Tag Archives: online multiplayer

Wargroove brings brain-teasing tactics to consoles

Evidently, I am attracted to a very specific type of strategy game, and it is Wargroove. Which, as far as I can tell, is trying to be a modern take on the Advance Wars series, but I never got to play any of them, woe is me. In fact, the only strategy games I have any experience with are Fire Emblem: Awakening, The Temple of Elemental Evil, and Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked, among other smaller titles that I surely can’t remember at this moment. In short, I’ve never been a big fan of SRPGs or tactical games, but the genre is growing on me, especially if it is turn-based and not action-driven, like the Command & Conquer series. Give me time to think, people.

Anyways, Wargroove is a turn-based tactics video game in which players explore maps and battle foes, which is pretty typical stuff. Players can choose to take control of one of thirteen commanders, each with their own campaign, motivations, and personality, as well as special ability, referred to as a Groove. The game supports local and online multiplayer, including player versus player and cooperative play. There’s also a bunch of campaign-editing tools to allow players to create their own maps, which I promise here and now to never do though I’m not opposed to downloading some others have created. For me, it’s all about the main campaign.

Let’s dig in further. When war breaks out in the Kingdom of Cherrystone, the young Queen Mercia–who I occasionally misread as Merica–must flee her home. Pursued by her foes, which includes vampires, the only way to save her kingdom is to travel to new lands in search of allies. So far, I’ve only completing all the missions in Act 1 so…this is kind of all I really know story-wise at the moment. I’m sure things will get more dramatic later, but Wargroove does a great job with its storytelling, using in-game graphics to present bits of dialogue. I am always a fan of when a character grunts or just speaks one word from an entire sentence, and that’s how things go here, but you still get an idea about these people and what they sound like.

The first few missions do a good job of slowly easing you into Wargroove‘s groove. Your goal is generally to either defeat the opposing army’s commander or take their fortress. Capturing unallied buildings on the map or taking them from your opponent earns you money, which you can then spend on new units or health. The campaign introduces the units one after another and gives you hints as to their use, as well as how to use their respective critical hits. The first time you’re up against airborne fiends, for example, you also gain ballistas and mages, both excellent against that particular type of enemy. These missions give you time to get to know units and their strengths and weaknesses without being overbearing. Knowing what type of soldier fares best against what enemy is vitally crucial to keeping your troops standing.

So far, Wargroove’s weaknesses are a bit of a bummer and do detract from its general goodness. These include its occasional spike of crushing difficulty and tendency to drag on, turn after turn after turn. Positioning characters in the right spots for attacks and critical hits is already difficult enough, but Wargroove’s maps are relatively large, which means you can spend round after round simply traveling to meet the enemy or setting up your troops in the most optimal location possible. Maps often have chokepoints, such as bridges, that can be difficult to circumvent, quickly leading to your soldiers literally lining up to meet their maker. Flanking enemies is really important, as your damage to rival troops goes up greatly, but generating an army large enough to do so takes time, even if you load a bunch of them into wagons.

That all said, I am enjoying Wargroove and am excited to hop back into it after taking a bit of break once I got through Act 1’s missions. Seems like a big patch just hit for the game too, with many things being updated, such as adding mid-mission checkpoints and such. That’s cool. If it can make some of the more difficult missions easier and forgiving, I’m all for it, because it stinks to waste thirty minutes doing battle only to have your commander get wiped somewhat unfairly.

Lastly, I’m just going to leave this here, because it is all anyone needs to see to know that Wargroove is super special:

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Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Mad Riders

I’m tired of talking about racing games. I already did this recently for BlazeRush, for Monster Jam: Battlegrounds, and for Midnight Club: Street Racing, and…I’m just exhausted when it comes to words describing a game where you race around a course a few times and aim for first place. There is nothing exciting to it; instead, give me a Super Mario Kart or Crash Team Racing, where, sure, you want first place, but there are more creative ways to get there, such as launching torpedoes at enemies or dropping banana peels behind your vehicle to cause some accidents. I understand the purpose of going from point A to point B, over and over again–it’s the shortest route–but it ain’t interesting.

Well, Mad Riders is about off-road racing. Players control an all terrain vehicle, or an ATV if you are down with the lingo, and race against other ATVs around a series of tracks. You can collect coins placed along the way to activate a short boost in speed, and blue tokens allow players to temporarily access shortcuts, though I never found any of these myself. When in the air, players can perform tricks, which also provide a bit of boost so long as you land them safely. Naturally, there are obstacles both on the ground and in the air to avoid. Other than that, it’s lap after lap, all while trying to maintain the leading spot. Cue the uproarious applause from the audience.

Mad Riders features 45 tracks that can be played over five different race modes, including a time trial mode and another where players try to score as many points as possible by performing stunts. Races can be done either individually or as part of longer tournaments, so you have options how you want to spend your time. Naturally, everything, even racing games, incorporate RPG-like elements, so you gain experience points for both completing races and performing stunts, and this glorious trick of XP is used to unlock new vehicles and color schemes. Ya-hoo. The game also has a multiplayer option with races containing up to twelve players, but I didn’t bother trying this, seeing as I’ve had bad luck finding anyone else to play online on many of these older PlayStation 3 titles.

That’s it. I have nothing else to give Mad Riders except a hand-wave and pushing the uninstall button. A-buh-bye.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

Dragalia Lost is pretty, confusing, and pretty confusing

Nintendo has released a couple of games for mobile devices now, namely Super Mario Run, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, Fire Emblem Heroes, and Dragalia Lost, and I finally have a phone fancy enough to play ’em. Suck it, Windows phone…just kidding, I loved that phone mostly because it had games on it that connected with the Xbox Achievements system. That said, I’ve only touched the free-to-start version of Super Mario Run and found it both perfunctory and fine, but nothing worth dropping some bucks on. Hmm, I probably should uninstall it, seeing as I haven’t touched it in months. Anyways…Dragalia Lost. Hoo boy.

It’s old-school fantasy stuff, with the story taking place in Alberia, a kingdom where dragons live. Now, all royal members in Alberia have the Dragon Transformation ability, where they can wield a dragon’s power by forming a pact with it to borrow their form in battle. This is just something that happens and is accepted by all. Well, one day, a strange occurrence begins to happen in Alberia, with the Holy Shard protecting the capital beginning to lose its power. In order to save his people, the Seventh Prince, who has not made a pact with a dragon yet, sets off on his Dragon Selection Trial. It’s not the worst setup for an RPG though I am growing tired of magical crystals and shards being the McGuffin to get the plot going. Yes, Final Fantasy…I blame you.

How does this “big” game on a little screen play? Fairly straightforward. Players create teams of colorful characters obtained either through gameplay or by spending in-game currency via a randomized gacha machine-style store to assist the Seventh Prince on his mission. These teams are used to take on a series of bite-sized, action-oriented levels featuring very basic fighting mechanics. Mainly attacking enemies and collecting coins/XP. Players swipe to move, tap to attack, and press buttons via the UI to activate skills or temporarily transform into a giant beast. Yup, sometimes it’s a dragon, and sometimes it is clearly not a dragon, but the game still considers it so. Animal classification is tricky.

If you aren’t working your way through these quick levels or reading the game’s dailogue-heavy story chapters, there’s a lot of other things to manage or tinker with in Dragalia Lost. Most of it is seemingly designed to be confusing from the start. Everything can be upgraded–characters, weapons, dragon forms, dragon skills, etc. There is so much upgrading to do; however, this is a free-to-play mobile game, which means players need to grind out levels, materials, and partake in special event dungeons to acquire the majority of these essential upgrading items. Or, you know, spend real money to buy everything you want. Evidently, you eventually unlock a castle section that can help generate resources, but I’m not there yet. Nor will I ever be.

All items that you will want to upgrade share some key concepts with each other, of which the easiest to grok is enhancing weapons with materials. Each kind of item is upgradeable through the use of various rarities of material, such as crystals for adventurers. The next shared concept is enhancing items with the same class of items. Fine, fine. For instance, you can strengthen weapons by sacrificing other, weaker ones to it. Basically feeding a less-than-powerful weapon to the same type, like repairing guns in Fallout: New Vegas. The final communal upgrade path is unbinding, a term that kind of breaks my brain. Basically, this is how you get past an item’s eventual level cap. With unbinding, you will need a copy of an item to raise how much experience it can gain. It also doesn’t help that the menu UI is a little difficult to navigate, and there’s far too many things to click on at any one moment.

Here’s what really rubbed me the wrong way or just in general confused the dragon droppings out of me in Dragalia Lost. Every time I went to do something new, whether it was a quest or explore a just-revealed menu option…the game prompted me that it had to download more data. Sometimes this would take a minute or two, sometimes it was upwards of ten minutes if it was a sizeable chunk of stuff to install. I thought the whole point of downloading the game from the get-go was to download the whole game. I’m not a big fan of this piecemeal method. In fact, as I was writing this post, I went to uninstall the game and was prompted, from the home screen, that it needed to download more data to continue forward. Funk that.

