Tag Archives: grinding

2019 Game Review Haiku, #23 – LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars

Aimless adventure
Lightsabers, blasters–Star Wars
Used cheat codes, first time

And we’re back with these little haikus of mine. Go on, gobble ’em up. However, if you want to read more of my in-depth thoughts about these games that I’m beating, just search for them by name on Grinding Down. As always, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry, even if they aren’t instant classics, such as the works of Matsuo Basho, Yosa Buson, or Kobayashi Issa. Hey, not everyone gets to be that great.

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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.

Just grinded for seven hours in Suikoden III, ask me anything

When last I left off about my progress on Suikoden III, I was starting the game over, but this time I went with Chris Lightfellow instead of Hugo, thus seeing the game from a different perspective. I’ve completed all chapter ones for Hugo, Chris, and Geddoe, along with optional side story stuff, and was now ready to move into someone’s chapter two. Since I ended up finishing Geddoe last of the three and liked a lot of the characters I saw there, namely Queen, Jacques, and Joker, I decided to pick his chapter two to begin first…and oh boy was that a mistake. Allow me to tell you why.

The crew is currently holed up in Caleria, but wants to go to Le Buque in pursuit of…well, I don’t really know. Some boy-priest and a bunch of soldiers are hunting after the Flame Champion, and I guess this is something that interests our eclectic group. To be honest, the story in Suikoden III hasn’t been as gripping or memorable as previous games. Anyways, to get to Le Buque, the party must travel across the Mountain Path, which I did just fine, avoiding the optional Rock Golem boss and heading right for the next location…only to immediately walk into a boss fight that completely destroyed everyone in a matter of a few turns. So…I had some grinding to do, grr. At least seven hours worth, if my calculations are correct.

Everyone in the party–that’s Geddoe, Ace, Joker, Queen, Jacques, and Aila, if you didn’t know–was, at this point, around levels 30-31. By the time I was done doing my thing, they were all levels 37-38. Here’s how I did it, as unexciting as it sounds. I continued to wander the first section of the Mountain Path, back and forth, getting into a few fights; after my party had too much and I ran out of healing, I headed back to Caleria to sharpen weapons, upgrade armor, learn lessons, and then sleep and save at the inn. Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat. Grinding is never fun, and I’ve even had to do some in EarthBound to get tough enough to beat the Titanic Ant and his Antoid goonies. But alas, here, it felt inevitable.

My true goal was not to immediately head back to Le Buque, but to defeat the Rock Golem and with ease, even though it was an optional boss fight. I wanted whatever goodies it held within the treasure chest it was guarding. The Rock Golem is slow, but it has heavy armor and packs a lot of physical power. When it charges up its fist for a special attack, it can hit up to four party members if they’re surrounding the beast, which is not good. My strategy was to immediately use Aila’s Clay Guardian when the battle starts to up everyone’s magic and defense. I then relied heavily on Queen, who has a Wind rune, to heal those that needed healing, and made sure everybody stayed above 150 HP. Victory came quite easy actually, and the treasure chest was full of goodies that should hopefully help in the beginning fight at Le Buque. Here’s hoping no more grinding is required, at least for this chapter.

I’m still not 100% in love with the combat in Suikoden III, which groups people into pairs. This means if you select “attack” for Geddoe, his partner Ace also will attack, even if you wanted him to use a healing item or rune power. It’s one or the other, and that locks you out of a lot of choices. This isn’t a huge deal in many of the minor battles, but boss fights require a little more strategy to keep everyone’s head above water. It’s also not really clear who can team up with each other for united attacks, but maybe I’m just not seeing it somewhere in the menus.

Lastly, my save data for Suikoden III currently says around 19 hours and change–though remember that at least seven hours was spent solely on grinding out levels and experience points–and I have still yet to acquire a castle headquarters. Sigh. Hopefully sometime soon!

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.

You are designed for accomplishment, so says 100,000 Gamerscore

As y’all probably know, I’ve been at this for a while, slowly building up my pointless and inconsequential Gamerscore, trying to hit it perfectly on big numbers like 10,000, 20,000, and so on. It makes getting these silly things called Achievements fun and somewhat meaningful to me, especially the extra ones you have to actually work for, and I will most likely continue to go at it…though having now finally hit 100,000, I feel like I might not make a big stink of it going forward. I mean, sure 110,000 is a bigger and better number than 100,000, but it just doesn’t seem as cool. Weird.

