Final Fantasy XV Platinum Demo

Square-Enix probably shouldn’t have released this as the first public-facing demo because it assumes that you’ve played Episode Duscae and are familiar with how the combat will play out once you have most of your options. If this was your first experience with Final Fantasy XV, you’d be pretty underwhelmed, as evidenced by the reactions over at NeoGAF. (Unrelated note: It still makes me giddy that GAF, self-proclaimed last bastion of the “hardcore”, overwhelmingly voted Portal and Skyrim as 2011 GOTY over Dark Souls.)

The game actually gives some decent advice in the loading screens: press and hold Circle to attack, press and hold Square to auto-dodge, and that some attacks can’t be auto-dodged. It also tells you that you can perform a dodge roll by pressing Square and holding a direction. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mention somewhat important things like that you can use different attacks by holding different directions while holding Circle, that you use MP for certain things and running out is bad, and that you can use a powerful charged attack that gives you invincibility frames by letting go of Circle and then holding it again after a combo string. If you’ve played Episode Duscae, you’ll be familiar with a few combat tricks, but the game could use a good tutorial (note: hahaha) or maybe gamers could learn things by experimenting (note: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA).

Because of that, the game looks like it has no combat depth and that you can just “hold Circle to awesome” your way through the game. And really, it’s hard to blame people for thinking that way, partially because most of the interesting combat was in Episode Duscae, and partially because that’s the way the industry is trending. Sure, the game has lots of interesting combat tricks, but it remains to be seen how many of them will be “required” to complete the main story. The game will probably have its share of bonus bosses, but the vast majority of gamers, even at the self-proclaimed last bastion of the “hardcore”, won’t ever beat them.

Overall, most demos do more harm than good, and it’s especially true with this one. It didn’t do much for people who already played Episode Duscae and it gave a poor impression for those who were on the fence. My hype remains steadily in the 80-90 range, but I can see why some gamers would be falling off.

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate Review

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Capcom threw its dedicated American fans a great present in the form of the fourth entry in the Monster Hunter series. The franchise has been making steady improvements with each successive entry, MH3U’s underwater combat notwithstanding, without losing what originally drew in gamers. How many franchises can say that?

The first thing I noticed upon starting the game was that the mighty Tigrex makes a triumphant return, along with some other monsters that skipped the third entry, like the Gravios and the Basarios. Capcom was smart enough to let the newest monsters take center stage, though, as the game opens with you hunting monsters like the Seltas, an overgrown beetle with a giant horn, and the Nerscylla, a giant spider that swings on its webs like a frightening Spider-Man. Later on, you’ll meet the Zamtrios, a giant shark that can inflate his belly and bounce on top of you, and the Najarala, a snake-lizard hybrid that encircles you and can paralyze you with its bite.

The coolest thing about the early quest progression is that you face monsters with unique movements and attacks, a far cry from the normal -dromes and charging wyverns from the previous games. Unfortunately, Capcom couldn’t completely break from series tradition, as they saw fit to stick you with those crappy fishing and egg-gathering missions again. Argh.

Capcom seems to have put some thought behind the story this time, with more (nicely done) cutscenes, characters to interact with, and places to visit. Fortunately, it doesn’t get in the way of the hunting, although the characters can be a bit talky at times.

There are two new weapons, the Insect Glaive and the Charge Blade. Since I don’t use the Blade, I have nothing to say about it. But the Glaive is an extremely cool and fun weapon that relies on you using your Kinsect to steal essences from the monster to buff yourself. The Glaive also has a cool pole-vaulting attack that takes advantage of MH4U’s emphasis on verticality and aerial combat. You can now climb ledges and leap down on monsters to mount them, which can lead to an easy knockdown if you do it right.

Although the verticality is cool, it does occasionally lead to some troublesome moments where you’ll attempt to roll out of an attack but get hit because you went over a tiny ledge, which forced you into the “leaping down” animation instead of the “invincible rolling” animation. Mounting is useful in solo play but sometimes problematic in multiplayer, as the non-mounting players can’t attack the monster without potentially ruining it for the mounting player.

Another new feature is the addition of subquests, which are optional objectives that give extra rewards upon completion. You can leave the quest without completing the main objective if the subquest is completed, although there’s little need to ever do that if you’re prepared. Take the free rewards and run, I suppose.

Expeditions have replaced Moga Woods as the game’s free hunt mode, and while the Everwood is pretty dull compared to Moga Woods, Expeditions themselves are fun and a useful way to practice fighting. You can also find Rusted Weapons and Armor in the Everwood, and when polished, you might find that the equipment has different abilities and stats from the “normal” version of that particular piece of gear. Interesting and potentially useful, especially for weapons like the Bowguns and Hunting Horns.

The core gameplay remains as strong as ever, and despite some goofiness with the verticality, it’s still a net positive because it opens up some neat opportunities, both for you and the monsters. Veterans of the series can pick this one up and feel right at home, and they should, because Capcom has been able to keep the core gameplay intact despite all the goofiness. Who cares if you’re talking to a bunch of weirdos and pointlessly running around in the Everwood at times, when the fighting just feels so good?

Destiny: The Dark That Sits Below The Internet Gaming Community

It’s funny to me that Destiny: The Dark Below will probably get trashed by most of the Internet gaming media (which means that it’ll get something along the lines of an 8.99999993/10), who will then be baffled that people will still buy the expansion and wonder why their strongly-worded reviews did not bring about the end of Destiny. In fact, Destiny as a franchise is fast becoming the new Call of Duty: loved by Internet critics, loved by “the unwashed masses”, hated by the “hardcore”. Or at the very least, certain members of the “hardcore”.

For better or worse, the “era” is over, if it really existed. I think Destiny shows that gamers as a whole no longer care about on-disk DLC (or at least not enough to affect their purchase) or content being cut so it can be added as DLC later. This probably has some distasteful long-term consequences for the gaming industry, and I think it’s a bit of a shame that The Axis Of Evil(tm) basically trudged ahead and did whatever they wanted and gamers as a whole just kind of went with it.

I think it’s kind of the same reason it’s funny to watch people just get angry and when the person they’re upset at doesn’t react at all, it just makes them even angrier. Impotent rage is kind of funny to me, and impotent Internet rage is even funnier because of how hyperbolic and self-important it can get. I kind of like it when overly self-important gaming communities get put in their place. Not to worry, though, guys, you can still take comfort that your choices in media make you superior to the unwashed masses.

Getting back to Destiny as the new Call of Duty, I can’t decide whether it should have been expected or not. On one hand, it had so much hype that a bit of backlash was inevitable, but on the other hand, I’m not sure anyone could have anticipated this kind of reaction from certain sections of the Internet gaming community, even factoring in that the Internet lends itself to a bit of hyperbole. Expected or not, though, it’s causing some weird cognitive dissonance all across the Internet. Are we “supposed” to love it or hate it? I don’t know the answer to that question.

Destiny’s Thorn Bounty: Symbolism? Partial repost? Both?

(This is a partial repost because readers couldn’t figure out how to get to the second page of my posts. It’s not your fault, it’s mine.)

In-game lore describes the Thorn hand cannon as a corrupted weapon, a “Weapon of Sorrow”, which probably explains the kind of behaviors I had to engage in so I could complete the bounty. To complete the bounty, you need to get 500 points by killing other players in PvP with Void damage: 5 points for a kill, -2 points for a death. Unlike some of the other PvP bounties in the game, you get nothing for assists.

So because of this, whenever my teammate and I are both shooting at an enemy and I only get the assist instead of the kill, instead of thinking “Good teamwork, there”, I think “You just stole my kill, asshole. I hope we’re on different teams next time so I can shoot you in the face.” That probably isn’t healthy. And I’ve found myself abandoning teammates to die in a firefight because I thought they were so incompetent that they would get me killed too and I would lose progress in the bounty. Again, not healthy. I committed the ultimate sin twice, too: one time my team was doing so poorly that I figured I’d losing too much progress if I stayed. I also left the final match as soon as I finally got the 500 points needed to progress the bounty.

The mechanics of this bounty mean that you either go completely lone wolf, or you use your teammates as meat shields to soften up the enemies and you clean up afterwards. There were multiple times when I deliberately hung back in a firefight, letting my teammates die, and then leaping out and killing the enemies when they were weakened afterwards.

So if you have a teammate who’s being an ass, maybe he was corrupted by the last of the Weapons of Sorrow. Or he’s just an ass. Who knows?

Sorry, P&D

You had a good run. But in 2 hours of Terra Battle, I saw more interesting twists on the base gameplay than I saw in probably close to 50 hours of P&D. Maybe if you’d spent more time improving the gameplay instead of adding more half-naked chicks who look like they’re 12.

In fact, Terra Battle is so good that I’ve been sitting on some pretty solid games like Monster Strike and Faraway Kingdom. But I have managed to make some time for Puzzle to the Center of the Earth. It’s essentially a match-3 platformer: you drag your finger over a connected set of at least 3 blocks to make them disappear, allowing your character to descend through each level. If a block is hovering, with no blocks beneath it, dragging down on that block will make it fall. Both clearing blocks and causing a block to fall costs energy, and if you run out, you can’t do much of anything. Clearing a set of 6 or more blocks gives you a catalyst, which allows you to use special combinations. For example, clearing a blue-red-green combination causes an explosion that clears out more blocks, while clearing a tan-light blue-red combination turns those blocks into extra energy.

I ended up killing myself for this screenshot. So you'd better appreciate it.
I ended up killing myself for this screenshot. So you’d better appreciate it.

My main complaint is that I’ve already run into some “gotcha” moments. There’s been a couple of times where I missed a star or a switch (both of which are required to access certain secrets) because I did something to block the passage without knowing that it was there. You can replay levels to pick up secrets that you missed, but it still kinda rubs me the wrong way.

Welcome Back!

In this post: I talk about iOS games. Then on page two, I talk about Destiny. Then I stop talking.

Terra Battle

The most anticipated iOS release for October was Terra Battle, and it definitely did not disappoint. The game had reached 500k downloads within a week of release, and while I suspect it won’t reach some of the loftier goals, the perks we’re getting are definitely worth it.

The game is played on a grid, where your units and the enemy units face off. To attack, you must move your units in a way that they flank an enemy unit. While you can only move one of your units at a time, you can push your other units into position by dragging over them as you move. You’ll want to plan moves in advance, because your units can provide support if they’re inline with an attacking unit. With some clever movement, you can set up your units so that they simultaneously attack and provide support, all during the same move.

You’ll need to do this, too, because the game definitely stops pulling punches around the fourth or fifth chapter. Players who were there from day one have a bit of an advantage in the form of Kuscah, a mage who heals the units who support an attack with him. Like Fire Emblem, the game features a rock-paper-scissors weapon system, where spear beats sword, sword beats bow, and bow beats spear.

I can’t recommend this game enough. Pick it up now.


This game also got a ton of attention in the iOS community when Apple heavily featured it during their iPhone 6 event. The makers, Super Evil Megacorp, tout it as “the MOBA perfected for touch”, and let’s face it, that’s a bold claim. If they can deliver, it’ll go a long way towards legitimizing the iOS gaming community. They’re currently soft-rolling out the game throughout various regions. No word on when it’s coming to the US App Store, but it is available in southeast Asia, if you’d like to create an account in that region.

The game currently requires iOS 6 and supports the iPad 2 or later, the iPhone 6, and the iPhone 6 Plus, but they do plan on supporting other devices in the future. I would think the iPhone 5S wouldn’t be completely crazy, but I wouldn’t count on support for the iPhone 5C or earlier. If you have a device that can run this game, I highly recommend to keep checking their site to see if the game is out in the USA.

Castaway Paradise

I had high hopes for this game. I was thrilled about the idea of an Animal Crossing-like game on iOS. But man, this game is just not that good.

It controls fine, although the touch-to-move is a bit jarring compared to the virtual joystick controls that you’d expect the game to use. What’s particularly off-putting about the game is how cluttered the game screen gets, even on my iPad mini. It wouldn’t be so bad if the game didn’t insist on popping up timers for every little thing, complete with the option to use premium currency to speed it up. It’s like a double dose of pain: the game clutters up your screen with offers to make them go away if you just pull out your wallet.