A Half-Baked Review of Imperator: Rome

Imperator: Rome has been poorly received by the majority of people in the Paradox games community. I wouldn’t call myself a part of that community but I have found myself getting interested in their games since the start of the year. Imperator: Rome is the game I wish I had when I jumped in.

Paradox has a habit of releasing a game that is pretty barebones, but then over several years adds more to it through DLC until there is hundreds of pounds worth of the stuff. People who have been playing these games for a long time really shouldn’t be surprised with the product they got to be honest. Not saying that excuses anything but there should have been no surprise.

As I say, these games get supported for years. Europa Universalis IV was released way back in August 2013 and yet its latest DLC was released in December 2018. Honestly, I think Imperator: Rome has an audience, being fresh off the presses.

Have you been interested in Grand Strategy games for a while but been too intimidated by their complexity? Imperator: Rome is a great jumping off point. Being barebones as it is, it is quite easy to pick up and learn the basics of how these games work. The game uses 4 types of power points (also known as mana in the community), as well as gold, for you to use to make decisions, buy buildings, armies and technologies and the core community hates this. But it does make things remarkably simple to understand.

I played the tutorial for roughly 5 hours on stream, which gives you a bit of a leg up and actually teaches you the basics of the game, something that previous games have been bad at (The Crusader Kings 2 tutorial isn’t worth the 5 minutes it takes, you learn nothing).

I honestly enjoyed the time I played it, and will be playing more of it because of its simplicity. It’s a lot more chilled out than the likes of Europa Universalis 4 and Hearts of Iron 4 so creating Rome was a relaxing time.

The game does need to go in one of two directions though. They need to either minimize the number of different power points (or mana) or double down and make the power points more relevant to things. Religious points are only used for omens as far as I could tell, which means you end up with thousands of points in reserve and nothing to use them on. Oratory points was something else I also seemed to have a stockpile of.

I can see why established members of the Paradox community dislike the game, but honestly, I have so far enjoyed it, but I can see it getting boring in its current state. Other than invading other nations and growing your nation there isn’t a lot else to it and I hope down the line it gets more in-depth. But for newcomers, it is a great entry point.

And to be fair, who doesn’t like a good invasion?

Pokémon Let’s Go Review

Oh hey, it’s me. Did you miss me? No posts in November? Are you sure? Ohh yeah… Well I am here now, smack bang in post game land of Pokémon Let’s Go, and I feel like I’ve played enough of this game to give it an informed review. I played Pikachu Edition, which I bought for myself.

We return to Kanto, which is nice. A nice, colourful, HD Kanto and it is beautiful to look at. The Pokémon are emotive and adorable and the renewed soundtrack is delightful! The world itself though is still very square, as they have gone with the full 1:1 rescaling of the original Kanto, which isn’t a bad thing, but in HD almost feels a little fourth wall breaking. The NPC’s also feel lifeless as they stand around forever waiting for you to walk by and challenge you.

The trainer battles are what would would expect though. Abilities from the core games are gone, but this just serves to simplify the battles a little, so that is nice for newcomers and isn’t a deal breaker for experienced battlers. But you will have to bear it in mind. No Levitate Koffing means it can and will get hit by Earthquake for instance.

Catching Pokémon leaves a lot to be desired for me. On the dock the throwing mechanics are super wonky, making you throw balls in wildly wrong directions for seemingly no reason and requires a lot of practice. The game does very little to show you how to throw to the left and right and the throwing tutorial is very basic. As well as this, it has Pokémon Go mechanics, so you don’t battle wild Pokémon to catch them. Which brings me to the biggest issue I have with this game.

Fleeing. Pokémon can flee at any time and seemingly with no way to mitigate it. Also the RNG on this, and catching in general, feels so arbitrary. There’s no sense of difficulty, and regardless of how difficult the game says the catch will be, it never seems to translate into reality. But fleeing, I believe, can be stopped with the Nanab Berry in the game, but if it breaks out of a Pokéball, be prepared to throw another berry. In Pokémon Go that is quite simple with a touchscreen. you press the berry button and select your berry. In Let’s Go, with lack of touch controls it is a slog through two or three menus before you can use the berry, and with Pokémon able to flee at any time, you’re on the clock. It can lead to situations where you are throwing ball after ball and catching nothing for twenty minutes and having nothing to show for it, and as a player, there is no feel-good feeling in this situation. I have found myself turning the game off as the fun stops and the frustration sets in. And bear in mind this game is marketed to the younger newcomers to the series. The Go catching mechanics just don’t translate well here and it feels clumsy. Not to mention in handheld mode it IS easier, with you able to track a moving Pokémon with the gyroscope in the system and it amazes me why that control scheme hasn’t been implemented into the Pro Controller (that’s right, no Pro Controller support). Not to mention with all this, there is a chaining mechanic where if you catch the same Pokémon over and over again, you get increased shiny chance (shinies are very low chance at an alternate coloured version of a Pokémon) and better stat rolls. Chaining mechanic with arbitrary fleeing with next to no mitigation is horrifying and leads to a lot of disappointment. The mitigation is if you miss a throw or two, you run away yourself to keep the chain, but again, there is really no place for the frustrating flee mechanic in the first place without something more solid in place to mitigate it. Running from battles just feels like a workaround rather than a legitimate solution.

