Monday, September 11, 2017

Metroid Prime: Federation Force - 100% Completion Journal

This is done. You're looking at my save file screen of Metroid Prime: Federation Force, which I have fully completed now after quite a journey.

It started last year with the free version of Metroid Prime: Blast Ball, where I managed to unlock all the paint jobs, which adds a certain percentage to your save file, if you import the data. I'm happy that I did that last year already, because this game is pretty much dead online these days and clearing all the "feats" wouldn't have been as much fun as it was back then.

For playing the full game I got joined by two online buddies, one who accompanied us through the "story" and one who joined me in the task of fully completing both Normal and Hard Mode. The latter also joined me in many Blast Ball matches last year, but it wasn't until after Samus Returns and Metroid Prime 4 were announced three months ago that we finally gave the full game a chance and got hooked. The three of us communicated over Skype and it wasn't the first coop game that we've played online together, because we already joined teams in Tri Force Heroes.

And saying that this is the "Tri Force Heroes" of the Metroid franchise would be very accurate. Both games appeared around the same time, focused on online coop and put the fans off with their style and story. It's just that Tri Force Heroes didn't have the issue that it was the first new Zelda in six years and that there were no other Zelda games on the horizon. The silence about the Metroid franchise put Federation Force in a really awkward spot and it probably wouldn't have been received as badly, if we knew about Metroid Prime 4 at the time.

Both games also had some issues of how they handled the online coop, but they differ quite a lot here. Tri Force Heroes was designed for exactly three players and as soon as one player left the game, the level couldn't be completed. Federation Force is smarter here and dynamically supports a player count between one to four players, much like the Four Swords games used to. If one player drops out of the mission, the others can keep going without him and can still complete the mission on their own. However, the game doesn't scale the difficulty towards the player count at all...

In most missions the rule of thumb is that the more players you have, the easier it gets, because you have more fire power and can do things faster. In singleplayer mode you can easily get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of enemies that the game keeps throwing at you, especially in the later missions. You can bring "drones", which help you a little, for any missing player and in singleplayer you can also use the "Lone Wolf" Mod Chip, which doubles the damage you do and halves the damage you take. But this might not always be helpful, if you're in for the medals.

For each mission you can get up to three Medals by scoring a certain amount of points. Points are gotten from shooting stuff, but you can get bonus points by beating the level under a certain time (which is independent of the player count), by fulfilling a certain bonus objective (which differs for each mission) and for not using the Lone Wolf Mod Chip in singleplayer. This bonus can be deciding, which is why you're inclined to not use this special Mod Chip all the time (it's still better in missions with many enemies, because you score double points).

The same goes for the drones, who can lower your score quite a lot, since points from shooting stuff are also critical. You get more points the more damage you land on a single enemy, so even small fries like Geemers should be shot with Charged Shots for maximum points, which is where your drones get in the way. It's the same with performing headshots or freezing enemies to destroy them. All of this gives lots of more points, which is essential. And this is a concept many players online even don't seem to understand.

This game works much less with random people online than Tri Force Heroes did. In Tri Force Heroes two skilled players could usually bring an unexperienced player through a level with the simple means of communication the game offers. I often even enjoyed being restricted to ingame actions and the communication icons, instead of talking to other players. But in Federation Force using Discord, Skype, Teamspeak or any other voice chat is much more essential, because you often want to come up with a good strategy.

It already starts with distributing the AUX Ammo that you have available for each mission between the players. It's good to find roles, for example in boss battle mission two players could focus on fire power, one player could focus on using the Slow Beam or Freeze Shots to stop the boss, while the fourth player could function as a healer and deploy shields and/or decoys. With the right Mod Chips in place this could work all very well, but for this you need to communicate, where the predefined ingame voice commands are too inefficient.

The aforementioned "Mod Chips" are also an interesting topic. You can equip up to three of them and they give you certain abilities. Next to the silver "Lone Wolf" chip, there's the silver "Hyper Mode" Mod that you can unlock by doing all the feats in Blast Ball. It lets you charge your Power Beam while walking at full speed and it causes double damage with Power Shots, but only if you're at full health. It can be quite useful and it was nice to have this from the get go thanks to my efforts that went into Blast Ball last year. All other 82 Mods are found at random, where there's usually a handful of Mods hidden in each level. Unlike the two silver Mod Chips, the randomly found Mods can break, whenever you die or quit a mission (this even happens, when you turn off your 3DS). But you can find duplicates and they offer a good motivation to always explore all the levels, which is something Tri Force Heroes didn't really have with its hidden Rupees.

Since I wanted to collect at least one copy of each Mod in the game, I spent a lot of time farming in the 10th Mission, "Last Stand". You have a giant boss enemy walking towards a data probe here, while you can quickly find six Mods in caves at the sides. Then just get killed by the boss (don't equip any breakable Mods), because you still get the Mods, even if you fail.

The Mod abilities either enhance specific ammo types, make you take less damage, upgrade your drones, increase your storage capacity or the like. For example there is a Mod that lets you shoot double missiles or there are Mods for taking 20%, 30% or 50% less damage. The better the Mod, the rarer it is. In a way you can compare this to the outfits in Tri Force Heroes, just that it's not as visible what the other players have.

But the game also has the Paint Jobs unlocked by collecting all the medals. Those could have worked exactly like the outfits in Tri Force Heroes, where there's even the problem that the Paint Jobs unlocked via amiibo really give you special abilities. The Samus Paint Job lets you carry 10 missiles per pack instead of just three, which is probably the most valuable ability in the game, while Zero Suit Samus quintuples your Slow Beam ammunition. The other Paint Jobs don't have any abilities, so there's no good reason to use any of them, if you have the Samus Paint Job. Ideally they all would provide small perks and function much like the outfits in Tri Force Heroes, but this way you always run around disguised as Samus, which is somewhat ironic and sad for the only Metroid game that doesn't feature Samus as a playable character.

Anyway, completing the game was quite the task. There are 22 diverse Missions in the game, where for each mission you can score up to three Medals. That's 66 Medals in total, but you also have Hard Mode, where you take more damage, some missions are slightly altered and you have to score more points for the Medals. It can get quite tough, where for two missions (H04 Containment and H14 Tremor) we even needed the help of a third, experienced player. (Kudos to Kurumi for greatly supporting us here!) "Containment", a mission where you have to trap Ice Titans in four cages, is especially troublesome in both difficulties. It's overwhelming, how this comes as already the fourth mission in the game.

But while there are some good and selfless players out there helping people, you can also have bad luck with players online, because it's very easy to troll here. It already starts at the AUX Ammo, where you can take all you can and then quit the game. Or you just stand inside a door and block the way. Or you're just gunning at the players, while all hell breaks lose... It might not be as bad as with Tri Force Heroes, where you share a health meter, because you can still finish a mission with such people at your side. However, you might even feel forced to finish it, because you don't want to lose any of your Mods. A troll probably wouldn't even equip any breakable Mods, so there's no real penalty for him. But if other players quit on him, they might get penalized, which wasn't really thought through by the developers.

Fun fact, the save file screen has counters for how many Mods you've collected (including duplicates) and for how long you've played the game, but they stop at 999 Mods (even though you can collect more than that) and 99 hours and 59 minutes. It's like the developers never would have anticipated that anyone would voluntarily play this game for that long...

Well, this is really a game for cooperating with friends and enjoying the challenge of completing everything. Don't play it for the story, because it's rather silly. The whole "giantification" theme doesn't really play out in the game, because everything got oversized. Geemers, boxes, computer consoles, everything is gigantic, so it ultimately doesn't make any difference. It would be like playing The Minish Cap in a miniature Hyrule.

To make things worse, this game blatantly rips off Star Wars and even the new Star Trek movies in various occasions. It already starts with the very uninspired soundtrack, which sounds like some bad Star Wars bootleg at times. And the final mission completely jumps the Metroid...

This final mission made me almost feel ashamed that this game is part of the Metroid universe now. But like Other M it doesn't outshine the fun I had with this game. If you have someone to play this with, go ahead and give it a try.

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