Rebuilding the Jedi Order

Haunted by the past, hopeful for the future.

While being hunted by the ruthless and unwavering Galactic Empire, our diffident protagonist, Cal Kestis, attempts to retrace the journey of a Jedi Master and seeks to uncover the secrets of the Zeffo. An ancient civilization that had an unprecedented understanding of the mysteries of the Force. Who were also fascinated by rolling giant balls around, and who would bestow their knowledge unto those capable of doing so. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is an extraordinarily engaging narrative-driven RPG in which you endeavour to rebuild the Jedi Order while collecting many stylish ponchos.

You’ll also be collecting various seeds for the Mantis’ terrarium.

Those, much like the ponchos, are of the utmost importance and contribute greatly to your success, should you ever wish to befriend Greez. Which has its benefits. He does become slightly less crotchety with every seed recovered, despite being incredibly vocal about his hatred of nature.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order also features vast landscapes to explore and it’s ridiculously fun to do so. While many of the rewards are cosmetic, secrets, such as Stim Canisters, are incredibly valuable and are always worth pursuing. Even if you’re being relentlessly pursued by the sadistic Second Sister. She can wait until you’ve discovered every chest, secret, and upgrade for BD-1 on every planet. It’s not like you’re the last hope for hundreds of Force-sensitive children. Which is not to suggest that exploration is always frivolous, as exploring each of the ancient tombs often results in Cal strengthening his connection to the Force and learning a new Force ability. Of which there are only a few but they are incredibly useful. Not that I’d necessarily agree that being able to jump twice requires a deeper connection to the Force, but I digress.

Surprisingly agile. Unsurprisingly bloodthirsty.

Character development is tied to Force abilities, as each one further expands the skill tree allowing for greater proficiency in combat and heightened character statistics. There aren’t too many ways to develop Cal besides that. You can fully customise the appearance of his lightsaber, and unlock new lightsaber styles throughout the main campaign. Each offering its own unique fighting style with its own advantages and disadvantages. Which is perfectly suited to the exhilarating lightsaber duels with the Sith, but doesn’t significantly alter the offensive (or defensive) capabilities of his lightsaber.

That’s reserved for the Lightsaber Mastery skill.

You can find equipment that allows you to explore previously inaccessible areas, but it doesn’t aid you in combat nor does it change Cal’s base statistics considerably. However, while limited, character development is meaningful, as each investment into the skill tree yields decent rewards.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Whether it would be a complex RPG experience akin to Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic, or whether it would favour an action-orientated approach emphasising storytelling. In retrospect I’d say it was mostly the latter. But that’s not to say that there aren’t RPG mechanics, and utilising them will only further the techniques and abilities available to you in combat. Or while exploring planets. Exploration certainly makes up the bulk of the experience but that’s not a bad thing. Not when the exploration is as enjoyable as it was, and when you’re actually excited about returning to Bogano for the fifth time. I’d highly recommend it to those who enjoy Star Wars (in any shape or form) or those looking for an in-depth single player RPG experience.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

You’ve Failed Elysium

You don’t want to be this kind of animal any more.

Which is understandable, considering that you wake up half-naked on the floor of your room at the Whirling-in-Rags with no understanding of the basic concepts of reality. It’s hardly a prestigious position for an officer of the Revachol Citizens Militia to be in. But that’s why this protagonist is so endearing, and why exploring the ever-evolving city district of Martinaise is such a pleasure. Disco Elysium is an incredibly satisfying narrative-driven RPG in which you attempt to learn the truth behind a brutal murder. How you solve that murder and who you become in the process is up to you.

I’ve written before of this ambitious protagonist.

It’s such a bizarre approach to character development, but it’s perfectly executed alongside the dialogue system which affords the opportunity to create a truly unique detective. Who isn’t perfect and doesn’t naturally succeed at everything. Whose failures are just as important as their successes.

You’re encouraged to be unorthodox and explore everything while talking to everyone. Make decisions when it seems right to do so. Return to characters (and conversations) later when you’ve gathered more evidence. The dialogue system is expertly designed and responds (as you would expect it to) to the acquisition of new evidence, new information, or new items. Thoughts can also be useful when solving various tasks. These can be internalised in the Thought Cabinet as you learn of them, and they can provide very specific (but potentially useful) responses to certain dialogue options or checks. It’s one of the best dialogue systems I’ve ever seen. It’s so flexible (but logical) and promotes diversification in all things. Not every character will solve every problem or approach every task in the same way. Nor can they.

I sincerely wish he was making this up.

You’ll also be exploring the rather colourful history of our beloved amnesiac protagonist along the way. These memories won’t always be pleasant, with most manifesting as nightmarish visions which haunt the detective and fuel his alcoholic tendencies. Not that you need to be an alcoholic any more. That’s entirely up to you. As you explore Martinaise you’ll have many opportunities to develop new personality traits, express existing ones, or become the herald of impending doom. Revachol will then respond accordingly to your decisions, and new opportunities may arise as a result.

Which is why you should make the most of each passing day.

Interacting with as many characters as possible, exploring as much as you can, and steadily progressing the investigation to a satisfactory conclusion. While Revachol will respond to (and is influenced by) your decisions it’s not governed by them, and the world will keep moving even if you don’t.

Of all the experiences I’ve had this year, Disco Elysium is one of the best. I’m not really sure how to explain it. There’s such a rich, compelling, vibrant narrative at the heart of the investigation and learning about each of the characters is an absolute pleasure. Learning more about the detective kept me engaged, as did the exploration and the myriad tasks requiring my attention. It never felt particularly drawn out. Never sluggish or slow. Key events during the investigation were superbly represented by unique scenes, which not only highlighted their significance but illustrated the progression of the main campaign. It’s an absolutely gorgeous world to explore and a testament to the developers’ desire to create a one-of-a-kind experience. I’d highly recommend Disco Elysium to those fond of narrative-driven RPGs!

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Secrets of the Infinite Labyrinth

Of which there are many.

Infinite Adventures is a delightfully engaging grid-based movement dungeon crawler which features numerous character classes, an extensive dungeon to explore, dozens of quests to complete, and myriad mechanics to tinker with. Despite not creating one myself, I’m intrigued by the potential of having a roster of party members. Mostly because each character class is flexible enough to capably fulfil different roles in a party. I was most impressed by the Geo Templar who not only became one of my best damage dealers, but could also buff party members or heal them if the need arose.

Hence why the character development is so incredibly satisfying.

No character class is ever what it seems to be, and through Gambits, which have a percentage chance to occur in combat, they have the capability to act somewhat autonomously. These could allow them to retaliate against enemies, cure ailments, and heal (or even resurrect) party members.

Each character also has their own Rank. If you’re starting with a fresh save file, most of the characters that you’ll be able to create will start at Rank D. However, as you progress through the main campaign, and by completing certain quests, you’ll gain access to higher quality tokens to upgrade existing (or create new) characters. Upgrading existing characters costs two tokens, while creating a new character will cost one. Upgrading a character also awards them attribute points and skill points, with the amount of each tied to whether they’re a Noble or a Commoner. It doesn’t seem to affect their health or resource pool, though. Nor does it seem to unlock any new capabilities for their character class. So, while it does provide some benefits, it’s not vital and characters can be upgraded once you’ve acquired the means to do so.

Yet another of the reasons we’re investigating the Infinite Labyrinth.

It’s not just your party members that you can upgrade, though. By handing in various tomes to the Adventurer’s Guild you can unlock powerful enchantments for your weapons and shields. By collecting the appropriate kind (and quantity) of Rune(s) you’ll be able to alter the properties of your equipment, or increase the quality of it (and the potency of existing enchantments). Equipment can be just as easily be disenchanted, too. They’re rather intuitive and forgiving mechanics which I didn’t really make use of until the final floors of the Infinite Labyrinth, but they’re certainly useful throughout.

Infinite Adventures is surprisingly content-dense.

