The Kamurocho Revitalization Project

The deadliest real estate agent.

Yakuza 0 is a wildly unpredictable but ridiculously enjoyable JRPG. Featuring a broad main campaign, two substantial minor campaigns (the Kamurocho Real Estate Royale and the Cabaret Club Czar), an overwhelming number of mini-games, and hundreds of optional challenges to complete. There’s over a hundred hours of diverse content to explore which is quite an impressive feat. My only minor criticism is that with so much to do it’s hard to know when the best time is to do what. That said, there’s the Premium Adventure mode which unlocks after completing the main campaign that allows you to revisit both cities.

This progression goes towards the New Game+ save file.

I greatly enjoyed exploring both Kamurocho and Sotenbori as they’re both beautifully detailed, vibrant, living locations filled with myriad optional Substories allowing you to explore the personality of each protagonist. They also allow you to buy video games for children, pretend to be someone’s boyfriend, train a dominatrix, and go disco dancing.

The sheer absurdity of some of these Substories is what makes them so enjoyable. In fact, the entire experience is somewhat absurd. It’s heavily exaggerated but amazingly enjoyable. I can’t say that I’ve ever enjoyed playing through mini-games as much as I have when going bowling or Pocket Circuit Racing in Yakuza 0. These mini-games are fully fleshed out, entirely playable, quite complex slices of optional content. As if the existing main campaign content wasn’t enough. Yakuza 0 also serves as a prequel to (the remastered) Yakuza Kiwami and the titles to follow. Very lightly skimming through the rest of the series has confirmed that many of the characters, events, and locations are representative of the stories to follow. It’s a sensible prequel that does an excellent job of explaining the events to follow and allows players to become fully immersed.

I think it suits him well as a real estate agent.

As if this wasn’t enough the optional challenges consistently reward you for actually going out and doing things. The CP acquired for each challenge completed can be invested in bonuses towards combat, adventuring, or your business ventures. With some of the business venture bonuses being quite significant. These challenges may be to play certain mini-games, defeat opponents with certain combat styles, eat local cuisine, play pool, or sing karaoke until your lungs burst. There’s such a diverse selection available that everyone will find something that they enjoy and that they can earn CP doing.

I was also most impressed with how fluid and satisfying combat was.

Both Kiryu and Majima have three combat styles (with a hidden fourth style) and each represents a concept. Be it versatility, strength, or speed. By attacking enemies in any of these styles you’ll build up Heat, and once Heat has reached a certain level you’ll be able to unleash ridiculously powerful special abilities. These abilities differ depending on the style used.

If there’s one thing that stands out to me about Yakuza 0 it’s the massive scale of the content available. I wasn’t expecting something that was as broad or as developed as this is. The main campaign was engaging, exhilarating, and beautifully presented which for most series would be enough. But the Yakuza series kept layering more and more content on in a world that despite its size puts most open world video games to shame. For such a small map there is so much to do, so much to see, and so many characters to meet. I absolutely adore the art direction and voice acting, too. It’s an exceptionally well presented experience that is quite unlike anything I’ve played before. But highly recommended if you’re looking for something a little different but incredibly rewarding.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

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Masters of Orsterra

On a journey of self-discovery.

Octopath Traveler is an exceptionally enjoyable JRPG that tells an engrossing story through eight main characters in an ever-evolving world overflowing with secrets. It feels quite nostalgic, too. Not that it has any reason to, but everything about the art direction and mechanics feels akin to the JRPGs of the SNES. There are quite a few new ideas in there as well. You can utilise myriad path actions to interact with NPCs in various ways, which not only keeps progression fresh but allows those characters to have content specific to them in their respective campaign chapters. It also allows you to resort to thievery.

Which mostly results in quite a stack of pomegranates.

The path actions also present the opportunity to have multiple types of side quests. Some require you to guide NPCs to certain locations, others to inquire about valuable information, some to purchase rare or unique items that can’t be obtained elsewhere, and others which require you to defeat NPCs to access new locations.

