Octopath Traveler: Return to the Golden Age of JRPGs

Octopath Traveler is a highly anticipated Japanese RPG from the RPG masters themselves, Square Enix. First announced at the official Nintendo Switch unveiling in January 2017 with a teaser trailer, we are finally nearing the game’s release date of July 13th. During Nintendo’s E3 2018 Direct, the prologue demo was announced to be released on June 14th exclusively on the Nintendo Switch, with progress from the demo carrying over to the full game upon its release. I spent a lot of time playing this demo over the past week and I am excited to share my thoughts on the early chapters of the game.

There are eight playable characters in Octopath Traveler and the game gives the player the option of choosing the starting protagonist, each with unique abilities, and allows them to explore the world and take on quests while recruiting the other characters—or not, if they wish. Each character comes with a unique set of skills, path actions, and talents. While each character can learn skills from other job classes, the path actions and talents are unique to each character. In the full release, hero’s will be able to take on sub-classes to learn active and passive skills from the other heroes’ skill list but will not be able to learn the unique path actions or talents.

octogroupKeyart used from the initial Nintendo Switch reveal event. Looks like our heroes are planning a grand adventure.

Path actions are non-combat abilities that allow the playable characters to interact with non-playable characters. Such actions include the ability to steal or purchase items from citizens, challenge them to a duel, or temporarily recruit them to summon in battle against enemies. These are then broken into a Noble action and Rogue action. Noble actions can be used without consequence but the hero must meet level restrictions in order in interact with certain citizens while the Rogue actions can be used on nearly anyone but carries with it a chance for failure which would then lower your reputation in that town. If reputation falls, no path actions whether they be Noble or Rogue can be completed unless paying the local barkeep to spread word of your renown to regain the trust of the townsfolk. Once reputation is restored, you may resume using the path actions unless reputation falls again.

The aesthetic and combat in Octopath Traveler are very much inspired by classic RPGs, most notably from the Super Nintendo generation but are given a more modern approach. This game uses an “HD 2D” art style using pixel-based graphics in high definition. It sounds a little bit like an oxymoron but it looks fantastic. They also make great use of depth, focus, and lighting to accentuate the beauty of the environments. I’m a sucker for water effects in games and the water in this game is buttery smooth with a little bit more realistic look, creating a wonderful juxtaposition against the pixelized settings.

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Combat is turn based, much like RPGs of yesteryear. For those that typically didn’t like turn based combat (I’m not one of those people), Octopath introduces a more tactical, hands-on approach thanks to the “boost” system and hero abilities that “summon” captured beasts or recruited citizens to aid in the fight. Each character gets one Boost Point (BP) per turn, to a max of 5, that can be used to increase the power of the next attack or increase the duration of buff and debuff moves. Each hero has limits on what weapons they can equip based on their class and sub-class, this creates an added layer of strategy. Party composition will be important as you will want to have a wide variety weapon types and magic elements ready to exploit enemy weaknesses. Enemies begin the fight with a shield level, meaning they are more resistant to all damage until the shield is broken—which can only be done by attacking them with one of their weaknesses. When multiple enemies are on the field of battle with varying shield levels and weaknesses, it’s easy to see that this won’t be your basic “mash standard attacks until you win” JRPG.

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The hardest part is deciding which character to start with. It’s already been stated that you can recruit and play through all story lines in a single save file of the main game but in the demo you are unable to swap out your starting character. As of now, it’s unclear if that will change in the main game so it’s a good idea to start with someone you will be happy with. You might be saying to yourself, “Octopath Traveler is kind of a weird name” and I agree with you but the developers did find a way to make it sort of relevant outside of just the number eight:

Ophilia the Cleric – Path Action: Guide. A Noble action that can be used to lead characters to complete side quests or summon following citizens to aid in battle. Her skills make her a magic user focused on healing and Light magic.

Cyrus the Scholar- Path Action: Scrutinize. A Rogue action that can be used to glean information from citizens used to complete side quests or find locations scattered loot. Another caster, focused on high elemental damage.

Tressa the Merchant- Path Action: Purchase. A Noble action that can be used to purchase items from citizens, often at lower prices than shops or on items that otherwise would not be purchasable. She can also sometimes find money randomly while walking and can spend money in battle to summon mercenaries to land high amounts of damage.

Olberic the Warrior- Path Action: Challenge. A Noble action to commence a duel with citizens, this seems most useful to remove people blocking doorways, completing side quests and winning experience and items from the duels. He is the heavy hitter and tank of the group.

Primrose the Dance- Path Action: Allure. The Rogue counterpart to the Guide action. Complete side quests and summon followers in battle. She is a support character, using dances to buff teammate stats in battle and can cast Dark magic.

Alfyn the Apothecary- Path Action: Inquire. The Noble counterpart to the Scrutinize action. His “Concoct” skill in battle allows him to combine items to create powerful healing or to debuff enemies.

Therion the Theif- Path Action: Steal. The Rogue counterpart to the Purchase action. He can steal items that citizens carry but odds of success can vary greatly based on the item or person being stolen from. A self-sufficient character able to heal himself and debuff enemies. Able to steal items from enemies in battle.

H‘aanit the Hunter- Path Action: Provoke. The Rogue counterpart to the Challenge action. She can also Capture beasts in battle and summon them later, captured enemies have many effects that can heal or help cover missing weapon and element types from the party composition.

Notice the pattern here? The first letter of each hero spells out Octopath! ANYway, this game is beautiful, interactive, strategic, and overall a perfect love letter to/evolution of the golden age of JRPGs. This will be an absolute must have if you are a Switch owner and it may make one of the best cases to buy a Switch we’ve seen yet. The full game is out in a little less than a month and should give players 50-60 hours of play through just the story and an estimated 100-hours if you play through all side stories. I’ll be sure to share a full review after the game launches next month. Until then…

Keep grinding.

 

 

 

Recapping E3

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In a nearly week long wave of hype, the Electronic Entertainment Expo came and went. The press conferences began on Saturday 6/9 with EA then continued over the weekend through Tuesday with Xbox, Bethesda, Square Enix, Ubisoft, PC, Sony, and finally, Nintendo. Following Nintendo’s digital conference (known as Nintendo Direct), the showroom floors opened and so commenced the live demos, deep dives, and interviews with the developers which carried on through Thursday 6/14.

There was a lot of negativity from the gaming community as each conference concluded. Between bad pacing, awkward deliveries, missing games, and missing release dates, it’s understandable that not everyone was pleased at first glance. It certainly didn’t help that there were so many leaks of big game announcements prior to the event, games that would have made great surprises otherwise.

Taking a step back, however, to digest and take stock of everything that was shown rather than just waiting for the next big surprise, should leave gamers feeling better about the coming year. Looking back, nearly every conference had a little something for everyone and a whole lot to look forward to. Some of them even launched games directly following their conference! There was way too much information to cover it all now so I’m going to talk about a few of my favorite games and announcements from the week. You can see more of Level Grind’s favorites from the show including Spiderman and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate here.

Bioware’s new title, Anthem, looks to be perfect for those who enjoy multiplayer exploration, team based combat, and want to fulfill a fantasy of being Iron Man. Anthem contains what appears to be a massive, shared, open world full or lore and mysteries. Players can choose and customize their exosuits (Javelins) to fulfill different roles in the team with gadgets and armaments that not only affect how you play but can also be used to set up combo attacks with other players. Javelins can be changed between missions to fill different roles as needed. Anthem is sure to draw comparisons to Activision’s Destiny as the latter has certainly been an extremely major influence on the team exploration shooter genre but it’s clear Anthem will have a lot of systems and mechanics to make it unique.

Octopath Traveler is being published by Square Enix and is coming exclusively to Nintendo Switch on July 13th. This was dubbed game of the show by Level Grind contributor, Stephen. A prologue demo was released during the week of E3, allowing players to try all eight characters’ opening chapters. I’ve spent a lot of time with this demo and will be covering more in depth soon.

Speaking of Nintendo, remember earlier when I mentioned there were some games that dropped immediately after the conference ended? This happened after the Nintendo Direct, releasing long awaited port of Team Cherry’s Hollow Knight to the Nintendo Switch. I’m a big fan of games in the Metroidvania genre so this was a huge announcement for me. I’ll have my review on this coming soon. In other Nintendo-releasing-games-after-their-direct news, Fornite’s Battle Royale mode was also released for the Switch immediately which isn’t big news for me personally but will be a huge boon for the system- offering console quality visuals and control on the go. Nintendo ALSO bumped the release of their Splatoon 2 “OCTO Expansion” from mid July up to June 13th, giving it a new launch date during E3! Hands on impressions coming soon!

Upcoming indie game Indivisible by Lab Zero Games received some new gameplay and details in a developer interview at the show. I remember seeing snippets of this game previously but it had fallen off my radar until this deep dive. Based on gameplay and the developer commentary, this seems to be a 2D platformer with Metroidvania elements but rather than fighting enemies in real time, when you encounter an enemy in the environment you enter a turn based RPG battle. The art style and characters look great. I can’t wait to see more information on this.

My Game of the Show: Of all the games and gameplay shown throughout the week, Sucker Punch’s Ghost of Tsushima really blew me away. We covered this a bit in a previous post but the game centers on the Mongol invasion of Japan. The protagonist is a Samurai who must evolve beyond typical Samurai tradition to become a force the Mongols would never expect. The game is one of the most gorgeous to grace any console to date. Ghost of Tsushima was first shown in a teaser trailer back in December during Sony’s Playstation Experience event. Sucker Punch has been mostly known for their Infamous games which feature characters with super human abilities that must make choices to serve the people or serve themselves. Although the decisions are mostly superficial during the majority of the game, the end game decisions seem to carry a lot more weight. It will be interesting to see what skills, character progression, and decision-making elements we’ll see in their newest title. We still don’t have a release window but maybe we will know more by the time this year’s Playstation Experience comes around.

Most anticipated game: Although the personal game of the show “awards” were varied, here at Level Grind and our friends agree that we are most eager for CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077. Most known for The Witcher series, CD Projekt Red leaves high fantasy behind for an 80’s inspired vision of a cyberpunk future. There was a 50-minute behind closed doors gameplay demo for select attendees at E3 (I’m so jealous). It has been said this will be a first-person RPG with some shooting elements. Had I been able to see the demo, I’m sure this would have been my game of the show. I can’t get enough of the trailer. The style and music just set the perfect mood and everything in that trailer is set during the day, imagine what the city looks like at night! I can picture all the neon now. Anyway, if you haven’t seen it, take a look!

 

Favorite non-game moments: First off, the Nintendo Treehouse team covering the demos from a large number of games shown off during the Nintendo direct was almost always entertaining. They were my go-to channel for a good portion of the week due to their extensive coverage and quality of content shown. Sort of game related but not game specific was all the “and it’s released today” moments from the show. Often this was for smaller titles or indie games but it’s still great to get something instant while enjoying the shows. Lastly, Andrew W.K. opening the Bethesda show with a musical performance for Rage 2 was pretty awesome. It went a little long but it’s hard to not enjoy Andrew W.K.

What games were missing? Final Fantasy VII Remake, Square Enix’s Avengers game, Animal CrossingBloodborne 2. Given everything else that was shown/announced it’s hard to be too broken hearted. As nice as it would have been see these games, we will have more than enough to play over the course of the next year.

How did I do with my predictions?  Pretty terribly. As mentioned above we did not see Animal Crossing, Avengers or Bloodborne 2. In fact, just about the only thing I got right was the Elder Scrolls VI announcement and even that didn’t contain the subtitle, location or any gameplay. We likely will not see it until the next generation of consoles show up.

Well, it was a bit long winded but that’s pretty much my recap of E3. There’s still so much more that happened and with all the games mentioned throughout the expo I’m sure we will be talking about it plenty going forward. Keep tuned for more and of course…

Keep Grinding

My E3 2018 Predictions

E3Logo_Tag_WhiteImage via e3expo.com

We’re at the doorstep of E3 and excitement all around the internet is growing. We’ve seen some explosive leaks, first looks, and major announcements the past several weeks. Professionals and fans alike are trying to analyze all the tweets and teases in an effort to find out ahead of time what will be shown during the event. It’s like a collective attempt to peak at Christmas gifts before Christmas morning. The past few years have been packed with blockbuster triple-A experiences and charming yet addictive indie games and at the heart of it all are annual gaming events, one of the biggest of these, of course, is E3. Since we are mere days away, I thought I’d join in the fun and share my predictions for some of what we’ll see shown at this year’s expo.

1. Square Enix shows their Avengers game: This seems like kind of safe bet since it’s been awhile since their initial announcement and Square Enix is holding their own press conference, which we don’t see very often. E3 is the perfect stage for them to finally show what’s going on with this high profile game, especially since the game will likely cater to a more western audience.

2. Xbox shows a new, exclusive cinematic IP: My prediction is that XBox has something under their belt to compete with Sony’s first party titles like Horizon: Zero Dawn, The Last of Us, Uncharted, and God of War. These are all very cinematic experiences played from a third person perspective and I think they will show a new IP with follow this same approach.

3. Pokemon Switch gameplay and release window:  Well, Nintendo beat me to it. I had actually made this list back on May 11th and at the time there was a lot of speculation that Pokemon would be shown if it was destined to be a 2018 title but nothing was certain at the time. Since then, Nintendo and Pokemon Company made it official when they held a conference to announce the new titles named Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee! Not only did they show footage and give them an actual title but they even gave the actual release date, Nov 16, rather than just a generic time frame. I could take the win on this prediction but where’s the fun in that? Instead, I’m scratching this and coming up with a new prediction.

3. Sucker Punch’s: Ghost of Tsushima gets gameplay footage and release window: Nope, can’t use this one either. I was preempted by Sony on this prediction. While we don’t know what exactly will be shown or what information will be provided, we do know for a fact that the game will make an appearance at the expo. The game was first announced back in December during Sony’s Playstation Experience event but was only given a short teaser so it certainly seemed plausible we would get more information. I could probably still count this but again, I want to try and guess things we don’t know for sure will be shown.

3. Animal Crossing announced for Switch: Finally, a prediction that hasn’t already been confirmed. This one I’m actually pretty bummed hasn’t been leaked/announced ahead of the show. Animal Crossing is one of my most anticipated games for the console so I’m crossing (heh) my fingers as hard as I can that this gets announced. The more leaks and confirmed info we get from Nintendo prior to E3, the less likely the chances of this being announced, at least in my opinion. With so many games all but confirmed for the big show, I can’t help but think there isn’t enough room for another reveal of this magnitude.

4. Bloodborne 2 announcement: Bloodborne, created by From Software, is a Playstation 4 exclusive title that is still one of my favorite games of this console generation. It is a spin off title of the popular Dark Souls series. Bloodborne offered fast-paced combat with cleverly designed weapons, set in a beautifully haunting Lovecraftian environment. I actually expected the sequel to be announced at Sony’s E3 2017 conference but, sadly, that did not happen. Sony has already announced their first party titles that will appear at their show but this would make an absolutely fantastic surprise third party title.

5. Bethesda announces the Elder Scrolls 6: A long shot, for sure, but I think there’s a chance. The past couple Bethesda conferences have centered around expansions for their online rendition of the Elder Scrolls, titled Elder Scrolls Online (ESO). With an expansion for ESO released in May, we won’t see this taking up time during the conference. They also announced and released many of their major titles like Wolfenstein 2, The Evil Within 2, and Dishonored 2 DLC last year so they will need some heavy hitters this year, none of which would be bigger than an Elder Scrolls 6 announcement.

Ridiculously safe prediction: I thought it’d be fun to pick something that was almost a guarantee but not confirmed.  For this I’m saying Fortnite gets announced for Nintendo Switch. Again, I made the original draft of this list back on May 11th where there hadn’t been any substantial information but was such a safe prediction to make. I don’t think there wasn’t anyone that thought this announcement wouldn’t be made. Since then, through the numerous leaks and rumors this is another title that’s all but confirmed.

That’s it for my list. We are just days away and I’m excited to see what I got right, what I got wrong, and what I never would have thought of.

 

Pre-E3 Grinding

This was quite the week for pre-E3 leaks and first announcements. I’m starting to wonder what surprises we will actually see during the conferences. Between all the conferences and show room coverage throughout the week of E3 I know we will still get some great surprises and first looks. For now, let’s cover what we DO know:

1. Bethesda Announces “Fallout 76”: This was not a leak but rather a deliberate move by Bethesda as they trolled fans on their Twitch channel with a TV showing the “Please Stand By” message, found in other Fallout games, while a Vault Boy bobble head giving a thumbs up stood in the foreground. This teaser aired for nearly 24 hours, including overnight where they turned off the lights but left the TV on and turned the bobble head on its side, before showing the official trailer for the game the following day. It’s clear Bethesda had a lot of fun with the announcement though fans were left a little confused afterward. You can view the trailer here. Most of the confusion and negative reaction came due to the fact that the trailer gave very little context to what the game was about and leaving the expectation that we’d have to wait until E3 to learn anything else.

Since the trailer aired, new reports have emerged detailing the game as an online survival RPG with base building mechanics similar to that of Fallout 4. Unlike the most recent Fallout games that take place several hundred years after the nuclear war, Fallout 76 begins just 25 years after the war, before civilization had a chance to rebuild. This new game will put us in the shoes of the first vault citizens to step back out into the world and begin the process of rebuilding. There will be a story and quests that can be followed but the specifics of that have yet to be detailed. Bethesda’s E3 conference is just over a week away where we are bound to see more of this and more so we won’t have to wait long.

2. Nintendo’s Big Pokemon Announcement: Earlier this week, Nintendo and Pokemon Company had a press briefing on all the upcoming Pokemon news. The main point of this event was to showcase the “Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu!” and “Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee!” games coming to Nintendo Switch this year on Nov 16th. You can view the trailer here. They are a sort of remake/spinoff of the first generation game “Pokemon Yellow” with catching mechanics borrowed from the hit mobile game, “Pokemon Go.” It looks to be a bit more of a casual experience than mainline Pokemon games but will likely serve as a bridge to get the Pokemon Go fan base playing the new games on Nintendo Switch. Those looking for a more traditional, core Pokemon experience will have to wait until the second half of 2019.This news doesn’t come as too much of a surprise. Last year, there had been a Pokemon themed Nintendo Direct prior to the E3 event to announce “Pokemon: Ultra Sun” and “Pokemon: Ultra Moon,” then during Nintendo’s E3 digital presentation they had announced a Pokemon game would be coming to Switch in 2018 or later. Nintendo also likes to have a theme to their show floor presence which had been centered around “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” in 2016 and “Super Mario Odyssey” in 2017. Pokemon’s console debut makes perfect sense as it is consistently one of Nintendo’s best selling franchises. A case could have been made that the new Super Smash Bros. game would be the theme of the show and while it’s also a big franchise for Nintendo, it is not as widely recognizable as Pokemon. We’ll find out more during E3’s coverage.

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                  Image via Pokemon.com

3. Nintendo Leaks Again: Once again, in atypical fashion, Nintendo seems to have more information from their E3 presence leaked. The following photo showed up on 4chan which immediately means this should be taken with a grain of salt, however this image shows some already confirmed games along with some pretty safe bets.

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Image via 4chan

This is not an all inclusive look into what we can expect to see in Nintendo’s digital event but is what’s expected to be playable at the show for those in attendance. Surprisingly, Super Smash Bros. is not part of this list as Nintendo has already set the expectation that it will be playable on the show floor. We’ll know about these titles and more of Nintendo’s first party lineup in less than two weeks!

4. Assassin’s Creed Next Installment: Following some rumors, leaks and a picture of a keychain, likely to be packaged as preorder bonus or with a special edition of the game, Ubisoft confirmed the next installment in the Assassin’s Creed series will be titled Odyssey. Ubisoft have gotten in front of the rumors by releasing an incredibly short teaser for the game and confirmed that it is a sequel to last year’s Assassin’s Creed Origins and will take place in Greece. All we know now is that the release is expected by the end of their fiscal year which concludes on March 31, 2019. The trailer only shows one man kicking another off a cliff in the style of the movie “300” then showing the game’s title with a line saying “See you at E3.”

These last few weeks have been littered with leaks and announcements leading up to E3. With only one week left until the official conferences begin and the show floor reveals after that it’s hard to tell if we’ll continue seeing the deluge of news or if we’ll enter the calm before the storm. Either way, I’ll be here to cover whatever comes up so be sure to check back in for news and reactions throughout E3.

The Week’s End Level Grind

It’s been a busy/crazy week this week so I haven’t had a lot of time to post but I’m back today to cover this week’s biggest gaming news stories. Interestingly, I feel like some of these announcements were in direct response to some of the news I covered last week (It most likely wasn’t deliberate but the timing is uncanny). We also got some unexpected news that came out Sony’s investor meeting earlier this week so we’ll start with that:

  1. Sony Sets Expectation for Playstation 5: Wall Street Journalist, Takashi Mochizuki, tweeted a statement from Playstation head, Tsuyoshi “John” Kodera, that the next Playstation console is three years out. Receiving a timeline so far out from an official product unveiling is rather unorthodox but it at least does help fans manage their expectations. Sony has been very up front recently in what to expect with their hardware and first party lineup. They’ve already gone on record to announce all of the first party titles that will be shown at E3 this year and confirmed that no new hardware will be revealed. This doesn’t mean we won’t see any surprises during their keynote but they would likely take the form of third party titles which is still okay with me. I have some predictions but I will share them in future post. Sony also offered reassurance that they will continue supporting PS4 and PSVR (Playstation Virtual Reality) as well as continuing to improve their live TV streaming service, Playstation Vue, despite hardships created by competing services.
  2. The SCUF Vantage Controller Announced for PS4: Last week we saw Xbox announce a new controller centered around accessability for handicapped gamers. While Sony has not yet created anything for accessability, they are working with Scuf Gaming to produce an officially licensed Playstation controller for competitive gaming that mostly seems to be an answer to Xbox’s “Elite” controller. The Vantage takes the established design language from the official Dualshock 4 controller but adds side mounted buttons, back mounted paddles, customizable buttons, and interchangeable face plates. It will be available in wired-only and wireless options priced at $169.99 and $199.99, respectively, and will launch later this summer. For full details, you can view their official announcement.
    vantageImage via official Playstation Blog
  3. Battlefield V Trailer Reveal: Last week we saw some gameplay from Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 along with announcements of new game modes. This week we were shown a cinematic trailer for Battlefield V (five), developed by EA DICE, along with some details regarding its setting and game modes. Battlefield V will be set in World War 2 but will not take place in the settings traditionally found in other WW2 shooters, instead featuring conflict sites in Norway, Africa and inland France. While there’s always the possibility (or rather likelihood) of a Battle Royale mode, it was not featured in this announcement. Multiplayer modes that were announced were Combined Arms, Tides of War, and Grand Operations. There will also be a single-player campaign mode, unlike Black Ops 4. The latest trailer can be watched here. This trailer has been met with a lot of negative feedback from fans and to be honest I’m not so sure I’m a fan of it either. It is extremely chaotic, over the top, and does not give any information on the plot of this particular installment of the series other than there is a war going on. On a positive note, EA has announced there will be no loot boxes in this game, which isn’t a surprises after the fallout behind EA DICE’s: Star Wars Battlefront 2 loot box fiasco, but there will be content that can be purchased outright with real world currency, though it will be limited to cosmetic-only items this time around.
  4. H1Z1 Open Beta Released on PS4: Battle Royale type games are all the rage right now and H1Z1 was one of the first to do it but this is the first time it’s been available on the extremely popular PS4 console. Although Fortnite is the reigning champion of the Battle Royale, that didn’t stop H1Z1 from amassing 1.5 million players in one day on PS4! It’s off to a very impressive start even though it’s still only in beta for the time being. It will be interesting to see how this relatively new genre will evolve as more developers try to cash on the hottest craze in gaming. I’m curious to see if these “battle royale” game modes have real staying power or if it’s just a passing fad.

Aside from these stories, a top highlight for me this week was the release of Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon which is a prequel Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night set to release later this year. I will cover this game in more detail in an upcoming post but will just say it’s an absolute delight. Also as a follow up to last week, it appears that Best Buy has, in fact, removed the option to purchase new subscriptions to its Gamer’s Club Unlocked program. I look forward to sharing more exciting news as the weeks ahead are bound to be filled with pre-E3 headlines. Until next time, let’s keep grinding those levels!

Walking in a Wizard Wonderland

For today’s topic I wanted to talk about some of the games I’ve been playing this past week. After completing God of War a couple of weekends ago, I’ve gone back to playing Splatoon 2, quite a bit of it actually, but this week has had a bit of an unintentional theme. That theme, as you may have guessed from the post title, is all about wizardry! Two very different games that bring out your inner wizard.

Wizard of Legend

Created by Contingent99, Wizard of Legend is pretty fun despite its terrible name. I’ve been playing on my Nintendo Switch but it’s also available on Steam and PS4. Wizard of Legend is a rogue-like game meaning you play, die, and start over. The object is to progress through three randomized dungeons containing two floors and a boss, each themed with the elements of fire, water, and earth, and then finish by completing the final boss.

Wizard of Legend is a difficult game but as you play you can spend currency obtained in each run to unlock new spells, relics, and armors all with varied effects which can be used to customize your characters abilities and traits. Failing is part of the game and will happen often but this should not discourage you as it’s a new opportunity to purchase new gear and change your play style for the next run.

The gameplay is solid and, although it’s challenging, I never felt that it was cheap or unfair. When I fail in a run I usually understand why I lost and it gives me ideas of how I should customize myself for the next attempt. My biggest complaint is how the game has nearly 150 relics to unlock which are categorized as either attack, defense or misc however you can only equip one relic before beginning a run regardless of the category. I haven’t unlocked nearly all of them but so far it seems like there could have been an opportunity to equip one from each category without becoming too overpowered and ruining the balance of the game. There is a local multiplayer mode but I have not had a chance to try it out yet.

Aesthetically, Wizard of Legend uses a retro pixel art style which is just okay. The spells are well crafted and animated but the character and level designs are a bit lacking.

I have definitely enjoyed my time playing Wizard of Legend so far and look forward to continuing the play, die, repeat loop in hopes of becoming the ultimate wizard.

Nine Parchments

Our next wizarding game is Nine Parchments, created by Frozenbyte. I’m playing this on Switch too but is also available on PS4, Xbox One and Steam. This game has a set progression of levels and story rather than randomized dungeons and short gameplay loop. This game, rather than being fast paced, close quarters action like Wizard of Legend, is more of a twin-stick shoot-em-up requiring distance, dodging, and precision. When you begin you have three starting spells (determined by the character you choose at the start) and as you beat each boss you choose one of three randomly selected spells to add to your repertoire. You also gain levels which allow you to put points into passive skills such as extra damage or faster spell regeneration times to add some additional customization.

You start with two wizards to choose from and can unlock six others throughout the course of the game. Each wizard then has three additional variations which can be unlocked, giving you access to new starting spell lineups and new skill trees to spend your points in. There are also collectible staves that can increase your abilities, feathers which unlock additional staves after collecting a certain amount, and hats which seem to be purely cosmetic. My biggest complaint is not having a chapter select option to go back and collect items or complete a quest I missed to unlock one of the other characters. Instead, the game must be replayed up to that point to find the item or complete the quest. Or if you want to try out a newly unlocked character you must start from the beginning although this can be done in a new save file and doesn’t require you abandon your currently play through.

I’ve been playing on Normal mode and have found that it provides enough of a challenge without being too punishing. There are also Easy, Hard and Hardcore modes letting you choose how difficult you want the game to be and unless you play on Hardcore, dying allows you to replay from the last checkpoint. There is an online or local multiplayer option which I have not played but I think would make the game much more enjoyable albeit extremely chaotic (especially with friendly fire being a default setting).

