Welcome to the impressions post. This is going to be another PlayStation 4 week because, well, I play most of my games on Sony devices. I will do 3DS post soon, though I own too few games on the Switch to fill post. Maybe I will do a mixed bag for a change. Anyway, on to the games!
Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story
This title caught my eye when the publisher, PQube, began to promote it on Twitter last year. As the title suggests, Valthirian Arc is part school sim, part action RPG. The developers narrowly made their modest Kickstarter goal in March 2017 (no, I did no back it) to get the title off the ground. The player is tasked with taking over a run-down institute and re-opening it. The monarchs of the nearby regions all have an interest in the heroes the school is likely to turn out in the future and offer their backing to the would-be headmaster.
Play is split into two distinct areas; the school and map areas. In the school players need to construct classrooms and manage their heroes-in-training. New equipment can be looted in the field, but the school has a blacksmith that can craft new pieces for a price. Students need to be formed into groups of up to four to be sent on missions. Some missions are passive and will be completed after an amount of time has passed, other require the player to control the squad. Taking a team out allows the player to control one of the group, the rest will follow. Maps are small and tasks fairly simple, but the unspoken goal is to earn as much experience as possible to level up the students.
My initial interest in the game wore off quickly once I got to playing it. The developer had previously made a couple of Valthirian Arc flash games along the same lines and this iteration felt like it belonged with them. The graphics feel like they were ripped straight from a web game and were a bit of a turn-off. The school management seemed limited by the players progress through the story and did not offer ways to personalise the facility like I hoped it would. The whole experience lasted a couple of days before I moved on to something else.
Tom Clancy’s The Division
The Division is almost three years old now, and I could have made a full review of Ubisoft’s cover-based shooter already, but with the sequel a little over a month away the only reason to play the original now is to pick up some cosmetic items that will carry over. The player take on the role of a Division agent, a group of highly trained individuals that are called upon by the government to fix problems that the police or the army are not able to resolve themselves. New York has been hit by designer virus with no known cure and things have gone to hell. Gangs have taken over the streets and the first wave of agents that were sent to deal with it have gone missing.
The Division is an MMO, though other players are only seen outside of groups in shared spaces. Use of cover is a must unless the player significantly out levels the content they are playing through. There are a number of story missions that lead the player through setting up a base in New York, recruiting experts to assist them, and ultimately discovering the source of the virus and the fate of the agents that preceded them. The areas of New York are each their own zone with different level requirements. There are four groups of enemies, though similar archetypes are shared by each of the groups. As with most MMOs, the player needs to keep replacing their gear as they level up before working on acquiring an end-game set to challenge the most difficult content in the game.
I bought The Division at launch, played through all the story missions and tracked down most of the collectibles in the game. The end-game was pretty limited at the time and did not draw me in. Two years of content updates brought me back and sucked my family in as well. The Division and Destiny shared a similar story in that both games had a fair amount of content added post-launch that also tidied up mechanics that did not make much sense. New tiers of difficulty were also added giving reasons to replay older content for current rewards. Catch up mechanics meant that new players could quickly hit the level cap, and together my family and I took down most of the content in the game. I’m looking forward to the sequel this year as the lessons learnt in the original should hopefully make it a great experience at launch (unlike Destiny 2).
.hack//G.U. Last Recode
I was a massive fan of .hack on PlayStation 2, though G.U. slipped under my radar. .hack is also a cross-media franchise with several tie-in anime series that expand upon what happens in the games. Knowledge of the anime was not necessary to play the first game, but G.U. takes place directly after its accompanying series. In the anime the protagonist, Haseo, is new to The World R:2, the game played within .hack//G.U.. He joins and adventures with the Twilight Brigade guild before slowly rising to power as ‘The Terror of Death’. Players in The World have started to fall in comas again (as in the original .hack) and Haseo begins G.U. by trying to track down a player-killer who he believes is responsible.
.hack//G.U. is a fairly typical action RPG for the most part. Players enter fields by selecting three keywords from a portal in town. Each keyword has properties that determine the level and properties of the field, though players can chose to randomise the field from the keywords available. Fields are short dungeons with treasures and monsters that only really exist for players to grind experience and items. New keywords are learnt through the story and some form special unique fields in which story events take place. Player can log out of The World and explore carious bulletin boards for information on the game and possibly to advance the story.
I like how the .hack series is an offline take on an online game. Dungeons are completed quickly and leveling is fairly fast meaning dungeons are not repeated and the story flows fairly quickly. As with many game I play these days, my son got his hands on it and started playing instead of me. When he moved on to something different I was still hours behind him and did not feel like trying to catch up. I plan on going back to the game some time soon, but February and March are full of new games to play, so it could be a while before I get back to it again.