Still, Dragalia Lost both looks and sounds amazing. The song that plays on the home screen is beautiful and worth the download. Or you can click this link and save some space on your phone. Everything else comes off as both a bit one-note or ultra head-scratchy, and I’d prefer something more in the middle, a little easier to digest. Maybe the Shining Force Classics from Sega–consisting of Shining in the Darkness, Shining Force, and Shining Force II, and which I have already downloaded and waiting for me to tap on–will do the trick. For now, I’ll say goodbye to Dragalia Lost and hello to more room on my cellular device. Hello!

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Atomic Ninjas

Atomic Ninjas, which is a pretty cool name, one I’m a fan of mostly because I am noodling with a new small comic book about bad ninja-themed jokes, has the most uninspired story. It goes like this: a security guard at a nuclear plant falls asleep on the big red button that one should never, ever push and the planet explodes. However, not all have perished. Thanks to their natural survival instincts, ninjas are mystically altered. And for some reason, they must now fight each other. That’s it. You get nothing more than that to go off of, which is mostly fine considering this is a brawler a la Super Smash Bros. Melee, but c’mon. Try a little harder.

After a quick tutorial with your sensei, an old man who speaks in broken English, your only gameplay options are to have an online match or a local match using friends on the couch or adding in bots to the mix. I tried twice to get an online match going, but it doesn’t seem like Atomic Ninjas has a huge fan base. The game came out in 2013, but it’s one of the newer additions to the PlayStation Plus family of downloads. At one point, someone did join my lobby, and their username had the word Vita in it, but they quickly left after nobody else showed up. Oh well. So it was off to experience this brawler via battling bots.

The main action plays out like this: you and three other players (or AI-controlled bots) are dumped into a somewhat small arena and must destroy each other by flinging them off the limited number of platforms and knocking them into the laser beams on the outskirts. Rinse and repeat, with a few different modes thrown in for good measure, like king of the hill or capture the flag. The premise remains the same, and the focus is always on multiplayer. There are three weapons to use (punch, shuriken, and a force grab to chuck boxes and knock foes back) and three gadgets (grappling hook, wall claw, and rocket-backpack) to help you traverse through the area quicker.

Alas, the action is repetitive and somewhat uninteresting against bots, and the arenas aren’t anything exciting to explore. The ninja costumes you unlock are just that, cosmetic, and don’t really add anything new to the experience. Also. the camera is zoomed in pretty far, which makes figuring out where enemies are a little difficult to discern. Lastly, there’s just not much to do other than what I’ve already described, and the rewards for leveling up are so minimal they might as well not exist at all. Sorry, Atomic Ninjas. Maybe you should have let that massive explosion take you in the end.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Snakeball

I’m pretty sure I’ve never played the original Snake, having only touched some updated version of it on a cell phone many years back. Snake‘s a pretty simple concept: the player controls a dot, square, or object on a bordered plane. As it moves forward, it leaves a trail behind, resembling a moving snake. In some versions, the end of the trail is in a fixed position, so the snake continually gets longer as it moves. Another common take on the mechanic is that the snake has a specific length, so there is a moving tail that is a fixed number of units away from the head. Either way, the player loses when the snake runs into the screen’s border, a trail or other obstacle, or itself. According to the ever-trustworthy Wikipedia, there are over 300 Snake-like games for iOS alone. Oh me, oh my.

Which brings us to…Snakeball. This one evidently uses most of the mechanics of the late 1970s Snake, with the goal being taking balls and throwing them into the hole at the center of the stage. There are variations on this gameplay, but the main goal stays the same throughout, accompanied by a flashy disco graphic style. Stages take place on disco floors that Tony Manero would greatly approve of. You can select between 16 different characters, all with a bunch of color schemes, and, evidently, if you had access to a PlayStation Eye camera, which I do not, you could snap a photo of your face–or anything else you found photogenic–and plop it onto one of the riders. Developed by Gamoola Soft, this is very much a casual game, which is why I played an hour or so of it, saw what it had to offer, and uninstalled it from my PlayStation 3, as per the goal of these themed posts.

There are three main modes in Snakeball: Snakeball, Challenge, and Ball Frenzy. Snakeball is the multiplayer mode, where up to 8 players can play online; however, since this game came out at the end of 2007 and I was playing it for the first time in 2018, a decade later, there was nobody online to play against. Shocking, right? You can battle bots though it isn’t too exciting. The Challenge mode tasks players with navigating through levels to open up a teleporter and go to the next level, with 14 levels in total to complete. Ball Frenzy is basically a remake of the classic Snake, with 10 levels to conquer. The goal of this mode is to collect all 1,000 balls in the level without crashing and destroying the ship.