I’m quite fond of the character progression mechanics, too. Each character has their own base class and can combine this with one of twelve other classes. No two characters can have the same secondary class at the same time, which means if Olberic is an Apothecary and you want Tressa to be an Apothecary then Olberic needs to select a different secondary class. They are freely interchangeable, though. So make use of the unique passive skills for each class. Of the twelve classes there are the eight default classes and four advanced classes, which require you to explore the world and look for shrines in numerous locations. Unlocking skills with the advanced classes requires far more JP than default classes but they repay the investment with overwhelming power. Aelfric’s Auspices on a Sorcerer is a monstrous thing to behold.

I’ve greatly enjoyed the combat mechanics as well. They’re somewhat unconventional but quite intuitive and mostly require you to match your actions with the weaknesses of your enemies. Each enemy has a shield, which, once broken, leaves them vulnerable and allows you to deal additional damage. With the Warrior, Scholar, and Hunter there are quite a few ways to break shields on multiple opponents at once. Some characters (like Alfyn) even have unique talents that allow them to perform actions in combat to break multiple shields at once, which you can’t inherit by becoming their class.

I’ve written of some of these things before.

It’s quite rare for a JRPG to offer some distinction between characters besides their abilities or statistics. Even the path actions have different categorisations, which mean that some are considered lawful while others are unlawful and each carries their own risks and rewards. These will have different impacts on your reputation when used.

Which is what I think is best about Octopath Traveler. There are quite a few unconventional mechanics (at least for JRPGs) which opens up the opportunity to explore the world in your own way. You can choose to be entirely unlawful and force your way through towns and during events. Or you can choose to be entirely lawful. That said, it doesn’t present the multiple choice dialogue akin to CRPGs and so the campaigns themselves will mostly play out as they should. But it does offer enough individuality to stand out from other JRPGs. If you’re a fan of JRPGs and you’re looking for something that’s familiar but different then I can’t recommend Octopath Traveler highly enough. It’s an exceptionally engaging experience from start to finish!

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

The Strength of Their Convictions

On the road again.

There are few things that I enjoy more than well-crafted JRPGs. Octopath Traveler was allegedly one of those well-crafted JRPGs, but as I don’t own a Nintendo Switch, nor have any interest in purchasing one, it became increasingly apparent that I would never know for myself. That was until it was recently announced for release on Steam, which prompted a (somewhat rare) pre-order and research into what made the nostalgia-driven but entirely modern JRPG stand out from the crowd. There are quite a few things, in fact. Not that it does anything entirely new or unique but what it does do it does very well.

It’s a very solid experience from start to finish.

The combat has a great rhythm that never feels particularly sluggish or boring. The path actions allow you to quite literally steal everything that isn’t nailed down or to inquire about secret treasures. The character classes are quite competent individually and when paired with a secondary class can become quite devastating.

One of the best choices I made was to combine Tressa with the Scholar. With her Rest skill she’s a self-sustaining damage machine that can devastate enemy shields, break multiple enemies at once, and deal ridiculously high amounts of damage. Likewise, Olberic as an Apothecary, due to his naturally high elemental defence, makes an excellent healer. With the Cover Support Skill he’s able to soak most of the damage, protect the party, and then heal himself. Should someone die he can just resurrect them. I’ve also got the Hang Tough Support Skill on Tressa which means she’s very unlikely to die. That is unless she’s hit by AoE damage or Olberic is dead. Once you’ve mastered the various classes you gain access to ridiculously powerful Divine Skills that absolutely destroy opponents. Or provide exceptionally powerful buffs.

To discover the truth behind the fall of Hornburg.

In many ways, the various mechanics surrounding combat and character progression are among my favourites. I love the concept of being able to boost damage (or healing) and being able to save highest damage for when enemies are already broken. Being able to boost physical attacks is quite neat, too. That allows you to chain several hits with a weapon to break enemy shields faster. Or, just as effectively, chain the strikes for higher damage. It’s very rare to have a turn where you don’t have something you’d like to (or need to) do. It’s an oddly effective fast-paced strategic combat approach that feels great.

It doesn’t feel particularly grind-y, either.

While some of the Support Skills are quite powerful they are the only things that carry over when mastering a secondary class. Some are also slightly useless when you first gain access to them, such as Surpassing Power, which allows you to break the damage limit, and is wasted unless you’re able to deal over 10k damage on the regular.

