The Nintendo Switch: Does It Live Up To The Hype?

Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!” Happy Video Games Day!

So, as you probably know, either through my recent posts or from my Instagram feed, I got a Nintendo Switch for my birthday! Today, I want to share with you the system itself, my impressions on Nintendo’s latest console after a couple months of owning it and if it lives up to the hype it generated from its announcement almost a year ago.


The Back Story

The Wii-U was a major failure for Nintendo.

Since it’s debut in November 2012, the Wii-U failed to capitalize on its predecessors massive success. Despite delivering innovative technology in the Game Pad, the additions low battery life, the lack of third party support from developers and lack of clear goals for the system had led critics to believe, at the end of its production, that the system was nothing more than a glorified Wii with a controller/touchpad hybrid.

Now, I’m not knocking down the console or anything. My brother has it and it’s not a bad system, all things considered. The Wii-U’s had some big hits, including Super Mario Maker, which allows the player to create their own Mario levels and the latest installment of the ever-popular Super Smash Bros. series, which included the return of fan favourites, such as Sonic, Dr. Mario and Zero Suit Samus, along with newcomers like Mega Man, Pac-Man and Little Mac from Punch-Out. On top of that was the underdog inky shooter game Splatoon, which was a rousing success. And let’s not forget about the ever-enduring Mario Kart series, of which it has reached its eighth installment. There’s were some not-so-great games, like Star Fox Zero, which was lackluster due to its odd control scheme and its focus on re-imagining the series. And the fact that third party development focused their efforts on developing games for the latest Sony and Microsoft console releases didn’t help its case. Overall though, there were some good games, but good first party games don’t make a successful console, considering that the Wii sold more in its first year than its successor could in its entire lifetime.

So, Nintendo did what most don’t: re-innovate, re-structure and re-imagine what a console should be. Using what they learned from the Wii-U’s Game Pad device, coupled with their dominance in the handheld gaming segment (the 2DS/3DS has effectively monopolized that market), their vast experience with motion controls and lessons learned from their previous missteps, they unveiled the Nintendo Switch.


The System

The Nintendo Switch, a hybrid between a console and a handheld system, was announced in October 2016 and released on March 3, 2017, along with its launch title: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

The main unit is a tablet-like device, with two housings on each side uses for its main control inputs, called the Joy-Con’s. The system comes with two Joy-Con controllers, a dock, an AC adapter with USB-C input, an HDMI cable and two straps for the Joy-Con’s.

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Pay no attention to the nose, glasses and forehead on the screen…

The console itself is a tablet with a capacitive touch screen. On the top of the unit is the power button, volume up and down, a 3.5 mm audio jack and a cartridge slot for games. The back of the unit has a kickstand, used to set it on a surface and a micro-SD card slot, housed underneath the kickstand. On the bottom is the USB-C charging input and the intake vents. The display is 6.2 inches wide, corner to corner and displays at a resolution of 1280 x 720. When docked, the console’s display resolution bumps up to 1080p. The system is powered by an Octa-core processor clocking in at 1.02 GHz, has 4 GB of RAM and uses the Nvidia Tegra X1 as its system-on chip (basically, a jack-of-all-trades chip made up of many components that perform an array of functions). There is 32 GB of internal storage in the unit, but with the micro-SD slot, that capacity can increase up to 2 TB. The battery life on the unit averages about 3-4 hours per charge.

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Behold! My (tiny) library of games!

About half the size of the Wii-mote, the Joy-Con’s can either be used together as a single player controller, or individually for single or multiplayer games. Each controller has an analog stick, four face buttons, a plus button and the home button on the right hand controller and a minus button and a capture button on the left hand controller, and two trigger buttons on the top (The L/R and ZL/ZR buttons).

Whether the Joy-Con’s are held in each hand, attached to the system for “Handheld Mode” (more on that below), or slid into the Joy-Con Grip, the control scheme is analogous to that of the PS4 and Xbox One and is how most AAA single or multiplayer games (like Breath of the Wild, Splatoon 2 and the upcoming Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim) are played.

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It looks like a puppy with odd eye placements… and now you cannot unsee that image. Enjoy!

When turned on its side, the Joy-Con’s button layout looks and feels similar to that of Nintendo’s best selling console, the Super Nintendo. There are two additional trigger buttons on the top (SL and SR), which are more easily accessible by sliding in the hand straps provided with the console. This control scheme is used mainly for multiplayer games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe or the upcoming Pokken Tournament DX, but can be used for a few single player titles as well.

 

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Pro-tip: Hit the SL and SR Buttons together to use the controller on its side.

Each Joy-Con is equipped with HD Rumble, a feature that simulates realistic vibrations, like feeling several cubes of ice clinking in a glass, as shown in the technical demonstration. Along with the rumble feature, the motion controls of the Wii have also been integrated into the Joy-Con’s and are primarily used for motion controlled games, such as the Wii Boxing-inspired game, ARMS and the party game, 1-2 Switch. Motion controls are also featured in Breath of the Wildas well, in that you can aim your bow by tilting the controller (or the unit itself when it’s in Handheld Mode). The controls are also used to solve a few motion-based puzzles in game.

