Thoughts on Battle Islands: Commanders

I’ve mentioned playing Clash Royale a time or two. It was one of the first games I played that does what it does (and does well) but whenever a new type of genre emerges, you can rest assured other developers will run with the concept. Genres from recent memory are MOBAs and the Hero or Class-based Shooter (Quake Champions looks like a pretty cool new iteration on that). I’m not sure what people are calling the Clash Royale type of game, but it’s real time strategy meets card collecting, and it’s pretty addicting and fun. Minion Masters is the last game I came across that reminded me of CR, and I’m still regularly playing CR on my phone as well. Minion Masters has been trucking along with development and it has a fair bit of character and mechanics that set it apart from CR, to the point that I wouldn’t call it a clone. Battle Islands: Commanders on the other hand, is exactly that. But is that a bad thing?

I was browsing through the Playstation Store the other night and decided to take a look at the free to play section. I’m already playing a few titles (SMITE, Paladins, Warframe from time to time) on PS4 that are F2P, and for the most part I am very satisfied with them. As such, I stumbled upon this title and apparently it’s based on an already existing franchise called Battle Islands. I’d assume BI is to BI:C what CoC is to CR. And that’s fine. I’m sure the game world this one is based on is likely a Clash of Clans clone as much as this game is a clone of Clash Royale. I’m not really saying that the game being a clone is really a bad thing though. Honestly, this is Clash Royale (albeit horizontally aligned rather than vertical) with a WWII military skin on it. If you like CR, you’ll probably like this game, as pretty much every single concept is present, and it plays identically. I played on my PS4 because that’s where I happened to see it, but it is also available on Steam. It is free to play no matter the platform.

The game consists of various menus that any veteran of the genre should be easily familiar with. The meat and potatoes takes place on the above screen. Instead of towers, you have bunkers. Instead of a castle you have a warship. Otherwise the standard two lanes of combat exist, and you will play cards that spawn units with various abilities or perform actions like shooting missile barrages from off screen on a targeted area. These are obvious swaps from the fantasy creatures and spells from CR. For what its worth, the animations, the unit variety and the gameplay is on par with CR. It does seem to hitch a bit sometimes from lag, but I have that problem with CR at times as well. From what I’ve played of it the amount of chests that you will unlock from playing, and the costs to upgrade cards feel fair. There is a cash shop of course, and this is mostly used to upgrade cards, or buy chests that will also give upgrades, or to get currency to hurry up unlocks. These are all the same concepts used in CR. From the Steam reviews, it seems that the majority of negative scores point at the fact that it is “pay to win” and in a sense it is. However, just like every other competitive F2P title, you will earn the same power over time without dropping any cash. You’ll just get there faster if you do spend a bit. I see no problem with this.

 

Standard fare. Chests will give a variety of drops + some supplies and gold. Gold can be used to rush chests, and supplies are used to perform upgrades, and also buy cards from the shop that rotates cards out daily. You’ll earn stars from battles, and after 10 stars you’ll get a supply drop chest. Wins also come with chests, and they all take time to open. Cards start at level 1, and through gaining extra copies you can level them up. These numbers grow exponentially, and the costs go up as well. CR vets will understand this right away. Your overall account level is affected by this, in that each time you upgrade a card, you get some points to eventually level up your account which comes with the benefit of a stronger bunker and warship.

 

Overall I like the game. Is it a copy? Yes. But it’s reskinned and just different enough to warrant playing. Will I get significantly involved? Probably not as much because CR is with me in my pocket where ever I go. But for a couple quick rounds in between other things while I’m at home? Sure, why not?

A New Frontier Episode 4

Episode 4 of TellTales latest season of The Walking Dead series was strange. It simultaneously felt like there was less playing time (less QTEs and less exploration) than any of the other episodes in the whole series, but it felt like one of the most intense episodes. TellTale has mastered this storyline, and has dropped in subtle tie-ins to previous seasons that will tie bits of the story together and tug on your heartstrings. The little details are the most striking, and the fact that every little choice  you make will come back to haunt you is superb. Things I had forgotten doing came to light in this playthrough, and that alone will catch you off guard. There are little sub-stories going on here too, like falling in love with Kate, seeing Clementine grow into a young adult (even “becoming a woman” so to speak), and the rivalry between two brothers. I really love the lore of this game series, and it really captures what it means to be human, and how it can tear you apart if you aren’t careful.

My choices were mostly in line with others, though it seems that some people held a grudge against Tripp (I just thought perhaps I would earn his forgiveness for taking out Conrad). Others held a grudge against Joan, which makes complete sense, though I was banking on David doing something stupid to screw things up for himself. The cliffhanger here is not knowing what happened to Kate at the end of the episode, and knowing that David is likely still alive. I managed to keep one of his kids upright, and would likely take better care of him, but he still wants his father, and well Kate wants Javi, so that makes things complicated, doesn’t it. We’ll see how things wrap in Richmond soon enough, but like each season before it, I don’t want it to end. Here were my choices, officially:

It’s been nice having something Walking Dead related to keep me going now that the latest season of the TV show has ended. That was a hell of a cliffhanger ending too, and it’s a long wait until October to find out what happens next. All I know is that I’ve grown tired of the Telltale formula for the most part, but can’t get enough of this series. I hope a new season is to follow in the coming years. I’ll be back when episode 5 drops to wrap things up.

