You Want How Many Landmines?

This week I’ve been hanging around my adopted home station, Aleksandrov Gateway, in LHS 115. It’s a small station in a small system with about 10.4 million inhabitants. However, it’s got a lot of ships available and modules available in one place so I’ve parked all of my ships here for the time being.

I’ve been working on gathering the materials I need for the pre-engineered FSD and DSS that are available at the human tech broker. The best way to do that seems to be running missions and taking the materials reward and using the material trader to convert materials I don’t need into materials I do.

When I returned home and handed in all of my explorarion/exobiology data I instantly became allied with the stations governing faction C.O.N.T.R.A.I.L which happens to be a player faction. I hadn’t run many missions out of Aleksandrov Gateway so I had very little reputation with the other factions. Better reputation leads to more missions with better rewards being available at any given time. I started taking missions from everyone but C.O.N.T.R.A.I.L to increase my reputation and expand the available missions so I had a chance of getting the materials I actually needed.

At first, I was tasked with running data to other stations, picking up food for the station, and delivering goods that the station produced. As my reputation increased, I started getting missions to source minerals and raw materials, presumably whatever industry needed in the station to make goods. It was like this for a few days but at some point things started to take a darker turn. The factions started feeling more comfortable asking me to get some military gear. Where I was sourcing and returning consumer appliances now I was asked to source some armor or non-lethal weapons. I didn’t think much of it as these requests were from the military faction on the station. Maybe they were serving as the stations security force.

Welcome to Ferreira Control where the only thing they sell is guns, landmines, and hydrogen fuel!

Then I noticed non-military factions started wanting things like personal weapons brought in. They offered materials I needed in return so of course I’d go source them some guns. They may not be legal on the station, strictly speaking, but I had a great relationship with the guys in charge so a few fines wouldn’t be a big deal if I got caught.

Now that I’m friendly with almost every faction on the station they all want one thing and that’s landmines. Why? You might ask. Landmines don’t seem like something you would want to use on a space station. Probably not even something you want on a space station and yet it seems to be the number one requested item to import into our little station. It’s not just one faction either, it’s all of them, they all want landmines and they’re able to pay with high grade materials for them.

We’re not just talking about a few either. Cargo capacity is measured in tons so when someone asks me to source 107 landmines that’s 107 tons of land mines. I don’t know how much your typical landmine weights but that seems like a lot of landmines. But like I said, they pay with high grade materials and the factories that produce the landmines are only a jump away. So the runs are quick and the materials flow in and so far I haven’t been caught smuggling them in.

At this point, the station may have more landmines on board than people.

Back to the Bubble

The trip back to the Bubble included a bit more sight seeing along the way. It did take quite a bit less time though, mostly because I wasn’t stopping at every biological signal I found. With the credits I made from my trip out I had more than enough.  Still I made a point to only stop and scan systems that either weren’t fully scanned by Canonn or logged in the Elite Dangerous Star Map. I still stopped at planets that potentially had biologic signals I had not seen before

On the way back I stopped by the Triford Nebula (above left) and the Lagoon Nebula (above right).  As it turns out, once you’ve seen one cloud of space dust you’ve pretty much seen the rest. Still, they were good stop overs to break up the journey back.

One of my current goals is unlocking the pre-engineered size 5 FSD which boosts jump range. To unlock it, I need to turn in a bunch of materials to a Human Tech Broker. One of the materials required is Tellurium which can be found surface mining on planets with the SRV. As I made my way back, I tried to stop at some planets that had geologic signals and more had a composition of more that 1% tellurium. This type of planet can contain Needle Crystals which can be mined for tellurium. However, I never found any of these in my few hours of scouring planets. I did find some metallic meteorite and Mesoiderite nodes but they were few and far between. Before I abandoned my search I was able to scrounge up 3 units of tellurium over about as many hours. I later learned there are Crystal Shard forests in HIP 336601 where I can fill up on tellurium and other raw materials rather quickly. It’s 1600 light years from the Bubble so once I gather all of the manufactured materials in the Bubble that I need I’ll head out there. Now that I’m back, I’ll have to figure out the best way to do that.

