Wednesday, June 28, 2017

God Wars: Future Past (PS4) Review

God Wars: Future Past was definitely a game that sounded interesting to me.  It's a grid-based strategy RPG with heavy influence from Japanese lore.  It adheres to the tenants of the genre - each turn you can move and do 1 action, damage and accuracy from behind is better, and other such things.  Once everyone has had their chance to do something, it moves over to the next turn.  While being faster doesn't let you move more than other units, it does allow you to move sooner in a turn.  MP starts empty, but you get a percentage every turn.  This isn't so good for fighter classes (since their MP max is low), but great for casters...especially when you give them the MP+ passive.

There are also two types of treasure chests strewn about the maps, plus hidden items.  One unique aspect is gathering materials.  There are sometimes special places that you can gather herbs, or mine ore, but you need an appropriate skill to do so.  Side quests use the story mode stages, so you have plenty of opportunities to get these items, since you can repeat side quests.  The game's story is broken up into 4 chapters, with several episodes (battles) each.  Focusing on only the story battles should run you about 35+ hours, but much more if, like me, you do all the side quests.  I found it best to not do all the side quests when first available, since it made my progression feel sluggish.

Now for the job system.  Ever since the first Final Fantasy Tactics (and Final Fantasy V), I've loved that idea.  God Wars has it too, and I really like what they've done.  Each character can equip two classes, a sub and a main, plus they always have access to their default job class.  That's a total of three job classes, all giving active skills to use.  The amount of JP earned is reduced for each successive class, but that's a good compromise for such a system.  Sadly you can only equip three passives, which doesn't feel like enough when there are so many good ones (increased MP and JP are amazing).  It's probably for balance, because having too many passives would probably make certain combinations overpowered.

The story is pretty much fully voiced (at least in the PS4 version) story scenes, some of which are animated, and some others are more in a comic book style format.  It's dual language, so you can set it to English or Japanese.  Be warned that the animated scenes don't have subtitles.  I found that some lines (in English) were really quiet, and were overshadowed by the music.  Not terrible, but kind of jarring and strange.

I set the game to normal, and it wasn't really that hard.  Sure, some battles were harder than others (especially bosses that got multiple actions per turn), but none were super difficult.  I'm not sure if that's because I play lots of SRPGs, or if the game isn't very difficult in and of itself.  Also, some skills are far better than others, so learning those helps.  One gripe I have is that enemies get better skills.  One example is their magic damage reflect.  Theirs seems to reflect all magic damage, but my skills, even at max, don't reflect nearly that amount.  Accuracy can feel uneven at times, making misses at >85% more common than they should be.  You can save in battle, which is nice, but you can't save scum to make those attacks hit.  I tried it a few times, and it sadly didn't change.

God Wars: Future Past is a very good, solid, and most importantly, fun strategy RPG.  While it doesn't do anything revolutionary, being able to have multiple job classes at one time is a great start.  I definitely recommend the game to SRPG fans, especially fans of the classic Final Fantasy Tactics.

The Good:
Fun, old school grid-based SRPG.

The Bad:
No cross save.

The SaHD:
Wolf boss appears
Me: "Haha, it's Okami."
They identify enemy: "It's Ookami."
Me: "Oh..."

(Review code for God Wars: Future Past was provided by the publisher)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Cladun Returns: This is Sengoku (PS4/ PS Vita) Review

Having played a few hours of a previous Cladun, I was eager to try out Cladun Returns: This is Sengoku.  Leveling up, maxing stats with magic circles, and even throwing in some Sengoku era characters sounded like a fun time.  For awhile, it was.

On its surface, Cladun Returns resembles a mystery dungeon game.  While there are random dungeons in the game, the story mode isn't, but is instead an RPG.  They are all pre-made, each is only 1 floor, and can be run through pretty quickly.  There are locked doors that require either switches or killing certain enemies to open.  The last stage of each area also has a boss monster to defeat.  After completing each chapter, you also open up the EX stages that have Sengoku heroes to recruit.

Combat is not turn-based, but in real time, giving some action to this RPG.  You can freely move around the areas, attack monsters, and try to avoid getting hit.  You can also run (which halves your defense), defend (which ups your defense...a little), and even slide (because reasons).  There are several different weapon types, which are a bit different than each other.  Knives are fast but have little range, swords hit a wider arc but take a split second to attack, spears have good range but won't hit right in front of you, staves shoot out magic but take time to recharge, so on and so forth.  It's worth it to try them all out and see which works best for you (I prefer swords and knives).

You also get combat skills, many of which are dependent on the weapon you have equipped.  You have to actually go and equip the skills, which I didn't know.  I did wonder why I didn't have access to my healing skill, which would have been useful early on.  Unfortunately, the skills take a lot of SP to use, so you really need to save them.  Getting more SP and HP is not too hard, because of Cladun's signature Magic Circles.

