Saturday, November 18, 2017

One Does Not Simply Play Through Mordor

I've given up on Shadow of Mordor. The game has never managed to click with me. I did feel like I finally got a good grip on it this last session, but in the end I still felt like it was an overall pretty mediocre game made up of component parts done better elsewhere. Assassin's Creed, the Batman Arkham series, Hitman, and others, cover all these bases sufficiently. I'm considering this one done.

Which, along with my completion of the Destiny 2 campaign and beginning of the upside-down castle in Symphony of the Night, puts me well on my way back toward playing The Witcher 3 again.

I'm still making my way through Super Mario Odyssey, too. I'm just past New Donk City and in the Seaside Kingdom, now. I like how this game lets you bypass a lot of things if you like, and come back to them later if you wish.

I'm also continuing to practice running Spelunky, hoping for an eventual victory. I still don't reliably make it to the Jungle stages, though.

I did manage to finally finish off Hexcells Infinite, getting that achievement for doing 60 procedurally generated puzzles. That is definitely a low-stress way to play that game, though less interesting accordingly.

Finally, Titan Quest has received an unexpected expansion some 11 years after release. Its called Ragnarok and adds a fifth act as well as some other improvements. I've never made it much past the first act, but curiosity and wanting to encourage such rashness from THQ Nordic overtook me, and I bought in. Maybe this will do the trick, finally.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

On the Road Back

I'm sticking to the plan I laid out last week.

I've polished off the Destiny 2 campaign. Overall verdict: better than the first game, not as good as any of Bungie's Halo games. I question the need for a campaign at all. Perhaps Destiny should cut straight to the gear chase. I've set the game aside for the time being.

In it's place I've been concentrating on my Symphony of the Night save. As of this writing just prior to a trip out of town, I have 100% of the initial upright castle completed, and I'm ready to tackle the inverted castle. So, pretty decent progress, so far.

I'm unsure of whether I'll end up clicking with Shadow of Mordor and finishing it. I've struggled to, but then I don't think I've actually focused my efforts to do so on it to this point. Every fight I get into, it still seems like I'm being overwhelmed by too many orcs, and too many of them want to get in my face and start a Nemesis system action. I don't know if this is just how the game will always be, or if at some point I am supposed to be able to slay them 10 at a time and be able to fight 50 of them off without breaking a sweat. Something just feels off about the balance to me. I think I may need to just really start trying to grind out some ability and skill points on lower level nemeses in order to be able to tackle tougher orcs and larger groups of them.

I'm at I think 52/60 Hexcells proc gen puzzles done, and I've been brushing up on my Spelunky skills, trying to get back in the swing of things. These may be what I play tonight, if I have any free time.

This will all be put on hold, though, since we're headed out of town for 5 days. I'll take the Switch, but I'm not sure what else. Perhaps the DSs or SNES Classic? I'm leaning away from the Vita, though, and the PS3 and PC are obviously not coming along. I'll probably do more reading than gaming, but we'll see.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Catching Up to the 40K Timeline

I took some time away from the Horus Heresy series to read about recent developments at the end of the timeline, in the 40K era. A friend into the tabletop Warhammer 40,000 game sent me a bunch of the latest campaign books that ushered in the 8th edition of the game: Wrath of Magnus, and the Gathering Storm trilogy of Fall of Cadia, Fracture of Biel-Tan, and Rise of the Primarch.

These are all very matter-of-factly written, in a dramatic historical style. They don't read like the novels at all. They're drier, but still kind of interesting. Things that would be momentous in a novel are at times glossed over or related with little to no fanfare. I think they are meant to serve more as background lore ("fluff" in Warhammer terms) for players of the wargame than as a successful dramatic narrative, which the Horus Heresy books hew more toward.

It was interesting being introduced to some of the successor factions 10,000 years after the era that I am most familiar with. Previously there were no loyalist primarchs around in M41, or M42 now, I suppose. Roboute Guilliman has been awoken from stasis as of the current events, though, and led the forces of the Imperium of Man on a century's crusade to reclaim worlds lost to the forces of the Warp after the opening of the Cicatrix Maledictum, the great galaxy-spanning Warp rift dividing the Imperium in two.

I followed up these campaign books, which dealt with events leading up to Guilliman's resurrection from stasis, with the first new era 40K novel, Dark Imperium. Here Guilliman ends the Indomitus Crusade to go back to Ultramar and free it from an incursion of Chaos forces from the plague god Nurgle, led in part by the traitor daemon primarch Mortation, Guilliman's erstwhile brother in a previous era. The novel also introduces some Primaris Marines characters and delves into how they're fitting into the newly reconstituted Space Marine chapters since the newest Ultima founding that Guilliman undertook after his return to the Imperium. The novel leaves off with the primarch, now Imperial Regent and overall military commander in chief, setting of on a lead after Mortarion to hunt him down and kill him. I understand from the Lexicanum wiki that in the campaign to follow, the Ultramarines defeat and drive away the Death Guard, but that Mortarion escapes, and the Nurgle forces have to contend with advances from the other gods of Chaos into some of their newest territorial gains. I'm not sure any more has been written after this point in the timeline. Presumably Guilliman will circle back to Terra to do some of his non-military duties as Imperial Regent, leaving the newly bolstered ranks of Primaris and Adeptus Astartes to the work of war going forward, at least until its time to confront another of his brothers. He's already encountered both Magnus and Mortarion, and been taunted by Fulgrim, as well. Maybe that's the next showdown, or maybe Angron or Perturabo or Lorgar, if he's still out there, will appear to challenge the returned primarch.

My hope, though, is that we next hear from another of the several loyalist primarchs long disappeared. Maybe they come back as contra-Chaos, but also not aligned to the Imperium. That would be a likely role for many of them. It could be Vulkan, Jaghatai Khan, The Lion, Rogal Dorn, Leman Russ, or Corvus Corax. None of these are certainly dead, as far as I know. Dorn or Vulkan could be, I guess, but in the case of the latter, I doubt it. The rest I've heard have either disappeared or are kept in stasis (The Lion).

It'll be back to the Heresy time period next. I'm still in the middle of book 43, a short story collection. There have been 3-4 other books released in the meantime. There is other material in the universe outside of the Heresy that I want to read, though, The Beast Arises and the Black Legion series, in particular.

Roadmap to Rivian Redemption

I haven't done one of these in a while. These roadmap projects don't tend to work out, but this time I have a particular destination in mind, and I don't think it's that far away.

I want to get through the Witcher 3. It's a farce that I haven't yet, since I was into The Witcher back in 2009, before the second game was even announced. Yes, I was into it long before most anyone else in the west knew what it even was, let alone that it was cool. Credit to the old GFW Radio for turning me on to it. I never said I discovered it.

For whatever reason, I set the game aside after about 35 hours and got distracted by something else. Spring/Summer of 2015... I'm not sure what it might have been then, but definitely by the time MGSV came out I forgot about it entirely, and have yet to return. This then, is me plotting a route back.

To account for what stands between me and going home today to reinstall the game: I've recently dabbled in both Skyrim and Shadow of Mordor, two games in different ways adjacent to the Witcher 3. Skyrim is different enough and long enough that it needs to stand alone. It's also got a kind of timeless quality that keeps me circling back to it. I won't be finishing it off, but I can veer around it. Shadow of Mordor, that one definitely has a finite well of enjoyment that I could exhaust, and probably should, before turning back to Geralt's adventures. So there's one thing to tackle.

I also have a number of other non-fantasy, non-roleplaying engagements at the moment, including Destiny 2, Super Mario Odyssey, Castlevania: Symphony of the night, Hexcells, Diablo III, Breath of the Wild, and others. Mario is new and will last forever. That will get some more play here and there, but not be a priority. Zelda gets avoided like Skyrim. Destiny 2 gets polished off, at least the campaign portion. After that, it can simmer, much like Diablo III will. I want to finish this run of SotN, as well. That won't take too long. Hexcells can run in parallel, as can my quest to finally complete a run of Spelunky, whether through Olmec or Yama. Perhaps both. I also have suspended games of Metal Gear Rising, Metroid: Samus Returns, and AM2R to consider. Or not, maybe. For now I'll try to clean my plate of these three, in no particular order:

1. Shadow of Mordor
2. Destiny 2 campaign
3. CV SotN

Monday, October 30, 2017

Cornucopia of Delights

I played some Team Fortress 2 for the first time in a long time last week. There was an update recently, and I was kind of curious to see what was new or different. It mostly feels like the same old good game as before, with new maps and a new system of "contracts" which seem like class-specific challenges to accomplish, probably to unlock new cosmetic items in the game. I was just as bad as I remembered at the game, to boot. Unfortunately it'll probably be a while before I'm back again because I might have a multiplayer FPS that feels worth playing PvP in, and that is...

