Pokémon Unbound – FireRed ROM Hack

The Game

Whether you are familiar with ROM Hacks or not, Pokémon Unbound by Skeli Games is an absolute must play for Pokémon fans. The fan made game outdoes pretty much any of the official games in every single aspect. Pokémon Unbound features Pokémon up to Gen VII, a completely original story and region known as Borrius. In addition to this there are a bunch of amazing quality of life improvements like the ability to auto-run, turbo modes on bikes and surfing, the ability to use HMs without having to actually teach them and exp share amongst the entire team.

The start of the game gives you a bit of backstory about the region, the story of a war fought between regions, rulers and Pokémon, until an ultra-powerful Pokémon was used by the king of Borrius to end the war with some unforeseen consequences. We are also shown a trainer who throws a powerful Pokémon into the sea, hoping it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands (which predictably it does). 15 years later your adventure begins: the game starts you out with a character customisation screen, quite unlike most traditional Pokémon games. After you’ve just from a decent palette of skin tones, hair colours, clothes colours you are ready to embark on your journey. Things take a turn quite quickly though and you are abducted to the secret base of the local evil organisation where you get to chose your started – Gabite, Beldum or Larvitar and you also get to meet your rival. Once you’ve fought your way out you meet Professor Log and your adventure begins in earnest. The game follows the age old recipe of 8 gyms, elite four and champion with a good deal of interaction and distraction from the Shadows – the evil organisation attempting to end the world. The story is really gripping with plenty of plot twists and surprises. You see and fight loads of legendary Pokémon and are even transported to other dimensions.

There are loads of nods to other games and regions, there are even Sinnoh trainers like Cynthia or Candice that appear; in the post-game you even run into Red. The game is so packed with content that it puts most “real” Pokémon games to shame. The questing system provides an entire new layer as you can keep track of all the various tasks you’ve accepted to help people around the region and earn some really nice rewards. The game will also allow you to Mega evolve Pokémon, battle and catch Gigantamax Pokémon and use Z-power moves. And if the main game wasn’t enough the post-game has been fleshed out with a Battle Frontier, the ability to catch virtually every legendary Pokémon ever released, different challengers after beating the Elite 4 and many more quests and surprises.

Worth it?

This game, like all ROMHacks is 100% free. Made by a passionate and dedicated community this game easily outshines many official release Pokémon games. The game allows you to catch and train Pokémon from some of the newest generations and will keep you busy for tens of hours. The game also comes with completed post-game and daily events adding even more hours of content. There is also plenty of information about the game on the wiki and various reddit pages, although admittedly some of it is for slightly outdated versions of the game. The configurable difficulties and scaling enemies also ensure that you’re always being challenged, but be weary of over-levelling any of your Pokémon as that will raise the level of your enemies. My only criticism (and it’s been really hard to come up with some) is the ability to skip some of the sliding puzzles after several attempts or time that has elapsed.

Overall the brilliant story, amazing original sprites, attention to detail and quality of life improvements make this an absolute must play for any fans of the traditional Pokémon games. Get a good mobile emulator like MyBoy! and you can play this on your phone – almost as good as playing it on your GBA or GBA SP. I highly recommend this to any and all Pokémon fans, especially if you’ve got a case of nostalgia or if you have played all the old games and are looking for something new.

