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.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

And Just Like That, The Spell Was Broken

Just today on Twitter I remarked how deep into Diablo III I was once again in the wake of the release of the Necromancer class. And it was very true right up until this afternoon when I decided to wrap up this short fling with the game and move on, once again.

I've gotten my Necromancer to the level cap, done some endgame stuff, got a respectable gear set, and tried out just about every new mode and zone put into the game since the last time I played much. It's been a blast, actually, and I'm hoping Blizzard continues to add stuff to bring me back from time to time.

It's just that there are a lot of games out there yet unplayed, and no time to grind out the same content ad infinitum. And miles to go before I sleep.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Vacay Plays 3

The last couple of weeks, wrapping up our Japan trip and a few days back in the US, have mostly been about Breath of the Wild.

I'm to the point now where I'm probably ready to go and face Ganon, having won back the four Divine Beasts to the side of good and acquired the Master Sword. However, I want to go do some more shrines beforehand, and perhaps some of the other side quests and content added by the first bunch of DLC to have come out recently. I want to do some of the shrine quests I have, at least, if not scour the world for hidden shrines. I might also like to collect some of those memories out and about. So far I've only happened upon one in my time playing, of twelve.

I revisited Shin Megami Tensei IV in the last few days in Japan, but hit a roadblock that would require grinding to clear, so I think that game is on hold now. There's a Minotaur boss blocking me from accessing Apocalyptic Tokyo who is weak to Bufu (ice) magic. I've gone all out with press turns and good luck rolls, but it still wasn't enough to skate by him, so the next step is actually just to grind out levels for the main character and various demons, and probably to do some demon fusion, as well. I just don't think I want to invest the time at the moment.

My Tactics Ogre save is in a similar spot, hemmed in by fights too tough to take on and blocked from further plot progression. I love RPGs, and have for many years, but this sort of thing is a real drag. It's much easier these days to be distracted, as well, with so many games to choose from, and so little free time.

This weekend I focused entirely on playing the new Necromancer class in Diablo III, since it was a double XP weekend. I managed to get up to level fifty-something. The class is a lot of fun to play, with a lot of cool abilities that feel incredibly powerful. I'm only a little bit into Act II of the campaign. I should be able to easily hit 70 and grind out some Paragon levels by the time I were to take down Malthael. I want both to have this additional class at the level cap and to have finished the campaign with it. I'm at 6/7 classes done now, and I won't not have 7/7 or */* whatever the number ends up being.

The kids have continued to enjoy Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Switch, and I finally got around to finishing world 3 of Super Mario 3D Land.

I am actually on a bit of a 3DS platform kick at the moment, having pre-ordered a New 2DS XL, and hitting ebay for some of the good games (mostly RPGs) from the system library that I've missed. There are still a few games on the horizon for the system that I want, as well. An odd fact to consider, at this point.

Book-wise, I'm about 3 stories into Shattered Legions now. I've got to keep going if I want to catch up to the publishing schedule of the Horus Heresy. It's very close, now.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Vacation Plays 2

The playlist and reading list mostly remains the same, as we head into the final week or so of vacation.

I wrapped up Garro today, bringing the Knight Errant more or less up to speed with other happenings in the Heresy. I had last seen the former Death Knight after his flight from Isstvan III back to Terra in Flight of the Eienstein, which was only the fourth title I read in the series. It's been a while since those days. Garro is the 42nd numbered book I've read in the series, but there are others non-numbered I've read, as well.

Garro also brought an end to Esteride Kell's thread, which began in the novel Nemesis, and featured Kyril Sindermann and Euphrati Keeler, two characters also from much earlier in the series.

Next up will be Shattered Legions, oddly enough another narrative that will pick up from the kick-off of Horus's rebellion, specifically Isstvan V, the dropsite massacre. There, three loyal legions were all but wiped out, left broken and scattered. Shattered Legions collects several stories of the Iron Hands, Salamanders, and Raven Guard, but I would bet Astartes of other legions show up, as well.

Game-wise, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe continues to see regular play with the kiddies, mine as well as their cousins.

The Necromancer pack for Diablo III released, but I've not had great luck getting the game to maintain a connection long enough to get any real playtime in. I may table this endeavor for now and focus more on Zelda.

Breath of the Wild is also continuing along apace. I have unlocked most of the world map at this point, done about 35 shrines, and have 9 heart containers. I've located the Master Sword, but am not yet ready to pull it.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Vacation Plays 1

Since leaving for the trip to Japan we are on now, I've played a lot of Mario Kart, both 7 on the 3DS's and 8 Deluxe on the Switch. The guided play options of the latter make it especially kid-friendly, which is appreciated. The games are pretty fun, as well.

