Pokemon Sun and Moon Special Demo Version

Whilst I’m not exactly foaming at the mouth for the next Pokemon game as much as other people are (for I am still fully ensnaredĀ in the videogame crack den that is WoW: Legion), I decided to give the demo a go when it released today (see: 2 days ago, when this post was written). For those who are unaware, the modern Pokemon demos are typically standalone experiences that introduce the player to the setting and key game innovations for this iteration of the franchise. In this case, it document Sun’s (the main character who you’ll be able to rename in the main game) arrival to the first island in the game, and gives you some two main areas to explore: the town, and what would typically be called a route.

The first thing I noticed was the movement. In Pokemon X / Y, they allowed the player to move outside of grid-based movement for the first time in the franchise, although this was still restricted to roller-skates and bike riding. They expanded on this in Omega Ruby / Alpha Sapphire (ORAS), allowing grid-based movement only if you used the D-pad. In Sun and Moon, they graduate from this entirely, adding smoother running and walking animations and removing all remnants of the oppressive grid-based system.

But that’s only one minor improvement. From what I’ve gathered from the demo, one of SuMo (Sun and Moon)’s key selling points is its iteration. There are many quality-of-life improvements that are a great welcome from a game which has a tradition of following a set schematic, and the main game seems set to stray from tradition in more ways than the minor quality-of-life updates. But as far as they go, I was pleased to see they’ve added a way to check what stats have been buffed and debuffed during the battle. They’ve also added a system wherein you can see what moves are not effective, effective or super effective against an enemy if you’ve beaten them before. Part of me welcomes this change greatly, as the National Pokedex is getting too large to remember the types of every single Pokemon, though I do worry that this will devolve the game into less tactics and more mindless button-pressing.

I was never all that sold on the setting of Alola itself. I’m not a holiday island kind of a guy. But playing through the demo, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the cultural quirks which differed from the other regions. And that’s just as well, because they’re going all-out on this; the professor isn’t even a professor, because they want him to seem more laid-back. I’m a fan of what we’ve seen so far from Kukui and the, er, the rival dude who’s name escapes me. I even found myself enjoying Team Skull; there’s a big danger of them simply becoming edgelords, but they were actually somewhat amusing to me.

They give you a Greninja for the demo, and so far there’s been no indication as to whether you get to keep him or anything else from the demo to take to the main game (as was the case with the ORAS demo). At one point you get to use a Pikachu, and that was during the (frankly odd) trial where you had to go and sneak pictures of Pokemon, who would subsequently attack you. I have a feeling that that mechanic is going to be one of those features that Game Freak try to promote but ultimately ends up falling by the wayside. At the end of the trial, there’s a boss Pokemon, which is basically one of the earlier Pokemon but in a different form – which then assumes another, fiery form… it’s confusing. I’m not entirely sure I like that particular direction the game series is heading in.

Z-moves are cool, though. I’m not sure I was ever fully sold on mega-evolutions and having to mega-evolve your Pokemon in each fight to get the best out of them. Z-moves are SuMo’s mega evolution type game-changer. Whilst you only got a chance to use it once in a demo, I’m assuming that you can only use them once per battle, and that they do a hefty portion of damage. And the animation was awesome… though I can see it getting somewhat annoying once you’ve seen it a few dozen times, because it does take around 10 seconds to complete.

And then the demo ends but not really because New Demo Plus. You get to go back to the demo zones and ride a Taurus around, which is another feature coming in the main game that I absolutely love. It beats the bike by miles. Not only is it really fast – and has a charge move that goes even faster – but it also has utility, seemingly taking the place of Rock Smash as you barge past rocks and open up new areas. Speaking of which…

The area you can unlock with this charge is a kind of mini Safari-Zone. And I’m talking oldschool Safari Zone. There’s no time (well, step) limit, but they give you a certain amount of Pokeballs and chuck you into the long-grass, telling you to catch yourself some pocket monsters. However, demos being demos means there’s only three to catch – Pikipek, Yungoos, and Rockruff, so that gets stale pretty quickly.

And that about sums it up! I look forwards to playing the full game when it’s released. I should probably go and work on completing Pokemon Yellow so I can transfer those guys over…

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“Hey Slowpoke, can I leave the demo area?”

Starting Dragon Age: Origins

So a year or two ago I bought Dragon Age: Origins and played through the first 3-4 hours of it, and while I did enjoy it, I ultimately got distracted by other games or things to do. However, since 100% completing Skyrim a few months ago (oh yeah, that happened), I’ve been on the prowl for another RPG that doesn’t have the letters MMO stuck in front of it, and I decided to give DA:O another go.

Whilst I originally rolled a mage character, as I typically do in most RPGs, I decided to go for something a little different this time. I’m a city elf warrior who specialises with dual-wielding, and I’m currently torn between whether I should put my upgrade points into strength, agility, or constitution – strength for the armour, agility for the abilities, and constitution for general all-round not dying-ness. But this little indecision only occurs for a small amount of time when levelling up, and isn’t even really a legitimate gripe with the game. I’m aware that as somebody who started PC gaming when they were 12 in 2007 (and even then favouring consoles until I was 18), I’ve had it easy as far as stat attribution goes, as most RPGs have watered it down significantly since the days of yore.

