Category Archives: Role Playing/ Adventure

Ni No Kuni II: A Review

Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom released to the general public on the 23rd of March 2018 to much fanfare and anticipation from the JRPG community, but was cloaked to the masses by a stream of more mainstream releases, particularly the latest entry in Ubisoft’s long-running Far Cry series. As a sequel to the highly-praised Wrath of the White Witch, Revenant Kingdom underwent some serious changes to really take steps forward from its predecessor and make the most of the technological advances that have occurred in the interim. The most noticeable of these changes is the addition of real-time action-oriented combat and the removal of the Familiar system that gave the original a Pokémon-like appeal.

The Story

Ni No Kuni II follows the story of Prince Evan, the young king-to-be of fantastical nation Ding Dong Dell, who survives a coup thanks to the timely intervention of an interloper from our world, Roland Crane. Roland, a President in his own right, immediately becomes Evan’s mentor as he sets out to fulfil his childish dream of creating a kingdom without war where ‘Everyone can live together in peace.’

Evan’s power awakens

While the premise isn’t as out of the box as some JRPG titles try to be, it does set the framework very nicely for a rich mix of Kingdom building, military strategising and despot destroying. It is quite a shame then that the story itself feels like dipping a thin biscuit into a well-brewed cup of tea. Despite the positive framework and a large glorious world rich with lore from the first game, Evan’s journey never leaves behind the naive realms of childlike fantasy.  What could have been a moment of real growth for the young king – as he realises that the princely bubble he’s been living under all these years has left him weak and vulnerable – is instead replaced by the protective arm of a complete stranger who’s back-story never really develops beyond the opening scene. Furthermore, rather than seeking vengeance on the man who stole his kingdom, murdered his father and took the life of the woman who raised him, Evan seems quite content to just get on with his little adventure and build a new kingdom elsewhere.

Although naive from the opening dialogue through until postgame, the story doesn’t really start to fall apart until Chapter Six, mostly because you’re traversing the land discovering new and exciting kingdoms which really helps overcome the narrative issues. However, just after the game’s half way point certain events take place that really rely on the player feeling attachment to the six main characters, a feeling which doesn’t ever occur. Three chapters later, as the credits roll I still feel nothing for any of the main party members and even Roland – the character with the most potential for development – is vastly underwhelming when all is said and done. Any moments of tension or angst that there are in the story don’t stick and I’m sure this will be a game no one is going to walk away from overly impressed with the narrative. I was really on the fence about the voice acting too, some bits are okay, and some… you’ll want to mute. It does feel like those responsible were a little bit indecisive about whether or not to go all in on the localised voices, and in turn we have a game that is about ‘half’ voiced. I’ve played plenty of games without voice acting, and plenty with, and Ni No Kuni II just needed to pick one and stick to it rather than hop on and off as it pleases.

In spite of the poor storytelling and the shallow character development that goes hand-in-hand with it, there’s a breath of Ghibli in the artwork that makes the world of Revenant Kingdom a wondrous place to explore. (For those unfamiliar with the works of the animation studio, Ni No Kuni II can also be likened to Dragon Quest, in particular the art-style and the really out-of-the-way item naming and descriptions that make you wonder just how hard they tried to not call the healing items ‘potions’. There’s also something Dragon Quest-esque in the character design, which is gorgeous by the way. I’m running the game on a regular PS4 and it is god-damn beautiful, so those of you with access to stand-up PCs and PS4 Pros are in for a hell of a treat.

Not quite Shenron

This holds particularly true for the character models, both those of Evan and his party and the people you meet in various cities around the world. You get the feeling like each one has been placed there for a particular reason or purpose and that they were individually crafted.

It turns out, they were.

Gameplay

 

The world of Ni on Kuni II is epic and vast with roaring seas and chilly mountains packed full of traditional JRPG monsters just waiting to be smashed apart and treated like the loot-piñatas they are. But as you head off on your adventure to turn Evan from wimpy Prince to glorious King you’ll notice that he’s turned into a Pop Vinyl figure on the World Map. I found this a little reminiscent of early Final Fantasy titles as you explore the world as a tiny version of yourself and then return to your fully-proportioned bodies when combat starts. To be honest, I know this really bothered some people. Why build a glorious world of cell-shaded people and hand-drawn figures if you’re going to have to explore it in this Overworld view? From a design point it makes perfect sense as rendering the entire world in colourful hand-drawn artwork would have taken far too long, and I had very few issues with them putting something like this in the game. I know it’s a highly divisive topic, but once you get playing you’ll realise that it doesn’t take anything away from the game’s functionality.

The technological Broadleaf

Similarly divisive were the addition of Skirmish battles which take place in this same ‘World Map’ view where everyone’s heads are four times bigger than their bodies. Skirmishes are like playing a Real Time Strategy game that has been dumbed down as much as possible. There’s a rock-paper-scissors (Sword-Hammers-Spears) element to combat and each group of units has a level which greatly affects their fighting strength. In essence, these fights are to symbolise those times where Evan really is in command of huge armies doing battle on a large scale – as any fantasy-based King must be, of course. These were few and far between in the story, which I know is a relief for some people, but they are a fun side-activity which is a well executed, but ultimately shallow, system that relies far too heavily on unit level to decide the outcome of these fights. It doesn’t matter if your swordsmen are weak to spear users, if your swords are a high enough level they’ll cut them down anyway. As a result, the whole thing feels a little improperly balanced, but it’s not quite gamebreaking and levelling up these units isn’t as simple as grinding the same mission over and over – usually. I will say that the way that these missions refresh on the map is random and there is a steep difficulty spike between the tutorial and one of the first unlockable side missions that require it, which can dull the experience of playing these Skirmishes if you’re unlucky enough to come across new ones at the wrong time.

Most of the actual ‘real’ combat takes place using the properly proportioned characters as you see them in cutscenes and in towns. If you approach an enemy on the world map, you are transported to a small ‘arena’ in which the fight takes place, whereas in dungeons fights occur more organically as you don’t start in Pop Vinyl mode. For the most part fighting in Ni No Kuni II feels great, it’s reactive and fast and lets you have the right amount of choice without overly confusing you. Like any RPG you can farm or create rare gear and spam items to get past tricky encounters, but it all feels really smooth – even when pausing to eat food or heal. On the downside, these encounters are short. Consistently short. You spend more time in the loading screen than you do the actual fights and most enemies can be splattered by a few quick lashes with the square button on your controller. Most of the monsters you’ll engage in combat with can be finished in fewer than ten seconds without using skills, spells, higgledies, food buffs or the tactic tweaker, all things you can use to increase your effectiveness against the colourful and aggressive creatures of the world.

