State of the Game: Mobile Check-In

The last time I wrote a State of the Game round-up post was way back in September of last year. Things have definitely changed a bit since then, and a big part of that was not stretching myself so thin around so many games. I had a backlog clearing spree throughout most of the year but that project lost steam once fall came around. There was football to watch. I was busy preparing for a move. I was playing a game at a time and not really having enough small tidbits to share in this column. Since then I’ve moved, started a new job and have less free time than I’ve had in a while, mostly due to adjusting to a completely new schedule. As such, the blog has suffered a bit and some of my side projects have been delayed further. Whatever the case, there is one thing that has been pretty consistent for the past couple of years, and that’s mobile gaming.

It’s strange saying that. I used to rally against mobile games and thought they were complete trash — and to be fair they were pretty much that for a lot of years. However, things have changed, and there are some pretty decent mobile games out there, you just have to sift through a lot of dog shit to find them. I’ve written individual posts about all of these games, and will link to those original posts if you’re curious to see how my opinions have changed. I’ve also written about a few of these titles multiple times, and so I’m only going to link to the most recent. Then I thought I’d give an update on to my current status in that game, or why it got uninstalled from my phone. Let’s start with the games I’m still playing:

Currently Installed:

Clash Royale
SEGA Heroes
Langrisser

Clash Royale:

Clash Royale is still my favorite and most played mobile game to date. I don’t know exactly what it is about it that keeps me coming back, day-in and day-out, but I have played it religiously for over two years. I’ve tried other Supercell games and didn’t play them long, but this one has staying power. Here’s some brief updates about what’s new:

The last time I shared my deck progress, I only had a couple of max level cards, and the new star upgrades were just implemented. At this point I now have five max level cards, and I’m well on my way towards getting a sixth (bats). Fireball will come next, and I only need a dozen or so more Electro Wiz’s to max it out as well. This has worked well on the ladder, and I had my best season ever last month, when I finally made it to Challenger 3. I’m hoping to get back there and push beyond soon, though the season reset keeps bumping me back down. Lastly, there are player stats I’ve shared, just because I find that sort of thing interesting.

SEGA Heroes:

SEGA Heroes has become my second favorite mobile game, and has replaced quite a few games that came before it. There isn’t much else to say, outside of sharing some progress:

I’ve unlocked all but about a dozen heroes, though they keep adding more. I’ve also promoted most of them to at least four stars and level 20. Those at the top are my most powerful, being level 40 and 4-5 stars. It takes time but it doesn’t really feel like a grind, and that’s probably why I enjoy both of these titles so much. There’s a sense of progression, but the game remains fun along the way.

I don’t have anything new to say about Langrisser. It’s still installed but I haven’t played it in a couple of weeks. I’ll need more time to give any more information. Next up, games that I’ve spoken about in the last couple of years that I’m no longer playing. Click the links below for more information on these particular titles.

Previously Installed:

Looney Tunes: World of Mayhem
Knight Story
Stormbound
Legend of Solgard
Questland
Idle Apocalypse
Paladin’s Strike
Fire Emblem Heroes

The most recent casualty was the Looney Tunes game I spoke of recently. In all honesty I rather liked the game, and it was full-featured enough that I can see one playing it for a long while. The problem is that I liked it for similar reasons to the games already installed on my phone, so it felt like more of the same, and I got bored of doing the same sort of daily tasks in multiple titles. I would still recommend it to anyone whom I thought would enjoy that style of game, but I just didn’t want to check in on it anymore.

Knight Story was a game that I thought looked interesting but got boring quickly. That’s all I can really say, it didn’t last long.

Stormbound was fun, but after beating most of the single player stuff I got bored.

Legend of Solgard had a lot of potential. I really enjoyed playing it and it was on par with engaging me like SEGA heroes, but it really did feel like a grind and like they were time gating things to a point where I almost felt required to spend money. Not cool man.

Paladin’s Strike is a game better suited to a tablet and would probably play much better with one of those mobile controllers. I liked it well enough but I just couldn’t hang with the touch screen controls.

I’ve considered re-installing Fire Emblem Heroes a couple of times now. I think I uninstalled it because I was playing on an older phone and needed to free up some space. Whatever the case I remember it fondly and might get it back soon. Nothing new is on the horizon that I’m excited to try.

So that’s about it, just thought I’d jot down some notes for posterity. I’ll try to get some extra gaming in now that I’m starting to adjust and get the round up post going more often again. Until next time.

Early Impressions: Resident Evil 2 Remake

Another full remake in the style of the recent Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy or the 2017 Shadow of the Colossus (we also know about Final Fantasy VII and Crash Team Racing re-dos coming soon), this year we finally get our hands on the treatment for Resident Evil 2. It’s not the first game in the series to be remade (there was a newer version of the original game created years ago), but it happens to be one of the strongest entries in the franchise, and when I first heard about this in 2016 I knew I’d want to play it. Unfortunately, due to moving and looking for work, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get myself a copy when it first came out. I figured I’d wait for a sale and get it later on this year, but then my lovely woman gifted it to me for Valentine’s Day (thanks babe!).

