Category Archives: entertainment

LISA sadistically plays with your emotions and expectations

I’ve only seen Mad Max: Fury Road in terms of the dystopian action series, but it’s possibly one of my favorite post-apocalyptic worlds, even if it is ultimately the most deranged and harshest on its people. LISA reminds me a lot of that movie, though there is much more humor to its telling and characters, and some of that humor works well with the ultra high amount of violence and disturbing imagery…and sometimes it doesn’t gel at all. That’s okay though. In this wasteland, where pain is living, nothing can be perfect.

Right, on with it. LISA is a quirky-as-quriky-gets side-scrolling RPG in the same vein as EarthBound–which I still need to get to ugh–set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Beneath this charming and funny exterior is a world full of disgust, moral destruction, and a general theme of “that’s messed up”; in fact, the game’s full name is LISA: The Painful RPG, which is a little on the nose. Players will learn what kind of person they are by being forced to make some serious choices, which do ultimately permanently affect how the game goes. For instance, if you want to save a party member from death, you will have to sacrifice the strength of your own character, the protagonist called Brad. This might entail taking a beating for them or even chopping off a limb or two. It’s pretty rough out there in this world of no women or children and only power-thirsty men. The story follows Brad as he stumbles upon an abandoned infant, a baby girl, who is later kidnapped.

Naturally, you’ve got all the standard RPG basics to manage, such as weapons, skills, limited energy for special attacks, and numerous stats that can be improved with items, leveling up, or purchasing new equipment. The combat in LISA is turn-based, though Brad’s general attack can be changed with manual inputs to do extra damage per hit, so long as you know the right string of keys to hit to perform the combo. Over the course of the game, Brad will come in contact with a diverse cast–and I do mean diverse–of potential party members that he can recruit by doing a range of odd and random tasks, and each brings their own special personality to combat. Currently, my party consists of Terry Hintz, who is not all that useful honestly, and someone else whose name I can’t remember, but I got them to join after listening to a lot of his sad stories. It looks like there are many characters that can join your party, just like in Chrono Cross.

Items in LISA range from mundane necessities to oddities like horse jerky, sweatbands with fire damage, greasy ponchos, and kung-fu scrolls. No phoenix downs so far. Stats are tied to a character’s level and equipment found or purchased from vendors in one of the game’s many towns. Settlements and towns sometimes offer respite from the outside world with places to sleep, which recovers the entire party’s health and skill points, but also includes randomized, potentially damaging events, such as getting robbed or having a party member kidnapped. You can also save your progress in specific spots.

Generally speaking, whenever games allow me to make moral choices, such as Mass Effect or Fallout: New Vegas, I always play the good guy. Sure, being a rude dude or scoundrel can be fun when it is make believe, but there’s a serious part of me that feels sorry for causing others pain or just being a complete dick for no reason other than to get a reaction. Yes, I care about polygon or sprite-based figures that are essentially just bits of code, and I care even more about how I interact with them. LISA makes being a good guy tough, constantly driving home the notion that being selfish and heartless is the only way to survive in a world like this.

Unfortunately, I think I might be stuck, unsure of where to go next. The problem is that it isn’t often clear where next should be, but also tied to the fact that there are hidden doorways and passages everywhere, and they are exceptionally well hidden. There’s some light platforming to do in LISA, with you being able to hop up small ledges, but falling from a great height will actually damage Brad and his companions’ health. Naturally, sometimes you have to do this to progress, but I can’t seem to figure out where to go. Of course, I could always look up a walkthrough, but I feel like I’m still too early in the game to be seeking outside help. Truly, this is the greatest suffering that LISA can throw at me.

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Trying to help Sachi survive in Smoke and Sacrifice’s grotesque underworld

Smoke and Sacrifice is not what I expected to be. One of the first screenshots for the game that I saw was similar to the one at the top of this post. It looks bright and safe and a little mundane and reminded me of any number of early towns or villages you visited in RPGs like Suikoden or Breath of Fire. There’s a field being tended to and glowing Sun Trees that are obviously very important to these people and it just feels smalltown farm-like, but then things take a turn towards darker.

See, our leading protagonist Sachi must unfortunately give up her son as part of the village’s first-born rite; basically, she is sacrificing her child to appease the gods, but the good news–if you want to call it that–is that any future children she has will be safe from this custom. How nice. Years later, when suddenly the Sun Tree fades and all the priests vanish, she learns there’s more to this ritual, such as a whole underground world.

Smoke and Sacrifice is an open-world, narrative-driven survival RPG, where exploiting living ecosystems is the key to keeping air in your lungs. Sachi must constantly craft gear, fight off monsters, and explore a massive open world as she searches for her long-lost son. Along the way, she’ll meet strange characters and take on quests for them, as well as learn what really was happening with the Sun Trees and the first-born ritual. The game quickly goes from bright to dark to seriously messed up in a matter of minutes, and you’ll quickly forget all about that fertile land above, now replaced with a gothic wasteland of strange bugs and foreign ingredients.

Unlike many other survival games, there’s a solid if sadly morbid story to follow and no permadeath to deal with. Instead, you can save your progress frequently at a few save points dotted around the map, which are in the form of glowing computer screens, with death bringing you back to your last hard save. I recommend saving all the dang time. I have suffered the sad experience of collecting a bunch of ingredients for a half hour, stumbling into a combat scenario I wasn’t ready for, and having my weapons and lantern degrade at just that moment, losing all forward progress. It stinks and is maybe the harshest part of Smoke and Sacrifice.

The combat in Smoke and Sacrifice is both punishing and a little plain. You can up your chances of making it out alive by crafting an array of armor and weapons, such as a bone machete, but you never really feel that powerful. Instead, you are better off learning every enemy’s pattern and taking them out slowly and methodically. There’s a dodge move, but it is more of a jump away than anything I’d call extremely responsive, like rolling in Bastion. I wish there was a little more strategy or options for combat, but so far it is just mashing the attack button and hopping away when it looks like the enemy will strike. I did just start crafting smoke bombs, so maybe it does get a little more advanced, but I won’t hold my breath, especially when breathing in this underworld’s air is deadly enough.

I got this game for “free” from being a Twitch Prime member, along with a number of others that I hope to get to…eventually. I think I’ll poke at it some more as I am interested to see where this dark story goes and if Sachi finds her son while also wreaking havoc on the naughty priests that forced her into this situation to begin with. Weapons, armor, and lanterns constantly degrading quickly might be too much for me to deal with though…time will only tell.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH: Smuggler’s Run

To me, Smuggler’s Run was probably my first dip into an open world environment. The fact that I was driving a vehicle and could leave the road at any point for a zip through the desert, going left or right as I pleased, felt revolutionary at the time. In fact, this type of driving was encouraged, especially when the U.S. border patrol began chasing after you. I wasn’t locked into a course with walls and barriers or even invisible walls, forced to follow the path that the developer wanted me to follow, doing the same thing as anyone else playing the game was doing. I was a smuggler on the run, running how I saw fit.

Like I just said, in Smuggler’s Run, you play a smuggler who needs to prove himself in this underground world and has a number of different vehicles at his disposal to do so, including dune buggies, rally cars, and military vehicles. These vehicles are used to smuggle assorted cargo through three different large, open levels. It’s a fairly weak plot to begin with, and your mission objectives are spelled out for you via some quick narrative before each mission. The missions  range from basic smuggling operations that involve moving the contraband from point A to point B, to customized versions of a checkpoint race and the loot grab modes, to completely original objectives like destroying a series of radar towers.

Smuggler’s Run had a couple of different modes to explore, and I’ll cover ’em briefly here because, honestly, I really only played one mode over and over again before eventually using this game and some others as a trade-in offer for…well, I have no idea what I got for them, but that’s beside the point. Smuggler’s Mission mode is basically the story campaign I described in the previous paragraph, seeing you go through three consecutive levels (forest, desert, and snow) with about ten missions per level. Turf War mode had three different mini-games, two of which involved smuggling cargo while fighting against a rival gang; the final mini-game involved a race through a popular spot in a level. Lastly, Joyriding mode allowed you to freely roam to and fro in any level without having to deal with the U.S. border patrol or CIA, and it was a great way to get to know the ins and outs of any level before taking it on via the story missions.

