The Pride of House Giamata

On a journey through shards of fractured realities.

We’ve explored dusty caverns, frolicked in ancient fields, and now we’re trudging through an anomalous elemental realm. Each winding path effortlessly alternates between the bitter chill of winter and the molten heat of the sun. It’s much like an English summer. There’s just less complaints about the constant temperature shifts from all concerned. I’ll admit that Infinite Adventures took me by surprise. It’s the grid-based movement dungeon crawler that eluded me for many months, but once I learned of it I knew I’d be purchasing it. As it superbly represents what I love about party-based RPGs.

Firstly, the character classes are delightfully diverse.

I was most surprised by the Sohei who seemed to be able to deal damage and do little else. But then I invested in the Enlightenment tree. Which not only allowed him to heal himself (and those around him) with Healing Circle, but he could prepare and then dispel it to deal impressive damage.

Secondly, the mechanics are functional and engaging. Exploring the Infinite Labyrinth (and defeating the enemies found therein) rewards you with numerous materials, these can be sold to Firbog (the blacksmith) and he’ll offer higher quality equipment as a result. You can also visit the Adventurer’s Guild to invest in Exploration Skills (which offer myriad benefits), unlock Wild Portals (which function as single floor randomised dungeons), or hand in various tomes to increase the number (and strength) of enchantments available. If that’s not enough to do, you can also visit the Deeproot Tavern and undertake countless quests. These may require you to gather different materials, defeat powerful enemies, or escort certain NPCs into the dungeon. It never feels particularly forced and you’ll always have something to do when exploring a floor.

But one of many reasons we’re investigating the Infinite Labyrinth.

My only minor criticism is a certain boss. He’s not necessarily difficult to defeat, but invokes similar feelings to those I have about the Bed of Chaos in Dark Souls. It’s a very random encounter. I don’t really know whether I’m doing well or not, as I’m just waiting for him to deal ridiculous damage to the entire party. Shi Lorath certainly is a mystery. I’ve tried casting Bolt Shield on the entire party but that didn’t seem to help, nor did trying to Taunt him to focus on my Warlord. I’m just hoping that the difficulty I’m facing with this encounter is due to inexperience. Not that the boss is entirely random.

As that would be quite unfortunate.

I’m quite keen to begin developing a roster of different character classes, though. Which could help to solve my current predicament. Not that I feel it’s necessary on the default difficulty, but whether it’s necessary or not doesn’t stop me from trying out different builds for each character class.

While I was reasonably sure of what to expect from Infinite Adventures, it has pleasantly surprised me with satisfying mechanics and meaningful character development. It certainly has the potential to be a truly great dungeon crawler that is reminiscent of those of yesteryear. I’m just slightly disappointed about the encounter with Shi Lorath, as it does spoil what has otherwise been an enjoyable experience. It also feels out of place alongside functional mechanics and agreeable boss encounters. But I’m still hoping that my party is at fault somehow. In either case, I don’t mean to deter you from purchasing Infinite Adventures yourself. It’s a captivating grid-based movement dungeon crawler with great party-based RPG mechanics, and it features enough content to not become too repetitive too quickly. I just abhor entirely random bosses.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

A Glacial Cacophony

Terrifying visions of the future.

There are few releases that I’m anticipating as much as the full release of Last Epoch. Not only are the developers continually supporting its development during Early Access, but they’re introducing new ideas through subsequent updates which they’re executing with staggering proficiency. I was quite impressed by the implementation of Idols. They’re reminiscent of the Charms introduced in Diablo II: Lord of Destruction, but unlike Charms you don’t need to sacrifice precious inventory space to carry them. They’re stored in their own inventory which is unlocked (and upgraded) through quests.

It’s an interesting solution to a known problem.

Not only does it limit the number of Idols that you can carry (and how many benefits you can have), but it means that you’ll never need to choose between more benefits or more space. You can have both. Their limited inventory also encourages you to consider the best Idols for your build.

