When Dragon Age: Inquisition came out, I upgraded my a computer a bit so that I could play it without the game suiciding constantly. A side-effect of that was that I could run PS2 emulation on my PC pretty well. I’d been wanting to replay Suikoden V for some time, and from there I decided to just replay every Suikoden game. Thus, the Suikodening.
It took a few months for this to get off the ground, because that is how things always go with me but it is now underway. I also did some poking around and discovered that there are now fan translations of Suikogaiden 1 and 2 out there, so they’ll be included in this insanity. I’m going to play them after Suikoden II as Nash is introduced into the mainseries in Suikoden III.
I’ve already taken care of a new replay of Suikoden (the game was much shorter than I remember it being, but other than recruiting all the stars stars I didn’t really wander off the path much), so this is already my most successful video game project of all time!
I put up very boring streams on Twitch when I play unless I am just doing level-grinding type activities, so if watching RPGs happen on your screen sounds appealing to you follow along here: http://www.twitch.tv/leokittie. When I get to Suikoden IV I may set up a web-cam to show my annoyed at how bad the game is face for the amusement of any watchers.
Let the Suikodening begin.
Another year has passed and as usual, I spent far too much time in that year playing video games. I hope to break some of these paragraphs out into longer pieces where I can dig into specifics, but I have no idea if I’ll be able to follow up and deliver.
Games I Played
Age of Wonders III – The problem I have with all turn-based strategy games (not 4X, like Civilization) is that they are not Heroes of Might and Magic III. That said, Age of Wonders III is pretty solid and unlike previous entries in the series I feel like I actually know what I am doing when I play.
Bayonetta 2 – Deserves a longer write-up from me–I really mean to do these things, I swear–but my favorite game by a big margin in 2014. I have spent many quality hours with Bayonetta and pals, scooting around on my chainsaw skis and kicking both angels and demons in the face. Every Platinum game is wonderful (I can say this because I haven’t played Korra!), but Bayonetta is the best of their best. Bayonetta herself is just amazing to me, she is so control of everything around her and this is not only established in cutscenes but in how the game plays. The way Bayonetta walks, the animations when she fights, they all tell you how she is going to do what she wants and nobody is going to tell her no. The incredibly slick battle system helps project this attitude when you realize you are having as much fun kicking ass as the character on screen is shown to be having. Very seriously the best action game I’ve played, and stored in that same space in my heart where I keep Onimusha and Devil May Cry 3.
Bound By Flame – A flawed but honestly very enjoyable game. It seems to me to have gotten a bad rap because people come into it expecting one of the following: Dragon Age or Dark Souls. While it is closer to Dragon Age 2 than Dark Souls it is really not a whole lot like either of them. It’s a rough around the edges ARPG that requires the player to be willing to die a lot (this is where the Dark Souls comparisons come from, because * Souls games are the first where the player dies a lot!), and that they not just rush into action. The Dragon Age part comes from making a few decisions in the game that affect the way the story goes in a small way. The worldbuilding lore is very interesting and I hope that Focus Home Interactive has Spiders do a second one or maybe some DLC, but that is probably a dream.
Child of Light – I love this game so much it makes me want to cry. It is just a really beautiful experience all around. Interesting and well thought out battle system, beautiful art and a very sweet Grimm’s Fairy Tales type story. PLAY IT.
Divinity: Original Sin – Pretty good party-based CRPG that has the kind of problems that really annoy me. The controls in-battle are just clunky and it’s far too easy to do something you didn’t mean. The mouse-target floats way too much so I found myself going to a location instead of attacking a creature more often than is acceptable. The targeting is also bizarre in that it changes based on ??? and you’ll be told an enemy is “Out of Sight” and then five seconds later, nothing changes but suddenly you can attack. Very sloppy.
Dragon Age: Inquisition – After Dragon Age 2 my expectations were seriously low and I pre-ordered DA:I at the last minute just so I could bitch about being a stupid idiot (it’s a personal problem, ok?), but it turns out that it is a really effin good game. The story is the feature, the big world is just there for you to plow through things. The first area you play through is very MMOish which makes me think EA was planning to shift the game that way, which would have been a bad thing so I’m glad they didn’t. I do think that Bioware has now created so many branches that they’re going to have to retcon some of what they’ve decided is the canonical story but that’s their problem, not mine. Overall, though, DA:I it is at the same level and better in some respects than Dragon Age: Origins.
