Friday, October 21, 2011

Oh, So It's a Racist Rap Battle

Hm, where to start this post... Well, I've finally started playing through Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. But this post isn't about that. The problem was, for whatever reason (most likely having to do with the fact that I've been using a crappy $9 controller to play games on my PC to this point), Brotherhood didn't work with my old controller. So I ended up splurging on a shiny new $40 XBox controller, which pretty much negated any savings I made while buying the game on sale. But as a side bonus, it works rather well with other games too, so I guess I can't complain too much.

SequenceToday (or yesterday by this point, I guess), I downloaded Sequence, a combination rhythm/RPG game. To sum up the game really quickly, you accumulate XP and gather items by defeating enemies in rhythm-based combat, where you face three simultaneous screens of Dance Dance Revolution-style arrow-tapping. Obviously, you can't play all three at once, so part of the strategy of the game comes in when you play each specific screen. Do you take a few points of damage (on your Defense screen) to build up Mana on another screen, so you can charge up to cast a Spell on yet another? You've got to keep an eye on all three screens at once, switching back and forth at the right moment to defeat your opponent quickly.

Keeping in the tradition of RPG games (which, I'll admit, I know nothing about), items dropped by defeated enemies can be equipped to increase your health or strength, or combined in recipes to create new items and spells. Crafting these items takes a bit of luck, as you must always wager a portion of your experience points to make the crafting work. You can risk more of your points for a greater success rate, but it's still capped at 95% odds, so there's always some shot of losing those points for nothing. Spells must also be mastered before they can be used in battle by completing a solo round with a matching task (over X% accuracy, X-hit streak, etc.).

Let me start out my analysis of this game by saying that it's pretty fantastic overall. The combination of multitasking and rhythm makes for a good challenge, and the four levels of difficulty (I chose medium, for the record) mean you can dive right in at any level of experience with rhythm games (or general rhythmic competency). The attached storyline, while so far mostly bare-bones, is still intriguing and hilariously well-written, taking the mickey out of itself and other similar games without ever begging for you to like it. The music you play with isn't exactly gripping, but that non-intrusiveness is perfect for a game like this where you've just got to keep tapping your feet and smashing the right buttons. And as for the art, more than the fairly simple graphics, I'm impressed that there exists an RPG character that wears NORMAL CLOTHING. Seriously, cargo pants and a sweatshirt? I wear those things! (Though green was never really my color.) But I say that to say that the main character is so instantly relatable that you'll have no trouble getting into this game.

(Note: The following struck text is referring to bugs present at the time the review was written, but were fixed quickly afterwards. I've kept the text here, but feel free to skip it.) ...But staying in this game might be a different matter. My biggest drawback from giving Sequence a wholehearted recommendation right off the top is the fact that it's still oddly buggy, in one way or another. The first minor quirk was that this game seems to be highly susceptible to fluctuations in CPU usage (I had my browser window open in the background while using this), meaning the scrolling arrows might slow down and speed up for a bit mid-game, or my controller buttons didn't seem to register all the time. I will gladly admit that this might simply be an issue with my computer being old and crappy, but there are further issues to be discussed.

In addition to this, it seemed like after the game initially finished downloading, it immediately started to download another update. Initial release date blues, I thought, no problem at all. However, it seemed that it kept downloading more and more updates, all large and cumbersome for my connection to handle (Dear Steam, when are you finishing the interface update that lets users throttle download speeds? XOXO, --steve), even after verifying the game cache a few times. Despite this, there seems to now be an issue (which started just this evening) where when I attempt to master a spell to add it to my arsenal, the game instantly crashes every time (and it still charges me the 50 XP I pay to do so!). That definitely wasn't an issue earlier today when I mastered my first spell, so I don't know what's going on. (Edit: It appears I can't access the Spellset options now. Fix plz?) (Edit again: It's the morning after, and it looks like both of these issues have been fixed. Link)

If you can get over the annoying buggyness (which I'm sure someone is constantly working on fixing),
Sequence is definitely a strong title and well worth buying even at its non-sale price of $5. The trailer videos (worth a watch, if only to hear one of the most brutally honest PR speeches I've heard in a while) boast 10+ hours of gameplay, but even though I'm only two hours in, I can already tell it will be worth the time.

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