If I recall correctly, your vehicle will take damage not only from collisions with other vehicles and objects, but also from bouncing all over the particularly rough terrain. When your damage meter runs out, your engine stalls, and if a police vehicle touches you while you’re stalled, you’ll be placed under arrest. If no cops are around, you can restart your engine and continue on your merry way…though chances of that were seriously unlikely. The AI-controlled police were absolutely relentless, chasing you everywhere you go, which is why I mostly spent my free time in the Joyriding mode, free from such hassles.

For its time, Smuggler’s Run looked fantastic. The game’s terrain is large and detailed, and pop-up and fog were nowhere to be found…though that giant green arrow pointing you to your mission objective was then and is now beyond fugly. Each of the three maps are massive, with the missions taking place in smaller sections, but you aren’t limited in where you can roam. There’s also quite amount of small details everywhere, such as tire marks, active wildlife, train tracks, and actual hiking trails, which are just things you expect nowadays, but really helped add a bit of realism to the game on the PlayStation 2.

Evidently, they made a sequel with Smuggler’s Run 2, though I never played it. The only interesting factoid I know about it is that the game was originally supposed to take place in Afghanistan, but following the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, as well as the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan, the developers changed the Afghanistan levels to the deserts of Georgia/Russia instead. Rockstar also later released downloadable content for Grand Theft Auto Online named Smuggler’s Run, which added a customizable hangar and additional vehicles to play around with. At least they didn’t completely forget about this IP.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Sky Force Anniversary

Sky Force Anniversary is described as a legendary shoot-em-up, but I unfortunately never really heard of it until I sat down the other day to give it a go on the ol’ PlayStation 3. Over my many years of playing all these dang vidyagamez, shoot-em-ups are a genre I just don’t find myself drawn to…though I do remember playing a lot of Thunder Spirits and U.N. Squadron on the SNES back in the day. Maybe a bit of RayStorm too. Still, if I am to play one of these, I prefer them to not be bullet hell style, as that is just masochism at its finest.

After some minimal research, I discovered that Sky Force is a vertically scrolling shoot-em-up series created by the Polish developer Infinite Dreams. The gameplay is reminiscent of Capcom’s 19XX series and Seibu Kaihatsu’s Raiden series, of which I don’t think I’ve played either, featuring a weapon upgrade system and large end-of-stage bosses. The first title in the series was originally released for Symbian and Pocket PC in 2004 and was ported to Palm webOS (2005), iOS (2009), and Android (2010). Also, the first game in the series was 2D and entirely sprite-based.

You start off Sky Force Anniversary with a fairly powerful ship, shooting down waves of incoming enemies with ease. Alas, as expected, things happen, and your ship loses all its great abilities. It is up to the player to build their battle-ship back to its glorious former self over the proceeding handful of levels. Warning: it’s going to take time, and by time..I mean grinding. The first few levels are not technically difficult, but enemies will take more hits to destroy and you’ll find your ship exploding sooner than expected. Defeating enemies drops collectible stars, which used to upgrade your ship in the hanger between levels, with each upgrade requiring more and more stars, naturally. Despite only unlocking up to the third mission, I found myself replaying missions one and two just to earn more stars and boost my ship a bit. It’s not exactly a barrel of fun, but it gets the job done…slowly.

All in all, Sky Force Anniversary feels slightly more scaled back in terms of overwhelming action, focusing instead more on patterns and the movement of enemies. You won’t experience a thousand and one bullets flying at your ship, but rather a small handful, with other things to track as well, such as stars to collect, people to rescue, boxes to shoot open, and so on. Each level has four bonus goals to complete, such as rescuing people or killing the majority of enemies, though it seems like, at least for the first three levels, these are all the same. Evidently, if you complete all four challenges, you can play an even harder version of the mission.

See ya, Sky Force Anniversary. You were a decent amount of fun for a few levels, but you just aren’t my thing. My favorite part, overall, was the little “ya-hoos” that people screamed when you rescued them off the ground.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

Rolling dice never changes with Fallout: The Board Game

I am still surprised to this day that I did not fall head over heels in love with Fallout 4. I mean, I like it well enough, but the obsessive amount of exploring I did in Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas never reared its pretty head in the same way, and I’ve tried going back to the campaign about finding my stolen son and defeating–or teaming up with–an army of synths several times now to see things from a different perspective, never really getting too far in and eventually petering out when something more interesting comes along to demand I play it. Still, if anything, Fallout 4 brought with it some fun side stuff that I enjoy more than the main gig, such as Fallout Shelter and Fallout: The Board Game; I’ve already talked about the former, and this post is most definitely about the latter.

