Return to No Man’s Sky

It has been a fortuitous week for me and No Man’s Sky. I saw the game on sale at Humble Bundle last week and decided to pick it up again to see how it is with the Foundation and Pathfinder updates. Today, they released the third major patch… Atlas Rises. I’m sure the timing of that sale was not a coincidence but it seems weird coming into it again right before a major update like this. Overall though, even before 1.3 (the newest patch), I kind of decided I was going to return to the game after 10 months of inactivity. And I felt it was worth giving a sort of review here to explain why.

First, probably the biggest thing to me, is that the game feels more diverse. I looked through the 2 major patch notes and it does look like they made additions to plant and animal parts, and made some major world generation changes. The overall result of this is that, I did get a better sense of each world being different. And even more important, I was stepping foot on more planets that seemed to have life on them. Unlike before where it seemed like almost every world was a barren wasteland with a random animal roaming around it. Even when I found myself on a barren world, there were features on it, which made it seem different than other worlds. I appreciate this a lot.

It isn’t perfect. There is still a general sense of same-ness to the worlds, but it isn’t nearly as bad as it once was.A personal pet peeve of mine, still exists… diversity within the same planet. And honestly, I don’t think that one will ever get fixed. To me it is weird that an entire planet basically has the same environment. There are certainly patches where it differs but by and large if you are on a planet it looks a certain way everywhere on that planet. Looking around the NMS reddit, and the one most requested update for 1.4 is to focus on flora and fauna to give even more real planets, and I couldn’t agree with this more. There are other wishlist items I have, but this would make the game feel complete to me.

You can also tell that a major rebalance of the game has occurred. This happened in a number of ways. First, resources. I’m not sure what exactly was already there and what is new, but I do believe that Hello Games has reclassed their star systems and resources so that the hard to get to systems have more rare resources and few planets, whereas the easy to get to systems have more planets but fewer rare resources. I also think they went and basically added logic where each planet in this type of system will have X common, Y uncommon and Z Rare resources. And I feel like they may have created rarity in the first place. Before it seemed like Gold and Copper were everywhere, but these seem far less common than they used to, and honestly this is appreciated. They’ve also added a whole bunch of new resources, I think around 20, since launch. And on top of that, they’ve created barriers to harvest, which I know some people are annoyed by, but the reality is that it helps give you a sense of something to work towards. Now I need an Advanced Mining Laser to mine Titanium, which makes sense. I actually wish there was one or two more mining tiers than just normal and advanced. There is also a Hazmat Glove that you need in order to harvest certain plants. Again, nice touch.

Then there are starships and your multi-tool. Instead of everything just being random, Hello Games has added classes and rarity to both objects in No Man’s Sky. Starships come in Shuttle, Fighter, Explorer and Hauler now. Each class has different looking ships, and each class has bonuses. For instance, Fighter ships do bonus damage when in a fight, but generally have small storage holds. Haulers get bonuses in storage and shields. Explorers get bonus to their Hyperdrive engines. And Shuttles get no bonus but tend to have more storage than Explorers and Fighters. And then there is rarity. Each ship has S, A, B, or C rarity, in that order from most rare to least. Increased rarity means increased price, but higher chance for more storage and it also gets an increase to the bonus that the class provides. So a C class Fighter will do up to 20% bonus damage, but an S class Fighter can do more than 50% bonus. Multi-Tools have been given new weapons that you can install on them and have their own specializations. They can be a Pistol (Mining bonus), Rifle (Damage Bonus), Experimental (Scanning Bonus), or Alien (A mix of bonuses). Like the starship, it has the same rarities that affect how much bonus you get, and I would also guess how many slots for modifications the item has.

I mean, all that is really just restructuring of what was there. And the reality of it is that those additions do a ton for the gameplay loop. They give you things to work for. The new rarity system also gives you more want to go back out there and find the “perfect” starship or multi tool. Resource balancing gives you more reason to explore the galaxy to find rare and exotic resources so that you can build enhancements to your gear that are more powerful. All this leads to a better overall experience… and it doesn’t even get into what they really added.

