Sunday, October 15, 2017

Shadow of War: Upon Further Review, the Shadow Wars

It took about 10~12 hours but I was able to complete the Shadow Wars over the weekend. I was happy to see the "true" ending but really it feels more like an epilogue and the "real" ending was the conclusion of Act III.

I did not enjoy the gameplay of the Shadow War. It felt like something that was literally bolted onto the end of the game just to prolong gameplay and try and sell microtransactions. I say try because they are completely unnecessary. I didn't spend any money and I was able to do it and I'm by no means great at this game.

I also didn't have to grind. I just defended my towers. All told you'll have to defend them about 20 times. Also you can easily dominate the invading elite and legendary Uruks which you can use to help defend your keep in further stages of the Shadow War.

Bottom line some irresponsible people in the games media wanted to generate clicks for the sites and said you have to spend money to finish this game. Its just absolutely not true.  But now a large part of the community has latched onto this narrative and ran with it.

What is true is the microtransactions are there for you to buy. You can get powerful members for your army. But you don't need to. It really won't ever speed things up for you that much. I was never grinding to get my army's level up. It was just defending keeps... a lot. It was not fun. It was in fact kind of terrible.


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Shadow of War: Initial Review

I reviewed Shadow of War, the Sequel to Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor over at MMORPG.com. You can find it here. I didn't really address the controversy surrounding the loot boxes. Primarily because during the first three acts they are a non factor.

I will try and finish the Shadow Wars over the weekend and report back in on how bad the pay to win is, or whether this is another instance of the internet creating a mountain out of a molehill. Until then.


Friday, September 22, 2017

Pokken Tournament DX: Bringing the Fight to the Switch

I did a review for Pokken Tournament DX over at GameSpace.

If you are entirely unfamiliar with Pokken Tournament it is the brainchild of the Pokemon Company and Namco Bandai. It’s what happens when you cross Pokemon and Tekken. You’ll take on the role of a trainer in this game but instead of working across the land to catch and train Pokemon you’ll take your Pokemon through a series of leagues and tournaments to become the number one fighter. There is also a light storyline that involves a Dark Mewtwo. You can’t confuse this with a serious Pokemon game but it definitely has some chops as a fighter.



You can read the rest of the review over at: https://www.gamespace.com/pokken-tournament-dx/review/ 

Bottom line it's a competent fighter but not a "real" Pokemon game. I gave it a 7.5.


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Project Octopath Traveler: What’s In A Name?

Earlier this year, before the release of the Switch, Nintendo and Square Enix teased everyone with a snippet of information about a new Switch exclusive RPG from the venerable game developer. The only thing I could take away at the time was the game had an interesting 16bit era aesthetic and one weird name. Project Octopath Traveler. What kind of name is that?


Turns out it might not be much of a name at all. After the recent Nintendo direct on Wednesday (9.13.17 for those of you reading this far, far into the future) a demo of Project Octopath Traveler was released on the eShop. We also found out that POT is just a working title. But that doesn’t mean it can’t stick around. It really just alludes to what happens in the game.

You can start your adventure as one of 8 different characters. In the demo you can only choose from 2, Olberic the knight, and Primrose the dancer. Eventually each of these characters will meet up and tell a larger tale but in the demo you only experience the introductory chapters of these characters. So now at least we understand the “Octo”.



Each of the characters also have their own path ability. Olberic can challenge people to a duel. If he is victorious he is rewarded with experience and items. Primrose can charm people and move them around the screen. She can also call them in for an assist during combat. Both of these abilities are handy if a NPC is blocking your character from going through a door or hallway. That clears up the whole “path” thing.

The last one is easy. They travel. So Project Octopath Traveler has gone from one of the most convoluted names to being right on the nose. They are also going to distribute a survey and solicit feedback from players. This really is a game still in development and because of that we won’t see it until later in 2018. I for one can wait because this was a really solid demo.






The pixel art is top notch and combat abilities are enhanced with modern particle effects for a truly dynamic look. The developers also use a field of focus technique which places your character and the center of the screen sharply in focus while leaving the outlying areas of the screen fuzzy, much like a high end portrait effect. This leaves the game with a mash up of old school and new school art for a look that is truly its own.