Initially, I balked at Fallout: The Board Game‘s price tag. Sixty dollars plus tax sure seemed like a lot for…a board game, but maybe I’m still new to this cardboard, tiles, meeples-run world, considering I’ve looked around online and seen other games priced much higher than that. Still, that price is in line with a brand-new videogame release, and I don’t often get a lot of those. Well, regardless of all that, in March or April of this year–sorry, my chemo-drippy brain is fuzzy on the details–I entered V.A.T.S., selected a copy for a 100% lethal shot, and watched as Bloody Mess played out at the register. Er, I bought a copy. Sorry, sometimes I lose myself in both the world and language of Fallout.

Okay, time for the nitty-gritty. No, not that Gritty. Fallout: The Board Game is a post-nuclear adventure board game for one to four players. Naturally, it’s based on the mega-popular series–well, maybe not Fallout 76 as it currently is–by Bethesda Softworks. There are multiple story scenarios to play through, and each is inspired by a familiar story from the franchise. Survivors begin the game on the edge of an unexplored landscape, uncertain of what awaits them. With just one objective to guide them from the very beginning, each player must explore the hidden map, fight off ferocious, irradiated enemies, and build up their survivor’s skills as they attempt to complete challenging quests and balance feuding factions within the game. To win, you must reach a specific amount of agenda influence points, and the number of influence points required for victory is dependent on how many players are participating.

Fallout: The Board Game is played in a series of rounds, with each player getting two actions on a turn. Different actions include moving, exploring new tiles, fighting enemies, questing and encountering, and resting. After all players finish their respective turn, the round ends with monsters activating and looking for wanderers to attack. Combat is handled with three custom dice. Every monster has vulnerable areas, represented by the V.A.T.S. icon, and players must roll to hit these specific areas. Having a weapon and matching S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats will grant re-rolls, along with other cards and perks. Defeating monsters grants XP and sometimes loot, but the monster doesn’t go away entirely, instead it retreats into a dormant stage to fight again another day.

Experience is handled through a pretty nifty leveling system attached to a tracker. Each point of experience will move a peg along the player’s S.P.E.C.I.A.L. track, skipping over any empty spaces. Once it completes a circlet, the player gets to draw a new S.P.E.C.I.A.L. token to add to their stats. Duplicate tokens will instead grant a perk and single use abilities, and having certain S.P.E.C.I.A.L. tokens will affect combat encounters and mission quests. You also track your amount of radiation on this board, and if your HP every goes below the current radiation peg…your character perishes. The tracker also has slots for companions and inventory items.

There are quests. Lots of ’em. In fact, the base game comes with a 150-card deck of numbered missions to complete. When a player has an encounter, another player will read the card and options to them, but not the results. The player must then decide which option to choose without knowing the outcome. Alas, when playing solo, it can be difficult to not read the results as you do this to yourself, and I often based my decision on already knowing what goodies I got. Many quests will branch off into multiple cards after granting experience points or loot, and some will also reward you with influence points. Following an entire questline to its end is fun and just as satisfactory as in the videogames, but sometimes you have to juggle multiple quests, which can become overwhelming.

Phew. I know that is probably a lot to take in, and for me, it took several attempts at playing Fallout: The Board Game for most of that to sink in. I’m still not 100% certain how the shop works, but whatever. Also, the agenda points system isn’t great, especially in solo mode, but it’s how you win the game. Personally, I wish it wasn’t, as I have more fun doing quests and exploring unflipped tiles than trying to balance two factions or simply focusing on a single one only to betray it at the end if you suddenly see a way to get more agenda points with the other faction. It just doesn’t feel cohesive, but maybe it works better with more players fighting to gain these points first.

So far, I’ve only played solo, and it can be a lot to pay attention to. Each game has roughly taken me two to three hours to complete, and my first time having a go at it, most of that was dealing with the game’s initial setup. There’s a lot to set up, from the placement of tiles, to the shop, to your inventory, to the multiple quest decks, and so on. The game pieces look amazing, and I love the little enemy tokens. It’s pretty exciting to see things I barely glanced at in the videogames represented as useful cards here. I’ve occasionally also forgotten some rules and flubbed my way through a mission, and there was one mission card related to the alien mothership that simply broke my brain; I tried searching online for an explanation of what to do, but couldn’t find anything so I simply packed everything up and called it a day. The game is aesthetically cool, but not perfect in how it plays.

Oh, and I just became aware that there’s already an expansion available called New California. Right, and this gaming mat looks really neat and would certainly help me keep things more organized because I generally don’t know where to keep some of the decks and other items in relation to my health tracker and other cards…though its price tag is not immediately desirable considering it costs just as much as an entire game expansion. Hmm. Either way, I’ll keep having a go at Fallout: The Board Game in hopes that I can actually win it without getting a rule wrong or forgetting to do something vital. Y’know, like moving all the monsters towards me at the end of a round.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Master Reboot

Master Reboot is a cool name for a game I don’t understand. At least it isn’t ReBoot, a Canadian CGI-animated action-adventure television series that originally aired from 1994 to 2001…of which, I saw several episodes. For funsies, you should check out the intro and feel special knowing that you are witnessing the world’s first completely computer-animated TV series. A true piece of animation history. Too bad it kind of stunk.

What Master Reboot actually is…well, it’s not exactly spelled out from the get-go. I think it is an adventure game, heavy on exploration and puzzle solving, with a bit of spookiness thrown in to keep you on your polygonal feet. It takes place inside the Soul Cloud, which is a giant server that holds the data of your soul and memories when you die. The Soul Cloud is brimming floating islands, and each island looks like a town, village, or city filled with rooms, skyscrapers, and houses that hold people’s memories. To house your soul, a family member (or you before you die, if you are prepared for it) must purchase an island on the Soul Cloud where the server will generate these spaces to hold each and every memory from the deceased’s past. There are, evidently, 34 unique environments to see, but I probably only saw one-fifth of them in the time I spent poking at Master Reboot.

The game has a look, and I’d call that look somewhat simplistic. Low-fi and low on details. On purpose. I’m perfectly fine with flat textures and few details–I loved it recently with Burly Men at Sea, as well as countless other games that went with the less-is-more route–but here I felt like there actually could have been more. A few more shades of detail to really drive home being in a certain place, like a school or child’s bedroom. Also, the game doesn’t even try to hide its invisible walls, them appearing as red-colored shield-walls when you venture too far away from the main path, like you are trapped under a highly technical dome. I kept bumping into these walls, hoping to go somewhere else, but alas, nope, nope, nope. It was a bit jarring.

That aside, because I do think the story is somewhat neat and don’t mind the occasional jump scare, my biggest problem with Master Reboot has to do with its puzzles. More often than not, they truly tried my nerves, as in the case of a memory that forced me to drive into oncoming traffic or one that made me recreate an image from memory when I hadn’t seen the parent image in a half hour or more. Completing these usually yielded some insight into the world’s mythology or the protagonist’s identity, but they were mostly obtuse obstacles to keep answers at bay. The game definitely doesn’t hold your hand, and it’s up to you to figure out what you are supposed to evidently do; yes, I’m looking at you, puzzle that had me rotating tiles to form three distinct pictures.

I gave up on Master Reboot after solving the puzzles in the park playground level, of which I had to look up a couple solutions for. After this is over, you have to use jump pads to leap from one sinking platform to another. Please don’t ask me why. If you aren’t quick enough, you drown and get a screen full of code, forced to try again. I tried three times and said, “No more.” The controls are built for a slow-moving game about exploring a small environment, in search of puzzle items or tiny blue ducks that act as the game’s collectibles. It’s not meant for moving quickly from one area to another. Ultimately, it’s not meant for me to keep playing.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

Space is totally the place for Starlink: Battle for Atlas

I’ve been itching for a space game lately, and two kept floating in front of my eyes as top choices–No Man’s Sky and Starlink: Battle for Atlas. Now, I promised myself I wouldn’t purchase one of these until I rung Mark of the Ninja: Remastered completely dry, which I did recently, and so it was upon me–the decision. Also, part of me felt guilty about purchasing a new game when I knew that I’d be picking up Spyro Reignited Trilogy in just a few days. Anyways, I went with Starlink: Battle for Atlas, the digital non-toy version, and I’ll explain my reasoning below.

