Whatcha Playing: October 2019
RPGamer’s recurring feature providing a look at what the staff is playing outside of games for review is back. With the fall game release season in full effect, the RPGamer staff is all over the map playing a multitude of different things. Monster Hunter World: Iceborne, Doraemon of Seasons, Mistover, and Trails of Cold Steel III are all getting some playing time.
With that introduction out of the way, whatcha playing?
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne commands my time whenever I fire up my PlayStation 4. I put over 200 hours into the original game, enjoying every minute of it. However, as a fan of the older entries, I felt that Monster Hunter: World lacked both variety and quantity in terms of its monster roster. Iceborne addresses this concern head-on by adding nearly two dozen more monsters, a handful of variants, some quality-of-life improvements, a revamped end game, and a new clutch claw mechanic.
I could talk at length on how each of these does a great job of refreshing this title. Instead, I will simply say that this DLC feels like an expansion pack from days gone by. Before the days of DLC content, developers would follow up on their best games with full-blown expansions. For one set price (around half to two-thirds of the base game), expansions would add hefty amounts of content to the base game, including new races, story content, maps, and so much more. Anyone who played the expansions to classics such as Warcraft III, Starcraft, Age of Empires, or Bauldar’s Gate knows exactly what I mean.
Iceborne not only adds a lot more content but takes the difficulty up a notch. This makes sense, as the base game left our characters at the highest rank. As new ‘master rank’ hunters, players are tasked by the commander to tackle new, more challenging beasts. And while many master rank monsters will look familiar to veterans of the series, they pack a new punch. Wheels and I took on Glavinus in Monster Hunter World: Iceborne, and quickly learned that it attacks with a ferocity not seen in Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate or Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. We carted numerous times and learned the value of playing more defensively.
With that difficulty does come an increased need to prepare properly for fights, choose the right weapon for the task, and learn the monster’s patterns. Aside from an increased sense of satisfaction (I literally cheered when I beat Velkhana with two minutes to spare), Monster Hunter World: Iceborne offers improved rewards, including some very awesome looking gear and new fourth-level decorations.
In summary, Monster Hunter World: Iceborne gives you plenty of reasons to want to put just as much, if not more, time into the game as most people did when the base game released. I am enjoying it immensely, and I anticipate I will do so for months to come. Feel free to hit me up on Discord or Twitter if you would like to do a hunt or two together!
Last month saw me finally finish Super Paper Mario, but what gaming I could do this month was devoted to playing Fire Emblem: Three Houses. I’m not completely sure why it’s taking me so long to finish Three Houses. I am honestly loving it and really want to play more, but somehow there’s always something getting in the way, and lately I’ve been having a hard time staying up past midnight anymore. November sees the release of Pokémon Sword and Shield, so I’m really hoping to have this Three Houses campaign done soon.
I have finally reached Part II, meaning the five-year time skip has occurred. I’m specifically up to chapter 15 in the Black Eagles route, having sided with the Church of Seiros. I initially wanted to go the other route for the Black Eagles, but decided to forgo that for now, as I’ve started up a separate save file with my sister. How often we’ll play together I have no idea, but I imagine I’ll get through the other two houses and play other games between them well before I finish that run with her.
A lot has happened story-wise, much of it spoiler-filled. I think I have a ways to go yet, and I know the other routes fill in gaps in the overarching story. Still, I am curious to see where things are going. It’s neat to know that certain hypotheses of mine have either been confirmed or are strongly hinted at. I’m absolutely loving the support conversations, too. The supports have been my favorite part of the series since I first played Path of Radiance, but I really like how in-depth and complex they are compared to prior games. It seems that there are indeed story reasons that Byleth isn’t much of a talker, but I still don’t like how they’re essentially a silent protagonist.
The between-major-battles stuff, running around the monastery and the like, still feels a bit sluggish, but I’ve found a few ways to speed it up a bit. By the second part of the game, there are fewer characters for me to speak to, and I don’t have to worry so much about trying to get characters from the Blue Lions and Golden Deer to join my class. It’s kind of already too late for that. I’ve only managed to recruit Felix, Annette, Sylvain, and Ignatz. Ah well, I suppose I’ll have better chances in the future to get more characters. Even though I saw the loss of two units due to story reasons, I do still have plenty of characters. It’s not as if I have to worry about not having enough characters. I can only deploy about 10 units per map on average, and there’s plenty of experience points to go around. Battles are still quite easy, though every so often I make a foolish mistake and break out Divine Pulse.
