Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Wargroove: Fun Based Strategy Game, a Quick Review

Wargroove is a stylish turn-based strategy game with gorgeous pixel art visuals from developer Chucklefish.

Upon loading into Wargroove you are greeted with an anime cut scene that teases the rise to power of a young queen and her dog companion. Shortly thereafter we learn that Queen Mercia is forced to flee her home in the Cherrystone Lands and go on a pilgrimage to save her people and to reestablish her kingdom.


While the game is visually stunning it isn't all flash and no substance. There is a compelling campaign with well-written characters that range from humorous to sullen, and righteous to shifty. There are also a number of optional side missions which progress individual character narratives outside the main story. These side missions once completed unlock options for you to play as different characters in the arcade mode.

Besides the main campaign, Wargroove has a number of ancillary systems as well. There is a map editor and campaign editor. As well as the ability to upload your maps and have other players take part in your content. This user-generated content could lead to Wargroove having a long tail for die-hard and casual fans alike. Online coop play will also be cross-platform between the PC, Xbox, and Switch.



Wargroove has everything you would expect from a strategy game. A large number of different units to select from each with there own strengths and weaknesses. Command units that have special abilities known as grooves that make them more than just another unit with higher than average defense and damage output. Wargroove by default can be a challenging game. Fortunately, Chucklefish built in a number of options to allow you to tune the difficulty of the game. From hardcore down to baby mode. I had to turn down the enemies' damage output on a few missions in order to complete them. 

My only real complaint about the game has to deal with the UI. When inspecting a unit it can be hard to tell what other units they are strong or weak against. This is the only time the game's art really works against it. The game also doesn't have any character development elements through experience gains or a skill improvement system. The only character progression is narrative. 


Due out February 1st for the XBox, PC, and Nintendo Switch. A PS4 port is set to follow sometime in the near future. This is one game I can say with certainty that if you are a fan of turn-based strategy or fantastic pixel art Wargroove is well worth your $20. If you are a fan of either Advanced Wars for the Gameboy Advanced of the Fire Emblem series you'll enjoy Wargoorve.

Score: 8 out of 10

A review key for the Nintendo Switch was provided by the Wargroove PR team.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Darksiders III: A Step Back for the Franchise

Like many of you, I've been patiently waiting for the release of Darksiders 3. For the longest time, I didn't think it would happen. With THQ's bankruptcy and the IP acquisition by Nordic. Then when I learned it would I was excited. I could patiently wait to see what the new developer would bring. But now that it has? I almost wish it hadn't.

To begin with the new Horseman, Fury, is a subpar character. It's like Gunfire Games went out of their way to make her unlikeable after giving her such an amazing new weapon. Sure these are the Horseman of the Apocalypse and not the nicest Nephilim on Earth but she comes off as the Starscream of the Decepticons. Whiney, petulant, and self-serving. She doesn't want to save her brothers out of any sense of familial responsibility. She wants to save them so she can be the boss.


This newest entry to the franchise undoes a lot of the improvements made in Darksiders 2 over the original. This game is less focused on finding new gear and weapons and powering them up. Instead, you'll focus on gaining new abilities.

The game also places a heavy emphasis on puzzle solving and platforming. However, some of the puzzles aren't intuitive and are just downright frustrating, not fun. Also in the early game, Fury's jumps are awkward and do not handle well. This takes what should be one of the highlights of the game, the environment, and makes it frustrating to navigate around in. 

It's not all doom and gloom though. One nice thing is that within the first few minutes of actual gameplay you'll be in your first boss battle. The bosses are not easy. Some of them are as much puzzle as they are combat. This boss immediately sets that tone.

The two things I enjoyed the most about the game was the aesthetics and Fury's chain swords. It looked like an evolution of the Darksiders Franchise. As soon as I hopped in I felt, yep, this is a Darksiders game. Also playing with the new chain weapon was a lot of fun over just the standard sword. Unfortunately, the rest of the experience didn't pan out. 

