State of the Game: Current Events 2020

I don’t intentionally go so long between my State of the Game posts, but it seems that because I have focused more on just completing a game at a time I don’t have as many bite sized bits to talk about. Although I’ve started and completed several games over the past few months since the last round-up, I’ve somehow managed to start a few that I’ve already written about and wish to give updates on. As it goes, I haven’t actually completed (or really played) the games I talked about last time, but I can touch on some of the stuff I’ve been doing recently. This time around we’ll be talking about the Final Fantasy VII Remake, Wildermyth, Streets of Rage 4, and The Outer Worlds.

Final Fantasy VII Remake

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The Remake continues to impress, but has also begun to frustrate. I will admit that much of my nostalgia for the game weighed heavily on my decision to pick this one up, mainly because I absolutely loved JRPGs in the 1990’s. It turns out that older me is not as invested in the storyline, and honestly I’m not enjoying the combat all that much either. The camera gets itself into janky angles too easily, the AI of your companions is absolute dog shit, unlike older games where you could set the behavior of the AI (ala Dragon Age), and it’s twitchy but unresponsive at times. So basically I spend half of the time enjoying the sites and remembering bits of the original from my long term memory banks, and the other half of the time yelling at the screen with how stupid the combat can be. Sometimes it’s pretty straight forward and satisfying though, so I’m torn between loving and hating this game. I should note that I skipped The Witcher III entirely because of similar irritations with the combat, but I still feel like I need to see this one through. I may be that guy and turn the difficulty all the way down because I may not finish the game otherwise. I absolutely cannot fathom how they will implement things like Emerald and Ruby Weapon. They were impossible enough with turn based combat. Whatever the case, we’re starting to see various parts of the game open up a bit beyond the slums, with mini games like darts showing up, more music to collect, and I’ve even had my first couple of summons since then, though they work so much differently now I was a bit underwhelmed. I met a new character on a motorcycle that I don’t remember from the original, but he was interesting enough and I imagine since he did not die we might see him again. I have a friend playing the game who has been ahead of me and given some vague spoilers and it seems that there is more new here than old, so it’s more of a new experience than a remake, so it does keep me wanting to see what happens next.

Streets of Rage 4

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My original post about Streets of Rage 4 was prior to the game releasing, but my first hearing about it. I have since purchased the game and started playing through it over the course of last weekend. During that first session I discovered that most of the game’s features were progress locked, so you could only start off with Story mode or Battle mode. Playing solo I of course started out with the story. I picked Axel as he is the most recognizable character for me, and powered through almost the whole game in one sitting. I started getting frustrated towards the end and decided to take a break before picking it up again another day and finally completing it. From there I unlocked the ability to play any stage where you can try and increase your ranking as there are trophies for S rank on every stage and other such nonsense that I’ll never shoot for. Other trophies include beating the story with every playable character, and others that come from performing certain actions on various levels. I unlocked Adam (from SOR1) about halfway through the story, and unlocked the original pixel art version of Axel for completing his story. I assume the story will largely play out the same despite who you pick, but I also assume that you’ll unlock all of the playable characters and alternate models by playing through the game multiple times. The trophies seem to be tied to solo play, but you have the option to play through the story in co-op, and apparently up to 4 players can join in, but I’m unsure how that affects difficulty. It was clear to me that some levels would have been much easier as-is with more players, but perhaps more enemies are added if you are playing with more friends. There’s also online options that I haven’t looked into yet, but I assume you’ll be able to co-op or battle just the same as you could locally. Overall the game looks great, I love the new combat system and animations, but it’s still challenging because of timing and stuff that was more of a thing back in the 1990’s that we aren’t used to now, but the devs recreated to the letter. You really have to play it to understand what I mean (also need to be old enough to have played games back then). It’s still something I’d recommend for fans of the series or this style of game, but if you don’t like beat-em-ups you could probably skip it.

