One of my all time favourite games is Baldur’s Gate II. I played an unbelievable amount of it over the years after it released. And whilst I tried a number of other games set in the same world, even made with the same engine, I couldn’t find anything that hit me in the same way. With recently releases like Tyranny and Pillars of Eternity bringing back those classic CRPGs, I decided to give one of them a try (and a thank you to my wife for buying it for me).
So Torment: Tides of Numenera turned out to be pretty damn great. The main plot and side stories were engaging, the characters were varied and interesting, and the gameplay allowed you to deal with situations in a lot of different ways. Pity about the bugs and the occasional difficulty spikes. Still, there was a world full of different (and often very creative) things to discover and I enjoyed my time there.
My wife bought me Nier: Automata for my birthday. This is a game I’ve been wanting to play since release and now I might finally get around to it. Pretty much anything made by Platinum grabs my interest by the simple virtue of my having never played a game made by them that I didn’t immediately adore. Metal Gear Rising anyone? I’ll get onto this one pretty soon I think.
Another birthday present I received that I’m very keen to try is Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu. Our family would play Pandemic a lot, so any opportunity to play more of it is welcome. I had heard of this one but didn’t know anything about it. Having read the instructions, I’m quite excited to give it a try as this feels like more than a simple reskin. The game plays in mostly the same way but with some significant twists, such as Old Ones rising and altering the game’s rules in place of epidemics. Plus the board looks gorgeous which certainly helps.
I picked up Marvel Vs. Capcom Infinite at the weekend ago on a whim. I enjoy playing Street Fighter V with my daughter and figured something with Marvel characters in might be fun. We’ve enjoyed playing it together (although I regret playing as Dormamu at one point as he seemed to scare her a bit), but I haven’t touched the story mode yet. Personally I find the gameplay a little too…floaty? I don’t think that’s the right word. But I feel like none of the attacks really have any impact. I do enjoy fighting games, in spite of being terrible at them, but this one’s moment to moment action hasn’t grabbed me as well as I’d hoped.
My new PC finally arrived, ready to take on some games that need a GPU more powerful than a cheese sandwich. I’ve yet to really try anything particularly taxing on it, but I didn pick up the XCOM 2 expansion and I’m keen to give it a play. Any opportunity to hop back into that game is one I happily take.
Oh, and I downloaded and played Final Fantasy: All the Bravest. But more on that another time…
So what about you? Have you started up anything new and/or fun recently? Something freshly released? Or maybe back to the backlog or a classic that you’re returning to? Let me know!
Yes, it’s as hard as the video game. Also more complicated.
So Dark Souls then. Have I mentioned that series before? The one I really like? I’m not sure if I have. Either way, it’s a series I’m a fan of for many reasons, including its precision timing and learning a solid process to get through the challenges presented to you. So when I saw that Steamforge Games had a Kickstarter campaign for a board game based on it, I had to back it. I mean, I tried not to, but my hands just took over control of my computer and backed it for me. They even backed some of the expansions too. I’d like to say their addiction to Kickstarter has passed, but I think they may need to go into rehab. Anyway, I wasn’t sure how well Dark Souls would transition into board game form but the team have put together something that captures some of the essence of the video game, and works well as a board game most of the time.
Opening up the box, you are immediately confronted with a black sheet of paper reading “YOU DIED”, which is lovely. It’s quite prophetic really as you will die repeatedly in this (much like in the video game) and fail in your quest over and over. In the box you’ll find a number of board pieces to construct the play area, plenty of tokens and dice. Oh and the minis. Mini is not a good name for all of these as some of them are huge by most board game standards. The component quality is really rather good, with plenty of detail on the minis and boards. I will say some of the tokens are a little on the small side for my liking though.
Dark Souls is designed to be played with 1 to 4 players cooperatively, with the goal of defeating a mini boss and a final boss. Players begin at the bonfire with a certain number of “sparks” (the game’s equivalent of lives) and move from room to room confronting groups of enemies and traps. Each room has a randomly selected card dictating the enemies and items in the environment. Completing a room will earn a number of “souls” (the game’s currency) that can be spent on leveling up character attributes and purchasing items from the blacksmith. If a single player should die during an encounter, everyone returns to the bonfire and the number of sparks is reduced by 1. Run out of sparks and it’s game over.
Encounters are hard, which is in keeping with the source material. Each player can move one space and attack on their turn. Players can move further by spending stamina, a risky move as your stamina is also tied to your health. Attacking is based on dice rolls depending on your weapon. Some weapons allow you to use multiple black dice (fewer successful sides) whilst others use fewer blue or orange dice (higher chance for success and greater damage). Stamina can be spent here too, allowing for a more powerful attack that may have additional effects. After a player takes their actions, all enemies take theirs based on their associated card with most of them moving either towards or away from the nearest or most recent player and attacking assuming they are in range. This means you could be attacked many times before having an opportunity to do anything much it yourself. You can spend stamina to attempt a dodge roll (depending on your equipment) which will negate all damage or reduce it by blocking, but in most cases you’ll get hit very hard.
Players have a single use “Estus flask” to restore their health and stamina, as well as a coin to re-roll one die. These are all restored upon death. Each character class also as a specific once per life action that can help in a pinch. There is a fairly large emphasis on having good equipment (weapons, armour, shields, spells, etc.) on your character to survive, as enemies hit hard. Death can come quickly, even at the hands of basic enemies if you’re under-equipped or if you have an unlucky set of dice rolls. This is especially the case for bosses who play in a different way to most enemies. Bosses have a set of cards that dictate their actions and attacks. These are based on their character from the games, with the Titanite Demon having wide, sweeping attacks whilst the Dancer can attack multiple times. They only have a few attacks that are not shuffled after they are used, allowing players to learn a pattern. When they are damaged to a certain level, a new, more powerful card is added to their rotation to mix things up. I really like this mechanic as it ties into the video game’s idea of learning how to fight a boss in order to take it down. The bosses are very tough, but learning the path to victory against them feels good and they are definitely the stand out experience.
Fighting the bosses is great and works really well but the standard encounters suffer and the game has something of a pacing issue. Upon death or returning to the bonfire, all enemies respawn (again, just like the game) to allow you to gain more souls for equipment and leveling up. This means that if you fail at a boss you need to slog through standard enemies again. Whilst you can set up the boards to have shortcuts (a nice nod to the series again), it still slows down the game considerably. With lucky rolls you could get through a game in around 90 minutes, but it’s much more likely to take a lot longer.
The luck aspect is the other issue I have with the game. Whilst the bosses go a long way towards replicating the video game experience, the standard enemies are much more based on luck. If you have a series of poor dice rolls, you may as well start over. I get that the feeling of despair and failure is a large part of the video game, but luck really isn’t. Players learn to skillfully dispatch opponents, not hope for a lucky turn to achieve victory. This is something I wish they had given more thought to.
However, once you get to a boss and manage to take it down through careful positioning (and yes, a touch of luck) is quite satisfying. If you can put up with the early slog then you can have a lot of fun with this. There’s a good feeling to be had when you manage to acquire and equip a powerful item and finally get to throw those orange dice for serious damage. In the coming months there will be additional bosses and sets released (I’m (not) ashamed to say that I’ve ordered a few) to add more to the game. I’m quite excited to take on Sif when it arrives. If you’re in the market for a substantial co-op board game then you could do a lot worse than picking this up. Praise the Sun \o/
In a surprising twist, I like board and card games as well as video games! There is quite an extensive collection on the shelves, some of which I still haven’t got around to having a good go at. I have often subjected victims friends and family to one game or another, some more successful than others. One successful one recently was King of Tokyo, which my wife, sister, brother-in-law and myself played over the Christmas period.
The premise is simple! Each player is a giant monster, fighting for control of Tokyo to become king of the city. To what end I don’t know, but do we really need a reason for Cyber Bunny to punch Kraken in the face? Anyway, the object of the game is to either be the first monster to earn 20 points, or be the last monster standing amongst your vanquished foes.
Players take turns to roll a set of dice that will determine their potential actions for that turn. Healing, attacking, scoring points and gaining energy to purchase abilities are all possibilities, and the ability to re-roll unwanted results up to two times means you are not entirely at the mercy of the dice gods. The first monster to make an attack will enter the city and become the current king and any subsequent attacks they make will hit all the monsters outside the city. This sounds powerful, but any monster outside the city can only attack the current king, making the current monarch very vulnerable to being knocked out. The king does have the option to retreat from the city however, having their current attacker take over. Being the king allows you to earn points each turn, assuming you can survive long enough!
Healing takes place outside the city, allowing health points to be recovered whilst energy is used to purchase cards giving either one off bonuses such as points or long term benefits like stronger attacks that can very much swing the game’s outcome. As mentioned, all of your dice can be re-rolled to allow you to get the combination you want which gives a nice risk reward element to each turn. In fact, I’ve heard this described as “Yahtzee with monsters” by friend and fellow blogger Dave from Words and That which is an excellent description.
The moment to moment gameplay is not complex, but there is enough strategy to allow players to have a plan lined up. The reliance on dice means that previous players aren’t really at a huge advantage over new players beyond knowing what cards may come up for purchase. Game’s take around 30 minutes and are light enough that players don’t need to be 100% focused on the game at all times lest they miss something. Light board games are great for families, and this is an excellent family game. If you have even a passing interest in board games and have a couple of people to play with, this one is definitely worth your time. Don’t make me set Mecha Dragon on you…