Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Blizzard of Id

Most of the last week I've been playing WoW, questing my Death Knight through Hellfire Peninsula, and using the group finder to run dungeons. Dungeons seem like the way to go for quick advancement in terms of XP, gold, and loot, but they can take a while to do and be repetitive, in addition to being potentially challenging for a loosely organized ad hoc group full of players of questionable skill and experience, like myself. It's nice to see the content, though, and have a shot at better loot. I'll probably continue run them as I quest my way through the levels.

I'm still just learning what the Death Knight class is for and how best to use its skills and properly outfit it. I also had a flying mount I was unaware of until I went to buy what I thought would be my first. I could have been using one for a couple of levels now, but no big deal. Re-familiarizing myself with this game is a gradual process. It would be really cool to level up to the cap and play the next expansion while it's current, though!

Speaking of playing games while they're current, I am still playing Overwatch, some. My enthusiasm has cooled a little on it, but only because my leisure time is a zero sum game, and I'm presently more excited to play other things.

Last week was the 20th anniversary of the release of Quake, one of several id Software masterpieces. Machine Games, the studio behind Wolfenstein: The New Order, released their own episode of Quake levels to commemorate the fact. The mod goes by the file name "dopa" which, it's anyone's guess what that means, but the levels I've seen so far (the first three) are very well done, and very much reflect the best of the original game, while adding new surprises, as well. I absolutely love Quake, and so this is a welcome freebie. I was thinking of purchasing the official expansion packs for the game through Steam, as well, but maybe those can wait.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Return to Azeroth

Aside from a little Overwatch, of which my consumption has dropped a good deal since the first couple of weeks, it's been all Warcraft universe games since finishing up Dawn of War II: Retribution.

I'm most of the way through the Undead Scourge campaign, the second of 4 in the base game of Warcraft III. Arthas is now a Death Knight, and serving multiple masters to bring the demons of the Burning Legion into Azeroth. One is the Lich King, one is Tichondrius, a demon himself serving Kil'Jaeden, and then there is also Kel'Thuzad, a necromancer he's working with to bring Archimonde into Azeroth. See, Archimonde and Kil'Jaeden are second only to Sergeras in the history of bad guys in the Warcraft universe.

Warcraft III has actually been fair in terms of difficulty to this point. It's not to the level of intensity that StarCraft, or especially Brood War, got to. Not yet, anyway. I wouldn't be surprised if that came later, particularly in the Frozen Throne expansion. I'm planning to finish the Undead campaign soon, though I may hold off on proceeding further until I clear a few other things off my plate.

Being immersed in Warcraft stuff lately put an odd notion in my head, namely that I should go get back into WoW, at least briefly, to see how that game is these days, and to soak up a little more of the series' essence. I reluctantly subscribed, again, to the game. I have no real idea how long I will play it this time.

I first went back to my Orc Warrior, but quickly remembered what a mistake it was to have created him on a PVP server when, out of nowhere, someone materialzed behind me and one-shotted me, leaving me in the dust. He might have been a Rogue. Either way, this was outside the Horde settlement on the shores of Northrend, and I was minding my own business about to turn in a random quest. To hell with PVP.

I resolved to create a new character on a non-PVP server, not wanting to pay the $25 to move an existing character over on top of the $15 I am paying for at least one month to play the game. I thought it would be interesting to try a Death Knight, considering the section of Warcraft III I had been playing concurrently, so I created one--a human formerly (and to be once more) of the Alliance.

The Death Knight intro segment is interesting. You start out at level 55, indicating that your character really did have a past as a heroic member of your faction, now resurrected in the service of Arthas, himself now merged with the Lich King. The Scourge under Arthas is laying siege to the Scarlet Crusade-held lands of eastern Lordaeron, and you have a number of quests that familiarize you with the way the class works while furthering the Lich King's goals in the area. One of which, it turns out, is to draw out one of his enemies from the kingdom of Stormwind. Our hapless protagonist eventually is used as a sacrificial lamb, basically, alongside a bunch of other Death Knights and lieutenants of Arthas, who then rebel at such treatment, and are welcomed back into the fold, whether Alliance of Horde. I made a trip to Stormwind and met with king Varian Wrynn to make it official, then decided to put myself to use in Outland, where the Burning Crusade content awaits.

