Monday, February 19, 2018

My Favorite Types of Games (MM32)

My feline video game buddy, Niki, passed away on Thursday, February 8. I haven't gotten around to writing about her but I will do so when I start feeling better. I miss her terribly.

Since she's always sitting next to me while playing video games (I would say Niki is a true gamer!), I've been thinking about what kinds of games we've played together, and why these games appealed to us since we write reviews of games from time to time (Niki is my fictional guest writer N.C., Esq). I wrote this piece about what you should look for in video game critics, and the one criterion is whether you have the same taste as the critic, so I think my readers should know what games I tend to like. 

Looking through my top 10 games, I tend to like games that have extensive leveling up system where you can min/max stats. I find it refreshing when I'm struggling at the beginning of the game, due to low levels, weak armor and weapons, and then becoming overpowered. This explains why RPGs tend to be my favorite genre because of the challenge of leveling up and continual improvement.

This is not to say that other genres don't feature improvement and mastery, far from it. FPS and Platformer games are extremely challenging, and you can improve steadily through practice, such as being able to kill enemies faster, using less resources (i.e. making only headshots). Since I'm a relatively new gamer, I appreciate being able to level up my character so I can face a difficult part of the game and succeed. If I keep failing, I can always improve my levels, weapons and/or armors to win. Whereas with shooters and platformers, you simply fail if you can't shoot your way out or make that jump. You can't just level up your character and grind your way through, you either have to make those shots or jumps, or fail.

Gameplay also is very crucial so a lot of games that I love have complex and deep combat mechanics. Even though the Dark Souls series doesn't have the complex button sequences of action-adventure games such as Bayonetta and God Of War, you have to be good at understanding the attack patterns, knowing when to dodge and attack, you can't just button mash.

What elevates an RPG above the rest is the level design, because even though you may have really incredible combat mechanics, if you have a level design where you're just going straight from point A to point B, it gets very boring. I love games that have an overworld that's like a puzzle such as the Souls series, and dungeons with puzzles such as Legend of Zelda and Wild Arms 3. I was so impressed with Wild Arms 3 because of the strategy needed in it's turn-based mechanics, but also because of the dungeons having sophisticated level design where you have to use various gadgets and manipulate the environment to get around, much like Zelda pre-Breath of the Wild.

In addition to level design, variety of enemies and different attack patterns are a must. Even though Tales of Berseria has a wide variety of monsters, the way they attack didn't affect gameplay as much. You have to dodge from time to time, but the gameplay revolved around building up combinations. I found that building up combinations was addictive and fun, especially the rush of power and feel of Velvet's Consuming Claw. Albeit, the bosses in Berseria all have very different attack patterns. So Berseria was the one game where attack patterns aren't so important, but nevertheless the game is one of my favorites.

I think story and character development are also crucial. The game doesn't have to be a Thomas Mann-level of masterpiece, but at least have some story and psychology into the character. Tales of Berseria is one of my favorite games because of the story and focus on characters, to the point where you're interested in what's going on with every single party member, and you seek out their story lines in form of quests.

Ori and the Blind Forest is one of the few platform games that I love because of the story and characters. Ori's platforming is pinpoint precise and fun due to its challenging nature, but such is the case with so many other platformers. Why I love it and not care about all the other great platformers is the presentation, story and characters in Ori that are lacking in Mario and the Rayman series.

Here's a list of my favorite games in alphabetical order: Chrono Trigger, Eternal Sonata, Final Fantasy VII, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Kingdom Hearts series, Persona franchise, Monster Hunter franchise, SoulsBorne series (duh!), Tales of Berseria, and Wild Arms 3.

Games rounding the top 10 in alphabetical order are: Fortnite, Gravity Rush series, Ori and the Blind Forest, Valkyria Chronicles Remastered, Xenoblade Chronicles X, and Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana.

TL/DR: My favorite games tend to be ones that have a great story and characters, deep gameplay mechanics (such as Dark Souls and the Monster Hunter series), strong leveling system where you can build your characters, weapons and armor, and complex, puzzle-like level designs.

What features do your favorite games have?

The How of Happiness review.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Fortnite Progress as a Ninja and Tips (MM31)

Dragon Scorch is Derpy but can kill 50 husks in 1 swipe
I'm almost at Twine, which is the last area of the game, as a Dragon Ninja, having finished all the Canny Missions except for the Storm Shield Defense and the launch mission to Twine. I have also done a couple of missions in very early Twine (level 76), and Ninjas, contrary to what's written on the internet, are viable through early Twine.

I wondered if I was only able to accomplish this because I have a great group of friends on delinquentMuse's Discord (this is her Twitch site) who carried me through. Note: when she is streaming live, type !Discord in chat and you'll get her Discord link. She has a Fortnite room where we get together to assemble parties, offer advice and support.

Indeed, all the missions I have done with them, I can easily be away from the keyboard and win. In fact, there were quite a few missions where my friends completed the objective as I went around the map to find various objects (i.e., fire trucks, gnomes, televisions) for daily rewards. Because of this, the best advice I can give anyone starting out in Fortnite is finding a group of helpful friends. But of course, to keep your friends, don't mooch unless you have an understanding that you're there to find your or their daily rewards, or you're there just to farm, through the in-game text chat.

I got lucky as I already had a team before playing Fortnite because of delinquentMuse, but for those who don't, the good news is that all classes are more than viable in the starting area of Stonewood so you can work with any group. Further, Stonewood is pretty active so it's unlikely you'll end up by yourself.

So, whatever class you play, if you meet anyone in-game who's been helpful and friendly, at the end of the mission, you can invite the person to be your friend. I would recommend doing that aggressively.

Then, as you get to harder levels, you can invite your friends through "Party Finder" in the options section where you tweak your settings. Since some may be in a mission, or a bug may prevent you from joining one of your friends, if you have enough of a large list, at least one of your friends might join.

That being said, can I truly say Ninja is viable for me if I can still win missions even if I contribute absolutely nothing on Muse's team? I'm not sure. Therefore, I decided to play quite a few level 70 missions with strangers when my friends weren't around. The biggest test was a level 70 "Deliver the Bomb" mission and only one stranger was on my team, a soldier. I think he was the Halloween variant of Urban Assault, Skull Jonesy, and was only mid 30's. He actually commented that he may be too low a level as he got into the mission using the "Plays with Others" mission, where there's a quick game option allowing you to enter any mission, regardless of level. As a level 30, you will get 1hko in a level 70 mission very easily.

This was an issue because thus far, it was my friends who knew how to build and put down perfectly placed trap halls, and I reinforced, placed traps (since it's obvious where to put them when my friends make the frame of the trap hall), brought materials.

Further, with only one person on the team, your stats aren't boosted as much compared to when you have a full team. Because of this, I decided to be very aggressive about traps, and put down two trap halls, almost missing the South side until my team-mate mentioned a storm there, and was surprised that he only died once because of the traps. At the same time, he was very skilled.

I was covering the North side, which had the well-placed traps and was quite pleased that all the husks went through the hall and I just dragon slashed the remaining almost dead ones that were making their way through. The mission was going very well.

However, as for my team mate, when I saw him go down (there's a menu status of your team mate's health) covering the South side (which had the less well thought out trap hall), I went over to revive him and we switched sides. He didn't die after that. As for the South side, only a few husks went around the trap hall, which were very easy to take care of as a Dragon level 74 Ninja. The mission was very successful.

Because the storm doesn't change direction in "Deliver the Bomb" missions, placing traps is more predictable. Even so, this goes to show you that building and trap placement can make your mission smooth even as a Ninja.

In Stonewood, the first part of the game, you don't need traps, but once you start in Plankerton, my biggest advice is to take the initiative (even though it costs a lot of resources and farming time) to build and place traps yourself so you can see what works and what doesn't. Or watch (and reinforce) a team mate if you notice that she really knows how to build to perfection and pick up tips that way. The good news is that Plankerton and even mid-Canny are very forgiving so you can experiment with traps. You will get tons of experience with all the Plankerton and Canny mission requirements so you'll become good at building and trap placement if you're pro-active.

Allegedly, in Twine, traps aren't effective per the internet, but this video shows that traps are actually quite effective. Jump to around 10 mins and 30 seconds for the game play. Although Rage Brothers swears a lot, he gives excellent advice. He's actually below level (level 90) for this level 94 mission.

I think the next tip as a Dragon Ninja is not that important, as my friend who mains Ninja was doing quite well as a level 50-ish in level 70 missions, but he has exceptional gaming skills.

