Game Progress 8/8
August 08, 2016

I hoped to have this post live about a month ago. However, that pesky thing called life keeps getting in the way. Between work, family time and hitting the gym, I've had little time for gaming, though I have still managed to get through some titles and advanced further in others.

Avencast (PC)
Imagine a top-down RPG with a premise similar to Harry Potter, except the characters are all nearly adults and there's a shortage of charm. That's Avencast. It's not a bad game so far, but it's pretty dull. I've spent a lot of time mucking about the magical academy, completing various tasks and engaging in unimaginative mini-games for experience and gold. Right now, I'm investigating a tomb that's overrun by spiders in the hopes of knocking out a few skeletons. Completing these tasks should net me a certificate of graduation and get me out of the prelude.

If there's one qualm I have, it's that there are few classes from which to select. You can be a mage, or a different kind of mage, or an alternate sort of mage. I get that the game is all about being a mage, but I feel that any modern W-RPG with classes should offer at least a decent variety of them. Instead of "just a mage," why not allow players to be necromancers or pyromancers or cryomancers or wizards or sorcerers? You know, more specified fields with special abilities that stand out? You'd think a game that's all about being a magician would explore the crap out of that concept.

Risen 3: Titan Lords (PC)
I've picked it back up. I'm slowly remembering where I left off in the story and easing my way back into the campaign without restarting the game from the top. Recently, I polished off some small quests, one of which involved killing a dude who was about to sacrifice a barmaid in an occult ritual. I also defeated Henrik in a rather cheap duel. Recently, I defeated a boss in one quest that involved a mage summoning demons as part of an experiment. The game has a lot of side quests to offer, but I'm beginning to wonder if they add substantially to the experience or if they merely provide the illusion of substance.

As with any Risen or Gothic title, this one offers three factions to join: demon hunters, natives or crystal mages. Unlike Risen 2, joining a faction does more than give you access to a different form of combat, as the side quests offered and story elements change depending on your selection. I've never been much of a magician, and the native faction's voodoo doesn't interest me much, so I've decided to join the demon hunters. Currently, I'm polishing off some quests so I can make my allegiance to them official.

One complaint I have with this game so far is that you end up relying overmuch on your party members to kill enemies. The protagonist's attack combination is needlessly flashy and very clunky, and is practically a liability. The fancy swoops and lunges he makes pretty much leave him open. Then again, I'm no sword master. In my dealings with previous Gothic/Risen titles, boosting your swordsmanship typically leads to more refined, less clunky swordplay. We;ll see...

Pokemon GO (Android)
My family adores this game. Well, me, my wife and my older son do. I think the younger one doesn't give a crap, but then again he doesn't care about anything that doesn't involve cars, Elmo or chicken nuggets. My wife and I have managed to get out of the house somewhat frequently and catch Pokemon together, usually with our two kids getting impatient with our constant stops to nab Pidgeys and Weedles. Since starting, I've hatched numerous eggs (my most recent one gave me a Pikachu) and snagged a few harder to get critters. The catching process was a lot easier before, because my department's break room sat right on a Pokestop. Unfortunately and understandably, the hospital hasn't been very thrilled at the release of Pokemon GO, and has not only banned the game from hallways (citing that it's a potential HIPAA violation) and had all of the Pokestops on the premises challenged and removed. It used to be nice starting a thirty minute lunch break by putting a lure module on the Pokestop and chatting with my coworkers about what's popping up. A few of them are playing the game as well, so this has been a decent social tool in addition to a fair AR game. I just hope Niantic adds more content to it.

Stranger of Sword City (Vita)
Currently playing this for an RoG review. Think Etrian Odyssey means Dark Souls. It's a dungeon crawler similar to the former, but with a drastically reduced encounter rate. At the same time, it sports a risk-reward system like the Souls titles. I've enjoyed the hell out of it so far, but parts of it are a bit tedious. For instance, one dungeon called the Mausoleum of Forests features raven enemies that call for reinforcements. These guys also tend to be pretty nimble, which means any attack-based party members are going to miss a lot. So you'll end up with rows of ravens pecking at you for a measly amounts of damage and not dying quickly enough. Just when you've gotten them whittled down, more will arrive and you might wonder if you'll die of boredom or despair before killing all of them.

I appreciate the game's stiff challenge, even though I've permanently lost one of my party members. Yeah, if you don't revive someone when they keel over, there's a possibility they'll turn into a butterfly and be gone for good. I've since replaced this character with someone who seems to die less often, so I'd say things are improving.

Unlike other dungeon crawlers, this one emphasized hunting bossed called Lineage Types. You don't always find these creatures by just roaming around, and sometimes have to perform a few odd tasks to get them to appear. Killing them gives you blood crystals, which you can give to specific characters to influence the ending and provide you with specialty techniques called "divinities." Since starting, I've murdered all of the Lineage Types in the Mausoleum of Metal (I can just see Grim Reaper or 3 Inches of Blood using this as a song title) and two in the forests. Right now, I'm trying to farm equipment so I can survive the coming battles.

Sugar Cube: Bittersweet Factory (PC)
A lackluster puzzle-platformer that I recently played through. It's not bad, mind, but it's simple, visually unadorned and a bit tedious. It boasts a few worthy puzzles, though. I completed it in something like 2-3 hours and have no plans to review it. My rating would be 3/5.

Dust: An Elysian Tale (PC)
Just started and played long enough to admire the presentation. I'll probably go further once I've put either Risen 3 or Avencast to rest.

WWF Wrestlemania Challenge (NES)
Having reviewed the first WWF game, I thought it would only be fitting to try out the other NES titles. This one is an improvement over WWF Wrestlemania, but not a huge one. The controls are wonky and the game is still pretty much a mash fest, though you get to do some actual wrestling this time instead of just punching and kicking.

Poof vs. the Cursed Kitty (PC)
I powered through the last few tiers and managed to do what felt impossible. The last string of objectives require you to rack up insane combos and off such large numbers of foes that it sounded like more work than it was worth. In the end, I completed the tasks and claimed the Holy Grail, thereby completing the campaign. I won't review this game, but my final rating is 4/5, though in our old rating system it would be more like 7/10.

Headlander (PC)
Imagine a Metroidvania game where you play a disembodied head that can remove the heads of robots and take control of their bodies. Yep, that's Headlander. It's a fun title that requires some thought in order to explore, though its combat system could use a little refinement. I won't bore you with details here, especially since I'm working on a review for it (having beaten the game) that should hopefully go live soon.

Sonic CD (PC)
Played through it and completed it. It's not a bad Sonic game, but I really don't see what all the fuss is about. The time travel mechanism is cool, but not enough to keep me playing. I thought some of the level felt slapped together and many of the game's stages and segments were lazy throwbacks to older titles. The "epic" race against Mecha Sonic was also more frustrating than fun. Again, I'm not reviewing this one, but 3/5 would be my rating.

Gumboy: Crazy Adventures (PC)
Have you ever played a game so repugnant that you had to quit playing immediately and scratched it off your backlog? Prior to this one, only Lucidity warranted such a reaction. Gumboy is not an abysmal game, per se, but its presentation, sound design and mechanics rubbed me the wrong way. I think what ultimately inspired me to stop playing was its physics-based gameplay, which 1) doesn't seem to function properly and, 2) needlessly turns simple actions like jumping or building momentum into full tasks. No thank you.

Final Fantasy: All the Bravest (Android)
If you haven't heard of this game, it's a freemium Final Fantasy title for smart phones. It used to run $3.99, but Square Enix has since shed the download price (likely because the game was almost universally panned), but maintained the premium elements.

Ostensibly, the game is a clicker, sans idle elements. You fight classic enemies from past Final Fantasy games, including some bosses, by tapping active party members. Doing this causes them to unleash an attack, then return to their original position to recharge and await their next turn. You start the game off with mostly generic warrior class party members, but as you level up and advance through the campaign, you gain other generic job-based characters like monks, rangers, black mages and geomancers. Leveling up also boosts your party size, carrying you from ten or so to a ridiculously huge party.

Of course, you can also recruit character from the main games. Unfortunately, they're part of the premium content, meaning you need to spend $1 per character. With 35 characters total, that's $35 you need to spend in order to get them all. To make matters worse, you don't get to select the character you pay for. Currently, I've dropped $5 on characters, receiving Setzer, Ashe, Yuna, Bartz and Zidane in return. Apart from nostalgia, what makes these characters worth getting is that they're incredibly powerful. Bartz delivers a lengthy but devastating attack that can shred most single enemies, while folks like Setzer, Yuna and Ashe have incredible multi-target strikes. Setzer, for instance, bombs foes from his airship while Yuna summons Bahamut to deliver a huge blast.

Ultimately, though, the game isn't all that great. I called it a clicker before, but it's really more like a swiper. It's much easier to just rub your thumb or index finger up and down the screen, triggering multiple characters to act at a time until your foes are dead. Thanks to this, I've gotten through the first few segments without much difficulty, having killed Chaos, Exdeath, Emperor, Golbez and Kefka. I should mention that I've done a lot of grinding, too, as killing enemies and bosses potentially unlocks weapons that boost the attack power of various characters and jobs.

I've also noticed that there are some segments, like Final Fantasy VII, you have to pay for. If they're anything like the segments I've had to endure thus far, then they're likely $4 for four battles. A more cynical gamer might call this a cash grab, but honestly that's what any product is. Any piece of art or entertainment is usually an attempt by someone to make money, because artists and entertainers need food, shelter and drugs like the rest of us. What separates a solid product from a junky one is how well its creator can pass it off as something more than a black hole through which all your hard earned cash disappears. All the Bravest does a terrible job of that, sadly.

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honestgamer honestgamer - August 08, 2016 (12:44 PM)
Pokemon GO has done a terrific job of inspiring interactions with others and with nature that nothing else has. My wife and I have enjoyed a lot of walks together lately, partly as a result of her Pokemon GO addiction (and I am playing also, even though I'm behind her in terms of progress).
EmP EmP - August 11, 2016 (05:19 AM)
My grandmother, who is in her nineties, rang me up yesterday and asked me to come visit because she was having an issue with her phone. I sighed and, like a good grandson, made the half hour drive to probably find out she's put it on silent for the third time or something equally as pedestrian. It wasn't; she wanted me to help her install Pokemon Go because some of her friends had it, and she didn't want to be left out. I then drove her to a park where she shuffled around hunting purple rats for half an hour. It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.
joseph_valencia joseph_valencia - August 12, 2016 (12:51 AM)
Forget Pokemon Go. I'm totally *URP* hooked to Pocket Mortys! They even got Mr. Poopybutthole to do the tutorials!

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