The Outer Worlds

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In my original post I had only spent a couple of sessions with The Outer Worlds but I already loved what I had seen. I actually haven’t played it much since then only because I’ve been distracted by the other games I’ve mentioned here, along with a couple of others that I have dedicated posts planned for. Whatever the case, I have enjoyed how the game has expanded beyond the early portion. Getting a spaceship has allowed my crew (and I say crew because I’ve recruited a couple of new bodies outside of the original girl that joined the squad while I was leaving the first planet. Different companions bring different skills to the crew, and some of their own quests as well. Some quests will also mention a crew member’s skillset needed for that particular mission so it’s advised to bring them along when needed. As such, you’ll want to keep them equipped with new gear. This differs from older games in this genre where you’d only have one companion and they were likely just a mule to carry your shit. Now you need to pay attention to the different members a little bit more, and you’ll have two of them with you at all times. Another nice feature is the ability to control their special moves which can turn the tide of fights single-handedly. Rather than being a big open world, the devs had designed this one as more of a Borderlands style setup, where you have some planet areas that are large, but they are bordered and you can fast travel while on them, but otherwise have to return to the ship to visit other planets. It’s also clear that sometimes you’re on the same planet but in a different region, and you can’t really travel between them without returning to the ship either. So it’s a hybrid open-world but it seems to work pretty well. You’ll be able to focus on the tasks at hand and then move on. I’ve visited several of the planets and completed quite a few missions. I believe I’m nearly level 20, I know I’m in the teens at least. I’m not sure the amount of content I have still left to go but I look forward to enjoying the ride.

Wildermyth

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I have less to say about Wildermyth only because I have only just started my second session with the game. In my first post I talked about the mechanics and gameplay, but also notated that I only played the beginner 3 chapter session. I have since started up a new game with the normal mode 5 chapter story. I was under the impression initially that characters would transfer between games, but it appears that your legacy is generated in different ways. When you have heroes die and you memorialize them, those memorials will remain in the game. Other characters who survived a story can reappear in new games, so I guess eventually you might see those characters again or perhaps their offspring. It’s not overly clear to me, and though I only played through one chapter before quitting that session, I didn’t seen any legacy stuff, so I guess I’ll write more about it when I figure it out. Whatever the case I have enjoyed starting a new story and getting to know some new characters. Having a new main enemy makes a difference in gameplay a bit as well. This time around I have a group of five, with 2 warriors, 2 mystics and a ranger, so I’ve switched up the configuration a little bit. I’m sure I’ll have more to say on this one sooner than later because I really enjoy the story telling here.

So there you have it. Some progress on all accounts. As I mentioned I have a couple other posts in the works for a couple other games I haven’t yet introduced on the blog, so stay tuned for that.

Wildermyth Early Access

Wildermyth popped up in my Steam discovery queue at some point in the last few months, and when I see games I find interesting I tend to add them to my wishlist for later. Quarantine is definitely one of those “for later” situations, and as the game is only running $20 I pulled the trigger on it. I’ve been jamming through some games during this period of the wild indoors, but I’ve been looking for varied experiences to keep me engaged. As such, I’ve actually been looking into playing some of the games in my backlog that are different from what I’ve been playing lately. First person shooters will always be a love of mine, but sometimes I want something more laid back and story-rich. Wildermyth caught my attention because of its colorful art style and tactical RPG combat, a style of game I tend to gravitate towards. What sets it apart from other RPGs I’ve played in recent memory, is the fact that a portion of the game is procedurally generated, which is also something I tend to enjoy when it’s done well. Wildermyth is currently in Early Access, but as the description says, it’s mostly done and fully playable now. Features are already there, it’s just more polish and additional implementation and they seem sure that they’ll be releasing this year, and I’ll agree that they’re pretty close.