If nothing else, exploring in Elite leads to some awesome screenshot opportunities. I’ll leave you with some shots from my adventure:

Essential Third Party Tools for Elite: Dangerous

Essential third party tools may seem like a misnomer. Surely, an eight year old game has everything it needs baked in to it at this point but that’s just not the case. While there are plenty of in-game tools they just don’t offer the level of information that you would expect. For example, the trade map will show you the types of goods trading between systems but for systems that you’ve visited. With 20,000 systems in the Bubble that are also constantly changing you’ll never get a full picture. And good luck if you’re trying to find a system that sells a ship or modules you’re looking for. That info doesn’t appear to be findable with in game tools alone which, as you would imagine, is very inconvenient. To fill in these types of gaps in information, the Elite: Dangerous community has produced a wealth of third party tools.

There are a ton additional tools out there with varying degrees of specialization. In this post, I want to point out a few that I’ve found helpful and that can be useful for any play style. I also wanted to leave myself a list to come back to in case I decide to take another long break.

Essential Tools

Elite Dangerous Data Network (EDDN)

EDDN is the backbone of many third party tools that provide information about the galaxy, systems, and stations. The data is gathered by the community running tools that gather and send the data along side the game. There are a number of tools that do this listed on EDDN’s Github. My preferred tool is EDMC.

Elite Dangerous Market Connector (EDMC)

This is a light weight application that runs along side game that utilizes the Frontier Companion web API and the games journal files to send data to EDDN and various third party sites that utilize EDDN’s data. If you’re playing on PC and using sites like Inara, EDDB, or EDSM consider running EDMC, the more data we can send the more up to date everything else will be.

EDMC also has a bunch of plugins that can be used to display more data in the app or add additional funtionality. Shoutout to the EDMC – Screenshot tool which automatically converts your screenshots to PNG format. Useful for taking high resolution screenshots and compressing them down so they don’t take up as much space.

Inara

Need to find a station with the ship or module you’re looking to find? Want to find the best place to sell your mining haul? Looking to find a lucrative trade route? Want to find the faction states and influence of your favorite minor faction? Look no farther than Inara, your one stop shop for system and station data. If you link your Frontier account to the site it will also track a whole bunch of stats for your commander in an easily readable format as well.

In addition, Inara serves as a social hub as well. You can find Squadron recruitment here, read other commander’s personal logbooks, and keep up to date on Galnet News too.

Elite Dangerous Database (EDDB)

This site presents the same data as Inara but in a different way. I prefer Inara’s layout but it’s always good to have options!

EDSY/Coriolis

These sites allow you to experiment with ship builds without having to buy the ship or the parts.

EDCodex

EDCodex is is a website that maintains a list of third party tools for Elite Dangerous. If you’re looking for something specific, it’s a great resource to have on hand.

Nice to have Tools

Elite Dangerous HUD Mod

The orange and blue HUD colors in Elite are certainly a choice. Last time I played, I found out there was a way to change them by tweaking a xml file in the graphics folder and never looked back. While this changed the HUD colors it also changed the colors of the portraits of people and made some things harder to see in general. This time around I discovered EDHM which allows a finer control of the HUD color changes. Most importantly for me, it doesn’t change the portrait colors. There are templates created by others that you can apply or create your own though the mods customizer.

VoiceAttack + HCS Voicepack

VoiceAttack is a program that lets you map hotkeys to voice commands. This is recommended a lot to people who play Elite in VR but is also very useful outside of VR as well. On it’s own, it’s a cool program you can offload some buttons to that you might not use often. However, add an HCS Voicepack to it and you’ve got your own ship computer who will respond to your voice commands. The voice pack comes with the added benefit of already having scripts made for all sorts of things like request docking at a station or get clear of an area and jump to the next system. It adds a whole level of immersion to the game that I think is worth the extra money. Both have the added benefit of working for other space games as well including No Man’s Sky, Star Citizen, and Star Wars: Squadrons.