I’ve pre-ordered few titles in the last few years but Octopath Traveler was definitely worth the risk. I’ve already amassed a (quite frankly ridiculous) number of hours in exploring the various locales of Orsterra, and I’ve yet to really experience the majority of the eight simultaneous main character campaigns. Not to mention the various dungeons, shrines, towns, and general JRPG busywork. I’m also quite curious about the four character classes I’ve yet to see. I’ve only seen mention of them in the achievements list. My best guess would be that they’re advanced or exceptionally powerful classes available closer to the end of the main campaign. Or perhaps even available post-campaign as things often seem to be in JRPGs nowadays. In either case, I’m definitely looking forward to experiencing more of Octopath Traveler in coming weeks.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

The Sacred Guacamole

That’s Juan out of shape luchador, Salvador.

Guacamelee! 2 is the rather delightfully enjoyable sequel to Guacamelee! which takes Juan to the farthest reaches of the Mexiverse in a quest to solve the mysteries of the Sacred Guacamole, to defeat the once-mighty Salvador, and to return home to Lupita and his children. Occasionally taking the time to turn into a chicken and use the plumbing from a toilet as a means of transportation. Or even to lay eggs. Sometimes uncontrollably (and unintentionally) due to the nature of button-based combos that sometimes don’t work as intended. But it does perfectly illustrate the miracle of creating life.

Whether you meant to or not it’s still beautiful.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve played the Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition but I do believe that, while you could turn into a chicken, and had certain abilities in that form, they were never as extensive or as deadly as the updated mechanics in the sequel. So it’s a pretty solid chicken simulation, too. If chickens really do dive bomb skeletons into oblivion.

At this point I’m not really sure. What I am sure about is that the developers behind the Guacamelee! franchise really love chickens. I do, too. Their clucking is adorable. They also really enjoy coloured block-based puzzles. Which, to be fair, I’ve never really written about before but is one of the strongest mechanics in the franchise. I love how the blocks are highlighted on the map once you’ve seen them. It’s one of those modern conveniences that helps immensely but doesn’t affect the difficulty. It just means that if you’re unsure of where to go, exploring new areas, or hunting for secrets that you’ve actually got a useful map. You know where to return to and when. You’re not painstakingly redoing entire sections of the various areas only to find that you still can’t smash through green blocks. Or punch those pesky blue ones.

That’s an absurd number of chickens…

The combat has been slightly refined in the sequel but still relies heavily on button-based combos and breaking shields. You can further develop Juan by investing in more powerful abilities or useful bonuses by training with certain characters, which will ultimately empower both human and chicken abilities or allow for the acquisition of more resources. It’s quite an intuitive set of mechanics. For this reason combat never feels particularly monotonous. The inclusion of various chicken abilities also means there are more shields, more abilities required to break them, and generally that combat has an enjoyable rhythm to it.

Guacamelee! 2 has fantastic art direction, too.

Every element of the universe- from the music, to the characters, to the enemies- feels entirely unique. It’s an amazingly beautiful setting that feels wonderful to experience. It’s also really fun. Even the somewhat infuriating secret dungeons (for the super secret ending) are enjoyable in their own painful, masochistic, profanity-inducing way.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Guacamelee! 2 but it certainly didn’t disappoint. My only minor criticism is that the secret dungeons were slightly ridiculous, and not necessarily infuriating because of what you were being asked to do but because it was to be done in a single run. Often with hazards that would instantly kill you. Which felt (just a teensy bit) unfair and out of place in an otherwise enjoyable set of puzzles. That said, this isn’t my area of expertise. So maybe these were user input errors. In either case, the secret dungeons are not required for anything (but the super secret ending) and can be ignored. It’s still an incredibly enjoyable (and ultimately very silly) experience. It’s definitely worth the price of admission- especially if you like chickens!

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

First Impressions of… Last Epoch

Across the landscape of time we travel!

Last Epoch is a rather ambitious Early Access ARPG featuring a broad (and entirely customisable) skill system, five distinct character classes (which specialise into various Masteries), travelling across time through four (increasingly post-apocalyptic) eras, and a steady flow of developer updates to expand on existing content. They’re quite frequent updates at the moment (and I doubt they’ll maintain that frequency), but it is nice to see that the developers are addressing various issues and adding new features while Last Epoch is in its infancy. It shows their commitment to creating something truly special.

Which, to be fair, Last Epoch is on its way to being.

I’m quite fond of the time travel mechanics. Not just because I love time travel mechanics, but because you’re working towards reversing the events that eventually left the world a smouldering ruin and more or less preventing the apocalypse. It’s a rather unique main campaign story for an ARPG at the very least.

There are five character classes (with the fifth yet to be implemented) and each represents a concept. The Sentinel, for instance, is a tough close quarters fighter who (through the three different Masteries) can adapt to fighting with various weaponry. Each Mastery representing a more specialised variant of the base class. The Paladin, for instance, being focused on healing and recovery. While the Primalist is a hardy survivalist and can summon animal companions to his side. Or turn into a ferocious beast through the Druid Mastery. Likewise the Acolyte represents the more unsavoury magical pursuits, and is the opposite of the Mage who focuses on wholesome magical pursuits. Like being a Spellblade. In many ways, the character classes are the reason that Last Epoch is so enjoyable as they’re so flexible.

Bathed in the tainted void.

To add to that flexibility is the rather engaging skill system which allows you to specialise into a handful of skills. These skills have their own development trees allowing you to drastically alter their behaviour. Such as adapting Warpath to do more damage when you’re using a two-handed weapon, but then allowing you to eventually block while spinning. Making use of the plethora of block-related passives of the Sentinel’s various trees. As such, there is a great feeling of experimentation and developing classes to whatever you wish them to become. Even if those ideas seem completely outlandish.

Crafting is also quite intuitive but rather unique.

You collect various crafting tokens which are basically prefixes and suffixes that can be applied to different types of equipment. You can then combine those tokens with existing equipment and get the exact bonuses you want, which is more favourable than collecting raw materials only to create vendor trash items.

There are, however, a few issues which have yet to be resolved. The framerate staggers quite significantly at times, there’s an odd issue with the screen resolution when logging in, and sometimes the chat box refuses to go away. But these are minor issues and are expected of something that isn’t completely finished yet. That said, if you can look past those issues and are looking for an incredibly solid Early Access ARPG then I can highly recommend Last Epoch. It’s an absolutely enjoyable experience. It’s also a rare example of a modern ARPG that is looking to reinvent the wheel to some extent. Working with existing conventional mechanics but adding something all their own to them. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how it develops over the next year or so!

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Infectious Outbreak

If it’s not contagious then you’re not trying hard enough.

Of all the Early Access titles I’d seen Chronicon was among the most promising. It’s been quite a while since I last wrote about it, but that’s only because to write a new post regarding every major update would be to flood the blog with nothing but Chronicon. It’s rather different nowadays to how it was back then, but each update has generally been an improvement and has introduced new mechanics or new content. The updates are quite regular, too. There was even an update recently to provide support to those playing at 3840 x 2160 resolution with correct UI scaling.

It was sort of tricky to make it function correctly before that.

Through the major updates there are now revised skill trees along with an entirely new approach to the Mastery system, you can now collect gems, you can transmute items following certain recipes, you can enchant equipment through the acquisition of essences, and you can push your build through the new Anomaly mechanics.

The character classes (and skill trees) were already quite impressive, but the new Mastery system develops them so much further with some rather unique bonuses only available through certain trees. Like the ability to not require keys when opening treasure chests. Or to never take damage from floor traps. Alongside rather attractive (and quite powerful) passive bonuses such as increased elemental resistances or damage. It’s a really engaging system that actually rewards you every time you level up, and offers you choices within certain trees as to which benefit you would prefer based on which best suits your build. I’ve kept up the same Warlock from the first post but I’m quite interested in seeing how other classes fare in this new Mastery tree. I’m also itching to see how the Templar or Berserker performs.

Melt their flesh and strip their bones with corrosive poison!

Mastery is also available from when you first start playing the character and access doesn’t require an arbitrary level requirement. I’m also quite fond of the new enchanting materials and gems, which, in their own ways, allow you to further customise your equipment and further empower your most precious loot. Most enjoyable of all is that these materials are stored in a separate crafting inventory which means they’re universally available to all of your characters. They also don’t require stash space. There are new transmutation mechanics, too. But I’m not really sure what they do quite yet.