Anyway, as somebody who already played through the mage starting experience (it was a Harrowing time, geddit?), it was interesting to see the beginning of another character’s adventure and how it differed from before. They all funnel into the same place eventually, of course, but I actually found myself enjoying the city elf scenario more than the mage one, probably because I can identify somewhat more with a character who isn’t shooting fireballs every which way from the get-go. And from what little I’ve seen of Bioware’s storytelling so far, I continue to find myself easily immersed and thoroughly entertained by the characters and the response choices you can choose between. One day I will have to make a character who goes down the purely evil route, because some of those options are very intriguing.

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My main character, Gardon, bears a striking resemblance to one of my closest friends and it’s getting to be somewhat distracting!

The combat is interesting. It feels to me between a combination of a tactical turn-based system and an MMO’s ability / cooldown system. And I have to say it works very well. I love that I have the ability to simply pause the game at any point and flick between my party members to determine what they should be doing and if they need to sip a quick potion. I do find the tactical view somewhat redundant due to the fact that in third person mode, I can see further ahead and around me, but that might be a perk of modern PCs that weren’t accounted for at the time of the game’s release in 2009.

Whilst Dragon Age: Origins is getting on a bit in age now, it’s aging well, both graphics and gameplay wise, and feels to me like a solid combination of WoW, Skyrim, and a Telltale style narrative. DA:O obviously preceded the latter two listed games, but I’m just applying my own experiences retroactively as similarities. If I manage to complete DA:O you can expect another blog post about it, and perhaps I’ll look into Dragon Age: Inquisition at some point too.

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This guy was a bit of a bastard to kill. And he’s only the first boss in the game!

I’m putting this at the bottom of my blog post as it’s somewhat of a sidenote. Since I got this new PC a few months back, I’ve been going back and playing some games that I’ve already played on my laptop, and finding them inexplicably more enjoyable. I’ve come to the conclusion that my laptop’s constant struggle to keep a consistent framerate probably had something to do with it, and the smooth 60 frames I’m seeing all around nowadays is enabling me to focus on the gameplay rather than because subconsciously sidetracked by technical issues. And the ultra graphics options are always a nice bonus, too.

Racing Games

As somebody who grew up playing predominantly PS2 games, I witnessed what many people have since deemed the ‘Golden Age of gaming’. And whilst that applies to a whole host of different genres, some of the games I look back on most fondly when remembering the PS2 are racing games.

I grew up playing Need for Speed Underground and Midnight Club, typically on my own, but sometimes with my friends or family. I have good memories of me and my sister booting up the London level in Midnight Club 1 and spending the entire time pushing cars into a particular tunnel and trying to cause a massive traffic jam, and seeing how the game responded with spawning new cars and the like. I’ve spent countless hours just in free roaming, doing nothing more than driving around and jumping off big ramps in Smuggler’s Run. RC Revenge and its successor, the somewhat remastered RC Revenge Pro was basically my Mario Kart growing up. Whilst I never considered it at the time, I was kinda into racing games back then.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the more realistic racing games, though. I played some Gran Turismo, but I’d never truly get into it until I decided to try Gran Turisomo PSP about a decade down the line. When I was little, I was content with watching my sister play Gran Turismo 3. As I recall, she built up a huge garage, and her favourite car was a Chevrolet Corvette of some description, though she often made her in-game money but Yaris racing around a circular circuit over and over again. She also had this system where she’d sort her garage by the amount of miles a car had been driven and rotate out which car she used to try and keep them all in a similar area. Me, I just used cheat codes to get all the cars and took the fastest one out for a few minutes until I got bored.

I don’t typically make time for racing games anymore, until I’m finally in the mood for it, and always forget how much fun I have in them. Whilst I have transitioned into some more realistic racers such as Racedriver GRID, I do still try the odd arcade racer. One somewhat different racing game that I’ve been hooked on for years now is Trackmania 2: Stadium. If you’re interested in it, look up Trackmania Nations Forever, Stadium’s free predecessor which admittedly isn’t all that different. It’s a great game to chill out to when you get the hang of how it works and the general flow of the tracks.

I’m one of the few people who enjoyed the 2012 version of Need for Speed: Most Wanted. The cars didn’t exactly handle the way you’d expect them to, but as somebody who enjoyed Burnout: Paradise and the way the online integration work, Most Wanted (which was made by the same people) was a welcome change for me. I originally owned the game on Playsation Plus, but after I stopped doing that I pretty much gave up on the idea of playing it again until it showed up dirt cheap on Origin one day. In fact, I think I’ll go download it now…

The reason I bring this up in the first place is because I’m currently playing the aforementioned Racedriver: GRID, having wanted to play GRID: Autosport but with the car and team ownership and management that comes with Gran Turismo. (Well, not the team part but you get the idea.) Problem is, I can’t find jack to write about on a specific racing game like GRID. It’s good. The cars go fast. The handling is handleable. The tracks are tracklike and the graphics are a little brown for my liking. There, review done! So I decided to just go on about the genre in general instead. There’s plenty I could say about some particular racing games – such as Road Trip Adventure and RC Revenge Pro – but perhaps I shall do so in future blog posts next time I revisit them.