"Turn-based strategy games that look like old disney movies" and other wonderful uses of time and money
By ArbitraryWater 10 Comments
This blog has been sitting around on my hard drive for a while, so I figure I should post it now and leave what was to be the other half for another time. School is going okay, I guess. Thanks for asking. I wasn't lying when I said that things would slow down (when compared to the last 6 months when I was living in my parents' basement and had a lot of discretionary time to play a lot of bad video games) but reports of my demise have been exaggerated. I'm still here, and I'll still be doing these dumb internet blogs for the time being.
I was also told by a certain community-spotlight creating moderator that I should express in no uncertain terms that I think Kill la Kill is sort of a mess even if I think the action is pretty good for the most part. It's dumb in all of the wrong ways (as opposed to Gurenn Lagaan being dumb in all of the right ways), but unlike aforementioned moderator, I'm not quite ready to say the series has become irredeemable... but I'm starting to get there. And that's it from Arbitrary Anime corner this week! Tune in next week when I finally tell y'all what I really thought about the 2003 Fullmetal Alchemist series (not really).
The Banner Saga
I really should have written something a while ago, when I actually finished the game. But here we are. I backed The Banner Saga on Kickstarter back during the post-Double Fine hype train, and it seems fitting that it has joined Broken Age as part of the vanguard for the wave of crowdfunded games that will ostensibly come out at some point this year hopefully maybe (and no, having your Alpha/Beta on Steam Early Access does not count). But how is it actually? It's good. Yes, crushing as it is to know, not every game that earns widespread Kickstarter success is going to set our collective anuses on fire with how great or revolutionary it is... and that's fine. Maybe it's because my personal stake is so low (I have always done the minimum pledge to just get the game in regards to everything that I've backed), but I have not yet had my expectations crushed. Of course, that could very well change. What has come out thus far has been rather small-scale. FTL is fantastic and Paper Sorcerer seems pretty good, but they're both quite limited in what they aim to accomplish (this game likewise). The big guns, the multi-million dollar landmarks like Wasteland 2 and Pillars of Eternity, those are the ones that will really test Kickstarter for me (As for Divinity: Original Sin, I'm totally fine with that game being bad as long as I can replicate some of the goofy nonsense I have seen in some videos of the alpha version) If nothing else, The Banner Saga is a great foundation for what could be a great series of games, even if this first installment only comes close to greatness.
Essentially, The Crushing Candy Saga of Banners has two very separate, very distinct gameplay styles. There's the traversal stuff, which is basically a lite version of King of Dragon Pass (a game I think you should take a look at if only because it's such an unique, crazy thing), which is to say that it's sort of a “Choose your own adventure” book with numbers that are kept track of. While I'm unsure of how dynamic certain events can play out, it's clear that certain choices I made early on had actual repercussions as the story continued, and I can appreciate that. Where it falters for me is that you're sort of choosing blindly for the most part, and in situations where every outcome is a different degree of bad that's totally fine... but more often than not there is an optimal outcome to many situations, especially when it comes to keeping your characters alive. There's a reason why keeping a minor character intact for the entire game is an achievement: there are no less than 3 opportunities for him to kick the bucket throughout the course of the story and I guarantee you will run into at least one of them playing the game without any foreknowledge of what will come of it. That's the extreme example, but it illustrates my point that the game is occasionally randomly punishing for the sake of being random. There's also the issue of managing your caravan of dudes... but as far as I can tell there's no penalty to screwing that up, which I realized only at the end of the game when I could have leveled up more of my guys instead of spending it on supplies that were promptly stolen via random events. Sure, everyone starved to death, but I still beat the game.
Then there's the combat, a turn-based tactical affair not dissimilar to Fire Emblem or Advance Wars, but still very much its own thing. The dynamic between strength and armor, the way the various special abilities can be used to control the field, all of these are great ideas that work well in practice and demand a certain amount of tactical thinking. Unfortunately, it's also a combat system that could simply use more stuff (which is to say both depth and complexity). It's not just that you're fighting different variations of the same enemies for the game's 9-10 hour runtime, it's that your own army could do with more than a few variations of the same 4 classes and a handful of unique guys here and there. I did alright for myself on Normal difficulty, all except for the last encounter, essentially a boss battle that is exponentially harder than anything else in the game up to that point, though it didn't sour me as much as the ending. The ending? Oh right. The ending is a terrible cliffhanger, which is a pity because I was enjoying the story quite a bit up to that point. It does a fantastic job of world-building without the usual exposition dumps that you expect from most video games (i.e. asking about lore or concepts in any given Bioware game that your character SHOULD know about if they had half a brain) and the game itself has such a rough, relentlessly bleak tone that I really appreciated.
In short, The Banner Saga is well-worth the 8-10 hour investment it asks for. I can't claim it's the hottest thing out on the interwebs, but I enjoyed my time with it and am looking forward to a sequel where they bother to explain all the deliberately cryptic junk they set up in this first one. I'm 3 for 3 on Kickstarter games I backed being good thus far, don't let me down now.
Might and Magic X
will get its own write-up soon enough, once I get around to finishing it. I like it quite a bit. Despite being a little rough around the edges thanks to some technical problems and an obviously low budget, it's a worthy enough game to bear the Might and Magic name, which to be fair is also not exactly the highest hurdle to overcome. It's better than Might and Magic IX (which, to be fair, I also enjoyed more than it deserved. Oh right, did I mention that I got that game to work again? That's right. Now I can finish it!). How does it stack up to the games in the series that aren't half-finished messes? You'll find out... soon enough.
I've reached Chapter 3, and thus far Bravely Default (the worst/best name for a game since Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII) is probably the sequel to Final Fantasy V that I've always wanted, but with the crazy brave/default system of turn management. Unfortunately, also like Final Fantasy V, I've found the story utterly forgettable thus far and the characters one-note archetypes, and guessing by the reviews I've read that doesn't seem like it will change all that much. Oh well. I'll take what I can get, even if that leads to me doing dumb stuff like leaving my DS in sleep mode overnight so I can rebuild the village and get overpowered items too early in the game (hot tip: upgrade the weapons shop so you can get the Angel Bow, give it to someone who is a Thief and prepare to steamroll). I'm going to guess that you can probably expect something on this game too at some point maybe.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
So I bought (because it was on sale) and played some Monster Hunter when I was home two weekends ago instead of trying to finish Splinter Cell, which is what I originally was intending to do that weekend. I'll put it this way: It's probably a good thing that I can't bring the Wii U down to school with me (or rather, it's a good thing that I didn't buy the 3DS version for the same price), or else I'd be dead right now, given that I sunk something like 14 hours into it over the course of 3 days. Currently alternating between Longsword and Switch Axe, and I honestly have no idea how anyone could use the Greatsword, where the recovery animation isn't so much measured in frames as it is measured in seconds. That's all, I guess.