Fire Emblem: Awakening Complete

Over the weekend I finished up the story mode of Fire Emblem: Awakening. I’d written an earlier post about how much I was enjoying the game. The game continued to be so much fun right up to and including the ending mission. At about thirty-six hours of gameplay (and only minimal repeat mission grinding on my part), there was a ton of content in this hand-held title, and was certainly a good value for the money.

The game breaks down into two separate sets of mechanics: the tactical, turn-based combat, and strategic overworld with RPG elements. The strategic events and story missions serve to support the tactical missions where the actual battles take place. However, actions you take in the tactical missions affect the strategic game and open up new optional missions, shops, and characters.

The core tactical combat is solid, familiar but interesting. It’s difficult to really mess with the turn-based tactical combat system too much, and Fire Emblem: Awakening doesn’t stray too far from convention. You move your units around the map, smacking any enemies that appear, and defeat one special unit or all enemy units to succeed. However, the game uses several different elements such as obstacles, optional objectives, various movement rates, and time-based unit reinforcement to keep you on your toes instead of just rushing straight for the end goal of any given mission. These option objectives, often getting a new character to join your party or gaining you new, powerful items, are usually worth pursuing and makes the tactical missions more challenging, and thus more interesting.

Outside of the tactical missions is the strategic game. Here, the overworld map represents the entire world where the tactical missions take place. As you finish tactical missions, you unlock new areas to buy supplies for your units, which brings up the strategic and RPG gameplay elements. Each character you have in your motley band uses certain types of weapons or spells. Each weapon or spell class has different types and levels as well. It’s up to you to requisition pieces and parts. In addition, all weapons and spells have wear, so you need to replace them after a couple dozen uses.

It’s an interesting game to try to get the best weapons and spells in the hands of your best characters and try to build the most powerful heavy hitters, and can reap huge rewards in the tactical battles. Although I played on a low difficulty and never had trouble getting the best weapons available to me, I can imagine in higher difficulties the tough choices that might arise from not having the best weapons or the most resources to be able to equip your characters with the best things available. There might be some tough choices to make there, requiring you to operate at not as high of a level as possible.

Finally, the story for the game was immensely satisfying. The story was actually epic, and not the lame Internet version of epic, I mean the ancient Greece version of epic. The events encompassed huge areas, many kingdoms, time travel, ancient dragons, a huge cast of characters from past, present, and future, and threats to the entire world. The memorable characters undertook dangerous and worthwhile endeavors, and you rooted for them to come out on top even when things looked bleak. I was really invested in the characters and what happened to them, a rarity for games.

I couldn’t have been happier with Fire Emblem: Awakening. It was fun from start to finish, filled with interesting characters, challenging gameplay, and a satisfying ending. If you’re a fan of strategy games, you owe it to yourself to give this one a try.

Assassin’s Creed III Complete

I finished Assassin’s Creed III this evening. I’m still a little confused about what actually happened, but don’t worry it’ll all be explained in the sequel!

This game was a bit of a low point in the series. There didn’t seem to be enough polish to the game. Lots of strange issues, pretty long load screens, texture pops, inaccurate controls, unclear mission objectives, etc. The main story was also kind of a let-down. The events jumped around way too much, and there was too much explanation in places and too little in others. The last story mission was very short, and a serious anti-climax, with more awkward movie sequence than actual gameplay.

Complaints aside, I did have fun with the game. But most of the fun was outside of the main story missions. The homestead missions were better than the main story, and had better characters. Just taking on challenges in the world, like the excellent encounters when clearing out forts, was the best part.

If you’re a fan of the series, the game is worth a pickup, otherwise it’s pretty easily skip-able.

Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace

So I picked up a Wii-U the other week. Yeah I know, there aren’t very many good games for it! But Lego City Undercover is the best GTA clone ever since Saint’s Row III. This post is not about any of those things.

