Saturday, September 29, 2012

Long Overdue Game Update

Once again, here I am, a good 2 months after my last blog entry, needing to write and inform and wondering why I haven't been blogging regularly.  With that said, a lot has happened that I haven't yet talked about, so again, I'm going to write about some of it and try to cover it.  This time, some of the games I've been playing.

Xenoblade Chronicles

This game is absolutely gorgeous

Xenoblade finally came out, after a very, very, VERY long wait  Yes I know, this came out back in April and yes, I've had it since launch.  I've been slacking in talking about it as well as slacking in playing it.  I was actually doing a live stream of it but due to a major SWTOR patch dropping (and my net being really nasty) I haven't gotten back to it.  With that said, this is an incredible experience and I feel I should note that and give this game some praise and notice.

First, let me go ahead and say this.  This game is by far one of the biggest and deepest RPG's I've played ever.  It easily holds its own to any RPG that came out this generation, regardless of region and is easily the biggest most robust single player experience on the Wii.  The amount of depth and thought put into this game is jaw dropping.  The soundtrack is an instant classic, the English voice acting is a lot better then I thought it would be, and if you're an Otaku, you have the option of listening to the whole game with the Japanese voices.  The environments are enormous and show off a scope not seen in any game this generation, EVEN SKYRIM.  The combat system seems simplistic at first but even 15 hours in the game, you're constantly learning new features that the combat system offers.  There's crafting in the game (yes crafting in a single player Japanese RPG) which is mostly for the "gems" but the amount of stats and effects that go into play from gems plus the fact there's several tiers of them leaves a very deep element of the game that you'll actually need a wiki or a quick gamefaqs search in order to know exactly what to do.

Gem Crafting

There's tons of side quests that have you killing tons of named mobs and exploring the world, that can seem overwhelmingly daunting because there's so many (kind of like MMO's and Elder Scrolls games) but ultimately help drastically in the items you obtain, the equipment you find, and levels.  Of course just like the crafting, you'll need to refer to a wiki or gamefaqs more then once in order to find out what you need to do and some named mob fights such as Reckless Godwin you may even need to refer to youtube gameplay vids for help.

Ultimately this game is, so far, one of the best games I've played in the past 10 years, the best JRPG I've played this gen, and easily the most bank for your buck as far as single player games go on Wii.  I can't stress how much fun this game is or how good this game is.  All you need to know is if you want to play a game where Western RPG mechanics meet a Japanese style RPG, you're wanting a very lengthy and deep single player Wii game or if you're looking for an excellent RPG regardless of platform, look no further.  If not, well, you're missing out.  I'm over 50 hours in and far from finished.  I'll be going back to this game very soon.

Kid Icarus: Uprising

Kid Icarus: Uprising box art

When Super Smash Bros Brawl was first revealed, many of us, myself included had the question "Where have I seen this angel character before?"  That's when rekindled interest in the Kid Icarus IP first started.  Fast forward to March 23 of this year, Nintendo released Kid Icarus: Uprising, which is the first new game in a series that has been dormant for over 20 years since the gameboy sequel to the original Kid Icarus.  This was a series that I never played but remember hearing about and seeing many years ago.  Ultimately what pushed this purchase over the edge for me was the inclusion of the 3D remake of the original NES title and the 3DS stand that came with a pre-order of the game.  Boy did I make a good purchase.

This game is one of the most content heavy, fully featured titles on a handheld, ever.  The voice acting is fantastic and reminds me of a Saturday morning cartoons while the music ranges from absolutely gorgeous to cheesy heroic on the fly.  The single player takes you through stages that are broken apart as part rail shooter and part 3rd person action game.  The difficulty scales from drastically easy, ultra casual friendly to insanely intense bullet hell most hardcore of the hardcore.  Along the journey, there's tons of items for collection that range from quick healing and power items to weapons and gear that you can equip to ultimately make you play different and get stronger.  I should also note, throughout the entire stage, all the major characters, whether good or bad, talk with each other constantly leaving plenty of comedy and adds a nice touch of detail to the experience that most other games can't match.

Screens of the game look better on the 3DS and in 3D

Between each level you're brought to a Super Smash Bros Brawl like menu (which is interactive and a game within itself) that lets you use an in game currency for "idol tossing" which gives you a random chance to get different unlocks, which usually have a nice description and story to them.  Also in the menu you can equip new gear, combine gear and make new gear, and you can go to a practice range to test out your equipment.  You can also equip sub items that you can use during your adventure, such as 1 use bombs, healing items and buffing items.

