Has-Been Heroes

I caught wind of a flash sale on PSN this weekend, where a couple dozen random titles were pretty heavily discounted and saw one little gem that piqued my interest. Has-Been Heroes is credited to the same company that created the Trine series, of which I played the first two. They were fairly enjoyable-yet-linear adventure titles that focused on a trio of characters with distinctive abilities, and all of them depended on each other to complete the series of levels. This game has a touch of that same all for one and one for all sensibility, but repackages it in a completely different sort of game.

The game comes packed with a few different features, some of which I don’t quite understand yet. The Prologue is the tutorial that changes into the campaign mode after completion, and in true rogue-like fashion, when you die you have to start the quest over again. Challenges are runs set up with special rules, and I haven’t tried that out yet. The Epic Quest is also something that elludes me to this point, but appears to have something to do with collecting some sort of arch-portal things. You start the game with the three heroes pictured above, but by the look of the Heroes page, there are a ton to unlock:

I honestly don’t know how these other characters will be unlocked, but after seeing what the base characters do, I’m ready to try out some new ones! The game has a cartoon or anime style look which I rather enjoy, and the gameplay is smooth and responsive. This isn’t the sort of rogue-like title where it’s an Action-RPG level of twitchy fighting mechanics, rather think of it being more akin to Darkest Dungeon. Real-time and turn based elements are present, and at times it almost feels like you’re playing a rhythm game based on the button combinations pressed in rapid succession. Thankfully a much-needed pause system allows you to think out your moves at a more relaxed pace but at times you’ll still be feeling the pressure.

The cutscenes and intro were beautifully crafted and I imagine there are more to come as you complete runs or significant events in the story, but I could just be projecting what I would hope for. If it is only the little bit I’ve seen it’s a nice touch but more of it would have been even sweeter.

The tutorial plays out simply enough. The Monk and the Knight characters are the so-called “Has-Been Heroes” in that they had retired and were once again called upon by their king. You start off as a young rogue who wants to meet them, and heard the king’s call. You’ll learn the basic mechanics here and then meet up with the old guys who let you tag along to see the king. The king mistakes the young rogue as a fellow hero and lumps her in with the has-beens, forming your starting party. You’re joined by the king’s daughters who need a lift to school. They perform one simple function each: One collects coins while the other collects souls.

Souls serve the function of filling up a meter when you ascend to heaven. Upon reaching the prescribed number you’ll sometimes get a chest that unlocks items that will then appear in the game, which is part of the persistence or progression system for the game (a sort of typical subsystem of rogue-likes or lites of the modern era).

Combat is strange, but it somehow works. Each hero resides in a “lane.” Enemies will appear at the other side of each lane and slowly move towards the heroes. Think of games like Plants vs. Zombies where the enemies can only reach your side of the lane so many times before someone dies. However, the twist here is that only one of your heroes has to die and it’s game over. Kind of sucks and there’s a missed opportunity for resurrection spells, but it is what it is. Speaking of spells, each character has a starter spell unique to them, and you’ll pick up other spells as you clear the map. These can be activated at will, but have a cooldown between uses. Each level would appear to be randomized with different rooms that will have either a various encounter or nothing at all (we’re back to Darkest Dungeon themes here). Some rooms will have monsters to kill and others will provide a boon, such as stamina camps or merchants peddling wares. A key merchant is nice to run into, as most chest rooms require them. You’ll also come across gear drops that can help to boost stamina or provide other effects. Stamina is essentially the amount of hits a character can take, so it’s probably the most important thing to keep your eyes out for.

Eventually you’ll come to the end of the dungeon and face off against a boss. They’ll come with their own sets of challenges, and it gets rather complex using your characters to their greatest affect. Enemies have stamina as well, and you have to break through this “armor” of sorts to do damage to their health bars. Each hero does his own sort of attack as well, for instance the Knight has one mighty swing and the Monk hits two times but for less damage. However, damage doesn’t make a difference when it comes to knocking out stamina on enemies, so you have to perform combos. Let’s say the enemy in your center lane has 2 stamina plus health, you would want your Monk to make the first swing (let’s just say he’s in the center lane for simplicity’s sake) hitting the enemy for 2 stamina damage, then you can swap lanes with the Knight so that he can charge in and do maximum health damage to the enemy (oftentimes killing it). Unfortunately this isn’t always the situation, as enemies will spawn in all lanes and your heroes can only swap lanes during a combo. The game conveniently pauses after one hero hits, allowing any other hero to swap lanes as long as their attack gauge is full (this fills like an ATB meter – read: Final Fantasy Series). So sometimes your Knight will hit a high stamina enemy for only 1 damage, but then you can quickly swap your rogue into place and hit for 3 more, then swap in the monk for two hits for health damage. Once a combo is performed the enemies are either slain or knocked back to slowly charge at you again. Bosses don’t go down so easily though, and I have yet to clear the first dungeon. Doing so I imagine, will open up a new hero.

Overall I think it’s a rather unique title despite clearly having used concepts used in other games as building blocks for their own. I like what the developers pulled off here and I look forward to future runs! It’s on sale for under $5 right now, but I know the flash sale was ending soon so you may want to hurry!

April 2015 IGC

It’s that time of the month again, and this time the information is nice and early, unlike last month where the official post didn’t come out until the day of the releases. This time around the last day of the month fell on Tuesday (today) so we’re going to have to wait until next week to jump into these titles. Overall, it’s a so-so month for me. I really need to bite the bullet soonish and get a PS4 and a Vita, because I’d be getting so much more value out of this plus membership had I all the hardware to run the games. It’s okay, because I know I’ll be able to play these games eventually when I do get the systems, but it’s a bummer when the PS3 games are ones I have already played or own on another platform. Anyway, let’s start with the video and then I’ll go over the titles individually.

So for PS4 owners, you’ll be getting what I think is a pretty cool game in Tower of Guns, along with a couple of indie platformers. A few of the titles this month are cross buy, so I know that Tower of Guns is going to be available on PS3 as well, which is cool, but I’ve owned the game on my PC for months. It’s a really hectic bullet-hell FPS that has cartoon graphics and ran great despite all of the stuff exploding on screen. It’s also a rogue-like, so there’s permadeath and procedural generation along with various unlockables that will ease further progress. I can say if you’re a fan of any of the genres mentioned, you should enjoy this one. I’ll be trying it out when I can to see how it holds up on the PS3. I have a feeling it will be fine either way as the graphics weren’t amazing anyway, but sometimes the PS3 can be sluggish.

The second PS4 title is called Never Alone, and stars a main character with a wolf pet, and I assume there are various puzzles and other platformer elements that you’re used to, so it really doesn’t need much other description. I will say that it doesn’t really look like something I would normally play, but it could be a pleasant surprise, right? Lastly, one of the PS3 games is cross buy on PS4 as well, and it’s called Aaru’s Awakening. This one is still another platformer type game, but it has a more appealing art style and seems similar to The Swapper game we got a couple of months ago. I’ll give this one a spin and report back when I have a chance.

The other PS3 game this month is Dishonored, and my verdict is “meh.” I owned the game when it first released and though it was fun for a couple of hours, it ended up frustrating me. At the time I was deep in a trophy addiction, and the trophies in that game were insane, where you would essentially beat the game without killing anyone, and things of that nature. I’ve written before about how stealth games generally annoy me, because they force you into that role, whereas I love stealth classes in RPGs because you can pick and choose when to go in guns blazing, or play it safe. Anyway, I don’t believe I finished this one, and I did enjoy the story/setting, so perhaps I’ll give it another whirl. We’ll see.

Finally, for the PSVita there’s Killzone Mercenary and Monsterbag. The former is the Vita exclusive Killzone game, and I’m sure it’s just fine. I enjoyed Killzone when I’ve played it in the past but was never a huge fan of the series. It’s pretty straightforward FPS stuff. The latter game is another puzzler, and looks rather boring, but you’ll have to see for yourself.

That’s all for another month of Plus freebies. Til next time.

#playstationplus #instantgamecollection #freegames

PSPlus November ’14

I missed posting about the Playstation Plus offerings last month, but I did make some commentary on the games therein at some point. To reiterate, it was a poor month for me. This month is shaping up to be even worse. I’m not going to be one of the naysayers who goes on and on about how the quality has declined or how I’m not going to resubscribe when my time runs out. Not only do I need the subscription so that I can continue to rack up games for the eventual PS4 and PSVita that I’ll buy, but also so I can play the older Plus games for the PS3 that I haven’t completed yet, and there are a lot of those. Not only that, but free games aren’t something you can really complain about, because you didn’t really pay much for them. The $5/month or less that it costs to keep up a Plus subscription more than pays for itself when you consider all of the benefits.

Last month I received the D&D Chronicles of Mystara, which I completed in one sitting and was rather disappointed with. It was more annoying than anything, and really didn’t sit well with me considering games like Dragon’s Crown have updated graphics and smoother controls with the same type of gameplay. Spelunky is a game I’ve had on my wishlist on Steam for a long time so I removed it once downloading it for PS3. It’s a rogue-like, and as such it’s been fun for short bursts. I don’t enjoy it as much as some of the other titles I own from the genre, but it’s still not too bad. The furthest I’ve progressed so far is the Jungle, which is after the mines in which you start. It’ll stay on my hard drive for a while, but I’m glad I didn’t spend $15 on it, it is hardly worth that. Lastly, there was Batman Arkham Asylum, which I played and completed years ago, so I’m not sure why they decided to add this to the mix, considering Arkham City was a Plus game a long time ago. I think a newer game in the series would have made more sense, but I’m wholly over the open world questing type games. I’ll play a themepark MMO if I’m in the mood for that, at least then there is deeper character progression. There were PS4/Vita games too, but who cares right now, I don’t own either.

For some reason the release information for this month wasn’t posted until today. I had been anxiously awaiting the lineup, and now I’m not so excited. Predictably, people have been complaining loudly in the comments section about the lateness of the post, and how weak of a month it is. I’d be happy enough if I owned the other systems because there’s more to check out (not to mention the backlog from previous months) but yeah, with just a PS3 I don’t have much to be excited about. Here’s the video:

For PS4, The new remake of The Binding of Issac is out, and that’s a game I would have liked to play. I own the original on Steam, and it’s a blast. This remake is supposed to sharpen the existing game and add some new stuff, but at least one day I’ll be able to check it out. They also offered Steamworld Dig, which is a Metroidvania that’s halfway decent. I have that one on Steam as well so I don’t really feel like I’m missing out much.

On PS3, Luftrausers and Frozen Synapse Prime. The former is another game I already own on Steam, but I still took a few minutes to play it anyway, netting a few trophies. It’s still a great game and now I have the option to play it on either platform, and that can have benefits (such as the Playstation being more portable than a desktop PC). Great game for those who don’t have it, but only so-so for me. The latter game is one I had never heard of, and it actually looks fairly interesting. However, I can’t seem to get it to run. The game downloaded fine. On first startup, it required a patch, which worked no problem. From there, when the game starts, you are presented with a screen positioning option, and once I hit “start,” the system freezes. I restarted the PS3 and tried again with the same result. I deleted the game from my hard drive, redownloaded, repatched and tried again, same result. I’m not sure if I need to wait for another patch, if it’s just my system with this problem, or if I should just uninstall it and pretend like it never existed. Either way, that’s severely disappointing.

On Vita, aside from cross-buy titles, there’s Escape Plan and The Hungry Horde. Both of which I have no idea about, and have nothing further to say. I’ll get to those one day.

So yeah, overall a lackluster month. Again, I’m not complaining as overall I love the service. There was a preview for December and January for PS4, but no information regarding the other platforms. Injustice, an Infamous game, The Swapper and Secret Ponchos will be added over those months. I don’t see why Injustice couldn’t be cross-buy, same goes for the other games as they released on PS3 as well I believe. I guess we’ll see what happens. Until next month.

#psplus #freegames #instantgamecollection

September ’14 IGC

Another month has rolled by already, and we’re ready for another Playstation Plus preview for September. This month will mark my 2 year anniversary with the service, though I had bought 3 month subscriptions a time or two before that. For the money spent, I’ve not seen a better value for the budget gamer. The only draw back being that if you let your subscription lapse you lose access to the games acquired via the service. But at $50 a year, it’s not too hard to come up with to ensure you don’t miss out on new free games, or the games previously added to the list. Anyway, let’s get on with the show.

PS4 users will be treated to a new day 1 game in Velocity 2x, which is the sequel to Velocity Ultra. I got the latter game in a Humble Bundle, and it was a pretty fun shmup; the sequel looks to improve on the graphics and the formula. The interesting bit here is the ability to warp and speed up the scrolling of the landscape which can add to the challenge besides just shooting stuff and avoiding enemy fire. Another new feature is the ability to leave your ship and run around through some platforming levels that look pretty cool.