Storywise, again, if you’ve played any Pokémon game, you know what to expect. Defeat eight gyms and beat the Elite Four. Team Rocket show up from time to time (including Jessie and James from the anime, which is a nice touch) to battle you and stop you in your tracks and all that jazz. It’s not too complex and doesn’t distract from the catching and battling that make up the core of the game.

All in all, I have had fun with this game, and the more I played it the more fun I had. But those moments where you just want to throw the Switch out of the window, especially when chaining and suchlike, really left a sour taste in my mouth. It may feel like a silly thing to moan about, but remember who this game is marketed for. If I was an 8 year old and having this happen, I’d likely never play the game again. Arbitrary RNG is not difficulty. It’s just arbitrary without proper mechanics to mitigate it. And that is my only real moan. Pokémon aren’t loot drops, they are the core of the game, and they just don’t feel like they are treated as such. The core games had abilities like Arena Trap, moves like False Swipe and different types of Pokéballs for different situations but this game has none of that, but if it had something, just something more than what it does have, I feel it would be a much more fun and rewarding experience.

I look forward to the release of the new core game next year!

 

 

Very Brief EGX Recap and my Game of the Year Candidate

So the last time I posted here I mentioned that I would be taking notes at EGX and writing a lot about my trip. I didn’t do any of those things. EGX was okay. Xbox didn’t show up at all, which was very disappointing. I had an argument with a security guard who couldn’t read entry passes on the Saturday, which upset me. I got to play Kingdom Hearts 3 though, so I got that going for me!

I also got to meet quite a few other Mixer folks while I was there. That was also nice, although I was, predictably, a bit timid about that whole experience. Maybe if we all meet up again another time I will be less timid.

As for the last few days though, I have been hammering Forza Horizon 4. It’s been a long time since a game has made me as happy as it has. It’s incredible. Almost perfect.Online is a little bit ropey. It likes to break up convoys between races which is annoying and not allocate servers to races, but when it does work, it is sublime!

One of my favourite additions has to be Forzathon Live. Instead of a few gamerscoreless achievements every week, you gain points from events that trigger every hour that you do with others in your shared world. You can then spend those points on cars or cosmetic items, or on wheelspins. There are also weekly and daily tasks that give you points on top of that. VIP players also get double points for free with a house you can buy. Non-VIP players can get this house for five million credits.

If I could imrpove anything that is just how the game is though, its clubs. Clubs are now handled through Xbox Live clubs, rather than being an ingame feature. As a result there is far less tracking for clubs as was found in Forza Horizon 3 and I miss the in-club rivalries to reach the top of the club board.

Anyway, that’s me for a while. WWE 2K19 comes out tomorrow for Deluxe Edition buyers, and I am working. But I shall be streaming that over the weekend and probably alternating between that and Forza for quite a while.

See you later!

Battle of Azeroth Buildup in Review (Kinda)

So I recently got back into WoW after not being super impressed with the premise of the new expansion, Battle for Azeroth, when it was announced. That was a few months ago though.

There have been videos flying around on the World of Warcraft YouTube Channel for a while now and it piqued my interest. I started to hear “The Call of Azeroth”, a pet name, if you will, for when I get that urge to go back to playing it again.

On resubbing I initially didn’t find my feet and I wondered after a couple of days if I would actually continue playing. But I then loaded up my old main, a level 110 Gnome Priest, and played the pre-quest leading into the events of the new expansion.

Sylvanas Windrunner, I have always been a huge fan of her as a character in the lore, but I never expected the literal burning of the World Tree, Teldrassil, home of the night elves. It all starts as a campaign to capture Darnassus, to prevent the Alliance from moving Azerite (the new mineral that has surfaced after that big ol’ sword kinda battered Silithus) to the Eastern Kingdoms. But something goes wrong.

In the scene leading into the destruction of Teldrassil, a wounded night elf, who as far as I know hasn’t been named, appears to question Sylvanas and her motives. This seems to be enough to force her into a blind rage, ordering the burning of Teldrassil, something that would trigger possibly the greatest war ever between the Horde and the Alliance. High Overlord Saurfang questions her too, citing the honor of the Horde, but this appears to phase her very little.

In retaliation, the Alliance attack The Undercity, once capital of the Human kingdom of Lordaeron. The attack, from the quest line, goes very well for the Alliance (props to Jaina in her wacky flying galleon with the arcane cannons, nice touch) and they find themselves eventually in the throne room, battling through waves of Horde troops and blight, blight that was also killing Horde soldiers…

With the figureheads of the Alliance confronting Sylvanas, who is apparently cornered, she shows nothing but disdain and is calm as a cucumber.

She literally detonates blight over the whole city. Everyone dies. Horde, Alliance, everyone. Jaina managed to teleport the 4 of them away, who appear to be the only Alliance survivors. Ohh and your player character. You live too, somehow.

For something that had such a weak premise of “Ohh The Alliance and The Horde are fighting again” they have done a lot to make it matter. Azeroth has changed and it hasn’t been dragged out. In the blink of an eye two cities have fallen, and now we turn towards the expansion.

I really have high hopes now for Battle for Azeroth. I really hope that it doesn’t fall flat like Warlords of Draenor did (for me at least). It’s also coming off the back of Legion, which was really good. I want to see the war escalate more. I want to see the tension between Sylvanas and the rest of the Horde. I want to see how King Anduin copes with the situation. I want Saurfang to get what he really craves. He is still missing that warrior’s death. The pre-quests have gotten me hooked again!! Roll on next week…

While I am here, I apologize for not getting more on here. I am bad at time management and need to force myself into some habits better. I do try, but honestly, not hard enough. But to all of you who come and read this, thank you. I appreciate you!

The Crew 2 (Review?)

For the record, I said in my last post I wouldn’t be buying it, and I did not. So my disclaimer for this post is that I received a code for free from Mixer.com for review purposes and livestreaming on my channel. I have played the game for roughly 9 hours, both solo and in a Crew. Probably not a huge amount in the great scheme of things but I can’t bring myself to continue…

The points in my previous post, in a lot of ways, still apply. Checkpointing for street racing is appalling. It’s still way to easy to miss a turn because the game doesn’t checkpoint properly, requiring the use of the minimap way too much to find the route to the next one, which is distracting. This was the basis of my previous post based on the open beta. I was mad about it, you can read that here. I will say that I enjoy the handling of my Mazda MX5 I have been using for street races though. I just want to know where to drive it to…

However I have now played more than just the street races of course. Touring cars drive like tanks, which is horrendous. The track based races are easier to find you way around though, because it’s a track. Then there is the rally racing. They handle lovely but checkpoints, again, way too far apart. I get the whole make your own road thing going on with it, but putting a checkpoint on the other side of a river and just expecting the player to find a way around in a timed situation is just rude. On the opposite side, Drift cars are WAY too drifty. Drift cars just drift by default with no user effort, making them super hard to use. They drift when they want, not when the player wants.

Moving on though, I don’t dislike everything. Powerboat racing is really fun. Every one of the powerboat races has been a great time. The handling on them is exceptional and the tracks are laid out in a fun but clear way. Fun as it is though, it just points out the inconsistency in these different events. Checkpoints are pretty much spot on in these powerboat races and I really don’t see why they couldn’t apply the same mentality to the street racing. It almost feels like the two were developed by completely seperate teams who didn’t communicate. Jet sprint is also a great class, taking to the water again in some great events.

The flying isn’t bad either. It’s a little simple but that’s not necessarily a bad thing in an arcade style game. Air racing and Aerobatics are super fun, if a touch janky in places. I had one moment in aerobatics where the game asked me to do a loop-de-loop, and I had to do it five times before it would register that I had done it. But that aside, the planes control really quite nicely.

Monster trucks are also a bit of fun. The racing of them is a bit frustrating, just because monster trucks are a bit of a pain to control, but they do control how you would expect so this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The arena events for Monster trucks is where the fun is though. Doing tricks to rack up points is quite the good time, but the scoring system is a bit weird, favouring collectibles worth points instead of rewarding the tricks themselves.

Another issue that is really glaring for me is the lack of anything to do in the open world. The map is the whole USA and there is very little to do in it. There are mini events scattered across the map but they only reward you with small amounts of fans (how they track game progress) and money, which you can get more of by just fast travelling to proper events, rendering them pretty useless. There are also prize boxes hidden in places, facilitating some exploration, but again all I got was parts for vehicles, which I get by doing events anyway, rendering them useless.

I’d love to see different rewards for the mini events and the hidden boxes, just to give the player more of a reason to do it. Especially the hidden boxes. I really wanted the game to encourage me to explore the beautiful map that it has, but there is just no real need. It’s a shame. The game is so pretty to look at. I just want a reason to look at more of it. I want a reason to not just fast travel to main events.

The thing with this game for me is that the car related stuff is pretty poor. The flying is decent, but simple and the water based stuff is fun. But that’s really the only bit I was consistently having fun. It’s not really worth for me to continue playing when the only real fun I am finding is in the water. The biggest disappointment for me is that I really wanted this game to be way better than it is, but it is decidedly average. Lots of mistakes from the first game have reappeared in the sequel and there are just way to many niggling annoyances to make the game fun. It feels way too much like a chore for all the wrong reasons because the game isn’t hard, its just frustrating to play. I wanted something to tide me over until Forza Horizon 4 but that isn’t what I got.