Nine Parchments is also very aesthetically pleasing. The environments can be a bit confined at times but are vibrant and varied. The game also runs very smooth despite the chaos of screens being filled with enemies and spells being slung.

These two games are both very fun and let you have all sorts of wizarding fun in very unique ways. You can even pick them both up for less than the cost of a larger AAA game, giving you great gameplay and replayability for a great value.

The Week’s End Level Grind

I was going to focus tonight’s post on the games I am currently playing but with some pretty significant news and leaks this week I thought it best to detail that information now and get to the games I’m playing in another post. Without further ado let’s Level Grind with some news!

  1. Best Buy Cancels Gamer’s Club Unlocked: This news is a shock to me as I’ve been using this service for over two years now. I first saw this news while browsing Reddit and came across this post by user JudgeOfTheDivine who included a convincing photo and was also discussed on Resetera message boards. This is sad news as the service provided those who purchased the $30 for two-year subscription with some nice incentives, the most notable being a 20% discount on new games. Best Buy has not updated their site with the news so this should be taken with a grain of salt for now but it appears, if true, anyone who has signed up for the service will be grandfathered in for the remainder of their existing subscription.
  2. Call of Duty Black Ops 4 Details Announced: I fell off the Call of Duty bandwagon after Black Ops 2 but that hasn’t stopped the series from being an annual top-seller and this year should be no different. They took a major sidestep by announcing there would be no single player campaign, however, it has not been the main selling point of the series in recent installments despite the on-boarding of star talent like Kevin Spacey and Kit Harrington. The multiplayer experience has been the go-to game mode and Treyarch has doubled down on that by including the usual competitive modes and zombie mode but also by adding the newest, hottest genre: Battle Royale or in this case “Blackout”. They will be following in the footsteps of games like Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds and Fornite Battle Royale but claim to have a very distinct Call of Duty flavor that will stand apart from the rest. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 releases October 12, 2018.
  3. Nintendo is Leaking: With E3 right around the corner we are beginning to see a lot of first looks and early reveals of games. Some intentional, others not so much. Nintendo falls into the latter category in this case. The normally tight-lipped company might be coming apart at the seams this time around. We knew Pokemon was on the way to Nintendo Switch but some online tipsters (Pixelpar and Nibel) have shared information that point to a “Pokemon: Yellow” remake/spinoff titled “Pokemon: Let’s Go! Pikachu” and “Pokemon: Let’s Go! Eevee” that will have you begin your adventure with the Pokemon of the corresponding title rather than choosing one of three presented starters. Also making its way through the rumor mill is a new Star Fox game developed by Retro Studios under the name “Star Fox: Grand Prix.” This game will supposedly be a mix of classic Star Fox shooting, racing and hub world exploration. I really hope this turns out to be true. Mostly because it’s such a bizarre mash-up of genres and Retro’s pedigree of stellar games, it’s just crazy enough to work!
  4. Xbox Unveils New Adaptive Controller: Xbox displays yet another gamer first approach as they show their new adaptive controller. Taking an excerpt from Xbox’s official statement which can be found here:

By taking an inclusive design approach and considerations of gamers who might not be able to reach all the bumpers and triggers or hold a controller for an extended period of time, for example, we were able to design a controller that provides a way for more fans to enjoy gaming. On our journey of inclusive design, we have taken a wider view of our fans and a more inclusive approach to designing for them.

For gamers with limited mobility, finding controller solutions to fit their individual needs has been challenging. The solutions that exist today are often expensive, hard to find, or require significant technical skill to create. A number of individuals and organizations are creating custom solutions, but it has been often difficult for them to scale when most rigs need to be so personalized.

Xbox will be releasing the adaptive controller later this year for $99.99 and will have more information during E3.

These, I think, were some of the biggest stories of the week and the potential shuttering of Best Buy’s GCU program was a complete shock. Some other notable happenings this week were the announcements of Rage 2 (after Wal-Mart Canada leaked the title on their site) and Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (prequel to the upcoming game: “Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night” created by long time Castlevania contributor, Koji Igarashi) on May 24th.

Stay tuned for my next post where I’ll highlight some of the games I’ve been playing this week.