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Video Games: Keanu Re3ves Is Breathtaking

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Doing the "Survival Challenges" in Shadow of Mordor really feels like this:

Spoiler

Talion (doing the voiceover): I'm Talion and I'm going to show you what to takes to get out alive from the most dangerous places on Middle-Earth. I'm going through a week of challenges in the sort of places you wouldn't last a day in without the right survival skills. This time I'm dropped off in Mordor, one of the most desolate, hostile and darkest places in the world. Here where the Dark Lord Sauron dwells with his minions and men have to thread carefully to survive.

Celebrimbor: What are you doing, Talion?

Talion: I will find have to find a source of water, food and shelter and make my way to the south to the shores of lake Nurnen, hopefully reaching human civilization there.

Celebrimbor: Was that a reply to me or do you just keep narrating?

Talion: Look! A Mallos plant! It stinks terribly, but ground up and made into a draught can easily heal a cough.

Celebrimbor: Do you have a cough?

Talion: *eats the plant anyway*

Celebrimbor: I thought you wanted to grind it up...

Talion: We are in luck. Up there is an Earthbread plant. It is quite rare here, but its nutricious roots will last me for at least a day.

Celebrimbor: Well... sounds reasonable, I guess.

Talion: Look, there is an Ungol in that hole. One of the most dangerous spiders in all of Mordor.

Celebrimbor: No they aren't, they are large biting spiders who crush their prey with their fangs. The smaller ones are actually the more dangerous ones.

Talion (grabbing a stick): They are well camouflaged in this charred black landscape, waiting for their prey until it is almost on top of them and then striking.

Celebrimbor: That sounds more reasonable, though do I have to ask what the stick is for?

Talion (grabbing also a stone): Those are killing more men than any other Mordor spider. But this one is going to be lunch.

Celebrimbor: It is what now?

Talion (clobberes spider and picks it up): The sun is still up. I will take it with me and prepare it once I put up a camp.

Celebrimbor: Please don't.

Talion: For that matter, usually my first task would be to find running water as a fresh water source. But I am still fairly close to Mount Doom. This is a scorched dry land where my search will prove not very useful. The heat from both the ground and the sun is staggering. I have to use all available water sources. For example I can drink the Ungol's fuid to keep hydrated. *does so* Ugh, this really tastes absolutely awful.

Celebrimbor: Why am I linked to this idiot again? Also, Shelob will be sooo pissed...

Talion: But the fluid will not keep me for long. I'm hoping that I can find a river in time, but just in case I have to collect...

Celebrimbor: Please for the love of Eru Ilúvatar, don't drink your piss...

Jokes aside, yesterday was a strange playthrough in which I actually hit the 10 hour mark and am half-way through the entire game, having cleared almost all the (side-)quests in the Northern Mordor area and now am supposed to go south to Nurnen.

Good news first: Zogdush the Handsome was actually killed at the time of my last post. At least I think this is fair to say when his place was taken by another random grunt.

Bad news: I have two more unkillable crossbow orks annoying me.

Though I must say that "Azdush the Merciful" is kinda funny. He actually popped up very early in the game as well and has accompanied my fights with Zogdush here and there, but he had some easily exploitable fears (fire) and weaknesses (stealth) that made it easy to dispatch him and prevent him from growing in power. That's actually the reason why I have lost track how often I have killed him, but it must be at least 5 times. He just always came back. At one time twice in a row. I killed him while battling inside a fortress and then he showed up again without even the first combat ending. And obviously he used my two deaths against the Ghul matriarch to grow in power and get rid of his weaknesses. So... the funny part is that a "the Merciful" orc doesn't kill you. He had made it his habit to use his ambush skill to sneak up on me while I'm busy fighting another captain, snipe me down from the back and then just to wordlessly walk away with a smile. I have the headcanon that he has realized early on that I can't be killed and resolved himself to just startle me to hell.