Each class will unlock different Magic Circles as they level up.  The character at the center is called the lord, and other characters placed on the circles are vassals.  The HP of the vassals is added to the lord's effectively making the vassals the lord's shield.  The vassals' SP is used to equip various artifacts to the circle, which will increase stats.  Losing a vassal in combat will lose the stats they gave until you return to town.  Learning to use and then master the Magic Circles is the key to understanding and defeating the game.  There are also other ways to increase stats, such as the castle walls and, of course, equipment.  It's a cool system that will likely require many hours to fully take advantage of.

For the first 5 chapters, I had no real difficulties going through the story stages.  I eventually found that my created samurai was better at fighting than my initial character (who could heal), so I started using him as a lord.  Once I got to chapter 6, I got slaughtered.  I figured it was maybe because I angered the ice ogre enemy and suffered his cheap attack, so I didn't do that the next time.  Still got slaughtered.  It was puzzling to be sure, since I had little difficulty up to this point.  I did a few more quests, and a few more EX stages and tried again.  No dice.  I saved up and turned in a quest to get a good set of armor, and then I did much better.  I'm fine with needing to upgrade stuff, but it's not as simple to see what is actually better.  Plus it's a bit ridiculous to be totally fine one minute, then destroyed the next.

At various points in the game, you will encounter invincible or mostly invincible enemies.  These are highly annoying because they can trap you.  I've had several times where you end up down a narrow hallway, just to have one of those killjoys come in behind you, leaving you stuck.  Your only options are to sit there and die, or quit out.  Both are dumb, and avoidable if more thought was put into the game.  It really soured the experience for me.  Enemies will also chase you for near the entire map it seems, and they have several cheap attacks.  The aforementioned ice ogres have a snowball shower that tracks you everywhere else in the stage, even if they can't see you.  Super accurate/tracking shots when the enemy has no idea where you are is a pet peeve of mine in games.  Just don't do it.

However, if you can put up with poor designs like that, there are 10 story chapters and 10 EX chapters.  Plus, there are randomly generated and much longer dungeons like the Ran-geon.  You can also spend a ton of time leveling everyone up and min/maxing your stats.  That last part I would really like, if not for the other stuff.  I really liked the game for the first few hours, but some of the questionable designs put me off of it quickly when encountered.

The Good:
Lots of good customization and stat growth.

The Bad:
Getting slammed with a difficulty wall out of nowhere, cheap enemies.

The SaHD:
I really liked recruiting the Sengoku people, since I've seen them in several other games.

(Review code for Cladun Returns was provided by the publisher)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Severed (PS Vita) Review

Awhile ago, Severed was a free Playstation Plus game.  I downloaded it, but finally got the chance to boot it up and try it out recently.  I played a bit of Guacamelee, and figured the game would be kind of like that.  It isn't.  Had I remembered their previous game Mutant Blobs Attack!, I probably should have realized they can make different kinds of games.

Combat is very reliant on the touchscreen.  You use it to slash enemies, and it will do so in the direction and length of you finger swipes on the screen.  Most enemies require you to attack certain directions and angles to actually hit them.  To avoid damage, you have to parry the enemies' attacks.  This is probably the hardest part of combat.  The timing and angle have to be very precise, and even more so for charged parries.  Most enemies are open after being parried, and you will have to learn when you can attack.  Thankfully most of them have big enough openings that you can go ham on the slashes to rack up the damage.  Going ham on them is fun.

At first I didn't really like the combat.  Figuring out how to block, when to attack, getting the timing down, and accurately hitting the severs took a bit.  After about 20 minutes, I felt much more comfortable, and did much better in fights.  That isn't to say they were easy.  Some were, but fights against multiple enemies can be a crap shoot.  Usually you have to figure out which enemy to take out first, or which spell to use, and how to fight each enemy for it all to fall in to place.  Since the game autosaves so often, you can quickly return to the last fight and try it again.  Later in the game, you can fight in the clouds.  These have a time limit, which is really just there to be annoying.  It makes one fight notoriously hard.

When not fighting, you will be moving around the different areas of the game in first person.  The d-pad or face buttons (for left handed people, I presume) will walk you forward or turn you either direction as you make your way through the different rooms.  There is some light puzzle solving, mostly consisting of finding the right levels to open doors, and sometimes running through them before they close.  There are plenty of secrets to find, like health and magic upgrades.  Some of them are obscenely well hidden (stupid levers).  There's no teleport option, so you are stuck walking everywhere.  It's kind of a pain when you are searching for the last few collectibles.  However, the game still isn't very long.  It easily clocks in under 10 hours, even if you find everything and get the platinum trophy.  If you exclusively use a guide, it would be even shorter, but isn't necessary until getting the last few items.

At the start, I didn't like Severed, but at the end, I thought it was a pretty fun game (except that crazy hard fight for one of the mementos).  It has a unique style, creepy enemies, and won't take you very long to complete it.  It's definitely worth trying if you got it from Playstation Plus, but I don't know if it's worth the default price.  I would recommend picking it up on sale, though.

The Good:
Unique game that gets fun once the combat clicks.

The Bad:
Combat is very unforgiving until it does, and even then there are a few very hard fights.

The SaHD:
The story is either too mysterious for its own good, or happens exactly as it appears.

(Severed was obtained as part of the Playstation Plus program)