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

Advertisements

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 various Dungeons & Dragons rules. These aren’t Dungeons & Dragons rules. 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 with more restrictive rules. 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 is 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

Strangely Coloured Crotch Rocket

An apt description of her transformation.

Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls continues the series’ strange naming convention which seems to get longer with each new instalment. It also continues the series’ fascination with alternate timeline stories. Which I do so dearly adore. Featuring IF as one of two protagonists that set out on a journey to understand why time is disappearing, how to reverse or stop the process, and ultimately work towards a non-post-apocalyptic future. It’s also got a rather neat character class system which is reminiscent of JRPGs of yesteryear.

Which is more or less the entire reason that I bought it.

That and the Dreamcast was a criminally underrated console and seeing a living incarnation of said system decimating her foes is a cathartic release of sorts. Each character has multiple classes and even unlocks a final ultimate class that is representative of everything that character embodies. Such as IF being a ninja. Or Neptune being a kangaroo.

The battle system introduces a few new mechanics, too. There’s the Fever Gauge which builds during battle and can be utilised to unleash Fever Time. Which is more less you having infinite turns and priority in the turn order until the effect wears off, but also makes available various powerful skills that can only be used when that delightfully upbeat music is playing. Characters retain previously established transformations as well. The CPUs are still able to utilise their HDD forms while IF gains a more powerful awakened form. Like a fiery, not-so-golden, less aerial Super Saiyan. It certainly aims to make button mashing in battle less of a thing and (mostly) succeeds, as your position in the turn order is governed by how much you do in any given turn.

The series’ tradition of using a system of plans to unlock new weapons, armour, locations, and bosses is sadly absent. Instead many of these things are unlocked when certain story events have taken place. That said, there is a rather neat conceptual approach to making dungeons more explorable with different collectibles, breakable objects, and unique ways to access other floors. It’s definitely something that helps to prevent dungeons from becoming mundane or repetitive too quickly. It also suits IF as a protagonist as that’s pretty much what she does.

My only criticism is how (surprisingly) clunky the PC release is.

The translation is most baffling as information about items is either entirely absent or doesn’t accurately describe what items do. The fonts in dialogue boxes (especially for names) are weirdly distorted, too. Not to mention the awfully inconsistent dialogue for certain characters whose personality is then harder to understand.

It’s certainly not what you would expect from a series that usually has reasonably high quality PC releases, but it doesn’t detract from the experience too greatly. I’d be almost entirely okay with it if there were more information available about the different classes. They’re quite easy to figure out, though. It’s still an enjoyable instalment in the Neptunia series and features the series’ trademark humour, characters, and the internal quandary that Neptune has whenever she’s not the protagonist. In that way I can still recommend this title as something that will keep you busy for 30-40hrs. Perhaps longer if you’re achievement hunting. Or trying to get every character to Lvl 99 and every class to Lvl 50.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

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

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