As you won’t be able to mindlessly flood your inventory space with more Idols until you’re unable to hold anything else. I’ve always felt that Last Epoch has the potential to be something truly special, and I greatly appreciate how the developers have put thought into the implementation of new mechanics. Rather than taking inspiration from other ARPGs and careless introducing conflicting mechanics. They’ve splendidly established themselves through their dedication to the player experience. Introducing new ideas only when it benefits the player experience, and adjusting existing ideas to further refine it. I’m quite excited that they’re going to be introducing shrines, too. Mostly because they’ve hinted that not every shrine will have a positive outcome, and that you might wish to avoid activating some of them.

I’m not sure how I ended up here or how I’m getting back.

While revisiting Last Epoch I’ve been building a Mage. I hadn’t built a Mage prior to this, and my first inclination was to specialise in the Sorcerer Mastery for ranged dominance. Then I remembered the Spellblade Mastery and the choice became obvious. It was first built around Mana Strike and Snap Freeze, with Snap Freeze pinning down foes as I cleaved them in twain. I wasn’t sure which weapon to wield, though. I eventually decided on sceptres due to the inherent bonuses to the damage dealt by spells. Which suited my build as, besides Mana Strike, all of my active skills are classified as spells.

I’d also later abandon my shield in favour of a catalyst.

Instead relying on Teleport (to escape combat) for a while, before realising that Flame Ward could aid my survivability and allow me to remain in combat. As this build relies on chaining together certain skills. Which is much harder to do when you’re having to Teleport out of combat frequently.

To say that I’m impressed with Last Epoch would be an understatement. It was a capable ARPG when it first became available for Early Access, but it has improved exponentially in every way since then. I’m just curious as to what new content (besides the aforementioned shrines) the developers are cooking up. The fifth class hasn’t been announced yet, and there are still two Masteries for the existing classes which have yet to be implemented. So I’m looking forward to those. Anything that promotes more build diversity and unique ways to utilise each class is certainly going to enhance the longevity of an ARPG. I’m just hoping that they continue to take their time with the development, and not rush the release even if it’s taking longer than they originally anticipated. It deserves to get the recognition it has earned when fully released.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Purging the Entoma Scourge

A devastating blight upon the land.

Death end re;Quest is a ludicrously bizarre JRPG where strange occurrences in a virtual world slowly bleed into reality. Our amnesiac protagonist arrives in World’s Odyssey, an abandoned VR MMORPG that shouldn’t be running but somehow is, and fights desperately against the encroaching Entoma Scourge as she attempts to active the Ending Engage. Which is now the only way to log out and return to reality. Not that it’s ever going to be as simple as finishing the main campaign, as relentless opposition alters the fate of both worlds in an attempt to prevent her from reaching her goal.

It can also be quite a harrowing experience for all concerned.

As many of the worst possible outcomes heavily suggest graphic violence, which you’d not expect from this developer. It’s an unconventional approach that encourages you to explore different outcomes. Some of which may help to explain how certain characters are not what they seem to be.

There are some rather unconventional character development mechanics, too. While you primarily level up through the acquisition of experience points, new skills are learned by chaining together different combinations of existing skills. It’s an unusual mechanic which promotes experimentation instead of mindless grinding. You can also chain together three basic attacks to knock enemies back, allowing you to throw them across the field of battle into other party members who will respond in kind. It can be fairly satisfying to watch when executed correctly. Not every skill is effective in every situation, though. Each skill (and basic attack) is of a particular affinity that can counter (or be countered by) enemy affinities, which adds meaningful variation to combat as you’ll usually face enemies of different affinities in the same encounter.

So you shouldn’t be afraid of shuffling party members around to match the current encounters. Certain characters will be almost entirely ineffective against certain enemies. Given that, when an enemy counters an affinity, the skill is cancelled and the whole chain is rendered useless. You won’t even be able to deal any damage. Characters can learn skills of different affinities, but they might be more expensive or less accessible than those of their usual affinity. This makes balanced party compositions vital to continued success. Most characters are able to heal themselves or those around them, though.

Which means that healing should always be available.

I was pleasantly surprised by how extensive the mechanics proved to be, as I wasn’t expecting combat to be as engaging as it was. I’m also glad that Glitch Mode is a temporary form with heightened statistics, rather than a persistent transformation that could be freely activated when needed.

