March 16, 2017

“The End of The World” by Sean Wenham - Phantom Pain

I don’t know why I even review mobile games anymore when they just make me miserable in one way or another. Well, this is gonna be a depressing review, isn’t it? Maybe, maybe not.

The End of the World is a side-scrolling exploration game for mobile platforms. You play as a Benedict Cumberbatch-shaped fellow in going through a few days of misery and regret set in what is apparently an eradicated Newcastle, England. You explore around the city and interact with flickering objects that give you more detail on how the relationship with his girlfriend played out.

This game is basically an emotional sidescroller. There isn’t much to do. No quests given. You’re just given a world and you’re supposed to interact with it, menial task or not. You can choose to smoke, drink booze or coffee, and play the game with or without clothes. Yes, you can go about in your underwear but not in a Saints Row kind of way but in a rather sad and miserable manner.

The background music when you look back at the past is perfect for the mood it’s trying to portray since it’s supposed to make those happy times feel even happier and sugary sweet compared to the drab and dull present. The first bit of music that plays when you’re exploring the world tries to sound happy but it gives that melancholic vibe. As each day goes, it gets sadder and eventually no music at all. All in all, the music does what it’s trying to accomplish.

The game looks wonderful, by the way, with graphics that look delicately hand-painted. From the backgrounds to the faceless protagonist, they’re well done. Never have I looked at a destroyed apartment building and thought “That looks great!”

The clock button found in key places would show you precious moments he had with his girlfriend, which would open up some exaggerated scenes of more precious moments. Looking at the past and seeing what the protagonist and his girlfriend were doing is an interesting aspect of the game which could be interpreted as wishful thinking.

Is it fun? Yes but it’s an experience that doesn’t take longer than an hour. I still liked it despite my love for longer and more grueling games. Heck, even the game’s description on the Google Play store says it’s only 15 to 30 minutes. It’s a heavily watered down point-and-click sidescrolling game but it doesn’t overstay its welcome. There are no savepoints so it’s like playing a PS2 game with no memory card - finish it now or never. Exiting the game would lead you back to the tutorial so be careful with that unless you want to explore the world again and again and turn that 15 minutes into 35.

As with some art games, The End of The World is shrouded in metaphor but doesn't turn pretentious with its story. It basically shows you that for some people, a breakup is the end of the world for them, no matter how stupid that could sound to others.

The game is dull but it’s forgivable because it’s supposed to be. There aren’t any quests or objectives given because you’re controlling someone who’s wandering aimlessly in an empty city that’s already starting to have decaying buildings. This is his sadness working his way to the world. This isn’t the end of the world itself but rather the end of his. No matter what you do, you can only wander around and look for memories that haunt him. A destroyed building is used to convey how destroyed the love and memories of his girlfriend are at that point.

The endings are vague and up to interpretation. Basically, without spoiling anything specific, would you rather stick to the past happy times or would you rather stray away and move on? At least, that’s what I got out of it. As with any good art game, these are always great for second playthroughs and looking for subtleties that were missed in the first run.

The End of The World is available on Android and iOS. The iOS version costs 99 cents while the Android version is free. The literature major inside me enjoyed the hell out of this short story. Oh my heart hurts so good. I love you so bad.

March 14, 2017

Fire Emblem Heroes - Line In The Sand

With work consuming a ton more time and energy from yours truly, I've been in the mood for a quick game that's accessible with either of my cellphones. There have been strategy RPGs on Android but usually they are either way too boring or just really want your money with little to no gameplay or story at all. At least Fire Emblem Heroes is here to show us that not all mobile games are terrible. 

I have played other Fire Emblem games but they just weren’t cutting it for me and that's not the series’s fault at all, more of personal taste. I did enjoy Sacred Stones for the Gameboy Advance but didn’t bother finishing it when I reached the final boss. I didn't even finish Shadow Dragon even if it was more serious and streamlined than Sacred Stones. I even downloaded a fan translation of New Mystery of The Emblem for the Nintendo DS and surprisingly found it appealing due to the bare bones character customization and optional “no permanent death” option. I only played around six hours of it, however, before thinking “Bored now!” and headed over Call of Duty: Black Ops instead. I admit I’ve been spoiled by the tactical leniency of the Disgaea series so Fire Emblem has been something that just slightly intrigued me at best, not that there's anything wrong with it. I definitely see the appeal of it.