I played an advanced review copy on the XBox One X provided by the developer and the game suffered from unsteady frame rates. I also had the game crash after defeating a sin and I had to replay the entire stage, which while not too difficult is a bit of a gut punch. It goes from a triumphant to a defeated moment in the blink of an eye. Hopefully, this is something they can patch in the near future.

6/10

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Shadow of the Tomb Raider: Workout and Review

Shadow of the Tomb Raider comes out tomorrow and if you haven't heard by now it's pretty rad. I reviewed it for MMORPG and you can check it out here. There is a delightful conversation in the comments too, which is rare.



I created a funny little workout for it while I was reviewing the game. I have a stationary bike, yes I've joined the cult of Peloton, (you can find me under Grak) and I thought some of you might enjoy it so I've chosen to share it with you.

You can pick whatever works best for you for length. I would usually choose a 30-35 minute scenic ride. It wouldn't work well to choose a live or VOD class. I would then establish my flat road with at least an 80 cadence. I'd suggest no less than 30 on resistance. I started off with 40 and made it one higher each time. By now my flat road is up to 45. This is what keeps it interesting. Whenever you hit a loading screen (which isn't that often unless you die) sprint! Get your cadence up to over 100 until the game is done loading. Whenever you find a relic or document, you have to climb and get out of the saddle. Read the text and once you are done you can go back to seated. By the end of the 30 minutes, you'll have got a fair amount of game time in, had some fun, and got a heck of a workout.

That's it. It's quick, simple, and fun. I hope some of you have fun with it.


Friday, August 31, 2018

Dragon Quest XI: My Review for MMORPG

So this is another title I reviewed for my old site. If you are interested in Dragon Quest XI make sure to stop over at MMORPG.com and give this one a look. You can find it here.



All you really need to know is that it's an instant classic. This franchise has been gone far too long from the west and I'm glad it's back.


Saturday, August 25, 2018

5 Things to Know Before You Start Dragon Quest XI

Dragon Quest XI is due out soon. I wrote a post about it for my friends over at MMORPG.com. You can find the list 5 Things to Know Before You Start Dragon Quest XI here. There are really a few more because I was feeling cheeky. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the game. I'll have a full review out soon!

Things to Know Before You Start Dragon Quest XI

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A Filthy Casual's Return to WoW

I've spent a lot of time back in World of Warcraft with their recent release of Battle for Azeroth. For those keeping count at home that is the seventh expansion.

I found Pooh and Pals.
I wrote an article for MMORPG today going over some of my initial thoughts. You can check it out here. I'll follow that up with some more thoughts on the blog later next week.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Dead Cells: I'm Up, I'm Dead, Let's Do it Again. A Quick Review

I hate to die in games. I know I'm not the only one that shares in this frustration. It's why I find my fascination with Motion Twins new roguelike platformer Dead Cells so interesting. It's a game where you have to die, and I've become okay with that.
Don't get me wrong. When I'm on a deep run and have collected 20 to 30 cells and assume I'm close to making it to the collector and die... well, that still pisses me off. But I find myself sucked back in each time.


From the Ramparts, we watch, what was so gallantly streaming (the banners).
The outstanding pixel art was the first thing that gripped me. The character model of the decapitated protagonist, the prisoner, is well designed; tall, slender, and graceful. The animations are fluid and add personality, even humor (wait until he flips you the bird). The stages are varied beginning with the prison. You'll traverse sewers, castle walls, and even fishing villages. The color palettes for each stage are varied and feel different from any place you've been before.

These sewers don't have sharks, but they do have scorpions!

Combat is fast, fluid, and smooth as glass. There are a variety of different weapons, from swords to bear traps, that let you fight in a myriad of different ways. Even with a lot of enemies on the screen and effects taking place the frame rate never fell. The controls are also precise. Even when double jumping through wide spaces I felt like I had control over where my character would land. Barrel rolling through enemies, throwing traps, and blocking with a shield all happened when I wanted them to.