I really liked the mechanics at play in Ni No Kuni II, but if there was ever a game that was crying out for a ‘hard’ difficulty it’s this. If you start throwing things like top-level-rarity items and improved weapons and armour into the mix, you can one shot most non-tainted or boss enemies that are at or below your. Indeed, the only challenge this game ever presented in my 60-hour-long completionist run was in the end game Dreamer’s Door. Most of my party were level 68 and consistently fighting level 107 enemies. It’s a nightmarish mis-match waiting to happen, but finally, it was a challenge. Even neglecting the aforementioned combat buffs and helpful mechanics this was just a grind, with no real challenge other than dodging their fairly predictable attacks and using the occasional heal. If nothing else, Ni No Kuni II does have a difficulty spike between the final boss and its true end-game content, but after 40 hours of consistently battling for eight or nine seconds at a time this difficulty leap can feel steep, particularly if you neglect the time-consuming Kingdom Building aspect of the game while you power through the story. However, the opposite is true if your Kingdom stays in line with your game and gear progression, and you can often find yourself once more in situations where you’re hacking away at enemies like an angry gardener at an unruly hedge-row.

Citizens improve as time passes

The aforementioned Kingdom Building takes up a lot of time, REAL world time. It’s essentially a mobile-game style formula where you build and improve structures and staff them with the citizens you recruit to grant you certain functions or perks. Now, I hate mobile games. I mean, LOATHE them. Not because of their real-time concepts or their ease of access to any idiot who can afford a smart phone and the has enough free time to skip past the tutorial, but because they never stop asking you for real-world currency, and they gate a whole lot of the progress and cool stuff so that eventually you HAVE to pay to win. Ni No Kuni II took all the good bits, and ripped out the constant advertising and pay walls to make the Kingdom Building a fun pastime that provided a welcome alternative to farming low-level materials and items. Furthermore, it also gives a purpose to the side quests and missions. You’re not just getting a handful of food items or coins as a reward, each quest could lead to a new citizen to join your workforce, and this helps distract you from the fetch-quest nature of 90% of the side quests. Managing and building the Kingdom is oddly satisfying, although it is very exploitable. As it’s a part of the game that progresses as time moves forward, rather than as you progress the game’s story, you can leave your console on for a few real-world minutes to generate produce while you’re essentially doing nothing in the game. I’ll admit, I needed some items in game that I didn’t want to endure relentless four-second long encounters with low level enemies for, so I just reassigned some of my citizens to the mining camp and left my console on for an hour while I went to the shop. Upon my return, I had those items: simple.

For all I liked about Kingdom Building, I feel it artificially elongated the time the game takes to complete. Because parts of progression rely on certain buildings and people being built and recruited, you do have to wait for time to pass in the real world before you can move on or get a new item. Had this mechanic been dependent on player activity I don’t know if it would have worked, but I would have a smaller number on my completion time.

The main change between Ni No Kuni and Ni No Kuni II was the removal of the Familiars which served as a primary method of combat. The closest Revenant Kingdom comes to Familiars is sprite-like creatures called Higgledies. Unlike Familiars, the player has very little direct control over these and instead they act mostly on their own in battle, helping and assisting the player’s team of three heroes. They have special abilities which can be triggered, but as I already mentioned, combat is over very quickly a lot of the time, and Higgledies don’t contribute as much as equipping a stronger weapon or better armour would. They are collectibles, and some people may say they’re cute mascots, but for me at least, they were an unnecessary part of the game that feels like it needs developing more. Yes, they can do cool things and can be VERY helpful in combat if you need them to be, but combat was far too easy without them, why would you need the help?

A Pop Vinyl Kingdom

Perhaps on a similar note the Tactic Tweaker, a key gameplay element introduced early on, allows you to improve the party’s damage output or resistances to certain types of monster or types of attack. You can also slightly-affect the drop rates of particular types of items and provide static buffs to certain elements of your characters as you level it up. Further to my comments about the ease of the game, I saw no need to increase damage output or increase resistance, but I really liked the ability to tweak my drop rates, particularly when you can effect four things: Experience, Guilders (money), Rare Materials and Equipment. Each can receive up to a level two boost, but you must sacrifice something else in turn. For example, everything starts at level one, but in turn for reducing the drop for Experience you can buff your drop rate for Guilders. Once you figure out the game is material heavy, you can buff those drop rates to level two, and leave Exp and Equipment rates at level  1 with the buff to Guilders at 0. Note that these are buffs to drop rates; turning Guilders to 0 doesn’t mean that money doesn’t drop, it just means you’re without the standard level one boost. That’s not a problem, as if you’re hoarding equipment and materials you can always sell the ones you don’t need to make some cash. That said, money has limited uses once you pass the mid-game point and you’ll get plenty without much effort anyway.

Sidequests and time-filler

Like many JRPG’s a lot of Ni No Kuni II‘s content outside of the main story falls into typical side quests and errands. Apart from the 80 or so that unlock new citizens for your Kingdom they are entirely optional in terms of gameplay and give no benefits other than in the experience or items they give you. For the most part the side quests are quite easy. More than a few require you to hand over items that you’ve already collected by just being out and about in the world. Only a few require you to go and collect a quest-specific item that won’t spawn unless the mission is active. While I particularly like this, as a hoarder of materials myself, there is very little in the way of variety for these quests, they all fall into the standard ‘bring me, collect me, kill me’ requests that we’ve seen in countless games before.

Roland Crane

There’s also an entirely optional set of constantly renewing side quests called errands. Perhaps even more so than the listed tasks, these require you to bring, collect and kill more common items and things in exchange for Tokens of Gratitude which can be traded for items and citizens for your Kingdom. It’s a fairly simple, yet effective, feedback loop that offers an alternative route to acquire hard-to-get items for your in-game Kingdom, but is something you’ll be able to optimise later on in the game to get what you need and then never use again.

 

Conclusion

Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is an adequate and competent sequel to Wrath of the White Witch and will no doubt be a ‘must play’ for every JRPGer who’s been crying out for a new, quality title since Persona 5. However, I can’t help feeling that the game does have some flaws that I can’t just overlook. The story and related narrative elements are average at best and all the game’s systems feel a little underdeveloped. I do think that all the components it does have are useful and serve a purpose, but in attempting to hit all these other elements of ‘other’ gaming-styles, including Real Time Strategy and Kingdom Building, and then marry them into the traditional JRPG, undercuts the value of each as an individual part. Remove just one of them and reallocate that time spent developing it into the rest of the game and the other parts could have some real depth. At the moment there are a lot of different things to play with, but nothing is so enthralling that it makes you want to focus upon it and really dive in deep – mostly because there’s not enough to dive into. Personally, if the skirmish battles were removed in their entirety and all that effort was reallocated into the Kingdom Building system, it could reach a greater level of depth and potential customisation. Your Kingdom could become a military power, or a thriving hub of culture and instead of having to build specific buildings for story reasons, you could have had branching narratives at specific points in the game giving you a choice on how to develop Evermore, to really make it your own.

As things are Revenant Kingdom is fine, there’s the foundation of something great which I hope Level-5 get the chance to build upon in (potentially) Ni No Kuni III, but throughout my play through, which now includes a Platinum Trophy, I couldn’t help but feel that everything was too simple, too easy, too… naive. The story, the characters and the simplistic and shallow core gameplay systems all point towards this game being aimed at people younger than myself. I’m in my mid-twenties and have been gaming for two decades, and this game provided no challenge. The story felt very much like a bedtime story told to a young child by a caring father. PEGI gave it a 12+, but even that feels a little strict in an age where you constantly get ten-year-old gamers who can 360-no-scope you on COD. If you’re a gamer between the ages of eight and 15 Ni No Kuni II will be an excellent first game (or first JRPG) to play. It’s forgiving, kind and simple enough for children to understand. If you’re in your late teens or older this feels patronising and cheap. I did have moments where I was genuinely surprised that the grown men and women writing the story or developing the game systems would have the nerve to really make things this… simple. Was there something really obvious I had overlooked? Was there a way to change the difficulty that I just haven’t found yet? Eventually, I realised that maybe I’m not the audience this game was trying to attract, maybe Persona 5 really ruined by ability to accept anything but perfection from JRPG games, or maybe – and this is probably the truth – Ni No Kuni II was intended to be a light-hearted fantastical story which left the characters in no real peril and could be the modern equivalent of a father weaving a bedtime story to tell his infant son, and not wanting to ruin his perception that the world is a wonderful place where dreams and ambitions really do come true.

If so, this just goes to prove how much real life has crushed my sense of childlike innocence. If Ghibli-inspired artwork can’t be a guiding light, then I guess I’m living in the dark. That said, there’s so much light here it’s more likely to blind you than guide you, and for all the praise showered upon the game by overwhelmingly inflated mainstream reviews, it’s clear that they too, were blinded by wonderfully prismatic palette that was splashed across our screens.

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Monster Hunter: World – Review

The latest instalment in the much acclaimed Monster Hunter series is a joy to behold, and benefits greatly from excellent design, intelligent marketing and fortuitous timing to deliver one of the most well-rounded loot cycles gaming has ever seen.

Monster Hunter: World is a RPG in which you hunt monsters and unlock the secrets of mysterious beasts called the Elder Dragons. Nothing crazy complicated. Utilizing a third person camera, and borrowing a lot of features veterans of games like Dark Souls and Bloodbourne will recognise, Monster Hunter: World garnered a lot of sideways glances and apprehensive stares in the run up to launch, particularly as a result of its comparison to both of Capcom’s other ‘hunting games.’ But what sets MH:W apart is its vibrant colours, lovable sidekicks and of course, the monsters themselves.

Unlike the drab grayscale palette that’s used to contrast the crimson red blood in Bloodbourne and the creepy, slow methodical march to your demise that is Dark Souls, Monster Hunter: World is bursting with life and each of its five distinct zones lends itself beautifully to the combat system which has you chasing, and in some cases being chased, around the map to bring down your target.

Insect Glaive wielder

World is set to be the Monster Hunter game that really makes a dent in the Western market, and it was in fact, the first MH game I’d played. I knew of the series before hand, but its predominantly handheld format in prior incarnations was a real put off for me. To be honest, I like my handheld gaming to be Pokémon and Fire Emblem-esque, with turn based combat where I can take pauses to check on the outside world, as opposed to console and PC gaming which I find more immersive. This instalment – the first of which to come to PS4 and Xbox One – was the perfect chance for me to jump on board.

For those new to the series, Monster Hunter has a well-established fan base and community, and it’s clear from seeing the feedback from said community during the three Beta releases that the developers have gone to great lengths to make the franchise more accessible for first timers and Westerners – a popular concept in the past few years, one trialed by Final Fantasy XV in 2016 if I’m not mistaken. A few of the helpful additions include new tutorials, a training room to help test out weapons and a change up to the multiplayer drop-in / drop-out to bring it in line with other titles on this generation of hardware. It’s all a really nice touch, and while I found parts of it a little over-explained, I’d prefer this than the alternative as it means fewer complaints in the long run.

Diablos arrives

Of course, the best part of the Monster Hunter experience is actually going out and hunting. It’s a tried and tested formula the game has refined since 2004 and one that is staggeringly simple and unmistakably enthralling. As a new player takes their first tentative steps in the Ancient Forest they begin collecting clues from footprints, saliva, mucus or entrails – all signs that a monster had passed by. All of which leads to the eventual showdown with what the game calls ‘Large Monsters.’ One thing I did notice as I ducked through expertly rendered foliage and climbed tendrils and walls of ivy, was that this build up didn’t feel quite in the same way that a ‘normal’ run up to a boss fight feels. The environment is open, inviting and always has hidden nooks for you to explore, as opposed to oppressive corridors and transparently linear walkways that usually lead up to the hall or area the big bad awaits you in. However, these Monsters aren’t to be underestimated. All this scenery does is lead you into a bit of a false sense of security with the combination of realistic environments and believable creatures. MH:W might as well have been a David Attenborough documentary set in a parallel universe wherein evolution took a slightly different path. I’ll admit, it was a beautiful change to what I’ve been used too. It’s very plausible that if evolution had gone a different way that we could have creatures like the Anjanath and Jagras on Earth today, particularly compared to some of the terrifying – and frankly super weird – creatures that usually star in these sort of games. Maybe that’s just because I went into this straight after playing Persona 5…

Which brings us to combat. Yes, it’s a little clunky, and sometimes the best way to do damage is to actually put away your weapon, but it works. It’s clever, intuitive and forces you to think outside of the rather primitive ‘me hunter, me smash with axe’ mentality that it could have and instead focus on status aliments, element match ups and environmental hazards like poison pods, boulders and other monsters. In fact, the biggest issues I have with the combat in this game are often of my own making. What Monster Hunter‘s combat really tests is your patience. If fights are taking too long and you’re not doing enough damage, it’s mostly because you didn’t farm enough parts to upgrade your weapon, or use a consumable item, or eat at the canteen before you left for the hunt. Yes, there are some odd times where you have to REALLY work for your kill, but that’s part of the game’s charm. Every time you bring one of these things down you feel like you’ve achieved something, and the game is never stingy with loot. Sure, there’s an element of RNG involved but if you know what you’re specifically after, say a mane, you can smash the monster in the head to increase the chances of that dropping. Even in the high ranked ‘intermediate’ part of the game which I’m in now, I’m mostly getting the parts I need after killing a monster three or four times, so while there is an element of grinding, it doesn’t border on tedious. At least, not yet.

