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

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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

To Attain Divinity

I’ve never been fond of the idea of being a god.

Divinity: Original Sin 2 is an exceptionally enjoyable RPG which builds on the mechanics present in Divinity: Original Sin to provide a fresh, engaging, and thoroughly satisfying experience. Most revised are the combat mechanics which now offer a physical and magical armour system, more abilities, and expanded skill trees. Skill trees will offer inherent benefits once invested in, while the new abilities provide the freedom to choose between different weapons in the same combat style. No longer are you tied to bows or crossbows due to prior investment.

Not that I ever had that issue in Divinity: Original Sin. No, not at all.

In the sequel you’re presented with the choice to play as a custom character or to play as one of six predefined characters, three of which can join you even if you’re playing as a custom character. All of the predefined options offer their own stories, quests, and insights into the world and can drastically change the experience. Some with the possibility of providing alternate endings.

You could even completely forego the predefined characters and hire mercenaries instead. Or use the reworked Lone Wolf talent to write an entirely different story. In many ways this is the concept that I’ve loved most about Divinity: Original Sin 2, and I’m interested in seeing how the three of the six that I didn’t choose will present different opportunities. I’m also glad that there are multiple default endings, that there are character-specific endings, and that you are writing a story that features more than just yourself. It’s about the people you’ve worked with, worked against, those you’ve helped, those you’ve hindered, and the consequences for those actions. It’s such a refreshing experience in what has become quite a stagnant genre in recent years.

I’m not concerned as to how we got up here, I’m more concerned as to how we’re going to get down again…

Many NPCs will follow your journey across the harsh wilds of Rivellon, too. So expect to see more than a few familiar faces providing their own contributions to your claim for Divinity, along with more than a few vendors that will (quite literally) follow you around. I’m glad those vendors exist, though. While I enjoy the new opportunities to find (or steal) higher quality loot, I find that much of the loot has numerous bonuses which don’t seem to be very useful at all. Some of the unique loot will offer really good bonuses that seem absent on other loot.

Like being able to get +Strength or +Finesse on gloves.

That said, these issues may have been resolved in the Definitive Edition as I am (once again) playing the classic version. So take that criticism with a pinch of salt. In more than one way the sequel is a resounding success (and nothing is truly perfect), but there are some niggling concerns which slightly lessen the experience. Thankfully they’re very few and far between.

I’m still not entirely sure what possessed me to revisit the Divinity: Original Sin series but I’m glad that I did. I definitely miss these experiences and the sheer flexibility of being able to build any character I want, while being able to enjoy combat that is challenging and (best of all) engaging. I’ve also spent nearly two hundred hours with the series in recent memory. So that’s something. You don’t get too many series which keep you engrossed for that long, or even provide non-repetitive content for that long. Which is probably the greatest achievement of the series, as you rarely find RPGs that provide numerous quest types which can be completed in many different ways. In case you’d not guessed- I highly recommend Divinity: Original Sin 2!

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

The Adventures of Rosey and Cornelius

The dynamic Source Hunter duo.

Divinity: Original Sin is a rather enjoyable yet devilishly difficult RPG which features CRPG mechanics. For the purposes of this post, I’ll be discussing the original release and not the Enhanced Edition so take some observations lightly. I’m sure that the Enhanced Edition has better tuned mechanics. Hopefully. It’s also worth noting that it’s been roughly four years since I last journeyed around Rivellon, and that I wasn’t too far through the main story the last time that I did. But I’ve been having a lot of fun with it this time around.

I even bought Divinity: Original Sin 2 because of it.

Character creation is definitely one of the best things about Divinity: Original Sin. Both the Source Hunters you begin with and companions that join you are fully customisable, and if you don’t feel like playing with others you can completely forego companions by acquiring the Lone Wolf talent. You can even develop characters with myriad non-combat abilities.

On that note, I was slightly disappointed that I would need to move items to a character in order to utilise Blacksmithing or Loremaster. That’s something I know that they’ve changed in the Enhanced Edition. I’m also slightly disappointed by the lack of variety in companions. I would’ve liked to see more of the unique character classes being represented. That said, I chose Jahan and Madora to fill two very simplistic roles in the end. One being the ever-murderous valiant knight who would tank damage about as well as my Source Hunter, while the other chose a more scholarly yet no less destructive route of raining fire down on anything and everything. I’m not disappointed in the range of skills you can choose from, though. They’re pretty great overall.

Not so invulnerable now, are you?

On the other hand, while the skills are great, the flow of combat can sometimes be weighed heavily in your opponent’s favour. It’s fairly obvious that most enemies have higher resistances and better chances to apply status ailments than you, which would be fine if you weren’t perpetually outnumbered. Worse still when you’ve invested significantly in Bodybuilding or Willpower to affect those saving rolls and they still apply the status ailment. Enemies seem to act rather randomly, too. So it’s almost down to luck whether you’re going to make it out alive.

Which also would be fine if resurrecting wasn’t an inconvenient annoyance.

But the synergy between your skills is incredible. Being able to create poison surfaces which you can later set alight, or being able to freeze the ground to cause enemies to trip, or even being able to use Teleportation (which is the best skill) to drop an enemy into lava is ridiculously fun. The combat can simultaneously be the best and worst part of the experience.

