Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: One Left

Fighters Pass 2 illustration with five of the six fighters revealed

(This was originally part of the previous post, but I've decided to split things up after some edits.)

Sakurai certainly made it very clear that this is it. The next Challenger Pack will really be the last and ten continuous years of development on Super Smash Bros., together with Bandai Namco, are coming to an end here, where Super Smash Bros. Ultimate had a great run.

I'd personally wish that they'd add one more Echo Fighter, maybe as a bonus for owning all eleven Challenger Packs, but that's wishful thinking. I mainly would want this, because it would re-arrange the current roster somewhat more nicely, with all the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate additions moving to the last two rows and all Fighters Pass Vol. 2 characters on the last line. And this could also fill a potentially interesting gap with for example Dixie Kong or Jeanne.

Also, this would create a perfect rectangle for both the fighter selection in Classic Mode, as well as the stacked character select screen in the Smash mode, where this would make the game look a lot more complete.

Speaking of, those last three slots on the stage select screen will certainly bug me for a long time as well, where I wouldn't mind some extra DLC stages, with a focus on some Nintendo Switch games, like Link's Awakening or Luigi's Mansion 3. They had this for Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U with the Super Mario Maker stage, so why not here as well?

As for the last fighter, the music menu has one more space in the bottom right, but like with the fighters and stages this doesn't necessarily have to mean anything and get filled. If they were to keep things completely even between first and third party additions, as well as fighters from new and returning franchises, then the last fighter would have to be from a returning 3rd party, like Sonic (see here). But again, this doesn't have to mean anything, it's just speculation based on patterns for the fun of it.

In any case, the last wave of DLC Mii outfits was "nice" enough to already disconfirm a bunch of popular choices, which was quite the blowout. To be fair, Lloyd Irving or any Tales Of character seemed very unlikely after the reveal of Kazuya, because we're probably not getting two Bandai Namco characters in a row after all this time. And Shantae also didn't seem very likely in any case, but her Mii costume is lovely and even comes with a song. I'm still waiting for a bundle of all Mii outfits, but if I were to buy some of them individually, then Shantae would be a must-have.

The two bigger disconfirmations are probably the Dragonborn and Dante, where especially the latter had a lot of fans. Having both Dante and Bayonetta in Smash for a stylish Hack and Slash duel would have been awesome, but maybe in the next Smash Bros. game...

But it's not like we're out of potential 3rd party additions, where the list is still gigantic. The Master Chief got quite some traction before E3, because Vergeben, the leaker who got most of the base roster right, teased this character. But this was a bust and he even had to apologize for it... Still, this had me thinking that it's weird how Nintendo got two characters from Microsoft (Banjo and Steve), but not Microsoft's biggest gaming icon, the Master Chief. And this would be a huge deal.

As for first person shooters, the Doom Slayer would have the longer history and even a history with Nintendo, where I'm personally more a fan of that choice. Both would be great, however. And then there's the typical list of popular picks, like Ryu Hayabusa, Crash Bandicoot, Rayman and the like, but after Sephiroth and Kazuya it's clear that we should expect the unexpected. Rarely anyone saw these two coming.

When it comes to first parties, you will see a lot of "King Boo" in the predictions, mainly because Luigi's Mansion 3 is one of Nintendo's biggest games in the last years that hasn't gotten a Spirit Event. The same has happened with Fire Emblem: Three Houses and then we got Byleth at the end. And if we're following the release dates from last year, where Steve came out in October, the timing would be perfect for such a spooky choice. After all the spectacle it would also be a rather underwhelming choice, but after Incineroar and Byleth people should be used to this by now.

artworks of Mipha, Daruk, Urbosa and Revali from Age of Calamity

However, Sakurai also said that the last fighter might take a while, where I'm personally hoping for the Champions from Breath of the Wild as a four-in-one fighter, which would certainly explain his comment. If it really takes longer to develop this fighter, maybe even until the end of the year, there must be a good reason. Of course this is still not realistic, but also not impossible, and would certainly be an amazing finish for all Zelda fans, after not getting any new fighter since Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

(They could even display all four Champions as their own slots on the unstacked character select screen, which would fill the last row more nicely. For the stacked variant and in Classic Mode it would only show one, however.)

There also could be other reasons why it takes longer to develop this last fighter. If they really planned on releasing some extra DLC (like additional stages) at the end, then this would explain a delay as well. Or the character has a complicated mechanic again, like Steve's mining.

And one thing should be clear: that one last fighter won't satisfy everyone.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: Kazuya Released

Kazuya uppercutting Ness

This Monday Sakurai presented Kazuya and now the character was already released, together with the 12.0.0 update. The presentation was quite funny in many ways. Sakurai losing against a Min Min was hilariously unexpected, because he usually dominates the CPU in these showcases. And right after the presentation the development team was told to nerf the character, from what it seems...

The whole message about Kazuya was pretty much the following: "a Tekken character in Smash is too weak, so we added lots of bullshit to make him compete". Like with some other DLC characters, this comes with the first impression of being overpowered, where we will have to wait and see how this one fares.

It seems kind of unnecessary that one of Kazuya's forward attacks (Left Splits Kick) has a reflector. They've nerfed Min Min's reflecting Up Smash and that's okay, because that move could certainly be broken, though I personally already had troubles with timing her reflector correctly. But they do this, while at the same time they add something similar to Kazuya's already gigantic attack arsenal. The Oni Front kick, which can be unleashed even quicker, has also this ridiculous launch angle...

And then there's this comeback Down Special, which goes through absolutely everything and where Kazuya can just keep trying. Someone like Little Mac only gets one shot... While Kazuya is also a very grounded character, just like Little Mac, his recovery is actually pretty good. Doesn't seem all that fair in comparison.

But it's not like I can really complain as a Min Min main and despite all the shenanigans Kazuya feels like a character that can be handled, which is something that they really wanted to point out during the presentation. When did you ever see Sakurai struggle that much?

Well, for me personally this is one of the not-so-interesting DLCs, like most of the first Fighters Pass. I've played a bit of Tekken 7 and I liked it, but I could hardly call myself a fan and Kazuya is one of my least favorite characters from that game. The implementation in Smash also seems somewhat over-the-top, where I liked the Street Fighter characters a little better. Did they really had to put his entire Tekken moveset in here? 

Heihachi in his dojo

The Mishima Dojo stage also isn't as good as the King of Fighters stadium in terms of mechanics. It works similarly and also offers a wall above you, but it's just obstacles and the whole stage is simply very close to the blast zones, which makes recovering quite awkward here. With the breaking walls the stage has this special fighting game vibe to it, where smashing your opponent through a wall reminds me personally a lot of Dead or Alive. And the background with the full moon above the mountains is absolutely gorgeous, which makes this a good pick for Battlefield / Omega forms.

Update: The Kazuya Challenge

Now, people on the internet have noticed that the Level 9 Kazuya CPU is kind of good, brutally good even. And it really seems to be on a whole other level. When I play as Min Min, the CPU usually can't handle this character at all, where I rarely ever even lose a stock. This makes playing against the CPU as Min Min is quite boring, actually, because the same tricks keep working (some might argue that playing as Min Min is boring in general, but not for me personally).

Kazuya making a fighting pose in his father's dojo

But when I play against a Level 9 Kazuya, it makes me struggle and sometimes even lose matches. He's that good for some reason, but arguably that's how the best bots should be. It's fun and probably what the "Sephiroth Challenge" should have been in its hardest difficulty. So, I call this the "Kazuya Challenge".


With the new Tekken spirits, there are now 1486 Spirits in total. In the end there will certainly be more than 1500 Spirits in the game... Sophia and Arthur also got added to the normal rotation, where I actually now have a complete Spirit collection for the first time ever. Update: And there comes the next save-game exclusive Spirit with the Razewing Ratha from Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin. (Source)

Friday, June 25, 2021

Age of Calamity War Log, EX Entry 2

Expansion Pass Progress

  • Difficulty: Very Hard
  • EX Research Quests: 35 / 35
  • EX Quests: 24
  • EX Challenges: 16

And I'm done again. At least with the new Quests and Challenges that came with the first wave of DLC for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, "Pulse of the Ancients". It didn't really take this long, where the focus was more or less on grinding, while there is only small number of new Challenges that need to be mastered, in fact only a tenth of what the main game had to offer. That's not counting the new "EX Alert" Challenges with the random "Vicious Enemies" that keep coming, where those were part an important part of the grinding, however.


Once you've progressed enough in the Royal Ancient Lab, you can unlock a special "EX Alert" battle, which stays on the map and doesn't really have to do anything with the other Challenges of the same name, where this could have been just a normal Challenge, really... But whatever. Curiously, it takes you to new place from the world of Breath of the Wild, which could already be seen in the E3 trailer for the DLC:

Link in his Hyrule Warriors outfit with the Master Sword standing in front of the eight large pillars inside the Forgotten Temple

The Forgotten Temple! While the first DLC wave wasn't supposed to have any new stages, it's nice to get something small here, where this is very similar to the Sheikah Shrine battle stages in function, just larger.

Now, when they've announced that a Guardian was going to be playable, I was concerned about the fact that they were making a "regular" enemy playable in some form, which they have never done before in the Hyrule Warriors series. But that's actually not what they have done here, at least not really, where this "Battle-Tested Guardian" is supposed to be a very special Guardian that has guarded the Forgotten Temple for ages, one of its kind. So, it's treated like its own character and it's also not corrupted by Ganon's Malice, unlike all other Guardians.

The Battle-Tested Guardian inside the Forgotten Temple (short cutscene)

In any case it leads to a very interesting boss fight, because this Battle-Tested Guardian really knows how to screw with you. The usual tricks don't work on this guy. It's the only enemy in the game that actively dodges your rod attacks. It reflects reflected Guardian Beam right back at you. And it has some attacks that are really tough to dodge, where overall this is one of the most challenging boss fights in the game. And that without any time limits or other enemies... imagine that!

So, of course it feels super rewarding when you finally beat this battle and add the "Battle-Tested Guardian" to your entourage. But like with similar characters of this size, the joy doesn't last too long, at least not for me personally.

It's great that you can play as a Guardian, since this has been the signature enemy for Breath of the Wild right from the start. This one is even very reminiscent of the first Guardian that we ever saw, in that E3 2014 trailer. I love how it crawls around on those many feet. I love how it only moves its head, when you change directions. I love you can target enemies as your ZR ability. And the Bomb Rune is crazy good.

The Battle of Hyrule Field at a Blood Moon with the new Guardian in the foreground and Hyrule Castle in the background. The battle is finished.

But... this thing is another walking hitbox, where it's just hard to dodge stuff properly, especially things like Wizzrobe attacks. And since it would be too unbalanced, the attacks of the playable Battle-Tested Guardian are by far not as impressive as the real deal. You can lock onto an enemy and fire a laser at it, just like a real Guardian, which is awesome in theory, but in practice you can happy if that kills a single Bokoblin...

The Guardian laser is one of the strongest and most deadly attacks in both Breath of the Wild and this game, but once you get to use it yourself it becomes pathetically weak. It's like the Ganon's Fury mode in Hyrule Warriors, where you get to play as this gigantic boss monster, but it all just feels so weak and you're so vulnerable to all attacks around you. Koei Tecmo can't seem to get these playable boss characters to be really fun. It would be okay to let the players have something overpowered for once, especially if these boss characters only unlock after beating the game (which seems to be the case here).

Of course I haven't built a good weapon for it yet, where this will improve things, but certainly not to the point that you would expect. Speaking of the weapon, it's actually the same thing as the last two unlockable characters, so a type of Guardian Screw, Spring and Gear. If they make Harbinger Ganon playable next, they could have a full row of this stuff.

Interestingly, one of the Quests for the Battle-Tested Guardian actually uses up that one leftover Ethereal Stone from the main Challenges. The new EX Challenges don't give any of those, however...

EX Challenges

The moment the game spawned new Challenges onto the map I could only frown, because these things got considerably unfun after a while, with their never ending time limit and boss battle fetish. But the EX Challenges actually turned out rather unique, where Koei Tecmo was trying some new things for a welcomed change. Well, here's a full list of all the new Challenges:

There is a lot of focus on Robbie and Purah with these Challenges, who are studying combat situations in various ways and you have to help them out. In the two "Battle Research" Challenges for example they want you to fight enemies in a specific way, like going for Perfect Doges or killing a Lynel with a Remote Bomb.

There are also two new Challenges that are all about going for highscores, "Handle the Horde" and "Rupee Rescue". These are simply about scoring as many K.O.s as possible and collecting as many Rupees as possible within ten minutes, where the initial goal is easily fulfilled, but the goalpost gets shifted again and again. These are quite easy, but that's certainly refreshing and a fun change from the usual stuff.

