Espresso Shot Review: Severed (2016) [PSVita]

Good afternoon and welcome to the first edition of Games with Coffee for the new year!

Yes, I’m back after a couple of months off. It’s important for Mature, Distinguished Gamers to take a little R & R every once in a while and boy, did I need one. That’s not to say I wasn’t busy; nay good friends, I’ve been working away on new content that I can’t wait to share with you for the coming year! 2019 is sure to be an exciting one, filled with new games, new stories, new interviews and (of course) more coffee.

Speaking of which, let’s get to our subject.

Today, I’ll be taking a look at a quirky, touch-based game that originally was released on the Playstation Vita, before being ported to other platforms like Android, iOS and even the Switch. It consists of hack and slash mechanics and RPG elements revolving around using the severed remains of your enemies to level up and get stronger. It’s set a land heavily steeped in Mexican influences, with labyrinth-like environments filled with terrifying monsters, secrets and hidden areas to find. Finally, the game presents a captivating, mature story starring a strong-willed female protagonist armed with a living sword, suffering from severe losses in both the familial and physical sense. From Drinkbox Studios, this is Severed.

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Background

Severed was developed by Drinkbox Studios, a Toronto based developer known for the popular Guacameele! games. Originally pitched during an internal game jam by concept lead Augusto Quijano, Severed was initially released for the Playstation Vita, before being ported to other platforms.

It was met with high praise from critics and has won several awards, including 2016’s Apple iPad Game of the Year and the Canadian Videogame Awards for Best Musical Score.

As of now, the Playstation Vita is officially dead. I figured that to celebrate this underrated handheld, I would shine a spotlight on one of the system’s most interesting indie games. So, let’s get into it.

Story

Severed tells the story of a girl named Sasha, living with her family in small farmland with her mother, father and brother. One day, Sasha mysteriously finds herself in a strange, parallel version of her home, alone, with the stench of death surrounding her. Entering the ruins of her home and looking into a mirror, she discovers that she had her right arm mysteriously cut off, a bloody stub of a limb being the only thing that remains.

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The mirror reflected another figure behind her. Turning around, Sasha briefly encounters the Stranger – a skeletal, alien-like being who gives her a living sword to protect her from the monsters she would encounter in this world. He instruct her to find her family, taken away by a monster only known as the Dragon, before promptly disappearing and leaving Sasha on her own. Now, she must journey through three sprawling areas to recover her family and escape from this world before the Dragon finds her.

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Severed’s story is told through Sasha’s perspective and is very metaphorical in its presentation. Sasha is desperate to find her family, even if it means cutting through and killing everything in her sight to do so. With every enemy that she cuts down, she uses their severed remains to strengthen herself. This is especially prevalent with the bosses, as she gains a new ability after cutting out a body part of theirs and then wearing the dismembered piece as part of her armor. However, the more progress she makes in her journey, the less human she looks and acts until she’s barely recognizable at the end of the game.

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At the onset, Sasha feels hopeful from the Stranger’s words that her family could be found. Upon finding each member of her family however, she discovers to her horror that they are already dead; their bodies in a state of decay with some sort of fungal/coral-like organism growing out of them. With each member she returns to her home, her rage and hopelessness only grows until she reaches the Citadel, the third area of the game. Here, two important plot points happen.

First, after reaching the top of the tower, Sasha reunites with her mother’s body only for it to be taken away from her by the Dragon. It then steals her other two family members, creates a portal within the mirror in her home and dares Sasha to come get them.

Second, Sasha reunites with her severed arm within the Citadel; now an autonomous, multi-coloured appendage which gives her enough power to possibly defeat the Dragon. Yet, during the final battle, it’s revealed to her that the Dragon has influence over the arm, as the arm rebels against her at random moments throughout the final battle. This suggests that that the creature had a hand in it’s creation (via its removal at the start of the game) and has possibly shaped Sasha into what she was at that moment; a creature of rage and despair.

In order to free herself from those feelings, Sasha makes the decision to re-sever her right arm. The Dragon then swallows the arm and mutates into its final form; a terrifying, multi-headed beast. After finally slaying the Dragon, Sasha removes all the armor and severed pieces of monsters that she had accumulated and gives her family a proper burial. The Stranger appears and tells Sasha she has a choice: stay in this alternate realm or return to the real world. The ending is then left to the player’s interpretation as the game cuts to the credits just as Sasha moves.