Like any party based RPG, you’ll start out with a group of youngsters that aren’t quite adventurers but are thrust into dealing with a world-ending problem. There are only three starter classes to choose from, but as the game progresses some expected and some unusual paths present themselves to give you additional strength and powers. The characters are randomly assigned names, character traits, appearances and you are forced to start with a Warrior, Hunter and Mystic. Sub classes naturally evolve from these and there are various build paths that I explored during my first game. You can take things further by fully customizing the characters but I let things pretty much lie after a few rerolls.

The entire first campaign is essentially a tutorial, but it took me a little over four hours to complete, so that’s more of a starter campaign than anything. Still, it is a good practice to roll through because by the end you understand the systems of the game but still see the potential for further adventures and this in itself is exciting. I haven’t had a game get its hooks into me so easily in quite some time, and were this already a finished title I still think it would have been good enough. I’m looking forward to see what happens with further development. So most of your time is spent pretty evenly between an over-world map where you move your heroes around and perform various tasks, while periodically getting story interruptions. Many of the story bits lead into encounters, and then you’ll shift to a randomized battlefield and participate in a turn-based battle. This controls as you would expect, with action points allowing you to move attack and sling spells. There are some unique facets to combat that I’ll cover shortly. Besides moving to new areas via the map, you’ll also need to build bridges, defenses/tile improvements and periodically need to repel incursions of enemy forces. You’ll also periodically gain access to new heroes via recruitment, and soon enough you’ll be training additional characters and have a full party of five and then some.

Combat reminds me of early iterations of D&D. The characters are sort of 2D paper figures that stand in a 3D space. They move as if they are on bases and someone is tapping them in each square as they progress. Attacks are pretty basic in their animation, but this gives it more of a feel of playing a well-penned D&D session that also has some pretty fun combat. There are only so many tricks that are thrown at you, but combat is still pretty satisfying. I was happy with how my characters developed, got new gear and new abilities and all along the way there was still challenge but also the sense of becoming more powerful.

Combat doesn’t always go like you would like, and characters can die or get maimed, but that adds some charm to the game. You don’t lose someone powerful that you have grown attached to, but they might lose an arm. This comes with some benefits as well, as one of my hunters ended up losing an arm, so he could no longer use a bow, but had a cool hook hand that he could use to attack with as well, so he became a stealthy dual-wielder instead. One of my Warriors ended up being enchanted by a crow spirit and got a crow’s head that provided a “peck” special move, and later I’d get the opportunity to further transform, gaining a crow’s claw that provided a strong attack. It’s stuff like this that’s a little off the wall but also really cool and reminiscent of D&D stories.

This campaign was split into three chapters and was the story was set up to have a specific villain. Each chapter closes when a main story objective is complete, however individual characters periodically ask more help with tasks and further their growth. You’ll be rewarded various crafting materials for how many territories you control on the world map and also gain a certain number of years worth of peace. During peace time, you’ll get little glimpses into your characters lives and even recruit your own progeny. My hunter’s son was trained as a warrior and already started with higher tier gear than normal recruits.

The third chapter leads up to the final battle, and because the passage of time occurs no matter what actions you take in the game, they grew old over the course of one session. The final battle was quite the challenge, but I managed to beat it while only losing one character who I believe was killed permanently, but it’s sort of irrelevant. The game is designed to give you compact stories in short-ish sessions. I imagine all three chapter games will take approximately the same amount of time to complete, while the larger five chapter games will probably add a few more hours per game. The Legacy system allows for some of this to continue on. At the end I was able to choose one of my characters to sort of have a second life, though they don’t go into detail about how this happens, but it means they start off a little more powerful for the next go-round. People that you memorialize carry certain things over as well, so there is a sort of rogue-like account progression that affects future games. From what I understand they are a ton of different encounters already programmed into the game, with more coming down the pipeline, and they’ve added a campaign creation tool as well. So Wildermyth might just be the next best thing when it comes to playing D&D. I really enjoyed my play session, and I look forward to playing it some more. I may look into making my own campaign as well, which could provide an additional creative outlet. Whatever the case, if any part of this sparked your interest I might suggest checking the game out. It’s fully worth the coin, and should only get better.