6 Tips For Getting Started in Xenoblade Chronicles 2

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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The Games I’m Most Thankful For

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).

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Lara in all her polygonal glory!

  1. 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.

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Sometimes one screenshot is all you need to fall in love all over again.

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.

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Did someone say, DRAGONS?

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.

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I mean…if you insist.

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.

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One of the best twists in a video to this day is in KOTOR.

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?

Honorable Mentions:

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Witcher 3 is a beauty to look at, even on a basic PS4.

6. Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Initial Release:

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.

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Don’t think about the needle, don’t think about the needle.

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!

 

Facing the Facts: I’m Done Completing Games I Don’t Enjoy Playing

Author: Nathan Doverspike

For nearly 18 years, I’ve been playing video games, from Tomb Raider 2 to Horizon Zero Dawn (go play it if you haven’t, it’s amazing) and loving my time with most of them.  Every once in awhile you come across a game that just doesn’t click for you, whether its the story, theme, gameplay, art style, or maybe something as simple as the music.  I used to do everything I could to push passed these obstacles, in the hopes that there would be some sort of payoff in the end; some feeling of satisfaction for continuing with a game that I didn’t necessarily enjoy.  One title, named Mass Effect Andromeda did just that; it broke me of this habit.  As the title of this article states, after playing Mass Effect Andromeda, I realized that I can no longer beat games that I get no enjoyment from playing.

Before I get into all the reason I refuse to beat games I don’t enjoy and the game that ultimately crushed my soul, I need to say this first.  I LOVE Mass Effect 1 through 3.  I was even alright with the original ending of Mass Effect 3 before they extended it with free DLC.  It had a conclusion, even if it felt like there wasn’t as many choices as there could have been.  It made sense, and that’s what I wanted.  I also adored the characters.  There’s a reason there is a giant piece of artwork featuring characters from Mass Effect in my living room.  The characters and their stories were the best part of the original trilogy, in my opinion.  That said, on to this albatross of a game.

There’s not enough space on this page to describe how frustrating that game was.  To start, the facial animations at launch (they released a patch  that fixed some of the issues) were not only atrocious, they were appalling to behold.  They were so gross, that I thought I was playing some terrible $1 Steam Greenlight game (RIP Steam Greenlight) that used Unity stock assests to make a quick buck or two.  Want to see how ugly they can be? You’ve been warned.

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This is the first person I interacted with in the game. Little did I know, it didn’t get much prettier than that…face.  I think that’s a face?

Yup, that’s how my failed journey through the boring and uneventful game called Mass Effect Andromeda began. With that face staring at me.  Ok, so the combat was satisfying and the skill tree allowed for a bevy of customization.  But in a game that resembled Dragon Age Inquisition more than the original Mass Effect trilogy, I didn’t enjoy the exploration, party members (there were only six, SIX), or the bland/terrible story they tried to tell.  I loved the premise: you are sent on a 600 year journey to find another galaxy to colonize in case the Milky Way is destroyed by the Reapers.  Cool right?  It is, until some of the worst writing in video games is on full blast right from the start and all the characters look like they are from some alpha version of the game.  It felt unfinished.  By all means, it was.

I spent over THIRTY FIVE hours on this turd.  I did everything I could to enjoy it.  I would play podcasts while playing so I had something interesting to listen to (the dialogue is embarrassing except for maybe Drack and Jaal).  That only helped so much, until I realized I wasn’t even having fun exploring the FIVE planets. Yeah, you have the pleasure of exploring FIVE planets the WHOLE GAME.  Even Dragon Age 2 had more locations to explore, and they even recycled a lot of them to pad the time it takes to beat the game.

I ended my playthrough after reaching the third planet.  It was a giant ice location full of sadness and emptiness. Wait, that’s what I was feeling while I was playing this.  Sorry about that. I meant to say it was full of empty space and sparse enemy encounters, sprinkled in a few giant towers that you need to scan (that part sucked too) and a ton of fetch quests that amounted to getting some experience and nothing satisfying.  I couldn’t take the punishment anymore, so I traded in Mass Effect Andromeda and used the money to wipe my tears away.

As we come to the end of my sad tale, I want to make it clear that I am totally cool with anyone liking this game.  I just found it unbearable for the reasons listed above, but everyone is more than welcome to have their own opinions and likes/dislikes.  I want to hear from YOU!  Are there any games that you just couldn’t finish?  Why? Was it because of the gameplay, story, or something else entirely?

 

 

 

Four Reasons Why Horizon Zero Dawn is One of The Best Open World RPG’s

Author: Nathan Doverspike

Horizon Zero Dawn was the biggest surprise of 2017 to me.  It didn’t come out of left field like Shadow of Mordor did in 2014, where I knew almost nothing about the game and absolutely loved it, but it did something I feel never fully accomplished: it made me want more even after I was completely done with all of the main and side content.  Horizon, in my humble opinion, is the best open world game that has come out in years, and here are four reasons why.

  1. The Story

Not know for their stories, open world games usually rely on their world-building and interactive environments and interesting characters.  That’s why this is my first and most important reason for this game being so good. The story starts slow, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t quickly speed up after the tutorial ends around hour 2 or so, and won’t let you breath until you finish the final mission.  In total, I would say I spent about 20-25 hours on the story alone, and loved every minute of it.  Every twist and turn, every revelation, every boss battle was enthralling and engaging unlike any other game I’ve played in a long time.

horizon zero dawn blood sky2. The World

The world of Horizon is beautiful, and when I say beautiful, I mean look at the screenshot I took above. That is the game running on a normal PS4 on a 1080p TV.  No PS4 Pro needed here, the game is a treat to look at.  It’s photo mode really allows you to capture the beauty of the game by letting you take stills of the game in motion.  You can even move the camera as shown above so Aloy isn’t even in the picture. The sunsets and snowy mountains aren’t the only highlight of the game either.

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3.  The Creatures

The nature of the mechanical beasts is a massive spoiler, so I won’t dive into that whole plot.  What I will say, though, is that they are so much fun to hunt.  Yup, that’s right, you get to hunt giant mechanized dinosaurs and sabertooth tigers in a video game.  The giant beasts that inhabit this land are dangerous, and some are downright terrifying to fight.  An ability you unlock later in the game makes them even more awesome, but you’ll have to play the game to find out what that mechanic is and how much better the game gets after you unlock it.

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4. The Combat

While this is the last item on the list, it could have easily been my top choice as well.  That’s what makes this game so amazing: there isn’t just one thing it does well.  It does everything almost perfect, mixing so many awesome concepts and mechanics together.  The combat is so satsifying.  Sliding between a metal T-Rex’s legs, going in slow motion, firing arrows into its underbelly, and regaining your footing only to watch, for a split second, your arrows explode and send giant chucks of armor into the air before dodging incoming missiles and planning your next attack on the monstrosity. That’s just one example of how fluid combat is throughout the game.

I love this game! I put over 40 hours into it, and I am just over half way done with all of the side quests!  That isn’t including the upcoming DLC planned for the game, that sends Aloy to a whole new area with new beasts to slay.  Hopefully after reading this, you’ll go and at least watch some YouTube videos of it and eventually give it a shot.  After all, who doesn’t want to ride around on a mechanical bull and slay giant T-Rex monsters?