TN’s Indie Impressions – Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

Koji Igarashi is the creator and progenitor of the Metroidvania genre, all thanks to his original creation Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. However, Konami didnt want to fund another one of those, so Iga just said screw it, and made his own new world. That world, and game, is Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. Is this the SOTN successor everyone wanted?

Well, lets see how it stacks up!

This was January’s Patreon Choice Voted Game!

And always remember…STAY NERDY!

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night on Steam – https://store.steampowered.com/app/692850/Bloodstained_Ritual_of_the_Night/

This Indie Impressions video is also now available in Podcast / Audio form! See the links below to listen and subscribe!

TN’s Indie Impressions – Mythic Ocean

A quick dip into a vast ocean….with coral reefs, cute fish, and even a few divine beings who might have to create a whole new universe. And who will help define that universe?

You. Thats who. Welcome to the Mythic Ocean, an exploration / Visual Novel game all about creating new worlds.

Lutra is best Larva. I will hear nothing to the contrary.

And always remember…STAY NERDY!

Mythic Ocean on Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/814360/Mythic_Ocean/

And always remember…STAY NERDY!

This Indie Impressions video is also now available in Podcast / Audio form! See the links below to listen and subscribe!

Book Review – United States of Japan & Mecha Samurai Empire by Peter Tieryas

A new book review?  On two books at once?!  What madness is this!  But yes, dear readers, it’s time for me to bust out my reading cap this year and get back in the swing of things.  I posted on my Goodreads Profile that I was going to be trying to read at least 26 books this year (one every two weeks) and after seeing a tweet posted by WriteLeeWrite on twitter that posted some book titles I knew I had to check one (Mecha Samurai Empire, specifically).  Also can I just say I am proud of my 2019 Challenge Results?

Imagine my surprise when I found out it was part of a loose series and there was a book called United States of Japan set before that, and an upcoming book called Cyber Shogun Revolution.  The author Peter Tieryas did confirm on twitter that while these three books are set in the same universe they are not really connected narratively.  But I will get into that.  Let’s talk about these two books!

United States of Japan

The basic premise of this book (And really the series) is that the Allies lost WW2.  America has been effectively split in half between Japan and Nazi Germany.  The East Coast belongs to the Nazi’s, the West, the Japanese Empire.  The book opens with the final moments of the war coming to a close and a bunch of Japanese Internment camps being freed by the Imperial Army.

From there the book fast forwards to the 80s, and we meet our protagonist Beniko aka Ben.  He is head of the Office of Gaming Censor and a Captain in the Imperial Army, where he basically has to monitor all the “poritcal” games (cell phones, basically) and make sure there are no thought crimes or dissent happening.  He is quickly shown to be pretty blasé about most things, a sort of go with the flow character, but he does show some irritation about certain events like being passed over for promotion and the like in the military.

However, things change for him after he gets a mysterious phone call from an old general he knows asking him to give his (The generals) daughter a proper Christian burial rather than a standard Japanese / Shinto one.  This call ends up getting Ben mixed up in a strange case headed by the Tokko, the empires Secret police, involving terrorists calling themselves the George Washingtons who are somehow distributing a portical game where the US won WW2 rather than the Japanese.  From there, Ben and the Tokko Agent Akiko dive into the underworld of The USJ to determine who created the game, its purpose, and along the way uncover dark secrets about the Empire.

There is a lot going on here, and the themes of the book deal with honor, resistance, race, loyalty, and so much more.  It’s very political, and has some disturbing bits involving graphic depictions of torture which I did not expect.  Peter clearly knows what he is talking about however, and he doesn’t glorify ANY of the atrocities that occur in his world on any side.  The idea of a police state, with heavy monitoring and thought crimes being dealt with (and with only one outcome generally) show a bleak possibility of our own future.  This book is kinda like the Bourne movies in a lot of ways, now that I think about it.  High stakes espionage and mysteries abound.

The twists and turns do not let up and I could not put the book down, with new revelations about the characters and their pasts coming at just the right moments to make you go “WHAT!  OH THAT EXPLAINS IT!”.  The ideas presented with futurized tech in the 80s are also fascinating to me.  If you are a fan of alternate history and sci fi, well you should read this.  It’s very much a “crime thriller” styled book, so keep that in mind.  Frankly I don’t want to say too much more as a great deal of my enjoyment from the book was the mystery and world building.  Akiko, as a character, took a little while to grow on me but she eventually did, and Ben was just a trip to learn about as the book progressed, especially as his personal history was slowly revealed.  The ending was bittersweet and a bit abrupt, but overall a solid finale.

Within 24 hours of purchasing this book I finished it, and was instantly wanting to jump to the second book, Mecha Samurai Empire.  So I did.

Mecha Samurai Empire

Set this time in the 90s, and about 10 years after the events of United States of Japan, Mecha Samurai Empire is the story of Makoto, aka Mac, and his dream of becoming a world class Mecha Pilot.  This is a VERY different book from the last one.  First, its told in a first person rather than third person perspective.  We see the world from Mac’s point of view, and we see his life from his high school days right up to him achieving his goals and the results of all his hard work paid off.

It opens with Mac seemingly giving the readers a tour of his life.  He likes to go to the Arcade with his best friend and spend his time playing portical games.  Mac is a War Orphan, his parents killed in the 2nd San Diego conflict (Which we see the beginnings of at the tail end of USJ), and the government had assigned him a foster family and has been paying for his schooling.  His goal, his dream, is to become a Mecha Pilot and get into BEMA.  However, we are also shown that he is a rather average student as far as his studies go, and while he is solid at the simulations and games he really isn’t suited, at least as far as his school is concerned, to be a Mecha Pilot.

After events take place during his High School his life gets much more complicated, and we follow him as he works his way through his life to eventually becoming a Mecha Pilot.  We learn more about his history, secrets about his parents are revealed, and we get to see him interact with lots of interesting characters.

As a character, Mac is interesting.  He has a goal and a singular focus on that goal, and his life does not make that an easy thing to achieve.  You cheer for him as he struggles against all odds, against a system that seems dead set to prevent him from achieving his goals.  We see how war orphans are treated in the USJ and the sorts of things that are still taking place even if the timeline has advanced.  We also run into characters from the first book, who interact with Mac and take an interest in him.

Further, the background plot of the book deals with a new terrorist organization called NARA as well as rising tensions with the Nazi Germany half of the world.  Eventually this plot is brought front and center and Mac has to deal with old friends and issues that occurred in his life earlier in the book.  The climactic battle is a full on assault by the Nazi’s with their horrible Biomechs (Which are fully explained and let me tell you, its messed up!) against Mac and his friends, set in the city of Berkley.

A big part of this book, obviously, are Mecha.  The depictions of their combat, the various types of Mecha that USJ uses, and the pomp and circumstance around the Pilots are excellent.  A high point of the book for me is the BEMA Mecha Tournament that occurs about 60% of the way into the book.  Watching Mac cut loose and show just how good of a natural pilot he is was awesome, as was seeing how he handled the various opponents.  Also, later on there is a ton of video game references that had me laughing.  Double Dragon, Chrono Trigger, and Mega Man 2 are all referenced as well as some other stuff like Godzilla and Anime.  Also the nature of the ending sequence and the team make me think of Super Sentai shows.  And the ending, this time, was on a more positive note, even given the nature of the final battle and all that takes place.  Mac’s journey was, in the end, worth it.

Overall Thoughts

 Both books are very well written, but I preferred Mecha Samurai Empire overall.  The style of the book, its focus more on a single character and that characters journey, and the plot and ending make it the better of the two.  However, I strongly suggest if you are interested in this series to read the first book first.  While in truth the two novels are not directly connected plot wise, the fact that characters from Book 1 show up and play a major role in Book 2, plus the fact that Book 1 really holds the worlds backstory, makes it almost needed reading in my opinion.

There is also a third book on the way titled “Cyber Shogun Revolution” that is due out  3/3/2020 and may already be out by the time you find this dear reader.  Given how much fun and enjoyment I got out of these previous books I am most assuredly going to pick that up, and possibly update this review with it once I have read it.

You can pick up both these books on Amazon, and if you are a fan of Anime, Mecha, Sci Fi, and Thrilling adventure, I strongly urge you give these a shot.

The USJ Series on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07T3HSM91?ref_=series_rw_dp_labf

TN’s Indie Impressions – Battlechasers: Nightwar

What person is mad enough to combine american style comic art with a japanese styled RPG? Why, Joe Mad of course! Taking place in the Battlechasers comic universe, Nightwar is a standlone story following Gully and her friends as they explore a mysterious island. On basically every platform available now, is Nightwar worth your time if you are a RPG fan?

Take a look and listen as I explore the fantastic world of Battlechasers: Nightwar, today on Indie Impressions!

Battlechasers: Nightwar on Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/451020/Battle_Chasers_Nightwar/

And always remember…STAY NERDY!

Path of Exile: Metamorph League & Conquerors of the Atlas Impressions

Hello everyone and happy holidays! I say that because I am writing this a few days before Christmas so I feel that it is something I can put here. Depending on when you read this, that may or may not apply.

No matter.

After about 40 hours of the new league and endgame, I felt I was ready to talk about both the 3.9 Metamorph League mechanics, as well as the new “Conquerors of the Atlas” endgame storyline that has been added to Path of Exile. Please be aware there will be some lore spoilers in this article about the Conquerors, because of how the storyline of POE has advanced.

To make things easier, I am gonna start with my thoughts on Metamorph, which is the current Temp League at the time of writing (And honestly, I think it’s going to go into the Core game so what I say here should apply to that as well.)

For reference, I started this league as an Artillery Ballista Chieftain, but ended up respeccing to an Armageddon Brand Chieftain. You can view my character here on my POE Profile. Mr Torgue San is the one used for the Metamorph League.

The Metamorph League Impressions

This time around our Exiles run into a man named Tane Octavius, an Alchemist in search of the “intrinsic darkness” inside of all the beings of Wraeclast and Oriath. You see, Tane did something horrible to his old master and, like anyone who did a bad thing, was banished from Oriath to Wraeclast (cause that is what keeps happening) and is now trying to figure out why he did the bad thing.

And how are we Exiles going to help him? But killing hundreds of enemies, taking out their eyes, hearts, livers, brains, and lungs and combining them in his giant Alchemy Doohickey (very technical term here) to create a horrible amalgamation of terrors that we then murder for the phat loots. You will first encounter him in the very first area past Lionseye Watch, and he shows up in basically every zone after that for the league. I imagine after the league is over, if it goes Core, he will show up in Maps much like Cassia does from the Blight League.

And honestly, I hope Tane does because despite the Metamorphs you create sometimes being insanely dangerous, they are a ton of fun and very rewarding.

The basic idea is that you clear out an area or Map of any and all enemies. Ones that can drop body parts appear on your mini map and are marked by a glowing green arrow like object. Prior to a patch you had to pick up the Organs but thankfully now you just automatically grab them. If the area contains a unique boss or Act boss, those will frequently drop an Organ as well. Organs can come in all 4 rarities (White, Blue. Yellow, Orange) and can contain modifiers that both provide attacks to the Metamorph, add new modifiers like Crit Chance or Fire Damage, and also influence what it can drop. Here are some examples of the various kinds of rarities and modifiers you can encounter as well as the Construction interface:

Once you have at least one organ of each type, you can use them to create your boss. If you completely collect EVERY available Organ Tane will automatically appear, but otherwise you simply click on the little button in the lower right to spawn him (that button only appears if you have at least one organ). Organs do NOT persist across maps. Each map has its own set of organs, and if the map resets you lose any progress so keep that in mind.

Now, as you put organs into the interface, the bar on the right hand side will increase. This increases the Metamorphs overall HP, Damage, and drop chance. Prior to the Map system (Endgame) this bar will not really do anything other than that. But, once you get into the Map system and start killing Metamorphs in Maps, filling that bar to the top has an added function: Creating a unique Organ Item. These items are actual drops that you pick up and if you get enough, you can take them to Tane’s lab to build a Super Boss. These bosses can drop all sorts of insane rewards. Here is an example of a Unique Organ you can find (they are of course random)

Now, keep in mind that you will want to pay attention to the modifiers on these organs. Every instance of a single modifier stacks and things can get VERY dangerous very quickly. I have been one shotted numerous times by bad combinations, and at one point I wasn’t paying attention, stacked Life Regen on the Metamorph, and literally could not out damage its health regen. I ended up running away.

A new drop type, Catalysts, were also added in this league. These allow you to add Quality to your rings and amulets, which can affect their stats as well. This is the only way to quality these items currently. I have only gotten a single Catalyst so I don’t have much to add here. There are also a few new unique items but nothing that really stands out to me.

Overall, I actually really enjoy the Metamorph league. It rewards you for cleaning out areas, lets you get insane drops early one if you are lucky, and can be as challenging as you want it to be. And at no point is it required to do. You can interact with it as much or as little as you want.

Now let’s talk about the new Endgame for Path of Exile: Conquerors of the Atlas! Again, there will be some spoilers here for how this plays into everything, and some theories from me as well.

The New Endgame Storyline & Atlas: Conquerors of the Atlas Impressions

To understand the new story, especially if you are just coming into the game, I need to explain the general plot of Path of Exile as a whole. So, again, there will be spoilers here!

Path of Exile started originally telling the story of 7 Exiles, who were banished for different crimes to the continent of Wraeclast from a place called Oriath. They started by simply trying to help their fellow exiles survive the harsh world of Wraeclast before stumbling upon a plot by the Templar Order to do something involving these mystical Virtue Gems. Eventually the Exile (you) ends up finding out there is a horrible demonic beast creature that is the source of these gems, and an ancient mystic from the Vaal empire lives inside of it. So you go into the creature and kill the entity called Malachai, thus ending the source of the Corruption.

