Tag Archives: RPG

Trying to help Sachi survive in Smoke and Sacrifice’s grotesque underworld

Smoke and Sacrifice is not what I expected to be. One of the first screenshots for the game that I saw was similar to the one at the top of this post. It looks bright and safe and a little mundane and reminded me of any number of early towns or villages you visited in RPGs like Suikoden or Breath of Fire. There’s a field being tended to and glowing Sun Trees that are obviously very important to these people and it just feels smalltown farm-like, but then things take a turn towards darker.

See, our leading protagonist Sachi must unfortunately give up her son as part of the village’s first-born rite; basically, she is sacrificing her child to appease the gods, but the good news–if you want to call it that–is that any future children she has will be safe from this custom. How nice. Years later, when suddenly the Sun Tree fades and all the priests vanish, she learns there’s more to this ritual, such as a whole underground world.

Smoke and Sacrifice is an open-world, narrative-driven survival RPG, where exploiting living ecosystems is the key to keeping air in your lungs. Sachi must constantly craft gear, fight off monsters, and explore a massive open world as she searches for her long-lost son. Along the way, she’ll meet strange characters and take on quests for them, as well as learn what really was happening with the Sun Trees and the first-born ritual. The game quickly goes from bright to dark to seriously messed up in a matter of minutes, and you’ll quickly forget all about that fertile land above, now replaced with a gothic wasteland of strange bugs and foreign ingredients.

Unlike many other survival games, there’s a solid if sadly morbid story to follow and no permadeath to deal with. Instead, you can save your progress frequently at a few save points dotted around the map, which are in the form of glowing computer screens, with death bringing you back to your last hard save. I recommend saving all the dang time. I have suffered the sad experience of collecting a bunch of ingredients for a half hour, stumbling into a combat scenario I wasn’t ready for, and having my weapons and lantern degrade at just that moment, losing all forward progress. It stinks and is maybe the harshest part of Smoke and Sacrifice.

The combat in Smoke and Sacrifice is both punishing and a little plain. You can up your chances of making it out alive by crafting an array of armor and weapons, such as a bone machete, but you never really feel that powerful. Instead, you are better off learning every enemy’s pattern and taking them out slowly and methodically. There’s a dodge move, but it is more of a jump away than anything I’d call extremely responsive, like rolling in Bastion. I wish there was a little more strategy or options for combat, but so far it is just mashing the attack button and hopping away when it looks like the enemy will strike. I did just start crafting smoke bombs, so maybe it does get a little more advanced, but I won’t hold my breath, especially when breathing in this underworld’s air is deadly enough.

I got this game for “free” from being a Twitch Prime member, along with a number of others that I hope to get to…eventually. I think I’ll poke at it some more as I am interested to see where this dark story goes and if Sachi finds her son while also wreaking havoc on the naughty priests that forced her into this situation to begin with. Weapons, armor, and lanterns constantly degrading quickly might be too much for me to deal with though…time will only tell.

Advertisements

2018 Game Review Haiku, #18 – Legendary Gary

A battle of turns
Make Gary legendary
Find motivation

For 2018, I’m mixing things up by fusing my marvelous artwork and even more amazing skills at writing videogame-themed haikus to give you…a piece of artwork followed by a haiku. I know, it’s crazy. Here’s hoping you like at least one aspect or even both, and I’m curious to see if my drawing style changes at all over three hundred and sixty-five days (no leap year until 2020, kids). Okay, another year of 5–7–5 syllable counts is officially a go.

Finally seeing Suikoden III from some different perspectives

Ugh, I’m not doing too well on those gaming resolutions for 2017 that I listed out at the beginning of the new year. Well, hold up, I did manage to cross the 80,000 Gamerscore mark, but other than that, my Steam backlog is either the same size as before or larger than ever, Earthbound is still untouched on my Wii U, and I don’t know what I was thinking when it came to musing about “creating something.” I mean, I’m already doing that with my art over at Death, Divorce, and Disney, slow as it may take, though perhaps one day I’ll do something with game design. I sure do have a bunch of ideas, but not the knowledge to put them into motion, and knowledge doesn’t come quick or easy.

Anyways, here is me equipping a mighty ice-pick of endurance+3 and chipping away at the legendary glacier boss that is Suikoden III. I played it for a couple of hours several years ago, eventually running into an issue with the game soft-locking on a loading screen due to scratches on my PlayStation 2 disc. That sucks, but I quickly moved past it and found a bazillion other games to occupy my time, including the original two games in the series. I then acquired a digital version for the PlayStation 3 about two years ago, easing my heart and mind somewhat with the knowledge that I could return to Konami’s third entry in the RPG series via a scratch-free experience. Still, it remained neglected once more…until now-ish. Dun dun dunnn.

This time around, I’ve decided to start Suikoden III from a new perspective, selecting someone different from my first go at the game. See, Suikoden III uses something called the Trinity Site System to tell its tale through three different POVs–namely, Hugo, the son of the Karaya Clan Chief Lucia, Chris Lightfellow, a Zexen Knight, and Geddoe, a mercenary from the Holy Kingdom of Harmonia. Phew, that was a mouthful. Last time, I went with Hugo, and this time I started the adventure off with Chris Lightfellow, who, by name alone, you might mistake as a man, but she’s actually the acting captain of the Zexen Knights, as well as the Tenbi Star, just like Kirkis was in the original game. Cool, cool. Basically, you get to play snippets from each of these characters’ storylines, with some overlapping others, and I suspect they will eventually meet up and form a single through-line to follow to the end. We’ll see.

It’s still a little early for me to say this, but I’m not a fan of the changes Konami made to combat in Suikoden III. Don’t worry, don’t worry, everything is still turn-based, but characters are now paired up during fights. This means you give a command to each pair rather than to them as individuals, which often makes the combat feel clunky and not highly strategic. For example, one person gets a specific action, such as casting a spell or using an item, while the other is forced into attacking by default. It’s not Miitopia random, but you are definitely not 100% in control of what everyone gets to do, and that’s a bummer. Also, I’ve put in about six to seven hours so far, seeing chapters from all three characters–Chris, Geddoe, and Hugo–and I’ve seen only one or two unite attack options during battle, which this JRPG series is famous for. Also, because we’re jumping around a lot, I’ve been reluctant to drop a lot of money on new armor and weapons or training because I don’t yet know who is going to be around for the bulk of Suikoden III, which is mildly frustrating.

So, clearly, it’s been slow going, but it has been refreshing to see some new characters and areas this second time starting Suikoden III. Also, evidently during my first time with Hugo I had missed an entire side quest involving bandits and Melville’s father, so that was great to see, content-wise, even if it did little to change what happened in his first chapter. I’m now playing as Geddoe and his Twelfth Unit from Harmonia as they embark from Vinay del Zexay…to do something. Not quite sure what their goal is yet. I’m eager to see a few more towns as Vinay del Zexay is not fun to explore and somewhat confusing and does not hold a candle to Gregminster, Greenhill City, or even Gordius. Then again, these games are all about building up a base. Speaking of that…

From the brief bit of research I’ve done, it sounds like once all three starting characters hit chapter three, I’ll have to make a major decision, one that will definitely affect how the story moves forward. It also sounds like, after Suikoden V, Suikoden III takes the longest for everyone to get inside a castle and start building up your army, which is one of the best parts of this series, and that’s a bummer because I want to go to there right now. Ugh. Here’s hoping I hit that milestone somewhere in 2018, the earlier the better. Because then I eventually need to try out Suikoden IV. And Suikoden Tactics. Oh, and I should probably re-play Suikoden V at some point because that is mostly a blur to me now.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Super Motherload

It’s been a couple of years since I played SteamWorld Dig, but, especially given that SteamWorld Dig 2 released this year to good praise, I think about that game often. Not because its story resolved in a way that left me lost and wondering, nor because steam-powered robot Rusty’s journey to rebuild Tumbleton was so distressing that it has forever left me scarred, but rather because that game was both a lot of fun and super, duper relaxing. Like, mega chill. I now have a greater understanding of why dogs like to dig, and the answer is simple–it is because digging is fun. Allow me to further back this claim up by talking about Super Motherload.

Let’s momentarily leave this trash-dump of a planet of ours and head for redder terrain. Set on Mars in an alternate Cold-War era, Super Motherload is a 1- to 4-player couch co-op digging adventure. Yup, a digging adventure. The game’s storyline was written by Image Comics’ Kurtis Wiebe and features a fully voiced cast of Soviet and American characters, with some aliens to boot. Also, it’s procedurally generated, which means no playthrough is ever the same in terms of how and where you dig down. The goals remains to go deeper, and you do that by purchasing powerful upgrades and supplies for your mining pod. These range from faster drilling speed to a large inventory space to taking less damage when you inevitably bounce it against a wall going too fast.

I put more time into Super Motherload than I initially expected to, something like eight to ten hours. Especially when this feature is meant to get in, grab a bite, and get out. So that certainly says something about the game. I really enjoyed digging deeper underground, gathering items and mix-and-matching them with the smelter in specific orders to create better elements, for more moolah. Finding the next base was also extremely rewarding, and I loved the freedom offered here, in that, if you wanted to and had enough fuel, you could just descend, descend, descend. Still, the game wants you to load up on stuff, return to base, upgrade what you can, and do it all over again, inching further forward each time. Actually, that’s not what the game wants, but what it rather is–a relaxing push deeper. Well, until the final boss.

Alas, I was unable to beat Super Motherload. I got all the way to the end boss fight after many hours of upgrading, exploring, and so on, but there’s seemingly no way for me to beat it. See, the fight is two phases repeated multiple times. The first phase is you zipping after this large machine as it shoots up towards the closest base, and you need to quickly follow it as lava is rising beneath you. Once you are at the base, the next phase begins, where you need to dodge it and drop bombs to deal damage. Rinse and repeat for each of the bases going back to Mars’ surface. The problem is I quickly ran out of bombs and money on the first base, and with no money or bombs or other way to get more resources due to the aforementioned lava, I could do very little save for hide in a corner until boredom set in. The switch from a super relaxing time to extreme action and emphasis on early preparation and inventory management–in terms of bombs–was one of the most off-putting experiences I’ve ever dealt with in videogames.

