Apex Legends: Season 4 – Assimilation

I’m a bit late to this post, and honestly it’s been sitting in my drafts folder for some time now. Season 4 of Apex Legends kicked off back at the beginning of February. It, like seasons before it, came packed with a new Battle Pass option (containing new skins, animations and artwork), a new Legend enters the fold, and of course the promise of new limited time events. Truth be told, I have had a relationship with this game since it released a little over a year ago, and though I’m not done with it, I’m riding one of those lows right now. It’s still a fantastic game. I love the fact that they have done something new each season. While the first saw an extended time on the same version of the original map, the 2nd season warped that map in new ways. With the 3rd season we saw a whole brand new map, and to fall in line, season 4 has torn the new map up giving it new life. This means an adjustment in your specific game plans, though the broad scope of the game remains the same.

The main new attraction is this big laser drill in the center of the map, while a huge lava filled canyon split the major city in two. Overall it’s still the same map but the new touches are cool and provide variety if you continue to play regularly throughout the years.

The new character Revenant seems really cool in appearance, but I find that his skills are a little underpowered. He’s much like Wattson who is a little limited when it comes to combat I feel as well. They’re more support oriented characters in my estimation, despite maybe having a different title in the game. Whatever the case, Revenant is a little more mobile due to his passive, but his tactical silencing grenade doesn’t feel too hot. His ultimate is also debatable in usefulness, mainly because you have to drop a totem, then press a button to activate the “death protection,” and then have to die within the time limit for it to do anything. If you place it properly and happen to die it’s nice, but it seems too much of a pain in the ass to be worth it. Have you played Revenant with success? Am I just stupid? Comment below.

As I said, I wouldn’t say I’m burned out but I played 324 games last season and I was already on the uptick during season 2. I basically played the shit out of the game prior to seasons, then didn’t play season 1, started getting into it more seriously in season 2 into 3, and then basically didn’t play much at all during the whole first 3rd of the current season. Whatever the case, you can make comparisons between my last season and what has occurred so far in season 4 above, and draw your own conclusions. I have padded that total a bit more recently as in the past week or so I’ve played a couple dozen games, and I am working it back into my rotation a little bit just because I’m playing with friends due to our quarantine situation. My total stats are listed in the last picture for reference, and you can see I’m nearing 800 games played, which is an average of about two games a day for the past year or so. I guess you can say I enjoy the title, despite my couple of breaks. I’ll check back in once the next season starts and see where my interest lies at that time.

Next For Riot Games: Valorant

We’ve know about “Project A” since Riot’s tenth anniversary stream that went live late last year. At that point in time very little information was revealed outside of that code name and the fact that it would be a hero based tactical shooter, as if Overwatch and Counter-Strike had a baby. Despite the fact that I’ve loved Counter-Strike since it was just a mod, I never really cared for Overwatch. In fact, I haven’t really cared for many of these style of “Hero Shooters” and I’ve played a handful of them. However, I do think that if any company has the ability to get me to play their games without question, Riot Games does. They’ve built trust with me over the years and despite taking breaks from their main game League of Legends, I always find myself coming back around. So far I’ve enjoyed their other forays into new territory, with Teamfight Tactics and the little bit of Legends of Runterra that I’ve played. As such, I think I am the target audience for this new title, which we now know is called Valorant. First things first, let’s look at some fresh alpha game play to put things into perspective:

Wow, so this really does look like Counter-Strike, but with characters called “agents” who have various abilities. Otherwise, it’s still plant the bomb (called a spike here) if you’re on the attacking team, or defuse the spike if you’re defending. Otherwise, killing the entirety of the enemy team (as there are no respawns) will win you the round. Polygon has a ton of info up about the game, including a Q&A that addresses game play, fluff skins, and future plans, along with another article detailing all of the agents and their abilities. There isn’t anything inherently unique about the premise of the game nor the abilities of the agents, but it still looks like a lot of fun. I tend to be better at first person shooters than I am at other styles of game so I think it’s something I could actually be competitive at. Graphically it looks sharp, but apparently the minimum specs mean you can play the game on a toaster. Thankfully my aging machine is still more powerful than a toaster, so I should be able to jump in right away.

There is a planned beta that I assume will happen soon. The launch window is summer of this year so I think we’ll be able to beta test within the next couple of months and Riot can make adjustments from there prior to full launch. I can’t seem to find a way to sign up for beta yet, but as soon as I can play it and talk about it some more I will do so. I’m actually pretty hyped for this one, but I am trying to temper my expectations. Whatever the case, as more information drops I’ll be sure to throw my two cents out there.

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 MTG: ManaStrike

Being a connoisseur of all things Magic: The Gathering, it should be no surprise that I’ll try out just about anything relating to the IP. Though I didn’t care for other mobile titles like the Duals games or the match-3 title that I can’t recall the name of, this one seemed like it would appeal to me mainly because it didn’t rely on MTG to determine it’s path. Instead, it seems like a copy of other games I’ve played in the past with an MTG skin tacked on (which is what I expect when we get that new ARPG in development — Diablo with an MTG skin). In some ways, an appealing base concept then layered with a design that I enjoy (the art/world of MTG is amazing) should equal a good game, right?

Magic: ManaStrike came out of left field. For whatever reason Google Play decided to ping me that the game had released today. Being my day off, I had been lazing around in bed and looking at my phone, so I thought I’d download it and give it a whirl. It turns out, it is a pretty decent game, though I went into it filled with doubt. There is a tutorial that gets you familiar with the controls and systems, but after that it’s straight into PvP matches, just like the games it took inspiration from. If you can’t tell what games I’m referencing by looking at these screenshots, you must not have been paying attention to one of the biggest mobile titles around.

I’m sure you’ve got it by now, but I’ve written about one of these games extensively, but also made comparisons to a PC title that I enjoyed, and Magic: ManaStrike seems to be a meld of the two. Yes, this title plays just like Clash Royale in that you have two lanes and place cards on the field in real time, but then the creatures you create will automatically battle based on a set of rules. However, the game looks much more like Minion Masters in that the field is horizontal and instead of towers there are creatures that act as such. A new feature that neither of those games had is the ability to call down a Planeswalker, and depending on which one you choose, they have various abilities when entering the battlefield, while also having different active abilities. It’s like Clash Royale if you had a hero card you could use periodically through the game (a good thought too, I’d like to see that in CR). A leaderboard exists where you’ll rank up and move on to fight opponents more in line with your abilities. I played several matches in a row and managed to hit rank 2, and afterwards started playing against people who actually put up a good fight whereas I started off steamrolling everyone in my way.

Monetization seems to follow the norm. There is a battle pass called the “Magic Pass” which allows you to earn extra rewards on top of what you would earn by playing for free. There are two currencies, gold and gems, which allow you to buy new Planeswalkers, buy copies of cards and of course you can spend real money to get more of these currencies for use in game. It seems fine, I don’t see the need to spend money either, but I suppose if I play it long enough that could happen. Upgrading your cards keeps you more viable in battles, and you’ll earn packs of cards at a pretty rapid clip. After acquiring a set amount of copies of a card, you can then level it up, much like you do in Clash Royale. It seems to have taken the best aspects of multiple similar games and layered it with real magic cards to keep the lore straight for the fans. I like the concept and I enjoy this style of game so perhaps this one will find a long term home on my phone. Time will tell, I suppose.

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.