Mass Effect Andromeda: A Review

Oh boy.  This is a divisive game to be sure.  As a diehard Bioware and Mass Effect fan, I was excited when this game was announced.  My excitement was then magnified when I found out that this game was going to be similar to Dragon Age Inquisition, which behind Mass Effect 2 is my most played Bioware game to date (at 192 total played hours).  Open world exploration?  A story focused around a ragtag band of misfits trying to find a home for their colonies, exploring the unknown and dealing with weird alien threats on weird unique planets in a huge new system?  HELL YEA!

Suffice to say, I was hyped.  I kept it mostly reigned in however, knowing the game could be a total failure.  After 2 aborted attempts to complete this game over the course of 45 hours, I have to say that, for me at least, this is a failure of a game overall.  In fact, this game aggravated me enough that I decided to do a written review for it rather then take the time to record and edit a video.  It honestly doesn’t deserve the time it would take me to create a video review.

But why is that?  What on earth about this game got me to this point?  Let’s break it down into my four categories and discuss it in detail.

And of course, we will start with the visual presentation!

VISUALS

Visually the game is honestly pretty solid.  Texture work in almost every area is great and the environments are well done.  Each planet feels distinct, as does the Nexus and Tempest ships.  Also the armor designs are amazing and some of my favorite sci fi armor in games recently.  They all look pretty solid, although are a bit form fitting and can seem a little odd.  But hey, its Sci Fi.  Also the spell / attack effects and animations are nice and flashy giving a weight to your attacks.  I love hitting a Fire Combo and seeing huge gouts of flame, or casting Singularity at my enemies and watching them flop around.

The Tempest Awaits!

However, things break down in the variety department.  For example, almost every planet has singular environmental theme played out.  Almost every planet is some form of wasteland save Havral, and each one pretty much sticks to type.  You have two desert like planets (one sandy, one rocky/scrubland), one ruined moon, one jungle, and one ice planet.  Further, almost all architecture is similar to each other.  If you have seen one Remnant Base or Kett Facility you honestly have seen them all.  Same with the Initiative’s building style.  Additionally, the character models are somewhat lacking.  There are in fact only three distinct Asari faces in the game for example: Peebee, a corpse on Voeld, and EVERY OTHER ASARI.  That’s a bit insane when you think about it.  Also NPC’s of the Angara and Kett all basically look alike with some coloration differences.  There are about 4 Kett Enemy Types, Remnant gets about 4 types, and it gets noticeable very very quickly.  Variety is the spice of life as they say and this game fails to have enough of it.

AUDIO

One of the best parts for me of the Mass Effect / Dragon Age games has been the music.  I can still remember iconic songs such as the Dawn will Come and Normandy Reborn from these games.  Sadly, the soundtrack of Mass Effect Andromeda falls entirely flat for me.  The theme music on start up might as well not exist its so low key (I had to sit on the menu screen for a while to even notice it) and most of the music is either clearly trying to copy past songs or is just forgettable.

Thankfully the voice acting is pretty solid work.  Favorites of mine are Vetra, Drack, and Jaal.  I adore Jaal’s accent point of fact.  The Ryder twins do an excellent job as well capturing the various tones they use when choosing dialog options and frequently sounding like an unsure person thrust into a position of power.  Sound effects for attacks and weapons are pretty standard, nothing out of the ordinary and nothing exceptional.  Overall the audio design is just average for me.

STORY

This is the single biggest issue I have with the game.  Its story.  First and foremost this is the story of large groups of Humans, Turians, Quarians, Salarians, Asari, and Krogen leaving the Milky Way and going to Andromeda.  You as one of the two Ryder twins, after some events on the very first planet you visit, become the Human Pathfinder, the person responsible for finding the human settlers a new home by exploring uncharted worlds in this brand new galaxy!

Sadly, every single planet you visit in this game has either already been colonized by the Initiative, already has native sentient species living on it (the Angara or Kett), or was colonized by Exiles from the Initiative.  You actually go boldly where EVERYONE has gone before.  You discover nothing unique and the only interesting things you find are the Remnant Vaults, which because of certain events I will not spoil, you are able to interface with and access.  You are essentially the Chosen One but have nothing really to do other then go places and solve everyone else’s problems.  Hell the first planet you get sent to, Eos, was only a failed colony because the Kett attacked it!  If they had not attacked the colony it most likely would have still been inhabited, although struggling due to the toxic environments of Eos.  I mean there is still a human living there when you arrive, willing to sell gear and items to you for some…reason…

The characters are another huge issue.  Nevermind that much of the dialog is really poorly written with such memorable lines as “My face is tired.” which by the way is actually referencing the fact that her face is tired from pretending to smile all the time.  They clearly forgot to add that bit so people would have context.  Further the character themselves are either direct copies of previous characters (Drack is Wrex, Vetra is Garrus, Peebee is Sera, ect) or they are poor one note characters (Liam the Optimist, Cora the Asari Fan Girl who doesn’t Belong, ect).  Also the pacing is way way off.  Nothing major happens for a good 5-6 hours depending on progress, and then progress in the story proceeds at a snail’s pace.  Most of the individual planet storylines are dull and boring, involving you basically finding a Remnant Vault and activating it to magically fix every issue on the planet.

Overall the story just falls flat in every regard, and we don’t even have interesting characters to spend time with.  It’s hard to love a character when all the developers of this game did is carbon copy them from another game, without any idea WHY we loved those characters in the first place.

GAMEPLAY

For many, Gameplay can make or break whether a game is fun to play and sadly Mass Effect Andromeda fails hard here.  This is again a situation of copying previous games without understanding what made them fun.  First, combat is your basic 3rd person action shooter with powers.  The Cover System is actually REALLY good, with you automatically entering and leaving cover just by getting near things that will grant it.  For example, your Nomad will always be a cover option.  It can be a little clunky having to switch which side you will peek out of, but for the most part the Cover system is a fantastic addition.