Did you know that, for a time there, Trophies weren’t a thing on the PlayStation 3? They kind of only came around after the Xbox 360’s Achievements system began picking up steam as Sony wanted in on the extra stuff action. A lot of games got patched to include poppable Trophies, and all games going forward seem to now have ’em. However, Snakeball was not one that got graced with a patch, and so it is just this very straightforward experience that is mostly fine, but a bit lifeless and repetitive and lacking goals.

I’ll probably play some strange, updated version of Snake down the road. It’s inevitable. However, that said, I’ll probably never touch Snakeball ever again.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

My first solo chicken dinner in PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

The pier was bereft of life. Not a single other soul dropped there, as far as my eyes could tell when quickly scanning the sky as I parachuted to the dirt. It was just me, and 99 madmen elsewhere on the main island. Time to scavenge.

I immediately made for the largest house in the area, scooping up every weapon, ammunition box, and gear item I could before eventually settling down in the attic. I found two different rifles and a pistol. I left the crossbow and bolts where they lay upstairs, an emergency backup option only. Overall, I had some decent stuff. Not enough ammo–because there’s never enough ammo in an isolated and cutoff existence where the only way to keep on eatin’ is to shoot everyone still–but enough ammo for the time being. I checked to see where the circle was. Somehow, I was almost directly in the middle of it. Phew. I stayed put, watching out the windows and listening for any movement downstairs. I mostly put on my patience pants and waited.

Outside, the engine of a vehicle drawing near got my attention. I hurried to the closest window and spotted a large truck trying to get up and over some small hills right outside my building. I didn’t hesitate, opening fire, the window shattering glass everywhere, but I think I only landed one shot before the player drove off to safety out of range. Oh well. Also, my cover was now blown, but I knew what was coming, and so I got prone on the floor in front of the staircase, waiting, listening. A minute or two later a man came up the stairs, and I fired instinctively, not even giving him a chance to know where exactly I was. I looted his body for goodies, but didn’t get any more ammo for my weapons. One kill.

By then, the circle had changed, shrinking away from me and the pier and up north towards the farmland. Alas, I would have to move and leave my safe perch on high. I zipped out of the house, keeping low and to the shadows, and made my way to what I quickly saw was a very open field. Not good. I got just inside the circle and instantly found a bush to squat in, watching my surroundings like a hawk. I didn’t move until the blue started creeping in more, and after taking a few steps, someone behind me began shooting at my butt. I spun around and managed to take them out without receiving much damage, but there was no time to loot or even take in the moment–the blue crept onwards. Two kills.

I made it to another bush just inside the circle unscathed. In the distance, I saw two players battling it out, and I watched with concerned interest as one took out the other and then began crawling on the ground…right in my direction. I waited patiently, popped out of my bush, and took him out. Three kills. At this point, my one rifle was now out of ammo. That left me with another rifle with like 20 shots and a pistol with something like 60 rounds. I also had some kind of grenade, but I never remember to use grenades.

As I moved closer to the next circle, a player in a vehicle came out me, clearly intent on running me down. I fired, using all of my ammo, but took the player out. Naturally, I stole their car. Four kills. Also, it had a full tank of gas and was not terribly damaged, so I was feeling really good about that, especially since I could see/hear another player nearby driving around in a vehicle too.

At this point, there were four people left alive, one of them being little ol’ me. One was driving around, trying to ram me, and two…were clearly hiding nearby. There were no buildings, only bushes. Both of us drove around in circles in the circle, hoping to find these hiders. I managed to run one over. Five kills.

It got down to two players left after the other guy in the car ran over the third remaining madman, and unfortunately we couldn’t just drive our vehicles around forever. This player certainly thought the strategy of putting it into reverse and trying to run me over backwards sound, while I took pot-shots from my P1911 pistol and hurried out of the blue. Using a buggy for cover, I sealed the deal. Sorry, TheScoobySnoop. My hands were shaking, and Melanie and I both let out an exclamation so quickly and loudly that scared our cat Timmy off of the couch. It was, to simply say, exhilarating.

Six kills.

Winner winner, chicken dinner.

Gobbling up that PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

Fourth game of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds played, first with a squad of two friends and a random. Mark this day (last night, technically) down in my gaming history.