But, to make it easier as a Ninja, here are the best ways to boost your stats. That post was specifically for the Dragon Ninja, but if you main another hero, the general advice of maximizing your main and supporting heroes as much as possible holds true. Then, you must focus on building up your survivors.

I was very aggressive with the FORT squad, so whenever I see the fun and easy "Build the Radar" missions that reward evolve materials or survivor experience, I milk them for all its worth, so I can build up my FORT squad stats, focusing on Tech, Offense and Resistance. Again, I use my "Jack of all Trades, Master of Everything" grind strategy where I'm extremely strong in all important stats, which was necessary for me as a relatively new gamer.

TL/DR: The two biggest tips are making helpful friends and learning how to build well.

If you made it to late-game Fortnite what other things did you find helpful?

The How of Happiness review.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Fortnite Reflects Reality (MM 30)

Everyone has grown up with the belief that if you work hard in life, you can succeed. This is
The Ever-Elusive MG Ramirez
such a nice and comforting idea, but unfortunately doesn't hold true. There are tons of people who work multiple jobs who can't get ahead because they're living paycheck to paycheck, just working to survive. So a lot of people can't "better" themselves as insensitive people argue, because how can you afford AND spend the time studying, attending College classes when you're working 80 hours/week and often have children to take care of? Whereas there are a lot of people who are simply born into wealth.

This is where Fortnite might be one of the most realistic games on the market. You can spend as much time and effort completing missions to earn your v-bucks (or even your hard earned cash--don't do it!) to buy pinatas called Llamas, which give out randomized loot. Llamas are the only way to get the best and most exciting items, which are the mythic heroes and mythic lead survivors. Through the RNG process, you can play this game for years straight and if you have bad enough luck, you may never get a mythic hero.

Now, if you're a millionaire, you may or may not get all the mythic heroes as well, but your chances multiply greatly as you can easily buy a million Llamas, and through RNG, one of them should eventually contain a mythic hero, though again, this is not guaranteed even for wealthy consumers, because what if you just have really bad luck? So upon opening your millionth llama, you get the same common defender that no one wants?

In other words, no matter what you try to do, how much you play the game, how much you spend, like life, you may not get what you want.

However, the issue here is that we play video games and seek entertainment to escape reality, so do we really need a video game that reflects negative aspects of life? I heard that getting the best items in Hearthstone is RNG, but the more you play, the more likely you get better items, which I think would make Fortnite a better game if they adopt this system, if they must continue with the loot-box. I often see people getting mythic heroes through sheer luck but they stop playing the game (see the auction list of those selling mythic heroes), whereas a lot of my friends continue to play months and months, and still don't get a mythic hero, despite being extremely dedicated.

Do you think I'm being too salty here by criticizing video games that strive to reflect the harsh realities of life, or do you think developers should take the "entertainment as escapism" route and make game-play elements more equitable?

The How of Happiness review.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Monster Hunter World: Initial Impressions (MM29)

I was feverishly getting through the quests as quickly as possible to obtain the Palico Watcher armor and weapon (cross-over from Horizon: Zero Dawn) as the event will be over on February 8th. The Aloy set for your hunter will be available later. The date has been unannounced. So I apologize for being a day late for this Monday Musings 29.

The great news is that the core experience of Monster Hunter: World is exactly like the past games in terms of combat mechanics, and all the hunting accoutrements such as traps, throwing knives, bombs and such. You are thrown directly into the action on your first mission, as you fight your first monster. 

I was surprised that during the first mission, they didn't include tutorial elements like they did in the past, such as healing, sharpening your weapons, and cooking well-done steaks. I was expecting the handler (your human partner) to walk you through like previous games did. I really don't think this will prevent the game from being more stream-lined. As there are a lot of newcomers to the series, this lack of tutorial appears to be an oversight. 

I'm glad to see that the first low-rank missions are challenging, especially when you face these monsters for the first time. That being said, I barely upgraded my armor except for getting the bone set, as that was easily acquired by doing the story missions, and didn't require any grinding as I rushed through to get the Palico Watcher armor. So I don't know if these missions would be vastly easier if I upgraded.

