Backlogged: Pokemon Shield

This is a rare event indeed. Not only did I buy Pokemon Shield but I played it all the way through with very little breaks. Yes, my dear friends, I have become the Pokemon Champion of the Galar region in just a few week’s time!

This year (or rather last year) my wife and I got each other a Switch for Christmas. You see my wife only likes to play “cute” games and who has cuter games than Nintendo? No one that’s who. I, on the other hand, wanted a pokemon machine. Ok, and a play indie games on my couch instead of at my desk machine. Not nearly as catchy of a title though.

Ever since I played Pokemon Blue on my cousins’ couch at 9 years old I’ve been hooked on Pokemon. I was a child of the late 90s and early 2000s so I didn’t stand a chance from avoiding the Pokemon hype train. Those were some prime Pokemon years. It was everywhere and every kid in elementary school was watching the show, trading the cards, playing the games. Oh, and of course there were the spin-offs. Remember Pokemon pinball? Pokemon the Trading Card Game The Game? And who could forget Pokemon Snap?

But you know, as great as it was to pretend to be Ash I always wanted to play Pokemon on my TV. Even in the old days with 2d sprites and 8 bit music I always the experience would be enhanced if I could just play it on my TV. Also not having to change batteries and having to find a light source you had to angle just right to see the Gameboy screen would have also been a plus. Man handheld gaming was hardback in the day.

Then there was Pokemon Stadium for the N64 and that really gave me a taste of what I wanted. But that wasn’t enough for me, oh no, I wanted a mainline Pokemon game on my TV. You know what I got instead?

  • Pokemon Stadium 2
  • Pokemon Colosseum
  • Pokemon XD
  • Pokemon Battle Revolution

Sadly, I’ve had to wait 19 years for a pokemon adventure I could play on my TV. And you know what? It was worth the wait!

To tell you the truth, I had fallen out of love with Pokemon games ever since finishing Pokemon Y. Pokemon y was the first time I experienced 3d pokemon battles in a mainline Pokemon game. That alone had me hooked until the end. Pokemon Alpha Sapphire did not inspire the same level of excitement. Neither did Sun and Moon. I’ve bought these games but I lost interest about 2 hours in.

Things I Liked:

I think that break helped to make this Pokemon installment that much better. I was constantly discovering Pokemon that I’d never seen before only to find that they were a generation or two old. I only found one pokemon from this newest generation I wasn’t a fan of (Carkol I mean it’s a cart full of coal with eyes…) but I thought the rest were solid additions. My favorite by far was Centiscorch which had a place on my team ever since I found her. Oh and can we please talk about Sirfetch’d. This pokemon right here is the reason I have to berate my friends with Sword to trade with me.

The graphics worked for me. I was pleasantly surprised that this wasn’t 3DS pokemon blown up to TV size. I had no issues with the way the pokemon looked or their animations. It all made me feel like I was in a season of Pokemon ripped from straight from 90s TV.

The length of the game was perfect for me. I completed it in just over 21 hours and througholy enjoyed my whole time with it. I haven’t done the post game story yet but I’ll get to it eventually. I never was into the endgame of pokemon. Grinding EVs to battle online and looking for shiny’s never did it for me.

The way the story was presented as a tournament was a nice change of pace. I liked the way the “Elite 4” of this game were just the same Gym Leaders with stronger pokemon. At the same time, I did miss not having the Elite 4 to take on at the end.

Showing which moves are effective against the type of pokemon your facing.  I lost track of strengths and weaknesses in like…Gen 3. So this was a welcome addition. Of course, you have to fight the pokemon once to have this show up.

Character customization. Tacking on dress up to a pokemon game was not something I knew I wanted until I had it.

