Tag Archives: loot

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.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #57 – BrowserQuest

Young, innocent dude
Grinds his way across the realm
For loot and levels

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.

The Division’s straightforward formula has been activated

tc the division further impressions

I’ve been playing Tom Clancy’s The Division–from here forward more succinctly written just as The Division, because, really now, I don’t think Tom Clancy the author man had anything to do with it–for about two weeks now, plugging away at keeping virus-laden Manhattan, New York as safe as one possibly can during these tough times. I’ve also given a lot of bottles of water to those in need for clean, sometimes trendy, attire, and I’ve also done my fair share of shooting “bad” dudes in the fleshy bits while hanging back to heal my teammates and distract enemies. It’s a cover-based shooter, for better or worse, and good fun with a group of friends.

The story has promise, banking on at least my fear about both chemical warfare and the mass hysteria that unearths during the annual Black Friday shopping event, which, with every new year, begins to expand and trickle into the Thursday prior. Maybe even starting on Wednesday night for some greedy stores. Anyways, a smallpox pandemic called “Green Poison” is spread on banknotes and then circulated around, forcing Manhattan to be quarantined by the government. The U.S. government jumps into action, activating sleeper agents in the population who operate for the Strategic Homeland Division to assist emergency responders, now called the Joint Task Force (JTF), in restoring order. You play as one of these agents, doing things like retrieving important personnel and combating criminal groups, like the Rikers, which are escapees from Rikers Island.

To be honest, and I don’t know if this is because I’ve played the majority of story missions cooperatively with a group of chatty souls, where it is often hard to pay attention to cutscenes and ambient dialogue, but the story seems like all premise and nothing truly substantial. I’ve rescued people, but they aren’t interesting or important to much else that happens afterwards, and every scenario is built around getting the Division agents into a room full of low barriers and red, explosive barrels to have a chaotic shootout. That’s fine and all, considering the shooting gameplay is solid and enjoyable, but a lot of the action doesn’t feel very purposeful. Especially when you walk away from a story mission with only a new weapon blueprint and some XP.

I completed the last main story mission a few nights ago, and the reason I know it was the last main story mission is because a screen pops up afterwards, telling you about going into the Dark Zone and promising more content in the future. I don’t really even know what happened. I hid towards the back while my higher level teammates shot down a helicopter. I thought we were looking for a cure or a means to get there, but I don’t know why we did this, and why the plot ended here. Seems like it stopped too short, and the rest of any story bits can be picked up via the hundreds of collectibles scattered across the map. I’d like to tell you that I won’t go and get them all, but this is me…I love setting a waypoint and heading to it to grab a thing.

If anything, The Division has a fashion problem. Which is unfortunate, because it’s the aspect of the game I’m drawn to the most. Yup, you read that right. I’d rather play dress up than shoot up. I love dressing up my avatars in games like The Sims or Animal Crossing: New Leaf or Fallout 4. It helps bring out both my personality and theirs, and getting a new piece of clothing to try on is exciting. Not in real life, but digitally…yes. I can’t really explain it. Alas, the clothing drops in The Division are drab and dull and barely contain any character. I’ve mostly leaned toward outfits that feature sharp oranges or blues to at least stand out a bit in this colorless world. Thankfully, your clothing inventory is separate from gear and has no limit, but it can still be overwhelming to sift through in search of a new hat or pair of hiking boots.

I hit the level cap of 30 last night, which now unlocks daily missions–basically the same story missions you’ve already done, but at a higher difficulty with the promise of good loot–as well as high-end gear. Which means a gun that does more damage, a backpack that provides more health, and so on. You know, numbers going up. I haven’t experienced much of the Dark Zone yet, with intentions of entering it after checking off most of the story-central stuff. Unfortunately, I still have like three hundred different collectibles to get, not an exaggeration, as well as two more wings to upgrade back at my main base of operation. I suspect I’ll keep playing, certainly to get all these items, but also because I bought the game’s season pass, and there’s more content down the road. Hopefully it’s more than just a bunch of generic-sounding missions that force you to aim a gun at someone who is also aiming a gun at you.

Overall, I’d say that The Division is a pretty good game, with some severe weaknesses when it comes to its story and mission variety. It is at its most enjoyable when playing with friends, telling stories, making jokes, and occasionally paying attention to the dangers that actually lay ahead. Running to and fro across the map by myself reveals just how lonely of a time one can have in Ubisoft’s diseased New York City, and getting into firefights along the way results in either being amazingly easy or the most difficult struggles of your career as a secret agent. I prefer a crew and playing a part in said crew, which, for me, is to toss out a turret to distract enemies while running around and ensuring everyone is healed up. I’ll also occasionally fire a bullet at someone. It’s camaraderie that keeps The Division together, keeps me navigating through less-than-impressive menu UI. Without that, the sickness will win.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #25 – Tom Clancy’s The Division

2016 gd games completed tom clancy the division

New York very sick
You have been activated
To shoot bad humans

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

Meet me in the Dark Zone in Tom Clancy’s The Division

gd impressions TOM CLANCY THE DIVISION BETA

You can’t see my face, but my eyes are both blurry and extra droopy today, and that’s because I put about four hours straight into Tom Clancy’s The Division last night, only stopping once to grab a glass of water. Specifically, it’s free, open beta thingy, happening from February 18 through the weekend. Xbox One owners got to get in a day early, which is better for me, since I’ll be traveling and visiting family over the weekend. Either way, this is actually my first experience with a beta/early access kind of game, and I’m coming away from it with a better understanding of what The Division is about, and maybe what it might become down the line. All in all, I think I’m in.

