I’ve never been to Mars and probably never will in my lifetime, but I’ve both read and seen a lot of hot takes on the red planet, such as Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein, The Martian by Andy Weir, and 1990’s Total Recall. I’ve even played a few games set there, like all the Red Faction joints. Chances are I wouldn’t survive long, knowing only how to make hot dog rice and a slumber party tent using two chairs and an old bedsheet, but that’s expected. Also, if hostile alien lifeforms exist, I wouldn’t know what to do to keep them from eating my Earthly flesh. Related to that, one is still trying to survive the harsh landscape in Waking Mars, but the true focus is on study and education, on discovering what makes this world alive and function.
Tiger Style put out Waking Mars in early 2012, but I only discovered it the other night in my Steam library, way at the bottom of the list. I honestly have no recollection of how it got there, but I’m going to assume it was through a Humble Bundle of sorts. Without knowing too much about the game other than some of the Achievement descriptions, I loaded it up and was surprised to discover that it is…a science-fiction adventure game with light platforming in the veins of a jetpack. Also, it’s totally about gardening. The year is 2097, and life has been discovered on Mars. Your mission of first contact takes a real bad turn, with American astronaut Liang becoming trapped by a cave-in. He must master the alien ecosystem to better survive and progress, as well as discover the secrets of the planet’s past.
Right. First off, instead of shooting your way to safety, Liang must grow a lively ecosytem to open passageways and redirect water to the areas that need it most. This was a great surprise. Much like The Swapper, combat is not the focus; instead, exploring your surroundings and puzzling out what to do next is the main mechanic fueling progression and storytelling, and that has actually made the jet-packing all the more fun because you are not trying to fire a blaster and dodge acid bombs at the same time, but rather zip around in search of places to grow some local life. Instead, you are looking for plant seeds and fertile ground, as well as scientific remnants of a co-worker that has gone missing. Each area has a Biomass rating, which you must raise to open up new areas to explore, and you do this by making life thrive. Plant seeds in the right spot, cultivate them, mix seeds with other seeds, avoid dangerous plants, and watch how everything interacts.
Waking Mars, so far, has a somewhat compelling story, but I’m more interested in the diversity of its cast, as well as the strong voice acting, which gives more meaning and urgency to the search for alien life and a way back to the headquarters. Liang is quiet and curious, but also physically alone in these Mars caves. In his ear are two support team members: Armani, an upbeat scientist, and ART, a humorous and glitch AI (think TARS from Interstellar). At different points, you’ll stop for conversation and figure out what to do next. These are linear moments, but they do reveal a lot about each character and provide hints at what is really going on here.
The gardening is fun. I generally always have fun growing digital plants, but the fact that everything interacts with each other to either raise or lower your Biomass rating is fascinating and much different than other games. Makes me feel like a scientist doing scientist-y things. You are also encouraged to get creative and research each plant fully, figuring out how it reproduces or reacts to prey. Once you know more about each respective plant, you can create a highly efficient zone, one that almost takes care of itself. It’s difficult but not impossible to reach five-star Biomass rating, and I suspect doing so will have a unique result on the current environment; alas, I’ve not been able to do this yet.
According to the Internet, Waking Mars takes about six to eight hours to complete. I’ve only put in two hours so far, which means there’s plenty of Mars left to explore and turn into my personal zoa garden. We’ll see if I have a green or red thumb.
Y’know, because the iron oxide prevalent on the planet’s surface gives it a reddish appearance?
Ever Oasis comes to us from the studio Grezzo and is Koichi Ishii’s latest project, who you might know as the designer who created the Mana series of action, fantasy-based role-playing games, of which I’ve dabbled in Secret of Mana back on the SNES, own an untouched digital copy of the PlayStation 1’s Legend of Mana on my PlayStation 3, and have no further experience with any other games in the series. Boo to that, boo to me. Ishii is also tied to the creation of those adorable Chocobo and Moogle characters, and the Noots found in Ever Oasis, with their rotund figure, feathery eyebrows, and bouncy walks, are sure to become another beloved trademark. Any way you slice it, there’s pedigree here and a whole heap of ambition.