So yeah, the rest of the year will likely see me playing my two most beloved video game franchise back to back. Actually, knowing my sluggish gaming habits for the past few years, I’ll probably be playing Pokémon for well into 2020 (believe it or not I still haven’t settled on a version, though I’m somewhat leaning more towards Sword). Regardless, I’m hoping to finish Fire Emblem: Three Houses by this same time next month, and preferably well before then!
Doraemon Story of Seasons and Dragon Quest
I love the month of October — fall is in full swing, and it’s time for cozy sweaters, socks, and blankets. While work has been busy, it’s been nice to come home, snuggle into some comfy clothes, and play games. Notably, I’ve completed two out of three Spiderman DLCs, having finished Turf War and wanting to cry about how terrible the boss fights were. I’ve got one left and I am hoping to see if it finishes off the story strong.
I have also been cuddling with Doraemon Story of Seasons, which has been the perfect bedtime game. What I adore about this game is just how kind and wholesome it is. There are not many games like that anymore that focus on friendship, being positive, and performing acts of kindness, yet this game has all those themes in spades. The localization is fabulous and funny, and it’s been a joy of a mash-up to play. Doraemon is just so darn cute, and Noby is a total loser, but I love him too. I look forward to pushing through more of the story, as I am at about 13 hours at this point.
Lastly, I’ve been playing Dragon Quest on the Switch. There’s not much to say about it, other than it’s the first one, it’s not the easiest to navigate through, and I have been doing a lot of grinding and being fine with it. If anything, it means when I do make real progress, I’m going to be able to clobber anything and everything in my path.
I am hoping to knock out a few things from my backlog in November, given I’ve started many things. I also have so many new games that I have bought because who knew the end of 2019 would get all these amazing releases when the beginning of the year seemed like it was dozing off. I have The Outer Worlds and Atelier Ryza, both of which I am excited to play, but we’ll see how far I get. I’d love to beat thirty games this year if I could! I am hoping that participating in Extra Life on November 2 will help with that!
Editorial note: Due to some delays in getting this feature posted, Extra Life has already happened, but readers are still able to support a really fantastic charity at the above link.
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked
This October I’ve been playing Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked. I already had the game on DS but I absolutely loved it there and the 3DS upgrade has been more than worth the double-dip. I was trying to go down a specific path because I grew a bit of an affection to Haru, likely due to being able to identify with her a bit more now, but when the choice came I couldn’t not choose Naoya’s ending. It was the first ending I got in the original and when presented with the choice I couldn’t help choosing to become the king of Bel and, well, challenge Yahweh for control of the world’s destiny. Kind of fell far from the target. Whoops.
I actually haven’t completed it yet, though. My team is just lacking in tough enough demons for taking on those I’m facing. I hit like a truck, sure, but most of my team have glass jaws. I’m fighting a bunch of hard free battles, trying to earn enough macca to buy new demons to fuse into powerful ones, but at least one of my team dies every battle. I guess it’s somewhat ironic that it’s Naoya himself that can’t last a battle. My strategy so far is just getting every enemy engaged while the hero goes around using almighty attacks and drain to kill everything. It works in free battles, but I’m expecting that to stop very soon. I’m probably going to put off going for another ending until the new year. Just too much to do right now.
The last month has been a bit hectic for me due to having to attend a relative’s wedding in Denver. While I did have some time to play games this month, it was split between trying and failing to finish Phantom Dust and replaying through A Link to the Past, which I still need to get back to. However, after I got back from my trip, there was a game that did manage to catch my attention.
Mistover is a very intriguing game to me since I’ve never played a game quite like it. I’ve heard comparisons to both The Darkest Dungeon and Etrian Odyssey, having no experience with the former and only a little bit more with the latter. The game consists of exploring procedurally-generated areas with up to five party members while fighting encountered monsters, breaking debris, and keeping an eye on both the Fullness and Luminosity meters, which slowly decrease during exploration. In addition to this, there is also a Doomsday Clock to keep track of, as letting it run out will lead to the bad ending. Not exploring enough of the map will cause it to tick down. The challenge on the normal difficulty setting helps to make sure that I never completely let my guard down, especially during combat as too many mistakes can lead to the loss of any one of my party members, which can be replaced but at the cost of currency and not having the exact same set of abilities.
I’m not really sure if Mistover is a good game or not but even after failing my first playthrough by having the clock run out before I could even successfully kill the game’s first boss monster, I still instantly restarted from the beginning. It helps that the story sequences can be fast-forwarded pretty easily so as not to get bogged down. Only time will tell if I will be able to make any further progress but it’s still definitely interesting as far as expanding my game horizons are concerned.