Story details are not the focus of the open beta, but here’s what I know so far about The Division. A smallpox pandemic, transmitted by a virus planted onto banknotes, spreads on Black Friday, throwing the United States into mayhem and panic. The U.S. government swiftly collapses in five days, and basic services follow after that. Without access to food or water, the country quickly descends into chaos. You play as an agent of the Strategic Homeland Division (SHD), or “The Division” for short, which is a classified stay-behind force of self-supported tactical agents under direct orders from POTUS to prevent the fall of society.

The Division‘s core mechanics are similar to other action-based third person-shooters of the last generation or so, like Gears of War and The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, in which the player character can carry multiple firearms, grenades, and equippable skills that create effects on the playing field, like dropping a mini turret or pinging the area to highlight enemies from allies. Players can take cover behind objects during firefights, like cars and barriers, to avoid taking damage from enemies and provide a tactical advantage when attacking. Or you can do what I do often, which is forget to hide behind cover and stand right in the lines of enemy fire, taking shot after shot to the chest and wondering why I’m bleeding out so fast.

There’s also loot, which is where this begins to be more of an RPG like Diablo than a straightforward corridor crawl of just shooting fleshbags and moving on without a care to their corpse. First, there’s customizeable gear for your person, like new coats, shoes, breathing masks, and such, which are cosmetic only. Then there’s actually new pieces of armor and backpacks, as well as different types of weapons. You can carry two larger weapons, as well as a pistol-sized gun, switching between them with the press of a button. Naturally, there’s also a ton of mods to loot or purchase, which provide new grips, scopes, and muzzles. I’ve been focusing on using the pistol and Ballistic Shield ability, hanging back to heal myself and others via the First Aid ability.

Lastly, let me talk about the Dark Zone, since there were only two story-based missions in The Division‘s open beta, one of which was a surprising amount of fun, but they are over rather quickly. Basically, the Dark Zone, besides being the name of my forthcoming new wave death-metal band, is a player-versus-player competitive multiplayer mode, where a lot of high-end weapons are left behind when the military retreats in the game. It is separate from the main campaign and even has its own progression system, represented as a purple experience bar that fills up as you do stuff. Basically, players can discover contaminated loot inside a Dark Zone area, and these valuable items can be stolen by other players in the zone; the only way to permanently add this gear to your inventory is to extract them via a helicopter, which arrives after a timer countdowns. Other players can join you in hopes of extracting their loot, but both A.I.-controlled enemies and agents gone rogue will attack in hopes of performing a successful robbery. This means that every new non-lethal agent that pops up in the area has the potential to be a threat, which raises the tension of extracting higher.

Visually, The Division is extremely sharp, with dynamic weather effects and time of day changing somewhat unnoticeable…until you notice it is dark out. I’ve only been in NYC a few times, but the recognizable areas are there, and the map seems to correlate directly to real life, which is both cool and staggering. I played with a buddy of mine, and that definitely made for a more enjoyable–and learned–experience as he taught me some of the systems and lead the way. I do worry that if I can’t team up with people that The Division will be less fun to grind through solo, and even more tough to survive out in the Dark Zone.

Either way, I’m looking forward to playing a bit more during the open beta, and then we’ll see if I’m committed or not to The Division next month when it actually releases to all. This could be addicting, or it could be like Diablo III: Reaper of Souls was for me, addicting for sure, but only for a little bit.

Every click burns a little brighter in Torchlight II

torchlight 2 ghostboat011

Though I’ve not really mentioned it much here on Grinding Down, I’ve actually been playing a lot of Torchlight II for the last month and a half. Well, more than I expected. It’s a game that I bought during the most recent Steam Winter sale for a sexcellent deal and boot up for a bit every now and then, like while I’m waiting for my hot cocoa water to boil or if I got a half hour to kill before Tara and I head off somewhere. Bits and pieces, clicks and flicks. So far, I’ve not really thought of anything profound or illuminating enough to create a blog post around, but having just beat Pokemon White 2, I see some similarities between the two, and that’ll do just fine as a place to launch.

Now, to start, I liked Torchlight. Alas, I played it first on the Xbox 360, and so I had to experience tiny text syndrome on my TV, which lead to me missing out on reading all the various loot stats and spells descriptions and just going with what seemed best, defeating the purpose of caring about loot and equipping my character to the nines. It was not the most involved way to play, I’m afraid, and I later purchased the very same Torchlight for just under $4.00 for the PC during last year’s Steam summer sale, which helped rectify that problem. Though I didn’t really play it again for too long as there were a number of other distractions available. And then I picked up its sequel, which quickly eradicated it from my mind as something I needed to play.