I had hoped that it would be, but I didn’t anticipate that I’d have a list of objectives to complete on each floor. Or that I’d actually want to complete them all. I’ve written before of this incalculable list, and it’s one of the reasons I found it so enjoyable to explore each of the floors thoroughly.

It’s fair to assume that the developers of Infinite Adventures were extremely ambitious. That ambition has manifested as a rather complex and rewarding grid-based movement dungeon crawler, which never feels particularly forced or repetitive. I’m really enthusiastic about the diversity of the character classes, too. It’s so refreshing to have a party-based RPG with meaningful character development, where you have full control as to how each of the characters develops. Or, if you prefer, a whole roster of characters to choose from. It definitely seems to have taken inspiration from the dungeon crawlers of yesteryear, but delivers those mechanics with modern quality of life improvements and without sacrificing depth or difficulty. I’d highly recommend Infinite Adventures to those who enjoy enthralling dungeon crawling experiences!

Have a nice weekend, 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

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

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

Cults of the Witch Gods

Don’t enter portals opened by strangers.

If you do you might end up in the Korvan Basin. It’s sandy. Very, very sandy. It’d make for a great holiday destination were it not for the bloodthirsty wildlife, the fanatical cultists, and the statues which come to life desiring nothing more than to see you rendered into viscera. You might also have to join one of three cults when you arrive, each of which represent the desires of one of the three Witch Gods. Which, thankfully, doesn’t require a human sacrifice. So that’s something. You will, however, have to fight for your life against the forces of Ch’thon to prove that you are the one they’ve been looking for.

Which is exactly why I don’t like people looking for me.

Forgotten Gods is the second expansion pack for the exceptionally exquisite Grim Dawn. It follows the events of Ashes of Malmouth, but can be experienced out of sequence as soon as you’ve completed Act 1. The content scales to your character level, though. So it’ll always be level appropriate for your character.

Act 7 is set in the lush, scenic, and sometimes volcanic Korvan Basin. Alongside the extended main campaign content there’s a new Mastery (the Oathkeeper), newly introduced Difficulty Merits and Iron sharing mechanics, expanded (personal and shared) stash space, additional Constellations and skills to unlock, and the endless challenge of the Shattered Realm. You’re now able to skip an entire difficulty level by using the respective Difficulty Merit. For instance, if you have a character in Elite you are able to buy the Elite Difficulty Merit which can be shared with another character via the shared stash. You can also condense Iron into Iron Bars to share wealth in a similar fashion. Which is undoubtedly great news for everyone who has multiple characters that might need a little help.

An old god sleeps in a fragment of a distant reality.

The sole new Mastery in Forgotten Gods is the Oathkeeper which (as always) can be combined with existing Masteries. The Soldier has always offered benefits to those who use shields and boasted greatly bolstered survivability, but the Oathkeeper unlocks the offensive capability of shields. If their shield isn’t hitting someone in the face they aren’t happy. Which could present some interesting possibilities for close quarters combat builds. The new Constellations also offer deeper customisation through the Devotion mechanics. While there are new mobility skills which (I do believe) are applied to medals.

It’s a surprisingly content-dense expansion pack.

Not that the developers have earned a reputation for anything less. They have continually and consistently delivered both paid and free updates of the highest quality, and have supported Grim Dawn since the days of Early Access. I’ve enjoyed seeing every new development as they seem passionate about this project.

While it has been hinted that Forgotten Gods may be the last expansion pack, the developers have done incredible things with Grim Dawn. I’ve always had the greatest expectations for Grim Dawn (and any additional content available after release) and they’ve been exceeded in every possible way. Not only does it feel entirely reminiscent of the ARPGs of yesteryear, but it delivers the kind of character building which is often painfully absent from modern RPGs. The developers have never settled and have always pushed ever-forward with new ideas, new concepts, and new updates. This dedication to delivering a truly one-of-a-kind experience is what has led Grim Dawn to be as enjoyable, engaging, and exhilarating as it has been in all of the years that I’ve been building characters in it. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys ARPGs!

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie