I Should Have Known Better…

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I had every intention of finishing up Tales of Berseria yesterday. I was 38 hours in and I felt like I was getting close to the end. All the plot points were wrapping up, I was doing a lot of backtracking through areas I’d been to before, and the cut scenes were getting more dramatic.

About an hour and a half in I was getting “end game boss soon” vibes. I must have forgotten I was playing JRPG…2 hours of playtime after that, I was tasked with hunting down a bunch of stuff, awakening some gods, fighting some more characters, and running all over the world again to do it. The more I tried to push the story the more stuff there was to do.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed my time with Tales of Berseria, but I wanted to see how the story ends. A lot of what I was doing in the final act wasn’t mere padding, it was touching more on the side characters backstories some more which I like about this game. I just didn’t expect it to take so long to do.I pushed on, determined to beat the game.

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Right around the 46 hour mark I had actually wrapped all of the character’s story arcs except our main character Velvet. I had summoned 4 gods so I could fight a fifth god for the fate of humanity. I was ready for the final battle. I stepped into the final area and was met with a multi-floor puzzle dungeon. I decided to put the controller down and do something else with the rest of my Saturday.

I came back to it fresh this morning to complete the final dungeon. When I played Tales of Zesteria, I rushed the final dungeon dodging all the encounters between me and the final boss.  That wasn’t such a great plan. The final boss rocked my under-leveled world so hard I had to drop the difficulty to do any damage. So I took my time leveling up. I may have gone a bit overboard but it was worth. I felt like the final fight had a good level of difficulty. In all, it took 3 hours to see the credits roll. Leaving my total playtime at 49 hours.

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When it was all over I had mixed feelings. The story was great and I wanted to see it’s conclusion but part of me didn’t want the game to end. After spending almost 50 hours with these characters I’m going to kind of miss them. I felt the same way after Zestiria. There is a little part of me that wants to start up a new game plus but the rational part of me knows it’s time to move on to a different and much shorter game.

The Slow Road Through Amalur

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I’ve settled into a nice groove with Kingdoms of Amalur. Lately,  it’s been taking up most if not all of my solo gaming time. At 30 hours in, I find myself in Rathir, the city of the Dokkalfar (Dark Elves) which is where I thought I left off playing on PS3. I can’t be sure though, I know I left off in a big city but that might have been Ysa, the city of the Fae,  and that was way earlier in the game. Perhaps I didn’t actually play this as much as I thought… The main story has me boarding a ship to the next continent so I’m guessing I’m halfway through the game.

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I’d like to say it’s the riveting gameplay or the stellar story that’s kept me playing but that’s not the case. In fact, the combat I remember loving so much has turned out to be just so so. Especially now that I have two AoE attacks that will one-shot almost anything that’s not a large creature. The main story isn’t bad but it’s not all that exciting. What it boils down to is: I’m the chosen one who’s going to break the stalemate in a war that’s been going on for 10 years. Probably, by killing the leader of the Tuatha, Gadflow.

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AoE in action

No, what’s kept me going is the world-building going on in this game. In yet another deviation from how I usually play RPGs, I’m taking my time reading and listening to text that isn’t needed to progress. I’ve found this extremely rewarding thus far. Most NPC’s will have a few lines of dialog relating to the quest and then a list of topics that they’ll also talk about. These range from the zone/city your in, themselves, other NPCs, and events going on in the game world. At first glance, it seems like most of the NPCs will talk about the same topics but I’ve found that each NPC adds just a bit more information about any given topic. I’ve also been reading the books I’ve found on my adventures which do a great deal to flesh out little bits of the world and unlike Skyrim, most of them are interesting to read through. It’s actually kind of amazing how much time and effort was put into completely optional dialogue and text. Especially when you consider that everything is voiced too.

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Kobolds are basically very large rats

I mentioned that I was choosing which quests to do based on urgency. Right now the main quest has me meeting with 2 people who I might be able to help and turn the tide of the war. The way I see it, the war’s been on for 10 years they can wait a few more days to turn it around. So I’ve been doing side quests, a lot of side quests. As of right now, I’ve completed 76 quests. Most of these quests have been interesting and added to the world. I have run into a few quests that are of the “kill 10 rats” variety. For the most part, though they’ve been thoughtfully amazing. I just finished up a quest in Rathir where I helped a wealthy merchant’s son fake his own death by starting a duel with a war hero, putting a sedative on the war hero’s dueling sword, and then arranging for a ship to load him on and take him far away from the war. Unfortunately for him, his mother found out and paid me handsomely to ship him instead straight to Klurikon, the front lines of the war.

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Sir, do you know you’re bleeding all over me?

So I’ve been taking my time with the game. I’ve been completing zones even when they’re no longer a challenge, I’ve been going out of my way to find books I haven’t read yet, and I’ve been drilling down into these dialog trees. The fact that it’s all voiced makes it easier for me to choose those optional dialog trees. That being said, I haven’t gotten this much enjoyment out of an RPG in a long time. I’d be open to trying this method with another game in the future even if it’s all text.

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?

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Quick Impressions: Remnant From the Ashes

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This fog door looks very familiar…

I don’t often buy games at full price. In fact, I don’t even remember the last time I did so. This month I’m going to do it twice. I’m getting Borderland 3 at the end of the week and I purchase Remnant from the Ashes last weekend.

I learned about Remnant maybe a week before the release date. From the trailer, I wasn’t sure what kind of game it was. It looked like a third-person shooter that might have been a looter shooter a la  Hellgate London. All I know is that the setting and the monsters made me want to play it. I held off on release day though because I was out of spending money for the month and because I wanted to know what the game was.