Things I Didn’t Like:

The difficulty: I don’t expect a lot of challenges from a Pokemon game but I expect to have some close calls and need to level a little bit. I tore straight through Shield without doing any leveling and was always a good 10 to 15 levels ahead. I lost once at the end of the tournament to the Champion. That was the only time I had a total party wipe. Though this could be because I wasn’t cheap this time around and spent money on potions and status restorers

I could take or leave Dynamaxing. While it was cool the first few times, after a while, it was just kinda there. Oh that gym leaders on their last pokemon? They’re gonna Dynamax and we’ll have to finish the match with the big pokemon. It was hilarious to Dynamax Inteleon. He’s already tall and when he’s Dynamaxed most of the time I couldn’t see his head.

Other Stuff

The team I used to beat the Champion:

  • Inteleon – because I have to keep my starter always
  • Centiskorch – my favorite out of this gen
  • Heliolisk – because I’ve never used it before
  • Eternatus – Because I have to use the legendary even if it is basically a god. Props to the developers putting in a line about the strongest trainer using the strongest pokemon when you face the Champion.
  • Tyranitar – Found her at level 60 but she didn’t end up being that useful
  • Drifblim – Ended up being one of the staples of the team. His description in the Pokedex though  “It grabs people and Pokemon and carries them off somewhere. Where do they go? Nobody knows.”

On a side note, I didn’t realize the internet was all up in arms about this game until after I finished it. Mostly of the “they sold us an incomplete game” variety. Even more, so that DLC was announced. I felt this was a complete game even without 800 pokemon. 400 pokemon is plenty of variety for me.

On the side side note: This lack of screenshots brought to you by the Swtich being a pain to get screenshots out of without an SD card.

Questing with Urgency

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I ran into an interesting Reddit thread last week that I can no longer find. The jist of the discussion was about how different people tackled open-world RPGs, especially when it came to questing.

Typically, when I find myself in an RPG I follow the same pattern. Create a character, do the intro exposition main quest, then vacuum up all of the side quests, and tackle them one at a time until I run out. Once the area is clear I’ll pick up the main quest again until I find another side quest to distract me. And then repeat. This is actually burned me in a few games to the point where I just stopped playing them. I’m looking at you Skyrim and The Withcer 3…

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So I was looking for a new way to approach  Kingdoms of Amalur. KOAR lends itself perfectly to the above method. There are side quests everywhere and also conveniently located in MMO style quest hubs. There are a few quests I’ve run into out in the world but the majority of them are picked up in towns.

I found one unique answer in the thread that I wanted to put into practice for my playthrough. It suggested doing quests based on their urgency. Whether their the main story or a side quest, rescuing someone from immediate danger takes precedence over meeting with someone to discuss something or fetching materials for someone. I’d never thought of doing this before.

So far I’ve found this method to be quite immersive. It’s also been limiting the amount of time between story quests which tends to happen when attempting do all the side quests I see. I’m finding that the story flows better and I’m more engaged with the main quest. But it also leads to situations where I’ll do a whole sidequest line because it feels more important than meeting up with the next story beat.

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For example, the main quest was having me meet up with Alyn Shir, a mysterious assassin looking character who keeps showing up at the worst times, to meet with someone in the House of Ballads to decipher an ancient artifact. While that’s all well and good, on the way I stopped at a town that was suffering from a plague. Didenhil was on the brink of being wiped out when I arrived. I put the learning more about the Codex of Destiny on hold to run several quests to not only gather materials for the medicine to fight the plague but also find its source and destroy it.

I found it difficult at first to skip the yellow exclamation marks when the main quest called for it. Old habits die hard but it’s getting easier as I do it. I’ve had to remind myself several times that I can always come back if I want to. It’s not like I need to do the side quests, I’m already feeling over-leveled for the zone I’m currently in, but there’s that chance that a side quest could reveal an interesting tidbit of lore or launch a quest chain that’s more interesting than the main story.

How do you guys tackle the whole main quests vs side quest thing in the games you play?

 

Limiting New Games in 2020

When I told my wife my New Years’ resolution this year she laughed and said: “I don’t believe you.” I told her I wasn’t buying any new games this year and would finish the ones I already had. Then I thought about it some more and I agree with her I couldn’t do it. So I refined said resolution to buying only games that I know I want to play as soon as I buy them.  Currently, there are only 3 coming out in 2020 that meet these criteria.

