Category Archives: RPGs

Final Fantasy VIII has always been great, weird, and underappreciated

Final Fantasy VIII was released on the original PlayStation 1 on…February 11, 1999, meaning it is now twenty years old, almost ready to booze it up, give or take a day or two depending on when I get this post uploaded. Either way–congrats and that’s totally insane to me, but I guess time has always had a way of sneaking up on ourselves. What else came out in February 1999, you ask? Allow me to do some quick research. A few choice answers include Street Sk8er, Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, Beetle Adventure Racing, and Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance, all of which scream instant classic from the mountaintop. This was definitely the cream of the crop at said time.

Before I get into the meat and potatoes of Final Fantasy VIII, allow me to tell a story. I never finished the game, but I got real freaking close; see, towards the end, as you prepare to take on Ultimecia, you need to split into multiple parties and I had unfortunately focused on leveling up only three characters for most of the game, not knowing I’d be thrown this curveball. Specifically, Squall Leonhart, Selphie Tilmitt, and Quistis Trepe. So, the other team was certifiably boned, and I couldn’t survive a single fight nor reload to a previous save to grind them up to somewhat more respectable levels. Oh well. Also, afterwards, I was letting a then-friend of mine borrow the game to play, giving him it disc by disc; well, he moved away with Final Fantasy VIII‘s second disc so there’s no way I can replay my original PS1 copy, though it has been released on Steam and as a digital download on the PlayStation 3. Not all hope is lost, if I ever feel the need to dive in again.

All right, on to the plot. If I can summarize it well enough, that is. Final Fantasy VIII is set on an unnamed fantasy world and follows a group of young mercenaries, led by Squall Leonhart, as they are drawn into a conflict sparked by Ultimecia, a sorceress from the future who wishes to compress time. During their quest to defeat Ultimecia, Squall struggles with his role as a leader and develops a romance with one of his comrades, Rinoa Heartilly. Squall is a cadet at SeeD–which I never knew how to pronounce; is it seed or seedy?–a special combat unit of the Balamb Garden Military Academy. The game is a strange mix of high school drama and battling real-life monsters, with a punch of romance and time bending and long pauses. It’s weird, but that never meant it wasn’t interesting and a fresh breath of air after the somewhat traditional-looking Final Fantasy VII.

Now, I remember being initially disappointed with the Draw system. See, in Final Fantasy VIII, magic spells aren’t purchased in shops like in previous games. Instead, the most common way to get spells into your arsenal is by drawing it directly out of enemies. This cost your character a turn, and I hate wasting turns, which is why I’d always prefer to cast an aggressive spell, such as Firaga, instead of a buff spell, like Protect. Also, you could gain magic spells via draw points or by refining magic from items. Still, it felt like an unneeded step in the process; to cast Cure, you first have to draw it from an enemy and then wait your next turn to use it. It’s probably not as big of a deal as I remember it being, but I know many players wanted something a little more straightforward from the battle system.

Perhaps the greatest thing to come from Final Fantasy VIII is its mini-game Triple Triad. This is a digital card game conceived by battle system designer Hiroyuki Ito. In it, two players face off against one another, one side playing as “blue” and the other as “red” on a 3×3 grid. Each player has five cards in their hand, and the aim is to capture your opponent’s cards by turning them into the player’s own color of red or blue. Cards have different levels, with low level cards having low ranks, like 1s, 2s, and 3s, while high level cards have 8s, 9s, and 10s, and some cards are considered “rare,” usually obtained from tough opponents or side quests. I loved playing this minigame so much that I eventually began to draw my own cards and play against invisible opponents just to practice in between grinding sessions. It’s also in Final Fantasy IX.

There’s probably a lot more I could say about the game…if I could remember more. Alas, it’s a wash, having last played the thing in high school. Still, I’ll put this forward. If you think Final Fantasy VIII is the worst entry in the series, I have two things to say to you: 1) you’re wrong, and 2) whatever.

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Returning to The Legend of Legacy for map fulfillment

the legend of legacy tips and tricks gd

I procured a copy of The Legend of Legacy, which is not the most memorable of names when it comes to RPGs and part of me wants to keep writing it as Legend of Legaia, some time back in late 2015. I played for a few hours, but magically lost interest fast, which is a shame because, after returning to it recently for reasons that will be explained later, it’s a pretty good, if ultimately quirky, role-playing adventure with lots to do. Plus, it just oozes style, and I love things that are both stylish and oozy, such as EarthBound, the Suikoden series, and Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime.

Okay, here are some quick facts. The Legend of Legacy is a Japanese RPG for the Nintendo 3DS, developed by Cattle Call with assistance from Grezzo and FuRyu. The game was published in Japan by FuRyu in 2015 and later localized and published in North America by Atlus USA in 2015. The story takes place on the island of Avalon, where a bunch of adventurers meet up to explore the island’s mysteries. Gameplay focuses on exploring Avalon, fighting enemies via turn-based battles, increasing their abilities based on usage, and filling out maps. From a glance, the game seems inspired by things like SaGa Frontier and Final Fantasy IV. For some reason, I figured I never got around to writing about The Legend of Legacy, but evidently I already did so.

Story-wise, I’m not going to get into it. I didn’t really understand what was happening several years ago, and I know even less now. Sure, I could look up a detailed summary online, but that doesn’t interest me. This is a game of many pronouns, such as Elementals and Singing Shards, and magical gizmos to go after, and that’s all I really need to know. I’m more interested in seeing my team grow in strength, HP, and powers. The Legend of Legacy, in grand SaGa fashion, gives you a brief overview of what to expect and then tosses you to the wolves to figure the rest out yourself, and I mostly care about filling in maps and selling them for a high price. It’s quite satisfying.

There are seven lead protagonists to select from in The Legend of Legacy. There’s Meurs who can speak with Elementals, Bianca who has amnesia, the treasure hunter Liber, Garnet who firmly believes in her religion, the mercenary Owen, Eloise who is an alchemist in search of eternal youth, and Filmia, a frog prince that is in no way related to Chrono Trigger‘s frog Glenn. Ultimately, you can recruit the other six to you party along the way, but the story will focus on whoever you  ultimately chose. For what it is worth, I went with Meurs, who comes across as the classic sort of JRPG hero, and have been using Bianca and Garnet at his sides. They all use a bunch of swords and knives as their main weapons, but I am trying to branch out into other styles, in hopes of unlocking many more abilities and powers. When it comes to turn-based battling, the more options you have, the better.

So, why am I returning to The Legend of Legacy some three-ish years later? It’s because I recently got a copy of The Alliance Alive, which evidently is sort of a sequel to this game. Or, at the very least, carries over many of the core concepts. Also, the scenario was written by Yoshitaka Murayama, noted for his work on the Suikoden series–be still my heart. Yet, before I take on another large-as-heck RPG, despite juggling a bunch already at the moment, I thought I should at least go back to The Legend of Legacy and see if it could hook me for a bit more. It very well might, we’ll see.

Final Fantasy Explorers forces the player to endure

At the beginning of 2018, I was real close to getting Monster Hunter: World. In fact, it’s now the beginning of 2019, and I’m still thinking about biting the bullet. It’s a genre I’ve always been intrigued by, but terrified to get into due to what seems like a massive amount of complexity and menus and history to learn. However, this newest iteration, which jumps from the realm of handhelds to big boy consoles, seems to be somewhat more friendly to people like me. Or what kids back in the day referred to as n00bz. Side note: if you know what kids refer to people like me nowadays, please let me know ASAP. However, instead of getting this, I dug through my Nintendo 3DS collection and found something similar called Final Fantasy Explorers. It both compares and does not compare.

Final Fantasy Explorers is an MMO-lite that revolves around the titular group of explorers from the rural town of Libertas who hunt the world for crystals, objects which are the source of life and civilization for the world. The most major source of crystals is the new island of Amostra, but they are guarded by fearsome beasts that the explorers must fight. So yeah, surprise, surprise–it’s another Final Fantasy game dealing with crystals as the magical MacGuffin, but then again I wasn’t expecting much in terms of story from a Monster Hunter-like game. They generally are about fighting big monsters and crafting cool gear from their dead, shredded body parts. Also: cats cooking.

