Steam Spring Cleaning

Starting yesterday and running through the long holiday weekend, Steam presented us with a new platform event that is different than what we’ve come to expect. Usually when Steam has any sort of event it coincides with a big sale — originally there was the Summer and Winter sales, but now there’s sales in Spring and Fall and sometimes in-between. There have been mini-games and collections and other things to do within the platform along with those juicy discounts on games you’ve been wanting but haven’t purchased yet. This time around, I couldn’t find any sale information, it’s purely an event with tasks — sort of a metagame within the Steam platform.

For the four days of the sale, there are Daily tasks. These will rotate out each day, and if you completed them, the little trophy at the bottom of each will be filled in. When you click on the “post-it” it will present you with “qualifying games” from your library (or from a dozen or so that are free to play for the weekend) that you’ll play and then the task is completed. This means you can either actually do what they’re aiming for — getting you to actually play the games in your library — or just start the game and immediately close it just to get the trophy. I did a mixture of both.

Besides the daily tasks, there are projects as well, that don’t appear to change or refresh, you just have to finish these once. As you can see, I ran through these as well last night but in some cases I had to re-download the title just to complete the task. I wasn’t about to go and play Overlord or Torchlight again, but I did a run in FTL and Hellbound, along with firing up Eon Altar for the first time. Honestly it’s kind of silly for them to push you into playing old games you haven’t played much of or hadn’t played in a long time. I suppose that helps their concurrent users metrics, but otherwise doesn’t seem to do much of anything aside from helping you to unlock a new badge for your profile.

As you can see, I completed the tasks for Day 1, along with the project. It seems that you’ll have to do all of these each of the four days in order to get the maximum level badge. I’m going out of town this weekend though, so I’ll likely only get a day or two finished.

The only visible reward so far is this “Mystery Item” that appeared in my inventory after completing part of the tasks. There was a bundle of emotes as well, but I never use those, usually just turn them into gems for use for booster packs later on or whatever. The description says “This item might be useful in a future sale” which tells us absolutely fuck all. I assume that it will be a discount coupon similar to those you can see in my inventory. It’s not very reassuring when it says “might be useful” because that doesn’t really apply to everyone. Perhaps this is all just a waste of time? Or maybe it’s a great idea, I’m not sure yet. Will have to see what happens during the summer sale and what this item really is to judge its worth. It’s still nice to see that the company is always trying new things though, so I guess that’s all we can ask for.

Further Thoughts on Battle Chasers: Nightwar

I first jotted down thoughts about Battle Chasers: Nightwar a couple of months back. It was a round-up post though, so I didn’t go into too much detail, and hadn’t really played it for more than a few minutes to that point. It wasn’t too long ago that I was burning through my backlog at a rapid clip, but that train had lost some steam in recent months mainly because I was having a hard time deciding what to play. I’ve spent some time in a fair number of titles but none had really sunk their hooks into me. I came back around to this game and it’s been holding my attention more than the others, so this is likely the next game I’ll play through to completion.

I’m in love with the aesthetic of Battle Chasers. It was apparently inspired by a series of graphic novels, which makes sense given the artwork in the game which appears as a hand-drawn style. The mixture of high fantasy and some sci-fi elements works, and the gameplay is the normal tried and true JRPG turn-based style but it doesn’t feel stale. You’ll be earning levels in no time, and that means new abilities and actions will become available to you. Starting with a group of three adventurers, you’ll eventually reunite with others and have a little variety in your group composition on top of the new gear and upgrades you’ll earn along the way. There’s even an alternate advancement tree that will allow you to further customize your heroes.

When I left off, I had made it to the little town that serves as an HQ of sorts, complete with an Inn to rest at, and vendors to buy/sell goods too. There’s some light crafting too, so everything you pick up tends to have a purpose. Soon enough, my party was heading into their first real challenge… a dungeon!

The Iron Outpost:

The Iron Outpost was easy enough, it was the first dungeon of the game after all. The final boss was a sword demon thing… there’s not a good way to describe it, but it looked pretty cool nonetheless! It was mostly overrun with bandits and they were XP fodder leading up to the final battle.

The Rushlands and Path of Fangs:

Long story short, we were trying to get to another part of the map and it was blocked by a large cannon that would shoot anything that came too close. Unfortunately the only way around was via a teleporter, but the power had been lost. We headed to another cave and fought off some elementals to get a power source which we used to turn the teleporter back on. Soon we were in the Rushlands, and we came across our second dungeon, The Path of Fangs. This one was headed by a bunch of lycanthropes (called something else but similar) and I was charged with killing off the leaders of a couple of tribes. After doing so, one of their kind let me pass through the other side of the dungeon. We then took out the bandit manning the cannon, and could then freely pass through a short cut back to the starter town.

Fishing:

Like many an RPG before it, there is a fishing mini-game that is fairly easy to partake in. You have to use one character in particular (pictured above) to fish, but he comes equipped with the rod and line to handle business. I managed to catch a couple of unique fish so far, some of which can be sold for some alternate currencies that can buy you some skins and bad ass gear in large quantities.

