Achievement Devaluation – What happened?

I want to discuss something—well, rant would be the most appropriate term, but let’s go with discuss—that has been on my mind as a gamer for a while now: achievements and their apparent devolution in the past decade.

Achievements have always been around, we just only recently given them names, points and kept track of them. From defeating the super bosses in Final Fantasy to obtaining the Street Fighter moves in Mega Man X, there have always been extra challenges in video games for us to discover and pursue. These are achievements as much as those we see listed on our Steam Pages.

But at some point, the nature of the achievement begun to change, their value diminished. The above examples of older achievements all had a bit of “gamer cred” attached to them, with harder such accomplishments having different values. Continue reading Achievement Devaluation – What happened?

Best JRPGs – Xenoblade Chronicles X and Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE

In the past I’ve spoken about JRPGs, the things I like but most importantly, the flaws in the genre, because whilst the name just means Japanese-RPGs, it has enough tropes and stylistic differences that we can consider it a completely different genre. Many of these tropes form the basis of all RPG Video Games, as many developers and designers grew up with games such as the original Final Fantasy.

Right now, I’m playing through two JRPGs that I now think might be two of the best RPGS in the world. The first is one I’ve mentioned in the past, Xenoblade Chronicles X, which I had to restart because I forgot to copy the save file when I deleted my old WiiU account and created a new one (they’re region-locked, so my Irish one didn’t work here). And the second is the wonderful Shin Megami Tensei & Fire Emblem Crossover, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. Continue reading Best JRPGs – Xenoblade Chronicles X and Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE

Spoiled Rotten – Elements I now want in all JRPGs!!

As you know, I’ve been playing and recording Tales of Zestiria, the latest in what is apparently a very long series, though I had never before played any of them. Another game I’m still playing and which you might know of is Xenoblade Chronicles X, of which I’ve written in the past, particularly how much I loved the world and the gameplay elements.

Now that I’m playing another major JRPG for a review in the coming days, I keep thinking back to those games and the convenient mechanics they brought into my gaming life. And while it may seem unfair, I keep waiting for those mechanics to show up in this new JRPG, and I will admit I’ll be partly disappointed if they never pop up.

You could say Xenoblade Chronicles X and Tales f Zestiria have spoiled me. But once I tell you about these features, you will probably understand why they’re so good and how game changing they are in JRPGs—not so much in western RPGs were at least one of them has been around for a while.

Continue reading Spoiled Rotten – Elements I now want in all JRPGs!!

The Wonderful World of Xenoblade Chronicles X

Warning, spoilers ahead

As I mentioned last week in my Uncharted article, I’ve recently been playing Xenoblade Chronicles X on my Wii U. I’m a huge fan of the first Xenoblade Chronicles on the Wii and I have been waiting so much time to get my hands on this title. It’s the reason I bought a Wii U to be perfectly honest. I’ve wanted a Wii U for ages but hadn’t found the urge to buy it, but with Xenoblade Chronicles X on the horizon and with money, I decided it was time to do it.

The first Xenoblade had a fascinating universe, an engrossing story and characters and marvelous world filled with strange and wonderful beings. So when I started playing Xenoblade Chronicles X, I wondered if it would be just as good or if it would disappoint in any way. While I do have my issues with the game, which I’ll mention when I write the review for it—when I eventually finish the game, currently at chapter 10—it hasn’t disappointed with its amazing world and universe. Continue reading The Wonderful World of Xenoblade Chronicles X

EGX Highlights – Best of EGX

EGX was a lot of fun, as you’ve been able to see from my previous articles and the many photos I took (though I promise to take even more next time around). I played tons of games, spoke to many developers and as I’ve mentioned in the past, I met new and old friends alike. It was a wonderful experience.

