I’m not sure if last week’s quirky video game post worked or not but let’s try it again. The video games on this list may or may not be good, some might not even be “games,” but something about them is interesting.
We had some esoteric games last week, so let’s go with a more common theme this week: fantasy.
Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale
This game puts you in the high stress life of a JRPG item shop owner. The story is at time hard to follow, trite, or non-existent, and other times it’s two out of those three, but running your own item shop is fun.
The customers behave more like non-American shoppers; the base price is a starting point, and they’ll haggle over most times. Don’t believe the in-game tutorial when it says that most consumers buy a product that’s marked at 30% above the base; it lies. You could go to wholesale warehouses to obtain your items, but the game coaxes players to venture into the larger world and discover rare, more expensive wares.
This extra gameplay wrinkle (of outfitting a friendly adventurer and exploring a dungeon) adds some much needed variety. Recettear wouldn’t be much of a game if all you did was set retail prices to products you bought wholesale, but it’s the item shop portion of the game that sets it apart.
There’s no better feeling than fleecing someone with a 50% markup, but failing to make a sale stinks—except if it’s a young girl shopper: damn cheapskates. Recettear is a great resource for learning math that doesn’t feel like a stuffy math game, and gamers can learn shop running and entrepreneur basics, just in case they wanted to start their own game store.
My only other gripe, besides the story, is something more specific about the story: the pixie landlord. I get that Recettear needs something to motivate the player and give them concrete goals, but I could’ve done without the tired, overbearing landlord who price gouges the player. Despite its flaws, Recettear is worth a quick look if you ever wanted to live a day in the shoes of a JRPG item shop owner.
Pox Nora is one of the many free games I’ve covered—I think I’ll start reviewing nothing but free games, sort of a free gaming summer—but you get a lot with this free game. And I don’t mean that Pox Nora is a “free to play” game; it’s a free game with a mountain of content to unpack.
I’ve played hours of Pox Nora and only scratched the surface. At its core Pox Nora is a tactical RPG, in the tradition of Final Fantasy Tactics, Tactics Ogre, and Disgaea, with strong ties to Dungeons and Dragons and gentle nod to collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering.
Players take control of a fantasy faction. Each faction has its strengths and weaknesses, but savvy gamers can play up their strengths, while downplaying their weaknesses. This is easier said than done, and it makes Pox Nora a difficult game and that’s one of its biggest selling points—besides the attractive free price tag.
It also deploys an odd tournament system. Sure, you could battle players head-to-head but Pox Nora has indirect scoring. You can play campaigns for your favorite faction and Pox Nora keeps score on how well you played the campaign. The score gets added to the community’s score—which is reset every so often—and a faction is deemed the winner when the tournament ends.
If you keep playing your favorite faction, and play them well, you can aid your chosen heroes to victory. I’m sure that head-to-head combat counts more toward the team totals, but you don’t see solo campaigns factor into community scoring at this level, and that’s intriguing.
Pox Nora’s difficulty and depth of play also presents new challenges you can overcome and that, in turn, leads to countless game hours for a free game. Did I mention it was free? Anyway, if Pox Nora has one sticky point, it’d be its non-user friendly menu and game interface. I’m not sure which buttons I need to press to start a game, and that’s intimidating. But once you crack Pox Nora’s code, you’ll find a deep and rewarding game.
Card Hunter and Loot and Legends
This is a two-for-one game. Card Hunter and Loot and Legends are the same game but for different operating systems. Card Hunter is PC-based. Loot and Legends is for mobile phones and tablets. Both versions are free to play, but one is more “free to play” than the other. We’ll get into the differences, but first, let’s cover the similarities.
Both Card Hunter and Loot and Legends borrow from D&D and collectible card games, much like Pox Nora above, but these two games have a light-hearted tone, as opposed to Pox Nora’s dark, Diablo-esque demeanor. These games are also much easier to get into and understand. The story for these games is more coherent too, but it’s about a Dungeon Master (DM) whose older brother picks on him and demands that he be a tougher DM for the player. It’s an okay story, but that’s not Card Hunter or Loot and Legends’ strongpoint. Both of these games simplify D&D and make it accessible.
I enjoy the colorful creatures and backgrounds—the graphics are similar with both games—and I guess Card Hunter has a little more going on as far as story’s concerned, but I don’t care for the story as much as I do the characters. It’s fun to play in their world.
But which one feels more “free to play”? It’s Loots and Legends. While you have some things you can unlock with Card Hunter’s in-game purchases, Loots and Legends shows you what you would’ve gotten as item drops if you had a game membership. You can only be a member for a set time (hours) before you have to renew your membership, and that’s an ugly look for a “free to play” game, but I don’t buy into Loots and Legends’ ploy and look past this obvious shake down. I prefer Loots and Legends to Card Hunter.
Card Hunter has more instances of die rolling in the game—I believe Loots and Legends omitted die rolling all together but there might be some instances that I haven’t experienced that contain die rolling. I seldom like die rolling in video games because I always feel cheated with the outcomes, and Card Hunter made it too easy for me to determine that the computer was cheating.
All rolls in Card Hunter use one die. High rolls are better than low rolls and they allow you to pull off a feat of daring do, so I kept track of 50 of the game’s scenarios. I rolled a “1” or a “2” 75% of the time and a “5” or “6” less than 10% of the time. The computer’s stats were a little more spread out between the numbers but it was close to a complete flip to the likelihood of numbers I rolled. Each number should’ve shown up around 16.67% of the time for both players, but Card Hunter cheats. It unabashedly cheats.
Still, I like both games. They’re fun, and you can’t beat a free price tag.
That’s all I have for Geekly’s quirky video games. Perhaps next week will be nothing but free video games. Thanks for reading.