Monday, February 20, 2017

Play Log: Surface Gaming

Company of Heroes 2
I tried running this on my Surface a long time ago, and was discouraged by the results.  But I couldn't stay away from it, so I decided to try tweaking the settings some more.  It's... playable.  I had to lower the resolution a ton and most of the quality settings are at low-medium, and I also had to download AutoHotkey because Relic can't be bothered to implement proper key rebinding in-game.  Also it's probably never getting more than 30 frames.  But it works.


Endless Legend
This game was on sale and an alternative to Civ V sounded attractive to me, so I decided to give it a shot.  It's interesting, not sure how I feel about it.  The biggest mechanical difference that jumps out at me is how open-ended the research is.  In Civ, you have a branching, but linear chart of research.  One technology leads to another, and some technologies have prerequisite technologies.  In Endless Legend, it's not like that at all.  The techs are organized into Eras, and you unlock new Eras as you continue your research.  But within each Era, there's no structure.  It's just a giant pool of techs, that you can research in whatever order you want.  You can even opt to pretty much ignore techs if you want, as you only need a fraction of each Era's techs to unlock the next Era.  It's very different from Civ's "no research left behind" approach.


TheoTown
This here's basically SimCity, but for Android.  And not SimCity 4, either.  Something earlier, more basic, like SimCity 2000.  It really does feel like like a SimCity game, through and through, complete with the fact that I basically wasted a whole evening staring at my phone playing it.  It's also completely free, which is cool.

The Legend of the Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel
The more I play this game the more I somewhat wish I had the background of having played the Trails in the Sky games.  Once you get to Heimdallr and later Legram, the references to the older games get more common.  It's not in any way affecting the main story at hand, it's just that sometimes you have scenes or bits of dialogue that I can tell I might have gotten more of a kick out of if I had played the earlier games.

As a side note, Legram's a pretty cool place.  It's the first field study location that I really find myself admiring.

Starbound
I bought this game a long time ago, back when it was basically in its fund-raising phase.  The promise of a way-expanded Terraria was too enticing to pass up.  I played it briefly a couple years ago and wasn't pulled in by it, and it has since then evidently had a lot of ups, downs, and big changes.  I finally decided to give it another, more serious shot and... I like it.  It kinda does feel like an expanded Terraria, but I've only just scratched the surface, so I don't want to get too into comparing the two.

Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta

So, I watched some of the first adaptation this series got back in... 2007, was it?  I remember thinking it was decent, though I never got around to finishing it.  Anyway, the visuals of this one attracted me to it.  It's a fun show, with charming characters, clean animation and colorful designs.  But watching it, it really does feel like I've been dropped right in the middle of a story.  These characters already have established traits, histories and developments, and it's clear that some stuff has already happened before episode 1.  It's like picking up a 50-episode show at episode 25.  Funny enough though, this hasn't really impeded my enjoyment of the show, because I just like watching the characters.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Play Log: Quality phone time

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
For whatever faults IBO has, the one thing I really must praise it for is how consistently it delivers on the fights.  This series has pretty much never gone more than one or two episodes without some kind of battle scene, and this frequency combined with the high quality of the choreography make it really entertaining to watch, regardless of anything else.

Cowboy Bebop
I just watched episode 15 today, which was a Faye-centric episode.  I didn't find Faye to be that interesting up till this point so I had held off on watching it, but it was better than I thought it would be.  I guess I shouldn't have been so quick to underestimate this show.

Train Conductor World
I installed this a while ago but never got around to trying it.  It's actually really fun!  It kinda reminds me of Flight Control, a game from the early iOS App Store days where you had to manage incoming flight traffic.  Train Conductor World gets incredibly hectic and challenging, but in a sort of exhilarating way.

Fire Emblem Heroes
Well, this is a thing.  It's okay, I guess?  The core gameplay is definitely Fire Emblem, but heavily simplified.  The in-app purchases seem exorbitantly expensive, but at least for now there's enough to do without spending anything.  To my surprise, it also has a bit of a story, though it's not like Fire Emblem games have a history of engrossing tales, so I'm certainly not expecting a lot here.

Grandia
I never had a PS1 or SNES so the often-called "golden age of JRPGs" was mostly lost on me.  I'm not on some quest to fix that, but I do like JRPGs and wanted to try something different from the modern fare I'm used to, so I popped in Grandia.  I'm already impressed, it has such a lighthearted, easygoing tone.  And it has voice acting, which is surprising.

Muramasa: Rebirth
I played several hours of this game closer to when I first got my Vita.  There's even a brief writeup about it somewhere on the site, I think.  Anyway, it's been on my mind a lot lately so I decided to come back to it.  After spending a couple hours playing it, I already feel like I remember what eventually drove me away from the game in the first place.  The combat is cool and challenging in a way that's just right, but the game pretty much has nothing else going on.  You're just running from place to place, killing enemies and sometimes talking to people.  I had the same problem with Dragon's Crown, but that had the excuse of being a beat 'em up.  I'm starting to wonder if this is just how Vanillaware operates.  Makes we want to try Odin Sphere, and soon.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel
The story in this game is getting pretty interesting, and the combat's reasonably fun too.  Yet something about playing it feels a little monotonous.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Play Log: Switching gears

For the past couple months I've been playing primarily on my 3DS, but a lot my Vita games were calling out to me.

God Eater Resurrection
Well, I finally beat every single story mission.  Not that there's really any more story after you beat Arius Nova.  I like to think I've kinda extricated myself from the trophy hunting game, but I've come to like this game a lot over the months, and I'm reasonably close to platinuming it.  I even managed to do the solo rank 14 survival mission trophy.  The rest is essentially grinding out missions and completing a set of rank 14 gear.  One of the things I like most about this game is that you can really feel your progress.  When you first start out you're fighting Ogretails and other small fry.  You move up to medium size critters like Gboro Gboros and Kongous soon enough, but it's a long time before you feel like you're a bad enough dude to take on a real aragami solo.  By the end you're the top dog in the branch, and there really isn't much that can push you around.  I can only think of 1 or 2 enemies in the whole game that I would give me a hard time 1v1, and plenty that I could take down by myself even outnumbered, as long as I paced myself.

