Battleheart: Legacy will rock your mobile world

blI don’t want to be premature, but I think that Battleheart: Legacy might just be the best mobile game of the year.  It’s at least sucked me in, prompting me to play it for several hours so far with no signs of stopping.  Highly recommended, is what I’m saying.

Battleheart: Legacy is the sort-of sequel to Battleheart, an RPG squad combat simulator that came out several years ago.  Instead of just updating the graphics and whatnot, B:L went a slightly different route by making a single-character RPG in which you acquire and complete quests while clearing out various levels around a world map.

The production values here are top-notch.  B:L loads and plays beautifully, with very attractive graphics, good music, and an easy-to-understand interface.  Combat happens in real-time, with your character auto-attacking while you choose targets, position, and special skills.

The challenge is to clear each stage without dying (dying dings you gold, which is needed for skills and gear).  You get five full health potions per stage, but that’s it.  If you use them all up on the first few screens, chances are that you’re not going to make it all of the way through.  It can be pretty tough at times, which makes strategic fighting more important than wading in and just swinging away.

There are two things that elevate Battleheart: Legacy to “must have” status.  The first is that the quests and dialogue are surprisingly involved.  Your choice of moods and responses can make a big difference in how a quest proceeds.  Sometimes quests end up changing your options of progression later on, allowing you to be quite virtuous or dastardly evil.

But the really addictive factor is the multi-classing.  Your character starts with a sword and a single skill.  When you level up, you get three stat points to distribute.  You can buy into any of your unlocked classes (which start at five and go up as you discover more through quests) as long as you meet the stat prerequisites.  So choosing where you allocate your stat points makes a big difference as to which class trainer opens up the next skill for you to buy.

This means that you can be pulling in skills from a wide range of classes if desired — or you could just invest in one class and pursue it to its ultimate ability.  Your character gets eight active and eight passive skill slots, creating opportunities to fiddle with your build for the next zone challenge.

I started out as a fighter, pulling in skills from the Knight to get a shield.  Soon I found the Bard and went in deep there, getting skills to heal and charm enemies to fight for me.  Around level 9, I discovered the necromancer tower, found a skull that made me go on a murderous rampage against mages, and unlocked the necro trainer.  Now I’ve transitioned into mage armor, a wicked staff, and the ability to raise skeletons — all while retaining the skills from my other classes.  It makes hitting a new level really exciting, let me tell you.  And the replay value?  I can’t imagine.  I’m already thinking that I want to be a ninja next time around.

Dream Quest

dqIf you pride yourself on appreciating quality gameplay above lackluster aesthetics, then have I got a game for you: Dream Quest.

I was fishing around for a new game to play on my iPad and saw that a bunch of folks over on the Touch Arcade forums were chatting this title up something fierce.  Almost to a T, all of them said the same thing: If you can get past the looks, this is an incredibly addictive roguelike.

I’ll say the same.  It’s certainly no looker, although one could argue that its stick-figure crudeness might be part of its charm.  But the core gameplay is really interesting.

You start out by picking one of four classes to explore a dungeon, tile by tile.  There are enemies, there are buffs, and there are little houses that offer up encounters and shops.  You try to survive as long as possible, hopefully beat the boss, and progress to the next level.

The combat system is a rudimentary card battle system, where you draw a few cards from your deck and play them to your advantage.  This is where all of the classes really feel different: the Wizard uses more mana cards and spells, the Thief is big on chain attacks, and so on.  Combat goes pretty fast, especially since you have a “play all” button to facilitate your attacks.

So far, it sounds pretty boring and traditional, but here is where Dream Quest starts to get different.  First, you have to know that there’s no way for you to beat the first level when you’re starting out.  You have a weak deck, you have low HP, and you’re going to get creamed.  So the point isn’t to win, but to strengthen your character as much as possible during that run and then to fill out achievements that give you lasting bonuses for future runs.  For example, after your first death, you get an achievement that awards you a choice of a starting talent for every new run.  After a few games, I got achievements that boosted my starting health, gave me a bit of gold at the beginning, etc.

Eventually you’ll be unlocking achievements that give you new classes, more cards, card upgrades, and all sorts of crude art wonders that should provide a fighting chance to make it further and further through the dungeon.  That, on top of the increasing number of options that the card battles present, offer an evolving game.

Anyway, it was $3 and I felt it was well-spent and wanted to share it with y’all.  I had a half-hour this morning to play a game, and instead of logging onto an MMO, I chose Dream Quest.  I imagine that says something.

Toy Rush

toyI had just been interally moaning to myself that it’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed a good tower defense game on the iPad.  I’d mined Kingdom Rush: Frontier for all it was worth and found a lot of competitors lacking.  Last night, however, I might have stumbled upon a good substitute.

I’d been hearing about Toy Rush for a while, and when it came out yesterday I snapped it up.  It’s a free app (with optional in-app purchases) that is a blend of Clash of Clans, CCG, and tower defense, and man if it doesn’t work.  It’s got a cute toy/cartoony aesthetic that might belay a depth of strategy here.

Toy Rush has two symbiotic game modes: defense and offense.  In defense, you build up your base and design your tower defense paths for others to brave.  This is the “energy” mechanic: Creating or upgrading buildings takes time, and if you’re out of your basic tickets currency, it’s here that you’ll need to wait for your ticket machine to spit some more out.  Tickets (and the premium “caps” currency) allow you to buy packs of cards.  These packs have offensive units (and some of the more pricey ones contain stuff for your base as well).

Once you get enough soldiers, you can trigger a battle and attempt to fight the computer or another player.  I originally thought that you were building up a permanent deck of troops and skills, but the truth is that every card is a one-shot ability.  Once you unleash a soldier, the card is gone.  So it’s up to you to decide what order you want to roll out your troops (I found that ordering a tank unit to go out first and absorb damage while following that up with a fragile tower-destroying unit worked well) — and how many you want to commit to a scenario.  I’ve been making the mistake of using ALL of my troops for each run, which does win but it also leaves me completely empty after an overkill situation.

Winning battles is essential, not just to win tickets but also better cards — especially base ones.  So you can’t just hole up at your base; you have to get out there and fight too.

So there’s a cycle of battles followed by base management and many, many openings of card decks.  I think attacking other players allows you to steal their tickets, but since tickets are coming in really fast for me right now, I’m not too concerned about this.

It’s possible that the energy mechanic might get really annoying later on, but I don’t see a lot of pressure to pay any money.  And for a tower defense fan like myself, it’s pretty cool to be on both sides of the fight.

Quick Thoughts Friday

flyingA few quick thoughts to round out Friday this week:


Of course, it stands to reason that the very week that I pick back up my Lore-master we should receive news that Turbine’s planning a pretty severe nerf of LM pets come Update 12.2.  Turbine’s not calling it “severe” but players on the test server kind of are.  That makes me a sad panda, because I was enjoying my super-beefed pets.  Hopefully they’ll still be pretty decent but, y’know, I’m worried.

Since I’m continuing my 2014 theme of trying new things and pushing myself to get outside of my comfort zone, I decided to make my LM a crafter as well.  I haven’t really done crafting in LOTRO outside of a few half-hearted attempts at farming and a run with scholar for my previous LM.  So I trained up woodworking and forestry with the possible goal of being able to make legendary staves some day.

I spent a couple of play sessions doing nothing but crafting to catch up to Moria levels.  Because I had more money than interest in roaming around early level zones picking up wood, I bought stacks of mats from the auction hall and sat back as my LM crafted for hours and hours.  Really, after seeing how Guild Wars 2 does this super-fast crafting thing when you have multiple items queued up, LOTRO’s slow-and-steady production was almost painful.  At least I could tab out and do other things while that was going on.  With the help of a generous kin member who donated two tiers’ worth of mats for my cause, I’m now up to Ilex wood that I can gather and craft from Moria.

The Secret World

The Knights of Mercy reconvened last night to get me through my final elite needed: the Facility.  It was also the first time I had run that particular instance and we had a great time — few wipes, memorable boss fights, a quick resolution.  Plus, at the end you can run full-tilt into this doorway and be flung back.  We tried hard to get screenshots of all five of us flying through the air but we weren’t quite that coordinated.

I took a few preliminary runs at the Gatekeeper just to see what that fight was like.  I had heard horror stories, especially from guildmate and leader Maric, who I think spent three curse-laden weeks trying to beat this guy.  He is not easy, that’s for sure.  I need to do some reading up and perhaps make a new build.

Oh!  Speaking on new builds, I whipped up a really fun all-turret/manifestation build that synergizes with the passive skill Big Bang (each attack by a turret/manifestation does an additional hit).  It’s so dang cool to lay three to five of these down at once and seeing how quick the mobs go down.


Now that I’ve been using the Kindle Paperwhite for a few days I have some follow-up thoughts.  For starters, it’s just been a great reading device.  The size and weight makes it ideal for me, as the iPhone screen is a little too small and the iPad has that weight.  I keep it next to my computer for reading during loading screens, reboots, couch time, and quality time in “the office.”  Yes, technology has advanced to the point where I can comfortably read and poop in the dark!  We truly live in a wonderous age.

So far the battery is holding up just fine, as I haven’t charged it since I first got it.  Probably my biggest complaint is the wake up switch — it’s small and not very easy to press with just one hand, so I have to hold the device with one hand and press it with the other.  It’s not a big issue, but it’s annoying even still.

I don’t know if I like how the device gives me a countdown of how long it’ll probably take me to finish the book.  It’s there at the bottom of the screen, sort of daring me.  Sometimes I find it a little distracting.

Old-school RPGs come to tablets

Two big RPG releases to tablets this week.  Baldur’s Gate II enhanced edition is out with just every expansion and addition that came out for that game.  Since I have it on, I probably won’t be splurging $15 to get it.

Besides, I’m waiting for Final Fantasy VI to get into the app store.  It’s already out for Android and presumably is weaving its way through Apple’s approval process.  I wasn’t that aware of FF6 when I was a teen and considering that it’s many people’s favorite of the series, I do want to give it a good play.

Knights of the Old Republic, now in tablet form!


According to this here blog, the last time that I played Knights of the Old Republic it was 2009 and I did it in anticipation for the then-to-be-released SWTOR.  I think that three full playthroughs is more than enough for any given RPG, especially in light of the games I haven’t gotten around to playing yet.

But then KOTOR came out for the iPad and it dropped to $5 and… well, I was a little bored one evening.  Why not, I thought?

It’s pretty fantastic that we’re able to play full games like this on an itty bitty tablet, especially considering how games like this were considered so top of the line back when.  Even today, the amount of voice recording makes it a beefy game to download.  I’m building a dual blaster pistol-wielding Jedi, probably on the light side of the force.  I still wish I could shoot Carth Onassi in the head after first meeting him, or possibly airlock his butt out of the Ender Spire.

I don’t have any great goals of going all of the way through it again.  I might play it a little here or there, but right now it’s just a fun novelty that kind of makes me wish that SWTOR was on tablets too.

It’s really weird to go back from SWTOR to KOTOR.  The visuals are different — KOTOR is older, obviously, and… thinner, for a lack of a better word.  SWTOR had more colors and a thicker feel to the models.  The combat and builds are very primitive in comparison as well.  Plus it’s turn-based combat with a different RPG platform.

Aesthetically, there doesn’t feel like a big connection either.  I don’t remember seeing the silver-coated Sith troopers anywhere in SWTOR, nor the cheesy vibroblade models (although I know that there were vibroblades).  And how about that swoop racing and pazaak, huh?

Anyway, I hear that Final Fantasy VI might be coming out soon as well, so that could take up my tablet RPG time.  There’s one RPG I’ve never completed (nor really gotten very far in at all).

Tiny Death Star: Syp’s winning strategy

tinyDespite being a mostly reskinned version of Tiny Tower, I’ve been avidly playing Tiny Death Star lately — and it seems I’m not alone.  I’ve heard a lot of friends mention they’ve picked it up, especially due to the cute retro style graphics and Star Wars theme.

Since I feel that I have a good handle on how both games worked, here’s my personal strategy to building a good Death Star and keeping it fully operational.

  1. Go through the tutorial, staff the floors, and build at least three business levels and two residential levels.
  2. At this point, shove all of your Bitzens through the airlock if they don’t have a dream job match.  That’s right: Clear out your residential floors.
  3. The strategy here is “don’t accept any new residents unless you can immediately pair them up with a dream job.”  It’s a little hardcore, but ultimately it works.  Dream jobs (which give a x2 bonus for stocking) are absolutely crucial to making huge amounts of money without constantly having to babysit the game.  Yes, you could go the route where you keep shuffling residents around hoping that dream jobs show up, but that takes up apartment space.
  4. Again, you have to be patient.  Getting the first couple dream jobs will mean a lot of elevator trips and little money made.  That’s okay.  We don’t need to make huge money at first; we want to build a good business foundation.
  5. Eventually you’ll see dream jobs come in and your floors will start producing.
  6. DON’T spend your premium bux on anything other than saving up for the next elevator upgrade and moving businesses with dream jobs down to the bottom of the screen (I like to move them since it makes quick restocking a lot easier).  Also, moving floors like that will leave apartments and non-staffed businesses up top for quick reference.
  7. Again, don’t spend those bux.  Tiny Death Star is a lot more stingy with giving out free bux, so you’re going to need to scrimp and save.  Since dream job pairings also result in a free bux, that is a  great bonus.  In fact, if I have a floor with three dream jobs and a new resident with the same dream job comes along, I’ll evict one of the older guys to replace him and get that free bux.
  8. Generally you want to build a new residence level for every two businesses you create.  Once in a while, you’ll need to build an extra residence due to the math (3 bitzens per business, 5 bitzens per apartment).
  9. Eventually you’ll only need to worry about stocking three times a day to keep everything chugging along.  That’s why dream jobs rock, since they keep inventories full for longer.
  10. As time permits, do the Emperor missions and Vader missions (the Imperial levels) for extra money.  Don’t spend bux on them, of course.

Pocket Trains improves upon Pocket Planes

trainsI’ve been a big fan of developer NimbleBit since getting addicted to Tiny Tower three years ago.  Their design has been big on intricate pixelated graphics, cute charm, a F2P setup that is exceedingly generous and unrestrictive, and sheer addictiveness.  Their follow-ups have been solid but not as long-lasting as Tiny Tower, however.  Pocket Planes was too heavy on the micro-managing to be fun in the long run, and Nimble Quest was an amusing Snake-like that was interesting for a few days before losing appeal.

So I was really interested to see if their latest, Pocket Trains, would be able to rekindle the old feelings.  Spoiler: I think it has, although we’ll have to see how it fares over (ahem) the long haul.

Everyone seems to know that Pocket Planes used to be a train simulator before they thought planes was a better idea.  But while planes can go just about anywhere (given enough fuel), having the restricted rail lines of trains makes a game a lot more strategic.  In just about every way, Pocket Trains improves upon the Pocket Planes formula, keeping what works and ditching what doesn’t.

The basic idea is that you’re managing a rail empire by purchasing stations and railroads, then shuttling cargo from one city to the next.  Making bank is important to expand, although you also want to scoop up “bux” (premium currency) and train part crates.  The latter allow you to craft new engines and the former allow you to open the crates.  You can spend actual money for more bux, but you really do get a lot in the game so there’s very low pressure to drop cash on this.

So let’s talk about the differences from Pocket Planes.  PP’s airplanes would only let you take either cargo or passengers or a mix, whereas PT only restricts you by the number of cars that you can pull.  PP let you fly your planes anywhere as long as the plane could land at that airport and had the range; PT asks you to dedicate a rail line to a single train.  Because of this, there’s a lot of strategy in deciding where to put your best trains, how many stations/lines should be given to a single train, and so on.

One of the best changes is that Pocket Trains doesn’t charge for fuel like Pocket Planes did.  Often in PP you just would sit there, waiting for jobs to refresh, so that you could fill up the plane and make a profitable flight.  PT instead has a fuel meter for the cars that fills up automatically in the stations and drains while moving (you can make fuel cars to increase the tank and spend bux to quickly refuel if you’re that desperate).  This means that while it’d be great to have a “full” train run, it’s no longer necessary.  I quickly flick through the stations, load up, and send them on their way without freaking out about numbers.  It’s much more enjoyable and relaxing that way.  Psychologically, I like knowing that even when I’m not playing, the trains are doing something — getting to their destinations and refuelling.

There’s some manner of cargo micro-managing when you want to transfer goods long-distance (or get those valuable train parts/bux cars to their destinations), and the interface makes that a cinch.  Most stations can hold five cars, and you can pay to expand those.

So far my empire has grown to five engines that span from Glasgow to Minsk.  The same tiny world charm that Tiny Tower had with its rooms has returned in the cars, which range from karaoke to gothic castle (because, why not).  There are a couple of weird omissions, such as no “guilds” like PP had and no Bitbook (the fake Facebook app that dropped funny notices), but I’m glad to see music return and a much more friendly game all around.

Turning my iPad mini into a laptop

sharkkAs I’m starting to prepare for PAX in a couple of weeks, one of the things I was fretting about was the thought of lugging my huge laptop all over the convention center if I couldn’t secure a locker for it in the media room.  I love my laptop, as it’s got a big screen and plays my games, but compact it is not.

So it was fortuitous the other day that one of my Massively colleagues was talking about how she brought a little keyboard for her tablet to SOE Live and used that to take all of her notes.  That was the “aha!” moment that I needed — I could turn my iPad mini into a functional laptop and ditch the laptop while I was on the convention grounds.

I ended up purchasing the Sharkk iPad mini keyboard case from Amazon for a few reasons.  It had good reviews, it was a complete case (instead of a floating keyboard), and it looked rather slick.

I’ve been playing with it for a few days now and I have to say that I love it — and I think it’ll be a great asset for my trip.

The iPad itself clicks right into the frame with minimal hassle, and docking it via bluetooth was a breeze (it is, in fact, the first time I’ve ever used bluetooth anything).  I have to charge the keyboard separately, but it’s got an off switch so I won’t be wasting power unless I need to type.

If you think of this as a transformer, the case-iPad combo has three forms.  There’s the closed form, where the hard plastic shell protects it and a little tab keeps it from just flying open.  It can be opened and quickly swiveled to use as a standard tablet.  This is fine, although it’s a little thicker and more awkward than it used to be with my old slip cover.

Then if I want to use the keyboard, I slide out the back hinge and set the tablet at an angle in the groove.

The keyboard itself is small, as befitting the width of the iPad mini, so it’s take a little practice to use.  It reminds me a lot of my old netbook, although perhaps a little smaller.  I have the most difficulty accurately hitting backspace and enter, although the keys have great feedback.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to taking this on the road.  It’s all small enough to fit inside my small shoulder satchel, which is just perfect for what I’ll be needing that week.

iPad: Sorcery has bewitched me

mapI have a particular fondness for RPG gamebooks stemming back to my childhood.  They were like an awesome combination of D&D and Choose Your Own Adventure, and absolutely flourished in the 80s.  Now they’re enjoying a renaissance on mobile platforms, a place that seems ideal for these sorts of games.  I’ve played both Fighting Fantasy and Gamebook Adventures on the iPhone, but I think I’ve found my new favorite.

Steve Jackson’s Sorcery is an adaption of Jackson’s four-part gamebook series (although only the first book is currently available in the game.  What’s impressed me is that the adaptation has gone way above and beyond what I’ve seen in other mobile gamebooks.  Instead of just flipping through pages, the team created this 3D world map that your character token traverses.  The story is told through little paragraph snippets that flow down over the page and are stitched together as you make decisions.  I can’t emphasize just how good the production values are here.

The addition of the map/game board really helps with visualizing your progress through the world.  Sometimes gamebooks lost me after the thousandth choice, but here I always have a quick reference for where I’ve been and where I’m going.  Another nice touch is a nice variety of ambient sound effects to represent the region you’re currently exploring.

In addition to making decisions, picking up loot, and spending gold on rations and other goodies, Sorcery has two systems for engaging enemies.  The first is a swordfighting system that is definitely different than your standard dice rolls.  You have to choose a stance for the next round based on what you think your opponent will do (sometimes you get clues in the text), and if you’re smart enough, you can win without taking too much damage.  The other system is a somewhat complicated spellbook.  There are 48 spells (!) that are detailed here, although you can’t always use them all — and when you do they either require an item in your possession or some of your precious stamina.  I have enjoyed casting spells, however, because they do a lot more than just launch a fireball at your opponent.

Anyway, I think Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! is available on both iOS and Android platforms, and even with the $5 price tag, I think it’s well worth picking up.  I’ve spent hours engrossed in the adventure so far, and I’m looking forward to the next three books to be added (apparently your character’s progress will carry over).