Like any good roguelike once you die it's back to the beginning. Your mass of goop of a character will spawn back in the prison. The layout of the stages will change from the previous run. The only thing you'll keep is certain bonuses that you can buy from the collector, like the ability to use potions, or runes that you'll collect from killing minibosses, one of the earliest is a rune that allows you to grow vines to climb to higher areas. As you unlock these runes you'll also open up the ability to access different stages. Instead of going through a promenade you can cut through the sewers.

Mixing it up with the undead in prison.

You'll have competing interests as you progress through a stage. If you kill the bad guys you'll earn cells and coins. You can buy better weapons with the money. You can buy bonuses from the collector with the cells. As you make your way through a stage you don't have to kill the enemies, you pass by them and press on. The reason this is important is that some doors are locked on timers. Typically there is a lot of items stored in those rooms so you have to decide is it worth skipping enemies in hopes of finding one of these rooms or do you want to farm bad guys for gold? You can also discover plans for powerful weapons as drops from enemies that you then turn into the collector and have to unlock with cells. This sense of micro progression in each successive run keeps you invested each time you die even if you don't make it all the way to the end.

What Dead Cells lacks in story it makes up for in character. From the prisoner to the enemies to the NPC's you'll meet along the way. The game is gorgeous, the protagonist handles like a finely tuned machine, and the system never feels like it cheats you when you die. It is a solid platformer and a great roguelike.


Score 9/10 The game is Fantastic!


A review copy of Dead Cells for the XBox One was provided by Motion Twin's PR team.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Diablo 3 Headed to the Switch? Look for Blizzcon Announcement

Remember when Blizzard teased the world with this tweet?

It's hard to believe but that was almost 6 months ago. Everyone at the time thought they knew what it meant, and they were probably right, they just were not clear on the timing.

Blizzcon is 90 days from now and I can state with some certainty that Diablo III on the Nintendo will be one of Blizzard's big announcements. Hopefully, it isn't THE big announcement or even the big Diablo announcement. Sure this game will sell, but at this point, I doubt even I would buy it. It would be awesome if the announcement tied in with a simultaneous release on the Nintendo eShop.

Hopefully, we will get some other news about a new Diablo game but other than the job postings I haven't heard any rumors about Diablo 4 or World of Diablo. However, I'll take bets that Nintendo Switch Diablo III will be part of the buzz.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

VAMPIRE: THE MASQUERADE, LAUNCHES AT GENCON 2018 Today! (Press Release)

LONG-AWAITED FIFTH EDITION OF CLASSIC TABLETOP RPG AND CULTURAL PHENOMENON, VAMPIRE: THE MASQUERADE, LAUNCHES AT GENCON 2018

An Exploration of Evil and Morality Awaits in White Wolf Entertainment’s Vampire: The Masquerade Fifth Edition

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN (AUGUST 2, 2018White Wolf Entertainment, creators of the transmedia World of Darkness story universe, today announce that their iconic vampire tabletop roleplaying series moves into the 21st century with the release of Vampire: The Masquerade Fifth Edition (V5). The beloved roleplaying game of personal and political horror launches on the GenCon 2018 show floor in Indianapolis, Indiana. Online purchase is now also available in digital format from worldofdarkness.com and in physical formats exclusively from distributor Modiphius Entertainment



V5 is a return to the vision of the 1991 Vampire: The Masquerade, the classic that changed roleplaying games forever, and spawned a supernatural transmedia universe that’s influenced two-and-a-half decades of film, television shows, novels and video games. Rooted in the exploration of evil and morality, the Vampire series challenges players to confront — or channel — their inner monster and exploit the weaknesses of society to satiate their desire for power — and thirst for blood. Featuring a streamlined and modern rules set, beautiful full-color art and photography, and a rich story experience, this new edition of Vampire: The Masquerade will enrapture both new and returning players. 

“With the launch of V5, today marks an incredible milestone in the history of Vampire: The Masquerade,” said White Wolf CEO Tobias Sjögren. “The fifth edition of Vampire is the culmination of 30 years of creative efforts by White Wolf, its partners, and of course, the passionate global community of players and fans. It’s an experience we expect longtime fans will find engaging, while similarly bringing newcomers into the World of Darkness.”



