Heroes of the Resistance

The ADVENT coalition doesn’t own this world. Not yet.

XCOM 2: War of the Chosen is an incredibly engrossing and thoroughly satisfying sequel to the quite wonderful XCOM: Enemy Within. Featuring an ever-increasing number of unit classes, myriad facilities, a flying fortress of doom, updated mechanics, multiple resistance factions to join, and a Geoscape that has more notifications than the Windows 8 operating system. War of the Chosen also harkens back to the days of old where expansion packs added new units, new mechanics, and new ways to access the existing content in the base experience.

It’s quite an impressive feat overall.

It can certainly be slightly overwhelming working through everything that happens in the first few hours. In fact, that’s probably the only (minor) criticism I could offer against the War of the Chosen expansion pack. It is a little too busy and the first five or six hours feel very linear and forced, but otherwise it is a truly enjoyable experience.

I was most impressed by the variation in (and number of) unit classes. Each feels unique enough to fit into a particular role, but broad enough to fill several roles when they need to. Rangers provide the perfect balance of mid-range combat with the ability to slice and dice in close quarters, Specialists pair their combat prowess with either healing or hacking units to provide different bonuses, Grenadiers have the potential to rain continual death upon areas of the battlefield but also shred armour with their cannons, Sharpshooters take the high ground while firing mercilessly on all those who cross their field of vision, Psi Operatives can utilise their otherworldly powers to embolden allies or debilitate foes, and SPARKs offer either exceptional destruction or impenetrable defence as they fill either role with utmost ease.

Those who have given much for the many.

If that wasn’t enough there are three additional factions (the Reapers, Skirmishers, and Templars) which offer their own unique abilities and bonuses, too. Then, to add more layers to this delicious gateaux of customisation, each of these unit classes has the ability to build towards different styles of play, and then even unlock additional abilities via the facilities you build. Such as the Training Center which allows you to unlock additional abilities from the same unit class or even some abilities that belong to other unit classes. It’s quite ridiculous, really.

You’ve also got access to much more unique equipment in the sequel.

There are more powerful variants of existing weapons, armour that is (quite literally) made from the skin of your enemies, entirely new and unique weapons with their own benefits and drawbacks, and even utility items that utilise unique mechanics. Also, via Modular Weapons, you can even add weapon modifications to your standard weaponry.

In many ways that’s what I feel is the best thing about XCOM 2: War of the Chosen. The depth of customisation is staggering. There are so many opportunities to further develop soldiers and create truly unique characters, which, alongside the ever-evolving nature of the main campaign, leads to exceptionally unique yet coherent content. It feels as if every part of the experience has been written into the code. Yet, in truth, it is the many layers of customisation which have come together to provide this outcome. It’s a very refreshing and very welcome change of pace. I can only imagine that each subsequent campaign would introduce more unique, more challenging, and more interesting variations of missions and soldiers. For that reason I highly recommend both XCOM 2 and the War of the Chosen expansion pack!

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Advertisements

By The Skin Of Their Teeth

Not all losses are acceptable.

One of my favourite gaming experiences in the last few years is XCOM: Enemy Within. It’s not that surprising as I do enjoy turn-based strategy, but I really enjoyed the depth of mechanics present in the modern XCOM series and how infuriating but simultaneously fun it could be. I’ve long considered multiple campaigns with increasingly brutal sets of conditions. That said, I’ve yet to play XCOM 2. I’ve also yet to experience the many wondrous things that I’ve heard about the War of the Chosen expansion pack. So I decided to do both at the very same time.

Despite having no idea how either one works.

Initially it can be quite an overwhelming experience. For those entirely new to XCOM 2 there’s a lot to learn about the various unit classes, the new (and rather powerful) unit development mechanics, the different facilities that you can build, the different kinds of missions (and rewards from them), and so many other things.

There’s also the minor issue of the Chosen appearing on missions and basically ruining your day. Easily surmountable once you’ve discovered what they can do and developed a strategy for dealing with them, but absolutely terrifying in the first encounters. Where the Assassin runs across the entire map to stab and daze a soldier, then vanish, and retreat into the fog of war. While you’re under fire from an ADVENT MEC or two. Totally normal day in the life of an XCOM operative and I won’t hear otherwise. That said, it is an oddly satisfying experience. It becomes significantly easier as you hunt down the Chosen, as you progress through the main story, and as your soldiers become increasingly more powerful but it’s still deeply enjoyable.

One final shot to bring it down. Or you’ll miss and be annihilated.

The notion of encountering a Sectopod on a mission is still daunting (albeit less so) even when you have the most advanced weapons and armour. Just ask the entirely unaware Ranger who helped me figure out what Wrath Cannon is and how much damage it does. To be fair, I wasn’t expecting the outcome that I got. But that’s the way that you live and learn. Or, more accurately, that’s the way I lived and learned. I can’t say the same for that poor, unfortunate, remarkably selfless soul. On the other hand, Sectopods are quite useless when you’re controlling one.

I am quite impressed with the variety of aliens, though.

It feels as though there are multiple aliens which offer an individual challenge with individual mechanics. There are far less simply hiding in (and firing from) cover and more that utilise unique abilities, take to the skies, rain death upon you, or lay eggs in the corpses of deceased civilians. Yes. They’re back. With armour.

I’m planning on writing a more comprehensive post soon which details the different classes, mechanics, and other interesting things that I’ve enjoyed about XCOM 2: War of the Chosen. But this seemed as good a time as any to write about the modern XCOM series as I’ve greatly enjoyed both XCOM: Enemy Within and XCOM 2: War of the Chosen. I’m also looking forward to seeing what the Tactical Legacy Pack has to offer. It won’t mean much to my current campaign as I’ll be doing it after I finish the main story, but in any future campaigns it would be nice to see how the unlocked equipment affects my progress and ultimately whether it’s worth having. That said, I highly recommend both XCOM 2 and the War of the Chosen expansion pack. They’re pretty awesome!

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Jiants From The Hills

As mentioned in the Crimson (or Azure) prophecy.

World of Final Fantasy is an interesting and enjoyable JRPG which draws influence from the many main instalments in the Final Fantasy series over the years. It is marinated with a thick, juicy, tender layer of nostalgia. In which two young Mirage Keepers awaken to the world of Grymoire wherein they must fight, Imprism, and ultimately train powerful beasts and summonable creatures (referred henceforth as Mirages) who will fight at their behest. From inside their MiraBalls. They’re actually called Prisms. They’re also cubes. So maybe they should be MiraCubes…

There are myriad Mirage mechanics present.

Mirages gain experience as is traditional to JRPGs but level up via Mirage Boards. Each node represents some form of improvement (be it a new ability or statistical enhancement) and some afford the use of seeds to customise Mirages further, which ultimately contributes to how strong the stack with the Mirage Keepers will be.

Mechanically what this means is that when stacked they will unlock more powerful abilites under certain conditions. For instance, two Mirages that can cast Fire and Fira respectively would combine to cast Firaga. Mirages (or Mirage Keepers) with high level magic may even unlock Holy, Flare, or Ultima. But with great power comes great weakness. As all weaknesses are amplified in these forms. In that, if two Mirages are weak to thunder damage, the combined form would be ludicrously weak against it. Some Mirages may also possess a rarer Mirajewel node which essentially allows them to pass their abilities to either of the Mirage Keepers. Unlocked as a reusable Mirajewel these items allow the Mirage Keepers to further bolster their stacks with impressive abilities and statistical enhancements. Or to utilise unique combined abilities.

Until the completion of the main campaign the stacks must consist of two Mirages and one Mirage Keeper. However, after the true ending has been unlocked, you can remove the Mirage Keepers from the stacks. That’s only really relevant when attempting the post-completion content, but if you’ve decided you’re finally tired of Reynn’s constant smug know-it-all attitude you’re offered some respite. Or if you’ve ever wanted to see a Kuza Beast, Gilgamesh, and Magic Jar tear all those who stand before them asunder. That’s a perfectly valid reason, too.