Half-Minute Hero: The Second Coming – Half-Minute Hero has a very specific audience: People who have played lots of JRPGs. I have played a lot of JRPGs. I very much enjoy HMH.
Legend of Grimrock 2 – I haven’t played nearly as much Legend of Grimrock 2 as I had hoped, but I think it’s really fab. It’s rather difficult but that doesn’t bother me at all. I spend way too much time in the character creation screen whenever I start a new party.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky – I know this came out on PSP earlier, but my PSP has been collecting dust for something like five years and I have no idea where the charger is anyway. Trails in the Sky, like the other Legend of Heroes games is a very straight-forward, story-focused JRPG that isn’t here to shake up JRPGs as we know them. A fun 30ish(?) hours or so, I am a sucker for dumb ~fight for your love~ stories so I am eagerly anticipating the release of the second in the series.
Road Not Taken – Who got emotions in my rogue-like?? This is an extremely haunting dungeon-crawler style game about rescuing children ever year when winter comes around. You have to decide how you’re going to play: Save all the kids, or save only as many as you need to. There are a lot of gutpunches. The game itself is a match-3 style puzzler where you arrange items on each screen to progress/save children/not freeze to death yourself/etc.
Shadowrun: Dragonfall – Director’s Cut – I installed Dragonfall and when I finally got around to playing it, Harebrained announced that they were doing the standalone Director’s Cut with improvements to gameplay so I waited it out. A good choice, as Dragonfall fixes some gameplay issues from the original Shadowrun Returns and offers an even better module. The game has some very solid writing and an excellent strategic battle system.
Strider – I really wanted to like this but I just felt like the levels aren’t done very well and drifted away from it before finishing, never to return.
Tales of Hearts R – I bought a Playstation TV around the time of the secret price drop that has become official just to play this game. I am a Tales maniac and it hurts me deeply when there are Tales games out there ready to be played in a language that I understand that I haven’t gotten around to. This is no Abyss but it is a very solid entry with an endearing story and some cool characters. The battle system is simplified from the full blown ones found on the console but it’s never been so easy to string together 300 hit combos and I enjoy doing that very much. It has a skill customization system that is pretty neat; you decide how to allocate certain points you gain while leveling up to different kinds of skills for each character. There are overlapping skills in each area between a few characters so this allows you to build your party based on which characters you like the best once you figure out how that’s all working. Honestly, though, all the characters in the game are good and fun to have around.
Tales of Symphonia Chronicles – Symphonia is my second-favorite behind Abyss. The HD collection allowed me to be a total sucker for Lloyd and Colette all over again and I don’t’ care if you think she’s annoying, Colette is the best and you are wrong. Dawn of the New World isn’t very Tales-like at all outside of fanservice cameos and a real-time battle system and I have no idea why they decided to go the monster-collecting route. You don’t even have Pokeballs or anything strategic, sometimes monsters just ask if they can join you randomly after battle. The random aspect of recruiting is a huge failure in the game design and drags the game down. Add the most annoying lead character this side of Graces and the game just doesn’t work.
Transistor – Gorgeous, but doesn’t really work for me. Enemies do too much damage, and the game tries to be both real time and turn-based at once through a “planning” screen you can use to queue up a series of attacks and it doesn’t mesh well.
Tropico 5 – Overhaul of the game systems after Tropico 3 & 4, adds some interesting stuff related to eras but doesn’t reach the level of the previous games. I buy that you can’t build an apartment building in the colonial era but you should be able to build a clinic, dammit. Outside of the structure of the game, they replaced the previous radio hosts with a rather annoying and offensive “spicy Latina” girl who talks a lot about how cute boys are and how if they’re mean to her she’ll kill them. Bring back Sunny and Penultimo, please.
Wasteland 2 – Very good RPG that would be my top of the genre this year if not for Dragon Age: Inquisition. Strong writing, strong battle system, lots of stuff to do all over the world in the game and it lets you do things how you want to do them. Sure, there are repercussions but one of the themes of Wasteland 2 is that there is no easy choice that fixes everything. It has immense replayability potential, there are at least three ways to do one area and get very different results.
Games I Watched My Husband Play
The following are some games I wanted to play, but let my husband get first dibs because he was more excited about them than me. I think they look cool and still intend to play through them:
- The Evil Within
- Infamous – Second Son
- Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes
Games I Meant To Play, But Didn’t Because I Played Some More Tropico 4 Instead
Ar Nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star – Waffled on buying this because Ar Qoga was not a particularly pleasant experience and then the year turned into 2015.
Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky – I usually fall into an Atelier related hole and emerge months later but I fell into a Tales related hole instead. I am 100% sure I will like this because I am the entire audience for Atelier games in the United States, I just wound up working towards platinuming older Atelier games and playing Tales of [X] and then I forgot it came out.
The Banner Saga – I backed this on Kickstarter and really, really meant to play it but I installed it and got sidetracked and never came back to it.
Dark Souls II – My husband got me a PS4 and so I decided to wait until it made its way to PS4.
Kirby: Triple Deluxe – My commute didn’t mesh very well with playing 3DS games last year so Kirby fell to the wayside.
Never Alone – Snatched this up straight away, ran out of time in the calendar year to play through.
Games I Am Probably Never Going to Play
Destiny – This is included because people have asked me about it; it is not my thing.
Sunset Overdrive – This one is sort of a lie, if it comes out for PC a year down the road I will definitely buy it and then theoretically play it. I do not have room in my living room for an XBox One until it has more than one game I am interested in, though.
Titanfall – Even less my thing than Destiny but people pretty frequently ask if I’ve played it at all. My answer is “nope”.
I’m working on a longer post for Friday with my gripes laid out but I just did a playthrough of Devil May Cry 3 and followed it up with DmC and I definitely have two posts of kvetching in me.
|Devil May Cry 3||DmC|
|Dante is a smartass cocky dude who is funny. He likes pizza and guitars.||Dante is a smartass cocky dude who is not funny. It is implied he has a big dick.|
|Vergil is a broody not-human with plans who is very good with a sword. He wears a cool jacket.||Vergil is a whiny not-human with plans who is not as good with a sword as Dante. He wears a dumb jacket.|
|Many options available to customize how you play through the game. Many different weapons and combat styles to choose from. Even a defense only first option if you are a weirdo who doesn’t just like to smash enemies blindly with a sword.||Dante has a sword and then there are some secondary weapons you have to hold down multiple buttons to use. You’ll hit the wrong ones sometimes and get annoyed.|
|Tight re-playable levels for those who like to go for better rankings.||You will not need to replay any levels unless you really enjoy collectibles or SSS rankings because if your hands can push buttons you will probably S/SS rank everything in normal difficulty without breaking a sweat.|
|Trish is not in this game.||Trish is not in this game.|
I’ve been poking around on Kickstarter for about two years now, backing games I thought sounded interesting and mildly safe when I remembered they exist/had some money to toss at a project. I forgot about the site for about 8 months because that’s how I roll. In any case, I figured it was a good time to take a look at projects I’ve backed and my level of satisfaction. I don’t get very involved in the community forums that spawn out of these projects and rely mostly on updates for information.
Mansion Lord – A Murder Mystery RPG/Business Sim (funded 12/19/2013)
This game just finished up its Kickstarter campaign so there’s nothing to update yet, but its target release date is Q3 2014. When I showed the project page to my husband he said “Yes, that looks like a very Leo game”.
Torment: Tides of Numenera (funded 4/5/2013)
inXile started this Kickstarter so that they could keep the pre-production team on after Wasteland 2 and now have to worry about filling any gaps. There was some mild feather ruffing when this happened but I thought it made sense given the nature of the game development cycle. And now I am a job creator (still waiting for my tax breaks, US Government!). As of their last update the game is finishing up pre-production (basic design choices, determining skills, etc), so I figure the game is about a year away from being delivered to backers. They’ve been sending updates on a biweekly schedule which keeps me–and I assume all the other backers–happy.
Unwritten: That Which Happened (funded 2/13/2013)
Unwritten was initially supposed to be an endgame development project that would take about six months to finish. Unfortunately the project lead had some very major family health issues that got in the way of development. Refunds are being given to people who ask and the team is still trying to finish the game, but it’s very much up in the air now as he had to take up a full time job again to support his family through crisis. I am not asking for a refund, as I accepted the risks involved in Kickstarting a project and am holding out hope that things will come together in the end. Unlike other failed/potentially failed projects the team has not been out of touch with the backer group and run away with the money, life just really sucks sometimes.
Shadowgate (funded 12/25/2012)
This is an update/remake of one of the fabulous ICOM games for NES. The developer (Zojoi) has been sending out monthly updates to keep backers informed of their progress. They’ve reached the internal alpha of the game and gotten the Greenlight on Steam and in general there is steady progress. Their release date is “early 2014″ which I take to really mean Q2. Since they’ve not hit beta yet it’s hard to say if they’ll reach this goal but fingers crossed.
Project Eternity (game now titled “Pillars of Eternity”) (funded 10/15/2012)
Obsidian sends out regular updates and as long as I get a game some day I will almost definitely be happy. I backed this game within 10 minutes of it going up and honestly Obsidian could do pretty much anything this side of killing my cats and I’d make excuses for them.
Duck Quest (funded 8/31/2012)
A little freeware game I thought looked cute enough to toss the creator a few bucks to help him finish things up. Unfortunately the creator got a lot more attention than he was expecting and fell behind in the delivery of pledge items, which caused a kerfuffle. I played the game itself and it is way cute and I enjoyed it for what it is (a small in scope flash game where you do cute things) and eventually got my reward (a cute postcard size print of a duck) so I’m satisfied, but I understand why others were not.
Defense Grid 2 (funded 8/14/2012)
I think I originally backed Defense Grid 2 because the lowest tier got you a copy of the first game and the upcoming DLC expansion for less than it would cost on Steam but I don’t actually recall why I felt motivated to do that. Last I checked they had a single-player alpha done. I figure when the game is ready it’ll be a nice surprise in my inbox because I keep forgetting it exists.
Tex Murphy: Project Fedora (funded 6/16/2012)
The Tex Murphy games are the only FMV adventure games that I thought were actually good and fun and not 7th Guest style not so good and amusing. The developers hooked up with ATLUS for publishing, which presumably also gives them some extra money and helped them get on Steam without having to go through Greenlight. A third trailer was released about three weeks ago and it looks like they’ll hit their Q1 2014 release date, which, yay! Niche projects like this are why I started poking around in the world of Kickstarter in the first place.
Two Guys Space Venture (by the creators of Space Quest) (funded 6/12/2012)
I enjoyed the Space Quest games a lot so backing them for a modest sum seemed like a no brainer if it got me something similar. The team has been making the rounds at conventions with the game and sending out way more updates than I can keep track of. They previously announced a release date of Q4 2013, but that obviously didn’t happen. Since then there’s been no estimate for when the game will come out because they prefer not to potentially blow another date, which makes a lot of sense and I support their decision as they definitely appear to be making progress with the game.
Alcarys Complex (funded 5/24/2012)
I am a giant massive crazy person for RPGs, but I tend to pass on funding them on Kickstarter. Too many of the indie RPG projects that show up are way too ambitious and being put together by people with very little experience. Also a lot of really terrible amateurish art. Alcarys Complex appealed to me because it had a clear non-crazy scope and professional enough looking art and Modest Arcade was looking for a small sum to finish things up and get the game out the door. It was released on October 29th, 2012 so they did a good job with that bit. I’ve played it a little and plan to get back to it later.
Grim Dawn (funded 5/18/2012)
Titan Quest was a great game with a cruddy publisher, so when a new ARPG made by the Lead Designer of TQ popped up on Kickstarter I plunked my money down immediately and started complaining that waiting for potentially cool things sucks. Things are moving along at a normal pace (which means too slow for my impatient self) and they have people poking around the Act 1 beta with Act 2 coming at the start of February. If you’re into early access you can get in on that action on Steam right now. If it wasn’t clear, I am excited for this one to finally drop.
Shadowrun Returns (funded 4/29/2012)
A cool looking RPG with a seemingly competent team behind development? Please take my money. The game was released in July with the first module and a really extensive editor for the community to make their own modules with Steam Workshop integration. I seriously haven’t seen something with as much potential as this editor since Neverwinter Nights. I’ve played through the first module, was very satisfied (and have a write-up coming soon, I swear) and am looking forward to the Berlin expansion.
Valdis Story: Abyssal City (funded 4/27/2012)
Metroidvania style game with multiple player-characters and a whole lot to do that I haven’t done yet. The game was delayed because of Hurricane Sandy fallout but was released in early September and came out very polished and playable. Another game I swear I’ll finish that write-up on soon.
Americana Dawn (funded 3/30/2012)
A freeware JRPG that takes place during the French and Indian War and American Revolution. Development is still underway (it’s a one person team!) but it’s getting there. I realize a lot of people use Kickstarter as a pre-order style system but I think it’s good to help out people with interesting ideas even if the end product is free.
The Banner Saga (funded 4/20/2012)
I backed The Banner Saga based almost entirely on the jaw-dropping artwork and pedigree of its developers. They wound up getting a lot more money than they expected and there was a pretty massive amount of scope-creep. An entire multiplayer freeware game was released, which frankly was pushing it but did have the benefit of testing out the game’s combat pre-release. The release date is a week from now, so hopefully the extra wait was worth it.
Wasteland 2 (funded 4/17/2012)
Wasteland, my old friend! I honestly felt obligated as an RPG fan to back this game. Like a lot of the early video game Kickstarters they were way too optimistic with their original release date and blew past it, but they’ve been making steady progress and backers of the appropriate tiers are in there poking around the Alpha (or Beta?). If you are bored and want to see crazy people on the internet being crazy (or just enjoy that sort of thing), I recommend reading the Steam community forums for the Early Access release.
Double Fine Adventure (game now titled “Broken Age”) (funded 3/13/2012)
This is the only Kickstarter so far where I regret pledging. What was initially pitched was a small in scope point and click adventure game and who could turn down one of those from Tim Schafer? However, they raised an immense amount of money and there was just an insane expansion of goals. Then they ran out of money, apologized, said they’ll release half the game and then if they have money release the second half. While all this is going on Double Fine is also doing things like recruiting Elijah Wood to do voice acting for them? Oh and also running a Kickstarter for another new game. I mean, really. Priorities, guys. I don’t even want to play the game anymore, I am so frustrated with how everything has gone. The game could be amazing and I would still call the Kickstarter a failure because of how things just spiraled out of control. I am patient, games take a long time to make, but “I designed too much and now we are running out of money” is not the same as “this game is taking longer to complete than we anticipated”. Maybe Schafer is one of those guys who really needs a publisher to rein him in.
Ys Origin originally came out in 2006 but only in Japan, leaving poor suckers like myself who desperately wanted to play it in a language we could understand waiting for a fan translation. The fan translation finally materialized in September, 2011 but by that time there were already rumors that XSeed was getting ready to release it digitally so I decided against importing it like I done with some other Ys titles.
For those unfamiliar with the series–it is, afterall, a niche franchise beloved by gigantic nerds like me but unknown to everyone else–it’s a long running series of action RPGs with lots of remakes and ports and re-releases. Origin is the first of the games to break from telling the story of red-haired Adol having adventures all over the place and finding bits of the leftover Ys civilization while solving other, more urgent problems. Origin is not about the origins of Adol and his gang but rather the tale great civilization of Ys fell.
The gameplay in Origin is pretty similar to the titles since The Oath of Felghana. You hit things with weapons, you have some spell options and there are platforming and puzzle elements. There’s not really any level grinding required as long as you don’t just blow past enemies without bothering to defeat them, which I think of as a huge plus. Overall, Origin plays like your standard action RPG, but it is so competently made and charming that it overcomes the run-of-the-mill press-x-to-attack gameplay and enter the really fun zone. The Ys games have a formula that has been pretty much perfected and just own it completely.
The other thing Ys games always do well–and it’s an element of Origin that I enjoyed a whole lot–is giving you tough, interesting boss battles. In Origin once you are about a quarter way done with your long climb up the tower they suddenly become something like a SHMUP. The bosses have several attacks, shoot a whole lot of different stuff at you and require a tactical approach. It’s not R-Type Final, but here’s a video of the first boss that does this in the game:
I love it! There’s not a really a moment where you can just stand still (which in Ys means no healing!). It’s intense, and it’s fun. When I beat bosses in Origin I was very pleased with myself.
As it goes on the bosses become more and more like they were ripped out of a SHMUP. When you get to the final boss there is stuff all over the place and you are constantly running and reacting to whatever attack he’s queued up. The frenzied music works perfectly with what’s going on in the game. It’s just amazingly well put together.
If you don’t mind spoilers, or don’t think of a boss fight with no story context as one, here’s what that last battle looks like:
Ys: Origin is a niche game because of the market it inhabits, not its appeal to a wide audience. If you enjoy hitting monsters with weapons, sometimes setting creatures on fire and light puzzle fare then this is a game (and series) you’ll dig.