State of the Game: Let’s Call Them RDA’s

It’s been a minute since I pulled out a round up post, so I thought I’d do that this fine holiday. The last time I checked in I was finishing up Destiny and Resident Evil VII, and it’s been quite some time since I wrote those games off to move onto something new. My recent posting history has been fairly balanced between pieces on individual games, the Humble Monthly write ups, and my MTG series, but I still manage to play other games and not really talk about them. Not long ago, I posted a poll to see which “time intensive” game I’d play next. I have so many, and there were several other options not presented, but these were ones that had been in my library for a while but not completed:

As you can see, The Witcher 3 took the top spot in the poll. I was cool with this, because it’s been a game I’ve been wanting to give a proper try. Those of you who participated in the poll are probably wondering why I haven’t mentioned playing it yet, so I thought this was a good time to explain. I bought the game on my PS4 because it happened to be on sale with the expansions. I figured I’d want to be able to get the full experience, so it was a no-brainer purchase. So many people raved about what a great game it is, but despite a couple tries at it, I just don’t concur. It seems interesting enough, it runs well enough, but it just feels so wonky. I don’t like the combat, I don’t like Gwent, I really don’t like anything that I saw. I honestly believed that Fallout 4 was the better open world RPG that year, and I still feel that way a couple of years later. So I uninstalled and tried not to think about the wasted money. I feel like I’m going to have a much better time with either FFXV or ME3, both of which I want to dive into soon. I haven’t put aside the time to devote to either just yet, having dipped my toes into each and liking what I saw. They just control so much better than the Witcher. This isn’t the first time a shitty control scheme turned me off of a series. I’m hoping that Red Dead Redemption 2 fixes the ailment.

So what have I been playing? I’m still doing my rounds with a multitude of lobby based games, including SMITE, Paladins, Battle Islands Commanders, Minion Masters and Clash Royale — the latter 3 being part of an emerging genre I’m going to start calling RDAs, or “Real-Time Duel Arenas.” You can go ahead and spread that around. I’ve also played a bit of a game that was given out for free during Humble Bundle’s Spring Sale called Dungeons II which I have rather enjoyed. Lastly, I’ve picked up a couple more free to play games on the console to play with my best friend, as PS4 is our only way to play and he’s on a tight budget these days, so free to play is the way to go. Those titles are Marvel Heroes Omega and Skyforge — two games I’ve mentioned here on the blog before, but I was playing them on PC, and solo. Which is probably why I never got all that far. Still, I have found that I enjoy them and they feel great on the console!

SMITE has been more of the same, though I’m not playing it as regularly the past couple of weeks due to spreading my time around elsewhere. I’m nearing 60 Gods mastered and have just been plugging away at quests when I get them. It’s starting to get to the point that I don’t crave playing it as much as I used to, and that’s what happened with League of Legends a couple of months before I started up with SMITE (which has been over a year now, by the way). I’ll keep it around and play it often enough but less often than before. Paladins has been keeping my interest and breaking up the monotony of having only one game to play with your buddy. SMITE is great, but playing the same game day in and day out (on the days you do get together) gets old. I think we’ve retired Awesomenauts too, but Paladins has seen steady play.

RDA’s have started to become a thing, and I’ve covered them here with increasing frequency. I’m sure just like with MOBAs before them there will be a lot of copies and a lack of innovation for a time until the few remain and another new sub-genre emerges. Still, I have been becoming more invested in this style of game, mainly because of the dueling nature of it. In MOBAs or other team-based games you have to worry about yourself, but also try to work with your team to completed objectives. In these dueling games, you only have to worry about the opponent you are facing. Bite sized rounds also means more time to play multiples, and though some rely on time-locks to keep you from playing non-stop you can find those that don’t have these limitations. Obviously I started with Clash Royale, which I think just might be the originators of the concept (correct me if I’m wrong), so let’s check in there first:

I’ve finally gotten over the hump and have solidified my place in Arena 9. Like other choke points before it, I was teetering on the verge of staying in Arena 9 and dropping back down to Arena 8. I kept tweaking my decks trying new strategies and listening to what guides and others had to say, which ended up hurting me for a while. Finally, I picked my style of deck and put something together that I can say works pretty well most of the time. Well enough that I got over that hump and am currently sitting at my highest ever trophy total. I still don’t have all of the cards yet, as new ones keep being added in, and the meta shifts quite a bit between the Arenas. This is what my deck is looking like at this point:

I like the “Hog Cycling” style of deck, where the majority of the spells are cheap and your main win condition is using Hog Riders often. I was trying to avoid using E-barbs because people tend to complain about them pretty loudly, but they are a good form of defense and tend to help with counter-pushing. I just recently added in the Log as I finally pulled one from a chest, and am currently working on leveling my Dart Goblin to level 7 so that I can use it to replace the archers, as I think for the elixir cost it will actually benefit the deck. I know trading out Arrows for the Log did. I’m not getting 3 crown wins every time with this deck, but it has been winning pretty consistently, even against some of the hard to counter Golem and Royal Giant decks out there.

In Minion Masters, I have settled on this deck, and this Master. I haven’t been playing it super regularly, but when I do I’ve enjoyed it. The Early Access is plugging away and keeps being enhanced. I’m still not as committed to this because it’s not in full release, but I look forward to that day. Not having to upgrade cards and not having a time limit on rounds makes this game play differently and I enjoy the nuance. Wonder how far they will go with things before release?

Dungeons II is a modern version of Dungeon Keeper. It plays nearly identically, save for the little intro that played more like a traditional RTS (perhaps other bits of the game will as well) but the first couple of levels felt so similar to Dungeon Keeper, but in the best way possible. If you enjoyed that game, you’ll enjoy this one. Hope you got your free copy! There isn’t much else to say there. Here’s pictures instead:

I also picked up a copy of the newly released game Killers & Thieves, which is from the same company as The Banner Saga. Not sure if I mentioned it before, but I did back The Banner Saga 3 on Kickstarter a few months back, as I own and have completed the first two games and really enjoyed them. It basically just got me a pre-order copy of the game. Anyway, K&T is made by one of the developers from Stoic, who was coding this game as a side project and almost completely alone. It’s got that great hand-drawn art style, some interesting ideas behind it, but as many people will mention in the reviews, there are some basic settings and tutorials that are not there yet (but are supposed to be patched in soon). Turns out that the reviews are right, and though I don’t mind a bit of a learning curve, I didn’t get to far into the game without feeling like I’d rather wait for it to be patched a time or two before I get further. At the end of the day, it’s a Thieves Guild management sim, and it seems to do that fairly well. The heist bits were entertaining, but a bit frustrating. I honestly think it will benefit from some patches, and I’m hopefully that it turns out well, but at this point I wouldn’t outright recommend it.

Lastly, I picked up both Marvel Heroes Omega (the newest rebranding of the popular MMO-lite from Gazillion) and Skyforge for PS4, as I was looking for something new to play with my friend. He’s not terrible at the games that we already play, but sometimes the competitive nature of those games get on our nerves. There are times when it’s nice to play some co-op too, so I wanted some titles we could check out together, and because I was already familiar with these it seemed like a good idea. MHO just went into open beta so anyone with a PS4 can jump in right now. Founder’s packs are still available and usually come with a hero or heroes and skins. They aren’t too over priced, and you do get enough in-game currency to open up at least one character from the get-go. Apparently it’s not too much of a grind to open up others, but otherwise it’s the same exact game you already know. Apparently couch co-op is also available, so that’s pretty cool. It runs well and the controls are intuitive. I think we’ll be putting some time into it.

