Heroes of City 31

The road to acceptance is long and paved with insurgents.

Chimera Squad may be formed of aliens and humans alike, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have the best interests of City 31 at heart. Even Torque. Under that scaly exterior is a heart of gold which desires nothing more than affirmation through unrelenting savagery. But, regardless of their reasons, these brave agents vowed to protect City 31 and they’ll do just that. XCOM: Chimera Squad is a wonderfully exciting departure from usual strategy mechanics, that foregoes dozens of highly trained soldiers for a handful of individually talented agents. Each brimming with a charming personality.

Each more capable than ten regular soldiers.

Through a time-based approach you’ll need to complete missions and situations alike to earn myriad rewards. Or visit the Scavenger Market when available to buy the rarest upgrades. Or assign agents to Spec Ops to influence how City 31 develops, and to quell the growing unrest in the city.

When not doing that you’ll also be training agents, researching new projects, and wishing you had more credits than you actually do. Besides the eight (mostly) randomly generated agents, you’ll also be able to purchase two androids. Each can replace an agent if they’re critically wounded in an encounter, however, unlike agents who recover at the end of a mission, androids are destroyed upon taking lethal damage. So be sure to look after them. The aforementioned will take place during the main campaign which spans three branching investigations, each affording new enemies and steadily increasing difficulty. Making the best use of each passing day is instrumental to your success but so incredibly difficult to do at times. When everything is a critical mission- which is the critical mission crucial to my success?

Rather than destroy it, we should modify it and ride it into battle. Just a thought.

My only (minor) criticism is that the main campaign progresses too quickly. I’m not sure if it was because ninety-three days had passed, but it rendered the rewards from the last investigation, those of The Progeny for me, completely useless as I couldn’t research the projects in the Assembly. I didn’t have enough days left. This could become annoying when you consider the overwhelming number of scars that my agents had received, but it didn’t adversely affect me. I just felt slightly rushed towards the end, and would’ve preferred having a few more days to finish things off.

Not that the time-based nature wasn’t explicitly stated from the beginning.

However, it is slightly disappointing having rewards that can’t be earned. But maybe there’s a limit to the overall campaign length. Maybe ninety-three days is that limit. Maybe that’s the long term trade off for delaying earlier campaign missions for greater rewards. I can’t really say for certain.

XCOM: Chimera Squad is still an incredibly engaging strategy experience, though. It just feels counter-intuitive to rush into things when you’re accustomed to taking your time. Breaching presented a unique approach to missions which allowed you to fire the first shots, and utilise unique equipment to gain an advantage. Most agents also had unique abilities available when breaching, such as Claymore, who could destroy a wall akin to a Breaching Charge, but would also surprise all enemies during that breach. Not that I’d feel any differently about that situation. Seeing a burly man with a shotgun blowing a hole in my wall would inspire many things in me, mostly confusion as to what was going on. That said, I can easily recommend XCOM: Chimera Squad to any who have enjoyed the modern instalments in the XCOM series.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

The Last of the Medjay

He who swore to protect all of Egypt.

Devastated by overwhelming grief and unrelenting in his vengeance, our remorseful protagonist, Bayek, tenaciously hunts those responsible for the death of his son. Once the proud Medjay of Siwa, now the unyielding protector of the oppressed throughout Egypt, he remains noble in his intentions despite bloodying the sands. Assassin’s Creed: Origins is an extraordinarily satisfying narrative-driven RPG, which is experienced through the breathtaking scenery of ancient Egypt in an ever-evolving open world. You’ll find outposts to infiltrate, caves to explore, tombs to raid, and dozens of snakes in jars.

Snakes in jars that wait endlessly with no nourishment.

Snakes in jars that require someone to actually smash the jar before they can be released. Yet, somehow, innocent bystanders manage to be bitten (and killed) by these snakes. There are many mysteries- the Papyrus Puzzles and Myths of the Pharaohs- but this is the greatest mystery of all.

Mysteries of the snakes aside, Assassin’s Creed: Origins has been a truly magnificent experience. I never grew of tired of exploring Egypt and I spent over a hundred hours doing so. Even when exploring the Sinai and Thebes during The Hidden Ones and The Curse of the Pharaohs, respectively. With the latter being a perfectly executed supernatural excursion, allowing you to venture into the afterlife and face the newly-risen Pharaohs. They were challenging boss encounters, too. I could have easily been defeated were I to make a mistake while fighting them, despite being Lvl 55 and having fully upgraded legendary equipment. That’s not something I’ve said about many RPGs. Especially when fully upgrading Bayek takes considerable effort, as Carbon Crystals and Shards of the Star are not exactly easy to acquire.

The Pharaohs have been roused from their eternal rest.

The Hidden Ones also reintroduces numerous characters from the main campaign which creates excellent continuity. Rather than being an entirely unrelated expedition, travelling to the Sinai builds on the character traits exhibited by Bayek prior to this point. Weaving more tales into his rich tapestry of human experiences. I had wondered if certain characters wouldn’t make an appearance if you hadn’t met them prior to starting to the DLC, but I doubt that they would (or could) as each character holds a certain significance in the story to follow. Which wouldn’t be as engrossing were they to be replaced.

Regardless, they’re both among the best DLC that I’ve ever played.

I’ve written before of the absurd attention to detail present in the world and the interactions with other characters are no exception. Seeing how certain characters develop throughout the story is as fascinating as exploring any tomb, and seeing how Bayek responds to that is just as fascinating.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Assassin’s Creed: Origins but I couldn’t have imagined that it would be as astounding as this. You could tell that the developers were passionate about their creation, and that they were intending to create a truly one-of-a-kind experience. Perhaps not just with Assassin’s Creed: Origins but with the entire Assassin’s Creed series. While I enjoyed much of the experience The Curse of the Pharaohs was definitely my favourite DLC, and it makes me more hopeful for the prominently featured mythological beasts of Assasin’s Creed: Odyssey. But I’m also excited to be exploring the colourful locales of ancient Greece. If you enjoy deeply engaging RPGs with meaningful character development then I can’t recommend Assassin’s Creed: Origins highly enough. It really is something special.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

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