For the most part, the combat, which is the bulk of what you do in Final Fantasy Explorers other than stare in horror at confusing menu after confusing menu, is pretty solid, even though one of the shoulder buttons on my Nintendo 3DS is not working properly. It’s a bit hack and slash, with some spells and special abilities thrown in for good measure. To start with, Final Fantasy’s signature job system is here, which adds variety to the battles by letting you equip a mishmash of weapons and abilities tied to your chosen profession while in town. Spells and skills can be tweaked and tailored however you want using special mutations learned in battle, which can make them much more effective, so there is plenty of customization to work with. Personally, from my three-ish hours so far, I’ve been sticking with the Freelancer job, which is kind of your all-around job, capable of both casting basic spells and also wielding decent weapons for physical attacks. Alas, I’m currently stuck trying to beat the legendary flame djinn known as Ifrit.

Let me get more detailed. By default, you have a simple, quick attack that you can mash; however, squeezing the left or right bumpers grants you access to one of eight hand-picked abilities–some magical, some physical, and some related to your current job and weapon. The best strategy is to chain all these abilities together to begin building up something called Resonance. Once you have enough, you can squeeze both bumpers simultaneously and select one of four crystal surges, which supercharge all your abilities for a limited time. This is wisest done during boss battles, as most of the generic enemies you fight along the way are easily dispatched with simpler attacks.

Like Monster Hunter, Final Fantasy Explorers is probably meant to be played with other real-life people in your party. I don’t have access to those kinds of friends; I’ve only ever played online on my Nintendo 3DS with Animal Crossing: New Leaf and some cooperative multiplayer thingy for Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. Thankfully, solo players get the ability to gather essence from some downed monsters and create your own monstrous allies, who will wander after you and join you in combat. Unfortunately, their path-finding is terrible, but you can fuse them other monsters and materials to up their level or unlock perks. I currently only have one monster following me, a level 8 goblin that carries a large cleaver. What’s nice about this is that you can basically recruit your favorite Final Fantasy monsters, such as Cactuar, TonBerry, or Chocobo, like they are Pokemon. Fine by me.

Look, I haven’t played a whole ton of Final Fantasy Explorers yet, and I plan to give it a few more hours, but I can already begin to see the grind here. The real hook for me is seeing all the things from various Final Fantasy games on display, such as summons, characters, spell names, etc., plus the option to basically dress up your avatar as, say, Sephiroth or Tina. If this ultimately doesn’t do it for me though…there’s always Monster Hunter: World.

Here’s a bunch of games I’m looking forward to in 2019

I did this last year, so let’s see how things turned out in the end:

  • Mineko’s Night Market A game about crafting crafts, eating eats, and catting cats was supposed to come out sometime in 2018, but is now tentatively dated for 2019. I’m still interested.
  • Staxel – This, I believe, did hit its release date, but I just never got around to it. I had plenty of other farming games in my collection to keep me distracted, I guess.
  • Ooblets – Speaking of farming, Ooblets is an upcoming farming, creature collection, and town life indie game. This was another “sometime in 2018” game that has now been pushed to this year. I’m super-duper excited for it as it should also be coming to Xbox One.
  • Red Dead Redemption 2 – Well, this obviously hit, and I obviously did not hit it.
  • State of Decay 2 – This was my number 5 game of the year for 2018. I wasn’t in love with the stress of keeping my community afloat, but the wave-based zombie slaughter DLC mode Daybreak provided a good amount of mindless fun. I hope to one day start my community over, now knowing what I now know.
  • The Lord of the Rings LCG – I’m assuming this came out at some point, but I haven’t really looked into it too much. Honestly, I’m more inclined to download and try out Magic: The Gathering – Arena. I like card games, but I don’t have the time, money, or social group anymore to play with real-life cards, so digital is the path forward.
  • Long Gone Days – This also got bumped to 2019 though it has been in Early Access for many months.
  • The Swords of Ditto – I did not get to play this yet, but shortly before 2018 ended, Twitch Prime handed out a free copy of this game, along with many, many others, so no excuses going forward.
  • Legendary Gary – This came out, I requested a review copy, I got a review copy, and I enjoyed it.
  • Knights and Bikes – Still TBA.