In Ever Oasis, you play as either Tethu or Tethi, a young seedling, who with the help of a water spirit named Esna creates an oasis after your brother’s oasis falls victim to the evil force known as Chaos. I went with Tethi and gave her purple skin. Your main goal is to find more residents that can help fight these Chaos creatures, as well as create a safe and functional oasis for all to live in. That often requires doing specific tasks for wannabe residents and, once they’re in, setting up shops, called bloom booths, for them to sell their wares and keeping those shops well-stocked. Alas, the story is cookie-cutter basic and far from ambitious, yet the character designs are fun and memorable, and seeing a new possible resident show up in your oasis is exciting, even if the most they can offer you is a fetch quest.
However, it’s not enough to build a new oasis in Ever Oasis. No, no, it has to be prosperous, absolutely perfect. You hit this goal by completing missions in dungeons and caves outside the oasis, in the dangerous desert. Players can form a party of up to three characters and battle a range of enemies possessed by Chaos, but more on that in a bit. Dungeons also contain puzzles and treasure chests full of materials needed to restock bloom booths. Shopkeepers with popular products produce dewadems, this realm’s strangely named currency, which you can spend on various things, like building more booths or crafting new weapons/bits of armor. Bloom booths can also be upgraded by re-stocking them and completing quests for their operators.
Something the Mana games all have in common that is also found in Ever Oasis is a seamless, real-time battle system. One nice option is the ability to switch between any of your three party members at any given time, providing options for weapons and abilities, though I have mostly stuck with Tethi. Combat is a mix of light strategy and button-mashing, with an emphasis on rolling away from an enemy’s attack. You yourself have a Normal Attack, a Special Attack, and unlock combos as you level up. Because you can’t move after landing an attack, you want to ensure you don’t leave yourself open for damage; thankfully, so far, all the encountered enemies have a tell just before they lunge at you, which allows you to time your rolls and keep your HP up. One nice bonus of maintaining a healthy and happy oasis is that your health, when out in dungeons, is extended because of this. As more people swarm to your oasis, it grows and levels up, providing you with new crafting recipes and more safety net HP.
There’s little bits and pieces of things I love very much in Ever Oasis, but they are currently not enough to get me jumping for joy. Like, you can plant seeds and assign an unemployed Seedling to tend to your crops, but this is no Stardew Valley or even Disney Magical World 2. The farming aspect seems ultra basic. You plant seeds, you can either spend dewadems to help them grow faster or not, and wait for them to grow. An oasis of loyal and almost-loyal Seedlings sounds lovely, but this is no Animal Crossing, as they don’t have much to say other than their initial questline and just sort of wander down the road aimlessly. Also, the menus are clean and fine, though I found the section on main quests to be lacking; I want to be able to select a quest as a priority over others and have it drop the necessary waypoints on my map screen or at least see how I’m progressing towards it.
I do worry that Ever Oasis will turn into a grind, something I’m beginning to see as I prepare to throw my first festival, which first requires obtaining a number of stamps from happy shopkeepers. I’ll keep at it for the near future because I simply cannot fall back down the wormhole that is upping my completion rate in Disney Magical World 2, which would basically require me to craft a ton of princess dresses and outfits for girls.
I’ve not played every single LEGO video game out there, but I’ve gone through a good amount, most of which were in order of release. For me, it began with LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game back on the PlayStation 2, but it’s probably more accurate to say that the starting point for the evolution of these LEGO video games from TT Games began with LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues. That’s where you began to see things like an enlarged hub world to explore and a split-screen camera option for when playing with a co-op partner, both of which have become mainstays for the series. Going back to play LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga recently has shown me just how far the series has come, for better or…no, just better. It’s only gotten better.
That’s not to say LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga is a bad game or un-fun. Mel and I have been having a good time completing levels, collecting studs, unlocking red bricks, buying multipliers, and revisiting areas for hidden collectibles. We chip away at the larger beast. The LEGO grind is here, but it’s enjoyable because, compared to LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens, not every level takes upwards of an hour to complete. Not every door requires you to solve a minigame to open it. Not every puzzle is dastardly obtuse. I guess there’s some worse in the newer entries after all.
LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga is basically a compilation of LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game and its sequel LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy, that way you can play through them all together using one single product. Which is good for us because I only ever played through the former of those two, and Mel played the latter with her brother many moons ago. So we both got to experience some new areas together. Also, the game incorporates two previously deleted levels–“Anakin’s Flight” and “Bounty Hunter Pursuit”–though I’m only finding out about this now. Many other levels were redesigned and updated so that both games worked with each other and felt unified. Either way, the games follow the movies, which means you’ll get to see the exciting Trade Federation negotiations go down, young Anakin grow up, watch Luke learn about his father and The Force, and see Ewoks take down the Empire with sticks and stones. Since this is an older entry in the series, the cutscenes are wordless reproductions, but still silly when they want to be.