V5 consists of three main full color hardback books —  the V5 corebook, the Anarch and Camarilla sourcebooks (the latter two available November 2018) — as well as an official V5 dice set, V5 storyteller screen and V5 notebook. All three books will also be available in a high quality slipcase along with a special edition of the corebook. For those wanting to mark the occasion of this new edition, a collector's edition of the corebook as well as a limited-print luxury leatherbound Methuselah Bundle will also be available. Please visit the order page for more details: https://www.modiphius.net/collections/vampire-the-masquerade.  

The physical V5 corebook is now available for purchase online from White Wolf distribution partner Modiphius Entertainment and in brick-and-mortar shops this month. Each physical corebook includes a complimentary digital copy. There is also a free V5 Quickstart Guide, intended to get players right into the action fast with minimal setup time available at worldofdarkness.com. Early hardback copies of the V5 corebook are available now for purchase from GenCon 2018 at the White Wolf booth (#509) and Modiphius booth (#2563). 



Starting this winter, translated editions of V5 will become available in French, German, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish, with more languages to be announced.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Banner Saga 3: A Quick Review

The Banner Saga 3 brings to close the epic tale steeped in Norse mythology that Stoic Studio began to spin with the original Banner Saga in 2014.

The Banner Saga trilogy has always struck me as a re-imagining of the schoolhouse classic Oregon Trail. Only instead of caulking the wagons and fording the river hoping not to drown or later down the road be killed by dysentery, you're pushing from one town to the next trying to outrun the darkness, and not be killed by the Dredge.

Your Banner grows long on the Oregon Viking Trail.
The Banner Saga 3 begins where your adventure in the Banner Sage 2 ended. While you can play Banner Saga 3 without having played any of the previous entries (there is a short catch up video you can watch) it's really not worth it. I'd recommend you wait until the Banner Saga Trilogy is released in a few days. The game does little in the way of world building and leans heavily on you having played the previous entries.

This is not Frozen the Tactical RPG.
The art style of the Banner Saga is fantastic. From the battle maps to the small vignettes that push the story forward. There is also active art that has slight movement to keep scenes from becoming stale while your characters converse.

Great animation style of vignettes.
Your choices in the Banner Saga 3 continue to have consequences that you'll be held accountable for later on, much like the earlier entries in the saga. To show mercy or to kill a rival? Whether to participate in a battle or not? The outcome is not always what you hoped it would be. This also offers a level of replayability to the game.

The majority of the game plays out with you either on the battlefield or caravanning across town or in the darkness. The caravanning aspect is why I always draw the parallel to the Oregon Trail. Along your way, you can meet people that can join as clansman or fighters. However, these choices will impact your moral and your food reserves. You don't always want to bring everyone along. Sometimes you'll also be forced to leave people behind to reinforce strategic positions.

In combat, you'll position your players along a square grid and attack your enemies with different skills based upon your class. Kill the enemies and earn renown. As you gain enough renown you can promote your characters. One of the key aspects of combat in Banner Saga is whether you attack your enemy and deal damage to their health or break their armor. If you choose to break their armor you can thenlaterr attack them with another character and deal more damage to their health than if both characters did normal attacks against a particular enemy.

Good luck trying to read that small black font on the red background in handheld mode.
For those of you that are going to play the Banner Saga 3 on the Nintendo Switch beware that their are some screens that are difficult to read in handheld mode. Take a look at the last screenshot for an example. Two other minor annoyances for all systems have to deal with the camera. The first being you cannot rotate the camera around the battlefield and this can make it annoying or even difficult to select a target or move without running over a hazard. The second is the camera isn't active and won't move to a character your enemy has targeted and chosen to attack. If you are looking at the wrong part of the screen you can miss it.

The Banner Saga 3 is a good tactical RPG and does a fine job closing out the Banner Saga. If you enjoyed the previous 2 games this is a definite purchase. If this game strikes your fancy but you haven't played any of the others yet wait a few days and pick up the trilogy instead.


