Recursion

Pathfinder Adventures is the electronic version of the card game version of Paizo’s version of D&D.

I feel like I should be able to work a couple more “version of”s in there, but it could be a stretch.

: Zubon

Evil Defenders

I finished playing through Evil Defenders. It is a tower defense game for PC or mobile; I played PC. It is somewhat entertaining, but either you like tower defense and have already played better or have not and should play better. If you liked Kingdom Rush and want more levels of a worse version, pick this up on a sale.

There are fifteen levels each at six difficulties. You will need to go through most of those because the upgrade costs were set with mobile microtransactions in mind, please buy more souls. But if you play through the assorted difficulties, the game is not especially difficult, as the upgrades come faster than the difficulty.

The game’s achievements are kind of bad, which is an outgrowth of the grindy mindset. I decided to play through the whole game, all difficulties, and like the person in the linked thread I have 3 achievements left that will take hours of repetitive play to complete. Their estimates are a little high, because you could “efficiently” grind a high-yield map, so I timed that and estimate it would take 15 hours of playing that one map 90 times to complete the last few achievements. No. Even getting 1 more achievement would take 3 hours. Still no. Global stats tell me that 2% of players have that last achievement, so I hope they were cheating rather than spending a literal day farming kills. If the game had an endurance mode, and I could leave it running overnight, that might be doable, but no.

Getting all the achievements is not the point so much as using the achievements as a guide to what the developers are thinking and doing. In this case, they made 15 levels and are trying for fake longevity by adding on repetition. Grind souls to get your upgrades, repeat the levels six times each, and if you want your 100% completion, play for another entire day.

: Zubon

Crowbar

crowbar card from the pathdfinder adventure card game I am trying to decide if this is an example of fluff versus crunch or of fridge brilliance. The crowbar is a staple of gaming, and in the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game (as well as Pathfinder Adventures), it is an “item” and not a “weapon.” It helps you get past barriers.

blacksmiths son and shopkeepers daughter cards from the pathfinder adventure card game But these two are “barriers” classified as “obstacles.” They get in your way, presumably want to talk, and can take up your turn. Shopkeeper’s daughter is getting chatty? Out comes the crowbar. Blacksmith’s son is trying to seduce your ranger? Crowbar.

: Zubon

Humble E3 Digital Ticket

If you occasionally get a Humble Bundle, now is probably the time to get one. Just looking at the “pay what you want” level, it includes:

  • Psychonauts, which is good.
  • 40 treasure chests for Pathfinder Adventures
  • 500 coins for the Amazon appstore
  • content for 4 MMOs

And then more. And then more MMO and MOBA content in the paid levels, and more games, and some subscriptions and betas. And then there are some more of those games and betas at the “pay what you want” level. And some other stuff.

: Zubon

Grinding

I have several casual games going at the moment. They give a range of grind. Two are idle games, which grind themselves.

One is Pathfinder Adventures, where I rejoice in the grind. The grind here is simply playing the game. Of course, that is always what grind is; I think of “grind” as when you must repeat the same content repeatedly to unlock new content or achieve some arbitrary goal. In Pathfinder Adventures, you can pay $25 for all the content, pay a smaller amount for a la carte, or repeatedly play “quests” that are essentially the same content as the main “story” but with randomized content and no cut scenes. Those award 100 gold (plus gold for enemies), where it costs 2000 gold to add a character option and 4000 to unlock a set of story missions. You use the same character set on quests with a different character advancement mechanism. Because I enjoy the quests, I have not spent any money, because I will happily get enough gold to unlock everything I want just by playing normally. It is a strange irony they are more likely to get money from people who want to play less. At some point, I will probably play through the story missions on all the difficulty settings, but “same content but you must roll higher” does not sound like a huge draw.

I am also playing Evil Defenders, a mobile tower defense game ported to PC and heavily discounted on Steam. It is mostly entertaining, but not good enough that I can really recommend it. Notably, it has a poorly balanced need for grinding, presumably a relic of mobile F2P microtransactions. Playing gives you “souls” you can spend to upgrade your towers. These are not “nice to have” but absolutely required to beat later levels. After hitting the first level where the difficulty curve spikes faster than the pace of advancement, I went back to try previous levels on higher difficulty settings to get more souls. I cannot yet say whether you need to grind for souls or just beat every level on every difficulty setting (bonus souls for each “star” on a level), but it feels grindy enough just having six difficulty settings for each level. And there are achievements tied to beating the fifth and six settings for each level, so you know my completionist, achievement-whoring heart is going there. Consulting achievements, I see that 92% of people who have bought the game on Steam have played it, much higher than Borderlands 2, but only 19% of players have completed all 15 levels. These are not long levels, the basic difficulty is 10 waves, and you could beat the whole game at one sitting were it not for the grind. More than half the players who have completed every level have also completed every level on every difficulty with a perfect score, so this game either caters to obsessive players or requires that sort of investment to beat the last level at all. Because if you need to defeat 14 levels at all difficulty levels to earn enough upgrades to beat the last level, why not make a perfect game of it?

: Zubon

Fluff and Crunch

rock titan The online CCG Spellstone includes the ability “invisibility,” which makes enemy skills miss. In addition to using it for assassins and illusionists, the game applies the same skill to represent carapaces that make attacks deflect, like turtles. This leads to the pictured Rock Titan, a huge pile of stone whose toes tower over horses, with a giant spotlight for its eye, which is very sneaky.

: Zubon

Pathfinder Adventures

At Tobold’s suggestion, I have tried a bit of the Pathfinder Adventures card game (on Android). I always seem to have a digital CCG of some sort going, and this seems to be a pretty good one.

I had intended to try the paper version, but I do not have a regular gaming group with which to play. This falls between a CCG and a tabletop RPG; the decks are characters, which change and level up through adventuring, but there is not quite the story feel of an RPG. If you want the mechanical part of the game, this is an efficient way to go about getting it without needing another play to sit out as GM.

I do not know how long this will stay in my playing rotation. The fixed adventures and the random quests are really about the same, in that you face some semi-random group of cards, most of which you will quickly come to recognize. I suppose they are better themed in the story adventure chain? I was finding it just as satisfying to run random quests. Given the minimal story, that’s about the same gameplay. The lack of cloud save is a negative.

The game’s model is F2P with microtransaction and “box” options. The “box” here is paying $25 for full access to all the modules and characters, as if you bought the box of cards. The microtransactions are for smaller quantities of gold, which you can use to buy the box cards, but there is quite a bit of grinding to be had to earn that gold. Personally, I found no hardship in beating 15 quests to unlock a second hero because that’s the game. At the lowest difficulty, the game is entirely playable with just the two free characters, and I will see how it does with three or more.

: Zubon

Dressing Room

a screenshot from the game Farm For Your Life showing the character customization screen The game Farm For Your Life has a simple feature that I have not seen elsewhere: on the character customization screen, put a mirror behind the character so you can see how that hair, jacket, whatever looks from behind. Yes, you can usually spin the character around to look, but is a mirror that hard? (Probably, yeah.)

In many game genres, you mostly see your character from behind anyway. Maybe the point of view should start behind the character, like in a barber shop or hair salon, with you the customizer as the hairdresser. And spend less time customizing the exact shape of a nose you can’t see 95% of the time.

: Zubon

Evolution and Enshrinement of a Feature

The first time I encountered an MMO with a confectioner trade to make muffins that buff people, I was enchanted. It is a simple and slightly silly idea with roots in developers learning what players like.

Hunger, thirst, and other biological functions are not common features in MMOs these days, apart from surprisingly common quests to make you clean up poop. Early RPGs commonly had hunger and sometimes thirst, reflecting the intuitive notion that you will starve to death if you never eat. This meant players needed to acquire food (and sometimes water) and eat regularly or else suffer a hunger debuff that might stack unto death.

Players generally hated that. It was the sort of bookkeeping that most people ignore in pencil and paper roleplaying games, like encumbrance. Yes, there are survival games where finding food is a core mechanic, but most of us are happy to assume it happens in the background. More importantly, players hate debuffs, they hate feeling like something is being taken from them, and they hate being reminded of costs over time.

It feels like a tax on playing the game. Continue reading Evolution and Enshrinement of a Feature