Hunter in Great Jagras gear

However, I don’t want to tangle up my admiration of the game’s combat and loot system for a lack of difficulty, the enemy scaling is done exceptionally well, and you will get firmly squashed if you don’t keep pace and upgrade your gear as and when you can. After all, this is the core premise of the game: kill, loot, upgrade, repeat.

What is particularly attractive about Monster Hunter: World is that it feels like the perfect mid-point between regular RPGs in which you can overgear and overlevel for each encounter if you want too, and more punishing games like Dark Souls where one wrong move means your death. World won’t let you overgear, as you often need to kill something tougher to get better weapons and armour, but at the same time, you don’t need to execute the perfect boss battle like you do in a Souls game. Given that each map is a massive open environment you can actually run away if you find yourself in a sticky situation – and in some instances running away is what you are going to have to do.

In standing as the perfect middle ground between two genres (traditional fantasy RPG game and hardcore ‘R-Rated’ deathwish) comes Monster Hunter’s biggest flaw, at least for myself as a first time player: Where’s the blood? I get it, the game is a PEGI 16+, but you can literally cut the tail off a dinosaur and instead of there being blood or even a damage effect, the tail just comes off and lies on the floor like an uncooked steak in an anime. Admittedly, the target audience for MH has long been teenagers and they don’t want to mess with that market, but I do feel that a ‘gore’ switch, might be a fun DLC or a mod when this launches on PC. For the time being it’s a tiny flaw in what I’m finding to be a very enjoyable game.

Finally, I alluded to above that Monster Hunter: World enjoyed great timing, a point to which may require some explanation. 2017 was a great year for gaming, the Switch really took off and… well, VR was a thing that happened right? That was pretty much it. Keeping up with the trend, 2018’s first quarter looks really quite awful for gaming. The three big releases I had been keeping an eye on in January were Monster Hunter World, Dragonball FightersZ and Dissida Final Fantasy NT. Up next, the REMAKE of Shadow of the Colossus, the REMAKE of God of War and a the PC release of Final Fantasy XV. Can I just say that I’ve had it with remakes, come up with something new already! I’ve played enough Dragonball Z games to know that this one is going to last me about eight hours before I’m bored of the repetitive brawler nature, the Final Fantasy game is a fan service which is just a Heroes title with a different skin and I played both Colossus and God of War on PS3. Do I want to play them again? Not particularly, I still remember what happened the first time and the PS3 wasn’t that long ago. What’s next, are they going to remake F.R.I.E.N.D.S with a brand new cast? Just relax on the remakes already, give us Final Fantasy VII and then stop. #Iknowit’snotgoingtohappen

Yes, you can say that Monster Hunter is repetitive, but for me at least, it’s something new, interesting and a little bit challenging – and thankfully without the button mashing nature of a Devil May Cry game that can cause one’s hand injury to flare back up. 2018 needs to sort itself out gaming wise, but Monster Hunter doesn’t. It’s a great game to pick up for beginners to the series and I imagine the graphical upgrades and the new monsters are more than enough to entice returning fans back into the fold. It’s well-made, innovative and self sustaining. Furthermore, I expect it to prosper in a world in which people come back and play little bits of games each day. Log on for 30mins, do a hunt, then go away for a day. It’s almost like Monster Hunter: World was built for hit and run tactics both in game, and out of it.

 


Horizon Zero Dawn: What’s on the Horizon?

Horizon Dawns

Every gamer eventually reaches a point where they start to put Trophys and Achievements over actually enjoying a game. A time where a platinum trophy that most of your friends won’t even notice or care about is all you can think about, a momentous moment where you use fast travel to reach one last collectible rather than pay attention to the comprehensive lore and depth of a game. It sounds insignificant, but you haven’t really appreciated a game until one of them knocks you out of your Trophy-hoarding stride. This is the story of the moment that happened to me and the moment I got over it.

Aloy currently stands on a plateau within the great city of Meridian, a large and prosperous settlement located in the centre of the vast world of Horizon Zero Dawn. To the east of this sprawling city lies the place she grew up, a small hut outside the village of the Nora, to the west lies vast unexplored areas the likes of which I can only speculate at this point. But it was here, in Meridian that my stupid mistake, became a gift.

I had started the game with anticipation and excitement, having followed the project since one of the E3 demos a few years ago, I was bubbling with nervous joy as I booted the game up, impressed as I watched the opening cutscene and astounded as I took my first steps on the game’s ravaged, aging Earth. But just before that, while I was tinkering with the settings on the main menu, I started a new game and it was with this that I was asked the fatal question: select difficulty.

Assuming there was a trophy for finishing on the hardest difficulty I selected Very Hard and immediately plunged into the world of a young Aloy. It wasn’t until seven or eight deaths later (more than I’d care to admit from falling), while I was still in the relative safety of the east of the map that I googled the Trophy list. None of them are locked behind difficulty barriers.

Of course, I could have simply lowered the difficulty upon discovering this – and trust me, I considered it – but I thought that doing so would be like admitting defeat, letting my inner Trophy-whore win. Plus, if you were a human wearing tribal leathers and a giant metal tail, swung at you by what we can only assume are incredibly sophisticated hydraulics, collides with your chest it’s going to take a huge chunk out of your health pool. So I pressed on, believing in my own ability and my desire to have a semi-realistic experience – giant robot dinosaurs excluded. At first, my search for collectibles and new machines to kill took me north, up to a series of beautiful ruined highways and apartment buildings, past dilapidated huts and snowy tundra terrain. During this time I killed many machines, most using primitive traps and tripwires, fewer using my trusty spear and its silent strikes and fewer still using my increasingly ineffective bow. But I hadn’t really been challenged, nought had really crushed my resolve as a mechanical killing machine should. Then came the colossal Bellowback.

