The Sunshine Estate

It’s not so dark now, is it?

Many things have changed since the full release of Darkest Dungeon. We’ve seen the introduction of town events, the Antiquarian, Radiant Mode, Stygian Mode (the rebalanced New Game+), heirloom trading, and the first story expansion with The Crimson Court. With the release of the expansion it seemed as good a time as any to return to the horrors beneath our family home. I’ve been meaning to go back to my previous estate, but, as you can probably tell from the title of this post, I instead opted for a Radiant Mode campaign.

It’s an interesting concept for a difficulty adjustment.

Rather than making the enemies and dungeons trivial, it instead makes the campaign shorter and reduces the need for grinding significantly by providing Radiant Mode specific stagecoach upgrades. Most things are cheaper, too. Which, when paired with an Antiquarian in your roster, reduces the need to grind for gold almost entirely. It’s a pleasant experience overall.

I’ve not played the default difficulty (now known as Darkest Mode) since release, but Radiant Mode has great pacing comparatively. Each week has a purpose and affords progression. Whether that progression takes the form of a boss kill, an upgrade to the estate, levelling up a hero, or even an expedition to the Darkest Dungeon. It’s nice that the challenge is retained, too. Failure is still possible if you don’t play well or use effective team compositions. Or forgot to bring torches to the second assault on the Darkest Dungeon. Which was the highlight of my entire campaign, as I noticed almost immediately but fleeing the Darkest Dungeon results in a guaranteed death. I wasn’t fond of that as I’d been training these heroes for this for some time.

Nightmare made material.

Which also made the mistake even more hilarious. Thankfully, I didn’t have any Sun Rings on the heroes in that party so fighting through in the darkness was at least doable. By virtue of Cry Havoc and Rallying Flare we were successful. I did take 60+ stress from Revelation, though. They acted before either of my guards could be applied. I had few deaths in this campaign, too. Besides that ill fated attempt at fighting a Shambler with an Antiquarian party that lacked the necessary damage. We killed the Shambler- but the spawn quickly finished us off.

Hilariously, that loss was worth two achievements.

With the release of The Crimson Court I would have to agree that Darkest Dungeon is in the best condition that it’s ever been in. The classes are all particularly useful for one reason or another, there are innumerable team compositions to provide different answers to similar problems, and there’s even new content (and a new class) to experience if you own The Crimson Court.

I’m intending for this Radiant Mode campaign to be the first in a series of campaigns. I was thinking of doing difficulty progression akin to how you work through normal, nightmare, and hell in the earlier instalments of the Diablo series. I’ve had a lot of fun with this estate, but I’m slightly dubious about the shortened campaign length. Given that I’ve spent nearly 50hrs in this estate at this point. Though, to be fair, that is likely shorter than a Darkest Mode or Stygian Mode campaign would be. I also took the time to kill all of the bosses, level up all of the classes, and do other things that aren’t necessary for the successful resolution of a campaign. I’m starting to think I have a problem regarding the completion of miscellaneous objectives.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Space Cowbots

Time to scrap the Scrappers!

SteamWorld Heist is an incredibly enjoyable tactical RPG offering the same charming art direction and quirky personalities present in SteamWorld Dig, but a departure in mechanics, presenting an adventure through turn based combat in mission sized bites, which is just as fun as the prior instalment but definitely more challenging. It’s the sequel that isn’t a sequel, which builds on the story of the SteamWorld universe but doesn’t require any previous experience to be immediately playable. It’s actually surprisingly intuitive in every way.

There’s a simple complexity in many of the mechanics.

Such as the characters themselves. Each is unique and named, with some sharing classes, but few sharing bonuses, and each has a signature ability that defines their role in combat. Every character has the capability to fight, but support and healing abilities are evenly distributed to help you develop effective party compositions to meet the challenges you’ll face.

Besides their innate abilities, characters can be equipped with a weapon and two utility items to provide statistical bonuses and further improve their effectiveness in combat. Utility items cover all sorts of bonuses such as bolstering health, providing retaliation damage, increasing damage, restoring health, or even some quirkier options like improved jumping. There are some that are best suited to certain characters which provide bonuses that fit their signature ability. Weapons come in a variety of destructive flavours, with everything from your standard revolver to an incendiary cannon which wouldn’t be out of place in the Worms universe. They’re enjoyable to use, too. They also feature ridiculous trick shots.

I feel as though an ancient evil has been unearthed.

Unlike other tactical RPGs which rely on calculated percentages to determine a successful hit, these weapons require you to manually aim (often with sights) to land a hit which make them a little more skill based than you might expect. With this comes ridiculous ricochet angles that allow you to land nearly impossible shots. These mechanics and varying mission objectives prevent repetition and stagnation in later missions. You should always keep a few extra weapons on hand, though. Some are definitely better suited to certain missions than others.

Be sure to stock up on Storage Units when and where you can, too.

Those will be important for carrying all of the equipment you’ll need to explore Deep Space. Which is a scary place. It really is. Levelling your crew will also be crucial to your success, which is handled via standard missions or particular solo missions which are designed to help you farm experience. Not to mention loot. So it’s a fairly comfortable experience overall.

One of the greatest successes of this title is the flexibility in everything from difficulty settings to optional content. It’s rare to have such control over how, where, and when you’ll progress with the story or with the optional content. Unrestricted access back and forth through maps gives you the opportunity to level up, recruit companions, visit vendors, and more at your own pace. Without fear that it will be locked out when you move to the next portion of the story. It’s refreshing to have options. I’d best describe Steamworld Heist as memorable and enjoyable. Something that’s fun to play, with an interesting story, and a unique cast of characters which are equally useful in the myriad missions you’ll encounter.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Steam Assimilation

Further down we go.

SteamWorld Dig is a rather charming, interesting, and somewhat unique approach to a classic formula. Unlike other platforming titles you quite literally build the path downwards as you continue exploring. It’s an approach that can leave you stranded if you don’t make use of the ladders, lamps, and teleporters so generously provided by the townsfolk. But it’s also one that provides innumerable secrets as you unearth new ways to approach old locations. It’s not a particularly lengthy adventure, either.

So it’s quite enjoyable revisiting old locations frequently.

These secrets will award you with precious minerals and mysterious Orbs. Both are used to purchase upgrades to make Rusty more durable, carry more water, take more damage, or dig even faster. The later updates which are more technological (and thereby more powerful) have an additional Orb cost. But earlier iterations are easily affordable with gold.

It’s a neat progression system, too. As you’re introduced to the concept that this is a fading mining town and the money that you provide through your adventure revitalises it, which is evident when you see the town growing and more vendors appearing. You’ll also unlock paths back to town at each major location, which makes returning to town incredibly easy in a way that reminds me of the first Diablo. The immediate approach to returning to town is to use teleporters. These will be found at certain locations, but you can also purchase your own (for a small Orb cost) and place them wherever you like. You might be hesitant to spend Orbs to acquire them but I bought four-five and could still afford all of the upgrades.

I don’t think this is the confirmation that they wanted.

Alongside the aforementioned range of upgrades bought in town, there are key upgrades which you’ll find at certain locations in the caves that afford you entirely new abilities. Such as being able to propel yourself upwards with the power of steam. Or the classic double jump. Or even the ability to detect minerals. Of the available options, my personal favourite is the removal of fall damage. All fall damage. Forever. It’s so nice to be able to dart down large, open, excavated caverns without a care in the world.

I don’t believe it’s possible to miss those upgrades, either.

In this way, SteamWorld Dig is surprisingly content dense and enjoyable as a result of it. It’s not a massive, sprawling, open world but what there is to explore is crammed full of secrets and other goodies. It’s easy to miss it, too. Especially with the earlier secrets that require relatively late upgrades. It’s certainly a credit to the developers and their ambition, though.

I’ll be honest and admit that I bought this mostly in anticipation of SteamWorld Heist, but it has grown on me. It has a certain charm that reminds me of childhood days spent with the SNES and all of the adventures therein. Something that’s just fun to play. That’s interesting and enjoyable. That has controls which actually work and where every aspect feels intuitive. Those are not feelings that I generally get these days with many things I’ll play, but, for those reasons, I would highly recommend SteamWorld Dig to anyone looking for some good ol’ fashioned fun. The kind we had back in the day. Which I am almost old enough to say now. Which doesn’t concern me or fill me with thoughts of my own mortality in any way.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

A Neptune to the Past

That’s what you get for going into the light.

Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth3 V Generation is an alternate universe continuation of the story present in the preceding entry in the series. We’re also in the past… so it gets a little confusing as to where this Gamindustri fits into the universe, whether we’ll see it again, or if it’s just a pudding induced Neptune fever dream. Or eggplant induced fever dream. Stella’s Dungeon makes a return alongside a new Remake system with the (much appreciated) ability to search for materials, while everything else is generally bigger and better.

Stella’s Dungeon has an impact on the main story now, too.

Each time you successfully complete an area you’ll get a bounty of goodies- items, plans, materials, keys to the next area, and much more will be awarded for your efforts. These not only help when progressing to new areas in Stella’s Dungeon, but also with quests and the like where these materials will help you meet the requirements. It’s also a steady source of easily attainable income.

