Precursor Legacy of the Isle of Cats Quarry Via Magica

This was a strange week for me. Everything started out fine, but then I hit some walls with work. You know that feeling when you can’t make any progress as you wait for decisions to be made, but the deadline keeps getting closer? That’s been my week, especially at the end of the week. It’s so draining!

That did affect a lot of my game time this week. Most of what I snuck in was some retro games during my lunch breaks. This was a lot of fun, but always being distracted because it’s during work hours takes the edge off a little bit.

Speaking of retro gaming, I hit a lot of walls with licensed soundtracks already in my test videos. This is a bit unfortunate, but something I am glad I confirmed now and not later. I do have some layouts started for almost all of the consoles, so progress is being made!

A little more about that later, but for now how many of you played Tetris on the NES? Do you remember what happens next?

20220718 - NES Tetris - Who remembers what happens next
NES Tetris is still the tournament standard, but I prefer the Game Boy version for some reason

Isle of Cats

Isle of Cats was pulled out (digitally speaking) this week. After playing a new(ish) game in Via Magica, we decided to end up on a new favourite. What better way to finish a gaming day than rescuing cats?

Now that Rabbit, Alpal and I have a few games under our belts, Isle of Cats has become a fun competition. Unless you are Rabbit, who only plays to put the most cats in their boat. Scores are starting to climb, and strategies are coming out. Getting familiar with the lessons (end game scoring) has let some scores grow quite a bit.

I can happily keep playing Isle of Cats for some time. It’s a lot of fun, and we enjoy ourselves. That said, I have been eyeing off some of the expansions in the physical version.

20220718 - Isle of Cats - Placing Cats is still a little annoying
Getting the hang of tile placement, but it is still sometimes quirky

On Board Game Arena, only the base game is available. I don’t think Rabbit would be overly interested in the expanded content, so there is that. And I couldn’t play with Alpal over the internet anymore. At the very least that saves my wallet a bit!

But this is another reason why I love Board Game Arena so much. You can play a game, know that you enjoy it (or don’t), and then decide if you want to invest in it. With all the expansions to Isle of Cats, it’s an investment. And if I still had regular big gaming days, one I would probably make.

The only catch with getting to know Isle of Cats now is games are back to taking a while. We played two games in about two hours – quite an extended session compared to our normal games!

20220718 - Isle of Cats - Keeping an eye on opponents boats
Keeping an eye on everyone’s boat is pretty easy

The bottom line though is once again we had fun, and I can’t wait to add another player or two to the mix.

Via Magica

A few years ago I found a game called Rise of Augustus (some markets know it as simply Augustus). It’s a little hard to explain to people in a way that sounds attractive to new players, but it’s very similar to Bingo. I was very much hoping that the new implementation Via Magica could help with this, and it seems to do a good job.

There are some extra rules that make Via Magica different to ‘just’ Bingo. Rules like one-off bonuses, permanent upgrades, set collection, and scoring objectives. It sounds complicated but is easy to play once you get your head around it. We very much dropped Rabbit in the deep end thanks to some Discord mishaps while setting up. Even with minimal instruction, Rabbit got the hang of Via Magica quickly.

20220718 - Via Magica - Sitting down it looks like too much is going on
Sitting down to the intiial setup can look daunting to new players

During the game, a player known as the Catcher pulls out tiles from a bag. In Via Magica, these tiles represent different elements. Players then place a crystal from their stockpile onto a ‘portal’ (bingo card) matching the element. When you complete the card, players call “Incantantum” (bingo) and complete any bonuses. These bonuses could be immediate, or end-game scoring. Once this is complete, they pick another portal.

When a player completes 7 portals, the game ends and final scoring takes place. The highest score wins. See what I mean by Via Magica is hard to make sound appealing? It sounds like a very dry bingo variant with extra bookkeeping, but it’s far from the case.

20220718 - Via Magica - Colorful Artwork makes for a great visual experience
Looking at the updated artwork makes the cards far more interesting

Via Magica benefits from streamlining and a new theme, and appeals to me in a very similar way to Century Golem. Even though the gameplay is almost identical to Rise of Augustus, the theme upgrade makes a huge difference. Via Magica’s elementals are far more interesting to look at than Roman districts.

There are also some quality-of-life improvements on the cards themselves. In Via Magica, the elements are shown on top of the card, meaning you can see everything easily. Compare this to Rise of Augustus having the components required down the side of the card. Couple this with meeples blocking your view, and a players life is instantly improved.

20220718 - Via Magica - The new card structure makes things easier to use
I like the new card layout a lot, I just miss the tiebreaker mechanic

There is one aspect of Via Magica I wish was bought across from Rise of Augusts – tie breakers on completion. In Augustus, each card has a number on it. If more than one player completed a card on a round, the player with the lowest number resolved bonuses first. It is a clear rule that stops arguments in their tracks.

In Via Magica, it is whoever first yells ‘Incantantum’. This can lead to arguments, especially amongst younger or more competitive players. I can’t see my group having an issue here, but when playing with others I prefer the clear ruling.

Either way, after winning three straight games, I don’t know if Alpal and Rabbit will want to play Via Magica with me again anytime soon. I hope so, it would be great to play every now and then!

Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy

Saturday morning, I decided to give the PS4 conversion of Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy a proper try. I mentioned playing this a little while ago, but the ‘play’ was limited to getting my PS2 emulation working. So while I got a little way into the game, it wasn’t like sitting back and replaying the game.

Looking through the updates to the PlayStation Plus tiers, there was a nice surprise. I realised that the entire Jak and Daxter range was included in the classics catalogue. Giving it a quick test, I managed to unlock a trophy going through the tutorial. A platinum run has been in the back of my mind ever since.

With this in mind, sitting on the couch I gave Jak and Daxter a good half-hour run. It might not sound like much, but I have finished the Precursor Legacy about 6 times now, so it’s enough to get a feel.

20220718 - Jak and Daxter The Precursor Legacy - Fetch quests have not changed
Fetch quests have not changed

First off, the 16:9 aspect is annoying me a little. To me, Jak and Daxter was never meant for the 16:9 aspect ratio, especially with what we know it as today.

The Precursor Legacy stretches the 4:3 aspect ratio to fit, and it feels off. I am missing a few jumps and attacks, which is annoying. I am not sure if it’s because I’m rusty on the controls or the screen is stretched just that little bit weird.

Looking in the menu, it looks like I can switch the display back to 4:3, but I haven’t tried it yet. I hope so, and I hope it saves the choice. If I have to change the aspect ratio every time I start it on PlayStation, The Precursor Legacy’s trophy appeal is basically void.

Unless I can live with 16:9? I would be surprised if I could. Even the small trials I had setting up PS2 emulation, 4:3 felt right in both nostalgia and game ‘feel’.

20220718 - Jak and Daxter The Precursor Legacy - Sweet sweet trophies
Sweet, sweet trophies. Are they worth it?

I’m going to restart The Precursor Legacy a couple more times, both on PlayStation and Emulated. When I find what feels the best to play, I will make up my mind about where to finish the Precursor Legacy then.

There is a very good chance that Jak and Daxter will be the first series tackled on stream!

The Quarry

I tried to get into The Quarry again this week but couldn’t bring myself to do it. This entry will probably end up sounding a bit negative, for which I apologise in advance. Anything negative reflects how I feel playing The Quarry at the moment, not on the game itself.

First off, I missed a single Tarot card. Collecting them all is a trophy, so I thought I would use the now unlocked chapter select to tidy up the last card. Once I had that, I thought I would flick forward and try for an ‘everyone lives’ playthrough. The Quarry had other ideas though.

Chapter select acts like a new save, so you have everything up to that point and nothing from further in the game. Once you start a chapter select game, the option is no longer available until you finish The Quarry again. This feels like a forced way to have you playing longer. Until Dawn’s butterfly points was a lot better for quickly jumping in and out of story paths!

20220718 - The Quarry - At least Move Mode has a trophy
At least Movie Mode comes with a trophy?

So I decided to try Movie Mode in case that would allow some manipulation of the story points. You can choose ‘everyone lives’, ‘everyone dies’ or what I assume is a make-your-own ending path.

Movie Mode is very well named though – you get to watch The Quarry play itself, built up to a set outcome. Finding this by chance on Saturday morning wasn’t how I planned to spend the morning.

It might be a good choice to have on for background noise during the day, but I haven’t explored any of it properly yet. I might put The Quarry on my PS4 and let it run during a work day, but I wouldn’t wait for more information on Movie Mode.

20220718 - The Quarry - I am more likely to chill to the in game podcast
I am more likely to listen through the in-game podcast than Movie Mode

So it looks like Until Dawn is the only Supermassive Games title that I wanted to Platinum. The Quarry and most of the Dark Pictures Anthology have been too much of a grind. But as an experience, I enjoyed it, and look forward to more titles.

Now that Wolf Pack mode (online multiplayer) is available, The Quarry is even better to play with friends!

What about you?  I hope you got some great games in.  Or are you looking forward to a new one?  Let me know! 

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Until next time,

JohnHQLD