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: Bully: Scholarship Edition

Details: Was originally released in 2006. I played it on PC with an Xbox 360 controller. I bought it off Steam for about $5. Played for about twenty hours. Made by Rockstar Games.

Most of the time, playing this game felt like a chore. This is a really old game.

Firstly, the visuals are actually not bad. This game originally came out for the PS2, which was a freaking long time ago. Luckily they up resolution-ed the game and gave it a 1080p resolution, so it looked fine on my screen. It is definitely dated though.

Gameplay was the most painful part of this game. It is essentially a combination of mini-games. In general, you run around like in a Grand Theft Auto game, more like Grand Theft Auto III and less like Grand Theft Auto V. Some of the mini games involve timed button presses, like in rhythm games. There’s also trivia and some other tracing varieties. There’s a lot of mini-games, but they aren’t very deep or substantial. The difficulty is also pretty easy, easier than a Grand Theft Auto game at least.

My biggest annoyances were that the game broke two cardinal rules of video games. The game operates on a timer that goes in real-time. At certain times you need to do certain things and there is generally a time limit on a lot of missions. The other violation is the inclusion of missions where you need protect someone controlled by bad artificial intelligence. That means that the computer controlled character will run off and get killed regardless of what you do sometimes. There are a lot of other bad things about this game. You should just keep in mind that this game is old and a lot of the gameplay used in this game has been removed from most modern games because developers realized how not fun they were.

The music for this game was fantastic. I was surprised how many good, original tracks there were.

The voice acting and performances were as good as any other Rockstar game, which is to say they were great. I was surprised to see that motion capture was used in this game despite how old it is. That motion capture really comes through and adds to the performances surprisingly, even though the character models are old looking.

There are some bugs. The game crashed on me lots of times throughout my play through.

The story was okay. The premise is this: Jimmy Hopkins is sent to one of the craziest boarding schools and must do his best to survive in this strange new environment. I did feel a sense of satisfaction after seeing the ending. However, there were lots of times where I wanted to quit the game. I mainly pushed on because I like finishing games. The story was not strong enough to compel me to keep playing.

While not a bad game, I would not recommend it to most people. The game is so old and outdated that I’d rather recommend something more recent. I can see how some people might enjoy it though. If it looks interesting to you, then you should probably go on YouTube and watch some gameplay videos before making the purchase.

Score: 4/10

Video Game Review: Batman: Arkham Origins

Details: Played on the PC and through Steam with a Xbox 360 controller. I bought the game and the season pass (that means all the DLC) for about ten dollars from http://www.bundlestars.com. Took me about twenty six hours to get through the game and the Cold, Cold Heart DLC. About twenty three hours were spent on the main game and three hours on the Cold, Cold Heart DLC. Important: there is no online multiplayer. I read somewhere that the servers that supported multiplayer went down. If you buy this game, you are only paying for the single player portion. There were some minor bugs.

I originally dismissed this game and was never going to play it because it was the one Batman game that was not made by Rocksteady. After playing through Batman: Arkham Knight and hearing all the references that were made to this game and that Arkham: Origins is canon, I changed my mind.

This is a good game and it holds up really well despite it’s age. My biggest mistake was to play this game after playing Arkham Knight. Arkham Knight is undoubtedly a better game; it looks better, plays better, story… is a little better. So when I started this game, it was undeniable that this game looked worse, felt worse, and just lacked what Arkham Knight had. However, after a few hours, I got over and really enjoyed the game.

Gameplay is derivative, if you’ve played any of the Batman: Arkham games, you’ll know what your getting into. In fact, gameplay is almost identical to Arkham City. The same gadgets are used as are the enemy types your fight. If your unfamiliar with the Arkham series, gameplay is divided into a few types. First, there’s stealth, where you try to clear and area of enemies without being detected. Then there’s the free flow combat which generally consists of trying to dodge, counter, and chain together enough attacks so that you can land your finishing attack. Boss fights generally consist of a combination of combat and stealth. There are some puzzles and platforming.

There are also investigation portions where you investigate a crime scene and try to recreate the crime. These portions of the game are minor, yet what I think this game does better and more often than any other game in the Arkham series. I think it often gets glossed over that Batman is a detective and it’s a lot of fun to try and solve crime mysteries and track down criminals. It adds color to the game to see Batman trying to solve crimes that are not necessarily of the super villain variety. Unfortunately, the crimes you solve are fairly repetitive and uniform.

Visually, the game looks great. The art direction is fine, although it’s not as detailed or filled in as a Rocksteady Arkham game. If you’re not as obsessive of a fan of Rocksteady as I am, you probably won’t even notice it so don’t worry about it.

The music is great. Loved all the tracks.

The story is surprisingly good. I was expecting something half assed, but it goes into a lot of Batman lore. It started a little slow, but built up and it was fun battling and interacting with the characters of this fictional world. The only nitpick I would point out is the reliance of pre-rendered cut scenes versus using the in game engine. I prefer Rocksteady’s method of showing off how good the game looks by using the in game engine for cut scenes. It’s also less jarring.

Furthermore, while I did enjoy the story, some of the big reveals/surprises were spoiled to me by various websites. I’d advise not spoiling the game for yourself if you intend on playing it. There are some plot twists and surprises which are worth preserving if you can.

The voice actors all do a great job. After three Arkham games, you just come to expect to hear Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill every time one of these games come out. That they are not present here is a little jarring. However, the lack of Kevin Conroy makes some narrative sense in that this is a prequel; Batman is younger so it kind of makes sense he sounds different.

Score: 7/10 I had fun with this game, especially since I only spent around ten dollars for it. I recommend it if you like the Batman Arkham games and can get it for around the same price.

Video Game Review: Assassin’s Creed: Freedom Cry

Details: Beat it in about five hours. I played the stand alone DLC, but if you buy the DLC that is not, then you will need Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag installed if you want to play this DLC. Played it on the PC. Purchased for $5.

I really enjoyed Freedom Cry. The problems I had with Black Flag were certainly still there. However, I bought Freedom Cry for one main reason: the story. I wanted more story that tied with the historical setting of the time. This game delivered that.

The story premise is this: Adwele, the first mate of Edward Kenway and member of the Assassins, is shipwrecked in a slave trading town. He meets the locals in an attempt to get back out to sea and return to the Assassins. In his efforts, he befriends and sympathizes with a slave rebellion in the town and takes up their cause.

One of the main draws of the Assassin’s Creed games is that it is educational. Often times, they take a historical event or attitude and immerse you in it, both introducing you to an idea and showing you how it may have felt to live in that era. Freedom Cry does a great job showing just a small slice of the slave trade of that time period and the attitudes present.

It’s a sensitive subject for various reasons. Movies and shows like Roots or 12 Years a Slave have done a great job showing some of the ugliness related to the slavery of that time period. People often criticize an exploration of these ideas because it is ugly, because some people still adhere to that racism and do not want it perceived negatively, and also because people who identify themselves with the countries that were responsible for slavery feel the cruelty and evil of that time is an insult to them personally and their national pride. For these reasons, I wanted to see this game even more because — while this is a fictional games — those attitudes were very real. For some people, they likely still are.

And you do feel the wrongness of the era through this game. The mental gymnastics necessary to justify enslaving a people are always ridiculous to see. The last few missions were particularly striking in how they illustrated just how little the slave overseers valued the lives of their slaves; they just didn’t think they were human. While the slavery of the colonial era is over, that kind of thinking and prejudice is powerful in that it often times rings familiar, even in the present day.

In regards to gameplay, it’s exactly the same as Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. In other words,  there is some sailing, some sneaking, and the same counter based combat from prior games.

The graphics are the same as Black Flag, which isn’t bad in my opinion because I thought Black Flag looked great for its time.

The music deserves special mention because I think all the tracks are new and not present in Black Flag. It’s mostly orchestral with some moving vocal portions that help immerse the player even more. The music is great.

Score: 6/10 Good downloadable content. I feel like it was worth the five dollars I paid, but the game unlikely justifies a penny higher than that.

Video Game Review: Batman: The Telltale Series, Episode 1

The first episode of Batman: The Telltale Series is free on the Windows store. You can play it on your Windows computer or on the Xbox I think. Here’s the link: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/p/batman-the-telltale-series/9nblggh4sq91

It is only free for four more days as of the writing of this post.

Here’s the review.

A while back I tried the Walking Dead series from Telltale Games and did not enjoy it. Since this episode of Telltales Batman was free, I decided to give their games a second chance.

If you aren’t familiar with their video game style, Telltale basically make adventure games that are reminiscent of the choose you adventure style books. You have limited control of your character and gameplay generally consists of quick time events and narrative decisions. Their most popular series relate to popular franchises like Game of Thrones, the Walking Dead, and Borderlands.

This episode is split into five chapters and the story starts from the beginning of Batman’s career. Bruce Wayne has been fighting crime as Batman for a bit of time now and is assisting Harvey Dent in his run for mayor of Gotham City. It’s clear that Batman has yet to run into any of his major super villains and in this first episode, he meets some of them for the first time.

What I like about this episode is that Telltale is clearly intent on rewriting the Batman history. Everything seems to be fair game from Batman’s parents to super villains back stories. You can tell that the characters will follow similar trajectories as their comic book or movie counterparts, but there will likely be some twists on those characters along the way.

In regards to the audio, the music and voice acting are great. I recognized the voices of Laura Bailey and Troy Baker and, as a fan of their work, enjoyed hearing them in this game.

In terms of gameplay, there was little to do. This is an unabashed adventure game. In other words, it’s your narrative decisions that matter, not your reflexes or skill. If you don’t like that, don’t play the game.

Score: 6.5/10 Not a bad start and actually got me wanting to buy the rest of the episodes. Hard to criticize a game that was free.