Thoughts on the NES Classic

I first wrote thoughts down about the NES Classic when it was announced last summer. Like most gamers my age, I was hyped for a chance to play not only some games that I owned a loved as a child, but some of the titles that I missed. With the updated system, we get a small sample size of the existing games catalog, but in that regard the packed-in titles are worth every penny. At the $60 price point that was announced, that is. In typical Nintendo fashion, demand outweighed supply so when the console released in November 2016, they sold out rather quickly. I know I looked everywhere I could think that sells games around the release date and had no luck. One of my friends camped out and got one, but he was the only person I knew that did. Nintendo’s next press release said that they would have more consoles out to retailers soon. Units were still available online, but prices soared and it seemed the best bet was to wait until they got a handle on the demand and produced enough units to meet that demand.

Just last week, Nintendo made another announcement, and this time it was to say that the new shipments were on their way but that the console was officially discontinued. They didn’t say why, but the rumor is that an SNES Classic is on the way. Time will tell if that’s correct, though I’d be interested in that console as well, mainly because I never owned an SNES but there are plenty of games I’ve played that I’d like to play again. I’d wish for a Genesis type version as well, but I have already collected those games on other platforms due to Sega being smart about licensing their products. Anyway, with the demise of the NES Classic I knew it was time to make a decision: Tempt the fates and attempt to get one for MSRP, or pony up the extra dough and buy one online, now.

I think you can guess what I did.

It cost me nearly $200 to pick up the console, an additional controller, two cable extensions, and a carrying case. My Prime membership netted free shipping. Was it overpriced at that point? Yes. Do I have regrets? Nope.

It’s so cute sitting on my PS4! I’m going to have to invest in an HDMI splitter or switch to use it more efficiently though, as my TV only has 2 ports that are both currently being used. Outside of that hassle, I fired it up and took a trip back to the 80’s, in which ironically I also played my original NES in this very room! I played several games and had a blast, but there are titles that are going to take some time to play through that I really can’t wait to get into. I also look forward to introducing my girlfriend’s son (he’s 9) to games I played when I was his age, because he’s a little gamer in training and needs to learn to appreciate the classics!

Overall I was impressed with the console’s construction. The controller looks and feels just like the original. I was disappointed with the look and feel of the secondary controller that I picked up, not realizing it was some 3rd party knockoff, but I will live with it, or maybe I’ll go pickup one of the official controllers later on, I know I’ve seen those in stores. The carrying case was official and will do the trick. I’m satisfied with the purchase, and I think you would be too, but try to get it on the cheap if you can!

TWD A New Frontier Episode 3

The most recent chapter of the newest Walking Dead series from TellTale Games released this past week and I took an evening at home to play through it. I must say, I love the way cameos from the show and comics appear through the series. One season we saw a glimpse of Glen, Michonne got her own spin off series, and now we have Jesus making his own appearance. It also feels that the game has matured, and I don’t just mean because it has graphic elements, but moreso in the story telling itself. It feels wretched when the bad things and the tough choices come about, but there is that sense of following your own personal instincts in guiding the story. I grew tired of the same ol’ formula with TellTale games, just like I did with the same old Call of Duty every year, but because of my deep investment into this series (comics, show, multiple games) I still enjoy this one. It’s of particular note, and I’m not sure if I mentioned it in my last post about the new series, but the game runs much better on a PS4 compared to the first seasons on the PS3. I’m sure PC users don’t have this issue. I chose to stay on console because I played the originals on console. But I digress.

I’m sure that you can infer just from the choices above that there was some difficulty in what to do throughout episode 3. It seems that choices were fairly evenly split if you consider that only two were very far from center. I don’t want to spoil anything further, but just wanted to share some thoughts on my continued playthrough of the game.

Resident Evil VII Complete

I’ve finally completed Resident Evil VII and I must say that I really enjoyed the game. Simply put, this is the best Resident Evil since the fourth, which was my other favorite entry aside from the first two. Honestly this game scared me the same way the original did, while played in the dark alone with the volume way up. If I really think about it, no game has really scared me since that original Resident Evil experience, outside of good ol’ Silent Hill 2. But I digress.

This iteration took me a whopping ten hours to complete, so it was shorter than the past couple of entries, but still felt like a long experience. Hell, I racked up those ten hours sparingly — I purchased the game at the tail end of January. That doesn’t mean it was bad, too difficult or very long; I’d just manage to get stuck on something (a couple of deaths) and then not play it for a week in favor of something else. I kept coming back around though and as of last night the game is done. There is a new difficulty, more collectible bits and things of that nature that could keep me playing it, but I’m not feeling the urge to do that just yet. There are also two DLCs so far that add more tapes and things to play through but I’ve had my fill for now. I can’t recall if I mentioned it but I’ve got FF15 and Mass Effect Andromeda on my plate for now and I’m just trying to burn through some of these side games as time allows. With that said, I highly recommend picking this game up if you’re a fan. If you’re on the fence because you haven’t liked the series for a while, I’d give it a try anyway — it’s a throw back to the original games. Here are some potential spoilers in the form of pictures:

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