And that is Bases, Freighters, and Cars. Bases allow you to personalize your home base, increase your storage space, allow you to farm certain resources, and even automate harvesting nearby resources. Freighters allow you to get into and purchase those big ass ships that you always see flying in the distance. They are super expensive so it gives you something to save up for, and it looks like in 1.3 they are adding in classes for freighters too to give more variety and make you now want to find the perfect freighter. Freighters share storage with your base and can carry up to 9 starships and even more cargo than before. So now you can go and get a bunch of starships to make your perfect fleet for your situation. I’m less sold on the cars, I think it’ll be nice for exploring your world and getting more storage while doing it, but I don’t know the limitation of that buggy. They also added the ability to create race tracks and race other player’s track which is a nice touch but I’m unsure how interested I am in that, but I like that it is there.

And now… 1.3… The big flashy thing they added was Stargates which let you portal from one planet to another, if you know the address. This alone is pretty awesome, but they also added 30+ hours of story and lore, a fourth race, new buildings and base parts, crashed freighters, new farming branches, and NPC missions. All of this again, fleshing out the universe that much more and giving the player more to do.

I’m actually kind of excited for the game again. And unlike the last time, the game is already out! I can go play it! I have been playing it for about a week now and still enjoying going in and exploring more. I am probably going to restart with 1.3. And I’m probably going to YouTube it like I said I was going to over a year ago. It seems surreal that the game took an extra year, but it feels like it is finally starting to live up to its promise.

Rogue Legacy Review

During the winter sale on Steam, I decided to pick up Rogue Legacy which I had my eye on for quite some time. Even though I had my eye on it, i wasn’t entirely sure what I would think of it. The game was largely billed as an homage to Rogue and Castlevania. Well I can deal with Rogue, but it’s easy to do wrong. And I’m not the biggest Castlevania fan in the world. I also haven’t been as big into platformers as my youthful self would have liked. So I was a bit dubious of this game.

After a month of play, I must say that I not only love the game, it has completely sucked me in. I will say that its stay got lengthened by me going to a new hard drive and losing my progress. But it still interests me. Part of the reason is that its progression seems non-ending and the difficulty isn’t really low.

The game is a level based game. You start out at level 1, you go through the castle and collect money, then once you die, you go and buy skills. Each skill raises your level by 1. There are a ton of skills to choose from, and most skills let you level them up which also increase your level. I say skills broadly, but some of the skills also unlock new classes for you to play and advance current classes that you already have.

When you die, you get a choice of your successor, and that is when the class comes in. You get a selection of 3 (which you can reroll later if you take the right skill) randomly generated successors to your previous character. The name of the character, the class, deformities and enhancements are all randomly generated. One generation of character you might have an uber powerful guy, the next time you might have an uber gimp guy and this adds a lot of variety to the game. You never know what you are going to get even from your character.

Once you have your skills bought, you go into the castle. The castle is also randomly generated and you have to pay a toll to death in order to enter. This toll is anywhere from 100% of your coin to 50% of your coin depending on your skills. Once you enter, there are 4 main areas, each with its own boss. You kill all 4 bosses and you unlock the end boss sequence. Each area has its own difficulty from easy to hard, and in fact the hard can be so difficult at times that even when I can fight the first end boss, I still have a hard time in the hardest area. The castle contains various traps, and events and the game itself feels a bit like Duck Tales crossed with Ghouls & Goblins. There are a lot of platforms to jump on to get through the castle and the Scrooge pogo stick thing is in full force (this seems to be increasingly popular these days).

There are also skills that unlock a couple of “vendors” in the game. A blacksmith, a magic shop, and an architect. The architect allows you to go into the same dungeon so that it doesn’t regnerate, however you only get a fraction of the gold from it. I don’t use this function often, but is nice if you run through it with a spelunker (who gets a bonus to gold and can see where treasure is) and then follow through with a tougher fighter to kill the bosses afterwards. The blacksmith allows you to find recipes in the castle which unlock better weapons and armor. The magic shop allows you to put enchantments on the armor. You can put one enchantment on each equipped item and these enchantments have handy bonuses to them like gaining health with each kill or more gold on each kill or double jumping. It is a good compliment to your already growing skills, however they don’t level up with you quite as well as normal skills do.

Overall the gameplay is really fun. I find myself getting drawn into the game to unlock just one more level of a skill or to try to beat a boss that has been dogging me. It accomplishes this trick really well and almost gets to the level of Civilization which might be the biggest culprit to this trick. I definitely would recommend at least trying the game out. You can generally find it on sale at various times of the year. The cheapest I have found it has been around the $5 mark which is definitely worth it for this gem!

SimCity: Nearly a year later

I don’t know why, but I was feeling the mood to give SimCity another shot so I bought the expansion which deals with futuristic stuff and decided to sit down and play SimCity again. As you may or may not remember from my previous post, my main gripes about it were that you couldn’t play offline, its reliance on having multiple cities, small city areas, and unrealistic population numbers.

Continue reading “SimCity: Nearly a year later”

Lego: Marvel Super Heroes Review

I definitely have the feeling that there are too many Lego games at this point. Lego Star Wars was an amazing game. It made you say FINALLY, there is a good Star Wars game. But it also made you say, OMG this is a good Lego Game. Traveler’s Tale Studios did what any good company should… they made more… a lot more. At first it was just a couple of sequels to Star Wars, but then they started branching out. And now we have lego versions of Indiana Jones, Batman, Harry Potter,  Lord of the Rings and now Marvel. The problem is that though they have changed licenses and the graphics have advanced. The formula has maintained largely the same. Break some bricks, build some stuff by holding “a” and find secret areas to unlock secret characters for freeplay. It has gotten old to be sure. Continue reading “Lego: Marvel Super Heroes Review”

First Thoughts with Pokemon X

It has been a week since Pokemon X first made its worldwide launch. I have played with it a little, but I’ll be honest that my opportunities to play has been limited until this weekend. So while it has been out for a long time, I just got past the second gym leader. With that, I figured it was time to put up something about the latest in the Pokemon series.

First off, to my credit on just getting the second badge is that, this version of Pokemon is HUGE. I mean Black & White were noticeably bigger than previous versions of Pokemon, but this one makes that one look small. I’d say on average there are 4.5 routes per badge, and each of those routes are probably about 50% longer than previous routes. The fact that you now have a base speed that is much faster due to roller skates, is very well necessary. Without them, I feel like the pace of the game would likely be far too slow. So while it is much more immense in size, there is a good balance being met to make you feel like you are accomplishing things.

With the size, it would be easy to sit there and say, well that must be boring with looking at the same pokemon over and over again for such a long distance. But Game Freak has decided with this one to truly utilize their back catalog of Pokemon. With this series, there are about 750 total Pokemon to catch, and they don’t leave a lot of them out of the loop. Ignoring Black & White which was weird because it had only pokemon from that series in its main area, most of the time in a new pokemon game, any particular route has about 4 to 6 old pokemon and 2 to 3 new pokemon in it. This one seems to average about 7 to 8 old pokemon with 1 to 2 new pokemon in it. Yes this means that this series has probably fewer new entries into it than any previous entry into the game, but it also makes each area feel like it is a completely wild area with loads of different Pokémon every time you walk into the brush which I really loved. Continue reading “First Thoughts with Pokemon X”

Civ 5: Brave New World Review

When Civ 5 was first released, it was likely a success sales-wise, but to fans it left much to be desired. While I liked limited resources and one unit per tile, other fans of the series didn’t. But the biggest problem was a slew of bugs, a weak AI, a simplified game, and a lack of a true cultural victory. Now 3 years, and 2 expansions later, I think not only have the issues with the game been resolved, I feel it is in a much better place than Civ 4 was after all expansions were released.

This latest expansion adds to the game, a more true to Civ culture victory, archeologists & tourism, and several new civilizations and units to the game. Obviously the biggest of these enhancements is the return of the cultural victory. This actually comes along with the archeologists & tourism, and also includes other enhancements such as spies being used as diplomats and a world congress which votes on global resolutions. Continue reading “Civ 5: Brave New World Review”