Friday Smorgasbord

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Anthem Loot Issues

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First up in the Friday Smorgasbord is some more Anthem discussion.  I have been playing pretty much every night since the patch drops and at a bare minimum completing the steps required to get a key to unlock a “cosmetic” chest.  That is in quotes largely because I am still getting way more useless tier 1 materials than I am actually getting decals or materials.  At least they came out and stated that there are no armor pieces in the Elysian Chest, which is I think in part what we were all hoping to get.  The vinyls have all been super lackluster at least compared to some of the other vinyls available in the game.  On the loot front there is an article from Paul Tassi at Forbes that pretty much sums up what is wrong with the game right now…   it is literally all about the loot.  He suggests increasing the drop rates by 300 to 400% and then still questions if that would be enough for the sort of game Anthem actually is…  but the Devs apparently don’t understand that it is.  RNG can be amazing or it can be a harsh mistress.  For example Wednesday night I had a grand ole time where I managed to rack up three new legendaries during the course of the evening…  a component actually for the right class from a GM2 Legendary Mission, and then two new weapons… one each from GM2 Strongholds.  This still felt stingy to me, but at least was something.  Last night however I walked away with nothing really of use from doing two legendary contracts and a stronghold all at Grandmaster 2 level.

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There are so many things in this game that just feel bad as the player once you reach what currently passes for an end game.  The truth is there is nothing that would normally be classified as end game.  The game has no PVP so no super serious equivalent of the Trials of the Nine would ever exist in Anthem.  Similarly there is nothing along the lines of a Nightfall and there is most definitely not a raid that can be completed weekly with a group of other players for a shot at amazing rewards.  There are no weekly bounties that you can complete that guarantees you an item that will be an upgrade, and we are completely missing something similar to exotics that have a guaranteed curated roll.  So what is left is a lot of grinding and perfecting your builds, which is maddening when it is entirely dependent on the slow trickle of Masterworks and Legendaries.  I have friends that are doing GM2 nightly… that have yet to see ANY Legendaries and consider me extremely lucky that I have had multiple.  While the game desperately needs a true end game…  the more pressing problem will always be the loot and until they open the floodgates no one is really ever going to be completely happy.

Divine Beast Vah Ruta

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I eventually took a break last night and returned to my Cemu Breath of the Wild play session.  When I was last playing I had been working my way into the general area of the Zora kingdom to tackle the first of many Divine Beasts.  I am not sure if there is a chosen order, but the furthest I managed to get with this game before setting it back down again…  was to head in this direction.  So last night I made it through the sequence of annoying lightning attackers to get to Zora land and made my way about collecting Lightning Arrows.  I set about collecting the arrows while avoiding the Lynel…  which went fairly quickly given that pretty much every tree in the vicinity had at least three stuck in it.  There were a few times I had to duck out of view and wait but managed to get it taken care of then glided my way down to where I was meeting Sidon to make the run on the Divine Beast.  I made it through the sequence surrounding disabling the “defenses” and started on the first level of the dungeon before I finally called it for the night.  I do like that Breath of the Wild pretty much just lets you do a save state wherever you happen to be in the world.  I greatly appreciate its mobile roots allowing me to pretty much abandon ship whenever I need to.  So tonight I am likely to return and actually finish the first of the Divine Beasts because I am finding the gameplay way more compelling when playing it on the PC…  I am weird like that.

Borderlands 3

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I had to work yesterday and was in meetings…  so I completely missed what apparently was a mess of a reveal at Pax East.  However I did manage to watch the nice and pristine YouTube videos later that afternoon.  I have to admit at first I was not super impressed with what I saw, but largely this was due to my own false expectations.  In my mind when I think of Borderlands 1 and 2 Trailers…  I am actually thinking of the Game Intro sequences which are absolute masterpieces.  I forgot what a Gearbox Borderlands reveal trailer actually looked like… and judging it by those standards this one is a better trailer than the ones that came with either 1 or 2.  For example the original Borderlands Trailer… feels absolutely nothing like what we think of as the Borderlands Style.  Then with Borderlands 2 we pretty much got a very similar type of reveal trailer as we just saw with Borderlands 3…  like shockingly similar.  So by those comparisons…  Borderlands 3 comes out just fine.

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I feel like there were probably story beats that I completely missed because I never played the Telltale Games spinoff game.  What I was hoping for was some semblance of the story beats that we would be seeing in the new game.  For me what makes Borderlands as a series special is a mix of the interesting characters, quirky humor, almost MMO style questing, intersting gunplay, the faucet of loot, and a bunch of interesting character class choices.  The trailer doesn’t really give me much to go on other than there are a bunch of guns…  one lady can become shiva, another pilots a mech and then you have two gunner classes that while visually different didn’t do much to actually distinguish themselves from what we saw.  There were characters shown that I recognized as being part of the Tales from the Borderlands series but that I don’t know much about.  I would be lying if I said I would not be playing it, but I am also not nearly as hyped as I thought I would have been at this point.  I am sure as more tangible information comes out about the game I will get more so.

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I am guessing based on what are the villains that we are going to see a way more raider-centric storyline than we did with Borderlands 2.  The biggest problem with my general sense of disappointment after watching the trailer for the first time…  is that I was ultimately expecting this instead.

Monster Hunter Belghast and Kenzie

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This morning we are going to mostly talk about this amazing comissions that I just got back from my good friend Ammo.  For the uninitiated she effectively is the unofficial artist of this blog, and what I mean by that is if given the chance I spend a lot of time paying her to do artwork for me of my various versions of “Belghast”.  For reference here are some of the other “Belghasts” she has done for me in the past.

Basically…  she has drawn a lot of my characters over the years and I knew at some point I wanted her to do a version of the character that I mostly run around as in Monster Hunter World.  Basically I operate in two modes with Ammo… either I give her months of lead time…  or I beg her to rush something out the door.  She has been super gracious in both cases, but the MHW Bel was something I had wanted for awhile but our schedules finally lined up to where we could give enough attention to both at the same time.  I prepared several gigs worth of reference photos of both my character and my trusty Palico Kenzie…  which is named after my very attention hogging middle cat.

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I technically have an art degree but I just never really sketch anything these days.  However occasionally I am able to sketch something together quickly that denotes the sort of feeling I had in mind for the piece.  I did this with the Elder Scrolls Online commission as well and in both cases it worked out perfectly.  However the posing with the Monster Hunter World piece is phenomenal and perfectly illustrated what I had in my minds eye.  For reference the above screenshot is one of the ones I sent over to Ammo to work from.  She nailed the feel of Extermination’s Edge the Rarity 8 Nergigante Longsword that I spend most of my time wielding.  Additionally she got the feel of my usual outfit which involves a Dober Chest, Teostra Arms, the Eyepatch and a bunch of other gear obscured by the Samurai cosmetic waist and legs.  This is more or less my signature look unless I am going for a specific set designed for a specific encounter.

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One of the best parts about this commission is that it allowed me to correct something that I simply could not do within Monster Hunter World.  This is Kenzie, who as you can see is an adorable butt and also a tortoise shell  calico or “tortie” for short.  The Palico creation system is just not complicated enough to do that sort of a design, so as a result I am stuck with a weird version of a dark calico to try and do my best to represent her in game.  Ammo was of course not constrained by those limitations and when she asked me for reference photos for Palico Kenzie… I sent her a bunch of my girl here instead.  I think she nailed the feel of Kenzie’s orange nose blaze perfectly.

Ultimately I have plans for this image that won’t quite come to fruition until a little closer to the actual anniversary of the blog which occurs April 17th.  I am not exactly sure when it will happen, mostly whenever I get time to mess around with things.  I feel like it is time for this blog to have a bit of a face lift so in theory one weekend there will be a rapid sequence of changes one day.  Firstly I wanted to make today’s post to really dive into how the commission process has worked for me personally in the past, and how Ammo and I tend to coordinate on the various artwork that adorns my corner of the world.  I also want to do a shameless plug given that she does such an amazing job and has done artwork for so many people that I know.  She did an amazing holiday card that Chestnut sent out this year… that I don’t think I have actually seen a digital copy of that I can share here.  Essentially… she does great work and you should totally use her skills for your artwork needs.

Here is a Giant Dump of How to See Ammo’s Amazing Artwork and Even Purchase Some of It!

I know she keeps pretty busy with commissions so you would have to check with her directly to see if she has any bandwidth.  On the 7th Anniversary Aggronaut shirt I didn’t want any cash from that, but did want one for my own personal use so I asked her to throw it up on one of her storefronts.  Just to make sure this is out there… we have no financial relationship at all other than the fact that I spend money getting her to make cool artwork for me.  I am just one of those people that will rabidly promote the things that I am into… and Ammo is the best.  There are a lot of artists in what I would call the “Warcraft” style, and they are all quality without a doubt…  but Ammo being roughly my age comes from a different genre…  namely Comic Books and as a result I love the more comic style she has developed over the years.

Losing Hope

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Despite my own admonishment yesterday morning I allowed myself to get a little hyped about the possibility of finally getting to cut loose in Anthem and make progress again.  I should not have done this, because once again…  Anthem is a buggy mess following the 1.0.4 update.  This starts early when you are greeted with an empty news screen, which isn’t the end of the world but was sort of a harbinger of events to come.  The patch included a bunch of quality of life improvements, some of which exist like the summary screen you are seeing above showing all of my gear and sort of giving us the beginnings of what I hope will ultimately become a stats page.  Additionally there is no load time to get into the Forge and you can access it anywhere within Fort Tarsis just by bringing up the escape menu.  However the whole being able to see what World Events are active thing does not appear to be in the game, because in none of the four or five freeplay sessions I joined last night could I actually see any events up and active.

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One of the big tweaks that was supposed to be coming was an increase in the general quantity of good loot that we would be getting from doing stuff…  namely anything that rewarded a chest or from the bosses at the end of Strongholds.  This appears to have completely broken and now those Stronghold bosses are no longer rewarding the guaranteed Masterwork at all, and instead just seem to give you a fist full of purples and blues.  I spent a significant amount of time on Hard mode running content with Neph last night and something seems to be broken there as well.  Previously when running with friends on a sub Grandmaster difficulty I would see a lot of those “Starter” Masterworks dropping.  In spite of doing three Strongholds and a could of contracts I saw zero Masterworks which was previously unheard of…  just doing anything on Hard seemed to reward me a handful of those starter weapons.  I did manage to get a single Legendary but it didn’t actually drop anywhere that I could see it and instead was the harbinger of another bug…  apparently players can pick up your loot and then stuff just randomly shows up in your inventory.  I mean I am thankful in this case and in truth I think loot should work more like Destiny in that if it drops it automatically gets tossed into your inventory without having to pick up anything.  Sidenote… I took this photo because if you notice three characters are the same base model standing side by side which is a little uncanny valley.

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The other big thing that was touted with this patch was the introduction of Elysian Chests at the end of Stronghold missions.  These were supposed to sweeten the pot and make us want to start running strongholds again with a touted inventory of a couple hundred cosmetic items available for us to find.  When they were announcing them they stated that there was also a chance of crafting materials and gave the example of 30 Masterwork Embers…  which seemed like a reasonable trade for a cosmetic item.  Getting 30 Chimeric Alloy on the other hand is not worthy of giving up a cosmetic and just feels like shit given that this is the most basic generic level 1 crafting material that you can gather up spending five minutes running around in freeplay.  It feels bad wasting your daily key on something like this, and there are thread floating about showing that four chests were opened and all four gave low tier crafting materials.

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I did however manage to get a Vinyl later in the night, but that just spawned another bug with the patch.  When you get something cosmetic from an Elysian Chest, it won’t show up in your inventory until you have logged out of the game and logged back in.  Even then…  I am not sure if Overcast is bugged or what but it doesn’t seem to appear on my Lancer at all so not sure what it is actually adding but it certainly looks nothing like that icon…  which I am assuming is a generic icon for all cosmetic rewards given that it shows a bunch of materials in the background.  Additionally this patch was supposed to allow us to stay in flight longer…  but it feels like it has had the opposite effect given that I no longer have the longevity in air that I did before and seemingly diving no longer lowers heat as much as it did.  Basically…  we got 1.0.4 and already desperately need 1.0.5 to fix the shit that was broken again this time.

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The problem for me is that I am ultimately losing hope that they will manage to pull their shit together.  What I used to view as being scrappy and responsive to issues…  I am just now seeing as a very sloppy development methodology that apparently involves little to no quality assurance.  The fact that loot was bugged at the end of Strongholds…  should never have made it into production on a patch that was touted as fixing Strongholds.  It took exactly one time running a Stronghold to notice “hey… we are not getting our guaranteed loot”.  The fact that loot is still as stingy as it is now is a complete sin, given that was the beat being pounded fervently like a drum from day one… that Diablo only works if the loot flows like water allowing you to account for the completely useless items that you get and shard.  What we are left with is signs that Bioware has nothing up their sleeve and are just trying to eek out for as long with the limited an repetitive content that is available, and rationing of Legendary and Masterwork drops is seemingly their master plan in trying to make this content last until they can create more.

I had fun playing with Neph but there was a slight pang of bitterness as I didn’t even see starter Masterworks as was regularly the case when dropping down to the lower tiers before.  Right now I am contemplating starting a brand new Pilot just so I can have a set of Javelins that match the level ranges of my friend still down in the lower rungs, hoping to maybe be able to get them up in level enough to run the higher stuff with me eventually.  Tam, Ash, Kodra, Waren and Shiana have all moved back to Warframe which is apparently having a great streak of content to engage with…  and Thalen, Grace and Neph are all way down in the level range and fighting against the fact that there is limited queuing available sub Grandmaster 1.  Then there is the problem that if you want to solo this content you will end up getting effectively half of the experience as if you were grouping…  because the Alliance bonus matters that much.  Neph for example played the game entirely solo other than a bit of running around and doing World Quests and as a result finished the main story and all of the side content at level 15…  whereas I was something closer to 22 from never not grouping.

I am getting frustrated at this point, and super close to just giving up.  I want Anthem to be a great game and in some aspects it is… and in other aspects the Bioware team does not seem to understand what sort of game they want it to be.  After seeing the second failed patch in a row that seemingly caused more havoc than it cured…  I am starting to fear that we will have to wait for whatever this games “Taken King” or “Patch 1.8” ends up being, when they finally grasp how to make it fun and rewarding.  The gameplay feels fun…  but the rewards feel like a mockery of what they should be.

Anthem Patch Day

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Today is in theory a big patch day for Anthem that should be clearing up a lot of the ills that the game has.  However I am not exactly holding my breath.  What I mean by that is I am certain that there will be in fact a patch today, Game Update 1.0.4.  What I am doubting is if it will fundamentally improve the situation for those of us stuck in the limbo between Grandmaster 1 and being able to feel viable in Grandmaster 2 and beyond.  What is needed to fix this is Legendaries, and not only that but viable Legendaries.  Both patch 1.0.3 and the server side loot tweaks were supposed to give us some remedy, and while I have seen a greater frequency in Masterwork drops it has done nothing to help fill my screen with lime green.  Ultimately knowing that today’s patch was on its way served to disincentive me from playing the game at all… because why should I invest any time at all in a largely broken loot system when if I just waited a week there would in theory be some fixes.

I think where I am with this game is that I really enjoy the moment to moment game play, but now that the progression train has slowed I am struggling to stay invested given that there is such a limited pool of content available to players.  I think the Elysian Caches will help somewhat because it gives a long tailed chase mechanism… and quite frankly what better reward is there than things that make your Javelin look awesome.  So that alone will make Strongholds worth running again.  Additionally there are the Legendary missions that should produce some replayability of existing content and given how enjoyable some of those story missions were… I can see that helping as well.  Quality of life changes like being able to see what World Events are active at any given time will also be a welcome change.  The main problem I foresee is that the game really needs fresh content to add to the mix, because as it stands three Strongholds just isn’t enough…  when a good deal of us have every line of dialog in them all memorized at this point.  I would prefer never to hear again about not wanting that omelet.

I will of course be checking it out tonight and I am hoping that I am wrong, but I am sort of trying to tamp down my expectations so I don’t turn into one of the heaps of rage that inhabit the main reddit.  Once again I highly recommend LowSodiumAnthem if you are hoping to stay a fan of this game rather than wading into the mire of hatred of the official Reddit.  Bioware Devs post on both locations.

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What I wound up spending most of my time last night doing however was playing some more Breath of the Wild via Cemu.  The screenshots don’t exactly do it justice of showing off just how damned good this game looks running in 4K resolution.  I am consistently impressed by just how good it works, but then again…  the developers of Cemu have been tweaking and refining this for roughly two years now with a lot of community modding support that adds in compatibility fixes.  I’ve surpassed where I was progress wise from the Switch and have put in around nine hours of gameplay so far, almost all of it stable.  The instabilities thusfar have involved encountering something I have not seen yet and having the emulator pause to build shader cache.  There are in theory downloadable shader caches that would fix this problem…  but I have not really spent any time investigating how to get my hands of them.

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Essentially everything about this process is sort of caveat emptor… but seeing as I have done this level of nonsense many times in the past it didn’t worry me too much.  Suffice today however there has been copious amounts of virus scanning before I interacted with anything that I acquired in this process.  This is probably the first time however that I have seen modern emulation give a game that is on a current platform a run for its money…  or in this case greatly improving the visuals.  I know there is similar magic you can do with a 3DS emulator, but thusfar I have not really had the horsepower to really make those games perform to their fullest at 4K resolutions.  However if you are interested in that sort of nonsense then I would point you at the Simply Austin Youtube channel to see examples of what can be done.  It is so bizarre to me how far emulation has come from the days of me trying to play Final Fantasy V on ZSNES and having to apply a frame skip to get some semblance of something playable, to being able to run modern games on high end PCs.

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Please note… that while I totally support emulation, I don’t do so as a dodge to getting free games.  I have a closet full of classic game systems, and in the case of both Cemu and Citra the Wii U and 3DS emulators respectively I have owned all of the games that I have tried playing.  Especially in the era of struggling game studios…  they need you buying the games instead of figuring out ways to get free copies.  I didn’t exactly have clean hands throughout my high school and college years, but now I think in part I buy so many games as a way of making up for my former warez peddling past.  If Nintendo for some reason started releasing these games on PC… I would likely lose all interest in emulating them in the first place.  However I somehow doubt that is ever going to happen, and as a result…  Nintendo consoles will always be the most widely supported emulation platforms.

 

Vacation Gaming

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Today is going to be the first day back after a lengthy break, and as such I am struggling a little bit to get up and around this morning.  Last week was the universal spring break week for Oklahoma schools and with that I opted to take Wednesday through Friday off to spend time with my wife.  We went back and forth about taking some sort of a trip, but instead just dealt with a lot of things around the house that needed dealing with.  I cleaned and organized my office, she tackled the closet, we got a new rug for the living room, made two trips to my mechanic to fix my drivers side window that was having trouble rolling up, finally dealt with our taxes and didn’t have to pay…  and a slew of other small things that filled most of the time I took off.  In between all of the running around I got in a fair amount of gaming, with the largest single target being The Division 2.

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I am completely in the swing of this game and am slowly pushing my way across the map clearing control points and side missions along the way.  At this point I have largely cleared the White House surrounding area, Downtown East, Federal Triangle, East Mall and have been focusing my time on clearing out content in the Southwest area.  I am spending 99.9% of my time soloing the content and it is going more or less fairly well.  My jam is still some sort of a fast firing single shot rifle and a shotgun to back it up when things get too close.  What I am actually using for either of those varies based on what I happen to have seen drop…  which is the weird thing about this game is the large number of drops I seem to get that are in no way upgrades to the weapon I was using from 3 levels earlier.  However as with any Division game… the really important drops are the ones with a teal border like the one shown above.

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Another major accomplishment of the weekend is that I finished the Final Fantasy XIV 4.5 content.  I was ONE dungeon away from doing so but Anthem launched and then Division 2… and I just couldn’t seem to bring myself to log in and take care of it.  Huge kudos to the awesome player who guided three of us newbies through Ghimlyt Dark and did an excellent job explaining the mechanics.  I have to say though… it was a WAY easier dungeon than the Burn…  which I think Thalen still needs?  I need to check into that and help him out this week if that is the case.  All in all I am ready for the next content drop to finally explain how we get from this point…  to the point shown in the Full Trailer released at Fanfest Tokyo over the weekend.  One of my employees is a super serious raider type… so I will be quizzing him this morning as to his thoughts about what was shown.

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Another thing that has been stealing my time…  namely the hanging out in bed before going to sleep time…  is Baba is You.  This is a weird puzzle game where you essentially hack reality and rewrite the rules of the universe to get a win condition.  It reminds me of this mix between the old shareware title Paganitsu and Basic Programming logic.  Paga was a significant title for me growing up because it fit neatly onto a floppy and we could play it clandestine like from the computer lab at school.  Baba Is You is great because so often in puzzle games you get introduced to the mechanics and then they simply start dialing up the precision and speed that you need to react in order to complete puzzles.  Baba on the other hand keeps challenging your conceptions and does not care at all about the fine motor skills or speed of execution… and as such gives you unlimited rollbacks as you sorta figure out how the pieces move on each map.  Well worth checking out if you are interested in such things.

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Lastly I started messing around with Breath of the Wild again…  but if that were the end of that statement it would not be as nonsense as it ultimately is.  I own this game on Wii U and Switch…  but last night I started dinking around with Cemu the Wii U Emulator to see just how well it runs and what sort of resolution I could get it working at.  The game looks gorgeous running in 4K but requires a bunch of fiddling to get it there.  Not to mention just the act of getting it up in running was a pain in the butt which involved a whole slew of hoops to jump through to get the game patched and the emulator running.  Then there was the added step of getting it working through Parsec so I could have the same experience while hanging out on the laptop downstairs…  which involved installing controller emulators.

Basically I have NO CLUE why I did this thing, but I had a lot of fun and made it as far as Kakariko Village last night.  I never made it terribly far into Breath of the Wild in part because of the restart.  When the game first came out I did not have a Switch, and then at some point along the line I managed to find one in stock and re-bought the game on that platform.  That meant having to redo everything over, which sorta killed my forward momentum.  I seemed to log in more to summon treasure chests with Amiibos than I did to actually do anything else.  My save game is littered with chests around the Dueling Peaks stable.  It is truly shocking how well it runs, but there are a lot of frustrations… because the first time you encounter anything new there is a massive game freeze as it builds shader cache, however from that point on things are fluid again.

Basically chock this up to a long line of stupid things I have done like created a Chinese account so I could try Monster Hunter Online and setting up a Sega of Japan account to play Phantasy Star Online 2.  I will likely wander away from it boredly at some point in the near future, but last night I had an awful lot of fun doing things that I should be able to do.  I will however due to the potentially shady nature of this not be assembling a guide.  I own two copies of Breath of the Wild so I figured it was completely legit for me to do shenanigans, but the real more stable answer to playing Breath of the Wild is to get a Switch.

 

Regularly Playing: March 2019 Edition

We’ve passed the official first day of Spring this week and with it will come a lot more engagement with the out of doors and less sitting at home and playing games.  As a result over the spring and summer months this list tends to dwindle down to significantly fewer titles.  For the uninitiated I do this thing where I semi-monthly update my blog sidebar and talk about the games that I am regularly playing.  During the month of March I am being honest with myself and allowing several titles that have been holding on by a thread to drop down to inactive status.  However anyone who has read my blog for any length of time will realize that I regularly revisit older titles when I am feeling nostalgia or otherwise restless.  I am notoriously bad at keeping up with series, however this marks three months in a row!

To Those Remaining

Anthem – PC

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While I am taking a little bit of a break this week because there is an upcoming patch landing on Tuesday that should increase drop rates, I am still very much enjoying Anthem.  March more than anything has been about me championing the cause of this beleaguered game.  There is so much that so many people dislike about it, but I am consistently impressed at how fast we are seeing patches being released to address these issues.  At the end of the day it is player fantasy about me flying around in a Robotech style mech suit.  It’s a good game brent.

Destiny 2 – PC

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You sir are hanging out by the slimmest of threads.  In fact I didn’t have any modern screenshots so I had to pull back into the annals of the blog to find something to use.  The Season of the Drifter appears to largely be a dud and I am not entirely certain how engaged this whole era of “No DLC” is going to be.  I liked the story driven stuff, as limited as it was.  I’ve popped in several times but have struggled to engage.  As much as it saddens me, my time in Destiny may be waning.

Dragalia Lost – Android

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I swear Dragalia Lost is the poster child for how you do reoccurring engagement in a game…  and I sorta wish that all of the MMO-lites that I enjoy would take note.  In general you have roughly two weeks with an event going on, so plenty of time to earn whatever rewards you want without feeling pressured to play constantly.  Then within days of the finish of one event a brand new one starts causing you to engage all over again.  Because it is Nintendo and they purposefully limit that sort of thing… there really isn’t much in the way of excessive monetization either.  You just have a pure diablo-lite experience with a character collecting gacha mini game.  Sure it feels super bad when you waste your five star pull on a wyrmprint, but I keep coming back for more.

Pokemon Go – Android

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Another game that is sorta holding on by a thread is Pokemon Go.  If it were not for the fact that I was getting credit for walking from my watch… I would probably not be interacting with this at all right now.  As it stands I spend most of my time hatching pokemon… and even then I have like 3 eggs ready to hatch and I can’t seem to be bothered to open the damned app and do that.  However with spring and better weather I might be spending more time out and about and reinvigorating my use of this game.

To The Returning and Brand New

Baba Is You – Switch and PC

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This puzzle game is so good, and I have not talked about it much yet since we are probably going to talk an awful lot about it on the podcast.  However it is probably seriously in the running for me for game of the year honors… and we are only in March.  You hack reality to help you get to the “Is Win” condition.  It is one of those things that is really hard to explain but once you grasp it you find yourself thinking in “IS” statements.  So part logic puzzle part programming language.

The Division 2 – PC

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To be honest I was not terribly certain how I would feel about this game, but it has been taking up most of my game time since release.  The Division 1 was a setting without any semblance of hope… and The Division 2 has lots of hope.  Instead of helping out a government that is dying…  you end up helping out the communities of survivors trying to struggle to make it in the post biological apocalypse future.  Division 2 is everything about the first game but more finely detailed and expanded upon.  This is what a game sequel should feel like.

To Those Departing

Assassin’s Creed Origins – PC

I more or less got it out of my system when I became frustrated with what exactly the ending of the game would entail.  I have a feeling at some point in the future I will force myself to finish it, but for now…  I am just letting it slide away.

The Elder Scrolls Online – PC

I know without a doubt that I will return to this game because I always seem to, but for now that just isn’t the style of game I am interested in for the moment.  I seem to be enraptured with the whole MMO-lite emerging genre because I can drop in and out of them really easily and don’t ask an awful lot of me in the process.  ESO is a game of excellent storytelling and questing, and I just haven’t been in the mood for that.

Final Fantasy XIV – PC

I am literally one dungeon away from finishing the Stormblood storyline and I could not seem to push myself across that finish line.  For now Anthem and Division 2 have stolen my attention, but I am certain I will be returning at some point soon.  However due to the rules of this game, I did not play it during the month of March and as such it is leaving the list.

Magic the Gathering Arena – PC

Another game that I did not expect to leave the list, but is doing so anyways.  Still very much love this game and what they are doing with it… and will probably return soon with the upcoming patch that adds a bunch of additional functionality.

 

Monster Hunter World – PC

This one saddens me quite a bit, but I have not logged into Monster Hunter World in a really long time.  Again this is just a problem of limited play time and Anthem and Division 2 stealing my focus.  This will absolutely return to the list and potentially sooner rather than later given there is a high quality texture patch incoming on April 4th.

Summary

This was a month with a lot of movement, as I allowed things that were hanging on barely to slip by the wayside with the release of two back to back juggernauts.  Most of the things that are falling off the list will return and probably soon.  However for the sake of the way this post is supposed to work they are getting removed for the time being.  This is absolutely the shortest my sidebar has been in a really long time.

Incentive Not To Play

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I am still very much in vacation mode this week and as a result the posts are happening way later than normal.  Yesterday Bioware hosted a developer stream and you can check out the VODs on Twitch or Mixer or if you are like me and prefer a bullet point list there is one up on the official Anthem Reddit and a slightly different one up on the Low Sodium Anthem Reddit.  Unfortunately both of them seem to have missed at least one detail, but if you are interested in the Reddit at all… I highly suggest the Low Sodium version for overall better reading experiences.  Ultimately they went over a bunch of changes to the game for both performance and quality of life as well as adding a few new systems in.  First up there are the Elysian Caches that will spawn at the end of Stronghold missions and upon opening will reward either crafting embers or vanity items.  I with it was BOTH and not either…  and there will honestly be hell to pay if one of these chests starts pooping out lower tier crafting embers instead of Masterworks.  The example they gave was 25 Masterwork Embers…  which honestly is nowhere near as relevant to me as a Vanity item…  so I am hoping that isn’t the majority we get out of these chests.  Ultimately each player can get a key through a daily quest and if you have four players with four keys you end up with four times the loot at the end.  Opening a chest grants items to everyone in the mission, so I have a feeling we will probably start saving these keys to run with our friends rather than with random people.

On the ever important loot front they stated that they are greatly improving the loot from chests and from the bosses at the end of strongholds, meaning that while you will still get one guaranteed drop you will have a higher likelihood of seeing additional Masterworks and Legendaries instead of the seemingly fixed 2 purples and an orange allotment that we seem to get now.  I am hoping this actually maps out into something that feels like progress because for me at least the 1.0.3 loot changes have not actually worked out to being more Legendaries.  Again I am at the end of the curve where I shard everything I get from pretty much every bit of content I run.  Another big change is that they have removed the loading screen for the forge and put in what appears to be the start of a stat screen where it now shows on a single screen everything in your load out.  Legendary Missions are going in which will be retreads of story missions but at harder difficulty and with what they are calling an Apex monster at the end of each, which is going to be like an Ancient Titan or a Luminary or something that is big and that already has its own higher baked in chance of dropping good loot.  However the biggest improvement that I am looking forward to is that supposedly World Events will now show up on the damned World Map… so you can navigate your way to them instead of wandering around blindly hoping one will spawn.

I am in this weird place with Anthem where I am super excited to see the changes continue to happen, but it also disincentives me from actually playing the game right now.  Why would I spend hours grinding in frustration when all of the activities are in theory improving their loot chances with the next patch?  Right now it is targeted at Tuesday, so I will be looking forward to them and hopeful that they actually provide what feels like a benefit rather than just something that maths out over a high number of iterations.

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In other news I joined LeavingSafeArea as it appeared to be the Clan with the highest density of folks that I know.  Not that I am actually providing any sort of tangible benefit to the clan yet, but I did roam around a bit last night in the area of the White House dedicated to that sort of thing.  Apparently in the post apocalyptic future we have randomly floating screens that seem to be projected from nowhere in a very specific location?  Whoever this Enforzer person is has a MASSIVE lead on the rest of us.  I am still very much in wander around aimlessly mode and explore the city.  I knocked out a handful of side missions last night and then struggled to queue for the next main mission.  I am not sure if I have missed the boat when it comes to running those missions with other players, or if I just need to bump up the difficulty to catch back up with the train.  Right now I am still digging the Marksman Rifle and Shotgun Combo… and have upgraded what represents that combo more than a few times at this point.  I miss my preorder shotgun, because none of the options I have found in the wild where anywhere near that good…  however I had to walk away when I started getting options that were 2000 more damage.  Still enjoying myself but I have to say… the most excited I get is when I see a new cosmetic item drop.

A Time Long Gone

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Last night was largely spent roaming around the ruins of Washington and unlocking things.  Seeing as I apparently did things out of the natural flow of the game… I have just now unlocked clans and will have to sort out which one I should join as it appears like there isn’t really a coalescence of my friends in one place other than the clan that Scopique and Traellan are in.  Normally speaking I would be joining whatever extension of the AggroChat/Greysky Armada/House Stalwart community that would be erected in a brand new game.  The challenge here however is that I know there won’t be one.  That group of individuals bounced faster off the first one than I did, and as such I know there is no glorious renewal of interest in the game and with it a flourishing of guild activity.  Division 2 is a game that I largely go into knowing that I won’t have the social structures I am used to with the familiar comfortable integrations with other players that I tend to take for granted.  I will be blazing a new trail and carving out a new home for myself…  and the challenge there is of course which group of friends do I choose.

I already have an invite waiting on me from TBC or The Bloody Clans…  a group that dates back to EGA Battletech but I spent most of my time with during Everquest and City of Heroes and have not really spent much time with since.  I know TQMB has a presence or Tequila Mockingbird, which was my original Destiny clan and one that I still associate with when I actually play the game on a serious level.  There are lots of other pools of friends that vary in level of seriousness about the game, all of which gives me a maze of choices to navigate.  This reminds me of a statement that my friend Neph said the other day and while I don’t remember the exact phrasing it was something to the effect of the following.  “I can’t wait until everyone is playing the same game again.”  While I agree with that desire… especially in a scenario like Division where those of us who are playing the same game are not even under the same banner.

The problem is my statement back to her was that it is likely never going to happen again.  I think the era of everyone playing one game is past us… at least for the age bracket most of us are in and for the type of demographic gaming wise that we represent.  The era of the big budget AAA MMORPG is long gone, and there just isn’t something exciting enough on the horizon to unite the tribes of gamers together underneath one mutually agreeable digital habitat.  If I am being honest with myself the last game that did this was World of Warcraft… and I am not talking modern WoW but instead the series run from Vanilla through the end of Wrath of the Lich King.  In my experience that was the heyday of the “It” game that everyone was at the very least dabbling in.  It was the era where you could walk up to pretty much any gamer of any stripe and they would be able to tell you what server and faction they were playing.  My friend tells a story about an awkward interaction at a birthday party when he goes through a sequence of emotions… first of excitement to find out another one of the dads plays Warcraft…  and then disappointment when he finds out they are playing on the opposite faction.

The “It” game for this generation is  Fortnite… and before that it was League of Legends… and before that it was Minecraft…  all of which more or less left the demographic that most of us are members behind.  Even during the heyday of MMORPGs we struggled to ever get everyone to commit to playing a new game.  I remember the first big foray was into Warhammer Online, and even then we only managed to muster about fifteen players to try it out of a roster of almost a hundred.  The inertia of World of Warcraft was too strong to break most players out of its field of influence.  We tried similar jaunts for Champions Online and the one that finally took me away from the game completely for awhile was Rift.  The last big successful departure was Star Wars the Old Republic, and even then that only lasted for a few months.  With the release of Elder Scrolls Online I drew heavily on social media attempting to pull everyone into the same guild…  only to watch it fizzle out after another three months.

Essentially I feel like there will probably never be another game that unites the banners, and that is in part because we as gamers have fragmented and quite honestly are no longer willing to deal with the things we once were.  I remember with the launch of World of Warcraft being stuck looting a Kobold in Elwynn Forest for a good 15-20 minutes and simply hard crashing the client and going on with my life.  Which is in part why I found it so funny to hear people call the launch of Anthem disastrous, because compared to that it was smooth sailing.  We just aren’t willing to deal with the inconveniences that we once were in order to play with gamers online, because that is no longer a novel and unique experience.  Everquest was in part popular because it gave us the ability to have lots of our friends together in the same world, whereas before we were limited to somewhere between 4 and 16 players connected to a dedicated server that someone had to run in order to play games together.  Everquest, Dark Age of Camelot and Ultima Online before that gave us massive persistent worlds for us to explore… and at some point along the line we stopped caring so much about that novelty.

Now almost every game you play has some sort of massively online functionality that pushes other players into your game time.  In Assassin’s Creed when another player dies in game it spawns a quest for you to go avenge their death by killing whatever NPCs took them out.  This is a functionally single player experience, but it still has hooks into the larger game world to make you feel like you are experiencing things together with your friends…  with friends being the loosest definition of that term in this case.  The novelty of being online with other people just isn’t the draw that it once was, and as a result we instead are focused on the story or the gameplay or other elements that instead mean we are effectively looking for different things in our gaming experiences.

I’m a grinder…  and while I enjoy the story…  I am ultimately in a game for the loot and a sense of progression.  So I can play games with the scantest of story so long as the moment to moment game-play feels good.  Tam on the other hand cannot get behind a game that does not have a story or a game world that he cares about.  This ultimately was the line in the sand that kept us both from enjoying Destiny 1/2 because he could not get behind that world or the digging required to find out any of the story.  Ash on the other hand is deeply into systems and tends to love games with lots of customization and ability to tweak builds… so something like a Warframe with its systems within systems within systems really resonates with him.  Every so often there will be a single game that caters to all of these core desires…  but it happens very rarely.  While I just outlines motivations for three members of our group…  you can imagine what that matrix begins to look like when you expand that to ten people or a hundred people.

Ultimately we want a higher level of fidelity in our games now.  We were willing to give something up for the novelty of hanging out online with our friends, but seeing as we are almost constantly connected through Slack, Discord, Twitter, Facebook and countless other little ways…  that connectivity no longer is as valuable as it once was.  Shit I remember a time when my friend and I used to dial into each others computers and talk over a terminal app just because it was interesting and novel, and now I can message tens of thousands of people in my larger orbit within seconds…  and we just consider that the bare minimum for internet connectivity these days.  No one builds massive worlds these days where lots and lots of players are connected at the same time… instead everything seems to have shifted away to smaller match based systems with cities serving as lobbies.  I personally like the Destiny/Division/Anthem/Monster Hunter style of game play that lets me drop in and out without feeling bad about letting my friends down.

I know this summer we will once again coalesce upon Final Fantasy XIV for the release of the Shadow Bringers expansion.  However I know that by the three month mark it too will have dwindled down to only the most die-hard and dedicated of player still playing it.  I’ve largely made my peace with the fact that there will likely never again be another World of Warcraft, at least not in that genre.  That same magnetism however keeps happening in other genres, so maybe someday down the time fifteen years from now… there will be a re-invigoration of the MMORPG genre.  However I think more than anything…  we mourn a moment in time where the stars aligned more than we actually mourn a specific game during its period of greatness.  Games at the end of the day come down to the people you play them with…  and as such I am still stymied by picking who to play Division with.

 

Reevaluating Siege Breaker

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Some time back in the land before the 1.0.3 patch seemingly screwed up my legendary drop rates…  I picked up this weapon the Siege Breaker.  I had mostly ignored it given that sniper rifles are not exactly my jam, but them noticed the perk.  Three shots in a hit streak causes it to freeze the target.  Now this only works if the shields are down, but unlike a lot of the other abilities does not require you to hit a weak point.  This means you can do some freaking awesome crowd control tricks with this weapon, especially on shutting down cannons and turrets that are way the hell across the map from your current position.  It does little unfortunately to most of the sniper types given that they are highly shielded.  Even with knowing this I still didn’t really use it much because once again…  I am not a big fan of sniper rifles.

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Then in my travels I stumbled across a suggested Ranger build for easing into Grand Master 2 and given that I was feeling less than effective there I opted to give it a shot.  First off the build in truth is a tweak of the sort of build I was already going through which relied on the double detonators of Recurring Vengeance and Last Argument that I have already written about before.  Essentially this means you have to prime the target through other means, or in this case with either melee or siege breaker.  Other than Siege Breaker it relies on Divine Vengeance that also seems to have a small chance of catching the mob on fire and priming them as well.  Divine Vengeance has the interesting perk of causing a large fire explosion every time you land three weak shots in a row…  and since this fires four round bursts it is pretty easy to get a proc pending you can dial in on a weak point.  What I did not realize is that these explosions seem to have a staggering effect and do a somewhat effective job of secondary crowd control and even have a chance of knocking flyers out of the air.

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As far as components go the build relies on a bunch of them that either increase survival, boost damage or cause you to get your combo faster…  and quite frankly that last one is greatly increased by Last Argument that can fill half a combo bar if you get a really good multi target combo off.  The goal is to always be able to combo something, and when in doubt use Divine Vengeance to mop up the little trash mobs along the way.  So far it seems to be working extremely well and I feel way more comfortable roaming around in freeplay and doing GM2 strongholds.  That said I didn’t have any luck last night with the drops since I firmly believe my account is now cursed post 1.0.3 seeing as I had been getting pretty much one Legendary a night up until the drop of that patch, and have gotten exactly one since.  I hope they come up with a more permanent and generous solution in the near future, but I am booned to finally have a build that I am comfortable doing solo content with.  I also need to hook up with Weiward at some point and do group content since we are both largely in the same position of just needing to farm a ton of legendaries.

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At some point the very needy Kenzie the cat wanted to snuggle so I went back downstairs and chilled out on the sofa playing some Division 2.  I wound up grouping up with other players for the first time and running a story mission with some randoms.  I am not sure if that upscales based on the number of players that you have in a party, because if not…  wow that was going to be a rough story mission.  Unfortunately I seemingly clicked on the wrong mission and wound up running one two zones over instead of the one to open the zone I was organically planning on moving into.  I am effectively finished with the first area and now will be moving into the second.  For the seasoned players… is there a sort of check list somewhere in the game so I can see visually how far from finishing a zone I am?

At this point I am in need of both weapons… and the trusty shotgun seems to be peforming worse than it was previously.  I forget who suggested that I would need to swap around level 8, but they nailed it.  The only problem I am seeing is that replacement shotguns don’t have anywhere near the capacity of this one.  The game seems to indicate that I might be able to upgrade the weapon…  but I have a feeling that is more endgame stuff and not something I can realistically do right now given that I have no clue at all what the crafting component that I am missing is.  All in all still enjoying myself but while Anthem is something I am still gearing up to play very seriously once I get a group of AggroChatters up to the appropriate level (or quite honestly Grace)…  Division 2 is my solo jam.

Division 2 Impressions

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This morning I am going to take a break from Anthem and talk about The Division 2 which released for me on Friday…  but for other folks earlier in the week.  I still played a significant amount of Anthem including some running around with a large group of people on Saturday, but until the drop rates are fixed to reasonable levels I am probably going to be tapering off my time played to stave frustration.  At this point I am up to 192 hours played of Anthem… and by contrast I am sitting at roughly 6 hours of time played in Division 2 so far.  Largely I am approaching the game as a much more single player experience, and in the same manner I would one of the big Ubisoft open world titles like Far Cry or Assassin’s Creed.

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Probably the biggest praise that I can give to Division 2 is that it is a game that has learned from its past without forgetting it.  Division 2 feels like I am picking up where Division 1 left off, with all of the quality of life improvements that came towards the end of the patch cycle…  and then this game takes that position and builds upon it.  This was the problem with Destiny 2 in that it felt like we were losing more from Destiny 1 Year 3 than we were gaining in the process.  Sure Destiny 2 turned out eventually to be a really great product but it took some time to get there because it had felt like they forgot all of the lessons learned along the way.  Division 2 is cognizant of what came before and gives us effectively all of that product…  with more features heaped on top of that.

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One of the core problems I had with the original Division is that it was a game without hope.  The setting was bleak and it felt like as a Division Agent I was doing very little to actually help those around me.  Sure there were those occasional events where someone would run up on me and ask for food or water…  but if I moved even in the slightest they would go running off.  The citizens were scared of me… and for good reason…  because I while I was attempting to help make things better…  I was doing so by laying down a trail of dead bodies in my wake.  I think the core problem with the narrative is that I was helping to try and prop up what was ultimately a dying vestige of the government…  of control of the masses.  Division was a game more or less about trying to salvage the status quo at all costs.

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Division 2 on the other hand is something entirely different.  The status quo died long ago and from the ashes new communities sprung up of survivors trying to hold things together and carve out some piece of this new world.  The setting shifts from New York to the Washington D.C.  where our nations former capitol lies in ruins…  and what is left of the former government operates out of the husk of the White House.  As such the story shifts from rebuilding the nation…  to acting as a sheriff of the wild lands and helping these struggling communities gather resources that they need to survive and thrive.  Similar to the first game as you finish missions your bases evolve…  but this time around the results feel more tangible as new areas are added like this game room for the kids for example.

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The game map is similar to the first game, but once again has evolved to include a bunch of new options.  There is now the concept of a control point, and these take various forms…  but are more or less outposts that have been overrun by whatever enemy faction is in a region.  In the White House area and Downtown East this is controlled by the Hyenas…  which are part street gang and part borderlands bandit psychos.  In the above map everything that is a green flag is a control point that I have reclaimed and was previously held by the Hyenas, ans as a result there is a tangible feel to winning back an area because you start to see it improving.  As you hold more control points it seems as though there are more frequent NPC foragers going out into the wilds to scavenge for resources.  Additionally there is a whole mini game surrounding delivering food and water to these outposts for experience.  The markers in Red on my map are of course control points that I have yet to liberate…  and I am focusing on clearing 100% of this single map before I move on to other areas.

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As I mentioned earlier…  Division 1 was a game without hope…  and I think Division 2 more than anything is a game with a lot of hope in it.  You seem to no longer be as focused on fighting for the sake of a government, but instead roam around as a free entity helping everyone in your path.  I am not very far along in the game but I am assuming each region is going to have one major settlement that you will be helping to reclaim the wastes.  Ultimately I can see that they are trying to modify the tone of the game.  The first game had some really awkward feelings associating with it… as you spent much of your time gunning down people trying to survive.  Sure there were factions that felt good to take down…  like the Cleaners or the Last Man Battalion that were just fucked up ideologically.  You know I will even lump the Rikers into that group with their public executions of JTF agents…  but the Rioters…  they felt real bad to be taking out given that they were just doing exactly what you were doing and trying to survive.  So far the Hyenas do not feel like taking out Rioters, because they do feel like more of a twisted and cohesive threat given that they are taking on the role of bandits in Fallout and attacking settlements.

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While I am again only about six hours into the game, I am enjoying it far more than I did the first one.  I also feel like they have done a lot to fix some of the issues the original had with item drop stinginess.  I sat at level 26 for the better part of a year and a half because I felt like my weapons were ineffective…  and I didn’t have the cash or crafting resources to make anything better.  I came back towards the end of the game and found that drop rates were greatly improved and actually provided pieces of gear that were useful.  Once again this game seems to have learned that lesson because I am swimming in loot right now.  It really seems to be rewarding me for exploring every nook and cranny of a zone as I am constantly coming across abandoned gun cases and such.

Essentially where I am now…  is I will be poking my head into Anthem and keeping tabs on that community in hopes that we see a future patch where the loot is truly improved for everyone…  not just the folks doing GM2 and GM3.  I will also be hanging out with my friends whenever they are free to be playing Anthem as well.  In those solo periods though, I am going to ease back on the throttle and spend some more time exploring the DC area in Division 2.  I realize it is too soon to really give a proper review… but in every way I am seeing it is a worthy successor.