There are also new character challenges which fit into the Remake system to provide further party customisation. Most are statistical changes and are valuable in varying degrees of importance, but some will unlock new skills and new passive bonuses. The EXE Drive system has been completely reworked as well. SP is now immediately and permanently set to a maximum of 1000 for each character, it’s generated through Rush Attacks (or through general combat), and will be how you activate the EXE Drive. Either through having to reach a particular amount to use EXE Finish Skills, or by consuming a considerable portion of SP to unleash an exceptionally devastating EXE Drive Skill. It’s a change which adds a strategic layer to most combat.

Within which there are many positive changes from having more EXE Drive Skills available per character, more advantage being taken of the various Coupling and Formation Skills, further choices for the equipment CPUs and CPU Candidates will use in their HDD form, and a fifth combo slot for each attack type which expands the potential for damage and chain bonuses. It definitely feels more content dense (in a good way), while, at the same time, there are opportunities to expand on these mechanics even further in later entries in the series.

Which the Hyperdimension Neptunia series has done quite successfully so far.

No two entries are the same and that’s a good thing. It’s enjoyable to experience new mechanics or at the very least alterations to existing ones. This makes the desire to continue playing through the series even stronger than it normally would be, as you can’t wait to see all of the positive changes they’re making. Or all of the new things you’ll have to get accustomed to.

I’ve definitely spent more time with this entry than anticipated but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the time spent. Which is why I would recommend this series to anyone looking for something akin to the JRPGs of old from the days of the SNES or the PS1. They’re light hearted, fun, and not too complex. There are a lot of characters to choose from (especially with the free DLC options) and each is genuinely interesting in their own way. It’s also sure to induce a few pangs of nostalgia given it’s a parody of the gaming industry (and many of the series and characters therein). There are also quite a few different titles available which branch off from the main series in interesting ways, which might also interest those who love the characters and want more from them.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Emotions Are Prohibited

For the most part.

NieR: Automata is an exhilarating experience which flawlessly blends intense action with a deeply emotional story to deliver a truly unique adventure. It also boasts a number of endings, various character perspectives, deep character development mechanics, and multiple weapons to collect. There’s a rather unique use of the New Game+ mechanic, too. Each main ending will open up a new Route, which allows you to experience different perspectives or entirely new portions of story with different characters.

Most of your progress will carry over, though.

So when you’re starting Route B (or beyond) you’ll have the same weapons, side quest completion, inventory, and general collection statistics. That said, there will be some weapons or side quests which are only available on these different Routes. But it’s well worth experiencing the collection of main endings to fully understand and appreciate the story.

I’ve particularly enjoyed the various side quests as they tend to explain more about the history of the world, the different characters, and even (at times) hint about some of the later story developments. It’s interesting as those story developments are often restricted to the main quests, but NieR: Automata continually rewards you for going out of your way to do as much as you can across the rapidly deteriorating world. It’s a pretty large world, too. There are quite a few things hidden throughout the locations you’ll visit. There are also a number of smaller endings you can experience by doing certain things in certain places. Which, again, is interesting, as often you would humorously suggest but never be able to actually do those things in other titles.

For those who aren’t really interested in the story and the side quests, the combat is incredibly satisfying and the range of weapons you can collect is diverse and enjoyable in its own way. Each weapon will perform differently both when they’re first obtained and when they’re fully upgraded. Often with the weapons gaining new, unique, and powerful abilities as a result of investing time and resources in them. There are also countless other customisations you can make to the characters to change how they perform in combat and even in the field.

It’s an extensive adventure in several ways.

There’s an absurd amount of attention to detail in the world, which truly shows that it was a labour of love and care as there are so many minor (seemingly insignificant) details that are intentionally highlighted. Alongside a rather mysterious and constantly evolving universe which is quite unlike any setting I’ve seen before. It really does have something for everyone.

I’ve immensely enjoyed my time with this title. It’s one of those rare occasions where everything comes together in the most satisfying way, where the combat is fluid and the controls are tight, where the world is interesting and intentionally kept mysterious, and where you will enjoy exploring the various locations because the soundtrack is incredibly good. There is so much to say about NieR: Automata but it’s one of those stories that’s best experienced as blindly as possible. However, I will say that this title has repeatedly surprised and impressed me and that it has exceeded any expectations I may have had regarding it. I highly recommend this title and can almost guarantee you won’t be disappointed!

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Hope for Planeptune

CPU Candidate Nepgear has arrived.

Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth2 Sisters Generation is a slightly shorter but just as enjoyable sequel boasting multiple endings, an excessively huge roster, and an alternate universe Gamindustri that doesn’t reflect the events of the first entry in the series. There are new mechanics in the events of Stella’s Dungeon, an expanded Remake system, and even in the character progression. In comparison to the previous entry you’ll find that many characters now have multiple roles, with healing being more generously distributed.

In fact, one of the CPU Candidates of Lowee, Rom, is an excellent support caster.

While I would still agree that healing magic is probably not required to reach any one of the endings (due to an abundance of healing items) it’s nice to have the option. Even Nepgear has limited single target healing capabilities. The offensive magic selection across many characters has been improved, too. While the selection of EXE Drive options has been vastly expanded.

That’s one of the recurring positive elements of the Hyperdimension Neptunia series. The roster of characters is quite extensive, with each having their own particular approach and weapons to use, but each also provides benefits to others through the Lily Rank system, so you’ll be spoiled for choice as to who will make it into your party. The party itself is slightly bigger, too. Now with four members compared to the three from the previous entry. It seems like a minor change but it does alter the pacing of the combat enough that it remains fresh. It does get slightly expensive to outfit all of these characters for combat, though. I tend to just keep their weapons up to date and shuffle the accessories around the active party.

I think that’s one of the reasons that this series appeals to me as it does. It feels very much like a classic JRPG, with characters that you don’t necessarily develop in any way other than by accruing experience and providing their various pieces of equipment. You can’t make Nepgear into a second Rom and that’s nice. It’s nice to have a party of individual characters, each with their own strengths, and each with their own reasons to be in a party, instead of having an army of clones that you could change into what you required them to be.

If they were clones I’d never have got the opportunity to hit someone with a guitar.

This entry leans heavily on New Game+ with some of the events, dungeons, and other goodies sealed behind a second or third attempt. It will be interesting to see what they deem so important that they hide it behind completion, though. There’s a host of secret optional characters which technically require multiple attempts as well. In that way it’s quite content dense.

It’s going to be interesting seeing how they take it forward from here. I don’t believe there will be many changes to the core aspects of these titles, but I do believe that the next adventure is set in the same alternate universe Gamindustri after the events of this entry. So it will be nice to see an actual sequel. Then, it’s onto the last available title at the moment which I believe is a direct release to Steam instead of a remake. But I’ll be getting to that much later. Until then if you’re looking for an engaging, funny, and enjoyable JRPG that makes many humorous jabs at events in the gaming industry I’d recommend this series. It’s also a pretty cool series to follow if you enjoy anime. As I do believe there’s a Hyperdimension Neptunia anime, too.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Dressed for the Occasion

At least you won’t need to pay for dry cleaning.

Which, now that I think about it, is actually a really good question- who developed sphere technology that dresses you in different clothing and armour? It seems like such an odd thing to develop. You’d think they’d prefer to develop an infinite food source, or technology that doesn’t try to kill them, or even the ability to capture fiends in spheres which they would use to battle other fiends.Dressed for the Occasion Those would be useful options. Copyright infringement aside. But, no, they decided to put clothes into these spheres.

I don’t think I’ll ever understand Spira.

Final Fantasy X-2 is an interesting sequel in many ways. Most of the original characters are scarcely present, the Sphere Grid is gone, Garment Grids and Dresspheres provide most of your character customisation options, you’ve got an airship available from the moment you finish the introductory mission, and it’s probably best if you don’t take the story too seriously.

That doesn’t mean it’s not a suitable sequel, though. It’s just that it might not be the sequel many were expecting. Most were probably anticipating a prequel which looked at the events surrounding the journey Braska, Auron, and Jecht embarked on before the events of Final Fantasy X. Instead they got a slightly ridiculous insight into the events following the Eternal Calm. But I think it was a bold choice to introduce new story elements instead of dragging out existing ones. The aforementioned prequel would have been such an easy choice, too. That said, while I feel that the sequel does conclude the story fairly well, I also feel that the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy concluded things more satisfactorily, which shows that the series has progressed over time.

There were a few things about the Final Fantasy X-2 HD Remaster which I do believe weren’t present in the version I have on the PS2. Such as the Creature Creator system, which allows you to recruit fiends into your party that you develop in a very similar way to strengthening Aeons in Final Fantasy X. There are also new accessories, altered accessories, an extra chance to get the Mascot Dressphere, numerous changes to the enemies you’ll face, and even some slight alterations to the events you’ll experience.Dressed for the Occasion

Whether those are positive or negative changes is open to interpretation.

I’m particularly impressed with the graphical enhancements in the HD Remaster as well. It looks gorgeous. Especially when you consider that the original versions of both titles on the PS2 didn’t look that bad, in fact, at the time, they were some of the most impressive titles on the market. But the enhancements present really breathe new life into the world of Spira.

I’ve enjoyed playing through both of these titles again. While I will admit that I prefer Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy X-2 is an interesting look into a familiar universe with both established and newly introduced characters. It also features (for the first time in the series) an all female cast. Then there’s New Game+, which I’ll be able to use to experience the story once more and finish off all of the things that I missed in the first attempt. So neither is finished just yet. But, for now, it’s time to bid Spira adieu and move onto new adventures. I’d still highly recommend the Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster package. It’s well worth the price of admission if you enjoy classic JRPGs.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie