In Other News – June 29 2015

Sword Art Online Hollow Fragment

I picked up Sword Art Online Hollow Fragment for the Vita this weekend. I enjoyed the first half of the first season of SAO, quit the second half of the first season, and was meh on the ideas behind the second season. Being an MMO player, the idea of being virtually stuck inside the game is both interesting and frightening. We’ve moved away from the idea of the “MMO as a living world” and into “MMO as a string of mechanics”, so bringing it back around to the space as being it’s own ongoing ecosystem is cool; physically dying in the real world if you die in the game, however, is very uncool.

The game itself is in Japanese with English subtitles, which under most circumstances is just fine. In this case, it’s like a psychological experiment gone haywire, mainly because in the hour or so I’ve put into the game, 2% has been fighting things, another 10% has been running from place to place, and 88% has been thumbing through conversation. I don’t actually know what these conversations were about, since my brain refused to process anything after what seemed like the twelfth hour of reading one language while hearing a different one. Adding insult to injury, the Japanese propensity to include every single little twitch and emote and exclamation and gasp and muttering and sidebar to the main conversation while requiring that each be progressed through a press of the button…

The game itself is borderline-obnoxiously convoluted, but like anime itself, it takes a while to get used to and once you do, you get more comfortable with it. Supposedly you can “bond” with secondary characters through such mundane tasks as “talking to them” and “sitting with them at a cafe”. Doing so increases their ability to fight. They’ll also make requests for specific actions in combat, like “please stun” the target. Complying allows the two of you to fight much better in the long run. But to get to that point, you need to master the basic, LB, and RB hotbar states, both for you and for the requests you make to your companion. It’ll take about an hour of just familiarizing yourself with the character screens before you can become effective…if you can get some time alone outside of conversation, that is.

Destiny?

I’m not going to touch the brouhaha that has been surrounding Destiny and Bungie as of late, except to point you at this article which reminds us all that Activision is behind Bungie now.

I re-bought Destiny for the XB1 because A) I had $50 card from the purchase of said machine, B) XB1 had a bundle on sale for $45 that included the game, the two current DLC, and some extra crap, and C) my brother and friend (XB1 owners) had it, but had yet to get anywhere. I enjoy Destiny just fine; I never got very far on the PS4 as I wasn’t playing as often as others, and while I’m OK at shooters, I’m not so spectacular that I can stomach plowing through them alone (especially some of Destiny‘s creepier locations, which cause me shoulder-tension stress).

So it’s back into the grinder. I got to level five on Sunday, have my Sparrow, and my supa’ power now. There’s an upcoming mission that I’m dreading, where I have to defend the radio tower or something like that. I remember that it gave me much stress and much grief, and I really only got through it because I had other people to help at the time.

Massive Chalice

Another game I worked on this weekend was Massive Chalice. It’s one of XB1’s “Games with Gold” selection for June, and had been on my Steam wishlist for a while. In a nutshell, it’s like Crusader Kings meets XCOM. You control a kingdom pressed on all sides by a magical enemy. You have to take over territories by building fortresses, and then you need to install regents there. In addition, you have to (or can, if you’re smart) marry those regents to other characters so they’ll produce more characters. The kicker is that the characters come from your pool of soldiers, so once they’ve been promoted, they’re out of the battle.

Combat is very much like XCOM. You move, the enemy moves, you get a percent-chance-to-hit on your preferred target, and so on. If your character dies, they stay dead.

The conceit is that you not only have to keep your soldiers alive on the battlefield, but you have to take them out of service for the “greater good” of the kingdom (and to make kids). Do you keep your best soldiers fighting and possibly dying for good, or do you force them to have sex and produce children because they have desirable traits? Wait, that doesn’t sound like a difficult decision…

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