Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD

My brother picked up this game for me. We both had originally played it on GameCube, but I bowed out before he got past the Earth and Wind temple (I think).

Recently, I haven't had as much time to play games. Between work, attempt at getting sleep vs waking toddler, there's just not that much free time. With that, I think I've become a little angry at any type of grindy game mechanic. That is -- any mechanic that solely requires me to spend a minimum amount of time to get past.

While writing this review, I found myself getting quite annoyed at a few things in particular, and only when I stepped back and looked at it, did I allow myself to see it for what it was. A normal game mechanic, that used the rules of the game, but required some amount of time to get past.

Enter the wind and earth templates. Where you have a companion that helps you get through a dungeon. That's neat! You have to use your wind waker to play the control melody to switch to controlling the companion so you can solve puzzles as a team. Also neat! So when I had to constantly switch between myself and someone else, then back, then re-position, then back, etc. I felt that this was just a time grind. It kind of was, but it was also a neat game mechanic that kept me in the game world, while allowing me to do something new and unique.

There were some really annoying parts of the game, that even upon stepping back and re-evaluating seemed kind of awful. I'm not going to bullet list these, because I think they're worth explaining in detail.

The target locking mechanic is horrible. The enemies you absolutely need to target lock, seem to constantly disappear from target lock. Also, target locking uses character facing, instead of using camera facing. That's just inane, I'm usually running away from the thing I want to switch to locked on camera, so I can switch to strafing around it, but without turning my character into incoming danger, the game does not allow me to go into target lock. Similarly, if I switch to any aimed item (bow, hookshot, etc.) then it will assume that my facing direction is the direction I want to shoot. It should be auto facing the camera. I understand this could easily be fixed by a game option, but this option does not exist. Lastly, if I hit the target lock button, and don't have anything valid to go into target lock mode, please give me a game option to disable whipping the camera around so that I am now likely facing the opposite direction of the incoming danger. Dark Souls and other games are also guilty of this last one. Just add a game option please!

While on the topic of target locking, this also made some bosses insanely frustrating. Particular target prioritisation on things you don't need to shoot vs things you do. In particular any enemy that spawns other enemies is usually really far off and extremely difficult to get target lock on.

While there are a few things this game does infuriatingly wrong, this game is also really great.

One of the mechanics that I had forgotten was mapping the islands by feeding the fish. This was due to playing this in few hour chunks, separated by days between. While this feels immediately grindy at first, it also comes across in two other mechanics that work great. The first is that it allows you to see where you have not been. If I've mapped a square, then I've likely been to the island, or maybe I wait to map the island. Secondly, when you map the island, the fish gives you a tip about something in the world that you might not have been able to figure out without the tip. This is a great way of having hidden gems in the game, and allow the player to get access to them without going to a guide.

The items, and pacing of the game was pretty good as well. I think I would have found the wind direction changing to be much more tedious if I didn't beeline for the quick sail as soon as possible, but with that, the speed of getting around felt great.

The money mechanics in the game felt a little trivial. For the most part I was either completely full on money, or completely out of money. Feast or famine. There was almost no in-between. And while that's kinda dis-engaging, it's interesting to think about how this system worked itself out in the first Zelda. When you shot an array, you lost 1 rupee. That works, monsters already drop rupees, I have a rupee UI indicator already to boot. So that's kind nice.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable game, I just wish I had more dedicated time to play it. On the other hand, it would be nice to have games in more digestible chunks, since I don't have the large blocks of time anymore. With Windwaker HD, I think they did a pretty good job of allowing me to bite of chunks of the game until it was completed

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Dark Souls III: Ashes of Ariandel

So, the DLC starts out quite a bit like the Painted World of Ariamis from Dark Souls. I absolutely love the references, just like they had the throwback to Anor Londo.

I played it with my endgame character, level 95. I didn't get a single level the entire run.

Boss boss fights were epic, and really rewarding to beat. We got a more circular lore, and a PvP arena, woot!

It probably took me a solid 8 hours to beat the whole thing. I didn't use a guide until I beat both bosses, but I might have talked to Luke... and brought in a couple of summons... I didn't manage to get any boss fighting screenshots, because I was usually dying repeatedly.

Overall really enjoyed it! Sorry for the lack of epic words, this is the second game I managed to beat on my birthday.

Friday, October 28, 2016

AM2R (Another Metroid 2 Remake)

So I really love metroidvania games. They're amazing.

When I picked this up, I was super excited to play a Metroid game I missed, but without having to play on the old game boy system. In my brashness, I choose to play on the hard difficulty. This was a mistake.

