Monthly Archives: September 2017

Let’s Talk: Arrow Heads

by Jason Parker (Ragachak)

Arrow Heads Too Much Time Here

Too much of my time was spent here…

Originally, there was going to be a thorough, detailed review of Arrow Heads. But that had to change to another game for an unfortunate reason. But let me say first, I love this game, aesthetically and mechanically. It’s a terrific game but I could not find a match online. I live kind of far away from most of my friends, so having couch co-op sessions are hard enough. But no matter what time of day I tried (and I’ve been trying since before it went officially live) I absolutely could not find a match online for the Arena or the Survival Modes. Which sucks, because the game is a lot of fun when I played the Survival Mode alone. I wanted to bring some attention to it anyway because it is fun and well designed. The reviews on Steam are mostly positive, and I can see why. For those fortunate enough to get a match online, I’m happy for you! I’d like more people to be playing this online.

Arrow Heads - Customization

I would have preferred to be a Green Penguin. But I digress.

Arrow Heads is a couch co-op/online Arena Battle game where you play as a Chicken. Or a Turkey. Or a Penguin. You can unlock a variety of birbs to play as (Yes, birbs. Stay with me). They do battle against horrific, evil, mean, vile bears, and the weapon of choice is a Bow and Arrow. As you play you can unlock some crazy fun bows and arrows, and can even make your bow invisible! Not your arrows, thankfully. Ever want to fire rockets at Bears in a fun, safe environment where you won’t get mauled? That’s what you can do in Arrow Heads? It has a variety of cool maps, four-player couch co-op/online play, and two very solid game modes. The mode I got to play was Survival, where you survive wave after wave of increasingly powerful Bears. Some of them have armor and shields, and you have to fire over or get behind them to be efficient. Time is definitely of the essence in this mode. But you have more than just the arrows, so to speak. It’s a twin-stick game and controllers are definitely recommended. One stick walks, the other turns you to fire, and the longer you hold the direction, the longer/higher the arc is, within a certain amount.

Arrow Heads Last Life

Surviiiiiive~!

I actually had better control over my shots with my mouse, but the controller’s way more comfortable for me. You can also run, jump, and deflect shots! If you are standing still, your jump button doubles as the Deflect, but if you’re moving, you just jump. This is the one design flaw I found; I would have liked to see a separate run/deflect button. I can see why it’s like this though. Being able to run, then jump+deflect would probably be frustrating.  But all the co-op gameplay I saw looked very fun. The Survival Mode is for working together as a team.  As you defeat Bears, you gain coins that build a meter at the bottom of the screen. Hit a button when it is at full and gain a temporary power. It can do a variety of things, and the meter ticks down on its own. My personal favorite? The rockets. You fire barrages of rockets at Bears to defeat them and hold off the increasing waves of furious ursine.

Arrow Heads - Pirate Ship

Mm. Rockets.~

But there’s also the Arena Mode, where friendships go to die. So you tear your friendship apart in the Arena, and then you mend it in the Survival Mode. You can unlock cool costumes like I said, and new weapon skins. They don’t make your weapons stronger, but it does look cool! Like I said, I love this game. I wish I could have had more of an online experience with it though. I tried up until yesterday to find online matches so I could adjust this piece, but it did not happen. Regardless, I do recommend it, and think the developers at OddBird did a fantastic job with marketing it and creating it. Visually it’s amazing, and the controls are tight. But.. I did not find a single online match that didn’t immediately crash. It’s my hope that if more people get it and get online, these matches will be much easier to find!

Closers Alpha Key Giveaway

We’ve partnered with En Masse to give away a limited number of alpha keys for Closers! Closers begins its alpha testing this weekend!

Closers is an online action RPG which follows the exploits of an elite team of psychic teens in the futuristic city of New Seoul as they balance the everyday obligations of high school life with the daunting task of saving all of civilization from an army of invading interdimensional aliens. In Closers, you will become an elite agent of UNION, an organization dedicated to dealing with the threat of interdimensional aliens spilling through a series of mysterious portals that have appeared throughout New Seoul.

At launch, players will choose one of five playable members of the Black Lambs team: Seha, a reluctant combat genius, Sylvi, the dedicated leader, Yuri, the skilled martial artist who only recently discovered her powers, Misteltein, a prodigious young boy with amazing support skills, and J, the grizzled veteran with a troubled past. Each character’s unique personality and combat style will allow players to chart their own path through a complex, branching narrative, upgrading their skills and weapons along the way, and unlocking amazing new powers in a quest to snuff out a gargantuan interdimensional threat.


What You Get:

  • One Alpha key: This key will grant access to the alpha test starting on Friday, September 29 at 9AM PDT, and all subsequent weekend alpha tests!

How to Redeem Your Code:

  1. If you don’t already have one, sign up for an En Masse account at https://account.enmasse.com/closers/sign-up
  2. Download the En Masse  launcher at http://closers.enmasse.com/download
  3. Install and run the launcher and sign in with your En Masse account.
  4. Select the Closers tab and click on the “Redeem a Code” button.
  5. Enter your code and click the “Submit” button.
  6. You’re all set to begin playing on Friday, September 29 at 9:00 a.m. PDT.

Note: Unfortunately ad blockers may interfere with our site. If you have any issues claiming a key, please disable them and try again.

Insidia Early Access Thoughts

by Jason Parker (Ragachak)

Turn-based strategy games have to work pretty hard to stand out these days. From X-Com to Atlas Reactor, it feels like just about everything has been done. Enter Insidia, which has been compared to the slightly-older Atlas Reactor in that you have simultaneous turns and work towards a general goal. That’s about as far as they go for similarities though. Instead of having to hope your team works together and has a general strategy, it’s all put upon you. The general premise is, you pick a team of four heroes and deploy on a map, with a goal of destroying the other team’s base. In general, the matches will last about fifteen minutes, controlling key objectives on the map to destroy the defenses of the opponents base. This, for the most part, felt very clear, but I would have games where I won and had no idea how, until I realized that surrendering counts as a win for you. So, that was a positive!

Insidia - Moves

Read fast!

However, I feel it’s important to say that do not plan anything during the time you are playing Insidia. The timer for your turn actions are incredibly short (15/20 seconds~) and unless you don’t see the symbol under a character, you might not be aware that they can’t perform an action that turn. But this shouldn’t be a problem because the tutorial is fairly clear. One of the most important things to know is that you cannot take an action on consecutive terms. Also, if you move a unit too far (which is clearly indicated on the map) then they cannot perform an action. This is not a game that features auto-attacks either. You don’t have a standard “attack” ability; everything is based on your abilities. Each of these champions has a passive, standard ability, and an ultimate, which everyone So you have a crew of characters; six now, and twelve total when the game goes fully live. How do you deal damage? By luring characters into traps like the landmines of Naira, the Sniper, or you rely on their passives. That’s where the combo system comes into play.

Insidia - Line of Sight

Can you tell if I have line of sight?

Each character’s passive does something different. For example, Naira fires a shot dealing four damage to the closest enemy, provided she has line of sight. This would trigger Gunther’s passive, Stone Warden. Once a nearby enemy (melee range) has taken damage, Gunther strikes them for 2 damage. Not all of the Passives are this easy to control though. Infestus, the Gatekeeper’s reads: “Miasma: If any unit is near a Blight Tendril, they release a poisonous cloud, dealing three damage to all in range.” And Angor, the Eternal Hunger’s passive, Frenzy, sends him charging three spaces and deals damage to the first unit hit, which can definitely be one of your own. The other team has an Angor, and you want to punish their greed? Use Gunther’s Gravitation Pull to tug someone into the path of Angor, and force them to take damage, then smite them with his passive. You have to put real, serious thought into what your team composition is, and from the moment you see the enemy team is, you must consider what they can do. But it’s not always clear as it could be: I had no idea from one minute to the next if someone was in Naira’s line of sight.  If there’s a way to tell, it’s not obvious.

Insidia - Common Starter

It’s not uncommon to drop Shiryo first.

So if turns happen simultaneously, how do you figure out exactly who does what when? They use an “Initiative” system. Each character has an Initiative stat, so depending on who you decide to activate and use, they might go first. The current fastest character is Shiryo, the Spirit Blade. He’s an assassin, with an initiative of 70. So if you deploy Shiryo (probably the smartest move, which I’ll get into), and they deploy Gunther, with his 35, and those are the only two characters on screen, you’ll go first, no question. If you both have the same initiative, whichever character has a Golden Ring around their “Done” button will act first. If you don’t see it on your screen, then you’ll know it’s the opponent. But wait! There’s another thing to consider: Quick abilities. There are a few abilities that have “Quick” on their descriptor. That means it will activate instantly on the Resolution phase. Consider it an Instant like in Magic: the Gathering. So a team of all slow powerhouses might be fun in the beginning, but once you lose all the objectives, a valuable lesson will be learned. Personally, I think a smart strategy for almost any game for turn one is to play Shiryo to your top/bottom Energy Pools and leave him there. Each turn he’s on the field but hasn’t attacked, he stacks up to four spirit charges, which boost his damage for his attack/ultimate. If you hold this one or the center platform without interruption for three turns, you gain an advantage towards defeating the other team.

Insidia - Combo Time

Mmm. Combos.

So let’s talk about the actual gameplay now. You have two phases: Tactical Phase (where you move a character/perform an action) and Resolution Phase (when the move/actions actually take place). There’s a cross in the center of the field, and holding it for three turns gives you a boon. If you can hold it for three turns without an enemy taking it or standing on it, you’ll gain a gun that blasts the enemy base. Each player has three statue in their base, with three charges on them. Getting rid of all three will blow up that statue and open a gateway. That’s when Shiryo charges their base, kills anyone in the way, and win the game! If you get a character into the enemy base, you gain a new command, a “sabotage” command. It destroys their base, and you win! You don’t have to beat all three gates, but it does give you more options. But there’s another way to win which I have had way more success with. If you simply defeat all three platforms in their base, you also will win. But how do you get this victory? After a champion is killed, it can be respawned, but it must be respawned in their base. This weakens the base as if the mid platform were captured (one mark off a statue). I managed to lock down several players with just three characters, holding the middle and setting up a combo, forcing them to respawn and come to me.

 

Insidia - Character Screen

It’s small right now, but it’s growing.

It’s definitely a good start

When I started, Insidia was infuriating. There was no bot mode (but there is now!) and with the insanely fast timer and only a brief tutorial, I was obliterated because I wasn’t honestly sure what to do. And sometimes, the response of the controls are spotty and dreadful. I wasn’t always able to swap my character’s position when moving because the terrain was in my way. It was very much trial by fire. However, they do appear to be listening to their audience, and from what I understand the timer went up a few seconds and there is now also a Practice Mode. In Practice Mode, you do not have a timer, and so you can take as long as you need to figure out strategies and tactics. However, the NPCs seem kind of on the dim side, as it was very easy to beat the Practice Mode. I’d recommend some difficulty sliders for this. But it’s great to figure out your bearings, find what teams you like, and how to create combos. I also want to warn new players: the game has friendly fire mechanics. I have been stunned by my own Land Mines before. You can use this to your advantage though, Gravitation Pulling someone right into their own mines. It’s amazing to force someone to be stunned, hit them, and have Naira also hit them, reducing someone’s life to zero in one shot. I enjoy Insidia, but I do hope there will be more maps and a bit of variety in the characters.

Insidia -Victory

The ones that the game has now are interesting, but I am curious to see what they come up with next. It’s a game where if you don’t think on your toes, and aren’t paying attention, you will lose entire turns. I would be interested to see a pause command because you know, life happens. This is a game for people who have a good 15-20 minutes to kill and want to focus on pure, strategy gameplay. It does certainly offer a tactical environment. I enjoy it, but right now, it feels very clunky and unforgiving. It’s not easy to see your stats/skills in an actual match unless it’s your tactical phase. And then, it’s too short to really take advantage of! You have to make moves! I think what will make this stand out is a bit more variety. Maybe certain maps require different team numbers or different objectives? There’s a lot that can be done, and honestly, I enjoyed it for what it was. But it’s still early access and very much in development. We’ll have to see what comes next. The parts that are good are exceptionally good, but the parts that are frustrating are equally so.

Retrospective: Final Fantasy 30th Anniversary

Final Fantasy XII Video Thumbnail

Goodness. Has it already been thirty damn years? Well, Final Fantasy wasn’t my first RPG, but it was the second. And while I love Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy had a much bigger impact on my life as a whole. Final Fantasy 2 (4) was the game I was playing when I realized I wanted to write about video games as a career. The stories told, the unforgettable characters, the valuable life lessons hidden behind 16-bit graphics … From Final Fantasy IX’s “You don’t need a reason to help someone”, to spitting in the face of despair, and even in the worst of situations you can count on your friends and allies, like in Final Fantasy VI. The original Final Fantasy had a threadbare story, but even if it wasn’t always clear or sensible, the aspect of traveling back in time to break a time loop and save the world from Chaos, it was a remarkable experience. It would have been far better in those early games if they had better translations and less censorship, but that’s not an issue any longer. And we are going to get a “Final Fantasy 30th Anniversary Collection”, which makes me excited in ways I cannot even express. I’d love for it to come with Cartridges too, in a special edition, but I think that’s just hope.

FF 30th Anniversary

Though I’ve played every single Final Fantasy title that’s come to America, and some I had to trudge through using translations and other crap while I waited desperately for International Editions to come our way, I do have my favorites for a variety of reasons. Though to be frank, that list shifts and adjusts, depending on what I’m playing. Despite that, there are titles I love more than others, and that opinion’s not always popular depending on what crowd I’m around. But that’s okay! These stories are timeless, and though not many of them share any common ground, it’s still a group of heroes against desperate, dire odds to save the world. These stories have love, excitement, betrayal, sometimes the classes are defined and sometimes not. But what doesn’t change is how they have shaped my childhood and even adulthood. And we’ve had some crazy announcements to celebrate this! From Final Fantasy Wine to Final Fantasy VII Remake, it’s been a fun year of upcoming titles and thematic items. We already have Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, plenty of Final Fantasy XV DLC as well as Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood. But despite that, what are my personal favorites? Here are my top 5 Final Fantasy titles:

5. Final Fantasy XV: I didn’t expect to love Final Fantasy XV as much as I wound up. That was seriously the most depressing story in any Final Fantasy title that I’ve ever played. I’ll try not to spoil it, but the trials and tribulations of Noctis, the overwhelming loss coupled with the “Stand by Me” track was incredible. The characters were memorable, and the game was gorgeous. Being able to listen to past FF games while exploring was a nice bonus. Even in the era of “Season Passes”, it’s a must-play.
4. Final Fantasy IX: Final Fantasy IX is by all accounts, a tribute to Final Fantasy 1. It’s done in that retro style, using a lot of classic references to the earlier game. There are things I admittedly did not like (Zidane being a cat-person, jump-roping, the stupid, stupid, stupid card game. So… awful.) Despite this, the story was gripping, and the most intriguing part to me was Vivi and the Black Waltzes. Incredible summons, a pretty varied cast of characters kept this one alive with fun interaction and the bright atmosphere hiding something dark and sinister, it was really quite lovely.
3. Final Fantasy VI: Final Fantasy VI … the first RPG I played with multiple parties, the customization of the Esper System (that would later become the Materia System), hidden characters, orchestration such as I’d never heard before, an Opera scene, and … a villain that succeeds! Kefka is one of the only villains in the franchise to set out, have a goal, and do it! Sure, we beat him, but not before he recreates the world in his image using the Light of Judgment. Many times when prompted, VI is at the absolute top of this list. It was the first RPG I played with someone, instead of by myself. It has a lot of positives. It could be its own review!
2. Final Fantasy X: The spiral of death that is Final Fantasy X is marvelous. Tidus wasn’t the best or bravest, and honestly, kind of a chickenshit all things considered. He gets with it eventually, stops crying, and spends the game dealing with his Daddy Issues, and whether he even really exists or not. Probably one of my favorite soundtracks of any game ever, and though it has flaws, like the requirements for getting the Ultimate Weapons (Lulu, Tidus, looking at you!), the Int. Edition and accidentally running into the Dark Aeons and the ludicrous nature of farming for the Sphere Grid.
1. Final Fantasy IV: This is the one. This is the biggest Final Fantasy in my heart. I’ve played every single iteration that’s come out and bought them without reservation or shame. It’s a tale of love, loss. Heartbreak and revenge. Of man’s willingness to do what he’s told, and when to draw the line in the sand. It’s a game about right and wrong, restoring right, standing up no matter what to do what must be done. About retribution, turning from darkness to the light. That even villains can work together for a goal. Kain’s betrayal blew me away the first time, and then the second one hit me even harder because I couldn’t imagine it happening twice. The shifting of the party around, party members dying (even temporarily) was revolutionary. It makes my eyes water just thinking about it.

FFXIV-Review11

Every Final Fantasy is good in its own way. Even ones that aren’t Final Fantasy (Final Fantasy Adventure/Mana Series), Weird Sequels (X-2), and Trilogies (XIII). Even if it’s not in my top five (VI, VIII, II) it has positive points and things that are worthy of merit. What about you guys? Have any fond Final Fantasy memories to talk about? Let me know below!