That was the original game. Then GGG added acts 5 thru 10, which followed your Exile going back to Oriath and killing the head of the Templar Order, which accidentally frees an ancient god of Consumption and Hunger named Kitava, as well as all sorts of Major and Minor gods from antiquitiy. This is NOT GOOD, and you run back to Wraeclast to avoid Kitava and help correct the problems that you yourself created by waking Kitava up. This involves you going around and killing a bunch of ancient gods and seeing how the world changed between the fight with Malachai and the awakening of Kitava (because you sail back to Wraeclast and that takes time vs how you get back to Oriath). Upon defeating Kitava at the end of Act 10, the Endgame Storyline begins, and here is where the change was made.

Originally, you met Zana, who introduces you to the Atlas of Worlds and the Map device, and asks for your help in searching for her lost father within the worlds of the Atlas. You encounter the Shaper, and then the Elder, and a war breaks out between them with you caught in the middle. The finale of that storyline involves the Elder corrupting the Shaper (Who was Zana’s father) and you facing both at the same time, and banishing the Elder back to where ever it comes from and destroying the Shaper.

However, Conquerors of the Atlas now advances the timeline and changes things.

First and foremost, I want to say that I am fairly certain that Conquerors is the way things have gone PRIOR TO Path of Exile 2, as its already been stated that the events of POE 2 will be roughly 20 years after the fall of Kitava at the end of POE 1. Knowing that, the events of Conquerors will make a lot more sense.

Currently, in Conquerors, we meet Officer Kirac after killing Kitava, who asks for our exiles help in locating his missing brother Baran. Baran you see fell in with a terrorist / extremist named Zana (What!) and has been missing for a long time. You follow Kirac in raiding a few new locations in order to build a new map device, and once you do Kirac begins to help you explore a new revamped Atlas.

After progressing far enough (you can learn exactly how by watching this handy video by ZiggyD) you will encounter Zana. She explains that she and a team of 5 Exiles went into the Atlas, and fought and defeated the Shaper and Elder. However, the exiles who went with her kept going back into the Atlas in search of power, and slowly it became apparent to Zana that the Atlas ITSELF was Corrupting those who entered it. Eventually the five exiles broke up and in fear, Zana trapped herself and the five of them inside the Atlas and waited for death.

And then our happy ass with Kirac came along and opened the Atlas back up, and now Zana is worried that the ultra powerful Conquerors will escape back into Wraeclast and Oriath and take over. She asks for our help in finding and defeating the 5 exiles to save the world.

From here it’s all about chasing down the Conquerors and fighting them to eventually face off against the new “Shaper” tier endgame boss. I have managed to face down and kill 2 Conquerors, which given that in previous leagues I have never fought a single Elder, Shaper, or Guardian of either is really awesome. The Conquerors feel more human, and they are much more interactive in my view then Shaper or Elder. You always fight Baran first, and the fight against him and how the interactions work is very fascinating. The second Conqueror I took on was The Hunter, and he was a pain in the rear during the “Taunt” phase, which is where you are chasing them.

The way the new Atlas works does take some getting used to, and understanding how the Watch Stones (Which you get after each of the 4 basic Conqueror fights) work is paramount to understanding how to progress in the map system. Also, I feel it’s a little odd to add in what is clearly Storyline progression into the game when the other events (namely whatever starts POE 2) have not occurred, as it feels a little strange to do the same original 10 acts up to the end, and then suddenly have a time jump to the new Atlas.

Mechanically you now go from the inside of the Atlas outward. There are now 8 regions specifically (4 inner, 4 outer) to explore, and you can socket 4 Watchstones into each of the 8 regions. Socketing Watchstones increases the base Tier of the maps in that region, however from what I can tell existing maps that dropped for those (say the Pier or Beach) will STAY at the tier they originally dropped at. So if you upgrade one of the inner regions once, the first map will now drop at Tier 5, but the ones you already got of that map are still the lower tier variants. However, this new aspect of upgrading means that eventually all maps on the Atlas will be the max Tier, and this will mean you can essentially run the maps you want and still feel rewarded, assuming they drop.

And the drops can STILL be an issue. I have 2 inner regions where I have only EVER Gotten the starter map to drop, and never any connecting ones. This makes progression to the outer corners (which connect to the inner regions) more difficult. Here is a screenshot of my Atlas, and you can see that the bottom half is barely progressed, despite my best efforts at getting map drops for those bottom regions.

