Sunday, June 25, 2017

Knights of Pen and Paper

I've been spending far too much time on Knights of Pen and Paper, far more than I ever imagined I would. I can't wholeheartedly recommend it or even call it a good game, per se, but it has a tremendously addictive quality to it, due in no small part to its origins as a mobile game. I'm pleased that it's not bogged down by microtransactions in the PC version, but the absurdly grindy nature of the game suggests the game was designed around them.

The concept of the game is really clever and interesting. It's essentially a pixelated D&D campaign in which you create not just the characters from the campaign, but the players assuming their roles, as well. You can create Hipster Clerics, Gamer Paladins, or even have Grandma assume the role of the party's Druid. It's a really clever concept that I'm just wild about. Each of the players has their own passive trait that might make them more appropriate for certain classes. Although you only have access to a limited pool of players and classes at the game's outset, you have the ability to unlock others as you progress through the game. 

Just like a real D&D campaign, the scope of the game is decided by the Dungeon Master, which is again a character that can be customized by spending in-game gold, imparting one of a selection of different buffs. As the player-created party traverses the map, the events in question are narrated by the Dungeon Master. Much of the dialogue between the DM and the party is pretty funny and helps to lighten things up a bit between long sessions of grinding, which the game features quite prominently. Quests fall into a few different categories, but all boil down to slaying dozens of monsters to progress, whether this is in the course of escorting an important NPC, collecting artifacts,  or traveling in general. In fact, there's a good chance you'll encounter enemies just when moving from place to place. This is where the game gets very repetitive, when you find yourself fighting wave after wave of enemies with no dialogue or story whatsoever.

I wouldn't mind the grinding so much if not for how little diversity there is in options for your classes. Much like a MOBA, each of the classes in the game only has four abilities at their disposal, each of which can be assigned a skill point upon leveling. I've not encountered any sort of cap for these skills, but they do seem to reach diminishing returns after level 10 or so, at which point it seems prudent to spread your skill points around a bit. The game is not exactly easy so not all party compositions necessarily work. Some sort of healer is required, and a tank helps a lot too. Fortunately, the game provides you with a few different options in both cases, although this doesn't seem like the case initially. I had no idea at first that I'd be able to unlock any new classes.

The combat reminds me of Dragon Quest or Etrian Odyssey. It's in first person perspective--sort of. You can see your players assembled at the gaming table with its various accoutrement (many of which are upgrades purchaseable with in-game gold) and behind the DM is a backdrop associated with whatever locale your party has traveled to. During monster encounters, you'll be pitted against 1 to 7 baddies of various shapes and sizes. Enemies much above your level will be quite challenging and may sometimes even one-shot a party member. This is pretty annoying when you find yourself without any Phoenix-Ups (heh) or a revival spell of some kind. Therefore, you need to grind. A lot. And not just for experience, either. You'll find yourself needing to grind for money, too. In some cases, you'll end up in situations where you don't even have enough money to travel or to resurrect dead party members, which is really annoying. If you don't have enough money to revive anyone after a complete party wipe, you even lose experience! Aaaagh!

What I do like about the game is that you're able to put together your own party from a decent little pool of character classes. The classes themselves are not the most clever in the world but they're interesting enough. The paladin can generate threat to tank while boosting defenses and healing himself. The rogue can hit hard with double strikes and stealth to decrease threat and increase crit chance. The bard can sing songs to heal party members or buff attacks. The berserker gets passive crit and damage and has the ability to attack wildly at random while healing. The archetypes are pretty standard but they fit the flavor of the game. 

I feel like the game has so much potential and it's a wonderful idea but it's really hampered by lack of originality in other areas and some extreme repetitiveness. Still, I might be intrigued enough to finish it (and man, I've spent so much time on it already) but I'm not sure I'll be able to carry on to the sequel. (Not a bad deal for $2.50 on Steam, though.) 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Azure Striker Gunvolt

So, I've spent a lot of time over the past couple of years playing Mega Man games. I've played the entire classic series, about half of MMX, all of Mega Man Zero (and Mega Man ZX), so I've become pretty familiar with Inti Creates as a company. They've developed most of the more recent Mega Man titles instead of Capcom--and, more recently, they've developed an original IP in Azure Striker Gunvolt, which reads as something of a successor to Mega Man Zero/ZX and Mega Man X. And hey, it's pretty good, too.

What I like about Gunvolt is that it's not just a copy of previous formats. It's much less shooting-focused than Mega Man X because of the way Gunvolt's tagging works. Enemies can be tagged with fired shots, up to three times. These tags make enemies vulnerable to Gunvolt's lightning attacks, which emanate from his Flashfield, toggled on with the R button. In fact, lightning will straight up seek targets that are tagged, meaning there's no aiming element at all once tagging has been done.

Of course, there is a downside to using Flashfield--it rapidly consumes EP, the resource through with Gunvolt wields his electricity. Fortunately, EP can be instantly replenished simply by quickly double tapping down on the d-pad. There is a brief animation when this happens and it therefore cannot be done while moving, which makes it difficult to do in hectic boss encounters. EP does slowly regenerate over time, however.

EP isn't used just for the Flashfield, though. It's also consumed when Gunvolt uses special techniques like Air Hopping and Air Dashing--both of which are unlocked by crafting mechanical components consisting of pieces collected from the game's levels. Additionally, EP is consumed for Prevasion, a mechanic in which Gunvolt blocks damage entirely as long as he has EP left to discharge. It is for this reason that it is extremely important to avoid getting hit, because once his EP has been completely depleted, he overheats and is unable to recharge for several seconds. This renders Gunvolt much less effective in combat, much less mobile, and much more vulnerable to damage.

Mega Man X is firing off massive charged shots while rapidly dashing and wall-jumping through stages. Mega Man Zero is more about getting up close and personal with the Z-Saber while performing similar feats of speed. Of course, MMZ is much more unforgiving and in fact awards you ranks for your competence at completing certain levels. Azure Striker Gunvolt strikes a balance between the two. It's not altogether as challenging as Mega Man Zero, but there is still that emphasis on being as efficient as possible. There are challenges to complete that reward upgrade parts and you are still ranked on your performance--but these ranks are somewhat less important this time around.

What makes Gunvolt feel so different than X or Zero is his emphasis on using electrical powers and his use of flashy special skills. The majority of the damage Gunvolt deals comes from his electricity. His shots really only serve as a means to an end. Balancing the use of electricity and maintaining a stack of three tags on bosses while rhythmically recharging EP is a unique play style that really sets the game apart. Of course, the traditional MMX dashing and air-jumping mechanics are still there, but it is a game that has its own identity even so.

I'm playing the sequel as we speak and I'm intrigued at the inclusion of a secondary character. I'll probably have some things to say about that as well sometime soon.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

And now for something different.

Oh man, that whole video thing. It's become a bit of a drag, I think. On the one hand, I really enjoy the writing/presentation aspect of it, but I really dislike how laborious and time consuming the process is. And I feel like it turns every game I'm playing into a project of some kind when sometimes I Just want to zone out and have fun. These statements are a tad hypocritical I guess, since my rate of video production has slowed dramatically. But still. That's why.

So what am I going to do now? Am I done with videos forever? I don't know. There's a chance I'll do them again, but it's not something I feel like prioritizing right now. I'm still playing a lot of games and I do want to talk about them, but probably in a much more casual way for the immediate future. I'm feeling like making changes in life in general, recently. Y'know, things like eating habits, fitness, outlook, stuff like that. And saving more money so I can eventually afford video games. (I still don't have a Switch.)

But you know, on the other hand, I do miss blogging. Ever since I started doing the video thing (and even sometime before that), this blog ceased being a repository of my thoughts and whims. I'm not saying I'm going to be starting a daily blogging exercise like I did a few years ago (or maybe I am?) but I do have some interest in dropping casual thoughts on stuff that's going on in my life and of course games that I'm playing.

I felt at one point that I needed to legitimize this blog by resorting to posting only "article worthy" entries with full-length reviews. That gradually evolved into making videos and the blog for a time just because a collection of links to those videos with no articles whatsoever. I don't know. I can't do it all. There's not a lot I can do in general!

So, what am I going to be talking about for the future of this blog? How often will I be updating it? Well, to be honest, I'm not sure. I'm feeling immensely directionless in my life lately and I am in dire need of structure. It would makes sense, then, to resume daily blogging, but I'm not certain I necessarily have it in me. The problem I frequently ran into in the days that I did that was a tendency to "phone it in" on days I wasn't particularly feeling it. At the same time, forcing myself to write daily was creatively rewarding and really got my thoughts flowing. There are certainly pros and cons.

I originally planned to talk about some video game stuff today but I think I'll save it for next time. When that'll be, who knows. I'm operating without a plan today.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Ocean of Wisdom ~ Abzû

It's been some time since I put out any kind of video, so I decided I'd break the silence with something short for a change. This is the shortest video I've done, but the game itself barely clocks in at two hours, so I think that's justified. It's also a really pretty, relaxing experience that I'd highly recommend.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Despite the Nora ~ Horizon Zero Dawn

So this is very, very late, but I'm working on a Persona 5 review and I wanted to make sure that my Horizon video made an appearance on my blog before that time. Truthfully, I'm pretty proud of this video despite the fact that it didn't get a ton of attention. Even if my channel never really "takes off" in the way I'd like, I still want to continue honing my craft in terms of writing and presentation. You never know where it might lead.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Oracle's Promise ~ Final Fantasy XV

I keep expecting there to be a period of time where I produce videos regularly, but so far that just has not happened. A combination of factors has influenced this. First of all, I'll freely admit that procrastination, laziness, and depression are principal factors involved in why I haven't been producing content, but there's more to it than that. My standards of quality have increased so I generally spend a lot more time on these videos than I have in the past-and it's easy to become disillusioned with the whole process because realistically these videos are not going to reach a wide audience, no matter how much I try to promote them. I think I have to temper my expectations, though. I spend a ton of time playing video games so I might as well get something out of that time--and it's a good exercise for the analytical side of my personality. And well, if I keep doing it, maybe I'll get better and something will come of it.

Okay, so I'm rambling. Anywhere, here we go. This is my video review of Final Fantasy XV, some four months after the game came out (and it didn't take me long to finish, either). Enjoy.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The 2016 Video Game Retrospective

The 2014 Video Game Retrospective
The 2015 Video Game Retrospective

Oh man, I definitely beat my record for the past two years. This time we're coming in at a whopping 44 games, shattering the previous record of 35. What's also different about this year is the fact that I did a video on my retrospective, clocking in at a whopping 19 minutes! Enjoy!