Backlog Battle Report (9th Oct 2017)

Last week’s Right Click to Zoom went up mere hours ago, which is a little less late than the previous but still not really acceptable to me. That said, it was a hell of a lot more difficult to get to a state that I considered good enough to post, and even once it was done I was given feedback that made me realise some missed opportunities I could have used. Alas. Hopefully this week’s article will come along more smoothly. If you’re reading this and didn’t know about that new post, do consider checking that one on the way out.

With that said, here’s this week’s status update.

The Elder Scrolls Online (PC) — Can’t see the forest for the trees

This was still the majority of my game time this week, though I suspect it’ll start to slow down now. The next content patch for Final Fantasy 14 is finally around the corner, so I’ll likely be focusing on that instead. Doubly so since most of my ESO playing friends will be busy with that, so there’ll be even less interaction and discussion on the subject with them.

Nonetheless, I’m still chipping away at the mountains of quest content at my disposal. My Templar is now in the early 40s and, surprise surprise, I’m still in Valenwood. There are so very many quests here, and while each of the zones within that region are different story and encounter wise, I’m honestly sick of forested area this, Green Pact that… my forays into the Thieves Guild quests and the desert city those take place in are welcome opportunities to break it up.

As always, I could go and do other stuff, but I like to be thorough and want to finish zones. It hasn’t reached levels of intolerable similarity, but the moment it does I’ll probably go and party Daggerfall somewhere.

Heroes of the Storm (PC) — Now with 100% more Delf

Not a lot to note in this week of Heroes playing besides the usual motley assortment of games to keep my daily quests from stacking up. Junkrat shouldn’t be far off, and I’m a little behind in gold generation so I might need to step that up to be ready.

Perhaps the most noteworthy occurrence was my creation of a second account just for Heroes. Generally, I don’t like to do this as it throws off the balance of the game completely when I’m extremely experienced compared to the rest of my low level team, but it ended up being a necessary evil to play with friends.

I’ve played with many low level American and European friends for a long time, but the attempt to average out party matchmaking means they’re fighting people well beyond their range and struggling to compete. After being in a party of four other newcomers and all of them getting completely stomped, I finally sucked it up in the interest of balancing things out and giving them a more suitable game.

It worked out nicely, and they’re all now playing people at their general experience range and doing fairly well. I’m able to help and play at a pretty high level to further nudge that along, but I’m limited to what few free heroes this new account can access and playing on servers half the world away, so it’s mitigated somewhat. Still, it makes for a better game for my friends, which will have to do. Again, a necessary evil, and one I only play when I’m in their company.

Puzzle Quest 2 (DS) — I never learn

Last week, I played Puzzle Quest Galactrix and complained about it endlessly because it was a frustrating, awkward, cheap-feeling experience. I lamented that it wasn’t even close to as good as the original Puzzle Quest and quickly put it away.

So what did I do instead? I picked up the equally bad Puzzle Quest 2.

I’m not exactly sure what happened with the developers (if they were even still involved) or why this game ended up as it did. It went back to the more standard square board layout with identifiable systems from the original. It returned to a fantasy setting as well as the class system that gave a variety of themed spells. All of that was welcome.

That said, it looks, sounds, and plays poorly, like a budget imitation of the original game at best. Rather than a world map, it tries to give you dungeons to explore and battle enemies in, but the movement around the dungeons is slow, clunky and bland. There’s a playable game in here, but it’s just so cheaply constructed that it feels bad to experience.

Once again, it’s a pale reflection of the original Puzzle Quest that I got bored and frustrated by in a matter of minutes despite my best efforts. Next time, I’m just going to play the original and be done with it, no matter how many times I’ve already played and beaten it.

Battle Chasers: Nightwar (PC) — Very comical

Sometime in the past, I left a gift for future Delf by Kickstarting this game on a friend’s recommendation. I knew very little about it, as I never read the original comics that this game was based on, but I liked the concept and had great respect for the art style and work the developers were displaying. So I figured why not?

Fast forward to now, where I was greeted earlier this week with an email saying that this game was now available and I could redeem my code for it. I’d only somewhat kept up with the email updates and hadn’t paid too close attention to development, so this release date completely caught me off guard. Gotta tell you though, my past donation has definitely borne fruit: this game is awesome.

At its core, Battle Chasers plays like a fairly classic turn-based JRPG. There’s a lot of complexity to the battles though, as each character has a variety of basic actions that are used instantly, or abilities that have a slight cast time and use mana in exchange for more powerful effects. The interesting catch is that many of the actions will generate Overcharge, which counts as temporary mana points and can also be consumed for bonus effects with some abilities.

This ends up creating an interesting system of weaving actions and abilities together to conserve your limited mana pool, but also allowing you to go all out or rush out powerful heals as the situation calls for it. New actions and abilities are frequently being introduced as the characters level up, so the strategies grow increasingly varied and potentially complex.

There’s a lot of additional character customisation through perks, which you can switch out of combat to boost certain stats or grant extra effects to some abilities. Equipment is plentiful, usually featuring randomised bonus stats or higher quality versions of similar gear for each area that can give you an edge. Most enemies and various interactable objects in dungeons and maps grant crafting ingredients for you to make potions or gear with to further grant an edge. Completing mini-achievements such as killing X of a certain type of monster grants party wide stat increases. There’s plenty of ways to do things.