Let me first note that I have only put in about 3-4 hours so far, so these are early impressions, but I can still elaborate on the pros and cons that I’ve seen so far.

1998 was a long time ago. I was sixteen when this game released, and probably a little bit older before I first played through it. You’ll have to excuse me if my memories of the original game are a little fuzzy. It’s likely that I’ll talk about not remembering something, or thinking something was different and perhaps it was just like the original. I have to say that the game feels new and different simply because the over the shoulder camera view from games 4-6 is back — a difference from the locked cameras of the original, and the latest game in the series that moved to first person camera. One thing that immediately stood out to me is the introduction. It feels completely new, as I don’t remember starting out at a gas station before hitting the Raccoon City Police Department; I just remember a short scene and then being there. Perhaps that’s just my memory playing tricks on me. The graphics are pretty amazing though. They’re similar enough to Resident Evil VII in quality, and as I said having the free look camera allows you to see all of the little details.

Before long you are at the front of the RPD, as expected. The game progresses from this point (and to the point I have played so far) as a sort of mixture of nostalgia and a whole new experience. We’ll go with “New Nostalgia.” The mood feels appropriately apprehensive but there haven’t been any jumpscares that I can recall. I’ve felt anxious for sure, but I sort of feel like I know what to expect at the same time.

The gore level seems to have been turned up a notch, even compared to some of the newer titles. Obviously they didn’t have the technology to pull off these visuals back in 1998, but even in the 2010’s games it didn’t look like this. I’m not put off by it, zombies aren’t exactly friendly and I want to feel the tension even if I am not jumping out of my seat.

What’s most familiar is the item box, typewriter and inventory/crafting systems. I remember spending plenty of time having to micro manage my inventory while exploring the game the first time around, and this remake is no exception. You’ll find keys, puzzle-solving items and supplies as you comb through the police station. Mixing herbs is back, and a new system for crafting bullets is in place. Your knife now serves the purpose of being able to directly slash enemies and get past certain barriers, it can also help you out of being grabbed by an enemy by giving you a counter attack. The police station feels familiar in that it looks to be laid out in a very similar fashion, and certain set pieces are reminiscent of the original. However, it does feel that this is a completely different place. My memory tells me to watch out for the Tyrant, and there will be parts outside of the police station, but I’m not sure if I’m mixing up my games at this point.

Whatever the case, I’m very happy with this remade edition of one of my favorite Resident Evil games. At this point I have just found the shotgun and encountered my first licker. Good times! I hope to be done with Leon’s campaign within a week and on to Claire’s after that. By then I should be able to afford a copy of Anthem! I’ll be back with more thoughts once I’ve completed the title.

Thoughts on Apex Legends

Respawn Entertainment, creators of the awesome Titanfall series, has now thrown their hat into the Battle Royale ring, like many other studios before it. The budding genre is already becoming over saturated, but some gems peek out from the chaff from time to time, and I believe Apex Legends is set to do just that.

I’ve played a handful of Battle Royale games and have found only a couple of them to be to my liking. Apex Legends ticks a few boxes for me that others have not. I prefer the forced first person perspective (which was also a plus in Black Ops IIII) because in any third person shooter, you can utilize the camera angle in relationship to your avatar to see around corners in a way that wouldn’t be physically possible in real life. Being a sort of spin off of the survival genre, Battle Royale succeeds when you are forced into this camera position and need to utilize your senses to outlast the other players in the round. I also enjoy the team-play aspect of groups of three. There are only three classes of legends in the game, so you can make a balanced team with only three players. The voice chat works, but it also is entirely unnecessary. The “jumpmaster” feature is also great for keeping your team heading to the same place on the map and not being picked off elsewhere.

The map feels large, but you can still traverse much of it fairly quickly. There are no vehicles, so everything is done on foot — thankfully there isn’t stamina to worry about. The weapon and gear selection feels adequate and the gunplay is excellent. I do miss the double-jumping and wallrunning of Titanfall along with the ability to call down and pilot mechs, but I understand why they didn’t go that route. I’m hopeful for an additional game-mode that will allow the use of mechs sometime in the future but it doesn’t seem likely. Still, there are a variety of skills to use via the different legends, so it still feels varied enough.

Typical of most Battle Royale games, you’ll have rounds where you are one of the first teams eliminated, and other games you’ll be the last ones standing. My second match ever when this good, as I was playing Gibraltar and our team was the first to the circle of safety so we set an ambush. Gibraltar’s ultimate ability calls down an air strike, so when I saw the enemy team coming I dropped it on them and managed to take they whole team out in one go. Since then I’ve managed to be in the top ten several times but haven’t won another round. Rumor has it that there are plans for solo/duo queues coming soon, but actually think the team co-op is a better approach. Even playing with randoms it has been a good time.