Like other 3DS games such as Dead or Alive Dimensions and Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition, the game makes very good use of the 3DS's wireless, featuring local and online multiplayer which is very well polished and addictive.  Furthermore, they implemented street pass and spot pass features that allow you to send and receive gems with people you pass by, which the gems contain the same stuff you get from the idols, which basically is more collectables and codex entrees.  Also you can fuse gems together to make more items.  They also took advantage of the systems AR features allowing you to collect cards with different gems and duke it out in 3D, which I should also note, this game has so far, the best 3D I've seen on the 3DS.  As for the AR feature, after messing with it in this game, if this catches on, I can see Pokemon being bigger then it ever was before.

Over all, this is another fantastic experience that if you can get passed the controls (which work fine to me) and you own a 3DS, I'd highly recommend it!  Very few games have this much content for only $40.

Radiant Historia

You'd be crazy to miss this one

Radiant Historia is one of the many MANY games that got completely overlooked as it's a JRPG, on the Nintendo DS, and doesn't have huge designer, publisher, or series name behind it.  Because of this, Atlus made the decision to initially make this game a limited print when it came out February 22, 2011.  However, it sold out pretty quickly, became an underground hit, and made a cult following.  Kind of like Demon Souls, the demand for the game was completely unprecedented; they never knew that it would become such a hit.  Four months after the release, the game was rare and hard to find, with amazon being the only reliable source for purchase but even there the game was going for well over $100 new and $50 used without booklet or case.  Luckily, me and many other gamers were pleasantly surprised and taken off guard when Atlus made the brave decision this February and announced that in due to high demand, they were going to reprint the game and have it available online on March 19, 2012.  Needless to say, Amazon and other stores started taking pre-orders and of course, this time, I plopped the money down.

I was sitting on this game for a long time without playing it but this August I decided to put in my 3DS and start playing it.  Boy is this game a good experience.  The graphics are reminiscent of Xenogears, the story is reminiscent of Chrono Cross/Trigger, and the battle system has an interesting grid base, not for your allies but rather the enemies.  Nothing is truly "new" about the game but it's a very well polished and extremely enjoyable experience.  One thing though that it does do different then most other games, is it has 2 simultaneous stories going on that stem from 2 separate realities from 2 separate timelines that stem from a decision you make early on in the game.  All throughout the game you can make decisions than go back to them via a time transport, which allows you to accomplish different things and alter history.  It isn't an open ended story like that of an Elder Scrolls or Bioware game but it does offer an interesting method of story telling, especially as you're constantly going back and forth between story lines in order to progress the over all game.

The time chart

The music in the game is enjoyable but far from memorable when set side to side with the 2 previous games I talked about.  It does definitely fit the game and set the mood though.  Also going back to the combat, while it doesn't feel entirely original, it does offer a very strategic and engaging experience from the typical turn based system.  Just doing attacks won't get you very far and you really have to pay attention.  The combat is consistently a lot tougher then most turn based RPG's and even after getting 50 hours in the game, I still struggle with some groups of mobs.  Expect to deplete your mana regularly.  If you're looking for a challenging and very polished RPG that's reminiscent to past PS1 and SNES games, I recommend checking this game out.  Don't wait too long either, as it can disappear again.

Heroes of Ruin

Hit or miss

In a previous blog I noted that there were many games I was anticipating.  One of them, was the overly ambitious isometric dungeon crawler action RPG, Heroes of Ruin which is made by N-Space and published by SquareEnix.  SE in recent years has been publishing more western games, which is good for them as it helps sales, keeps them competing with the giants like EA and Activision, and keeps smaller developers who's publishers may of dropped them still making games.  This game however, unlike many others, really caught my eye because of the strong online features most online RPG's, on not just handhelds but even consoles, lack and the big focus on randomized items and dungeons.

Ultimately, the randomization of the dungeons was hurt drastically by not having respawning bosses and respawning randomized dungeons for each stage.  This and of course the lack of a new game + killed the longevity of the game.  That said, there's a lot of loot with 3 main stats but a lot of sub stats, the talent tree while basic offers a lot more depth then expected, and the actual core gameplay is rock solid.  The online, while hindered by the lack of respawning content, is a lot of fun, offers voice chat, gives perks for playing with friends, tracks your stats on the website, and balances the game out to be a good mix for the levels of the players in the game.

The environments look great but the models need work

The presentation isn't really anything to write home about.  The menu's are bland and basic, the story is told in still images that only really look good in 3D, and the voice acting is nothing to write home about.  With that said, while the voice acting isn't stellar, it's better then expected and the music is pretty stunning.  Furthermore, while the models could be a lot better, the environments are gorgeous.  Over all, the game is a hit or miss.  For me, I enjoy it for what it is but it definitely lacks the polish and budget of games like Torchlight 2 and Diablo 3.