If you imagine a giant ant-eater at the front combined with the bulbous behind of a Black Widow spider you can picture the creature. At least three times as tall as Aloy and about 20ft long it spews globs of ice or fire at our huntress while remaining thoroughly resistant to damage from regular arrows. I soon discovered that I could fire two shock blast shots from my sling to put the creature into a downed state and then smash the canisters under its well-guarded body to deal incredible damage, but repeating this action brought me no excitement. It felt almost like cheating. Instead I found myself dodging the whirling flicker of flames in a close range attack and throwing my red-haired maiden out of the way before her mane was literally ablaze, as this provided much more entertainment. Trying to fight this creature with stealth had proven barely effective, one silent strike did little damage to such a colossal creature. Even a double-shot arrow which found its monstrous and exposed bulbous tank barely scratched the surface, so as I ran away, a level 25 warrior, crafting more arrows as I made my mad dash to safety, I turned my camera to face the beast and found the one small grace my trophy hoarding brain had afforded me. I was having fun.

I knew I had traps, I knew I could hit the weak spots of this creature, and I knew I could escape if necessary. However, I also knew that I needed a Bellowback Heart, one of the game’s rare components that can be traded for superior weapons and goods. So I turned, and ran head first into a fight with a rampaging foe that I wasn’t sure I could even survive, never mind win. What’s more, I did this not because the game told me to do so, not because I needed this part to unlock something, but just because I felt like it.

Dusk settles

By the end of a five minute long contest I had devoured seven potions and an entire satchel of medicinal herbs. I had 120 health remaining and by my feet lay the sparking carcass of the Bellowback. There was no heart to be found, just some regular components and a lens of some kind. “Next time” I told myself, before scooping the salvaged material into my ever expanding inventory and continuing upon one of the many side quests in the game.

All of this took place in the eastern section of the map, a small snowy backwater compared to the towering Meridian, but it was the training area you need to prepare yourself for what comes next. Or, it should have been. Travelling down into what appears to be the vast dry riverbed of what was once a very large ocean your view changes from a Christmas card-esque snowy white hue to a harsh swirl of dust, sand and endless mountains of red clay. The mechanical beast I ride is tiny compared to the Chargers, Snapjaws and Thunderjaws that litter my way to Meridan, but I press on, certain to find the answers I seek regarding the massacre at the Proving and a place to offload my rare materials. But rising to the top of the towering metropolis I had only more questions. What new and powerful kind of machines lie below, how would I fair in an environment which by all means seems much more densely populated with bloodthirsty robotic savages, and perhaps most importantly of all, why, when I stare out over the hazy land of this dystopian post-post apocalyptic world, were my eyes transfixed upon one, glorious thing? The glimmer of a Glinthawk and the promise of limitless adventure upon the Horizon.

 

 

 


Final Fantasy XV – Royal Arms Guide

Royal Arms Header

Intro

All across the world of FFXV you discover weapons that belonged to Noctis’ forebears.

We’ll just skip over the part that somehow the bodies of former Kings and Queens were put into locations that just happened to get ‘forgotten’ over time and not in some big fancy crypt in Insomnia.

Each one has their own mini back story in their in-game description but the pros and cons of each aren’t really laid out for all to see. Here’s my experience of them, hopefully it should help a few of you who aren’t seeing the benefits. For how to obtain the Royal Arms, visit the FF wiki page: http://finalfantasyxv.wiki.fextralife.com/Royal+Arms

 

