMO style gameplay but you get more of a predetermined MOBA character with which to do so. I don’t see it as being detrimental, because I don’t really enjoy the grind and I would prefer to just jump into a MMO-like PvP experience without it. It’s definitely a to each their own kind of situation, but I have my doubts they get funded without an explosion of pledges soon.

I’ll keep an eye on this and update when the campaign is over.

Thoughts on Zeal (Early Access)

At some point or another, I saw Zeal turn up in my discovery queue on Steam. A game that wasn’t really available yet, it had a store front that advertised the type of game it was aiming to be, while still being unavailable for download. There were instructions to go to another website to sign up to test the game, but I didn’t bother. Instead, I followed the game because it did appeal to me in some ways, and this week it was finally made available for download via Steam Early Access. While it claims to be an “Action-RPG”, really Zeal is a game that is aiming to be like WoW‘s PvP arena, in that you control a character in 3rd person, it comes pre-designed and pre-loaded with spells/abilities (with a small amount of customization available) and you use said abilities to kill your opponents. Currently the game is in a “pre-alpha demo” state, but I have seen consistent updates by the developer since I’ve been following the game.

Apparently the team is made of three people, and with that said it’s not a terrible looking game. There are some janky animations and latency is definitely a problem, but it looks okay and keeps things fairly simple as far as depth goes. It appears that next month they are aiming to do a Kickstarter to fund the game, and given that success it might actually blossom into something great. However, in its limited form I have some concerns alongside the hope for it to be fully realized.

This demo provides an “Arena Mode” along with seven classes for your testing pleasure. I find that the standard RPG classes that you’d expect are here, and clearly they have plans to add a handful more. Of the seven on offer I have tried the Outlaw (think Rogue), Ranger and Warrior. Each performs as you would expect, with the Warrior leaping into battle and spinning around with axes, to the Outlaw stealthing and pulling some shenanigans on the battlefield. Despite that each basically looks the part, they all handle nearly identically, the animations are fairly basic and the spells/abilities don’t really feel that fleshed out yet. It seems to degrade into a bit of a button spamming mess, but I supposed PvP in most MMOs is sort that way too. Some abilities are skill shots, and yet it doesn’t have that tactical/twitchy gameplay you’d expect in a MOBA, though they are clearly pulling influences from both genres.

After selecting your character, you can head to the training grounds to customize your build and take out some aggression on training dummies. This is nice to gain your bearings but doesn’t prepare you for PvP in the slightest. That said, PvP was a bit difficult to find.

There are several servers set up, and though the closest one to me is in the same state, I had wildly fluctuating ping last night. I did see people playing though, but it was a bit late and I didn’t want to jump into that so I waited until this morning to try a PvP match. There were exactly zero people playing on that server, so I opted to try out the game in a bot match. I played plenty of these back when I was a budding MOBA player, so I expected it to be decent. Eh… not so much. I managed to win in a 3v3 bot match, but had a stalemate in a 2v2. As I said earlier, each character feels too samey, so unless you play the Cleric, Witch, or Wizard you’re just going to be running around chasing bots/players trying to spam your abilities and do some damage. The other classes I just mentioned will either focus on healing or will try to hang back to do damage. I had the best feeling playing on the Warrior because I could leap to runners and finish them off with a killing blow. Overall, I see potential with the title. There needs to be some work done on the animations and look of the characters, but the world looks pretty nice. The abilities need better effects and to be more fleshed out, but this is pre-alpha so I guess all of this is to be expected. I’ve seen worst “finished” games so there’s that. I’m going to keep an eye on this one, but I have a feeling if the Kickstarter doesn’t go off (which would mean a bunch of people would need to try this on Steam for free and feel good about backing it) that this title doesn’t see the finish line. Time will tell.

Thoughts on Quake Champions

Quake Champions first came on my radar around this time last year when it was announced at E3 2017. It was shown off a bit again this year during the Bethesda conference, but being an Early Access game in beta it’s not quite done yet. It started off with a buy-in price of $30, but more recently there was a starter pack put up on Steam for $5, which doesn’t come with all of the champions that exist in the game. As a special E3 week promotion, that starter pack was made available for free, so I took my chance to finally experience the game first hand.

Touted as being the same sort of game as Quake III Arena that many of us played back in the 90’s (and was the direct competition for Unreal Tournament) and helped spawn the Arena Shooter genre, it has a modern twist from adding Champions with special abilities (to compete with titles like Overwatch, I’m sure). This claim holds true, as the champions appear to be mostly modeled after the Quake III skins though now they each have a special ability that recharges during matches and can be used to shake things up a bit. Of course, the nature of the game is to grab the best weapons and power-ups to mow down the competition, so the special abilities don’t add too much depth. Still a nice touch though.

The starter pack grants access to Ranger and Scalebearer, while the other champions are unplayable save for whatever the current week’s free rotation is. This is fine if you want a limited pool and would rather save up favor or platinum to buy the champions, but for $20 (currently) you can instantly unlock them all. Like most free to play games on the market, there are most of the expected trappings; you can buy champions for in-game currency (favor) or buy the RMT currency (platinum) for similar use. Skins come in many flavors, from customization options for your champion and the weapons they use. It seems that you can also further customize things with a rune system that I don’t quite understand yet. I assume it’s similar to systems found in League of Legends, though the runes seem tailored to each champion individually.

When it comes down to it though, this is the fast paced Quake that we all know and love straight out of the 1990’s. There are several different game modes and I’ve felt right at home with it. I love a mindless arena shooter, but this adds just enough nuance to make it feel at home in 2018, despite being firmly steeped in nostalgia from the past. I feel like it’s worth the $20 to get all current and future champions; it’s a good deal just like it’s been for other games like Smite and Paladins.

Jumping into the action has been a blast and I truly enjoy this updated version of Quake. I wish we could get a full campaign though, because the original Quake games were epic and we’ve had this new era of DOOM titles coming out so I’d like to see what id Software might come up with, but I’ll settle for the arena shooter that Quake has become. If you have ever loved a Quake title, I’d suggest picking this up now while it’s free, but even if you miss the promotion, it’s worth dropping the asking price for. I imagine it will be out of Early Access soon enough, as it feels polished and nearly feature complete at this point, but I also believe there will be new content added for some time to come.