God Eater 2 Rage Burst
I finally bit the bullet and decided to move on to GE2, now that I've seen largely all that Resurrection has to offer.  It feels like I'm going 100+ hours back in time, starting from square one again, it's brutal.  Jury's still out on how I feel about the game compared to Resurrection.  In Rage Burst devouring doesn't seem to be nearly as important, and the burst mechanic is just kinda there.  To be fair, I felt largely the same way about the devour mechanics in Resurrection until I really started playing around with Predator Styles, but at least here at the outset, devouring seems like much more a complementary mechanic than it is in Resurrection.  I like the idea of Blood Arts; the one I'm using on my hammer that gives back stamina makes that Boost Hammers on the whole feel more viable than they ever were in Resurrection.  But it seems like Blood Arts take a lot of grinding, so it'll be a while before I can see how it really pans out.

I decided to make a character that, in my headcanon, is the sister of my character in Resurrection.  It made that scene where Alisa first showed up more fun, that's more sure.

Oh, and it was weird as hell fighting a Ravana in rank 2.  You don't encounter one of those in Resurrection until like rank 7 or something.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel
I'm a little irritated with this game because it took so long to really get on its feet, both in terms of story and mechanics, but now I do find it pretty engaging.  The character writing is tropey but still manages to lend some depth and context to the characters, which is impressive because I think that's a pretty tight balance to walk.  I have zero interest in 100% completion but I still play with a guide in hand because I don't want to miss any chance for extra character interaction.

Thomas Was Alone
This game has been sitting on my Vita for ages, and I finally sat down with it for a couple of hours to see what it's all about it.  I see what this game is doing and I find it interesting, but eventually the tedium of playing a puzzle-platformer overtook the charm of going through a story inhabited solely by a cast of quadrilateral shapes.  It's unfortunate, because I read the synopsis of the game on Wikipedia and it sounds like it goes to some ridiculous places.

I also liked that each level had developer commentary.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Spice and Wolf Synopsis: Volume 4

I'm a big fan of the Spice and Wolf anime, and started reading the novels some time ago.  As a way to keep writing, and also as an exercise in reading comprehension, I decided to try keeping a synopsis of the books as I read them.

The goal is to provide a reading that is as brisk as possible while still providing a thoroughly detailed understanding of the story events in each volume.  What I specifically try to avoid doing is covering character interaction in great detail.  There are two reasons why.  One is because doing so is an incredibly easy way to end up with an unnecessarily bloated summary.  The other is that character interaction is the series' greatest strength, and arguably what you're really here for, and I don't want to spoil that.

So, why am I starting at volume 4?  Because the idea to do this didn't occur to me until I was reading that volume.  Then, without further ado:

Monday, January 16, 2017

Play Log: Back to God Eater

God Eater Resurrection
I played a tooon of this game last summer when it came out.  Just recently decided to get back into it. It's super fun.  I'm on Rank 14 now, finishing up the story and maybe going for the Platinum.  I played through most of the story using spears, blast guns and (in the later half) assault guns.  I've finally gotten just a little bored with my loadout though, so I decided to revisit other weapon types.  I still think hammers are really damn cool, but what I've really fallen head over heels in love with now is scythes.  I didn't think much of them when I was first starting out, but they're synergize so well with certain Predator Styles and skills.  I use Predator Style bonuses that boost oracle with each hit, and with the scythe's long range and ability to hit multiple times per sweep, I can rack up tons of ammo really quickly.  So now I use a scythe and blast gun, with custom shotgun-style canister rounds.  My scythe also has a chance of stunning enemies.  So I play the mid-range game, zoning enemies with the scythe while harvesting absurd amounts of oracle.  Than as soon as the paralysis kicks in, I move in and unload shell after shell into their face.  It does massive damage and usually breaks a lot of armor.

I've been doing a lot of tinkering with shotgun shells in general, mainly to make sick-looking airburst rounds.  Unfortunately, it seems like the game always calculates shell damage based on the distance between the player and the enemy, even if the mechanism firing the shell isn't actually the player, but a control orb launched by the player.  That's pretty unfortunate.

Oh, and the Vita's Party function works pretty well!  I used it to play this game for a couple of hours with friends over the weekend.  We would run missions and just chat about stuff.

Shadowverse
Had someone I played send me a friend request the other day.  I'm not sure what the point of friending random people in this game is, since there's no chat system, and no way to interact beyond private battles.

Matchmaking's still rife with Shadow and Blood players, but at least I played a somewhat unusual Blood player recently.  He used all neutral cards.  I've been thinking about trying out a neutral card deck myself lately, as there are neutral cards that are very explicitly designed to synergize with other neutral cards.  Trouble is, I'm not sure which character would be best suited to a neutral deck.  I mean, they're neutral cards so maybe it doesn't matter.

Switch Stuff
Nintendo made a number of questionable calls here with the Switch.  The fact that they're doing paid online doesn't bother me in and of itself, but what they're offering for the price seems a little insulting.  NES/SNES games that you can only keep for a month?  A phone app for voice chat?  Come on, guys.  And while they teased a lot of upcoming projects, both 1st and 3rd party, the actual launch lineup seems pretty sparse.

That said, it's a really interesting gizmo, and I want one.  And that Breath of the Wild trailer was truly amazing.  I went from being largely uninterested in that game to wanting to play it immediately.