Okay, so I still got some tentative 2018 games to check in on this year, along with several other newbies. Namely, these beauts:

The Outer Worlds

The Outer Worlds is a new single-player, first-person, sci-fi RPG from Obsidian Entertainment and Private Division. One of those developers worked on Fallout: New Vegas, so clearly I’m deeply interested from the get-go. Lost in transit while on a colonist ship bound for the furthest edge of the galaxy, you awake decades later only to find yourself in the midst of a deep conspiracy threatening to destroy the Halcyon colony. Sounds like a good time to me.

Stranger Things 3: The Game

Not to be confused with Stranger Things: The Game, which is a retro thingy available on phones and something I have played a tiny bit of. This will be a 16-bit, top-down action game that lets players take control of the series’ main cast throughout the events of the upcoming third season of Netflix’s popular science fiction show. Not much else is currently known.

Animal Crossing

Ah, my entire reasoning for getting a Switch relatively soon–Animal Crossing. I do hope it expands a bit more than Animal Crossing: New Leaf did from Animal Crossing: Wild World. I want even more options when it comes to things to do, with plenty of nifty secrets to discover, like money rocks or stacking fruit. I’m sure I’ll love it either way and will end up sinking the most hours into it of any game I play in 2019. That’s a guarantee.

The Sinking City

The Sinking City is an upcoming adventure-horror video game developed by Frogwares and published by Bigben Interactive, inspired by the works of horror author H.P. Lovecraft. It seems to be heavy on spookiness and atmosphere, and while I don’t play a ton of horror-themed games, this was has me mildly interested.

Pikuniku

I know very little about Pikuniku, but it appears to be Mr. Men: The Videogame. Sort of. By the way, if you really wanted to know, I’m a total duplicate of Mr. Worry, both in shape and color. Anyways, I’m digging the art style, for sure, and it sounds like it’s a puzzle-driven adventure with a focus on physics. Hmm. Curious to see more, and the game comes out at the end of this month. Maybe I’ll get lucky and ask for a review copy.

Rage 2

Trust me, I’m no Rage defender, as I couldn’t believe how abruptly that first game ended, but I liked inclusion of multiple mini-games and the strangeness of the world’s characters. Wasn’t too into the driving, but the shooting felt good, and the environments were kind of neat. Plus, it had a mission bulletin board in the middle of town, which I will always appreciate. The second game seems to be zanier times ten, and we’ll see how it turns out.

Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn

Kirby’s Epic Yarn for the Wii is a game I loved, never finished, and have since lost the disc to, though I have the case and instruction manual, which breaks my yarn-knitted heart. I’m happy to know then that it is heading to the Nintendo 3DS in 2019 under the expanded title of Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn. Every stage in the original Wii version is stitched in, but this handheld version has some new features, like the ability to craft bigger yarn balls, summon bead-collecting wind, and play two new modes featuring familiar faces, namely King Dedede and Meta Knight. I’m ready to drown in its cuteness all over again.

That’s all I can think of at the moment, but I’m sure there’s more to come down the pipeline, plus the ever-surprisingly amount of unheard of indie games to pop up.

What games are you most looking forward to in 2019? Share with me in the comments section below.

The time to chat up every NPC in EarthBound has arrived

We are finally here, and by we I of course mean just me, but here it is: it’s 2019, and I’m playing EarthBound for the very first time. Y’all might remember me getting a digital copy of this game for the Wii U back in, oh, May 2015. Well, now that I plan to get a Nintendo Switch and put my Wii U away into storage, I’m forcing myself to see as many of the games I have on it before the inevitable takes hold and all I do with my free time is play whatever this new Animal Crossing is going to be. Until then, uh…fuzzy pickles? Yeah, fuzzy pickles!