I’m not a fan of “Best of” a given event, as I feel it diminishes the value of every other game that I saw during EGX. But thanks to my friends at 1001Up, it’s public knowledge what my favourite game at the event was, so what the hell? I’ll talk about my Best of EGX 2015. Continue reading EGX Highlights – Best of EGX

The Levelling Perspective

It used to be that you could measure game time in an RPG with just how much you levelled up. To say in Final Fantasy VI that you reached level 60 before the end of the game, without much grinding involved, meant the game was at least a few dozen hours long. The random battle element combined with the linear nature of their stories and progress meant that that you would reach higher character levels naturally and without breaking off the story progression with unnecessary encounters. Continue reading The Levelling Perspective

Annoying Game Mechanics – Timed Sequences

Annoying Game Mechanics are those that just make you groan when you see them in a game. You’ve seen them at their best but you’ve also seen them at their worst. You can’t love them but you can’t hate them either, but you can definitely be annoyed!

This week the mechanic I’m having an issue with is Timed Sequences! I’m pulling this one from the archives, as this was the last AGM to be featured on the site, and it was a video! Thankfully, there are no records of it ever existing and the world is a happier place for it. You don’t need me mumbling on video with poor audio. You already have me mumbling on video with good audio!

Sometimes games need to add a bit more pressure to your current task. Maybe they want you to hurry the hell up before the nuclear reactor blows up, or maybe they want you to hold on to dear life and withstand something unfairly difficult for a little while before something else happens! These are Timed Sequences, events or segments in a game where you have a finite time window to complete a task. Unlike other Annoying Game Mechanics, there are two types of Timed Sequences:

Timed Tasks, as their name imply mean you have a set time to go about your business. Maybe it’s escaping a room before a bomb blows up, or escape a crime-scene before the police arrive, or lock your doors before someone comes barging in. These timed sequences add tension to a sequence. The gameplay remains the same as do all the rules, but now you have that timer pressuring you.

Survival Countdown sequences are not specific tasks, not simple objectives to follow. Instead your only goal is to survive or hold on until the time runs out or some other even triggers. Real Time Strategy games are fond of this one, of giving you a five minute window until victory triggers with the difficulty ramping up the more time passes. While the previous mean to increase tension, these are frantic and meant to test your composure and reaction time.

If done properly these sequences do exactly what they’re meant to do, they add tension and make for exciting gameplay. They make you nervous enough to make mistakes as you fumble with the controls, but lenient enough that you can commit errors and still make it through. The successful ones add an incomparable adrenaline rush to your game and in doing so enhance the player’s immersion.

If they screw up, on the other hand, the only thing they’ll cause is stress and frustration, becoming tall walls the players need to overcome to move along with the rest of the game. They kill the fun and immersion they tried to enhance and make sure the player doesn’t have fond memories of the game.

The staple of an annoying mechanic is that it’s seen both good and bad days. The following are some of the best and most disappointing uses:


  • Every Metroid game has at least one timed sequence, usually in the form of an escape. From leaving the self-destructing planet at the end of Metroid 1 and Super Metroid to the reactor core meltdown in Metroid Fusion. These sequences are exciting and tense but you have enough leeway to royally screw up and still make it out in time.
  • Warcraft III has a few of these. The most memorable one is the last mission in the Undead Campaign, where you summon the Burning Legion to Azeroth. The enemies become ever stronger and the units come out faster and it’s a frantic race to keep your defenses up until the time is done. Thankfully your new masters send you aid in the form of demonic units to help vanquish your enemies and give you some breathing space!
  • Guild of Dungeoneering has an interesting take on the timed tasks. Some dungeons will feature a “sleeping” monster. The creature will come after you in a number of turns and you have to do your best to gear and level up before it does. The best part about it is that if you manage to reach it before it wakes up, it will take a hit to its stats, making the fight considerably easier.
  • Resident Evil games also have a tendency for self-destruct escapes. Resident Evil 2 is the most memorable of them in my opinion by having a boss fight right in the middle of it. It would be stressful if not for two reasons. First, the timer is generous enough. Second, by the time you get to the boss you’ll have a massive arsenal with which to take the boss out with time to spare. So it works as a wonderfully tense situation.
  • One of the most memorable stages in StarCraft is the mission where you must hold on until evacuation comes by resisting attacks by the Protoss and Zerg. This is the mission where Kerrigan falls. It was wonderfully paced and by the end you hate to leave her behind.
  • The Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth has a wonderful starting timed sequence. You have to jump out of bed and block out the entrances to your room before the villagers can come after you. From then it escalates into a chase sequence where each locked door adds a bit of time for a breather. If you’re playing on the PC version—in which the main character moves at 1/6 of the normal speed—this extra time is vital!
  • Final Fantasy VIII has a fantastic timed sequence. While fighting Seifer on the Lunatic Pandora, Odin will appear and attempt to kill him only to die in the process. You then see Odin’s sword flying through the sky and a mysterious hand grabbing it as it parts the clouds. If you then stretch the battle on, eventually Gilgamesh will show up, kill Seifer and take Odin’s place as your new summon. It’s entirely optional but very rewarding!


  • Dracula 2 added these to the game, but they are outstandingly frustrating. With the poor resolution on its static backgrounds, finding the latch to close the door or the mirrors to move to kill a vampire is a bit of frustrating pixel hunting that will annoy you to no end.
  • Batman: Arkham Knight added VR challenges for the Batmobile, where you race from one end to another or have a limited time to do something with the clunky tank. By that last sentence you should know why this is a bad one. The Batmobile has worthless maneuverability, making each turn take so much time that completing the challenges becomes painful. It doesn’t help that time boosters are so out of the way that it’s pointless to get them.
  • Guild of Dungeoneering makes the list again but this time with its monster chase quests. In these the monster is coming after you and will get to you in a matter of turns. With the way the AI works for determining its next move, these quests can be very frustrating when your character walks straight into the monster’s path.
  • Various JRPG, including Xenoblade Chronicles, have unbeatable boss fights where you just have to hold on for a certain number of turns until something else happens. These sequences feel cheap and are insanely punishing and barely beatable. Worse still, if for some reason you out-level the content, then it feels as though you lose by plot even if you manage to defeat the monster.
  • Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness has a few of these. The first one is at an old lady’s house, where you must escape before the police get there, but not before you find a journal. The only problem is that the journal is nowhere in sight. So you look around and of course, it’s in the kitchen? What? The time you have to do this is very tight and the ridiculous location for the item just adds to the confusion.
    • Later on you need to escape from a room where someone set a bomb, but even the smallest of missteps will make the thing go boom.

Annoying Game Mechanics – Subquests

Annoying Game Mechanics are those that just make you groan when you see them in a game. You’ve seen them at their best but you’ve also seen them at their worst. You can’t love them but you can’t hate them either, but you can definitely be annoyed!

This week the mechanic I’m having an issue with is Subquests! Continue reading Annoying Game Mechanics – Subquests

Annoying Game Mechanics – Collectibles

Annoying Game Mechanics are those that just make you groan when you see them in a game. You’ve seen them at their best but you’ve also seen them at their worst. You can’t love them but you can’t hate them either, but you can definitely be annoyed!

This week the mechanic I’m having an issue with is Collectibles!

These are the items, trophies and knickknacks strewn around the maps, there for you to find. They’re an optional quest, something else to do when you’re not saving the world or looking for a princess in another castle. They expand the gameplay—sometimes even padding it—and may or not include some sort of challenge to collect them. Maybe you need to do a tricky platforming segment, or climb a steep hill with limited stamina or defeat a powerful enemy to find this little thing.

I don’t mean health pickups and powerups, pieces of heart or mushrooms. Those are central mechanics, those we can call simply “pickups.” I mean the truly optional, those that if you took them out, the core gameplay would not change. I mean the Flags, the Gold Skultullas, the hidden memoires and ancient artefacts. As much as we dislike the idea of having to go around the maps looking for a tiny object or creature, we all do it in the end, because we hope there’ll be a big reward for the effort we put in.

And that ultimately is what separates the good Collectibles from the bad one. There is a function to them, a purpose to the scavenger hunt. Maybe it’s an upgrade or simply another ending to the game.

The staple of an annoying mechanic is that it’s seen both good and bad days. The following are some of the best and most disappointing uses:


  • The Legend of Zelda has always done collectibles right, giving you a big reward for your efforts.
    • Ocarina of Time had the Skulltulas, and every 10 or so would break the curse on one person and they would give you a reward.
    • From Wind Waker onwards you had loot bags for monster drops. These could be exchanged for treasure or in Skyward Sword’s case, used for upgrades. You might think the upgrades a central mechanic, but they’re really not, as you don’t really need them at all, nor does the game hint that you should do it.
  • TheEzioAuditore Assassin’s Creed games had you collecting Seals—through eitheraparkour gauntlet or a combat one— that would earn you the most powerful armour in the game, usually unbreakable and with more defence than any other piece of gear.
    • Not only did it have those, but also the Animus Fragments in Revelations and the ciphers and special puzzles in the other two games and completing each would reveal a part of the truth.
  • System Shock 2, Bioshock and Dead Space all have Audio and text logs, and while the benefit from them isn’t necessarily mechanic (such as a password), they help their title’s storytelling in a very rewarding way.
  • Batman: Arkham City made the inane Riddler Trophies useful, by setting them as prerequisites for the challenge rooms where Edward Nygma stashed his hostages.
  • Bloodborne has the “One-third of Umbilical Cord”. Taking three of them and selecting a particular option near the end, unlocks the game’s final ending. Again, you might consider this one central to the game, but they are in no way signposted and you can even find more than three, thus I consider them collectibles.
  • The Witcher 3 has Gwent Cards. As much as I dislike the minigame itself (I was a Dice Poker master!), the cards are a form of collectibles. There’s even a sidequest called “Gotta Collect them All!” Each card can bolster your deck which in turn can lead you to making some serious money.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles has special items thrown around its massive maps. You’ll come across them as blue balls of light hovering over the ground. You’ll often use these little items, which are completely random by the way, as objectives in some of the game’s thousands of subquests. And beyond that, you have an adventuring journal where you can ‘use’ these items to fill up the current zone’s collection for Flora, Fauna, Mechs, etc., and gain a small item when you’ve completed a set.
  • Final Fantasies have always had some form of collectible:
    • Final Fantasy VIII much like The Witcher 3 had cards (only this card game was quite fun!).
    • Summons are mostly optional in the game, and collecting them can be one of the most satisfying things to do, as there is always a challenge to be found.


  • Speaking of Assassin’s Creed, the series has also had its fair share of ridiculous and pointless collectibles.
    • As much as I love AC2, the feathers were unnecessary and tedious. The point of them is to give Ezio’s mother closure, but surely there are better ways than hunting for 100 random feathers in the environment.
    • The different flags found in all the games are a colossal waste of time, especially the Assassin’s Creed 1 and Brotherhood’s.
    • The Animus Fragments in Black Flag are the epitome to pointless collectibles. They really give you nothing for collecting them, just an achievement.
  • While Arkham City did make the Riddler trophies useful, it added the Catwoman Trophies in…just because. They add nothing and simply pad her segments, which aren’t remotely as fun as Batman’s.
  • The Legend, Anniversary and Underworld trilogy for Tomb Raider added Relics to the game, and they do nothing but unlock concept art, which is a complete waste of time. Give me something useful, not something I’m already slowly unlocking by just clearing the game.
  • Alice: Madness Returns has perhaps the most pointless of all collectibles. You can find memory fragments, which show you either a conversation or an image relating to Alice’s past and her mental state. The problem is they don’t offer any answers or insights into the plot. The real memories, the ones that do offer something interesting, are obligatory and found at the end of each level.
  • Alan Wake had you running around collecting all manner of nonsense, from Manuscript Pages to Coffee Thermoses! They completely broke any immersion, something that was already hard to come by with such a padded game (levels outstayed their welcome and then lasted for another half hour) without adding something so pointless as knocking over can pyramids.


The Nintendo Affair – Unwarranted Hatred?

Nintendo, the Big N, the company gamers love, hate and love to hate. A company that’s been responsible for so many innovations yet people still clamor for them to shut their doors and do something else, follow in the footsteps of other “fallen giants” and leave the market for the superpowers that are Sony & Microsoft. Why do they get so much hate? Why are they the butt of every joke? It seems most gamers, the newer generations especially, have forgotten Nintendo’s role in our history, their mark on the industry. Continue reading The Nintendo Affair – Unwarranted Hatred?