Into the Breach [Switch] Review

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I never mentioned Subset Games’ FTL before but it’s one of those games that I visit and revisit every so often. I bought it first on PC but I felt it was a better fit on a portable device like the iPad. Fortunately, I didn’t need to double dip with their second game, Into the Breach. It’s available for PC and the Nintendo Switch but I didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger for the portable option when it went on sale. 

Into the Breach may resemble a strategy game like Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy Tactics but it’s very much a puzzle game with rogue-like mechanics. It’s intriguing, unexpected, and a natural fit for the studio who brought us FTL.  

A squad of high powered mechs punching giant bugs sounds gratifying but that’s superficial compared to the gratification of a well-executed setup. Pushing an enemy into the path of another enemy and watching it get annihilated by its own ally’s attack makes me feel like I just pulled a fast one over the bugs.  

It’s not readily apparent at first but thanks to limited reset options, increased familiarity with the game, and a lot of trial and error, opportunities for those kinds of setups began to surface. Different squads (unlocked with an in-game currency) offered different playstyles and ways to subdue the giant bugs threatening innocent lives. My favorite included a jet that smothered enemies with a cloud of smoke that prevents them from attacking. I eventually won with this killer squad in large part to this one unit. 

In my quest for that first win, I strategized and optimized my way through all the islands. I found early islands more tricky than the latter and eventually found a path towards victory. Sometimes, a few hundred innocent lives need to be sacrificed in order for me to get that upgrade point. The fate of humanity’s future was in the balance. 

But once I attained that victory, the desire to push forward and unlock new squads for new challenges drained away from me. I was elated by the victory, I enjoyed pushing giant grasshoppers into the water, and disintegrating beetles with electric clouds. But despite the good times, I didn’t feel the need to jump to another timeline. Saving one future was enough for now. 

Verdict: 
I liked it 

Ratings Guide

Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee

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Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee was made for people like me. People who only played the first couple of games and believe the original 151 are the most memorable Pokemon to date. I’ve tried Pokemon Sun/Moon but found it too slow and too talky for a Pokemon game. All I wanted to do was to drop in, set out, and catch Pokemon. Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee gave me that and then some. 

I felt it was a satisfying remake of the first generation Pokemon titles (Pokemon Yellow specifically), it evoked the classics while making smart improvements along the way. The most notable alteration was replacing the random wild Pokemon encounters with Pokemon Go styled catching. Catching them required me to run into them in the world, sedate them with berries before using the right Pokeball and throwing technique to catch them. Fortunately, there were still a handful of Pokemon which required the classic style of weaken before catching.  

I found the visuals to be simple but very charming. I don’t know if it was a conscious decision to not push the Switch to its limits but I and the Switch’s battery welcomed it. Playing the game in portable just felt right. It was nice to see the game hold up on the big screen but Pokemon will forever be a portable title first for me. It was also strange that the Pro controller wasn’t a viable option. I get the appeal of playing one handed with a single Joy-con but sometimes I just want to relax with a proper controller.  

New features like two on two battles, categorized bags, and expanded stat pages were welcomed additions. I don’t know if those were taken from the recent games but they didn’t overcomplicate or deviate too far Pokemon Yellow. It’s that smart blend of old and new that made Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee a joy to play.  

Verdict: 
I liked it 

Ratings Guide

Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII PS4 Review

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I took a two year break on Call of Duty multiplayer. I enjoyed Treyarch’s Call of Duty: Black Ops III and didn’t see the need to play Infinity Ward’s take on that formula. As much as I enjoyed Sledgehammer Games work with Advanced Warfare, I just didn’t find the idea of revisiting World War 2 appealing. Now I’m back into the thick of it with Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII. 

I normally would split these Call of Duty reviews into multiplayer and campaign reviews but I don’t have to for this year’s installment. Black Ops IIII doesn’t have a campaign and while it’s a bit of a bummer, my confidence in Treyarch to deliver a fantastic campaign was shaken after their last outing.  

Black Ops IIII was multiplayer centric but it still has three pillars including classic multiplayer shenanigans the series is known for. I spent most of my time with in this mode which feels good to play. It’s reminiscent of Black Ops III’s multiplayer sans wall running. The “story justification” for the regression was that this game takes place before Black Ops III. If I cared enough about the story, I could go into the Specialist missions and play through some matches with A.I bots to unlock cutscenes.  

I have little to no interest in that. I also have very little interest in the Zombies mode and the brand new Blackout mode. I’ve tried Zombie modes for years now and I just don’t enjoy them. I tried Treyarch’s Blackout mode but I just don’t think I like battle royale games regardless of how it plays. I just don’t like how these modes have relatively long match times compared to the traditional multiplayer.  

I keep coming back to the multiplayer trying to improve and learning to love Nuketown after all this time. (I find it okay now) The regular shuffle and mixing of featured playlists kept multiplayer relatively fresh. I personally love the Kill Confirmed and Team Deathmatch Mercenary playlists when I’m playing solo.  