A Skill upgrade tree

Also I do admit I like the idea of classless character building.  The idea of picking and choosing the powers that best suit my character as I level with distinct upgrade paths for each one is quite fun.  The profile system which is copied from Kingdoms of Amalur is also a welcome addition, granting you bonuses depending on which powers you purchase in which trees.  Powers are divided between Combat, Tech, and Biotic trees with multiple active and passive powers.  Some powers require point investment in a specific tree to unlock, or a specific background to have active from the start.  For example, if you are a Biotic Background, you can buy Singularity from the start, otherwise you must spend points in the Biotic tree to access it.  Additionally, active powers are broken up into Primers and Detonators.  Primers usually put an effect on an enemy, and if you use a Detonator on a primed target you trigger a combo, dealing bonus damage and other effects.

Sadly, you can only ever have 3 active powers equipped at a time.  Unlike previous games which usually let you have 8-10 active powers going, this game limits you.  There is the ability to switch between 4 “Favorite Profiles” which are groups of active and passive powers you can setup beforehand, but switching is clunky (you have to go to the gun / item wheel, then go into the Profiles Wheel, and select one) and once you switch all powers are put on cooldown instantly.  I have no idea why the developers felt the need to limit the system in this way.

While in combat, you also have almost no control over your two squad mates.  Again, in previous Mass Effect and Dragon Age games I could give exact commands to my party members.  Go here, use this power on this target, defend this point, ect.  In Mass Effect Andromeda my control consists of move here, attack that target, defend this point.  That’s it.  I cannot control what attacks my party members use or when they activate their defensive or offensive buffs.  I have to rely on the AI to do that, and I hate that.  Also the AI is none too bright.  I have had Vetra die numerous times for no discernable reason because she decided to go diving into an enemy squad.  Squad Mates are also limited on powers, which is not a terrible thing.  Each Squad Member has 2 active powers unlocked from the start, one you gain after doing their Loyalty Mission, and two passive powers.  Generally you can bank on one primer, one detonator, and a buff of some sort.

Sweet Paintjob on the Not Mako

Exploration is pretty basic.  You run around on large maps that are honestly rather devoid of anything interesting to see, either on foot or driving your Nomad.  The Nomad is a solid addition by the way, what the Mako should have been.  Easy to drive, fun to drive, and with some fun customization options.  Loved painting my Nomad to suit my mood.  As you explore you will use your scanner to collect research points and locate clues and interesting lore bits.  You can also of course find quests, collect loot from treasure chests, and for the first time in a Mass Effect game you can jump and use a Jetpack!  It’s fun for a while but can again be clunky, sometimes trying to get up ledges and make sure you don’t fall right back off.

The scanner is a sticking point for me as well.  You use it to get research points.  You use those Research points to unlock new crafting recipes, because as we all know every RPG needs a crafting system!  Again, it’s a nice idea but its poorly implemented, with hard to navigate menus (really the entire UI is a mess and a chore to navigate with so many nested menus it hurts) and unexplained mechanics.  For example I crafted a pistol that fired grenades.  The only reason I figured out the pistol did this was reading the guns description and flavor text off to the side.  Nothing in the stats explained this thing would fire actual grenades.  Crafting just feels tacked on, like it had to be there.  Although I admit the grenade pistol was badass.  I called it the Saevrick.

Talking about tacked on features like discuss the Strike missions.  Much like the War Table in Dragon Age Inquisition, these are timer based missions you can send squads of NPCs off to do, in the hopes of getting randomized loot.  Sadly, unlike Dragon Age Inquisition, where each War Table mission had story bits with it and felt like it had a place in the world, these are pretty basic.  You send a group off to end some random threat you know nothing about, and hope they succeed.  You can of course do some of the missions yourself in the Multiplayer system with other players if you choose, and it’s basically the Mass Effect 3 Horde mode copied over.  I didn’t bother with the MP because that’s not why I play these games, but I do realize that it was a popular and much loved feature and the few missions I did play were fun enough.

FINAL THOUGHTS

At the end of the day, what I have found with Mass Effect Andromeda is a mechanically competent game that is missing its heart and soul.  The creators of this game (which are not the same people as those behind the original Dragon Age or Mass Effect games) clearly were trying to understand what made the previous games a success and copy that, but failed to understand the reasons why those games were good.  They knew that Wrex and Garrus were popular characters, or that music played a large role in setting the mood, or that Open World Gameplay can be interesting, but failed to realize why each of those things worked in the games they came from.  And the choices made with the actual gameplay such as limiting squad member control and active powers were just dumb.  Its rushed production schedule certainly did not help either, with the game feeling unfinished and multiple people pointing out that the ending didn’t even real feel like an ending.

Personally, I cannot in any way recommend this game at ANY price, even as a stand alone Sci Fi RPG.  Nevermind a Bioware game.  Sadly sales of the game were poor enough that we have basically seen the end of the Mass Effect series for now, and I am alright with this.  Let it sit, let people move on, and hopefully it can come back down the road stronger than ever.

But not as Anthem.  Dear god that’s going to be a terrible Destiny Clone with EA Loot Boxes I can see it now.

At least we have Dragon Age to look forward to.  Lets hope they don’t fuck that up.

Plot Hooks: The Missing Researchers

Hello everyone!  Welcome to my first written “Plot Hooks” article.  I have previously done a few videos using this concept, where I take a simple plot hook and show how you can expand it out to fit your game.  You can see my previous videos, The Terror of Valindale and Stalker in the Woods by clicking these links.

For today, our prompt will be as follows:

Recently, a group of researchers went into the nearby mountains to hunt for a long lost ruin.  None have returned in over a month nor has any word come in from them, and the families are looking for someone to go find them

This is an extremely basic premise.  We have a team of researchers or archaeologist who have gone missing in search of a long lost ruin of some sort.  It could be that their families have gotten together and put out a call for help, or the institution they work for or the guild they work for ect.

Essentially, this basic premise can expand out to a variety of different scenarios.  Firstly, the group could simply have been attacked by bandits or monsters en route to the Ruin and their bodies are laying out in the woods or on the path.  This is perfect for a one shot, where the party has to track the group on their path, find the bodies, and then perhaps exact vengeance on the people who slew them.  Then of course return to the hiring party with the bad news.