Another unique Challenge is "Survival of the Fittest", which is the only other Challenge that takes place in the Forgotten Temple. Here you just have to survive for ten minutes, while it keeps spawning a ridiculous of strong enemies. My strategy here was simple: pick Daruk and hold ZL for ten minutes long, while spamming the R button to slow down time (but not the timer) for additional safety.

Even with Daruk you can't just be completely careless any longer thanks to the new Bomb-Throwing Moblins. These guys are absolutely ridiculous. Their bomb attacks come out of nowhere, deal an insane amount of damage and go through everything, even Daruk's Protection. Not sure what Koei Tecmo was thinking here, other than "this game isn't unfair enough yet".

Daruk fighting a Fire Hinox at Akkala Citadel

Now, once you've completed all the Research Quests in the Royal Ancient Lab, it unlocks one final Challenge, fittingly named "The Final Battle". However, it doesn't really compare to "The Siege of Fort Hateno", where here all you have to do is defeat two Malice Lynels (staying together), as well as a Malice Guardian surrounded by the three new upgraded Wizzrobes.

You still have to defend your base, where it keeps sending Moblins there from three outposts all around it. Similar to "Hold the Line" in the Lost Woods, you can stop these waves by capturing the outposts, where in this case they are occupied by an Ice Hinox, a Fire Hinox and for some reason not a Electric Hinox, but a Electric Guardian. This sounds simple enough, but there is a catch. These three enemies keep respawning, where they take those keeps without warning, which immediately starts sending those Moblins again (which include those nasty bomb-throwers). It's extremely stupid how the game doesn't even let you try to save these outposts, they are just gone in an instant...

Two of these outposts are quite close to each other, so they can be handled by the same character, but you still have three places that need constant attention and only four characters available, where it takes a lot of back and forth to finish this annoying mission... This is exactly the stuff that's not really fun, where I feel like the name of this Challenge will be a false promise by Koei Tecmo, since there is no way that they are not going to add new Challenges for those new stages in wave 2. But those might be easier on the level requirements...

Except for the training missions for the two new weapons, all these Challenges start from Level 50 onward, where all of this is clearly meant to be endgame material. "Conquering Hyrule" even requires to have that final unlockable character, where here you team up with Master Kohga to fight the good guys. This is a really cool mission, because you rarely ever fight Link, Zelda and the Champions for real in this game, mostly only in training scenarios.


The Final Characters?

The "Conquering Hyrule" Challenge makes you wonder about Astor and Sooga, who are your additional allies in this mission, where you have to babysit them. If there were plans to make them playable, why wouldn't they save this Challenge for when all the baddies are playable?

As for Robbie and Purah, the first DLC wave puts such a huge focus on them, where it feels like they won't be playable at all, just support. But on the other hand, the entire Expansion Pass could be focused on the two, not just the first wave. We still haven't gotten the real ancient weapons and armor stuff, only the prototypes from the purchase bonus, where there still is a chance that Robbie might wield that stylish Ancient Blade Saw in the next DLC. I also like the suggestion of Robbie and Purah acting as a duo character that I keep seeing quite often.

In any case, I don't really know who's going to be playable after this. There are five unplayable characters in the game and five open slots, where they could go for all of them, some of them or even none of them... We will have to see. But I still hope that we're getting at least one free character in between, as some free bonus DLC outside the Expansion Pass.

Back to the Grind?

With all Quests and Challenges done once again, that leaves me back to building weapons and leveling up the characters. Leveling everyone to 100 seems quite reasonable, though, especially since the level cap doesn't seem to get increased this time.

It's still weird how there are these three extra hearts on a third row, it just looks so wrong. They could have made the maximum number of Heart Containers 30 and then add a food that gives you six extra hearts, so that the entire third row could be made out of yellow hearts... But that's nitpicking.

Zelda in her winter clothes fighting two vicous Silver Moblins with her Bow of Light at Akkala Citadel. The Moblins attack in sync, where they are frozen with Stasis at the same moment.

As for the weapons, in the very least I want to get the Master Sword and the Bow of Light to Level 50, because these are the two fixed weapons that can't be fused or sold. (It feels very wrong that you can remove their hidden seals then, however, because you cannot get these weapons back.) And if that's not enough grinding, I will focus on the DLC weapons. For both of this I will have to exclusively play as Link and Zelda from now on, however...

The "EX Alert" battles work relatively well for this, where they aren't too bad or annoying, while they also offer some variety. There still could be more than just the six existing stages, however.

These missions also give you some good stuff, but for the new base attack maximum it seems that you have to go with "The Final Battle" to get them and there's no way that I'm playing this Challenge over and over again. It's probably best to wait for the 2nd DLC wave here, because either the maximum base attacks gets increased even further or there might be some new Challenges in the Level 91 to 100 range, where you can get the best possible weapons more easily.

One incentive to work on better weapons could be the "Apocalyptic" difficulty, where I haven't touched this yet, only tried it once. It doesn't seem to make a difference for the lower level missions, but the higher levels might require you to have some really good gear. So, I'm saving this difficulty for later, maybe even for last.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Age of Calamity War Log, EX Entry 1

Mipha facing two Giant Chuchus with red glowing effects at the end of the Crenel Peak stage

Well, here we go again... It feels really weird to return to this game for more content after four and a half months. At the end of January I had 100% completed Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity in terms of Quests and Challenges, where only some grinding was left to do and (luckily) I decided against it in favor of some other Nintendo Switch games, mainly Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

I was also quite burnt out on the title, since I had forced myself through the "Very Hard" difficulty from start to finish. It was just fierce boss battles after fierce boss battles with time limits over and over again, where this Hyrule Warriors severely lacks some fun mission variety. And sadly, the first DLC doesn't really change anything about this, except for using time limits much more sparingly. So, going into the Expansion Pass felt really exhausting and somewhat overwhelming at first, because it removed the achievement of being done, without offering anything that's truly different from all the Challenges before.

But the gameplay is still great and after warming up for a little, it started to be fun again. The DLC is also very well put together, where it certainly helps that it's all sold as a bundle this time. You don't just get new weapons and characters out of nowhere, you have to earn them, where all of this integrates into the game very well via the Royal Ancient Lab.

