Author: Nathan Doverspike
After almost a dozen hours in the breathtakingly beautiful world of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, I feel it is safe to say I’m definitely enjoying my time with it. The JRPG, which is exclusive to the Nintendo Switch, caps of a brilliant first year for the versatile new console. While the story isn’t as engaging as I anticipated, I can’t help but praise the art style, wonderful world, satisfying and sometimes challenging combat, and intricate systems. So without further ado, I present six tips and hints for starting your journey through Xenoblade Chronicles 2.
1. The Map is Your Best Friend
This one seems obvious, and it should be. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a massive world, with countless side quests which combined together can understandably be overwhelming at first. I found it best to consult the map if I ever had trouble finding where certain side quests wanted me to go (indicated by blue diamond with white question mark inside). The main quest has been fairly simple to track, since it is denoted by magenta diamonds with white exclamations marks inside, but even then I have gotten turned around once or twice. Just keep in mind that you CAN navigate over large roots to trees in the left part of the map where the gold person is found on the image above. I found that out after an hour of wandering around and then getting slaughtered by a level 75 King Kong-looking monster.
2. Spend Time Exploring the Menus
Like many JRPG’s, this game has A LOT of systems working simultaneously during battles. Whether it is upgrading your Arts, Affinity grid, or unlocking new Blades, there is always something that can be improved in your party if you know where to look. The Affinity Chart above is a great example of all the upgrades available for completing certain tasks explained for each bubble. One might require you to revive a companion a single time in order to receive 20% extra health from potions dropped from enemies, while another may require you to enter 10 battles in order to get a permanent boost to physical defense. These may not seem like much, but you will appreciate that extra defense and health from potions when the battle lasts 10+ minutes and you have a skill that specifically drops health from enemies.
3. Don’t Expect Too Much From the Story
This one comes off as negative, but it isn’t meant to be. Setting your expectations appropriately for this game will help you enjoy it much more. After the great story from the original, I had high hopes for this one to continue that trait. It might fall flat on its face at times, and the lip syncing during cut-scenes might be laughably bad at times, but the game play and intricate systems make up for it. It won’t win any awards for the story it appears to be telling, but if you can get past that it will reward you with everything else it has to offer.
4. Grinding Isn’t Just Necessary, It’s Also Fun
Games like Xenoblade Chronicles 2 usually feature some form a grinding, whether it’s White Knight Chronicles, FFXV, games from the Tales series. Grinding is something that is expected and can even be relaxing if you do what I do and throw on a podcast to listen to while you go through the motions for an hour or so each night, chipping away bit by bit at your slowing increasing experience bar. I haven’t found the grind to be too cumbersome at this point, and hope it doesn’t become frustrating come late game content. The enemies have interesting designs, and rounding a couple up can result in fantastically engaging battles that leave you nearly out of breath and HP by the end. A dozen hours in, and I look forward to spending some more time fighting the denizens of Alrest.
5. Timing is Everything
Whether you are scavenging the clouds for treasure or fighting a plethora of monsters all at once, timing is everything. Whenever you choose to scavenge for treasure, you will be presented with button prompts. Hitting the corresponding button on screen while it is inside the inner circle in every prompt will result in better rewards from the dive, and can get interesting once you progress farther into the game and encounter enemies that are over 20 levels above you when you arrive on land.
Button prompts are also a key element of battles. While using your special attacks, depending on which ones you use with different weapons, you’ll have the opportunity to hit the correct buttons to do exponentially more damage. Timing your abilities just after landing a hit (auto-attack or Art) will increase the damage even further, so it is entirely possible to turn the tide of a lopsided battle in seconds once you begin to master the system.