7 out of 10.

A review copy of Banner Saga 3 was provided by Versus Evil's PR team for the Nintendo Switch.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Titan Quest: A Quick Review

Over the last 15 months, there have been almost 1000 games released on the Switch eShop. That's a staggering number. However, there is a drought of ARPGs. Blizzard teased Diablo and the other giant ARPG on the market, Path of Exile, is grinding away on the PC and XBox, but still, no mention if either is headed to Nintendo's knockout platform. That leaves Titan Quest uniquely positioned to take advantage of that genre gap.


Titan Quest isn't a new game. It is a refresh of the ARPG released all the way back in 2006. The problem is the game still feels like it is from 2006. That's not to say it's bad. It's just dated and it feels like an old game with a new coat of paint. Particularly when it comes to targeting enemies and player combat animations.

Most modern ARPG controls are intuitive. Sure there will be some special functions that are unique to the game but the ability to switch targets should be something easily done. I could never find this information in Titan Quest's tutorials or help functions. I had to search the internet to find if it was even possible. And before you say "Oh no Rob, you had to look something up on the internet!" yes I understand it wasn't that difficult to do, however; good games are designed well enough that I shouldn't have to. It turns out you can select a new target and you don't have to run away to do so. But it does require you to have to hold down your attack button and then push a direction with your left thumbstick and a wedge will appear highlighting an area. You can then rotate and select an enemy to target. It's not the most convenient.

Selecting new targets isn't as easy as a piece of pie.

The graphics look decent on the big screen, but they are clearly lacking modern textures. They look even better in handheld mode and the UI holds up. There are a lot of pop-ins though in handheld mode. I had a lot of "Oh look! How did that shrub just magically appear there?" moments. It definitely wasn't to scare the satyrs away because there are a ton of them. Waaaaaaaaaay too many in fact. They could rename the early stages of this game satyr quest because for the first two hours that feels like the only thing you kill.

Inventory Tetris engage!

When I first sat down to play Titan Quest I almost immediately regretted my decision. There was something just off about the game. After loading it back up and playing for a second, third, even sixth time (I know right? I guess it grew on me, or I wanted to see it threw to save you pain) it became quite evident the issue was the character animations. You swing at the enemies (satyrs) and you don't really connect with them but their health goes down. It just looked awkward.

I got the skills to pay the bills because this blog sure doesn't. :)

The game has all the tropes and trappings you'd expect in an ARPG: copious loot, deep skill system, a throwaway story. However, this one is based on human history and mythology. It even has local and online multiplayer which is great.

Overall though I can't escape the feeling that unless you are a gamer that is really jonesing for an ARPG on the Switch or you have fond nostalgic feelings for Titan Quest, in particular, you might be better served by passing on this game. For $20 it would probably be worth it but for $40 it's hard to recommend.  

6 out of 10. It's not bad, it's just meh. :|

A copy of this game as provided by THQNordiq's PR team.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

NYKO Miniboss AAA and SUPER Miniboss: A Super Short Review

When the NES and SNES Classics were released by Nintendo over the last year I made sure to aquire myself one of each. But as great as these devices are they came with a serious drawback. Namely the extremely short cable distance on the controllers. It's not that bad if you were sitting in front of a computer monitor playing these old school masterpieces but trying to play a game with a stock controller in front of today's massive TVs you're liable to end up straining both your neck and your eyes.



Fortunately there are a number of after market solutions for this problem. Enter the NYKO Miniboss AAA for the NES Classic and the Super Miniboss for the SNES Classic. Both of which are wireless.

The Miniboss AAA for the NES Classic claims on the back of the box that is has:
  • Precise button mashing action with complete wireless freedom
  • Play cord-free up to 30 feet away
  • 2 offset ergonomic face buttons - Two is all you need!
  • 4-way directional pad for perfect up, down, right and occasional left movement
  • Powered by 3 AAA batteries (not included)
  • 35 hours of playtime
While I can't vouch for the 35 hours of playtime but I can tell you the controller works great from at least 15 feet away. The controller feels good in your hands. It is a little thicker than the stock controller but it's still thinner than any controller for a current generation system so it's not too thick. The buttons are clicky. They'll make audible noise as you depress them. I didn't, however, have any issues with the buttons actually sticking. I was able to fly my way through Punch-Out before I ran into Bald Bull's charge and couldn't dodge in time. But that was my fault, not the Miniboss.

One of the best features of this controller isn't advertised on the box. It's the ability to hit the power button on the controller and access the main menu. This allows you to create and access save states as well as change which game you are playing without having to get up off your couch and actually press reset on the console.

The Super Miniboss for the SNES Classic boasts the following features on the back of its box:
  • Precise button mashing action with complete wireless freedom
  • Play cord-free without the hassle of wires or cables
  • Ergonomic face buttons, triggers, and a true D-Pad
  • Dedicated turbo button for super fast input
  • Access the home menu wirelessly without needing to use the reset button on the console
  • Built-in rechargeable battery - micro USB charging cable included
This controller also worked well at 15 feet. It does feel a little flimsier than it's 8 bit counterpart. It's nice that this controller does have an internal rechargeable battery and doesn't require you to dig up some AAAs from a junk drawer. While this controller also allows you to access the home screen without getting up it requires depressing two buttons instead of just one. I didn't care for the D pad or the buttons on this controller. When I would push down on the D pad I would end up moving to either the left or right also. I didn't have this issue with the Miniboss AAA. I also did not like the buttons with the concave faces. This created ridges around the edges of the button which become uncomfortable after extended periods of play.

If you are looking for a second controller for your NES Classic you can find the Miniboss AAA for under $7 on Amazon and at that price it's easy to recommend.

The Super Miniboss is not as nice as it's 8 bit partner and at full retail it's harder to recommend. However, if you just want a wireless controller for your SNES Classic it will get the job done.

Review copies of both controllers were provided by NYKO's PR staff.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Octopath Traveler: A Super Short Review

I have a soft spot in my heart for old school JRPGs. Final Fantasy IV, and VI, or II, and III as they were known then in the west, are two of my all time favorite gaming experiences. Heck, I even loved Final Fantasy Mystic Quest. I even have the SNES cartridges for them still. With that knowledge it should come as no surprise that I found the aesthetics of Octopath Traveler very intriguing when I first saw them on a teaser reel demonstrated when the Switch was being revealed.

Yep. I like Final Fantasy Mystic Quest. Fight me!


When Square Enix launched the first demo for Octopath Traveler I wrote a little post about it here. Turns out I nailed it when it came to the name. My first impressions carried forward too so if you want some more words go check it out. I love the art style. The pixel graphics are great. But make no mistake, this is NOT a retro art style. The particle effects employed by the Unreal Engine would bake your SNES. 

Not gonna lie. This boss took almost an hour to kill. I may have been under leveled. It was a pain in the ass. I didn't feel threatened like I would die. It only felt really, really bored.

Each character has their own unique style of fighting. After completing the first chapter for a character you'll find a shrine that will make their job available as a support job for another character. This ability to mix and match will make sure that you can get all 8 unique combat styles in a fight with only four playable characters. One of the first jobs I unlocked was the scholar so I could inspect enemy weaknesses and break their armor.



Combat in Octopath Traveler takes place in turn based battles. While JRPGs started to employ active time battle systems in the 90s there is none of that here. Enemies have armor that is represented by a shield and are weak to certain attacks. Hit them with their weaknesses and eventually their armor will break. Breaking the armor of bosses later in the game will become paramount to your tactics. It will interrupt their most powerful abilities. Left alone these attacks could wipe out your party. 

The biggest criticism against Octopath Traveler is that there does not appear to be a singular unifying big bad that threatens the world and pulls all the characters together. Frankly I don't find that the game needs one. It's refreshing to take control of these 8 different characters and see the world through their perspective and deal with problems that are important to them. Not everything has to be of such proportions that it threatens the world's existence to make you want to get off the couch and do something about it.

It's great. 9/10.