The game looks great and runs smooth. I think it’s a blast. At least Respawn seems to have done their homework, as they’ve taken some of the better ideas from the competition and included their top-notch FPS gameplay to the mix while avoiding some of the over-the-top design choices. When loading up for the first time you’ll have access to six legends, with two being unlockables. There is a micro transaction storefront, but no power is being sold — just fluff skins for Legends and weapons. You can buy in-game currency to speed up your unlocks or to outright buy skins, or you can just unlock them with scrap parts eventually. I still don’t have enough in-game currency to unlock a new legend, but it doesn’t seem like it will take that long to get there. Honestly it’s probably worth throwing a few bucks at the company just to make sure the game doesn’t disappear, but I’d rather buy a “unlock all legends now and in the future” package than skins ala Quake Champions or SMITE.

No matter the case, the game is out now, and is Free to Play. I personally don’t have Origin installed so I downloaded Apex Legends on my Playstation 4. If you’re a PC player you’ll have to get this via Origin. It probably looks even nicer there. I’d give it a whirl if you enjoy the Battle Royale genre or need a new FPS in your life.

New & Noteworthy: Wargroove

It’s rare these days when I get a game right as it releases (or at least this close to release). I suppose it should be noted that I didn’t actually purchase this one though, instead it was gifted to me by my father. He was congratulating me on my new job, which *side note* I’m starting tomorrow with an orientation at 8 am. So first of all, thanks Dad!

Wargroove is a game that I didn’t see coming. I happened upon it in the Steam discovery queue, and it was reminiscent of many old-school turn-based RPGs from years past. I added it to my wishlist and that was going to be that until later on when I had disposable income to check it out. Looking it over, I was instantly reminded of the Shining Force series, but most reviewers of the game hearkened it to Advance Wars — a series I’m familiar with but never played. There’s also elements that feel familiar to Langrisser (Warsong) of which I covered recentlyWargroove is a top-down tactical RPG created in-house by Chucklefish Games, whom you might know as the creators of Starbound, and also the publisher of Stardew Valley and a cool rogue-lite I played years ago called Risk of Rain. The one similarity all of these games have is a pixel-art graphic style, but that’s where the sameness ends.

The game opens with a short tutorial that explains a bit of what’s going on under the hood, along with a prelude to the storyline. You’ll start off as one of the evil characters heading to take care of the king of this land. Story bits happen in cut scenes that are layered over the top of the gameplay map, as is combat, done in an animation style that I adore. Your unit(s) will appear on one side of the screen, with enemy unit(s) on the other, and your unit(s) will cross over the middle border to attack and vice versa. A single unit on the map can represent multiple units though, which is mostly conveyed through their health bar. You can get an over view of the map to make strategic decisions, and also click on units or the map terrain itself for more information.

There seems to be a bunch of complexity here but it’s really rather simple. Some units do better against others, and weak to others still. Some terrain will benefit you, and some will slow you down along with lowering your defenses. Later missions introduce buildings that you can capture by first lowering their health to zero and then using the appropriate unit to claim them. You’ll also eventually get barracks and other buildings that allow you to purchase units once per turn. The story continues, and with your father being dead, you (the princess — now queen) must lead your people against the oncoming evil. Sounds pretty similar to most fantasy tales, no? You will end up being able to control other heroes, and your heroes themselves have what they call a “groove” which is essentially a hero power that can turn the tide of battle. Our queen can heal units in a small area. Another hero of this faction can lay down a stone that grants units within a small area a defensive boost. It’s all pretty straightforward when you get used to it.

Outside of the main campaign, there are a few other things you can do. There is a multiplayer option where you can play against friends. You can play Arcade, which essentially is a death match on a map with plentiful resources and you’ll progress through various bosses to complete it. There is also a map/campaign maker, and it’s fairly easy to use. I threw together the above map in under 5 minutes with minimal effort, and it appears that you could create some cool stuff if you wanted to go down that route. This gives the game near infinite replay-ability. There is also a puzzle mode that I have yet to unlock, but I’ve only played the game for a handful of hours.

It appears that the devs haven’t quite called the game done yet either. There is a post on the dev blog that tells us what we can expect in the future, from bug fixes to additional content updates and DLC. The main complaint I’m seeing around the interwebs is that the factions aren’t defined enough, and having played a bit I can see why there is this criticism. Indeed, your Pikeman will behave identically to the enemy’s spearman but will have a different skin to identify it. Essentially all units in the game are identical, so you’ll be seeing the same things over and over. Thankfully there is quite a bit of variety between units, just not between the factions outside of their heroes. Still, I have enjoyed the game and think you will too if you’re into this type of game. Perhaps future patches will add some new units to switch things up a bit. Either way, I adore this game so far and am thankful to have the opportunity to play it! Wargroove is available now everywhere besides Playstation 4, but that’s coming “soon.”