6. Tackle Named Monsters of Equal Level
During my time, I encountered a few named enemies that may look like normal enemies, but are denoted by a special symbol and are much more difficult to bring down. I attempted to bring a level 12 beast down when I was level 15, and after 10 minutes of intense button pressing and frantically running to pick up dropped potions, I felled the beast and received numerous rewards for their defeat. I highly recommend trying to tackle some of these once you gain three characters simultaneously in your party. The monster I took down wasn’t overwhelmingly challenging, and I felt great afterwards! They even have a little gravestone where they were that allows you to fight them again should that be something you wish to do.
Overall, I’ve had a great experience with Xenoblade Chronicles 2, despite a few frame rate stutters and the occasional annoying character. It is a JRPG after all, and I can’t stop looking ahead and getting excited about what awesome Blades I will be able to unlock or wonder how this connects to the original game.
Have you picked it up yet? If you have, are you enjoying it so far? Let me know in the comments!
Author: Nathan Doverspike
It seems like a long lost time, but believe it or not a time existed when video games allowed you to play them to improve, instead of paying your way to victory. Games seemed way more satisfying during that renaissance. No need to open your wallet time and time again when you were shot and tea-bagged by someone with a higher grade weapon or character you could only get by spending $20.00; or you could just forget about family, friends, and bills to play the game for dozens of hours en lieu of dropping that cash. Full price video games SHOULD be play to win, NOT pay to win.
Before I get to beating the dead horse that is Star Wars Battlefront 2, I want to offer some praise to a game that I don’t personally play, but one of which I admire due to their business practices. That game is Overwatch, developed by Blizzard. This game, which released on May 24, 2016, has yet to charge one customer for a single map or in-game character, instead opting to go another direction for continual revenue. They offer in-game cosmetic rewards from random loot boxes. Wait, don’t I despise that form of monetization in modern, full price video games? Well, yes and no. In this case, because they offer no advantage to gameplay and are strictly cosmetic, I don’t see an issue with the implementation of the loot boxes (whether or not it is addicting and/or gambling is another topic entirely). It clearly paid off as well, since in Q1 of 2017 Blizzard reported Overwatch had exceeded $1 Billion in revenue. Not bad for a game that only requires you pay for it once and never forces your hand to reach into your thinning wallet for more and more dollar bills.
If Overwatch is the shining example of how to correctly offer additional content in this situation, there must be a bad example, right? Exactly, and for this I would like to present Star Wars Battlefront 2 (2017) as the stinky, half flushed turd that just won’t go away. This monstrosity of a game has managed to piss off so many of it’s own fans, that the publisher has reported to have sold less than half the volume of copies as they did Battlefront 1 (2015) in the UK alone. Don’t get me wrong, they still made money on the game, but that’s a significant drop, even for a big publisher like Electronic Farts…whoops I mean Electronic Con Artists…wait I meant to say Electronic Arts. Whew, didn’t think I was going to be able to make it through that sentence. I’ll just refer to them as EA from now on.
If you would like to read about the scope of the drama, feel free to read this recap of the PR disaster. Here’s the short story: loot boxes are tied to individual character and overall player progression. Buy more loot boxes, and you have a better chance at getting better cards and upgrading your characters. You are literally paying to MAYBE upgrade a character you use and/or prefer. Yup, EA felt it was a good idea to force players to play for a ridiculous number of hours before unlocking either Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker, the two most known characters in Star Wars. Even after cutting the number of in-game currency required to unlock them by 75%, it’s still based on luck. Basically, you may advance your progression in the game, or you might just get useless cards for characters you’ll never use. That sure sounds like a trap to me!
Eventually, after tons of outrage and contempt towards EA, they decided totemporarily remove the premium currency(it wouldn’t surprise me if they turn it back on immediately after the holiday season). That would solve the problem, except the grind to unlock all the characters and ships is still there; it’s just now “whales” or “dolphins” or “sea urchins” or whatever they are calling them now can’t pay for it. That doesn’t address the issue that it takes far too long to unlock anything by simply playing casually (because some of us have jobs). Plus, the progression being tied to random loot still isn’t fixed, and might never be fixed if EA has the final word. While they did take a decent hit to their stock (it dropped 8.5 points overall in November, causing shareholders to lose $3 billion), they are such a massive conglomerate that they will have to have much worse months than that to make any permanent changes. Perhaps the increased pushed for legislation to become involved will persuade them to shy away from these greedy and downright predatory practices. While I don’t always think more rules and regulations are the correct solution, it might be the only band aid that patches this Wampa sized wound.
My hope is that more publishers and developers see the backlash towards EA and their practices, and in turn decide to take different avenues to monetize their games. These publishers and developers are entitled to revenue, as are we all. Let’s just hope that the next exploitative solution isn’t as revolting as the season pass or loot boxes tied to progression.
How do you feel about these practices? Do you prefer to drop some money on a game you like to possibly get better loot, or would you rather spend some more time to get that content instead? Let me know in the comments!
Without you, we wouldn’t be here! From the bottom of my heart I thank you for choosing to spend your time enjoying our content. We love you all and hope to continue to provide you with more and improved content next year and beyond.
Author: Nathan Doverspike
As Thanksgiving draws near, and we all make plans for how we want to spend this special time, whether it’s with friends, family, or a mixture of both, I can’t help but to think about the games that influenced me as a gamer. These games, some older, some newer, usually aren’t known for their outstanding graphics or mind-blowing plots, but they all have a special place in my gaming heart. Here are the games I am most thankful for (in no particular order).
- Tomb Raider 2
Initial Release: October 31st, 1997
Developed by: Core Design
This was the first game I ever played on the Playstation One I got for Christmas as a young boy, and it left me in tears (mainly because I was so terrible at it and erased a save from before the main boss so I had to restart the whole game over again.). It taught me how banging my head against a puzzle in a game could be solved by jumping off your left foot while running instead of your right, and that sometimes you need to hop backwards twice to get a running jump-start across a gap. It also showed me how working together (with my dad) we were unstoppable in our quest to kill a giant golden dragon that was a total jerk and totally not fun to fight. It also solidified my enjoyment of third person shooters and puzzle games, while helping me spend quality time with my father. Tomb Raider 2 hasn’t aged as well as I would prefer, but I’ll always remember the great times I had playing it as a kid.
2. Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Initial Release: March 20th, 2006
Developed by: Bethesda
Oh boy. I could write a whole article about all of the wonderful things in this game: from the shrine of Sheogorath to the Shivering Isles, this game is near perfect. Sure, the framerate liked to tank every now and then, but the “took an arrow to the knee” guard more than made up for it. Plus the story in this game is arguably the best in an Elder Scrolls game to date, and I still prefer the leveling up system in this one to Skyrim (mainly because you could just grind it out in the arena and become way overpowered way too quickly). Did I mention Patrick Stewart is the voice of Uriel Septum VII, so that alone should be enough to go play this game! I first played it on a laptop that barely ran Windows XP, yet somehow I managed to beat the whole game on it, then beat it again when it released on Xbox 360, then again when the limited edition 5th anniversary steelbook came out. I couldn’t get enough of the MASSIVE open world, somewhat disturbing Dark Brotherhood quests, and overall freedom this game gives players. I love this game, and is one of my favorite RPG’s to this day.
3. Neverwinter Nights
Initial Release: June 18th, 2002
Developed by: Bioware
Did someone say, RPG’s? That’s right, I played the OG Neverwinter Nights on PC when it came out. Not only that, I beat it AND all the expansions (except Kingsmaker because I didn’t care for that one at the time) and loved them. The Balder’s Gate style game play was fascinating to me, and I died plenty of times trying to disarm a trap only for it to go very badly and result with my character being poisoned right before a major battle. The ability to save anytime meant that I was free to experiment with my choices, and that no dice roll would set me back too far (except for when I delete my own save…because that’s always a good idea). While it might not have been AS influential as Oblivion or some of the others on this list, it definitely belongs on here. And if you like RPG’s like Neverwinter Nights, I highly recommend Tyranny on PC. It’s like Neverwinter Nights, only you are the bad guy, and by bad guy I mean you can be a really bad guy, wink wink.