I've also been playing a little more of Breath of the Wild, it being my focus for the trip, as far as progress. I've got all my quests from Kakariko and Hateno, and I've made my way to Zora's Domain to see about this first Divine Beast. I'm thinking I'm probably under-leveled as it goes in this game, having only five hearts and one stamina upgrade so far. I'm one shrine away from the next of either, though.

Since my last booklog entry, I finished up Corax and also read The Master of Mankind, and am now beginning Garro.

Corax took the titular primarch basically to his end as far as his heresy-era deeds. By the end, he's bloodied the traitors' efforts to push to Terra, realized some hard truths, and set off on what amounts to a suicide mission, presumably within the Eye of Terror.

Garro picks up Battle-captian Nathaniel Garro's story after his return from Isstvan III to warn the Emperor of Horus and the others' betrayal there. From other books I've read, I know enough to know he goes on to work for Malcador the Sigillite to form the Knights Errant, who are a force of legionaries plucked from their former legions, both loyalist and traitor, to be Terran Regent's hand among the various theaters of the galactic civil war.

The Master of Mankind is a pretty interesting and important novel in the series. It chronicles the actual conflict of import, to the Emperor, of the Horus Heresy--the war for the Webway. Nothing, not the space marine legions, the primarchs, or even the worlds of the Imperium matter as much to the Emperor's dreams for humanity as the Webway, which offers the possibility to travel across the galaxy without need of the Warp. Without that, humanity can never be free of its corrupting influence. What abhorrent lengths the man will go to toward that end are explored here. The book is interesting in the wider context of the Horus Heresy series and all of Warhammer 40,000 because this is the closest we are ever likely to be to seeing the Emperor's own point of view, and apparent fallibility. It also sets up one hell of a Chekov's Gun that will no doubt come into play sometime in the far, far future of the setting.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité

I had unfinished business in the French Revolution with Arno Dorian. It is now finished. I cleaned up the Templar problems of Paris and Franciade, recovering a couple of pieces of Eden in the process.

Overall, Unity is probably one of the least interesting games in the series. It's not bad, just not particularly exciting, considering the potential of the setting. A lot has been made of the open world, icons-on-the-map overload of this game, but there's also the fact that Paris is a big, flat sprawl that mostly looks pretty same-y from one end to the other. There are a lot more interiors in Unity, and I did always appreciate the scale of the world. Big places feel big.

There have been a lot of young men with a lot of typical young men's problems in this series. Arno's is basically star-crossed lovers; he's the son of an Assassin raised by a Templar, her father, whose murder he's been framed for. He falls in with the Assassins after breaking out of the Bastille alongside one, and he's off to the races to clear his name and find the real killers, and reconnect with her along the way. The big bad in Unity is a Templar leader who is also a Sage, someone who is essentially a reincarnated soul of one of the First Civilization, and who apparently has some access to their genetic memory, from what I can tell.

This game has some more in-depth stealth sections and elaborate mission structures, but the controls are as clumsy as ever, which led to some frustration in later parts of the game. Enemies in Unity are tougher, as well, since they level up as you do, as you progress through the story.

I also played through the Dead Kings DLC for the game, which was a more self-contained story with a clear villain and arc for Arno. It wasn't bad, either, and featured a connection out to the broader series through Arno sending an Apple of Eden he found to the new Al Mualim in Cairo.

I guess I'm not done with the series, I just needed a break in the middle of this one. I'll get Syndicate sometime later this year maybe and play through that. Hopefully it'll have a bit of that Peaky Blinders feel, at least. Also, it's E3 time now, and Assassin's Creed Origins has just been revealed. I'll be playing that, certainly. I just hope mechanics will have changed.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017


Here in early June, already, it's been a pretty good year for gaming so far. I'm coming off two extended stays--Mass Effect Andromeda and a FFXI revisit, as well as having knocked out a few shorter games earlier in the year and knocked a bunch more off the backlog, if not completing them.

I'm in a weird spot for the next week or so, not sure what to play before heading to Japan for four weeks. I know that while there I plan to play more Switch. I'm not sure what else. Maybe just that. I should probably pick up Mario Kart, thinking on that. It does have the kid-friendly mode. My girls like it on the 3DS, and I'm not certain I want to take the 3DS.

I suppose I probably should, since I myself have a bunch of DS/3DS stuff I need to play. I am unsure, though, how much time I'll have to play games there, and think I might want to focus on Zelda. But then, it might be good to have systems to pass off to them during travel or while killing time at home.

And what about the Vita? I'd like to have it along as well, but does it make sense to have a Switch, 3DS, 2DS, and Vita? In addition to a MacBook and two iPads? And my kindle, of course.

Back to the topic at hand, though: what to play leading up to the trip. I just buckled down and finished Andromeda. Maybe I could do the same with AC: Unity? Or make more progress into Shadow of Mordor? Surely it makes sense to finish The Witcher 3 before Mordor, and I plan to do that upon returning from Japan. I could play more of Dawn of War III, or Warcraft III, or Starcraft II, or Stellaris, or Endless Legend or... but I don't think I'm in a strategy mindset right now. I'm leaning toward AC Unity or a backlog blitz, I suppose.

Overly Hearthstone Inspired Hack Job

The Elder Scrolls Legends recently came out on Steam and Android OS, and I was kind of curious about it, so I decided to check it out, wondering what Bethesda's take on the digital CCG might be like.

Turns out, it's a lot like Blizzard's. As in, they just ripped off whole swathes of Hearthstone and gave them a different skin. I could see doing that early in production, with a mind to go back and redesign later, but for the most part things are laid out extremely similarly to the way the other game does them.

It wouldn't be so bad, really, if more care had been taken in thoughtfully re-arranging menu or UI elements. The design of the game itself, sectioning the playfield out into lanes, adding runes to the life bar that explode and grant card draw as life is depleted, and the like, does seem to show more than a surface groping of Blizzard's mechanics, but the presentation here is awful.

Apart from the blatant copypasta, The Elder Scrolls Legends incorporates terrible voice acting, very bad cutscene art, and tutorials aimed at an idiot. The cutscene art is most puzzling, considering the art on the game cards is generally pretty decent. What you get in the interstitial scenes features not only uninspired fantasy pap for a script, but some of the ugliest photos-digitized-and-fantasy-filtered stylings this side of Mortal Kombat.

The one thing I was really curious about was if the developer could make something as fun as but less frustrating than Hearthstone. I don't think I'll play enough to find out, though.

I wonder if the idea of a continuously evolving CCG is inherently flawed. The ever expanding card base presents obvious issues of balance, which games like Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering before it mitigate by restricting structured play to only the most recent sets of cards. However, you will still eventually run out of ideas keeping the game fresh. Maybe that's only a problem for the individual player, and not so much the game's stewards.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Paths Found

I have finally wrapped up Mass Effect Andromeda after some 80 game hours. It's a beast of a game, with some open world filler, but overall I had a pretty good time with it.

The combat was fun all the way through. Maybe that was a product of my character build choices--shotgun-centric, making liberal use of the dash and jump, with a heavy dose of melee damage and shield drain and fire thrower abilities from the tech skill path.

Plot-wise, Andromeda is pretty successful pseudo-reboot, set apart from the events of the original Mass Effect trilogy in both time and space. It's the story of the Milky Way races establishing a new home in a new galaxy, while at the same time helping the Heleus native Angara to fend of a militaristic empire of gene-consuming race assimilators called the Kett, to deal with the remains of an ancient race's AI constructs, and to weather the fallout of an apocalyptic war in the sector in the years the Andromeda Initiative arks were in transit from the Milky Way.

At the end of the game, a foothold is gained, allies made, and the Kett Archon fended off, but the rest of the Kett are still out there in the galaxy, one last ark is still making its way in Andromeda, and the Pathfinder and crew still have a job to do exploring and building a new civilization in their new home.

EA has made noises that sound like the game didn't perform to expectations, and while that's not hard to believe, given said expectations, I do hope we'll see a continuation of the series in Andromeda. Maybe DLC to begin with, to cover the arrival of the Quarians and other Milky Way races, and another game in the future, possibly a generation later, exploring the further integration of the new arrivals with the natives, and the looming threat of the Kett Empire.

In all likelihood, we get either the first or neither at all.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Jack All

That's about all I've played that's new.

I got an alpha of a Frozenbyte-developed game in an indie game bundle a while back called Jack Claw. It's got a sort of Bionic Commando like character with an extendable super strong arm, except this game is set in a sort of quaint dystopia and played from an overhead perspective in the manner of a twin stick shooter. It's basically just a vertical slice like developers make as a proof of concept for new games, only a sample of play with no win or loss conditions and very little content. This game apparently never came to anything more, but I wouldn't say it's a huge loss.

It's Overwatch's first anniversary period now, so I logged in to open a free loot box, thinking I might play some, but I'm not so sure now.

I've been trying to concentrate on Mass Effect Andromeda lately, and I've made some solid progress. I'm moving toward having established settlements on every viable planet, but my main goal is to do all of the loyalty missions and priority missions. Everything else is secondary. However, it's hard not to swing by and scoop up every little thing in the open-world style maps. I'm going to have to reign in that impulse, though, because I want to finish this game in the next 3 weeks.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Speeding Toward Terra

The Horus Heresy reading continues apace.

I am now on Corax, book 40, a collection of novellas and short stories about the Raven Guard and their primarch, Corvus Corax, all about the things they've been up to since their prior book Deliverance Lost. I've just begun this one.

Praetorian of Dorn, book 39, is set in the solar system, and an Alpha Legion plot there. As is usually the case with the Alpha Legion, it's not clear exactly what their objective is, other than speeding along the end of the Imperium and through that the extinguishing of Chaos through the same of humanity. This one has a pretty momentous ending, as Rogal Dorn, primarch of the VII legion Imperial Fists kills Alpharius, the primarch of the XX legion Alpha Legion. From here on, it's Omegon leading them as Alpharius, making a tragic mockery of their famous line "I am Alpharius." This is only the second primarch to die since the beginning of the series, and the first since book 5, Fulgrim (III legion Emperor's Children), where the titular primarch kills his brother Ferrus Manus (X legion Iron Hands) at the Dropsite Massacre.

Book 38, Angels of Caliban, seemed to bring a cap to the Imperium Secundus arc of the series, focusing on Macragge, where the primarchs Lion el'Jonson (I legion Dark Angels), Roboute Guilliman (XII legion Ultramarines), and Sanguinius (IX legion Blood Angels) try to maintain humanity's hold on the galaxy while fending of the destructive efforts of Konrad Curze (VIII legion Night Lords). On the other side of the galaxy, on Caliban, Luther turns his other exiled Dark Angels away from the Lion and back toward the ancient Order that ruled Caliban before the coming of the Emperor. There's trouble brewing, there.

Book 37, The Silent War, is a collection of short stories all about the various forces under Malcador the Sigillite, the Lord Regent of the Imperium. We see a lot of the Knights Errant, the beginnings of the Inquisition, and more interesting things kind of behind the scenes of the galactic civil war.

The Path of Heaven, book 36, brings the White Scars home to Terra after years of harrying Horus' various forces on the edges of the galaxy. The Emperor's Children and the Death Guard figure into the story here, and Leman Russ (VI legion Space Wolves) makes an appearance toward the end, as well, as Jaghatai Khan (V legion White Scars) faces him to apologize for leaving his brother in a lurch back at the Alaxxes nebula, where the Wolves were beset by the Alpha Legion. Now that the Khan has returned, there is work to do reinforcing the Terra's defenses. The traitor legions are on their way.

I Game of Military

Aside from the usual plinking away at Mass Effect Andromeda and Zelda: Breath of the Wild, with little to report on either, I also reinstalled Spelunky the other day after hearing some podcast talk about it and catching the bug again. I should just keep it installed so I don't have to keep re-unlocking all the characters and Tunnel Man shortcuts due to save data loss on uninstall.

The main thing I should touch on here is the I game, Insurgency. I didn't expect much, really, other than another relatively dull military shooter. It's well done, though, and I was kind of surprised to find people still playing it. The game is built in Valve's Source engine, and it has a fun co-op mode I took part in for a round. I was actually impressed with the tutorial--not something I ever expected to write--due to how it morphs into a narrative mission toward the end.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Lost Week Last Week?

It's been more than a week since my last post, but I have little to report, unfortunately. I know I spent some time playing games, but it doesn't feel like a whole lot.

I did make my way a little further into Dawn of War III. I'm about to begin the 5th mission of the campaign, and got a chance to play a match of co-op multiplayer against AI, which was also fun. There seems to be a lot more to enjoy here.

I also knocked out some pretty good progress in Mass Effect Andromeda, at least toward the end of settling the planet Kadara. I did every quest I could find there, and unlocked and reset the Remnant vault, purifying the planet's water. Next I'm headed to the planet the Krogan exiles are on to see what's up over there. It's one of a couple I need to check out before I go to confront the Kett flagship to push events along to whatever the next big thing is. That will be the next episode of this ongoing saga.

I felt like knocking an H game off my backlog yesterday, so I played a little of Heretic: Shadow of the Serpent Riders. I'd definitely seen it around back in the 90s, but I don't know if I'd ever actually played much of it until now. It's basically DOOM, with a medieval fantasy and wizardry skin. Developed by Raven, John Romero as executive producer. It's like 90% the same game, with a few extra features, like a limited ability to look up and down. It also seems harder right off the bat, or at least the levels are longer and more complicated sooner than in DOOM. Like it's forebear, it's a cool game that holds up very well even now, provided you go into the settings (using DOSBox) and set the controls to something resembling a modern WASD setup. I probably won't play any more, but I do have the rest of the Heretic/Hexen series to check out, as well.