Secrets of the Zeffo

A civilization fixated on rolling giant balls around.

Given that many of their secrets allow for greater understanding of the Force, and that you don’t need to be Force-sensitive to roll a giant ball around, it does seem like an odd way to assess the suitability of those searching for answers. It certainly makes exploring ancient tombs more interesting, though. If only the Galactic Empire didn’t have the Sith who could just as easily uncover these secrets, then we might have a chance to rebuild the Jedi Order. Not that the crew of the Mantis is without hope. We’ve rolled enough giant balls into their sockets to uncover the secrets of two ancient tombs.

Now we’ve just got to uncover the secrets of the third.

But, as we’ve gained additional Force abilities, and BD-1 has been upgraded with new technology, we’re going to completely ignore the Galactic Empire to explore planets. To acquire ponchos and other cosmetic rewards. Maybe uncover a few secrets, too. Those tend to offer the greatest benefits.

While ponchos and other cosmetic rewards are neat, unlocking new (or upgrading existing) equipment and technology allows for further exploration of each planet. Or allows for progression through the main campaign. Cosmetic rewards are only useful if you’re actually going to wear them, or apply them to BD-1 and the Mantis. Force echoes can also be discovered, and they serve to enrich your understanding of the history of the planet you’re currently exploring. So there are quite a few things to do on each planet and exploring them is ridiculously fun. I’d just be more enthusiastic to find anything other than secrets if the rewards from chests were more meaningful. Not that I’ve ever cared for cosmetic rewards. So the aforementioned probably says more about me than about the rewards themselves.

BD-1 is the bravest companion a Jedi could have.

I am intending to return to each planet to fully explore it, though. Collect all of the chests, secrets, and interesting technological upgrades present. Even if I’ll have more ponchos than any one Jedi knows what to do with. I’d personally prefer some robes. Not that we’d be able to hide from the Galactic Empire very effectively when we resemble the atypical Jedi, but at least we’d look stylish and that’s what truly matters. It won’t take too long as I’ll have my trusty (and sometimes) confusing Holomap to lead the way. It’s definitely one of the better maps I’ve had the pleasure of navigating planets with.

It just becomes confusing with larger planets.

Notably, it highlights the areas that you can (and can’t) reach with your abilities as they currently are. Which not only allows you to know what’s actually inaccessible, but also (rather conveniently) highlights the areas that have become accessible as a result of acquiring new equipment or technology.

I’ve greatly enjoyed my time with Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. It’s a very capable single player experience which doesn’t artificially extend existing content. Everything happens as you would expect it to, and besides Stim Canisters, which are arguably the most valuable secret, there are few reasons to revisit (and fully explore) every planet besides the cosmetic rewards. Which some may consider a failing of the exploration mechanics. But I find it very refreshing to revisit planets as and when I want to, without being required to grind through hours of thoughtless content. You’ve no obligation to collect everything but you can if you want to. Or you can continue with the main campaign. Or you can do some combination of both. It’s entirely up to you when you want to approach things, or if you want to approach them at all..

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Dumpster Divin’ Hobocop

There are worse things that you could become.

You could be a horridly broken human being who (rather successfully) drank themselves to existential oblivion. That’d be a delightfully ludicrous concept for a protagonist. A woefully inept detective who barely understands the fundamentals of reality itself, but can still perform exceptional (and otherworldly) feats befitting one of his reputation. Disco Elysium has executed this concept well. Not only does it provide the perfect foundation to build a unique character on, but it explains why your character has no recollection of where they are or what they’re supposed to be doing.

That’s always been a funny inconsistency in many RPGs.

You’ve allegedly lived somewhere for your entire life, but you need to ask someone else (who may not even live there) where various things are in order to undertake basic quests. I realise that this is designed to introduce the player to particular mechanics. But it’s always been humorous to me.

Disco Elysium also allows you to explore the self-aggrandising tendencies and selfish nature of the protagonist. Or you could nurture their apologetic and selfless inclinations instead. Or you could be a maelstrom of human emotion that doesn’t adhere to any stereotype. It’s a rather fascinating approach that presents a very malleable protagonist, one that has a (particularly colourful) identity before you meet but could easily be shaped into something else if you’d prefer. There’s a rich narrative at the heart of the experience, and the world offers many different opportunities to uncover unique facets of your personality that you didn’t know (or didn’t want to know) you had. You’re encouraged to explore your surroundings, to speak to people, to undertake myriad tasks, and to roll dice by attempting numerous dialogue checks.