Little Inferno, featuring the eponymous Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace, is a puzzle “game” by Kyle Gabler and Kyle Gray. Gabler, the musician and designer of Little Inferno, also helped make World of Goo, the previous indie darling on the previous Nintendo console. Kyle Gray was a designer of Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure, a game I very much enjoyed on the Nintendo DS. The Kyles’ work here on Little Inferno is wonderful, inspired, and quite a little creepy.

Little Inferno takes the form of a physics puzzler, where most of the physics are explosions and fire. As the player, you spend your hard-earned cash on various items, and then burn them. The items vary from handheld electronics to stuffed animals, toys, and galaxies and planets. You try to combine similar things to complete combos that unlock additional catalogs out of which to buy new things to burn. Burn, burn, burn it all does, until it’s all gone.

And then…? Well you’ll just have to play it to find out. The entire game is a clever performance piece, satire, and biting social commentary. I had a laugh from beginning to end, and the Meta! Combo was just the teaser. Like World of Goo, Little Inferno has a lot to say, albeit in an oblique way, about the state of the world we live in. I highly enjoyed it, even if it made me a little sad.

Fire Emblem: Awakening

I picked up Fire Emblem: Awakening earlier this week. I’d read several reviews and was very interested in the combat system. I’ve really enjoyed similar games such as Valkyria Chronicles, the Advanced Wars series, and most recently XCOM: Enemy Unknown. All are turn-based tactical combat strategy games with RPG elements, and since Fire Emblem is similar, I figured I would enjoy it. I wasn’t wrong.

The combat system shines in Fire Emblem: Awakening. It’s turn-based tactical combat, and many of the areas I’ve seen so far introduce walls and doors (for interior levels) and rivers, cliffs, and bridges (for exterior levels) as chokepoints and barriers to use in combat. Ranged units can shoot across barriers, adding to complexity. Leveraging impassible areas changes the tactics of a fight and make things very interesting on the combat board.

Units you control are very diverse. Movement is obviously important in tactical combat, and mounted and flying units allow you to move across terrain very quickly, meeting enemy units before they can attack you. Flying units even allow crossing impassible terrain. Units have different melee weapon types that have strengths or weaknesses depending on their target. Magic and bows are used for range. A simple inventory system allows units to carry up to 5 items, so you can even switch in combat from melee to range if the unit’s weapon proficiency allows for it.

Another complexity to combat is the pairing system. When units are positioned next to one another in the tactical map, they buff up one another. Units can even be paired so they share the same space, one serving as a kind of sidekick, functioning as a temporary stat increase and sometimes allowing for additional attacks during combat. As you progress in battle and the story itself, units gain confidence in their relationships, and certain units gain affinity for one another, improving their stat bonuses in battle.

The story itself has been fine. I’m not a Fire Emblem veteran, so there may be things I’m not picking up on with references to history and past entries in the series. But the dialog is charming, and the plot isn’t too convoluted. You gain a connection to these characters, and it’s fun to watch their soap-opera-ish antics.

If you’re a fan of turn-based tactical combat games, there’s very little not to like here in Fire Emblem: Awakening. It’s fun, easy to pick up and play, and challenging if you scale up the difficulty. Certainly happy with my pickup and looking forward to more!

The Rebellion Heats Up

Had a great match of Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion last night with the crew doing some comp stomp action. Chris, most unfamiliar with the game, was predictably surrounded on all sides by the enemy, and had a tough time for the first half of the game. I was between enemies as well, but wasn’t as harried. Pratap and Mike were situated side-by-side, and were able to exploit the CPU’s attention on the others to good advantage, knocking off two of the CPUs early and then we turned to the rest of the galaxy.

I really like the new victory conditions introduced by Sins: Rebellion, especially Flagship. You start out with a very powerful, very hard-to-kill capital ship in the beginning of the game, and once you lose it, you’re out of the game. It’s a great risk-versus-reward mechanic to use that ship to boost your start and push against neutrals or your enemy, but if you expose it you can lose very quickly. It’s something that us as human players exploited well, but the CPUs tend to hide their ships and not use them.

Looking forward to playing some more games, and hopefully if we can stretch the game out a bit we can look forward to having Titans and superweapons on board!