Also on PS4 but cross-play for PS3 is a bundle of sport-like games called Sportsfriends. I wouldn’t really call the games sports per se, but it is designed for couch co-op/competition.

On PS3, the big title this month is Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale, which is basically a Super Smash Bros variant, starring Playstation exclusive characters over the years. I’ve already played this game and had considered the purchase on multiple occasions, but just never got around to it. I liked the game, it was fun for a time, but I didn’t play anything except for the multiplayer, and didn’t really know what I was doing. I think given the time to really practice and get good at it, it would be even more enjoyable. I already know a couple people with the title, so multiplayer matches won’t be hard to find.

The other PS3 title is Hoard, which is an indie title that released a while ago. I’ve looked at it multiple times and thought about picking it up, but never did. It’s described as an arcade action-strategy game, and you play as a dragon, amassing gold for your hoard. It looks interesting enough and I’m looking forward to trying it.

Lastly on PSVita, a new Joe Danger port and TxK, which is a remake of the old Atari classic Tempest. Joe Danger was free for PS3 via Plus some time ago, and it has its moments but wouldn’t be for everyone. TxK should be pretty fun, as Tempest was a great game in its day.

Overall it’s a pretty decent month. I’ll get back with more on this when I get around to playing these titles.

#playstationplus #instantgamecollection #blaugust

August IGC Preview

August is already here (practically) and looking back I realized it was around this time last year that I started posting about the instant game collection. So here’s to a year of this column (of sorts), and more years to come.

We’re in the second month of the new format, where we get two games per platform (PS4, PS3, PSVita), although in the notes for this month, it appears that a few of the titles are cross buy, so it ends up being more than two each. However, we’ll still be getting them all at once. First up, the video. Skip that if you would prefer to read 😛

Alright readers, here goes.

On PS4 this month, there’s a new title releasing called “Road Not Taken.” It’s a “rogue-like puzzle game,” in that some of the elements are procedural, but I didn’t hear mention of permadeath. It’s puzzle-like because there are a limited amount of moves per room, and you have people to rescue before you move on to the next. This seems like an indie game that will end up on other platforms as well, so check Steam if you aren’t a Sony guy/gal. The second title is Fez, which we had a little bit of a talk about on the podcast not too long ago. Remember the Phil Fish stuff? Yeah you do. Regardless, this is a title I haven’t played so I’m willing to check it out, though that dude’s attitude kind of makes me want to skip it. That one is cross buy across all three platforms. It’s a platformer with some puzzle-y stuff.

On PS3 (aside from Fez), there’s Crysis 3, which seems to be a popular series. I played the 2nd one a couple of years ago for a few moments and don’t remember being overly impressed. It does seem to have some cool features but they keep using the word sandbox in their description of the game, and I just don’t see it being that. Keep your eyes open for the next podcast, and you’ll hear more about what I think makes for a sandbox game. Still, it’s cool that they’re still giving us AAA titles for free, even if they’re old. I skip a bunch of them anyway due to hardly ever boarding the hype train. The other title is a game called Proteus, and I do remember seeing this one when it released earlier, both on Steam and PSN. It truly looks like a walking simulator, no sarcasm intended. Apparently the music changes with the mood of the world, and the island is procedurally generated, so no two playthroughs are alike. I’ll probably fiddle around with it, but nothing really exciting here.

On PSVita, the best game of the bunch (most likely) is Dragon’s Crown. I bought the game last year when it released (almost to the day if I remember correctly) and had a blast with it. It does have some ridiculous character models, but the game is a lot of fun especially if you loved Golden Axe type games. It has more depth with items and levels and all that good stuff, plus local or online multiplayer. This one too is cross buy, so PS3 owners will get a copy. Maybe I’ll go back and play it some more. I did beat the game on normal, but there’s further difficulties and more stuff has been added via patch since I last played it. Lastly, another new released specifically for the Vita, called Metrico. It’s another simplistic platformer, and I really can’t say much else about it.

Looks to be a pretty decent month, particularly if you don’t own any of the games. If anyone has a PS4 and tries out Road Not Taken, let me know how it is.

#instantgamecollection #playstationplus #igc