It’s true. He usually doesn’t.

It’s certainly an unorthodox approach to a narrative-driven RPG. It’s also brilliant. It’s exactly what you’d like to be able to do when building a character, as having both strengths and weaknesses affords the opportunity to experience something unusual with every attempt. You can’t be perfect. You can barely function as a human being. But the fractured reality in which you live is beautiful. You can be outlandishly brilliant and devastatingly moronic in the same conversation. It’s a ridiculously ambitious idea, and it’s superbly represented through each and every interaction.

I’ve really been enjoying the experience so far.

Which is the best way I can describe it. It’s an experience. The deeper I’ve dug into the investigation, the more I’ve begun to consider how many other things may be happening. Or how many other people might be involved. I doubt I’ll ever have the answer to every question I’ve asked, though.

I definitely don’t trust certain characters, and I can’t shake the feeling that certain interactions are too coincidental to not have repercussions. I’m trying my best to remain impartial. But being unable to do everything with the same character makes that somewhat impossible. There are certain situations that you won’t be equipped to deal with, and it may become necessary to work with others. I’ve tried to avoid working with others by prioritising exploration. Hoping that by earning more skill points, encountering new characters, and acquiring different clothing that I might be able to solve most things by myself. I doubt that I’ll be able to get very far on my own, but it serves to illustrate the unconventional way that you can approach situations as they present themselves. I’m sure to be a truly rich tapestry of human experiences when this is all over.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

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 appealing 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

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

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

An Unrelenting Onslaught

Savagery raging unabated.

I’m not really that surprised by the hostility, as I’ve been wielding a sizeable polearm for the majority of this adventure and I’ve not been shy about using it. Before that I was wielding a ridiculously huge two-handed sword. But, despite the impressive damage potential, it was simply too slow for me to feel comfortable fighting with it. It was rather effective at blocking damage, though. Not that I’d intended this build to be proficient at blocking. Despite my preferred Blood Codes being Berserker, Hermes, Atlas, and Fionn which are all suited to blocking with their inherent damage resistance.

But I preferred dealing damage to tanking it.

Then I unlocked Chariot Rush and decided that I’d never desire anything but the exhilarating thrill of rolling away from lethal damage. Not that I was always successful in that endeavour. But that’s the fault of the bosses and their ridiculous damage potential, and not the fault of my reflexes.

In all seriousness, I’m not particularly fond of how bosses can kill you instantly with a handful of their attacks. It wouldn’t be as frustrating if they didn’t have an abundance of health. But they do. The majority of bosses are not necessarily difficult, but the encounters quickly become tedious as you slowly chip away at their health knowing that one mistake could end that attempt. It’s certainly a way to make things more difficult, but it’s not entirely fun. If the bosses had slightly less health the encounters would feel better. They’d be fun. You wouldn’t even mind the possibility of being instantly killed. But instead (the majority) feel like they’re being artificially extended by the ridiculous health that bosses have. With the considerable damage polearms (or two-handed swords) do, I can’t imagine how tedious they would be with a bayonet.

As dangerous as it is beautiful.

That’s my only significant criticism of Code Vein, though. Otherwise the world is vast and enjoyable to explore, while the bosses are rather delightfully tailored to the locations that they’re fought in. Care and attention definitely went into designing the different areas as well, as each poses specific challenges and feels wonderfully unique. You’ll need to adjust your Gifts as you explore to counter various environmental hazards, too. It’s a refreshing approach that makes locations memorable. Even if those memories are ones you’d rather not recall, as you were suffering throughout.

Then again, they’re still the best memories of being on vacation that I have.

Of the other mechanics present in Code Vein, I’m enthused by the Blood Codes. I adore how much flexibility they afford when building characters. There are very few Gifts that can’t be inherited, and being able to draw from multiple Blood Codes to form your build is a satisfying experience.

I’ve greatly appreciated how the developers have attempted to be innovative through (surprisingly) coherent mechanics, and I’ve found the overall experience to be a pleasant one so far. It’s been fun, too. Which I wish I could say more often than I do. Unfortunately, it would seem that longevity outweighs enjoyment in (the majority of) video games nowadays. But Code Vein is an excellent example of when developers choose to prioritise engaging mechanics over never-ending content, and it delivers a rather unique post-apocalyptic JRPG as a result of it. I’m hoping that the developers will consider a sequel as it certainly deserves one. I’d be interested to see what they do next. Whether it would be more of the same, or whether they would diversify with something entirely new set in the same (or a similar) universe.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie