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.”

Early Impressions: Langrisser Mobile

A while back, I saw a “new” game that was coming to mobile devices and pre-registered for it. The game in question was Langrisser, and for some reason or another it looked familiar to me, despite not having any memories of playing a game by that name before. After digging around and doing a bit of research, it turns out that I had played a game in the Langrisser series, but as things were back in the 1990’s, many games that released in the West that were developed in the East were put out under different names. In Japan, Langrisser was a series that saw many iterations and wouldn’t have been something many of us would have played. In the US, one of the games in the series was renamed Warsong and released for the Sega Genesis in 1991. I once wrote a post about 25 of my favorite Genesis games and this actually should have made that list, but did not. Whatever the case, we’re now getting a mobile revision of this 90’s JRPG series that hasn’t seen a new title since then, outside of re-releases. It’s unclear if this new mobile version is a remaster of one of the titles or a whole new spinoff, but it is instantly recognizable once you dive into the game.

What appealed to me most was the fact that it is a turn-based strategy RPG, or tactical RPG depending on how you like to word things. In the same vein as games like Shining Force or Final Fantasy Tactics (and honestly, much like Nintendo’s Fire Emblem series), this is an RPG where your battles take place on a grid and you move and attack/use abilities accordingly. I haven’t played too far into the game’s main story, and there are clearly features that won’t unlock until I’m a higher level, but I wanted to give my initial impressions, because the game is hot off the press — it released this week.

Despite having its similarities to the other game series I’ve mentioned above, Langrisser sets itself apart in its combat system. You’ll still move about on a grid and when you do attack an enemy you’ll get pre-combat information about them, but instead of your units being individuals, they are a hero unit along with a battalion of soliders. The heroes themselves have special abilities and stats, but their units will also do the attacking when you do, so as you take damage the graphical representation is via your health bar and the amount of soldiers fighting along side of you. This is unique to this series, as other games typically focus on just the hero itself, regardless of if there is an animated cut scene for combat, or if it occurs right there on the battlefield. In this sense, it hearkens back to my youth and memory, but this version of the game is polished and pretty. Go ahead and search for Warsong gameplay on YouTube and you’ll see the vast improvement.

Many other RPGs have had the concept of various unit types being strong and weak against enemy types, so that’s nothing new but I thought I would highlight it anyway because it’s nice to see a little complexity in a mobile title. I played Fire Emblem Heroes a bit when it released and though it shared some design concepts, I didn’t end up sticking with it. So far, this game feels better and has some depth.

After completing a short tutorial, you’ll head to the world map and then a ton of other options start to open up for you. There are missions, events, and other ways to earn resources to do things. What all of the resources do, I don’t know just yet. I also can’t access features like training, bonds or the guilds, so I’ll have to get back to you on those. What I can say is that I appreciate the art direction, I feel the game runs great and I love tactical RPGs so it’s got a lot going for it. There are various currencies and I don’t know what all of those do just yet either, but there is a real world money component, and I’m not sure how pervasive or abusive it might be. To this point I’ve been able to play without feeling the need to spend any money, and that’s a good thing.

One feature that is very much like Fire Emblem Heroes and other Gacha games, is the summon mechanic. I’ve earned several of the tickets needed to summon various heroes of various rarities, but it’s unclear how they are used otherwise. I’m sure there are other tutorial sessions that just haven’t popped up yet for me, and I’m sure there’s either a way to expand your party with these heroes or to do some sort of PvP thing with them. Whatever the case, they are there and we’ll see how that goes.

As I said, I just wanted to give some early impressions, and so far they are good. I enjoy the combat and the mechanics to this point. I’ll report back when I know more. I’d recommend trying it out if you are a fan of this style of game, but otherwise you should probably pass. It’s nothing overly original but it is a fun little time waster.

Thoughts on Stormbound

My mobile game kick continues this month with another title I’ve found quite likable: Stormbound — developed by Paladin Studios and published by Kongregate (which has hosted a ton of these bite-sized indie games over the years). This particular title grabbed my attention because it features some deckbuilding but also has some turn-based strategy mixed in. These sort of hybrid genres have been becoming more commonplace, but it takes the right mixture of elements to keep things engaging, and Stormbound manages to pull this off. You’ll start the game with a tutorial that explains the basics.

The battlefield is pictured above. This grid is where all the action takes place. Your base is the bottom triangle with the 10 on it, while the enemy’s base is the top triangle. Your goal is to summon creatures on your side of the battlefield and have them make the journey to the enemy’s base, eventually entering and destroying it. Your minions (and spells) come from cards, and you’ll only have a few when you start off. As you beat the tutorial and the game’s campaign levels, you’ll open more cards from different factions and be able customize your deck. Each minion will have different strength (number on the left of the card) and movement (on the right). Some have other abilities that trigger based on certain game states, like doing 2 damage to an adjacent enemy or giving strength to a friendly. The strength of a unit is represented by the number of soldiers that occupy that unit’s square, while the movement stat applies the turn you play the card: if it says 1, then the unit will immediately move to the square ahead of it, attacking enemies too if they happen to be there.

After the tutorial the campaign lies in wait to be tackled. There are four factions consisting of four levels each, so it’s not a very lengthy campaign, but each level you beat will give you some additional cards. After that, it’s up to you to battle against other players and finish daily quests to earn gold to buy more cards. Of course, this means there are microtransactions as well, but they don’t seem to be necessary to win some matches and make some progress.

Gold is the earned in-game currency, while rubies are the RMT. You can buy some single cards and books (essentially packs) for gold, and other options require the rubies but it doesn’t seem too exploitative. I don’t intend to spend any money on it, but it’s still something I like to cover when I talk about mobile titles.

At this point I’ve opened up a handful of cards from each of the factions, beaten a couple of the campaign chapters, and won a couple of PvP fights. Each faction has some uniqueness to them, but they feel fairly balanced. I haven’t done much with the initial deck given, as I don’t have enough faction cards to devote to just one. It’s unclear how much you can mix and match between them either. In the campaign I’ve used nothing but the neutral cards that I’ve opened up, and of course you only face one faction at a time so there aren’t cards from other factions mixed in from what I can tell. Perhaps you can use a mix of neutral and faction cards, but it’s not likely that you can use multiple factions at once. Either way, I’ll find what works and stick with it.

At this point I’m still in the learning stages, but I have enjoyed the gameplay enough to keep going. I’m surprised because usually I can’t find mobile games that appeal to me on a long term — in the past couple of years I’ve only really played Clash Royale, but now I’ve got four titles I’m playing simultaneously and daily. Either that means the quality of mobile games has improved lately, or maybe I’m just finally giving them a chance. Whatever the case I’m glad to have found a few titles that I take with me everywhere I go.

The Banner Saga: Series Complete

The Saga has been completed. I started the game the day or day after it released, and I finished it up on Saturday evening. Having played all three and imported my saves throughout, it was a sweeping tale that was personalized for me due to choices I made while playing. I must say I rather enjoyed it, and will be sad to not have another to play in a couple of years.

I ran through the first game back in 2014, after hearing about it via Keen & Graev, though I didn’t provide much in the way of description or screenshots.

I beat The Banner Saga. Apparently there’s more than one ending though, so I’m interested to do another play through, but not right at the moment. My ending saw Rook’s daughter getting killed by Bellower, and us sending her off on a raft in a Viking-appropriate burial at sea. The abrupt ending didn’t really have much of an explanation, though I read somewhere that this is the first in a series, so perhaps more will make sense later. Either way, it was a fun game and I’d recommend it.

Things changed by the time I got around to the sequel in 2016, I was definitely more mindful of taking an abundance of screenshots to chronicle my journey here on the blog. You’ll have to visit that post for a recap of sorts, though I hadn’t finished the game to that point. I didn’t make a followup post, just mentioned beating it later on that year. At this point, having completed the trilogy, I’ve got a ton of spoiler filled screens in the gallery below. You should probably avoid those if you are planning to play the game yourself, but I’d be interested to hear about differences in your story. I know that in the first game either Alette or Rook die, so I assume in this last game that survivor will be in place to meet their end as well. I’m sure other variables exist, I know I was earning achievements based on certain things. I believe being a Kickstarter backer or buying the at release DLC provided you with some amazing allies that you wouldn’t normally have, and they helped me complete the game so quickly (and with minimal losses).

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As I said before about this game, and its predecessors, its more of the same, but it is a good same. I loved playing through this title, but the only thing that was a bit disappointing was the amount of questions I have now that it is done. The end was rather abrupt and left us hanging. Its clear that things didn’t go as you would have hoped, and yet there was a sense of finality to it. I guess it just wasn’t the ending I expected, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, just different. I’d still recommend this trilogy to anyone who asked, it’s worth the asking price and I’m sure it will be bundled up nicely soon enough if you’ve never tried any of them.

Into The Breach

Sometimes a game randomly releases and you catch word of it without hearing about it prior. Into the Breach was one of those titles for me, but as the image above states it’s from ‘the makers of FTL’ (Subset Games) and that alone was enough to pique my interest. I added it to my wishlist and was surprised to find that on the same day my Dad randomly gifted it to me (thanks Dad!). I loved FTL and played the hell out of it a few years back, it really was one of the great “rogue-lite” titles I’ve played and partially responsible for my obsession with the genre. Because the tag has been so overly used as of late, it’s hard to say which sort of randomized content you’ll like but generally I enjoy the genre, its sub-genres and the variety that has spurned from it. That said this isn’t just FTL with mechs, no. Yes there are mechs, but this is turn based strategy. Tactical turn based strategy to be exact.

It could be argued that FTL had those sorts of elements, but it wasn’t really a TBS game. I’d say its strength was in its rogue-like randomization making each run different than the last. Here, you’ll start the game in your headquarters as a Time Traveler. You’ll have a squad of “Rift Walkers” that are your mechs, each having its own stats and abilities.

The starting isle has a training facility where you can learn the ropes. You’ll learn the ins and outs of combat here, and that is the meat and potatoes of the game. Progression seems to come in the form of unlocking other time travelers, color schemes and new teams of mechs to use during your runs.

The Battlefield looks like this:

The story revolves around these time travelers who are heading back to the beginning of an alien invasion (presumably on Earth). Your job is to lead your team of Rift Walkers into battle against the enemy forces. The set up is as such:

You’ll deploy your mechs on one side of the battlefield, and Vek will emerge from the other. Your goal is to avoid letting the Vek attack the buildings on the map, and they will set up to do so. You can use force to eliminate the targets, or use your abilities to push them away from their intended target, saving your buildings. Each map is set up differently, and perhaps this is randomized (that would make sense). You’ll capture back your territory, chunk by chunk, and some missions will have optional side goals that can be beneficial.

Eventually you will lose, but some bits of progression move you towards unlocking better forces and enabling longer runs at the game. I assume at least one of the squads will be locked until you complete a full run.

Overall, it’s a great little time waster. I’d recommend it, particularly if you enjoy tactical strategy, especially in bite-sized form. It’s $15 on Steam.