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Author Topic: Maelstrom Writes Reviews and Other Stuff if He Feels Like it  (Read 1566 times)

Maelstrom

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« Last Edit: July 12, 2015, 11:28:34 PM by Maelstrom »
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Re: Maelstrom Writes Reviews and Other Stuff if He Feels Like it
« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2015, 07:56:20 PM »

Welcome to my first review on NSM. Who knows how good it will be, or if I'll ever write another.
Let's start with my most recently beat game, Crypt of the NecroDancer.

Crypt of the NecroDancer
Yay redundancy.
For those not familiar with the game, Crypt of the NecroDancer is a rouge-like rhythm dungeon crawler. It is as bizarre as it sounds. But, let's arbitrarily split this review up into sections so I can find everything more easily.

Story/presentation
Most of the story is conveyed in large voice-acted pixilated stills with minimal animation. I can't really think of a better way to describe it.
The opening cutscene depicts our heroine, Cadence, digging into a graveyard to find her father. She breaks through the ground, falls, and something happens. It's never clearly described what, but Cadence soon wakes up in the crypt without a heart, and must press onward to find her missing father. I won't spoil anything, but, over the course of the campaign, you discover that Cadence's father left her and her dying mother in search of something in the crypt to save his wife.
The story as a whole isn't that incredible or compelling, but it's not necessarily bad in any way. It simply serves the purpose of providing context for the action.

Gameplay
There is one simple gameplay mechanic that governs every action you take: the beat of the music.
At the bottom of the screen, your heart is shown, with blue bars moving towards it to represent the beat of the song. If you try to move outside of the beat, attempt an invalid action, or just not doing anything will make you lose your coin multiplier in addition to not moving. Why is that a problem? Because each and every enemy moves to the beat. And they never miss it.
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Each enemy has it's own distinctive movement pattern. Green slimes stay in place, while blue slimes hop back and forth between two tiles every 2nd beat. Ghosts move every beat, but only when you are not facing them. And on and on. Each enemy has a distinctive pattern that needs to be memorized before it can be beat easily. You are also able to dig into any of the surrounding walls to spend a beat without moving anywhere.
So that's the basic overview. Now the more complex stuff.
The game is divided into four zones. Each has its own distinctive style, music, and enemies, but each will need to be completed to move on to the next.
You will probably spend the majority of the game attempting to run each zone. Every time, you start with a dagger, a shovel, and a single bomb and are expected to find your way through three randomly generated levels and their minibosses followed by one of four main bosses. It is nowhere as easy as it sounds.
Yet, you do have a lot to help you along the way. There are numerous weapons in quite a few varieties. Some will innately do more damage, while others do damage based on your coin multiplier, while still others heal you after 10 kills. Some I find much easier to use than others, and a few I have rarely found at all. That's the catch in a way. Each weapon is randomly generated along with the level, so you never know what you might find when you open a chest.
I may have forgotten to mention that there are additional equipment like you would expect in any RPG. Bracelets, helms, armor, etc. are all here. Quite a few weapons, items, and spells must be unlocked first by purchasing them with the diamonds you collect in between runs.
I won't spoil everything you find, but there are quite a few surprises that are best discovered on your own.
Finally, the bosses. Each of the main four is crafted around something musical. For example, King Conga is a large gorilla with two long zombie conga lines. The music has every eighth beat removed, and for every mistake you make, King Conga will chase after you before teleporting back to his throne after you hit him. There are a few endgame bosses that can only be accessed by playing as certain characters.
Speaking of different characters, there are a multitude to choose from, each offering their own playstyle. There are three main campaign characters who can only be unlocked by completing zone 4 with the previous character (and are the only ones who give the cutscenes). The others range from Dove, who cannot hurt any enemies, as she is a passifict, to Monk, who instantly dies if he touches gold (but every shop item is free). And of course, there has to be the infamous dies-in-one-hit type character.
There are even other modes, such as trying to complete all the zones in one go, or even a mode that lets you play with a dance pad.
I just have one gripe: the controls. Each and every in game action is performed with the arrow keys. This includes all the spells and items which must be activated by pressing two of the keys at once. It's a pain at first, but it feels natural after a while. I just now noticed that there is key binding for all the combos, if that is something you want.

The Soundtrack
Amazing.
Simply amazing.
It's composed by Danny Baranowsky, composer for Super Meat Boy and The Binding of Isaac.
Need I say more?
Yes. I do.
The shopkeeper sings whenever you get near him.
In addition to this excellent soundtrack, there are two additional covers of the entire soundtrack in the game: one metal, and the other sort of a electronic dance pop, for lack of a better phrase. Each one is the default for a different one of the three main characters, but they can be freely set for whatever character you like. In addition, you can import custom music for any stage or boss battle you like and it will automatically calculate the beat for it. I would like to make a note, however, that using custom music will turn off your ability to get achievements, as it lets you adjust the length of each song as much as you want. Just throwing that out there.

Other thoughts
Mod support is available, with some excellent character skins that also change the voice acting. Like the Shulk mod which makes most nonverbal character noises into Shulk quotes in addition to changing most weapons into Monados. Another large mod of note, is the Mega Man total conversion. Every enemy, every weapon, and every song is changed into something from the megaman universe. There are smaller mod packs that let you play as Quote, Captain Viridian, or even Blaise Debeste. Each mod is easily activated from an in game menu and can be turned off and on quite quickly. I would also like to note that these mods, like custom music, will break the achievement system and render you unable to achieve anything.

Closing Thoughts
If you couldn't tell already, I absolutely adore this game. Yet there is one thing stopping me from recommending it to everyone.
It's hard.
Like, really hard.
Would you like to know how hard it is?
6% of the people who own the game have beaten zone 4 as Cadence, the default character.
It's that hard (That number is comparable to the amount of people who have beaten Dark Souls)
This game is not afraid to punish every mistake you make, and you will make many. But, it's always fair. You died because you didn't correctly react to the enemy patterns. You let yourself get swarmed with monsters, panicked, and stepped on spikes. But I still love it.

Final Score
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9/10
I absolutely love this game, but it's not for everybody.
The fact that achievements can be prevented so easily is a pain, but understandable
And the controls, while good after some time, take a bit to get used to.
Additionally, with the introduction of Steam refunds, you can easily try the game to see if you like it or hate it.
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So, how was my first review? Did I miss anything? Make terrible typos because I didn't proofread it?
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Maelstrom

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Re: Maelstrom Writes Reviews and Other Stuff if He Feels Like it
« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2015, 11:27:50 PM »

What do you do when no one reads/comments on your review?
Write another, obviously. (And repost it to let people know you finished it)
This one's going to be much shorter, because I don't feel like writing as much. (Note: This ended up being longer than I thought it would be)
Anyway...
Code Name S.T.E.A.M.
I was pretty excited for this game when it was first announced at E3 2014. I mean, what wasn't to like? It was a brand new IP created by Intelligent Systems, the creators of Fire Emblem and Paper Mario. It was going to be a steampunk turn-based third person shooter featuring American Literary heroes fighting aliens in the style of a classic comic book. It sounded just the right bit of crazy to get my interest. Yet, there were a few questions I had. Why was the game only announced durring a private press conference and not during the Digital Event? Why did the game receive so little marketing? Most of the critical reception was lukewarm. People soon forgot about it, and it is reported that it sold less than 60,000 copies worldwide. But was it really that bad?
Let's find out.


Story/Presentation
The story is relayed through comicbook-styled cutscenes at the beginning and end of each chapter. When I say comic-book styled, I'm not joking. The entire game literally takes place in a child's comic book. While the art style looks nice at times, it just grates on occasion due to the somewhat polygonal character models that just don't look nice. It's a bit of an attempt at cell shading, but it comes off as a little unnatural and ugly at times. The art direction also suffers from the lack of enemy color schemes. Each and every alien shares the same color palette: Predominantly a strange shade of blue/green with a little bit of green and purple here and there for accents. (See screenshot)
The story starts out in a steampunk london during the opening of some new bridge. And of course, aliens invade and ruin the entire event. The main character, Henry Fleming (Red Badge of Courage) is soon rescued by Abraham Lincoln (voiced by Will Wheaton, in fact) and he joins the other agents of S.T.E.A.M. to stop the alien invasion.
The overall story doesn't really have any twists, but just about every mission feels "important," and not just generic filler (like a few chapters in FE Awakening were). Yet, I never felt myself engaged that fully in the plot or characters, simply because they're just not that interesting. However, fellow H.P. Lovecraft fans should know that there are more than a few references to his works throughout the campaign.