Into the Black

Last week, I started my first long trip out of the Bubble to the Eagle Nebula which is about 6,000 light years outside of civilized space. It’s a trip I had planned to take back in 2018 and made it about halfway before turning around to rush back to the Bubble when some friends wanted to try out Elite. I used to work at a museum with beautiful murals if he “Pillars of Creation” which inspired the trip in the first place.With the current jump range on my Diamondback Explorer the trip is just over 200 jumps. While plotting my route I was surprised to see there was a system with an economy right in the middle of the nebula which means there’s stations with people. Even more of a reason to see what’s going on over there.

In preparation for the journey I took a couple shorter trips about 1000 light years out to figure out the Exobiology activity added with the Odyssey expansion. I needed an Artemis Suite first which was easy to find at a nearby stations. Then it was off to find some planets with biological signals.

Scanning some space grass.

There’s currently a bit of a gold rush going on for Exobiology. In a recent update, all of the prices for each complete scan were increased ranging from 1 million to 19 million credits depending on the type and species. There also a five times multiplier if your the first person to turn in the data from a specific planet. Since the updated prices are pretty recent there are a ton of systems close to the Bubble that no one has landed at and scanned the biological yet. Which leads to some impressively quick cash. With only a few samples in hand after my little trip I boosted my credit balance from 30 million to 300 million. More than enough to get my DBX outfitted for the longer trip. Modules installed, I set off for the Eagle Nebula and settled in for the long journey.

I took my time scanning each system I visited, looking for biologics to collect samples from, and taking screenshots. Lots and lots of screenshots. It turns out, life is pretty common in the Elite Dangerous galaxy. Some systems had upwards of 10 or more biological signals. But not so common there is life to find in every system. Sometimes I would go a dozen or more jumps without finding any signals.

Only a few jumps away from the Eagle Nebula

In all, it took me about a week to arrive at my destination. It was cool to see the nebula gradually getting bigger and closer ever jump. At the center, there was a whole system with an asteroid station and multiple on planet settlements. There were only three factions present: The Colonia Council, the loose government organization of the second Bubble, the Eagle Guards, and the Eagle Inmates. Apparently the Eagle Nebula holds some sort of prison complex for Colonia. I was surprised to find missions there too. That would be quite a distance to run missions to and from.

The asteroid base had a Vista Genomics office to sell my exobiology data. With the fist discovery bonus, I handed in 2.5 billion credits worth of data. I shouldn’t have to worry about credits for a while!

A Commander Once More

It’s been a long time since I was this engaged with Elite: Dangerous. In fact, it’s been about 5 years since I’ve posted about it which is probably the last time I was playing.I made a few attempts to play in VR earlier last year and, while it looked amazing, re-learing all of the controls with the headset strapped to my face left me uncomfortable and frustrated. But on a whim a few weeks before the holidays I fired it up and I’ve been playing every day since.

Earlier last year, in my infinite wisdom, I deleted my old profile to start fresh. I thought it would be easier to learn the game from scratch after being away so long. I didn’t play very long so I came back to a profile with a Sidewinder (starting ship) and a handful of credits. In retrospect, I should have just kept my old profile. After a few hours it was all coming back to me and I missed my stable of ships. I also missed being called by my call sign. When you enter some stations, the control tower operators will address you by the first three letters of your name. I got so used to hearing “Juliet Echo X-ray” when docking at stations that it didn’t feel right being called anything else. So I restarted my profile again, and recreated my old commander, Jexi Tomlin.

I started my career as a glorified space mailman. Taking on data courier missions to nearby systems delivering everything from poll data to secret missives. They didn’t pay much but they got me back in to the swing of things and gave me much needed docking practice.

Every once and a while I would find a mission to deliver commodities from one station to another. These tended to pay more but the Sidewinder’s cargo capacity is pretty small. There were fewer missions with small hauls but I took them when I saw them.

After a few hours of space trucking I made enough credits to upgrade to a Cobra MK III aka the bigger Sidewinder. Even with stock modules it’s quite an upgrade and is a great all around ship for activities in the Bubble. Most importantly for me was the option to add a whole lot more cargo space to take on higher paying delivery missions. I also started taking on sourcing missions where the goal is to find a certain commodity and return it.