4. Mass Effect Trilogy
Initial Release: November 20th, 2007
Developed by: Bioware
You didn’t think I would leave my favorite Scifi video game series off this list, did you? Mass Effect 1 may have been rough around the edges at times, but its sequel improved on nearly everything and in my opinion is the best RPG I have every played. It had combat that made you feel powerful without feeling invincible, gave you some of the best characters and stories in an RPG ever, and choices that had a real impact. Unfortunately, it did have a sequel that was one of the worst RPGs I’ve ever played, which makes this series all the more important because of everything that it did right before it took a hard left turn into a pit filled with tears and turned into the largest dumpster fire known to man. Now all we need is a remake on current gen consoles and my life would be complete.
5. Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR)
Initial Release: July 15th, 2003
Developed by: Bioware
You can’t have a list of things I am thankful for without having something related to Star Wars. Growing up watching the original trilogy re-released in theaters and on VHS (yes I am old, no I will not tell you my age) I adored the idea of an invisible living Force surrounding and living in everything and being able to be immersed in that universe. Then there’s laser swords, and who doesn’t think laser swords are cool? Bioware made that happen in 2005, with the release of critically acclaimed Knights of the Old Republic. I played the hell out of this game on the original Xbox, as well as on PC after it released on Steam many years later. It’s also on iOS, if you want a portable version that I’ve heard runs surprisingly well. Anyway, all that feeds into what I love about KOTOR, and why it saddens me more and more that we will most likely never see a KOTOR 3 (thanks for that Electronic Farts…I mean Arts). Oh well, I still have my Steam version that runs at 60 fps and 1080p. That’s not so bad, right?
6. Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Developed by: CD Projekt Red
If you want to know my full thoughts on this game, check out a previous article on why I think this is one of the best RPGs in the last decade. Let’s just say the combat, story, beautiful world, and fascinating side quests mixed together for a beautifully crafted potion in this masterpiece of a video game.
7. Dead Space 2
Initial Release: January 25th, 2011
Developed by: Visceral Games
The best horror game I’ve ever played is Dead Space 2. It didn’t have as much of an emotional or gaming impact on my life as the others on this list, but it was still a phenomenal experience nonetheless. From the main character Isaac Clarke hallucinating from the trauma he experiences, to the well thought-out crafting system, all the way down to the design of the levels, everything fits perfectly together. After how great the first game was, it would have been easy to create a somewhat disappointing sequel. Instead, the now defunct Visceral Games (thanks for that too EA) made a compelling argument for their game as the best horror title ever. For that, I am truly thankful.
There are so many others I could list, but that’ll do for now. What games are you thankful for? Are there some you have a personal connection with? Let me know in the comments!
Author: Nathan Doverspike
Since Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness, there hasn’t been a 3D open world Pokemon game with the name Pokemon in it. In January of 2013, Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch made it’s way to North America, a little over a year after its Japanese release to much excitement and hype. Four and a half years later, this gem of a video game is STILL the best open world Pokemon game (not named Pokemon but close enough) that more people should play. With the release (and undeniable success) of the Switch, it has been speculated that a new Pokemon open world RPG is finally on its way. While I am definitely excited, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Ni No Kuni since it has numerous improvements that Game Freak still has yet to fully realize in their current Pokemon games. Here are some major improvements they could borrow from the overall superior Ni No Kuni.
More Engaging Combat
The combat in the main Pokemon titles has always been turn based, and Ni No Kuni kicks it up a notch with a hybrid between turn based and real time, usually called Active Time battles. Think something like Final Fantasy XV, but with Pokemon…er monsters. You can use your regular attack that doesn’t require the use of mana (which drains with each spell/attack), or you could use some of that mana to cast a more powerful attack. You can actively switch between monsters at anytime in the battle, which includes changing characters and using their abilities and monsters. This provides a much faster pace to the battles (most are done in 20-30 seconds), and also makes the boss fights more frantic and rewarding. I grew up as a kid playing Pokemon Blue, which is why I would love to see some sort of implementation of this combat in a new Pokemon RGP.