It was brutally hard. Like - backtrack to a save point every time you kill any boss-like creature, so that you don't utterly die to the second one - hard.

The entire game is setup like spokes off an elevator. You have central saves, a bunch of branches with boss creatures to kill, then when they're all killed the elevator mechanic in the middle lets you go further down. All the while you're getting new powers, and equipment, and the E tanks. The E tanks are much more scarce than any other Metroid game I recall.

Enemies hit really hard on the hard difficulty. You will lose half an E tank in 1-2 hits from a normal enemy. By the time you get to that really hard boss, that is placed strategically 10 screens away from the closest save point, you will lose your mind.

One minor relief is that the death/reload time is pretty quick.

Most of the bosses I ended up having to kill in a somewhat cheesy way. Kneel in a corner and shoot in a locked upward angle in a spammy fashion until the tender un-armored underbelly is destroyed. Later on this is replaced by the trusty hide in a tiny hole, pop out for a strategic sucker missile shot, go back to hole. this last strategy held for quite some time.

For boss fights, you need to learn the tells of when/what attacks are coming, and you need to take very strong advantage of the portion of the boss fight where you are expected to shoot something that is not the boss to potentially get your life/missiles topped back up. If you neglect this, you will die.

I mostly collected things that were obvious on the map.

She is the worst. 10+ screens from the save point. Hits like a truck. Very little maneuvering room.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Aarklash Legacy

I did not end up finishing this game. I absolutely think this is worth buying and playing.

This game plays a bit like a MOBA. You have four playable characters, with four unique skills each. Some play DPS, healer/support, and tank roles, or a bit of a mix.

Each combat is difficult, and requires you to play tactically for at least the first half of the fight.

The things that this game did specifically well.
* Brilliant choice to style this like a RTS MOBA as far as camera, controls, and feel
** You can issue a queue of actions to an ally
** You can pause and inspect any enemy, which is critical to surviving
* The game allows you to respec a character anytime you are not in combat. This removed analysis paralysis and allowed exploration of builds and team options
* Each enemy had unique abilities with tweakable values (stun duration, distance, cast time, etc.)
* Enemies required you to take them down tactically. If you ignored their tell, then they would heavily punish you. You can also interrupt abilities, and many times have to do this to win.
* The optional boss fights were very rewarding and quite difficult
* Progressing through the story forced you to try out new party compositions and ability pairings
* Non-standard healing abilities. I loved seeing healing abilities that were more than just heal for X amount, or heal over time. The mechanics in this game were stunning.

The pretty good, but could have been better
* The UI that you needed to use to dig into which enemy had which ability was a bit tedious
* After a certain point, you can pick your own team and you'll likely never change it up once you have something that works
* The puzzles in the game were interesting, but sometimes seemed to be more tedious than clever. It also didn't feel like it was necessary.
* The voice acting was fine, but the story line just didn't engage me

The one thing they did that could be improved was equipment. Enemies drop random equipment of a normal, magical, rare variety. Most of the time it's crap, and you throw it ino the equipment grinder that will produce an ultra rare version. Basically you're just rolling the dice over and over until you get the best of the various state (+heal is great for healers, +physical damage is not typically). I ended up save scumming this a lot to abuse getting the best equipment, but in the end it wasn't a huge difference. It almost felt like an entire system that could have just been left out.

The reason I didn't finish the game primarily was that I wasn't engaged enough with the puzzles and story to continue. I absolutely loved the combat, abilities, and character classes they created. Once I had my ideal party, the fights just got a bit repetitive. Perhaps the UI improvements would have held my attention longer, but I doubt it. Still a great game!

PS: I have no idea how I don't have any screenshots for this game.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Hatoful Boyfriend

It's our game of the month!

I joined the student council, then workedon math and social skills. Preferring the build of intelligence/charisma over endurance.

Quickly became Vice Pres of student council. Possibly too easily...

Here are my notes about the various characters, so I don't lose track:
Hiyoko Tosaka - yourself
Shuu Iwamine - creapy Doctor
Anghel Higure ??? - listed on the wiki, but never met them
Kazuaki Nanaki - teacher that dozes off
Ryouta Kawara - friend that gets stomach aches easily
Nageki Fujishiro - freshman with no manners that likes books
Sakuya Le Bel Shirgane - pres of student council, stuck up
Yuuya Sakazaki - ladies man, brother of Sakuya, secret past
San (Okosan) - crazy fast bird that loves pudding too much
Koshiba Azami - scooter sparrow, sells takoyaki - lost someone
Urushihara Kenzaburou - parkeet cafe owner

At the end of sophomore year there was a touching exchange with Kazuaki about being in love with him. It was a bit jarring because I don't remember making any decisions in his direction. I'm pretty sure I had a heavy leaning toward Sakuya... so that's a bit jarring. It was a touching and inspiring conversation nonetheless, much like many revelations in an Anime drama, but still out of place.