Destiny 2. The PC version of the game finally came out last week, and I've been enjoying it, so far. It's very much the same game as the first, but with some of the harder edges rounded off a little by all accounts, and now actually present on my preferred platform. This is important for a couple of reasons. First, I can readily dip in and out of the game. Second, I very much prefer playing FPS with mouse and keyboard. Once I finish the story campaign and get to the meat of the game, I can focus on the good stuff--finding gear and progressing my character. One facet of Destiny I like is that both PvE and PvP can contribute likewise to said progression. I've used the Crucible mode through the campaign so far to level up when the next mission has been gated by experience points. As I stand now, my Warlock, who as far as I am concerned is my same unremarkable not-very-accomplished Guardian from the first game, has just hit 15 and is ready to go on the mission to commandeer a Cabal ship to use to infiltrate their "Almighty" star-killer ship and show that Space Marine reject Dominus Ghaul the stellar door, as it were.

In other large release news, Super Mario Odyssey came out last week as well, and I also bought that. I figured the kids would enjoy it, but also that it's basically a compulsory purchase for Switch owners. Plus, I was curious. I've never really loved 3D platformers, but Super Mario Galaxy was pretty good, and I enjoyed that. Odyssey so far is pretty charming and good fun. I've made it to the Mexican-inspired third kingdom so far, and let Mia play a little in that area. We'll be playing more, I'm sure. I'm not sure what to say about the game, though, other than it feels good and has inventive and original level design ideas. Mario has cosmetic wardrobe changes now, as well, which is kind of interesting. None cost any real money, of course.

A few smaller updates:

Diablo III - running bounties here and there, still wanting to improve my Wizard's Vyr's set build. I still need to ace that set dungeon.

SotN - fairly deep into a run by this point, one that I would like to see through to its end. Still love this game so much.

Hexcells - over 40 out of 60 procedurally generated puzzles done.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Mix Me Up, It's Autumn

I'm all over the place right now.

What I really want to do, though, is go home and play more Symphony of the Night. I played maybe an hour over the weekend, and it's still so great. I've got my current save up past the point of where the prior PS3 one was, before I wiped the system out of frustration with some other aspect of its operation. The save file on the Vita copy of the game I have is further along, I think, though maybe not by much.

Another game I've played catch up in recently is Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. I bought this on PS3 back at release, but never made it very far in. Soon, a PC port was announced, and I resolved to buy and play that instead. Now, I've made good on that resolution, at least partially. I'm now past where I was on PS3, at least. It's a good game. I'll keep it around until I finish it, maybe. No reason to play Bayonetta or Devil May Cry or anything like that while this is unbeaten, I figure.

Last week I decided to check out World of Tanks: Blitz upon learning that one could unlock Warhammer 40,000 tanks in that game. It's surprisingly good for a very F2P mobile game port. I think I'd prefer to play the real PC client, though. Hopefully that is better put together. As for the 40K tanks, there was no way I was going to play it hardcore enough to get that far, much less take advantage of them once I had.

I'm still plinking away at Hexcells Infinite, as well. I'm over halfway to the last achievement, with about 33 or 35 randomly generated puzzles finished. I have my eye on another puzzle game to fill this slot once I'm done with this one.

Talk of Shadow of War has driven me back to Shadow of Mordor once more. I continue to be frustrated with the 50-on-1 structure of it's fights, though. It's a little ridiculous, really. The nemesis system could really be toned down some. I don't need 4 new hopeful captains to chime in with a taunt every time I get into a little scuffle at an orc stronghold. I may as well finish it, at this point, though.

I also spent some more time in Skyrim again this weekend. I might as well get on with playing a lot more of it, too. It seems like there's never a time to be free of the mainline Elder Scrolls games. They're too weirdly compelling.

Lastly, I've finally slowed my Diablo III roll down a bit from the fevered pitch of the last several weeks.I am kind of just waiting for the forthcoming patch, now, to see what changes there. I will continue to run bounties and rifts here and there, in the meantime. I need to improve my gear more to complete the Vyr's set dungeon, and complete the Delsere's and Tal'Rasha's sets to do those ones, as well. At that point I might consider my Wizard done, or press on for a clear of GR70 if that doesn't happen in the meantime, in order to unlock access to primal ancient gear. That would be the play; and from there on to Barbarian and the rest of the classes to do those set dungeons as well.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Trapped in the Burning Hells

I can't break free from the grasp of Diablo III's endgame. Or, maybe I just don't want to. I'm to the point where I can handle Torment IX, though I do die some. I will try to push on to Torment X in my next session. It seems like you really should play on the highest difficulty level you can, reasonably. The drop rates for things increase with difficulty. Torment X is another nice increase to drop rates, provided I can survive it well enough. If not, then I'll continue playing Torment IX until I can get some upgrades.

At this point that's tough to do, though. I would need ancient pieces where I don't already have them, as well as synergized and maxed rolls from the mystic. It's no longer as easy as finding a lucky yellow or simple legendary. Now it's all about the legendary affixes and set bonuses and ancient pieces, and of course, paragon levels. Luckily you get more paragon experience points too, with greater difficulty settings. I did manage to get a couple of Unity rings and the Templar relic that makes it impossible for him to die. Thus, my damage received is permanently split among us, effectively mitigating a lot of it. More is mitigated by a legendary gem I have socketed to take the edge of damage spikes, taking the damage and parceling it out evenly over a few seconds, with a chance that the running balance will be wiped with every kill. I should now just make sure I am killing as quickly as possible, which could mean remaining on Torment IX, or even VIII, in order to maximize efficiency.

I finished all of the designed puzzles in Hexcells Infinite, and I'm working on finishing 60 of proceduraly generated ones. I have 20 down, so far. These are much easier and faster than the human-created ones, full of hints and free of consequences for mistakes. As long as you finish the puzzle, you get credit for it. It's up to you if you want to cheat or not. I don't let myself take shots in the dark, but if I make a mistake out of carelessness or haste, I'm not bothered by it. I take the mistake (and free cell) and move on.

I decided to check out something new last week, and that was the old LucasArts adventure game Loom. It seems like an interesting setting, but I just cannot get along with this genre. Everything is so slow, hard to use, and generally obtuse. I don't have the patience or time for this sort of thing. I gave it a half hour, that's enough.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Look Out! Samus Is Here

I've been playing some Metroid games over the last week or so. Metroid: Samus Returns recently came out on the 3DS, it being a remake of Metroid II: Return of Samus, the old Game Boy game. I played through that game in its entirety whenever that was, maybe 25 years ago.

The remake is pretty solid. It's fun enough to play, but as is usually the case with polygonal "2.5D" graphics, its pretty ugly. Super Metroid, which I played a little of as well this past weekend, and the fan-made AM2R, which also attempts to remake Metroid II, but with Super Metroid-style 16-bit graphics, both look much nicer.

Another problem with Metroid: Samus Returns is that it forces you to use the circle pad to control Samus, and the d-pad below it as a simple selector of ancillary modules in Samus' suit. 2D action-platforming is never ideal on any sort of analog stick or pad. There is also the somewhat questionable addition of the melee counter move to the game. I find that it makes combat a more reactive prospect. It seems like the best course of action with an enemy is to let it charge you, bat it away, and then put a few energy rounds into it. I'm not decided on whether I feel this harms the flow of the game yet.

I might prefer to continue playing AM2R over the remake, if I'm honest. Maybe there's room for both, though. They don't seem to be exactly the same in terms of map layout, at least.

I'm still working toward completion of Hexcells Infinite, as well. I had some problems with the last couple of puzzles involving misclicks and jumping the gun, so I had to screenshot my progress to those points and painstakingly recreate it to ensure I could get a perfect clear on each.

Otherwise, the last week or so has been all Diablo. I felt the call back again, and decided this time to dust off my Wizard, the first class I played when the game launched, and delve into the real endgame. I've been trying to sort out a solid play loop while also reacquainting myself to the class. I've settled on running bounties enough to keep a stock of materials for use in extracting legendary affixes to save in Kanai's Cube, and then running Nephalem Rifts to keep a stock of Greater Rift keystones in order to run Greater Rifts for upgrades to legendary gems. All while collecting loot along the way, periodically using infernal machines to collect Hellfire jewelry materials, and trying to track down as yet unexperienced events and places to fill out my achievements list. I would also like to collect all the full class sets in the game and run all the associated dungeons, while I'm at it. There is seemingly no end to the things one can get up to in this game.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Emily Kaldwin Retakes the Throne

You can safely assume I'm always dipping into Elite Dangerous, Diablo III, and Spelunky here and there. I may not mention them every time, going forward, but they do seem to be ones I regularly revisit for a top-up. Since the last post I've flown some in Elite, discovering new worlds, and I believe ran some bounties in Diablo III.

I am also still working on Hexcells Infinite, too. I'm getting near the end of the pre-made levels, and maybe the ends of my skill level with the game. Or maybe I just need more sleep before loading it up the next time.

Most of my game time over the last week has been spent finishing up Dishonored 2 ahead of the Death of the Outsider. I maintained a low chaos world state up through the very end of my play through as Emily, and did most or all of the non-lethal and optional 'better' ways of eliminating targets.

Perhaps my favorite was the mission A Crack in the Slab, which involves going back in time to prevent a mining magnate from witnessing the séance that brings the witch Delilah back into the world from the void, a sight which drives him mad and leads to the gradual deterioration of Karnaca and the Dust District in particular. Another good one was replacing in office the Duke of Serkonos with this body double, which seems a little far-fetched, but was also a tidy solution to the problem of his rule. I was a little disappointed that I couldn't find a non-combat way of making Delilah unconscious in the final mission, but I probably just wasn't trying hard enough. I was trying to finish the game while wrangling kids.

Dishonored 2 really seems like a game you are meant to play through multiple times. Not only are there two characters you can take through the game, but each has so many different skills that it's probably impossible to see everything without doing two or more runs through each, especially considering the varying world states you might want to see. I might like to do a Corvo run at some point, being a little more lethal, since that kind of seems more in keeping with his character. I never finished my second Corvo run of the original Dishonored, either. I should go back and do that too. Then I'd also want to replay the Daud missions, as well, since they connect to Dishonored 2 much more directly than the first does.

I really like this series, and I have Death of the Outsider queued up and waiting. I'm excited to get into it.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017


I finished off Hexcells Plus in the last week, and have gotten into Hexcells Infinite. I've been lucky enough to not mis-click too many times, and I got the achievement for perfecting all of the levels in Plus. I'm looking forward to doing the same for Infinite. I tore through about 5-6 levels pretty quickly the other night.

In Dishonored 2, I played through the Clockwork Mansion level. I'm not sure what I expected, but so much was made of it that I was a little underwhelmed, to be honest. It is a cool design, to be sure, but I think it might have had more impact if I hadn't thought to expect to be blown away. Regardless, I am maintaining my low chaos world state, even if my stealth skills leave much to be desired. I noticed that I had begun this game on Hard difficulty, which I am now thinking was a mistake. For a first time through, especially in a game like this, Normal is probably better. I made the mistake of assuming that because I'd played a lot of the first Dishonored that I would be in tip-top shape to take on the sequel, not taking into account that I might spend months away from the game between levels.

I made a similar over-estimation of my capability in XCOM: Enemy Unknown, insisting on playing on Classic difficulty, and then never yet being able to complete a campaign. Well, I got the urge to play more again (XCOM 2: War of the Chosen just released), and decided to abandon that ongoing campaign and begin another in the expanded game, XCOM: Enemy Within. This time I'm sticking to Normal difficulty, albeit still on Ironman mode and with several of the "Second Encounter" options flagged to make the game more interesting. These seem like they can impact difficulty as well, but in both directions, as opposed to only making it harder.

In Elite, I made my way back to the bubble to pick up a second Auto Field-Maintenance Unit, and while there was able to fairly quickly rank up my Engineer relationship with Felicity Farseer to the point where she would do fifth-level upgrades on my Frame Shift Drive, meaning now I can jump nearly 46 LY at a time from star to star, where before I was only able to jump about 34 LY. Now I'm out exploring again, having dropped by Betelgeuse just last night. I'm angling above the galactic plane now, and directly out to the galactic east, thinking to explore some of the apparently empty regions out there to begin with. Maybe after that I will swing wide around back toward the core and the Colonia region. This would be months' worth of playtime, though. Who knows what might happen in the meantime, especially with a large game update not too far over the horizon. 2.4, which I believe has been dubbed "The Return" is going to be pushed out before too long, according to Frontier Developments.

Monday, August 28, 2017

He Wrote, Fastidiously

I feel the need to include almost everything I play here for some reason.

This weekend I was kind of hopping back and forth between a few things. Quickly, I played a round of Spelunky. One did the trick at the time; I wasn't really feeling in the mood after all.

I also made it through a few more levels of Hexcells Plus, though I'm beginning to get frustrated by the finicky nature of the mistakes and perfect or not status of round completion. I want them all to be perfected, but I don't want to have to redo a long level over a mis-click or careless jumping of the gun. Not that I have a better design solution; I guess maybe I just wish there was no achievement I need to get for doing so. I guess the flaw with the game is that it's possible just to click without any regard for how many mistakes you make to finish levels, though if you did that, you wouldn't earn enough points to continue on to the next level grouping. Maybe just removing the achievement in question would fix this compulsion, after all.

Speaking of compulsion, I'm back in Elite: Dangerous again, determined to get a good exploration run in. I want to go to Sagittarius A*, and I think I'll swing by the Colonia region on the way. It's (as far as I know) the only inhabited region of the galaxy outside the main bubble around Sol. I'm re-learning the game on 360 pad, now, having tired of breaking out the flight stick every time I wanted a quick session of a few jumps from star to star. I managed to get about a thousand LY (about 30 jumps) outbound before a series of mishaps made me want to return to the bubble. I need a second Auto Field-Maintenance Unit for a real journey out into the black. With that and an SRV, it should be possible to be entirely self-sufficient for a very long journey like the one(s) I want to embark on. I'm also wondering if there's anything else I can do to eke out a little bit of a longer jump range, though I may already be to the point where that's not very feasible in my Asp Explorer. I definitely want to keep a shield unit with me as insurance, and even losing that would probably not add too much to my max jump range.

Lastly, I'm taking it upon myself to finish Dishonored 2. With Death of the Outsider coming in just over two weeks, I want to be caught up and ready for what may be the capstone on the series. I'm not sure how far into the game I am, really. I'm going to what I believe is the fourth main mission, the Clockwork Mansion. I understand there are fewer missions in this game as compared to the first, but that each is longer or at least wider, and may then take more time to get through.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

A Mixed Bag

Most of the last week of game time has been with Path of Exile. I've made it to Act II. It's very good, but on the whole I still think Diablo III is the best in the genre. Path of Exile seems to stubbornly stick to some things Diablo II did, which over a longer play time, end up being more hassle than they're worth. Things like no easy item comparison, inventory woes, limited town portal and identification scrolls, and the pre-Adventure Mode model of re-running the campaign ad nauseum at endgame. I haven't verified that last one, to be fair, but that seems to be the case from what I gather. At the same time, while I admire that it's doing something original with its skill system, I feel like Diablo III's solution is better for keeping builds coherent and themed to the class you are playing. Path of Exile characters seem like they could kind of mix and match abilities from outside their starting class range. These are small things on the whole, but in the context of the genre and epically long play lifetimes of these games, they end up making a difference. I do plan to continue playing PoE, though, to see if my hunches on all this bear out.

Hexcells Plus is more of the original with a few new rules added in. It fairly quickly ramps up in difficulty from where Hexcells left off, but it's still all completely logical and fun to play. I'm on the 5th of 6 sets of puzzles, now.

I've had Spiral Knights stuff in my Steam inventory for years now, since I first played that game back in 2011, I believe. I came across it on Steam last night and decided what the hell, let me check this out again for a bit. It's a kind of basic action-adventure dungeon crawler sort of thing, somewhat arcade-y, and presented in a very colorful, fun way. Honestly, though, games that cover these same bases for me are very plentiful, so after just a short time I was satisfied I wasn't missing much by not playing the game. And the stuff is still in my Steam inventory, still not showing its icons correctly. I had thought that at least would be fixed.

Kerbal Space Program is a game that's been around for a long time now, that I have always thought I should pick up and play, but have never really felt like doing so. Well, I went through the first tutorial the other night. I guess I'll probably do more.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Dragon Quest Who?

I have forgotten about Dragon Quest VII this week, drawn to some things new and shiny.

First, I finally tried out Path of Exile for the weekly GameBytes stream on Monday. It’s really setting a hook in me. The game is very much cast in the mold of Diablo II, though it does do a few pretty original and interesting things, like making your active skills contingent on finding and slotting gems into you gear in various ways. In a very real way, your gear determines how you can play, not just how effectively. I also like the enormity of the passive skill chart, which reminds me more of Final Fantasy X’s Sphere Grid than anything else.

There are a few little quality of life improvements that I miss from Diablo III and the Torchlight series, but it’s nothing that breaks the deal, at least not at this point. I’ve only put a few hours in yet, being maybe halfway through the first act, if that. I’m definitely going to be playing more Path of Exile, though, a lot more, in all likelihood.

On sale for under a dollar on Steam this week was Hexcells, an elegant little puzzle game I’d had wishlisted for years. I could not pass it up, and I’m glad I did not. This game borrows from Minesweeper and Picross to create a very clever and very addicting rule set in which you look at an arrangement of orange hexagons and determine which should be marked blue, and which should be destroyed to reveal numeric and positional clues about the adjacent hexagons. My favorite thing about this game is that so far it seems mathematically impossible to get stuck without a way of working out the next move you can make with certainty that you won’t make a mistake. At times you start to think maybe all that’s left is to blind-click something in the hopes that the odds are in your favor, but in actuality if you start looking at the situation from different angles or toward different ends (I don’t know which one it is… which ones do I know it definitely isn’t?), you can always find a logical toehold.

I pretty quickly finished and perfected every level (there are only 29, I believe) in the first game, and bought the rest of the series. I’m playing Hexcells Plus, now.

Saturday, August 12, 2017


After a good week and a half or so, I decided to shelve Elite once again. I made some pretty good money pretty quickly, at least by the standards I'm used to. The problem with Elite is that it's too easy for me to pour a whole evening in, to the detriment of other hobby and leisure activities. As much as I like the game and would like to wander the galaxy, I do have other aims for my free time.

Arguably first among my gaming concerns over the last week or two has been Dragon Quest VII. For someone with minimal experience with the series, having played some the first on NES, and otherwise only having played DQVIII on PS2, albeit to completion, I have felt oddly compelled to collect as much of it as I could, across the Super Famicom and DS and 3DS platforms. VII was previously a PSX game, but last year got a nice remake for the 3DS. It's known for being very long, around 100 hours, having a slow pace, and having allegedly bad graphics and releasing so late in the life of the PSX that the PS2 was already solidly in the market and about to enter its prime.

The 3DS remake seems to have fixed those issues, or addressed them as well as you might assume possible with the limited horsepower available to it. Random battles are gone, replaced with a compromise in the vein of Earthbound or Chrono Trigger, where the enemies are visible on the map and if you actually run into them, you fight. The graphics have had a total overhaul as well, but I suspect I might actually prefer the PSX's when I get the chance to finally play it, having never picked it up in its original incarnation. I just ordered a copy from eBay. As far as playing the game, it's a solid RPG in the classic Japanese sense, being one of that genre's cornerstone series. I've long been a fan of the genre, of course. This game feels very comfortable.

Something brought me back to Torchlight II this week. An unexpected, inexplicable urge to play more of the game I only got perhaps a quarter into when it first released, if that. Maybe it was being effectively done with Diablo III's content without being rid of the siren's call of that type of game. Whatever the actual reason, I have it re-installed and I've picked up my Engineer at level 28 and begun the experience and gear climb once more. It's fun.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Elite: Moderately Dangerous

I felt the siren's call of the great unknown expanse call me last week, and I had to head back out into the black.

Elite: Dangerous is once again ensconced on my hard drive, and CMDR Count Elmdor again flies the entirely disinterested skies. I came back from some time away to find that it is now possible to make a decent amount of money relatively quickly by running transport missions for goods and passengers. I had been thinking to outfit a trader vessel to make money for the eventual purchase of an Anaconda, but as it turns out, I'm reluctant to give up my Asp Explorer, as Exploring is my real calling to this game.

Having discovered a solid new way of making money, I ground out a bunch of missions and credits that way before deciding it was time, once again, to roam the vast emptiness outside the bubble. I had to turn back before long, though, realizing I had forgotten an important piece of equipment. I had made the conscious decision to forego the SRV or any cargo bays this trip (which now that I think about it might be a mistake), but I did need to go back and get a repair module in case anything breaks down while I'm out on my own.

It was here that I discovered that the selling of exploration data has also apparently gotten a buff. So, I'm in a pretty good place right now. I already have one of the top ships in the game for exploration, based of max jump capacity. My favorite occupation in the game pays well, so after some time out exploring, if I'm lucky I might come back with enough saved up to make the big upgrade. Time will tell.

I might end up ranging a ways out and then coming back for another ship or loadout. Right now, though, I'm putting Elite back on a back burner and focusing efforts elsewhere.