Friday, December 22, 2017

Tallarn and Temeria

Progress continues little by little in both Opus Magnum and Super Mario Odyssey.

The real meat masticated in my gaming jaws lately has been with The Horus Heresy: Battle of Tallarn and The Witcher 3.

Tallarn takes the largest military engagement of the fictional galactic civil war that kicked off the Warhammer 40,000 setting and envisions it as a hex-based tactical war game. On one side is the traitorous Space Marine legion the Iron Warriors, and on the other is the ragtag planetary defense made up mostly of idle Imperial Guard on the world when it was killed from orbit by the opposition. Battles play out on small hex grids covered in a virus bomb miasma that doubles as fog of war, with small squadrons of tanks and other armored vehicles of various types including flying transports and the gigantic bipedal war machines known as Titans, and their cousins, the slightly smaller Knights.

Tallarn is very clearly a pretty quick port from iOS, but with a few key rebindings, I was able to make it feel pretty good on PC despite the big dopey UI. Scenarios can be played relatively quickly and simply, which is a plus for a player with my level of sophistication and dedication to games like this. I have completed the Apocalypse campaign from both sides so far, one of four or five in the game. As a very fervent fan of setting and especially the novel series that to a large part defines it, I have been enjoying this relatively simple war game. I'm actually reading the collected stories around this particular theater alongside playing the game, and it's harmonizing nicely. I might even recommend the game to non-setting fans, but the developer HexWar has about 20 other games that I'm guessing are similar enough that are set in other, real-world historical, settings that are probably worth looking at as well.

In The Witcher 3, I've gone back to flip flopping between control devices and settings for play. Last night I put in a good hour or two on the TV with the pad again. I think the sweet spot may actually end up being at the PC with the pad. There's no doubt the game looks better on my PC monitor, and the 360 pad control scheme, for all its own oddness, may just edge out the mouse and keyboard scheme due to some iffy menu design choices. It seems like they tried to come up with something that worked both ways, when they probably would have been better off coming up with two separate menu systems dedicated each way. I'm sure there are a lot of reasons why doing that would suck for the development of the game, but it would have been nice. There are too many little rough edges on either scheme for me to be completely comfortable just yet, but with some refinement I may be able to get to that point, and it might as well be with the pad, for the same reason I play Bethesda's RPGs that way; it gets really tiresome holding down W for hours at a time with my middle finger, and that's just not a problem using an analog stick for movement.

Progression-wise, I have now made it to Noveria and met up with Triss Merigold. Apparently she and Geralt fell out about six months previous to this, which does a bit to explain how he could begin the game once again apparently an item with Yennifer of Vengerberg. I don't know if there will be more to explore to that story, or whether the player is meant to respect their privacy on the matter and decide for Geralt who he is more interested in romantically going forward. As a player of the previous games, I feel like I know who Triss is. I'm interested in learning more about Yen before committing to anyone, if I do. I've read the first couple of books in the Witcher series, but I don't remember if there was enough in them to know much of anything about Yen from those. It's been a good long time since I read those. It was before The Witcher 2 came out. Now most or all of the rest of the series has been released, and I own some of them, so at some point I'll actually delve deeper in.

Apart from meeting up with Triss, I'm still following leads toward Ciri. I helped to awake the dream-scryer Corinne Tully in a "haunted" house, last. I want to follow the main thread to the next large piece or event, but I also don't want the rest of the game to get away from me. I don't want to outlevel any quests or contracts or potentially great witcher gear out there. I'm still settling in to how this game flows, nearly 50 hours in, now. Granted, I was away from it for two and a half years between hours 35 and 36, but the point still stands.

Today is my last day of work for 2017. I'm hoping to get in some real solid game time over the break, along with a good bit of reading, as well. I'll have my GOTY/BOTY posts in the next week or so, as well. I have already declared a GOTY and two runner ups on the GameBytes Show podcast, but I do reserve the right to change these up through the 31st!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Going with Geralt

I mentioned last entry that I was experimenting with how to return to The Witcher 3, and I have settled for now on at my PC, using mouse and keyboard. I may hop over to the TV through the Steam Link from time to time, but I haven't been able to shake the feeling that the PC experience is the best one. I went and met the Bloody Baron and did his questline, and at the moment I'm knocking out a few sidequests and contracts that I have found myself having outleveled. Experience seems kind of hard to come by, so I'm sure it'll pay to be thorough, aside from exploring the cool narratives of the world. The next big plot point I'm sure is waiting in Novigrad. I'm to go there to meet Triss Merigold, whom Geralt has been an item with during the last couple of games, and also to hunt for signs of Ciri. I have a couple of other errands to run first, though.

I'm also playing some Spelunky here and there, still. I don't know if I'll ever finish that game. Oh well, I'll be all over Spelunky 2 as soon as that comes out, either way.

The end of Super Mario Odyssey also can't be far away now. I'm in the Luncheon Kingdom now, and I have just found the painting that lets you warp to the Mushroom Kingdom, or at least a small part of it.

Progress also continues apace in Opus Magnum. The critical path puzzles are nice and doable, which I appreciate. It's always cool to see the finished process, as well.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Ready to Proceed

Last Booklog entry, I mentioned heading back to the Horus Heresy series after catching up on the Warhammer 40,000 proper timeline. As it turns out, I decided to read through all of the lore of the tabletop game's 8th edition first. There's a lot of interesting info on the current state of the galaxy in there, along with a cursory glance at all of the relevant factions. I still don't really know much to speak of of the T'au or Genestealer Cults. Are the latter a part of the Tyranid race or not? If so, how are they different? I'll have to delve into some more 40K fiction at some point to find out.

In the meantime, I have returned to the Heresy timeline, finishing off book 43, Shattered Legions. It's a collection of short stories and a novella featuring Iron Hands Warleader Shadrak Meduson and other key players in the remains of the three loyalist legions smashed at the Dropsite Massacre. Meduson becomes a type of guerrilla leader for this asymmetrical war effort to confound and delay Horus's return to Terra. There is a lot of exploration of themes like survivor's guild, betrayal, the desire for vengeance, justice, and the righting of wrongs, as well as integrating disparate parts into a new alloyed whole and modifying the organizational structure of a fighting force to adapt to a wildly different set of circumstances than it was originally built for. It's a kind of underexplored area in stories of Space Marines, since the Shattered Legions are much more of a handicapped and underdog faction than most in the fiction.

The next book in sequence is The Crimson King, which will be the first time we've seen much of Magnus and the Thousand Sons since the razing of Prospero much earlier in the series.

Ready to Rejoin the Rivian Roamer

I am ready to return to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt!

I wrapped up my playthrough of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night last night, coming up to a total of 200.5% of the game explored. I believe the last .1% could be gained by going into the final room and then using a library card to warp out of it before saving the game again. I also seem to remember some kind of glitch in the castle towers using the sword familiar maybe to somehow get outside the castle walls. That might make it possible to add a few more percentage points to the tally, but I don't recall exactly. I'm ready to another Richter playthrough at some point, too. I did that once, in college, I think. If I recall, you can get to most but not all places in the game and actually finish it. I'd like to explore some of the other ways to play at some point, as well, including as an Axe Armor (which I remember being very limited) and with your luck stat to the max but others lowered, which could be another fun spin on the game.

Opus Magnum also continues to captivate me. I've been playing a lot of its sub-game Sigmar's Garden, which is a kind of Shanghai variant played with the marbles used in the main game. It's diverting and goes well with a podcast. I want to get to 100 wins for the achievement and to see whatever story dialog goes along with doing so.

I have to work out exactly how I'm going to go forward with The Witcher 3. I briefly considered restarting the game, but being 35 hours in, I think I'd probably rather just continue on. I'm sure the game will end up over 100 hours in all, maybe 150, even. I think I remember the essentials, even though I might like to rewatch a few cutscenes. I also need to decide whether I'll play at my PC with mouse and keyboard, or on the Steam Link with a controller, or maybe even at my PC with a controller. I may re-familiarize myself with the game at the PC, then move over to the TV. Or, maybe it's better to just re-acquaint myself with the game using the pad from the jump. Content on screen isn't really a worry, since I'll mostly play when the kids are asleep, though at times I may want to play on the PC while they use the TV. Still, The Witcher isn't usually overly adult, it's only that way at certain times.

Monday, November 27, 2017

A Link to the Path

I'm still on track back to the Witcher 3. I'm drawing nearer to completion of this run of Symphony of the Night, with only about 4 sections of the inverted castle remaining to conquer before taking on Shaft and Dracula.

Something I've noticed this time around is that for as well as the castle inversion works for the game, there are some rough edges that prevent the second leg of the game from being quite so effortless as the first. It's easy to go the wrong way and find yourself under-leveled or under-geared for a section of the inverted castle, since there can be no mobility-based progression gating once you have acquired all of the motive skills and abilities from the first castle. Instead there is old-fashioned enemy toughness gating. This can still be gotten around, though, with some creative play and knowing when to mist by rougher sections on the way to gear upgrades or more beatable enemies to farm XP and upgrades on.

Elsewhere, I've done some podcast listening to Titan Quest and Spelunky while going for progression in those titles. I've also added some hardware to my setup, both a terabyte hard disk to the PC, and a Steam Link to the TV. The former allowed me to go and re-download some games that I plan to revisit, and the latter was cheap enough ($1) that I couldn't resist.

I toyed around with Skyrim and XCOM: Enemy Unknown a bit while trying out the Link. I decided to start a new non-Ironman campaign in XCOM just to see if I can't eventually actually win a campaign of that game. I'll need to focus on it at some point to make that a possibility.

The biggest addition to the rotation lately has been Opus Magnum, the new puzzle game from Zachtronics. I have long been a big fan of one of their previous games, SpaceChem. Opus Magnum is in some ways a lot like that one, though I haven't yet encountered its kind of insane difficulty here. Opus Magnum is a real looker, as well. It's got a great posh steampunk style and the alchemy machine works animate really well in a believably mechanical fashion. You play a newly graduated alchemist brought into a great house and tasked with combining base alchemical elements to do things like transmute mundane metals into gold or manufacture talcum power analogues, propulsion fuel, or even just hair product for your noble masters.

You're given a set of inputs and told what the required outputs are, and you have a selection of tools to use to assemble a machine to take care of the process that you have to envision and execute by programming grabber arms that can rotate or extend or move along tracks to deliver elements to various stations where they are transmuted or bonded or split in various ways so that you eventually end up with the finished product and deliver it to the output receptacle. It's a pretty basic concept, elaborated on in a huge variety of ways to create a very interesting and challenging and expressive puzzle game. Your creations only need to get the job done, but once finished they are evaluated against those of other players, so if you like you can chase efficiency on a few axes to enjoy refining your base creations, as well. I'm really enjoying the game so far.  

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.

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.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Wonder Weekend

I was home alone a good amount this weekend with a cold, but it afforded me some pretty good game time.

I had a pretty good time playing more Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap, defeating a boss and gaining access to another transformation type: Fish Man. This in turn opened up a couple of new areas I could get to and another couple of abilities to go to even more places by breaking blocks in the environment, and in some cases, creating new ones. Again, this is a pretty cool game for something originally released on the Sega Master System.

After Wonder Boy, I loaded up Breath of the Wild again for the first time in a week or so, and had a great time making my way to Hateno village and unlocking the Sheikah slate's final functionality, a camera and compendium. Next it'll be back to Kakariko again to speak to Impa again. I'm not sure how I'll travel it this time, though. I might go overland a different way, or maybe just fast travel it. Adventure awaits, either way.

Dawn of War III has finally come out, and I've played through the campaign tutorials and the first couple of campaign missions, one as Space Marines and one as Orks. It seems like fun, so far. I have a couple of gripes, though. First, the performance in the menus is pretty bad, which is odd. It seems fine in game. Second, panning around the battlefield by mousing to the screen edges is S-L-O-W, and for seemingly no good reason. You can hold down the mouse wheel (middle mouse button), and do a kind of grab and pan thing, and that moves at the speed you would expect. I'm not sure why this extremely sluggish movement is there, and there doesn't seem to be any option to change it, either.