Here’s something I didn’t expect to ever say: Jar Jar Binks is essential. Early on, his ability to both double jump and jump high is pivotal for getting some hidden minikits, red bricks, or blue studs, which are the ones worth the most money. We brought him into every level we could during Free Play. I do miss the camera that would split in half and allow both players to do their own desires; here, you are stuck to each other, and often it made things easier for one player to simply drop out then for both to jump across sinking platforms floating in red-hot lava. Also, the flying levels are a struggle, especially when you need to get from point A to point B with missiles or a bomb being dragged behind you, and the whole world is out to make you explode. Later, we managed to make a door glitch out and not open despite doing everything right because glitches need stitches. Or something like that. Sorry, I didn’t know how to end that sentence.
We’re currently around the 65% completion mark, with several more levels to fully finish. Then there are special levels to do after you complete everything else, as well as challenges, arcade mode, playing online, gold bricks to buy, characters and vehicles to unlock, special cross-over Achievements to pop, and so on. Only after all that, after we see that 100.0% high in the sky, can we happily put LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga to bed. Still, this has been good co-op fun, which is not bad in July 2017 for the 23rd greatest video game of all time, according to the Guinness World Records Gamer’s Edition in 2009.
I’ve long wanted to play Marvel Heroes since it came out in 2013, but after seeing just how large the download file was from Steam–somewhere over the 30 GB mark–I decided to hold off. Then I completely forgot about the optic blasted thing, even after its double renaming to Marvel Heroes 2015andMarvel Heroes 2016, until Gazillion Entertainment announced that it was coming to consoles this year, still as a free-to-play beast (not to be confused with Beast, the NPC you need to speak to during one of the main story missions). Anyways, it is here, it is rebranded once more as Marvel Heroes Omega, and it is a good amount of mindless fun, with some technical issues peppered throughout the experience. Let me and my army of squirrels explain.
To start, this is Diablo starring superheroes, that you play with a controller. At least that’s how I’ve described it to others. I’ll go more into the gameplay mechanics in a bit, but let me sum up the story, written by Brian Michael Bendis and which would be right at home for a long-running Saturday morning cartoon series arc. Legendary no-gooder Doctor Doom obtains the Cosmic Cube, which is capable of transforming any wish into reality, irrespective of the consequences. He uses this device to incinerate the Watcher. On the flip side of things, Madame Hydra and HYDRA have facilitated a breakout, freeing several super-powered inmates. You, the player, whether you are everyone’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, Captain “The Captain” America, or berzerker claws-only Wolverine, must go on a series of quests to take these villains down and put a stop to whatever Doctor Doom’s end-game plan is. Total domination, I’m assuming. The story is told via text in mission logs and dialogue with other peeps, as well as stylized, hand-drawn cutscenes that make you feel like you’re right inside a comic book. One problem: so far, I haven’t see a single brown hair of Squirrel Girl, despite her being my main hero and almost level 40.
Marvel Heroes Omega is without a doubt an action role-playing game, or ARPG for those that like to keep things short. You can tell immediately by looking at it and seeing the camera perspective, as well as the UI that puts a number of spells that once called numbers on a keyboard home now associated with the A, B, X, and Y buttons. It’s also a free-to-play game, but unlike Candy Crush Saga and Final Fantasy: All The Bravest, there’s no energy system that restricts how long you can play for, nor do the microtransactions seem to get in the way or block people from playing most of the game. Many of the superheroes cost a high amount of real money bucks or special currency, but you can grind out the latter as you play through the single player content and other modes. I think all the alternative costumes are in loot boxes, but I’m not certain of that.
Here’s what you do in Marvel Heroes Omega: beat up baddies and gain levels. In short, kick butts and eat nuts (only if you are Squirrel Girl, which, thankfully, I am). As characters gain levels, they gain passive stat increases and power points, allowing the player to further define the abilities of that character, and each character has three power trees in which they can spend points. These focus on a certain mechanic or play style, such as melee, guns, explosives, ranged, or special ranged. Currently, I’ve unlocked an ally for Squirrel Girl named Tippy Toe, who wears a pink bow and does some series damage. Also, I can shoot a squirrel like a machine gun. Without paying any money, you can play every single character in the game up to level 10. Then you must unlock the character to continue gaining levels and powers, which I did for Squirrel Girl, and I’m currently saving up special currency to buy Iron Man for Melanie so we can continue playing this together.
It’s not a perfect launch, which is somewhat disappointing, considering they’ve had years to work on at the very least the foundation of this game. The concrete floor, the support beams, the installation–that stuff. I’ve had Marvel Heroes Omega crash a handful of times already, dumping me right back to the start menu with little explanation. There’s insane slowdown when things get crazy with a bunch of superheroes all unloading on a single group of enemies at once. Also, if you try to move ahead in the level before it has finished loading, you hit an invisible wall until the game catches up with you. Not total deal-breakers, but irksome issues regardless.
I’m a couple chapters short of finishing the main campaign for Marvel Heroes Omega, but that doesn’t mean this adventure is over. Far from it. After that, I’m curious to see how my Squirrel Girl will grow as a character via other modes, and I do want to see how other heroes play, such as Gambit or Kitty Pryde, but probably only to level 10. I don’t think I myself have enough superpowers to grind out special currency for another character unlock after Iron Man. I’ll never say never, but I also won’t say likely. Also, at some point, I need to give at least one of the following three titles–Marvel Ultimate Alliance, X-Men: Legends, and X-Men: Legends II – Rise of Apocalypse–a shot, all of which entered my gaming collection some years back and remain untouched, cases on a shelf.
Sigh. Well, here we are. Some nearly 80+ hours later–and I’m not including the time I put into the PlayStation 3 version, which was all kinds of borked–and I’m just about done with Dragon Age: Inquisition. I want to be done-done, but there are a few things left to see and try, such as the fact that this game has an online multiplayer component to it, and after putting this much time into the bloated beast I feel compelled to see it all…because I never want to go through this again. Ever. Y’all heard me. Sorry, Achievements for beating the story on higher difficulties–ain’t gonna happen.
Anyways, I have a lot to say about Dragon Age: Inquisition. Probably too much. As mentioned above, I’ve put a good number of hours into this thing, almost on par with Disney Magical World 2. In the end, the latter is the much better game of tasks and rewards, dressing your avatar up in various outfits, and engaging combat. Yes, those are fighting words, and I’m ready to fight. That said, there’s a good chance I’ll forget something and that this post will be somewhat frantic and unorganized. I apologize in advance, but if you continue on and read through this whole dang thing, grinding out each and every word, I promise you a reward at the end: a weapon, named something like M’ahlbrogger Gur’s Justice or Stormstrangler and in purple font, but several levels lower than the weapon you are currently equipped with. Sorry. You can immediately mark it as junk and sell it to the nearest vendor. Or destroy when your inventory becomes full. I understand. After all, that’s how the game is played.
Let’s talk about story first, however, since this is a massive roleplaying game set in a fantasy land full of magic and magical beings. That means story is big, larger than life, and it definitely is just that. I found it daunting early on, less as time progressed. Dragon Age: Inquisition‘s story follows you, known as the Inquisitor, on his or her journey to settle the civil unrest on the continent of Thedas and close a mysterious tear in the sky called the Breach, which is, unfortunately for all that live in this world, unleashing demons. The Inquisitor is viewed by some as the “Chosen One” and because of this forms the titular Inquisition in an attempt to stop Corypheus, an ancient darkspawn, who opened the breach to conquer Thedas all by himself. Phew. Got that? Basically, good versus evil, with some shades of gray sprinkled throughout.
The narrative was somewhat simple to follow…early on, when you only had a small base in Haven and a limited number of areas to explore and side quests to deal with. However, once Haven bites the bullet and you are forced to move into a so-not-like-Suikoden abandoned castle in Skyhold, the story stops feeling important. Sure, to everyone in this world, it is of the upmost importance that this Breach is closed, but the game doesn’t really hammer this home; instead, you are given plenty of breathing room, as well as meaningless quest after quest after quest to do because…well, I guess people like doing a lot of different things in RPGs. I do too–I just prefer that there’s meaning, a reason. In every big area the Inquisition can run around in, you can do lots of things, such as: go discover every region, establish a number of camps, complete requisition recipes, claim a bunch of historical sites as yours or at the very least under your protection, scan for shards, scrounge up all the shards, complete a select amount of Astrarium puzzles to unlock a hidden cave, figure out illustrated treasure maps, close Breach rifts, harvest plants and minerals, ping the area for hidden items, loot dead enemies, recruit agents, and more. All of that is of course mixed in with normal combat and main quests that often have you fighting tough bosses or doing specific things, like impressing royalty while simultaneously investigating something mischievous.