I tried my hand at mining, which is something I used to enjoy once I could afford the proper modules. While mining was still fun and brought in decent profit I had a nagging desire to get back in to exploration. I ended up buying a Diamondback Explorer, a ship I had never flown before, and outfitted it for a journey and set off in to the black.

My Diamondback Explorer “The Blazing Rochester”

Take Me to Space

This weekend, I found myself with an intense desire to play a space game. Maybe it’s because I just finished Ghost Song and wanted to continue with the scif-fi theme. Or maybe it’s because I’ve finished two very long games over the past couple months and wanted to play something different. Maybe it’s just a whim of interest that my brain has latched on to. Either way, I wanted to play something in space! I have a fair few games in my library that fit that bill and so I set out trying out different ones to see what peaked my interest the most.

First up was Empyrion – Galactic Survival, a game I got from last year’s Yogcast Jingle Jam bundle and have been meaning to try out. Prior to the bundle, I had been eying the game for a number of years but never pulled the trigger as it seemed to be in a state of perpetual early access. Since I’ve been into 7 Days to Die lately, a sci-fi survival game sounded right up my ally.

I appreciate a game that let’s me shoot dinosaurs with laser guns

I had some difficulty getting it to run and actually load in to a game but eventually I was able to go through the tutorial. Unfortunately, Empyrion seems to be more of a sci-fi building game with some survival elements instead of a survival game with some building elements. It was also giving me some Entropia Universe vibes. I don’t know if it’s the look of the game world or the UI but I couldn’t help thinking about my time in EU while I was going through the tutorial. This wasn’t scratching the itch so I loaded up the next game.

No Man’s Sky is always good for some interesting screenshots.

No Man’s Sky is one of those games I’ve always wanted to get in to but after 10 hours or so I’m over it. It could be because I always start over when I come back to it. There’s usually months in between play sessions and I don’t remember all of the controls so a restart always seems best. This means doing the tutorial and retreading the same ground again and again.

I thought this time for sure I was in a place where I would stick with it. I jet packed around hoovering up all the materials to fix my equipment, started building a base, gathered all the materials to launch the ship, and took off for the nearest space port. As I was flying, I knew this was not the time I was going to get hooked on No Man’s Sky.I knew exactly what I wanted to play and this wasn’t it.

Elite: Dangerous was calling my name. The rest of the weekend was spent installing and updating the game, rebinding keys on my HOTAS, setting up VoiceAttack, and figuring out if the other third party tools I used to use were still relevant. I’ll admit, I did very little playing but now that everything is set up, I’m excited to get back in to it.

A Look at Blade Assault

Blade Assault is 2D, action rouge-lite, platformer with an emphasis on action. It’s available in this month’s Humble Choice and it’s the game I’ve taken for a spin for UnwiseOwl’s communal monthly Humble Choice Review.

The first thing that drew me to Blade Assault was the flashy, fast paced combat featured in the trailer. The combat turned out to be just as satisfying as it looked and has kept me playing for five hours now. The main character, Kil, has three weapons to choose from before each run There are three other unique characters to unlock, each with their own weapon, which keeps things fresh between runs. So far, I’ve mainly played Kil but I’ve tried them all. I enjoyed the few run’s I’ve spent with Zett who has a shield and is much tankier than the other characters making things more forgiving.

Each run consists of a series of stages and bosses. The bosses appear to be in the same order every time with only the stages changing layouts between each run. Each stage consists of two waves of enemies to fight and a third wave, usually with stronger enemies, at the end of the stage. This third wave starts to fill up the threat meter depending on how long it takes to finish the wave. Each time the threat meter is filled up, the difficulty level increases and enemies get fun new modifiers to kill you with.

During the stages you’ll find chests to open that contain gear which applies passive bonuses. At the end of every stage, a core can be upgraded which adds different elemental effects to your primary weapon, sub-weapon, and dash. There are also some that provide passive bonuses like damage reduction, sheilds, crit damage and more. There are others that will enhance or add new effects to a characters active skill as well. The gear and cores are what you’ll make your build around each run. With the difficulty always increasing I’ve found there’s a fine balance between increasing your damage to deal with tankier enemies while also managing your damage reduction, health stat, and MP stat along the way.