Activating the form feels more sporadic and akin to an actual glitch. But it’s also more dangerous to utilise. As a character needs to accrue a significant amount of corruption to activate Glitch Mode, and too much corruption can lead to their immediate death. So taking damage just before (or just after) activating the form is risky. But you can’t really control when that happens. That’s why I believe that Death end re;Quest is an unconventional but incredibly capable JRPG which, while it may not be appropriate for everyone, has reasonably innovative mechanics throughout, and it’s clear that the developers wanted to deliver a one-of-a-kind experience. I’d highly recommend it to JRPG enthusiasts and to those looking for something different. I’m certain that you won’t be disappointed if you approach it with an open mind.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Delving Into Dungeons

Plagued by gnawing uncertainty.

There are few things as satisfying as crawling through a crumbling dungeon while being besieged by hordes of monsters. Clinging to that last scrap of bread as your hunger grows, but pressing on in hopes of acquiring great treasure and attaining even greater glory. It’s often an entirely perilous pursuit. But that’s not going to stop me. I’ve always been fond of exploring new locations, and I’m glad that dungeon crawlers offer countless opportunities to do so while reminding you of your fragile mortality. Especially when you’re encouraged to build a fresh party of adventurers with each attempt.

As each attempt should then differ from the last.

But even if the same party is maintained with each attempt, failing the last should encourage a different approach for the next. If the RPG mechanics are adequate then the outcome should change. Which doesn’t mean that it’ll be a guaranteed success, but at least a different kind of failure.

Grim Dawn executed this exceptionally well with its challenge dungeons. While your character build remained the same, the dungeon would reset and the Skeleton Key (required to enter the dungeon) would be lost. Forgotten Gods, the second expansion pack for Grim Dawn, introduced the Shattered Realm to stand alongside challenge dungeons. However, unlike challenge dungeons, the Shattered Realm encouraged you to clear each level in the best time possible, and would offer extra rewards if you did so. Obviously Grim Dawn is not a grid-based movement dungeon crawler, but it does utilise some mechanics which would suit the genre well. I’d definitely appreciate a dungeon crawler that introduced content similar to the Shattered Realm. Rather than simply providing randomly generated floors to wearily trudge through.

A delightfully devilish interpretation of dungeon crawling mechanics.

Which is why I’m quite fond of how Book of Demons implemented its dungeon crawling mechanics. Rather than designing a fixed sequence of floors akin to Diablo, the developers opted to utilise dungeon generation mechanics which allow you to decide just how long you’d like to explore the dungeon for. I’ve actually been thinking about revisiting a few ARPGs this year. But I’ve also made a surprising number of purchases (despite not intending to) in recent months. I’ve been enoying Death end re;Quest after completing Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, but I’m unsure of what I’ll be playing next.

I’ve been thinking about the Early Access for Stoneshard.

But I’ve also been thinking about (the recently purchased) Infinite Adventures. Then there’s Wasteland Remastered, which might not be a grid-based movement dungeon crawler but is certainly a worthy consideration. Especially when I’m keen to begin my post-apocalyptic adventures in Wasteland 2.

Last Epoch was another worthy consideration as that has already proven to be quite a capable ARPG. But it’s so very difficult deciding what to do next when there’s so much that I’m enthusiastic about. Let this post serve as forewarning that I’ll likely be flooding Moggie’s Proclamations with gaming content, and that I’ll be incredibly happy while doing so. There might be some creative content as well. That’s always a possibility. I’ve written before of my nostalgic love for dungeon crawlers and I’ll probably do it again. While I do love ARPGs, I’ve always enjoyed bringing together a party of adventurers with different abilities and talents. I sorely miss party-based RPGs. Which is why I’ve been investing in numerous JRPGs, as they’re often party-based with turn-based combat and those are two of my favourite things.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Earth’s Greatest Champion

An unparalleled martial artist.

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is an exceptionally entertaining JRPG which retells the story of Dragon Ball Z and allows you to fish, hunt, train, and fight as (or alongside) Goku and friends. You’re actively encouraged to explore and to engage in as many activities as possible, and to experience everything its vast world has to offer as you spend time as different characters. Nothing compares to the indescribable joy of watching Vegeta fish on Namek. Saiyans generally use a prosthetic tail to fish as most have lost their actual tail, but as Vegeta doesn’t have a prosthetic tail he resigns himself to a fishing rod.