Skyforge hasn’t been played as much. We were trying to get through the tutorial bits today so that we could finally group up, but it takes some time and he’s not exactly an experienced MMO player, so I’m sure the systems seem a bit complex to him. Once we do get a chance to play I think we might have a good time with it too. They both feel oddly more at home on console, just like SMITE and Paladins (for me, that is).

I think that’s it for this round, nearly 2k words later. Adios.

Minion Masters vs. Clash Royale

This month’s Humble Monthly bundle was met with mixed results. Looking at the titles on offer, I already owned a copy of Dragon’s Dogma (for PS3, though this is a copy of the recent PC port) and Mordheim. The other indie games packaged in the bundle looked pretty lackluster as well, but one game stood out to be something I was potentially interested in.

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The subtext should be a little clue, apparently this title comes from the makers of Forced, which was a quaint little action-RPG from a few years back. There was a sequel of sorts, and now Minion Masters, which is more of an arena duel, but there are layers of depth there — think easy to learn, hard to master. The game is currently in early access, and is likely going to be a free to play title. You can buy premium access now that provides some freebies and in-game currency. That was included in the Humble Monthly package, so I could start off the game with a little leg up, which is appreciated.

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This is the playing field. Essentially you get a Master, a deck of cards that make up your minions, and can customize your side of the arena. I’m sure there will be other modes of customization or “fluff” to spend money on, but it seems that the cards are all available by winning games. You get currencies periodically, but it seems that the in-game currency is useable for most cards, whereas some of the other paid for currencies are used for the fluff. You can pay to speed up your deckbuilding, or you can just play the game — typical free to play model. Leveling up provides some of the basic minions, and also provides periodic power cells that you can open to spin for various boosts — be it monetary or cards.

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The cash shop seems reasonably priced, but as of right now it doesn’t feel like there’s a need to pay for the currency. I’d rather just play the game to level up and earn more cards. There are single player trials that help you get a feel for the game, but really it’s just placing minions when you have the mana to place them, and picking a master who’s perks suit your playstyle. I spent most of my time playing with the archer fellow, who through xp gain (which is gained by controlling the bridges on the top/bottom of the arena) gains perks that allow him to shoot arrows all the way across the level. Each master has different pros and cons and different perks that can be pretty helpful. Cards come in a large variety of minion types and costs. It’s pretty fast paced and most rounds last 5 minutes or less.

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Playing against players provides you a rank. Starting with wood, you’ll soon move up to the stone tier. That’s where I left off as I finished up my session, but I look forward to returning to the game as it develops! Somewhere along the line I read that someone compared this game to the mobile game Clash Royale, made by Supercell, the creators of Clash of Clans (I’m sure you’ve all heard of those games by now). Out of curiosity I thought I’d check out that mobile game to see how they compare.

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It’s true, the two games are very similar. Clash is set up vertically rather than horizontally, and you don’t really get to pick a different master in this game. So the perks and abilities provided by a master don’t apply, though your king/castle level over time, gaining strength to defend themselves along with HP. Also, in Clash there are two towers that defend each bridge, along with your main castle, whereas in Minion Masters there are just the masters in their castle, though there are cards that are buildings and can be placed, so slight difference. Otherwise, the two games are basically the same, so having the option to play a game I rather enjoy while on the go is a nice bonus.

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As you can see, the objective gameplay is still very much the same. Units change, but the goal is the same. One major difference is the fact that cards upgrade over time in Clash Royale. As you complete matches and get daily bonus chests, you’ll get copies of cards you already own. They start at level 1, and to advance levels you meld the cards together. So to gain level 2 with a card, you’ll need 3 total. For level 3, you’ll need 4 more, and so on.

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Overall both games compare and contrast in different ways. I enjoy both of them and I would recommend you give the other a shot if you have played one, or just try out either. It’s a fun little real time strategy experience, with some deckbuilding on the side. Plus games don’t take long, so you won’t be out much time if you don’t enjoy it. Personally, I plan to put more time into both.