Of course, with Blade Assault being a rouge-lite, each time you die you’re sent back to the beginning with currency you’ve obtained along the way to purchase permanent upgrades. There are three types of permanent currency that carry over from run to run, coins, chips, and dice. The coins are used for the character upgrade system. This allows you to purchase passive effects that make your character stronger from run to run. As your character levels up there are additional tiers of passive abilities that open up. I was surprised to find that there is one tree for all four characters so you don’t need to level them up individually. The chips are used to level up the passive abilities on your weapons and also purchase drones that provide additional benefits. The dice are used to increase your Friendship level with the various characters you’ll find throughout the world. These allow you to unlock the three additional characters, buy items from vendors at a cheaper cost, and add characters to your base that will provide more effects before each run. I’ve always liked this style of meta progression. It makes each run a learning experience with the added benefit of providing a reward of some sort every time you die.

I’ve been enjoying Blade Assault in short bursts. I’ve only made it as far as the third boss but each attempt only takes 15-20 minutes. This would be the perfect game to play on the Steam Deck but the text is just a bit too small where I’m straining my eyes to read each item’d description. Once I become familiar with all the items by their icons this will be an easy one to boot up on the Deck when I’m short on time.

So, is Blade Assault worth buying December’s Humble Choice for? Not on it’s own, as seems to be the case for most of the games I pick. Greedfall and Wasteland 3 sold me on this month’s choice but Blade Assault is a welcome addition.

Backlogged: Ghost Song

Developer: Old Moon

Platform: PC

Time to Finish: 10h 25m

I’ve known about Ghost Song for a while now. Brother has been following it for years, even played a few demos, and, quite frankly, I didn’t think it would ever come out. At one point the entire game engine was scraped and the game was built on another. But at the beginning of last month, Ghost Song released after nine long years in development. I was happy that my friend would finally be able to play the game he was so looking forward to but I didn’t have much of a desire to play it myself.

Brother finished up the game and was looking for someone else to play through it to discuss. I saw that it was available in the Humble App and since I was picking up the Humble Choice already, I decided to give it a go. I almost immediately bounced as I was met with Dark Souls style punishment for death, losing nano-gels (souls) and losing a chunk of health that needs to be repaired with more nano-gels. This isn’t my typical genre and I was probably going to be dying a lot.

I started a new game on the Explorer difficulty which does away with all the annoying Dark Souls mechanics. It also makes “Certain other adjustments”, I went digging around the Steam discussion boards to figure out what those might entail. It looks like the other major difference is that enemies don’t scale with after each ship part is found. Otherwise, it doesn’t seem to be much different.

Things I Liked:

Lorian

Lorian is the moon on which the game takes place. It’s beautiful. The world feels like a living painting. From it’s desolate surface littered with robots and crashed ships to it’s depths littered with more robots, some people, and some very large bugs. All of it is dripping with atmosphere. As you learn more about the world the eerier and more beautiful it becomes.

The lore of Lorian is also fantastic. The moon is surrounded by a static field that crashes ships and makes it impossible to leave. The lore is all delivered through dialogue in bits and pieces. As you explore you’ll meet a host of other robots, creatures, and people, all of which will drip feed a bit more information. I don’t typically like this approach to storytelling but it works in Ghost Song as it’s tied with exploration. The more of Lorian you discover the more information you get.

The Crew

The main story focuses on The Deadsuit after it wakes up in the middle of Lorian with no recollection of who it is or how it got there. After a few hours, The Deadsuit encounters Roper who is the captain of a ship that’s crash landed. They made a camp around the ship, Gambler, and are trying to figure out how to repair her and get past the static field.

The crew is a group of interesting characters who aren’t all what they appear on the surface. Which is a good thing because you spend a lot of time talking to them. My favorite was Raven, an android who was badly damaged in the crash and spends most of the game deciding on how to build her new body. There’s some thought provoking conversations that take place between The Deadsuit and her around identity.