Some characters have definitely been more annoying than others.

That said, I’m rather impressed with the main antagonist (especially their voice acting). I’d have expected something light-hearted given that World of Final Fantasy was meant for younger audiences. But, no, the developers are certainly gearing up fledgling adventurers for the darker stories they’ll find in the rest of the series.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from World of Final Fantasy but I was pleasantly surprised. I feel as though the availability of new mechanics and Mirages could be better paced, as there are some Mirages which you have from the very beginning of the campaign which don’t realise their full potential until after the first ending is unlocked. At which point most people (I would assume) have moved onto other Mirages. As they literally can’t level those ones up further without the appropriate Memento. But, besides that slight criticism, it’s definitely an enjoyable experience and the many Mirages are fun to try out. If, like me, you’ve played literally every main (non-MMORPG) instalment in the Final Fantasy series, World of Final Fantasy should rekindle some nostalgic embers in your heart. I highly recommend it!

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Seekers of C’drall

I’m not entirely sure that we want to find them, though.

Battle Chasers: Nightwar is an exceptionally enjoyable JRPG that features six playable characters, a number of explorable dungeons, engaging character development, crafting mechanics, and myriad enemies to cleave in twain. It also features one of the least frustrating fishing minigames that I’ve experienced in a while. I actually want to catch these fish, too. Those Shadow Coins are pretty useful. I’ve greatly enjoyed exploring the locations (and dungeons) around the map, and find that it usually provides meaningful rewards. Which is a refreshing change of pace.

I’m quite impressed with the character development mechanics, too.

The crafting mechanics allow you to not only craft weapons, armour, jewellery, and trinkets but powerful enchantments. You can even craft each of the six legendary weapons. This replaces the often ever-present convoluted process of returning to previous locations to acquire unique items to form the most powerful armaments.

Each of the legendary weapons require specific rare (or unique) crafting materials, but most of these can be acquired by completing optional quests and you’re likely to have the majority of them when you gain access to the recipes. There’s only one crafting material that requires running a specific dungeon to acquire. That said, I’ve found the grinding to be quite palatable overall. I’ve usually had most of the materials required to craft most recipes, and any that I didn’t have were easily obtained via random battles on the world map. You can also overcharge each recipe (besides legendary ones) to provide higher statistical bonuses at the cost of more crafting materials. You can use any materials you wish, though. So be sure to use the most plentiful stock first.

I was pleasantly surprised at how flexible each of the party members were, too. Each character has two different Masteries (usually with one for damage and one for utility), which, when combined with enchanting, allows almost unprecedented ability to customise each character. You can only have three characters in your party, though. But you’re free to change that around whenever you feel that you need a different approach. Parties are mostly used when in dungeons or explorable areas on the world map, with each character having access to unique dungeon skills.

These can provide significant buffs to your party when exploring.

For instance, Calibretto, the hardy war golem, can heal the entire party by a certain amount when exploring and outside of combat. Garrison, the bleed-inducing critical hit machine, can deftly dodge traps and stun enemies before combat. These skills can be boosted via character Masteries, which adds another layer to the depth and customisation of each character while influencing experimentation. Wherein you develop your own specialised dungeon running party formation.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Battle Chasters: Nightwar but I’ve been continually impressed. The art direction is absolutely gorgeous and the combat is incredibly fun, with beautifully fluid animations and character models which look amazing when using their powerful Battle Bursts. I wasn’t sure how long it would last, either. But my first playthrough was over 40hrs and I’ve still got New Game+ to experience yet. I’m rather hoping that there will be either a sequel or a continuation of the story, too. It definitely deserves one. I can’t recommend Battle Chasers: Nightwar highly enough to those among us who enjoy the great JRPGs of yesteryear. This feels akin to those experiences but with all of the modern conveniences included.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

A Refined Outlook

Things are slowly but steadily improving.