Oh, that was the end. Alright then.

Good enough game, very similar to a typical anime drama which I love. Not sure how the choices matter, so I should probably go look that up, or maybe it's better not knowing...

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Dark Souls 3

I had an entire gaming week to myself. I figured I'd play this or that, dig into my crazy long list of Humble Bundle games, or play on console for a bit... I ended up spending the entire chunk of my time on Dark Souls 3. It consumed my life day and night and even dug into my sleeping time. 52 hours later, I think I'm done. I have 77% achievements, and I did not focus on achievements at all. I focused on bosses and exploring areas.

The game started out as I would expect any Dark Souls game with a very weak character and learning the ins/outs of movement and combat. The first boss was a bit of a challenge but after a few attempts I was through him and on to the rest of the game. They start you off pretty early with the ability to warp to any area, similar to Dark Souls 2, which is nice.

I found weapon upgrading to be a lot slower than Dark Souls 2 or Dark Souls 1. It was acceptable overall because I was still making upgrades as I went through the game, with very obvious tiers based on your specific area you were at. For example, in one specific area I would find materials for upgrading from +4 to +7, and enemies dropping materials for upgrading from +1 to +3. It did a good job of setting expectations on what level of upgrades they thought you would have, or could have at any point in the game. I ended up levelling a short fire sword for most of the game until I found a weapon that was able to do enough damage to replace it. A few fire resistant areas made this a bit difficult, but not disproportionately to other difficulties in a souls game..

Contrary to previous games, in Dark Souls 3 you use embers to restore your "humanity". When you are human, you have extra life, can summon others, and can be invaded. Contrary to Dark Souls 2, there is no penalty for dying repeatedly. I'd say this is a vast improvement for the less hardcore players.

Boss fights were quite varied, and I really enjoyed the mix. This is a welcome change from previous titles, that were typically painful learning exercises on enemy movement/attack patterns. If a specific boss was too difficult, I would summon in someone to help bring some damage (eg: against a fire resistant boss). When you bring someone in, it also increases the boss' life, so make sure they're pulling their own weight! A few times I had people coming in to help with the boss only to immediately die. This leaves me with a powered up boss and no help.

Finding new weapons and armor was enjoyable, but really loved finding rings. You find a few early on, and before long you have all four ring slots filled. By mid game, you're making decisions on which rings to use based on your play style. I also really liked some of the new ring ideas, and that the staple rings from earlier games had a comeback (cloranthy, red tearstone, etc.). I found out later that there are +1 and +2 versions of rings similar to Dark Souls 2, but you will only find those in New Game+.

There were few key differences between the Dark Souls games that I'd like to go into. Some of those were good decisions or just different decisions or sometimes poor decisions but overall it was interesting to see the comparisons when playing through the three different games. They also peppered in some Bloodborne things, but I haven't played that game to completion yet, so I may not have seen all the inclusions.

Chest Destruction
As far as I remember, chests could only be destroyed in Dark Souls 2, and I'm glad they removed that in Dark Souls 3. Having your precious treasure destroyed and replaced by rubbish was a horrible, horrible feeling. I know this de-emphasizes mimic fear, but there has to be a better way. Also, you can always tell a mimic by minor changes to the model/appearance.

Weapon/Upgrade Pacing
Dark Souls 3 feels the slowest at weapon progression. Whereas Dark Souls 1 put the blacksmith a bit into the game, this made you decide on a weapon that worked well for you, then allowed you to upgrade it. In Dark Souls 2, you get upgrades early on, and it scales quite well for the game. Dark Souls 3 felt the slowest, as you would typically have your main weapon at the highest tier possible, and all other weapons one tier below that. It felt like I really didn't have a choice once I started levelling a weapon, but at the same time I did well for most of the game with a fire short sword.

Weapon Upgrade Options
The upgrade options in Dark Souls 3 seem to be the best overall. Your scaling of a weapon is independent of what it's infused with, and you can remove the infusion if you change your mind. The scaling of the weapons are now changed based on infusions, similar to Dark Souls 1. My main complaint is that you don't upgrade more than two weapons fully until the end of the game.

Stat Screens
Dark Souls 3 finally adds the ability for you to see a full comparison when chaging your equipment. If you click the right thumb stick (R3) then you can get a detailed breakdown on what each change in equipment will do. It's a bit odd then, that poise damage is not shown in the screens which Dark Souls 2 included.