Indeed, my biggest fear was that World will be easy like Monster Hunter Portable 3rd to make it more accessible to newcomers. In Portable, I fainted only once the entire main story, and I could've done a no-faint playthrough my very first walkthrough, if I didn't get too overconfident with the last mission. So I was happy to have fainted quite a few times on my way to getting the Palico Watcher armor set.

Once I was able to open the Horizon: Zero Dawn event, I had to grind for the complete Watcher set and weapon. Interestingly, it wasn't as much grind as the past games. I couldn't get the requisite electro-sac, as sacs tend to be rare, but as you level up your knowledge of the monster, you tend to get the rare item the next mission. You level up by getting points from tracking, killing and capturing the monster. You then talk to the Ecological Expert to "present your findings". This makes sense story-wise because once you know your monsters, you know where to carve to get the rare items. I thought this was a very nice touch.

Niki, my Monster Hunter, in-game screenshot
I was happy with the character creation as it was relatively easy to make attractive characters like the past Monster Hunter games, but I was sad that the Palico customization wasn't as customizable so you couldn't place spots, tabby markings, and other patterns where you want them to. So my Palico didn't quite look like my cat Niki.

I was sad to see that my favorite monsters such as Arzuros, Barrioth, Lagombi, Nargacuga, Zinogre, and of course my favorite Yian Kut-Ku will not make an appearance. I'm hoping that there'll be a DLC of these classic monsters taking place in the Old World. As the game takes place in the New World, perhaps the DLC story would be your hunter going back home to see family and friends, but they're being attacked by these classic Old World monsters.

I can see that the developers wanted totally new monsters to make the game fresh for veterans, but this game will be the first for many, so I don't know why they didn't include the most fun monsters from the past. After all, they included the usual Rathalos and his variants. In fact, considering the past games, I got frankly tired of Rathalos since there were so many re-skins of the same monster.

Kulu-Ya-Ku appears to be the new Yian Kut-Ku, but he's not nearly as fun or goofy.

I groaned when I saw the Elder Dragon mission, especially as this mission is the one that I must unlock before the HZD event. The past games' set-pieces for these supposedly grandiose battles were boring and tedious for me. However, this was the first Monster Hunter where I had a lot of fun, with surprising elements. In fact, I was upset that we couldn't replay this mission.

The other games do have story, but the story in World seems to be better incorporated. Each main mission you do is tied directly with the story and includes cutscenes and dialogue before and after each mission. The story is very similar to Generations which surprised me, as I would think they'd come up with a completely different plot.

Despite not featuring my favorite monsters and having the same plot-line (thus far) as Generations (I'm sure it will have different twists), the environment is a living, breathing world unlike the segmented areas of past games. Because the world is so lush and full, I look forward to being in the world, as opposed to being sick and tired of the dynamic-less world of past games.

Indeed, the areas of past Monster Hunters were so static that I had to take breaks between monsters because I got tired of seeing the same scenery over and over again. The areas of the past games tend to be barren and sparse given the lack of power of the past consoles and handhelds. World takes place in the same various areas, but the difference is that there's so much vegetation, verticality, and many things tucked into nooks and crannies to explore, that it doesn't get boring visually. As a result, I think World may become my favorite Monster Hunter

For all Monster Hunter fans this is a must-have, and such an easy recommendation. If you're a newcomer and you appreciate combat that is deliberate, deep and strategic, against very well-animated monsters with specific attack patterns and personalities, and you love immersing yourself in lush, gorgeous environments, I also highly recommend the game. 

The How of Happiness review.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana--A Must Play! (MM28)

Note: MM28 = Monday Musings 28

I finished playing Ys VIII on the PS4, and achieved the true ending. If you love JRPGs, you must play this game! I never heard of the Ys series, but fortunately my friend was yearning for another grand, sweeping RPG, so I did a quick Google search, and Ys VIII came up. Doing quick research, I was also impressed that the President of Falcom apologized for the translation, and as a result, the new English translation patch is free.

As it scored even higher than Tales of Berseria on Metacritic, the general rule of adding at least 20 to 30 points when it comes to JRPGs held true. Since it received 85, then it's in the masterpiece range!

Right now, I'm cleaning up the trophies, which appear rather easy to obtain. Since there's a lot of post-game content, I'll write a review as soon as possible, if I don't get side-tracked by the soon to be released Monster Hunter: World!