Hey, while we’re at it, please help fill out this timely and totally relevant poll of mine:
Right. I’ll also say that about fifty hours into the game…I started skipping cutscenes and mashing my way through dialogue trees to get through them as fast as possible. I knew that, if I wanted to maintain good relationships with everyone and be mostly neutral to a lot of situations, I had to select the dialogue option to the top right most of the time. You know that’s a bad sign for me if I’m just trying to rush through it all. Several years ago, I remember being shocked to discover a buddy of mine doing this for Fallout: New Vegas, a game I loved to listen to and ate up every conversation, but maybe that felt to him like Dragon Age: Inquisition did to me after so many hours in: just wasting my time. Also, I’m evidently not alone on this matter.
Okay, let’s switch over to combat, as that is a big part of all of this, and I might even go as far as to say it gets in the way nine times out of ten. In Dragon Age: Origins, combat was something you paused the action for and planned out, to ensure your survival. I skipped Dragon Age II so I don’t know how it was there, but here, in this one…there’s barely any strategy involved. I’ll present to you how I tackled every single encounter in this game and did more than fine. It went like this:
Hold RT to attack targeted enemy from a distance with bow and arrow.
Use three specific powers, generally in this order–Explosive Shot, Long Shot, Leaping Shot.
Continue holding RT and wait for cooldowns to cool down.
Rinse and repeat.
(Sometimes I’d poison my weapon or use Full Draw, but these were rare moments in time and only when I noticed the icon for them was ready.)
I only occasionally switched to other members of my party to give them a health potion, but never bothered to control them individually or give them specific tasks to do. They seemed fine on their own. Again, about halfway through my journey, I gave up caring and just used the “auto level up” button on Dorian, Varric, and Blackwall, the only three dudes I stuck with for the long haul. Considering we took down 10 dragons, over 75 Breach rifts, Great Bears, and the final boss rather quickly, I guess it all worked out fine. However, when it came to trying to run to a specific area or get a bunch of shards, combat just got in the way and slowed progress down. There’s no easy way to duck out of an encounter, so you might as well finish it, otherwise it feels like running through molasses if you try to leave the area.
Romance was a big part of Dragon Age: Origins, and it is not the main focus here. Gone are the days of giving a woman shoes and watching a meter go up. That’s actually a good thing because that’s simply not how a relationship works. However, you still earn likes and dislikes from party members based on actions you take in the story and conversations, most of which you can enter a romantic relationship with–I went with that bearded beauty Blackwall. This romance option was probably the most interesting part of Dragon Age: Inquisition all in all, as I found his character intriguing and mysterious, and there’s a quest chain to follow after you and he do the dirty deed, which really goes places and changes his future involvement in the campaign. However, I never felt compelled to dig into anyone else’s backstory. There were too many people to pick from, and because of that I went with one only and dug deep. Sorry, Sera, I’m sure you had a zany bunch of quests to do.
The crafting system is terrible. There, I said it. I struggled to figure out how to do most of it, though tinting armor and weapons to be a certain color was fun. Basically, you have a recipe to make a weapon, and depending on what materials you put into it, you’ll get different results. Obviously if you use higher-rated materials like dragon scales, you’ll make a stronger thing. That said, there was no easy way to compare this weapon-in-progress with one you had equipped, so you had to remember the stats and hope for the best. A majority of the time I ended up wasting dragon-related materials on a weapon that still turned out to be weaker than the unique bow or staff I got from beating a story mission’s boss. In fact, the entire UI for equipping weapons and armor is frustratingly slow to slog through, and I found myself storing my unique, purple-font weapons away without so much of a glance. What did it matter? I was taking down everything in my Inquisitor’s path without a struggle.
Let’s see. What else, what else. Oh yeah, Dragon Age: Inquisition is broken or always on the edge of breaking. Like an ice cream truck on a thin sheet of ice. It’s a game that asks players to do some platforming even though it was clearly not designed to be that kind of experience. Here’s me trying to collect a shard. Speaking to people can be problematic too, with the dialogue wheel sometimes not activating or activating in the middle of nowhere. Here’s me talking to a dude and then suddenly entering combat. And sometimes you just want to sand surf. Several times, the game crashed to the Xbox One dashboard without warning. Thankfully, it autosaves frequently, and I got used to making hard saves.