Story:

The storyline plays out over time, and like most RPGs of this style, you only get bits and pieces as you go along. We’ve met what I think is either the main villain or at least an antagonist, but she was nice enough to our faces. We later learned that she was behind some of the goings-on, so that leads me to believe we’ll see more of here soon. We eventually found one of our lost party members and he’s a pretty powerful mage. There’s also some random events where you can be attacked by a passing airship, which I thought was pretty cool, though a little more difficult than the typical battles, and confusing as to how you end up fighting on the ship itself. Nonetheless, we found ourselves heading into Junk Town, which I think may end up being the 3rd dungeon but I have yet to enter.

Overall I think the game is great, and it’s been on sale recently on both PSN and Steam. If you like JRPG style games, I’d highly recommend this one!

TWR: Thoughts on MTG Arena

A few months ago I was invited to the Magic: The Gathering Arena alpha test. There was an NDA and all at the time, but I found it a pleasant enough experience, with what little I tried. At that time, they launched with only the cards from Ixalan, and because at the time I had already played with and bought a bunch of packs of Ixalan in real life, I wasn’t too excited to play. Fast forward a few months and the NDA is dropped. They’ve finished the Ixalan block along with adding the Amonkhet block. Recently they added Dominaria, and I assume they will add the Kaladesh block before it rotates out to give the full standard experience. Or maybe they won’t. I have other thoughts as well.

I’ve played most of the digital versions of Magic in existence. The yearly Duels of the Planeswalkers series was interesting, but such a restrictive package. Magic Duels that was out a couple of years ago seemed like Wizards of the Coast’s answer to Hearthstone, but they didn’t get too far in before they stopped supporting it. Magic Online seems to be the only place where people get a near table top experience and it’s the only version I haven’t used. I’ve seen it in action though, and though it looks a bit archaic it still seems to be the best version of the game available in digital form. I think that with Arena, Wizards of the Coast are trying to revitalize their aging OG platform by bringing the graphics and gameplay up a notch.

I would be sharing screenshots but there is no built in screen shot button, and I was too lazy to use a work around. At the end of the day, Arena looks great and plays smoothly. The animations are well done, the sound effects are immersive and the cards look great. At this time it doesn’t support ultra wide 2k resolutions so my monitor has a lot of wasted real estate, but I’m sure that sort of support will be added in the future (along with a screen shot button). This is one of the first digital versions of Magic that I’ve played that actually feels intuitive. Some cards in this game require you to search your library or draw a set amount of cards and then put cards on the top or bottom of your library, etc. The interface with which these actions are completed is fast and makes sense. I feel like new players and old veterans who haven’t played in years will be able to pick up and go.

Now for the bad stuff. You’re given a few packs to get started with, and this means you’ll have random chances to either get something worthwhile or get a bunch of crap. The preconstructed decks work okay, but none seem competitive enough — particularly when playing against someone who has been playing for quite some time and is dropping Teferi’s on the board. Packs can sometimes come with a “wildcard” which will allow you to essentially craft a card of your choosing of the wildcard’s rarity. That’s a nice way to pick up a  Teferi of your own, but it isn’t necessarily going to win you the game. Getting packs takes forever. You’ll have to complete 2 quests a day to get a pack. At that rate, getting a decent deck together means grinding out with a bunch of draft chaff doing the daily quests for gold, and hey if you manage to get 5 wins you’ll get a pack, but if you just keep on losing, well you get the idea. There’s a missed opportunity here to be more like Magic Online, where there is a marketplace for singles and you can just create a deck and buy it outright. I’m a firm believer that it’s not the cards but the pilot who chooses their own destiny, but at the same time I’d much prefer to be able to throw down some cash to make a decent deck and be done with it. When I play the game in real life, I build decks using a combination of existing cards and singles purchased online. I want that same sort of experience. I’ll take the rewards slowly as they come, but I’d like to build a decent deck outright.

Some things I can see happening with the platform: I could see the above store option working well. The problem there is that it still won’t compete with Magic Online, because there’s still not the whole 25 years worth of cards available in Arena. One option I do see them having the ability to promote is Brawl — the new EDH variant that works with Standard-only cards. The problem there though is that like standard it is a rotating format, so how do they justify removing part of the cards from the program as they add new sets? What do people get for credit for the cards they already purchased? Unless they do go ahead and program this game to be the new version of Magic Online I think that I won’t be putting money into it. It’s an okay time waster, but I just don’t care about Standard enough to want to play this that often. I’d rather go to a store and play EDH with strangers face to face. If Brawl is added that might at least give me a reason to both play Brawl at all, and to play Arena as my go-to for Brawling.

Thoughts on Ironclad Tactics

I’m not entirely sure where I first heard about Ironclad Tactics, but I remember someone talking about it and giving it praise. I happened to catch it in a flash sale on PSN for a couple of bucks, and picked it up as it ticks several boxes for me. It’s turn-based strategy, it has mechs, and it’s set in a historical period. It doesn’t really compare to most games, as it mixes a combination of TBS and CCGs, but the game I could compare it to most is one that I spoke about within the last few months: Has Been Heroes.