I thought it was a neat little self-contained episode. Having been through Outland once already, I'm not sure I want to do it again, unless the difference of faction and the intervening years of game development come together to make it more interesting than the first time around. I'll give it a go, and if the questing seems dull then maybe I'll try running dungeons. It would be nice to make it on to the real content beyond.

Diversifying the Stack

Coming off of about 8 Horus Heresy novels in pretty quick succession, I'm going to hit a few other things before going back for books 31 and on.

The last one I finished in this spate was The Damnation of Pythos, which while interesting, wasn't incredibly, or really at all, relevant to the main preceding of the Heresy. It was about a group of "shattered legions" space marines that happen upon a warp anomaly that allows them first get the drop on some traitorous Emperor's Children, but then ultimately leads to daemonic manifestation and the eventual doom of the planet, Pythos, and everyone on it, presumably, save perhaps the daemons now present. It was more of a side story.

I read some Amnesia: The Dark Descent fiction, since I had the pdf on my kindle. It was a short story, or rather short anthology of shorter stories, featuring characters and background to the story of the game. It had a sort of 1700-1800s gothic horror feel to it, sort of like Lovecraft's stories.

I also read up on a lot of the lore of the Warcraft series of games (and films, now, I suppose) through some light wiki reading, but mostly through the manuals for Warcraft III and World of Warcraft. It was background info I wanted to know, but told in the most dry, dull way imaginable. Perhaps actual novels would be more interesting, but overall I think the universe of Warcraft is just kind of boring. It serves the games as a dusting of flavor over the real draw, which is the play. I wouldn't put aside Warhammer 40,000 for it, though.

I've also just begun Altered Carbon, which comes doubly or triply recommended. So far it seems like edgy cyberpunk, but is there any other kind?

Monday, June 13, 2016

Say It Now, Before The Cleansing Begins

The title is one of my favorite barks uttered by a unit in Dawn of War II.

I did follow through on my endeavor of finishing Retribution, with 8.7 hours played over the last week, per Steam tracking. I raced through the Space Marines campaign, which it seems is the canonical one for how the story plays out. I also played the first mission of the Chaos campaign, which features you killing a major character from the Blood Ravens, so I'm guessing that one is not canon. Not that it matters.

I had a grand old time with Dawn of War II, all the way back to the base game, through Chaos Rising, and finally with Retribution, both the campaign and the Last Stand mode, which is very cool despite being sort of bolted on. Hopefully it gets a fully-fleshed realization in Dawn of War III, which was recently announced. That should be a good time. I wonder if it'll continue on the campaigning of the Blood Ravens. Probably.

I want to go back and play the original Dawn of War at some point, but my next RTS is roughly 70 missions of Warcraft III. This brings me to my 2016 play prospectus:

Mass Effect 3
The Witcher 3
The Walking Dead Season 2
Dawn of War II: Retribution
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
X-Com: Enemy Unknown
Warcraft III
StarCraft II
Dragon Age II
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Wasteland 2
Baldur's Gate II

I don't think I'm doing too bad. Figure in victory over Dark Souls finally, and some of the other stuff I've been playing, and I'm pretty proud of the progress I've made so far. X-Com getting the strikethrough here is debatable, but I did give it another run up, even if the jump wasn't long enough to make it to the other side. I'm not sure I intend to play it again, at least not anytime soon. Skyrim had some decent time put into it, but I still intend to circle back to that one. Same with Dragon Age II. I don't know that I'll get to Wasteland 2 or Baldur's Gate II this year; they're not high on my list at the moment. KOTOR II would probably come before either, but after the RPGs already on the list. StarCraft II is going to be a post-Warcraft III thing, so also not likely in 2016. I do need to get on with the Walking Dead's second season, though.

Otherwise, I've just been playing more Overwatch. Nothing more to add on that game, really, other than I am still having fun rotating through the roster and playing every character.

Right now, I need to continue further into my Castlevania: Lords of Shadow replay. I also want to play more Overwatch, and possibly jump right back into Warcraft III while the RTS mood lingers. I know I have plenty of that game ahead of me.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Overwatch--It's Not Just A Game, It's Also An Important Tactical Status

Yes, I have been continuing to play a whole lot of Blizzard's team-based FPS Overwatch. This weekend I played enough to get my profile up to level 18, and I've put somewhere between 20 and 40 minutes of game time into each and every character. They're all pretty good to play; I would have a tough time trying to decide on a favorite. The ones I tend to play less are the sniper and builder types, Hanzo, Widowmaker, Bastion, Torbjorn, and Symmetra to some degree. I like playing attackers where appropriate, and I'll go for a tank or support character anytime one is needed, as well. It's a ton of fun, even with a pretty blasé progression and unlock system. Of everything it's possible to unlock, only the skins really do anything at all for me. Sprays, barks, poses? Meh. I almost wonder why Blizzard thought they mattered to anyone.

Also on Overwatch the last several days, were the terminators of the Blood Angels chapter of the Adeptus Astartes as they delved into the space hulk Sin of Damnation. After setting aside Regicide, I was still kind of in the mood for tactical 40K, and this filled the role quite nicely. I'd played it some previously, but got into it to a greater degree over the weekend. It's a very cool game, if somewhat basic as video games go, since it's a very faithful adaptation of the board game of the same name.

I played through about 5 scenarios before deciding I was satisfied. I really want and need to hunker down and finish Dawn of War II: Retribution, so I have resolved not to play any other Warhammer games until that one is finished, first. Knocking that one out will also set me up to go back and play more Warcraft III, which is starting to sound like a bit of a Roadmap to Success. For the Emperor!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

MIddle Tier Middle-Earth

I made an interesting find in the local independent game store this weekend: a used copy of the now out-of-print PC game Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring. It must have been the last game made using the book licenses before the huge blitz of movie-licensed ones in the early '00s. It was only ten bucks, and the novelty and curiosity of the item, and it's good condition, complete in box and all, sold me on it.

War of the Ring is a 3D RTS very much in the style of Warcraft III. Very much in that style. You begin the campaign with two missions where you're playing an army of dwarves led by Gimli, son of Gloin. From there, you have the option to play as the forces of Gondor (if I'm not mistaken) led by Boromir, or take on another mission to track down Gollum. I didn't try that one, so I'm not sure who the player faction is.

I only made it as far as completing the tutorial missions and a few of the main campaign as the forces of good, because for some reason I was unable to get game saves to work in Windows 7. I did some quick searching online, and the suggested fixes for Vista had no effect. Compatibility mode also, no dice. My player profile would save, recording what mission I was on, but there was no mid-mission or quicksave ability, which is frustrating in an RTS, where missions can sometimes go beyond an hour, and a single mis-click can wreck your whole strategy.

In the end, while I thought War of the Ring was interesting, I still have something like 70 missions of Warcraft III that I've never played between the rest of the main game and expansion, and as dumb as Warcraft lore is, Blizzard are the kings of play and feel, and at least I'm less familiar with that game's lore than that of LotR. Going forward, I'll continue my play through more of Warcraft III.

On the subject of Blizzard games, Overwatch has really convinced me of its worth. It's an undeniably great game. You could make a case for it being nothing more than three game types on a handful of maps, but even so, there are 21 highly differentiated characters that all feel great and are enjoyable to play, and somehow there is even some modicum of balance in how they all check and are checked in terms of power by multiple others. It's team-based arena FPS action with the character design of a fighting game. The matches aren't overlong, and even though the 'progression' and extrinsic rewards for play are limited, it's hard not to jump right back into another after viewing the after action report. It's a real fun time.

I'm continuing to play more Regicide, as well. I'm in the middle of the middle of three "campaigns" of 10 scenarios as the Blood Angles. If it doesn't get too difficult, I'll probably finish them all and maybe even the two Ork campaigns, as well. The combination of Chess, XCOM, and 40K is just what I crave, apparently.

Regicide update: On reflection, the AI is pretty dumb sometimes, moving itself into check, which really shouldn't be allowed. Neat game, but even so, I think I'm going to move on.