October was a great month to clean out some of my backlog. One such game was Kingdom Hearts 3, and…let’s just say I’m glad to be done with that ordeal. I’m not sure what happened in the fourteen years between the second game and this one, but it just did not work out for me. Granted, there were quite a few Kingdom Hearts titles I skipped, but I felt the game really lacking overall. The gameplay was fun, when the game allowed me more than five minutes to wander around outside of the massive cutscenes. This game reminds me of the anime Inuyasha, where 80% of the plot is filler and the major plot points happen near the end, but by then I was pretty soured by the journey. Add that the ending was a letdown, and beyond that they expect me to play some mobile game to figure out the rest? No thanks.
Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth
October has been chock full of adventures with some of my favorite series. From Grandia HD to Dragon Quest XI S in 2D with a sprinkle of Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch mixed in, the beginning of the month was filled with a lot of trips down memory lane, but what really caught my attention for the majority of the month was Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth. While I’ve played Persona 4 extensively, I’ve only come to know the casts of Persona 3 and 5 through Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth and the various dancing games. Those experiences are enough to make playing Q2 a rewarding time spent with some old friends, and I’ve been unable to keep a smile from my face each night as I tackle another movie stage or attend some special screenings. The dialogue may grow a little long in the tooth at some points, but Q2 is proving to be a great deal of fun.
I mourned the end of the dual-screen Etrian Odysseys earlier this year while reviewing Etrian Odyssey Nexus, and the nostalgia is hitting just as hard with Q2. These two games are the end of the handheld dungeon-crawlers from Atlus, and no matter whether they will one day migrate to Switch, holding the stylus in my hand while I draw walls and mark treasure chest locations just brings a certain sense of satisfaction that auto-mapping cannot match. What makes it particularly difficult is the feeling that Q2 is pretty much the pinnacle in good storytelling, engaging combat, and quality-of-life improvements to navigation, battling, and sidequests. The elemental weaknesses and ability to earn turns of cost-free skills and spells is a pretty perfect blend of Etrian Odyssey and mainline Persona gameplay. The sidequests being separate events that take you to specific locations in floors you’ve cleared and their small stories is also a great change from Etrian Odyssey and Persona Q‘s norm.
All three casts from Persona 3-5 shine, with plenty of small story arcs between characters from various games, including a lot with the female protagonist from Persona 3. The setting and the game’s devotion to it are worthy of special mention. Being set in a movie theater, the various stratums are themed around famous film franchises, sidequests are titled “special screenings,” and even many restorative items fit the theme such as sodas, popcorn, and churros. Elizabeth in a film strip dress and Theodore dressed in a popcorn outfit are hilarious sights to see. As would be expected from a Persona game, the graphics are colorful and well-done for the console they’re on and the music has me constantly bobbing my head or tapping my fingers along with the beat. Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth has provided some incredibly fun times and allowed October to end the way it began, with a new trip down memory lane.
I’ve been waiting all year for Trails of Cold Steel III to come out and I’ve not been disappointed by the beginning. Its design shows a striking resemblance to Cold Steel I. CS III is set at a military academy and the story is broken into “free days” where Rean explores the school and town, doing small quests and choosing which teachers and students to spend time with, thereby increasing his relationship with them just like the first Cold Steel game. Monthly field studies also return as the entire Branch Campus of Thors departs via armored train to a part of Erebonia and the new Class VII do small tasks for residents while searching for hints about what the evil organization Ourobouros is up to.
CS III is huge, as might be expected from a Trails game. Nevertheless, the density of lore in the game is staggering. There are NPCs with their own miniature storylines everywhere and characters from the entire Trails series are constantly dropping in. I’ve always loved the books that each game has featured, subtly fleshing out the world and CS III has more than half a dozen new ones to follow. There are so many characters to talk to and lore to digest that finishing this game in under a hundred hours will be a challenge for me.
I’d also forgotten how much I love the combat in the Trails games. The importance of character positioning and turn order gives the battle system a bit of an SRPG feel. Despite the strategic elements, the battles in the Cold Steel games have a great pace to them. I also think that the normal difficulty setting is well balanced to provide a healthy challenge without requiring excessive grinding. Even if a player runs into a particularly difficult boss, party wipes merely result in the option to try again with the choice of dropping the difficulty. More RPGs ought to adopt that feature because it really keeps the game moving.
I haven’t played anything this year that has truly blown me away, but CS III stands a good chance of being the first. I’m loving how the game is tying characters and events from across the series together and I can’t wait to see where it goes
That’s all for this edition of Whatcha Playing. Please join the discussion in the comments about the staff’s selections and what games you’re currently playing.