DLC for Dragon Age: Inquisition has been weird. This version that I bought last year during the Black Friday sale came with everything:Jaws of Hakkon, Dragonslayer, Spoils of the Avvar, The Descent, and Trespasser. Since I wasn’t playing the game from release day with an eye to the sky for more, I didn’t know what was what and what order things should be played in. I also got a whole bunch of special armor recipes, mounts, and things like that right from the get-go. I did know that one piece of DLC was only accessible after completing the main quests. I’ve now completed all the DLC, but finishing Jaws of Hakkon and The Descent very late into the game, with the former being finished after I beat the main campaignandTrespasser, sure felt like a waste of time and energy. There was no point to even looting any enemies or chests because I wasn’t going to play any further after I finished them off.
And now I’m just going to cop this style from The A.V. Club and leave everyone with some…
Clicking in the left analog stick to ping the environment for interactive items is officially one of my least favorite things in modern game design
I rode a mount two times total, one for a story mission in the Hinterlands and the other when messing around in a menu and accidentally hitting the button
I’m the Inquisitor, the Chosen One, leader of a great army, and I have to pick all these flowers and rocks myself?
I killed a bunch of nugs near the end of my time with Dragon Age: Inquisition to help pop the Trial of the Emperor Achievement, and I feel like a monster
Anthem better not be Dragon Age IV, but sci-fi, or I’ll cry on my controller and break it
My character’s name is Felena, but now I wish I had named her Felicia, so I could say that thing all the kids are these days
One of my more fonder early gaming on a PC moments was the time I spent in Age of Empires, a history-based real-time strategy video game developed by Ensemble Studios and published by Microsoft. Yes, despite my natural disdain for the majority of RTS games out there, save for things like Kingdom Rush and the random run of a Command & Conquer: Red Alert skirmish, I did have a good time with that one, as it was a much more methodically paced foray into building up your camp and defending it when deemed necessary. It was definitely more Civilization than Warcraft, and that’s probably why I did better at the whole goal of trying to maintain peace for years on end. I’m into peace, majorly.
Anyways, Battle Ages is without a doubt no successor to Age of Empires, but it tries to guide the player slowly through different historical ages and creates one-off scenarios to do battle with other players’ camps or in-game missions. The problem is, right from the start, it’s a free-to-play game, and that means progress barriers for those unwillingly to pay money to knock those walls down. Like me. I started playing Battle Ages back in October 2016, and I guess I’ll consider myself being done with it as of this month. There’s still a new age to reach, as well as four seemingly unattainable Achievements, so I’m ready to uninstall the whole thing as soon as this post gets posted. Boom.
I’ve dipped into Battle Ages almost daily, whether to collect coins or begin researching a soldier or upgrade a building, because all those things are important to growing a strong, survivable settlement, as well as heavy on time. Naturally, the timers begin short, with some ranging in the 15-30 minutes range. A few, such as for upgrading landmines or walls, are instant, so long as you have enough free workers available for the job. By the end though, you’ll be waiting up to 5-6 days for some processes to complete. You could, of course, use money to bypass these timers via the use of jewels, the game’s special currency, but you don’t need to, if you are patient enough to wait. You will earn some jewels as you play, and I ended up burning a bunch to instantly have enough coins to push my civilization into the next era.
At some point during my journey to earn more gold so I could upgrade quicker, I broke some sort of peace treaty. This meant that, while I wasn’t playing Battle Ages, other people playing the game could attack my settlement and steal my hard-earned coins, as well as deplete my stock of soldiers. Boo to that. There were times that it felt like I was going nowhere, earning just enough gold to repair my bombs and restock my army tents. You can also go through a number of campaign missions where you attack a settlement and try to utterly destroy it, and these range in difficulty, but the most annoying thing for these is that, after you do one, you need to restock your army and call-in help before doing the next one. I eventually stopped doing these early on and stuck to timers for earning money and fame…which is probably why it took me so long to reach the Industrial Age.
