What’cha Been Playin’? October 2016

wbp-october

Bloody hell, it’s gotten cold around here. That sucks, but it gives a great excuse to play games. Or anything else that I can do inside, but games. Because games.

Dishonored // Xbox 360

After owning Dishonored for years, I decided to finally crack open the case a few weeks ahead of Dishonored 2’s November 11 release. I expecting something comparable to the original BioShock, which means a first-person game with shooting and magical abilities. And that’s what I got, amplified a few times. Take the teleport ability Blink, for instance. I’m able to use that to scale buildings, something I never expected, but that’s become my entire approach. Corvor is a badass assassin constantly lurking from above, watching his prey.

My biggest complaint is the lack of ways to remove enemies without resorting to murder. Yes, it’s easy to chock them to unconsciousness, but that has limits, which became clear during an early mission to remove a priest. I aimed to knock the corrupt bastard out, but getting behind him without alerting his companion (who had to live) proved difficult. My solution was clumsy — I knocked out the priest and teleported before getting shot — but worked, I guess. Feels like I should’ve had more options (which I would’ve had I completely unlocked possession. Oops).

The game has rough edges, but it feels so unlike most games that I’m willing to excuse the occasional AI stupidity or shallow melee combat. Hopefully Dishonored 2 managed to right a few of those nitpicks. I suppose I’ll know in roughly a week.

Fault Milestone One // Steam

Forget about whether walking simulators are games — what about visual novels? Not visual novels that offer a liberal helping to adventure-style mechanics, but visual novels that are exactly as the name suggests. Their purpose is to tell a story, leaving moving onto the next line of text as the only interaction for the player, little different from asking a reader to turn the page. This so-called game is included because it’s in my Steam library, but it could’ve easily been recreated as an e-book, minus the audio.

Taken as a story, Fault Milestone One is a rough read. The dialogue often comes across as from a first draft, and the text makes the unforgivable sin of vomiting information about the world instead of integrating it smoothly. Because of this, it’s when Fault attempts significant worldbuilding does the story itself completely halt.

I can only assume I’m still early because the characters are spinning their wheels, making me wonder if this sequence couldn’t have used a little trimming for pacing. Given that the story is about returning a princess to her own lands after being driven out by assassins, I would expect a little more urgency, yet events unfold at a leisurely pace. Frankly, I’m reminded of a first or second draft of a story waiting to be improved.

Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest // Nintendo 3DS

Of the two, Conquest is more difficult than Birthright, and I have thus found myself being tested more, which I’m working on overcoming partially through the benefits of supports. Okay, I’m partially motivated by seeing my cherished army married off, but the ratio of men to women means that love won’t come to everyone, especially since avoiding incest is an ongoing problems. Fire Emblem Fates doesn’t appear to care if cousins marry, which I find surprising. Maybe their “S” conversations take a more platonic tone?

Regardless, my progress continues at an acceptable rate. I hope to have Conquest finished and Revelation started before December, allowing me to include all three versions in my Game of the Year deliberations, but everything depends on whether I’m able to complete those final handful of Conquest maps without snapping my 3DS at the hinge in frustration.

Pokémon Omega Ruby // Nintendo 3DS

Delta Episode, the post-game content created for Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, is surprisingly slow, especially for a story that centers around a comet heading straight towards Earth. So who have I spent my time fighting? Mostly low-ranking Team Magma members. This criminal organization is involved somehow, but come on. Isn’t being the damn Pokémon League Champion mean anything to these idiots?

I’ve spent almost the rest of the time flying from location-to-location for cutscenes. Hopefully this little story builds speed, especially since I believe it involved Mega Rayquaza, but the game couldn’t be taking any longer getting there.

Pokémon Sun and Moon (demo) // Nintendo 3DS (eShop)

I expect that Game Freak realizes that most people know what Pokémon is already. The demo for Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire sent players on a little journey divorced from the main game, and the demo of the upcoming Sun and Moon presents a similar adventure. Sun travels to the nearby city with a Greninja that’s capable of transforming into Ash-Greninja, kicks the butt of a few Team Skull members, and photographs a handful of Dragon-type Pokémon.

Smartly, replaying the game spawns additional events, including a catching contest, meeting the professor’s assistant, and witnessing a supposed ghost girl. There’s little of what I’d call typical Pokémon gameplay, like catching the critters, which may be intentional. When so many are returning fans already familiar with this long-running RPG franchise, why give them the expected experience when they’re able to deliver something a little different?

That contrasts with the stiff, unchanging structure of the full Pokémon games, but the demos are still amusements for no cost. Maybe we’ll get lucky and discover that the upcoming games find new ways to surprise us, just as this demo has.

Rock Band 4 // Xbox One

Harmonix released Rock Band Rivals, the first paid expansion to Rock Band 4, last month, and I’ve been enjoying myself. I hope to write an article about Rivals within the next couple of weeks, so I won’t go in-depth here.

Thumper // PlayStation 4 (PSN)

Or, as I called it after the trailer, F-Zero if designed by Harmonix.

That’s not quite accurate, but it’s a decent spot to start. Thumper is a rhythm game about navigating hectic tracks filled with hazards while traveling at speeds bordering on too fast. Sounds serve a purpose, warning of impending hazards by creating a rhythm of hard, metallic sounds upon the dark, pulsing background music. It’s not the easiest concept to explain, and appears rather abstract from footage, but it’s remarkably easy to understand once everything is explained, and each level bolts on a new gameplay mechanic to keep thing challenging.

Drool, the developer, calls Thumper a “rhythm violence game,” a title that is well-earned. There is no actual violence outside of losing health from hazards, but the almost overwhelming speeds and harsh sounds creates a sort of brutality, like invading a menacing, hostile environment. I hadn’t heard of Thumper before release, so this title came out of nowhere. Still, I’m quite impressed, and it comes highly recommended.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE // Wii U

Oh, how I’d love to play Tokyo Mirage Sessions divorced from the silly controversies that’s sullied my impressions of it. Forget the conversations about censorship and remove my knowledge that the game bombed in Japan and, unsurprisingly, didn’t sell gangbusters in the US. Impressions of games should be based on the content, not the background BS. It’s for that reason why I refuse to play No Man’s Sky anytime soon. I intend to place as much space between pre-release expectations (and the resulting disappointment) as I can.

Divorcing, forgetting, and removing the noise pollution is a nice idea, but obviously impossible. Consequently, I’m forced to stuff that negativity into the recesses of my mind as best that I can and enjoy the game.

And enjoying Tokyo Mirage Sessions is easy. The battle system is fun and the presentation oozes charm, even if the story isn’t blowing me away. I’m only at the second chapter, but TMS is a fun RPG that deserves a bit more — respect, sales, whatever — than it got. I wonder if Nintendo will give the game a second chance with a Nintendo Switch port.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End // PlayStation 4

I reached the credits, and with that, the Nathan Drake saga is over. I spent too much of the year dragging myself through Uncharted 2 and 3, cursing at enemies and questioning aspects of the story, so I started Uncharted 4 wary. The combat, I heard, stayed largely the same, but that’s hardly true. The addition of stealth changed everything as I focused on killing everyone without being discovered, something I enjoyed.

There are only a few instances of being forced to confront enemies without stealth, just as I did throughout the previous two games, and those encounters were, at worse, frustrating as hell. I’m also pretty confident that I swore more during those sections than the rest of the game combined, but there’s fortunately only a handful to deal with. So, yeah, Uncharted 4 is easily my favorite game in the franchise. Admittedly, that’s not the highest bar, but…

World of Final Fantasy (demo) // PlayStation 4

Some months ago, I wrote that I had no idea what kind of game World of Final Fantasy is. That mystery continued as I started the demo and entered a colorful world with surprisingly few tutorials. I rummaged through the menus, making sense of a game that the marketing and tutorials failed to explain. What, for instance, was stacking? Why do the two protagonists transform from chibi to more realistic proportions?

World of Final Fantasy is a role-playing game with shades of Pokémon. Your party is composed of siblings Lann and Reynn, who are able to switch from normal human proportions to chibi-like “Lilikins.” Meanwhile, our duo protagonists “capture” recognizable Final Fantasy monsters and “stack” them atop Lann and Reynn for battle, granting access to each monster’s attacks and abilities. Like Pokémon, many of the monsters are capable of evolving, while attacks/abilities are unlocked via a grid — very Final Fantasy.

Mixing Final Fantasy and Pokémon is more fun than I expected, and it doesn’t hurt that familiar Final Fantasy heroes appear as adorably pint-sized Lilikins. (I’d love a plush Lilikin Terra, if Square Enix is listening.) I’ve since purchased the full game, but only just began. The reviews are right — the beginning is slow.

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