I’ve not yet mentioned it on Moggie’s Proclamations but I’ve added Instagram to the list of social media sites I frequent. I’d been thinking about doing so from as early as the end of April last year, however it took until the end of October last year to actually set everything up. I’m quite happy with it, though. Naturally being entirely new to the site I’ve few followers to speak of, but I’m pleasantly surprised to find that my pieces are being found and engaged with regardless. It’s certainly a better and more consistent response than I’ve received on Twitter over the years.

It features more traditional artists than expected, too.

Then again, given the nature of the platform, that’s not really too surprising as it is all about taking photographs of things. Which I definitely do. Yes. I’m hopeful that over the next year I’ll be adding much more content to Instagram and that it’ll serve to mostly tie together my creative, gaming, and other content.

I can’t really share too much about Moggie’s Proclamations on Instagram as I would on Twitter. But that’s also fine. I’ve been thinking about intergrating this blog with my personal site and having the two work together, to raise awareness of the content on here. Especially the creative content. As I would like the Material Studies posts to feature on the site somewhere. Somehow. Hence the recent updates to my personal site, as I would like to have a more cohesive approach to things. Which, to be fair, is actually working, as I’ve found that I’m quite pleased with everything as it stands at the moment. However, both this blog and my personal site will never be truly finished as they are a perpetual work in progress. They change as I do or as what I do changes.

Most of the updates to my personal site are relatively minor as they mostly address layout or page issues. However, there are some substantial changes made to the actual number of (and categorisation of) pieces on the site. With some being moved to different sections, some consolidated into a new page structure, and some removed. So it’s quite a significant update despite not looking any different. But it may start to look different as I work with the new layout to accomodate the Material Studies posts.

In the same way this blog has also seen a few minor updates.

Mostly, again, to mirror the recategorisation or removal of certain pieces, but also to standardise the categorisation of posts. I’ve got more updates for Moggie’s Proclamations, and I’ll be working on those slowly and steadily over the next month. I’m hoping to find time to create content at some point, too.

That’d be nice. But I’m still rather hopeful that this year will provide more content than the last and that things will continue to improve. I feel as though I’ll be done with the majority of the updates at the end of January, and that, at that point, I’ll have very little else to do other than focus on new content. I found it quite refreshing working on the content for Instagram, as that features myriad pieces from different periods in time and of different states of completion. It’s interesting to see how well the finished pieces and the works in progress sit comfortably next to each other. These social media changes will likely be the last that I make. So, wherever this goes, and whatever happens as a result of it, this is likely to be the last iteration. Let’s make it a good one.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Festive Reflections

I should probably have stopped eating mince pies after the twelfth one.

It’s a lot like the Steam Winter Sale. You tell yourself that this year you’re only going to buy one new video game and instead work through your backlog, but inevitably you end up with a list of discounted titles. You can’t turn back now, though. Nay! That would show weakness. So, in a moment of pride, and utter senselessness, you purchase the whole shopping cart. It’s not the best decision you’ve ever made, but they do add to your backlog and you did say you were going to work through it. So you’re still doing what you said you were going to do, right?

Personally, I’ve been buying JRPGs. I’ve missed those.

Of those JRPGs the most notable is Battle Chasers: Nightwar. A delightfully adorable and incredibly enjoyable experience which is reminiscent of Breath of Fire III on the PS1, but with a much better fishing minigame. Fishing which (I would assume) is somewhat required. As it’s one of the few reliable ways to earn Shadow Coins.

I’ve been fairly lucky with engaging gaming experiences in the last year or so. Most recently I decided to finally purchase Book of Demons (as it had come out of Early Access) and it was fantastic. Both Life is Strange and Life is Strange: Before Storm were wonderfully executed narrative-driven experiences, while Okami HD prompted nostalgic reminders of yesteryear. I was also able to experience Final Fantasy XV for the first time, which was surprisingly better than expected. Not to forget the wonderful (yet somewhat finicky) Divinity: Original Sin and the exceptional sequel Divinity: Original Sin II. I also spent more than a few hours playing through the story for Dragon Ball FighterZ, and I might have actually won an arcade match or two in that time.

