Backlog Battle Report (27th Nov ’17)

I’m thoroughly embarrassed with myself this week. I’ve worked on some pretty critical games, mostly on the Switch as usual. I’ve published both my Blaster Master Zero review and Ittle Dew 2+ review for Switch Indie Reviews. Overall, things are pretty good. But there’s a lot of playtime in one game that… well, see for yourself.

Realm Grinder (PC)

Cookie Clicker has so much to answer for. Alternatively, I’m trapped in here somebody please send help.

So Realm Grinder is an idle/clicker game, where you can click the screen repeatedly to generate coins, which you then buy buildings with to generate more coins… rinse and repeat to absolutely ludicrous examples of scientific notation. There’s a little more to do, but not really a lot; just spend your coins, leave it idle for a bit, and return every so often.

There’s very little game, and most of the time I don’t actually bother clicking it or doing much, but I’ve been checking in on it for the past week and leaving it open for a staggering amount of time. Even though I could just let it run for extended periods, I can’t help but check in it compulsively way too regularly. I’ll often be juggling it while eating meals, watching videos, or waiting in Heroes queues.

It’s bizarre why I stick with it at all, but I don’t know. I get some kind of twisted satisfaction watching the numbers creep ever higher. It’s the illusion of progress and advancement, I guess. I tend to be drawn to MMORPGs for the exact same reason, though this is far more blunt and pointless about it.

I’m curious just how far I can get it going. More “features” and aspects to manage do become available as you advance, but it’s usually a case of waiting for days to make it so. I suppose it’s harmless, but again, I’m embarrassed at how much time I’ve sunk into it even just to tune in and build things.

Anyway, there’s my secret shame. I’d give a progress report in it for those interested, but I honestly don’t really know how I’d gauge such a thing. Again, we’re at pretty stupid numbers of zeroes appended to everything already.

Heroes of the Storm (PC)

As much as Realm Grinder probably looks like it’s where most of my time has been from a pure “hours spent” standpoint, so much of that is just left idling. That leaves Heroes as the primary time sink of the week, and quite a sizeable one it has been.

Nothing really to say about my patterns or habits this week. It’s largely been quick matches with whoever has wanted to join in, and the queue times continue to keep me away from ranked. I’ve just been playing characters to suit the daily quests or to level characters up. If things don’t go well or I lose enough, I usually bust out Dehaka and feel better afterwards.

There’s a good number of changes on the horizon. Currently, most of the Blizzcon announcements are on the public test realm and are being put through their paces. Changes to building ammo and a complete overhaul of all the stealth characters look to be pretty interesting and I’m hoping to play through those soon. That said, stealth characters are absolutely not my strength… I’ll either need to practice to overcome that weakness, or else just continue to ignore them and learn to beat them all over again.

Still haven’t played Alexstrasza, though I have more than enough gold to purchase her now. It’s better to wait for a couple of days for her gold price to drop at this point, though. Hanzo isn’t far from release either, so I might just hold off and purchase him first so I can be ready to be one of the horrible Hanzo mains plaguing the game on day one.

I still think that sentiment will be completely unfounded for Heroes, mind, and I’ve been saying that since the beginning. But who knows.

Last thing to note is that the weekly Brawl in Heroes, something I usually avoid, has actually pulled in a lot of my attention. Unlike normal Brawls, which are just tweaked variants of matches, this time it’s a PvE scenario where your team picks from a small selection of characters and then proceeds through a map full of Zerg enemies to deal with. There’s boss fights, ambushes, hidden items… it’s very different from anything else in Heroes and more like what you’d find in a Starcraft custom map.

It’s a surprising amount of fun, and I’d really like to see more maps or even a full PvE mode like it in the future. At the moment it feels a bit easy, but if you throw in difficulty options then it could be quite the feature, sort of like how co-op mode thrived so well in Starcraft 2.

Pokemon Ultra Sun (3DS)

Since the Switch has supplanted the 3DS as my portable system of choice, I’ve actually not made very much progress at all on Pokemon. Currently I’ve only just beaten the first island trial, so I’m making my way back to beat the Melemele Kahuna. My Pokemon team is still in flux at this point, but Litten just evolved so it’s currently the team powerhouse that gets brought in when everyone else fails.

I’ll hopefully have time to play more of it in the coming days… but then, I probably won’t. I do want to, though. Pokemon’s always a welcome little indulgence.

Transcripted (Switch)

This was once again picked up for review purposes, but I’ve actually thoroughly enjoyed it given that I was assigned it on a whim. It plays like a mix of an arcade Geometry Wars style game where you fly a small ship around and avoid various hazards while shooting enemies. Standard stuff.

Where it then differentiates is that most beaten foes will leave a coloured cube behind. If you pick this up, your next shot will fire it in a straight line. Running through most levels is a long string of other coloured cubes, and if you slot yours in to match 3, they’re eliminated and you get points. So suddenly it’s a fusion of a shooter and a match 3 puzzle game.

The two ideas actually blend fairly well. There’s a lot of various enemy types and mechanics to watch out for, so trying to do all of that and maximise your effectiveness and lifespan while also precisely aiming cubes to trigger combos and chains? Pretty hectic stuff.