So, with all that said, my time with Battle Ages has come to a close. I don’t see myself acquiring the four following Achievements left unpopped on my account:
Moving on Up (Acquire 2,500 trophies in battle)
Sticky Fingers (Steal 1,000,000 coins from the enemy)
Hold the Line (Achieve 250 defensive victories)
For the Win (Achieve 250 offensive victories)
If anything, Moving on Up seems permanently glitched, having been stuck at 40% for me since last year. Unless I’m doing something wrong. Either way, whatever. No Achievement for lowercase trophies. Well, when I get that next free-to-play, lots-of-timers itch and Fallout Shelter isn’t doing the job, I also have Battle Islands: Commanders from the same publisher 505 Games to get into, with that one focusing on World War II.
Y’all should know by now that I’d do nearly anything for a free game. Some things I won’t do include swimming with sharks, eating an entire jar of mayonnaise, or going on one of those roller-coasters where you are dangling in the air from shoulder straps, your feet inches away from smacking into something solid and breaking into a thousand pieces. Otherwise, so long as I don’t end up in a lot of physical pain, I’m game.
And so, during this past week of E3 2017 shenanigans, there was a chance to earn Rare Replay, No Time to Explain,The Final Station, and a bunch of other digital rewards for zero dollars by simply watching Microsoft’s press conference live through Mixer, its streaming service formally known as Beam. Alas, I was too late to catch the conference, but there were other chances to participate throughout the week.
Of all those goodies, Rare Replay is the “game” I was most excited to receive; it’s a big collection of Rare’s history, a company that, after reviewing its portfolio, I have actually had little contact with, but appreciate their humor and love of colorful graphics from afar. I think I have only ever played one Rare game found in the collection, and that was Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. Outside the collection, I’ve enjoyed Marble Madness, Donkey Kong Country, Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest (sorry, not you, Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble!), and that opening level repeatedly on an emulated copy of GoldenEye 007 (please don’t arrest me). So there’s a lot to try out for the first time in this collection, and I have no intentions of playing through it in chronological order, but I did start it all off with Rare’s first game Jetpac, back when the company was called Ultimate Play the Game.
Jetman’s plight in Jetpac is one that pre-dates Groundhog Day, the film, by about ten years, but surely was an inspiration to anyone thinking about what it meant to be stuck in a time loop, repeating the same day and tasks again and again. Jetman must assemble his rocket (which spawns in installments scattered around the map) and fill it with a select amount of fuel before taking off to the next planet. This procedure is then repeated, over and over, with no end seemingly in sight. In addition to this, Jetman has to defend himself from the planet’s native aliens, which a varied and have different attack patterns. Some move diagonally, and others lock on to the tiny astronaut and follow him around the screen. He’s got a ray gun that shoots horizontal lasers for defense, and things like gems can be collected for bonus points.
By and far, my favorite thing about Jetpac is its wraparound world. You go to one edge of the screen, cross over, and appear on the other side. This is extremely handy when trying to avoid a group of enemies or make a shortcut to the rocketship. I’m sure this wasn’t the first game to do this, but I’m too tired to look up when Mario Bros. came out versus this game. Regardless, it works, and I have to say that, some 34 years later, the game plays pretty great. Jetman is pretty quick to move around, and the only problem I had was with collision on the platforms, which made him bounce back, often right into an alien enemy I was trying to avoid. The repetitious gameplay gets old, but one has to remember that this came from an era of high scores and bragging.
Thankfully, Rare Replay throws in some additional things to do, both in their milestone quests and snapshot features. Milestones are things like “kill X number of aliens” or “fill your rocketship up with fuel X times” while snapshots make things a little more tricky. One took away Jetman’s laser gun, forcing you to maneuver on your own quick wits, and another tasked him with completing five wraparounds in a row without dying. I happily completed all of these and popped every Achievement related to the title.
There are other games in the Jetpac series left to try out in Rare Replay, but I don’t know what I will tackle next. I suspect I’ll save some of the collectathons for later in life, when I have the time and am in a find shiny things kind of mood. Either way, I highly recommend you check out Jetpac and to not be put off by its age or graphics, of which I think the latter is pretty cool. The sound effects department is lacking, but I absolutely love the bright, crisp colors–the blurry screenshot above doesn’t do it justice, I know–and there’s a surprising amount of strategy and skill involved in bringing canisters of fuel to and fro. Certainly more than I expected when first launching it, and it’s always great to see where a company started. Here’s hoping Sea of Thieves incorporates some elements from Jetpac, like bringing bits of grog back to your ship one glass at a time until there’s enough to get the entire crew wasted and off to some other island.