Video Game Review – Mirror’s Edge Catalyst (Version Reviewed: PS4)

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is a game I was eagerly looking forward to playing for no reason other than the flawed original’s immensely enjoyable gameplay; the first game offered something interesting and different, a first-person acrobatic platforming game which offered minimal combat. It was not perfect, and felt underdeveloped, but the sequel seemed to offer a fuller and more developed experience. I am thoroughly enjoying Catalyst as a game; its mechanics are more polished, it has a large amount of missions to complete and its aesthetics are excellent (and Solar Fields’ soundtrack, readily available to purchase online, is well worth buying for any fans of ambient music). But it is a game I am enjoying despite a lot of flaws; while there is a well-made game there, it is dressed up in a lot of superfluous and questionable design decisions.

Note: This review discusses in some detail the plot of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst.

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Video Game Review – Dishonored and Dishonored 2 (PS3 / PS4)

Having recently played both Dishonored games in succession, I have had the opportunity to compose my thoughts about the series; initially I was eager to discount it as not for me simply because stealth games are not my favourite type and the nonspecific steampunk-pseudo-British aesthetic of the first game, all whalers, fog and clunky technology, seemed overplayed and uninteresting. However, I came to quite enjoy the games as I played through them and even ended up playing the second in a mostly non-lethal fashion, with attempts at a much higher level of stealth and creativity than the first game (which ended up as a kind of farce as a masked assassin roamed the streets lobbing grenades and land-mines and shooting pistols at anything that moved).

Note: This review discusses a number of plot points from both Dishonored and Dishonored 2 and assumes some familiarity with the games’ stories.

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Heavy Gear Blitz Battle Report (150TV, CNCS vs AST)

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A Northern elite Gear, a testbed for a new loadout of the Grizzly chassis assigned to a notable Duellist and test pilot, had been shot down in the small town of Astragius. Both sides immediately diverted nearby patrols to recover the wreck, a Southen Jager unit racing to reach it before a Northern reinforced patrol of Hunters and Jaguars reached it. On the way, both commanders decided to call for reinforcements – Southern units were first to the fight, as Astragius was close to a nearby base. By the time combat was joined only a single Northern unit had arrived as backup, a heavy unit of large Gears intending to carve a path through the numerous Southern units and recover the wreck. The North, however, had another advantage – the patrol had been joined by Oliver Arseid, an ace pilot with a sterling record and highly-customised urban warfare Grizzly.

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Series Review: Nekketsu Saikyou Gosaurer (1993)

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The Eldran super-robot series is arguably less well-known than the Yuusha series, in part owing to a lack of translation available before the licensing of Absolutely Invincible Raijin-Oh. Before I watched any of the shows, I was aware of them only as younger-skewing adventure series which had largely interchangeable designs and often large casts of principal characters. However, after seeing that Nekketsu Saikyou Gosaurer (1993-4) (according to ANN translated as Matchless Passion Gosaurer) was receiving ongoing subtitles – and having seen a few episodes of the fully translated Ganbaruger – I decided to try it. The series proved highly enjoyable, standing out within a crowded and largely interchangeable genre as being among the better examples.

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Tabletop Game Rules: “Don’t Be Defeated By a Friend”

It has been some time since I last attempted to design a tabletop game, but I have recently been working on a ruleset.

The intent is to create a game in the mould of Osprey’s light and thematic miniatures skirmish games such as Black Ops, Rogue Stars and Frostgrave, except with a fantastical theme not currently widely served by other products.

Don’t Be Defeated By a Friend is intended to emulate the aesthetics and fights of Japanese console RPGs and young-adult action anime. Its inspirations are chiefly the Persona and Trails video games, and series such as Busou Renkin, Full Metal Alchemist and so on, although there are aspects of Final Fantasy present as well.

Mechanically the system draws on Frostgrave, Black Ops, Mordheim, A Fistful of Kung Fu, The Walking Dead: All Out War and Infinity to varying degrees.

Currently the ruleset is at beta version 0.4; all of the basic rules for unit creation, combat, movement and magic have been written as well as initial skill and equipment tables. Limited solitaire playtesting has taken place to determine what seem to be initial appropriate values for points costs, baseline statistics etcetera.

Missing are campaign rules, character advancement, advanced and magical equipment tables and rules for adult characters. Development of these, I feel, should not take place until the core mechanics are in a more advanced state.