The next one is a bit more frustrating though. As I was mopping up the last side quests in the area before leaving it, I was in the process of clearing a fortress of several low-level captains when I was suddenly sniped by another crossbow captain that I hadn't met up until then. His sting was absolutely nasty and as I was using my environment to throw pretty much all possible fears and weaknesses that I could think of at the moment at him, he proved annoyingly impervious to all of them and actually managed to kill me while I was busy fending of the remaining swarm of enemies. What is it with immortal weakness-less crossbow orcs being the nastiest enemies? Especially combined with a tough group of other captains that have resistances to everything except straight up duels...

The worst part: "Akoth the Whisperer" immediately rose to bloody warchief. Quite overkill, if you ask me, but I guess Sauron has a lot of positions to fill. The "Sauron's Army" tab looks like a graveyard. I actually didn't mind Akoth's rise to power and finished the last sidequests... and suddenly found myself near a quest marker that allowed me to draw him out by stealth killing some Uruks. I thought why not.... and all hell broke loose. Akoth had successfully surrounded himself with two bodyguards, both resistant against absolutely everything except combat executions, both of them having the ability to block your jumping and one of them being a shield orc (meaning that you can only evade his attacks by jumping...). I was utterly at a loss at how to defeat all three of them at once inside their clown car fortress continuously spewing out more orcs, so I lured them out to a spawn tower (attracting three more captains including Azdush, of course) and only managed to get myself trapped atop the tower while it was surrounded by pretty much every nearby patrol ever. What followed was once again an immensely frustrating hour of me trying to pick them apart one by one, but always failing because they had resistances to everything except straight up duels. All of them. Somehow I still managed to seperate Akoth from the rest and unleashed a flurry of executions, but just as I was going to get him I was not-killed b Azdush and both of them fled, which actually gave me the opportunity to just straight up murder the other three dudes because it's just the immortal crossbow dudes that ruin my killing sprees.

Damn it... How did I survive this again? Ah yes, "the Merciful"...

Edited by Toth

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I brought my Gamecube out of the dust pin and decided to finally finish The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. I'm currently about to face Ganondorf.

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On 7/25/2019 at 4:09 PM, KingintheNorth4 said:

I brought my Gamecube out of the dust pin and decided to finally finish The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. I'm currently about to face Ganondorf.

I know it gets a lot of flack for that insanely long tutorial (rightfully so), and I know the game has some pacing issues and a weird plot that makes no sense, but I still love this game. There's some really phenomenal dungeon design in there- I love Snowpeak Ruins and the Arbiter's Grounds. And I'll never forget my joy at playing that cavalry battle for the first time. Great final boss battles too.

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Talion's reaction to learning how to brand orcs: "Why do I have to do this? This evil killed my family. This all feels so wrong..."

My reaction: "IT'S ABOUT DAMN TIME! I'M THE BRIGHT LORD! FEAR ME! OBEY ME!!!"

I hadn't expected this ability to be unlocked so ungodly late, but now it is and it is awesome. I went out and dominated pretty much every orc I stumbled upon, until I noticed that the patrols I walked into already started to consist to 50% of loyal orcs. How cool is that?

Only downside: They are so stupid as allies. I wanted to brand a certain orc captain, but the battle was inside the usual clown car fortress and I couldn't grab him without constantly getting interrupted. So I combat branded every single orc around him... and I still couldn't grab him because these idiots kept attacking him and by doing that hit me instead, interrupting the branding process. In the end they killed him. And I just left them to die against the rest of the garrison. I'm surrounded by total morons...

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Picked up the new Fire Emblem game and am finally getting some use out of my Switch again. I've never played an FE game before, so I don't have any point of comparison, but I'm liking it a lot so far. It does remind me of a much more polished version of the Trails of Cold Steel games. I'm only 4 hours in though, so I'm very much still the tutorial phase of the game.

I picked the Black Eagles House to lead, and I wonder just how different the game would be if I picked one of the other two Houses. The three leaders personalities all seem pretty different, but is it the same plot points with a different coat of paint or would things actually get different?

My only complaint so far is that its the all-too-usual silent protagonist bullshit, which I despise in all games. At least in cRPGs you usually have lots of dialog choices at least, just not voiced; here you mostly just nod or shake your head. There are a handful of dialog choices, though mostly its two ways of saying the same thing (not always though, in the 'Support' conversations you can screw up and not improve your relationships). It makes the main character seem so removed from the events of the game.