Tips

  • You can get a shiny Elekid egg from completing the quest “The Rogue Electivire”
  • There are houses dotted around the map with people who will give you a choice of the 3 starters from a specific region, they will give you the others depending on how many gyms you have – Gen IV is in Dehara City, Gen V is on route 5, Gen VII is in Seaport City
  • You can get the eggs for Gen I and Gen VI starters from the Day-care Man’s sister in Magnolia town
  • Every 5 Pokémon in the Safari zone you will get a chance to catch one of the Gen III starters
  • Most routes have a special elite trainer who will only battle you after you’ve defeated all other trainers on that route
  • You don’t need all lights on in the Dehara Gym – some need to remain off in order to pass all the gates
  • The Regi caves will unlock after you complete the Tomb of Borrius – Regice cave is in the forest near Blizzard City, Regirock cave is in the Great Desert, Registeel is on route 18 just to the west of the waterfall before Victory Road
  • After completing the Regigigas mission for the guy in Tehl Town he will upgrade your Amulet Coin/Luck incense to increase the amount of cash they get you by giving him Big Nuggets
  • You can earn Big Nuggets by completing the daily Pep Quiz in Magnolia Town
  • A lady in the Mission HQ in Fallshore City will upgrade your Lucky Eggs in return for Big Pearls – you can get these by using thief on Clamperls when diving
  • You can avoid being spotted by the Dusclops in the Tomb of Borrius by disabling auto-run
  • You can get the starters you didn’t pick by visiting your rival’s house and the secret base that you’re abducted to in the beginning of the game
  • The best way to farm Light Clay for the ADM is by catching/using thief on Baltoy in the Ruins of the Void. If you use a Pokémon with Compound Eyes that will increase the chance that the pokemon holds an item. Get your hands on the DexNav as well in order to chain the Baltoys
  • You can use repels with the DexNav in order to EV farm and increase your chance of shinies
  • One of Professor Log’s assistants in Frozen Heights can let you look at a Pokémon’s IVs and EVs, along with all the moves they can learn and even give you an item to do so when you please
  • Most missions that have multiple objectives to collect can be expanded to see the location of these
  • Legendries that don’t appear from portals usually just require you to stand in a specific place (usually in the middle of a cliff overlooking an edge – like the birds, Rayquaza, etc)

Useful Links

Pokémon Gaia – FireRed ROM Hack

The Game

I have always been a massive fan of the Pokémon series of games – especially the older GameBoy Advance and Nintendo DS versions of the game. Games like Pokémon Sapphire or Pokémon FireRed were my childhood. Recently I have replied a lot of them on emulators (which I will review in a separate post) on my phone and it has been an amazing nostalgia trip. As I replayed these games I started discovering ROMHack versions of the games. I have known these exist for a while but never bothered giving them a go, and I was really missing out.

Pokémon Gaia is a FireRed ROMHack made by Spherical Ice. The hack completely alters the game with an amazing original story seeing you through the typical storyline of beating gyms and the league, defeating an evil organisation all while creating the ultimate team of Pokémon. The game is set in a fictional region known as Orbtus. The game features Pokémon from up to Gen 6 from the regions of Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, Sinnoh, Unova and Kalos. The game includes updated move sets, items, mega evolutions, fairy types, reusable TMs and more.

The story follows the established model of a young teen who leaves home in the quest to become an amazing Pokémon trainer. As you and your rival progress through the world you will encounter members of an evil organisation intent on controlling the world by using the power of legendary Pokémon (in this case it’s Regice, Regirock, Registeel and Regigigas). Battle them and the many trainers of the region, discover all Pokemon from newer generations and take on the Pokémon League in this amazing fan made passion project (which might as well be an original release). The region of Orbtus is well fleshed out with a variety of cities, biomes, areas and an interesting history.

Worth it?

Replaying old Pokémon games on an emulator is free and an a great nostalgia trip. Playing these fan-made ROMHacks is also free and an amazing experience. Like many other ROMHacks this was made by fans of the franchise, working for no profit but purely the love of Pokémon games. The game story, the amount of detail and work that has gone in are truly remarkable. Being able to catch Pokémon up to Gen 6 and use all new moves or functionality (like Mega Evolutions) is awesome – especially for those who don’t really appreciate the new style of games as much, who haven’t had a chance to play on DS or Switch or who would like to relive new experiences on the older engines.