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The reviews came out: “Dark Souls with Guns!” Which was confusing because it didn’t look like it had all that much to do with Dark Souls and it kind of put me off to the game. I don’t hate Dark Souls but I never got into them as much as other people. I enjoyed Demon Souls, some of my best memories from gaming were because of that game but Dark Souls-Bloodborne did nothing for me. To this day Bloodborne is the only game I’ve ever traded back in when I was done with it.

Anyways, a few more days passed and the reviews changed their toon. It wasn’t that much like Dark Souls, after all, it was it’s own game, imagine that. I had the money, I had the desire to play something new, I was kind of hoping my friends might pick it up on sale one day. So I bought it.

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I’m 5 hours in and I can tell you that I’m very much enjoying it. See, it is a little like Dark Souls after all but it’s taken the good things about Dark Souls. The level design encourages exploration to find hidden items, lore, and short cuts. Learning enemy attacks and movements and finding the most efficient way of taking them out. Most importantly, the combat isn’t clunky and the roll animation doesn’t take an unnaturally long time to finish

The boss fights are fair but difficult. Sometimes it does seem like they’re tuned more for multiplayer than single-player campaigns. Which is fine because as long as you’re playing in a public lobby, anyone can join you on your adventure. The first 2 boss encounters I had to do a few times before I beat them but, man, did it feel good when I finally downed them. Especially the first one. The first 2 boss encounters were so much easier with a second person and a third probably would have made them trivial. That’s ok with me too. I’ve always liked exploring the levels more than boss fights anyways.

It does seem like progress isn’t saved unless your hosting. I had a nice run with a stranger through a part of the game I was struggling with only to find out when I logged back in that I had to do that part over. It did give me a bunch of crafting materials though so it wasn’t all bad.  I’m looking forward to seeing more of the story and exploring more of the world.

Quick Impressions: Valkyria Chronicles

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One of my goals this month was to beat another game from my backlog. At the beginning of the month, I was debating on whether to play Argarest Generations or Valkyria Chronicles. I had already put some time into Argarest before the month started but I have been wanting to play Valkyria Chronicles since I owned a PS3.  Realizing it was halfway through the month already, I had to make a decision, and quick. So I settled on Valkyria Chronicles this weekend.

I didn’t have a ton of time for gaming over this weekend. Saturday was one of my good friend’s wedding and Sunday we had some family obligations. I got in just enough playtime to sink my teeth into the game.

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Valkyria Chronicles is a game about war and the people it affects. The Second Europan War has begun as Imperial forces invade Federation land for the precious resource Ragnite. Caught in the middle is the neutral nation of Gallia where we meet our main characters Alicia, leader of the town militia, and Welkin, a scientist returning home to take his sister to the capital.

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This isn’t the game I thought it would be. I’ll admit I did very little research before buying it because JRPG World War 2 sounded like such an interesting concept. I was under the impression that this would something of a third-person shooter with some strategy elements. This was not the case. The gameplay is more akin to XCOM where you move units, give orders, and watch the action play out. Despite being a completely different game than what I thought, I quite enjoyed my time with it.

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I’m looking forward to playing more of this in the coming weeks. I’m not sure if I’ll finish it by the end of the month but it’s been a while since a single-player game has caught my attention.

Sanctum 2 – Electric Boogaloo

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Sanctum 2 was on my wishlist for years. Like at least 2 years. Every time there was a steam sale I’d see it for $3 and try to convince my friends that we should play this one as our next multiplayer game. It looked right up our ally. 4 player co-op, perfect of our group size, FPS, and a tower defense game. And every time they’d say sounds great and proceed not to buy it. So this year, I decided to spend the big bucks and buy the 4 pack and gift them all the game. And you know what? They actually said, “why haven’t we played this sooner.”

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Now I’m no stranger to tower defense games. I remember when Bloons was all the rage back in high school. Orcs Must Die 2 used to be Jay and I’s go-to game to just chill. We used to see how many waves on endless we could get to. But Orcs Must Die 2 is only 2 player and after a while, you’ve killed so many orcs on the same few maps it’s time for a change.

Sanctum 2 is exactly like Orcs Must Die 2 if you’d like to use that as a reference. However, instead of killing Orcs your tasked with killing weird bug creatures and stuff. It was developed by Coffee Stain Studios, and yes those are the same people who brought Goat Simulator into our lives.  And much like Orcs Must Die 2, I’ve never played Sactum1 and probably never will.

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Each map starts with a character selection screen. There are 4 different characters to choose in the base game. Each one has a different primary weapon and special ability. I’ve taken a liking to Skye Autumn whos got an assault rifle and a double jump. Each player chooses their weapon towers for the match and is given a number of platforms and money. The general strategy for most maps is to create paths with the platforms that make the enemies run across your guns multiple times. It’s really a game of how long can you inconvenience the AI by blocking their path over and over again before they reach the core. The core has a health bar and when it’s dead it’s game over.  Each map has a set number of rounds that progressively get harder. We’ve had to do a few maps over and over until we worked out the correct way to path the enemies.

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We’ve been working our way through the game for a couple of weeks now. Mostly it’s been Jay and me, the game is perfectly manageable with 2 people but it really shines with 4. The few times we’ve played it as a group it’s been incredible. I’m not sure if the enemies scale with the group size but there are definitely some maps that would be a lot easier with 4 people. Last night, we arrived on a map called The End. I can only assume we’re close to beating the game. Good thing we bought all the DLC too because I’m not ready for it to end.