Friday, May 22, 2015

Puzzles, Dragons, and Mario?

There was a free demo for the 3DS Mario version of Puzzle and Dragon on the eShop so I grabbed it to see what the game was about.

I've never played Puzzle and Dragons before, but what I found was a game somewhere between a Bejeweled, Puzzle Quest, and Terra Battle.  If you're not familiar with those games, it's basically a game where you're trying to match 3 or more gems of the same color in a row or column.  Every time you start moving a gem it shifts all the others it travels through in order to get to it's final destination.  The game quickly becomes more about bumping other gems around rather than concentrating on the gem you're dragging.  Moving the gem around is timed, but you can freely move it as much as you want and as far as you want within the time limit.

You end up trying to bump as many gems into combos as you can within the time limit to set up massive damage.  You have a team of characters sitting above the gems, and those team members correspond to gem colors.  When you match up gems of their color they will attack.  So, line up 3 or more red gems and all your red characters will attack the enemy.

I had fun playing the intro level to the Mario version of Puzzle and Dragons but I got demolished in the expert level.

I felt like I must be missing something so I grabbed the regular Puzzle and Dragons on my phone and started to play (since it's free to play).  After less than a day I'm already bored of it.  It's completely designed to make you start running into roadblocks so you need to pay to play adequately.  Once I reached that point - and it only took a few hours -  I deleted the app from my phone and moved on.

Then I went back to the Puzzle and Dragons Mario Edition and tried the expert level again, thinking that maybe my newfound skill would help me.  It did not.

Now I'm kind of caught in a dilemma.  The core gameplay of Puzzle and Dragon isn't bad for a puzzle game, it's actually kind of fascinating.  The thing that turned me away from the game is the freemium/F2P structure... but the Mario version won't have that.  But apparently the Mario version gets very hard and that can be just as frustrating.

I'll probably hold off while I wait to read some reviews on the Mario version.  I'm glad I played around with these games a bunch, now I know what people are talking about when they mention the craze that is Puzzle and Dragons in Japan.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Thor: God of Thunder

Thor: God of Thunder is an awesome run of comics.  I want to tell you about it but I haven't done much writing about comics in the past.  I'm going to try anyway.

By picking up a Marvel Unlimited subscription earlier this month I've been able to dive into the entire Marvel backlog of comics.  Without having to worry about price I've been exploring all kinds of comics.  I give a new series an issue or two to grab me and then I either read the entire run or I move on to something else.

Thor: God of Thunder has been one of the best runs I've read.

It requires no previous knowledge about Thor or the greater Marvel Universe.  This is a huge plus for people like me who are just starting to get into comics.

The run comes in at about 25 comics, which is also a plus for me.  Long enough to tell some big story archs with weight behind them.  But not too long to overstay it's welcome.

Thor: God of Thunder actually covers Thor in three different time periods of his life at the same time.  They all weave together to tell a cohesive story on a galactic level.  There's Thor as a young god before he got his hammer, Thor as we know him (the Avenger), and old Thor who is one of the last gods.

The first arc of the story involves a God Killer.  He goes around to all the deities he can find and wipes them out.  Thor tries to track him down and end his killing spree.

There's a lot of depth to this series and if you have Marvel Unlimited I highly suggest checking it out.  Look for Thor: God of Thunder (2012) in the app and you'll find it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Final Fantasy Tactics Advance

After my disappointing stint with Final Fantasy Tactics I thought I would go back to some of my early Final Fantasy roots and dig out my copy of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.  This is my all time favorite Game Boy Advance game and it's one of the Final Fantasy games that I've put the most time into.

When I booted up the game for the first time I already had two separate save games on the cartridge, each with over 50 hours played in them.

I started up a new game and after the intro missions it all came flooding back to me.  I have such strong memories of playing this game.  It's really good!  The general battle structure is similar to Final Fantasy Tactics but it gets rid of the deal-breaking annoying features of that game.

I love Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and I've beaten it multiple times.  And you know what?  After a couple hours with it I realized that I don't feel the need to beat it again right now.  It's a great game but I've already finished it in full on many occasions.  I don't think a long enough amount of time has passed for me to dig into this one again.

I'm going to put this game down with fond memories, knowing that I'll pick it up again some day in the future.  It really is a fantastic game.  But playing Final Fantasy Tactics Advance reminded me that I have never finished it's sequel, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance 2.  So that's the next game I'm diving into.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Star Wars Lords of the Sith

I just finished Star Wars Lords of the Sith and it was excellent!

It's a novel in the new Star Wars canon.  It's about the Twilek struggle on their home planet of Ryloth and how the Empire interferes with them.  But that's more the backdrop than anything else.  What this book is truly about is the relationship between Darth Vader and the Emporer.