Overall, if you have not played any ROMHacks before, Pokémon Gaia is a good introduction. While in its current state there isn’t much of a post-league game, the story, events, gyms and Elite Four are all really well done and fleshed out. It would be nice to see the Regis as catchable after the main story concludes and maybe some additional challenges or high-level trainers. The game really feels like it could be an official entry to the series. The use of the Regis as the legendary Pokémon for the focus of the story is quite different and almost provides a bit of a fictional backstory. For me the ideal way to play is on my phone and a good emulator will set you back around £3, but there are some decent free options too. The game will keep you busy for quite a while, especially if you decide to take your time and talk to people or help out where you can.

Tips

  • You can get Deoxys once you have Strength in the Cosmic Caverns
  • You can catch Rayquaza once you have waterfall in the Emerald Peak just outside Nestpine Town
  • The best place to use the VS seeker is in the area just before the nurse on Victory Road – there are 3 Ace Trainers in view which are all quite easy to beat
  • You can find the coin case inside one of the warehouses in Telmurk city – the same one with the Rotom appliances
  • You can get the Amulet Coin quite early on by buying it from a guy in Aerous City for $5000
  • You can turn fossils into Pokémon at the Professor’s house – upstairs
  • You can play on 2x speed with most emulators which makes the whole experience that little bit better
  • To set up the ROMHack download FireRed (Squirrels) and then apply the patch to it, then simply load up the newly patched FireRed (you may want to rename it) into an emulator and off you go

Useful Links

Jotun: Valhalla Edition

The Game

Jotun: Valhalla Edition made by Thunder Lots Games is an amazingly aesthetic game based on Norse mythology. Battle your way past gods and figure out weird puzzles on your way through the afterlife. You play as Thora – a recently deceased human wielding a massive two-handed axe. This is quite a challenging game which will have you in potential fits of anger as you face up against some of the later bosses. Each big boss (known as Jotun) fight is preceded by a couple of relatively peaceful missions to find some runes, often accompanied by a puzzle of sorts. Often you will also find special shrines that give you some interesting skills ranging from healing and shields to decoys and even the blessing of Thor’s hammer.

Once you have collected the appropriate runes you face off against a boss, and boy do these bosses pack a punch. The sense of scale is something the game plays with really successfully by pitting you – a tiny human against some truly gigantic deities. Each Jotun will have various phases, attack patterns and timings that you will need to learn and master in order to get past them. These fights can be very frustrating and you will suffer a quick death if you make too many mistakes. The process of figuring these bosses out and beating them is extremely satisfying.

Worth it?

Generally the game will set you back around £12 depending on platform, but is very often on sale up to 75%, allowing you to pick it up for less than £5. At that price it’s a must have. The game is an acquired taste in terms of difficulty, but an audio-visual masterpiece. The narration, soundtrack and artwork are something truly special and a testament to indie game development. If you see this game on sale make sure to pick it up. Overall it’s definitely worth the purchase and while the gameplay itself won’t last you more than around 5-6 hours, the world is so beautiful and the gameplay is extremely satisfying (and also challenging), making it an absolute must have.

Tips

  • Keep on the look out for Ithunn’s Apples – these will upgrade your health bar
  • The shrines of Mimir will replenish your skills and health, but they can only do so once
  • Take time to study a boss’ movement patterns and attacks
  • Heavy attacks will often do different things than basic attacks – experiment with this
  • Look for openings between legs arms or other bits where you can avoid being hit

Useful Links

City Skylines: Airports

The Game

City Skylines: Airports is the 10th expansion pack for City Skylines published by Paradox Interactive. In this review I will just be discussing the DLC in isolation. Similarly to some of the previous DLCs released (Campus, Industries, Parklife) the game focuses on zoning new areas and levelling them up over time. As the name suggests this DLC focuses on airports. You get to zone out an airport area, which conveniently flattens the ground in the area (longer term City Skylines players will know the pain of flattening land to fit in an airport). Once an area has been dedicated for the airport you can choose from some basic airport components in 3 different styles. Using these modular components you build up the airport, adding terminals, runways, taxi roads, stands, parked airplanes, cargo planes and even hotels. There is a really nice range of cosmetic items to add and even some new public transport links that can go straight into your terminals – subway, train and busses – all with some new unique skins for the vehicles. Your airports will level up as more people use them and you will even be able to create your own airline charging extortionate prices.