The Module System

The majority of items you find during the game are modules. These are slotted in to the Deadsuite and have passive bonuses. They can cause your gun to overheat less, they can give you super armor for a short time after dashing, add extra projectiles to the blaster, and a whole bunch of other useful things. You are limited in the amount you can equip by their power consumption. You’re able to use more as you level up the Deadsuit and increase it’s power level. By the end of the game I had six or seven equipped at any given time.

By the time I finished the game there were still a lot left that I hadn’t unlocked or found. I wasn’t going out of my way to get them but I was exploring every room I came across. There’s a ton of variety and different combinations to try which adds some nice replay value.

Blaster/Melee Mechanics

One of the more interesting mechanics in Ghost Song is the synergy between the blaster and your melee attack. After a certain amount of use the blaster overheats which lowers it’s damage and rate of fire. However, the overheated blaster increases melee damage. This isn’t something I’ve seen before but it makes sense, hitting something with a hot gun barrel would hurt more. There are modules you can find that increase or decrease the rate at which the blaster overheats so you can fine tune your combat style. I found myself favoring a little extra blaster time but still utilizing the overheat feature for burst damage.

Explorer Difficulty

If you look around the internet of reviews for Ghost Song you’ll see a wide range of opinions on the games difficulty. Some think the game is too easy and the punishments for dying are out of place because you don’t die that often. Some think the game is too hard even on the easier exploration mode. I land somewhere in the middle.

I don’t have much experience with this style of game so I found it challenging even on Explorer. But I never found it too challenging that I wanted to give up at any point. I died a lot in the beginning but as I got more familiar with the combat and the controls the game did become easier. It still took me a few tries on every boss but it never felt like I wasn’t able to beat them. Even so, I feel like the punitive mechanics for death aren’t needed. They don’t do anything to heighten the experience or the gameplay they’re just frustrating. I’m glad there’s an option to turn them off.

Things That Could Have Been Better:

The Deadsuit

The Deadsuit is our main character. It wakes up on Lorian without any recollection of how it got or what it is. It’s mysterious, yes, but it’s also hard to connect with or care about a main character without an identity. I think it would have been better if we slowly learned more it as the story progressed like we do with the rest of Lorian. As it is, there’s one specific place, kind of out of your way, you need to get to and watch a very short scene to get any kind of resolution regarding The Deadsuit.

The Music

There are maybe one or two tracks that stand out and convey a feeling of an alien world but most of them are kind of boring. The soundtrack feels too mellow for a game where the majority of the time you’re blasting alien lifeforms apart and fighting bosses.

The Story (Spoilers Ahead)

After this picture, the rest of this post contains spoilers for the end of the game.

I found the setting so interesting but the story itself fell a bit flat for me. Before you ask, yes, I got the “good” ending.

I get that there needed to be a reason for the player to explore the map and that’s why we’re tasked with finding ship parts for the stranded crew. The crew was probably one of my favorite parts of the game but there isn’t much else going on story wise. There are a few side quests that you can follow but the majority of the map is empty of any other story threads. Which is a shame considering how interesting the setting is.

Like I said before, you won’t get much of a resolution to the Deadsuit’s identity unless you find a specific spot on the map to trigger a very short cut scene. Getting there requires getting all four jumps, one of which is hidden away behind a secret trader. I only knew about this because Brother told me about it.

On top of this, you also need to be paying close attention when talking to the crew, specifically Pasha. Up an to that point, I had figured out that the Deadsuit contained a ghost of someone from the crew but I didn’t know who exactly. There’s a couple things that hint at this including finding the escape pod and a scene where Pasha says you seem familiar.

I got to the end of the game, saw the scene with Pasha and the Deadsuit and felt like I was missing something. The scene played out like it was suppose to be some big emotional reveal but I came away from it feeling pretty indifferent about it. It wasn’t until I talked about it with Brother that I realized that Charley was Pasha’s sister and that’s who the Deadsuit was. I either missed this key bit of information for not paying close enough attention or missing a couple conversations with Pasha when I turned in two ship parts back to back and forgot to talk to her. That’s on me and I’m not holding it against the story. it’s a nice ending. Far better than the default ending which explains nothing and rolls the credits.