Through the eyes of both Vader and members of the resistance on Ryloth we get to see the events unfold as an assassination attempt is made against the Sith Lords.

This is one of the more interesting looks at Vader's character development that I've ever seen.  It does a good job of having Vader deal with his past as Anakin and in the process we, as the reader, get to learn more about the Dark Side of the Force.

I'm not sure how to talk more about what I liked in this novel without ruining some of the plot.  But, it's an easy recommendation if you're curious about Vader, the Emperor, or the Dark Side and want to learn more.

It looks like so far they've done a consistently good job with media in the new canon of Star Wars.  I'm still adjusting to having the old Expanded Universe wiped out, but if things continue like this I'll be happy.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Force Unleashed II

I picked up The Force Unleashed and The Force Unleashed II last a few weeks ago in the Star Wars Steam sale.  After messing around in the original game for awhile I moved on to the sequel.  It's a better game by far.

I had much more fun playing around with it.  There are a ton of extra abilities and powers that are unlocked from the very beginning of the game which make it fun right away.  The controls are also tighter and the level designs are more interesting.  In all respects this seems like the superior game.

I don't think there has been a long enough amount of time since I last played it.  I remember the game really well, so it wasn't as exciting as last time I played it.  And unlike when I picked up the original The Force Unleashed last week, this one doesn't have DLC that I had never played.

So I'm done with The Force Unleashed II after playing with it for a few hours, but I'm leaving it on a happy note.  There's still a really good game here and I know I'll revisit it eventually.  And now I have it in my Steam library thanks to a great sale!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Starting SWTOR, Abandoning SWTOR

I've said in the past that one of the only things that would get me into SWTOR is if they made it possible to only play the story while ignoring the grind.  About a week after I said that on Twitter one of my friends pointed me to the announcement that all storyline missions would get a 12 times experience boost starting May 4th for the summer.

So I had to try it out.

I was immediately drawn in by the Star Wars aesthetics.  I love the universe and the lore so much.  And then I was almost as immediately let down by the MMO-ness of the game.

Apparently all my time with Final Fantasy XIV had tricked me into thinking that I enjoyed the MMO genre again.  That's not true.  I like Final Fantasy XIV, but it does a lot of things that separate it from the rest of the genre.  SWTOR doesn't do anything like that.  It just has the Star Wars IP going for it.

I tried to just play it like a single player game.  I did love the original Knight of the Old Republic single player game and this is supposed to be a true follow-up to it.

I got a Bounty Hunter to 25 before giving up on the character.  The story wasn't grabbing me and the planets I was on were very dull and uninteresting.

I asked some people I trust on Twitter about other class quests and I decided to give Sith Warrior a shot.  It was much more fun!  I liked the story a lot more than the Bounty Hunter, but after getting the Sith Warrior into the mid-20s the MMO-ness of the game wore on me too much.  I couldn't do it anymore.

So I'm done.  I gave SWTOR a good try.  I got two separate classes over a third of the way through their individual class quests and the game still didn't hook me.

Now I know that Final Fantasy XIV is an exception when it comes to MMOs for me.  Not the rule.  This makes me much less likely to try going back to other MMOs in the future.  Instead, I'll bide my time waiting for the Final Fantasy XIV expansion to come out.  At least now I know.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Revisiting Destiny and the Level Gap

I've been playing Destiny some more.  It's my current exercise-bike game.  I'll play it for an hour or two at a time while I'm doing my exercise for the day.

The gameplay still hold up really well.  The core of the game is just superb.  The gunplay, melee, grenade, and super power balance is spot on.  It's amazing how great they made it.

Now that I'm almost done leveling up my second character through the story I'm noticing some of the same issues creeping up.

My main problem with the game is that after you hit level 20 there is no clear progression track if you're a solo player like me.  I don't have time to organize groups of people to do the hard mode strikes or the endgame raids in Destiny.  The matchmaking works just fine for normal strike missions, but it falls apart after that.  And there is no matchmaking at all for raids.

I currently have a level 26 Warlock and an almost level 20 hunter.

Tons of information about the new expansion came out last week, and while some of it looks like it would be perfect for me I don't think I can play it.  The content starts at level 28.  My highest character is level 26.  There's no clear path for me, as a solo player, to get two more light levels.  So, an expansion that would be a day one buy for me (because of the new co-op mode) has become a never buy.

The Destiny team needs to take a note from the way MMOs typically do expansions.  They always seem to give returning players a clear and quick way to dive into the new content.  If Destiny had that, I would grab the new expansion for the co-op mode alone.