Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Destiny (Xbox 360 / Xbox One) Review

To close out 2014, I figured I would review the most hyped game of the year.  I've spent many hours in Destiny, on both 360 and the Xbox One, so it's time to see how fun the half-billion dollar game really is.

First off, the game looks really good.  Even on the 360, the scenery, models and effects are top notch.  I'd say the scenery is some of the best and most detailed I've seen in a console game.  Of course, the Xbox One version is slightly better, but the difference isn't as big as you might suspect.  The biggest graphical addition there is the light effects.  The loading screen ships have little blinking lights, and the areas have much more dynamic lighting.

Second, the gun play is pretty solid.  It's not the best ever, as I've seen some people proclaim, but it's fairly satisfying.  I played the beta on the PS3 and 360, and the full game on 360 and XB1.  The 360 controller was definitely the best fit for me, and felt the most comfortable for the controls.  The only problem I had with the guns is the damage.  As you get further in the game, and notably in the Strikes and Raids, the enemies start to have JRPG levels of health.  This means you are pumping hundreds, if not thousands, or rounds into them before they die.  It gets boring having to shoot things so much.  So while the controls and guns work well, the damage they output doesn't keep up.

The game is an MMO in all but name.  You have to be online to play, and there are several other players around.  You will probably want to play with friends, seeing at how cumbersome it is to invite others to play in your party, or "firesquad".  It's also nigh impossible to communicate with others.  You get 4 different emotes, but you will probably only use 2... and one of them is to dance.  They added a firesquad chat channel, which could help, but this was so late into the game that most people don't use it, and instead play with friends and use party chat.  It's a strange decision to release an MMO with little to no way to communicate, but that's just what Bungie did.

There is a story mode that takes you through and unlocks each area of the game.  It spans multiple planets (and the moon!), with each having about 5 missions.  While broad in scope, it is light on duration.  My friend and I completed the story mode in two days.  Even if you do it with all 3 character slots, it still isn't much.  There are Strikes on each planet to give you a group-oriented challenge, but there are still only 5 total.  The Strikes are pretty fun, but they get old fast, since you are expected to run them many, many, many times.  There's also a Raid.  Yes, only one unless you buy DLC.  It's not very fun at all, at least to me.  It's long but with checkpoints that stay up for a week in case you cannot finish in one go.  That's about the only positive thing I can say about them.  Although other people think it's the best part of the game, I think it might be the worst.

Once you reach level 20, the experience cap, you will need to gain "light" to level up further.  Light is a stat on high level armor that will increase your level up to 30.  It's a nice, new concept, but inherently flawed.  While before you could chug away and earn experience to get new levels, now you are the mercy of a random number generator for loot to get those levels.  I'm one of those people who rarely gets good drops in games, which causes me to lag behind others for no reason other than the game doesn't want to give me better stuff.  Not skill or time based... just random luck.  Yuck.

The alternative is to buy some better equipment, which has me commit days to get enough "marks" or "strange coins" (which are also subject to the RNG) to get them.  This would be less of an issue if they game had more content.  This is probably my main complaint with the game.  It simply asks you to play so much, and offers so little to do.  Sure, there are daily bounties to kill certain enemies, or other such things, but by the time you finally get some good gear, you've done them all several times already.  There's even weekly caps on the marks you can earn.  So they want you to play too much already, but then punish you for playing a lot.  Whoever made such a terrible decision shouldn't have a job.  At least they fixed the unidentified items, now maybe the rest of the game?

If you want a better chance at better rewards, you can do harder versions of the Strikes.  These have minimum level requirements, so you can't be boosted through them to catch up to other people.  Some of these are entirely doable, but some are ridiculously stacked against you.  That isn't to say they are impossible, just close to it.  While there is the Dark Souls crowd that loves to overcome those odds, there are people like me, who have nothing to prove, that will just move on.  I'm fine with a challenge, but I hate unfair odds.  It's artificial challenge if they just let enemies one shot you, but take 1200 bullets to the head to kill.

Destiny is best played with friends.  Even then, it's not the best recommendation I could make.  The game is really pretty and has some good shooting, but falls flat in just about every other area.  It has not nearly enough content for how much they expect you to play.  There's some timed events and other things to try and add variety, but it's all based on the small pool of things already in the game.  It's even harder to recommend it if you are going to play by yourself.  Destiny is a collection of missed opportunities and a mystery of where its massive cost went.  There's at least a decent core to build upon for the inevitable sequel, which will hopefully address its issues and make it a great game.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Akiba's Trip: Undead and Undressed (PS4) Review

Akiba's Trip: Undead and Undressed, the vampire stripping action game, has made its way to the PS4, and brought along all its DLC with it on one disc.  The visuals are noticeably better than the Vita version, as they are much smoother.  It's still cel shaded and looks good.  There are both English and Japanese for the spoken lines, so both sides can be pleased.

The two biggest improvements for the game are the loading and the included DLC.  The DLC for the PS3 and Vita versions was a mix of free and paid weapons and costume pieces, so it's nice to see them all included without having to shell out extra money or wait until they are on the store.  They are accessible early, but don't really provide amazing bonuses.  That's ok, since the upgrade system makes them as good as you want.  My personal favorites are the two handed sword from Ragnarok Odyssey Ace (along with armor fit for female characters), and the prinny.  Maybe I'm a bit biased, but swinging around a prinny that explodes on contact is really fun.

However the loading is going to be the improvement most people will be more thankful for.  The original game had loading for each area, which added some wait time depending on how far you wanted to go and if you fast traveled.  Now, it is much faster.  The strange downside to this is you won't see the loading screen ads as often or as long.  I'm not really complaining, but I do like the ads, since it's very unlikely that I will get to the actual Akibahara and see them in person.

So those are the differences for any people that have played the first.  For the rest, here's a rundown of how the game works.  You play as an otaku that has undergone an experiment that grants him enhanced strength, but a weakness to light and increased hunger.  You are essentially a man-made vampire, and as a member of the Akiba Freedom Fighters (a collection of otaku wanting to keep Akiba safe), you fight other Synthesters.  To defeat them, you have to expose their skin to sunlight.  That requires you to rip off their clothes.

It's not near as graphic as you might think.  Characters are still in their underwear when fully stripped.  Well, unless they are finished with a big enough chain strip.  Then their underwear drops and is replaced with shining light.  So, no nudity in the game.  And it's a pretty even split between male and female opponents, so it's not exploitative, either.  It's fairly tongue-in-cheek, since they poke fun of it in the game, too.

Combat is a three button attack system, one for lower, middle and upper clothing items.  You get different combo attacks based on your weapon type and weapon.  Holding down the corresponding button will attempt to rip that article of clothing off.  If you haven't done enough damage, you will get knocked away.  If you've done a good amount, but still not enough to rip it off in one go, you will have a button mashing struggle to do some more damage and possibly destroy it.  Once all the articles of clothing are off an opponent (or you), they are defeated.  You can also block, counter, and even counter strip.  If you rip a piece off and there are other opponents with weakened clothing, you will proceed to strip them, provided you press the correct button in time.  This is a chain strip, and doing enough in a row will result in a super move that will leave them without any underwear and running for the hills!

The basic flow of the game is to read a little story, then go off and beat some Synthesters, then return for more plot.  It's not the most involved game, but it's fun.  It's also not very long, as the first time through took me 10 hours (8 on this version, since I've done it before).  There are multiple endings and difficulties, with lots of weapons and clothes to collect and power up.  This gives the game lots of replay value, for at least the endings.

While the game won't be for everyone, I enjoy Akiba's Trip: Undead and Undressed.  It's a silly premise, but fun to go through.  There are a few frustrating moments, but not "throw your controller" bad.  It's a fairly short game with lots of replay value.  If you have already played the Vita or PS3 version, the improved visuals, included DLC and faster loading probably aren't enough to make you buy it again, but I'd recommend this version of the game for those that haven't, and have a PS4.  Too bad progress from other versions doesn't carry over!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Rollers of the Realm (PS4/Vita) Review

Rollers of the Realm combines pinball with some traditional RPG elements.  You get experience, gold, can buy equipment... you get the idea.  The premise is pretty cool.  As a big fan of Puzzle Quest, I was excited to try another "combine X with an RPG" which, in this case, an video pinball game.

Unfortunately, I forgot that video pinball games have pretty bad physics.  In fact, I do this pretty often.  I like pinball, but don't want to pay to play it in arcades, since the time you play is mostly decided by random luck.  So, video pinball is a much cheaper alternative.  However, the physics are always just a little off, which quickly ruins the experience for me.  Plus, it's hard to get the length of pinball on a screen that is stretched the other direction.  That could actually work on the Vita version, but the actual areas are not designed for it, so it's not even an option.

Anyway, Rollers of the Realm unfortunately also suffers this fate.  The physics feel off, and the screen aspect ratio works against you.  There are stages that have multiple areas, which is neat, and there is a good variety of stages to boot.  Though, they do like to put obstacles, mainly enemies, close enough to your paddles that they can easily smack your ball down the hold.  Add some player-unfriendly design to the wonky physics, and you get a equation of frustration.

To make things a little better, you can hire other characters and buy equipment for your party.  Each piece of equipment shows what stats it effects, but there is no explanation of what each stat actually does.  I think I figured most out after playing the game awhile and matching things up, but it's not very intuitive.  Plus, I wasn't sure how to equip things, or even if I had to.  There are some similar pieces (like different weapons) for some characters, and I have to assume the effects stack, since it didn't seem like I had to equip anything.

Goals for levels aren't always stated from the start, but it's usually "kill guys until you can continue".  There are a good amount of stages in the game, so trudging through the game should get you your money's worth.  Sadly, the bulk of your play time will be retrying stages after dying (again), or replaying them for more money to buy equipment or extra party members.  Thankfully, each party member counts as a life in the game, and you can resurrect people if you get enough mana.  The trophies can also take awhile... at least 10 hours.  I say that since there's one for playing the game for 600 minutes.  Yuck.  Plus, if you are a platinum hunter, the trophy spread of the game is for a downloadable, so the highest you get is one gold trophy.

I'm sure there are people out there who would enjoy the game.  If you are fine with the hit or miss physics in video pinball games, then go ahead and play Rollers of the Realm.  If unreliable gameplay or random deaths annoy you, stay away.  I found the game more frustrating than fun, and was let down when I finally had a chance to play it.  The concept is neat, but the execution needs work.