Combat is turn based with a focus on tactics. After each turn you’ll earn a point that you can use to buff your following attack. Attacks and abilities can also be buffed more than just once. If you have 4 points you can use 4 points to make your attack stronger. You can accumulate up to 5 of these points. The question is do you use one each turn or do you stack them? Each enemy also has a certain level of guard before they are weakened. You’ll have to find the type of attack that lowers their guard. Some enemies are weak to spears, others to swords, while others are strong against both but weak to magic. Typically it works best if you break your opponent's guard and then then unleash powerful abilities that you spend points on to buff to the max, but sometimes you can’t wait long enough to build up max points before you have to break your enemies guard. It sounds suboptimal but sometimes the other alternative is your character's death.

The only thing I didn’t like about POT was by the time I reached the first boss I was underleveled and had to grind. I’m hopeful by the time the game is released you don’t have to level grind just to fight the first boss. Other than that minor annoyance if you love RPGs and have a Nintendo Switch you should download this demo as soon as possible.

Friday, June 9, 2017

ARMS: A Knockout Punch for Nintendo

I reviewed ARMS for the Nintendo Switch over at GameSpace. This game truly is Nintendo at it's best mixing their formula to a genre to create something fresh. Go take a look: http://www.gamespace.com/arms/review/



Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Kamiko: The Best $5 You'll Spend on the Nintendo eShop

The Switch has fast become my favorite mobile game device of all time. Apart from the design of the hardware the flow of indies that are releasing on the device have made it my go to console. The most recent gem to be released is KAMIKO, and for $5 it's money well spent.




Developed by FlighHigh Works in KAMIKO you'll play as one of three princesses. Yamato with her two handed sword, Uzume with a bow and arrow, or Hinome with her sword and shield. You'll lead your princess through a series of 4 stages. In each stage you'll unlock for shrines. Once the shrines are unlocked you'll be able to encounter the final boss of a stage.

As you make your way through each stage enemies will be spawned when you reach certain trigger points. You can move in and out of areas to spawn waves of enemies to fill a blue resource you collect by killing them. This blue energy is used to break seals on treasure chests and other secrets and locks you'll encounter throughout the game.


Each stage has a number of puzzles which aren't overly difficult but offer a slight challenge. The main draw to the game is the aesthetics and the level design. You'll probably be able to beat the game in under 2 hours your first time through. This game invites you to play again and again to improve your time. If you were never interested in speed running before KAMIKO just might be the first game to scratch that itch. Apparently some players have the game down to 15 minutes already. It's pretty amazing.


The main draw for KAMIKO is its gorgeous pixel aesthetics and serene music score. It's also a very approachable adventure game that offers mild challenges while not being overly difficult. I even managed to miss a power up along the way and I thought I had checked every nook and cranny. While KAMIKO may be lacking a bit of depth you get what you pay for with this title and $5 dollars is definitely worth 2 hours of fun. 

8/10


How the Prey Demo Saved Me $60

I played the Prey demo over the weekend. I was excited for this game but after an hour with it I decided I won't be purchasing it. You can read more of my thoughts on it over at GameSpace.

Regardless I like when developers release demos. Sometimes they convince you to purchase the game. I was swayed by the Dragon Quest Builders Demo, Snipperclips, and Puyo Puyo Tetris. Sometimes they sway you the other way though.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

If I Were the Nintendo Strategy King For a Day


We are about 6 weeks into the life span of the Nintendo Switch and I’m really enjoying it so far. Sure it has its warts but what system doesn’t? One thing I’m doing more than I thought I would is playing the system in handheld mode. I’ve played it in parks, hotel bars, and even an airplane. I’ve inadvertently turned into a Switch evangelist with my love for Zelda and how well Nintendo pulled off a mobile console that allows for deep meaningful game play heretofore unheard of.

Along the way it did something else. It ruined the 3DS for me. I mean just flat, “I don’t want to play on it anymore.” It’s a shame too because there are some gems of games on there. It’s like intentionally handicapping myself. Why would I want to? And it’s not just that the games don’t look as good. I do play retro games so that has only marginal impact on me. [Heck I even hosted a retro MMO gaming series for MMORPG.com before retro gaming was cool.] It’s just not as complete of a gaming experience and I can now have complete gaming experiences on the go.


The Neon One is All the Rage
I’m now going to put on my corporate strategist hat and talk about what I would do if I was left to set the strategy for big N for the next few years. They may even have a plan like this in place already and just aren’t ready to talk about it (I’d put money on it they do). But regardless, this is what would happen under my watch.

First I’d sunset the 3DS. As part of this process I’d evaluate all the first party games that are currently in development and see if they could pivot to Switch. If they couldn’t transition and we still had a projected return on investment, I’d continue the production on the 3DS version and release it if they could come out before the end of 2019. If development could make the pivot, I’d have the game release on the Switch.

I’d notify all third party developers that we planned on discontinuing production of the 3DS by the end of 2019. They in turn could continue to make new games for the 3DS (and with a giant install base that could be very possible) but that as a company Nintendo would shift their sites solely on the Switch.

Production would cease on all new 3DS (and 2DS) devices during the middles of 2019. I don’t know how quickly the inventory on a DS churns so I can’t say and exact date here. I would make sure that Nintendo produced enough retailers could have inventory to make it through the holiday season but not so many that there would be any left going into 2020.

To correspond with the sunset of the DS system of devices we’d announce the Switch 2.0. This would have an improved processor, better battery life, and increased internal memory. The increases of each would match the curve of the increase in technology. I would speculate that there would be at least 128g of internal memory and battery life would see a 10 - 20% increase. The target price for this console would still be $299.99. Switch 1.0 would have a price reduction to $199.99. This would align it with the current price of the New Nintendo 3DS.

From this point Nintendo should plan on releasing a new Switch every 24 months. The new Switches would release at roughly a $299.99 price point and push the previous switch to a $199.99 or possibly even $149.99 price point. If stock was still available from two generations previous that would be discounted to $99.99 creating three distinct price points for consumers to gain access to the Switch.
Peripherals for the different versions of the Switch would stay consistent across the generations. While the screen size of the Switch might grow (Think Galaxy or iPhone + size compared to their base model) Joy-Cons would still attach to them on the side like they do the current Switch. Sure this might make for some interesting aesthetics but it insures that consumers feel safe buying expensive peripherals and don’t have to worry about buying into an entirely new ecosystem every two years. It would also allow Nintendo to continue to create colored variants and themed Joy-Cons and controllers and consumers maintain that higher level of comfortability that these devices wouldn’t be out dated in the next 18 months.

Because of the continuity with peripherals it would also open up the avenue to only sell the tablet portion of the Switch to consumers as an upgrade. This creates an ideal win / win for Nintendo and the customers because Nintendo could sell the upgrade at a reduced cost i.e. $250 or even $230 which would have a higher average revenue per unit that if Nintendo sold the tablet with Joy-Cons at the $300 SKU. It would allow the consumer to purchase just the tablet if that’s all they wanted and save money in the process. Everyone is happy.




Nintendo could also realize giant costs savings in manufacturing and development by moving to one ecosystem and no longer having to split their focus between the two. The virtual console could also be used to make beloved 3DS games available on the Switch, albeit with slight modifications to work on a single screen.

This Switch is doing things we haven’t seen since the Wii. It’s crossing demographic lines. I’ve seen a lady buy one for her three-year-old son. I’ve also bought one at the store for my mother. Demographics that don’t typically appeal to the PC, Xbox, or PS gamer. With an entry point of $99 I believe this could become one of the greatest selling consoles of all time easily giving the Wii a run for its money. It might take a decade or two but it could even catch up to the DS or PS2.

You may be looking at my website right now and confusing it with a Nintendo fan site. I really couldn’t blame you for that because of all the content surrounding the Switch. But hey, it’s the hot new thing so of course I’m going to talk about it. It’s what gets me excited. Just ask my wife. Don’t worry though. I’ll get back into other stuff soon enough. I plan on putting up and Orcs Must Die Unchained video later this week. Until then.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Talented Mr. Shifty

Hey everyone. Here is my video review of Mr. Shifty for the Nintendo Switch.

Enjoy!


















For those that just like scores I gave it a 7 out of 10.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Dear Nintendo, why don't you like my money?

To My Dear Nintendo,

Are you sick, not feeling well, does money make you itchy?

Why do you repeatedly self harm?

The NES Classic is the prime example of an unexpected runaway hit. And now, even with supplies so low the system sells for two to three times MSRP on Amazon and eBay you stop production on the system.

Did you bump your head? Why would you stop. Do you have limited production capacity? I understand that you are making Switches but this just baffles me. 


