Tag Archives: ARPG

2017 Game Review Haiku, #104 – Ever Oasis

Keep chaos away
Watch your oasis blossom
Through quests, skill, routine

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

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Ever Oasis, a refuge from the hardness of life

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.

Marvel Heroes Omega’s squirrelly performance on consoles

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 2015 and Marvel 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.

The real Diablo III adventuring begins after defeating Malthael

diablo 3 ros beat the game

There were a few hours during my Extra Life live-stream that I didn’t actually stream anything live, and that was around 3 AM to 5 AM. I moved over to my couch to play some Xbox 360, most notably more Diablo III: Reaper of Souls. I’d been picking away at it for a good while now, inching closer to the conclusion of Act V, which was never part of the original Diablo III campaign. For this act, you are chasing after Malthael, a former member and leader of the Angiris Council. He has claimed the Soulstone for himself and plans to eradicate humanity. Short story even shorter: I couldn’t keep my eyes open and ended up putting it aside for a quick cat nap instead.

Zoom forward a week, and I finished up the remainder of the campaign for Diablo III: ROS while my father visited and took a quick nap himself after we hiked a bit over at Bushkill Falls. Taking Malthael down was not very tough, but then again, no fight in the game really was considering I was rocking the lowest difficulty setting possible from the very beginning. I don’t know, I liked the casual nature of beating up swarms of dudes and getting gear without constantly using a health potion every few seconds. Regardless, everything ended in a whimper and fountain of mediocre loot, with a menu prompt pop-up saying that the story was over, but Adventure mode had now been unlocked. Strangely jarring, this lead to credits–my father couldn’t believe how many people worked on a videogame–and then back to the main menu.

With Act 5’s six hours or so of story content done, I had the choice to either start Diablo III: ROS all over with a new character/class or continue on with my demon hunter Whisper in Adventure mode. Given that she hasn’t even hit level 50 yet and the cap is 70, I wanted to see her grow some more. The newfangled Adventure mode removes nearly every single story aspect–so long lengthy dialogue chats that I only listened to in order to check off a challenge–and instead simply assigns you with specific quests (called bounties) across each act’s map, giving the player the freedom to do as they please. There’s even a new currency to acquire, which you can use to purchase mystery items; I bought one, found it to be complete garbage, and most likely will never take the chance again, but hey, options are options. At this point, I’ve knocked off five bounties, though there is an Achievement for clearing 500 of them. Eep.

In addition to bounties in Adventure mode, there are also Nephalem Rifts, which are randomized gauntlets that ramp the chaos meter all the way up. You can only open a rift after collecting five key shards, which you seem to get with each bounty you complete, so the two are interconnected deeply. Basically, you run around these dungeons killing X amount of enemies until a super difficult elite boss shows up. Shortly before doing my first rift, I switched the difficulty setting from normal to whatever the next one was…maybe hardcore. That said, Whisper the demon hunter died for the very first time so far in one of these rifts. They mean big business, but they also provide unpredictable fun and empowerment unlike anything seen in the main campaign. For example, I came across a new Pylon shrine that filled my character with lightening bolts that struck out at anything within a few feet. It’s really cool. Looked like after you beat the Nephalem Rift boss, you can continue exploring the dungeon, but I popped back to town to sell some mediocre gear; as I did, the rift’s portal closed after thirty seconds, so you have to choose wisely what you want to do.

Like I said earlier, I want to see Whisper hit the level cap and check out some of the high-end gear, but I will probably now only play this in sporadic bursts. Like while waiting for the laundry to finish or kettle water to whistle, which is just enough time to do a bounty or two. I really don’t know how interested I am in playing through the campaign ever again, even with a completely different class, which is a shame because it means I’m missing out on experiencing like five-sixths of Diablo III: ROS in terms of abilities, dialogue, and specified loot. Granted, I really ate up the one-sixth I got, and you can’t shake your head at things that made you happy, even if only for a sliver of time.

My demon hunter Whisper in Diablo III is one to fear

Diablo3_demonHunter1

Here’s the thing: I’m a sucker for “complete package” versions of videogames, especially in this era of post-game DLC and pre-order bonus bull-doody items and unlocks. This gels well with my high patience stat, meaning I can wait the many months–and sometimes even up to a year or so later–for the games’ developers to realize they need another quick burst of cash-money, thus releasing some kind of Game of the Year edition which packs all the extra bits and bobs in with the main game for one, more often than not, easy-to-swallow price. That said, I’ve still not picked up the latest GOTY versions for Borderlands 2 and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, but my heart rests easy knowing they are out there; truthfully, it’s all about preservation because, one day, you might not be able to purchase that slice of DLC separately off Xbox Live or PSN if–and I dearly hope not–they no longer exist.

All of those words were written so that I could totally tell you that I picked up Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition over the fine Labor Day weekend, and it was priced nicely at just under $40. Mmm mm good. This package includes the original Diablo III campaign, its expansion Reaper of Souls, and some other new goodies, all of which I’ve never touched up to this point. The PC mouse-driven action RPG has been updated for consoles and console controls, just like how Torchlight was, and I have to say, besides a bit of clumsiness when sifting through inventory menus, it all feels really good and intuitive. Especially the combat, where it matters most. But more on all that in a hot cooldown.

Before you can even begin killing and looting legendary gear in Diablo III, you have to pick from one of six available character classes: the witch doctor, the barbarian, the wizard, the monk, the demon hunter, and the crusader. What is appreciated is that you can play all of these classes as either a man or a woman. I went with a female demon hunter as I’m big on crossbows and rolling away from enemies in these kind of games, and the random name generator eventually came up with Whisper, which I think is the most badass name a demon hunter can claim. In truth, all the other classes seem like a lot of fun (the monk was a close second), but like with Borderlands 2 and Dead Island, I need to just pick one and focus on it all the way to the end.

Well, let’s quickly cover the weakest and easiest to ignore aspect of Diablo III: its story. The game takes place in Sanctuary about twenty years after the events of Diablo II, a game I played a bunch of, but never really got far in, though organizing your inventory was a masochistic joy. Deckard Cain and his niece Leah are in Tristram’s cathedral, investigating a bunch of loose pages from ancient texts regarding yet another ominous prophecy. Then, without warning, a mysterious star falls from the sky and crashes through the Cathedral, creating a deep crater and sucking Deckard Cain down. Evil monsters quickly reveal themselves, and your character is on his or her way to Tristram to see how you can help. It’s good versus evil and pretty generic at best, but at least the voice acting is enjoyable; I’m proud that I rightly recognized Jennifer Hale’s voice for Leah after a minute or two.

But one doesn’t play Diablo III for its novel stab at videogame literature, right? You play to click on things, lot of things. Well, in my case, hit the A button on things, lots of things. And the right trigger a lot, too. The left analog stick moves your character, and the right analog stick is a dodge move for whatever direction you push it in. The face buttons all relate to a skill move, and right now Whisper can drop a handful of caltrops to slow enemies, as well as get herself out of a mob of enemies with some swift gymnastic flips. Right trigger is for my favorite active skill so far–Rapid Fire. This uses up Hatred–regenerating mana for demon hunters, basically–but is able to take out a ton of enemies in one gulp, often revealing a yellow orb for killing at least ten of them and doubling Whisper’s damage for a short window of time. Even though she is using a bow for it, the attack sounds like she’s wielding a machine gun.

I’m still fairly early in Act I, and all I want to do is go home right now and play some more. Yeah, it’s that kind of game, where you’re always close to leveling up or you just found a new weapon or piece of gear and want to see it in action, and before you know what is what, you’re five levels deep in some dank crypt, killing zombies and ghosts and having a blast. Given that this is both Diablo III and its expansion, which offers up Adventure Mode and more, I’ve got plenty of road still to travel with Whisper. Also, I’m using followers, and unlike in Skyrim, I am not 100% hating them, though I still think they could be a bit more proactive in battle and a whole lot less whiny.

Stay tuned for further updates about Whisper and the many denizens of Hell that she’ll be slaughtering…