Pokémon: Unite

You can skip Pokémon: Unite, unless you’re a massive sucker for anything Pokémon related. Like I am.

For me, the ultimate test of any licensed game consists of two very simple questions:

  1. Would I play this game if it didn’t have the licensed branding?

    And
  2. Am I going to play it anyway, because I am a consumer whore?

For the best sort of licensed game, such as something like Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, the answer to question 1 is a solid “Yes.” This is something I can say with confidence because I’ve been playing a bunch of Shiren the Wanderer, and it kicks ass. Then we have stuff like Pokken, which is more of a “Sorta,”(but it’s not because the game is bad, just because I don’t really play fighting games).

On the flip side, we have games like Magic: Legends, which gets a solid double “No.”

And then in the middle, we have things like Disgaea: RPG, and, the actual topic of this article, Pokémon: Unite.

I am a sucker for pretty much anything Pokémon. This doesn’t mean I’m 100% “Consume Product,” but if there is something Pokémon related, and it doesn’t cost me money to try it, I probably will.

I’m not sure how long I’ll play Pokémon: Unite for. It honestly might be less than a week. The primary reason to play it over something else is that it’s on the Switch, it’s Pokémon themed… and that’s about it.

The main reason is that while the theming, sound, graphics, etc are charming, the gameplay itself is lacking any incredible moments, and the meta-progression/economy is absolute garbage. Also, I have some problems with its informational display, but at least my UI complaints are correctable.

Let’s start with the gameplay: Pokémon: Unite brings exactly one new interesting idea to the MOBA genre, and that is the victory condition/scoring. Instead of towers or ancients to destroy, there are a series of hoops. You gain score by collecting points, and then convert those points into score by channeling at these hoops. So the basic loop is: build up points by KOing wild Pokémon, go to a hoop, channel and score. It’s an interesting mechanic that leads to some neat tension. And that last sentence right there is a the nicest thing I’m gonna say about the game for the rest of this article.

Okay, this isn’t a great combat screenshot. The UI usually isn’t this busy, but it’s the one I have.

The rest of the game feels fairly standard, like a dumbed down version of Heroes of the Storm. There are a few different maps, with different layouts, but similar objectives. Your hero champion Pokémon have an auto-attack, two specials, an ultimate that takes 8 years to charge, and a summoner spell battle item. In either case, the end result is that in any fight, you have effectively two activatable moves, but I’ve yet to see a situation where it doesn’t feel like I’d want to just spam them. There’s no mana cost to discourage you from doing so, and the cooldowns for the moves are fairly short.

I can’t believe it’s not flash!

The end result is a game that feels bland, to the point that I’m bored with writing about how boring it can be. So let’s move on to the next part of the game that sucks: meta-progression.

Everything about the game’s meta-progression is garbage, and I can summarize why I hate the system in two sentences.

Unless you want to spend real money, unlocking a new character costs between 6000 and 10000 gold. The maximum amount of gold you can earn in a week from winning random battles is 2140.

Yes, you can get more gold from doing quests, and limited time events. Yes, you can get gold by leveling up your trainer level. Yes, you can get gold by finishing the tutorials, or doing some weird slot machine thing. It doesn’t matter. The core point is that the game is designed to be an absolute slog for grinding out the ability to play more characters, leveling up equipment, etc.

The game feels like a cheap mobile game, in the sense that it’s designed to make you log on to do your dailies, to build the habit of playing a few matches, and then leaving. Instead of having you come back for the gameplay, or exciting updates, you’ll come back because if you do for just a few more weeks, you can unlock a new character! Or you could just spend like $10, and get them right now!

Oh, and it has a premium currency, bonus boosters, a battle pass, and just about every other feasible way short of straight up gacha. The game even has a kinda gacha in its energy roulette system, but at least you can’t directly pay money for it.

Oh, and while we’re at it, I have one last big gripe. Keywords, description, functionality and stats. Every attack in the game is something like this:

Secondary gripe: why do I have to confirm moves being upgraded when I get them? Just upgrade them! Don’t make me press buttons twice.