The ONLY way I see this not screwing over your loyal fan base is if you release a $60 "NES Classic" software pack for the Switch that contains all the ROMs for the Switch. What will more than likely happen, however, is that you sell the games piecemeal for roughly $5 each. Which puts the package in the realm of $125. While this isn't outrageous it is a far cry from $60.

Also, You really want $60 for a second Switch docking station? 60?!?! And that doesn't even include the power cord that you want another $30 for. For that price people might as well just but another Switch (which I'm sure you'd be more than happy about). Come on Nintendo. I get that you are in the business to make money and you are currently cleaning up the egg that is the Wii U from your face but I'm getting to the point where what I can only call your greed is souring me to everything else. 

Come on Nintendo. Do the right thing here. You told customers not to worry and that you would make more. Now that you have gone back on your word do something to make amends. Don't come off looking like a bunch of greedy clowns.

Oh, and hey I get it. You got burned by all those Animal Crossing Amiibos. But don't worry. Something tells me you'll get your money back with the 3 new Link Amiibos (for a total of 14!) and two Cloud, two Bayonetta, and 2 Corrin. 

The NES Classic wasn't going to be the next Animal Crossing Amiibo blunder either.

/rantoff

Monday, April 3, 2017

Tales from the Yawning Portal: Updated Takes on Classic Tales

Tales from the Yawning Portal: Updated Takes on Classic Tales

This newest source book from Wizards of the Coast puts a new coat of paint on a handful of classic and a few modern tales.



All of these, dare I say modules?, have been updated to work with 5th Edition. Inside this tome you'll find:
  • The Sunless Citadel
  • The Forge of Fury
  • The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan
  • White Plume Mountain
  • Dead in Thay
  • Against the Giants
  • Tomb of Horrors
I've thumbed through the majority of the book and read through the entirety of the Sunless Citadel. I also happened to have a copy of the original the Sunless Citadel in my collection to do some side by side comparisons.

The Yawning portal serves as a sufficient plot device to string together these adventures to serve as an overarching campaign. Not too much real estate is dedicated to the Yawning Portal or its proprietor Durnan but it provides enough details to give the DM plenty of hooks to work with. 

Each adventure appears to be a pretty accurate representation of the original. These are more of a freshening up, not a reboot. In fact some of the text boxes are almost a word for word lift from the original. At least for the later adventures. Some of those original modules never had boxed text.

Side by side of the original Sunless Citadel on the left and the 2017 version on the right.
The new Hall of the Goblin Chief on the left, the old on the right. 
The Sunless Citadel has a great introductory adventure for new players to get pulled into D&D. Intriguing monsters, a number of traps, multiple ways to handle adversaries, and an epic conclusion. Another feature that ties all these adventures together is they are dungeon crawls. The more recent 5e adventures have had interesting narratives but seemed to miss some of the first D in D&D. Tales from the Yawning Portal corrects for that perceived oversight in a big way.

One of my fears with the last few official 5e products from Wizards of the Coast is what appears to be a returning to the well and mining already released products for new books. While Tales from the Yawning Portal doesn't dismiss those fears I am happy to see a larger product that takes the place of the old modules. Over the last few years we have received a number of campaign books but this is the first that provides us with smaller adventures. It's a nice change of pace.

One of my chief complaints with this book is layout of the maps. Some are sized entirely too small for the section of the page they are placed on. A prime example is the upper levels of the Sunless Citadel. This map originally took two thirds of the inner book jacket. The new version occupies about one sixth of the page. While the map itself is of excellent quality, there is a lot going on there and it can be hard to see. That should have been scaled and filled up an entire page.


The Original 
The Upgrade. Beautiful but too small.
 
One of the nicest touches are the About the Original box before each adventure. These provide some of the behind the scenes information you may not know about some of the modules that have become icons. And the more you know....


These About the Original are a great touch


Wizards of the Coast is set to launch their newest source book at mass market retailers on Tuesday April 4th. You can already find a copy at your friendly local game store.




A few of the new monsters you'll find in this book.

4 start out of 5.

Monday, March 27, 2017

I am Setsuna: It's a great big white world.

Last year I reviewed I am Setsuna when it was released for the PS4.

After spending a few hours with it on the Nintendo Switch I can assure you that is is the same game and plays just as well. If you liked that iteration of the game you'll still enjoy it now.

If you have a Switch and are looking for a solid RPG you can't go wrong with I am Setsuna.

After reflecting on the original score I gave it I think it might have been a little high. I still think the game is a solid 7.5 / 10.