Carried Items
Like Bloodborne, you can only carry so many usable items with you at a time. Eg: 99 arrows of a specific typre, with another 99 in the bank. This was to prevent you from just bringing 100's of items into the game, and spamming your way through it like you could in previous Dark Souls games.

NPCs have improved in the direction that Dark Souls 2 was taking them. They have more interactions out in the environment, more diverse quest lines. They usually join you back in your base at some point, but only some of them have anchor spots there.

NPCs in Dark Souls 1 usually involve finding someone and talking to them enough times to have them go back to the main hub area. A similar route was taken in Dark Souls 2 with a few other interactions out in the field. Dark Souls 3 takes this to a new level of involvement. They are people you need to check in on, bring quest items to, purchase things from, and talk to for additional lore.

I really enjoyed my time playing Dark Souls 3. I might go back into it when DLC comes out, but I don't think I'll be starting another character or delving into New Game+. Time is limited, and there are other things to see.

The fabled "Battle Pope". A remarkable amount of poise for the light weight.

For a brief time, I was using the silver knight armor. I looked awesome, but it was heavy.

Who needs armor when you have a shield like this? Also, I can't wear armor with a shield like this...

Dark Souls 2: Sins of the First Scholar

Really good game. It starts you out with a new character, so it took a while to remember how much my character sucks, since the last time I was playing was with a decked out Dark Souls 1 character. I played the Sins of the First Scholar version, but didn't really get into the DLC.

The staggering you do from hits initially, is really, really huge. I don't remember it being that bad in DS1.

You can also heavily stagger enemies, which is nice. The fire longsword has a huge stagger on it's thrust attack. I've been powering through the game with that.

Most of the bosses in this game, I just pulled in a few summoned allies and wiped the floor with them.

A few terrible areas, but nothing felt as terrible as The Depths in DS1.
* Black Gulch sucked for a bit, but was over relatively quickly.
* Shrine of Amana was just cheap, so I had to out-cheap it by spending all my souls on Dex and bow upgrades. Then sniping spell casters in the face from a distance. At least I had some time to level up and build my gear for this one.
* No-Man's Wharf confused me for a bit, until I discovered the short cut added in SotFS

I ended up joining the Rat King Covenant, mostly out of convenience, and then I found out they have an awesome ring you get (Ring of Fog). I could never grind enough rat tails to get it, but the notion I might someday have it was nice.

The torch system was neat, but a little too special case. You could like pyres along the way to various areas, which allowed you to relight your torch at that point. It was mostly used in the game as an "I've been here" reminder, and very little as an actual game mechanic. There was maybe one area where it helped me see things... I don't recall.

The added ability to respec your character, in case you wasted points in attributes that you didn't really want after all. I burned my first respec to change my strength/dex allocations into more stamina and health. Having the fire sword early and upgrading throughout the game meant I didn't need much strength/dex early on. I tried an intelligence build later on, but used another soul vessel to reverse that.

The upgrading of weapons seemed to go much slower than DS1, but it did come much earlier than DS1, so I think it was better overall.

I don't remember being able to destroy the chests in DS1, but in DS2 you absolutely can destroy them. Doing so, replaces their contents with rubbish. This is especially frustrating when an enemy destroys the chest because you were fighting around them at a poor time. This is further made worse by the game auto-saving aggressively, which is terrible when those chests break. As a rule of thumb, I started shield bashing chests to check, because it didn't do enough damage to destroy them. I also save scummed liberally... If you play online, there are usually lots of warning signs around mimics. Only one time did the signs wait to load in until I was already being eaten...

Having to go back to town to level up was a huge pain, compared to levelling up at any bonfire. The warping allowed from the start was nice, but there was a charm to DS1 where your routes would loop back on themselves and you could see the interconnectivity of the game. Warping is still awesomely convenient.

The hollowing process of losing a portion of your maximum health kinda sucked, but it forced you to either use up a ring slot to reduce that reduction per death to cap you at 80% instead of a horrible 50%, or you could use a human effigy to get your humanity and max health back.

I didn't get invaded that often in the game, and had much better positive interactions with summoning other people to help with fights.

Overall the game felt much more accessible than the first.

Finishing the game was good, and it felt nice to complete the story.

Overall I enjoyed the game, and had a great time playing it. My friend Luke did help quite a bit, but I also was able to take on huge chunks without his assistance/direction.

This is how I looked for most of the early to mid game. It's a heavy armor set, and helped me to not die. Still rockin' the fire sword.

This is how I looked for the later parts of the game. Each piece comes with a nice bonus, and it's pretty light weight. Yep, still fire sword.