LEGO Worlds: Build it better

LEGO Worlds, currently in early access, is looking to take the charms of it’s series of LEGO games, and add in the thing that has been constantly missing, the spontaneous building that’s the joy of physical LEGOs. As an early access game, it is going to be continually updated, and this review is based on the version as of the date of the review.

At this point, the game really only has the equivalent of Minecraft’s creative mode, where there are minimal resources to manage, and the focus is to let you build to your imagination. However, looking through the tools, LEGO Worlds has already improved on it by giving you tools to do large scale building, although you can still build block by block with hundreds of different shapes of LEGO Blocks. Unlike Minecraft creative, however, you have to unlock all of the prebuild pieces. These pieces are either tools to explore the area, like cars and horses, or they are closer to the flowers, doors, and similar objects that appear in physical LEGO sets.

Very simply, the way to get all of these parts is to explore, find (and sometimes destroy) the pieces, and then pay an in-game currency. Even in one of the first builds of early access, the incentive to explore is already there, if only to get more tools to build what you want.

My current assessment is that LEGO Worlds is being built on a solid foundation. Building isn’t as fluid as it could be, due to very poorly using the keyboard, which isn’t as surprising given that the LEGO series has been a console series first. Other than that, and some camera issues, the game has the potential to be great. However, for most people, this game is not the best to buy yet.

If you’re excited to support the LEGO franchise, and are willing to risk this being a disappointment like LEGO’s last attempt at an MMO, it would be worth buying as is. If you’re getting into creative building games, and don’t already have Minecraft, it’s my honest opinion that LEGO World’s large scale building tools will make building a lot more fun, and it’s also currently at a cheaper price, which would change my assessment into grab it now, as long as you remember this is an early access game, and things can go wrong.

If nothing else, where else can you say “Your point doesn’t matter, I’m a skeleton riding a polar bear?”

Warframe: Ninjas Play Free

I’ve put God (and Gabe Newell) knows how many hours into this game. Even though I haven’t gone with a full collection spirit, I’ve played through large chunks of what this game has to offer. From this point of view, I’d like to write a detailed review. If you want a quick sense of what I feel about Warframe, just go to the very end. One thing to note is that this review is specifically for the PC version. While the large details are about the same for the console versions, I can’t speak to the console version’s graphics or performance.

Premise: You are a Tenno (read Space Ninja) that became awake long after the fall of a great empire that the Tenno were tasked with protecting. You wake up to a solar system at war for complete domination, and a person who calls herself the Lotus seeks to protect you, and in return, you are to help her and the other Tenno maintain stability in the solar system.

Shooting in style

Mechanically, Warframe is a Third-person shooter cooperative RPG that has strong gear-based progression (instead of character-based progression). In a nutshell, this means making a new character is a matter of buying different gear, not starting over from the beginning. Also, while cover based shooter gameplay can last for a while, the intended style is a horde vs the Tenno, making it much closer to Dynasty Warriors than Call of Duty.

Each Warframe, aka class, has a small set of powers that manage to make these frames feel pretty unique, even for the same role. Compare Oberon, a supportish Paladin style that can do a lot of healing, as well as having abilities that lock down areas, to Trinity, your classic white mage that has very little lockdown capability, but having immense survivability through her powers.

Finally, the game itself is structured where the most direct approach is not always necessary. Tenno can wall-run and otherwise maneuver to quickly get to new places on the map, whether it’s finding rare items, getting a good sniping spot, or bypassing a room entirely.

Gear Variety: With Gear-based progression, it’s extremely important that many styles of gear can see use, and in my opinion, Warframe is pretty successful with this, even if there is a set of top-tier gear. While it would be easy to contend that these high-tier gear items are all of what matter, you can progress most of the mid-tier gear to a point where it’s going to be successful enough in everything but the toughest content, where many people would contend that the game is broken anyways.

The weapons themselves range from the mundane AK-47, to some of the same weapons the enemies use, to bow and arrow, flamethrowers, gas cloud launchers, gatling shotguns, gunblades, and even throwing stars. For most weapons, you can at least find a version of it that will be able to keep up.

Gameplay: For a lot of the game, the game encourages moving fast and thinking fast, whether it’s dangerous enemies that reshape the battlefield, moving targets being much harder for the AI to track, enemies you need to take down before they put the whole map on alert, or even balancing progressing an objective and protecting that objective, the Tenno are fast, the powers are big, and every move counts…for most of the game.

Varied game modes mix it up, and even though most of the maps are procedurally generated, there’s enough tiles on each set to make each place you explore in feel different, even after way too much playing it.

Difficulty Curve: This is my biggest criticism of Warframe. Not only does this game have an unforgiving beginning, once you hit a certain point of power, it’s legitimately hard to find something difficult enough for that power without being cheap.

At the very beginning, you’re given your choice of weapons, most of them being pretty bad, given a tutorial that feels both too short and too long, and told good luck. At the same time, the mod system (how you truly progress warframes and weapons) is all about multipliers, not additive bonuses. So, while you struggle through the game, you also don’t have the mods you need to get your damage high enough to keep up with the enemies. There’s also so much about the game that you need to ask others about to make sense, and there are high ranked players that are missing some of the key mechanics because they don’t dive into the Wiki.

This all flips on it’s head as you reach the middle to end game. As I noted before, the mod system lives on multipliers. So, when you start getting all of the multipliers, things start dying at an alarming rate, and to keep up with this, eventually enemies scale to the point where there is no such thing as enough damage. So, you hit a point where there’s very little that can challenge you, and the things that can, can instead wipe the floor with you. If you don’t cross that threshold, the game is extremely fun.

Graphics/Performance: The 3 in-game screenshots you have seen so far is the game at minimum quality. To me, it is still a nice looking game, even without most of the bells and whistles. On the other hand, this game uses RAM like none other. It has gotten better, but there still seems to be a tendency to take up all of the RAM the game can get it’s hands on, especially on weaker systems. If you wouldn’t call your laptop a gaming laptop, this could end poorly, and so can low end desktops.

Monetization: For every F2P game, it still has to have some way of making money to keep going and updating. In some cases, the monetization really gets in the way of having fun. In a case like Warframe, not so much. Everything other than cosmetics and inventory slots that you can buy from the market you can get in game without spending a cent or interacting with other players. In fact, unlike a lot of F2P games, you CANNOT get some of the best equipment from the in-game market. You have to either trade with other players, letting them give up parts for the best equipment for either other parts or Platinum (the paid currency), or you have to get it the hard way. While I have spent money, I never felt pressured to spend money, and given that I have played this game a lot longer than a lot of AAA games that I have enjoyed, it was worth it.

Overall: 9/10 This game deserves it’s spot as one of Steam’s top F2P games. While there are host stability issues at times, it’s something a lot of top games have had to suffer at one point or another. The learning curve does leave with some rough parts, but get some good people who’ll play with you, and even those won’t get in your way as you wallrun deep into enemy territory, looking for the best vantage to take out your enemies.

Alpha Sapphire: Too much Water/10

So it’s been a while since I’ve put anything up. Call it a combination of laziness, distraction, and running short on ideas. However, I did say (elsewhere) that I was going to put up a proper review of Alpha Sapphire/Omega Ruby (ORAS), so here goes.

Overall: 9/10 Although it already had a good base to work off of, this remake did an amazing job in a lot of ways. I find it generally hard to downrate a game that I’ve happily thrown as much time as I have at. Everything new and remade after being abandoned was generally redone impressively. In general, I wish they would have been a bit more bold, but it shouldn’t be enough to stop most from enjoying a really good Pokemon game.

Pacing: After Pokemon Black and White, and it’s borked Experience Formula, and the travesty of Pokemon X and Y’s Exp. Share, this seems like an important point for me to look at. Without the Exp. Share, the level pacing of the game was just about right. The ease of rematching trainers softened the blows of low experience wild Pokemon, and the second gym, which had probably the worst pacing issue if you weren’t turbo-grinding in the original game, was fixed up. If you went to face every trainer, there should be very few fights a decent team should brick wall against because of sheer numbers.

On the negative, I have to admit that the few instances of “Come with me” to town warp were jarring, and there’s about a half of a route that you miss out on that you would have explored in Ruby/Sapphire. Also, I cannot promise that the game will be paced right if you have the Exp. Share on (for your own sake, unless you’re trying to powerlevel through the game for the exclusives, shut it off). It also felt possible, but constrained, to make a solid team. The Hoenn Dex could have used 20-30 strategical additions that fit the feel of the region (Houndour, Magby, or Fletchling would have made a huge difference, for example). Also, please, never, NEVER, I mean NEVER again just give over a legendary. Not after such an easy quest. No, I mean it Gamefreak, Legendaries are supposed to be earned.

Storyline: Pokemon’s never been much for a storyline (get the badges, smash evil, get more badges, be the champion, catch them all), but at the very least, major events and NPCs felt like they had a solid reason to be there, and for a game that knows it’s likely to get burned through by a lot of people, they tried to give the NPCs personality. Not much more to say about that.

Soundtrack: Another thing that’s overlooked that can set the pace for Pokemon games in particular, the soundtrack wasn’t really improved on in it’s general use. For most of the routes and low-stakes battles, they got remastered to meet the requirements of the 3DS, but as you hit the Rival battles, Gym battles, Aqua/Magma admin battles, and the Champion Battle, and Wally especially, you can tell there was more care put into the themes. The end result is generally enjoyable, though I wouldn’t blame you for turning down the music after the 50th generic trainer battle, just to bring it back up for the Gym Leaders and the like.

Side Events/Quirks: I’m glad that they brought back contests and generally made them less frustrating. The Cosplay Pikachu you get in game is either very hit or miss. Either you have an adorable Pikachu in a dress, or you have an annoying rat…in a dress. Depends on how tired of Pikachu you are after so many Pokemon games.

Dexnav gets its own note, just for what it does. In X and Y, they revamped the breeding system as well as added the Friend Safari to make getting competitive Pokemon a lot less painful. In ORAS, you get the Dexnav. On the one end, it ensures that once you capture a Pokemon, that you basically can’t call that Pokemon rare, since you can search for it over and over. On the other hand, you get a system that seems rather familiar for anyone that played Gen 4 for getting more interesting versions of Pokemon. At first, I wanted to curse it after getting “Derp”, the poor Zigzagoon that lost Tackle for Charm. However, after getting a Mean Look Ralts (and nearly getting a shadow sneak one), I was a lot less annoyed at it. Basically, as you keep finding a species of Pokemon, whether in the wild, in trainer battles, or on the field as a Pokemon you can talk to, any of that species you search for has a chance at better stats, Hidden Abilities, and Egg Moves. At the end of it, if you don’t want to figure out breeding a max stat (6 IV) pokemon, you can go searching in the grass (a lot), and get yourself a reasonable Pokemon with an Egg move and a hidden ability. This ends up being the other side of the changes for competitive, lowering the entry bar, which is a good thing for Pokemon.

I hope if you already have your hands on a copy of ORAS, that you enjoy it, and if you have the spare money for it, and don’t already have it, that you consider it.