When Fire Emblem Heroes was released on mobile, it isn't the kind of game that I'd actively search for but a month later with 23 hours of game time clocked in, it’s something of an addiction now. It’s not like this game made me want to spend actual money on microtransactions or the games themselves but it has given me a ton of fun on train rides and bored moments at work. When I started this game, I was greeted with characters who I legitimately thought were from other Fire Emblem games, which shows how aware I am of this series.

I've been using a team consisting of Roy and male Robin as the two big dogs that dominate. They've been competent as a duo so far. The downside of that is I have two other people that have been hit and miss in terms of reliability. Cherche and Laslow have been capable teammates when the time calls for it and when I don’t get overconfident by charging to battle with those two but I end up relying on Robin and Roy most of the time when Cherche and Laslow eventually get their jaws handed to them in battle. 

This is what the game is about really. Making the best team consisting of your favorite characters is one thing but utilizing them in battle effectively and dominantly is another. In my case, I'm not a huge fan of the series so I'm not aware of the characters and their stories. So going in blind, I had to make do with the characters I got. Roy and Robin are on my main team and I'm so close to calling them Roy’s Boys or, just for the sake of giggles, The Ascension. 

“Marth? More like Martha! Corrin? You think you’re a dragon but we’re Dragonborn so we’ll steal your soul! Roy's our boy and Robin’s gonna be robbin’ the life out of you! Hahaha wasteland!”

You have nine chapters which counts as the main storyline but it basically ends on a cliffhanger and beyond that is simply the same nine chapters with increased difficulty levels. Completing a chapter for the first time gets you an orb which costs money so that’s incentive to go for the higher difficulties.

Aside from the main story, we have a training map where you can level up weaker characters and earn materials to upgrade your characters and make them stronger. It’s a good way to get more grinding done for weaker and newly upgraded characters as the choices for types and levels of enemies randomize after every battle in this mode.

There’s also an arena for some simulated PVP. Each day, you get three Dueling Swords which you use for one arena fight each. This isn’t real time PVP however. The AI just controls your opponent’s team to either great results where you win or end up getting pummelled by several mages. Damn bookworms!

It isn't a free-to-play game without micropayments and boy, do they get costly if you choose to go down that road. You pay real money for orbs that you use to upgrade your castle, which in turn, increases the amount of experience points you gain. You can also use orbs to purchase random characters starting from 5 orbs. 

What’s terrible is that buying characters is a chore in itself. See, you don’t just get to purchase any character you'd desire like in a catalogue. There are odds to getting certain characters and certain rarities as well and the better the character, the less likely you’re going to get them immediately which means get ready to spend more money. You may get a 2 star bronze level of a character while another player gets the same character but with a 5 star silver level which has better stats and is probably going to be more useful in battle. So getting protagonists or at least characters who are popular within the fandom with decent stats would be hard to obtain without throwing money at the problem.

Thank god there’s no permanent death in this Fire Emblem. I can imagine purists would cry “But it’s not a real Fire Emblem game!” to which I retort, “Genius, try to imagine paying money for orbs to get a cool character and eventually losing said character after one battle. You'd be devastated, right?”

Instead of permanent death, a defeated character would just lose the experience they gained in the map so if you had Corrin or Nino running wild in a battle but didn't think that they'd get their heads kicked in by three horse units who each had 1 health each, congratulations on losing that character's level progression, Buddy Murphy! It's not as bad as permadeath but it's still terrible consequences nonetheless.

The maps are bite-sized, set in an 8 by 6 grid which makes it easier to navigate on a phone and every character is on-screen. The game tries to vary the maps with environmental aspects that affect movement so your horse troops can’t walk through trees but your pegasus knights can fly over mountains and lava pits. Some maps also have mazes in them where you have to come close to your enemies while they have long ranged attacks and mess your team’s collective jaws up.

In previous Fire Emblem games though, you’re given the chance to preview the map, survey your opponents, and see what’s in store for you whether it’s an easy win or a brutal head-kicking which would require some further reorganizing of your team. However, stamina is limited as you go to further levels. You get 50 stamina permanently which means no amount of storyline progression would increase the amount of stamina you have. Later stages with higher level opponents would require at least 15 stamina to play and losing or quitting the map gets you none of the stamina back.

As for the story, why do I get a feeling of Warriors Orochi here? Different characters from a series are fighting other characters from the same franchise in a war that nobody knows how to stop unless they beat the living hell out of the others. The characters mention how they have to honor a contract which I think needs a lawyer needs to assess just to check its terms and conditions. The player is then tasked with possibly collecting all of said warriors to add to their roster in order to... beat the living hell out of others. A novel idea, of course, but one of the weaker parts of the game when compared to the emotion and drama in a full-fledged Fire Emblem game, which is perfectly understandable .

What exactly is the endgame of this story, really? If the characters go back to their own timelines, would they forget all of their experiences here and live life back to their original fates, making this game seem pointless? Would they simply just live in this weird new place, leaving their old lives behind? I may just be nitpicking at this point and it might just be a moo point (i.e. a cow’s opinion - it’s “moo”).

To sum it up, is it fun? Definitely, despite the freemium aspects, it's fun to have a Fire Emblem game on the go that doesn't require that much thinking. Perhaps it's a way to introduce new players to the series with it being free on the most used handheld device nowadays. Once you get used to everything, perhaps the game’s main purpose is “Now that you’ve spent 30 hours on this free game on your phone, why not upgrade to the main games for another 30 hours with a more coherent storyline?” The game is definitely fun and addicting with its character collection and gameplay that's easy to grasp. It could certainly be improved in different ways such as bigger maps and better storyline but as it is right now, it definitely earns its spot in your cellphone's storage.

Fire Emblem Heroes is available for download on Android and iOS. Download it and create your own team of people who can slaughter a village if they had the chance to.

March 1, 2017

“NoStranger” by Black Vein Productions - Strangers In The Night

Remember that review I did of a mobile game called Seen? Yes, the game that's causing me to get too many views after all this time. Now I’m enjoying a lot more mobile games because they're easy to pick up and play, or at least they should be, right? Well, I’m back with another one about chatting with people online. This one is called NoStranger, available on Android and iOS, developed by Black Vein Productions. 

What’s that? Still think this is another run-of-the-mill mobile game that's terrible? Well, buckle up, Buddy Murphy, because we’re going on a wild ride through this mobile game. 

The story takes you to a private chat room app where you’re matched with Adam, an interesting nerd who likes to talk about how humans are programmed and how we’re all in a program. Surprisingly, no super powers here so sorry, Saints Row IV fans. You talk to Adam about life and how he’s living his. The writing is interesting as it tries to immerse you in the game in order to help a human being instead of an AI. You do get to pick certain replies which sometimes makes you sound like a sarcastic weirdo or a milquetoast nerd as well but hey, it’s a game and not a chat bot. 

February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day...

It's that little souvenir of a terrible year which makes my eyes feel sore.
But the only thing I ever wanted to say was wrong.

February 13, 2017

Tsawwassen Mills

I still have a headache tonight so why not just shit in more places I'll never work.

Tsawwassen Mills is a terrible idea that came to life. It's unnecessary, despite how huge of a mall it is. Sure, it's probably giving a lot of jobs to people but on the Mills website, there's a ton of job openings there which I assume is from people quitting from how far the damn place is. It's 29 kilometeres from the fucking train station and from civilization at that. It's located at a place where there aren't any frequent buses riding along for passengers. It's gotten to the point where they have to provide shuttles because goddamn it, they didn't think of public transportation. But the shuttles aren't free for employees since it costs another 40 bucks a month off your paycheck just to get to a damn mall that isn't that interesting or successful to begin with.

What makes Guildford Town Centre and Metropolis at Metrotown super successful? They have smart marketing where they place ads on public transport and they're easily accessible by, you guessed it, public transport. They're a breeze to go to as long as you know where you're going. The 96-B Line fucking stops at Guildford Mall, goddamn it, so that's a huge bonus is foot traffic.

Mills - I'm so fucking sick of how stupid Tsawwassen is spelled - is located in a no man's land near a ferry. On their first three days of opening, they were already on the news on how shitty their parking is and how some dudes apparently took 2 hours to leave the parking area because of how unorganized it is.

Mills is like having an expensive airport in the middle of the desert.