General advice: if you don't care about trophies, then I'd play this game without any guides, unless you're truly stuck, to be fully immersed in the gripping story and wonderful characters.

However, if you do care about trophies, there are some missable trophies, including a difficulty trophy. If you want the Platinum in one walkthrough, then you must play it on Nightmare Difficulty. This is a great trophy guide where it outlines the missable trophies, without any spoilers.

Since I want to achieve Platinum and relive the game again, I played it on Normal, and then after clean up, I'm going to play it the second time on Nightmare difficulty.

I'm impressed by the fact that you can map buttons any way you want. The default controls didn't make sense, so I mapped R2 for regular attacks, and the R1 + (face buttons) for the special attacks. I would do this before starting the game.

Finally, I would play any character that appeals to you. I found that at least on normal difficulty, it doesn't matter who's in your party. Any combination is viable, which is highly appreciated.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Monday Musings 27

Double Post!
Palico, from Monster Hunter: World
This past week, I had a nagging sense that I forgot to do something, and found out that I didn't do my Monday Musings last Monday! To make up for it, I'm going to do a double post, one for today, and then one for upcoming Monday. I meant to write about my Fortnite progress last week, so here it is: 

Fortnite Ninja Progress
I'm currently in mid-Canny, working my way through level 64 missions, maining Sarah Hotep, Dragon Ninja. Due to heavy grinding and being quite aggressive with building up my support squad, I was either at level, or well above level during my time in Canny, so the Ninja is very viable. Epic Games increased the health, shield and ability across the board, which certainly helped with progressing through Canny.

That being said, my friends who main soldier (Urban Assault or Raider Headhunter) and didn't buy deluxe packages or llamas (so they didn't have ridiculous support squad stats) were easily tackling Canny at least 10 levels below, so I think that's why the general consensus is that the soldier class is meta. But I disagree that you can only play soldier in Canny otherwise you'll get crushed. Certainly, you can main a Ninja as long as you're diligent about making sure you're near the same level as the mission level.

Since I'm not good at shooting, I really need to stick with the Ninja class, though I have my Raider Headhunter squad ready in case Epic Games nerfs dragonslash! Hopefully by the time I reach Twine, that won't happen.

Monster Hunter: World Selling Well!
Checking up on Amazon sales, I'm happy to see that Monster Hunter has been within the top 3 best-selling games, and as of now, it's #1! If it can only sell as much, or even more, than past Monster Hunters, I would be overjoyed as the franchise will stay on consoles.

Indeed, the sheer size of these monsters must be seen on the large-screen, with surround sound. Clearly, handhelds do not do the game justice. 

My favorite Monster Hunter?
Cha-Cha from MH3U
That being said, you'd think my favorite Monster Hunter would be Monster Hunter 3U due to it being the first one I played and on a large screen. However, my favorite hands-down is Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, even though it's on a handheld (I played it on the underrated PS Vita) and it's the second one I played. I love the quaintness of Pokke village and the fact that you have Felynes (as they called Palicoes back then) as your hunting partners, as opposed to the fixed Cha-Cha and Kayamba, who are nowhere near as cute or customizable. Please compare the picture of a Palico above to Cha-Cha left, and you can see what I mean.

Further, your personal farm in MHFU is neat, tidy and well organized, compared to the other Monster Hunter farms. MHFU has my favorite village theme to the point where in Monster Hunter Portable 3rd where you can chose which village you can do your missions in, I'm always at Pokke Village for the aesthetics and music.

I'm hoping that Monster Hunter: World will be my favorite, though I will always cherish the charm of Pokke Village.

What is your favorite Monster Hunter and why?

The How of Happiness review.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Dark Souls 1 Remastered!

Dark Souls 1 including the incredible DLC will be remastered for all consoles and PC with up to
6-player, upscaled 4K and 60 FPS on PS4, XBox 1. On Switch docked mode, 1080p, 60fps.

I feel that if this remastered version sells well, Demon's Souls will be remastered for the PS4. Sony has the exclusive rights for Demon's Souls.

This game is my favorite and here's why. Needless to say this is a must-have.

My Favorite Types of Games (MM32)

My feline video game buddy, Niki, passed away on Thursday, February 8. I haven't gotten around to writing about her but I will do so wh...