Tag Archives: Journey of the Cursed King

Grinding Down’s Top 10 Games of 2017

For the last several years, I’ve named my top five favorite games at the end of each year. Look, I know you don’t believe me, because how absurd of a claim that is, which is why I brought receipts:

However, 2017 has been crazy good in terms of games–I mean, I ended up completing a whopping 125+ of them as of this post though not all released this calendar year–and there’s far too many to talk about to fill my standard top five format, so I’m expanding this yearly endeavor to ten. I know, how very controversial. But this means more words for your eyeballs to eat, so I think we’re all winners here.

Let’s start with a couple games that didn’t quite make the list. Namely, Marvel Heroes Omega and Fallout Shelter.

For the former, well…I enjoyed my time with the free-to-play, loot-driven action RPG from Gazillion Entertainment, playing as Squirrel Girl and watching the framerate tank when enough other players entered the fold and starting using their special abilities all at once. The problem? Other than Squirrel Girl not featuring enough into the main campaign, the game was quickly abandoned on consoles, shutting down unceremoniously around Thanksgiving. This was only a few months after releasing on consoles, so big boo to that. I’m glad I never dumped any real money into it, but also bummed that the game is just gone, never to be played ever again. Thank goodness I have copies of X-Men Legends and Marvel Ultimate Alliance still to try down the road.

As for Fallout Shelter, a game that dropped in June 2015 during E3 for everyone with cool phones (not me), but only made it onto Xbox One this year…well, I’ve sunk a lot of hours into it. Currently, something like a bajillion (rough estimate). Anyways, it’s my go-to for killing ten minutes or so every day, with Bethesda continuing to support it with holiday-themed quests and rewards since launching on consoles. I only have a few more Achievements to pop, and I suspect I’ll probably be playing it a whole bunch more into 2018, eventually running out of room in Vault 713.

Also, I’ll quickly touch on this, but yes, I did play some PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds this year, even getting a chicken dinner on my fourth game, but since it is still in early access/game preview mode for the Xbox One, my home of choice, I don’t consider it in the running for this year’s top 10 list. It is good fun, both solo and in squad format, but has a long way to go in terms of performance and stability and not constantly kicking me out to the dashboard for seemingly no reason, which is beyond frustrating when you are, at the time, driving a vehicle quickly out of the blue circle.

Right. Well, with that said, let’s see what my ten favorite games of 2017 were…

10. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King

Honestly, I’ve not put a ton of time into Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King. Actually, that’s a complete lie; on the PlayStation 2, this was the game that bridged the gap of me moving out of my parents’ house post graduating college and getting my first studio apartment, wherein I didn’t have cable or Internet installed for a couple months, relying on my PlayStation 2 and books to keep me entertained at night and on the weekends, and I put about 80-ish into that version, without ever actually completing it. Hmm.

In 2017, Square Enix remade it for the Nintendo 3DS, with some controversial changes, such as to the UI and orchestral score, but also added some fun, smart additions, like new monsters, seeing enemies in the field, and updates to the plot. Also, there are two new playable characters, Red and Morrie, though
I don’t know how far into the adventure they show up. Personally, I’m kind of saving this game for a lull when I can slip back into something familiar and chip away at it. I also really like the inclusion of the photography challenge side quest.

9. Cayne

Cayne is a killer point-and-click adventure game. By that I mean a lot of characters get killed in it. This free, somewhat standalone isometric horror game from The Brotherhood is set in the Stasis universe and puts you into the waddling body of Hadley, who is nine months pregnant. She wakes up in a strange facility where something is desperately trying to steal her child, and it’s up to you to both learn more and escape. I really liked the tone of this, as well as some of the non-traditional changes to the genre’s mechanics, like not having you click “look” on items to get a description of them. The world-building is dark and deep and reminded me of something that lurked in the back of Harlan Ellison’s mind for too long. At some point, I’ll need to check out Stasis, but I’m emotionally not ready yet.

8. LEGO Worlds

I struggled with some of the UI and button commands in LEGO Worlds and will never, ever try to build anything LEGO brick by LEGO brick because that road only leads to madness and mental destruction, but otherwise it was a lot of fun to run around in and have some silly adventures. There’s less structure than your typical LEGO videogame, which is odd at first. However, the randomized worlds are goofy yet always interesting, especially the candy-themed one, and once you realize there is more beneath the surface, exploration in the deep dark becomes an entirely new mechanic to figure out. It’s not a perfect take on Minecraft, and that’s fine–these worlds belong to LEGO.