At the same time the ending is very human for a game that takes place on such an alien world. I would have proffered if the Deadsuit was a denizen of Lorian before the it was destroyed and was learning about their past while helping the crew. Even better, on a moon that crashes ships, why not have Deadsuit be the consciousness of a ship that was destroyed on the planet. The other ships it encounter constantly think it’s a ship. I guess, in a way,it it’s a ship for a ghost.

It does leave some questions t

Backlogged: Before Your Eyes

There are very few games that have left me thinking about them long after their done. In fact, only two come to mind: Journey and SOMA. I think Before Your Eyes might just join that list. I finished it two weeks ago and I’m still mulling it over. As such, I wanted to forgo my usual format and just write down some thoughts.

This is definitely one of those games that should be played blind so I won’t get into much of the story here. I will say, much like Journey and SOMA, the story will take you through a whole spectrum of emotions before the end. I do, however, want to talk about what makes Before Your Eyes unique. You play it by blinking.

The Ferryman, asking you to blink at his hand.

To fully explain that we’ll need a little story context. You play as a soul who is fished out of a river by the Ferryman. The Ferryman will help you pass on but he needs the story about your life first. So he’s sending you down memory lane to relive moments in your life both big and small. There is a catch, at certain times when you blink, you jump forward in time. It could be 5 minutes or it could be 5 years.

Your blinks control everything other than moving the mouse to look around. After a short calibration of your webcam to determine when you blink you’ll use them to make decisions, interact with objects, and to advance the story. For the most part, this works without issue. Sometimes the camera detects a blink when you move your head to much which can be frustrating but I also have to wonder if it adds to the experience. Sure it’s annoying to have dialogue cut off or a scene end before you want it to but that’s also happens when you blink on accident. It’s kind of the point. One of the core themes is time is fleeting and we can’t always stay in the moment even if we want to. Some things are just out of our control. You can opt out of blink detection and use left click but I don’t think the experience would be quite as impactful that way.

I have never been a big fan of first person perspective. It makes me feel like a camera that sometimes has hands and not a character in the world. However, combined with the blinking mechanics and a full voice cast it made for a very immersive experience. Maybe the fact that your character doesn’t move helped it feel more natural. My play through lasted just under 90 minutes and I was completely engaged the whole time. I don’t know many games I can say that about.

The only part I found immersion breaking were certain parts when you’re asked to close your eyes to hear a conversation better. When it works it’s a very cool effect but it didn’t often work. My webcam didn’t do a great job of figuring out when I closed my eyes unless I squeezed them shut. Even then it was hit or miss and a little uncomfortable.

An hour and a half feels just right for this game. Any more and my eyes would have been very tired. Looking at some achievements there are story points that I didn’t see in my play through and more choices I could have made. I would like to revisit this and see how those choices play out but I don’t think I’ll ever have that first play through experience again. I’ve seen people ask “What game would you erased from your memory so you could play it for the first time again?” this would definitely be one of them.

And yes, you will be acutely aware of how often you blink by the end of it.

Phantom Brave: Wait, it’s over?

Remember way back on Wednesday when I said I had a few more hours ahead of me in Phantom Brave to go? Well, it turns out a few more hours meant one hour because Wednesday night I beat the final boss and rolled the credits.

Here’s what happened. I took my squad through a few floors of Failure Dungeons to get leveled up. I brought a bottlemail unit who has a high chance of taking items with it when it’s turns are up so along the way I was able to pick up a few very high level items. This lasted all of a half hour or so. I took those items and used Failure Fusion to get some higher stats on Ash’s weapon and one of my Valkirye’s weapon.My plan was dip in to the last fight, see how much more damage my weapons were doing, and then quit out and continue to farm the Failure Dungeons for weapons and xp.

I also had an idea I wanted to test out. A little while back I had summoned an archer because it had a Failure title and never stored it away. Then I summoned it accidentally in a dungeon run andto my surprise, despite being level one, the archer was going second in the turn order. That’s because it has a passive called quick attack which lets her attack right after Marona when it’s summoned. So when I got back from the run, I looked for other units who also had this skill and I found the Fenrir which had quick attack and more movement speed than the archer.

The final boss fights have crystals that give the boss invincibility. So the priority is to kill the crystals as quick as possible before using strong units to engage the boss. I was doing this by summoning some of my middle of the road units who could kill the crystals but by the time Marona was up again most of them would be dead leaving my stronger units open to being targeted. The idea is to summon all three level one Fenrir, have them pick up the crystals, and run straight to the boss. Since the boss seems to attack the weakest and closest units to it I was hoping it would kill all 3 and in the process destroy the crystals for me.

Here’s how it all went down.

Spoilers ahead, this game is old enough to drive, but still.

Ah Sprout, I thought you were going to be the bad guy but it turns our you’re just edgy.

Marona and Ash battle their way across the Island of Evil. After every battle they seem to be up against insurmountable odds but the people they’ve helped along the way show up to lend a hand. Eventually the gang ends up at the at Sulphur’s lair where they’re ready to fight and seal Sulphur away for eternity.

Until Sprout shows up and just fights Sulphur on his own. Honestly, I would have been satisfied with that ending, it would atleast be unique, the main character doesn’t have to kill the big, bad, world destroying monster for once. But this is a JRPG and there are rules!

It appears Sprout has defeated Sulphur but Sulphur has other plans. He takes over Sprouts body and the first fight begins.

Run to the center!

I put my plan in to action and summoned the three Fenrirs A, B, and C (definitely not names of disposable units. Not at all.). They grabbed the three crystals providing stat boosts to Sprout and ran up to him. Sprout took the bait and killed all 3 on his next turn along with the crystals.

Giving my stronger units an extra turn really made a difference here. Ash and company did more damage with the upgraded weapons but it wasn’t significantly more. They did, however, get to go twice this time and make quick work of Sprout.

Cue the next cut scene.

After the fight, Sprout realizes the only way to stop Sulphur now is end his life and take Sulphur with him.

Except, that doesn’t work either. Sulphur comes back for his second phase and the next battle begins.

This fight has a similar setup to the last one but there are 4 crystals now providing invincibility. Sulphur also has some wicked long range AoE attacks. Again I summoned the three Fenrirs, picked up three of the crystals and ran right next to Sulphur. I would have to use the archer to get the fourth crystal when Marina could summon her again.

I fully expected Sulphur to wipe out the Fenrir’s on his next turn. Instead he walked over them and then did nothing. I summoned my archer, grabbed the fourth crystal and had her join the Fenrirs. Then Sulphur took his turn and did the same thing as last time. He walked a bit and then did nothing. At this point I thought maybe Sulphur wouldn’t attack units holding his magic crystals.

I summoned the rest of the crew just in case Marona didn’t get another turn. On Sulphur’s next turn, to my relief, he hit all four units holding the crystals and destroyed them all. At this point, all of my strongest units were up. Now the play was getting in as many hits as I could with each unit while also making sure they didn’t all clump up together. I still didn’t expect to win the fight but I had to try.

It all came down to this moment.

One by one Sulphur picked off each of my units. When it was only Ash left and Sulphur used a powerful spell I thought it was all over. But through those extra levels or sheer luck Ash held on with only a few hundred health left. It all came down to Ash, on his last turn, with Sulphur sitting at 2400 health. The great thing about Ash’s last turn is it gives him a significant damage boost. We’re talking a double damage or more kind of boost. I attacked with Pincushion, a skill that does 9 hits and then a big 10th hit, all of the 9 hits were over 200 damage so as long as the last hit was big enough I would defeat Sulphur. Lucky for me, it was just enough. The Stage Clear notification popped and we were back to the cut scenes.

Is it though?!?

Sulphur was once again gone and everything looked like it was wrapping up. I had a sneaking suspicion that there might be a third phase. And wouldn’t you know it, Sulphur came back yet again! There’s a moment where Ash is going to sacrifice himself (because that worked so well for Sprout) to seal Sulphur away and Marona tells him she can’t live without him. But our kind of rival Walnut, who has the same power Scarlet the Brave used to lock Sulphur away last time, comes in and finishes the job.

And that’s it! The credits roll, I went back to Phantom Island to save, and the game is over. Unexpected for sure but I’m glad I got to see the ending.