The only reason I can really compare the two games is that they both utilize “lanes,” in that whatever unit you put down will travel in a straight line and only perform other actions if something lies within that path. If they hit a wall they will stay put until you use a “maneuver” card to move them to another lane. So it’s a little more slow paced than Has Been Heroes, but still makes use of this mechanic.

Here’s the main game screen. It mixes this lane based mechanic with the use of cards. Turns are automatic, and occur in real-time using the little dial in the bottom left corner. You’ll have unit cards and action cards in a row, and each turn the right-most card will fall off and a new card will appear at the left. You’ll want to use the cards as efficiently as possible with your action points. You’ll only get one point a turn, unless something else in the level gives you extra (like capturing flags). Enemies will appear on the right side of the map while your units will progress to that side from the left. When they meet in the middle they fight. If a unit makes it all the way across the screen unimpeded, you’ll get a victory point (or two, depending on the unit). That’s what most levels are like. New units and actions are piled on as you progress, and though admittedly I haven’t played it that long, there’s still enough of an impression that has been left on me. It’s a good little time waster, but not something you’ll play for too long. There is a full campaign and some versus modes as well, but I imagine after completing the campaign most people would be done.

The storyline is told through beautifully rendered comic book panels. Apparently it’s the Civil war and parts of the country are seceding, while your characters work for a guy on the Union side. Someone has created these “Ironclad” mechs, and apparently the Confederacy has them too. So a bit of alternate history here, but it still feels believable enough. I’d urge you to give it a try if you enjoy tactical games, particularly if you can grab it for a couple of bucks like I did. It’s interesting if nothing else.

State of the Game: Recent Updates

Hello everyone, and welcome back to our once in a while round up post. A few different things came up that I wanted to talk about and didn’t feel like they’d flesh out a whole post so here’s a mash up post instead. The first game I want to talk about today is Clash Royale.

It’s still been my go-to mobile game, though I’ve found a few other games that I’ll play here and there from time to time. Clash is still going strong, and my clan is still plugging away at the leaderboard. I finished my 2nd season in the challenger league, this time with my highest trophy count yet at 4139. Last season I made it into challenger but dropped out before the reset and my highest trophies then was somewhere around 4010 or so.

A big update dropped within the last week or so, revamping things for clans. There used to be a clan chest once a week where everyone in the clan had to grind matches so that you’d earn crowns towards a grand total. There were 10 levels of chests, and we’d get the level 10 chest most of the time, providing more cards for the clan. That feature has since been removed, and Clan War has been introduced. Instead of mindlessly grinding for crowns, you now have 3 matches to play on “collection day” and depending on your results of those rounds, you’ll earn cards for the clan. The following day is “war day” and you’ll build a deck out of the cards earned and fight one round. Wins are tallied up against four other clans and whoever comes out on top gets better rewards. Clan wars end after the two days and can be then started immediately again. Apparently the season is monthly, and you’ll earn trophies to work your way up the leaderboards again. As of now we’ve worked up to Bronze 1, but we’re not far off from breaking into the Silver tier. I like this version better because there’s less of a grind but also because it encourages skilled play rather than just throwing yourself against the leaderboard and your crowns counting for a cumulative chest. The game is constantly improving and I still love it.

My best friend and I have been plugging away at Dying Light in our spare time, or more appropriately when we can meet up. It’s a great game and we’ve progressed through about half of the storyline, not counting the little side quests and errands we’ve participated in. At this point we finally got some proper guns, rather than the stupid bats and pipes we’d been using, and it seems that we might be able to hang onto them for the foreseeable future.

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Here’s hoping that this is the case, because the game is much more difficult without them. We did end up getting them taken away again when we had to fight in the pit, but after completing that mission the gear was given back to us. It seems that despite being sent in by a government organization, they are just using you and now it’s coming to a point that you’ve got to be the hero and save all these innocents. Too bad everyone you come into contact with seems to be dying left and right. We’ll see how the story unfolds and I’ll report back once we’ve finished this one up.

I’ve played some more Pillars of Eternity only minimally, as I mentioned in a recent post I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately and haven’t been focused enough to finish up any one game. Spreading my time around has been fun, but that means little to no progress on most games. So I’ve cleared a couple more pieces of the map, but haven’t progressed the story any further, still looking for some spirit or old lady or something from a vision, clearly I haven’t been paying close enough attention. I enjoy the game, but I guess I should hurry up and beat it since the sequel is out now.

Lastly, one of the Playstation Plus games this month was Rayman Legends. I’m not a huge fan of cartoony platformers, but games like this don’t maintain a following for so many years unless they’re pretty decent.

So far it’s been entertaining… it’s sort of along the lines of Crash Bandicoot and other games in the genre. I’ll say I’m pretty impressed by the graphics and smoothness of the animations. Nothing feels wonky, the game controls great. It’s not the most ambitious game, nor is it something I was dying to play but a good little time waster. Beyond Two Souls was the other freebie for the month but I haven’t gotten around to trying that one yet, so I’ll report back on that once I do.

That’s all for now. Just wanted to jot down some notes. Until next time, happy gaming!