A Pro Controller is available to further mimic the traditional console gaming feel. For those who are looking for a more budget-friendly option, the wireless controller company, 8bitdo recently released a firmware update for their NES30 Pro controller, allowing it to work on the Switch.

The Nintendo Switch can operate in several modes, depending on your situation. Attaching the unit to the dock puts the unit in “TV Mode”, allowing it to operate like a traditional console. The dock itself is compact and minimalist in design, compared to the bulkier PS4 and Xbox One systems. The HDMI and power inputs, along with a USB 3.0 port, are located on the back of the dock and are kept hidden by a panel, with an opening to allow the power and HDMI cable wiring to come out. It results in a clean, wire-free look that adds to its minimalist design. There are also two additional USB ports on the side of the dock.

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Simplicity, thy name is Switch.

Slapping the controllers onto the side of the tablet and removing it from the dock “switches” (Ha!) the console to “Handheld Mode,” where the console behaves as a handheld device. Games played in Handheld Mode are the same as in TV Mode, with the exception of graphics resolution (no 1080p in this mode), meaning that games like Breath of the Wild can be played on the go.

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On-the-go gaming has never looked so good.

Finally, popping out the kickstand, placing the console on a surface and taking out the Joy-Con’s enables “Tabletop Mode,” which can be used either for single player game play, or more commonly for local multiplayer gaming away from a dedicated screen.

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Woo! Sonic Mania! I asked my wife to pick up the other Joy-Con and play along with me as Tails… She said no… ūüė¶

That’s all the technical mumbo-jumbo out of the way. (Phew!). Now, you’re probably asking, “Thanks for that boring lecture, professor, but what do YOU think of the system so far?”

Good question. Here’s my answer.


The Verdict

After about two months of owning the system, I can safely say this with as little bias as possible: Nintendo did pretty well here. The system is incredibly unique in the sense that you can play it at home on the TV and on the go. It’s like having two systems in one! These days, I’ve been playing it solely in Handheld Mode and it’s been a great experience so far. Playing a full-fledged Zelda game on a device roughly twice the size of my smartphone has never felt so fulfilling.

I honestly don’t gripe about the battery life on the Switch when it’s in Handheld Mode. Three to four hours is plenty of time for a mature, distinguished gamer to play in bed while their significant other sleeps beside them, though I usually play for about an hour or two. What I love about the system is how quickly it boots up from sleep mode, the Switch’s “Off” setting, similar to that of the PS4’s “Rest Mode.” I press the power button on the top of the system or the home button on the Joy-Con’s/Pro Controller and the system boots up immediately and I’m back in the game while my wife’s asleep. It’s incredibly satisfying.

I also think it’s cool that Nintendo designed the system in a way that a second controller for two-player games comes included right out of the box. Highly useful for when the wife and I want to play Mario Kart (One of the few games she’ll actually play with me when I eventually get it!). For games like ARMS though, you’ll need a second set of Joy-Con’s to play locally.

Switching from TV Mode to Handheld Mode and back again is seamless. There is no discernible delay when the system switches between modes, which, again, is very rad.

There were a couple of things slightly affected my experience. One was the small game library available right from the start, even several months after release. When I first booted up the system, the Nintendo e-Shop had a whole bunch of downloadable titles, along with digital copies of their physical releases, but nothing really stood out to me in the store, besides Mighty Gunvolt Burst. That might change as the holiday season rolls around. (Correction, it has: Sonic Mania dropped a couple weeks ago. I picked it up and it’s AWESOME!)

Another thing was the internal storage space. 32 GB may seem quite sizable compared to that of the PS Vita, with its 1 GB internal storage, but when you look at the size of some of the downloadable titles, plus the fact that you can save screenshots directly to the device, that storage can get eaten up pretty quickly. It’s a good thing I had a spare 32 GB micro-SD card lying around to expand my storage capacity!

Finally, while it’s not a huge deal for me, I’m sure many people are a bit miffed that the Switch doesn’t play at native 4K resolution, unlike the PS4 Pro and and the Xbox One X. Truthfully, having the system run on 4K resolution at 60 frames per second isn’t a priority for me: I’m more concerned about playing good, quality games and I’m quite happy with the Switch’s native resolutions.

Overall, the Nintendo Switch was built for the mature, distinguished gamer in mind, giving the user free range on wherever they want to play it and presenting it in a compact, minimalist package. Whether it’s on the TV, in bed playing in Handheld Mode, at a friend’s place playing in Tabletop Mode or whatever the case may be, the Nintendo Switch has lived up to my expectations and thus, I declare that the hype surrounding the system was well justified, although that’s just my opinion. With the upcoming holiday season approaching and the games being released in that period, I believe that Switch and the Big N itself are well positioned to make a significant comeback after the stumbles with the Wii-U.


So that’s it! What do you guys think? How’d I do? Gimme some feedback in the comments below! (I need those like I need a strong cup o’ Joe, know what I’m sayin’?). And stay tuned for the next edition, where I continue my playthrough of Path of Exile with my Witch, Rhuki! (Who’s a total badass IMO). Plus, coming after that is my brand new segment – “Espresso Shots!” I cannot wait to share this with you!

And with that said, this has been Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” wishing you a Happy Video Games Day and reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing! See ya!

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!