There’s very little dialog within the game and much of the story is left to player’s interpretation, but the visual style of the game does a really great job in portraying the environment that Sasha currently inhabits on her quest, which I’ll discuss later on. Along the way, she encounters only two other individuals that are not out to kill her: a friendly two-headed crow and an overly-paranoid old woman holding a dark secret. Literally.

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Overall, the story is very dark, but it captures the essence of what it must feel like to go through a heavy loss and what it would take to move on. It’s also short; clocking in at roughly eight to ten hours total, so it’s great for those who don’t have a lot of time on hand to play. I also like how the story requires a lot of player interpretation to get the gist of what it’s all about.

Gameplay

The decision for the game to be heavily touch-screen based was met with some criticism from other publications, but ultimately I felt like it was the right choice. Controls for the game utilize both the thumbstick/D-pad and the Vita’s touch screen. The D-pad is used to move Sasha while the touch screen is used to perform several actions. For left handed players, the face buttons can be also used to move the character.

Tapping objects on the screen allows Sasha to interact with them, whether it be eating fruit to restore health, picking up dropped items, reading signs, examining things or talking with NPC’s. Sasha can also slash things on the field to reveal hidden objects and secrets or break objects to reveal their contents.

Encounters are fixed and denoted by a black and white wisp on screen. Approaching and touching it starts a battle where Sasha must kill the creature in front of her. Swiping the screen makes Sasha slash in the direction of the swipe and is her main form of attack when she encounters enemies. As shown in the game’s tutorial, the longer the swipe, the more damage is done, so the player must make sure to make long, sweeping slices back and forth against enemies in order to deal tons of damage. Later in the campaign, Sasha gains the ability to charge up her slash by pressing down on the screen for a short time until the charge is ready and then slashing in the direction of choice. This can be used both on offense and defense, as some enemies have attacks that can break through a normal parry.

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Enemies don’t just stand there and take the punishment though. A circular meter is associated to each monster. When it fills up, the monster will perform an attack. The meters fill up in two ways, depending on the enemy: one type of meter fills up constantly and a second type decreases as Sasha attacks. When an enemy is about to attack, it displays a tell of sorts; an animation that shows it’s about to attack and in what direction (horizontal, vertical, diagonal, etc.). When that happens, the player can execute a parry to block and avoid damage by swiping in the direction of the attack. So, if the enemy’s attack is going horizontally from left to right, the player must swipe horizontally from right to left in order to parry the attack. This attack and parry mechanic allows for fast and frantic combat.

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The training wheels come off after clearing the first area, the Domain of Crows. Enemies from that point on have buffs that affect many stats, such as Attack Up, Defense Up, Health Regeneration and the like. Luckily, Sasha gains a few abilities along the way that help make battles much easier, like the Blind spell (stuns enemies) and Devour ability (steals buffs).

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Also, some encounters spawn multiple enemies, up to four at a time. Tapping on a direction on the D-Pad in battle will allow Sasha to face whatever enemy is associated in that direction. Each of those enemies will either attack or charge up their attacks in real time, so the player must be aware of when to strike, what enemy to attack, when to defend, when to stun enemies and what buffs to steal in order to survive.

The Focus Meter is at the top of the screen, represented by Sasha’s sword. As she attacks, the meter slowly fills up. The meter fills up faster as you keep chaining slashes, but the multiplier resets if you are hit. Parrying attacks sustain the multiplier though. When the meter is full and the enemy is defeated, the game enters what’s called Severed Mode and is the main mechanic where the game derives its title from.

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In Severed Mode, the enemy is briefly suspended in midair, its limbs splayed out with markers showing where to cut. Cutting through these markers allow Sasha to pick up the remains and use them to enhance her skills through the Skill Tree in the menu screen. Players have to be quick to sever as many limbs and parts as possible, as there is a brief time limit before the monster disappears permanently. The game offers plenty of opportunity to gather parts though, so there’s no need for the player to worry about not gathering enough parts to enhance skills.

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The skill tree is a big part of enhancing the Severed experience. Skills require severed parts of monsters, such as arms, eyeballs and such, to acquire. They range from basic attack increases to improving efficacy of special abilities. Skills are practically a requirement to progress further in the game, as the battles only get more and more challenging. New skills also unlock when Sasha gains a new ability to use.

Sometimes, players won’t have the parts on hand to improve on a certain skill. In this case, they can transmute small components called giblets to create the part they need. Giblets are found virtually all over the map in breakable objects that Sasha can slash open on the field.

Health and Mana (used for abilities) can be increased by collecting hearts and brains. Sasha must find five Heart Pieces or Brain Stems and then devour them to gain the upgrade. It’s a visceral and interesting way for a character to increase their life or magic.