Worth it?

The DLC will set you back around £10 on consoles with CD keys being available for PC around £5. You will get 3 new maps and the addition of the airport zones with loads of customisation options and new public transport skins. The game also comes with a handful of new achievements, which are pretty easy to complete.

Overall for £10 I cannot say this DLC is worth it. While the customisation options are nice and you can get some really cool looking airports, the money really just isn’t worth it. I opened up a fairly late game city, set up a couple airports and got all achievements in about 5 minutes of playing. Within 30 minutes I had the highest level airport. Aesthetically speaking the DLC does add a nice amount, but in terms of depth and playability there really isn’t much there to keep you in long term. Comparing to the other similar DLCs like Parklife and the Industries this one is quite lacking and a little bit disappointing. If on sale it does become a little bit more sensible so do look out for it on sale or pick up some discounted CD keys.

Tips

  • Metro station and Train station link directly to concourses
  • You only really need 1 runway per airport
  • Make sure your airplane taxi routes link up correctly in the one way system

Useful Links

Minecraft (Bedrock Edition) – Coming Back to Minecraft After 10+ years

The Game

Minecraft a game developed by Mojang needs little to no introduction. The game started in Alpha in 2010 and was officially released in 2011. There are technically two independent versions – Bedrock and Java edition, where Bedrock is the version available on all consoles, mobile and windows 10. Over the years the game has continuously been developed and grown far beyond what it was in those very early days. It still carries on growing even today with the recent 1.18 Caves and Cliffs update and the upcoming 1.19 Wild update.

If you haven’t played for as long as I have you really are in for a treat. The world generation, biomes, creatures, NPCs, crafting and literally every single element of the game has had some sort of addition or expansion over the years. There are new animals like pandas, bees, axolotls, alpacas and more. The Nether has been completely overhauled with new nether biomes and structures like bastions, there is more to the End than just the dragon – end cities allow for late game dungeons and loot to be obtained. Oceans have changed massively, sunken ships, buried treasures, corals, sea turtles, ruins, ocean monuments and elder guardians and many other additions have made the oceans of Minecraft a lot more interesting and worth exploring as much as any overworld biome. There are now various types of mountain, taiga forests, ice biomes. There are new types of caves and the world goes deeper than ever before.

Villagers were only just introduced when I last played Minecraft all those years ago and while initially they didn’t have much purpose, they are now an integral part to surviving. There are a variety of villages depending on the biome they spawn in, various villager professions, each with its own set of trades. Trading with villagers will level them up, unlocking new trade options – sometimes even allowing you trade for incredibly rare items. The villagers now also have enemies in the world, their evil counterparts – the illagers. These can spawn on patrol in the world, in woodland mansions, at pillager outposts or during raids. There are various types of illagers each with their own skills, weapons and abilities. There is also a sequence of events whereby killing an illager captain (gaining the Bad Omen status) and then walking into a village will trigger a raid by consecutives waves of illagers. Defeat the raid and you might get an amazing drop – the Totem of Undying (hold in your hand when you die to instantly respawn).

Worth it?

Generally speaking whichever version you may choose you will likely be spending anywhere from £10 to £20 for the game. There are various CD Key outlets offering lower prices too. What’s most important is to define that any platform other than desktop will be the Bedrock Edition of Minecraft. On PC you will have a choice between the original Java edition and Bedrock Edition. While the majority of the core game mechanics are the same between games, there are some very key differences in terms of mob spawning and various other niche elements that could potentially make all those tutorials for farms you are watching irrelevant to your version. The other very notable difference between the two is that on Java you will have access to endless free mods, texture packs and other community content. On Bedrock you will need to purchase Minecoins in order to buy the same types of things.

While on the one hand the store in Bedrock is a nice chance for content creators to get recognised and make money from their work it also takes away from so much that Minecraft originally was and feels like a bit of a cold attempt at squeezing more money out of the player. On consoles you cannot play split-screen unless the other player also has a purchased version/account on Minecraft – making local/offline couch co-op not an option, which was actually a major disappointment and feels like a bit of slap in the face. Changes are also being made to bring Java edition more in line with this, under the guise of improving player safety.

Overall it’s very difficult to fault Minecraft as a game – it really has withstood the test of time and coming back to it after being away for so long is like rediscovering something you loved as a kid which has kept growing and changing over all these years. The game has proven itself in terms of depth and potential and the continuous work on it means there’s always something to look forward to. If you want to lose potentially thousands of hours building and surviving in your very own Minecraft world, or last played it more than 5 years ago – then by all means give it a go.

Tips

  • Make a shield and equip it as soon as you have access to iron
  • Donkeys can be equipped with chests to help carry more
  • Animals can be leashed to fence posts
  • Scutes dropped from baby turtles can help make a helmet that will help you spend more time underwater
  • Mobs cannot spawn on bottom half slab blocks (or other non-whole blocks like rails, string, carpets)
  • Traveling 1 block in the Nether is equivalent to travelling 8 in the above world
  • Enable coordinates on Bedrock – make note/screenshots of coordinates you want to come back to
  • Keep a water bucket on you, it can be useful to go up/down into ravines or to put yourself out if you’re on fire
  • Mending is a great enchantment for your high-level gear – it will repair your equipment with exp
  • Automate things using redstone contraptions
  • You can reset villager trades by removing their work station and replacing it – once you have made a trade with a villager that will lock their trades in even if the work station is moved
  • Check a seed map to find out where various things in your world are located

Useful Links

GTA V Online: The Contract

The Game

Rockstar recently released another update for GTA V Online The Contract featuring Dr Dre himself. The DLC focuses around the new business (Agency) run by your character and Franklin from the GTA V story. The Agency offers up a bunch of new ways to make money and a series of VIP Contracts in which you focus on retrieving Dr Dre’s stolen phone, containing previously unreleased music. There are several types of normal contracts, varying in pay and difficulty – some will task your character with retrieving stolen valuables or vehicles, destroying caches, killing gang officers or protecting valuables. Each of these jobs can pay anywhere from around $30 000 to around $70 000.

In addition to these jobs, the update has also added payphone hits. A throwback to the original story mode and some of the older games, the player is tasked with carrying out hits against various VIP targets across the city. Each hit comes with a variety of ways in which it can be completed in order to gain the hit bonus, which massively increases the pay for the kill from $15 000 to a total of $85 000.

The Agency itself (which can be purchased from the Dynasty 8 site) comes with a couple of special rooms – an armoury allowing the purchase of specific items (like the taser) and a garage where cars can be customised with some of Imani’s special upgrades. The special vehicle upgrades include remote control over a car, various explosion methods and weapons too.

Worth it?

The DLC adds tons of new content from weapons to vehicles and clothes. The new missions offer an amazing way to make money as a solo player. All agency missions, contracts and hits can be completed solo in an invite only session, essentially making this an amazing single player DLC. The Agency will set you back a couple million dollars, but completing the Dr Dre story line will put $1M back into your account, so that alone makes it quite worth it. With a MK2 the contracts and hits are extremely easy to complete and will massively help you on your money grind. These missions may also come back as 2x or 3x weekly specials which offers up some great earning potential. The unreleased Dr Dre tracks which you then get to listen to and keep are also a really innovative approach to releasing music. My single biggest issue with the DLC is that the tour of Dre’s studio is a mission that requires two players and it seems near impossible to find a second if you don’t have any friends that play GTA V.