I found the spawning and maps in this game solid. The number of times that I’ve spawn into an instant death is so few and far between now. The maps seem varied and flowed very well. Scorestreaks did not dominate their overwhelming firepower unless a match was already completely lopsided. In fact, the number of close matches that I’ve experienced in the Mercenary playlists should be a mark of pride for Treyarch’s matchmaking.  

The introduction of manual healing added much needed nuance to the flow of Call of Duty combat. Couple that with the slight bump in health, firefights feel like it’s more than just who shot first. Tactical retreats have never been this viable before. After I’m wounded, I can now flea heal up quickly and not need to spend time waiting for my life to eventually regenerate. Knowing that a person can be doing the same, I can rush them down and catch them mid-heal. That is if they didn’t choose to use the faster heal equipment. Making healing a tactical decision was brilliant.  

Here’s an unpleasant realization that struck me immediately after my first match: Black Ops IIII was an ugly game. I found this game’s visuals stylistically and technically ugly. I felt every single asset (except for the guns) sported some very muddy textures and some of the most lame character designs to date. I think the guns are the only things that I didn’t have issue with. On top of the built-in shortcomings, users are putting together some of the most garish and gross design combinations on these character models. This is such a far cry from the relative realism of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. I don’t blame Treyarch for enabling personalization (it probably leads to people spending money) but it just kills any semblance of narrative cohesion.  

The audio mixing seems to require headphones to appreciate because on my surround sound system, it is very poor. Unless it’s a gunshot hitting something, I cannot distinguish what’s going on. Even more disappointing? Black Ops IIII’s menu music which is probably the weakest selection to date for Treyarch. I miss Adrenaline (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGLYpYoXkWw) and Ignition (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5NxjraldwE). 

Unlock weapons, build classes, string a series of scores together to unleash annoyances, rinse, and repeat. On paper, this loop was like any other Call of Duty title but this one is thematically relevant to my interests. Treyarch created a very refined version of their Black Ops formula. They’ve given people what they want in a variety of ways and while I may not partake with the Zombies or Blackout modes, the multiplayer itself was more than enough to justify the price of admission for my brother and I. It’s good to be back. 

Verdict:
I liked it 

Ratings Guide

Dragon Ball FighterZ PS4 Review

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Dragon Ball Z has never looked as consistently good as it did in Dragon Ball FighterZ. This was the game of my dreams. Ever since Capcom’s X-men vs Street Fighter, I dreamt of a Dragon Ball Z fighting game in that mold. All I wanted was for Capcom to be given a chance to bring the popular anime franchise and give it the Marvel vs. treatment. I wanted giant beam fireballs, air combos, and all the over-the-top action in a well playing game. It turns out that Arc System Works (not Capcom) would be the ones to fulfill my dreams 20 years later.  

I was more than happy to shell out the dough for the base game, the season pass, and just get right into the thick of things. I spent countless hours trying different characters, progressing through all the in-game combo trials, and even dabbled in a fair bit of competitive play and main story mission. In the end, I realized I wasn’t having a whole lot of fun engaging with the game’s different modes. I enjoyed the fighting but everything else surrounding it was dragging it down. 

I started sinking serious time into the combo trials where I was given a series of combos to pull off. Dragon Ball FighterZ was the first game I ever managed to complete all the trials for. Some were tough and required a couple of hours of practice but I eventually managed to eke past them all. I found these combos interesting to execute and impressive to watch unfold. It was nice to feel I could graduate from the friendly auto-combos to their real combos with relative ease. 

Having grasped some basics of the game, I decided to try the online. Unfortunately, the online experience was just like every other online fighting game experience I have ever played. I couldn’t translate much of what I learned into the multiplayer due to inconsistent network performance or terrible matchmaking. Even if I managed to get into a high quality match, it would be a fleeting moment that was few and far between. The amount of time that it took find me a match ran into the minutes. There were moments where I spent more time waiting than playing. I tried getting into lobbies but I would either be outmatched ability-wise or we have poor network connection qualities. Just a poor experience all around. 

I turned my attention to the single player offerings which featured a simple arcade mode (without any fun endings) and a story mode which was padded out with far too many filler fights. I grew tired of fighting stupid clones and just wanted to get into the meat of the somewhat decent story. The cutscenes featured the antics and voices from the show and it certainly showcased Akira Toriyama’s art in a very positive light. I honestly think this game surpasses the show with its consistency with quality.  

20 years ago I wished for a Dragon Ball Z fighting game in the same vein of Capcom’s Marvel vs. games and, for better or for worse, I got exactly what I wished for. I can live my wildest DBZ fantasy match ups with Goku, Vegeta, Piccolo and all their iconic foes. Pulling off their trademark ki blasts, beams, combos, and other high flying moves would have blown my adolescent mind. However, I can’t help but think that I should have wished for a little more.  

Verdict: 
I liked it 

Ratings Guide

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