SWTOR patches 1.2 - 1.4 and Server Merges

Darth Malgus and a Jedi Master flash mob cosplay

I've written a lot about Starwars: The Old Republic.  It was easily my most anticipated game in 2011 behind only Xenoblade.  When the game launched, there was a lot of good things about the game that made it a really awesome experience, particularly while questing, however after spending a good amount of time with it, you began to start noticing certain things that really need to be changed, dropped, and added.  I actually stopped playing the game in February due to some of these problems and issues and came back a little after patch 1.2 dropped on April 12th, right during the middle of my Xenoblade playthrough.

This patch fixed 2 major problems with the game.  First and the reason why I stopped playing SWTOR, it fixed codex entrees.  During my time playing SWTOR, I really REALLY got into the story and lore of the game.  I did every quest, I watched every cutscene, and of course, I read every codex entry.  When I got mid way through Belsavis, my codex stopped working after I got a glitched out datacron.  From there my experience started getting really flat and mid way through questing on Voss, I just closed out of my account because the experience became too flat for me.  Luckily, patch 1.2 fixed this problem and rekindled my interest in the game.  The other major problem that this patch fixed was an annoying and rather troublesome problem with crewskills.  While crafting, in order for me to learn higher versions of my crafts, I need to reverse engineer them which turns items I make into materials but also has a chance of letting me learn higher end versions of my the item I'm crafting.  The problem with this was, at the time, it would roll a dice on it and usually, it would try and give you a version of the item you already know, making you have to constantly RE (reverse engineer) and use tons of materials in the process of trying to obtain the higher end recipes.  The fix basically made it so that when you RE and it lands on a version of the item you already know, it goes automatically to the next version so you're not constantly getting the same thing over and over and over.  This was a huge fix for me and when I came back, I finally got the things I've been lusting after.

All of this + broken system = not fun

Patch 1.2 wasn't all good though, as they didn't add in ranked warzones the way they said they would and do to this, many players that were holding out for it, left the game out of frustration because of the lack of it.  Also, while they introduced legacy, many of the things they shown off with legacy didn't make it to this patch (and still aren't in the game) though myself, I haven't kept up with what all that was and in the coming months after 1.2 enjoyed the crap out of 1.2 and legacy.  I should also mention, the addition of UI customization was a very nice addition for me.

Seems small but it helps a lot!

One thing I did notice was after 1.2's event and all the hold outs left, the servers became barren.  PVP queue's took sometimes upwards of 2 hours, getting a group for anything was impossible without friends, and the questing hubs felt very empty.  This spawned the need for server merges and transfers.  Right before 1.3, they started allowing people to transfer their toons from low population servers to a group of about 10 servers for higher amounts in the population.  Soon after this 1.3 dropped, which brought group finder, ranked warzones, character perks for legacy, same faction warzones, and the ability to add augment slots to your gear.  All of these were long overdue features but after the server merges and with a larger concentration of players to do stuff with, they all helped drastically.

This is a pretty accurate representation of how I felt.

Of course, soon after this we learned that the game will be going free to play and a lot of negative news came out that SWTOR is dieing but the fact of the matter is, with the server merges and the switch to the F2P model, it seems like they're making the correct moves needed to save their game.  They did a lot already to fix major problems and added missing features, most of which a good amount of people who bought the game at launch won't know they changed because they stopped playing early on.  Doing this can and most likely will rekindle interest and get people to take a second look at a game that has, since release, gotten a major face lift.

The recent patch 1.4 however, while adding more content, fails to deliver any major face lifts, which is a bit of a disappointment.  It could be because the game will soon shift to free to play and they'll soon be doing a lot of new things or it could be that they feel there isn't anything else that needs to be changed but there is still one glaring issue that I've had a problem with for a very, VERY long time and it's a PVP thing.  There are some stats in PVP that play little next to nothing in the grand scheme of things for PVP, those being accruacy, defense, shield rating, and absorption rating.  This is also do to how the game works, basically having most attacks labeled to being elemental, kinetic, and internal, rather then playing off of weapon damage, which is the only type of damage that any of those stats work with.  This is a problem imo for all aspects of the game, it makes DPS not have to worry about accuracy in PVE and PVP and it makes it so that tanks with tank stats get shredded apart in PVP.  If you're a tank, you should be able to dodge a fist, knife, and kick better then a blaster shot, which is not the case with this system.  Furthermore, an energy shield is not a middle aged big clunky piece of metal.  It should go off any time an outside force gets close, even something as small as a fly.  The fact that all these attacks don't bring up my shield generator's shield not only doesn't make any sense logically, it's also a broken system all around and needs to be fixed.  Hopefully, this will get looked at because currently, it's one of the most frustrating elements in PVP in SWTOR.  Furthermore, hopefully they fix Illum soon.