Finally, I got a chance to check out the beta version of the Necromancer class in Diablo III. It didn't take long for me to determine that, yes, I am very interested in playing this once it's released. Hopefully that's not too far out at this point.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Wonder Boy Pathfinder

I made some progress in Mass Effect Andromeda over the last week, actually getting out into the open world on one of the planets for only about the second time in probably 35 hours of play. I'm at a point in the game where I can go to one of two potentially habitable planets, or go hunt down the Kett leader's flagship for a confrontation. Instead, I've opted to dig into some side quests that, in a roleplaying sense, sounded urgent.

I've also dabbled in Super Mario World and Heroes of the Storm. The latter now has a fresh 2.0 update that I'm interested in exploring a bit. I still think I am fundamentally not that into multi-player games, though. I've been playing beginner level bot matches just on a lark here and there. Playing a game to relax, imagine that.

I picked up another retro-style 2D action game on the Switch, the beautiful remake of Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap. It's a cool game from the Sega Master System, a platform I have very little familiarity with, though I can credit my interest in video games to it. Wonder Boy lets you flash back and forth from the modern, very lavish 2D art to the super old school 8-bit reality of the original. I find the new art really nice and have been almost entirely playing that way.

The underlying game is very well done, and while it definitely feels simplistic, it's an interesting design considering when the game first came out. It's an open-world action platformer more or less contemporaneous with Metroid, but not done in quite the same way. Here, doors open into the background, where in Metroid they always open on one of the four sides of the screen, which means the way the world fits together is pretty different. It's also clear some or all of the doors are magical, so it may not be possible for all of the levels to exist in one contiguous chunk.

You begin as a boy with a sword, but begin to gain the ability to transform into other types of animals and fight and explore in different ways. So far I have been a lizard boy and mouse boy. I'll continue to explore what this nifty game has to offer.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Perfect Compliments, Shovel Knight

For the last few weeks I've been bouncing back and forth between Mass Effect Andromeda and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I'm finding that the two compliment each other very well, Mass Effect being mostly a game about talking to people, and Zelda a game mostly about wandering around doing things. Each has a bit of the other, of course, but my experiences in each have fit together like yin and yang.

In Andromeda, I'm mostly following the main path so far, having now been to Aya, the home planet of the Angara, and having rescued one of their leaders from the Kett and their "Exaltation" practice of converting other species into themselves. I have to say, this is trending a little close to what the Collectors were doing on behalf of the Reapers back in Mass Effect 2. Now I'm on to investigating the ties a colony of exiles, both of Milky Way and Andromeda species, have to... I forget. Either the Remnant vaults or the Kett, I guess. But also some potential sabotage of the Nexus' efforts? Tonight is tentatively Mass Effect night, so I should probably make sure I understand the mission before commencing with it.

In Zelda, and much more simply, I'm on my way from Kakariko village to Hateno village to learn a little more about my mission and Sheikah slate, finding towers and shrines along the way. This is a game that's much simpler to talk about. In fact, there's really little to say, other than that I really like it, so far. It's fun and interesting just in its world and mechanics. If anything, I feel like this game fits more in a series with the first two Zelda games than anything that came after.

Starting with A Link to the Past, and later with Ocarina of Time, there have been two paradigms for Zelda games, top-down and third-person, each cast in the mold of its first, some might say classic, example. Breath of the Wild certainly owes much to earlier games in the series, especially Ocarina (as do most games that use lock-on, or "Z-targeting"), but feels on the whole so far more evolved past it as to be itself a mold for future games. And I think it goes one better than either aLttP or OoT in creating something a little further afield of the original Legend of Zelda. Either of those can be seen as 'the original but look how we can do it now'. Breath of the Wild leaves behind so many conventions of the series that it seems to me one of only three mostly unique archetypes of the series: the original, the side-scroller, and the free-form adventure.

Since I only had one game on the Switch, and Shovel Knight was released on it, and I had been wanting to try that, I bought the collection, and began playing the core game. It's pretty cool, so far. I've been through 3-4 stages, having beat Black Knight, King Knight, and Spectre Knight, if I recall. It plays like a kind of amalgamation of NES side-scrolling action classics like Super Mario Bros. 3, Zelda II, Mega Man, and Castlevania. The art and music are vintage NES, as well, and very well done. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Switch and Zelda

The combination of immense hype, a separate enthusiasm on my own part, and a large tax return led me to pick up a Switch last week along with a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

The Switch is still hard to come by, just a month after launch, but I happened on a small stack of about 7 in my local Best Buy, and eventually temptation won out. As the console itself goes, its nifty. I like the pretty seamless transitioning between handheld and TV modes, and I like the system interface and styling. I am a little reserved about the build quality and robustness of the console, though. For now I have applied a screen protector to the system and am not letting my kids know about the system. This is still feasible while they go to bed earlier than I, and I can keep the system put up somewhere. They have found the dock and joy-con grip, but don't know what they are or what they are for. Yet.

As far as Zelda goes, I like it. It has really been quite some time since I was into a new Zelda. The last was Ocarina of Time, actually, of which my impression has suffered over the years just due to the unwarranted amount of ludicrous worship the game has had in the years since it came out. I have played, briefly, subsequent games in the series, but not much cared for them on the whole, to the point where I had basically dismissed the series as uninteresting. To this day I would say my favorite Zelda game is the original, followed maybe by The Adventure of Link just because it is such a different thing, and I could take or leave the balance of the series. That might sound harsh, but I honestly never see myself playing A Link to the Past or Ocarina or any of the others through again in my lifetime.

All that in mind, Breath of the Wild seems like a real departure for the series in how it dispenses with all of the hand-holding some of the other games have opened with, and gets right to the adventure. Not a lot is explained to Link until several hours in, when the player has had the chance to get out and get some experience and have some fun in the world, and is ready for some plot and guidance. This is the point I'm to now, having just left the Great Plateau with the semblance of a mission to carry me through the rest of the adventure.

This Zelda is also really interesting in that it is a very open game with a lot of systems that intersect freely and in interesting ways, a lot like a Stalker or Far Cry or any number of other more modern games, even things like FROM Software's Souls series or the wave of survival games on the PC that are so big these days. It's interesting because Nintendo seems to be taking the game in a new direction, perhaps due to there being a new generation of folks working on the game, with newer influences and goals.

I'm not very far in, really, and from what I've heard this is an absolutely huge game, so I'm sure my overall impression will evolve as I continue to play, but I feel like it's pretty promising.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Hello Galaxy

Mass Effect Andromeda is out now. I had been looking forward to it as a fresh start in a new galaxy with a new broad objective; 'establish a foothold' as opposed to 'prevent the eradication of intelligent life by an overzealous species of sentient machines that think they are gods'. So far, I think I have pretty much what I wanted.

I'm still in the early parts of the game, having established my character and his role as Pathfinder for the Andromeda Initiative. I've been with my crew down to the planet of Eos and successfully terraformed its atmosphere enough to establish a colony. Next will be to rendezvous back at the Nexus with the Director of the Initiative to plan my next move. It will likely be to the standout planet on the chart discovered in the Remnant vault on Eos. That one was different from the rest somehow.

One thing I appreciate about the game so far is just how little most people know about what is going on in Andromeda, and what they're doing there. Ryder and crew  pretty often are clearly spouting conjecture as to what things in the environments around them do or how they came to be where they are. This is the sort of exploratory, scientific approach you would hope people in this position would take. Probably the most interesting choice I have made in terms of roleplaying so far was to decide between founding a military or science-focused outpost to begin with. The game pretty clearly indicates this first founding is a landmark and the decision you make here will set a tone for the rest of the game.

In terms of playability, and with respect to the game's nature as a third-person cover-based shooter with super powers, this is probably the best Mass Effect to date. Ryder is much more mobile than Shepard ever was, and much more flexible in terms of skill paths and variable loadouts, as well as available equipment choices. This makes for more possibilities on the battlefield, as well. Ryder's enhanced mobility extends to the non-combat exploration of the worlds presented here, as well. I love the jump pack and dash/dodge abilities. These allow for enhanced verticality of terrain in the game, too, which is important in large, open environs like the game is serving up to this point. It feels good to play, for the most part.

I can't really judge the writing, plotting, or character development authoritatively yet, since I am still so early in, but it's been fine thus far; if not stellar, also mostly not terrible. There is one really poorly done character (Addison), but she stands out for it, making me wonder if somehow it wasn't a conscious move somehow to make her like that. Many characters have odd-looking facial features or animations, Ryder included, but I don't find it too distracting--yet. There was one obviously erratic instance of blocking in a cutscene that took me out of the moment, and there are some issues with audio samples overlapping each other or being cut off unexpectedly, but again I'm not too bothered by them.

All in all, I think the game is off to a fine start. My taste in Sci-Fi is probably a little more forgiving or allowing for the slow burn than some, of course. I am definitely looking forward to playing a lot more of Andromeda, though.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Twirl, Then Pivot

I've kind of been casting about lately in a holding pattern waiting to maybe or maybe not get Mass Effect Andromeda. I'm going to move on to either that or something else tonight, though.

I played some GRID, a G game to remove from my backlog. It seems pretty good, like Codemasters' racing games often are. This is an older one, from 2007, focused on city street track racing. You begin as a nobody, racing for various teams in order to earn cash to progress your career. It was fairly difficult when I started, I think owing to its more realistic handling model. One real problem here--GRID 2 is out, and in my library. It has apparently been obsoleted, as games so often are.

I played some Zelda: A Link Between Worlds last night, finding my way to the mountain palace "dungeon" and completing it. It was fun enough in the moment, but left me feeling kind of empty afterward. A curious feeling.

The other day was the 20th anniversary of the release of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and as one must do, I paid tribute (!?) by accessing one of my numerous copies of the game, and playing it for a while, appreciating the crisp movement, and clear tones of the soundtrack, and awful recorded dialog. It is, as ever, a masterpiece.

I have continued to play Shadow of Mordor, as well, determining that my character needs more experience for skills and abilities to be able to hold his own against the worst of Sauron's monsters. I'm told I need to stick with the game at least long enough to make it to the second large region. It's pretty fun, so I'll keep it around for now.

I also replayed the first 30 minutes perhaps of Resident Evil 4 today, years after having played that game back on the PS2. It's still pretty cool, though it's really aged.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Suspended in Limbo

I was looking for something to while away the time with before Mass Effect Andromeda arrives, and so I bounced between a return to Shadow of Mordor, Final Fantasy IV, and Skyrim this weekend.

It hit me as I was playing Skyrim that I didn't care all that much about the plot or even exploring the world, which I have already seem much of now. I could deal with those, but the real problem is how combat system is lacking. Combat in Oblivion and Skyrim has always felt like flailing wildly about with pool noodles, and it really detracts from the experience. I thought I should probably just not play the game any longer and move on. One thing I do appreciate about Skyrim, though, is the way your character gets better at doing things with experience. Use a two-handed weapon long enough, and you will be noticeably more proficient with that type. Same with magic skills, lockpicking, persuasion, et cetera.  This is a logical and believable way to evolve your character and account for the spin your own play style puts on the game.

FFIV continues to be FFIV. I only played maybe 20 minutes of it this weekend, but I'm now about to take Cecil up the mountain with Palom and Porom to realize his conversion from Dark Knight to Paladin.

Shadow of Mordor is just a very solid and enjoyable open world action game. I like that it's more centered around its play mechanic (combat) with its rewards for doing things in the world as compared to recent Assassin's Creed games, which are more about exploring and enjoying the world and the sights there. I'm not too interested in Mordor or the Lord of the Rings world, but it works as a good backdrop for the play featured here. It's nice that the effort that goes into working with and mastering the core of the game is rewarded in that same area. I may go forward more with Mordor instead of Skyrim for now.

Friday, March 17, 2017

MH 4 U

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. MH4U. 4 U. Not for me, as it turns out.

I've enjoyed Monster Hunter in the past, to a limited extent, and this latest one I've tried (not by any stretch the latest released) is more of the same. I have less time and patience than ever for the type of rigmarole this game foists upon its players, though.

One 'gather some eggs' mission, and I'm done. I wasn't going to stick with it long anyway, but ugh. This game needs to evolve, dearly.

There's a PC clone coming out called Dauntless that will probably mix up some of the elements, and could turn out to be really good. I heard some ex-Riot developers are working on it.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Pargon of Samurai Excellence

I collected the full set of Samurai Artifact armor in FFXI! It took some doing. I had to hunt for coffer keys and then the coffers themselves in three locations, as well as undertake quests to hop around the world fighting notorious monsters in order to earn the full set of Myochin gear.

Artifact gear has always been a mixed bag in terms of effectiveness. For Samurai, I'll probably only really use the legs full-time, and those only until I can wear something better, like the Shura Haidate or Barabarosa's Zerehs I have from my time playing Monk and Ninja. A lot of the Samurai gear overlaps with that of those other classes I had previously played, so that instead of the hands I'm using Ochiudo's Kote, and instead of the chest I'm wearing a Haubergeon. Instead of the AF feet, I have a race-specific pair of boots that is great for melee damage dealing. The head piece I'll use in a macro gear swap because it makes Meditate better, granting more TP per use. Still, you can't beat the armor's design for that iconic class style.

AF gear is also a character development milestone in that it indicates you've hit level 60 to be able to wear the full set. I'm at 63 on Samurai, currently. With AF done, I need to find some other guiding star, going forward. Other than wanting to hit 75 and roam Sky and Sea, I'm not sure what that should be. Most of the things I want to do are better at 75 (or above, now). I may take this opportunity, that of needing a ton of XP, to explore some of the expansion content from Aht Urghan and after.

Another thing that needs some thought is the end of my month coming up. I'm not sure exactly when that is, but I may need to cancel. I'm not sure I want to be paying while Mass Effect Andromeda is out and incomplete. Hmm...

I should very quickly mention that I knocked Full Mojo Rampage off my backlog last week. It's a voodoo-themed twin-stick shooter roguelike that was surprisingly cool. I was ready to dismiss it out of hand, but it probably warrants some real playtime. From someone, sometime. Probably not me, sadly. I have way too many other things to play.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Booklog Update

A couple of months into 2017, I've been reading a decent amount so far. I've finished a couple of Horus Heresy books, am working on a third, and also finally polished off a non-fiction work I'd been reading.

The Ninja was a historical look at these famous, secretive warriors of Japan. It wasn't quite what I was hoping for, though. It was more about the philosophy and martial arts aspects of Ninja than the straight historical dope. Maybe it was unfair to expect that, though, given the subject matter. Hearsay and tall tales and unverifiable accounts are more to be expected. There was some interesting information here, to be sure, but it was also written in such a way as to be less accessible. I think I'll have to look elsewhere for the history I want.

War Without End was a collection of short stories and novellas set in the Horus Heresy, and might broadly be considered to be loyalist legion focused, whereas Legacies of Betrayal was mostly about the traitor legions.

Pharos was a novel in the Heresy, telling of a Night Lords attack on the world of Sotha, where Mount Pharos and Imperium Secundus' stand-in for the Astronomican was. In the end, after a gigantic pulse of energy (which caught the attention of the Tyranids out in intergalactic space--oops), I'm not clear on whether the beacon is still operational, and whether the Ruinstorm is more navigable now or not, since Lorgar and Angron's Shadow Crusade appears to be waning or through.

Eye of Terra is another short story and novella collection of Horus Heresy writings. The Wolf of Ash and Fire and Aurelian are standout tales so far. Generally, though, the "present" of the Heresy seems to be moving more forward now, with most of these stories catching us up with various happenings of legions we have seen (or not) recently, in preparation for what is to come next in their stories.

Weeks in Vana'Diel

I haven't played anything but FFXI since my last post about returning to it. I've been having a lot of fun times revisiting the world and seeing what's new. I have yet to revisit all of the zones I remember, or any of the newer ones, or try much in the way of newer content, the exceptions being Records of Eminence (achievements that award items and experience points), Trust magic (AI party members), and Fields of Valor (experience training regimens with point reward bonuses).

I have, though, managed to level Samurai up to 50, along with bringing Warrior and Dragoon to 50 as well, from 43 and 47, respectively. These I did because they were near enough anyway, and to serve as support jobs for a theoretical level 99 Samurai. I'm not sure I'll level that far, but this is how the game is played. I have noticed a lot of top-level Samurai using Dancer as their support job, but the brief bits I've read about that choice make it seem more like a consideration for soloing. Warrior seems to be the best for damage dealing through conventional means, and Dragoon for enhanced TP gain. Both seem to have their pluses. I'll stick with Warrior, probably.

I'm currently leveling on demons in Xarcabard, taking advantage of the Samurai's innate Demon Killer and Warding Circle abilities, which together confer a decent edge over this particular class of enemy. Next on the agenda, up through level 60, will be the Samurai artifact armor quests for the Myochin set of job-themed gear. Getting artifact armor is always a major milestone in leveling a job in this game. Even though Samurai is my sixth job to 50, it'll only be my fourth with artifact armor, and should I progress that far, my first past 75, since that was the level cap back when I used to play.

A lot has changed, since then, though. I've had almost zero contact with other players since coming back to the game. I wonder if that's a sign of the game being near death, or just to be expected, since I'm playing through low-level content at the moment. If I'm going to be playing a decent amount, as I have been lately, it would be nice to have a chat channel and group of people to do events with. I don't know that I will, but still.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Return

I have very little progress to report on Yakuza 3 or XCOM: Enemy Unknown, but both have gotten attention over the last week. XCOM much more, but with very little to show for it. The alien base invasion mission continues to frustrate me. I think I have had 5-6 complete squad wipes there, now, two due to mind-control by the psionic Sectoid commander there.

A feeling some who don't know me might mistake for nostalgia has mounted recently, possibly in part due to my choice of musical accompaniment at work. I have become acutely wistful about my time previously spent playing Final Fantasy XI, which I ceased playing just about a decade ago, after devoting a heavy portion of the 3 years prior to. It also happens to be the game's 15th anniversary, and so I decided, after having gone through the PS2 to PC account migration procedures when the former version of the game was finally taken offline last year, that I would re-subscribe for a time, to the game which I may have to finally admit to myself is my favorite video game.

My longtime exclusive main character Nascia, formerly level capped (at 75) Black Mage, Monk, and Ninja, is now being trained as a Samurai in the wilds of Sarutabaruta. I have been away from the game for so long, and so much has changed, that I thought it made the most sense to effectively begin again, retaining of course, everything I had earned previously, as you can do with the character development system in FFXI. I could conceivably level up to 99 as SAM now, though at some point I would need to either level my Warrior (WAR) support job up to 49 from the 43 I believe it is at now.

Living alone in Japan with a less demanding job and mania for this game have in the past conspired to cause me to go too hard on it, so if I'm going to be playing it again, I think one defense I need to maintain a reasonable amount of playtime with it, is to clearly define a goal each time I sit down to play it, and to try not to deviate too much from that, and to try to end the session reasonably soon after attaining it, if possible. Otherwise, to find a sensible stopping point when it becomes clear the originally intended goal will not be achieved that session.

Last night, for instance, I sat down intending to explore the zones Sarutabaruta and Giddeus, and to level up from 5 to 10, approximately. That was exactly what I did, though in the end I still ended up playing a little too long. Thinking, planning, like this for game sessions requires a long-term vision for what I want to do in the game.

I don't know that I'll make it to the endgame, or even care all that much about progressing into the post-75 world. All of my love for this game is confined to the base game, and Zilart and Promathia expansions. I played during the Aht Urghan era, but that content didn't stick with me in the way the other did. Right now, I only know for sure I want to keep leveling up and revisiting old haunts. I was really struck by how enormous the zones were, upon revisiting. I thought perhaps they had inflated in my mind, but no, they are actually pretty huge.

I think my next foray in will be to the Auction House and weapon shops in Windurst to outfit myself with a coherent set of armor. I should probably also investigate Trusts to gather an adventuring group before setting out for much more serious leveling. I have no idea what getting those involves. I'd rather not have to go and do anything on my higher level jobs, but I will if I must.

Playing again after so long and on an unfamiliar version of the game (PC now, was PS2 previously), has me wondering how to recreate the routines and macros I used to rely so heavily on. This is one major reason I hesitate to jump back onto my higher level jobs--I'm not certain I remember exactly how to play them effectively. Beginning as a low-level, I am able to easy myself back into the swing of things, while enjoying the natural progression through the levels and geographic areas of the world of Vana'Diel  I love so much, even to this day.