As the hours wind down on this dreary month, I found myself relying more and more on comfort games. Games that I could pick up and binge, lose myself in for hours and hours, and while I kept telling myself ‘Ohhh, I really should try playing Mass Effect one of these days’, these games just kept calling me back over and over. I think a theme through all of these is the fact that I keep playing them even though I’m uncertain whether or not the payoff will ever be worth it. It’s the reason I dropped MMOs and MOBAs almost entirely – the fact that there will never be an end point, or one being more than hundreds of hours away, is a huge turn-off for me recently.
And yet, it’s nice to be able to just bury my head in the sand and sink myself into them every so often, even if I should be going out and having new gaming experiences. I know what I’m doing isn’t good for me, but hey, may as well do what makes me happy in the short time I have to live.
Fire Emblem Heroes for Android
What better way to illustrate the point of never having an end and being inevitably unsatisfying than to start off with a free-to-play microtransaction-infested mobile game by Intelligent Systems, revered creators of Tennis for the NES.
Oh, right, and the majority of the Fire Emblem games.
The gameplay of Fire Emblem Heroes is essentially a condensed version of other past Fire Emblem games. There don’t seem to be any maps larger than one phone screen’s worth of real estate, it’s all grid-based and turn-based strategy. The weaknesses and strengths against each weapon time is your typical rock-paper-scissors affair, spiced up with some abilities and traits unique to certain characters you have.
Ah, yes, the characters. See, this is basically a huge intra-franchise crossover ordeal, similar to your Dissidia: Final Fantasy or Castlevania: Judgement or Super Smash Bros. (although the latter is more inter franchise than intra). And with that, you’ve got a whole slew of main characters and supporting casts from nearly every single Fire Emblem game to date. So, wow, you can have anyone from any Fire Emblem ever!?
Nnnnope! That’s where the microtransactions come into play! You start out with around three or four characters that everyone else starts out with, but after that, if you want more characters, you have to collect orbs. These orbs are then used to summon a random character from a predetermined set of possible characters, each one being assigned a rarity. The rarer the character, the more abilities they have from the get-go, and the more powerful they tend to be as a result.
Combine a Fire Emblem video game with a Gachapon machine. That’s this game.
Except, for me, it’s far more alluring than any Gachapon machine could ever hope to be. For one, I just like the gameplay of your average modern Fire Emblem game on a base level. Two, it makes me want to go out and discover the older games because of seeing interesting designs spanning from games before Awakening that I haven’t given proper time to. Now, I want to know who this Fae character is from that I happened to get a five-star version of, or who this Catria character is from because I find her very attractive (yes, I can be that shallow, I admit it.) Three, for the ones I have played, many of these characters here are those I’ve invested time and effort into via their respective games that they come from, and would be thrilled to have the ability to say I now have them on my team.
This is a diplomatic way of saying I want to get all of my Fire Emblem waifus on my team. That’s all I care about. I already have a five star Camilla, dammit, now I just need Cordelia and I’ll be satisfied, but the game won’t give me Cordelia because it knows, no matter how many orbs I throw at the machine and no matter how many times I pick the spear class she never comes up god dammit I want Cordelia so badly everyone else has her I’ve resisted just buying orbs with money this long why can’t I have her-
Something I do truly appreciate in this game is that it doesn’t seem to be unfair about dispersing orbs without having you pay for them directly. Sure, the daily login bonus doesn’t seem permanent, but there are certain quests and objectives you can go for that award you with not only orbs, but badges to level up your characters without grinding so hard. There seem to be quests that replace themselves every month or so, to keep things fresh and interesting. There’s the training area where you can grind to your heart’s content until you run out of Stamina, which recharges for one point per five minutes real time.
Yeah, the stamina thing isn’t something I’m big on, wish it recharged a little faster.