You could however get more in depth.  Perhaps they researchers made it to the ruin.  It could be that the ruin is infested with monsters, yet again, for a classic basic dungeon crawl.  The researchers could even have been kept alive and trapped, being used for entertainment.  Basically think 1001 Arabian Nights, only with Kobolds and Scientists instead of cute Arabian Girls and Caliphs.

Another option of course is that the ruin is just a tomb.  The researchers have died trying to get through the guards and traps, and the party needs to go in, make sure all the researchers are alive or dead, and possibly loot the tomb.

My preferred option however is that the ruin is, in fact, a prison for SOMETHING.  A prime example of this setup is the adventure “Breaker of Chains” by Chris Bissette.  You can check it out at the link there, and I will be reviewing it in the future.  Essentially, there is a ruin the party comes across that is actually a prison for a nasty Chain Demon, and after the party plumbs the depths of the Ruin, they accidentally release the being who is understandably pissed off.  Mind you this particular adventure is designed to be lethal.

Now for me, if I was going to use this basic premise here is what I would do.  The ruin is the prison of an ancient and malicious trickster spirit.  Trapped in a gem deep in the ruin, it cannot do anything save for subtly effect the minds of those who enter the ruin.  The researchers entered and were drawn to the room, however the primary defensive measure, a massive sleep spell, knocked them all out and put them into a slow sleeping death.

As the party enters the ruin they would hear a strange scratching noise in their mind.  The farther they went in, the worse it should get.  Have some monsters in there having taken up residence, things with no intellect (undead, and the like).  There should also be constructs that are inactive and appear to be statues.

Once the party reaches the main chamber deep in the ruin, they should see a Crystal sitting on a pedestal like so:

I would then have them make Wisdom saves / Will saves, and anyone who fails are knocked out, asleep.  Those who succeed however must now make a Charisma save.  This should be extremely high, DC 20ish.  Those who succeed on this are fine, but those who fail feel a compulsion to touch the crystal.

And touching the Crystal frees the Spirit, who then reactivates the Ruins defenses as it flees.  However, the instant the Crystal is touched everyone in the room is knocked out for about 10 minutes.  After that, everyone including the sleeping researchers wakes up, and now the party must fight their way through all the constructs and guardians who are now active.

From here on out, every so often, I would have the spirit take humanoid form and interact with the party, sending them on dangerous wild goose chases.  It would follow behind them invisible, watching to see what happens.  And any time the party casters uses detect magic they would detect the spirit who would then run away via dimension door / teleport.  Eventually I would let em catch the creature (repeat interactions with this mysterious being would allow insight checks, ect)

Thats how I would use this simple plot hook to create an entire adventure.  How about you?  What ideas do you have for such a premise?  Please leave a comment below, or let me know on twitter!

Giving the Sorcerer some Love with Bloodline Bonus Spells

So let’s talk Sorcerer’s for a moment.  If you recall, I wrote about the Divine Soul Sorcerer a bit ago and discussed all the options and powers that the subclass gains.  However, after talking a little bit with the mighty Jim Davis (of WebDM fame) and my friends Virus and Saevrick, it occurred to me that the Sorcerer really is missing a bit of oomph.  Also I cannot write a title worth beans.

You see, most pure casters (wizard, cleric, druid) by level 20 will be able to prepare 25 total spells.  20 spells from your level, 5 from your modifier.  However, Sorcerers will only know 15 total, a full 10 less, with no appreciable reason as to why this is.  How do we fix this?  By giving the Sorcerer bloodlines thematic bonus spell lists.

The general idea here was to create a list of 10 spells, with 2 per level from level 1 to level 5 similar to Domains for the Cleric, Bonus Spells for Druids of the Land, and so on.  At the appropriate levels the Sorcerer gains the two listed spells automatically.  Both Jim and Virus assisted me in choosing some of these spells, and when applicable I marked the spells that come out of Xanathar’s guide.  Also the Storm Sorcerer actually HAD bonus spells in UA, but for some reason it was removed from Xanathar’s so I copied that list, and added one extra to it.  Also when choosing bonus spells I went with Theme first, mechanics second so you might notice spells that normally are not on the Sorcerer spell lists on here.

WILD MAGIC BLOODLINE

Let’s start by taking a look at probably the most confusing one: Wild Magic.  This was the list that got the most help from Virus and Jim.  Both of them suggested a few spells that are on here.  The theme I always see with Wild Magic is chaos and madness.  The idea that the magic just flows out, does random things, and causes all sorts of nonsense.  So spells chosen here either modify people or the world in some way, have random effects, or mess with people’s heads.

  • 1st – Chaos Bolt (Xanathar), Hideous Laughter
  • 3rd – Reduce/Enlarge, Blur
  • 5th – Blink, Hunger of Hadar
  • 7th – Polymorph, Confusion
  • 9th – Animate Objects, Synaptic Static (Xanathar)

DRACONIC BLOODLINE

Next up we have Dragon.  Now for this one, rather than creating a list for each blood line, I created a single list and added the caveat that spells that deal damage on this list can only deal damage for the draconic bloodline.  So Gold/Red would deal Fire damage, but White/Silver would deal cold for example.  Everything else was to call back to the idea of what Dragons can typically do such as protecting themselves from energy types, putting Fear into their enemies, locking their enemies down, and so one.  Thanks to Spilled Ale for the suggestion of Thunderwave as well, as it can mimic a Dragons Roar and shove enemies away.

  • 1st – Thunderwave, Cause Fear
  • 3rd – Dragons Breath* (Xanathar), See Invisibility
  • 5th – Fireball*, Protection from Energy
  • 7th – Elemental Bane (Xanathar), Stoneskin
  • 9th – Immolation* (Xanathar), Hold Monster

* Unless you gain this spell from another source, damage dealt by these spells match the damage type associated with your dragon color ie Red/Gold = Fire, Black = Acid, ect

DIVINE SOUL BLOODLINE

Now for Divine we stuck to bonus spells from the Divine Caster classes.  Most of the spells here are found on the Cleric spell list.  The idea here was to stick to type and go with Buffs and Defensive magics.  Most clerics, good or evil, will have these spells ready so it makes sense to have a more “Generic” set of spells that all Divine Souls get access to.  These spells either restore people, call to the gods and spirits, and so on.