Gameplay
If you thought this was Valkyria Chronicles or XCOM again, well, you would be sort of right, but also kind of wrong. The basic gameplay revolves around the usage of steam. Each character will get an amount of steam at the beginning of each player turn to use as they wish. Each unit of steam can be used to move one square on the grid-like battlefield, or a handful of units can be used to fire a weapon. Yet, it's not quite so simple. You are allowed to move freely in the space you can reach without permanently using any steam. This is great for strategizing, but it has some drawbacks. While you can pick up coins without using your steam, shooting, picking up a health pack, or jumping off a ledge will spend all the steam used up to that point, making it impossible to retrace your steps for free. There is one more danger to moving around: enemy overwatch attacks. You see, whenever you end a turn with extra steam and an appropriate weapon, you are able to use that steam during the enemy turn to attack and possibly stun them, making it impossible for them to move. Of course, the enemies can do the same to you, including the possibilities of stunning you. Early enemies are less likely to do this, but, as the game progresses, more and more enemies will camp around corners, and you will have to find a way to deal with that.

On to the characters: Each literary character has their own unique weapon. Henry has a three-shot gun that has a decent range, but not necessarily a high damage output. John Henry has an AOE attack that does more damage, but cannot do overwatch attacks in addition to taking more steam. As the game progresses, you will get characters with all sorts of attacks, like exploding penguins or lures to draw an enemy's attention away from you. Before each battle, you will be able to choose a sub weapon for each character. Each is unlocked when enough total coins are collected from the stages. Most serve as a slightly subpar substitute for character specific weapons, as you are only able to take four agents with you on each mission, but there are some useful unique weapons as well. You are also able to select a boiler for each party member which decides their maximum steam capacity and recharge rate. Unfortunately, you are not able to check the map beforehand and select the best units for that map. You are able to save and revive fallen party members at the save stations, although it will cost you in coins. This obviously means you will have less coins to go towards unlocking the next sub-weapon.

And finally, the stages/other stuff I forgot to mention. Each map feels unique and distinct from the others. Most consist of "get to the end," but a few others revolve around defeating a boss or rescuing civilians. The enemy designs are fairly distinct from each other, although there is not a terribly large variety.  There is one certain enemy that flies high in the sky, and is nearly impossible to hit, but can get a guaranteed stun on each hit, leaving you open to large attacks by other enemies. Why are they so hard to hit? Because they are quite small, and their character animation moves around so much it's hard to get a good shot. This brings me to another of my gripes with the game. Some of the enemy animations move so that it is hard to get a precise shot at that elusive purple weak spot to do massive damage. Before I move on to the next section, I'd like to adress one final gripe: the difficulty. This game is hard. As the game progresses more and more enemies are introduced with higher health and damage (Sometimes including previous bosses), while you never actually get any stronger. Yes, you do get more tools from progression, but none are inherently better than any others (except for the fox rifle). I found myself never using new characters as they were introduced because my strategy worked fine as it was. And, you don't get any kind of sniper character until 1/2-2/3 through the game, probably because she obliterates the majority of the enemies, and 2HKOs a specific boss.

The Soundtrack
This is one of the things that stood out quite a bit to me, and actually kept me coming back more than anything else. There are some absolutely fantastic metal songs for the player turns, with some metal and electronica/light dubstep for the alien turns. The track names aren't that great, though. For those that care, it's by the same composer as Advance Wars: Days of Ruin
Intersection: Me vs. You (One of my favorites)
Under The Surface III (Alien Turn)
Deadly Dance II (Another one of my favorites)
Steam, Steel, Strangers III

Other Notes
There is a multiplayer feature, but I've never played it at all, so I can't speak for it's quality.
There is also amiibo support for the Fire Emblem Amiibos. As of now, I have only been able to do it with Robin. It's nice, but I never ended up using him just because he didn't fit my playstyle at all. He's a bit of a mid-range, lower damage AOE attacks, and a low steam recharge rate. It should be noted that you are not able to change the subweapons or boilers for the amiibo characters.
The biggest gripe by reviewers at launch were the absurdly long enemy turns. With a large map, it could take upwards of two minutes for all the enemies to move. Fortunately ,there was recently a patch that added a fast-forward button that allowed you to speed up the enemy turns 2x on the normal 3DS and 4x on the NEW 3DS. Note that there is not an option for a simple 2x on the NEW 3DS, nor does the fast forward stop when an enemy decides to shoot you.
I would also like to note that the nub on the NEW 3DS works great for aiming, although you can use the touchscreen/buttons on the standard version.

Closing Thoughts/Score
So, what did I think?
This game was good, but only ok. There are flaws that I would have love to see addressed, but that will most likely never happen due to the low sales. It really angers me that many reviewer, both professional and ameture, said you should wait for the inevitable sequel. Yet, with sales as low as these, it will never happen.
Despite all my gripes, I had a good time with this game. Not something I'll come back to often, or ever, but it was a decent fun experience.
Score
I will refrain from giving this game a score. Why?
Because I can't. It's not a bad game by any means, but it's not incredible either. I can't give it a 5/10 for average, because that seems to me a a game is terrible, by today's standards. It's above average, but I just can't rightly decide on a definite score.
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So, what did you think? Do I need to be more concise? Do I need to proofread? Do I need people to actually read this?
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Hero of Trains

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Re: Maelstrom Writes Reviews and Other Stuff if He Feels Like it
« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2015, 03:27:28 AM »

Don't worry, I read and enjoy them! :)
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Re: Maelstrom Writes Reviews and Other Stuff if He Feels Like it
« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2015, 03:33:34 AM »

Don't worry, I read and enjoy them! :)
yeah just because no one comments in the four hours between your two reviews doesn't mean that no one's reading them. Some days the forums just seem to interact slower.
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Maelstrom

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Re: Maelstrom Writes Reviews and Other Stuff if He Feels Like it
« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2015, 03:57:41 AM »

yeah just because no one comments in the four hours between your two reviews doesn't mean that no one's reading them. Some days the forums just seem to interact slower.
*2 weeks.
That second post was just a copy+paste from the first post to clear it up for a table of contents.
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Re: Maelstrom Writes Reviews and Other Stuff if He Feels Like it
« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2015, 03:59:51 AM »

Oh. My bad. I must have missed it.

Regardless, I read the S.T.E.A.M. review and am kinda glad I didn't pick it up based on what you said. It kinda sucks though cuz they hyped it up so much and I almost bought it but it came out and I heard nothing about it so I passed on it.
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Maelstrom

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Re: Maelstrom Writes Reviews and Other Stuff if He Feels Like it
« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2015, 04:04:01 AM »

Regardless, I read the S.T.E.A.M. review and am kinda glad I didn't pick it up based on what you said. It kinda sucks though cuz they hyped it up so much and I almost bought it but it came out and I heard nothing about it so I passed on it.
From what I saw, it didn't get that much hype. It basically disappeared off the face of gaming news/press the week after launch, which kind of stinks. I mean, it's not the best game ever, but it's not that bad.  :P
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Maelstrom

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Re: Maelstrom Writes Reviews and Other Stuff if He Feels Like it
« Reply #8 on: December 30, 2016, 08:25:15 PM »

I feel like it I guess.

It's nearly the end of the year, so I guess it's time for game of the year awards. Seeing as I have only played 4 games that released this year, there will only be one GOTY award as well as one Best Soundtrack award.
Rules: The game must have come out in 2016. I must have played enough to see the credits for it to qualify for GOTY.
So, without further ado, let's go into the awards.
In the next two posts because I feel like it.
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Re: Maelstrom Writes Reviews and Other Stuff if He Feels Like it
« Reply #9 on: December 30, 2016, 08:38:17 PM »

BEST SOUNDTRACK

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Chances are, you have either never played Furi or know it very well. Judging by the amount of talk about it on NSM, it's probably the latter. For those of you who don't know, it's a mashup of a walking simulator with a hack-and-slash bullet hell boss rush game. It's got an incredible art direction, and just as good of a soundtrack and story. However, this is also a game where I looked up a playthrough on youtube because I can't run it on my laptop and don't own a PS4. It was totally worth my time. I had been listening to the OST for a bit before I watched it, but the game was way beyond what I expected. If you have the time (about an hour and a half) I strongly recommend looking up a commentary-free playthrough on youtube.
Soundtrack link: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLtzah_dj5hUXk--M73cM1oq8twaKW_Axe
Favorite songs: My Only Chance, Make This Right, Picture in Motion, Danger 7-53
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Maelstrom

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Re: Maelstrom Writes Reviews and Other Stuff if He Feels Like it
« Reply #10 on: December 30, 2016, 08:49:32 PM »

MAELSTROM'S GAME OF THE YEAR
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Chances are, you haven't heard of this one either. Don't let the Steam page's description throw you off; this is not any sort of weeb bait. It's a very well crafted western VN with anime-styled drawings (don't shoot me) with some damn good writing. The game's premise is pretty simple: you are a bartender and you mix drinks for your customers. It's set sometime in the future, and all worldbuilding is done passively. I just realized I can't do this game justice with my little words here do I won't even try.
It's really good.
The characters are all interesting and well written.
The soundtrack is pretty good.
The steam trading cards are worth a lot.
Buy it.

As a side note, this is not a game for all ages, as, well, it's in a bar and contains the conversations one might expect.
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