I am putting a playtest version of the current ruleset up on this blog for people to read and hopefully playtest. While I have, in the past, started and abandoned many projects this one I feel is more complete and playable even in its current unfinished state.

Change Log

v0.4 -> v0.4a

p4 – Regaining balance as part of a Push Back move rules, first sentence now reads “If this would take the defender over a precipice or drop, they must roll 1d12 and exceed the total distance they were pushed back to regain their balance…”

p6, “Base Statistics” – re-ordered statistics in body text in line with examples

Game Rules (Updated 31/01/17 @ 22:31 to version 0.4a):

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Blank Stat Sheet:

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Writing Prompt #004 “The Fruit-Seller of Divine Grace Street”

The prompt I chose when I opened my book of writing prompts this time was simply the word “Lemonade.”

A while ago I wrote some “comfortable”, Sei Shonagon-inspired fantasy vignettes, and so I revisited this concept to  write a short piece about a town with an interesting landmark – the sort of curious traveller’s-journal thing that I enjoy reading, only this time in a nonspecific fantasy setting. It is a little inspired by my experiences of temples in Kyoto and Osaka, but I tried not to make it too tied to one nation or other.

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Board Game Review – Pandemic Legacy Season 1

As I come to the end of playing a campaign of Pandemic Legacy, I feel it is time to review the game; it is the first “Legacy” or permanent campaign-based game of its kind I have really played (apart technically from Time Stories and Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, which have a similar limited-plays nature but are a series of discrete missions to complete one at a time rather than a narrative campaign), and I was interested to see if it was as good as the reviews suggested. I have always had reservations about the idea of a board game with limited opportunities to be played, but I entered the campaign with an open mind.

Now the campaign is all but complete, I have thought about what I made of the experience; I enjoyed the game a lot, but at the same time a number of issues meant I never felt it was a truly great game. The potential is there for the Legacy boardgame model to do interesting things (although I still feel much of the design space it opens could be replicated with non-destructive alternatives such as apps), and I am eager to see how later games develop the ideas seen in Pandemic Legacy‘s first “season.”

Note: This review will discuss the development of the Pandemic Legacy Season 1 campaign, including details of hidden information and scenarios.

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Adults and Their Lies – The “Finale” of Trails of Cold Steel 2

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Official Trails of Cold Steel art, Artist: Enami Katsumi

Note: This article discusses in detail plot events from Trails in the Sky and Trails of Cold Steel

In my previous article about Trails of Cold Steel 2 I mentioned how its story seemed to be a safe, comfortable sort of power fantasy at odds with how the characters described their affiliation and intentions; the player spends much of the game gathering allies for various missions in a manner similar to Mass Effect 2 and games in its vein. Each location liberated gives a new set of goals and allies to find, and the aim is to recruit a strong force for the ultimate recapture of the hero’s school, currently occupied by enemy forces. This in its own right is a good example of how the game’s narrative logic falls squarely into adolescent power fantasy; the primary objective for what rapidly becomes an immensely powerful paramilitary force is recapturing a school of symbolic, if not strategic, value. This is in service to a larger goal – trying to convince an enemy soldier who personally wronged and abandoned the heroes to return to the fold. To this end the player takes part in military operations of ever-increasing scope which call into question the “neutrality” which the characters keep referring to.

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The Mission Creep of Class VII (Initial Thoughts on Trails of Cold Steel 2)

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Official Trails of Cold Steel 2 art, Artist: Enami Katsumi

Currently I am playing Trails of Cold Steel 2, which picks up directly from a significant cliffhanger in the same way Trails in the Sky did; it begins with the cast divided, the enemy holding the upper hand and the situation generally bad except certain fundamental details of scale are different, which puts a very different tone on it and one that makes the whole “message” of the story different. It builds on a different set of pop-culture references, evoking more the “magical high school” kind of anime story rather than the easygoing pastoral fantasy Sky built on and so focuses on a cast of truly exceptional, highly-specialised heroes who fill various expected role of that sort of ensemble. Certain decisions in the sequel double down on this, taking the story outside of its initial high-school setting, which create some interesting questions about the story. As it stands I have yet to finish the game, but am some significant time into it, and this article reflects my initial thoughts on where Cold Steel stands as a series narratively.

Note: This article deals directly with story details of Trails of Cold Steel 1 and 2, as well as referring to Trails in the Sky

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