And then we have items in the game that look like this:

40 SPEED UNITS OF SPEED

Do you see it? Or perhaps more specifically, do you not see it? “It” in this case, being any sort of useful information/way to measure the actual numbers/damage/etc that your character can do in a game? Because I sure don’t. At least this one they can probably fix, but why isn’t it there already?

Pokémon: Unite isn’t awful, but it isn’t very good. There are better games to play on the Switch, better MOBAs to play in general, and better Pokémon spinoffs. If for some reason after all this, you still want to play it, it’s Switch exclusive right now, so just go find it on the eShop.

Luck Be A Landlord

I wish it was as easy to write about this game as it was to play 20 hours of it.

I like Luck Be A Landlord. Fin.

I’m pretty sure this isn’t good enough to qualify as an article, but I’ve been trying to write about Luck Be A Landlord for quite a while and failing completely.

This might be because there is only one aspect of being a game that Luck Be A Landlord does well, but it’s also the only thing about games that actually matters to me: the gameplay. Luck Be A Landlord is an incredibly unique take on a deckbuilder, where instead of building a deck, you assemble a slot machine.

And this leaves me in a bind, because I can’t faff around about other things in the game that I like, such as music, animation, art, and story for several paragraphs like I normally would. All of those elements are pretty mediocre, but it doesn’t matter, because Luck Be A Landlord is mental crack.

The general gameplay loop is pretty simple: you have a slot machine, and a certain number of spins. At the end of those spins, you have to pay up a certain amount of cash. After each spin, you choose from one of three symbols to add to your pool, meaning it can now show up on future spins. Each time you have to pay rent, your rent goes up, and you have to pay more rent the next time.

And this probably doesn’t sound super enthralling, but I think it’s worth pointing out that a summary of Bejeweled’s mechanics would be something like “You have a grid of jewels, and you swap them, this removes them, so you can match more jewels.”

Let’s use this run as an example of why Luck Be A Landlord is so interesting to me.

At first glance, this probably looks like a fairly boring setup. I’m only using 3 different symbols. So why is it satisfying at all?

Well, the effort to get to this point was fairly massive. The symbols in question that I’m using are the Amethyst, the Dame, and a wildcard.

The Amethyst is part the Gem family of symbols. These symbols include Diamonds, Pearls, Emeralds, Sapphires, and a few others. The primary thing that’s unique about them is that they’re a family of symbols, much like the Fruit family, that are far easier to get by having symbols interact on the board, than by drafting them.

The Amethyst’s gimmick is that it’s the only symbol in this family that scales, and it does it in a fairly unique way. Each time another symbol would increase the value of an Amethyst prior to the end of a round, its score permanently increases.

The second symbol, the Dame, is from what I tend to think of as the humanoid family. The Dame buffs up any Gem family symbol she’s next to, meaning that when next to an Amethyst, she makes it worth more both in the current round you’re scoring, and in addition triggers the Amethyst’s unique ability, making it worth more permanently.

At the same time, the Dame also destroys and scores points for Martinis, making them an effective symbol to use in combination with Bartenders and Dwarves, as part of an alcohol removal engine.

I’m rambling a little bit here, so I’m just gonna try to get to my thesis: Luck Be A Landlord does a really good job of balancing moment to moment tension, and longer term play. Choices that might get you through your current rent cycle might not be ideal for you build, but choices that could be better for your build might mean you’ll never complete it in the first place. Most symbols have at least 1-2 meaningful interactions with other symbols, or symbol families.

The end result is a game where it’s just a lot of fun to try to build different types of engines, from Cultist based builds, which rely on having a bunch of the same symbol on the board, and then transition into eldritch horrors, to pearl harvesting builds, to pirates cracking open treasure. Watching a build come together is incredibly satisfying, and having one fall apart is frustrating, but not frustrating enough to keep you from doing just one more run.

Luck Be A Landlord is a video game. You can buy it on Steam. It is $10, and it is in early access. Oh, and there is a free demo, if after all of this you’re still on fence.

D6 – Max Level, 1 Fight, No DLC Guide

I keep seeing a bunch of references to farming in D6, with every single guide mentioning the Prinny trick, getting max, but no single guide that actually explains the full strategy. So here’s my writeup, with exact steps and details on what I have done, and the results. This guide does NOT use any DLC to get this outcome. No Valvatorez or Pleinair required.

Prereqs
Rakshasa Unlocked
3000 Cap In Cheat Shop
Capped Squads

Prep

1x Killer – Level Whatever

This slot is more or less whatever you want it to be. In my case, I used Bieko with capped Omega Wind, and had every other booster equipping “Kill With Wind.” You could probably make a more efficient version of this setup, that doesn’t require that. The only important thing about your “Killer” is that they can kill every single mob on Peaceful World – Bell of Blessing – Rakshasa without dying, and that they have a 900 Statistician equipped.

9x Boosters – Level 1 – Any Class/Unit

One of these is the unit you’re power leveling.

Evilities
World is Mine
Genius Studier
Happy Song
Overlord Training
Kill With Wind – OPTIONAL, SEE ABOVE

Items: Each character had a 900 Statistician

90x – Fodder – Level 1 – Prinny God Capped with any one job, for EXP Bonus From D-Merits

Evilities
Recycle Spirit
Focus Bomb

Items: Doesn’t Matter

D.I. Target Myself -> Wait Until Other Units Have Acted -> Nearest Unit -> Lift -> Nearest Unit -> Throw
Put this on every single one of these Prinnies.

Setup and Execution

Setup – You only have to do this stuff once.

  1. In Cheat Shop, set Enemy Strength to 20
  2. In Cheat Shop, set Back to Square One to ON
  3. In Cheat Shop, set EXP to 3000%.
  4. In your auto-battle group, set up your units to be in the following order. PRINNIES -> BOOSTERS -> KILLER
  5. Add the Unit You’re Power Leveling to the Boot Camp Squad

Execution – Do this each loop.

1. Dark Assembly Bills – (Any unit can pass these)
Give Me Triple EXP!
Praise My Performance
Throw a Welcome Party

2. With the unit you’re power leveling, pass Hog All Exp!
3. Go to Peaceful World – Bell of Blessing – Rakshasa
4. Press Autocombat, and watch Prinnies go boom for a bit.
5. Bring out your boosters, and killer.
6. Clear the map. Optional
7. Repeat until you lose your mind and get tired of trying to farm Karma when you can only get 124 Million a Loop.

Additional Notes and Tips

  1. You can fill the Dark Assembly squad with the Prinnies you’ve created. Once your Dark Assembly is capped, this mean every bill will pass without bribes or fights effectively every time.
  2. This is by no means “Optimized.” I’ve spent the last few days trying to get this to work, and every source of information either left parts out, or was a 16 minute YouTube video that claimed you needed DLC, or didn’t include all info.
  3. I get about 9QD per run with my setup. If you’re getting less then that, here are a few things to check. I’m going to be honest, I do not understand how EXP addon stacking works at all in D6. Example: You can’t stack more then 1 Statistican per character, but you apparently can stack Happy Song.
    1. Stick as many EXP boosting Evilities as you can on the character you’re powerleveling.
    2. Confirm everyone has an item with a Statistican
    3. Stuff even more EXP boost Evilities onto your booster characters.
    4. Make sure you’ve capped your cheat shop
    5. Make sure none of your Prinnies ended up above level 10 somehow.

I mostly wrote this because of how incomplete or just inaccurate the other guides were.

What is… Deep Rock Galactic?

Rock and Stone, Brother!

Deep Rock Galactic is a cooperative PvE first-person shooter. You and your friends are a team of space dwarves, mining ore among the stars. The core game is about you and your team of up to four other players trying to complete whatever dig you’ve signed up for this time. While the game does have procedurally generated maps and a variety of mission objects, the thing that sets it apart is how it handles its classes.

Deep Rock Galactic breaks away from the Holy Trinity of Heals, DPS, and Tank. Instead, any player can play any role when needed. The added spice is that each class also excels uniquely via pure utility by environment interaction.

The game’s four classes are the Engineer, Scout, Gunner, and Driller. Each of the four classes can do great damage, great support, and some form of escape or defensive mitigation for the team. For example, the Engineer has a platform gun that can create platforms in the environment. You can use these platforms to build choke points to funnel glyphids (the game’s bug enemies), or as a safe pad to land on in an emergency escape, or to make a bridge across great divides.

The Scout’s specialty is to provide vision to the team via his flare gun. Without his flare gun you could get surrounded by unseen glyphids in the dark at a moment’s notice. He is the most mobile role of the squad, best for filling in any gaps of defenses or daring rescues. Gunner has the highest sustained firepower, and also the best defensive ability in the game: the bubble shield which blocks projectiles as well as regenerates allied shields. Driller’s specialty is obliterating wide hordes of small glyphids through bombs or fire, or freezing boss enemies, making them stunned and vulnerable for the team to destroy. Driller’s drill gauntlets allows him to make tunnels straight to evac, or shape the terrain to his advantage as well.

There are also general character perks that you can earn that apply to all classes. These upgrades are generally straight increases to damage, survivability or cool new ability that’s always good. When choosing between upgrades of the same tier they are mainly trade offs or side-grades. Deciding which upgrades you want allows you to tailor your dwarf to play your way—which is really fun. If you are a min-maxer, you can look up guides for best upgrade paths to unlock first, but I’d recommend against it. Overall, experimenting with all of the upgrades and discovering what works for you is the most fun for getting longevity from Deep Rock Galactic. It’s a slow burn of a journey and not about getting max power ASAP.   

The game can be played in single player mode but I wouldn’t recommend it. Thankfully, the game enjoys a large player base where you can always find a lobby for whatever mission you want to do.

That said, I found the end game raid missions difficult to do with just random players. These missions are called “Deep Dives” and give out unique loot that can change your class by modifying what your guns do. Some modifications just swap the elemental damage type of the weapon, but others fundamentally alter your gadgets to do something entirely weird and new. For example, one piece of loot makes it so when you shoot your shotgun at the ground, you jump higher. This is just one of tons of possible changes you can apply to your gear, although the limit is one per gear piece so you can’t stack a bunch of modifications on one gun.

Deep Rock Galactic has limitless stuff to unlock, and I imagine it’d take hundreds of hours to unlock all the talents, gear, and cosmetics the game has to offer. The available missions are rather diverse, but you’ll probably find some you like more than others. The game has consistent updates, and is currently in the process of adding a 3rd weapon choice for all classes, as well as doing balance revisions to all current weapons and talents, with an estimated patch release in quarter 3 2021 (sometime between July and end of September).

If this sort of thing sounds exciting to you, here are some my tips for starting off:

  1. Feel free to mix up team compositions. For the most balanced gameplay, 1 of each class seems best, but for some mission types you may feel like more than one of a class might suit it better.
  2. Nothing wrong with taking it slow. When starting out I’d recommend a hazard level 2 or 3 mission at most (hazard levels are just difficulty level: 1 is easy, 2 is normal and so on). Then when you feel like you can handle it, increase hazard levels for better rewards. I’ve played about 90 hours since the launch and promoted each class about once. Personally I wouldn’t recommend trying hazard 5 or higher till you’ve promoted a class… but hey, you do you.
  3. Take advantage of those credits! Deep Rock Galactic has a deep character progression system where the credits and materials you earn from missions can buy tons of upgrades to specialize your class a lot.

I think it’s a gem of a game, and if you had to pitch it to a friend in like 10 seconds, I’d say, “It’s like a co-op shooter like Left 4 Dead, fused with looter-shooter talent leveling and survival game terrain manipulation like Minecraft, but you are an awesome high tech space dwarf squad, killing the zerg Glypids.”

4.5/5 Etrodons is my overall rating. And when you do play the game, remember to hit “V” to ROCK AND STONE, BROTHER!

Magic: Legends is Dead After 4 Months

Goodbye, and good riddance.

I don’t think there’s anything positive or noble about kicking dead horses, or beating men while they’re down, unless they’re into that, and you okay it beforehand. That said, I find the state of Magic: Legends so incredibly funny that I’m gonna do both of those things. Hopefully this will get it all out of my system so I stop talking about Magic: Legends over and over to my friends.

So yeah, Magic: Legends is dead. It lasted just about 4 months, and didn’t even make it out of open beta. Also, the studio behind it is apparently laying a bunch of people off, which sucks. But holy shit, 4 months, and not even out of beta? Misbits lasted longer then that. HEX lasted longer then that. This is a multi-system ARPG, licensed off an incredibly successful game for its world, lore and background, and they couldn’t even keep a beta alive?

What the fuck guys.

We could spend a lot of time speculating about why Magic: Legends failed so incredibly hard. I’m sure someone over at Cryptic is doing that right now, in-between shots of vodka and wondering how much they can pawn the office furniture for. It’s way too easy to construct a narrative that you want to believe, and there are so many things that could have caused the game to fail that it’s an exercise in futility. So let’s do it anyway! Here are a few of my favorite pet theories:

  1. If you make a F2P PC/Console ARPG, you are competing with Path of Exile, which is also free, has no P2W mechanics, and has 8 years of lead time on you. Maybe your game should do like… one thing better then them. Just one. And “Having a licensed property” doesn’t fucking count.
  2. Linking the PC release exclusively to Epic Game store for a GAAS release might be a bad idea. Epic has a lower overall player count, and Epic probably isn’t gonna subsidize a freemium game the same way they can for a game that players just buy once.
  3. MTG is a very successful game. It also has lore. Is that lore as important to its players as, say… the actual game mechanics? My guess would be “No.” Pornography also has a plot and lore. I’ve yet to see a successful non-porn offshoot of Lemon Stealing Whores. (SFW)

Of course, it could be all or none of these! So next, I’m just gonna make a list of things I personally thought were shit about the game:

  1. Graphics and performance. It takes a lot to make me care about graphics. Multiwinia is one of my favorite games. I hated how Magic: Legends looked. And ran.
  2. Awful Gameplay Loops. For real though, the core gameplay loop is an ARPG, a genre where getting cool loot is an important part of the feedback loop. The core feedback loop was “Getting more copies of cards you already own, to fuse them into cards you own, and make the cards slightly better” with incremental scaling a la Clash of Clans. It was garbage.
  3. Warp Points. Hey, what if we made it so each area is instanced with other players? And they showed on the map? And if another player was on top of a warp point you wanted to go to, you couldn’t warp to it, because you would click on their name instead? And what if players spawned into maps near the quest givers, and went AFK, every time you wanted to go back and turn in a quest, YOU HAD TO WALK THE ENTIRE FUCKING WAY THERE FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MAP, BECAUSE XX_PLAINWALKERX_XX69 WENT AFK ON THE SPAWN POINT? And before I hear any “It (was) a beta” whining, if they hadtime to release the game with a fully functional cash shop, then they had time to test it with 10 people, and see what happens when one of them disconnects at the starting zone.
  4. The Worst Kind of F2P. Randomized booster packs of what amounted to in-game loot, and extra classes/characters. In a genre of game about building cool characters and acquiring loot. It was as shitty as it sounded.
  5. Capping Farming. I’m running out of steam at this point, but I wanna get a few more jabs in, so what the fuck was with the capped mana system? “You can play this much, but then you have to come back tomorrow, and you can’t get anymore loot until then!” In a genre that often ends up about farming for loot. I’m sure some incredible business genius in the backroom went “Oh, lots of mobile games have daily check-ins or something, lets do something like that!” Well, shit for brains, this game ain’t on mobile. They could have gone the Blizzard route, and added a mana charged buff and then after the cap, drop it way down, but they chose to implement it in the worst way possible.
  6. Gameplay. The gameplay just wasn’t fun. It just wasn’t. The idea of an ARPG with cycling abilities is cool, but it only works if there’s some reason to think about what abilities you’re using. As it was, there was no reason to not just spam everything the moment it was off cooldown and you had mana for it.

    So yeah. RIP In Peace, Magic: Legends. This Frankenstein’s monster attempt of combining an existing genre with some of the shittiest freemium mechanics ever to crawl out of mobile games, and a core game mechanic crippled by the aforementioned freemium bullshit will not be missed.

It should lie in its grave and rot.