One so sturdy that it can withstand his otherworldly strength.

Those familiar with Dragon Ball Z know that it rarely took itself seriously, and Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot perfectly represents the source material through outlandish side quests and the greatest cooking animations ever witnessed. The costumes for characters have been faithfully reproduced, too.

However, due to the nature of the source material, story progression is fairly linear as it needs to result in the intended outcome. Which is to be expected. But that doesn’t mean you won’t get the opportunity to spend time as your favourite characters, as there are numerous character development mechanics present. You’ll mostly be gaining experience through combat, but you’ll also be training to learn new skills, and collecting Soul Emblems to enhance the various Community Boards. Of these the Community Boards are the most deceptively complex, and each requires a varying amount of investment to unlock bonuses. You’ll also be afforded various statistical increases when cooking delicious food. Not that the statistical increases offered by food tend to be significant enough to warrant the sheer amount of farming required.

Community Boards arguably offer the best statistical increases, but they also take the longest to unlock. While food is readily available throughout. Yet the statistical increases from food prove to be fairly underwhelming. I’ve considered this before, and it highlights how diversification between various character development mechanics yields better results than focusing solely on one. I’m glad that there is such a wealth of content available, though. Being able to shuffle Soul Emblems around, hunt beasts for feasts, unearth rare minerals, and defeat strong enemies keeps the content engaging.

It’s certainly exceeded any prior expectations, too.

I’m intrigued to see how the developers expand upon existing content, and would welcome additional transformations from Dragon Ball Super. Original content based on characters or events from Dragon Ball wouldn’t go amiss, either. They’ve certainly got enough source material to draw from.

As with Dragon Ball XenoVerse before it, I was wary of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot. Not because I had any doubts that the developers could create a captivating experience. But because the source material has been told, retold, and retold again. It’s slightly tired. It’s also something that’s quite dear to me. However, I can confidently say that this iteration of the events of Dragon Ball Z is as faithful as I’d hoped it would be. I’ve enjoyed every second that I’ve spent reliving my childhood. Not that I’ve been blinded by nostalgia. Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is an excellent experience for what it is, and if you approach it with those expectations you can’t really be disappointed. It might not be as engaging to those who have never seen Dragon Ball Z before. But I have no regrets regarding the purchase and can’t recommend it highly enough.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

The Legendary Super Saiyan

Krillin’s greatest death to date.

Arguably one of the most iconic moments in Dragon Ball Z is when Goku first attains the legendary Super Saiyan transformation. Not only was he able to face Frieza for the longest five minutes known to man, but it exemplified how he was pure of heart yet brimming with uncontrollable rage when he finally unleashed his colossal strength. I’m also rather fond of the Super Saiyan 3 transformation. That was slightly less iconic (and the form was used far less often) but it was an enjoyable moment nonetheless. I do wonder how many hours of unbridled screaming his voice actor has recorded, though.

It must be hundreds of hours at this point.

I’ve always dearly loved Dragon Ball Z and it has provided an unending source of inspiration for my creative pursuits, which is why I’ve been highly anticipating the release of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot. While also not-so-secretly wishing that they’d re-release Chrono Trigger in a similar fashion.

Imperfect Cell kind of looks like a lankier and less mechanical version of Lavos. That thought has consumed me while I’ve been training for the final confrontation with Perfect Cell, and explains why I want to defeat him. 1999 A.D. won’t suffer the same fate twice. I’ve completed far too many side quests, cooked too many meals, and fished for far longer than I should have to fail now. Not that I was entirely aware of the benefits of cooking meals at first. I thought that they were only providing the temporary buff, but they were also permanently increasing various statistics. Not that the increase is particularly notable. Investing in the appropriate Community Boards yields a more favourable long term return, as the percentage increase is more substantial than the increases offered by food. Unless you’re cooking literally thousands of meals.

That’ll always be you, Vegeta.