The good news is that, if I do get the itch to play more of this type of game (minus its final 15 minutes) and returning to SteamWorld Dig isn’t cutting the cheese just right, I can grab Super Motherload on Steam. Though me-thinks I’ll either go back to SteamWorld Dig or try out its sequel before I do that. Either way, that’s another PlayStation Plus title tried and uninstalled.

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.

Miitopia is two games in one and maybe never-ending

After 25-ish hours of battling monsters, eating food, leveling up, and taking down the Dark Lord Ron Swanson, I assumed I was closing in on Miitopia‘s end credits. Well, you know the dangers of assuming. Turns out that I wasn’t even close, having now poured an extra 20+ hours into the ordeal, because there was still more to do and see, and I’ll keep this mostly spoiler-free and say that someone takes the Dark Lord’s place to continue creating problems for your team of diversified heroes and heroines. That’s fine, really; the weird part though is that the game switches up its pace and flow and feel in a way that makes it seem like an entirely different game halfway through.

For the first, main chunk of my Miitopia time, I was just moving forward across the map, going to where the red exclamation point said to go to, fighting monsters, eating food, and building relationships all along the way. It’s a pretty linear affair. I focused on a few particular party members, upgrading their weapons and armor when able to and generally trying to keep everyone balanced, but eventually one team of four was more leveled up than another. Thankfully, as irritating as it seemed at the time, the game frequently decided to split my current party up, forcing me to use Miis I’d not put as much time into. I’d also occasionally grind out a few areas to ensure I collected every treasure chest and saw where all paths lead, but otherwise it was all steam ahead.

By the time you near taking on the final final boss, the game switches things up, mechanically and even with the UI. You have access to a flying dragon and the Travelers Hub, where Miis will give you specific quests to do. So instead of having a singular goal to follow, you suddenly now have multiple paths to go down, with room to grind and explore. Also, something to touch upon, but you can totally exploit the game tickets situation to your benefit. Here’s how–wait until you get a good roulette wheel with a large slice dedicated to a high-level weapon, then keep spinning, landing on the weapon, and selling it for lots of gold. I was able to make about 50,000 gold after just a few spins, which let me buy a ton of solid gear for my team.

Initially, I was heavily put off by Miitopia‘s combat system, which basically only lets you control the actions of your avatar. However, as time went on, I got used to many of the battles being on auto-run, and the introduction and upgrading of HP bananas, MP candy, and various sprinkle shakers did let me have some control in how the fights went. It was more interactive than I initially assumed, so shame on me, and now I’m curious to maybe go back and see if Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light is as bad as I’ve built it up to be in my mind. The fights never got too tough or insurmountable, up to the final boss fight, which, as I suspected, required everyone you had collected in your posse at that point to bring the heat, and several peeps were underleveled and needed to be grinded up a bit. Not grinded up into bits. Pay attention now.

I’m usually really bad at keeping up with post-game content. Like, for Ever Oasis, I thought I’d love to continue bringing in people to my oasis, leveling up shops, and diving deeper into randomly-generated dungeons for valuable rewards…but I haven’t gone back to it once since I got Miitopia. The same sort of thing happened with Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies, despite my logged hours count saying otherwise. Chrono Trigger also has a New Game+ mode after you put Lavos in its ugly alien parasite place, with even more endings and an exclusive Dimensional Vortex section only found in the Nintendo DS version, which, if you’ll remember, I both loved and disliked. All of that is to say–Miitopia‘s post-game content is great and keeps me coming back to it on a daily basis.

Quest-givers continuously show up in the Travelers Hub zone to demand you do something for them, usually deliver a gift to a friend in another area or defeat a tough monster, all of which offer great rewards for completing, such as rare foods, game tickets, or better gear. Also, there’s two brand new islands to explore, two additional character classes to unlock, and the ability to make dozens upon dozens more team members, if you want. For me, since my main character originally started out as a thief, then became an imp, and finished as a mad scientist, I never got to see many of the outfits and weapons for those first two classes, so I made Jennifer Aniston as my thief and haven’t decided yet on the imp, but someone‘s coming. The real draw for me continuing to play Miitopia is seeing all its content, because the weapons and armor are creative and fun, the music is astounding, and there’s plenty of strange food to eat and kooky monsters to battle still to go. Oh, and there are 250+ Achievement-like medals to earn, of which I’ve done only 50% so far.

I knew I was going to like Miitopia‘s style and tone long before the game came out, but was worried that its somewhat hands-off gameplay was not going to keep me engaged. I’m happy to have my initial reluctance turned completely on its head, with Nintendo’s pleasant, quirky turn-based RPG about people losing their faces resulting in one of my favorite releases in 2017.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #118 – Miitopia

Stop the Dark Lord’s plan
Build relationships, eat grub
Fight faces, some grind

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.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #104 – Ever Oasis

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

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