One of the best things FFXIV has done, the other game I played a bunch of over the weekend, has been to steadily move away from the silent protagonist in the Stormblood expansion (I've heard that continues even more so in Shadowbringers, but I'm not there yet). It's not all the way there yet, but you get dialog choices somewhat regularly, there's lots of cut-aways of you talking (though no text is provided), and characters joke about how silent you used to be (and how sculpted your neck muscles are from so much nodding).

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Btw, I finished Shadow of Mordor yesterday. Or at least its main story. I still got a few challenge quests to do, as well as the DLC campaigns. "Lord of the Hunt" seems rather generic, taking down five unique warchiefs that are somehow proficient at beast-taming together with Torvin the dwarven hunter. Torvin is fun to be around, but it's bugging me that they apparently had no time to get Celebrimbor's voice actor back for this, given that he is strangely absent during the entirety of this. The Bright Lord I haven't tried out yet. While a game set in the Second Age about you having nabbed the One Ring from Sauron himself through trickery sounds fun on the paper, I get a headache thinking about the plot. Wasn't Celebrimbor a king? Why is he forced to make himself an orc army? Okay, fine, I can take that this takes place after his kingdom was already overrun, his family taken hostage and he being forced to help Sauron make a few adjustments to the One Ring in order to improve its capabilities. And Celebrimbor, despite being able to break free from Sauron's domination spell and being able to screw Sauron over while sitting in mount doom with the One in his lap, the only thing he could come up with was somehow binding the ring to him and make a run for it? Seriously?

That said, the One Ring opens a can of worms for the main story as well. Early on Talion and Celebrimbor brainstorm how to defeat Sauron and right away dismiss the idea of searching for the One Ring because, naturally, they have no idea where they would start such a search. But soon enough they run into Gollum and Celebrimbor right away notes that Gollum has "the touch of the One Ring", which somehow makes him both see Celebrimbor and be aware of his past. You know... it seemed rather strange to me that the thought occurred to neither of the two to just flat out ask Gollum when he last saw the Ring. Especially given how amicable Gollum was to his "Bright Lord" in his hopes that Celebrimbor could help him find it. Shire Bagginses would be a starting point for both, ain't it?

Though I now have a scene in front of my eyes with a disheveled undead ranger suddenly knocking at the door at Bilbo's, going "Could you perhaps have seen a ring? It's plain golden, about this size, makes creepy whispering noises." and Bilbo being just "Nope, no idea!", closing the door in his face.

All in all though... despite the very irritating beginning, the game was a cool experience. I loved the branding and how much of a game-changer it was. Starting out as a stealthy assassin who is constantly risk getting overwhelmed by Sauron's forces, then suddenly being able to turn the tide and form his own army. From one point of the next you suddenly think "Fuck, I can actually win this! Sauron, I'm coming for you!". Especially the numerous quests to free slaves became significantly easier when you can just march into a fortress with a dozen orcs accompanying you, drawing attention away from you while you rush to the targets. Also attacking a multitude of captains becomes significantly easier when the orcs aren't able to gang up at you alone and in fact you can just treat every attacker as a possible recruit for your ever growing retinue. This of course being rewarded in the story with two "big" (for this game, that is) battles where you storm a fortress accompanied by all your branded warchiefs and some grunts, opposed by first your main nemesis (of course it was Azgrom the Merciful!) and then five warchiefs protecting the Black Gate itself with in an army. The latter was a bit sad, seeing that I lost three of my own warchiefs there, undoing a bit of how I managed to turn every named orc in Nurn except one.