An Abundance of Apples Research Quest in the Royal Ancient Lab

You do Research Quests, unlock new tasks and new things on the main map, you go do those and then back into the lab to grab the rewards. Rinse and Repeat. It's a nice cycle and also shouldn't interfere with the main game as much, should you (re)start now, at least not as much as giving you a completely overpowered sword for free right at the beginning of the game, which is what the Expansion Pass bonus did... Come to think of it, both the Prototype Ancient Short Sword and the Prototype Ancient Gear probably should have been rewards in the Royal Ancient Lab, instead of being these things that you get out of nowhere.

While there is the new "Apocalyptic" difficulty now, I've decided to stay on "Very Hard" and keep that nonsense for later. It doesn't seem to be special, just another stat increase, where replaying the entire game in that difficulty might be extremely boring and not even make any difference for the early missions. I would have liked to have the gold tier enemies from Breath of the Wild here for an interesting change, but this way this feels like the most unnecessary addition of the DLC, since the "Very Hard" difficulty was already tough enough.


Expansion Pass Progress

  • Difficulty: Very Hard
  • EX Research Quests: 27 / 35
  • EX Quests:  12
  • EX Challenges: 8


Good New Weapons

Anyway... by now I've unlocked all variants of the Flail and the Master Cycle and got all their combos, so I can talk a little bit about those additions. Well, they are very fun, both in their own way. With the Flail it's interesting to experiment what the weapon grab will do, though it often turns out to be quite slow, and the Master Cycle is the Master Cycle.

Zelda riding the Master Cycle on a road over Hyrule Field

That bike was my favorite thing about the Expansion Pass for Breath of the Wild, as well as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and its version in Age of Calamity does not disappoint. First of all, it's nice that Zelda gets to ride it this time, where this fits her character in this game very well. The attacks are absolutely crazy and it's more of a crowd pleaser, but that was to be expected.

Its ZR ability lets you go really faster for a change, which is very unusual, because they normally keep the speeds of the characters always the same. You couldn't go faster with Epona in Hyrule Warriors either, but the Master Cycle finally delivers, where it's fun to speed over the battlefields with Zelda.

It's also of note that Zelda gets yet another set of Sheikah Slate Rune abilities with the Master Cycle, unlike Link, who has the same abilities with all four of his weapon types. With the Master Cycle the craziest one is by far Cryonis, where you can just keep driving over a street made out of ice blocks. In order to unlock the Master Cycle you also have to do freeze 60 enemies with Cryonis for one of the Research Quests. If you want to get this done quickly, take Yunobo into the "Mastering Cryonis" Challenge, where his gigantic ice pedestal will freeze dozens of enemies at once in the water and you can easily clear this in one go here.

Zelda in her winter garb putting a Star Fragment into the Master Cycle fuel tank

Otherwise I love the Special Attack of the Master Cycle, where Zelda fuels it with a Star Fragment in order to make it shoot a laser like the other Divine Beasts. Also, you can't put Zelda's dress on while you're on the bike, but that's okay. I wonder how the game handles this during the part where you're normally stuck with the dress...

Both the Flail and the Master Cycle come in three variants, where unlike other weapons they all have the same tier and attack stats, but instead they change the C1, where this is quite similar for both weapon types. The default version lets you do a forward moving attack, while you can also have a shield (Fortified Flail / Master Cycle Sentinel) or an aiming attack (Ancient Bladed Flail / Master Cycle Hunter). The shield is probably the most useful, because it can reflect Guardian beams, which is something only few characters could do so far. But I personally like the default variants the best.

This was also a little bit confusing at first and not well explained by the game. When I got the other Flail variants, I merged the default one into one of them without realizing that they had different attacks, so I had to purchase the normal Flail again. At least you can do that, which is more than what you can say about the three purchase bonus weapons. (And with that there are also more than five weapons for Link that you want to keep locked, but this is still limited to five...)

And if you want to build good weapons for the Flail and Master Cycle, you theoretically have to do it three times over to cover all options, which seems somewhat excessive. But I appreciate the fact that Koei Tecmo wanted to do something special with these DLC weapons.

Bad Old Weapons

Now, when finishing up the game back January, there was the question whether I would continue to grind for best weapons or not. I did it for a few characters, mainly the ones I liked playing the best, and then stopped, where this turned out to be a good decision by now. Why? Well, the potential maximum base attack values for all randomly obtainable weapons has been raised and there is still no way to increase this value manually, so this made all the best weapons you had so far suddenly inferior to what you can get now.

There are certainly a lot of players out there who have already invested a lot of time and effort into building "perfect" weapons, where I can feel their pain now, but luckily I don't have to share it to the same extent. Well, at least you can fuse already existing Level 30 weapon for a massive XP boost, but all the good seals on them will be gone, except for one. Getting weapons to the new Level 50 is an absolute drag otherwise, where it takes forever and just results in a ton of mindless grinding for weapons with all characters. And for what...?

Zelda riding the Master Cycle through the Breach of Demise

If I were to invest into weapon building now, I would probably focus primarily on the fixed weapons: the Master Sword, the Prototype Ancient Short Sword, the Bow of Light and the three different Flails and Master Cycles. Because those are guaranteed to stay as they are, so that turning all these into Level 50 super weapons won't be for naught. With everything else there is the chance that Koei Tecmo might decide to increase the base attack values even further in the next DLC wave...

Vicious Grind

Sadly, unlocking everything in the new DLC takes a lot of grinding to get all the new materials. And for this the game introduced the new "Vicious Monsters" battles, which keep re-appearing on the map and have randomly selected "bosses" at the end, where these monsters simply tank a lot. But these new Challenges are okay. They are quite short, except for battling the tanks, and there is no time limit, which is always appreciated.

The only annoying thing here is that they keep throwing Moblins and Wizzrobes on top of you while you fight the lengthier boss(es), but there had to be a catch, because it would have been too easy otherwise. If you've mastered all the boss enemies in the game, the only real way of screwing you up are either strict time limits or other enemies attacking you from all sides. And since there no time limits here, it had to be the enemies.

However, there is a trick here, because both the bosses and the additional enemies are programmed to stay in a certain area, which you can use to your advantage. This works especially well for the Silver Lynels, where it is constantly conflicted between attacking you and returning to its spot, so you can lure it out. But of course this is also somewhat dependent on the map, where Akkala Citadel seems to be a good example for where you can avoid the other enemies.