It’s been a particularly odd year for my creative pursuits, though. I feel as though I’ve made decent enough progress, and that digital painting in particular has surpassed all prior expectations while still rapidly improving. But I haven’t finished as many pieces as I would’ve liked. This more or less aligns to a rather distressing turn of events in my personal life. For that reason I’m not surprised by my lack of commitment, but I do want to start this year with a greater focus on all things creative. I’ve actually been working on a few updates today towards that end.

I shall, however, share further details about those later.

I’m quite excited to see how things will develop as these minor updates work alongside major updates from last year. Together they promise a much better foundation for future content with more accessibility, and more opportunities to coherently connect various parts of the collection of sites together.

With the coming year I would’ve been using WordPress for seven years and it’s interesting seeing how things have changed. How I’ve changed. How my ideas have evolved. How the kinds of content I’ve been creating have developed. And how, even after all this time, and through all of these iterations, I’ve still got ideas for what I can do next. How I can make things better. How I can provide a broader range of content that still holds true to the original intentions. I’m most excited to work on traditional pieces again and to finish some of my older digital paintings. I’ve got quite a few concepts in mind for both. Here’s to hoping that this year at least proves to be better than the last, and that I might finally realise some amount of the potential I perceive myself to have.

Happy New Year, all!

Moggie

First Impressions of… Book of Demons

To the depths of the cathedral we go!

Book of Demons is a rather charming ARPG (and lovingly crafted tribute to Diablo) which features an interesting combination of mechanics that work well together to create a unique experience. Items, equipment, talents, and spells are being represented as cards while character classes (and character development mechanics) are presented in a more conventional fashion. But the dungeons are composed of randomly generated exploration, events, and combat via the Flexiscope system. Which allows you to control how much progress you’ll make and how long the dungeon is.

It’s a great system if you’ve only got a certain amount of time.

Once enough progress has been made you’ll need to undertake a quest to defeat the final boss for that area. However, despite having only a few areas, and a few final bosses, the dungeons themselves are quite lengthy and don’t feel as repetitive as the random generation may suggest. In fact, due to the myriad events they’re incredibly fun to explore.

There are three character classes to choose from: the Warrior, Rogue, and Mage. The Warrior is the first available class and you’ll need to reach Lvl 5 before the other two will unlock. They rely on Artifact cards (which reserve a portion of your mana but provide different bonuses) and have few actual spells. The Rogue relies more on item cards as they have elemental arrows which can be applied to their bow, but they also utilise Artifact cards. Mages are (as expected) the most reliant on spells but do have some rather neat item cards. Each class can use the different kinds of cards, but they will have more or less of them depending on how they’re designed to explore dungeons. Warriors will usually have most of their mana reserved while Mages won’t.

I wasn’t sure about the Burning Axe at first, but now I love it.

Each card can be upgraded to a second and a third rank which usually increases the cost but also increases the effect of the card. Or adds new effects. There are magical variants of the cards, too. Which the Sage can identify at a cost but will provide randomised prefixes and suffixes for further customisation. I’m not sure if there are truly unlimited combinations of affixes and the possibility to collect hundreds of cards, but the affixes I’ve found have been useful. Each variant of the card is individual, though. So upgrading one doesn’t upgrade the others.

Item cards are also interesting as they need to be charged.

This process is usually done via the Fortune Teller and costs an amount of gold per charge. Upgrading item cards will usually increase the maximum number of charges and the effect of the card, but will also require more investment per charge. That said, item cards can also be recharged by randomised drops in the dungeons. So they’re quite flexible.

I’ve been anticipating the full release of Book of Demons for some time and it hasn’t disappointed. If anything I’m more surprised as to how many different mechanics are at work, and how they’re all working together to create something that brings a warm nostalgic joy to my heart. Even if it wasn’t a tribute to the original Diablo I’d still love it. It might have been inspired by the series (and wears that inspiration on its sleeve), but it also provides many of its own ideas that bring modern design concepts to classic design principles. If you’re a fan of ARPGs and you enjoy crawling through dungeons for sweet loot, gratuitous slaughter, and the echo of an infernal bleat in the distance then I can’t recommend Book of Demons highly enough. It’s an amazing experience.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie