A Look into the Future: Reviewing Three Originals!
With Octopath Traveller II already released to the wild, and the upcoming The Lamplighters League and Wargroove 2 scheduled for 2023 release, I wanted to write something up on their previous titles: Octopath Traveller, Wargroove and Battletech respectively!
Indie Corner Episode 31: Ancient Depths
Previous Indie Corner Episode 30: A New Milestone
A Look into the Future: Reviewing Three Originals!
I hope everyone is keeping well during these uncertain times! Things are as busy as always here in the Scar den. Several promising games launched recently, such as Raidborn, Netherguild, Mortal Sin, and Tchia. I have reviews for all four of these in the works — the work never ceases over here!
While I’m working on my thirtieth episode of my Indie Corner Series (a big milestone), I’ve been playing a bunch of different games in the meantime. Well, it got me thinking. The three games I’m talking about today either have new games in development, or a sequel. In Octopath Traveller’s case, that sequel has been out for a while now, although I have yet to pick it up. Too many games, and too little time. No time like the present to cover them!
These games are from 2018/2019, and it’s nice to see that the developer projects are scheduled for a 2023 launch.
With the Battletech developers creating The Lamplighters League, I wanted to write up some thoughts on their previous game. Battletech was a huge release back in 2018 — a flawed yet tactically impressive gem that initially enthralled me on launch. It made my Top 10 favourite games that year, but some major flaws dragged it down a notch. I recently returned to playing Battletech last year through Nvidia’s cloud platform, Geforce Now, and I’ve been enjoying myself greatly.
There’s a ton of customization and ways to spruce up the mechs, and the basic gameplay loop is a treat, with difficult fights and challenging decisions to make in battle. We don’t get enough new strategy games these days, so this is nice to see. Playing at a freelance mercenary company can be a lot of fun. I picked up the season pass a few years ago for a dirt-cheap rate, offering several new options and mini questlines for my mercenary company of death robots.
While Battletech remains one of my preferred strategy RPGs, my return to it in 2022 highlighted the problems I initially suffered. One serious issue I had was performance. Let’s be frank: it is not the prettiest thing ever. It should be no right to be as demanding as it is, but Unity is a performance hog. Battletech’s long loading times were coupled with some bugs, a poor saving system, and terrible optimization. When something so simple as clicking on a menu lags, that’s an issue. Battletech saw major patches during its development cycle, including plenty of bug fixes, but the optimization hangups and memory leak crashes I experienced still exist. Not as often perhaps, but enough to be a problem.
Then there are all the wasting time issues with slow animations and the terrible repeating loop transitions during space (which you cannot skip or speed up, I might add), crashes, and bugs. This all slows the game’s pace down to a crawl, although the little events add some character development and player choice.
When this is backed up by a really unfair balance at times, limited map size, and the AI throwing insane odds at you (you only can bring four mechs, against as many as a dozen with supporting tanks), the game’s challenge often borders on ‘unfair’ at times. The campaign’s story won’t win any awards in writing or dialogue, and I found myself having to grind random missions to keep my company afloat, although the campaign maps have some improved level design. Once you’ve finished the campaign, the game opens into an open-ended run, but by then all endgame content is done.
While there’s no official mod support, the game is very moddable with a ton of options, including the extremely popular roguelike total conversion Roguetech. With a solid skirmish mode as well as a career/sandbox option, this game has a lot going for it. It may have flaws, but Battletech is, at its heart, a solid strategy title. At full price, Battletech might be a difficult game to recommend, but you can pick up the game at a heavy discount these days.
Octopath Traveller (2018)
Octopath Traveller II launched earlier this year to critical acclaim. While I’ve yet to pick it up, it reminded me that I own the original on the Switch. So why not? So last week, I’ve been rediscovering it again.
The first Octopath Traveller is gorgeous, with a visual design that deserves plenty of love playing. I don’t really play JRPGs, and I just cannot bring myself to enjoy the heavy grind that comes with most of them. Despite this, Octopath Traveller was one of the first JRPGs I grew fond of. In the last few years, that has extended to Xenoblade, Persona, and Harvestella. Despite Octopath’s slow start, it has eight distinct character stories, which helped with a combat system that got better the longer I played it.
It wasn’t like that at first. Back in 2018, I found the combat slow and cumbersome, which was what turned me off Octopath Traveller, to begin with. This time, it started to pick up the pace, with a lot of depth that justified my playing on the Switch for long periods. Ever since Pokemon Scarlet’s launch (A game I need to review at some point), I’ve developed a renowned love for the Nintendo Switch.
Despite these strong points, I ran into problems as well. Some of the characters were a bit of a slog to get through, and this was draining on me. And while the combat became decent, it never got really enough for me to become addicted. Despite this, the world and setting are excellent, and while I come away without a rosy glow for Octopath Traveller, I’m excited to play the sequel.
Chucklefish announced a sequel to Wargroove this year, including a roguelike mode demo that I rather enjoyed. I’ve been playing the original Wargroove extensively in recent months. Back in 2019, it just missed my Top 10 favourites, and all the new custom content available keeps things fresh. A spiritual successor to Advance Wars in many ways, Wargroove was something I got into quickly.
With a substantial campaign to enjoy, a diverse cast, and an excellent map/ campaign editor, I feel makes a little turn-based strategy RPG. Fantasy Advance Wars, although a little simplistic.
The base campaign’s story is nothing special. There’s no real voice acting apart from one-liners here and there, and the characters are just there overall. A little cliche about a kingdom in peril and a spunky teenage daughter trying to come to her throne. It plays out like a YA novel. Not bad, but a little uninspired at times. I didn’t feel invested in the story, though I did like some of the characters, especially Caesar. Such a good dog! The main story contains nearly fifty missions, with unlockable arcades and puzzle modes to go with it.
I wish there were more differences in the factions. There are no bonuses or differences apart from the Commander/Hero and their different abilities. I would have liked to see some variety in that regard.
The same goes for the balancing. The campaign gets pretty challenging at times, almost to an unfair degree. I got frustrated more than engrossed during the campaign more than once. You get graded only on the speed at which you finish the missions, and you need good grades to unlock certain features and options later on in the game.
It’s overall a solid experience packed into an impressive price tag. (£15/$20) Visually charming with a lot to enjoy, it has a lot of replayability, and with the custom editors offering plenty of new stuff, Wargroove has all the charm. Wargroove 2 has a potential release window for 2023, and I enjoyed the demo.