I can imagine why Shadow of War seems to have ramped up the scale of the battles and put more focus on sieges and Talion commanding armies. This whole last arc seemed to be a testbed for whether that works (and it IS significantly better than having the final two boss fights being a boring as hell stealth kill and a quick-time event). Too bad that the story has quite a lot of hiccups here and there. I loved the motion-capturing and voice acting! They are able to convey just so much emotion with so little. I love Talion's sarcastic body language and how he seems constantly done with all the zany things Celebrimbor has him do. Poor dude never catches a break. And there are so many snippets that are so well written and acted. Like when you find a pouch of pipeweed and Talion reminisces with till then barely shown warmth to Celebrimbor about how he once caught his teenage son smoking, with the idea of Talion cherishing such a mundane memory completely flying over the elf's head (which in turn makes me angry that they haven't given two more time to bond, which maybe would have turned some later plot developments less rushed). But then come things like Talion checking out the Nurnen princess that come way out of the left field. Celebrimbor's "What the hell, dude?" reaction seemed fitting, but doesn't change how it seemed utterly out of character for him and it was was just startling how she was framed as a big love interest despite barely appearing in two quests, reinforcing just how rushed so much of the narrative is. And so was Talion's sudden switching of gears when he learned that Celebrimbor lied to him about being cursed by Sauron and then decides to... just keep going? Especially since the ending made it look like it's Talion's decision absolutely out of nowhere to make a new ring, not Celebrimbor who for some reason took the position Talion had the whole game. That switcheroo of motivation was really just confusing and undercut what was supposed to be the big epic moment that leads to the sequel.

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4 hours ago, Fez said:

Snip.

Same, also picked Black Eagles, I figure I'll do them all eventually. My understanding is that things are quite different depending on which of the four paths you choose. (the fourth splits off from the Black Eagles, I've read.)

I don't like silent protagonists either. They're actually replacing the male player character's voice actor cause of some bad shit he did, I didn't read the details. But I was surprised at first cause dude doesn't talk. But he does in battle a bit. 

The previous games in the series I'd played were all Battle->Cut-scene-> Menu to re-equip and re-stock your troops and have support conversations and then repeat. Having an actual place to run around in and do stuff adds a lot, in my opinion. Though it can be mildly overwhelming at first. If you do all the non-battle stuff decently well it seems to make the game almost too easy. I'm only on chapter 5 Hard/Classic (but restarting if anyone perma-dies, cause what kinda teacher would I be if I let that happen!) but so far I only had to use all three re-winds once. Never had to restart.  

One thing I didn't realize right away, even having played a handful of the earlier games is while you're in explore mode or the pre-battle screen you can and should click the support tab and make your people talk to each other. It also pays to try to eat with and give gifts and stuff to people who aren't in your class, cause you can recruit them later on under certain conditions. I'm sure someone will do a run where they steal all the students from the other houses. (except the leaders who for plot reasons I'm sure you can't recruit) 

Another tip, watch your characters motivations in relation to instruction day. I went on a training battle when I really should have rested or explored and eaten with some of them the day before instruction and none of the little brats wanted to learn! 

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13 minutes ago, RumHam said:

Same, also picked Black Eagles, I figure I'll do them all eventually. My understanding is that tOne thing I didn't realize right away, even having played a handful of the earlier games is while you're in explore mode or the pre-battle screen you can and should click the support tab and make your people talk to each other. It also pays to try to eat with and give gifts and stuff to people who aren't in your class, cause you can recruit them later on under certain conditions. I'm sure someone will do a run where they steal all the students from the other houses. (except the leaders who for plot reasons I'm sure you can't recruit) 

Hold on. What's this now? That seems like a pretty major thing that hasn't been explained at all. I've had two exploration days and done four battles (prologue, mock battle, practice against the knights, red canyon). Have I missed a ton and should restart? Or is that something that hasn't been introduced quite yet where am I? (I'm about to do my first certifications)

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18 minutes ago, Fez said:

Hold on. What's this now? That seems like a pretty major thing that hasn't been explained at all. I've had two exploration days and done four battles (prologue, mock battle, practice against the knights, red canyon). Have I missed a ton and should restart? Or is that something that hasn't been introduced quite yet where am I? (I'm about to do my first certifications)

Yeah I don't remember it being explained either. But no need to restart. The way it works is as your units fight close together in battle they built up affinity for one another. Once it reaches a certain level they have a conversation in that menu and then they'll be support level C. Then in increases up to A and in some cases S. You haven't missed anything, but I'm not sure if their affinity gains in battle are wasted if you haven't had them have the conversation yet. I went further in the game than you are before I remembered the support conversations were a thing from the other games. I'd figured the support tabs in the menus were just to check everyone's levels. 