  • 1st – Detect Magic, Shield of Faith
  • 3rd -Lesser Restoration, Augury
  • 5th – Daylight, Spirit Guardians
  • 7th – Death Ward, Banishment
  • 9th – Greater Restoration, Mass Cure Wounds

SHADOW BLOODLINE

Shadow has always called out to me as being about misdirection, darkness, and so on.  Jim suggested Animate Dead and I have to agree, and the rest are mostly my idea.  Playing on the idea that Shadow Sorcerers generally want to hide back, instill fear, and mess with their enemies minds.  Mostly, I think Shadow magic calls to Illusion spells so I tried to go with that in theme.

  • 1st – Disguise Self, Silent Image
  • 3rd – Darkness, Silence
  • 5th – Animate Dead, Fear
  • 7th – Greater Invisibility, Arcane Eye
  • 9th – Mislead, Seeming

STORM BLOODLINE

Storm was basically already done in the original Unearthed Arcana article.  However, it only had a single spell listed for its final bonus, so I added Control Winds as that screams Storm to me.  Again, Storm already had some restrictions on its Conjure Minor / Conjure Elemental spells and those stay here as they just make sense.

  • 1st – Fog cloud, Thunderwave
  • 3rd – Gust of wind, Levitate
  • 5th – Call lightning, Sleet storm
  • 7th – Conjure minor elementals*, Ice storm
  • 9th – Conjure elemental**,  Control Winds (Xanathar)

* Unless you gain this spell from another source, you can summon only smoke mephits, steam mephits, ice mephits, or dust mephits with it. 

**Unless you gain this spell from another source, you can summon only air elementals with it

So there you have it, bonus spell lists for each of the Sorcerer Bloodlines that I am aware of, with reasoning behind it.  Let me know if you feel any spells should be switched out and why and how you feel about these.  Hopefully your DM/GM or your Players will appreciate this extra boost to power for the Sorcerer, and put these casters on a more level playing field with their contemporaries.

And no, Metamagic does not make up for 10 less spells.  Just saying.

As always thanks for reading everyone and Stay Nerdy!  Make sure to follow me on TwitchYoutubeTwitter, and join my Steam Group and Steam Curator pages!  Pledge to my Patreon!  Spread the word on social media & help me get out there so I can bring even more content to the masses.  You do want more content yes?

Future Plans, Updates, and More!

EDIT: THE PATRON CHANGES HAVE BEEN CANCELED!  Still doesnt change how much cash I am bring in from it due to what I changed, but still, this will be here now as an Archive of what Patreon tried to do here.

This is going to be a long post so strap yourselves in! This post is part of my whole “Transparency” value, where I make clear my plans going forward and the reasoning behind them.

Its time for a small update to everyone who has been reading my little corner of the net here. Hello readers, how are you doing on this fine day? Or whatever day you are reading this. I do hope its a good day.

First up, I wanna talk Patreon. For those unaware, I do have one. You can find a link at the top of the site as well as over on the sidebar if you care to go look. Currently, Patreon is planning to unleash some changes come 12/18/17 and these changes are quite a major pain in the ass.

Basically, the way Patreon used to work was as follows: You would pledge an amount of money to a creator (lets say $1). The creator would have their Patreon setup to either charge per creation or per month. At the first of the month, you would be charged your pledge (lets again say $1) and then the Creator would get that money after Patreon took 5% and any payment processing fees. Usually the creators got about 65 cents to the dollar. The vast majority of creators as well was fine with this. It makes sense. Customers generally dont pay the fees, the business does. You dont go to Walmart and pay the credit card processing fees for example.

However, the current plan come 12/18 is to change all this. The Creators will still get charged a 5% fee from Patreon, which is how Patreon itself makes its money. However, Supports will now pay a 2.9% + 35 cent fee on EACH pledge they have.

Pledge to 1 person, at $1 a month? Your new monthly bill will be $1.38.
Pledge to 10 people at $1 a month? Its not $10 anymore, its now $13.80.

This is a massive increase and the reaction has been completely negative across the board. I myself used to do “Per Creation”, and those get that fee on EACH creation as well! In essence, Patreon is treating each Creation that a Creator charges for as a new pledge. Normally, for example, if I posted 4 things, a supporter would get charged their pledge 4 times ($1 per creation x 4 creations = $4 at the end of the month). However, now a supporter would get charged their pledge PLUS the fee PER CREATION ($1 per creation + fee = $1.38 x 4 = $5.52).

Massive differences. Because of this, I changed my Patreon to a Per Month charge so my supporters only get charged once for that bloody fee. To be honest its also easier to budget with that change as well for everyone involved.

However, making this changed also did quite the number of my possible income. Originally, I had quite a few Supporters who gave me $1 per creation, but would set the monthly limit to like $5 a month max. This meant as long as I did weekly posts I would get about $4 – $5 a month from them. However, once I switched to monthly Patreon automatically set every one of those pledges to $1 a month flat and many of them have not updated to reflect the change, either because the fee hurts them too much or they just havent realized what happened (despite my multiple notifications). After taking out the 5% fee and my own Support to other creators, I am going to be getting about $35 a month now. Before it was around $70. BIG change.

Still, I dont live on that money, so its not a huge hurt. In fact, I really don’t know what to do with that money most of the time. Admittedly, I created a Patreon back in April 2017 because several people suggested I do so, so they could throw money at me in exchange for the content I was providing, and they have supported me ever since. Along with more.

I love each of my Supporters no matter how much they give. Its why I only have 1 reward tier. I treat every person the same no matter how large or small their support of me is.

Originally when I focused on Video Content the money was going to funnel into PC upgrades, camera upgrades, and new tabletop products. Since I have now switched to MOSTLY written, and I am adding monthly Video Game RPG reviews, the plan for that cash has changed a bit. First up, I need to make sure that I save at least $100 a year from my Patreon funds to cover the cost of Webhosting. That is how much this site + domain name will run me a year, and I aim to keep it. Second, I currently plan to get a game console of some sort to expand my options when it comes to RPG Video Games.

