Backlog Battle Report (13th Nov 2017)

Was hoping to have my first Switch Indie Review article up by this point, as the draft is online and ready to go, just needs editor approval. As such, I can’t link it here, so I’ll be omitting the game in question (Sparkle 2 EVO for Switch) from the list. Most of my thoughts on the game were in last week’s post anyway. So here’s what I’ve been up to this week.

The Elder Scrolls Online (PC) — Notable only by its absence

After having been my go-to game for just winding down and exploring or questing, this week saw practically no playing of ESO at all. I did maybe a quest or two and logged in to do crafting daily quests as well as keep researching rolling, but that’s about it. Haven’t completely lost interest, but with no sign of friends coming to rejoin me anytime soon, I’m starting to feel the loneliness. That and I’ve been busy with other games (as this report will show), so it’s largely just on the backburner for the time being.

I do want to go through and finish off the Morrowind quests again soon though, so perhaps in the coming days.

Battle Chasers: Nightwar (PC)

In an effort to keep from falling too behind on the variety of games that I put down for something new and never return to, I resumed playing Battle Chasers for a little bit. Progressed through about half of the second dungeon before I had to stop, and didn’t get back to it just yet. Still, it’s on my mind and I’m going to resume in between the cavalcade of Switch and PS4 games on the horizon.

As well as being as gorgeous as it was the last time I commented on it, I do still quite enjoy the battle system and the amount of options it presents. The overdrive system is an excellent touch, providing temporary disposable mana so that you can keep using your abilities throughout a whole dungeon. Biggest issue with that is that things die far too quickly to get much use or strategy from it, even bosses… and if they don’t die fast enough, odds are that I will, since the damage count goes both ways.

Hopefully the story will start picking up soon, too. There’s a few interesting snippets but at the moment, that aspect isn’t particularly grabbing me.

Super Mario Odyssey (Switch)

Well, I beat the game. In doing so, I unlocked a massive chunk of further game, so… perhaps saying it’s beaten is something of a misnomer here. Regardless, it’s kinda funny how my initially shaky and uncertain thoughts on the game gave way to it actually being a strong contender for my Game of the Year.

Mario Odyssey is just a really damn good game. There’s some absolutely fantastic level design at work here, and every time I go to a new world or revisit an old one, I’m rewarded for noticing little details or deciding to explore. It never stays on one gimmick or concept too long for it to get stale, and it’s just a real joy to play through. I’ve said most of that previously, but it bears repeating.

What was most impressive was that the game just continued to improve and get better and more entertaining right up until the conclusion. There were multiple times during some of the later stages and leading up to the final section that had me laughing out loud or just grinning. It did a great job of subverting my expectations on what I expected the coming worlds to be like, particular with Bowser’s Castle. And the last world before you finish is… well, I won’t spoil it, but my response was to cackle and say “Oh, we’re doing this now, are we?”

It’s a great progression right up to the end. The final boss is very satisfying and flavourful, and then the last section of the game once again just had me grinning. I was immensely satisfied once I finished, and that satisfaction only continued when I load right back in to find that I’ve returned to the Mushroom Kingdom… and it’s a fully fledged new world replete with throwbacks to all sorts of old Mario games.

I definitely will be picking this up again and going back to see what else has changed throughout, as I’m told there’s now new features to every previous world. There’s also a hint of the true ending and conclusion once I reach 500 Moons, and I’m sitting around 300 right now, so there’s plenty of distance still to cover there. Still though, what an excellent and amazingly fun game. Absolutely recommended for all Switch owners, current and future.

Culdcept Revolt (3DS)

So this is an interesting one. Apparently the Culdcept series has been kicking around for a while, but aside from occasional glances at the word, I haven’t seen much of it until this one. I bought it on a whim and was greeted by a very interesting fusion of traditional board game and collectable card game.

Let me try to paint you a picture here. You start with a hand of cards of various types. There’s a board made up of tiles that you continually progress around, with each tile being a territory of one of four elements. Landing on that tile lets you summon a creature card there to control it. As you progress around the board, you can level up specific tiles with points you gather, and anybody landing on your spaces has to pay a toll to you.

If this sounds like Monopoly, there’s a good reason for that, but where this differs is that you don’t simply just pay the hotel fees. Instead, you can summon your own creature from your hand to fight the one guarding it. Other cards include magic spells to boost or damage targets, or equipment to power up these creatures. If you win the fight on an opponent’s tile, you replace their creature with yours and it becomes your tile, so there’s a lot more strategy in play with what cards you use than simply relying on dice rolls and luck.