Overall, as scummy as I still find blatant microtransactions to be, I haven’t hit a point in Fire Emblem Heroes yet where it’s hampered my fun overall. The only thing that has ruined my fun is that when I want to level up my units, if they die, that experience they earned for that round doesn’t apply. Many, many times this has resulted in me getting a unit a level, or even two in one battle, then having them die on me, I clear the rest of the level with no issue but it was basically for nothing. If there was one thing I could change, it’s that bullcrap right there.
Honestly, I think this is my favorite mobile game of all time so far.
Demon’s Souls for Playstation 3
So uh…yeah, still don’t own Dark Souls III. Stiiiiill 60 bucks. Still can’t really justify that in the position I’m in.
I did get my hands on Demon’s Souls for a third of that price, though.
Demon’s Souls is the first in the ‘Souls’ series that includes itself, Dark Souls 1, 2, and 3, and debatable Bloodborne as well. This one’s the one that started it all in the Souls series.
To give a recap, Demon’s Souls, and the Souls series in general, is a third-person dark fantasy action role playing game, with emphasis on stamina management, timing, dodging and blocking. It has a fixation on throwing everything at a new player that will get them annihilated until they learn to play by the game’s implied rules, such as dropping your shield to recover stamina, learning your opponent’s moves, and finding out how to essentially out-bullshit your opponents.
Okay, so…I’ve played Dark Souls 1. A lot. I’m nearing 450 hours on it according to Steam. And I’ve played Dark Souls 2. A lot. That one’s around 250 hours. I’d like to consider myself as no slouch when it comes to Souls games.
Why in the hell am I having this insane amount of trouble with Demon’s Souls? I’m finding myself being tossed aside like nobody’s business in this game, harder than my first times of the other games.
See, this game does something fundamentally different from the other two, in that it has a central circular hub almost like Crash Bandicoot: Warped where you can decide which area you want to go to directly, rather than Dark Souls having everything interconnected and Dark Souls 2 branching out in forty different walking paths. And because of this, I assumed the proper way to do things was to finish the first hub area I was set in, then go onto the next one, finish everything there, then onto the next, and so on until all the areas are completed in order.
That…doesn’t appear to be the case. As evidenced by going to the second stage of the first area (referred to by the community as ‘1-2’ old school Mario style) I just got annhiallated by the dragon that showed up there over and over and over. After looking it up, I found that a common thing to do was to go allllll the way to ‘4-1’ instead and grind there, then come back after you’ve done some grinding. And I was supposed to know this how?
It’s easy for someone to just say ‘git gud’ but when I feel like it’s the blatantly wrong path for me to be taking, it’d be nice to know that it was my fault for taking that path and not the game implicitly telling me to go down that path because it seems to clearly be the next in order. I blame myself for going down into that skeleton pit area at the beginning of Dark Souls 1, and I properly learned from it. I blame Demon’s Souls for designating that this is clearly the continuation of a place I was previously supposed to go, and then punishing me for going there because I apparently wasn’t supposed to go there for some arbitrary reason. I blame Demon’s Souls for communicating to me that, in nearly every other area I tried, I was clearly not ready there either. The only way I could continue is to grind at 4-1 (again, how was I to know to go three areas past my starting area?) and the only way I even knew how to do that properly was because I discovered later on that the enemies there were weak against blunt weapons.
Jolly good times.
And yet, I can’t hate this game still. I haven’t beaten it, I don’t even think I’m halfway through, but I’ve already sunk a solid 30 or 40 hours into it and I still enjoy the gameplay a hell of a lot, janky as it may be. The boss designs I’ve come across are really interesting, and the gimmicks are too. I’m still having fun, what with the game standing on me with a sharpened high heeled boot firmly on my sternum, constantly mocking me and telling me how I’m not as good as I think I am, teasing me with the thought of getting closer to beating the area when truth be told I’m nowhere near getting past it.
Here’s to another hundred hours of misery and torture. Well, what can I say? I always have been submissive.
Stardew Valley for PC
Stardew Valley, developed by one Eric Barone, is, at its very basest form, a stylized, cartoonized top-down farming simulator. You get up, plant and/or collect crops, forage, cut down and/or plant trees, fish, mine, and send those goods into a box in exchange for money at the end of the day, all for it to repeat again the next day.
And yet, there is so, so very much more to it. There are sections where you have to fight through the mines in a very much Link To The Past battle system. There are relations with the characters you can discover through random events. There are celebrations and holidays where the small town gets together and has a party. Each character is clearly distinct in their own way (except for the effeminate long-orange-haired guy, who I keep mistaking for the two long-orange-haired girls). You get to level up in the game depending on the things you do the most (I’m partial to fishing, personally. You don’t even really have to do any farming if you don’t want, there are plenty of other ways to get income.) There are these mysterious tiny blob people hiding in an old house and you need to gather items for them and they give you gifts and work on the town as a whole, repairing minecarts or clearing boulders.
As time progresses, the game rewards your interests with new and better things geared towards those interests. The more you fish, the more your fishing mentor might give you tips or even a new rod. The more you mine, the more materials you’ll get to make mining easier.
I want to give a huge shout-out to the sound design. This is some Umineko levels of audio atmosphere achieved here. I genuinely thought it was raining outside when I had the game in the background while doing other things. Each clink of a mined rock is thudding and meaty, just so satisfying! The more cartoony sound-effects like the popping of harvesting a crop is very welcome as well, and the music at the beginning of each sunny day has actually legitimately affected my mood in a slightly positive way regardless of how I felt coming into that session.
The issue is that the few times I’ve glanced online to look up basics like where to mine Iron, I’ve glanced at certain words, phrases and places and thought to myself, nearly 20 hours in mind you, “What on earth is that thing this guide is talking about? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of that! How far away is this stuff?” So, there is a part of me that feels a little unqualified to feature this on this particular section, considering I feel I haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s to come and there’s a ridiculous amount more to explore. But I feel it’s impacted me prominently enough that it deserves a full card spot here.
I do have a few gripes with it. I don’t really like how the hard time limit to staying out is 2am, even if I have the energy bar to keep going. It feels like it might make more sense if, say, I got a fraction of energy for everything I eat after midnight? And then maybe a fraction of that after 3 or 4, and more fractions from there? It makes sense to need sleep at some point, but the hard limit of 2am isn’t great. Hell, I usually stay up past 2am on an average day.
I don’t really much care for the only time being able to save is at the end of a day, too. I realize this is probably to get me coming back for more, but more often than not I’m having to quit out and lose my progress because I have to get up and do stuff for my actual real life day. It makes the game less accessible as a pick-up-and-play put-down-whenever ordeal, which is what I would personally much prefer.
Other than that, I quite enjoy the game so far. If there are any major developments or opinion changes the further I go in, I’ll list them next time under my Other Quick Updates.
Dissidia 012 [duodecim] Final Fantasy for Playstation Portable (ENDING SPOILERS ABOUND (SORT OF))
On Christmas of 2009, at the spry age of 14, I had saved up enough money so that, if I sacrificed my Gamecube and the one game I had on it (Super Smash Bros. Melee), I could get my very own new Playstation Portable, complete with a copy of Daxter, a UMD of four episodes of Family Guy, and a copy of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII. At the time, it was an amazing purchase. I remember getting so much use out of it – it was the one MP3 player that never, ever crapped out on me, I played and beat Crisis Core, I managed to find shady sites that would convert .mp4 files into a format the PSP could play so I could watch my Naruto (as I didn’t have my own computer at the time), and later in January, I was able to swing the real reason I wanted this system – Dissidia: Final Fantasy. This was essentially all I played for four months straight.
On April of 2010, after leaving it behind in the inside pocket of my coat to go on a field trip with the rest of the class, I returned to find my Playstation Portable was stolen, along with the copy of Dissidia: Final Fantasy inside of it.
Along with learning a lesson to never leave valuables anywhere outside of my house or my person, I have since then never owned a PSP. And I really missed that sucker, it was faithful to me until the bitter end.