7. Samorost 3

The Samorost series has always been a game of sights and sounds. You piece together a narrative by what you see and hear, and Samorost 3 continues this trend, with our little gnome friend out exploring a bunch of different planets. Also, there’s no text to read whatsoever, not even in the menus. To be perfectly honest, I’m not done with Samorost 3, only putting a couple hours into it so far, but I’m purposefully moving through it slowly, absorbing and digesting every single scene and flower/bug you can click on. I love how much moss there is, and the puzzles are a delight to figure out, even the ones you do to reveal a hint require you to put on your thinkin’ cap. I do hope there’s a Samorost 4 (and 5 and 6 and 7) down the road, and I hope to finish this strange and beautiful journey up before any of them come out, but I’m not going to rush through it.

6. Prey

I’m not very good at Prey, but that’s okay. The game clearly wears its immersive sim inspiration proudly on its sleeves with numerous ways to approach objectives and a creepy sci-fi retro future that without any doubt has some moral implications. I’m close to the end of Prey, but I don’t know if I can make it through based on how I created my character and spent my skill points. I love the world in Prey, despite how terrifyingly fecked up it is, and I’m looking forward to re-playing the game on the easiest of difficulties so I can just focus on reading emails, books, letters, and listening to audio diaries aboard Talos 1 so I can know exactly how everyone on this doomed space station lived. Also, don’t bother trying to kill the Nightmare creature, because you are wasting ammo as it just keeps coming back.

5. Night in the Woods

I recently tried to describe Night in the Woods to Mel after buying it a second time, now on Xbox One, since I lost all my progress for the PC when my ASUS laptop bought the farm, and I think I said something like this: you are a cat named Mae and you walk around this town and talk to people and Selmers does poetry and your mom is funny and you can look at constellations and the writing is really great, like super funny and also dark as heck. All of that is true, but Night in the Woods is also so much more. It’s the story of loner and college-dropout Mae returning home in Possum Springs to find that life has gone on without her. Now she needs to figure out her place, among her family and friends, while also dealing with a mystery involving a severed arm and stolen teenager. I’m obsessive with seeing every inch of content, exploring every nook and talking to all who will talk to me, exhausting dialogue trees fully, though I mostly stuck with hanging out with Bae at night (sorry, Gregg). Lastly, the soundtrack is phenomenal.

4. Ever Oasis

Ever Oasis does not do anything too surprising, but that’s not what I was looking for in a handheld action RPG about building up a magical oasis and managing a bunch of stores. The combat was basically this: dodge to the side, attack with all you had, rinse and repeat. At times, it got mashy and boring, and I didn’t put too much attention into upgrading weapons and gears because it didn’t seem to matter all that much (spoiler: I was right). The part I enjoyed the most was getting new people to join your oasis and open up shop and then taking on specific quests to upgrade those shops so you can make more income. There’s a good loop here, one that I ate up every day for a couple months during my lunch break, and I thought I was going to stick with it more for post-credits content, but that didn’t happen due to the number one item on this list. Still, a fun time.

3. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

I missed out on many of the big Legend of Zelda games post-A Link to the Past. Shocking, I know. Well, I never had a Nintendo 64 or GameCube or even a Wii. Yes, that means I never played Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, The Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword. Phew. So, honestly, dropping into Breath of the Wild was pure delight. The game presents a sprawling, open land to explore pretty much however you want once you gain access to a few powers and your hang-glider. You can take on the Divine Beasts one by one or go directly for the jugular and defeat Ganon from the very start. I did the former, only taking on end-game Ganon the other night after many hours and shrines and gaining access to the Master Sword, failing to defeat his first form. I think I need to upgrade my health a bit more and cook better food first.

Regardless of that, I’ve had a fantastic time running around with Link sans horse, taking on side quests, finding Korok seeds, breathing in the cold, mountain air, and seeing whatever is just around the corner or over that hill. Because there’s always something. There’s a richness here that I’ve never seen before, and the fact that many of the puzzles can be solved in numerous ways gets me all tingly inside. The game rewards the player greatly for poking around, and I like to poke. That said, I hate engaging in combat unless safely from a distance using a strong bow and bomb arrow, and I will never, ever be a fan of weapons breaking–you hear that, Dark Cloud–but that’s just a part of this world one needs to deal with in order to survive.