TWR: The Off-Beat Spellslinger

Keeping with the guilds theme I’ve had going for a while now, I decided that this time I would brew up a deck around the Azorius guild. However, I didn’t really want to build a deck around their new leader from Ravnica: Allegiance, so instead I picked another Azorius commander that I’ve had in my collection for quite some time and always wanted to build around. That commander is, Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper.

Noyan is a 4/4 for 5 CMC, which doesn’t sound all that great at first, but he comes with an interesting ability that fits two archetypes that I’ve never really brewed around. Those things things are a spellslinger deck, and a lands-matter deck. I guess I have brewed a spellslinger deck with Kess, but I never ended up building it, instead slotting her into my Inalla Wizard Tribal Deck. I definitely haven’t made a lands-matter deck before, let alone one where your lands are your primary creatures. You see, every time you cast an instant or sorcery spell with Noyan on the board, you are able to put three +1/+1 counters on one of your lands, making it a 3/3 elemental creature with haste. Theoretically this means that you can out of nowhere make an army of man-lands and swing in for a ton of damage on those that are unsuspecting. There are some other creatures we’ve included as well that can help with this game plan, but also can be ways to make an army of tokens too. Let’s look at the deck’s staples first:

Spellslinger Staples:

These cards are those that are typically included in most spellslinger decks. However, most spellslinger decks are usually different colors, namely Izzet or Grixis (but other combos exist). Azorius decks are typically more control based, but we have to go with our commander’s strengths, so this is how we’re going to roll. Baral, Primal Amulet and Jace’s Sanctum will lower the cost of our spells which is always a boon. We can make armies of token creatures with Murmuring Mystic, Talrand, and Docent of Perfection just by casting spells. Metallurgic Summonings will also get us tokens by casting spells, but their power/toughness will equal the CMC of the spell cast. Lastly, Inexorable Tide can make our man-lands even bigger given the proliferate mechanic. Cast some spells and make all of your land’s +1/+1 bigger for each. One of the biggest issues we’ll have is needing more lands to throw counters on, as well as keep casting spells. So let’s look at how we can ramp in these colors:

Ramp:

Land Tax and Weathered Wayfarer are arguably the best ramp available in white. Both will get you extra lands every turn. Knight of the White Orchid and Gift of Estates are a little more restrictive, but if played at the right time they’ll get you more lands, but only plains. Solemn Simulacrum gives us some ramp and card draw for a fair price. Now that we know we’ll have plenty of ways to ramp and benefit from casting spells, let’s look at our spells themselves.

Spells:
Card Selection:

Blue is great at card draw and card selection. These cards will allow us to look at chunks of our library and get to what we need faster. There are some that also allow us to shuffle if we really need to shake things up a bit.

Removal:

Any good control deck should have various forms of removal, and I’ve tried to cover the gamut. In some cases we’re using staples like Path to Exile and Swords to Plowshares. In other cases we’re using some different cards that I wouldn’t normally play, but they work in this deck. Destroying non-land permanents (board wipes) are great for this deck as you’ll be able to destroy all the creatures on the board that your opponents control, but you’ll still have your lands. Of course you’ll need to have some counterspells handy so that you can avoid other player’s board wipes or pesky cards like Jokulhaups or Armageddon which will absolutely do you in.

Other Utility:

I’ve included a small counterspell package, along with some cards that will proliferate or support for more counter shenanigans, along with ways to take extra turns. A couple of decent tutors for enchantments/spells, and a couple of other tricks like To Arms! and Unity of Purpose which will effectively untap all of our lands if timed properly. Mirrorweave is one I look forward to playing in particular, especially when someone drops a nice Dragon/Angel/Demon that isn’t legendary and I can then make all of my lands into big beaters for a turn.

Extra Protection:

One thing we’ll want to avoid is our lands being destroyed while in creature form (or in general). Sacred Ground and Terra Eternal help with this immensely. The former will bounce any land that hits the graveyard back to play, and the latter makes our lands indestructible. Diplomatic Immunity is extra protection for Noyan, giving him Hexproof.

Man-Lands:

This last category are actual man-lands. These are cards that can be turned into creatures for a cost. I’ve included these because not only will they tap for mana, but they can also turn into chump blockers in a pinch, and it’s more desirable to lose these than our 3/3 elementals for the most part. They can also be beefed up with Noyan if we want to go that route.

I’m not thinking this is the strongest strategy for competitive playgroups, but I think it could be a fun to play build that can get out of hand if not put in check. The thought of having either a ton of tokens to swing for tons of damage or alternatively being able to make a bunch of lands pretty big to kill someone with sounds like a blast.