A Week in Gaming 2nd Quest: Weeks 21, 22, and 23

You know you’ve been lax on writing in a blog when a bar graph shows high values for views with decimal points in those views. Not 30 and 40, but more 3.0 and 4.0. Truth be told, I’ve been incredibly lazy in posting on Impressions of a Lump. Albeit it doesn’t seem like I lost much in doing so; I can never tell if the 3o to 40 views a week I get are people or just spambots who sense activity and decide to attack me here.

I could go on an enormous stream of consciousness rant, but my memory is terrible and I’ve already forgotten half of what I’ve done over the past three weeks. The long and short of it? I’ve completed four games, beaten one, and sunk around 75 hours into Terraria on Steam. In detail? Read below.

Week 21: 5/22 – 5/28

I got Terraria this week, which explains the complete void in game updates sans Age of Empires III. Just like Minecraft back in November, I was instantly hooked on this game and sunk dozens of hours into it with an earnest demeanor. That’s tapered off some now that I’ve reached my burn-out point and looped back again with a new character. The content-filled updates help a lot with recovery.

I did complete Age of Empires III, though. I’ve been a long-time fan of the series since my early teen years when I fell in love with Age of Empires II. Admittedly, it took a while to get used to how this entry in the series functioned, but I rather like how they adjusted the gameplay paradigm. The Home City and card deck systems added for a level of strategy not present in the prior games and evolved above the same old strategy. Do I take extra resource and peasant cards, and when do I use those over the military ones?

The campaign was also really fun. While not completely based on history like the prior games were, the sense of story and plot progression with the Black family kept me going  even when playing the game started to feel stale. Despite liking his character the most, I hated the incessant accent that Morgan Black had. It hurt to listen to, but I enjoyed him more than his descendants. All in all, Age of Empires III is a great RTS and an excellent sequel to one of my favorite RTS games.

Week 22: 5/29 – 6/04

From the night of the 28th up to the day of the 30th (Saturday to Monday), I was down in New Hampshire attending a Memorial Day barbecue at a friend’s new house. My reason for not writing that Monday? Lazy, apathy, lack of games, insert a hundred other excuses. I still did a lot of gaming though, having brought Final Fantasy Tactics PSP with me. Admittedly, I have a grinding problem. I’m up to Riovannes Castle in Chapter 3 and I’ve already got 55 hours in the game as of today (June 12th).

This entire week’s big accomplishment was beating Drakengard on the PS2. I love hack and slash games, as mindless as they can be. That’s why I’m a fan of the Dynasty Warriors series, even if I only own Dynasty Warriors 5 and Xtreme Legends right now. Having a premise of Dynasty Warriors with Square-Enix influence in the game enticed me and I was prepared for greatness.

My preparation was worthless, though. Drakengard, in a word, stinks. Caim does level up and there’s a wide variety of weapons, sure. But every weapon is the same two-dimensional combo. There’s no variety whatsoever sans the moves you occasionally spam with the triangle button. The gameplay is stiff, boring, and repetitive; this is coming from a guy who loves Dynasty Warriors.  In DW, you’ve got various combo chains, different charge attacks (both DW and Drakengard use triangle for this), and it feels more fluid. Caim is clunky and stiff to play as, although the dragon you get to use is rather fun and reminiscent of Panzer Dragoon games.

Caim only gets three types of moves: a regular chain of attacks with the square button, special attacks that you activate by pressing triangle at certain points in that chain of attacks, or a magic attack that each weapon has… by also hitting triangle. There were plenty of times where I meant to do a special attack and instead did a magic, much to my chagrin.

The reason I list those, though, is due to many enemies in the game being resistant or immune to those magic attacks AND everything the dragon can throw at them. That cuts out half of your methods of attack and leaves you idly smashing square until enemies are dead. Enemies that never move on the map and instead just sit there, waiting for you to plow through them.

Really, the only redeeming factor of Drakengard is the plot, which is equal parts confusion and creepy. You can imagine my face when I discovered the first ending’s final boss, or when I read up on what had been cut out of the game when they brought it to the U.S. If Square had done better with the actual gameplay, Drakengard could have been great. As it stands, it is a mediocre experience where your desire to see what messed-up thing happens in the plot next keeps you playing.

Week 23: 6/05 – 6/11

In contrast to the prior two weeks, I actually did a lot in this week! Starting a “Summer of Beatsome” with Kariohki might have helped my motivation, but I managed to complete three games in this time, alongside putting more hours into Terraria, Final Fantasy Tactics, and lately Beat Hazard. The last of those three had just received a 200MB update and I decided to jump back in, this time with a Xbox 360 controller as my weapon.

Decap Attack: Starring Chuck D. Head was the first game I completed. It was one of the few remaining games I had to play on the Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection. Knowing the quality of about half of the games in the collection, I wasn’t expecting much. What I found was a platformer that took some getting used to, but ended up being halfway decent. It wasn’t by any means a bad game. Rather, it just didn’t shine or really deliver on a great platforming experience outside of the audio/visual presentation and the item system contained within. While not the best game around, it was miles higher on the fun scale compared to other games on the collection, like Alien Storm, Altered Beast, ESWAT, both Ecco games, Flicky, Kid Chameleon, Phantasy Star II…. I should stop now. In short, fun platformer.

I also took down my first game on my Summer of Beatsome with Age of Empires III: The WarChiefs. A short but fun expansion to AoE3 that built on both the gameplay and the plot that the prior game presented. I really liked how they enriched a handful of Native American tribes as actual societies to play as, and filling in the gap of Nathaniel Black then extending the family tree with Chayton Black made the plot feel more rounded out. While I couldn’t built towers during the entire campaign, the versatility and long-standing use of the firepits made the Native Americans great to play as. I honestly hope that the Asian Dynasties is as fun to play, even if it’s not fighting Sioux raids on a cowboy frontier town with ninjas.

Finally, the last game was Mega Man Xtreme. Received it in the mail from Noi finally, and promptly sat down and played it until completion. If you’ve ever played Mega Man X and X2, Xtreme is basically a mash-up of various aspects of these two games with a silly original plot, all done in 8-bit. They excuse this by saying that “someone has broken into the Mother Computer System and X must go in as data and defeat the protection systems made of prior bosses and stages to fix the MCS!” This is why those eight Mavericks are alive again, and why you seem to fight Serges’ second form from X2 for no reason whatsoever.

There’s only one real problem that Xtreme has, and that’s the length padding with the “difficulties”. There’s no difficulty change. “Normal” is half the game, with the four armor pieces guarded by Chill Penguin, Storm Eagle, Spark Mandrill, and Flame Stag.  “Hard” is the other half, which can be continued to from Normal and where you fight Wheel Gator, Morph Moth, Magna Centipede, and Armored Armadillo. Both sets of end stages are literally the same. When you beat both Normal and Hard, you are allowed access to the (E)xtreme difficulty, where you start back at the beginning with all your upgrades removed and the entirety of both normal and hard are available to play. That’s it. All in all? A fun 8-bit mash-up, though rendered useless if you already own both X and X2.

That’s the skin and bones of three week’s worth of gaming. Four completes, one beat, a bunch of time sunk into games I’m still working on, all while making more bead sprites over at  http://www.flickr.com/photos/sobousbeads/. I’ve got few ideas for things I want to post more in the coming days, so we’ll see how that goes. If you read this (all the way through, even), then thank you! It’s good to know I still have readers. Until next time, folks.

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