No Man’s Sky is a big game, possibly endless, and it’s gotten a number of major updates since it originally launched to help expand it into something more. This is both cool and daunting. To me, it feels both a little too open and a little too much to take on; I love the idea of flying around a planet, examining the flora and fauna, and getting into a few dogfights, but that game now also wants you to be creative and build bases and really show off your imagination. I’m not ready for that, with my limited gaming time and attention. All I really want is a checklist of things to do, and the ability to go forward and do them. So far, Starlink: Battle for Atlas is accomplishing that greatly.

Starlink: Battle for Atlas is an action-adventure title developed by Ubisoft Toronto and published by Ubisoft for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. The game also features optional toys-to-life elements. For those not in the know, toys-to-life uses physical figurines or action figures to interact with the game of choice. These toys generally use near field communication, radiofrequency identification, or image recognition data protocol to determine the individual figurine’s proximity, and also saves a player’s progress data to a storage medium located within that piece. However, toys-to-life has been losing popularity over the years, so to ensure that the game is consumer-friendly, this aspect of the game was made optional, meaning that players can play the game digitally without purchasing any of the toys. That’s what I did as I do not need to clutter up the townhouse with plastic stuff.

Right, let’s get to it then. Starlink: Battle for Atlas has a story y’all. After an amnesiac alien fell to Earth, a secretive benefactor named Victor St Grand forms the Starlink Initiative to search for its origins, leading them to the Atlas system. Alas, Victor St Grand goes and gets himself kidnapped, and you, as part of a group of heroic interstellar pilots, are now dedicated to free the Atlas Star System from Grax and the Forgotten Legion. This will involve traveling to a number of unique planets, pushing back the Legion, and growing alliances with allies to bulk up your chance to take down Grax for good. The story, so far, is well told, through a mix of CGI cutscenes, art stills cutscenes, and solid voiceover work. Also, this has been driving me mad since I started playing, but I finally just figured out that the character Kharl Zeon is voiced by George Buza, mostly known to me for his work in the early 1990s on X-Men: The Animated Series as Beast/Dr. Henry “Hank” McCoy. That’s one iconic voice.

Swapping is a thing you do a lot in Starlink: Battle for Atlas. Now, I’m mostly only swapping out my weapons based on enemy types or a specific puzzle to solve; I prefer to stick with one pilot, namely Razor Lemay, a trained fighter pilot and self-professed metal-head, and one ship, namely the Zenith, and level them up as much as possible instead of having a bunch of lower-leveled pilots and ships. This may or may not put me at a disadvantage later, but so far it hasn’t been a problem on the default difficulty. For weapons, I really like the Flamethrower and Shredder, and Razor’s pilot ability, which is called Power Chord, can clear an entire screen of enemies in all its beautiful Guitar Hero-esque glory. Playing digitally makes this quick and easy; sure, having the toy in front of you to reflect these changes might be neat at first, but I could see it also becoming cumbersome to change things around every few minutes, especially in the middle of a big battle.

Everything is pretty chill in Starlink: Battle for Atlas, all in all. You can zip around a planet, scan animals, collect strange fruit and resources, upgrade refineries and other buildings, clear out imp hives, protect something as hacking begins, do missions for strange, alien-people, and simply discover everything there is to discover. If you want, at any time, you can fly up into space and go to another planet or get into some Colony Wars-like skirmishes, taking down raiders with style. Each planet contains a list of things to do, and the more you do, the more that planet’s people like you and will support you in taking down Grax. Honestly, it’s been a great game to pop into for an hour or so, do a few things, and see that you are making progress, inch by inch.

Currently, I’m trying to gain support from a bunch of planets before I take on the Dreadnought, a large enemy ship that Victor St Grand is hiding out in. I’m sure he’d like my help as soon as possible, but I’m not in a rush. Thankfully, neither is Starlink: Battle for Atlas, and there’s always something else to do if you don’t want to take on a campaign mission. Heck, at any moment, you can even generate a random mission to do…though they are mostly fetch quests or something easy like that. I do wonder how much I’ll play after completing the storyline and checking off each planet’s list of things to accomplish; I’d love to try out some other pilots and weapons, but not enough to max out each one. Or maybe I will…later in 2019. For now, I’m having a great time zipping around these strange, new lands.