Etrian Odyssey Untold 2
The Fafnir Knight
Feb 10
Posted by Ben at 02:03

Etrian Odyssey Untold was my game of the year the other year. A remake of the original DS game, with a spruce up, some new features, and a story inserted with set characters and class types. It's a superb dungeon crawler, simple and colourful, with enough depth to keep it interesting. Etrian Odyssey Untold 2 is more of the same, which is probably its biggest problem.

Etrian Odyssey is more about its gameplay than probably any other rpg I can think of. Sure there's a story inserted now, and it's fine, you and your partner are sent to Etrian's labyrinth with a princess to perform a ritual. You're not told what the ritual is, and progress is stuttered as you must use the labyrinth and its denizens to open up pathways to the ritual chamber. You meet a few interesting characters along the way, some of whom join you, if only temporarily. Most of the stories you encounter though are small things, missions you pick up and people you help. There's some nice interactions with your teammates as you progress through the game. You never quite shake off that the narrative feels stuck on, there's not a lot to it, however there's development of the characters. I'd have liked more development for the main character, plus Arianna the princess, but Bertrand turns in to an interesting character, enough that he maybe damns others by comparison

You can, if you so choose, ignore all of this and play the game closer to its original form, however there's something to be said for playing as the game intends. There's a structure to your party, and eventually a balance, shaped to suit your play style. You have 3 party members up the front during combat, strong fighters with good defence, and equipped with skills that raise their attack and defence, and deal lots of damage. At the back you have an agile range character, quick and hard to hit but with lower defence and HP. Same for the support character Chloe, she doesn't deal a great deal of damage, isn't quick, has little defence, but is your go to healer and buffer. It's through perks that you start to shape the team how you like and find a bit more balance, if anything it's something I think the first Etrian Odyssey Untold does better, but you can eventually get the skills to play how you want to.

There’s also ‘grimoire stones’, stones acquired during battle that hold skills or raise stats. In theory you can equip characters with skills they could only dream of, but in practice most of your rewards are a bit dull, and the most interesting ones cost huge amounts of TP. You can though equip people with the healing spell or magic attack you’ve been missing, so it’s best not to ignore them.

There's not a lot of ground to cover in Etrian Odyssey Untold 2, instead progress is slow. You'll find that for a while you'll struggle to get off the first floor, then the 2nd. Instead you'll have to trudge back to town, heal up, and sell the items from your rapidly filled backpack. Sold items unlock better weapons and armour, and ingredients can be used to make meals that offer perks in the labyrinth (healing while walking, more TP etc). There's only 10 floors to the labyrinth but it's going to take you a while to get through them all.

Which, if I had to criticise Etrian Odyssey is where I would do. You retread a lot of the same ground, both from previous games and in the Fafnir Knight. Due to the small inventory size there's a finite amount of time you can spend in the labyrinth even if it's not causing you problems. The limited amount of TP (used for magic and skills) means there's only so many enemies you can face before you gave to go back and rest. I could do without the town building too, it doesn’t really add anything, and messing around finding the right dish for your customers limited tastes isn’t the most exciting use of your time.

Etrian Odyssey Untold 2 is a game of increments. Enemies that previously caused you problems will all of a sudden pose no real threat. Progress through a floors hastened with shortcuts and quick jumps to the stairwells, and are why the map making is both key and useful . The giant FOE creatures seem impossible when you first encounter them, with your best attacks barely making a dent in their health bar, whereas their standard attacks almost wipe out your entire party.

It's hard to praise Etrian Odyssey enough, not that it's flawless, more that I can explain what the game is, but the simple premise and uncomplicated gameplay belie what is a fantastic rpg. It's a game that I intended to review earlier, but that kept me playing so long that I'm late writing the review. If you want a way in to the dungeon crawler genre, or even a different rpg from the norm, then don't ignore Etrian Odyssey Untold 2. It's superb, and that it hasn't received more attention is a shame, the Etrian Odyssey games are quietly becoming one of the high bar rpg series.
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Posted by Ben at 16:43
As I type I'm still trying to work out how to put this in the form of a title, but Rich Digital have revealed that PQube will be releasing the EU Version of Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator within a week of the US release

That's good news, we didn't even get it in the same year last time, and that really can't have helped the EU sales (not published by PQube). It's nice that publishers have started to make the effort getting games out in Europe in a timely manner, after even Atlus promised to book their ideas up.

Anyway, Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator will release on European PS4s on June 10th, and we'll even be getting a physical release and limited edition release, if you're in to that sort of thing

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Posted by Ben at 16:34
As genre mash-ups go, a "deck-building, twin stick, rogue-lite" is one I don't think I've encountered before, but it's what Forced Showdown is purporting to be

Sequel of sorts to the well received Forced, Forced Showdown mixes a top down, co-op action game with a deck building element. Which is certainly novel.

There's a trailer below, but Forced Showdown is due for release on Steam (plus GoG and Humble Bundle) on March 29th, but the developers Betadwarf are promising to reveal a secret on March 23rd about how the game is launching

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Posted by Ben at 16:13
As genre mash-ups go, a "deck-building, twin stick, rogue-lite" is one I don't think I've encountered before, but it's what Forced Showdown is purporting to be

Sequel of sorts to the well received Forced, Forced Showdown mixes a top down, co-op action game with a deck building element. Which is certainly novel.

There's a trailer below, but Forced Showdown is due for release on Steam (plus GoG and Humble Bundle) on March 29th, but the developers Betadwarf are promising to reveal a secret on March 23rd about how the game is launching

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Defending the
Indefensible edition
Feb 09
Posted by Mark at 17:50

Being the sort who likes to finish games, it's quite hard for me to keep my strand of What We're Playings current.

Save for the odd title we get sent to review- step forward, Von Sottendorff, and Dub Dash, which is getting a review later this week, it's usually a journey into my backlog. In this case, we're visiting Company of Heroes.

For a while, the Timed Mission was the one single worst thing in gaming, subject to howls of derision whenever they appeared half way through a title- and forget basing a whole game around the idea. I've never particualrly disliked them. What's I do dislike is the opposite objective of defending a point.

CoH throws this one at you almost on alternate missions- you fight your way to capturing a hill, or town centre, or whatever, then you have to stop the Axis troops from taking it back again for a certain length of time.

I suspect that it's the failing with a few seconds to go which winds most people up in both cases, although I find that where with having to achieve something before a deadline encourages you to find shortcuts and efficiencies, defending just gives the game longer to move the goalposts on you at the last minute, especially in the more open-ended strategy genre.

Next time I do a WWP, it'll be about a game I'm doing well in, promise.
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The Legend of Heroes
Trails of Cold Steel
Feb 08
Posted by James at 16:00

Balancing the growing demands of ever larger and technically ambitious projects with good craftsmanship is never easy, particularly with a genre like the RPG, where worlds are often bulging in size to the point where individual locations sometimes see just minutes of screen time.

Here’s an example: Bandai Namco went big on scale with Tales of Zestiria. But it was scale for the sake of it, leading to a faux-open world which felt far less than the sum of its parts.

The development team seemed to lack the time, resources and sound management to fill out that game’s world with the kind of little details that the series arguably stood for in the first place.

On the other hand, we recently had Xenoblade X, which, despite its lofty ambitions, did manage to fit itself together quite nicely, likely in part due to ample development time and good project management.

So it’s also a good thing that Japanese developer Falcom, who have been around for a good 35 years, have maintained the right balance with Trails of Cold Steel, the first part in a new, modern series to succeed its predecessors (Legend of Heroes VI and VII) from the last decade.

Expectations have changed: despite Cold Steel sharing many of the same core underpinnings in game design, those detail rich environments now need to be rendered in 3D and animated, dialogue must be voiced – so the lengths and budget required to deliver such a project have grown considerably since the last duology of Legend of Heroes games on PSP.

Luckily Falcom have still been able to garnish Trails of Cold Steel with the usual design conscious details that they are known for, and it’s this that helps give the game a unique, appreciable flavour despite it being a largely traditional RPG at its core.

Indeed, battles are turn based, exploration is mostly decoupled from the combat itself, NPCs stay put until you speak to them. But classic design never grows old when it’s this good, and Falcom are still implementing battle systems and narratives that are the best of their class.

Take the battle system for example. The positioning of both characters and the Arts (magic) and Craft (skills) abilities that they unleash have just as much relevance as the statistical underpinnings of the attacks themselves, or any elemental weaknesses in play.

These extra mechanics, and the fine balance between them, lead you to think questions like: “Is there going to be much use in unleashing that mega space-elemental art if, by the time you’ve finished charging up the attack, my targeted foe has moved away from your pre-calculated line of fire?” or “Is it worth waiting a few turns until my foes huddle together so I can eliminate them in one fell swoop for a handsome EXP bonus, or should I eliminate the immediate threat?”

That’s the result of a battle system that keeps things fresh and engaging – you’ll rarely be able to coast through most encounters, but the core systems in play are intuitive and understandable enough that they never feel like work.

Battling monsters aside, the main draw in Trails of Cold Steel is the shift to a military academy setting, which, as you’d expect, involves spending ample time socialising with your fellow classmates, Persona style.

Just like in that game, this setup has its advantages – a moving school term, socialisation, an academy to call home – and the narrative can now primarily progress from a moving calendar rather than shifts in location.

Combine this set-up to Falcom’s usual attention to detail and you get something special. Characters you interact with always tend to bear some sort of relevance to the surrounding environment or plot, or even reveal their own little side stories that develop over time.

So when you intermittently return to Thors Military Academy every now and then, more often than not you’ll actually want to do the rounds and chat to each and every NPC again, because you’ll know that interesting developments will have happened. Likewise, the quests you undertake across each location all tend to serve some sort of purpose, subtle or otherwise.

From Vita to PS3, and back again
Trails of Cold Steel has been developed with both PS3 and PS Vita in mind, and playing the game across both platforms works well for the most part. Cloud saves are managed from a separate option in the game’s system menu, and the game is almost visually identical across both systems, save for a higher resolution and more advanced shadowing from characters and objects on PS3.

What doesn’t work so well is the game’s interface, which feels at home on the big screen on PS3 but, comically tiny at times on Vita. This leads to a slightly odd feeling where the game’s 3D visuals have been designed with Vita in mind, but the game’s menus and interface are clearly made for the big screen.
Sure, some of the quests may make you play the role of errand boy, but they tend to be designed that you’ll learn something along the way – even the most mundane, eye-rolling missions have the potential to feel fruitful here.

This careful, calculated, economical approach to design sets up the right kind of expectations early and encourages exploration and discovery – quite the feat when you consider how segmented the game’s worlds are, and how the narrative mostly unfolds in the background.

However, while the game’s primary emphasis on fleshing out its characters and environments is more than enough to engage anyone playing out of curiosity, there is one caveat – it’s fairly easy to get lost amongst all the world building, which often relates back to lore and political events from the previous Legend of Heroes trilogy and duology.

So if some of those games aren't fresh in your mind then you might struggle to keep up with some of the political developments that link back to the events, lore and locations from those previous games.

This is compounded by how the main plot has a tendency to move along at a snail’s pace for the first forty hours. There’s a bigger barrier to entry to get the most from the game’s plot than most titles, then, but there’s also enough here that anyone with no prior knowledge will still feel mostly engaged, just a little lost at times.

Trails of Cold Steel may not break new ground, but it carries with it a design-led approach to almost everything it accomplishes. There's a lot to appreciate here, which has become rare in a genre that's very much been commoditised at this point.
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Posted by Ben at 10:07
I'm going to stress that I don't actually know what Aegis of Earth: Protonovus Assault is. I know that's a name, no one can accuse it of not being that, but the descriptor 'dynamic tower defence' doesn't really answer the question

However, I really liked Deathtrap and Anomaly Warzone Earth, so I'm interested in a game that does something a bit different with the tower defence formula

There's no exact release date for Aegis of Earth: Protonovus Assault yet, other than Q1, but it's coming to the PS4, PS3 and Vita, and it might just be worth a look
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Etrian Odyssey Untold 2
Gameplay Video
Feb 07
Posted by Ben at 09:40

Captured using a smartphone and the stand from that game I still can't remember the name of, because we at bitparade don't have a means to capture 3DS games directly. So, sorry about the quality of our Etrian Odyssey Untold 2 video, washed out colour, dull sound, and a bit of shaking that I'm hoping Youtube's editing software will fix and all

Etrian Odyssey Untold 2 The Fafnir Knight, to give it its full title, is a remake of the original Etrian Odyssey sequel, with an added story mode and a few new features. The video takes a quick look at some of them, including the level up system, plus gets in to a few fights, even taking down a FOE

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Posted by Duane at 15:33
Whoops, this was supposed to go up yesterday, life kind of got in the way
My playtime has been a little scattered over the past 7 days. I've sunk a little time into two titles that I have for review (Legends of Legacy and LEGO Marvels Avengers), competing in Time Trial Challenges on Driveclub and then the meat of my play time has seen me return to Star Wars Battlefront after it's recent patch.

I'm still enjoying that immensely and the recent addition of daily challenges has added to the experience, encouraging me to visit game modes I'd not played quite so much of, I know plenty of other games already do this but it strikes me as such a simple idea that I don't understand why DICE didn't include it sooner, especially as theres already challenges to earn more XP already I'm there.
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Street Fighter 5
Gameplay Video
Feb 02
Posted by Ben at 02:05

Granted, we here at aren't exactly fighting game masters, but I played some Street Fighter 5 over the weekend and managed to capture a few fights.

I lost a lot, an awful lot, but thanks to the wonders of editing I am the greatest Street Fighter V player OF ALL TIME

This video mainly takes a look at how the game handles the online component, but it also takes a quick look at some of the new characters. You'll see a bit of Karin, some Charlie, and me carefully picking out my wins with Rashid!

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