I’m sure I’m just rehashing what everyone else out there already knows and has known for years upon years, or at least 1995, but here we go. EarthBound takes place about a decade after the events of Mother, in the fictional country of Eagleland, which doesn’t mean a whole lot to me seeing as I haven’t played anything else in this legendary series. You start off as a young boy named Ness–get it?–as he investigates a nearby meteorite crash with his neighbor, Pokey, to find his brother, appropriately named Picky. There, they stumble upon an alien life-force known as Giygas, which has enveloped and consumed the world in hatred and, consequently, turned animals, humans, and mundane objects into malicious creatures. However, Buzz-Buzz, a small, bee-like creature from the future, instructs Ness to collect melodies in a Sound Stone to preemptively stop Giygas, and so the grand adventure begins.

Well, when I say begin, I really mean…wander around Onett for hours on my own quest to talk to every single person and try to go through every single door before moving forward with the plot. There are a ton of NPCs, and many of them offer good advice or tips, and some just say really strange things to Ness or provoke him into a battle. I think at one point someone, or something, tasked me with answering a specific Beatles-related trivia question (FYI, the answer was “Yesterday”). It’s all a little strange, and the strangeness is strange because, looking at EarthBound, it appears to not be your typical JRPG. For one thing, it is set in a somewhat modern-looking time period, with drug stores, burger joints, and town halls to explore instead of fantasy-like villages and mountain caves as seen in games like Illusion of Gaia and Secret of Mana at the time.

I’m also doing a bit of grinding, both in terms of combat and getting money from my phone-father deposited into my bank account. Since Ness is by himself at the start, some enemies, mainly the Sharks when they double or triple team him, can be too much to handle. So I’m fighting dogs, crows, and snakes on repeat, but Ness is now around level 8 and has better gear, which means he takes less damage. Also, when battling against truly weaker enemies, combat is handled automatically without having to go into the whole transition thing, which is nice; I liked it in Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies where enemies ran away from you, and I like it a lot here too. It means less mashin’.

Let’s talk about the combat in EarthBound, which is turn-based and does not feature random encounters. Ya-hoo. You see the enemies on screen and can try to approach them from behind for a potential bonus attack, or, if they get the jump on you, they get first dibs on moving. In combat, characters and enemies possess a certain amount of HP, and attacks to an enemy obviously reduce their HP. Once an enemy’s HP reaches zero, it is defeated…or, to use the game’s language, tamed. Sometimes you will receive an item after the battle, like a Cookie. As far as I know, you only control what Ness does, but maybe that will change once I get more peeps in the party.

So far, since I only really have Ness in my party, the battles are a bit one-note. I simply spam the attack button each turn and occasionally have to stop to eat a HP-refilling item or use a spell, called PSI attacks, which use up your PP. It often feels like luck or the roll of a die when attacking; sometimes you hit, sometimes you miss, and sometimes you land a critical blow, but there’s really no guarantee to what will happen, which can be a little frustrating early on. I did lose in battle to a couple of Sharks, which dropped me back at home with half my money gone; I had tried to “run away” from the fight twice to no avail. Again, it might be all about that luck stat, who knows.

I’m only a couple of hours into EarthBound and still haven’t visited Giant Step. Trust me, I’ll get there. However, I’m sure there is a lot more to see and do before this adventure concludes, but I’m definitely intrigued enough to keep going. There are a couple of things I don’t immediately like, such as a limited amount of inventory space and how expensive sandwiches are, but I can get over that thanks to the game’s colorful aesthetic and bouncy soundtrack that borders on pop and general weirdness. Seriously, the music makes some hard, dramatic swings from wandering around town, to entering shops, to engaging in battles, and it’s all kooky and catchy.

Don’t worry, I’ll be back with more thoughts on EarthBound. Until then, answer me this–can Ness get run over by cars in Onett? I’ve been avoiding them, afraid to find out the truth.

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.

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.