Overall the storyline progression however, the new bosses, and the new changes to how the Atlas functions are very welcome. For a casual player like myself even being able to engage and face off with the “Starter” Conquerors is welcome, as it makes me feel like I am actually getting somewhere in the game rather than spinning my wheels.

Another major change, by the way, is how the Master Mission system works. Prior to Conquerors, the Master Missions (Niko, Alva, Zana, Jun, and Einhar) would spawn randomly on your maps. If you had a map in your stash or inventory that matched where they were, you could run it and do their mission. However, they would despawn after a while, which meant that it was possible to miss the missions completely. It made people feel like they had to rush, and the masters could spawn on Maps you had not unlocked yet.

Now, however, you build up charges on the right side of the Atlas (White, Yellow, and Red, matching map tiers, see the image above!) and if you want to run a master mission, like say Niko so you can do some Delves later, you simply go to Niko, choose “Atlas Mission” at the top of his chat, and give HIM the map instead of your Map Device. It will then spawn portals like a normal map run at your Map Device but will always have that master in the Map so you can do their mission. It’s really handy, and lets YOU decide how and when to run certain content. If you like Delving or Incursion like I do, you can very easily run that content.

I cannot wait to see what leagues are coming in the upcoming months to the lead up to POE 2 and I really am excited to see how things progress and change for that version of the game.

Thanks for reading, and if you play POE what do you think of these changes? Right now admittedly the Awakener fight is a bit of a mess and hopefully GGG can fix it (its got some nasty bugs) but overall I like the direction of things.

A Nerdy Moment With: Pokemon Sword & Shield

Pokemon Sword and Shield are the first new Pokemon games to come out since Sun/Moon. Lets Go doesnt count, those are remakes of Red and Blue! The first brand new pokemon game on the Switch, does Sword/Shield do enough new to entice both old and brand new players? Is Dexit all that big a deal? And how bout those Dynamax and Raid battles?

Join me for a Nerdy Moment with Pokemon Sword and Shield, as I discuss my thoughts on this game.

Pokemon Sword on Nintendo Store: https://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/pokemon-sword-switch/
Pokemon Shield on Nintendo Store: https://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/pokemon-shield-switch/

And always remember…STAY NERDY!

TN’s Indie Impressions – Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan

I am frequently tired of “save the world” plots in games. Don’t get me wrong, its nice to be the hero in fantasy, but sometimes you want a more personal story. A story about people, trying to learn about themselves and grow. Sure, you might save some people along the way, solve some issues, retake a throne or two, but at the end of the day, its about the journey, not the destination.

Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan is such a game. A story of a king and queen, removed and exiled from their kingdom on their wedding day, and the journey they take to both learn about themselves and each other, and to retake their rightful throne.

Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan on Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/368080/Aurion_Legacy_of_the_KoriOdan/

And always remember…STAY NERDY!

TN’s Indie Impressions – Omensight

The end of the world is coming. The great void wurm, Voden, has been unleashed. The Godless Priestess has been murdered in cold blood and her existence was all that stopped Voden from coming.
You are the Harbinger. Your coming signals the worlds end. But your job? Preventing it. Can you solve the mystery surrounding the murder of the Godless Priestess and prevent Vodens coming? Are you a bad enough lady to save Vera’s soul?
This is Omensight, by Spearhead Games, and its fantastic.

A Nerdy Moment With: The Outer Worlds (A Review)

Is Obsidian’s new title The Outer Worlds just Fallout New Vegas in space? Or is it something more. Today I bring to you a moment with The Outer Worlds, and my thoughts on it after my 25 hour journey with Parvati and Felix has been completed. Is the Halcyon system the same after I got through with it? Is capitalism still running rampant over everything?

Is there hope for the future? Lets find out!

Buy the Outer Worlds on Green Man Gaming – https://www.greenmangaming.com/games/the-outer-worlds-pc/?tap_a=50262-8d2b33&tap_s=644938-bae488

This link is an affiliate link, which will help me get a small cut of the sale.

Be aware if you get Xbox Game Pass for PC, the Outer Worlds is INCLUDED!

TN’s Indie Impressions – Little Big Workshop

Ever wanted to run a factory manned by tiny gnomes who build cute little things you order them? Then boy howdy do I have the game for you! Developed by Mirage Games, published by THQ Nordic and Handy Games, I bring to you the simple cute and most of all fun Factory Simulator game Little Big Workshop. This game is a gem and well worth your time and money. Seriously. Go buy it.

Little Big Workshop on Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/574720/Little_Big_Workshop/

And always remember…STAY NERDY!