As well as the necessary multiplayer modes, both online and local, there’s also a single player mode with a variety of quests and a light story attached to it. I’ve only started progressing through it, but the concept of Culdcept is fun enough that I’ll certainly be doing so again in the future.

Fire Emblem Awakening (3DS)

Of course, it’s hard to play Culdcept when I keep getting the urge to chip away at Fire Emblem. It’s still fairly early days and the guilt to be playing games I haven’t already beaten thrice still remains, and yet I continue to play here and there. I’ve just finished the chapter where Cordelia joins the party, and I’m frankly doing an awful job.

Even without playing on Classic mode with permadeath, I’ve had to reset a couple of times just because I’m doing something ridiculously stupid. I need to focus and get my strategies right in future should I continue to play it, because I’d rather get through based on good decisions and tactics rather than simply brute forcing my way over the corpses of my army.

Stella Glow (Demo) (3DS)

On the subject of strategy RPGs, there once was a pair of tactics RPGs on the DS called Luminous Arc 1 and 2. They weren’t fantastic or anything too original, but they were solid, and I enjoyed playing them from memory. Fast forward to now, and we have the spiritual successor of that franchise in Stella Glow. This actually came out last year, but despite looking out for it the delayed European/Australian release meant that I missed out when everyone was talking about it, so it flew under my radar.

I played through the demo the other day just to get a feel for it, and it’s quite enjoyable. Again, nothing too original, but solid in gameplay and presentation. The story beats are a lot like Luminous Arc as well, what with Witches being a core element to the plot, but I can’t really complain if it’s done well enough. Planning on picking this up sometime soon to continue with the full game.

Fire Emblem Warriors (Switch)

Back to Fire Emblem we go, only shedding the strategy for legitimately brute forcing my way over mountains of corpses! This time it’s not for lack of trying with the strategy, but when Lyn is level 70 and I’m clearing through 40-50 missions in History mode to unlock things and power up for Anna’s unlock mission… well, might tends to make right there.

I’ve now finished the basic progression of each of the available History Maps. I’m alternating between those and going back to Story missions for the missing Anna Mementos there, which is also a good way to mass farm Support levels due to it being a sub-mission reward.

Speaking of Support levels, those are the primary source of the super rare materials I need in order to actually get Skills unlocked for everyone. They’re also a real pain to farm up, usually requiring me to Pair Up characters for about half a dozen missions and have them practically clear the map together. Not sure if there’s a better way to progress those. I’m hoping the upcoming update and included History Map makes getting some of these a little easier.

Axiom Verge (Switch)

I’ve had this on my wishlist since it first surfaced on the PSN, but since I’m now working to play as many Switch indie titles as possible for review purposes, this seemed like a great place to start. Sadly for me, one of the other staff writers beat me to reviewing it, so this one was just for my own enjoyment. I’ll still link his review though, because that’s the kind of person I am.

For my thoughts on it, this game was actually excellent; I purchased it on Monday after finishing the last Battle Report, played it almost exclusively through Tuesday, and then finished it on Wednesday morning. It’s a big interconnected sidescrolling world that encourages exploration and becomes more accessible with new upgrades, much like a Metroid game. In fact, it bears quite a bit of resemblance to Metroid… but anytime I got too complacent about expecting what was going to happen, it completely subverted my expectations.

Example: early on you’ll find a narrow tunnel that you can’t fit through, and which most Metroid games would have you get the Morph Ball to roll through. I was expecting something like that, but instead I got a remote controlled drone that I would take charge of and go through the tunnels. This drone would then often have to fight or platform on the other side. Further upgrades that I was expecting to navigate harder challenges ended up going to the drone instead in creative ways, such as launching it much further or teleporting to its location.

The combat in Axiom Verge was more challenging than the average Metroid game, which made sense since the lead character Trace isn’t a heavily armoured bounty hunter extraordinaire. No, he’s just a scientist that got stuck in a bizarre alien world for reasons beyond his control. There is a reasonable focus on story in the game, with Axiom Verge’s world being largely dead, and Trace has to navigate it to figure out what’s happening and save what remains of it from the invading Breach.

This invading Breach is cleverly implemented as, well, graphical glitches. You’ll explore areas and find glimpses where platforms should be but have glitched out, or else find places walled off by what looks like the Missingno glitch from Pokemon. This all ends up linking to the plot, and you can corrupt or purify many enemies or environments in interesting ways.

It’s not all smooth sailing, as I did find some of the later areas quite tedious, and the backtracking can be pretty heavily forced. Some of this can be attributed to a lack of handholding though, which is a good thing… right up until you’re wandering around the same area for ages trying to find the one room forward. I pushed through right to the end though, mostly because I was intrigued by the story. It’s left fairly vague and loose — I believe a sequel is in development — but there’s enough interesting points and fantastically sci-fi elements to keep players hooked. It did for me, anyway.