Until now, where I procured a PSP Go for 50 dollars, used, in good condition, charger and all. Finally, in February of 2017, I took back my PSP, I took back my Dissidia, and I went forward to play its sequel, which is what we’ll be talking about here today. Except it’s…kind of…a prequel…and a remake…sort of…
Dissidia 012 [duodecim] Final Fantasy, developed by Square Enix, and Dissidia as a whole, is a fighting game. I think? It’s weird. But at its base level, two people are going head to head to duke it out in an action-y style, so in that sense it’s a fighting game. Instead of just hitting the person and doing damage like your average fighting game, however, you now have two distinct forms of attack – Bravery attacks and HP attacks. Basically, one builds the other. Bravery attacks makes a number go up on your side, and HP attacks use that number to inflict that number’s amount of damage to your opponent’s HP, after which your number resets to its default. Special moves are simply based on what direction you’re pointing towards and what button you press, reminiscent of Super Smash Bros. No complicated pretzel motions or full circles here, just point one way and hit the button! You can dodge, you can block, you can level up throughout the campaign which is…well, um.
About the campaign.
Honestly, it’s really interesting to see the protagonists and antagonists of one of my favorite game franchises all interact with each other, although this game takes a focus on a lot of the side characters of past games as well as Lightning since she didn’t get to be in the first one.
Some of the interactions are genuinely funny and charming when the voice acting isn’t being really stiff sounding, which is the case about half the time. Laguna getting nervous around one of the scantily clad final bosses of one of the games is actually pretty funny, and overall, I really enjoy Laguna’s portrayal especially. I have to admit, as well, despite not really caring for Final Fantasy XIII, I enjoyed Lightning as a character here, being a hard ass that contrasted and clashed a lot with the likes of Laguna and Vaan.
As I went through the main campaign, I have to admit, I got a little worn down on the fights. I dunno, it got a bit too repetitive for me eventually. The easy ones were stupidly easy, the hard ones were unfairly hard, and there wasn’t often a middle ground. The story itself is kind of weirdly simple – there are two deities, your goddess of harmony Cosmos and god of discord Chaos (a little on the nose there, mates?). Cosmos summons Final Fantasy protags, Chaos summons Final Fantasy antags, and they duke it out for the balance of the multiverse. Eventually beings known as manikins appear that are essentially infinite copies of all the characters, and they’re all on Chaos’ side, so really it’s a grand total of five or six people versus unlimited hordes.
Especially nearing the end, there was a lot of talk about how the situation these characters were in was getting hopeless. It felt like every single fight near the climax, at the end of it one character would reiterate in their own way that it’s hopeless, and that their hope is faltering, and that it’s hopeless, and that even if they can try to stop the manikins they’re probably going to die anyways, and that it’s hopeless, and that they’ll never see their friends again, and that it’s hopeless, and–
It got a bit repetitive. Everyone understands it’s hopeless. No need to reiterate five times over for every character.
Another thing that kind of bothered me, and this could just be a preferential thing here, but every single time a boss fight ended and I cleared an area, it was like the boss just retorted “You didn’t win!” and disappeared totally unscathed. Son, I just constantly and consistently owned you all the way from Spira and back for the third time this campaign, and then the cutscene just comes in like “Ahhh, nah they’re fine even though you’ve beaten them to a pulp multiple times, that wasn’t real.”
What I’m trying to say is that my battles feel like they have zero agency. The opponent should at least be winded or panting or scuffed or SOMETHING after multiple battles of having their arse kicked.
Then again, maybe that’s just another way that they try to drive the point home that it’s hopeless.
Finally, at the end of the campaign, as it turns out, all of our warriors fall. A bit of text scrolls saying the cycle begins anew due to some deus ex “dragon” I’ve never heard of until now, and I’m left here wondering what I even did all of that for. What an oddly existential ending.
…oh? There’s a new section called The Final Battle? And it’s just one stage with the Warrior of Light from the first Final Fantasy game? Oh…that wasn’t very long, and didn’t seem like much of a final battle at all. Well that was really anticli-
And then, bam, it happened. Ten new routes suddenly appeared, all with each of the main protagonists of each Final Fantasy game.
Oh. Whoa. Uh.
And then I put the game down to start writing this update.
I have to admit, not knowing this going in, it’s a slightly similar feeling to when you beat all the main gyms in Pokemon Silver, and then you come away all satisfied and done when bam, guess what, you get to go back to your old places in the last game and challenge the gym leaders there after years have passed in the game! Not quite as potent or amazing as that, because upon research I realized that this game was indeed a prequel to the original Dissidia, as well as a remake of it proper.
So, what I just played? All of that was prequel stuff. And now the remade full Dissidia experience is unlocked for me. It’d be more like if you played Pokemon Silver, beat it, and then just got the privilege to just play Pokemon Red or Blue again but including full color, Dark and Steel types now.
I’m left a little perplexed about this game. I feel like it’s a solid fighting game, if a little janky at times. The story is…well, I could go on dissecting what I’ve seen of the story for a while now. The interactions are pretty neat as far as myself, being a Final Fantasy fan goes, but I wonder if it would have any water outside of such a fanbase? In the end, I think I’m satisfied?
Whatever, I got my games back. I feel vindicated now for that incident seven years ago.
…christ, 2010 was seven years ago.
Other Quick Updates
Dark Souls for PC
Yeah, I’ve been playing Dark Souls again. It’s like a drug, swear to god. I’ve been using a Dragon Greatsword/Havel’s Greatshield build lately, super fun to just stomp bosses with it and not even give a damn.
VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action for PC
Expect a full card placement on March’s update for this game. I want to wait until I beat it to give it a full spot. So far, I’m absolutely adoring this game. Also, I see you there playing off of Metal Gear Solid’s subtitle ‘Tactical Espionage Action’. Don’t think I didn’t notice, you silly game you. I will say though, as cool as the name is, it kind of is a little false advertising, as there’s not much ‘action’ involved at all.
Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep Final Mix for PS3
My current girlfriend mentioned that one of the only Kingdom Hearts games she hadn’t played was Birth By Sleep, and I basically jammed my game box for 2.5 directly into her cleavage like “OI, I GOTS THAT, I’M DOWN WITH THAT, WANNA PLAY MATE?” It’s been pretty fun so far I’d say, although goddamn the voice actors for Terra and Aqua are flat as hell. I feel like it’s a really big disservice to the characters themselves, especially Aqua, who as a character on paper is amazing and probably one of my favorites in all of Kingdom Hearts, but the delivery of two utterly inexperienced voice actors just kind of makes them fall flat. Regardless, good times are being had.
Super Meat Boy for PC
The last time I played Super Meat Boy was for the one and only time I ever did a full Let’s Play a few years ago, and I just did the base main story, no Dark World or other stuff like that. I found myself going back to it after inviting a friend to play it, so that I could collect some more of the bandages and unlock more of the characters. Unlocked a headcrab from Half Life the other day, made me chuckle.
Overwatch for PC
Just assume from now on that Overwatch will have been played each month by default. Currently I’m enjoying D.Va as a safe pick, practicing Mcree and a little bit of Zenyatta, and it’s always fun to get wasted and go Junkrat for my patented Drunkrat runs. Apparently I do well as Drunkrat I’ve been told?
Borderlands for PC
I usually wouldn’t have any reason to go back to this one, but three other friends have formed a team and we now play as a full four-person group. It’s pretty fun that way, if for no other reason than the interactions. Picked Berserker this time around, even though that’s really not my modus operandi, and I don’t regret a second of it. Wild cackling and laughter as everything is crushed under my fist has produced some of the highest amount of slightly uncomfortable laughs in the voice chat I’ve partaken in.
Christ, I think this is the longest entry I’ve ever made. Nearly 4200 words? I’ve gotta remember how to be more concise. But yeah, the reigning theme for this month seems to be ‘time sinks’.