Also there are no questions in the support conversations that don't involve the player character, so you can hit + to skip them with no negative effect. Some of them are pretty amusing though. <3 Bernadetta. 

Edit: Another tip: When you get to a point where someone explains there are contraptions on the ground, don't spend half the battle avoiding those tiles cause you assume they're traps. They turned out to be tiles that boosted defense and stuff. 

Edited by RumHam

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I picked the Golden Deer. The other two leaders are lame and Claude is fun.

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17 hours ago, RumHam said:

Yeah I don't remember it being explained either. But no need to restart. The way it works is as your units fight close together in battle they built up affinity for one another. Once it reaches a certain level they have a conversation in that menu and then they'll be support level C. Then in increases up to A and in some cases S. You haven't missed anything, but I'm not sure if their affinity gains in battle are wasted if you haven't had them have the conversation yet. I went further in the game than you are before I remembered the support conversations were a thing from the other games. I'd figured the support tabs in the menus were just to check everyone's levels. 

Also there are no questions in the support conversations that don't involve the player character, so you can hit + to skip them with no negative effect. Some of them are pretty amusing though. <3 Bernadetta. 

Edit: Another tip: When you get to a point where someone explains there are contraptions on the ground, don't spend half the battle avoiding those tiles cause you assume they're traps. They turned out to be tiles that boosted defense and stuff. 

Thanks. Okay, yeah, I just found it. I had one support conversation waiting for me, and I think it probably just activated. I check all the menus pretty regularly because of how overwhelmed I am by all the different systems, and I hadn't noticed that red exclamation mark before letting me know to go into the support submenu.

I played some more last night and had a whole bunch more support conversations activate too. At one point I think I just spend 20 minutes watching them all. I'm getting the sense that this is a truly massive game, and that the three different Houses are actually all quite different play throughs. Even if a lot of the storybeats are the same (and so far I think everything I've seen so far would be), it would be a completely different set of character interactions and support conversations; there seems way too many to get anywhere close to all of them in a single game. 

Of course, I've also heard that the game is around 70 hours long, so it'll probably be a long time before I ever played it again.

2 hours ago, Inigima said:

I picked the Golden Deer. The other two leaders are lame and Claude is fun.

Claude does seem fun, and if I ever do play again I'd probably go Golden Deer. But Edelgard is kinda metal, getting moreso over time, and its pretty awesome. She's also a beast on the battlefield. Although, now that I've learned that the level up stat bonuses are at least semi-randomized, I may just be getting lucky there.

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The Outer Worlds, the new Obsidian RPG in the vein of Fallout New Vegas, is getting a Switch port. Between Fire Emblem, the new Pokemon, the Witcher 3 port, and now this, the Switch is getting pretty stacked for RPGs this Summer and Fall. Hopefully it's a good port; for those Switch/PC gamers like me who want to support Obsidian without using the Epic store, this is good news!

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Losing power yesterday in the middle of a tough Fire Emblem battle really made me appreciate the switch. 

Edit: I also just realized the real value of taking a character from another house to assist you for the month isn't in their battle utility but rather the chance to build affinity with them. (Minor spoiler cause it mentions the secret class that really isn't all that secret.)

Having a dancer who can make the guest player go again doubles the gain. Provided they have something to do. If you were trying to win over a healer character you could prolong an auxiliary battle and just have them keep healing twice a round until they adore you.

Edited by RumHam

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Started Nier Automata.  Not sure I'm getting why so many people love this game so much.  It's alright but I was expecting more.  Maybe?  I will say I liked it more once I got to the amusement park.

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The best parts of the game aren't anywhere near the start, it's when you come to the gimmick of the series(having several endings, A, B, C, D and sometimes E) and the actual stuff the game discusses that it becomes really good

it's more due to story/philosophy present in the game IMO, but I don't want to spoil it

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On the other hand, count me in among those who were pretty whelmed by Nier, and I played to ending E. I liked it, and loved the music and atmosphere, and some parts of the game really clicked. But I also found the gameplay to be a chore, especially in the leadup to ending B. I thought the plot was pretty incoherent, all in all, but this was the first Nier game I ever played 

Edited by Caligula_K3

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It has been too hot to enjoy VR for most of the summer although I played a bit at night from time to time. I got Skyrim and Fallout 4 for VR when they were on sale but I have yet to play it because I do not feel like installing all the "required" mods. 

I have played quite a few games of Mordhau which is fun despite the fact that I usually dislike multiplayer games but the gameplay and chaotic fights are fun. You have to disable the chat asap though. Medieval fighting games seem to attract the worst people... DEUS VULT I guess.

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Nier Automata is the kind of game I wish I liked a lot more than I did. It had some neat ideas, awesome music, and the creator/director Yoko Taro seems like a really cool guy. But the moment to moment playing of it just wasn't super fun, and a lot of the world was just too drab.

 

I'm pretty sure I'm near the end of Act I of Fire Emblem in my Black Eagles playthrough (only took 39 hours) and things are really popping off. I accidentally recruited a few too many of the other Houses' students (I wanted to keep things relatively "pure" and didn't want a ton of characters just sitting on the bench all game), but this game is so massive I'm really not sure if I'd ever play it again anyway; so at least this means I can see more of the support conversations. It is a ton of fun, but even Hard is way too easy. Technically I'm playing on Casual Hard, but I Divine Pulse anytime a unit dies anyway, so I might as well be on Hardcore Hard. And there's clearly layers of strategic depth that I'm just not engaging with because the enemies die so quickly and easily). 

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40 minutes ago, Fez said:

I'm pretty sure I'm near the end of Act I of Fire Emblem in my Black Eagles playthrough (only took 39 hours) and things are really popping off. I accidentally recruited a few too many of the other Houses' students (I wanted to keep things relatively "pure" and didn't want a ton of characters just sitting on the bench all game), but this game is so massive I'm really not sure if I'd ever play it again anyway; so at least this means I can see more of the support conversations. It is a ton of fun, but even Hard is way too easy. Technically I'm playing on Casual Hard, but I Divine Pulse anytime a unit dies anyway, so I might as well be on Hardcore Hard. And there's clearly layers of strategic depth that I'm just not engaging with because the enemies die so quickly and easily). 

I finished my black eagles run the other day and have started as the blue lions. The New Game+ is pretty cool. Instead of keeping everything and being terribly over-powered you spend your renown points to unlock things you had in your last playthrough. So like I was able to raise Bernadetta's support level to A and recruit her the first or second month. (sorry Ashe but she's a much better archer.) Plus you can spend them to raise your professor level and have more activity / instruction points from the start. I've no doubt I could recruit every recruitable character this time around fairly easily. But the only reason I can think to recruit most of them is to see their epilogue text in the ending. 

And yeah the game is super easy for a Fire Emblem game. Part of that may be to not screw over people who just skip the non-battle stuff. But a most of it is the divine pulse mechanic. I've only played three or four of these games, but in the past the challenge wasn't completing the mission. It was completing the mission without making any mistakes that got a unit killed. If a unit died, you had to restart the whole mission or live with the loss. (unless you were playing on an emulator.) I think Divine Pulse is a good idea, but by the end of the game I could do it like 14 times per battle and that just meant I never had to worry about anything. I think they should have kept it at 3-5 per battle.

The difficulty does ramp up a bit towards the end. I lost Ferdinand, Petra and Ignatz in the last battle. I probably could have done it cleaner but it was a long fight and I just wanted to move on. 

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Rocket League is removing lootboxes. This is such good news to me. The system they are replacing it with (which is in Fortnite, or will be?) seems on paper to not bump up against any kind of gambling definition. It may encourage people to play the game for an excessive number of hours each day, which isn't without it's problems, but at least it won't have kids emptying their parents' bank accounts playing games of chance.

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