2. Better Quest System
The popular Yo-kai Watch had a slight quest system in place, which helped add some depth to that game, but ultimately didn’t provide you enough information to help you find where the quest-giver was located or sometimes even enough information to know how to solve the quest. Pokemon, on the far side of that spectrum, has no quest system. That’s right, if Swimmer Joe wants to see a Goldeen and doesn’t feel like getting his face wet while he’s floating in this magical fluid called water where the Goldeen live, then you have to remember to go grab your Goldeen, and then run the whole way back to him (because why would he be close enough to walk) AND remember where he was, just to get a usually trivial reward like money. Ni No Kuni has a whole quest board, and even highlights the characters that have quests with a glowing blue point on the map. Since the game provides you with specific hunts that let you battle optional but powerful foes, those are also marked on the world map so you know exactly where they are and don’t have to surf for half an hour to find the quest. This might not seem like a big deal to people with a lot of time on their hands, but trust me, having a quest system like Ni No Kuni in Pokemon would go a long way to making those games so much better.
3. Easily Navigated Open World
What’s that, a big marker where you are supposed to travel to for the main quest? WHAT?! No, that’s not something we need! We love wandering around for hours until we accidentally talk to the right person who isn’t easily identifiable to progress the main story. That’s MUCH more entertaining than saving time and patience with markers and clear indicators of where to go and what to do. Pokemon Sun does have a map marker of where you are supposed to go, most of the time. I have found times where I had to search the Internet to figure out where in the world the game wanted me to go. That’s not good quest design, that’s just poor design. For all the things Pokemon games do well, this is one area in particular that needs to improve in order for me to keep enjoying their games.
4. Better Story
Ok, so the stories in Pokemon games are generally meant for a younger audience. Even with that said, I feel they are too reliant on people playing them just to catch Pokemon and not because the story is engaging or enjoyable. I’ll admit, I am normally one of those people. However, after playing Ni No Kuni and LOVING the story and characters, this is quickly becoming a glaring problem moving forward. For all the good things Game Freak does, this one is probably the weakest aspect.
5. Make Evolving Pokemon Less of a Chore
This one is probably just me, but I feel that as the years have progressed and as more and more Pokemon games have been released, it is becoming increasingly annoying to evolve certain Pokemon. Take Eevee for example. In order for you to evolve it to Leafeon, you have to get a Leaf Stone. Ok, not too bad right? Well in order to evolve it into Sylveon, you must have it like you enough and then it will evolve in to that form. Yup, it needs to LIKE you, which means you need to feed it candy and brush it or something like that to make it like you, and THEN it will evolve. I miss the days when Charmeleon would hit level 36 and evolve into Charizard, no matter if you were his best buddy or not. In Ni No Kuni, all they have to do is hit a certain level and the option to evolve them is there. You can sometimes get and extra move by leveling them up further, but you can certainly take the road most traveled and just level them up at that time. No need for a ton of petting or grooming or snacks, just hit a level and BOOM you’re done.
With Ni No Kuni 2 right around the corner, I can’t wait to see the changes they’ve made and enjoy what looks to be an incredible story. I still play Pokemon, and have high hopes for a new iteration of the franchise on the Nintendo Switch, but have some reservations about whether or not they can hit all the high notes that Ni No Kuni already hit back in 2013. While I wait for the inevitable announcement of a (hopefully great) new Pokemon RPG, I’ll go back to the wonderful story, beautifully done cutscenes courtesy of Studio Ghibli, and fantastic combat of Ni No Kuni.
What are your thoughts? Do you still play Pokemon games? If you do, what do you enjoy about them? Is there anything you wish they would improve? Let me know in the comments!