What's nice about these new type of Challenges is that these keep giving you something to do, even if you're done with all the other Challenges in the game. They are always a little bit different thanks to the random bosses and there is a number of locations where they can appear, so they don't get boring as quickly as repeating some of the fixed Challenges. They are also on a high level and give good weapons, so it's worth it to do them.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Age of Calamity: Pulse of the Ancients Released

Zelda flipping through Bokoblins with the Master Cycle Zero

Yesterday was the release of version 1.2.0 of Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, together with the first major DLC expansion, "Pulse of the Ancients". There are a couple of new features and improvements coming with this update, but the majority of it gets actually unlocked via the "EX Royal Ancient Lab", so this Expansion Pass follows the trend of the one for Breath of the Wild, where quality of life and gameplay improvements get locked behind paid DLC...

Improved Camera

Now, this one you get for free as part of the 1.2.0 update. There are now separate inversion options for horizontal and vertical camera movement, as well as camera controls and aiming. In addition there is a new automatic camera that can be turned on and off, as well as more fine tuning for the camera speed. That's very useful and certainly a good improvement, but that's all you get unless you're willing to pay.

EX Royal Ancient Lab and EX Challenges

The Royal Ancient Lab is the main focus of the first DLC wave. When you start the game after installing the DLC, only this and two new EX Challenges will appear on the map (with more to unlock). Everything on the map related to the Expansion Pass is marked with "EX", similar to some of the DLC additions in Breath of the Wild.

EX Royal Ancient Lab on the map. A lab where sheikah scientiests research ancient relics. Perhaps they'll also invent new tools for fighting the Calamity.

In the Royal Ancient Lab Robbie and Purah provide you with a tree of new Quests, which let you unlock and improve a variety of things. This includes:

  • The Flail and Master Cycle weapon types for Link and Zelda.
  • The ability to purchase apples.
  • Improved baked apples.
  • More damage for the Sheikah Slate Runes.
  • More weapon spaces (now up to 70).
  • Vicious Monster Alerts.
  • The Battle-Tested Guardian.

To complete the Research Quests in the lab you will need to collect a variety of new materials, where most of these can be gathered from the new "Vicious Monster Battles", as well as the new EX Challenges. Some of the Research Quests require you to fulfill certain conditions, like killing 100 enemies with Remote Bombs, where this is completely new. The Research Quests are also arranged in a tree structure, where you need to have cleared certain Quests before you can do others.

Some of the Research Quests will lead to new Challenges and Quests on the main map, also marked with "EX". For example purchasing the first Flail for Link will unlock the Flail Training Challenge, as well as the Quests to get its bonus combos and enhanced ability. Some of the unlocked Challenges put a focus on research, where you need to escort Robbie and Purah or perform certain actions for them. The new Challenges range from level 50 to the mid 90s (except for the new training missions), where most of this is supposedly late game content. Update, here is a complete list:

The new EX Challenges focus a lot on the three new enemy types, the upgraded Wizzrobes from Breath of the Wild, the Giant Chuchus and the bomb-throwing Moblins. But there is also a big focus on Robbie and Purah, who are during research during various of these Challenges. This actually makes it seem like they are not planned to become playable during the Expansion Pass.


Expensive Apples

Purchasing apples, once unlocked, can be done before you go into any mission, right next to the "Onward" button. However, while this sounds like a very good and necessary improvement to the game, Koei Tecmo made this ridiculously overpriced again, where even with the discount (which can also be unlocked in the lab) a single apple still costs 344 Rupees...

You're better off investing this money into levels and upgrading weapons and there is still no way of refilling your rods, so it's probably still best to replay Challenges, like "Nap Quest!", for refills. And overall this doesn't really help with the game's very bad healing system, only a little.

Story-wise this is also quite nonsensical. They want to help out the heroes by supplying them with apples, but they are charging them like 3000% of what they would normally cost (an apple costs 12 Rupees in Breath of the Wild and sells for three). This is robbery.

Even Better Weapons

There is some good news and some bad news when it comes to grinding. The good news is that Koei Tecmo hasn't raised the level cap yet, so 100 is still the maximum and you can focus on getting all the characters to that level. However, the real damage output always came from the weapon levels and there is now lot more to improve weapons, where these Blacksmith upgrades can be unlocked via the Royal Ancient Lab:

  • The maximum weapon level can now be raised to 50.
  • On level 50 you can now remove the hidden seals.

There are no additional hidden seals, but the latter lets you now freely design any weapon and always go for that quadruple "Attack Speed++" builds, if you so desire...

On top of it, the base attack damage of weapons has been now raised by 10, where you might find tier 3 weapons with a base attack of 80 now, instead of 70. Since there is still no way to maximize the base attack via the Blacksmith, so this update effectively renders all previously "perfect" weapons as inferior. That's a big slap in the face of all the players who have invested a lot of time into building such weapons.

DLC Weapons

The Flail and Master Cycle can only be obtained via the Royal Ancient Lab by purchasing them there, so you can't find them as loot during battles. Unlike all other weapons they don't come in three different strength tiers. Instead they have three variants with identical base attack values, but different C1 attacks.

Link copying a Lizalfos spear with the Flail

The Guardian Flail for example lets you do a grapple attack to move forward, while the Ancient Bladed Flail has a charge shot and the Fortified Flail lets you summon a small shield (similar to Kohga's). And it's actually very similar for the three different Master Cycle variants.

The Flail is a very versatile weapon in any case, if not the most versatile weapon in the game, because it lets you copy enemy weapons with its ZR ability. This changes the moveset for the different weapon types, where for example a Fire Rod from a Fire Wizzrobe lets you set everything ablaze all around you.

Vicious Monsters

These are a new type of Challenge that can be unlocked via the Royal Ancient Lab and which appear randomly with a red icon, similar to Blood Moon battles. However, they have their own positions on the map, they stay for a while and there can be multiple ones at once.

These Challenges have no time limit and are always rather simple, but they end on one or more of these "vicious monsters", which have a red glow to them and are much more tanky than usual. They have these funny boss headlines to them, like "Stronger than Strong" or "Full of Life". These vicious monsters can be the new Giant Chuchus, the stronger Wizzrobes, Silver Moblins (including the bomb-throwing ones), Silver Lynels and similar foes. What monsters await you at the end are always random and you can unlock a preview at the Royal Ancient Lab.

During these boss battles the game will spawn waves of Wizzrobes and elemental Moblins on top of you to make things more difficult, but there is a limit to this. These battles are set in the higher levels and are well suited for obtaining weapons of the new base attack maximum and are the main source of the new materials required for the Royal Ancient Lab.

The best part is probably that the Vicious Monster battles come with new music tracks, which are as excellent as the rest of the soundtrack.

Apocalyptic Difficulty

This seems to be just another stat increase, so for replaying early missions later in the game this doesn't make any difference compared to "Very Hard". The enemy tiers stay the same, so still no golden enemies. This is quite disappointing and seems rather unnecessary.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Breath of the Wild Sequel Theme

Ancient Link soaring through the skies

You have to give it to Nintendo that the new teaser trailer for the sequel to Breath of the Wild was very well done. It starts with showing us new glimpses of the dark and depressing scenes already known from the 2019 teaser. But then a bright light kicks in, similar to the opening of Breath of the Wild, and we see Link in his ancient getup soaring through the skies for an absolute wow effect. Just watch reactions to this trailer and you will always see amazed faces at this part.

What really adds to all of this is the new theme, which starts playing at this part and sounds equally amazing. It's just that good, but at the same time it also has a very familiar tune to it. And like so often with music in Zelda games, there is a reason why it sounds somewhat familiar...

If you listen to the Breath of the Wild theme in the E3 2016 trailer, there is part at the end, the bit that starts at 2:33, on which the new theme seems to be based on. I'm not a music expert, so I will a leave a thorough analysis of the notes to those, but the thing here is that the new theme music effectively starts on what the theme of Breath of the Wild ends on, which is certainly very fitting.

But with Breath of the Wild there is also this huge build-up to this part, where the music starts out silently, relaxed and peacefully and then the grand orchestra only kicks in later. In this case it's what the music starts with, but we can only speculate what this will mean for the game in the end...

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Breath of the Wild Sequel: E3 2021 Teaser Trailer

Link skydiving over some sky islands in ancient garb and with longer hair

Watch that trailer. Then again. And again. Best put the looping on and leave it running. It's good stuff. Nintendo knows what the fans want and sometimes even delivers. It's even a 180° turn from the first look trailer at E3 2019, two years ago, and it's an impressive showing right after Skyward Sword HD,  finally achieving what many were hoping to get from the Wii game...

Nintendo still hasn't revealed the title yet, where it was stated that this would give away too much already. And they certainly want the fans to spent their time with speculating until next year, where this trailer is offering a whole new perspective on the game with lots of things to talk about.

It actually feels like watching a trailer for two different Zelda projects. One looks like a mediocre third DLC expansion for Breath of the Wild with new abilities and enemy variants, featuring Link as we know him from Breath of the WildThe other looks like a completely new Zelda game set in a sky world, with new enemies and a Link who resembles the ancient hero from mural, with the same green garb over the left shoulder and longer hair, as well as new old gear.

There's a very stark contrast between the different parts of the footage, where this is very much deliberate. But if you look more closely, then it's all connected and it will be interesting to find out how.

The Ground

Now, that this part of the game appears like another DLC expansion for Breath of the Wild shouldn't be all too surprising, since its development started as extensive DLC ideas for that title. In 2019 this even raised some valid concerns about the sequel, where the trailer put its focus on the idea of exploring the underground of Hyrule, while featuring the same old overworld, just without all the Sheikah technology stuff.

The spelunking still seems to be a thing, but it's only shown briefly in the new gameplay in one scene, where the Link from Breath of the Wild fights some sort of tentacle monster with a flame-throwing dragon head on a shield. This new item is clearly inspired by Min Min, but also reminiscent of the dragon statues in the Zonai ruins, where it already seemed like the underground exploration goes more into the Zonai territories.

Otherwise they show us some new things with the enemies on the overworld, which is also what Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is currently doing. Moblins now have some sort of skull roof, while Bokoblins have been growing horns and got more creative with placing their fortifications. No, really, turning a Talus into a walking fortress is absolutely ingenious:

Stone Talus with a wooden Bokoblin fort on top

We also see the "hand" from the first trailer in action, where this confirms that it really will replace the Sheikah Slate for this game. A new version of Stasis is shown, which reverts time for an object, instead of freezing it. This seems actually more limited on first glance, but there might be other uses for it, like demelting ice or repairing crumbled structures.

With the hand as the new Sheikah Slate confirmed, it will most likely come with a Hookshot this time, which was one of the scrapped ideas for Breath of the Wild and could work wonders in the new sky world, and maybe even a new version of the Beetle, which could be very useful there as well.

This is all cool stuff and some interesting ideas, but it's overall even more underwhelming than initially imagined two years ago. Given, they haven't shown much of the potential underground exploration here, but the real joy and excitement in Breath of the Wild always came from exploring the overworld, where having the same world again with some new things on it simply feels boring... But luckily, it's not just that...

The Sky

This is the game changer. When re-using the overworld from Breath of the Wild they had a couple of possibilities to extend it. One was adding underground dungeons and caves, which at first was seemingly what they were doing here, and the other was expanding the map all around for new areas. Now, there was a third and less obvious way, but some people probably saw this coming because of the rising Hyrule Castle: add a new sky world on top.

Ancient Link floating through the sky at night with some sky islands in front of him and visible temple structures

This is very clever and will make the sequel 100% more interesting, if this is as extensive as it seems to be from the new trailer. A Zelda game set in a sky world has been of fascination to this blog since the beginning, even before Skyward Sword became a thing (see this). Then Skyward Sword became a thing and didn't really deliver. Its sky world didn't offer any real verticality and basically just acted as the game's central hub and village, with a few small extra islands to explore. It was quite underwhelming, even for its time, where this always felt like a missed opportunity.

Then Breath of the Wild was founded on the shortcomings to the overworld of Skyward Sword with its three separate areas, where now the sequel could address the shortcomings of Skyloft and its surroundings. The Paraglider is perfect for exploring such a world in an interesting way, because you can't just freely fly everywhere, like you could with a Loftwing. The different heights between the island will make traversing them a lot more fun and challenging. This is truly what you would expect from such a scenario with floating islands.

With making a sky world there are really two problems. Either there is no real world below the skies, where you just fall into an abyss, or there is a world there, but exploring it then becomes the main focus. The latter is what happened to Skyward Sword, the former is a common trope in other fantasy video games. Now, the sequel to Breath of the Wild sort of circumvents these issues by putting the new sky world above a familiar overworld. The sky world thus becomes the focus now, while you primarily explore the old world to find entries to the new world all above (and maybe also below) you.

Link entering a sky island through a portal in the stone ground

These entries seem to be the puddles shown in the trailer, which transport you up and let you even go through solid stone, where these might be portals that let you go up into the new sky world by literally reaching for it (that's such an amazing feel and concept). Going back down is not an issue, since you have the Paraglider, where this can actually be compared to how the Dark World functioned in A Link to the Past. There you needed to find portals in the Light World to enter its various areas, but you always could return back to Hyrule with the Magic Mirror.

Speaking of A Link to the Past and the Dark World, with its golden trees and plants this new sky world might actually represent the Sacred Realm. There might even be a familiar enemy from the game on these sky islands with what appears to be an Eyegore, or at least some new opponent inspired by its design:

green and white stone monster with a large head and one big eye

This looks crazy and could even lead to this game's signature enemy, replacing the Guardians from Breath of the Wild, who are probably vanished, just like the rest of the Sheikah technology. They could have just re-used the Sheikah technology in the sequel, do some new stuff with it and no one would have complained, but the green magic of the hand, which seemingly also gets utilized by these Eyegores, makes things a lot fresher, while still being similar to the Sheikah technology.


Two Links?

Now, the trailer makes clear cuts between the two scenarios. In the footage on the ground you have the Link from Breath of the Wild and you can't see any islands in the sky (yet). The footage in the sky features a Link who looks a lot more ancient, very similar to the depiction of the hero who faced Calamity Ganon 10,000 years ago. He has much longer hair and gets shown with completely different gear all the time, stuff that looks similarly ancient, except for the familiar Paraglider.

Ancient Link walking through the golden lands in the sky with some ancient shield and old garbs

There are multiple explanations for this, really. The one that comes first to mind is that the game might actually let you switch between two different eras (which would be a fourth way of expanding the already existing game world). But this would make things a lot more complicated than it needs to be, especially with managing two different inventories.

An easier explanation is that the footage from the sky takes place in a later part of the game, where there might be some sort of time skip involved. So, you start from where you left off in Breath of the Wild, but at some point the sky world opens up and all this new stuff comes into play.

If we're going with the Sacred Realm theory here, then there might also be a middle ground, where going into the Sacred Realm simply changes Link's appearance and gear. It might also explain why you can't see the sky islands from below, because they are some sort of divine dimension.

That the two Links might truly be one and the same is given away by the weird hand, which they both have and use. But of course the ancient Link could have also left the hand to seal Ganondorf, just like other Links in the past have left the Master Sword for the same purpose... So, it can't really be said for sure, but for the sake of gameplay simplicity it's safer to assume that this is the same Link, just in two very different states of the game.

Then there's also the fact that Hyrule Caste gets risen to the sky at the end of the trailer, where this castle might be Link's ultimate goal again, just like in Breath of the Wild, where both Zelda and Ganondorf await him. Ganondorf's goal could be getting into the Sacred Realm and to the Triforce, just like in old times, which is why Link has to find a way to get up there and stop him. But again, these are just theories and speculation, which is all that Nintendo wants at this point.



This is going to be epic!

Skyward Sword HD: Nothing New?

Link sky diving down to Faron Woods

Probably one of the bigger disappointments from the E3 2021 Nintendo Direct was Skyward Sword HD, because there really wasn't anything new here. They've simply reminded us that the game will be coming out next month, but they didn't even bother to play it during the "Treehouse: Live" segments.

With that, it's really just that. We're getting an HD remaster with upscaled graphics, a new button-only control scheme and a new teleportation system for which you need to buy an amiibo. Great... This is by far the most underwhelming of the Zelda 3D remasters yet, where this would be the first time we're not getting any new features, just optimizations...

Update: it's also the first time that we didn't get any new artwork. They are simply re-using everything from the Wii game here. Thanks to Ikhana Kingdom for pointing this out!

Here's what the previous remasters had to offer:

  • Ocarina of Time 3D had a "Boss Challenge" mode and came with a mirrored variant of Master Quest.
  • Majora's Mask 3D offered two new fishing ponds with 24 different fish to collect.
  • The Wind Waker HD gave us an amazing selfie feature and the Tingle Bottles.
  • Twilight Princess HD added the Cave of Shadows (also locked behind an amiibo) and let you collect new Miiverse stamps hidden all over the world.

And this was all on top of graphics that have been improved quite a bit, as well as optimizations to the inventories and other things. To be fair, there are probably some minor improvements and additions that we don't know about yet. The Wind Waker HD for example had five additional Treasure Charts to replace the missing Triforce Charts. And there could be something similar here. But it's probably best to expect nothing to not be disappointed any further...

The Nintendo Direct even made it sound like the new controls are for handheld mode only, but the official website states this differently:

Newly added button-only controls let you play your way—including in handheld mode and on the Nintendo Switch™ Lite system.

Still, we have yet to see the game actually being played with a Pro Controller, so we don't know for sure. But even if the new controls were exclusive to handheld mode, reviews would probably complain about this so much that Nintendo will patch this in. Shouldn't be hard to do.

Again, it would have been nice to have this shown during the Treehouse stream, where for some reason they couldn't be bothered with this, even though this gets released in a few weeks and should be ready. But this already shows what kind of product we're dealing with here, if Nintendo doesn't want to present it any further.

It feels like the main purpose of releasing Skyward Sword HD now is to make everyone appreciate how much better the sequel to Breath of the Wild will be with its own sky exploration. And as underwhelming as this remaster is, it really should have been bundled with The Wind Waker HD and Twilight Princess HD to make up for it.

Game & Watch: The Legend of Zelda Announced

Happy 35th Anniversary, The Legend of Zelda! Here's a new Game & Watch system for you! I hope you didn't expect a theme park or anything, because that's all you get. At least it's better than the one for Super Mario Bros., right...?

Well, in any case, this is not necessarily what you would have expected out of the 35th Anniversary, where this is about as interesting as getting a bunch of new amiibo five years ago. But here we go... In the least this comes with a variety of games:

  • The Legend of Zelda
  • Zelda II - The Adventure of Link
  • Playable clock based on The Legend of Zelda
  • Playable timer based on Zelda II - The Adventure of Link
  • Link's Awakening (GameBoy version)
  • Game & Watch: Vernim (starring Link)

Now, if you're asking, "what happened to the actual Game & Watch Zelda game?", then you probably have a better memory about this than most Nintendo employees. To be fair, it used to have two screens, like a Nintendo DS:

the Zelda Game & Watch system

But this didn't stop from them adding it to the Game & Watch Gallery 4 for the GameBoy Advance (and Wii U Virtual Console), where it used a condensed layout that fits a single screen. They could have done something similar here as well.

There also used to be a "Zelda Game Watch" as a second LCD title, which would have fit the screen just fine, but this was a licensed product made by Nelsonic, where Nintendo may not really have anything available here.

Instead you will have to settle for Vernim, some whack-a-mole with Link, which isn't exactly exciting. And the rest of the games are all titles that can already played on Nintendo Switch in some form, so this shouldn't be very interesting for newcomers to the Zelda series.

Link fighting a Hinox in the Bottle Grotto on the Game & Watch system

But this is actually the first time they've ever re-released the GameBoy version of Link's Awakening, because there was Link's Awakening DX for the GameBoy Color available since 1998, so this was the preferred choice for the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console.

I personally always liked the classic, monochrome GameBoy version of Link's Awakening a little more, because this has been my first entry to the series and I wasn't the biggest fan of the coloring in the DX version. I'm even considering to play it one more time on this, but it might really hard to return to this game after the excellent Nintendo Switch remake.

Age of Calamity: Pulse of the Ancient (DLC Wave 1) Revealed

Zelda running on her motor cycle into a Hinox

Yesterday's Nintendo Direct made it sound like they are going to end things with the first Expansion Pass DLC wave for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, but luckily this wasn't the only Zelda news at that point... While the first DLC batch looks fine and already gets released in two days, it does feel somewhat underwhelming...


New Movesets

They made it look like Robbie and Purah are going to be playable, since they are featured very prominently in the Expansion Pass banner, but this apparently won't be happening before the 2nd DLC wave in November. The good news is that this means that they won't treat Robbie and Purah as some second-class bonus fighter, where they might get their own scenarios, cutscenes and all that, if they are really playable. The bad news is that this doesn't leave much room for anything else and that the first DLC wave doesn't come with any major additions to the roster.

Guardian doing pew pew on Hyrule Field

Instead we get the "Battle-Tested Guardian" as a a playable character this time, as well as new weapons for Link and Zelda, the Flail and the Master Cycle respectively. The Guardian feels like an odd choice, because it's basically a "generic" enemy, where so far in Hyrule Warriors and Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity every playable fighter has been a unique character with a name. But... there was also a playable Cucco, so what gives?

In the least the Guardian looks unique, where it's reminiscent of the one from the first Breath of the Wild trailer at E3 2014. It even has the same orange glow to it, instead of the purple Malice infection. On first glance it feels similar to a certain unlockable fighter from the main game, but it's bigger and could be fun to play in its own right. It's the signature enemy of Breath of the Wild after all and with that certainly a worthy addition, even if it feels unusual.

Link holden two Guardian legs connected with a blue wire link

Link's Flail made out of Guardian parts looks quite crazy and is probably something that no one saw coming. It feels somewhat similar to his Gauntlet moveset from the previous game, but it also can grab things. On the one hand it's shame that Link gets a fourth moveset here, while most other characters only have one, but this is so goofy that it probably wouldn't have been a good fit for any other character anyway. And this way Link gets something that he didn't already have in Breath of the Wild...

At the same time it's nice that the Master Cycle is now a thing for Zelda, which makes perfect sense, since she's the one using the Sheikah Slate in this game. After spending so much time with Link on the Master Cycle Zero, both in Breath of the Wild and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, it will be nice to use this infamous bike with someone else instead.

Well, that's three new movesets in total and in the past Koei Tecmo liked to keep the movesets fairly balanced between the DLC packs for Hyrule Warriors and Hyrule Warriors: Legends, where there were usually two new movesets per pack, whether those were new character or weapon types. Since the second DLC wave is not supposed to have any new weapon types for existing characters, only the first one, we can probably count on three new playable character in the second DLC.

However, since the Expansion Pass can only be bought in its entirety, there is no need to balance things and they could add any number of characters to the second wave. If it's only three, Robbie, Purah and Sooga feel like the most likely candidates, while Astor might be out of luck. Well, it was already questionable how they would include him in a way that makes sense, but it's not like this has stopped them before...

But as already said, they really could add any number of characters to the last DLC. It's also possible that there will be a free bonus character addition in one of the updates, similar to Cia, Volga and Wizzro in the first game, where Sooga would be the best candidate for this, because he doesn't really need a story. Alternatively, they could also go with Beedle, for example as a free 35th Anniversary promotion.

Ancient Royal Lab Challenges

Now, this is basically a map within a map with new Quests and Challenges included. This will probably work just like the main map, but there is a clear tree here for your progress:

Royal Ancient Lab service tree with a quest called Hungry Hunches selected

It seems that this will be the place where you unlock the Guardian, the Flail and the Master Cycle, which makes sense and where this can be done while you're progressing through the game, but also gets accessible early in the game, probably right after visiting Robbie and Purah in the first chapter.

There also seems to be a new temple-like stage, maybe the Forgotten Temple, which could be used for new Challenges with boss battles similar to the Sheikah Shrines, where it seems that you have to fight the new Battle-Tested Guardian first.

New Enemies and Apocalyptic Difficulty

There is also a bunch of other stuff, where they primarily have shown the new enemies, which include the higher tier Wizzrobes from Breath of the Wild, Giant Chuchus and bomb-throwing Moblins. No sign of the golden enemies still, where this seemed like a no-brainer for this DLC...

Impa standing in front of a Moblin with a basket for bomb barrels on its back

It's unclear how these enemies will be included into the game, but there aren't really many possibilities here. This could be part of the Royal Ancient Lab Challenges, but also part of the new "Apocalyptic" difficulty, probably both.

As for the new difficulty level, it would be very boring to only make it another stat increase, where you need level 100 characters and best weapons to get anything done. So, adding some more monsters and different monsters would already make this more interesting.

In addition, there is also a new "Dangerous Specimen" boss battle mode, according to the official website, where some of these monsters could be included as well. But it's not like the game really needed a boss battle mode with all those Challenges focused on boss battles already...

It's a shame that this wasn't showcased at Treehouse, so we still have to speculate about a lot of things here, but luckily we will already be able to see for ourselves on Friday.