Video Game Review: Disgaea RPG

Details: Played for a couple of days since launch. More information can be found at https://disgaearpg.boltrend.com/en/home

Score: 6/10

Disgaea RPG is new, auto-battling gacha game based on the Disgaea video game franchise. Unfortunately, this game was just too generic for me and offered little to nothing to keep me interested. I already play a few similar gacha games and there’s no reason to play yet another one when it offers nothing new.

From what I can tell, Disgaea RPG takes place in a fantasy world where demon and other villainous creatures aspire to be the greatest villain. In the pursuit of that idea, they get into a lot of comedic adventures. Disgaea RPG is mostly a comedy and doesn’t take itself that seriously.

Gameplay is about as generic as a gacha game can be. This is a turn based role playing game where you get into an instanced battle, then take turns hitting each other, casting spells, etc. While you can directly control your characters, most of your time will probably be spent using the auto battle function where you just hit a button and your characters do all the battling for you.

I think one of the reasons why the commonplace gameplay features in this game didn’t grab me while other gacha games have is because of the lack of innovation, the lack of multiplayer, its not that special visually, and I didn’t care much for the story. Disgaea RPG does almost nothing new. While the Disgaea series is known for allowing players to level up to astronomic heights and deal immense numbers of damage, that still distills down to the basic gacha gameplay formula of leveling a character, promoting a character, then doing it again and again and again. Disgaea RPG gives this a slightly different label, but it’s the same basic function.

The lack of multiplayer is also not helping my lack of interest because the main reason players care about how powerful their characters is to compete with other players. Without that urgency, any need to progress is far less meaningful.

The other reason players feel compelled to play gacha games like this is to collect characters. Usually, playing a game provides resources with which to gamble on new characters through its gacha mechanics. However, the characters in this game so far were mostly unappealing to me. No character was visually impressive nor was there an overpowered character that could easily get me through the current content. There was simply no reason for me to roll for new characters and without that justification, I felt no reason to play the game.

While the game isn’t the best looking game, it certainly isn’t bad looking. It’s a stylized, cartoony look that anyone familiar with the franchise would recognize. It just also isn’t very exciting.

Which also doesn’t help with the story since it is told in that overused, visual novel style that I hate. I simply don’t care about your story if you use a static image, visual novel style and don’t fully voice the scenes.

The music was pretty good and what voice acting was there was also nice.

Overall, this is a gacha game I simply felt no compulsion to play. It offers nothing new nor does it do any of the old things better than the other existing, competing mobile games. I gave it a couple days of my time, but I just ended up uninstalling it. I will say, I did enjoy the bits of humor I found throughout the game. Unfortunately, that was not enough to keep me playing.

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: Genshin Impact

Details: I’ve played at least twenty hours, probably more. I have not spent a penny on this game. More information can be found at https://genshin.mihoyo.com/en

Score: 7.2/10

The most accurate name I’ve heard people call this game is “Breath of the Waifus.”

Genshin Impact is a free to play game that shamelessly copies the visual style and gameplay (and by copy, I mean it copies almost to the point of stealing) into a gacha game format. It’s a fun game for all the same reasons that Breath of the Wild was fun and annoyingly addictive for all the same reasons gacha games are addictive. This is a game with great presentation and likely a surprisingly high budget.

The story is about an interdimensional traveler who gets sent to a fantasy world with their twin sibling. Once there you get involved with the local people, fight bad guys, fight a dragon and a whole bunch of stuff that is pretty normal for most role playing video games.

The core gameplay is taken directly from Breath of the Wild. Like almost exactly. There is this big world for you to explore. The world is largely structured the same as Breath of the Wild. That means there’s mountains and rivers and some towns. The best part of Breath of the Wild is that you could climb a mountain and see the entire landscape. Then you could go to literally any point you just saw. Genshin Impact does that too.

Traversing the world in Breath of the Wild was one of it’s most positive aspects. Genshin Impact copies that almost exactly. There’s a stamina bar. You can climb any surface as long as you have stamina. You can dash as long as you have stamina. The one thing that’s different is that when it rains, you can still climb with no problems.

Combat is also almost exactly the same. Even many of the attack animations look like they were directly copied. The only thing about combat not copied is the use of magic.

The big differences come when we start talking about the gacha elements. In that way, the game is still unoriginal, they just folded gacha elements into Breath of the Wild gameplay.

In case you don’t know what gacha games are, they generally are cheaply made, free to play games meant to siphon money from players through gambling/slot machine mechanics. How it normally works is that you’ll download one of these games, usually on your smart phone, and you’ll play a bit. Then you’ll hit a wall in your progression that can only be overcome with a huge time investment or paying money to the game in exchange for what you need to progress further. But this isn’t a straightforward exchange. You normally buy a “loot box,” which is just a bundle of randomly generated in game items. The good items, which are the items you need, have a low chance of being generated while the trash items have a high chance of dropping. Hopefully, you’ll get what you want early on, but the probability is high that you will have to buy a ton of loot boxes before you get what you want. That’s the business model of a gacha game.

With that in mind, Genshin Impact is fun early on. I’d say it’s fun for the first ten to twenty hours. That’s pretty good considering this game is free to play. But then you hit the wall and you need to either invest a huge amount of time grinding in order to progress, or you could spend money gambling on whether you’ll get the in game items you need to move forward. And there are a lot of in game items in Genshin Impact.

Firstly are the characters. There are at this time around twenty-four available characters in the game. Each character has their own abilities and elements. During combat, you can swap between four available characters. As you play the game, you’ll learn that there is synergy between characters and their abilities. You’ll also learn which characters are good and which are trash, either by Googling it or through trial and error. The main way to get more characters is through loot boxes. At this time, there is a free character available, but I don’t know how that will play out in the future. The game was released like a week ago.

Then there is the equipment. There’s a ton of gear you can get, usually from treasure chests strewn across the land. Enemies don’t drop weapons. Gear is ranked between one and five stars. Four star and lower gear can be obtained through gameplay. Five star gear can only be obtained from loot boxes. Even then, the odds of obtaining one is very low. I have yet to see a five star weapon.

As expected from a gacha game, almost everything in this game can be leveled. Leveling is progression, which is what gacha games seek to block in exchange for real money.

For instance, the Adventure Rank is the most important level in the game. It controls whether you can progress in the story and whether gameplay mechanics can unlock. You can gain Adventure Rank only by doing things in the game. There is no way to directly purchase higher Adventure ranks. However, doing things in the game requires better gear and characters, which does require money. So Adventure Rank really acts as an umbrella form of progression under which the other loot box blocking kinds of progression in the game.

Characters and weapons can level up, but in order to do so, you need a complex slew of money and items. There’s just too many to properly discuss, but suffice it to say, paying real money will make it easier to obtain these items. Some of these items can be purchased directly from the in game shop. Others will have to be earned through grinding gameplay, which needs items and characters, which means real money for loot boxes.

In regards to how the loot boxes work in this game… it’s too complicated to explain. There are multiple forms of in game currency, many of which you can by and convert into other forms of in game currency for which to purchase loot boxes or other in game items. It’s a mess and it is likely deliberately so in order to confuse players and induce them into spending more money than they need to.

Despite the money grubbing loot boxes, there is cooperative multiplayer. Amazingly, the multiplayer is crossplay. That means that someone playing on their PS4 can play with someone on the XBOX or their computer. It’s amazing. But there is a limit to what you can do. Only up to four players can be in a game at a time and one person must be host. You can’t do main story missions or any of the many instanced dungeons in the game. You can do side quests and other world missions. Multiplayer is basically just for people to run around the world. Keep in mind, this is predominantly a single player game and multiplayer is more of a side thing to just screw around with your friends.

Visually, the world is beautiful… and looks like the world from Breath of the Wild. It looks like a direct copy. The art direction/style is exactly the same. The terrain, the sky, hell the grass looks exactly the same. Character animations looks the same. Combat looks the same. Everything looks the same.

Well, almost everything. This is a Chinese made video game, so there are a lot of Chinese elements in it. In the game world, there are two main sections. There’s a western fantasy part and a Chinese, wuxia fantasy part. Both parts are beautiful, but Breath of the Wild didn’t have none of that. As this is a free to play online game, I anticipate that more parts of the world will be released as time goes one. There’s probably going to be a desert, a snow area and a bunch of other commonly used fantasy terrain I imagine. I’m spit balling here.

The music is fantastic… and reminds me of melodies from other popular role playing games like Final Fantasy. Whether it is a copy or not, there are some beautiful tracks here. It’s almost entirely orchestral music.

I also love how this game is largely voice acted. Not only is there voice acting, there’s voice acting in multiple languages and they are all available to everyone. The voice acting is pretty good, too, in all the languages. It’s impressive as good voice acting is something that’s lacking in so many games.

Overall, I really enjoy Genshin Impact and will continues to play it in the near future. Personally, it’s the right game at the right time. I was just in the mood for something grindy and this gorgeous, free to play game dropped into my lap. The first dozen or so hours are really fun and they throw a few free loot boxes your way. However, this is still a gacha game. Soon enough, you will hit a wall in progression and if you want to see what happens in the story or defeat ever more power enemies, you will need to invest large amounts of time or real money.

Personally, I refuse to spend real money and don’t mind spending time. At least for now. At the time this review was written, the game has only been out four days. Who knows how things will change in the future, for better or worse. Even still, this is a beautiful, expansive world to explore and I enjoyed exploring it for amazing price of free.

Video Game Review: Bravely Default

Details: Played on the 3DS. Finished playing through the game in about fifty-six hours, though a substantial amount of that time was spent idle. More information can be found at https://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/bravely-default-3ds/

Score: 6.5/10

Bravely Default started out as an enjoyable bit of role playing game comfort food. Unfortunately, the game gets real boring and real repetitive about halfway through, draining a lot of my enjoyment. Minor spoilers ahead.

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Video Game Review: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey: The Fate of Atlantis, Episode 2: Torment of Hades

Details: Played through it in about eight hours. Official site is https://assassinscreed.ubisoft.com/game/en-us/home

Score: 7.4/10

Torment of Hades is the second episode of The Fate of Atlantis DLC and takes your protagonist to the Greek Underworld. Though the world is slightly smaller than the world in Episode 1, the writing is a little better and contributes to an overall better experience.

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