Anyways, I was real close to hitting this mega-milestone mark back in July, but then some other things happened, and I was away from my Xbox One for a good number of weeks. Once I was back to recovering at home on the couch, I was able to play a few more titles and earn some Achievements, hitting 100,000 perfectly on the nose thanks to games like Death Squared, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, and State of Decay 2. Woo, go me, big celebration.

As always, picture proof, though I only snapped this one photo of my cool-as-cool-gets number using my cell phone’s camera against my broken TV:

Also, I updated my avatar, something I didn’t think you could even do anymore.

A quick side note. One of my favorite things from this current generation of gaming is when a game, such as Gears of War 4 or PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, comes out with new Achievements, recognizes you already did the work to pop ’em, and grants you them with glee from the moment you next sign into the game. That’s happened recently, and I’ve also been noodling away at Anodyne, which I will say nothing else of here except that is a game that deserves its own post and exhaustive breakdown because…hoo boy. Also, playing a bunch of Fortnite, but because there’s no Achievements for the Battle Royale mode, that’s not a real thing.

I’m currently almost a thousand points ahead of 100,000 and not even thinking about the next milestone. It’s been a fun journey, starting way back in February 2010 on the ol’ Xbox 360, but I have other issues to concern myself with at the moment. Thanks for coming along with me nonetheless. I’m sure I’ll find some other dumb thing to focus on down the road. Until then, readers…

Life never really finds a way in LEGO Jurassic World

It used to feel good to hit 100.0% completion in these sundry LEGO games. It was a victory well-earned, through being meticulous and dedicated and clever. You go back into levels you already played, now with a crew of varying abilities and skills, and you’d do things you were unable to prior, truly experiencing everything the level had to offer. Alas, the last few LEGO games I’ve played, specifically LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga, LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, have turned it into a real chore. I’m saddened to say that LEGO Jurassic World is also now a part of this troublesome family, and methinks this just may be the way all future LEGO games go, so allow me to predict now that I will greatly enjoy my first few hours with LEGO The Incredibles, but will be busted by the end of it. Sigh.

You may recall that I actually already played through LEGO Jurassic World some years back. Well, that was the Nintendo 3DS version, and I found it…underwhelming. A part of me hoped that its bigger console version would remedy some of the issues I had with it on handheld, and it does, but that still doesn’t mean it’s the best of the bunch and not without its own set of problems. Mel and I played it together, and that’s always fun, but the grind after completing all the levels to get every last red brick, gold brick, piece of amber, minikit, dinosaur, worker in peril, vehicle, character, and photograph is beginning to wear on my mind.

LEGO Jurassic World, despite its name, covers the first four films in the series, with each movie getting a handful of levels–roughly about 5 or 6–as well as its own minihub area to run around on and dig up collectibles. These levels are bigger and better than the 3DS version, but there’s still too many sections involving running non-stop toward the screen as a dinosaur chases from behind, and these sections are even more frustrating if you miss a collectible. Other than those, the big moments in each movie are tackled and play out, more or less, as one might expect. Traveller’s Tales still infects the narrative with its kooky humor–they love bananas and pigs–but a lot of the dialogue is taken from the movie and its quality is noticeably poor, to the point that I’d rather have this take go back to the silent pantomimed style of earlier LEGO games.

My biggest issue, early on, with LEGO Jurassic World revolved around its hub world maps and how the developers never tell you that you need to interact with a computer terminal to open up fast-traveling waypoints. For a while, I just couldn’t travel to a map area quickly, and my only solution was to load up a level and then save and exit from it, which meant sitting through several loading screens just to pop up on my island of choice. You could say I goofed a bit on that, but the blame could also go on the developers as I don’t recall other LEGO games requiring this. Also, there are multiple layers to each map that you constantly have to click through to exit back to the main game. Not really ideal, when all I wanted to do was drop on a pin on the nearest red brick.

Y’know, a lot of people like to muse about future or potential LEGO games–myself included–and I’m coming to realize that not everything can fit the mold. For instance, I’ve seen a lot of clamoring for things like LEGO Jaws and LEGO James Bond. The problem is that, often times, there’s just not enough excitement there to warrant games in these franchises. For instance, say there was a LEGO Jaws, you would get a handful of named and well-liked characters to play as, but then you’d have to spend all your time unlocking upwards of 50 no-namers like Ben Gardner or Harry Meadows, and their abilities, unlike superheroes, would be beyond bland, like interviewing witnesses or using fishing rods. That happened here in LEGO Jurassic World, wherein I mostly played as only the main characters from the films via the top two rows of the character select screen and touched nobody else except for Mr. DNA and a dinosaur when a puzzle required it…because nobody else seemed all that exciting to control, and there’s next to no experimenting.

If you are nostalgic for things adjacent to Jurassic Park, I wouldn’t recommend this. If anything, watch the films again. I have recently and can continue to put them high up on a pedestal, beacons of fun storytelling and lovable characters. Sure, you don’t get to bounce around as an ultra cute and tiny velociraptor, but that’s probably the only noteworthy difference between the films and the games. Heck, go back and play Jurassic Park on the SNES if you want something super engaging and full of tension though, in my heart of hearts, I know that those first-person sections do not hold up.

Conceivably rising to Risen’s challenge of becoming the ultimate legend

I’ve always been intrigued by the Risen games, knowing they were probably something I’d never touch, mostly because big, open-world RPGs on the PC were just always that–on the PC. I mean, I’ve had a personal computer of some sort since my college days, then playing things like Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, The Sims, and Age of Empires, but mostly sticking to consoles for my gaming time and leaving the computer for activities like reading, writing, blogging, adulting, and using Photoshop Elements 3.0 to make killer journal comics. I think the closest I got to playing something Risen-like was trying out the demo for Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga way back when.

Anyways, at some point, from one of those numerous too-good-to-ignore bundles, because I know I did not purposefully seek out these two titles on my own, I got Risen and Risen 2: Dark Waters. It might have been a Deep Silver-themed bundle a couple years ago. Regardless, I have them, and I see them all the time in my Steam library as I scroll past them to play literally anything else, and I finally felt bad enough to give one of ’em a try, specifically the first entry in the series, which now has a total of three games not counting the potential tie-in ELEX. Unfortunately, first impressions are key, and the original game in the series about rising up as a nobody does not make a strong one…even if I do feel compelled to keep playing a bit more, to see where it ultimately goes. Or could go.

Risen‘s plot starts out somewhat generic. See, the gods have forsaken humanity, and from that titans have begun wrecking the world with all their might and rage; unfortunately, the ship you are currently sailing on is destroyed while at sea, sunk, torn to bits. Miraculously, you do not drown during this crazy storm, waking up on the island of Faranga. Alas, you are now stranded, penniless, and unarmed. Strangely, you are not alone, as Sara is another survivor looking to journey beside you. Her attire consists of a handkerchief around her neck, a bra, and a skirt; she’s all midriff in your face, like something out of the early 2000s. Anyways, you quickly begin to explore the area, meet locals, and fight off fantasy-esque monsters like giant vultures with…a stick.

After helping Sara find a safe and temporary house, the player moves deeper into the island and meets a resident named Jan who talks about the ruins and temples that have recently risen from the underground, bringing along strange monsters and animals. Still, these temples are also rumored to house mystical treasures. Because of this, humans from other lands have come in and started an inquisition, as well as instituting martial law, forbidding Faranga locals from moving out of the main town. Anybody caught outside is turned over to the monastery and recruited to the order. Alas, I wasn’t paying attention closely to this cutscene–had Netflix up on the television, duh–and so after it was over I walked a foot or two in the wrong direction, resulting in my character being taken. Either way, my character is now inside this monastery, doing miscellaneous tasks like sweeping up dirt and solving a murder mystery. Also, I can’t seem to leave.

At some point, I’ll need to decide if I’m with the bandits or inquisitors, though that is probably dependent on getting out of the monastery, and I suspect to do that means I’m becoming BFFs with the robe-wearing, -wielding inquisitors. Well, prior to getting kidnapped, I did get to experience some combat which…is underwhelming. Battles are not complicated, and enemies will move around and try to flank you, which makes groups especially dangerous, but I generally only fought one ugly-as-heck vulture at a time. I’m playing on a laptop with no mouse, and the mouse wheel is evidently what brings out your weapon, so to get that to happen I need press both buttons beneath the trackpad together, right in the middle…let’s just say that I hope there’s never a moment when I need to do this action super fast because oh boy. I also expect magic spells to show up eventually, but for now, all I’ve done is hit big birds and bugs with sticks and it is not all that thrilling.

Risen is almost ten years old, releasing back at the end of 2009. By today’s standards, it’s not the prettiest thing to crawl out of the swamp, but I’m not one to get hung up on graphics so long as there’s something to be enjoyed here. Remember, I’m the guy that recently played some Sonic Blast. Alas, I don’t know if there is anything fun here, but again, something about these games has me curious to see more. I need to at least get out of the monastery and give the game’s combat another look before deciding whether to see more of Faranga island or begin the long swim away towards Risen 2: Dark Waters.