Since I have gotten quite a few contacts in the Tabletop RPG world its become fairly easy for me to get new books, adventures, and products to review. In fact, I got yet another one called Michtim coming to me from a creator which looks like it will be a fun and cute book. I am pretty sure I will never run out of Tabletop stuff to review or talk about, especially since a couple of creators are now just going to be sending me copies of their stuff every time they come up with something new.

So where does that leave the extra Patron money? And thus came the idea of a console for Console Exclusive RPGs.

I have done quite a bit of research and originally had the idea of purchasing either a PS4 Pro, a Nintendo Switch, or a Nintendo New 3DS XL or New 2DS XL. My research focused on RPG Library (Exclusives), and Cost mostly.

The PS4 Pro, after taking a look, went right out the window. Since I am going to be using Patreon funds for this, I had to look at how long it would take to save up for the system and at least one game to get started. The PS4 Pro runs $350-$400 depending on model. Then I would want to get a Capture Device for it, which is another $100. Each game would generally run $40-$60 as well. Additionally, many of the RPGs on here are also found on the PC. The only exclusives I can really think of off hand are Persona 5 and Horizon Zero Dawn. And I would want the PS4 Pro so I could possibly eventually do VR RPGs on it. If you are going to grab a system like this you want to future proof as much as you can.

The Switch was up next but the biggest issue here is simple library. Its too new, and doesn’t have an expansive library. While that MAY change in the future, the fact remains that many of the games that are not Nintendo exclusive may very well appear on PC as well. Plus finding one can be a bit of a chore. On the plus side it is portable and is the newest system, but then I gotta factor in cost. $300 for the system + $60 for each new game. I would also need that $100 capture device for this as well if I wanted to do Video Reviews.

That left the New 3DS XL or New 2DS XL. Cost wise, this is the cheapest option at $150 for the New 2DS and $199 for the new 3DS. After research, there is no difference in hardware between the two beyond lack of 3D on the New 2DS XL. Additionally, being backwards compatiable with many DS Games means the available library of games is massive, and most of them brand new run $40, and drop in price if you get em used. Also the system is portable meaning I can take it with me and play games on breaks and lunch at work which helps speed up playtime. The negative here is that doing video capture of 3DS games is nearly impossible without heavy modifications to the system.

After careful consideration and discussion I have decided to go with a New 2DS XL. So right now, my plan is to save my Patreon funds till I get enough to purchase both a system and a game to go with it (So around $200), and then review that game asap for the site. Sadly it will be a written review rather then video unless I get really creative with camera use (I do have a Camera Arm so its not like I couldnt figure a way to do it) but then again Nintendo HATES video of its products it seems. At least I can take in game Screenshots. I already know what game I am going to grab as well: Xenoblade Chronicles 3D. Its a nice meaty JRPG and should provide quite a bit to talk about, especially since its a port of a Wii game that I dabbled it back when it released. Couldnt stand the Wii controls though (in general I am not a fan of the Wii and its wierd ass controllers)

Finally lets talk about the rest of December and how the blog has been doing. Beyond a spike on the Elex review, which was because I posted links on Reddit, the blog has been doing about what I expected. I am getting around 10-30 views a day, sometimes a few more if I post something, and slowly but surely I seem to be gaining a readership I THINK. Its hard to tell. However, I am not beholden to anything like Youtube and trying to fight for space there, no metrics I have to worry about, so thats a huge load off my mind.

I have had a few guest posts which people seem to enjoy. The Darksun ones by Saevrick seem to be my most popular blog posts in general actually. Tells me that boy should be writing on his own really but for now I will be his host.

Going forward for the rest of December, I have the Mass Effect Andromeda review planned, a Plot Hook post, and a video review of the book Lost Artifacts of Greyghast which is just a singularly massive tome of magic items for 5E. Also my January Game Review is going to be of Okami HD. I wanted something different for the new year, and given that the game released yesterday (and I already have my copy installed!) I was like why not!

So there you have it. A indepth review of how things are going, where they are going, and my current plans going forward. I hope you all enjoy my site. You can find me on twitter by clicking over there in the Sidebar, or just leave a comment here if you feel like chatting.

Oh, and my Discord server is now open to the public. There is still a special super hidden Patron only room, but the rest of you can join, chat, and generally run amuk. Just dont be a dick and we will be fine.

Adapting Your Favorite Fictional Worlds to Tabletop (Guest Post)

This is a guest post by fellow blogger Goluptious Geek.  You can find him on twitter here, and on his own blog right here.  Today he decided to discuss adapating your favorite fiction worlds to your tabletop games!

One of the many frequent pains I experience as a role-player, is the all too common desire that I get to adapt every fictional universe that my group and I fall in love with, that’s even remotely interesting. I would imagine I’m not the only GM that deals with this compulsion on an almost daily basis. While yes it’s true that many popular fictional settings have their own roleplaying games associated with them, many do not. Many of these settings are new, or just haven’t achieved the same mainstream popularity as other properties, but would still make very appealing games. And if we’re being completely honest with ourselves, some of these roleplaying games that are made for specific settings…well, they just suck. So what do you do if you want to play a game in a setting that either doesn’t have its own published roleplaying game rules, or the only one you can find just turned out to be a horrendous pile of garbage? There’s a couple of options for GMs who want to run these types of games.

Universal Game Systems

Universal game systems provide a one size fits all gaming experience for just about anything your heart can dream up. This includes systems like GURPS, whose primary goal is not bring a specific setting or world to tabletop, but rather to give you a set of tools that allow you to create your own worlds, or in the case of this post’s example, adapt one from your favorite storytelling source material.