In Torchlight II, you do a lot of the same things from the previous game, but it all somehow feels new. Or at least polished to appear new. Switching things up, I am playing as an Embermage, which is a highly trained spell-casting class with elemental attacks. His name is Mosley, and he uses gem-enchanted wands and relies on a lot of electrical-based spells, as well as some random happenings. My favorite being when a giant meteor falls from the sky onto everyone. His pet is a Badger, but sadly, I don’t remember what name I gave it. This class is a great mix of things, and trying to decide on skills is a fun challenge, as the Embermage can totally go in a number of ways. It’s definitely spicier than previous classes like…the Alchemist (basically, a wizard) or the Vanquisher (in short, a ranger).

Allow me to now compare Torchligh II with Pokemon White 2, as well as probably enrage some diehard fans from either boat. In both games, there is always something to do. For the former, it’s clicking on things until they are dead and picking up loot; for the latter, it’s battling Pokemon to gain EXP or capture them for your team. It’s all about collecting, moving forward. That said, there’s a story around both these main game mechanics that exists high above, nothing more than a blur and disembodied voice telling you where you should go to next. You can, if you want, get invested in this, but there is very little point. I don’t remember any specifics from the the original Torchlight‘s story, and I couldn’t tell you what is going on in this one. Same goes for Pokemon White 2. The story is such a non-issue that it is nothing more than perfunctory, which is a disappointment, especially in a fantasy realm as colorful and quirky as Torchlight II.

And with that odd comparison, let me say that I’m really enjoying my time with Torchlight II. Constantly finding new and interesting gear is a joy, as well as customizing it with gems and enchantments to make it even more unique. You are constantly improving with every new piece of armor and skill perk. Everything is streamlined, and playing solo is completely viable, even against some of the huge raid-like bosses. My Mosley is creeping up near LV 20, and I have no idea where we’re going story-wise; I just head to the starred locations, click on things until a new starred location pops up, and then I head there. That probably sounds a little underwhelming, but all along the way I’m clicking and having an excellent time. Looking forward to more with Mosley, though I suspect he’ll be my only character and playthrough for Torchlight II. Eventually, the light will gently fade.

Hacking and slashing greatly outweigh looting in Hack, Slash, Loot

Don’t let the Skyrim picture above confuse you too much because I’m actually going to talk about a little unassuming game called Hack, Slash, Loot, which I got as part of a recent bundle from Indie Royal. Alas, that game doesn’t do well in terms of screenshots and me throwing stupid text over it, and so I typed in “loot” into Google and found the above. Such is the way the cogs turn behind Grinding Down.

But yeah. Hacking, slashing, and looting. The game promises all three actions, but really only delivers on two, and those two are technically interchangeable, which results in one out of three. I’m not a school teacher, but I know a few, and I can imagine the type of letter grade a score like that would translate into. Despite that and a few other major faults, there are parts that I really do like about David Williamson’s independently developed roguelike that skimps on graphics and strives for missed dice rolls. There’s just something really charming beneath its brutally difficult skin.

Hack, Slash, Loot begins with choices. You have to pick a class, and they range from a Human Saracen to a Woodland Elf Archer. I went with a wizard most of the time. Once you’ve decided who you are, you need to figure out what to do, and there are six different quests to pick from: Journey to the Kimon, Mask of the Boy King, They Dwell Beneath, Dark Hearts and Evil Minds, Battle for Stormrise, and Tower of the Magus. These differ in terms of conflict and goals, but you will ultimately end up in a dungeon, killing monsters and searching for stronger weapons and gear. And each dungeon is randomly generated, making every quest, every adventure, new and unpredictable. In fact, one dungeon spawned my character in a room with two monsters right next to me, which helped to earn me this Steam Achievement:


Wooden Spoon: Die in less than 20 turns

Sweet, delicious failure!

But randomness is good, and it’s one of the reasons that I can go back to Diablo II, Torchlight, Dark Cloud 2, and the grottos in Dragon Quest IX today, in 2012, and still have a fresh experience. The graphics are retro and not distracting, with sprites taking center stage, which makes exploring the grid-based map easy. There isn’t much on the map, just a few candles and coffins, but it all looks good and recognizable. Again, I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff, but gameplay will always trump graphics for me, as it has to be fun to play, otherwise I’m just wasting my days.

That said, there is little loot to look for and the difficulty of Hack, Slash, Loot is more than enough to put someone off–it’s pure frustration. Healing your character does not happen in a conventional way; there are no spells or potions to regain health; instead, you have to loot tombs for scrolls which, may or may not, heal your little hero. This makes taking on more than one enemy at once a very dangerous situations, and I swear my character misses more times than he hits. Same can be said with enemies. It is a lot of missed dice rolls, which does not make for exciting combat; it just then feels luck-based since stats are not as visible as they need to be.

I never really got far in Hack, Slash, Loot, but I had a good time clicking around and trying out different weapons. Ranged weapons like staffs and bows were better for staying alive longer, but it was only time before I ran out of health. It was something to do while hanging out in bed, dog-sitting and watching Frasier. I just might go back again and hope that the next random dungeon is better suited…