Thursday, December 29, 2016

Play Log: Downtime

I've been on winter break for the past few days, and I've mainly used that extra time to play a lot of Civilization V.

Civilization V
I don't love this game, so I don't know why I keep coming back to it, but I do.  Like The Sims 3 (which I actually do like, a lot), Civ is a game that I play intensively for a week or so and then forget about, only to inevitably come back to it some months down the line.  I'm not very good at the game, so I ended up playing at Warlord level (which is just a step below Normal difficulty).  What's engaging to me about Civ games nurturing an empire.  I always go for science or culture victories, and try to stay out of wars.  I find war in these games to be really tedious until you get air power, so it's not fun for me, even when I'm winning.  So when I get leaders like Askia and Dido, who want nothing more than world conquest, things get very unsatisfying very quickly.  Ironically though, in my current game as America I've become by far the most militaristic entity.  It all started when Dido decided to invade me for no apparent reason back during the Ancient Era.  I fended her off with everything I had.  Fast-forward to the Information Era, and Dido's long been conquered by other civs, while my military has become the largest and most advanced on the planet.  The last thing I did before quitting out was nuke Austria's capital to delay them from stealing my scientific victory.  They're the biggest country in the world in most respects, and their military is second only to mine, so I suspect I have a huge war in my future.  But for the time being, they were content to give me all of their luxury and strategic resources in exchange for peace and their capital.  If, after the peace treaty expires, they want a war, they'll have to come to me.  I wasn't ready for Dido, but I'll be ready for Austria.

Mount & Blade: Warband
The Mount & Blade games have always been a curiosity to me.  With the Steam sale on, I decided to try one for myself.  They always seemed to have a strong cult following, and now I can see why.  I'm not sure I've ever played a game quite like Warband.  Basically, you're a nobody who's decided to venture to the land of Calradia (modeled somewhat after medieval Europe) to make a name for themselves.  Calradia is a continent occupied by six factions, who are pretty much constantly at war with each other.  It's also infested with bandits, looters, raiders, and deserters.  What you do when you arrive is largely up to you; you can take up merchanting, sign on as a mercenary for one of the factions, fight in arenas, whatever.  But whatever you do, you'll want to have some followers to protect you, as Calradia's a dangerous place.  So you end up building an army.

Right now my group sits between 30-50 men.  It's a humble number, hardly an army, but most of them are really well-trained, some even elite fighters.  It's enough to make your average band of cutthroats flee on sight, and enough to lend meaningful aid to large-scale battles between lords and kings.  For the past couple months I've been operating in Swadia as a mercenary group.  I like Swadia well enough.  Eventually I'd like to own land there.

Invisible, Inc
Well, Klei's done it again.  I didn't like Don't Starve that much, but it was a well-made game all the same.  I feel mostly the same about Invisible, Inc, except I think I can have a better time with this one.  It's really tough, even on easy.  It's almost discouragingly difficult, to be honest.  I never really feel like I'm making significant gains, and mistakes are costly.  Still, I like the game well enough.

I don't know if I just suck at this game, or if my decks suck.  Probably both.  I rarely win.  But I'm still having a good time with it.

World of Tanks Blitz
They just started some sort of Winter Festival Event.  I got a day of premium time (which I used exactly 0 of), some credits, and a Tetrarch.  Kinda crappy.  All of my missions these days have been for Tier 6, which I only have my Cromwell for.  I love playing the Cromwell, but I'm still not sure how to play it successfully, especially in Tier 6/7 hybrid games.  The Cromwell's best-in-class mobility means it's often the first on the scene, but you don't want to first on the scene, because that makes you the center of enemy attention.  My best games so far are ones where I stay on the periphery, taking potshots and being a nuisance, or in the case of Supremacy, zooming off to take an unguarded enemy point.  And then everyone calls me a coward because I'm not jumping in the fray, guns blazing.  At least the 75mm HV packs a decent wallop.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Play Log: Mobile Gaming Strikes Back

Getting a new phone has motivated me to give mobile gaming another look.  Having finished Justice For All, it's about time I moved into the trilogy finale.  I really goddamn miss Company of Heroes 2.  Like, a lot.

World of Tanks Blitz
The extensive amount of time I've put into the Company of Heroes games has gradually turned me into a light tank enthusiast.  I even ended up writing a term paper on British WW2 tanks a few months ago, and it was fun as fuck.  Anyway, I've been eyeing World of Tanks for a really long time, but never had the gall or spare moments to jump into it.

Well, I don't have a computer capable of playing World of Tanks, but I do have a lot of free time now.  So I opted to give World of Tanks Blitz a shot, which runs quite nicely on my Surface.  At first I tried it on my phone, and it's a functional experience there but kinda hard to steer.  Playing with a keyboard and mouse is way better.  I don't know how closely it resembles the main game, but I'm having a good enough time with it.  I played pretty intensively over the past two weeks or so, making a beeline straight for the Cromwell.  Now that I've got my nimble British cruiser, I'm content to just pop in once or twice a day and play some matches for the multiplier bonus.

And admittedly, I'm afraid my skills won't get me much farther, anyway.  Tier 6 is already pretty serious business, I can't imagine what 7-10 are like.  Nah, I'm happy messing around in tiers 1-6.