  1. Animal Crossing: New Horizons
  2. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX
  3. Cyberpunk 2077

I can confidently say that 20 days into 2020 I have purchased 0 new games on a whim. So far so good.  I also decided that DLC for games I finish is fine to buy if I want to play it and free to play games I’ve already played are fair game as well. Right now my stable of games include Warframe, Monster Hunter World, Sanctum 2, and Kingdoms of Amular: Reckoning

I love New Year’s resolutions. Sure they may seem silly sometimes and cliche I think they’re still worth making. It’s a chance to look at the year ahead and think about, in a perfect world what would I like to accomplish this year.

We’re gonna get personal here for a minute. For the first time since I graduated college some 5 years ago, I’m content with where my life and career are right now. I spent the first few years out of college trying to figure out what I was going to do with a BA in History. In 2018, I started a career in IT and as of a month ago landed at one of the best places to work in my area. So I am really grateful that I can stop chasing the next job and settle into a place for a few years. Perfect timing for a less serious resolution.

 

 

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning – The Second Time Around

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I spent most of my gaming time this weekend on Kingdoms of Amalur. I’m trying to make a real effort in playing games I already own this year. And what better way to start that off then playing a game you already know that you like? The benefit of playing a game 7 years after you last played it is that you don’t remember much. Go figure, it’s almost like playing for the first time again.

The last time I played this for more than a half-hour was in 2013 on PS3. I don’t remember why I stopped playing I must have had to go back to school or something. I got decently far and then never touched it again. I endedup buying it at the end of 2018 in a Steam sale with all the DLC since the PS3 has been long since deceased.

Actually, I’m surprised that I can remember so little from it’s had a lasting effect on me. I’m always quick to recommend KOA to friends when they’re looking for a great RPG. What I do remember from playing the first time is the excellent combat and the class system which allows for a lot of flexibility.

There’s also the tutorial which I could run in my sleep at this point. What ends up happening in RPGs for me is it takes at least 8 tries before I’m happy with my character. Sometimes I don’t like the hair or the face. Sometimes I don’t like how a race looks walking around. Sometimes I just want to play a different class after playing for 3 hours….So I get very aqauinted with RPG starter zones.20200118094615_1

The original plan was to make a hammer-wielding melee character. So Boris here was born looking like he was born with a hammer in hand. Unfortunately, halfway through the tutorial, I found a staff that has a very satisfying move set. So instead of starting over at character creation I know have one burly looking mage. The more I look at him the more OK I am with the whole thing.

With this in mind, I also decided to do something I wouldn’t normally do. When you level up you are given a skill point to put into one of 9 different noncombat skills. I wanted to see what happened if I put as many points as I could into Persuasion. So far all this has done is given me a 3rd conversation option that involves convincing people to give me the quest items I just found for them. Which is very useful and sometimes hilarious. At one point I convinced two thieves the hat I stole was cursed and they just believed me and left. Another encounter the option was simply to tell the quest giver that I’m keeping this ring and you’re going to pay for my trouble.

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I’m also not investing in skills that require foraging for items in the world *cough* Alchemy *cough*. I did this last time I played which turned exploration into flower picking simulator. I tend to be cheap in games opting to do everything possible to not spend my hard-earned gold on health potions. But I’ll suck it up this time, I think there’s a heal skill in my future.

I decided to play a pure mage this time around. Last time I was a Finesse/ Sorcery hybrid so I didn’t want to play the same class again. This is yet another odd choice for me in RPGs where I usually roll some sort of DPS melee character. I figured if I’m going to make all these other new choices I might as well switch up the playstyle too. Though this decision was heavily influenced by the Chakram weapon type. Still to this day my favorite weapon in any RPGs. They’re a kind of magic throwing disc that comes back to the user and they are so satisfying to use. I’m glad that the combat is as good if not better than I remember. Its fluid, it feels good, and it makes me feel like a fantasy action hero.