When you factor in that all of this game was made by just one single guy, it’s an impressive feat that reminded me a lot of Project AM2R. Very good game, would recommend. Full review coming soon for this blog, I hope.

.hack//G.U.: Last Recode (Vol 1) (PS4)

For the moment, this is still the go-to game I’m keeping in my PS4 until I get around to playing Horizon’s expansion. Nonetheless, I’m still enjoying myself with this one. It’s still fairly simple and a little slow-paced, but I find it compelling all the same. Curious to see how it pans out and how much the combat and story will shake up as the volumes roll on; I’m still in the early days of the first game, after all.

I do hope I’m not required to review the final part for any upcoming projects, though… I’d hate to have to jump ahead rather than progressing through all of the games myself. That always spoils something.

Blaster Master Zero (Switch)

Fun story time! So there was a game on the original NES called Metafight in Japan, which had a few pretty interesting ideas for the time but didn’t really make waves. For a Western release, they renamed it to Blaster Master and changed what little plot there was into something considerably campier; a kid is roaming an underground network full of radioactive mutants to save his lost pet frog.

Well, the Western release was much more successful and received a lot better, so those details and series name ended up sticking. What’s more, Blaster Master actually received a novelisation (yes, really) as part of a series of books all based on NES games. It’s this book that first acquainted me with Blaster Master, as I ended up getting a copy and reading it a couple of times growing up, even though I didn’t have a NES or play this game.

Fast forward to nowadays, and the very underrated Inti Creates have presented us with Blaster Master Zero, which is actually a remake of the original game. And wouldn’t you know it; it incorporates an updated plot including some of the elements of the book, meaning I actually knew what the hell I was doing just from that. Who’da thunk it?

So what is the actual game about? Well, it’s a 2D sidescrolling action game with a bit of exploration, but mostly platforming and shooting. Where this stands out, however, is that you’re primarily controlling a tank called Sophia III around. You’re able to get out of the tank and play as your pilot, however, using him to enter smaller caves that a tank wouldn’t fit in. While you’re in these caves, it becomes a top down shooter instead, and this is where a large number of the bosses and significant challenges are.

I finished the game in fairly short order and enjoyed myself reasonably well. It’s solid, it’s entertaining, the plot is simplistic but charming and the high quality pixel art is suitably retro. The backtracking is even more forced here than in Axiom Verge as an overall percentage of game time, I’d say, so that’s a bit frustrating. It’s also fairly authentic to the original game, though this has both pros and cons.

Once again, a full review of this coming soon, I hope. But it’s a fun little game and I recommend it. I might even pick up the DLC which lets me replay the game as various other game’s characters like Gunvolt or Shantae.

Golf Story (Switch)

Last game of the list and the next one I’m playing through on Switch for review purposes. This one made a lot of waves by being a really interesting and entertaining indie game, and that’s certainly holding true with what I’ve played. To put it simply, it’s a golf game with zany JRPG elements and stats included.

No, really.

You progress through the game and complete various golf related challenges to get money and experience. Experience levels you up, and you can upgrade various stats like accuracy, spin, or driving power. Money is required for unlocking plot aspects or buying new equipment and better clubs, which will further your stats. And then, well, you go around and play golf.

There’s quite a bit of variety to the golfing, however. As well as your full, regular games of golf, you’ve got a number of various challenges that need you to sink shots or land in specific areas. Then there are the crazier ones in the mix, like hitting switches concealed around the map to open up hidden areas, or hitting a kid in the head while he’s swimming to make him get out of the water. I’m serious, here.

It’s a very enjoyable game that doesn’t take itself too seriously and has a fair bit of fun. The golfing mechanics are pretty good too, mostly relying on hitting button prompts at the right time to determine how much power and control you put on the shot. Even from someone who isn’t into golf, I’m enjoying myself. It plays a lot like the Camelot-developed Mario Golf and Mario Tennis titles of old that also incorporated RPG elements and light plot into their games.

I miss those games, but Golf Story is definitely a satisfying fill in for now.

I’ve already gotten a lot more playtime than I thought I was going to in my Switch, so I’m very glad I picked it up at this point. There’s plenty more indie titles that I’ll be tackling in the near future too, so that’ll be interesting. Reviews both on this site and off should finally be present… soon. I keep saying this and keep not delivering, but I actually mean it for real this time you guys. Count on it.

On a related note, I might be getting picked up by another website for further reviewing in the coming days, and this one is a paid (albeit cheap) gig. Fingers crossed on that front!


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