Michiko and Hatchin
The next anime I decided to watch after Chaika.  I'm on episode 18 or so as of this writing, and it's a damn good show.  Definitely one of those anime that even non-anime lovers can get into, and I think it deserves to stand shoulder to shoulder with shows like Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo.  The dub is also really good.  I might go so far as to say Michiko herself is dubbed better in English than in Japanese.  In Japanese she's kind of a cool, tough character in the vein of Major Kusanagi.  The English dub paints her as reckless, and quick to fly off the handle.  I think the latter suits her behavior a little better.

Hitman Go
I got this (and Lara Croft Go) on the cheap a couple months ago, just got around to trying it out.  I love the aesthetic and general concept, but it's way more of a puzzle game than I was expecting... I played the first several levels and wasn't really hooked at all.

People weren't kidding, this really is Hearthstone: Anime Edition.  And fuck it, I'm totally okay with that, especially because it seems every bit as mechanically competent as Hearthstone.  I've only dabbled in Shadowverse so far, but the thing I'm already enjoying about it over Hearthstone is that it has a lot of singleplayer content.  There's a central storyline, with voice acting and cutscenes, it's neat.  And the developer seems to give out card packs like nobody's business.

Shantae and the Pirate's Curse
Fun little game!  The gameplay's not that amazing, but the presentation is stellar.  The writing's fun, the animation is expressive, and the art's quite nice.  It's a game with a lot of character, even if its actual gameplay isn't anything to write home about, at least so far.  And hot damn, why does every female character in this game have to be smokin' hot?  The protagonists, the antagonists, the NPCs, the enemies, if it's female you can bet they'll be ridiculously curvy and voluptuous.

Kingdom Rush
I've played Kingdom Rush before.  Tower Defense is historically one of my favorite game genres, and so I was quick to give it a shot when people started talking about it.  I wasn't impressed.  I'm still not impressed.  I'd like to keep with it a little longer this time because it is a serviceable game and I want to see if it has anything more to offer than I'm seeing.

I got this for free from Ubi's 30 Days promotion.  I've never played a Rayman game older than Origins.  I don't know if I'm into it.
So, my Xperia Z3 Compact had a bit of an episode.  Being in a position where I can’t afford to not have a phone for an extended period, I promptly looked for a replacement.  Perhaps weirdly, the fact that my Z3c essentially died on me didn’t really stop me from looking once again at Sony first for my new phone.  The reason is that despite this incident, the Z3c really was a kickass phone.

Truth be told, I was getting ready to enter the market for a new phone anyway.  I loved my Z3c, but it was starting to show its age, and my finances were reaching a point where I expected I’d be able to replace it soon.  One of the potential successors I was already looking at was the Xperia XZ.  For the most part, it looked like a proper continuation of the Xperia Z-series, and not to mention was simply gorgeous.  But I had some reservations.  There were some things here and there that I felt Sony could improve on, and so my plan had been to wait until Fall 2017 and see what they had in store.  If their next phone hit all the bullet points, I would probably be able to afford it day one.  Otherwise, the XZ would have certainly dropped in price by then, and I would buy that instead.  This little incident forced my hand, and so here we are with a brand new Xperia XZ.  I’ve now been using it for a couple of weeks, and felt like writing some impressions of it, compared to my darling Z3 Compact.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Play Log: Ace Attorney

In the absence of longform review posts, I figured I'd try and at least get the occasional blog out, with some blurbs about what I'm up to, in terms of anime, games, comics, and other things.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice For All - With almost every AA game up through Spirit of Justice loaded onto my 3DS, I've begun a quest to play through the entire series, one by one.  I've already played through the original trilogy (I've played the first game in particular twice), but in the case of Justice For All and Trials and Tribulations that was a pretty long time ago, and my memories of the cases are foggy.  I finished my replay of the first game last month, and finished the last case of Justice for All last night.  Anyone who's even dipped their toe into the Ace Attorney fandom will know that JFA is generally considered to be the worst among the original trilogy, and one of the poorer entries in the franchise, overall.  Having freshly completed it, I can understand why.  The only case in JFA that I can say I really liked was Turnabout Big Top, which had a really interesting mystery, fun characters, and one of my favorite villain motivations in the franchise.  The others...
  • The Lost Turnabout was just meh.  Not terrible, but really forgettable.
  • Reunion, and Turnabout was actually decent, and probably probably would rank below Big Top in my book.
  • Farewell, My Turnabout had a great ending and some thought-provoking themes, but was otherwise the most mundane and tedious case in the game.
Justice for All also had some minor changes across the board that I didn't like.  For example, there are a couple of instances during cross-examinations where you have to press statements repeatedly and in a specific, arbitrary sequence in order to move forward.  I also felt like Phoenix himself became a bit more standoffish in this game.  In the first game he would play along a bit with Maya's teasing, but JFA he was more likely to just shrug that stuff off.

And then there's Franziska Von Karma.  Though she has plenty of good moments, overall I think she's mostly just irritating.  There's nothing strange about prosecutors being assholes in court, but Franziska really pushes the envelope.

Anyway, at the end of the day I did enjoy playing Justice for All, just like I enjoy playing any Ace Attorney game.  It definitely doesn't quite stand up to the first game though, and I have a feeling it won't compare well to Trials and Tribulations, either.