That’s not to say that hunting beasts and fishing is pointless. Cooking can substantially strengthen characters when they’re about to face dangerous bosses, and various items acquired through either pursuit can be sold at a premium. The Community Boards can also be more difficult to invest in. Given that you’ll need multiple Soul Emblems and many of those can only be acquired through side quests. Access to which usually requires story progression. As such I’ve found the Cooking and Development Community Boards to be challenging, as few early Soul Emblems are naturally proficient in either.

Not that you gain access to R & D for some time.

I’m quite glad that character development requires careful consideration of numerous mechanics, though. You’re not expected to simply grind for experience. You’re encouraged to explore new locations, meet characters, complete the side quests, collect the Dragon Balls, and have fun instead.

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot provides a fresh approach to a somewhat tired source material. I’ve enjoyed being able to experience the story from multiple perspectives through different characters, and being able to bring those party members together to complete any available side quests during the intermissions. Goku is notably absent (or dead) for the majority of Dragon Ball Z. So it does make sense that you’d be able to spend time as Gohan, Piccolo, Vegeta, and others when the titular character is not available. It also keeps combat engaging, as each character behaves differently and develops at a different rate. I’m interested in seeing what they do with the season pass, too. Whether it would be entirely new content or whether it would introduce certain events from Dragon Ball Super. But I guess that we’ll just have to wait and see.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Successors of the Queen

Of which we may be one.

Code Vein is a delightfully engaging post-apocalyptic JRPG that offers a fresh perspective on the genre. It has extensive character development mechanics which afford surprising freedom when building your character, and an impressive selection of (both Light and Dark) Gifts to make use of each weapon class and each style of Blood Veil. Character classes take the form of Blood Codes, and each Blood Code represents a particular concept. Atlas, for instance, is a heavily defensive Blood Code which has impressive damage resistance and utilises two-handed swords to deal ridiculous damage.

However, if you prefer, you can utilise polearms instead.

You’ll be unable to use Tormenting Blast (as that requires a two-handed sword or hammer), but you’ll be able to benefit from the weight allowance and scaling offered by the Blood Code. You could then further customise Atlas with a Blood Veil to cast Light Gifts despite a lack of inherent proficiency.

It’s slightly confusing at first glance, but once you understand how each of the mechanics contributes to the build it becomes an incredibly satisfying experience. My only (minor) criticism of Blood Codes is that they’re unlocked as you progress through the story. While you would expect this, certain Blood Codes, like Dark Knight, are so flexible and interesting that you wish they were available earlier. Very few Blood Codes that specialise in physical damage are inherently proficient at casting Gifts, and fewer still have good (base) Strength scaling. Both Mind and Willpower have reasonably high scaling, too. So it could utilise either Light or Dark Gifts with the appropriate Blood Veil. I’ll admit that I might be slightly biased towards Dark Knight, as I greatly appreciated Polearm Mastery and enjoyed obliterating enemies with Chariot Rush.

The scorching heat of the Crown of Sand.

Thankfully, due to an abundance of upgrade materials, you can easily adjust your equipment if you do decide to pursue a different Blood Code. You’ll also find upgraded equipment in chests as you progress through the story. Inheriting Gifts may become difficult if you’re constantly shuffling Blood Codes, but you can always visit the Depths to farm the necessary materials or defeat countless enemies. You can also acquire a selection of transformed equipment down there. Not that I found many of the transformations to be useful for my build, besides Fortification were I to block damage.

But I can certainly see the appeal of the transformations.

My only other criticism of Code Vein is the boss encounters. I’ve written about them before, but I’m not particularly fond of the excessive health that bosses have. Were they to have slightly less health they’d be more fun to fight. Especially if you’re not employing the use of a companion.

I wasn’t entirely sure of what to expect from Code Vein, but I was pleasantly surprised by how innovative the character development felt. There were several mechanics which meaningfully contributed to your build. While the variety of equipment expanded the character development by enabling the use of many diverse builds, all of which could draw from myriad Blood Codes. The levelling mechanics are perfectly suited to shuffling Blood Codes, too. You’re never committing to a specific approach. You can quite easily adapt to a new weapon class or a new Blood Veil, and that allows you to freely exercise the unique benefits of a particular Blood Code. Code Vein is not a traditional JRPG, but it’s an excellent example of when developers deliver a truly unique experience. For that reason I’d highly recommend it to JRPG enthusiasts!

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie