Fallout 76 B.E.T.A.

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Last night was the opening of the Fallout 76 PC Beta and by Beta I mean…  last minute stress test?  I mean there are a bunch of periods between the letters of B.E.T.A. but it might as well have been “Beta”…  but my frustrations over people misusing these terms can be a post for another day.  The primary reason why I can tell these are Stress Tests and not necessarily bug squashing beta tests is the fact that all of the players have been funneled into a tight play window.  So last night for example the test ran from 7 pm EDT to 11 pm EDT…  and technically I managed to fire up the game a little bit before that because it seems like they went live a wee bit early.  Thursday they are extending the window a bit given the issues that folks ran into last night allowing play from 2 pm EDT to 11 pm EDT…  which honestly isn’t super useful to me given that is 1 pm my time and I will be very much at work.  However I appreciate the effort and that seems like completely reasonable times for the EU players.

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I am not really sure what all I can actually say about this game that hasn’t already been revealed.  You need to set your expectations at “this is a Fallout 4 multiplayer mod without NPCs” and if you can sufficiently do that you will probably not be disappointed.  The character creator is effectively the same one we are used to with Fallout 4 and I managed to cobble together a reasonable facsimile of Belghast fairly quickly before venturing forth into the world.  There is a lot of weirdness going on with the game because at times… it feels like a much higher fidelity version of the Fallout 4 engine, then at other times the world feels like a nonsensical blurry mess even on “ultra” preset.  I have a feeling there is some sort of a dynamic scaling functionality going on that I am hoping is something we can eventually disable completely.  I would honestly rather have my frame rates dip below 60 occasionally than have the world freak out every so often.

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The biggest thing to keep in mind is you are playing with a lot of other players… and this can be a bit of a rude awakening given some design choices they made.  Namely when you first log into the game your microphone is completely open by default…  and so is literally everyone else’s.  At first I thought maybe I accidentally had a window open playing a video or something…  because upon arriving at the character creator I had some dude keep saying “PRESS X FOR SEX!” and I could not figure out if this was some sort of edgy tutorial or what.  Moments later I had a streamer ask the server to please not say anything racist because she was about to go live.  It was around this time that I went to the menus and figured out how to turn off voice chat completely.  Additionally I turned on the radio station…  both of which are things that greatly improve your experience.

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One of the things you have to realize about me and Fallout is just how much time I spent being a murder hobo roaming the countryside.  So in truth the lack of NPCs really wasn’t that big of a thing for me personally…  the game provides tons of feedback about what events happened before in an area in the form of found notes, journals, holo tapes that thankfully occasionally just start playing on their own without having to fiddle with the interface…  and in the scattered computer terminals.  Basically Fallout 76 is a game that wants you to read the story, and by doing so…  gives us lore hounds something to chew on without getting in the way of the folks who just want to run amok in large packs.  Occasionally you will encounter a robot that offers quests, but they largely serve as the only thing that would equate to the traditional fallout  dialog options.

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The game will put you through a sequence of tutorial steps that are designed to introduce you to how Fallout 4 worked…  but if you are like me you will have probably already done those things the moment you find your first crafting machine.  Sadly the game does not give you credit for already doing these things.  So for example the Second Helpings quest…  shows to Cook a Ribeye Steak and to optionally get a piece of Brahmin Meat.  At this point I had killed a half dozen Brahmin and had at least ten cooked steaks sitting in my inventory.  This is made more awkward in part because various folks will be doing various stages of the quest at the same time… and while it does not appear that you are actually competing with them for any resources…  Bethesda made the poor choice to make it so that if another player is using a machine that they lock you out of also using that machine.

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The long and short is… it was a fun game and I didn’t really have much in the way of actual interaction with other players.  There were to the best of my knowledge no gankers roaming around, in part because the deck is stacked heavily against them in the game.  That said I still probably will not get super serious about Fallout 76 until the custom server options are available and I can rent one for my friends to play on.  If I had the option to play this single player… I probably would… which I realize completely defeats the point of the game.  That said I do think it would be fun to run around with a group of friends and share resources in an environment where you can do things like dump stuff into a crate and not expect someone to come along behind you and take it all.

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Death seems to largely be meaningless apart from the fact that you drop some crafting resources when you die.  At first I thought you could simply go back to the place of your death and pick these up without issue…  however it seems like ANY player can pick up your sack of loot because I got a note saying someone looted mine while I was running back to the corpse.  It wasn’t a big deal because I didn’t really have any rare resources like circuit boards, but if I did… that would have been maddening.  I’ve not really tried the crafting system out in part because I didn’t want to try building anything in a region where so many random players were roaming around.  The positive is basically any town serves as a warp point, and all of them so far have had most of the crafting machines needed, so I didn’t necessarily find the need to build a base as of yet.  I enjoyed myself and look forward to playing it legitimately, but like I said… probably won’t play super heavily until I can get my own server or join the server of someone else that I trust.

Five Sixty

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I had a really great night, largely because over the last few days I have allowed myself to break free of the turtle a bit and communicate with other people.  Sunday this was me hanging out with Warenwolf doing some stuff in the Dreaming City.  During the first part of last night it was me hanging out on Discord with my good friend Grace while we were doing completely different things.  I am not exactly sure what she was up to but I spent my time running strikes and heroic story missions in Destiny 2 to knock out two more powerful engrams for the week.  I’ve talked briefly about this but it really is so much easier to get geared now than it was before.  There seem to be an endless supply of opportunities for Powerful/Prime engrams to drop.  I am not sure what the mechanics are behind it, but I have a buff that says it allows for the dropping of Prime Engrams, and to the best of my knowledge in spite of getting several of them…  I have never seen it disappear.  Apparently there was something I did called “Prime Attunement” that gave me the buff but for me… it largely just showed up without me realizing it.

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Later in the evening I got together with SquirrelPope who assisted with one of the quests that I had outstanding and taught me the ropes of the Ascendant Challenge much like Waren had with the Blind Well the night before.  Apparently the game took my desire to get a Tigerspite to heart because I now have three of them…  none of them sadly with the god roll.  I’ve managed to get my light level up to 560 which is still a good ways off from the cap of 600…  but nonetheless a lot of progress.  I am still very much in the phase of using whatever gear happens to be the highest light level, and that is probably going to be the case for awhile since I figure the grind will slow down significantly at this point.  I am not exactly sure when Prime and Powerful engrams stop giving the huge boost that they do now.  I will admit a lot of my slingshotting level was was the fact that I picked up Horror Story at 600 light.  At some point I will probably start working on my other classes and that slingshot will be similarly handy for them as well.

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One of the things that I have to talk about briefly is how great the collections tab is.  As you run through the world and get items to drop they flag as being collected.  If said item is a static roll, aka a pre-forsaken item you can always reacquire it from the collections tab at a reasonable light level.  Right now I am 560 light and everything in the collections tab is showing as 540 light for reference.  There are tabs like this for armor, exotics, ghost shells, sparrows, ships…  basically anything that takes up vault space that you may or may not need to keep forever.  At some point I need to have a great cleaning of the vault as I shard tons of items that I can get back from the collections tab.  Similarly I need to start trying to finish the sets, seeing as you can still get most of it from planetary vendors.  There are a few items that I got on the console that I never managed to get on PC, that I would really like to add to my collection.

The Blind Well

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desktop-screenshot-2018-10-28-14-13-26-45This weekend was largely about catching up on the Destiny 2 storyline and progressing to the official end game stuff…  even though I had been at the level cap and slowly gaining gear for a bit.  As I mentioned before, I somehow completely lost the main story quest thread, and did not realize that the quests themselves were being presented as adventures in the Forsaken Shore area.  I have to confess that I largely ignore adventures…  which is a thing I am ultimately going to have to stop doing given that they seem to be a way of unlocking upgrades for the new sub classes.  So if I want to be the superest hammer bro with the superest hammer…  I need to start doing them more often.  Once I got the hang of it I enjoyed the whole choose your own adventure aspect of hunting down the six barons that are in no particular order.  Each of the fights was fun, and a lot of them I failed miserably the first time…  that is until I managed to catch on to whatever the gimmick of the fight happened to be.

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Upon defeating the final boss of the expansion, you are sent on a sequence of events that ultimately reward you in unlocking a brand new patrol zone called the Dreaming City.  The first two screenshots are from areas within this zone and while it is gorgeous…  functionally it reminds me a lot more of the dreadnaught since there a bunch of little activities interwoven within the zones.  I started working on bounties for Petra Venj which lead me to encounter an event called the Blind Well…  which is finally that Court of Oryx/Archon’s Forge style event that I had been asking for.  It however feels a lot more like the opening event of the Leviathan raid than either of those.  It does however seemingly has the chance of dropping Last Wish raid weapons, because on one of the times through it I managed to get one to drop that I will talk about in a bit.  Huge thanks to my friend Waren for helping me get through this, but it also seems like the sort of thing like Court of Oryx that once you coax people into summoning that you end up doing a bunch in a row.  We did several Rank 2 and a couple of Rank 3 Wells before I needed to wander off and do other things.

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Now I had heard a ton about the Tigerspite, and it was on the short list of weapons I wanted to get for certain.  The highlight of the evening however was getting one to drop at 555 from Blind Well.  Unfortunately this is way lower light than my Horror Story but I already love this weapon…  so it is probably going to see a lot of play.  I wish I had enough time to grind out another 600 Horror Story so I could use it as infusion fuel on this thing.  Granted it is far from the best set of stat perks as mine rolled with Dynamic Sway Reduction and Under Pressure which takes an already accurate weapon and makes it feel like a laser beam.  The “God Roll” seems to be Kill Clip and Outlaw, but the thing I have noticed in Year 2 Destiny 2 is that these randomized rolls…  still feel good when you don’t get an ideal combination.  I’ve encountered very few that were just complete garbage…  and honestly its more than specific perks are just not that good…  like Field Prep on anything but a sniper rifle or maybe a scout for example.  While not necessarily hive themed… this design reminds me a bit of touch of malice.

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Currently the highest I can manage to hit light level is 549.3 according to DIM.  As it stands I think I have two more activities that reward powerful engrams…  doing 2 more strikes and doing the Ascendant Challenge in the Dreaming City.  I read up on that last night, but given it was Walking Dead night I didn’t make any attempts.  Supposedly it is soloable…  but I might try and coax someone into helping me through it this week.  The strikes however should be easy enough to grind out whenever I get home tonight.  Pending I get lucky, my hope is it pushes me to a solid 550 which is not bad for my first real week of paying attention to Forsaken content.  I have no clue what level I need to be viable to raid based shenannigans and such.  The Rank 3 Blind Well was a little on the tough side for example, but I sorta equated it to a Rank 3 Court of Oryx…  which if you are not geared enough is doable but not easy either.  I’ve been focusing heavily on getting acclimatized to Dreaming City, but I also feel like this is a bunch of stuff in Forsaken Shore that I have not seen either.

Horror Story

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Last night I finished up the fragmented souls grind and picked up Horror Story, which is in fact as Squirrelpope suggested just a rebranding of The Origin Story.  However that is perfectly fine with me considering that I really loved that weapon in Year 1.  The biggest benefit of this weapon however is that it comes with baked in 600 light level…  which had a significant boost in my gearing process.  That is something I want to talk about briefly…  gearing feels much better.  Sure blues and purples by default drop at relatively low light levels like they did before.  However there are so many more opportunities to get poweful engrams, in fact it seems like there is the daily ability to get something called a prime engram to drop out in the world while doing other activities or in the crucible.  This also drops at a decent boost to your light levels allowing you to slowly ratchet that up in so many more ways than you were able to before.

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In my travels last night I also managed to pick up a new copy of Go Figure, this time with Outlaw in stead of Zen Moment…  which for a Pulse Rifle immediately makes it much better given that Zen Moment really doesn’t work that well for burst fired weapons.  It still has High Caliber rounds and High Impact reserves so for all intents and purposes it is the same weapon with a single perk line swapped out.  Unfortunately this dropped from a regular legendary engram and not one of the powerful/prime versions so it dropped at my then adjusted light level of 506.

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The best light level that I can currently high is 527 since I am literally just getting started on the Forsaken grind.  I’ve technically not even finished the storyline, largely because I am not entirely certain where I need to go with that.  This is one of the problems with Forsaken is that you don’t have quite the clear story path as you did with previous content.  Right now I have a milestone that says “hunt barons” but nothing really outlined on how I should go about doing that.  This probably makes the content feel more organic for your average player, but for me… I tend to avoid doing quests like the plague so when I finally buckle down and start doing them… I want a big freaking blinking arrow pointing me in the right direction so I can get them over with and go back to nonsense free play.

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Another thing that I messed around with was Dragon Quest XI last night, and I have a lot of issues with this game on the PC.  The control scheme is not great…  and what I mean by that is that while sure you can navigate mostly with WASD and Left Mouse click to attack…  there are a bunch of other menus that drive on some other combination of keypresses.  The problem with that is that the game has baked in reminders to tell you to press an Xbox controller button to do this or that, but it doesn’t actually update to tell you the equivalent keyboard command.  Basically it is a poor console port, that while functionally struggles at actually doing things in a manner that PC gamers are used to.

Basically I have two options…  grab a controller which isn’t super interesting to me…  or spend a bunch of time remapping buttons.  The other big issue that I have with the game is that it has a god awfully long intro sequence that is unskippable… and the first two times I attempted to get through it something happened which caused the game to crash out meaning that I had to set through the whole mess each time I tried to get into the game proper.  The other big problem is that saving the game is super obtuse and apart from auto saves… requires you to pray at shrines to manually save.  PC players traditionally expect that you can hit Esc to bring up some sort of a menu system… however in this game it brings up a prompt telling you that you are about to exit the game and lose all of your progress.

Ultimately… my suggestion if you are interested at all in Dragon Quest XI is just to get a console version.  This is available on pretty much all of the consoles at this point, so save yourself the frustration of dealing with the poorly thought out PC port and play it on a platform it was actually intended for.

Chicken Friend

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This is going to be one of those morning posts where I largely talk about a bunch of screenshots.  Last night I managed to max out my Colonel Sander’s Mask, which is of course the best of the Festival of the Lost masks you can get quite frankly.  Who doesn’t want to be Cayde-6’s faithful chicken companion… especially in the light of recent events.  I love the way that they added a perk system that levels up on these masks, because the buffs that they give you… largely make up for having no light level associated with them.  Now it gives me extra defense while in air, which is especially handy when you have the grounded debuff, and it also buffs damage dealt towards all mobs as well as increasing the drop rate of heavy ammo.  So far the furthest I have made it into the Haunted Forest is successfully clearing 8 rounds, which to be honest unless I was in with a stacked group of friends I am not sure if I am going to do better.

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As far as Fragmented Souls… I am up to 86 out of the 120 needed for the Auto Rifle.  I can only seem to manage running a couple in a row before I need to go off and do something else for a bit.  I do however have a multi-part bounty that I should be finishing tonight that will reward me 40 at once, pushing me over the number needed.  As far as Auto Rifles go however… I am in love with The Misfit.  Normally I don’t really go for the low impact/high rate of fire auto rifles, but this one is awesome.  It had reasonable stability as far as that style of weapon goes and because of my roll rather fast reload speed.  It is far from a great roll however, because it has the perk that causes the weapon to reload on critical damage…  which sure is cool but would be so much better if it had pretty much anything else on it.  I think I would ultimately want one with Zen Moment which increases stability as you deal damage… and Rampage that gives you a stacking damage buff each time you take out a target…  since this thing melts minion type mobs.

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Another weapon that I am using that I love…  but is less than optimal other than the Haunted Forest is Go Figure, that rolled with insane amounts of range on it.  This means I can sit back and psuedo snipe things with a pulse rifle.  This is actually decent in the crucible since it has High Caliber Rounds and High Impact reserves and a silly amount of range.  For everything else however I tend to go with Ricochet Rounds for more range and stability.  I think more than anything the weapon just looks badass, and you have to admit it to yourself… that occasionally you use a weapon just because it looks cool.

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As far as heavy weapons go, I have been playing with the Exotic Sword that I got to drop a few nights ago.  This isn’t necessarily optimal, but for the case of grinding Haunted Forest it melts a good deal of the nightmares…  other than the Hydra one which is just a pain in the ass to deal with regardless of how you are fighting it.  I am not exactly a fan of the look of this weapon, because it feels more like a dagger than a sword…  but the whole combo that allows you to hurl the blade towards an enemy is kinda cool.  It has relatively low ammo which is its weakness because it expects you to be using the perk that gives back ammo to the weapon when you perform a kill.  At some point I will stop using it when I find another shiny bauble, but for now it works well enough.

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In the honorable mention category… I really love bows… and while I am not the biggest fan of the look of this bow it is extremely nice.  This one in particular has Explosive Head which cause the arrow to explode shortly after hitting a target, and Rampage which I talked about earlier.  The combination… is that you can just snipe a large amount of targets in a very short period of time especially in a PVE setting.  The Explosive Heads are great for taking out large groups of mobs like Dregs when clustered tight together, and Rampage lets you stack up the buff a bit to take out yellow bars.  This is situational for me… but I like using bows a lot when dealing with story content because it allows me to take down a bunch of the targets before they get close enough to notice me.

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Lastly…  all the wearing of the Colonel Sanders mask…  made me nostalgic so I had to go visit the best Cryptarch…  Tyra Karn at the Farm.  I really wish that she had moved with us to the Tower, because I really do prefer using her…  but it seems like an awful lot of effort to go to the farm just to decrypt the few engrams we get that need decrypting.  Had they mirrored everything at the Farm that they have at the Tower I would end up opting to use the Farm 100% of the time…  but alas the vendors I need are at the Tower.

Trion Concerns

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A few days ago it was announced that Trion was acquired by Gamigo, a company that I knew very little about in truth because it catered to an end of the MMO market that I don’t spend much time in.  As a result there were massive layoffs at Trion Worlds.  I am not exactly sure what the starting number was but it is reported that they are down to a shell of 25 people.  Essentially with one action all of the people that I knew that worked for Trion… no longer do…  with the exception of one that I am not entirely certain about the fate of.  I have a feeling that the 25 remaining will only be there during the transition period.  At least with SOE being purchased by Daybreak, it felt that the name changed but the company as a whole was going to continue trying to do the same thing.  This however feels like a completely different beast.

If you follow the course that Gamigo has taken it sort of fits the pattern of a company trying to gobble up intellectual property.  Here is a little timeline that I was able to cobble together rapidly this morning.

  • February 2013 – Acquires Outspark the publishers of Fiesta Online.
  • September 2014 – Acquires Intenium – which is labelled as “a publisher and distributor of casual games designed for females” whatever the hell that means.
  • May 2016 – Acquires Aeria Games – a bunch of Korean localized MMOs – the only one of which I have played is Echo of Soul.
  • July 2016 – Acquires Highdigit – which appears to be a SaaS CRM sort of platform that targets marketing and sale of games.
  • August 2016 – Acquires HoneyTracks – which appears to be a game focused Analytics company.
  • March 2017 – Acquires MMO Games – which you will know for MMOGames.com a site that I wrote for briefly a few years back, and largely dissolved my relationship with because while the other writers were awesome… the company behind it always felt a little sleazy.
  • July 2017 – Acquires Mediakraft Networks – which proclaims to be an “Online Television Network”.  It sorta looks like a German language BuzzFeed?
  • October 2018 – Acquires Trion Worlds – which of course is the reason why we are here reading this post in the first place.

So there is a pattern here…  grab IP content, grab distribution and analytics, and then grab media networks to advertise your products.  It makes sense but it also doesn’t exactly make me have warm fuzzies about the way this is being set up.  The ultimate question is going to be how they manage Trion games like Rift going forward.  Do they crank the loot box and gacha dial up to 11, or do they leave things largely running as is?  I said above that the only Gamigo game that I had played was Echo of Soul…  which I got access to while I was still at MMOGames.com.  This was technically before the site was acquired but regardless… it now feels a little odd.  I was going to write a review of the game, but quite frankly I had nothing positive to say about it.  It felt like a cheaply made generic MMO that didn’t have open world areas… but instead these Guild Wars 1 style on rails “corridors” that you traversed between regions.

I didn’t end up writing the review because I knew it would never see print.  There had been another game that I felt was extremely cheaply made, and wrote what I felt was a fair assessment of its positives and negatives.  I focused on the few things that I did enjoy about it, but the final product wound up being about 50% positives, 50% negatives.  The article never saw the light of day however because the company behind the game was a big advertiser, and as a result wanted positive press to push their product.  I felt like anything I would write about Echo of Soul would be a similar experience so I politely declined the article and moved on with my life.  While I legitimately stopped writing for the site because of personal reasons… it was events like this…  that made me feel not exactly comfortable having my name associated with it.  I’ve been torn for years about this reaction because I had a lot of really good friends who relied and still do technically rely on a paycheck from the site.

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Basically I am at this point where I have deep concerns about the fate of the Trion Worlds games, because I am not entirely certain that Gamigo cares about these games or their communities.  I legitimately think this is a grab for more potential revenue streams, just like they made grabs to cover the marketing, distribution, analytics and advertising.  Gamigo seems to have assembled this machine for pushing MMO games hard to grind out whatever profits that they can get from them.  On the Wiki there is a list of fifteen games that they have discontinued, this doesn’t include the five that were announced but never made it to production, or the three that they lost the licensing rights for.  None of this really makes me feel like my stable of characters in Rift… or the time that I put into Trion or ArcheAge are really going to be safe.

I don’t want to be all doom and gloom… but ultimately I have some deep concerns about this move.  The problem is…  MMORPGs are fighting over what seems to be a static pool of players.  We are likely going to see more of this in the future rather than less of it, as the properties that have been struggling for awhile find a new home in a potentially less than reputable environment.  Ultimately…  play and support the games you love because there is the real possibility that at some point they simply won’t be there…  or else may be so changed that they are barely recognizable from their former selves.

 

Nightmare Matrix

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Last night I dove head first into the Haunted Forest activity associated with the Festival of the Lost event.  There is absolutely no hyperbole intended… but this might literally be the best content they have created for Destiny 2.  The only unfortunate part is that it is associated with a limited time event, and it isn’t available for that much longer.  When they first talked about the Infinite Forest I pictured this mode where you go through a random series of changing and shifting segments until you face a boss at the end… that then gives you a chance at loot.  Basically I pictured it working a lot like the Court of Oryx or Archon’s Forge events in Destiny 1… and then was completely disappointed when it released and was ultimately nothing like that.  What we got felt super repetitive and didn’t have any real hook to make you want to keep roaming around in there.

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The Haunted Forest is 100% recycled content, but re-purposed in such a way as we are descending into the nightmare visions created by the Vex that we saw bits and pieces of during Curse of Osiris.  Firstly instead of a washed out digital landscape, we have dark and brooding levels with very sparse lighting allowing for monsters to seemingly jump out from the Darkness.  Additionally there is effectively the stand in for Silent Hill’s Pyramid Head in the form of a giant Hive Knight that is indestructible and chases after places hitting you with a giant axe and doing nonsense amounts of damage.  Each time you dip into the Haunted Forest you are trying to kill a certain percentage of the projections of the various enemy factions within Destiny 2.  When your bar hits 100% you get transported to fight a Nightmare, or a version of one of the Ultra boss monsters that exist in other areas of the game.  Upon defeating the monster a timer starts that gives you a certain amount of time before the Haunted Forest collapses upon itself, and effectively you are trying to see how many times you can get to the Nightmare boss and defeat them before you run out of time.

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There is a reward chest at the end after defeating your final Nightmare that rewards a currency specific to the Festival of the Lost called Fragmented Souls.  These are then used to purchase the paper masks and if you can manage to save up 120 of them… a item level 600 Auto Rifle called the Horror Story.  It is the last item that I am grinding for.  In previous iterations of Festival of the Lost the masks were purely cosmetic, but this time around they have a purpose and can be leveled up through doing content.  So while they add no item level, they do have a bunch of perks that tweak your gameplay in the Haunted Forest.  For example I went with Vampiric Touch that increases damage to challenging enemies and triggers Health Regen on precision kills.  There were three other options and each one was effected by a different type of kill, and I’ve managed to get a single upgrade so far that increases the drop of Heavy ammo, which speeds up the killing of Nightmares.

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It also seems like you have the chance of getting Legendary drops from the various mobs inside of the matrix.  Can we talk about how much better it feels to have engrams decrypt immediately showing you if you got something useful in the process?  I managed to pick up Go Figure a really bad ass Pulse Rifle, and mine rolled with range boost which makes it silly to effectively snipe things with pulse shots from across the map.  It also has High Caliber rounds and High Impact Reserves making it stagger like crazy.  I am super in love with this weapon so far and I thought it looked coolest in the white and black color scheme that I ended up choosing.  So far… I am greatly enjoying my time back in Destiny 2, because things feel “better” in ways that I am not exactly sure how to quantify.  Time will tell if I feel the same once this event is over, but for the moment…  I am grinding Fragmented Souls for that Auto Rifle.

 

Fragmented Gameplay

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This was a busy weekend, largely because I spent most of it not in Oklahoma.  We opted to take a fall break trip down to Dallas, and in some ways it was a really awesome trip…  but in other ways it was not.  When we left town on Friday morning it was raining, and for the most part did not stop raining until some time over night.  This made for a very cold and wet trip, combined with lots of moments when it was raining so hard that I could barely see the road ahead of me.  This became more stressful when I was crammed between two lines of K-Rails and the two lanes of traffic felt super squeezed together.  We made it there safely, but the trip took way longer than it normally would have given the circumstances.  Under perfect conditions with zero stops, we can make it to Frisco where we were staying in the hotel in roughly 4 hours…  we were not under perfect conditions, and we stopped constantly to roam around.  Friday was largely spent meandering around hitting various places along the way.

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This made for a very compact Sunday, trying to get everything that we normally have to do on a Sunday done as well as anything triggered by being out of the house for two days.  This mean’t that most of my gameplay yesterday was in several fragmented chunks which largely involved running Headless Horseman in World of Warcraft on all of my tanks, and leveling in Destiny 2 as I had yet to hit the level cap nor really make much traction in the story.  I am a little weird when it comes to approaching Destiny content in that I prefer to level up independent of the story, and then grind through the story knowing that anything that happens to drop will potentially fuel my later item level grind.  I largely took this screenshot because occasionally I forget that I end up getting paired with local people through Bungie’s matching algorithm that factors connection quality above pretty much anything else.  Notice the player GerthBrooks…  which made me chuckle at first and then was a little disturbed by it.  For the uninitiated, Garth Brooks is also an Oklahoman and while his girls were in High School literally lived in the same town as I do.

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Another thing I found out this weekend is that Escalation Protocol is really damned good for leveling…  as there were groups I managed to get in the same instance with that were farming the level 7 boss.  This thing drops some shaders, but also a chest that requires some sort of key that I am going to have to figure out.  Upon some quick googling it seems like I simply didn’t do much content in Warmind, and as a result don’t have any keys to open these things with.  The truth is that I largely bounced hard after grinding up my second account worth of characters upon the PC release.  I managed to stick it through until the Curse of Osiris expansion, but the repetitive nature of that content left me annoyed.  I will admit however that so far Forsaken seems really cool, I picked up and did some more of the story last night.

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My highest priority however is to sort out how to do the Festival of the Lost content before it disappears.  I had enough of the cash shop second chance currency to pick up this sweet corrupted ship.  Past that I hear there is a better version of the infinite forest that I need to check out, that has a chance of dropping what appears to be a really sweet auto rifle.  I contemplated playing God of War, but with the fragmentation of my play time…  I focused on something that I could drop in and out of quickly rather than something that would require my full attention for long periods of time.  Depending on how tonight goes… will determine if I return to Destiny for Festival stuff, or play some Dad of War.  Regardless I managed to hit 50 the new level cap and am at 500ish light, so now to finish the story and get geared again.  The lack of weapon options are driving me insane right now… but it is forcing me to use combinations that I never would have before.  I’ve been getting a lot of play out of sidearms since they game keeps dropping them for me.

Boy…

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Last night I decided to test out the wireless ethernet thing a little further, this time focusing on the official Sony Playstation Remote Play app, to see if the connection improved its functionality.  In the past it had behaved a lot like Parsec was where it had momentary blips of connectivity, where the sound would drag a bit while the stream was trying to catch up.  In truth it happened an awful lot more than Parsec normally does, generally happening every couple of minutes.  That said the entire time playing the Remote Play app felt very obvious that there was a bit of lag introduced into the system.  For example I could not really stand playing Destiny other than material farming, because I had to lead the shots by a significant margin to try and actually hit anything.  As such I only really played RPGs in this fashion that didn’t require me to do much in the way of fine motor skills.

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With the connection change however it is not really noticeable that I am not sitting at the Playstation 4 upstairs.  Sure I am only able to stream back 720p due to the fact that I don’t have a PS4 Pro…  but apart from that one constraint it felt like I was actually upstairs playing the machine natively.  I spent most of the evening playing Dad of War…  sorry that is all this game will ever be called to me personally.  I will comment a bit about the game itself later, but as far as the gameplay experience over Remote Play I put in roughly three hours and never once had a bobble or a hiccup in the connection or anything I could possibly attribute to slowdown or input lag.  In fact the game felt silky smooth and largely made me forget how I was doing some nonsense in the process of playing it.

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As far as the game itself… it reminds me an awful lot of the way that Horizon Zero Dawn felt in ways that I am not entirely certain if I could explain.  Basically Dad of War is Horizon Zero Dawn if you instead were playing as Rost, and spent all your time running around with young Aloy.  There are so many ways in which Kratos interacts with Atreus,  that remind me of those early interactions between Rost and Aloy.  Sure the core of the games themselves are very different, whereas HZD was a big open worldish exploration game… and thusfar Dad of War seems to be largely following a predetermined path with various objectives adjacent to said path.  The short period of time I have been playing however makes me feel like playing HZD again.

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Even though I generally hate the term Toxic Masculinity, not necessarily for its intended meaning, but more the negative reaction that I tend to have mentally to hearing it…  and translating it to “being male is bad”.  Dad of War is very much a game about Toxic Masculinity.  Kratos wants to be a better “father” than he is capable of being.  The game takes painstaking effort to show you all of the times he has the instinct to embrace his son, but for whatever reason cannot and instead focuses on something Atreus did wrong instead of comforting and assuaging his fears.  He wants his son to grow up “strong” like he is, and it reminds me so much of every time I saw a father trying to relive their own glory days through their kid via sports.  I’m sorta afraid that if I had kids I would feel something similar about all of the geeky things that I did along the way growing up, and wanting to try and force said kids into loving the same things I do.

I have some feelings about how this story is going to play out, but I am going to keep them to myself for now.  I just feel like we are telling the final tale of Kratos, and witnessing the birth of the next figure that the series will focus on.  I have a feeling that the game as a whole will be a very unexpected emotional trip.  Ultimately yesterday I realized that since I am not currently engaged in an MMO that is sapping all of my time…  that I should spent some time catching up on the single player games that I either never attempted to got distracted while playing.  Example I made a significant amount of progress into Assassin’s Creed Origins but got distracted by some other shiny MMO flavored object that crossed my path.  For now I think I am going to spend most of my time playing through Dad of War and after that… probably set my sights on another single player game that I failed to play…  maybe loop back around and finish up AC Origins.

Wireless Ethernet

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One of the things I have talked about in the past are the odd constraints that I have on trying to be fully functional gaming in two different locations.  One of the things I learned early on is that for martial bliss I need to be able to game from the living room without actually taking control of the television.  My wife and I are the sort of people who are completely happy doing different things, while in the same room…  occasionally watching something on television together while doing these different things.  So she will be on her end of the sectional cocooned in a blanket fort messing with her laptop, and I will be doing roughly the same on my end of the sofa playing on my laptop.

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The only hitch in this setup is that gaming laptops do not stay relevant for long.  Mine for example is from 2015ish with a 4th Gen Core i7 and GTX 960M dedicated graphics, however it performs considerably lower than that as is the case with pretty much every laptop designated for gaming.  Generally speaking you can effectively drop every component by a generation, so in this case it probably performs similar to a Desktop 3rd Gen i7 with a 750 graphics card.  Effectively there are a lot of things it plays fine… like World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XIV…  but a lot of things it simply cannot handle like Monster Hunter World.  Other things like Destiny 2 it just doesn’t play well enough to make it worth trying to play.

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So essentially I am left with the decision…  do I shell out another $1500-$2000 on a gaming class laptop that is going to be irrelevant in another two years or do I look for other options.  This has lead me down the path of trying to remotely stream games off my desktop upstairs.  So many of the options have issues, like Steam Link for example seems to have a high instance of stranding the game running and locking me out of remoting in to try and fix it.  Splashtop works great if you are wanting to stream to your mobile device, but in dealing with 720p or higher it is just too laggy input wise to play games on.  This lead me to Parsec and I have talked a bit about how great that service is in the past.

The only negative is that still I run into issues where there are “hiccups” in the stream for various reasons.  Like things are going smoothly for a good long while, and then all of the sudden the music hitches and the control input lags for a moment while the stream catches back up.  I don’t necessarily blame this on Parsec itself, but on the fact that I am streaming over a wireless network, and this becomes especially bad if we are watching something off Netflix or streamed back from my Plex server.  So I started thinking about alternatives to try and get a more stable connection between my desktop that is wired into my router with Gigabit Ethernet, and my laptop that is downstairs and has no clear path to run Ethernet to.

Powerline Ethernet was the first option I looked into, but there is a problem that I simply do not have a free power outlet near my router since I have so damned much hooked up in that vicinity in my office.  The thing with powerline is it has to have a direct connection to the power outlet because I have heard horror stories about folks who tried to hook that up and get it running through some sort of a power strip.  While I would love to get conduit run with multiple gigabit Ethernet drops in every room… that just isn’t in the cards and is an extremely expensive proposal to retro fit it into a house built in 1980.  This lead me down the path of trying to determine ways to improve my wireless signal enough to make the process viable.

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I have the nonsense TP Link spider looking Archer C5400 router upstairs that has three separate channels for wireless, one in the 2.4 ghz band and two in the 5 ghz band… one of which I have already dedicated for nothing but my gaming devices.  So I opted to look into TP Link repeater devices, several of which have a built in Gigabit Ethernet port.  I ultimately decided upon the AC1750 device and rather than simply relying on it as a wireless repeater am effectively treating it like a nonsensically powerful wireless modem.  It is bonded to the 2.4 ghz general network and the 5 ghz gaming network, and then I have Ethernet running from that device to my laptop.  Sure this is a silly solution, but it seems to do exactly what I was hoping it would…  provide me completely lag free parsec streaming.

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Almost all of my Monster Hunting of late has been done across this connection from my laptop, without running into issues where I need to twitch move out of the way of an attack and hit a lag spike.  Similarly I can play a game like Destiny 2 over the connection without running into issues now.  Previously it worked well, but even at its best I could still tell I was remotely playing the game.  With this setup it feels like I am legitimately just sitting at my desktop upstairs from my laptop downstairs.  Again I think I am probably the only person who tries to game in the fashion that I do…  but I thought I would write about this today just in case anyone else out there is looking for an option to make things feel more like sitting at the gaming machine.  Tonight I plan on doing some experiments with the native Playstation Remote app to see if that feels better now than it did, since I would like to play some Dad of War at some point.

This isn’t exactly a cheap solution.  The device in question costs around $45 on Amazon for a refurbished model, and about $70 for a minty fresh factory sealed one.  There are likely cheaper options as well, but effectively what you are looking for is something in the AC band with a Gigabit ethernet port built into the device that bonds to the 5 ghz signal.  The end result however works extremely well for me personally, and you can even use something like Photoshop and the brushes all feel responsive.  Sure you are tethered to a wireless repeater, so it isn’t exactly the best option for wireless play.  I do however want to do some testing without the Ethernet connected to see if the signal is stable enough without the physical connection.   The biggest test however is that we can be streaming something from Netflix and the gameplay seems completely unphased by it, as was the case Monday when I was off work hunting monsters on the laptop while streaming shows through the Roku.