I’m thinking that they allow you to add powerful bonuses to your equipment.

I have actually received a few mysterious items as a result of completing various Anomalies and should probably look into what they do. That said, as with many things, the acquisition of loot is randomised and so I’m not entirely sure if these are items that are remotely useful for Warlocks (or more specifically poison Warlocks).

I’ve been quite optimistic regarding the final release of Chronicon and I don’t think I’m going to be disappointed. There have been many fantastic major updates which have introduced new mechanics, new story content, and have generally solved various issues that existed with the title from the first release. I see no reason why the developer would stop now. That said, if I’m still playing the same character some two years later and they’re now Lvl 100 (Mastery Lvl 200) and I’m still enjoying it then they’re doing something right. It’s more than I can say for many of the modern ARPGs that I’ve played. Most of which are good for maybe one or two characters and then they become stale and repetitive. Yet there’s something about Chronicon that’s so easy to come back to and enjoy.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

The Lady of Caed Nua

The fairest lady of all.

Pillars of Eternity is an exceptionally enjoyable but devilishly complex CRPG that offers a satisfying, engaging, and (often times) harrowing adventure. It also allows me to have a stronghold that I can invest in to provide increasingly diverse bonuses and amenities. Which is the kind of freedom I haven’t had since the rather excellent PS1 JRPG Suikoden. Also, according to local law, as a landowner, I have the right to freely execute or imprison people without requiring any actual legal intervention. I don’t remember being able to do that in Suikoden…

That said, what did you think was going to happen when you offered me Orlan slaves?

Firstly, I don’t support slavery. Secondly, I’m an Orlan. Thirdly, I may have reconsidered my decision had I known that your corpse would be hanging from a beam near the Eastern Barbican. But there’s no sense in crying over spilt milk. Or broken necks. They’re more or less the same thing. I’ll put it down to the barbarism Barbarians are known for.

One thing I was concerned with when starting this Pillars of Eternity campaign was whether I would ever see my loved ones again. Or if I could effectively build a character. I’ve had a taste of the mechanics present in Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, and Neverwinter Nights to name drop but a few but they’re all based on a Dungeons & Dragons ruleset. This isn’t a Dungeons & Dragons ruleset. Also, real time with pause combat. I have no idea how to micromanage that. But I feel as though the Barbarian was a good choice. Great at dealing damage, reasonably mobile in combat, has a few active abilities, and is adept at dealing with multiple enemies at once. She’s also (rather surprisingly) got more health than both the Fighter and the Monk in the party. So she’s great at getting punched in the face, too.

It’s a very inviting cave, isn’t it?

The other thing I was concerned about was the level of difficulty. I do enjoy a challenge, but I’ve rarely experienced real time with pause combat and when I have it was through a more restrictive ruleset. However, so far, I’ve greatly been enjoying the pacing and the combat, and I’ve only really found one battle that I haven’t been able to win. Not yet at least. But, to be fair, the opposing force does have a literal army, and I have six party members. I could also probably do with more troops which are likely to come from The White March expansion pack.

Speaking of The White March- it’s pretty great.

I’m quite pleased that it has been integrated into the main story from as early as Act II and that it doesn’t offer wildly overpowered rewards. I was expecting that I’d need to finish the main campaign before I could access the content, but, to my surprise, it turns out you can be clubbed by frost ogres from relatively early in the campaign.

As always, I intend to write a more comprehensive less exuberant post after I’ve completed the main campaign. But I thought I’d write something that shows how much I’m enjoying the multi-layered complexities of the dialogue present in Pillars of Eternity, much as I would enjoy a multi-layered chocolate gateaux garnished with chocolate curls. Sadly there are no chocolate curls in Pillars of Eternity. We do have cocoa beans, though. So maybe there will be a quest delivered to my stronghold wherein I must discover the secrets of chocolate. That would definitely take priority over quite literally every other quest I’ve got. Even the one about defending my claim to Caed Nua. Who needs Caed Nua when you have chocolate?

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie