Xenoblade Chronicles 2: A Focused Look at the Systems and Flaws of the Combat

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 came out in December, and I played about ten hours of the game in that month before putting it down for other titles. I did enjoy those few hours, but there were a lot of issues with it that kept it from gripping me at the time.

Eventually, I did come back to it about six months later, and did power through it to completion. That took an additional 100 hours of playtime, give or take, with a lot more content that I could still go and do; that should give you an idea of the size and scope of the game. It did improve considerably as it went, but there were times even dozens of hours in when I found myself saying “I’m not sure if I love this game or hate it.”

But still, results speak for themselves. I got through the game and overall quite enjoyed my time. The conclusion was satisfying, and some of the plot developments and twists were quite enjoyable. There were nice and unexpected tie-ins to the first game that made it worthy of being called Xenoblade Chronicles 2 in ways that X was not. And then I ended up binging the sizeable expansion that released shortly after I finished it, enjoying that also.

Now, as much as I like the game, plenty of those flaws do stick with me. There’s a lot of questionable game design in there that I wanted to deep dive into, going over what works and what doesn’t. That was originally the purpose of this article; alas, like many of my writing projects of late, it didn’t pan out as intended. It’s been about two months since the first draft of this article was written, which probably comes as a surprise to absolutely no-one. That said, I want to put something out there, so I’m repurposing what I wrote into a more focused article.

I could talk about the Xenoblade series as a whole quite a bit on many levels, and perhaps I shall do so at some point. For now, this article is taking a good look at the fairly interesting combat system that Xenoblade Chronicles 2 offers, and why it ends up being so flawed and clunky despite the promise.

Continue reading “Xenoblade Chronicles 2: A Focused Look at the Systems and Flaws of the Combat”

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Backlog Battle Report (15th Jan 2018)

This week’s report is sponsored by sleep; appreciate what you get of it, because you probably are more rested and feel better for it than I do presently. In conjunction with a big sleep deficit, I’ve also been very fickle and have jumped from game to game pretty rapidly, meaning we’re back to having a wide assortment of titles listed today. So here’s what I’ve been up to this week.

Heroes of the Storm (PC)

I’ve eased up a little bit on the relentless Heroes games over the last week, but it’s still seeing at least a game or two from me on most days. As suggested, the latest patch went through last week and attempted a few balances to keep the games from being snowbally stomps. It also introduced the newest hero: Blaze, a Firebat from Starcraft. Betcha that name took a while to come up with. There’s also been a handful of buffs/nerfs and another rework for Malfurion.

I haven’t played Malfurion just yet so I can’t speak on how that treated him, but I can talk about Blaze and the other changes. So, did the changes make the game less early game centric? A little bit. Towers and keeps hurt a bit more so minions won’t completely bulldoze them if a specialist walks up to them with a wave and a funny look, but they’re still not the threats of yore. Things are a little slower and late-game is a thing, but it’s certainly possible to keep rolling through and win fairly easily. Probably could use more tweaks, but we’ll see. As I said last week, I don’t really mind the faster pace of the games.

So, Blaze. At long last, the long awaited and anticipated Firebat enters the field. With his release, every leaked hero from a credible source has now hit the Nexus, which means anything further from here is new ground. No idea who’s next, which is always a fun place for speculation… but even if the next release is a way off, I’ll probably need that long to fully acquaint myself with Blaze.

Continue reading “Backlog Battle Report (15th Jan 2018)”

Backlog Battle Report (11th Dec 2017)

Yep, okay, this one’s late. It’s been a week, and I’ve got no excuse. Doesn’t matter, it’s here now, so let’s get into it. Not a lot of games this week but here’s what’s been there nonetheless.

Realm Grinder (PC)

Need to bring this one up first again because, quite frankly, it’s becoming a problem. Addiction to the notion or sensation of progress isn’t uncommon for me, and I’ve bounced around between a few idle games offering similar stuff, but something about this one is keeping me checking on it to the point that it’s actually inhibiting my other gaming or writing.

It’s seriously gotten to the point where I will set up things or do what seems like a maximised build for this run, then sit and see it through. I’m not spam clicking the entire time or anything, but I’ll be watching Youtube or chatting on Discord in between managing that when I should be doing other things. It’s not entirely to blame for my hold-ups and delays, but it is a factor and I need to start really limiting how I go about maintaining this.

All that said, I’m a way into Reincarnation 6. More upgrades and challenges are right around the corner of unlocking, I think. Seems like more aspects of the game go quite a way back if you keep running it… which I will probably do, but in the background. Or offline.

Continue reading “Backlog Battle Report (11th Dec 2017)”

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.

Continue reading “Backlog Battle Report (27th Nov ’17)”

Backlog Battle Report (16th Oct 2017)

Proving once more that I am fickle and need to work harder on maintaining a schedule, here is Monday’s post ahead of the late Right Click to Zoom article. It’s coming soon, really. Also proving my lack of attention span is another slew of newly started games and not a lot of continuation on previous stuff. Well, at least I’ve got some things to say.

Final Fantasy 14 (PC) — Patched up

As I said last week, the major 4.1 update for Final Fantasy 14 dropped a few days ago and I jumped right back into it. What surprises me the most about this, however, is that I actually haven’t played much of it all despite expectations.

This is nothing to do with the lack of content, or lack of options and new things to do. That’s all there, with a new bunch of side content, further expansion on the Stormblood plot, a new four man dungeon, a new high difficulty trial, and a new raid that heavily ties Final Fantasy 12 and Tactics together into an interesting worldbuilding exercise. What I’ve played of it is all very well done and genuinely pretty high quality. The precursor quests to that raid had me geeking out pretty hard, and it was a joy to go through.

Thing is, I’ve still only done the precursors. The actual raid? Haven’t jumped into yet. The new main quest? That jumps into the new dungeon fairly quickly, and that’s where I’ve stopped. At the moment, I’m in no particular hurry to jump into the group content without a group to play with, and I have no real desire to queue up with random people. And even if I did have that desire, I don’t have the item level required; I played so little after reaching the level cap on both my characters that I didn’t spend much time gearing them up, so I’d have to do that for a couple of runs before I could tackle the new stuff.

Continue reading “Backlog Battle Report (16th Oct 2017)”

A Storm of Blood

Due to various circumstances I’ve been very remiss in doing much in the way of writing for the past month, and what little I’ve been doing has largely been things that aren’t ready for public eyes just yet. I did have a chance to review two games over on GameSkinny: Tokyo 42, an interesting but frustrating cyberpunk action game in the vein of Syndicate; and a visual novel about dating girls in North Korea that was bought for me as a dare to review. Never let it be said that I won’t take on such a challenge.

In addition to not writing too much, I’ve not actually had much opportunity to chip away at the backlog over the past month. Instead, I played Final Fantasy 14. A lot of Final Fantasy 14. Talking about my time with that will be the brunt of this article.

There have been a few other games that I’ll quickly go over to acknowledge my playtime. First, my go to aside from FF14 remains Heroes of the Storm, which I’ve still been plugging away at in short intervals and downtime with or without friends. I made it back to Diamond this season after an uncharacteristically good run of placement games (8-2), which was a pleasant return after floating around Platinum for the last couple of seasons. In addition, the upcoming Starcraft hero Stukov is both a huge favourite of mine and is also of my most frequented support role, so I’m looking forward to getting my hands on him.

Beyond those two games, I bought and completed Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia on 3DS. Well, rather, I completed Chapter 5 which is where the plot ends, but I didn’t dabble in any of the post-game stuff. It was a reasonably enjoyable game and I intend to make a post dedicated to it soon.

I also picked up Ever Oasis for 3DS on its release, mostly on a whim. It’s an interesting little game with a mix of Zelda-lite exploration and combat combined with a basic Harvest Moon system of town management. Sadly, while it started out interesting, there’s a few little issues that serve to bog the game down in terms of enjoyment, and it ended up feeling quite shallow and more like busywork rather than fun gameplay. Not sure I’ll get back to that, but again, planning to talk more on that.

Oh yeah, and E3 happened. Naturally I was in no position to attend, being on the wrong hemisphere, but I did pay some attention to it. I was mostly uninteresting by the vast majority of games on offer, but just about broke my chair in excitement when they announced Metroid Prime 4. I’ll most definitely be getting a Switch at some point now, that’s clear enough. Overall though, the presentation was largely meh and didn’t really have many highlights, so I won’t speak too much on this just yet. If anything interesting does come from it, well, odds are I’ll be able to write about those games when I play them.

So with that out of the way, let’s get into Final Fantasy 14 and its newest expansion then. Continue reading “A Storm of Blood”

The Persona Aftermath

It’s been almost two weeks after I finished Persona 5, settling down to do so a couple of days after the last post. There’s been a huge amount I wanted to say, and I was still fully intending on doing a proper review for it on GameSkinny or for here, but ultimately I just haven’t been up to writing much lately. I will hopefully have it written up in a couple of days, by which point the window will likely be closed for getting any real attention or readership for it, but no matter.

I really don’t know how to quantify how much I liked Persona 5 though. I feel like I could call it my favourite game ever, yet part of me suspects that isn’t the case and I could probably argue it with a few others. I feel like I could call it the perfect JRPG, but I know for a fact that there are flaws and issues with it, even if most don’t surface unless I really start nitpicking. I suppose I’d liken it as similar to Gigguk’s Perfect Anime, which is a thought provoking take on how we absorb entertainment as a whole. Persona 5 is my Perfect Game, just about, and I don’t expect another game to come along and topple it in my eyes anytime soon.

At least not until Trails of Cold Steel III, anyway. Fingers crossed on that one.

The other games that I’d call my favourite games are things like Baldur’s Gate 2, Morrowind, Chrono Trigger — games that I played more in my formative years that have stayed with me since, but it’s hard to know if I’d feel the same way if I was introduced to them today. At the same time, they have shaped my tastes in games so much that even if they may not “hold up” if first played today, they have been so influential that I would be loathe to call them not as good. Besides, they’re all games I can (and have) replayed even in more recent years and found plenty of enjoyment.

By contrast, the games of the recent couple of years that have truly stuck out for me are more like modern updates and advances in those earlier genres. The first two Trails of Cold Steel games, for example, gained similar responses from me as Persona 5 by basically being exactly what I wanted out of a JRPG in terms of gameplay systems and story.

Now Persona 5 has come along and set the bar higher, yet at the same time I don’t consider the overall feel of the characters and party members in P5 to reach the level that Cold Steel did. I liked most if not all of the Persona 5 characters both major and minor, protagonist and antagonist, but they weren’t written as cohesively and emotively (nor were they as numerous) as the overall cast of the Cold Steel games. Everything else is a step above in Persona’s favour, but if such an important aspect is lower, could the game be called perfect? These are the things I think about, even if that in itself is nitpicking.

That said, it’s been nearly two weeks and these thoughts have not ever left my mind for too long. Persona 5 may be over as an experience, but it has remained with me so profoundly ever since that it’s coloured my gaming habits and related moods. There’s a very real chance I’ll fight off my urge to pick up new games and work on completing them and instead go replay the game on a harder difficulty, not even a month after its release. That’s the kind of appeal the game has presented for me.

Since I haven’t done that, instead I went looking for gaming experiences like Persona 5’s. I thought I’d swear off JRPGs for a while because others can’t compete, but instead I picked up Shin Megami Tensei 4: Apocalypse once more, set on beating that after putting it down for P5. And beat it I did — that became my new obsession, forcing every other game out for a while as I struggled to fill the hole Persona left in my heart.

Thankfully there were quite a few key systems and narrative points in SMT4 that helped ease off the Persona come-down enough, and it itself was a very good game overall. Great themes, enjoyable story, likeable characters, solid battle system… and the worst final dungeon in a JRPG that I can think of. Seriously that last dungeon was atrociously badly designed in all ways and it was almost enough to kill off all my positive feelings of the game had it lasted even a few minutes longer (and it lasted HOURS). Thankfully, the final boss fights more than made up for that and left me with a satisfying conclusion. I’ll share more thoughts on that fully soon, with luck.

Nonetheless, ever since I finished with that game, I’ve been bouncing from title to title trying to find something to captivate me as it did, and nothing has succeeded. I’ve played a huge amount of Heroes of the Storm following that big update, I’ve rummaged through my 3DS collection for titles I never finished and flicked through about half a dozen of those, and I’ve started playing the Skyrim mod Enderal (which is quite good) among other games, and I’ve continued to drop some time into FF14. But nothing is quite having that same effect.

I suppose I should elaborate and say that it’s quite uncommon for me to stick to a game from start to finish in one go from the launch onwards. Normally I multitask profusely and put games aside for variety the moment I get bored or frustrated with them. It’s only more recently that I’ve found the patience and persistence to get through more titles from start to finish, and even that has started to vanish. Persona just did it better, and now other games aren’t captivating me enough, regardless of their genre.

It’s actually frustrating to feel this way, but there you have it I suppose. Persona 5 — so good that it’s ruined all other gaming enjoyment for me since. I did say that I realised halfway through that choosing not to judge it fully until I’d reached the end felt meaningless when I was growing despondent at the mere thought that it would eventually end, and I didn’t truly expect to seriously feel that once the credits had rolled. But I do.

All the way throughout, Persona 5 managed to keep my attention rapt. 98 hours total play time, and it only had the most minor of fumbles in terms of pacing and focus. It never wore out its welcome or felt like it dragged on. Some might say it’s a bit slow to start and I can see that, but I was quick to be pulled into its world and want to experience more. As the plot progressed and the dungeons continued, I always wanted to see and know more. I wanted answers for the questions the game was presenting to me, and I was rarely if ever left disappointed. If I did feel that way, it wasn’t because the game failed to deliver, but simply because I was hoping the game might push or explore a couple of concepts further yet chose not to do so. It’s not necessarily a defect or a flaw in the game; it’s merely how I wanted more narrative elements to chew and digest on.

By the time the credits had rolled, the story was told from start to finish in a completely satisfying manner. All the major plot points were resolved and all the characters had their moment to shine in some way. The narrative smarted small and ramped up constantly until it capped in a truly grandiose Shin Megami Tensei fashion. The final boss wasn’t particularly challenging for my setup, but it was epic enough to feel fitting. Start to finish, all of it a great game that I truly adored.

I’m happy to call Persona 5 the best Persona game. I’m even happy to call it the best game in the Shin Megami Tensei franchise as well as the best game of 2017 so far. But I’m even happier to go further than that: I’m happy to call Persona 5 my favourite JRPG ever. I firmly believe it sets the new benchmark to beat and will be talked about in the years to come in the same manner as games like Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy 7, and yes, Persona 4 are now. As said above, I’d just about call it my Perfect Game. It’s hit me so hard that it is skewing how I play and enjoy games afterwards.

So that’s that. Now I need to find a way out of this funk and to keep moving forward with the games progression. Things I need to write soon: proper in-depth review for Persona 5’s game elements, more discussion about SMT4:A (especially compared to SMT4 and other SMT games), a discussion about character narratives using P5 and Trails of Cold Steel as comparisons, coverage of Enderal, and also chatting a little about my random dabblings in Elder Scrolls Online. And all while writing this, I need to find a new game that’ll keep my attention that can be chalked off the Backlog, because Heroes of the Storm cannot qualify for such a thing.

Look forward to all of that soon… hopefully.