My group and I have recently taken up the task of adapting the universe presented in the John Wick movies. No, I’m not talking about the John Wick that writes roleplaying games, I’m talking about the movies starring Keanu Reeves. Those who are familiar with these movies, can rightfully criticize that it isn’t exactly the hardest setting to adapt to a roleplaying game. That being said, it was harder than I had originally anticipated. After looking at several options, we decided that GURPS was the best system to emulate the worlds realistic, yet somehow also over the top action sequences with excessive amounts of gun-fu and hyper violence. I know what you’re thinking, “that’s every roleplaying game”. And yes, many groups tend to let this type of mindless action dictate the entirety of their roleplaying games, which there is nothing wrong with. That being said, my group typically doesn’t play this style of game, so it was a bit difficult to find a system that fit exactly how we saw the universe. I’m not saying that universal systems are perfect for every system, only that it’s a wonderful option to consider, if you r goal is to adapt a setting that doesn’t already have its own system. There are other universal systems other than GURPS of course. Among them are games like Savage Worlds, Hero System, and Amber Diceless Roleplaying Game. (Note by TN: I had no idea this existed.  Which is funny given I have read the entire Chronicles of Amber series and reviewed it!)

Tweaking Game Systems for Different Settings

Another option, is taking your favorite roleplaying game, scrubbing all of the lore, and stuffing it full of your own setting, or the setting you want to adapt to the game. This is easier with some settings than it is with others whose systems and rules are directly a product of their world and setting. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but it can sometimes require a bit more effort. For example, a friend of mine is currently in the middle of adapting the system for 4th edition Legend of the Five Rings to an old republic Star Wars game. For those familiar with the L5R roll/keep system, this might seem like a great idea, and I’m almost certain it will be when it’s completed. However, the system for L5R is very much specific to its setting, and the way it was intended to be played. This of course is part of what drew him to it in the first place.

What’s important about this, is that just about any game system can be converted to another setting. In this case, the setting that you feel is lacking a system that is right for your group, or is lacking its own system entirely. Focus one only the equipment and classes that fit your new setting, rename a few races, completely swap out the lore, and suddenly the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying Game can become the world from Game of Thrones. Or Call of Cthulhu can become the world of The Walking Dead.

Basically, if you want to run game in a setting that doesn’t have a dedicated game system, or the only one you can find is trash, there’s a way to do it. Universal game systems can allow you to take a vague tool kit, and fine tune it into whatever setting you might like it to be. If that doesn’t fit your style, you can just strip down your favorite game or system, and make it into the universe you wish to portray at the gaming table. Personally, I would almost always prefer to use a universal system, rather than trying to shoehorn my own twisted demands into a game system that was not designed to provide the type of world that I’m asking for, but I have done it before with rather decent success. Do you have a fictional setting you’d like to adapt to a roleplaying game, or one that you have already? Some of the worlds and source materials I’s still like to see great RPG adaptions for are Harry Potter, Full Metal Alchemist, and Star Trek (the published ones suck guys, they’re just awful). Tell me some of yours on Twitter! Tweet the settings you would like to play at the table @Goluptiousgeek.

-Goluptious Geek

Pathology: The Divine Soul Sorcerer – Not Your Daddies Favored Soul!

Welcome to the first entry to my Pathology series, where I take on a DnD Class Path and break down its features and ideas for building a character using it.  Xanathar’s Guide is out now, and thanks to one of my friends (again, thanks Saevrick!) I now have my own copy.  I was browsing through it and fully intend to give it a full on review but I ran across a new “Path” option for Sorcerers that I had to talk about: The Divine Soul.  The best way to think of these are Sorcerers whose power comes from divine ancestors.  Imagine a child of Zeus’s bloodline and you get the idea here.

Firstly, this is a new Sorcerer bloodline available at level one and its primary function is to give the Sorcerer class access to the full range of Clerical Magic, essentially making an amazing support character.  Given the Sorcerer’s access to Meta Magic, this blend is an amazing option for those of us who want to play true support styled characters.  Lets talk about what the Divine Soul gets access to in addition to a normal Sorcerer, and the kind of things you can pull off using this Bloodline.

Level 1 Abilities:

At level 1 the Divine Soul gains the ability to learn spells from the Cleric Spell list.  Basically whenever you would gain access to a new known spell, you can choose from any available Cleric OR Sorcerer spells.  Now you don’t get more spells known so you are still limited in what you will have access to (15 total spells by level 20) but you now have a much broader base to choose from.  Additionally, you choose which kind of Divine blood you hold, giving you an extra spell known.  Good gets Cure Wounds, Evil gets Inflict Wounds, Law gets Bless, Chaos gets Bane, and Neutral gets Protection from Good and Evil.  This is not based on your alignment either.  A LG Divine Soul can have “Evil” blood and start with Inflict Wounds as an example.

You also gain Favored by the Gods, which lets you (once per short/long rest) to roll 2d4 when you fail a save or miss an attack and add it to your die roll.  This can prevent near misses and help you not miss those important rolls!

Level 6 Abilities:

At level 6 you get Empowered Healing which is honestly an amazing support ability.  Whenever you OR AN ALLY WITHIN 5 FEET! rolls dice to determine total hit points healed, you can spend a sorcery point to reroll any number of those dice once, assuming you are not incapacitated.  You can only do this once per turn but honestly, this prevents low healing rolls on clutch heals and effects you and any healer within 5 feet.  That’s amazing.

Level 14 Abilities:

You get wings.  Period.  You can use a bonus action to bring them into existence and gain a fly speed of 30ft.  They last until you die, are incapacitated, or you dismiss them.  Seriously, you just get straight up wings.  They also change appearance based on your bloodline (angel wings for law/good, devil wings for chaos/evil, dragonfly for neutral.  These are on use with no limit either which is hilarious.

Level 18 Abilities:

One per long rest when you are at less then half HP remaining you can (as a bonus action) recover a number of hit points equal to half your max.  So good luck taking the Divine Soul down.

Now reading over this you can clearly see that the Divine Soul sorcerer is built to be an off healer and support character.  The ability to select from two full spell lists, plus the bonuses to healing and mobility, grant a Divine Soul sorcerer the ability to get where they need and help those who need it.  These abilities are in addition to the normal Sorcerer tricks such as Meta Magic and Font of Sorcery.  So why should you play a Divine Soul instead of the other options?

For me it comes down to Meta magic and the ability to recover spell slots as well as versatility.  This is honest to go my perfect class combination.  If I were to build one, here is what I would do.

First, I would choose the Good bloodline, giving me Cure Wounds.  Since spells scale based on spell slot used this gives me a solid healing spell no matter what level I am.  I would then choose my two level 1 spells and 4 cantrips, and given that I would be in a support role first instead of a damage role, I would most likely go with this spread (and you can choose both cleric AND sorcerer spells for this)

  1. Cantrips: Spare the Dying, Fire Bolt, Mending, Acid Splash
  2. 1st Level: Bless, Chromatic Orb

The reasons for these spells are pretty simple.  Spare the Dying should be on any support caster who can have it as it will simply stop any death saves on touch.  Fire Bolt and Acid Splash give you two different damage options at range (one single target, one multi target) with two different elemental types.  Mending is actually super useful and can repair all sorts of things.  I even repaired magical plate mail with it although it takes time.

For the first level spells since you already have Cure Wounds, you take Bless to give your party a boost for a while, and Chromatic Orb gives you a flexible damage spell allowing you to pick and chose the elemental type you hit with it, hopefully exploiting a weakness.

From here its all up to you.  At 3rd level you get two Metamagic options.  Good ones to think about are Distant Spell (turn Cure Wounds into a 30ft Range Spell), Twin Spell (hit 2 people with many of your spells), and Empowered Spell (Reroll them damage dice!).  If it were me, I would take Distant and Twinned.  Hitting 2 targets with Cure Wounds or Chromatic Orb is beuno.

Personally I would most likely split my spell selection between buffs (Haste is a MUST in this setup) and damage abilities.  If you find yourself getting into melee or being targeted for example, Spirit Guardians would be an excellent choice.  Heal with Twinned Spell is a scary option at later levels, or Harm with Twinned or Empowered as well.  In fact, you will most likely want to spend your limited known spells on utility first and damage second.  Mage Armor (if you have Barbarian’s / Monks in the party), Dispel Magic, Counterspell, Death Ward, Mass Cure Wounds, Time Stop, and so on.  Mixing any of these effects with your meta magic can be amazing as well.

The Divine Soul Sorcerer: An excellent Healer and Support caster for your next character.  Be aware that a Sorcerer is not a ritual caster as well, meaning that you cannot cast spells for no cost.  Leave those to the Clerics, Druids, and Wizards in general.  Here are some spells that I personally suggest you take a look at if you are building a Divine Soul Sorcerer.  These are my own personal preferences of course.  You could take the Ritual Caster feat to get around this, and I have done this and it is incredibly useful, but it does cost an Attribute Increase so keep that in mind.  Also your DM needs to allow feats (they are OPTIONAL after all!)

Suggested Spells Per Level

  • 1st Level: Mage Armor, Bless, Bane, Chromatic Orb, Guiding Bolt
  • 2nd Level: Spiritual Weapon, Enlarge / Reduce, Shatter, Warding Bond,
  • 3rd Level: Fireball, Haste, Dispel Magic, Counterspell, Fly, Stinking Cloud, Mass Healing Word
  • 4th Level: Death Ward, Polymorph, Stoneskin, Dimension Door, Guardian of Faith, Stone Shape
  • 5th Level: Mass Cure Wounds, Greater Restoration, Cloudkill, Animate Dead
  • 6th Level: Heal, Sunbeam, Disintegrate
  • 7th Level: Finger of Death, Plane Shift, Teleport
  • 8th Level: Dominate Monster, Earthquake
  • 9th Level: Time Stop, Meteor Storm, Wish, Mass Heal

EDIT: Recently I posted an article giving all the Sorcerer Bloodlines, including our friend the Divine Soul, Bonus Spell lists!  Check it out here.

If you are looking for more Path breakdowns, feel free to check out my “Pathology” tag here on my blog for more posts!

As always thanks for reading everyone and Stay Nerdy!  Make sure to follow me on TwitchYoutubeTwitter, and join my Steam Group and Steam Curator pages!  Pledge to my Patreon!  Spread the word on social media & help me get out there so I can bring even more content to the masses.  You do want more content yes?

Final Fantasy Brave Exivus is better then it has any right to be.

I am going to preface this review / overview with the following: I am not a mobile gamer. I have owned at least one version of every game boy through the ages, a PSP and PS Vita at different points in my life. I always end up getting rid of them. Phone screens have always been a tad small for my massive hands AND most regular mobile games are nothing more then cash grabs and have no soul.

A month ago, I finally decided to try Final Fantasy Brave Exivus. I was looking for something to amuse myself on breaks mostly and had heard good things about this one. Apparently, or so people claimed, it was a full on Final Fantasy game with story mode, fair “Gacha” mechanics, and solid art.  All images in this post are from a fellow FFBE Discord User, Clifor.  Thanks man!

They were right.

FFBE (as I will call it from now on) is just that. A full on 16 bit SNES styled JRPG. It has a full story mode that is still being updated and expanded (season 2 part 1 just got released on the Global side about 2 weeks ago from the date of this post), full FF styled turned based combat with equipment, abilities, materia, and limit breaks, and some of the fairest cash shop / free to play mechanics I have seen in these sorts of games.

Lets break it down a bit and explain just what this game is all about.

Your Party Awaits!

First and foremost this is a Gacha game. These are games that are very similar to those sort of machines where you stick a quarter in and get a random toy. Basically the first loot boxes. Yes, I know how people feel about loot boxes. I dont mind em in Free to Play games but hate em in full priced games.

In this case, the Gacha rewards are new characters. While you start the game with 2 free party members and get a 3rd unit (Ludimille) for free, further units are obtained either via the story OR the Crystal system. Crystals cost 500 of the games premium currency (Lapis) for 1, or 5000 Lapis for 11 (1 bonus one). You can also get one “pull” of a Crystal of minimum Blue quality for 250 lapis each day. They come in different rarities and power levels as well, from White crystals (containing 1 to 2 star base units), blue crystals (3 star base), gold crystals (4 star base) and rainbow crystals (5s base). Many units can also be upgraded to 6 stars. Most crystals are going to be Blue rarity at least if you use Lapis. You can also earn friend points to buy Crystals but those can be any 1 to 3 star rarity unit.

You might looking at that and going “Well how does one get Lapis?”. Surprisingly, you get Lapis from completely story quests, optional objectives, events, raids, and daily quests. Its quite generous in fact. You can of course also bust out your credit card and purchase Lapis as well should you choose. Most story missions give you 20 lapis for completing them, completely an entire Story Stage (usually 3-6 mission groups) will grant 100 Lapis, you can also get 100 Lapis for Ranking Up your account. Also each story has 3 Optional Objectives giving 10 Lapis a piece as well.

Also the game gives you Summon Tickets pretty often from events, and you can save those and buy new random units as well. I have been playing a month and have saved 52 Summon Tickets at the moment, for example.

Now, these units are a mix of characters both unique to the FFBE World AND a variety of Final Fantasy games. You can get Noctis from FF15, Kefka from FF6, Agrias or Ramza from FF Tactics and so one or some unique FFBE ones like Luka, Rain, Aileen, and Laswell. Each one has unique abilities that make sense for their characters, a full complement of spells and abilities that are either directly from their games or Final Fantasy in general, as well as limit breaks.  Personal favorite of mine is Agrias’ limit break Statis Sword.  It even comes complete with the animation from the game where she says “Life is Short, BURY STASIS SWORD!” complete in a text box that looks lifted from Tactics.  When I first saw that I giggled hard.

As far as what you can do with these characters, well, you form em into parties and go on adventures and complete events, raids, trials, compete in the Arena, and face off in the Coliseum.

Its a big world out there

First you have the Story mode, which includes Story Stages and Exploration Missions, as well as actual cities and towns. What surprised me is that the Cities are fully explorable just like a regular final fantasy. I run around, visit townspeople, pick up sidequests, locate secrets, and even visit shops to purchase gear, materia, and items.

During normal gameplay you will either be in a Stage Battle, or an Exploration Zone. Stage battles are literally groups of fights, ranging from 2-5 consecutive battles against groups of enemies. Your team is fully healed / reset between each round. Most normal story events will be these battles, with sometimes the characters having dialog before the fight starts.

Exploration Zones are bonus areas where you can go in and, much like the Towns, walk around, find secrets, complete your side quests, grind some Gil or Experience (these are capped to a point in each exploration) and so on. Not every Stage has an exploration attached to it.

During combat each character in your 5 man team can take a variety of actions. Yes, you have full control here. Your party can: Use an Ability or Limit Break, Use an Item, Defend, Attack, Summon an Esper. Oh, yea we got full on summons here as well with awesome animated cutscenes. You only get one summon in the story (Siren) and actually have to go out and hunt down the others in the world.

You will also get full on story cutscenes at certain points with dialog between the main story characters. There are a few emotional moments I have run into which surprised me, although the writing at times is a little rough.

Outside of combat you can equip your party (each character can wear a full complement of gear and has space for 4 materia at max level usually), partake in the Arena or Colessium, or do events. There is a metric ton to do in this game.

How does it limit you? With an Energy system.

Grind for the Best Gear to get the Best Stats!

Every event you want to do will either take a unique currency (Raids usually have Raid Orbs, the Arena/Colo share Arena Orbs, ect) or they will take NRG. Early on you will constantly get overfilled with Energy, and until Account Rank 8 you actually dont spend energy on anything you do. Once you hit Rank 8 however you start having to pay energy to complete story stages, event missions, and so on. Every time you gain a Rank however your energy is refilled fully (and can go above your max limit) and you gain +1 to your max energy. I am at Rank 43 and have a max of 83 NRG points (you start at 40). Energy refills naturally at the rate of 1 point every 5 minutes. You can also spend 100 Lapis to refill fully if you are really wanting to get certain things done.

What really has grabbed me here is just the way everything is put together. I have a ton of units now (55 by last count) and while I only have 3 5s base units (Loren, Mercenary Ramza, and Aileen) I have had plenty of success using the stuff I have gained. The friend system (where you can borrow friend units to fill in a 6th spot) are excellent and people are super nice on the Reddit / Discord with helping new players. I have gotten a few carries from these folks in fact to help me get through tough events and get phat loot.

The fact that I can customize a party to my liking, with characters I like, and get a full on story without having to spend money unless I want to is excellent. The presentation here is also amazing. Sprites are super detailed, when you upgrade a unit their appearance changes to reflect the upgrade and they get flashier, and attacks, spells, and especially summons are all really well done. Combat is also as basic or as deep as you want it to be. You can simply spam abilities to get through things, but for the harder events and trials you will need to develop strats with the units at your call, make sure you cover things like Breaks, Elemental Weaknesses, and Buffs/Debuffs, and even learn the fine art of Chaining (Combo Attacks).  Nevermind doing things like farming for Trust Master Rewards (each unique has a unique reward you can earn if you max out their Trust meter).

Combat View.  You just swipe to change actions.

This is a crazy package that you can play for nothing and if you are looking for a great time waster that you can sink your teeth into, and have a deep love of the old 16bit Final Fantasy Games, I would seriously urge you to check this game out. Be warned however that you can end up spending a lot of money if you are not careful or get addicted, although plenty of people take the time to farm and are able to earn quite a bit without spending a dime.  The more you put in the more you will get out of the game overall.

Also, a units starting base in Stars dictates how strong it will be at the end.  5 star bases tend to be the strongest in the game, but there are plenty of 3 and 4 stars who can hang at the top of the heap with the big dogs.

One additional note (thanks Wil Sterling) is that Power Creep is a real thing in this game.  The longer the game has gone on the more stuff has been added and the more powerful things have become.  Long time players frequently have issues with some of the very high end / end game stuff, but casual players will basically never run out of things to do simply because of all the constant additions.  The game also rotates new units fairly regularly, usually with new banners / groups every week.

Thanks for reading, and Stay Nerdy!

If you wanna grab the game check it out at the following links:

Google Play

IOS

Oh and as a side note?  The music is phenomenal and I want the soundtrack.  No joke.