Tips

  • You can run over trolls for the payphone hit missions using a MK2
  • The Stone Hatchet (reward from Maude’s bounty hits) is very useful for a lot of the contracts and recovery missions as it will allow you to chain together kills and run through an area unharmed
  • There are some hits that require multiple players working for you
  • All DLC contracts and hits can be played in a Invite only (single player lobby)
  • Completing more contracts will increase the passive income of the agency (stored in the safe in your office) up to a max of $50 000 for every in game day
  • Purchasing the armory allows you to purchase the Stun Gun and the EMP Launcher
  • You can listen to Dr Dre’s tracks (after completing the quests and receiving the USB) from the Media Player radio station – you can select what it plays through the Inventory option in your context menu

Useful Links

Reigns

The Game

Reigns is the first game in the Reigns series, first released in 2016 – developed by Nerial and published by Devolver Digital. The concept of the game is brilliantly simple and effective. You are a king (if you would like to be a queen, you can always try Reigns: Her Majesty) at the head of an unruly kingdom faced with many decisions. Each decision is basically a Yes/No decision made by swiping left or right, reminiscent of everybody’s favourite dating apps (Tinder, Bumble, etc). Every decision will affect the 4 key factions that you need to keep in check – the church, the people, the army and the treasury. Deplete any one of those and you will be killed; allow any one of them to max out and you will be killed – dying will end your current reign and you will start as a new ruler. There are some really interesting characters, decisions and surprises that will keep you on your toes at all times.

Worth it?

Reigns is a wonderfully simple and yet surprisingly deep game. Some story lines and characters immerge after several lives or even the devil himself. The game will set you back around £1.99 (or $2.99), which is quite worth it, even more so if it is on sale. My single biggest issue with the game is the rotation on mobile – it doesn’t listen for the phone’s rotation (even if locked) and will auto-rotate, making it quite annoying when you’d like to keep the game in portrait, like if you are lying down. Other than that it’s really hard to fault the game. Occasionally if you close the game mid-reign it may not save your progress.

Overall it’s a nice looking game, with simple yet entertaining mechanics, a surprising amount of depth, loads of achievements and objectives to unlock. It’s cheap and has loads of replay value; perfect for either short time-killing sessions or lengthier runs.

Tips

  • The little dots above each of the factions indicate how big an effect that decision will have, however you don’t know if it will be a positive or negative effect
  • Decisions that continuously affect your standing with a faction will increment it constantly, meaning you can wait for it for a minute or two to fill/deplete before making a decision
  • Build the barn – this will come in handy if the people decide to turn on you, giving you an extra shot
  • Understand what adds to a faction’s standing and what detracts – over time you will get better at keeping them all in check
  • For tips on a long reign, check out the wiki: https://reigns.fandom.com/wiki/Strategy

Useful Links

Punch Club

The Game

Punch Club developed by Lazy Bear Studios and published by tinyBuild is a pixel graphics fighting simulation game. With elements reminiscent of Sims and loads of references to cult classic films there’s quite a bit to unpack with this game. The game has a fairly simple and straightforward gameplay loop consisting of training to level up your stats, working to earn cash and fighting your way to becoming champion of the world (technically you watch your character fight).

Every day you will have to balance exercise, work and other tasks to progress, at the end of every day you will lose a significant chunk of your stats. There are three main attributes that you can develop – strength (red), agility (blue) and stamina (green). Different gym equipment will level you up at different speeds, exercise too long on one piece of equipment and you’ll start earning less points, so make sure to change up your routine as soon as that happens. Your stats tie in to your fighting abilities and skills. After each fight you will learn skill points which can be spent learning new skills, moves or perks. As if all of that wasn’t enough you also have to ensure you’ve got enough food, energy and happiness each day. In the early game finding the balance between working to earn money and training is particularly difficult, so you’ll probably be stuffing yourself with frozen pizzas for quite some time.

The story focuses on a character who dreams of becoming a great fighter and avenging his father’s death. As you become a better fighter more elements to the story will unfold, as well as some side-stories, which actually get pretty weird after a while. The game world is packed with references to movies like Fight Club, Rocky, The Simpsons, John Wick and even Jay and Silent Bob (if you look outside the store) and some truly beautiful pixel art.

Worth it?

This isn’t an easy game. Especially the early game can be particularly hard as you balance working, training and fighting. Once you start to unlock better jobs, some home equipment and more skills things begin to get a bit easier and the game starts to click. The mid-game (from Din Kong) onwards begins to get a bit easier, however it is also worth noting that this is an extremely grindy game. While losing some stats every day makes sense and is an established mechanic it also makes the game really hard and you will be spending an extremely long time levelling up your stats (especially for the final fights). While it is quite punishing, it also makes for a good challenge. Some story lines will also present you with choices which will affect them, potentially making completion for those story lines unachievable.

You can get the game for around £1.50 on sale, which is absolutely worth it. The game provides a good challenge, is wonderfully aesthetic, has an interesting story and loads of film references to keep you going. It will take you quite a few hours to complete your first playthrough and you may be tempted to do a second one after (maybe even a speedrun). The sound track can get a bit repetitive after hours of grinding and the game itself can get a bit repetitive and grindy towards the end, but other than that it is quite difficult to fault it. If you see the game on sale, grab it.

Tips

  • In the early game meat is the most effective cost per food item, however pizza is better at recovering your health
  • Making money is only difficult in the early game – focus on getting your own equipment at home so as to avoid the daily cost of the gym
  • The skip attack skills is very useful if you are draining your energy very quickly
  • Adapt your strategy from round to round – try out different moves, counters and defensive moves
  • Fights will teleport you directly to the location so you can save yourself the walking
  • Keep skills just above a level if the day is about to tick over, so you can easily get it back up again at the start of the new day
  • Focus on unlocking the extra skill slots early in the skill tree
  • Look ahead at what gets you where in the skill tree, plan ahead
  • Once you are living with Din Kong focus on upgrading daily allowance asap, money will also become a trivial concern pretty quickly then
  • You can collect the prize from Mickey in the trailer park twice
  • Skill unlock cost caps at 25
  • The flower locations for Adrian are: Roy’s garden, the Warehouse, the Bar, Mick’s office and your house
  • Check out the wiki for more tips/tricks

Useful Links

Valthirian Arc – Hero School Story

The Game

Valthirian Arc – Hero School Story by Agate Games is a rather weird, but strangely addictive game available on PC, PS4 and Switch. A quirky art style and a mix of anime and cute characters make this quite an interesting game. There are two aspects to Valthirian Arc – on the one hand you are a principal managing a school for heroes. You will need to build and upgrade various classrooms and facilities around the school while also upgrading your students and crafting them new gear. At the end of each academic year you have to graduate some of your students in order to obtain a large lump some of cash and experience.

The second aspect of this game are the actual missions that your students are sent on. These are essentially little randomised dungeons in which you usually have to find some items or kill some mobs. This encompasses the core gameplay loop in which you go out on missions, find loot, gain experience, followed by levelling up your students and eventually graduating them and enrolling new ones to repeat the process with. As you advance the story and acquire more experience your school will grow, allowing you to place more buildings and unlock specialisations for your students.

Worth it?

The game is available on Steam for £11.99, I got it on sale on PS4 for around £2.50. Realistically, the game isn’t really worth much more than £5.00, but it does have an addictive quality about it where you keep thinking to yourself – “just one more mission or one more graduation”. The gameplay does get quite repetitive quite quickly, but the prospects of improving your students further and further and unlocking the various specialisations can keep you engaged for quite a while.

Overall the story isn’t anything overly compelling, although it does appear to have a couple of variations on the end result. There’s an interesting variety of mechanics, from managing and building the school, to crafting gear and upgrading students. It has a weirdly addictive side to it that does make you want to keep playing for some time. If you focus on doing only the main story line missions you can probably complete it in around 5-10 hours, however doing side quests and favours is a great way to earn more cash and upgrade your students even more. If you spot this on sale, it’s definitely worth a try if you fancy something a little bit more quirky.

Tips

  • Do not send all parties on idle missions (ones that play out on their own) as time advances really slowly when you are not out on a mission.
  • Always ensure you have on party with which to play out missions while the others can go on idle ones. You can use the main party to advance time by completing the missions.
  • Don’t get too attached to your students, you will have to graduate them at some point as newer students joining will have a higher level cap.
  • The dirk is a great weapon for the lowest class students.
  • Always buy everything you can from the travelling merchant.
  • There’s little point in crafting most of the lower class weapons as you’ll tend to find a lot while out on missions.
  • Invest in buildings and rooms that give you extra cash early on, you can always delete or replace them later on.
  • Item drop rate is capped, regardless of how many rooms you have that buff it.
  • Look out for students’ base stats when enrolling them – you can specialise them based on these. Focus on their strengths.

Useful Links

The Survivalists

The Game

The Survivalists is a pixel-graphics survival game by Team17. You are stranded on a deserted (or is it?) island in the middle of the ocean with nothing but the clothes on your back and the wreckage of your raft. It’s up to you to build up your base and arsenal of tools and weapons and eventually make your way to other islands and even back home. The game shares a lot of similarities with other popular survival games (like Don’t Starve), but is also quite forgiving and can be quite chill at times (rather than the hectic panic that other such games induce). There are regular attacks by the goblin natives of the islands – you will always be warned the evening before these occur and you’ll have a good amount of time to prepare yourself for the impending attack.

Where The Survivalists really comes into its own is it’s unique monkey buddy system. While exploring the islands you will run into monkeys who will need your help – sometimes they’ll be capture in a cage that needs breaking, other times they will need a specific item. Once you’ve helped them they will join you on your adventures and quite literally follow all of your orders. The monkeys allow you to automate production, construction, resource harvesting, combat, etc. as you can teach each monkey to perform one of the roles described above. This is quite a unique mechanic and makes for some pretty interesting scenarios, especially as you amass a bigger and bigger following of monkeys.

The game also features vaults and labyrinths, which are basically dungeons with cool loot and secrets to be uncovered. These are scattered throughout the world and up to you to find on your adventures. The labyrinths will require special keys to be purchased from the Mysterious Stranger. There are a few other NPCs and some quests that will keep you busy when you get bored of building up your base and gathering resources. If that’s not enough for you, you can also play cooperatively with your friends online (sadly no couch co-op options available).

Worth it?

The game has all the classic survival game mechanics you’d ever want and the monkeys give the game something truly unique. I would even argue that they make the game what it is – they take away the tediousness of crafting and resource gathering and allow you to focus on the bigger picture problems like layout out your base, exploring or even just watching them to all the hard work while you take a nap. The game will generally set you back around £20 but is often on sale for around £10 (you really can’t say no to that). I played the PS4 version and have very little to fault it on there.

Overall it’s a very enjoyable game with a great amount of depth to it – it can be quite chill at times, at other moments you may be fighting for your life. As with all such games, things to tend to get a bit repetitive after a while and the loop of finding better materials for better tools to get better materials starts to become a bit tedious – that would be my only major criticism. Other than that the game has some truly unique elements to it and will keep you busy for hours on end. It also has that addictive moment where you just keep thinking to yourself: “one more day, one more job” and then you find you’ve actually played a few hours longer than expected.

Tips

  • Only go up 1 difficulty when moving to a new island, otherwise you won’t be able to gather resource and will probably get killed.
  • Gather as many monkeys as you can.
  • Setting monkeys to follow you and giving them weapons will allow them to fight alongside you.
  • Vaults aren’t too difficult, especially on the first island – they often contain monkeys as well.
  • You can give a chest to a monkey to carry as a way to have more storage space when out in the world.
  • Try to get to the 3rd difficulty island asap as you will find the materials for portals there – this will help you massively with navigating the world.
  • Find the Mysterious Stranger to buy the Mysterious Chest (36 slots) for 500 Doubloons – this will help you massively when adventuring.
  • Complete 3 quests for the Beastmaster to unlock the first backpack upgrade to be purchased from the Mysterious Stranger – these will then appear on the 2nd page of the crafting menu.

Useful Links