  • All Royal Arms:
    Each and every Royal Arm costs Noctis a percentage of the damage it deals in HP. This is per strike, so it can add up in a big way if you’re in the middle of an all out assault. All enemies take normal damage from Royal Arms. There isn’t a monster in the game that is weak or strong against Royal Arm damage, so these are perfect if your big bad looks unbeatable.
  • Sword of the Wise:
    This is the first Royal Arm you’ll get and does medium strength, medium speed damage much like a regular sword would do. It also gives minor buffs to HP, STR, MAG and SPI but enhances very little on the defensive side of things. It’s description, as stated “devastates foes with preemptive warp-strikes” which has led to some misunderstanding particularly regarding the ‘breaking’ of appendages. It comes in useful early on as a higher damage Engine Blade but will fall out of the four slots of usage for most of the game as other weapons can replicate its effects without the HP cost.
  • Axe of the Conqueror:
    On paper this is Royal Arm is one of the best in raw damage out there, not to mention it looks kind of cool but it’s also really slow. It gives a major buff to STR and takes away some of Noctis’ VIT to compensate. What is perhaps the biggest feature of this weapon is that when used to warp-strike, launches the Prince into the air for an AoE ground attack, meaning you don’t always have to hit your mark perfectly. However, it’s not a screen-clearing AoE like a Summon is. Hitting four enemies at once for 2000 damage each will ravage Noct’s health very quickly and could put you straight in Danger mode.
  • Bow of the Clever:
    A ranged damage Arm that lets you move more freely than the others do and certainly comes in handy when dealing with Roc-type enemies or Griffins later on. It gives a significant bonus to MAG and BAL (Resist) making it very useful against swarms of Imperial troops that also use ranged weapons and if you’re a fan of standing back and casting spells. If you want to be at the heart of the action you needn’t bother using this for too long. One final plus side is that it’s quick-firing low-damage attacks don’t drain health fast.
  • Swords of the Wanderer:
    What looks like one awkward-to-wield javelin is actually a dual-wieldable set of short swords that rain down the pain on Noct’s enemies. Low-damage but lightning fast these boost VIT and SPI but leave offensive stats untouched. My personal favourite Royal Arm because unlike most other daggers no enemies are resistant to them. This makes it possible to dish out consistent damage without getting a DPS spike that ravages Noct’s health. However, they have very little reach and you’d need to use all your accessory slots to give them enough power to compete with any of the other Arms. Recommended for boss fights because of defensive buffs and low damage to Noct’s health.
  • Blade of the Mystic:
    Allegedly this blade was used by a King who fought side-by-side with the Oracle and it’s slight buffs to DARK (Resist), VIT and HP tells you everything. What the description doesn’t tell you is that using this blade to warp-strike fires three magical bolts at enemies before warping, making this a good melee weapon against flying foes. It has medium-high damage and is in a weird place between slow and regular speed. Used with the right accessories this is one powerful Hybrid weapon, but fails to excel at a singular task.
  • Star of the Rogue:
    One of the few ‘ranged’ Arms and also one that was wielded by a Queen not a King. It’s unusual shape and combat style take some getting used to, but the minor buffs to FIRE (Resist), ICE (Resist) and LIGHT (Resist) do help when fighting some enemies. On paper this looks like a low-damage, quick-striking weapon but it’s a little more complicated than that as the individual damage of each strike is higher than you’d expect. This is best used against enemies that are slow moving as it pierces through all enemies in a line damaging them all. This comes in quite handy for narrow corridors in which you can funnel enemies.
  • Sword of the Tall:
    On paper this is the Royal Arm with the highest attack, boasting a 518 rating in that category. However, for such stats you pay a price. This takes 40% off FIRE (Resist), ICE (Resist), LIGHT (Resist) and DARK (Resist) along with a little bit off SPI. In return you get high damage and 200 HP, but by the time you reach the part of the game where you get this, 200 HP might be very little indeed. The other downside is that this is SLOW, really slow and as such any quicker enemies can move out of the arc of your swing fairly easily. Even as an opener the warp-strike damage is moderate, despite the high damage rating, to get even a little bit of something out of this sword the enemy needs to be still, for a long time.
  • Shield of the Just:
    Probably as you’d expect, this does a real number on your offensive stats. A huge chunk comes out of your MAG and even bigger cut out of your STR, but in return you get massive buffs to VIT, HP and resistances. Medium damage attack and slow as hell to strike with, this Shield isn’t a weapon you use to deal damage, but that doesn’t make it bad. It’s one to keep on Noct’s wheel while fighting something tough, as it is the only Arm which can heal you. Wield this, and hold block/dodge and you regenerate health as you would while at a warp-point, for a small continuous drain of MP. It sounds stupid, but it’s worth it as this works great against enemies that are too airborne, or too big, to avoid using warp-points as Noct will block while healing. Essentially, invincibility while your MP lasts.
  • Mace of the Fierce:
    Big, bulky and genuinely looks like it can lay the hurt on something, this mace is quite simple both in stats and swings. Giving a straight 300 HP boost and halving BAL (Resist) this is not the weapon you bring to a fight with a squad of Imperials. It is slow, real slow but hurts like getting smashed by a train. On paper it’s weaker than the Conqueror and Tall Arms, but in practice this is a high-damage opener and works great against beasts like Dualhorns which are large and slow. It takes a lot to wind up for a hit though and you’re likely to get frustrated with how much damage you take while waiting for it to hit.
  • Scepter of the Pious:
    Medium-sized, medium damage and quick weapon buffing DARK (Resist) and MAG something insane. This is a good weapon for fighting daemons, just on those stats alone. But throw in a ground-pound warp-strike and this becomes a serious damage dealer against small to large groups of bad guys. Not great in one-on-one situations as it lacks big damage and has no buffs to physical stats. That being said, a 150 buff to MAG will make you forget all about that if you like using Elemency.
  • Trident of the Oracle:
    The weapon of the Oracle grants a bonus to MP but nothing else in terms of stats. What it does bring to the party is a large swing radius similar to the Mace and Axe above, but with slightly better speed and slightly lower damage. As a tool for destruction, the Trident utilises aerial strikes and air-to-ground assault to deal damage, and also leaves behind holograms of Noct which act as decoys. Great against groups of enemies where you want to focus down one opponent, but one-on-one this lacks use unless you want your battles to look cool.
  • Katana of the Warrior:
    Large, fast and high-damage weapon that boosts SPI, FIRE (Resist), ICE (Resist) and LIGHT (Resist) with one fatal drawback. In turn for this you pay a heavy price in DARK (Resist) one that hurts like hell when fighting daemons that can dish it out heavily. For monsters during the day this should be close to the top of your favourites. Against daemons, be confident in your ability to block and dodge as you could find yourself struck by a mighty powerful dark attack.
  • Sword of the Father:
    Named thusly because it was the sword of King Reginald, Noctis’ father, and is one of the last, if not the last, Arm(s) you will receive. Quick, powerful and with boosts to MAG and VIT this is for the hybrid player who likes to strike quick with flashes of steel and then step off and rain down Elemency on his targets. It lacks the wow factor, both visually and in terms of damage but is one of the most practical Royal Arms for all situations. This is a good one to keep on your wheel until you get the Ultima Blade.

 

Notes

Regarding the Sword of the Wise.
Many articles online suggest that this weapon increases your chances of breaking appendages from beasts you fight. This is true, but it is NOT the weapon itself that does it. Break mechanics works based upon three factors, the Strength of the Strike, the Type of the strike and the Weapon modifier.

The STRENGTH of a strike is the third factor in calculating a break and is determined by the damage it deals. Each appendage has it’s own damage threshold in which if a certain amount of damage is dealt at once a break can occur. This is fairly low on almost all monsters, so even a weak strike is capable of a break, provided it meets the criteria below.

The TYPE of strike plays the second largest contributing factor in a break chance. Only certain strikes may cause a break. Most commonly a break will happen on a warp-strike, but it can also occur while using a charged attack with a greatsword, as well as any auto strike by the largest weapons. All Royal Arms can cause breaks, but they seem to be quite damage dependent, even the largest ones. All aerial polearm strikes can cause breaks as well, while regular swords, daggers and most guns can’t cause breaks with autoattacks. Parry attacks seem to be the exception to the rule, as I’ve seen breaks with certain weapons that can’t normally cause breaks.

The WEAPON modifier plays the largest part in whether or not a break can take place. Certain arms have a bonus to breaking appendages. The best of all is the gun-class weapon, Cerberus. Designed solely for the purpose of breaking, it deals low damage and aims awfully, but is the best way to rip valuable appendages off big beasts. Next in line comes any weapon with a breaking modifier, particularly those with high single-hit damage. Aim these in the right place and use warp-strike to give yourself the best chance.

Now that you know this, you can see that the Sword of the Wise has a high break chance because it automatically warp-strikes, not because it has some built in break modifier.

 


Final Fantasy XV – Review

Noct, Glad, Ignis, Prompto

Introduction

My experiences, and therefore my love, of Final Fantasy started in the late ’90s. It was a turn-based RPG with cut scenes in ALL the right places and I was a naive gamer looking for my next fix. In 20 years which have passed a lot has changed in society, politics and gaming. But not much has changed in the world of Square Enix.

Let’s start with the basics. Final Fantasy XV is amazing. I can’t state this fact enough and I can’t think of a word which is all-encompassing enough to truly describe the game and do it justice. The open world of Lucis gives way to linear storytelling at the right times, and the regions of the world slowly unravel to reveal areas and monsters that feel very familiar to FF veterans, but are unveiled using the newest technology and consoles to provide a unique experience that breathes fresh life into a franchise that had been haemorrhaging fans since Final Fantasy XIII. Here they changed up the combat and gambled, trying to make this one for ‘First Timers’. I’m no first timer, but there’s just something about this game that I love.

Noctis absorbing a Royal Arm

Noctis absorbing a Royal Arm

The characters

Before I get into the nitty-gritty let’s remember that this is still a JRPG, and one done by Square Enix at that, so the characters and plot were likely to have some elements of familiarity or repetition. Take the boys for example: There’s the spoilt heir to the throne (Noctis), reluctant to embrace his destiny even in the wake of his father’s death; his loyal protector (Gladiolus), an honourable soul  who believes in the cause of the Prince; and the tactician and brains of the operation (Ignis) who is physically weaker than the previous two but who is logical and sometimes robotic in his approach. There’s nothing mould-breaking in the cast other than Prompto’s character, who is a strange mash up of two personalities that usually make their way into Japanese storytelling. First, the Jester – a comedian and light-hearted relief from the dark themes of the story – and second, the technophile – a somewhat modern twist on the usual ‘mechanic’ character that has been seen before.

Individually, the boys are all unremarkable and not very interesting. It’s made clear from the beginning that they are all long-time friends / acquaintances of Noct and their purpose is to protect and advise him. But as their own unique little snowflakes, they are fairly shallow and boring. I’ve got the game’s Platinum Trophy and I know very little about Ignis, Prompto and Gladio  outside of their relationships with Noctis. Ye, ye, he’s the protagonist, but the guys are such a great unit – despite looking like every run-of-the-mill emo band that formed in the late ’00s – that it’s a shame the story doesn’t expand on the lore and back-story of each character as much as it should.

Similarly, there’s Lunafreya. Supposedly a big character in the game, at least, that’s what FF: Kingsglaive (2016) led us to believe. Without spoilers, all I can say is that her character development is lacking somewhat. Most of her relationship with Noct is shown in flashbacks and her role and legacy as Oracle isn’t fully explained in the main story.

The plot

Lady Lunafreya’s lack of development is one of the biggest flaws in a so-so story. The journey Noct and his friends embark upon is fairly simple. Reclaim the ring, reclaim the throne and beat the bad guy. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but all the stands in his way are a few gods, an immortal being and a surprise twist or two. The plot isn’t the best place to look here though. The best parts of the game take place outside of the main Chapter Quests. Whether it’s the breathtaking landmarks throughout the world that Prompto requests you stop at, the ridiculously detailed meals that are served by cooks or Ignis at camp, or the little moments in combat where the guys talk to each other, FFXV catches you off guard. Without wanting to, or without trying to you start to like the game.

Lucis

A breathtaking world

Even the most stalwart of FF fans, those outraged that the turn-based combat has been replaced or those who are angry that there is no female-player character will find that they eventually start to warm to a game that bottled the best and worst parts of male friendship and drizzled it all over what is essentially a very cut and dry story. I guess what I’m alluding to is something that sounds like such a cliche that it must have its very own meme by now: play the game for the journey, not the ending. Rushing through the main chapters is VERY doable. You’re supposed to be able to finish the game at level 30 (I was 60 something) but if you do, you’ve wasted a lot of the best moments. After all is said and done you can go back and redo anything you’ve missed but will you want too? Without all the extra bits in between, the story itself is lifeless.

The mainstream niggles

As one of the year’s biggest releases let’s run over some very REAL criticism from some places that have WAY more clout online than I do.

  1. The Camera – I’m not going to pretend I didn’t notice how bad the camera was in combat, I mean, there were the occasional moments that made me forget and then those moments where I’m trying really hard to warp-strike something and failing, repeatedly, because the camera was jerking around. That being said, I found this tolerable right up until the Adamantoise boss. On smaller enemies the camera is a niggle, it doesn’t affect performance in combat. Against the big turtle, I must have spent a good 15mins of 90min boss fight hitting air because the camera is messed up. NOT cool.

    Regalia

    Your faithful steed

  2. The Ending – There’s not going to be a spoiler here, but can we just lay off the ending. It wasn’t bad. Don’t get me wrong, it brought back a lot of the same feelings I had at the end of FF XIII, but it was by no means awful. This sort of plot is WHY we buy Final Fantasy games, if you were expecting something different then you bought the wrong game.
  3. Combat – Turn-based gaming is dying, and rightly so. Can all the so called FF purists just get off their high horses for a second and think this through? We have turn-based games on our mobile phones because they have the same, if not more power as old consoles such as the SNES or Playstation. Final Fantasy started on older generations of consoles and turn-based gaming worked for it, because they couldn’t render 3D models very well, or deliver HD content. This is 2017, there’s no way a turn-based game for the PS4 would have survived a lashing in this market, even with the Final Fantasy name attached to it. The system in FFXV is actually a brilliant bridge between the old and what I assume will be coming up in later FF games. Wait Mode provides a whole bunch of time to make decisions, there’s a menu that pauses the game when you want to select items, and attacks are split into ‘Attack’ and ‘Skills’ just like previous FF games. The step forward has been made well. If you want to play a turn-based Final Fantasy, go and buy World of Final Fantasy or download FF: Brave Exvius. It’s worth noting that both are turn-based games and as for my earlier point, WOFF is PS4 / PS Vita and FF:BE is Android /iOS because they don’t need the same sort of hardware as XV does.

Conclusion

The hero rises

The hero rises

I’ve already said that this is an amazing game, I don’t really have much else to add that you don’t already know. This is a Square Enix JRPG, so you know what you’re getting story-wise: Solid, but not spectacular. However, the world is breathtaking. Virtually everything you see can be visited, every enemy you see from the car can be fought and every Chocobo you see dash past ridden. There are tiny little problems with this game, and I say tiny relative to all the bits that went right. Even if you hate the four protagonists, find Ignis annoying, Prompto childish and Gladio obtuse and stubborn, you can’t deny that what the game is, which is a classic tale of four friends on an adventure in a world which is a magical combination of a Feudal system ruled by a monarch, brilliantly cast forth into the 21st century. It’s duty, order and a black and white, good vs evil tale helping drag old fans forward and new fans into the fold. At the end of the day, there’s no way this will be the final fantasy, and if all XV turns out to be is a step on a grand journey, then it’s one I’m glad I took.

 


Ratchet and Clank: Review

Intro

Back in 2002 we were treated to the adventures of Ratchet & Clank, a Lombax and a robot who stole not only the hours of our childhood but also our hearts. To the bigger picture they were the first proof that Pixar had missed a beat, but to the individual, they were an excellent platformer to follow in the footsteps of Insomniac’s previous works, including the much acclaimed Spyro the Dragon.

Enter 2016. Fourteen years since the original, we now have a reboot. A game which for all intents and purposes is the same, both in story and gameplay. Sure, there are a few tweaks here and there to bring it up to par with the new consoles, but the basics are the same. To be honest, that’s what makes this year’s edition so charming.

Progress isn’t always in leaps and bounds

Insomniac took the time to go back to their roots, dig out an old favourite and give it a makeover. In doing so, they gifted the older gamers such as myself a taste of our childhood, and gave a whole new generation a chance to fall in love with the fearless Lombax/robot duo. The 2016 version is polished, perfected and sticks to a tried-and-true format. For talented gamers it offers fast-paced gameplay with a story that’s minimalistic and short enough to power through. For those a bit younger, or less capable, it offers a challenging experience set in a beautiful world with varied environments that appear so vividly that it’s an assault on your eyes. Having just come out from the Fallout, Witcher, Division coma of almost dystopian RPGs, Ratchet was a brilliant break from the bleak and semi-realistic worlds in which the aforementioned games exist. Ratchet Gold Bolt

The main feature of the reboot is the bright colours of the environments which are complimented by typical cartoon-villains and pseudo-heroes who spew catchphrases and cliches on a regular basis to give the game the same cheesy feel of the original. That’s not to say that Ratchet is stuck in the past. The dialogue has been modernised to include some satirical comments about not only gaming itself, but also some common behaviour on social media, bringing the game in line with current trends and satire.

Clankers?

I could shower the game in praise, because every time I boot it up I feel like I’m 12 years old using a PS2 for the first time. But objectively, I can see the game’s flaws. First, its length. The UK release date for this game was Friday 22nd April, I didn’t get to touch the game until Saturday. Eight hours later I’d finished the story. Ratchet GoodbyeBy the end of Sunday I had all 28 Gold Bolts and had cleared challenge mode. I was already in achievement mode less than 24 hours into the game. On the flip side, the disc did not cost full retail, so I’m not as frustrated as I was when I finished The Order 1886, but as I played through the game a second time, I kept noticing areas they could have padded out or beefed up. In staying true to the original game’s story, Insomniac missed a trick. They could have thrown a few more planets into the game, given us a little more to explore, or greater incentive to go back to planets that we’ve already visited. I found myself only going back for Gold Bolts, not so much Holocards.

Conclusion

Fourteen years has gone by so fast, and technology has come so far. When the original Ratchet & Clank came out most internet connections were dial up, Intel Pentium 4 processors were very expensive and YouTube was yet to be created. Never mind Facebook, Myspace was just gaining traction and iPads and tablets were the stuff of science fiction.

So we look at the current, and ignore the past. Ratchet & Clank is a child-friendly game meant to entertain. It’s not your traditional ‘gamer’s game’ and gameplay footage won’t go viral. But what it will do, is take you back in time. Never in my life have I had a toy, or a device meant for entertainment that makes me feel as young, and creative and vibrant as playing Ratchet & Clank does. It’s the essence of childhood written onto a disk that people can play on their games consoles. Suck on that Pixar.

Ratchet Clank Robot

 


Dragon Quest Heroes – Hack ‘n’ Slash Nostalgia

Dragon Quest Heroes Terry

Intro

I’m a fan of the source material – let’s just get that out of the way. I’d play a warriors game for Final Fantasy as well given the option, but Square Enix’s other well-known franchise stole pole position and in turn an Omega Force makeover. Thus we have the unnecessarily over-subtitled Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below.

Released almost a year ago in Japan, it finally made its way to Europe and the rest of the West last Friday so we could pick it up and indulge in nostalgia. Unfortunately, that’s all it is.  Already a niche game in the West as part of a huge JRPG franchise, adding the Warriors gameplay only narrowed the target audience down even further. What promised much in the way of repetitive gameplay actually delivered a fast-paced narrative that was sickeningly upbeat and optimistic.

The Format

Yangus and Jessica

Old faces you know and love

That much we had come to expect with the Dragon Quest label. Their games rarely shape up in the same way that other ‘more adult’ JRPGs do, so we could predict a similarly eventless story which drops the protagonist firmly on the ‘heroes’ side of the light/dark divide. Insert some comically portrayed regional accents and the occasional screen-clearing super attack and you’ve got a game that moves off shelves.

Dragon Quest Heroes features a mix of characters from across previous Dragon Quest games and introduces a few more for safe measure. Each has their own wide variety of abilities if you believe the marketing but if you play the game, they’re the same moves with a different skin. Of course, we expect this in a game which lacks the button-mashing depth of a Devil May Cry, but still… There are a few things missing from what could be a great game.

For example: I like to play games that possess a less-than-exciting narrative while watching shows on Netflix. Repetitive gameplay and a story which feels a little flat won’t intrude on my episode of Daredevil, which puts DQH as a must play over The Witcher 3, which requires more dedication and attention. Heroes is brilliant at being a game you came multi-task with. There are no complicated or complex objectives as everything is basically a ‘defend this’ or ‘kill that.’

But then again, everything is basically a ‘defend this’ or ‘kill that.’ The Tower Defence gameplay promised from the inclusion of Monster Medals doesn’t feel like Tower Defence gameplay. Most of the Monsters you can place are just damage sponges designed to buy you more time to run around and stop the source – mystical maws.

Backed into… nothing?

Perhaps one of the better games with this design was Halo: Reach’s online firefight. The Score Attack mode just let you entrench while the enemy would come to you. You had nothing to defend in most cases and you just had to survive five waves. By contrast in Dragon Quest Heroes, all the enemies tend to stay pretty much where they are, especially after you’ve passed the story section for an area.

Featuring cliched bad guys

Featuring cliched bad guys

What’s more, slow navigation between screens, excessive dialogue between menu options such as buying and selling and only the bare necessity when it comes to item customisation leaves Dragon Quest Heroes sit teetering on the edge of RPGdom. One less character option and this becomes an arcade hack and slash, yet one more character option and the game becomes a little too much like a standard Dragon Quest game. You can see the line they tried to draw, and you can respect the balance.

Despite its flaws DQH is thoroughly enjoyable, put on a soundtrack or a 30min sitcom and start slashing away and you’ll love the time spent trying to save Arba. Try to play the game with your headset embracing the full gaming experience and you’ll start to see it for the drag it can be. This is a game between games. Much like my experiences with the Borderlands franchise Dragon Quest Heroes is a game I will be coming back to between AAA releases, but not a game I’ll be strategising for in my sleep. It’s a great piece of nostalgia and what should be an easy Platinum Trophy, not to mention the game oozes with puntastic dialogue. However, you’ll need more than a passing interest in the Heroes of Dragon Quest if this game is going to make you feel like you’ve got your money’s worth. Then again, I did say this was for a niche audience.

Dragon Quest Heroes Footer