Out of battle, there are many puzzles that Sasha has to solve in order to progress further in the story. Some include finding crystals, hitting a gong to open or close doors, travelling to parallel dimensions even creepier than the realm she currently inhabits and the like. The puzzles are fair to the player; not too hard, but not too easy at the same time. There are also plenty of secrets and hidden passages to find. Some of them require some exploration within the room to open, some require certain abilities, while others require having a certain item in your possession (Such as the Mask of Birds or the Jaws of the Cryptolith) and touching a symbol on the wall to open a passageway to the secret.

One criticism I have about the gameplay revolves around how uncomfortable it felt playing on the Vita. After a prolonged period of time, I found that my left hand ached as I held the system while using my right finger to swipe. The ports released after the Vita version addressed this by making the game fully playable through the touchscreen. I’m unsure of what Drinkbox did for the Switch version, but I would like to think they learned from the Vita version of the game.

Beyond that, the gameplay itself is very tight and engaging. The difficulty curve feels natural; there doesn’t seem to be any point within the game that the difficulty spikes up intensely during the main story. There are some difficult battles, yes, but many of them are optional and are not required to complete the story.

Visuals

Despite the dark and depressing atmosphere presented in game, Severed has a striking artistic style, to the point where it looks like it was drawn on paper. The visuals are colorful and bright and the backgrounds are look fantastic.

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The enemies look like something out of a horror film, with multiple, grotesque limbs, jagged teeth and quivering tendrils. Speaking of which, the enemy animations are incredibly well done. Everything, from the way they move their limbs, to the slight twitches they make when they are stationary, looked so polished and fluid. I was very impressed.

The bosses also look incredibly well done. Not only were they difficult to defeat but they looked fearsome as well.

The most visceral image in this game though is when Sasha sees herself in the mirror at the beginning of the game, her arm freshly cut off. It’s a haunting image that really sets the tone for the rest of the game.

Audio

The soundtrack certainly fits with the game’s atmosphere. Home is a very poignant theme and reminds me of the feeling of loneliness and despair, while Death (the theme when you see The Stranger for the first time) evokes a foreboding feeling, like there’s something underneath the surface as he explains what Sasha needs to do to leave the alternate world.

The music within the areas of Severed are divided into two types: Exploration and Battle. Exploration music seems to be influenced by Mexican/Central American sounds, with plenty of drums, bells, chimes and the like. The Battle themes however are grungier, remixed versions of the Exploration music. They fill the original with guitar riffs and more percussion to increase the tension while fighting.

One of the best songs in the game is when Sasha returns to her home at the end of the game. It’s a haunting track filled with despair and accurately reflects how Sasha may have felt at the very end after the Dragon stole her family. It’s a great setup piece for the final battle.

Replayability

To be frank, Severed is a fairly short game with little to do once completed. The most a player could do is take on the optional and highly challenging battles in hidden rooms within the three main areas. Defeating the enemies under special conditions yield special items called Mementos which serve two purposes – powering up Sasha and changing some of the final scenes in the game’s ending.

However, this game is one of those titles that’s easy to pick up and replay at a moment’s notice, due to simple nature of its control scheme. I’ve replayed it already a couple of times since and I found myself changing my strategies when fighting and severing limbs on each playthrough – trying to do one full swipe to sever all limbs instead of doing quick, individual swipes, for instance.

The Last Drop

Severed is one of the most interesting games I’ve played in recent years. It really takes advantage of the Vita’s touch-screen/direct control dynamic and presents a very compelling story that’s tied together with some solid gameplay. It’s short, but had it been any longer, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it the same way I do right now. It’s definitely a game worth checking out if you are able to.

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Pros:

  • Tight gameplay mechanics that combine elements from Action and RPG games.
  • Uses the Vita’s touch-screen effectively.
  • Beautiful visuals.
  • A great story centered around loss and grief.
  • Has a great lead character, whose silent nature belies an fierce spirit that’s relentlessly pursuing a way to save her family

Cons:

  • It’s fairly short, but this is only a minor issue for me.
  • Not much to do once you’ve neared the end of the story/not much post-game content.
  • Holding the Vita can be awkward and uncomfortable after prolonged periods of play.

Score: 4/5

4 out of 5

Path of Exile Playthrough: Dealing with Bandits

Greetings fellow Exiles and welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee!” May the dark content of your mug bring you good fortune on the battlefield of life.

Today, I continue my playthrough of Path of Exile. Check out the following to get caught up:

  1. First Impressions/Part 1
  2. Part 2
  3. Part 3
  4. Part 4

The Decision

When last I left (See part 4), I was making the agonizing decision to choose whether to either align with one of the Bandit Lords and kill the other two, or kill them all to receive a skill point or two from Eramir. After considering my options, I decided to side with Oak, mainly for the health recovery benefits.

With that, Oak tasked me to kill the other two Lords and bring back their amulets so he can combine them with his to do something. It might have something to do with this place.

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So, I set off to put a couple of Lords on ice. Before that however, I met a very interesting individual.


A Master of Death?

Leaving Oak’s compound, I ran into an odd floating woman with an ethereal white glow about her. Curiosity piqued, I spoke to her. She revealed that her name is Catarina, an artist obsessed with death. She pointed to her latest work – a sculpture made up of corrupted corpses – and asked (demanded more like) me to help her add to her collection.

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A master of the dead indeed…

I found my targets in an encampment nearby; a bunch of corrupted Bone Birds.

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Defeating each (and they’re quite tough, especially when they gang up on you) will make them your minions for a brief period of time until you return them to Catarina, who will reward you with reputation and an opportunity to purchase her unique wares. She specializes in crafting Staves, Daggers, Wands and Belts.


Intruders in Black

Back in town, Greust, the local strongman, made an interesting observation: a score of Blackguards from Oriath were heading for the Chamber of Sins, near Kraityn’s territory. Seeing that I was heading in that direction, I decided to investigate and find out why they were here in the first place.

Inside the dilapidated building, I was met with the animated remains of corpses, along with a plethora of Necromancers. As I descended to the second level, I noticed three things: Another Trial of Ascendancy was found on this level, Catarina had another mission for me and I bumped into my old ‘friend’ Piety, who left yet another cryptic message before disappearing. Deciding to deal with Piety’s mess first, I ended up meeting a woman named Helena, an ex-Blackguard, begging me to help kill a creature called Fidelitas whose been on a murderous rampage.

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I bested it and its minions and was rewarded with a Regal Orb: a rare currency that upgrades any Magic item into a Rare item!

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Examining the strange machine next yielded a Baleful Gem, which I kept until I returned to town.

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Meanwhile I took on Catarina’s latest mission – find two more corrupted creatures and return to her. I ran into a pair of Rotting Mummies and delivered them to her.

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She then told me to meet her back in town to discuss further matters.

I then took on the latest Trial of Ascendancy, which involved the use of switches to open locked doors and deadly buzzsaws that leech your health as obstacles. I quickly ran through the trial and earned my next mark towards Ascendancy!

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I finally plumbed the depths of the second level, killing a few rare enemies and picking up a sweet Rare Quartz Wand that was an upgrade to my current weapon.

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My business at the Chamber of Sins completed, I used a Portal Scroll and returned to Helena in The Forest Encampment and handed her the Baleful Gem, who offered her gratitude and information about Dominus‘ (Piety’s boss) plans. She next told me to find an item known as Maligaro’s Spike, to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. Silk then revealed to me that he once found the Spike, but lost it near the Western Forest – Alira’s territory. I also spoke to Greust, who rewarded me with one of four skill gems! I took the Herald of Ice gem.

Yeena also provided an optional quest for me; to retrieve a hand of “a good man” in the Crypt south of the Chamber of Sins, in Kraityn’s territory. And finally, Catarina had some new goods to sell to me after completing her last mission, one being a Mage’s Vestment that would be perfect for Rhuki… except she was nowhere near the level required to use it.


Battling Bandit Lords Taking on Optional Quests

Onwards to Bandit Lord slayings! After that brief interlude, I decided to take on Alira first. I headed to the Western Forest, battled through her followers and busted into her encampment. After refusing her offer to switch allegiances, she proceeded to attack, using spells just like my Witch!

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In the end, Rhuki was the better mage and I acquired her amulet.

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Since I was in the area, I decided to check out the blocked passage leading back to Lioneye’s Watch. I ran into a bunch of Blackguards, whom I dispatched easily and retrieved a Thaumetic Emblem, used to open the way back.

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I took a detour to see Bestel and Nessa, who rewarded me with a Book of Skill and Support Gems respectively for opening the way forward! I picked up the Elemental Proliferation Support.

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More Skill Points!

Next, I headed for The Broken Bridge to take on Kraityn and retrieve his amulet. As I ventured through the area, I stumbled across another Corrupted Area. Deciding to take another detour, I ventured through the area where monsters poison on hit and got to the end where I received a Vaal Fireball after taking on a very tough monster. I had to get up close and personal in order to deal damage.

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With that out of the way, I finally took on Kraityn, who was lightning-quick and wielded two swords.

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Using my trusty Area-of-Effect skills, combined with my Lightning Tendrils and Detonate Dead skills to clear the floor around me, I defeated him and took his amulet.

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Returning to Oak and handing him the amulet pieces, he combined them to form The Apex and granted me my bonuses!

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Next, it looks like I’ll have to go through the tree at the back of the Wetlands to enter the Vaal Ruins… perhaps the Baleful Gem and Maligaro’s Spike have some connection with it? I’ll discuss this and more on the next playthrough!


Tips about Strongboxes

I’ve mentioned Strongboxes before in a guest post, but did you know you can use currency to modify them?

If you see an unidentified Strongbox, you can use a Scroll of Wisdom to identify what it is and its requirements for opening it. You can also use currency items such as the Orb of Transmutation to upgrade it from a Normal into a Magical Strongbox, or use an Orb of Chance to randomize the properties of the Strongbox, which can potentially yield better items when opened.

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After opening it and unleashing the hordes within, Area-of-Effect skills are best suited for taking out the enemies. Traps and support Totems also help prevent you from being overwhelmed by the horde. Once defeated, reap the rewards!


Looking for Regal Orbs or other items? Then be sure to check the PoE Items store on the Playerauctions.com website! They have a wide variety of items to choose from at a reasonable cost, and all transactions are safe and secure.

Until next time Exiles, this has been Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” wishing you good fortune on the battlefield and, as always, reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

Path of Exile Playthrough: Into the Woods…

Greetings Exiles and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!” It’s that time of month again, where I delve back into the dangerous world of Wraeclast. This time, I’m trying to figure out how to unblock the road connecting Lioneye’s Watch to the rest of the mainland, barred thanks to the mysterious Piety… Thankfully, the residents in The Forest Encampment in The Western Forest may have some ideas for me to accomplish that task, but it wouldn’t come cheap; they’ve been having issues with the local bandits, among other things, which require my specific skillset to solve! Let’s dig in:

Master of the Hunt, Tora

I ran into a new Master while exploring my new surroundings and exterminating the local fauna. Her name: Tora, and she is an expert markswoman with a bow and arrow on hand. Naturally, she specializes in creating hunting bows and quivers; perfect for those who favour ranged melee attacks.

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New Master! Woo!

The task she set me on was straightforward: kill the creature inside a den that’s causing havoc on the uncorrupted areas of the forest’s ecosystem. She handed over a magical tracker that I used to find and enter the monster’s lair. Upon entering the Reeking Den, I was accosted by a swarm of serpents, with their mother, a Mutated Adder, calling the shots. Area of Effect spells and skills are the best to deploy in this case!

Defeated Mutated Adder

Check out the spoils! I even got a level up!

As per usual, defeating it gained me some reputation with Tora, and access to her stash back in the Encampment.

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Aw yeah!

Slaying the Great White Beast

Next up, I received a quest from a resident named Yeena to find and slay a White Beast in a cavern to the east. Seems like the poor thing has been treated roughly and has now been causing quite a bit of trouble for the residents at the Encampment. While it was important that its pain be eased for the sake of the villagers, it was also a good thing this came up – Rukhi was looking for a bit of a challenge after the last fight!

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My girl here needs to get stronger…

Entering the sprawling, maze-like lair, I encountered large, bearish monsters, one of which dropped a Silver Coin!

Look, another Silver Coin!

It’s prophecy time when I get back to camp!

Moving on, I soon found myself face to face with the beast. The fight didn’t disappoint: it had high HP and great strength, but it was still no match for Rukhi’s magic! Single target, elemental trap and chaining skills are quite effective for this fight. I even got a chance to test out my new Vaal Detonate Dead Skill Gem – it packs a wallop!

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After returning to camp and informing Yeena of the beast’s passing, she rewards you with a choice of several items, including a Quicksilver Flask! I definitely took that one.

Pro tip: keep some of your flasks, especially if they’re the same size. Trade in three of the same size and you’ll get the next size up! This is highly useful for when you have bunch of flasks in your stash that you want to get rid of – you free up space and get a better flask at the same time! Win-win!

Dealing with the Bandits?

At last, it was time for me to start the much-discussed “Dealing with the Bandits” quest, one of the main quests for Act 2. An old man named Eramir was the guy to talk to for starting this quest. He tasked me to eliminate the three Bandit Lords in the forest: Bandit Lords Oak, Alira and Kraityn. However, I learned that I could also join forces with one of the bandits and take out the other two. Joining forces with one of the Bandit Lords yields a reward based on one of the three central attributes (Strength, Intelligence and Dexterity).

Oak represents Strength and his reward grants life regeneration and physical attack and defense ups. Alira represents Intelligence and her reward grants Mana regeneration, increased resistances and a higher chance to land critical strikes. Finally, Kraityn represents Dexterity and his reward grants increases attack and cast speed, movement speed and evasion. If all three are killed, Eramir will grant you two passive points.

It’s a difficult choice to make, all things considered. Each reward has its pros and cons, but I’ve decided… To leave this as a cliffhanger and let you know what I decided to do in the next playthrough post! Haha!


Currency Watch: Silver Coins

I touched on Silver Coins before, used to generate prophecies from Navali, but did you know you can seal the prophecy and trade that sealed prophecy to another player? If you have a spare Silver Coin, which is an uncommon drop from monsters, crates or Strongboxes, you can use it to seal the prophecy and turn it into an item. This makes for a great bartering tool with players to get some advanced equipment, skills or valuable currencies, like Chaos or Divine Orbs in return for an amazing prophecy! Give it a try when you get the chance!

Looking for Silver Coins or other items? Be sure to check the PoE Items store on the Playerauctions.com website! They have a wide variety of items to choose from at a reasonable cost, and all transactions are safe and secure.

Also, be sure to check some of my other posts on the Playerauctions.com blog – I have a guest post or three you can check out!

Until next time, Exiles, this has been Ryan from “Games with Coffee, wishing you good fortune on the battlefield and, as always, reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

Path of Exile Play-Through: Finally at Act 2!

Good morning and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!”

After a long time, I finally got a chance to continue playing Path of Exile. Long story short, I’ve made it to Act 2! It’s about time I got here, but I’ll tell you, it wasn’t easy.

Today, I’ll talk about Merveil, the final boss of Act 1, reaching The Forest Encampment in Act 2 and a few items and currencies that I found interesting.

The Vengeful Siren, Merveil

After clearing The Ship’s Graveyard, I entered the caverns where Merveil, a siren who spelt the doom of many a sailor, dwelled. According to the townfolk, the only way to get through to the Western Forest (at this point blocked off thanks to Piety…) is from Merveil’s lair at the very end of the caverns. Defeating her would open a new path and take care of a serious thorn in the side of many exiles living in Lioneye’s Watch. Like killing two birds with one stone!

Getting to Merveil isn’t easy though; throughout the cavern, I ran into tons of enemies dealing cold damage. Thankfully, I equipped a Sapphire Ring to increase my cold resistances; otherwise, I’d have had a tough time going through here. If that was enough, I also had to contend with Merveil’s daughters – powerful siren enemies each wielding a different element. One of those daughters was encased in ice, thanks to a currency item called the “Whispering Essence of Contempt.” I’ll talk about that one later.

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Jeez Louise, look at those buffs…

Once I finally reached the end of the cavern, I opened a portal scroll back to town so I could dump a few items from my inventory into my stash. I talked to Nessa and, hearing that I was going to take on Merveil, gave me a free skill gem to help me out! Nice! She gave me a choice between Ice Nova, Firestorm and Arc, among others. If you’re using a Witch and don’t have the Firestorm spell, get it – it’s very useful, especially if you add a Chance to Ignite support on it! I already had Firestorm in my possession, so I took Arc instead.

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Sweet! New Skills!

Returning to the cavern, I made sure that I was ready – my equipment and gems were set, my flasks were full and my fingers were hovering over all of my spells, totems and traps. I was good to go.

The fight against Merveil happens in two stages. In the first stage, she’s all over the place, throwing ethereal blades around and causing all kinds of chaos. My advice would be to stay away and pummel her with ranged attacks. If you got good armour and melee skills, then get up close and personal with her, but since my witch lacks in the defense department, I stuck to my spells; Firestorm, combined with Fireball and Fire Traps made for an effective strategy.

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Ehh… Did I come at a bad time? Seems like she’s got some love issues…

The real fight started after I finished off her first form. Transforming into Merveil the Twisted, she let loose with punishing cyclones and sent minions to chip away at my health. I have to say, if it wasn’t for my Devouring Totem skill that I picked up in a Jeweller’s Strongbox sometime ago, I probably would have been dead. In the end, dodging the cyclones, using area of effect skills combined with support gems and being persistent are all the advice I can give to defeat her. Beyond that, you may want to grind and gain a level or two if you’re still struggling.

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I love the smell of napalm in the morning!

Defeating her opens the exit to the Western Forest and the start of Act 2! I traveled northward, taking on hordes of Blood Apes before reaching the next town, The Forest Encampment, where I mingled with the residents, gaining important quests to further my adventure. I’ll talk about these in the next post.

Item/Currency Spotlight

I mentioned that one of Merveil’s daughters was trapped in ice before I took her on and defeated her. Her imprisonment was caused by a currency called an Essence, introduced in the Essence League some time ago.

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Essences are no joke: check out the first image of this post and you’ll see why.

Essences power up monsters, giving them several buffs and making them much tougher to defeat in battle. When you do defeat an enemy empowered by the Essence, they leave it behind for you to use. The Essence I obtained, the “Whispering Essence of Contempt,” transforms a normal weapon or armour into a magic item and bestows a given property (namely, additional physical damage) to the item. I haven’t found much use for it as of yet (since all my equipment is either magic or rare), but it could be useful if you obtain it early, when there’s not many rare items to find yet.

I do want to talk about Totems really quickly: these are useful skill gems to have. A totem skill creates an effigy that aids you in battle either by providing a buff or special effect while it’s active or by using a skill for you. If you find a “Devouring Totem” skill, I highly recommend using it – you’ll be consistently surrounded by groups and the totem will help restore health as you mow down the crowds.


Looking for some of the aforementioned items? Be sure to check out the Path of Exile Items store at Playerauctions.com: they have a wide selection at a reasonable cost, and all transactions are safe and secure.

Hope you enjoyed today’s play-through post! Stay tuned for the next play-through coming up real soon!

For now, this has been Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” wishing you Exiles good fortune on the battlefield and reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

 

A Vacay in Wraeclast: My First Impressions of “Path of Exile”

Top of the morning ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee.”

So, one of my goals for this blog was to try out new games, especially those that I wouldn’t necessarily play on a regular basis, such as MMORPG’s. (I’ve always been more of a JRPG kind of guy, to be honest). One of my readers recently reached out to me and suggested that I try playing “Path of Exile”; an MMO Action-RPG developed by Grinding Gear Games. I thought, ‘Sure! Why not?!’


You can install Path of Exile directly from the website. Alternatively, if you have access to Steam, you can also install it there, which is what I used.

In “Path of Exile,” you play as one of seven classes: The Duelist, The Shadow, The Marauder, The Witch, The Ranger, The Templar and The Scion. You are a criminal exiled to the land of Wraeclast: a dark world inhabited by legions of undead, fearsome monsters and other exiles like yourself, trying to eke out a living in the unforgiving world. (Sounds like a prime vacation spot!)

I’ve spent about a couple weeks playing it and so far, I’m enjoying it! It’s looks a bit daunting at first, especially with the multitude of skills available for use and the enormous passive skill tree used to upgrade your character stats and give sweet bonuses, but once I started getting into it, I found that the game was very straightforward. Bottom line, I recommend giving it a try, especially if you’re a JRPG kind of person looking for something different to play. The story is broken down into multiple acts (I’m on Act 1 right now) and there’s a plethora of post-game content available.

If you’re looking to get started, here’s a couple of things beginners should know to help make your journey through Wraeclast much more easier.


Guides and Forums

Before you jump into the game, I recommend reading through some of the intro guides on the forums, especially if you don’t get a lot of time to play MMO’s on a daily basis. (Like us mature, distinguished gamers with lots of responsibility on our hands!)

I also found a highly comprehensive beginners guide on Path of Exile’s Steam Community page which was very helpful for me. It laid out detailed explanations about the game mechanics, builds and even loot filters – an interesting mod that helps to narrow down rarer loot drops that might be lurking around the common, unneeded ones. Very useful.

Now, if you have a lot more time on your hands, of if you shun guides, feel free to jump in and go nuts. If you get stuck however, or need direction on how to improve your character build, or are looking for items to trade, you should still check out the forums. It’s an invaluable resource you shouldn’t ignore!


Gem Basics

Path of Exile often gets compared to Diablo III (reviews on Steam basically call it a Diablo III clone), but what separates the two is Exile’s skill gem system – the heart and soul of this game. It’s a bit similar to the Materia system in Final Fantasy VII, but with a twist to it. Here’s a quick primer:

  1. Skill gems come in three flavours: Red gives physical skills (elemental physical attacks for instance), green gives movement-based skills (traps that restrict movement are a good example) and blue gives magical skills (fireballs, lightning from fingertips, etc.) Blue gems are my personal favourite so far.
  2. To use skill gems, you have to equip them into sockets. Each piece of equipment (weapons, body armor, belt, gloves, boots) has at least one socket to install gems in. However you can’t just throw a gem into a random equipment socket and start lobbing fireballs at the undead; sockets are also coloured like gems. You can only install a skill gem into its respective coloured socket in order to use it. That means you got to be smart on what you equip on your character.
  3. Each piece of equipment can have between one and six slots to equip gems into. Six slot equipment is really rare, so be on the lookout! Slots can also be linked or unlinked as well (more on that on the next point).
  4. Besides skill gems, there are also support gems that modify how regular skill gems behave. I haven’t gotten any support gems yet, but from what I’ve read so far, they can be devastating!  You’ll need to equip support gems into linked slots to bestow the supported effect to your skill gem. One example would be having a fireball skill gem linked with an added fire damage support gem to up your fireball damage!

(Side note: I mention fireballs a lot.)


Character Builds

As with other popular MMORPG’s, building a good character can make the difference between breezing through the story or rage-quitting in frustration. While you can go it alone for your own build, there are lots of character building guides on the Path of Exile forums tied either solely towards beginners or those who want to play the main story and not do the guess work when it comes to builds. The build I’m currently working on is called “Bladefall Witch,” which centers around the Bladefall spell, picked up in Act 3. I haven’t gotten that far yet, but the focus right now is to get to level 27 (the minimum level to use Bladefall) using area-of-effect (AoE) spells and prioritizing life and defense on the passive skill tree up until that point. The creator stressed that this build doesn’t rely solely on trading with other players to get stronger, which is one thing that appealed to me. Oh, speaking of which…


Trading and Currency

Unlike other RPG games, Path of Exile’s economy is based on trading and the game relies heavily on it. Every item, every piece of equipment and even gems can be traded to either vendors (NPC’s) or other players to receive items in return. Sometimes, trades can yield incredible rewards, especially if  you give vendors certain items in certain combinations. So far, my experience has been limited to obtaining Scrolls of Wisdom and a few orb fragments here and there, but it should improve once I find more cooler stuff to trade in.

Orbs are the de-facto currency in Wraeclast. They can either be used to improve equipment or in trades to get more valuable stuff from other players. Two of the most sought-after orbs in the game are Exalted Orbs and Chaos Orbs – both respectively called the gold and silver standard in the player-driven economy. Exalted Orbs are used to create powerful rare items while Chaos Orbs reforge a piece of rare equipment with random properties. Chaos Orbs are quite uncommon and are used most commonly for low and mid-level trades with players and vendors. Exalted Orbs, on the other hand, are extremely rare to find, unless you grind in high level areas.

Besides those two, there are many other orbs available that bestow different effects on weapons and armor, like Chromatic Orbs, which changes the colours of your equipment’s sockets, or Armourer’s Scraps and Blacksmith Whetstones, which improve the quality of your armor and weapons respectively. Beginners should really keep on the lookout for those two at the start.

Also, there are Orbs of Alchemy, which upgrades a normal item to a rare item and Orbs of Transmutation, which upgrades a normal item into a magic item. And, if you screwed up your passive skill tree allocation, Orbs of Regret will grant you passive skill refund points used to fix up your allocations.

There also exists places online called RMT (Real Money Trading) marketplaces, where players can buy in-game items and currencies for tons of different games, including Path of Exile using real money, including the aforementioned items above. Now, as mature, distinguished gamers, we’re free to spend our money so long as it’s done responsibly. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with forking over real-world cash for in-game cash (I’ve done so with Clash Royale never mind), take heed that there are risks involved with RMT’s. The largest risk is that some game developers will actively ban those who use RMT services for their games, citing violations of their EULA or other legal jargon. Thing is, most developers don’t exactly have the resources in place to police every single players who chooses to use RMT’s. Some, meanwhile, just turn a blind eye to it and some actually integrate their use into their own games and encourage players to use them. (Source). The bottom line here is that you have a choice in whether you use real money to buy in-game currency or not, so think it through carefully. If you do decide to buy, research your seller properly, make sure they have the item(s) you’re looking for and spend wisely!


So, that’s my thoughts on “Path of Exile.” How’d I do? Let me know in the comments! Also, if you decide to start playing, look out for a witch named Rhuki (pronounced ‘rookie’, get it?) in the Legacy league; that’s me! If you’re interested in partying up, let me know too! Oh and thanks goes to Daisy, the reader who introduced this game to me!

And stay tuned for the next edition, where I’m going to reminisce about an old friend of mine; Mega Man!

This is Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” telling you, whether you’re online or not, to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing. See ya next time!