I’ve beaten the story mode (it actually does have a story, and it’s not bad) and I’m dabbling in the challenges and other modes before it goes off for review, so hopefully that’ll be ready to go on SIR by next week’s update. More on it then.

Azure Striker Gunvolt (Switch)

Mostly just here for completion’s sake, as I haven’t played much further of this but did knock out one stage. Got a lot more to do and the second game to play through as well, but my attention was elsewhere this week for Switch games.

Battle Chef Brigade (Switch)

This game has absolutely kept me glued to my Switch frequently over the last couple of days. I was playing it right up until I started posting this update, and the only reason I noticed what time it was to do so was because I was struggling with a late-game difficulty spike. Even so, I’m keen to jump right back in to try again once I’m done here.

So what is Battle Chef Brigade? Well, it’s another hybrid of game genres and ideas. You play as Mina, who’s aspiring to join the titular Battle Chef Brigade. To do so, she has to progress through the Proving Tournament where she faces off against other skilled chefs in cooking battles. It’s all very Iron Chef or Food Wars, but with a catch: you have to provide the ingredients yourself by beating up monsters and foraging mid-battle.

The best way to elaborate is to run over how a cooking battle will play out. You’ll select your loadout of equipment (both combat and cooking related offers a wide array of bonuses or options), then be presented with a selection of judges that each have different tastes. You’re then given a focus ingredient which the dish must be built around. The timer starts, and you’re off.

Immediately you have to rush out into a handful of arenas populated by different monsters, and have to gather what you need. This section of the game plays out like a brawler, and you have a decent moveset to both combat, evade, and make distance. Once you’ve gotten the ingredients you require, you move back to the kitchen and deposit them in the pantry. Now it’s time to cook.

You have to deposit your chosen ingredients into the cookware, which is represented by a small match 3 grid. Each ingredient provides a number of coloured gems, and you stir the dish to arrange these better. Match 3 of a colour, and they’ll leave one levelled up gem of that colour behind. You can upgrade these twice up to level 3 gems, which are worth the most points at the end.

It’s not just a matter of feeding in ingredients, however. Certain sauces or garnishes will change the colour of some gems to your advantage. Some ingredients have bones, which do nothing on their own but if matched provide a wildcard gem to use. Other ingredients are poisoned, and some just have low quality parts that will break if you move them too much. It becomes a real balancing act, and all the while the timer is ticking down.

There’s all sorts of things you can do from there. Later battles will have you making multiple dishes at once, meaning you’ll have to make multiple trips into the monster filled areas to stock up. Some cookware allows you to slow cook meals while you’re off, promoting their gems or automatically removing poison, so that can be used to your advantage.

Winning the battle is the matter of getting the most points in each dish, while also using the focus ingredients, adhering to the flavour requirements of judges for bonuses, utilising all sorts of other expertise bonuses based on your loadout… it’s incredibly tense and demanding, but the end result is fantastically fun.

Throw in some excellent presentation with beautiful art, a charming story and multiple enjoyable characters, and you have a real winner. I love this game. I’ll be doing a full review of this too, so look out for that.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Wii U)

The last game on the list this week is the apparent 2017 Game of the Year. Funnily enough, it doesn’t even register in my top 5 as it stands. Top 10, absolutely, but not top 5. If weapon degradation wasn’t quite so rapid and rain didn’t make climbing places impossible, it might be nudged higher, but cest la vie.

Nonetheless, we’re back into it. I’m still proceeding through the entire game playing duo with a friend of mine and handing off the controller as we go, but we’ve both been there for the entirety so far. We’ve beaten two Divine Beasts (Zora and Goron), we’ve just retrieved the Master Sword, and we spent the last session mostly just picking a direction and going on an adventure.

Much of our exploration and game time has been spent along the eastern and central regions of Hyrule, and while we haven’t uncovered everything there (obviously), we’ve played through quite a bit of it. Without touching the western regions though, we found ourselves without a direct tangible goal that we could tackle, so we picked a direction and starting moving. We’ve uncovered a few map towers, done some shrines, and are steadily moving through the snowfields towards what is presumably the Rito Divine Beast looming in the sky above us.

It really is completely unlike any other Zelda game, and in fact really embodies the “open” of open world games more than most of its contemporaries. Just… pick a direction and go see what’s out there. Have an adventure. Set a goal of your own within it, even if we have these guidelines to reel you back in should you require it. There’s a lot of fun to be had here and there’s been more than a few “whoa!” moments from either or both of us.

Yet it speaks to the quality of the game’s released this year that I still wouldn’t call this in my top 5. Still, this is one I hope to see through.


That about wraps it up. This time next week I’ll probably be buried neck deep in Xenoblade 2, but at least two of those reviews will hopefully be in the process of being uploaded to various other sites. There’s a new Right Click to Zoom in the works too that should hopefully make its way here when I get a spare minute to focus on it. Busy, busy, busy. How I’ll ever find time to play all these games is beyond me, but at least I’m not buying everything that’s on sale on Steam or GOG this time around.

…I should probably go check those sales… anyway, see you next week.

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