2. Slime Rancher

I truly hope that 2018 doesn’t result in us building an economy from the ground up based on farming plorts–also known as slime poop–from a number of different slime beings. Because if that’s the case, I’m in serious trouble. I got lost in Slime Rancher, constantly feeling the pull to play for five more minutes, to feed a few more slimes and sell a handful more of plorts so I could buy the next upgrade for my farm. Every upgrade lets you explore further and last a little longer out in the wild, and exploring is a big part of the fun here, with excitement coming from discovering new slimes and thinking about how you can harvest their plorts for your benefit. Since launching on Xbox One as a Games with Gold freebie, the developer Monomi Park has been updating the game a whole bunch, adding new features and areas to scour, and I continue to dip back into it to make sure all my slimes are getting on well with each other and buy new colors for my base and plort-vacuum.

Last year, Stardew Valley, a farming game, took my number two spot, and this year it is Slime Rancher. I have to wonder if this trend will continue in 2018, with my eyes locked in curiosity on things like Mineko’s Night Market, Staxel, and Ooblets.

1. Miitopia

Look, I’m just as surprised as you are. I honestly thought, based on the game’s somewhat hands-off combat system, that I was going to hate Miitopia, but just the opposite happened. I fell for it hard, unable to not spend any free ten or fifteen minutes doing a quest or grinding forward to have my party grow in strength or eat some more food or become closer to one another. This continued long after I beat the story, wherein the game sort of split into two entities, and now, 60 hours in, I’m still banging my head against the two extra islands of Galados Isle and New Lumos, the daily quests from visitors at the Travelers’ Hub, and the Tower of Dread, which is the game’s spin of a boss rush mode. Evidently, after beating the Tower of Dread, you get a new class, and the completionist in me must see all the armor and weapon options for it, so my final hours with Miitopia are not immediately around the corner.

I spoke about loop earlier with Ever Oasis, and Miitopia is a strong contender for best “pick and up play for five minutes” type of gameplay. Ultimately, no matter what you do in that five minutes, you are moving forward or making your team stronger. The fact that you can hold down a button and fast-forward the action really speeds up the grinding, which I found enjoyable and allowed me to get creative with my team and action choices when the fights become too easy, helps a lot. Some sessions saw me doing nothing but playing around with the minigame tickets system, taking advantage of the roulette wheel to get better gear or sell it for gold or obtain rare food for just spinning a wheel.

The story is straightforward and nothing to go ga-ga over. No argument here on that. What makes it special and more engaging is the cast of characters, who you hand-pick. Either from your pre-made Miis or from ones that Nintendo suggests. I even looked up a few online and scanned QR codes. Who knew Morgan Freeman (as a cleric) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (as a warrior) were such best buds? Same goes for Snoop Dogg (as a vampire) and my sister Bitsy (a pop star). My girlfriend Melanie (as a chef) was a key fighter, using her frying pan to whack enemies to death or turn them into food, and the quirks on each party member created jealousy and random moments in battle, like someone feeling empathy towards an enemy and letting them go. If I was to play Miitopia again from the start–and I won’t–selecting an entirely different team of Miis and classes would absolutely make it feel like a different game despite the paths being the same.

Also, next to Night in the Woods and certain sound effects from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Miitopia‘s music is some of my favorite from 2017. The title screen song changes depending on where you save your game, and each area has its own twist to the main theme. There are dozens of great little jingles, from when two Miis grow closer to leveling up to obtaining and equipping a new weapon. If you don’t believe me and want to hear ’em for yourself, here’s a couple of tracks that exemplify how eccentric yet adorable Miitopia is to listen to:

2017: what a year (for games).


Dragon Quest VIII’s photography sidequest is pretty goo


I’m not fooling when I say that it beyond insane that, in 2017, I am playing Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King…on my Nintendo 3DS. Like, we’ve always known that Nintendo’s portable game console could run games from the PlayStation 2 era, such as Tales of the Abyss and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, but I never thought we’d get something as great and massive as Level-5’s magnificent showpiece. In my opinion, Dragon Quest VIII was a shining, blinding star in the JRPG night sky from 2004-2005, and the handheld version is mostly on par with that definitive claim, with some additions that I like and subtractions I dislike.

You’ll surely remember that I tried to go back to my Dragon Quest VIII PS2 save some years back. My return to the kingdom of Trodain didn’t last long. I had already put in over 80 hours because, at the time that I got the game, in my first studio apartment in Clifton, NJ, I declined getting Internet/TV services for a few months to save money. Thus, I was left with entertaining myself in the evenings, and that ended up being a lot of reading, some drawing, and, well, Dragon Questing. It was hard going back and remembering where I left off and what to do next. I certainly never beat the game, but couldn’t find the main path again to focus on, instead spending a few hours in the casino or chasing after monsters to capture for the fighting arena. I’m hoping to make a more direct run to the credits in the 3DS version and save some of the bonus side stuff for later, if possible.

A plot reminder, because these games have plots, even if they are somewhat convoluted: the game begins with Dhoulmagus, the court jester of the kingdom of Trodain, stealing an ancient scepter. He then casts a spell on Trodain castle, which turns King Trode into a tiny troll-like thing and Princess Medea into a horse. Unfortunately, everyone else in the castle becomes plants. That is, except you. Yup, the nameless, voiceless Trodain guard–lucky devil. Together, the three of you set out on a quest to find Dhoulmagus and reverse his spell. Along the way, you join up with some colorful characters: Yangus, a bandit who owes his life to the protagonist (I named him Pauly this time instead of Taurust_), Jessica, a scantily clad mage looking to avenge her murdered brother, and Angelo, a Templar Knight that likes to flirt and gamble.

Let’s just get to it and talk about the differences in the 3DS version of Dragon Quest VIII, as there are several. All right, in we go.

Evidently, you get two new playable characters–Red the bandit queen and Morrie, the owner and operator of the monster battling arena–but I’ve read you don’t gain access to them until late in the game, both entering your party at level 35. Not sure how I feel about that, as there’s a comfort and familiarity to the initial team of four, especially after you figure out how each character works best and spec them in that way (Angelo = healing, Yangus = tank, etc.). Being able to see monsters on the world map and avoid them at your discretion is great and something I look for in nearly every new RPG. The alchemy pot–always a staple in Level-5 joints–is no longer on an unseen timer and simply creates what you want when you want it, as well as provides suggestions for items you can mix with one another. Lastly, at least for small changes, as you gain skill points and upgrade your party members, you can now see when each one will unlock a new ability or buff; before, it was all guesswork unless you had a walkthrough guide at your side.

Cameron Obscura’s photography challenge is one of the larger additions and is quite enjoyable. You encounter this man fairly early in the game, at Port Prospect. He requests that you take some specific photos, each one earning you a different number of stamps. As you complete stamp boards, you earn special items. Simple enough…yet extremely addicting. Some photo requests require you to capture an enemy in the wild doing something silly or find a hidden golden slime statue in town. They vary in difficulty. Taking a picture is as easy as pressing start to enter photo mode; from there, you can zoom in, add or take away party members, and switch the main hero’s pose. Looks like there are over 140 challenges to complete, but you are limited to only 100 photos in your album, which means deleting some later down the road–not a huge inconvenience, but seems unnecessary. However, I wish getting to Cameron’s Codex–this is where you find the list of potential challenges that updates as you progress in the story–wasn’t hidden away in the “Misc” option menu; I’d have liked it to be in the drop-down menu on the touchscreen, where you can quickly access other constantly used things like “Zoom” and “Alchemy”.

Okay, now on to the issues I’m not a fan of. None of these are deal-breakers as Dragon Quest VIII remains a strong classic JRPG that does stray from its successful mold of yore, but I’m still bummed.

First, there’s the soundtrack or lack thereof–the original orchestrated soundtrack was removed for the 3DS version. What’s there is fine, but no longer as sweeping. The game’s cel-shaded cartoon visuals still look pretty good, but there’s a lot of draw-in when wandering around, which can make it look like nothing is at the end of some monster-ridden hallway, but there’s actually a red treasure chest there and the only way you’d know that is to walk closer towards it. Speaking of visuals, the menus, once full of icons, tabs, and visual indicators, and looking like this, have been replaced with perfunctory text that, yes, still gets the job done, but loses a lot of personality. The in-game camera continues to be an issue, especially in tight spots, and I have to use the shoulder buttons to swing it around for a better view as I, like many, prefer seeing where I’m going.

Lastly, there’s Jessica, who uses her sexuality to charm monsters into not attacking. I remember being weirded out by this some twelve years back, and it hasn’t gotten better with age. Initially, she’s dressed quite conservatively, but the minute she joins your party her attire changes to be extremely less so, and there’s even some needless boob bouncing. Sorry, Akira Toriyama, but it’s gross. I’m currently trying to specialize her in the opposite direction so as to never see the puff-puff spell in action. Maybe Red will replace her, but who knows.

All right, that’s enough Dragon Quest VIII talk for now. Evidently I can really go on about this game, as well as Dragon Quest IX. I’m sure I’ll have more to say once I see both the later game content and stuff that pops up after credits roll. Until next slime, everyone.