Video Game Review: Exos Heroes

Details: Been playing the game for the last few months. Official site is https://global.exosheroes.com/

Score: 7.2/10

Exos Heroes is another turn based, auto-battler mobile game like Epic Seven. It has a distinctive art style which I really like. I also think it’s slightly better than Epic Seven simply because they have a sweep function and Epic Seven does not, which makes Epic Seven a far more disrespectful game to players’ time.

Exos Heroes takes place in a fantasy world of monsters and magic. I can’t tell you anything specific about the story because I mostly ignored it. It’s not very good. It’s told mostly through text and static images like a visual novel and that just turned me off. It did have a lot of very cool cut scenes that were full voiced and very well choreographed and animated. However, it’s mostly ignorable.

Gameplay is mostly identical to all other auto battlers like Epic Seven or RAID: Shadow Legends. There are some nuances like Signature Force, but this is mainly just another grindy auto battler. In other words, this is a turn based role playing game, except that there is a button in the top right that you can press that does all the fighting for you. What ends up happening is that you watch more of the game than actually play it because of this auto battle function.

One thing that I like about Exos Heroes is that it has a sweep system, something that many other gacha games do not have. What that means is that if your party of characters reaches a certain power level, you can just skip the battle and obtain the rewards. Most other gacha games require you to sit through an automated play through of the battle, which is just a waste of time. I appreciate that Exos Heroes recognizes that you are capable of smashing these enemies and simply lets you collect the rewards and save time.

Edit: Something I forgot to mention is how unique the stamina system is from other gacha games. The stamina in this game is used mostly for resource gathering only. Which means that unlike other gacha games, you can go through the entire story portion of the game without having to wait or pay real money. Most gacha games artificially restrict the amount of time and progress you can make in the game through an in-game resource that recharges over time. That usually means that you can only play a limited amount of the game each day. Exos Heroes just lets you play to your hearts content. There is still gameplay walls in the game that have extreme jumps in difficulty that require stronger characters. However, by not using a stamina system, Exos Heroes is undoubtedly superior to most gacha games, at least in this regard. For this reason alone, I raised the score up two tenths of a point. As a side note, Genshin Impact also does the same thing with its story portion. However, there is a decisive lack of story content in Genshin Impact at the moment and the amount of in game resource they give players is tiny compared to other gacha games. In other words, Exos Heroes does in-game stamina better.

What truly makes this game distinct from the other games is the art style. In role playing games, presentation is everything and this is one of the best looking games of this genre I’ve ever played. That alone has kept me playing the game.

In regards to the gacha mechanics, Exos Heroes is generally pretty generous. I have a bunch of top tier characters. I’m trying to level them and it’s obviously taking time and resources as it often does in gacha games. Even still, I’d say Exos Heroes is mostly more generous than most gacha games I’ve played. I’ve recently played Genshin Impact and Epic Seven and this game is definitely more generous with resources than those games.

Overall, this is a generic auto battler, but a great looking game and that’s enough. The presentation alone makes this game as good if not better than all of the other popular games in this genre.

Video Game Review: Epic Seven

Details: Played for at least a few dozen hours. This is a mobile game you can play on iOS or Android. More information can be found at https://epic7.smilegatemegaport.com/

Score: 7/10

Epic Seven is about as generic a gacha, role playing game can be, except that it has very stylistic visuals and character design. It’s a very Blazblue, two dimensional style (which is unsurprising since the two games actually did a collaboration a while back). I play this game mainly to look at pretty sprites attack each other. As always, this review is written from someone who has spent nothing on this game.

As said above, this is a gacha role playing game. Primarily, this is a turn based role playing game similar to traditional Japanese role playing games like old Final Fantasy games. As this is also gacha, you need to roll for the characters to fill your party in order to progress through the story.

As with most gacha games, the game gives you some characters up front to play with, but all the really good characters need to be rolled/summoned/wished for… which generally requires spending real money. When I started playing, it was during an event where they were giving out a ton of free rolls. Other than the event, this game is generally pretty cheap with giving free rolls. Making wishes/rolling is generally very expensive in comparison to other gacha games.

There’s pity (a mechanic where you are guaranteed a good character/item if you make a certain number of rolls), but it doesn’t transfer between banners, something that even the notoriously expensive Genshin Impact does have (Genshin Impact is still worse in terms of pricing and free rolls). In essence, if you want to guarantee obtaining an advertised banner character, you need to save or spend enough to make one hundred and twenty wishes. At about thirty dollars for ten wishes, that’s going to cost about three hundred and sixty dollars to guarantee and advertised character. That is a lot. There are also many other ways to summon/roll for characters, but all of them require resources that are hard to obtain unless you spend real money. The only redeeming factors to this stinginess is that the recent event which gave out a ton of summons and that you get one free summon per day… which is not encouraging.

In regards to the gameplay, Epic Seven is notorious for being one of the grindiest games among all gacha games or this type. Games like this are inherently grindy, meaning that you have to replay the same thing over and over again in hopes of obtaining an item or advancing a level. Luck is a big factor in whether you get equipment that will help you progress, meaning that the amount of time you spend grinding away at this game could go on infinitely.

Edit: What I forgot to mention is that this is mostly an auto battler. That means that most of your time will not be spent playing, but watching the game play itself. You simply start a battle, hit the auto-play button, and the game does everything for you. Later on, you get a pet that lets you repeat missions so you don’t even need to restart battles. This is both good and bad as it saves time, but gameplay is mostly passive. With such passive gameplay, why bother even playing the game? Are you even playing? It’s sad that the auto-battle type of gacha games are so popular due to the repetitive, grindy, uncreative nature of such games.

Edit 2: I shoud’ve also mentioned that unlike other games in this genre, there’s no sweep system. A sweep system is where you can instantly complete a level that you’ve beaten before, obtaining the rewards from that level without wasting time. Epic Seven does not have such a system. Even though to can set a level on auto battle, you still need to watch the level play out in real time. There is no fast forward option either. It’s annoying and disrespectful of players’ time.

Progression matters not only to get through the single player content, but there is also a very big multiplayer component. If you are a player who spend nothing however, don’t even try to make any meaningful progress in the player-versus-player multiplayer mode. The most proficient players are those who have spent the most money on this game, more colloquially known as the “whales.” This is common for this type of gacha game as the more money you spend, the more powerful a player you will be. If you want to be one of the best players, you’re going to need to outspend people who’ve spent thousands, if not tens of thousands, if not even more than that.

The single player mode is fun enough, but still grindy. You need to keep in mind that the goal of this game is simply to make your characters or your team of characters stronger. This leads to the multiplayer where, again, you’re trying to get stronger. Which leads to the ultimate conclusion that you need to spend money because that’s the only way you can make any meaningful progression. Again, this is normal for this type of gacha game and if you are not prepared to throw away thousands of dollars, just play the game casually and don’t take it too serious.

Additionally, there is also a Guild mode where you can join a guild and participate in guild wars. This… also encourages the spending of real money. In order to be useful to your guild, you need to have powerful characters, which means spending money… you get the idea. In case you are unaware, gacha games are known as some of the most degenerate games with some of the most degenerate players. The purpose of the game isn’t to have fun, but to get money out of you. Fun is just a by product of that goal and successful gacha games generally have to balance giving you fun things to do while annoying the hell out of you in order for you to pay them to stop annoying you.

Visually the game looks great. It uses a stylized, two dimensional sprite system that looks like it was hand drawn. I like the look. It looks like anime. There are in fact anime cut scenes throughout the plot.

The music is also pretty good. There’s voice acting in the game, but only for exclamation or battle cries, the kind of stuff you hear during a battle. The rest of the story is told through mostly silent text, like in a visual novel video game.

Because the story is told like in a visual novel, I found it mostly boring. I skipped most of it because I just didn’t care to read all the text and got tired looking at static images rather than hand drawn animations animations. I did watch the full animated cut scenes though because those were pretty cool.

Overall, I enjoyed my time with this game. I spent nothing and played through it very casually. I enjoyed all the free characters I got through the temporary event that just ended. I enjoyed the visuals and the art style of the game. The story was mostly ignorable. Most of all, I enjoyed the feelings of progression that I got while leveling my characters and seeing them get stronger, and that really is the primary driver in games like this. Even still, I felt ample pressure from the multiplayers aspects of this game to spend money to get stronger and that was annoying.

Video Game Review: Fire Emblem Heroes

Details: This is a mobile game for smartphones. I’ve played at least a couple dozen hours. More information can be found at https://fire-emblem-heroes.com/

Score: 6.7/10

Fire Emblem Heroes is a mobile gacha game that mostly uses the same strategy role playing game system used in the mainline franchise. I decided to give it a try because Genshin Impact is mostly out of content and I needed something else to scratch that gacha itch. Despite the reputation of gacha games to extract hundreds if not thousands of dollars from players who lack self control, I am a player who generally spends zero dollars on these types of games. This review is written from that perspective.

Fire Emblem Heroes basically takes all the characters from the entire decades long franchise and slams them all into one game. The story takes place in a kingdom where the royalty have the ability to open gateways into other worlds. These other worlds are basically the fictional worlds of all the other Fire Emblem video game. The protagonists are original and so are some of the antagonists, but every one else is from past Fire Emblem games.

Because of the nature of this story and all the characters, this game is primarily meant for long time Fire Emblem fans. If you are not a fan, you will mostly be lost by the huge number of characters that show up and will lack the satisfaction of seeing old, fan favorite characters again.

Something I really like about this game is that they reuse music and voice lines from old Fire Emblem games. Voice lines were only used since the Nintendo DS Fire Emblem games were released, but I think they rerecorded some lines for the older characters. This is all great and helps with the nostalgic satisfaction long time fans will get with this game.

The gameplay is a simplified version of the Fire Emblem tactical role playing game gameplay. Unfortunately, I already found the franchise’s gameplay fairly boring. In Three Houses, the most recent mainline Fire Emblem game, the gameplay was already feeling a bit stale and needed some reinvention. Unfortunately, the gameplay in this mobile game is far simpler and thus, far worse. It’s still fun for the first few hours, but it get stale fast.

There’s tons of multiplayer modes. Because of the nature of mobile gaming and Nintendo’s lack of expertise in online multiplayer, don’t expect real time multiplayer battles. What you get instead is that you play against a snapshotted team composition of another player’s which is then controlled by the game’s computer. So you’re always playing against the computer. I didn’t mind this very much and still found it somewhat fun.

This is a gacha game so something needs to be said about the gacha mechanics. Generally, I found this game fairly generous in terms of what they give new players. As with most gacha games, new players are given lots of in game currency and characters in order to hook them, after which they are expected to spend money on the gacha. There’s a decently sized story mode that you can easily get through without rolling for more characters.

Gacha games basically utilize an in game slot machine mechanic to randomly roll for characters that you need to use in order to progress through the game. You generally spend real money to buy in game money, which you then use to gamble on these characters (like casino chips, it’s meant to disassociate players from the actual loss of spending real money). While there are some unique quirks here, the gacha mechanics work pretty much like any other gacha game.

New players get two guaranteed five star units (the highest tier of units you can roll for). Each of the quests and in game tasks give a decent amount of rewards which can be used to strengthen or roll for new characters. There are literally hundreds of characters, not counting different versions of existing characters (for instance, there are bathing suit version of existing characters to appeal to players’ prurient interests). This is both good and bad in that there are lots of potential characters to attract players’ interests, but there are so many characters in the pool that it makes it difficult to get the character you want.

Visually, the game uses a cute or “chibi” style, which is pretty much what you’d expect from a game running on mobile devices. Mobile phones are not graphically intensive platforms. The visuals are satisfactory, but they don’t rise to the level of games like Epic Seven. The hand drawn portraits for the characters look nice, but these are static images. You’re going to spend most of your time looking at chibi versions of the characters.

Overall, this was a fun game, but I got bored with it really fast. The core gameplay just isn’t that much fun nor is it at least visually appealing the way games like Epic Seven are. They really need to throw in more twists and innovation to the Fire Emblem gameplay that has been around for decades. Fire Emblem Heroes just does the bare minimum in terms of gameplay.

Video Game Review: Pokemon Sword and Shield: The Crown Tundra

Details: You need to own either Pokemon Sword or Shield in order to play this. Spent about five hours playing through it. This expansion is identical for Sword and Shield, but I played the Sword version. More information can be found at https://swordshield.pokemon.com/en-us/expansionpass/the-crown-tundra/

Score: 5.7/10

The Crown Tundra was mostly a disappointment to me. It lacks story, something the Isle of Armor downloadable content (DLC) had a lot more of. Crown Tundra is simply an excuse to send players out to catch more Pokemon, often times with little to no context. If that is appealing to you, then you’ll enjoy this.

Crown Tundra takes place south of the main continent in Pokemon Sword and Shield. You walk in and are instantly asked to go on an adventure.

There is a short bit of story involving a new legendary Pokemon. That takes about an hour at most. Other than that, you’re basically told to explore this new area and catch more Pokemon. Almost no other context is given, which just doesn’t work for me. If the main thing you like about Pokemon is simply catching more Pokemon, then you’ll love this DLC. If you need a little more story and motivation, this content will fall flat.

The biggest dissapointment to me are the visuals. You need to keep in mind that the Nintendo Switch is an objectively, technically inferior video game console when compared to the Playstation 4 or the XBOX One. And that was the truth years ago when the Switch first came out. Now, the Playstation 5 and XBOX Series X are coming out and the visuals for this game look even more inferior by comparison. This is not a good looking game. It looks like it was made for the Playstation 3, at best. This wouldn’t be so bad if the gameplay made up for it, but the gameplay doesn’t.

One of the biggest complaints most critics had of Pokemon Sword and Shield is that it did nothing new. It took the old Pokemon formula and copied and pasted it into this game in its entirety. This was a system of gameplay that was developed in the 1990’s. It’s old and boring. I wish they would’ve done some kind of overhaul or big upgrade, but they didn’t. With Crown Tundra, the monotony of this gameplay is exacerbated by the passage of even more time. This game just isn’t that fun.

The game does try to add a few new features like Dynamax Adventure, but that’s just a slightly altered rehash of the preexisting Max Raid battles.

To make matters worse, the music wasn’t that great. There’s still not voice acting also, which sucks.

Overall, this was a disappointment. I do not recommend The Crown Tundra to anyone but the most ardent Pokemon fans who love to do repetitive, monotonous tasks and enjoy bland, outdated visuals.

Video Game Ongoing Review: Genshin Impact, Part 2, The Current State of the Game

Details: More information can be found at https://genshin.mihoyo.com/en

Score: 5.5/10

Edit: Added a bit about the true biggest issue in Genshin Impact and that is account security.

A while back I did a review of Genshin Impact (you can read it here: https://elliotsview.com/2020/10/03/video-game-review-genshin-impact/). A few months have passed and I decided to give the current state of the game a review. I still enjoy the game, but it’s incredibly obvious how predatory this game is and how much worse it is in comparison to other games that rely on microtransactions or loot boxes. This is undoubtedly a pay to win game that seeks to annoy players into paying real money.

EDIT: The single biggest issues in Genshin Impact is account security. If you’ve been browsing internet forums, then you’d know that many, many people have had their accounts hacked. Much of the time, accounts are stolen and resold on websites that sell stolen accounts. A quick internet search will be sure to show many of them. In fact, you can find these sites advertised through official advertisements on YouTube.

The reason that so much account stealing is going on is because Genshin Impact has some of the worst internet security on the planet. A common implementation of internet security is two factor authentication. Basically, if you want to make changes to the account, two factor authentication requires a confirmation message sent to either your email or phone number and you must reply within a certain amount of time. Genshin Impact does not have that. If someone can somehow enter your account, they are free to change things without requiring a confirmation reply. It is incompetence of the highest order. Or perhaps they did this on purpose in order to facilitate account theft.

This is the biggest single reason not to play or to spend money on this game. Any progress you make can easily be stolen away by someone else. Browsing through internet forums yields many, easily correctible methods that a novice on internet security could correct. There are many security threats that have been discussed on the internet one of them is that attaching a phone number/email to your account makes it visible to everyone and enables thieves to attack your game account, as well as your email or phone number (this has been fixed in a sense, but there are still many easily correctible methods to reveal account information). A new one is how creating an account on the official Mihoyo forums reveals your account information, again leaving it vulnerable to attack. The most obvious of threats is that there is no measure to stop repeated login attempts which means that if someone can guess your email/username, they can take an infinite number of tries in order to brute force through and guess your password. And none of these even touch upon the many, many programs being sold on the internet that allow anyone to hack badly secured web pages such as Genshin Impact’s web page.

All of this is to say that accounts are not safe and until they meet some level of security, you should not spend money and perhaps not even play this game.

The second biggest gripe most players have is probably with the resin system. Like in many gacha or pay to win games, there is a stamina system in the game. In order to participate in most activities, you have to spend an in game resource, known as “resin” here, in order to participate. You gain one resin every eight minutes and you can only hold 160 resin at any time. Any excess resin is lost so the player is incentivized to play this game once or twice per day in order to spend the resin before it is lost.

The first issue with the resin system is that there isn’t enough of it. It takes me about fifteen minutes to use a days worth of resin. Along with the other daily activities, I spend about thirty minutes playing the game, which sucks because I would like to play more and feel like I’m making some progress. As it stands, I feel little to none of that. The implementation of resin makes this game feel like a job and that makes me want to stop playing altogether.

The other issue with resin is that it forces players to play everyday unless you want to lose resin. I get that this is a ploy by the developers to try and train players into a habit of playing every day so that they never leave the game. Instead, I feel like this only encourages players to leave the game forever. At first, it might be hard to feel like you’re missing out of progression, but after you drop the game, the feeling of how much you’ve missed out on will keep players from coming back. I used to play a game called Archeage which employed very similar mechanics to Genshin Impact. When I dropped that game, I never felt any need to come back because I had missed so many months of progress that I didn’t want to try catching up. The same will be true here and when players inevitably drop this game for something else. They will never come back.

There is a clear lack of content which exacerbates the problem of resin. Based on these first few months since the game released, it’s become clear that events are scheduled for every six weeks. While these events are entertaining, they are short and usually consume resin, making the events even shorter. You are literally gated by resin from playing the game and these events. Resin in fact acts like an artificial delay meant to slow down the speed at which players play through content. The end results is that while these games are fun, they do little to nothing to alleviate the boredom caused by resin restrictions.

Worth noting is that a new character banner drops about every 28 days I think. That means you get to roll on new characters about every month. The new characters that have been released so far are not appealing to me, but that is admittedly a subjective opinion. What is not subjective is that these characters are not that helpful for players trying to progress through the game and this because of how the game favors fire characters.

In the current state of the game, Genshin Impact clearly favors fire oriented characters. It just seems like a deliberate design decision. Fire characters and fire elemental reactions deal the most damage. It is also well known that the most powerful character in the game is a fire character that can only be obtained by gambling and spending real money. I’ve seen YouTube videos where people have spent thousands trying to get this character, often times to no avail. I get that the makers of Genshin Impact want money, but the problem is that this devalues any character that is not fire or supportive of fire and creates balance issues in the gameplay.

As said above, new characters rotate about every month. If they are not fire oriented characters focused on damage dealing, why would anyone want to waste money on them? These characters are clearly inferior if they are not fire. The only other reason would be if they are aesthetically appeasing, but creating a character that is purely aesthetically pleasing and not useful for playing the game is stupid. Mihoyo (the developers of this game) is shooting themselves in the foot by creating a system that favors one type of character above all others. If they really wanted to make money they would make all character types equally useful instead of favoring just one type. Instead, the favoring of fire characters is just evidence of Mihoyo’s incompetence.

There is a clear lack of free content for players compared to other games in this genre and the prices are also comparably high. Anyone who plays games in this genre knows that Genshin Impact is one of the stingiest of all these games. As with other games in this genre, this is unlikely to change until the game’s popularity irrevocably dies. Then they’ll likely offer some handouts for players or lower prices. Unfortunately, by then, it will probably be too late and the game will be mostly dead. At least that’s how it’s worked with gacha games in the past.

Overall, the game is still sort of fun, but I think the hype is over. Twitch streamers are dropping this game en masse. Viewership for this game is dropping. Active players and revenue are also likely dropping. This is all because there is simply not much to do. Prices are high and Mihoyo is stingy and selfish. There is little to no content and what little content there is is gated behind resin.

Genshin Impact made hundreds of millions of dollars in their first few months of operation. You’d think Mihoyo would be smart enough to reinvest some of that into the game and not follow the boring formula of a generic gacha game with periodic updates and needlessly annoying content gates. Then again, maybe they’re satisfied with the money they’ve made and feel comfortable running this game into the ground.