Today has been a very light day of gaming for me so far. Considering it’s a work day, and it’s only 3:15, that shouldn’t be much of a surprise.
I kicked off my morning with a bit of Hearthstone. I just installed it yesterday, and didn’t get a chance to load it up until this morning. I enjoy that the game throws you headfirst into a battle. Since I am familiar with Magic: The Gathering, I assumed I already knew how to play Hearthstone. Knowing the basics of M:tG definitely didn’t hurt, but it wasn’t the massive leg-up I was hoping for.
In Hearthstone (at least, in the tutorial so far), you are battling one other player. You start the game with two cards in your hand and a single mana crystal. These act as your resources for playing cards from you hand. At the beginning of every turn, you draw an additional card. You also gain an additional mana crystal every turn, up to a maximum of 10. You use the power of these crystals to play cards from your hand. The power of these crystals is replenished at the beginning of each turn. So far, I find this to be an ideal way of handling resources in (what is essentially) a CCG. It puts every player on an even footing, and allows you to focus on combat strategy and deck building. To put this in M:tG terms, you no longer have to worry about land, or tapping said land, or having the right kinds of land, etc. It makes the whole game much more friendly for beginners.
You have your standard card types: spells, creatures, etc. Each costs a certain amount of mana to play. You can play creatures; they suffer from the familiar “summoning sickness”, and are unable to attack until the turn after they’re played. Some creatures give bonuses to your other creatures, or have other effects that happen when they hit the table. They also have an attack value and a health value. Attack is how much damage they do, and health is how much they can take. Unlike M:tG, creatures cannot block damage meant for you, the player, but they can be attacked directly by your opponents and your opponents’ creatures. This creates interesting choices during the game. Do I eliminate the creature that is giving all of my opponents creatures a +2/+2, or do I deal that damage directly to my opponent?
All in all, I like Hearthstone. The tutorial gently guides you on how to play, rather than beating you over the head with mechanics. It’s a breath of fresh air compared to the tutorials in M:tG 2014. It also feels much more elegant and intuitive than the digitized version of everyone’s favorite CCG. I can see myself becoming thoroughly addicted to it. Now it just needs to come out for Android (or, preferably, Vita).
I also played a bit of Rainbow Moon on the train ride to work this morning. I decided to load this up after becoming frustrated with Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions. I was playing FFT:WotL yesterday, and made a few mistakes in one of the early battles that cost me 2 characters. I hadn’t saved in about an hour, so I dropped it. Compared to Rainbow Moon, FFT is incredibly slow paced. I found myself wishing that the Vita’s PSP emulator allowed for the speed of games to be manipulated. I need to go in and turn off all the prompts in the options menu next time I play. Maybe that will eliminate some of the battle slowness.
Anyway, Rainbow Moon. This is an interesting beast. I dig the combat. It’s simplified, streamlined, and quite a bit of fun, if a bit repetitive. There are no phases; just a set number of actions that can be taken. You can move, attack, use items, use skills, all in the same turn–if you have enough actions. This gives the game a flexibility that I find incredibly engaging. However, I can’t say I’m all that fond of the open world aspect. It’s designed in such a way that you can’t always tell where you can and can’t go. I’ll see a gap in a line of trees, try to get through it, and find it impassable. Then, I’ll see a suspiciously similar gap somewhere else, and breeze right through it. It’s a bit maddening.
I do love the way the dungeons in the game are designed to loop back on themselves, so you don’t have to backtrack your way through them. It’s like they’re built in such a way, that if you got a bird’s eye image of them, and then took a screenshot, and set it as a repeating desktop background on your computer, it would be a seamlessly repeating pattern on all sides. Plus, it would probably look like an M.C. Escher drawing. Tracking quests and inventory is a bit of a chore, but these are minor issues in an otherwise fun game.
Going against my better judgement, I installed the new Android version of Dungeon Keeper. It’s mechanically sound, and runs really well on my phone. However, the F2P elements are absurd. I can understand maybe a bit of a wait on building a room or structure, but wait times on digging a fuckin’ hole? That’s some unadulterated, EA-level bullshit. I know monetizing mobile games can be a bit rough, but don’t go overboard.