More than anything though, Battle Chasers is absolutely gorgeous. The aesthetic of a comic book story has been completely realised, with beautiful comic-style cutscenes and artwork interspersed throughout the game. Exploration and battles use more standard 3D models and graphics, but the strong stylised look carries over decently well, and the animations feel weighty and satisfying.

It’s hard to comment on the story and characters too much; what I’ve encountered so far is enjoyable and serves well as a standalone story, but this is a direct sequel to the comic series so much of that context is lost on me. For what it’s worth though, the game is high quality enough that I’ve already bought it for a friend and am fully planning to seek out the comics too.

I’ve got to admit that for whatever reason, the game didn’t stick with me at first. I could freely acknowledge that it was well made and good, but I just wasn’t able to get fully invested in it somehow. That changed after a session today there, where something clicked and I began to enjoy it so much more. It’s definitely worth a look at and I’ll be playing more soon.

CrossCode (PC, Early Access) — A twin stick MMORPG! Only… not really

This is a game that I have glanced over a couple of times in my searches of Steam, but always passed over due to a general dislike of Early Access games. In this case, the idea was doubly awkward to me, as a story-heavy RPG that was in Early Access and not fully concluded would probably just be intrusive. As such, I skipped it with plans to investigate once it was fully released.

What changed now? Well, I didn’t buy it; a friend who had played and loved the Early Access version did, citing that the dozens of hours he got from the game were incredibly good. Bugs were minimal if not completely absent, and the game quality was extremely high and worth putting up with the incomplete nature. Since it was gifted to me, my policy for such games is always to put a high priority on them so I can share thoughts and feedback with my friend, so I leapt right into it.

Let me tell you: he was completely right.

I was very quickly caught up in the world being presented in CrossCode. It’s built to look like a classic RPG, with high quality pixel art and incredibly fluid animations. The story is very quick to provide a number of pleasant characters and interesting concepts. In short, CrossCode takes place in a future sci-fi setting, but more specifically within a larger multiplayer game world within that future. Things are so advanced, however, that a physical location on a far away moon has been built up to house this game, and then players log in to it using remote controlled Avatars and explore this real place with virtually augmented additions like monsters and so on.

So basically, it’s a game within a real world within a game. Perhaps I’m explaining it badly, but it instantly evokes the anime trope of being set within an MMO, much like .hack or Sword Art Online. Nonetheless, this concept is executing wonderfully by CrossCode, implementing both that fictional game’s features and mechanics then supplementing it with its own further narrative and additions.

Combat plays akin to a twin-stick shooter, and CrossCode almost demands that you play with a controller; I’ve yet to try with a keyboard and struggle to imagine how it would play, but nonetheless. You move with one analog stick, and aim your ranged attack with the other. You can shoot enemies at ranged, charge up these ranged shots, or close to short distance and attack with melee. Action scenes are usually frantic, with quick dodging and guarding required in addition to aiming and attacking.

It’s far more than just combat, however. There’s a lot of natural exploration, as the main character Lea will automatically jump up on small objects or ledges and can move around rapidly. You’ll be constantly on the lookout for hidden areas or secrets that you can find, and it’s very responsive. This also leads into the occasional platforming segment which needs quick movement and jumps; furthermore, these will then be used for puzzles in conjunction with ranged attacks.

Despite being primarily an RPG, CrossCode blends all sorts of genres and influences into one really interesting concept. I’m only a little way into it, but I’m amazingly enticed so far and I can’t wait to dive in again. I’ll have a lot more to say about this one in the coming days, almost certainly.

League of Legends (PC) — A spectator eSport

This is honestly a bit deceptive, as I haven’t actually played a round of League in about a year and still have no intention of doing so anytime soon. Nonetheless, I felt I had to include this as I’ve been watching massive amount of professional League of Legends this week.

See, the 2017 World Championships began a couple of days ago, and I decided on a whim to tune in despite only following the competitive circuit somewhat casually the last couple of years. All that said, I ended up watching every game that was played on the first two days, then tuned in for specific games that I was around for on others, filling in blanks with highlight reels.

It certainly helps that I have a lot of experience with the game from its early years, so I can follow some of the more technical and strategic aspects of the game. Even so, it’s remarkably enjoyable to watch as a spectator sport, and there have been moments where I’ve been drawn in and on the edge of my seat.

I still doubt that I’ll play the game myself in the foreseeable future (if ever), since Heroes satisfies any urge I might experience to play MOBAs. All the same, it’s still a fun thing to watch and I’ll likely be tuned in for the extent of Worlds this year.

I’d say best of luck to my long-term favourite team of SKT, which I’ve been following eagerly since Faker’s competitive debut back in Season 3… but they’re the three time world champions, so they don’t need luck. If ever there was a year where their victory didn’t look completely guaranteed though, this’d be the one. I hope to see a grand final between them and Longzhu.

Not a lot of variety this week, as I spent a long time either watching League or writing. Still, there’s been a number of enjoyable RPGs that I’ve been exposed to, not to mention watching a good chunk of Cuphead footage to sate my desire to play it. Hopefully in the coming days I’ll actually be able to continue with the unfinished games I’ve left behind over the last month or so.


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