I would say that Divinity: Original Sin is a great experience if not a little flawed. The quests are certainly engaging enough and not every single one requires combat, but the progression through new areas feels a little disjointed. Often you’re expected to travel to higher level areas to complete lower level quests. That said, it never ruins the experience it’s just a little frustrating at times trying to figure out where to go next. I also wish that crafting in the original release made any sense. I’m certain that the Enhanced Edition will smooth out this experience to make it more enjoyable, and so I’ve no hesitation in recommending Divinity: Original Sin to all who enjoy RPGs (and CRPGs) as it’s worth the time invested. Without question.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Hella Anarchistic

I had to do it. I’m sorry.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm is an enjoyable narrative-driven experience that explores the unlikely friendship between Chloe Price and Rachel Amber, while serving as a prequel to the events in Life is Strange. Composed of fewer episodes but comparable in length to the prior instalment, I was sceptical at first as Chloe possesses no otherworldly abilities (besides being able to relentlessly insult people) but she proves to be just as interesting as a protagonist. Rachel is quite a diverse character, too.

There’s even a rather neat bonus episode.

This episode provides an amount of closure (and heartbreak) by looking at the last day Max and Chloe spent together before the former left Arcadia Bay. Those who have played Life is Strange will know Chloe- and know that Rachel was important to her- but we’ve never really had the opportunity to explore either character before. Which the prequel provides in a satisfactory fashion.

In contrast to Life is Strange, much of the progression now relies on exploring the environment and unlocking dialogue options or collecting items. Not being able to endlessly reverse time to explore different outcomes also means that decisions are mostly permanent. There are fewer life-threatening situations, too. This provides a significantly different experience to what you might have expected, but it doesn’t detract from the story which remains engaging throughout and provides just as many surprises. I rather enjoyed the tension of having to live with the consequences of my actions rather than being able immediately explore alternatives. Which I would habitually do with Max. Sometimes just because I could.

Lies often protect us from the harsh reality of the truth.

I was once again most impressed with the character development. I feel as though you could play Life is Strange: Before the Storm and then Life is Strange and it would actually enhance the experience of the latter, which isn’t something you can always say about prequels. But in this case it’s very true. It’s also interesting to see how alike Chloe and Max once were and how they evolved quite differently over time. Which, in my opinion, makes this prequel a resounding success as it provides exactly what you would expect it to.

A means to flesh out previously unexplored events.

I wouldn’t be opposed to further exploration of these events, either. It’s unlikely that we’ll get that opportunity but I would welcome it. Mostly because I would be interested to see how they would handle the true conclusion of their story, and what events led to that outcome. But I suppose it’s equally as possible as not with the announcement of Life is Strange 2.

I’ve been rather impressed with both Life is Strange and Life is Strange: Before the Storm. Having also played the Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit (which is free) I’m rather excited for the future of this series, and I look forward to seeing what kind of protagonist Life is Strange 2 has. Again, I could use any number of positive adjectives to explain how I feel about the series but it’s probably better if you experience it for yourself. It’s different but the best kind of different you could ask for. Especially if you choose to explore different consequences by taking a different route through the story. I’ve had fewer positive experiences in the last few years than this and I would highly recommend it even if you’re only curious about the series.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Human Time Machine

You can’t always make the best decisions.

Life is Strange is an exceptional narrative-driven experience which features an unparalleled use of choice and consequence. You experience the story as Max Caulfield, a photography student who learns she has the ability to rewind time, and who will slowly uncover the truth about Arcadia Bay. The first few episodes do well to lay a strong foundation of how to utilise various mechanics and help you to build meaningful relationships with other characters. The last two episodes are as exhilarating as they are heartbreaking as the story comes to its conclusion.

I’m most impressed with the character development.

Max is an oddly easy to relate to protagonist, who, with her newfound powers, can answer some questions that are perhaps best left unanswered. Experiencing the consequences of her actions- and feeling the repercussions of certain decisions- is exactly what I wanted from Life is Strange. Even if I knew that some of her more drastic decisions weren’t going to end well.

I’m also quite impressed with how the developers introduced their core mechanics and conveyed them to you in such a way that they were incredibly intuitive. Many of the puzzles in the story are quite easily solved when you think about what you can do, and how you can quite literally be in two places at once. I rather liked the idea of Max’s diary, too. It really is very simple but it helps to introduce the characters, to explain the events prior to the story, and to understand your actions from her perspective. I feel as though a lot of love went into developing this universe and the characters therein. The optional photographs scattered around each episode were pretty neat as well. It’s a fitting series of achievements that suits the style of gameplay.

It’s not like someone could completely vanish without any trace, right?

I greatly enjoyed the story, too. It was definitely surprising but it made sense. I was quite happy with seeing how my decisions had affected the way the story would unfold, and I felt as though the endings were understandable resolutions to those events. I’m still conflicted as to which I feel is the correct (for lack of a better word) ending. But that only illustrates how well the events were presented. It’s arguable that there isn’t a correct ending as it really does depend on what you feel about the choices you’re presented with.

There’s also some impressive foreshadowing to those endings in hindsight.

I’ll definitely be back to Life is Strange soon as I’m keen to explore different outcomes to my decisions. Or keen to make completely different decisions. I missed a few photographs, too. I’m very likely to purchase Life is Strange: Before the Storm as well, and experience the events prior to this story from a completely different perspective. A blue-haired perspective.

I can string together any number of positive adjectives to indicate how I feel about Life is Strange but it really was an interesting experience that I deeply enjoyed. I’ve always liked stories that feature alternate history or time travel, and this story features both, but it also makes a lot of sense, and doesn’t rely on the convolution of time to hide mistakes. I also enjoyed the art direction and felt that it was an appropriate way to present this story. It’s definitely not for everyone, but I think it’s worth a try if you’re wondering whether you’d like it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and rewind time so that I can take more photos of squirrels. It’s not an abuse of my power. Not in the slightest.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie