Quick Impressions: Valkyria Chronicles

20190817150424_1.jpg

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.

20190815185518_1.jpg

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.

20190815184233_1.jpg

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.

20190815184805_1.jpg

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.

Advertisements

Sanctum 2 – Electric Boogaloo

20190807211310_1.jpg

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.”

20190630221513_1.jpg

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.

20190710221405_1.jpg

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.

20190710215407_1.jpg

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.

Backlogged: The Last Door- Season 2

20190706103209_1.jpg

The Last Door: Season 2 took me longer to finish than the first season both in hours played and the time I took between each episode. Season 1 grabbed me and didn’t let go, the story was interesting with each episode leaving me with such a good cliff hanger I just had to know what happened. Plus, it was the first point and click game I’ve played in a while so the novelty also had a strong pull on my playtime. Season 2 on the other hand, had a good story but wasn’t nearly as compelling and I spread it out over a few weeks. It took me 7 hours in total to get through all 4 chapters. There were a few achievements I missed so there is more content there if I ever went back for a second playthrough.

I chose to both games of the series through Steam but they are also available on mobile devices.

Story

20190707095938_1

I was a bit worried when season 2 was not a direct continuation from season 1. This season has us following Dr. Wakefield, Jeremiah Devitt’s psychologist as tries to unravel the mystery of where his patient’s disappearance. He consults with his colleague, Dr. Kaufmann, who has more knowledge about the occult circumstances of Devitt’s disappearance.

Episode 3 was by far my favorite. The setting, Elis Mor, was amazing. This was an island with weird rituals, creepy residents, and an ominous deep hole where a monster supposedly slept.

Gameplay

20190707090019_1

Much like season 1, the gameplay in The Last Door – Season 2 does not get too in the way of the story. The puzzles aren’t easy but with a little thought, they can be solved fairly quickly. I did find myself running between rooms and areas frequently as I had missed a small detail or had a new idea for a solution.

I liked the inclusion of multiple areas and a map this time around. Each episode in the first game

When it comes to gameplay, Episode 2 was my favorite. It was filled with riddles and made me feel smart when I could figure them out without looking up a guide. Thanks for stroking my ego!

Episode 3 was by far the hardest for me. I will admit to looking up the solution for a particular part but that was only after a half-hour of running around trying objects with different things. I forgot that objects can be used with people as well. To be fair though, I probably wouldn’t have ended up figuring this out on my own and I wanted to keep progressing in the story.

Sound

20190803114523_1

The Last Door would be a much less exciting experience without the fantastic soundtrack and sound design. I’m not usually paying enough attention to the sound for it to matter in most games but The Last Door does everything right in this category. There are intense moments that are heightened by the sound. The sound is also the only way for this game to really deliver jumps scares, which it does sparingly but in the right places.

Graphics

The art style The Game Kitchen chose for The Last Door works in a way I didn’t think it would. The low resolution actually makes some of the monsters and settings creepier. You can’t tell exactly what they are but your mind fills in the rest. I find that this works very well for this style of game.

20190803121455_1

 

20190803123222_1

 

20190803122733_1

Final Thoughts

I found this season creepier overall than the first game but the story and mystery weren’t quite as compelling for me. The season did bring some nice changes from Season 1 in terms of gameplay. The story did start to get a little fuzzy towards the end of Episode 4 but I wasn’t disappointed in the ending. It was as close to closure as you can get with this type of story. A good thing too since there are no plans for a third season.

So if you’re looking for a horror game with a great story I cannot recommend The Last Door enough.

20190803125616_1

 

 

 

Backlogged: The Last Door: Season 1

20190705075411_1

I love horror. Across all media, it’s my favorite genre. My favorite kind of horror isn’t in your face slashers and monsters. It’s the psychological, creepy, unsettling horror that not only makes your skin crawl but makes you think as well. That’s exactly the kind of horror the Last Door is.

Originally released episodically, Season 1 provides the first 4 chapters of The Last Door. It follows Jerimiah Devitt after he receives a letter from an old boarding school friend Anthony Beechworth. Devitt arrives at the Beechworth Estate,  in Victorian-era Sussex, only to find that his friend has hanged himself. He discovers another letter instructing him to seek answers at his old boarding school which has been turned into an end of life care facility. There he remembers the events of him and 4 others conducting a ritual to see “beyond the veil”.  Throughout the game, Devvit sees a huge bird eye and there is a heavy emphasis on crows. There is another story with 2 psychiatrists talking about their patient Devvit. It is unclear whether this is taking place before, during, or after the events of the game.

20190704132555_1

 

20190704132210_1

I didn’t think a game that looked like this could be unsettling. If there is a game that proves you don’t need fantastic graphics to convey a great story and have a great gaming experience it’s this one. The sound design makes the experience very immersive. In fact, the sounds are the scariest parts. The auditory jump scares they are placed sparingly and in just the right moments. The original music by Carlos Viola carries the game. The piano is haunting, sad, and creepy. Plus, there’s a different track for almost every room.

20190703174755_1
Okay, that’s a little creepy
20190704132506_1
And that…..

20190704142044_1

Point and Click games are hit or miss for me. Sometimes the gameplay gets in the way of the story. It can be frustrating when I can’t figure out a puzzle but I want to continue the story. That isn’t the case here. The items and their use are very logical. There was only one time, in episode 4, that I had a hard time figuring out what to do next. after about a half an hour using objects on anything and everything, I ran to the internet for help. Turns out I had missed an entire area and a lightbulb had to be used with a dead deer to make a light for a photography darkroom. Other than that the puzzles were logical without being too easy.

20190704132027_1

20190704132025_1

My favorite part of Season 1 was in episode 3. There’s an area that is covered in fog and throughout the episode, the characters tell you it cannot be traversed without a map. It turns out the map is actually a poem and you have to match the sound clues in the foggy area to lines in the poem to make it through. This section highlights the best parts, the sound design, and the writing.

20190705075642_1

After the first 4 chapters, there are 4 mini-scenes in the extras.  They don’t give any answers to the original chapters and provide a lot of questions for the next season. I wan’t expecting these when I finished the game and clicked the extras menu. It was a nice touch.

It took me 5 hours to complete Season 1. That’s more time than I initially thought I would get out of it. I’m very much looking forward to playing through season 2 and seeing how the story plays out.

20190705080545_1

 

 

Going West

20190418190904_1

I left work on Thursday ready for the 3 day weekend ahead. I left earlier than usual because the place was dead. I do IT at a school and, trust me, no one wants to deal with a broken computer the day before a break. That’s what Monday is for.

I got home and went to boot up Trove only to find that I was getting a network error when I tried to log in. Shortly after, the launcher reported that the game was offline for some emergency maintenance. My plans for the evening were put on indefinite hold. So I went hunting around on my desktop for something else to play.

I settled on World to The West. I believe this game came from a Humble Bundle Monthly and I had no idea what to expect going in. From the few screenshots on the store page, it looked like a top-down RPG of some sort. As it turns out, this game is actually a standalone follow up to Teslagrad. I’ve played Teslagrad on the PS4 thanks to PS+. I didn’t get very far but it’s a solid Metroidvania.

20190418191244_1

World to the West turns out to be less of an RPG and more of a puzzle game with a story.  So far I’ve played as 3 characters. There’s Lumina the teslamancer who can teleport a short distance,  Knaus the miner who can dig under the terrain to avoid enemies and crawl through small spaces, and Miss Teri the mercenary who can grapple onto ledges with her scarf and, uh, mind control animals. Ya, that’s something I didn’t see coming.

The story has Lumina accidentally getting teleported away from her family after messing with her parent’s machines. She ends up in an unknown location, runs around for a bit, and then promptly falls into a hole. Cut to chapter two where we meet Knaus who is trying to convince his mining operation that they are not, in fact, on the moon. This revelation is made after he and a group of others find a tree growing underground. After explaining this to the higher-ups he’s exiled to wanter the caves alone. Cut to chapter three and we meet Miss Teri. A daring mercenary hired to retrieve an ancient relic from a cave. Shortly after venturing out from the town Teri meets Knaus at a totem with 4 faces on it, two of which are theirs. At this point Knaus if following Teri and this is where the real heart of the game lies.

20190418201723_1

There are totems throughout the world that serve as both save points and fast travel points. The catch is each character has to touch the totem before they can use it to fast travel. So if Teri reaches a totem using her special abilities then you have to find a way for Knaus to reach that totem using his abilities in order for him to use the fast travel. I like this concept as it makes you really pay attention to the environment.

I ended up switching between characters a lot. Sometimes there’s a key that one character can’t reach so I would have to switch to the other character, run them back o where I was and pick up the key for the other character to use.

Here’s what typically happens to me with puzzle games. I really enjoy the beginning where the game teaches you all the mechanics of the game.  I start to feel confident leveraging all the different parts to complete the puzzles, progressing at a good clip. And then the game throws a curveball where I’m stuck. Then I put it down and never come back.

20190418193127_1

I’ve been attempting to get better at not quitting when games get complicated. I don’t think I’m far enough into World to the West to hit a major head-scratching challenge. I have run into a couple of areas where I ran around for a few minutes trying to figure out how to progress. This almost always came down to me missing something like a small side path or a key.

This game has great music. I don’t often pay attention to music in games but, when it’s good, it sticks out. Each area seems to have its own track. I find myself trying to complete a difficult area just so I can hear the next song.

I’m looking forward to playing more. The writing is quirky and doesn’t take itself too seriously. I want to see where this story goes and the core gameplay is enjoyable. Maybe next time I play it won’t be because the other game I want to play is down for emergency maintenance.

 

Backlogged: Hiveswap Act 1

In an effort to get back into playing games I already own I fired up How Long to Beat Steam. I usually use this when I don’t know what I want to play and sort by the time to beat the main storyline. This is how I sort my Steam Games on Deck sidebar and I haven’t updated it in a very long time.

This game was next on the list with a playtime of only 2 hours. This cam as a surprise to me, I thought I had avoided the cliche of a PC gamer who didn’t know all of their steam games, but I have no idea where I got this from. My best guess is from Humble Monthly as this isn’t the kind of game I would usually choose to buy.

20180903104314_1.jpg

Hiveswap is kind of a big deal if you look at its history. In 2012, a Kickstarter was put up by Andrew Hussie to make a video game based off is webcomic Homestuck. The Kickstarter raised $700,000 dollars in just under 32 hours and raised $2.4 million dollars overall. It became the third highest grossing video game in Kickstarter history at the time. The game was supposed to be released in 2014 after starting development in 2013 but arrived for purchase 3 years later in September 2017. It went through a number of iteration, starting as a 3D game and eventually scaling back into a 2D point and click adventure game.

Before playing this game I had no knowledge of either the Kickstarter story or the Homestuck webcomic. I vaguely remember reading something on Reddit about it when it was released but other than that it hadn’t crossed my radar. From the perspective of going in blind, it was a good game, a little short without much challenge.

The game bills itself as a tribute to 90’s adventure games without any of the frustration.I can agree with that, it pretty much leads you by the nose to what you need to do next to progress in the story. There’s hardly anything challenging about Hiveswap, it plays like an interactive webcomic. Luckily the art, music, and writing really make up for the simplified gameplay.

Hiveswap starts off with two kids playing with their dog in the backyard when monsters appear in the yard. The kids are separated as they are chased around by monsters and Joey Claire ends up being chased into her room. Her brother Jude is stuck in the tree house and one of the first things you’re tasked with doing is finding batteries for your walkie-talkie to talk to Jude. The first half of the game revolves around Joey trying to get to the attic because her brother is convinced is the safest place in the house.

20180902112728_1

Hiveswap takes place in 1994 and as a result, every room in Joey’s house is chalk full of 90’s childhood nostalgia. Including but not limited to a Light Brite, street sharks, and pogs. The art is fantastic and there is so much stuff crammed into each of the areas. There’s a lot of interactable objects in each scene, most of them don’t do much besides give some funny flavor text.

20180902113804_1

In the second half, Joey finds a mysterious device in the attic that is activated by a family heirloom. Suddenly, she is ported into a nightmarish sci-fi world in the middle of a revolution. Oh, and it’s inhabited by troll people.  It turns out Joey has been swapped with Dammek, the child leader of the revolution in Alternia. It’s more of the same gameplay as the first half with a funky sci-fi backdrop. Presumably, this is where the rest of the story will take place in the later acts.

20180902194216_1.jpg

According to the wiki, there are suppose to be 4 acts of Hiveswap and the second game following Dammek called Hauntswitch. I’m not a fan of episodic games because I don’t like waiting for more story. I’d rather have a full experience than one broken up into pieces. The story of Hiveswap isn’t anything new but I like the characters enough to want to know what will happen next. Unfortunately, it’s hard to gauge exactly when the next act will be released if ever. The original release was supposed to be Spring 2018, but spring has come and gone without much talk of a new release date. Meanwhile, the studio has pushed out 10 volumes of a Hiveswap visual novel. Where that 2.4 million went is unclear. The game has high-quality art and music but 2.4 million for 2 point and click games seems a bit steep.

Backlogged: Tales of Zestiria

20180727195925_1.jpg

As I mentioned a little while ago, Tales of Zestiria is the first JRPG I’ve played in a very long time. The last one I played was Final Fantasy back in January 2017. I picked it and it’s prequel-sequel Tales of Berseria up during the Steam sale because I had wanted to play them for a while and nothing else was catching my eye.

I had some doubts that this game was for me at the beginning. I didn’t know what to expect going in, this being my first “Tales of” game. If you don’t like your game filled to the brim with cut scenes this is not the game for you. Especially in the at the start it felt like there was a cut scene every five minutes. Then there was the weird battle system which the game throws a lot of information about at you for  a while. I also couldn’t get past the fact that even when I had my character set on manual he’d only move in a straight line.

But I had heard it was good and I pushed on through the first few hours. Gradually it became much more enjoyable. I got used to the pacing of the game and I was really enjoying the story. It’s nota ground breaking narrative just your average hero’s journey. The main character Sorey is a human who grew up with Seraphim, kind of like spirits, and sets out on a quest with his best friend to see the world. Turns out most humans can’t see Seraphim, so Sorey spends a good portion of the first act talking to himself in public. Along the way he becomes the Shepard, aka the chosen one, who has the responsibility to defeat the Lord of Calamity. Cue the game play equivalent of a montage as you collect your various party members for the second act. The third act is running around the world learning how to use your new found powers and helping out in the various cities. The Act 4, it’s time to take down the Big Bad Lord of Calamity.

It’s pretty standard stuff but what I really enjoyed was that it never took itself too seriously. It’s very light-hearted and is full of bright  happy colors. Even the darker aspects of the story overly dramatic. Which is kind of weird because at one point you come across a group of dead children. This is probably one of the only games I’ve played where I’ve seen that.

20180719201501_1.jpg

JRPG’s live and die by their battle system because there usually isn’t too much else to do outside of it. Tales of Zestiria almost died for me. Even after reading the walls of text the game through at me I still wasn’t getting it. Plus it was really frustrating  that I could only move in a straight line. I never thought I’d be so happy to unlock the ability to move left and right. About 10 hours in it finally clicked with me and I started to enjoy the battles a lot more. Essentially you have a set of moves and that have elemental properties and enemies are weak to certain elements. I have no idea why this took me so long to grasp but it might be because it was coupled with a stamina bar that I didn’t understand only replenished when you guarded. Once I figured that out things ran a bit more smoothly. The game also never stops with the tutorials for combat it adds on a few more things but then you can find these stones out in the world with different tool tips for combat. I think it’s a great system because it can be as deep or shallow as you want it to be and still enjoy the game.

20180719194438_1.jpgThe last time I wrote about this game I was about halfway through and I was questioning whether it was a good game or I just thought it was good because it was different than what I had been playing. I can confidently say that after 45 hours it was a good game. And what made it a good game for me was the characters. As generic as the story is it works because of the cast of characters. Sure they all fall into your stereotypical tropes but I really liked all of them. Those cut scenes that pop up so often help build up the characters and their relationships. There are these visual novel-esque cut scenes that pop up when you rest at an in or find a point of interest that further develop the characters. A lot of them may be one or two dimensional personalities but you spend so much time listening to them interact that they become a fuller character.

20180729094309_1.jpg

I think I’ll hold off on playing Tales of Berseria for now. I was getting antsy towards the end of Zestiria. For as good as it was it overstayed it’s welcome just a tad to long. I wouldn’t have minded it but 5 or so hours before the end of the game the story seems to be saying “This way to the end boss” and then decides that it wants to take you down one more side story arc before the end. I also forgot that final bosses in JRPS’s usually have multiple forms. I ended up using a lot of items on the first fight because he was 20 levels higher than me. Then the second form came and my heart sank. I didn’t want to spend a few more hours grinding to beat it so I had to turn the difficulty down form moderate e to simple. I wanted to see how the story would end.

*Side note: I don’t usually care much about video game music but the music in this is freaking awesome!

20180729103125_1.jpg

20180729104211_1.jpg